We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

This pretty much says it all. My son’s Christmas program was on 12-10-09 and the last thing I did before I left for it that morning was put new batteries in the camera and check how much room was left on the memory card. I’m notorious for having technical difficulties or outright failures and it drives me insane. So, I get there, find a spot and start recording. Lo and behold, the batteries are working wonderfully but within minutes, I’m out of room on the memory card and I didn’t have a backup.

I remember it saying I had enough room for 54 pictures. I never once tried to think that might not be a good conversion when it came to video. I fumbled frantically as I had to make split second decisions as to which pictures and video I was going to erase knowing I hadn’t backed them up. For me, that’s the worst feeling. I did it though, but continued to have problems here and there. AAARRRGGGHHH! So, I recovered what I could and was able to at least get the general idea on tape.

I want a new digital video camera for myself. Total splurge, but I want one. I have a nice 8mm, but I want something that I can upload to youtube easily without a lot of converting and that camera is also semi-broken (well the housing anyway) because I forgot to lock it onto the tri-pod last Christmas and it fell off when the dog’s tail whacked it. I also want something I can just whip in and out of my purse. Right now, I’m just using the video feature on my camera. The resolution isn’t the greatest and it gets shaky every once in a while. Although, I have found that if I rest the arm that is holding the camera on my ginormous lady lump (ok, ok, breast mound–but it isn’t as funny) I have a great way to stabilize the video! —-Trying to look at the bright side of reconstruction—hahaha.

I’ve also put some additional videos into the Boob Tube for your viewing pleasure and it includes one from Jordan’s concert as well. She’s my harpist. She used to play cello for several years, but gave it up this year against my wishes. I’ve got some photos I’m working on uploading to Flickr so check those out. Justin was adamant about wearing a suit and a tie. I spent the night before racing around Walmart for new black shoes and socks. I also decided against the suit thing while there and thought khakis, a button down, and his red tie would look just as nice.

When I got home, I looked into his closet and found his Easter suit he never wore because I was in the middle of recovery from my mastectomy. It is very thin material so he wore his long johns underneath and whattayaknow…his old black shoes still fit with the dress socks! Score–I get to take the new ones back! He is super skinny and has always needed to wear adjustable waistbands or belts but they dig in and he hates that. He’s wearing his “spenders” as he calls them to hold his pants up.

He told me later that the girls in his class told him he looked “handsome” and the boys told him he was dressed “like a man”. He’s super serious throughout the concert and I wondered, “What’s up with that?” the whole time.

As usual, I have much I want to write about, but I know this week will be CRAZY. I can’t believe it’s been 8 weeks since my first reconstruction surgery. I have been going to the plastic surgeon weekly for my fills. What a bizarre process that has been and I have a big post (I’m sure you’re all surprised at how short this one is–lol) and lots of pics coming up. I will have my last fill in a couple days. I’ve been in a lot of discomfort and at times downright pain for almost 3 weeks now. The skin and pectoral muscle are stretching and it is really pulling at the point where the muscle attaches into the inner armpit area.

I look like I have a giant grapefruit on one side of my chest–I’m not kidding–this it TOTALLY BIZARRE! I’ve barely been able to sleep for several weeks now because of the pressure from the expander and my range of motion in my right arm is limited. I work on it everyday, but IT HURTS!!! Don’t get me wrong–I’m not really complaining–in fact, you have no idea how much this has lifted my spirits. To look inside my shirt and see cleavage again has done wonders for my outlook. My next surgery will be in January, but more on that later.

So, please enjoy the holidays–and if it isn’t snowing where you are at, enjoy the snow I’ve posted on here for you! Oh, and another thing–if you watch the video “Snowpants”–take a look at Justin’s facial expressions. Doesn’t he look like Bill Murray in “Caddyshack”? Hahahaha.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Picture taken 12/19/09 about 10pm after we got home from bringing Jasmine home. We made our last trip to Sioux City, yesterday. We’ll all be together for Christmas. Blessings.

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I’m Seeing Another Man…

I’m seeing another man. In fact, I saw him twice last week. I also got to spend time with his partner and we discussed a possible threesome for later in the week…:)

Did that peak your curiosity? Perhaps I should clarify before the rumor mill gets to churning out the latest gossip and sends everyone in the family into a tizzy…

Due to ongoing pain around the tooth I had rooted out back in May, I found myself back in the hot seat at my new dentist’s office three times last week. Last Monday, I had the pleasure of meeting one more of the three dentists that practice at the Myotech Dental Center. This was not the same doctor that helped fix the 4 cavities and the root canal issue that had surfaced prior to starting my chemotherapy. Since Dr. Leppo was not in, Dr. Prudent and I made plans for me to return when both Dr. Leppo and Dr. Prudent could take a look at what was going on. I was again impressed with the unbelievable bedside manner of yet another partner in that business and it completely justified my decision to divorce the dentist I had been seeing for almost 4 years.

There have only been four dentists up until now in my life. My childhood dentist was imposed upon me by my parents. I hated him. There was something about him that really made my skin crawl. My girls call those kind of people–“creepers”. When I think about it–he was. I’m sure he was a nice enough fellow, but I didn’t like him and he inflicted a great deal of pain on me during my childhood and for that–he was out. Actually, he dumped me and opted for retirement. When his son took over the practice, I stayed for a while. The commute back and forth from where I lived in the cities as a young woman to the office in my hometown was just too difficult to make over a lunch hour though and so, I left him–without so much as a goodbye.

For five years, I worked for an eye surgeon in the Quad Cities. His office was right beside a dentist’s office. One day, I decided to start up a new relationship. I stayed with that dentist and followed him when he moved to a bigger office. As I moved further away, the commute began to take a toll once again, but there was a bigger problem. I hated his secretary–just couldn’t stand her–very bitchy and always looking down her nose at me–especially when I’d come in a few minutes late (as though she had never gotten stuck in traffic or dealt with kids in meltdowns). The doctor himself was great–kind, soft spoken, gentle, and would always set my appointments for the last one in the day because he knew that I was a freaker (thanks to dentist #1). He knew that more than anything, going to the dentist for me was a major psychological hurdle. He knew where the exposed roots were on the two molars that had housed headgear bands during the phase in my life when I wore braces and he always stayed clear from them with his sharp tool. I’ll never forget (I’m sure he won’t either) the day I went in to have a silver filling that had gone bad dug out and resealed. I was a mess–couldn’t stop crying, freaking out about the drill–I mean BAD. I was literally crawling up the back of the chair to get away. What should have taken about 20 minutes took and hour and a half because he would stop and start and stop and start to give me some time to brace myself. He never laughed at me. He understood and he was patient with my freak out. I loved him for that. I sent the office flowers the day after.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t stand to go there and be harrassed by the secretary. I showed up about 10 minutes late one night and she went through the roof and said I needed to pay a broken appointment fee. I had already had a bad day and I told her to shove it. It would be different if I never showed up, but I even called in route to tell her I was on my way. It infuriated me so much, I divorced her–on the spot. That meant, though, that I was divorcing him too and that made me really sad because I had been with him for about 15 years and so had my kids. I decided to find something closer to where we had just moved. I took a coupon out of the Welcome Wagon basket that promised free exams for new patients. Without dental insurance–that was like winning the lottery for me and my family because those new patient exams are soooo outrageously priced. My family has been with this dentist for about four years, but we haven’t liked it. Even so, I just can’t justify spending over a thousand dollars to get everyone in for new patient exams, x-rays and cleanings somewhere else. So, we’ve stayed.

The dentist at the time was someone I personally didn’t care for. He was patronizing and I just couldn’t stand that about him. He actually laughed when I told him I didn’t know if I could take having any major dental work done and that I have been known to take more than 2 or 3 novacaine shots in the past because I could feel the work being done despite the anesthetic. He would look at me incredulously and then laugh. It made my blood boil. I felt as though he really couldn’t care less and to him you were just a meal ticket. The women in the office infuriated me as well and would pad the bill each time I went in for myself or my kids. I’m always VERY SPECIFIC when it comes to dental bills because it is such a HUGE outlay of cash each 6 months that I have to budget very carefully. The last time I went in for me I told them I needed x-rays and an exam–no cleaning, no sealant, no flouride, no extras whatsoever because I was just checking on a specific tooth (the root canal one). I’ve learned with these women to repeat myself and make sure they have made notations on my account so when I actually do come in, there is no mistaking what I want or don’t want done. With all the computerization that is in that office and with the prior knowledge all these women have of me and that I can get very bitchy when someone is trying to screw me out of money–you would think that there were red flags waving signaling my arrival that day. Nope.

When I went back to the examining room the hygenist took the x-ray and then proceeded to clean my teeth. I stopped her, asked her what she was doing, and she looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about. I got up, walked out to the office and really got into the ladies business that is in charge of scheduling. I remember her telling me, “Well, if she started the cleaning, then we have to charge you for the whole cleaning and so you may as well get it done”. OH MY GOD–ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I went nuts. I even reminded her when I signed in that day. Do you think she could have transferred that information to the hygenist? I cancelled all other appointments for the rest of the year for the kids and myself–went ahead and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH (actually, that was the nice version of what I said) and I walked out. Before I left, I did demand all the x-rays, afterall, I paid for them over the years–why shouldn’t they give them to me?

Months go by and I hadn’t found a new dental home. I knew that wherever I landed, I wanted it to be the last one. I wanted to feel like the people in the office and the doctors themselves didn’t just see me as a walking $$ sign. I knew I needed to start looking, but I knew I was going to have to have work done to that upper tooth that gave me such problems. It wasn’t until that trip out to see my grandmother in Virginia one year ago that I passed by a billboard sign in Kentucky that promoted a local dentist and said something about sedation dentistry. I thought about it the whole way out and when I got home I started looking over the yellow pages. There aren’t too many places that provide that service here where I live. I would have to either travel or call an office that I always thought was geared more for patients needing dentures and dental implants. I took a shot on the denture office and it turned out they do all sorts of tooth restoration work. They also carried the ZOOM teeth whitening machine and I had been dying to have that done for a few years. I remember when I first called for information and prices (before I was even diagnosed) finding out that it was in my best interest to be a patient–it would be cheaper. Sigh. That meant I was going to have to start shelling out some big bucks to have all that new patient work done before I could even start any work.

It wasn’t long after Christmas last year that I had that fateful mammogram where I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When that happened, everything else took a back seat and months went by before I was again faced with the need to see a dentist. Back in April, I was told by my first oncologist that any dental work that I needed to have done would need to be done prior to starting treatment because the risk of any infection developing while my immune system was being destroyed would not be a good thing. I knew I had one cavity and it was a bad one, so I went ahead and called this denture office to see about coming in. I explained my situation and they got me in–no problem–no waiting. The doctor that came in to talk to me was hands down the nicest dentist I’ve ever met. He and I talked at length about my nerves and then discussed the x-rays and the fact that I had not one but FOUR cavities! One was so bad it needed a root canal (that was the one in question for 6 months). He told me the price of everything and I think I stopped breathing.

Where in the world was I going to come up with about $2800 in a week (I had to have it done before my first chemo on May 7, 2009)? I don’t carry credit cards–I figure if I don’t have the money for something, I shouldn’t be buying it, but now was one of those times I wished I had an emergency card. To tell you the truth–I’d just be paying interest and minimum payments for God knows how long and that’s not how I operate. I hate being “payment-ed” to death. I was really going to have to fanagle this one. That’s when he told me he could spread the payments out and give me 90 days same as cash. Still a freaking lot of money, but I had to have it done AND I know of no other dentist office that will let you do that. It included the extra $500 to put me to sleep–totally worth it in my mind and the date was set. I had to have someone drive me out to the surgical facility and hang around nearby for a few hours because I would be loopy to drive myself home. I wasn’t completely knocked out, and I can only remember bits and pieces of that afternoon.

Taken 5-4-09 right before being put under for my root canal.

I remember the nurse putting the IV in my arm and turning on the medicine that would make me fall asleep.

I remember Dr. Leppo coming in and telling me everything would be ok.

I remember him giving me a warm blanket and turning on the TV.

I remember several times opening up my eyes and seeing him hovering over me with a lot of bright lights and he was wearing micro-surgeon’s binoculars. He would ask me reassuringly each time if I was ok.

I remember my jaw aching.

I remember when it was over, he got up and he walked around holding onto his back because he had been in such an awkward position for over three and a half hours.

I remember telling him that I really appreciated his kind nature.

I remember him smiling at me very warmly and saying, “That’s what I’m here for”. He told me I would need a crown on that tooth, but because of the placement of the cavity on that particular tooth, I would be lucky not to lose the tooth sometime in the near future. He said it was a 50/50 shot and he made the decision to see if the root canal would do the trick. He said it was just too bad and that the cancer was really beginning to do some damage to my teeth. He said the tooth itself was packed full of antibiotics before being sealed. He also told me to come back with any problems and to hang tough through the chemo.

I looked at him dead on and said, “I want you to know, that if I don’t make it out of this this year, that you were one of the nicest doctors I had ever met and I was very glad to have him as part of my medical team.” He thanked me and told me it was quite alright.

It was just a couple days later when I had that encounter with the woman in the wig shop (Just Own It) and that is when I made the decision to get my tattoo. I knew that would also need to be done prior to chemo and my white cells getting killed off and I knew that all the antibiotics from the root canal would help kill off any kind of infection a tattoo might inflict. Right before going in for my first round of chemo, I went back to Dr. Leppo. I hadn’t been able to eat anything in a few days. My mouth was so sore from being clamped open for so long. I knew the other teeth he had fixed would take some getting used to chewing on again, but the side of my mouth that really had the work done was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t take the Vicadin because I transport kids during the day and the Ibuprofen just wasn’t doing the trick. He filed some stuff down and I went home. It wouldn’t matter whether I had eaten or not, the day came for my first chemo and after that I wasn’t really that hungry for a while. After about three weeks, things calmed down and I have been good since then–until a couple weeks ago.

I started experiencing pain on both sides of my upper jaw again. It got to the point where I just knew I had to get it looked at. I was worked in right away and from the initial x-rays, Dr. Leppo’s partner couldn’t tell if I had cracked the root canal tooth (with all the stress over Jasmine this summer, I had forgotten to go back for the crown), or if the tooth had two roots and one wasn’t all the way tied off or whatever they do to it. I kept saying there was something else. On the tooth right beside it. It was causing me A LOT of pain. He told me to come back on Wednesday and together, Dr. Prudent and Dr. Leppo would take a look and try to determine what was going on. Sitting in the dentist’s chair on Wednesday, I started getting nervous. What if the tooth has to come out. Then I’m going to need a fake tooth. Geez, I already have a fake boob, my face tells a nasty story with all the worry lines of what our family went through this past year, and now I am losing my teeth. I’m just so sick of falling apart.

As I waited for the doctor to come in, I mulled over a lot of stuff. “It’s detail work now, smoothing out the kinks–ya know?” I said to myself as convincingly as possible. I began to think about it more along those lines and after a few moments, I made yet another decision regarding my aftercare. As I sat there and stared at the posters for teeth whitening, I decided I would be more specific with my New Year’s resolutions and I was going to be doubly specific with what I meant by “This year I’m going to work on Me” (my resolution last year–and way to generic and vague). As far as my teeth were concerned, I was going to fix my teeth and get them back into a stable state and then I was going to ZOOM them. A little cosmetic pick me up for the new year. If my smile were to dazzle everyone, perhaps they wouldn’t see the wrinkles that were forming, the gray hair that was just beginning to grow in, the extra 30 pounds I was sporting, or the cyclops boob that was expanding on my chest.

I know its all superficial–it’s not what truly counts–but dammit, I need a makeover in the worst way. I decided that…

I would go and get my hair re-colored–I’ve tried my new natural color for six months now and it’s just not happening. I’ve tried rocking the lesbian chic look and I’m not sure I’m pulling it off. LOL.

I’m going to take myself over to the little nail salon by my house and get a much needed mani/pedi.

I am going to commit to my nutrition program and stop talking about the extra 30 pounds–instead–I’m going to do something about them. I’m going to work my ass off–literally. I want to sign up to learn how to dance salsa. That should burn a few calories.

I’m going to get ready for my next surgery where the expander will be taken out of my chest and an implant will be inserted and I will have the other side lifted. I will contemplate a matching implant for the left side and a nipple reconstruction for the right side–something I’ve not been sold on yet.

I am going to go get a spray tan–for the hell of it. I always feel better with a little color in my skin and since I’m terrified of burning my chest in a tanning bed and not feeling it because all the nerves have been severed–I am going to go get airbrushed–just because. Period. Maybe they can spray on a six pack for me–haha–afterall, I’ve often heard that you should post a picture of your goal on the fridge to remind you of what your working for. I’ll just post my pic on my gut.

Lastly, I’m getting a massage. I need one. I’ve been terrified of getting one after what I was told back in February (that massage helps the drain the lymphatic system and that getting a massage when you have invasive cancer could possible send any free radicals bee-lining for a new host location to set up shop). I need one though–not want one–NEED ONE! Too much stress buildup over this year.

I need to stop pouring so much of me into everyone else all the time and carve out time to pour back into me. I just have to be a little selfish. Period. I’ve neglected me for too long. I had been expanding my mind, but forgot about all the other stuff and as you get older it’s important to look at the whole picture–or pieces of the picture start to get torn and that’s what was happening to me.

All of a sudden, Dr. Leppo walked in beaming. He was genuinely happy to see me. He said to me, “You made it!–That deserves a hug!” He came over and hugged me and then sat down to talk to me. I said, “I’m alive”! and we spent a few minutes catching up on how the year has gone. It was like talking to an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. Our attention turned to my teeth and we came to the conclusion that I really needed a whole new set of x-rays to see the damage that the chemo has done to my teeth.

“What kind of damage does chemo do to your teeth?” I asked.

“Well, it’s not really the chemo as much as it is the fact that chemo dries your mouth out and as a result of an extremely dry mouth, you don’t have the saliva needed to keep your gum tissue healthy which can also contribute to dental carries. Without saliva, there’s nothing to wash the sugars away” he said. Thankfully, I didn’t really experience any major side effects except having my hair fall out and going into respiratory arrest–nothing major–yeah, right–so, a few cavities is nothing in comparison, right? It still didn’t explain the pain, though.

I told him I had tried to schedule a new patient cleaning, exam, and x-rays, but was told the first appointment wouldn’t be until the end of March. He and his assistant looked through everything and because we had been hit with such a snow storm the previous week, there were many cancellations from people not wanting to drive into town. I was scheduled for the next day and as I left, I was told that there was no charge for my office visit for the second time that week. I couldn’t help but think that I had found my new dental home.

The next day brought a lot of anxiety for me. I was going to have to go through all the poking with that sharp little instrument I hate so much. All the scraping on my silver fillings that sends shivers through my spine and sounds like nails on a chalkboard. I was going to have to pray my new hygenist would be mindful of the exposed roots on the upper back molars and I would have to really hold on to the hope that I hadn’t cracked my tooth and the underlying problem was, in fact, due to something else. I couldn’t have been more put at ease. The two girls that worked on me were soooo nice! They answered all my questions about water picks, sonic toothbrushes, and teeth whitening. One talked to me about my cancer and asked quite frankly what I was thinking when I realized that I was really going to have to have my boob cut off (she’s young). It didn’t shock me, and I’d rather someone just come out and ask me those kinds of questions then just whisper behind my back. She asked if I was contemplating reconstruction and I had to laugh inwardly–did she not see this huge cyclops boob on my chest? Did she just think that was the silhouette of my real boob and since it overshadowed the actual real one that the left side must be the side I had cut off because it really looks pathetic over there now. Then she told me she just had an augmentation and that’s when I asked her a bunch of questions–especially–silicone or saline? That’s the question that weighs heavily on my mind these days.

Dr. Leppo came in again and looked through all the x-rays. Turns out I have two old silver fillings that are lifting up and causing me great pain since stuff is getting in there. They’ll need to be dug out and replaced. I hate the thought of it, but am secretly glad to get rid of all the silver in my mouth. It turns the color of my teeth gray and I hate it. So, I’ll get them replaced with enamel colored fillings and that should help the discoloration on that side. We’ll start working on replacing all of them since they seem to be really wearing out–but we’ll do it slowly and as I can afford to do so and about that root canal tooth–well, it’s still too hard to determine just what is going on with it, but I do have a cavity butted right up beside it and it could just be pain radiating throughout that entire area.

We talked about the possibility that once the cavity is filled, I find out that I’m still having pain and that it really is the root canal tooth. We talked about extracting it and having an implant put in. I freaked. I don’t know a lot about that–my parents always had partials–these things that they put into their mouths in the morning and took out at night to brush and soak. On their website their is a tiny flash video of how they use a screw to anchor in the implant–it acts like a metal root. “God, I totally do not want to do this”, I prayed and then quickly proceeded to put it into context–“Chris, you had your boob cut off this year. If you can do that, then you can handle a tooth implant screwed into your jaw”. Dr. Leppo reminded me it may not come to that. I was worried about how much that was going to cost. We never did get specifics, but he did say he would apply all the money I had paid for the root canal toward the implant. He told me he would stand behind his work and if it didn’t work, then he would reimburse me. Have I mentioned lately, that I love him? He knows just what to say to help get me through all this and for me it all boils down to pain and money. How much pain do I have to endure and how much is that pain going to cost me.

We talked about doing all the work at once and again I started to panic. We came to the agreement that I would get the middle sedation treatment–a pill that would make me super relaxed–and if I needed laughing gas–he’d give me that as needed. I’ve spent almost my entire adult life not relying on drugs or meds for things and this year, I have decided–they really come in handy! I wasn’t going to do it all at once, but it sure beats having to get super freaked more than one time. I also can’t stand to take off 2 or 3 afternoons to get it all done. So, we scheduled it for over a naptime where I could feed the kids and have a sub come in to help–mostly just to make sure they nap soundly. The effects of the meds should wear off farely quickly after the procedure and thankfully, my daughters will be home to help me out should I need it with the rest of the afternoon. The 29th of December is the day and I am not looking forward to it. I paid for half the visit (which was supposed to be $350 and they only charged me $219–another score in my book) and I made arrangements to put the balance with the total from the 29th (about $700) on a 3-pay again. Hard to come up with all that during Christmas, but I just have to keep plowing ahead. I can’t think about it or I’ll get stressed. It just bites because I just registered for school to retake a couple classes. These are on my dime. I just got that bill and now I realize why I signed onto that scholarship program (note to self–never let another class slide). Sigh. It’s always something. Anyway, here’s my super nice dentist and if any of you are wanting to make a switch to their office in Moline, make sure you tell them I sent you. They have an incentive program for referrals and one of them is a massage–I mentioned earlier how much I needed one, right?

Dr. Leppo

Full Moon Rising…

Full Moon Rising

I’m in the middle of working on 2008 AND 2009 taxes–ugh. A bazillion receipts that need to be poured over and a mountain of 2009 medical bills is now growing exponentially and is beginning to resemble a full-scale replica of Mt. Kilamanjaro. I hate doing this. I have software programs that should simplify this part of my life and great paper systems that claim to do the same thing, but what I want to do is anything but taxes so, I put it off. I absolutely hate bean counting. It takes me forever to catch up and granted, it’s my fault I’m now in a state of freak out, but I’ll get it done somehow–I’ll just be a lot more worse for wear over the next couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll make some headway soon and this mountain of paper will get under control in time for the holidays or at least by the time Jasmine comes home. Yep, you heard me…she’s coming home…soon.

As thrilled as I am, I am extremely nervous. I don’t want for old habits to rise back up to the surface, but I have to pray that she has learned a great deal of coping skills and she will rise above all the triggers that she will be faced with daily. We had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving with her while she earned a 4-day pass. It was filled with love, laughter, good food, and family–just what Thanksgivings are about.

Together for Thanksgiving '09

It was our biggest blessing–to see her alive and doing well and clean and sober and genuinely happy to be with us. That blessing could only compare to our family’s other biggest blessing–me–and the fact that I am still alive 10 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. We built fires and roasted marshmallows. We stayed up all night long and watched movies. We laughed until we cried, lost our voices, and acted completely crazy as Jasmine joined Jordan and I on our psycho shopping sprees where we waited for hours in the freezing weather just to be pushed and shoved through the stores and become so discombobulated that we were standing in the wrong lines to check out more than once. She had never shared in the Black Friday tradition before and was absolutely shocked to see the chaos.

She wanted to surprise everyone for Thanksgiving dinner and so we dropped her off a block away from Jeff’s sister’s house and as we all loaded into the house without her, she snuck up several minutes later and burst in on the crowd. Tears flowed, cameras flashed and a young girl was reminded while she was sober how much she was loved. She met up with an on again off again boy who proceeded to stay with us over the course of the next few days. He’s leaving for the navy boot camp in just a few days and I knew they both wanted to see each other. I was reminded watching the two of them that out of all the boyfriends she’s ever had–I liked him the most. I also liked the fact that when he messed up he took my motherly bitching and came back apologetic and sincere. No matter what went down between them or whose fault it was–I couldn’t help but think I’d be pretty lucky to someday have a son-in-law that nice and down to earth. They are both still young and I don’t expect anything, but I can dream and I can always hope that whoever my daughter is lucky enough to find–will treat her with as much loving kindness as Dylan has. He was also instrumental in helping me find her in Ohio after she had been taken. That alone, in my book, earns him oodles of brownie points.

Jasmine & Dylan Thanksgiving Eve '09

Jasmine made it a point to find meetings near here that will help keep her on track and we set up necessary services that will help her deal with her lifelong struggles that she will face. Before we knew it, the 3 full days flew by and it was time for another day long trip in the car to get her back. She’s been doing well and pulling straight A’s once again, but I do worry that when she comes home, it won’t be as easy for her to stay focused. I guess all I can do is pray about it. If all goes well, she’ll finish up one more class–hopefully two–and then be able to come home in time for Christmas.

Jordan, Jasmine, and I loaded up the car last Sunday and we set out (late) across the state. We went out to eat for breakfast with Jeff and Justin beforehand so we wouldn’t have to worry about eating junk food the whole way out. What usually takes us between 5.5 and 6 hrs. took us almost 7.5 just to get across the state. We followed every holiday traveller out of Iowa in bumper to bumper traffic–both lanes–never making it over 60mph. Torturous for speed demons like me. I kept reminding myself that patience is a virtue and I needed to channel all the patience I endure daily with the children I work with every day. Easier said than done when your in that much traffic.

We stopped by a rest stop for a break and Jasmine came out looking for a woman that had left her purse on the back of the toilet. I saw the woman came out and thought, “cute haircut” when I saw her and then she left quickly. We peeked inside the purse and found her phone. Going through her contacts we found a Steve and called him to explain everything to him. He was able to contact her and her sons so they were able to turn around and come back for her purse. It was an expensive Kate Spade purse and it was filled with cash and expensive perfume and credit cards. It would have been so easy for someone to steal it and go shopping. I was so proud of my daughter wanting to do the right thing. We agreed to wait and I told her that this woman was so lucky it was us and not some crook.

When the woman showed up in her fancy Lexus SUV she got out and was totally snobbish. She wasn’t overly appreciative and she didn’t even offer Jasmine $5 for returning it. I know we did the right thing, and yes we did it for that reason and not for any monetary reward–but let’s be honest–some munchie money for the trip would have been nice. We were travelling in comfortable clothes and she sized us up and down and figured we were below her class and couldn’t be bothered with us. I could read it all in her eyes. I just hate snobs. This setback cost us another 45 min. and I just had to tell myself and the girls that it was 45 min. more we had with each other that day and it was a test to see if Jasmine would do the right thing. She passed.

Working our way westward, I knew that I had one more stop in store for us. There is a tower that sits on top of a scenic overlook along I-680W in Iowa close to the I-29N exit. I’ve always wanted to stop each time we have gone to visit, but the first couple times I missed the exit. Each time after that, Jeff was with and driving and couldn’t be bothered with such trivial memory makers. On this day, though, I was in charge. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The air was crisp and cold and even though we weren’t going to stay long, I wanted to take the girls up. I wanted them to look out over a very large area and see where states of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota converge. I secretly hoped that as Jasmine and Jordan looked out across the countryside that they would see that the keys to their success are in her hands. I wanted Jasmine to see that her possibilities were endless and that she was lucky to be alive after what happened to her this summer. I hoped that she would see that her destiny was out there in this world and that with God’s grace she would find her way.

The back of the tower appears dark because of the setting sun.

[

The front of the tower was illuminated with deep golds and just beyond the tower, I saw a full moon rising pictured above).

When I saw my daughters up on top of that tower–I couldn’t help but think quickly over the past year about how far each of us had come.

Jasmine looks out

Jordan joins her sister at the top

Holding on for dear life

We had all battled demons and even though we weren’t completely free of their grips, we were still standing. We were still surviving. We were still breathing. I joined my girls at the top of the tower and looked out. I needed to practice what I preached and I needed to grab onto life again–a life I never imagined would turn out the way it had, but never-the-less still grateful to be alive to see my children grow.

The air was biting and the wind caused my stomach to flip flop. I looked out over the meandering interstate that had carried my family members back and forth for months as we visited our very ill daughter over 6 hours away.

I-29N

I-680W

I never knew what the end of this part of the journey would look like, but with a crimson sky I couldn’t help but think it was amazing and better yet, it was almost finished. I looked at my girls and told them I loved them and then we took a picture of all of us.

Freezing our butts off

A gust came whipping through the tower and scared all of us. I began to descend but got really scared and had to sit down and scooch down on my butt while my daughters laughed at their “chicken” mom.

Me--realizing how I hate heights

Stop laughing at me!

With the last burst of sunshine, I took a little video of my girls playing. When I see the opening picture of the video–before I even click play, I am reminded that they are still little girls. In the grand scheme of life and for how fast they are trying to get on with their lives or grow up before they are ready–it just reminds me that right now, this very instant, whether they like it or not–they are still little. It also reminds me of a more peaceful time in our lives. A time without the drama and crisis and heartache and devastating health issues that plagued our family this year. I can see my LITTLE girls in this picture–I can see the glimmer of hope that tomorrow holds limitless possibilities. The video is just pure silliness–and also gave me a shot of my second full moon that day.

This parting shot of Jasmine with me is priceless. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how hard she was pulling me toward her. I won’t forget her telling me sincerely and unsolicited–“I Love You”–over and over–something I hadn’t heard in years. I was glad that Jordan took the picture. I’ll treasure the moment always.

I Love You, Mom!

Jordan slept almost all the way home and the trip back was easy and much quicker–5.10 hrs. to be exact. I had never made the trip that quickly. There was noone on the road for miles and miles as I’m sure everyone was already home and tucked into bed awaiting work the next morning. I drove home listening to Christmas carols and thanking God for letting me live so that I may see to it that Jasmine would get the help she needed. I thanked him for not taking her home before me (at least this past summer this summer). I prayed for no more whammies. I told him that I thought I had managed the year as best I could and that I truly believed that I needed a break. I also wondered what lied in store for me and my family this next year.

Honestly, I need things to look up in 2010. I need time without crisis so that I can try to rebuild my faith, my relationship with my daughter and all of my family for that matter, my finances, my businesses, my educational aspirations, my professional endeavors, etc. As bleak as it looked several times this year I know I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I’m just ready to start snapping it again. –Watch out!

Formal shoutout to Dylan here–God bless you and keep you safe. Don’t forget our address and when you get out of boot camp–make sure to call. You are loved and you will be in our prayers.

P.S. I took my own advice and re-registered for the upcoming spring semester. I am going to re-take the two classes I let go. I couldn’t focus last year with the bombarding information coming at me and I also reached a point where I felt I’d rather be spending time with my family instead of having my nose in a book all the time. I was worried I was going to die and I worried about it all the time. I no longer think that way. I believe I’m going to be around here for a while and I may as well get my degree finished. I just won’t try to attain it at warp speed. Third reason–my scholarship people are getting ancy for me to fulfill my contract. I really don’t want to pay back all of the thousands they’ve given me because I’m in breach of my contract with them. I’ve hashed out an extension plan with the TEACH program and I am grateful they are understanding and accommodating to my requests. Now if I could just peel myself away from all the reality TV I’ve become addicted to…:)

She’s B-a-a-c-k…

I’ve been working on a post for a week in between being down and out with a horrible chest cold/migraine combination. I found myself in bed between 5pm and 6pm every night last week and I am still working through a lingering cough that hurts my chest each time I feel that tickle in the back of my throat. Like Pavlov’s response, my chest muscle spasms at the mere thought of needing to cough. It hasn’t been too pleasant and I am trying to suppress those darn coughs, but to no avail. It has worn me out and since I am not finished with that post, I thought I’d at least pop in for a quickie update.

As I worked on last week’s post–well, more like a rant–and worked through my illness which came on suddenly during our trip out west to visit out daughter–I was able to manage in two doctor visits as well. The first was with my plastic surgeon for my 4th fill and that was on Tuesday. I am about halfway through the fill process and last week marked 400cc so far. This experience is very bizarre and I am just slightly larger ( I think) than my real Bo, now. I see him each week and actually, today will be my 5th fill visit and bringing the total to 450cc. I can’t wait to start posting those pictures, you all will be truly amazed at how far my body has chosen to cooperate!

On Wednesday, I had a folow-up with my general surgeon–the one who cut my boob off. I see him every 3 months and he was really impressed with how things are going and that I had chosen to go through with the additional surgeries. He said he has been following my reports from my onco-man and my plastic surgeon and everything is looking good. No news was really given about that mass found in my left ovary and I figure, if it was something to be worried about, someone would have called me by now. He taught me what to look for and feel for now that I will have an implant soon and for the first time since I’ve been going to him, he was pretty gentle in his groping. He usually digs in so deep that I am bruised for a week after, but I begged the nurse to talk to him before he came in and tell him I had just had surgery 5 weeks prior. I was really surprised he was accommodating to that request. He also ended our visit by telling me I would only need one more groping with him in 3 more months which will bring the date just past the one year anniversary mark since we met for the first time. When I think that he got further with me (second base) on our first date then my husband ever did, it makes me sad. The men that have felt me up this year–both experienced and unexperienced–has really frustrated me and at times pissed me off. The hardest thing was having to watch my hubby watch these strange men feel me up. We all knew it was in the name of medicine of course, but I really don’t blame Jeff for no longer coming along to the visits. It’s just got to be uncomfortable and weird.

When we were up to see our daughter, we were given news during our family session that she is doing really well. We worked on a home living contract for when she is released and we learned that she has earned a pass home for the holidays! We are thrilled and busy getting the house ready and plans to do some fun things. It means a shortened work week for me as I will need to take Wednesday off and drive myself up to get her and bring her home. She’ll be here for four days and then I will return on Sunday and take her back. If all goes well while she’s here and if she maintains her levels when she gets back, she could be released by Christmas. That would be fantastic! The keys to everything, her success, her future, everything are in her hands. I pray she is strong enough to start taking back the reigns to her life. I pray.

Jeff & Justin have been putting up the Christmas lights, and doing a lot of yard work. I have been working slowly through my cold and this weekend I trained to present a class at the Arsenal this weekend. I will take the class over and begin presenting on occasion. I love that! I am also working on 2008 taxes and starting in on 2009’s. I hate that! Jordan babysat this weekend and worked on homework and confirmation studies. We all are gearing up for a big Thanksgiving with Jeff’s family like we do every year. Saturday night we were given tickets to see the Holiday Pops concert given by our local symphony and it included a Cirque de Soleil type of experience. The performers were called Cirque de la Symphonie (hit the play button when you get to the preview video) and it really was an enjoyable and free family experience! On the way home from the show, I developed cramps in my abdomen. They were reminiscent of menstrual cramps, but that couldn’t be–could it? I haven’t had one since January 2009 and my onco-man has given me two hormone tests to see where I stood with regard to menopause.

The first time the test came back, I was borderline menopausal and he chalked it up to that. The last time I saw him, we took another blood sample and that eventually came back saying I was pre-menopausal–not borderline. What changed? Now the cramps on Saturday night? I wondered if it could be something else, but Sunday morning came and Aunt Flo came back just in time for the holidays. I wish I could say I was happy about that. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to think. Honestly, I’m worried all over. I was just beginning to let my guard down. Maybe that’s why its here again. I have always felt that ever since that initial diagnosis, the extreme freakout I have been living in as a result of that diagnosis ever since, my daughter’s health and well-being, my husband’s job situation, our mounting financial obligations to a myriad of medical facilities, the monumental stress had instantaneously shut down that monthly cycle.

It is true that extreme stress, certain health conditions, and certain medicines can stop Aunt Flo from showing up, but now–after 9 months of not having one–she’s back. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does it mean that it has just taken me 9 months to finally calm down–really? I don’t have the stress load from school, my mastectomy is behind me, the chemotherapy has been called off, my tests are beginning to look ok, my daughter is somewhere I can locate her and she is doing well. My head is getting back in the game of life and looking forward to new beginnings with next year, my outward self-image is looking up, and my accreditation is behind me along with several other re-certification processes. Could my body just be signaling me that I have successfully chilled out enough to resume its normal functioning?

But…what if…this is a sign that something isn’t right? The Tamoxifen is supposed to shut down production of my estrogen which was feeding my cancer. Could it be that the meds aren’t working? Am I still producing estrogen in spite of the meds? If I’m still producing estrogen, then I’m still ovulating, then I’m still having periods. What does that mean in terms of my prognosis? Should I get my period back? Should the meds prevent that from happening? I am confused and worried. I have two calls in to my onco-man. I’m waiting for someone to call me back. Has this happened to anyone out there? Can anyone tell me what’s going on? Is this normal? Should I be concerned? Maybe my body has finally expelled the last of the chemo drugs. I don’t know. I wish the phone would ring…

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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