April 18th, 2015

See & Say

It’s easy to sit

sit and see and say

like a toy with a string

wandering in circles.


Wondering, wandering, whispering, whining.

Whirling to figure out

what went wrong.


Then you sit

sit and see

see the changes you’ve made

see the words you say

as they slice through

the tender flesh

the timid glance

the trusting heart

and leave a mess,

a plastic shell

disembodied voice

limp string tied to what you

saw and said.

April 10th, 2015


So much rests in that simple addition.

Merely an expected presence,

expected and useful

to help with those stale bites of bread as you wait.


“I’ll have a coke.”



the legs leave, lacking levity.

Her shoes slapping the sandstone.

We sit, thighs touching, waiting.


“More bread?”


The answer is always yes,

but it shouldn’t be based on the size of my thighs.


Five cups rest before us,

green plastic bumping with a hollow clink.

Five cups emptied and filled

Emptied and filled

Emptied and filled.


The bread, food, whatever, passes.

Delivered, consumed, removed.


Then we’re left with a mass of cups

forming the altar where we exchange minds.


“How was work.”


I contemplate the seven hours old

cold cup of coffee on my kitchen counter

and my brain spirals into domestic dances

while his voice peacefully drones, dips, duly dulcet.

And though my mind traces the steps

of that day’s dithering dance

the jobs left undone

I relax for the first time

in the liquid that fills holes,

washing over the dry

scabs left from tireless efforts.

October 25th, 2014

being a parent is hard

“Ready to help me baby?” I move her step stool so she has a better view of what I’m doing. I hope that one day, when she’s older – maybe when she has her own home – she’ll make chicken pot pie too. I grab the bowl out of the fridge, split the dough ball in half, and return the rest in the bowl to the fridge. Spreading the flour out onto the wooden counter I see her little fingers itching to play in the white powder.

“Just watch Ginny, you see this?” I hold the cold dough now rolled into a neat ball in front of her. I take her clean fingers and gently press them in to the flour, then I let her feel the fold velvety dough. She giggles as she pulls her hand out of my grasp. I toss the flour around, slowly working the dough so that it won’t stick to the table. Is she learning how to do this too?

“Okay baby, watch this, okay?” She dutifully nods her head, then stares as I start rolling out the dough. I see her fingers slowly creep up to the edge of the counter, then her fingers are in the flour. “Ginny!?! You’re going to make a mess!” My tone is harsher than I meant it, and she instantly withdraws, wiping her hands on her shirt.

As soon as she realizes the smears of white powder on her purple shirt her big eyes get teary, followed the standard “get it off” wiping that just adds to the mess – she’s stuck in a messy circle. “Okay, wait, just wait, it’s okay.” A sudden tizzy of trying to fix the mess I’ve created thanks to the mess she created. I find myself dropping the rolling pin that promptly rolls off of the counter and down to the ground as I rush to get a wet paper towel. “It’s okay, you’re not in trouble, I’m sorry for raising my voice. It’s just a little flour, watch…” I gently pat her shirt with the damp cloth in my hand and flour disappears.

She sniffles a bit “Thank you Mommy.”

“You’re welcome.” I say, pressing my lips against her baby-soft cheek. I could kiss her all day, if only she’d sit still that long. I pick the rolling pin up from the spot it has rolled to. A quick wash, and we’re back in business. She watches as the dough is pressed out into a wide circle.

“How did it get so big?” She asks in wonder. “It’s so thin now.” I smile, she’s always been observant – she’s keen, I love that about her. We talk as I roll out the other three crusts, letting her spread the flour and help with the rolling.

I hope she remembers this kind of stuff.

As I step out of the room to find the pie plates I remind her, “be careful baby, we don’t want to make a big mess.”

Wasted words, as my quick return is greeted with a flour-covered kitchen and a teary-eyed child whose purple shirt is now white. “Ginny, wh… what did you do?!”. My cheeks flush in anger, frustration clear in my voice. I’m on a schedule, I’ve got to get dinner to another family. How can one cup of flour cover an entire room?

Ginny wipes her hands on her shirt one more time before hanging her head in defeat. “I’m sorry for helping Mama.”

Instantly I’m pressing her little floured body to mine, one hand cradling her neck like you would a newborn as I take a deep breath through my nose. She hasn’t smelled like newborn in a long time, but her scent still intoxicates me.

“Oh baby, you never have to apologize for helping.” Now is not the time for lessons on following directions. My shoulders feel heavy with regret, as I feel her long legs swaying back and forth. “Some times I get upset, and I’m sorry for being frustrated, I know you didn’t mean to make a big mess.”

She wiggles her little frame out until I relent and set her down. “I’ll clean it up Mama, I’ma get my broom from the play room.” Her little feet pitter-patter across the floor. She tries so hard. I need to lighten up.


Regret, the kind that catches in my throat, the kind that tells me I’ve done it again. I didn’t raise my voice – a step in the right direction. A small pat on the back, because that is something I’ve struggled with, but it’s obviously not enough. It’s not enough to not yell. I’ve instantly ruined what should’ve been a precious moment because I stressed out about flour on the floor. Another penny in my bank of self-deprecation. I hate myself for every second like this. I hate that I have yet to master my reactions.


I hope I remember this. I hope that I don’t ruin anything else. 


She reappears moments later with her broom, and we sweep the floor, her little bare feet between mine as I help her master the movements. Eventually we empty the dustpan in to the trash and I scoop her up into my arms, burying my head against her little tummy while she runs her fingers through my too-short hair. “I love you Mama.” She says, leaning back a little she takes my face in her hands, then forces a kiss on me. I squeeze her, wishing I could hold her little body forever.

“I love you too baby, I love you too.”




September 24th, 2014

Visiting Virginia: Westmoreland State Park

Visiting Virginia

There’s something beautiful about Virginia that doesn’t really exist in many places. I currently live in what can easily be described as a “bustling metropolis”. No, I don’t live in D.C. – but the District has slowly bled out into the surrounding area, and as far south as Fredericksburg (about 55 miles from DC) you will find people who drive into the city every day! It’s kind of ridiculous, but such is life in NoVa. But back to that special thing: You can drive for 10 minutes, no matter where you start, and end up in “the middle of nowhere. Hop off the highway, and just keep driving. Soon enough you’ll be on small tree lined roads. It’s a breath of peace in a busy, congested area.


Westmoreland State Park – August 2014


B-man and I decided to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary with a family camping trip. Westmoreland State Park is a Virginia State Park in Westmoreland county, east of Fredericksburg. This was not our first trip to the park. From our home in the Woodbridge area it took less than two hours to drive there. I would highly suggest making reservations. In the time it took us to drive there all of the spots for the next night were filled, so we ended up having to change our schedule around to make sure we got in all of the activities we wanted to do, just in case we only got one night. Some one ended up cancelling, so we were able to stay three nights, but it was a lot of unnecessary annoyance.

One of my anniversary gifts from B-man.


First thing we did upon arrival was take advantage of the remaining sunlight with a quick hike on Turkey Neck Trail. The trails are some what circular and can lead you down to the beach. Of course, hiking with a three year old is some what limiting. Trail guide available here [pdf].


Trail head for Turkey Neck Trail

After a short hike (which usually results in a grumpy toddler asking to be carried by the end of it), we headed back to set up our tent before it got dark. This is the third time we’ve used it, so it was very quick. It takes two of us about ten minutes to set this castle up!

Our tent & tub set up. In this picture half of the rainfly is pinned back.


When we camp we take the tent bag, the tub o’ gear, the food, camping chairs, bedding, and clothing. As we do it more often I hope to cut back on how much “stuff” we bring, because it really is about being organized. This system worked fairly well for us. This tent is the REI Kingdom 6. So far we have enjoyed it, and I’m glad I purchased this one instead of a 1-room 6 person tent. I realize we don’t need such a large tent, but having the space and flexibility is very nice.

the full site

Arriving Friday meant we pretty much had the pick of the place, so we were able to get a large, semi-secluded site with a large empty space behind it. Some of the sites in the park were very small, and would’ve made it irresponsible for us to light a fire as our tent would’ve been too close. Definitely something to consider if you set up a larger tent.

Friday night we attended a star-gazing activity at the main building. Though the building was not in use they kept lights on in the main room – which was basically a wall of windows. This mean that while we were outside looking for stars it was kind of difficult due to the light pollution. The class included a star-map and printed resources that participants could take home. I enjoyed it, but my three year old did not. Might be better for older kids. I kind of expected a little bit of a history lesson (like learning the stories behind the constellations) but the guide did not seem to know that type of thing. Instead he used an app on his phone to pin-point the constellations. It was nice out though, and we took a blanket to lay out and star at the stars until the clouds rolled in.

That night it poured. So much rain. We hadn’t done any tie-outs, but our tent kept us completely dry!

Family of bikes!

Saturday we spent the better part of the morning on a nice bike ride. We biked the Rock Spring Pond Trail, which is all down hill one way, and all up hill the other. Then we also did the Conservation Corps Trail – it has excessive stations every couple hundred yards.

Ginny getting her row-on!

In the afternoon we took advantage of the swim pass that is included in the cost of camping, and took Ginny to the pool. It was pretty busy, but still enjoyable. They had a full size pool with two diving boards and a pool. Then a separate, gated, shallow pool for babies and toddlers. My only complaint about the pool was that we couldn’t ride our bikes there. It is at the bottom of a very large hill that specifically says no bike riding (on the road) and no bike-accessible paths go to the pool area.

Blue circle indicates the pool’s location. Purple was our bike ride, the star between the purple and screen lines is where our campsite was. Green and orange are the hikes we took.

Saturday night we went to a meet-and-greet at the discovery center that included s’mores, and a little history lesson about the park. The guide had found a lizard and let Ginny’s hold it while we waited for others to show up. Naturally, she named it Jeff.

Ginny & Jeff

Afterwards we rode our bikes around checking out a few of the things the guide had talked about in the lesson.

The colored dish sets were also a part of B-man’s anniversary gift to me.

Sunday every one cleared out. We made pancakes on the camp stove, then invited kids from a nearby site to hang out while their parents’ packed up their stuff. Ginny enjoyed building a “tree house” with the other little kids. When we camp we take a bucket and shovel, and this time it was very productive as they collected rocks that had escaped the designated (slightly slanted) campsite and moved them to “higher ground”.

Building their “tree house”.

Once the threats of rain has passed, we decided to hike down to Fossil Beach. You can borrow a sifter from the main office. The beach gets its name from the ever-present fossils & shark teeth that can be found there, with enough time, effort and luck.

Big Meadow Trail leads to Fossil Beach.

The walk there is downhill, and easy enough. Ginny walked the whole way there. What we didn’t notice walking down were the ground bees. I highly suggested wearing closed toed shoes and pants.

Using the backpack that my parents used to hall my baby sister around England!

We had very little luck at the beach. We found one tiny shark tooth, about the size of a thumb print.

Dipping our feet in the water.

Swimming is not permitted at the beaches, though people do it any way. Every time I’ve gone we see jellyfish hanging out in the water. Additionally the Potomac has lots of undertows and some flesh eating bacteria. Good times, right?!

The weather shut down the pool, so we spent the rest of Sunday at our campsite.

Bubbles, a ball, a bucket, and a shovel. That’s all we took to entertain her while we were there!

Most every one was gone by Sunday afternoon, so it was very quiet! We Enjoyed listening to the birds, and spotting lizards near our site!

Jeff’s older brother?

And our final camping meal (aside from the muffins we ate the next morning) was frito-pie. We didn’t have a table cloth, and something dropped on the table, bringing bees… and though we finally cleaned it up well enough to stop the bugs, we decided to sit further away from the table to give it a chance to clear out. Now I know – don’t spill anything… ever!

Ginny’s make-shift table!

We packed up quickly Monday morning and headed home. It was a beautiful weekend, despite the rain. I’m glad we participated in all of the organized activities, and got to hike a good amount of the trails. This is a great local park with lots of amenities, clean bathrooms, and a good selection of activities.

The end.



Westmoreland’s Report Card:

Family friendly: 5/5

Bike friendly: 2.5/5 – Only a few miles of path, the rest is road, not all roads allow riding.

Bathrooms: 3/5 – Not terrible, but definitely not the greatest. The stalls still had info papers from last summer.

Activities: 4/5 – Lots of options available during peak season on the weekend for a variety of age groups.

Amenities: 4/5 – The pool was large and clean, staff was friendly, changing area was dark and buggy. Main office was nice, staff was helpful and friendly. The camp store was well stocked and easy to locate. Wood was $5/bundle, but not tied – you have to measure it out yourself.


This is the first in a series of posts I will do about the places we visit in Virginia. More information about Westmoreland State Park is available here.

September 6th, 2014

Sweet Summer

While the winter and spring months disappeared quickly, the last few months of summer have left a bigger impression on me. I didn’t realize how catatonic I’d become, sleeping in until the early afternoon, then going to bed early in the evening. It’s a wonder I have any memories – most of which involve driving in the snow and sweet things others did for my family.

We did a lot of travelling, which I will document eventually, but my favorite moments have been the little things. Little things like seeing Ginny love the same trampoline I grew up with.


Or when we find the best in our flooded carport: built in puddle jumping! Ginny got to pick those polka dot boots out at the L.L. Bean outlet when we were in Maine.


We managed to squeeze in three camping trips in just two months. One trip was a three-day adventure in celebration of our five year wedding anniversary. Ginny loves it, outdoors is definitely her element.



My favorite moments over the summer though are when I get to play witness to Ginny and her Daddy. The way they interact, it makes me jealous! She’s full of giggles, he’s incredibly patient. Any person who dares to say that men can’t be as nurturing as women need to spend a few days in this household.


Ginny has grown a strange fondness for lizards and the name “Jeff”. A neighbor gave her a small rubber lizard, which was named Jeff. Since that point every stuffed animal, doll, and living thing without a name has been named Jeff. Jeff is also the name of the guy that makes my salad at Panera every Tuesday. Go figure.

While I was sick people helped us out in so many different ways. One of those not-expected ways was the people who brought over hand-me-downs for Ginny. Every penny counts, and I’m thankful to have such thoughtful friends. Below is a picture of Ginny in her “running shoes”. She’s convinced that wearing them requires running. It’s endearing.


Ginny got her first umbrella this summer, as a birthday gift from a neighbor. It has Mickey Mouse on it, and her name. Of course she is enamored.

I think one of my favorite things to do with my little love (and my big love) is to get out of the house. I’m a bit of a wimp still, and “getting out of the house” might be code for “I’m too tired to cook so lets go somewhere”. It’s a nice treat, and a good experience for Ginny. She’s been learning how to order for herself, and she always asks so nicely!



I move slowly these days, but I try to move a lot. I’ve found that if I spend all day on my feet, I have joint pain the next few days. It’s hard. I want to do things. I want to feel better. I want to be motivated. So when that moment of energy comes I grab on to it, and I push and do and go and get things done. Then I pay for it.

I’ve been going through our things, I have a large collection of donate stuff by the front door just waiting to be taken. My house is coming together, and the spot I’m most fond of right now is this little table with the house plants I’ve managed to keep alive. Our the window you can see our extra-large umbrella that makes the patio slightly more appealing. Thankfully the weather should be cooling off soon, and then we will be spending our morning out there. Just need the mosquitoes to die.

July 31st, 2014

zeroing in

Respond “unsubscribe” to the e-mail in your inbox if you would like to stop receiving my blog updates. Though there will be new cancer related updates for the next few years, that information will be available on my facebook page. My blog is going back to being my blog now. A place for me to decipher my thoughts, record my intentions, and a reminder of how far I’ve come. I’m so appreciative to all of the support I’ve received over the last 7 months, and cannot say “thank you” enough times.  <3



Life moves on in a fluid, strange, crazy way. As my life’s visible perils pass and fade, those around me seem almost obtuse to my new reality. It’s difficult to know people think you’re lazy or selfish, when in fact you’re just bone tired, having spent your day’s energy in the first four hours of the day. I guess it’s difficult for people to see, as my hair grows back and I do my best to move on. A smile on the outside doesn’t mean there is a smile on the inside.


When people ask you how you’re doing, there are people who just want to hear that you’re doing fine, so you can move on and talk about something else. Then there are people who actually want to know. Then there is that weird group that should be the latter but have morphed into the former. I don’t know what to say to people any more, do people get bored with my responses? Shouldn’t I just magically be better now that I’m done with the drugs that… killed off my entire immune system and messed with every system in my body? I find myself sympathetically shrugging as I try to pass off my struggles as “nothing”. Wouldn’t want to burden any one with my problems.


I am guilty of apologizing when I’ve done nothing wrong.


It’s already the end of July. The trips I’d idealized in my head while I struggled through the last seven months didn’t go as well as planned. It shouldn’t be a surprise, nothing is ever as perfect as you imagine it. For a realist, letting my expectations get out of control was nothing short of irresponsible - but the alternative was having nothing to look forward to. If nothing else, I made it through my trips, and was able to spend some much needed time with Brandan and Ginny. A mental reset, time on the open road, and a week without mountains dishes and laundry has left me feeling better. Our summer travels ended on a high note – so I’ve decided that is what matters.


Now that my first “something to look forward to” has passed, it’s time to create a new one. It’s a little bit more abstract, but a lot more “my style”.


My goal is to be happy with myself. I’d be interested to know what first comes to mind for other people, when you think about transitioning into a state of personal peace. For me it involves de-cluttering my house, establishing a new schedule that works with my new (although forced and hopefully changing) pace of life, and always improving my well-being. I won’t say “lose weight” or even “get healthy”, because I don’t think that goal has an end point. Just a constant journey of re-evaluating myself periodically and making sure I’m doing good things.


In with the good, out with everything else.


You would be surprised how much energy it takes to just stand. I spent a good portion of my day re-organizing my pantry, cupboards, and drawers. Walking five feet in one direction, then five feet back, then three feet to the left, then three feet back, wash, rinse, repeat. It’s not done though. My pantry looks great, my counters… not so much.


Why is minimizing so difficult?


Establishing a new schedule is almost a joke of a goal. What I really want is to have my house on a schedule, so that all of the monotonous things are done and I have time to do the fun things. In the near future there will be potty training. I want to spend my weekends out in the fresh air. There is something so renewing in a gentle breeze.


will spend more time doing things I enjoy.


Lastly, being well. I know I need to lose weight. The drugs I used for the better part of this year added an unwanted 40 pounds to my body. It is completely demoralizing to look in the mirror at this point. I have never hated my body more. It’s actually a very unhealthy mental state to be in, and it is difficult to fix the physical problems when your brain isn’t in the right place. I’m working on it. It goes back to establishing that schedule, making time to get out and move. Making time to menu plan, grocery shop, and cook healthy meals. To be honest though, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise, it is not the lack of time but the lack of energy that is the worst.


My doctor said I should expect my energy to take at least 6 months to bounce back.


It’s only been 2 months, and everyday, normal things still drag me down. I know that if I’m going to make it through the grocery store I can’t go up and down the stairs before I leave. I know that if I’m going to stand and make dinner at five I need to be sitting and resting at 4. It’s not my ideal schedule, but it is constantly evolving. As my energy increases, my schedule will evolve to allow for more of the healthful things I want to incorporate into my life. It’s a slow, arduous process.



I am happy with my life.


It seems counter-intuitive, considering everything I’ve been through this year, but I love my life. I trust that the decisions I’ve made for myself and my family are the best decisions I can make. I am constantly fact-checking myself. Thought I realize my decisions affect other people, I cannot live my life for the masses. I have realized that it doesn’t matter how many people around me are happy, if I’m making myself miserable. I realize that sometimes my decisions might not sit well with people who have my best interest at heart. It’s a hard place to be – knowing that people worry and fret over me, and I am notoriously bad at standing up for myself. But I have come to realize that as much as I cannot control the lives of others, I must take responsibility for myself, and for my happiness.


When all is said and done I snuggle into bed with my sweet husband, the whirring of the overhead fan slowly fades behind the steady rise and fall of his chest against my back, and I know that everything that happened today was the best it could be. Sometimes the best isn’t that great, but I can’t lament the past. I can only plan for the future.


Course corrections beats perfection.



June 13th, 2014


If words could describe my heartbreak right now this post would write itself. It’s easy to define black or white, but grey is a complicated thing. While my own words are faltering I’ll hind behind ambiguous phrases and meaningful quotes.


Better news.

I’ve finished running across the field of spiders, and have scored.

I finished chemo on May 7.

I had my final scan which came back clean.

I’ve had my port removed.



I’m still exhausted, though the stress, tension, and fear seem to have subsided. I’m trying to focus on the exciting things going on this summer.


B-man and I helped in planning a big surprise party for my neighbor last weekend, which was a blast. I felt sore for two days afterwards. I’ve been anxious about doing too much, worried about over-exhausting myself. But the soreness of over worked muscles is oddly gratifying.


We will be attending a wedding on Brandan’s side of the family, then vacationing in Maine for a week. Traveling will be nice. I love driving. I love listening to Brandan read to me, and Ginny pointing out the things she finds interesting along the way.


We’ll also be attending a wedding on my side of the family. They pull us back to Tennessee, and it’s a nice feeling. Some times I’ll drive down route 17, or all the way out to 29 and I can feel the tug. Just keep driving. My soul yearns, how silly of it to forget that my heart belongs in Virginia now.


My hair is growing back. It’s about half an inch long, and has been noticeably growing for about 2-3 weeks now. I’m curious as to when I’ll feel comfortable going out in public without a hat on. When I look in the mirror I just see a sickly version of myself. Not that a hat makes that much of a difference. Self-esteem is a mercurial emotion. Perfectly fine until a sideways glance at a window force an unwanted reflection on me. The circles under my eyes more pronounced, despite copious amounts of sleep. My eyebrows have thinned, and the expressions I see aren’t mine any more. It’s weird and hard and annoying. But I guess if the most I have to complain about is how uncomfortable I am with my body, I’ll see that as a win. I’m not dying. So I’ve got that going for me.


It only took one needle, and the IV for my surgery was in. That’s a first. It’s because they were able to use a smaller needle, since they didn’t need to use any contrast for the port removal. The nurses all remembered me, all asked about Ginny. I’d forgotten that I had been there twice before. Those early months of doctor visits and procedures have all run together into one nightmare of a memory. This time I remember the tent they put over my head to keep me from breathing on the surgical site. I remember the almost painful pressure on my collarbone as they removed the catheter. I moaned a lot but didn’t ask questions this time. Conscious sedation. I guess it’s less dangerous (because you keep breathing for yourself)… but a strange thing to experience. The port is gone. I now have two lines, like an equal sign, on my chest. One line to put it in, a second to take it out. It is sore and itchy, but I know it will be better in a few months.


Moving forward I will have one scan every 3 months for the first year. Then one scan every 6 months for the second year. Then I will have one scan a year for three years. If I make it that far without a relapse I’ll be labelled “cured” and sent on my merry way. It’s just a label though. I feel good now. My confidence is growing every day. Confidence that my body with strong, that the medicine worked, and that the biggest of my worries is my hair. Perhaps it is a false confidence, but it helps me sleep at night, and when morning comes that’s all that really matters.

May 15th, 2014

Chapter 13: last one done

I relished in all of the compliments I received for my early posts about dealing with cancer and the stories I shared. Unfortunately my drive for creative writing has gone the way of my energy: absent, but certain to return.


As distractions from my myriad of symptoms I spent those first months laying in bed replaying childhood memories, focusing on the little details to include that would make it more real, more appealing. But now I don’t lay in bed and ponder. My brain is too stressed out for idol thought so I lay in bed and wait for my medicine to start working. It carries me off into a dreamless sleep where my legs feel heavy but my anxiety disappears. I hate it, but relish in it at the same time. Brains are incredible things… and mine is struggling to keep it together lately. Facing mortality does funny things to one’s brain. But I digress.




I had my last chemo 7 days ago.

The first three days afterwards were spent sleeping. I honestly don’t remember them, family, friends and my sweet husband took over playing mom while I drifted in and out of wakefulness.

The next two days still involved heavy napping, with the added misery of nausea, leg cramps, and intense intestinal pain.

My finger tips are numb and will likely take a year to repair the nerve damage.

My hair is growing in… and still falling out. I’d guess that in about four weeks it will stop falling out. So that’s nice.

My blood levels are all messed up, and my pulse has been between 120-140 for the last few weeks. Normal is between 60-100 beats/minute. It makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon after just walking around the kitchen.

I’m anemic. It’s exhausting.

The bone pain has returned, but some how knowing that when it leaves it will be gone forever makes it easier to handle.

Some foods taste funny to me now. I thought that since I didn’t have this in the beginning it just wouldn’t be one of my issues. Wrong… it just waited until the last cycle.

Steroids makes me hungry. Eating hurts. It’s a vicious cycle. Thankfully, after a week, the pain upon food consumption has subsided.

My electrolytes are off, which has resulted in very painful, intense cramps in my legs – particularly at night. I’m using a supplement to help with the off-balance, but to be honest this was the last straw that made me realize drug-induced relaxation  was for me.  After weeks of waking up every few hours with a charlie horse it was time, and it helps with the anxiety, the cramps, the nausea and the stomach pain…. and the not sleeping. That’s five birds with one tiiiiiny little stone.


I’m feeling hopeless. It’s weird, as every one gets really excited and humans have this universal “happy dance” that seems to happen every time I see some one now. “Last chemo! All done! Yay!!!”. And I hate to be a downer, but honestly… I’m not done. I’m done taking the medicine. Now I have to recover from the disease, and from the medicine, and from 5 months of not doing anything.


I can’t open tough jars any more, I wager with my bladder to hold on just a bit so I don’t have to walk up the stairs again. I can’t pick up my daughter. I’ve got a bunch of mental conditioning to do to get over my new and intense visceral reaction to the idea of going to the doctor, having blood drawn, or the sweet nurses who helped me through this. Just the thought of a needle makes me want to hurl. Weird… because I’m not afraid of needles. Just sick of them.


I also know this isn’t over. I still have to face it for the rest of my life, in particular the next two years when I get scans to check and see if it’s come back. And when it hasn’t come back I have to worry that every little ache or pain is cancer.

It’s terrifying. I can’t think too far out or the “ifs” become overwhelming.



So… I know I’m just a bucket of joy. lol.


Today was the first day that the relief of being down with chemo hit me. I stood on the landing and the relief washed over me. Each step and each second is a little bit closer to finding normal.


I’m trying to be happy. I’m trying to move on. It’s just a lot harder than people seem to realize, and I feel like a whiner for not being oh-so-super-excited like every one else is for me.


April 28th, 2014

Chapter 12: almost done.

My last chemo is next week.


This thought struck me as I was trying to fall asleep last night. Brandan was already snoring and it felt almost normal.




I long for those plain moments where I lay in bed and fret about silly things like folding laundry and getting rid of my TV. I’m turning into my mother, and I like it. I imagine one day I will wake up, write my weekly menu plan and grocery list, get Ginny in the car by myself because picking up 30 pounds won’t phase me. Then we’ll walk around the grocery store and I won’t bemoan my elbows for aching under the weight of the cart. I won’t have to beg my knees to bend one more time. Legs… please just take one more step. Then once I’ve gotten home I won’t call Brandan to come help with the groceries and I strong-arm all 12 bags on my own. Two trips are for noobs. Then I’ll put my groceries away and do the dishes while Ginny feeds her pretend cows in the backyard. Maybe while she’s outside I’ll work on one of my many craft projects, vacuum the living room. In the afternoon before dinner Ginny and I will take my bike out for a spin, then some how, though my brain isn’t convinced this much energy is possible, some how I’ll make dinner.


I know. I have pretty lofty goals. It’s like a faint memory.


My current method is to pretend like I’m not sick and just keep going. My elbows ache almost constantly, my knees as well, but I ignore them. “No,” I tell them “I will not sit down.”


Don’t judge me for talking to my joints. Some times a stern talking to is all they need.





On Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 I will be sitting at the infusion center, poison rushing through my veins for the last time. Thinking about sitting there makes me literally sick to my stomach. Thinking about cancer induces nausea. But I’m almost done.


I’m almost done.


Just this week, almost 6 weeks after I found out there is no evidence of disease, I’ve allowed myself to believe it.


Cancer is a weird thing. For me it was a big head game. I just had to get my brain through the last four months. I am a little worse for the wear, and I think Brandan and Ginny are too. Patience is not the first emotion to cross my mind when I need it, I’m quick to assume the worst of my sweet husband’s intentions and have inadvertently lead Ginny to think she needs to hug me at every opportunity… because something is unstable and she doesn’t know it is me. It’s going to take months of reconditioning my responses to get back to normal. I’m fighting the chemo brain. I’m fighting the self-protecting nature of the human brain. I’m trying my hardest to just be normal. 


My blood work came back fine, still slightly anemic, but otherwise fine. The blessings of having cancer in your 20′s?


I’ve allowed myself to think that maybe this will be it. Maybe I will never have cancer again. Hope is a funny thing. It is incredibly helpful in the short run but letting your defenses down makes hope potentially dangerous in the long run.


Currently my symptoms are joint pain/stiffness, seasonal allergies (so… that’s not cancer related), tired during the day, difficulty sleeping at night, all of my finger tips are numb, and a handful of other random things that I only remember when they’re bothering me.

So… this was just a short update to say we are anxiously awaiting the day when we can put all of this behind us!



In the mean time, I’ve been doing some back-blogging:

a hand made christmas :: the laundry closet makeover :: the kitchen make over :: a poem about Chernobyl

Sorry about sending out that post about the casserole dish carriers… I forgot to uncheck the check box because my brain is a bit spacey and I got all excited about my sewing accomplishments.






April 28th, 2014

hand made christmas

Sending this out to every one’s e-mail was an accident. I apologize! I forgot to check the appropriate box.




I’ve always loved making things by hand. I love the satisfaction that comes from making something good enough to buy. Sure – some people do it to save money, and that’s nice when it happens, but to me the real pleasure comes from creating something that didn’t exist before.


When I started working on Christmas presents for last year I did get held up by the pain my tumors were causing – but I thought it was kidney stones and I just did a lot of pushing on my body that I probably shouldn’t have. Regardless, I did it and I was very happy with the results.


For each of my female in-laws and my maternal grandmother I made a casserole dish carrier, a glass etched casserole dish, matching pot-holders and a wooden spoon with their name burned in to it.

And no the barrage of pictures!

My mom helped me embroider names on the fabric, then I sewed the carrier shells. After this I had to order the cotton belting, and I wanted to make some sort of “tag”.

A quick polling of friends on facebook said I should use the colored version. I used Avery Transfer for Inkjet printers and then ironed it on to a heavy satin fabric.


I sewed them in under the straps on the side of each of the carriers.

Finishing these was actually really hard since the pain was making it hard for me to sick down. How did I manage? Pillows, my trusty heating pad, and a Twilight marathon. Naturally.

And chocolate.

So each carrier had nice, sturdy straps to handle even the heaviest of casseroles.

The carrier consisted of two sets of flaps, each closed with heavy duty velcro. The longer flaps close first to keep the dish from sliding side to side once the top flaps are closed.

Inside each carrier I had matching pot holders to take with the dish, so you can lift the hot dish out, or use them as trivets. I also bought a wooden serving spoon and used my wood burning tool to put the owner’s name on it.

Then I used glass etching cream to also put the owner’s name on the side of the casserole dish itself! No one will be able to accidentally keep these dishes!

And there you have it!

I can’t attest to the time for making these, as I did it in shifts and made four of them. I think making one would be a lot more manageable. The cost break down, including coupons but without my time is approximated here:

Fabric: $7
Heat-proof lining: $3.50
Strapping: $2.50
Casserole dish: $13
Wooden spoon: $5

Total: $31 + 10 hours/carrier.

If I paid myself $10 an hour I’d be rich.

And then I also had to invest in the tag materials, at about $10 and the wood burning tool was about $12. There was also the glass etching cream, another $15. Some of the time investment involved was doing things besides sewing, like making the tags, testing finishing methods, and wrestling with my sewing machine.


April 24th, 2014

the laundry closet

I originally bought this dark grey paint for my dining room. I wanted to paint the top half light blue and the bottom this lovely grey color. Unfortunately at the time the entire rest of my first floor was some shade of brown… and I wasn’t sure if/when I’d ever paint the other rooms… so I left the light brown in the dining room and tucked this can of paint away.


Living near Ikea is a curse and blessing. I can be there in 15 minutes, and I almost always check out the “as-is” section. Well… there was one day that the as-is section was filled with cupboards. I contemplated taking them all home for my craft room (I regret not doing this), then I couldn’t find enough doors (I could’ve bought doors from the regular section)… so I just took home two small upper cupboards to put in my laundry closet.


The curtains came with the house, and were always in the way. This room is actually our Rec Room, where we have work out equipment, an air hockey table, a fussball table, a full drum kit, and leather recliners. Not the prettiest room, but this laundry area was definitely an eye sore. The light fixture was original to the house too, trimmed in peeling gold metal.

I replaced the light fixture with a simple glass bowl with no metal visible. Painted the walls and ceiling of the closet, removed the painted-in shelf, and hung the two cupboards.


It looks a million times cleaner, and we don’t need the ugly curtains to hide the ugly laundry area! I still would like to put two shelves between the cupboard, to store prettier things (pretty laundry things?). I did this update back in November, and shortly there after started suffering the pain that would eventually be diagnosed with cancer. So things have kind of been on hold. Go figure.

One more picture, with the light on:

This total renovation cost me approximately $55.

1 gallon of paint: $24

2 as-is cupboards: $25

new light fixture: $5


I’ve budgeted about $20 to find the shelves to go in between the cupboards. Now that I’m starting to feel better, and especially when I’m done with chemo, I plan to finish this project so I can move on to other projects… like the blasted craft room.

April 23rd, 2014

the heart of a home

I less than a month we’ll have been home owners for two years. As a child I used to draw pictures – floor layouts – of my future home. I’d draw in the furniture then color them in. I was pretty intent on having a sucken living room that required a step down. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea. Regardless, we did not custom build our home. Some one did – as I’ve been told – but I did not. The first time I saw this house though, in picture form, it was true love. It went on the market on a Friday evening, we toured it Saturday morning and put our offer in that day. When you know, you know.

I love so much about this house, but one of the things I’ve never been a fan of is the paint colors. Our bedroom was a dingy yellow/gold/brown color, the dining room was a dark dark red, and the kitchen walls were painted brown. The brown went nicely with the tile they chose – but it was incredibly dark. Despite having four windows and a sky light, the kitchen suffered from what I like to call “perpetual depression”. It didn’t matter if it was high noon, the room was dark. I’ve got enough depressing stuff in my life, so it was time for a change.

My Mama bought the paint for me, and by chance one of my neighbors informed me that she was a big fan of painting. So much so that she actually volunteered to come help me paint! How often does that happen?!

Here’s a picture of my brown kitchen at the brightest hour of the day. The only hour we can be in there without lights on and not feel like it’s too dark,


And a picture of the room at night, with Brandan doing the dishes. :)



Those spotlights do weird things and the red lamps rarely got used because of how dark they were. Regardless…. it was a very dark room. But 1.5 gallons of paint later we have a much happier, brighter kitchen!

We had that blue rug in the garage so I pulled that in, otherwise this is the exact same room, same time as the first picture! I changed the red lamp shades out for clean cut white ones, and am much, much happier in this room. From the living room you can’t really see the kitchen, but there is so much light bouncing around that it even brightens the adjoining room! Brandan and I keep saying it feels like we’re on vacation. Like this is some one else’s bright white kitchen and we’re just hanging out in it. Best feeling for a kitchen ever!

April 19th, 2014

C5D4: Walking through mud.

We didn’t really live in Virginia. It was more of a midway point. The kids had finished school in Georgia, my Dad was finishing up a school in Virginia, then we were moving to Germany. In the mean time our family occupied a pre-furnished house on base. The elapsed time escapes me. Maybe a few weeks? I spent my time between the library and the playground with my siblings. The first Sunday we were there my parents found our Girls’ Camp was coming up, and they promptly signed me up to hike 40ish miles on the Appalachian Trail with a bunch of strangers. It was the fourth year hike, something I missed out on with my church group in Georgia, and was excited to still get to participate in.


Of course… it’s important to know that I was nowhere near remotely prepared for a 40 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. Because let’s be honest – no one expects that to just fall in their lap. I had my tennis shoes, and my Mom bought me some better clothes. We borrowed a pack and I was signed up to split a tent with someone I didn’t know. The first morning we met up with the group, I climbed into someone’s car, and waved goodbye to my parents.


I wish I had more details for you. The entire trip was kind of a wash. Yes, we hiked 40 miles. No, it was pretty miserable. It rained the whole time. The girl who was supposed to bring the poles for our tent forgot to pack them, so each of us was assigned to another tent. Three people in two people tents, in the rain, results in very wet girls. Hiking in tennis shoes results in very wet feet. I had never been… forced to commune with nature… in such natural ways before…. and I can honestly say I am a huge fan of indoor plumping. After a while my eyes got so used to bouncing up and down as we walked that stopping resulted in that weird dizzy feeling that also happens when you ski all day, then stop. A weird dizzy that makes your stomach a little queasy, while keeping you awake all night.


I remember the last day the best. It was pretty incredible. It wasn’t raining, but the trail was muddy and I can still see it, my sneakers just sliding down leaving those thick lines in the mud. I can’t imagine what we must’ve looked like when the adults finally picked up the gaggle of girls, but I know what came next. A hot shower, a gallon of chocolate milk, and some chocolate kisses. Every bone in my body was aching, every muscle twinged at the slightest movement, every item of clothing I owned was covered in mud as I sat in a camp shirt and someone else’s pajama pants. It is honestly the most relaxing moment I can think of.


I wish I had a picture to share, but just imagine a bunch of muddy, poncho-wrapped 15 year old girls and that’ll be accurate enough.




So much of this experience speaks to me right now. The weird queasy feeling that fills every moment of my day, the muscles have to be talked into every movement, the joints that want to keep going but don’t want to do anything all at the same time.


I honestly feel like I”m traipsing through mud every day. Or maybe knee-deep snow. Or knee-deep muddy snow? At some point it becomes impossible to describe and you’ll just have to trust me that it’s tiring.


My last blood results showed that I am slightly anemic. The nurse said it’s not low enough to warrant a blood transfusion, but it is kind of a double edged sword. My hemoglobin started out considerably higher than the average person – which means it was very healthy. So there are some people who walk around with the level I have now and they do fine, but for me it’s about 5 points low, which is a big difference. I’d still have to go down another four points before I’d need an infusion – and that’s not likely to happen.


This infusion was very hard for me – emotionally. I’ve checked out and when I’m not feeling like absolute sh*t I’m living in “I don’t have cancer (unless I see my reflection in the mirror) world”. It’s probably not the healthiest place to reside, mentally, but it keeps me going. So having to hand in my “I feel fine” card for needles and exhaustion was incredibly hard this week. Wednesday found me begging Brandan to just take me home, because I didn’t want to do it any more. The infusion went by, mostly uneventful. Towards the end my port started hurting. They took the tape off, which didn’t make that big of a difference, and I just waited out the last 30 minutes of the infusion.


I had full intentions of returning to “I don’t have cancer (unless I see my reflection in the mirror) world”, but Thursday and Friday felt like walking into a pile of bricks over and over again. One of Brandan’s older brothers and said brother’s family came to stay with us for the week – and it really was a God-send. A good distraction when I was feeling okay, and constant entertainment for Ginny. This whole thing has been a bit of a mess for her, trying to redefine how we function as a family when Mommy is doing a bad job at functioning. It was good for her to get to hang out with her cousins all week.



Aunt Jody kept the little ones well entertained with Easter festivities while I moped around like a zombie. Let it be noted that I spent most of the time in zombie mode. Exhausted, but too hopped up on steroids to sleep for extended periods of time. Sometimes I think “One day I will relish in sleeping for hours on end.”, but then I remind myself that one day I will know what it feels like to have energy unfettered by the exhaustion associated with nursing or chemo (which I have been dealing with back-to-back). One day. It’ll be nice to have that energy, and I am looking forward to it.


My last chemo infusion is in the books. It will be May 7. A Wednesday – you should expect snow. About 3 weeks after that infusion I will have another PET scan. It should be exactly like my last one, with No Evidence of Disease. Then I will get scans every 6 months for two years. I will relish and dread these scans, but I will likely spend a majority of the next two years in “I don’t have cancer (unless I see my reflection in the mirror) world. With the early disappearance of my tumors I’m a lot less likely to have a recurrence. I’ve decided to accept this swing of luck, though it is hard for me to have a positive attitude. I’m trying. I’m thankful that (hopefully) our biggest challenge will be paying our deductible each year, and that I won’t be sitting in an infusion chair again any time soon after that last infusion. I’m thankful I’ll be getting this medi-port out in less than a month. That’s a beautiful thought!


My hair has started growing in again. Oh… and falling out again. My hair has always grown very quickly. It was quick to fall out in the beginning, and apparently is very excited to come back. I am definitely looking forward to let wind on my head. It’s a very weird feeling.



Ginny and a neighbor at our Easter Egg Hunt. She was so excited and kept asking when her neighbors were going to come over!




feel tired. It’s kind of my new normal.

I’m sick of my bones hurting. There doesn’t seem much that touches the pain. It hurts to move around, it hurts worse to sit still.

I’m sleeping okay. The anemia seems to counter-act the steroids. Weird thing to be thankful for, but once I talk myself through the aches I’m able to sleep – no drugs required. That’s really nice.

Nausea is not my friend. I have been pretty dependent on the anti-nausea meds these last few days. Today has been busy, with the block party in our back yard, and I firmly believe that distraction is the best medicine. I think today was my “hump” day. I feel better today than I did yesterday, and hopefully tomorrow will just be a little bit better. That’s all I can really ask for.


I still flip through all of those signs that people posted on facebook for me, before my first infusion. Those happy messages still carry me through. So I wanted to provide a second, latent, message of appreciation for those sweet messages. I’m constantly reminded of the people who have knowingly and unknowingly pulled me up the hills and helped me along the way. Every message, “like”, and blog comment helps to fetter me along. I hope you all know that.


April 8th, 2014

writing prompt

I recently joined a creative writing group. It’s mostly neighborhood friends, or friends of friends. There are a few options each week, and this week I wrote a poem, instead of my standard narrative style. The prompt is also the first line of the poem.


Run, Stay Away by Jessica R

The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky,

at hours so early, no one knew who would die.

The sickeningly sweet, caustic fumes flowed

on the wind, in the halls, through the trees that now bowed.



The start to the day, was plain – almost dismal.

School children with bated breath, waiting for dismissal.

Life moved on, little did they know,

They’d soon have to face the deadly snow.



When the order came to abandon the town,

it was sudden, unexpected, eliciting a frown.

Little ones dawdled, small bag in a pudgy hand.

Adults thought “three days”, and

with that promise they left their belongings

without knowing they’d never return for their things.



“Please keep calm and orderly” the buzzing voice instructed,

but mayhem would follow, peace had been abducted.

Despite promises of a safe return home

Their “normal” disappeared as quickly as sea foam.



They would never return to their sweet piece of earth,

the accident made sure of that, the land would need a rebirth.

The poison still lingers, even to this day.

The signs outside Chernobyl: Run, Stay Away.

// The explosion at Chernobyl occurred 28 years ago this month. The area is still too toxic to inhabit, and the effects of the explosion are still affecting people today in the various forms of cancer and disease caused by radiation poisoning.//


I used to think about going there, and exploring. It’s weird how much my head space has changed. I used to think that risking a little exposure would be worth seeing such an interesting place. Now I shudder thinking about the minute amounts of exposure I’ve already received. Weird how quickly things change.

March 30th, 2014

Back to Blogging

It wasn’t that long ago. Her tiny little tummy sticking out between her frilly little bikini top and ruffle swim bottoms. A bikini for a baby. Ridiculous, but the thought gives me a perma-smile for the next hour. The entire memory is shaded under a tan canopy, the whole area reflecting an odd blue glimmer from the hand-me-down kiddie pool.


This picture doesn’t do it justice… I hadn’t yet acquired the shade tent – but that’s the moment I’m living in these days. A sweet, simple, moment of existence. It is beautiful and precious and something I am looking forward to this summer. It’s not warm enough yet, though I know my little sun baby is itching to throw on her swim suit and splash for the next few months.




Writing is an incredibly therapeutic process for me. I intend to start blogging again, and not just about cancer. I want to write about how I’m decorating my bedroom, my favorite chili recipe and how I’m trying to incorporate more cultural heritage into our simple lives. These blog posts will not be sent out in an e-mail, as I realize most people did not sign up for that. They will still be available on my blog, but I don’t want to be spamming people. Future cancer updates will include links to other things I manage to post about – if I get there.




I miss my hair. I am coming to learn that I am an incredibly vein person, aren’t we all? I’m ashamed to admit that often my moment of weakness is crying about my hair. Just for a moment, then I move on. Now the hair that hasn’t fallen out (maybe 1/5 of the hairs?) is growing and it’s just long enough to catch a little breeze every time I move. A constant reminder that there is no hair on my head. It’s a dumb thing to fret about, but it’s true. This isn’t an appeal for pity, rather an honest look at how I feel. I feel ugly. It sucks. I’ll get over it.


November 2013: I’d lost 20 pounds and was feeling fantastic. Life, in short, is not very fair.

I don’t hurt any more. That’s kind of a lie. I am still in a lot of pain, but none of it is pain from tumors. I can sit down for more than a few minutes without wanting to cry. That only occurs to me now as I’ve been sitting at the computer for an hour and the only thing complaining are my back muscles – weak from “going easy” on myself. I am thankful for that. It’s nice to be able to use my computer for more than a few minutes.


I’ve got a new ache. And its name is: bone pain. It is not a pain I would wish on any one. I am currently receiving a shot once every three weeks to encourage white blood cell production. White blood cells are made in your bone marrow. There’s only so much room inside of those bones. Hence: extra white blood cells and stimulation = bone pressure. If you can pinpoint where your thigh bone meets your hip bone, then imagine running all down down the beach…. and then running back home through a foot of water. That might start to give you an inclination of the soreness I’m experiencing. Hips. Knees. Shoulders. Lower back. I’m just a regular, old lady these days!


Cycle Four > Cycle Three. This cycle… all round… seems to be going better than the last one. I think I was dehydrated last time, which amplified the chemo symptoms. The bone pain came on very suddenly, and I am still tired, but I’ve yet to experience the bone-tired-exhaustion that left me so frustrated. I know, there’s plenty of time for that yet – but I’m trying to be positive.


Life doesn’t wait. There is always some new thing demanding attention, and usually money. Things like my computer hard drive that keeps threatening to die on me, or the sump pump that is failing to prevent the carport from flooding. You would think cancer would afford me some “get out of all other stress free” card, but alas… it does not. Thankfully we are well loved and months ago these would’ve been incredibly stressful things, now they are just things. Things that need to be taken care of, but they aren’t keeping me up at night.



I don’t know how to handle my own good news. I know that “NED” should afford me some sigh of relief, and when I’m sitting with my sweet neighbors celebrating that news it feels real. Then I go home and it hurts to walk down the stairs and lifting a cup full of water has me wondering if I will yet break one of my favorite glasses when it slips from my tired grip. I still firmly believe Brandan is the reason we only have half of the original set. I’d like to say I feel relieved… but mostly I just feel tired. I feel almost like that PET scan has invalidated my suffering. I don’t feel like I have anything to complain about, despite having plenty of things in my life worth complaining about. It’s a very tricky head space to occupy. I need to be positive, and I have a lot of positive on my side… more than I could’ve expected. But here I am, looking a gift horse in the mouth.



Soon enough though, it will be warm again, and the back yard will be calling our names. I’ll sit outside and knit, or read, while Ginny gallivants, muddy feet, bubbles in the air, and I’ll quench my achy joints with the cold hose water. I look forward to eating on the patio, using the fire place in the back, and listening to the birds all day. Basically I want to live in my instagram feed. Is that too much to ask?