Do bumps on head mean cancer metastasis?

December 14, 2011

No. Or at least, not always. Two Sundays ago, I googled that question, in endless combinations, and found no answer. I was alone, the others having gone to church, and I needed to know — were the squishy red bumps on my head a sign of brain mets, as my Grandmother’s had been so many years ago? Or were they irritation from bone mets spreading to my skull? What were these strange bumps, and how could I find an answer on a Sunday afternoon?

I ran my hands through my short hair, exasperated at the lack of information on the net and wracking my brain to recall other forums and bulletin boards. As I rested my hands on the desk, I turned them over, questioningly – and found the palms crossed with clumps of hair. I laughed, I cried, and my mother came in to comfort me. I told her what had happened – I was losing my hair! – and she put her arms around me in reassurance.

No, no, you misunderstand, Mom! I wasn’t crying for the loss of my hair. I was crying in relief – my fears had not come true – and I was not one step closer to the end. I was just losing my hair, a sign that the chemo was working, attacking the fastest-dividing cells, as it was supposed to do.

As I explained to my sons that night, this kind of chemo attacks the cells just as each divides into two new cells. The fastest dividing cells in a person’s body are cancer cells. The second fastest are the ones that make your hair grow. So when we see Mommy’s hair falling out, we know (hope) that the medicine is killing both the cancer and the hair cells as they divide!

The kids accepted this, and asked me what cells are next – stomach, I explained, which means my stomach may hurt over the next few weeks as well. We ended with great big hugs, and my 7 year old surreptitiously tugging on my hair in the back, just to check.

In fact, the next night, just before bed, he met me at the top of the stairs and yanked on it! I yelped, not remembering the previous day’s conversation, but just as quickly I remembered, lifted him up in a giant hug, and laughed and laughed with my smart boy, checking for himself that the chemo was working – reassuring himself, and me, that we would be okay.

It’s been a couple weeks now, and my hair has significantly thinned on top, but I still have hair around the edges and faith that the chemo will work. Today I’m back at chemo, scared to take it on top of pneumonia, but scared even more to skip another week. A silly fear? perhaps, but when my day comes I know that I will have done everything I can to fight this thing and win one more day over cancer.


Like Mama won over cancer

April 6, 2011

Little Bear, worried about a field trip yesterday, “But Mama, I need you there in case there is something scary.”

You’ll be okay, Little Bear.  Mama can’t go today, but your teacher will be there, and she will keep you safe. 

Cuddled in my arms, he asked, “But what if there is something scary?”

Well, there will be, Little Bear, it’s the story of Passover, and Pharoah gets angry.  He’s the bad guy, remember?  But Moses wins.  It’ll be okay, because Moses wins.

From deep in my arms, came a small, confident voice:

“Like Mama won over cancer.”

That’s right, Little Bear.  And we cuddled and were strong together.

I haven’t talked about my cancer with them in months.  But of course they know, since I’m still gaining strength and taking naps in the late afternoon, when the morning just isn’t enough, or when I’ve pushed myself to get work done.  I’m stronger and stronger, but still not close to 100%.

And we have scans on Friday.  I’m nervous, I’ll admit.  But I want Little Bear’s words to be true, one more time. 

I want to win over cancer.  Again.  And yes, I know that’s a selfish hope, to beat cancer a FOURTH time, but it’s selfish in protecting my children.  They’re not ready for me to leave yet, and I am not ready to leave them to grow up in the world without their Mama.


GIVEAWAY: Type A Mom Conference Pass

September 16, 2010

Chemo kicked me back to reality yesterday. I’ve been handling it REALLY WELL all through the first cycle (three weeks), but starting the pills again in this second cycle just knocked me on my ass. I’m tired, I’m nauseated, the soles of my feet hurt, and it aches in my bones.

I will be okay, I’m sure, but I’m cutting out everything besides my NASA work (which is fantastic for keeping my mind off the cancer and helping me feel useful) and taking care of my family.

Puppy included; she’s going back to the kennel as soon as I can drive her there.

BLOGGERS — I’m cancelling my attendance at Type A Mom next weekend. Want my pass? I’m GIVING it away to one lucky blogger — just tell me in the comments below if you want to go to Type A Mom Conference (in Asheville, next Saturday and Sunday), and I’ll pick a lucky winner at MIDNIGHT tomorrow (so you have time to make travel plans). Tons of bloggers on the East Coast are driving, and some may be willing to share a room, so if you’d like to go too, just tell me you’d like to go, and what you hope to learn. Good luck!


Being Present

September 9, 2010

Is it the easiest thing in the world — or the most difficult in today’s wired age, where we (and work) are “always on” ?

For me, after years of battling cancer online and off, with the help of so many friends from all over the world, logging off is terribly hard. Putting the twitter down feels like telling friends “not now,” and I have the hardest time saying that.

But this week I’ve tried to unplug a bit to be present for my children as they deal with going back school, to a new school, and to kindergarten for the first time. I’ve worked without (gasp!) the internet turned on, and I’ve gotten a lot done. And I’ve gone back out to the garden while the puppies play, pruning the butterfly bushes that took a beating when we lost our tree. I didn’t even notice when the butterfly bushes broke, I was so busy. That’s not me. Busy, sure, but too busy to play with puppies? To care for my garden? To sing with my children as they swing (I can’t push, but I can be with them), or to teach them to hit a baseball?

As I unofficially “go back to work” this week, now that the kids are in school all day and a third NASA contract is coming to fruition, I am also trying again to implement one new thing for work, for play, and for relaxation: being present, and being thankful for all the science and medicine that has enabled me to have productive work days; lazy afternoons with my children, puppies, and friends; and life itself, three years I thought I would never have.  I am so lucky, and I am working on being present.