Monday, August 11, 2014

4 minute update

4 minutes... okay 3 now because i had to log into blogger.

because in three minutes i want to call the hospital and find out what time little h man goes in tomorrow to have his tonsils and (probably) adenoids removed.  so that's happening in our lives.  then i have to keep him calm for 2 weeks.  you know henry?  you're probably wondering just how i'm going to do this.  well... good question.

and then i'm going to pick william up from his very first day of school!  actual school, not preschool, or what is known here as kindergarten for 3-6 year olds (so what henry is in now), but actual zero grade.  which is... i think... equivalent to american kindergarten.  they start kids here a year later than they do in the states.  so that's happening too.

our trip to the u.s. was a success and somehow we managed to move into our new place the day we arrived back, jet lagged and carrying 3 50 pound suitcases and 4 backpacks among us on two trains and a bus.

greg: last week he got to work at CERN in geneva, so that was pretty cool for him.  now he's busy with experiments, using the things he made there.

me: well, tired, but chugging along.  i've got a couple tests coming up on wednesday, follow-up, routine ones to make sure i'm still a cancer-free individual, which admittedly i don't always imagine i am.  like that game you play at an amusement park, hitting the little heads that pop up with a hammer... as soon as one ache or pain goes away, another mysterious one pops up in its place.  i guess you could say i'm looking forward to hearing what these test results have to say.

anyway, that's that.  and now i'm 4 minutes past my timeframe, and oh man... it just started raining.  ah well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

a trip to the circus

i'm sitting in a distinctly scandinavian designed chair looking out at the mess we have made in our temporary apartment.  toys strewn about the floor and me afraid of doing anything with them because i can't say what goes where.  william will have that all figured out in his brain anyway.  the suitcases i could do something about, and the rest of the dishes, that pair of socks on the table and all those clothes upstairs that need to be washed...

so our temporary situation is that we rented a place through airbnb, someone's beautiful scandinavian designed, inside and out, house, because, per agreement, we're moving out of our current house at the end of the week (though, practically speaking, we moved out on sunday... greg pulling two full suitcases in our ratty old burley, me pulling henry and a bunch of loose ends in the other.  all of our food, the last of our milk, balanced precariously in a box that didn't quite fit in my bike basket... the onions spilled out on the final stretch... william got a flat tire before we'd even hit the super best... it could have been a scene from the play, 'the grapes of wrath in modern day denmark' because clearly that's about as hard as it gets here and we're really the only ones on the road doing it).

though we could have stayed through the end of our lease which would take us through most of the summer, we are traveling to the u.s. for six weeks at the end of this week and didn't think it made much sense to pay rent if we didn't have to, and then very quickly (within 2 weeks) have to move out and move in somewhere else upon our return.  aside from saving a little money though, i'm not sure we made things any easier on ourselves.  now we are moving out, putting things into storage, flying away at the same time, flying back and moving into a new place on the day we fly back.  that's going to be one long day.  maybe we should try to rent this place that night instead.

other than packing up and moving out, i look at back at our calendar for may and i see play dates, dinner dates, birthday parties, enough medical appointments to make you think i'm 95 years old... no... scratch that.. if you're healthy enough to have made it to 95, you probably don't have as many medical appointments as i have... lovely visits from a friend and even family... a trip to the circus, a gymnastics morning (with one of those play dates while greg and a few friends moved the heavy things into storage), a parent-teacher conference, tutoring sessions, lease signings... i could go on.

but everything's good! well, we're stressed out, that's for sure, but i think the busier i am, the more energy i have (though tonight i've allowed myself to sit down to write this and well, i'm not the one getting the laundry done or even moving those socks off the table).  i feel really quite good lately.  i don't feel weak or necessarily all that wimpy or tired.  well, tired only because we're so busy, but not the kind of tired i've often felt for no good reason other than all my treatment.  i told someone the other day that in the same way the inuits have 50 words for snow, i know many kinds of tired... the go, go, go, then hit the wall tired, the low energy the entire day tired, the overwhelming muscle/joint tired, the mental tired, (etc.), and it's not that most people don't know these tireds, it's just that these tireds and i have become intimately acquainted over the past year.  that they are a big part of my everyday life. now it's usually the first kind.. i'm good until early evening and then i slam into a wall with the overwhelming muscle/joint tired with a good helping of mental tired thrown in... only for the past few days, it hasn't been so bad.  i feel it now, but it's less overwhelming, and also, like i said, there is a good reason for it.  i'm moving so much.  so, at least for cancer... at least for me... at least for now... expending energy leads to energy.  thankfully.  because there's no shortage of things to do right now.  and yet suddenly, on friday, we'll be sitting on a plane for 9 hours (or something like that) with nothing to do... well... nothing to do except keep these two guys entertained.

thanks to greg's uncle for capturing such sweet moments the other day!

okay... onward and upward!  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

a little post

i have 15 minutes before i have to leave.  someone recently suggested perhaps i could do a 'teaser' post, as i keep saying (with absolutely no evidence to back it up) that i'm going to write a post again soon.  so here is the teaser so you know i haven't fallen off a cliff somewhere... maybe on that mountain you had to keep reading about.  the lion seems to have retreated somewhat since that last post.  or at least i don't see much of it.  i will today.  i'll just get a glimpse of it, as i go in for a 'routine' (?) CT scan.  that's why i leave in 15 minutes.

to explain, since i last left you, i had a PET/CT scan... why???... was it simply because i kept complaining about my lungs... crazy that i can't even remember why they ordered it.  i think it was to just look inside me and see how it all looked after all my treatment.  was the cancer in fact gone?  so... the answer to that PET scan was, 'yes.'  it's all gone... well, yes... except... there are a couple spots on your lungs that lit up and we don't know what they are.  which is how i came to be introduced to modern medicine's torture device #37, the bronchoscopy.  where they stick a camera down your lungs and your body hates it so much that it fights against it despite the fact that it has been drugged and you're supposed to be relaxed.  they did a biopsy of a lymph node and a lavage, where, as part of the torture that will hopefully work to save your life if it comes to that, they squirt liquid into your lungs and then suck it back out to get samples of whatever they can i guess, to biopsy.  and those came back normal.  hallelujah!  i seriously had not been so happy at any stage of this process than i was when my oncologist called to tell me that piece of news.  because finally, it felt like i was given a clean slate... for however long i'm destined to keep it.  it's what i've been hoping for, ever since i could see clearly that this is what every cancer patient wants.  but... of course, things are never truly over when it comes to breast cancer.  so i go in today for one of my 3 or 4 future CT scans in this next year.  just to keep an eye on those spots, since they were PET positive after all, to see if they grow.  because if they grow and if they're still PET positive then they will not take any chances and they take out that part of my lung... because well... i've got two after all... i guess... but seriously, apparently they have seen good outcomes on young people who have a metastasis in one place and they surgically remove it.  so my doctors are keeping a close eye on things for the first year or two while my chances of a spread are the highest.  until we learn to live with the risks.  not that having 4 CT scans a year doesn't come with its own risks, but those consequences won't reveal themselves for another 30 years or so.  well... 3 minutes left.  i'm going to end this teaser post so i can go get x-rayed.   goodbye and thank you for reading!  (and despite all my complaints, i really am truly appreciative of what modern medicine can do for me and do to this cancer.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

nothing but blue skies and mountain lions

well, i'm logged in, i'm not in radiation (that ended last monday), i'm not back in school (that starts tomorrow), so i might as well post.  it's been awhile hasn't it?  are you still there?  i'm here.  tired most days still.

i think because it took so much physical effort to get myself to radiation and back each day, i imagined myself finishing up cancer treatment at a steady run.  easy enough for me to say.  i don't run in real life, but i like to imagine my little life's challenges as races.  law school was a marathon.  child birth was something of an ultra-marathon in a desert.  cancer treatment was maybe like a 20K.  cancer... maybe like being stalked by a mountain lion... on a mountain... in the dead of winter and you've never climbed a mountain before, and you didn't bring the proper clothes and the lion is hungry and he's got his sights on only you and you know he's a lot more clever than you are.

anyway, back to the race.  the 20K.  maybe it was longer, but i've just forgotten.  maybe the radiation was 20 and the surgery was an uphill 5 where you tripped and have a permanent injury with a permanent scar and the chemo a bunch of 10's.  if only i actually ran these kinds of races in real life, i'd be able to make an accurate comparison, but it felt like what i imagine those runners feel like who run to the end and then sort of collapse right at the finish line, or not so much collapse as stop abruptly and hands on knees proclaim as they huff and puff to catch their breath that they're not going to get up off the couch for the next week.  though maybe you don't say that after a mere 20K, but maybe i'm just a really bad runner... which is true.

so i spent most of last week on the couch or in bed napping while the boys were in school, and dealing with this most awful of sunburns, though in reality not a sunburn at all, and hoping that this breathing problem of mine is just pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lungs caused by radiation, and not something worse (i.e. cancer).  sounds doomy and gloomy and i guess cancer is like that in a way.  but if i could separate cancer into the mental and the physical, well, this is going to sound contradictory, because of course that ever present lung issue of mine revolves mostly in the mental sphere (at least, i hope), but if i could separate cancer into two parts... what it's done to me physically and what it's done for me mentally, then it's not all doom and gloom, because being stalked by a mountain lion really does sharpen your focus, puts your goals into nice, simple form.  physically of course, there's no question.  cancer sucks.  treatment sucks.  you're no better off for having had cancer or going through treatment physically speaking, except that treatment might keep you alive longer to see your children grow up, which is one of those goals that the mountain lion helped clarify for you.

two weeks ago a fellow cancer mama i met through a homebirth listserve died.  she was unfairly on cancer's fast track.  its crash course.  i never met her in person.  we were similar in that we didn't have a lot of cancer peers.  when you're 'fighting' cancer in your thirties, you're usually the youngest person in the room and usually the healthiest cancer patient in the room by default that everyone else is already on the inevitable downhill slope of time.  doesn't matter that they might be statistically better off than you, because your cancer is more aggressive, often by virtue of the fact that you're younger and younger people have more aggressive cancers and also that you have so much longer to try to live cancer-free if you want to live into old age and statistically it's a lot easier to live into old age if you're already basically there and your cancer's not putting as much effort into you, as say, Ginny's put into her.  anyway, maybe when cancer (or other dangerous activities... drugs, war) defines the membership of your club, it's better to have a smaller group, i don't know.  i just know that it felt horrible to learn that Ginny was in hospice all of a sudden.  that her cancer could be that ruthless.  that her own sense of things, that her own fighting spirit within, all of her perseverance was not enough to sustain her body infinitely.  that she, because she was young, could go to school, raise her children, be on treatment, even dance and make a music video at christmastime and still... cancer pounced and two children lost their mother in february.

seems better somehow not to give cancer so much thought.  let it take up so much space and so many words, but when it becomes a part of you, well, if you're like me, it just becomes impossible not to.  i don't know how long cancer lingers in one's mind after it's been poisoned, cut out, and burned.

oh, but it can't take up each and every line of this post.  i will put up some pictures so you believe me when i tell you that it really, truly isn't all doom and gloom in these parts.  it's a lot of happiness, and for you in the cold areas back home, it's warm weather too, so even a little something for you to be jealous of... not that i want you to be jealous of me... there's just so little about my situation that would provoke such feelings in a person that i feel the need to point them out... i might be standing on a mountain in the middle of winter figuratively, but in reality, there's green grass and blue skies right outside my window, and silly faces like this to greet me...

henry turning three...

radiation town... famous for things other than giving me radiation i realized...

there's that face again...

at the geologisk museum in copenhagen...

and this little face...

shielding his ears from the circular saw as it sawed into rocks...

waiting for his turn to see what his rock looks like on the inside...

all agate... 

the husband and me.  you might note the hair.  it's scruffy but there.

and now perhaps to enjoy the weather while the blue skies last.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


so i am in, i think, week three of radiation.  perhaps day 12 out of 25.  i was keeping good track for awhile, in my brain.  (i still have it all written out on the calendar one room over.) i thought it would just naturally count itself down, each and everyday, but it has already become such a routine that i hardly think of it anymore.  i do a lot of reading.  i'm on book number three.  (first was the valley of amazement.  second was the foremost good fortune.  and third is the brain-dead megaphone.)  i read on the train ride into radiation town.  i read in the waiting room of radiation hospital.  and i read on the train ride home.  occasionally i write, but mostly i read.  sometimes i listen to music, but mostly to the sounds of the train and the noises in the waiting room.  and i know the machine by heart.  not the big, back of the machine, that sits behind me and moves the whole operation to my left and directly above me and down to the right, out of my line of vision, but that 'whole operation'... that's the part i know.  the part that sends out the invisible sunburn rays to me.  and i also know the lights on the ceiling.  and the clock.  and, of course, that little computer screen with the blue and yellow-turned-green line when i breath in, hold, and breath out (which i do nine times, unless the x-ray machine fails to take the x-ray, as it did yesterday and today, so then i do it ten times).  (i get two x-rays everyday so they can line me up just right so i don't get any unnecessary radiation where i don't need it.  i guess two x-rays per day is a lot better than unnecessary radiation in the wrong place.)

i have found the quickest path between the train station and the hospital.  and that is to walk through the bus parking lot.  on one of the first days i got spooked when a bus started its engine just as i was passing behind it.  there's nothing quite like going in for your cancer treatments and thinking that you might actually really get hit by a bus instead.

many days i go straight to the boys' school and pick them up on my way home.  and by the time supper is over i am somewhere on the scale of wiped out. this is not so different than the way it's been since my last round of chemo, and they say that radiation can be tiring, but i have happily tricked myself into not knowing if it's the biking/walking i'm doing or the cumulative effects of treatment that have me feeling tired by the end of the day.  of course, it's probably a combination.  i'm just really not keen on the idea that cancer treatment can get me down (at least not for more than a few days at a time), so i'll gladly take the exercise excuse and concede to just a bit of the treatment because i also don't like the idea that i'm operating at 100%.  this surely cannot be me at 100%.  after dinner last night i could not make myself do anything more than climb into bed with my book, even though that meant leaving greg with a house full of scattered toys and dishes and also a crying two year old.  i'm gearing up to be a more active participant tonight.  i'm thankful that i have someone who will pick up my slack.

there's a light snow right now.  there's snow covering the ground.  it's one of the colder days we've had here this winter. and the sun?  well... let's just say i have to get my tan artificially.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

watch the blue line

today i had my first round of radiation.  it started forty five minutes late, but that was okay because i had my book.  first one woman came out and told me they were running late and they would get me in fifteen minutes and then twenty minutes later another woman came out and told me they were running late and they would get me in fifteen minutes and twenty minutes or so later, they did.  and then it was a lot of instructions that for some reason felt more complicated to me than they should have for the very basic tasks that they were... take this bag here, go to the room labeled one or two and put this on and do you know what this is for and that's okay if you don't and this is what we see on the screens while you are lying there and you can put your shoes over here and don't move, let us move you, and breath in and watch the screen and the blue line moving up to the yellow line so the blue line turns green and hold it there and breath out and breath in and breath out and breath in and breath out and find a number for your bag on your way out and don't forget to put the little blanket back inside of it.  

greg came with, for this first round.  afterwards, we ate lunch and imagined our future plans.  on the train we talked about his short-term goals for work and i thought that i too needed a goal and we decided maybe a children's book so i wrote down some thoughts on the back of my radiation schedule and outside all day, or at least in the morning, it looked like this...

now it is time to get the boys and we'll have potato and leek soup, because for reasons of some bakery bread we need to eat and the potatoes looking like they'd rather not wait, that meal is cutting in line ahead of the lentils, which i'd always had a hunch it might do.

Monday, January 13, 2014


it is officially winter in denmark.  we've finally had our first snow.  i think in the end, it will not have left a huge layer on the ground, but driving into it on my bike, it did not feel insubstantial.  putting my hand up and telling it to stop getting into my eyes didn't seem to make a difference.  lesson learned... snow is sort of like a two year old child in how much it listens to what i say.

one of the burley tires has a hole in it, but we've been getting by for the past few days by simply pumping it up anytime we go to use it.  this afternoon of course, as i went to pump it up after both boys were strapped in (because i forgot about it until that point), i realized there was just no point (after being crouched down mittenless for three minutes trying to give it life).  so i drove it back home, through the snow, on one good tire... well three if you add my bike tires... trying to blow warm air onto my fingers through my gloves.

oh winter in denmark.  welcome back.

and somehow we did not sit down to dinner until six thirty, despite the fact that i spent all of yesterday prepping multiple meals to make dinnertime easier this week.  (i start radiation tomorrow so it seemed like a wise thing to stay ahead of the game, so to speak.) regardless of tonight's late start (it is hard to keep two little boys from over snacking before dinner when you do dinner anytime later than the five o'clock hour), i think yesterday's prep work did have some benefit.  we had three good dishes, rather than three mediocre ones... a white bean salad, a cabbage and celery root cole slaw (because we really did (and still do) have celery root sitting in our fridge waiting to be used), and baked jerusalem artichokes with tomato sauce and parmesan (because it's true, we really can't seem to get rid of the jerusalem artichokes for good and are actually starting to like them alright... well... not the kids... they will say, "i do not like these potatoes").

tomorrow we do lentils, the next day leek and potato soup (with maybe the rest of the bean salad thrown in), then black bean chili, then leftovers (assuming there's plenty leftover because none of these will be huge hits with the boys... i suppose that begs the question about the leftovers).

after dinner, as bribery to get them into their pajamas, we warmed up some apple cider and cinnamon sticks on the fireplace and drank it by candlelight.

william took pictures...

i love the dreamy look on his face.  

and then turned the camera over to us...

 that's a cinnamon stick. not a cigar.

and that's how the first winter day in denmark played out.  you never know what a day will bring. driving snow, flat tires, late dinner... and yet... just about perfect all around.