The Blessings of Cancer

by Debbie Twomey on May 22, 2017

My last few blogs seemed a bit discouraging so it probably seems hypocritical to say there have been many blessings with this cancer diagnosis, but that is the Catch-22 of this awful disease.

I am not trying to garner pity but put a very realistic face to a disease that we had hoped would have decreased by a huge margin by now. But that is not what I have discovered. Or maybe, I just did not pay enough attention to the statistics till they hit me personally. I thought I was informed; I made it my mission to make breast cancer my number one charity and would read what I could about the treatment and cure rates. But that is just a fraction of what I could have done.

Still, in the face of chemotherapy and feeling pretty punk there have been many little blessings that make this journey a bit easier to navigate. Since my diagnosis I have received many emails and messages on Facebook (and yes I will always feel FB has more positive attributes than negative). So many of them offer kind well wishes and often some very sensible advice.

An acquaintance from high school sent a very practical list of what you would need after a mastectomy. I will include Judy Watter’s list in a future blog but I so appreciated her input. She has also written several times since and shared her experience and more than that—her love and support.

Kathy Kouwe, a part of my Young Living family sent me many oils in a travel bag and her support. That was so thoughtful and unexpected.

Other dear friends have sent kind thoughts that help lift my spirits on days when I feel lower than expected. A few have sent cards with simple words like Paula Gridley, which express a concern I had not expected. My friend Mimi Brooks actually sent me a Mass for healing cancer card. How special is that? I accept any and all prayers right now because I know God listens and I need Him to hear us.

My little granddaughter’s Kindergarten teacher just went through this same cancer and Jennifer Fournier has amazingly shared what she went through She and her teaching assistant brought wonderful gift bag for chemotherapy days as well as many helpful hints. She also took my Mouse for a day to give me a break and McKenna a wonderful day of fun.

 My dear neighbor Rebekah Jones takes her precious time (she has 3 little ones at home that she home schools) to research what Young Living oils will help support care of my breast cancer as well as the neuropathy in my feet. She is now investigating a new mixture for my head which will be bald very soon and is actually hurting me more than I expected. Her family keeps me in their daily prayers as well.

My mentor and priceless friend Mary Starr Carter often sends me gifts that are practical and blessings. An Amazon Kindle card is perfect for me since I love to read. She also sent me a Koala Bear that her hubby Jay got in Australia last week. K-Bear will join the monkey Miss Mouse got me to keep me company on chemo days. The handmade notes from her little 4 year old Sarah Grace are precious to me.                                                                        

The other day I posted on Facebook how much I wanted to smell fresh lilacs. I love these flowers for their aroma and for the memories they instill. Every Mother’s Day I would get 2 large bunches and bring them to my Mom and a dear friend Katherine Pastor (my “adopted” mom Kash) who have both passed away. When I opened my front door there were two bouquets; one from Roxanne Seeber and the other from Amy Dorgan. My house still smells of the lilacs and I have such a sense of peace and calming from them.

Seeing my best friend Lorraine Copes on my birthday, right here in my home was the best. I am thankful to see her whenever I can and to go to lunch was even better.

My sisters Terri and Karen have made themselves available and tried to come more often to what they refer to as “this godforsaken country town” I live in but for now it is where I need to be. I have to say not being the one that always makes that hour drive to visit has been great. But what I appreciate most (even more than the gifts they know I love) is the company.

I am grateful for my daughter Jordan’s road to recovery from drug addiction. She is working very hard to get her life in order and move forward as a mom and a reliable employee who can support her little Leah. The lack of drama and crisis has been a godsend and I pray for her continued recovery every single day.

There have been so many others like Christine David, Kip Holloway, Mary Currier, Sue Ruskino, Sandee Simmons, Chris Hopko, Donna DiBianco, and Billie Ann Fronzcek. Patricia O’Connell, Teri Dee, The Neuman girls, Holly Homeslice, and countless others who offered help or a kind word. If I have forgotten your name in this list trust me it is not forgotten in my heart.

There are two last people who have been blessings that are immeasurable during this difficult time. First is my good and generous friend Ellen Barbagallo.  My God I cannot even begin to express what depending on her has meant to me. When I was in the hospital last year she spent 10 days with my 4 year old granddaughter McKenna. I know the sacrifice; even if she loves McK with all her heart, it is still a lot of work. She has come with me for every stinking procedure in the last 5 months and stayed with McK again when I had MRSA as well as the lumpectomy. She never says no. And let me tell you this, she is 10 years older than me and never ever acts as though I am an imposition even though I know I am. There is no price tag for this friendship and all she has done for me. I am so fortunate to have made friends with her 10 years ago.

And finally, there is the Mouse. Anyone who knows me knows what that little precious angel means to me. Yes, there are several times when she wears the hell out of me or tries my patience but compared to the love and hugs and kisses and loving memories it’s a small price to be paid.

McKenna Elise Rose is the smile I misplace when I feel crummy. She lights up my day when pain darkens my day. Her laugh can bring me up when I feel like I have been down too long and her hugs give me strength to face even the most difficult of times. She dances for me, she tells me jokes, she makes me cards and sings her songs to make me laugh and she always wants my love and kisses. Cancer may be what I am dealing with but this beautiful little girl is the strongest weapon I have in my personal arsenal to not only fight but win this battle. I am truly blessed even in this predicament.

 

Live Laugh Love

Debbie

 

 

 

 

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A Day in the Life

by Debbie Twomey on May 13, 2017

Once again the idea I had for this week’s blog will have to wait. It was about the blessings of a cancer diagnosis and yes, there are blessings you never knew.

But this has been a rough week and I want to share the moments for one major reason; so when all of this is behind me I can look back and say “I made it through all that!”

Since receiving the first chemo cocktail (Cyclophosphamide-inj, Doxorubcin, HCL, Paclitaxel, Pertuzumab, and Tarstuzumab according to my Managed Care experts), I had only mild side effects such as nausea and fatigue. It was hard to tell just how much was a result of the cocktail since I pretty much fatigued most of the time. But oh I learned it could feel worse.

Wednesday my bones felt tired. Don’t ask me to explain the difference because I really can’t. It just felt like weariness set into my bones. I felt pretty tired all day but nothing to think twice about. But that night my feet hurt so badly because I went off the Predisone that was managing my RA pain. And my lower back was a bit sore as well as my neck where they went in to get the port to my chest. So I lay awake all night with a cold pack on my neck, warm pack on my lower back and my freezer slippers.

When McKenna left for school at 8 am I literally cheered. Now I could go to sleep and catch up since everything seemed to calm down. No such luck. At 8:10 my lower back started seizing up. The cramps were very severe in my kidneys which have been working overtime for a couple of days. Then the nausea hit full force and I mean like a Transformer size truck slammed into me.

I started vomiting and got the chills so bad nothing could warm me. I turned up the heat to 72; I put on 3 layers of the heaviest blankets and a warm pack on my back. Still I had the chills so bad my teeth were chattering, seriously. I was feeling so sick I could not even attempt a drink of anything let alone some precious tea that might warm me from the inside. I have had chills before but nothing so powerful.

I cannot adequately describe to you the depth of the nauseous agony I was going through. I have mentioned before just how much pain I used to be able to tolerate and though I think that has decreased in the last painful year of struggles, it is still quite a bit. It was HORREDOUS.

I share this not because I think my suffering is worse than anyone else’s or that this may be atypical. I share because this is the reality of a day in the life of Chemo/Cancer Battle. And the kicker for me is that this is a low dose to see just what my body can tolerate. Oh Oh!!!

While I lay writhing in pain all I could think of was the movie One True Thing. It was the first movie that truly depicted (for me) the horrible fight cancer patient’s face when going through chemotherapy. I kept seeing Meryl Streep hanging over the toilet vomiting and being so embarrassed in front of her daughter Renee Zellweger. And my sister Karen and I were so upset at all she was going through and the indignity of losing her hair too. In the movie Meryl’s character loses her battle to cancer but her spirit wins. Great movie ending but oh so much ugliness and suffering to get there. And it was after all, just a movie however truly depicted.         

Not sure if I care about my spirit right now. I mean I know what positive thoughts can do for your spirit and your ability to fight and believe me mine is strong. But in the throes of vomiting from the depths of your toes, it really ain’t helping much.

And I am not end stage because if I were I would not even attempt chemotherapy but go for quality of life instead. But I am fighting for this cancer to be gone from my body and hopefully never return again. That is the only reason I am going through all of this.

I am still researching foods and supplements but have discovered there are so many I have to avoid or that counteract the chemo drugs especially antioxidants. I am so confused so I am going to listen to a few testimonials of people who have gone through chemo and see what has worked for them. And I will be putting in for my cannabis card. I have never tried pot in any form but after this week I will do what I must to try to minimize these side effects. Plain and simple, my body my choice.

Today was another rough day. My kidneys keep cramping up and I had the chills this morning. It is better this evening but it is so hard to make plans for Mother’s day since I do not know how I will feel tomorrow. Still, my hope is to travel back home to Auburn to see my grandbaby Leah who I have not seen since Easter. And I would love to stop at Panera and get a salad as well as visit a friend or two.

Long gone are the days of my going back to my hometown and visiting as many family members or friends as possible before heading home. Now it would be much better if friends came to see me. And could you bring that maid service I so desperately need? Just sayin’.

Live Laugh Love                                                 

Debbie

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