Friday, December 20, 2013

Blessed

BLESSED....

That is the one and only word that I can use right now to describe the feeling I have every morning when I wake up.  While I usually wake up in agonizing pain, I am able to take some medicine and lay back down while the house is still quiet to let the pain medicine kick in before we start our daily routine.

The past two years December has been a hard month for me.  Last year I was preparing for my surgery, which the anniversary of losing the cancerous beast living within me was December 6th.  I remember last year my fear was something going wrong during the surgery or them finding more cancer than what was already expected.  Once that was over, the next fear was will this be my last Christmas.  Once the hustle and bustle of shopping, wrapping, hiding Elf on the Shelf, having my family here and working kicked in, that fear quickly passed.  As the year went on that fear disappeared and only reappeared when I was preparing for doctor follow up appointments and of course scans.

This year I noticed my anxiety levels quickly shot up after Thanksgiving.  Knowing my cancer is back and is considered non-curable, that fear of could this be my last Christmas is so real.  I hope and pray several times a day that I get many many many more Christmases with my children and hopefully one day with their children.  But since tomorrow is not promised to me, nor anyone for that matter, I am using cancer as a way to live like I am dying.  (Great song too by Tim McGraw).  Unlike his song, I do not plan to go sky diving or rocky mountain climbing, but I may ride a bull named Blue Manchu, I have loved deeper, spoke sweeter and I have given forgiveness I'd been denying.  Other things that he failed to mention in his song that I have done this past month:


  • Hiding Buddy the Elf daily so that I hear the giggles of my boys when they discover what mischief he has gotten into.  
  • Decorated the Christmas tree and didn't get discouraged when the kids hung ornaments all in one location.
  • Put the manger together one too many times because the boys think it is a new toy.  We have a "Little People" manger for them and the real one is kept away from their little curious hands.
  • Tuned in to the 93.9 and listened to Christmas music daily since the day after Thanksgiving and sang along.
  • Told people at the store, post office, library etc.  Merry Christmas
  • Paid it forward in line at McDonalds for the car behind me.  This made me nervous, but the price thank goodness didn't break our one income family bank.
  • Brought hot chocolate to the 3 teachers/aides at Justin's school who stand outside every morning making sure all the little munchkins get safely out of the cars and into school. 
  • Talked to Justin about the meaning of Christmas and did the best I could to explain it to him.
  • Did a family tour around New Lenox and surrounding towns to look at Christmas lights.
I think I could go on and on.  I made a list this year and tried to pack in as much fun as possible so that should this be my last Christmas, the kids will look back and remember all of the good times and Don can make this a yearly tradition.  I am confident though that my time is not up and I will get to do these traditions for the next at least 20 years with my boys.

Please don't let my mind set scare you off.  I am not negative nor have I given up.  I have tons of hope and faith that my medicine will continue to work and there will be a cure for me soon or God himself will heal me.  I follow many blogs of women who are struggling with terminal cancer just like me.  While reading these blogs break my heart since some have been struggling awhile longer than me, they also give me the strength I need to go on daily and to continue to be strong.  It is so weird if you think about it to read blogs of women I do not know and probably never will.  I feel like I do know them and little do they know, they are helping me.  I hope they read my blog and I can help them too.

Most who do see me or look at pictures on Facebook.  I do not fit the image of a cancer patient like I did last year.  I have my hair, I'm pretty fit (weak, but healthier looking than I have looked in years), I can carry my 1 1/2 year old while he wiggles out of my arms kicking and screaming like an average mother. I am able to keep up with the house work, cook dinner and remember important dates.  It is like I do not have cancer! Like it is just a ploy to get some attention.  I sure wish that was the case.  I hurt daily.  My regiment of Advil or Norco rotated every 4-5 hours to stay ahead of the pain is annoying!  Especially if I miss a dose and the pain sets in. I'm one angry Bitch (Pardon my language, but I am)  I hope I can keep fooling all of you.  I don't want to look sick.  I want to continue to walk through the store and see strangers rushing to get things, pushing me out of the way, stealing my parking spot because they want to be closer to the entrance.  It is entertaining to me to watch them get so annoyed by things that don't matter.  There are several times I just want to stun them and say I have terminal cancer.  But I don't, instead I smile and hope that my smile is contagious and they change their ways and slow down.

My request this season is for all of you that follow my blog to reflect on the past year and be thankful for your health, your family, for your home, for your job, your school.  Whatever it is you have that you easily take for granted.  Like I mentioned, tomorrow is not promised to any of us....Cancer or no cancer.   Make this the best Christmas yet.  It isn't about the gifts under the tree or the perfectly decorated Christmas cookies.  It is about living your life like you are dying.  Giggling with your children, signing loudly off key to Christmas songs, Dance like no one is watching (Ryan is good at this one and if you ask Whitney, I may be coming in a close 2nd), making someone else's day, give a dollar to the homeless. Smile and stop being angry.  Just slow down!   

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  Whitney is here for a month and I and the boys are enjoying her company.  My parents are traveling in today and tomorrow (prayers for a safe arrival to and from NC).  The only thing missing is Jess and her family, but we will Skype with them and make sure we feel like we are all together!  More to come after Christmas on the health front.  For now, I'm pretending like nothing is wrong and just remembering while I hate the word cancer, it has taught me so much!

Love to all!

Amber 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving

I met with Dr. Phillips yesterday at the end of the day.  I hate Dr. visit days!  I started out in a great mood, who couldn't be!  I'm home with my 2 cuties just playing, watching movies, cuddling, etc.  As I would laugh or do something goofy, my smile would quickly fade as I remembered that I had an appointment today.  My heart was beating in my throat a majority of the day.  I had not noticed much change and my pain was still pretty strong that I feared all day Dr. Phillips would want to do some scans.  Although scans are not a bad thing, that is they aren't bad if you get the results that you want.  But with them comes A LOT of extra anxiety, tears and bad moods.  I thought all day how I was going to try to stall this until after the holidays.  I mean yes, I want to know right away if the treatment isn't working and we need to move on, but to be honest, I do not think I or my family can endure anything more this year.  Even if the cancer has not spread, it is still there and I just don't think I can do it.

Turns out at my appointment Dr. Phillips felt that my lymph node was smaller (I do agree with this) and that the skin looked like it has completely stopped spreading!  What great news!  She explained to Don and I why she felt the skin / chest wall has stopped spreading and I agree after she explained it to us.  If you want a full understanding of this, it will require a visual so call me if you need more detail! HA!  Before she took a look, I explained again to her what the pain feels like.  In case you forget, it feels like my skin is stretched so bad that when I touch it, it is hot, painful and feels like it is burned similiar to a sun burn.Naughton.



My final hypothesis was that if we removed the implant or put in a smaller one (not really wanting to do this, but will for comfort) maybe the skin could breath more.  She first said that wouldn't work and gave me the look like aw you poor thing.  Well after she looked she agreed that my skin is just too tight on the right side.  Her request was to give the chemo a couple more cycles to see if the discomfort and pain subsides and if it does not, would like me to consult with my plastic surgeon.  I have decided to get a head start and meet with him before and just get his opinion.  You can now call me Dr.

That is it on cancer front.  In other news, Don and I went to St. Louis to watch the Bears lose.  It was a great trip.  We went with a group of friends from college.  Although all but 2 of them live near us and we see frequently, it was nice to just get away.  It was also nice for Don and I to get away and breath and kind of sort of act like we are a normal couple without a million and one things going on in our life.

Bears Game
Justin has been off all week for Thanksgiving break.  It is really nice to have him home with me.  Don and I met with his teacher on Monday and he is doing great in school!  Ryan is talking more and more and is so busy!  My goodness!  If you have indoor activity ideas, we will take them!

Play Date with Cousin Paige
My brother and sister in law welcomed a new baby girl - Emma Grace on November 12th.  She shares the day with Don and I as it is our anniversary!  And if that isn't enough, she gets a cool birthday - 11-12-13.  She is a doll and her big sister Paige is doing a great job taking care of her.  It will be fun to have a baby around for the holidays!





















I can not believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  This year has flown by.  I will say for the most part, this year is right up there with last year for being pretty crappy.  But with all of the crappiness, we have had a lot of happiness! Wow, I might coin that phrase.  It has been tough, but if you don't look at cancer, it has been pretty cool.  I am thankful for all of my family and friends this year.  That is usually what I say anyways when we go around the table at Thanksgiving and say what we are thankful for, but I can't think of anything else that tops family and friends.  The cards, the gifts, the phone calls, the making strides walk, we appreciate it all and I don't know how to thank each of you personally.  It is so easy to sit and cry and feel sorry for myself and my family, but then at the right moment, the phone rings, an email comes through or recently chocolate covered strawberries.  It is like you all just know when and what I need!  We are so lucky!

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving day with your family!  Make memories, laugh and EAT!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Day

An update on my Dr. appointment last Tuesday.  I met with Dr. Phillips last Tuesday.  She was not happy to hear that I am still having pain in the chest area.  Her thoughts are that as the chemo works, the pain should subside.  I think, she did not say, that she is getting concerned that the chemo isn't doing what it is supposed to be doing.  That of course is my brain at work.  I did not ask and she did not tell.  Some appointments I am strong enough to ask the hard questions, Tuesday I could not.  She has asked at every visit if I wanted pain medication and I have always rejected it.  I don't enjoy being in pain what so ever.  In fact, when the pain comes on, it destroys me until the Advil or Tylenol kick in.  I get quiet, I can't really eat, I get irritated easily and if it is at night, I can't sleep.  All of this information made Dr. Phillips prescribe me a low dose pain medicine.  She thinks it will help with just my well being.  I agree with her, but I hate to give up on the over the counter meds.   I feel like going to the stronger stuff is losing a little bit of control of this tough game of cancer.  I know this is not a game, but to me I have to play it somewhat like it is.  Taking more medicine is letting cancer know it has gotten to me.  I hate that!  So I am now taking a pain med at night and during the day I'm sticking to my over the counter meds.  I realized yesterday that I really was not taking Advil during the day.  Interesting....maybe the cancer is getting the point.  Then last night, another pain attack.  Right when it was time to sit down for dinner.  It is just so frustrating.  There could be multiple causes: cancer, nerve damage, nerve pain, lymphadema, etc.  I could go on and on.  I just wish we knew exactly what it was.  Pray that it will go away.  It is no fun!!  It makes my mind wonder to places that I don't like.

I have finally gotten involved with a group that I hope helps me and other young breast cancer survivors.  I am co-organizer for a group called "YSC" - Young survivor coalition -for the south suburbs of Chicago.  If you get a minute, check out their website.  It is for women that were diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40's or younger.  I was drawn to this group from another breast cancer survivor that I started following this summer.  Unfortunately, her journey ended a month ago leaving behind a 6 year old little boy.  She co-organized the group in Champaign IL.  My first meeting will be held on November 20th.  What I like about this is depending on the other women that join, I can plan events that meet all of our needs.  I'm excited for this first meeting so I can understand what the other members needs are.  I am sure I will not be surprised that a majority of us need or want the same things.  So far I have 8 members and it was only opened 2 weeks ago.  If you know a young women who had or has breast cancer, please direct them to this group.  If they aren't in the South suburbs, they can check on the website if there is a group near them.  My goal is to make this a positive place for young women.  If you remember, I attended a support group initially when I was diagnosed.  It was a great group of women, but some meetings I left there more in fear.  The looks on the women's faces when I would say my age or my children's ages.  I knew then I needed to be with women like me. Young, with kids, or no kids, married, or not married.  But going through the same struggles, fears and changes a young women faces with breast cancer.

I am meeting with a young breast cancer survivor, that I was fortunate to meet during radiation, for breakfast later this week who also works for American Cancer Society.  She has a few ideas up her sleeve for discussions for the support group and also ideas of where and how to network this group.  Then on Friday, I am meeting with the clinical trial coordinator at the University of Chicago so she can understand the group and help me network as well.  With the HIPPA laws it is hard for me to do this on my own and fortunately, going to the doctor so often, I have met wonderful people that are ready and willing to help me.  So wish me luck on this fun journey!

Other than the group, I am just trying to stay busy with Ryan.  He is learning so much and is talking up a storm.  I still struggle with if he is getting everything that Justin did with Justin attending day care daily and getting the social skills from being around other small children.  But I will say when he does something new I am so proud, because I know he probably has learned that for me.  As long as it is positive stuff, I am proud to take credit, but if he does or says something bad....I didn't teach him that and I have no idea where he got it from:)  I also enjoy being there for Justin before and after school to work on his homework and read with him.  He is excellent at math and most of you know, that was not my strong point so it is fun!

Although that sounds good, I'm sugar coating it a little....It is also tough for me!  Tough to just find my place, tough to be in pain, tough to realize my life is forever changed!  I can not get through the day without crying.  I try not to look back at what our life was 2 years ago because that time did not include my little Ry guy.  But I look at what we had -health, happiness, good careers, happy worry free Justin.  Just makes me realize how much everyone, including myself, needs to count their blessings.  You never know when or what could happen.  You just have to enjoy life! I am doing my best to do so.  And I have to say always remember that everyone has their story so be kind!  Although my side effects on this drug are minimal - I'm keeping my hair, I'm not pale as a ghost, my blood counts are not in the toilet.  I still have a lot going on with my life.  In fact, this fight is way harder than the last time.  The stakes are higher.  My fight is not to attack a tumor and move on with my life.  my fight is to prevent my cancer from spreading any further in my body.  Prevent it from taking me away from my kids and my family way too soon.  So remember that, not just with me, but for everyone.  Everyone has their own battles and even though some are not noticeable, they have something.  Don't hold grudges, don't be too proud to say you are sorry or you were wrong.  Pick up the phone and call someone to tell them hello, say you love them!  Okay enough of the mushy stuff but hopefully you get the point.

So to end, I please ask that you continue to pray for me and my family.  I need some strength, I need some energy, I need positive thoughts that this chemo is working!  Thank you for those that have helped out these past couple of weeks.

Love always!

Amber

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Making Strides Walk

Thank you to all who walked and donated to the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast cancer walk!  Some may not have heard, but my team raised the most money for this particular walk (approximately $7,500.00)  That is awesome!  I had walkers anywhere from old co-workers, the kids daycare, friends from high school, parent's friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, local friends and people I have not seen since I was a little kid that gave me their Sunday to show their support.  My guests ranged from Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee , St. Louis to Georgia.  If I forgot, I am sorry.  This was the reminder I needed that I have support all over!  If I did not personally thank you for coming, I am so sorry!  Not to mention, the other close friends and relatives that are also breast cancer survivors: Christine, Sarah and Aunt Marilyn. So many people and not enough time for everyone!  But please know that my family and I are so grateful and appreciative of the support.  It will give me that extra boost to keep fighting!  Not like I would give up, but you know somedays, it does feel like the odds are against me!

My group of walkers!
My sisters and parents were here for the week and it was great having company.  Justin and Ryan do not see their cousins often enough so spending time with them is precious.  Justin had school but played every night with his cousins.  The rest of us enjoyed the pumpkin patch, movies, walks through the Forrest preserves and just visiting.  My house was rather quiet and depressing Monday afternoon.  What would the week be if we didn't also pass around the flu bug.  Yes, a majority of us got it, but luckily it ran its course fairly quickly.  The latest victims were Don and I.  I am feeling a little better today, but not 100% (whatever that is anyways).

I was asked to start the race by cutting the ribbon
On the cancer front, I am on my week off of Xeloda.  I will start back up on Sunday for 2 weeks straight.  I will see Dr. Phillips next Tuesday for blood work and to do a visual look.  I have noticed the skin part continues to fade, but is still there and I want it gone!  I am told to be patient and to remember it will never be "gone" so just be happy that it is showing signs of improvement and that it is not getting worse.  The pain has subsided some so that has to be good news too, right?  The bad news I received this week is that my tumor tests have come back for the 2 clinical trials that University of Chicago had for Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  Remember one called for the tumor to suppress something and 60% of tumors do.  The other needed to suppress something else and only 10% of tumors do.  Well a smack in the face, mine does not suppress either things that they were looking for.  The good side is we were not forced to make a decision as to whether we stick with Xeloda that seems to be working or do a trial.    The bad side is if Xeloda stops working, which it eventually will, we have 2 less drugs that would work in helping to extend my time.  While we are reminded there are still several drugs they can try, these 2 will not be beneficial to me.  Yes, I have to be different all the time and put myself in situations that are hard to get out of.  I have been that way my whole life so why change now?

Again I scratch my head at this Triple Negative.  My Doctor has explained it to us that helps me understand it a little better.  If the tumor does not suppress a hormone receptor, it is thrown into this Triple Negative category.  There are several sub-types of triple negative.  They just have not figured out all of these sub-types and who should get what given the tumor information.  That is so frustrating to me since I know they will get this figured out eventually, I just hope it is time to be beneficial to me!!  Yes, that may sound a little selfish, but I do.  In the mean time, I want to do whatever I can to help doctors....So I will continue to allow them to test my tumor and if it comes to it, apply for clinical trials to help me or other triple negative patients.


Justin adding my name to the survivor wall 

My smallest supporter - "I wear pink for my hero, my mom"

Kids are doing well.  Justin is loving school and Ryan and I are trying to get into a routine without work.  Having guests here helped and then being sick has held us back.  Hopefully next week we can start a routine of library, museums, gym time and anything else that we can think of.  It is nice to have a lazy day inside, especially with the cold weather approaching, but we have to stay busy!!

We appreciate the continued prayers and will update soon!

Love,

Amber

Friday, October 11, 2013

The New Normal



Oh what a week!  Actually last 2 weeks.  Start with the fun stuff!  Lisa and I had a blast at the color run.  I would suggest this run to anyone if you like to have fun.  It is not competitive and it is a great 1st 5K run/walk!  Of course being with the right people for the run is also important.  If you can't have fun, this is surely not for you!


I saw Dr. Phillips today.  She was impressed at my body's ability to tolerate Xeloda.  I mean I must be the best chemo taker in the universe.  I should not brag because my body may just not have a clue yet what this chemo is doing to it.  But I do not have any of the side effects that they discussed with me 3 weeks ago.  My blood work looked fine.  Although my chest skin does not look much better, it has not gotten worse.  Eventually the Xeloda should cause the redness in the chest area to shrink and hopefully disappear and take the stupid pain with it.  But for now, it does not look any worse and that was enough for her to tell me to come back in 3 weeks.  We discussed my pain and she felt that if I can manage it with Tylenol or Advil that is good.  And again she feels that as the drug takes over the cancer, I should not have as much pain.  Hopefully this is the case soon.

In other news, I am back to the best job on earth....Being a mom!  Yes, that is correct!  I started and have left a job within 3 days!  While the hours and location were wonderful, the people and atmosphere were not.  I knew Porsche would be hard to match, but this was not even close.  Not all of my years at Porsche were rosy either.  I was put through hell there by a nameless person for several years, but I kept my head up and did what I was told and out-lived her and that is when the heavens opened up and I realized wow, working there was great, it was working for someone that was horrible.  Working for this horrible nameless person I hate to admit but I learned so much....I learned how not to treat people.  And with that my friends, that is how I was successful at my previous job at Porsche. Now back to this new job....It was toxic and negative. Had I not made a promise that I would never work that way again and maybe had I not had a dangerous cancer walking around with me, I may of tried to out-live it again.  But life is too short and precious to be scared and miserable at your place of employment. I think I could write a book on productivity in the work place when working with evil.  In my 11 years since college, I really think I could top the cake!  So Thursday morning I woke up and decided that this was not the place for me.

For now, I have decided to explore other avenues that are open to me due to my diagnoses for a source of income.  Hoping that this comes through for me, I plan to use my time wisely and raise my children the best I can, volunteer at the school as often as I am able, go to the local cancer center and volunteer my knowledge and kind heart to someone that needs a pick me up and to just live my life  how I want to live my life.  I could later decide I want to go back to the work force if I choose. Wish me luck on the income side of this so I can make the rest happen.

So this post may sound like it was an easy decision to make to quit the job and to stay home and do this.  It was not.  In fact, part of me feels like I kind of hit rock bottom.  I wish it was due to drinking or something that I could manage to make go away, but it isn't....Although I had made that promise to myself to not work in a negative atmosphere, I struggled with not going back.  See I am a hard worker. I learn something and don't stop.  I strive to do the best to earn recognition for my work even if it isn't monetary because believe me, it isn't always appreciated with money, but that was okay.  I am one of those that kind of looked forward to work on a Monday morning and what the week had in store for me.  I liked the routine of kids up, fed, school, work, home, dinner, bath and bed.  Wake up and do it again.  As sick as it may sound, it was more of a challenge for me last year after I was diagnosed to see how I could handle the day to day with cancer: chemo, kids, work, blood work, etc.  I mean it wasn't what I had dreamt or asked for, but challenge was accepted and I felt that I handled it the best I could and saw people shake their head at my strength and courage.  That was like gas to me, the more people were amazed, the more I tried to take on.  Not until I was home this summer did I realize how tired I was.  That was okay, that got me through my first fight with cancer.

This time after I was diagnosed I was so scared.  Scared because I was not working.  What would keep me busy and my mind off of being sick?  What if the treatments beat me down and I want to take a nap.  I thought being home it will be easy to fall into a trap of tiredness and I could see the cancer consuming my days.  That scared me.  So I jumped into the first thing I found.  After accepting the job and learning around the same time that I could get other income assistance because of my diagnoses, I struggled with what was right.  Was it right to get back to the grind of a routine or was it right to be home and spend time with my kids and concentrate on me.  I was getting mixed opinions from people on this.  Finally I decided that work was best and I jumped in.  As this past Monday approached I was starting to get excited but also scared.  I knew Monday morning this was probably not going to work.  But you know what, it was the normalcy that makes us all comfortable.  The normalcy to say if Amber is working, she must be okay.  She must not be in pain, she must not feel sick.  She is doing well.  I liked that.  The last I want is a sympathetic look.  I want people to accept me as Amber 2 years ago and I want things to be normal.  Well on Thursday morning I let myself live in the true reality.  Things are not normal and I am not okay all the time and that is okay.   I am sad, scared and exhausted a majority of the time.  But rather then giving into these fears and doing the old normal, I have to find the new normal.

I envision my new normal to be making sure that I am fighting cancer the best way possible by staying up to date on trials, drugs and just health, taking care of my family, making someone elses cancer experience easier and helping out at Justin's school.  This list could probably go on and on.  I have to do what I want to do and stop worrying about what others think if I am not being the old Amber.  I am a new person and this is now our life.  I know in my heart this is the right decision for now.  It does not have to be forever, but for now, I need to do this.

So wish me luck on this new journey.  I thank you for the continued prayers.  Can't wait to see a lot of you next weekend.  If you are walking, remember I have rented space at Charlestons Bar and Grill after the walk for lunch and drinks for the Bears game.

Love to all!

Amber

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekly update

Things are still going fine.  I am on my second week of Xeloda, which means next week is a break week.  So far, still no side effects.  Although I have read that sometimes it is accumulative so the more meds, the more likely they might show up.  I have not noticed a lot of change, but Dr. Phillips did tell me it could take a couple of cycles.  I still have pain on the right side, which is rather annoying, but I have been able to stay on top of it with Tylenol or Advil, just wish there was not any pain!

This past week was a good week.  I accepted a job!  I was in the midst of my job search when this all blew up in my face!  So when I was called for a 2nd interview at a company I used the "you don't have to worry about accepting it until you are offered it" approach.  Well I was offered the job and I have accepted.  They are aware of my previous cancer battle and that I am fighting again.  They understand my family and health comes before them and hopefully it will remain that way.  I have mixed emotions about this.  Part of me thinks getting out and back to a routine is good.  The other part is scared.  This is a new company, new people.  I am ill, whether I look it or not.  Will I have the support like I did at Porsche?  I sure hope so!  So I have one more week off to prepare for this new adventure.  The office is close to home (about 15 miles) and the hours are pretty decent (7-4).  So pray that we all get over this adjustment since it will require early mornings and a more strict night routine then what we are used to.

Well, in case you have not signed up or donated, I wanted to plug the upcoming Making Strides walk!  It is October 20th.  I have one of the largest teams and that makes me so happy!  Remember if you sign up, you can request co-workers, friends and relatives to donate to you or to "Amber's prayer warriors". You do not have to walk to donate.  Seeing the money my team has raised alone makes me feel so loved.  This is not just about me, it is about anyone struggling with a breast cancer diagnoses or who has lost someone to this stupid and ugly disease!  Enjoy my video.  Please note: chemo brain may have won, I spelled niece wrong, I probably shouldn't have pointed it out, but I will:)

Tomorrow is race day!  My bestie Lisa and I are running the Color run in Chicago.  Wish us luck as we run / walk with about 5,000 + other people!  I have heard awesome things about this run so we are excited and have a few tricks up or sleeves to stay entertained!

Have a great weekend!

Love,

Amber


Friday, September 20, 2013

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

It has been a pretty uneventful week-just the way I like it!  I visited my new Oncologist on Monday at the Silver Cross hospital by my house.  She is with the University of Chicago but sees patients at my hospital so it is very close and easy!  We agreed that I would start Xeloda.  4 pills in the morning and 3 at night.  I will see her every 3 weeks for blood work and every 6 weeks for an appointment to access the skin and lymph node.  Assuming Xeloda is working, there is not a need for a scan for a couple of months.  If we don't see progress with the skin and lymph node size, we will do a scan and move on to something else.  She did say it would take a couple of cycles to see if it is working.  A cycle is 2 weeks of taking the meds and 1 week of rest.  So I'm hoping and praying it is working!  I feel okay, I do have pain in the chest area.  From meeting with doctors, they said it is nerve damage pain and possibly why it feels like it does is due to the cancer trying to bother this area.  The pain feels how it feels when you have a bad sunburn and put clothes on.  Also I have explained it like how it feels when something on your body falls asleep - that tingly feeling.  Also if you haven't gotten it yet, feels like you hit your funny bone.  The pain comes and goes.  It is rather annoying though and painful.  The pills help, but if I don't time them just right (every 8 hours) it takes awhile for it to kick in and sometimes I am taking Tylenol on top of that.  So I'm hoping this goes away as the chemo works.  I don't want pain.

Dr. Phillips also gave me the news that I am considered a stage 4 cancer patient.  In cancer terms, there is no stage 5 so that sounds scary.  This is very scary because stage 4 is considered not-curable - WE WILL SHOW THEM!  I am considered this because anyone that has a recurrence of the same disease that was previously treated is considered stage 4.  I don't think this is fair since it is not in a distant organ.  I told her this and while she sees my point, she said I can't change it.  So it is very scary because if you look at the statistics for a stage 4 breast cancer patient, the outlook is not great.  I cried about this and am still having a hard time accepting it, but I am doing my best to stay positive and remember as of right now, I do not have cancer anywhere else besides a lymph node and chest wall.  This is way more then most of you reading this, but in my opinion, it could be worse.  There are several treatments out there still to try if this one does not work.  Just keep the prayers coming!  I can beat the odds, right??

Justin had a great week at school.  I was asked to come to the school today to be a "mystery reader".  I had to give 5 hints about me and the kids were to guess who the reader was.  Justin was so excited and happy to see me.  He told me he is so lucky to be the first one in class to have their mom read.  That made me so happy!  After reading, the kids could ask me questions.  Some were interesting, but man, first graders are adorable and so innocent.  I would love to spend more time in his class and hope to do so.  Ryan is busy as usual.  He is trying his best to talk.  While I can make out some of it, the other is still gibberish.  He has mastered "Sponge Bob" and when Nana and Papa Garrison were here this week, he did combine 2 words and said "oh Papa".  Those that know my dad can only imagine what he may have done or said to get a response like that!  He wants to be outside from sun up to sun down!  Don is holding down the fort!  Keeping busy at work and doing everything he can to keep the normalcy going at home!

So my subject is Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.  I am doing a walk at the Joliet Speedway on October 20th.  I have started a team called "Amber's Prayer Warriors".  If you go to the site: www.makingstridesagainstbreastcancer.com, the home page will try to locate a walk, a member or team.  I have family and friends flying and driving in for this and I am so happy for this support.  I would love to have a team like I did last year!  If you are free and can join us, please sign up under my team.  It is $25.00 / person.  Kids are welcome and we walk rain or shine!  Won't you please join us?  If you are unable to join in, I would love a donation under my name.  Now more then ever we need money to go towards this ugly disease and what better way to help!  If you ask me right now how to help us, I will say this.  Now some of you I might still hit up for a sitter, or pick up for Justin if something comes up, but this is what I really need right now.  I need a cure for cancer!  Any bit helps!  

So I will close with requesting prayers for me of course and for the family!  We are settled back into a routine with chemo and doing great, but mom and dad, sisters, in-laws and immediate family are all hit by this and need the prayers and support.  It is a living nightmare!

Love to all!

Amber

Thursday, September 12, 2013

University of Chicago

Yesterday Don and I met with the triple negative expert, Dr. Nanda, at University of Chicago. She is a nice young lady that seems to know a lot about the disease so that was comforting.  She talked to Don and I about 2 different trials that she thought might work for me.  There are a few more steps for each that need to happen to confirm qualification.  The first trial is not an FDA approved drug, but it has been in a trial phase for melanoma, lung and head and neck cancers and showing good outcome so now they are trying it on triple negative breast cancer.  In order to qualify for this my tumor has to suppress a certain "something" (Sorry, Amber terms!)  She explained that 60% of Triple Negative breast cancers do suppress this.  Also to qualify, I must have a measurable tumor for them use to confirm the treatment is working or not working.  This is an intravenous drug given every 2 weeks and I would need to go to Chicago for the treatment and appointments.  (Not that this is bad, but it is not close to our house, and is a bad neighborhood and is HUGE so I feel like a treatment would take all day rather then the 90 minutes they state it lasts.)  The 2nd trial they need to test my tumor to see if it suppresses "something"  Not the same something as the one above!  Only 10% of Triple Negatives suppress this.  This is a FDA approved drug used for prostate cancer, but is considered a trial since it is not approved currently for breast cancer.  This is an pill that is taken daily.  Both trials would require scans every 2 months to confirm the work of the drugs.

So the next step is they will request from Northwestern my tumor slides.  They will send them off to be tested for the specific "somethings" and then get in touch with me.  This could take a few weeks.  In the mean time, she recommended that I start a chemo drug called Xeloda.  Xeloda is given in a pill form and is taken twice a day.  (4 pills in the morning and 3 at night) I would take this for 2 weeks straight and week 3 is continued a "rest".  on week 3 I would also meet with the doctor for them to view my skin to see if the redness and dots are going away and also for them to feel the lymph node in my collar bone area to confirm it is shrinking.  I would also have scans every 2 months to check to make sure nothing is spreading.  The time frame of taking Xeloda is unknown.  

Dr. Nanda explained to me that we are not trying to prevent my cancer from coming back, we are preventing it from spreading.  This was hard to hear, because last time it was you have 16 rounds of chemo, then surgery and then radiation and you are done.  This time, not so much!  The goal at this point is to find the right drug to stay ahead of the cancer.  The chemo may work and the cancer may disappear, but there is not a way to rid myself for good (it sounds like) of cancer.  This is scary because eventually my body could become resistant to this drug.  She did explain that there are plenty of other drugs to try and we are not at the end of our rope....It is just going to be a race to stay ahead of cancer cells.  I may not be a sprinter, but I will sprint through this and beat cancer.  It will not win this race!

Since I really do not want to drive to the city unless I have to, we agreed that I will see Dr. Nanda's associate, Dr. Phillips, who works for the University of Chicago out of the hospital by my house.  Before starting to Xeloda, I will need to see Dr. Phillips so she can view my skin and get an idea of the size of the lymph node so she has a base line for appointments after stating chemo.  Everyone is working with me to get this appointment scheduled as soon as possible.  So hopefully within the next week I will be starting chemo, but it will not require my veins at this point! Oh and I will not lose my hair either!

Once my tumor testing is back, I will then meet with Dr. Nanda again to decide if I want to stay on the Xeloda (Assuming it is working) or if I go off of that and go on one of the trials.  This is going to be a huge decision.  Do I stay on a drug that is approved and is used daily to kill cancer cells, or do I try a drug that isn't approved but is showing some promising results....So pray again for us.  All I see is opening up a door and the fear that we pick the wrong door....All have their pros and cons and this will be hard, but there is a chance still that my tumor will not have what they are looking for and I won't qualify, or they will decide that my lymph node is not considered "a measurable sized tumor".  In that case, the decision will be made for me.

Lastly let me share with you just how lucky of a day yesterday was. When the hospital called to confirm my appointment for yesterday the nurse I talked to told me to do valet parking when I arrive.  She stated that the first visit they cover the valet since I am a new patient.  In typical Amber fashion I said "wow, free parking, I have cancer but I can park for free!"  I laughed and her not knowing me, laughs a little, but I could tell she really didn't know what to say to that.   Yesterday when meeting with Dr. Nanda's nurse we were discussing whether my tumor was considered measurable or not.  So she said that is good, you might not qualify because your tumor isn't large enough....Again I still have cancer, so I say "well between not having enough cancer and free valet, this is a pretty good damn day!"  My mom and I decided I should play the lottery.  Sorry, this situation is not funny AT ALL, but I have to find the humor in anything I can.  If I can't laugh through this, I don't want to play!

We will keep you posted, until then, prayers please that my body LOVES Xeloda and kills this cancer once and for all.  Prayers for our decisions that we will need to possibly make these next few weeks and finally for my family!  I know this is not about just me.  These decisions impact everyone.  Everyone wants Amber to be here until she is 90.  The weight has to be taken off of all our shoulders and given to God.  I feel that I have 60% done that, the other part still wants to try to control the situation.  I'm slowly realizing though that I can only do so much.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Disney Magic

We are home!  Disney was magical and just what we needed!  There are so many behind the scene people that helped us with this vacation and helped make our dreams come true.  Whether it was money, helpful advise or words of kindness to help us enjoy this time as a family even with the recurrence of cancer trying to come in at the most inconvenient time to try to destroy our time!  We had a blast and could not be more happy!  So thank you!

We left for Disney on Monday.  Most of you know we were going the surprise route with Justin.  Since the trip did go up in the air these past 2 weeks, I am so glad we didn't decide to tell him about this trip.  We really didn't know for sure that it was a go until the Friday before we were leaving.  So Monday morning we woke the boys up and I put them in Disney t-shirts.  While we waited for our limo to pick us up, Justin watched the Nascar race that we DVR'd from the night before.  Not the entire race, but the last 10 laps.  Luck would have it, his man Kyle Busch won!  So while he watched, Don was busy strapping Ryan's car seat in the limo and loading the luggage.   Once we got outside and he sees the limo, he thinks that is the surprise and thinks it is super cool.  We get in and tell him "WE ARE GOING TO DISNEY".  He was excited and happy, but Don and I decided he probably didn't know exactly what that meant since he had only heard about it.  So good surprise, but not exactly as I dreamt, but that was okay.

From Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, swimming, breakfast with Mickey to Nascar, we did so much and had a blast.  This trip was exactly what we needed.  Let me tell you that being at Disney in the hot weather and walking as much as we did, it was hard to think that I have a serious cancer.  There were a few times I would think they must be wrong.  I am pushing stroller with sweat running down my face, walking miles on end, fighting a one year old to get in a stroller and  enjoying the joys and laughter of my children....No way in hell do I have cancer again.  Oh how I wish they were wrong and to put it out there, I did make several wishes at Disney that they were wrong.  But we know the news was received, so I also just made several wishes that this fight would be an easy fight and that it is easy to get through and it is just another "speed bump" in our life.

To be honest, I did not think of cancer much on our trip.  We kept things as normal as possible and just lived our life like cancer did not exist.  I know we can't ignore the huge elephant in the room forever, but I just wanted to be like the other families there.  I did think a lot when people watching: what is their story, why are they here, has the mom in that family ever cried as much as I have the past year?  Have they ever received devastating news?  Does that dad stay up late worrying about losing his wife?  Some families looked too damn happy to have anything like terrifying cancer in their lives, but I would like to think if people were people watching us, they would have thought the same.... They are just a hot, happy family from Illinois taking their kids to Disney for the first time.  I wanted that normalcy.  I wanted to pretend or imagine our life like it was now, but without cancer!  Is is easy to do at a place like Disney! In no way was I passing judgment in my people watching, there were plenty of families I saw that were not able to disguise their fears and sadness like we could.  People with a sick family member or a child that was ill.  It did make me realize we are not alone.  And even though that "one" family was happy, they might have a mother, daughter, sister, brother, father, aunt or uncle going through something. We all have our own story and our own battles.

Friday my magical experience started coming to an end.  That was when I started receiving e-mails and phone calls.  Confirming appointments, letting me know my next steps, etc.  We are still waiting to hear from Northwestern on what their tumor board has to say.  We have heard from my oncologist who has spoken with a Doctor at the University of Chicago in regards to a clinical trial for Triple Negative recurrence.  I am getting all of my records, path reports and labs sent to them so I can get in with the doctor there this week to discuss the trial and what I will need to do.  Some have asked me why I am choosing a trial.  Well, from meeting with my oncologist last week, there is not a set regiment for a recurrence.  What they do know is since I had a recurrence within the first year of my original diagnoses, they know I can not do the same chemo drugs as I did before.  This is because obviously those drugs did not do the trick to rid me of cancer.  So we are on to bigger and better things to kick cancers butt!  So the trial will be a chemotherapy, but the drugs of choice, I do not know just yet.  I will continue to learn more about our plans this coming week.  I am ready to get the show on the road. I know my cancer probably did not choose to vacation last week so it is time to get moving!

I will post more when I know more this week! I will post some pictures later, Justin has kidnapped my phone.

Love,

Amber


Friday, August 30, 2013

Update

Just a quick update!  Dr. Hantel just called me.  Believe me, I think we all had given up a little hope.  I had my PET scan yesterday.  In "stupid / naive terms" this is a radioactive dye that is injected and you then sit for 90 minutes to let it soak in.  After the 90 minutes, you are put through a scan that will then light up if there is cancer growing somewhere.  It also has a CT portion of the scan, that will not show as much, but the Dr. can look at that as well.  My friend Christine is queen of PET's so she could explain this WAY better then I just did!

So what we found out is the PET scan only lit up on my collar bone lymph node.  That is not good, because it does signify a recurrence, but the good news is, it did not light up ANYWHERE ELSE!!  Not even on the chest wall, which was biopsied and confirmed the nightmare that my cancer has returned.  What this means is we have caught this early and there is either not enough or it is too small for the PET to pick it up.  The CT portion of the test shows a couple 2-3 mm nodules on my right lung base. We know that at least one of these nodules was there in May.  Dr. Hantel has explained that they are not big enough to test nor are they big enough to show up on the PET.  This will be a base-line moving forward and a "watch area".  Dr. Hantel has spoken with my surgeon at Northwestern who will present this to the Northwestern Tumor board next week to see if there is a surgery or anything that they think I qualify for.  He has also spoken with the Oncologist, Dr. Phillips, at University of Chicago, where I am switching to so I can be closer to home to see if I qualify for any clinical trials now that I have a recurrence.  So bad news is I have cancer and it is back!  Good news, I trusted my instinct that something was wrong and I caught this bad boy early!!!  So Dr. Hantel's instructions was to go to Disney and let them do their homework so that is exactly what we shall do!

Thank you so much for the prayers but please keep them coming, we have a long road ahead still!

Love to all!

Amber

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Round 2 - Watch out stupid cancer!!

Well, just a week ago, I stated my fear that I was afraid "SOMEDAY" I would have to relive.  Never in my worst nightmares did I think that meant 2 days from my last post!  I have been a little shocked, mad, sad to update so did it through Facebook which a lot of you have probably seen.

So the story goes: 2 weeks ago I decided I had better establish myself with a general doctor.  I am not sick anymore and I really should have one so in the rare case that I come down with something, I can go to someone who knows my history and not to the urgent care because that was our norm.  So I made an appointment for last Monday.  I also had noticed about 2 weeks ago that I had small bumps that looked either like mosquito bites or sun poisoning over and around my right breast (previous cancer breast).  I really thought nothing of the bumps because it was likely they were mosquito bites from being at the lake or sun poisoning since I am rocking a summer tan (not really, but more sun then I have had since I life guarded in high school).  Knowing my skin on that side is sensitive due to radiation, I was not concerned.  So when I went to the general doctor last Monday I had her take a look.  She too said it looked like more of a reaction then anything cancer related and I left with instructions to use a cortisone cream.  I did that through Thursday and noticed it was not getting any better and in fact, I was starting to see a couple of more.  At that point, I called my breast surgeon and they wanted to see me Friday.  Since my surgeon is through Northwestern, I see a resident and then my doctor.  The resident comes in and takes a look and says she believes they are bites and as she is leaving to get the doctor says to me, I don't think you need to worry anything about this being a cancer.  If it were the breast cancer, it would grow on your scar from your mastectomy or your implant surgery scar.  I actually raised my hands and said "YAY" in my happy voice....Some don't know this voice, I only use it when getting good news from Doctors....Totally a fake "yay" until I can get to the car and pump some good tunes and do a happy dance after getting good news.  So next comes Dr. Bethke.  He is always reserve and since a majority of the time I see him, I have been sleeping, I am not good at reading him.  He looks and keeps saying "okay".  He decides he wants to biopsy one to be sure it isn't anything.  He did what is called a punch biopsy.  It did not hurt since I do not have a lot of feeling in the breast region.  He then had me sit up and did the ritual of feeling my neck and collar bone and arm pit region for enlarged lymph nodes.  "Okay, Okay'' was really all I heard and then "take a seat Amber''....Oh here we go.  My response was "when will I learn to not travel alone to these appointments!"  I thought it was bug bites or I would have come prepared with Don!  He told me he was very concerned that my cancer was back due to an enlarged lymph node in my collar bone region.

I leave there super confused and pissed off!  Okay, I am concerned with my health, well-being and future, but BEFORE DISNEY!!!???  Are you kidding me?!  I was so upset.  All of this planning and now I am going back to chemo and if I make it through the chemo, it takes months to re-coop, I can not believe you cancer!  How dare you take my family vacation away!  Since all that know me, know I will not sit back and just wait.  Monday morning I was on the phone with my oncologist Dr. Hantel.  He squeezes me in for 4:30 yesterday.

I meet with Dr. Hantel yesterday and the plan is still somewhat in the air.  What we do know is this is Triple Negative breast cancer showing its ugly face again.  Several times I have explained triple negative has a high chance of recurrence either locally (chest or skin) regionally (lymph nodes) or distantly (metastasised to other organs).  So my cancer has decided to show in my chest wall / skin and hopefully that is it.  I did blood work today and will have my PET scan tomorrow.  The PET will light up if cancer is located anywhere else in my body.  Right now I need strong prayers that this has not traveled any further then a local or more then likely regional (since my collar bone lymph node was enlarged) recurrence.  Dr. Hantel did agree that there was no reason to put off Disney.  He needs to converse with several doctors to come up with the perfect regiment of chemo for me when I return.

So tomorrow I will go through a dreaded scan and we will then leave Monday for Disney and then return for chemo.  We have no idea how long or how often for chemo just yet.  He has given me some drugs that they may include, but no ideas how often or the side effects.  Chemo may be followed by another surgery, but he is not sure.  He explained that cutting out skin is a major surgery to have the cancer hiding and reoccurring again.  So we are not sure this might be a long term battle for me to stay ahead of the cancer.  Hopefully not!  Hopefully it remembers how rude and uninviting I was to it the first time.  It will not stay!  I have 2 kids that need me daily and I refuse to be taken from them.  I will not go down without a fight!  You all know that!  I hate to bring the crazy out but I will!

 I think it was somewhat of an easier blow the 2nd time around.  I was very educated about the likely hood of the return so I kind of was like "aha, this is when you choose to show back up".  So bring on another long and scary fight.  Please walk with us and keep us in your thoughts and prayers!  We have not told Justin yet if you are wondering.  Only because we are not sure to what extent I will have effects.  We will tell him something, we just don't know what yet so pray for that little man.  He is such a caring child, this will be harder for me then hearing the diagnoses myself.

Lots of Love to all!

Amber

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Grade

What a day!  Justin started first grade today!  Wow is he growing up so fast!  To start the school year with a bang, Justin and I had a date day on Monday.  In the morning he had orientation where we met his teacher Ms. O'Leary, visited his classroom and put away his school supplies.  Next we headed go cart racing.  Justin then told me he wanted to see Planes for a 2nd time, but later changed his mind and decided he wanted to play with our neighbors.  Yesterday Justin was the same ol Justin.  He went to the neighbors to swim and was just enjoying another summer day.  Mommy on the other hand....I had a rough day.  There are a few reasons: 1.  It has been an awesome opportunity to stay home with my kids this summer and just "play".  Seeing that school starts means summer is ending and well, I need to start my job search soon.  And I will probably never have a summer off again.  2.  Justin is growing up so fast.  Laying with him in bed Monday night I had a thought.  Most will say "they grow up in a blink of an eye".  Although that is a true statement, I selfishly want him to grow up.  That means I am further out from diagnoses and closer to the "safety zone" and it also means that if the worst were to happen and my cancer took me away from him and Ryan, It is more I was able to experience with them.  I am in no way rushing time, but I want to soak in every moment I can with my boys and anyone that has been through cancer will agree that the thought is constant.  What if this is the last year I prepare him for school, what if this is the last Christmas, WHAT IF??  It gets old, but no matter what, this is a fear! 3. My third reason for having a sappy day was I read on a Triple Negative site that I follow about one of the founders who lost her battle with cancer over the weekend.  This saddened me and also made me angry.  So of course in typical Amber fashion, I researched to see how many differences I could point out to prove that this doesn't mean Amber will relapse...."I'll bet she didn't have a mastectomy"....She did.  "I'll bet hers was further progressed at her initial diagnoses"....It wasn't.  Lastly "I'll bet she didn't diet and exercise"....Incorrect again, in fact she ran a marathon 10 months after chemo.....So this left me too with that fear and annoyance of if she can't beat it, how the heck can I!  I know and just needed to remind myself that this is "Amber's story" not hers.  Only the man upstairs knows how it will play out! Let it go, I am doing everything I can to balance my life between health, fitness and happiness.  I slip and cheat on my diet at times, I don't work out every day, but that isn't a sin.  That is human!  I still have to be a human....I can't be a machine, right?  I have to enjoy my time on earth!!  

I texted back and forth with my cancer buddy Christine yesterday.  Funny that she was having somewhat of the same thoughts as me yesterday!  I told you cancer peeps think alike.  I do think this was a sign because I was really feeling sorry for myself and then the text came in from her.   just talking to her and knowing I'm not alone, helped perk me up!  As of right now, I am healthy!  I have remembered that all summer!  Yesterday I somehow let fear take over.  I am blaming it on Justin's start of school.  And her and I reminded each other that  Others may not have cherished their children's first day of school like we do.  They don't think this could be their last, but in actuality, it unfortunately could be. But because of our past, we are forced to think about death more then others.  Today I have been fine, so please don't call in the Doctors to take me to a padded cell.  I promise I am okay!  

Ryan and I kept busy today and played a lot.  He is roaming looking for Justin and so am I.  I keep looking at the clock to see if it is time to get him.  I can not wait to hear about his day.  Last night he told me he was worried he would not have friends since a majority of his daycare friends will be at a different school.  I reminded him that he is such a nice, funny boy that he will not have any problems.  I also told him how it was around first grade that I met my friends Megan and Lisa.  He knows how close we still are and that brightened him up.  I am lucky that I have great friends and can give him real examples to take his fears away!  I mean when he tells me he is afraid of monsters under the bed.  I sometimes am too afraid to look for him because I have the same fear, but last night I could fix his fear!  This made me so happy!

2 more weeks until Disney!!!  We have decided we will take a limo to the airport and in the limo is when we will tell Justin where we are going!  If we can keep it in that long!!  As it gets closer, I am getting more and more excited! I think the plans are all in place, we just need to get there. 




I hope everyone has a wonderful school year with their children!  Remember to enjoy all of it because they grow up too fast:)

Amber

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August Already

I am having a hard time with knowing that August 1st is tomorrow!  For those in Illinois, you know this has been kind of a cool summer!  So to think it is August seems weird!  From the pictures on my last update, you can tell it has not stopped the fun for the Naughtons!  It is a blessing that this "break" from work happened when it did.  As most of you have told me, I now realize it completely: I NEEDED IT!  I have not only spent quality time with my kids and feel like I have made up for lost time that I was not always the happiest, healthiest and best mommy a year ago.  I have also done what I said I wanted to do: take care of me.  I have enjoyed waking up before the kids and doing yoga in our newly finished basement.  I love and need a walk or run after Don gets home from work and Ryan goes to bed:) And I have enjoyed finding juicing recipes to try.  I am juicing in the morning and make enough for 2 glasses.  So far my favorite juice is Carrot, Kale, turmeric, apple, cucumber and 1/2 of a lemon.  It is refreshing and good!  I do however fear that my nose will turn orange with the amount of carrots I am eating (like what happens to a baby eating too much orange baby food) so feel free to tell me if I do not notice!  

What is next?  Tomorrow we leave for North Carolina to see my parents.  I am thrilled.  I have not been there to visit since before Ryan.  Of course that seems like forever ago, but with our small mishap last summer, they spent a majority of the time here.  So wish me luck and say lots or prayers for me as I fly out tomorrow at 3 with 2 kids.  Justin will do fine, he loves to fly and is old enough to sit and enjoy the ride.  Ryan on the other hand....Yeah, just prayers please.  He has a mind of his own and I will not know until tomorrow at 3 how it will go.  When we return, Justin and I just have 1 full week before school starts so I'm taking ideas of outings in Illinois if anyone has ideas.  I was thinking the city one day and then who knows what else.  And then the week of Labor day: DISNEY!!  He still does not know.  He knows we are going because we have talked about it for a year, but he has no clue that it is right around the corner!!!  So excited about this one.

After our last couple of adventures, my personal goal is to start looking for work.  I have browsed, but I really have not looked hard so I'm a tad scared and it will be weird starting over, but I think it will be time.  I also will need to stop by and say "hello" to Dr. Hantel in September.  I am not sure what that appointment will entail, I just know I need to see him and check in every 4 months.  My parole officer.  I have not noticed any changes in my body or aches and pains so I take that as a good sign.  And since it is only August and I have some great things planned, I really don't need to worry about it just yet!

Lastly, I need to request some prayers for Don's aunt Jody.  Jody wasn't feeling well a few weeks ago and ended up in the hospital.  She was unable to keep any food down so they did some tests and discovered she has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  The cancer has spread to her liver.  Jody was moved yesterday to a hospice hospital.  I went and talked with Jody at the hospital last week.  She was in good spirits, but knew the prognosis was not good.  Jody has 4 grown children, tons of grandchildren and several in-laws, and nieces and nephews pulling for her.  All anyone wants is for Jody to be healed, but if we can't get that, I ask that Jody finds peace and comfort in knowing she has an wonderful family and they are wonderful because of the way she and Don's Uncle Jack raised their kids and showed love to their extended family.  Please say a prayer for her that she is comfortable and at peace.  I also ask that you pray for her family.  This happened so quickly and they have been forced to make several decisions that nobody wants to ever make for someone.  Please pray that they can find peace and comfort in all of this.  Jody will be missed but she will soon be healed and that is the true reward for everyone.

The pictures are from my sister-in-law Lauren's sister Carrie's wedding on July 20th.  Justin was the ring bearer and that beautiful little girl is my niece Paige.

Love,

Amber


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Summer So Far

This pretty much sums up our summer so far!  We are having a blast and enjoying every second of our time together!  Feeling great!  I have been doing yoga, running (more like walking with this heat) and started juicing twice a day.  I love it all!  When I'm not caring for the myself or the family, I am sleeping!  This is exhausting!  Here are some pics thank you for checking in on us!  Next up Michigan wedding, North Carolina, back to school and Disney!!  Oh and a job....let me know if anyone has found one for me!  One of those would be nice this Fall too:)





Brookfield Zoo
Cousin Paige and Justin watching the fireworks




Fireworks on the 4th of July at the Lake
First Hair cut



Park Time


Backyard Fun

Pool Time

More pool Time

More Park Time


Head Phones for the race
Boat Rides

Justin's 6th Birthday Party

6th Birthday
One exhausted but happy mommy

T-Ball
More T-Ball


ER Visit
Go Kyle Busch!




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Year Ago Today....

A year ago today I went to work as usual.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I had a cold and was just annoyed that I was using my lunch break to have my lump in my breast checked.  I left work for lunch, without really telling anyone where I was going.  Why would I tell anyone, I wasn't worried, I was probably going to have my breast drained for all I thought.  I meet with the practitioner and she immediately says she needs to get the Doctor.  Not until she returned and told me I needed a mammogram "TODAY" and gave me a paper with the name of a surgeon, did I start to panic.  Still I was not all that scared.  Since there was a break between my mammogram and that appointment, I decided it wasn't best to return to work and draw attention to this "small little appointment".  Instead I opted for a pedicure, which was probably the best decision, since my world was about to change and pedicures were out of the question due to the risk of infection!  Next I show up for my mammogram.  Still not that worried, then an ultra sound.  Even when the tech was taking forever on my right breast and armpit I was wondering if they would drain the milk duct in the office or if it would require a surgeon like the practitioner had told me.  Finally when things hit me, the Radiologist calls me into the screening room and shows me my scans.  She tells me my entire right breast is covered in a tumor.  She scares me more by telling me it has calcification's which tells her not only is it cancer, but that it has been there for awhile.  The next few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months are a blur! 

A year ago today my life forever changed! When I look back, it was really a pretty fast year! I remember meeting with the surgeon, who I met with again today for a 6 month follow up appointment, last year he told me that it would be a long 9 months.  I remember thinking, man the last 9 months were long with my pregnancy with Ryan, now I have to do this again!  Little did I know being pregnant with Ryan was a cake walk!  Chemo was not easy, but I still smile when Doctors, friends or family asks me how I handled it.  I did great!  I don't want to go back EVER, but it was easy for me!  I mean I was tired, moody, sick, etc.  But I loved the steroids and I never threw up or missed anything because of it.  Surgery, now that was tough.  I will admit I really thought it would be easier to heal and recover from and it was not!  It is tough to go from doing everything to doing nothing!  Radiation....I considered this my morning meditation.  It was relaxing to me to drop the kids of and just lay there topless!  HA!  Not that I meditate topless, but it requires nothing but laying still!  They play any music you like and the techs are awesome!  Again, I would do without it ever again, but that was easy peasy!  Last reconstruction.  Again, not as easy as I thought, but I love my boobs!  I wish we met on other terms, but I love my boobs!

I have blogged this past year about my journey.  This is again nothing I ever thought I would do, but it has been helpful to not only my loved ones but to me.  It is so much easier to write your feelings then express them!  Believe me, if you are one I have turned to throughout this, you probably left thinking "Note to self, don't ask Amber again how she is feeling".  Nah, but I do appreciate anyone brave enough to confront the topic of cancer with me.  I can not say it enough, had I not gone through this, I do not know that I would be as good of a friend as some have been to me through this.  It is difficult to talk to someone going through something so terrible and it takes bravery, compassion, care and probably lots of water proof mascara and Kleenex to do a face to face.  So for that I am thankful that I have wonderful friends and family that talked, cried, laughed and prayed for me!  

I have promised myself to never let cancer sneak up on me again.  I started by making the decision in January to take a break.  To do that, my job decided to leave and go to Atlanta because they knew I wouldn't go on my own terms.....No, but I did use them moving as a way to justify taking some time off and getting paid to have time off.  So thank you Porsche, but I miss it daily!  I also started watching my sugar and fat intake.  I do fairly well with this, except for the past couple of weeks due to again the relocation of Porsche and needing to do one last lunch (and a drink or 2 with a select few) with just about everyone!  But I am slowly getting back on track!  I started yoga, which I still love, but don't get to near enough, especially with the nicer weather.  And lastly I started running.  This too I tied to work.  I started an app (C25K) that is 8 weeks to running a 5K.  I started it when I had 8 weeks left to work.  I am a little behind, but I can say proudly that I am running 2.75 miles without having to stop!  I recommend the app to anyone, it is awesome!  If I can do it, so can you.  I have not ran since high school and during those runs, I am not sure they were productive because it was probably through corn fields running from police during the infamous road parties that we had!  Again, I am kidding, but the app has really helped to get me there and I look forward to running my first 5K with my head shavers aka best friends: Lisa and Meg later this summer.

I am still scared daily and think about cancer way too much, but I feel so good!  I am so proud of myself and hope to continue to doing what I can to stay healthy.  It also feels good to have some extra time with my boys.  Just being off a couple of days I have already realized how much a job gets in the way from precious time with them.  Don, don't worry, I promise I will be searching for a job soon.  But going from work, to home, to dinner to baths to bed is a 3rd job.  To have some more flexibility because work isn't in the way is kind of nice!  Like last night, going outside to play catch with Justin, that warms my heart!  We are making memories!  Not because I'm going anywhere, but I long for the day that he says remember that summer you didn't go to work and we played catch, caught lightening bugs, fed the ducks, etc....I long for that and can't wait to make those memories this summer.  

So good bye cancer!  You are not welcome anymore!  You tried to destroy a year of my life.  As hard as it was, I found the good in it.  It has made me love more, laugh often and live.  Oh and the wonderful friends I have met along the way is amazing!  Some have left me, but are still cheering me on and will always have a place in my heart!

A year ago today!  Hard to believe!

Love,

Amber