Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Six



A month ago, our sweet Rebecca celebrated her sixth birthday. We had her family party on Thanksgiving, as we have for the past few years, but this year it was not hosted at our house, but at Jim's brother Mike's house. Rebecca was very excited that Uncle Mike and Aunt Missy were going to include her party in their Thanksgiving celebration. And it was a lot of fun.
Since we've hosted the past few Thanksgivings, at first I felt out of sorts that we weren't doing it this year. Then I realized that I *hate* the stress of planning, cleaning, shopping, organizing, etc. that comes at the same time that I am extremely busy at work. All we had to do for this year's party was to bring a cake and some balloons. We also provided dessert plates and napkins. I will be happy to host T-day again in the future, but it was a big deal to me to let go of feeling like I needed to be in control of it.

This year we did not have a "friend" party for Rebecca. Instead, I got tickets for her to go with her cousin Allison and me to see the Cheetah Girls in concert. This was a surprise for Becky; she didn't know where we were going until we picked up Allison. When Allison told her, she slid down in her seat and looked happily stunned. We were expecting a bigger reaction, but she really was thrilled. So the three of us trekked downtown to the concert venue. It was snowing that evening, and so I was a little concerned about driving across icy bridges and whatnot, but my trusty Odyssey kept me safely on the road. I had bought the tickets way back in August, because of an email I got from a local radio station with a "beat the box office" promotion. Turned out to be a good deal... the seats were two rows up from the floor, facing the mixing boards. Great seats! And we didn't have to stand during the show; we did have to turn to our right slightly but it wasn't bad. There was an opening act, three teen girls called the Clique Girlz. Not being Radio Disney listeners, none of us had heard of them prior to the show. They were, uh, not really the type of music I was interested in, nor the type I would want Becky to listen to... It seemed like the songs were all about boy chasing. They were 'tougher' looking, which is okay, but they were too young to carry it off, instead looking like they were dressing up for Halloween maybe? During the intermission between them and Cheetah Girls, Becky commented that "they were loud" and I could see she wasn't a fan.

Then the Cheetah Girls came out... and put on a fun show. Lots of cool stage sets, a number of wardrobe changes, a ton of dancing, and they sounded good too. At one point their (male) dancers were doing a number, as they would while the girls were changing outfits, but then the dancers made their way down the floor to the mixing boards. Suddenly the floor next to the boards comes up and *poof* there were the Cheetahs... very close to where we were sitting! Becky's eyes went very wide at the sight. We all really enjoyed the show; I was wondering if I would be bored, but had listened to their latest CD a couple of times before the show and realized that I like the upbeat music. It's not deep stuff, but I could see where it would be good music to dance to, or just to inspire a good mood.

So that was Rebecca's first real concert experience. She is loving being six, as it feels much older than five to her. She's tall, taller than most of her classmates in Kindergarten though there are a couple who are bigger. She loves school and does her best every day. She's a good reader already, having cracked the code over the spring and summer, but is still getting a lot out of the reading classes. Handwriting was her bane early on; she was frustrated that it didn't come easily to her. As she worked on homework sheets, practicing letter formation, she complained bitterly early in the year. I've explained to her that practice is what will help her to do better, and she's starting to see the truth in my words. Her teacher told us at open house that Rebecca is a joy to have in class, that she stays with the class even when she already understands what is being taught, and that she reads to her classmates.
Finally (to her) some of her teeth are starting to loosen. She can put her tongue between her bottom front teeth, and it looks like they will be the first to go. The top two are a bit loose as well, and our dentist told her earlier this month that it won't be long. As much as Rebecca wants those holes in her mouth, I will miss the baby teeth. Baby teeth smiles are just so charming to me, and seeing the big teeth grow in just brings home that the child is growing up. I know it's inevitable, and really I'm okay with that, but we've had such fun so far.

Rebecca has her challenges too. She is already asking for things because "everyone else has" the items in question, especially Webkinz. Do you know that some of her friends have ten Webkinz? This was news to me, and I assured her that we would not be catching up to her friends... she has more toys than she can play with now. I did have a poignant exchange with her the other night about "stuff". We were in the drugstore waiting for a prescription to be filled. Inevitably we ended up in the toy aisle. She pointed out an e-Pet that she liked and started talking about Littlest Pet Shop toys. Whenever we are at Target, she shows me tiny LPS toys at the register (you know, in the 'impusle buy' area) and begs me to buy them. I never do, because they are collections of tiny pieces of Chinese made plastic junk and I know they will either be scattered throughout the house, or eaten by Trixie. Last night Becky told me that some of the kids at school have LPS toys, and when they are playing, they tell her she can't play with them because they are only playing with LPS and so she's not invited since she doesn't have them. Oh, my poor girl... I didn't know this. I told her that she should have put them on her Christmas list. I remember only too well the pain of exclusion because I was out of step with other kids, so this just hurt my heart.

She is a big American Girl doll fan, since she got a Bitty Baby for Christmas one year. Her dream came true this birthday, when her Aunt Barbie and family gave her money to buy her own AG doll. She picked out a "Just like me" doll that she has named Molly. Just before her birthday, her Grandma Monahan treated Rebecca and me to an AG fashion show. What fun it was... so many girls with their dolls there. It was a benefit for a local children's hospital (shhh, my employer's competition but I won't tell if you won't) and they had a raffle with some nice items. There was a set of Bitty Twins with a stroller, a Bitty Baby 'starter set', Kit and Ruthie dolls, a food concession stand set, etc. Grandma had bought some raffle tickets and I bought some more. We let Becky put tickets in for whichever prizes she wanted. She wanted to put one in for the Bitty Baby set, which I thought was pointless since she already has a BB (named Polly - see the link to above?) but she went ahead and toss a ticket in. Oh, and they had a Kit Kittredge tree house - very cool. They drew the raffle names at the end of the show and as they drew for the first prize, I hear my name being called! I had put my name on the tickets instead of Becky's for some reason. Guess which prize we won... the Bitty Baby starter kit!! Along with the doll, we got a crib, mobile, bouncy seat, and some blankets and clothing. Wow... good thing I had the trusty Odyssey because there were two huge boxes of stuff. Grandma and Becky waited for me to bring the car to the door. While they were waiting Becky told Grandma that she wanted to give the doll to Carly... it only made sense to her that since she already had a Bitty Baby, that her sister could have one too. Grandma and I were both touched and impressed. How easy it would have been for her to keep the second doll, but she definitely wanted Carly to have her. This generosity messed up Grandma's Christmas gift plan for Carly, but she didn't mind at all. Carly was thrilled when we got home with the loot and she learned that she had become a Bitty Babymama. Her BB is Sophia and she enjoys having her. They play with their dolls together and it's fun to listen to.
Rebecca is still a drama queen, very jealous of attention Carly receives, continually telling me that Carly "gets more" "has more" "is loved more", none of which is true, but I haven't figured out a way to convince Becky of this. It's something Jim and I need to keep working on. Her clinginess to me has decreased, which is good. Hopefully as she continues to mature it will recede into memory.

All in all though, she is so very sweet and loving... so good to her little sister most of the time, kind to the dogs, and funny and smart. I continue to be so in love with her.
Here are a few recent photos... from the American Girl show, the Polar Express train ride, and at the top of this post, her birthday celebration. You can see that Rebecca is royalty!













Saturday, December 27, 2008

Argh

I started the last post on Christmas day but just finished it today, the 27th. If anyone knows how to change the date on a post, let me know! I will try to research later, but need to get ready for the next round of holiday cheer now. :-)

Another Christmas in the books

All the hype, over again for another year, except for celebrating with my sister's family, which we will do today (Saturday). It was a nice holiday, though I felt rushed and disorganized about preparing for it, more so than usual. I just wasn't in the groove this year. In general I have been very disorganized, scattered if you will. This is ironic considering that I was diagnosed with ADD over the summer and have been taking medication to see if it helps. It actually has helped; I think my brain scatter is more a matter of the things on my mind pressing up against each other.
Over the summer I started to see a psychiatrist close to my office for medication management. As some of you know, I have been on and off antidepressants for several years, to mostly great effect. I've had periods where I've not taken them and functioned okay but not as well as I do on them. And after having post partum depression twice, I think that my brain chemistry is altered so it doesn't bother me to be on medication for it. Anyhow, I was having my primary care physician prescribe my meds. This worked "okay" until I switched to a particular med to avoid some side effects, and found myself turned into a screaming lunatic at home, especially to Carly, who was in the throes of terrible twos and was pushing Every Button. So, I got a recommendation for a woman who is local to my job, making it easier to book an appointment, and who is on my insurance (yay). She's been great, very supportive and knowledgeable. she explained why the med I was taking wasn't working for me and prescribed a different drug that has helped a lot. I decided at this time to also seek a therapist to deal with my life long emotional eating issues, which I have tried to address numerous times in the past but not successfully. The doctor recommended a therapist who practices in her office. I was hesitant to make the appointment, I think because I was still feeling hesitant about facing my problems. Then they found the nodule in my abdomen and everything changed... so I started seeing R, the therapist, to talk about my cancer issues. As we've worked together I have been able to lose a bit of weight, as I become more aware of myself, and of my eating. The holidays have been a bit of a setback, as I suppose they are for many people, but I don't feel defeated this year.
Unfortunately I have this cancer business hanging over my head. I did have a follow up scan in November, as I had planned. I didn't post about it here because it put me in a tailspin. This was the official impression of the abdominal scan: "High density lesion seen in the left posterior lateral flank musculature measuring 2.7 x 1.9 cm, previously 1.9 x 1.5 cm on 7/14/08. On 1/16/08 it measured 1.7 x 1.2 cm. Impression: SMALL INTRAMUSCULAR HYPERENHANCING MASS CONSISTENT WITH METASTATIC DISEASE, DEMONSTRATING MILD INTERVAL ENLARGEMENT". In other words, there is "something" in my left side, about where the ports went in at my nephrectomy. Because RCC (renal cell carcinoma) was found in my abdomen in August, this spot is also very suspicious. My oncologist contacted my kidney surgeon (Dr. Kaouk, who removed my kidney and who I love!) to discuss an ablation of the mass. Dr. Kaouk called me himself and explained the situation. The mass is somewhat diffuse, and is very close to my bowel. He is not comfortable introducing a needle to that spot because of the risk of puncturing the bowel. He and Dr. Rini decided to re-scan me in January to see if there are any changes, and to see if the area of bowel may move, so that they might be able to get to the mass more safely. If the new scan shows more disease elsewhere in my body, then it won't really matter whether the mass we now know about it near or far from anything. At that point I won't be treated surgically anymore but instead with systemic therapy. Luckily a lot of advances have been made in RCC treatments in the past several years, and I know people from the KCA patient forum who have lived for years on these therapies and are doing well. Still, it's not something to look forward to. Now, it is possible that what they are seeing isn't cancer, but Dr. Rini, very sensibly, says that he considers it to be RCC until proven otherwise. Dr. Kaouk sounds the same. This is very depressing to me but I know that it is their job to look at the worst case scenario, and I absolutely would not want to be given false hope. My sister works with oncologists and tells me not to worry too much about their pessimism for just these reasons. I know she is right but if I start to think about it, I feel like falling apart.
This is a situation that needs to be taken a step at a time, but it's really easy for me to progress myself mentally into the worst of all possible outcomes. I don't like to talk about it with anyone because I don't like burdening the people I love with more sorrow than they already feel. Jim in particular struggles with depression too, and I hate giving him fodder to add to it. But I'm holding a lot in, and I can see (with help from R, who is Wonderful) that keeping my feelings to myself is hurting me.
I am also trying to do things to feel like I have some control over what is going on in my body. I'm continuing to do visualization, to get rid of any cancer cells. When I was first sick, family members suggested I contact a local doctor who has gained renown as a faith healer. I was skeptical, and scared, and ultimately didn't pursue seeing him since I was doing well. I recently decided to google him, and found his web site. There I learned that he holds healing services on a regular basis, and will be having one next weekend near where we live. Jim is going to attend with me, while the girls have some quality time with my sister. I don't know what the outcome of this service will be; I'm hopeful that it can help me but I am being realistic enough to know that it doesn't always work for people. The service is on Jan 3rd, my CT scan is on the 12th and I see Dr. Rini on the 15th, so I will have more information in a few weeks.
Am I grasping at straws? Foolishly putting faith in anything I can get my hands on? Maybe. But I am willing to open my mind to all possibilities. And, if my doctors think that standard treatments are needed, I will take them. I will try whatever I can to make sure that I am here and healthy for as long as possible. I have too much to live for.
Hopefully my next post will be lighter - I still have a newly minted six year old daughter to celebrate!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Off hiatus, hopefully

Wow... two months since I last posted. I'm not going to get angry with myself about it, but hopefully will not let that happen again. Life has been so very hectic and when I finally have time to sit down and write, I am exhausted. But I have a lot in my head and my heart that I need to let out, so this will probably be the place where I do it. I've debated whether I should just keep a private journal instead, but decided that I don't mind baring myself to the people who know me, whether that is face-to-face or just as words and images on the screen... and the second group has grown to be as important to me as the first. There may be times when my words are dark, and if they bother you, don't read them. For a long time I have not expressed my hardships to other people, as a way to protect them from joining in my sadness, or because I was embarrassed or ashamed of my feelings. This practice has been very unhealthy for me, because it has also allowed me to hide from my feelings too.

Anyhow, I won't always be dark or serious, because that is not who I am... this is one silly mama you're reading, after all. And I have some fun photos and stories to post, so with a little bit of gentle prodding of myself, I plan to be a more regular voice.