Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Truth of the Matter Is.....

Today went better than I had hoped for.  The two most important things that occurred were these:

1. My staging was downgraded to Stage IB2.  This means that there was a pelvic node that tested positive for cancer.  Also that it hadn't spread.  One of my lymph nodes, near my cervix is enlarged.  This could be as a result of the cancer, and it is my body's response to be able to fight it off.  Worst case scenario the cancer will be found in the lymph node which would change the staging to a Stage II, but that won't change the course of treatment.

2. I now have a treatment plan.

Let me back up a bit.

Coach and I left this morning around 7:00 and made it to our appointment at 8:15, which was 45 minutes early.  Go us!! I love the HOV lane in Arizona for this very fact.  The traffic on the 202 was at a standstill, but we were able to cruise right through due to having 2 people in the car.  Really people.  Just carpool and you could sleep in a bit.  I digress.

Upon our arrival at Arizona Oncology we were checked in by a slightly offish desk lady, which I guess for her this is every day.  That's okay.  I didn't have too much to say to her anyway.  When Coach and I finally found a seat, I looked around.  I saw beautiful people there.  People struggling with their own battles and handling them with stoicism and grace.  I saw lovely bald heads and contemplated that for a bit, before Coach drew my attention to the very large beverage dispenser.

My middle sister had warned be about delicious treats at the office, so which I scoffed, but it was true! Coach stood near the machine for a bit and then decided on warm, chocolate milk.  Any other day it would have been a comforting smell, today, it was super sweet and began to wage warfare on my stomach-through my nose.  Coach drank it and peace was restored to my belly.  I really haven't eaten well for awhile, food tastes like cardboard and everything makes my stomach ache.  No muy bueno.

I wasn't nervous.  I was anxious.  I am ready to begin whatever is before me so that I can beat this, and move forward.

Soon our names were called and I was heading back to another exam room.  When we walked in I saw the paper clothing and was not happy.  No one had informed me that I was going to have to again talk to another stranger for 5 minutes and then have them probing around my nether parts.  I should have anticipated, but I didn't.  I saw the duck, another jar of mustard, and another biopsy grabber, with the added bonus I looked at Coach and voiced my disdain, but really what was the point?

Dr. B's medical student came in first.  Her name was Abby and she was a delight in a forced comfort/stark like world.  We joked about tampons and death smells.  It seems wrong, but I like to laugh about things that really shouldn't be funny.  It's how I cope.  She soon left and then I met Dr. B.

I know that it's bad to compare, but we all do it.  Dr. B has a great poker face, compared to Dr. G's completely expressive one.  Dr. B couldn't remember even knowing Dr. G, although Dr. G swears that they hang out on a regular basis.  Dr. B was all business, Dr. G was all compassion.  That is the difference between a profession where you have to deliver terrible news more often than happy, and a profession where babies are the reward for a job well done.  What do you do?

Dr. B talked about pap smears again.  I think he asked me three times if I'd ever had an abnormal one.  The answer each time was "No." He asked again two questions later.  Same answer.  He then told me that we would be doing another biopsy because the first one only concluded that there was pre-cancerous cells. Come again?  I had been told I had cancer to now be told that it was only a maybe.  For the love!  This additional biopsy would be more detailed and would open the doors for cancer treatment pre-approval.

Scooting my bum to the end of the table again, I thought man-I really need to ask for dinner first.  During the biopsy I was told that it doesn't hurt.  I forgot that he had a vagina.  Oh wait.  It doesn't hurt initially, but my uterus does not like things in that area being poked and so the back cramps that had abated a few days ago returned with a vengeance.  But that doesn't hurt, right? (Yes, that was sarcastic).

As soon as he saw what he calls my "lesion" he confirmed that yep, I still have cancer.  I was conflicted at this point.  Was I happy that it actually was cancer? Or mad that yes, it's still cancer?  Gambit of emotions.  Played with my head for a minute and then I moved past it.

After that was finished then came the rectal exam.  Feel free to skip if you like.  I wanted to skip that part as well.  Dr. B even commented that he didn't go to the doctor to avoid rectal exams as well.  Nice to know. Ha!

I changed my clothes and Coach and I waited for a minute before getting to sit in Dr. B's office.  Dr. B's office had a nice white, leather couch and a painting on the wall that was of a red leafed tree that had been cut into three parts.  Coach commented that it was interesting.  I thought it looked like Illinois.

Dr. B came in and the diagrams of lady parts was put on display on the big screen.  He told me that with the case of my lesion in the old days that would have meant a radical hysterectomy.  This means that they would take out the cervix, uterus, ovaries and a large margin around the area in order to get to clean tissue that is cancer free.   The down side to this plan would be if the margin came too close my lines that allow the kidneys to drain.  It could create a complication and WHAMO- colostomy bag.  They would then follow up with radiation.  Now days I had the option of going straight to radiation with a mild dose of chemo (in pill form) without the surgery.  I listened and was overwhelmed.  He said that the outcome is the same either way.  I listened some more.

We talked about RADS, the radioactive elements that are beamed into the body; how much more precise they are these days.  How the human body is designed to handle 5,000 RADS, but I would need 8,000.  He said that in order to make this work effectively I would need to have a bar inserted into the cervix/uterus in order to direct the radiation to the appropriate place.  The human bowel can only handle 500 RADS before it starts to deteriorate.  In order to not have to end up on a colostomy bag, the bar would need to be inserted.  Sound like fun? Just wait...it gets better.

The radiation and bar will cause my uterus and vaginal area to scar.  Up until this point I was being naive and thought perhaps kids was still in the picture.  Nope.  The radiation will kill all of my lady parts that makes kiddos possible, and what is left will be useless.  I will essentially be going into forced menopause.  I'll let you know how the night sweats go.

This schedule will go in the following order: PET scan to see just where the cancer is located and to make sure it hasn't spread.  Following the scan I will be scheduled for 6 weeks of radiation Monday through Friday- every day.  I'll also be given a low dose of chemo each day for these weeks.  Good news, it's just 6 weeks and then hopefully I'm cancer free, I also get to keep my hair.  Bad news- I'll for sure meet my deductible insurance wise.  Man!!  Dr. B is looking for a facility close to our boondockers to administer all of this fun.  Otherwise I'm driving an hour each day into Phoenix and back again.

I asked about the plan for potential re-occurrence.  He said that it is a possibility and if that were to happen it would mean surgery and chemo.  You are only able to go through a radiation regiment once.  Your body can't handle more than that.

We shook hands, I attempted to crack jokes.  They fell flat on him, but made the med student laugh, so mission partially accomplished.  We left, called family and friends, and here we are.

My kiddos are relieved that it's not looking too invasive.  K was super happy that I wouldn't have to stay in the hospital.  G is happy I won't be losing my hair.  I'm happy to have a light at the end of the tunnel.

I believe in the power of prayer.  I know that everyone who is praying for me, my family, and our situation has had a hand in the downgrading of the staging.  I feel it.  I know it to be true.  Thank you for the strength, the love, the packages, the thoughts, the texts, the donations, the love.  It's working.  It's all working.

Happy days and gamma radiation dreams ahead! ~Kami


I woke up at 5:00 this morning.  I just couldn't sleep.  The anticipation feels like Christmas Eve, Easter morning and my birthday all rolled into one.  A lot like when you were 10 years old and had already, secretly found out that your parents had gotten you EXACTLY what you wanted for Christmas, but you still had to go to bed and sleep in order to receive it.  The waiting is excruciating, but delightful all at once- it's crazy!

I'm not afraid.

I'm all jitters in anticipation of the first step.  It's a good sign!  Today will be beautiful.  I followed my sister's advice and am dressed to the nines (whatever that means), feeling all 'hot to trot' (not sure what that means either) and ready to meet with an oncologist who will have a map of what PRECISELY my staging is, and what the treatment plan and 5 year outlook will be.  Information is power.

The results of said meeting will be posted later today, but before Coach and I head out, I wanted you to know something important:

You inspire me.  It's funny that it takes something of this magnitude to make you stop and realize how many wonderful people you have in your life.  Last night, I stopped.  I looked around. I am buoyed (say it out loud, it's fun!) up by your generosity, care, concern and love.  I am blessed and because of these moments in time: I. Am. Ready. ~ Kami

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mysterious Ninjas...

Last night, after we all returned from a fun cousin's birthday party, I was putting the boys into bed when I heard a knock on the door.

I was in my PJ's a bit nervous to peek downstairs in case someone had come to visit.  So I went and threw my hair up into a crazy bun and crept downstairs to see what was going on.  The main floor was empty.  No sign of Coach.  No sign of the dog.  Everyone was gone, gone, gone.

As I was standing in the kitchen, perplexed, Coach came ripping into the room from the back door.  Hercules was also on his heels, jumping and running as he came in.  Coach was carrying toilet paper, and was running towards the front door.

"What exactly is going on?" I asked in my best grown-up voice, although I really wanted to laugh.

"Kami, someone TP'd our house and then taped this to the door!" He tossed the envelope over his shoulder, which I caught.  Then he ran to the front door and threw it open.

In my hand was this:

Okay. Was my first thought, until the opened it.  Inside the envelope was a large bundle of cash.  Though I suspect I know where the money came from, I am still amazed that anyone would just give this away.  It is very humbling.

Coach came in from the front yard and told me how he had heard the knock and opened in the door in time to see two people take off down the street, while two more people decided to hide in the front yard.  So he closed the door and waited a minute, then opened it again in time to see the two bush hiders take off running down the street.

While all this makes me laugh...a lot.  Especially because he thinks they were adults, which makes it all the more funny, I have to admit the generosity of these mysterious ninjas brought tears to my eyes, as well as Coach's.

So....what more is there that can be said? "THANK YOU!"  doesn't seem to even begin to cover this, for all that you did to provide this money, and all that you did to get it to my door anonymously.  It means more than words can say. I am inspired.  THANK YOU!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Our Kind of Normal

The last few days have been quiet.  What I really should have done in the quiet was upload my pictures from my camera so that I could show you what's been coming to my house.  Instead, I've looked for pics that describe my week.  Here you go!

Last week, I had a visit from SpongeBob.  Yes, Yes I did.  He looked like this:

My loving parents and darling sisters sent the sweet guy my way.  Thankfully, none of the boys were home yet (except for G) so I actually got a few chocolate strawberries, before the wolves ascended.

We also received a package that had lots of fun items and goodies from my family; which helped to brighten the days of the whole fam.  A bag of candy from the 'Candy Parade,' and a lucky horse tooth.  One box inside the larger box contained money, with a note that said, "Vanishing Deductible." I was completely overcome.  The generosity of people still continues to amaze me.  It's wonderful!!

I had a phone call from my sisters that was a much needed kick in the pants, and so I've put on my big girl undies and intend to get to work this week!! I promise!

I listen to this song every time I even think about feeling sorry for myself.  It does contain the words, "Hell & A**."  Yeah, I'm that kind of kid.  It keeps me motivated and in the right mindset.  Thanks to 'D & J' for bringing this wonderful tune into my life.

Last of all, Coach had his first WIN as a head football coach.  It was perfection the way that his players would dance into the end zone.  I have been missing the sound of football; the crashing of helmets, the grunts of serious intensity, the cheer of the crowd & the groans.  I love everything about Coach's job and what it brings into my life.  So...hooray for that as well.

This is my kind of normal.  I love it.  And you're darn tootin' I plan on fighting for it, every step of the way.

This next week will have us heading into Phoenix for the first of 2 doctor's visits.  I will definitely let you know the outcome and the treatment plans that are in store.  Until then Happy Saturday.  I hope yours filled with SpongeBob delight and Gym Class Heroes inspiration! ~Kami

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Love Can Do....

The past couple of days have been sheer dumpage.  Not even really worthy of discussing, except for the silver lining.  It's hard to keep tamping down all the crazy negatives that float through my brain.  It's hard to hold onto the faith that all will be well, when everything is still so unknown, but I do keep fighting. I've found that I hold onto that faith so hard during the day that I am completely exhausted at night.  I fall into bed and disappear into oblivion. It really is pretty great on that hand, it's been a while since I was able to just lay down and sleep (I'm kind of a night owl).

So, the past few nights have been great for sleep,  on the crazy side my brain is wide awake and processing more than I feel it should. Shoot!! All the what ifs, how can I's, what happens now- they are a bit hard to ignore when they are yelling in my noggin'.  So, I turned them off.  The only way I was able to do this was through the love and support of those around me.

On Tuesday, I was exhausted after not sleeping all that well the night before, and low and behold a Fab Five showed up at my door, took G and put him in her van.  G was now being taken care of and I could rest, but wait...another fabulous lady showed up with a crock-pot meal and directions to get back into bed.  Just as I was laying my head down in my lovely bed, the phone rang and I was able to talk to family, followed by a conversation with the second doctor's office.

Once it hit Noon I realized that all of these great intentions had bolstered me up to face the day.  I got dressed (sort of) and went in search of G.   At the Fab 5 house there were kiddos galore and happy, lovely ladies.  My bucket was being filled just by being around them.

Yesterday I was able to Skype with a member of the Macomb Stroller Posse and her family.  It was so great!! Then the Superstar Dance Mom showed up and I was able to catch up with her and her kiddos too.  Bucket overflowing.

Last night as I checked my email and found these pictures:

A hilarious friend from college posted this on his blog:

I've had words of comfort, love, support, sympathy, and strength sent my way.  People that I haven't seen in years are in my corner, fighting alongside me.  I receive a hilarious card once a day from Amanda, my baby sister, in the mail no less (that takes some serious prep time).  She's also looking into my insurance conundrum for me.  My parents call every afternoon to see how I'm doing.  My mother-in-law will be coming over to stay in the next week, while I got to the initial consults so that the boys' schedules won't be too interrupted.  Kathryn (Auntie Kafrin to my boys) from Illinois, sent a package full of Cervical Cancer awareness gear; so each of the boys are sporting their own teal/white wristbands, I have a ring & Coach wears his to school.  I get supportive emails, FB messages, and posts from women who's one children are going through their own hell, and take the time to love on me.  The Fab Five keep tabs on me (and scold me when appropriate) so that I don't get too crazy with feeling like I'm superwoman (yes, my neck, arms and back hurt this morning from chopping down Palo Verde limbs yesterday).

I am loved.  I am blessed.  When I'm reminded of this, the clouds lift and suddenly life is bliss.  Cancer, shmancer.  I have stuff to do, kids to love on, friends to love back, and a whole lot of life left ahead of me.  I say let's get 'er done and move on!!!

Love you more than words can even express ~Kami

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bull-Honk that is Health Insurance

Before I knew I had cancer, I was just like everyone else.  I had children to raise, bills to pay, student loans to pay down/off and occasionally splurged on a dinner out (oh yeah, and scream like a wild woman at the referees at Coach's football games).  I also chose to participate in a health insurance policy with a high deductible.  Why? Why would anyone in their right mind do that?

Honestly, because the good stuff was far too expensive.  My husband's policy would have cost us $600 per month to cover the kiddos and myself.  At the time I only needed wellness check-ups, and the kids occasionally had a bought or two with strep.  We were a 'normal' family; medically speaking.  There was nothing high risk about us.  K's asthma was easy to keep under control, and so we decided to go with a plan that met our needs, without killing our wallets.

Fast forward one month.

I am now a walking diagnosis of death. (Yes, my tongue is in my cheek).  To the health insurance industry I am a nightmare.  Never before have I ever cost health insurance companies any money like I will now.  Most of us pay into premiums that we never really get the maximum out of.  I'm a dollar sign that just increases with treatment options.  Even when I was having children, the insurance companies were fine with dolling out checks, because I had paid for maternity coverage.  Now.....well now, I have a problem.

When I contacted my insurance rep, she was really quite nice about everything.  She walked me through my policy and pretty much explained that I would have a $11,000.00 deductible to be met.  Yep.  Yearly.  So, what went from $600.00 per month (yes I choked on that amount at the time) during our planning stages, has now moved into the crazy amount of $11,0000.00 (I think at this point I've swallowed my tongue).  I'll just keep typing the amount and hoping that the extra zeroes on the end will cease to shock me at some point.

Before my insurance will even touch the bills, I have the opportunity to pay a large amount out of pocket.

Woohoo!! (Attempt to read this with an eye-roll and sarcasm, because that is how it's meant).  When going over the rest of my insurance policies I had a gross realization: I am worth more dead, currently, than I am alive.  Rest assured I have my eye on the eternal, but what a ridiculous notion.  I'm a rockstar for pete's sake!! Why hasn't that computed into my life-monetary-worth?

Now that I've gone off on my tangent, please know this: I believe this will all work out.  The more that I think about this, the more I am at peace with the fact that I am well in Hand.  So, it's off to bed with me to rest these weary bones, so that I can wake up tomorrow and begin my fight anew.  Nothing but love and a reminder to really understand your insurance policies before life knocks on your door ~ Kami

Sunday, August 19, 2012


*Disclaimer: The following is going to be a bit of a whine.  Please don't think badly of me.  It's just what I'm going through right now, and I've promised to be honest with this.

Two weeks ago, I was told that I would probably not have any more children.  These words, at the time, were jumbled in with a bunch of other nasty phrases and it's just hitting me this week just how much this hurts.

I have been blessed with three beautiful boys and a body that was able to carry them.  They have been my life for the past 10 years.  I have a super supportive husband who's life goal has been to make sure that I'm able to stay home and take care of our family, if that's what I wanted to do.  For 10 years it has been what I want to do.  I've learned a lot in those 10 years.  Let me tell you what I've learned, one child at a time.

Mr. P-town over here is my first born.  He's the guinea pig that all parents are typically talking about.  He taught me how to fight.  He and I had a hard time at first; from breast-feeding to learning how to take a baby out in public.  We fought hard for those independent moments.  It was all so new to me, and thankfully he was so patient.  He has also taught me that it's possible to live with your heart outside of your body.

Captain K taught me that babies can be easy.  Always so mellow, easy going, hardly every cried.  He just wanted to be cuddled.  Super chill.  He taught me how to savor each day.  All things were and still are new and precious with K, and so they became with me.  K also showed me that love is exponential.

My final baby is G.  He has blessed my life by testing my patience.  He has always been an intense little guy from the moment he came into this world he was screaming and not a day goes by that he doesn't scream at least once or twice. Love requires patience and because of him I'm a lot more easygoing about the things that don't matter. He's also the go to guy for a buddy.  He wants to be with someone at all times.  And isn't life better with a buddy?  I think so.

So now we come to the reason for this whole post.  I can't have anymore children.  I'm angry about that.  I feel betrayed by my own body that has always been so strong and able to do whatever I asked of it.  On the other hand I feel ridiculous for griping about this because how many people out there would LOVE to have just a moment of what I live every day?  How selfish of me to want more.  But I do.  I cry at night about it.  When everyone else is sleeping, my arms ache for the 4th child I'll never hold, raise and love.  It hurts.  I'm sorry, but it does.  So, now that I've thrown that out there, I guess I can begin to let go.

My sweetheart, Coach, would rather have me with him than a million more children, but I still feel a wee bit like I've failed because I was stupid.  I neglected something so important and now I can't control the outcome.  I could delete this post, and pretend I don't feel this way....but that would be dishonest.  Instead, I'll let this stand as an entry to that last child that won't be mine in this life.  I love you. ~ Kami

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thank You....

Photo courtesy of: www.teazurs.blogspot.com

I think I'm finally up to date on where we're at.  Today, August 17th I was brave enough to put all that we're going through out there.  I had sent a message to a dear friend of mine who is helping her son fight his battle with Ewing Sarcoma (bone cancer).  He is a delightful 10 year old, that I hope some day to meet.  Every time she posts something about her son; pics, stories, videos, I am made stronger.  You really should get to know Tristan - https://www.facebook.com/TristanParkerChidester.

His mother answered all my questions, cheered me up, and told me to be brave.  I haven't really had much one on one contact with Tiffany since high school.  We don't hang out on a regular basis, and to be honest the most I remember about our time together in high school is riding in her red mustang listening to a Chicago tape on the radio.  Teenage memories are odd things.

What I do know to be true about Tiffany and her family is that they are strong.  They are brave.  They are compassionate.

We messaged the night before I finally took a deep breath and posted all of this on facebook.  I was not at all prepared for the outpouring of concern, love, cheer, and the tenacity that my friends have.  As I was reading their comments of who THEY think I am.....suddenly I wanted to be that person.  It's interesting having people tell you their perceptions.  I'll be honest, I was walking a little taller, and feeling really well this night.  I really want to be the 'warrior princess' that a dear friend called me.  Her daughter is fighting her fight with leukemia and said that together we are warrior princesses; but to have people to are waging war on their own demons right now, pause to cheer in my corner, wow!

To the Tristans of the world, and the Ashleys.....you are my heroes.  Your mothers are the warriors, and I am proud to know all of you!

It is overwhelming.  I am blessed in so many ways already, but to walk through this life and have people from all the places I've ever been tell me that they are in my corner; how do you respond to that magnitude of love?  (Besides using terrible grammar and sentence structure-sorry).

I'm going to leave it at: THANK YOU.  I haven't even begun down the road to treatment & recovery, and yet here you are- helping me to get better every day.  THANK YOU from myself, my children, and my husband. ~ Kami

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Second Opinions and the Waiting Game

With all the information I've been reading the same thing keeps coming up again and again.  Always get a second opinion. Truth be told, I've always been too lazy for that business.  The hassle of dealing with insurance, the telling people your business again, the dirty looks when you bring up in the first place, the phone calls, more questions, and then more waiting.

Photo courtesy of www.onhope.net

This time, however, I'm thinking it's pretty important.  So while I was just hanging around; chasing boys and cleaning up bathrooms, my sis-in-law convinced me of the importance of getting a second opinion.  She gave me the name and number of a great oncology clinic, which I immediately hung up with her and called.  I think I deserve a pat on the back.  Mostly because I usually say I'll take of these things for myself and never do, but also because I'm not letting moss gather under these feet.  Not anymore.

So, I called them on Tuesday (today) and now it's up to them.  As for me, just more....

Photo courtesy of www.orlandograce.org

I'm pretty lucky though.  I've got people to keep me laughing, occupied, and crazy until the next go 'round with doctors.  I don't mind the brief reprieve for a minute.  I feel normal today.  Normal is good.  Unremarkable is amazing.  I'll take it while I can. ~ Kami

POST SCRIPT:  Just a word to the wise, when staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, don't look up the survival statistic,s of said encounter, late at night (2:00 a.m.) when everyone else is sleeping, and you have no one to talk to.  It makes for a super stupid mistake which costs heartbeats, time, patience and faith.  Don't do it! Just don't.  I much prefer the slight fib I was told of 90%.  Yep, that's what I'm hanging on to.  I refuse to let go of it. ~Kami

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Telling our Kiddos

We live in an area where our church leader is very inspired.  When he came to talk with us, the Monday that I found out, he said that he'd received a Live Strong packet at work that included helpful advice about kids and how to tell them about this very situation.  He brought the packet over to us the next evening.

Coach and I put this off as long as we could, mostly because we weren't equipped with the right tools on how to say it, and really how to talk about it with our kids.  We also didn't have a treatment plan yet and wanted to be able to give them a timeline.  Unfortunately we were getting to the point in the giving of information that it was only a matter of time before they found out.

Our number one priority was that we be accurate, but also age appropriate.  What we didn't want was this to impact their sense of "normal" in their lives.  I wanted them to know that yes, I was sick, but that I would also be getting better.

In the packet there was a DVD made by the Arthur show; in conjunction with the Lance Armstrong Live Strong organization.  After reading about what information it contained, and how to talk about it with your kids, we set aside Sunday, after church to discuss what was going on with them.

We called a family meeting during dinner, and after dishes were done and everything was cleaned up, we all sat in our livingroom and I popped the DVD in.  P wanted to know what was up.  I told him to watch the movie and that when it was over we would talk about what they thought of it.  When the movie was over, both of the boys were just looking at me.  G was flipping around on the furniture-which is normal for us.

Coach told the boys that I have cancer.  P immediately said, "I don't want you to die."  He was rooted to the couch that he was sitting on and my heart shattered into a million pieces.  K ran to Coach and climbed into his lap.  I sat there.  Numb.  Scared.  Not ready for this.  At. All.

"I'm not going to die."  That was the best I could do.

"How come you have cancer, Mom?" K was upset, but still wanted to gather information.

"It just happens sometimes.  It's not something that anyone can control."  I was crying at this point, because I had never asked myself that question.  I was resigned to beating it and hadn't given enough thought to this.

"How do you know you're not going to die?" K again.

"I was promised that I wouldn't.  So, I'm not going to. I also have waaaaay to much to do before that can ever happen."

"Promise me that you won't die Mom.  Pinky promise me."  Pinky extended by P.  What choice did I have?  There will be some critics that will probably think badly of me that I would promise a 10 year old something that I had little control over, but I stuck my pinky out too and with that a deal was struck.

I am a keeper of promises.

K was quiet for a bit and then got up, and walked out of the room.  Coach and I looked at each other, and I hugged P for a while.  G continued to flip around the furniture, asking random questions now and then like when could he play at so-and-so's house.

K came back in after a couple of minutes and said, "P, if you want to know if Mom is going to live; just ask Heavenly Father.  I did and He told me that she would live.  He'll tell you too if you ask."  I then got a very big hug and my heart was suddenly whole and beating again.

This was how we told our kids the scariest thing I've ever had to tell them.  It wasn't pretty, or perfectly scripted.  We talked about how they may need to go to the neighbor's homes after school on days that I was at the doctor or hospital.  We talked about how they may need to treat me.  We even talked about the fact that I might go bald from treatment.  They all promised to shave their heads in support.  Coach is very proactive and has been shaving his head for the past 12 years of our marriage.  What a guy!!

I thought that G hadn't heard a word of it.  That because he was 4 his ability to process was limited by his attention span.  I was wrong.  When I went to pick up my friend the next morning he surprised me.  As she was buckling her kiddo in our van G said, "My Mom has cancer.  She's sick and has to go to the doctor."

Never underestimate the small ones.  They have large ears, and brilliant minds.  When everything is said and done, I'm grateful that we were able to talk to our kids before they heard it from someone else, or overheard a conversation later on down the road.  I am  blessed with three beautiful, rough, rugged, crazy, compassionate boys and a loving husband.  These are my four reasons to fight the good fight.  They are my world, and I have always been a keeper of promises.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big Surf & Big News

Photo courtesy of www.bigsurffun.com

Friday we were all able to attend Coach's first Black and Red Scrimmage, which went really well.  There was a decent crowd and the guys all looked great!  I can't tell you enough how much I love football and everything about it!! I'm so ready for Fall.  Friday night we drove into Mesa to stay with Coach's parents for the night.

Saturday we awoke to bright, sunny skies and warm....very warm temperatures.  The forecast was for 116 degrees.  That's how you know you live in Arizona.  When the temps hit that high, no one even blinks an eye.  Luckily Coach's parents had organized a family trip to the local water park, which happens to have the first ever wave pool in the nation.  Big Surf is a fabulous place to stay wet, and have fun!!

The day couldn't have been more perfect.  The boys all ran around together.  We met under shady spots for lunch, then it was off again to the gigantic wave pool, water slides, a wonderful kids area, boogie boarding and wave catching on rafts.  I was terrible at pretty much all of it, but enjoyed myself immensely.  My brother-in-law was so gracious with his boogie boards, and goading me into being brave.  I went on slides I wouldn't have gone on if he hadn't teased me so much.  I even told him, on a slide that goes straight down, that he would have to go ahead of me or he might be sliding down in my pee remnants.  It was seriously scary and wedgie inducing, but I loved it!! I enjoyed spending the day running around with my nieces too.  It took the gloom off for awhile.

Afterwards, we all went back to Coach's parent's house and had a BBQ.  The kids were all wiped out, but still happy to be together.  After everyone had eaten and the kids had wound down, Coach let everyone know what was going on in our world.

Up until this point only the Fab 5, our Bishop and my visiting teacher knew.  This was hard.  It becomes more exhausting the more you have to pretend to feel great.  Besides Coach and I both know that we're going to have to rally the troops in the days to come to make it through this.  Everyone handled it as well as can be expected.  I have a sister-in-law who is very tenderhearted and my heart broke for her as she struggled to process all that this meant.  

I've found in this whole journey that my job, alot of the time, is to console.  To try and help people through the numbness that I try not to succumb to.  It's hard.  I don't focus on what might happen anymore.  I'm focused on what I want the outcome to be so that I can function, be there for my family and not end up in bed all day with the covers over my head.

Saturday was exhilarating and exhausting.  I'm happy for the day that family had together.  It was normal and fun, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. ~Kami

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The First Week Nearly Complete


Sometimes life is moving so fast that it seems to suddenly shift into 'SLOW MOTION' when no one is calling and telling you to be in a specific place quickly.

Photo courtesy of www.old-photo.com

This pretty much sums it up.  All dressed up and no place to go. I was called back on Thursday by Dr. G's office to reconfirm that yep, I have cancer.  The larger biopsy sample proved it.  The tentative staging of III meant that it was advanced, but not in the "Holy crap! You're dying today!!" stage.  (I'm still secretly hoping that the staging is wrong, because until I hear the oncologist tell me...I'm going to continue to hope for the absolute best!). Wouldn't have mattered anyway.  I refuse to die.  I'm like the milkweed that you never can get rid of.  I'll just keep fighting back and popping up in random places.  But for now....I get to wait.

My information was faxed to an oncologist's office, with STAT orders again on it.  So what's a girl to do when she doesn't need to be poked and prodded? Sit around and wait.  Ha ha! Right! I have three boys at home and a football coaching husband.  So, I did what any normal lady in my position does: I cleaned.

Yes, I washed and folded laundry, I hung out with members of the Fab Five again, I video-conferenced with my family because up until this point they didn't know about my current predicament.  That was a little rough.  My parents are tough cookies, but when it comes to their children; they want health and well being STAT!!

I talked with my sisters and they made me laugh.  I phoned my sweetheart and he gave me words of encouragement.  My brothers were all champs with the news and soon had me laughing.  My youngest brother responded to my statement of hysterectomy with the solemn phrase, "Well now you'll be closer to being another big brother, right?" Yeah, you can't keep us down for long.

I called the oncologist's office to make sure they got my information.  They were glad that I called, and took down my insurance info, and basic stats.  Then in formed me that once the doctor had reviewed my case, they would be calling to schedule an appointment.  The call might be today, might be next week.  Sweet! More waiting.  Oh well.  I have things to do anyway, like go and eat yogurt with wonderful ladies.

Speaking of which, my lovely husband showed up this evening to kidnap the children so that I could go to yogurt by myself.  He really is amazing!  The kids were out the door with dear Dad and hour before I had to be anywhere and so I prayed for a bit.  Then a lovely neighbor came over bearing gifts of a happy plant and super yummy coconut pecan cake.  I'm not kidding, I about died and went to heaven right then.  She was also a coach's wife and so understood the demands of the life, and not feeling well.  We chatted, and she called me "baby girl" and I felt loved and safe.

Soon it was time for yogurt and I was off to pick up friends and laugh the night away at Froyona (super good stuff).  So now you see that I had plenty to keep me busy, most important a small carton of cookies & cream yogurt covered in oreos, with half a helping of chocolate yogurt sprinkled in ande's mint chunks.  Life doesn't get much better, does it? ~ Kami

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday's Biopsy of Joy

What does a metal duck and mustard have in common? I am so glad you asked!

I was introduced to their symbiotic relationship on Wednesday when I was called in for an additional biopsy. (Woohoo!!) Okay, it's a lie.  I wasn't excited.  In fact I had been with so many people over the past two days that I tried every which way I could to be able to attend this appointment solita (by myself). Nikki jumped in and offered to watch Grant, and soon I was flying down the road in my Silver Bullet, alone but not lonely.

When I entered Dr. G's domain I was greeted again by a wonderful staff, who all knew my name.  They all chatted with me for a bit, before I was taken back by the medical assistant 'A'.  When I was prepped and fully disrobed, from the waist down; I waited.  It was nice to wait.  I got to check out my surroundings.  The room was quiet, the music was Johnny Cash, and I was at peace.  I perched on the end of the table, because I'm not a fan of the bum slide to edge, and just happened to be sitting upon a lovely Chucks Pad.  Yes, my life is glamorous.  To my right was a lovely dark wooded bureau and in front of that sat the prepped biopsy tray.

This when things got a little weird.  On the tray I saw things that I had seen before.  The magical mascara wand, the duck:
(Vaginal Speculum: Medium)

and a funny little jar (which is typically used for urine samples) filled with a mustard-like substance.  Oh boy!! My mind instantly went to potato salad.  No, I don't know why.  I didn't pick the jar up, but gazed at it for a moment more before I saw the doozy tool.  It was the large, shiny, biopsy tool that would be shoved to my tonsils and used to take two samples of the remarkable mass.

I didn't wait long enough.  They are very prompt.  Dr. G came in, followed by 'A' who was then followed by another woman.  Dr. G introduced her as a certified midwife that worked at the clinic.  She was very calm and soft spoken, but extremely personable.  He said that she was his beta blocker.  I guess the mass freaks him out a bit.  I didn't realize this from our first time hanging out.  He handled it like a champ back then.  I guess he had time to think about it from Monday to Wednesday.  Dr. G also informed me that he would like her to do a pelvic exam following the biopsy so that Midwife 'E' could have the opportunity to check for the mass and it's surrounding awesomeness.  At this point, my bum is on the edge of the table, my feet in the stirrups and what can I say? So I said what anyone would, "Nice to meet you.  Have at it."

The insertion of the duck was not pleasant, mostly because it never is.  When that part of the pre-party was over it was time to rock and roll.  The duck was so painful at this point that I didn't even feel them insert the biopsy tool and take samples from 12 o' clock and 9 o' clock.  Didn't feel a thing.  Even commented on how this was less painful than when I had an crazy episiotomy stitch buckle and it had to be cauterized up there.  What can I say?  I am a party everywhere I go!

This is where the mustard came in.

Apparently 'A' had mixed me up a delightful batch of this mustard substance to be crammed into the area.  This substance would aid in stopping the bleeding from the biopsy sites.  I called her what any good patient would in this situation, "Betty Crotcher."  Nope, I didn't make that one up.  I give full credit to my sister-in-law Emily.  'A' was very pleased with this wonderful concoction and it was anchors away and into the "site region."

The great part about this is that when the mustard has done it's job, it is released, or discharged if you will as a black-sometimes crumbly like substance.  I'm very glad they warned me in advance, because for a week, it's been leaking out.  Thank heavens for tampons and pads.....cause I would have ruined many a undy as well as jeans.

The biopsy was sent to the labs to be evaluated, per the request of the oncologist they would be referring me to.  In the meantime the results on the Monday labs and Tuesday MRI were in:

Bad news first:
Each sample taken showed the presence of squamous carcinoma (cancer).  It's not the worst cancer you can get, but it is cancer all the same.

The mass was golf ball size and had completely engulfed my cervix, and 1/3 of my girlie parts.  It was also killing the tissue surrounding it (which is why things smell like death in that area).

A radical hysterectomy is in my future.  This upset me because I was not 100% sure I was done having kids yet.  Also possible chemo and radiation treatments.

Good news:
Cervical cancer is survivable.  This is not a death sentence.

The mass had not metastasized. This means it has not spread to other areas of my body.  It had also not breached the rectal area.  Thank goodness!!

Dr. G, based on the size and test results put a guess at the staging at III.  So, I do have Stage III Cervical Cancer.  Yes I do.  But I don't plan on having it for long and when I'm done with it all......look out! I will then be a force to be reckoned with.

There has been black goodness and bleeding from the biopsy site, but otherwise I am in good health.  Dr. G is now sending my case file to a friend of his who happens to be a Gynecological Oncologist to take care of official staging and a treatment plan.

Today, I'm not afraid.  Today, I am hopeful.  Today, I am still me; and still a bit of a ROCK STAR!!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blessings from Heaven

Perhaps on a day when I'm not so tired and feeling physically worn down, I'll share with you what has given me strength and will continue to keep my spirits up.  Perhaps I won't. I'm not sure yet. In the meantime, please know that I have a firm foundation and an unwavering faith that my Heavenly Father loves me, loves my children and has made me promises that I know He intends to keep.

photo courtesy of  www.inspirationalwordsofwisdom.com

I am super blessed, and all blessings come from heaven. ~ Kami

What Tuesday Brought

As Tuesday dawned, I realized that I was in for a big treat.  All kinds of firsts that I had never experienced before.  I had orders in hand which were both marked, STAT and was off to the races to find someone to perform the required tests.  My orders were as follows: MRI of the pelvis and abdomen with contrast and without contrast, followed by a chest x-ray.  Good times.

I'm learning on this journey that there are two ways you can handle things: you can give up and hope that you don't die, or you can pull on your boots and get to work.  I chose to sit in the middle for a bit.  I wanted to just sit down and make the world stop for a bit until I could get a good grasp on the situation.  My friends had different ideas.

They decided that one of them would take my kiddo G with her, and the other decided that I would be going with her to get the tests done.  Okay then! I got into the truck, after not being able to find my shoes that I wanted to wear, and sat there numbly looking out the window.  I conversed and talked, but was not enjoying myself. 

I had looked online to find out what facility my PPO would cover and found that the hospital up the road would work nicely.  We got there and sat for a bit before being called into admitting.  In admitting I made a nice friend.  Her name is Heidi and she had a son that played football.  I'm all about football, since my hubby 'Coach' is a bonafide football coach.  She and I talked for a while about the sport and how her son had switched to baseball and was excelling in that, when my phone rang.

Evidently Dr. G didn't trust me to the make the appointments myself, because an MRI center up the street was calling to find out when I could come in.  I thanked Heidi for being fabulous and off we went again! At the new facility I waited for a bit of time before being taken back to have the MRI done.  I was not planning on doing the tests today.  I was planning on scheduling them and then going home to fold laundry.  Thus, I had bobby pins in my hair....these are a big no-no with the heavy duty magnet.  I'm sure everyone else knows this, but I didn't.  I pulled those out and then was taken in to have an IV run.

I was given earplugs, and a cushion for my legs, then told to hold my hands above my hear; near my ears.  It's a tad bit uncomfortable but I found myself channeling the dentist during a root canal and was about to fall asleep when I was told, through a speaker, to hold my breath.............................................................and breath normally.  Yep.  I held my breath for 30 seconds at a time, for 45 minutes straight, until that part of the test was over.  I yawned a couple of times, but was always jolted back into reality with a loud "BREATH NORMALLY!" The loud whirring, thumping, ticking, drumming came and went- but I was fine.

Nothing was concrete yet.  As of this day, I could still kid myself into believing it was merely a cyst; perhaps just a benign growth.  I attempted to enjoy myself as I was cuddled in the large plastic tube.  Then my mind began to wander.  I thought again about my kids, about what this would mean, about how many things I still needed to do.  Tears started to flow and then I was annoyed at myself.  I was going to live and that was the end of it.

When it was all over, the contrast dye injected through the IV and multiple views taken- I was free from the magical tube where minds are allowed to wander.  When I got up from the table, Shelly, who ran the MRI machine gave me a big hug and wished me luck.  Normally this would have made me smile, considering the circumstances, It was hard to muster a pat back.

Afterward I was sent to the chest x-ray machine.  It wasn't nearly as long, in fact it only took a few minutes.  Stand up against the wall, move to profile.  Done and done!!  I was out the door and off to home where my children were getting out of school.

Another member of the Fab 5 accompanied me on this crazy day.  She sat in the waiting room, kept track of my stuff, and drove me all over creation that day.  While I was in the MRI; she bought my family dinner.  It's nice to be taken care of when all you want to do is crawl into bed and cry for your mother.  Results were to follow the next day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Annual Exam Gone Haywire

I'll be honest.  I was feeling overwhelmed & tired.  I had talked with Coach about it, and he had asked me to make an appointment, but at the time other things were more important.  I even began to feel better and thought that whatever was keeping me down had passed.  We had switched jobs, put a house up for sale, sold the house, purchased a new house, packed to move, moved, and then unpacked.  All of these things were contributors to stress and most likely the cause of my feeling, well, meh.

When we moved I felt more like myself.  Things were settled in the crazy department and I was ready to move on, get invested in our new community and generally begin to rock and roll.  What is crazy is that our insurance had just changed, and the boys and I were approved for a new insurance- when I started to feel tired.  I thought maybe I was little bit over-stressed.  No symptoms I had were any different than most, when people are over taxed with big things going on.

When I was talking with a group of my friends, which I will refer to forever more as the Fab Five, they convinced me to make an appointment and get things checked out.  I was due for an annual exam, and thought that this would be the best way to lay to rest everything.  I was thinking that perhaps I would be told to reduce my stress and take a week just to rest.  At the most, maybe my thyroid was being dumb and I would need to be screened for something fun in that department.

The gyno that I decided to go to turned out to be the most compassionate man I have met in a doctor for a very long time.  He actually wanted to talk to me first, imagine that! I felt like a human being to him, and that was the greatest thing I had experienced in a doctor's office in a long time.

We talked about what could be the cause of the funky discharge I was having that had started up just two days prior.  He asked what it smelled like.  I answered it that it smelled like death.  He asked if I was sure it wasn't fish? How cliche'.  I said, "Nope. Death."  He predicted that it was a impacted tampon.  I will have you know that I am not irresponsible with my feminine hygiene products.  I bet him it wasn't.  He said it was probably an eight ball then.  I replied it was probably a magic eight ball.  Wouldn't that be fun?  We laughed for a bit- it felt good to laugh. When I was finally at ease he had me change in to the fabulous paper wear, and we were off to the races....or stirrups as the case actually was.

With the upper body fun taken care of, it was time to get down to business.  This part didn't take longer than a few seconds before I heard, "Oh no. Oh Kami.  Oh honey."  I was laying on the examination table with my eyes shut, because lets be honest; sometimes the duck hurts.  When I heard the doctor say these things, I immediately opened my eyes and looked into his.  His face was a mixture of dread, sympathy, compassion and heartbreak.  I just settled back into my mind and found my happy place for a bit.

The mass that he found was quite remarkable.  In the world of body parts, it's best to be unremarkable if you can swing it.  Based on what he could manipulate he found the mass to be at least 4 cm.  It had grown into my cervix and was making itself at home.

"Have you ever had an unusual pap smear?" Nope.

"Do you have a history of cervical cancer?"  Nope.

"You knew didn't you?"   This one was a little harder to answer.  I knew that I hadn't felt right and the idea of cancer had crossed my mind, because as humans I think we all go to the worst place right off the bat when we feel cruddy.  But whether or not my brain had registered this as a result, I don't think so.  In fact the more that I thought it through...NO!  I had felt fine following the move.  I was just tired.

My proof for this was the tears running down my face.  I thought about my boys, my husband, my life here in Arizona and all the laundry that needed to be folded, lunches made, dinners prepared, floors cleaned, watercolors to play with, swimming to be experienced, laughter, joy, and everything that makes up the life of one person and suddenly I was angry.

Dr. G said that it looked quite a lot like cancer.  The mass was looked like it, and did not present like a cyst.  Of all the things that I regret this is the biggest of all right now: I didn't make my annual exam a priority.  This could have all been avoided if I had put that one little thing first in my life.  I am a walking poster child now for early detection and why it's so important.

After the initial shock of "this doesn't look good," a sample was taken via a mascara wand for the nether regions and then they also placed a small piece of the mass that had traveled out with the duck to be biopsied as well.  I will be forever grateful for Ali of the Fab Five being there to hold my hand, read to me about shoes, and make me laugh.  The moment was not nearly as dark as it would have been had she not been there.  I was then treated to a blood draw, which didn't hurt at all.  I met a lot of great people that day.

Dr. G was amazingly sympathetic.  One of the most poignant moments of that day was when I was standing out in the hallway, bum against the wall, and my head back.  I was thinking about my boys and my husband and the big bag of suckage that this was.  Dr. G slid right next to me, grabbed my left hand and held it tight.  I didn't even open my eyes.  He just said, "You're going to fight this and win."

I have decided that yes, he's correct.  I am and I will.  I was sent home with orders for an MRI and chest x-ray.  Nothin' but good times ahead.