Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Boy Band to Mr. Clean

So I'm bald now.  There's that.  It's weird.  It's cold.  But it also makes for a quicker shower and I get to wear fun hats - that wasn't always an option with a giant mop of curls on my head.

December has flown right by.  I dropped the cancer bomb on everyone and then I got so caught up in the magic of Christmas that I didn't have time to update!  That's not a complaint.  Christmas was great.  Super great.  Watching my kids was like watching Ralphie and his brother Randy open their gifts on Christmas morning...."Wow" "Whoopie"....Toby didn't get a red ryder bb gun, but he got a Nerf gun which might have won Christmas.

Since we last chatted, I flew to NYC for a second opinion, I've started chemo at Roswell, I chopped all my hair off and donated it, what hair I had left then started to fall out, and then I had it shaved off.  Oh, and in there was work, shopping, wrapping, parties, welcoming a new member into the family (I'm an aunt again, yay!!)'s been a busy month.

I think I'll save the chemo talk for another time and skip straight to hair talk.  It's more fun and it's impacted my life in the past month way more than the chemo has.

I started the month with my usual full head of curls.  Knowing I was going to lose those locks soon, I upped my selfie game to get some last shots. Why not?  I thought about doing a tour of Buffalo with my hair in different locations around the city....but that's weird.  Who would do that?  I'm not normal.  Luckily, there's an incredibly talented photographer at Roswell by the name of Ben Richey who has challenged himself with documenting my cancer journey through the lens of his camera.  How cool is that? Not only can I update everyone here, but now you'll be able to see the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of this shitty adventure.  You can check out his work on Instragram: @benricheycreative.

I met Ben on my first day of chemo.  The Buffalo Sabres were in the building visiting patients for Christmas.  Super cool.  They came by my chair and took some pics and signed some autographs.  My first day of chemo didn't suck.  Later that day, Ben returned and we had our first photoshoot....while I was being pumped full of chemo drugs.  Me, my curls, my red chucks, and my chemo pump.  Living the dream.

My chemo nurse had warned me that because my "cocktail" was going to be so strong, I would most likely lose my hair before I made it to my second treatment.  So just a week after my first treatment, I beat the chemo and chopped my hair off before it was gone on its own. I've always wanted to donate my hair.  I was actually planning on participating in the Bald for Bucks program through Roswell in March.  Even though I didn't make it to March, I was still able to donate through Roswell and I donated over a foot of hair!  My friend Tamera, who cuts my hair regularly, was able to meet me that Wednesday morning and, in a studio in Roswell, she cut off my curls while Ben and his partner Tony filmed and took pictures.  It was a pretty special day.  Here I was losing my hair because I had cancer, but it was one of my happiest days.  Tamera and I grew up down the street from each other.  She and her sister and I used to play hide and seek in my front yard and I would swim in their pool in the summer.  And here she was playing this important role in my journey.  My husband, the captain of my support team was there to stand by me as I lost such a strong piece of my identity.  My friend Ashley was also there.  Ashley and I have been friends since before we even started kindergarten.  She had one of the most important roles - she made sure the Christmas music was playing, she danced in the background, and she kept a smile on my face the whole time.  What a day.

Since I still had a week or two before it started to fall out, I took advantage and had Tamera do a fun short haircut.  I have NEVER had hair that short.  This was an adventure in itself.  It took me a day or so to get used to it, but once I got over the fact that I could double for the Biebs, I actually really liked it.  I was told I looked like a brunette Pink.  I'll take that!

Fast forward to Christmas.  My hair was falling out pretty heavily but I thought it would make Christmas less awkward if I kept my rockstar hair versus being a Christmas baldy.  Then 2 days later it was time.  I couldn't take it anymore, I was making a mess.  There was hair everywhere...time to shave.  Again, Tamera to the rescue!  This time I met her at her at work - Corto's Salon in Hamburg. My friends Anne & Emily were by my side - and my new personal paparazzi.  Tamera buzzed all my hair off.  I didn't think I'd get emotional, since I didn't the first time she cut it but seeing her buzz it off got to me.  There were tears.  Once she was done, I still had some "fuzz" - but it was splotchy fuzz since some had fallen out.  We needed one more step - the razor.  Into the barber seat I went for a clean shave!  I was treated like a queen every step of the way.  It was a little emotional, but like before, I was surrounded by people who made it special.  And after we were done, we went hat shopping!

So in the matter of about 3 weeks, I went from long curly locks to Justin Bieber look alike to Mrs. Clean.  I think I can rock this.  I mean I have no choice, so I HAVE to rock this.  And if nothing else, there's hats!
Day 1 of chemo. December 8, 2016
Photo courtesy of Ben Richey, Roswell Park

Hair donation day. December 14, 2016
Photo courtesy of Ben Richey, Roswell Park

The day I became a rock star!

Bald Day. December 27, 2016
Photo courtesy of Anne McIntosh

Photo courtesy of Anne McIntosh

Thursday, December 1, 2016


My kids and I were in the car a couple weeks ago and we were pointing out Christmas decorations.  If you've met me, you know I LOVE Christmas and I get so excited that I just can't hide it.  If you've met my kids, you know they can't pass a Christmas tree or Christmas light without declaring it loudly.  This was the perfect time to happily turn on some festive tunes.  Toby, my son, asked me from the backseat, "Mommy, why do you love Christmas so much?".  First panic set in because my full answer would've taken the entire car ride home to explain and his attention span is only about 4 seconds.  So I decided on, "Because it's magical".  His response?  "There's no magic, Mommy.  Santa just puts all the toys on his sled and delivers them to the kids!".


Stop it.

I teared up and my heart smiled it's biggest smile.  Magical.

I had no idea how to start this blog post, so I chose my favorite recent kid story.  How I really wanted to start it was....I have cancer again.  (Seemed a bit harsh. It's the holidays.) For those of you keeping track, Santa has now given me the wrong gift 2 years in a row.  It's true.  It's back.  It's not in the same place, but it's in the same general area.  I won't go into detail because it involves the word vagina and that makes people uncomfortable.  There are typically 3 ways that cancer is fought: surgery, radiation, and chemo.  Unfortunately due to the location of the new tumor, surgery is not an option.  Radiation is not an option either, as you can't radiate the same area twice.  That leaves chemo.  My oncologist set me up to start chemo today.  One 8-hour round of a three drug cocktail every 21 days for 6 cycles.  The thing about the chemo is there's only a 20% chance it'll work.  20%.  Not great.

There's something I don't think I've shared on this little blog yet.  Which is surprising because I share pretty much everything.  The type of cancer I have is called Glassy Cell.  Why does that matter? With a quick google search, you'll see that Glassy Cell is no good.  The kind of cancer you don't want.  Not that you want any.  It's exceptionally rare and extremely aggressive.  Of all cervical cancer patients, less than 1% have this type.  It is also one of the types of cervical cancer not caused by HPV.  Yes, it's possible to get cervical cancer without having HPV.  Little known fact.  You're welcome.

I've know I've had Glassy Cell since day 1 which means I've known it was a possibility it was going to return at some point after I beat it.  Thanksgiving would've been my 6 month cancer free anniversary.  I expected it to wait a bit longer.

So in a turn of events, yesterday I was given an opportunity to go for a second opinion and I've decided to take it.  I did not start treatment today and have put it on hold so I can travel to Sloan-Kettering to see what they have to say.  I was nervous that my doctor wouldn't want me to delay treatment for a week because what we're looking at it is so serious. But I've been given the green light and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

How did we get to this point?

After my last battle, I was set up on a 3-month plan.  Every 3 months I would get a check up at Roswell.  (I'm much better at making these appointments than I am at the oil change ones)  My last check up was in October.  They found something. At the time, in the office, it was hard to tell exactly what they found.  Could just be bad tissue from the radiation.  Could be cancer.  Could be nothing.  They did a quick biopsy there and that came back clear.  The doc sent me for a scan juuuuust in case.  Good thing.  You light up in scans when you have cancer.  I was lit.  Still, we needed to be sure.  This could be a false positive.  They sent me into the operating room and took "lots" of biopsies.  Now as I'm writing this I'm realizing I never asked how many they took and I'm curious.  These showed cancer.  That made it official.

Lots of emotions.  I haven't really cried a lot.  It's weird.  I'm an emotional person usually, but this doesn't do it for me.  I'm just annoyed.  Like stop it.  I want to live my happy little life without worrying if this is my last Christmas.  This also makes me feel super awkward.  I hate telling people that my cancer is back.  Unfortunately for most, I'm fairly blunt in my delivery of this news and people don't handle that very well.  Sorry.  I'm a realist, not a dreamer.  No puppies and rainbows here. I know what I'm up against.  This made telling family and friends way harder than the first time.  Most people I told found out via text.  And a lot of my friends are finding out right now.  Modern technology kind of made me an asshole and I apologize.  But it also is giving me this outlet and opportunity to share my story.  And that's amazing.  

Thank you, All.  Thank you for being with me on my adventures over the last year.  My support system is the best on the planet and I appreciate every single bit of support you've shared with my family and I.

Round 2.