"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."


On the eve of treatment #3...

And I haven't even packed for the hospital yet...can you tell I am procrastinating? I don't have to be there until noon tomorrow, so it's not that big of a deal. I can't believe treatment #3 is finally here, I didn't think it would take a month but that is just me being impatient. I am looking forward to my CT/PET and bone marrow tests to confirm remission.

So, off to gather my clothes (I absolutely will not be seen in that horrid gown!), slippers, soaps, lotions, books, music and must have hard candy for my lovely stay at MDACC. As always for any trip I tend to overpack but hey, you just never know when you will need what....right?? ;-P

See y'all on the other side next week!



The Fuzz is gone...

Last night I would notice tons of tiny hairs where my head had just been. I knew the rest of my hair was coming out, I just didn't know it would be such a long and painful process. The top of my head felt like porcupine hair. Gone was the soft baby hair and in it's place was dry, dead, brittle hair that left my scalp super sensitive and irritated. Because I had some kind of breakout on my head, I was unable to shave it clean. But I couldn't take another night of waking up covered in hairs and having my hairs all over the pillows or sofa. Gabriel came up with the idea to rub out the dead hair with a wet washcloth and it worked. It wasn't too painful and before you knew it I was looking like Mr. Clean's long lost wife! :) I was pretty freaked out at first. I kept having these images of Dan Akroid in Cone Heads, although my head isn't cone shaped it's white as can be, kind of like a farmer's tan only on my head. I need to look up how to take care of it, do I still need to wash it, moisturize it, sunscreen, etc...I didn't think having a bald head would be such high maintenance. lol.

I miss my hair. period. Cancer Sucks!



Finally coming out of the fog...

Wow, so this last treatment really did a number on me. I think the first time around I was preoccupied with my collapsed lung, and now that it was all better there was only the chemo to think about. I did alright in the hospital. We started late Monday night, after waiting a few hours just to get a room. Seemed they were booked that night. Got my room and finally got started at 9pm! Ugh, nothing like being up all night hooked up to chemo. Saturday night was interesting. I got my bags as usual and when I went to stand up I couldn't breathe. I had to struggle to ask the nurse what she gave me. Luckily, she stopped the IV and within a matter of minutes I was back to breathing normal again. Apparently, this can happen with the Etoposide chemo I was given. I wish someone would have told me. After that, I made sure to tell the nurse Sunday night to start me off at half the dose because I didn't want a repeat performance. Monday night comes around and I finally get my Velcade at 10pm! So, add on 2 hours to wait and see for any reactions and I am looking at getting discharged at around midnight. Well, I was ready to go home and sleep in my own bed, even if it meant leaving the hospital in the middle of the night. The nurse talked me into staying, after all the room was already paid for. I did make sure all connections were taken off, I was not hooked up and would not not be poked or prodded during the middle of the night. If they promised to leave me alone, I would stay. So, I get to sleep and of course I have to tell a few shift nurses throughout the night "No Vitals!". My sister said I sounded like our mean, old grandmother but I was tired and I earned the right to be left alone, right??? :) It worked out in the end. I was able to get my Neulasta shot that morning rather than going home to come right back to the hospital to get it and we got breakfast out of it. The food isn't that bad.

I was just really tired up until yesterday. I would sleep, wake up and eat or drink and then go back to sleep. Thankfully, my mother-in-law stayed with us all week and she helped out tremendously! The worst day for me was Wednesday, I woke up feeling groggy and had the worst headache....sort of like a really, really, really nasty hangover, now who can't relate to that? ;-P After that, I felt better and more energized with every hour. I had my CBC today and the nurse practioner gave me an A+! I get to even take Olivia and Seth to school on Monday for their first day!! So, everything on that side is going great. Then, I met with the sct department today to get the ball rolling on their end. Ugh, what an overwhelming and scary appt. that was. First, I didn't realize I would need a caretaker to be with me 24/7 for 30 days after the sct. Then, in my sweet blissfully ignorant state I didn't realize I would be getting more chemo. Arrgghh!!! I thought I was so close to be doing with that poison. Nope. The sct is done is two parts. The first part is harvesting your cells, then the second part is the actual transplant of your cells.

Part 1 - Inpatient chemo for 5 days, inject self with shots, go back every day for a week to MDACC to harvest cells and freeze them.

Part 2 - Inpatient high dosage chemo for 5 days, thaw my cells and give them back to me. Stay in the hospital another 2 weeks to recover and then go home.

But, before I can start this process my insurance has to ok it. Seems they have a separate contract with the hospital just for sct's. I got an estimate of charges....OMG....over $200K for the sct process. If I haven't said it before, let me say it again...I LOVE MY COMPANY AND I LOVE MY INSURANCE!! MDACC said United is one of the best ones they deal with, as they tend to pay for the entire process and don't tie up their time over red-tape stuff. My sister will also be getting typed, as will my kids - I think. Even though I'm doing an Auto (my own stem cells), they want to see if my sister or my kids match me 100% should I need it in the future. This testing of my sister and kids is another thing my insurance will cover that some others don't. I LOVE MY INSURANCE!! Can't forget about the dentist either - seems like everyone has to have their hand in the cookie jar, eh? I must get clearance from my dentist before I can proceed, so off to see him and fix some stuff so that I can save my life! :)

So, next weekend is my final treatment of VICE. After that, I should be in remission and I will be having all those wonderful tests done...CT, PET and Bone Marrow (boo!). I'm looking at starting the sct process maybe in a few weeks? I don't really know for sure, yet. I am trying to gather all the people I know who want to help out and be part of my caretaker team aka Team Brandy. Watch out, I may come knocking on your door! :)

As a person who hates asking for help, I have to say I have been sent angels this past week. Between the moms at school, who upon immediately finding out my situation took action and gathered other moms to help, to my dear co-workers and vendors who have been providing dinners for us this week, to the wonderful vendors and customers who have sent me the best cards and balloons to cheer me on - I can't begin to thank you enough. The dinners have been a hit, each and every one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! It's been such a blessing to know that for a week we don't have to worry about having the energy, time, or ingredients, etc.. to make dinner. You are all angels and I thank God for blessing me with such beautiful friends and family.



Tomorrow is the day - Treatment #2

For some reason, this week just flew by! Gabriel and I will be at the hospital all day tomorrow, beginning in the morning. I have a chest x-ray that I rescheduled from today due to the crazy weather. (I was not about to drive to the med center for a 5 minute chest x-ray!) Then I have blood work, see the doctor at 1pm and then get admitted and hooked up to my margaritas!! :) I'm hoping it goes as smooth as the last one did. I don't know if I will have access to a computer, so in case I don't I will be back some time next week.



Books...now that I have some time...

I have been able to catch up on some reading. I mentioned I just finished Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike, as well as a couple of Nicholas Sparks' novels (I love making myself cry!). I created a list of books I wanted to read this summer back in June. I've read so far J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zoey, Sue Miller's The Good Mother and While I Was Gone, Bill Cosby's The Meanest Thing To Say (great book for Olivia and Seth), and Gabriel García Márquez's 100 Years of Solitude. I still have on my list the following:

Jane Austen - Sense and Sensability and Persuasion
Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre
Paul Bowles - The Sheltering Sky
Mitch Albom - The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Of course, I also have tons of books on cancer, diet, immune system, etc...but I am in need of some more books to read as I go into my sct in a month or so. I'll be looking at a nice 3 week stay in the hospital and I would like to take some books with me. Anyone have any good recommendations? I like all sorts of books, just list away!! :)



Hair, hair, go away...please come again some other day!

Ok, so my hair is now officially falling out. Or what is left of it, I should say. A simple pass of the scalp and my palm has these tiny pieces of hair on it. Don't ask about my pillows. As much as I tried to prepare myself for this, I am still sad to see it go. I was surprised and a little glad when it began to grow back. I foolishly thought maybe I wouldn't lose my hair. Even though they are just half inch pieces of what's left of my hair, it's still depressing to see it come out. I was getting used to my peach fuzz. I don't know if I'm ready for complete baldness. It's just a reminder that even though I feel pretty good today, there are chemicals ravaging my body.

Another sign that I am weaker, I'm bruising easier than I ever have been before. A sign that my plateletts are low. I have to really be careful, as I tend to bump into things without thinking. I don't want to have bruises all over me!

3 days to go until treatment #2. I am just so ready to get it over with. I battle daily with keeping up my spirits. It's so easy to just let this take over you, but I refuse to do that. I catch myself starting to ask why me and almost immediately I have to stop myself. I don't want to be that person, go down that road. Most days are easy, but it's days like these when my hair is falling out that it gets hard. I know this has to happen before I can get better, but it still hurts me spiritually. I can't imagine how I'm going to react when I lose my eyebrows and eyelashes. It's not about the hair, but rather the fact that it's a sign of my sickness and lack of control I have over this.




My Aunt Annette called and said she was near Katy on a business trip. Since she was so close to us (she lives in San Antonio), I told her me and the kids would meet up with her to have a late lunch. We don't get to talk much, so it was really good seeing her.

Here we are at The BlackEyed Pea:


My second family...

I got a delivery today, an unexpected one.

My former employer and colleagues at Brookfield Properties sent this beautiful handmade card to my house. What a nice surprise! I have been blessed to work in an industry that is small enough where everyone knows everyone. I have also been blessed to work for two amazing companies with so much heart. Thank you to everyone at Brookfield and at Crescent, as well as the vendors who have reached out to wish me well. I had planned on getting a big cork board to post all the cards everyone at Crescent has sent me and take a picture of that. Once I do, I promise to post it. I read them all at least once a day, they make me smile and make me realize how lucky I am. Seth said it best. "Mommy, a lot of people sure do care about you." He's absolutely right. Thank you all.


CBC blood work today...

And my counts are as normal as they can be!! They all came up within the normal range and I feel good. The nurse practioner was really impressed with how the treatment was going. I keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out beneath me, but so far so good. She said treatment number 2 should be the same as the first one, although my hair will be starting to fall out...so no barber visit just yet. :)

I just finished reading Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike, (thanks Deb for the book!) and I am not only in awe at what he overcame, but I am truly inspired. I felt myself nod in agreement towards his reaction to cancer, treatment and remission. It's amazing how no matter what type of cancer you have, the survivors all face the same questions and fears. There's something universal to how we react after treatment is over. For me, that is the hardest part of living with cancer. I seem to be my strongest and most self-assured while undergoing treatment, I know the chemo is ridding the cancer from my body. I know I am cancer free at that moment in time, 100% sure. It's the daily living afterwards that is the hardest. The fear that every cough or cold could mean a relapse, not being monitored by your doctors every week, but now every few months, coming down off the adrenaline rush of being in survival mode throughout treatment. Reading his book only assured me that my feelings are completely normal. I highly recommend it, it's an easy and fast read and you come away with more respect for him not only as a cancer survivor but as an athlete, his ability to win all the Tour de France's he has won after cancer treatment. If he can come back from the brink of death and become an amazing cyclist, I can certainly beat this and live a full life as well.


Messy, messy make-up...

Need I say more?????


Nice lipstick on the carpet!

So you think you're sneaky, eh?

I can't wait to bring this out when he's 17!


I'm officially an Aunt!!

My SIL DeAnna had a baby boy this morning! Jhonen is as adorable as they come, and he was a complete angel during our visit with him and mommy. The kids were so excited to see a new baby, and of course they all wanted to hold him. Not just yet. :) DeeDee did an amazing job delivering him naturally and she and Chris are going to be such good parents.

Here are some pics from the visit:

Gabriel getting ready to hold this adorable baby
Proud Uncle Gabriel and Jhonen
The kids admiring their new cousin

Aunt Jackie holding Jhonen

Welcome to the world baby Jhonen, you are loved!


Some photos from the hospital visit....

Note to self...When packing for the hospital, don't forget to take all the wires that connect your camera, mp3 player, etc...to your computer! Here are some pics from my first hospital stay during treatment #1:

Dad, me and mom

Adrienne and me

Adrienne and me fooling around with the masks

Gabriel w/his new 'do'...notice the bling bling on the ears??? :)

Lara, my fantabulous co-worker

Me and my "beary" good friends courtesy of one of our customers, Mariner Energy. Loved the cookies, as did the entire family!

Christi and me, she got me the GI Jane head cover!

And of course, we completely forgot to take pictures of my visit with Liz and Alison. I think we were all so busy talking and going through the bags and bags of hats, scarves, gifts, and all sorts of goodies that we didn't think of taking pics. We'll get it for sure next time!

I know the chemo is working. For the first time since April, I am not wheezing and my left lung that was totally collapsed a few weeks ago is now filling up with oxygen and I am able to breathe pain free. After Day 7, I seem to be feeling better and better with each day. My recent CBC was really good too. Of course, the wbcs were like at 3, but that was to be expected. Just don't get sick and I will be fine. lol. Next week is an off week, go in to give blood, get my picc bandage changed and then prepare for the 17th for treatment #2. It is going so much better than I had anticipated. I always prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Between the support from my colleagues, friends and family...I am getting through this.



Days 2-7...

Day 2 - Was the worst so far. I was pretty nauseaus all day, although we did end up walking the floors a bit.

Days 3-4 - Pretty uneventful. I was able to get off the oxygen Monday and went home Monday night. My lung showed signs of oxygen running through it....YAY!!

Days 5-7 - Finally getting some sleep! I was living off of sleeping every 2 hours in the hospital, not a place to catch up on rest that's for sure. Tuesday went back to MDACC to get my Neulasta shot to increase my white blood cell count. I must be one tough broad because I have yet to feel the side effects. The nurse was telling me I could wake up feeling like a truck ran over me....I was not looking forward to that. Nothing...nada...(knocking on wood). Today (Day 7) was the moment of truth. Today was the day my counts were to drop dramatically, I would be feeling the chemo side effects, all that good stuff and basically the reason I was to take all the meds they rxed. Well, woke up and I felt the slightest of queasiness and took my meds....which knocked me out just about all day. I wasn't going to toughen that out. So far, so good. I think my hair is actually growing back quicker than it is falling out. How ironic is that? My next treatment will be 8/17 and I am hoping it goes as well as this one did. My biggest complaint is fatigue and this damn picc line in my arm.

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. The cards keep coming in and I am truly touched by your thoughfulness. Of course, the kids absolutely love the musical cards....they carry it with them all over the house. Nothing like a 7 year old singing "I Will Survive" to make you chuckle.

I am hanging in there and it's been bearable! I couldn't ask for more.