Week (or is it weak) 1 of Chemo

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First Treatment Cycle 1 Day 1 with Jimbo.

So I started this out more like a diary of the week days during my 24 weeks of chemotherapy.  But honestly, that is kinda boring and whiny.  At the moment, having just completed my second chemotherapy treatment this morning, things are pretty good and I expect that to continue.

Here are the basics of the first (and I expect second) week.  I had trouble sleeping the night before the chemo appointment- nervousness about side effects, worry about not hearing my alarm which went off at 3am to take some anti-nausea meds before the big day, and worry about big needles hanging out of my chest.  My blood pressure was off the charts so they had to take it a couple of times to see if it would go down.  Six (6) vials of blood out of my “port” before the “pre-meds” and then onto the chemo drugs.  All on a very slow drip to be sure I do not have an allergic reaction.  Apparently that is kinda common.  For the first treatment, I was there from 8:30am to about 2:30pm – LONG DAY!

So, the port (have I already explained that?) is kinda creepy.  A little button thingie with a catheter that is implanted in a pocket created just under the skin (GROSS) on my right chest.  The catheter is also shoved just under the skin up to my collarbone where it then meets a major vein to give it a great pathway directly into my heart.  YIKES!!!  Sounds scary and gross and uncomfortable right?  Well it was the part I dreaded the most, and may be the part I now like the most.  It did hurt for a while and still is a bit uncomfortable when I sleep on that side, but it is also great, convenient and fortunately, working well.  Imagine having an IV, but you don’t have to worry about the stick each week AND YOU CAN FULLY MOVE YOUR ARMS!!! Someone told me it was gonna be my best friend and I should name it.  Hmmm – Portia De Chemo?  NAH   Wait…I’VE GOT IT!!!  Say hello to URD!  I looked up names that mean good fortune and there is one from Norse Mythology.  It is the name of one of the goddesses of destiny who spin the threads of life and measure a person’s destiny, and decide fate.  My port is named – URD! Perfect for a gross little buddy right!

Pre-Meds are a fun little cocktail of steroids, anti-nausea meds, and antihistamines.  Probably the one I remember most is the steroid that the nurse said would make me feel like I had “ants in my pants.” I didn’t know it when the nurse said it, but that was a literal description of what the drug felt like!!!  After they are done giving you those, they move in to the heavy drugs!  I think I told you I am participating in a study for Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) patients with 2cm tumors who are “young” – in terms of the disease at least.  While most with TNBC patients start with a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxin and end with a drug named Taxol.  For my treatment protocol, I am starting with three meds; Taxol, carboplatin and Keytruda/placebo.  No one knows which one.

The other thing you HAVE to know about is how they torture you when you take the drug Taxol. This drug has a nasty habit of causing painful neuropathy in your hands and feet.  Their answer – frozen booties for the feet and and two bowls of ice chips for the fingers.  The standard time for the infusion is 1 hour.  I thought I could handle it, but the pain was worse than being outside playing in the snow in socks for two hours.  Remember when we didn’t know better and snow was so rare in Texas we would be out for hours and then have to peel the wet frozen socks of of our red aching toes.  I ALWAYS came in crying because I stayed out so long.  This is EXACTLY like that!  My toes hurt most of all and no amount of movement could make it stop.  In the end, I was only able to handle the booties for about 15 minutes at a time.  At today’s treatment I was actually able to keep the booties on until they were too warm and needed to be changed out – maybe 30 minutes.  I only took a 10 minute break and then finished the hour!  I’m kinda proud of that!

The rest of week one goes like this: day two feels a lot like day one except the steroids have worn off so not so full of energy, but still strong and good.  Day three and four the fatigue sets in.  Napping and moving pretty slow on those days.  It was cloudy here during the week so I felt depressed and sorry for myself…And then I got mad at myself!  (More on that in a sec.)  Days five, six and seven are working back up to feeling basically normal.  Besides the fact that you are flushing your pee and poo twice with the lid closed to get the poison away from your skin.  And that you are documenting every little ache, pain, heartburn, nausea – or was that just a burp?  It’s all pretty standard stuff really.  I am happy with how things are going so far and can still do all the things I love to do – clean the kitchen, do the laundry, vacuume the house…crap!  I don’t love that stuff, but it does make me feel better to do normal life stuff.

Now on to my ANGER!!!

Wednesday was an absolutely horrific day.  My personal sadness about how unfair it is for me to have cancer is absolute crap when 17 families are mourning the loss of their family members – 14 CHILDREN!!!  I am so stinking angry.  Our government needs to stop preaching from their soap boxes about party beliefs and rights and whatever and ask the hard questions, get uncomfortably close to the opposition and WRING OUT A SOLUTION!

My cancer is manageable, heck, I feel pretty confident I’m gonna eradicate the buggers from my body never to be seen or heard of again.  I have oodles of support, I have a good, proven plan + I’m helping to test some exciting possibilities for the next generation, I will have ups and downs. Monthly, weekly, daily – heck, sometimes minute-by-minute! But others have been here before me.  The path is laid out, clear and ready for me to walk it.  I need your prayers, but please also pray for those who have worse fates than mine.  Pray for broken families with children and parents taken from this earth through the evil actions of others.  Pray for those who knew there was danger, but not what to do about it.  Pray for those who gave shelter to the innocents and the guilty.  Pray for our country’s leaders tht they find the courage to break from their monetary idealistic chains and can find the truth.  AND most importantly forgive them their misteps – forgiveness may allow them to move past their scripted path and forge a brave new one.  Give them the willingness, the logic, the patience, the compassion, the forethought to look beyond their personal desires and to put in the work to make the solution to gun violence as big a priority as tax cuts, healthcare, and that damn wall!

Peace, Love and Laughter Ya’ll!

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Second treatment Cycle 1 Day 8 with my Sweet Momma!

 

 

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Counting Down

It is almost midnight on Sunday, , February 11.  I am up reviewing protocols for my chemotherapy which will begin in about 9 hours.  I have been accepted into a study for Triple Negative Breast Cancer in younger (haha) women with stage IIa tumors.  I will begin taking my first combination of medicines (Taxol, Carboplatin and Keytruda or placebo) tomorrow.  The side effects are daunting, almost enough for me to back out.  But two surgeons agreed that this is the best course of action for me.

I am afraid.  I am very happy with the life I have right now.  I may complain about our rigorous schedule, but I love my crazy, smart, athletic, busy kids and life.  I don’t want anything to change.  I do not want to be weak, sick and in pain for 6 months.  I do not want to have the two breasts that fed my children removed.  I don’t think much about my appearance, but knowing it will be altered forever has made me more aware that I enjoy being a woman and looking like one.  I cut all of my long hair off a week or so ago, because the thought of clumps of long hair falling out into my hands was more than I could take – I already shed more than normal humans.  This sucks!

have never been a germaphobe, but I am petrified of ending up in the hospital because of a weakened immune system and kids who are constantly on the go and who spend 7 hours a day in a get factory called a public school.  Will I get to hug and kiss them?  Will I be sequestered from them for half of a year?  Already I have been in tears because Michael has been sick and I can’t help him.  I want to comfort him and I can’t get close to him.  If I get sick, chemo stops and the cancer grows.  This double sucks!!!

So, this blog of mine is going to become my daily diary of the effects of breast cancer on my health and life and my fight back.   If you’d like to follow me on this journey, come on along!

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Make it Count

Another post I wrote and left in the draft folder from May of 2016.  As I get ready to transform this sports/life blog into a battle with breast cancer blog, I thought I’d post some of these ramblings and clean house.  I hope you enjoy them.  

5.16.16 – I want to turn this idea I have into a beautiful, inspiring, meaningful and entertaining post. I want it to be eloquent (sp) yet casual. Like I’m talking to you over a cup of coffee, or at a table in our favorite restaurant. But, each time I try, it seems less genuine, less eloquent, just less.

So, the idea surrounding all if the swirling thoughts in my head is making a difference, having an impact, being exceptional. For instance, what makes a person worth standing in line for an autograph? Why is it that when I take my kids to a baseball game, they could care less about Joey Gallo or Luke Jackson and flock to players like Teodoro Martinez and Jimmy Reyes? How can Christopher be right next to Michael Choice and Derek Holland and not be all that impressed?

Well, it has almost nothing to do with his opinion of those ‘Name Brand’ players and everything to do with how they have impacted him personally. These players, although kind, look at him, but don’t really see him. He is one of thousands of fans who want some piece of them. But with Teo and Jimmy, they took a few moments out of their lives to spend time with him talking about, working on and playing the game they love – BASEBALL.

These players stop when they see him because they recognize him, they know him. Not the way school friends and family do, but they took the time to make a mental note that this kid comes to games, workshops and summer camps.  They treat him as a person, not just a fan.  It is a moving, impactful and an exciting thing to see.  These players, who may not mean much to the sports media, mean something to my kids.  Rougned Odor may be huge news in Texas now, but my boys love him because he handed Michael a ball and took the time to say hello to him at a RoughRiders game.

I know there are better examples for my kids than athletes.  I know there are people inventing vaccines, working to find cures for fatal diseases, fighting for freedom for the oppressed and helping those who can not help themselves.  And although these people may make a much larger impact on the world, it is the personal one-on-one experiences that teach my children how to make a difference.  This is the power of helping each other.  The small things DO make a huge impact.  By making these small connections, we are influencing and changing the future of our next generation.

So, how are YOU going to make a difference in one person’s life today?  Whatever you do, be sure to make it count!

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The End

I originally wrote this post in November of 2014…I never published, but so much has happened since then, it seems appropriate to get it out there.

It has been a rough few months for the coppinger Klan.  In July, My husband and son went to visit my husband’s parents on a sunny Sunday morning.  Nothing unusual, just our weekly visit to make sure they were doing well.  When you have parents living on their own when they are 90+, you go visit at least once a week.  They found my father-in-law sick and unable to stand.  He had been suffering for a couple of days and his weakened state frightened my husband and was traumatic for my son.  They convinced my father-in-law to go to the hospital and found that he had a bad infection (C-diff).  He was admitted and we expected he would be in the hospital for about a week.

Later that evening, my father-in-law called us from the hospital.  He had been unable to reach Jim’s Mom by phone and was becoming worried.  We followed-up by calling a few times ourselves and then determined that it was later than she would usually be out running errands, so Jim needed to make the 30 minute drive to Farmer’s Branch to check on her.  When he got there, it was evident something was wrong.  The garage door was open as was the door between the house and garage.  As Jim navigated between the cars, he saw his mother on the ground with her body hanging halfway out of the door.  As he aproached calling her name, she responded “Oh good, you’re here” like nothing unusual was happening.  He called an ambulance and had her taken to the hospital.  We did not know then that she would be gone in just 3 months.

Oh the business of life ending.  The business of death.  It is so unsavory.  It allows very little time for mourning the loss of life.  So many things to close, file, trash, divide.  It is amazing how much we collect over the years.  With so much left, it is hard to determine what things were important. Life is full of so many wonderful celebrations – birth, marriage, successes – but death, even when the life lost is celebrated, the business of cleaning up is a mess.  Sometimes i think we will never be finished.  Sometimes, I just want to sit on my butt and pretend it isn’t all in boxes all over my dining room.  Pretending doesn’t make it end though.  I feel that nagging, needling push to go through just one more box. Move just one more load. Write one more sentence….

Filled with sadness, she stops writing…at least for now.

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Ramblings and Tears

I’ve been a bit obsessed with a new pitcher in the Ranger’s Organization.  I first heard about him from my friend and favorite blogger Tepid Participation.  From the moment I heard his story, I was hooked.  You can read about him here.

He has been a pretty dominant reliever in AA with Frisco, but I did not expect him to get the call quite so soon.  The moment I read the news on Twitter, my stomach was in knots.  If you have been close to someone who suffered with alcoholism, you know that building a new and safe routine is vital.  Had this guy – recently released from prison, in a new organization, getting a second chance not only to live a new life, but to play baseball on the professional level – had enough time and experience to not let the pressure and elation of living his dream send him back down that path?  I was very concerned.  Baseball fans can be ruthless.  They are not kind or compassionate if you are part of a team loss.  God forbid you contribute to said loss.  Could he take the outrageous ups and downs of this love/hate relationship?

I watched.  I held my breath.  I cheered.  And then, I cried.  Not a sweet tear streaming down my cheek with pride, but an ugly, sobbing mess.  What was I so moved by?  His post-game interview was sincere and his steady gaze and demeanor showed that he is grateful and aware of the gift he has been given.  But why am I so broken up about it?  The answer finally dawned on me as I cleaned the kitchen continuing to cry into the dirty spaghetti pot – Uncle Larry.

My favorite uncle was a ridiculously talented high school athlete.  He received multiple athletic scholarships to Division 1 schools for both football and baseball.  His 6’4″ frame, wavy strawberry-blonde hair, and piercing blue eyes were hard to miss in his hometown of Santa Fe New Mexico.  Everywhere he went, he was a star.  Free meals, free gas, lots of friends, and a very popular and charismatic preacher for a father.  Larry  was living large.  When it came time to choose colleges, his father insisted that he go to a Southwest Conference school.  Larry was more interested in attending the University of Colorado to which he also received an athletic scholarship, but pleasing his father was already almost impossible, so off to Texas Tech he went.

He did not make it through even one semester.  Playing football as a freshman at Tech was a far cry from the superstar life he left in Santa Fe.  He felt more like a piece of meat than a star quarterback and scholarship athlete.  His family did not know it yet, but this is where his already raging relationship with alcohol began morphing into a way to cope with his disappointment.  He dropped out of school, moved back home to New Mexico, met a girl, got married and began working in construction.  He and his bride moved to Colorado into a small home overlooking Pikes Peak.  It was paradise to me when we visited.  Land on the side of a mountain, three dogs, a pond and wildlife everywhere.  We had no idea what was going on behind closed doors.  That marriage ended, the home was lost, He tried AA meetings and met another wonderful woman.  She thought she could change him with her love and guidance.  They had a baby and lived near Santa Fe.  We were so happy for his new chance at happiness, but once again, we had no idea what was really going on.

It was here when life and his story took a turn for the worst.  He is on his way to pick up his wife and infant child from the airport.  He looses control of his car.  The car flips end-over-end again and again until it finally comes to rest.  He is dead, but revived at the scene.  He spends months in a coma, more months in the hospital.  He does not remember anything. His blood alcohol level at the time of the accident is alarming, but the focus is his recovery.  He has what was then referred to as a “closed-head injury.”  This traumatic brain injury changes the way he thinks.  He wants to cook a chicken but does not take it out of the packaging before placing it in the oven. He just puts the package of chicken in the pan and sees nothing wrong.  He is resistant to accept help.  He is no longer the man we knew and loved.  Another marriage ends. He is still drinking.  He strikes out at his family and then, he is gone.  We do not know where.  For a while, we do not search for him.

When relatives die, my mother must find him to notify him.  He writes a letter to his daughter.  He has brief conversations with my mom and then disappears into the darkness again.  A reporter writes an article about him when he is living homeless back in Santa Fe.  My mother tracks him through social security checks all over the US.  The details of this sketchy existence are not as important as the loss.  He is gone.  My favorite uncle.  Alive somewhere in the world, but practically dead to me.  My children do not know him.  They have never seen him, never heard his booming voice or seen the knuckles on his enormous hands.  He is not here to teach them to whistle like he taught me or to pick them up and hold them in his strong arms.  I am so sad.  I am so grief stricken when I see what he could have done if he was only able to get away from the alcohol.  If only…

Good luck to you Matt Bush.  I hope and pray that you will be able to live your dream and stay away from your demon!

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What Planet Am I On?

My world has been rocked to its core by one little story from the 6th grade hall at my sons’ middle school.  Michael’s locker is next to a boy who we will call “Jack.”  Jack is good friends with another boy who we will call, “Matt”.  Yesterday at school, Michael watched Jack pull $300 out of his backpack and hand this money to his friend Matt so he could buy an Apple watch.  Michael was close enough to see the bills, “a $100 bill and four $50s” he tells me.  Keep in mind, these are 6th graders.  They are 11 and 12 years old.  Bells and sirens are going off in my head.  Oh My God, I think.  Michael’s locker is next to a drug dealer!  Who else would have that kind of money?  I warn Michael that this is not normal, that kind of money should not be changing hands at school.

BUT – As we talk more about the kids, the situation and we include his brother, I find out that this is not so unusual at their school.  Most of their friends have the latest iPhone (the $700 one I got for Christmas from my husband and told him he spent WAY too much on), many of the boys they hang out with have Apple watches, the most expensive name brand shoes, several fit bits, iPads, iPad minis and more.  We’re not talking a few.  Most of the kids they hangout with have ALL of these things.  They go on to tell me about kids bringing cash to school to buy expensive shoes from a friend who has 4 pair.  They recall the time when a couple of kids bought “Dippin’ Dots” for their entire lunch table.  Of course the Dippin’ Dots (an ice cream like treat mainly sold at sporting events) actually cost more than the school lunch.  The stories continue, and continue…I am shocked.

I spent $350 on each child for Christmas this year and felt completely out of control.  As a matter of fact, I considered taking about half of the presents back because I felt I was setting a bad precedent and not keeping our focus on the reasons we celebrate the season.  And now, some 12 year old is GIVING his buddy $300 for a fancy watch.  I ask Michael if there is anyone he knows that he would give that amount of money to for anything.  He thinks for a minute.  He wonders if it is a trick question.  If he answers no is he selfish?  If he says his family, would he be sincere?  After a few moments of reflection, he gives me an honest answer.  “No Mom, if I had $300 I’d be keeping it for myself not giving it to a buddy.”  I change the amount to $20…nope, still no reason he can think of to give his hard earned cash to a friend for something like shoes, or a shirt or a watch.  I can only imagine that this kid just gave his friend all his birthday and Christmas cash.  But honestly, I don’t know as I consider all the stories I’ve just been told.

Many of the characters in the story live in our neighborhood, not the new McMansions of “Richwoods” located right next to the school. They look just like my boys, wear the same clothes, play in the same sports associations, laugh at the same disgusting jokes.  I don’t notice a crazy number of expensive cars in the parking lot or the drop off line.  But no mater how much they tell me that this is commonplace, I still feel something is very wrong with this picture.  Since when $300 is easy for a 12 year-old to let go of, how much would be too much?

The school has taught them how to balance a checkbook, but has their family taught them the value of their earned dollar?  Is this boy buying friendship or is this really not a big deal?  If this is the norm, we are always going to spend more than we make.  These kids will value the brand name shoe over the cash in their savings account.  They will value the newest watch (which is only new until the next version comes out in 6 months)  over a good, solid timepiece.  They talk about everything they have and do like it is a competition.  I went to school this week to check on Michael and a boy came over to tell me he had been invited to join a AAA baseball team.  Of course, I responded “Great!” knowing that he had no idea what that even meant, but he said it because he thought it meant something to me.  The race to have more, be better, be more is never ending.  I want out!

Our family lives by rules that do not seem valued today.  We DO still end up spending what we make, but even with that, we live a pretty modest life.  Many who know me would laugh at the word modest with reference to my lifestyle.  I have a nice home, a new car, if we NEED something, I have no worries about purchasing it.  But we do not owe anyone anything.  No car financing, no mortgage, no credit card debt, no school loans, the kid’s college funds are fully funded (supposedly) we have some retirement set aside….BUT, my kids do not have iPhones, apple watches or even their own computers really.  I’m good with that!

BUT…how long with they be happy when surrounded by such excess packaged as normal?  How long can I hold off the desire to have what their friends have?  Here in the land of excess – probably not long.

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Hamels Trade from a Fan’s Perspective

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Christopher and Michael with catcher Jorge Alfaro last season in Frisco. Alfaro is one of the prospects being traded for Hamels.

Over the past month, the major league baseball world has seemingly gone bonkers.  General Managers all across the country are figuring out what they need to win and who they can afford to trade to get there.  This week, during baseball games, every time a player was pulled from a game, twitter was going nuts speculating about whether they were part of a big trade.  Some were high-fiving in the dugout while others were crying on the playing field.  Crazy, crazy business if you ask me.

The Texas Rangers, my hometown team, have just finalized a deal with the Phillies to trade a fan favorite, Matt Harrison, and 5 of their top prospects (all in the top 30 of MLB) for a couple of major league lefties – Cole Hamels, and Jake Deikman.  The centerpiece of the deal, Hamels,  is a 31-year-old professional.  His numbers are solid, he is an all-star, a proven champion.  He has been in the ML game for 10 years and his worst ERA during that time is 4.32 which isn’t great, but also is not that bad for a guy who pitches an average of 200 innings a season.  Seemingly a proven commodity.

But, when your factor in that the average MLB career lasts just under 6 years, isn’t this player already past his prime?  We traded 5 top 30 prospects – AA catcher, AA outfielder and big hitter, AA starting pitcher, and 2 AAA starting pitchers – most who have yet to get their “cup-of coffee” for an old guy, a slightly younger guy and some cash?  AND two lefties?  All I’m reading lately is that we are lacking power righties not lefties?  Goodness gracious baseball Gods, what is JD thinking?

Now, I know a guy who seems to know a ton about baseball.  He is often on local radio answering questions about baseball prospects and even does color commentary for the Frisco RoughRiders, the Ranger’s AA team.  This guy thinks this is a good deal for both the Rangers and more importantly for the prospects.  Maybe they will move up faster?  Maybe they will be given opportunities that are not available here.  It seems the Phillies are re-building right now and opportunities abound. This is all fine, but shouldn’t the Rangers be doing that too?  They have been plagued with injuries and TJ surgeries.  Do we really need wins now from someone nearing the end of their career rather than world domination just a few years later?  I mean the club isn’t going to go out of business if we don’t win this year.

I’ll freely admit, I am fiscally conservative.  We’ve paid off our home and cars, invested in college funds for all three children, and most of our investments are now in mutual funds rather than stocks.  But this deal reeks of putting all of your money on a horse with 3 to 1 odds rather than the 20 to 1 that will pay off BIG time.  Why trade your thoroughbred stallions for a work horse?  In my opinion, the Rangers GMs have traded the future of the club for a short-term goal of making it to the playoffs rather than hunkering down for the long-haul.  There is a ton of talent in the Ranger’s farm system, but when you trade 5 of your top-level prospects, you’ve sold the whole restaurant for a good enchilada.

Well Rangers, do what you’re gonna do – I go to the Frisco games anyway!

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