Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bambi II: A Fawn's Revenge

We've been watching a lot of Bambi around here. It's WCK's new favorite movie ever. The other day, she woke up from her nap and her diaper was bone dry. In the early potty-training world, this is like striking gold. I could hardly contain myself.

"Let's go sit on the potty!" I said enthusiastically.

"Potty scary!" shrieked WCK. "Watch Bambi!"

Ooooh, I was not about to walk down the "potty scary" road. When WCK decides something is officially "scary", she will not go near it for at least six months. I had to take desperate measures, so I bribed her.

"What if you can sit on the potty and watch Bambi at the same time?" I proposed.

WCK thought this was a marvelous idea, so I got her settled on the potty and then brought the portable DVD player into the bathroom. We watched Bambi for about 15 - 20 minutes, and she peed, and everyone was happy.

I've been thinking a lot about Bambi. His mother gets shot, and then his usually-distant father approaches him and says, "Your mother won't be with you anymore." Bambi looks sad, and bam, that's it. In the next scene, it's spring and Bambi is all grown up and completely well-adjusted and over all the trauma and ready to cruise for chicks. WHAT? What happened over the winter? Did he just go crash at Thumper's place? Did have to move in with his dad, who doesn't seem like the most responsible or nurturing guy? I mean, Bambi's dad just stands around on the hill doing nothing while Bambi's mom raises the kid all by herself. I kind of want to shake some sense into her for putting up with that nonsense. I always wonder how many other does Bambi's dad impregnated. Are Bambi and Feline half-brother and -sister? Eeeeeeew!

Anyway, the "What-happened-to-Bambi-during-the-winter" thing was driving me crazy, and then I found out that there is a Bambi II video that tells us, yes, WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE WINTER! Woo hoo! Apparently, Bambi does move in with his dad -- voiced by Patrick Stewart. The video is racing to our home from Amazon. I can only hope that the deer in Bambi II also discover a stockpile of weapons and take revenge against the hunters, but that's probably too much to hope for.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas was coming ...

... the goose was getting fat ...

Actually, the goose was getting cold, because it was naked. My poor front-porch goose has never owned a Christmas outfit, so I decided to fix that this year. Stylish!



I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Ours was great. On Christmas Eve, WCK helped me make some food for the reindeer out of oatmeal and glitter (aka "Magic Dust", available in the Magic Dust aisle at Wal-Mart). We sprinkled the mixture on the deck, and in the morning, it was all gone! The reindeer were hungry.

I got so many cool presents. Jay got me a book called "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips." It's written by a woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age 31 and then devoted herself to kicking the cancer's butt. I know she also made a documentary that aired on TLC, but I haven't seen it yet. I'm only about a third of the way through the book, but it is GREAT. I can relate to so many of the things she talks about. I recommend it to every cancer patient, especially women in their 20s and 30s. Here's a link to the gal's web site.

Jay's parents got me an electric blanket with dual controls. The dual-control feature is key, as Jay is always roasting and I am always suffering from frostbite. Jay's side isn't even hooked up, but mine is set to the Flames of Hell setting each night. Toasty.

Jay also got me a watch pedometer: It works like a pedometer you'd strap to your pants, only you wear it like a watch. I'd tried wearing the regular pedometers, but they'd fall off if I wore anything other than sweat pants. Granted, I wear sweat pants 99.9 percent of the time, but sometimes you have to dress up and wear jeans. (Granted, they are five-year-old jeans with holes in them) Anyway, the watch has about 1,587 functions and can probably launch the space shuttle. It took me a while to figure out how to work the pedometer part, but now it's up and running. Today I've already gone 9,565 steps! Woo! Time for a cookie.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jingle Blessings

Story #1: Jay's whole family was just here for a big Christmas weekend -- lots of presents, lots and lots and lots AND LOTS of cookies. Jay's sister Patty brought along a Christmas game that involved a list of about 20 or so letter combinations that corresponded to Christmas songs. For example, if the letters said, "O L T O B", you have to figure out that that stands for "O, Little Town of Bethlehem." Or "T F N" is "The First Noel", and so on. I live for games like this and got right to work. Jay, on the other hand, had trouble figuring out the correct titles, so he decided to be a smart-alek for each answer. For "R T R N R", he wrote "Ralph, The Real Nice Raccoon." For "JB", he wrote "Jingle Blessings."

Jingle Blessings? Yes. Jingle Blessings.

Story #2: One of the greatest sandwich restaurants in the history of the world, besides Kansas City's own Planet Sub, is a place called Jimmy John's. There are Jimmy John's restaurants in my sister's town, there's one right across from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and there are some in Omaha, and in the southern part of Kansas City, but not anywhere near where we live. For years I have been lamenting this. "Why don't we have a Jimmy John's by our house?" I would always say, over and over and over again. It's been an obsession of mine.

Today, we were in the car, and I saw something ... shimmering on the horizon like the Star in the East. It was ... A BRAND NEW JIMMY JOHN'S ... RIGHT!!! BY!!!! OUR!!!! HOUSE!!!

"IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!!" I exclaimed, trying not to cry.

"Yes," said Jay, clearly moved as well. "It's a Jingle Blessing."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Real genius

Since the Dex has me up at 6 a.m. again, I thought I'd update you on some of the adventures of WCK.

In the past few weeks, we've watched A Charlie Brown Christmas about 1,345 times. If I need to check my e-mail? A Charlie Brown Christmas! Bake a cupcake? A Charlie Brown Christmas! Just lie there? A Charlie Brown Christmas! The other day, WCK and I were walking through Hobby Lobby when "Fur Elise" began playing over the P.A. system. This is one of the songs that Schroder plays on his toy piano while talking about how much he loves Beethoven.

"Mommy!" exclaimed WCK, fortunately loud enough for other patrons to hear. "I HEAR BEETHOVEN!"

Yes, now "My Child, Couch Potato Ignored by Her Mother" is now "My Child, Super Genius", at least as far as the patrons of Hobby Lobby are concerned.

The next song was an instrumental version of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire".

"Beethoven?" asked WCK.

"No," I said. "This song was written by Mel Torme. Can you say Mel Torme?"

"MEL TORME!" she exclaimed. When we got home, we had to put in my Mel Torme Christmas CD and dance. And now I ask her about it all the time.

"WCK," I'll say. "Who wrote 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire'?"

"MEL TORME!" she'll cry with great joy.

I'm grooming her win a game of Trivial Pursuit someday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Cupcake

These are the cupcakes I made for the MOMS Club Christmas party today. They're supposed to be reindeer:



They're chocolate cupcakes with red-foil-wrapped, bell-shaped chocolate candy as the nose, M&Ms with a dot of frosting for the eyes, a licorice mouth, and pretzel antlers. The hardest part was getting the pretzels to break the right way. I ate a lot of badly broken pretzels.

I'm finally done with all of my Christmas "chores." Today I made a very scary trip to Wal-Mart. to give a visual to those of you who live around here: I couldn't even park at Wal-Mart; I HAD TO PARK AT LOWE'S. As if Wal-Mart isn't scary enough on a regular day.

But now I'm ready to relax and eat some cookies. Merry Christmas, everyone!



Saturday, December 15, 2007

World's Cutest Dwight Schrute

Last night, WCK and I started working on a routine from the World's Funniest TV Show: The Office. I say, "WCK, you have your tickets? You have your tickets?" We then raise our arms, muscle-showing-style, and both exclaim, "TO THE GUN SHOW!"

Here it is in t-shirt form:



Jay is pretty concerned, mostly because he thinks that if WCK repeats this to, say, an unsuspecting grandma or to her future kindergarten teacher, that he's going to be the first one blamed. No one would ever suspect me for this, which is pretty much true. Heh.

Yeah, I'm blogging at 6:30 a.m. HATE THE DEX!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Busy times, back on drugs

Yep, I'm back on the drugs. I'm doing OK so far. In fact, I slept really well last night, and I give credit to the Revlimid. We'll see how I handle the Dex.

Last night was the MOMS Club cookie exchange. Everyone brought four dozen of one kind of cookie, and then we all got to take home a few of each kind. Now I have a big variety of cookies for the holidays. Jay and I agreed we'd stick them in the freezer immediately and force visiting family members to eat them later. We've been good so far, I swear. I made seven-layer bars, which are one of my favorite cookies AND very easy to make. My grandma used to make them all the time, so I always think of her when I eat them. Here's the recipe:

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut


DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Place butter in 13 x 9 inch pan and melt in oven. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with butter.
Spread crumbs evenly over bottom of pan. Layer chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and nuts over crumbs. Pour condensed milk over nuts. Sprinkle coconut over condensed milk.
Bake until edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool.


This morning, a group of us got together to wrap presents for the Adopt-A-Family project. Our dining room table is now covered in wrapped packages that I need to drop off this weekend. Technically, I'm coordinating the project, but the MOMS Club board members completely took over for me while I was away for three weeks sucking cells (Thanks, guys!). We purchased gifts for a family of six (!!) children and another family with just one child. We had so many donations, we were able to get clothes and toys for all seven kids, one "adult" gift for each family (stuff like pots and pans), and a grocery-store gift card for each family. There were times when I'd start getting a little stressed out about the project, and then I'd get a big donation from somebody, and I'd feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life when everyone was throwing money on him. It was a good feeling.

Tonight, Jay and I took WCK to our favorite Mexican restaurant ever: Manny's in downtown Kansas City. It was WCK's first time there. She ate an entire quesadilla, which we explained was a "Mexican grilled-cheese sandwich". For some reason, the quesadilla was also served with an enormous pile of cheese. She also ate most of the enormous pile of cheese and sprinkled all of the rest of it on the carpet. There may have been some mild flinging of refried beans as well. We wonder if we will be allowed back at Manny's again. Good times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Speedy delivery

The Revlimid is supposed to show up at my doorstep tomorrow. Getting it this time was surprisingly fast and easy and didn't make me crazy. Maybe this is a good omen.

Tonight there was a story on NBC Nightly News about a 35-year-old football player who is fighting myeloma. You can view it here.

According to the story, myeloma is one of the few cancers that is on the rise, AND it is affecting more and more young people. Maybe it will start getting more attention, and we can finally find a way to get rid of this stupid thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm Navin Johnson

I went back to the cancer center today to start the ball rolling on returning to the Revlimid. The good news is they found a vein on the first try. Woo hoo! The bad news is there's nothing inside my veins. As I'd been warned by the folks at Mayo, the stem-cell-sucking machine ate all of my red blood cells. My hemoglobin is 9.7. Eek. Right before the harvest, it was a robust 12.1. Just yesterday, I saw an old episode of E.R. where Dr. Carter did a panicky run down the hall in the middle of the night because some guy's hematocrit (that's another red-blood-cell measurement) dropped to 30. Mine is 27.5. Nice. Where's Dr. Carter?

Remember the part in The Jerk where Steve Martin sends a letter to his parents telling them that he's been donating blood three times a day to get the free food?

"I decided to quit," his mother reads, "when I cut myself shaving and nothing came out but air."

This is me. There's nothing but air in there. They sucked me dry.

Anyway. Dr. GPO was impressed with my 10.4 million cells. He said he'd give all of my paperwork to the nurse, and she'd contact the pharmacy, drug company, etc., to get me my drugs. I'm not sure how long it's going to take. Oh, and here's the best news: I told him Dr. H said it was OK to back off of the Dex a little bit if the 20 mg got to be too much for me, which it was back in September. He said we could try 12 mg and see how it goes. Twelve! That's three pills instead of my all-time high of TEN.

This news makes me want to go out there and be somebody.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nutcracker Disco!

A couple of months ago, WCK and I started playing "Bathroom Disco." Here's how it works:

1. Go into the windowless bathroom; turn out the light and close the door so it is pitch black inside.

2. Shine a flashlight through Great-Great-Grandma's metal potato ricer to create a disco-ball effect. (I bet a metal colander would work just as well)

3. Tune a radio to a station that plays silly '80s songs. We especially like "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey.

4. Dance, dance, dance!

To celebrate the holiday season, however, we have switched from Journey to The Nutcracker. I put the really upbeat Nutcracker song on repeat, and it plays forever. You know the one I'm talking about. It's the one that goes

Da DA dada dada dada da
Da DA dada dada dada da
Da ... da ... da ... da ... da .... da .... da .... da ...
Da DA dada dada dada da ...

You know. That one.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Curse you, Charles Schulz!

Over the past several months, WCK has become very particular about what she will watch on TV. She has completely shunned Elmo, and for the past, oh, three months or so, the only thing -- I mean, THE!! ONLY!! THING!! -- she would watch on TV is The Adventures of Milo and Otis. This is a live-action movie from the early '90s featuring an orange cat and a pug dog who have various adventures with other live-action animals. I sometimes wonder how many cats and dogs they, um, lost during the filming, but I try not to think about it too much. Dudley Moore provides all of the voices and narrates. I know all of the dialogue. I hear the music in my head when I try to sleep at night. WCK was beginning to speak in a British accent after listening to Dudley Moore so often.

Because I wasn't sure how much more Milo and Otis I could handle, I began encouraging other movies and TV shows. I was unsuccessful until she agreed to watch Bambi three times at my sister's house. This was a huge breakthrough. WCK thinks Bambi is HILARIOUS! The part where his mother gets shot? HILARIOUS!! (To be fair, she doesn't realize anyone is getting shot. She just notices the deer running). Santa is going to be bringing our own copy of Bambi to our home, purchased used on Amazon for $7. Thank you, Santa.

Yesterday, I introduced A Charlie Brown Christmas, recorded on our TiVo. Success! She loved it! Turns out I should be careful what I wish for. It aired back-to-back with a newer Charlie Brown special, one that features Linus sitting in his classroom, listening to the teacher talk. You know the Charlie-Brown-teacher sound: Waaah, waaaah, waaaaaah.

WCK is FASCINATED by the Charlie Brown teacher. We have to watch this 30-second segment of Linus and the teacher over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

And over.

And when Charlie Brown is not on, my life sounds like this:

"Teacher go 'Blah, blah', Mommy! Teacher go, 'Blah, blah!' On TV! Mommy! Teacher go 'Blah, blah!' Pretty funny! Teacher go, 'Blah, blah!'"

I'm starting to miss Dudley Moore.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas cramming

It's so nice to be home.

I was a little worried that we were going to be missing out on the Christmas season, but we've managed to cram a lot of Christmas (in a good way!) into the last two days. Yesterday, we went to a tree farm and chopped down our Christmas tree, as is our tradition. It was a really fun tree farm. They gave us free hot chocolate and cider and let WCK decorate an ornament. When we got home, WCK then helped me decorate the tree. We have a lot of ornaments -- A LOT of ornaments -- mostly because I've been collecting all of the Hallmark Keepsake Wizard of Oz ornaments since 1994, and those Hallmark people just won't quit making them. Also, I can't throw anything away. I still have the gingerbread man I made out of actual ginger snaps in 1981. Yes, the ginger snaps are completely intact after 26 years. Just think of what they do inside your stomach. Just think.

But I digress. WCK very patiently unwrapped each ornament, we talked about each one, and then she told me where to place it on the tree. She was such a good helper. I just hope she doesn't rip them down tomorrow.

Today we went to a Santa Claus singalong at the public library. Santa brought a guitar and played a few Christmas songs and the kids all danced. We go to this every year, and it's always a big hit. WCK loved the dancing part but didn't want much to do with Santa's lap. In the afternoon, Jay and I attempted to take WCK to see the Fairy Princess. The Fairy Princess is an old Kansas City tradition. It's sort of the same concept as Santa -- the kids stand in line, sit on the Fairy Princess' lap, and get their picture taken. I figured she'd find the FP much less scary than Santa. Yeah. WCK refused to get anywhere near the Fairy Princess. She threw herself on the ground and wouldn't move.

"WCK," said Jay, "do you want to go see the Fairy Princess or not?"

"NOT!!!" said WCK.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

WE'RE HOME!!!!



I remember that some of it wasn't very nice, but most of it was beautiful. But just the same, all I kept saying to everybody was, "I want to go home."

And they sent me home.



Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Here we are in Iowa. The snowy drive from Rochester to Ames was truly scary. We watched a truck pulling a trailer fly off into the ditch right in front of us. Just as we were recovering from that heart-attack moment, WCK got violently carsick and we had to pull over. Luckily, we never travel now without the Official Emergency Carsickness Kit (wipes, garbage bags, extra clothes), and we were able to get her cleaned up and continue on. WCK inherited the carsickness gene from me. I'm sorry, WCK.

We managed to make it to my sister's house in Iowa, and now we are safe and warm and full of barbecued ribs. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon. We hope to be back home tomorrow.

Wow. Home.

P.S.: Somebody named ppl posted a comment, asking if he/she could ask me some medical questions. Sure! Ask away! Either post your questions here, or give me your e-mail address.

Friday, November 30, 2007

This rocks!

I spent the morning hooked to the machine, as usual, dozing through The Golden Girls. This afternoon, I waited and waited for the nurse coordinator to call me back to tell me how I'd done. When she hadn't called by 6 p.m., I went down to the Infusion Therapy Center for my scheduled injections, hoping maybe they'd be able to tell me my results. A nurse came out to the waiting room and told me I had a phone call. It was Joan, my very, very sweet nurse coordinator, who had some amazing news.

Today I collected .... 2.65 MILLION CELLS!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! This puts my total at 10.4 million, well over my goal of nine million. I am no longer a stem-cell loser. I am a stem-cell superstar!



I get all of the extra credit and two smiley faces!

As long as I was down at the Infusion Therapy Center, they said they could pull out my line right then. I was scared it was going to be a horribly painful procedure; after all, there was a 6-ish-inch line stuck in my neck. It didn't hurt at all. I lay down on a bed, and the nurse tilted it back so I was sort of standing on my head. He told me to take a deep breath, and then whipped it right out. It wasn't the least bit painful. Then I had to lie flat for about 20 minutes, and then I had to sit up for about 10 minutes and drink some juice. Then they sent me on my way. I have a giant bandage on my neck that has to stay on for 48 hours.

We're hoping to leave tomorrow, but it looks like we're in for some bad weather. We're hoping to leave really early and make it as far as my sister's house in Ames, Iowa and stay there until Sunday. We'll see how it goes.

Earlier today, WCK went to story time at Barnes and Noble, and they gave her a sticker that says, "This Rocks!" She decided to give it to me right before I left for the ITC. I stuck the sticker on the giant band-aid.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

... but this one goes to eleven.

The bad news: The line is still in my neck, and I don't get to come home tomorrow.

The good news: I'm not a stem-cell loser!

My CD34 is up to 11! Woo hoo! This means I can collect tomorrow. Most likely, I will collect for just one day and head home over the weekend (maybe), but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Where's my smiley face?

Today my CD34 was just four. Really, really upsetting.

After we got the results back, Jay and I decided to meet with the nurse coordinator in person. She explained that three million is the MAXIMUM one needs per transplant. Really, a person only needs somewhere between 2 and 3 million cells per transplant. At 7.75 million, I have collected enough for three transplants, and she said I should feel good about what I have collected. However, since I have gone this far with getting all the extra injections, we are going to try one more day to see if we can squeeze out any extra cells. Tomorrow I'll go in at 7 a.m. again for more injections and another blood test. If my CD34 has hit 10, (which I should know by tomorrow afternoon) then I'll collect on Friday. If my CD34 is still low, then it means that the growth factor injections just aren't working for me anymore, and I get to quit. They'll pull the line out of my neck, and then I can go.

I feel like sort of a loser for not hitting the goal of nine. It's like I'm getting an average C when I could be getting an A-plus. I want the extra credit and the smiley face on the top of my paper.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

WE ARE NEVER GOING HOME!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!

Not that I am bitter.

They have tripled my growth factor. This morning I had my CD34 level checked (that's the one that needs to be 10 or higher) ... and it was three. A wimpy little three. My stem cells hate me. This means I can't collect tomorrow, either. More shots tonight, more shots and blood work tomorrow. Then we'll see where we are. Dang you, CD34.

Because I had the day off today, Jay, WCK, and I went to the local mall. Kansas Citians have great barbecue; Minnesotans have great malls. It has a really cool play area. If you are a Kansas City mom and know what the Zona Rosa Fruit is, I have to tell you that it puts the Zona Rosa Fruit to shame. Anyway, it was nice to get out. Every time we go out, we usually end up driving past Rochester's most famous landmark (well, I guess it's the second most famous, after the Mayo Clinic itself): The Fabulous Ear of Corn Water Tower. Don't believe me?




WCK is obsessed with the corn tower. If it even looks like we're headed for the car, she starts asking for it. "Where corn go, Mommy? Where corn go?" My mom finally went to the Mayo gift shop and bought her a postcard with a photo of the corn on it. That seems to keep her satisfied.





Monday, November 26, 2007

.38, .39: Whatever it takes

Today while I was strapped to the machine, I got to watch one of the greatest '80s movies ever: Mr. Mom. I'm going to have to talk to the MOMS Club about getting together to play poker for coupons.

Anyway, the good movie vibes did nothing for my cells. I collected a mere .38 million. It's so low that they're making me take tomorrow off. They have increased my growth-factor injections yet again, and now I have to go get them twice a day. I just went to get a round of shots at 6:30 p.m. I'll go get more in the morning, as well as a blood test to see how the cells are doing. Remember way back when I had to have a certain number over 10 to begin collecting? It's that same test. I'm now at 7.75 million cells, so I am ALMOST THERE!!

Will I ever get to go home? I will let you know.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Home stretch?

Sunday daytime TV is bad. Really, really, really bad. It's nothing but golf, hunting, monster trucks, and evangelists.

My total today: Just .44 million. Most of the time, if you collect below .5 million in one day, they make you stop collecting for a day or two. Since they just increased my dose of growth-factor today, however, they're going to let me come back tomorrow to see if it worked. I now get three shots in the belly every day instead of two. I'm now up to 7.37 million cells. Almost there! Almost there!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How low can it go?

Today's total was a stupid .52 million. Tomorrow they're going to increase my dose of growth factor to see if we can boost the cell production, but I'm probably going to have several more days on the machine. They don't give the injections until the end of the collection, so the increased dose won't affect tomorrow's total, which I expect to be way, way, waaaay low. Like, one cell. My grand total is now 6.9 million, and my goal is 9 million.

Anyway. Today was yet another morning in the hospital bed. You'd think that spending five hours just lying there doing nothing would be fun and relaxing, but it actually gets pretty tiring after a while. I'm exhausted by the time we get back to the apartment. I have to look for excitement where I can find it. Even though it was Saturday, there was still an episode of Little House on at 7 a.m. Woo hoo! It was the episode where they all get telephones, and Mrs. Oleson listens in on everyone's conversations. Albert throws a mouse on Nellie. A classic. I spent the rest of the time flipping around between really stupid movies on Comedy Central and Lifetime. I could not find Hulk Hogan today. Dang.

I forgot to mention that Jay and I were able to get out for dinner and a movie last night. We saw Bee Movie, which I really enjoyed. It was good to get out. Maybe my stem cells enjoyed themselves so much that they wanted to stay in my body, just in case I take them to more movies. Fat chance, stem cells!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hulk Hogan

My collection today was a piddly .75 million cells. We got the message about it on Jay's cell phone and then sort of freaked out until we got in touch with the BMT coordinator. She reassured us once again that .75 is totally fine, that most people taper off like this, and that nobody is worried about it. If my number dips below .5 million, though, I'll most likely get some extra injections to boost the cell production. I'm also going to be hooked to the machine for several more days. Probably into next week. Bleh.

Today I got to watch The Golden Girls, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and bits and pieces of the Little House made-for-TV movie where Rose gets kidnapped in Mankato on Christmas Eve. Then Jay and I got completely sucked into a reality show on VH-1 about Hulk Hogan's family. We were pretending that we weren't really watching it, but we totally were. Right now, I'm still wondering what will happen with Hulk's daughter and her new boyfriend.

Tomorrow is Saturday, so the TV won't be nearly as good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning I dozed through two hours of The Today Show and three hours of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I guess this is how I usually spend Thanksgiving morning almost every year anyway, only this time I was hooked to a machine. The nurses gave us some really yummy pumpkin pie. It wasn't a bad morning.

After all that, I only collected 1.02 million cells. My total is now 5.66 million, so I still have a way to go. Sigh.

In other news, my friend DeAnna was able to come visit us from Minneapolis last night. We had a lot of fun, mostly mocking people from college we haven't seen in 10 years. Tonight, my mom made a teeny tiny turkey at the apartment, and we had a nice little Thanksgiving meal. WCK just looooooved the pumpkin pie, which my sister made from scratch from an actual pumpkin. Maybe my stem cells will get a taste of that overachieving pie and start multiplying again. Get moving, you guys!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

San Juan Hill, Rose!

After yesterday's big triumph ... the total for today's collection was only 1.63 million cells. I'm sort of bummed out about it. The BMT coordinator said this was a totally respectable number, but I wanted my overachieving 3 million again, dang it! I was getting excited about finishing up, getting this stupid line out of my neck, and heading back home. Looks like we'll be here at least one extra day, maybe more.

Anyway. Today I watched a lot of TV while I was harvesting. The Golden Girls was on at 8 a.m. It was the episode where Blanche finds out her father had an affair with her childhood nanny for 50 years.

BLANCHE: I still can't get over it.
ROSE: Over what?
DOROTHY: San Juan Hill, Rose!

Heh.

Also, I got a bunch more cards in the mail today and yesterday. (Thanks everybody!) My friend Abigail sent me a bag of black jellybeans! Mmmmm .... black jellybeans and The Golden Girls. What could be better?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And today's total is ...

THREE MEEEEEEELLION CELLS!



Woo hoo! If I keep collecting cells at the same rate (which I'm told most people do), I should only have two more days of collection! Yay!

The collection was almost exactly like I expected. Here's a very non-technical description: I sat in a hospital-type bed, and a nurse hooked my line up to a big fancy machine. Jay got to sit in a chair next to me and hang out. Blood ran through long tubes and went into the machine, which made all kinds of whirring and clanging and beeping noises and somehow figured out which cells were the stem cells and spit them into a little bag. I sat there for five hours and read a book, and the nurses insisted on constantly bringing me cookies and pop. It wasn't too bad. I did get a slight tingling feeling in my fingers, which meant the nurse had to inject some extra calcium into my line. And by 1:30 p.m., I was a little antsy to just get up and walk around. Other than that, everything was fine. Hopefully tomorrow goes just as well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The cells'll come out ... tomorrow!

I went in this morning for another set of injections and another blood test. I got the call this afternoon -- my level TRIPLED to FIFTEEN!! Woo hoo! We're good to go for tomorrow. I report to the harvest place at 8 a.m., and we'll get started.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Delay! Dismay!

I won't be able to start the harvest tomorrow. Arrrrgh!

Early this morning, I had more injections and some blood tests that would show if I have enough stem cells to start the harvest tomorrow morning. I called this afternoon to get the results. They're looking at a certain number that has to be at least 10 before they'll let you begin harvesting. A couple of days ago, I was reassured that 80 percent of people hit 10 by Sunday's blood test and can start on Monday. My number was just FIVE. FIVE! So, instead of reporting for the harvest tomorrow, I report for more injections. Hopefully I'll be able to get my number up and start on Tuesday. I'll let you know.

Anyway, as Forrest Gump's mama once said, we've had all kinds of visitors. Jay's parents were here on Saturday night, and my sister, brother-in-law and niece got here this afternoon. At least I have a lot of company while I'm waiting for those cells to show up.

Yes, my line still looks disgusting. I'm Turtleneck Girl.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pumpkin's turtleneck emergency

Yesterday was icky. I came home from surgery, lay around until it was time to go get my shots, came back home and lay there until it was time for bed. You'd be surprised by how many everyday things require extensive use of your neck muscles, such as going from a lying-down position to a sitting position. Owie owie owie. Plus, the heavy tape they put all over my neck was sort of yanking down on my head and gave me a wicked tension headache. I'm feeling better today.

Yesterday's one bright spot was when Jay went out to Taco John's and got me some Potato Oles. We don't have Taco John's in Kansas City, so it was pretty exciting. If you've never lived in the Iowa/South Dakota/Minnesota area, Taco John's is a fast food place, sort of like Taco Bell, but a zillion times better. Potato Oles are like deep-fried Tator Tots with a sprinkling of Mexican-ish spices on them. One bite and you're south of the border. The Canadian border.

WCK has been pretty fascinated by my big owie (the catheter) and my millions of little owies (all of the spots where they tried to start the IV). I explained to her that the doctor fixed me with Band-Aids, and she seemed pretty satisfied by that. What she couldn't quite get over, however, was the fact that my entire neck and upper chest were bright orange from the iodine that they smeared all over me. She spent most of yesterday calling me Pumpkin. When I walked in the door after getting my shots, she called out, "Hi, Pumpkin!" When she woke up from her nap, she asked my mom, "Where Pumpkin go?" Heh.

Speaking of WCK, when I left the hospital yesterday, they gave me instructions not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for as long as I have the line in. This is a little troublesome, considering WCK weighs just under 30 pounds, and I usually have to lift her nonstop all day long. It seems like I can't do aaaaaanything. I can't put her to bed, I can't give her a bath, I can't put her in her high chair. Fortunately, I have a lot of help. It's still a little sad.

This morning, I went in to get more shots and to get the dressing changed on the catheter. I think the most painful thing I've experienced during my visit at Mayo so far is when the nurse had to rip that tape off of my skin. They should sedate you for the tape removal. He put a new dressing on ... only this one is see-through. You can actually see the tube entering a giant bloody opening in my flesh. It is very, very, very gross. As soon as I got back, I realized I didn't have any turtleneck shirts with me and decided I needed to make an emergency shopping trip to get some. Fortunately, our apartment is connected to a little mall, and I found a few that were on sale. Hurrah! Grossness averted!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pain in the neck

Here I am in the recovery room with an IV sticking out of my wrist and what feels like a 10-pound weight on my neck. I haven't even gotten a good look at what exactly they did to me. Jay says it doesn't look too bad. I hope it doesn't look as bad as it feels. I feel like I've been attacked by a herd of vampires.

This was my first time having real surgery, if you don't count the bone-marrow biopsies. There was a little drama in the OR -- not like Grey's Anatomy, there's-an-unexploded-bomb-in-the-patient-type drama -- but just a little moment of panic for me when they couldn't start an IV to administer the anesthesia. They could not find a vein anywhere on my body. (See? I have teeny veins!) I had three anesthesiologists searching my body -- hands, feet, neck, wrists, arms -- for a vein, any vein. At one point, the surgeon leaned over and said they wouldn't be able to put me under for the surgery. "We'll give you a bunch of local anesthetic," he said. "It'll be just like going to the dentist." Now, I've sort of started priding myself on not being wimpy about medical things, BUT COME ON!! Finally the head anesthesiologist -- a very sweet British man -- managed to find a vein in my wrist. Thank you, sweet British man! After that, I sort of floated away and drifted in and out, and everything was just fine. I could hear everyone talking from time to time, but it didn't sound like real words. It sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher: "Waaaah, wah, waaaaah ...."

Then they wheeled me back upstairs, and now I'm having toast and pudding and Diet Pepsi. Mmmm ....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Band-Aids on my belly

I got my first injections this morning. I got two of them, right in the belly. I KNOW this sounds really, really, really scary and painful and gross, but I was shocked to find out that it wasn't bad. The shots didn't hurt at all going in. The flu shot I got yesterday hurt a lot worse. About half an hour later, the injection sites had sort of a weird burning sensation (which I'd been warned about), but that went away after a few minutes. I haven't had any of the achy symptoms yet.

After the shots, we took WCK to the Rochester Public Library for story time. I've been to many, many story times over the past two and a half years, and I have to say that this was the best story time EVER. It was more of a multi-media extravaganza with puppets and movies and a very elaborate felt board. The librarians wore those headphone-type microphones that pop stars wear so they can dance while singing. Very impressive.

We returned to the apartment to find an absolutely amazing care package from the MOMS Club. It was filled with about a meeeellion toys for WCK and a whole bunch of treats for me. I've already started in on the snacks, which arrived just in time, because we just finished all of the snacks that my in-laws sent in another amazing care package the other day.

No more appointments until my surgery tomorrow morning. They say it's simple and I'll be out of there by noon. I'll try not to blog while under the influence of drugs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lots and lots and lots of information

Today was a bunch of meetings: My transplant coordinator (even though I'm not having a transplant right now, I still have a transplant coordinator), Dr. H, and the surgeon who will be placing my line on Friday. I got a bunch of information today, so I'll probably forget to tell you something important. Here's what I remember, though:

I get my first growth-factor injection tomorrow at 9 a.m. For those of you interested in detailed medical info, it's officially called Neupogen or G-CSF, Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor. (Yeah, I'm cheating off of a sheet that they gave me. I really don't remember all this stuff off the top of my head). This is what gets my bone marrow to produce more stem cells and spit them out into my bloodstream by the millions. That's the only thing that's on my schedule for tomorrow. I continue getting injections once a day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Sunday morning when I go in for my injection, they'll also draw blood to see if I have enough stem cells in my blood stream (Again, for you medical folks: My pCD34 count must be above 10.0). I'll call Sunday evening to get the results. If my cells are ready to go, I'll start the harvest on Monday morning at 7 a.m. If I don't have enough cells, I'll continue with the injections. Nurses keep warning me to not get disappointed if I can't start on Monday, so this must happen a lot. They also keep warning me that I could feel kind of flu-ish and achy as my bone marrow fills up with all of these extra cells.

Friday morning, I have surgery to get my line put in. It is officially called a Mahurkar catheter (and, yeah, I'm cheating off the sheet again. I can't even pronounce it, let alone spell it). This is what it looks like:




The long white part goes into a vein in my neck, and the two little tubes stick out. A machine will suck my blood out of one little tube, filter out the stem cells, and return the blood to my body through the other little tube. When I'm done with the harvest, the nurses can just pull it right out of me. So they say.

Anyhoo. All of my test results were fine. They tested me for every possible virus there is. My West Nile results are still pending, so everybody keep your fingers crossed.

My M-spike is up a tiny bit (2.4), and I freaked out a little bit, but Dr. H said she wasn't worried. She expects the numbers to eventually start going down again once I start back on the drugs. Anyway, she said the goal of the harvest is 9 million cells.

"Spit them out so you can go home," she said.

That's what I'll do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Multi-cultural

Mayo offers some of the best medical care in the world, so people come here from everywhere. WCK's been seeing some new and unusual sights. Today, while walking in the skyway, we passed a woman who was wearing a flowing black burka. Her entire body was covered except for her eyes. WCK stared up in wonder.

"Look, Mommy!" she exclaimed. "DARTH VADER!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mayo! May-hay-hay-o!

Daylight come and me wan go home!

Actually, daylight came and I reported for my tests. The first was a blood draw -- the Mother of All Blood Draws. The lab tech took (dramatic pause) TWENTY-THREE VIALS OF BLOOD OUT OF MY ARM.

Yes. Twenty-three. I'm not making this up.

Even the tech seemed a little shocked, although he did tell me that his record was 28 vials. Part of me secretly wished I could have broken the record. Maybe next time.

After that, I staggered over to the Gonda Building for my bone-marrow biopsy. This sounds like a really scary procedure, and, depending on who does it to you, it really can be. The way they do it at Mayo is great, though. I was completely sedated with very pleasant drugs, so I didn't feel a thing. They gave me cookies and a Diet Coke afterward. The actual procedure took less than 15 minutes. I have a giant band-aid, and my hip's a little sore, but it wasn't that bad.

Next, I had x-rays of every bone in my body, which is always a really long, boring test. At least I got to wear the little foam slippers with happy faces on them.

In the afternoon, Jay and I met with a nurse who works in the stem-cell collection department. Her first task was to look at the veins in my arms to see if the cells could be harvested via my arms instead of through a central line, which has to be implanted surgically. I didn't even know the arm thing was a possibility, so I got a little bit hopeful, even though the techs at the KC Cancer Center complain endlessly about my teeny, hidden veins. Sure enough, the nurse took one look at my arms and said, "Yeah, you're gonna need a line." Dang. Couldn't she tell that these powerful veins can spit out 23 vials of blood? Anyway, the line will be put in by a surgeon, probably on Friday. It sounds like I'll get the same kind of drugs I got for the biopsy, though. Yay, drugs!

Then we got a tour of the area where the harvest will take place. I'll be confined to a hospital-type bed and hooked up to a machine for five hours a day, usually 7 a.m. to noon. I won't be able to get up at all. "Let us know if you have to go to the bathroom," said the nurse, "and we'll bring a commode to you." Oh, good. They do have free snacks, though.

My last test of the day was an EKG. Very fast and easy.

Tomorrow is a day off: I have NOTHING except Pee Pod Dropoff. Wednesday is a bunch of meetings/consultations with the transplant nurses, Dr. H, and the surgeon who will implant my line. After that, I start injections to stimulate the stem cells. If all goes well, collection starts on Monday.

What am I going to do with my day off? I'm not sure. I've already been to Barnes and Noble twice.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rah, Rah, Rochester*

* That's seriously the town motto. I'm not making this up.

We got here last night all in one piece. It was a pretty uneventful trip, which means that nobody threw up in the car. Hurrah! We were able to stop in Iowa to see my sister and World's Cutest Neice for a couple hours. WCK loves the new "partment", most likely because it is completely un-babyproofed: Nothing but uncovered electrical outlets and butcher knives in low drawers as far as the eye can see. It's a toddler paradise, really.

When Jay and I visited Rochester in the past, we never really ventured out. Mostly we'd just hang out in the Gonda Building and read, so we don't really know the town. Today we managed to locate a church and a grocery store, so we're making a little progress.

Tomorrow I report at 8 a.m. for my tests, but I don't know exactly what they're going to do. I admit this is a very boring update, but I guess when it comes to medical adventures, boring is good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ready go!

This is what WCK says when she wants to leave. "Ready go, Mommy! Ready go!"

I am very ready go to the Mayo Clinic. I want to just get there and get this whole harvest over with. I've been worried about it nonstop since March, so I want to get it done. We've been really busy getting things ready for the trip. Tomorrow will be a big packing marathon, and then Saturday we'll hit the road. When Jay and I go to Mayo by ourselves, it usually takes six hours. With WCK in the car with us, it could take ... oh, I don't know, 26 hours. At least it will seem that way.

Tonight I'm going to "Spa Night" to get a pedicure with the other grownup members of the MOMS Club. It'll be just what I need, although nobody will really see my toenails in Minnesota. They only have good toenail weather for about three weeks out of the year.

Anyway. While I'm in Minnesota, I'm expecting to have Internet access and a lot of time on my hands, so I'll probably be updating the blog A LOT. You'll hear from me soon.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is this wrong?

WCK is obsessed with dinosaurs right now. She frequently pretends to be a dinosaur, which involves stomping/running up and down our upstairs hallway while yelling, "Raaaar!!" Sometimes Mommy is forced to be a stomping/running dinosaur, too. Raaar!!

Yesterday we were pretending to be dinosaurs at the park (yes, I do this in public) when she pointed at the trees. "Look, Mommy! Dinosaur!" It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about, but sure enough, there was a tree with a thick, curving branch. There were two big knots on it and a slit that looked a little like a mouth. It looked somewhat like a brontosaurus with buggy eyes, if you squinted hard enough. We walked up to the dinosaur and chatted with him, petted him, and fed him a stick. I glanced at my watch and saw it was almost time for us to head home. I always hate trying to get WCK to leave a park, because it usually turns into a big screaming ordeal.

"What's that, dinosaur?" I said, leaning in close to listen. "Oh," I said, turning to WCK. "Dinosaur says we need to go home and eat supper."

"OK," said WCK. "Bye, dinosaur." She happily set out for the car.

Oh, this dinosaur is good, I thought. He's my new best friend.

Fast-forward to bedtime. WCK has been having a lot of trouble falling asleep for the past few weeks. Most of our evenings are spent listening to screaming on the baby monitor and taking turns going up and down the stairs to her room, only to have her laugh at us. Last night, after about my fifth trip to her room, I had a flash of brilliance.

"WCK," I said, "I just got in the car, drove to the park, and had a talk with the dinosaur. I told him you didn't want to go to sleep, and he felt very sad. He said that he'd really like you to go to sleep. He said that if you want to grow up to be a big, strong dinosaur, you need to go to sleep right now."

WCK's eyes got huge. She immediately lay down and squeezed her eyes shut. I didn't hear a peep out of her for the next 11 hours.

Was it just a one-time deal? No! Just a minute ago, she was refusing to take a nap. Naps have also been a big problem for weeks now. I went into her room and told her I'd been back to the park to talk to the dinosaur again, and once again, he was really sad that she wasn't napping, and he was scared she'd never grow up to be a dinosaur.

Now she's fast asleep. I LOVE THE IMAGINARY MIRACLE DINOSAUR!

Jay thinks lying to our sweet little child is wrong. I think I am going to do this ALL THE TIME.

"Sure, you can borrow the car," I'll say in 2021, "but if you're not back by your curfew, the dinosaur will be sad."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's the Great Pumpkin, WCK!

Halloween was great. It's so much fun now that WCK semi-understands what is going on. She was a champion trick-or-treater. Knowing her shy nature and fear of the unknown, I'd partly expected her to go to one house and then declare, "No! Don't like it!" and run back home. She surprised us and kept going for about an hour and even managed to whisper, "Trick or treat" and "Thank you" at a few of the houses. We finally went home when her candy bucket was too heavy for her to carry anymore. We had such a good time. I hope I always remember it.

When we got home, I told her that we'd leave her candy for the Great Pumpkin. While she was asleep, I said, the Great Pumpkin would visit our house, take the candy away, and leave a nice toy in its place. Sure enough, when the morning came the candy had disappeared, Mom and Dad looked a little bloated, and a mini Little People set was waiting in the empty candy bucket. WCK was very excited about the new toy, and the candy has been mostly forgotten. Oh, that Great Pumpkin. Is there anything he can't do?

Oh, and here is a photo of our front-porch goose in its vampire outfit. I think this is my favorite of all of the goose outfits. It's the fangs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Family portrait

Jay and I have always been really into pumpkin carving at Halloween. Even years before we had WCK -- even when we lived in little apartments that lacked proper front-porch pumpkin-display areas -- we would always have a pumpkin-carving night just before Halloween. Usually we'd pop in our tape of the Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and just carve away. We're not really artistic people, so we'd always use those books of pumpkin patterns. In the old days, we'd go for the fancy ones: witches, skeletons, headless horsemen.

We still carve every year, but now we don't really have the time or energy to make the elaborate designs that we used to. We mostly stick to very simple, fast faces. We let WCK take part this year, and I figured she would grab the pumpkin guts and smear them everywhere. She didn't want anything to do with the guts, but she was quite interested in watching the process.

Here's a photo of the results. It looks a lot like our family. The one on the far left is me when WCK won't go to bed:

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In theory

Last weekend, Jay and I got really brave (some might say really stupid) and tried moving WCK from her crib to a big-girl bed. It was technically the same bed; we have a crib that converts to a toddler bed when you detach the front railing thingie. Just undo a few bolts, and the kid is free.

The next four hours went like this:

PARENT: WCK, get back in the bed and go to sleep.
WCK: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
PARENT: Get back in the bed.
WCK: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

We also made the disturbing discovery that WCK knows how to work a doorknob and can get from her room to the bottom of the stairs in approximately .0001 of a second.

By the end of the night, WCK was back in the crib. Jay had the really good idea to turn the crib around so the open end is against the wall. The back end (which is now the front end) is much too high for her to climb over and escape. I'm planning on keeping her there until she is 21. She can take a Pack 'N Play to college.

Anyway. I'd been expecting that it would go badly, so before bedtime started I was trying to look at the bright side of the big-girl bed.

"In theory," I said, "when she drops her pacifier out of the bed, she won't have to call for us. She can get it herself."

WCK flashed a wicked, wicked grin.

"In theory," she said.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Big 300!

This is my 300th post on this blog. I can't believe I've come up with 300 different things to write about. It's probably just 300 variations of the topics, "Cancer is dumb," "My kid is cute," and "I love American Idol." Oh, and photos of celebrities and cupcakes.

Anyway, I guess it's fitting that I'm celebrating a blog milestone, because it was almost exactly two years ago right now that I was having that innocent blood test that "accidentally" found the Evil Protein in my blood. I just wanted to have my cholesterol and whatever checked; I didn't know incurable cancer was floating around in there. I got the results back on Halloween 2005, when a nurse called and said she was sending me to an oncologist immediately, but wouldn't tell me why. That wasn't a fun time.

But since then ... nothing really bad has happened to me. It has not been a bad two years. It's actually been a pretty happy two years:



I hope the next 300 posts/two years are just as good. Actually, I'm sure they will be better, because the cancer's butt is going to get completely kicked. Woooooo!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Here Lies Mr. Peanut

Here are photos of the cupcakes I made for the MOMS Club Halloween party on Friday. I'm going to make another batch for another party we're going to tomorrow, too:




Here's a whole graveyard:



They were very easy to make. Orange frosting, Nutter Butter grave stones decorated with black frosting, Oreo crumb "dirt", and a candy pumpkin. I wanted to write something more interesting than "RIP" on each one, but there's only so much one can say on a Nutter Butter. Also, the Nutter Butters seemed to absorb the moisture from the cupcakes, and they got a little mushy. If you prefer crisp Nutter Butters, don't stick them into the cupcake until the last minute.


WCK is going to be a witch for Halloween. As you can imagine, she is a very cute witch. If she wanted your Ruby Slippers, you would hand them over immediately, so charmed would you be by the cuteness. I taught her to respond to the question, "What does a witch say?" (Her answer: "Get you, pretty, and little dog, too!"), but, of course, she won't say it for anybody except me. I'm also trying to teach her to cackle in a menacing way, but she can't quite master the menacing part. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I love my foam finger

Jay and I went to a Kansas City Chiefs game on Sunday. I'd never been to a pro football game before, and I know nothing about football. My only football knowledge comes from the movie Rudy and various Peanuts cartoons. Keep trying, even if the Evil Coach is mean to you. Never kick a ball if Lucy is holding it. That's all I know.

Anyway. I told Jay I would go to the game with him as long as I could buy one of those enormous foam fingers that you wear over your hand. I've never had an enormous foam finger, and I've always secretly wanted one. After searching the various souvenir stands at the stadium, we finally tracked one down. It wasn't quite as enormous and hilarious as I'd expected, and then I realized I was the only person over the age of 10 who was in possession of an enormous foam finger. When your hand is about half the size of mine, one of those fingers probably seems extra enormous and extra, extra, EXTRA hilarious. It worked out, though, and the Chiefs won, probably because they saw me waving my foam finger and felt inspired. WCK just loves the finger. Last night before her bath, she was running around naked, wearing nothing but the finger.

Also, while we were tailgating in the parking lot, two women came by selling red and gold beads as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The LLS covers all blood cancers, so it should really be called the Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma Society, but I guess that's a lot of words to fit on the sign. Anyway, I bought a set of beads from them, and I hope a lot of other people did too. Now I have my football beads and my finger, so I'm all set to go back to a Chiefs game next year. I'll have to borrow my sister's copy of Rudy so I can refresh my knowledge right before I go.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm dangerous

My stay-at-home-moms' group has a Moms' Night Out once a month. Last night, a bunch of us got together at a martial arts studio for a self-defense class. We learned a few moves, and I'm now confident that if an armless, legless, creepy-looking rubber dummy ever attacks me in a parking lot, I can TOTALLY kick its butt. Well, I guess it doesn't technically have a butt. I can kick its support post that serves as a butt.

When I got home, I told Jay all of the important things we learned about eyeball gouging and crotch-kicking (Eyeballs squish as easily as grapes; when you kick a guy, imagine that you're going to kick all the way up to his chin, and you're just going through the crotch to get there) and now he's a little scared of me, I think. I promise to use this new-found crotch-kicking knowledge for good, not evil.

I'd like to kick my M-spike in the crotch, though: The Cancer Center called yesterday, and Spike is still hanging in there at 2.0! This is where it has been since August. I know that Dr. H assured me that plateaus are totally normal, and that the M-spike will most likely continue to go down again someday, but I still don't like it. I didn't spend my weekends all dexed out so that my M-spike can lounge around and laugh at me. Stupid spike.

Still, I am enjoying temporarily being off the drugs. Last weekend was my first weekend in over five months without dex. It was GLORIOUS. All day Saturday, I kept waiting for it to kick in ... and then I'd remember that I didn't take any. I felt like a normal person. Nice.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Just call me Ross, because ...

I AM ON A BREAK!!



That's right. I'm off all of my medications right now. Yesterday, I went to strap on my medical alert bracelet like I do every morning, and then I realized I didn't need it! Woo! I'd worried that I'd have to do one more week of Dex because the harvest got pushed back, but Dr. GPO told me not to. It felt like the greatest news I'd ever heard in my whole entire life, because I honestly don't think I could have handled the Dex for one more week. Really, the thought of taking one more dose made me want to start crying. I don't go back to the Kansas City Cancer Center until Dec. 10, and that's when they'll start the process to get me back on drugs. Everyone assures me that I'll be able to get back on them immediately with no problem, but I don't believe them. We'll see. It'll be a good break.

Last weekend, we traveled to South Dakota for Jay's sister's wedding. WCK looked beautiful in her princess dress, and she was the hit of the reception. We were all shocked to discover that she loves loud dance music. She was a maniac, maniac on the floor, and kept it up until nearly 10 p.m. She even jumped into the conga line. We were all very impressed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A dirty kid and a change in plans

Even though WCK has all of the typical issues that come with being two years old, she is typically pretty tidy and well-behaved. Today, however, we went to a park for an ice-cream social with the MOMS Club. The park featured an enormous sand box, and in the center of the box was a deep pit filled with damp, muddy sand. Of course, all of the kids were drawn immediately to the pit. I spent about an hour and a half successfully keeping WCK away from The Pit of Temptation, even though that meant I had to physically drag her away and let her sit and pout for a while. I stopped paying attention for a few minutes while Abigail showed me how to fix my Earthworm Blanket (yes, I now carry knitting around with me), and when I looked up, WCK was cheerfully sitting in the center of the pit with her friend Aidan. They were happily exchanging globs of sand, pouring it all over each other's clothing and hair, and chattering away in two-year-old language. I figured I could drag her out again, or I could run and get the camera. I ran to get the camera. WCK has never been so dirty in her life, although they were playing quietly and sharing.

In other news: I got a call from Mayo today. It seems that whoever scheduled my harvest didn't get the memo that Dr. H would be out of town the week of November 5, so the harvest had to be pushed back one week. I now start my tests on November 12. We might not make it home in time for Thanksgiving now, but I'm sure we can cook a little turkey in the apartment. It'll be fine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Take cover!

It's been brought to my attention that Tropical Storm Karen is a brewin' in the Atlantic.

Heh.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Martian Death Flu

WCK has finally recovered from an ugly bout of Martian Death Flu. Dave Barry coined this term; I use to to describe any cruddy illness that doesn't really have a specific diagnosis. WCK's symptoms were cough, fever, runny nose, and a serious vow to Never Eat or Sleep Again. She was well enough to go to the park this morning, and today she finally agreed to eat a good lunch and nap all afternoon. Hallelujah! She still has the runny nose from time to time. How do you teach someone to blow her nose? WCK won't wipe her own nose, and yet she can't tolerate the runniness. All day long I hear, "Nose running, please!" and I have to be at the ready with a Kleenex. At least she says please.

We didn't do much all weekend besides grapple with the Martian Death Flu, and of course I was under the curse of the Evil Dex Pills. Only one more week of drugs for me! Woo hoo!

In other news, I discovered a great brownie recipe and made it for a picnic Jay went to for a church group. Get a box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chunk Brownie mix and mix it up as directed. Pour half of it into the pan, and then top it with a half a cup of cut-up chocolate mint patties. Pour the rest of the brownie mix on top and bake. The mints all melt away, but leave a minty flavor. Mmmm, good.

I know, I know: Baking? Knitting? Church picnics? Feverish children? What is this? Little House on the Prairie?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Knit wit

I'm learning how to knit, and it turns out that knitting is REALLY HARD. My friend Abigail is an extreeeeeeeemely patient knitting teacher, which is good, because I am the Forrest Gump of the knitting world. It took me two hours to make this:



Jay was extremely supportive and said that it could be a blanket for an earthworm. If any of you come across a chilly earthworm, let me know, and I'll send the blanket right out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baby Einstein

As you know, I've been waging a war with WCK's wild hair. Actually, it's not so much waging a war as watching helplessly as the hair mocks me. I am not allowed to touch the hair. WCK's bangs had gotten so long that they'd sprouted wings. She was sporting a look that was sort of Einstein meets Farrah:











Yesterday, she actually agreed to a haircut. She sat patiently in the chair (which was shaped like a little Jeep with a picture of Cinderella on it), allowed the stylist to put a cape on her, wet down her hair, brush it, cut it, put styling product in it, and DRY IT WITH A BLOW DRIER. Obviously, this woman has magical powers, and I need to hire her to come live at our house full-time. If I even glance sideways at a hairbrush across the room, WCK screams like I'm trying to murder her. Forget trying to put a bow in her hair. Just forget it.


Although her hair was back to the Einstein phase this morning, at least it was a little bit shorter and neater. Still, I've always been so envious of all of these little girls with their neat and tidy hair in pony tails and barrettes. Then the October issue of Parents magazine arrived right on time.


I'm not sure why I subscribe to Parents, since it is pretty much a 300-page manual of all of the calamities that can befall your child: Lyme Disease, rabies, choking on an improperly sliced hot dog, scary allergies. In the Parents world, everything -- EVERYTHING -- will hurt your child. The villain this month? Barrettes!


Yes. It turns out that barrettes are a choking hazard, headbands are a strangulation hazard, and ponytail holders will give your child headaches. Woo hoo! I'm a good mother after all! Let your hair run wild, WCK. Let your hair run wild.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Milkshake drama

I've gotten really behind on my blogging. Where to begin? Here's a quick review of the past few days.

On Thursday, WCK and I went to the Weston Red Barn Farm with the MOMS Club. Here's a photo. WCK is the tiny blue dot. The tiny orange dot is her friend Aidan:



We had a great time looking at animals, touching a baby chick, having a picnic under a tree (after thoroughly washing the baby chick off of our hands, of course), and even going on a hayride. WCK completely freaked out on a hayride when she was five months old, so I still get really nervous about them. She seems to love hayrides now, though.

Saturday morning we went to another Mr. Stinky Feet concert. You have to love Mr. Stinky Feet. He's going to be performing with the Kansas City Symphony (no, I'm not making that up) in November, but we'll be in Rochester. Stupid disease!

On Saturday night, Jay and I found some quality entertainment: An educational DVD that we received in the mail from the Mayo Clinic called "Autologous Blood and Marrow Transplant at Mayo Clinic." It was actually really informative, and even a little scary, because they were very upfront about telling you how crappy you're going to feel after a transplant. They were also quick to offer a lot of disclaimers: "Yes, a transplant could cure you ... but it could also fail, and then you die." Nice.

The video featured interviews with people who have had transplants as well as an actor (who was, of course, about 80 years old) portraying a transplant patient. The actor demonstrated all of the different steps in the process, including the period where transplant patients feel so awful they can't eat anything. The actor dramatically shook his head while his wife silently pleaded with him to drink a milkshake. Jay and I thought it would have added a little realism -- and maybe some extra dramatic flair -- if he would have just tossed the milkshake back in her face. Maybe I should get a job as a Mayo Clinic video director.

Anyway. Now we're all informed, and I spent the rest of the weekend strung out on dex. Imagine me saying this in a Jerry Seinfeld voice: "I hate the dex!" For some reason, I feel no difference between the 20 mg and the 40 mg. THANK GOD I only have two more weeks of this stuff, at least for a while. Evil, evil dex.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Comedy team

WCK and I have been working on a comedy act. Here's the script:

ME: Knock, knock
WCK: Who's there?
ME: Boo!
WCK: Boo who?
ME: Don't cry!

We've been having a lot of trouble in rehearsal, however. This morning, here's how the act was going:

ME: Knock, knock
WCK: Who dare?
ME: Boo!
WCK: Don't cwy! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!

I tried giving her a little creative advice, telling her that she's supposed to say "Boo who?" after I say "Boo." Now the act goes like this:

ME: Knock, knock
WCK: Say boo who! Say boo who! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!

Obviously, the act is going to need some fine-tuning before we take it on the road.

And in hair news: Those of you who have seen WCK lately know that she has some serious hair issues. Part of it is that she is in desperate need of a trim. She's also genetically doomed with out-of-control curls. However, the fact that she won't let me come near her with a hair brush -- or anything resembling a barrette -- is just making matters worse. Today she saw me coming with the brush, ran away screaming, "Nononononono!" and proceeded to put on her bike helmet so I couldn't get to her head. She's an evil genius.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cheese sauce, inflatable slides, November

I've been feeling a whole lot better since that last post. Things are looking up.

We had a really fun weekend. We traveled to Ames, Iowa to see my sister, Jenny, my brother-in-law, T.J., and World's Cutest Niece. WCN is only four months younger than WCK, and those two little girls just love each other. They play very nicely together and would even walk around holding hands. Jay, T.J., and three of Jay's friends from Minnesota spent Saturday tailgating, attending an Iowa State football game, and participating in all-night, post-game revelry. I'm not sure what went on; I'm not sure I want to know. The most I heard is that one of the group entered a convenience store in the wee hours of the morning and tried to order doughnut holes with cheese sauce.

Again, I don't want to know.

Anyway, this meant that Jenny and I got to spend a lot of "girl time" with our little ladies. We visited a real farm, took a long walk, and went out to eat at a pizza place. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot of activity, but with two two-year-olds in tow, it was a very full day. We all enjoyed it. After the girls went to bed, Jenny and I watched Rudy. Heh.

Today, WCK and I went to a crazy place called AirZone. I've never seen anything like it. It's two enormous rooms filled with giant inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and what can best be described as "bouncy thingies." It looked like a place WCK would run screaming away from, but she loved it. There was one giant slide that we had to climb at least half a dozen times, and she eagerly completed all of the obstacle courses -- with Mommy right behind her providing a boost up all of the climbing walls. After about an hour or so, we were both completely exhausted and sweaty. I think EVERYONE needs to go to AirZone for their daily workout. If there were an AirZone on every street corner, there would be no childhood obesity -- or mommyhood obesity, for that matter. At the very least, you can use AirZone to justify junk food. "I can have a brownie: I went to AirZone today." I love you, AirZone!

Today I also got everything (pretty much) squared away for the Mayo trip. I report for my first day of testing on the morning of Monday, November 5. The tentative schedule is to have a bunch of medical tests on Nov. 5, 6, and 7 and to also meet with Dr. H on Nov. 7. If everything goes OK, I'd start injections to mobilize the cells on Nov. 8 and hopefully begin stem-cell collection on the 12th. The woman I spoke with said I could be done as soon as Nov. 16 or maybe just a few days later. It's sounding like we'd be up there for two weeks at the most, instead of three weeks, and it also sounds like we'd be back before Thanksgiving. I also got good news from my insurance caseworker: We have full coverage for everything, including all of our travel and lodging expenses (WOO HOO!!). I know that we're really lucky. I booked us a furnished apartment really close to the clinic. It's also really close to a Barnes and Noble. Do you think insurance will reimburse us for Barnes and Noble expenses? I could argue that B&N is therapeutic.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tomorrow is another day

Results are in, and my official M-spike at the end of cycle five is ... 2.0. It went down a lousy .1 during the whole cycle. I keep reminding myself that Dr. H said plateaus are okay, but I still wish it had been lower. It's disappointing to suffer through four weeks of steroids and then not see the spike move. My INR, on the other hand, jumped to 2.5 (It's supposed to be between 1.5 and 2.0). I guess the 5 mg of Coumadin was a bit much. I have been eating a ton of salads, I swear. I even got a salad when we went to Donald's over the weekend. Anyway, I'm back on my old Coumadin dose again.

There was a big drama with the Revlimid this afternoon, when the nurse called to tell me that somebody at the Cancer Center had accidentally faxed the pharmacy a month-old pregnancy test instead of my current one (what?), and now the pharmacy and the drug company were all riled up, and the time to fill the prescription was about to expire. Once the prescription-filling process has been started, everyone involved (me, the doctor's office, the pharmacy, and the drug company) only gets seven days to complete it. If you're not done when the time runs out, you have to start the process ALL OVER AGAIN with a brand new blood test and everything. It all got straightened out, and the new Revlimid (my last cycle for about two months!!!) will be here on Monday, but it was a stressful afternoon. While the drug drama was going on, WCK refused to take a nap and then threw up in her crib ... on her one-and-only "If anything happens to this blankie I shall die" blankie ... after eating blueberries. She's completely fine now, but have you ever dealt with blueberry throwup on a beloved blankie? Oh dear.

Bad afternoon. Tomorrow will be better. Deep breath.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dinosaurs and Donald's

I hope everybody had a good Labor Day weekend. We mostly hung around the house, except on Sunday when we drove down to Powell Gardens to see an exhibit called "Jurassic Garden". This was a bunch of life-sized, realistic-looking (well, as far as we know) dinosaurs on display throughout the botanical gardens. It was a really nice way to spend the morning. WCK is really into dinosaurs right now, which is so funny to me. She's been known to run screaming in terror from her Winnie-the-Pooh DVD, but a life-sized T-Rex doesn't shake her up at all. Here's a photo of one of the dinosaurs on display:



She didn't find this the least bit scary. Afterwards, we went to McDonald's (which I find a little bit scary), and I think she enjoyed that more than the dinosaurs. WCK almost never gets to go to McDonald's. She's still talking about it. "Donald's exciting," she says.

Today I was back at the Cancer Center. I know I just had a bunch of tests last week at Mayo, but I still have to go see Dr. GPO every four weeks to get my prescription renewed. Because of all of the rules and regulations with Revlimid, you can't just get refills; you have to go see the doctor every single month. Here's what I have to do every four weeks to get my 21-day supply of pills:

1) Go to the Cancer Center; have a million blood tests, including a pregnancy test, which is required by the drug company every single month. Meet with the doctor so he knows the side-effects aren't killing me.
2) Call the special oncology pharmacy in Texas to remind them that this is the week I need to renew. They then call back to let me know that they are "faxing something to the doctor."
3) Wait around for them to fax whatever to the doctor.
4) Call the drug company to take a patient survey over the phone. This is when I reassure the electronic Speak 'N Spell lady that I'm not pregnant.
5) Wait some more for the pharmacy to call back to let me know that everyone has approved everything; give them my credit card number for the co-pay; listen to the pharmacist warn me about side effects.
6) Wait around for the delivery guy to show up with the Revlimid.

As I was typing this, I realized that I DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS NEXT MONTH!! Woo hoo! I'm so excited about my drug vacation, I can't even tell you.