Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mt. Stuffmore

Jay named the unmanageable pile of stuffed animals in WCK's room "Mt. Stuffmore." He said that we should charge admission and let people get their pictures taken in front of Mt. Stuffmore.  I said it would be a huge liability issue, because Mt. Stuffmore could come crumbling down and fatally crush the visitors at any moment.

The problem wasn't just the pile of animals. The entire room could have been called "Mt. Stuffmore", because it was, well, stuffed. It was bad. Really, really bad. And I don't know where all of these toys are coming from. I do not remember actually buying very many stuffed animals. Are roving bands of stuffed animals breaking into our house in the middle of the night? Are the stuffed animals getting pregnant and giving birth to additional stuffed animals?

Although I can't rule out either of these theories, I think the problem stems from the fact that WCK and I are both borderline hoarders who can't bear to give things up. When WCK says she can't possibly part with the plastic shopping cart I bought her when she was 15 months old, I completely understand where she's coming from.

So the mess kept growing. There was simply too much of it to organize and clean, so I gave up. Then, the other day when it was too hot to do anything else, WCK and I ended up watching a marathon of "The Call of the Wildman" on Animal Planet. This is a show about a crazy guy named Turtleman who goes around capturing wild animals who have managed to get themselves stuck inside houses, barns, chicken coops, etc. As Turtleman was wrestling a family of possums out of a dilapidated old house, I realized it was only a matter of time before possums started making nests in the clutter in WCK's room. Then we saw a commercial for "Hoarders: Buried Alive." As a woman's newspaper-filled kitchen caught on fire, I saw our future.

The next day, I announced that we were cleaning out the room. WCK was surprisingly agreeable and even suggested numerous items to go to Goodwill. This was not an easy job for two borderline hoarders. I would find myself about to say, "Really? You want to give away the stuffed dinosaur that Very Good Friend gave you for your birthday when you were three?" And then my brain would say, "Shut up, you idiot! Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

Finally, after about five hours of cleaning and a trip to the thrift store, I looked around me and saw something I hadn't seen in a long time: WCK's floor. They said it couldn't be done, but I am here to tell you that I did it.  I conquered Mt. Stuffmore.

If you've already ordered tickets for the Mt. Stuffmore sightseeing tour, I will refund your money.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Things that make you go, 'Hmm.'

So, my M-spike had been slowly going down for months and months, and in June it hit an all-time low of 1.3. Then on July 9, it bounced up to 1.7. OK, OK, OK. Not a big deal. It's going to be fine. FINE. It's a lab glitch. Just ignore it. Then when I went to Mayo this week, it was up to 1.9. The first thing Dr. L said was, "Now that makes me go, 'Hmmm.'"

You never want your oncologist to go "Hmmm."

After we talked it over for a little while, though, I explained that my M-spike is always higher at Mayo than it is in Kansas City. (It's true. I looked it up on my blog later for confirmation. Thank you, blog.) Dr. L said that makes a lot of sense, since the lab at Mayo is much more sensitive than your regular, run-of-the-mill, built out of plywood in 1889 non-Mayo labs. She agreed that 1.9 at Mayo could be 1.7 (or lower) back in Kansas City. So she stopped going "Hmmm" and came around to the idea that it's not a big deal and it's going to be fine. FINE.

And she told me what nearly every doctor has told me since the beginning: "We don't look at one number. We look at trends."

I know, I know. But having a complete heart attack over one number is just what I do. I'm good at it. It's my thing. I could win an award.

So. I just need to wait a couple weeks until I get tested again in Kansas City to see if it's gone up again from 1.7. And if it's gone up a teeny bit, I need to wait until the next month's test to see if it's gone up again. That's one of the 786,421,932 annoying things about myeloma: You have to wait around to see the trends.

In the meantime, we can all look at this photo until we feel better. And by "we", I mean "me". He looks like he's casting a magical spell over the cancer cells. It's like bad medicine, cancer cells. Bad medicine.

If you're new to the blog and don't understand the Bon Jovi photo, you can click here for an explanation. Or you can just sit here and look at the photo.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cancer Girl's secret identity ... revealed!!

Exciting news. I posted my first "guest blog" ever! It's for the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop web site at http://humorwriters.org. If you're a writer or want to be a writer or just want to read some funny posts, it's a good site to visit. I was pretty excited that they accepted my submission. You can go right to the post by clicking here! And you will also see .... me! And find out my real name! It's not Bruce Wayne.

After years of being somewhat undercover, I was a little bit nervous. Plus, when the editor told me to send in a photo of myself, I realized how hard it was to find a photo where

a) I'm actually in the photo because I'm not the person taking the photo
b) I'm in the photo all by myself and not posing with WCK
c) I'm not wearing sunglasses and/or have my hair in a ponytail
d) I'm not pointing joyfully at a box of fudge.

Honestly, I never realized how much I like to pose for photos with boxes of fudge.

In the end, I managed to find a ponytail-less photo where I could crop out WCK. You can see a tiny bit of her hair on my shoulder. I'm hoping I don't look too dorky. Maybe next time I should use a fudge photo.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's not you. It's me.

My doctor at the Mayo Clinic broke up with me.

I loved Dr. H! She was the greatest doctor ever. We'd been together for over six years. We'd been through all kinds of ups and downs, through stem-cell harvests and bone-marrow biopsies and giant jugs of my pee. It was magical.

Then, a few months ago, I got a letter from her that said she's participating in a study at the hospital and won't be seeing patients in the clinic anymore so I'd need to switch doctors. Just like that, it was over between us.

That's it? You're leaving me for "a study"? Is the study is younger and better-looking than I am? That study will never love you like I did, Dr. H! I gave you my blood! My blood! Did that mean nothing?

Well, it took about an hour or so, but I finally started feeling like I could get back out there and start seeing other doctors again. I asked around the myeloma support group on Facebook, and a bunch of people told me they knew a doctor, Dr. L, who would be perfect for me. I nervously got on the phone and called Mayo and asked if I could get together with Dr. L. They said yes. I'll be meeting her later this week.

I've heard really good things about Dr. L, so I'm sure she'll be great. I know some of you must be thinking, "Come on! She's just a rebound doctor!", but I believe she could be The One. Still, I will really miss Dr. H. I guess I have to remember that old saying: "It's better to have seen a doctor in the Mayo Clinic Department of Hematology and lost than to never have seen a doctor in the Mayo Clinic Department of Hematology at all."

Or something like that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Disney World Tip #3

Disney Tip #3: Waiting in line

All Disney guidebooks have the same goal: To keep you from waiting in line for rides. If you read enough of these guidebooks, you start to believe that long lines are something you can control. You start to believe that a good, smart, clever mother will not expose her innocent family to a 40-minute wait at Peter Pan's Flight. You know, deep down, that if you wait for more than five minutes at Pirates of the Caribbean, you are a failure as a human being.

Not wanting to risk such failure ("Well, yeah, we had to wait for an hour at the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Jay and WCK are moving out in the morning."), I studied all of the guidebooks. I made plans. I memorized maps. I found an app for my BlackBerry that would tell me what the wait times were for all of the rides at any given moment. I was prepared.

And it worked. We rarely waited in a line for more than five or ten minutes. A few times, we could just walk right on. I was triumphant.

Then we got to the last couple of days of the trip, when we went to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We were tired and hot and not quite as motivated, and all of my detailed plans started to break down. We showed up at rides willy nilly, without any kind of a plan. And yet ... we still rarely waited in line for more than five or ten minutes.

The only exception to this is Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios, but I've decided that ride doesn't count. It's obviously surrounded by some kind of magical force field that allows crowds of people to instantly beam into the line, Star-Trek-like, so that there's immediately a 40-minute line the second the park opens, and there's absolutely nothing you can do. That's my theory, and I know it's true.

But the other lines were perfectly fine, all day long, even when we didn't have a plan. I started to wonder if the wait times for rides come down to one simple, three-step formula:

1. If there are a lot of people at the ride you want to go on, you will wait in line for a long time.
2. If there are not a lot of people at the ride you want to go on, you will not wait.
3. You can't control other people or the universe, so you probably cannot control the Disney lines, either.

Ha ha! Just kidding. I mean, I have the Disney BlackBerry app. Of course I control the universe.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coming Out

So, last night I added that Facebook page for my blog. (Please like me! https://www.facebook.com/adventuresofcancergirl) Facebook then gave me the chance to invite my friends to "like" me. As I went down the list of friends, checking off people to invite, I started thinking, "Wait, I don't think that person even knows about the cancer. Neither does that person. Does that person know?"

I suddenly realized that tons of people I know don't even know that I have cancer. Hmm.

The day I was diagnosed in 2005, of course, I sent out a big, freaked-out e-mail to everyone I knew. Then I started the blog, and I told that same big group of people. I wasn't trying to keep it secret or anything. As the years went by, though, it just seemed like kind of an awkward thing to bring up to people I'd just meet. When is a good point to mention it? It seems like it would be easier if I were 30 or 40 years older and everyone in my peer group had some kind of medical issue to discuss. ("Do you want to hear about my gall bladder?" "Oh, don't even get me started about my gout!") I'm guessing that's how old people bond when they're getting to know each other, sort of like how 30-somethings bond by discussing all of the different ways their little kids drive them insane. But when you're in your 30s and you're the only mom at playgroup who has a fatal disease, you sort of keep it to yourself so you don't bring everybody down.

Plus, I'm always scared of being viewed as the "Cancer Girl." I don't know why, since 99.99 percent of people don't treat me that way, but it sometimes sneaks up on me. I was once at a gathering where people I hadn't seen in a while kept coming up to me, cocking their heads sympathetically and saying things like, "Oh, how are you? Are you OK?" I was confused at first, and then I remembered. Oh, yeah. The cancer.

Since I've never, ever been visibly sick -- and I've never felt sick, except off and on during the year that I was on the steriods, bleh! -- it's really easy for me to blend into society as a completely healthy person. And I kinda like it that way.

Anyway. I sent out a mass announcement to all of my Facebook friends, finally coming out of the closet about the cancer and the blog. Then I started having some moments of complete panic. Now all of these people I know from the real world who thought I was somewhat normal are finally going to read my blog and find out I'm completely nuts. I'm picturing all of the Nice Catholic Moms at WCK's school:

Nice Catholic Mom #1: And she seemed like such a quiet, mild-mannered lady when she volunteered for the field trip, and then I found out that she writes a blog about Jon Bon Jovi taking his clothes off!

Nice Catholic Mom #2: HAVE MERCY!!!

Nice Catholic Mom #3: (dies of shock)

Wow, I feel so awful for the family of Nice Catholic Mom #3. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

I finally settled down, and then I had another panic attack in the middle of the night. I was trying to remember every single person I'm friends with on Facebook. Have I ever secretly made fun of any of them on the blog? I don't think I have, but ... crap! Have I? Are the parents of WCK's friends going to tell their kids that WCK licks Dr Pepper off of the driveway? Is she going to need therapy now? Do any of them know my doctor? Are they going to tell him that I've been calling him "Great and Powerful Oz" since 2006? Is he going to find that funny? Is Jon Bon Jovi going to sue me? What is going to happen to me now?? WHAT???!?!?!?!?!?

I guess now we find out. Have mercy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Like me! Really, really like me!

I just added an Adventures of Cancer Girl page to Facebook! I'm still trying to figure everything out, so there's not much there yet. Please visit and click "Like". Then share me with your friends. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/adventuresofcancergirl

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disney World Tip #2

Disney Tip #2: Meeting the Characters

If you return from Disney World without a photo of your child standing next to Mickey Mouse/Cinderella/Tinkerbell, I'm pretty sure Child Protective Services will be at your door within minutes, because, really, what kind of a parent are you? During your trip, you will be constantly on the lookout for characters for your kid to stand next to. It usually doesn't matter which character it is; if you see someone dressed up in a fuzzy suit, you're pretty much required to stand in line in the hot sun and make your child pose for a photo with him/her. For example, while we were sitting around the France pavilion at EPCOT eating some crepes and ice cream (see previous entry about the dining plan), we spotted Marie from The Aristocats, and Jay and I got really excited.

"Oh! My! God!" I said, like I was spotting Brad Pitt instead of someone in a giant cat suit. "It is Marie from The Aristocats!!"

Would I get excited about Marie from The Aristocats in a non-crepe-eating, non-Disney-World situation? No. No I would not. Has anyone been excited about The Aristocats since 1970? Not really. It's that old Disney cartoon about singing cats ... who are rich ... or something.

But we rushed WCK over to meet Marie, and WCK got to hug her and get her autograph in her special Disney character autograph book. We were feeling pretty triumphant until we got over to the United Kingdom and realized that since we'd spent all of that time meeting Marie, they had closed down the line for Mary Poppins.  MARY POPPINS, GOD DAMN IT!

That's the thing about these "roaming" characters. Once too many people get into the line, a Disney employee comes by and "closes" the line. When you try to get in the line, they tell you in a very nice, Disney-like way to get out. This spares Buzz Lightyear or Daisy Duck from having to get nasty with you themselves. Daisy can sort of wave helplessly, like, "Oh, I'd love to meet you, but the mean Disney employee is closing the line!" You know she's going off to some air-conditioned room to take her giant head off and have a beer.

WCK was amazingly easygoing about these line-closing situations. She'd sort of shrug her shoulders and move on. I was the one near tears over the Mary Poppins Incident. Fortunately, we lucked out the next day at the Magic Kingdom and finally got to meet her. I was super nervous, because I really wanted Mary Poppins to like me.

But if you don't want to stand out in the sun waiting for fuzzy-suited people who may or may not walk away at any second, you have other options. There are several locations where you can stand in line in air-conditioned comfort, and you're guaranteed to meet Mickey, the princesses, or Tinkerbell, although if you get there at the wrong time of day you could be standing there for a really long time. I suggest the EPCOT Character Spot, where you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto in the same place. You can also arrange to have a meal with the characters at certain restaurants. We reserved a princess meal at Cinderella's Royal Table, a restaurant inside the big castle at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom.

First you get to meet Cinderella in the downstairs lobby area. Wait, do castles even have lobbies? What's a better word? Front throne-room-type area? I don't know. 

Then you go up to the dining area where you have lunch while Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, and Snow White flit from table to table visiting with the kids. The Disney People have it perfectly timed so the princesses arrive at your table just as you're finishing up your enormous dessert.

WCK loved meeting all of the princesses, although she did wonder why the Snow White at Cinderella's Royal Table looked slightly different from the Snow White she'd met at EPCOT a few days before. Then she decided they must be sisters. "Yes," I said. "It's Snow White's sister. Flo White."

Then she asked me, "Why does Aurora look wild?"

Then Jay chimed in that Aurora looked like The Joker from Batman. WCK did a hilarious impression of Aurora's facial expression. Oh, come on! This is supposed to be a lovely event for our sweet little girl! We are not going to mock the poor princesses and say they look like The Joker! 

Except she kinda did:

I explained that she'd been asleep for 100 years, so she probably had a lot of energy. And caffeine. Then I snapped this photo of Belle, looking like the pressure was finally getting to her.

When the princesses start to look like this, it's time to go home.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Disney World Tip #1

Please note: I screwed up earlier today and accidentally deleted this post. It took hours of searching "help" pages that really weren't much help until I finally figured out how to get it back. So it's back (thank you, Internet, for saving EVERYTHING out there somewhere in cyberspace), but if you left me a comment, I couldn't get those back. Please don't think I deleted your comments! I love comments! Anyhoo, here's the post:

So, we had our big, crazy trip to Disney World. We got back over a month ago, but I had no idea where to even begin blogging about it. I didn't want to do a full blow-by-blow recounting of the entire trip ("First, we got on the plane! We had pretzels! We saw clouds!"), but how would I pick out the best highlights? The entire trip was a highlight! How would I ever possibly make it sound as fun as it really was? I can't! It was just too fun!! These are the problems that keep me up at night. 

I know. I have a horrible, horrible life.

Then I remembered how I spent months and months before the trip looking everywhere for Disney tips.  Anyone who has ever been to Disney World in the past few years became a valuable source of insider Disney info. Remembering that made me realize that I am now a valuable source of insider Disney info!

I decided I would share my own Disney World tips in a series of blog entries. Are you planning a trip to Disney World? I just spent five days there, so I am now a qualified expert! I present to you Tip Number One:

Tip Number One: Don't Get the Disney Dining Plan

It seemed like a good idea at the time. All of our food was paid for ahead of time, and -- in theory -- we were saving money on our meals. The plan included one counter-service meal (that's Disney-talk for fast food), one table-service (fancy) meal, and one snack per day. 

Now, when you purchase your daily snack, you could behave yourself and buy some carrot sticks or a little bag of pretzels or a banana or a bottle of water. You could do this. But will you? No, you will not, because you are at Disney World, for Lord's sake, and you want fudge and cupcakes and ice-cream sandwiches the size of your head. It's the Disney way.

Then you'll find out that your other two meals each day always include dessert. Now, you could tell the  server that you don't want dessert, or you want the fat-free sorbet or the fresh fruit. You could order dessert and just eat a teeny bite. You could do this. But you won't. The dessert is included! You have to order the most expensive one and eat all of it! You'll get the giant cheesecake every time. I actually ate something called an "Ice Cream Bomb."It's all a blur. A delicious blur.

This means that you're now eating enormous desserts three times a day, every day, in addition to two enormous meals. By about Day Four of your vacation, your stomach will feel like it's going to explode. You'll be sitting through "The Festival of the Lion King" pretending like you're enjoying the color and whimsy, but you're really thinking, "Shut the hell up, Simba. My stomach is going to explode!" 

And then as soon as the show ends, you'll walk out and buy yourself a chocolate-covered Mickey-shaped ice cream on a stick. You have to. You have the dining plan.