Monthly Archives: December 2015

Get Ready For 2016!

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Happy New Year everyone.  If you are like me and happy to have the chance for a better year, then here’s to better, and brighter things coming our way.  If however, the past year was one of the best you ever had, than I apologize to you because it may be downhill from here on!

I like the fresh start you get to have each January 1st.  It is like God giving us a big mulligan.  We get to right the mistakes and try again. But what happens when the wrongs were from no fault of your own?  How do you continually find the strength to keep moving forward and have faith? It’s tough, I know.  All I can say is that when you are being kicked down over and over, you just have to keep getting up.  If you stay down, then the bad wins and what fun is that?

Don’t make resolutions.  Set goals of things you would like to accomplish or even just try.  Make the first goal to love yourself.  Put yourself first.  Forgive those who have hurt you; not for them, for you.  When you forgive, you allow yourself not to be controlled by the pain any longer.  It isn’t selfish to put yourself first.  When you love yourself, you attract love, and you are able to love more completely.  It isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing is easy.  Do it anyway.

Start completing your bucket list.  If not now, when?  Keep adding to the list, and cross off stuff you no longer want to do.  Nothing is set in stone.  Be present in each day.  Be a willow, not an oak.  Begin tomorrow.  Pick one thing you want to do and just begin.  Life is way too short to do nothing day after day, and then complain that you never got to do what you wanted.

Get started!  Have fun.  xo

Barb

Insomnia Ramblings

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I think I am becoming a vampire or a nocturnal animal.  I will go with Vampire because it’s sexier.  You may ask why?  Is she crazy?  Did the cancer cause another tumor on her brain?

Let me explain.  For the past couple of years I have noticed changes to my sleeping patterns.  I used to go to bed early. Like 9 to 9:30, and wake up at 6.  Slowly, my bedtime got later and later.  I found myself awake until 11, then 12, then 12:30.  Then I found myself dragging to get out of bed by 6.  I had to take a nap, which at times would last for 2-3 hours. During summer break when the kids were off from school, I would sleep until 10:30 and love it. The problem was that when school started, I was comatose in the early hours and couldn’t wait for them to be gone so I could run back to bed.

Nowadays, I find that the earliest I can go to sleep is 1 am but most of the time I am falling asleep around 4:30 am and going back to bed when the kids leave, until 11 am or later.  There are many nights I get no sleep at all.  I find myself awake all night and sleeping all day.  This is why I think I am becoming a vampire.

Since my surgery on 12/21, I have no appetite and when I do eat, I feel nauseous for a few hours after.  I have not tried to drink blood to see what would happen, but since I won’t do that, I will never know if it helps.

Lack of sleep is affecting my vision, my balance, my thoughts, and my ability to think logically.  I live in a perpetual state of exhaustion that goes beyond fatigue.  Luckily I no longer drive since I have had to be on pain killers.  That would be scary!

Several of my followers on Twitter also suffer from sleep problems and we share our trials and tribulations on a weekly basis.  Perhaps if they become creatures of the night also, I can have a coven and we can live in a creepy old Victorian mansion and survive on Twitter, Netflix, and blogging throughout the night until exhaustion overtakes us and we fall asleep.

Insomnia sucks.  It is one of the dreadful side effects of having cancer. Either you are wired from the steroids they give you with chemo, or the joint pain prevents you from relaxing.  Once off of treatment, you can become stressed and anxious from too much ‘what iffing’. You can have residual bone and joint pain from the chemo and radiation treatments you have had. The thoughts in your head never shut up and they keep you awake.  You find yourself doing research about new treatments and clinical trials until your eyes are burning, but your brain is wide awake.

What the hell; if I do become a vampire, I will be impervious to disease and live forever.  Not a bad thing at all! Sweet dreams. xo

-Barb

Review:Stone and a Hard Place

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A couple weeks ago, I was asked to read and review Stone And A Hard Place by R.L. King on Twitter.  I was looking for something fun and light to read and I enjoy the fantasy genre, so this seemed like a good choice.

The story revolves around the main character, Alastair Stone, who is a mage and college professor. A friend from England asks Stone to take on a young boy –  who’s father was a mage and has died –  as an apprentice.  Meanwhile, a friend and colleague has asked him to check out his elderly aunt’s house because she is hearing voices and is getting negative feelings from the house.

Stone meets Ethan, who is 18, and tells him what being an apprentice will require.  Ethan’s mother is seriously ill, and she wants someone to be there for Ethan once she is gone.  Ethan agrees to Stone’s terms and is excited to learn magic.  Ethan is not very popular, and rather awkward, and training to be a mage gives him hope that it will make him cooler.

Stone visits the Aunt’s house which is more like a mansion, and discovers there is a malignant force in the house.  He makes it his goal to rid the house of this evil and protect his friends aunt.  Meanwhile, Ethan gets involved with another group of young mages who are also interested in the house.

I won’t reveal more for fear of spoiling things.  The book was a good read; similar to a beach read.  It was an escape from reality without having to work hard.  The author writes well, and uses a rich vocabulary, but lacks in creating a relationship between Ethan and Stone. The reader is given the impression that this master/apprentice relationship is a large part of the story.  In truth, it isn’t.  Reading it, I found myself wanting more from this story line and becoming frustrated when it never happened.  I also felt like the ending was rushed.  The author spends 98% of the book building up the conflict and only 2% resolving it.  There were weak resolutions in the characters problems and I got the impression Stine was in a hurry to complete the book.

I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars only because the story itself was good and the characters were interesting, even if their relationships with each other were weak.

New Year, New Hopes

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It seems that for the past 5 years I am glad to see the old year exit and have hope for the new one.  Once again I find myself in this same position, and I’m starting to find it all rather comical.  If I don’t laugh, I may never stop crying and that’s not how I want to live my life.  So 2015 began with a lot of hope, but after the cancer spread to my brain, my implant rupturing, and some family issues, I am looking forward to 2016 to be better.

I look at it this way, I’ve already had the worst things happen to me, so things can only go up from here right?  I have hope because without it I let the Cancer win, and that’s not going to happen.  Even if it does claim my life one day, it will have lost because I have lived longer than the statistics said I would already.  I have hope because there are new treatments on the horizon, and a cure not far away. One of these may put me into a long term remission and I could live to 70.  I have hope because my daughters refuse to allow me to die.  It’s not an option, and when I am feeling down, they pick me up to go on fighting.  Finally, I have hope because my husband cannot do what I do for the girls and so I will just have to stick around!

Hope allows us to overcome the rough spots and bumps on our journey through life.  Without hope, there is only desolation, depression, and fear. People need to hope so they can dream of a better future, and stay positive.  Even in the most dire of situations, there is always hope.  It’s how our brain figures out our next move to resolve the problem.

So for 2016, I have hope for several things I would like to share with you.  First, I hope there is a clinical trial or new therapy that can put my cancer into a long term remission.  Second, I hope this blog continues to grow, and that its words can hep others going through cancer, or find a new book, or share my passion for writing.  Third, I hope to complete the book I am writing and have it edited and ready to find a publisher by the end of the year.  Lastly, I hope to do some traveling since I have basically gone nowhere!

I hope that all of you enter into the new year with hope.  May you all have love, happiness, good health, and people to share your joy with.  Thank you for being a bright spot in my life.

Why Books Give me Hope

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When I started this blog and was thinking of a name, I wanted something that would be able to encompass the three things I wanted to blog about, writing, books and cancer.  I also wanted the title to have some meaning.

Throughout my 5 year journey with breast cancer, there have been many times I have been so fatigued and exhausted from various treatments, that the only thing I could do was read.  Reading didn’t require physical exertion, and it helped take my mind off of my pain, nausea, fear, and worries.  Reading became a symbol of hope to me.  I was able to read about people beating worse diseases than I had, and living a better life than they had before.  I could visit times and places where cancer didn’t exist.  I could read about new treatments on the horizon for metastatic breast cancer which gave me hope.  Most of all, I could read for fun.  That was the only fun I could have at the time and I was so thankful that I loved it so much.

Books became my caregivers when I was alone in Philly having radiation for two weeks and couldn’t see my kids.  My books kept me from sinking into depression when I felt alone.  Old favorites like the Harry Potter Series were reread when I was at my worst because they were so familiar to me, I didn’t need to focus on them.  On days I felt strong, I would tackle a heftier subject matter.  Whatever it was, it provided me with a distraction during the bad times and made me smile and appreciate what I had when times were better.

Living with Cancer isn’t fun, but I can think of hundreds of worse things to have to deal with in life.  I never regretted getting cancer, and I still don’t.  I regret how aggressive it is, sure, but I wouldn’t change things.  Cancer has made me stronger, it has made me realize what is truly important in my life, and it has been a constant reminder of how short life is and why we shouldn’t take things for granted. I am a better person, a better mother, and a better wife thanks to cancer.  As long as I have my books around me, I will be ok.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Lots To Do, Little Time

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Happy first day of Winter!  Let me guess, you thought you hibernated and it was the first day of Spring because it’s going to be in the 60’s and 70’s for the next week?  Alas, poor Mother Nature seems to have lost control over Heat Miser and we are being punished with a warm Christmas.

Do not get me wrong, I hate the cold, and winter is my least favorite season.  The only time I actually want it to be cold and for it to snow is at Christmas.  If I wanted it to be 70 on Christmas Eve, I would have moved to Florida. I am so behind.  It doesn’t help that I had surgery yesterday to remove my ruptured breast implant either.  Thankfully, I can report that it went well, and I am in less pain this morning than I have been in 2 months.  What a relief to have that damn thing out. Anyway, I still have stocking stuffers to get for the hubby and 4 kids, bake several different types of cookies and a pecan pie, wrap all the gifts, rustle up the lazy teens to clean the house, make the food shopping list, and finish the laundry. Phew! It will get done, it always does.

This year it is just the 6 of us at home.  Nowhere to visit or people to have over and we are all excited about this.  Instead of a formal dinner, we are getting crab legs, and having all our favorite picky foods like potato skins, shrimp, veggies and dip, and my personal favorite, baked brie and brown sugar walnut crostinis.  I am sharing this amazing recipe to all you lovelies because not only is it easy to make, it is to die for, even if you think you hate Brie cheese.

Grab a bag of pre-made crostini toasts in your bread department.  If your store doesn’t carry these, simply slice up a french baguette and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Place on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, turning half way through, in oven at 400 degrees F.  Leave these on cookie sheet. Keep oven on.

Wheel of Brie cheese/1 half cup finely chopped walnuts/1 half cup melted butter/ 1 half cup dark brown sugar

Slice wheel of brie in half, and slice up the cheese in 1/4″ thick pieces, long enough to fit onto your crostini bread.

Melt butter in microwave, when done, add brown sugar and walnuts and mix with a teaspoon until combined.  The mixture should be on the drier side, rather than runnier.

Top each crostini with some nut mixture.  You can always go back to add more to any sparse ones. Once they are all topped, Place back into the oven for 10 more minutes or until cheese is starting to melt. Place on tray and serve while hot. Enjoy with your favorite sparkling beverage.

Happy Christmas eating,

Barb

 

 

Whispers to God at Night

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Hi God it’s me again.  I know you must be busy.  You must get tired of billions of people just asking for things every second of everyday.  Do you ever just want to yell at them to shut up? Or ask them why, for maybe one day they couldn’t just be thankful?  We are all needy toddlers screaming “up up up” constantly aren’t we?

I am thankful for each day you have given me.  I’m thankful for my beautiful daughters, my husband, and my 2 cats.  I’m thankful for being able to spend 44 years with my sister until her husband took her from us. I am thankful I have been blessed with some really great friends throughout my life.  For always having a home to keep me sheltered and safe.  For never going to bed hungry, unless it was Spanish rice night and then I’m happy I did go hungry. I thank you for my education, for all the different jobs I have had.  Thanks especially for giving me the chance to be a Doula and witness several babies be born.  Also for gifting me with an exceptional talent for sewing and being able to make some awesome clothes and handbags that made many people happy. Thank you for the ability to read, for books, for computers to use to write my thoughts, for smiles from strangers that brighten my day, or great haircuts that made me feel beautiful. Thank you for trees that graced the sky like poetry on paper. There are endless things I could list that I have been truly thankful for, but I wanted you to know some of the biggies.

I know millions want to be healed from cancer.  I know I have fervently prayed to you.  I had such faith that you could make me healthy again.  It’s ok that you couldn’t.  I know you are busy and I am sure that when I die, you will be able to tell me why you had to take Kim when I was already sick and going to go soon anyway. However, there are a few things I need you to promise me.  And if you don’t come through, lets just say I will not be voting for you in the next supreme being election.

  1.  You better exist.  Because if all this time I’ve been talking to myself, I’m going to be really pissed.
  2.  There better be a heaven, and it better be the greatest thing ever.  I want Kim and my pets waiting there for me and I want to look the way I did when I was 25.
  3.  You need to swear to me that my girls, and Kim’s son Matt will live long, happy, healthy lives.  No divorce, no death, no cancer, no homelessness, no more trauma.  That is the least you can do for 4 kids who didn’t ask to come into this world, and have seen more horrors than most adults ever see.  You owe me this.

That’s it.  There were only three so that should not be too difficult.  I also would like a sign that you agree to my terms.  If at all possible, could you allow me not to suffer very long.  I am afraid of the pain and the girls will be scared and feel helpless to see me that way.  This actually would go with number 3 of my aforementioned requests.

Thanks for listening.  Please don’t leave me.  I can’t handle this on my own.

Amen

 

 

 

Adult Coloring Books

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Earlier this year I discovered the joy of adult coloring books.  Careful, don’t let your perverted little minds go there.  These are books with intricate designs. made for adults to enjoy.  Remembering how much I used to love to color, I was very excited to see these on the shelves of Hobby Lobby.

There are books that have mandalas, animals, flowers, paisleys, geometric designs, and folk art.  They have become increasingly popular as a way to reduce stress and rediscover your creative side.  I have also seen Harry Potter, Outlander and Game of Thrones themed books.

Coloring is relaxing.  It is a repetitive action that soothes the soul.  It helps me satisfy the other creative juices in my mind other than just writing. The beautiful color options are endless and the design you create is uniquely yours and one of a kind.  It brings out the child in me and helps  me think about happier, simpler times, before there were adult worries and stressors in my life.

A cute idea is to color a favorite design in your homes color scheme and frame it.  You then can have a low cost unique art pieces to display and no one will know the difference!  If you loved to color I really recommend trying one of these fun books.  Happy coloring!!

Barb

Clumsy Me

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I fell this afternoon. I was taking out the garbage and when I stepped down from the garage door I rolled my left ankle and went down onto my right knee. I was scared I had broken my ankle and being alone what would I do? Thankfully I was able to put weight on it. My back twisted so that’s sore and my right leg hurts when I move my knee all along the outside of my calf.

I haven’t fallen in years. I felt stupid, and glad no one saw me. But I was also scared. Was my imbalance caused by a new tumor in my brain, or just me being clumsy? What if I really had broken a bone? Having cancer, you worry about every single pain, bump, or ache. Falling and breaking a bone is a possibility of bone cancer because it makes the bones fragile. What if I fell on my bad arm? I can’t even imagine the pain and damage that would cause. What if I wasn’t able to get up? How long would I lie there before someone found me?

My hubby says if I don’t feel better tomorrow, he is taking me to the orthopedic. My surgery is Monday and I really don’t need any more to worry about.

I am now pretty much confined to sitting on my flat ass, writing, reading a really good book that I will soon be reviewing, and watching hallmark Christmas movies. What a life!

Enjoy your Friday and be careful not to fall.

Barb

Facing The End

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Last February when it was discovered I had a tumor on the base of my brain, and then 2 months later another one on my frontal lobe, I was forced to face the inevitable that I was going to die from cancer.  I always knew I would, but when it was only in the lymph nodes I could fool myself that it would just stay there and I could live another 2 years.  All that changed when it spread to my brain.  Meeting with my oncologist cemented the fact that there was not much she could do.  Because my cancer was HER2+, it was very aggressive and spread easily.  There are only a handful of targeted therapies made to suppress the HER2 receptor and I had been on all of them.  My only option was to try yet another chemotherapy but they were harsh and none of them would cross the blood brain barrier.  After 5 years of being on some type of chemo or targeted therapy, of losing my hair twice, living with constant bone pain, fatigue, and nausea I had had my fill of drugs.  My body was breaking down from all of the poisons.  That’s really what they are you know, poisons that kill the cancer but everything healthy too.  My other option was palliative care which means they keep you comfortable and deal with your symptoms as they come up.  This was the way I chose to go.

I haven’t been on chemo since 12/14 and they removed the second brain tumor in May.  I haven’t seen a doctor since then.  I wanted and needed a break.  I wanted to feel like myself again and give my body time to purge the drugs and heal itself.  2 months ago, I began to have serious pain in my breast with the implant and my shoulder blade.  After some trips to the ER, it was discovered my implant had ruptured and that there was another tumor in my clavicle. I decided to switch my care from Philly to a group closer to home.  I have surgery on Monday to remove the implant and I see the new oncologist on 1/6.

I don’t feel good anymore.  I am exhausted all the time.  Walking up the stairs or even to the bathroom, leaves me short of breath.  The pain in my back and shoulder never ceases.  The pain killers aren’t helping much and I can’t eat or sleep.  I find myself staring at my three girls.  I’m trying to memorize every line on their face so I can take it with me.  I’ve left letters for them, filled with just a fraction of the things I need to tell them.  How do you say goodbye to the best gifts you ever received.  My 21 yr old Kait and my 18 ye old Erin are moving on with their lives and I know they will be ok.  It’s my 14 year old Emma that I worry about.  She is such a sweet, loving young woman and we have an incredibly strong bond.  She is the one who tells me I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.  She often says she ” doesn’t know why she loves me so much, she just does’.  I feel like its unfair that I had the least time with her.

I don’t want to have cancer anymore. I want to wake up and have my life back again. I want my dreams to be realities.  I want to finish my book and I want to go to Europe.  There are too many things I have left to do.  I want to look in the mirror and see two healthy breasts, not a deformed, hard form with scars everywhere.  I want my husband to look at me like he used to.  I don’t want to hear Emma cry “I can’t lose you mom”.  I have begged God to heal me. I guess he’s busy this time of year.

My family has lost so much in the past 5 years. My only sister was murdered by her husband on the 1 year anniversary of my mastectomy.  In that moment my life was changed.  I had to tell my parents, and my two nephews who were now orphans.  They went to school that morning and never returned to their home or school again.  We took them in.  Their father’s mother stole everything from them to pay for her son’s defense.  We had to wait 3 years for the trial, and in February of 2014 he was finally sentenced to 30 years with no parole.  During this time my youngest nephew became seriously mentally ill.  He had always had some minor problems, but they became dangerous once he lived with us.  After months of searching for answers and looking for help, he finally  had a breakdown and was committed for observation for a week at a clinic.  We were told he could no longer live with young girls around and he needed to be the only child in a house.  After two years of living everyday in fear and anxiety, my nephew went to live with his father’s uncle in Virginia.  Things returned to normal.  My older nephew, Matt stayed with us and is now away at college and happy.  My cancer returned three times from when Kim died, until her youngest son moved away. Stress caused it to come back, but I still had faith I would win this battle.

So now I am facing the end of my life.  It will be sometime in the next 6-9 months most likely.  This will be my last Christmas with my family.  There will be a lot of lasts I will have to deal with.  There will also still be firsts.  My daughter Erin’s first prom, and God willing her high school graduation.  I know I have been blessed, and I truly am thankful for each day I have been gifted to live in this world.  I just wish I didn’t have to make arrangements for the end.