Monday, November 17, 2014


Today is a HUGE milestone for transplant survivors.  In a way, today my transplant survivor status is official.  It's Day +100!!!!!

I can drive.  I can prepare food.  I can change diapers.  I can be in my home without adult supervision of any kind.

My post transplant scans all came back clear which was pretty anti-climactic.  We knew they would be.  I just can't get myself to feel much of anything about it because right now I can't get past the fact that my remission can be taken from me at any time.  I'm trying to focus on the positive and there is SO much of that in my life.

I'm learning that when it is most important for you to be optimistic, it's also the hardest to be optimistic.  So, in honor of reaching the +100 milestone with Bone Marrow that functions pretty darn well and without being re-hospitalized one single time, I present you with a list of positive thoughts:

  • There is no reasonable explanation for why I made it 100 days without having a single fever.  I had to go to the hospital 4 times during my first line treatment to have blood cultures done because I had a fever.  I went into labor with Avery because of a fever.  Somehow, this time when my immune system was WAY WAY WAY more compromised to the extent that I as not allowed to handle dirty laundry...not one single extra trip to the hospital.  In a house with 6 small children where the baby plays in the toilet, the garbage, and plays "Ice Bucket Challenge" with the dog's water bowl.  In a house with a potty training 3 year old boy.  That's crazy, and that's pretty awesome.

  • My husband is such a hard worker and such a super smart man that he was able to provide not only the medical care that I required but also Nannies 4 days a week so that I would be able to follow all my post transplant restrictions in a house with 6 kids who are home all day.  

  • I live in a town and a time where I have access to world class healthcare a short 20 minute drive from my home.

  • We are surrounded by friends and family who have supported us from the very beginning of this ordeal.

  • I get to go back to Pilates tonight and get back to swimming my laps this week.

  • My hair is really coming in and my eyebrows have come in so well that I have to pluck the ones that step out of line.  100 days ago I was completely cueball bald and had about 9 eyebrow hairs total and no eyelashes at all.

  • Regardless of the what the future may hold, I have this time with my family, right now.

There's a thing among transplant survivors where you post a picture of yourself on Day +100 so here it is, from my grainy cellphone camera, taken by my son Owen:

Hair: check.  Eyebrows: check  Eyelashes: check  Functioning Bone Marrow: check

Thank you everyone for your prayers, love, and support as I continue to walk this crazy cancer road!  Day +100 is not what I thought it might be, but it's still pretty darn good.

Monday, November 3, 2014

14 Days, 26.2 Miles, and 35 years

So...this is awkward.

I've been hiding from you which is not very nice considering how kind you all are to me.  The short version of why is that:

a.  cognitive function not in the crapper anymore but mostly at capacity with daily life
b.  living with my husband and kids again
c.  the longer I wait to write the weirder it feels to start up again

I was also approached to do an awareness post in September and I had a big mental panic attack because I'm SUPER conflicted about disease related awareness and so I just went into a mental bunker to hide from the whole thing.  Then I felt guilty that I didn't do it.  Then I felt guilty I didn't do awareness posts for ALL THE CANCER!!!  Now I decided to put on my big girl pants and give my adoring public what they want...half baked ramblings and haphazard punctuation.

14 days until Day +100

Today is exactly 14 days until I'm 100 days past transplant.  Starting day +100 I'll be allowed to do all kinds of things like drive, change diapers, handle raw food, and handle dirty laundry again.  I've already signed up for my first volunteer shifts at the kids' schoolish.  I cannot wait.  My recovery has been slow but steady.  My germ fighters (ANC) were fluctuating quite a bit for a while and I was having to get weekly growth factor shots.  I finally stopped the shots 2 weeks ago and had a pretty good count so hopefully that will continue.  My platelets and hemoglobin are good which is really nice, they're usually the last to come up.  Waiting for your blood to accomplish things is weird.  You feel like there is something you should do but other than eat and be active you're pretty powerless (really cruncheroos, sorry).  When it comes to germ fighters you're totally in the dark about whether you're improving or not, I've never been symptomatic (bleeding nose or gums) when my platelets were low, but oh my goodness, I could predict pretty accurately where I was on the scale for hemoglobin just based on how I felt.  My hemoglobin is on the low end of normal right now so I'm feeling great.  

I'm starting the re-staging process this week.  CT Scans on Friday and then next week PET scan, cardio/pulmonary test and DEXA scan to see how my bones weathered this storm.  My guess is my bones are fine because they have me on enough Calcium to cure a horse with osteoporosis.  

26.2 Miles for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Yesterday, my best friend from middle school and dear friend for life, Dr. Joelle Taylor, finished the New York City Marathon in 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds.  In the process of preparing for this incredible accomplishment she raised $4,655 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  She ran in my honor and I am deeply humbled and grateful.  Joelle, I am so proud of you and I am so grateful for your love and friendship!

35 years

On October 25th, I turned 35. 

 Remember in elementary school when you learned to round to the nearest 10?  5 or more in the ones place and you round up?  Well, Michael is 3 years older than me and so I've mercilessly teased him since he was 25 about "rounding up".  It went something like this..."You're so OLD, you're not 25 you're really 30!  You have a wife and a house and your age ends in 5 so round up!"  Super funny Nella.  That used to seem like a funny joke when we were dumb kids.  So anyway, we've been teasing each other in this manner for a long time.  

This year Michael gave me the old speech about rounding up (haha!  You're really 40!) and I realized that while it's not a guarantee, statistically there's a decent chance that rounding up is the closest I'll ever get to 40.  My chances for surviving the transplant were good, but the truth is that my chances of surviving this cancer for 5 years are not the kind of odds that make you feel awesome about the future. 

It's weird how our mind boxes things up without us really knowing.  After I found out that I had relapsed and went through the initial whirlwind, my mind became very focused on the task at hand and not on my prognosis.  As each step of treatment intensified I became more and more consumed with the tangible steps in front of me.  In the last few weeks as I've felt more and more healthy and my recovery from treatment has become less and less of a full time job, my mind has opened a door that looks like this:

Fancy bloggers with discipline would have photoshopped this to read:  "Don't Open, Cancer Inside"

One day a few weeks ago all of these really scary statistics that my mind had cordoned off behind yellow tape and razor wire were released back into my thought stream.  Now that I've survived the transplant process I'm back to thinking about cancer.  That may seem weird because how could you be at a cancer hospital and not think about cancer, but to get through something like the transplant process I really needed to focus only on that and not on the actual cancer stuff.  

I can't hide from the truth anymore, which is that the chance that I'll still be around and Lymphoma free in 5 years is 50%.  50% is actually being a little generous based on how quickly I relapsed last time and some other factors.  That's a lot of reality to deal with.  Truth is, sometimes I'm ok with that and sometimes I'm just not.  

Please do not mistake this for not having a positive attitude.  I've realized  through this that many people think that a positive attitude is some kind of magic spell that makes everything just work out.  I'm here to tell you that that is not why a positive attitude helps you when you're sick.  A positive attitude doesn't have much control over whether or not cancer grows in your body.  What a positive attitude does is makes you swallow your pills when you don't feel like it and you're tempted to think "What difference does it make?".  It makes you get out of bed and get dressed and go to the hospital when you feel like you just can't face that place again.  A positive attitude makes you keep moving when it's just so hard.  A positive attitude doesn't involve avoiding reality.

Michael and I have adopted a policy of "expect the best and plan for the worst".  We've started researching the most commonly used treatments for 3rd time relapsers and evaluating clinical trials.  I already have a list of questions for when I return to my Lymphoma Oncologist at day +100.  I may still have some treatment to go, even if my scans are clear, which they should be.  

I can't be positive that I'll make it to 40 because I know about math, but I can be positive I'll fight like crazy to get there.  

Getting old is the best thing that could ever happen to me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

26 Days

Tomorrow morning, on my 26th day as an inpatient on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, I will be discharged!!!  It's 99% certain which is as close to 100% you'll ever get from a doctor.

Thank you, thank you for your prayers and support.  This process is not over for me, but this is a huge and welcome obstacle cleared.

Please pray that I will never be admitted here again.  Please pray that I can leave this behind and raise my babies with the love of my life and tap dance into old age with him.

Please pray for my husband and kids.  I'm still not going home...I'll be at my Mom and Dad's for 2 weeks.  These 2 weeks are critical in ensuring that I don't end up readmitted.  This is the best decision, but it is a very difficult one.  We'll be able to see each other as much as we want, but they just want Mommy home.  Mommy just wants Mommy home too.

Pray for my Dad who will be in charge of my care and supervision for the next 2 weeks.  If anyone can snap this patient into shape it's him.  He's going to be in charge of my meds, making sure I'm exercising, monitoring my symptoms, and taking me to my appointments.  He's also going to be in charge of getting me to gain back the 10 pounds I've lost.

Please offer a prayer of thanksgiving for my husband who was nothing short of heroic during this time, for my Mom and Dad, for my In-Laws, for many dear friends and loved ones who supported us with prayers and meals and rides to swim lessons.

Please offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Aides, Nurse Practitioners, and everyone who cares for the transplant patients on 5 East at Roswell Park Cancer Institute with great compassion and skill.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day +13: Sometimes You Just Cry

*The management makes no promises for coherence, grammar, or punctuation.

I'm kind of a crier.  I cry a lot.  Happy, sad, mad, relieved, undecided....cry, cry, cry, cry, cry.  I cry enough over random stuff that now if my 10 year old son finds me crying about something and I start to tell him not to worry he kind of rolls his eyes and says "I know, Mom, sometime ladies just cry."

In the car, when there is ANY country music playing except Luke Bryan, if I see a really great bird, almost EVERY time I see my husband,  if I think one year--sometimes one month ahead in my children's lives.....etc.

I try really hard at the hospital to not cry at all.  I try very hard to be super special patient that causes zero trouble.  I say thank you for every pill, every IV pump reset and I say sorry for every single gross thing such as puking.  I apologize between pukes as though they'd assume it's my hobby and I just decided to fit in some recreational puking right now and I regret I've inconvenienced them with my poor timing. I need them to know I did not want to cause puke for them to handle.  I wish I had a stack of $5 bills on my tray to hand out every time I have to push the call button.  I HATE pushing the call button. I basically only push the call button when my IV is beeping because I know if I let it go they'll say "why'd you do that".  Anyway, I try to be sunshiney patient in their day and yesterday I was an epic fail.

Yesterday was day +12, or 12 days since my transplant.  I cried all day yesterday.  All. day. long.  Did I get some bad news?  Nope. Great news.  Yesterday was the day my Absolute Neutrophil Count was almost where it needed to be for us to tentatively maybe discuss, barring any unforeseen bumps in the road, the possibility of me being discharged at some point.  Possibly.  (It's hard for doctors to commit to anything). Today the news was even better.  My Absolute Neutrophil count needed to be greater than 1.5 and it's 1.76.  They're giving me one more growth factor shot to keep things jumping up and hopefully  after today I'll get a break from them.  They make me very achy.  I might even get unhooked from my IV's tomorrow.  It's awesome.  I might even go home sometime next week.

But I spent all day yesterday just crying and crying.  I just want to go home.  I just want to walk around with out dragging an IV pole everywhere I go.  I want to see my kids.  They've visited once and I was so happy to see them and they were happy to see me, but they each only got to visit with me for 3-5 minutes because there can only be 2 visitors in the room at a time and the people who weren't with Mommy had to be entertained in the waiting room.  I can't help but wonder how that feels to a kid, to not see their Mommy for nearly 2 weeks, then see her for literally less than 5 minutes, and then leave.  I can't think about it much because I know what it did to me.  It hurt like hell to watch them leave.  It hurt like hell to see their eyes darting around the room and taking inventory of "Everything they're doing to Mommy".  It hurt like hell to not just scoop them up and hug them properly because we have to be careful of my lines.  So anyway, yesterday I was a total sad sack loser.  I barely walked any laps, I just sat around crying.  If it weren't for my Dad coming to visit I wouldn't have done any.

Even now, when things continue to look up in very concrete ways and I'll be home sooner rather than later, I'm on the edge of tears.  I try really hard with the Medical Types to be super cheerful and courteous at all times.  Their job is really hard and the last thing they need to deal with is Mrs. Weepy McWeeperson.  Plus I'm paranoid that if they see my runny nose from crying they'll assume it is microbe related and ruin everything by making me stay longer.  No way.

I'm pretty mad at myself for crying.  Things could be so much worse.  I carry a lot of shame about the privileged life I lead, but today, I'm just going to say this is hard.  It really stinks.  I don't feel like doing this anymore.

Anyhoo, despite the whining and crying, 13 days out from the transplant, there is progress being made on multiple fronts and I am grateful for it, truly.  I still wish it never happened and sometimes when you carry something this big, you're just gonna cry.

Day +13 ended up much better than I expected when I started writing this.  There are lots of good things happening today and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

In case you'd like to know just how easy it is to make me cry with even the weirdest things...

Go to this link and understand that EVERY TIME I watch it I start tearing up by :44 and full on cry the rest of the time

I realize cool kids embed videos.  I just didn't have it in me.  But seriously you guys?  That video makes me ugly cry EVERY time.  That video is 3 years old.  Perdiodically for 3 years I have revisited this video to see if I am free from it's clutches and can be considered  marginally sane again and I CANNOT.  I cry everytime.

So there ya have it, sometimes I cry about cancer.  Sometimes I cry about Lester Holt holding up a cardboard TV cut out and some intern getting to bust out her backyard backhandspring on asphalt for the Today Show.  That's a lotta range.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day -8, Signing Consents, Mental Refiling

Day -8

Welp.  I'm here.  All hooked up to drug numero uno.  Etoposide for 30 hours.  I'm getting three different chemos over 6 days.  Yuck.  Today is day -8 (minus 8), which means I'll get my actual transplant in 8 days.  The day I get my cells back is Day 0 and every day after that is +1, +2, etc., until I get to day +100, which will be a huge milestone for me.  I've realized when explaining my treatment to people in real life that it's kind of confusing so I'm going to explain this phase more clearly.  First and foremost, it's important to know:

Bone Marrow Transplant Vs. Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant

In a Bone Marrow Transplant they actually put you under and drill out Bone Marrow from your hips or from a donor.  I'm having a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplant where they gave me growth factor shots and harvested stem cells from my blood stream using and Apheresis Machine.   Both of these treatments are called Bone Marrow Transplants interchangeably.  The kind I'm getting is much less risky since they're my own cells and bonus! no drilling.  During my last go round with Lymphoma I read about transplants but I filed it under "Doesn't Apply To Me" in my mind because, seriously, who ever thinks something like that will apply to them?  The whole thought process took about 30 seconds after I read about it: Step 1- decide it doesn't apply to me, Step 2- totally sanitize the reality of what I've just read because it doesn't apply to me, Step 3- file under "doesn't apply to me" which is just next to the circular file in my brain.  

Signing Consents Kills The Romance

So, now I've had to dust off that file and put it back under "Applies To Me" which is cross referenced with "Reality Bites (not the movie)".  Obviously, at no time since they told me this was happening was I happy about it.  But once I got going it seemed a bit romantic in a way...using my own cure me!  How human and sciency and just nice.  Don't get me wrong, it is nice.  It's just not as romantic as it sounds.  My transplant is really a rescue.  My cells aren't really curing my cancer.  I'm already in remission.  Again.  I need this transplant because the best chance at keeping my cancer from coming back is to blast my Bone Marrow to kingdom come using extremely high doses of extremely powerful chemotherapy.  I get 6 days of it.  The Etoposide I told you about, Cyclophospamide, whose evil twin I've already had, and Carmustine.  This Chemo is going to completely destroy my bone marrow.  All of it.  It is going to completely destroy the source of my red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  It is going to destroy me.  We need to wipe it all out in the hopes that any little bit of my cancer that is hiding will also be wiped out.  Without intervention following these 6 days of chemo, I would die.  I would die of some kind of infection, or I would bleed to death.  I would die.  The stem cells that were collected are being used to rescue me from my treatment.  For a short time, I will be mostly dead.

This is a TAD dramatic.  Only a TAD.
 The reality of this sunk in slowly as I explained the procedures to others, although in my mind it continued to have that sanitized soft focus sheen of "can't possibly apply to me" even though I knew I was describing my own treatment.  What really killed any romance in the idea of being "saved by my cells" was signing the consent forms for my treatment.  In bold on several pages it said "1 in 20" patients will not survive this treatment.  I've signed a Health Care Proxy and Advanced Directives.  I will survive this treatment of course.   1 in 20 doesn't really mean me because that includes 4 year olds and 80 year olds and people who are not in remission before transplant so obviously that won't be me.  That doesn't soften the impact of signing all that paperwork and having to write out in black and white "I am a Roman Catholic, if my death is imminent, please call a priest so that I can receive the sacraments."  It doesn't take the bite out of knowing I'm letting them putting something in me that would kill me without dramatic intervention.  After they put my cells back, I'll get blood products and antibiotics until such time as it appears my bone marrow is chugging along, producing what I need on its own again.  For now I'm hunkering down and doing everything I can to be a good patient.  

Thank you for your prayers, and if you can, please continue them.  Please pray most especially for Michael and the kids.  God's will for them is God's will for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Overachieving In Stem Cell Collection (Robert and Peter Do Not Look At This Post)

*There are photos of a medical nature in this post.  If you are squeamish this might not be for you...hence the disclaimer for my brothers.

Last Friday I started getting shots called Filgrastim to make my bone marrow produce tons and tons of stem cells.  I had them Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning.  On Monday I started another shot, called Mozobil, which actually forces all the stem cells that my bone marrow produced out into my bloodstream so that they can be collected.  The thing you should know about Mozobil is that they INJECT IT INTO YOUR TUMMY!!!!  But that turned out to be not a big deal.  I might ask to get all my shots that way from now on.  I know.  I'm shocked by this turn of events.  Before this if you'd told me I was getting an injection in my stomach I would have told you that if you tried it you'd be getting an injection in your eye.  I'm really not kidding though, shots in the stomach don't hurt as much as shots in the arm or your rear end.  Promise.

In related news on Tuesday Michael bought me some new bling.
He really spoils me.
I had a double lumen catheter placed for the stem cell collection and I will tell you what--you get the red carpet treatment when you're a Bone Marrow Transplant patient.  When they placed my port I had to wait in a waiting room and then wait in another pre-op area where they had everyone waiting in beds in stalls and when it was your turn they wheeled you in.  I did also need some sedation for that one because they mess you up a lot more to get the port in since it's totally under your skin.  Well, for this one they just walked me right into the operating room or procedure room or whatever they call it and I hopped on the bed myself.  I got all arranged and thought they were still doing all my numbing shots and the guy was like "Ok, 2 quick stitches and you're done."  Wow.  That was easy.  It felt tight and weird where it was and I couldn't wait to get it out, but it wasn't too big of a deal.  Anyway, they used that to hook me up to an Apheresis machine that collects my stem cells.  I'm hooked up for 4 hours, it's pretty easy except that you can't move it around like an IV pole so if you have to use the restroom you have to just hold it.  Actually, if you have to use the restroom there is a commode, so...I have to hold it.  I just do.  Luckily I didn't have to live under the threat of the commode for long.  I'm a stem cell overachiever.  The goal for me was to collect 2-5 million cells per pound of my body weight and the first day they got 6 million and change.  Nailed it.

I had to be collected one more day to be absolutely sure we have enough.  Yesterday I finished that and had my line removed which is really nice.  I have about 7 days untethered before they put another different line in for the BIG chemo and transplant.  Why do they have to change lines?  Well, the one for collection has to be really wide so that we don't damage any cells as they come out.  This line has 2 lumens (or feathers, as I prefer to call them) just one for the blood to go out and one for it to come back in and it is not the coziest thing I've ever had sticking out of a hole in my chest.  When I'm admitted I'll have a new catheter put in that has 4 or 5 feathers but it will be thinner and more flexible.  That's thinking too far ahead right now.  I took a pulmonary function test and as far as I know I did fine.  I'm not too worried, last time I crushed it.

For the next 6 days, aside from some meetings at the hospital where nobody pokes me, I'll be resting and spending time with my family.  Please pray for Michael and the kids, this is so hard on them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tales of Woe, Tales of Triumph And The Limits of bareMinerals

As I write this, I'm technically cancer free, which is weird because I didn't even do the hard part of my treatment yet.  What does that even mean, Nella?  I've finished two rounds of ICE chemo and I will not need a third.  I had a CT scan and a PET scan and they came back negative.  All good news.  Great news.  I've begun the shots that will get my stem cell production into overdrive and then force them out of my bone marrow and into my bloodstream.  I'll get a special catheter/line placed in my chest this Tuesday and they will begin to collect the stem cells.  This is such a whirlwind.  I'll be admitted the 31st of this month for the GIANT chemo and transplant.

I'm gonna do the rest of this post in reverse chronological order or maybe just weird disjointed stream of consciousness order.  Cut me some slack...I've got Chemo Brain over here.  I'm sure there are more literary ways I could do a post in reverse chronological order and I'm pretty sure I would be capable of conjuring them up and executing them but that's too tall an order right now.  So here we go, you know the first part, currently in remission and starting Phase 2 of treatment...

Tales of Woe:

I just came home after spending 2 1/2 weeks at my parents' house.  TWO AND A HALF WEEKS.  I came home from my last chemo on a thursday and our 7 year old Madeleine woke up throwing up that following Sunday.  Next thing you know, 2 1/2 weeks had passed as some kind of bug worked its way through the entire family, including poor Michael.  Michael has been, as usual, a hero.  He's been sick himself, working during the day, taking care of sick kids at night and in between bouts of sickness he's taken ALL SIX KIDS to THE BEACH and STRAWBERRY PICKING ALL BY HIMSELF.  Now I'm home and it's glorious.  I get tired really easily so I can't get much done, but I'm in my own house and the kids are just happy I'm around.

This past Friday I had a Bone Marrow Biopsy which is my fave (lies).  They did it right in the Lymphoma Clinic at the hospital, so I got my good news about my scans from the nurse practitioner and the oncologist and then they got me set up for the biopsy.  Last time I had one I was pregnant and I couldn't have any kind of medicine to help me relax.  I just had local anesthetic.  This time I had Ativan on board and they gave me a Fentanyl Lollipop.  I'm not kidding.  That is a thing.  Schedule II Controlled Substances in lollipop form is an actual legitimate thing.  I thought this was going to be great because Bone Marrow Biopsies really hurt and I thought this was going to help it hurt less.  I'm not sure if it worked, because it still hurt, which--whatever that's fine.  I kept eating the stupid lollipop because I didn't feel like it was working.  They don't really give you any guidance, they're just like "Hey, here's a Schedule II Controlled Substance in a lollipop, have at it."  So, anyway I didn't think it was working.  Until the biopsy was over and I tried to get up.  It was working.  I felt pretty loopy, but I gathered myself and I had Michael to lean on.  They sent us down the hall towards the reception desk and as I was chatting with the receptionist everything got sparkly and weird and I said "I think I have to sit down".  Then ALL the nurses in the whole clinic came out of nowhere to get me into a chair and give me emergency apple juice.

Even though I'm supposed to be going in reverse chronological order you can't have a proper laugh at my expense if I don't tell you that exactly 2 weeks before this I passed out in the exact same spot, so when we came into the clinic this time I was joking around and talking a big game about how there'd "be no shenanigans."  Thud.  <---That's the sound of me falling off my high horse.  AGAIN.  I perked up from the apple juice and they let me go and then I was going to have lunch with Michael!!!  I didn't really feel right but I thought I'd shake it off in the car, because this was the first time I'd seen Michael in a week and a half and I wasn't cutting it one minute short.  We went to Wegmans and I was going to get Chinese Food but I thought better of it when I got there.  I should have told Michael to take me home right then, but I powered through it because I missed Michael so much and I wasn't messing up our Bone Marrow Biopsy Date Goshdarnit!!!!   I worked really hard at keeping my eyes open, eating my soup, and being conversational while we were at Wegmans and then poor Michael drove me home to my parents' house.  Poor, long suffering, patient Michael.  We got about 2/3 of the way there and suddenly I realized something was NOT RIGHT.  VERY NOT RIGHT.  Thank goodness we're not very good at keeping our vehicles tidy because I quickly located a bag and THREW UP IN THE CAR.  Into the bag in the car but still.  Ugh.  It was really bad.

Michael pulled over and helped me and cleaned the whole thing up and put me in the back of the car where I'm pretty sure I promptly went to sleep.  I hope I did.  Otherwise I was super fun half conscious Nella who doesn't know how to just ZIP IT because there's nothing she can do to fix anything.  Half conscious Nella would have been slurringly apologizing to Michael over and over and OVER and Michael would have been within his rights to wish half conscious Nella was straight up UNconscious.  Michael is a gentleman and won't admit which one I was.  We finally got back to my parents' house and Michael put me to bed, where I stayed for 5 hours.  That night I ate some dinner.  Threw it up.  I slept hard the whole night and woke up to a revelation.  Fentanyl and I are not friends.  I might have had a hard time figuring this out except that I had the exact same pukey sleepy reaction to it when it was in my IV pain button after I had the biopsy on my lymph nodes a couple months back.  They said "hey, no more Fentanyl for you we think it's making you sick." and I was like "no problem I hate it."  I didn't remember the name of it because I thought it only came in pain buttons.  I didn't know they give it out in lollipops because WHY WOULD I EVER THINK THAT!?!?!?.  So Fentanyl is the devil and I hate it.

What other gross things have happened that I can tell you?  OH!  I'm part midwesterner now!  I have one liter of red blood cells from Davenport, Iowa coursing through my veins, I also have one liter of locally sourced blood because I'm trendy like that.  I also have one bag of platelets that are not my own as well.  Oh my gosh you guys it is SO GROSS.  Everyone acts like it's so casual: "Dum dee dum putting someone else's blood in you no biggie." but let me tell you it is NOT CASUAL.  You can see the whole thing--you can see the bag of blood just hanging there on the IV pole being bloody, you can see the blood going through the line and INTO YOUR BODY--and I'm here to tell you it's disgusting.  Miraculous, and smart, and life saving, and DISGUSTING.

So remember up there where I told you that Bone Marrow Biopsy day was the 2nd time I sent the nurses running for the emergency apple juice?  Well, here's the story of the first time.  You see, it turns out that IF you go and get chemo for three days straight and can't swallow anything because air is gross, water is gross, opening your eyes is gross, food is obviously gross, rolling over in bed is gross and almost impossible, etc., getting up at 6:30am the day after you are discharged to go back to the hospital so you can get blood drawn is not the best idea.  I mean, you have to go back to the hospital for your lab check.  They have to check your blood, but 7am is not the best time for it.  You can't go get blood drawn if you haven't eaten anything in 24 hours.  You definitely can't walk around the hospital unaided after having blood drawn and then wait in a waiting room when you JUST finished 3 days of chemo and haven't eaten for 24 hours, but this jackass typing right now thought she could.  It was on the schedule so I thought I should.

I woke up that day, sort of.  I ignored that I could only walk short distances without feeling lightheaded and that I had to sit(slump) on the toilet to do most of the getting ready.  I managed to get dressed and put on my bareMinerals.  I've written before about how much I love bareMinerals.  LOVE.  I put them on like armor (very sheer natural armor) before I head out in public (which is the hospital 95% of the time these days) so that everyone can exclaim over how "not sick" I look.  Particularly at the hospital I feel like it's a subliminal message to everyone there about what abysmal fail-y failures they will be if they don't get me better.  Overall, it works great.  Unfortunately even bareMinerals have their limits.  It turns out that if you turn gray (or grey), begin to sweat profusely, and then lose consciousness--bareMinerals can't hide that.  Don't write angry letters to Leslie Blodgett.  Essentially bareMinerals can't camouflage arrogance and stupidity.  I'm sure they're working on it.

Luckily I turned gray (or grey), began to sweat profusely, and lost consciousness in my clinic where all the nurses know me.  I ended up having to get fluids through my port and ended up breaking a streak I was pretty proud of.  This was the first time I threw up as a cancer patient.  As you learned in the tasteful missive you've just slogged through, it wasn't the last.  I have a tendency to puke when they flush my line while using my port.  I found out if I sniff an alcohol pad that sometimes I won't puke, so if you're a fellow cancer patient who forced yourself to read through all of this for useful information...sniffing alcohol pads when they flush your port might help you not puke.  More importantly, if you're a cancer patient you just read through all of this looking for useful information, the alcohol pad tip is useful, but this one is more important:

Listen to what your body is telling you and stop being an arrogant stupidhead who thinks they can somehow will themselves into being impervious to the effects of their treatment.  You'll end up saving yourself some humiliation and discomfort.

Tales of Triumph:

You know who I haven't told you about lately?
Remember me?

It's hard to believe that Avery Hope will be ONE YEAR OLD next week.  It's hard to believe that baby was on board when I started my first treatment but it's true.  She is doing great!  She's a chubby little trouble maker as you can see.  I'm amazed that just one year ago she couldn't eat, maintain her temperature, or BREATHE on her own.  Look:
Chubby Trouble Maker
A year ago she couldn't eat or she can rifle through the changing table:
Breathing, obviously eating well, and STANDING UP
So, anyhoo, we keep plugging away, taking each day as it comes.  We appreciate your prayers so much.  Sometimes, truth be told, I feel pretty low, but I continue to be amazed at the peace and joy that can underlie even the yuckiest of circumstances.  This situation stinks, but we are so incredibly blessed and surrounded by so much love.

How can I feel low for long when one of my oldest and dearest friends, Joelle, who is a doctor, wife, and mother of two small children is TRAINING FOR A MARATHON--THE MARTHON--the New York City Marathon actually, in my honor, to raise money for the  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training.  Please consider supporting her.  If she reaches her goal by August 1st, she and her husband will be donating $500 to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which is where I'm being treated.  Isn't she amazing?   She could lose a toenail.  Do you know that sometimes happens to marathon runners?  *JOELLE*  Please please do not lose a toenail.  I can't have that on my conscience.