Chemo, Round Two: Check (kinda)

Last week I underwent a second round of chemotherapy. I had my chemo partners selected, pecan bars made for the nurses and fellow patients, and my bag full of goodies to keep me busy during the infusion.

Although none of this has been confirmed by medical science, I really felt like the first round of chemo was successful. Before the first round of chemo, my liver was inflamed, full of lesions and really pissed off. I found it difficult to tie my shoes, had a hard time rotating my mid-section and you could physically feel my liver protruding out from under my ribs. I also had a feeling of  pressure and discomfort in that region. Soon after the first round of chemo, all of those side effects and symptoms were gone.  Additionally, my liver function lab values had decreased by half. Hooray for chemo!  My next scan is scheduled in a few weeks so we will see if my hunch on its success is accurate.  My liver may no longer be the loser it once was. Sorry, Mr. Liver. I take back those ugly things I said about you. 

So with all of that good juju, I was ready to rock out this second session like an old pro.

My mom and I giggled through the first day. I completely forgot to take a picture of us, Mom. Sorry! That night she took me to my son’s baseball game (They won! Go Cobras!).  Thank you Mama!

My very dear friend Kelly J. joined me Tuesday.  We gossiped and cackled like the Golden Girls, minus 50 years. Okay, maybe minus 30 years. Details, details.
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Kelly S., my coworker and winery partner-in-crime was with me Wednesday.  I wore a brightly colored dress, matching sparkly flip flops and pretended I was sunning on a tropical beach with my gal pal.  All that was missing was a cabana boy with a palm leaf, gently stirring the tropical air and fruity cocktails.  Hey, a girl can dream!
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Thursday was what I like to refer to as chemo hangover: worthlessness, tiredness and overall bleh.

Friday was when things got a little more interesting.  The typical chemo hangover also includes dehydration. Unfortunately, it caught up with me. My blood pressure and heart rate bottomed out, and I passed out during a routine trip to the cancer center. The excursion turned into an emergency trip to see one of my MLOs, who helped me through with fluids and love. It was pretty scary for both me and my husband to experience. Saturday wasn’t as bad as Friday, but I felt a lot more up and down throughout the day.  I got IV fluids over the weekend.

I would be lying if I said there weren’t frightening moments and periods of feeling like complete shit last week. But even in the midst of all the chaos, I was reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many people that love me.  My bonus mom rubbed my back while I laid in discomfort.  My husband held my hand when I got hydration and dropped everything when needed. My best friend drove down from Denver to take care of not only me but my family.  My nephew and his girlfriend crawled into my bed one night and showered me with love and warmth.  My mom gave up most of her week and was on 24 hour call for me.  I now have a standing appointment with Robert for a weekly head shaving, because I don’t come close to doing it as well as he does.  

 
Maybe chemo wasn’t quite the walk in the park I had predicted. But when the going gets tough, my group of loved ones get going.  They are the fuel to my fire, my inspiration and the silver lining in this journey.

Mr. & Mrs. Clean

Thank you friends for the positive feedback on my pixie cut. It was a wonderful transition and made it easier to handle when my hair started to fall out.

Last week my head started itching, I started scratching and chunks started falling out. I jumped in the shower to help contain the mess and a mess it was. After the physical mess, there was an emotional mess as well.

My girlfriend Jessica, came to the rescue with a pair of clippers and my husband shaved my head to the best of his ability. The next day I drove myself to a barber shop and got a closer shave. Black patches and sporadic bald spots was not how I was gonna roll. I needed a few days to adjust to my new look so I laid low. Every time I would go by a mirror I would wonder who that person was staring back at me and realize it was me.

Yesterday I had adjusted to my new look and was ready for a close shave but I hadn’t a clue how to accomplish this myself. Who do I know with bald head? Hmmm… Robert! I gave him a ring and he came right over.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Mr. & Mrs. Clean…

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My Lucky #21

To make a very long and dramatic story short: my best friend, Elsa got deported five years ago. It’s a very long story, and I will write a series of posts about the whole ordeal one day.  But this post isn’t about her, it’s about her son: Brandon Betancourt.  Brandon–Elsa’s baby boy–just turned 21.  OMG, 21!!!!

Elsa and I decided to live together while I was in college.  But it wasn’t just me and Elsa.  It was with her two boys too. When I moved in, Brandon was 8 (I literally just pulled out my calculator to double check my math, and wow, I’ve really known him for 13 years).

Elsa was deported the summer before Brandon’s junior year in high school.  At the time I felt very strongly that he needed me.  He needed someone that knew where he came from; someone who knew the importance of playing football for the Mayfield Trojans; someone that would make damn sure he didn’t fall through the cracks.  With Elsa gone, I wanted to keep Brandon around. Some of it was because of my connection with her. But most of it was because when he was at my house, my family felt complete.  I still feel that way.

So in the two years that followed, Mayfield Trojan football again ruled my autumns in ways it hadn’t since I had been in high school. Friday nights, I threw burritos in the truck, drenched my family in green and gold and hit the road following Brandon’s high school football career.  Watching him play running back for the Mayfield Trojans was a blast.  He is such a dynamic player; one who was made big plays and put up some big points for the team.  Every time he would score a touchdown I would tear up.  I would message his mom the highlights so that she could be part of the fun.

When Brandon was a little boy – I promised him that I would spell his long last name out on T shirts in the stands. I’m a woman of my word.

My family and I got to be part of all of Brandon’s big high school milestones: prom, letterman jackets, MHS/LCHS rivalry games, and his senior year a state championship football game!!!  That game was one of the most exciting football games of my life.  Brandon had 220 rushing yards, and not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns.  That day, I cried tears of joy for him and because of him, just as I had throughout his entire football season.

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After the NM state football championship game. This pic melts my heart every single time.

After his high school football career, Brandon had the great fortune of being offered football scholarships at both UNM and NMSU.  Of course, I would have been supportive of any decision he made, but I was really hoping he would stick around Las Cruces and go to NMSU.  When he signed with the Aggies, I let out a sigh of relief. I would be able to have a front row seat on his next journey in life.   And a journey is exactly what it has been.  Once I started meeting his college friends we quickly adopted the words “aunt” and “nephew” to describe our relationship to them.  Genetically he is not my nephew and I am not his aunt, but I’ve never been one to get hung up on silly details.  In my heart he is my family.  I love him and he loves me.  It’s really just that simple.

Brandon has grown so much in his college years, and I’ve been blessed by the new cast of characters he’s introduced me to. I’ll tell you about them later, but for now, I wonder, “Where does the time go?  Brandon is already a junior!”

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While I initially felt that Brandon really needed me in his life five years ago, now I question how much that is still true.  Mostly, it’s because I see how he’s grown. Brandon has determination and strength that is incredible.  Yes, there have been moments he has stumbled–and I’m sure there will be more–but his drive comes from a place far outside what I could have ever provided him.

What I do know is that now, I need him.  He held my hand while I got my diagnosis.  He provides me a muscular shoulder to literally lean on.  He’s a young man of very few words but sent me this incredibly sweet message while I was waiting for my test results.

“One thing I’ve always lived by and always will live by is the power of believing! Everything is and will be okay no matter what the results say Friday! You–out of all people in my life–are very special, not because your my mom’s best friend or because you have helped me, but because you are so strong! I’ve never met someone that is willing to put in so much work into something just to see people happy at the end. I’ve never met someone with a better attitude than you! Thank you so much for making an impact on my life! You are considered one of the “greats” in my life up there with my mamma and grandpa! Keep being the role model you are!”

Neither of us have had much luck come our way recently. Life has been a roller coaster that we both wanted off at times. But what luck we’ve lacked in some things has been made up for in having each other. I love you, Brandon, my lucky #21.

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His mom and I give him big sloppy kisses.

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The two of us with his incredibly sweet, kind and beautiful girlfriend Alexis.

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The night before the Aggies played UT!