Monday, November 14, 2011

The End

I woke up this morning with sweaty palms and a racing heart. It was 7:15 AM, and I needed to get my boys up and ready for school.

Six and a half more hours.

At 1:45 PM, I'd be walking into Memorial Sloan-Kettering to learn what would be in store for at least the next three months of my life. Will I be able to start putting the pieces back together, or will my body need to be poisoned and beat up again?

For the next hour and a half, I kept myself busy dishing out waffles and milk, wiping faces, packing lunch money and driving my babies to school.

Now what?

It was only 8:45, and my mind was already on overdrive. The what ifs were taking over the positive thoughts, and I felt the panic attack starting in my chest. I didn't want to deal with my feelings until I had to, so I forced myself up the stairs and went back to sleep for a few hours.

At 1:00, Jimmi and I were in the car and on our way. We drove in silence for most of the trip, mainly because I was busy answering "good luck" and "thinking of you" texts. My friends and family have been so caring and supportive over the last few months. I hated the thought of cutting myself off from them, once again, if I were to receive bad news. As horrible as it is, that's been my way of handling the cancer experience. The more difficult things would get for me, the more I would withdraw and hide from the world. Not the best coping mechanism, I know, but it was the only one that would keep me from biting peoples' heads off out of sheer anger and pain.

We walked into the cancer center and greeted the familiar receptionist with a smile. "Results day," I reminded her as Jimmi and I headed toward the elevator. "Good luck!" she called after us. The doors opened, and we stepped inside. Jimmi pushed the button for the third floor and the doors closed. We didn't move. A few seconds later, the doors opened again, but no one got into the elevator. "That's weird," I said to Jimmi. He looked at me and joked, "Wonder who's in here with us." Without even thinking, I said, "Maybe it's my grandma."

I was referring to my mom's mom, who died of cancer when I was 10 years old. After seven grandsons, she was thrilled when she finally got me. Her only granddaughter. I know I was very young when she passed, but I remember her so well, and I think about her all the time. I know she's been with me through this journey, and it made sense that she'd want to be with me today. For a brief moment, I was comforted by the thought of her presence. Then the elevator doors opened on the third floor, and the familiar, yet indescribable smell of the waiting area hit my nose and brought on the psychosomatic nausea.

I announced myself to the receptionist, and he handed me a clipboard with a checklist to assess how I was feeling. Stress level? about a nine? Ten seemed a bit too dramatic, even for me.

Jimmi and I found my mom sitting on a couch in the corner. She looked as uneasy as I felt.

"Suzanne?" called nurse Nikki. Here we go. Jimmi and my mom went down the hall to waiting room number two as Nikki took me in to get my weight, blood pressure, heart rate and two vials of blood. "Relax!" she commanded as she watched the heart monitor hit 103 beats per minute.

I joined my support team when Nikki was done, and shorty after, we were all called into an exam room to wait for Dr. Gorsky. Jimmi, my mom and I were laughing and making jokes as we waited, and then we heard the sound of high-heeled shoes clomping closer and closer to our door. The handle started to turn, and the three of us became instantly silent. Dr. Gorsky was only halfway through the door when she announced, "It's all good news!" "Really?" I asked, hardly believing her words. "Yes. Your scan was clear." It took a few seconds to really process what she was telling me, but once I had, all I could do was say, "Thank you for not making me wait too long to tell me that. Am I allowed to cry?" I looked at my mom, who didn't bother to ask permission. "I'm already doing that," she said as the tears welled up in her eyes.

Dr. Gorsky had said the words "Your scan was clear." But it meant so much more. With those four words, she managed to say, "Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" all in one.

"So I need to come back in three months for another scan?" I asked. The doctor looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, "You need to live your life. Then, sometime in February, when you get a chance, you'll have another scan."

Live my life. I can live my life again.

Another question. "My 8 year-old keeps asking if he can kiss me on the lips. I've been telling him no because I don't know about my immune system and germs. But he asks me every time I tuck him in at bedtime." Dr. Gorsky laughed and jokingly scolded me, "Kiss your son! Do whatever you want to do!" I couldn't wait to tell Justin. He'd be so happy!

My mom asked a few more questions until Dr. Gorsky finally said, "Let's not worry about that now. You had a bigger monster to fry; and you fried it. For now, consider it fried."

We thanked her, wished her a Happy Thanksgiving, and headed out. "Wait!" I said to my mom and Jimmi, "Do you mind if I go into the chemo suite and say hello to Mary? I want to tell her about the scan."

I opened the door to the area of the building that, for the last few months, I dreaded the most. But I had to see my favorite nurse. During my last day of treatments in September, I promised I'd visit and give her the news. As I walked into the suite, I pretended I was wearing blinders. I didn't want to see the IVs delivering poison into helpless veins. I didn't want to see the patients whose skin looked pale and grey. I didn't want to see the shiny, bald heads or smell the combination of latex gloves and alcohol prep pads. Finally, Mary made her way to where I was standing. She was holding an IV bag of saline with her left arm, but that didn't stop her from giving me a tight hug. "You look great!" she exclaimed. "Is everything ok?" I gave her my good news and she wrapped her arms - or arm - around me again. "I'm so happy for you."

As we were leaving the building, my mom asked me to call my dad and give him the news. I dialed the number and waited to hear his voice. "Daddy? I got a clear scan!" I figured he'd be happy. I figured he'd say, "That's great!" But I never would've guessed that my big, strong, manly father would literally burst into tears that would render him unable to get any words out at all. "Daddy?" I heard the sobbing on the other end of the phone. He managed to squeak out, "I'm so happy, Sweetheart. I'm so happy."

I proceeded to text everyone I knew as Jimmi drove us home. But I had one more call I needed to make. I dialed my ex-husband's number. "Can I please speak to Justin?" I asked when he answered the phone. "Sure," he agreed as he called our 8 year-old to the phone. "Mommy!" That voice melts my heart. "Hi Monkey! I have good news for you!" No, my kids didn't know I had a scan. They didn't know I was waiting for results today. Honestly, I don't think there's a need to give them a reason to think their mommy might get sick again. The news I needed to give Justin was special, just for him. "What is it, Mom?" "Well, I talked to the doctor today, and she said you can kiss me on the lips!" My little boy screamed with excitement so loudly, I had to take the phone away from my ear. "Really? I can?" "Yes, baby, really." "Hooraaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

I felt so loved.

Today was a turning point for me. I know my battle is far from over. Every three months, I'll go through the same agony of scanning and waiting. As long as all stays well, every three months will turn to every six months until five cancer-free years have passed. That's the goal.

Right now, I have good news. Right now, I'm cancer free. Right now, I'm making a fresh start.

That's why I'm choosing to end my blog now.

Today not only marked the end of seven months of Hell, but also the beginning of the rest of my life. I need to close the book on the negative and open a new door to what will come. I need to focus on living one day at a time and stop obsessing over this disease that has taken away too much of happiness already.

I will sign off now with the hope that the words I've written will give at least one other person the courage and strength to fight this evil monster...

and win.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scan Day

Tomorrow is scan day. My first CT scan since treatments ended.

I'm scared.

Well, I'm not actually scared about the scan itself. I'm scared to hear the results on Monday. Monday will decide whether or not I'll be thankful on Thanksgiving. Monday will decide whether or not I'll have a merry Christmas. Monday will decide whether or not I can hope to have a happy New Year.

The odds of Small Cell Neuroendocrine Carcinoma coming back and/or spreading are higher than I'd like to admit to myself. It's not your average type of cervical cancer. The treatment for Small Cell is very aggressive to combat the level of aggression of the disease itself, but the problem lies in the lack of research and test cases. You see, Small Cell is so rare that the doctors really don't know how to treat it. What I have is basically like a lung cancer in my cervix. The doctors don't know if it's best to treat it like lung cancer or cervical cancer, so they shoot it with both guns and hope for the best. But they don't know what treatment has the highest success rate because there really haven't been enough of us out there to test. Even my surgeon said he'd only ever seen three cases of Small Cell at Sloan Kettering.

I'm a guinea pig.

So, my scan tomorrow will cover everything from my pelvis to my abdomen to my lungs. If the news on Monday is "all clear", I'll be free to live my life for another three months until I'm scanned again. But, if Monday shows return or spread of the cancer, discussions of my options will begin.

Honestly, I don't think I'd be able to handle going through chemo again. I haven't had a treatment since September 30th, and I still don't feel like myself yet. The good news is that my hair is starting to grow back. I almost look like I have really short hair on purpose, instead of having really short hair because it's growing back from nothing. I even noticed some new growth under my armpits, which were the first places to lose it. I'll admit, it was very nice not having to shave for a few months, but I'm not going to complain about starting up that habit again!

Yes, the hair growth is great; and feeling a bit better is wonderful. But the best part about being off of chemo is having my kids back. I don't think it's possible to explain how hard it was to know that I wasn't capable of taking care of my babies. I could barely take care of myself. I saw them when I was feeling up to it, and they even slept over a few times, but it wasn't the same. Now I'm back in their daily lives. I'm cooking for them, helping them with homework, taking them to the doctor, cleaning up after them and doing their laundry.

It's amazing how the things I used to complain about doing have become the things I'm learning to cherish.

I don't want my life to change again. I need to get back to being me. Jimmi and I still have to go on our Honeymoon. We still have 12 frozen embryos sitting in a lab, just waiting for us to be their parents. I'm only 36! There's too much I still need to do! Dealing with the possibility of recurrences, spread, more chemo or dying young are not on my list.

Oh, please, let this scan be clean. I'll be asking again in three months, but for now, I'll take it one scan at a time.

Let it be clean.

Let it be clean.

Let it be clean.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's The Little Things

Jimmi and I were in Tennessee for my brother's wedding this weekend. I wasn't sure how I'd be feeling, so we chose to drive down on Wednesday, rather than risk hours in an airport and a bumpy flight that might make me more nauseous than I've been feeling already.

The drive wasn't bad. It was about 15 hours over the course of two days. Jimmi likes to drive, so he banged out 11 hours in one shot, stopping only to eat and pee. That brought us to Pigeon Forge, TN, home of the famous DollyWood, where we decided to stop for the night. It was bitterly cold when we got out of the car, and I was immediately reminded of the last few months of Hell as the icy wind blew through my wig and caused goosebumps to rise all over my bare scalp.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

After a short night's sleep at The Ramada, Jimmi and I explored the nearby town of Gatlinburg, TN. As we walked around the streets full of quaint, little shops, I noticed I was getting winded very easily, but I trudged on. Soon, we found ourselves standing in front of a creepy looking haunted house. "Let's go in!" I said excitedly. After paying for our entrance, I was told we would be going on a self-guided tour of the "Mysterious Mansion", which included seven flights of stairs. Six months ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about it. But now, I found myself wondering if I'd be able to get through the amusement without stopping to rest or feeling faint.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

Luckily, we made it through the house unscathed, and headed for the huge aquarium down the road. Jimmi and I entered the building, and the overwhelming smell of fish hit me right in the face. Instantly, I felt nauseous and had to talk myself out of vomiting. "Do you want to leave?" Jimmi asked with concern. "I'll be ok," I convinced myself. "Just give me a minute." While the odor didn't disappear, I was able to tolerate it enough to continue our day of touring.

We decided to sign up for a "Penguin Encounter" that would allow us to go with a small group and touch and take a photo with a live penguin. It sounded so cute! As we sat in the small room with 12 others, the aquarium employee told us a little bit about "Jimmy", our penguin friend. She explained how to touch him and that he may try to bite at sleeves or jewelry. Then she added, "And for any of you men wearing baseball caps, you might want to take them off because Jimmi doesn't like the brims and he may try to attack you." A thought instantly went through my mind that made me cringe. Thank God I was wearing my wig and not my baseball hat with the hair attached to it. How could I have taken that off? I couldn't have. Then I would've had to explain to everyone why I wasn't able to touch the penguin. I would've been so ashamed.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

Jimmi and I left the aquarium after our penguin experience and headed for DollyWood. But, as if we were living a scene right out of National Lampoon's Vacation, the theme park was unexpectedly closed for the day, so we got back on the road and headed for Nashville. We arrived at dinnertime on Thursday, and the hotel was swimming with family members who had just flown in for the wedding on Saturday. But it wasn't just my family. The bride's family was there too. Meghan, my new sister-in-law, introduced me to her friends and relatives, and by the greetings I was given, I knew they had all heard my story. I got the sympathetic head tilt, the grab of the hand, and the "How are you feeling?" more times than I wanted to count. Seriously, people, I appreciate the concern, but can we talk about something else? By the time my own cousin asked the same question, I rudely snapped back, "I really don't want to talk about it." I felt terrible for biting his head off like that, but I don't want to feel like the poor little sick girl anymore.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

Friday was a busy day. My mom and I headed out to a Bridesmaids' Luncheon with Meghan's closest female friends and relatives, then made a quick stop back at the hotel to change, grab my dad and Jimmi, and run to the rehearsal dinner. I dealt with more head tilts and questions about my health much better than I had the day before, but I refused to walk around and mingle too much, and stayed close to my table, where I felt safe from cancer discussions.

As the dinner came to an end, goodbyes were exchanged, and my cousins started talking about hitting the strip in Nashville later on. I was tired and cranky, but I faked an excited, "Ok!" and the plans were set in motion. We all shot back to the hotel to change, and off we went. I was nervous because I wasn't sure if smoking was allowed in bars in TN. I couldn't be around smoke. Not only because I can't stand cigarettes; not only because I have asthma. The main reason I couldn't be around a smokey bar, was because I didn't want my wig to suck in the fumes. You see, after a night out, most people can just wash the smell out of their hair and go on with their lives. Not me. Washing my wig is an involved process that requires a styrofoam head, about 25 straight pins, a spray bottle with a shampoo and water mixture, a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol, and a deep conditioner - none of which I had brought with me. I had to avoid smokers because I refused to let myself smell like an ashtray for the rest of the weekend.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

As we walked around looking for some good live music, I realized there was no way around the tobacco sticks. Everyone on the street was smoking, and the backdraft was impossible to avoid. As I sniffed the tendrils of my wig, I became increasingly more depressed. But my night was about to get much worse. We crossed the street and saw a young man with dreadlocks and traditional hippie attire holding a sign that said, "Need $1 for weed". I shook my head at his joke, and was jolted back to reality when I heard a woman's voice ask, "Hey, can anyone give me cancer?" I stopped in my tracks and looked into the eyes of the weed man's female counterpart. "Excuse me?" I said not quite understanding what she was talking about. She made herself clear when she asked, "Can anyone give me a cigarette?" I felt myself start to shake. My hands clenched into fists and I had to hold myself back from popping her right in the jaw. Was that supposed to be funny? Did she think asking for cancer as a clever synonym for a cigarette was a joke? I kept walking, but every part of me was dying to run back to her and say, "You want cancer? Take it! I don't want it!" And that was it. My night was over. I left Jimmi with the rest of the group, and my cousin and I headed back to the hotel.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

Once I was alone in my room, I decided to get ready for bed. The wedding was the next day, and I really wanted to get some sleep. I pulled back my wig, and realized the tape was starting to come off. Jimmi would have to help me reapply it in the morning. I continued my routine of washing my face and brushing my teeth, then I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Oh no! I looked more closely. Oh shit! They're gone! I pushed my face right up against the mirror and confirmed my fear. My lower eyelashes were gone. All gone. I couldn't hold the tears back any longer and they started to fall down my cheeks like rain on a windshield.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

In the morning, Jimmi helped me tape my wig back on, then we went downstairs for some breakfast. I had to eat quickly because Meghan's sister, Cathy, was picking another bridesmaid, Alexis, and I up so we could get our hair and makeup done. Another situation I was dreading. When I got married, my hair - wig - and makeup were done by my stylist, who is a very close friend. He's known me for years, and he knows my situation. This time, I had to go to an unknown salon, and see an unknown stylist and explain that I'm wearing a wig. I felt so embarrassed.

Cathy arrived at 11 am, and Alexis and I hopped into the car. I tried to act happy and excited, when inside I just wanted to scream, "Let me off at the closest Starbucks. I don't want to go with you!" But I couldn't do that. We walked into the salon and my heart started pounding. We checked in and went to wait on the couch. Within minutes, a very young, blonde girl approached me. "Suzanne? I'm Molly. I'll be doing your hair today." I followed her to a styling chair and plopped myself down. I had to tell her before she touched me. Should I just blurt it out? Her hands started to reach for my head and I lunged forward. "Um, I don't know if Meghan told you when she booked my appointment, but I recently went through chemo and I'm wearing a wig." I was mortified. "Yeah, she told me. It's ok. So what do you want to do with it?" She seemed fine about it, but I wasn't. I used to love having my hair done. I loved the feeling of the brush running through my long, shiny locks. I loved how it would massage my scalp and make me feel so relaxed. This was just the opposite. I didn't want this girl to touch me. I wanted to leap out of the chair and run away. But I couldn't. I answered her question. "Well, I really can't wear it up because you'll see the edges of the wig. Just do whatever you can with it as long as it's down and everything is covered." I wanted to cry.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

When Molly finished with me, she brought me over to Sun, who was scheduled to do my makeup. Oh, how I wish it had been just one person doing both my hair and my makeup. Now I have to explain it again in case she needs to move my hair off my face. "Um, I'm not sure if Molly told you, but I recently went through chemo and I'm wearing a wig." She didn't seem to be phased by my announcement. "Yeah, Molly told me. She said not to pull it or anything. I was like, what do you think I'm gonna do? Rip it off?" Ok, can I please crawl into a hole and die now? Oh, wait, there's more. "Oh, one more thing. I noticed last night that my lower lashes are gone. Can you give me fake ones?" She got right up into my face, "Oh, yeah, you're right. Hmmmm, well, we only do fake upper lashes here." Of course they do. Ugh! "Ok, well, can you just hide the fact that they're gone with some eyeliner or something?" She nodded and started the process of attempting to make me look normal.

It's little things like this that don't allow me to forget what I'm going through.

Cathy, Alexis and I left the salon photo ready. Though, the last thing I wanted to do was smile for the camera. I know it's not true, but I feel like everyone is looking at me and whispering, "She's wearing a wig. It looks so fake!" I used to be outgoing and vibrant, and now I just want to hide from the world. But I couldn't. We picked up our dresses and met Meghan at the wedding venue. I did my job as a bridesmaid and acted happy and did as I was told. But as soon as the reception started, I made my way to my table and I never left. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to be noticed. I didn't want to be Fred's little sister with cancer.

I just want to be me again. Will I ever be me again?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Mommy

I should be ashamed of myself.

Since starting this blog, I've written from the heart without holding back. But I just realized I've never written about one of the main reasons I'm fighting as hard as I am.

My mom.

Yes, I know she's been a main character of just about every one of my entries, but I've never taken the time to talk about how truly amazing my mom really is.

Now is the time to correct that oversight.

I never expected anyone to give up anything for me. But my mom has given up everything. Before cancer, I used to joke that my mom had more of a social life than anyone I knew. From meetings to movies to Broadway shows, she really knew how to pack in her days. Her schedule was full from the moment she'd get up in the morning until the moment she'd close her eyes at night. And to top it off, she and my dad had recently purchased a house in Florida, and hoped to spend a lot of time there enjoying the relaxation and time with their friends.

But all of that changed last April.

My parents were supposed to leave for Florida the week I was diagnosed, but for some reason, something told my mom not to go. They postponed their trip for just a few days, so I asked my mom to join me at the gynecologist's office for the results of my LEEP, which I expected to be totally normal.

Obviously not the case.

"They did find some cancer there..." Dr. Ferrante explained, as I stared at him in disbelief. My mom was there to hold me as I cried. I'm sure she was holding back her own tears, but she never showed them to me. She was strong and positive and kept me from losing my mind.

They never did go to Florida. From that moment on, my mom cleared her schedule and put me first. She accompanied me to every single appointment with the countless specialists I needed to see. She never said, "I'm busy" or "I have something to do that day." I was her only concern. If she had a prior engagement, she'd cancel it without a thought to be there for me.

My mom slept at the hospital with me when I had my surgery. She dropped everything and ran into the city at midnight (twice) when I had to go back in for infections. She was tireless. She never showed weakness and she never complained. If there was something I needed, she was there. No questions asked.

Over the last six months, that never changed. Not only did my mom keep up on all of my medical needs, she went far beyond that. I can't even count the times she's cooked for me or cleaned my house. She's been here to manage the mountains of paperwork and bills that have collected on my kitchen counter. She's organized my kitchen, made the home office workable for Jimmi, put away laundry, taken the kids on outings and tended to my pets.

But the one thing my mom can do that no one else can, is talk me off a ledge. I must call her 15 times a day just for reassurance. "Mommy, I hate how I look." "Mommy, I hate how I feel." "Mommy, when will this stop?" "Mommy, my kids must think I abandoned them." "Mommy, I can't do this anymore." "Mommy, it hurts." "Mommy, I don't want to die."

She always knows what to say, and she will always talk to me. She never tells me to stop complaining. She never tells me to just deal with it. She never tells me she doesn't want to hear it anymore. She says, "I know it's hard. You just have to keep fighting." "I wish I could make it better." "Your kids know you love them." "Think positive."

I don't know how I got so lucky. I've heard the expression, "You can't choose your family." But, quite honestly, if I could, I would absolutely choose to have my mom.

I love you, Mommy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hitting Hard

After such a positive, upbeat last post, I've been avoiding writing again for fear of bringing down the mood. Actually, that's not entirely true. I haven't really been able to write anything at all since this last round of chemo has knocked me right on my ass!

I forgot they told me the effects would be cumulative. I had an extra week off before my third cycle because of the wedding, so I was feeling pretty good for about a week. And for some reason, cycle three - while not a picnic in the park - wasn't quite as bad as the ones before. But cycle four, on the other hand...Wow.

I shouldn't complain. So many others are going through worse experiences in their lives right now. I should be able to deal with a little poison in my veins. But, quite honestly, I'm just sick of being sick. I hadn't really recovered from the last cycle before this one started, so it's really throwing me for a loop. I know I should be celebrating because this was supposed to have been my last cycle, but I'm just not in a partying place.

What if it didn't work? What if I have to go through this again? What if it's not over?

I'm scared.

I should be thinking positive thoughts. "Your attitude through all of this is very important," my mom keeps reminding me. But as hard as I try, it's not always easy to think happy thoughts when your head is in the toilet.

I'm really scared.

I have my follow-up CT scan scheduled for November 10th, with the results on the 14th. Hopefully, by then, I'll be back into a routine with my kids again. I miss them so much. But what if the results aren't good? What if this Hell has to start all over again? What will I tell my boys?

I can't think that way! My mom keeps reminding me, "Look at all you've been through in such a short time." Do I even remember it all?

Since April, I've had a LEEP, numerous PET scans and CT scans and MRIs, I've given myself shots to stimulate my eggs, I've had my eggs retrieved, fertilized and frozen, I've had a hysterectomy and my ovaries were removed, I was sent back to the hospital for an infection, I've had 28 days of radiation and four, three-day rounds of chemotherapy, I've lost my hair, I was sent back to the hospital for low white cells and I've gotten married.

Have I missed anything??

Oh yeah. My honeymoon. I missed that. And my kids. Haven't seen them very much. I really miss my old life, actually. I miss feeling healthy. I miss going to the gym. I miss hanging out with my friends. I miss waking my kids up for school. I miss helping them with their homework. I miss feeling like a person.

I feel like a walking science experiment. No ones knows exactly what to do, so they'll just keep trying different potions until something works. I hope.

I really hate that I'm being such a downer. In the middle of writing this entry, I called my kids just to hear their voices. Their dad called out, "It's Mommy!" and I heard a rush of excitement, then a joyful game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who'd get to speak to me first. Justin emerged victorious, and his bubbly little, "Hi Mommy!" almost brought me to tears. I listened as he told me all about the macaroni skeleton he'd made at school, and how he had memorized the Cub Scout Promise. Then Dylan took the phone and let me know the he, once again, was chosen for Gifted and Talented reading. He shared some ideas for his birthday celebration in November, then I let them both go back to dinner and homework. I hung up the phone after repeating "I love you" and "I miss you" over and over again. I don't understand how any parent can willingly decide not to see his or her children. It breaks my heart.

And here I am again. Alone in front of my computer. Jimmi is out picking up some dinner that I probably won't be able to eat, and I'm typing away while I'm well enough to sit up straight. I just want this part to be over.

I need prayers. Please pray that this will be over. Pray that my scans in November will be clean. Pray that they will stay clean. Pray that I'll be able to watch my kids grow up and graduate from high school, and college. Pray that I'll be there to congratulate them on their first job and dance with them at their weddings. Pray that I'll be able to hold my grandchildren in my arms and kiss them on their soft, sweet heads.

Please, pray for me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm Not Broken!

When I started this blog, I promised myself I'd be completely open and honest about all of my experiences no matter what. Well, now is one of those times where some of you might think, "Whoa! Too much information!" But I know that most of you are curious and want to know every detail of my life after radiation - especially the juicy parts!

So here it goes.

With Dr. Sidebotham's words, "You have no restrictions" ringing in my ears, I got to work using my dilator every other day. I started with the smallest one, which measures a whopping 2 1/2 inches in length and is probably the width of my index finger. While the first entry was a bit uncomfortable, I realized after two sessions that I could probably move up to the next size, which is just a little bit longer and probably a little wider than a roll of LifeSavers.

The routine is pretty boring. Snap the plastic cylinder into the plastic handle. Get comfortable. Lube up. Insert. Move in and out and side to side. Tighten muscles. Relax muscles. Repeat. Since it's pretty much a one-handed job, I can even keep myself entertained by Facebooking on my phone during the exercise. After five or ten minutes, the vaginal stretching is completed, and I can get on with the rest of my day.

During my dilator lesson with the nurse last week, she suggested that Jimmi help me with my work out to keep things interesting. But, unfortunately, Jimmi was away at a car show all weekend and I was left to handle things on my own.

But Jimmi came back today!

I really missed him. It was the first time we'd spent that long apart in almost a year, and it made my heart happy to finally see him pull into the driveway. I wrapped my arms around my husband and kissed him hello. "You wanna have a date night?" I asked. Since I'm starting what will hopefully be my last round of chemo on Wednesday, there isn't much time before I'll start feeling really shitty again. I wanted to take advantage of my last few days of feeling close to normal, and a romantic dinner seemed like a good way to do that. 

We went out to a restaurant we'd never been to before. We shared some appetizers, ate our meals and shared a dessert. I smiled as I stared into my love's aquamarine eyes, and we talked and laughed throughout the meal. Every now and then, I'd notice the white gold and diamond ring sparkling on Jimmi's left hand and I'd think to myself, "I can't believe we're actually married." But then I'd remember the one part that's missing from our marriage, and a wave of sadness would crash over me. I know I just need to continue working with the dilators and that part will happen in time. But when?

We got home and Jimmi went into his office to catch up on e-mail. After a few minutes, I decided to barge in on his solitude and shower him with all the kisses he'd missed while he was away. But then, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, we were upstairs in the bedroom!

What do I do? Should I stop this before it starts? Can I do this? I've only been using the dilators for a week. Will it hurt too much? Will it even work?

Screw it! I need to try!

I'll spare you the intimate details. But let me put it this way. My marriage is consummated and I was pleasantly surprised by the end result!

I'm not broken! Everything works! 

Yes, it's going to take some time before I'm completely comfortable with that activity. No, it wasn't perfect. But at least I know that part of my relationship isn't gone forever. It's only the beginning and the beginning wasn't bad! It gave me something I haven't had in a long time.


I have hope. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Radiation Follow-Up

I saw Dr. Sidebotham today. It's been just about four weeks since my last radiation treatment, and today was the day to check and make sure my vagina hadn't fused together. I know, I know. I'm exaggerating. The chances of that happening, while not impossible, were next to none. But I knew for a fact there would be shrinkage and the exam would NOT be fun.

Jimmi, my mom and I were called into the office on time and our old friend, Carlos, took my vital signs. After taking my blood pressure, he looked at me with scolding eyes, "Are ju dreenking enough, jung lady?" I put my head down in shame and answered, "I'm trying, but it's hard!"

I knew I was dehydrated and my blood pressure proved it. My heart has been racing for weeks. So much so, that I went to see my general practitioner yesterday to make sure there was nothing serious going on. "Dehydration and anxiety," was his diagnosis. "Push the fluids and salt to get your pressure back up." But, honestly, I'm still nauseous and that makes drinking anything very difficult.

Carlos asked me some standard questions and then he left the room. Shortly after, a nurse I'd never seen before let herself in. "Hi, I'm Maritsa," she smiled. After another series of questions, Maritsa brought out the familiar gown wrapped in plastic and said, "You'll need to take everything off so the doctor can examine you." I knew the drill.

Jimmi and my mom left the room so I could change. As I sat on the table, nervously awaiting the first vaginal penetration I'd had in over three months, Maritsa knocked and came back into the room with a pink and white box.

My dilators.

I stared at her as she opened the box to reveal a zippered, pink pouch that resembled a makeup bag. Maritsa unzipped the bag and pulled out a small tube. "This is the lube you'll need to use. Make sure you really lube it up." Oh my God. I can't believe we're having this conversation. I actually giggled as she pulled out the different sized medical dildos. "So, you'll start with the largest one you can handle without discomfort, because if it's too small, it won't really do anything." She looked at each of the five white cylinders as she pulled them out of the pouch. As she reached in and grabbed the largest of the group, her eyes grew wide and she let out a "Wow!" I grinned uncomfortably and quipped, "Yeah, I don't know if I'll need that one."

I glanced at the display of plastic sex toys on the counter. "So, what do I do with them? Just stick them in there?" Maritsa replied, "Yeah, pretty much. Start with the smaller ones and work your way up. You put it in and rotate it and move it in and out. Do it for about three to five minutes, three times a week. When you're a little more comfortable, you can even have your husband get involved and make it more exciting." I let out a loud, uneasy laugh, "Oh, that'll be fun."

When Maritsa had finished her dilator lesson, she left the room to find Dr. Sidebotham. Not long after, they both returned to start my exam. "Hello! How was the wedding?" Dr. Sidebotham asked with excitement. "It was great," I said happily. "I brought you pictures!" I was able to avoid the vaginal torture for a few more minutes with an iPad full of wedding photos, but I couldn't delay the inevitable forever.

"Let's get the hard part over with," the doctor said. "I'm going to start with just my finger first. Sometimes the radiation will cause adhesions where the vaginal walls will stick together in some areas. I can feel that with my finger and I'll be able to pull the adhesions apart before I go in there with the speculum." Wow. That sounds super awesome. I put my feet in the stirrups, scooted to the end of the table and braced myself for the pain. "I'm really lubing up, so don't worry. I'll go slowly." I think I may have heard that line in a dirty movie at some point in my life. Oh no! Here she goes! Relax or it'll hurt more!

I clenched my teeth and my face scrunched up as I felt her finger push past my born-again virginal opening. "Ouch," I winced. She went very slowly, pushing up higher and higher. Holy crap! If this is what a finger feels like, how will I ever have sex again? But, wait! Good news! At least my vagina wasn't fused shut. That was one of the reasons I didn't want to do the radiation in the first place. But I still had an opening!

After the quick exam, Dr. Sidebotham removed her finger and said, "Ok, I didn't feel too many adhesions, so we're good. I'm gonna use the speculum to take a look now." She took the plastic snoochie opener from the counter and headed my way. "It's gonna hurt!" I whined. "It's the smallest one we have. You should be fine. Don't worry." The doctor managed to get it in and open it up just enough to peak inside my love canal. "Ok, done! Looks good. There was a bit of blood from the adhesions, so don't worry if you see some spotting later. Now I'm just gonna use my finger again and make sure everything feels ok in your pelvis." Wait, didn't she do that already? No, apparently the first time she rounded third base was just to check for adhesions; this was the actual exam. She went back in again and did some pushing on the outside and some pushing on the inside, then she finally removed her finger. I was sweating and feeling faint, but it wasn't over yet. "I just need to do a rectal exam and then we'll be done with the hard part," she said nonchalantly. What? "But that side still hurts too!" I whimpered. "I know, but I need to make sure the lining is ok."

Oh, what did I do to deserve this?

The violations finally ended, and I was able to breathe again. "Ok, why don't you get dressed and I'll go get your mom and your husband,"Dr. Sidebotham said. I did as I was told, then sat there waiting for my support team to come back.

The two of them entered the room with the doctor and sat down. Dr. Sidebotham started, "Everything looks great. You're really in good shape down there. The biggest problem you have is that nothing's been in there for a long time so you'll need to really work at stretching it out with the dilators. There are no limits on your activities, as far as I'm concerned, so whenever you feel ready to have intercourse, go ahead. I will tell you that it will be very uncomfortable for at least the first few times. Maybe more. It'll be uncomfortable for you, Jimmi, because you'll feel like you're hurting her. And it'll be uncomfortable for you, Suzanne, because it will hurt. But, unfortunately, the only way to get past that is to keep doing it so you get used to it again."

Dr. Sidebotham explained that the more I use the dilators and the more we have sex, the quicker I'll return to normal. Well, as normal as I can be after radiation. Of course, the chemo next week will throw a wrench into my plans. I highly doubt I'll be in any kind of mood to do anything with my girly parts for a few weeks after that. But at least I know I'm allowed to try.

"There's one more thing we need to discuss," Dr. Sidebotham said cautiously. "I mentioned it awhile ago, but since the clear margin was so close to where Dr. Leitao sewed you up from the hysterectomy, I may recommend a few rounds of internal radiation. I'm still on the fence about it, though. We don't know for sure if it will make a huge difference in whether or not the cancer comes back, and the effect of your quality of life might not be worth it. You won't feel it like you did with the external radiation, but it could make the stenosis, or vaginal shrinking, even worse. I'm just not sure it'll be worth it in your case." My head was already saying, "Oh, HELL, no!" And then she explained how the internal radiation was done.

"The internal radiation is meant to go to a very specific location in the vaginal wall. We'll insert a large cylinder into your vagina - it has to be large to get to the exact area we need it to go. Depending on when the rays on the machine were changed, you could have the cylinder in you for five minutes or 25 minutes. While it's in there, a specific amount of radiation will be delivered to a specific area. We'll do it once a week for three weeks. Again, I can't say if this will make a difference or not, so I'm going to hold off on my recommendation until after you're done with chemo and Dr. Gorsky does your follow-up scans. Then we can decide what you want to do." I didn't hesitate, "I don't want to do it. I didn't even want to do the external radiation!" She nodded, "I know. Don't make any decisions now. Just think about it."

An hour and a half after walking into the office, my appointment was finally over. Jimmi grabbed my box of dilators, and we were on our way.

I was very quiet on the car ride home. My lower areas were sticky from leftover lubrication and sore from the beating they'd just taken. The thought of sticking anything in there again made me cringe, but I knew I would be in for a lot of poking and prodding over the next few months - mostly self-inflicted! I reached for Jimmi's hand and squeezed it tightly. "I'm sorry about all of this," I said quietly. He shot back, "Will you stop? There's nothing to be sorry about. You just have to get better!"

Get better. I'm trying so hard to do that. One more cycle of chemo and then we'll find out if I'm better.

Oh, please, God, let me be better.

I want to be better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Not Over

It seems that some of you thought that once the wedding was over, the writing would stop too.


I think people were thinking that my wedding was a way to celebrate the end of my battle, but the battle isn't over yet. Yes, it was an amazing, perfect day. It was the day I'd been dreaming about since Jimmi proposed last September. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and I'm so lucky that God was on my side that day to get me through it.

But I'm still in the middle of the fight for my life.

I should be in Bora Bora right now. We were supposed to leave on the Friday after the wedding for an amazingly romantic honeymoon. But, instead, I spent the week having chemo treatments. I know, I shouldn't complain. I did what I set out to do on September 3rd, against all odds. But I can't help feeling a little bit sad that I'm not sitting in my private, over-water hut staring down into the crystal blue water at a school of tropical fish.

Also, I know this is probably way too much information, but I'm sad about something else, too. How can I put it delicately for people like my dad, who will be reading this? Let's just say that I'm still broken down below. I haven't been given my dilators yet, so I haven't been able to stretch out what the radiation shrunk, so I haven't been able to perform my wifely duties.

And it sucks.

I feel badly for Jimmi. No, he hasn't complained at all. He just wants me to get better. But what if I don't? I mean, what if the cancer is gone, but I'm left without the use of my nether region? What if I can use it but it hurts and it's uncomfortable and I just don't want to? What kind of wife will I be?

I know I shouldn't be worrying about this. I know I need to keep my eye on the prize, as "wishbone Jen" would say. I know I need to get through one more chemo cycle in two weeks, then have scans from head to toe to make sure this bastard is out of me. I know I need to follow up every three months to make sure it STAYS out of me. But I still can't help wondering about the quality of that part of my life.

I know what everyone will say. "At least you'll have a life." And it's true. Hopefully, I've fought hard enough and hopefully the bitch won't come back. Hopefully I'll be around to watch my babies grow up and graduate and get married and have their own babies.

But I still can't help feeling scared and depressed over this one little issue.

Think about it. Think about starting a brand new marriage with the love of your life. Think about the many years you hope to have with that person. Think about forever. Then think about not being able to fully express your love for that person. Think about what it would do to your relationship. Think about the stress and the worry that if you can't do it, someone else will. I don't want to think about it, but I have to.

As I sit here on my deck feeling the waves of nausea left over from last week's doses of poison, I can't help but wonder what's in store for me. My wig is itchy and my arms are bruised and my heart is aching. I miss my kids so much. They should be here right now, but I'm not well enough to be their mom. I only see them if I'm feeling up to it, and it's just not enough. Are they forgetting about me? Do they think I've abandoned them?

I guess this is the crash after the high of the wedding day. I had so much to look forward to and so much to work for. Now I just have the reality of my life.

No more fairy tales, no more daydreams.

Just life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Wedding Day

I'm married!!!

Most of the doctors warned me to postpone it. They shrugged their shoulders and looked at me with doubtful eyes when I asked if they thought I could do it. Well I showed them!

I did it!

I didn't get much sleep the night before the wedding. I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but I woke up at 6:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I checked the weather on my phone and frowned at the chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The ceremony was scheduled for 5:30 pm! Oh well, nothing I'd be able to do about that. After lying there staring at the ceiling for another 2 1/2 hours, I finally decided to get up and wake the boys, who had actually slept at my house for the first time since I started chemo treatments.

Both boys took showers and I made them chocolate chip pancake puffs and Taylor ham for breakfast. Jimmi was upstairs getting ready while I hung out in my pajamas for as long as possible. My stomach was bothering me, but I ignored it.

When all three of the men in my life were clean and dressed in casual, pre-wedding clothes, I finally went upstairs to take a shower and pack for the day and for the night in the bridal suite. I carefully checked each of the bags. Headpiece, bracelet, rings, shoes, boys' tuxes, Jimmi's tux, games and snacks for the kids, toiletries, make-up, wig tape, hair brush, clutch. Did I have everything? My mom was bringing my dress, so I didn't have to worry about that. Yup, I think we're good. We were just about ready to go, but I couldn't ignore my nausea anymore. I popped a pill and hoped for the best.

Jimmi packed up the car. The boys, a babysitter and I hopped in, and we were on our way. I know, I know. Jimmi wasn't supposed to see me before the wedding, but we really didn't have a choice. I'm on so many drugs that have heavy machinery warnings that I didn't really feel safe driving myself. It's ok! My hair - or my wig - wasn't done, my makeup hadn't been applied and my dress was nowhere in sight. Once we arrived at the wedding venue, we would be in two separate areas of the mansion until we were all dressed and ready and the photographer set up our "meeting".

Barely an hour later, we were there. Skylands Manor looked like a castle from a fairy tale. MY fairy tale. From the stone face to the arched, wooden doorway, to the perfectly manicured landscaping, everything was beautiful. The weather was holding up, though it was a bit overcast and very humid.

We got out of the car and headed inside to look for our event coordinator, Linda. She greeted us with a huge smile. "I'm so excited for you!" she exclaimed when she saw us. Linda showed us to the bridal suite and we dropped off our bags. "Where can Jimmi and the boys hang out while I'm getting ready?" I asked. "They can go to the library. Wait, there's a rec room on the third floor with a big screen TV, games and a pool table. How's that?" Dylan's eyes lit up. "A pool table? Let's go there!"

We followed Linda to the third floor where I settled the kids in with their babysitter, Jimmi and Jimmi's brother, Dan. Dylan immediately roped Dan into a game of pool, while Justin set up a chess board and started to teach the babysitter how to play. I giggled as I looked at the shirt Justin was wearing, which was a gift from Jimmi and I. It was a black t-shirt with white letters that read "RPA - Ring Protection Agency". To make the ensemble even cuter, he was also wearing a silver, star-shaped RPA badge and black sunglasses. It was the perfect present for my little ring bearer who wants to be a spy when he grows up. Then I noticed the time. "I need to go and wait for my stylist now," I told them. "Be good and I'll see you in a few hours." "Bye, Mommy!" they called out as I kissed both of them and Jimmi and headed back to the bridal suite.

Jamie, my stylist, was set to arrive at 1:00. I had about 20 minutes to go, and I really needed to rest. I looked around my beautiful suite and found a chaise lounge that was calling my name. I kicked off my flip flops, straightened out my Swarovski crystal lettered "Mrs. Kane" hoodie, and flopped myself onto the soft cushion. I laid back, swung my legs around and crossed my ankles. I can't believe I'm getting married today. I peeked out the window. Still not raining. I listened to the silence for a few minutes while I got my thoughts together. Then I heard the footsteps and Linda's voice at the door. "Suzanne, your stylist is here!"

Jamie walked in with a big smile and a hug. "I'm not supposed to hug anyone because of the germs," I said, "But I guess I made an exception." Jamie scanned the room as Linda ran out to get a stool for me. The lighting wasn't great in the suite, but Jamie found enough outlets and windows in the bathroom to make it work. "Will you have time to give Dylan a mohawk?" I asked. Jamie smiled, "Of course. Let's get you started first."

I sat in the stool and gave him full control. Since I've been sick, there wasn't any time to do a hair and makeup trial, but Jamie and I have been friends for years and I trusted him to make me beautiful. "I'm gonna curl your hair first, then do your makeup, then put your head piece on." I nodded. "Whatever you want," I said.

Jamie heated up the curling iron and went to work. "Just make sure the edges of the wig won't show," I said sadly. "Don't worry," Jamie assured me. "No one will see a thing." A few minutes later, Orlando, my photographer arrived. He immediately started shooting the process. Just then, I got a text from my matron of honor, Jen. "We're here!" it said. Jen and one of my other bridesmaids, Andi, had just gotten their hair and makeup done and driven up together. I let them know where I was, and a few minutes later, they both popped their heads into the bathroom, "Hi!" they sang with excited smiles.

They stood in the doorway watching Jamie transform me from pale to pink with a few shots from his airbrush makeup machine. Orlando went off to take some pictures of my shoes and accessories, then came back with a concerned look on his face. "Where's your dress?" he asked. "My mom is bringing it. She'll be here in a little while." As if on cue, my mom sent me a text, "We're here!" I asked Andi to help with the dress and Orlando followed her to shoot it. "Make sure Jimmi isn't around or he'll see it!" I called after them.

It started to become really real. I was getting married. Everyone was starting to show up. My mom walked into the bathroom with a smile that took up her entire face. She looked at Jamie's work-in-progress and came over to hug us both.

Little by little, my bridesmaids and flower girls arrived. Each one was wearing a short-sleeved hoodie with rhinestone letters on the back saying "Bridesmaid" or "flower girl". It took some time, but I had made them all myself months ago. Now the day was here and they were wearing them!

Finally, Jamie was done with me and he went upstairs to find Dylan. We were running a little bit behind schedule, and everyone really needed to start getting dressed. I had heard that all of the groomsmen had arrived, and Orlando's other shooter was with them. I sent everyone off to get dressed except my mom, who stayed with me. "Can you help me with my dress before I help you with yours?" she asked. She pulled out the dress, which I had picked for her before I got sick. It was a beautiful, strapless, beaded gown, that was far from a typical mother of the bride outfit. I helped her into it and zipped it up carefully. My mom was stunning.

Now it was my turn.

We waited for Jen to come back to the suite, then she and my mom took my gown from its "Mrs. Kane" hanger, which was a gift from my brother's fiancee, Meghan. They unzipped and held the strapless, beaded, ivory, silk-satin piece in front of me so I could step in. I pulled it up carefully and let it hug what was left of my curves. All I could think was "Thank God my boobs are fake!" I've lost so much weight from the treatments that the dress would've fallen off of me if my boobs had gotten any smaller!

Before they finished zipping it up, we opened the door so Orlando could shoot the finishing touches. Click! Click! went the camera as I put on each accessory. When the florist arrived, my bouquet was brought into the room. It was perfect! White roses and mulberry calla lilies with diamond pins scattered throughout. The pop of color matched my bridesmaids' dresses, and added just enough of an accent to my bridal ivory. After a few more clicks of the camera, we were ready to set up the reveal.

The reveal, as Orlando called it, was the moment when Jimmi and I would see each other dressed and ready for the first time that day. We decided to do it before the ceremony so we could get all of the formal pictures out of the way early and be able to enjoy the rest of our night. "Just give me a few minutes to get downstairs," Orlando said, "then come out to the garden. Jimmi's back will be turned. When you get to him, tap him on the shoulder and we'll be snapping away." He left the room and I took a deep breath.

Here we go.

Jen and my mom helped me down the stairs so I didn't fall on my face, then they watched as I walked outside. "I think I should help you," my mom called after me. "I can do it. I'll be careful," I assured her as I watched my every step on the stone patio. "My dress is getting dirty," I pouted. Slowly, I walked to the steps in the garden. I looked up and saw the back of my groom standing about 20 feet away. I couldn't help but smile, though I thought I'd be crying. I lifted my dress and continued down the steps onto the walkway, then onto the grass. I saw the two photographers getting ready. Slowly, I approached Jimmi, and when I was right behind him, I tapped him on the shoulder. He said, "Uh oh!" and spun around until our eyes met. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, "Hottie!" I laughed and threw my arms around him. He pretended to pull away, then smiled and kissed me. I wiped the lipstick off his lips and he said, "Turn around. Let me see all of you." I spun like a princess at a ball and let him take it all in. "I like," he said. "Good choice. And Jamie did a great job on your hair and makeup." I swear, he always knows how to make me feel beautiful.

And then the barrage of photos began. Family photos, bridal party photos, fun photos, serious photos. You name it, Orlando shot it. Luckily, it still wasn't raining, but it was hot. Hot and humid. I was feeling ok, but worried about how the heat would affect me. Orlando told me to let him know if I needed a break, but I was determined to keep going. After an hour, I finally broke down and asked one of the groomsmen to get me a glass of water. Jamie came out to touch up my makeup and his protective side came out. "You need a break. You need to go inside and rest for a few minutes before the ceremony," he insisted. I agreed to shoot a few more pictures, then take his advice.

We finished up just as some guests were arriving. I walked through the crowd announcing, "No one look! You can't see me!" and hurried back to the bridal suite. My mom and a few of my bridesmaids followed to help me with anything I needed. Jamie needed to re-curl my hair and touch up my makeup and I needed to go to the bathroom. But how? I could barely sit in my mermaid-style gown, let alone lift it up high enough to sit on a toilet. "I'm gonna need to take my dress off," I said to my ladies. They helped me unzip so I could do what I needed to do, then I sat in a towel as Jamie fixed me. Not even 15 minutes later, it was time to begin.

I'm getting married.

My bridesmaids and my mom were sent outside to line up and I was sent to the Great Hall to wait with my dad and Dylan, who were both walking me down the aisle. It was the longest wait ever! "Do you want to sit?" my dad asked. "I can't really sit in this dress, I don't want to wrinkle it," I explained. We stood there for what seemed like forever until finally we heard, "They're ready for you now."

I slipped my arm through my dad's arm and held Dylan's hand. Slowly, we began the long walk across the patio, down the steps and through the garden. Linda met us right before we hit the grass and gave the bottom of my dress a poof. "Ok, go ahead." she instructed.

I heard the guitar and cello players change from the bridesmaids' processional song, "Faithfully" by Journey, to the bride's song, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, and we began. The smile was plastered on my face as we made our way to the rose petal lined aisle. I looked to the left and met Jamie's eye. I saw the tears welling up in the corners and I gave him a look that said, "Don't make me cry!" I scanned the faces in the packed crowd and felt overwhelmed by emotion. Then I saw my friend, Jessica, who flew in from Florida that morning just for our wedding. She was taking pictures, smiling and crying all at the same time and I felt my eyes start to sting. But I held back. I looked up and saw Jimmi. He looked so handsome in his leather-lined, black tuxedo with his black and white leather vest. His bleached blonde hair was slicked back and his aqua eyes were shining.

I can't believe we've finally made it to this day.

We got to the end of the aisle and Jimmi walked down to meet us. Dylan gave me a kiss then pounded Jimmi's knuckles. My dad hugged and kissed me and pointed his finger at Jimmi with a smile, "You better take good care of her," he warned, then shook Jimmi's hand and went to sit down.

It was time to begin.

Our minister welcomed everyone and set the tone for the wedding with an innocent mistake. "Susan and Jimmi..." I felt my body tense at the mispronunciation I hear almost every day of my life. But then I chilled out and whined loudly, "SUZANNE!" Everyone laughed, including me, and the lighthearted mood was set.

With each word of love our minister spoke, Jimmi would whisper, "Ewww!" We laughed and joked and playfully smacked each other on the arm throughout the entire ceremony. Our friend, Laura, read an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit called "What is Real?" and another from Captain Corelli's Mandolin called "Love is the Beauty of the Soul." When she stepped down, my nieces, Jennifer and Laura, got up to sing "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin. Then it was time for our vows.

Jimmi and I decided to write our own vows. After everything we've been though, we didn't want to do anything serious. We wanted to keep the mood light and throw people for an unexpected loop with our promises. Unfortunately, the microphone wasn't working, so I don't know if everyone was able to hear us. But these were the promises Jimmi and I made to each other during our wedding:

Jimmi: Suzanne, before I met you, I didn’t know what it meant to be in a serious relationship, or even what a real relationship is. But you showed me by standing by me through all the highs and lows of my career and my life. After resisting your attempts at commitment for 4 years, I finally gave in to your witchy woman spell. From that point on I knew I was ready to be your husband.

I think we’ve gotten the whole “in sickness and in health” thing out of the way, so…

From this day forward, I promise not to look at my iPhone while you’re trying to speak to me

From this day forward, I promise to continue your education on drums, Volkswagens and tattoos

From this day forward, I promise to reduce my shoe and denim collection to a reasonable amount

From this day forward, I promise to try to grow up and not to be such a hypochondriac

From this day forward, I promise not to immediately freak out and overreact whenever we need to have a serious discussion

From this day forward, I promise not to throw the drum sticks when playing Rock Band on expert level

Suzanne: Jimmi, before I met you, I didn’t know what it meant to truly be in love. I knew from the minute I saw you standing on the street in front of Crash Mansion in New York City, that I needed to get to know you better. I’m happy to say, that after over 4 years of intense training, you’re finally ready to be my husband.

From this day forward, I promise to stop constantly reminding you to do things you know need to be done

From this day forward, I promise to stop drooling over 80s rock stars in your presence

From this day forward, I promise to stop making fun of Volkswagens, even though Ferraris are much sexier

From this day forward, I promise to try and clean to house, just a little bit

From this day forward, I promise to let you have at least one cup of coffee in the morning before I start telling you what to do

From this day forward, I promise not to blame you when the Starbucks barista screws up my drink

Together: But above all, from this day forward, I promise to cherish you and love you with all my heart.

Jimmi and I giggled through the entire recitation, and our guests loved it. We kept the mood light and happy. I didn't want tears at my wedding, and I was doing a surprisingly good job of keeping them at bay.

After the vows, we exchanged rings, just like any other ceremony. But when our minister pronounced us husband and wife and told Jimmi to give me a kiss, I wrapped my arms around his neck and he made a face, smiled and pulled away from me. We all laughed as he said, "Just kidding!" and went in for the kiss to seal our commitment. 

Finally, we were married! Just one more special touch and the ceremony would be over and the party could start. We had planned to release white doves after our kiss. There was a box for my boys to release, and one for Jimmi and I to release. There were also two doves displayed in a beautiful cage during the ceremony, and I wasn't sure if they were just there for show or if they were going too. But we had another mishap. When it was time for the dove release, Dylan and Justin came up from their seats to do their job. We turned to find the woman in charge of the birds and she was nowhere to be found. We looked all over, but couldn't find her. "Should we just let them go?" I asked. Without realizing that the boys and Jimmi and I were supposed to release them, my brother opened both boxes and all the doves flew away. "Noooooooo!" I yelled and pointed to my heartbroken little boys. "They were supposed to do it!" I saw the looks on my babies' faces and the tears started to well up in their eyes. Then I looked over at the two doves still left in the display cage. "Go over and open the cage. Let them go," I said to Dylan and Justin. They looked at me with wide eyes, "Are we allowed?" they asked. "I don't know. The lady isn't here. Just let them go." The boys walked over to the cage and opened the door. It took a minute for the doves to realize the were being freed, but once they did, they shot out and flew away. My boys were so proud of themselves as they went back to sit with my parents. Unfortunately, I found out later that the woman who brought the doves had to leave suddenly because her husband and son were in a terrible car accident. I felt awful, but understood why she had disappeared.

And with that, the ceremony was over. We were married! Jimmi and I walked out as husband and wife to "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles, and our bridal party followed. After our marriage license was signed, we headed for the cocktail hour which was set up in every room of the mansion. Unfortunately, Jimmi and I never got to see it! We only made it two steps before we were stopped by our guests to be congratulated over and over again. I felt like such a bitch each time someone would lean in to kiss me and I'd hold up my hand and explain, "I'm not allowed to hug or kiss! I can't be exposed to germs." But I had to do it. 

We kept trying to walk, but we kept getting stopped. Luckily, my bridesmaid, Kris, came to the rescue. "Do you want me to get you some food?" she asked. "Yes! Pasta, please." Kris was on it. She came back with a plate of penne in lemon sauce, which I devoured as Jimmi sucked down a beer.

Before we knew it, chimes announced that the cocktail hour was over and our guests headed to the ballroom to wait for our arrival. The bridal party lined up and waited until each of their names were called before walking into the room to cheers and music. After the last name was called, the doors were shut, and Jimmi and I heard the music change to "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. "Here they are. Mr. and Mrs. James Kane!" The doors opened and Jimmi and I walked in to screams and applause. 

The look of the room took my breath away. It was even more beautiful than I thought it would be. Our florist transformed the ballroom into a black and silver wonderland with hints of pinks and purples everywhere. There were black, satin tablecloths, silver chairs and chargers, glass vases with vines and purple flowers submerged in water, and white, pink and purple flowers on top. I saw rose petals scattered on the tables and stem glasses with candles setting the mood. There were uplights in the corners with pink gels over them, throwing off a warm color that made everything so romantic. I couldn't believe how amazing everything looked.

The band finished our intro as the singer strapped on an acoustic guitar and broke into our wedding song, "Marry Me" by Train. Jimmi and I looked at each other with nervous energy, and began the dance we started working on months ago at Arthur Murray. We opened the dance with a "death drop" that had me almost flat on my back on the floor then back on my feet, and ended it with a lifted spin. Even after all the breaks in our lessons for chemo and hospital stays, we still managed to make it through the dance without too many mistakes.

Whew! The dance it over! Now what? "You wanna go see Danny?" Jimmi asked. Then I remembered the surprise we had for our guests. We opened the ballroom door and headed downstairs. Yes, we had a photo booth down there, but that wasn't the real shocker. The Danny Jimmi mentioned is a tattoo artist. No, he wasn't there as a guest. He was there to work! We hired two tattoo artists to come to our wedding and give our guests permanent favors. We weren't sure how it would go over, but we thought it was a unique touch. The artists were set up in the corners across from the photo booth just waiting for their first victims. Jimmi and I said hello, then we heard my mom's voice, "The band is looking for you! It's speech and toast time!"


We headed back upstairs. Our minister said a blessing, then my dad was called up to speak. I can't remember everything he said, but I know he talked about starting off on the wrong foot with Jimmi and making a mistake by judging him by his appearance. A toast from the best man and matron of honor followed, and then it was time to eat.

I looked around a few minutes later and noticed the room seemed empty. Jimmi and I headed downstairs and found our guests crowded around the tattoo artists just watching. People were actually getting tattoos! We couldn't believe it. My friend, Julie, came up to me and said, "He told me to come back at 10:30 to get my tattoo. They're almost full already." What? I walked over to Danny and said, "How's it going?" He looked shocked and said, "I'm starting a waiting list. I don't think we'll have time to do everyone who wants one." For real? Jimmi and I thought they'd be sitting around doing nothing down there and now they don't have time to finish? Wow! It was a hit! "Do you have time to squeeze Jimmi in?" I asked. Danny looked me in the eye, "We'll work around Jimmi. Have him sit down right now." I grabbed my husband and sat him in the chair. Then I watched with a grin and he had "9.3.11" squeezed into an empty spot on his wrist.

We headed back upstairs to try and eat and the band leader, Rob, who happened to be the drummer of the 80s band, Skid Row, stopped us. "You wanted us to play a lot of rock songs and we can't do it because all the younger people are downstairs. The only people left up here are the old people and they're not gonna dance. We've lost our crowd." It was kind of funny. We had to go downstairs and herd the crowd away from the tattoo artists so the band could have an audience.

Finally, the band started rocking and our guests were loving it. Everyone in the room sang along to "Livin' On a Prayer" and then laughed as "Jessie's Girl" turned into "Jimmi's Girl". Everyone was on the dance floor. The party was almost over when I reminded the band that Jimmi wanted to play the drums. The singer called him up and the crowd went crazy. He rocked out to "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Motley Crue, then Rob had him stay there and play "Rock n Roll All Nite" by Kiss. Our friends were screaming like it was a concert and I loved watching Jimmi's face beaming with excitement. 

The energy continued, and the party could've gone all night, but it was getting late and our contract had an end time of 11:30 pm. Rob said, "We have time for one more. Do you want Journey or "Youth Gone Wild"? I didn't even have the think about it. "Youth Gone Wild!" I yelled. How could I not have the drummer of Skid Row end the night with a Skid Row song? It was amazing! I felt like it was 1989 again. He even climbed up on his drum throne at the end of the song and knocked over the cymbals. How many wedding bands do that? I loved it!

At last, the night came to an end. We said goodbye to the guests who weren't staying over and I helped my mom get the kids into their pajamas so she could bring them back to their dad's house. I changed back into my "Mrs. Kane" sweats and headed to the ballroom that was already being broken down by the waitstaff. I found Jimmi talking to his friend, Pat. "There's a lot of beer in our suite. Do you know how it got there?" I asked him. "Yeah, I had two cases sent up," he said. I had no idea we were hosting an after party!

We finally made it back to our room at 1:00 am. Jimmi changed and our friends found their way over. I couldn't believe I was still awake and feeling ok. I obviously wasn't able to drink anything but water, but that didn't bother me. We chilled out with our friends and Rob from the band just laughing and talking until 4:00 am. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

And now I'm married. It's official! I don't have to worry about it anymore.

I made it!

I did it!

Nothing can stop me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tomorrow is The Day!

I'm getting married tomorrow!

Honestly, on Monday I would've told you there was no way I'd make it. I was so, so sick. But then my super smart mom offered her words of wisdom. "Stop taking the antibiotics," she insisted. I was put on an antibiotic as a precaution when I was in the hospital last weekend just in case I had a bacterial infection. Then my mom read the side effects on the sheet from the pharmacy, and the top three were diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Like I needed to add more of that to my life!

I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling less sick than I had on Monday. My mom called and said, "Don't take the antibiotic this morning." I'm not one to break the doctor's orders, "But, Mom, I have to!" She was stern with me, "I'm telling you not to take it. Call the doctor and tell her how you're feeling." So I did. And to my surprise, when the nurse called me back, she told me that the doctor agreed with my mom and I should stop the meds. "Nothing has grown in your blood cultures at this point, so you can stop unless something shows up."

My mom is a genius! I haven't felt perfect, but I've been able to function since Tuesday. As I've said in the past, I don't need to feel perfect, I just need to feel good enough.

I made it to my final dress fitting that afternoon. The dress was pressed and ready for pickup on Wednesday. It's now hanging in my parents' basement just waiting until tomorrow.

Last night was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It finally started to feel real! I can't believe all of those people were gathered there just for us. And there will be more tomorrow. I get so emotional every time I think about it.

I'm getting married!!

I'm not gonna lie, my stomach still isn't exactly right. Unfortunately, I can't eat anything but bland foods for fear of an emergency trip to the bathroom. Let me tell you, running to the bathroom quickly will NOT be an easy task in my wedding dress. I'm scared to death of how I'm going to feel, but I'm going to do this. I will also have no problem changing into sweats halfway through the reception if I'm uncomfortable, and I really don't think anyone there will have a problem with that.

I just can't believe it's finally here. Tomorrow I'll be Mrs. Kane. I'm going to do it. I'm going to feel well enough. I'm going to enjoy my day.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Just When One Door Closes...


I turned to look at my mom, who was crying happy tears for the first time in almost six months. My own waterfalls were being held by a very flimsy dam, but only because there were so many people standing around to watch me bang the gong that symbolized my very last day of radiation treatment.

Five and a half weeks. 28 treatments. 280 buzzes of the machine.



I hugged my techs Janis, Kerry and Bob goodbye and headed to the changing room for the last time. As I took off my gown and threw on my jeans, I thought about the last song I heard playing in the room during the treatment. Janis gave me a Posion shuffle, which was perfect, but the last song said it all. "Something to Believe In." That song never meant more to me than it did that day. I have so much to believe in. I believe the treatments will make me better. I believe I will get married next week. I believe it will all be ok.

Since it was Thursday, Jimmi had to go to The City to pick up his tuxedo, and I decided to go back to my mom's house to wrap our bridal party gifts. But halfway back to the house, I started feeling terrible. When we arrived, I immediately shuffled over to what I've decided to call "my chair" and plopped down on my side. With my radiation-burned ass and snoochie, sitting isn't usually the most comfortable option. Walking sucks, too. Come to think of it, there aren't many positions I can stand for more than a minute.

My mom covered me with a super-soft blanket and I was out cold...until the pain woke me a few minutes later. "Mommy, it hurts!" I really can be such a baby when I'm not feeling well. My mom walked in, thermometer in hand. She pushed the button - beep beep - then stuck it under my tongue. Beep beep beep beep. 99.8. "That's not good," I said. "And I'm so cold." My mom wasn't worried, "they say not to call until it hits 100.4. Do you want to lay flat in my bed?" my mom offered, "Maybe it'll help." I was willing to try anything.

I curled up in my mom's bed and tried to watch a movie. My head was hurting and I had chills. Finally, I got up and went to the kitchen where my mom was starting dinner. "I'm done in there." And I rested my head on the counter. "I can't even hold my head up." I stared at the unwrapped gifts that I needed to make pretty for our rehearsal dinner exactly one week from that night, and I just felt exhausted.

My dad and Jimmi arrived a few minutes later, and the dinner I'd requested was served by Super Mom. Unfortunately, after two bites, I had to leave the table and hit "my chair" again. I rested for a bit, then tried to join my family for a second time. No luck. Jimmi and my dad headed to the office to bond some more, and I sat at the table trying to force myself to eat the smallest bites of food. The tears started to fall, "I don't want to die, Mommy." She was a little taken by my comment. "I don't remember anyone saying that was a possibility. Please don't talk about that, you're gonna make me very sad." She got a tissue and dabbed at her eyes, then handed me a clean one. "I hate how I feel. How am I gonna get married like this? Why can't I just feel better for a little while?" She handed me the thermometer again. Beep beep beep beep! 100.0.


I'm gonna end up in the hospital, I just know it.

I laid my head on the table as my mom cleaned up around me. Every few minutes, I'd recheck my incredible, rising temperature. 100.2. Not quite there yet. Try again. 100.7. Oops! Skipped 100.4! "Mom, we need to call the doctor." She walked over and looked at how I was sitting, leaning to one side, wrapped in a blanket. "Sit up, take the blanket off and take it again." I did. 100.4. "Can you call for me, Mommy?" I'm really not sure what it is about me being sick and having my mom there that makes me completely shun all adult responsibilities, but it happens every time. Anyway, she did call, and I laid uncomfortably on a chair and waited.

Dr. Gorsky wasn't on call that night, but Dr. Graham was. I'm pretty sure my mom was relieved to hear that. It's not that she doesn't like Dr. Gorsky; she just has a really hard time with her accent!

After about a 15 minute conversation with the doctor, my mom let me know that I needed to go to the emergency room so they could check my blood counts. If the white cell count is low, they'd need to keep me. If not, I could go. Luckily, we didn't need to go to New York City this time. The chemo doctors are affiliated with one of the local hospitals in New Jersey, so we were able to go there. My mom said, "Dr. Graham is calling ahead. But you need to let them know you're a cancer patient and can't sit in the waiting area. You need to go right in." I pointed to my wigless head. "I think that's pretty obvious, no?"

I sent Jimmi home to feed the dog and cats and told him I'd call if I needed to stay. He kissed me goodbye, and I got into my mom's car and we headed to the Emergency Room.

My dad helped me out of the car and my mom went to park. I took baby steps to the door as my dad held onto my arm. A nurse greeted us and I was forced to say a phrase I never wanted to hear about myself, "Hi I'm a cancer patient with a fever. Dr. Graham called ahead." She smiled, nodded and gave a full-arm  wave to come on back. She handed me a mask, which I used to cover my nose and mouth and keep extra germs out. I just called myself a cancer patient. Ewww. Yuck. Gross. I'm so much more than that.

My fever was still holding at 100.4 when the triage nurse took it. Good. At least they won't think I'm crazy. I think the longest part of registration was listing all of my meds. Seriously.

They took me to a room in the ER immediately, and handed me a gown. I wish they would've just admitted me. I know my counts are down. I know I'm gonna need to stay. I really could've skipped the five hour emergency room visit.

Blood was drawn for a CBC and cultures. The line was left in my arm for future use. A warning sign was placed out side my ER room door to make sure anyone who was going to come into contact with me washed their hands and wore a mask if there was even the slightest chance they could be sick. We even kicked my dad out of the room for coughing. And then we waited.

There was an occasional EKG or chest x-ray to keep things interesting. There was a barrage of attending doctors, who I truthfully didn't want to listen to, and there was a TV that finally started to play Family Guy. Ah, some entertainment.

At about 11:00, Jimmi decided he didn't want to sit home and wait anymore, so he headed over to join us. That's when I got the results. Attending Dr. #1 said, "Your white cell count is very low. We need to keep you here and start you on broad spectrum antibiotics. If the blood cultures grow something more specific, we'll narrow it down, but you need to be here and you need an isolation room. That could take some time."

Great. It's already midnight. They decided to start my meds in the ER, just to get them going as soon as possible. I turned to my mom with a random thought to share, "You know, most of the stubble on my head is falling out, but there are some hairs that have grown back in. They're longer than the stubble and they're all grey!" She just looked at me, "Really? It's growing back?" I think she missed my point. "GREY! It's growing back grey!" I didn't bother to tell her that while I was getting ready for bed the other night, I noticed the infestation of white hairs on my head and they freaked me out. So, what did I do? The same thing any sane, bald girl would do. I grabbed my tweezers and started plucking those little suckers out!!

"We found you a room!" sang a voice at my door. Awesome! Of course, it was almost 2:00 am by now. We were all exhausted, and I knew there would be no chance of getting any sleep that night. But, here I am. I'll make the best of it.

I was wheeled down to my room, which had two beds set up, but before I could ask, the nurse came in and said, "You won't have a roommate because you need to be isolated." Whew! Sometimes I don't play well with others.

After I was settled in, I decided to be a big girl and let my entire fan club go home. After looking around at the selection of uncomfortable chairs, I didn't feel right having anyone try to sleep on one of them. I got kisses all around and watched my parents and my fiance walk out the door. Then I made myself as comfortable as I could, closed my eyes and couldn't sleep. I painfully tossed and turned, but between the positioning of my IV and the raw agony in my nether region, there just wasn't any hope for a restful night. Finally, at 4:45 am, my eyes closed and I drifted off to..."Good morning! I'm here to draw your blood!" My right eye popped open and peeked at the clock on the wall, which read 5:00 am. Not happening. I only slept for 15 minutes! And they just took my blood a few hours ago in the ER!! UGH!!!

Ok, the 5 AM blood-sucker is gone. Try again. I closed my eyes. Nope. Turned over. Nope. Stood up. Nope. Went to the bathroom. Nope. I was still awake when the nurses changed shifts at 7 and the new one came to assess me. I tried to sleep again, but there was a knock on my door at 7:30. "Room service!" and a tray of food I didn't order was brought into my room. Not even interested in that. I closed my eyes again.

Knock, knock, knock!

You've gotta be kidding me!

"Come in!" And in walks a priest. Was I actually asleep and dreaming this? Am I dying? Why is there a priest at my door? Is he coming to tell me I'm a sinner because I'm divorced? Or that Jimmi is the devil? "Hello, I am Father (Forgive me, Father, I don't remember your name). Is it ok if I pray for you?" What's the correct answer here? How did he even know I am, or was, or am Catholic? If I say no, will I go to Hell? Will I hurt his feelings? I do believe in God, so I know prayers are good. Oh, ok. Why not. "Sure." I said. Father I Dunno held his hand over my head as I clasped my hands together like a good Catholic girl. I said Amen when it was appropriate. I didn't fall asleep during it. And I let him anoint me with oil, even though I was quite sure it was going to stain my new, pink beret. I thanked him when he was done, and he left the room.

About a half hour later, my room phone rang. Seriously? It's 8:30 in the morning! I've slept for 15 minutes! Oh, that's annoying! Where's the stupid phone? Oh! It's behind me, in a corner all wrapped up in it's own chord. Ring! Ring! UGH!!! I jumped out of bed. "OUCH!" Unplugged my IV pole, dragged the pole around the bed, grabbed the phone, pulled the wires off, "Hello?" "Hi Sweetheart!" It was my dad. "Daddy? Why didn't you just call me on my cell?" He was silent for a minute. "Oh, I'm sorry. I just want to let you know I'm here so I'll be up in a minute. Do you need anything?" Just some sleep. "No, I'm fine."

My dad entered my room a few minutes later with terrible bags under his eyes. I felt badly for him. Because of me, he and my mom didn't get home until after 3:00 am. Here it is 8:30 am, and he's already back.

Knock, knock, knock!

Now what?

"Come in!" A balding man, who appeared to be about 60, entered my room. "I was wondering if you'd like to receive Communion today?" For real? Where am I? First the priest, now the Communion man? Again, how do I say no? "Sure." He looked at my dad and I and explained, "We're all going to say the Our Father first." How do these people know I'm Catholic? Do they just knock on everyone's door? We finished the prayer, I received the Bread of Christ, then the man asked my dad if he'd like one too. He obliged. Oh, I wish my mom had been there. The poor guy's face would've dropped to the floor when she said, "I'm Jewish!"

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful. I finally met Dr. Graham, who informed me that my white cell count was up just a tiny bit, which is good, but since I've now finished radiation, I'm allowed to have a shot that will help boost them even more. She also let me know that I'd need to stay until probably Sunday to give the blood cultures a chance to grow and to make sure I do well on the IV antibiotics. I figured she'd say that. Then she asked to see my backside, and after checking out the view, confirmed my own feelings, "oooh! That looks like it hurts!" Thank you, doctor.

After Dr. Graham left, my nurse came in to give me a blood thinner to avoid getting clots while I'm lying around. It was super fun when she said, "It's a shot that I'll put in your stomach and it stings a bit." I didn't care how pretty that sounded in her Australian accent, I still didn't want it. But five minutes later, she was standing over me, wiping my lower abdomen with an alcohol pad, then gripping a chunk of skin saying, "Little pinch. Little sting." Little, my ass! "OUCH!!' Oh, and it was one of the lingering stings. Was that really necessary?

Finally, my mom showed up with Cocoa Krispies and kisses for me. I was able to eat a little bit and then I just hung out in bed telling my mom what a busy morning it had already been. Jimmi showed up a few hours later with cards for our 5 year first date anniversary, and I realized how quickly our wedding would be here. God, I hope I make it.

The next time the nurse came in, she had the white blood cell booting shot. I felt better when she said it was going into my arm, but then she let me know it will sting too, and I just turned my head away and waited for it to be over. Yup. That one sucked, too. Dr. Graham had told me earlier that 10% of people have bone pain from that shot. She said sometimes it's the hips or the skull or the chest, so just be prepared. I asked the nurse about it and she said, "It doesn't happen right away. Maybe after the second or third day." Wait, what? "How many shots do I need?" I asked with concern. "Oh, usually as many days as you're here." Wonderful.

Since my counts were so low, I wasn't really allowed to leave my room and the door had to stay closed to keep germs out. My mom insisted I do laps around the room so I could get my body moving. Especially my bowels, which, after having diarrhea for four solid weeks, had decided to go on strike and not produce anything in about 5 days. I did as I was told, then, as Jimmi helped me into bed, I felt my chest go into pulsating spasms. "Ow! My chest! Oh my GOD!" I gripped my chest and sunk to the bed. "Ow, ow, ow, ow. It feels like someone is squeezing my chest. It hurts!"

Jimmi got the nurse and an EKG machine immediately appeared in my room. They were checking me for a heart attack. "Is this from that shot?" I asked. My nurse assured me that it doesn't happen that quickly. Then what the hell is it?

"The EKG was normal," said my nurse when she came back to my room. "I've called the doctor and she wants to out you on Nexium for heartburn." What is wrong with these people? "I haven't eaten anything, how would I have heartburn? And, really, that didn't feel like heartburn. Are you sure it wasn't from the shot?" She insisted that it was too soon for any side effects from the shot and that sometimes heartburn doesn't feel like heartburn. "Did you call Dr. Graham?" She looked at me, "No, Dr. Ahmed. The attending." I wanted to say, I don't want that doctor! She's not my doctor! Call Dr. Graham! But I didn't. "Oh, ok," was all I could muster.

The pain continued to get worse, but it really only happened after I'd been standing and I'd go to sit down. But it hurt so much I could hardly breathe. Plus, to make it worse, I had finally gone to the bathroom after my buildup, and now that area was burning and hurting as well. The nurses changed shifts, so now I had Maria taking care of me. She just happened to walk in on me while I was in intense pain and offered some meds. I'll take more morphine. It helped a little before. "I can give you something better than morphine and it'll last longer, but it might make you nauseous." Oh no! "No. I don't want anything else to make me sick." Maria said, "It will help with your pain. I'll give it to you a little at a time so you can see how you feel, ok?" She was right. I needed the pain to go away, so I agreed to her plan. She shot 1/4 of the dose into my IV, then had me wait. A few minutes later, I was loopy, the pain wasn't as bad, but I wasn't nauseous. Maria came back for another 1/4 dose. Same result, but loopier and less pain. My mom decided to bring a bucket and my tooth brush to my bed as have me brush right there. It didn't look like I'd be walking anywhere, at that point! Finally, Maria pushed in the final dose. The pain was gone and I was very happy. "I have to pee!" I announced. So much for not walking. Jimmi helped me to the bathroom so I didn't fall over, then he helped me back to bed. The pain was just about gone from this wonder drug. Maria insisted I call her any time I needed to use the bathroom through the night, and a "Fall Precautions" sign was placed outside my door.

I was so sleepy, that my family decided now was a good time to leave so I could rest. I kissed them all goodbye then fell into a deep sleep for an hour until the phlebotomist woke me for blood. Grrrrr!

Here it is, Saturday, August 27th. I found out that my white blood cells have quadrupled, which is great. Nothing grew in the blood cultures, which is also great, Dr. Graham confirmed that the pain WAS from the shot, so I was right, and I can most likely go home tomorrow, which is long as the hurricane stays away.

I also realized something else, a year ago, before all of this crap started, Jimmi and I had a choice for our wedding date at the venue we booked. August 27th or September 3rd. Obviously, we chose September third, but what if we had chosen today? I would be in the hospital, and we wouldn't be married. I also found out that since the reception venue is in the botanical gardens, which is run by the State of NJ, has been shut down this weekend due to the severe whether we're supposed to have. Both weddings this weekend had to reschedule or be moved to another venue. I feel so badly for those brides. They must be devastated. I know I would be.

But I look ahead into the forecast. Saturday, September 3, 2011. Sunny skies and 79 degrees. Perfect. Now all I need is one more miracle. I need to be well enough to get through my day. I have one week.

I can do this.