Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to Shave...Time To Shine!

Alright. I'm ready to write about this now. It's been quite an adjustment, as you can probably imagine. Your hair is important to you whether you realize it or not. Whether you complain about it everyday or just throw it in a pony tail or under a hat. And it's not just important to women. Men also cherish their hair (hair club for men anyone?)...hehehe. So my hair started falling out. Slowly at first, but it only took a few days. for it to get really bad. Literally raining down on my shoulders and having to carry a lint roller with me so I can clean up chairs and places that I sit. This first picture is of one of the smaller clumps of hair that would fall out every time I brushed my hair or ran my fingers through it.

"Of course your hair is falling out Valerie...your going through CHEMO!" May be what some might think. Well, with the type and doses of chemo I'm doing it is VERY RARE to lose your hair. I talked to my Dr and nurse about it and they told me that when/if people lose hair, it isn't ever enough hair that others will notice. I took some reassurance in this, but felt uneasy about how much I was loosing all day, everyday. Sure enough in about 4 days since it started falling out, the hair ball grew. Leave it to me to be an over achiever and prove them wrong. This is a pic of my hair loss after taking a shower.


That was a hard shower to take. I knew in my heart that my hair was done. I couldn't live with all the hair mess anymore. Feeling like a shedding dog, leaving a trail of hair everywhere I went. I even had to sweep the floor after teaching Zumba one night because of all the hair on the ground. I felt so gross. I made the call to Brandi, my great hair girl, and scheduled a time for it all to go. Here is a picture of one of my awkward bald spots. I felt like having a head splattered with ultra thin hair spots made me look sicker. Made me feel worse even. It had to go. I had it cut off October 7th, at about 4pm.

She had to do some preliminary trimming. I was holding myself together pretty well until she pulled out the clippers...



A few videos can tell the story better than my words...

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Feeling the clippers on my head was so strange. I didn't like it at all. The noise, the vibration, the hair falling all around me. I'll never forget it. Doubting myself the whole time. "Is this the right thing to do?" "Am I giving in to the hair loss, letting the cancer win?" Should I hold on to what I have for as long as I can?"


After the hair was gone I had a hard time. I wouldn't look in the mirror or let any one touch it. Which was quite a challenge getting ready to teach my Zumba class that night...but I successfully avoided all mirrors until I got my dome covered up. I did reveal my head to my class that night. They were amazingly supportive, of course, and I tried to look at myself again. That attempt ended in tears. I'm so stubborn sometimes. I didn't really look at myself for almost 2 days. Starting with just touching it at first, and looking at my shadow. Then seeing my reflection in my peripheral vision. It is a hard thing to get used to! Once I did accept the reflection looking back at me I was better, and the more time has passed the more comfortable I am with it.


Having no hair has changed me in so many ways. I never really appreciated myself before. Like many other women, I was super hard on myself. Pointing out and noticing my every flaw. My every imperfection. It is good to want to improve yourself, but I never appreciated myself PHYSICALLY. Always nitpicking. Now that I have lost that long brown hair that I used to hide behind there is nothing left to look at but ME! Pure 100% me. And how I was surprised by how much I liked myself. By how many pictures of myself I saw without hair and actually thought. "I look pretty!" (I used to try and avoid being in pictures. I hated 8 out of 10 pictures of myself.) So that is a HUGE step forward for me! And that's why I say I never appreciated myself. I had so much, and it took it all being threatened (and some of it taken away) for me to have this great growth in myself. Although I cannot pin point when I changed, when I saw things differently, I know that I see things as they really are now. I see what is important in life and I know that being unhappy about the shape of your face or about the size of your nose or thighs is POINTLESS! Don't do it! I see my beauty now. And it's not just in a physical way. It's like I can see my spirit too. I feel like I just want to SHINE!




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Queen Creek Zumbathon

We had so much fun at the Zumbathon put on for me by my friend Nereyda in Queen Creek!
Hereis her and I warming up the group in the firestation that the firefighters kindly let us use.

Amanda and I...she is also planning a Zumbathon for me!

It was a hot Saturday morning, but a bunch of Zumba crazies didn't care...any reason to dance!



This is one of my favorite pics...

Unfortunately I had to rest a lot. I had come straight from my chemo treatment. But I still had so much fun watching people.

My favorite Zumba necklace next to my new port. Ouch!

Some great friends from the Copper Basin YMCA where I used to teach. They even made me one of those cool tanks! Go Val, Go! (Rachel, Kelly and Mailyn)

Hanging with Nereyda and SaraBeth...they made this possible. Of course at the end I cried. I just felt so much love and support. I can NEVER thank everyone enough for coming through for me.

Cooling down in a circle around me....that made me cry too.

Over $1,500 was raised in 2 hours! I am so glad the event was such a success!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Random Thoughts


Fight.

Don't give in and let it win.

You have more power than you know.

Dig down deep.

It's there.

You think you miss the "old you".

Full of energy, feeling good.

Just imagine what the new you will be like...

Stronger, more grateful, more empowered.

Love them.

The kids will be fine.

They don't understand everything, but they know.

They know you still love them.

They know you miss playing with them.

They know you want to feel better.

Hold them and kiss them.

This will pass.

Pray for your husband.

He is doing so much.

You can see the stress he tries to hide in his eyes.

He is amazing.

Cry.

It's ok.

Its not weak.

No one will think less of you.

Rejoice.

In victory.

In love.

In miracles.

Ones that we've seen and ones that have yet to happen.

In healing.

In health.

Hair We Go...



My hair. *sigh* Don't get me started. I miss it so much. I have completed 3 full weeks of the GTF (Genetically Targeted and Fractionated) chemo. Because of the reduced dose, patients don't usually loose all their hair, but MAN am I loosing a lot. People keep saying that they can't tell the difference, but I think they will be able to see the difference soon. I had to get my hair cut again to try and camoflauge a bald spot where my scalp shows too much. It's upsetting. I'm not going to lie. I know it would be worse (probably all gone) with traditional full dose chemo, but for some reason that brings me little comfort as my hair rains down on my shoulders. It is getting EVERYWHERE! Kind of gross and very frustrating. I am determined to make the best of it and be grateful for what I have, but the loosing my hair does make me sad.

It is taking me forever to write this because my stomach is hurting so much right now. I keep stopping. So I'm going to rest now. It is only 9 am and I already need to rest....oh well. I will listen to my body and help it get well. Just one more thing...I hate cancer.


Monday, September 6, 2010

The Most Successful Yardsale Ever!

Some wonderful people that I go to church with organized a yard/bake sale to raise money for my treatment this past weekend. It was such a wonderful day!...HOT, but wonderful! I wish I would've taken more pics...SO MANY people came to help, buy and just donate. The yard/bake sale raised just over $1,400 and we had donations that day of about $1,800. So the days total was well over $3,200!!! Wow! Queen Creek knows how to have a garage sale!

Below you will see some of the tempting homemade goodies that were made. Cookies, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, etc.

Some cute inspirational quote cookies.

*love*


I want to thank those who organized, worked, made signs, donated items, bought items, set up, cleaned up, and even the cute little girls that set up a lemonade stand, which I didn't take a picture of (so sad), and donated what they made to the fund as well. It was a HUGE success and I am so honored to be the recipient of so much love and generosity.


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Saturday, September 4, 2010

They Surprised Me!


A few weeks ago my class surprised me when some of them showed up in "Go Val, Go!" shirts that they made! How cool is that?!? My class is so good at showing me their love and support. Thank you guys!!!!!!

At the end of class...I guess I wore them out! Lol! :D



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The "Old Mommy"

Life has a funny way of making you realize that you are in control of absolutely nothing. Sometimes it feels like a rude slap in the face. Well...let me rephrase that. You can control nothing that goes on outside of you. Even this cancer that threatens me. Even though it is technically "inside" of my body...it is not inside of me. No illness, disease or circumstance should be able to threaten my spirit or mindset. Yet is it really that easy? Can we just always be "above it all"? ....I'm not sure.... Always may be an unattainable word to use. Now as I focus on healing, positive thoughts, and love, I reflect often on times in my life where there were far smaller problems and situations and I just let them get to me and really get me down. Since I can't afford such reckless emotional behavior right now I try so hard to keep myself happy, hopeful and healing. Bad feelings will only slow down my progress. But sometimes things get in the way and break my heart. I am quick to mend it up again with my faith, but it still hurts.


My son Joey (above) is 7 years old, but his emotions and ability to pick up on things unspoken are well beyond his years. He said, "Mommy, I wish there was no such thing as cancer." "Me too sweetie. But it will be gone soon and all these Dr appointments will be all done too." "Ok "...then he just hugs me, kisses me and goes to play. He just has a sweet, sincere way about him. One day when I wasn't feeling well (I seem to get little annoying ilnesses easily) He said in a moment of honest child-like reflection, "I miss the old Mommy." Talk about a tear jerker! I held them in as I hugged him and assured him that I will be ok and will have all of my energy back soon. He seemed happy at that and left . My friend Kerry and I were both in tears. It is hard to hear things like that coming from your child. I want to shield them from those kinds of feelings.

I long for the end of this so badly. for it all to be behind us and just a memory of a victorious fight and a miracle made possible by other people's love and generosity. I long to be on the other side of service. To be the one serving and donating to someone who desperately needs it, making miracles happen in their life. But for now that someone is me. My family. My sweet Joey.

I am learning so much. Learning so much self control over my thoughts and feelings. I my feel the sad feelings, but I try not to dwell on them. I acknowledge them and move on. Focusing on something outside of myself. My children are a great distraction most of the time. My husband is too. We are so blessed to share the kind of love and understanding that we do.

Right now I am just looking forward to Sept 7th at 9:30am...treatment starts! I am glad to start so that we can look forward to the end. It's going to be a tiring schedule though. 5 days a week for 3 hours (not including the hour ride there and back). I will be treated Tues through Sat. The schedule makes me feel hopeful. That we are hitting it aggressively from all sides and we are not taking chances with a watered down protocol...even though that means less money. I am glad that I realize that my mindset is everything and that I have total control over that. It's not easy, but keeping grounded in my faith is a great place to start. Don't worry Joey, The "old Mommy" didn't go anywhere. She is still here fighting this off and winning.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No Words

I've been wanting to post on my blog for a few days now...I just have been struggling with what to say. The things that I have strong desires to do would be impossible. I want to personally call each and every one of you that have donated and shared the site to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I want to send you all cards and gifts. I want to visit you and give you a huge hug. I want to contact you in someway to let you know that we didn't just get your money and think nothing of it. We treasure every dollar. Donations from $15 - $1000 continue to come in. I keep waiting for the "buzz" on the site to slow down...for people to get busy with their own lives and move on. But as time goes on the opposite thing is happening. People are thinking of ideas to be able to donate, raise money and spread the word even more. I can't think of any thing to blog about because I am speechless. (A miracle in and of itself!) I wish there were other words to use, but "thank you" will have to do for now. Thank you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prayers Are ALWAYS Answered!

Sometimes our prayers aren't answered the way that we want or as fast as we want them, but through our faith, they are answered. Although it took a lot of searching, our prayers have been answered! A treatment center here in AZ that is a perfect fit for my situation! Yay! (Kind of feel awkward cheering for a cancer treatment, but it is what it is...find joy in everything.) So there is only on huge bummer...our insurance is inadequate for the treatment I need. Ugh!...a road block. We don't want to let that get in our way. We know that My life is valuable, and now that we've made the decision, somehow, someway doors will open and a miracle will happen. I know it will. My husband had the idea of putting up a donation site. Although I was hesitant about doing it, I am glad that he didn't listen to me. (Hear that honey? You were right!) It has been fully up for 1 day and we already have over $650 in my treatment fund! I cannot express fully my gratitude to those that have donated and have shared my site with other people. You aren't just helping me, you are serving my children. My precious babies that I need to be strong and healthy for. This is all for them.



We have a goal of starting treatment on Sept. 6th. We don't need all the money by then, just enough to get started, then of course enough to finish the protocol my doctors have designed for me. Again thank you for all of the love and help for my family. I am in awe of all the people in my life. I am so blessed. May you too be blessed with love and health. Those are priceless and should be cherished above all. (There is now a link on the right side of my blog that will take you straight to cureval.com...also my husband's idea...he was right before so I listened. Lol.)


Monday, August 16, 2010

Roads




What do you do when you are forced to drive down a one way road and suddenly realize that you aren't sure if this is the road that leads to the place you want to go? People that you love are telling you that this is the right road, and that the destination will be somewhere you want to be...but you're having serious doubts. But is there another route you can take? You never even thought to ask that question before. You take your eyes off of the road that you are on and you suddenly realize that there are all sorts of roads to take that you didn't see before. All with great possibilities of great destinations. There are so many roads in fact that it becomes confusing which way is right. It's not just a fork in the road, there are roads all over. Some paved...some well worn with use and others look as if they were just carved out. To keep from going farther down a road that could be a wrong choice, you stop the car....seems reasonable. Stop the car until you can determine which direction to go. "No, no! Keep on this road! You can think of where you want to go while you drive", say some of the people around you. "But what happens if I pass the right road, the one that goes where I want to go, and I don't know it?" You ask, realizing you can't turn around on a one way road...you can only go forward.

Well that's where I am. I have stopped the car. Please don't judge my choice. Even if you, or someone you know and love went through conventional chemo with success, I am currently looking at all of my options. Why not??? Isn't this one of the most important decisions that I'll make in my life? I only plan on being treated for cancer once and I want to get it right. To do what's right for me, my body and my family. I won't sit here on the road for too long, just long enough to learn and choose. Learn about my situation, learn about Hodgkin Lymphoma, and choose the best path to take. As this is a stressful and huge choice I ask that you pray for me. That my mind may be clear so I can listen to the heavenly promptings that will guide my choices.

I have struggled with whether or not to blog about this. It is such a personal choice and I don't want to insult anyone, spark controversy, or be criticized. But I ultimately decided that this is a part of my journey that I need to document. This thing that I'm going through will be a huge part of who I am after I am all done with this whole thing. Oh how I wish this was easier. I have decided that I am not battling cancer...I am fighting for health...for my future. I will find a way to beat this cancer down in a way that will leave me a long, healthy, vibrant future to look forward to with my family. I will. What I decide is right for me may not be right for someone else. But I know that I will have the support of my friends and family as they love me through my journey.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Will Do Anything for Love....But I Won't Do That!


Do you know the song I'm referring to? I'm not sure who sang it or what it's called...(and I don't feel like looking it up) but the singer professes over and over and over again " I will do anything for love!" He sings it with such passion and conviction. Then then the end line in the chorus is. "But I won't do that...no I won't do that." What is the person he loves asking him to do?!? It must be pretty bad.

But when I think about love I think of a special lady in my life right now. Let's call her "My Angel". She is organizing all of the service that is being given to me through my church. Want to be amazed? Look at what she has organized for me for the next few months:

Morning pick up (to school)
Lily play days (when I'm sick)
After school pick up
Lunches made for kids
Older kids to come in the afternoon and help with homework (I nap at this time)
Dinners (every night)
Laundry pick up
House cleaning

She has this all charted out and organized with volunteers so that we have what we need when we need it. Amazing, simply amazing. And to top it off she has become a great friend and resource to me. See, she has had a lot of health problems in her life, including going through chemo twice! Nobody can relate to you and help you like someone who's been there.



I whole heatedly believe that our Heavenly Father won't give us a trial we can't handle and that before we came down to earth we agreed to the life that we would have. The good and the bad. Having my life beat up a little in the last month (understatement) I just keep thinking "I agreed to this??? What was I thinking?" But I'm sure the pre-mortal me was much wiser and saw what I would learn. Why do some kinds of wisdom have to be so painful? Not sure. But without "My Angel" having gone through what she has been through, all the physical and emotional pain, she wouldn't be able to help me as much and anticipate so many of my needs. (She knew what I needed before I even knew I needed them!)

I know, without a shadow of a doubt that because of what I'm going through I will be able to help someone else someday. They will need me and my experiences to give them comfort and help them endure...just as "My Angel" does for me.

Love is a hands on experience and I am at the receiving end right now. I don't like my cancer...I hate what chemo does to me and how it makes me feel. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. But life has a funny way of refining us through fire. It hurts, but we are stronger, wiser, and more useful to our fellow man on the other side.




Back to the song I mentioned at the beginning. I've always made fun of that song (for obvious reasons) but of course there are things I can think of that I wouldn't do if someone I loved asked me to. Oh...little things like kill someone, rob a bank, hurt other people or animals...you get the idea. But if they asked me to do such things then I'd figure out pretty quickly that I loved the wrong kind of person! So let's talk about real love...Christ like love.

Would you go through a trial (a hard one) just to have the knowledge that you'd be able to help someone else who has to go through that same trial someday? Do you have that kind of love for your fellow man? Well, I'm not sure if any of us would be like, "Sure! I'll have cancer, go through chemo, radiation, the whole bit...just for the experience." Or. "Yes I am willing to loose my child and not be able to have him in this life so I can comfort other mothers who will go through the same thing."

Yeah...if it worked that way and we had a choice before REALLY hard trials happened, I'm pretty sure most of us (me included) would opt out. Christ didn't.


He knew exactly what he would go through and LET it happen so he could feel all of the pains and sufferings of mortal life so that He could be there for us when we feel like no one else can. This gives me comfort. Why does it give me comfort to know that my Savior suffered and died for my sins and afflictions? Because I know he loved me (and you) that much. He simply did "anything for love".....and he never said, "but I won't do that."









Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fight Strong!!!


I feel so empowered by teaching my Zumba class tonight. They really help me to "fight strong". I really needed that today. I was able to escape "Cancerland" for an hour and just be me. I loved it. I don't teach like I used to, I give small breaks between songs and do more medium-slower tempo songs, but I know I am doing my best. I love my class. Each and every one of them. They are such a great support to me. They appreciate me and everything I give to them. For I truly lay my heart out on the floor each class. I cried today. Just joy. That is the definition of dancing to me. Dancing is joy.



To my Zumba class, thank you. I feel your love, I feel your support and I crave your energy. Even though teaching class totally drains me and I do NOTHING once I get home, it is so very worth it. I get to connect with good friends and escape for an hour...priceless!




Whiny? Angry?

Don't get me wrong...I'm very positive about my treatment and the outcome of it, but I'm not going to lie...this sucks. Chemo sucks. I miss myself. Energetic, silly, slightly annoying to normal adults. And I've only had one treatment so far. Now I have to go back and let them do this to me again and again. I want to play and have fun with my kids. To not be so worried about which medicine I need next so I don't throw up on everyone. I sound pretty whiny right now, but I want this blog to be real. What I really feel. Even if it is whiny sometimes. It's too much pressure to be positive, happy and patient all of the time. Under that pressure I would break. So if you're reading my posts and ever get tired of the whiny or angry ones, just skip them. They are more for me. A kind of therapy. I am hoping that being able purge the feelings from my soul will help me function better in my life. To get used to my new "normal". The new me....for a while. I so look forward to having my life back. I took it for granted before.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Health Revolution

I'm hearing words like "warrior", "strong", and "brave". I wasn't sure how I related to those words at first. They are just so BIG. So important. But then I remembered the meaning of my name. Valerie means strong, brave, valor and in some definitions, health. Wow. Now to live up to it. I do feel like a warrior sometimes, and other times I feel beaten up. But I know I will prevail. I have always been a warrior for health. Mine and others. I think all people deserve to work to live their best life. Notice that I said "work". It isn't always easy to live your best life. But I if I could force people to feel one thing it would be to feel like they are worth it! It's worth the work and struggle. Heath is priceless. Please know that you are so special and so worth health. Even as I am MADE to feel ill through this I will NEVER stop fighting for health. Join me! Small, attainable steps. You can do it, and share your victories with me as I win my cancer fight. Lets start a health revolution!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My LastTwo Weeks In Cancerland



Wow. What a crazy 2 weeks it's been. Unlike Disneyland and Legoland, Cancerland isn't somewhere anyone ever wants to go. I have been thrown in head first. Dr appointments every day are a reminder that things aren't right. My health is a concern to all of the professionals that see me. Time has been in a strange kind of warp where one day feels like 3 and yet there is not enough time to get things done. I was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma on July 23, 2010. I was kind of expecting the diagnosis after going to urgent care for some chest discomfort on the 18th, being admitted to the hospital in the 19th and staying for a few days in the hospital. I had my first surgery to remove a lymph node and some bone marrow, plus a whole bunch of other diagnostic tests. I knew there was something very serious wrong with me. Even though I thought I knew, I have always felt positive about the outcome.

Some of the great people that visited me. My friends and family were my strength.


Some of the beautiful gifts that brought my room to life and filled it with love.


Pre-op to get a lymph node biopsy and a bone marrow biopsy. (I swallowed my pride and put these up...surgery pics are always so unflattering)


All done, feeling like crap and mad that Jess is taking my picture. ;)


So after being diagnosed, I wanted to cut my hair. As an act of power over the cancer. Anyone who knows me know that I LOVE my long hair, and have never considered going short. Well, I wanted to take control of something I guess, and I decided my hair was going to go because I said so...not cancer. Well that turned out to be a very empowering day. On the Sunday after I was diagnosed my friend and hairdresser, Brandi, came over to cut my hair. A wonderful part about that day is that I had some special people with me that wanted to be a part of it. One of my sisters flew in from Utah, my other sister and my mom drove in from California, and one of my closest friends came to get in on the hair party. What an emotionally empowering experience that was! I had no idea cutting my hair would be so scary, and so powerful for me. I really got a boost to my self esteem. I really like my hair short. Pretty cool. THANK YOU BRANDI!!! Here are all of us before the haircuts....

Oh no...here it goes....

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The big reveal....

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Love Brandi!


All of us hot chicks with shorter hair. Everyone looks great!


I felt so special that both of my sisters came to support me. <3>


The next big step was to have another surgery to get my port placed in my chest. Not so cool. Another surgery, but they say it will make it all a lot easier. I had the port surgery on Monday, July26. I don't like the port at all. It is very uncomfortable. I have to take Vicodin to be able to function. I don't like Vicodin either. Today was my first day with no pain meds and I am very proud of that! Here is the device that is in my chest, my port.


Again...pre-op is so stylish...


"Stop taking pics of me on drugs!!!"


The port is in my chest on the bottom and the top incision is where it goes into the main artery in my neck. Ouch! Trying to smile, but when I see this pic I think "heavy pain meds".


Today was also another HUGE milestone...I started chemo today. I had mixed feelings about it. Everything from "bring it on", to "hide me I want to pretend this isn't happening". I took a nap right before we left and my mom woke me up to get ready to go and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was feeling so anxious about it. So I pulled myself together enough to get ready and drop Lily off at a friends house. I was just in kind of a daze. Everything was just kind of fuzzy and blurry around me. I got there with my support team, and together we experienced chemotherapy for the first time. Kind of surreal to see all of the medicines going into my body. I didn't feel it, so it kind of seemed like an out of body experience because I guess I expected to feel something. Then after about 2 hours we were done.


With the people that make everything easier. Jess and my dad were there too. :)


Plugging into the port didn't feel good at all, but it's supposed to get easier each time.




I had to power up with my jewelery. A necklace I wore when my mom had breast cancer, one my best friend, Kerry gave me, and a necklace my parents gave me. Then the bracelets the boys made for me for Mother's Day. I had to wear them all.


Nail salon/chemo treatment.....multitasking. :)


Weird black stuff. Eeww!!!


I've been home now for about 2 1/2 hours. I feel...weird. I don't feel normal. I feel off. As I type this my heart feels like it is beating harder, my head is starting to feel fuzzy and my eyelids are getting heavy. I'm not sure how much of that is chemo and how much is just the stress of my day. I will soon find out how I will react to the treatments, probably in an hour or so...with that said. I am going to rest and wait for an angel to bring my dinner. I hope I have an appetite. Eating sounds so nice right now...so does sleep.

So while Cancerland isn't a place anyone seeks out, I do see how this experience will strengthen me and change who I am for the better. I am amazed at the outpouring of support, love and help. I could not do this without my support team. I feel strengthened through your prayers and positive thoughts. Keep them coming. <3>