Disney Fan Art: Disney University

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It’s a rainy day outside and instead of going for a walk, I thought I’d divulge some of my favorite portraits of Disney princesses (and other Disney folks) as re-envisioned by some truly talented fans.

But I can’t get to it all of it in one post, so today’s take is all about Disney University.

What is Disney University, you ask? 

It’s a world created by a very talented artist (goes by the user name Hyung86) in which Disney characters all go to college together (so keep in mind all photo credits go to this guy and that’s why you’ll see a watermark on most of them). Below are my favorites as well as my version of what their lives look like now.

Disney University — My Favorites

 

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Let’s start off with an easy one. Aladdin kept the shaggy hair, but traded in the rags for a sportier look. His place on the track team and his humorous disposition secure him an invite to all the best parties.

 

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True to form, Jasmine (Aladdin) is still too cool for school. By the looks of it, she’s trading the rebel genes with Aladdin and may be causing more trouble than she’s worth. She’s not sure their high school puppy dog love is going to last in this place.

 

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Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) kept the corset but lost the frilly princess dress. She’s still Regina George, but now she’s garnering even more attention…from the boys who should be focusing on their own true loves.

 

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Prince Philip (Sleeping Beauty) still has his classic good looks, but now he’s really nervous about keeping up with Aurora. Can he continue to be the apple of her eye or is she looking elsewhere? Killing a dragon can only get you so far at Disney U.

 

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Belle (Beauty and the Beast) likes to keep up appearances that she’s hitting the books hard, but we all know she’s burning the midnight oil with a certain rugged and reformed bad boy.

 

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Flynn Ryder (Tangled) is not so sure about his future with Rapunzel. While he once had eyes for only her, he’s starting to see that he shares a lot more common interests with women of a less naive nature.



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Kida (Altantis: The Lost Empire) is ready to shed her limited world view and rub elbows with those that understand her outsider ways. If Jasmine wants to galavant around without Aladdin, she can’t be blamed for taking him up on a carpet ride or two, right?


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Megara (Hercules) is more than happy to shed her damsel in distress demeanor in favor of her true self – queen of secrets and scandals. She knows who is doing what…and who they shouldn’t be doing it with.


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Anyone who’s anyone has been to a Pocahontas gala thanks to a certain Chief whose name is the hottest fashion line from coast to coast. All she has to do is make daddy proud by keeping up her 4.0 GPA and she’ll be poised to rule when she graduates.

Disney University – animal edition

To my surprise, there are also human versions of the greatest Disney animal characters. Now my childhood dreams of marrying Simba don’t seem so creepy, right?


simba_disneyuniversity

Simba (formerly a lion from The Lion King) learned a thing or two from his former scuffles, but he’s not about that bad boy life. What he really wants is to study psychology so he can help others with their daddy issues.

 

bambi_disneyuniversity

Bambi (formerly a buck from Bambi) is not sure what he wants to study. But he does know that Phillip is way too good for that vapid Aurora. What Phillip needs is a strong and mature counterpart with dashing good looks. And maybe more than a bromance?

 

robinghood_disneyuniversity

Robin Hood (formerly a fox from Robin Hood) is on to Megara’s games. She pretends to be in control and above that damsel life, but he knows she craves a knight in tattooed armour. He has just the plan to have her falling into his arms in less than a fortnight.

 

lady_tramp_disneyuniversity

Lady (formerly a cocker spaniel of Lady and the Tramp) is not sure how much more she can take of Tramp’s (formerly a mutt) antics. The spaghetti act was cute when they were in high school, but if they’re going to live in an apartment off campus then he needs to shape up or ship out. Goatee hair is not so attractive when it’s left all over the sink, each morning.

Want to see more?

Visit the artist’s site here for a ton of other renditions. Also, stay tuned for the next spotlight on Disney fan art as there is so much more to explore.

It’s time to celebrate!!!…from afar.

Today is the day of my brother’s wedding. Since I can’t actually make it, I decided I would try to honor him (or maybe embarrass him a little bit) with some old family photos. In addition, I also found more recent ones of him with his lovely bride to be.

The old photos are compliments of the large box of photographs my mom brought me a couple weeks back. Over the last couple days, I’ve been cataloguing all of them by uploading them to my Shutterfly account, and sorting through which ones will go in an actual scrapbook.

I’m only halfway through the box, but there are some good ones of my brother. Here are my favorites!

A trip down memory lane…

(Childhood through college years)

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My brother and I playing on the sand bar up at our cabin. CHEESE!!

 

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Christmas morning with toothless mcgee.

 

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Another christmas morning – sunglasses and all.

 

Homemade dresses for the girls. Hawaiian shirt for the boy. Because sure, why not.😉

 

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You may think he’s giving me a loving hug…but really he’s trying to choke me.

 

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Having a blast with grandma and our cousin up at the cabin. Shaggier days for my brother, I guess.

 

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We may look like the wild ones, but judging from the dirt on his knees I’d guess he’s in timeout for something and looking sorry for what he did.

 

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Christmas eve pictures at our aunt and uncle’s house.

 

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Christmas day pictures at our other cousins house. Can you tell my brother really liked the Kansas City Chiefs? p.s. that’s not food in my teeth, those are colored braces.

 

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My brother and I enjoyed the fake bake a little too much in college.

 

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Golden locks on golden boy.

 

More recent memories…

(Post college years…but before he met Stefanie)

My brother posing at one of his first jobs out of college – in Boston. Can you tell he’s an important businessman now?

 

Being a diva at a family christmas party. Because, of course.

 

Hmmm, how to explain this one? Let’s just say it was a fun night of sibling bonding in the Twin Cities when I still lived in St. Paul. I basically poured him into bed while I slept on the couch. Fun times!

 

Jake and I visited my brother out in San Fran when I was 7.5 weeks pregnant. It was a fun weekend celebrating Jake turning 30 and the sights were incredible.

 

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This is actually a more recent picture of just the siblings without their significant others, but it’s still a good one.

 

From my wedding – my brother escorting one of my brides maids into the reception hall.

 

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A dance with the bridesmaid. Such a goof!

 

Bride and groom through the years…

Some of these I had to steal from the wedding website. Thank you soon to be sister-in-law!

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The engaged couple back before they were engaged. Taking trips to Milwaukee to celebrate Jackson’s 2nd birthday. And snuggling my parent’s dog.

 

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This is the only photo I could find with the two of them and our family. For shame! Will have to remedy that the next time I see them. p.s. Thanks for cooperating, Jackson. Sheesh!

 

Cute photo of them at my parent’s house.

 

Doing what they do best – traveling the world and enjoying vacations in remote locations. Pretty sure they swam with pigs at this place.

The proposal and their engagement photos

These were all from the wedding website. Again – thanks for letting me borrow these!

The proposal actually happened at a trampoline dodgeball competition where he faked a leg injury to get down on one knee to propose to her (yes, trampoline dodgeball is a thing out in CA). This is just a posed shot after the fact. Still done in the only way he knows how…as a goofball.😉

 

She said yes!

 

Mount Tamalpais Engagement Photography

One of the many gorgeous engagement photos they had taken.

 

The happy couple. And soon, the married couple.

 

It’s time!

In a few short hours they’ll be married and I couldn’t be happier for them. My part in all this? Stalking my family via text for any and all updates, and maybe some facetime during the actual reception. Should be fun.

Hope you’re all enjoying this gorgeous weekend!

Want to help me? Support the cause! (Light the Night Walk)

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So here’s the thing…

Because I write super long posts sometimes (or all the time), I’m going to put the ask right up on top and then back into the why.

So here it is.

My friend Andrea has been doing the “Light the Night” walk through the Leukemia and Lymphoma society for a couple years now, and this year she’s walking in honor of me. Her team is “Team Jamie” and you have the option of joining the team and walking with a lot of cool people on October 6, 2016, or just straight up donating to the team to help fund cancer research and advocacy programs that help people like me going through treatment.

Team Jamie fundraising page

From the Team Jamie fundraising page, you can choose to:

  • Donate to the team or through a team member. Andrea Fischer is the organizer and here is her personal page if you want to donate through her (She’s the one on the far left in the picture shown on the team Jamie page). Also, other team members are listed on the side of the Team Jamie page.
  • Join the team and walk with them! There’s a link to join at the bottom of the Team Jamie page. My husband and son will be walking alongside some of my best friends. Come one, come all!
Date, time, location…
Thursday October 6, 2016 04:30 PM CDT
Veteran’s Park
1010 North Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

Why is this important to me?

Besides the obvious, I have many reasons why this event and getting some support for this cause is important to me. Here are the biggies.

First and foremost – I am the SECOND person in my family to have a blood disease that falls under the umbrella of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. 

Over 16 years ago, my oldest sister was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 23. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation and has been in remission since. Now, in an odd sense of deja vu, our family is experiencing this unpleasant reality once again – this time with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although our journeys are different, it’s still a shock that two of us have now been diagnosed with a lymphoma disease.

Second – I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk. Or really, I’ve run the run. 

Around ten years ago, I myself was involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and their Team in Training events. At the time, I trained for multiple half marathons and became a mentor and participant of a triathlon – all while raising funds for cancer research. I did this all in honor of my sister and the many others going through this. I’ve seen the huge impact these funds can have on a cancer patient – both directly and indirectly, and although I wish this disease were eradicated altogether, I’m excited to once again help others who are going through what I’m going through. And as soon as I can physically do these events, I plan to become a lot more involved in the future. But for now, I’m happy being an advocate for any friends and family doing what I can’t do.

Third – because I believe in giving back and if you’re looking to give back for a cause you can personally connect to, this is it. 

I’m sure you’re hit up by fundraisers all year long. I get it. I am too! And yes, I’ll gladly support girl scouts because their cookies fill my tummy with happiness, but besides that, I have to think a little harder on what charities to actually donate to the rest of the year when there are so many good causes out there. But also, I know for me, donating to help someone I personally know is a lot more fulfilling because of that personal connection. So if you know me (and you do…because you’re reading this blog)…consider this your personal connection to the cause.

Thank you for even considering.

That’s it. That’s my plea. I think this is a worthy cause and I’m super grateful to my friend who has chosen to honor me in this way and I just wanted to get the word out.

So thank you in advance for even considering to donate or walk. I know it’s going to be a really great night and a really great event and I plan on being an even bigger part of it next year when I’ve beaten this thing and can tell my tale of surviving.

And if you need those details again, here they are…

Team Jamie Fundraising page (you can donate to the team or join the team from here)

Andrea Fischer’s personal page (you can donate personally to Andrea Fischer from here)

Date, time, location…
Thursday October 6, 2016 04:30 PM CDT
Veteran’s Park
1010 North Lincoln Memorial Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53202, USA

THANK YOU!!!!

Finding the bright side…

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Sisterly bonding time in the hospital. Here, we’re about to go walk around the hospital with “wheely”…my IV machine thing.

 

I was going to write a very sweary post. In fact, that post was going to be titled, “Well, fuckity fuck.” I got halfway through the post and I just lost patience with it. I want to feel angry, but I’ve had time to come down from that, and it doesn’t feel right to be all sweary when that’s not how I feel right now. But there was definitely reason to be sweary a couple days ago.

Here’s my current situation in a nutshell.

Back in the hospital. Again.

On Sunday, in addition to feeling hella nauseated, I was also just feeling cruddy with a wheezy cough and other flu-like symptoms. Early Monday morning, I woke with a raging fever and Jake and I headed back to the hospital. Long story short, I’ve come down with a pneumonia (that nagging cough likely became something bigger instead of going away) and will be in here until it starts resolving.

Monday – I was pissed and emotional. I was super depressed at the thought of being back in the hospital less than a week after leaving. Is this my life now? Just a revolving set of hospital visits in between chemo treatments? Is this what the next three  months will look like? Those were my pessimistic thoughts then.

Today – I’m not completely back to my optimistic point of view – the one where I deal with my bad weeks and sail through chemo with my hair still in tact and my spirits relatively high, but I’m getting there. Hospital stays suck, plain and simple. But I know it’s the best way to keep me as healthy as possible and I obviously can’t handle this on my own, so I’m doing my best to be okay with my situation each day I continue to be in the hospital.

Don’t put it out there (the bad stuff, at least)

My sister is in town and has been visiting me in the hospital since Monday and we got to talking about the power of what you put out into the universe. I.e. If you think bad things will happen to you, then they might happen to you. If you think only good things will happen, then only good will happen to you.

I will say that for the most part, I put out good vibes even with my current situation. I really am quite positive about my prognosis so far and how very curable this is. But when I think about some of my blog posts on here, I know it doesn’t look that way. That’s because this is a place of reflection. This is a place where I recount what happened and how I felt at the time. And because of that, I think maybe I’m painting this picture of myself that isn’t as accurate as what I currently feel like.

I’ve seen it in the faces of others too. For example, an old coworker of mine (who I still love dearly and miss working with her everyday!) visited me the last time I was in the hospital. She tiptoed in like she was walking on eggshells and talked in a soothing voice with an ever-present look of concern plastered on her face. I kept telling her that I was fine! Really! But it took her being there for almost a half hour to finally SEE that I was fine. She was smiling, she was laughing with me, her demeanor changed from someone worried about a dying friend to someone who was just stopping by to say hello. I was so happy that I could change her demeanor just in the half hour she was there. That’s how I feel with most people I see in person who express concern. I get your concern, but I want to take that away from you! If you could just see how I am on a daily basis, you would also see why I have a very positive outlook.

Yes, I have my bad days, my bad weeks, my stints in the hospital, and in those moments I do experience self-pity. But on the whole, I am doing great. I still have my hair, and that’s pretty much the best thing ever. My side effects are actually quite minimal compared to others. I’m still on track with chemo. I get up. I walk. And my progress so far has been amazing.

Making the most of this situation…

So yes, I’m in the hospital again. No, it’s not ideal. But it is what it is and I’m trying to make the most of it. I’ve basically got all of the essentials here that I would have at home…knitting supplies, gel pens and coloring books, a favorite blanket, books, ipad, computer, comfy clothes, toiletries and lindor truffles (just 10 of them…not the whole box of 60). What I’m doing in here is basically what I’d be doing at home during my bad week, anyway, just with a little more intervention from nurses and doctors.

So…don’t cry for me, Argentina. The truth is I never left you. #notsurethatworksbutididntknowhowelsetoendthis

 

Things that make me happy today…

I’m not known for short posts, but this one will be short. I promise. It’s just a couple of things that make me happy right now. And this round of chemo hit me with some intense nausea right away, so it’s all I can do to look on the bright side.

So here we go, a list of things that make me happy, today…

Cooler weather

No fall leaves yet, but talking a walk at noon and having it be 70 degrees is a great relief.

No fall leaves yet, but talking a walk at noon and having it be 70 degrees is a great relief.

Pumpkin latte candle (shut it, haters)

This is currently filling up the airways of our house and it glorious. I highly recommend.

This is currently filling up the airways of our house and it glorious. I highly recommend.

Reminiscing about good friends in college

My friend's fancy 21st birthday party at the Holiday Inn. Good times!

My friend’s fancy 21st birthday party at the Holiday Inn. Good times!

Snuggling under covers while watching cartoons with Jackson

Snuggles McGee over here is a great companion for watching cartoons.

Snuggles McGee over here is a great companion for watching cartoons.

Lindor dark chocolate truffles

Amazon, you've come in handy again. I ordered thi box of 60 dark chocolate truffles for $15. Best investment I've made in a while.

Amazon, you’ve come in handy again. I ordered this box of 60 dark chocolate truffles for $15. Best investment I’ve made in a while.

And finally, being half way done with chemo

That's right. Six rounds done. Only six more to go!

That’s right. Six rounds done. Only six more to go!

 

 

 

 

A spewing of events…

Learning about "My big fat gypsy wedding" on TLC was the only real upside to my recent stint in the hospital.

Learning about “My big fat gypsy wedding” on TLC was the only real upside to my recent stint in the hospital.

 

Every time I sit down to write about the events that transpired over the weekend and then into the first part of this week, I find myself wrestling with how not to make this a 10,000 word post. In my head, it’s already an exhausting list of things and I still have a lot of emotions wrapped up in it – mostly being equal parts upset and also guilty. So I’m gonna do what I do best, I’m just going to spew it all out in a chronological bulleted list. So here we go!

Friday:

  • Jake left for a weekend-long bachelor party in the Dells.
  • I texted him that I had a cough with yellow phlegm…which, although gross, is of importance because it’s on the list of “symptoms you need to call your doctor about immediately.”
  • So I called my doctor. They told me I didn’t need to come in, but if I got a temp of 100.4 or higher over the weekend, I’d have to go to the ER. Otherwise, to check in with them on Monday if I still had the cough.
  • Friday night, Jackson and I battled back and forth on whether or not he could sleep in our bed. He finally won at 1am when we agreed to stick to rules that he wouldn’t kick me and he’d stay on dad’s pillow. He was also coughing and had a runny nose (pretty sure that’s where I got my cough from).

Saturday:

  • After about five hours of sleep, I woke up to a loud “THUNK” sound, immediately followed by the wails of our four-year old. He had fallen off the bed and blood was gushing out of his nose. It was like a murder scene.
  • I rushed him to the bathroom and called my in-laws in-between his (and my) sobs to see if they could come sooner than they planned…like ASAP. It was their intent to be there in a couple hours, anyway, to bring Jackson back to their house for the day.
  • While I had him in the bathtub, him holding a rag tightly to his nose, not wanting to move an inch, I called his doctor and was told it’s not likely he broke his nose. At his age, their nose is mostly cartilage and it would heal itself. However, I should keep an eye on him to make sure the bleeding stops and to make sure he doesn’t act funny.
  • Soon, my father-in-law arrived. He suggested we call my husband (who I’d been keeping updated via text about the situation) and have him come home. I said, “No, we got this!”
  • A couple hours later, we were still wiping drops of blood from Jackson’s nose and I called the doc again. She told us it would be a good idea to take him to the ER since the bleeding hadn’t stopped.
  • We packed up into the car, and I texted my family updates. Their reply? “YOU CAN NOT GO IN THE ER, JAMIE.” They were right. The ER was the worst place for someone who was neutropenic as it’s chalk full of germs.
  • We arrived at the hospital and I sent my father-in-law in with my little boy and sobbed the entire time they were in there. Being a mother who can’t comfort your child is maybe the cruelest thing ever for a cancer patient. I talked to the doc over the phone and all was good. The bleeding had stopped. Maybe some slight bruising, a possible fracture, but no intervention needed.
  • We got home and I finally started to notice that I had the chills. The thermometer confirmed that I had a low-grade temp. Yikes.
  • A half hour later, I checked my temp and it was on the rise. My father-in-law suggested we call my husband. I finally agreed. If I had to go to the hospital, I’d need my father-in-law here to watch Jackson, anyway.
  • After a few unresponsive calls and texts to my hubby (I assumed he was out on the lake already), I called my friend to see if she could be my backup if things got worse before Jake got home. She agreed. And then agreed to come over right away…just in case.
  • About 15 minutes later, my temp had officially had it’s first reading over 100.4. I called the doc (or whoever was on call on a Saturday) and found that the clinic was closed. I’d have to go to the ER.
  • Twenty minutes later, I packed a couple things to endure a long wait in the ER and was on my way with my friend.
  • As we arrived at the ER, my hubby was finally on his way. We ended up waiting in the waiting room for over an hour – and were still waiting when Jake arrived. He was in his swim trunks.
  • Finally around 4pm, we got in and they started doing labs and x-rays on me. I wasn’t sure what we were in for, since this was the first time I’d been sick while on chemo. The “protocol” was not clear at all. And unfortunately, a lot of people made it less clear the more we talked to them. But I digress.
  • Around 6:30, they told me surprising news  – that I was NOT in fact neutropenic and that my initial labs and x-rays all looked great. I would be released as soon as my heart rate went down to a normal rate. They would give me more fluids to do that.
  • So we waited. And I got my fluids. And my heart rate went nowhere. It continued to stay high.
  • Finally around 8pm, the same doctor came back in to tell me that I would NOT in fact be going home, that they’d like to actually admit me to the hospital and keep me here until my blood cultures came back. They suspected it was just a viral infection, but my heart rate wouldn’t go down and they wanted to be on the safe side. How long would it take? 24 – 48 hours. But as the ER doctor said, “You’ll likely be out of here tomorrow.”
  • I got into my room (a fancy hotel room where they wake you up several times a night, basically) and my fever started taking off. Jake was exhausted so he left around 9pm (Jackson was at his grandparents for the night). My fever broke around 1:30am.

Sunday:

  • Talked to the doctors around 8:30 am. When asked when I could leave, they looked at me like I was crazy, “Well, the blood cultures take a full 48 hours, so not today, but most likely tomorrow.” I told them, “You know I was going to be released yesterday, right?” They did, and also told me that the ER doc lied and always made them break the bad news about how long I’d actually be in the hospital.
  • Spent the rest of the day on IV antibiotics (just in case) and having my vitals checked regularly while binge watching TV or Netflix on my iPad with Jake.
  • That night, I got some visitors – my old coworker and one of my good friends who lived nearby. Ended the evening marveling at the atrocity of gypsy wedding rituals (thanks for the laughs, TLC!).
  • Also – no fevers on Sunday.

Monday

  • Yeah! Going home day! I knew my cultures wouldn’t come back until the afternoon, so the morning was spent doing the same as Sunday – IV antibiotics and binge watching Gossip Girl on Netflix.
  • The doctors twho came in the morning checked my vitals and asked how I’d been doing. They told me all of my cultures were negative so far and it was good to see I hadn’t had a fever for over 24 hours. The also said they’d let me know when they heard back on the rest of the cultures.
  • Around 4pm, I packed up all my belongings so I’d be ready to go when they discharged me. Jake would be here around 5pm to pick me up.
  • Around 4:30pm, a nurse came in to check on me. “They told me to pass it on that you’d be staying another day, but you probably already heard that right?” No. I hadn’t. And I was crushed. Seriously, no word from anyone all day, at least, not since the doctors came in that morning. I asked the nurse why exactly they wanted to keep me another day and she didn’t have that information.
  • After she left, I let the tears fall. I was beyond livid. All of my cultures were negative (I had the nurse check that, at the very least), I hadn’t had a fever in over 24 hours and yet I was still in the hospital. What gives?
  • I didn’t know how to get a word to the doctors, so I decided to start with my own oncologist. I emailed him my disappointment, not just with the decision…because no one had provided ANY rationale, but also with my disappointment in how this information was communicated to me. Did they get that I had a family to get back to? Did they understand that I was a human…not just numbers on a chart and I desperately hated being hooked up to IVs in a hospital? If they did, they could have at least told me this news in person instead of making a nurse the messenger of this information.
  • After calming down, I did understand that they were making a conservative call based on my unique situation, and that I couldn’t be mad at them wanting to keep me safe…but I still could be upset at how it was handled.
  • That night, I got a call from my oncologist after he received my email. He was quick to apologize and agreed that this should have been communicated better and that he would talk to the team tomorrow about this. But he also was quick to point out that “this is the protocol for someone in your situation. I trust the team to handle these cases because I can’t be everywhere at once.” I reminded him that I didn’t know the protocol and that also, expectations could have been better set in that area too. Every day I kept being told what I wanted to hear…I’d go home today, I’d go home tomorrow, etc. etc. and it was frustrating to not be in on what this protocol was. When you say “48 hours” maybe say something like, “Well if that 48 hours falls late in the day, expect that you might be here until the next day.” Is that so hard? Not everyone knows how hospitals work…although, being my third time in three months, you’d think I’d know a little better by now.
  • After settling down, I enjoyed some more visitors and we laughed at funny snapchat filters.

Tuesday

  • My oncologist stopped by for a quick check in. Said he would talk to the team about me getting out as soon as possible today.
  • Around 9am, the team came in and agreed to start the discharge process.
  • I talked to family and friends about getting a ride home, but no one was expecting it so soon and wouldn’t be to get to the hospital until noon.
  • To the dismay of my family, I took an uber home at around 10:30. There was no way I could stay in that hospital one second longer. It was my good week! I needed to get home ASAP!

As for my next treatment, will chemo still go as planned tomorrow? Well, the doctors were hopeful, but it won’t be decided until my labs come back and then my doc will make the final decision. Although I’m not a fan of chemo, I’m not a fan of prolonging treatment so fingers crossed it still happens tomorrow!

So that’s everything. I consider it a success that I got it all down in less than 2,000 words. Now I plan to enjoy the last few good hours of my good week while I still can…even if I do still have a wretched cough.

 

Love and marriage…go together like a horse and carriage.

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I can’t say the words “love and marriage” without thinking of the Bundys. 

This isn’t a post about my marriage. God no. I wouldn’t be silly enough to dive deep into my own marriage. No, this is just a post on marriage, in general.

Why? Well – a little background

Okay, it’s a long background…I don’t do short stories. 

Last year, my brother got engaged. His fiance is great, and she’s become such a loved member of our family and I couldn’t be happier for them. Soon after they got engaged, they came to ask each of us sisters (three of us) to each have our families partake in the wedding in some special way. One of my sisters was asked if her son would be the ring bearer. My other sister was asked if her daughter would be the flower girl. So what was left for the LeRoy clan? A very interesting proposition – that I would be the officiant of the wedding.

I’m not going to lie. I flat out laughed in their face at the idea…I seriously thought they were joking. Who would want ME…the worst public speaker EVER to officiate a wedding? I’m so awkward in person! My sister echoed my thoughts, “You seriously want JAMIE to officiate your wedding?” And I wasn’t even insulted because I felt the same way! They nodded their heads. After I finally got over the moment, I accepted the role and made sure they were setting their expectations appropriately.

“You know I’m going to be terrible at this, right? I write…but I’m not a speaker.”

“You’ll do great! We know you can do this!” they said.

…That was just over a year ago that I’d accepted the role as officiant.

A couple months later I got ordained through “The Ministry of Life.” For $35 I would be able to legally perform weddings in California or any other state that allowed me to do so without having any prior knowledge.

Then in February, I started to really think about my sermon. I mean, there was definitely pressure to make this good, and I would need as much time as possible to get it right so I started doing my research months ahead of the wedding that was set for mid September.

Then, as all of you know (or most of you know), things in my life took a turn for the worst and over the next couple months all thoughts of the wedding got put on hold so that I could deal with my own health issues.

Finally, once I got my diagnosis, got my treatment plan (chemotherapy every two weeks), and found out that I would be neutropenic for the next six months (very susceptible to infections), I made the call to my brother to let him know that we would not be able to attend his wedding and that, obviously, this meant they would need to find another officiant for the wedding. He had hoped for the best – that I would still be able to make it, but completely understood given the situation I was in. He knew some friends who had officiated other weddings so it wasn’t like I was throwing the whole wedding out of whack, but of course it would have been nice to have done this for my brother. And obviously nice to even attend the wedding.

So that’s kind of where this story ends. Sort of. About a week ago, I got a note from my brother’s friend who is now going to officiate the wedding. I won’t share any details from that exchange because I don’t know what he’s planning for the sermon, and the wedding hasn’t happened yet so I don’t want to spoil anything, but it did get me thinking about some of the things I had researched and jotted down when I was still thinking I would be the officiant. So the below is basically that. Some thoughts on love and marriage and kind of where my head was at when I was thinking of my brother and his fiance…but also a little bit about how I’ve experienced love and marriage to date.

From the notes section of my phone.

So these are some of the things I jotted down when the moment struck me and I’d think “That’s it! That’s something I want to say!” And instead of editing them for you and making them perfect, I thought I’d just leave them in their raw form because some of it is pretty bad and makes me chuckle.

So the bold italics is what I originally wrote. The brackets are my thoughts on what I wrote…all these months later. Enjoy!

We’ve all been to weddings. And at each wedding we look for that splash of something we know about the couple, and whether or not we’ll laugh or cry or be bored to tears…just waiting to get over to the bar.

[Hey that’s not…that terrible. Kind of cements the audience as to where they are…makes it more “real” for them, ya know? Could use some softening, though.]

But I’m here to tell you that this isn’t that kind of a wedding ceremony. I don’t see my job as providing material for you to react to. My job is to connect these to the life they’re about to join together forever. So I apologize in advance if you don’t get a joke or something doesn’t make sense…but to be honest…it’s because I don’t care what you think. I care what they think. And if this is going to be one of the most memorable days of their lives, it should, quite honestly, only be about them.

[Oh holy hell. I wrote that, didn’t I? Just need to go and piss off everyone at the wedding in one tidy paragraph. I mean, there will be mothers and grandmothers listening to this, Jamie. You couldn’t just not write this? Ugh. I remember describing this to Jake and saying, “Well I wouldn’t ACTUALLY say that…but like…something like that…ya know?” And he nodded like, “Yeah, okay, psycho.”]

So let’s get started.

First, a quote about love. A wise fictional boxer once said…

“I got gaps. You got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps.” 

[First off – is it clear that I’m talking about Rocky? Second off – is that a super hickish, midwestern way to start a wedding? With a quote from Rocky Balboa? Ugh. At first I thought it was awesome because my brother loves that movie! But seriously, maybe that line should be scrapped.]

The reason I love this is because one’s definition of love changes many times throughout a relationship, and throughout a lifetime of constant changes.

[Ummm. What? That’s not what that means at all. Where did this come from? I think I was trying to bridge the quote with where I’m going next. It’s awful. This is so awful. Sorry guys!]

In the beginning you experience “gushy love.” The kind that creates butterflies in your stomach. The kind that makes you watch the clock at the end of the day in anticipation of seeing your love’s smiling face. The kind that makes your heart swoon and ache when you have to be apart for too long. It’s a thrilling kind of love.

[Good. GOOD. Build on this.]

But then you experience a comfortable kind of love. The kind where you’re comfortable in the knowledge of your love for each other. The kind that knows it doesn’t have to be thrills and adventures, that it can be more demure. It can be drinks on the patio and telling each other about your favorite childhood cartoons. Or it can be taking pictures of French Bulldogs you see on the street because you know it will make her happy.

[Not terrible, at least. Also, FACTOID ALERT. I created that last snippet for the fiance. RELEVANT!]

But then, one day out of the blue, you’ll experience love in the face of tragedy. You get side swiped by something awful that happens to you or someone you love. Or it could be that one of you is forever changed by something and you think to yourself, “is this the “for worse” part?” And you’ll wonder how you’ll fair. In those moments, you will find a deeper love you never knew existed. You’ll find someone that can love you in the face of adversity, with all your pox and boils and scars. Someone that can see through all of that and love you even more than before.

[Yes, hindsight is 20/20. This is a bit heavy handed given my current situation. Maybe don’t make them think about cancer on their wedding day? But also, I love that line about pox and boils and scars. Still not appropriate…but when do you get to talk about pox and boils and scars all that often?]

And then eventually, you’ll have rediscovered love. The kind that makes you forget petty fights. The kind that makes you remember how you’ve always been stronger together than you ever were apart. The kind that makes you deeply appreciate the life you’ve built with this person whose ridges fit yours perfectly like two puzzle pieces. Or two power arms conquering the trampoline dodgeball as if you were operating with one symbiotic brain.

[Where am I going with this? Oh that’s right, I’m taking my own experiences and trying to push them onto others. Because of course. But maybe not? I think others experience this. Also, the last bit is CLEARLY their experiences. But maybe too specific? Obviously too technical. Who uses the word “symbiotic brain” in a sermon? Needs work.]

And you’ll just keep opening more doors and keep experiencing love in a new and deeper way. You’ll have gaps. He’ll have gaps. But together, you won’t see the gaps. All you’ll see reflected back are smooth edges.

[God DAMN that’s good. Okay maybe not that good. But at least I was going somewhere with that line. It’s maybe just out of order…or something. Still needs work. That “He’ll have gaps/she’ll have gaps” makes it weird because it’s more of an either/or situation…but I had to choose one. But I like that smooth edges line. If Jake and I ever renew our vows I might steal that back.]

And that’s it. That’s all I had. It’s not ALL of the research I did. But it’s the parts that I started to draft. Some of the research I can’t share because it may end up still getting used by the other officiant. But there’s still a bit more.

Quotes about love and marriage.

This is just the icing on the cake. I scanned through hundreds of quotes on love and marriage and for me, these were the ones that stuck. These were the ones that were inspiring and relevant and like something I could build off of. So I thought I’d share them here.

  • A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers (Robert Quillan)
  • The best time to love with your whole heart is always now, in this moment, because no breath beyond the current is promised. (Fawn Weaver)
  • People stay married because they want to, not because the doors are locked. (Paul Newman)
  • The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest. (Unknown)
  • You don’t marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as a result of being married to you. (Richard Needham)
  • If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you. (Winnie the Pooh)
  • Marriage is getting to have a sleepover with your best friend every night of the week. (Christie Cook)
  • Marriage provides the solace of worked-on friendship and the joy of being known profoundly. (Imogene stubbs)
  • The greatest favour we can do our children is to give visible example of love and esteem to our spouse. As they grow up, they may then look forward to maturity so they too can find such love.” (Eucharista Ward)
  • I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps. (Rocky Balboa – Rocky)
  • Happily married people know that keeping score is what unhappily married people do. (Alisa Bowman)

A good ending.

I’m gonna end this post here…thinking good thoughts about love and marriage and thinking about the homework I still have yet to do for the officiant (I’ll say no more!). But if you ever need an officiant…in like six months to a year…you know where to look.

Fitbit used for other purposes

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No, that’s not me. But it’s how I’d like to use my Fitbit someday. And maybe how I’d like to look someday.😉

 

If you’re like most people who get a Fitbit or some other form of tracking your activity, steps, etc. than you use it to motivate yourself to hit that 10,000 steps goal (that’s what we’re all striving for, right?) or to use other tools to increase your activity levels (or log food).

That’s what I’d also like to do, someday. But my goals aren’t really the same. I can count on one had the number of times I’ve hit 10k steps over the past four months. So I don’t use it for that.

No. Since Mother’s day (when I got it as a kick butt present), I’ve used it to monitor my energy use when I’m in the fat burning zone or above, or to see where my resting heart beat falls each day.

Why measure these two? Because I received this gift when I was just out of one hospital and still very sick and I was curious as to the stats I was seeing so far. My activity levels were low at this point, but my heart rate was steadily higher than normal, as was how much energy I burned each day. So I started monitoring those two throughout my period of sickness and I found it fascinating how it even dramatically changed when I started receiving chemo and those symptoms started to dissipate.

So here are the two charts.

To see the full picture, you’ll have to click on each image to zoom in, properly, but I’ll give some context here. 

Energy burned over the last four months

Fitbit_EnergyUsed

In May, I was in the “fat burning zone” for an average of 6-10 hours, despite the fact that I’d been sitting on the couch or moving less than normal since I was working from home even when I wasn’t in the hospital. And I wasn’t walking or running outside at all.

In June, some days I was up to 18 hours a day in the “fat burning zone”…again, despite the fact that I wasn’t doing anything.

In July, it almost looks like my fat burning levels just jumped off a cliff. And coincidentally, my symptoms did the same. I could breathe normal, I wasn’t coughing, I wasn’t in pain. All of a sudden my body didn’t have to fight so hard to remain active. And of course, this definitely coincided with the chemo treatments starting.

In late July/August so far, the activity has only increased substantially when I started going for walks.

The takeaway: All of this makes it really easy to pinpoint the days where my body had to work so hard when I was sick, and how much that compares to how my body should be working when I’m not sick. Not to say I’m not sick anymore, just that I’m significantly not as sick as I used to be when I first got the fitbit.

This also makes it really easy to see how I magically lost ten pounds while doing absolutely nothing.

Resting heart rate over the last four months

Fitibit_HeartRate

Before getting sick, my resting heart rate was usually on the lower side, given that I trained for running events and there is very little that stresses me out. I would put it around 65bpm.

In May, it was holding steady at a 75bpm resting heart rate. A little higher than normal.

In June, it averaged 84bpm for a resting heart rate, some days being as high as 88bpm. And that’s not my heart rate at just at any point, that’s RESTING. Meaning, lying absolutely still…my body would sometimes be chugging away at 88bpm. And on those days it wasn’t uncommon for it to be in the 100s most of the day when I actually was moving around.

In July, it plummeted down, just like the energy burning chart, and I averaged out at 63bpm…my normal resting heart rate. Now, the same holds true for August.

The takeaway: If your heart rate is really high for no good reason, maybe you should get that checked out. For me, it was high for a very good reason – it was trying to keep up with all of the infection-fighting battles going on in my body. And now that the chemo has stepped in to help, it doesn’t have to beat so hard.

Overall…it’s just an interesting trend.

There’s not a lot to this data. It was high when I was sick and normal when I wasn’t (so) sick. But I just think it’s interesting to see these stats put into such a clear visual. I’ve also heard about couples finding out they’re pregnant just by seeing spikes in the woman’s Fitbit activity. It’s just neat that we can see how our body responds to changes like this.

Someday I’ll use this to track more activity and use it to fuel my fitness goals, but for now, I’m good with just monitoring my ability to get through these rounds of chemotherapy.

Anyway, that’s all. Thought I’d share my geeky data with you.

Happy Monday, all!

Progress report: test results after four rounds of chemo

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Me finishing up round 5. Woohoo!

 

This isn’t going to be a long post because I’m still feeling a bit loopy (just had chemo yesterday). But actually, feeling a little better than the last two rounds, right off the bat, because I had them change one of my drugs from a 30-minute drip to a 60-minute drip and it has made a world of difference, already. However, day 3 (tomorrow) is always my worst, so I won’t speak too soon about feeling great.

Anywho, with this last visit I got to go over the results of my recent lung tests and the PET scan I just had on Wednesday. As a refresher – the lung test was to measure two things – 1. To see if I was breathing better since I had a tumor in my lungs and 2. To see if the chemo drug that produces lung toxicity was having any impacts on me…basically if it was harming my lungs. So we’ll get to those results first.

Lung test results

Doing good! When I first did the test before I started chemo I was 80% (of what? I don’t know). Last week when I did the test, I was bumped up to the 90% range. So my lungs are doing even BETTER than before I had chemo. Great news, for sure. It means I’m breathing better (likely because the tumor is smaller…we’ll get into that in a moment) and also that I’m not seeing any serious side effects from the one chemo drug I’m on that could cause lung toxicity. So, good news!

PET scan results

So the big news. This is the test that looks at where all the cancer cells are in my body. Before chemo, I had cancer showing up along my bones and primarily in my lung. We did a bone marrow test that showed I was negative for having cancer in my bones, but when you see the pictures, you’ll think “how can that NOT be in your bones?” So it’s a mystery. Was the biopsy a small sample size? Or was it just mysteriously lighting up along my bones for other reasons? Well, as you’ll see from the after pics…it no longer matters. Cause it’s gone. So I’ll explain them further as we go through. But overall, AMAZING PROGRESS. WOOHOO!

FYI…When looking at these images, the ones on the left are the before images, the ones on the right are the after images. 

Overview of my body

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Here’s how you need to look at this view. Everything that’s really dark or black is cancer…except for my bladder, organs, heart and neck/head. So what is it that changed? Well, I highlighted the areas with cancer in the before and after so you can see where it was and where it is now.

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See that teeny tiny speck on the right that I did a poor job of circling? That’s ALL that’s left of the cancer. Just that teeny tiny speck! Also notice that my bladder is forming a smiley face…obviously my body agrees with this good news.

Tumor view

Here you’ll see what the tumor in my lungs looked/looks like. This is like if they cut my body across my lung and you’re looking down at that section they cut. The areas that are bright indicate where the cancer is.

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Again, not that easy to discern so I took the liberty of circling the cancerous areas.

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So again, as you can see, just that teeny tiny little speck!

What does this all mean?

It means things are going really good! I had hoped that I might be able to drop one of my chemo drugs – the one that causes lung toxicity, but there is a score they need to see at a certain level and I didn’t meet that criteria yet. But…that’s not a big deal. As I saw from the lung tests, I’m not being impacted by the lung toxicity yet, so hopefully that will continue. Also, I’ll still continue doing as many treatments as I was told in the beginning. Yesterday I finished round 5, so I have 7 more to go. And we’ll do another round of tests after round 8. So hopefully by then, even that little speck will be gone. One can only hope!

So yeah…I’m doing good. The chemo is working. I’m excited. My doctor is excited. Things are on the up and up!

And to everyone sending me lots of love and prayers and good vibes, you guys are making a difference! Keep it up! And thank you for all your support so far!

What it feels like to have the big “C”

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Now that I’m four rounds into my chemotherapy (five rounds…as of this coming Friday), I feel like I have a pretty good perspective on what it’s like to have cancer. And it’s interesting because I can compare and contrast my experiences with others who have cancer and more often than not, it’s usually not the same. Sure, I might find a few people that are my specific cancer and my specific stage, but even then you might experience side effects differently because you’re two different people. So here are some FAQs I came up with to get at the heart of what it feels like to have cancer, but really what it feels like for me…and these experiences may or may not translate to others.

Is cancer painful?

For me – the symptoms I experienced before I knew I had cancer were painful, at times. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was on a continuous stream of Advil or Tylenol for months to counteract the pain I had in my neck, back and shoulder. The cough and pneumonia-like symptoms didn’t hurt as much as they were annoying and made it hard to breathe. But drinking alcohol was the worst – that produced excruciating pain at times. But luckily that was something I could give up pretty easily when I started to notice the trend.

After going through chemotherapy, though, those symptoms all went away. So right now I would say even though I might still have cancer, there’s no pain associated with it. The only pain – if I experience any – is a side effect of the drugs I have to take.

Do you get emotional?

Not really. To be honest, my emotions were way more out of whack before I knew what was happening to me. For months I had tried to find answers to what was wrong and each new failed attempt to figure it out set me on an emotional rollercoaster. I just wanted answers! The day I was diagnosed, I cried a little but honestly, I was just really relieved to have answers. Granted, it sucked that the answer was maybe one of the worst I could get…but it was an answer! And that meant there was a path to recovery that I could begin, regardless of the fact that it would not be an easy path.

I did get pretty emotional on the day where I got my staging, got to go over my PET scan with my oncologist and also had a bone marrow biopsy all within the span of two hours. Since that day I’ve had some fleeting moments of self pity, but they are brief and really just a reflection on wanting to be done with chemotherapy – not based on some sense of what will or will not happen in the future.

What’s the status on your hair?

Glad you asked! It’s still hangin’ in there, surprisingly. I thought I’d be bald by my third round, but I am far from that and I’m about to go into my fifth round. It’s cut very short, as I revealed in an earlier post, and I’m still slowly shedding, but it seems like there is still a lot of hair sticking around. The top is getting a little more thin which may result in a George Costanza type look, but the sides are still quite thick. I keep expecting that I’ll wake up to clumps of hair on my pillow, but that hasn’t been the case yet. And that also means I still have my eyelashes and eyebrows – which I’m REALLY hoping stay throughout the course of chemo, but I’ll feel lucky to have them for as long as I can.

Are you nervous about going bald?

Um, yes. But now I’ve had so much time to get used to the idea that I’m more okay with it now than I was before starting chemotherapy. So if it happens, it happens. I have plenty of things to cover it up with, so I’m not stressing about this.

What’s the worst side effect of the chemo drugs you’re on?

By far the worst is nausea. That is a beast I have to tame on a daily basis for a full week after I’ve had chemo. I have a lot of meds to help me do that, but some days even the meds are no match and I just have to tough it out. But at least I’m not vomiting.

After that – constipation. Wow. I had never had a problem with constipation before chemotherapy and it is NO JOKE. The good news about this side effect is that it’s very easy to get ahead of. My best friends are Miralax and Coalesce, these days. But the chemo drugs have a cumulative effect, so where I used to have to only take it for a couple days after chemo, now I take it every day…even during the good weeks.

Finally – mouth soreness. I have such a hard time describing this because I don’t have mouth sores…it’s just that my mouth hurts for a day or two…four or five days after chemo. Water becomes painful to drink. Everything becomes hard to eat. But this side effect is lessening. This past round it was way more tolerable than previous rounds. So who knows – it may or may not be an issue in the future.

Other side effects? Sometimes a brief pain in my chest or lungs, but usually pretty fleeting. My fingernails have more hang nails and are brittle. Hair loss, obviously. Dizziness if I stand too quickly. And some other brief things, but for now – this is all that I’ve experienced so far.

Are you worried about dying?

Well, I’m not immortal…unless there is something my parents forgot to mention to me. So yeah, I guess I’m worried about dying like any mere mortals. But no, I’m not exceedingly worried about death because of my current condition. I certainly don’t feel like I’m dying. Even when it’s a bad week it just feels like I’ve come down with a nasty virus. So…basically…I live each day by how I feel and I have yet to feel like I’m on death’s door, so I’m just going to keep going with that. And to be honest, it’s just hard to even think that I won’t come out of this okay. I don’t know where this optimism comes from, but it’s usually there, even on the bad days, so I’ll keep it up as long as I can.

How do you physically feel most days?

Well, it’s 50/50. After chemo? Physically I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I can move around, I can get stuff, I’m mostly self-sufficient, but I just feel awful. Mostly this is from the nausea. Around a week later, I start to feel back to normal. I feel like I should get up, get ready, and go to work. Like, my life is just as normal as yours…and it’s weird to be sitting around the house when I feel this good. Which is why I get weird about being productive because I feel bad that I’m sitting around the house when I feel this good.

Did you lose your appetite?

I lost my appetite for the couple months before I got diagnosed. I don’t want to say it was great, because obviously I was super sick and kept trying to trick my body and mind that I wasn’t…but I did lose ten pounds and was at at weight I hadn’t seen since high school. Yes, I was sick and getting the weight off like that made me feel weak and not great, but secretly I liked being at that weight for very vein and selfish reasons. But losing more would be really bad – especially while doing chemo. However, I don’t have that issue. After the first round of chemo, my appetite was back and now I eat WAY too much. My doctor and husband say, “There’s no such thing as too much when you need to keep your strength up.” But like…maybe I eat too much. I’ve put back on almost all the weight I lost (harrumph) and the last two weeks I’ve been really into binge watching shows and lying on the couch, generally. I’ll get back to walking soon, but with this round of treatment I allowed myself a lot of time to just lie around and not be productive. And nausea has the opposite effect on me. I want to eat more to fill the void and this happened when I was pregnant too. It was like I was really eating for three…not two. So yeah, appetite is great. Maybe a little too great.

What’s the family dynamic like now?

A couple things have changed in our routine, but mostly everything in my immediate family (like, the people living in my house) is quite normal. We all still get up in the morning. I still play with my son and converse with my husband every morning and every night…but maybe a little less so the first few days after chemo. Bedtime routine falls to my hubby most nights, but when I start to feel better I try to help out a little more with that. But while my husband is getting ready for work, I still make our son breakfast and help get him dressed and out the door. I don’t do daycare drop offs or pick ups anymore – too much of a germ fest. So hubby does that or family or friends help out with that when they’re in town. And then little man gets a bath right after he comes home so we can limit the spread of germs in the house. Throughout all of this, little man goes about his day like normal and only occasionally asks me when I’m going to have “nowhere hair” (a reference to a book we got him explaining the hair changes). I highly recommend it.

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But check back with me in a couple months…

Today, this is where I stand. Tomorrow? A couple rounds from now? Who knows what could change. But today, all is as good as it can be…given my current situation. I’m not going to call this my “new normal,” because it’s more like my “suspended normal.” This is my normal…for now. And I’m just as nutty as ever. Any other questions I can answer? Did I miss anything?