Friday, January 7, 2011

Girl Scout Motto: Be Prepared

What can I say?  I was a Girl Scout.  Brownie Scouts through Senior Scouts.  Back in the 60s, Girl Scouting in my hometown was kind of like being in a club.  It was your patriotic duty to be civic minded.  Scouting for boy and girls was a great way to accomplish that.  I think the Be Prepared motto was the same for both, but since I was not a boy scout, I won't swear to that.  

Anyway, the things you learn as a child are hard to shake.  I stand ready.  I make lists constantly.  I'm organized.  There is a huge difference between being prepared and being organized though.   You have to be prepared because things don't always happen in a nice, neat organized way.  Our dominoes, all lined up like the instructions tell us, don't fall like the the cute videos on You Tube.  Darn!

I'll try not to get off on a tangent here, but as an aside, I have to say that Mattie Mae, my mother-in-law (who lives right next door), was a Girl Scout all her life and didn't even realize it.  She's lived the Girl Scout life ALL her life.  If she'd had a badge-sash, it would have been full, full, full.  I'll wager that she could have taught Juliet Low (Girl Scout founder) a thing or two or three.  I could start a blog about my mother-in-law, which would be an incredibly fascinating read.  Take my word, at 85, she's prepared for anything.  She could survived anything.  She could mend anything with bailing twine or cure you with a combination of vinegar, honey, rubbing alcohol, baking soda, berries and who knows what all. I like to tell people that although she was born in the late 20s, it was as if she had grown up in the 1800s. But that's the way it was for most folks in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  They didn't know any other type of life.  Mattie Mae is one of a kind and I'm a much, much, much better person for having known her.  She's still  here, by the way, for those of you who do not know her.  I'll probably mention her name again from time to time.  She's one of life's blessings.  

As chemo time grows closer, I am reminded, yet again, that I need to be prepared.  As I blog along, new acquaintances pop up along the way; friends who also have breast cancer.  They offer advice that I'm so grateful to receive.  Here is one e-mail, (or part of one) from Koryn.  You'll find a link to her blog Koryns Story among my favorites. 

Other side effects from chemo I had besides extreme fatigue were constant nausea. Nothing they gave me helped and I found queezy pops from three lollies dot com on my last cycle. I highly recommend them they are the only thing that helped me. I also had Emend, Dexamethasone, and tried everything under the sun to include Zofran, Phenergan, etc. but nothing helped. I also had terrible migraines the first cycle.
My finger nails came apart from the nail beds and so did my big toe nails. It was painful.  I got acne. I had numbness in my feet and hands and still do wake up every morning with numb hands but that goes away once I begin moving around.
I got mouth sores. Food tasted awful but I didn't gain or lose over all in weight.  I actually lost some weight when all was done - I really lost my appetite about 3 months post chemo.  Odd, but it didn't last. 
When do you start??  I and a friend went to one of those food preparation places and stocked my freezer with 12 meals to get me started....I couldn't cook for months.  That was a good move. My husband was working a very high powered job in The Pentagon at the time and didn't get home until late most nights. Having the meals really helped. My church also helped us out a lot and brought  meals to us frequently.
I hired a teen girl who needed money to help me clean the house. I just didn't have the energy. It was a win win!  My neighbor walked my golden retriever every day for 6 months.  She was an angel from Heaven to me!
Walking will help and so will drinking lots of water. You have probably heard this. Chemo will back things up...keep your bowels moving....walk a little every day even if 10 minutes...add as you are able....seriously this is the single best thing you can do for yourself to get through. It helps boost your mood too.

In my past life, being prepared was an occasional challenge.  I didn't think much about it. Without a doubt, this chemo thing will prove to be my biggest. How do you prepare for the unknown?  Some people tell me that I'll just breeze through chemo.  No problem.  I've been told:  You won't have nausea; they give you medicine for that.  You might feel a bit fatigued the first couple of days, but after that you'll be okay.  You'll be able to work.  Just rest when you can.  You might not lose your hair; some people don't.  Oh please, please, please let this be me.

Here's what Koryn said about that in another e-mail to me (her last sentence is hilarious!):

As for chemo, I will tell you what my oncologist told me. Yes, some women who go through chemo do not lose all their hair. The women with breast cancer? THEY lose all their hair. Period. It is a matter of the chemo drugs (all of them) given for breast cancer. Some chemo regimens for, say, lung cancer, doesn't affect the hair as much. So you can pretty much plan on needing that wig. I had fun with the wigs. I never left home without it. And the only day when I did, I wore a scarf and was going to chemo treatment that day and I hated it. I felt like everybody was staring. If I should have been okay with it anywhere it should have been going THERE, right? But I didn't feel comfortable at all but it was hot and I was tired and I just wanted a break from the tight itchy wig.  Other women feel totally free going everywhere being bald. I had a friend who was younger than me going through it and she met me at Starbucks one day for coffee with about 1/4 inch gray fuzzy "after growth". She looked like a refugee. She is a beautiful woman. She told me that she thinks people need to know that this is what cancer looks like and that very young women get breast cancer and she is not going to hide that. She is out to eductae the world about the evils of hormones and doesn't care how she looks in the process. So you will find where you fit in there, or somewhere in between. At home I didn't even go bald because I couldn't stand how I looked passing by a mirror. Plus, my dog growled at me!

The other day Dwain and I scanned a catalog that the American Cancer Society gave me, "tlc."  I guess that stands for Tender Loving Care.  They have all sorts of lovely hats, scarves, post-surgical necessities (oh how I wish I'd seen this catalog before my mastectomy because they feature a brand new item: surgical drain belt with pockets.  For those who have dealt with the horrors of drain tubes, you will know precisely what I'm talking about.  If you're about to get a mastectomy or know someone who is, you've got to check this out.  A life-saver, if you ask me.), bras and foam breast forms, and so so so many wigs.  I asked Dwain to help me find a wig that didn't look too "wiggy."  We looked and looked.  Dwain made big Xs over the ones he disliked the most.  We finally decided on the wig pictured below.  The color will be rich brown with golden highlights (the one pictured is light reddish brown).

I'm not sure that you can ever wear a wig that doesn't actually look like a wig, but hey, what choice do you have if you're a woman and you're basically bald?  You can wear a wig, a scarf, a hat, or you can go around looking like one of the Coneheads from Saturday Night Live fame.  "tlc" has a super great return policy, too.  If for some reason I don't lose my hair, I can return my new unused head of hair. 

I guess I better get busy and start using my days to prepare.  Dwain and I have already started stocking the freezer with quart-sized freezer bags of homemade soups.  Mattie Mae gave us tons and tons of fresh fruit that she grew this summer -- also in the freezer.  Those will be good for those low energy days.  How many of those days can we expect?  

I'm usually such a high-energy person and I love to cook.  I love to be out and about.  I don't like to be waylaid by anything.  Ever.  I hate the idea of this whole chemo thing so much.  I dread it. It's on my mind constantly.  But I hate the idea of breast cancer coming back even more.  So I guess I better just suck it up and get used to...  But get used to what? 

I can prepare for most things.  My parents instilled a strength in me about everything, including sickness; if you're sick, go to bed, take your medicine, take care of yourself, get well and then go on.  Don't linger.  Don't enjoy being sick.  Believe me, I don't enjoy being sick.   That said, how do you prepare for the unknown?  How do you prepare your mind for such a thing as this?


  1. Mom, you're such a fighter. As long as I have known you (like my whole life) you have always been a prepared woman. You taught me to be prepared for anything. Being a mother of young boys, I think it has been one of the best things I have ever learned from you. Honestly, I think that you're doing the best you can at being prepared. You're doing research. Your getting all this done now while you still have energy to do it. So I guess all you need to do now is figure out a way to wrap your mind around the concept that Chemo is coming. Be glad you don't have young kids still at home to care for. Be even more glad that you have Dwain as your Angel slash husband. I know that Dwain being there to guard over you during this time in your life makes me feel secure. I hate that you're about to go through this, mom. It makes me so sad. It makes me even more sad that I can't be there to just give you a hug or hold your hand. You are an amazing woman. Your strength is amazing. Your courage is amazing. You are doing everything you should to be prepared.I'm proud of you.

  2. P.S. I really like that wig! It's looks just like your hair style now. Good choice!

  3. Megan, I agree with Jayme; I like the wig too and I too am sad that you are going through this. How to prepare for the unknown? It sounds like you are doing all that you can. During my past 2 moves, I prepared by taking things one day at a time. I tried not to worry about the next day, week, month.
    I am praying for you, for strength, for courage, for a full and speedy recovery, but most of all, for the peace that passes our understanding that only comes from God. You are a fighter!!! Hang in there.

  4. Megan, I LOVE the wig. My Mom wore one when she went through chemo and if you didn't know her, you would never have guessed it was a wig. I know several women who just wear a scarf all the time...yes, you know they must be a cancer patient but hey, people get cancer. The scarves look lovely too. It's all what makes YOU feel the most secure and comfortable. Your hair will grow back really really's doesn't take long once you are done with the treatment. You will go through won't be fun but it will pass and when it's over you will be healthy and ready for the rest of your life.

  5. Megan you will look great in the wig,,,Awwww heck you will look great in anything that you choose to wear. You have aways been beautiful inside and out.
    Sending Hugs and much love

  6. AWWW! You guys are so nice. Blush. Blush.

    MICHELLE! How wonderful to see/hear from you. You have a very good point. Take it day by day. My friend Paula53 (above) sent me an e-mail and told me that her mother used to sing an old song when she was going through chemo (many, many years ago) called One Day At A Time, Sweet Jesus. You're also one of my sweeties (like Angie and Shannon).