Monday, December 15, 2014

Losing My Hair

As I sit here typing, I'm thinking about how silly it is to be emotional about your hair.

But then I look in the mirror and who I see staring back at me is unrecognizable.

I'm bald.
And now I look like I have cancer. (That sounds bad to say, but we relate bald--especially women--to cancer patients.)

I feel ugly.
To me, I am ugly.

There are patches of little buzzed pieces of hair poking out of my scalp, which makes my head look even uglier. And, it looks like it's growing back darker, which makes it look even more worse than the already bad statement noted above.

It's darker and patchy.

It's growing back, but how many rounds of chemo before I get to keep it again?

Will I ever look the same?
Will it be the same texture?

Having longer hair or hair in general is related to being a woman. I can't help but feel less feminine.

When, if, I ever get back in the public eye--whether it be grocery shopping, pumping gas or eating at a restaurant--I know I will get looks from everyone. People will be staring at me like I have a giant stamp with the word "CANCER" on my forehead.

It's obvious now.
There is no hiding it.
I have cancer.

It's not something I'm ashamed of; it's just something I don't want to be identified by. I don't want to be "oh there's that girl who has cancer."

I'm still me. I know that I'm still Cass. But I'm afraid people won't see me like that, especially people I know. And honestly, it makes me nervous about seeing people I know again.

Everything about not having hair feels different. It feels different when my head rubs against my pillow. I sometimes feel these tiny little hairs poking my head. I never felt that before.

Even putting on my reading glasses to type this post, it's more difficult to put them on. They don't just slide on like they did when I had hair. It feels weird. It's not the same.

I never thought I'd have to shave my head, and if I did, I figured I'd go all Britney Spears 2007 kind of crazy and do it in a fit of rage. I guess I thought if I ever did it, I figured it'd be something exciting.

But never this.

And I never thought even through this process I'd say "shave it off."

But when it starts to fall out in clumps and you start seeing bald spots on your head, it becomes more of a want rather than just a need.

My short little haircut I got prior to shaving my head, only lasted that one day. It covered up a few bald spots on my head, but the next day after waking up my hair just kept falling out and was all over the place--on me, my clothes, my pillows, my bed. It was never ending.

And if I would have let it go like that a few more days it would have looked like Edward Scissorhands got a hold of my head. And we all know his cuts were a little strange.

Anyway, Klay and I decided that it'd be best to have Brody witness "the shaving." We hoped he'd let us give him a little buzz cut too, or that he'd want to shave my head, but he didn't want to do either of course.

Klay shaved his head first. He told me from day one of this leukemia crap that he was going to shave his head. Of course I said I didn't want him to, but he was going to do it anyway. It wouldn't be different than him getting his head shaved a boot camp years ago, so it didn't really matter that much to me.

Well, Chad, my sister's husband, actually shaved Klay's head for him.

When it was my turn, we told Brody that "Mommy was going to cut her hair short like Daddy's and Brody's."

And then Klay shaved mine.

All he seemed to ask was "where did your hair go?"

And I said "We cut it all off, so I could look like you and Daddy."

But he has acted fine with me before, during and after. He wasn't alarmed and still gave me hugs and loves.

The only thing that made me sad was the day before when I cut my hair short and he saw it, he said "mama, you're hair looks good." He liked my new haircut.

And nothing melts your heart more than your child giving you a compliment, especially on his own.

The only positive I can see out of this whole thing is that I still get to be that sweet, little boy's mommy. And I'm a mommy to a now 3 lb 15 oz little fella just a few floors above me.

There is nothing more that will keep me fighting this fight than those boys and my husband. I love all my men. And I will never stop fighting for them, whether I'm bald and ugly or not.

They might just have to deal with my ugly, bald self for a bit longer til things get better.

Sorry boys, just be glad I still have my teeth.


Friday, December 05, 2014

First Round of Chemo... CHECK

I still can't believe I'm saying that I have leukemia. It just doesn't seem real; and I was diagnosed
over 20 days ago.

I just finished my first full round of chemo on Tuesday which I suppose is somewhat exciting.

There were three different chemo treatments I was getting--two from an IV, using a port in my chest to not damage the smaller veins in my arms and hands, and then a pill that I'm supposed to take twice a day (my oral chemo).

One chemo is called Idarubicin. It would only be infused only for 30 minutes a day for three days.

I also had a continuous bag of Cytarabine that was infused for 24 hours for four days. Plus I had several other things being pumped through my body... antibiotics, prechemo meds, zofran, potassium etc. (With the Cytarbine I had do to two eye drops in each eye, four times daily because it can cause conjunctivitis.

The last was the medication is the oral chemo pills called Nexavar. They were 6400 bucks, which is crazy. Luckily our insurance covered it. I had to take two pills, two times daily for seven days. They are supposed to attack my bad FLT 3 mutation in my bone marrow.

So I had a lot of IVs hooked into me through my port and even my hand, and if I needed to go to the bathroom, I have push this little cart around so my fluids could stay running continuously. Fun stuff.

It's even more fun when air gets in the line or an infusion is complete and starts beeping super loudly over and over until a nurse walks in an fixes it, which over here could take up to 20 minutes or more.

We have found the "silence" button, but it only silences it for about a minute or so.

Now imagine having a whole bunch of fluids being shoved into your system and that pump beeping every few minutes all through the night--and literally as I'm typing this, it started beeping.

So I started chemo Monday night and finished all of IV chemo by Friday and the finally finished my oral chemo Tuesday, Dec. 2.

The first immediate side effect of chemo was the disgusting taste in my mouth. Water didn't taste right. It tasted salty. Nothing tastes good. Just recently things started to taste a little better and I'm able to tolerate Gatorade and water, and a few other things.

I have gotten sick a few times, but not too bad. Now things on the other end of my body have not been so pleasant.

And that hasn't been fun--having tummy issues. But mostly I've been really tired and now running fevers here and there, which they say is normal.

I am neutropenic; that's a fancy way of saying I'm prone to getting any infections really easy. So anyone who is sick, with a runny nose or cough or anything should come up here to visit me. In fact, they are reducing my visitors that I can have daily. So if I do know you, please do not just show up. I may be feeling terrible over the next week or so still and I may not want visitors or may not be able to have them.

Now that I'm done with my first round, I just basically have to sit around and wait. The chemo kills and wipes out everything--the good cells and the bad. So once my levels start to build back up, they will do another bone marrow biopsy to determine the next step (more chemo or a bone marrow transplant).

The truth is, I noticed last night my hair is starting fall out; that is a whole-other-emotion right there.

I mean I've always shed a lot of hair, so much so that I had to keep our Swiffer in our bathroom to do a quick sweep after I dried it. And normally that always led me to an impulse decision to wack it off at some point. But I always felt the shorter my hair, the fatter I look.

And it's definitely falling out today. It's not in clumps or anything, just lots of long strands of hair are everywhere.

Let me go back to the first few days of chemo.

It was my first round.
I've never done this before.
I was scared.
I was afraid.
I hated this new depressing building I'd been forced in to.
I missed my nurses in High Risk OB.
I missed my old room over on the fourth floor.
I missed my sons.
I missed my dogs.

Every time I heard the word chemo I'd cringe.
Every time they suited in their little suits with hazardous on the front I'd get a jolt to the stomach.
Every time I saw the yellow bags with the hazardous symbols on it, I'd begin to fall in to a stupor.
Every time I heard the words "I need someone to come check chemo, please," I thought 'this is the most depressing job on the face of the planet.'
Every time I heard the word "chemo" I'd get down and depressed.
Every time I'd hear some poor old person in the next room cough or get sick, I'd be sad for them.

By day 2 and 3 of chemo, I was at an emotional low. I was just down. I didn't want to get out of bed. I started having some tummy issues. Nothing was tasting good. I was losing my appetite.

I looked around at my family and felt bad for them. Bad that they'd have to watch me go through this, bad that they would watch my body begin to deteriorate before my counts would start to go back up.

We weren't sure what the side effects would be for me. I'm younger than most folks that get this so it all depends on how my body handles it.

Most side effects are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fevers
  • mouth sores 
  • hair loss
  • GI problems
  • heart problems
  • among many, many other things
I definitely have had the first four, but mostly the third one, and it's been brutal. There has been nothing quite like it.

So this past week I haven't really felt too well. I've had a low-grade fever most of the day the past few days and so exhausted I can barely stand. I just felt completely wiped out.

I've been through so much emotionally the past two weeks. I found I have leukemia while 29 weeks pregnant. I had a bone marrow biopsy. I was induced into labor for 24 hours and called a "failed induction" because I wasn't progressing enough. Two days, later I had a premature baby with no epidural. I started chemo treatment just three days after having my precious boy. I got a really bad cold that took forever to get rid of. I started feeling the side effects of the chemo only a few days later. I became neutropenic. Now, I'm losing my hair and still having loose BM's. 

It's been brutal these past few weeks, but I also know how thankful I am to have each day I have, even if I feel terrible. My boy is doing great. Brody is managing and spending quality time with family and Klay is focused on getting us back together as a family... with all of us healthy.

All of your love and support help me make it through each day, and I truly from the bottom of my heart am forever grateful for you prayers and your gifts.

I still have a few weeks in this place, so I'm praying I make it through without any sort of infection---that would be the best case scenario. Once my blood counts start to go back up, they will do another bone marrow biopsy and see how the chemo did---hopefully it kicked those cancer cells to the curb!

Then we will talk about our next steps.

I'm writing this story too, because I want to keep everyone informed. But I will admit it is very difficult to respond to every text, FB message, etc. 

Right now we are waiting and twiddling our thumbs, which means I'm thinking about not having the nursery even started yet, or having a crib or having our bathroom finished. LOL. Typical Cass... I'm a worry wart. 

In all truth, those things don't matter to me. Of course anyone would like them to be done, but I honestly don't care. I know those things are not important. I really, truly and deeply understand that now. I honestly don't care that it's not finished, or if my house is a mess, or the dishes don't get cleaned, and I don't care that we have only one bathroom we can use. 

I just want to be home with all my boys, changing dirty diapers and playing "pow pow" with Bro, and have a healthy family. That's all I want in this life--and it'd be nice if it could all happen before Christmas. That would truly be a day to celebrate.

Oh! And make sure to listen to the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show Monday between 7-8 am! They called me this week and surprised me. Oh what a blessing that was, and they totally lifted my spirits. And thank you to my friend, Wanda for nominating us. Now that woman... is an amazing, uplifting woman; a woman like no other!

Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts and prayers,

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Baby Beckham's Birth Story

After the failed induction and a day of rest, Thursday morning came faster than I thought it would. Immediately after I got up, I started throwing up--probably from nerves, but this whole process was a whirlwind; it was just weighing on me so bad.

There was so much uncertainty.

Was he going to be OK?
Was I going to be OK?
Were we going to be able to deliver him vaginally?
Were we going to make it through all this without having a C-section?
How was I going to handle the pain?
How was he going to tolerate labor again?

There were so many unanswered questions that made me worried and fearful. It was overwhelming. I just wanted to get the ball rolling. If we were going to do this, I wanted to go for it and give it our best shot to get him out naturally.

That was my mind frame--let's get this done.

They wheeled me down about 7 a.m. or so and put another cytotec in my cervix to try to soften it one more time before starting me on pitocin.

I started contracting again, but not as much as I did the first day. They weren't bad contractions, at least not to me, just like menstrual cramps.

I started the day at a 2 and long, so my cervix hadn't completely softened yet, but I was much further now than I was two days prior, so that was good.

When my doc got me going on pitocin around noon or so, the contractions picked up and I started to dilate a little more. Things were finally progressing.

My nurse would ask how the contractions were and honestly they weren't really bothering me. They were uncomfortable and slowly getting stronger, but I kept saying "I just hope I'm a bad ass with a high pain tolerance and that's why they aren't bothering me that much."

By around 7 or so that night, my doc came down and checked my cervix again. This time I was 4 and 75% effaced, so almost fully thinned out. She knew that when I finally thinned all the way out, he would come pretty fast.

She decided to break my water. I was actually surprised with each vaginal check how much I wasn't bothered by her shoving her hand up there. I remember when she broke my water with Brody, it hurt. This time, I was like "ehh, it's not bad at all." I think it's all in your mind frame.

I knew I was doing this on my own. My anesthesiologists were planning to give me pain meds through an IV to help take some of the edge off when I wanted it.

I hadn't asked for it this whole time, because I didn't feel like I needed it. But finally they hooked me up to a PCA so I could push a button when I wanted it. But I never really pushed the button. I kept forgetting. And it wasn't helping me even when I would.

They were supposed to double my dose as I progressed and then give me some other pain med when my contractions really kicked in, but by the time this baby started coming I didn't have any of that. It was all natural.

When I started to have to really breathe through my contractions, Klay would be over there pushing that button, trying to get me meds, but I had to sit there and tell him "it's not helping." LOL. He'd say, "push the button!" He was worried, but I hadn't even gotten to the hard part yet.

I had about 30 minutes of pretty bad pain. And of those 30 minutes, 10-15 were extremely painful, but man, those last two contractions were brutal.

Not too long later, my doc came running in when she saw the baby's heart rate dip. Apparently that's a sign they are getting ready to come down the birth canal.

She checked me and I was a 6 almost 7 and she started gearing up.

That's when I really started hurting. I was turned on my side, legs clinched and grabbing onto the bed rails for dear life.

I started to think I couldn't do this if it was going to take much longer. But I could barely get any thought or words out because the pain was insane. If I could describe it, it felt like a watermelon on fire with razor blades forcing its way down and out of your body.

I started to feel the urge to push and I hollered "I gotta push!!!!" so they'd call the NICU to get them down to the room. He was coming and he was coming fast.

Everyone was telling me to wait and hold him in because NICU needed to be down in the room before Bex came out in case he wasn't breathing.

And when they tell you you have an urge to push, there is no urge about it. There is no stopping it. But somehow, I managed not to push. I literally think it was because I was on my side. Had I been on my back, legs spread, he would have shot out across the room--there would have been no stopping it.

I had that first contraction before the contraction where Bex made his arrival and I think I scarred Klay for life.

I hollered so loud I probably ignited fear in all of the women waiting to deliver down the hall.

All I kept hearing was "hold him in Cass, hold him in, don't push don't push!"

My doc had told me I was going to have another contraction before NICU made it down. About 30 seconds later the second one started.

I was still on my side, hollering "he's coming!"
"Hold him in, hold him in," everyone said.
"I caaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnn't!!!" I shouted.

As soon as my doctor flung my leg open, baby boy slid right out. I didn't push once.

He was crying, which meant he was breathing. NICU hadn't gotten there yet.

His cry was so soft though it took me a minute to hear.

I was breathing hard, shaking and relieved the pain was over; it stopped instantly.

My doc said "you did it. He's fine, he's breathing and crying and you have a baby!"

I was kinda in shock like, "I do?" I couldn't believe I did it.

I kept saying "I'm sorry" I couldn't hold him in.

Seconds later a flood of people burst into the room.

Beckham immediately reached out and grabbed my doctor's clamp when she was about to clamp the cord. She started to laugh. He is already a feisty little thing.

He weighed 3lbs 8 oz, 17 inches long and was born at 30 weeks gestation.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 9:23 p.m.

My doc noticed he had a knot in his umbilical cord. "He failed jump roping class," she said. But later on after Bex was being looked at by the NICU folks and I was being cleaned up, my doc said that the knot could have been fatal to him had we continued on with the pregnancy. The bigger he would have gotten, the more strain he would have put on his cord and he could have lost his blood flow.

"He was meant to come out," my doc said to me a few days later.

I truly believe that. He was meant to come out. Things could have been a lot worse, but on that day, everything went as well as it could have. It was a great day.