The Waiting Game

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Waiting…that’s the name of the game.  You show me ONE person who loves a waiting game and I would be SHOCKED.  But that’s what entailed over the next week…a lot of silence and a lot of waiting.  In the whole scheme of things I  was so dang lucky though!  The quickness of this whole mess was apparently unheard of!!!  What USUALLY happens is weeks or months between appointments, but this was just a matter of days. I was BEYOND blessed that this was moving at the pace it was. 

In the meantime, I had some family come in town. They had dropped everything and just drove in to be with us. It was so good for my soul…and for the kids.  They actually ended up taking the older kiddos back to Oklahoma for a week. They wanted to help and knew that this would allow me to get my appointments and routine all set without having to worry about them. I remember missing them like crazy but also being able to just cling to Kaleb. 

My little dude while in Oklahoma having fun getting a new hair do!

I saw my oncologist, Dr. Palanisamy (we call her Dr. Pala for short!) that next week. I mean how do you even know how to pick this doctor?!?! The one that you’re entrusting your life to and that you will be connected to forever?  How do you know the right one?  I  knew she was right for me.

She didn’t even have all of my labs back to know the exact type of breast cancer I  had when we first sat down…but she met with me and took me through EVERY scenario possible.  Again, I was SO clueless! I had no idea that there were so many different treatment options depending on the TYPE of cancer. I didn’t even know there were different types of breast cancer until this!

She was so knowledgable and knew so much that it was mind boggling.

But then she would look at me with this empathetic and reassuring smile and I just knew she was good to the core.  She got on the phone with the lab in Florida to speed things up. She told me she would personally be calling me by the end of the day to give me the exact type and to know what our plan would be.  I recall leaving the office glazed over but at the same time knowing we were in good hands. 

By that evening, she called me with my specific cancer case. My tumor was ER/PR + with over 90% estrogen dominance and that it was HER2-.  Trust me, when you’re new to the breast cancer world that means absolutely NOTHING, lol! So if that seems like random acronyms, I get it 😉 My cancer was hormonally driven by progesterone and estrogen but the hormone receiver part was negative.

So what did this mean?  This meant I was going to have to undergo 16 rounds of chemo followed by a mastectomy and then radiation.  First up?  I had to get LOTS of imaging (CT, MRI, PET) and had to get a Mediport placed. 

July 7 was our 12 year anniversary

Kaleb and I met when I was just 15…I  mean I’ve spent more of my life WITH him than I  have without!  After several years apart when I  was away at college and then starting my career, we reunited in 2005.  We were engaged by February of 2006. That summer we went to the top of Vail mountain to say our vows.  I  think back to that day…we had NO CLUE what those vows truly mean.  Sure, we were in love and were committed! But that commitment was taking on a whole new life of it’s own.  We celebrated our mile marker and the last weekend before I  would start my treatments…I  was in heaven and so grateful to be with him.  It gave me the energy and motivation to get ready to kick some cancer ass! 

Kaleb and I at our Anniversary and ‘get ready to kick cancer’s ass’ dinner

On Monday July 9 I  went to get an echocardiogram before meeting a group of friends for lunch.  I sat in that cardiologists office with my friend beside me just in awe.  What the heck was I  doing there?!?!  I was the youngest patient by GENERATIONS!  It just didn’t seem right and was so eye opening for me…I  was going through some serious stuff!!!  I mean they had to do measurements of my heart so that they would have a baseline in case any of the chemo I went through did damage.  It was unnerving!!! But, I had a super healthy heart ….thank you health and fitness for the years of service 😉

The lunch crew that day

Lunch was perfection…wine and tears and flowers and friendship 

More people coming into our corner a to fight alongside me was just more encouragement that I didn’t even know I needed. 

I  had a message to be home by 5:00…there was a surprise waiting on me at the house.  My group of friends (who had rallied at the hotel and every day since) had booked a photographer to be at my house. 

They had my kids and husband ready with zero fight (y’all KNOW that doesn’t happen!!!). When I got home, they got me ready by doing my hair and makeup.

It was the MOST perfect impromptu photo shoot ever that captured so many treasured memories that I  will have for a lifetime 

Those photos remain around my house reminding me of who I  was, of what I  once was. It’s both awesome and melancholy at the same time…only because I  long to be her once again. That woman who seemed to have it all…the successful marriage, the amazing career, the incredible 3 kids, and strong as could be (and HAIR!).  But yet I had the fight of my life waiting on me, lurking in the distance and just around the corner.

That night our whole crew decided to dye our hair pink…it was a night I will never forget.  The laughs and the energy and the enthusiasm that our crew was rallying with was just incredible.  I couldn’t BELIEVE all that was happening and the love our family was being shown.  Our TeamTuman tribe was in full effect…

The pink hair party with one of my best friends who I have referred to often during this journey. She is also my medical provider who helped me SO much in so many ways.

The day after our pink hair party, I had my port placement. It was starting to get real.  Not only was I sporting hot pink hair but there I was. I was in an OR to have a device placed under my skin for all of the many rounds of healing poison I  was about to endure.  It would eat away at my veins so the best bet was a mediport to take the beating for me.

I remember laying on the table going into the OR and scared to death.

Would this hurt?  Would I feel this all the time?  What was it made of? How did it work?  How is this happening?  I laid under the bright lights on a cold OR table with tears streaming down my face. The medical team reassured me that this day was hard but the day I walk back into have it removed will be amazing…hmmm, hard to picture.

That night following my port placement…pink hair in all it’s glory, lol!

Up to this point I don’t think really knew what I  had felt emotionally 

I  mean you are told you have cancer and the world you once knew changes. You change.  You are told you are strong and amazing and courageous. But you don’t feel it.  You are just going through the motions, showing up to appointments and not even knowing why you’re there.  Doing what you have to do, doing what you’re told and just coasting.

You are living on adrenaline and support from those around you because alone you’d feel like you are nothing.  Faking it some days to your kids and your loved ones so that they don’t fall apart.  You are crying in solitude to keep others around you ok.  But you don’t even know what you are feeling.  You don’t know how to share because it’s all so foreign…except for one thing.  Fear.  You know what that feels like, you know what it’s like to be scared.  It’s a familiar emotion that you keep pushing aside.

One of the most precious gifts I received…it was from my aunt. A box full of things that my grandmother had used during her chemo treatments.

That Wednesday was ‘Chemo Class’

Chemo Class and also the financial meeting with my oncology office. Essentially, you meet with the billing administrator who goes over all of the financial information so that you know what to expect for the months to come.  I don’t think I’ve EVER been more grateful for my husband’s job and the insurance that we are able to be a part of.  

Just an example…without insurance just ONE chemo treatment would have been over $26,000

Following the financial information, my husband and I  met with the midlevel provider at the oncologist’s office.  This is where she went through every single thing about what to expect from my treatment plan.  We got a binder full of information including the exact chemo regimen I would be on. Before this, I  thought chem was chemo!  I  had NO idea there were different types!).  

I  would have to take a day and a half of steroids before even getting to my session.  This would be to help prevent too many side effects from the treatment itself.  I would also take 2 different nausea medicines post treatment around the clock. I had consent forms to sign to state that I  understood all of the possible (and soon to be) side effects (nausea, fatigue, hair loss, nails going to hell, severe constipation, possible infections from weakened immune system, etc.) as well as the treatment goals for each medication. 

My Chemo book

The next day would be our start date and it was all getting a bit too real. 

I mean, it was like a party everyday, leading up to the first treatment lol!  The love and support behind our family was surreal…from the messages to people dropping off gifts to mail being poured in, to random get togethers every night to daily lunches with groups of incredible friends.  The list of love goes on! 

A spur of the moment ‘let’s rally and beat cancer’ with my girls

One day my tribe brought by huge gift buckets for each kid plus a bag full of all kinds of chemo ready goodies for me.  I  remember grabbing my friend who dropped it off and just crying…it’s not something I did a whole lot but I  did.  I shared with her that I was scared. Scared of the unknown for what this was all going to be like.  Honestly, I was terrified..  But the only thing I  knew to do was dig in deep to my faith and the belief behind a bigger purpose behind this journey AND to lean into the tribe surrounding us.  

The bag of goodies from my tribe
My son’s bucket of blessings
My oldest daughter’s bucket of blessings

Clinging to faith and your circle is the only thing you know to do, because it’s the only thing that you can believe in anymore…faith and your circle.

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