Category Archives: motherhood

Chemo Can Affect Your Memory…Ya Think!


Hi
The other morning I was scanning the NY Times on My IPAD. (I say that to sound groovy and technologically savvy – of which I am neither). But I came across an article that was titled “Chemo Brain can last for up to five years.” CRAP! Chemo Brain is very similar to pregnancy brain (boy we women just get all the fun stuff don’t we!). Anyway, it refers to your Short Term Memory…or really the lack there of. Now frankly, I get pregnancy brain, because we women spend 9 months trying to avoid focussing on the crippling pain of child birth. We do such a good job at that, That is until the delivering or 2nd or 3rd delivery that women are often heard screaming “why the hell did I let you get me pregnant again!” (usually the words sound much more venomous than that) But of course once that bundle of joy is in our arms — POOF! the memory of the pain is gone.

But the thought of Chemo Brain bothers me. I pride myself on my memory. I have always been able to store and recall facts, figures, phone numbers, names, and data in my head (with great detail). Even at work, though my desk was a mountain (and that is a true description) of papers, invoices, photos, fabric swatches, button samples, and other garment paraphernalia; I could recall exactly what strata the necessary document was in. Easy retrieval — co-workers would watch in awe — that there really was a system in place there! Though it was rumored that the pile was so big and old that Jimmy Hoffa’s body maybe at the bottom.

But to get back to the Chemo Brain I suffer at present, I must tell you about my day tuesday (it may have been Monday). Since I can’t tell you what I had for Breakfast this morning you’ll have to forgive the approximation on the days. Anyway, I realized I must get myself a book to carry around with me at all times, to write things down in. Otherwise the information will be lost forever. So this particular morning I knew I needed some food at the grocery store so I wrote my 8 items in my book, put my book in my handbag and got in my car to go to the store. Before I left my driveway I realized I didn’t have my phone, so I put the car in park and ran back into the house. As I entered my home the phone was ringing, so I answered it. My good friend and I chatted for about 10 minutes until the doorbell rang. The Fedex man needed me to sign for a package, which I did. Before he walked away he said :”You know your car is running.” Sh**! I totally forgot I was going somewhere. I said goodbye to my friend and got back in the car. I drove about 1,000 ft. and again said Sh**! I forgot my phone. So in reverse I went and got my phone, and back on the road again.

Finally, after 1 hour of me leaving, I arrived at the supermarket (which is only 5 minutes from my house). Just arriving inside the store gave me the most ridiculous sense of accomplishment. I felt a like Marlo Thomas on the corner of The NYC street throwing her hat in the air. I just wanted to scream to everyone “Look I made it to the Grocery Store all on my own….” Sad but true! Anywhoooo…my shopping experience was even more fun….

As I started walking down the aisle’s and throwing items in my cart, I wasn’t really paying attention to how full my cart was getting. Something clicked and I realized, “Wait I have a list.” So I turned to my cart to get the book out of my bag and, CRAP – no bag! Immediate panic set in. “Did someone steal my purse? Everything is in it! Oh wait, what is in it? My book is in it?” As I stood talking to myself Clarity emerged. My bag is in my car — I think!” I abandoned my cart and went to the car. The HALLELUJAH CHORUS WENT OFF IN MY HEAD! There was my bag in the car, and my list too! Yeah.

Back into the store I went, but wait – where did I leave my cart. After looking like a Peeping Tom hovering over carts to find mine, I gave up and went to get a new cart. Now I that I had my book with the list I was set to go and purchase only what I needed. We’ll except for these pretzel rolls. Thats all I got extra. Well that and those just baked Brownies in the bakery. Those were only extra items…oh yeah, and the Cookie Dough Ice Cream, and nothing else, except for the whipped cream! But I swear that was it! That and the 8 items on my list, and I was good to go! Ya, Right!

The cashier is swiping my items, looking at me wondering how I could consume so much junk food. I turned to get wallet out of my bag, and realized “Crap, I only took in my book with the list and left my bag in the car.! With a line behind, I had to sheepishly explain to the cashier that I have to run quickly to my car to get the wallet. I saw his and everyone else’s eyes roll at the idiot that I am! Luckily my car was one in one of the closest spots, which I pointed to as I told him I would be right back. I felt the Cashier give this look, I think he felt sorry for me. Like I was some little lost puppy! He nodded at me allowing me to run out to get my wallet. As I exited the store I understood the look. I had left my car on, and the door open. I just wanted to run back in and scream, “It’s not me really, it’s the chemo. I am usually much smarter and way more together than this!” But of course I didn’t. I got my bag (thankfully we live in a low crime area – or I give off that “mentally challenged aura”), and went back in to pay the bill. Embarrassed enough I apologized to everyone on the line, especially the nice lady behind me, who said, “Don’t worry, I understand. I know what it is like sweetie, I have been through pregnancy before also.”

And I thought “Wow! I look young enough to be pregnant? Cool” or “Do I look fat enough to be pregnant! CRAP!” And just like that the events of the last two hours were out of my head. POOF!

Carol
@Funnycancermom

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Filed under breast cancer, Cancer, Chemo Therapy, coping with breast cancer, Facing Cancer with Humor, Health, Humor, inspirational, motherhood, Positive Outlook Stories, stay at home moms, support, the cancer made me do it, Uncategorized, women's health

Call Me, or Don’t. You Decide!


Today I got to go for a walk with a women I know who is cancer and treatment free for over a year. She was diagnosed with a different kind of cancer, more severe, but her prognosis and outlook are outstanding. While talking and walking (a skill I am exceptionally gifted at – really the talking part, but anyway) I realized that many of us that have gone through one of these treatments or another, come out on the other side with a clarity about what is important and what isn’t. I thought today I would talk about this part of having cancer. Not so much the clarity of life part, but the clarity of what annoys me part.

I know that those of you who have not been in this situation (which I hope that you never will be) may feel awkward as to how to call someone who has been diagnosed, or what to say to them when you see him/her. Of course there is no real handbook on what to say, or how to say anything. Could you imagine Barnes and Nobles carrying book that says “Cancer Etiquette for Dummies” or “Chicken Soup for the ones that want to say the right thing to a cancer patient.” Not a best seller. And, Yes, of course everyone is different and everyone wants to hear different things, but somethings I have found to be universally true. And by universally, I am referring only to the people I have asked.

I would like to start by saying how much I appreciate the thoughts and wishes, and I know your meaning is only with the best intention. Your are trying to soothe or comfort — and I know it! Frankly, sometimes you are so off the mark though; so I thought I would have a little fun pointing out some Cancer Etiquette Faux Pas. This isn’t like Donald Trump trying to teach President Obama a lesson in Birth Right etiquette…because where would anyone get the idea that Donald Trump has any idea of what etiquette is…you know if he can’t have his named stamped on it it doesn’t exist! Oh excuse me I went of on a tangent there, but I am back now!

Ok back to our topic, what to say and what not to say and how to say it! Let me give you an example of what not to do. I got a call from someone the night before my surgery. The first no no is that she called me from a her speakerphone in her car; her windows must have been open, because I couldn’t even hear her say who it was. I explained that I we had a very bad connection. You’d think she would the say she will call later, or close her window, or do something to better enhance the “conversation ability factor” but noooooooo, she kept right on talking. Did she not really want to call, but felt she should? Anyway, her conversation consisted of her telling me how much it sucked that I had cancer, Again! How terrible she felt! How crushed she was when she heard the news! And then the phone cut out. I figured she would call right back — NEVER HEARD FROM HER AGAIN!!!!! So let’s put this out to all of you, where do you think she may have gone wrong with this conversation…Anyone? Ok here is a hint — the entire conversation pretty much failed the etiquette test, the soothing test, and the comforting test. A Triple negative — a really bad thing in Breast Cancer results by the way.

Was it just a call for affect, or was she just so uncomfortable that she did this purposefully so she didn’t have to talk to me or hear from me at all. My advice to all of you. If you don’t want to call DON’T — insincerity and bullsh** comes through in the first 5 seconds. Remember Seinfeld’s bit on taking and holding a reservation. “Just because you take a reservation doesn’t mean you know how to hold the reservation.” Same principle, just because you called to be comforting doesn’t mean that you should have called and it definitely doesn’t mean that your words were comforting. Is it really that you think hearing you say how much my diagnosis sucks, will sink in that much more? As if to say, “up until this point I was fine with getting cancer for the 2nd time, but now that so and so told me it sucks I should really rethink my position.” I call it a given that you feel my diagnosis sucks!

Another common statement I have gotten was when the caller tells me “Oh my goodness, when I heard the news I had such a hard time dealing with it!” Again, really — do you possibly think that when I got the news I just shrugged and said “oh well” then moved on. No one wants or seeks out bad news,but now i don’t only have to deal with my own cancer, but I have to feel bad for upsetting you as well! Just sayin’ I got enough on my plate, I don’t need your stuff also.

Other favorites include friends who call once and then don’t call again for two months. And then when they call they automatically let me know how much they have rearranged in there schedule to find the time to call. or they say, “I am so sorry I haven’t called, my life has just been so crazy these days.” My life isn’t crazy at all people. I got all the time in the world. I’ve just been just with an ice cold IV pumping lethal chemicals into my veins and enjoying. Really? And aside from the queasiness and feeling like crap I have all the time in the world to just sit around; so feel bad that the “my life is crazy right now” statement doesn’t sound like a load of sh**! Honestly, I understand that you can’t call every day or week or even month, but don’t blame it on a busy life. I get it, we all find it hard to find time and that is okay. I understand busy lives. But maybe after you upload the pictures of you sitting around watching your kids baseball game to facebook, you can make a quick call to say hi!

And the last and most important is a statement that I know is truly well meaning, just no well implemented. “What can I do for you?” Don’t ask me, because I am a martyr and will say nothing. Tell me what you are doing. “I am bringing dinner Thursday, or I am picking up your dry cleaning Friday, or for the next month you have full use of my housekeeper to do your laundry, cooking, cleaning, driving your kids around. Now that would be awesome!!! So put that in your books as a great gift!!!!

Seriously though, I appreciate and love all of the well wishes. You don’t have to call and talk about the cancer. Frankly, that is why I have the blog, so I don’t have to talk about it 24/7. Call me about the weather, or American Idol, or the Royal Wedding (because yes, I am obsessed wit the Royals) Or just call to say hi! And no matter when it is or how long it has been since I last heard from you doesn’t matter. I am just glad to hear from you.

Speak to you soon.

Carol

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This Dog won’t hunt (or peck)!


May 9, 2011

Everyday becomes a learning process for me. Life on Chemo Therapy introduces me to new sites and smells and sensations. But do I want to learn these lessons? Since I was never much of a student in High School I am not always happy to be learning new things. At the moment, I am learning the difference between nausea and queasiness. The difference can be as small as the words “infer and imply” — basically non-existence. The sensation I have been feeling begged the question… Am I hungry? Am I Queasy? or Am I Nauseous? Well so far it is a learning process, and I am being graded on a bell curve. It reminds me of the adage “Starve a cold and Feed a Fever, or is it Feed a cold and starve a fever…” Which one makes you feel better faster, or does either work at all?

For Mothers Day we went to see my Mom and Dad. My Brother and Sister-in-law were in town so we got to see them as well. So as long as we were going for brunch, my husband, children, and decided to bring the food from one of our local favorites. As usual, I brought enough food to them so they cold later invite their building and entire town for leftovers (maybe even enough left over to feed the troops in Iraq). Anyway the spread was Bagels and lox, Lobster Salad, Smoked Salmon Salad, Whitefish Salad, Cream Cheeses, Brie Cheese, OJ, Coffee, Fresh Fruit, Seven Layer Cake, Ice Cream, and I could go on. (But just repeating all this food brings my stomach to the edge once again).

Anyway, I had been teetering between feeling queasy and okay for days. I was being cautious with what I ate because I just didn’t know what would sit well and what wouldn’t. By the time everything was out on the table and time to eat, I felt okay, and maybe even “hungry” I guess I couldn’t quit discern the difference between the two feelings. By the second half of my whole wheat everything bagel with cream cheese/scallion topped with Lox I realized I wasn’t hungry so much as nauseous. And that was it. This was the instant I learned the difference. This is why the nurses tell you when you feel this way, just eat a saltine. If I had done that I wouldn’t have spent the rest of my day regretting my lunch choice (in so many ways I regretted it!)

It is true, my mind is playing tricks on me, or the drugs are. I can’t even tell the difference between hungry and queasy. Let me just digress for a second though, can I highlight the ever so slight “health food quotient here” – I had a whole wheat everything bagel!” Anyone who knows me is aware of my favor for white flour products and coffee. But I am learning to appreciate the granola crunchy ways of water and ‘healthier foods’. NO wine, no alcohol, no yodels or ring dings — is this what Yule Gibbons felt like?

I am learning all of these new things. So I guess you can teach and old dog new tricks.

Good Night and Good Crunch!

Carol

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O’Hara Syndrome – Pro or Con…Discuss


May 8, 2011

I am innately independant I would say.  I started sleepaway camp at the age of 5,went to college at 17,  and after graduation I never lived home again.  I enjoyed being on my own.  Even my Senior year when I found out I had Hodgkins, I decided to stay in school and be treated up in Boston.  I don’t mean to imply that my parents wanted this kind of independence from their only girl (and youngest child).  I just never got the hang of asking for help.  Doing things for myself was just easier, and I usually was able to get the results I wanted.- and yes, with out having to utter the words “Thank You” to anyone else…Yes, Yes I hear you thinking “control freak much!”  But it is not totally that.  I do like to have control over things I can control. But, I think I just don’t want to add anymore to anyone else’s plate.  We all have enough to deal with.  so “DEPENDING ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS”  (AND FRIENDS OF COURSE) has been a tough pill to swallow.  I like being the go-to gal…the one everyone comes to for help…the one behind the camera…My brothers are the same.  Though I often complain about them (lovingly only), it is important to give them credit for exceptional acts (But you must limit this to 1 a decade, otherwise there is just no living with them).  As an example:

My Brother was working at Ralph Lauren back in 1982 – when I was a Senior at Boston University.  I was going through radiation treatment, and had to travel every morning at 6:30 a.m. from my dorm to Tufts Medical Center.  Not a bad trip, but the cold Boston winter made it pretty brutal.  My brother would call and say, “I have a meeting at Filene’s” or at “Jordan Marsh”  so when I am done do you want to have lunch.  I was thrilled.  Honestly, we sat and didn’t talk that much, but just having him there was great.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I found out that these were not my brother’s account’s and he had no such meetings….He would just fly up — his way of checking in on me without without damaging my own sense of independence.  I also think he didn’t want to admit he was concerned for me being there without any family member.

Aside from his visits, I had a hand full of people who were tremendously helpful.  I have lost touch with quite a few of them over the years, but  I am ever and always grateful to them.

This latest tug-of-war with cancer has illuminated the most wonderful sense of warmth and kindness that surrounds me.  “THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS” has genuinely touched my heart, has rendered me  awe-struck at the human spirit, has made me feel so humbled and honored by the out-pouring of support.   Irvington, NY is a small town, but we are big in spirit and heart — that is certainly what makes me proud to live here.

Even more important than that is in some of your posts I have been described as tall and skinny — and frankly, what more could I ask for.  Health can come and go, but weight is forever!!!!.  I have lost a few pounds, from the queasiness that I feel daily.  If Weight Watchers could only make a pill that brings this on, Diets would become obsolete.  I am not sure that this feeling will last until the next treatment (I certainly hope not),  but there is that silver lining part.  I maybe able to fit into my bathing suits by August.   Since I can’t sit in the sun either I will have a nice white pasty sheen to my skin– Somewhat reminiscent of Scarlet (of course that was before she was forced to work in the fields and birth a baby).

I do want to end today by wishing you all a happy Mother’s Day or just a happy day.  I hope you will try to find the fun in everything that happens, because sometimes those little moments can keep you laughing for and through many days to come….

Let’s talk again soon.

Carol

(funnycancermom)

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“IV” Treatment – Rockin’ The Roman Numeral Humor


Happy Cinco de Mayo, 2011

Well I think the Partridge Family sang it best…”Woke up this mornin feeling fine” .  Which is exciting considering I was expecting to be “less so”.    Anyway the treatment itself was not to bad or to long.  About 2 hrs from beginning to end.  The strangest sensation was when I was getting the Cyclophisphamide.  I felt like my nose, eyebrows and sinuses had fallen asleep and then started getting the pins and needles feeling.  It didn’t hurt, but boy was it strange.  Nothing like when some would inhale a white powdery substance in College — or so I am told!  But the sensation went away about 10 minutes after they were done administering the drug.  After that it was really quick, and off I went.  I felt a little odd the rest of the day, but I am no sure that wasn’t just a total let down from the adrenaline and fear that had been racing through my veins for the few days prior.  I will say I honestly didn’t sleep all night though — In college I used no-doze to stay awake when studying…who know that steroids were better.  The only good thing for me know is that I could have cleaned the kitchen all night (not to be confused with Eliza Doolittle’s I could hhave Danced ALl Night–her Dress & Tiara were much prettier than my pajama’s)

This morning I got up, got my kids ready for school, I went for a walk with my friends, did a little yoga (which is a new trend for me).got to do some really exciting new things…Well okay this part is a lie, I did the laundry, went food shopping, and straightened up a little (I mean a very little).  I somehow thought that with my illness came a little down time…Oh, if it were only that simple…The glamorous life of a stay at home mom just never ends…

While doing all of this exciting work, I got a phone call from my HMO.  When I picked up the phone I was ready from a fight, an argument about something but no, it was a nurse practitioner calling to check in and see how my treatments were going. I almost feel off my seat.  I was shocked how they knew I already started treatment.  Since it usually takes two to three months to get a check from them if I put in a claim.

I am told that the steroids they gave me yesterday are keeping my feeling stimulated…I am told they will only last for a few days, and then it is like a big let down.  This must be what Jose Conseco sees in them —  Actually I guess if I ever want to be a professional athlete I have to come clean….Yes, I have used steroids.  There I said it!

I hope tomorrow will be more of the same, but if not — only more fodder and fun for the blog…

Talk to you soon, and feel free to ask questions!  It is pretty obvious I think — I am an open book!

Carol

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Back Story



Finding out any bad news can be difficult. Finding out that you have cancer just sucks!  But life is funny – or so they say, so I have tried to treat each event with humor.  It is unfortunate that this is my second relationship with Cancer.  I was 20 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease.  I was a Senior at Boston University, and for whatever reason I decided to finish out my Senior year, and be treated in Boston (away from family).  In those days Tufts treatment plan was Radiation (Liniac and Cobalt) and the removal of my spleen.  No Biggy – and for those on diets I lost 15 pounds.  I digress though.  About 20 years ago I became more familiar with the side affects of Cobalt Radiation (A type that is not used anymore).  Mitro Valve prolapse is one, colitis is two, under active thyroid is three, hair loss four, and…. wait for it….BREAST CANCER – I am 5 for 5.  And yet still find lots of many things to laugh about…so it is not all bad.  I have an absolutely fabulous husband (though I try to tell him that as little as possible — keeps him on his toes more!) and two fabulous kids that really make me laugh more than I make them laugh – though the competitive person that I am is always trying to one up them in that department!

So in October of 2010 my mom had found out that she had Mouth Cancer.  It was a 4 month blur between her surgery, her therapy and taking care of her and my dad (who has advanced Parkinson’s).  I know it sounds like such a sad sack life — but you misread this.  Would I wish that they were not sick — of course, but it has really brought my family together.  I am thrilled to have 2 brothers that really helped out.  Most siblings don’t have it where everyone does their par; but I was lucky, whether it was helping out with my Dad or just being there at the hospital with me and my mom.  They were great and I love them even more for it.

During her treatment I went in for my regular (though admittedly a few months late)  Mammogram and Sonogram/ultra-sound.  I get them at the same time (per Dr.’s since I was radiated to the chest area).  My appointment was at 9 a.m. and I went on with my day.  Oddly I checked my home answering machine, and heard the message from the Dr.’s office to call immediately.  This was February 14th – Valentine’s day 2011.  From that point my head once again began to spin Telling everyone first was more like ripping a band aid off a wound.  One mass email, quick and to the point.   This was the email I sent on March 14, 2011.   After this email, I allowed the fun to begin.

Hi:

Sometimes in life I feel a little like Debbie Downer, and I don’t mean to.  When we last spoke I was updating you about my Mom’s difficult bout with cancer and her surgery.  Miraculously she has rebounded in a magnificent way and that is so great.  She has been going through radiation treatment and only has 7 left.  Unfortunately with only 7 left I had to finally tell her news that I have been holding for the last 4 weeks.  On March 17th I will being having a Bi-lateral Mastectomy to combat Breast Cancer.  There is still hope that I will not need Chemo but probably will – which will start mid April.  
I remain positive and upbeat, and truly believe my outcome will be good.  Humor still remains my best defense…..I have been through this before (while younger and less savvy as I am now).  I know what I need to do, and I am willing to do it.  
I found it difficult calling you with this news because I really felt like lately I only deliver bad stuff.  But truly I am very positive about my prognosis. And I promise the next news I deliver will only be good. :-)
Love
Carol
Surgery went smoothly and without a hitch (well more on that later).  So I decided to send out another email.  This time I had to add my humorous take on the situation.  So on March 29th I wrote.
Well sometimes emails are bad news, but sometimes they are to update bad news to Good News, which is the goal of this email.  Before that I just want to again thank you for your caring thoughts and wishes.

I have begun to get some results back, and I am positive that the disease has not reached any lymph nodes.  Awesome!  Also we are pretty positive that the size of the tumor that had disease (not the size of the whole mass) was very small.  It is possible that the Mass size was larger do to biopsy swelling or other conditions.  
All great news.  My next step is to meet with medical oncologist’s to discuss the course of treatment (or not to treatment – as they said in the classics).  I still await the disease “personality”.  a set of tests that describe whether the disease is at a high risk or low risk to spread — as this info also ways in on the treatment type. 
But all in all good news, so today I celebrate…because I am drains free (or utters free as I call it)!  I will make my first attempt at driving — this is just fair warning for all to stay off the roads (well only if you are local because I can’t go far they say).  But once again I getting closer to again being the loving “wisecracking – yet oh so adorable’ friend’ I have always been – JUST PERKIER if you get my drift!.  And we can all go back to laughing it up…..
I love you all, and I am thrilled that you are a part of my life  — and that will continue for many, many, many, many, many………….!!!!!!!!
Love 
Carol
The the road was not as smooth as I had originally hoped, Some nodes no as clear as they should have been, it seemed where once chemo was out, it was now back on the table.  I didn’t want to tell everyone until I was definite.  On Monday May 2 I was definite, and asked to if they could also do another surgery on my Lymph Nodes.  I declined the surgery but agreed to start chemo quicker than I had hoped…so I wrote this email…
Hi:

I thought I would send out 1 email so everyone is up to date at the same time.
I start chemo therapy on Wednesday, May 4 at 9 a.m.  Yeah!!!!.  I am going to  try and go every three weeks (except when the kids are gone at camp — then to expedite the length of time, I will go every 2 weeks). If this works out I will be finished right around (or a little after) my Bday.They say the side affects are minimal.  Only a little nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hot flashes, and low immunities — so anyone with even the slightest cold, please stay away.:-) 
 Also I am not allowed to sit in the sun, so I will remain the whitest white person all summer long — yuck!!!!  Oh and another lucky thing, most people on this course of treatment gain 10 to 15 lbs — Yeah, how lucky am I.  So soon I will be moonlighting as the Goodyear Blimp.  I am told that working out, walking, being on the move is very important so you will all have to motivate me to keep moving…And I must, Must, MUST, drink a minimum of 2 liters of water a day — Double Yuck….
The saddest part of this all is NO ALCOHOL>>>>I think this may be my hardest task….No Wine, no nothin’ oy what am I going to do….
Love you all,
Signing off the Large, White, Sober, Whale
(formerly known as Ceeerol)

Today is my first treatment….Wish me luck!!!

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