Our winter

Jan 27

I cut my own hair on Friday.  My 35-year-old self feels sneaky about this as it’s against the rules to to cut your own hair.  My last cut was the day after I got out of the hospital in December; a lovely stranger friend volunteered and came over to my house to de-mullet me.  A month more of hair-growing and I needed another trim at the nape of my neck.  I used my sewing scissors.  It was (very) messy.  When Maren got home from school I asked her to take a look and see if it needed trimming.  She gave it a passing glance, said, “Looks good to me Mom!”, and handed the scissors back.  I’m pretty sure that if I offer the scissors to seven-year-old Greta in four years, she won’t pass up the chance to style me Greta-style!  I’m 3-for-3 in going from bald to thick red curly/wavy hair in my lifetime, so the texture definitely helps hide my hair hack.  I also think it is possible to say that I now have a “short hair cut” rather than a “pixie cut”… whatever–it’s just nice to have hair in the winter!

People often ask how I’m doing physically… there are random things that I deal with; at 10 months since my last chemo treatment, it’s not really chemo side effects as much as it is chemo fall out.

I have what I call a witch’s toenail… it keeps falling off; I think I’ve lost it at least five times.  Now that it is growing in (again) it still doesn’t look healthy.  I’m trying to coax it back to health in the winter, and may have to band-aid it again for summer 2015 as I did summer 2014.

My skin is super dry; I had my estrogen-producing ovaries taken out last winter, and I’m on medication that further squashes my estrogen production, so I lose skin elasticity and skin health with that.  Keeping lotion on/with me at all times is the only maintenance required.  Itchiness is the first symptom, but I’ve quickly learned that if I itch a spot, it turns very painful quickly; moisturizing is the way to go.

Last week I managed to crank out several workouts… doing some strength combinations that were very average for me in the autumn.  I way overdid it and the lactic acid in my muscles made for some comical muscle movement over the past few days.  It crossed over from the good-athlete-pain to ouch-what-was-I-thinking.  All better now though (mostly), and ready to keep getting stronger.  Spending a week in the hospital bedridden is definitely a game-changer when it comes to overall health… atrophy is no joke.

I have a sizable spot of phantom pain in my lower right central ribcage.  My scars from my lung surgery are closer to up under my arm and along my back, but Dr. Wizard explained that because of the way the nerves traverse the body (wrapping from the spinal cord around to the front), the nerves that were cut during surgery are sending false pain signals.  It is very strange to experience pain and logically recognize that there is no actual trauma at the site of the pain.  Weird!  As a past teacher of psychology, I find this thrilling and fascinating!  (Nerd alert!)

In the past six-months I’ve developed an allergy to adhesives.  It started with a significant hive reaction to band-aids following some routine shots at the end of last summer.  Red, softball-sized itchy welts developed.  Ironically, it was the hypo-allergenic band-aids at my oncology office that were the culprit; I have had no problems with my regular Band-aid brand ones.  We now stick with tape and gauze at the oncology office.  I didn’t think much of it until I was being discharged from the hospital and all of the sensors and dressings were being pulled off.  We realized that my skin was reacting negatively… I had a pin dot rash and even some small blisters all around the surgical site and where the wires from monitors were attached.  Most of my torso  was affected.  Hopefully this won’t persist; I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life!

With most of this stuff I just roll my eyes, treat it as efficiently as I can, and move on.  I can absolutely handle non-life-threatening conditions!  Trust me, I know problems, and these are not problems!

My heart is continually monitored with quarterly echocardiograms, and it is stable and strong.  My blood counts are taken at the oncology office every three weeks (or more), and my numbers all fall within normal ranges.  I’m on some cutting-edge cancer medications (namely Perjeta) that seem to be working very well and also have minimal/non-existent side effects.

I feel supremely humble and grateful to be in this season of health.  Even the strep throat I had from last week, and the new cold/sinus thing I’ve got going on this week are blessings in their own way.  I can’t imagine being congested/coughing/sick while dealing with my acute lung recovery; it is sooooo painful to cough with a chest tube… it would have been absolutely tear-inducing miserable.  Also, if I’d developed either of these run-of-the-mill ailments while I was on chemo, it is likely that I would have ended up hospitalized with complications.  Chemo (and the reduced immunity it brings) and sickness are a very problematic (even life-threatening) combination.  I am quite happy to be carrying tissues around as I drive Maren to the bus stop in 16F degree weather, and while picking up Greta from preschool… I’m normal mom with ups and downs and it feels good.

Life feels good.  I’m enjoying our days; the ebb and flow of our life is beautiful to me.

Maren is completely inspired by a covered wagon project her teacher is directing, and her drafts and cardboard construction are things to behold.  I ordered a book with more information about the topic, and she’s alternating between reading it for reference, improving on the design, and making changes to make it work for her American Girl dolls when the project is over and done with.  She’s inspired, and so fun work with.  I’m so grateful for her teacher!

Greta picks out her own clothes every day, and I’d call her style girlie boldness.  As we put on her turquoise tights with sparkly hearts and a pink dress this morning, she said to me in an all-knowing way, “You know Mama, I’m getting bigger all the time.”  Yes, G.  Yes you are, and I love watching you grow.

Yesterday we were talking about our family in Australia (it was Australia Day–their Fourth of July), and I told the girls I was missing everyone.  My cousin is getting married there in April, and I would so love for us to go, but it’s just too much.  Greta helpfully said, “I know! Mom!  I can fly with you there on the plane!  Just like we did last time!  ‘Member dat Mom?!”  She was so certain she’d figured out the solution.  Maren brought gentle humor in, “Well Mom, I know you didn’t win enough money this month, but I did.  I lost two teeth so I’ve got my Tooth Fairy money!”  I felt so loved by their very different styles of compassion.  My girls really do have beautiful hearts.

Dear Lord, I am so grateful for our happy normal, our winter season, and our love for each other.  Please keep cancer away, and allow us to love well.  Amen.


  1. Lori6NV /

    You’re one tough cookie. Always praying for you, and for a fairy godmother of some sort to whisk you away to Australia!

  2. Reading your posts always makes any day better! I love keeping up with you and your family. The Andersons are never far from my thoughts. Keep on being “normal” mom doing “normal” stuff. We all like it that way! ♥p
    ps…sent you a pm on fb

  3. You have been such an inspiration to me in so many ways. Thank you for reminding me to treasure the simple things in life and not let a day go by without giving the glory to our great God.

  4. So good to hear an update about how you’ve been doing. Despite the glitches and hiccups, it’s quite apparent how happy you are to be living your life with your wonderful family.
    Warm hugs to you during all of this chill! 🙂

  5. Bonnie J /

    Love your post…. Do dwell on the little grateful things of these days: they are the sweetness of our life. Love you Jen and continue to pray daily!!!