Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Aruba Boobas

Today we are one step closer to the happy end of the Nin's cancer journey.  Right now she is in surgery for her breast reconstruction. When I say right now, I mean Tuesday July 24th at 7:30am.  Not whenever you are reading this.  You could be reading this in 2021.  Don't be crazy, we're past that cancer shish.  But I hope the future is treating you well.  I also hope Dippin' Dots are just referred to as ice cream now instead of ice cream of the future.  Because you're in the future.

You may have looked at the title of this post and asked yourself what it means.  Well, we're taking the kids to Aruba next month so we are calling this the surgery for her "Aruba Boobas".  Your next questions is likely, "Where is Aruba?"  Or maybe if you're a little slower, "What is an Aruba?"  Aruba is an island off the coast of Venezuela.  Don't feel bad, I didn't know where Aruba was either.  All I know is it's a Caribbean island with sandy beaches and flamingos.  Or as Penny likes to call them "Migos".

But not these Migos:

These ones:

It's been a long, tiring journey but we are all so grateful that we are nearing the end of her treatments and procedures with smiles on our faces and a bright future ahead.  We know that not everybody going through similar trials is as fortunate as we are and we don't take our situation for granted.  We especially don't take Nin's badassery for granted.  I've said it before and I'll say it at least seven more times, Nin is a utter badass.  She has tackled the last 16 months with a smile on her face and a positive outlook, regardless of what she was facing.  I honestly don't think I could have done what she did.  If I did, it would be with at least 487 times more complaining and whining.

Me if I went through what Nin did, like the whole time:

Today Dr Kimball Crofts of Aesthetica Plastic Surgery in Lindon, Utah is swapping Nin's expanders for actual implants.  For the past 15 months she's had tissue expanders as temporary placeholders between her double mastectomy and implants.  She had to have expanders because radiation can encapsulate the tissue around the implant/expander.  Which basically means that the body will create scar-like tissue around the expander.  This is why Nin couldn't get implants right after her mastectomy.  We had to wait and see how her body and tissue would react to the radiation treatments. If you remember from previous blog posts, which seem like a lifetime ago, radiation therapy causes the skin to become somewhat leather-like and causes it to lose its elasticity.  So the expanders Nin has had in her chest have been just holding the space so the implants have a nice warm home waiting just for them.  It's like when someone warms up your spot in a cold bed.  If you don't have somebody that does that for, you should.  You're worth it.

Update from the future.  Well, technically from your past but from the future of the inception of this blog post.  It is now Thursday July 26th.  Nin has done really well with the surgery.  So well in fact that we left the hospital around 2pm on the day of surgery (about 2 hours after she got out), went to Nektar Juice Bar to get an Acai Bowl, then drove straight to our friend's pool party on our way home.  Yes, Nin went from surgery to a pool party.  Because she's Nin so, why not.

While she didn't technically get in the pool, she did hang out with her feet in a bucket of water.  Count it!

She's taken it easy the past couple days.  She's more sore today than she has been.  Nothing like the mastectomy but sore enough that she has been laying in bed resting and watching movies all day.  Tomorrow we head back down South for a follow up appointment with Dr Crofts.

In summary, Nin is doing great.  She's sore but doing better than we expected.  For those of you going through a similar journey, from our experiences the swap from expanders to implants is a breeze compared to the mastectomy.  Wherever you are in your journey, it gets better!  Keep your heads up then go to a pool party with your new foobs.  #SpringBreak!

Monday, April 9, 2018

One Year Later

Guys, it's been an entire year since Nin was diagnosed with cancer of the boobs. Can you believe that?  They say "time flies when you're having fun" but whoever coined that term had clearly never battled cancer.  It's not really that fun.

I just went back and looked at some of my Instagram posts from this time last year.  It's crazy to remember how I felt when I wrote them.  Like nostalgia but the crappy version.  While looking back it is amazing to be able to compare how our lives are now to how they were this time one year ago.  Last year seems so distant and our lives still feel like our lives this year, just different.  Does that make sense? Am I getting too philosophical?  If a tree falls in the middle of the forest with nobody around to hear it, did the cancer ever really exist?

It's been surreal to pass the year mark and enter a season that feels familiar but new.  When we had that weird Spring-like warm spell in February I felt myself getting very anxious. I just thought it was stress from work but I realized that I was anxious because the season was changing and the weather outside was very similar to the weather when Nin was diagnosed. When I told Nin about my experience, she said she had felt the same way but also hadn't realized why. 

This past Saturday was Nicole's family's annual yard cleanup at her Grandparent's.  That was where we were when we broke the news to her family last year. It was a hard day but there was a lot of love as well. I remember we showed up late and instructed Nin's parent's to have the entire family gathered together. When we arrived there was the typical goofing around, kids playing, and generally happiness.  We walked up and dropped the (at the time) devastating news like we were dropping a building on everybody there.  The family was standing in a big circle and it was dead silent for a couple of minutes.  Just some sniffling noises, quiet sobs, and gentle hugs. It was a hard day.  I wasn't able to attend the cleanup this year but I hear that it was significantly less depressing this time around.

I've had a few things I've wanted to write about on this blog but we are becoming so far removed from that #CancerLife that it feels good not to open up these fairly raw memories and feel all the feels again.

As I remember back on this time last year, one of the most prominent memories I have, that I wish I would have gotten a picture of, was after we had told some of our friends the news. All of the girls embraced Nin in the most loving group hug and cried together.  It really was a beautiful moment that I hope to never forget.

2018 is completely different so far. Nin is cancer free, I'm back to a regular work/travel schedule, we're planning new adventures, and generally living the good life.  After cancer you enter a new normal life but it still falls under the category of "The Good Life". **

** Reference "The Encyclopedia of Baddassery" for example charts and a detailed description of what is known and categorized as "The Good Life" by dozens of people worldwide.

Right now we are in beautiful Las Vegas for Nin's annual family Easter/Spring Break.  Last year for this trip we were in Mesquite, NV.  It was about a week after Nin's diagnosis and we desperately needed a physical and mental vacation.  Unfortunately for everybody, Baby Jude came down with RSV and the Human Meta Virus, and spent the entirety of the vacation in the hotel room receiving Nebulizer steroid treatments and unsuccessfully trying to sleep.  Not to forget the late night Emergency Room visit to the closest in-network ER about an hour away.  What joy. Perhaps the most stressful vacation stacked on top of the most stressful time of our lives. Not our best work.

This year is completely different.  The weather is beautiful, the pools are warm, Nin is healthy, and life is good.

This is really the point of this blog post. I know that not everybody who goes through experiences similar to Nin's will have the same results, but most will.  This post is a reminder and a beacon of hope for others going through what we went through last year.  While it can suck and feel like your world is caving in on you, don't forget that it won't always be that bad. Life will return to a normal state.  A different normal but it can still be great.  You and those around you will emerge out the other side of your journey as much better people for a many number of reasons.  Just keep your head up, force yourself to smile when you feel like you can't, and unleash the badass within to crush any obstacle that comes in your way.  You've got this.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mickey Mouse's House!

News Anchor: "Tell me Nin, what are you going to do now that you've won the CancerBowl?"  
Nin: "We're going to Disneyland!"

For those of you who have been following Nin's journey from the start, or know us personally, you know that of all of the things that Nin went through while battling breast cancer, having to cancel our family trip to Disneyland last year was easily one of the hardest things for her to accept.  It wasn't the prospect of getting ravaged by chemo and radiation, or having her chest meat scooped out, or even losing all of her hair, it was postponing the trip to Disneyland that we had been getting Penny so excited for.  We were watching as many of the Disney movies as possible, playing non-stop soundtracks, and constantly talking with her about going to "Mickey Mouse's House".

So instead of doing Disneyland 2017, we did Double Mastectomy 2017.  Not nearly as fun.  And they didn't even have churros.  

Unbeknownst to us, and without them even knowing that we had a Disneyland trip we had to cancel, the vacation company Get Away Today reached out to Nin's brother and told them to relay the message that they would be sending us to Disneyland after she completed her cancer treatments.  I should clarify that the son of the Get Away Today owners and Nin's brother are great friends and grew up together terrorizing their neighborhoods.  I wasn't there but I imagine that would be a good summary of their childhood.

Throughout this whole journey we have been so blessed by so many of you and your charity (Again, thank you a million times over).  Knowing that we would be able to take Penny to Disneyland after Nin's treatment was the greatest cherry on top of it all.  You now that Nin and I love to have vacations to look forward to and the prospect of this trip undoubtedly motivated Nin to rock her way through chemo and radiation so we could celebrate with Mickey Mouse & Co.

So this February, we went to Disneyland and it was more magical that we could have ever expected.  Watching Penny meet all of her favorite characters and Princesses made my Daddy heart absolutely melt.  She just oozed excitement and you could genuinely see the magic in her eyes.  

These goofballs.

I can't even handle the preciousness.

I didn't want to overload this post with gajillions of Disneyland photos so you just get a couple of my favorites.  We went bell to bell and I think this picture of Jude effectively summarizes our level of Disneyland commitment.

We spent the last day at the beach playing in the sand and water.  Just what the Doctor ordered.  Of course a Doctor didn't literally order it, that would be absurd and he's probably lose his license.  

The good folks at Get Away Today did not request that we post about the trip or anything like that, they just did it out of the goodness of their hearts.  For that we are forever grateful.  I'm going to post about them anyways, so deal with it while I shamelessly plug their awesome business.  If you aren't familiar with Get Away Today and/or plan on going to Disneyland in the near future, click the image below and peruse their website.  They have great contracted rates to save you a TON on a Disneyland trip.  Every dollar counts when you're living on a steady diet of $10 corn dogs and $5 churros! 

As an update on Nin's current condition, she's doing great.  Her hair is growing back, she feels great, and life is returning to a new normal.  She's still getting her Herceptin infusions every three weeks until July.  She hasn't had any serious lingering side effects and appears to be making a pretty full recovery.  Life is good!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Year New Nin!

I wrote this post at the first of the year but didn't publish it. No reason, just forgot.  It's been great with life returning to normal because the less cancery stuff we have to do, the less we think about it.  The downside is I keep forgetting to update the blog and schedule babysitters for Dr appts. C'est la vie!

A lot has happened since our last post.  A whole year has gone by!  [Don't pity clap for the generic New Years joke].  Don't encourage me.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that Nin is done with radiation!  No more chemo and no more radiation!  Those have definitely been the heavy hitters during this process so we're glad they're behind us.

Ring that be-ee-ee-el, ring that bell!

Victory walk out of radiation for the last time.

Nin will continue to receive Herceptin infusions until sometime this summer, early July if everything goes well.  Then the Plastic Surgeon will finish her breast reconstruction surgery.  New year new boobs!

We're very happy to have radiation behind us and equally happy that the side effects are on their way out as well.  We didn't really know what to expect from radiation and in hindsight I would say that it wasn't as bad as we thought but it was also worse that we thought.  The fatigue was worse than we expected but the skin burn wasn't quite as bad as expected.

Nin's skin didn't turn into a charred piece of wood.  Unfortunately she did still get pretty toasty.  The burn was like having a severe sunburn for a few weeks straight.  It continued to get worse for a couple of weeks after radiation then one day it just disappeared, but not before she had some skin flakes come off that were worth saving.

Here is a slideshow of her armpit crispiness progression.

I drafted this post at the first of January. It's mid February now. Valentine's Day actually. Looking back on this past year, I'm so amazingly proud of Nicole.  She's seriously a super human.  I couldn't have done what she did with a smile on my face like she had.  I had a cold this past weekend and barely made it. I'm happy to celebrate this year with my Valentine so healthy and happy.  2018 has started with a bang and I dare say it'll only get better. Always an adventure with this beauty!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Hey guys it's me, Nicole, the less funny Schweppe. I like to get on here every once and a while try to be as entertaining as Deek but we all know that's a lost cause. So I'll just stick to some pictures. I recently got back the photos that Ciara Richardson took of my Head Shaving Party back in June. As many of you know she is a very good friend and equally good photographer. She documents my life and Im grateful to her to have these beautiful pictures to look back on. Thinking back on this day I thought I remembered every second of it. But looking through these photos there was a few details I forgot.

In these first photos you can see how much my hair had changed in just 2 days. At this point it was falling out in chunks. It had started to become dread locks as it fell out and I probably could have just pulled it out completely at this point. My emotions were all over the place I went from crying to laughing and back again. I was blessed to be surrounded my some of my best friends that helped me stay happy and positive. We also chose to have Penny watch so that she wasn't scared or confused when she saw me for the first time.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Turtle Doves

Oh hey there. Remember us?

We're back for a little update. I feel like there hasn't been a lot to report on lately so I haven't written any posts. To be honest I'm happy that there isn't anything major and cancer related to update you all on but I do miss writing more frequent posts.  I never thought I'd like writing but as I've been documenting this journey I've realized that I really enjoy it.  Especially when nobody is grading my papers and I can let my jackassery run wild...

As Nin finishes her treatments and life returns to normal the question arises, do we/I keep up on the blog?  Over the past few months months I've been told by at least two people to keep writing.  As polling goes, I'd say that translates into millions of potential readers.  That's how polling works, right?

So my question to you is, should I continue to write blog posts through the end of Nin's treatments and beyond? Or should I keep my non-sensical ramblings about my awesome family to myself? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Or in a text.  Or a candy-gram.  You choose your preferred method of communication.

Cancer-wise not a lot has happened in the past few weeks. Nin has started radiation and will hopefully finish by the end of the year IF there aren't any delays. Apparently the radiation machine that is used on her is one of the best in the state but can be very finnicky. Is that how you spell that? Finnicky, Finickie, Phinicky?  Finnick from Hunger Games, what do you think?

He ain't care about spelling, he just wants sugar cubes.

This radiation machine, which uses TomoTherapy, has to be constantly re-calibrated when there are changes in barometric pressure, weather, or when a One Direction member leaves the band. So pretty often. These delays are usually only a day so hopefully we don't experience many.  **I just googled One Direction and it looks like they are on a "hiatus".  Hopefully that doesn't mean that we'll be plagued with delays now.  Thanks a lot guys.  

The side effects have been pretty minimal.  In her right arm her skin and inside sinews/tendons/gristles are starting to feel a little tight.  She's also starting to feel less mobility in her right arm, which fortunately shouldn't be permanent.  It turns out that this TomoTherapy technique also won't leave her skin looking like a 98 year old lady from Florida that has sun-bathed every single day for 90 years. So that's nice.

The radiation has made her pretty tired.  The fatigue isn't as bad as the first eight weeks of chemo but it still isn't fun.  As always, she's taking it in stride with a smile on her face.  And sometimes with a nap on her face.

Since the last blog post we've been partying pretty hard.  Life is seemingly returning to normal, or at least a new normal, and it's been nice to get into a better rhythm of daily life.  Sans the nausea, severe fatigue, hair loss, constant Dr appointments, non-stop babysitting requests, and all that other fun stuff that comes along with cancer treatments.

We had the wonderful opportunity to spend ten days in Europe to celebrate Nin finishing chemo. A  trip to metaphorically celebrate Nin crushing and walking away from chemotherapy, middle fingers high in the air.  Two turtledoves, sky high.

I'll post a little bit about the trip soon.  In the meantime, here are the cliff notes.  Crepes, baguettes, more crepes, mountains, waterfalls, and another crepe.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Living in a Post Chemo World

Hey guess what?!

You guessed wrong.

Nin doesn't have get chemo this week or any other weeks!!

Celebrating Bubba Dudey's birthday the day after chemo.  Nin looking fabulo per usual!

It's been a surreal few days knowing that Nin doesn't have to get poisons pumped into her body any more. Her hair has started growing back, her immune system has started growing back, and our normal life had stated growing back. Lots of good growth happening.

With all of this exciting news and milestone achieving, people have been asking what is next.  More treatment?  Tests to conclude all disease is eRADicated?  Disneyland trip?  Running for President?  Hopefully all of those things.

Nin will continue her Herceptin infusions every three weeks until sometime next Summer.  These shouldn't be a big deal at all. A simple thirty minute infusion with little to no side effects.  Every ninth week Nin will have an appointment at Big Huntsman in SLC with all the tests and meeting with her nurses, Doctors, and fan club(s). 

Just patiently waiting for Nin's autograph.

Nin will also be starting RADiation on November 16th. You will notice that I capitalize RAD in RADiation. If I make it sound fun, maybe it will be!  These will be daily (each weekday) treatments that will last somewhere around eight weeks or so.  Fortunately we'll be able to do these about ten minutes from our home. That will make it much easier with kids.  We can just turn on the TV then scatter some popcorn and Reese's Pieces on the ground like ET.  They'll never even know we're gone.

I'm joking. We would never do that.

We'd also leave them something to drink...

We honestly don't know much about RADiation besides knowing that it will turn Nin's skin into leather.

Not quite like that but kind of.  You now how your skin is stretchy and pliable?  Apparently radiation causes your skin to lose it stretchyness.  Nin should only need localized RADiation on/in/around/near (choose your adventure and pick the preposition of your choice) her right breast area as well as her right armpit.  So hopefully this won't wreck her skin too bad. We're fairly ignorant at this point because we've been focusing so hard on getting through chemo that we haven't even thought about RADiation.  One thing we were warned of by the Plastic Surgeon is that over time the RADiated tissue can/will tighten. You know how over time breasts stretch and sag?  If you don't, you have my permission to Google it for research purposes.  Well, her left side will follow nature's path but her right side won't. Or it could even be lifted up over time.  So that will be fun.  One day it could put her boobs "out of orbit".  Luckily, breast reconstruction is covered by insurance forever.  

That is what we know about RADiation thus far. Another big question we get is, do the Dr's give Nin a clean bill of health, cancer free medal, or "in remission" sticker?  Unfortunately I don't think she gets any of that.  I still don't fully understand why but these could be some reasons. I've heard the full body scan used to detect remaining cancer cells can cause Leukemia.  Yeah, let's check that you don't have any more cancer by probably giving you a different kind of cancer.

Nin will be monitored every few months with blood tests to make sure everything is functioning smoothly.  Besides that, since we haven't crossed the "end of treatment" bridge, we don't really understand that stuff.  Rest assured that when we learn more about it we'll most definitely probably post about it here.  Maybe. 

Well, I think I've rambled enough for one post. Just want to give a huge shoutout to all of our friends and family that helped us with the kids during the endless appointments and chemo days.  People have helped us in every way imaginable.  Mowing our lawn all summer, brushing our grumpy old man dog and picking up his poo trains (he walks while he poops, setting an intricate series of "poo train" landmines), cooking us fresh meals twice a week for six months, love letters, messages and comments on social media, letters in the mail, stripper-grams (alright, nobody sent a stripper-gram but now you have ideas for the future), helping us clean our house and yard, monetary donations, surprise house decorations, gift cards, hugs, tongue kisses, and endless support. 

We love you all with all our loves and we hope you know it. We aren't great are accepting help sometimes but please know that we've greatly appreciated it. 

If someone out there reading this and isn't telling other people that they are fighting cancer, consider sharing your journey.  You aren't alone and don't need to face this on your own.  Others want to lift you up and support you to courageously fight this battle.  Alone we are just us but together we are unstoppable.