August 24, 2016

Taking care of small children while undergoing Chemotherapy and Radiation

I feel obligated to write this post as I spent hours and hours reading other posts and trying to make decisions. How do you plan for something when you don't know how you're going to feel??? Physically, mentally, you just don't know but I'm starting to get a decent idea. Here's some thoughts about each part of the process and how we decided to do what we did.

(and just to state our case. Our situation is NYC, 2 bedroom apartment, one car, Dave is a resident, not a lot of money, no family close by, kids 1.5 and 3.5)

(and my personal cancer case - I was Stage 2ish? Tumor + a little bit in the lymph nodes)

Double Mastectomy. 

+ This was my first step - some people do chemo first but this was first for me. 
+ My parents flew out to stay with us for at least 2 weeks and potentially longer. It was really nice that they planned to come out for an indefinite amount of time. 
+ My dad even bought a mattress from Costco and had it delivered rather than dealing with a crappy air mattress. We store it in our closet and pull it out every time someone comes to visit. 
+ For the surgery, my dad stayed with the kids and my mom and Dave came to the hospital which was great. 
+ After surgery, that night, I was very out of it on pain pills. I ended up going home the next day to get out of the hospital and avoid getting an infection. Maybe it would have been better for me to stay one more night? As soon as you get home, it's difficult to rest. But. It was also good for me to have a reason to get up and moving around. 
+ I tried very hard not to lift my kids for 2 weeks. Not even into the bathtub or on my lap. Around 2 weeks, I figured out ways to use my legs to swing them in or lift more with my lower body but I was very very careful. I didn't do a full lift until 5 weeks or so. 
+ For 2 weeks, my parents did everything. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, everything. I was often awake when the kids were awake but I was mostly hanging out. Not doing much. I could walk Alta to school but I couldn't take Rinnie anywhere by myself unless she was strapped into a stroller. Chasing and trying to grab her would have been a bad idea. You feel really really stiff. 
+ My parents left 2 weeks after my surgery and Dave had the weekend off and the following week. So we went it alone for a week which worked out just fine (minus the fact that I was still sore and Dave was exhausted) but it feels good to try things alone again. 
+ Dave's mom came after that for weeks 4 and 5. And she and I ran the show together. Although, I had tons of doctors appts and started chemo during this time so it was kind of crazy!
+ I wished I had started doing arm stretches early on to prevent stiffness. Nobody talked to me about this and my shoulders/arms were so stiff for days.
+ Also, people joke that you should sleep in a recliner and I wish I had. Sleeping was very uncomfortable for a few weeks. I got a wedge pillow which helped a little bit but I was still uncomfortable.
+ Baggy-ish, button up shirts are a must. You have all these drains and you can't get anything over your head.
+ Just throwing this out in case it helps - like 10 days after surgery, I had severe chills and felt fatigued and went to the ER who said it was nothing. The next day I woke up with hives all over my body and we think it was a Bactrim reaction. I took benadryl and switched antibiotics. 

Freezing embryos.

+ We met with an oncologist about 2.5 weeks after the surgery and determined we should freeze embryos just in case chemotherapy damaged my ovaries. The timing was a little insane because he wanted me to start chemo right away so we had to retrieve eggs on my next cycle which...was happening right then. 
+ We met with the infertility doc and got all the paperwork done and medication figured out in the same day. The Livestrong foundation provides the medication for free if you meet certain income requirements (which we did) so that was great. 
+ This process was very tiring and hard on my one arm of veins! (If you have your lymph nodes taken out on one side, you're not supposed to have blood drawn or any IV stuff on that side) You go in every few days and then EVERY day right before they retrieve the eggs. It was nice to have Dave's mom there for all the times I had to run up there and for the afternoon when they did the egg retrieval. I felt totally fine after that process, by the way.

+ My doctor says that his BRCA patients often have less eggs and that was definitely the case with me. We ended up freezing two embryos. We won't be having more kids for at least 3 years so we're tabling this issue.

PET Scan and Chemo #1.

+Luckily Dave's mom was still here for all this! When you do the PET scan, which wasn't a big deal, they inject you with radioactive fluid. So you can't be around kids or pregnant women for 24 hours!  (actually, the second time I did this, they said you should be fine if your kids are a little older after a few hours. I'm not sure who is right) I was annoyed with this but used it any opportunity to stay in a hotel the night before my first chemo. I was taking steroids which gave me this weird, hyper energy and I went shopping and out to dinner with Dave and even swimming! I was surprised to get the PET scan results that afternoon. It was very quick! (which was an all clear, hallelujah)
+ Dave went with me for the first round and ended up falling asleep in the chair next to me. My drugs were Taxotere and Carboplatin. They give you a bunch of other stuff first like benadryl, anti-nauseau, steroids, etc then the chemo drugs. The Taxotere rocked me hard for about a minute or two. Like I thought I was going to die I felt so nauseous and like I was dying. Unfortunately, I got up to go to the bathroom right before this happened and I thought I was going to die in the bathroom. Luckily, it went away and my nurse finally figured out that if she upped my Benadryl, that would stop that reaction from happening. (And I would also sleep like a rock for hours. )
+ It was nice to have Dave there to go grab us food or grab me anything. But, that was kind of a luxury as he really has to be at work so this was the only time I went with someone.
+ Because Dave is a Dr. , they taped my IV so that I could do the extra bag of fluids at home. So, the next day he could do the bag of fluids + the Neulasta shot. (great news for me, I never had side effects from the Neulasta. A lot of people get bone pain from it. I didn't)
+ The next day, I took more steroids and we bought a christmas tree and my energy was pretty good! Then I crashed. It's a weird thing to take over your body. Your face and head feel kind of numb, tired. I also had my stomach acting up after this one. Like tons of bloating. And the day after Dave's mom left, I got a mouth sore on my tongue that hurt so bad, I could hardly talk. I had chemo on a Thursday and by Tuesday/Wednesday of the next week, I was back to taking care of the kids full-time.
+ Ideally, someone basically takes over your household for the entire chemo day + night and the days following that.

Chemo #2

+ Our niece and nephew (who are in their 20s) came to help! I still had my hair at this point but...lost it right before the second treatment. It lasted like 2 weeks. We did the same deal with them. They stayed with us and took over on the chemo day. This round was kind of funny because I was at home and the kids were pulling on my IV and I ended up just getting up and going. We went to brooklyn one day and the next day, we went to the top of One WTC. By Sunday, I was pretty dead again. But by, Monday good! They still helped out but I was doing pretty well by Monday/Tuesday.

Chemo #3

+ My friend Megan came! This round was good too. She took over while I did the chemo and helped all weekend. She made us lots of good food! Smoothies and delicious comfort food. I miss that. I've decided that going through chemo is like being pregnant. You think of something that sounds good and you find a way to eat, immediately. And then you don't want it again.

Chemo #4

+ This one was hard. I caught a cold right before my treatment day. Like 5 days before. I was almost over it but after I had the infusion, it came back hard. The worst part was the fluid build up in both my ears. It was hard to talk to people and I was just kind of miserable. Dave's sister came for this one which was so great. She took over the chemo day + the next day I booked a hotel room at the Hampton Inn by our house. After taking Alta to school, I took a cab to the hotel and laid in bed almost the entire day. I don't even know how I did that but I did. The only time I left was to grab some takeout pasta. Dave came later that night and we both just slept and slept and slept. I was very tired and sick saturday/sunday/monday. By Monday, I decided to call my chemo nurse and my dr got me some antibiotics which started kicking in the next day. I can see why people get stressed out about not getting sick while doing chemo. For me, it wasn't life threatening but it was miserable. It was like my body couldn't fight anything or get over it on it's own. The hotel room was a great trick here. The girls were happy with Heidi and I was able to just do nothing - (although after awhile, doing nothing is super boring) I started to have problems with my fingers and toes after this one. Like buttoning my kids jackets was really hard. Like I was an old person. And if someone stepped on my toe, ouch! Your nails can get very sore. I tried running once and my toes hurt so bad afterwards.

Chemo #5

+ For this one, my parents came to pick up the girls and take them to my brother's house in Baltimore. This worked out really great! I mean it was very sad to have them go but once again, I pretty much just laid on the couch friday/saturday/sunday (except for a few outings to the mall, church, the city) One thing that has surprised me about chemo brain is that it's actually easier to be around kids than adults because kids have very simple conversation topics. It's easier to sit on the floor and build a tower then to make plans or discuss ideas with an adult. I keep noticing that chemo takes away my ability to multi-task. Either I can sit and play with kids or I can make dinner. I can't do both for a few days. Dave always takes over here, chasing Rinne, getting coats on the girls, driving people around, etc. Driving is kind of out for me for at least 5 days. It's weird, you just don't feel completely with it.

Chemo #6

Dave's mom came back for my last round! This was the only time I switched my chemo day (all the other times were Thursdays. This was a Monday) I switched it because I didn't want to be a zombie on Easter Sunday. I was a zombie on Valentine's Day and all the other Sundays after chemo so I wanted to switch it up. The chemo went well and I took the subway down to stay in a hotel in the city this time. Once again, I laid in bed for an entire day and night and next day (besides going out to get food a couple of times) I just felt terrible. And you think, yay! I'm done! But really, you're just right back in it. No hair, feeling crappy, just trying to get through. By Friday, I was still not feeling well and realized that cold virus or whatever was back in my body again. I took another z-pack and finally felt better again the following week. My eyebrows were mostly gone and obviously, no hair still.

As far as what to do with your kids and going through chemo, here are my thoughts:

+ There is no perfect solution and what you need might change.
+ Make a list of all the options. Family willing to help, hiring a nanny, friends in the neighborhood, babysitters, etc.
+ Make a pro con list for each.
+ Make a choice for your first round. I was lucky enough to have family and friends that were willing to be super flexible with coming to help when I needed it. If this isn't your situation, you might want to hire someone and give them each chemo date.
+ Personally, what I preferred was about a weeks time. Our helper would come a day or two before chemo and stay for a week. They come, the girls get adjusted to having them, you explain your life, you leave for chemo and they take over for a few days, then hopefully you are back to normal by the time 7 days is up.
+ It was nice to go back to normal for 2 weeks (if you can!) Makes you feel like maybe you will have a normal life again.
+ Make a list of 5 babysitters you can call or text. Friends and neighbors are great but it's nice to have some paying options.
+ Also, note when people offer to come watch your kids. There were so many times when I wasn't sure who to ask and somebody's name came to my mind. (obviously not just random people.)
+ I noticed by the 4th or 5th day every time, my kids were done with the helpers. They wanted mommy and things got difficult.
+ Alta really started to understand the process. On my chemo days, I told her I'd be gone for the day but back after Rinnie's nap. I would tell her my brain wasn't totally working or I was too tired but that I'd be better again soon.

Other things:

+ Our family helped to pay for a housekeeper to come as often as we needed. The right amount was about every 2 weeks. The first time she came was right after I had chemo and I had the hardest time pulling myself together to write a list and figure out what I wanted her to do. I wish I had done that before the treatment when my mind was clear! Also, I learned that a good housekeeper works around your mess. They put away toys and find places for junk. You have to learn to let them do their thing :)

+ Uber. We've taken Uber a lot.


Because I had breast cancer, my radiation area is good. The radiation doesn't effect any important parts of my body, thank goodness! Alta is in preschool but I had to figure out what to do with Rinne. Luckily, my place offered to watch Rinnie for every treatment! It turned out that Rinne got sick of going with me every time and it was great to have someone watch her twice a week.

For those in NY, my doctors have been:

Radiologist - Dr. Laura Bernstein
Surgeon- Dr. Nella Shapiro
Plastic Surgeon - Dr. Teresa Benacquista
Oncologist and treatment center - Dr Hoffman at Eastchester Center for Cancer Care (Dr. Rosenbaum for radiation)

Next up for me, breast reconstruction  (I will update after this as I am now figuring out how we will get through this surgery!) and a clinical trial to prevent recurrence. Currently, I have a Lupron shot every month (which Dave does) and I take Exemestane daily.

January 11, 2016

A Letter about 2015

Dear friends, 

This year dragged then sped up at the end. Sometimes I wonder, was getting diagnosed with breast cancer a good distraction from residency and this never-ending medical journey? We're still here in NY, still dealing with two small children sharing a room (it's terrible most of the time), still wondering if our dreams of living by the water will happen. We're coming to accept that a river counts as water (we're a 15 minute run away) and I have a vague goal of visiting every spot we can up and down the Hudson River this year. I want a big, weird goal to accomplish and I'm throwing that one out there. We're thinking about plans post-residency (fellowship? job? where??) and thinking about how our two girls are our world for now. We pray to have more kids someday (and we have two frozen embryos waiting!) but for now, we're just so unbelievably grateful for our two wild ones. 

Rinnie runs and pretty much says "go go go!" about everything. (i.e. going outside, getting her down from a chair, anything she wants) She also says "cook-eeee" and mom-eee a lot. She almost always has a pacifier in her mouth (sorry second child) but we're hoping to chuck those things soon. Her little legs are so fast and her grandma dubbed her the little gingerbread man as she laughs and laughs and runs and runs. She's so mischievous yet so loving. We've loved getting to know her personality and laughing with her. Her little muscular body and long eyelashes are the best. She loves the neighbors in our building and really all of our neighborhood friends. 

Alta is in school! And she/we love it. I love hearing about her friends and having her re-tell all the things that happened. She still loves Bunny and all the bunny friends. If I could buy her a backyard right now, I would. She loves to run around and explore and I think she likes to be outside as much as I do. She's become very helpful with specific tasks like taking off Rinne's shoes and socks when we get home, getting Rinnie a yogurt from the fridge, and getting everybody a cup of water at the dinner table. One of our favorite recent moments was her wishing one of the maintenance guys in our building a merry christmas! She is so happy, outgoing, and special. And potty trained :))

Dave is finally moving up! This is the first year that he's had people below him and I think that's the best. Also, only doing back-up call is also the best. He works, he runs, he talks about running, he buys new Apple products and contemplates buying new Apple products. He eats a lot of Chipotle and gives the girls a sip of his soda. He carries on in the midst of the past couple of months of craziness - which is a miracle. How he survived 15-hr days and worried about me and everybody is a testament to his calm, patient personality. This next year will be big as he decides what he wants to do. I'm excited about this!

And me. What happened! I don't even know what happened. Obviously, cancer. surgery. chemo. fertility treatments. I'm pretty sure there was a whole other 9 months of things that happened but they all kind of disappeared from my brain. I'm lost in a sea of: I don't know what's going on but we must go on. So I'm going to leave myself out of this. I'm here but I don't have much to say for myself. 

We're slowly building a list of what we think we want in life. Sun. Water. Outside. Run around. Family. A bigger kitchen. Washer, dryer. Good food. Walkable-ish neighborhood. Money. etc. 

Here's to another year here!

December 10, 2015

First chemo round

hey! first round is over. It's been a crazy past couple of weeks. Thank goodness Dave's mom is here and has been doing so much. Here's some things that have happened

+ I finished fertility treatments! Monday was my egg retrieval day. My body responded well to the drugs (from 4 follicles to 10) over a period of 10 days. I had to go in a ton for blood work and ultrasounds.
+ My medication was free through the Livestrong foundation! That was awesome. $1500 injection pens for free. You have to make less than $150,000 and have breast cancer
+ The rest was not free but discounted for Dave being a Montefiore employee and me having breast cancer
+ The procedure was really mellow. I hated when they put the IV in my hand (my veins are getting thrashed) but other than that, it was great. I woke up and they said, you're done! They got 8 eggs.
+ We debated about doing ICSI (where they inject your egg with the sperm) but decided against it because it would have been an extra $1500. The next day she called to say only 2 became embryos. I was in traffic when she called and it was really more shocking and sad than I thought it would be. Oh well, 2 could be 2! Or 2 could be 1 or 2 could be 0. Either way, we won't be crossing that bridge for like 5 years.
+ So I finished that treatment and the next day they filled up my tissue expanders another 30 mL. The last two times they did 60 and it was so uncomfortable and painful that I decided to have them do half this time. (I didn't want to be all in pain when I started chemo) It was such a good choice because I've hardly felt any pain. I'll go in and fill them up one more time for a total of 305 ml on each side. They do that right before your next round of chemo when your white blood cells are looking good.
+ The next day it was on to doing a PET scan. They inject you with a radioactive fluid and then you sit for an hour while the fluid travels all over your body. Then you get to do the scan IN YOUR NORMAL CLOTHES as long as you take all the metal off. Total win. Although I will say I was in tears for some of it. It was my second time fasting before a procedure and I just felt weak and exhausted. A couple of hours later, my oncologist said it was negative! very happy about that.
+ But couldn't be around kids for 24 hours  and I still had to get my Lupron shot (protects your ovaries from chemo) so I went and did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army and the mall and stuff. Then I booked us a hotel in Yonkers for the night. I picked up Dave and we ate in the city and swam at the hotel and had a delicious sleep and free breakfast. (it was the new Hyatt in Yonkers, if you're interested. I recommend it)
+ Today, we did chemo! It's weird but I was kind of excited. Not excited, just ready to start it.
+ They did blood work and gave me a bunch of benadryl which made my legs feel crazy and the steroids make me want to run 100 miles outside. Then it was 1.5 hrs of Docetaxol and 2 hours of Carboplatin. The only really bad moment i had was when they started the Docetaxol, I got up to go to the bathroom and I felt so unbelievably nauseous and like my head was on fire. It was so so weird. But luckily it went away after 20 seconds and never came back. The rest of the afternoon I was sleepy and finally slept for awhile.
+ They sent us home with an IV bag of fluid for tomorrow and a shot for Dave to do.
+ Overall, I feel ok. I will say that coming home to an apt of screaming children was really exhausting but also good. Distractions are good.
+ We think I'll feel bad by Saturday/Sunday. We think I'll lose my hair in 10 days. Those are all the things we know. They sent me home with a lot of just in case pills. Just in case I get thrush, just in case I feel nauseous, etc. Should be some fun times this week :)

November 25, 2015

Here's where we're at, again.

I think it's time for an update so here we/you go.

+ I've been recovering, healing well. My left arm is doing great, my right arm isn't. I can't lift it much higher than my shoulder but I'm working on it. I'm sore/tender a lot of different places
+They started filling up my tissue expanders which doesn't help. Sometimes I think my chest is going to explode, especially if I sneeze.
+ We met with the oncologist on Monday for a really long time. We covered alll of our millions of questions and here's where we're at with that.
+ Chemo is a definite  yes - we have to make sure that little breast cancer cells didn't decide to travel somewhere else and make another home. I'll be doing 6 rounds of carboplatin and taxotere. He said he'd be willing to do wait until after thanksgiving (i said you mean christmas? no thanksgiving.) And the only thing that is delaying that is now...
+ We're freezing eggs, well embryos. So today, in a mad panic, we met with a fertility doctor and a nurse who scrambled and got everything ready for me to start injections and medication to harvest eggs in two weeks. It turns out that Livestrong is awesome and covers the medication portion for breast cancer patients but getting that paperwork filled out and submitted for a holiday weekend was kind of a nightmare and in the end, resulted in us getting donated drugs (one injection pen costs $1500!) We were lucky today - although part of me wishes we weren't so lucky. The amount of times I'm going to have to go in for the next couple of weeks is ridiculous. I'm tired.
+ So after they harvest eggs, it will be time for chemo. Merry christmas chemo. At this point, I'm like whatever. Just do whatever you want to do.
+ My chemo includes the normal side effects - hair loss, fatigue, gi problems, etc
+ Probably my favorite moment from the past week was when I told my plastic surgeon that my oncologist said I might not have to do radiation! Never has she been so thrilled. I think I'm thrilled too - although I hardly believe anybody when they say stuff like that.
+ Also, on Friday, we found out that I have the BRCA 2 mutation problem which I couldn't decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing. I think it's a medium thing. It's good because it's a well studied gene and they know what to expect with it (ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, colon, and melanoma cancers are also possible. which means I will have my ovaries out in my late 30s - if I'm lucky) but it's bad because it's a more aggressive cancer - not sure why - and you have a bunch of other areas to be concerned about for the rest of your life. But at least it explains the early onset breast cancer and now my parents have to get tested to see what side of the family it comes from. My mom's side has breast and ovarian and my dad's has prostate and brain. One thing that would be awesome and totally possible is if they can discover something that fixes that specific gene. They've done it for a certain type of Melanoma and I think it's possible to do with BRCA 2.
+ Dave's on vacation this week - "vacation" (with lots of doctor's appts) and his mom will be here next week in time for more appts. One of my friends said the hardest thing about having breast cancer was having small kids. It really has been so difficult to find babysitters and carry on even when you just want to lay down all the time.
+ But at the same time, one of the most comforting things I've thought about it something one of my friends said. She said her mom had breast cancer a long time ago but she doesn't know anything about it. Like, she knew her mom had breast cancer but it was so long ago she doesn't even know the details. I'm so glad our kids are little and I hope that this is either a faded memory or just something we tell them about later.

November 12, 2015

Here's where we're at.

I don't really have any news to share but maybe I'll just say some things we know and some things we don't know.

+ I had the surgery. You probably knew that already. That went really well minus a lymph node that is cancerous.
+ This means they will now add chemo + radiation for sure.
+ But the good parts about the surgery first - the suturing and incisions and everything look perfect. No infections, everything is healing great. Every day I feel less stiff and more comfortable with having a weird balloon thing shoved inside my muscles. It's weird that I feel like I'm wearing a bra even when I'm not.
+ The least enjoyable parts that are still happening - harder time breathing, terrible nighttime sleeping, and just feeling tired and sore in general especially when chasing around little girls.
+ But I am so grateful that as soon as I got from the hospital (Saturday) I was able to sit with them and talk to them and play with them. They are learning that I can't pick them up (not for 3 more weeks) but other than that, and extra naps, I'm somewhat the same.
+ So the bad part. Honestly, I think they would have had me do chemo anyways so I shouldn't have been surprised. (The tumor was on the medium size) This is the part we don't know much about yet. We know they generally wait 4 weeks. We know they want to do it, that's all we know. We also don't have the genetic testing back yet.
+But it pretty much goes chemo then wait. then radiation. then wait. then implants.
+ BTW - I still have 3 surgical drains and they're not the worst but I'd rather not. Makes you feel like you're still in the surgery process.
+ I feel like we just started a different track. We've been on this weird medical school, residency conveyor belt and now, we're on a cancer conveyor belt. And I kind of want to step off (like Dave has wanted to step off of his many times) but I know I can't. Nobody will let me and I shouldn't want to. It's a weird feeling knowing you're doing something for yourself but also for a lot of other people that care whether or not you are still here.
+ I've been overwhelmed by the amount of people that care. And I'm grateful for the times I've been able to show up people that I care. :)

October 25, 2015

Cancer #1

As promised, details. 

Rinne is napping and Alta is playing with bubbles in the sink so this will be a quick overview! (Already I hear her saying .. I need more soap, Mom.) 

+ I found the lump in May after I finished nursing Rinne. It feels like a round, thick marble. 
+ We thought it was a fibroadenoma so we didn't worry. My OBGYN thought the same thing but *luckily* sent me for an ultrasound anyways. 
+ Last week, I had the ultrasound. The lump was more of an irregular shape and there were little white dots everywhere (meaning calcification which is very uncommon for someone my age) 
+ They had me stay for a mammogram and then a biopsy. (After the mammogram, Dave came.) 
+ We pushed the radiologist and she said, she thought it was cancer.
+ The next morning she confirmed it after the pathology results came back. She got us in to see a breast cancer surgeon that afternoon. 
+ We spent most of the day trying to figure out where we should do the surgery and all that stuff - but finally- after the appt - we decided to stick with our doctor and Montefiore.
+ She wanted me to go for genetic testing and an MRI to see if there was anything else. 
+ Thursday, I had a breast MRI and they didn't find anything else :) 
+ We met with her again on Tuesday the markers were back from the pathology. The cancer is feeding off of estrogen and progesterin so one way to battle it will be to take Tamoxifen which basically puts you in a menopausal state for 5 years. (yay?) Which means, no more kids for us for awhile...
+ We didn't have the other marker back yet. She made an appt for us to meet with a plastic surgeon.
+ The hardest day for me (since finding out) was the day I met with the genetic counselor. I thought it was genetic testing not genetic counseling. The appt was very overwhelming and honestly, I was not prepared for it. She made me doubt my choice to do a double mastectomy (which is what I'm currently planning on) and I just felt terrified the whole day. Wondering if I was going to make the wrong choice. (I'm still feeling semi-terrified but at a more controllable level) (It's kind of like choosing between a lot of not ideal choices) The testing can confirm somethings or not really give you a lot of helpful information.  
+ Friday, we met with the plastic surgeon. We waited in her office for two hours....but she was really great. (Actually the story of this experience so far is Dave and I rearranging our lives - work and kids - and sitting in offices for a long time. Bored. Phones running out of battery. Hungry and cold.) 
+ We got her to check on the Her2 marker which was negative - I think that's a yay. One girl I talked to said that was another reason she had to do chemo
+ But the tumor is stage 1-2, invasive so.. don't get your hopes up.
+ So we have a surgery date! November 6th. After that I'll be out for a couple of weeks (my parents will be here) and then I won't be able to lift anything over 5-10 lbs for a couple of weeks after that. Dave's family is going on a cruise Nov 26 and of course, I'd like to hit that as well :)

This process is very piece-y, very slow, very random. One day things are better, one day they are not. First step is surgery and after that, we'll start figuring out all the other things. (At this point here's my guess - 100% hormone therapy, 70% chemo, 25% radiation. We'll see if I'm right) I'm feeling really grateful for this girl's blog. I've read everything she's had to say about BC. Also, more grateful to know that we won't go through this whole thing alone. It's been awesome to have all of our resident/co-worker/doctor friends care so much and be so helpful. It's been awesome to have our family and friends to check in and offer everything. And last week, Dave got to take Alta to preschool and see her classroom! Thank you for that Cancer. 

July 6, 2015

potty training

To prevent myself from talking your ear off if you ever ask me about potty training, here's this. The unabridged version.

We got Alta a baby Bjorn potty when she was 18 months. She sat on it pretty much never and it sat in her bathroom and collected dust. Every once and awhile we'd talk to her about trying the potty but, you know, she was little and we only cared she was in diapers when we were sick of changing them. And she never, ever asked us to change her diaper. She didn't care about being wet or anything.

We stopped talking about it before/after having Rinne and moving. She was 2-2.5 yrs. At 2.5, we tried. And by tried, I mean someone at the playground said the 3 day method was easy so we tried that. We pep talked her, Dave watched Rinnie for the day (kind of, I was still nursing) and she was naked in the house. I watched her non stop the whole morning. I gave her juice and we had a couple of successes which we celebrated. (#1 only of course) She took a nap in her diaper and we started again after she woke up. She peed everywhere and so many times that I couldn't do it. Dave couldn't do it. We quit. That was round 1. What we learned - she could actually pee on the potty. She didn't care if she peed on the floor. We (her parents) were not ready. We also hated the naked thing so much.

Close to Christmas, mid- December, we tried again. She did better. It went on about a week and she was still having lots of accidents so we quit again. Potty training is exhausting and since she wasn't ready, we didn't have the energy to keep pushing her. 

Then we took a potty training break while her friend, Sam, not coincidentally, attempted to potty train for a couple of months! My friend Caitlin has a lot of endurance and tried and tried. He was wearing underwear and doing great but would have accidents when we were over and he wasn't wearing underwear out of the house or at night. During this time, I waited. I couldn't do it again and Alta didn't care.

Right before her 3rd birthday, we were at playgroup and a little girl had brought an ice cream cone from her Lego Ice cream set. Alta was obsessed, even in tears about it. (Honestly it's her most played with toy next to her bunnies and she doesn't often ask for toys. Just treats.)

 I asked her if we got her the set if she would do potty training and she said yes so I bought the set. And we turned it into a game. Every time she peed on the potty she got to pick a piece for her ice cream cone. Every time she had an accident, I took one away. And every day we started over. At this point, we were still using the small potty seat. Day 1 went really well. And Day 2. Although, I don't think we had #2 success - (funny how quickly you forget...) so I bought bubbles and some other things to get her motivated. This totally backfired. She freaked out. She wanted the special bubbles so badly and she was so upset and having accidents. This was a turning point.

I was thinking we were supposed to give up again but my sis n law encouraged me. She said it sounded like Alta was doing really well and to keep going - maybe find a new way to motivate her. So I decided maybe it was time to take away the rewards and say, this is just what we do. We don't reward her for brushing her teeth or putting away her shoes and now we're done with the potty rewards. I gave her the entire ice cream set and bubbles and said she was doing so great! And I started reminding her every 1-2 hours to go potty. It was at this point that I ran to target one night and bought a new stool and a potty seat for the toilet. Emptying a tiny potty chair got realllllly old and Rinne was always all over at that thing. Alta didn't mind the transition. It took a lot of practice for her to get on that thing by herself. Maybe even a month?? I don't remember. 

At this time, Rinne was sleeping in our second bathroom so we put all the potty stuff in our bathroom - which was the worst for about 2 months. Constantly moving around that gross blue ring and moving the stool from the potty to the sink and back. Things really started to get better when Rinne moved out of the bathroom and we moved all of Alta's stuff. That was a key step.

Other key steps, being brave and letting her sleep without a diaper or pull-up for a nap to see if she'd stay dry. She did! Then she did for nighttime too! And once she stayed dry one time, we never put a pull up on again. You also get brave going out for 20 mins or 5 mins or whatever. Honestly, I couldn't stay home for 3 days or even 1 day. We had to go outside even if it was quick. And even if we had an accident at the playground. 

Other things:

+ Day 3 when I had the breakdown, I sat down and talked about it with Dave and we made a plan together. He wasn't super involved before this because you know, he's busy and has a ton of other stuff to worry about but it helped me sooo much to have him join in. 

+ About a month in, I was feeling like it was still exhausting. I had to help Alta everrry time she went to the bathroom and she'd spend 20 minutes washing her hands and pouring soap everywhere. Dave reminded me that it wasn't a huge deal and she'd get over it eventually. So I let go of that. Now she usually spends 5 minutes washing her hands or 5 seconds if she's trying to hurry and do something else. 

+ We have a strict go potty before: we leave the house, we go to bed or have a nap, and about every 2 hours. She will try to get out of it but I enforce it pretty strictly. Because in NY it's hard to find a bathroom! And things always take longer than you think.

+ I also make her try even if she says she doesn't have to go. I call it a squeeze try which I know is ridiculous. But how else do you explain that to a 3 yr old?? 

+ Pull-ups - we kind of used these. More because they are easier to change and make them feel like they are headed towards using the potty. They seemed kind of itchy and uncomfortable and we stopped using them as soon as we could. 

+ Undies - These are so cheap that you don't feel bad about throwing them away if they get poop in them. At first I washed them. But it made me feel angry sooo I started just throwing them away :) 

+ I do think at some point you have to go all in. Maybe not right away but as soon as you can. (Meaning no pull ups at night or out of the house) It gets confusing if they can sometimes pee their pants and sometimes not. We still have an accident or two or three a week. Sometimes she has too much water before bed but you strip the sheets in anger and move on! Also, a waterproof mattress cover, essential. And the few nights where she screamed and needed to come to our bed, I'd put a towel underneath her. 

+ We did the naked route a couple of times but the last time, she wore undies. It was a big step when she could wait long enough to get the undies off and go. The naked route was brutal. We were so sick of looking at her butt haha so hopefully with Rinne we can just do undies. 

+ #2 is still tricky. For a few months, I had to catch her hiding in her room and get her to go. The first couple of weeks I would pick her up and take her but she'd already pooped in her pants. The secret, don't pick them up! Make them run run run to go! You can even practice that with them. The running makes them hold off for a minute. 

+ The potty chart- we just started trying it. I never use it to motivate her to go. It's only after she goes that I give her a sticker reward. The past few days, she has run to the potty and shouted she was going to get a sticker! so we'll see if that keeps working. 

+ Always keep a plastic bag, underwear, and a change of pants in your bag. 

+ We get excited about using different pottys. The church potty! The chipotle potty! The gross gas station potty! (yuck.) Alta is terrified of those loud hand dryers so we often have to say hi to those and pray no one uses them. 

+And you'll have to monitor their liquid intake more - at least I do. 

+ Also, we said "bye bye diapers!" like this potty book and threw the rest in the "garbage" That book is really cute actually. 

+ I let her close the door to bathroom which gives her some power. Sometimes I have to break in a little later to find her playing with all the bath toys half naked but oh well. 

That was a lot. To summarize I would say, you'll know after a day or two if you should keep going. My mother in law says 2 weeks is the cut off and I like that guide too. Also, it is exhausting and it's not easier than diapers (in my opinion) but it is a necessary step they have to make and they feel so proud once they figure it out!  The end. 
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