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Archive for August, 2012

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Saturday night, Tina and I went to the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw concert at Gillette. I’d been looking forward to this since buying the tickets in, I think, February. I remember thanking God when I got my chemo schedule because the concert was almost two weeks after my fourth chemo round and I figured I’d be able to drag myself there even if I still wasn’t feeling well. And luckily I was already back to feeling just fine!

When we got to the stadium, Tina surprised me with a letter. Not just ANY letter, but one that she wrote using Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw song titles. And I’m not just sharing it because it is so cool (although it is), but because I think it gives a glimpse into how this damn cancer thing has impacted some of my dearest friends…

My Old Friend,

Hey Now, as I sit here looking at a Blank Sheet Of Paper, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about Me And You. This concert is seriously happening Not A Moment Too Soon!  Unfortunately, My Little Girls are not nearly as excited about this concert, since they’re not going, but I just can’t wait for you to Come Over!!!

The past few months I feel like I’ve been Living In Fast Forward and have been feeling kinda Angry All The Time.  Last week, I was actually thinking, well, There Goes My Life.  The silver-lining (as usual) is heading Somewhere With You.  I love Summertime and our concerts.  Life seems to, once again, be The Road And The Radio and it appears that every Flip Flop Summer, You Save Me.

I know the past five months Got A Little Crazy (to say the least) and has seriously been a Wild Ride. I feel confidant telling you that I truly feel like I know How Forever Feels, but yet, Time Flies. Your breast cancer diagnosis really did Scare Me and I hope to Never Feel That Way Again.  I am glad that you Give It To Me Strait as I Wouldn’t Want It Any Other Way, but everyone knows that you’re Only Human and that you are clearly doing Whatever It Takes to tell that horrid cancer that you Will Not Fall Down.  I have my Suspicions, although, I can’t imagine how difficult the moments are when you’re alone and you allow yourself to be honest with you.  I know there’s so much you don’t allow others to see.  To be honest, there have been moments where I know I Don’t Blink as I have felt helpless in helping you… but… then you speak, and I am completely reassured that you are Always Gonna Be You, cancer or no cancer, You Just Get Better All The Time!  I can’t wait for the end of this whole run of doctors and treatments to be over for you… and to celebrate your attitude, your being The One to beat cancer (which is No Small Miracle) and to shout out at the top of our lungs Touchdown Jesus!!!!

I’m thankful you have so much support and that you know that you’re not In This Boat AloneAll I Need To Know is you believe me when I say that I Will Stand by you no matter what and would do anything To Get To You if you needed me, after all, That’s Why I’m Here!  I know all of this will be much Better As A Memory and that there’s more to come Down The Road and I know that you will deal with that with the same Be As You Are outlook but Just Not Today

…Today, we once again get to Set This Circus Down, be Still, feel a little Freedom from all the I’m Workin, ShiftworkLet the Last Dollar Fly Away and break free from RealityI Need You to Let It Go… ALL of it, and truly break free from the past few months. So, instead of sitting Where The Green Grass Grows, we Will Stand, Somewhere In The Sun, in front of an Old Blue Chair with an awesome view of your Island Boy (who I’m sure you begged to Please Come To Boston), Kenny, as he sings about Guitars and Tiki Bars with my Indian Outlaw and Real Good Man, Tim, For A Little While. Ohhh, he definitely brings out The Cowboy In Me or Something Like That but that’s just Between The River And Me! 😉

You are one of the world’s most Beautiful People and are certainly the Spirit Of The Storm.  Your French Kissin’ Life and Live A Little, always Smiling, attitude is contagious.   You’re optimism makes me believe that no matter what life throws at us we can ask, Do You Want Fries With That?

This Is Our Moment with the Brothers Of The Sun!  So, tonight I want you to know that When The Sun Goes Down, When The Stars Go Blue and the Magic of the concert begins we will Live Those Songs in Boston while pretending we’re going Coastal, we’ll Feel Like A Rock Star while singing, I Like It, I Love It, in our most Southern Voices and I’m absolutely certain that we’ll Sing ‘Em Good My FriendIt Doesn’t Get Any Countrier Than This and I am looking forward Just To See You Smile.  This is definitely The Good Stuff and I can honestly say for a moment like this, with My Best Friend, I Never Wanted Nothin’ More!!!!!!!!

So, are we gonna have a good time?  Well, Truck Yeah!!!!

I love you BFF,

Tina

I was laughing so hard at the end of that – a perfect way to start the night, and a letter to treasure forever! And while we DID have a blast, I’m afraid I wasn’t able to completely forget the c-word: I cried through Live Like You Were Dying – it obviously really hit home – and one of my other friends, Laura, who was sitting in another section even texted me during that song, which made me cry even more! I saw Heather and some of her family (which was like my family through middle and high school) for the first time since all this and it was hard to hold back the tears, then, too. Especially when Heather caught one of my lashes that had just fallen out and held it so I could make a wish … (And Heather, Laura and I ran into another friend from high school – Kristin – it was like a reunion!) Even on facebook another friend, Heather P-C, sweetly reminded me to stay hydrated!

I think it goes without saying that I am the luckiest girl in the world, with the best friends (near and far) anyone could wish for…

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The other night my friend Herb told me about his recent trip to Florida and how surprised he was at how much his ailing father had changed. His mother hasn’t been straight with him on the phone and has been continuing to basically live their lives the same without accommodating for the changes in her husband. As I listened, it occurred to me that it has nothing to do with his mother being mean, neglectful or not loving his father. It’s BECAUSE she loves him so much that she just doesn’t want to face it. She doesn’t want to see how he’s changing and how frail he is, how much help he needs. She wants him to be the same man she fell in love with, the same man she married. Maybe she really can’t see the changes. It is her blind spot  – don’t they say love is blind?

Then I realized: that’s how a few people are with me. It’s not that they don’t love or care about me that they completely ignore the fact that anything is different about me, maybe it’s that they do love me that it hurts them to see me this way and just refuse to face and deal with it. I am still hurt by how they now treat me, but this new perspective helps me understand them a little bit more, and at least makes me feel like maybe I do matter to them.

And then I had another revelation: that’s actually what I am doing to myself. I still get shocked when I look in the mirror. I still cringe when I see pictures of myself bald. I just went for a run (if you can even call what I’m doing running) and got frustrated with myself that I couldn’t even do the whole 3 miles of one minute run and one minute walk – sometimes I had to walk for two or three minutes before doing another minute of running. I don’t want to face that I don’t have hair any more. I don’t want to see that the steroids and eating to ease the nausea are making me pack back on the pounds. I don’t want to be tired after a few minutes running. I want to be the me I was in February…

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Nick and I had our five minutes of fame today on the 11thAnnual WEEI / NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. I have to admit, listening to the telethon while driving to work, I was really second guessing why in the world they would want ME on their show – every patient’s story that I heard was so much more tragic, inspiring, complicated, heart-tugging – just so much more compelling than mine! But I’d already committed, and who was I to judge?

I was glad Nick came with me, especially when they asked if he wanted to join us in the studio. We got the usual “he’s too old to be your son!” comments, and then launched right in. It occurred to me as we spoke that my story is not MY story. It is so many stories intertwined. It’s Kristen, and Greg and the whole Montalbano family’s story. It’s Mirany, Sarah and Scott’s story. It’s my family and friends’ story. It’s Nick’s story. Cancer does not happen to one person. It happens to everyone whose lives they touch. And I am so blessed to have an incredible circle to share with – both the good and the bad. And I’ve been fortunate to have people like Kristen and Sarah share their cancer experiences with me to help make mine a little easier. And that’s what I hope to continue to do for others…

If you didn’t get a chance to tune in today, here’s the link – the Nick parts are, of course, my favorite! http://audio.weei.com/a/61626264/m-m-amy-atwood-and-son-nick.htm I was truly relieved to learn money WAS raised while we were on air (my real nightmare was that the phones would stop ringing during our segment…). And it’s not too late – the telethon continues through tomorrow, simply text KCANCER to 20222 to make a $10 donation or call 1-877-738-1234 or click here to donate the amount of your choice!

As a thank you, we were given two tickets to tonight’s Red Sox game. Since Nick had his first night at his new job, Kristen joined me.  It was a beautiful night to be at Fenway, although not the best night for the Sox…

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I honestly cannot believe it: today is five months since I was sitting in my office and got the call from my doctor saying “you have breast cancer.” In some ways, it feels like a lifetime – I hardly remember a time when cancer wasn’t consuming my life. In other ways, I don’t know where these last five months have gone – I feel like it was just February, we were finishing the shutdown and celebrating my 38th birthday. (What a dud 38 has turned out to be – bring on 39!!!!)

But as much of a nightmare as this has all been, anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I refuse to curl up in a ball and cry endlessly (although I let myself for a few minutes every now and then…), become useless or a burden and just accept my fate. I am not going to over-analyze this and whine ‘why me’ over and over, either. In fact, I don’t think I have to – I think now maybe I know why me…

Just as I sat down to write this, my phone rang. I was so relieved to see my friend’s name. It was only a month ago that she told me the horrific news that she’d found a lump. I refered her to my fabulous dream team at Dana-Farber and it was confirmed as breast cancer. And today she was having a lumpectomy. While I’d heard she made it through fine, I was excited to hear her voice and know it for sure. I exclaimed my relief over the news that the doctors said all went well and they believe they caught it early and it’s all gone. And she said, “It’s thanks to you. You reminding everyone to check.” And that’s it. Maybe that is why. Maybe I needed to go through this so others can catch it early enough and stop it. Words can’t express how thankful I am that she found that lump and stopped it. That makes every second of this journey worth it.

So please – do your self-checks. And tell your sisters, mothers, wives, lovers, friends, daughters, everyone, to do their checks, too. But it’s not enough. We have to stop the damn c-word completely! As some of you know, I am excited to have two opportunities to help in the collective fight against cancer:

  • Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 21) at 1:15 p.m. I will be interviewed live on the 11thAnnual WEEI / NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon – Events – The Jimmy Fund. (WEEI is Boston’s sports radio station – 93.7 FM and 850 AM and you can listen live online at www.weei.com; It may also be simulcast on TV (NESN), but that’s TBD.) They are going to interview me about my personal cancer experience, my interactions at Dana-Farber, etc. Hopefully I’ll be able to help some cancer survivors know they are not alone in their experiences and inspire some people to donate and help conquer cancer. (And hopefully I won’t embarrass myself on live radio/TV…)
  • I’m also honored that my childhood friend Heather Forbes started a team for me in the Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk on September 9. I am thrilled to be feeling healthy enough to walk the last three miles with the team, so have registered. Our team is still looking for walkers (and supporters), so if you are able, please join us – there are multiple legs, you don’t have to do the whole 26.2 miles! For more information on walking or donating: Amy’s Jimmy Fund Walk Page.

Thank you: every prayer, every self-check, every step walked, every penny donated: together we really can make a difference in this fight!

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Phil was right – you can do anything once. So I did get through the last round, at least so far. I am not feeling great, but not horrid either, and for that I am very thankful! After feeling similar last time and then crashing later, I am taking it easy and being cautious.

I did smile for real once the chemo party got started, as you can see in the pics. Not only did we celebrate the last of the worst chemo cocktail, we celebrated Vanessa’s birthday with a yummy cake made by Tara. And while he’s not in the pictures because he had to leave a bit early, Nick was with us for the first part of our celebration, too – I couldn’t ask for a more loving, supportive son. I am very lucky.

And yes, also as you can see from the pictures, I tried embracing the blonde a bit to see if I could get used to it. Not exactly my favorite, but I will be happy with my real hair no matter how it grows in! Just to have my own again will be so nice! I got encouraging news, both from my oncologist, who said hair grows in rounds, so some parts will grow at certain times, and then other parts at other times, and then from a fellow cancer survivor who said that her hair began growing in between rounds 3 and 4 of A/C and through Taxol, and is now up to 2″ – so maybe I will stop having Nick shave my head and see what happens… maybe I will have some hair before the end of the year!

I also got my new schedule: I have three weeks off and will start Taxol once a week for 12 weeks on Tuesday, September 4. Then I will be able to work every Monday, have treatment Tuesday, and hopefully be able to work Wed – Fri each week – at least Thurs and Fri – but we’ll see how it goes… Then I should have my last one Nov. 20 and will truly have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!!!

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I don’t want to!!!

I’m here for my last A/C treatment – the last of the worst chemo. I smiled as the nurse put the needle in my arm and took a bunch of blood. And again while she flushed it with saline to ready it for the IV. And I kept smiling and chatting as she realized she needed to take more blood because I am participating in a study and had to do it all over again. And then as it took forever to make my next few appointments for the next 12 weeks of chemo, which I do not want. It was supposed to be over today. And then my hair would start growing back. But it’s not. Yes, we’ll be done with the worst, but in three weeks we’re starting 12 more weeks. Ugh. I want to scream. I don’t want to smile and be nice. I want to forget this whole damn thing! I don’t want them to pump the poison into me today. I am so damn sick of being sick! And bald! Deep breaths before I flip on someone…. nurse will be here in a second to start. And I will smile and be nice. And soon all my friends will be here for my chemo party and then maybe my fake smile will be real…

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Blonde

I am in shock. Just now, at the Mass Pike rest stop on the way home from Western Mass, I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized the hair growing (in random patches- don’t get too excited for me) on my head is BLONDE. My jaw dropped and Tara, a few sinks away, looked at me inquisitively and said, “You look perplexed – what’s up?”

“Is it me or the light in here or is my hair really growing in blonde?” I asked.

“I noticed that yesterday,” she confirmed, “You do have the genes for it.”

“But I don’t think I want to be blonde!” I whined (even though I can’t stand whining.)

“That, my dear, is the beauty of being a woman,” Tara declared. “You can dye it any color you want! Besides, maybe it’s the peach fuzz like when babies are born, and it will change …”

I was born with a full head of dark brown hair. And I love(d) being a brunette. I am hoping I will be again, but if I am not, I will not dye it. Just like when my hair was starting to go grey, I was letting it. So if I end up blonde, I guess I will just channel my inner Marilyn … maybe not all the time, but certainly when I want to have fun! 🙂

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