Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Eve

I am hoping for peace in the new year for me and for my family. Life is not easy but I am really in a strange place in my head. On one hand I now have a plan medically and I feel good about it on the other hand I am starting to realize that treatment is going to be rougher than I thought. I am having severe hot flashes like I am in memepause, my bones hurt really bad, my mouth is numb and I don't really taste anything from thrush. I am now paranoid about germs because if I get an infection of any kind it can land me in the hospital again which in itself scares the hell out of me because of all the germs there. I have a lot to look forward to though so I am trying to keep my mind on other things like poker which I play now mostly to just have fun which is a difficult task because of the misery that is my life right now. My goal is to get to the light at the end of the tunnel any way I can and make each day as positive an experience as I can. I want to get to the other side and start to live my wonderful life again. This new year means so much to me right now more than ever. Tonight is the 10 year anniversary of the night Tommy and I got engaged. Who would have thought ten years ago that our lives would have given us 2 wonderful kids and a home we love we are so lucky and blessed in life I can't really complain. I just want to be here to see the miracles of our lives for a long long time. I do feel for women now who are going through change of life I used to laugh and blow it off as if it was nothing but now I understand. My nights are filled with soaking wet sheets and blankets and my days are also going through periods of either freezing to death or sweating like a basketball player. Even my bald head gets sweaty its not that funny anymore so I am sorry for making fun of my mom all these years.

The decisions of my life!

Today I went to see the Radiologis/Oncologis and it was a consultation for radiation therapy. This was a difficult day for me I had this beautiful young doctor sitting across a desk from me and asking me to call him by his first name Boris with all my paperwork sitting in front of him. He was about as nice as they come but still I had to listen to him give me the truth no sugar coating just the truth which is very scary when your truth is cancer. We went over everything in fine detail such as the fact that I fall into the category of the grey zone which means that I could opt for either getting radiation or not getting radiation and both sides are equally acceptable. This only makes my decision harder as it turns out because I will decide my fate possibly and that is a heavy burden not just for me but for my children and the people who love me. The truth is they don't have enough studies completed with people who are in this grey zone like me so his job was to give me the most information as possibe and this information is not easy to listen to frankly. The fact that I am young and that the grade of my cancer is moderate to high (meaning the aggressiveness) goes for radiation therapy but the fact that my tumors were completely removed during my mastectomy and the margins were clean (meaning the doctor got it all out during surgery)goes against radiation since it does have risks of it own. The amount of information given to me today was like the first day of physics class just almost not processable. I am giving you all the condensed version but this decision is really difficult.Do you know what else is difficult is that the doctor was 41 and looked like a kid to me now that is scary people he is basically my age.I remember in elementary school when the teacher said one day you are the people who will be running the world one day and now I think back at how right this teacher was because this kid sitting next to me in class might as well be the man who is caring for me now. Its weird the things you think about when your life gets put in front of you on some papers with numbers and percentages on them. I listened to him tell me that I had about a 15%-20% chance all information on the table of the tumors coming back near the site of where my breasts once were. Now this does not mean spreading cancer or metastasis it means the original cancer coming back either on the chest wall or surrounding area around my breast. If the cancer were to return it makes my chances of survival one out of four or 25% fatal. If I do the radiation therapy than the chance of the cancer coming back to the breast area goes down to about 5%-8% so it significantly reduces the chance of the cancer returning to the original site which in turn gives me a better chance of survival. The drawbacks to radiation are increased risk of lyphadema which is swelling in the arm that never goes away as well as increased risk of other types of cancer developing due to exposure to radiation and also the breast itself might not look as good because of the healing process being severely reduced to the tissue being exposed. After about an hour of discussing in detail those and many more statistics and looking at my cancer individually I came to the decision to go with being safe rather than sorry because once I make this choice its done and I never want to say I wish I did this or that I want to use every tool in the arsenal to kill this cancer and never to question my choices as being the reason I may die. Just like my choice to have a double mastectomy as a precaution instead of a lumpectomy or just removing one breast I am making this decision with no regrets. I believe in God and I know he will take care of me either way but I also believe in medicine and I will use whatever I can to win this war. I am totally comfortable with my choices so far I have the best doctors in the world at the best cancer hospital in the world and I have more friends and family praying for me than I ever knew I had so lets keep fighting together and praying together and no regrets just going forward to victory!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I am starting to realize my life is never going to be the same again. Everything in my it is no longer going to even resemble life before the big C. I keep trying to trick my mind into pretending it is but its forever different. My sadness about this is really hard to deal with. Its not so much anger anymore just sadness and fear. As I lay in the hospital on Christmas day listening to the doctor order a brain scan for my sinus infection I got a glimpse of my future which is wanting to know but not wanting to know or having them test but not really wanting to have them test because it is to scary to think what if it comes back bad. Being positive only goes so far and then your left with the reality that cancer can come back and it can be anywhere and trying to put it out of your head only goes so far and then the panic sets in. I need reassuarance but the only one who can give it to me is God and its sometimes hard to hear God because its blind faith that allows you to hear him not your physical ears. I just want my mind to rest for a little while and I cant seem to do that lately. I think I need to find medication to help me because it cant be good for me physically or mentally to feel in a constant state of anxiety.I am finding that the drugs I have been on just don't seem to help as much anymore. Part of me feels like I should just be strong and get through it without these strong medications I am already taking and part of me feels like just freaking do what you need to to make it better. I don't think anyone is going to judge me at this moment so I am going to do what I have to. I just hope there is something out there that will help. There is not much I can do about my new reality except give it my best to appreciate the positive and pray that my strenght holds up both in my head and in my body.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making it Day by Day

This Chrismas was an interesting one to say the least. On Christmas eve my family and my mother went to my husband's ex wifes home for dinner and celebration. It is very interesting but we get along very well. My husband being the kind of father he is made it easier for us to have such a great relationship with them. My step son who is 18 years old is the most important thing in this whole situation so we made a deal a long time ago to put him first and now we are all thankful. My stepson is a really good human being and I attribute that to parents who knew what was important and that is to put all the garbage away and just be parents together and leave the kids out of the grownup stuff. Anyway we all had a great time and this was the second year we all spent christmas together without having to schlep Nicky (my stepson) all over the map in the middle of christmas. My children loved it they love their big brother and they just have so much fun being with all of us together I can't wait untill next year when we can do it again.

Now to Chrismas day. Not as enjoyable unfortunately. I woke up with my eyes blurred and stuck together with a bad sore throat and a headache that was debilitating. I did not know what to do my oncologist was unable to be reached and I was really scared because I had just go my first Chemo of Taxol (a new drug for me) on Wednesday. As the hours went on my head was in so much pain that as soon as I tried to eat I ran to the bathroom to throw up. I have never felt such pain in my head before so I told my husband to call 911. When the Ambulance came they strapped me in for a ride to the hospital and that is where I spent the rest of my Christmas. I got a cat scan of my sinuses and brain and the finally got in touch with my oncologist and spoke. I have a really bad sinus infection so they gave me IV antibiotics and sent me home with some more pain meds. Thank God I am feeling better today just really guilty that I ruined my families christmas day plans. I just wanted so bad to feel normal and stay home with my kids from now on and like a rug being pulled out from under me I am now realizing I can't do that. I can't let my kids be traumatized by my illness anymore like yesterday and I can't be left alone without anyone nearby to help me. I feel so bad for my kids the were so happy to hear I was going to stay home now and I just can't do it yet. It's so unfair I just want to scream why can't I just have a break why does it always have to be this hard other people go to work and are able to function almost normally and it makes me so mad that I just cant get one dam break and get through this one easily. Please pray for me and I will pray for myself for this to be all that I need to suffer and that the rest will be just normal nothing wonderful just normal. I am getting tired of fighting and I just want to keep my head in the game so I need support more than ever right now. I don't have any poker tournaments coming up right now which believe it or not they get my mind moving forward and give me something to look ahead at to keep me going so maybe thats why I am having some trouble with nothing to grasp for like they took the carrot away from the horse and now he doesn't know where to go or what to do. That is where I am at now I don't know where to go or what to do. I only know whatever comes my way I will do my absolute best and give all I have and pray God leads me down the right path.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Chrismas and Happy Holidays

I wanted to say to everyone who has read my blog or who just cares about me and my struggle thank you you are my gift and I appreciate you. This year will end up being a very strange year for me. On one hand its the best time in my life ever due to my poker escaapades and the attention it has drawn to my fight against breast cancer but on the other hand I have things that are so scary I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone. I have never been so affraid nor so excited about my life before. I have a lot to be thankfull for this season and I don't ever want to forget that. It really doesn't matter how much time I have left although obviously I'm hoping for lots of years but what matters most is the quality of mine and my families life. This lesson is a tough one because I am constantly catching myself saying why me in my head or being jealous of my sister for being watched so closely now and wondering what if. I will do my best to put that behind me and move forward one step at a time. I hope that this faith that I have and then don't have depending on the moment learns to stick around a little longer each day and may god give me the strenght to keep fighting. Anyway this is a time for family, friends, love and laughter and that is one thing cancer can't take away so lets all make sure we laugh once a day at least, love as much as possible and spend quality time with our families the kind of time that makes memories for you and them that will live on forever. God bless my friends and family and of course Santa!

Happy Holidays
Nicole Rowe

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O.K Guys I got some splainin to do here. LOL I am sorry I haven't had the time to write in a couple of weeks but here is the deal. First I went to Los Angeles to be in the audience for the taping of the Million Dollar Challenge which was the time of my life. I got to meet some of my idols from the pokerworld who were just about as nice as could possibly be. I also got to watch an amazing thing happen which was a great family that we met out there and became really frienly with won a million dollars on the show right in front of our eyes. These people were from NY and we had no idea the first half of the day that they were going to be on the show at all. They didn't know it either the guy Mike was a fourth alternate to be a contestant and all three people before him had to lose thier match for him to be on the show at all. Well all three people before him lost their matches and he got on the show. Anyway it couldn't have happened to nicer people. He is a retired police sargeant who was in the World Trade Center 2 minutes after the planes hit on 9/11 and he was just like a hero would be as nice and humble as they come. After I got home from LA I decided I wanted to be on the show so I entered an online tournament with 10,000 people at pokerstars and I won the thing amazingly enough. This tournament gives you the opportunity to make an audition video to be on the show so my friend Maria, Myself and my sister Liz had 10 days to make this 2 minute video and upload it to you tube to get myself on the show. Then I have this really great man who is teaching and training me to be a better poker player also backed me in a 1600 dollar deep stack tournament in Atlantic City for 3 days so I was away for a while and last but not least my computer broke and I couldn't get online to Blog for a while but thank god for Dad again the hero coming through with giving me his brand new toshiba laptop to use until either I fix mine or get a new one. As you can see I have been living my life to the fullest and I don't plan to slow down cancer or no cancer chemo or no chemo I will enjoy every dam minute I've got. I missed blogging though and just to update I have a new chemotherapy starting on Wednesday call Taxol and I have been told it is not as bad as the last chemo I was taking so I think I am through with the rough stuff and the rest should be a walk in the park...

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Legacy

Today I feel anxious I am feeling pretty sick still I think its the anemia making me feel lousy but I did go to Memorial Sloan Kettering today to do blood work and to get some fluids. I have a weird feeling in my throat when I swallow its like I am swallowing over a bubble or a raw spot. The doctor said it could be thrush so I need to be careful what I eat because the chemo can do some damage to the digestive system and I have to make sure its not to hot or to cold or to spicy so I will try to be bland. As hard as this is when the doctor turned to me and said maybe we should skip the last AC-T treatment (which is the strong chemo) I panicked. She said I was not tolerating it well and that maybe we should just skip to the Taxol. My fist automatic response was no please I don't want to die of cancer I will be able to get through this just  lets not give up on me. I want every single possibility in my favor to kick this cancer ass out of me and I will be strong enough to get through just please don't give up on me. She agreed than God. I feel assured that whatever I need to get through I will I am a fighter and I won't give up on my kids after all its only one more treatment of the bad stuff and then we go to the more mild chemo.

After going and spending 3 more hours at the hospital Mom and I went to the mall for some sushi and it felt good to be out of the house and in the world of the living. I thoroughly enjoyed dinner and then it hit me like a ton of bricks I felt sick again. We paid the bill and left the restaurant and had a little bit of a walk to get to the car. I wasn't sure I could make it and then we ran into an old friend who I personally have not seen since I was in my teens I believe. She said something to me that struck a chord and in a way has transformed my mindset. She told me that all of us every one has a cross that they need to bear and that we don't  know why but we need to just bear it. I realized she was right I am no different than any other person with personal challenge mine is just mine and theirs is theirs. My story is just one in an infinite number and I don't feel sorry for myself I feel grateful that this is my cross and I accept it. Just as easily it could have been my child or like her her innocent grandchild who is stricken with an incurable disease that is just devastating so when I get that feeling of why me I can say honestly thank you god for my cross I can complete this test and be strong and make this negative into a positive for me and hopefully for someone else someday. This lesson is tough but it is awakening who am I. Just to think I should get through this life unscathed is totally selfish. I just hope that I can help people but if it is just one person thats OK it makes it all worth while I might not be able to save the world but certainly can help one person at a time if that is what it takes. My commitment to breast cancer awareness and research as well as the other charity events that I have been lucky enough to be a part of has made me want to do all that I can to continue to make a difference so this is just the beginning for me and I am grateful. I think God knows what he is doing in giving me a platform with my big mouth to really help and it has certainly changed my life and my focus!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Finally feeling a bit better!

I finally feel a little bit better after 6 days of hell. I am hoping to get better and better until I have to go for my next treatment on the 8th of December. I am totally excited to go to Los Angeles on December 3rd to be in the audience for the taping of Pokerstars Milliond Dollar Challenge it will be hopefully another memory that will last forever. I look forward to meeting some of my poker idols and just enjoying myself for a change. It takes a while after chemotherapy but things are starting to look up now and its like a moment of relief when you feel better and the big ole chemo funk lifts. Mentally I know I have more crap to go through but I try not to dwell on that and will spend the next week or so just being in the moment God willing. People are really surprising me with their desire to help me both physically, emotionally and even financially. I have never felt so blessed in my life even if its just an offer for a pedicure or a book or a happy story I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am looking forward to going home tonight and being with my family they keep me going. I am almost half way through this and now I think I have the strength again to give it another round I can keep getting knocked down but I will get back up and fight so watch out world I am still here and ready to fight with all your good energy I got this covered!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving is a special one for a lot of reasons. First is that I am truly blessed to have friends and family who are here for me during this difficult time. I also would like to reflect on what great things I have to be thankful for like my beautiful healthy kids my loving husband and an endless sea of supportive friends. My future is bright and full and I look forward to the great things that I can do to enrich the lives of others. Somehow I have learned that giving back is way more important than getting anything it feels better knowing I am able to help or change someone's life for the better. I will continue to try to be as positive as I can for as long as I can. Each time it seems that I get knocked down but I rise up stronger in determination and faith to keep the fight to be here for my family and friends like they have been for me. This is the beginning of my new life a better life believe it or not I feel truly blessed cancer and all. Its all a part of the big picture and I am O.K. with that. God only knows what is in store for me but whatever it is I will accept it and do my best to make everyone proud and keep on keepin on!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rough Times

This is torture everything about this is torture. I feel as sick as I've ever felt in my life, my kids and my family are suffering and I have absolutely no money. Not that I'm complaining but dam it I just want to scream at someone really loud but I just don't even have the energy to do that. I spent 4 hours in the hospital yesterday getting my third round of chemotherapy and it was really bad right away. Immediately I began to feel nauseated and the nurse told me there is a cumulative effect to chemotherapy that its building up in my system and the effects could get worse with each treatment. I am almost at my breaking point. Today I had to go back to the hospital to get my shot that helps my body make white blood cells but kills my bones so just incase nausea isn't enough now my chest feels like I have a hatchet in it. Tomorrow I go back to the hospital for two hours of hydration and for them to check my blood for anemia and how bad that has gotten. If it gets much worse I will need a blood transfusion. The insurance company can kiss my ass as well every damn prescription I get has a 25 to 50 dollar copay and its ridiculous I have paid 200 bucks this week alone on medications. I am trying so hard to stay positive but I am emotionally a physically and economically spent. I am looking forward to my trip to L.A. next week though, so I will try to keep my eye on the prize and keep moving ahead. I am sorry if this bothers people who care about me but its just how I am feeling at this moment.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today Is Chemo day

It is 9 am and I am not as upset about the chemo as I am about my little girls meltdown last night after my husband had to drop me off at my mothers house. She started to cry in the car as my husband drove away so he called me and said he is coming back to let her in and she wants to hug me. My poor baby I just can't take it. It's bad enough I have to go through this but she is almost 7 years old and she just shouldn't have to. I should be home with them and just worrying about things like homework or meeting the teacher night instead I am here at my mom's house waiting to go for my next round of chemotherapy and another week of misery.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Having my fears but not letting them take over!

My fears are starting to make my mind go a little off the rails today. I have chemotherapy tomorrow and I am really anxious. My doctor also told me that I might need a blood transfusion really soon because I am very anemic. I am trying so hard to stay positive but its really hard. I know I have a lot to be thankful for but I am starting to get that familiar why me feeling again. Please god give me the strength to get through this next week and then I only have one more of the rough chemo to go. I am looking so forward to being finished with this but the next chemo has other side effects that scare me. I don't do well with the unknown but I will get through it and hopefully it will calm my fears. The great things that are happening in my life right now are what keeps the fears from taking over. I am going to L.A. on December 3rd for the taping of the Pokerstars Million Dollar Challenge and I am so excited I can't even believe how lucky I am. I will get to meet some of my Idols like Daniel Negreanu and Vanessa Rousso (they are Poker Pros for you non poker people). I feel sometimes like I am in a fairy tale and sometimes like I am in a nightmare and what's funny is I sometimes feel like this at the same time. Weird. I can't wait to see my kids my husband is on his way to get me and we will spend the afternoon together which will give me strength to go tomorrow. The love of my family and friends are my greatest strength and I will use it to kick cancer ass this week.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Today I woke up feeling like I have a cold or sinus infection so as ordered I called my doctor to find out what I should do. I need to be healthy in order to get my next chemotherapy treatment on Monday. She asked me to come in to check my blood count and once again Mom and I schlep into Westchester to see my oncologist at the hospital. The bloodwork came back showing that I am very anemic and might need a blood transfusion shortly and my white cell count is a little on the low side so the doctor gave me an rx for antibiotics and sent me home. Now this would be fine but yet again with my immunity down I cannot go home to be with my kids this weekend and it is just so unfair. More for them than me, don't get me wrong I miss them so much it hurts but my kids need their mom and I cannot be there again it makes me crazy! My next door neighbors daughter has the swine flu, my son has croop and my daughters school is full of sick kids out for one reason or another. I know when this is all over things will go back to normal and I will be home yelling at them to get dressed or to be quiet and stop fighting but right now that sounds like a fairy tale to me I just miss them so much. I feel like my life consists of only doctors, medications, sickness and sadness. This 4 months is just getting me down. I don't mean to complain a lot of people have it a lot worse than me but I just can't help it sometimes. Please God give me strength and comfort my kids in my absents.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Miracles do happen!

Last night I spent the night at a charity poker tournament in New York City and it was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I was surrounded by people who were actually there for one reason only and that was to raise money for Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia and to have some fun playing a little poker. The generosity of these people was just amazing. I was actually sponsored as a poker professional to be there to help raise money and was so touched by the outpouring of gratitude for my being there which just didn't make sense to me. I was coming there as a poker groupie to see and meet poker pros and celebrities and as it turned out people there had heard my story and were moved by it and were thankful that I was there after what I have recently been going through with my fight against breast cancer. I was invited back next year and was so overwhelmed by the sentiment that I felt like my head was spinning all night. This night brought in about a million dollars for this hospital which makes miracles happen every day. I met a doctor who single handedly saved a little girls life when nobody else gave her a chance. She was 13 years old and diagnosed with an inoperable cancer when she came to him. not only did he go where no other doctor wanted to go to treat her he cured her and now I stood in amazement as I watched this beautiful young woman who is now 19 years old talking about her bright future ahead. Besides the charity part of this night I just had the most incredible time playing in this poker tournament in the middle of my misery, this great diversion once again. The tournament started about 8 pm and went until midnight and again I made it all the way to the final table and placed 5th or 6th I'm actually not sure but I won another amazing trophy and spent the night not thinking about cancer or chemotherapy. I am so grateful to the people who made this happen for me and Jim you know who you are! I can't thank you enough. I can't wait till next year when I can be there again to support such a great cause and hopefully get on board in getting some sponsors of my own for next year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Baldness at last!

It has been a few days since my last post and I have so much going on its making my head spin. I went home this past weekend to be with my family and it was wonderful to sleep in my own bed in my own home with my incredible kids but coming back to Mom's is tough. It is almost worse going home because it just makes me realize how wrong things in my life are right now. I am so jealous of people who just look as if life is great and I know its wrong of me but I just can't help it as I walk by someone in a mall or anywhere I look at them and think wow how life should be, shopping with the kids or going to open school night or just tucking my kids in bed at night. It somehow hurts and there I am again feeling guilty for being jealous. My sister and I spent the day together yesterday and that was really nice. I was feeling better thank god from chemo last week and we ran some errand and just hung out. Last night my head was driving me crazy the hair that I had left was cut very short and felt like little needles poking me in the head all the time. The hair was also flying off my head everywhere. It was all over my pillow in my eyes in my mouth it was just unbelievably irritating. It was also very patchy and I felt somewhat like Bozo the clown (no offense to Bozo). So I finally got crazy and we went to the beauty supply store and the beautician in the back said she would buzz all my hair off for me and she wouldn't charge me anything. I was shocked at her kindness but took her up on the offer immediately. She worked on getting all my hair off with the buzz clippers but it was tough to get it down all the way to the skin. She then said lets wash it to try to scrub off whatever hair is already coming off soon but still in. She then put my head in the sink warmed up the water and began to scrub my head, It felt so good I almost fell asleep it was just the most amazing feeling after a week of nothing but bad feelings. I went to give her a tip when she was done and she gave me a hug and said please just get better don't give me anything. I almost started to cry I was so appreciative of her kindness but it still amazes me that strangers can be so generous. When we got to dinner my mom, dad and sisters kids were there waiting for us. We had a great dinner and I actually think I ate more food than I have in about a month. I did notice that my head was still really bothering me the hair still felt like needles so I was starting to really get bothered. When Liz and I got to her house after dinner she decided we were going to lather up with shaving cream and get a shiny new razor and shave my head completely.We stood in her bathroom and I was petrified that she was going to cut my head or I would end up with pieces of toilette paper stuck all over my bald bony head. She actually did a great job and we actually got a lot of laughs out of it. I have to thank her for being the most caring loving sister in the world right now and I am very lucky to have her. When she finished my head was shining like the Empire state building and felt like a baby's ass. The transformation is complete I now officially look like a cancer patient. I will get through this and hopefully have some peach fuzz by the spring.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It is Saturday morning and I am starting to lose track of days. I wake up confused every day trying to figure out what is going on in this life of mine that just seems all wrong. I miss my kids and my husband so much I almost feel like I am slowly disappearing from my own life bit by bit. My entire family went to go see Shrek on Broadway last night and I stayed home alone afraid to do anything but lay in bed and play on my computer. This round of chemotherapy has hit me really hard for some reason and I just cant get myself back. My strength is really going fast now I feel like just standing up makes me feel faint or weak. It is really hard for me to eat and god bless my mom but she keeps trying to bring me things to eat and I really just want to throw up. I know I have to try and I use my pot if I have to but I don't like just being a waste product and being stoned all the time it is not the quality of life I was looking for. I enjoy writing my blog and the pot also seems to interfere with being able to write so I will do what I can here. It is really important to me that I have a good chronicle of this experience because even now as I go back through and read previous entries it helps me to move through this experience instead of just letting it happen. It hopefully will continue to help me and maybe someday someone else going through this as well. I am planning on going home tonight to be with my family for the weekend and I am very excited about that. Hopefully I won't overwhelm my husband with all that he does daily and adding taking care of me to the list this weekend but its worth a try.

I am looking so forward to an event on November 18th in NYC that was set up by the friends I made at the Borgata Casino when I came in 2nd at the ladies event. This group of guys that were there writing for the magazines decided that they would sponsor me in a dream of a lifetime experience for me. They have entered me into this charity tournament called All in for Kids where all the proceeds get donated to Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia. I will be playing poker with some of the stars that I have only dreamed of playing with on T.V. and the best part is it all goes to children's charity. Now I get to be a real groupie and I am so excited I cant even tell you. Right now this is the reason I get out of bed knowing I have these few things to look forward to in this calendar of doctors, hospitals, treatments and sickness. I can never thank them enough my mind has something to hang on to that is positive because of them. Thank you my friends I cant wait to see you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This morning I woke up with that familiar feeling of dread and nausea. The dread comes the moment I realize that I am not in a bad dream but my reality is still the same and it hurts. Now the nausea makes me want to cry. So I reach over to the counter where my mom has bought me a gift yesterday and left it sitting there next to my weed. She got me a bong! Now how weird is life I spent years of my life trying to hide the fact that I had smoked pot in high school and then in college and now she is surprising me with bongs. Anyway I figured out how to use it. Now all I need is a little greatful dead or Pink Floyd and a Nintedo Super Mario Bros. and I could be back in my college dorm in a moment in my head. But a least I have a short reprieve from my pain long enough to let me eat a breakfast so I don't starve to death. I am hoping I can now go back to sleep since it seems that is the only way now for me to not feel as sick so I will give it my best shot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ok I have spent every day since monday going back to the hospital. Monday I had my 2nd round of chemotherapy which has been much rougher on me than the first round for some reason. I have been very nauseaus and about as exhausted as I have ever felt in my life. I am trying really hard to stay positive but I think it just is really getting to me now. Yesterday I had to go back to the hospital for my $3000 shot to help my body to make white blood cells to fight infection. This is a whole different problem all together because knowing that my immune system is compromised I am trapped in my mom's house afraid of swine flu among other things that would or could kill me in this condition. I am losing my mind a little bit at a time its dark early I am trapped I miss my kids and I feel like hell. Today I went back to the hospital for some hydration which took another 4 hours just sitting hooked up to a machine pumping fluid into my veins. My hair is coming out all over my body now. I'm truly a mess. I don't mean to complain but if I don't get this off my chest and out onto my computer it will sit in my gut like poison. I am really going to try and stay the course and stay calm and hopefully it will get better from here until the next round.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Got through my 2nd round but not as easily as last time. First off they had to access my port that was put in with some trouble on Friday but hasn't had much time to heal. The nurse warned me that this might hurt a little and she proceeded to stick the port access needle into my it. It hurt for a moment but I think the anxiety was worse so the relief is that I can deal with this in the future if like she says the first one is the worst. As the nurse sat in front of me with the first type of chemo it reminds me of red coolaide in a syringe it just brought back memories of the first time and my anxiety started to play tricks on me. As she began the infusion within moments I felt the strange feeling in my mouth just as happened the last time. It feels like almost a numbing of my tongue and a almost metal taste in my mouth so my mom went to get me a ice pop to help with this strange feeling. It helped right away but then the nausea kicks in almost immediately I feel the worst indigestion and the nurse tells me its called anticipatory nausea and that she would give me ativan to help with the anxiety and the nausea. The thoughts running through my head are good and bad I feel as if I can get through this I am one more closer to finishing but on the other hand the infusion is only the beginning and the next week will tell how well I do with it. I am optimistic that It won't be as bad as the last one and I will feel better sooner. The sheer and utter exhaustion is started already but sleep is a gift during this time and hopefully I will sleep through these few days and bounce back like a champ. Anyway I still have mom here trying to feed me since i lost two pounds in two weeks which is not good since I am now only 112 lbs. Who would have thought I would be so worried about getting weight on my bones. My vitamin D level is also very low so I must start taking 2000 units a day of that so my bones don't deteriorate. I am also very anemic and my doctor thinks I will need a transfusion for sure very soon. This is just to let my friend and family know where I am at in this process so I am not complaining I am just informing everyone as to my life in a nutshell. Please keep the comments and prayers coming they really help in my feeling of loneliness and isolation in this first few days of treatment. I wish I could play poker to get my mind off of all of this but unfortunately I can't yet. Maybe if I don't feel to bad I will soon. Anyway I will do my best to eat and drink and stay as healthy as I can. I promise. I am relieved it is over and I can do the rest with gods mercy. Thank you my friends and family I feel you in my heart every day!

Truth be told

Truth be told I am a mess right now. I don't know why but I assumed that my 2nd treatment would be easier mentally than the first because I know what to expect but unfortunately I know what to expect and I'm afraid. My thoughts are racing thinking well what if I stop the treatment 50/50 chance isn't that bad but then I realize I have to give myself the best shot even though it the hardest thing I've ever been through. I am very irritable which the doctor warned me about. Everybody and everything annoys the shit out of me. I can't stop my anger its like blowing bubbles in milk it just keeps bubbling up and over the glass I want to scream! I don't feel like myself at all. I want to just run away and scream at the top of my lungs its not fucking fair. Its not fair that everything I want to do even just go home for the weekend to be with my kids gets taken away from me. When will it end when do I get to be the one to just have peace. I don't want to be a millionaire, I could give a shit less about money but all I can think of is how the hell am I going to do this my family is not and endless supply of money and I don't want to lose my home but things are bad. My poor husband has to take 100% off the responsibility for my kids and still has to worry about me and all the bills that keep coming which we can't pay. I'm so sorry for him. For me I will get through this but I just want to punch something really hard and then I'll be O.K. till the next virtual tantrum. I am truly sorry if this upsets anyone but this is my space to vent and thank god for it. Please pray for me I don't mean to complain I know it could always be worse but it does suck right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I am getting really anxious about my upcoming chemotherapy treatment on Monday. I know I have already done one but it's just not helping. I am afraid of the side affects and feeling so incredibly sick again for another week. I just hope my little body can take this ravaging but the good news is like I told my little girl the sicker I feel the more likely those yucky cancer cells will die and that is the point of this right. I will survive and the cancer will die and I will be cured.

I am looking so forward to this charity event coming up on the 18th of November which is a significant day through my life. It happens to be the day my Nanny died back in 1980 due to the ravages of the disease which is inflicting me right now. I however will show that I can live for the both of us and feel as if the significance of this is that God chose this day for me to enjoy and live life to the fullest for a reason and I hear it. I will truly enjoy and think of her often while playing the game I love, Poker, and having every dollar go to charity for children.

I have to say since I have gotten the second place finish in the Ladies Event at the Borgata in September the human compassion has really surprised me. The people who have made a difference seems orchestrated by God. Let me tell you a story about a couple of these people. It started with a writer for the Borgata and for Poker magazines during these big events. Jim and Jeff became my friends almost immediately and were touched by my story from the beginning. When the word started to get around that this Ladies Event looked as if it might be won by this man and that my story came out about my fight against breast cancer.They knew they had a story on their hands that would effect peoples emotions. Little did I know the extent to which they would go for me to shine a light on my cause which just wouldn't have ever gotten the coverage it did without them. So now after the results are in and I had lost this event to this man they immediately started to work to get this story to be get out into the media. Jim sat me down and did a really classy story about my life, poker and cancer. The story was wonderful and I was truly pleased to be able to get the word out about early detection on breast cancer. He then realized my love for poker and my kinda of groupie attitude about these Poker Pros whom I acted like a 13 year old girl when he offered me a chance of a lifetime out of the goodness of his heart to play amongst them in an invite only tournament he was helping to organize. He offered me a seat at this All in For Kids poker Charity event for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. This is a $5,000 dollar a seat minimum event where last years stars included Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Bobby Flay, and many more. I had never been so excited in my life or more touched by this complete act of kindness from a virtual stranger. I couldn't even contain my tears of joy It gave me something to aim for in this future of sickness and fear. I now have something to strive for in the middle of my hell. I can never thank him enough for that. Now on to the next selfless act of kindness. Jim had gotten me in touch with a guy named Michael who works for Poker News a very popular magazine dedicated to stories about poker. He was also touched by my story to the point I am forever grateful for. I know he will never accept credit for the way he has gone out of his way to make this charity event happen against all odds. He took up a crusade to bring this to fruition . Let me start by saying this was supposed to be a charity event to help me through this incredibly difficult financial time. He and many people in the Poker community were angry about the money they believed would have and should have been mine if this man never entered this Ladies tournament so he began to gather people and companies in the poker community to get behind a tournament designed to bring in enough money to make up the difference at least from what I would have won had he not been in the tournament that he really was not invited to anyway. He did his best to help me get through this time without this extreme problem I am facing without the added money difficulties to get in the way of healing my body and taking care of my family. I am eternally grateful for this. I know he worked for weeks to gather prizes worth more than $20,000 and his company and Pokerstars set the whole thing up and told me it was all ready to go and that whatever money the tournament generated would go to me to help with my medical expenses and the salary I would be losing due to not having any more sick days or vacation days left for the year. I am not making any salary at all during this time only disability which has not paid me one dollar yet. I could not be more grateful for the effort I know he put into this. a couple of weeks ago he called me sounding so upset I was actually worried for a moment until he told my why. Due to regulations in the U.S against online gambling there was no way at all to have a charity event with proceeds going to a U.S citizen when I am not legally, nor are any online poker players from here allowed to play online poker. I felt so bad for him because I knew the effort he had put into this and how bad he felt telling me that this money which I was now counting on wasn't possibly able to go to me. I emphatically told him not to even worry about it my family and friends are there to help me and that truly I felt uncomfortable with the idea anyway because there are a lot of people in my position who don't have charity events in their name that fight this fight with a lot less resources than I have. He still could not stop appologizing I tried to make him realize it was O.K.. The next day I get a phone call from him saying he was up all night and that he just is not the type to give up on something that he starts. The next thing I know he tells me he has gotten in touch with a group called Bad Beat on Cancer which is a non profit organization of poker people who create charity events all proceeds going to cancer research. They decided to get behind this tournament and instead of the money going to me the money will go to this charity. I said to Michael I just cannot believe that you did this for me. You are a special human being and God is good. I told him I am much more comfortable with this anyway because the money will help not just me but anyone who is fighting cancer and it will be done in my name. Michael I just want you to know how much I and my family and friends thank you. Thank you It is just not enough for the blood sweat and tears you put into this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Just know that your actions will help save lives and hopefully mine included. You and Jim and the wonderful other people at the Bortata give me hope and faith in humanity again. I also have to thank you for organizing one more thing that I am looking forward to which is a trip to L.A. to get the V.I.P experience which is one of the prizes that have been donated by Pokerstars for your charity event in my name. I will be flying with my Husband to California and staying at the hotel with all the poker pros and celebrities as well as be in the audience for the taping of the new show on T.V. called the Pokerstars Million Dollar Challenge. I know I will have the time of my life and I thank you again.

I felt it really important for me to tell these stories of selfless acts of strangers because people should know we are an nation to be proud of. We are the most generous people in the world and not just with our money but I have encountered kindness and love that I never knew existed in this world. People recognized me and told me stories of triumph and survival that I needed to hear while I was at this Poker Open for days. I also received hugs and warm wishes from people just walking around the casino that saw my face on the wall for my win and heard my story I have never been so touched in my life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I went yesterday to Phelps Memorial to get a port in my arm so when I get my next Chemotherapy treatment they wont have to access my vein with a needle. I got there at 10:00 am for a scheduled procedure at 11:30. My mom and I were in the pre op room watching the Yankees parade which was nice but time was just ticking away and nobody came for me. Finally at 1:00 pm they came for me and wheeled me away to the procedure room. This room is like an operating room but its used for procedures guided by x ray like angeograms and pic lines an like my port placement. Anyway the left me in the hallway saying that the previous procedure was not finished yet and it would take a few minutes. An hour later I was still laying on a stretcher in the hallway and the radiologist comes to see me out there. He starts to feel my chest to see where he is going to place the port and realizes that there is not enough room to put it in my chest because of my implants and the fact that I am so small. Now the only other place to put it is in my arm and the problem is I already have one arm that is somewhat debilitated because of the lymph node removal and now if they put the port in the other one that arm will also be somewhat debilitated. The doctors also don't like it as much in the arm for some other reasons but no choice in the matter so he did it in my arm. Next thing I know it is now 4:00 and my mother is probably panicking because the whole procedure was only supposed to take 20 minutes and I left her at 1:oo. I finally get rolled out of the procedure room an my Mom looks totally drained and I am feeling like crap and we have been at the hospital since 10:00 am and I can't even leave for at least an hour because of the sedatives they gave me. I proceed to eat a grilled cheese sandwich and some strawberry ice cream like it was my last meal because I haven't eaten since yesterday at 7pm. Then it hits me the nausea was horrific the meds they gave me and the food just didn't mix so now they give me some more medication for nausea and we are stuck there for even more time. Finally they let us go at 5:30 or so we get home at 6:30 and I get in bed and fall asleep sick to my stomach and exhausted. I woke up at 9 pm and my arm is hurting so bad I began to cry uncontrollably the pain is beyond belief. I think that is why they don't like to put the port in the arm and I just found out why big time. I took extra meds and got through the night and feel much better this morning. I hope this port makes my life easier and I think it will. So today I will rest and relax and hopefully heal fast.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Today I am going to shave my hair off and get my wig fitted. I am excited to see how my wig will look but I'm anxious about being bald. Well the good news is mine will grow back I have a few friends who I'm sure would like their male pattern baldness to be temporary so I consider myself lucky. I then will head into New York City to Memorial Sloan Kettering to see my plastic surgeon who will give my boobies a fill. This is nice to see but rough with the pain so that old saying it hurts to be beautiful never meant as much as it does now. I can handle it and look forward to seeing the end result. I will be going home for the weekend and can't wait to be with my family again. Hopefully this will re-energize me for Monday when I get round 2 of chemotherapy. My babies are feeling the stain especially my little girl who will be 7 in December. I worry that she is holding in her fear and that she misses me in her daily life. This is by far the hardest part including the side effects of chemo. I can deal with my suffering but not hers. She asked me the other night "Mommy when will you come home forever I miss you" My heart sank. I told her that when the doctors heal me I promise I will be there for the rest of her life and that we need to be strong to get through it together. I also know her birthday is coming up and I don't have any money to give her the party we promised her all year. My heart is breaking for her and I am helpless. All I can do is love her when I can and assure her she is the most important thing in my life and her and her brother are what give me the strength to fight. My entire family is broke and there is nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other and pray for help. The money is gone but the drive to survive no matter what is alive. Hopefully my disability check starts to come soon because that stress is affecting me more than anything right now. I hate to complain about money but this is my reality I am fighting 2 battles one for my life and the other to keep our financial head above water and I just don't see any relief anytime soon we are drowning I need to hold on to my home and this is becoming an impossabilty. I am trying my best and that is all I can do God will show me the way and I hope my heart is open enough to listen to his guidance. God help us we need it. I need to focus on the things I can change and try to put the other stuff out of my mind. Easier said than done but I will try. I need lots of prayers so time to hit my knees again and I will do that today and every day I feel well enough to.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The story continues with G-d showing me what is really important in life in a matter of days. . After my diagnosis of breast cancer and my recovery of the shock that this brought to my otherwise difficult life at the moment it seemed to bring things into perspective for me which in itself is a gift. I have to go back though to the week or 2 before this diagnosis to give you an idea about how life can change on a dime. It all started when my car which we realized was not worth what we actually owed on it started to act up and needed necessary work done that cost more than we could afford at the time. I called my Dad who told me not to worry about it just to get the work done and he would take care of it. This is a difficult thing for me because my husband and myself work very hard to try and provide for our family and it is always a difficult thing as and adult to ask for help. My father thank God has always been there for us when the chips are down and again he not only payed to have 1300 bucks worth of work done on my car he also let me use his car for the 2 weeks he was in Florida so I wouldn't be without a car. His only rule was no food in the back of the car for my kids because God love them but they are not very neat when it comes to eating in the back seats. Anyway during this week it started with me cutting my finger pretty bad and spending the night in the emergency room which wasn't so horrible just annoying and then the next thing was my dog who is only a year old but 140 lb ball of love came down with Lyme disease which was heartbreaking and totally expensive. It cost us about 400 dollars which we really didn't have but had to come up with somehow. Thank god the dog did well with antibiotics and rest. While I had the dog at the vet I had pulled into a handicap parking spot because I do have residual permanent injuries due to my car accident in 2004 so I have a valid handicap permit. This spot though was the first spot in the row and for some unknown reason the spot had a pole with a sign on it in the blind spot on my left side. I proceeded to back out of this spot and cut the wheel to turn. Next thing I knew I felt a crunch and loud crash at the front left tire area of my fathers car. I sat there in complete disbelief I never saw that pole for one second and was shocked as to where it came from. I panicked, the first thing I thought was Oh God my fathers rule was no eating in the back and now I just crashed it into a pole he is going to kill me! The guilt was overwhelming and now I had to tell him what had happened. The damage was pretty bad yellow paint on the whole front left quarter panel, crunched in bumper over the tire, paint gone it was ugly. As my husband calmed me down and then he called my father and he just took it in stride. His words were baby don't worry its just a car don't even cry one more tear it is just a car its O.K.. The next day I was to go for a needle biopsy on these lumps in my breast and it was supposed to be an easy test no big deal and the doctor who did my mammography and ultrasound had already told me he was sure it was nothing. My mammography according to him was clean and not suspicious at all. Well after a 20 minute procedure went for 45 minutes and the supposed painless procedure made my head spin with unbelievable pain I left there with a horrible feeling in my gut and in pain. The good news is I got my car back so I didn't have to worry about driving Dads anymore. After I got done at the doctor I was physically and emotionally exhausted but realized I needed to get gas. I couldn't decide wether I should go home take some advil and go to bed, or just get gas now to get it over with so I don't have to later. I chose to just get the gas now. I pulled into Hess and pulled up to the first pump which had a plastic bag over the handle saying out of order so instinctively I just pulled up to the next pump. I was in pain and very concerned about my biopsy now and was not paying attention as I pumped the gas into my car. Next thing I know I noticed the price of this gas was different and took a better look at the pump. OMG this is not gas its diesel! I just pumped 10 gallons of diesel into my gas tank I panicked. I pulled my car into the spot at the gas station and cried so hard I think It flooded the front seat. I called my husband who came immediately to help but there was nothing we could do but tow the car away and once again use my fathers generosity to help pay for the ridiculous bad luck I had had. As I sat there for a moment I briefly considered doing something stupid like running away or jumping off a bridge life just seemed to be unfair and self pity was just to light to describe what I was feeling I was inconsolable. I felt about as bad as I had ever felt in my life it almost felt like I didn't want to go on. The next morning I got the call that changed my life. The Nurse practitioner called with the news I had worst feared. I had breast cancer! Suddenly I went from not wanting to go on because of this week from hell to I don't want to die. In an instant I was transformed into a person fighting for the life that yesterday seemed so horrible that maybe I'd be better off dead. My perspective changed forever. This was a gift believe it or not. God had taught me a lesson I will never take for granted one moment of this life again. Nothing and I mean nothing else mattered, money, cars, fingers, work problems, nothing it just didn't matter anymore. Thank you god for this lesson it has taught me how to live. I will fight for my life with the help of my friends and family like a warrior but mostly I will appreciate each day with a new outlook. And so it has been the most profound experience of my life and I got it now I got the point. So when you have a bad day or tough economic times hit just remember it could always be worse nothing means anything without your health and the love of your family and friends.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another night has come and gone and I am one day closer to round 2 of chemotherapy. It looms over me like a black cloud in winter. My anxiety over losing my hair is really weird because I knew it was coming but as I run my fingers through it I am getting more and more left in my hands. I thought I was ready for it but its like some irrational fear. As a child for some reason I was always afraid of the chicken pox, I never got it till I was 16 so I went through almost my entire childhood fearful of it. When I actually got it I panicked for the first 15 minutes and then I was fine. Of course it was not as bad as I had imagined and I didn't look like some monster I looked like a kid with the chicken pox. Well I am about to look like a cancer patient. I realize it will not be as bad as I am imagining but the fear is still there. I hope that most of my hair stays until Thursday morning because I made the decision to shave my head and have my wig fitted on that day and I really don't want it to fall all the way out until then.

As I get closer to my next chemo session I am fearful of the side effects, not as bad as the fear before I had my first one but still pretty bad. I want to go to get closer to finishing treatment but I don't want to feel like crap again for 2 weeks. This first round was really hard and nothing seems to go easily for me when it comes to health. I thank god that I was not vomiting for days and days but I fainted 2 days ago which scared the hell out of me and I spent most of yesterday in the hospital. Yesterday was interesting I went to see my oncologist at the clinic in Sleepy Hollow and she wanted to give me fluids because I showed signs of dehydration. They gave me fluids and about half way through I had eaten a sandwich and some cake that Mom brought me while I waited for that saline bag to drip into my body. All of a sudden I felt really sick, my heart started to race, my blood pressure went up really high, I was sweaty and nauseaus and just felt again like I was going to faint. The doctor came and took a look at me and sent me right over to the Emergency Room at Phelps Memorial Hospital which is connected to the clinic. I still don't know exactly what happened but a couple hours later after a battery of tests I got the green light to go home. I think that the chocolate cake that Mom got for me to help cheer me up made me have what is called dumping syndrome which is a side effect of my gastric bypass surgery which I had in May of 08'. My body senses sugar in my blood and sends out insulin to counteract the sugar. When I was overweight I would eat lots of carbs and sugar and it would have to send out lots of insulin to deal with the sugar in my blood. Now I cannot eat one quarter of what I used to but my body doesn't know this and still sends out the large amounts of insulin expecting to get slammed with sugar. Next thing I know I am having symptoms of hypoglycemia and it is just awful. I am not sure that this is what happened but I think it had something to do with it because I didn't eat that much cake but who knows. Anyway I plan on having a better day today and time keeps going and life goes on no matter what so I will try to enjoy the day and live in the moment.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just because the nights aren't long enough we had to go and lose another hour. I feel like I am fighting to get through every night and its now that much harder. My mind is getting fragile and I am trying really hard to reel in these panicky feelings. I keep thinking how am I going to get through 4 months of this. I think I am starting to experience depression. I feel sad all the time I am constantly on the verge of crying. Today was rough I was nauseaus and I took meds and fell asleep. When I woke up I really had to pee so I jumped up and walked rather quickly to the bathroom about 20 feet or so from my bed. Next thing I knew I was in a heap on the floor. I fainted. I was so scared I just started crying for my Mom who came running to help me. I tried to get up before she got there but I just couldn't do it. I thought I was dying. When she got to me I was freaking out with fear she helped me up and took me back to bed. In my life I have never just fainted losing consciousness completely. As I sat there in bed I just kept thinking how is my little 113 lb body going to get through this. I don't want to go through hell just to die of some crazy thing like swine flu or some weird affliction. I am drained to the max. I am scared ass hell and I just want to scream! Help me God just help me. Make it go away make it better, let it be done with please just let it end. Then I realize it has only just begun and I am totally overwhelmed. My family has been about as supportive as possible but now I am feeling like its not enough. We are all taxed and tired. I worry about my husband taking care of my poor babies who are living this horror without Mommy being there to help. I know I need to just take care of myself which in turn will help them in the long run but what about today. I'm so pissed off I cannot live like I want to today. I wanted to go trick or treating with them I wanted to help pick out costumes for them I wanted to just be there. I can't and I'm mad. Pictures are just not the same. Well lets hope that things get better for the next few days until my next treatment. Hope is all I have and I refuse to lose that. Cancer can take a lot from me but it cant take my hope for the future.
Over the last few years since my 2nd place finish in the Ladies event I have embedded myself in the local poker world. I have had my ups and downs for sure. There are always men who believe that women should not be allowed to play poker especially in the existing poker rooms which were already a tight club of down home boys. I tried very hard to stay under the radar and just play the game that I love. Surprisingly in the process I believe I made some lifetime friendships of even the guys whom I thought would never change their ideas and beliefs. I hope that I had brought some changes for the better in this close nit society. That said I am a tough cookie and I don't back down easily especially when we are talking poker my passion. I think some of this is due to the tough women poker players in my family like I've said it is something in my DNA.

I started to play in not only tournaments but in live games as well. These are cash games which are totally different than tournament play because every dollar that you have on the table in play is equal to a dollar in the real world so if you lose 300 dollars in a pot that is actually 300 dollars out of your pocket, not just chips for a set amount that you risk at the beginning of a tournament. I started to do well in cash at the beginning before I developed a fear of losing lots of money even though you get your money in with the best hand. This is called a bad beat and every poker player gets them and it is necessary to go through this to become a good player. It teaches you patience which is an essential part of being a good poker player.

About 3 years ago I noticed we started getting more women playing in these local games and I could not be happier I was no longer the target for misplaced anger by men getting bad beats. It seemed to start becoming much more acceptable. I met a woman named Vanessa who with her husband would come every week to play in some tournaments. We had a lot in common. We are about the same age, both have young kids and we both love the game. All of a sudden I noticed that Vanessa and her husband had not been coming for a while and started to ask why. When I found out that Vanessa had developed breast cancer it devistated me. I couldn't believe someone my age 37 at the time could just out of the blue get this horrible affliction that took the life of my grandmother 30 years ago. To my surprise Vanessa and her husband started coming back to the poker room about every week or two during her treatments which I thought was incredible and shows what a strong individual she is. In a way I envied her because she never stopped living. Not for one moment talking to her I felt was a life lesson. She never lost her optimism or care for others while I'm sure she was going through hell. I never heard her complain for even a moment. Vanessa I just want to say you are now my hero. She lost her hair and had a pic line in her arm all the while keeping that warm, caring smile that lights up a room. This woman got through this hurdle in life like a real winner not in poker but in life. I didn't know it then but I had just made the single most important friendship in my life.

After Vanessa got through this and added survivor to the end of her name she decided to move to Florida with her husband and her kids. I was sad but although we were not the best of friends mostly aquaintances I made sure before she left I took her phone number. I just knew this was someone I wanted to keep in my life even if it was fleetingly. Flash forward to August 2009 I had noticed a really strange feeling on my breast it wasn't quite a lump but didn't feel smooth. I attributed this to a massive weight loss which I had just had. I figured my whole body feels different when you lose 100 lbs. and that the lack of fat in my breasts made them feel foreign anyway. I managed to ignore it for about a couple of months and then I hired a girl to work for me in my optical store her name is Maria. Maria turned out to be another gift from god in that she immediately became a friend not just an employee. Maria is a military family member which means she had government run health care coverage. She had opened up to me that she had found 2 lumps in her breast and that the military doctor she had gone to said they should just watch it. She was clearly uncomfortable with this and I advised her to get a second opinion. I said "just because you are military doesn't mean you are not entitled to a second opinion. Get your but to a civilian doctor and get it checked out." she told me she had a huge fear of needles and this was keeping her from doing this. She was afraid that they would do a needle biopsy. I told her "listen Maria I have felt something funny in my breast for a couple of months now and have dragged my feet on it. How about if I go, You go." We will do this together. Will you promise me you will go and she said yes so we both made our appointments. I found Vanessa's phone number in my cell phone before the results of my biopsy came back and called her. I think she was surprised to hear from me it had been about a year since we last spoke. I told her what was going on and she assured me it was probably nothing but that if it is not nothing she warned me that I will not hear anything else the doctor says and to let my husband talk for me. She said even if it is cancer just stay calm and we will get through it this is not a death sentence. When I hung up the phone with her what she said stayed with me so when that call came and the nurse practitioner gave me the horrible news I knew instinctively to hand the phone to my husband and try to stay calm. I was not very successful at staying calm but at least I knew what to expect. I remember screaming I have breast cancer, I don't want to die. How is this happening to me. Why?! I don't want to die! I immediately called Vanessa and she was my lifeboat ever since! It turned out we had the same type of cancer called infiltrating ductal carcinoma and she began to educate me. My new life has begun.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ok folks this one might be a long one. I feel I have to tell this story now for a reason and I will start from the beginning. I have always been a competitive person by nature. I also have always loved card games. With that said I never really thought about playing poker for real against real people. I did know however that poker runs in my blood. My grandmother and her sister my Aunt Marion would go on little poker binges for a couple of days at a time way back in the 40's and 50's. Back then it was in the back of bars and let me tell you these were smoking, drinking, cursing, bartending, bouncing women. Nobody messed with them. The stories though somehow got into my soul and stuck with me for years.

In October of 2004 I was in a horrible car accident that nearly took my life. I was in the hospital for a week in critical care and then transferred to a rehab hospital for three weeks more. I broke my pelvis in three places, broke my hip, my scapula, my ribs, and many more injuries that were not as severe. I was very blessed to have survived such a horrific accident and basically came out of it with some chronic pain and some disc problems in my back but nothing I couldn't handle or live with.

About a year after I had my accident I was anxious to find out when I could become pregnant or if I should even try because my biological was ticking away. When I spoke to the doctor he said it would be fine to try that it has been a year and it would probably take a little while. Next thing I knew a month later the line was pink when I missed my period. Wow we are 2 fertile people. Now I have to make my way through this pregnancy after barely a year has gone by since I crushed my pelvis. I got through about 3 months of the pregnancy with no real problems and then the pain. It hit me like a mac truck. The doctor told me that the weight of the baby is now putting pressure directly on my pelvis and I should be off my feet. So I set up my Lazyboy in front of my big screen T.V. and started watching this new show called Celebrity Poker Showdown. I was riveted by it I couldn't get enough. I TIVO'd every poker show on T.V.. I had never seen or played Texas Hold em before but I fell in love with the game. I was now convinced I could play this game and win. I opened an online poker account and started playing online tournaments. If I wasn't playing online I was watching on TV. Phil Gordon became my new crush. It was constant poker night and day. I started to notice I was winning a lot of tournaments, granted they were either 2 to 5 dollars or freerolls but I was really doing well. I entered a freeroll for the Aussie Millions one morning and next thing I knew I had got to the final table of 700 people and won an entry to the next round. A few days later I was playing in round 2 and I was doing really well. I actually knocked out Chris Ferguson who's Avatar was remarkably realistic looking. I actually won round 2 and got to the finals. Now I had beaten about 1800 people to get to the finals and my confidence was building. Unfortunately I didn't win the final round but this tournament gave me belief in myself that if I can beat 1800 people to get to the finals I have got something here. Suddenly my husband was on board somewhat with me and allowed me to keep playing. He told me that after I give birth and I am feeling better that I could go to Atlantic City for a few days and play for real.

After having a beautiful 8 1/2 lb baby boy on July 4th of 2006 I was feeling pretty well by January and my husband let myself and my sister and mother go to The Borgata for some R&R while he took great care of our two kids. I went into the poker room for the first time and was completely overwhelmed and excited at the same time. I decided to play in their nightly tournament for 120 dollars which seems like a million after playing online for 5 bucks a pop but I did it anyway. The tournament had about 80 people in it which was a nice size for me. I got pretty deep about half way through and I got knocked out on a bad beat. I went all in with a pair of aces and got called by queen ten off suit and lost to a four card flush on the river. Nobody told me how shitty that feels. I ran out of that poker room steaming like a teapot. I swore I would never play for that kind of money again and the 5 dollar online games were enough for me. All over The Borgata are signs saying WPT winter poker open and I am just dreaming of what if. Now its 7:00pm the next night and I walk past the poker room and it is calling my name. I have to try one more time. Its so expensive though and my husband will kill me if I lose even more money. What should I do! Suddenly right before they close the tournament out I run up to the window and buy my seat, what the hell I'm here I have the money in my hand and after all I could win. I did. I played about 6 hours and we got down to five people and we chopped the money so I won 2200 bucks. I was so excited I called my husband a t 3am to tell him because I cant wait. I told him I am giving him 1700 dollars and I am taking the rest and buying myself a seat in the WPT Ladies event which was coming in two weeks. He said you got a deal! And he said you can do this and always believed in me.

Two weeks later I go back to The Borgata and enter into the WPT Ladies event with very little expectations other than being a Poker groupie and maybe seeing some pro's walking around. Next thing I know I have the chip lead about half way through the tournament and I am confident. That 30 grand has my name on it! I felt like nobody could take this from me I was on fire. After 16 hours at about 4 am it was heads up between me and this girl Emily. We had become very friendly over the last couple of hours at the final table and it turned out she won. I was not as sad because I really liked her and after all I did just win 17000 dollars. I was so excited I called everybody in my family at 4 am I felt like I was on cloud 9. From this moment on poker has and always will be a huge part of my life. I find joy in it and passion and I know how some people feel that its all the same gambling is gambling but it really isn't. Being a woman poker player you have to believe in yourself because a lot of people will try to bring you down but over the last few years I feel that I have in my own small way broken down some barriers in local games that I play and now with what happened in September 09' I really have an opportunity to help people believe in themselves whatever it is that their passion is.

This story is far from over so keep coming back and I will keep writing some of the amazing things that have happened to me in my life so far.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today I spent most of my day sleeping and being sick in between, all the while my mother lurking around trying to push soup and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anything she can do to get me to eat. I am doing my best to eat and drink but it is not as easy as I thought. My trouble is now my mind is feeling trapped. I am afraid to go out with the risk of swine flu among other things and I am not really feeling well enough to go out so my mind is really having trouble not panicking. The meds only help so much and then its just me talking to myself, bargaining with G-d, Promising to do great things if he just lest me get through this and come out on the other end a survivor. I am a very competitive person and I have to view this as a big game and I know my nature will take over. I feel like I've used a few lives but I got plenty left so keep sending positive energy and prayers my way and I will get through this tedious time as a team!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ok been through the ringer a little the last few day but I'm back. I was petrified to go to my first chemotherapy on Monday. I sat there with the nurse holding three large syringes filled with red liquid after poking me three times to get a good vein because if she missed this liquid could destroy my flesh if it gets out of my vein. I had a hematoma on my hand from the first try and it was killing me. Now the nurse tells me she must go through all the possible side effects that could possibly happen to me including the rare ones. Reminded me of the commercials you hear for medications on T.V. except in regular speed. As she is about to start the infusion I said to her I was afraid because I know its poison going into my veins and she just looked at me and said or its medicine going into your veins and then I realized its all how you look at things. She was right I was ready now. She told me this medicine would get into every cell of my body and screw with its DNA making it difficult for the cancer to get away. Suddenly I felt so comforted in the fact that I could be and would be cured. The next day I had to go back to the hospital to get a 3000 dollar shot that will cause my body to create white blood cells this shot can cause pain in my bones because it effects my bone marrow. Just because I don't have enough pain to deal with what's one more. LOL

The last few days since Monday I have never slept so much in my life. In between sleeping I was feeling nausea and just horrible upset stomach like I have never felt before. The cocktail of medications that I take to help combat this is just odd. I am literally shoving 8 or more pills in my mouth at any given time. I must say the only thing that made me feel better was something that I cant understand why NYS wont legalize and that is the medicinal use of marijuana. I can't even begin to tell you that the difference is like night and day. I don't know about you but nausea is about the worst feeling in the world for me I can function being sick with almost anything else but not that. Within minutes of smoking not only was I not sick anymore I was hungry which is another problem I've been having. Keeping weight on is a struggle for me without chemotherapy now It is impossible without the help of MJ. But as usual I have my mom there doing everything for me but taking the actual drugs. She is like a gift from G-d I couldn't do this without her. The pain in my chest I think is from that shot that they gave me so I will medicate myself again and see ya all later!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hi guys just been celebrating my life a little for the last few days having some fun in Atlantic City with my sister. I am scared to start chemotherapy this morning but in a way I think it will help calm me down because the unknown is making me crazy. I feel like once we get started and I know what I'm up against I will feel more in control. I pray that G-d gives me the strength to get through this ordeal and end up stronger for it. I want to surprise myself with my strength because right now I'm Terrified. I just keep thinking as bad as It gets It could always be worse. My faith feels like it comes and goes on the moments when I'm afraid I try to visualize G-d holding me like a baby in his arms and comforting me and it seems to help for the moment but it goes away too fast. I just want to cry please just help me I want this to all go away its not fair. But then I realize life is not fair and I realize it's me and I'm lucky it's me. I can do this and it could have just as easily been one of my kids and that would be a lot worse so thank you G-d for giving me this challenge that I can handle. I will do whatever the doctors say and pray for the best. G-d help me to get through this and I will be a better person for it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Grind

I feel like I am now in the middle of a poker tournament and this part of the tournament is sometimes called the grind because it is tedious and takes the most mental toughness. Every round every hour is truly like a slow grind you just keep going. I find this part of the game to be the most difficult but it is also the most important because you can't lose your focus or else you make one silly mistake and it could all be over and you need to just buckle down and keep playing no matter what happens around you. My focus is on healing and faith. I cannot lose that now I will not lose it now I will keep going on with my eyes on the prize. I don't ever give up in poker even if I am low in chips and I won't give up now. I plan on going in to my first Chemotherapy session visualizing a knockout. Little cancer killers running through my body looking for those bad little cells and demolishing them like a game of asteroids. (I think I am aging myself here). My competitive nature will beat the crap out of any cancer in me and I will win the game no doubt about it. I love my new Oncologist and we have a great team of doctors, nurses, friends, family and even strangers who give me strength every day. I promise to do my best to win this war, It may not be pretty but I am ready!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I saw my oncologist today and the good news is the test that I was worried about came back negative the HER2 test which is great! The bad news is the grade of my cancer is closer to a 3 than a 2 which is the most aggressive kind. Because of this and my age we have to go with the most aggressive (harshest) chemotherapy and treatments. I will be getting 2 kinds of chemo the first 8 weeks will be AC-T the tough stuff. I will get it every 2 weeks for 2 months, after I finish that I will get something called Taxol another chemotherapy that is not as harsh but has its own side effects. I am starting this coming monday and I will definitely lose my hair. When I finish these treatments I will need to get radiation. This will not be and easy process but I promise to do my best to stay strong and fight through this as best I can. I am very scared and overwhelmed right now and will use my friends and family for encouragment to help me through so thank you all for your thoughts and prayers I still need them more than ever.
It's 6:30 am and in just a few hours I will find out what I have been waiting for since September 4th. I am both excited and terrified. This is what we have been waiting for right? I got the call yesterday about a cancellation for today and jumped on it but I almost regret it now. I can't even explain how scared I am it feels like a continuos drop on a roller coaster in my stomach, my head wont stop it is spinning with thoughts I just want to shut it off. I'm hoping with knowledge comes power and I will be able to control this. My first instinct is to run away they cut out the cancer so now just run somewhere warm and pretty so nobody can find me. I just want to be left alone. I know that sounds crazy but I really do have these moments of irrational thinking. Then I think of my kids and it gives me the strength to fight for my life and to go through this as if I were fighting for their lives. I have fears of them growing up without a mother and I just feel like they got jipped that they have to go through this nightmare with me and even after it is done and we get through treatments still no guarantee that I will be there at their important days of their lives. I just want a guarantee that I will be at their highschool graduation and their Bat mitvah and their weddings and see my grandbabies one day! This is where I just try so hard to have the faith I need to believe that I will be there. I try to visualize my kids grown up and looking beautiful and strong and I am right there with them. I will survive this and I will not let them be short changed in life nor will I. I am done feeling sorry for myself and now its time to fight like heck. I got my wig from a dear friend who fought this battle 2 1/2 years ago and I believe this wig is a healing wig because everybody who she has loaned it to has healed. Positive energy is so strong as soon as I put it on I felt that and I know I will be healed and pass it on to the next person who will heal as well. I am ready! Thank you guys for traveling this journey with me and a new chapter begins today. I will keep you posted on a regular basis and prayers and good energy will get me through! I just know it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Here I am again up in the wee hours just can't stop thinking. My mind just goes crazy and I can't sleep. I am definitely learning to live with my new reality but it is truly the hardest thing I've ever done. I am afraid of treatment and I am anxious about when and what and how. I have so many unanswered questions and it makes normalcy difficult at best. Almost every time I turn on the T.V. I am reminded of my affliction because of Breast Cancer Awareness Month which is a wonderful thing but is making it hard to forget for any amount of time about it. I keep needing to remind myself this is just a hurdle in my life it is not a death sentence anymore. My breasts are still in pain almost all the time which is another reminder of my ordeal. I hope that it gets better soon and I'm sure it will but life now is very hard. I miss feeling normal. My mind is strong at times and weak at others it is constantly a struggle. I am trying hard though to stay positive and be strong. I hugged my daughter tonight and it just felt so good I wanted to cry. I want to be here for her for all of her needs and I am angry that Cancer could take that away from us both. She deserves to have a Mom in her life for every bit of her growing up and its just not fair that she has to have this fear and has to deal with this illness. I know that she is strong and we will get through this with love and faith but it still doesn't make it fair. We as a family are survivors and I feel like we are an army of friends and family fighting together to beat this thing right out of our lives and we will.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hi everybody I've missed you. I haven't had the head to write in a few days but I'm back. I had a really good night sleep last night in my own bed with my husband for the first time since I found out I have cancer. Yes I said since September 4th the day I found out, not the day of my surgery. I don't know exactly why I couldn't sleep in my bed but I have theories. When you don't feel normal you don't act normal. But my best guess is that I needed to have my computer and my TV on all night for constant reassurance and I did not want to bother him while he was sleeping although he continuously said to me it would not bother him and to just come to bed I couldn't. I feel relieved and like things are becoming more normal now and this was the first step. I still am very anxious about one pathology test that has not come back yet which is called HER2 it has something to do with Human growth hormone and a protein but I am trying not to learn about it until I have to but hopefully I won't have to. This makes the cancer much more aggressive therefore more likely to spread. I know in my heart I do not have this but I just want to put it out of my mind and move to the next trial. I am starting to feel like people are going back to life as usual and I am still left here with my fearful mind. I did expected that and in a way I want that. The more normal life gets the easier it will be for me to forget this nightmare and move passed it. I am one of the luckiest people I know with never ending support of friends and family that I only dreamed was possible. Has to be a gift from G-d and I am learning to believe that this whole experience is already choreographed by him so I am trying my best to follow his lead and just let go and dance. I am not the best dancer but I hope I don't have to be. I will try and thats the best I can do.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I did not really think this part of my ordeal would be this hard. I am overwhelmed with fear and the continuous boosts I get from friends and family make me overcome. I am grateful which I've said before but its like a endless supply of life boats in and ocean of tidal waves so every wave comes and I feel as if there is no way another relief boat is coming and then like a miracle there it is a verbal life boat, a hug, a phone call or even just a look of faith. You have no idea how this is saving me from drowning in fear and self pity. I still need chemical help as well for physical help and emotional help but that is ok too. If ever a need for anxiety or pain medication now is the time and I thank G-d for that relief. My breasts are hurting like heck. I didn't expect the pain to still be this bad but it feels as if a hatchet has been put in the middle of my chest. Hopefully this will lessen over time. Tomorrow I get my first fill in my tissue expanders which makes me nervous as well. Hopefully it will be like getting braces tightened as a kid and will only be uncomfortable for a few days but I know that will be worth it when my new perky boobies arrive in a few months. I am going to stay strong and get through this and hopefully my thoughts and words will give people insight into this journey I am taking far from on my own but as a team. I want you to understand that what I feel I say and it helps me unbelievably so I hope it helps my friend and family and our whole team as well.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today I am at home for the first time since my surgery. It is both comforting and scary at the same time. I am so well taken care of by my mom at her home and I can't help but feeling the child mother bond which is incredible. I have only been a mom for almost seven years now and it is so incredibly rewarding but selfishly I am enjoying being the baby again. Now comes the guilt for not being here for my own children. I realize they have about the best father in the whole world caring for them so well in my absence but I can't help feeling the way I feel. After all I am jewish. LOL we do guilt well. Anyway I will spend time with them this weekend and try to forget about the looming reality about to hit me on Monday. I can't seem to enjoy being here as much as I thought I would but as things become clearer and action gets taken I think I will be able to enjoy these things again. I am counting the moments minute by minute until Monday and life will never be the same again for better or worse I am O.K with this. I think I am starting to accept my new reality. Life is still good and I have a lot to do so see yall later!

Friday, October 9, 2009

I am up again this time I don't have that much pain but i am totally nauseous I don't know why but anyway I just took a nausea pill and hope it works soon. I had such a nice time last night with 9 or so friends that came over to spend time with me. Every time I see friends an family pulling together for me it gives me strength and faith. Two things I know I will need to fight this. Again I am in pain but cannot take pain medication because my stomach hurts more. I don't know why but I think I did to much yesterday and my body is pissed at me. I am trying to rest but really don't feel well. I better get used to this because I haven't even started treatment yet. I can deal with almost any kind of sickness but nausea. I makes me so scared to think what's ahead of me if I can't even deal with this. Anyway I don't mean to complain. I should focus on the friends who came to share a really nice time with me and my family last night. I again am so lucky but at least I know it now. I feel like I can do anything. I hope I can!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I am up in the middle of the night for a change and I am just thinking about tomorrow. I am going to the Plastic Surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering, now today at 3:30PM to remove these drains finally. I feel like a lot of my residual pain is due to these foreign bodies in my chest. They itch they hurt they are uncomfortable and inconvenient to say the least. I think my pathology report is supposed to be in tomorrow and I am anxious to know what they are going to say but part of me just doesn't want to ask yet. I want to know but I don't in the same breath. I am trying to stay positive which I have a lot to be positive for but the possibilities kill me mentally. I know what I have been told is all good like the size of my tumor makes it a stage 2 which is early but you just don't know till the pathology report shows you the full picture. I am afraid of the fact that cancer was found in my lymph node and they are studying these cells to find out how far they have gotten. Whatever the results I know I have a great chance of long term survival at worst and cure at best, but its like the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other its just there and wont go away. I just have a hard time like a child on christmas morning wanting to just get there already and get through these next few months or a year and at the same time I want to stop to smell the roses as they say and live in the moment and just appreciate each day. We will see if my feelings change when we get the reports and start my treatments. I think that the unknown is the hardest part of my whole experience so far. I'm hoping comfort comes with knowledge and action and faith in G-d. I am trying folks and thank you for your comments about my journey. Hopefully one day this chronicle can help someone else get through this experience day by day like I am. It is the only way I can make any sense of this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hi guys a little buzzed on pain meds tonight but when they wear off in the middle of the night it sucks. I am looking forward to seeing long time friends for lunch tomorrow I also want to drive again so bad I feel so restricted and almost caged. Dependency sucks but thank god for Mom which I've said before she is making it as easy as she possibly can and I am grateful. I try not to wake her in the night but it is really lonely right now. Fear is much worse alone at night so I think I will play online for a while. My poker show is over and nothing on T.V.. I really need a hug right now so I will settle for a virtual one from my friends that are up. Thank G-d for facebook. I can't wait to get these darn drains out of my chest and feel somewhat whole again. I just have to say Mom has been a soldier in this for me and I can never repay her enough for how she took control of my health and my psyche she is mmy rock. I also always said I was not that close to my sister but I was wrong, yes we are very different but man I never knew how much we mean to each other I could never have go through this without her! I love you and thank you from the bottom of my heart Liz you are my gift I never knew I had. Your words are like water or food to me essential in living! thank you ! And Dad I can't describe how this family would not exist without your unconditional love and support I just never knew how lucky I am and I am sorry it took this to open my eyes. Ironic I am an optician who has been blind for a long time! I love you all not that that even comes close to the gratitude I just don't have words for! we are truly in this together thank you thank you thank you!