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!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Here we are again. 11:30 pm and I am up in some pain but not to bad thank G-D. I am kind of relaxed and just reflecting on my day. I am proud of myself I am not staying in bed under the covers all day and feeling sorry for myself at all. I had a great day. My Mom and I did all of our medical duties early this morning, had breakfast and went to run some errands. One errand was to go to the Doctors office (my gynecologist) to speak to the Nurse Practitioner who gave me the horrible news on that fateful day of September 4th. I wanted to hug her and say I am sorry that she had to do such a difficult task that day but I thank G-d for her that she was the one that told me. She is about as calming a person by nature I could have ever wished for. I hugged her and apologized and let her know how grateful I am to her. She almost cried which made me realize really how empathetic she is and how wonderful a human being. Then Mom and I went to lunch with one of my best friends and had a really nice time, and then I had decided the day before to cut my hair off to about an inch or less from my head. I figured let me take control over when my hair comes off and the choice away from cancer therefore the control in my hands. I felt so empowered as she cut each long strand of hair off my head and then I got the mirror and fell in love with my new Mia Farrow look! After that we went to get my eyebrows and lips waxed to make the whole beauty thing complete. Followed that up with dinner with Mom and her 2 best friends and my cousin (by friendship) Lea who is inspiring to me because she is a survivor like I plan to be. Now that is a good day folks. I am proud and tired and going to bed a new person! A better and stronger person! Nighty Night!
Fear and Pain 2 things I swore wouldn't control my life after finding out about my breast cancer and here I am at 12:30 pm not able to sleep because of them. Sometimes I just want out and I haven't even begun yet. I am in pain, I am nauseous and my arm feels really funny. I hope its not permanently messed up because of the node removal. I am petrified of the pathology results but I just don't want to be negative. I can't help it though. I feel like shit and I don't want to pretend anymore.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I had the double mastectomy on 9/30 and I am recovering at Mom's house thank god because It is very painful and a full time job to take care of me at this point with drains and medications at different times etc... The pathology will not be back for about a week so no exact plan of action yet. They did find cancer in my centinal lymph nodes so they had to take a bunch more to see how many nodes involved. I do know for sure I will need Chemotherapy and radiation but no exact map of action yet. We will keep you posted as soon as anything happens or changes. The best way to get up to date is on Facebook. Love you and give me a call anytime with any questions its hard to call everybody individually. Love and Kisses Nicole:)