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.