Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Quotes by Karin - Book Request

At the Celebration of Life event on October 5th, hundreds of quote books were distributed as keepsakes. This 74 page collection of quotes was compiled by the readers of Karin Diamond's blog. Karin was a lover of words and storytelling. Since 2009, she publicly shared her prose with the world as she navigated trials and celebrations while deeply exploring all of human emotions. This collection is dedicated to her readers, whom she treasured, respected, and loved.

There are still some books available that have been set aside to be mailed to Karin's readers and friends who were not able to attend the Celebration of Life event. Simply fill in your information in the form below and a book will be mailed to you. Indicate if you have the need for multiple copies. That's all you need to do.

Email Craig Diamond with questions or other requests: craigtdiamond@gmail.com

"The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind." -John Allston

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Celebration of Life - October 5th, 2:00

The Celebration of Life event for Karin Diamond is only a few days away. It is shaping up to be a fantastic gathering filled with musical and dance performances, speakers, pictures, food, non-alcoholic drinks, and beer and wine. The collective talent and collaboration for this event is extraordinary and will be unlike any other event of its kind. We are excited to honor and celebrate Karin at this family-friendly event on Saturday. There is no shortage of space for the many people who loved Karin. Here are some details to help you plan.

40 Griffin Road N, Windsor, CT 06095

Please arrive on time for the 2:00 start of the program. Leave yourself time for the short walk over to the SummerWind venue from the parking lot. The seated portion of the program will start on time - this is not a drop in style event. If you have arranged with us to drop off food/drink, you may bring it by anytime Saturday morning or arrive a few minutes early to bring it to the food /drink tables.

There is no dress attire expectation. The program will be held under SummerWind’s beautiful large open sided tent. Dress for the weather and expect the temperature to drop significantly as the sun lowers in the sky. Wear whatever you’d like. FYI, Karin loved the color yellow.

After the seated program, there will be time to sign the guestbook in the adjacent tent, watch the slideshow that will be playing on repeat, view and take printed photograph keepsakes, flip through your copy of the Quotes by Karin book, and gather with friends old and new while enjoying light fare and drinks.

Leave when you need to, or stay as long as you want. When event cleanup begins, you’re welcome to join friends and family at the Cracker Barrel Pub at 30 Main St, Tariffville, CT. This local watering hole is a short 2.5 mile drive from SummerWind where a cash bar for pub food and drink is available. (The after-event gathering at the Cracker Barrel Pub is not to be confused with the similarly named Cracker Barrel restaurant franchise known for savory home-cooked style biscuits and gravy.)

Below is a preview of the program:

Monday, September 23, 2013


Karin (Dubreuil) Diamond, 31 of Tariffville, CT, passed away in the comfort of her home on September 21, 2013, surrounded by her husband, family, and friends after a courageous four-and-a-half year fight with Hodgkin Lymphoma. Karin inspired others through her love of life, her respect for everyone, and her gift of words. She was passionate about people, wellness, learning, and living with intention. Karin enjoyed being active and connecting with her many friends from all around the world. Karin was beautiful, gentle, compassionate, smart, outgoing, and she radiated love.

She took great pride in crafting her writing that she posted on her website EyesPeeledAlways.com. Her work was featured in The Huffington Post, The Hartford Courant, Hartford Magazine, Cure Magazine, and other publications. Karin was a graduate of Torrington High School (2000) and the University of New Hampshire (2004), then worked in the Greater Hartford area in editing, marketing, writing, public relations, and communications.

Karin is survived by her husband Craig Diamond and her Sammy-dog of Tariffville, CT; her parents Paul and Laura Dubreuil of Torrington, CT; her sister Kristen Dubreuil of Denver, CO; her brother Michael Dubreuil and wife Rachel Pianta of Westbrook, CT; her brother and sister-in-law Eric and Rachel Diamond, nephew and niece Jake and Anna of Norfolk, MA; Uncle Kevin Brothwell; Uncle Mark Brothwell and his wife Roberta; and countless others who loved her.

A Celebration of Life gathering will be held on Saturday, October 5th, 2013 from 2:00 - 5:00 PM at SummerWind Performing Arts Center, 40 Griffin Road North, Windsor, CT. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Karin’s memory to First Descents, which provides outdoor adventures for young adult cancer survivors, or Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Visible Ink writing program.

Funeral Home Book of Memories

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Crowdsourcing Special Project

UPDATE: Thank you for the amazing and selfless work that Karin's readers have done to review her entire blog over the past 2 days. I've changed the status of the Google Doc and it is no longer active at this time. Your help is much appreciated and this project would make Karin so proud. I cannot wait to share the final quote book project with her readers! 

Karin took so much pride in expertly crafting each word of each sentence that you have been following in this blog. She was working hard to publish a book, but sadly her time was cut short. To help preserve some of the best parts of her writing, I have started a special project to collect and print quotes from her blogs in a printed keepsake for those that loved her. Karin wrote over 350 blog entries since 2009, so this is a huge project. That’s where you come in. Let’s crowdsource her hundreds of pages of writing by each taking a small portion. I’m soliciting support to read through all entries and cut and paste the best lines into a shared Google Doc. These quotes will be organized into a printed collection so Karin’s words will be preserved in printed form.

If you want to contribute to this project by reading through 1 or 2 entries (or however many you want), here are the directions:

Please first open the shared Google Doc from the link below. Scan through the Doc “Quotes from Karin Diamond” and find a blog date and title that has not already been reviewed. Add your name to the last column (Reader’s Name) so that others do not duplicate your efforts. Use the blog archive from the right side of eyespeeledalways.com to select the year, month, and blog(s) that you are going to review. If the blog includes any sentence(s) that are particularly poignant, special, funny, or awe inspiring, please copy and paste it into the shared Google Doc in the appropriate space, add quotation marks, and put -KD on the same line at the end of the quote. If Karin included a quote from someone else in her blogs, please include it in the Google Doc. Attribute the author’s name when you paste that quote. Please include the best lines only from Karin’s writing. Some entries will have more than others and there will be many that don’t have any quotes to preserve. That’s fine and to be expected. Record “None” in the Quotes to Preserve text field to indicate that the blog entry has been read and reviewed. Please read and review as many entries as you’d like but just be sure to finish an entry when you start it. Let’s avoid having multiple people review an individual blog entry until all have all have been reviewed by at least one person. When you paste in the Quotes to Preserve text field, please keep a consistent text size and style. Insert 1 line space between multiple quotes from same entry.

Of course your participation in this project is optional and not for everyone. If you are uncomfortable using a Google Doc, you may want to pass up participation in this project to ensure that the document does not accidently get messed.

Thank you to all who have read and supported Karin and me. Many thanks to everyone who will help with this project. I hope for Karin’s Quotes to Preserve to be ready to have as a keepsake at her Celebration of Life Memorial Service (details to follow). Contact Craig Diamond with ideas or if you’re experiencing problems with the shared Doc, but please understand if a quick reply is not possible at this time.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Goodbye for Now 6/29/82 - 9/21/13

By my side along with friends and family, Karin passed out of this world today, peacefully and calmly.

It's been a most difficult week. The cancer metastasized to her liver and toxins quickly built up. But not before many many more wonderful moments together. Karin maintained her poise, warmth, and beauty throughout her entire life, and her written words are a legacy that will keep her memory alive and well. Her writing has helped us all in different ways and will continue to benefit all who take the time to read, listen, and think.

Karin was able to maintain such an incredible outlook because of the people around her, especially those in her blog community who shared so much of their own lives with her. From the bottom of my heart, than you for your support and love that you've shown to both of us.

The energy that she has left behind for all of us is palpable. We must promise never to lose sight of the valuable lessons we learned from her. Embrace one another, share, learn, stretch yourself, embrace your passion, listen, love, and keep your eyes peeled.

I will love you forever, Karin Diamond. Goodbye for now.


Memorial Service details will follow. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

I desperately miss writing and apologize for not giving any updates and being so way behind on getting back to emails and messages. Things have been very difficult. I was in the hospital for 5 days last week. Extreme pain and the need for more blood products brought me in. I had severe pain over Labor Day weekend in my knees and my ankles, so bad that I could not walk. The nights were awful. Poor Craig had to deal with my screaming, crying anxiety attacks as I tried to handle the pain. I’d have Craig get me heat, then ice, then stack my legs on pillows, try to straighten them in front of me. Nothing worked.

While in the hospital, the goal was to titrate the pain medicine so that we had a good balance between the woozy side effects of the pain meds and keeping the pain under control. I’m home now and we’re not there yet. Today was very difficult. I felt sloshed and so weak. I puked last night after trying to get together my nighttime routine, then puked up a decent amount of OJ this morning after all the exertion of bringing my laptop, foods, and meds out onto the porch so I could enjoy some sun.

Everyone is very worried about me and wants me to accept more help and keep in better touch, but honestly, to send a text message or answer a phone call is so much work. I fall asleep and drop my phone while trying to reply all the time. I can spend extended amounts of time just staring into space and I hate it so much. I need to find some clarity. Obviously this amount of pain medication is too much but I’m so afraid of the level of pain if I come down.

My family and friends have been incredible whether it’s taking me to the hospital, visiting me in the hospital, or Craig and my mom being right there to get me whatever I need and make sure that I am comfortable.

My platelets are still very low, hanging around 10,000. Because of this, I am not able to continue on CEP oral chemo right now. I need to be at least 75,000 to take it. However, I am still able to take the Rituxan as it is a targeted antibody vs. traditional chemo and should not affect my blood counts. I got my second transfusion on Friday. I’m putting a lot of hope in this drug as I don’t know where else to turn.  Again, thank you for the supportive emails and comments. I look forward to when my head is clear again and I can get back to the craft that brings me so much happiness. Right now however, it takes me 20 minutes to write a short text message, so there won’t be any eloquent prose coming from this girl. In fact, I’m dictating this to Craig right now. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rhode Island Escape and CEP Start

No energy to write a long blog, though I’ve got many story nuggets collected. Consider this an executive summary of what’s been going on with me.

We spent two weeks in Narragansett, Rhode Island. It is beautiful, especially the beaches. We rented a cottage the first week with Craig’s brother and his wife and our niece and nephew; the second week with my parents and sister. We had visitors on top of that and it was relaxed and easy – for the most part.

-Getting to play with our niece and nephew in the sand and water and be with them for their morning and evening routines. They are adorable.
-Spending time together with our brother and sister-in-law who we rarely get to see.
-The sun and ocean and sand: warm, sparkling and soft.
-Bringing our beach chairs right down into the water and reading a book while the waves rode over our feet.
-Being with my parents and sister on the beach all day bringing back so many childhood memories.
-Lobster rolls.
-Del’s frozen lemonade.
-Sunset cruise in Newport Harbor.
-Staying for a night at a special friend’s fabulous Newport ocean-side beach house – even though Craig lost the key and the debacle that followed.
-Escaping for a favorite couple’s wedding and reconnecting with many college friends from UConn.
-Watching Jaws on the beach with thousands of others on beach chairs under blankets with the ocean and a full moon behind us.
-Visits from friends and their kids and even an overnight with my parents’ longtime best friends and their son.
-Fantastic outdoor showers.
-A visit from my brother and his wife on the last night.

-Adjusting to the side effects of the difficult CEP oral chemotherapy I am currently on – incredible fatigue, lightheadedness, thrush and mouth coating, no appetite. I started it on vacation so every day brought a little surprise. 
-Difficult mornings/early energy then big crash that didn’t jive well with other’s schedules.
-Major frustration surrounding how weak I am and not being to help out much with the kids or beach packing or anything, having to be so focused on not throwing up, and on garnering the strength to get my bum from the house to the beach.
-Breakdown moments missing my old days of swimming and boogie boarding and biking and paddle boarding – all of which I couldn’t do. Tried to push resentment away but it was difficult.
-Breakdown moments surrounding people having to help me and again, not having the energy I wanted. I had to keep shifting expectations and knowing that everyone else was there for a slow, relaxing time too and all did their own thing in our own time. It was very hard to let go.
-After one week on the CEP, I had to get my blood counts checked at the local hospital. Got a call that night from Dr. O that it was unsafe for me to go through the night without a transfusion. My platelets dropped to 6,000 and my hematocrit was under 23%. I spent the night in the ER/hospital with Craig receiving both blood and platelets. My port leaked and I woke up covered in a bloody mess. Otherwise, the nurses were very kind and the facility beautiful.

Because my counts dropped too low, I have been pulled off the CEP regimen until they rise. This was not unexpected as we knew it’ll be a fluid process as we watch how my body reacts to it; that’s the only reason I signed onto the idea knowing that there were no hard and fast rules but that we would listen to my body. I have not been on treatment for about 9 days now, only remaining on the Prednisone which is the “P”. I’ve been on Prednisone for almost two years now regardless, but it still makes me crazy. I’m very emotional and still dealing with breakthrough pain, pain management and functioning on narcotics trying to find some kind of balance.

I was in the hospital again for the day yesterday needing more blood. It is obvious that we will need to reduce the dose of this regimen or move on from it. I’m worried about playing catch-up again. The longer I am off of treatment because of low counts, the more chance there is of the cancer growing. Again, seeking that magic drug that won’t knock me down and will just keep things at bay.

We’re now talking about adding in Rituxan, which has just started being used off-label for CD-20 positive Hodgkin Lymphoma. It is a targeted antibody that has proven effective in NHL and CLL. Supposedly no side effects since it is even more targeted than SGN-35, however, big risk of scary infusion reactions.  I think that it is worth a shot though.

I took a complete break from all correspondence, social media, writing, blogging, etc. so it’s been a bit of a crash landing getting back into reality. Having everything scattered and unopened does not help my anxiety level. I can’t run and hide from reality forever. I just want to be comfortable physically and emotionally again and am working day by day to get there: some days are easier than others. Ones spent on the beach with the people I love were certainly the easier ones. Now it’s back to being alone every day and trying to figure all this shit out. What do I do with this time? How do I make these decisions? What if I’m just plain tired and don’t want to deal with any of it? Why can't I just keep burying my head in the Rhode Island sand?

Wild child, Anna. 

Big boy, Jake. 

Our Bonnet Shores rental - perfect.
The ladies in the back of the Jeep. 

Fellow sailors.

Newport sunset cruise. 

Beautiful Buddha in the sand. 

Flowers bigger than my face at the Umbrella Factory - and I have a big Prednisone-swollen face. 

Perfect set-up. 

The whole gang on the last night. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shift in Plan

I am here and okay. There have been some changes but I feel strongly that they are the right ones. I am no longer pursuing inpatient IVAC. It did not hold the disease for more than a couple of weeks and for the massive side effects it caused and all the required transfusions and hospital time it required, it seemed against all logic to keep going with more cycles. I’m having unmistakable lymphoma pain.

We’ve regrouped – long conversations with Dr. D, Dr. O, my therapist, family, special friends and most importantly, myself, over the past couple of weeks. I have decided not to pursue a third transplant at this point. I am trusting my gut and my instinct on this one, which are speaking to me very strongly. I am not on board mentally, physically or emotionally and I’m most concerned about quality of life right now. I would need to be in close-to-perfect remission

With that said, tomorrow we head for a beach vacation in Rhode Island where we’ll spend time with my brother- and sister-in-law and niece and nephew and then my parents, sister and maybe brother and wife with friends dropping in and out as well. Sam Dog is coming, too. I know that the sea and the sand will do wonders. We secured the house rental months back, and I'm so excited that the timing actually worked out for us to make it. 

I’m starting up an oral low-dose chemotherapy regimen today, which I’ll be able to bring with me. I’m getting hooked up with at-home Neupogen shots in case I need them. I’m able to get bloodwork checked at a lab down there. I’m in the hospital right now getting two units of red blood cells to boost my energy as my counts were very low and I’ve been very symptomatic (hematocrit of 7.4). Dr. O and his team are doing everything to accommodate this vacation realizing, as always, the importance of being able to manage this disease while still living my life.

I hope to have some quality writing time with my laptop over these two weeks away as well. I’ll write in more detail about what this all means but that’s the gist. I’m looking forward to sunsets over the ocean, lobster rolls, outdoor showers, and plopping my toes in the water, ass in the sand.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

IVAC At-Home Recovery

Welcome, August. I’m proud to say I made it through July – barely, but I made it.

I’ve been home since last Thursday when I was deemed ready to leave my hospital bubble. This past week has been one of recovery and discovery of my limits and my capabilities.

There has been a whole lot of sleeping happening and resting in general, but also some actual summer fun mixed in. I refuse to be robbed of the entire experience of summer 2013, so I’ve done what I can with the incredible help of Craig and my mom and sister who have been here to nurse me back to health and keep me entertained so I don’t totally lose my shit focusing on what I’m facing at the moment.

I can’t say enough about how kind my husband is. Since the very beginning he has ensured that I keep normalcy in my life and knows what makes me happy and wants to make sure I do it. Even if I complain at the onset and say that I can’t, he pushes me just enough so that I don’t fall down the rabbit hole and disappear.

Incredible ladies
It’s very easy to push people away when I’m not feeling well, but he knows I always feel better when surrounded by the very, very special friends I have in my life (in balance with my much-needed alone time). With that in mind, this week we went to an outdoor Rolling Stones tribute concert with friends, had a few friends here in the evenings just to hang, had a date night of a delicious dinner in one of our favorite parks, and I had a girls night at my home where six of my closest friends since high school (or earlier) brought over tons of food and albums of old photos and we spent the night laughing and talking out on the porch under the summer stars until the mosquitos sent us indoors to continue there. It’s been a lovely and wonderful week.

I feel so very loved and so much more comfortable in allowing myself to talk more openly and honestly and to allow others to help me – whether by talking with me, bringing us food, sending adorable gifts and treats that brighten our days. I am much more accepting of those who want to spend time with me and help out because I realize that it’s not a burden to them  - they truly want to – and I truly appreciate them being in my life. I’ve also accepted those who are not there and realize that this is difficult for others to handle, too. Yes, it’s taken me being fantastically weak to get to this point socially, but I’ve been testing the boundaries and have been so pleased with how receptive and loving everyone has been – not that I ever doubted it, just that I was always scared and guarded. Right now I don’t really have a choice but to let it all hang out.

wooded beach
I’ve also been spending many days with my mom and my sister (who is home from out west to spend time with family for a while). My mom is beyond incredible and has always been. She swoops in and cleans my house, changes my sheets, helps me with paperwork, rubs my feet and calves with lotion, waits outside the bathroom door to make sure I don’t fall in the shower, escorts me to appointment after appointment, cooks for me, tucks me in, all while able to laugh and bitch right along with me about this crazy conundrum we find ourselves in.

My sister has been here to relax with me, watch over me, cook me food and just hang like sisters do. We don’t have to impress each other and it’s so nice to have her around. I can talk or not talk, fall asleep or be demanding and she's cool with it. As going to an actual ocean/beach would take way too much out of me, we spent one day together set up on a blanket, me under an umbrella, at a little pond beach in my town. It was so nice to be out enjoying some sun and summer breeze amid the pine trees. We made our own “beach” experience. She’s been so helpful and thoughtful in so many ways.

I just started driving again – short distances – for the first time in weeks and that feels good. Every day I am getting a little more strength. But it’s taken a while to get here and I’m still far from perfect. Tuesday marked three weeks since the start of IVAC. It is as brutal as they promised. Even since being home I have been so weak. I could barely walk up the stairs for the first few days and taking a shower and getting dressed was a big accomplishment for the day. I would need to go to bed afterward. The nausea has lingered and the fatigue is phenomenal. I really have to pace myself.

I barely have an appetite, but I do have overall body aches and some pain. Yes, in my damn hips. It’s nearly impossible to know if it’s pain from cell death, pain from the Hodgkin’s flaring despite the harsh treatment, pain from my bone marrow working hard after the Neupogen shots. I try so hard to stay in tune, but things are all over the place right now. But what I do know is that it is nowhere near the pain I was in pre-treatment and I’ve also still been remiss of high fevers, so this must mean something!

Same goes for the palpable lymph nodes in my neck, which I touch no less than 129 times a day. Some days I feel that they’re growing, others that they’re shrinking and even others that new ones are popping out. It’s certainly difficult not to let paranoia take over.

We’ve been watching my blood counts closely. My white cells are great – high in fact. My reds are low, but no more than usual. It’s my platelets that are lagging. At most recent check, they are 59,000. It is unsafe to do a second round of IVAC until I am closer to 100,000, especially knowing how low my platelet level dropped and how minimally effective transfusions were after the first round. If I don’t have enough reserve there could be life-threatening bleeding complications. Dr. Dailey and I also agreed that I should get my body stronger before more treatment. I’ll get my counts checked again tomorrow and we’re tentatively aiming at starting up Monday.

However, if I am having Hodgkin’s symptoms, then we need to strongly consider not doing another round of this. It would not be worth putting my body through that extreme toxicity again. It is very dangerous. We’re going to see how I feel.

In the meantime, we’ve been back and forth with the haplo-transplant team at Fred Hutchinson in Seattle. My parents, brother and I are all getting our HLA typing redone and having to get special bloodwork done to be sent back to them so that they can determine who of the three of them would be my strongest match. The doctors there are in touch with Dr. O and everyone is working so that if I do hit a remission and I do decide that I want to do a third transplant that all is ready to go as quickly as possible.

I haven’t gotten any closer to making that decision. I don’t think I’ll be able to until I see the results of my PET Scan post cycle 2. That’s going to reveal a whole lot. And, whatever way it goes, each scenario carries a whole lot of baggage. No evidence of disease? Great, but that leaves me with a huge decision to make. Do I go for transplant, which could potentially cure me despite the very real risks, or does it mean that I opt for much less toxic, novel therapies in clinical trial that will give me quality of life but we have no idea how much life if the remission starts to slip away. The chemo didn’t work? Does this mean it’s over? I was told if IVAC doesn’t work, nothing will work. Do I continue to pursue more trials if and when something opens that I haven’t tried already, or do I just focus on comfort and quality of life, spending time enjoying it instead of in and out of the hospital all the time? I’m predicting a pretty hellish time leading up to that scan and have no idea how I’ll stay sane. One test has the potential to seal my fate.

But before I deal with all of that, I first have to somehow gear up to knock myself down to zero again just when I’m getting a little glimpse of feeling better. It’s that old scenario of knowingly placing my palm on a hot burner. It will hurt. Isn’t this the definition of insanity? Banging your head on the wall continuously and expecting a different outcome? Well, this is one final bang, one big hopeful push that for once I will have a different outcome: instead of growth, retreat. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

IVAC Cycle 1 Hospital Recovery

Goodbye sweet, curly ringlets. 
It is now Wednesday, July 24. I have been in the hospital for a week. That’s after being in the hospital for six days the previous week. I’ve been in the hospital something like 16 out of the last 20 days. But, my run will hopefully be ending tomorrow. As long as I can get through the night without any fevers and nothing moves backward in my bloodwork results, then I am going home tomorrow.

This truly is where I needed to be. In the very beginning I was so depressed, upset that I couldn’t do anything more than lie in bed and Craig said to me: “You’re in a cocoon right now. This is what you’re supposed to be doing.” And that’s what it was. I’ve been in a cocoon receiving the support, supplements, care and monitoring to bring me back to stability so that I could emerge a butterfly (completely metaphorically – I am far from a dainty, colorful butterfly right now.)

I will go home tomorrow and I will have one week to enjoy a little summer. Then, next Wednesday I am back in for a second cycle of IVAC. This time we will reduce the doses I receive of the drugs so that it is not so harsh on me. I can expect that I’ll probably have to return to the hospital after the six days of inpatient therapy to once again cocoon in a safe place.

IVAC Cycle 1 Recovery Highlights:

-Every day but two I received a blood product: sometimes red blood cells, sometimes platelets, sometimes both. Thank you blood donors.

-Though I was getting daily platelet transfusions, they just weren’t sticking. It was starting to get unnerving when every morning’s bloodwork would reveal numbers like 5 and 6 (norm is 143) despite having received a whole bag the night prior.

-It was just as discouraging to keep hearing my white cell numbers being read at “0” or “less than 0.1” day after day – no movement. This put me in the "neutropenic" category, which meant that I had essentially no immune system. With that comes lots of restrictions: no fresh flowers, no fresh vegetables, no fresh fruit, no takeout. 

Lips swelling, throat closing, mildly concerning. 
-I kept running low-grade fevers, so they ran every kind of test and blood culture imaginable. Everything came back negative, though they had me seen by the infectious diseases team and kept me on broad spectrum IV antibiotics just in case. I think it’s safe to assume now that they were just the neutropenic fevers that happen when the body’s disease fighting white cells are super low.

-I had an incredible allergic reaction to a bag of platelets. My body became covered in hives, all my skin became red and raised, my upper lip swelled with a bulge on its inside, the back of my throat swelled and I felt as if I would scratch my entire skin off my body the itch was so intense. My sweet, sweet nurse stayed with me and talked me down as she injected more and more Benadryl, on top of the Benadryl I had already been pre-treated with. It seemed to take forever for the reaction to fade and I admit I was very scared. If I didn’t have Susan with me to talk me through it I probably would have lost it.

-To prevent reactions the next day, I was pumped with extra IV Benadryl, super Tylenol and Pepcid. I avoided reaction but didn’t see the rest of the day. Obviously, with all of this Benadryl surrounding daily transfusions, most days were spent doing a whole lot of sleeping it off.

-I was able to leave the room with a mask on, so got some laps in around the floor. I also got two free massages and a Reiki session.

Handfuls of hair. 
-All of my hair fell out. On Saturday night, my follicles died and let it all go. I ran my fingers through my hair and would come back with handfuls. Of course, once I discovered this, I couldn’t stop touching it. I sat in my bed, not crying, just staring blankly into space as for the fourth time I watched my hair tumble out of my head. For a few hours I wrapped it around my fingers and pulled out chunks, made ponytails that would fall right out and ran my hands from front to back coming away with fingers wrapped in dark curls. The beautiful curls I had just had reshaped with a $50 haircut. I filled a teacup with all of the hair I yanked then had to force myself to stop by tying my headband over what remained and called for Ativan to force me to fall asleep. The next day, Craig brought his hair clippers and finished the deal for me. For the fourth time, I am now bald and look like a very identifiable cancer patient. It’s disheartening. Nothing to hide behind now.

Frothy tea, anyone? I realize I am disgusting.

-I got through 13 days in the hospital, including days receiving severely strong chemo, without vomiting, nor really any nausea to speak of. Today, the first day I’m not even hooked up to the IV pole – no antibiotics, no fluids, no blood products and I get hit with a huge bout of nausea. As fast as my nurse ran, the IV Zofran didn’t make it in time and she had the pleasure of wiping me down with a cool cloth as I wretched into the standard Pepto pink bucket – my absolute favorite. The nausea hung out for the rest of the evening.

What Got Me Through It:
-nurses that went absolutely above and beyond. We shared a lot of laughs and a lot of tender moments. I always felt safe and so well cared for. I could relax knowing I was in good hands. Same goes for the Patient Care Associates who were always there to bring me whatever I needed, to make my bed nice and tight, and after being here so long they knew exactly what I wanted at my bedside when I woke up and could anticipate my schedule.  I didn’t have one bad experience or clash.

-the mac and cheese, which was actually decent

-Mindless TV: Jimmy Fallon, Ellen, House Hunters International, anything Kardashians

-piles of blankets

-lots of family time with my parents, sister, brother and sister-in-law, even though I slept through a lot of it

-visits by my sweet, sweet friends full of laughs and stories from the outside world

-Craig’s nightly visits after work when we’d catch up on our days, trying to recreate what we have at home.

-FaceTimeing with Sammy Dog and seeing the pictures our teenage neighbor would text us of her while she was taking care of her.  

-Netflix movies

-A nice window view overlooking a gazebo and garden

-naps, naps and more naps

-laps around the floor with my IV pole (Jinx)

-Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter – more stalking than commenting.

-dumb magazines

-reading the cards and opening the packages Craig would bring from home that people sent

-All the e-mails and texts of encouragement, jokes, check-ins just to see how I was doing

My cancer pain is gone. My high fevers and night sweats have stopped. My palpable lymph nodes feel smaller. Let’s hope these all are good signs.

I’m ready as hell to leave tomorrow, but I believe everything worked out as it needed to. I’m once again safe to be in the “real world.” Being gentle with myself and keeping what my body has been through in mind, I plan to take full advantage of this week of freedom while I build back up and drink in the fresh air at every opportunity.