Hello, I Have Cancer….

I wrote this two years ago and just came across it in my draft posts. I added a little bit at the end to bring it up to date. Enjoy:

So I was watching the Tig Notaro Netflix documentary and I decided it was high time for me to write my own reflective story. So here goes:

Hello, I’m infertile.  I thought the very worst thing in my life was that I couldn’t get pregnant.  For years my husband and I tried. We tried the old fashioned way. We tried the least invasive way. We tried the middle of the road invasive way We tried the most invasive way, multiple times over. Yet no pregnancy and no baby.  I wept and I wept every single month that we failed to get pregnant. And I say “we” loosely.  When you struggle with infertility, it quickly becomes an “I” game, not a “we” game. I had to do all the shots, I had to take all the hormones I had to check my underwear everys single time I went to the bathroom praying that my period wouldn’t show her nasty face. Sure, my husband was also infertile in a way — but he wasn’t physically going through anything. It was all on my shoulders and I was failing, miserably.

And after three years of infertility treatments, including 10 IUI’s with and without injectables and 4 IVF rounds including a few frozen embryo transfers, we still were without a child.

It was the worst kind of hell a person could be asked to live through.  I was working full-time at a very demanding start-up company.  I was juggling my personal hell with my professional goals.  It was horrible. I was miserable. I thought it was the very worst thing that could ever happen to me in my whole entire life. And then I was diagnosed with cancer.

If I could go back and whisper in my own ear, here’s what I would tell myself.

Andrea, hold tight to Paul even though you’re mad that he doesn’t feel “in the mood” and your ovulation window is closing. Hold tight to him because you can’t have a baby anyway. Hold tight to him and love him purely. You are about to find out that having a baby the old fashioned way isn’t an option for you. So hold on to this connection as long as you can. Nobody really talks about it, but having sex “on demand” is horrid — it can break a couple in half quickly. So hold tight to this loving man who appreciates you and your body, even though it hasn’t yielded a baby.

Andrea, you’re now 8 months into your fertility journey. Keep your head held high. You’re doing the right thing. It sucks to have to give yourself shots and that you cringe every time a friend posts her ultrasound to Facebook announcing her pregancy. Remember, she doesn’t know what you’re struggling with infertility because you’re intent on keeping it a secret from the world.

Andrea, why are you still keeping this a secret? It’s now been 3 years since you started this journey. your medical expenses have topped out over $100,000 and you’ve given yourself over 1,000 shots to the belly. Don’t you think it’s time to share this complete fucking hell with somebody?

Andrea, don’t you feel so much better now that you’ve told your family what you’ve been struggling with. Honestly, this has been the WORST thing imaginable. But it’s been really nice to have their support. You feel a new sense of energy and sticktuitivness, Ready to conquer the next hurdle.

Then you feel the lump. You talk to Paul about it but try to brush it off. You talk to your fertility nurse about it and try to brush it off.  Then the lump persists. You can’t ignore it. You go to the doctor and she fells it and orders some follow-up tests. Still, in your mind, you brush it off. What.could.be.worse.than.3.years.of.infertility?

Breast cancer.  It was laughable to me when it happened. Fucking hilarious. Seriously, for real?

After all that’d I’d been through, I got cancer. Wow.just.wow.

Andrea, just hold on a little while longer. 2 more years. You can do it. You can handle having your breasts amputated. You can handle surgical recovery. You can handle chemotherapy. You can handle your body being reduced to a lump of shit with no muscle definition or endurance. You can handle testing your marriage, yet again. You can handle it all.

Andrea, you can handle it all — but you will have your moments. You will have those times when you dont want to be the superhero. When you don’t want to smile through the tears. When you dont feel like asking another person how THEY feel. When you want to be selfish and cry. and weep. and weep. and weep. and wallow.

Andrea, your beloved dog will die unexpectedly just as you are feeling like yourself after chemo is finally done. This will knock you an on your ass. You will question everything that you thought you understood in this world. You will become angry. More angry than when you found out you had cancer, You will be sad. So sad. Sadder than when you couldn’t have a baby month after month after month.

You truly thought you’d been dealt the worst of the worst. First the infertilty, then the cancer, then your fucking dog died. What next? How much lower can you go?

Andrea, you will look up through your tear-drenched eyes and see the love that your husband has for you. You will realize he is all you need in this world. Baby, no baby. Dog, No dog, Cancer, no cancer. He is your salvation. Stop taking him for granted. He is incredible. Look no further. He’s been at your side the whole time. Quietly and not so quietly rooting for you. Whether you know it or not. He’s been your biggest fan.

Andrea, you’ll get the type of cancer that’s incerdibly aggressive — BUT it’s the kind with no aftercare for 10 years. You can hop yourself up full of hormoes and still carry a pregnancy.

Andrea, you will become pregnant and enjoy every single second of it, including the birth.

Andrea, all of your wishes and dreams WILL come true and you will be happier than you could’ve ever imganined. You will want to bottle the emotions because they’re like crack. You could make a fortune selling this feeling to other people.

You are one lucky son of a gun. What a long strange trip it’s been.

Post script – you get pregnant for a second time and almost lose the baby at 22 weeks. Life seems likes it’s at another all time low.

Andrea, hang in there. After an emergency surgery and nearly 8 weeks of hospital bedrest, you’ll get to go home and serve another 7 weeks of bedrest. But at the end of the day, you’ll get a second baby who is perfect.

In the end, you’ll end up with a daughter and a son. They are perfect in every way.

Andrea, your marriage is still intact and strong. Hopefully the shit show the past 7 years will become a distant memory very soon…..

xoxo.
Me

The Real Test

Happy New Year everybody!

The new year has brought a lot of change to the Sieminski household.  The biggest one is that I am no longer working part-time at S&D and I’m back on disability.  I went back to work earlier than I originally planned — and that turned out to be a not-so-great idea for my body.  At my six month check up appointments, I was stressed out and in a lot of pain.  My chest, ribs and spine were seizing up.  So I decided to pull the plug on work and focus 100% on my recovery.

Also, as you know, Paul and I started a 6 week cleanse in the new year.  I promised I’d document our progress, so here goes.

We’re two weeks in and doing really well. Just to recap for you, we cannot have: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten, the “white devil” (potatoes, rice, white bread etc), fatty proteins (beef, pork etc) or processed foods.  Which means, we are enjoying a ton of veggies, legumes, fruits, nuts and lean proteins.

In the beginning I slept A LOT (like 10-11 hours a night).  Not sure if my body was just trying to occupy itself so I didn’t have to be conscience while craving all the foods I couldn’t eat — or if I just needed the rest!  At this point, I’m past the sugar cravings and past the carb cravings. I’ve been having a lot of fun making up new recipes with me new best friend — kale. OH! and for those of you who know me — no, it’s not been that bad giving up wine. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how easy it’s been actually. Turns out my real Achilles heel is cheese.  Man, do I ever miss cheese!

You might be wondering if I’m feeling any better on the cleanse and if I’ve lost any weight. I have to admit, yes, I do feel a lot better and so far I’ve lost 4 pounds (not earth shattering, but I’ll take it).  I still have a ton of pain/tightness in my chest and ribs associated with my surgery, but I feel less inflamed in general and have slightly more energy.  In fact, I’ve been pretty good about going to the gym and getting into a routine. But don’t be fooled people — when I go the gym — it isn’t your typical gym experience.  My version of cardio these days is to walk for 60 minutes on the treadmill at a 4..5 incline and a speed of — wait for it — 3.2! Yup, 3.2 is as fast as I can go, and trust me, that’s plenty fast for me.  Turns out, fast walking at 3.2 puts my heart rate in the high 160’s low 170’s. That is DANG high.

I’m assuming it’s so high because I haven’t exercised in a long time AND my body is still fatigued from chemo.  I’m hoping that, over time, that number will come down.  In the meantime, I might go get an EKG or a stress test done to be sure I’m not causing more harm than good by pushing myself. After all, the Adriamycin did leak out of my vein and Adria is known to cause heart problems…… Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Overall, I’ve basically been a hermit the past two weeks — just gym’ing it, cooking for myself and Paul and generally avoiding any and all social situations where libations and black-listed foods flow freely. But this weekend, we’re flying up to Seattle because Paul bought us tickets to the Justin Timberlake concert for my Christmas present (great gift, awesome husband). And the added bonus is that it’s in Seattle so we get to spend the rest of the weekend visiting with all our friends up there. Additionally, the Seahawks play-off game is on Sunday — which means MAJOR libations and bar food will be flowing. OY.

So, this is the real test of our willpower and commitment to the cleanse! Wish us luck as we drink water and eat almonds at JT and throughout the weekend! lol

6 Month Check-Up

I had my 6 month post chemo check up with my oncologist earlier today. While I don’t have my tumor marker number back yet, all of my other blood work looks good!!!

During my physical exam, Garrett could tell that my body has started to tighten up a lot.  Everything on my upper body (and I mean *everything*) has been hurting me lately.  From my forearm muscles, to my shoulder muscles, armpits, chest, implants, ribs, sternum and spine — all of it’s sore and uncomfortable.  In general, my daily existence consists of constant, low grade, nagging pain.

G said I have a decent amount of scar tissue that’s developed and he can tell that my body just isn’t humming at the moment.  I wasn’t all too surprised to hear this — he just confirmed what I’ve been feeling.

Enter the game plan to turn all this pain around. Never in a million years did I think I’d be saying this. So, drum roll please…..

Thanks to Natalie’s (my nutritionist at Garrett’s office) urging, Paul and I have decided to go on a 6 week cleanse after the holidays. The tenets of the cleanse come from Dr. Mark Hyman and his ultrawellness philosophy. Natalie has been trying to get me to do this for 6 months. I was super resistant at first, but now that I’m as fat as I’ve ever been in my life — now that my body aches and I’m sluggish as all giddy up –I’m ready to give myself over to this.  I’m hoping it will change the way Paul and I eat forever, but we’ll see.

In the short-term, this is going to be very challenging for both of us. Announcing it on the blog will hold us accountable! I’ll chronicle our adventures for you once we start!

I’m looking forward to the day that we can look back and proudly proclaim that we pushed our bodies to do this cleanse. It’s really going to be a lot of mind over matter for me.  In a nutshell, here’s what you can’t consume for 6 weeks:

No sugar
No alcohol (gasp!)
No fried foods
No dairy (double gasp!)
No gluten
No caffeine
No peanuts or pistachios
No processed foods

So what CAN you eat? Well, lots of things — all the veggies and greens you can think of, tubers, lean (organic) protein, rice, quinoa, berries and nuts (besides the ones listed above).

We told Garrett that we plan to do the cleanse together in the new year. He was pretty psyched for us (though I think he felt a little sad that Paul has to do it with me in solidarity — at one point Garrett asked if bacon was allowed during the cleanse? lol. NOT HELPFUL FOR MY CAUSE G!).

Anyway — after my physical exam where he could tell I’m wound really tightly again, Garrett said that I really need to get serious about cardio. He encouraged me to start at 20 mins a day during the first 2 weeks on the cleanse, then increase to 30 for the second to weeks and 40 for the last 2 weeks. He’s hoping that I maintain the 40 from there on out.

In an effort to help me stay serious about all of this, he said he’d support me by paying for a weekly massage (through his foundation) with Lisa during the cleanse.  Mind you, this massage won’t be a “treat/special occasion” massage. It’ll be Lisa and I working to open up all my muscles and lymphatic system.

I mean — do I have the best oncologist in the world or what? Thank you Garrett, Natalie, Lisa and Paul. Here’s hoping 2014 will find me healthy, relaxed, pain-free and SKINNY 🙂

Meanwhile, Buffalo, NY look out. Paul and I are headed to you for Xmas and plan to eat the s**t out of you while we’re there. Becuase the cleanse starts after our trip 🙂 Pierogi city here we come! yay!

Dust off the Cobwebs

Hello friends. It’s been a long while since we last visited!  Sorry for the major hiatus.

Returning to work has been good. It’s been a pretty smooth transition, I have to say. I was extremely worried about going back — but am amazed at how respectful everybody has been about my part-time schedule.

I never, in a million years, thought I’d say this — but practicing law again has been, well, downright rewarding and fulfilling.  Utilizing that skill set and pushing myself intellectually – has been great.  It’s so funny how losing a year to cancer can make you re-evaluate everything.  It’s also funny to me how practicing law feels so right at this point in my life. I like the fact that it’s so structured and rule-based.  I take comfort in that — and, it doesn’t hurt that I was on the business side of Stella & Dot pre-cancer, and fundamentally understand how the company works/operates. So applying legal concepts to the business comes naturally to me.

The absolute hardest thing about going back to work has been the fact that I have to remind myself that it’s 2013.  I keep thinking it’s 2012 (from a business perspective as well) — but then need to remind myself that the past year has been a black hole for me — and that the company has grown a ton since I was last there.

Let me qualify that last statement, remembering what year it is, is not the absolute hardest thing about returning to work.  Rather, it’s the physical and mental endurance piece that’s been the hardest.  After three days (Mon-Wed) in the office, I literally need two days (Thur-Fri) to lay in bed and recover.  By Saturday I feel like myself again — but it’s dang rough on me.

This past week was particularly hard b/c we had company for Thanksgiving and we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 8 (and went to a friends holiday party and my niece’s Nutcracker ballet performance).  When I’m on the go non-stop and don’t have a couple days built in to relax, it all sort of goes to hell in a hand basket.

On Monday I was whining to Paul that I went back to work too early, and that I couldn’t possibly get through the work week.  Well, true to form, Paul was having none of it. He pushed my ass right out of bed and wouldn’t allow me to make excuses. So off to work I went, and it was difficult for me, but I muddled through (and made the wise decision to outsource a few projects to outside counsel).

Sadly, this week was no better for me. I’m coming off of a crazy Thanksgiving weekend, just finished a crazy three-day work week, and am now jumping into more craziness.  We had dinner with friends last night, a holiday party tomorrow night, a wedding in LA on Sunday, the Warner Brothers back lot tour Monday, and then back to work Tues-Thurs. Whoosh, I got tired just typing all of that!

In any event, I know from my WordPress stats, that most of you really enjoy seeing pictures. So let me indulge ya’ll (read the slideshow captions).

xoxo,
A

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11.12.13

Today marks my return to work at Stella & Dot as their Corporate Counsel. It’s like the first day of school!

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The Obsession Continues

Shadin and I had a wonderful day together. We lunched at the Rotunda at NM,

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Then walked over to the Westfield, where we both scored some pretty ah-maze Tory Burch diddies. Just say YES to friends and family and a little good ‘ole haggling! Hmm hmm, we haggled for additional discounts for having to buy the floor samples. None of that is beneath us 🙂

When we walked into Bloomies, we saw a picture of Giuliani Rancic. I didn’t think much of it. it being October and all. But I decided to investigate further. Turns out, my BFF Giuliana will be here in SF tomorrow hosting a BCA event with Bright Pink (the non-profit she partners with).

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Yup, I did it. I bought Paul and I tickets. This is the first breast cancer non-profit I’ve decided to support since my DX. It was a big decision. But I know Giuliani and Lindsay Avner will put our $100 to good use making a BC survivors wish come true.

Fingers crossed we actually get to meet Giuliana tomorrow. OH EM GEE, OMG, OMG……

I feel like a little kid the night before school. What on earth should I wear????

It’s the Little Things

It’s the little things in life that make me happiest. Yesterday, one of those little things happened to me. This story is going to meander a bit and it’s going to take some time for me to set the scene for you — so just fight through it with me!…..

If you recall, I’ve had extensive dental work done to cure my post-chemo nightmare of a mouth.  Some of that work included replacing an old crown that I had.  Right now, I have a temporary in until my permanent crown comes in next week.  On Labor Day, that temporary came loose. Sooooo, long story short, I had to go back to the dentist yesterday to get the temporary re-cemented in.

My dentist happens to be over by the Ferry Building here in SF. Every Saturday, the Ferry Building has the BEST farmer’s market known to man — Paul and I love going to it.  Every Saturday, at the Ferry Building farmer’s market, you’ll see this dashing young man, playing his little heart out on a trumpet and tap dancing around.  He never fails to draw a crowd, including me.  Well, as it turns out, I randomly met this young man yesterday at the Walgreens by the Ferry Building!

I was early to my dentist appointment, so I decided to kill some time/run some errands at the nearby Walgreens. I needed toilet paper and comet anyways, so — win, win. I was checking out and he was at the register next to me with his mom, Lea. I glanced over at him, and just blurted out “Hey, I know you. You’re the tap-dancing trumpet player!” He was so cute, excited and energetic — yet, totally suave — in his reply. Sticking out his hand to shake mine, “Yes, I am. My name is Gabriel Angelo, pleased to meet you.” We exchanged pleasantries for a bit, he introduced me to his mom and told me to check out his performance on Ellen. Wha? You know me. I love me a good kidxploitation on the Ellen Show. She always finds the most darling, talented kiddos.

Gabriel is no exception. Here’s a link to his Ellen performance. And here’s a link to a piece the SF Chronicle did on him. I hope it makes you as happy as I was getting to chat with him live yesterday. He has such a charisma about him — his joy is infectious.

See, I told you, it’s the little things…..