Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OH NO-vember!

Much has happened since mid-October.

For starters, I finished Taxol. The pictures depict the countdown of the final 3 Taxol sessions, and now we begin the every three week Herceptin regimen from now till next August.

Shortly after my last post, I road-tripped with several family members to MD for the most incredible Chili Cook Off hosted by one of my dearest friends. We made a lot of new friends and tasted some delicious chili.  Georgia's very own Lindsey B. brought home 2nd place!

We had a Halloween party at the barn which we haven't done since the monumental loss of Ray last November. I looked around my house for costume ideas and decided upon "Super Cancer Carly" seemed fitting for the battles I have faced this year (the past three years actually). It was bittersweet being back in the barn. It is as if time stood still, and we are all waiting for Ray to walk in at any moment, grandiose and charming. We had a good time, sang a few tunes, and Dad and I even found time to swap wigs ;)

This past Thursday we had a spirit night at our local Chick-fil-A. We had a great turnout and the staff was so accommodating.  It was fun to see so many familiar smiling faces in one spot. It was truly "my pleasure."

Things were looking up, things were going well....until yesterday (11/8/11). My pal Tanner took me to my oncology appointment where Dr. Pippas diagnosed me with shingles.  He was concerned but not surprised as this diagnosis is common with such a severely lowered immune system.  Shingles is basically like chicken pox for adults, but more painful.  After my 2 hour Herceptin session, Pippas sent me directly across town to a dermatologist for confirmation.  This doc has obviously never had shingles, because if so, he might not have been quite so quick to stick a needle directly into the worst one. After enduring that brief torture, Tanner and I set out to get food for the first time that day.

My dismal day turned into a traumatic evening.  We were stopped at a red light (intersection of Veterans Parkway and Whitesville) when a man in a black Honda plowed into us from behind. I went via ambulance to St. Francis. Xrays showed no broken bones, but severe muscle spasms. Thus, just as I thought was about to get some relief from the chemo drugs, life sent me two major setbacks.  I've got a nightstand full of prescriptions and plenty of folks around to make sure I am taking them on schedule.  Tot doesn't mind keeping me company, any excuse to lay around and be a lazy dog.  Mom came to town so if I am unreachable, you can check with her on my progress.  Please say prayers for healing.  It would be nice to catch a break one of these days....until then I will keep on reaching in and looking up for continued strength, energy, and light.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Pinktober.

Wow! I must begin by saying THANK YOU for all the t-shirt orders! The response has been overwhelming, and we have already had to place multiple repeat orders which is a total blessing! From the nurses at John B. Amos, to childhood friends, to people I don't even know in CA and NJ....I hope they bring hope and perspective to each day you wear them.  Even Lindsey Buckingham (from Fleetwood Mac) is a fan! For those of you wanting to order one, simply click on the donate button at the top left side of this page and be sure to list your color, size, and mailing address! It's super easy.
So, we painted the town pink....and it was so cool.  Every year it becomes more and more special. That probably has something to do with my cancer diagnoses becoming progressively invasive, but oh well.  I am now recognizable, and my face has become synonymous with breast cancer.  I am proud. I am touched. I hope to be a bright ray of sunshine in the face of a treacherous storm. Even the mayor stood in line for a "Carly hug"...
I had another survivor approach me during the balloon release and say "You were here last year.  You had really pretty long blonde hair.  You obviously are fighting again, but you are every bit as beautiful as I remember you from last year."  Talk about a humbling, and jolting statement. I appreciated it more than she will ever know. Once again, my best friend's choir group sang some very touching tunes, with my sweet Mary Kathryn as a soloist. It is so incredible to see our small town unified in pink, heart, and mind for a whole day. Also, the Body Works exhibit was a MAJOR success, and will be touring different states.  There is also a book available for purchase regarding the project! Here is mine for those of you who did not get a chance to view it at the museum. 

In "Chemo News"...I have now completed 13 treatments.  I have 3 more Taxol sessions to go, and unfortunately I will not escape its dreaded side effects as I had once hoped.  Blackening nails, hot flashes, neuropathy, and aching muscles and bones.....on top of the fatigue.  Still losing lashes and brows too.  Chemo is not for the faint, nor vain, of heart. The treatments themselves have been relatively smooth, with the exception of being extremely delayed.  It is a bit nerve-wracking to arrive at 1:30, but the drugs not drip until 3:00pm.  Unfortunately, that like many other aspects of this cancer game are completely out of my control so I try to find distractions.  And my caregivers are good at that. :)
Tis the season of fundraisers! This coming weekend is the grandiose Chili Cook Off, November 3rd will be a CBHF Spirit Night at Chick-fil-A,  and there will be a benefit motorcycle ride/Boston butt sale on November 19th! I feel so fortunate and grateful to all my supporters and pray that I will continue to keep up the energy to be present for all of these fun events. Off to get some rest before a busy day tomorrow...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How many more?
What number are you on??

Dearest fans,

SO much has happened since my last post. Now, that I'm going weekly to chemo it seems like every person crossing my path wants to know "So what # treatment is this?" or "How many left?" or "Hey you're almost done right?!"
.....Nope. I'm not. And no, believe it or not I do not have a Dick Clark NYE style countdown clock running constantly through my brain. This has become part of my life and I have accepted it.  I have never looked at any trying time as temporary, or tried to rush through miss life that way. Every experience shapes me in some way to handle future experiences. Nor am I quick to take anything for face value or put all my eggs in any one basket.  There is just too much that can change in these situations as I have experienced firsthand. That being said...I have had 6 of my scheduled 12 Taxol/Herceptin rounds. Therefore it stands to reason that my last Taxol will be November 1st if nothing is altered between now and then. Dr. Pippas says my body will need a month to recover from the effects.  I will continue going every 3 weeks for Herceptin well into the spring/summer.

I will not be sad to bid Taxol "Adieu" once and forever.  I am now dealing with brittle nails, skin splitting fingertips and feet, and dry skin.  Not to mention, the severe thinning of my eyebrows and eyelashes...sadness. I didn't really notice until I looked back at some recent photos, then it hit me. Bam. I have had to get pretty handy with some makeup tricks, and am open to any suggestions. In other health news, the seroma under my left arm has almost completely self-dissipated so that is a big relief (A.K.A. no surgery)!

Another....development....I have been placed on a "leave of absence" from work.  My email has been cut off and my picture has been removed from the staff directory.  They intend to hire a replacement for the position I was working when diagnosed.  I suppose this is a cup half full/half empty situation.  On one hand, I am not pressured by the gnawing feeling the high school programs won't succeed as a result of my inability to cultivate them.  On the other hand, my income level has decreased DRAMATICALLY.  Thank goodness I had the mature insight to sign up for Short Term Disability many moons ago.  Also, I am truly obligated to say three simple words at this point: Thank You Daddy. Without his help (which is not fun accepting to this extent at age 29) I would be homeless....foodless.....helpless (hey, isn't that a CSNY song? I digress...).  When I am able to return (in December hopefully) I will be at the mercy of the "whatever's open" option. Pray.For.Me. I am very anxiety ridden in regard to this particular destiny. Would it be like, totally rude of me to remind you of the donate button at the top of this page right about now? ;)

On a brighter note, LaGrange is preparing for "Paint The Town Pink" this weekend. Today I had the honor of painting my hand prints and initials on the white brick wall that will greet visitors at the Body Works exhibit/reception.  I told you of this art project in an earlier post...survivors of all kinds of scary diseases decorated torsos to symbolize their journeys, and their fight to conquer their intended defeaters. I am excited to tell you that my torso was chosen (only 8 total) to hang in the new building of the hospital.  Before that however, the exhibit will tour as far as Cape Cod!  Saturday will kick off with the Hope For A Day 10 mile walk, then the downtown event.  I am looking forward to an emotional day with some of the coolest chicks I've ever met. It is always a bittersweet but beautiful celebration...a sorority-like gathering of women and their loved ones....of strength, grief, accomplishment, remembrance, honor, strife, and pride.

If you are on Facebook, and have not joined us yet, please become a fan of The Carly Byrd Hope Fund page:  This is the best way to stay updated on all the fundraisers, events, interviews, etc. that are being held in my honor. One such recent event was tossing the first pitch at the Lady Grangers softball game. The team wore pink jerseys and it was very special.

Also, my cancer story was printed in this week's Troup County Banner so grab a copy if you spot it (it's pink!).
Lastly...Don't miss your chance at these fundraisers from my friends and supporters!

Pink ribbons for your yard and/or front door are available at The Greenhouse Nursery ($5 of every purchase goes to my Hope Fund!) and....

...T-SHIRTS I DESIGNED (gray OR pink) will be available as early as Friday! Woot woot!  Naturally, they will feature my signature bird carrying the pink ribbon in its mouth, and quite fittingly a Stevie Nicks lyric....of course

I will be sure to share pictures and anecdotes after the coming weekend.  I will leave you with a quote I stumbled upon earlier tonight:

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. -Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's a Carousel My Friend...

Life goes in cycles......and mine is no exception.  Conflicts cycle, old friends cycle back into your life, and now chemo has taken on a weekly cycle.

Today marked my second battle with Taxol and Herceptin.  I asked the nurse to slow down the Benadryl pump hoping to avoid the restless arms/legs I experienced last worked! I slept a lot and am thankful to be having a very decent night.  I have 10 more rounds of this "cocktail", and next week will be back to Tuesdays for those of you keeping track.

Also health related, we have been watching a small post-op seroma under my left arm for over a month now.  I am still experiencing some constant pain there but Dr. Pippas is pleased with the softening condition of it at this point, and does not insist on surgery so that is a great thing.

In other news, Stevie Nicks and company came to town! I feel so fortunate to have such supportive people in my life and her band is no exception.  We all had a good cry after the show.  Everyone means so much to me, I hope they know that.

My mom has begun transcribing again and that has proved to be a challenge for us both! I've been teaching her new technology and she has been doing her best to learn.  A lot has changed since she put her now extinct equipment into storage nearly 10 years ago! Still, it is great to see her productive in her own right, even if it means I have to get up and down............a lot! :)

As for projects and fundraisers......I've been so moved by a request I received to "tell my story via a female bust".  I love creating beauty and intrigue by eluding to my unique journey. Here's a peek....I have not decided if it is complete or not. These will be up for auction at the LaGrange Art Museum the evening before the Paint the Town Pink event that is so dear to my heart.

I am also looking forward to the Zumba event this Saturday! I think it is so cool how friends come out of the woodwork and utilize their strengths and resources for my benefit.  I only hope I can pay it forward and/or return the favor some day.  It means so much to me.

My sweet dog wants to cuddle so I must bid you "adieu" until next time.  How can I resist!? 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Adios Adriamycin!

Hello lovelies...

It is time for an actual health update.  On Tuesday, I had my last round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan, and that hopefully means my last dose of Neulasta (this is the white cell booster shot that makes me feel like I have the flu).  Thursdays are exceptionally awful due the side effects of this drug trifecta...I did not even recognize myself in the mirror this morning. I looked and felt like a zombie for the duration of today.

Even though these drugs are done, my treatment is far from over. I begin the Taxol/Herceptin regimen on 8/16. I will have 12 weeks of this cocktail, weekly.

Carls, Lily, and Memster
In between blog posts, I had some sweet visits with some of my fam/friends, and a couple of new fundraiser events have come to fruition: Zumba in LaGrange on 8/27 and Chili Cook Off in MD on 10/15.  Let me know if you need additional event info! I appreciate everyone's support in whatever capacity it is provided, and am looking forward to seeing everyone shake, shake, shake, shake, sh-shake it at Zumba :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bye Bye Blondie...

There it is folks, one of the hardest things I've had to do in four simple steps.  It helped to have a small group of supportive folks that lifted my spirits but that night, and the morning after, and the morning after that were no picnic.  I am still struggling to make certain hat/scarf/wig combinations make fashionable sense.  It always seems that the first thing I put on screams "I have cancer" to me and I wind up changing.

Regardless, I think it is important to share every aspect of this journey because if you see someone smiling through something that is this difficult, it might shine a new perspective on your own personal trials.

Gotta go wig out  ;)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hair...not my coffee.

I know it has been too long since my last post. My life has been a whirlwind since we returned home from Texas.  I had my first chemo treatment on June 21st, and second on July 5th. 

Here is the rundown of my schedule: I go every other Tuesday for Adriamycin and Cytoxan, and every Wednesday for Neulasta to stimulate my bone marrow. After 4 rounds of this, I start going every Tuesday for Taxol and Herceptin, for 12 rounds. Catch all that???

Just like clockwork, the day following my second treatment I have started to feel the effects: mouth is numb, throat is sore, eyes are burning, I have NO appetite, and the worst hair is thinning and falling out.

This morning while attempting to drink a vanilla caramel coffee, I noticed a hair had fallen into it suddenly making it not so sweet.  I have cried everyday since Tuesday; this is by far the hardest part of my journey...not 12 major surgeries, or the absence of my normal schedule....losing part of my external aesthetic self.  I have said many times this week that although I fully comprehend the logic that chemotherapy is poison and this proves it is killing the "bad" cells, the emotional turmoil that this chapter evokes is simply unfair.  But, if I've heard it once I've heard  it a million times..........what does not kill you makes you stronger.  I hold onto that and about a thousand other sayings, adages, lyrics, and such to stay positive. My sweet friends and fam held a "Cover Carly's Head" party in my honor so I am well stocked with cute accessories, scarves, and hats.

I have ups and downs, and really foggy moments, but I am hanging in there.  Thanks so much to all of you who continue showing your support in a thousand different ways, I love you. 

Until next wild hearts ~~....

Monday, June 13, 2011

Doing Dallas

A lot has transpired since my last post!  For starters, we finally went to the zoo our second to last day in Houston. Mom was pumped since this was her favorite offering from the City Pass.  I strongly recommend it as a great experience if you're in the area.  We had a blast, and got up close and personal with the animals.

We flew from Houston to Dallas on June 4th.  Our very first night in town, our friends took us to the Mesquite ProRodeo! We donned our cowgirl boots and had a fantastic evening.  However, I should admit....I was totally rooting for the calves to get away from the ropers. This shouldn't be a surprise to those of you that know my softy sensitive heart ;)

We also did the other mandatory tourist thing to do in Dallas which was go see Dealey Plaza, the site of the JFK assassination. I stood on the "X" and everything. I just love visiting historical scenes like that. The stories mean so much more once you have been to the actual place. It has been really cool to be in Dallas this week for another reason...the Mavericks won the NBA playoffs! Go Mavs! The support this city shows for their team is infectious.

I celebrated my 29th birthday on June 10th and thanks to a surprise visit from my pal it was a great time.  It kicked off with cake and a few gifts at 4:10am (time of my birth) and then a fun night out to dinner and a dueling pianos bar.

Now then, let's get down to "business"....we have been to the Sher Institute nearly every day for ultrasounds.  The initial visit was a bit disappointing when we realized the follicles were not growing as fast as we needed them to.  After some increased medication dosages, we had better results.  My retrieval procedure is scheduled for tomorrow morning. I will be under anesthesia so if you don't hear from me, that's why.  Most of you have probably already heard by now I was interviewed by the Dallas CBS affiliate regarding the Fertility Rescue program.  I have also been contacted by a producer at CBS Morning News from NYC about doing a national piece so stay tuned. If you haven't seen the interview, here you go:

We were really hoping to come home tomorrow night but the flight times/costs/availability are not cooperating :(

All for now...thanks for reading...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Seeing the Sights.......

L-dog and I have had a fun-filled weekend!  Saturday we went to Hard Rock Cafe (my favorite for obvious reasons), Sunday we ventured out to the Museum of Natural Science which sounds boring but was awesome....animals, IMAX movie, dinosaurs, gemstones, even a Zoltar machine in the lobby like the one on "Big"....if you haven't seen this classic gem, stop reading and go watch it.  We ended our outing with a delicious Tex-Mex meal at Pappasito's Cantina.

Having purchased a "City Pass" at the museum, we decided to make Memorial Day extra special by making a visit to NASA.  With the exception of several screaming children, we were both very pleased with our experience.  We toured mission control, the astronaut training facility, watched video of all launches, touched actual moon rock with our own hands, and checked in with astronauts currently floating above the earth. So very cool.  Our dining experience Monday was Pappadeaux's Seafood Kitchen (tasty cajun food).

Cheers! from Pappasito's
Tuesday (today) we explored the Downtown Aquarium and had a blast....Almost new, very clean, friendly staff, and great exhibits. We even rode the "shark voyage" and I must admit I was startled by the "surprise missing {mechanic} great white shark" that popped up along our ride! Game fish, reptiles, and even white tigers were on the visual menu. We pet sting rays and bamboo sharks too.....all before my ultrasound this afternoon. The appointment went fine and the techs were friendly. I received an email shortly thereafter, while dining at PF Changs that said the results were good, and to begin the Gonal injections tonight....

Early appointment at MD Anderson tomorrow for more imaging....update ya later! <3


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Events of the Second Day in Houston...

I have some good news and bad news.  Good news first....

My initial appointment at MDA went very well. The facility is awesome and the people are friendly. Dr. Moulder has a wonderful demeanor and a reassuring presence.  She was very quick to tell me that I am a "beyond unique" cancer case. She requested all the actual original slides from every surgical procedure from the past three years.  She wants her staff to review the pathology, and confirm that it is indeed breast cancer we should be treating, and not any other possibility (i.e. cancer of the sweat gland, etc).  She assured me that there was not anything my doctors could have done differently thus far, due to the way my cancer has behaved: unpredictable and bizarre.  We had lunch there in the Waterfall Cafe and went back up for appointment scheduling.  I have a full day of imaging next Wednesday.  The pictures I've included are the front of the clinic, waiting in the waiting room, and the tree sculpture at Mays Clinic :)

The bad news is hotel 4:00am again THIS morning the smoke alarm went off.  This is especially annoying because it happened the previous morning in this exact manner, and we checked with the staff on four separate occasions to ensure it had been handled before retiring to our room yesterday evening. So, there we were at 4:30 am, a cancer patient and her exasperated mother lugging groceries and luggage to our new room.  We managed to salvage a few hours of sleep but were not happy campers.

We do not have any appointments till Tuesday (an ultrasound for SIRM) so we intend to run errands today, and maybe make time for a mani/pedi. If anyone has suggested "must sees" for Houston, please send them on!