Saturday, April 25, 2009

To my friend Karen Graham

Last night my mom and I went to a Cancer Gala to support a friend Karen Graham who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer five years ago. She is third generation with breast cancer, she lost her mother and grandmother to this. In the past five years, she has gone through more then anyone I know. The cancer has spread to her Lungs and now her brain. Seeing her at this event with her husband holding her oxygen meds and she still week from the hospital stay a few days ago, made me realize what a fighter she really is. As weak and beaten as she was, she got up and danced a slow dance with her husband (no Afghan woman will do that when released from the hospital two days earlier).

A little history on how Karen and I met. I was her client and her sales force called on me. Part of my job is to negotiate the very best ad price for her station. So when I would go back to her sales group and tell them to redo the numbers, I would get a call from Karen and would strong arm to accept the rate she was selling. She was the one sales manager that I had night sweats about talking to because I could never have the right numbers or history to win a negotiation round. She was the strongest, toughest little woman I had ever met. She did scare me a little.

When I got diagnosed I called her and told her I didn't know what I was doing and I needed help. She got in her car and met me at an Ice-cream shop in Cherry Hill and over ice-cream she talked all the fear out of me. She handed me a scarf and teached me how to wear a scarf on my head when my hair falls out. She handed me books and inspirational bag to help me get through this. She let me cry and she understood every fear I had. After my friend Sharon, she was the next call I would make every time I was lost or scared. Their strength, religious believe and positive outlook on this deadly disease made me get through my terrible year.

While going through everything she is going through, she still helps the newly diagnosed girls. So once again, I am asking all of you out there to send a prayer to her because she wants to see and dance at her twin granddaughters wedding!

Karen - thank you for being there for me, I hope you allow me to be there for you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being Thankful!

We finally got some sun this weekend, the weather was just perfect and sunny here. Off course it is 45 degrees and raining today. This weekend, my mother and sister helped me get the patio ready for the summer. They pulled out the chairs and purchased new cushions for the outside patio. Iqbal has to bring out the table from the garage but he does things on his time table, not mine. I learned in my 10 year of marriage that I cannot nag and force him to do things my way or when I need it because it will never get done and we will end up in a fight. So I learned the next best way to get things done by him....cook him his favorite meal (anything with rice and meat), Kabob and a khalwa does it too.

If that doesn't work, I tell Nina to nag her baba (always works because he adores her). Before she was born, he was worried that he would not love a daughter. You know the culture thing where we love our sons more then our daughters. He had also had made his mind up that his daughter was not going to go to college and will get married early. Well, 7 years ago we had this beautiful, perfect, quite daughter who never cried. She smiled at everything. She slept through the nights at 3 months. This little girl wrapped him around her little finger soo tightly that his heart melts when she speaks. All his fear about loving her and not educating her went out the window! She loves him just as deeply as he loves her. She kisses him every chance she gets (when he is awake or a sleep). He loves the fact that she talks, talks, talks. She talks with her hands as if she is a 50 year old grandmother and she is super smart. I hope and pray that their relationship stay this strong and lovable during those critical and challenging time when she is a teenager. Last night, she put her arm around my neck and said "mommy, tell me about your life, tell me about your children, tell me about your husband". My only complaint against her is that she is a bag lady. OMG does she put everything (I mean everything, including junk mail) in bags and puts them in her room. That alone can be a few pages of this blog!

The family friend: My mom and I went to visit her because she went home from the hospital after four weeks. When we went over there, she had her nurse there. She looked good but I felt bad that she couldn't communicate with the nurses and doctors because her English was not good. It made me feel bad that she had to rely on her dad or sister to help her communicate her needs and feelings. I am grateful that she is here to get her treatment. I wish she had attended some schooling so she can learn English. There is soo much about this disease that has to be communicated directly with the doctor and not through someone else (i.e. how do you tell your father to tell the doctor that you want to freeze your eggs so you can have a baby someday? or how do you tell your dad to tell the doctor that you have blisters down there?). I can see her dad and mom are very supportive. She has a very good and extended family but I wish she had attending school before she had got married.

On flip side, my nurse sister made me realize that too much information could be a bad thing. The fact that she doesn't know everything could help her (while it drove me crazy, I googled everything, read every blog and bulletin). I offered her my support and told her I would there for her if she needed.

Moral of this post.....please, please, please educate your children. It will come in handy for them one day. We are not immortal and cannot always protect them, therefore we have to arm them with education to make their own decisions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still feeling down but not as hard on myself!

I don't know if it is the rain or the pain killer but my mood is as black as the clouds over my house.

After reading my post last night, I gave myself a break.....I am not a bad mom! I was just having a down moment. If you ask Sami he will tell you I am a smart mom who cannot do math. He thinks I should run for presidency! If you ask Nina she will tell you I am a "lovely mom" who cannot cook. She tells me Moorika (my mom) is a better cook then me but she ate those hamburgers I cooked last night and said they were good. She let me curl her hair for school today.

So for all the moms out there, I guess it is okay / normal to have a dark moment about what terrible people we are. In my case, it keeps me humble because if I thought I was perfect, no one would want to be near me. I am far from perfect as you can see from yesterday's post!

Today is big TAX day here in the US. We sent our final tax papers today to make sure Uncle Sam won't think we are late. I feel sorry for all those people who waited to the last minute and then wait in line at the post office until Midnight -- WHY? you have 3 months to get them done. Most companies give out their W2s by Mid January and all taxes need to be done by 4/15.

Finally -- when will this cold, wet rain stop. It is the middle of April, we should have great weather with the sun on our face!!

AS for my cause to open Cancer Clinic in Afghanistan -- no one and I mean no one has responded to all those letters, emails I wrote!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I am a bad mom!

I must be the most terrible mother of all time for wanting some peace and quit from her own kids. The kids were driving me crazy being home all week for Easter break. Sami played Video games all week and ate when I asked to give his eyes a break. I couldn't feed the kid enough. Nina's favorite words were "I am bored" and when she would get really bored, she would pick on her brother and then it would end up in a head hurts thinking about them fighting.

This morning I realized that I am bad mom, here is my top 10 reasons why I am bad mom (I am sure my husband, mom and sister have more to add):

1. The laundry sits in the dryer for a few days
2. I don't Iron ever (unless we are going somewhere). I go out of my way to buy clothes that do not need ironing
3. I am not a good cook,I can cook the basic Afghan food but my kids will not eat it so I just don't cook. Canned Ravioli, Cup a Noodle, Mac and cheese are basic :(
4. I let them eat cake and pop tarts for breakfast
5. I clean the house during two times (if someone is coming over or I am PMSing)
6. I do not enforce teeth brushing
7. I let them watch tv all the time (the computer and games are limited)
8. I don't brush my daughters hair when I know she needs to
9. I don't enforce they clean their room -- I am not teaching them responsibility
10. I don't read to them every night :(

This is really depressing, I should be more healthy with my kids. These kids are going to be the adults of tomorrow and I am installing some bad habits. I normally don't let these things bother me but today it is. Maybe this rain is getting me down or the fact that I have been home with nothing to do for over four weeks!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Feeling 90%!

For the record, I am feeling much better. The pain is gone (I guess I just need a good stay in bed). Yesterday I got my 1 of 3 chemo treatment (Hercepton). The kids are home for Spring break (and driving me crazy). So Sami went to sleep at Moor's house and I took Nina with me. As I sat there to get my 3 hour treatment through my port in my chest, I saw a very young girl come in in a wheel chair for her treatment. She was wearing the bandanna to cover her bald head and I though about myself a year I was at exactly where she was. I realized how hard life was at that moment we are living it (like this little girl who got wheel chaired in). I remembered how I hated my bald head (spent more money on wigs then food at the time). I hated going into Chemo because I would feel tired and out of it after. Now, I am counting the day to my last treatment (two more left). My hair has come in nice and curly (very short right now), the nurse even commented how she wished she had the gut ts to cut it short and wear it the way I am wearing it. Yesterday I managed to get dressed cute and put make up on (it has been a long time since I had a flat belly and some foobs -- I know Afghans are not suppose to talk about their body parts....but damn it I worked hard for this). By now most of you have realized I am not a typical Afghan.

I took Nina (my 7 years old) and she was not fazed on mommy sitting in a chair and getting treatment. She kept reading children books to me and asked me if the treatment was killing the cancer inside my body. Sometimes I wish we could think like little kids and believe everything is black and white.

You know what scares me the most now that this ordeal is almost done? The fact that I might need to face this again some day. We have no clue why people get cancer, we have no cure for it, so how can I be certain that in 4, 5 or even 10 years it might not come back again. My Cancer is the result of my body making too much Protein, while all these treatment, radiation killed it....I still have no clue how my body made it to begin with. So my biggest fear is what if I have to do this all over again when this cancer decides it wants to invade another part of my body. The beef,lamb and even chicken we eat are all pumped with steroids, is this having a negative effect on my body. I do love a good steak!

Do you remember that family friend I told who got rushed back from Afghanistan because she was sick. The doctors diagnosed her with Leukemia. I called her mom to see how she was doing. I told her mom to please tell her daughter to freeze her eggs so she can have a chance to have a baby later in life. I think her mom didn't understand what I was asking her so she said she didn't know and will tell her husband. Last night on the news, this man had frozen his sperms when he was diagnosed with Leukemia 22 years ago. He got married a few years ago and decided he wanted a baby. He took his frozen sperms and they just had a healthy 8lb baby 22 years later! I was just trying to explain that Chemo can kill her eggs and she may not be able to have kids later when she beats her Cancer. But again, her mom didn't understand me and some people might see it as unislamic. This is why we need to get the message out and be prepared for life.

Iqbal and I discussed if I wanted to put a side a few eggs before I started chemo. We had already decided before I was diagnosed that we did not want anymore children so when the doctor asked me to consider freezing my eggs, we discussed it one more time and we both felt that we still did not want to have anymore children in the future. We felt blessed to have a son and daughter. If in the future, after chemo it happened we will be okay with it. If it did not happen we are still okay with our decisions. Off course this morning fighting over the remote control between the two confirmed we made the right decision.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I am not superwoman!

Today is 3 weeks since my surgery. I was all night with pain in my upper right chest and this morning it hurt to breath. After some painkillers and breakfast the pain went down and I could breath into that "lung breath thingy" without too much pain. The last few days I have been going as if I didn't have surgery. I was driving, cleaning the kitchen and even picking up clothes from the laundry. Well the pain this morning reminded me to take it easy (there is a reason that the doctor said I will need 6-8 weeks to recover). I have not left the bed all day. Sami and Nina have been waiting on me.

I still have three more Hercepton treatment coming up....tomorrow is 1 of 3. I had to be on this drug for 1 year and May 21st is my last one. This wonder drug reduces the chance of getting this type of cancer (HER2/neu+) coming back by 30% in the next 5 years.

Not much to report today.....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I am a free woman!

Finally, the last drain has been removed (2 1/2 week after surgery). I did have to threaten the nurse to take them out! I still have a hard time getting off the bed. Yesterday I layed on the couch but couldn't get up, so Sami had to help me. I can walk around the development (slowly and out of breath but I manage to finish the 1 mile walk).

After the drain removal, I went out to lunch with my sisters, at first it was Hamida and Sarah but somehow Manny and Naj showed up too. It was a nice lunch, for the first time all five of us together without the kids and talked like adult (as adults as we can be). We tried to solve the world problems but it didn't happen!

Last night Iqbal and I wanted to watch a movie, so he goes upstairs around 8:40 to talk to the kids and tuck them in and comes downstairs around 9pm to put the movie on -- I was out snoring! It seems my energy level is over by 8:30....I cannot be that old! Who goes to bed at 9pm (what happen to the girl who could party until 4am and then go to class at 8am?). He keeps reminding me that we are old and I need to accept it (NEVER!)

A few days ago, I sent him grocery shopping. I told him we need eggs and fruit. He came home and told me that he didn't know how to buy eggs. He had to ask a woman at the store for help to choose eggs. He told her his wife is sick and he needs to bring home eggs. He explained to her that it was his first time shopping ever! The lady helped him pick eggs and help him shop. I told him I pick the cheapest kind. He has been a great husband. On Friday the good husband drew a line in the sand! He told me that as soon as the drains were out and I can drive - his duty as a husband are over and he will become the Pashtoon man he is! No more coffee and breakfast in bed. No more putting the laundry in the laundry machine! What am I going to do (a girl gets use to this type of stuff....I may need to be sick for a little longer). :)

To help my cause, I tried to write to all these foundations to help me open a cancer center in Afghanistan but still no one has responded. I am going to continue to try.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Damn Drains!

I was praying (even bullied) my nurse to take my last drain out - she said no. Even though the rule is that if the draining is less then 30C, the doctor should take it out (mine are draining 20c in a 24 hour period). But nurse Sharon said "no" because the stomach area is so big, she would rather be safe then sorry. If she took it out and I get infected I could end up in the hospital....which I do not want to do. So I have to live with this last drain until Monday. I told the nurse she was on my hit list....she didn't care.

Definition of a Drain: A surgical drain is a tube used to remove pus, blood or other fluids from a wound. Drains inserted after surgery do not result in faster wound healing or prevent infection but are sometimes necessary to drain body fluid which may accumulate and in itself become a focus of infection.

Yesterday was a good day. I was able to walk around my development without being totally out of breath. I have a bad headache today. Yesterday and today, I sneezed and OMG did it hurt. I felt like the "fake" belly button they created for me was going to pop out! I also cooked for the first time yesterday - Barb (my neighbor had made some turkey meatballs) so I made spaghetti and meatballs last night. Of all the 33 homes in this neighborhood, she the one person I am very close to. I am friendly with all the other ones but she and I have no limits.

On the home front - Nina had her 7th birthday on April fools day. She was so excited. She told her Baba that he doesn't have to carry her anymore because she is a big girl. As a birthday gift, he told her that he was going to carry her for one more year -- she was thrilled. She is throwing herself a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I told her that I may not be able to go and she said that's okay because BEBE Khala will do it. So long story short, my sister got her invitation and she handed them out to 9 little girls and now we are having a party for her on Saturday (can you tell she is my daughter - no is not an option for her). Chuck E. Cheese's is a chain of restaurants here that serves Pizza (bad pizza) and has arcade, small rides, climbing equipment and slides inside. Kids and parents get stamped on their hand and then you let them run around in this restaurant while you sit and listen to hundreds of kids screaming, running and coming and asking for more tokens for the rides.......can you tell how much I love this place (NOT!).

My cause - I want to open a Cancer awareness center in Afghanistan. I wrote to a number of organization including the White House - but disappointing no one has answered. There is not a single Cancer center in my country.....what are these people to do??? I need help, advice, money to make this happen. Family friends tell me if I build it, some stupid fundamentalist might blow it up (realistic but I should at least try).