7. Let’s not “Walk It Off”

Hello out there! It’s been some time since I’ve posted…so many things have happened (I’m pretty sure I say that every time I post, but really this time)! I have lots of updates- some cancer related, some family-related, all wacky and weird.

But first, let me start with a story.

One time, I pooped my pants. Well, technically I pooped my soccer shorts. This was the most embarrassing moment of my life. And now I’m writing it on a public blog that everyone from my 5th grade teacher (Hi Mr. O) to my boyfriend’s parents (Hi Jim and Jane) read. So, that’s uncomfortable. But hey, I’m trying to be as open as possible about this whole cancer journey, so why not just throw it all out there at once and let go of fear and shame. Anyway, back to the story…so I was at soccer practice, and my dad was the coach. I had just gotten over a stomach bug and it was nearing the end of practice and I felt the all-too-familiar feeling of, “Oh no. This is not going to be good.” I shuffled over to my dad and asked if we could end the practice a bit early since there were no bathrooms on that particular field and I wasn’t feeling well. He told me, “Nope- practice isn’t over yet. Walk it off.”

“Walk it off.” These three words struck a particular cord, as they had been a staple of sorts in the Vegter household throughout our childhood. This seemed to be the general mentality of the time and place in which we grew up. Maybe it was the Midwest upbringing, maybe it was my parents’ history of being strong, independent farm kids, maybe it was the “tough it out” mentality that continues to be pervasive in youth sports both then and now…I really don’t know. But whatever it was, it was the mentality that we were taught time and time again, and on this particular day, it was what I was told. So, I tried to walk it off. And about two minutes into my efforts toward walking it off, I found myself running full sprint to the nearest thinning pine tree, pulling down my shorts, and pooping myself. The worst part was that all my teammates’ parents were arriving to pick them up right as it happened, and I had to side shuffle my way past several of them to make it to my dad’s vehicle and shamefully get inside. My dad opened the driver’s side door, got inside, looked at me in disbelief, and, to the best of my recollection, said something along the lines of, “Wow, you really had to go. Sorry about that.”

I don’t tell this story to blame my dad for that incident, I really don’t. I could easily have bucked up and walked into the woods on my own accord and gone to the bathroom behind a much larger tree at an earlier time, but I decided to listen to him and at least attempt to walk it off and make it through practice. I could have helped myself in that moment more than I did, and I should have, but I chose not to. So this is not to place blame, but simply to tell a story as it relates to recent events, and to highlight the “walk it off” mentality that so many people hold which I believe can be to our detriment more often than not.

About a month ago, my parents drove out to Colorado for my second infusion. I don’t want to talk much about my infusion since it was not that eventful and to be honest, talking about anything related to infusion day makes me feel incredibly nauseous (as do most things these days). It was extremely kind of them to come out again and it is always lovely to spend time with them, whether it’s here in Colorado or back in the Midwest. However, this time we had a bit of a predicament. My parents arrived on a Monday evening, and we had my head shaved the following day after infusion day was complete. We went ahead with the head shave and all was well, but my dad unfortunately wasn’t feeling well so he stayed back at the AirBnB. As the week went on he waxed and waned, but overall just felt super crummy the whole time. He spent most of his time working in my garage space despite me asking him to rest since I knew his body wasn’t 100%. By the time Friday rolled around he had had a COVID test which came back negative but was still feeling very out of sorts- short of breath, intense lower back pain, confusion, fatigue. The doctor who had seen him for the COVID test attributed his symptoms to altitude sickness, which to some extent I agreed with, but this seemed more intense than your run-of-the-mill altitude stuff. After a few short discussions about symptoms which never really yielded much info, and he not appearing to be totally himself, I started to get pretty worried. When he started stumbling around in my garage and saying things that didn’t make sense, my mom and I tried to convince him to get to the doctor again. But in typical Johnny V fashion, he insisted he was ok and that this was all just altitude; the doctor said so; he’d be fine with drinking more water and some rest.

We had to get into a bit of an argument (ok, in reality, I had to threaten to call my sister and brother and have a family conference to convince him to go in) before he finally began to consider that this might be more than just altitude. I had to pull the “If you’re not going to go in for YOU, then please think of ME, because I’m immunocompromised” card before it seemed to sink in. My mom and I left to run an errand, and I think it was finally during this 20-minute time period that he felt extremely sick and ultimately realized that he was putting both himself, and possibly me, at risk. Thankfully, after calling a few urgent cares in the area and speaking with a very kind nurse, he finally conceded and said he would go in. Oh, but to be clear- “Only if they can get me in and out in 30 minutes. I don’t want to spend the entire day there.” I’m not entirely sure if this was all related to my dad’s mentality of toughing things out, or if he felt that being here to take care of me took precedence over any of his own health concerns, but either way, it basically took us four days longer than it should have to convince him to go in and seek help.

By the time I heard from my parents that afternoon, they were being admitted to the ER. The urgent care doctors quickly realized that my dad was not in a good way and needed some serious help. Once they got him to the ER and after a CT scan, an MRI, and bloodwork, they realized he had a horrible kidney infection, a kidney stone, septicemia, and brain edema. Read: REALLY BAD NEWS ALL AROUND. That evening he had emergency surgery to place a stent in the severely infected kidney, tons of IV fluids pumped to restore his kidney function which was at near-failure levels, and an immediate IV of Vancomycin, a heavy-hitting antibiotic reserved for septicemia and similar cases of severe infections. All in all, a terrifying evening and likely one that could have led to death had he not gone in that day.

I won’t go into details about the week and a half he spent in the hospital here in Fort Collins since so much happened and it all seems like a total blur now. In the grand scheme of things, all that matters is that he is ok. We are just so grateful that he is alive and that he had such amazing care while in the hospital. My mom has been with him every step of the way, asking the right questions, pushing for more answers, booking AirBnBs to extend their stay, and administering his IV antibiotics through a newly placed PICC line that will be in his arm for approximately 6 weeks total. My brother graciously drove my parents home to Minnesota when my dad was discharged from the hospital, so they have now been safely home for two weeks and Johnny V is healing up well. My mom is taking excellent care of him and he is resting as well as doing his PT, which is awesome. He had the stent and the stone removed from his kidney this past Thursday and all went well with that, so we are relieved.

I am super proud of my dad. I am proud of him for finally going in; I am proud of him for listening to the doctors and nurses; I am proud of him for staying strong and continuing to fight to restore his health. He is an incredible dad and he always has been. He and my mom have always supported us in every goal we set forth; they provided us with an enriching and safe and wonderful childhood; they raised us to be adaptive, resilient, kind, and honest people. But I won’t pretend I wasn’t frustrated with him when this all went down, and that I don’t worry about him. I won’t pretend that sometimes I fear his stubborn attitude and his lack of awareness around listening to his body and realizing he is not immortal. I won’t pretend that my siblings and I dread this happening again, and that his “walk it off” mentality may never go away. What I am hoping is that this is a lesson to all of us- to me, to my dad, to my mom, to my siblings, to our family and friends- to NOT just “walk it off”. To listen to our bodies, to take care of ourselves, to listen to others who care for us and are trying to help. I am so grateful my dad is here, and that we can look at this as one hell of a giant teaching moment for all of us, but dammit Johnny V, let’s not walk it off.

Ok, onto less story time and some cancery things instead…

In other news: nausea is a big, fat, b*tch! But also- thank goodness for nausea meds. If I didn’t have those I think this would be a lot more miserable (although nausea meds = constipation which is also no bueno…so actually now that I say this I’m not really sure where I stand on the matter). I’m continuing to try to stay grateful for the moments that I am not nauseous, the fact that I haven’t had horrible mouth sores yet, and that no rashes have reared their ugly heads yet. Speaking of ugly heads, I am getting more and more patchy by the hour. It’s crazy how much more alien I look as my buzzed head turns into a smooth gleaming scalp. I was fortunate enough to see Brandon’s parents three weekends ago for dinner before I got too patchy, and they were amazing about being comfortable with me going to dinner with a buzz cut. It was also his birthday weekend so we met up with a few friends which was great- it felt good to be able to go out in public without too much baldy shame. But now as it gets colder and my scalp becomes more bare, I am rocking the winter beanies every day. I can’t quite see myself doing the full gleaming scalp bald thing, so winter is a good excuse not to feel like I have to. And let’s be real, I am loving wearing my periwinkle wig from time to time.

Two weekends ago, a dear friend who owns a beautiful cabin in Breck generously offered it up to us for a little chemo getaway. It was much-needed and so wonderful. Think wood-burning oven, movies, apple cider, and hikes with views on views on views (albeit the hikes are much slower than usual these days). We brought Meli and got sitters for Frankie and Waldo (thanks Danni and Paul!) and because of that, it was just the relaxing retreat that we were hoping for. My sister joined us for the first night which was wonderful- she came back out for my third infusion and has been spoiling me with continued work on the garage, great homemade meals (when I can stomach them), and sister time.

Some more very recent news is that my parents closed on a house in FoCo! Through all of the hospital chaos, we continued to look for cute little cottage homes in one of their new favorite cities, and we found success! The adorable little yellow home is named the Buttercup Cottage, and it’s right here in Old Town next to the ol’ Poudre. We love that it’s quaint and sunny and has lots of coffee and river walks to come whenever the ‘rents or sibs are in town visiting.

I have a few other big updates but a few things are still TBD, so I will wait on those for the next post. All in all I am surviving chemo pretty well, and although things have gotten a lot harder over the past two weeks in terms of side effects from this 4th infusion, I am hanging in there. I have noticed a big drop in my cardio capacity over the last few weeks and a lot more nausea, fatigue, and bone pain, so I am really looking forward to getting through the next week of AC and moving onto Taxol/HP (Herceptin/Perjeta- two drugs that target the HER2+ protein). We had our ChemoTeach for Taxol last week (sweet Brandy Boy was with me for every minute of it) and it sounds like the worst of the Taxol/HP will be neuropathy in fingers and toes, possible rashes all over, some creepy nailbed stuff, and diarrhea. Although that all sounds highly unappealing, I will be super happy to move on from the constant nausea. Tomorrow I have another echocardiogram to check my heart and ensure that it is still functioning well, so I am hopeful for good news.

I hope everyone out there reading is having a lovely week, and waking up telling themselves a few things to be grateful for each and every day. Sending love and fall doggie kisses to all of you (and HAPPY HALLOWEEN)!

Published by vegterac

Hi! I am Amanda, a 35-year-old vet student in Colorado. I am here to share my journey through Stage 2 breast cancer and keep those I know and love (and those I don't even know who are interested in following along) informed along the way. Thanks for being here with me.

2 thoughts on “7. Let’s not “Walk It Off”

  1. That edge trimmer, though. 😂

    Powerful writing in there, Comanda.

    And then your Dad ends up overdoing and back in surgery. That’s the Pits. I hope he leans in and on u til he is across the wellness line

    Shine like the Sun, Baby Girl. You are the light.


  2. Your dad’s ordeal proves that good things and not good things keep happening and the world doesn’t stop because we are fighting cancer. Glad he is doing well. So sorry about your continued nausea but glad that the pills bring some relief. Good for you being able to keep walking the dogs! Don’t forget to rest when your body tells you to. So glad you’re on to the next phase and closer to the end of the tunnel!!! Mary Rose MN


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