Thursday, October 3, 2013


This just in, Dad is officially in remission.  That means there are two cancer survivors in our family.  TWO!  Miracles really do happen.  More on that later, but right now we've got some celebrating to do.  

...and loving it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Open Mouth, But Don't Insert Foot. Because That's Just Silly.

I follow a lot of cancer blogs.  Probably too many.  I've tried to quit them a couple of times, but I get sucked back in by sheer curiosity.  Actually, I think I get sucked back in by the need to feel like we're not alone in this thing.  Cancer is common.  In fact, I bet you all know at least 10 people who have had it at some point.  Maybe more.  So it's strange sometimes that it can still feel so isolating, which is why I've been surprised by a theme that seems to have gone viral among cancer bloggers.  The first time I noticed this phenomenon was a few months ago.  The post was titled, "10 Things NOT to Say to a Cancer Patient".  The next post I stumbled onto said something like, "Cancer Etiquette 101".  And the next?  "If You Say This Kind Of Crap, I Will Drop Kick You".  Uh-oh.  Suddenly I was horrified thinking about how many times I'd probably said the "wrong" thing to someone who was sick.  Then,THEN they started coming back to me in detail!  Ohmygosh, I'm never speaking to a sick person ever again, I told myself.  And all of a sudden, a light went on inside my head.  I realized that I am in the weird situation of having been on both sides of the "cancer etiquette" situation.  You know, kind of.  Close enough to make the comparison at least.  And I have to say, I couldn't disagree with these bloggers more.

I decided to re-read several of the articles just to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting anyone.  In doing that, I came to the conclusion that there wasn't much consistency.  Except for the rule of not telling me stories of every person you've ever heard of who has died of cancer.  Which I kind of agree with.  Unless you literally can not think of anything else to say, in which case I will listen politely to your stories and then make fun of you later when you're not around.  I'll probably end up feeling bad that I made fun of you, but really, you started it (yes, I'm 5, why do you ask?).  Other than that, it seemed to be more of a custom designed set of rules that these bloggers were suggesting people should follow.  The rules varied significantly from one person to the next, and many of them were conflicting to say the least.  Honestly, if I thought someone actually expected me to adhere to any one set of rules regarding what to say to them about cancer, I'd probably be too intimidated to say anything at all.  And on most lists I saw, choosing to say nothing at all was considered the worst offense!  I think expecting political correctness, when it comes to people expressing their sympathy, is frankly, pretty dang ridiculous (that sentence SO doesn't flow, but you get it, right?).    

You know, everyone goes through tough things.  Everyone will have challenges at one point or another that will rock them to their core.  For me and my family, right now, the challenge is cancer.  It's okay.  I get that not everyone knows what cancer is all about.  I sure as heck didn't before the whole lymphoma hail storm moved in on us.  But I can tell you without any hesitation that I've felt more loved and cared about in the past 7 months than ever before (I know Dad and Sam have felt that way too).  I for one, could care less what words people used to express their love and concern.  The delivery of their sentiment hasn't mattered one bit.  The fact that they've felt moved enough to say anything at all has been enough for me.  It's true, that there's a unique sort of connection you feel with people who have actually experienced what you're going through.  A kinship of sorts, that comes about when people who have had personal experiences with the same challenge get to talking.  Just the other day I was talking to a guy at church who's mom had had cancer for 4 1/2 years.  We understood things about each others stories that most people couldn't possibly get.  But I have appreciated and felt the sincerity of every single person who has stepped up to the plate in an effort to show me how much they care, even if they hadn't been touched personally by cancer.   It didn't matter what they said or how they said it.  I got the message.  And all of those lovely messages have changed me as a person.  I'm not glad that Sam got cancer.  I'm not glad that Dad got cancer.  But I wouldn't change the valuable lessons I've learned from cancer for anything.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, awesome things can come from difficult experiences.  You just have to be willing to see them.                

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yes! No...Maybe

Sorry it's taken me a month to actually fill you in on the results of the scans.  Apparently I'm easily distracted.  But you already knew that.  So, the day Mom and Dad went up to Huntsman to meet with Dr. H about Dad's scan, Mom sent us this text, which didn't exactly decrease anyone's level of anxiety...

When I first read it, I launched into a few celebratory high kicks and toe-touches (knee-touches...potato - potahto), and then I was all, mostly good?  MOSTLY?  How can a cancer scan be mostly good?  Oh friends.  Cancer is such a crafty beast.  There is nothing it loves more than being the center of attention, and let me tell you, it doesn't give up that role easily.

You see, PET scans are designed to do one thing.  Detect areas of the body that are experiencing high metabolic activity.  Tumors are highly metabolic, so that makes sense.  But there are a slew of other things that can cause an increase in metabolic activity, such as sarcoidosis (so sayith wikipedia), autoimmune disease, slight muscle contractions, or ANY type of inflammation just to name a few.  And you'll never guess what causes inflammation.  Say it with me...CHEMO.  There were a few tiny "hot spots" on Dad's scan that may or may not be cancerous.  They could totally end up being scar tissue that's still just a bit inflamed from the chemotherapy.  In fact, it's the most likely scenario.  But, you know, with cancer, you can't be too careful.  SO.  In the spirit of being thorough Dad sought out a second opinion.  And wouldn't you know it, the second opinion was very much the same as the first.  "Hot spots on the scan, but likely not cancerous."  And so?  We wait.  Again.  For six more weeks until the next scan.  We've gotten pretty freaking good at the whole waiting thing.  That's for dang sure.  How awesome would it be if cancer could be as black and white as say, pregnancy?  Positive or negative.  Yes or no.  You either are or you aren't.  None of this maybe, sort of, possibly crap.  Seriously, a PET scan is only kind of helpful in determining whether or not someone is cancer free directly following treatment.  If a pregnancy test you buy at the grocery store can tell you whether or not you'll be giving birth to slimy, wailing human in 9 months, certainly someone can come up with an equally simple test that tells you wheather or not you have cancer.  How hard can it be?  People, I'm telling you, pee sticks that confirm or refute cancer remission.  It would be revolutionary.  And cheap.  You heard it here first.  Just sayin.

My parents are going to be so proud of my
blogging about pee sticks.  Just keepin it real you guys.

In Sam's case, all is well.  Nothing on the scan whatsoever.  Port has been removed and life is moving on.  That globby thing though, that's a different story entirely.  It's a stubborn little sucker for sure.  It's that last person at the party who just won't take the hint, GET LOST YO!  We're watching.  And waiting.  Of course.

But you know what?  Things are good.  SO good.  They are both looking very healthy.  So healthy, in fact, that sometimes when I'm around them I actually think and talk about things other than cancer.  It's getting weird.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hoping for Good News

Scan results will be in today.  I'm waiting anxiously by my phone to get the report.  I'll post them as soon as I get clearance.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bliss and Woe

And now?  A summary of Lake Powell via iphone pictures...

Every trip to Lake Powell carries with it an abundance of blissful moments, however we almost always come back with at least a few tales of woe.  Somehow, this year the bliss and the woe both reached an all time high.  

bliss:  After years of pep talks and bribes, the kids finally took to skiing.  Watching them pop out of the water over and over again was a bit nostalgic.
woe:  We forgot to check and see if the plug was in place before launching the boat.  It wasn't, which made for an interesting first day.

bliss:  Spent many hours on the deck of the houseboat with a cold drink and the worlds most entertaining humans.
woe:  Said humans all assumed everyone else would bring Diet Coke.  Consequently, nobody did.  Diet Coke is something of a Lake Powell essential (I say that with my self-respect completely in tact thankyouverymuch).  Red Vines too.  Must have Red Vines. 

bliss:  Mom found us a choice spot to park the houseboat, complete with a big sandy beach, "kangaroos" (aka rabbits with ginormous ears), rocks to climb up and jump off of, and our very own stream.  
woe:  Mom threw out her back.  Thankfully Dr. Mason managed the situation with Ibuprofen and some Hello Kitty ice packs (4 out of 5 doctors recommend them).    

bliss:  We roasted cinnamon rolls over the campfire while we discussed the meaning of the word ha-boob.  My parents have never been so proud.  And now you all know the intellectual well that is my family. 
woe:  We witnessed something of a, um, horrific...amphibian vs. campfire incident.  Suffice it to say that frogs, if left unsupervised, will in fact jump directly into an open fire.  Believe me.  They will.  We tried to cry.  Really, we did.  But it was too damn funny.  Don't tell PETA.

You guys, this was the trip that will be talked about for the rest of forever.  And the best part, aside from the frog jumping to his fiery death, was that cancer was nowhere to be seen.  It was the first time in 7 months that our family felt like, well, our family (minus the ones who couldn't make it).  Sure there were injuries, and crap that broke down, and kids we wanted to send out to sea.  But those are the things we went home laughing about.  Those are the things that have been missing over the past several months.  Those are the things that make us a family.

Until next time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recovering...And Squirrel Watching

I'm not going to try and cough up a reason for my lack of updates.  Seriously, I can't even think of a good excuse.  But here's a picture my husband took of a squirrel eating a Butterfinger...  

The excuse well has runneth dry.  Obviously.

So.  Chemo.  For now, our boys are done.  Dad officially finished chemo about a month ago, and Sam finished about 2 weeks ago.  They'll both have scans in a few weeks to see exactly where they stand tumor-wise.  We're really REALLY hoping that the chemo they've had has trampled their cancer crop fields for good.  I can't tell you how awesome that would be.  Like, miracle awesome.  But until we know for sure, they're both just trying to recover from having received 6 months worth of cell killing infusions.  You'd think that once chemo was over, life would just go on.  I wish it could be that simple.  I assure you, it is not. 

First of all, you've got the side effects from all those drugs.  Side effects that have built up over time, which makes them exponentionally more hideous to deal with.  Secondly, and this might be the worst part, you've got the worry.  Worry about whether or not the cancer is really gone.  Worry about whether or not the side effects will be long term issues.  Worry about whether or not your body can take over the job of eliminating those pesky wayward cells like it's supposed to.  You don't necessarily trust it's ability to perform that seemingly simple task anymore.  Sometimes I catch myself giving Sam's and Dad's lymph nodes the "mom" look.  You know, that look of death you give your kids when they're screwing around.  The one that doesn't require any words whatsoever.  The one that could melt steel with it's laser precision.  I wonder if lymph nodes respond better to that look than kids do.  Let's hope so.

The good news is that energy levels and appetites are improving.  Slowly.  More slowly in Dad's case.  But considering the strength of the chemo he had, a slower recovery is definitely to be expected.  We went up to Park City for the 4th of July, and just in the 4 days we were there, I noticed a definite improvement.  I'm starting to realize that it's kind of a 2 steps forward, 1 step back type of thing.  One morning I caught him riding up a mountain on his bike though, so maybe he took 3 steps forward last weekend.  And the hair!  The hair is coming in so nicely.  Sam has already reached his normal state of brillo pad-ness, and Dad's head is looking like a giant grey tennis ball.  I think he's secretly hoping that his leg hair won't grow back.  Not me.  I'm so not cool with my dad having sexier legs than me.  SO not cool.

Things are getting better.  Things are getting more normal.  I mean, not that we were ever very normal, but we're getting closer to our version of normal than we've been for a very long time.  It feels good.   

Proof of our normal-ness...

Lake Powell is next on the agenda.  Perfect place to be right before the PET scan that will determine the next 6 months of your life.     

Sunday, June 16, 2013

And Then I Said To My Kids, "This Too Shall Pass", Whatever That Means...

I was going to do a Father's Day tribute to Dad on my blog (Father's Day sentiment made easy).  Then I wasn't (so overdone).  Then I was (cause he's my dad, and he has the hodge).  Then I wasn't again (meh, I'll think of something more original to do).  Then today, at the store, I couldn't find a single card that didn't give me the gags.  So here I am.  Throwing together a "Happy Father's Day" blog post.  I haven't thought through this.  I don't know where it's going or where it will end up.  But I do think that instead of trying to write it from just my perspective, I'll try and write it from the perspective of all of us McMullin kids.  There is a very good chance my siblings all just had simultaneous coronaries.

Growing up in our family was, for lack of a better description, NOT boring.  Ever.  And if you know Dad, you probably know precisely what I mean.  Whether we were painting the fence for the gazillionth time, or hiking out to Blue Lake with 2-ton scuba tanks on our backs to get our scuba certifications because Dad LOOOOOOVES subjecting himself and his children to the possibility of becoming barracuda bait for reasons I will never understand, we were constantly on the go (I have a thing for run-on sentences).  I can't begin to count the number of times he coaxed us into action with the phrase, "work hard, play hard".  I got so sick of hearing it that I SWORE to never say it to my own kids.  Yeah, that lasted for like a week.  I catch myself quoting that phrase along with loads of other Dad-isms on a regular basis these days.  Such as, we don't want to get bogged down, and the best ideas haven't been thought of yet.  There was, a job worth doing is worth doing well, which as my brother pointed out, really meant, please mow 2 or 3 more times in different directions.  And my personal favorite, this too shall pass, (this one went over suuuuper well when I was 16 years old and had just broken up with my boyfriend).  Surprisingly, I now find great satisfaction in watching my children's reactions to all of the word malarkey I picked up from my father.  I would even venture to guess that someday they'll be spewing many of the same catch phrases at their own children.  Some things never change I guess.

The thing is though (and truly, it pains me to admit this), my dad was right on.  His catch phrases, while annoying, were instrumental in teaching us about the things that were really important in life.  But he didn't only guide us with words.  More often than not, he followed his own advice.  And I can't think of a single time that he failed to apologize when he broke one of his own cardinal rules, which was an example in and of itself.  Because, you know, "actions speak louder than words" and all.  That one usually gets the most dramatic of eye rolls from my children.  It's so glorious.

I could tell you story after story about things Dad has done that have taught me and my siblings important lessons.  Or I could just show you.  Yes, let's do that instead.  I told you earlier, I have no idea where this is going.  Which is true.  But I did ask my siblings to send me some of their favorite pictures.  Oh, this is going to be so much fun..    

Play outdoors.  
He's never really had to say it.
He just does it, and always has.
We've all followed suit.
Except for that one scuba diving incident where most of us got sea sick and hurled (3rd picture down - don't be deceived by our smiling faces).

Take turns holding each other like babies.
Okay, I might have made this one up.
But I had to use these pictures.
HAD to.

Celebrate life and the joy of getting older.

Or just refuse to grow up.
That's cool too.

The importance of perfecting a good smooch.

Rock out whenever the mood strikes.
And then pray the pictures don't end up on the Internet (that part didn't work out very well).

Love your family...

And serve your fellow man.

Remember the power of prayer...

and what it means to really have faith in the face adversity.

The past 5 months have been hard.  I bet they've been harder than I could possibly know.  My siblings and I have watched our father go through things that have ripped away a piece of our innocence.  That might sound naive coming from a grown woman, but it's the truth.  And yet, if I had to guess, I'd say we don't know the half of what it's actually been like for him.  There have most likely been lots sleepless nights and lonely pain filled days.  That's pretty much how cancer works.  It sneaks up on you, and then becomes the main event in every minute of every day.  It's awful.  And hard.  And relentless.  But I've never heard him ask, "why me".  I've never seen him forget to smile when someone drops by for a visit, no matter how horrible he feels.  I've noticed a new kind of tenderness and sincerity in his voice when he asks me if I'm happy with my life.  He hugs his grand kids a little bit tighter than he used to.  He gets to know everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) he comes into contact with.  And we're talking first name basis here.  Amid the uncertainty and anxiety regarding his situation, there's a calmness to his demeanor that is almost palpable.  My dad has taught me more over the past few months than he has in the 33 years prior.  As difficult as it's been to witness his struggles, I'm thankful I've had the opportunity to watch, and learn, and once again, be reminded of the things in life that matter most.  There's a saying that goes, "A real father is his son's first hero, and his daughter's first love".  I think my siblings would all agree that in our case, nothing has ever been quite as true.