Sunday, November 21, 2010

Me Too

My maternal grandmother was notorious in her preference for boys over girls.  My brother and I would often spend a couple of weeks up in southern Maine during the summers under my grandparents' care, where she quickly bestowed upon me the nickname 'Me Too'.  You see, I had a cool older brother, just 18 months older, so oftentimes what he wanted to eat, or where he wanted to go, I did too.  In the mornings, she'd make us brush our teeth and then drink a glass of orange juice before offering up cereal or oatmeal.  "Oatmeal, please", my brother would say.  "Me too," I'd pipe up. 

He's someone I've always looked up to (or in his words, he's spent his life knocking down brick walls with his head so I can walk right through).  I did manage to have children first (and that's quite a big brick wall to knock down), but through the vast majority of life I've been fortunate to have my brother experience somewhat of a trial run of life with me close behind as a witness.  It's given me the opportunity to know what I'm in for as I move through life, or as life comes at me.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was sweeping my hair up into one of my usual fabulous, fancy mom updos (read: ponytail), I noticed a lump right where my hair meets my neck.  Hmmm...and another one on the other side as well.  I was at the doctor's the next day-- my brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma a little over a year ago, so lumps aren't taken lightly, especially since studies do show a sibling correlation with the disease.  And these lumps weren't your usual, run-of-the-mill, tender but spherical swollen gland kind of lumps; they were painless, rubbery-hard, and an odd shape.

Fast forward through two weeks of the obligatory antibiotics to see if a viral infection happened to be getting those lymph nodes riled up--they didn't do anything for the nodes, but I am now nine days into my first allergic reaction to amoxicillin (whoopeeeee!).  It's a rare, cruel joke to be on the cusp of a high probability of a cancer diagnosis to also have one's body be overcome with dermatology textbook-publishworthy skin.  To use the word 'rash' does not accurately describe my misery--here's a picture of a small bit of my skin, if you can stomach it.
see my right leg?  It's one mass of redness.

Then multiply that by a million to cover my whole body (except my face, thankfully), and add the incredible itchiness.  Steroids, prescription-strength Benadryl--nothing is touching this rash as it continues to ravage my body.  A couple of nights ago, Sam made a late night trip to Walgreens and I shook with anticipation like a crack fiend as he came home and unloaded a bounty of Caladryl, cotton balls, oatmeal soap and some special aloe skin wash.  Cotton balls are fluffy and all, but I could have used a side trip to Home Depot to buy an applicator for applying deck stain, for the amount of area I'm covering here.  You know what, though?  Looking on the bright side, this unbearable misery has definitely taken my mind a bit off the potential cancer diagnosis looming over me.  And I don't want to come across as a Debbie Downer; throughout this whole thing I have felt wholly and eternally grateful that I am going through this instead of one of my boys. 

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have also included a fine needle aspiration biopsy (showed atypical cells but no conclusive diagnosis), blood tests, a CT scan, and the grand finale to this period of what-the-hell-is-going-on-with-me will be bright and early tomorrow when I have an open biopsy.  Removing a node or two should give them some answers, and I'm really looking forward to it.  Hook me up to the chemo machine; luckily, my big brother has knocked through this brick wall for me, so if I'm going to pull a Me Too with this cancer shit, at least I've seen him go through it first.

We've all been faring fairly well here, considering...last night I promised Jackson that I wouldn't look this way forever, and he told me that he was used to it and it didn't bother him at all.  Mental note--get that kid an extra Christmas present.  And for those that believe bad things happen in threes, I should get an all-clear biopsy.  This rash is a big number one, Kenyon was up through the night vomiting last night, and we woke up this morning to find that our beloved Gumball the Guinea Pig had died.

Are you there, Universe?  It's me, Annie.  This is enough for now; I think we've got all we can handle.


  1. Oh dear sweet Annie, I can't believe this!! You have such strength and a great attitude and wonderful support. I'm sure this will be OK. Our thoughts are with you and we'll see you this week and I can't wait to give you a hug!
    Love, Kacy and Greg

  2. We are sending every good vibe we can muster your way...and hoping that since we've been doing this for a week, they're bypassing the lesser issues (not to diminish Kenyon's stomach or Gumball's life) to do the hard work. XOXOXOXOXOXOXO Laura

  3. Annie, I hope it's ok that this link was shared with me. I'm thankful it was. You have so much of my heart coming your way right now. I am sending all of my hope and positivity across our neighborhood to your house right now. Please let me know about anything I can do as you work your way through this situation. Your positivity is truly is that son of yours. The universe has to treat you right on this one. I believe it!

  4. You are so deep in my thoughts right now. I'm not a big "pray-er" but I am today. Please please please let me help you if I can at all.

  5. Because I share a deep bond with your mom, I feel that I can take the liberty of contacting you. You have obviously inherited your father's eloquence (although your mom writes a mean blog) and your mother's loving heart (your father's love is abundant, but more reserved). I remember matt-n-annie (always one syllable) as "regular" kids growing up in Tallahassee with a mom, dad, and a dog. Your mom and I met through Body Electric and our friendship became close and loyal. Which brings me to thoughts of this challenging time. As you already know, the love of your family will sustain and nurture you ... an amazing arsenal in your corner. Be well. Much love, Margaret Richard

  6. Hang in there, I'm here if you need anything. I am so sorry to hear about Gumball, he was such a sweetie. Please keep me updated. I have my appointment on Wed. and will probably get my biopsy then too. CANCER SUCKS!!

  7. Oh my goodness, Annie! Wow, how much perspective and life can change in such an incredibly short period of time. You are in my prayers and please keep us posted on how you are doing. If you need anything at all don't hesitate to ask. I am an excellent, experienced chauffeur, babysitter, and cook.

  8. Annie dearest, I have no answers as to why you are going through this but am certain that your incredible strength and the immense love that surrounds you will result in a successful outcome. Please know that the Smith family carries you and yours in our hearts and minds.

    I suspect that your keen ability to pen your thoughts and observations will also prove to be your good friend throughout this experience. If you are open to suggestions, I strongly encourage you and Matt to co-author a book about your experiences and you could entitle it Big Brother and Me Too! It would be a great read!
    Much love, Dorsey and family