Our Biggest Sale of the Year is Here!🎄 ➔

nasty, nasty barium

Almost a month after ringing the bell to signal the end of five months of chemotherapy infusions, which followed 28 radiation treatments and a five-day hospital stay surgery, and I still am not quite ‘done’ with cancer. This week I will have to drink two bottles of barium for my follow up scans to make sure the chemo did its job. If you have never had the pleasure of drinking barium, let me tell you what you are missing. Imagine sour, chalky, thick milk with a tinge of flavoring (berry smoothie or banana were my options) to make it taste even more revolting. It’s hard to believe that we can send humans to live in space for months at a time, but the best we can do to provide contrast for CT scans is this disgusting punishment of a shake. If men can swallow a little pill to “keep it up” for hours at a time, surely the medical profession can come up with a little pill for us to swallow instead of having to throw back bottles of nasty barium. 

For my initial diagnosis, I cried through the first bottle of barium and threw up half of the second bottle. Since then, I have had to drink another bottle for a different sort of scan, and I managed to get it down without incident, but not without a collection of grimaces and “bitter beer faces” that I am glad no one caught on camera. Here’s hoping I can get these next two bottles down like a college kid chugging crappy beer at a keg party.

In the meantime, I am readjusting to a new life that doesn’t involve getting stuck with needles weekly and sitting for hours every other week for three days worth of chemo and related meds. The chemo side effects are wearing off slowly but surely, although only time will tell which ones decide to take up permanent residence in my body as some of my radiation side effects have done. I will forever associate Press-n-Seal plastic wrap with chemo treatments (it works great for covering up the numbing cream one has to put on over her port prior to getting jabbed with a needle for port access). The week after chemo ended, I flushed all of my related pills (four varieties of anti-nausea meds, anti-acid meds, and more) down the toilet, and boxed up all of the sweet cards and encouraging notes from friends and family and had my son take them to the closet of the guest room upstairs. I wanted my room to look like it did BC (Before Cancer). I wanted to not feel like a patient in my space. I want to feel normal, but more importantly, I want to BE normal—as normal as one can be after surviving almost a year of cancer treatments.

just some of the meds I flushed down the toilet after finishing chemo


In my new post-cancer treatment life, I no longer work full time (due to leave issues and assorted other life factors). And although I miss my full time paycheck and we are ‘poorer’ than we were before, I feel richer than ever. I found a great part time gig that I can do from home at hours mostly of my own choosing, leaving me with the time and energy to cook and eat more cleanly, more time to exercise and regain strength, more time with my husband and kids and my extended family and friends, and more time to be involved with my community.

Truth be told, I am a little torn. I am proud to be a survivor, and I truly want to use my experiences with cancer to help others, yet I want to be more than the girl who had cancer. Many people who survive cancer report going through a depression after all of the treatments are over when all of a sudden the support and attention they once had seems to disappear, even though the side effects and life impact still linger. While I don’t feel that way, I do get it. I just view finding my new normal as the next leg of the adventure that is my crazy and wonderful life. Wish me luck, and join me on my journey at http://www.facebook.com/fightlikeaboss


city moms blog

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Rebecca Wells

Rebecca Wells is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. In addition to being a mom and a wife, she has been a teacher, instructional coach, and most recently, the dean of instruction at an inner city high school in Houston, Texas. Due to factors surrounding her treatment for stage 3 colorectal cancer, she has traded a career in education to pursue other passions and interests. When she gets all done with chemo, she will return to running, cycling, swimming, yoga and soccer. Rebecca lives in Cypress, a small suburban community just outside of Houston, where there are fields of donkeys and llamas right down the street from the grocery store, and small trailer parks nestled in between subdivisions featuring homes valued at half a million dollars (she doesn’t live in either one!). She shares her home with her husband, daughter, son, and two crazy, crazy dogs.

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading