Take care of yourself, enjoy life to the fullest and remember to SMILE!
Yesterday was my last day of radiation. That's it, end of story. Today, I start my new life as a Survivor. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading "My Journey." Please keep in mind I am putting this together into a book and hope you will like it just as much, if not more than this blog. There are entries I haven't published on this site, so you will have something new to read and enjoy. I will let everyone know when it reaches the shelves.
Take care of yourself, enjoy life to the fullest and remember to SMILE!
My skin is so raw and painful I can't even begin to describe it. I'm astounded at how much this hurts! Surgery was easier, no joke. When I showed my skin to the radiation oncologist yesterday, she simply said "eeeeek!" Of course, there are much worse cases of radiation burns than what I have. My skin has not broken down, hasn't even blistered...yet. However, it looks like spent charcoal. It went from dark purple to gray in less than 24 hours. There's so much swelling in the breast area and in my arm pit I can't put my arm straight down by my side.
When I woke up this morning, I was shivering I was so cold and uncomfortable. Luckily, I'm sleeping well, but unfortunately, it meant I didn't wake up in the middle of the night to take some Tylenol and treat my skin. I sat in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face, waiting for the cream and pain meds to take affect. I texted Nick and told him Liz was on her way to the farm but I needed to take my time to try to get myself comfortable. I sat as still as I could, sipping hot coffee, all bundled up in loose fitting fleece sweaters.
I finally managed to get myself a bit more under control and left for the barn. I was functional enough to clean stalls and fill water buckets, but I was uncomfortable the entire time. Nick and Liz were obviously very worried about me and kept offering to send me home, buy bandages, etc, etc, but I wanted to work and be as normal as my body would allow. I managed to ride Junior, but I didn't work him hard, taking the opportunity to work on straight, square halts and uphill changes.
I was dreading the idea of radiation again today. I ran to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription cream the doc had ordered and the pharmacy couldn't find yesterday. The girls in radiation were very sympathetic about the condition of my skin, but when one of the girls quickly pulled tape from the bolus I thought I'd hit the ceiling. The searing pain was mind numbing. She apologized over and over again. I thought the skin had torn, but there was no mark. This is crazy! Once I got back into the changing room, I smothered my skin in the Betamethazone cream and Natural Care Gel. It was heavenly. I will admit, I'm very concerned about these creams I'm requiring to treat and heal my skin. I'm competing in a CDI in 2 weeks! I have about a week and then I'll have to stop. As you know, I can't risk getting any onto Junior.
I am down to one more day of radiation and then I'm done. Sadly, this is overshadowed by the death of our friend. It seems such a smack to think I should be rejoicing over the completion of therapy, but I can't. Harry's friend was taken by cancer. This is one more example that this will always be with me. So sad.
Long story short, I'm fine. I spent a great deal of this week crying, yelling, throwing things around and being generally pissy. I felt like everything I'd worked towards, freedom from this cancer, was starting from scratch. The worse part of this whole ordeal is that I'm not sleeping again. I've been sleeping full, restful nights for weeks now without problems. With the stress I've had over the past few days, I'm right back to sleeping for around 2 hours each night. I've been refusing to take Ativan since it was quite difficult to wean myself off and don't want to get back into that cycle again, but I'm at my wit's end. Even the knowledge that everything is fine isn't helping. The worry and concern brought back all the bitterness, fear and trauma I've endured these past 8 months and I can't seem to shake it off. It will get better, but I'm angry this happened.
Fortunately, the outcome is good. I'm amazed that with all the preaching I've done and with how careful I've been to be my own best advocate, this slipped by me. I'm glad to say, however, that things happen for a reason and this couldn't have happened to a better person. As you know, I'm not willing to take things lying down. I raised the roof at FAHC and went in with my fists in the air and my fingers in their faces. They are taking my concerns and issues very seriously and are keeping me informed of what they find. They immediately found the breakdown in the system which caused the snowballing lack of communication. They are working towards remedying the error so it doesn't happen to other patients. Of course, if it happened to me, it's happened to many before me. They are not making excuses, they have apologized and are working towards a solution. I applaud their efforts...but wish it never happened. Hopefully, however, patients will have better care and service after what has transpired with me and I am chalking this whole experience up as a learning opportunity for the institution as a whole. Why am I the professor? Oh well, it's over.
I know I haven't updated my blog in a very long time. Fact is, I am keeping up with my writing but I haven't published my posts for a number of reasons. I'm sharing today because I feel like I've stepped off the face of the earth and I'm tumbling into a black abyss. Once again, unless you are in the moment, paying full attention to each and every step you make along the way, somehow the healthcare system will betray you.
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the radiology department asking me to schedule a mammogram. I thought this seemed odd considering I am still in therapy, so I ignored it. I eventually received a second letter stating that this was their second reminder that I needed to schedule a mammogram. I remember seeing this and thinking this seemed really stupid, why not wait until after treatment when I wasn't already receiving boatloads of x-rays and radiation? My chemo brain causes things to spill out of my memory at times, but I finally thought to ask the question of "why" these letters? Sunday night I sent my radiation oncologist an email asking if it was policy to have mammograms done during treatment and what was her policy. I received a quick reply from her saying she would look at my chart.
Monday morning started out as a pretty normal day at work. The horses were fed and turned out and I was mucking stalls. The plan was to work until 10 or so and then I was going to start riding while Nick and Liz finished up. We were all in the tack room, just finishing breakfast, when I received an email from my doctor. "When you got your mammogram and ultrasound in Dec 2012/Jan 2013 they saw some things in the left breast that looked benign but they were not completely sure. the only way to tell is if there is no change by repeating with a 6-month follow-up. You are young, so I highly recommend to do the mammo and also the ultrasound. You should also discuss this with your surgeon."
There are things in my left breast? My left breast has findings that need to be followed up? I've been in cancer treatment for 8 months because I have cancer in my right breast and I'm just now being told there's something in the left one? I'm being informed now, 8 months later, that there's a question about the other breast? This was found in the initial mammogram and ultrasound and not one person informed me. I had absolutely no idea there was anything going on in the other side.
I read the email in shock and disbelief, said "you've got to be kidding" and walked out of the tackroom. Nick followed me, trying to get me to tell him what was wrong and after a few moments I exploded. I was shaking and sobbing trying to make sense out of what I had just read. He tried desperately to comfort me, explaining I was jumping to conclusions and I was going to be OK, etc. etc. It was of little help. The rage I possessed because nobody told me about part of my diagnosis is beyond words. Do I think I could, after all this time, have cancer in the left one too? I certainly do now. I was lead to believe the left one was fine. Initially, I had wanted to take both, but the radiation oncologist convinced me not to. Did she know there were "things" that needed to be looked at again in 6 months time when she made that recommendation? What else haven't I been told about? Follow-up to look for changes?... What if there are no changes? What will that tell us? I was on chemotherapy for months and the cancer didn't change. What if this is cancer and because there are no changes, they assume it's fine? From what I can understand, the only way to know for sure is to biopsy the breast...something that should have been done in December when they found it.
I have less than two weeks left of my cancer treatment. I've endured months of chemotherapy, had a right modified radical mastectomy and weeks of radiation to the right side. I should be preparing to celebrate the completion of treatment and put cancer behind me. Instead, I feel much the same as I did back at Christmas time when I told Harry and Liz I thought I had cancer. I feel like everything I've worked so hard for, saving my life, hasn't been taken very seriously by our healthcare system. If there was any sort of care or compassion, this would have been dealt with in entirety at the start of treatment rather than throwing this at me now. The shock and horror I possess chills my bones to the marrow. The rage incites a viciousness beyond compare. I want to cast lightening bolts at my doctors, even the ones I love. They all had access to the radiology report and not one stinking person cared to mention it to me. I'm looking for heads on platters and I won't stop until I'm served...do you hear me?!?!!! I'm PISSED!!!!
Monday night, after my first radiation treatment, I had as close to a nervous breakdown as I can imagine. I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, already finished dinner, just relaxing. Granted, the day had been very stressful and I was tired, but what happened next, I have no explanation. Luckily, I can laugh about it now even though none of us were laughing that night.
My favorite books are written by a pair of authors, Preston and Child. The very first book I read was titled "Brimstone." In it, the murderer was killing people with a gun he had produced that could shoot microwaves through walls. He would cook his victims from the inside out. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get this image out of my brain. i kept imagining myself being cooked by the radiation. I sat there, trying to control myself, but suddenly burst into tears. Harry looked at me horrified. "What is wrong? What hurts?" I sat there, gasping for breath, huge sobs, and my response..."my brain!"
I knew I was being ridiculous, but I couldn't help it. Harry held me as tightly as he could, trying to comfort me. I kept crying and explained what was freaking me out. Liz overheard me and said "Mom, they were microwaves, it's totally different. Nobody's going to cook you."
Luckily, that was the last of my mind playing games and things are going really well. I have the position down pat and can jump on the table, assume position, zip zap and I'm outta there. Thank goodness! At this point, I'm having no side effects, but didn't expect any. Also, because we are so far out from chemo, the docs decided to start hormone therapy now rather than wait until completion. Everything about my course of treatment has been a bit unorthodox, I don't see why things should be any different now. Regardless, I feel the Tamoxifen is the most important piece of this puzzle knowing how estrogen positive my cancer was.
I feel great. My energy level is through the roof and I'm getting more done during the day than I have in months; even having to add in the trip to the hospital for radiation. It's really no big deal and I'm already counting down the weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing and meeting a lot of great people this weekend at the Dragonboat Festival. I'm drumming for one of the Survivor Team boats and have very festive pink additions to wear. The weekend after, I'm showing at Vermont Dressage Days. I took the plunge! Junior's doing I-2!! I've never shown at this level and think now is the time. Plus, I'm showing Wheels which thrills me to death. So, so, so excited!!!
The other crazy thing I'm doing? I'm going to do the Zombie Run in late September. Can you think of any better way to celebrate kicking cancer's ass other than running a 5K being chased by zombies trying to steal your flags? I'm not a runner, but starting today, I am. This is my goal for the completion of treatment, to prove that cancer took absolutely nothing from me, but, in fact, made me stronger at the end. Booyah!
My first treatment was certainly not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I didn't think it would be an issue, but I didn't expect it to take as long as it did. Hopefully, this will get easier as we go, but it took so long getting me into position and getting things set up, before I knew it an entire hour had gone by. Jeez! I was expecting 15 minutes, tops! It's very uncomfortable and if anything, today was even worse because one of the techs kept reefing on my left shoulder trying to get it to drop down and finally I had to tell her the pain was too sharp in the joint and I needed a break. It was downright excruciating. That's the good arm. The other gal asked if I'd had trouble with my shoulders and I told her "not until today." I quickly put my arms down and the amount of creaking and clunking that came out of it was gross; the tech even commented on how loud it was. Thanks for nothing!
I will admit, I'm pretty wiped out right now, but I don't think it has anything to do with the radiation itself. My appointment was at 11:30 this morning. In order to get to the hospital, park and get into the radiation department, I need to leave around thirty-five minutes ahead of time. Chores were done by 10:30 which meant I had cleaned fifteen stalls in under two hours. I raced back to the barn, got Liz some lunch, brought in a bunch of horses and rode Junior and Coby. After that, I was spent. I decided to skip riding Wheels and just come home and relax.
Harry was so sweet. He wanted to come to my first appointment, but didn't tell me he was coming. When I arrived at the hospital, I went straight to the hem/onc clinic to reschedule my appointment with Dr. Dittus on Wednesday. I talked with a few of the people there and by the time I arrived in radiation, Harry had been waiting for over ten minutes. The receptionist told me he was looking for me and was sitting in the waiting room. I felt terrible! Plus, he's not allowed to come in during treatment or anything, so he just stayed in the waiting room until I was finished. I had lots to do back at the barn, so I kissed him goodbye and darted out again. I think it upset him a bit, but this is going to continue for a very long time and there are just so many hours in a day. I need to keep momentum going.
The thought of doing this each and every weekday is a bit unnerving to me. It's going to be really difficult to get to know anyone since there are three or four ladies all working at once to get me situated. Plus, my face is turned to the side the whole time I'm on the table, so I can't even see who's talking to me or what they are doing. They write on me every time I'm there as well, so I'm beginning to look like I have hieroglyphics all over my chest and sides. I saw the nurse after treatment and she asked if the bruising was any better. I asked her what bruising she was referring to and she simply shrugged and said "maybe it was just ink?"
I wouldn't mind all this nearly as much if it wasn't for the fact that these are the busiest weeks of the entire summer. Hay is coming in, I want to enjoy the Dragonboat Festivities this weekend, Essex is the following weekend and HITS the weekend after that. Now, I have to fit radiation into each day as well. I can't complain it's a waste of my time since it's probably the most important part of my day and I have to remind myself of that. I should not think of it as a challenge and need to count down each day as being that much closer to cancer free.
Radiation will finally begin on Monday. I'm so anxious to get everything over with and this piece seems to be a very long time coming. Initially it was the drain that was the issue. I thought with that out, we'd be able to start right away. Not quite true. They wanted to wait to let the drain site heal and I met with the radiation oncologist to go over the plan last week. From there, I had the mapping done. I was made to lie down on a hard table with a thing underneath me that molded to my upper body. With my arms over my head, they did a series of x-rays and a ct-scan. That was fine except with my arms over my head for so long, my hands fell asleep. I hate that feeling. 3 little blue dots were tattooed to my skin and zip zap, I was done with mapping.
Yesterday, I had a "films only" day which essentially means they were going to do a dry run of a treatment without actually doing the therapy. It was horrible! I was on the same hard table with the mold underneath me. With my arms up over my head, they proceeded to take measurements, reposition, take x-rays and form another mold that would go over my chest. I stayed like this for more than 90 minutes. I thought I was going to "die." My arms and shoulders were so sore I could barely stand myself. My left arm turned dead and I had to lift it with my right hand to get it back in place. It was hours before it felt normal again. I must admit, I am not looking forward to being in that position every day for several minutes for the next six weeks. Finally, we can start on Monday and get this last stage over with...and then I will get on with my life!
I had a great day today. The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer committee members met at a car show. The plan was to park cars for a dollar and it would all go directly to Strides. I will admit, I took no mercy. If you don't ask, people will not donate. Cars began arriving to register for the event. Since they weren't actually parking and were waiting in line to register, I simply walked from car to car and asked people to donate. Very few said "no." We also realized that if we simply asked for a donation rather than telling people it was $1 to park, they would dig a little deeper. We had fun and seemed to raise quite a lot of money. I had to leave early since there were issues at the farm and I promised to help Denis with hay. It was really pleasant all the way around and now Harry and I are trying to decide where we want to go for dinner. Will it be sushi, Mexican or something new and different?
I have never considered myself a warm or open person. I care very deeply for the people in my life, but I've only ever let a few people into my personal bubble and kept everyone else at arm's length. I've also not been a very approachable person. In college, I was known as the Ice Bitch and never took offense by it, knowing full well it was true. I'm strong and self-confident and never felt I needed many people around me. I enjoy teaching and even when I was in health care, my main role was in education. I am a good communicator, just not very huggable. In my role as a riding teacher and trainer, even though I only have one child, I've "raised" many kids and watched them turn into amazing young adults. I like to think I've played a very instrumental role in many of these people's lives and helped shape them into who they are today. Again, I didn't do it with hugs and kisses and a soothing voice; rather, I did it with "Be strong like bull! Walk it off! Did you really just fall off? and Are you kidding me right now!!!!" All the girls seek out my approval and are a bit terrified at all times. That's ok...I keep them out of trouble and their parents are always grateful. It's wonderful to watch Liz turning into that same type of teacher, but she's much more friendly and the kids hug her and smile and want to be her friend. We're different that way.
Cancer has changed me in many, many ways. It has taught me to trust people a bit more and let more people, even strangers, into my bubble. I tried very hard to express this the other day at Strides Kickoff by leaping off the stage and hugging Chef Curtiss. I knew this would get some giggles and add a bit of humility to the event. Thank-you, Curtiss, for being a part of this message. I feel it's a very important piece of my own puzzle. As much as I want this to be known, I was not prepared for what happened to me yesterday.
I have always been a big believer in "everything happens for a reason." When I discovered I had cancer, I never once asked "why me?" If anything, I thought "better me than most anyone else...I can handle this. I'm tough." From there, I knew deep down there was a reason why I was struck with this disease. I don't believe in bum luck. You can make anything out of lemons. I do remember asking myself "what am I supposed to learn from this?" I'm beginning to realize it isn't about me at all. I'm sorry to say, I'm not certain I like the hand I've been dealt and wish I could hand it to someone else. Unfortunately, there is a purpose for this deck of cards and this hand I'm holding; and it terrifies me.
Someone came to my farm yesterday. I don't know this person very well and I'm going to be very vague with my story since this is private and personal. We were chatting about business and life in general. This person knows of my battle with breast cancer, but only by hearsay. I know this person is very young, not much older than Liz. As we were making small talk, this person suddenly took in a deep breath and said "I was diagnosed with cancer when I was <> years old. I've never told anyone before, not even my parents."
Breathe in. Breathe out. Why did this person choose me to talk to? Why did this person open up to me and seek me out to help heal their soul? I'm the Ice Bitch, right? Nonetheless, they left with a smile and a softness about them that was comforting to me. We talked openly and honestly about cancer and what it did/does to us. I hope I helped in the way they needed helping. Is this what I'm supposed to do? These are children for crying out loud!! They don't deserve to be forced to grow up well before they're due. It's not fair. Cancer's not fair. Cancer sucks. Lucky for me, Harry was there to pick up the pieces when I got home. This was one of the hardest experiences yet.
Thankfully, today was good day. I'm smiling knowing I might have helped someone yesterday. I hope so.
I feel pretty darn good, I must say. On Friday, Liz and I spent a leisurely time getting ready to head to Woodstock for the show. I woke that morning feeling remarkably fine considering I'd stacked a bunch of hay and was worried I'd be sore. Not so much! Liz went to the barn and I headed to Tony's to pick up all the stuff they were loaning us for the Strides Kickoff. Katelyn and Dinah were so generous and happy to help. I left the shop with all the pink Katelyn could muster out of the shop as well as a saddle stand for sitting on. Jen borrowed a dress mannequin and Tony's had another. We were really excited about the display we'd worked out and were certain it would look awesome...right down to the hot pink chaps! But that story's for the next day; we're still on Friday.
Once I had all the shopping and what not done, I headed to the barn myself. Liz was just about set to go, but we were hungry and headed to the local restaurant to pick up some lunch. By the time we were finished eating, it was close to 1:30, so we decided we needed to leave. Travel was fine and once we arrived, we quickly unpacked. Shea was ready to for her test, so I warmed her up for her very first Second Level Test and she won the Jr/Yr Division of her class! She was thrilled! I helped Liz with Doc and then headed home. Shea's Dad was heading to the show to get the girls to the hotel and tucked in for the night.
The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Kickoff was a huge success. Everyone loved the photo display we had put together and people had a great time sitting in the saddle and having their pictures taken. I enjoyed the meeting and am always happy to speak at these functions. My little presentation seemed to be well received, got some laughs and a big round of applause. That's all I hope for. What I hope for now, however, is that folks will start making donations to the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer! Please click below to find out why I'm Making Strides and to make a donation. Fell-Vallee had a team and is looking for members! Don't hesitate to join the team!
As soon as the meeting was over, Brenda and I headed back down to Woodstock for the rest of the show. It was nice to have company and Brenda and I relived our Thelma and Louise experience. I was excited to arrive and find 2 blue and a championship ribbon hanging on Coby's stall. Shea was very excited to report she won her Second 1 class with a 65%! Liz, too, was excited with her class. She won the PSG with a 61% There was a huge gap between the two judges, but that's not unusual. The difference between the judges was how they handled Doc losing his balance and swapping leads in the right pirouette. She couldn't get back to the counter canter and more or less gave up. One judge was sympathetic, but the other slaughtered her (but if you don't show the counter canter, what do you think you're going to get? OH, the joys of getting a 1 in a test.) Both girls were very happy with their performances and the horses were in great form.
Liz was stressing about riding her first I-1 test the next day. She kept going over the canter work in her head and we had a plan how to ride the test. Luckily, my arm was working well enough to braid (something I really enjoy doing) and the two of them looked like a million bucks. The warm-up went really well and Liz looked determined and confident. We polished up a few things and determined the best frame for the test (a little deeper than Liz likes to show him, but these judges like soft and supple and I knew they wouldn't care to see Doc get tight if Liz rode him too up in the bridle). Well, the plan worked and Liz walked away with a 65.9% in her first I-1 ever!!! She was over the moon and I was so proud of her I was bursting. With that score, she won FEI Jr/YR Champion of the day and the entire show. The prizes were nice, the ribbons big and pretty and the smiles worth every ounce of money, time and sweat.
For some reason, people were much more willing to talk with me at this show versus what I experienced at HITS in May. My hair now looks like I've cut it rather than it's growing back in and suddenly I have eyebrows and eyelashes. They seemed to come up over night. The underneath hair is growing in dark and think and the hair that Lisa dyed a couple weeks ago looks like I've frosted my tips. It's rather cool, actually, and several people mentioned "cool hair." It was really hot out, so I looked comfortable and trendy if I do say so myself. I would just smile and thank people if I didn't know them, but one lady in particular said "wow, that's a new look for you!" I looked at her and said "it's called a chemo cut" and shrugged. Her face fell and we talked a bit about what was happening with my health. I could tell she was distressed about my condition, but she was not afraid to ask questions and offer support. The only difficult situation I was in was when a long time acquaintance simply said "I need a hug." She wrapped her arms around me and cried on my shoulder. I didn't cry, but it made me uncomfortable and sad to know someone I barely know and rarely see would have such an emotional release over my situation. Also, a very lovely young lady recognized me, came up and thanked me for writing about my experience with breast cancer. I was flattered to have a stranger take my hand and thank me for being "such an inspiration."
I slept soundly that night...med free for the first time in weeks. I can sleep fairly well with Ativan and not at all without. This felt wonderful despite the weird dreams about trying to store my contact lenses underneath my fingernails that kept wanting to fall off. Today couldn't have been better. The weather was absolutely perfect, chores went well, Junior was excellent and I even rode my big gray beast. My body doesn't feel like it's been punished and I'm anxious to start a new day tomorrow. I'll add Coby to the mix, so, chores, 3 horses and hopefully hay to unload if it doesn't rain. Fingers crossed!
I definitely have a lot of lost ground to make up. Nick and I emptied and stacked maybe 250 bales of hay today and I'm dead tired. Last summer, I could keep up bale for bale with any guy and not think twice about it...and then empty another wagon alone for good measure. Today, not so much. I realize I'm out of shape and just had surgery 43 days ago, but this was embarrasing (for me). I hate this and just want everything back to the way it was! Life is too short to be weak and tired. When Dr. Nesbit told me he was surprised at how much atrophy my muscles had, it made me nervous. I can only imagine how much time it's going to take to build back to what I had, much less improve on it. The whole thing makes me grumpy which, in turn, causes me to make poor choices. One example was that today my job was to just keep layering the hay. Nick would toss them on the elevator and I would make a floor from the wall to the base of the elevator and then start a new level. Well, we made it to the height of the elevator and so I started stacking hay at the far wall, over chest level. After maybe 8 or 10 bales, I realized this was what was going to "get" me. I'd pick my way over the bales of hay, rubbing the top of my chest, grab a bale and add to the stack. Nick realized what I was doing and said "you're not supposed to stack the hay, just carry it." I told him I was fine and he yelled up "no, you're not going to be. You're going to hurt yourself, so stop." I snarked at him the way I can and he very simply said "I'm not going to yell at you about it, I'm simply going to stop working and leave. I won't watch you do this" and proceeded to jump out of the wagon. Um, OK...I'll just make a pile over here and you can stack it... I felt terrible considering it was close to 90 degrees again and he was working almost twice as hard as I was. So mad!
Something else is happening that really bothers me. I have stopped biting and ripping at my fingernails. For a long time now, my nails have been long and pretty, as long as I keep them polished. They're really ugly underneath since they are dark brown, but nobody can see that with a color over the top. Over the past week, they have begun to peel off. Can you imagine anything as gross as that? They won't come off completely, but will peel 1/2-2/3 of the way down and then hang up so that I can't get it off without it being really painful. It happened again today, even with gloves on, and I just about booted in the hay. Here I was, dripping in sweat, my stomach lurching, because half my fingernail was off. It didn't even hurt, I just felt it slip loose in my glove. I think that was worse. I think they're all going to do it, slowly, one by one. So much for my pretty hands.
I'll tell you a very funny story about today. Back in early spring, we decided we wanted chickens. Nick built a fantastic chicken coop and I bought 7 layers from the local hardware store and we ordered several more from our feed store. The early ones, of course, are nice and big and we were getting excited to hopefully see eggs in the nesting boxes. We all enjoy watching the chickens, feeding them, and picking them up and carrying them around. The Leghorns are really big and pretty aggressive, but are the easiest to catch and hold if you're looking to pick them up. I'm quite fond of them even though they're kind of mean to the other hens. I walked in the barn this morning and Liz was laughing hysterically. "There's something wrong with your white chickens!" Concerned, I walked out to the chicken coop to see them all scratching around doing what chickens do. Liz had followed me out, still giggling, and so I turned to her to ask what was wrong. Suddenly, I hear "cock-a-doodle-doooo!" You can't be serious. Huh? Goes to show you how much I know about chickens! We took the roosters! out of the hen house and decided they could free range. I don't have the heart to make soup out of Pickle and Cucumber (yes, that is their names) and Nick had no interest in making a meal out of them either. They happily stayed close and with any luck, they won't be fodder for some other animal and they'll keep us entertained in the barnyard instead of the coop. Good luck, boys!