A Season of Celebration

It’s January 8th, and most people are putting away their party hats, Christmas decorations, and New Year horns, but in my house, we are having a season of celebration.  Today is my 45th birthday and after the last few years I have come to the conclusion that EVERY Birthday is an honor deserving of celebration.  Today I get to be 45.  Lucky me.

 I know my posts have been few this year and I only seem to post when the news is good, but lately, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of it.  What a difference a few years make.  So here’s the brief update.

 In December, the much feared two year scan came and went and the news was excellent.

The precise report was “no incidence of recurrence”, “clear scan”.  This puts me in the “statistical cure” category and roughly (with a 2% margin of error) back into the general population for risk of disease.   Never loved being AVERAGE so much in my life.

 Moving forward, I hope to keep the wisdom that cancer imparts on those of us lucky enough to survive it, primarily that of appreciation, of those you love and love you, for health, and for the gift of each day.     I will try to maintain this blog and post when I learn of potential new therapies or patient advocacy opportunities that I hear about through my day job.  And look for news on my second annual half marathon to benefit the LLS Society–because the last one didn’t kill me and if I run two half marathons doesn’t it count as running a WHOLE marathon? 🙂

 Happy New Year to all.

Lessons from the Oncologist’s Office

Last week, I cleared my 5th scan.  Huzzah!  With this, I graduate from quarterly to twice yearly exams, and then next December, fingers crossed, my oncologist will give me my walking papers and I will become a happy statistic.  An official survivor.  With every happy scan I find myself breathing a little deeper, sleeping a little better, and thinking a little longer term.  I realized after this scan, for example, that my hair likely will have the time to grow long again, if I wish it.  A small and seemingly insignificant victory, but a visual and emotional bellwether for me about my long-term good health.

While waiting for the results in the doctor’s office, I met a women with triple negative breast cancer.  Also in remission, she has a slightly longer statistical cure date to wait for– five years.  Sitting there, among the other patients, all at least a decade older than both of us, we chatted about our shared experience with chemo hair (curly and not cute), the virtues of our doctor, whom we both adore, and the debilitating anxiety one feels in the weeks and days before a scan.  It brought to light for me the fact that the term survivor isn’t just about living through the physical ailment, but learning how to manage and live with the emotional scares cancer inevitably invokes.  Obviously, I’m a slow learner.   Of course this is why there are support groups and cancer therapists and anxiety drugs, but it has taken me 13 months since my last treatment to realize that, for me,  it might be the emotional aspect of cancer that is the hardest to cure.

And then it occurred to me that, because I’m healthy, I have the luxury of thinking about such things.  When you’re in the middle of treatment, the only thing you can focus on is the immediate needs of your physical self.  How great is it that I have the time to work on my emotional well-being?!  So I will continue to work through my new and only periodic anxiety, and hope that with time, these scars will remind me how truly lucky I am to have escaped cancer’s clutches.  I ran across this Chekhov quote while I was thinking all this through and it made me laugh:

Any idiot can face a crisis, it’s day to day living that wears you out.

 

Looking forward to wearing it out.

Happy Clear Scan Day!

Happy Clear Scan Day!

Happy Clear Scan Day!

As all people with cancer know the check up’s can be terrifying. Today, we cleared the 4th of 7 total quarterly scans. We celebrated with chocolate and champagne, what could be better! Look for fireworks in December 2013 when we complete our last scan, but for now, celebrate healthy days for everyone!

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Milestones

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  I’ve been enjoying my health and my life and am thrilled by the return of my energy!   With this in mind, and in honor of the fact there are several Fashion Weeks going on around the globe, I present my Fall 2012 what’s hot/not list:

In                                                                                 Out

Hair cuts                                                                     Wigs

Green smoothies                                                       Green skin

Weekend trips to NY/PHILLY/London               Weekend trips to the doctor

Two new schools for the girls                                 Two new doctors for Mommy

Running 15 miles a week                                         Running out of energy

Thinking about a new puppy                                  Feeling like a sick puppy

Cooking classes                                                          Chemo appointments

Kisses on the lips                                                       Purell

Web shopping for shoes                                           Web searching for treatments

Appreciating health                                                   Hoping for health

 

What a difference a year makes.  As we roll through the various anniversaries of my health crisis and recovery, I am grateful every day for my family, friends and the joys of my daily life.  I think I haven’t blogged lately as I am bored with the idea of being a recovering cancer victim and would like to join the “move on” movement!   But for the periodic scans required (which brings on periodic anxiety/trepidation) we, as a family, are feeling whole again.    So bring on the milestones, and with them the celebration of the little joys that healthy days bring.

Celebrating with Survivors!

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 25th Anniversary Leukemia and Lymphoma Society ball in Washington D.C. as a guest.    A few days prior to the event, I got a call from the Director of the organization asking if I would be willing to share my thoughts about my diagnosis and recovery in the form of a “spontaneous” interview.  “Of course,” I said.  At the time it did not occur to me that the event would be held in the convention center with a few thousand people in attendance.  In retrospect, it is good that I didn’t know as I would have, as my daughter says, “chickened out.” 

 ImageWhen the interview time came, a lovely women newscaster (whose name I cannot remember) interviewed me while standing amongst the audience.  It was fast and painless and actually very fun.  (See picture).  While there, I was able to speak with another survivor, a young man of 17, who beat Leukemia not once but twice, when he was 8, and then again when he was 10.  He is now a very young sophomore in college studying pre-med and is determined to become an oncologist.  He was SO inspiring.    The night ended with a live performance by Foreigner—yup they’re still around, and I knew every word!  Rock on. 

Nursing my way back to health

Today, I had my last radiation appointment.  Physically, I feel pretty tired but emotionally I am euphoric!  Treatment officially completed.  As I was rolling out of the CT scan tube with which I have a love/hate relationship, I started to cry and shout at the same time.  My nurse/technician (named Hope no-less), started to hoot and cry with me.  It was a great moment.

My husband came with me.  He is a superstar.   We brought cupcakes that the girls and I had made to give to all the nurses and medical staff who have been so kind to me these last weeks.  My nurses have been amazing.  In the past seven months, I have been tended to by no fewer than 30 of them—I wish I could remember all their names.  I have been overwhelmed by their support and nurturing and have benefitted greatly from the advice they’ve shared, including such pearls as how to buy a wig, how short hair works, best post-cancer yoga class, how to train for a marathon, how to make a vein pop out (okay, that’s not fun or crazy, but necessary), and how to make your doctor answer ALL your questions before he/she turns around and walks out of the room.

There is a shortage of nurses.  It is no wonder.  It is not for the meek of heart or stomach.  They see and take care of some ugly situations, yet rarely have I run into a nurse who hasn’t done it with a smile.  I’ve asked some of my nurses why they stay in such a difficult profession and, without exception, they all say that they wouldn’t trade it for anything.   I hope that the nurses who have helped me know how much I have benefitted from their choice.

One of the companies with which I have had the privilege of working, Johnson & Johnson, has helped with program to promote the value of nursing.  In it’s eighth year, “Discover Nursing” is a great way to get a better appreciation for the field.   From this patient to all nurses, thank you.

And You Stand

I’m not much for cheesy music.  Okay, I love cheesy music.  During the darkest moments last fall when I needed to chase away what Churchill called the “black dog,” I listened to a song that really helped turn it around for me.  It works for any number of challenges we all could have at any given time and should be on everyone’s playlist.  Thank you Rascal Flatts, you get me.

“ Stand”

 

An Eight Year Old’s Wisdom and the Gift of Hair

Because she is just like me, my eight year old has been fixated on my hair-loss.  Last week she asked me if she could donate her beautiful long brown hair (which she inherited from her dad) to make a wig for a child with cancer.    I am continually blown away by her depth and empathy.

So this weekend I researched Locks of Love and two lesser-known organizations, one called Beautiful Lengths, run by Pantene in partnership with the American Cancer Society, and another called Wigs for Kids, a non-profit based in Ohio.  All the organizations supply wigs to those who might not otherwise be able to afford them, but Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids supply the wigs free of charge.  Locks of Love, per their website, charges on a sliding scale.  We’ve decided to donate to Wigs for Kids, because as my eight year old said, “my hair didn’t cost me anything, so I don’t think anyone else should have to pay for it either.”  She likely will not be invited to speak at the Young Entrepreneurs Club, but I am so proud of her.

To read about these organizations, visit: http://www.livestrong.com/article/23544-donating-hair-cancer-patients/