Archive for October, 2011

Away We Go…
October 26, 2011

Medical appointments are now behind me. The endocrinologist appointment went very well. He said my numbers are excellent…no different than if I still had a normal healthy thyroid. So, the thyroid has absolutely nothing to do with the unexplained weight loss.

Mammogram…done. She tipped her hat and said that as far as she can see, nothing appears to have changed from a year ago. The radiologist still has to read it, but looks good! What a trip back down memory lane to be there, though.

Now…time to pack and  head west for the frozen tundra. Looks like a lotta lotta snow out there. Wheeeee!!

Later.

Moving On
October 23, 2011

Coming home from church today, it occurred to me…

I no longer feel like “Cancer Girl”. Perhaps for the first time in two years, I don’t feel like I am defined by my illness. Maybe it was the celebration of my 2 year Cancerversary last night…the celebration of survival and the saying goodby to the fear and uncertainty of the past two years.

Or, maybe it was joining in with a great group of people to serve lunch at church today, just like old times. We worked together, talked together and laughed together, with no thought of cancer or chemo.

I really believe that I am finally moving on. I realize that cancer will probably never be completely behind me. For example, this Wednesday, I have an appointment with my endocrinologist at 8:15 and a mammogram at Mercy at 9:30. But, immediately following, I will be packing and we will head for Colorado that afternoon. In fact, I am already working toward that goal. I wrapped gifts this afternoon (Ken, Sara and Tyler all have birthdays within a week of each other.) I am also getting one of my bags ready this afternoon and this week-end, I accomplished some of the baking I want to do for the trip. Baking? It’s been awhile since that was a part of my vocabulary.

I am finally moving on. I can’t explain it, but I do feel different today. I feel hopeful, I feel positive and I am excited…about the upcoming trip, about my future and about life. Thanks to all of you who have helped me to get to this point.

Later.

In Remembrance…
October 22, 2011

 

October 22, 2009 – October 22, 2011

In celebration of my 2nd Cancerversary

 

Chicken Oscar w/chopped shrimp and asparagus for two

Garlic roasted new potatoes

Bottle of fine French wine to share – served in pink-stemmed glasses

 

 

 

Come grow old with me…

the best is yet to be!

 

Later.

2nd Cancerversary
October 19, 2011

Two years ago this coming Saturday is a day that will forever live in my memory.

I had taken the day off work for some routine medical tests at Mercy as part of my new patient work-up for Dr. Lucke. I was scheduled for a bone density test, an x-ray, a mammogram and a colonoscopy.

By the end of that day I had joined the ranks of the more than 1 million people who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. They  had determined that before I had even finished all of my tests. Ken was told that I had cancer while I was waiting to be wheeled in for a colonoscopy. He had to then, turn around and break the news to me later that afternoon. The sedation they had given me for the colonoscopy left me basically asleep for hours. He woke me around 3:30 to tell me the news. We had to be back at Mercy at 4:00 to meet with the doctor.

Thus began the whirlwind of the unbelievable past two years…surgeries, emotional roller coasters, fears, treatments, pain, sickness, loss of hair, diagnostic procedures, uncertainties, and a host of other life-changing  experiences that I had not been expecting.  A cancer diagnosis immediately feels like a death sentence so, in a way, it seems strange that anyone would celebrate that day. Yet we do. Why? According to the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), “…from the moment of diagnosis and for the balance of life, an individual diagnosed with cancer is a survivor.”  The celebration is not about being diagnosed with cancer, it’s about surviving cancer. 

Here I am two years later, doing well. On my second Cancerversary we still have much ahead of us…seemingly perpetual uncertainty, some apprehension, additional diagnostic procedures, the unknown. But on Saturday, we will celebrate life…hope…healing. I have much to be thankful for – fabulous doctors, wonderfully supportive friends and family, life-saving medical advances and a husband who has been there every step of the way…including that first moment of terror. I will raise my glass to him and he to me. We will reflect on the past and plan for the future. Saturday, October 22, 2011…my second Cancerversary.

Later.

Plenty of Pink
October 16, 2011

As everyone knows, October is Brest Cancer Awareness month and the month that almost everything around us turns pink. Last night was a prime example as the Sioux City Musketeers celebrated their annual Pink in the Rink. The players wore pink, as did the coaches, the team management and most of the fans. Even the ice was pink. The Zamboni driver wore a pink tuxedo and feathers and I did my best to keep up with a pink jacket, pink feather boa, pink gloves (boa and gloves compliments of Michelle and Keisha) plus my Pink in the Rink t-shirt. It was my night to grab a piece of the spotlight again as the survivor selected to drop the puck at the beginning of the game as well as one of three selected to ride the Zamboni.

I have to admit that I am typically not passionate about pink and the whole idea of slapping pink on everything during October. But, it has certainly made pink synonymous with breast cancer and has made people very aware. Last night was certainly no exception. My neighbor, Barb Pieper, is a 5 year breast cancer survivor and a member of the local Susan G. Komen Board of Directors. She gave statistics on breast cancer between periods and also introduced a video from this year’s Race For the Cure. That video was of particular interest to my family because most of us were in it….even my stint in the scissor lift to celebrate The Cure. Barb had everyone in attendance who is currently battling the disease stand, followed by survivors, family and friends who have supported those people and health care providers who care for them. Everyone had received pink glow sticks and, with lights out, held them up in support of awareness and a cure. In addition to the awareness brought by the event, portions of ticket sales and a pink jersey auction added funds to the St. Luke’s Breast Imaging Center and Komen Siouxland. It was an evening filled with hope and healing . Those currently fighting the battle had the opportunity to see the many people who are now among the survivors.

And it was fun. It is one more thing in a growing list of experiences that I have been able to enjoy in spite of or maybe because of my cancer journey.

Hope you enjoy these glimpses into the spirit of life and hope that was celebrated at the Tyson Events Center last night.

Later.

Pink In the Rink
October 12, 2011

OK…received my t-shirt. Picked up my tickets. Still need to figure out some more pink stuff to wear, I guess. Other than that, I’m all set for “Pink In the Rink”. It’s the Sioux City Musketeers Hockey Game, this Saturday night at Tyson Events Center, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. $3 of every ticket purchased will go toward breast cancer awareness and education at St. Luke’s Imaging and Breast Screening Center and Susan G. Komen For the Cure® Siouxland affiliate. I have been asked to drop the puck at the beginning of the game and to ride the Zamboni between 2nd and 3rd periods. Please pray that I don’t fall on the ice and break my you know what. 🙂 Should be a fun night and I encourage all of you to come on down and support the cause. Could be a good laugh if nothing else. Will try to post pictures after the fact for those of you who are unable to make it. Pink in the Rink…Saturday, October 15, Tyson Events Center. See you there!

The Leaf
October 9, 2011

Ken was out trying to clean up the leaves in the yard yesterday and I was lying on the couch, sidelined by a malicious virus that has been calling the shots for the past several days. I heard the back door open and he came in calling my name. He said, “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy but I spotted this leaf and just had to bring it in. Don’t you think it’s awesome?”

It it the most brilliantly beautiful reddish-orange leaf I have ever seen. This photo doesn’t really do it justice. And NO…I don’t think he’s crazy. It occurs to me that there is a reason why this particular colorful leaf, was lying in the midst of all the dead brown leaves, just as he was there walking through them.

It proves that in the midst of all the tragedy, illness, death…the mayhem, as the tv commercial puts it, there is beauty. It is up to us to keep our eyes open to it and to claim it when we find it. That is what gives us balance in our lives. It is what maintains hope.

I have this leaf on my dining room table and every time I walk by it makes me smile…not just because it is a beautiful leaf, but because Ken took the time to bring it inside to share with me. Life is good.

Later.

Another Light Goes Out
October 6, 2011

It’s all over the news. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, has succumbed to cancer. Another light has gone out, thanks to cancer. It just goes to show that cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you are as famous as Michael Douglas, as athletic as Lance Armstrong, as talented as Sheryl Crow or as brilliant as Steve Jobs. It doesn’t matter if you are Jeannette Williams, John Williams, or Cathy Williams Stueve. Cancer doesn’t care.

Cancer is rampant. It seems like that fact comes home to us nearly every day. We all face the possibility of being touched by cancer, either ourselves or through someone we care about. To me, this means two things. We have to do whatever is within our means to help fight the battle against cancer. And, we have to take to heart the advice of Steve Jobs.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. ” Sobering, don’t you think. Hopefully most of us have come to terms with this without hearing it from Steve Jobs. But, what if we haven’t. Look inward. Dig deep. We are all here for a reason and it is up to us to discover what our purpose is and make sure that we are fulfilling it. We’re certainly not all going to have a shot at revolutionizing the technology of the world. But, thankfully, we don’t have to. Each part of the body has its own job to do. Likewise do we.

RIP, Steve Jobs.

Later.

Sound of Music
October 4, 2011

Today was my much anticipated consultation with the eye specialist. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that their clientele are pretty certainly all retirees. I say that with all respect and admit that I am a bit “seniory” myself, but I am not retired and was unequivacably the youngest person in the waiting room. I don’t know why I found that unsettling but I did. And, that was just the beginning of the “why am I here?”

It didn’t really take long to get called back and after a long conversation with the nurse regarding my medical history and a vision exam, I was given my first drops…these to enable her to measure the pressure in my eyes. These were followed by drops to dilate my eyes and later by numbing drops to make the exam a bit more comfortable. Then I moved to a room where they take pictures of the inner eye. She had to give me some additional drops to wet my eyes. Some of the chemo drugs I was on dried my eyes out terribly and that has never improved. I am no longer able to wear contacts because of it. Following that, I moved to a second waiting room until the doctor was able to see me.

It was in that waiting room that I again experienced the “why am I here?” I was listening to all of the people talking about how often they had to come in for injections in their eyes. Now, call me crazy, but this was not exactly the type of conversation I felt good about hearing. Oh my dear God was all I could think of. At that moment, I really started to feel disheartened…almost to the point of tears. In fact, I was feeling devastated. Was it possible that I was now going to join the ranks of those who show up regularlyat that office to receive injections in their eyes to try to slow down the loss of vision? Suddenly, a song from The Sound of Music popped into my head. It was from the scene where Maria is standing in the gazebo and singing about her good fortune in finding love which she voiced through the words “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” At that point, it occurred to me that somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something bad.

Just then my name was called. It was my turn to visit with the doctor. In the course of his exam, he had to add drops to my eyes three more times. They were just too dry to allow him to easily complete the exam. The photos they had taken earlier indicated and his exam confirmed that I do, indeed, have Macular Degeneration. But, I already knew that. One photo showed an area that was a red flag for possible swelling or fluid but he was unable to confirm one way or the other through the exam process. So he said I would need some sort of procedure, which I do not remember the name of, where they inject a flourescent substance into your vein and as it makes its way to the blood vessels in the eye, they photograph it. The tech, of course, had issues getting the needle into my vein, but, after several attempts managed to do so. She started taking the photos which caused such a bright light in my eyes it was really uncomfortable. Then, she had to stop two more times to add drops to my eyes. Once she finished, it was about another ten minutes before the doctor came in with the verdict.

From what he was able to see, there is currently no fluid in the eye. What a relief. However, it did show that I am at high risk for developing fluid and will have to monitor the situation very closely and constantly. Not great news, but it certainly could have been worse. And, my few “wah wah” moments came to an end as I recalled a promise I made to myself in October of 2009. I refuse to ever ask “why me” but will always strive to remember, “why not me?  For now and for the foreseeable future at least, I am here and I can see. I may have to hold things a little closer or tilt my head to bring things more into focus, but I can do that. Hallelujah. Bring on the next challenge.

Later.

October
October 2, 2011

I was writing some checks today when it hit me…it’s October again. In just 20 days I will celebrate my second Cancerversary. I can hardly believe it has been two years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Yet, so much has happened in those two years. I realize that in order to move forward you have to look ahead rather than behind. However, what has happened in my life during the past two years has had a profound impact on who I am today. I’m a very different person today than I was on October 22, 2009. That’s not a bad thing. But, while acknowledging my past, I truly am looking forward. It seems like there have been so many times since I finished chemo back in February, that I have thought this is it…I am now going to reach that point in my survivorship where I don’t live this on a daily basis and only show up at the Cancer Center for occasional follow-ups, etc. That point where this cancer journey will begin to dissolve into a part of my past. But, for whatever reason, I have just not been able to reach that point yet.

In looking forward, however, I have now scoped out the timeframe for when I may reach that point once and for all. There are just some hurdles I have to get over first.

Tuesday, October 4. – the day I meet with the Eye Specialist to hopefully discover why my eyesight is deteriorating so rapidly, and, even more hopefully, to find out what they are going to be able to do about it. I would just be kidding myself and you if I said that I am unconcerned about this. In fact, I’m more than concerned. I’m downright afraid. Need to get that behind me.

Saturday, October 15 – Pink in the Rink – Not a hurdle, just a milestone. That is the night of the Komen fundraiser at the Sioux City Musketeers hockey game and I have been invited to be one of the survivors who will ride around the ice on the zamboni.

Wednesday, October 26 – meet with the endocrinologist at the Dunes followed by a mammogram at Mercy. Following those appointments, we will offer ourselves a diversion. Ken’s fall break begins that day so we are planning to head to Colorado for a long week-end with our kids. It will also be our first chance to see our oldest grandson since last July. He is living with Kelli and Brett this year and knee deep in his senior year at Englewood High School. Looking forward to the trip.

November will bring a PET scan the week of the 21st to once again attempt to discover (or to rule out) the cause of the unexplained weight loss followed by visits to both my primary care physician and my oncologist on November 30. At that time, I will find out the results of the PET scan.

That, of course, is not factoring in any future eye appointments, but it looks to me like, by the holidays, I may well have hurdled everything in my path and may actually be on my way to finally being able to move forward. That is my hope, my prayer and my belief.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. But I don’t need a special month to be aware of it. For me, I’m looking for this October to be the beginning of the end of my acute cancer awareness. I’ll start with getting through Tuesday.

Later.