Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy new year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Yeah, 2011, baby! A hopeful new year, with birds dropping dead out of the sky, fish turning belly-up in the rivers, insane shootings (I'm thinking of Tucson, where a 22-year old -- TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD -- shot 19 people! Isn't he supposed to be out having fun?) and who-knows-what-else around the corner!

Sorry, just a little black humor to get us going. I really AM hopeful for this year -- hopeful that it will be a year full of good work, good health and good fun!

(In photo, at left: Moi and Dylan on his 20th birthday, Dec. 26!)

Also in this new year I saw a front-page story in the newspaper about this new blood test that detects cancer cells better than any test we had been using -- it'll find one cancer cell among a billion healthy ones! Awesome. It's being tested now at the "big four" cancer centers in the U.S. -- Sloan-Kettering, M.D. Anderson, Mass General and Dana-Farber. I told my oncologist that if she gets her hands on it and she wants to try it out on somebody, just remember who her FAVORITE PATIENT is! (That would be me. Ha!)

Speaking of Dr. W-G, that's one thing she told me following my treatment. That the CEA blood test that's now used to monitor cancer patients (like me) won't detect cancer cells unless there are a significant number of them. It's useful, of course, but it ain't anywhere NEAR what this new test can do! And Johnson & Johnson, the drug manufacturer, is all ready to take this new test to market, as soon as the current studies are complete. (Using money from the "Stand Up to Cancer" campaign, BTW.) Awesome. Happy new year.

Anyway, I saw Dr. W-G last week and all is well. I'll call for the blood-test results manana. And I've got yet ANOTHER colonoscopy scheduled for Jan. 20 (I had one LAST January, too, and a year before that, as well!). I asked Dr. W-G how long I will have to have these annual colonoscopies and she said, "Until they don't find anything." OK, so they found one tiny polyp last year. Sigh. We'll see what happens this time.

So, happy new year to you! And don't worry -- 2011 will be totally awesome!

Until next time ...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December checkup, check!

So, Tuesday (a couple of days ago) I had a checkup with Dr. K, my surgery maintenance guy. I've been seeing him every three months, and now -- since it's been two years since my Jan. 5 surgery -- he's giving me a little more freedom. My next appointment with him will be in six months, and six months after that, etc. I totally LOVE these milestones! Hallelujah, baby!

Since I'm scheduled to see Dr. W-G, my oncologist, Jan. 13, Dr. K didn't do any lab work this time. Dr. W-G always checks the blood, so he thought we might as well just wait until then.

But everything's fine, which is always a relief. Even now. A friend who went through cancer treatment similar to mine recently asked me, "How long before you stop getting nervous about checkups?" I'm thinking "never." Another friend whose husband was treated successfully for cancer before me said he "generally likes the checkups more than he liked the chemo," which really puts it all in perspective!

But cancer, the "Big C," is serious business -- and usually a helluva wicked treatment -- so no one can blame us survivors for feeling the way we do.

It's truly wonderful, though, to be around to ring in another new year! I've promised myself I'll exercise more! Eat healthy! Get my fill of antioxidants! Learn yoga! Relax!

Happy 2011! What will YOU do this year?

Until next time ...

P.S. Thought I'd share a couple more iPhone photos from my trip to Florida last month. It sure would be nice to actually live there someday ...

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm baaaack ...

Sorry I've been away so long. Been busy. It's Christmastime. I work full time. My two young-adult children are sort of demanding. ("Mom, what are we doing for dinner?" "Mom, will you go shopping with me?" "Mom, there's nothing to eat in this house!" "Mom, I've gotta leave. Would you throw my clothes in the dryer?") You get the picture.

Am I ready for Christmas? Psychologically, yes. Have I finished shopping? No. (My plan is to finish tomorrow.) Have I wrapped anything? No. (I'm starting tomorrow.) Have I mailed my Christmas cards? No. (Tomorrow. I promise.) Have I baked even one cookie? No. (Tomorrow. Everything happens tomorrow.)

Even though I'm not finished with all the prep work, I'm enjoying the special get-togethers, the Christmas carols, the all-around holiday joy. It's cold, but heck, I'm still here, so I can handle the cold and snow and ice. Bring it, baby!

Of course, I say that so easily because (full disclosure) I ENJOYED FOUR DAYS IN FLORIDA in mid-November. Went down to help my Psycho Sister celebrate a "milestone" birthday (and no, I won't say which one, but does it really matter?) and I've gotta say -- it was SUNNY AND WARM EVERY DAY. Amazing. The Gulf water (and OK, the pool, too) were a tad cool, so we only swam in the pool once, but we visited FOUR DIFFERENT BEACHES IN FOUR DAYS. Wow. Heaven. (See photos.)

We had seafood strudel oceanside -- and seafood lasagna, of course! -- and shrimp and clam chowder, strolled the beach, picked up shells and sharks' teeth, drank some wine, played some cards, laughed some laughs and just enjoyed life.

(Thanks, once again, Linda and Bob, for your hospitality. It is truly appreciated.)

So, yes, I can get through this winter. I can even enjoy it! Same with Christmas. Bring it on!

Until next time ...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Never-ending birthday

My cancer was diagnosed when I was 54. As of last week, I have now reached the ripe old age of 57. I'm still cancer-free, as far as I know. This, my friends, is FABULOUS!

"The older, the better" is my new motto, and age, I'm tellin' ya, is truly a state of mind. How old do you feel? OK, that's your true age. Do not worry about the number because the higher it is, the more years you have to make a difference in this old world. So, rock on ... and on ... and on ... and on, brothers and sisters!

This year my birthday is rockin' on and on. It started on my birthday eve (Nov. 3), when my saintly sister treated me to lunch, the funniest b-day card ever, some dark chocolate and a Starbucks gift card. Then we browsed the U City "Loop" on a beautiful afternoon and she bought me yet another gift that we found in an offbeat shop: a beautiful scarf (see photo of Hannah and me, wearing said scarf and showing off cake!).

The next day (Nov. 4), my actual b-day, I got an awesome card from my co-workers with so many nice sentiments I think I'll keep it on my desk all year long so I can read it over and over! Then, when I got home from work, Hannah had baked me a chocolate cake and there were gifts from her and Jim: a bottle of cabernet, a balloon, a card, two stemless wine glasses and some perfume I'd been wanting. Then, dinner at Outback, then we all watched a rented movie that turned out to be pretty stressful -- "Frozen," the story of three friends who get stuck on a ski lift in a storm for days. No one knows they're there, they have no phone, and all these horrible things keep happening. Trust me. Stressful.

Then, on Friday (Nov. 5), Dylan drove home from Columbia, so the four of us went out to dinner again -- to Macaroni Grill! It was an extremely fun night!

Now I'm looking forward to Wednesday (Nov. 10), when I'm flying down to my home-away-from-home, Venice, Fla., to help my saintly Psycho Sister celebrate HER birthday -- and mine again, ha! I'm staying four glorious days and it had better be sunny!

So, yeah, life is definitely a beach and birthday celebrations never really have to end, do they?

Until next time ...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky stuff

It's Halloween -- and "Reformation Day," for you Lutherans -- so here's hoping you have a good one! I've had my pumpkin for a couple of weeks now, sitting on the front porch, and so far (I haven't checked today) no one's stolen it or smashed it in the street, so yay for crime-free Ballwin, Mo.! I'll be carving it later today, and putting in the candle, and getting the candy ready for the evening's spooky visitors. (And pouring a glass of wine for me.)

Hopefully, we'll have more than the FIVE kids we had last year ... (In previous years, we've had as many as 80! But lately the houses around mine don't participate -- instead, they turn their lights -- and hearts -- off. Sigh. So I guess that doesn't draw too many kids.)

Anyway, this year I am MAKING the trick-or-treaters tell me a joke (heck, WE had to do it when I was growing up!), but I will refrain from being a mean old witch. Instead, if they don't have a joke I'm going to GIVE them one that they can use all night, and maybe even next year! Here's a sample: "Why did the ghost go to the bar?" Answer: "To get BOOOOOZE!" Cute, huh? Or maybe it's too crude for little kids. Don't worry, I've got others. "Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?" Answer: "No, they eat their fingers separately!"

OK, OK, I'll keep my day job.

In keeping with the spirit of Halloween, I've been reading this sort of spooky book: Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms -- Who and What You See Before You Die, by David Kessler, who actually worked with Elisabeth Kubler Ross (no relation), the dying/grief expert.

In the book, Kessler interviews lots of people -- medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, as well as regular folks. All of them, however, have witnessed so-called "death-bed visions." That means they were in the room with a dying person who saw -- and conversed with -- a dead relative or friend. (Only the dying person can see and talk to this "vision." But those who have been there say this doesn't seem to be induced by drugs -- they were convinced the dying person actually saw one or more dead people. Right there. In the room.)

Often it's the dying person's deceased mother who comes to visit, and apparently accompany her child to heaven. After this experience, the dying person usually dies within hours or days. And they die happy because their dead loved one has reassured them that the afterlife is simply wonderful and death is nothing to fear. Wow.

Sometimes there's a whole roomful of dead people visiting. A friend told me that her dying grandmother saw her dead sister, mother, the friend's brother, and said "they brought the babies" -- this dying grandmother had lost three babies in infancy many years before. Whoa.

The author, Kessler, says he was in the room when his father was dying. His father had been depressed and sad about his situation until he had a visit from his dead wife -- Kessler's mother -- who transformed his demeanor "from a hopeless dying man with only death in front of him to a hopeful man who was going to be reunited with the love of his life." Kessler says these experiences challenge the idea that we die alone, and asks, "What if the journey at the end of life is not a lonely path into eternity, but rather an incredible reunion with those we have loved and lost?"

I'm really not obsessed with death. But I've gotta say, this book is a pretty fascinating look at life and death, and the things that are still a mystery to us.

Until next time ...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


So, what is my problem? Every time I have a check-up with one of my cancer doctors, I get all nervous about it. Like, days ahead of time.

Maybe it's normal for someone who had Stage 3 cancer like me, to never quite feel like they're out of the woods. For good.

Or, maybe I'm just a weenie who remembers what it was like every time I came to the Siteman Center for my chemo. It really wasn't horrible, but it wasn't exactly fun, either. It was something I had to do in order to enjoy the cancer-free days I'm enjoying now. (OK, full disclosure: Sometimes it was fun!)

But, whenever anything reminds me of it, I get this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I guess that feeling was with me for an entire year while I was going through chemo and radiation, surgery, and more chemo. The feeling that I don't know what lies ahead.

My husband, Jim, made a music CD for me back when I was going through treatment. At the time, I enjoyed it a lot. The other day I tried to listen to it in my car and it brought back all of the angst I felt back then. Very unsettling. I had to take it out of the CD player. Don't know if I'll ever listen to it again.

Anyway, all of this is to say that today I had a check-up with Dr. K, my cancer maintenance guy. Everything is fine, truly, but boy was I nervous! It's just that I'm enjoying the heck out of being "normal." And I don't want to go back to being a "cancer patient."

I asked him about curing cancer in someone like me. Does he have other patients who've made it long-term? He smiled and said, "Lots of them. Colorectal cancer is very curable." Ahh. Just what I wanted to hear, doc.

Until next time ...

P.S. I decided to post a photo of the scar on my wrist, just because.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Plates and screws (oh my!)

OK, it's actually just one metal plate, but several screws, that are now permanently implanted in my left wrist! (See cool photos of the X-rays with this blog post!)

So, yes, the cast and splint are off and now my two-inch scar is really visible on the wrist (see next blog update for THAT photo!) and it's really, um, not too attractive ... In fact, I wonder if salespeople and others who don't know me see that long red line on my wrist and think I tried to commit suicide or something ...

But the bone is healing and I've now been officially released by the surgeon and the rehab people with "no restrictions" (Note to self: Be careful for the rest of your life!) so things are finally getting back to normal.

Well, sort of. The wrist is still pretty weak -- even though I'm using it. But it will be months and months before it's as strong as it once was. And that's OK! Because I don't have cancer! (See previous post.)

Speaking of the Big C, my next check-up with Dr. K, the maintenance guy, is in mid-October. Meanwhile, I'm feeling fine and life is good, so no complaints!

Hope all is well your way, too!

Until next time ...