Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ups and Downs

Last night I was asked to walk a Survivor's Lap in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life of Kent. It is the survivors that start the relay for the participants. I was honored to be able to walk with all the other purple-shirt wearing survivors. The survivors come in all shapes and sizes. There are grandparents, teenagers and everything in between. There was even a beautiful little 2 year old girl who was diagnosed at 11 weeks of age.

I am glad that I was able to participate. It was uplifting to see all of the survivors and to know that people really can win the battle. It was also wonderful to see all of the teams who have invested so much time and effort into fundraising and who are willing to camp in the middle of a football field in order to show the degree to which they support cancer research.

When I was first diagnosed in May of last year, I had two friends who had been diagnosed before me. Marty Hauer and Michael Cranstoun. We were all diagnosed with different types of cancer, at different stages and with different treatment plans, but somehow I still had this mental image of the 3 of us in the fight against cancer together. Unfortunately, Marty lost his fight and passed away in June. He was a true hero and left a beautiful wife and two wonderful children behind. Last night at the Relay event, I saw his wife and daughter. It is only the second time that I have seen them since he passed away. Though I was thrilled to see them, I was extremely saddened by the fact that cancer took away one of the truly great people in the world.

I also saw Michael and his family there. His church has been extremely supportive of his journey and had a team of walkers at the event. Michael has a type of oral cancer that was completely unexpected. He does not have a family history of the disease and is not and has never been a tobacco user. He finished chemo and radiation just before I started last year and has been supportive and a good friend to me ever since.

I was happy to see Michael, his lovely wife and two great children there walking and helping to find a cure for cancer. I was saddened however to learn that what Michael suspected was a recurrence was confirmed. Not surprisingly, he has a range of emotions to go along with this diagnosis. I have a range of emotions for him as well; anger, fear, disbelief, but also hope, gratitude that he has such an amazing support system with his friends, family and church and maybe just a tiny bit of something close to relief. Not relief that his cancer has returned, but relief that someone finally diagnosed it correctly. It is never good to get a cancer diagnosis. But there is something to be said for knowing which dragon you must slay so you can properly prepare for the fight.

As darkness came last night, the participants lit luminarias that completely surrounded the field. Though it was a beautiful tribute to those who have lost their battle, those who have won their battle and those who continue to fight their battle, it was heartbreaking to have a visual reminder of how many people have had their lives in the balance because of cancer.

In the stands, the luminarias spelled out two words: HOPE and CURE. In memory of Marty, for Michael, for me and everyone else who is battling or has battled cancer, I will continue to hope for a cure. Maybe next year we can add another word....NOW.

I have included a link to Michael's blog to the left. I'm praying for you Michael.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28th Again

May 28th 2008. My husband drove me to the hospital. My parents were there when we arrived. It was their 25th wedding anniversary and instead of being out celebrating, they were at the hospital with me. There were two opposing emotions going on that day for me....fear and relief. I have never been so scared in my life as I was when I found out I had cancer. There was exactly 21 days between my diagnosis and my surgery to remove the tumor. They were by far, the worst 21 days of my life. The fear for me during those three weeks was something that was so heavy and real, I could feel it as a physical weight. It stopped me from being able to breathe and I had to constantly remind myself to do so. I had to be reminded to eat because I didn't recognize hunger anymore. I spent every minute of every day worrying about leaving my children and family behind. Cancer kills people-this was all I could think about.

When I found a surgeon that came highly recommended to me, I called his receptionist and literally coerced her into putting me on his surgery schedule even before I met him. I wanted it done as soon as possible. I did not want to give it a chance to move or spread. I wanted it gone. Luckily for me, this great surgeon met me and allowed me to keep the surgery date that I had already put my name on. That date was May 28th.

I was scared, but I was so relieved to be able to take some kind of action to keep it from killing me. I knew that I would have to recover from surgery, and I knew that I would then have to do chemo and then radiation and that none of it would be enjoyable. But I couldn't do any of that without taking that first scary step.

On May 28th I had a lumpectomy and had 4 lymph nodes removed. 4 cancer-free lymph nodes. That night I stayed in the hospital-a place not known for allowing a good night's sleep, but sleep I did. I knew that I had a tough road ahead, but I also knew that I had taken action and I was on my way.

Today I found myself at Swedish Hospital again. I had a pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon, the one who will even me out and give me back some of what was taken from me. I told her that today was my 1 year anniversary from my lumpectomy and that it was strange to be back at the very same hospital. She is a breast cancer survivor as well. She said that many people tell her that the day of their surgery was the worst day of their lives and she tells them they are wrong, it was actually one of the best days of their lives. She's right. May 28th 2008 was the day my life was saved. May 28th 2009 is the 365th day that I am thankful for it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lazy Days

When it is sunny in Seattle, there is nothing better. The sun has been shining for the last several days and we have been enjoying the long weekend. We have worked in the yard, barbecued wth friends, done a little shopping (gotta hit the holiday sales) and broken out the summer clothes. It has been a very carefree weekend.

Last year at this time, I had just taken my sister into emergency with kidney stones (she was 9 months pregnant with twins) and we were all worried about her health and the babies' health. I was also anxiously awaiting my lumpectomy. I remember not being able to enjoy the weekends at all leading up to my surgery because it felt like the only possible thing that could be happening on those days was that the cancer in my breast was growing by leaps and bounds. I could literally hear a tick, tick, tick in my head. A time bomb-that's what I was carrying around.

Last memorial day weekend was a soccer tournament for my daughter. I remember only one thing about that weekend and that was that my best friend Shannon drove from Portland and met me at the soccer fields so her daughter could spend a couple of days with us. I remember not knowing how to talk to her (a problem we have NEVER had) because there was so much to say and we were in a very public place. I knew that whatever words I said to her or she said to me were going to cause me to break down and cry which I didn't want to do on a day that should belong to my kids. Sadly, I do not remember one single thing about the soccer games-not who won, not who lost, not even if it was a good tournament----nothing.

One year later I am preparing to walk in the Seattle 3 day event and training every day. I am looking forward to my twin nieces first birthday (they were born on May 27-both small and premature, but perfectly healthy), my sister is fully recovered and I am preparing for another surgery. This one will be for reconstruction, mostly just making myself symetrical again and doing a little polishing up. While I was looking forward to last year's surgery, it was for a completely different reason. I wanted that cancer out of my body as quickly as possible. This time I am looking forward to the surgery for purely cosmetic reasons.

I am not taking for granted for one minute that I have the luxury of enjoying these lazy May days. I thank God I am able to do so and hope to enjoy many, many, many more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

PodCast Now Available

The Podcast from the radio interview for the 3 Day walk is available now by following the link. It is quite a large file so will take some time to download. The interview itself was about a half an hour.

I feel so high-tech!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Turn on the Radio

When I registered to do the Seattle 3 Day Walk I had the option of being an ambassador for the event. I checked the box and never thought anything else of it. This week, I got an email asking me if I would like to do a radio interview promoting the 3 day event.

I have never done a radio interview or any other type of public media interview, but what the heck....I have been putting my whole life out in the blogosphere for people to follow, it can't be that much different, right?

There is a group of radio stations here in Seattle that does an hour of Public Relations type content every week and for this week they wanted to focus on the Seattle 3 Day event.

I did the interview with another survivor who is also walking in the 3 day. It was good to have both of us there because we both have a different perspective. She has a family history of breast cancer, I do not. She was 29 when she was diagnosed, I was 43. She does not have children, I do. She has done the walk before, I have not.

Gary Shipe was the nice man who interviewed us and helped us to feel comfortable. He taped a full half an hour and filled the discussion with not only questions about the 3 day, but questions about the Susan G. Komen organization and our own cancer exeriences.

In the end, we not only were able to promote the walk and encourage participation in it, we were also able to talk about Breast cancer and why people should care about this cause. All of us who are walkers will be taking donations to raise money through September.

The show will air on May 17th 2009 at the following times:

KKNW 1150am at 5:00am
KIXI 880am at 5:30am
KWJZ 98.9FM at 6:00am
KQMV 925.5fm at 6:30am

There will be a podcast available once it airs and I will connect a link at that time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

1 Year Cancerversary

One year ago, on May 7th 2008 I heard these words, "You have cancer". To be honest, I don't remember a single word of the conversation besides those three. I had waited all day to hear the results of my biopsy and the later it got, the more convinced I became that it was bad news. I was right. That day and the day after and for many, many days after that, I heard that word in my head probably one thousand times. Cancer, cancer, cancer, you have cancer. I still hear it in my head every day, but it has slowed down to maybe 100 times per day instead of 1000. I'm sure it will be something that I think about every day for the rest of my life.

I'm not entirely sure when I am allowed to say that I am 1 year out. Is it the day I was diagnosed? The day of my surgery? The last day of chemo? Of Radiation? Is it a year from the first time I had a post treatment mammogram and was given the all clear?

I don't know the proper etiquette for cancer celebrations, but I will just toss etiquette to the wind and say Yippee! I am 1 year out from being diagnosed with Breast Cancer! Yay me! It feels good to be able to celebrate that milestone. In fact, I think I will just continue celebrating milestones when they come along. I think I will celebrate my 1 year cancerversary again on my surgery date, my last day of chemo date and anything else that feels like it deserves a celebration.

There are many who don't have the opportunity to celebrate one year, or five years or 10 years. I am grateful that I get to celebrate and grateful that I can be hopeful about a bright, shiny future with many, many celebrations.