A few years ago I made the decision to remove certain toxins from my life on my path to becoming healthy. Mentally, physically, emotionally. After years of neglecting the person I should have been paying more attention to, myself, I found myself struck with the stark realization that there were changes I needed to make, and the sooner the better. I somehow found the courage and strength to make the changes I needed to and take the first steps towards that glowing light of hope at the end of the tunnel that represented where I was headed. Since then, I've never questioned whether the choices I made were right as once my eyes were wide open, I couldn't help but wonder what had caused me to be stagnant in blindness for so long.

And now I have the knowledge that I can, and have, run 13 miles (or more). And now I know that I can hike to 14,497 without being affected by altitude sickness. And now I know that I can face one of my greatest fears, of the cancer returning, and feel confident in the fact that I'm going to beat this again, rather than spending my time wondering when it will take me.

I know what it's like to love and be loved without pretense and conditions. I know what it's like to have a healthy relationship and feel safe and protected. I know what it's like to receive news like we got and be able to wrap our arms around one another and let our tears intermingle as we allow ourselves to feel afraid for just a moment, all the while knowing that the fear will give way to strength and hope. I know what friendship is and how it feels to let people into my life and allow myself to trust. I know that there is a higher power up there, whatever form it may take for different people with different belief systems, that would not give me more than I can handle. I know.

I was talking to Alyson who recently broke the news to some mutual friends, people that I don't really talk to anymore for various reasons. I suppose I've always been wary of people trying to get back into my life now that they've "heard the news" because most of the time it's really more for them, than for me. I've come to the realization that in those types of occurences, the best thing someone could do is say a prayer and let it go.

Yet, every now and then the vapor of toxins appear in the distance which only re-confirm my confidence in where I am today. Today, I get to choose. I may not get to choose who hears what information, and I may not get to choose what they turn it into. I suppose this is part of the entry from the other day about living. People who have no idea will come to their own conclusions, and truly, who gives a shit. They want to write me off and give me a limited prognosis, go ahead. Just don't bother me with it. I get to choose who is allowed into my life and how much air-time I give to the rest of it, and I choose to let it end here.

At first when sensing toxins in the environment, I was thinking, I’d much rather live in my happy bubble than have to be dealing with this. Until I realized... holy crap. That the ‘happy bubble’ is actually my LIFE, rather than something I’m finding as a refuge in my mind. My bubble of my safe haven with the husband I wake up with every single day and friends and family and love and support and laughter and life and outdoors and the Booville Sluggers and minimal stress. Kinda cool, I think.

Because I know that even though there may be a handful of (dumb) hairs in the sink in the morning, that I still have a full head of hair. I also know that it may not be that way forever. So what. Can you believe that? Vain hair-head me, is saying SO freakin' what??? So I'm bald for a while. So I paint my head with Bengals stripes on any given Sunday. So the only person I truly care about how I appear to will still find me beautiful. So the chemo is working and it's a sign of life. So the hair grows back and I get to wrestle with it again.

Because I know how I feel on a daily basis and that I can still run, hike, walk, and go to the gym as before. Doesn't quite jive with prognosis negative now does it?

Because I know that I laugh more than I cry, exponentially.

Because Barb sent me a porcelain Wings of Hope butterfly ornament for no reason, with a picture <-- that said on the back , "Keep Thriving."

Because of the "believe" necklace hanging around my neck and because of the dozens of people who love me and who believe.

Because of the people who know my strength rather than selling me short and don't have a doubt in the world that this is merely an interruption.

Because if there is such a thing as a soulmate, I believe I've found one.
Most of all, because you just can't fake smiles like this.

It doesn't have to hurt to work...

Or at least that's what Dr. C told us yesterday. Week four, and even though it was a short treatment (Herceptin-only) day, it somehow stretched into the longest ever.

It started with a good run in the morning. Good, if you call 95 degree weather at 5:30 a.m. and 600% humidity "good". Then again, finishing a run, feeling strong, and not having to stop after 2 1/2 miles and use the bathroom because my body has just woken up and decides it just doesn't want to wait anymore, that's pretty damn good. Even if I do have to wring out my clothes when I get into the house. From the sweat, of course.

Then the backpack journalist from 12 News arrived. Promptly at 7:58 a.m. Damn good thing I listened to Greg for once and didn't jack around (too much) with the getting ready. My hair was flat (and still attached), my clothes were ironed, and my jewelery (including my Believe necklace from Aly and Jill) was in place. She stayed for about an hour and a half, interviewed both of us, and got footage of everything from the photos on our wall of trips we have taken and hikes we have hiked, to Nala's grey ass pointing at the camera while she adjusted her position on the couch during Greg's interview, footage of the dogs, the dog footprints after coming back in from the yard, Greg making a smoothie (not much for the audio at that point), and I'm sure some of the Miso-hair dust bunnies on the hardwood floor. Most of that, thankfully, will end up on the editing room floor, and hopefully they'll do a nice job and condense it down to 2 minutes of good stuff. Hopefully I don't look like too much of a dork, and they don't plug the Komen Race for the Cure more than they tell our story. Stay tuned... it should air on September 12.

Treatment was scheduled for 11:15, but included the bi-weekly visit with Dr. C. Which means we went back to the room for weigh, blood pressure, and heart rate around 11:35 and actually saw him closer to noon. Eh, ok. They told us he was running late when we got there.

He asked how I had been feeling, and how the side effects were, and joked "are you sure they are giving you stuff back there?" when we said I had little to no side effects and was pretty much going about business as usual. At that point I asked him if that meant it wasn't working. "It doesn't have to hurt to work," he said. Thank God. Keep bugging him. Apparently he's listening. Dr. C actually said that he was going to up my dosage a bit since he had some wiggle room and mentioned something about having treatments weekly as long as I could handle it, but it being OK if I needed to break for a week for some reason. This part we didn't quite understand at the time since I was coming in weekly anyhow even though the Taxotere was 3 on and 1 off, the Herceptin was still weekly. We soon found out that he had prescribed the Taxotere for that week as well, and assume he meant weekly Taxotere as well. I didn't take it yesterday since I had not taken the pre-meds the day before but when we see him in 3 weeks we can confirm with him if that indeed was what he meant. Meanwhile, from now on I'm up to 60 mg weekly from 50. Hey, whatever works.

So, back to the chemo room, which was pretty painless, except for the additional 30 minute wait in the waiting room and another 15 minutes or so figuring out the meds that were or weren't going to be given. All told, we finally got out of there, ridiculously hungry, around 2 p.m. So much for the quick day....

But wait, the best news! Dr. C did an exam, as he does each time we see him. As he felt the abdominal area he immediately told us that he thought he felt the masses had shrunk and that the bloating was greatly reduced. YA-FREAKIN-HOOO!! Looks like something is working in there! He made sure to let us know that it, of course, was just an opinion and we'd obviously get the concrete results after they stuff me back into a scanning machine (3 months, we're told) but that from his observations, they had decreased in size.

Being that these lump and bumps have been my obsession, and each time I get into bed at night I poke and prod at the general area, I had a feeling that they might have changed, and have noticed that my body seems to be regulating to whatever is going on in there. The bloating has gone down, by my estimation, and even though I've been eating normally, I seem to be back down nearly to my fighting weight (which, incidentally is a few pounds lower than Greg thinks my fighing weight should be). Either way, I'm feeling better about the somewhat disappearing waistline. It may be creeping back in and I don't feel 3 months pregnant anymore (which is a damn good thing because I would make a MISERABLE pregnant person - which is irrelevant).

It is ridiculous to say that it was a nice day yesterday? Who the hell says that chemo day is a nice day? Finally rid of Desert Oncology for the day, we had a much needed lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery, and headed home to find a basket from Larry & Jan of freshwater cucumber scented Bath & Body Works stuff (They spoil me. I don't know why, but they do. At least I won't eat this stuff...). We then proceeded to lay on the couch as I took my now-tradition, post-chemo nap. It's a strange phenomenon, this occurence of me actually allowing my body the time to just hang out and rest, even if I am feeling fine and not feeling like it's a necessity. What a concept. Dinner consisted of nibbling on spring rolls with Sriracha sauce, followed by fresh watermelon and sourdough pretzels. Yes, I know, there's no accounting for my taste buds these days, but it worked, I tell you, it just worked. We headed to bed early and snuggled in and had the opportunity to simply enjoy some time before drifitng off to sleep.

Chemo or no chemo, it was simply one of those days that I know I fell asleep with a big smile on my face. (Good thing, because Tuesday was just kind of "meh".)


I guess I forget sometimes what exactly I'm living with. I mean, there's not more than a few minutes that goes by that I forget, but on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis, I sometimes do. I don't *feel* like a cancer patient. I don't *feel* like someone who has gotten some kind of doom and gloom diagnosis. Mainly? I don't feel like anyone in the world has the right to say that I fit into any type of statistic or give me any type of prognosis as to how long this life of mine is going to last. Of course I know that statistics are based on a sampling of people that fall into a certain test study group. I also am well aware of the fact that aspects of my life put me into certain groups that studies have been done on. I'm intelligent, I'm educated, and I've been through this. What I think people don't realize at times is that medicine and technology are a dynamic, living, breathing, growing transformation. That two years can get me 10. That in 10 years, there may be a cure. That 10 years can turn into the 50 I'm looking for. Until then? There's not a chance in hell that I'm going to let someone tell me where I *won't* be, or where I *can't* be, or for that matter, what I *can't* do.

You want know what I can't do, according to what I "should" be doing? I can't hike 22 miles two days after a chemo treatment. I can't handle elevation without getting nauseous. I can't run 5 miles every other day. I can't possibly go to work as usual and keep up the same pace. Oh wait. Most people without cancer can't do that either. But wait...EFF-that. I just did.

One of the first times we were in the oncologist's office this time around, we read an article about the differences between early stage cancer and metastatic cancer patients, and how so many times, there is an enormous rift. Whether it's the fact that the metastatic patients represent the worst fears of the early stage "cured" patients, or that the early stage patients seemingly have it so much easier than the patients who are dealing with mets and multiple rounds of chemo, coupled with the fact that whether people are patients or not, cancer is scary as hell for everyone. I never realized there was such a divide.

The strange thing is, I see it even around me. Some friends are convinced that I beat this once, no problem. Pardon the interruption, I'll beat this again. Others are trying to wrap their thoughts around the fact that they think I now have a measurable timeline here in this world. Cancer is such a personal thing, and I find it fascinating that one person's story can range from incredibly inspiring and uplifing to unbearably painful to follow. Same person. Same story. Different perspectives digesting the same information.

I'm grateful for the ones that believe in me and know that I can beat this. The ones that see me as inspiring, rather than terrifying, because that's how I feel. I wish I could alleviate the fears of others, and perhaps this is my time to shine, to do some good to someone else. I can't really account for the ones that are scared of me, or of what I am going through, because cancer is a highly personal experience whether you are living with it, or just exposed to the reality that it exists. I suppose I just need to let people digest the information they have and the opinions they formulate about my condition or prognosis thereof on their own.

Me? Perhaps I'm the eternal optimist. Perhaps I know that there's a bigger plan for me than cutting this time short. Perhaps I know that if I spent precious time on the 'what if' I'd miss the now, because cancer or no cancer, there's not a single one of us that knows what the next day will bring.

Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.
It's still there. This is my new obsession. My hair. Actually, it's not all that new, but I seem to be more preoccupied with it these days which I know is directly related to the fact that I read that if it falls out, it will be within 2-3 weeks of the first treatment. This Wednesday marks three weeks since my first Taxotere infusion. The hair? It's still there.

Hair loss usually starts 2–3 weeks after the first dose of Taxotere, although it may occur earlier. Hair may be lost completely or may just thin. You may also have thinning and loss of eyelashes, eyebrows and other body hair. In one clinical study, hair loss was reported in up to 75.8 percent of people who took Taxotere.

Ok... so it it possible that I could be one of the 24.2%??? They also say that nausea and fatigue is common, but I haven't experienced any nausea whatsoever, and aside from being a little more tired at night sometimes, my energy level is pretty much normal. However... does this mean it's not working?

I suppose I could make myself insane if I chose to. I should probably choose not to.

Saturday I woke up certain that I was feeling some changes. I don't know if perhaps I slept on my head funny or something, but I just got this feeling that the hair was starting to go. Of course, after that, each hair that fell out (and I always lose hair daily, even pre-chemo) was a precursor to my thinking that the whole lot was going to blow off as soon as I walked outside and a strong wind blew. That would be a sight, huh? I'm starting to think it was phantom hair loss as it's now Monday and I still have a full head of hair.

You see dat hair? Yup. It's mine. All of it. Honestly, I think I am losing a bit more than usual, but I just don't know if it will all go. Stay tuned for that chapter.


You know, I would never go so far as to say that cancer coming into my life has been a blessing, but sometimes, life just works in strange ways. It was about three years ago around this time that I first remember having conversations with Greg, and it was in regards to the 3-Day that I decided to walk in 2004, by myself. He showed interest, and gave me a business card to send my information to, so that he could donate. The thing is, he really did donate. I'm not sure if that was the beginning of where we have gotten to now, but whatever the case, I wake up each day grateful for however it happened.

I know I first started falling in love with him through his writing. Finally, there was someone who could express himself in a similar manner as I did, and was impeccable with the spell-check (the little things that make one swoon). Over time, our written correspondence transformed into the living, breathing relationship that we have, although every now and then an email still sneaks in. He still continues to amaze me though, and I will always love reading his words.

He's taken so much pride in how I've been handling this whole situation, and his pride in me makes me proud, too. Unbeknownst to me, he sent this letter to a local news station yesterday:

Lin Sue,

I’m not sure if this is a story anywhere other than in my own world, but given your involvement with Komen for the Cure and Buddy Check 12, I thought it might hit home. My wife, Jen, was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago, and until a month or so ago, it had been in remission. We’ve now learned that it’s returned as Stage IV breast cancer, having metastasized to the liver and perhaps other organs as well. That’s really not much of a story, as over 200,000 women and men cope with this news every year. The story is the spirit of this woman, and how she refuses to let breast cancer knock her down. The title page of her blog reads, “Lace up you gloves,” and that’s a message that I want everyone who’s battling breast cancer (or any deadly disease) to hear. On August 10, two days after her second round of chemo, Jen climbed to the top of Mt. Whitney, at 14,497’, the highest mountain in the lower 48, and proudly held a banner that exclaimed, “CANCER SCHMANCER.” She’s not a woman dying of breast cancer, she’s a woman LIVING with breast cancer, and I think she has a message worth hearing, and a story worth telling.

In November, she’ll once again participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, walking 60 miles over three days to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Selfishly, I’d like to see her get some publicity in order for her to raise more funds to help find a cure. Unselfishly, with or without publicity, she’ll be out there walking anyway, as she knows she can make a difference. If you can find a story in here, give me a call, and we’ll talk further. I’d love for you to meet her.

Channel 12 is coming to the house to interview us next Wednesday...

Me, I'm just glad to wake up in the mornings and smile, and be thankful for the partner, companion, friend, and love by my side.
Ok, so maybe I'm a little sappy today...


Well, I don't know if I can call it *decadence*, per se, but I have been quite spoiled throughout this chemo thing. My brother and sister-in-law have been bringing by treats of some sort each Wednesday, so that they are waiting there when we come home. The first week was flowers, last week was See's candy, this week was homemade ice cream. (YUUUUM!) Maybe they're just trying to fatten me up...

And, if that weren't enough, our sweet friend Alice, who has decided she loves me
like her own daughter made us a huge pot of deliciously hearty vegetable soup accompanied with Arabic brrrrrrrrrrread. Alice is one of those people that you just have to know to appreciate - 60 years young with a mindset of a 30 year old, from Bethlehem, and even though she's been in the states for over 30 years, you'd never know it by the strength of her accent. Her typical call, usually to Greg's cell phone goes something like this:

"Hello Laaaaaaahve. This is Alice. How is our JenJen? (pronounced more like ZhenZhen) I laaahhve her. (I love her, too, Alice.) Ohhhh thanks you Gaaaahd that she is doing so well, your beautiful girl. You come pick up soup tonight, with Arabic brrrrrrrrrrrread. And fruits. I have fruits for you, too. You make sure JenJen eats lots of the frrrrrrrruits....."

And damn if that soup wasn't hearty and delicious. I haven't quite gotten to the frrrrrrrruits yet...

Round three...

The chemo bus was departing before I got a chance to put an entry in here yesterday. Typical fashion of me, I think I have all the time in the world at times. Even though we got there on time, early, as a matter of fact, it unfortunately took an hour past the scheduled appointment time for me to get hooked up and the drip running through my veins. I have no idea what they are thinking there with their scheduling tactics. I understand that these things take time, but it's not exactly where we want to be in the first place, and then, to make us wait for 45 minutes before even getting called back? There's GOT to be a better system. Greg gets so frustrated each time we are waiting there about the fact that it just says to him that the office doesn't respect the patients' time. Me? I get frustrated, too. I just want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

But, round three was uneventful. Uneventful is good. I still get a little sleepy from the Benadryl, but not nearly as bad as the first time, and nothing a nice afternoon nap doesn't cure. I've been lucky the past couple of weeks with regards to work. I've been able to do things from home, seeing as I have the laptop connected directly to my system. It's a nice thing to have, and as long as my work in the office isn't slipping, I suppose I can take the time to rest when I need to. Or even when I want to. What the heck is *that* concept about.

I watched the drip from the IV bag for a little while yesterday. Slowly dripping into the tubes that feed directly in my veins. Watching as the volume of liquid got lower, and willing it to heal me. Willing it to work its magic or medicine or technology and make this right again. Willing the advances that have been made in research to keep coming. Thinking about how 2 years can buy me 10, and 20. Fifty happy years. That's what I'm shooting for...

I think I deserve it, damnit.


While I was in the shower, and thinking - because the shower is a great place to do some uninterrupted thinking - I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that the last time I had chemo in 2000, I had the wonderful respite in the midst of it all of seeing all of my family and friends. Afterwards, however, I had a very difficult time with the last two AC treatments because after all that anticipation and being so surrounded by people, I had nothing to look forward to.

As I stood in the shower this morning, and reflected on our hike up Mt. Whitney and the days ahead of me, I found myself with a huge smile on my face (which probably looks pretty silly in the shower). What I realized is that this time around, I feel so completely different, because each and every day I have something to look forward to.

Pretty cool stuff.
On August 10, at exactly 11:44 AM, after ascending exactly 6132.61', (and two days after chemo), we reached the summit of Mt. Whitney under the bluest of blue skies. In spite of all of my recent treatments, we're pretty convinced that the best medicine I've received so far came at 14,497'.

When we reached the summit, after tears of celebration and accomplishment, Greg pulled out this sign he had made before we left (unbeknownst to me). Pretty much sums it up...

Whatever ends up taking me eventually, it sure as hell isn't going to be this cancer...

One step at a time

I left work yesterday and told my boss, "I'm off to conquer the world - one step at a time..."

I only have a few minutes before leaving for treatment #2 and the visit with Dr. Cavalcant. Then we're headed off to the great beyond... Mount Whitney.

Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise (whatever the hell that really means...) we'll be headed up that peak on Friday morning. I'm feeling great - we had a good run this morning - one of the shorter ones, about 5.35 miles, but I felt strong. Strong is good. Strong is confident. Strong is what I need to conquer the world.

Strong is what I need to sail through the next treatment and keep on going...

I'm going to do what I can, as much as I can without feeling nervous that I shouldn't be pushing myself more. I've made that promise, and I'm going to keep it. Hopefully I'll be taking my own picture of this sometime on Friday. If not, the mountain will always be there to come back to.

I've taken too much time, as usual, and the chemo bus is leaving... I look forward to telling stories from the other side...

So, Yoshimi?

I love the song, but the ending leaves a bit to be desired. I'm listening and then... that's it. Huh? But, wait! WTF? All of sudden, done. I don't know. Maybe she beat the robots and it was just over? But still, I mean, of course she's going to win, but the song could still have a better ending...


That's what the license plate on our XTerra says.

He ordered custom plates the last time our registration was up and wouldn't tell me what he had gotten on the plates, making me wait until they arrived in the mail. The license plate was inspired the following quote:

To survive is necessary; to thrive is elegant - Maya Angelou

He's always told me that I am his thriver.

We came out of the hospital on Thursday, the second day of the first week of treatment and found the following note under the windshield wiper:

I LOVE your license plate. Thanks for reminding all of us! A fellow survivor . Thriver!

Week one is now under my belt. My belt that seems to be growing in size. Damn that Taxotere and it's side effect of bloating. I feel enormous, even though the scale doesn't show that much of a difference. Gah. The trials and tribulations of life juxtaposed with chemo.

You'd never know, they say. I'm not sure if that will only last as long as my hair does though. That's one thing I'm just not looking forward to... the wonderful world of baldness. It's my hair. It's finally the longest it's been since it fell out the first time. Sure, it's a pain and I have to straighten it (by choice) daily if I want it to look the way I like it to, but it's MINE. Then again, so was my waistline...

Small potatoes though, in the grand scheme of things. So far, everything really has gone smoothly. I haven't had to take a day off from my normal running and hiking routine. Realistically, I know that if I do, it's ok, and it doesn't show a sign of weakness. Stubborn old mule that I am? I think I have something to prove, albeit only to myself most of all. As long as I can run, as long as I can hike, I can breathe, I can feel, I can sweat, I can keep going. Right??

Two days until we leave for Mt. Whitney. Four days until we hike to the top. Two days until round two of the Taxotere/Herceptin. 23 more weeks to go. Life as we now know it.

Pardon this interruption.

It was the 26th of July

and I heard the faint sounds of KBAQ in the distance as the alarm went off. He put his arms around me and pulled me close for the treasured morning "snooze" that I can't seem to live without. I lay awake, enjoying the nine minutes of solitude and warmth before we had to get out of bed and run. I heard the dogs starting to stir down below, and Miso, aware that her favorite time of day was approaching, answered our slightest move with small thumps of her tail against the wood floor. I breathed deeply, smiling, as I felt a soft kiss on the back of my neck and heard "I love you, pretty girl" as the sound of KBAQ came on again.

We had a great run that morning. The humidity coupled with the heat was oppressive, and the sweat poured off our bodies, but I felt strong. I remember crossing the second greenbelt and turning onto the trail, releasing Nala's leash so that she could run free, and feeling like I could run forever. (Or at least until we finished our six-mile loop.) I felt like I could conquer anything, it seemed, and we finally turned the corner and came to stop in front of our driveway.

It was the day before my 36th birthday, which seemed a bit foreign to me as I didn't feel anywhere close to 36. We were headed to the Mogollon Rim the next day for a wonderfully relaxing weekend of cool, clean air and mountains. Finally, over the past few years, I had found the space that I was supposed to be in. I now had a fantastic circle of friends, a great job, and the fortune to find, and marry, my One. You know, the One that most never know the feeling of knowing.

My name is Yoshimi.

Ok, it isn't really Yoshimi, but for those of you who know the song, I do have a battle ahead with the pink robots....

Those evil-natured robots
they're programmed to destroy us
she's gotta be strong to fight them
so she's taking lots of vitamins

'Cause she knows that it'd be tragic
if those evil robots win
I know she can beat them

Oh Yoshimi, they don't believe me
but you won't let those robots defeat me
Yoshimi, they don't believe me
but you won't let those robots eat me

The breast cancer that I thought I left behind in 2000 after a mastectomy and four rounds of AC has come back. However, as Greg said, maybe the devil we know is better than the devil we don't. I did this once, I can do it again - particularly since I'm new and improved this time around with all sorts of sources of strength, both internally and surrounding me.

I've just got to lace up my gloves and fight. This part is still not up for discussion.

And so begins this next chapter of our story...