Happy New Year

Who says the New Year has to go by the traditional Western calendar? I mean, sure, January 1st is January 1st, and the calendar year changes, but it's not that way everywhere. What about the solar calendar, the lunar calendar, and the lunisolar calendar - not to mention the Hebrew calendar, the Persian calendar, and the traditional Buddhist calendar. Then there is your fiscal calendar, your school calendar, your calendar of saints...

Me, I woke up this morning, kissed my sweet husband on the back of the neck and said, "Happy New Year." We had an amazing trip to San Diego this past weekend. By late afternoon on the first day we arrived, we were sitting on the patio of the condo we rented in the heart of the Gaslamp district, toasting to our Anniversary Eve Eve Eve and I made the comment, "OK, so this is the best vacation ever so far and we've only been here a couple of hours!" It just was... exhaling, exhilarating, and exciting to be alive. Full of laughter and drinks and ersters and baseball and singing along with duelling pianos and staying out too late and eating ridiculously decadent foods at ridiculously decadent hours. Brimming with love and thanks and hope for the future. And on more than one occasion, the comment, "Who has THIS much fun together??" was made. It's been one hell of a year.

A year full of hugeness. Of obstacles and accomplishments. Of learning and growing. Of tears of joy and tears of sadness. Of hope and of fear. From the top of Mt. Whitney to Havasupai Falls, this year encompassed it all. Yesterday, on our first anniversary, I struggled to find the words to describe it all. The truth is, I don't think I'll ever find the words.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau

That's the thing. It's not that I haven't had my struggles and insecurities, that we haven't had disagreements, or instances of miscommunication. It's not that we have seen eye to eye on everything, but beyond, beneath, surrounding it all is the foundation of the most incredible experience I have ever known and the realization that so many people go throughout their entire lives never experiencing something like this. I realize that I am one of the fortunate few in that regard, that he and I both are. And, in realizing that fact, one thing that I can strive for is to always fiercely protect it. And, that I will.

So, it seemed appropriate to me that I wished him a Happy New Year. And yes, I made resolutions, but they are mine alone, and I am the only one to know whether or not I have kept them. I think sometimes, holding yourself accountable is the hardest thing of all.

Someone reminded me today not to forget to pray during the good times, too. I have no idea what God's grand plan is for me, and I think I'll always have my challenges with accepting organized religion, but that is a topic for another time and place. What I have learned is that whatever form this higher power takes on, I have a feeling someone, something is listening. (thank you)

Or maybe, just maybe, Greg was right all along. Way back in late July he told me that he liked to picture the situation as being like that scene from It’s a Wonderful Life where the heavens were being bombarded with prayers for George Bailey, except the prayers from so many were being said about me. The way he had it figured, God was going to get so annoyed hearing about me that he’d go ahead and grant the requests being made in those prayers and get on with business as usual.

Keep the noise coming...

Dancing with NED

The first time we saw him, NED looked at us shyly from the doorway. I suppose it wasn't his time to come into the room. It was January 16, and we had come from a visit to Dr. C. that discussed the results of the surgery and the fact that I'd be on the Herceptin-only regimen for a while. Dr. C had shaken our hand, and was thrilled with the results, and said that we'd re-scan in a couple months. That day, NED peered his head in the door, and gave us a nod. He let us know he'd see us as soon as he could.

Three months passed. My hair grew, my strength returned, my confidence grew, the dark circles dissipated, and the time for another scan approached. I wrote about PFS, and tried to convince myself that this was my time to continue the respite. I tried, as hard as I could, not to think about the scan, because I knew that I had done whatever I could do, and if there was something in there, I couldn't pray it out, I couldn't run it out, I couldn't hike it out, or diet it out, or bargain with God to make it go away. Still, beneath all the laughter and the strength, I was terrified. The problem was that in that time, I let the fear take over some rational part of my mind, and cloud my judgement. All the while, laughing, and saying that I had no concerns. But I did. Thankfully, I find myself surrounded by friends and family who love and accept me, even when it seems difficult to.

Last Thursday was the scan, and although we got the report back on Monday evening, the true test was today, because we still had some questions. However, when the nurse, Sue, called on Monday evening and said, "you know it's good news if the nurse calls instead of the doctor," I still wanted to hear it from him. Today was the day.

Although I knew it would probably be a re-confirmation of good news, I still let a seed of doubt creep in on the way there. The lingering, fleeting thought of, "this really sucks." Thankfully, it passed shortly after it arrived.

I had seen the scene a hundred times in my mind, and there we were. Sitting, waiting, watching for the door to open and the doctor to come in. The door opened, and for the first time, I looked at his face, which was beaming. Dr. C shook our hands and let us know that the report was just fantastic. All we could have hoped for. There was nothing left... Nothing. NED burst into the room and gathered us into his arms, swirling around in a dance of victory. We listened to the doctor, and his impression that I was doing exceptionally well. Thriving. Much better than most people at this stage, and that he attributed a majority of that success to the type of person I am. Strong, healthy, fighter. He expressed to us, again, his opinion that it is so important to have a strong body, which feeds a strong mind, which goes back to the most primal cases of survival. The strong survive. The hopeful survive. The ones with the will to live are the ones that will fulfill that prophecy. Me? It's just not my time to go. He said, as much as he'd like to take some credit, part of it is really due to me, too. But yet, it's a victory for him, to have an exceptional case, and for a doctor, adds hope in a day, and to a profession that all too often, brings bad news. Not today, my friends. Today we dance with NED. And we re-scan in another few months.

We went back into the waiting room, and I was still a bit in awe of the fact that we had REALLY done it this time. Not a remaining liver spot. Not potential ascites. Not mystery masses in the abdomen. At times I felt like I was free-falling after not taking the chemo, because at least I knew then that even though it was killing the good cells, it was killing the bad cells too, so it was even more important to me that this scan have good results. This time, this time we really DID win. This time, we did it. This time, we dance with NED for as long as he'll have us.

As we were in the waiting room, waiting to head back to the chemo suite for my Herceptin treatment, a man walked into the office with a t-shirt that read
"God Answers Prayers"

All the times when I'm not sure where or if there is a God that hears me, all the times, I was unsure if I was doing this prayer thing correctly, I think this man walked in at the exact time he was supposed to. God Answers Prayers, indeed. I couldn't begin to thank everyone who has been offering them up on my behalf, but someone answered them.

Today? Today it's time for me to say a prayer of thanks. And one of hope. One of faith in medicine and in miracles. Like Barb told me, it's good to know there are some miracles left in this world. I just never thought I would be one of them.

Just show up.

"You know that ridiculous scan you have tomorrow?"
"Uh huh."
"Don't worry, God's got your back."
"How do you know?"
"I just do..."

Tomorrow is today, and I've done all I can do except for show up.

I still believe that when I hear the results next week, they will be just what I want them to be. I have played out the scene a hundred times in my mind. We're sitting in the room, waiting for the doctor to come in. I see him come in the door, and I can't bring myself to look at the expression on his face. In my mind, at least.

Reality? I still think this is my PFS time. Which will take me to Thanksgiving. Which will get me to Christmas. Which will bring me to the Grand Canyon and able to hike during that trip this year. Worst case scenario? I have umpteen options to get rid of whatever may be lingering, and keep living my life. Either way, we get to leave for San Diego the next day.

That right there, that's "yay" enough. I can't wait.

I know I've done all I can do, but I suppose it doesn't mean I won't keep praying. It's almost time for that shower...


I came across this quote in an article today. Ironically, it was just after returning from a glance at the mirror in the bathroom in which I noticed that my small hair is looking a bit wild these days.

In Margaret Cho’s “Beautiful” tour, she talks about recently being on a radio show and having the host ask her point-blank, live, on the air, “What if you woke up one day, and you were beautiful?” When asked, he defined beautiful as blonde, thin, large-breasted, a porno stereotype. Cho says, “Just think of what life is like for this poor guy. There’s beauty all around him in the world, and he can only see the most narrow definition of it."

In other worlds, Doug Davis pitched for the Diamondbacks last night. Although at times he's been a typically hard pitcher to watch, and his games tend to be longer than usual (which it was, but not due to Davis), I found myself getting a bit choked up as he walked off the field last night. I realize that thyroid cancer is very treatable, and has even been hailed as curable, but it's still cancer, nonetheless. There has been much debate about whether Bob Melvin should have let him have the two starts before his time off for surgery and whether it would have been better to let some of the younger pitchers start. Whether the decision was made from purely a best-for-the-team perspective as the younger guys still have some kinks to work out and experience to gain in AAA, or if some element of compassion entered the equation, I was still glad to see him out there. Out there, and pitching his heart out. Godspeed, Doug Davis. You'll be just fine...

PFS (puffs?)

I've been stressed about this upcoming scan. I've been bound and determined not to let it get in the way of my here and now, but beneath it all, behind the roadrunner, I've been stressed. I admit it. Until picked up the latest issue of Cure magazine the other day. As I was flipping through, I glanced at something that said "Progression-free Survival", and suddenly, it hit me. The upcoming scan is not a harbinger of possible impending doom, but a reminder that that's exactly where I am. PROGRESSION-FREE SURVIVAL. I know I won't know this for certain until the results of the scan are reported, but I'm now convinced that PFS is where I currently reside. We all know I'm not a fan of statistics, and perhaps this line of thinking is the same as Cafeteria Catholicism, but I looked at the facts that we do know. The chemo was working. Last we checked, the liver spots, save for one "cold" one, were gone. The surgery showed that all the cancer had been removed, save for the one spot on the liver that we assume is the same one as was there before. Without biopsying (is that a word?) the spot, there was no way to tell if it was active or dead, but it was the only one. However, the fluid that they removed, assuming that it was malignant ascites in conjunction with the liver metastases had NO evidence of malignant cells. Don't I sound medically knowledgeable?! Also, Herceptin is not exactly a placebo. It's a proven biologic therapy for my particular type of cancer AND, as a single agent, is indicated for treatment of HER2-over expressing breast cancer in patients who have received one or more chemotherapy regimens for metastatic disease. Uh huh, that's me. And lest I forget, as I was told months ago, "It doesn't have to hurt, to work." So there you have it. Puffs, it is!

Lately, I'm actually looking forward to this being confirmed, as there's a pretty good chance we'll be taking a couple of days off following, to celebrate our one year anniversary. A hell of a year it's been... and I can't think of anyone else in the world I would rather share the rest of the years with. (Good thing, huh?)

Meanwhile, the 2397 GMP is due this week and I have to review and modify the contract, the 2375 GMP is due next week, I should follow up on the 2379 GMP submitted last week, and who the hell knows about the status of 2388 at all. I probably should get my personal assessment completed so that I can get my review done that is now two months overdue. Somewhere along the line, my "measurable" goals turned into "stay alive and as strong as possible" over the last year.

What I do know is that I'm two for two in the major sporting event pools this year so far, thanks to the Giants and the Jayhawks. And that we ran 3 miles this morning. And that it's baseball season and we're going to the 2nd home game tonight. Perhaps this is a prophecy continued things to come...

LIVE from Desert Oncology... it's HERCEPTIN DAY!

Today we bring you a special report, LIVE from Desert Oncology. The commute was fairly uneventful, although 101L is backed up due to the construction of the new HOV lanes (or whatever is screwing up the traffic today). Today our guest stars include Andrea the Survivor, who is almost done with Herceptin and getting married in three weeks, and the one and only Stan, who we hope is doing better than last time. Stay tuned... we break for a commercial interruption brought to you by a chatty waiting room lady...

All plugged in and running...

The typing is excruciatingly slow this way though, as the IV halfway up my right arm has rendered that typing hand fairly useless. Oh well, special reports often include extenuating circumstances. So, the doc visit was uneventful, as anticipated. No news is good news, and I think I hear Stan approaching. Meanwhile, the doc chatted with me earlier about our Grand Canyon hike and told me that I was an inspiration and was getting him pumped up about hiking in the Superstitions while the wildflowers are still blooming. He asked if I had any questions and told me, as I suspected that it was time to SCHEDULE a scan, for about 2 1/2 weeks from now, and that he'd see me in 3 weeks with the results and the next Herceptin treatment. So, OK. A couple more weeks of ignorant bliss, followed what is sure to be cause for celebration. Right???

It was a one-stick day, with a beautifully cooperative vein. Thanks, Brenda Lee!

The Benadryl drip just started beeping. Time to change the bag and settle in for a long winter's nap. Or something like that. Andrea is already asleep. And here I am, no worse for the wear, and maybe not du...Benadryl brain. I just completely lost my train of thought. My blood pressure was a little high (for me), my blood counts were pretty good, even though, strangely, my WBC was a little low, and while I'm still a tiny girl in a big world, I choose to own it, today.

Back home on the couch and none worse for the wear, and I didn't even get to the newspaper or the book. It's a beautiful day outside, my Red Sox are on TV, and I'm going to lay here and do nothing for a while - like he always tells me to. It's not often that I listen, you know, but every now and then...

I realized yesterday that I haven't really posted any new photos without a hat lately. I found a great one this morning - or a least a pretty accurate representative of my new look. Enjoy.