Reason #753 why I love my husband. Really.

Honey, I read what you wrote this morning and I really liked it.... now go fix your typos.

You know how sometimes one knows that they are EXACTLY where they are supposed to be???


finally comes to a screeching halt...

I'd been so good, at least on the outside. I told myself time and time again that I wouldn't succumb to the "what-ifs" this time around. I knew, since last Thursday, that someone out there knew the answers to my questions. Someone knew whether my life would be turned upside down again or whether my stay of execution would be extended. Someone knew whether the tears would be of happiness or of disappointment. That someone was not me.

So I waited. I waited through a weekend and through two days of work. I waited until I got in bed Tuesday night and Greg pulled me close and said, "It's all OK. I promise". How can one promise something like that? But he did. I wouldn't be the first time he knew something to be true before I did...I waited through our walk yesterday morning - for six miles I waited and didn't even mention it more than once. Or maybe twice. But who's counting at this point...

I waited on the way to the appointment, when my heart started to race and I held tightly to his comforting hand. I signed in, and asked the front desk person if I could see the scan - after all that waiting - and she said the doc hadn't signed off yet, so she couldn't let me see, or give me a copy, but that they would later. So, I waited. I waited on the way back, in the exam room, as the nurse Nancy took my blood pressure and heart rate which not surprisingly was a bit higher than normal. When I mentioned this, she said with a laugh, "of course its high - you're HERE." I responded that it probably also had something to do with the fact that I knew that scan results were clipped to that chart. She peeked, and said, "You can exhale now - it's a good one." The tears started to come, and Greg said, "See, I TOLD you. I promised it would be OK!" but still, I needed to wait and hear it from the doc himself.

He came bursting into the room after what seemed like half an hour (which was really probably closer to 10 minutes) and yes, he did burst into the room, waving the scan report. "GREAT, GREAT NEWS!!!" I actually, for the first time in eight years, got up and hugged him. He went over and emphatically shook Greg's hand, all the while saying that it was amazing. That I wouldn't see a better scan report anywhere in the world. That there was nothing. No evidence of cancer cells. No metabolic activity. Nothing.

He sat down on the examining table and talked with us for a while. He told us, repeatedly, how truly amazing this was, and that he wasn't blowing smoke or over-hyping his reaction. That it was really special, very unique, and that he rarely sees responses like this - ones he calls his "miracle patients". I can live with that moniker...

He told us how oncologists have to look at prognosis, and that there's a huge bell curve with the majority in the middle, but that every bell curve has a best case and worst case scenario, and I am by far on the best-case side. He said that it's patients like me who fall into this tiniest of segments. Ones with a strong will, a strong body, and a strong mind. Ones who take care of themselves, and keep active, and have a great support system. That if I was apathetic and overweight and didn't keep myself active, I would not have been where I was. Most importantly, that I had many years ahead of me. He said that all the additional factors that I have incorporated into my life and the fact that I am doing as well as I am is a success for him, because as an oncologist, this result embodies everything he believes in and works towards when treating a patient. In an occupation where one must see so many people declining at times, I can't help but think it must be somewhat uplifting and validating to have a miracle patient or two in the mix. Thank you, Dr. Cavalcant - I hope to continue being your miracle for many years to come...

So, we breathe deeply, we hike, we live, we love, and we look forward to those many more years ahead. I don't like to think of the fact that I flirted that closely with not being there at all, but suppose it's irrelevant since the fact of the matter is, I'm here, and I'll have plenty of hair in the Canyon this Christmas. Maybe we'll even hike to the river...

Tonight, tomorrow, each day - we celebrate life, not forgetting what we have overcome to get here. I know that living with Stage IV always charts an uncertain course, but right now I celebrate, I exhale, and I toast to life. I shyly hold up this victory as a beacon, in the hopes that someone somewhere will have hope, too. I am grateful for the efficacy of Herceptin and that we'll continue to happily do the campfire waltz with NED and not think about the day when he could choose to punch someone else's dance card. Most importantly of all I hug Greg tighter than ever because I know that so much of this success has to do with love and faith...

and I keep going - because it's what I do.

There are

two more days until my next PET scan. I've been so good, so far. Or so I think...

Then again, what I think might not always coincide with the impressions of the people that deal with me on a daily basis...

Two more sleeps until I wake up and head off to the machine first thing in the morning. I've been making sure to savor that one perfect moment in the morning when people start to stir in the bed and the tail starts to quietly thump against the floor and nothing in the world can touch us.

One more week (and a day) until I find out what the scan says and what lies in store and how much hair I'll have for Christmas. If I don't call ahead to find out what I know they will already know...

It's times like those that I keep replaying the voice in my head and the look in the eyes that told me, "You don't think I make reservations for next year to come back here alone, do you?" Of course not.

When I close my eyes and head up the trail or start to drift off to sleep at night and I think about what the scan will show, something in my heart tells me that this isn't the time for anything to return. Every now and then the fear of the unknown creeps silently in, often sneaking up on me when I am distracted, but I can't help but think that all will be clear once again. This next clear scan will get me through to the end of the year...

This year I get to walk 60 miles with hair on my head. This year I get to wrestle with curls and greys and ridiculousness rather than sweeping the hairs out of the sink that kept jumping ship. This year I have the choice whether or not to be anonymous if I want to. This year I might not want to.

This year I get to taste Thanksgiving dinner. This year I will be even more thankful than the one before for taste buds and health and family and friends and wine and music and dogs and love and faith. This year I will hope that nobody asks me what I'm thankful for, because I know I'm likely to cry.

This year I get to bundle up and hike into the canyon and fully enjoy that well-deserved beer after a day on the snowy trail. This year I get to savor the Paul Hobbs on Christmas Eve and have another moment to add to my cache of escapes to replay over and over in my mind.

This year I get to put another year behind me and continue facing future with whatever it will hold with the continuing knowledge that the castles in the air have the foundations under them that will allow us to take on even the unknown.

And thrive.

This year I will still always look forward to coming home at the end of the day. No matter what.

Bring on the noise, and keep it coming - God's got to be listening up there, somewhere. I've done my part, the best I know how, but I know my work is far from done...

Sometimes, something just gets you...

and even though you already know, you are reminded - once again - why you fought so damn hard to get here. Even though my style is typically along the lines Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots...I liked these words today.

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy, I
I will lift it for you

Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you, I
I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt
That you hide
When you’re lost inside, I
I’ll be there to find you

Don’t give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you I
I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

You are loved

Don’t give up
It's just the weight of the world

Don't give up
Everyone needs to be heard

You are loved

Wide eyed

Many of these entries are written in my mind along the trails. Many entries written in my mind never make it past the trails and into words.

This morning I realized that it was one year ago that we left for our Mt. Whitney trip. I left work the day before and told my boss,

"I'm off to conquer the world - one step at a time..."

And, conquer the world, I did. One step at a time.

As we all know, I could write volumes about the Whitney experience. One day I'll start to formulate the thoughts into words. Meanwhile, I smiled, as we came off the trail and prepared to cross the street over to the greenbelt this morning, because I thought of a photograph that Greg took on the top. I thought it was silly at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I smiled because even though it's not the best photo it managed to capture a split second of wide-eyed innocence and invincibility on film. Two days after my second round of chemo. Nearly 15,000 miles on top of the world.

Eight months, many infusions, and one surgery later that same expression was captured on film again. He somehow manages to see it each time.

Then again, I think he sees it far more often than it happens to be captured on film.

Yet, there she is. In the Canyon.

Still conquering the world, one step at at time...

Still full of hope. Still the wide-eyed eternal optimist, even when she gets skeptical, angry, or frustrated.

Still grateful for the love of my life, in my life.

Still determined to always keep buying green bananas - no matter how many times the blender needs to be replaced.

todavía estoy aquí (I am still here)

like a marred and tattered canvas - i stand
as if an unfortunate embodiment of an artist's satire
formerly known as youth and beauty

a road map of scars marks the long and winding roads of a journey
each one telling unspoken tales
and serving as a reminder of an uncertain future

the left breast - perfectly sized and eternally perky
nearly flawless but for the absent nipple
and the faded scar sweeping diagonally upwards

accompanied by tiny, nearly indiscernible circles
along the left side of the body where drains once existed
each mark whispering softly of a girl in her twenties

who had made mistakes - lost her way
and endeavored desperately to find meaning and hope
in what turned out to be the wrong places

the taut yet never impeccably flat abdomen seems a figment of the imagination
replaced by the still fresh marks left after removing traces of the demon
and the assurance of children never to be conceived

perpetual souvenirs of the ironically life-saving masses
that screamed for attention and started the whirlwind
that tested the body and soul once again

murmurs of a girl in the twilight of her thirties
who had taken the road less traveled still learning to heal scars deeper
than those able to be captured by a photograph or a paintbrush

untimely evolution of metabolism and elasticity
potentially unseen by observers
all too apparent to the soul that resides in the metamorphosis of the body

the alternate voice of these wordless tales spoken by the corporeal road map
tells of skin tougher than an ancient elephant's hide and
brass bound resolve to emerge the victor of each battle

only the closest observation exposes the eternal flame of hope
burning in the eyes that have seen more than they have ever wanted
sharing the quietly thunderous roar of faith and life and love with the willing beholder

Escapes of the mind

I'm reading this book, The Ice Man - Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer. It's like a train wreck. They warned me it would be - all who read it before me. Warned me that I wouldn't like it - that my heart is too "good". It's morbidly fascinating so far - but some of the things I read simply make me want to cry. They find that pit in my stomach of dread and uneasiness and amazement that such a diabolical person actually existed.

I have to put the book down for a time. I've reached the end of Part I anyhow and as I lay back on the bed and close my eyes, I know that I'd rather be driving home from work and getting ready to walk in the door and looking forward to our Monday Salad than here in Tucson, biding my time until I have to flip the switch back on and be who they want me to be for the rest of the night. Thankfully, this time, at least it's not the first time that many of these people have seen me so the need to catch everyone up on the past year of my life is somewhat alleviated. Somewhat.

I close my eyes and hear the sounds of the Astros-Cubs game. The sounds of baseball are comforting me, and I let my mind drift away to the places that keep me going.

I can hear the sound of the ground squirrels running up and down the deck while sitting on the porch of the Western Cabin at the North Rim. I can feel the wind whispering over us as we sit on the deck and look out at the vastness in front of us, seeing the bolts of lighting at the South Rim across the chasm, sipping wine in the cool summer air.

I can feel the stinging spray of the water at Havasupai Falls. The welcome respite after the ten-mile hike. I struggle to catch my breath as I swim into the current and am overtaken with emotion at the fact that I have managed to swim to the waterfall and am clinging to the slippery rocks behind its crashing strength in front of us. We had no idea what was growing inside.

I can hear the crackling of the twigs beneath my feet as the canopy of trees towers overhead on the Groom Trail. Watching the dogs happily running along ahead of us. Stopping to take a deep breath. To take a picture. Because we knew we'd need to visit that place in our minds in the weeks to come.

I can smell the wet branches that started the campfire and close my eyes and turn my head to avoid the embers as I fan the flames and will the fire to come alive once again. I sit back and see the clear sky above me and watch the sun slowly rise from the east where a planetarium of stars shined the night before.

I am on top of Mt. Whitney after scrambling over the last stretch of moon-like rocks. Feeling my heart skip a beat and the lump forming in my throat as the tears fill my eyes and I know that I am untouchable. At least for that frozen point in time.

My eyes are closed and I bask in that perfect moment, nestled in bed, wrapped in his arms. I can feel his breath on the back of my neck and the warmth of his arm encircling my body. Unmarred by the sounds and chaos and confusion and constraints of the computers and the phones and uncertainty in the world around us. Peacefulness, simplicity, hope, destiny, love, faith, honesty, friendship, and trust. Health, knowing, living, thriving, and being. Slowly stirring and smiling and knowing that there is no other place that I am supposed to be at exactly that moment in time. And that the moment in time will replay itself again... and again... and again in the days and weeks and months and years to come - so long as we believe.

I hear the announcers in the distance. Five shutout innings for Moulder.

I smile and know that I can open my eyes and get ready for the evening that will soon enough turn into morning and find me traveling back to where I belong. Back to where my heart lives. And our kitchen - that sometimes we dance in. And baseball and love.

Ever thankful for the escapes that my minds saves for the times I need them most and knowing that the days ahead hold more sights, sounds, smells, touches and emotions to create and store away in the most valuable of caches in my heart.