Third Cancerversary and More

Three years ago today, on February 5, 2010, I saw a 6.5 cm mass on the CT scan of my abdomen and knew that my life was suddenly changed.  Cancer.  No warning, no prep.  Just wham, down for the count.

The months of chemo, surgeries, sweat, tears and trips to Houston and the fantastic folks at MD Anderson are a blur from this vantage point. (I do have a 6-month check-up in April.)

Today, I’m much more at ease cancer-wise than at this time last year or two years ago.  I’m so very thankful to still be here!  I am a three-year cancer survivor.  There was a time that I didn’t think I’d be here to say that.

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So Much to Say

Where do I begin?

Good News

  • My little friend, Kethan, is doing well. He’s just going through the mind-numbing wait for his new bone marrow to grow and mature until his counts are higher and stable.  Going through the targeted gene therapy, chemo, radiation and then the bone marrow transplant process over the past five months has been no easy ordeal for Kethan and his family.  He is nothing short of one strong, amazing kid.
  • Last week, my mom and I had our four-month check-ups at MD Anderson.  I still have no evidence of disease (next month will be two years disease-free) and I have been moved out to a 6-month check-up schedule.  My mom’s low-grade b-cell follicular lymphoma is still stable.  Can’t get better than that.  We are both so thankful.

Not So Good News

  • My dad passed away this past April from a massive hemorrhagic stroke.  Losing my father was, and still is, painful.  But the experience left me with a gift.  Within days of his death, whatever baggage I may have been carrying around fell away.  With such clarity, I felt as if I fully understood who he was and the intention with which he lived his life.  I’m so thankful for the close relationship we built over the years.  My dad had a tremendous and profound effect on me. I miss him so much.
  • Two of my Appendilooza pals relapsed this past spring.  One brave Appendilooza pal underwent HIPEC in August and –  hooray – has no evidence of disease again. My other Appendilooza pal, Randy, is undergoing more chemo as his surgeon advised no surgery at this point. We are rooting for the chemo to shrink the tumors or at least hold them at bay!  These two relapses of close friends definitely threw me for a loop.


  • About a month ago, my long-dormant brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM) decided it was time to get some attention. After a morning swim, I had a small hemorrhage in my left frontal lobe where the AVM is located.  The bleed was so slight that I just thought it was fatigue from the work-out and drove myself home. But the effects were just setting in. I had some difficulty with word-finding and slight right-sided weakness in my arm and leg.  After an MRI showed the bleed, I spent a couple of days in the hospital for tests, observation and then was discharged with instructions to rest.  I slept for almost two weeks straight. Sleep is how the brain handles trauma and is needed for healing. Then two weeks ago, I came out of hibernation, regained most of my energy, my word-finding difficulty quickly resolved and I have full-use of my right side. Just a little residual weakness.  You almost wouldn’t know anything had happened. But it did. So now my doctors are exploring ways to prevent this from happening again.  Thank you for your help and prayers during this rough patch.

I am reminded, once again, that life is unpredictable. So my advice to you – go play, dance, hug and kiss the ones you love! And let them know everyday how much they mean to you.

National Cancer Survivors Day 2012

National Cancer Survivors Day 2012, held this past Sunday, June 3, is a Celebration of Life held throughout the U.S, Canada and other participating countries.  Survivors participate in an event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.

Who is a cancer survivor?  Anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of their life.

My family and I celebrated by spending the day with several families at our annual Lakefest!  We all had a great time playing with our kids, boating, swimming, hanging out, eating good BBQ and other scrumptious food thanks to our hosts.   On NCSD 2011, I had just finished my chemo treatment after surgery so I just spent time at the lake taking it easy and watching everyone have fun.  My what a difference a year makes!

Survivorship has meant even more to me this year. Watching my daughter graduate from elementary school and into middle school was extremely emotional for me.  Over the last year, watching her transform from a young girl Continue reading

Treatment-Free and Dancing Once Again

In my life with “NED,” I happily embrace every milestone I can get my hands on.  Birthdays, anniversaries — and yes, even my kids’ science projects — are candidates for funny hats and chocolate.

Today (belatedly), I’m cheering my one year anniversary of being treatment-free as of Saturday, March 24, 2012.

A year ago (March 24, 2011) I was unhooked from my chemo pump and set free to recover from the havoc wreaked on my body.  No more hours in a sea-foam green La-Z-Boy recliner with an IV pole decorated with bags of toxic chemicals hanging over me.  I had just finished three-months of post-surgery “just-in-case” chemo to kill any rogue cancer cells that might be floating around in my body after my unusually successful surgery to remove a second tumor.

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Good News Again!

My mom and I just got back from MD Anderson Cancer Center last night after our 4-month check-ups.    Good news –  my scans look clean again and my tumor markers are in normal range!  My non-mucinous colonic-type appendiceal adenocarninoma is still outta here. My mom’s very slow-growing low-grade B-cell follicular lymphoma is stable with no progression so there is no need for treatment yet. Great news for both of us! Continue reading

Upon Reflection

Amazed,  grateful and humbled are all words I used to describe my feelings after my November 30, 2010 surgery to remove the remains of my second non-mucinous colonic-type appendiceal adenocarcinoma tumor.  After this debulking surgery, I had no evidence of disease (NED) and a new chance at life.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am grateful for enjoying my first cancer-free year as of November 30, 2011.   So much to be thankful for, right?

But then I was blindsided by overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, pain and loneliness shortly after this first anniversary date.  I cried at the drop of a hat, wasn’t able to get anything ready for Christmas, and barely made it to my daughter’s piano recital for our duet.  To top it off, I couldn’t even go with the family to pick out the Christmas tree.  Instead, I was crying on the couch and feeling overwhelmed. Craziness!

The fact that I had a very brief breast cancer scare on the first anniversary of my life-changing surgery probably started the cascade of emotions that I was going to feel over the next month. Then a couple of appendix cancer folks passed away.  And then, ironically, I learned that the one-year anniversary was probably the main culprit.  I know the anniversary of a loved one’s death can be very difficult.  But the first anniversary of my renewed chance at life? What was there to be sad about?

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