Celebrating the Little Things

When I started my cancer journey, I had heard of the phrase “cancer survivor” but I didn’t think the term applied to me at the time since I was going through treatment. I thought the clock started when you were cancer-free.

But I soon learned three things. First, that the term “cancer-free” is being replaced with “no evidence of disease” (NED). Second, that the survivorship clock starts when an individual is first diagnosed, not at NED. Third, that cancer survivorship continues on past treatment. I will always be a cancer survivor.

The National Cancer Institue defines a cancer survivor this way:

“An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.”

MD Anderson refers to the different stages of cancer survivorship as living with cancer, through cancer, and beyond cancer.

A cancer survivor that is past the treatment phase and has NED, may still have lingering physical effects of treatment such as fatigue or memory issues from treatment among other things.  Post-treatment emotional effects may include fear of recurrence, anxiety or a sense of gratitude to be alive.  These emotions can cycle through again and again.

My long-term physical effects are neuropathy in my hands and feet (a constant feeling of numbness, tingling and pain) which requires me to be selective in my choice of shoes (flat, cushioned and with good arch support).  If feet and hands are my only issue, these long-term physical effects are mild!

I cycle through some of the long-term emotional effects such as fear of recurrence on occasion but, mostly, I am extremely grateful to be here on the planet!  Whether you are a cancer survivor or not, each day is a gift as we are not promised tomorrow. All the more reason to celebrate the little things in life!

Thanks to all my friends, including my care team at MD Anderson, who supported me during treatment and beyond. You will never know what a difference you have made in my life.  I am so grateful for each of you!

Here is my blog post on this topic featured on MD Anderson’s Cancerwise blog:

After appendix cancer, celebrating the little things
June 14, 2016

 

 

 

Mommy-Daughter Cancer Checkup Vacation

When I was a kid, my mom and I would go on long walks with friends every Saturday in the Sierra Nevadas near Yosemite and often go camping. Or we would take road trips together to visit old friends in a different part of California, about 8 hours away from where we lived. We enjoyed these periods of time where we could hang out and just relax.

Fast forward to today, and it’s always a treat when my mom, who lives 1800 miles away, comes into town for a visit. These mommy-daughter visits typically include nice lunches, walks around the hike-and-bike trail with the dogs, and time spent with my kids, husband, and  friends.

But 2-3 times a year over the past four years, we’ve lined up our mommy-daughter “vacations” at MD Anderson for our respective cancer checkups, scheduling our CT scans back-to-back and spending a few days in Houston. We’re both blessed to be on relatively uneventful survivorship paths. Yes, we get together for fun trips as well, but the steady drumbeat of cancer checkups seems to dominate our visits. Continue reading

Gratitude

Today, November 30, 2014, is my FOURTH anniversary with NED (no evidence of disease) after my journey with appendiceal adenocarcinoma. I still find it miraculous to be on the planet.

Each year, the days leading up to Thanksgiving are especially reflective for me. Thanksgiving is when I definitely stop to take inventory of what I have and what I don’t have. No cancer! Continue reading

Clean Again

It has been confirmed that NED  (no evidence of disease) is still my friend after my latest visit to MD Anderson.  What a pal!

My mom’s follicular lymphoma is also stable so she does not need any treatment yet. Fantastic!

This is incredible news for both of us.

I’m wondering why I took so long to post about it (our visits were back in April). Life keeps throwing curve balls and I think blogging was low on the list of things to do.

I’ve also been a bit sensitive to shouting out good news (as crazy as that might seem) because a few friends have just been diagnosed with appendix cancer or are struggling through treatment or have relapsed.  It is difficult to make sense of it all.

 

Three Candles

Today (November 30) is my “new birthday.”  Three years ago today, I had a massive surgery at MD Anderson to remove the remaining cancer tumor (appendiceal adenocarcinoma) in my abdomen that six months of weekly chemo had reduced to a pulp.

None of the doctors were certain how the surgery would turn out but it went well.  I even escaped the need for the HIPEC and was declared to have “no evidence of disease (NED)!” Since then, my visits to MDA for checkup scans have moved from 3-month to 6-month intervals, giving me (and my family) peace of mind with each clean scan and NED result.   Continue reading

My “Deportation”

Good news!  My mom and I both had our check-ups last week at MD Anderson and both check-ups turned out well again. Whew.  For those keeping track, my mom went with the mocha-flavored barium smoothie and I stuck to my favorite. Berry.

Mom:  Even though she has quite a few involved lymph nodes, her low-grade B-cell follicular lymphoma does not appear to be progressing. Stable is good.

Me:  No tumors were found on CT scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvis and my tumor markers are in normal range. NED is still my friend. My Bard Power Port was removed.  Some friends are jokingly calling this my “deportation,” NOT to be confused with the currently highly-charged, politicized type.

I have mixed feelings about my port removal.  On one hand, the port was a not-so-pleasant reminder of my cancer and the chemicals injected into my body. On the other hand, it represented part of the very effective treatment plan used to kick my cancer.  I feel a little vulnerable now without it but I will adjust.

My mom and I have our next check-ups at MDA in October.

I am blessed once again to have one less thing to worry about.  At least that’s the idea.