Sunday, April 18, 2010

739 Days

With all the excitement occurring in my life these days: the whole health issue thing, a kitchen renovation, training for my first tri, the launch of my youngest brother Nick's first Facebook game,"Dumbville", the bear family taking up residence in our backyard, watching the volcano in Iceland and wondering how it may impact our upcoming trip overseas, the arrival of spring, planning for the Reach the Beach Relay, cheering on my cousin Lisa who is running the Boston Marathon tomorrow and my sister in-law's brother Andrew who is running his first half today, deciding how to honor Mother Earth this coming April 22nd, congratulating my cousin Michael on his completion of his Boston U. degree (how did I get this old?), looking forward to the summer shows of U2, Bon Jovi (yes, Jersey girl I am!), and the Dave Matthews Band not to mention the farewell a-ha show (and I bet you did not even realize they were still around!) - add in my job, seeing my family and spending time with my husband... is it any wonder that the 2 year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis and the launch of this blog passed by without a mention?

I was always told that days would begin to fly by even faster the older I got. Of course this was typically wisdom imparted to me during school break when I was running along the beaches of Cape Cod, spending long afternoons with my friends, or catching fireflies on a warm summer evening and I would inevitably scoff, "Whatever!", and continue running, hanging out, or pursuing the hunt. How true these words ring today.

I have learned to be more observant of the wonders of the world around me. I try my best to take time to reflect on the daily gifts I am given. Every evening I do my best to list in my head at least five things that occurred during my day that I am thankful for. And there are times, like this lovely Sunday morning, when I sit back and think that all this "navel gazing" is only causing me to see how quickly life changes and passes by. I begin to question why all that has occurred during the past two years - why has happened to me? I feel all of my 42 years and try to figure out the grand plan.

And then, I lace up my sneakers and head out to meet my brother for a long run around town. My shuffle has my favorite songs although since I have a running partner I may not even switch it on. The trees have new leaves and tulips are everywhere in a riot of reds, yellows, pinks and oranges. I remember that I get to run today. I get to appreciate the blue sky, the spring air, a chunk of time with my brother where we can talk about any and everything; I get to tackle that hill, to feel my calves ache and my lungs burn. It is another beautiful day I get to enjoy it - how lucky I am.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Going public

Okay, I have decided I need to go public with what is going on with me. Be warned - this may be a bit more information about me that you may be uncomfortable with but I was vocal about the need for mammograms and feel I need to be just as vocal about the need for pap tests.

Pap tests? Now, I bet you are wondering what the heck pap tests have to do with breast cancer. In my case, absolutely nothing and it is actually a cause for celebration. The past few weeks I have not been dealing with a recurrence of breast cancer. No, I have been dealing with another type - cervical. (Here is the too much information part....) The good news about this is it means my breast cancer has not spread - woo hoo! The bad news is I now face a total hysterectomy: uterus, ovaries, and cervix all to be removed. Ouch.

As most of you know - I have no plans on using these organs to have a family (that is an entirely different story!) but they are a part of me. I am already less one appendix and now will be down a few more body parts. Thankfully I have already entered menopause due to my chemo/tamoxifen combo so will not have to go through that on top things but I am somewhat attached to my organs - using them or not!

So here is what I figure - I'll weigh less; I will not have to worry about ovarian cancer which is what my maternal grandmother passed away from 20 years ago; and I'll gain a few more scars to add to my artillery cabinet when telling stories about myself; "What? Oh, that - I got that catching a tasty wave off the shores of Tahiti." Or something like that.

So anyway I advise all my female friends to get their Pap tests - they would not have caught this without my annual check -up. Sound familiar? That is why the timing is eerily the same as my breast cancer detection, I am a creature of habit when it comes to my annual exams. So for 2010 here is what I am dealing with:

Adenocarcinoma in Situ. Adenocarcinomas originate in glandular cells. This cancer tends to be more aggressive than the more common squamous carcinoma in situ. Some evidence suggests that it develops in numerous sites rather than a single location. Hysterectomy is generally recommended. In women who wish to retain fertility, cone biopsies may be performed, although this procedure sometimes causes sterility and it does not always remove all adenocarcinomas.

Looks like my procedure will be in June after my dragonboat competition in Canada and my traithlon on 6-19. It will require an inpatient stay and a decent recovery time. That is what I fear most - being told I can't do anything!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paddles Up!

Team SOS hit the water last night - our first practice for the 2010 season. The turn out was great; we even had a 2nd boat on the water. It was great to see so many women from last year - and to see them strong and healthy. SOS - "Save Our Sisters" is my dragonboat team and many of my teammates are cancer survivors. I have to say there is nothing quite like being in a boat full of women paddling silently (as Coach Eleen yells at us...) on a perfect spring evening; these women have been to the dark side and back - they get it.

The women on my team understand what is going on in my head as I await Wednesday's consultation with my doctor. These women know the fear, the feeling of helplessness, the agony of waiting. These women also know strength, courage, the importance of friends, family and an optimistic viewpoint. Sisters? Yes, I am proud to to call these women sister. I enjoy being part of a team and hearing the splash of 20 paddles hitting the water as the boat lifts and speeds along the water's top. I look forward to our races and hope to participate in as many as possible.

We are always happy to welcome new paddlers, so anyone with interest, let me know. I am hoping for gold in our races this year but as I left practice last night I thought to myself, " have already won - you are here tonight able to hit the water and feel the wind in you hair - no matter what Wednesday may bring, remember this moment." So, I hold on to the feeling of flying across the water as I await Wednesday's verdict and I hope for the best. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed, I head into the week...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wise words

Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don't have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up.

Amby Burfoot, The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Take Time to Smell the Flowers

I sit and type this morning with my kitchen windows open and listening to the birds gathering in the budding trees in my yard while in the background the sound of the swiftly moving water cascading over the nearby waterfall and hitting the rocks below acts as a natural stress reducer. Spring is here in NJ in all of its glory; warm days, cools nights, daffodils, tulips and forsythia abound. The sun stays in the sky longer and I have started to see the pale limbs of the masses emerge in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops as the heavy layers of winter have been packed away.

I have spent the past days recovering from my latest visit to the operating room of NYU Hospital. "Everything went well", says my doctor. "We will have results in a week." A week; seven days, 164 hours of waiting. Again. I am becoming extremely efficient at refocusing my anxiety. I have caught up on the 2010 Oscar nominated films for Best Movie - well, all but Avatar (Still hopeful to watch it on the big screen). I have read every comment friends and family have posted to Facebook or emailed or sent in a card. I have emptied my wardrobe of my winter wools and replaced it with the cotton and linens of spring.

I have spent the most amount of time taking slow walks around my yard and neighborhood and marveling at the resiliency of the fragile flowers that are blooming everywhere. Their simple beauty reminds me of the simple joys of life - warm sunshine, blue skies, and green grass under bare feet.

Two years ago I was waiting during this exact weekend to find out if I had breast cancer or not. (We all know how that turned out.) Back then I was so dazed and scared that spring came and went and I seem to have missed it, so focused on the fight I was facing. Not this time. I am still scared; I am unhappy that once again this body of mine is causing me angst even greater than how my derriere may look in a pair of jeans; and still stressed as I think about the future and what next steps may be in my treatment - yet, this time I am breathing deeply, I am sitting back and I am taking time to smell the flowers. Each day is a gift and there is no better wrapping than a fine spring morning. Happy Easter everyone - enjoy the day!