Thursday, December 12, 2013

Letting Go.

It’s December.  Only a handful of days left until we start another year anew.  Before we crack open the champagne and kiss our significant other at that stroke of midnight that good ol’ Christmas craziness is taking place.   It started Thanksgiving evening and will not let up until that last present under the tree is unwrapped, the last of the nog gone and nary a crumb of cookies remains. Ah Christmas!

December is truly my favorite time of year – of course there is my birthday to celebrate (check – made it another year, whew!) – but there are parties and presents, holy nights for many; lights on trees, in windows, on homes, and in hearts. 

This year is a bit different, as my normally structured life has a bit of chaos in it, self induced, but still chaos; as Greg and I make the monumental permanent move out of our snug cabin in NJ.   Work is crazy but I am familiar with that.  A cherished family member is facing the beast of breast cancer and that makes me, well, it makes me ANGRY to be honest.  How many of us need to suffer through the war until we beat this thing???!!!

All that aside, the one thing that weighs heaviest on my heart this Christmas is the decision we have made to forgo our chase for a child.  Even typing those words brings me to tears.  My sincere apologies to anyone who reads this and learns of this news via my blog.  It has been too painful for me to even say aloud.  Faced with our agency’s decision to drop their China program, the already seven years we have been waiting along with the possibility of having to wait another five, or seven years, topped with arrival of my 46th birthday… we are letting it go.  Sure, there are other routes we could take but it means starting over.  Doing a fourth home study.  Starting a new waiting period.  Facing possible disappointment over and over. Becoming part of the “sandwich” generation as we navigate the uncharted waters of being sole caregivers for an elderly parent.  Again, we hold each other close and say, let it go. 

The email from the agency in Washington D.C. taking over from ours in NYC, requesting yet another check and piles of paperwork, sat in my inbox for weeks.  I could not bring myself to hit send on my reply until I realized my apathy could be preventing another family from receiving the attention it deserved.  Gathering up my strength I sent a terse reply with few words, which I admit I am not thrilled about but it was all I could muster.  I hit send, moved the original inquiry out of my inbox and walked away.

I thought I was all good with this new course our lives are following until along came Christmas.  As I filled my birthday weekend with all sorts of wacky holiday events like the Santa Speedo Run and the Brewster Breakwater Beach Polar Plunge, even the Jolly Jaunt,  I was hit with the realization as to why I live a life full constant motion, flying here, there and everywhere, running mile after mile.  As I took a deep breath and contemplated my 46 year old self in the mirror, I acknowledged how grateful I am for celebrating five years cancer free and part of the reason I do love my wacky life is that very fact – I am here today and healthy so, why the hell not be wacky?  What hit me was the other reason.  Perhaps I knew it all along but could not verbalize until now:  I need to move, to run and laugh a lot in order to fill that time that we planned on devoting to another.

We planned on a family; resorting to adoption only when our attempts with fertility docs didn’t pan out.  Thinking we always had that option to retry, grieving process number one occurred after my breast cancer diagnosis.  (It’s not a good idea to try to get pregnant when going through chemo…just sayin’) Grieving process number two occurred upon the second whisper of cancer necessitating the removal of all parts required for childbearing.  I figure this go around to be number three.

Sure, I try to think positive, I have my health, my family, employment and employer sponsored healthcare (I couldn’t resist!).  But at Christmas, more than any other time of the year, that yearning returns on high as toy commercials are played in an endless loop, holiday movies depicting families coming together in all sorts of fashions hit the screens and I receive holiday card after holiday card displaying the annual holiday photo of the children of my friends and family.  People, well intentioned of course, point out the perks of being childless, and I willingly admit there are a few, but this time of year I would be more than willing to forgo said perks just for that moment – to see the smiles and hear the exclamations of excitement that only the arrival of Santa Claus can bring to a cold December morning. 

Don’t think me a Grinch this year – we will be fine and make it through; in fact just these few paragraphs have been quite cathartic. I needed to get it out.  Deep breaths.  The winter solstice will soon be ending and more light will appear.  I will run with my dogs on the beach, I will hug my husband, embrace my friends and my family, and realize how full my life truly is.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 2013

Whoa!  October 7th?  All I can think of is the Talking Heads lyric, ..."and you may ask yourself, How did I get here"?

October is a month filled with much emotion for me.  This past Friday I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary - amazing!!!  Ten years since that fun filled night in West Dennis.  Upon seeing a wedding photo from that night, my cousin Kristen, (who somehow is now 22, a college graduate with a "real" job) commented on how young Greg and I look.  I of course noted to her that she was 12 years old at our wedding...

October is also breast cancer awareness month and the world goes pink.  This year had particular importance because once Halloween arrives, I'll be done with Tamoxifen.  Yes... five years of taking that little white pill every morning is over.  I am officially a survivor.  I have been saying that for five years but now its real.  Do I breathe easier?  A bit... Mammogram appointment still induce stress dreams (my recurring nightmare: my hair falls out, but this time for no apparent reason or the other is I am awaiting test results that never arrive) but overall I move forward and promise to fight for a cure as even though each day I get farther away from my war with cancer; so many are still waging the battle.

So where have I been or what have I been doing?  Well... July and August were blissful, sun drenched months full of fun and house guests here on the Cape.  September brought the sale of our NJ cabin, and we are gearing up for the big move.  Oh, I love that little house... I wish we could transport it up here.

We hosted a Labor Day soiree and met our neighbors, I attended Jess's wedding shower and bachelorette party and I now look forward to her wedding at the end of the month.  October brought more family visits- my cousin Kristen and my in-laws, Greg Sr. and Jean.  Two incredibly fun filled weekends! The weather was amazing and we enjoyed spending time with everyone!  Today I ran the Cranberry Half Marathon with my awesome running partner Laura and her friend Jen,  - it was Laura's first half and she rocked it!  (Much love to my girls for sporting pink during our 13.1 journey!)  Next up I have trips to San Francisco and Maine to look forward to along with the 2013 Oysterfest.

Each morning I try to acknowledge the gift that this life has given me: the sunrises and sunsets, the warm snuggles from my Labs, the daily laughs and hugs my husband gives me, the phone calls with family near and far, a walk on the beach, a morning run with a partner to distract me from the miles we cover...I could go on and on, but I will not. Instead I will move a bit closer into the hollow of my husband's neck and pull my beautiful boy Neo onto my lab while Brandy dozes nearby, reveling in the quiet joy this Sunday evening brings me.  Happy Autumn all!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ready to Bra Up!!!

Somehow I looked up and realized that it is practically the middle of July.  The 4th has come and go and the Cape is overrun with folks seeking relief from the heat or just from everyday life.  I love the buzz of the crowds but do need to remember to add a good 15-20 minutes to any travel I may need to do these days.

We have had friends come visit which we so enjoy and look forward to being busy entertaining the remaining weekends of the summer and into early fall.  Classes for my doctorate program are about to start and of course there is the normal "9 to 5" obligations we have so I guess it is not surprise that time it just literally flying by.

The positive aspect of this time travel is that in just a mere three months I can stop taking Tamoxifen.  Just like that, the crazy ride I have been on for the past five years will stop.  Yes, I will still get butterflies with every annual mammogram and yes I will still continue to not want to eat items microwaved in plastic containers (hey, you never know!) but the daily reminder of taking that pill will be removed from my life.  Aside from the scars I look at everyday but basically no longer notice my journey dealing with Stage IIB cancer should now be something I can refer to "back when I beat cancer".

However as I have said many times, my journey may be just about over but the fight continues.  As I sit and type, a dear friend holds onto the hope of a miracle for her sister who is currently in the last stages of an aggressive metasticized breast cancer.  With no treatment options left, all her family and friends (me included!) can do is pray.  And this makes me crazy.  Come on America, we can do better than this.  Perhaps we need to start at the basics by examining what we are doing to the food supply, the very items we put into and on our bodies.  Maybe we need to focus less on individual status and consider the greater good when we consider the delivery mechanisms for healthcare.  We need to unravel the mystery of cancer, better yet, we need to understand how to prevent it so that no one need have to worry about things like chemotherapy induced neuropathy, wearing a wig, and losing body parts.

As the war wages on, I vow to be a loyal soldier.  I will continue to be a vocal supporter of preventive screenings, of research for a cure, of fundraising to support such research and to provide care for those who cannot afford it.  That being said, this year I have decided to participate in the inaugural NYC Moonwalk.  My team, Real Superheroes Wear Pink Capes, and I will be walking 26.2 miles on July 20th in NYC at night.  Dressed in bras.  With thousand of others dressed in similar attire.  I can't wait! Won't you consider supporting our effort?
Real Superheroes Wear Pink Capes

Thursday, April 4, 2013

March Madness

Time travel would be a wonderful thing; if I was able to at least travel back and remember everything I did over the past six weeks I would probably find the time to have taken a moment to breathe, to reflect, to rejoice, to update my blog!!!

But then again -  while March was such a wonderful month, I prefer not to live in the past.  Now that I am FIVE YEARS CANCER FREE, how could I want to do anything but keep on moving???  Yessir, March started off great!  After visits with my radiologist, surgeon, oncologist and a lovely digital squeeze, I kicked the month off with the great news that I had hit the coveted five year mark.  I admit it was somewhat anti-climatic, I am not sure what I expected, maybe high fives, a little fanfare...but what I got was the shift to "annual" visits to all of my docs rather than bi-annual.  Since I am currently residing in MA, this actually is no small thing.  I still need a bone scan but those I will always need to monitor the impact of my treatment protocol.

So only a few more months of Tamoxifen and this chapter of my life will close.  I cannot stamp "The End" on this story because until there is a cure, I will continue to fight.  Too many friends have had to trod upon the same path I walked and it makes me sad and angry.  How is it that we can have things like the just this morning announced Apple TV "finger remote" or the ability to find the nearest happy hour in a city we may be visiting for vacation via a small handheld smartphone but we cannot rid the world of the beast that is breast cancer?  Uh, priorities people???  I will not even get on my soap box about how technology is making us lazy - that is an entirely different blog post!

March also brought a trip to Kleinfeld's where a BFF bought her dream dress.  A wonderful day of girly fun that my mom was also able to enjoy with me.  So great to be able to turn a trip filled with medical appointments into something fun.

I started "teaching" in March; I am currently facilitating a class for my alma mater, BU.  I have a totally newfound respect for teachers.  Grading my first round of papers was a major undertaking but I have so enjoyed working with the students.  While only facilitating, it is amazing the amount of time it takes... yes, another excuse for somehow losing track of the month of March.

March also brought Greg and I to Paris along with three of my besties who each brought along a teen.  A whirlwind weekend we had a blast seeing the city in the eyes of the kids who were so great and so funny.  I am not sure how my friends could possibly be old enough to have such mature children but I will say I was so proud of what wonderful people my friends have "created".  We were fortunate to visit the Louvre and view a the original painting for the 1977 Star Wars poster created by Greg's dad and uncle.  A true treat, the collection's owner and curator treated us like royalty and gave us a wonderful tour.  We ended our trip with a visit to the uber touristy Moulin Rouge where we all had a wonderful time.

In between all this good stuff we dealt with snow practically every weekend and I worried about having a "white Easter"but we had a lovely weekend of  coloring eggs with family, a visit to Beantown to spend time with more family and a great Easter Sunday.  Blessed I am indeed.

Suddenly it is April and there are many good things to come! Look for my next post about a great event being planned in NYC this July.  Check out  I'll be there, I am putting together a team, won't you join me???

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Starting to Stress

It is a normal Thursday evening here on the Cape; I am still seated in front of my laptop, the dogs are sleeping at my feet, I have music cranking and overall feel pretty good. starts.  My mind begins to wander as my eyes run across my calendar and see the big red star marking Friday March 1st.

March 1st, the start of a new month and for me, the beginning of "the end" - or so I hope.  March 1st is the day I return to the NYU Cancer Center for my mammogram.  This isn't just any mammogram, no sir, this is my 5 year cancer free (knock wood) mammogram!  Once again I'll let myself fall into the metal embrace of my digitalized lover and allow him to squeeze away.  While I have normally allowed myself to fret about each test/scan/scoping I have undergone since my diagnosis and treatment,  this milestone is to me the big one.  This is what I chanted to myself while seated in a the chemo suite..."five years...if we can make it through five years clean we should be golden..." and presto, here it is five years later.

Looking back over the past almost 1,825 days since I heard the words, "Sorry, the biopsy is positive, you have breast cancer", leaves me a bit dizzy.  I cried almost every night for weeks after diagnosis and again when chemo made me so tired but feeling so bad I couldn't sleep. I cried when I ranted at the heavens and of course asked the unanswerable questions: WHY? WHAT CAUSED THIS?  But then, suddenly chemo was over followed by the end of radiation.  My hair grew back.  I joined a dragonboat team, I went back to school.  I traveled, ran crazy races, and spent time with my friends and family.  I cried for each friend I lost to the beast and each new "sister" who joins the war.  When I sit back and reflect I realize I may have cried a lot but I have smiled, laughed, and loved with more awareness of everything around me, good and bad.  Which is why I am currently stressing over my March 1st date.

Yes, I know I have no control and the cards will play out as they are meant to be.  Whatever the outcome I'll be okay... I continue to think positive.  My mom will be with me so I have good moral support.  It's just another test.  I can do this.  I will do this and hope to soon be sharing "high-fives" with everyone for finally this part of the journey, the constant fear and worry, may finally move aside and I can just deal with all the lovely aspects of the aging process!  Bifocals and bridges?  Bring them on - badges of honor they will be; awarded for hanging around on this crazy but wonderful planet!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating Dr. King

Somehow it is already the third week of January.  It is a beautiful sunny but cold Monday here on the Cape.  The day is quiet, and not because of the Patriots' loss to the Ravens last night (well, maybe a bit of that IS the reason....) but more so I believe due to the holiday; the celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This year my company is open but our CEO sent out a note this morning asking to take time to reflect on the great work Dr. King did and noting next year we will have this day off as a holiday.  I do have to mention that Dr. King did his graduate work at Boston University, a fact my alma mater is quite proud of.

As I watch various social media sites this morning, I am struck but the vast number of quotes attributed to Dr. King and I cannot help but be humbled by the passion of this one man.  I admit it has caused me to stop and reflect a bit about myself.  What am I doing to make this world a better place?  Or what can I do?

So, I start with my acceptance to a doctoral program in Health Education.  Another degree?  More school?  Yes, many folks may think I am totally insane, even more so when they find out this degree is one being borne on my own dime.  However I really like school, always have.  I love learning, meeting new people via classmates, professors and administrators (Yes, even them!).  This wonderful country I call home is in need of folks who really want to make a change when it come to health care and its delivery.  I want to be part of that change and believe this degree is one of the foundation blocks I need to do so. I have a long road ahead before I am bestowed with the title of "Doctor" but I am ready to travel!

2013 will be a year of pushing the limits both mentally (new job, more school) and physically (Another Tough Mudder??? Oh yeah - there is that whole 5 year anniversary thing too!).  I finished the 2013 Disney Goofy Challenge last weekend. (That is a 1/2 marathon on Saturday followed by a full 26.2 on Sunday).  Crossed that off my list.  Still trying to maintain my meditation practice which was my "one new thing" for January.  I thought snowboarding might be my new thing for February but given our weather forecast, perhaps I will be crossing that off my January list.

I am adjusting to a new employer and a new living situation that takes me away from many people that I love and many things I take for granted (Target less than 5 miles from my house...).  In turn I am rewarded with beauty of the beach in winter and the stillness of the "off-season".  Every once in a while the stillness gets the best of me and I allow the bit of fear that creeps up my spine and into my head to pose the questions I prefer not to answer: What if my next mammogram is not clear?  What will I do if confronted with the word cancer once again?  Where would I seek treatment and what would that treatment be?

Taking a few deep breaths, I let the questions hang in the air in front of me and then I allow them to dissipate.  I do not know the answers and hope I never do have to find them.   I refocus, I embrace the day.  I remind myself that I cannot control everything and what will be, well, will be.  I think of my grandfather who just turned 90 years old and still makes me laugh with his quick wit and small jokes.  To me, he is someone who lives for the day and I can only hope to reach the milestone birthday he just celebrated.  Meanwhile I live my crazy life and will march onward and deal with whatever cards I am dealt but hey life, a couple of aces would not hurt!!!