What’s Your Color?

I promised myself I wouldn’t go there this year, yet here I am. I told myself I have to immerse myself in my own battle and not try to fight any others. Yet, here I am. I know I’m too tired to really fight effectively, but I will try. Someone has to.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and tans of the leaves and the gorgeous sunsets, all I see is pink. Bubble gum, Pepto-Bismol pink. The Ultimate Bengal Fan commented the other day that orange and pink should not be worn together, and this is the kid who would wear stripes and plaids.

It seems that cancer has been boiled down to a color. What color is your cancer? Are you pink, blue, teal, yellow, purple, green, white or some combination thereof. Are you saving the ta-tas or some other body part? A fellow teal sister on a Facebook group I’m a part of commented on the tasteless “Go Braless” campaign to promote breast cancer awareness. She thought we should go commando to bring awareness to gynecologic cancers. Actually, guys could join in with this as well. Prostate and testicular cancer are below the belt as well.

I think the people who come up with these “campaigns” mean well, but they don’t think things through. When you’re fighting for your life, you aren’t thinking pink, teal, purple or any other color. You’re trying to figure out when you can take your next anti-nausea pill. You’re trying to decide how you can hide the overwhelming fatigue from your family so they don’t worry. Some days you wonder how you’re going to haul your butt out of bed to go to the bathroom, then you hear some perky AM news host talk about how they’re painting the town pink with bras. Hey, I would gladly go braless, but as a former boss of mine used to say “You’ll take your eye out ” (I’m rather well endowed).

I’m tired of hearing about moms who have breast cancer and take care of their families. Lots of people with cancer go through therapy and take care of their families and never receive one bit of recognition. I certainly don’t blog about my journey for the recognition. Truth is that the vast majority of cancer patients deal with their families and some have to work to keep their insurance or a roof over their head. Those are the real heroes. The ones that go through treatment and keep life going. They should get a gold crown. They deserve the recognition. Not that the mom with breast cancer doesn’t – she does. She’s doing the toughest job imaginable while fighting cancer. She just shouldn’t be singled out when there are so many others who do the exact same thing.

Cancer isn’t a color. It’s a wretched disease that destroys your body, mind and spirit and leaves families shattered. If you’re lucky, like I am, you have an incredible support system that holds you close when you can’t do it on your own. I have a God who is immensely powerful to save and holds me close. I have friends who will gladly stay with my children so I can get my infusions. Yesterday I discovered that I am in need of fluids on the weeks I don’t get chemo. This means a 90 minute infusion of saline, along with some extra steroid and anti-nausea meds. My quick 45 minute trip has turned into a “3 hour tour.” Fortunately, the 3 hours I spend affords me a few days of actually feeling good before I descend back into the depths of feeling lousy.

It just seems wrong to try to limit cancer to a color. It’s as if tying a deadly disease to a color makes it less threatening. How can something pink or blue or yellow take lives every day? I guess it’s like a tiger in the wild. They are majestic to look at, but I certainly don’t want to meet one up close.

Fortunately, we’re about halfway through the “pink month.” Then we can get on with life again. Until then, I will politely decline when asked if I want to give to a another “pink ribbon” charity. I will explain that pink doesn’t represent all women’s cancers. And I will laugh at the lack of color coordination on the part of the NFL. Pink shoes with football uniforms just doesn’t do it for me. And don’t even get me started on how much of what’s raised actually goes to patients. That’s for another rant on another day.

The color of cancer is reflected in the eyes of every patient, male or female. It’s reflected in the color of their skin since cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. Cancer is the plague of the 21st century. The only color I want associated with it is whatever color the cure is. Then, I will proudly wear the color of cancer. The color that caused it’s demise.

Back Into the Deep

I

Have

Cancer

Again

And

I’m

Mad.

There I said it.  Still a survivor, but no longer in remission.  I am once again a prisoner of Dr. Downer.  My children are once again living in fear of losing their Mom.  My husband is once again playing Dad, Mom and chief cheerleader.  My mom has to go to the places no mom wants to go.  People cry, rail and scream.  Friends who’ve battled the beast deal with survivor guilt.  Yet, life goes on.

My cancer was found because I developed blood clots in my legs.  Apparently, some cancer survivors manifest a recurrence with blood clots if they have a history of them.  Being the over the top achiever that I am, I developed several clots which caused both legs to swell.  One swelled to the point of being non weight bearing and resembling a hoof more than a foot.  Every blood test pointed to everything being normal, except the clots were there.  When I went for a CT scan, I knew the cancer was back.  Don’t know how, I just knew.  Getting the news was a bit anti-climatic except that I was unable to get out of bed to take my walk (I was on bed rest).  There are several tiny (we’re talking millimeter) spots in the abdomen, lungs and liver.  Everybody wants to come to the party.

Before I go further, I know you all feel bad, but please understand I have more clarity at this moment than I’ve had for a long time.  Perhaps I’ve known that a recurrence was on the horizon on some level and now that it’s here I’m ready.  The kids are scared, but will be alright.  I’m alright.  Heck, no taxol this time.  I will have hair during chemo and we all know it’s all about the hair. In fact, I’m having teal streaks put in on Tuesday.

What it is about is living life and doing what God has planned for me.  This journey will be chronicled, just like the last one.  It WILL become a book.  In fact, I plan to look into starting to put it together soon and work on it while I’m getting chemo (chemo is BORING).  My beloved laptop will be my best friend as I once again enjoy the poisoning that only cancer can provide.

Okay, I have to say this.  Why is it called a chemo cocktail?  When i think of cocktails, I think of James Bond and having a good time, maybe a party.  Well, you do experience chemo with about 20 other people (not a bad size party) and it does come with a hangover, but that’s pushing it.  It’s certainly not a good time.  And while cocktails are expensive, chemo takes it to the extreme.

Ovarian cancer chemo incorporates platinum.  Does my cancer really need bling?  I know I have good taste, but does my cancer need to have such good taste too?  If I had bad taste, would it prefer lead?

So, here we go folks.  Everyone back into the pool.  I hope you’ll at least dip your toes in and read my musings.  I promise to keep the wit sharp, the story honest and give you a mix of laughter and tears.  I’m not going anywhere.  I have a lot of work to do.  I can still see myself on a stage making women laugh about the joys of bladder leakage, chemo fog and hot flashes.  I want to see cancer cured in my lifetime, so I’m sure I need to be here for at least 30 more years.  We all know how quickly the government works.  Better make that 50 more years.

Life’s a journey – enjoy the trip!

What I Learned from Cancer

I know, it’s been a while. And dear reader, I know you’ve been longing for my nuggets of wisdom (or lack thereof). It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that sometimes life gets in the way of my best intentions. I have been getting ready for school (both here at home and for Learning Tree (#best homeschool co-op EVER), vacationing with one of my dearest friends, and trying to generate some income writing.

However, with a new school year comes looking forward to learning new things. The Ultimate Bengal Fan is doing an in-depth study of American History and I love hearing what he’s learned. B-man is telling me all about Ohio History. All this learning at the homestead has me thinking about what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn on this journey called life.

A couple of days ago my Facebook account showed me my memories from past years. My post on August 23, 2012 went something like, “Visit to the GYN ended with finding out I have a cyst on my left ovary. Ultrasound next week. Nothing like 5 years of fertility drugs to give you side effects.” My post was my usual “Who me, worry?” I remember that day like it was yesterday. I sobbed for hours on end. I KNEW I had ovarian cancer. Don’t know how, but I did. My entry into the world of cancer was swift and painful. I’m still looking for a way out that doesn’t involve ceasing to be an active participant in this world.

I do realize, however, that cancer is a great teacher. Yes, that is a positive and seeing as there are so few, it does bear mentioning. I have learned a great many things; some about myself and some about others. All of them have shaped how I look at the world.

1. Cancer is a jealous lover. Remember the movie Fatal Attraction? Glenn Close played a creepy jilted lover. Cancer is a lot like that. It does not go way quietly. Trust me, there’s nothing quiet about chemo. From the beeping of the IV’s to the quiet moans of pain to railing at God and the universe, there’s no peace. And just when you think you’ve got a chance at staying in remission, it rears it’s ugly head like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and says, “I’m back!” No, mine’s not back, but I hold no illusions that I’ll be able to avoid this intruder for the rest of my life. When cancer wants to return, it will. And if it doesn’t, hooray for Dr. Downer.

2. Family is a relative term. Family is more than who you’re related too. My family of origin is relatively small. When I was diagnosed, my mom and cousin Ginny were really the only two people I spoke with. My husband’s immediate family is a bit larger. My mother-in-law made the 3-1/2 hour drive several times to help me after a chemo treatment and took me for fluids. However, there were other people who surrounded me and became as important as those who society would call my “family.” Momma Renie took me to an ultrasound, stayed with me when I got fluids and loved on my kids (and Mr. Dan helped out too), as well as dried a lot of tears. Sister Sue was there as was my niece Sarah to help out with transportation and child care, loving me as only a sister can. Second mom Kelley stepped up and loved on my children as only a mom can while I was at chemo. Coach Cathy quickly became my trusted confidant when I just couldn’t take one more infusion. While my BFF Denise only visited once, she made it count. She came a few weeks before Christmas and helped me bake cookies and put up the tree when she should have been doing that for her own family. My sister in teal, Lisa, whom I’ve never met except on Facebook, called several times with orders “Do NOT quit!” You don’t say no to Lisa. These people surrounded me and my family and loved us in a way that I still find incredible. God puts who we need in our life and they aren’t always a relative.

3. Laughter really is the best medicine. I love good humor (and the ice cream’s not bad either). In my opinion, my dad had the greatest sense of humor. Even now, I’ll say something and my DH says, “That’s a Budism.” There were a lot of days when I’d think of something my dad would day and would laugh (imagine a 6 year old singing “Walking in My Winter Underwear” to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and you’ll get the idea). My B-man is a natural comedian and it was healing to my soul. I learned that when life is crappy, find humor. Life probably won’t be any less crappy, but if you can make fun of it, it’s easier to get through.

4. You are always stronger than you think. I can’t tell you how many people tell me that I showed amazing courage during my illness. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me not to be any other way. I had two young sons who needed a mom and a husband who, despite being an incredibly gifted engineer, has a tough time keeping things rolling at home. They needed me. So I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you find a rhythm even if it’s just walking from the bed to the couch, while stopping to get a cup of coffee. It’s like Nike Just Do It! I think God will let me know when it’s time to stop. Until then, you fight like hell.

5. Life is full of choices, not all of which you can control. We all make choices every day. What to wear. What to eat for dinner. What time to go to bed. Those are easy. The hard ones aren’t as easy. The toughest choice I had to make was when Dr. Downer told me that he recommended two additional chemo treatments beyond the 6 initially prescribed. My DH and Mom were supportive, but Coach Cathy cried with me. I was all ready so beaten down. I chose to do number 7, but drew the line at number 8 when my body was so broken that another treatment would have landed me in the hospital. Dr. Downer ultimately decided number 8 was not an option given my body’s physical state, but I’m not sure what my decision would have been if it had been presented to me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make that choice, but lots of other teal sisters do every day. The choice of living while being poisoned or dying from the Beast doesn’t really seem like much of a choice.

6. God is always in the storm. I never felt closer to God than when I was battling cancer. Being in the pit, you decide to shun God and “punish” Him or hang on for dear life. There’s a song I love which goes something like this “Sometimes He calms the storm with the words ‘Peace, Be Still.’ He can, but it doesn’t mean He will. Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild. Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.” He calmed this child in ways I never thought possible. Yes I was nervous, but never afraid. God had this and I was just along for the ride. I vividly remember placing everything in His hands and walking away before my surgery. Unfortunately a few weeks after chemo ended, I snatched it all back. I need to remember that control is an illusion. How I chose to respond is what matters. That applies to everything, not just the Beast.

So I have, like my quote, begun to grasp that the unexpected happens. Courage, grace and humor go a long way to making life more tolerable. Those same attributes will help me as I continue on this journey and as I move onto my next. I am meeting with a dietician this week to get a definite weight loss plan in place. The weight has got to go. I got rid of cancer so now it’s time to get rid of the flab (vacation pictures can make you realize what you really look like). The Beast wants me to keep the fat. You know I hate listening to the Beast so the flab has got to go.

Here’s to lessons learned. May we never stop learning.

Fog as Thick as Peanut Butter

I’ve always loved Yukon Cornelius of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame. He was so blissfully ensconced in his search for silver and gold that he tended to be oblivious to what was going on around him. He came up with one of my favorite similes – “This fog’s as thick as peanut butter.” When Hermie (another great character) corrects him by saying, “You mean pea soup,” Yukon proudly tells him that he prefers his fog to be like peanut butter.

Today, my fog is as thick as peanut butter – chunky with low sugar (my personal favorite). Actually it’s been thick for a few weeks now, but today it’s beyond what I’ve experienced since chemo. I could write it off to stress. After all, my mom and the B-man both had surgery within a week of each other. While both are, thankfully, fine, stress wreaks havoc on my chemo addled brain. My stress tripled this morning when my hubby left for a conference in Las Vegas and a much deserved break from the madness at home.

I didn’t realize how much having my hubby gone would throw me until the boys and I headed out for church this morning. Since getting my smart phone two months ago, I’ve been able to feed my addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee every Sunday on my way to church. I have their app on my phone and can just tap and pay. I have no idea how I lived without this. But I digress. When we go to church, we have our route that swings us past Dunkin’ Donuts then up to church. Today, I tried to turn down the wrong road not once, but twice. What makes this even more frustrating is that it’s the same route I travel to go to our co-op. Fortunately, I did get my coffee and made it to church with 10 minutes to spare. God is good.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stay focused on anything else today. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to write this today. It’s not because I can’t find the words, although they are elusive today. It’s because I can’t stay focused long enough to actually explain it. My brain is like a pin ball and my skull is the table. Thoughts are banging against the walls racking up points, then missing the final flipper. Fortunately, some are being caught and are being flipped back into play. God help me if my brain decides to “TILT.”

This is the first time I’ve been “on my own” since ovarian cancer struck. Actually, the year I met the Beast was the last time Hubby went to this conference. I’ve asked him to not be so generous this time and leave the Beast in Las Vegas this time. I’m not in a big hurry to meet up with ovarian cancer again. Honey, if you read this while you’re there. I don’t need anything. REALLY! I’m good. No guilt. I’d much rather have more mulch for the landscaping. Honest!

I think not having the safety net of my hubby has thrown me. Granted The Ultimate Bengal Fan is now 12 and the B-man is 9. They do a great job of reminding me to do things. Actually, I think they enjoy it. They only remind me of the fun things. The Fan needed a haircut, but didn’t really want to waste his time getting one. He didn’t remind me. He did finally get one, when I was driving past Great Clips and saw their $5.99 special. It actually worked out better than I thought since it saved me $9.00. B never reminds me to make vegetables for dinner. Let’s not even talk about bedtime. They do remind me about promises to go out to lunch and pizza night. I guess it’s about priorities – theirs not mine.

Just when I was feeling like I was going to be smothered in peanut butter, I read a study that had been published in Great Britain. Apparently chemo brain is real (GASP – Really?). Chemo affects the brain’s ability to focus for more than just a brief period of time. You can no longer order your thoughts (as in putting them in order, not telling them what to do. Apparently I can no longer to either) and your mind drifts even when you think you’re on task. How crazy is that? I’m surprised I can type coherent sentences after reading that.

While the study does confirm what I knew to be true, it does seem to provide me with a sense of relief. I’m actually not crazy. I have a legitimate reason to forget things. I can play the cancer card without feeling like I’m duping people. While I hate to play the card, sometimes a girl’s gotta’ do what a girl’s gotta’ do. I rarely play it though. I tend to forget where I put it.

In the future, I will be using the GPS on that phone. I have a new purse with a special pocket just for it. Hopefully, it can find the closest Dunkin’ Donuts. Until then, hand me a spoon. I need to get through this fog.

Watching and Waiting

Standing on a road I didn’t plan, wondering how I got to where I am.  I want to believe in that still small voice.  I want to hear beyond the noise. – Plum, Need You Now

I am in that lovely place that no wants to be in  – watching and waiting.  You know the place.  It’s somewhere between “blown off” and “definitive.”  You may or may not have an illness or some other disease.  So the doctors call for “watchful waiting.” They test you at regular intervals with the expectation that at the end of a specific period you will have an answer – or not.

I’ve been in the “desert of the unknown” since September 5th.  That’s the day I found out that the unreliable CA125 decided to shoot up from a relatively low 8 to 21.4 in 11 short weeks.  I say unreliable since it’s affected by inflammation and isn’t the best indicator for some women for recurrence. In case you didn’t realize, EVERYTHING causes inflammation; allergies, stress, sprains, strains, foods.  The list goes on and on and on.

When I got my result, the nurse was reassuring.  Dr. Downer wasn’t too concerned since my recent CT showed NED (no evidence of disease).  He attributed the rise to inflammation.  His advice:  come in for my regular appointment, retest in 4 weeks and DON’T WORRY. Right.

I saw Dr. Downer this week.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I LOVE Dr. Downer.  He is, in my opinion, the best gynecological oncologist ever.  He handles my sarcasm for what it is; a warped sense of humor couched with fear.  He gets it.  He knows my brain goes into overdrive and races to the bad places that only The Beast can take you.  He takes the extra time to answer every question I have, even the stupid ones.  He lets me cry, rant, scream, question and run through every other emotion.  He also give great hugs.  His nickname is sarcastic.  When I was in chemo, it seemed that he only gave me bad news, while his PA, who I affectionately refer to here as The Lovely Liz, had good news.  It also keeps me out of trouble for mentioning him by name.  But I digress.

At my visit, I mentioned that while I knew I might need to bond with Dr. Downer again one day, I just wasn’t quite ready yet.  He told me that it would probably happen one day.  Ouch!  This was after he explained my watch and wait plan.  Get labs on 10/1, labs again in November.  Any jumps of 3 points or more for 2 consecutive tests mean a PET scan is in order.  A huge jump above normal (over 34) gets a PET scan. Otherwise it’s just pesky inflammation causing a blip in the testing.

I have spent a lot of time thinking and worrying.  I have a chemo plan set up – in my head anyway.  It will be on Wednesdays with my Angel in Blue so I can keep up with co-ops.  I have been blessed with an amazing support posse – Coach Cathy, Sista Sue, Other Mom Kelley, Miss Renie, Aunt Denise and Prayer Warrior Linda.  These women have been my constant source of encouragement and I love them with an unfailing love. My DH is straddling the line between fantasy and reality.  He has to.  Balance has to be maintained in our relationship.  I have shared the news with Mr. B and the Ultimate Bengal Fan.  I hate that they might get sucked back into my private hell.  Moms are supposed to keep their kids safe from monsters.  How can I protect them from The Beast?

I am withdrawing.  My Coach has called me out twice on this.  She’s figured out when I put on the happy face. Mom Kelley has wiped away tears when they just won’t stop.  There is no oasis in this no man’s land.  My tree is no where to be found.  I’m like the nomad the Ultimate Bengal Fan is learning about.  Nightmares haunt my sleep.  Every ache and pain is accompanied by irrational thoughts.  Thus my house is less than sparkling.

I wish I was one of those people who forgot about food and cleaned incessantly when stressed.  Instead I eat anything that might remotely look like it could be dipped, enhanced or mistaken for chocolate. I spend time playing games on my Kindle.  I struggle to write a coherent sentence.  I’m scared, but afraid to acknowledge it.  If I acknowledge it, it might be real.  Let’s face it, reality tends to be overrated.

If you need me, I’ll be chasing my friend NED around no man’s land.  I’m the one  with a large mocha in one hand and Russian dark chocolate in the other.  A girl needs to keep her energy up while jumping to conclusions.

March Madness

I have a love/hate relationship with March.  The B man’s birthday is March 14th and is, of course, prime party time at the Giess household.  The fact that there are 3 other family birthdays in there just add to the festivities.  My mother-in-law’s is the 1st, my oldest niece’s is the 9th and my brother-in-law’s is the 29th.  It’s just one big party.  It’s also the time we start planning for our next homeschool year by working on schedules.  On the flip side, I begin to go into panic mode about what I may NOT get done in school.

I hate March because my oldest becomes OBSESSED with March madness.  I don’t like basketball to begin with so bracket madness just drives me up the wall.  Having a sports obsessed son is tough for a mom who believes the only sport worth spending any time on is football, although I love watching B to play soccer.  I also hate March because John and I both lost our dads in March.  It’s been 5 years for John and will be 8 for me at the end of the month.  It’s a tough time for both of us and makes us think about our own mortality.  We’ve both been mad at God, yet realize it was His love that took away their suffering.  My biggest hate has to do with my last chemo treatment, which was March 15, 2013.

Now, you would think that would be a reason to celebrate.  Woo-hoo – ditch the chemo and bring on the hair.  To some extent, that’s true.  However, it was my last chemo treatment that pushed my battered body over the edge.  It was the last treatment that gave me permanent neuropathy and pushed the bones into osteopenia.  It killed the last of the good brain cells.  It exhausted me.  And I’m still waiting for my body to decide to revert in some way, shape or form to its presurgical levels.

Tomorrow I have my one year CA-125 test, then I see the oncologist the next day.  I am one year into my two year quarterly dance with the oncologist.  For some reason, I feel a bit complacent this time.  It could be that I’m exhausted after an extremely busy weekend or maybe I’m just getting used to the ups and downs of the stress of OVCA.  Or maybe I’m just tired of waiting for the time bomb to go off.  If it wants to, it will and my spending one extra iota of effort on it will get me nowhere.

Tuesday will be the first time John has not attended an oncologist’s visit with me, which may indicate a touch of madness on my part.  I want to see if I can do this on my own. Since my CT was clear, I feel fairly confident that the CA-125 will be within normal ranges so I’ll just get the standard lecture about my weight and needing to exercise.  On the other hand, John is only 10 minutes from the oncologist’s office so if things go to crap he’s fairly close.  Methinks I may be growing up on this journey with cancer.

Last week our small group talked about going out of our comfort zone and what pushes you out of your comfort zone.  I realized that my comfort zone has increased considerably.  I’ve learned that going through cancer – or any life threatening illness – either makes you stronger or causes you to curl up in a ball.  Actually you tend to do both.  You may be strong, but have days when the ball looks really good.  Talking in front of a crowd? Piece of cake.  Going on TV to talk about international adoption?  No problem (seriously, I did this, but that’s for another blog post).  Join another co-op and teach writing?  Bring it on!

What has shifted is what makes up my comfort zone.  While I used to jump at every chance to write, now I’m more selective.  I am currently working on the new brochure for the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Greater Cincinnati (aka Cincy Teal).  That’s a daunting task.  This brochure will touch many potential cancer patients or family members.  It’s tough to take the cold facts and make them not seem so daunting, even though they are.  How do I write about something so devastating without making it sound so hopeless?  I am also creating a second brochure for newly diagnosed patients called “Follow the Teal Brick Road” (without the Munchkins).  It’s designed to be a piece to give newly diagnosed women an idea of what the teal road is like.  When I think about that, that’s madness!  Who am I to tell another woman what her journey will be like?  There are some women, like those in Cincy Teal, who’ve hit OVCA head on, showed it to the door and now raise awareness.  I know there are others who just want to get as far away from it as they can and never want to hear another word.

When you find out you have any kind of cancer, your world is rocked.  OVCA just rocks it in a different way.  There aren’t many people (statistically speaking anyway) who face it every year so you tend to hear only the bad.  When you’re trying to put together a piece to bring some hope, that’s an incredible burden.  There’s so little support out there that you feel like the end is near so why bother.  Am I mad to think that I can bring a bit of understanding to someone who’s been told they have a potentially incurable disease?  The line about “If I can help just one person…” is terribly cliché, but maybe it works here.  Even if the woman who receives thinks “I’m not alone,” then I think, perhaps, the endeavor isn’t mad.

March madness takes a lot of forms, from basketball brackets to mourning lost fathers to facing up to a lifetime of cancer on my shoulder.  I am still mad that I got cancer and livid over how it affected my sons and family.  Yet, somehow, I have a peace that transcends the madness.  Yes, God is present through it all, but it goes beyond that.  For the time being I faced the Beast eye to eye and toe to toe and I won.  The win might be short lived, it might not, but it IS a win.  And with that in mind, I forge through the madness and work on facing what God and life have for me.

 

 

Moving On?

ImageOn Saturday, I did the Power is Teal walk.  It was a 5K to raise money for ovarian cancer research.  I walked every single step of that entire path with one of my bestest buds, Denise, who came all the way from Maryland to walk it with me.  My family wasn’t with me, but Denise was.  And so was the lovely lady in this photo.  This is Sharon and she was my lifeline at the OPCC while I was in chemo.  While I didn’t have her for every infusion, she was there for the majority of them.  Most importantly, she was there for the first and the last.  I went in with her and I came out with her.  I refer to her as my “angel in blue” since she wears navy scrubs at work.  She is the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most loving kick-butt nurse I’ve ever met.  I know God hand picked her to oversee my care.  I never worry when Sharon’s around.

After the walk, the three of us were talking.  Sharon asked me what was next.  I’d beaten ovarian cancer into remission.  I’d met my first goal of walking a 5K (and my feet are still numb from the experience).  I had the opportunity to meet those that have walked the path before me and are thriving 2, 3, 5, 10, 15 years later.  I won 4 UC football tickets with paid parking.  All in all, a great day.

Now, I reflect on what’s next. I’ve said in the past that remission is far harder than cancer, at least psychologically.  When you are in treatment, you know where the enemy is and you are working to throw everything at it to send it packing.  Once it leaves, you always wonder if it will rear its ugly head again.  Every three months, I get the labs.  Every 6 months I get the scans.  Every 3 months, I see my oncologist on pins and needles.  Did the tumor marker stay the same?  Did my scan show something ugly?  Am I okay?  Statistically, the answers should always point to yes.  My oncologist is a perfectionist and rightly so.  He spent 5-1/2 hours cleaning every last cancer cell from my body.  He looked me in the eye and told me on more than one occasion that he was positive he’d “gotten it all.”  I follow his diet and try to exercise.  I attempt to get the sleep I need.  I am working toward finding some type of inner equilibrium to keep my life balanced.  I try to find joy in all things.  But that little voice hangs in the background taunting me,  keeping me from fully engaging in my life.

I have finally gotten to the point where I don’t see myself as an active patient in the mirror.  I finally have enough hair that it looks like I keep it short.  The only reminder is that I keep it my natural color.  I’m too scared to color it.  Hair color can cause cancer on some microscopic scale so I avoid it even though I hate the fact that it makes me look like I’ll be 60 next year instead of 50.  I’m just not ready to take that miniscule risk.  I do like the curls.  Wash and go is great.

What will it take for me to move on?  Another monumental life event?  I certainly hope not.  I had enough of those last year to last a lifetime.  No, I think it will be those gentle nudges I receive.  Like the thrill of completing a 5K, it will be the small goals I set and complete.  I am working hard to lose the weight I had before my surgery.  I am back down to my pre-surgery weight.  Yes, you read that right.  Despite having 10+ pounds of tumors and fibroids removed, I gained weight (thank you steroids).  And I learned that the theory that you’ll lose weight during chemo is pretty much that – a theory.  Most people have to take so many steroids that even if they don’t eat they still maintain or even gain weight.  Add that to the instant menopause and chemo (thank you twice Dr. Pavelka), it’s practically impossible to lose weight.  Yet, I’ve had 2 pounds budge off this month.  Boy, this is gonna’ take a while.  But I digress.

The gentle nudges.  For those of you who’ve been gently nudging me to turn the blog into a book, I have heard you.  I am working toward creating a devotional book.  My hope is that by processing through the past year I can move on with my life and get into what’s waiting behind Curtain Number 2.  I have a lot I want to accomplish, but fear has held me back from some things.  But God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear and while being scared can be a healthy thing, it isn’t doing me any good right now.

So I’m slowly packing up the past year and checking Map Quest for my next destination.  I still plan to learn life’s many lessons, but I hope they are a lot more fun!