Monday, November 26, 2007


Today has been a day of sadness and loss. My co-worker Fred's dear wife, Lucy, lost her valiant fight against cancer early Saturday. I learned of her passing this morning. She was a courageous woman who battled cancer valiantly for 17 years and offered me words of encouragement and hope when I needed it most. What is so difficult is knowing how much Fred loved her and will miss her because it was evident and everyone at work knew it. I am praying for Fred and his family and hope that they will find comfort in each other during this difficult time. It is my sincerest hope that Lucy is in heaven and is suffering no more.

My office was again saddened to learn of the sudden death of another co-worker. Vickie didn't show up for work this morning, and someone called to check on her and heard the terrible knews that she had passed away. She didn't show up for Thanksgiving and her family went to her house to check on her and found her. I am shocked as I just spoke to her on Tuesday. Vickie had been helping me to resolve a problem I've been having with my flexible spending account plan and had in fact finally resolved the problem the week before.

Both of these events reinforce how short life really is and we never know how long or short it can be. Make every second count. I caught Alicia Keys on the Tyra Banks show on our tv in the lunchroom at work today and one of the lines from her new song is, "Love me like you'll never see me again" and it really strikes a chord with me. The whole song is beautiful and poignant.

I saw a poem this morning on my cancer online discussion forum. It's by e.e. cummings. I never liked cummings in college because I usually couldn't understand his style or get his meaning most of the time, but the poem speaks to me and my own personal story of surviving cancer.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
-e.e. cummings

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So Thankful

As Thanksgiving 2007 approaches, I am both reflective and grateful for my recent good news. I am so grateful for family and good friends who have struggled with me, cheered me on, supported me, and came to my aid whenever Mike or I needed a hand. You all have been amazing and for that I am thankful. I am also thankful for the strangers and store clerks who have stopped to talk with me, provide encouragement, or offer their own stories of courage and hope.

Mike is so amazing. He planned a surprise party for me last Friday to celebrate my good news and went to several extremes to plan it, including "accidentally" forgetting his cell phone in his truck when we dropped it off last week to hook up the snow plow equipment so he could call my relatives. Melissa came over Friday to "watch a movie" when suddenly other people just "showed up." I was especially surprised and touched that Grandma Erickson came with Aunt Anne because she doesn't like to travel or be out too late at night. Mike organized people to bring over platters of food, beverages, bags of ice, and a cake for me. We celebrated the good news until late Friday night. I wonder what he'll do for my 6-month checkup? :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Aced My Test!

Today was it - the big day. I went to NIH this morning for my first 3-month CT scan and check-up and I am happy to say I passed the test with flying colors! I have some scar tissue left over, but it shrank a little since my last CT and the doctors are very happy with the results thus far. I have been a little nervous about today and it's been on my mind a lot lately. I was trying to prepare myself for bad news, but in the end decided to just think positive thoughts and pray really hard for good results. I am very thankful for my doctors at NIH and my continuing to be in good health.

I asked the doctor about the tingling in my feet and he said it's actually a little unusual for them to still be numb three months later, but the feeling could return to normal in six months to a year so I have to wait and see. I've been having really bad hot flashes, but they weren't able to offer any suggestions for that other than to try flax seed which is supposed to help. Apparently I have a slight fungus in my fingernails and toenails so I need to get some over the counter cream to resolve that issue. These are minor things compared to what I've been through so I will just deal with them and move on. My goal is to play volleyball in the spring, so if my feet are still numb I'm going to have to work around that and figure out some way to compensate.

I ran into Steven, my chemo buddy from Ohio and he looks really good too. I think he's gained back some of the weight he lost. He said he's been feeling well and I hope his results are as good as mine. I also saw a lot of my nurses who have transferred from working in the day hospital to the clinic. My white counts were a little low so I had to go to the day hospital for a shot of neulasta and I saw some more nurses there. I also made a trip to the inpatient unit to see my favorite nurse, Amy. It was a good day overall (well, except for having to get an IV, blood drawn, and a shot).

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Ears Have It

This past weekend I attended the Maryland Jaycees Fall Convention - my first convention since I was diagnosed. I received a warm welcome from everyone and many people went out of their way to congratulate me or say hi. I received hugs from everyone and I am truly touched that so many people care about me and I can honestly say that Jaycees have become my extended family.

It's a long story, but basically I "lost a bet" many years ago and my penalty was to wear bunny ears and sing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" at a public restaurant to my Jaycee chapter members. From there the word spread in the Maryland Jaycees and I was made to sing "Bunny Foo Foo" at several state conventions. Despite the fact that I come from a long line of very good singers, I did not inherit that gene and I am terrible. I'm a good sport, though so I donned the bunny ears and sang my heart out. Now I'm known as "Foo Foo" around the state.

My friend Blair is on the state board of directors and he asked if I would escort him in to the banquet Saturday night and I agreed. He jokingly asked if I would wear bunny ears and I said I would, but he didn't believe me. Moments before we were to walk in he realized I was serious, and ran to his car to get the bunny ears. When it was our turn to be announced, I put on the bunny ears and rendered the emcee momentarily speechless. She regained her composure and announced, "I've never been so happy to welcome Bunny Foo Foo" and the entire room burst into applause and some took pictures. It was wonderful to be welcomed like that and I am so happy to be back in the Maryland Jaycees.
Earlier that day, I was one of the presenters at the Cancer Awareness Forum. Janine Layman, a former Maryland Jaycee who moved to Florida several years ago, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer earlier this year too. Jen Ray's brother, who I've mentioned here, is battling colon cancer. Janine contacted Jen and I a couple of months ago to ask if we would participate in this forum and each share our story. Well we agreed and conducted the seminar this past weekend. I am humbled by the large turnout and the many, many Jaycees who came out to support us and listen to our stories. I was nervous before we started, but once I got started on my story I was confident (and talked more than my allotted 10 minutes!) The Jaycees care and I was hugged and congratulated all weekend. It was amazing and awesome to be loved and supported by so many.
John Schissler, a long-time friend, gave me a Daffodil Days teddy bear from the American Cancer Society that he'd been planning to give me for a long time and said he plans to give me one every year. I look forward to received a special bear every year - this means I plan to be around to receive it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Nurses are the Best!

I received an email from one of the clinical nurses at NIH who happens to know my mom and was visiting her today at the hospital where she works. Janelle came to meet me once in the clinic and she is an inspiration as she is a cancer survivor too. She's very familiar with my team and loves Dr. Wilson and all that they are doing for their patients, which is very wonderful to hear.

Janelle wrote me because I had mentioned another friend's brother who has colon cancer to my mom and Janelle wanted me to know that she has a trial at NIH for colon cancer. She wanted me to know so I could pass the word on to Jen, which I immediately did. I hope that Janelle's trial can help Christopher. That would be awesome if it could. I am so happy mom remembered my conversation and told Janelle about it. I have been praying for Christopher and hoping for the best. This would be truly good news.

I'm going to my Jaycees convention this weekend and tomorrow I'm a speaker for a Cancer Awareness Forum and I'm going to talk about how I discovered I had cancer and then my experience with clinical trials. I also plan to wrap up with some information about healthy eating and paying attention to our bodies when something isn't right. Janine, who was also diagnosed this year with cancer, came up with the idea and she's flying up from where she lives in Florida to also present. Jen will be talking about her experiences as a caregiver. Jen had arranged for someone from the American Cancer Society to also present some information, but she can't make it now so the three of us will have to do our best to talk about it. I think we'll be fine.

I'm excited because I haven't attended a convention since February. In February, my chapter received the highly-coveted Giessenbier award for being the best in the Maryland Jaycees. I also received the Junior Chamber International Senate award, which is the highest honor a Jaycee can receive. I also received a bunch of awards for other things. My last convention was an amazing event. It will be so nice to see everyone again after a long, long haul of chemo treatments. I'm looking forward to it all.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Going to the Chapel

My high school friend, Tara Colligan got married in New Rochelle (or was it White Plains?) NY two weekends ago and we drove up with Kathy to celebrate with Tara. I had eagerly accepted Tara's invitation to be a bridesmaid, but once I found out I had cancer I stepped down because I didn't know how sick I was going to be by October. Thankfully, I've been feeling much better and I've put some weight back on and my energy level is higher than it has been so I was able to go and participate in the festivities as simply a guest.

We've had a drought here for several months, so wouldn't you know it that it started raining before Tara's wedding and continued to rain the next day. In fact, it rained all the way up to NY and then all the way back down and stopped just as we crossed the state line back into Maryland. I'll be an optimist and believe that rain is good luck for the bride and we desperately needed rain too.

The wedding was beautiful and the ceremony took place in a very old Catholic church with beautiful stained glass windows and great big marble columns in the middle of the pews. Tara was a beautiful bride and was stunning as she made her entrance into the church. I am not Catholic, but I've attended several full Catholic masses and I still couldn't seem to figure out when to sit, stand, or kneel during the ceremony! Luckily we got to the church late (rain and traffic) so we sat in the back and I didn't embarrass myself in front of everyone. Mike said I was worse than a 2 year old because I kept fidgeting in my seat.

The reception was amazing. I've never seen so much good food in my life and it tasted incredible. When we arrived at the reception, we were ushered into a large room with a variety of food stations all around, including prime rib, ham, and turkey; chips, salsa, homemade guacamole, and quesadillas; a pasta station with three types of pasta; cheese, crackers, and fruit; and a seafood station. Wait staff also provided coconut shrimp and caramelized onions in a pastry that were awesome. I was completely content to stay there, but there was more to come in the way of a full dinner upstairs!

The formal reception was a lot of fun. Tara segregated the activities really well. We had our first course of salad and then the DJ started off the evening with Motown. Our second course was followed by disco. Our main course of sirloin steak, chicken, or salmon was followed by a mix of 80s and modern music. I saved room for dessert because it was chocolate mousse with ice cream and raspberry sauce and wedding cake. The chocolate mousse was so incredible. Mike typically gets bored at weddings, but we stayed until the bitter end, which was midnight. It was so much fun being able to dance after all these months. My feet felt like lead from the neuropathy, but I was out there doing my best to boogie. I was so happy to be able to celebrate Tara's wedding with her and her new husband, Greg. Tara's mom's husband died several months ago of pancreatic cancer so they made a donation in his memory, which was so sweet. Tara and Greg included their families by playing, "We are Family" in honor of family who traveled so far to be with them. Several relatives had flown over from Ireland so the evening ended with several Irish songs in their honor. It was great to be included and celebrate something so joyous as a wedding.