Monday, December 31, 2007

Farewell 2007

This is it. I’m closing the door on 2007 and looking forward to the New Year. This has been the hardest year of my entire life and I’ve come out of it wiser and stronger. I look back and sometimes can’t imagine that I went through all of that, like it didn’t happen to me but I see my short hair and some lingering scars from the IJ lines and know it DID happen. Looking back at emails to friends before April, I knew something was wrong and I was scared of my echo cardiogram, without knowing why. I wrote about my hands shaking so much I could barely put my contacts in the morning of the test and I didn’t know how serious the results of that test would be – it blows me away to read that email now.

Not all of 2007 was bad, even though it does seem that way. At Christmas, my brother-in-law, Brian said he went to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house and their tradition is for each person around the table to say what he or she is thankful for. He said he was thankful for my health, and his statement nearly brought tears to my eyes.

It made me think of what I am thankful for and things I could really have done without this year.

I could have done without:

  • Priscilla trying to kick my butt – she’s not a very nice tumor
  • Many, many needle sticks to draw blood, IVs, etc. – NOT FUN
  • Cancer touching the lives of friends
  • Weight loss of nearly 25 lbs
  • Losing all my darn long naturally curly hair
  • Cousin Gina’s health problems

I am grateful and thankful for:

  • Kicking Priscilla’s butt: ding dong, Priscilla’s DEAD!!
  • Awesome nurses and doctors at NIH
  • FREE health care through NIH
  • Chocolate croissants
  • Ice cream
  • A successful 3-month check-up and surprise party afterwards
  • Friends, family, and co-workers supporting us throughout the difficult times
  • My new sister-in-law: Shaunda and Michael were married in February
  • Receiving donations from friends, family, and co-workers for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life
  • Good movies and books to occupy my time
  • Gina’s good health at year's end
  • Janine's remission - you go girl!
  • The return of my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows
  • Honoring other cancer survivors at the Light the Night Walk for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Celebrating our 9th Wedding Anniversary in August and rejoicing over being cancer-free with a trip to the Outer Banks
  • Celebrating Christmas in Texas; visiting both our families; doing the San Antonio River Walk; enjoying fresh guacamole at Boudros; soaking in the hot tub; and eating fine BBQ at Austin’s Salt Lick restaurant
  • Team in Training triathlon for Mike
  • Sharing happy news with friends and family: A Christmas engagement for Mike’s mom and a much-hoped for pregnancy for close friends

HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2008 bring joy, happiness, and good health to all!

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

-Siddhartha (the founder of Buddhism)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Run, Run Rudolph

Mike has decided to do a triathlon in 2008 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) through their Team in Training (TNT) program. You read that correctly: he'll be consecutively swimming 1.5k, biking 40k, and running 10k. I am both immensely proud of him and awed by his decision because he is pushing himself really hard to help cancer patients like me. TNT offers several marathons and triathlons a year and he'll be competing in the Capital of Texas Triathlon in Austin, TX on May 25, 2008. This triathlon is a fundraiser for the LLS and he needs to raise $4,200 to participate, which is not easy but we're going to fund raise like crazy to get the money. Mike is using TNTs trainers to prepare him for the event and he's off right now swimming and when he gets home, he's going to bike in our living room on the bike trainer we purchased last week. Check out his blog (listed to the right) to learn about his training efforts for this event. He also has a link to his donation page if you are so inclined to make a donation. :)

We are heading to Austin tomorrow for Christmas. We're staying with my mother-in-law, Gail but are also visiting my cousin Gina and her family. Mike's brother, Brian is coming from Miami for the holidays. My cousin Hunter lives just outside of Austin so I'm hoping to catch up with him at the Salt Lick, a really cool BBQ place with all-you-can-eat meat! We went with Gail last summer and had a great time. I will also get to visit my Grandma, Uncle Robert, Aunt Kathy, and possibly my cousin Heston in San Antonio since it's only an hour from Austin. I will certainly be a traveling fool next week, but I'm really looking forward to spending time with Mike's family and mine.

I wonder what my Grandma will say about my short hair? She doesn't know I had cancer because she has Alzheimer's and we thought it best not to tell her and stress her out about it. I may just tell her I decided to cut my hair really short, if she even recognizes me at all. I saw her last summer and she recognized me, but she is forgetful and she may not remember me anymore. I will be sad if it happens.

I had blood work yesterday after my two GCF shots and I'm not neutropenic - hallelujah! I need to go back after my trip to make sure my white counts are stabilized, but I don't need to bring my two vials of GCF to Texas with me. I also feel a lot better about traveling, although I will wear a mask on the plane so I don't get sick. I'm not looking forward to wearing it for four hours, but I'd rather not put myself at risk.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone. I'll try to post my adventures in Texas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The other night Angela and I had some family members over for hot chocolate and Angela's aunt Anne mentioned a neat website, called It is a really great idea....a vocab game that actually helps people! Play here and donate 20 grains of rice through the United Nations to help fight World Hunger. It is easy and educational!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me

Today was the big day. Mom called me before I left to tell me she had spoken with the head of my clinic, Kim, because Kim had come into the outpatient unit where my mom works for some routine blood work. Kim assured mom that George, who performs the procedure, is excellent and he is not the other cranky George I had dealt with in another department. Mom's friend Jeannie, the head of my day hospital, also said she'd stop by today to check on me. It's night to have connections in high places.

I arrived at NIH early to pick up my anti-anxiety meds, which I promptly took as soon as we left the pharmacy and I found a water fountain. I had also begged Mike to take me to Starbucks beforehand so I had my grande skim chai latte with me as well. Jeannie, one of my really nice nurses, and Doug (my NP) met me at the front desk and said they'd page George. We chit chatted up front for a bit and then we went back to one of the rooms so I could get the show on the road. While the nurse was taking my vitals, Doug came in and said we probably didn't need to do the biopsy today. What?! He said Dr. Dunleavy and Dr. Wilson had been out on Monday when he had ordered the biopsy as a precaution. After talking with them this morning, they decided to simply send me down to phlebotomy for some blood work and check things out that way. I eagerly jumped up from the hospital bed and told Doug, "I love you!" I would prefer that Doug did exactly what he did - schedule the biopsy just in case but I am very glad it was cancelled today. It doesn't mean I won't need the procedure in the future, especially is my white blood cells don't rally together and start multiplying.

We trekked back downstairs and I had my blood drawn from one of the other techs since all my favorites were out or on vacation. Wesley was there, but the front desk said he wasn't on call (he was) so he chatted with me while my tech drew the blood. Afterwards, we went to the blood bank so Mike could donate blood since they had called looking for him yesterday (vampires!)

We went back to the day hospital to wait for the results. My white counts came back really low and I'm actually neutropenic, which means I need to stay away from sick people and wear a mask if I'm around anyone who might be sick. I was also given a prescription for GCF shots, which I will need twice a week for the next two weeks. Mike gave me my first one when we got home from NIH. The nurse told me to wear a mask walking around NIH and to avoid crowds, but Doug told me not to be that extreme and just wear one if someone's sick. He also cleared me to go climbing tomorrow.

A friend suggested that my white blood cells are not behaving because they have been unclear on their mission. She recommended I sit down with them, give them a good outline of their goals and objectives over the next 60 or so years, and outline their benchmarks of success for the next few quarters. I might have a much better result if I do this and possibly work out an incentive plan for them, such as offering them a spring break trip to the Bahamas. After thinking about it, I sat down with my white blood cells early this morning and told them their acceptable range and told them I fully expect them to be in the middle of the range from here on out. No excuses. We then put all hands in and on the count of three, we yelled, "One, Two, Three, Reproduce! Go Team!" I think things should be much better now. I've got my eye on them and they know what I expect. I've given them performance objectives and I expect them to succeed. I will not accept white blood cell failures. C'mon fellas, we're all on the same team. Let's go team!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Never Easy

I went to NIH today to have some blood work done because my white counts were a little low at my last check-up. Doug (my Nurse Practitioner) called a bit ago and said my white counts are even lower than they were then and they want to do a bone marrow biopsy to see what's going on. I scheduled it for this Thursday and I'm very, very, very nervous about the procedure. I had one done back in April and it wasn't too bad, but the thought still bothers me. I scheduled the procedure with the best person at NIH. I've heard a lot about this guy and everyone brags about how wonderful he is and how people don't feel a thing. I hope it's true because I'm about to find out. I asked for a prescription of sedatives to take the edge off my nerves. I'll take a sick day at work because my back ached after the procedure last time and I don't need to be at work feeling loopy from the sedatives with a back ache.

I bet you're all wondering what this means, and I asked that question. Doug doesn't think the cancer has returned (yay!), but this could be a result of the rituximab (one of the chemo drugs). After the biopsy, they'll figure out the course of action and I may end up getting GCF shots again for a while. This means Mike gets to be my caretaker again and stick me with a needle for a few weeks. Please pray that everything turns out fine and that I don't freak out with the biopsy and that all I will need is a few weeks of GCF shots to get my white counts up and at 'em. All I want for Christmas is to put this nightmare behind me and move forward with a long, happy, HEALTHY life.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Walkin' In a Winter Wonderland

The ground outside is blanketed in white from our 3.5 inches of snow yesterday. I never believe the weather predictions, so when Riley and I went outside at 6am I was surprised to see tiny little flakes falling from the sky. It wasn't enough for me to worry about so I didn't watch the traffic report as closely as I should have. When we left for work nearly 40 minutes later, there was more snow on the roads than I expected. It turned out to be a nasty mess on the highway. We crawled down 270 for more than an hour and only made it about 5 miles before turning around to head home. The northbound side was much worse because there were fewer cars on the road and much more ice. I saw one car almost slide into the jersey wall simply because she changed lanes and started sliding. Once we got home, I was able to sit and enjoy the snow falling from the sky. It snowed all day, leaving us with a winter wonderland.

I will say one thing, all this snow has put me in the Christmas mood. One radio station plays Christmas music around the clock from Thanksgiving to Christmas day and I'm ready to listen to it now. I've heard the Chipmunk Song and I'm a happy girl! All I need now is Bing Crosby's White Christmas, Elvis' Blue Christmas, or Silent Night by almost any artist (I have to admit the Clay Aiken version I heard the other day was pretty good). It's hard not to have the Christmas spirit between the snow and Christmas decorations all around.

Christmas means so much more to me this year and I have been blessed with God's grace to be healthy once again. I continue to have small struggles, but each day I grow stronger and healthier and more able to do things I couldn't do even three months ago. I have gained nearly all of my weight lost (all of this holiday eating is helping). I could say several months ago that all I wanted for Christmas was my health back, and I am certainly on my way. It feels awesome.

Finally, if you want to see me dance, check out this link:
I laughed out loud when I saw it!