Sunday, December 28, 2008

Home Again

We arrived back in Maryland this afternoon and stopped by the hospital to see Grandma E. before we went home. She's doing much better today after being unable to talk or eat food for the past week. Yesterday the lady in the same room passed away and no one removed her body for several hours. When someone could find a nurse to ask the hospital to please remove the body, they were unresponsive. Finally, Aunt Carol called some patient care hotline and someone showed up to move the lady. It was a very uncomfortable situation that the hospital will definitely hear about (plus the nurses didn't check on Grandma for at least 4 hours.

Our final day in Austin yesterday was nice. Mike's seriously contemplating doing the Longhorn Half Ironman next October so we grabbed his cousin Jason and drove out to Decker Lake to see the course. Unfortunately, the park service charges $8 a vehicle to get into the lake and from what I could see, it wasn't worth an $8 admission fee - especially to be there for less than an hour! We called Gail and she listed the bike course over the phone (we forgot to print out the map) so we drove the 56 mile bike course. It's got some pretty steep hills and some pretty bumpy roads. Mike's going to have to do some research to find out what kind of tires other racers typically use on this course or his thin tires will most definitely pop. We tried to capture the route by taking pictures with our camera, but I don't know if the steepness of the hills will be that obvious in the pictures. It was a picturesque drive through the countryside. We saw longhorn cattle, horses, goats, and a Brahma bull. Mike and Jason had never seen a bull that big before - they can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Miraculously, out in the middle of nowhere, we found a professional-looking sand volleyball court with seven nets, lights, showers, and nice (is there such a thing?) port-a-johns. We almost drove right by, but I spotted it and so we stopped to take a look.
That's a picture of the course - notice the ruts in the road and the long hill...


When we got home, we soaked in Gail's hot tub for a while (until I broke out in hives from the hot water - this happens to me now post-chemo). We also went to dinner with Gail and Michael and enjoyed some really tasty ribs at Cheddar's. MMMM, they were good.







Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth


We wish you a very Merry Christmas and lots of Christmas love! We hope you are enjoying the holiday with family and friends and hope Santa brought you something nice!

It's a beautiful day in Austin - temps about 55 degrees. Mike's sitting poolside doing a crossword puzzle and I'm enjoying sitting inside with the door open. Earlier we went for a run - I ran 36 minutes and Mike ran about 45 minutes. It's nice to run alongside quiet roads that were bustling with cars just yesterday. Nothing is open (except, surprisingly, Starbucks around the corner) and all is calm. There were a few other runners and bicyclists enjoying some Austin beauty too. We plan to eat around 4 or 5pm, as soon as the turkey is ready. I made two apple pies yesterday, Shaunda's mom brought sweet potato pie, and I'll be making green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole soon. Mmmmm, good!
Here's a picture of the table...


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Days 'Til Christmas

Today we braved the crowds and traffic to go shopping - ugh. The roads are jammed here in Austin and because every corner has an ill-timed traffic light, it took us a long time to get into the parking lot. Once inside, Sam's was surprisingly not too busy and we were able to make a quick purchase and get the heck out of dodge. On the way over to Steinmart's (loooove that store), Mike stopped at Scooter's for me so I could have a chai latte (he's a great guy). I've been itching to go to Scooter's since I arrived, but that location has been closed for renovations and finally opened yesterday (I know, I've been checking every time I drive by!)

I was supposed to drive to San Antonio this morning to see Aunt Kathy, Grandma, and my cousin Heston (and his 4 kids), but Kathy called this morning because it was really foggy and wet out there. I decided to hold off on my trip because it was foggy last Thursday and some tractor trailer overturned, causing a 2 hour delay in Buda - which I pass through on my way south to San Antonio. I'm hoping to make the trip on Friday or Saturday.

Meanwhile, I saw on the Internet and CNN that back home a 60" pipe burst on River Rd. in Bethesda this morning. I couldn't believe the pictures - it looked like white water rapids. I watched a video of a brave helicopter rescue of two ladies trapped in their SUV. I don't know how they managed to climb out of their car into the cold, wet, metal basket hanging below the helicopter. It's 17 degrees there today and I can't imagine how cold that water must be. I'm glad everyone trapped in the water is okay and only had mild hypothermia at most.


Michael, Shaunda, and her parents came down to Austin for dinner. Since Gail's not feeling up to moving around too much, they stopped by here before dinner. We went to Pappadeux on the north side of Austin for some Cajun seafood and Greek salad (me). I haven't seen Shaunda's parents since her wedding and it was great to see them again. We enjoyed some good food, wine, and company. After dinner, we got stuck in a major traffic jam on I-35, but we jumped the curb and took a side road home!

I'm making apple and pumpkin pies tomorrow and doing some other Christmas dinner preparations. Tomorrow night, I'm dragging Mike to Zilker Park for the Christmas lights. We saw them from the road on the way to dinner tonight and it looks beautiful. We're also supposed to go to Michael's parents for fondue tomorrow night (before lights?)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cold and Breezy in Buda

Yesterday was fantastic - near 80 and somewhat sunny. It was so nice, Mike and I sat in Gail's hot tub. Today is another story. It dropped back down to about 40 degrees. Brrrr, who brought winter?

We met up with cousin Gina, her son Robert, and cousin Hunter in Buda. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Robert drove up from San Antonio to join us for dinner at Cracker Barrel. Buda is about 30 minutes south of Gail's house and it's known for its Cabela's - right off I-35 (next to the Walmart). Cabela's is a massive outdoor store and people come from miles around to shop there. Here's a pic of the Cabela's tower (not from today! I found it on flickr).

It was a nice visit. Hunter got a 35 ft. RV this summer so we took a tour of it. It's very luxurious. I could definitely live in it for a while! His family's going to Gatlinburg, TN after Christmas to go skiing for a week. Mike also wanted to see Hunter's boat since we hadn't seen it yet. Gina brought Macho, her Jack Russell, who is the coolest Jack I've ever met. When we drove up this afternoon, Robert and his friend, Colton, were outside playing with his RV car and Macho was tied to the truck hitch. He wagged his tail when we walked over to pet him. Macho is one cool dude and the quickest mouser I've ever seen. He definitely has a great time catching mice on Gina's ranch.

We hung out for a while and Hunter showed off his gun collection. He's got quite a few of them. Hunter loves to hunt and was in a couple of bow-hunting videos years ago when he was younger. Mike and the guys went off to Cabela's (see, you just have to go if you're in Buda!) while Gina and I stayed back to wait for her parents to arrive. She's doing better these days since her health scare last week. I can't remember what her illness was, but she can't absorb iron like most people so she had an iron injection last year and takes a lot of iron supplements every day. Next time she's ready for treatment, she'll have an iron IV infusion. I'm glad she's doing better. At one point, we were in the hospital the same week.

Robert & Kathy met us at the Cracker Barrel for dinner and we talked about the economy (it sucks), the oil industry, the auto bailout... Uncle Robert loooooves talking about this stuff. It's always interesting talking to him to get the "outside DC" perspective on things. Living in DC, I think one way about things and forget about how things are viewed in other parts of the country. Robert was a ranch manager for years and years and after things didn't work out with the new owner (the new owner is a jerk, to put it politely), he now builds houses for a living. Things were good for a while, but now it's a lot slower. Aunt Kathy works for a fancy furniture store in San Antonio (after years of raising seven kids, running the ranch house, and ferrying kids to rodeos all around the state) and her job is slow now too. They lived on a 35,000 acre ranch for years and now they're in a 2 bedroom apartment. Times are tough for everyone.

We're back at Gail's in Austin relaxing and watching TV. I hope it's going to be warmer tomorrow, especially since I'm running 2-3 miles with Mike in the morning.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thankful

My grandmother (my dad's mom) is recovering from surgery in Maryland. She was admitted to the hospital on Monday because she needed a blood transfusion, something that has become pretty common this year. She suffers from diverticulitis which causes her to feel really weak and then she needs to have a transfusion. While she was admitted, they must have run a CT because Mom called yesterday to say they found a mass in her colon and would need to operate today to remove it. It may or may not be cancerous, but they'll biopsy the mass to be sure. I called Dad and the surgery went well, but she'll be recovering for a while so they're not allowing any visitors today. I'll call Grandma tomorrow after she recuperates a bit. The biopsy results could take three days. I pray that it's not cancerous because if she has to go through chemo, I know she won't be able to handle it. Chemo is tough on your body. However, right now I'm thankful she made it through the surgery with no complicants and that they were able to remove the whole mass - now we just wait for the biopsy results.

Today it is beautiful and warm in Austin. We went for a 3 mile run on a nearby trail. I struggled a bit because I'm not used to the heat yet. I think it's about 75 degrees, but I've been running in 30 degree weather at home! The trail was nice and wound around some neighborhood, but we never saw any houses. There were a few baseball and soccer fields. We crossed over a dried up stream and passed by lots of cactus and mesquite trees. It was a nice run. We rewarded ourselves by stopping at Starbucks at the end of the run before walking back to Gail's. I'm only allowing myself one or two Starbucks/Scooter's Coffee (a local chain) stops so I try to really enjoy it when I get it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Texas Two Step

We arrived yesterday after a fairly uneventful flight. They lost one of our suitcases, which I thought was pretty difficult since we didn't change planes during the flight from Dulles to here (although we stopped in Chicago). It turns out that my suitcase never made it on the plane in Dulles. This has happened to me before so I know the drill. This time worked out much better than the previous 2 times and they brought the suitcase to Gail's house around 9pm last night. It's chillier than we thought but it's supposed to be in the 70s soon. I haven't even put a toe in the hot tub yet and it's calling my name when it gets warmer!

We worked on Mike's resume last night and I worked the phones and the Internet in the afternoon trying to figure out the myriad of benefits options that are offered to me. I called each insurance company to get more detailed information and I'll say that one of them has the worst automated phone system ever. Since I'm not a member or provider, it didn't understand what to do with me. I finally reached an operator who transferred me to another automated phone system that wanted my tax ID. Since I didn't give it one, it hung up on me! I realize after looking at all my options, CSCI did offer really great benefits and I'm going to miss it a lot.

I've found a new career for Mike if things don't work out with this IT thing - personal coach/trainer. We went for a run today in a nice little park nearby. Mike's idea was to do a "warm up" run over to the park - nice and slow. I felt pretty good when we arrived at the park, I felt pretty good and we decided to do some interval training. One loop around the park is a mile. I had hope to do about 3 miles today, but would have been fine with 2 or 2.5. Our first loop included running fast for 2 minutes, running slow for 2 minutes. I couldn't hack it so we dropped it down to running for 1.5 minutes a little slower. My slow runs turned to walking with Mike pushing me to "keep going" (he's evil, that one!) I was sucking wind after 1 loop, but we did another lap. This time my knee started hurting. At the end of the 2nd loop, we walked over to an open basketball court and Mike decided I was going to run sprints. All he needed was a whistle!
Mike's very good at encouraging people to push themselves. I've seen him sneak an extra 1/2 mile out of his other running partners or work someone a little harder at volleyball. It's not like we can't handle the extra push, but gosh darn it, sometimes we want to be a little lazy! That won't happen with Mike around. Don't count on taking a nice leisurely stroll with Mike, especially if he knows you can do more. If you tell him your goal, he will coax you to reach that goal by any means necessary! It's all good. Because of Mike, I did three 5Ks this year and am probably in better shape than I was before chemo. I won't complain about the results, but man is it torture getting in shape! :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

CSCI = Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch

Mike's layoff has certainly put a damper on our Christmas this year. We've had to realign our priorities and plan to save now in case this turns into a long haul. We're leaving for Texas tomorrow. Originally, Mike didn't have enough vacation to go early and I was going to leave tomorrow to help take care of his mom while she recovers from knee surgery. He was going to join me on Friday. Thanks to Southwest, we were able to change flights with no charge so he moved his flight to tomorrow and I moved mine to earlier tomorrow morning so we could be on the same flight - that's not so bad.

The whole layoff thing leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I'm thankful he wasn't there on Thursday because the way CSCI handled it was tacky, tasteless, and lacked class. After the big meeting with everyone, the select few were asked to meet in a conference room without knowing that the axe was about to befall them. The corporate lawyer read from a piece of paper that their services were no longer required. Thank you very much. Pack up your stuff. Turn in your badge and we'll escort you to the door. The others weren't supposed to talk to them (but they did when Mike went in on Friday to sign the paperwork and pack up his stuff). Everyone received no severance, no matter how many years of service. Also, they won't receive their vacation payouts until the February paycheck. Let me get this straight: these people have been laid off right before the holidays, they have holiday plans, and maybe kids who wanted Ants in my Pants Elmo. So, now they have no job, no severance, and they won't even get the vacation money owed to them until TWO MONTHS from now. Let me tell them straight: CSCI YOU SUCK. Ms. CEO YOU SUCK too.

I'm so glad we're going to Texas to get out of here for a while. Of course, I've got to pour over my benefits information tomorrow after we land in Austin so I can decide what health benefits are available to me because Mike's insurance ends Dec. 31. Of course, my company's benefits website is down until the end of the month so I'm going to have to call my benefits people ASAP to select my health care plan over the phone before I don't have health insurance. Also, my cancer history could put a monkey wrench in things with that pesky "pre-existing condidtion". This is not what I wanted for Christmas.

I know we're in this bad situation and I truly feel awful for his other co-workers who may be in worse shape than us. My heart goes out to everyone else who was laid off, or for that matter anyone else going through tough times. Peace be with you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bitter with the Sweet

This day has been a complete roller coaster of highs and lows. It's rainy and cold again, after such a nice day in the 60s yesterday. We also had great news today, followed by really bad news.

Sweet stuff: The CT scan was clean. Yippee! Phlebotomy wasn't bad. I didn't feel the needle stick too much, everyone was sweet and full of hugs, and I found out that dear, sweet Mattie retired last month. Good for her. I also had a much better experience than last time getting the IV for the CT - not too bad either. She was quick and relatively pain free. I had the slowest machine in the place, but who can complain about a 5 minute test versus a 3 minute test. No big deal. The doctor's visit was short and sweet (except for the hour-long wait), but they came in with GREAT news so no complaints there.

Bitter pill: Mike lost his job this afternoon. He got a call last night on our way home asking him to come to work today for a very important meeting. He explained that he would be at NIH with me so they said it was okay if he didn't come in. He called around to other co-workers seeing if they knew what was up, but they didn't. I speculated that his company was acquired. Today at NIH he couldn't get a phone signal, but he was able to get out a text asking what happened. The response was simply "28". Later, we understood that meant 28 people had been let go. When Mike was finally able to get a signal, he talked to people to ask what happend, but they assured him his name didn't come up. However, his boss hadn't returned his call. I assured Mike that they wouldn't expect him to show up at work tomorrow and then tell him. Then the phone rang. His boss called to tell him he'd been let go. They asked him to go in tomorrow to talk to HR and pick up his stuff.

It's hard to be happy for me while being sad for Mike. As my accupuncturist said, "Your health is your wealth." So true. I am thankful and grateful for my health. Now Mike needs a job.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time to Post Something

It certainly has been a long time since I've posted and it's already time for my next CT scan. Yep, my check-up is tomorrow at NIH. I've been so busy at work that I haven't even had time to think about it, much less worry. That's a good thing. Anyhow, it's here and I'll know tomorrow if I'm still cancer free. Here's to a clean scan!

Twelve weeks ago, I started training for a 5K race with a program at Fleet Feet because I wanted to prove to myself - a cancer survivor - that I could do it. I was never really that athletic and if you told me at 9 that I would willingly run 3.2 miles for fun at 39, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. At 9, I hated running the stupid mile for gym class. I barely ran and walked most of the dreaded mile. I did okay in those physical fitness tests because I could rock the sit-ups (I held the school record for the most sit-ups in 2 minutes), but run a mile in under 15 minutes. Yeah right.

Our running group started off walking 3 minutes/running 1 minute then progressed to walk 2/run 2 and walk 1/run 4 until we ran our first actual mile. I did fine with the interval training, but running the miles was a little tough at first. In November, Mike convinced me to do another 5K in Rockville just to see what I could do. My plan was to run for at least 4 minutes and walk when necessary because that's what I had been doing. Four minutes turned into five, six, seven minutes until I was at my first mile. I felt pretty good so I kept on going until I finished. Not bad! I finished in about 32 minutes so my goal for my actual 5k race I was training for became to finish in under 30 minutes.

Some of those training runs were brutal - it got cold and windy around here. There were days I just wanted to stay home but I stuck with it. During my runs at that critical moment when I wanted to stop, I'd remind myself that I beat cancer or that a year ago I could barely walk a mile and now I was running. It worked and I continued my training. Mike also joined our group a few weeks ago to help the running coach keep track of all of us since we were either fast runners or slow runners and she was stressing herself out trying to keep an eye out for everyone.

I ran the 5K Jingle Bell Run for arthritis this past Saturday. It was cold - 22 degrees. I thought about staying in bed, but I layered on my clothes and set out for the race. People were decked out in santa hats, jingle bells attached to their shoes, or in other holiday attire. Some crazy person wore shorts. Our group met inside the warm Frederick Armory building for the pre-race activities and photos. We also gave ourselves a pep talk to remain strong, despite the weather. Soon, it was race time. My run went great. I started off strong and took the lead in my running group. One of the guys who I usually ran with, stayed just behind me, but we kept encouraging each other. After we crossed the finish line, he told me he had stayed behind me because he didn't want to catch up for fear I'd make him run at my pace! I finished the race at 29 minutes, 31 seconds - YEE HAW - under 30 minutes. It was awesome.

I'm already planning my next 5K - the Cherry Blossom 5K on April 5. That's also marks the 2nd year "anniversary" of my cancer diagnosis. Once again, I'm just proving to myself that I'm a strong woman who beat cancer. It's kind of my victory lap.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Weeks

Two weeks from today is one of the most important dates for American citizens. It's time to cast your vote for the next President of the United States. Mark it on your calendar, look up your polling place, or check out a sample ballot online.

I am glad we're 2 weeks away because I'm finally getting exhausted hearing about it in the news. Obama's ahead. No McCain's ahead. None of it really matters until you cast your ballot. Take a stand and be counted - VOTE.

No matter what the outcome, this has been the most historic elections we have ever seen. I wasn't sure if enough Americans could actually vote for a black man as President or have a woman Vice President (or President). Now no matter what, we have made history this year. It's simply amazing. Now get out there and vote. Don't make me come after you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

One Last Time - Let's Hear it for Summer

We're heading to Smith Mountain Lake, VA this afternoon for the weekend and one last shot at waterskiing/wakeboarding for the summer. I'm excited to be getting up on skis again after my recent successes. Usually I look back at the end of summer and ask myself what I've accomplished and come up short, but this year I did things! It goes back to being a kid and having the whole summer off to hang out at the pool, visit grandma in Texas, spend a week at the beach with my other grandma, etc. As an adult, it's much harder to get that "summer feeling" back, but this year we went to Maine, Smith Mountain Lake, Elk Lake, and Texas (Mike's tri). I finally learned how to water ski and Mike did a tri and a half marathon. We did an egg toss, got soaked in hurricane Gustav a few weeks ago, and got poison ivy on a recent walk at Lake Frank. We also saw Mama Mia on my birthday and a Jimmy Buffet tribute band in July. It's been a busy summer and we had fun. Now we're going to the lake for one last hurrah before it gets colder and the leaves turn colors and fall off the trees. What am I going to do this winter - I better get busy planning!

Hurricane Ike
Mike's Aunt & Uncle, last I heard, still didn't have power but they sustained limited damage to their house. They are lucky, but things are still pretty bad down there. I've been reading the Houston Chronicle on line to stay informed and it's just starting to get a little bit better but I heard they're trucking 2,000 lbs of ice from New Jersey (why New Jersey, isn't Georgia or Oklahoma closer? I don't understand why some of the closer states aren't shipping ice). It stinks (literally) for them. I hope it gets better soon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike's Fury

Ike turned and headed north.  Mike's Aunt Valerie and her family live in Spring, TX - just a little north of Houston. My email buddy, Paul, lives there too (he works for Mike's Uncle Steven). We are thinking of them and everyone else in that area. The footage is just amazing and scary. We're hoping for the best. Our prayers are with Texans today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Weather

They're prediciting Hurricane Ike will head smack into South Texas - not good. I've got plenty of relatives near Corpus Christi because Mom grew up just south of there in Kingsville. Let's start praying that Ike is a category 1 or tropical storm when it makes landfall later this week.

Go away, Ike.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stand Up 2 Cancer

Be sure to tune in TONIGHT as the major networks join forces to broadcast this "groundbreaking" show. From their website, "...Over 50 of the most renowned personalities in TV, film, sports and music will come together to make history. In an unprecedented television event, NBC, ABC, and CBS will simultaneously devote 1 hour of commercial-free prime time to raise funds for the fight against cancer."

Look who's appearing on the show: Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, Christina Applegate (recently diagnosed with breast cancer), Lance Armstrong, Jack Black, Kirsten Dunst, America Ferrera, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Forest Whitaker, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Fergie, Miley Cyrus (for you youngsters), Carrie Underwood and more...

www.standup2cancer.org

I've already set my Tivo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

10 Years

Yesterday, Mike and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary - yay, us! August was a good month for us - a one year cancer anniversary and this. We had a low-key day after work with dinner at Raaz (Indian) at the Rio and then a movie. We were supposed to go to Elk Lake, PA again with friends, but something happened with them and we ended up not going so our weekend plans have shifted. We thought dinner and a movie was a nice way to celebrate after going to Maine the week before.

Maine was truly great. We drove up Saturday to Portland, ME and spent the night. We tooled around Portland on Sunday before driving up to our final destination: Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park. It's so hot down here in August and we tried to get our minds around 55 degrees at night before we left, but we still weren't ready for the fall-like weather. After finally finding a hotel in Portland, we put on warmer clothes from our shorts and headed into the historic and restaurant-heavy Old Port part of town. It was cool. We had dinner at the Portland Lobster Company on the pier. We sat outside (with our coats on) and enjoyed the live band and some local food. Mike had some lobster bisque since we were in Maine. After dinner, we wandered around taking pictures and such. We found a 6 foot section of the Berlin Wall sitting on one of the piers - I walked right by it at first and then we realized what it was. Simply amazing to see.

On the way up to Bar Harbor, we stopped in Freeport - the LL Bean "mecca". We had gone to LL Bean at midnight the night before just because we had heard they were open 24/7. I wasn't overly impressed because I thought the clothes wouldn't be as expensive as they were. I was thinking "outlet" when it wasn't. We did hit the LL Bean outlet on Sunday (a separate store that's not open 24/7) when we returned, but there wasn't anything I was interested in. However, we hit the jackpot at North Face and each bought winter coats for $40! Those coats sure came in handy the rest of the week as the temps dropped down a couple of nights that week.

Bar Harbor is great. We loved this tiny town right next to Acadia. We stayed at a B&B, a 10 minute walk from town (we didn't realize how close it was for 2 days and drove into town to hunt for parking). Our B&B was nice and quaint. The inn owner was very quirky, but his wife wasn't so bad. During our tour of the facilities, he stated that they don't usually have a tv, but they had made a special exception for the Olympics and had placed a 13" tv in the living room downstairs. Our host stated we were only to watch the Olympics and nothing else. I thought Mike was going to run out the door! "R" just had a very particular manner of him, kind of like an old-fashioned dad. For example, R offered to have coffee and tea waiting outside our room every morning but we were not to bring our mugs downstairs to the breakfast area because he would have new ones at each table. Fine. Our first morning, we selected our table and then went to the dining room area to see what coffee and teas were available. We didn't take the mug from our table because we were just looking and R instructed us not to take a new mug from the counter because we had our own at the table. He was just so particular, precise and anal. It drove us both a little crazy. We spent most of week just hoping we wouldn't run into him, but the location was great and the B&B itself was nice.

We had lots of lovely meals in Bar Harbor and a fantastic lunch overlooking the harbor in Southwest Harbor on the other side of the island. We met lots of dogs and lots of people. We attended a local improv show that was really funny. We took pictures of sunrise and sunset on Cadillac Mountain, which is the first place on the east coat where you can see the sunrise. We got up at 4:45am that day to get there. For some reason, I thought it would just be us up there but there were about 100 of our closes friends that morning to usher in the new day. I was kind of disappointed in the people talking about being loud because I think you should quietly appreciate the sunrise instead of goofing off and stuff. Maybe I'm old - or just grouchy that early in the morning. We walked across a sand bar at low tide to the neighboring island (with some of the same people who were up for the sunrise). We saw lots of little boats and quite a few yachts. We took 2 whale watch cruises because we were fogged in on the first trip and couldn't see anything past the boat. The 2nd trip was a success and we saw 3 whales! It was really cold out there - I'm glad we had our new winter coats!

We walked a 6 mile loop on one of the carriage trails in Acadia and did a little bit of trail hiking around Jordan Pond in the park. It was beautiful and peaceful. I really enjoyed the park and wish we had either brought our bikes or rented them. I also wish we had hiked a little more because it was so awesome. We stood in the rain to see "thunder hole" do some thundering when the high tide rolled in, but it was more like "burping hole". We also stuck our feet in the ice cold water on the only sand beach in Acadia (also in the rain) just to say we did it.

On our way back home, we stayed in Portland again for a couple of days. This time we walked to the Portland Observatory tower that had been built in 1807. It was used as a communication tower for the busy port as the ships sailed in and managed to survive a devastating fire in 1886 that wiped out half the city. It had great views of the city and the port. We also took a sunset ferry ride for $13 each. We saw a beautiful sunset and some of the islands off the coast. It was a nice way to complete our Maine vacation before we headed back home the next day.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I'm Alright!

It has been a LONG day, but I'm finally home and still CANCER FREE on my one year anniversary. Everything basically went well (but YOWZA did that first IV stick hurt like $*&#$&*)$). She did much better on the second try but it was too late, I got light-headed and had to sit in the chair until I could get up to walk out of the room. They scared my a bit before they told me the good news. I had just told Mike my theory that if just Dr. Dunleavy came into the room, everything was good. If the team came into the room, not so good news. Moments later, in walked my NP, Dr. Wilson (THE GUY), and another colleague. Dr. Wilson relayed the news so nonchalantly that I almost didn't catch what he said. He also said the scar tissue has shrunk even more since last time. Then they said, "See you in December." Great to hear it and relieved it's over.

Once I heard the good news, I kept picturing that dancing groundhog from Caddyshack with Kenny Loggins singing, "I'm Alright." I felt like boogying right alongside Mr. Groundhog. I was even going to try to post a picture of the cute little guy, but it's late and I'm going to bed.

Since I left NIH, I've spent a lot of time in the car between driving to Bethesda, home, National airport, Arlington (happy hour), Rockville (shopping because they lost my brother-in-law and his girlfriend's suitcase), back home, Rockville again (dinner), National airport (to pick up my mother-in-law), Iwo Jima monument in Rosslyn, the airport (they lost my mother-in-law's suitcase too). In the end, we recovered all suitcases and just arrived home at midnight. Whew, I am so ready for bed but I wanted to post the news before I got a bunch of frantic calls tomorrow that I couldn't answer because we'll be on the boat.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Jitters

Tomorrow is my 1-year check-up (although the actual “anniversary” date is August 16). I moved up my appointment from next week to tomorrow since my mother- and brother-in-law are visiting this weekend and we want to celebrate the good news with them. I’m glad now that I moved up my appointment because I won’t have to worry for another week about the test results. This week is nerve-wracking because I think every little thing is the return of Priscilla. I had severe itching the other day, which worried me until I remembered we had eaten dinner on the deck the night before and it was simply mosquito bites. I was having trouble breathing in the car and then I realized it was at least 95 degrees with high humidity and the AC hadn’t kicked in yet. I’ll know tomorrow that everything’s okay and then I’ll breathe a sigh of relief…until I go back in 4 months for my next CT!

Light the Night Honored Walker. On July 31, I was honored with 7 other blood cancer survivors at the Washington Nationals game. The LLS invited us to attend the Light the Night kick-off on the roof-top of a parking garage next to the stadium. The honored walkers were showered with attention from the moment we arrived. I sat up front at a reserved table with my teammates: Mike, Melissa, Mom & Dad at a reserved table. I received a special “honored walker t-shirt” and a MLB baseball. 2 Nationals players took time out before the game to come up to our roof-top party and talk about the National’s support for the Light the Night walk.

LLS introduced each honored walker and we were allowed to say a few words to the crowd. The cutest was 5 year old survivor, Meghan, who waved and said, “hello”. Another survivor, 3 year-old Alexis wore an adorable home-made Nationals baseball dress and a pink Nationals baseball cap with “Cancer sucks” embroidered on the back. I read her story and this little girl was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 11 months old. She had a grueling battle, but on this night she smiled and enjoyed the moment.

Before the game started, the honored walkers were escorted all the way down to the field where we would be presented in front of the crowd! This is my 3rd Nats game. I started off in the owner’s box, moved down to the diamond level behind home plate, and now I was standing on the field. Mike says I’m spoiled for sure! Little Alexis played in the dirt, drawing wonderful pictures in the dirt until it was time for the camera shot. Her dad video taped her playing and all of us waiting for our moment, which he plans to place on youtube. Then we were moved out onto the actual field, something I thought wouldn’t happen because I know how much the groundskeeper monitors the grass! I was surprised again when the announcer introduced me as the honored walker from Montgomery County. Unfortunately, Mike didn’t see me on the jumbo-tron because my parents chose that moment to walk up to their seats and chat with Mike and Melissa. LLS had a photographer so I hope she snapped some great pictures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VICTORY is MINE


Much like the name of this blog, I was victorious on water skis this past weekend at Elk Lake in Pennsylvania. Our friends, Theresa and Paul invited us to Paul's dad's house on the lake (more like Mike begged them to take us). We forgot my bungee cord training guide, but I didn't need it after all. On Saturday, I managed to get up a few short times but then I couldn't stand up again. Paul's advice, "no thinking" really helped. I channeled my "inner blond" and put all thoughts out of my head and it worked! After that, though, I started thinking again and gravity pulled its tricks on me and I couldn't get up again. Sunday, however, was the day when I conquered my skis and not only stood up, but I went around the lake twice in one try!!! I couldn't stop grinning and giggling over being up on the water. It was thrilling and a little scary at the same time. I managed to bend my knees a little, but Paul said I was a little wooden on the skis. Next time, I'm going to try shifting my weight. We'll see how it goes. I am just so excited. Take that, you young whippersnappers who don't try new things. I did it!


The lake and the houses on it are so cute. They remind me of the cottages from Dirty Dancing. I half expected Baby and Johnny to come walking by with a watermelon. I felt like I was transported back in time to a simpler life. The Elk Lake community is very close and they had a field day Saturday and fishing derby on Sunday. We participated in the "covered dish" dinner on Saturday with Theresa and Paul and "helped" them bring two covered dishes to share. After dinner, we competed in the egg toss - with raw eggs. We did better than I thought we would, and came in third place after our egg exploded all over my arms, legs, and clothes. Somehow, I knew when we started that I would be the one with egg all over. Next time, I am bringing an apron, goggles, and a helmet - just in case!


Mike learned to wakeboard a couple of years ago in Texas and has loved it ever since. He just jumps right up and goes. He always looks so serious when he's wakeboarding and every once in a while he'll crack a smile, so Theresa and I teased him about it. Meanwhile, Paul has a whole routine when he wakeboards: he gets up, tucks the rope under one arm, wipes the water off his face, tousles his hair, tugs on his swim trunks, and checks his life jacket. Every time. Plus, he just grins while he wakeboards. We told Mike he needs to smile more - so he started smiling a little more plus he imitated Paul by tousling his hair too. That made us giggle.


It was a fantastic weekend. We had a great time. It almost made me forget that my one year checkup is NEXT WEEK. That's right - next Thursday. My actual anniversary date is August 15, but it's so close that I'll just celebrate on the 7th and again on the 15th. I'll be grumbling a bit next week because my appointment is at 11:30 and knowing how things go, I won't be done until 1pm and that means I won't be able to EAT until 1pm. Sigh. I'll be clutching my chocolate croissant until the moment I can finally eat and enjoy it. It's been a much better year so far than where I was almost 365 days ago. I can definitely count my blessings multiple times over.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Water Ski - Me?

Yes, I managed to (briefly) get up on skis this past weekend at Smith Mountain Lake! After many, many tries on Saturday and Sunday I finally stood up for several long seconds - the longest time I have been up on skis. It was awesome, it was thrilling, it was cool. I used Mike's "bungee cord method" (I wrap a bungee cord around my knees to keep me from doing a spread eagle face plant in the water) and it finally worked. I lost three bungee cords in the process, but managed to keep the last one the longest. I swallowed a lot of lake water and got plenty up my nose (now, there's a visual!) but I DID IT!! I talked to myself a lot out there saying stuff like, "I kicked cancer's butt and this is not as tough, so just do it already!" It didn't work too often, but when I least expected it, I was standing up on the water. Once I was up, I had a whole new set of problems to think about like figuring out how to balance myself. Alas, it didn't last long and I couldn't figure out how to do it again but I'm really close to having a longer run. We're going to another lake in PA this weekend with other friends and I'm going to try again and again until I am successful because it was FUN.

Getting older seems to be working for me. I took up rock climbing a couple of years ago and this year, I'm working on water skiing. Life is good.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy FOREth!

It's the Fourth of July and the AT&T PGA National Golf tournament is in town at Congressional Country Club. The Tiger Woods Foundation put the call out to lots of local community service groups asking for volunteers to work the tournament and the Jaycees jumped at the chance. Well, actually Mike jumped at the chance since Tiger was supposed to play this weekend. However, as you know Tiger injured himself several weeks ago and he's not allowed to play. We signed up to volunteer anyway to make some money for the chapter. We were the only Jaycees there today but we worked with the Kiwanis and some people from CASA. We were stationed in a nice tent near the 11th green and we sold sodas, water, hot dogs, brats, and some other goodies. It was a sunny hot day for most of the day and we had some pretty decent crowds, which makes the day go by much faster. After our shift was over we walked around to see some of the golfers. I don't know many of them, but we saw KJ Choi, Davis Love III, and local boy Fred Funk. I also saw some nice, young, cute golfers who were certainly nice to look at! We go back Sunday to work the tent with several more Jaycees. Sunday is the big golfing day so it should be pretty exciting.

Now we're going out to hopefully watch some fireworks - if it stops raining. Happy fourth, America!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Circle of Life

I just received some exciting news - Sue & Steve had their baby this afternoon! However, not more than an hour later I received some very sad news - Jen's brother passed away this morning. He'd been battling cancer and in recent weeks had been hospitalized a few times. In her blog yesterday, Jen sounded hopeful and talked about him possibly being released from the hospital by this weekend. I am grateful she went on a family trip with her brother just a few weeks ago to Disney World. He ended up in the hospital at the end of his vacation trip, but he was able to enjoy the week with his family.

I am already reeling from yesterday's news regarding Angela in my swim class who's cancer may have returned. She's the "loud Angela" in our swim class and is always singing along with the music and cracking jokes with everyone or ogling the lifeguards. She's truly a trip. Not only do we have the same name, but her birthday is a few weeks after mine. I wish her the best and I'm going to make sure I call and visit her to keep her spirits up as she deals with this news. I wrote in her get well card, "We are super hero cancer fighting chicks." She is truly a super hero cancer fighting chick - Fight on, Angela.

Several weeks ago, Melanie lost her mom to cancer. I'm in shock right now as I try to handle all of this cancer-cancer-cancer stuff in my life. Two years ago, I knew very few people who had cancer and now I know more people with cancer than I ever thought possible. My prayers list keeps getting longer every day.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We have water!

Late Sunday evening a very large water main burst on the other side of the county followed by another water main breakage the next morning much closer to my house. Both breakages caused nearly 100 million gallons of water to gush into Rock Creek Park and Lake Frank. After they managed to get the water back on, the entire county was put on mandatory water restrictions: no laundry, no washing dishes, and limited flushing. The kicker was that we were also required to boil all drinking water for at least a minute in case of bacteria contamination for three days.

While this didn't seem to be too much a hardship: I simply put on a pot and a teakettle to boil first thing every morning and then again when I got home to ensure we had water for us and for Riley and Shelby. I kept a bottle of boiled water in the fridge and kept a small bottle near my sink so we could brush our teeth. Apparently, boiling water was waaaaaaaaay to difficult for a lot of people to handle and there was a mad rush for water at every grocery store in the county. On Monday, we thought about picking up a couple of gallons of water on the way home from Virginia for us and a friend just in case, but a nasty thunderstorm rolled through and knocked out power to all the grocery stores (and traffic lights) in that area! After sitting in traffic, not moving for a very long time to try yet one more grocery store, we gave up and went home to boil some water.

Meanwhile, back in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, people were loading up entire shopping carts with bottled water and hoarding it like Hobbits trying to keep that precious ring. I was amazed at the selfishness I saw on the news. I didn't buy any water and I managed to make due just fine. It's not like we didn't have any water at all, we just had to boil it for one minute! It's not difficult. Last summer when I was going through chemo, I probably would have bought a few bottles just to be on the safe side, but not a whole shopping cart. I might have been more careful with my toothbrush because I did catch myself a couple of times rinsing my toothbrush in the sink instead of my pre-boiled bottle of water. I survived, though and the water tested clean late last night so we can all go back to not boiling our water. Oh, the hardship.

One big problem that resulted in the lack of clean water was nearly every restaurant in the county was shut down! Monday morning we stopped at Starbucks and I had an iced chai. I don't think they heard about the water restrictions that morning, but they were closed the next day. We didn't think it was a big deal with the coffee because they have to boil the water, right? Well, apparently not long enough. All restaurants, from diners to McDonald's to fancy schmancy were all closed or on limited operations: only pre-packaged food could be sold. No fountain sodas (ice), tea, or coffee. My parents went to Bugaboo Creek Monday night and they were open and serving on paper plates with paper napkins. They didn't serve any tea or coffee, but they were open for business. I have a feeling they shouldn't have been open and were probably shut down on Tuesday.

Thankfully everything is finally back to normal. I celebrated by eating out for lunch today and had an iced tea - in Virginia, where I work. :-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Play ball


We were invited to the Washington National's game last week, but not just to see the game, but to see it from the owner's box. Our friend's family and the owners are old friends. We were so honored to be there. While I was at a late lunch with my co-workers, a storm came out of no where and pounded the area with high winds and lots of rain and lightening. It soon passed and afterwards, I picked Mike up from work and went back to my office to see if the game was still happening that night. I work in Virginia and the game was not far away in DC so we had plenty of time to figure things out before the game.
I saw on the Internet the game was still on, so we headed into the city. The skies started to get dark as we drove towards the stadium. We heard on the radio about the damage from the storm and about other storms heading our way. It seems Montgomery County got pounded by the storms - lots of lights out. I was sure glad we weren't stuck in traffic in all that mess.
We were thrilled and shocked to find that our free parking pass Keith had given us put is in the garage right next to the stadium - woo hoo! We'd never been to the new ballpark and it was impressive right from the start. We showed our special tickets and worked our way up to the box. I started to realize how big a deal this was when we had to show our tickets at least six times to get there. I wasn't expecting the actual owners to be there that night, but Mrs. Lerner was and she was so very nice and welcoming to everyone.
It started to downpour and everyone in the stadium ran for cover. We watched and waited to see what would happen, but it was pretty obvious a game wasn't going to happen that night. Meanwhile, we dined on delicious roasted vegetables, salad, mini tuna steaks (for Mike), and grilled chicken. That was in the first box. In the second owner's box, they offered hot dogs, fries, and four flavors of dippin' dots ice cream! You would think that would be enough, but a little while later the servers brought out baseball-shaped cookies, a tray of peanut brittle, and another tray of mini-cheesecakes and fudge. Everything was good.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, despite the rainy night and on the way out, we received Nats baseball hats and baseball. We recently found out we can use our tickets since the game ended up being cancelled to go again - not the owner's box but on the same diamond level. Yeah!

Let's Relay!

The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life was a couple of weeks ago. I had a busy day that day between the Relay and my former neighbor's wedding that afternoon in DC. However, I was co-captain of our team, the G&G Jaycees Superheroes (and a cancer survivor to boot), so I had to be there for at least part of the event. Mike and I arrived at the track to dark clouds and a scary weather forecast calling for tornadoes. I had hoped to set up the campsite before we had to leave for the wedding. However, with dark skies overhead we decided to hold off and just enjoy the survivor's lunch before the Relay.

Finally, the skies cleared up a bit and we went to our campsite with some of our teammates who had arrived to help. Nicole and Blair brought decorations to go with our Superheroes theme and we got busy hanging posters and red and white steamers from our tent. It looked really awesome when we were done - not bad with dollar store decorations! However, the storm decided to rear its ugly head and we were told to get off the field and take cover. That was my cue to leave anyway because we needed to get home, shower, and get ready for the wedding.

Andrea and Sam's wedding was awesome. She looked stunning in her floor-length lace wedding gown and could definitely be a wedding dress model. They both looked incredibly happy as they said their vows. The reception was at the Hay-Adams hotel in DC and everything was great, from the blueberry martinis to the wonderful meal. The best part was the view from the roof, where we headed up after dinner for dancing and cake. By this time it was dark and the hotel looked directly over a lit-up White House with the Washington Monument directly behind it. The view took our breath away - simply marvelous. In all my year here, I've never seen a view like that. Wow!

After we went home and I changed, I made it back to the Relay so I could keep Becky and Blair company overnight. I missed the luminary ceremony, but I saw the candles all lit up around the track. I had ordered a couple in honor of myself (and to raise some more $ for cancer research), but it freaked me out a bit to see my name out there. I saw luminaries for Uncle Neil, Grandpa, Grandma Marie, and so many others that I knew and didn't know. I walked for a while on the track and hung out with my team before they went home (except for Becky and Blair). I went to my tent around 1am. I didn't get much sleep, thanks to the chatty HS girls talking all night. In the end, it was a great event and I look forward to actually being there during the day next year!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mike's Triathlon - my version

I don't know if you've read Mike's blog about his race, but here's my version of events.

We arrived in Austin several days before the race and it was HOT, especially since it was 49 degrees when we left Maryland that morning. We were hungry and Mike's version of acclimating himself to the temperature was to eat lunch outside. Mike said it was really hot, but for once the extreme temperature didn't bother me that much. However, I did feel bad for him and the other triathletes who would be racing in that mess. Yuck. Thursday night we hung out at his mom's pool where Mike and Brian competed in swimming contests and I refereed. I also sat in the hot tub a bit, but with the temperature turned down because I didn't want to break out in hives like I did last time.

We met up with my mom Friday morning. She was in San Antonio for the week visiting my grandma for her 92nd birthday so she met us halfway between both cities and took me to San Antonio with her and then we both drove to Austin that night so she could stay and see Mike's race on Sunday. Mom and I met Uncle Robert for lunch at a fabulous all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet and then we headed over to grandma's home for her birthday. Grandma has dementia and when I saw her in December with Gina, she didn't recognize me. This time she knew who I was almost immediately. I was surprised and happy she knew who I was, even with my short hair. I think seeing me with Mom helped a bit. Grandma was really good and seemed more herself than I had seen the last couple of visits. I think her new place is better for her than the big assisted living home where she used to live. There are only six residents here and I think she feels more comfortable. She looks great and did really well all day, except we noticed she was acting a little funny when we left but I thought it was because she was really tired from not sleeping so much.

Saturday morning, Mom and I joined Mike's aunts Valerie and Pam on a "million dollar home tour" right on Lake Travis. It was really hot that day and I felt like I was roasting in the heat. It was an organized event with shuttle buses that took us from the parking lot to the homes. There were lots of people (the $10 entry fee went to Make a Wish), which made it hotter inside the houses. We saw some beautiful homes: a walk-in wine "cellar" that had a clear Plexiglas floor built over a koi pond that went outside; a mirror with a built-in TV; and much, much more. We realized we were running late for Mike's TNT pasta party and we had to wait for a shuttle bus with a huge crowd. Valerie and Pam pushed our way onto the overcrowded bus, but halfway back to the parking lot it broke down. Several of us argued to just let us get out and walk, but they wouldn't open the door. Another bus finally arrived but it was much smaller. We managed to get on this bus and some people did start walking. We raced back to Austin and the frantic phone calls from Gail and Mike began. Gail was pretty ticked because we were running late and we had taken her car so she was stuck waiting for us. We finally got back, but Mom and I had to take Pam and Valerie back to Pam's place so they could shower. Thankfully, Mom and I weren't that sweaty so we didn't have to shower.

We arrived at the pasta party just before they closed down the food! It was pretty good, but I was disappointed they only offered two kinds of pasta with two kinds of sauce. I wasn't expecting a pasta party of that magnitude. For some reason, I just thought it was going to be the 23 local TNT athletes and their families in some small conference room just kicking back and loading up on pasta. It turns out, it was for all 500 TNT athletes and their families from around the country! It was a big motivational banquet explaining why everyone was there: to raise money for the LLS programs. The big shocker was that they had raised over $900,000 from just this race! GO TEAM!! The guest speaker was an author, motivational speaker, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer survivor…28 y.o. Meg Brown. She was AMAZING and I met her briefly afterwards and bought her book, which I read most of on the plane on the way home. She was misdiagnosed for four months and by the time she made it to the ER for her diagnosis, she was in such bad shape she was about one week away from dying. The most amazing thing: she ran the triathlon the next day. How awesome.

The alarm clock rang bright and early the next day: 6am. Mom needs a LONG time to get ready so she got up at 5am. I don't understand why. I figured I'd be hot and sweaty within an hour of being outside, so I didn't bother to take a shower. Mom, on the other hand, took a shower, blow-dried her hair, and put on make up. I put on sunscreen, put on our special purple "AM Victory Austin, TX 2008" t-shirt (with CANCER SUCKS! on the back) and was ready to go. We rode down with Gail, Brian, Yolandi, and Gail's fiance Michael. They closed the streets earlier than they said and we had a tough time figuring out where to park. We figured it out and walked down to the river where Mike was swimming and parked our gear along with everyone else. There were almost 2,000 athletes competing and I managed to find Mike in the crowd before his swim. He seemed really glad to see me and when I asked him later, he was really glad because he was on the verge of wigging out about the race. I chatted with him for a while and then headed back to his family, but I saw Gail coming towards me and took her over to him. It's amazing that I found him at all, but I kept looking for groups of TNT athletes with white swim caps. We hugged again and went back. Gail stayed by the finish line, but Mom, Valerie, Pam, and I stayed at the starting gate. I brought purple cowbells from Maryland and gave them to everyone in Mike's entourage. The race starts in waves, and Mike was in the white wave (like his swim cap). As each wave before Mike's passed us by, we clanged our cowbells and cheered for everyone, especially the TNT athletes. Some looked really thankful and happy we were there. In fact, after Mike went through the starting gate, someone commented to him that we were the loudest ones there. OH YEAH! GO MIKE!!!

Mike got in the water and waited for the gun. They jumped in from a floating dock and treaded water until the starting gun went off. Finally, the race was under way! I lost Mike in a sea of white swim caps plus they swam away from the spectators for most of the race. As he made the turn to come back, Michael spotted him in his binoculars and pointed him out. I could finally see him and he looked good. His stroke looked confident and strong. As he got closer, I went over to the transition area to cheer him on after he got out of the water. Soon, I heard them announce his name and he was out of the water. He made his way to the transition area and I cheered and clanged my cowbell. He told me later, he was a little out of it and barely remember seeing me.

We made our way over to the bike course and it was a mad house with bikers everywhere. Mike had to do four loops and I was supposed to hold up a sign counting down his laps, but I missed him the first lap. I finally saw him on the second lap. One of his teammates, Shannon, was near him so when I saw her on the third lap, I meant to keep an eye out for Mike, but she got clipped by another biker and fell. Shannon got up right away, but struggled to get back on the bike. She took a long time so I ran over to her to see if I could encourage her to keep on going. She was mad and crying and one of the TNT coaches helped her fix her bike. In all of that madness, I missed Mike's third lap. She finally got back on the bike and Mom and I cheered her on. We finally saw Mike again and it was on to the run.

We moved over to the running course and positioned ourselves near the start/finish of the run. By this time, it was getting really HOT and nasty. The run course was two loops of 3.1 miles each loop, but because of where we were sitting, we actually saw him four times as he started out or ended each loop. We finally saw him on the course and erupted into cheers and massive cowbell ringing. Brian hopped on the course and ran about .25 mile with him. I saw lots of athletes on this part looking completely exhausted and worn-out so I was sure to really encourage them, especially the TNT athletes. Some smiled and waved as they ran by (some looked annoyed, whatever). We spotted Meg Brown, the speaker from the night before, and she looked tired. One condition of her stem cell transplant is that her skin can get really tight, which makes it tough to move. She was running really stiffly and slow. We erupted into cheers of "Meg! Meg! Meg!" and she smiled and seemed to pick up the pace. She's awesome.

Soon enough, it was Mike's last lap. We high-tailed it to the finish line to see him there. Mom was moving a little slow from the heat and from hunger. I was a little disappointed I didn't see him cross the finish line, but I was close enough that I heard them announce his name. He was done! He finished!!! We hugged and kissed him and celebrated his amazing accomplishment. I am so proud of him. He did a TRIATHLON. Wow. His completion time was 3:09:32. It was an amazing experience and I'm super proud of his finishing this thing and for all of his training. He's been dedicated and spent many, many hours at the pool, on his bike, and outside running. All of his hard work paid off: he finished. GO MIKE!!!

Now he's training for his next event - a half marathon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Triathlon Day

Tomorrow is the big day - the CapTexTri - Mike's big race he's been training for months to do. It's HOT down here in Austin and I hope he's acclimated enough for tomorrow because I'm nervous about something bad happening. He bought lots of Gatorade and water tonight so he is prepared. We went to his big pasta party dinner, which I thought was going to be about 50 people in the hotel but it was probably closer to 200 people! It was all of the Team in Training participants, not just his chapter. I should have thought of that, but it didn't even cross my mind. They pumped everyone up with pep talks and lots of humor about the Texas weather. Each athlete stood up to be recognized and they even asked for cancer survivors to stand too and there were about 10 of us in the room, including a little boy.

The final speaker was a 6 year non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor - stage 4. She was 22 when she was diagnosed. She had an awesome sense of humor and shared some of her experiences. While she was talking, I compared myself to her and how she went undiagnosed for months and could have died if she had waited any longer. I am so grateful and thankful that I caught it when I did because who knows what would have happened.

I am so proud of Mike and all of his training. He's staying at the hotel near the course and I called him a bit ago to wish him luck tomorrow. He's a little nervous and hopes he's prepared. He has to get up at 4am to get ready, but we're not so far behind as Gail wants to leave here at 5:30 to get a good spot. I agree with her and will just deal with being sleepy in the morning. My mom's complaining about the time because she is not a morning person. Tomorrow morning will be interesting getting us all out the door, but the most important thing is Mike's race.

GO MIKE, GO!!!!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Praise Jesus!

That's what Mattie, one of the phlebotomists said when I told her about my good health. Keep in mind, it was before my CT, but it works for the test results too. My CT was CLEAN!!! Priscilla is gone and the doctor mentioned, "remission," but I'm still a little hesitant to use that word. It happened exactly as I had hoped, my NP Doug examined me and said my blood work was excellent. Dr. DunLeavy breezed in later to tell me my CT looked excellent and to say, "see you in three months." My next appointment is August 14th.

I was a little worried when Peru went to draw blood and said my veins weren't that good because I was dehydrated. I forgot all about chugging lots of water for the past couple of days. She got it okay, but I was really worried about the IV for my CT because it's a bigger needle. In the end, the IV was no big deal. I made a note in my calendar to drink water two days before my next exam. After she got the IV in, I sent Mike off to donate blood to the NIH blood bank because he can't come in during my CT anyway and the blood bank there is in desperate need right now (http://www.cc.nih.gov/blooddonor/). NIH has a new CT machine and it's really quick. I was done in no time! I did have to wait a lonnnnnnng time in the waiting rooms to get the CT scan, but the scan itself takes less than 5 minutes now.

I also felt great afterwards, with minimal tummy upset. We had margarita pizza at Zios afterwards (my favorite) and then I went shopping to celebrate my good news. I also played volleyball last night and felt great. Tonight I'm volunteering for a couple of hours from 10-midnight at the Seneca Valley HS After Prom (my Alma mater). Robert's graduating early tomorrow morning in College Park and planning a full day of celebrations so I won't be able to stay all night at After Prom. I'm also hosting a jewelry part on Sunday at 3pm to raise money for my Relay team (so stop by if you're in town!). It's good to be busy - life does go on!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CT Scans

I forgot to explain about the CT scans in my last post. My 9 month checkup is THIS Thursday. Yes, two days from today I will be having a "delicious" barium shake followed by a fun IV and subsequent CT scan, which will reveal Priscilla is still dead and I can go on living it up. That's my vision, anyway. I do not plan to deviate from this vision. I will immediately follow up the CT scan with a yummy chocolate croissant from the Au bon pain in NIH's atrium. I am so looking forward to that croissant! Thinking about it certainly helps me NOT think about the rest of it, but I have not worried about this test at all. Now, talk to me tomorrow night around midnight when I'm lying awake staring up at the ceiling!

Mother's Day and CT Scans



Mother's day weekend was super busy for me, as usual. The weekend was the Jaycee spring convention and I went up there for Friday and Saturday night. No awards for me this weekend, although I did receive my certificate for winning a national award for a project I ran last year (yes, I ran a big project and won a national award AND had cancer. Take that, all you underachievers!). I already knew I won, but I received the official certificate. Friday night, Kelli and I snuck out of convention activities to hear a local band, Bob & Jeff who I used to see in college in nearby Towson. It turns out Mike used to see them locally in Rockville and knew Jeff's brother and Melissa also used to see them play in Rockville - when none of us knew each other. It was a good time, but I was ready to go back to the hotel by midnight because I get up at 5:30am and because I am OLD!

We spent Mother's day at my Aunt Carol's where her husband, Andy braved the rain to BBQ some burgers and 'dogs. The picture to the right is me and Grandma. She's 87 and is darn excellent these days. I was pleased to see she drove her pick-up truck over for the ocassion, although Aunt Anne drove home becaue Grandma realized she forgot her driver's license. Aunt Carol's cat had babies so we got to see the 1 month old cuties. They are adorable, but Shelby and Riley might be a little upset if we brought one home.

Mike's tri is only 13 days away. He met with his swim coach last night and is out there either running or biking right now. Last week he tried out his new wetsuit at the same pool where I do water aerobics and the ladies oohed and aahed over how fast he swam and how athletic he looks.

My Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society is 19 days away. I received another donation today and now I am about $9 away from my $500 goal. If someone doesn't donate, I will do something to push me over that edge. No way am I going to end up $9 short of my goal. If you want to donate - check out the link on this page. (hint hint)

Monday, April 28, 2008

My crazy, busy life

Life has certainly returned to normal and my calendar for May has exploded. Between a bridal shower, a wedding, Relay for Life, volleyball, water aerobics, and don't forget work I barely have a free moment. As one friend commented when I told him my crazy schedule, "Sounds like you are getting back into your pre Priscilla mode." It made me think. I don't want to be as crazed as I was before Priscilla knocked me upside the head (or maybe it was the heart & lungs since that where she was hiding!) I am taking a hard look at my schedule and will pare back on activities. Unfortunately, I don't have a free weekend until June. I mean it. Every weekend I'm doing something. I've got to tone down the weeknights because I want to spend some time with my family - Mike, Riley, and Shelby. My boys are important to me. It's nice to have a normal life these days, but I want to sit back and enjoy it sometimes.

May is busy for me, and it's also Mike's big long-awaited event: the Capital of Texas Triathlon. In a few short weeks he'll be swimming, biking, and running his way through downtown Austin as his way of spotlighting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He's been in Texas this past weekend working on building a gazebo at his mom's house. I don't know if he went downtown to check out the race area, but I do know he has kept up his training activities. He bought tri shorts this weekend. His swim coach urged him to buy a speedo, but he refused! Instead, he'll wear tri shorts, which are like spandex shorts. I think triathletes wear them under their wetsuits and that's what he'll ride and run in after he changes out of the wetsuit. We're both learning a lot about the triathlon world. We've also learned that triathletes are the friendliest athletes (among "just" runners, bikers, or swimmers). We've been told triathletes are the most laid back and accepting athletes, and it seems true so far (now I'm going to get a bunch of comments from ticked off runners and bikers!).

Mike's been in Austin all weekend helping his mom build a gazebo out by her pool. It's been quiet around the house, but the boys and I have been spending quality time together. With all this rain, I've only been able to take Riley out for two walks. I had hoped to take him today, but the rain scared me away. I don't melt in the rain, but I don't want to be out walking in a downpour. Sorry, Riley! I hope it dries out soon - for Riley's sake.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dig It

Last Thursday I played my first game of volleyball since February 2007, when a funny thing called "cancer" pushed aside my volleyball career. I have numb feet and toes (yes, still) and running is interesting because of the pins and needles sensation, but I decided to sign up anyway. I've been working out at least twice a week with my trainer and exercises there include weight lifting (I can dead lift about 90 lbs!) and ladder drills. The ladder drills include lots of fancy footwork in and out of boxes on a flat ladder on the ground while holding 3 or 4 lb. weights. I'm used to moving my feet, even though I can't feel everything.

Volleyball was awesome. I'm definitely slower and my setting was not very good, but I wasn't as bad as I thought I would be. I definitely need to work on not swinging my arms when I set and planting my feet when I get to where I'm going. Those were things I needed to work on before and I'm really out of practice now. My team did well, despite being short 2 players (we have 8 on the team) and we won 2 out of 3 games and the last one was a close game. I do feel bad for my hitters who have to try and make something out of my sets, but I wasn't terrible. It felt really good to be back. I also received warm hugs and welcomes from lots of people who missed me. Peter commented on my "haircut" so I told him it wasn't cut, but finally growing back in after a long ordeal. I didn't tell my other teammates, but I've known Peter for at least 10 years through the league and thought he should know. I'll probably tell the others in time, but we'll see. I'm so glad to be back and am looking forward to this Thursday! GO TEAM!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Happy Cancer Anniversary

“You have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” That’s what a doctor said to me one year ago today. Instead of wallowing in sadness, I walked/ran 5K and Mike ran 10 miles in downtown DC along the beautiful (and soggy) tidal basin with the Credit Union Cherry Blossom event. Today I shake a fist high in the air and celebrate victory over Priscilla. I’m grateful to be alive and kicking after a dark and scary year learning more than I ever wanted to know about cancer. I never imagined I would ever have first-hand knowledge about cancer, but life throws a few curve balls out at you and you just have to arm yourself with information (and great medicine) and fight back. I am also thankful to be alive now in 2008 when doctors are making great strides towards combating cancer with medicine that helps people live longer and fulfilling lives.

Today's race would have been nicer if we had gotten yesterday's near 70 and sunny weather, but instead we got the shaft with cold, wet, miserable weather. We ran into Sandy, one of our volleyball friends, at the metro and rode downtown with her. She and Mike were in the same color starting group so they ran together. I tried to watch them start, but there were nearly 20,000 runners so I lost them quickly in the crowd. I'm so proud of my 5K today. I planned to walk and maybe run if I felt like it. I was near the front of my 5k group and realized I should've been in the back if I was going to walk. However, once we began I started jogging and decided it wasn't so bad because the ground was relatively flat. I ended up jogging most of the first mile, most of the second, and about half of the third to make up the total 5K. My goal was to finish in one hour and I crossed this finish line at approximately 40-43 minutes (we didn't have the clock - that was reserved for the 10 milers). Mike and Sandy finished about 1:42 and I actually saw them cross the finish line - it was so cool!

It was crazy downtown with racers and specatators everywhere. Even in that large crowd I ran into Evan before and after the race. I also spotted one of Mike's Team in Training buddies. We went to the Expo yesterday to pick up our bibs and t-shirts and ran into even more Team in Training people there. I'm considering doing a 10K run/walk in June in Annapolis if I can figure out how to work it with my schedule. I had fun today and I like the option on not having to run the whole thing! I am just so proud that I was at the Tidal Basin today and able to run when a year ago my whole world changed and I didn't know what I could expect from my future or if I had one. Go me!

Happy Birthday today, Mom - sorry I ruined it for you last year. I'm glad we can celebrate it this year. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

I've spent two days this week at work learning all about Six Sigma and Green Belt. My company requires every new employee to become Green Belt certified within one year of their start date (and since we were acquired last July, they started our clock as of January 1). I'm the team captain and I feel a lot of responsibility for making sure we complete our project this year. It's all about improving some process in our group and my team has chosen a hefty project that if we can get it off the ground and obtain senior management approval, it will make all of our lives a lot easier. Training has been fun (except for the day when we learned all about statistics and standard deviation - I didn't like that class in college and I certainly didn't get it this time). We've had some fun games to teach us about process improvement and my team certainly piles on the wisecracks. The first day, our instructor told us to write our names or whatever we want to be called on the table tents and Patti wrote "Princess." Pete wrote "Hey you." We are a fun group.

With all this green belt training, I have this urge to challenge my friend's five year old, Parker to a karate contest. He just started learning karate a couple of months ago and I bet he already has his green belt. Lucky kid.

I took a cooking class Tuesday night and really enjoyed it. We made a vinegar-based potato salad that was really good and flank-steak appetizers with Thai dipping sauce. The chef purchased the dipping sauce, but only because he hasn't figured out how to make it yet. We also make a Dijon mustard vinaigrette for our salad, roasted tomatoes, chicken Caesar (outstanding!) and balsamic strawberry shortcake for dessert. My sister-in-law was one of the attendees and she brought some food home for my brother - how sweet! I came home raving to Mike so it looks like we'll be taking a knife skills class their in the future. It's called Chef Bryan's Kitchen and it's in the Kentlands.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gotta cut foot loose!

I've gained three pounds more than I did before Priscilla and my pants are getting a little snug. Not only am I training for my 5K walk on April 6th, but now my goal is to lose those three pesky pounds by the end of the month so I can wear my darn clothes. I've been either walking or interval training (walk/run combo) nearly every day for the past three weeks, except when I had a cold. I was making progress until I had dinner with Keith and Mike last night at Maggiano's! It's all you can eat family style - bring on the creme brulee.

In addition to all this walking, I've been doing my water aerobics for the past few weeks too. I went this past Tuesday, forgetting we had a sub for the last week of class until the next session. You know subs, they're not as good as the normal teacher. Anyway, she must be in her early 20s and she brought her boom box with her Footloose CD. It was all good in the beginning because I loved that movie - brought back some memories of my youth. Then I started thinking about where I was swimming - the aquatic center attached to my junior high (now a middle school - I am old). I started having flashbacks to junior high when we were forced to take swimming as part of gym. There's nothing more traumatic than having evil junior high kids see you in your swimsuit. I was a tall, gangly, shy girl with "great" 80s hair and big glasses. Good times.

The swim class went well, but I had forgotten the other songs on the Footloose album. Who knew "Bang your Head" was on that album? Mike didn't and he used to be a total head banger! It was quite the trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jaycee of the Year

Several weeks ago I went to the year-end Jaycee convention in Timonium, MD (hmmm, I wore this same dress at the 2007 year-end convention...) This particular convention is always fraught with tension and curiosity as chapters and chapter officers around the state vie for awards and the TOP award - the Henry Giessienbier, named after the Jaycee founder. In addition to chapter awards, the Gaithersburg/Germantown (G&G) Jaycees had nominated three of our members for state and national awards without them knowing (except they did because there were some slip-ups over the past few months in trying to keep things secret). Anyhow, we were especially fraught (love that word today!) with anticipation. We had arranged flowers, cake, and champagne for the recipients and I had worked hard making scrapbooks for two of them.


The banquet on Saturday was amazing with two MD state troopers on hand to accept a $9,000 check from the Jaycees for their stab vest program to protect the dogs inside state prisons. As far as awards, G&G did really well and our chapter officers and a couple of members received some nice plaques (if you weren't there, you'll have to come to our membership meeting next week to find out what the awards were - too bad!). However, during all of the excitement it came time to announce the Maryland Jaycee of the Year. MDJC President David Smith got choked up during the presentation because the award is named after someone from his chapter - the Salisbury Jaycees - who unexpectedly died several years ago. I don't recall everything that President David said, but I got teary eyed when I realized he was talking about me and my courage and strength this past year. I am honored and thrilled to have received this award, especially when I think about how many Maryland Jaycees there are. I will be PROUD to display on my wall (once Ron gives the plaque back to me after the membership meeting!).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Achoo!

I've caught a cold. I tried really hard to avoid sick people since I know there's nasty flu going around, but it didn't completely work. My head is stuff and I can't breathe. I stayed home from work today because I feel miserable and there's not since in sharing my germs with everyone there. I am thankful it's not the flu. Mom had the flu a couple of weeks ago and Dad's doctor gave him Tamiflu so he wouldn't get it (which he didn't). I haven't had the flu in several years and I really would like to avoid that. I know my immune system is not as good as it should be, so I've been trying to stay as healthy as possible. I don't want any more trips to the hospital!


We're working on fixing up one of the townhouses we rent and after painting a test area the other day, decided we really need to paint over the dark wood paneling in the basement. I'm supposed to help with that tonight, but I doubt I will be there with this cold. I hope I'm better tomorrow so I can help finish painting at least. We had a couple of people walk through the other day, so we will see what happens. I'm really pleased with how the kitchen turned out. Mike and our friend Eric put down wood laminate flooring, we painted all of the kitchen cabinets white, and replaced all of the hardware too. The stove, microwave, sink, and countertops are all new. It looks really nice, now we just need someone to agree and rent it soon.


I just wanted to share a picture of my friend Mary's little girl, Laura. Mary and I went to Seneca Valley HS, although she graduated a year before me (we won't go into what year that was!) Mary found out she was pregnant right around the time I was diagnosed so I got to hear wonderful updates of her pregnancy while I was going through all of that. It was very nice to hear about life going on outside of my own chaos. So, here's baby Laura! What a cutie!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Training

I posted earlier today, but I forgot to add that I'm also training. I'm doing a 5K walk on April 6th and I started training earlier this week to make sure I can do it with no problem. I started with a 15 minute walk on Monday and then a 20 minute walk/fast walk on Wednesday. It's been difficult because it's so darn COLD outside. I walked at lunch at work and on Wednesday, I almost turned around and went back inside. Eisenhower Avenue is a long, flat street that parallels I-495 (which means I can see traffic stacking up to go to the Woodrow Wilson bridge as I walk). There is a river "run" between 495 and the street and it's a fairly wide open body of water. These factors combine into making my walk like walking into a wind tunnel. I managed to stick it out, but it was brutal.

I'm walking 25 minutes today and taking Riley with me. He loooooooves walks. I plan to fit in a walk tomorrow at the Jaycee convention and then another walk on Sunday when I get home. So far, I haven't had any problems except being cold!

Oh, and a happy belated birthday to Claire Luton and Suzanne Jubert.

Can't Help but Thnk

I'm heading off to the quarterly Jaycee convention tonight. It's the weekend where year-end awards are handed out, especially the number one chapter in the State (the coveted Giessenbier). I can't help but think about last year around this time. I was the 2006 Individual Development VP for my chapter and I helped write our annual report and individual project write-ups, which helped the chapter win the Giessenbier, several other state-level awards, and a national Jaycee award. In addition, I received the Jaycee International Senate award, which is the highest award anyone can receive in the Jaycees - it's international! It was a great weekend, with lots to celebrate and be proud of. What I reflect on now is that evil Priscilla was growing inside me back then and didn't know how drastically my life would change two months later.

This is the wierd way I think sometimes. My brother celebrated his 1 year anniversary recently and I'm so glad I didn't know about the cancer before his wedding because I was able to celebrate with family and friends and not worry about anything, but at the same time it freaks me out a little to know how "normal" things were before my world was blown apart. I feel like I'm riding to the top of an emotional roller coaster as I approach my own "anniversary" in April and I don't know how I'll feel when I get there. I know I'm celebrating by doing a 5K walk at the annual Cherry Blossom event. I'll be glad to be doing something to celebrate that I AM alive and Priscilla didn't take me out. I have to admit, it's going to be interesting. My friend, Gila, was injured in a bombing in Israel almost 6 years ago a week after my anniversary. She has a party each year to celebrate her life, so I'm taking a cue from her by doing this 5k. (I'm adding a link on the right to her blog if you're interested in reading her story - it's amazing.)

I just want to say in advance that this weekend promises to be a weekend of celebrations for my chapter again. I know of some very special awards that some very deserving people will be receiving. Don't bother to ask me because, I'm not telling. You'll have to figure it out!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day to Me

Priscilla's still dead - yay!!!!!! Everything went very well, including the blood work and IVs for the CT scan. The IV tech had to stick me twice because the first time didn't take, but I didn't pass out. They were also quick, probably because no one else wanted to come in for a CT scan today. I arrived at 8:30 and went to phlebotomoy where I was greeted warmly by everyone. Ronnie (the head of the deparment) said she'll see my mom later today, but I told her mom is home sick today with a bad cold and high fever. Ronnie told me to stay away from mom today so I wouldn't get sick. I arrived for my CT scan at 9am and by 9:30, they were ready to take me back for my IV. They were so quick, that I hadn't even gotten changed into my hospital pajamas when they called my name for the IV tech. I usually wait an hour before I see her. After they put the IV in, I only waited about five minutes before I was called back for the CT. My clinic appointment was at 11:30 and I was up there by 10:30.

It was a quick day with good news. Doug, my NP, examined me and asked me how I've been feeling. The numbness in my feet and toes has subsided considerably. It's still there, but I don't smack my feet as hard when I walk. Mike was making fun of me there for a while because I walked funny. Dr. Dunleavy came in later with the good news and said my CT scan looked excellent (yay!) and that the leftover scar tissue has shrunk even a little more than last time. My white counts are hovering just above the "good" line, which can happen because the rituximab drug can linger for about 6 months and cause mild neutropenia even now. So, all is good!

Doug asked me if I had a blog because another patient had found this and had asked him about it. I said, "I guess I better stop talking bad about NIH!" I've had nothing but great service there, except for a few nurses who thought I was a pincushion. I'm amazed that he found this, but I think he was researching my type of lymphoma and found me. He said this has been helpful, so I'm glad someone can learn from my experience. My top hint is to eat like crazy when you're on the prednisone because the next week you won't feel like eating anything. When you get to that state, ask NIH for the frozen slushies because they are excellent, cold, and make a good meal when nothing else sounds good.

We went to lunch to celebrate and we both had the salad bar and mini turkey burgers. Both of us started feeling bad after we ate and I got sick when we got home. I don't know if the barium/contrast dye made me worse, but I did not feel well. I took a nap for a couple of hours (plus I've been so tired from working late) and feel better now. Fun.

When I woke up, I called work to check in on the status of our proposal that's due tomorrow. It's CRAZY over there. We have several subcontractors on our team and we hadn't received all of their pricing data. I saw the flurry of emails to track this down and one of our subs is going to meet our delivery person tomorrow morning in the parking lot at the Government facility where this is due. My co-workers are still working to get our pricing volume printed and I sincerely hope they won't be there late tonight. They're not just working on my proposal because we're printing another proposal that's also due tomorrow and I hear that one's even crazier than mine.