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.