Tag Archives: duke

Reasons My 2012 (and Cancer) Didn’t Totally Suck

I find myself with January – and 2013 – approaching with excitement, appreciation, and sure, some apprehension. I mean, last time this year our family was packing away Christmas to move to Dubai as we sent Davis halfway around the globe. I was getting the dog microchipped, faxing reams of applications to International Schools, networking for a live-in Indonesian nanny, and starting to build an expat community. My resolutions were to embrace life and take chances. To not be scared, to give myself to my children and create memories and opportunities for their joy. And, to love and support my husband in his new life.

My what a long strange trip it’s been.

Many would argue that our year was awful – devoid of redemption. I mean what good could possibly come out of a year consumed with cancer? I will admit it was not the path we had chosen, but it’s been a helluva ride and there are many reasons why the year didn’t totally suck. In no particular order (because even though I’ve been thinking of these over the past few weeks I don’t have the capability to really do much beyond stream of consciousness – ha!):

  • I lived out every Mom’s fantasy of sitting on the sofa, catching up on Downton Abbey and eating chocolates sent to me by friends.
  • I tried my hand at doing almost nothing – turns out it’s not a great fit for me. So I wrote a children’s book, started a Duke alumni club, created an art bra, became a published author, and found a topic fo the book that I’ve always wanted to write.
  • I discovered the good in people – the amazing capacity of people to help and build community in times of crisis. I learned to experience the human spirit in ways I never thought possible – and yes, your 194 cards were part of that beautiful and monstrous effort. My well wall fell down. Literally.
  • I realized how amazing my husband is – that support I had planned to give him was returned a hundredfold as he took the reins of family control, family CEO, shrink, Mom and Dad. He was – and is – amazing.
  • I grew to a first name basis with my insurance company and reached my out of pocket maximum. I’ve still got two days – fingers crossed!
  • I got to be with my kids a lot. And, they learned that sometimes Mom needs a nap.
  • Duke went to a bowl game. In football. They didn’t win, but getting there was half the battle. I figure this alone would be worth a mention although I will also be obnoxious and say that my children are running around telling everyone that Duke is number one in basketball and I like it.
  • I got to do some stuff with Duke and as a parent of three children I have to say that being on their radar isn’t all that bad.
  • I took a lot of naps – like every day for the last year.
  • I learned what my scalp looked like under my hair. As a friend once said – didn’t you always wonder? No, but now I know. And, I also got to see what I would look like with a pixie cut. And I got to shave my head although it wasn’t at all like that empowering GI Jane scene.
  • I got to hear my kids say “Mom you have less hair than Daddy!” and “Mom you have more hair than Daddy!” all in the same year.
  • I learned that when you lose your hair in chemo it’s not from the parts you want.
  • I became part of an amazing sisterhood and now fully embrace the color pink as part of my color wheel.
  • I gained 20 pounds and ate a lot of french toast.
  • I got to see what my body is capable of in terms of healing – and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
  • I learned about hormones and all the wonderful things that they have control over in your body – like temperature regulation, mood, sleeping ability, weight gain, nail growth and more! I am totally psyched about menopause!
  • I’m not vain about my appearance. Not that I really ever was, and yes, I do wear makeup and earrings now (especially dangly ones) But there are some bits here and there that aren’t what they used to be and hey, that’s OK. I mean, I’m also missing bits that should be there so I figure it all sorts out.
  • I get to have perky Barbie boobs – OF MY OWN CHOOSING! – for the rest of my life courtesy of insurance. Those of you without having nursed three children may not realize the importance of this. But, even my Nordstrom ladies are making me quite happy and buxom. And yes, picking out a size is both weird and exhilarating.
  • I’m a little less inclined to sweat the small stuff – or even the semi small stuff. The Christmas cards were wonky, the presents looked like they were wrapped like five year olds – even the ones I wrapped – and NO ONE CARED! It turns out that a lot of the stuff you thought was important just isn’t. And that’s a zen lesson I plan to take with me.
  • Don’t tell Davis but I find myself living a bit more in the moment than before. We have always been planners of the maximum variety and I think the edge has been dulled. Let’s go on that trip we put off (yes, I get to go to New York to see Christmas light with JUST DAVIS next year as a present – woot!) If the house isn’t perfect for the party, who really cares?
  • Our MBA training turned out to be a great thing because we had a rainy day fund. And we have used it. Now I’m ready to get back to work.
  • I have a blog. And I like it.

So there you have it. My reasons that this whole experience didn’t suck, and in fact, was a great part of our journey. I didn’t know if I could make it, and how it would impact our family, but truth be told, we survived and are thriving. Thanks to all of you for your love and support. To those of you facing the journey, keep your chin up. Have your days under the covers. Surround yourself with people who understand and insulate yourself from people who don’t. And, for goodness sake, stop weighing yourself and eat that last cookie.

What’s the worst that could happen?



Filed under Uncategorized

The Controversy around Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month we head into pink-ageddon. Everything will be pink – yogurt cups, beers, football gloves, socks, purses and balloons. Interestingly, in the actual breast cancer community there is sharp division about whether the corporate takeover of awareness is a good thing. Many of my survivor friends turn three shades of hot pink when asked their opinion – they hate it. It’s a manipulation of the true message, a way to cash in on loved ones lost, and the money goes crazy places – if it goes anywhere at all.

In years past I saved my yogurt lids and made a choice to buy the pink packaging if it was offered, but I didn’t know the consequences of my choices or the real message of October. This is about awareness – and frankly, I too believe the real message has been lost. October should be about bringing awareness to women about this disease. Awareness to my generation who remains virtually ignorant to the fact that it can impact us. And, it should bring awareness of the remarkable strides that medicine and doctors have made. (Some survivors will dispute that – I tell you, this is a fraught topic).

I think we all agree that there is an issue with corporations profiting off a disease. A movie was just screened here in Austin called Pink Ribbons Inc – a documentary on the disparity between profits and donations and the true message lost. To that end if you are going to make choices this year on donations and purchases, make sure that there is an actual organization designated.

This year, and forward, my money and time will go to two organizations that made a dramatic difference in my attitude, support, and care: one is the Breast Cancer Resource Center here in Austin, TX which is the home of the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. My young survivor network of over 500 women. They have been my Q&A group, my friends that I talk to about things I don’t even put on the blog, and the organization that provides Austin with individual, amazing support.

Here is their donation page: https://secure.commonground.convio.com/bcrc/october2012/

The other organization which you will hear more about is the Duke Cancer Institute. I am clearly biased (alma mater and all) but they are trying to create disruptive therapies – funding truly cutting edge young research on this disease. You will see much more as I become their first Alumni Ambassador – attending Board meetings and speaking there next year, as well as becoming part of their support community – as founder of the Blue Devils Vs Cancer alumni organization.

Here is their donation page: http://dukecancerfund.org/get-involved/

More than that, I think my new mission is also to educate and empower my generation about this disease. It is curable – especially if caught early. It is detectable using mammograms and thermography and ultrasound. Here’s what else you should know:

About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and is the most common cause of death in women aged 35 to 54. The number of young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer is on the rise, with scientists unsure of the cause.

Most importantly – you need to get to know your breasts. Usually, the first noticeable symptom is a lump that feels different from the rest of your breast tissue. More than 80% of breast cancer cases are discovered by touch, by you or your doctor. You need to get to know your breasts in circular motions, horizontal and vertical. And don’t be afraid to palpate deep—many breast cancers are close to the chest wall.

You also need to feel under your arms—lumps found in lymph nodes in the armpitscan indicate breast cancer. Other symptoms include density changes, one breast becoming larger or lower, a nipple changing position or shape, or swelling around the collarbone. If you have any of this—regardless of your age—get to a doctor and discuss it.

I never was a pink girl really, but now I’m proud to wear pink ribbons, bracelets, T-shirts, and hats. Don’t just think pink this October, do pink. And recognize and respect the true meaning of the month.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sunburnt in September

One full week of radiation appointments. One full week of full tilt fall scheduling. One full week of rests, naps, and meltdowns. All of us included on the last one.

I had a hair cut yesterday – crazy I know. But, I was starting to get a little wonky in a few places and a trimming, a shaping was in order. But it sent me spiraling a bit – how much longer would it take for me to really become comfortable with the shorter hair? How long before I would be able to have a length that was MY choice, not the choice of cancer.

The radiation is significantly better, if still not easy. I lay and get zapped about eight times. The machine whirrs around and sometimes there is a gel pack and sometimes there are X rays. I get lined up by the permanent marker crosshairs left on my body. The twins saw them this morning (on my belly) and said – what are those? do they hurt? is that where you get the light? We talked through it and they were fine.

By the time I got to radiation, I was still buzzing with that conversation and mentioned it to my nurses. They offered for the kids to come in and see the machine, see that it doesn’t hurt. It is one part of my journey that I can’t and won’t share, though. As much as I am comfortable with my decisions and my path, I don’t want to have the children have a mental image of my scars. Since this is a point of transition, there’s no reason. So instead I strap on my forms every day.

There was a time when I looked forward to relaxing and getting on my comfy pants. Now it’s getting on my comfy pants and comfy bra or maybe none at all.

Another side effect reared its head this week – propensity for sunburn. Apparently the chemo has altered my body so sun can get me more than it did before. (and you all know how fair my skin is!) Texas is not the best place to live when you haven’t developed a base tan and the searing sun gets you red after 15 minutes. Live and learn.

Henry had his first oral presentation this week – to talk about what made his family special, and to bring visual aids. He wanted to talk about how we watch Duke basketball together. We decided he would talk about three things – Duke basketball (we have a piece of the Cameron floor), Mom and Dad getting married in the chapel, and our dog being named after the bball stadium, I sent the pic below to my friends at Duke and they joked we should start him an admission file. Class of 2024, never to early to start.


OH and if you haven’t had a chance to check this out yet you should. It’s so wrong it’s right. And, I laughed until I hurt myself. Always a good day! Gangham style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Day Two and Three – Ned on Nausea

It’s been a relatively quiet couple of days. I am more active than I anticipated would be possible – but that’s like comparing a sloth to a turtle. I go domnstairs a few times a day – yesterday took a nap, and deal with the medical fun of my surgery. I will spare you to gory details, but I have drains, and I get to empty them three times a day and also mask them from prying children eyes but hiding them in garments.

The first few days it was in a beautiful adorable jammie from my friend Sara, today it’s in a pair of jammie tops because I spilt so much food on the other jammie. Yup – eating well (pancakes, Maggianos, cookies, and brownies – plus of course my ever present mints, water, and G2 gatorade). I busted out a move to Dr. Pepper today just as a treat but I think I will still need a nap.

The only odd thing yesterday was a bout of nausea so quick and stealthy it was an assault on my senses. It tooke place while I was dealing with my drains so it could have been further reinforcement that I made the right choice in not going to medical school, or it could have been some kind of medical by product. Anywhoo took my nausea meds, conked out, and awoke four hours later better. No problems since.

I have been able to do things I wasn’t expecting – opening the fridge door, picking a dandruff te size of quarter out of my hair (yes I have dandruff now in my one inch mane) and managing to get in and out of my bed by myself. I am answering emails, chatting (a bit) and generally being a slowly improving invalid.

Like I said before, nothing compared to what I expected or to the pain of a C section with nursing. So I’m happy with that. SO happy in fact that I’ve started poking around on twitter and pinterest. Not too much of a user, but I hope to have my way. If you are interested, my good friend who’s a senior at Duke, Allison Vernerey – who is the founder of the Blue Devils vs. Cancer student branch. She lives in France and the team is traveling in Europe – and had dinner at her house. Here’s a clip and article: www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_LANG=C&ATCLID=205621411&DB_OEM_ID=4200

Anywhoo – news is great. Seeing my surgeon a week from Monday to hopefully get the drains out, Hearing from the surgeon on Mon/Tues to find out the path report on my lone node which looked clean. If it is clean, maybe no radiation. Not counting on it, but you never know. I would love to get now boobs from Nordstrom regardless – if only to say so.

And maybe there’s an emotional component that will sneak up on me, but right now I’m just happy. Happy I feel so good, happy everything went so well and happy I might be officially cancer free. I didn’t like my old ladies my anyhow. 😉 And, good news is that because of all this, my ladies will get adjusted for eternity. SO mine will be perky even when I’m seventy. Another good note.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized