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The New Year’s Blog – 2014 and cancer-free … for everyone?

I had thought this would be the year our family escaped the cloud of cancer. Unfortunately we enter with a diagnosis hanging over our doggie – thymoma – cancer of the thymus gland. However, it is operable, and we hope he will have a successful surgery and long and happy recovery. THANK GOODNESS. The best news possible given the situation.

The parallels between our diagnosis are striking to me. We had virtually no symptoms, had a chance scan, and discovered a massive lump. It makes me very thankful for modern technology, but also concerned in general -what else are we missing if we don’t pay attention?

Although … one major difference … I was not bounced for my scheduled CT scan because there was a zebra with an abdominal wound in need. Yes, a zebra, in College Station.

After the rollercoaster of emotions the past few days, we enter 2014 with profound relief and gratitude – that our dog has the capability to live long and happy – that we have the time and resources to tackle his cancer and my recovery. That we are surrounded by a loving and caring community who loves my “Nicky Minaj pink streaks” and our giant frog dog.

These are the times when I remember why 2012, and 2013 both didn’t suck.

  • I grew to a first name basis with my insurance company and reached my out of pocket maximum. Two years running. Cool thing is – nice tax break. Now that I’m working again, I can be so thankful for our cash flow and the fact that we had amazing insurance through IBM. $300K paid in total for me the last two years. Now that we are paying out of pocket for the dog, I realize the true magnitude of that gift.
  • 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 got to see what my body is capable of in terms of healing – and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
  • I’m no longer vain about my appearance. Not that I really ever was, and yes, I do wear makeup and earrings. 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. And yes, picking out a size is both weird and exhilarating. Then, there’s the tatooing process – something else I never would have imagined, and in some ways I feel empowered because I am now “edgier” – right?!
  • I’m a little less inclined to sweat the small stuff – or even the semi small stuff. This year’s Christmas cards were wonky, the presents were wrapped by my six year olds ( and yes, they bought me two pillow pets and a bathmat for Christmas), – and NO ONE CARES! And I’m happy with my pillow pet! It turns out that a lot of the stuff you thought was important just isn’t.

A friend asked me last night about resolutions. For the first time in many years, I don’t have any. I have hopes – that we get and stay cancer free. That my kids continue to be as happy and curious and excited as they have been. That our puppy continues to entertain, love and grow. That our family and friends have success and happiness and all the good things there are in 2014. I will try to walk a little more, eat a little better, (I did get a fit band for Christmas!) and take care of myself. But, all of that is gravy.

I resolve to live 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 got to go to New York to see Christmas lights with JUST DAVIS  this year as a present!)

Our new motto: go with happy. And if that means three kids out at 37 degrees on their new scooters, then that’s just what it will be.

I wish everyone a happy HEALTHY prosperous new year, and joy every day.

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A Year in Review, Survivorship Acknolwedged

In many ways, I am now intimidated to write. When I had a story, a journey, a battle, it was easy – chronicle and share. There was a duty, a responsibility, and certainly a cathartic element. Now, my life is relatively normal. But then again it’s not. And that complexity begs exploring.

Every time I sit down to write, something happens – it’s that time of year. First it’s the chaos and joy of Christmas at our house – gingerbread houses, an elf that has quite a mischievous side, the requisite weird viruses, sinus infections, present shopping and schedule coordinating. There is so much joy. The kids sing along to carols in the car, race to change the advent calendars … and after Friday, there are even more hugs and I love yous and blessings counted.

My biggest debate right now is how to acknowledge the year we have had, without letting it define us. Even the Christmas card – do I include a letter whose sole purpose would be to describe the year we have had and what we have battled? I decided to leave it out. Cancer has had too much control over 2012, now it’s time to move on.

Or is it? I am reminded every time I get dressed and have to put on my Nordstrom ladies. I am reminded every time that I have to take a nap because my energy still isn’t what it used to be. I am reminded when I take my 9 pills at night, including my new friend tamoxifen (no side effects yet but I’m waiting). I am reminded every time I get a request to talk about my journey, to help someone new on the cancer rollercoaster. I am reminded every time I look the mirror or get a compliment on my “new pixie cut”.

I have seen all my doctors and they are all amazed at my progress – my radiation oncologist joked that he would have treated me longer if he knew how well I would heal. It wasn’t really funny. But, the news is all good. Now I move to “survivorship” which actually has classes and responsibility (including regular exercise and stretching). But it isn’t a switch that got turned off – my body is altered, my lens is different.

What a difference a year makes – as I walked a newly diagnosed lady here in Austin through my entire battle I realized how far we have actually come. What we have done as a community – family and friends. We made it through with the family unscathed – the kids happy and joyous, my husband – though not in the position we had planned – happy with his role and hopefully having enjoyed the extra time with us. And I am proud, I am thankful. And I have to at least acknowledge it.

This Christmas season, this holiday season, be thankful for little things – and build memories. This should not be about stuff, it should be about experiences. Create as much joy as you can – that’s what we all hope to remember from 2012.

The mind is a terrifically equipped machine – with memory mostly for the happy stuff. That is another reason to be thankful.

Wards Dec 2012-8

Now, to share with you that I practice what I preach, here is a link to our family pictures: wardspictures.shutterfly.com

A link to the Dinsey SCUBA trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuBCX2w1wZc

And, a link to our Ward family Christmas card assembly line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p27EU9bLXa4

Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year. Hopefully 2013 will not be as eventful! Thank you to everyone for your help and love and support in the big and small ways. Love, Team Ward.

Wards Dec 2012-3


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Guest Blog: Sample December Weekend

This is a note written by my dear husband to our families. This is what happened since Friday at 5pm. He neglected to mention the family photo session at 8am Saturday, movie night in with pizza on Sunday, and staying up until 11 last night to finish photo books and calendars in advance of the 50% off deadline. Or the great meeting with my oncologist and radiation oncologist who are both stupendously proud of my recovery (of course he wasn’t at those!)

But I thought you would appreciate a glimpse into the life of our family this busy, joyful season – with another voice.

Our goal is to create as many opportunities for joy this holiday as possible without wearing anyone out. And with that, I am off to take a nap and copy in his note below – FROM DAVIS 🙂

Just wanted to share a couple fun things from this weekend ….it was busy, but fun
* Henry had his first basketball game on Sat … and scored!  A couple of things made this remarkable (Dad had tears in his eye) … he was playing on the “A” team of which most of the others on the floor were 2nd graders who had played before …. he is still learning body control with a wide range of shot outcomes (airballs, bricks, and the occasional make) ….and the team he played against was tough … his team only scored 12 points, including his 2.  He also played a smothering defense, when he remembered to stay on his woman who was a very tall second grader with a nice long range shot.  He also had a nice assist on an inbounds pass under the basket.
* We all went to a Bday party of Henry’s friend in school … it was a Estes rocket building/launching party.  I had told Henry a couple weeks ago about the Space Shuttle that G and I launched at Austin Elementary and landed on the school roof (I blamed G) …. so like father, like son …. Henry’s second attempt landed on the school roof near the field we were launching from.
* We went to see Santa … which Henry now wants a new Estes rocket (see bullet above) ….and Carter and Emmy want Star Wars Angry Bird stuffed animals.  Emmy wants the Princess Leia one with a sling shot.  Emmy with a sling shot makes me nervous.
* We have our Xmas trees up that the kids picked out … one small one in our family room and a taller one in the game room.  Kinda odd shopping for trees when it’s 79 degrees out. Lauren scored big …. somehow getting them to only charge us $100, which was close to the marked cost of the little tree.
* Santa sent an “Elf on a Shelf” and the kids have been enjoying waking up seeing what mischief “Little Red” has gotten into overnight …. one night he built a bunch of paper airplanes and crash laded one into our fireplace, the next night he had a tea party with his stuffed animal friends, and last night he rolled our Xmas tree with toilet paper
* We went ice skating with friends…. Henry tore around the track unassisted … and Carter and Emmy had a blast holding onto Mom and Dad’s hands for balance (or was it us holding onto their hands for balance).  We celebrated with some hot chocolate at Starbucks even though it was 79 degrees out.


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