Thursday, November 24, 2011


This year, I have so very much to be thankful for. I cannot begin to describe how much perspective I have gained in the past 6 months. I am grateful for the immeasurable support and love I have received this year. I am grateful to have the medical technology to enable my fight. I am thankful for my faith. I am thankful for new found talents, and for the ability to make good things come out of challenges.

I am thankful for the 30+ people that I will see today. I am thankful for traditions and excited that my son is looking forward to watching the parade today. I am thankful that I live in America and that this holiday exists.

I am even just thankful that I am able to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I just learned this morning that I was selected as one of the runners up winners in the Reader's Digest contest! The article was based on the very first blog post and will be published! I cannot tell you how exciting and overwhelming this is. Reader's Digest, for crying out loud. Such an iconic publication, so excited to be a part of it!

I believe that the piece will be published in a book. Not sure if it also will be in their normal magazine. Either way, who cares! It's such an amazing opportunity to share my story with others.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The first non-chemo chemo weekend.

This weekend was a good one! It was my first non-chemo chemo weekend. This was the first time that I was not recovering from treatment on an alternate week in 4 months. Being able to enjoy life and just do whatever was wonderful. Of course, that involved a trip to Holmdel and then a trip to North Jersey.

On Saturday morning, I went to the gym. This was not my first time exercising since my diagnosis, but it was the first time that I didn't feel totally pathetic in my attempt. I felt strong. The endorphins were kicking. It was the first time my mind was really wrapped around the thought "I did it! I made it through chemo!" For those 45 minutes, I felt like a superhero. It was the most amazing feeling.

Tomorrow, I go back to work in my office. Another milestone. I am looking forward to it, I think. I don't know exactly how it will go, but I assume it will be great to get back to normal life. I am just not looking forward to getting myself and Steven dressed and ready, but it will be ok.

On a random side note, I had a good chuckle on the treadmill Saturday. There was a report on the news about PETA asking the town of Turkey, Texas to rename itself for Thanksgiving to "Tofurkey, Texas". If the town agreed, PETA would provide every home with a vegan Thanksgiving feast. Then they interviewed the mayor, an overweight dude in a ten-gallon hat. Based on his appearance, I assumed he did not seem the type to be interested, and based on his interview. I laughed. It became quite apparent in his interview that I was correct.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The girl with the radiation tattoos.

Yup, that would be me. Today was radiation prep day. It included 3 doctors' appointments: one with my oncologist to clear me, one with the surgeon to finish the pre-radiation fills, and one with the radiation oncologist to prep, mold and mark me. The first two were uneventful. The third was interesting, in a good way. I learned more about the radiation process.

First, they made my treatment mold. They basically fill a plastic pillow case with this substance that looks like pancake batter. I laid down on it, and it puffed up around me, and hardened. Pretty cool actually. The point of the mold is to get me to lay in the same exact position every time. I hope I picked a comfy position. Then they did a cat scan so they would know where to aim the beams. Once that was done, they marked me with 8 tattoos.

Is it strange for me to say that I think I might actually enjoy radiation? I found laying in the mold to be pretty relaxing, which is essentially all I will be doing during treatment. I felt very much like I was lying on a blanket on the beach. Can't beat that right?

Ok, seriously, who every thought I would be the chick with 9 tattoos and fake boobs? God must be having a good chuckle over that. Ah, the ironies of life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The long and winding road... and a little sob fest

This weekend marks a joyous and special occasion for me. The first non-chemo, chemo weekend! This is the first alternating weekend in four months without side effects. Seems so hard to believe, but wonderful. I am praying that this cold finally bites the dust in time for me to fully enjoy it.

It's amazing to me to think that chapter is closed. There were days when I thought it would never end. But sure enough, it did. It goes to show, it is possible to get through very hard, trying times. I had to persevere. That's how it works. I couldn't just sleep through it, as much as I would have liked to.

In the last four months, we have been through a lot. 4 trips to the ER. 8 infusions. A scramble in the middle to chase down the drug I needed. Countless doses of Zofran. Bizarre side effects. Joint aches. A bald head (or a fuzzy head to be moer accurate). Sleepless nights. Exhausted days. A roller coaster ride to be sure. But it was also a time where I got to spend extra time at home. A time where I realized that as tough as I had it, there are others who suffer more. A time when I got to be inspired by my Making Strides team. A time where I came to appreciate how loyal and supportive my husband can be. A time where my parents sacrificed much to help me through. A time where I realized how loved and how strong I really am. So as much as I would like to pretend it didn't all happen, I am grateful for the impact it has had on me.

Now for a few tears... Here are some songs that have struck a cord with me in the past few months. I get blurry eyed every time I hear them. So I am sharing them with you. Sob along, won't you?

Just stand up. This one gets me everytime because it captures what it's like to go through the battle:

I'm gonna love you through it. Sung by one of my all time favorite singers, written by the daughter of a survivor about her father's support of her mother during her fight. Side note, the video is all real survivors and their support groups. I can get past the first line now, but I still don't think I have made it through the entire song in one sitting. HUGE SOB:

I run for life. By Melissa Etheridge, a survivor herself.

And happy birthday to my big brother Chris! Thank you for your support and love... I'll take those awesome encouraging text messages any day. Love you

A realization

It is amazing to me that the end of chemo marked not only an exciting time for me in terms of achievement, but it also seems to have affected me in an unexpected way. I feel better. I don't mean physically, I mean emotionally. I don't feel scared like I did before. I am not up all hours of the night. I guess being at the end of that part of the journey has given me the comfort that I made it through that very trying period of my life.

It doesn't mean that the cancer experience is behind me. I expect that will always be a part of my fabric now. But being at the point where I can no longer feel the chemo running through my veins puts me in  a freer place. Perhaps it's because I am not afraid of the treatments that are remaining. Perhaps it's because I know that if I survived the past 4 months of chemo, I can survive jsut about anything.

Either way, I am starting to feel the angst of cancer subside ever so slightly, and that is a wonderful feeling. I will be so glad as I continue to be less consumed by it, feeling more like myself.

Friday, November 11, 2011

in sickness and in health

On November 12, 2004, those were part of the words that we spoke in front of about 200 people and our God. Little did we know...

We all take our vows when we get married, and in that moment, we absolutely mean them with all of our hearts. However, we never quite know when and how those vows will be tested. There are different components of them that can be challenged at any given time. The richer/poorer thing, well we all struggle with that in this economy. The better or worse part, that's so general, it could apply to anything. That could even boil down to managing through a cranky day.

The sickness and health part, that's more definited, but sometimes, like in my case harder to predict when it will pop up. I think to me, I expected to have a good 40 years before we had to worry about that sickness stuff. I thought it would be more the old people, forget where you left your teeth, or forget to take your blood pressure pill kind of sickness that we were talking about. I mean, sure, I knew we would get the occasional flu, or stomach bug, but cancer? Never in a million years did I expect that. At 7 years of marriage, I did not expect us to face what we did in the past 6 months. But the truth is, we have no control over things like this, and unfortunately, this was the hand we were dealt.

So our vows were tested in a big way. And I think I can confidently say that despite our challenges, our frustrations and occasional shouting matches, we weathered the storm. We meant what we said and we have stuck to it. We have loved, honored and cherished. Now we know not to take life and each other for granted.

And although this stupid cold I have is preventing me from celebrating our anniversary how I would have liked, we will find a way to celebrate it anyway because we earned it!

Oh and a special shout out to one of my favorite couples on this planet who share our anniversary. Love you guys and proud that you thought enough of us to get married on november 12 too! Can't wait until we can take a huge anniversary trip together somewhere fun.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We are given life...

"We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given life. And it's up to to make it good or bad." - Ward Foley

I saw this quote today. I cannot agree more. We all encounter crap in life. That's a given. But we have a choice in how we interpret that crap. You might see a someone who has a smile on their face, and you might assume that they have the best life, but the truth might be, they are just making the best of the life they are given.

You can have cancer, or some other struggle in life, but you can still be happy. You have to choose to integrate things into your life to offset your challenges. It takes an effort, but it's worth it.

Better and Better

I'm a little delayed in writing this post because I was exhausted from the little man's birthday festivities over the weekend. Yesterday was Grandma Carrie's birthday. Her legacy still lives strong in her family. We are a large, close knit family. We are not perfect, but we love one another and are there for each other. We are taught at a young age to think positively, and that mentality becomes part of who we are.

My grandmother was a tough lady, but kind as could be. She stood up for what her heart told her, stood by her man for more than 60 years of marriage, and stood up for her faith. When she was younger, she walked daily, and prayed daily. She had the most wonderful laugh, and if you watch closely for it, you can still see that laugh in my father and my aunt today.

She was incredibly loyal. If you asked her, she would tell you she married her first boyfriend. She and Grandpa started dating when she was 14. I was blessed to be there when she died, and saw Grandpa's heartache as he realized what had happened. She was 89, and he was there with her every day since they started going out. Now that's love and commitment. For those of you who know the story, "he appreciated" her.

She was strong. After Uncle Bill died, I know it was hard for her to press forward, but she did. She didn't let her heartache stop her. She learned to smile again. And life did get better, perhaps because she willed it so.

She also made her health a priority. Knowing that she had dangerously high blood pressure, she did whatever she could to help keep herself healthy. She was incredibly diligent about her sodium intake, and excercised daily right up into her 80s. She took responsiblity for herself, and was determined not to let her own actions cause her ill health.

The hallmarks of being Carrie's granddaughter are these: strong faith, positive thinking, the importance of family, loyalty, standing up for what is important to you, being responsible for your own health.

This morning, I made it a point to start a new healthy habit. I was up at 6 am and hit the gym. I continue to learn from the examples of those around me. Excercise and diet are statistically linked in reducing recurrance risk. I can't predict the future, and I don't know what will happen with cancer in my body. All I know is I will do whatever I can on my part to keep it at bay. Here's to working towards a healthier future. Here's to life getting "better and better."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Celebrating "lasts"

It has been a pretty unique and special feeling knowing that I am in the last round of chemo. There are so many things that I am bidding adieu to these days. That feels amazing, and actually a bit surreal. This past Friday was 6 months from the day I got the news and my world changed. It seems extra special then that it was also the last hurrah for chemo.

When they unhooked me from my infusion last week, it was a wonderful feeling. With each day that passes, I get further from my 22 guage needles, paper tape, and bags of iv's. I get further from my side effects and fatigue. Hopefully, I get further from my fear.

I am happy to say that I no longer will have the super fatigue days known as "chemo sundays". I am so happy that I will no longer feel winded doing the most minor tasks. I am looking forward to finishing up the joint pain. I am so happy to have a normal stomach again. I am so happy to be looking forward to a bright future, and to no longer have to count down anything. To know that each side effect is only bubbling up for the last time is truly amazing. I think the most special feeling will be in two weeks when it's the first "non-chemo" weekend. Life will feel grand then.

Yesterday, we celebrated Steven's birthday with our family and friends. It reminded me of how blessed I am. I have a wonderful support group, and I am excited to be heading in a healthy direction to be able to enjoy life's celebrations with all of them.

I feel like I missed so much in the past 6 months, but I know that what I have gained is infinitely greater. I know that this chapter was a dark one in many ways, but also a rich one, full of opportunity.

Now it's time to look forward. Time to focus on rebuilding my future, and my life. Time to reclaim my body that has been on loan to science for a nasty experiment for the past 6 months. Time to start feeling like me again. And time to do my best to ensure that my body and mind are strong for a long, healthy future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

my rasion d'etre...

At 6 am, I heard this little voice calling from his room, "mommy!" I went in to see him, and told him it was too early to get up and that he had to go back to bed. He asked me if I would sit in the rocking chair with him. How could I say no to that? I sat in the chair, and he climbed up on my lap. He put his arm around me and snuggled his perfect little face into my shoulder.

As he drifted back to sleep in my arms, I couldn't help but know that there is no other option but for me to never go through this again. Even though I am winding down on chemo, the war is far from over. I still have radiation and tamoxifen ahead. And I need to change my lifestyle. I have already started making changes, but I need to do much more. I need to lose a significant amount of weight. I need to eat more naturally. I need to exercise regularly. I know none of these things will guarantee anything, but statistically speaking, the risks of recurrance are so much lower when lifestyle changes like these are adopted.

As I held that sweet boy in my arms and rocked him peacefully in that chair, I knew that I have to live for him. I need be here when we don't both fit in that rocking chair anymore. I need to be here when "mommy" turns into "ma!" I need to be here to worry when he gets his first girlfriend that I raised him right. I need to be here to cry the tears of pride when he wears that mortarboard on his head at the college of his choice. I need to be here to be the second woman to have a dance with him on his wedding day. I need to be here to see that the little boy I am nurturing now will be an amazing man. He has a life to live and I need to be a part of it. It's not an option for me to miss it.

There is a long road of choices ahead of me and I pray I make all the right ones. I don't want to survive for me. I want to do it for him.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I love november!

Truth be told, November has always been a busy month of celebrations for me. 2011 will be extra special.

It starts off with brother and sister-in-law's anniversary and the birthday of my wonderful friend Jen who has been in my life since the day I was born. Then, my beautiful cousin Carianne's birthday. Then, my most precious little boy's birthday. Then, my Grandma Carrie's birthday which I know she is celebrating in heaven with Grandpa, Big Bill, Uncle Bill and Uncle Mike. Then comes the birthday of my lovely cousin Alison. Then comes our anniversary (which will have extra special meaning this year), which also happens to be the birthday of a very special man (Mr. Woodhull) and the anniversary of two of my favorite people on this planet. Then, we move on to my beautiful Goddaughter Anna's birthday and the very next day is my big brother Chris's birthday. Then my parent's anniversary (the two most amazing, wonderful parents in the world. I hope they know how blessed I feel that they were in my corner since I got sick). That's followed by the very first anniversary of my wonderful cousins Jami and Billy, whom I could not have survived these past 5 months without. Then it's time for some turkey, stuffing and a brutal football game in Holmdel. WHEW!

So YEAH. lots to celebrate... And add to the mix that I am now done with chemo, and what more could a girl want? (oh maybe just a few good scans from the doc...) Certainly, I have much to be thankful for.

With chemo behind me, I have so much to look forward to. I think it will hit me two weeks from now when it's the first time I won't have to go to an infusion! How wonderful that will be. Ahhhhh.

And since I know chemo brain stories are always good for a laugh, here's one for you. Last night, I was up late working on the book. In my attention deficit mode, I clicked over to, and went to print off my article that was published there so I could have a copy. I hit print, and forget about it. I go back to writing. Mind you, this is occuring at about 1 in the morning Suddenly, I hear this ruckus out in the middle of the house. I panic. Steve was snoring in bed (like most normal people do at that hour). I sneak out into the hallway to see if I really did hear something, and I hear it again. My heart nearly stopped thinking there was someone lurking in our family room. I went to turn and run back into the bedroom, until I realize that the noise was the printer... Oh what is wrong with me?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last chemo today! Talking about learnings.

I found a quote from a surprising source that sums up the theme of this post, "If you are going to go through hell, I suggest you come back learning something" ~Drew Barrymore

Not sure if it was hell or purgatory, but the last few months certainly have been rough. However, I do believe I am coming out of it for the better.  I have shed some things in the process, but I have gained more than I lost. Here is what I have learned:

  • Be your own health advocate. Doctors have your best interests in mind, but they don't necessarily know what is best for you. If something doesn't seem right, you should speak up. If you aren't getting the attention you think you deserve, say something or seek someone who will give you that attention. You do deserve it, and there is no reason to settle for less than you deserve.
  • Kids are more resilient than you expect. My son handled my illness with a surprising compassion and remained fairly unphased by my illness throughout.
  • Kindness often comes from unexpected sources. While the ones closest to me were naturally wonderful and supportive, some of my greatest boosts came out of the blue from long lost friends or family, coworkers, and acquaintances. Many of these people exhibited such kindness that it warmed my heart.
  • I am blessed with the most amazing parents, husband, family and friends in the world. Seriously, the whole world.
  • Keeping emotions in is just not healthy. It's no less dangerous than leaving a tumor in. Venting it out and facing the feelings are the only way to successfully move past them.
  • People cope with trauma differently. In my case, I choose to be open and share what I have experienced, the good, the bad, the ugly. I am finding it helps others, and that in turn helps me. But I realize my approach isn't for everyone.
  • I am one tough broad.
  • I have always lived by the mantra of "if not me, then who? if not now, then when?" I continued this philosphy through my cancer treatment, and find that it serves my soul well.
  • Fear is an amazing motivator. It used to be an obstacle, now, it's a great catalyst.
  • I am not defined by my physical appearance, I am defined by my heart and a soul.
  • There are stupid people in this world. They may say stupid things. I'm pretty sure there is a special brand of karma that handles people who pick on cancer patients.
  • After fighting a diagnosis like mine, you realize how much you can accomplish, and that everyone has the ability to make a difference. It's all a matter of putting yourself out there and making an impact in this world.
  • Survivors are an amazing breed. There is something so special about someone who has faced this beast and come out victorious.
  • Laugh as much as you can! It's a massage for the soul. 
  • Treatment can be so daunting in the beginning. To be truthful, there were times along the way that I wasn't sure how I could endure. But endure I did, and nothing made me happier than seeing the words "infusion complete" on my iv machine today! Donna and I both cried. 
  • If you are thinking something of saying something kind or encouraging to someone, do so. It will make them feel good. Trust me. There's the old adage, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I suggest the flip side: if you have something nice to say, open your mouth and let it out. 
Oddly enough, just as my infusion completed today, positive outlook on Facebook posted this quote: "That even tears shed in times of tribulations they bring a gift of strength in later years". A sign? I don't know, but I will take it. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Going into this chemo like all others, with a prayer.

I am asking for an extra special prayer tonight. Please pray that tomorrow goes well, and that it is the very last chemo that I ever need. Pray that God heals me and that I am restored to health and that I live a long life from this point on.

I cannot believe it's finally here! I am so relieved. I am ready to close this chapter of my life. It's been an interesting experience to say the least. One that I have gained much from, but one I hope to never have to repeat.

I know that this has come into my life for many reasons, and I do believe that it will not be for naught. So I am grateful for the woman this has made me. I don't regret the choices I have made to respond to this challenge in my life. But I do want to leave this whole beast in my past.

I can only imagine how I will feel in 24 hours. I believe it will be just such a heavy weight lifted to know that I will finally be "infused for the last time.

I have high hopes for tomorrow. November 2 is a very blessed day in my family. On November 2 more than 50 years ago, Aunt Bern and Uncle Tom met for the very first time, starting a life long love that would inspire even to this day.  Then 22 years ago, my beautiful "baby" cousin Carianne was born, and the world became a brighter place. So I can only figure that is a good sign. Good things come our way on November 2nd. I can only believe that this year is no exception.