Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Breakfast With Santa

On Saturday my Relay For Life team had our annual Breakfast With Santa. This is my favorite fundraiser we do every year. It's so much fun to see the kids in their Christmas clothes, faces all aglow with excitement. We have an excellent Santa who blesses us with his time every year.

I found myself being overwhelmed with joy Saturday as I stirred the hot cocoa and observed the families making Christmas memories. I did, however, find myself having a teary moment as I thought of my friends Roger and John, who will not be with their families this year. Their young ones will be going through the first Christmas without their fathers.

I wiped away my tears and resolved anew to never stop raising money to fight cancer. The work continues...

Friday, November 25, 2011

4 years!

Four years ago this past Wednesday, I was lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by family. I was in great pain from a colon resection, which doesn't sound nearly as rough as it is. It's not for sissies, I'll tell you that!

The good part of that day was when the doctor told me that he thought he "got it all." Believe me, if you have any kind of cancer in your body, those are words you want to hear. I clung to them and prayed they would be true.

I had to wait a few days for the pathology report to come back saying that my lymph nodes looked clean. Whew! I was ready to go home that day, and I was carrying hope in my heart!

I didn't realize then that the "courtesy visit" I was going to pay to an oncologist would turn out not to be my last. No, so far I have not been found to have anymore cancer, but I do go every 3 months to have lab work done, and I see the oncologist every 6 months. The oncology clinic is a place that made me cry on my first visit, and I still feel tense when I step off that elevator, but I have gotten used to it.

I'm sure I will never not worry when I feel sick or something seems to be not functioning well in my body, but I AM more relaxed about things than I was in the beginning. A little time and space will do that for you.

One thing that will always hold true is this. I spent Thanksgiving week 4 years ago getting an unexpected diagnosis, followed quickly by surgery and my entry into the oncology world. So every year for the rest of my life, Thanksgiving will be a time that I will give an extra prayer of thanks for the gift of life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

11 years later...

Bill and I had a great time this past weekend. We went home to Virginia to attend our favorite local event, the best oyster festival ever. So many friends to see, so much good food to eat.

And then an amazing thing happened. A man standing next to us while we waited for the parade to begin, looked at Bill and asked how he might know him. When they discussed where Bill had worked, etc., the man suddenly exclaimed, "My wife is going to want to talk to you!" It seemed she was one of the EMT's who had saved Bill's life in 2000, when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Bill went to the rescue squad building and chatted with her for a bit, and after the parade, we both went back for a longer visit.

Even though it's 11 years since the event, it still is very raw for me. When I hugged that dear lady, all I could do was break into heaving sobs. She was part of a beautiful gift to my family, and I am SO grateful. SO grateful...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


On Sunday we went to our grandson's church to see him be given a Bible. He looked so happy and sweet, very excited about getting that special book. As I sat up as tall as a person who's 4'10" can, straining to catch every smile, I was thankful all over again that I am here to savor such sweetness. Smiling through tears of gratitude, I said a prayer for all those who are  no longer able to experience these moments. I thought especially of the younger ones, like my support group friends John and Roger, who left behind young children and will not be part of so many special times in their children's lives.It doesn't seem fair, and I pray their children will remember how very dear their fathers were. Cancer, you can be so cruel...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Touch of Melancholy

I'm feeling a little bit melancholy about Thanksgiving. It's second only to Christmas as a special day to me, and it's increased in importance since my cancer experience almost 4 years ago. I was diagnosed with colon cancer the day before Thanksgiving and had my colon resection the day after it. So, Thanksgiving was spent in the hospital instead of around a table with lots of family. As a matter of fact, I didn't get anything to eat because of my impending surgery and all the testing that went before it.

I'm very grateful that my cancer was discovered early, and that I am still (so far!) in the clear. I've been blessed with that, for sure. But it does smart a little that Thanksgiving has that extra bit of importance to me now, but it doesn't seem to be that way for my family. Unless something happens that I'm not anticipating, it will be just Bill and me around a quiet table. Bill's absolutely wonderful, as always, but Thanksgiving to me should be about a bountiful table and lots of sweet faces to gaze at around the table.

For anyone that cares to know, my 4-year anniversary is Nov. 23.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I visited a friend today while she was having chemo at the cancer clinic in our local hospital. It felt odd to go in there just as a vistor. Nobody was checking me over thoroughly or taking my blood. Just, "Hey, Gail. Why are you here today?"

I was struck once again by the good fortune I had to not have to do chemo or radiation. That's one of the biggest gifts God has blessed me with in this life. Of course, when I expressed that to my friend, she reminded me that she's seen me go through so much pain on many occasions, so maybe I haven't skated away scot free.

God bless anyone who has heard the words, "You have cancer."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's been a bit of time since I wrote. I realized that I never wrote about the results. Everything is okay! The chest x-ray only showed some bronchial thickening, which is probably from past respiratory infections. And the bloodwork numbers were good!!! So, I live to face another day, and I'll use that time to Relay like crazy until a cure is found! Praying for all those not so fortunate...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

So I went for an x-ray today. It was a chest x-ray ordered by my family doctor, because I've had a cough for months. It didn't bother me that much at first, but then I started pondering how colon cancer sometimes goes to the lungs, and I started wondering.

I put a tentative post on one of the CRC boards I'm part of, and had a couple of replies from people who said they had a cough when they had lung mets. So the x-ray seemed like a pretty good idea.

So I headed over to registration at the "short stay" section of our hospital. Short stay? How about NO stay! I've been in the "big house" too many times, and I don't care to go again. I tried to be casual as I waited for the receptionist to plug all the info in on the computer. Inside, I wasn't casual at all.

Being anywhere in that building makes me flash back to the day nearly 4 years ago when my life took an ugly turn.I may walk in confident as can be, but by the time I'm standing at that counter, I feel like a little girl waiting for my mommy to come find me.

Today that registration counter made me sad in another way, too. Most times when I am there, one of the volunteers is a lovely lady from my church. She wasn't there today, because tomorrow her journey to healing from breast cancer begins...Praying for you, my dear!

When I finally got called back for the x-ray, that process went very quickly, but it was not without trauma. Why, oh why do they put you in a huge room and tell you to take off your bra? Granted, I got to put my t-shirt back on, but couldn't they let me change in a bathroom or behind a curtain? My "girls" don't like hanging out where anybody could pop the door open at any second.

And there's the matter of taking the x-rays. It's a very easy procedure, especially compared to some of the tests I've had to do. But ever since I had all the tests to discover the cancer, I've felt very vulnerable when I've had to do any test requiring me to lift my arms above my head. It makes me feel so vulnerable and helpless.

At any rate, I seem to have survived the experience. Now to wait for results...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


So it's another night, another non-sleeping night because of pain. I sometimes wonder why I got off so "easily" with my cancer, while others suffer so much. And then are times like this, when the chronic pain that has plagued me since my colon resection works up to a fever pitch. That's when I remember that easy is a relative term. Yes, I'll take the pain over a recurrence of the cancer. Yes, I got away without having to do chemo or radiation. I know, I know. But could my stomach ever stop hurting?? Please????

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A New Relay season

It's been awhile since I've posted! Too busy living life, I guess! The sad part is that while I haven't been writing, I've still heard about several friends being diagnosed with cancer. When does it stop? I wish it would be today!

We just finished up the Relay For Life year, and now we're gearing up for a new one. This will be a very poignant year, because we will be remembering our dear friend and fellow committee member, Gail. She passed away July 13, 2 months to the day from being a survivor speaker at her final Relay. Gail loved pink flamingoes, and we'll likely have a lot of those around in her memory. I remember her sweet smile all the time, but I know that when we get ready for the survivor lap in May, she will be uppermost in my thoughts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Paying It Forward

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer, my dear doctor came in my hospital room and gently asked me how I was feeling about the news. Without even thinking, my answer was, "I hope I can use this experience to help others." And since that day almost 4 years ago, that's what I have tried to do.

Whenever someone at church is diagnosed with cancer, I try to contact them and offer support, sharing resources I have. And people in the community often tell me of new cancer patients because of my work with Relay For Life, and I try to contact those people, too, and let them know I'm there for them. I don't mind the task at all, but what does hurt is the fact that I am called on so often. Still way too many people hearing the words, "You have cancer."

I wish I could wave a magic wand and have cancer be erased from the body of each scared, worried patient. Because that is an impossible dream, I will do what I can and help where I can. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wear it with pride!

The weather was cool enough this evening, that I told Bill to drive home from choir without me, so I could walk. The exercise is always good for me! I was wearing a Relay For Life shirt, this year's survivor shirt. When I first became a cancer survivor, I felt a little conspicuous wearing the shirts. Now that I'm almost 4 years out, I feel so proud of my status. I stared that BEAST down and told it to take a hike! So whether my shirt has the word "Survivor" on the back in bold letters, "Happy Birthday is a Victory Song," or "There's no such thing as too many birthdays," I wear it proudly. I hope to inspire others to realize that a cancer diagnosis does NOT have to be a death sentence. It can, instead, be a journey that shows a person what she's made of and leads to a keen appreciation of just how sweet life is.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cancer is killing me (not like you think)

No, I've not had bad news from any doctors. Not about myself, anyway. It seems, though, that every day I discover that someone else near and dear to me has heard those three ugly words, "You have cancer." Or someone gets the sad word that their battle with the beast has gone into round two or three...or four. I'd be happy for a day that I don't hear the word cancer, but I never get one. It's insidious.

I find myself resenting the times when those unaware use cancer phraseology in another context. For instance, "It's like a cancer eating away at my insides." No, it's not. Have you ever HAD cancer? Or the author who discusses a problem "metastisizing." Hmm...not quite the way someone with colon cancer discovers that there are now cancerous cells in her liver or his lungs.

Mostly I find myself not sleeping. That boogeyman called cancer comes calling in the dark of the night. I lie there feeling grateful for an early diagnosis and seeming cure, yet fearful it isn't so. And I lie there listing off those I care about and want God to watch over. And I make mental note of those who have gone to their glory, yet are so sadly missed here on earth.

So, yeah, cancer is killing. Bit by bit, it seems to hurt me a little more. I want it to go away and never come back, but cancer is not a good listener. It seems to not hear my cries. One day. One day...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Being pampered!

My lovely daughter gifted me with a spa certificate for a detoxifying body wrap. So my Saturday afternoon treat was going to be pampered big time. I didn't really know all the details of the wrap, but I knew it sounded relaxing.

When the spa lady came to get me, she led me back to a room with a table covered in some kind of foil blanket. Then she handed me 2 little packets and told me to strip and put on this paper underwear. Seriously? She warned me that it didn't cover much, and she wasn't kidding. Boy, howdy! It looked like some kind of party favor for a "special" night with my husband. Wow!

I was slathered in a seaweed solution and then wrapped up in the foil and some extra covers, until I looked like some kind of stripper burrito. Then my eyes were covered with soothing eye pads, the lights were turned low, and soothing music was playing. Did I fall asleep? You betcha!

About 20 minutes later, I was led to a shower room, where I used the most delicious smelling shower gel and scrubbing salts. I wanted to stay in there forever! However, the spa lady was waiting for me, so I persuaded myself to dry off and retreat.

The next phase of the process was me in fresh paper undies being massaged and rubbed with a very hydrating lotion.  That felt so good, and my skin is still feeling so soft and moist.Loved it!

After having cancer, I promised myself I would look for enjoyment in life, and it wasn't hard to find on this day. I highly recommend all the spa treatments you can get!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vacation Bible School

There's nothing like Vacation Bible School to make you feel alive. *grins* As I have done for the past few years, I am in charge of teaching the kids the music. In today's world, that doesn't mean sitting and singing pretty little church songs. Some are a soft and slow, but most are pounding rock tunes, and all of them have dance moves to be learned.

I get tired by the end of the night, but it's great to feel so alive and happy.. I wonder if the kids or even some of the adults think I'm a little wild. I'm in there jumping and whooping and carrying on. I might be weak as a kitten when I drag myself in the door, but I know I'm still breathing, and it's a great feeling.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dealing With It

One of the hard lessons of life is learning how to deal with death. One of the most common ways for children to learn this skill is through the demise of a beloved pet. My grandchildren experienced this when their beagle "Pete" had to be put to sleep.As an older dog, he was beginning to have a lot of pain and difficulty getting up or using stairs. When the vet said it wasn't going to get better, the sad decision was made.

I've found it interesting how each of the three children has come to terms with Pete's absence. The older one, almost 9, is the one most acutely aware of the loss, and the one who will remember Pete more clearly.  He has shed some tears and now and then will bring up the subject, mostly to have the opportunity to talk about the dog, I believe.

The two year old has less understanding of what really transpired, so now and then she will ask, "Where's Petey Boy?" A calm answer such as, "He's not here right now," satisfies her curiosity.

The four year old has developed his own coping skill, and I believe his method is the one most comforting to the adults around the house, as well. He's taken a small plastic dish and put it in the spot where Pete's food bowls used to be. He also sometimes places his beloved stuffed dog "Puppy" at the bowl, so he can "eat." I haven't really discussed it with my daughter or son in-law, but when I'm there every day to take care of the children, it comforts me to know there's still a dog in the house. And I've been known to quietly reach down and pat that little puppy's head and say, "Good boy."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Farewell, my friend

My dear friend Gail went to be with Jesus today. I knew it was time, her family knew it was time, but it is hard to know she won't smile at us or talk with us again on this side. I do believe in God and in a beautiful afterlife, so I know I'll see her again one day, and I rejoice that she's already there, celebrating no more pain.

Right now I'm praying that I will remember the lessons in all this:
*That I must savor each moment of each day,
*That I must tell the people I love about that love each day.
*That I must find ways to do as much good as I can, whenever I can.
*That I must never give up the fight against cancer. Relay, Relay, Relay!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Moments of Grace

As I visited my friend Gail in hospice yesterday, her sister and mother told me how she had been able the day before to respond in small ways to family. One son had particularly longed to have her speak with him one more time. Gail opened her eyes a bit and was able to whisper, "I love you," to some family members, and she touched her son on the cheek. Her time here on earth is slipping away, but that young man will treasure that moment forever.

Hearing about that reminded me of my buddy John, who was a vital part of my online support group.When he knew his time had come, he posted a message to us, rejoicing in the fact that he would be able to have one more weekend with his family and perhaps a few more days. John knew he wouldn't be strong enough to participate in family activities after that time, so he cherished the gathering of family around him and made a few more precious memories with his wife and young son.

How often do I get impatient over silly things? I'm so capable of stamping my feet and fussing like crazy if things don't happen just the way I want them to. How much time do I waste in this needless concern?

I know I need to slow it down, see clearly all the beauty around me, hear the lovely words uttered by family, remember the smiles on friends' faces. Time wasted can't be recalled. Letting moments slip away from me is robbing me (and them) of what could be priceless treasures.Here's to a better use of time!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Survivor's Guilt

Tuesday evening I went to see my friend Gail. For the past two years, I've thought of her as my cancer twin. We share the same first name, we have been through the same type of cancer (colon), and we were diagnosed just a few months apart.

We met about 2 years ago, when we both joined our county's Relay For Life planning committee.  We found an instant connection and a true friendship. Gail has brought me joy every time I've seen her or spoken to her. She's a wonderful person!

So Tuesday evening I went to see her. As she lay in the bed at the hospice home, she looked so vulnerable. My sweet, stylish friend lay there wearing no makeup, so she looked a little different, yet so beautiful all at the same time. It hurt my heart so much to see her there and know that her time has come.

I touched her shoulder and spoke softly to her, sharing a prayer with my dear Christian friend. She was too deeply drugged to answer me, but her body shifted slightly, and I believe she knew I was there. Speaking with her husband and mother, I learned that she has already planned the service she wants, and that she spent time, taxing though it was to her body, making a video for her granddaughter and future grandchildren. How sad it is to know that she won't be able to enjoy more time being a grandmother!

As I sadly drove home, I wondered if I would be able to drive safely. The tears poured freely, and I was deep in conversation with God, asking him why it had to be her and not someone else. Why did I have the same cancer and come away so easily, relatively speaking? I don't know the answers, and these things keep me awake at night. I know I must try to do as much good as I can to deserve the great gift I have been given. And I know that I must never forget the gift I was given when Gail came into my life.

Wishing you a peaceful journey, my friend. Save me a place in Heaven. I love you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Time to Relax!

We're leaving soon for a wonderful weekend with friends in the area of Virginia where we used to live. This is a lovely, rural area, and they have a fabulous, old-fashioned celebration called "Heritage Day." I am so excited! It'll be a time to reconnect with people we love and just relax in God's country.

Had my blood drawn this morning to check the CEA level. This is a marker to see if I possibly have more cancer in my system. Not expecting any surprises, but it always leaves me a tad anxious until I get "the word." Anyone who has had cancer understands how that feels.

Hope everyone has a safe, fun 4th of July weekend!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Last night was a very bad one for me. Earlier I had fun with the corn husk angel (see previous post), but later in the evening I had a terrible bout with the pain that has plagued me since my colon resection in Nov. 2007.  I've had IBS for a long time, so I'm no stranger to abdominal pain, but this is a whole new animal. When that pain grips me, all I want is to either pass out or be so drugged up I can't feel anything.

I do have Hydrocodone to take when it gets that bad, and last night was one of those nights. As I rolled and screamed, "Help me," I think Bill felt helpless to know what to do. He thought I was begging him for assistance, but I was really crying out to God.

Perhaps one day the doctors will find a way to keep this from happening. Until then, it's a very painful reminder that I'm eligible to wear the Relay For Life shirt labeled "Survivor."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Corn Husk Dolls!

Okay, this one is technically not about cancer. Not totally, anyway.

I've been helping with Vacation Bible School at my grandchildren's church this week, and my assignment was to assist in making corn husk dolls. I was a tad nervous when told about that, but I figured I'd be crafty enough to make a go of it.

They are so stinking cute!  I love making those dolls! Tonight I experimented with making one into an angel, because I'm thinking they would make cute Christmas ornaments. I was fairly pleased with the results, but I know if I do decide to make them as Christmas gifts, I will go to Hobby Lobby and make sure to get the cutest elements to make them totally adorable.

Here's the cancer portion of the story: since I had my little trip down cancer lane, I've made a real effort to find things that make me joyous  and allow myself to be fully immersed in them. Crafts are relaxing for me, until I get to the point where the items are finished and looking very cute. That's where the jumping and getting excited appears! My advice to anyone with cancer or any serious illness would be to find the fun in each day. Indulge yourself in what makes you feel good about yourself!

I have to sign off now, because I want to go look at my angel again. *grins*

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Camping With the Boys

What a fun weekend! Bill and I took our two precious grandsons, 8 and 4, on their first tent camping experience. We only did one night this time, because we weren't sure how it would go over. We all LOVED it, so I suppose we will be purchasing a tent and going for longer stays (we borrowed a tent from friends this time). Owen and Andrew were particularly fond of helping to start our campfires, and we all enjoyed our pancake breakfast cooked in the cast iron skillet over the fire.

Being in the beautiful outdoors and cuddling in the tent with my boys, I reflected again on the joy that can be found in life. After an experience like cancer, it is tempting to think that life will never be the same again...and it won't. The exquisite joy of being alive adds extra flavor to everything!

The pictures we took will be a lasting reminder of the fun we had, and my heart will always be full when I think back on the laughter and good times.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The "gift" of cancer

Cancer is not something you would ever ask to have happen to a loved one or yourself. It's a scary, worrisome business. So it might seem odd to say that there can be any gift associated with cancer, but I believe there can be.

For me, the gift has been being able to use my experience to help others who are diagnosed. I've been on my county's Relay For Life planning committee the last couple of years, and I've made contacts and learned about programs that I can suggest to people who are newly diagnosed and feeling lost. That is VERY rewarding for me.

Relay itself has brought me the gift of so many dear friends that I would not have known otherwise. We are bound by our status as survivors and people who are determined to fight the BEAST. Although I wish I had met them another way, I cherish having them in my life.

As I write this tonight, I have a heavy heart, because one friend our Relay committee is probably near the end of her life on earth, and another friend from church just got a fairly daunting diagnosis. *sigh* My work is not done...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't put this burden on cancer patients!

I have to share a pet peeve of mine. I know people mean well when they tell cancer patients that "attitude is everything." No, it's not! Life isn't fair, and sometimes the sunniest, healthiest, sweetest people you know will get cancer. And when they do, they might be joyful in all things most of the time, but cancer will get you down sometimes. PLEASE! Let them have that down moment.

It's really placing an unfair burden on someone who is scared, may be in pain, and who may be trying to simply maintain under a regimen of chemo or radiation, or both. And how about someone who HAS been cheery and is still in the last stage of life? How do you think they feel?

I suggest a hug and a few words about the fact that you care for that patient, and they have been in your prayers. Unless you've been in their shoes (I have), you really DON'T know how they feel. Trust me on this.

Monday, June 20, 2011


So, I set out to post a comment on my daughter's blog,  and it looks like I have to be a blogger to do so. So, here we go!

A major emphasis for me the past 3 years has been surviving cancer. I was diagnosed with colon cancer Nov. 21, 2007. So my blog will mostly be about health tips, feelings about survivorship, etc. I know I need to eat more healthy food and get more exercise, so hopefully this will be a kick in the pants!