Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Cancer is one of those points in my life that will forever be a marker of time.  For example, this weekend we were planting grape vines.  And I can’t help but to think back to last spring when we were planting vines.  I remember barely being able to help.   I was in between chemo and radiation and exhausted all the time.  I had to keep my skin covered because it was super-sensitive to sun due to the treatment.  And to add insult to injury, I had no hair.

This year my hair was a mess and blowing in the breeze.  I had on a t-shirt and was soaking up the sun with every ounce of my being.  Yes, digging the many holes totally kicked my ass, but in a marvelous way.  And unlike last year, the exhaustion didn’t leave me feeling tired for days.
The experience reminded me that life is good right now.  I love it when I get a moment of clarity and am able to remember to feel gratitude for all that I have.

Speaking of gratitude, I am in full-on vacation planning mode!  We leave in less than two weeks.  We had a trip planned last May that we had to cancel because of my illness.  We had plans to go to Santa Barbara for the Winemaker Magazine conference and we were going to stay on the west coast after the conference and hit wine country.  We both agreed that we would go when I was well. 
A little known fact about me:  I am a crazy psychotic vacation planner.   Robbie tried to get me to use a travel agent once because he thought that I stressed too much about the planning.  But he has come to understand that I enjoy it and that I like having the control.  Planning is part of the fun for me.  As soon as we have a destination in mind, I begin to read travel books, yelp reviews, trip advisor reviews, and vacation blogs. 

Destination Napa/Sonoma has been so much fun to plan.  I have a day-by-day itinerary in development that includes our starting winery for each day (those on our “must visit” list), a tour guide that will give us that private boutique winery experience, and group tours that are more fun and relaxed.  At this point I’m down to planning the second tier wineries as well as the meals.   I have experienced much anguish over picking a place to have Deem Sum in San Francisco and in trying to decide if Morimoto’s restaurant in Napa is worth the price (or do we just stand in front and take a photo!)   
Robbie used to poke fun at my planning, but after a few successful vacations he is now a believer.   I know he does not relish the planning phase, so I try to limit his involvement to seeking the information I need to ensure his enjoyment.  I now know that he could care less about what order I arrange to do things or the specific rental car we will be driving.  He really doesn’t want to hear the cheeses they offer during the tour or what types of linens are on the beds at the hotel.  He doesn’t want to pick his seat on the plane, nor does he want to participate in my agonizing over whether I want to spend extra money to have a great view.   I ask him the important questions:  What five wineries are on your “must visit” list?  Would you rather have a single “base” of operation or move each day or two to be closer to different areas?

Robbie is traveling for work this week, so in addition to spending the evenings hashing out the vacation itinerary, I am also a single parent to our very high maintenance beagles.  Zoe is diabetic and gets a shot twice a day.  Meadow is currently on antibiotics and “happy bacteria” for stomach issues and has to be coaxed to eat her breakfast because she has too much gas in her stomach.  I have to take Zoe to an eye specialist on Friday for recurring cysts she keeps getting in her eye (an hour away from where we live).  Monthly dog expenses:  hundreds (too afraid to add it up).  The joy they bring:  priceless.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One Year. One Hundred Posts.

It seems appropriate that for my 100th post on my cancer blog I get to write about my one year check-up with my oncologist.  I’ve always been very nervous prior to previous visits, but I felt pretty confident that I would get a thumbs up.  I feel great this go-around and didn’t get the phantom symptoms I sometimes get prior to my appointments. 
As I sat in the waiting room, I was feeling so grateful to have my hair back.  I saw a lovely bald woman come into the waiting wear a pink bandanna, and the memories of wearing wigs and scarves during the hot summer flooded my mind.  I wanted to go to her and tell her that it grows back and that a year from now she’ll be dealing with unruly inconsistently textured hair.  But I also remembered how crabby and tired I was when I was going through chemo and that I may not like her response to my “helpfulness.”
 When I was called back for my appointment, I was put in the Lance Armstrong room.  Always a symbol of hope that Lance!  I should note that I didn’t actually get to meet with my oncologist.  I am doing so well apparently that he felt it appropriate to just pass my visit off to a physician assistant.  And in all honesty, that was perfectly ok with me.  Let him focus on saving lives rather than carrying on chitchat with someone who feels great.
She said that my blood work looked good, and then proceeded with the usual list of questions they always ask during the check-ups.  Any fever?  Feeling tired?  Trouble breathing?  Lumps or bumps?  Problems going to the bathroom?  Any vomiting?  Night sweats?  Coughing?  Aches and pains?  And on and on … I was given a clean bill of health and will go back in August.  I will be scheduled for a PET Scan prior to the August visit since it will have been a year since my last one.
Probably the only lingering side effect from the “Cancer experience” (almost sounds like a Disney theme park ride – ha ha) is a continuing struggle to fully bounce back.  I think the break you take from leading a normal/regular life is both good and bad.  Good in that you get perspective and clarity around those things that are important.  But bad in the sense that you took a break from the “game of life” and have to get reconditioned to play again.  Lately, I have been struggling with time management, creativity, balance, etc. and I had an epiphany about this just this week.  I don’t think I’ve lost the ability to do those things, but I do think I’ve lost my confidence.  Believing you can do something is such a HUGE part of actually being able to do it.  Just having that thought process has made me feel so much better.  I can be awesome; I just have to believe it.  I just laughed out loud as I was typing this because for a moment I thought about the blog reader and envisioned them thinking “How ego-centric can she be?  Seriously?  What kind of dribble is this?”  That is completely alright; I know I’m a little crazy.  But I also know that some cancer survivor will read this and totally get it.
Thanks for sticking with me.  If you’ve read all hundred of my posts, I should bake you cookies or give you wine.  But this will have to do for now:   A virtual toast to you wishing you love, friendship, good health, and a spirit of gratitude!