Even Years

I’m beginning to dislike “even” years. 2012-re-diagnosis, 2014-progression, and now 2016-more progression. It’s probably nothing personal, but these even years seem to bring cancer back into the spotlight of my life.

I had a scan on March 25th, and sure enough, the cancer is again on the move. I think I was mentally prepared for it. I hadn’t had any physical symptoms of progression, it was just a feeling I had inside. It’s funny how you really get to know your body while dealing with a terminal illness.

So the report showed a prominent and “glowing” spot near my sternum, as well as cancerous activity in the pelvic region…..right where the pelvis meets the femur. And it’s on both sides. The radiologist was also kind enough to note in his report that I’m fat and constipated. I’m pretty sure those diagnosis could have happened without an $8000 scan. Thanks doc!

We are moving on to new treatment. I am receiving shots of Faslodex (fulvestrant) every month. I have to have an extra loading dose so I received the first dose on March 25th and another dose on April 8th. After my April 25th dose, then it goes to once per month. Besides being very sore at the injection sites (my butt cheeks), side effects seem minimal. I have a bad taste in my mouth and feel a little tired for a couple of days.

On Tuesday, I started Palbociclib. This is a brand new drug, just approved by the FDA in February of 2015. It’s only been approved for use with Faslodex since February of 2016. It’s hard to get much newer than that. If you Google the drug, it’s hard not to notice that it retails for about $9,800 monthly. Luckily I will pay $50 a month. Thank goodness for health insurance. The jury is still out on whether this drug is officially a “chemotherapy” drug. The doctors say no, but the package insert says yes. I’m not sure who to believe. Regardless, my main concern is the side effects. The list is long, as it is with most medications. The one that frightens me most is the likely drop in blood counts around day 15 of the cycle. I take the drug for 21 days and then go off for 7 days to allow my blood counts to hopefully rebound. I am currently on day 6, so we will see what occurs. Who knows, maybe I will be the lucky one who’s blood counts tolerate the medicine with no trouble. My only side effect so far is a slightly upset stomach.

In the midst of all of this, my oncologist has decided to retire! Many may be thinking this isn’t a big deal, but you tend to become very attached to your doctors when your life hangs in the balance. I really like my doctor and this just isn’t a good time for him to retire! I tried to convince him to stay but he said the only way he’ll ever get caught up is to retire! So I guess I have to let him go. I have to feel somewhat bad for my new oncologist. I hope she can handle me. I’m sure she can handle my cancer, but can she handle my attitude and sick sense of humor? Another “wait and see.”

Life is somewhat surreal right now. On one hand I have all of this cancer crap, but on the other there is a  very big milestone about to occur. Nick graduates in about 7 weeks! Way back when I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001, my goal was to live long enough to see my baby graduate from high school. It looks like it’s about to happen! 4 years ago, when I was re-diagnosed, I wasn’t so sure it was going to happen. It’s a huge milestone for Nick, but also for me. Any time I get from that point on, truly will be “icing on the cake.” And, I have to say, I think I have some more years left in me!

Shortly after the big graduation, we leave on a Caribbean cruise.  And then of course the summer will allow me to get caught up, relax, and rejuvenate so that I can hopefully start the next school year strong.

Here’s hoping the new drugs are kind to me and that my next update will be filled with good news. I will likely be scanned again over the summer so stay tuned………

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Heartbreak

Although you know that life is going to inevitably bring pain and suffering, it still sucks. I am going through one of those particularly “sucky” times right now. It is not my health, but that of my beloved cousin that has pulled the rug from underneath me. I have always found writing therapeutic, and since she is going to lose her life to the very same disease I have, I think a blog post is rather appropriate.

J. is 11 years older than me. She grew up in Cincinnati and I mostly in Colorado. When I would spend summers in Cincinnati, I think I became the little sister she never really wanted. I, on the other hand, loved having a big sister as I had only a younger brother growing up. We had plenty of rough times during those summers, as we, like all siblings, competed for her parent’s attention. But, I distinctly remember wanting to be around her. I watched in awe as she water skied on the Ohio river. I cheered for her at her softball games. And I relished the attention she would give me when she took me to her work place, or with her friends to a fireworks show. Her sense of humor and capacity for “fun” made her one of those people everyone loved to be around.

As I became an adult, trips back to Cincinnati became few and far between. I would go for a short visit every few years as I knew my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmother wanted to see my son. I wanted my son to know them as well. Even as an adult I have many fond memories of Cincinnati and trips to spend time with my family. And of course, I loved seeing J. each and every time I was there.

J.’s mother, my aunt, was truly one of my favorite people. Aunt B. was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid 80’s. She died in 2009. For well over 20 years she fought the dreaded monster and was always an inspiration to me as I fought through my first diagnosis in 2001. It seems cancer sort of “took over” my mother’s side of the family in the late 90’s and it really hasn’t stopped since. J. lived through an initial diagnosis of melanoma in 2005. Aunt B. was re-diagnosed with breast cancer again in the mid-90’s, just as my aunt S. passed away from the disease in 1996. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer just 7 short months after me in 2002. It has really been quite relentless.

I think J. and I became closer after her mother, my aunt B. died in 2009. The real bonding came the next year when J. was diagnosed with breast cancer. I helped her navigate her way through diagnosis and treatment. I quickly became re-acquainted with the cancer vocabulary and I remember thinking how unfair this all was to her, especially so soon after losing her mother. But, like most she fought back and refused to succumb to this disease that had hurt us all for so long.

In 2011, we took J. on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate life. She had lived through breast cancer, she was turning 50 that year, and we needed to acknowledge it all in a big way. The trip was amazing. To this day, it is still one of my favorite vacations. There was a group of 12 and we all had a blast. J. bonded with some of my best friends and they quickly came to love her as I did.

Then came the turning point for me. In 2012 I was re-diagnosed with breast cancer metastatic to the bones. I was told there was no cure and all further treatment would be to control the disease and extend my life if possible. The average life span with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is 3-5 years. Yet, here I am, almost four years later, not only surviving, but thriving. Later that same year, J. was re-diagnosed metastatic as well. The sooner you relapse after initial diagnosis, the worse the prognosis tends to be. I had gone 10 years before relapse, J. not quite three years later.

So, by the end of 2012, we found ourselves in the same boat, fighting for our lives and futures. We both had breast cancer in our bones. We spent a lot of time talking doctors, treatments, side effects, prognosis, and fear. We also went on several more trips together. Another Caribbean cruise in 2013, an Alaskan cruise in 2014, and 10 days on the beaches of Florida, just this past summer in 2015. We had some incredible experiences together. Zip lining, swimming with dolphins, standing on a glacier, collecting buckets full of seashells, just to name a few.

It did not take long for J’s cancer to spread into her liver. But, she never gave up. She had a positive attitude, an incredible sense of humor, and strong will to live. She took each new treatment and made the best of it. Despite confounding conditions that included congestive heart failure, she continued to live and make the very most of every day she had.

At the beginning of this year, just over 2 weeks ago, J. was told that the cancer was spreading in her liver and they wanted to try a new chemo. On Monday, January 11th she received the first dose and then basically crashed. She was admitted to the hospital but made it very clear that she wanted to go home. By Wednesday, hospice was involved. Today, I’m told she probably has hours, days at best. My mother is by her side, along with her dad, and a friend that has been with her through everything. She is comfortable.

On the other hand, I am heartbroken! Angry, sad, frustrated, and tired all rolled up in a ball in the center of my chest as I await the inevitable phone call. Even when you know and expect something, it somehow doesn’t seem to make it much easier. Logically, I can tell myself not to feel guilty, but it doesn’t matter. I do feel guilty. Why her and not me? Why do I get to keep on living but her short life has come to an end? I feel so helpless. There are few times in my life that I would describe myself as being in an utter state of despair, but this is definitely the state I am in at the moment. There are no answers to my questions. I get it. But, it doesn’t stop me asking, because, damn it! it just isn’t fair.

My only comfort now, is knowing that Aunt B. is waiting for J. Knowing that they will be reunited on the other side. I also take comfort in knowing that the pain and suffering that J. has endured over the past 5 years is going to end. She never gave up. I will miss her and hold her in my heart forever. dolphinjen

 

 

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Life, has been busy! And really, that’s a good thing. I happen to like that my life is so focused on something other than cancer, that I have not written a blog post in over three months! Although I must admit I have had the best of intentions, because I know some like to be updated. But my job has really had me engrossed in psychology, IB, and US History. Nonetheless, here is a little story from cancerland.

About a month ago, I went in for my 6 month scan. In July, I tried to talk the PA into waiting until December, but she said that she felt better if I got one in September. I have never gone more than 6 months without a scan, so she thought it wise to continue with this plan. So, I agreed and scheduled the scan for the afternoon. I am trying to take as little time off of work as possible, and this allowed me to go after work. The only problem is not being able to eat 8 hours prior to the scan. Not eating all day while sitting around the house is one thing, not eating while working a full day is another. I made it through the day and off I went for yet another scan.

It never really gets any easier. The anxiety, the anticipation, the “what ifs” that go along with being scanned. What if a new spot of cancer shows up? What if it moves into a vital organ? What if I have to go back on chemotherapy? I thought after 10 or so scans, these worrisome thoughts might decrease, but no such luck.

The scan was on a Thursday, so I promised I wouldn’t bug the doctor until AT LEAST Monday. I did manage to wait patiently, but, finally, Monday afternoon I emailed the office and requested a copy of the scan report. It took until Wednesday, but I did get the report. I am reading through it and it sounds like good news. Nothing new, all known spots are stable, and then I saw IT! Thrown in, almost at the end of the report, was the phrase “new suspicious mass on adrenal gland.”

As I let this sink in, questions started popping up in my head. Which side? How big? What is the SUV uptake? All of this information usually accompanies news of a new location of spread. But, it said nothing other than that one phrase. It really bothered me, but I had to go with what the report said. I started googling adrenal gland information and looking at treatment possibilities. You know me. I am the “information is power” kind of person. Ultimately, I had to wait until my appointment on Friday.

As we sat in the oncologist’s office, I admit I was pretty nervous. Not that anytime is a good time for the disease to progress, but having just started teaching in a new building, I was extra nervous about what this could mean in terms of treatment, time off, etc.

My doctor pulled up the scan and we looked at it together. We looked, and looked. He asked me if I saw anything. (like I would know????) He said he didn’t see anything. He suggested that maybe it was a mistake. Really? a mistake? Is that even possible? I think he sensed my frustration and knew I was not going to be able to rest easy unless we had actual confirmation that it was indeed a mistake. So, he pulled out his cell phone and called the radiologist who read the scan and wrote the report. Of course, this person was unavailable and we had to wait. In the meantime, I headed to the infusion room for my Zometa.

While getting the infusion, my oncologist came to the room to inform me that the scan report was indeed an error. It was supposed to read “NO suspicious mass on adrenal gland” as opposed to “NEW suspicious mass on adrenal gland.” The following week he even emailed me an amended copy of the scan report.

Now, overall, I am relieved. The mistake was in my favor and I am certainly glad that we caught the mistake. BUT…..and this is a pretty big BUT…….I couldn’t help but wonder what if it had gone the other way? Are mistakes like this common? My oncologist seemed to think so. I have to say that I have a lot less faith in the scan reports. It never really occurred to me that mistakes like this are common. We are talking about health. Not just health, but situations that have serious implications. Life and death type of implications.

I have always felt that I am lucky to receive excellent medical care. I hear the horror stories, but really never have encountered anything like this before. I guess in my situation, one is bound to have an experience or two, or more come up in which mistakes are made. Perhaps I’m lucky to have gone this long without such an experience.

So did I learn anything from this? Well, yes actually. I learned that ONE word can make a huge difference in meaning. I learned to question medical professionals, because they are human and can make mistakes. And, even though this isn’t new, I learned that you must always be an active participant in your health care. That is the best advice I can give to anyone when interacting with the medical community. Question, confirm, and even annoy until you are satisfied. It can make a huge difference!

My next visit to the oncologist will be in early January. Unless, of course, there are symptoms or problems that would require an earlier visit. Fingers crossed that I don’t have to see them until January. I do not know when my next scan will be, but this one has left me with a few more gray hairs. I am in no hurry to go back, but, with a stage IV diagnosis, there will always be a next time.

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Tough

On July 6th I went in for my oncology check up. I saw a physician’s assistant instead of my doctor who was on vacation. All of my blood work came back good with the exception of my vitamin D level. So it was a pretty boring appointment and routine infusion. As part of my examination, the PA asked me several questions. She asked me if I was in any pain from the cancer itself. We had already discussed the aggravating side effects of the medication I am on for the cancer, but this was a different question. I told her I was not in pain from the cancer, and really never have been. She looked at me and said “you must be one tough cookie!” This got me thinking.

What exactly does it mean to be “tough?” Am I tough? I looked up the definition. It defined tough as “capable of great endurance; sturdy; hardy.” Now this can of course refer to some sort of inanimate object or material, but I am thinking in terms of people. What exactly makes a person tough?

Having cancer does require a certain degree of endurance. I continually endure numerous medical tests and procedures to determine the current status of cancer’s residency in my body. I endure multiple needle sticks while having blood drawn and getting infusions. A curse of having veins that are hard to locate. I endure the crappy side effects of medication that is necessary to control the disease. I endure the uncertainty of my health, my physical abilities, and of my future. I endure watching my family deal with my disease and all of the messy details that go along with it. Yet, despite the things I endure, I don’t think this makes me tough. There are too many others that endure a lot more.

Here are some examples of people I think are tough:

Hunter Treschle. Hunter lost his arm to a shark last month at just 16 years old. Just weeks after this horrific event, Hunter spoke of deciding that his life would go on and still be great, even without his arm. Now that’s tough!

Aron Ralston. Aron was trapped while rock climbing in Utah. In order to survive he had to amputate his own arm using a pocket knife. Even then he had to make his way through a canyon and rappel down a 65 ft. cliff in order to reach safety. So yeah, that guy is tough!

Malala Yousafzai. Malala was shot because she was attempting to become educated. Educating females in some countries is considered a crime. Malala recovered and became a human rights activist. Her story is widely known and her work continues. This, my friends, is tough.

Many other nameless and faceless people are pretty tough.

Holocaust  and other war survivors. People who were starved, beaten, tortured because of their beliefs and their faith.  Those people are tough.

Victims of natural disasters. It seems all too common that we hear of people who lose absolutely everything to a tornado, fire, hurricane, or flood. Yet, for every tragic story, there are many more stories of people who overcome their difficulties and move on. They become closer families, better neighbors, more appreciative of what they have. That’s pretty tough.

Single parents. I can honestly say that parenting is the hardest job in the world. Raising children without the support of a partner and making decisions that effect the lives of  children all by yourself. That’s incredibly tough.

I could go on and on with examples of people in various walks of life who have shown to be “capable of great endurance.” There are so many I could probably fill books with examples, not just a simple blog post. Maybe some people do consider me to be tough. In some ways, maybe I am. But I have to say that I don’t personally consider my capability to endure to be anything in comparison to what others go through. I know it’s not a competition, but really, I truly couldn’t imagine surviving what I have seen others survive.

I think we all have to play the cards we are dealt in life. We all have to endure at various points in our lives. I can think of very few people who haven’t had to endure circumstances that they do not choose. Our circumstances are a combination of decisions, fate, and luck. There is simply too much that we can’t control. It reminds me of quotes by Marvin J. Ashton….

“WE CAN’T ALWAYS CONTROL OUR CIRCUMSTANCES BUT WE CAN CONTROL OUR ATTITUDE.

WE MUST BE MORE CONCERNED WITH WHAT WE DO WITH WHAT HAPPENS TO US THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO US.

HAPPINESS DOES NOT DEPEND ON WHAT HAPPENS OUTSIDE OF YOU BUT ON WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE OF YOU.”

Perhaps the real definition of “tough” is someone who understands these concepts, embraces them, and uses them when the circumstances call for it. And maybe we as humans are all tough or can learn to be tough. We just don’t know how tough we are until we have no other choice.

 

 

 

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The Fine Line

As I have shared many times previously, the worst part of having cancer is the uncertainty. You never know from month to month, day to day, even hour to hour, whether or not your health status will remain stable or drastically change. Every little symptom, ache, pain, twitch, hangnail, etc becomes a moment of panic. Everyday problems and issues that can be easily dismissed as muscle aches, stress head aches, bug bites, and problems that accompany the aging process cause anxiety and worry over whether or not they could be somehow related to the cancer. It’s not a fun way to go through the day, but like many other aspects of this diagnosis, you learn to live with it. It is also a blessing in the sense that it motivates you to appreciate every “ordinary” day and do what you can to recognize the ordinary as extraordinary.

Recently, I was reminded in powerful ways that the uncertainty really does not apply only to cancer patients. Every person is really one breath away from their lives drastically changing or even ending! First, I found out that a former student, just 31 years old, was diagnosed with stage iv ovarian cancer. She passed away after a two year battle with the disease on May 11th. She was a 2002 graduate and is the mother of a 6 year old and a 2 year old. Everyone is aware that cancer does not discriminate based on age. Everyone, even children, are diagnosed with cancer. But, it becomes real when it’s not just random people on the St. Jude’s commercial on television. It is much different to actually KNOW someone who’s life has been stolen from them.

Another sudden tragic death of an amazing man occurred on May 2nd. A JCEA colleague, just 44 years old, died of a heart attack. He left behind a wife, daughter, parents, brother, and hundreds of former students and co-workers. It was sudden, unexpected, untimely, and it was incredibly painful. It leaves me wondering if perhaps a long illness isn’t a better option. At least you have time to plan and to say goodbye.

I attended both funerals, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Needless to say, it was a difficult weekend and left me with a lot of thoughts and reflections about death. But, here is the “ah-ha” moment for me. As I looked around the rooms while at the services for both of these individuals, I realized that I am really not so different from anyone else in the room. Yes, I live with a life threatening illness that will, at some point, likely lead to my death. But, every single person in both rooms, will eventually come to the same end. We are all going to die. I think that is a secondary reason why people hate funerals. It is a reminder of their own mortality.

I tried to convince myself that attending funerals as a person living with cancer has got to be more difficult. But really, it is not. Never did I imagine that these two people would depart life before me. And as I looked around, I wondered how many others would go before me, and how many would go after me. The simple truth is that no one knows how many days we are meant to walk on earth. We do not come with expiration dates stamped on the bottom of our feet. Believe me, being the “planner” that I am, I have looked, and sure enough, there is nothing there!

So I am left to ponder the senseless and untimely deaths of two young, vibrant, energetic, people. I guess, just as life is not fair, neither is death. The lesson is the same for everyone, sick or healthy, old or young. Live your days to the fullest. Embrace the ones you love every chance you get. Don’t put off until tomorrow, what can be accomplished today. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone! We all walk the fine line between this life and the next.

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Cancerversary and Cellulitis

No, I have not traveled to west Africa recently.

No, I have not traveled to west Africa recently.

Hospital Selfie

Hospital Selfie

Cancerversary is another one of those made up words from cancer land. It is the anniversary of one’s cancer diagnosis. I celebrated my 3 year cancerversary yesterday. It was March 9, 2012 that I found out I had metastatic breast cancer. Some say that is not an occasion to celebrate, but, I beg to differ. I feel pretty darn lucky that I have lived and thrived with this diagnosis for 3 years now. So many others are not so lucky. It hasn’t been easy and it surely has had a few bumps in the road, but I could not be more grateful for the facts that I am still working full time, still going on vacation, still watching my son quickly become a man, still sharing good times with friends and family. I hope to be celebrating many more cancerversaries in the future.

Now, with that being said, there was another “bump” in the road recently. Last week, I woke up in the middle of the night and had the most horrible chills. I could not get warm. At 2:00 am I stood in the shower with hot water pouring over me and still had goose bumps all over my body. I managed to drag myself into work for the morning. I taught a class, made some sub plans and got out of there. I had diagnosed myself with the flu. By now I had all of the classic symptoms…..body aches, fever, head ache, chills.

I called the doctor cursing the obvious futility of my flu shot and asked for that new Tamiflu medication that I have heard so much about. They gladly, based on my symptoms, wrote me a prescription for it over the phone. So by the afternoon I was curled up on the couch and ready to take a nice long nap, knowing that the upcoming weekend was probably a bust and I was going to have to spend it feeling awful in bed. Until, I woke up.

I drug myself upstairs to change and as I did I noticed a large, bright red, hot to the touch splotch on my left arm. My arm was obviously swollen because it hurt to even bend and/or extend it. I showed Mark and we both looked at each other with the same thought……infection……ER time.

The good news is, the ER was empty and I was seen right away. There wasn’t much question that it was an infection, but exactly what it was and how it happened were a mystery. Many of you may remember that I had this same diagnosis a year and a half ago when I had cellulitis on my stomach. I think the definition of cellulitis must be….”a fancy name for an infection that doctors have no clue about.” The only difference is that this time it’s on my arm. I was admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics.

This infection seemed more stubborn than the last. In 2013, I spent two nights in the hospital. This time around I spent four nights. I was on two separate IV meds and then switched to oral antibiotics on Sunday. I was just released yesterday. There is still some redness on my arm and I am very nervous that it is going to come back. After already missing three days of work and having life turned upside down, I really don’t want to start the process all over. I am praying that the oral antibiotics continue to kick the infection to the curb.

The really fun part is the permanent consequences of this could be ugly. My left side is the one missing 20 or so lymph nodes. It’s a wait and see game at this point but trauma to the left side, including infection, could bring on what is known as lymphedema. It’s a permanent swelling due to excess fluid that your lymph system can’t handle. It requires physical therapy, compression sleeves, and comes with an increased risk of further infection. I was warned of this way back in 2001 after my initial lumpectomy and node dissection. But, up to this point, I haven’t had any trouble. I am careful not to get blood pressure, blood draws, or other procedures on my left side. I have always been attentive to cuts and hang nails and cleaned and treated them promptly. It’s become a habit of the past thirteen years.

I have heard the stories, but always thought I had escaped the dreaded reality of lymphedema. I guess it’s just another ugly side effect of an uglier disease. Perhaps I will be lucky, the swelling will subside, and I won’t deal with it ever again. I guess we’ll see.

A special thanks for all of the notes, messages, and gifts while I was in the hospital. It was clear to me that there are many people who care about me…….yet something else to be grateful for!

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A Love/Hate Relationship

Now that the holidays are finished (almost) I thought I would take some time to sum up my feelings about the holiday season. I was particularly reflective this year throughout the whole season. I am not sure why, but hopefully it’s all worth sharing. If you get bored, you can always stop reading and play a game on Facebook.

I love the holiday season for many reasons, and I hate the holiday season for many reasons. I will alternate between the loves and the hates in order to be true to the title of my post.

First, decorating the Christmas tree is the best experience ever. I usually do this solo while my husband and son are outside putting up the lights. Decorating the tree is a walk down memory lane and I love every minute. Each ornament is a memory of a year gone by. I look at the yellow Teletubby ornament and remember when Nick was just a toddler and loved the show. I see our “Just Married” ornament from 2004 and wonder how it’s been almost 11 years now. I see the soccer ornaments and remember the days when soccer practice and games ruled our schedule for many months per year. I guess I prefer doing this alone because I can go as slowly or quickly as I like. I can put my favorite ornaments on the front of the tree and my not so favorite ones on the back.

But, I hate the time and effort put into decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, and celebrating for only one month. It takes an entire days, sometimes longer to get everything set up and ready. It seems like a lot of work for only four short weeks of enjoyment. The month of December seems to go by quicker every year and before I know it, it’s time to take it all down and put it all away. It is a let down to say the least.

I love that people seem to be nicer to one another during the holiday season. It truly feels like hearts open up and give and give from Thanksgiving to New Years. There are heartwarming stories on the news and numerous events that allow ample opportunity for people to dig deep and help those that are less fortunate.

But, I hate that the spotlight on neediness is brighter for only six weeks. For some reason, it feels like people are so generous for a short time and then forget about it the rest of the year. I myself am guilty of this for sure. I am guessing that the neediness isn’t any greater during the holidays, however, the giving dwindles greatly from January-October. It is quite shocking to hear of food drives, toy drives, and donations outside of the holidays. Why aren’t those bell ringers out in front of the grocery store the rest of the year?

I love the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Everyone wants to get together and be together during the holiday season. Some of the best family memories and stories seem to come from holiday gatherings.

But, I hate the unrealistic expectations put on so many over the holidays. I hear many complaints of families who nose dive into turmoil over where to spend the holidays, who to spend the holidays with, and even trivial details over what to eat and when to get together. There are a couple of lessons I have learned over the years. One, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus, or whatever the celebration, doesn’t have to be on the EXACT DATE! Coming from the wife of a firefighter who has worked the last 3 Christmases straight, it doesn’t matter! Celebrate when you can. Two, be flexible! Especially if you’re a parent with adult children. If I ever get the opportunity to spend the holidays with my son as an adult, I will allow him to choose the time and place that works for him. The best gift you can give for the holidays is freedom from guilt! One of the MANY reasons I love my mother is that she never pressures us to fly thousands of miles to Florida for Christmas. She also never caves to my pressure to get her to Colorado for Christmas.

I love having two weeks off!

But, I hate ONLY having two weeks off! It is a long haul from January to June. When I was going to school, winter break was 3 or 4 weeks at least! Whatever happened to that idea? I am never quite ready to head back to school right after the new year!

I love celebrating the birth of Jesus. It’s so amazing to me that so many people celebrate this around the world. It transcends geographic location, gender, class, race, and culture. It unites humanity in a way that no other celebration seems to do. Not to leave out those of other religions. Non- Christians may not believe that Jesus was the son of God, but many still acknowledge his existence as a prophet. Even though historical records point to Jesus Christ probably being born somewhere in the month of April (yes, the history geek in me emerges), we all love the story of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, the savior of the world being born in a stable on a cold winter’s night. It is a story that has been told for thousands of years and an event celebrated for just as long.

I hate that my birthday is two weeks after Christmas. I just can’t compete with Jesus and by the time my birthday rolls around, people are birthday-ed out! I know, I know……I shouldn’t complain. After all, I was actually due on December 25th. I should just consider myself lucky not to have to share the actual day with Jesus, but, I somehow, still feel ripped off. Mark my words, in my next life I will be born a summer child!

Last, I love the beginning of a new year! It feels like another chance, a new opportunity to live my best life.  It sounds cliché, but having cancer has taught me not to waste time with regret and worry. I admit, I am better with not having regrets than not worrying. Those who know me well will tell you that I still worry more than I should. I guess I could make a resolution to not worry so much……BUT…….

I hate New Years Resolutions! I don’t think I have kept one in my entire life! I have stopped making resolutions and started setting goals. Goals are good if they’re realistic and reachable. A resolution, well, just the name makes it sound way too difficult for me.

Thanks to everyone who kept up with me and my blog during 2014. I know I don’t always write about my cancer and health, which was my original intent when I started this blog. However, I guess I thank my lucky stars to be in a position to write about things other than my cancer. It’s really a good thing when your health is too boring a subject to warrant an entire blog post! But, a quick update:

I saw the oncologist and received my infusion on December 22nd. I requested to NOT have a scan until March since there are no new symptoms or indicators in my blood work that would send me running to the PET Scanner. The doctor agreed to wait. I hope I don’t regret the decision to not push for a scan, but I think I just needed a break from the scanxiety and worry. I am still suffering some uncomfortable side effects from the new medication. I have arthritis like symptoms that are mostly tolerable, but do give me some bad days here and there. Otherwise, I lead a completely “normal” life! Normal is good!

 

 

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