Tag Archive: Surviving Cancer


I’ve had the Mario theme song stuck in my head for the last week. I seem to whistle the tune whenever I’m doing something tedious like dishes or folding laundry which leads me to beleive it’s a song that is perfect twofold: 1) It never gets old and 2) It makes you happy.

In other news, my oncologist checked the lump near my jaw. He said it is odd at which point Erick interjected, “…but so is she.” If it gets bigger, he said we’ll have to have it biopsied, but since my last scan was clear, he asked me not to worry.

In other other news… We’ll be issuing a certified check today for $7000+ to sell our house in Northern Michigan and the closing documents will be arriving shortly to be signed and notarized. We did alright all things considered. It’s still hard letting go of a home we loved, but we’re doing well and moving forward and that’s what matters most.

I cried when the doctor asked me if I was under any stress at the moment. It felt good to cry. Maybe that’s why Mario Bros. has attached it’s happy theme-song to my brain this week.  I need it.

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Imperfection

For about a week now, I’ve been feeling this lump just beneath the hinge of my jaw. It’s movable, painless, and more solid than I would like, but it’s also small enough that I’m going to wait until my next appointment with the new oncologist to have it checked.

I haven’t mentioned it to anyone, not even Erick, until last night when he saw it and asked about it. It worried me that he could see it. He said it made my jawline look pointy.

Last night I had a dream about the cancer returning, but this morning the lump seems smaller, so I’m less concerned. I remember Dr. K telling me that from this point on, I’ll likely be hyper-sensitive to any lumps, bumps, bruises or node-swelling. He’s absolutely correct. This time around, however, I feel a bit of denial for if the cancer did return, my treatment options are limited and grueling.

I don’t think the cancer has returned, but the worries occasionally resurface.

I met with both my new cardiologist and oncologist today.  I am both impressed with their empathy and confident in their knowledge.  The cardiologist spent an hour explaining how my heart functions and potential treatments, all the while keeping in mind I’d like to get away from my reliance on the medication.   Instead of a pace-maker, there’s a procedure- a type of ablation, where they cauterize a line inside the atrial wall to disrupt signal interference.  My doctor suggested this may help enough that I could discontinue the medication.

In oncology news, I received a small blow to my confidence when my doctor informed me a recurrence would mean a complete stem-cell transplant.   When I asked about a regiment of Rituxan, he said the drug would only be effective with an indolent or slow-growing form of lymphoma.  The survival rate for a transplant is 40%.

My PET scan is scheduled for Monday.  And if I’m clear, that’s good news; the further out, the better.   Still, I was shaken by news of the transplant because I’ve been telling myself cancer is no big deal with the right drugs.  The fact is, cancer’s a bitch.

That said, I eat right, exercise daily, and laugh often – the best defense against a recurrence.   And the great news is that I’ve met three wonderful doctors who are managing a game-plan for my continued good health.

And completely unrelated, I’m considering making the switch to a digital Cannon (40D).  Anyone have an opinion on this?

Changes

We spent the day getting our house organized.  And I do mean organized.  We rented a 15-cubic-yard dumpster and threw away or recycled anything without serious ties to our life.  While sorting, I was finding myself not very inclined to keep much of anything.  Going through boxes I packed last year, I recycled much of it today – and gave more to Good Will than kept.  I realized this stuff had seemed important at one point when I thought more in terms of where I had been than where I was going.  The change feels good; I can say with some certainty I’m not the same woman I was twelve months ago and the change is for the better.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with friends for lunch, but then back to work on the house.  We’re hoping to finish up Sunday in time to enjoy a much needed break, some popcorn and a movie.

Lunch-break

We’re taking a lunch-break.  This weekend went well, though it was incredibly busy.  Rae’s wedding was amazing.  I finally met my First Connection person with whom I was partnered when first diagnosed with lymphoma.  She is seven years out and we had a lot to catch up on.  It was a fun visit.  I took one of my children to the Blessingway since I hadn’t really seen any of them all weekend.  And I came home Sunday night ready for a day and a half of rest.

We started school again today which gave me time yesterday to rest, edit the images from the wedding and burn them to disc.  Today I’m enjoying school with the girls, rain outside, the warmth of our house, and currently some M&Ms (soul food).

Life has been crazy lately.  We’ve been dealing with debt, and life after cancer, and for a time I felt overwhelmed with all of it.  What I’m recognizing now, is that I am indebted to my friends and family in a good way.  I now have an opportunity to give back, to learn and to inspire.

Capturing Life

There was a photographer, H.P. Robinson, who took took a series of shots of a young woman dying and overlaid the negatives to capture those grieving for the girl. He called the image Fading Away.

This image is haunting and familiar because in each expression on the face of the grieving relatives is a feeling capable of stretching through time and space to touch us similarly. We grieve along with the girl’s family.

While visiting a Civil War era graveyard last October (following my diagnosis), the girls stumbled upon two tall white gravestones of twin siblings who died a day apart. We stood there together considering the lives of those lost so long ago, I lost in my own meloncoly and the girls in a semi-morbid curiosity. My oldest asked, pointing to a nearby gravesite with fake flowers standing in a make-shift metal vase, “Does someone love that person?”

I said, “Yes, someone loves that person.”

My child seemed distraught then as she looked down at the children’s graves and asked, “Why doesn’t anyone love the twins? Why don’t they have any flowers?”

And I reached down and hugged my daughter and explained that the children died many, many years ago and they were probably loved very much. “I love them,” she said. “We’ll bring them flowers,” I said.

Flowers are like the many cards we’ve received over the last year. Some line my cupboards along with photos of friends. And I’ve noticed how unique and lovely each one is – obviously selected thoughtfully. None of us will escape death phsyically, but we live on in other ways.

There’s something in this connection we share between us that makes the idea of death seem less permanent. I sat in bed this morning reflecting on death and my worries of death when I was initially diagnosed. I wrote: “The only real difference between a cancer survivor and someone without cancer is the change in our perception of our own mortality. Someone without cancer is equally as susceptible to death, but they are blissfully unaware. And yet, I found great strength in facing death, in reconciling my feelings about living and the thoughts of dying until both were familiar and in this I felt enlightened.”

Four hours later, I learned that a close friend’s mother was killed yesterday morning in a head-on collision. It was a shocking, sickening feeling to register her death. I didn’t know her, but I know her daughter and all who know the family will grieve with them in this time. I hope this brings some sense of comfort – I hope when faced with the unexpected tragedy of death, we might all find comfort in those little things that connect and unite us.