Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In a weak moment I have written a book...

"In a weak moment I have written a book..." - Margaret Mitchell

This has become one of my favorite understatements.

I beat the odds and survived long enough to turn forty last week, and we celebrated with a family trip to Georgia. Being a superfan of Gone With the Wind I wanted to go to Atlanta to visit the land of Tara, and "The Dump" -- the apartment where Margaret Mitchell wrote the book. She was almost a quadragenarian when it was published. She didn't have a brain tumor, so she took ten years to write it while convalescing from an injury.

It was fascinating to learn more about the life of Margaret Mitchell, and the process of writing and publishing Gone With the Wind. Not only because it is my favorite novel, but also because I could relate to being in a weak moment of recuperation and writing a book. In fact, we also visited the Liahona Bookstore in Atlanta, where copies of my book were being sold, and I signed some copies and chatted with the management and staff to thank them for carrying it.

We also visited Jonesboro, to visit the Road To Tara Museum, and to dig up some of the "red earth of Tara", which gave Scarlett O'Hara her strength.

We stayed in Macon, Georgia, at the historic 1842 Inn, an antebellum home that avoided being destroyed by Sherman's troops during the Civil War. (It also avoided being destroyed by my two children, thank goodness!)

We chose Macon, because my brother Jim has just started a Moh's surgery fellowship there. It was nice to see Jim and thank him for being part of the reason I was able to have a 40th birthday. Without his insistence that I was having seizures, I would have been left to rely on the ER doctor's advice that my symptoms were probably just something weird that would go away by itself in six months (that advice would have killed me). Jim also let me cream him in a game of Scrabble.

We had more time on the road again as a family, more use of the spray bottle, and more whinnying when we saw a Ford Mustang driving down the road. The coolest surprise on the trip was my son's high interest in the movie, Gone With the Wind, and his insistence that we watch it together on the little portable DVD player.

Now that I am forty and still alive, the next question is my next book. I have entertained some ideas, but just like in my B.C. days my family and my work have taken most of my time, and the other stuff of life easily takes the rest of it. And I'm not on as many steroids, so I'm not up writing at 5:30 am like I was in my post-op days! I have to keep Ms. Mitchell's quote handy as a reminder that I should not wait for my next "weak moment" to write another book. And I shouldn't wait ten years. Even though things are looking as good as they can for me right now, I should keep the cancer glasses in place, to motivate me to do things while I still can.

After all...tomorrow IS another day, but we don't know what it will bring, except perhaps a string of yesterdays full of "oh, darn -- I should have________".

Monday, July 23, 2007


quadragenarian: (n) a person between the ages of 40 and 49; not commonly found among GBM patients who were diagnosed in their thirties.

Today's MRI scan looked "beautiful", in sharp contrast to my roots that need serious touching up (Carlos has been booked solid). But hey -- at least I have hair! And the little gray straggles remind me that I will likely reach quadragenarian status on Wednesday (assuming I make it home safely in traffic)! We'll have an early celebration tonight.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lab results

This was the first chemo cycle in a while that didn't have bad labs to keep me in suspense over my treatment schedule. Upon my return from our Utah trip I headed for the lab to see if I am healthy enough to get my chemotherapy on Monday (assuming the MRI keeps showing that the chemo is working). I went in on Wednesday and then nervously awaited the phone call on Thursday to get my results...and then when I didn't hear anything I figured no news might be good news.

On Friday I finally got the call. White blood cell count was great. Neutrophils were great. Platelets were great. Clinical chemistry panel was "perfect". Who'd have thunk I'd been shooting up cytotoxic chemicals for the past nine months?

My other family members have been dealing with colds, allergies, migraines, heart disease, stitches, and all kinds of stuff. Except for -- well, you know -- the catastrophic grade IV brain tumor (which didn't even show up on the last MRI), I'm the only one who feels healthy. After 19 months of cancer treatment, I still have more hair and energy than my husband!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

...and NINETEEN!

I know...it's actually 19 months and one week!

(Since my diagnosis, not since my last blog post!)

I've been a tardy poster (again) because I've been a busy girl!

I spent my 19 month milestone at a wonderful family reunion in Utah. Our trip was a reunion in lots of fun ways.

First of all, there is nothing like bonding with my husband and kids on a 20-hour road trip from Texas to Utah. We saw beautiful scenery going through western Texas, into New Mexico, and through western Colorado and eastern Utah. We spent a little time on historic Route 66 and stayed overnight at the historic and kitchy El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM. We learned the value of a spray bottle of water for resolving sibling disputes in the back seat (much more amusing and nicer than yelling at the kids). We enjoyed seeing our son get so excited as we passed by beautiful rock formations and arches, and playing the game of whinnying anytime we spotted a Ford Mustang (my husband's favorite car). We were also pleasantly surprised at our daughter's decision to be potty trained on the trip. (That was easy!)

The official reunion was for my paternal side of the family. I hadn't been to one for a long time, and since they are only held every couple of years I certainly didn't want to miss this one. My paternal grandparents are deceased, but we were fortunate to be surrounded by their brothers and sisters, my dad's brothers and sisters, and cousins galore (and their kids). We had so much fun being among a huge crowd of people who loved each other and shared so many memories together. Some of us commented about how that must be what heaven will be like.

A side benefit was the opportunity for a mini-reunion with some of my husband's family. We stayed with his parents, and we were able to see his two sisters, who live with their families in Utah. One of his brothers came in from Michigan, and one came in from Nevada, so we had more opportunities to feel the love.

I had a brief lunch reunion and book signing with support group members while I was there, and before we knew it we were off again for the ride home. As always, these trips are never long enough, especially since I would have loved another gaggle reunion or a Cloggers West reunion or a myriad of other opportunities while we were in Utah.

Our trip home was delayed by another "trip" -- this time it was my son landing face first on the only part of his grandma's sofa that wasn't soft. I had to hold his hand and try to comfort him as the ER doctor put three stitches into his upper lip. He was hurting and terrified, but he was a brave little guy, and he was happy to go home with his glove "balloon" and a new teddy bear and truck (thanks to some kind folks who donated gifts for pediatric emergency patients).

The delay meant getting home safe and sound but very late, so it was nice to be snug in our own beds again. And we think the stitches have finally cured my son of his thumb-sucking habit. All is well.

My next adventure is a trip through the MRI tube this coming Monday. I am once again at another fateful nine-month point (more than nine months since my last recurrence was confirmed) and I am once again leaning on prayers and hoping for miracles. After all, I've made it this far!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Dad's surgery went well -- a very "boring" quadruple bypass, according to his surgeon. Not surprisingly, of course, because once again our family has been sustained by faith and prayer.

Plus...hey, it was a NO-BRAINER!!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Wizard of Oz

It's funny how sometimes things fall together around a common theme. It's nice, because I'm always searching for themes for birthday parties and Halloween and stuff like that, usually many months before the event.

It looks like this year we should have a Wizard of Oz-themed Halloween. We loved the stage show, Wicked, which is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. My son even likes to sing songs from it every now and then. A few weeks ago I found some red glittery shoes for my daughter on sale, along with a t-shirt ideal for my little-league star son: it had baseball graphics on it, with the slogan, "There's No Place Like Home." And we don't live in Kansas, but it's that time of year when we have exciting weather in Texas. So it's been on our minds.

Speaking of minds, I figured that I would be the scarecrow: "If I only had a brain" (at least a cancer-free one).

Our prayers have recently turned to my dad, who is having heart surgery this week. Unlike his daughter (the professional patient) my dad has never been hospitalized before, so it's a doozy of an adjustment. I'm hoping that he will feel the same strength and comfort that has carried me through my ordeals, which emanates from the faith and prayers of many.

Dad's situation is sobering, but since I have learned to instinctively extract something light out of heavy situations, it occurred to me that we now have a tin man for our ensemble: "If I only had a heart" (He has a real heart in the good sense, but anatomically speaking, he'd like a disease-free one).

We can't double up our parts, so we have to summon our own courage (which again, is fueled by faith and prayers). The part of the Cowardly Lion remains to be cast. Once in a while we torment my youngest brother, a very eligible bachelor of twenty-six, teasing him about how Brigham Young once declared that an unmarried man of that age was a "menace to society". The reality, of course, is that all good things will happen in their right time and way (as I learned during the long wait for my children). My brother is a good sport, so maybe he'll indulge us and be the guy in the lion costume wishing, "If I only had the nerve" (as well as the right woman in his universe).

The nice thing is that we don't need to traipse down a yellow brick road in search of a fake wizard. Instead, we walk by faith down the paths of life, knowing that Someone very real knows our needs and provides amply. We walk arm in arm with loving family and friends who are always there to support us and help us.