Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mirror Mirror

After being benched for a while, I was able to return to the dojo this week to get caught up on my karate material. It was awesome -- I have learned all the material for my first brown belt. So it's just a matter of p-a-t-i-e-n-t-l-y waiting and working until I have mastered it enough to be invited to test. And after three levels of brown belt, the next rank is the coveted black belt.

At this point I am now starting to learn some things in mirror image, which is a really neat stretch for a left-brained person who has to switch gears and start using more of (what's left of) my right brain. In fact, one of the requirements for black belt is to not only have mastered all of the material, but also to be able to execute everything against a right-handed or left-handed opponent. So I will ultimately be re-learning everything in mirror image. Talk about giving the brain some exercise! I think it's great -- I try to envision the healthy glial cells in my right brain getting stronger and taking down any bad cells that try to wake up and spread.

I am re-living another moment in a (sort of) mirror image, too. The link below was recently posted online, so I get to re-live my recent Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) conference address (from early August). Except this time I'm watching my address from the audience perspective instead of standing nervously behind the microphone.

The first two speakers on this broadcast are well-known and wonderful, and I had the intimidating job of following them and trying not to suffer too much by comparison. I gave my remarks at about minute 56 1/2 of this broadcast and drew much of my material from my "Sunday Sermon" blog post from June.

This is the other part of me that keeps me strong against anything that threatens to destroy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I can turn off Jurassic Park now

With two good reports under my belt, I braced for a third moment of suspense. An initial biopsy showed a precancerous endometrium, so I underwent minor surgery last week for a more comprehensive look and testing.

The slow boat pathology report was finally given to me today. It was negative, which was good news once again. Since it conflicts with the initial biopsy, I just have more monitoring to look forward to. But as my doctor was telling me not to worry, I reminded him that I've had worse. Being put on another "live and look" plan isn't that big of a deal.

The holidays are fast approaching. It's nice to think that perhaps I can enjoy the rest of the year taking a break from being a professional patient!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Negative News

Remember -- cancer turns your life upside-down, so words like "progress" and "positive" can mean bad things, and "negative" can mean a good thing.

Today I got negative news, which was a very good thing. My needle biopsy was "completely benign."

So I only have one raptor in the kitchen, and it's been asleep for over two years, despite all my shouting for joy.

As my friend said, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow..."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The first thing Dr. Fink said about my brain MRI today was that it was "SUPER-imposable" on the previous scans. Still holding stable eight months after my last treatment, and two years after my last evidence of tumor progression.

This is SUPER news! I go another three months before my next scan.

I left Dr. Fink's office and headed for my next adventure, where I donned my SUPERwoman cape and submitted to a needle biopsy. I am now tightly wrapped in a huge Ace bandage, feeling like Scarlett O'Hara or an Elizabethan princess -- both in my inability to take a deep breath, and also in my need to be waited on hand and foot, since I am restricted from most activities for the next 24 hours. (Had to reschedule tonight's karate class.) I should get a call in the next day or two with the results.

But, hey -- it was still a SUPER day!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Yesterday was my husband's birthday, and we celebrated all weekend, including today at our traditional Sunday dinner with all of our in-town family.

I also realized that today marks thirty-four months of survival. I'm two months away from "long-term survivor" status. It's been two years since tumor progression interrupted my first year of treatment, and if all goes well with this Tuesday's MRI, I'll have been stable ever since. It's a miracle.

Actually, no -- that's not right. It's not a miracle, as in just an isolated event. The past thirty-four months have been steady string of many daily miracles, thanks to many kind friends and loved ones who have been vigilant in prayer on my behalf, and thanks to a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers those prayers.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The saga continues...

I promise that I'm not doing this for ratings, but this latest adventure is to be continued.

I went in for my "recall" mammogram today, and the results of that led to an ultrasound study, and the results of that led to a referral for a needle biopsy sometime next week. The radiologist tried to be reassuring, and I hope she's right. She thinks it's a benign situation, but wants to be sure.

My next challenge is to schedule the needle biopsy sometime between Tuesday's brain MRI and Wednesday's jury duty summons. It'll be an interesting week. I'm very grateful for the many prayers that have been carrying me through this twist in my story.

And speaking of prayers, my aunt's PET scan concluded that her cancer has not spread, so we are enjoying a big celebration on her behalf, and using yet another opportunity to express our love to family and friends.

No steroids this time

Last night I gave my daughter a pep talk about getting enough sleep. Em is a night owl and an early riser and a nap avoider.

We don't share DNA, but she has nonetheless managed to carry the family insomniac torch into another generation. I got it from my mom, who got it from her mom, who probably got it from her mom. Great-Grandma Mabel's parents immigrated to Chicago from Sweden, so my theory is that we sometimes go to bed late at night in the central US time zone and wake up early in the morning in the central European time zone.

Since my daughter is three-going-on-sixteen I decided to appeal to her vanity by educating her about the merits of beauty sleep yesterday evening. It worked. She went to bed on time with no appeals for more water/snacks/stories/hugs, and as of 4:30 am she is still asleep, thank goodness.

I, on the other hand, didn't follow my own counsel. I stayed up reading until 11:30 and was wide awake four hours later. After trying to fight it for a while, I decided to remind my body that if it won't sleep, it has to get out of bed and work. I made the long commute from my bedroom to my adjoining office and sat down at the computer to do some writing.

It's reminiscent of my early A.D. days, when I was on post-op steroids and doing this on a daily basis -- except back then I managed to write several magazine articles and a book. This time I'm not on steroids -- just too much on (what's left of) my mind. So I'm not as productive, and all I can churn out right now is a brief blog post.

The funny part will be reading this later in the day to see how many silly typos I made while BUI (Blogging Under Insomnia).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Other Raptor

The movie Jurassic Park was so scary. I remember when it first came out, and my husband and I stood in line at the movie theater with lots of parents and their small children, as though this were some kind of Barney event. As the movie progressed, there was a parade of these same parents, dragging their terrified children out of the theater. We scratched our heads and shrugged, as we were childless at the time and feeling rather smug in our ability to armchair-quarterback parenthood.

There's this one scene that has come to (what's left of) my mind lately. It's the one where the kids are trapped in the kitchen with a fierce and clever raptor who is hunting them, and they are playing this highly suspenseful cat-and-mouse game. It got to the point where I could barely stand it any longer, when another raptor came in the room. At that point, I thought this was over -- how could these kids possibly survive two raptors?

But they did.

I was telling this story to my Aunt Pat, who is having a PET scan done today to further examine some spots on her liver and lung, which may be nothing -- or which may be her cancer spreading. (She is a colorectal cancer survivor.) We'll know the results tomorrow, and hopefully she doesn't have any more raptors entering her kitchen. But even if she does, the game isn't over. It becomes another battle, and it's better to face the raptor head-on instead of having it take over without warning.

In an eerie coincidence, I got a letter in the mail today, informing me that my recent mammogram warrants further examination. I go in tomorrow, and hopefully I won't have any more raptors entering my kitchen. (I know that many recalled cases end up being nothing.) But I thought it was interesting to have talked to my aunt about the possibility of taking on another raptor and surviving. Maybe it was a way of preparing myself for the possibility.

Or maybe tomorrow will just bring us both a big sigh of relief.

(OR maybe this is how I will finally get book #2 finished...)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Normal People" Stuff

It was actually kind of fun this week, being well enough in my head to be worrying about "normal people stuff."

Like my knee. It's still not happy with me after last week's karate classes and belt test. I had more x-rays and an MRI on Tuesday, and I get to visit the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow for my verdict and sentencing. Meanwhile, I keep trying various combinations of rest, ice packs, InterX, brace, Advil, and -- when push comes to shove --crutches. And each wince of pain is a reminder that -- hey -- how many GBM survivors get to complain about knee strain from trying out scissor kicks nearly three years after diagnosis?

(By the way, it was really funny having my knee go in the MRI tube instead of my head!)

I also had my first mammogram on Tuesday, now that my "normal people" doctor is satisfied that I am not dead and therefore I am subject to routine screenings. They had to pull my chart out of the archive warehouse.

(By the way -- did you know that when you get a mammogram you get to wear a really cool cape? I think if more women knew that, they'd quit procrastinating. And now I think I have my Halloween costume figured out.)

It was just really cool to spend most of the day in doctor's offices and radiology centers, knowing that for the first time in nearly three years, none of this had anything to do with what usually has me in doctor's offices and radiology centers.