Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Still crazy after all these years!

That song was going through my head yesterday, as my husband and I both marked the 27th anniversary of our first kiss. We're still crazy in love, and I still look forward to those goodnight smooches and good morning smooches and goodbye smooches and hello smooches and whenever smooches...

Today the song went through my head after (barely) hearing my ear surgeon declare that my six-month-new eardrum has fallen victim to the ongoing effects of radiation treatment. It healed nicely at first, but has since opened up and now we have to figure out what to do next.

"Tell me again -- when did you have radiation treatment?"

"A little over four years ago." I think I puffed out my chest with a little pride when I said that. ("Yes, sir, that was for a glioblastoma.")

I remember a discussion with my brother, who was in his dermatology residency while I was undergoing radiation treatment. I asked him about the risks of skin cancer with so much radiation exposure to my scalp. He replied that he hoped to see me develop skin cancer from my radiation treatment, because it would take about twenty years or so for that to happen! (As Forrest Gump would say, I hope I don't let him down!)

I'm one-fifth of the way there. Meanwhile, I have a new reminder that after all these years, I am still alive to see more crazy long-term effects of treatment. Surely the tumor got it worse, I have to tell myself. (HA!)

Until we figure out what to do next, I can go back to convenient hearing. I have already mastered holding the phone to my left ear, and I'm grateful for good vision, because I rely on closed captioning when I watch television or movies on DVD. I also have a continued excuse to avoid being seen in a swimsuit!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Twelve and four!

No, it's not our favorite baseball team's losing streak. Another twelve has passed on the calendar...along with four more days! Fifty-three months (and four days) since the diagnosis that changed my life, and all is well!

As always, I was blessed to be able to do more than maintain a pulse. I was able to cheer my son in three more baseball games. I was able to watch my son give a talk, and my daughter give the scripture and prayer in Primary at church. I was able to celebrate one niece's eleventh birthday, another niece's third birthday, my in-law's fiftieth wedding anniversary, and one more Mother's day. I was able to give encouragement to others in person and via email, phone, and (albeit briefly) even television! I was able to sing again, laugh again, and write again. And the list goes on!

Most importantly, I have been able to testify of the goodness of God and the love that He has for all of His children.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fifteen Seconds of Fame

That's right -- I now have a television credit to my name!

Genentech, the maker of Avastin, has asked me if I would be willing to share my story of brain cancer survival. Of course, I said "YES!" If you are reading this blog you know that I'm hardly shy about this situation, and I am hopeful that this will give me the opportunity to give hope to others.

Last week was my first opportunity to share my story on the local news. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Mother's Day was approaching, and being a mom to my children is my primary motivation to keep breathing. Last week was also the one-year anniversary of Avastin being approved by the FDA for use in brain tumors. And May is National Brain Tumor Awareness month --although (giggle, giggle) I was ironically unaware of this!

I had also prayed for help to get my house in order.

On Tuesday afternoon I learned that someone from our local NBC station would be coming by around 1:00 on Wednesday to conduct the interview. (Be careful what you pray for!) I sprang into action to make myself and my home "camera ready." Once again, my angel friends at church started offering to come and help. (How do these women stay on the ground?) I graciously refused, thinking I would burn more calories doing the work myself. (I also got assurance that the cameras would not go too deep into the house!)

We were ready on Wednesday. My son was even kind enough to be miserable all night with allergies, and stayed home from school so he could conveniently be here with my daughter and me for the interview. (My husband had meetings to attend, and was unable to be present.) By 12:50 I was satisfied with the way the house looked, I had fed the kids (outside) and dressed them in adorable outfits, and it finally occurred to me that I should choose my own adorable outfit to wear. I got dressed, put my lipstick on, and was just realizing that my shirt clashed with my living room colors when the doorbell rang.

Steve The Photojournalist spent over an hour in our home. He first interviewed me in the living room while the children were in the next room with a movie and promises of milkshakes if they stayed quiet. I told my story and answered many questions about dealing with the diagnosis and going through treatment. I answered questions about faith and prayer. I answered questions about the things I have been able to do since my diagnosis. (That was a long list.) It seemed like we talked forever. I even talked about the years of longing to be a mother before we adopted our children, and then receiving this cancer diagnosis, which created a new longing to remain here and be a mother to my children. And on and on we went.

Then we brought in my kiddos, and they were perfectly charming. We moved into the family room, where Emma read to us on the couch. Then Jacob read the poem that I wrote about them ("Jake the Puppy and Emma the Cat," which has been accepted for publication). Jacob and I even played a little Scrabble together. Steve also zoomed in on some family pictures and my karate black belt certificate. We ended with me and the kids singing our family fight song. It was a lot of fun! Steve The Photojournalist graciously said that he really enjoyed doing this story. I sent him on his way with a copy of my book and the URL to my blog. Genentech also provided the station with background information about Avastin. All of this went to a separate person, who wrote and "voiced" the story on the air. There was a lot of material to digest and make into a story. I wondered what angle they would take.

The segment aired on the 10:00 Thursday night news. We set the DVR so the kids could watch it in the morning. And then we waited, until finally we saw this:


Yep -- that was it! All that filming was condensed down to just a few seconds. All my blabbing was reduced to a sentence. (Even Steve The Photojournalist was expecting the final product to be longer.) But it was a good experience, and I hope that this brief moment will somehow be of use to someone.

Naturally, I saw a life analogy as I considered the whirlwind of activity leading up to the interview. Think of how busy and agitated we can make ourselves over things that won't matter in the end. Ultimately, no matter how long we get to live, we'll be surprised at how fast it's over. So hopefully when all is said and done, we'll have chosen the right things to focus our story on!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Don't Cancel When it Looks Like Rain

I have to give credit to my friend Lauralea for sparking this blogworthy thought...

As this weekend approached, our area received weather forecasts predicting severe thunderstorms. A local elementary school cancelled their spring carnival (wasting hours of volunteer effort) in anticipation of the storms. My son's baseball league kept us in suspense about Saturday's opening day games. Several friends had a day trip planned on Friday, but opted out because of the weather forecast.

For several days the sky was cloudy and threatening, but we never saw a storm. I think I briefly saw some light drizzle. That was it! We enjoyed perfect weather as we watched our son play his first game of the season.

Some friends and I were commenting about all of this when Lauralea explained to us that she learned not to cancel things just because it looks like rain. She told us about a time when the young women at our church had to travel for an activity, and the weather got really nasty. However, instead of cancelling the activity they pressed forward, enduring the torrential rains that often seemed scary. Everyone was safe, and they ended up having a very good experience together.

Her story reminded me of last summer, when my son attended scout day camp. One day the camp closed early due to severe weather, and while we all made it home safely, the drive home was indeed an adventure. Camp proceeded again on the next day, but at the first rumble of thunder they immediately shut down and sent everyone home in a panic. This time, as we drove home we heard a second rumble of thunder. And then it was over. I don't remember seeing any rain that day. This was the last day of camp, so my son missed some eagerly anticipated activities.

Meanwhile, our church youth group had planned a handcart trek activity for months, and despite severe weather on the evening before they were to leave, they still got up early in the morning and hiked toward Oklahoma. At some point during the trip the severe weather returned, but miraculously their little camp was spared while the storms raged nearby.

Practically speaking, it's always better to be safe than sorry -- especially when it comes to North Texas weather in the spring. But as always, I saw a life lesson in these experiences. Metaphorically speaking, when life gets cloudy (or even stormy) should we cancel? Of course not! This is the time to press forward and endure whatever we have to face, so that we don't miss valuable opportunities. It's not as dangerous as driving through a Texas storm. We can navigate the storms of life safely, especially as we put our trust in the Lord, who has power to calm any tempest and protect us from harm.

This also reminded me of a line from a hymn that another friend (thanks, Marnie!) shared with me long ago:

Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take.
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.