Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015

Whoa. Another year down. How did that happen?

The Boston Globe alerted me to something I missed this year. New legislation in the state of Massachusetts that if you have dense breast tissue that you must be notified that a) you have dense breast tissue b)that it may increase your risk of breast cancer. The full text of the Act Relative to Breast Cancer and Early Detection can be found here.  How did I miss this in June? I think I was busy having too much fun. In fact I know I was.

This year was pretty great. I continued to have a clean bill of health. I did things I never would have done before cancer; running long distance, online dating and becoming that person who awkwardly overshares all aspects of her life in person and not just online. I also returned to the track to run like a boss!

And the biggest event for all of my family was the birth of my precious niece. It's really great to have this little ball of sunshine. My colleagues have been great and allow me to torture them with endless photos. My roommate allows me to put photos of her in the living room, kitchen, hallway....I'm a little obsessed. As previously posted she truly is the manifestation of love, joy, strength, and perseverance. And cuteness. Holy Cuteness Batman.

In 2015 I am looking forward to more visits with the niece. I will try to eat less sugar, but given that I ate two cookies while my oatmeal  cooked this morning, it's going to take a lot to reform my cookie monster ways. There just so good! I am looking forward to all the new survivorversaries and all the other celebrations the year with bring.

See you in 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

eat, drink and be merry

Are you simply having a wonderful Christmas time? I know I am. My family and I are celebrating in Arizona this year. Currently there is a great flood of sunshine outside. And as my niece is 8 weeks today there is also a great deal of sunshine inside. 

I have found that post cancer I am a much more relaxed traveler.  The woman at the air line counter was probably grateful for that. You see when I showed up for my flight I couldn't check in at the kiosk, which was weird. So I waited in line for about an hour to talk to someone at the counter. At this point my flight leaves in 50 minutes. The woman at the counter pulls up my name and says "You flew yesterday". I pulled out my itinerary her company emailed me and showed her that I was schedule for the flight on Saturday. She starts making phone calls, I start making phone calls to let my parents know we may be on separate flights. The woman behind the counter gets put on endless hold. Her eyes keep growing wider while she looks at me. I've see this look before, it means things are not going well on the other end of the phone. Eventually her manager comes over and she explains the situation. In one key strike he has a new upgraded ticket issued for me and I am on my merry way. I make my original flight with enough time to get a large frozen yogurt . I did enjoy my newly acquired leg room. The kid sitting next to me asked when I finished my finals, "2004" I replied. 

 Since the preflight drama I've enjoyed a nice relaxed time spent with snuggles and smiles. Here is my niece and I both in our breast cancer awareness shirts. Starting her early. 

I always enjoy the dryness of Arizona as my muscles and joints often feel better and my legs have been really sore and tight. Well, the dryness isn't quite working there full magic. Yesterday's run was great. During today's much shorter run I learned I am part Bumble, because boy do I bounce. My legs had zero juice the second I started running and when I was about to turn a corner for the last street, my foot caught the pavement and I tumbled. I hit the ground but bounced right back to my feet to finish. I was just telling someone how it had been a year since I fell running. Oops jinxed myself. 

Otherwise I am in exceptional health, and it will always be something I am grateful for every holiday season. And while we will definitely not be having a white Christmas, "May all your days be Merry and Bright"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Because I'm filled with the holiday spirit

The title of the post is the exact phrase I used multiple times today after I would just giggle or after I put what I was going to order for lunch to the tune "Hallelujah" (Big @ss lobster roll, a lobster roll, a lobster roll, buffalo shrimp, some shrimp, some shrimp, and Boston Creme Pie). I have a lovely singing voice {if there were a sarcasm font it would have been used here}

Today is the 2 year anniversary of completing chemotherapy infusions. Which means Mom and I both take the day off from work complete our holiday shopping and go for a delicious lunch. It also means that we are filled with holiday spirit and the shear joy of having everything worked out so well. And today I got my haircut. In celebration of having full scalp coverage.

Pictured here is this years ornament (and my necklace). My mother has given me an ornament every year I've been alive and it gives me plenty to decorate my tree with. $2 from every Hallmark ornament get donated to the Susan G. Koman for the Cure Foundation 

Every survivorversary I have I wear this necklace that I found. It's made from an old scrabble tile. It reads hope n. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Fitting for the season of hope. What a happy day.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The HOW Study

Sometimes "liking" things on Facebook gives you great leads. For example, following Tom Brady shows you his hilarious stint as Gary the telemarketer or an adorable photo of his daughter watching him play on TV. And sometimes "liking" the Young Survival Coalition  leads you to find the HOW study. The HOW study is the Health of Woman study. It is conducted by the Dr. Susan Love Research foundation and it is an international online study in order to get information about women and men with and without breast cancer. The idea is to collect data on a broad spectrum on health and environmental exposures. The HOW study is a series of questionnaires. In classic consent form it states that their is no benefit from this study, however if enough people provide information about their lives perhaps new sources of breast cancer can be found. This is especially exciting to people like me who are Sara 43 Genes 0 and still would like to know if there was something specific that caused or led to my breast cancer.

If you want to partake go here:

All they want is your time and information. And potentially tissue samples if your a survivor. More data, more potential correlations. Yay Science! 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Impromptu vs Scheduled Support Group

On Monday, while in one of the ICU's two of the RNs who are breast cancer survivors hunted me down for an impromptu breast cancer treatment notes comparison. One of the nurses is 10 years into survivorship and the other is 2 months in. We compared notes about the medications we take, and both wanted to run down on the PRESENT trial. The nurse who is 10 years out says that she still struggles with waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that the feeling isn't as strong as it was the first year out. The nurse who is 2 months out is struggling with lymphedema. Her and I discussed how much better she would feel if she got back into running, which she had done all through chemo/xrt. She has to wear 2 sports bras right now because of the lyphedema and is just frustrated because she isn't feeling that great right now. The three of us chatted for 5 or 10 minutes and they both said something that really helped me. The both told me that I looked great. I know it's petty to care about appearance, but my self esteem about my appearance has been a little low. I'm not sleeping great and all I can see in the mirror or bags under my eyes. It was a good little boost that I needed. The other nurses commented that it must be reassuring to work with other survivors, "You have no idea" I told them.

On Tuesday, I was invited to be the Nutrition Expert for a breast cancer support group at the hospital. Now, I had never attended a formal support group. It was an interesting experience. I let them know that I too was a breast cancer survivor and their first question was "How old are you?". After introductions were made, people identified where in their treatment or survivorship they were and nearly everyone mentioned what their Onccotype score was. Fascinating. I answered the 12 ladies nutrition questions, had a disagreement with one of them about the safety of dairy (safe!), what the deal with flaxseeds is and debunked many a myth. Including a new one I had not heard. One of the ladies asked me if eggs were safe to eat and if chicken eggs had any hormonal properties. I let her know that they did not and eggs were safe to eat. (Sorry for the error in the previous post) The discussion in the support group trended towards everyone trying to figure out the cause and many identifying that they feel there is some genetic component that hasn't been identified. There was also a new woman who had just been diagnosed and she was grateful to everyone sharing the different surgeries they had and why they chose their surgeries, surgeons and medical course.

What I have learned is that what works for me is the impromptu support groups. The formal group is nice, but 1.5 hours is a bit long for me. But what a lovely two days being surrounded by survivors and fighters. I hope everyone else got the self esteem and life boost that these past two days brought me. I for one feel supported. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Attitude is Gratitude

Do you know that grateful people are happier? It is a scientific fact. People like Dr. Robert Emmons of UC Davis run psychological studies to prove it. Once I get through my back log of books I am going to read his compilation of studies and report back upon the evidence of how being grateful makes you happier. But, I have really important comedy books and WWII non fiction books that I've started first.

Given that Thanksgiving is this week I am trying to practice an attitude of gratitude. I'm currently in a bit of a tamoxifen slump (tired, achy, tight muscles, not sleeping through the night), but I find that documenting all I am thankful for will at least keep my spirits up.

Without further ado, here is what I'll be saying at the Thanksgiving table that I am thankful for.

Modern Medicine. I complain and curse a lot (A LOT) about tamoxifen. But, the more I research and the more I find out how recent all of the developments to breast cancer treatment are the more I have to be grateful for. I mean tamoxifen has only been around for 40 years. It's only in the past couple of years that they have increased the length of treatment from 5 to 10 years because they have seen that large of a benefit from extended treatment. As long as I'm not hot flashing, I'm thankful for it.

Modern medicine also helped bring so much joy into my family, in the perfect little being that is my niece. It helps fill my cell phone with photos; it helps my parents engage anyone who makes eye contact to hear about their new grandbaby; it completes my brother and his fiance's family.She has replaced cancer and the Patriots as top family discussions. It's awesome.

Access to healthcare. I don't care about your political beliefs. If your a cancer survivor you know how important it is for everyone in the country to have access to healthcare. And high quality health care at that. Living in Massachusetts you sometimes forget that the rest of the country doesn't have access to the same level of care that we have here (and my bias is showing). It's heartbreaking for me to read all the stories of those who have perished from breast cancer because they didn't have access. I hope in the coming years there are fewer of these stories.

My co-survivors. My support system. My cheerleaders who still support me in all I do. Those who listen thoughtfully to my frustrations. Those who celebrate with me for every survivorversary and encourage me to celebrate in whatever way I want. Those who keep pushing me to move out of my comfort zone. And those who always have time to look at pictures, eat cookies and share laughs.

My mom's mashed potatoes. Listen, my love of this particular food is well documented. I am so excited to eat my weight in them this year. I can't wait.

Happy Thanksgiving. Giving thanks will make you happy. How great is that?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Promise Me-A book review

One of my colleagues/fellow breast cancer survivors lent me her copy of Promise Me; How a Sister's Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer by Nancy G. Brinker. The 2010 biography/history of the Susan G Koman for the Cure foundation and it's founder. Regardless of your thoughts on the organization the book details out the changes in attitudes towards breast cancer, including calling it breast cancer, and changing from fundraising for all types of cancer to a specific type. And it is fascinating.

Did you know that until First Lady Betty Ford insisted that it be called breast cancer and not woman's cancer when talking about her diagnosis in 1974 it was considered almost taboo to say breast cancer? It wasn't until the 1970's that hormone markers on breast cancer were identified. And that Susan G Koman for the Cure was founded in 1982 after Nancy's sister Susan G Koman lost her battle to cancer at age of 36. The details of Susan's death are cancer battle are detailed out in the book. They are heartbreaking and familiar. Knowing that she dies when you are reading the book and the first detail of her only having a mastectomy and no chemo or radiation and no follow up for a hacking cough makes you thankful to have the screening and treatment that exist now.

I knew my chemo was relatively new (Taxotere) but didn't realize that FDA approval only came in 1996. That seems to so soon. Until I see that Avastin, the treatment for metastatic breast cancer and being trialed in Stage III patients, only got FDA approval in 2008. However, while reading the book Nancy Brinker does a good job of describing the importance of fundraising and funding trials. It's only been since 2000 that health insurance covers clinical trials. I can't imagine what it would cost to be in the PRESENT trial. The shots, plus the follow up appointments, blood work, urinalysis, MUGA scans, CT scans and bone scans. Organizations like SGK and American Cancer society help make these research opportunities happen and continue to identify and fund up and coming research. This book along with The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee make you so grateful for all the work and all the many woman who came before me and my cancer diagnosis. It is the main driver why I felt so compelled to enroll in the PRESENT trial. 

Also part of Promise Me were other survivor stories intertwined, including Nancy Brinker's. I found many experiences that have mirrored my own breast cancer journey and many experiences that inspired me and make you grateful to be alive. I enjoyed how Brinker defended pink and defended it being everywhere. She looks at the extent of the pink and they way it is now universally acknowledged that pink and breast cancer go together as a win for awareness. Getting the full history of how little coverage and support breast cancer once had, how you couldn't even call it "breast", to now makes me grateful that the world has Nancy Brinker's to fight for breast cancer. 

In Promise Me the idea of co-survivors. These are your support group who have been with you throughout your journey. You are the survivor at the center and co-survivors surrounding you. When I stop to think of the many, many co-surivors in my circle, it's pretty overwhelming. And a fantastic way to describe your support system. 

My favorite quote from the book however is as follows: 
It speaks to the tandem goals of survival and survivorship: You fight for your life. Then you live your life, regardless of what others think of your particular mode of self expression.

How unbelievable true that quote is. It is totally how I live my life now and I don't care if you think I own too much pink. I'm a survivor and it's my right. And it's fun.

Overall, I think the book is a great read in terms of the history of breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, cultural acceptance and fundraising. The details of Brinker's cancer treatment she doesn't like to detail but the history of her life and marriages are detailed out. As well as her rise to Ambassador under the Bush administration. These are parts that are sort of  interesting, but I read through more quickly. I would have liked to hear more of her personal cancer experience, but understand that she doesn't detail it out because she feels it unfair to those who don't have access to the treatment she did. Fair enough.

Very grateful that I live now when having breast cancer in the title of my blog is no big deal.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Quadracep is now a Quintacep or maybe an Octocep

Back to reality after two weeks vacation and the reentry was a little rough. In classic pattern within two days of coming back from vacation I tests. This time I was up for a MUGA scan.

Last Tuesday I had an early appointment with Nuclear Medicine. I go down, get my patient ID band and then the fun begins. I had a brand new Nuclear Med tech. One who was not familiar with my history of being a hard stick. Well, he tried once and after discussing how I worked there decided to call in the IV team. The great IV RN put the IV in my are quite quickly. I think out of the IV RNs I have now had 4 out of 7 put a line in me. No complaints from this end.

Well, there is a new protocol for the MUGA scans because the PYP (the pyrophosphate used to prep me for the Technetium so they can track my blood flowing through my heart) is part of a national shortage. Seriously, someone in America needs to start manufacturing this stuff and some Parenteral Nutrition ingredients too (sorry occupational hazard)!.  This meant that a small amount of my blood had to be drawn and I had to be given some Heprin based on my blood draw. The tech was flustered from having difficulty placing the IV that I couldn't get the best explanation out of him. Either way, I am now delayed for being a difficult stick and my actual scan gets moved back 45 minutes. But, I am injected with the Technetium and the heprin does it's trick (and bonus now I know I'm not allergic to Heprin). The tech goes to remove the IV from my arm and it decides it want to bleed for a little bit. He looks and me and says "Technically this is radioactive waste." Great. My blood is toxic waste. Well at least it's the week of Halloween maybe I can get bit by a turtle and then develop my nun-chuck skills and embrace my love of pizza {this is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference}. He then places a tegaderm (almost like super sticky plastic wrap) with guaze to seal my arm. Then it's off to have 3 ten minute scans. And a nap. Apparently after two weeks of vacation difficulty having an IV placed is too much. Or it's more of a reflection on how common place this test has become for me. No freaking out and watching my heart beat or the PQRS waves. This is growth.

I did however spend the rest of the day trying not to cut myself (Opposed to the reckless abandon of which I usually walk around with). Didn't want spread radioactive waste around the hospital!

Growing and Octocep
Today is officially 18 months in the PRESENT study. Whoa. Both my oncologist, myself and the research RN were slightly amazed by that. I had 6 tubes of blood drawn without issue this morning. My veins decided they would cooperate. The joys of having only one arm to draw from. However, my blood work was perfect. Perfect. My oncologist is quite pleased with how I feel and my limited side effects. My MUGA scan is outstanding. My EF is 75% and she calls it A+ material.   Then I provided my cup of urine to prove that I was indeed not pregnant to get the shots. Then the lab lost my "Stat" urine cup. The research RN was not pleased. She attempted to track it down but in the meantime asked me to provide a new sample. Well, at this point it was an hour later and I had nothing. Not even an extra drop. I came out to start chugging water when she let me know, they had found my urine. Phew.

With everything confirmed the research pharmacy mixed my injections up and sent them up. Because it was super busy they let me have my injections in an exam room, and not in an infusion chair. Often it is nice to have the vaccine that is intended to prevent recurrence in the place where I had Chemo (I often end up in the same chair) because it reminds me how far of come and how far I need to keep going. The research RN remembers that I am still slightly anal retentive so she makes sure to make a perfect square. She cracks jokes about making sure she measures a 90 degree angle.  All four injections sting. But, only for the injection. They started to swell a little bit, as per usual. Currently (9 hours later) the 4 individual bumps have joined forces to great one super bump. My right leg has grown about a half an inch in height and it's throwing some serious heat right now. You know, the usual reaction that I have. I took some advil as instructed to keep the super bump from become the supreme bump and can ice if needed. We'll see.

As for now I look a little like Michelangelo (just on my overly muscular looking right thigh).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Epic Love Story

One morning of Spring 2012, I got a phone call from my mother on the way into work. She had talked to my brother and he had some news. He had finally met "the one" and was going to get engaged and start working on a family ASAP. My mother was calling me to break the news before I spoke with my brother so that I might not be a giant jerk to him and to try to be a supportive sibling. I had a history in the past of scaring the crap out of my brother's girlfriends (trust me, they earned it).

June came and my brother got engaged. I was so happy for him and plans were made for his fiance to come meet the family. Around this time is when I found my lump. I had a trip to a good friend's wedding and their visit coming, so I put off having it checked (as well documented on this sight, it worked out).  By the time my brother and his fiance showed up in July I was anxious to meet her. After meeting her, we knew he had found the missing piece to our family. She understood him fully, called him out on the same things we did as a family and had a wicked sense of humor. To top it off, she was a sports fan. Although her taste in football teams leaves much to be desired, we were willing to over look it as she makes a great addition to our family.

Then came August 8, 2012 and my brother and his fiance despite living far away were part of my key support system. And while I was undergoing all of my own treatment, little did our family know what they two of them were going through. The focus was on me. In the Spring of 2012 my brother's fiance started doing hormonal treatments to see if they could help increase her fertility. She was already 40 by this time and with a history of endometriosis. By the time I finished treatment in February 2013 the multiple rounds of hormonal therapies hadn't worked. Then came directed sperm and other unglamorous procedures.  All were unsuccessful and the emotional toll was piling up for both my brother and his fiance. Their desire to have a child was palpable.

Then there was the pressure. My parents have always said "If it happens, we'd love to be grandparents, but if not we're ok.". We've always known that they were liars. I've had chemo. I take tamoxifen everyday. I get vaccinations that are teratogenic. This all boils down to one undeniable truth: I can't have children. Knowing this, the perceived family pressure seems to mount.

More treatments, injections and ungodly medications for my brother's fiance through Spring and Summer 2013. After  the decision was made to do IVF, fertilize the egg outside the body and then do implantation. After months of more hormones and injections, all through the fall, led up to very dramatic weeks in December. The egg harvest. They start with the retrieval; 18 eggs. Then comes the watching. There were multiple text messages sent to my mother and I to update on how the eggs were doing. Genetic testing was done. Then came the most glorious early Christmas present for everyone. There was one egg. One. One basket. One egg. It was good enough for all of us.

February 2014 and after a lot more hormones, blood work and tests came implantation. On a Wednesday. Then came very frequent blood tests. I have never watched  HcG levels so closely. Then came the confirmation and the overjoyed phone call from my brother. It worked! I found out that every Wednesday as they clicked off more weeks on the pregnancy my brother would drink a beer and share it with the dog. It seemed to be a good luck charm and his fiance's pregnancy kept progressing. We got a great text one day "It's a girl!". We were overjoyed as baby girls, if born early, do much better than their male counterparts. We got to see my brother and his fiance in May and witness the baby bump. His fiance had to continue with hormonal injections and suppositories, but everything looked great. Then came 28 weeks and a little celebration of viability (for those with advanced maternal age). By this point Auntie had blown her budget. There were onsies, strollers and and a stuffed octopus that keep socks that needed to be sent.

Then my brother's fiance had a vertigo attack and fell. She injured her back and didn't like how the pain medication decreased fetal movement. So she didn't take the meds and accepted being on bed rest. And by "accepted" I mean agreed to work from home and would run conference calls, return more e-mails a day than I get in a year. But, baby was fine and the end was getting near. The baby was breech and the c section was scheduled.

Cut to this week. Somehow, we finally got here. My brother was totally out of his mind waiting for the arrival of his daughter. He forgot which day I was flying in (we remedied it and he got me from the airport). He text me the wrong address. He just couldn't wait to meet her. His fiance was hanging in there. The amount of discomfort she was feeling was unfathomable. She would turn bright red and change position, but nary a complaint just encouragement for the little one to arrive. The amount of physical and mental toughness that she demonstrated through out the two year trial for a baby is admirable. If I ever own a football team I am drafting her to play. I threatened to posey (think a seatbelt that keeps you in bed) my brother's fiance when I got to spend two days with her before the delivery as she wasn't doing a very good job resting.  I didn't do the best job of distracting her, but thankfully a Law and Order SVU marathon helped 5 hours go by.

Then came Wednesday, October 22nd at 12:54 pm. The greatest day in O'Brien history. Baby Addison arrived. The joy is immeasurable. I will forever be grateful to my brother and his fiance for letting me be there the day she was born. They worked and wanted so hard to have this child and to be able to be there to see all the tests and treatments turn into her was beyond amazing. They haven't invented the word yet to represent that feeling.

 This tiny little human being is the manifestation of love, joy, strength, and perseverance.

To paraphrase Sally Brown (from Peanuts) Isn't she the cutest thing? She is so tiny and snuggly and she melts your heart the second she looks at you with her big blue eyes. You know your a lost cause when she she squirms why you hold her to work that arm out. I'm a goner. I cried all the way through take off on my flight home. I've never been more grateful to have an entire row of an airplane to myself.

Congratulations to my brother and his fiance. She will never doubt that she is loved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here's to Another Year.

Happy 33 years to me.

Appreciating having another year to fully live my life. I've been celebrating for a little over a week. The ladies at work made a couple of days of delicious baked goods, I had brunch with good friends and my parents have taken me out for a lobster dinner. And I also took the time off from work.  This meant that I could sleep for 10 hours last night, get up and run 7 miles and then have pie for breakfast. A la mode of course. While out for my run I was laughing to myself as I now go for 7 miles. I used to only run 7 miles in a whole week. But, my legs feel better with long slow stuff. And for a little birthday magic I completed the 7 miles for the first time under an hour. It was great weather and many of the leaves have changed to bright colors. It was a great run and I appreciated being able to continue to do it.

I'm on vacation for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks. Never in my life have taken this much time off all together, but there are people to be seen, places to visit and new family members to meet. My boss had encouraged me to take three weeks off. I explained to her that recurrence of breast cancer happens in a higher rate in the first two years, as a young cancer survivor I'm at higher risk of developing a secondary cancer and that I keep those thoughts in a lock box, but always feel that I need to keep ~2 weeks of earned time in my bank just in case. It's the reality of my world.

But, today is not for opening the lock box; it is for eating treats and returning text messages, phone calls, cards and emails wishing me a happy day. And maybe a little boogeying in the kitchen.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Boston

My Mother and I were invited to join team Mary Sue's Spirit in memory of my mother's cousin who passed away after a brief but ferocious battle with breast cancer.  We decided to participate in this year's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Boston, and boy and am I glad we did. The event was amazing, and they really celebrate survivors.

Mom and I arrived before some of the people we were walking with to check out the event and I had noted online they have a survivor tent. Well, as I registered as a survivor you check in with the tent. They give you a sash to wear at the walk that says "Survivor" on it and they ask you "how long" I said 1.5 years (the math was easier) and they give you a sticker to wear with your sash. There was a gentleman in front of me who noted that he was a 8 year survivor. He was also rocking a pink mowhawk wig. It was great. In the survivor tent they also have stickers and gifts for the caregivers. After putting the sash on, the volunteer asked me if my mom was my caregiver. "That's my mom. Absolutely she is my caregiver.". Mom happily wore her caregiver sticker all day.

Here we are after we got our swag taking a photo. They had signs you could use. I was very partial to this one:
 We met up with our group and picked up our tshirts. We were walking with a friend whose mother is a 12 year breast cancer survivor and she had many stickers for those who she knew who lost their battle. Everywhere were peoples names for those who were fighting, surviving and those who lost their battle. Early in the event mom and I came across a group of young people who all had matching shirts for Team Irene. Then we looked at the dates on the shirts. She was 20 when she lost her battle in May. 20 years old. Motivation to walk was everywhere.

The back of the team Mary Sue's Spirit shirts read "With Brave Wings She Flies"
Walking around with a survivor sash was amazing. One fellow survivor we found was just yelling "12 years" everytime someone pointed her out as a survivor. 12 years. Sounds good. At one point mom and I fell into walking pace with another survivor. She has been cancer free for 7 years and today was her birthday. She carried a cowbell with her. She said she felt compelled to continue to do the walk every year because when she was in treatment so many people walked for her and that she feels there are so many people for her to continue to walk for. She also pointed out what many others did today. "You are so young." My only response is "Yes I am". We also talked about surviving for more birthdays and compared notes about MRI dye vs CT scans. New friend in 30 seconds or less and already bonding over follow up scans. Love it.

It was perfect weather. Blue sky, zero clouds and in the 50's. I convinced (or shamed) my mother into walking the 5.7 mile route. It was too much fun to be surrounded by so much pink, hope and celebration.

On our walk home I kept my sash on, I earned it. When we were crossing the street a woman in her car stopped at the light gave me a big thumbs up. Another person on the sidewalk read the sash and gave a great big smile. The best though, while waiting at another cross walk a woman who had a green light started beeping her horn to get our attention and was fist pumping to celebrate. I think I shall wear my sash at all times.

A celebration of breast cancer survivors while raising money for research, treatment and support. How could it not be great? It was fantastic to see so many survivors out there. They are all superheros.

And if you haven't seen this video Truly Brave for the tiny superheros, totally worth the watch.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another Boobtober

I walked into the office yesterday and welcomed everyone to boobtober. Pink is everywhere and the newspaper is running articles on awareness and kick ass survivors.

Today I celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness month with a follow up appointment with my radiation oncologist. I started with a nurse I had not met before. She was great. We chatted about lymphadema when she asked which arm I needed to have my blood pressure checked in. She wanted to make sure that I knew that it meant no blood draws, no flu shots, no IV's, no blood pressure checks in my right arm for, well, forever. She also made sure to remind me that if I ever needed to be hospitalized I would need a sign on my bed. I assured her that I have been hospitalized (a little over a year ago) and they made sure to hang the sign for me.  She also cracked a couple of jokes and we talked about how important a sense of humor was. She told me how she would go with her to her friends infusions and they would just giggle and the appointments always lasted half the time than when her stern husband went with her friend.

Then she handed me my johnie. And guess what? It wasn't pink or long! They got new johnies and for us breast cancer folk they are short (only go to the waist) and they were a nice teal color. I cannot tell you how being in a pink johnie gives me a little shot of anxiety and these new johnies made me skip right out of my appointment. It's a little item, but this update made me feel like I was really putting some distance between me and cancer.

My appointment with my Radiation Oncologist was great. She said to her everything looks great. She loves how I am wearing my hair and she will follow up with me in a YEAR. No longer every six months. She also looked at me and said "I can't believe it's been 1 year and 7 months since you finished. Amazing". You're telling me doc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Unforgettable Phone Calls

While talking to a case manager and fellow breast cancer survivor she told me the way I said "hello" to her sounded like the automated voice mails form the hospital. This in turn set me off on repeating the entire message we usually receive. We chuckled and she mentioned that she was expecting one of those calls soon. She was due for her mamomgram and was going to see the NP for the breast surgeon. I told her I will never forget the NP because she is the one who called and told me I had cancer. She told me she was the same and we compared stories. At this point it has been 5 years for the case manager (CM) and 2 years for me. You would think it happened yesterday with the amount of detail that we both could recall.

CM: I remember she called me I was in the parking lot on the way out of work. She asked me to come back in, I said "No, just tell me". She told me. I said "ok". I got in my car and went to visit my husband's grandfather. He had raised my husband and when I went to see him, he let me know that he had just found out he had lung cancer with mets to the brain and his time was limited. I sat and talked with him, never telling him the news of my day. I met my sister and her family for dinner. I hadn't told my family yet, so I couldn't tell her. I finally drove home and found my husband sitting on the porch. I looked at him and said "Do you want Papa's news or my news first? Because we both have news". He asked for mine and then Papa's. He to this day says it was the worst day of his life. It then took a couple of days to gather my boys together because one worked the day shift and the other the night shift. Finally two days later at 10:30 pm I got them both together. Because they were boys they didn't know anything about mamograms and I had to answer a lot of questions. Particularly from my younger son. Throughout the next week I told my sisters and then it was time to tell my mother. I visited her at my sisters home and told her. She asked me if that is why I lost so much weight. I was mad. I had worked my butt off for my 50th birthday to lose 25 pounds. I assured her that it was from Weight Watchers. And you?

I told CM my story. I told her how I was at my mother's and had waited until my father came home and was done telling us a story before I told him. My heart has never beat so hard. I felt like I was disappointing my parents because I had cancer. I told her how I sent my father out to go get chocolate and the owner of the market told him he was a cancer survivor from Lahey Hospital (my hospital) too. I told her about calling my brother and he still being at work (damn time difference) and not wanting to tell him, but doing so upon his insistence.

It is funny that CM and I discussed this. 2+ years since the "phone call" from the NP. This year around my diagnosis day anniversary people started telling me about how they received the news. Barely anyone told me about how they reacted a year ago. I found out that I ruined the remainder of a friends trip. I found out how many of my colleagues cried when my boss called them. My friend who I called while she was driving and asked her to pull over recently told me how she sat in the parked car for nearly 20 minutes trying to process the news. When you are in the fight you have to focus on you, but years later it is amazing to see the ripple effect my diagnosis of breast cancer had and the same way it rippled for CM. We both live different lives but have such as strong bond over shared experience of breast cancer. Having breast cancer friends splattered through out where you work does wonderful things for piece of mind.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When "Say Yes And..." leads to running at midnight with Christmas lights

As previously mentioned I have adapted the rules of improv and applied them to my life. The rule of "Say Yes And..." has led to a lot of fun. This weekend it also made me agree to something that I would have automatically said no too before cancer: Distance Running.

Monday August 25th at 7:12 am I got a text message from a friend from grad school:
Hi there, any interest in distance running? My reach the beach team is down 3 runners. It's on the 12-13th. Pleeeease??
A quick google search to see what reach the beach was, some negotiations with my boss for the day off, and by 9 am I was in. Me, a 400 m runner, agreed to a 207 mile relay from the mountains of New Hampshire.  I mean she did ask nicely. Did I mention that I hate hills? But, it sounded fun. 12 people, 2 vans, running in the middle of the night? Say Yes and I'll bring cookies.

Thankfully, the Saturday before my friend's text message I woke up and because it was cool out, just kept running and had done 7 miles. This let me know that it might not be super dangerous to say yes to this relay. That I might not completely destroy my legs. Three weeks of distance training that should be enough right? I ran my 7 mile route 4 more times and 6 miles with one of my colleagues from work. In true sprinter fashion, that seemed like plenty to me.

Around 1.5 weeks ago our team captain sent out our assignments. I was officially Runner #5 in Van 1. Reach the Beach is a Ragnar Relay. These means that the race is set up over usually ~200 miles and is divided into 36 segments so every runner runs 3 separate legs. The race is continuous and goes over night and lasts >24 hours.

Runner #5, I looked at my legs: 5, 17, 29.
Leg #5. 5.6 miles, downhill. Rated by race officials as Hard. I can do that.
Leg #17. 9.1 miles, 5.5 uphill. Rated Very Hard. Crap. I mean I've run 7, it should be fine. But, crap I hate hills.
Leg #29. 4 miles, relatively flat. Rated Moderate. Now, this one I know I can do!

I started to mentally prepared myself to run this far. I also learned the importance and greatness of body glide. If you ever want to stop chaffing or blisters this stuff is amazing. The 9.1 miler seemed really daunting. But, I emailed the captain and told her that I had put in 9 min mile for my pace. Told her I was sure I might be able to go faster but, was convinced that 9 min mile would be something I could hit. Her email back set the tone, "Not to worry. We aren't trying to win, we are going for fun." Right! For fun! Awesome.

Everyone who knows me as a runner was super surprised to hear that I agreed to do this. I have been known to refuse to run longer than 2 miles at a time. My old training partner may have said that I was crazy, but that this did sound fun. She understands the "Say Yes and..." attitude. She has it herself.

Thursday came and it was time for the pasta dinner at the team captains house. I showed up with all my gear and started to meet the rest of the team. I knew 2 out of the 14 people (12 runners and 2 drivers) that comprised our team.  Our team name, Team Nerd Tidal Wave. Obviously, I was going to fit in. We discussed blogs and baking over dinner. These were my people. When we picked up our two missing runners for Van #1 we discussed the joy of making lists and picked up the last runner from grad school for mechanical engineering. Team Nerd Tidal wave indeed.

Thursday we drove to Cannon Mountain for our 9:45 am start on Friday morning. We stayed at a motel and my foot cramps made a major appearance. We got to the motel at 11:30 and I finally fell asleep at 12:30 am and my foot cramps woke me up at 3:45 am. And, I was not able to go back to sleep. Great. Last time I'm going to be able to sleep until Saturday night and I sleep 3 hours. Well, I am used to being tired, so that's a bonus.

After a couple of registration snafus our first leg was off at 10:15 am to start running through the mountains. We loaded into the vans and you stop at various intervals to provide your runners with water/gatorade. It was great fun. You also use various stationed port-o-potties across the state of NH and copious amounts of hand sanitizer, not the highlight of the race.

After the first 4 runners it was time for Leg #5. I told the runner #4 I would like to do a blind exchange a la 4x1 for the baton/slap bracelet exchange. Thankfully, he found it funny. And around 1 pm I was off to run alongside the White Mountain National Forest. The views were spectacular. The air was crisp, the sky so blue and you could see for miles and miles. And I was out there running. I met my team close to 3 miles into my 5.6 miles looked at my watch and went "Sh*t". I was running too fast. This was my first run and I was about to shoot myself in the face for the rest of my runs. What did I do? I kept the pace going. I thought I had much further to run and had slowed my pace but saw the "approaching transition area" sign and sped into it and handed off the baton/slap bracelet. Stopped my watch. 39:10. 7:00 min/mile pace. "Course must be short" was my first reaction. Second reaction was, "Crap, I hope I can run more". Never ran that far that fast. Milestone #1 for this "say yes and adventure".

We wait for our 6th runner to finish hand the baton/slap bracelet off to Van #2 and get something to eat because up next is food! We eat some dinner/lunch in North Conway and then proceed to the leg 12 to 13 transition zone. My legs are already a little achy and I am happy we've arrived early so that I can lay flat on the ground for about an hour before it's time to get back in the van and support our runners. The temperature is dipping below 50 and you can make out all the stars in the sky. I am looking forward to night time running but I am still afraid of the 9.1 miles ahead of me.

Then as I am dressed in my shorts and tshirt with the head lamp attached and a reflector vest that is decorated in Christmas lights I look at my friend from grad school and say "You know what pep talk I need to give myself right now." "No, what" "I've had chemo 9 miles ain't no thing. Bring on the hills, I beat cancer. I beat cancer, I can do anything". As no one else in the van knows me there is silence and one of the woman I just met looks at me and says (in all seriousness) "Awesome pep talk".  At 11:30 pm at night facing 9.1 miles with 5.5 uphill I forgot my filter and we have reached awkward overshare time.We had a discussion of where to put the Christmas light battery pack and my automatic reaction is "In my sports bra, where I put everything during a run. I only wear one out of social convention". In the sports bra a pack of 4 AA batteries go.

At 11:47 pm I get the baton. Running with a headlamp and in Christmas lights can only be described as pure fun. I am running from Meredith to Laconia. The first 5.5 miles there is a 775 foot increase in elevation. I am checking my watch at the known mile markers. 1.8 miles at the traffic rotary, ok I am on 9 minute mile pace. I start talking to myself about how many more minutes, but not miles I have to run. On some of the steeper parts I sing "Just keep swimming" to myself. I tell myself to recover on the flats and just keep pushing on up the hill. I just keep climbing and then a funny thing happens. I hit my runners high early. I coast by my teammates, take a swig of gatorade, panic that they tell me I've only completed 3.6 miles, they are telling me only 3.6 to go because they are exactly at the 5.5 mile mark like I ask. I fist pump and cheer and speed on by. I cannot even tell you how happy I was at that point and how great my legs felt. I had stopped looking at my watch and just started to lean into the downhill. I kept picking other runners off, cheering them on as I passed. Other vans shouted how much they loved our Christmas lights and I would cheer back to them. I decided to glance at my watch. I had been running for over an hour. 1 hour 6 minutes. Officially the longest I had ever run in my life. My hamstrings and calves were not having that much fun at that point but I was able to bring it on home. Longest run ever. 9.1 miles and I finished it in 76 minutes. 8:20 min/mile pace. I was beyond pleased. My goal was faster than 90 minutes. My teammates called me a "beast". Not bad for a last minute addition who awkwardly overshares.

After runner number 6 finishes we go to our next transition area as Van #2 begins their night running. We stop in the woods and attempt to sleep in a van. At 3:30 in the morning. I've officially been up for 24 hours and my legs are not happy with me. I eat a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and attempt not to keep everyone else awake. At 6:15 our van is awake and eating again and we definitely were getting a little slap happy. Brushing your teeth is deemed the most refreshing activity ever created.

Around 8 am our vans runner is off and we are on the road for support. Around 12 noon I am ready for my last run. I am walking with an awkward gait and my hamstrings have had enough. I can outline every muscle that is included in the quadriceps but I take the baton/slap bracelet and I'm happy to be on my last run. The course book says "flat". By "flat" they mean rolling hills. At this point I am cursing the hills. Thankfully, by the time I hit halfway they are done. My hamstrings and quads are really, really mad at me at this point but I am still able to go at 8 min/mile pace. At 3 miles I start thinking about how much money I would have paid for this leg to only been 3 miles and not 4.1. I keep trucking and am so unbelievable happy to see my friend and hand off the baton.

We eat pizza and then meet van #2 at Hampton beach so all 12 of us can run across the finish line together. We reached the beach and my legs have never, ever hurt more. My hips and knees ache. My calves, quads and hammys are pissed. Somehow even my arms and chest hurt.  But, I am super proud of myself. I look around at the finish line and pick out some folks that I am sure the others might not see. I want to hug the woman whose hair obviously just came back in from chemo and her whole team "Sistas with blistas" as they all ran for her. In pink. You rock on sista friend. I didn't catch the team name, but I absolutely take the photo for a team who have the woman in a bandana who they were all running for in the center of their photo. I am happy to see the team we ran into often at the transition area the "Vermonsters" a group of older woman who have various colors of ribbons decorating their vans. I am happy to be able to see many of my fellow cancer survivors and give them the "nod".

Say Yes AND run more miles than hours you've slept since Thursday night. Say Yes AND make new friends and find the pure bliss that running can be. Say Yes AND do something you've never even thought you can do and do it better than your wildest expectations. Say Yes AND put body glide in between your toes.

And in honor of the team "Tramps Like Us" a little repeat of Bruce

Monday, September 8, 2014

Foot Cramping

They warn you that calf cramps are a side effect of tamoxifen. Thankfully those charlie horses happen only about once every three months. However, what seem to be coming fast and furious and with out fail at 3 am are foot cramps. Foot cramps where your toes decide to swap position on your feet only to realize that they cannot make the distance. I wake up about 3 milliseconds before the cramp happens. The point where your toes start to curl and you say out loud "nooo" and then jump out of bed to try to put the ball of your foot on the floor.....but to no avail. The cramp has occurred. And you stand there in the dark, cursing and attempting to alleviate the cramp. Often they are gone within a few minutes. And then you try to go back to sleep while trying to keep your toes spread out like there is an invisible foam toe separator (like they use for pedicures). Inevitably, if my foot cramps once it will cramp 3 times before I can go back to sleep or throughout the rest of the day.

Today I'm already at 3 foot cramps and the foot of selection is my right foot. I was whining about the foot cramps (and sleep disruption) at work the other day and a fellow breast cancer survivor commiserated about them. Oddly, she also found that the past month they have been really bad. Most be something in the air.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One of the Greatest Myths

People believe that it is some birth right that they be able to live until they are 90 years old with minimal complications. Folks often take for granted that the years fly by on the calendar and believe they are owed more birthdays. This is one of the greatest myths of life that everyone is instilled with unless they have seen or experienced otherwise. 

We are not promised long, healthy lives. 
We are not promised long lives. We are not promised healthy lives. 

Sometimes inexplicably bad things happen to good people. Repeatedly. These folks understand that a long, healthy life is a myth. Today, was one of those days at work that reminded me that not everyone is aware that there is no promise of a long life. I will not repeat the horrific story here, but the death of this young patient has me shaken to the core. She didn't die of cancer, but the manner of death really isn't the issue. In a brief period of time she has passed on. There is an absolute finality and sadness of it reverberated through the hospital today. It has reminded us that as much as we want to believe the myth, we can't. 

Today, I am officially 1.5 years cancer free. Today, I am reminded that life is meant to be lived. Every moment of every day because we are not promised long, healthy lives. Today, I am reminded to be grateful for being alive and having more time to fly by on the calendar. Today, I am thankful that those in my life are working towards their long healthy lives. Today, I am here and I am present. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Running the Checklist

One of the nurses at work finished her breast cancer treatment July 21st. Earlier in the week we ran through the protocols for the different clinical trials we are both on. She had post menopausal ER+/HER2- stage III cancer. We were discussing about how my trial requires MUGA scans and her's will just involve blood work and making sure she does not get too immunosupressed (not good for an ICU nurse who has direct patient care).

This morning however, was a classic interaction between two survivors.

Survivor #1: I drank too much alcohol last week. My oncologist told me I could have a couple of drinks a week.
Survivor #2: I haven't had an alcoholic beverage in 2 years.
#1: Ok, so you just completely abstain.
#2: Right, if I'm going to take the tamoxifen every day to lower my circulating estrogen level then I'm not going to do anything to raise it.
#1: Well, but does the tamoxifen lower it that you wouldn't be working against it to have the occasional drink?
#2: I don't know.
#1: What I'm really struggling with is what to do when we are out with people and they order another drink and I've had my one.
#2: I order dessert.
#1: Well, we both know that too much sugar isn't great...

Other nurse caught in the crossfire: You two have been through so much, you should just do whatever you want. You've worked so hard to get where you are.

#1 and #2 give other RN look. Both telepathically communicate "Right we've worked really hard to get to this cancer free place, and we want to stay here. So please excuse us while we compare the size and color of our crazy pants".

#1: Another survivor told me that I shouldn't eat anything that came from another mammary gland. Do you eat cheese and milk, etc? I try to limit it.
#2: I eat dairy like it's my job. I go through a gallon of milk a week. And I cannot give up yogurt.
#1. Organic, obviously.
#2. Obviously.
#1. I can't give up yogurt. I love it with berries and Grape Nuts.
#2. Oh, I was so excited when they reformulated to make them Soy free!
#1. I know! I need the crunch. Also, are you one of the natural deodorant people?
#2. I was, I read some more research and realized I didn't need to smell on a daily basis and went back to my full strength deodorant. 
#1. Yes, it lasted 35 seconds until I was done with radiation then I switched back.
#2. How is running going now that treatment is completely done?
#1. I had the best run of my life last night and ran my 4 mile loop 2 minutes faster than I ever had. I am so excited.
#2. That is awesome.

The longest conversation I had with this nurse before either of us were cancer survivors was to ask why a patient's tube feeds were turned off. Previously, she scared the crap out of me. Today, we chatted like we had been friends for years. That is the amazing common denominator that is cancer. Everyone has a shared experience and even in survivorship you just want to make certain that people are having the same thought process. And guess what? We all are.

Yay new friends.

PS. I'm Survivor #2.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Diagnosis Day Celebration 2.0

Today it has been 2 years since the nurse practitioner called and said "You have breast cancer". As I fully believe that I should celebrate all anniversaries big and small today was no different. This years celebration was similar to last years celebration, with one major detail. This year both my mother and I didn't even realize when 3:30 pm came around. Last year we both totally fixated on the time and date. This year I woke up to a Happy Anniversary from her and my Aunts. (Like last year we were at one of my favorite places on earth, Lake Sunnappee). But, not until I started typing this post did I realize that both of us just happily bopped along in the car and the time past with out recognition. This is what other cancer survivors have told me about time and how you really do think about having cancer less. This time last year I would have thought they were nuts. This year I was busy scanning the radio for a song to sing along/torture my mother with and the time passed. I noted about 5 days ago my cancer friend Stacey had posted this to her facebook page:

"Ya know how I know I keep sticking it to cancer? Cause yesterday marked 3 years ago when I heard the words confirming I had cancer... And I forgot about it yesterday . Better yet, last night 3 Doors Down sang my conquering cancer song "Let me be myself". Eff you cancer, eff you."

Just think August 8, 2015 I might even forget it is my diagnosis day. Likely not, because I do like all these celebrations. 

Although I missed the time, the day was fully recognized. I celebrated with a run (and thankfully one that felt reallly, really good on my legs) and it was reasonably fast (7:30 mile pace). I had some breakfast and then was able to spend some time out on the lake by myself in a kayak. It was a gorgeous, peaceful morning. And it was a nice to be able to celebrate the day with a quite brain soaking in the sunshine.

It was a great day to spend with my family capped off by a great dinner with my parents and the ultimate celebration food......Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. For real. Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. My two favorite things together.

And to follow the tone that Stacey set at the beginning of the week here is a repeat of my conquering cancer song. I still love this song and sing it loudly and fist pump proudly to it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nice Easy Follow Up

Today was a standard built in follow up for the PRESENT trial. It involved blood, urine and physical exam.

Easy. Peasy. Lemon. Squeezy.

My veins have really fully recovered. 7 tubes of blood, one stick. No problem.

Chatted with the Nurse Practitioner, we discussed running. We talked about how terrible my legs felt in May and early June. She did tell me that many of my symptoms could be attributed to tamoxifen, so I am not crazy for blaming my creakiness and stiffness on them.

And then I didn't have to have anything injected into my legs and I was free to return to work.

How far have we come.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Online Creeper

There is large universal agreement that online dating sucks. Attempting online dating after cancer is not the self esteem booster that I thought it might have the potential for. It is a mindfield of trying not do the online awkward overshare. It also helps you vacillate between "I am a kick ass human being. I beat cancer" to "I am woman with 3/4 of a right boob and 3 blue freckles". Attempting online dating definitely ignited some body issues that everyone who has ever had cancer goes through. And sadly many of them still revolve around hair.

And it all starts with a profile.....

This may seem benign enough for most people. Cancer survivors are not most people (well with advances in science the 33% of us is slowly becoming 50% but I digress).

Step one pick a photo. Sh@t. Here is a recap of my inner monologue: Well I should really only pick pictures with short hair because I don't plan on growing my hair back. Ok, but my hair texture has only stabilized since November. And many of my short hair photos my hair is curly. Damn it. Ok I know, I know I'll just post this one:

Ha, just kidding. After more time than I care to admit, a whole lot of photocropping and trolling my own facebook page and after 14+ changes my current photo is this:

or this one, depends on the day

 Ok, so profile photo is sorta in place. Wait, no, I changed my mind, lets post a new one!  I may or may not have eaten a 1/3rd of a bag of chocolate chips during the first step. I am off to a good start.

Step two is to answer seemingly trivial questions about yourself. I might need something stronger than chocolate. Height, body type, eye color, education. Check, is their a box for athletic with 1.75 boobs? check, check. Do you drink alcohol? Hmmm. Based on my previous experience from awkward oversharing what do I write here? Occasionally? Yes, in 9 years I might occasionally have a beer. Never? Am I going to be flagged as someone who underwent a 12 step program to help their alcohol allergy? Should this really be this hard? I select never. Because it's true.

Do you want children? Well, isn't that a pandora's box of a question. Thank you for having an "I'll tell you later" option. Is there a maybe on the 5th date you get to know this business button? Good lord, this sucks. But, I plug along.

Last Read? Easy peasy. Tina Fey, Bossy Pants.

Step three is to write your biography. I write some nonsense about baking and running and my predilection for quoting songs and movies. What a really want to write in all caps is: BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR. SO YES, I AM AWESOME. AND PLEASE DON'T EVEN TRY TO TOUCH MY RIGHT BOOB. Perhaps too much honesty? Not to worry, I do not write any of that. I trudge along to step four.

I pay money for this thing to be posted on the interweb. Actual money. Money that could be spent on more chocolate chips. But, after many conversations with a good friend about how being a cancer survivor means you continually try to keep things off the "I wonder what would have happened if I did this" list and A LOT  of encouragement I paid the money. And it got posted out into the world.

After my profile got posted, nothing happened. I got the occasional wink from a creeper. Dude, your 67! 67, how did you even get my profile! I send out a fair amount of e-mails to people I find interesting. And then I am thankful for perspective. Waiting to see if a boy is going to respond to an email you sent him? Cake walk, when you've waited two weeks to find out the genetics of your cancer and if you are going to need chemo. However, after 20+ emails sent out and a great online feature that let's you know that people have in fact viewed your profile and not responded I needed a break from the site.  And some chocolate chips and good for the soul weekend trips with encouraging women. After these trips, I got back on this site. A nice man sent me an email and we went out on a couple of dates. And that was it.

And so I'll "just keep swimming" and putting the effort to make this a real try. Until my subscription runs out. And hope, that no future suitors google me and find this site. Well, until after the "I've had cancer" date.