Howdy! Peace be with you.


Yes, He is listening! Why do we wait until something really bad happens to turn to our faith? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, just turn. My sweet tennis team gave me a box of feel good items to help me get through all this muck. My favorite thing was a daily devotional little book called “Jesus Calling”.
Call them tips, if you want. One of my favorite ones was about Peace. All my life, we shake people’s hands at church and say “Peace be with you”. I always thought it was basically just a churchy “Hi, how are ya” all these years. It was so easy, just turn to all the friendly faces around and give them a big Sunday howdy! Wow, was I wrong, but I’m so glad I finally figured it out.
Peace be with you means you are wishing someone peace from their worry about the future and their regret of the past. Boy can we all use this! We are in the fight for our lives. Do we really need to add regret and worry to the uniform we put on every day as we go to battle? Good grief, no!
So to all of you, Peace be with YOU.


It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just my white cells are low.

Quarantine me – not just for world travelers anymore – If your white cells are low, quarantine yourself. This is another one of those things you can control and get an A++ at. Running to Walmart isn’t worth the serious virus or infection you could come home with. Go with me on this one.
Pretend you are on a Staycation. Watch all those #Netflix series you promised yourself you would watch. Try some new recipes. Start needlepointing a Christmas stocking (I did 2 of them). Stay away from hotels, stores, restaurants, schools period!
If people ask to come over, be honest, tell them you are at risk of infection. Who wants to be “that guy who made you sick”? After your numbers are up, let them come over. Just remember this does not mean partay! Any illness you get is more serious and complicated because it’s you and you don’t have much ammo to fight it with, so be careful!
So what can you do? I played tennis! I realized that I could be on one side of the net and the nearest human was over 100 feet from me! Score!!! Since I could not fly in an airplane or stay at a hotel, my husband and I drove to a friend’s condo and stayed there for a week together. We cooked, hiked, read and drove back home. All of those friends who have condos and lake houses, or friends of theirs who have condos and lake houses, or dear family members (distant or not) who have condos or lake houses, take them up on their offer to “do anything they can to help you”. As little of a trip as this sounds like, it gives you something to look forward to, prepare for and remember as your “happy place” when the tough days come.Slippers

There’s no Zagat rating for Cancer treatment centers


There’s no Zagat rating for Cancer treatment centers, oh no! After you swallow the big “I have cancer” gulp, choosing where to go for treatment is your biggest hurdle. Not a high jumper, you are about to become one. My best advice is to cast a wide net, but where do you start?
A dear friend gave me great advice. She said, ”make appointments everywhere, call, call, call, and then cancel the ones you don’t want later”. So, I did just that.
First, determine what you are looking for. Is your cancer common and treatable just about anywhere (lucky you)? Is an experienced surgeon key to your survival? If yes, ideally, get a doctor that only does this procedure. If there are several treatment options, go to someone with knowledge about chemo alone, chemo with immunotherapy, immunotherapy alone or something completely unique. I called teaching hospitals (affiliated with a university), regular hospitals and for-profit treatment centers that advertise on TV.
Second, start asking questions. You should be able to speak to a nurse or a patient representative who can answer some of your questions. When I say make appointments everywhere, that’s because most places want you to come see the doctor, rather than speaking over the phone. Honestly, I just told them that I needed to make my decision within 2 weeks and it was impossible to fly all over the USA going to appointments when we can just do a preliminary chat on the phone. In addition, I got on the hospital’s website and emailed doctors and nurses directly.
You will be happy to see the pieces of your puzzle starting to come together naturally. If the center does not take your type of insurance, they may not be a fit. If they can’t get you in for an appointment and won’t talk to you on the phone, they may not be a fit. If they say they don’t really specialize in your condition, they may not be a fit. If you cannot easily travel there or pick up and move there temporarily, they may not be a fit.
Pick the appointments you want to keep and cancel the others. Go meet these doctors and their team. They are your new best friends and you need to feel comfortable with them. Together with you, they will save your life.

Cancer cells are cellfish


Cancer cells are cellfish! Are these selfish cells cramping your Style? If it would work better for your calendar to come every 3 weeks instead of every 2, just say so. Sorry dear, it doesn’t work that way. There is a cycle to the growth of cancer cells and this is what determines how regularly you must show up for your dose of chemo.
Simply put, chemo attacks cancer cells when they are most receptive to the poison. Say a cell divides, it must grow a little bit, maybe 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks, when it is ripe for chemo. Then ZAP, we give them a shot of chemo and they stop dividing. Mission accomplished. Wait, more are growing, wait 2 weeks and then Zap them again and so on.

Here’s where it gets complicated, you may be getting 2 types of chemo in your chemo cocktail, and one is on a 2 week zapping schedule and one on a 3 week zapping schedule. Lucky you, you get to go hang out and watch TV at the infusion center even more. Sure wish there was a punch card with a free gift at the end!

Face it, we are on cancer’s schedule. Our job is to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves strong enough to stay on schedule and annihilate as many cells as possible.

Happy shooting!

Ports are ImPORTant!


Ports are ImPORTant! Just what you need, something else to add to your stressful situation. But wait, having a port can be your new best friend. All a port does is give easy, instant access to your system, rather than using your precious veins.
First, a port must be surgically inserted, and really they don’t fully knock you out for this (but you remember nothing) and it only takes 15 minutes. Most ports are inserted under the skin on the front side of your right shoulder. Even though your incision is not healed, you can begin accessing your port within days. Your skin will completely heal over the port site. There is nothing for you to take care of after it heals.
Why do you access a port? Mostly for delivery of chemo. It also is perfect for any blood draws, contrast for scans, IV antibiotics, during surgery or fluids, if you need them. Nurses love ports. It makes their job so so much easier. When the port is accessed (aka hooked up) the nurse uses a super sterile pack to clean and attach tubing for your treatment. Cream, what cream?? Be sure to ask for a prescription for Lidocaine cream. It numbs the area so you feel absolutely nothing when they access it. 30 minutes before your appointment to access your port, put a nice sized dollop on the skin that is over your port. Place a piece of Press-n-seal Saran Wrap (about 6” x 6” square or larger) over your cream and skin. This protects your clothing. Nurses will remove this and wipe the area for you. Have no fear, if you forget the cream, yes there is a slight stick, however it is nothing like getting an IV in your arm!
The good news is this saves your veins. Veins do not really like chemo. Some people say it hurts more to get chemo and fluids through your veins vs your port. This usually is because of the small size of your veins and the speed at which they have the pump set. If you do use your veins and it hurts, ask your nurse to slow down the pump speed.
Once you finish chemo, your only responsibility is to go to your infusion center or hospital and have your pump flushed with saline every 4 to 6 weeks. This kind of primes the pump, so to say, and keeps the lines clear so your port is ready to use when needed. If you are having chemo regularly, you are getting your port flushed at the end of each treatment.
Should you have your port removed when you are finished? I get asked this question all the time. My theory is I use it for scans every 3 to 6 months. Plus, in reality, I’m the only one that really knows it’s there. Yes, there is a little bump that can be seen when I wear a lightweight top or an athletic tank, but who cares? I also have visible freckles, wrinkles, graying roots and plenty of other things to keep people’s eyes busy.
Love your port. It really does make the situation much more pleasant.

I love my needles


Most people get that teethy, stiff jaw emoji look on their face when I say I have an acupuncture appointment. Why would I want more needles? Eeeeew it hurts, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s very relaxing and it really helps!
It all started when the side effects of chemo began taking over my wardrobe choices. No matter what the temperature, or how many pairs of socks or layers of blankets, I am always cold. To combat the cold, I was not wanting to add pain relievers, muscle relaxers or any other pills to my daily diet.
Rather than cute summer sandals, my furry warm UGG boots became a daily “must have”. Believe me, they are not easy to disguise in the summer months.
My acupuncture treatments helped tone down the frost bitten feeling in my hands, legs and feet. The more you relax, the better the acupuncture treatments work. Honestly, I started looking forward to some quiet time and it made me feel good to know I was doing something that was helping my body heal. The best way I can describe it is I was asking my body to endure so many harmful treatments from chemo, radiation, scans to steroids and other medications. Acupuncture was one treatment that not only made me relax, but also had positive benefits.
Learning that there is more work to do after chemo ends, I continued my acupuncture sessions. The thought of hoping my nerve damage healed was not a gamble I wanted to take. Considering there are 36” of nerves from your spine to your fingertips and toes, and worst case, you can heal 1” per month, it was time to get busy repairing my nerves.
Ask around and look for an acupuncturist who has worked with cancer patients. You should expect to go weekly and taper off as you begin to feel like a normal human again and stop wearing your winter boots.

Thanksgiving is about the china.


Mine had only been used once in 30 years. It seemed so important when we were getting married, to choose the right pattern, be sure to register for the proper number of place settings and serving pieces. I almost didn’t get to see it again. So, this week, as I was washing 30 years of dust off each piece, I thought about how thankful I am for YOU.
YOU let me forget I have cancer. YOU didn’t bring it up every time you saw me. YOU sat with me while I was getting my chemo treatments and we laughed, made plans, drank coffee, took funny photos, knitted, talked about life and ate high calorie snacks. YOU invited me to lunch. YOU introduced me to friends who needed cancer advice. So just when you thought you didn’t know how to help, you were doing exactly what I needed.
My best advice to those not wanting to over step, but wanting to provide support, is to send a simple text saying, “how are you feeling”. If you want to do more, come by to sit and chat. If you don’t mind my funky hair doo, lack of make-up and me not getting up to do any hostess duties, we can have a great time! If you are running out for a coffee on a pretty day, yes, I would love to ride along. Let’s watch a movie (I will probably fall asleep). Let’s cook something (I can read the instructions and point to where ingredients are).
I don’t mind talking about cancer, however there is not really much change week to week. Honestly, I forget about it until someone brings it up. What you are doing, is waaaay more interesting! For those of us whose health is too fragile, friends and family can contribute to a food delivery service. (Wish I had invented that!)
This year, I am thankful for being here to use my china for the second time in 30 years, thankful for my doctors and most of all, thankful for all of you who prayed, supported and motivated me to fight the big fight. Thanks!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Cells

SmartSelectImage_2017-11-05-20-23-20So, how do we get cancer? After asking and asking…here is what I have pieced together. First, we all have cancer in our bodies. A properly working immune system sees the properly identified bad cells as “bad” and gets rid of them, like it is supposed to.
Here is where is gets complicated, when your immune system sees bad cells as “good” it allows them to grow and we call these constantly multiplying cells cancer. Where do these tricky demon cells come from? So, we all have DNA, follow me so far? (that was the easiest part of this explanation) Apparently, our DNA gets damaged or mutated, either from an illness, stress, an injury, hereditary, from birth, environmental, from something we injested or somewhere else. This occurrence leaves a mutated gene in our DNA. So when something appears in our body that this gene was supposed to identify as bad, gets identified as good, it slips the system and is allowed to find a home somewhere in our body. An analogy I was given, is that these cells are kind of thrown out like grass seed and they try to find a place to stick. Once they find that place, they thrive and become unwanted cancer.
So how do we avoid having our good cells behaving badly? Simple, avoid stress, never get sick, never get injured, don’t eat anything, don’t breathe anything, it’s easy!

Spiral up or Spiral down

….you pick. You have a choice. Cancer is fighting against you and what type of cancer patient you become is up to you. You can either spiral up or spiral down. If you push yourself to eat good sized meals, you have energy. If you have energy, you feel like being active. If you are active, you get hungry. If you get hungry, you eat! This is the upward spiral.
What’s the other option look like? Don’t eat much, and don’t have much energy. Don’t have much energy, and don’t have much activity. Don’t have much activity, and you are not hungry. This is the downward spiral.
Is it easy? No. Are there tricks? Yes. Wear a fitness tracker and see your daily step count. After treatment, when you still have steroids in your system, be active! Play golf, play tennis, walk, clean a closet, go shopping for something to do when your low-energy days hit. Eat! Make some fattening brownies, add chocolate chips. Make cinnamon rolls and eat the whole pan. Put a pecan on top of each bite.
Do what you can do. Be conscious of what you could easily do and what you would call pushing yourself. If you can push yourself to eat more or be more active, do it and spiral UP!

It’s not the fair, it’s the Cancer rollercoaster.

Get strapped in and let’s go for the ride. The day you get your diagnosis, you are at the bottom of the incline. There is no describing this day to anyone and there is nothing, not even a new puppy, that can make you feel any better. Come on Bright Side, I’m ready for you. Then it comes, you learn about the success rate with a particular treatment and you get temporary comfort from your team. Then you begin treatment or have surgery, or both…weeeeee and we are back down again. Surgery is over, treatment is starting and it’s tolerable. Up, down, up, down, then you finish treatment. Yay, back up again! Three months later, you walk back into the hospital for your scans and your stomach has that queasy feeling as you drop straight down from your temporary high. Scans come back clear! Yessss! We are up again! Then you feel something odd…oh no, could it be back? Great, it was just a temporary feeling. Time for scans again…oh no, this might be something. Yes, it is. You try to ease your mind, no treatment is necessary now, but what if….. Scan again in 3 more months, and yes, it is something. More treatment. Yay, you are clear again! Not so fast, someone calls you about a friend who was just diagnosed and they need to know how to start the battle. Yup, there it is again. You get off the phone and feel great because someone could benefit from all this knowledge you have stored. So, right, it’s not useless information after all.
And the ride goes on. The best advice is not to let yourself experience deep lows or extreme highs. Try to stay as neutral as possible. Let the others around you carry the burden of the emotional lows and highs for you. They asked you “what can I do for you”, right?