At press time, I'm totally stressed out as I try to pack for the trip and take care of last minute to dos. I have a 7 a.m. flight tomorrow, which will be my first in a year and I have to say, I haven't missed flying one bit. I'm dreading security. I'm dreading everything about the flight but I know I'll be happy once I get to St. Thomas.
So, I'm off. I'll be be back on or around January 7th once I've returned from sailing through paradise.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I'll be back over the next few days with more holiday celebration photos so stay tuned! Have a wonderful day with your family and friends.
We had an informal white wine tasting I put together for Michelle and Jim's wedding wine. If you'll recall, Michelle and Jim's wedding was the week after Thanksgiving. Fortunately, we all agreed on the best whites.
Weight = 123 lbs., which is a 9lb. weight gain from my all-time low of 114 lbs.
CA125 = 9!!!
HE4 = TBD; have to call back later in the week for that.
CT scan = 100% clear!!!
Physical exam = Nothing remarkable and Dr. E continues to be proud of his crooked incision, claiming that it's one of his straightest ever. Whatever.
While I'm thrilled with most of my stats, as is Dr. E, I'm on the fence with the weight gain. I think this is mostly because I know it's due to holiday indulgences, and not muscle gain or some other healthy cause. Oh well. I'll get back to my healthy, anti-cancer lifestyle in the new year, I suppose.
Dr. E and I talked a bit at the end of the appointment and once again, we both agreed that we think my cancer was found just in time so that it could be totally decimated, never to return. I think we're both pretty optimistic at this point that I'll achieve a five-year cure. I like him so much better when we agree about things.
Anyway, that just about sums up my first check-up. I delivered gifts to all of the chemo nurses (manicures at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa), Katy (a manicure and a bottle of my new favorite Bordeaux), and of course, Dr. E (a bottle of Petron for when he's had a long, hard day and needs to drink alone and a bottle of Bordeaux to share with his wife).
*Apologies to Melissa S. for "borrowing" her stats update style. Just seemed appropriate...
Oh, and yes, I know I've been deliquent in updating lately. And by now, you know the reason why. Just busy and happy. I will be back soon (maybe tomorrow?) with "Gobble, Gobble" and "Love and Politics." Stay tuned...they'll be tons of pictures!
I AM THANKFUL FOR...
You, who continue to read my blog to keep up with my progress.The fact that my stage IIIa ovarian cancer surrendered so easily in battle and that it is 100% gone. I am a lucky gal. Don't think I don't know that.
My parent's love and total devotion, which helped carry me through my treatment but has always been something I could count on.
My friends. All of them. Everyone came through for me when I needed them the most this year and that is something for which I will always be thankful.
My extended family, all of whom supported me and my parents so generously throughout the past year. Particularly, my Aunt Patty, who is no longer with us. Her prayers, cards, and calls were so comforting to me.
Loaner dog...and my brother for loaning him to me. The dog really pissed me off yesterday with that pillow shredding incident but he has been there to lift my spirits during some pretty dark days. I can't tell you how many times during my treatment I had a mini-breakdown while writing or taking care of medical administrivia at my desk (a.k.a. the dining room table) and every time I did, he'd come right over with his big brown eyes and cock his head, as if to say, "What's wrong, Jennie? Don't you worry. It's going to be okay. I'll take care of you."
My employer's excellent short term disability policy (six months full pay and benefits!) and my colleagues who encouraged me to take the time I needed for treatment and healing.
All of the really wonderful people I met along my wellness campaign (a.k.a treatment), including my doctors, nurses, medical technicians, therapists (of all sorts), random hospital chaplains, other cancer fighters/survivors and their family members. I owe all of them so much and am so happy that they came into my life even if it was for a pretty crappy reason. I've met the most interesting, brave, smart, generous people. That has been a true gift in my journey.
Feeling like my old self again just eight weeks after finishing treatment. As you know, I've had a fair amount of anxiety about various parts of me being permanently damaged/altered following my two surgeries and six rounds of chemo and today I'm so relieved to know that they're all functioning normally. You have no idea. So relieved!
The fact that my mother is a great cook. Today's meal is going to be so yummy! And, yes, I'm having some of the free range turkey my father is preparing -- to do anything else would be un-American. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, cream corn, and salad (my one contribution)...here I come!
All of the hair on my body, particularly my eyebrows, eyelashes, and new G.I. Jane buzz cut.
Finding a real purpose in my life. This disease took some pretty important things away from me but it has given me something to be passionate about and I'm really grateful for that. I have already started working with many of the leading ovarian/gynecological cancer organizations on their awareness building and fundraising efforts and I'm so energized by it. Hokey? Maybe. But so true. I'm not sure that all things happen for a reason. However, I do wonder if I, with my fearless nature, health care policy/communications background, pleasantly aggressive personality, and "inside the Beltway" relationships, was meant to beat this insidious disease and to feel so lucky for having been able to do so, that I would make it my life's mission to do what I can to help women overcome this cancer? I don't know. But if I was, I happily accept the challenge.
The ability to be around my friends and their children and to feel no bitterness that I won't have biological children of my own. I lost that ability from time to time over the past year but I'm okay now and I'm very thankful for that. To be perfectly honest, I was never that jazzed about giving up my beloved alcohol for what is essentially 10 months of weight gain, only to then have to push the watermelon-sized weight gain out of a hole the size of a...I don't know...pea? Lima bean? Also, I like my perky chest and frankly, I was equally unexcited to think about it expanding to epic proportions only to then have it deflate to resemble wilted water balloons. The biological baby thing was a BIG bummer but it's okay. I know I will be a mom someday but just not to "mini-mes." But you know what? A lot of times you don't get mini-mes even when you have biological children. And furthermore, I feel luckier today than women who get married thinking that they will have biological children, only to endure years of heartbreaking infertility issues. At least I know what I'm dealing with: an adoption attorney or a gestational carrier. Oh, and by the way, when the time comes that I'm trying to have children you should know that I won't be soliciting op eds about the situation. I've been through enough on the reproductive front so I expect that everyone will support me in whatever way I choose to create my family and I'll be grateful for that, too.
The book Anti-Cancer and the diet changes it promotes, which helped me defeat my cancer quickly but also just make me feel so much better everyday now. I just feel lighter now that I'm not weighted down with tons of crappy meat and a lot of dairy. And I'm really grateful for my much smaller butt that came along with those diet changes. Let's hear it for veggies!
And, finally, the fact that I'm in good enough shape already to get out there to run/walk the 33rd Annual Turkey Trot race today! So, I'm gonna run now to trot the Trot. My goal is to run two of the three miles morning.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
What's all of that, you ask? That would be one of my mother's Christmas gifts - a custom made decorative pillow for the Charleston house - after River, er Marley, decided to shred it up while I was at lunch with my mother, my brother, and his girlfriend, Ansley. If the whole thing hadn't been so maddening to me, it really would have been funny. When we walked in from lunch, River was standing there wagging his tail to greet us. It didn't take long for us to question why he had feathers all over his face. My brother, Bobby, was the first to the scene of the crime so I let him handle the disciplining. Bobby neglected to mention to me that River really likes down pillows.
River's walk of shame down stairs following Bobby's disciplining, during which he got a heck of a lot more feathers in his face.
...that extended into the hallway.
It's a good thing he's cute because otherwise, River would probably be homeless this evening. Let's hope the holiday doesn't get even more, uh, interesting tomorrow.
Well, at least it was this past weekend. Now that I'm healthy again though, I think it really is. On Saturday night, I attended Old Ebbitt Grill's Oyster Riot, which is an all-you-can-eat oyster and wine event that is now in its 15th year. Tickets to the two-night event sell out in like 10 minutes. And once you've been, you know why. They serve over three dozen award-winning raw oysters all night long, not to mention award-winning Sauvignon Blancs, jumbo shrimp cocktail, crab claws, fried oyster rolls, oyster stew with a fried oyster on top, and much, much more.
Despite the fact that I ate a boatload -- and I mean, a BOATLOAD -- of molluscs and crustaceans on Saturday night, guess where I headed to brunch on Sunday morning? None other than Hank's Oyster Bar in Old Town. What can I say? It was a beautiful day to head down to Old Town and since I am one shellfish-lovin' pescetarian, it just made sense. I highly recommend Hank's as a casual, relatively inexpensive brunch spot. They've got some yummy stuff on the menu, including delicious Crabcake Eggs Benedict, which is what I had.
Anyway, it was a very fun and super yummy weekend. Here are some shots of the action. Enjoy!
Me and Christy. Clearly, we forgot that an oyster and wine tasting should be taken seriously. Whoops!
This year's Rioters: Dave, me, Christy, and Tom.
That's all for today. I'll fill you in on the weekend tomorrow.
I returned from Richmond on Saturday to attend my friend Michelle's bachelorette dinner party at Posh, which is in D.C's Penn Quarter. It was a fun and super yummy evening, despite the rude hostess. It's not even worth my time to list all of my grievances with her.
On Sunday, which was BEAUTIFUL, my mom and I went to a Benjamin Moore paint color class at Pottery Barn (learned good stuff about painting floors, MS!) and then I headed down to Columbia Firehouse in Old Town for brunch with Jill, Cassie (Jill's best friend from Duluth; yes, people really are from Duluth), and Alison. It was great catching up with Cassie, whom I met at Jill's 35th birthday weekend in Miami last year. She is medical technologist and lost her sweet mama to ovarian cancer, so she's been hugely helpful to me throughout my diagnosis and treatment.
Let's see, that brings us to Monday. Monday night my mom, me, Michelle and Jim went to see the taping of Kaleidoscope, which will air on FOX at 4 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving. I had never been to a taped show before, let alone a ice show, so it was really interesting to see how it's put together. And Scott's and Dorothy's performances were moving. I know, I know, ice skating is cheesy but it was a cool event and I'm thrilled that they put it together to help promote awareness of women's cancers.
I met my mom and Aunt Kathy for lunch at the bar of Restaurant Eve on Tuesday. We toasted Aunt Patty, whose three-person memorial service was that morning. Don't get me started about my aunt not having a memorial service for the whole family to attend. Sometimes I really think our Keller/Koch clan should be featured on Jerry Springer (wait, is he still on the air?). Who dies and doesn't allow their extended family to come together to grieve and celebrate their life? My Aunt Patty, that's who. Whatever. Tuesday night I brought pizza over to the Sigler's and had a great visit with sweet Baby Jay. There's nothing like snuggling a newborn.
Nothing much to report from Wednesday and Thursday. I'm just back from a wonderful 90-minute massage at The Healing Tree (thanks to my Deloitte colleagues!) and am getting ready for Melissa R.'s "Sips and Dips" party, which is always so much fun. For my part, I'm making toasted almond cheese spread with crab meat. Yep, no anti-cancer diet going on tonight!
Below are some photos from the Richmond gala, Michelle's bachelorette, Sunday brunch, and Kaleidoscope (you get a sneak preview!). Enjoy!
One of the models on the catwalk.
The two main reasons I started blogging two months into my diagnosis and treatment were: 1. for my mental health, as I found/find it extremely therapeutic, and 2. to keep friends and family updated on my progress in a (somewhat) entertaining and efficient manner. However, a third reason has emerged and it is now just as important as the first two were in the beginning of the nightmare. Now I blog to provide comfort, hope, and information to the thousands of women also dealing with the shit that is gyncological cancer. I've received several notes like the one below but I thought I'd share today's with all of you so you can see the inspiration I get from the brave ladies who read and want to learn more. Here it is:
My name is Cindy. I have been following your blog for the past couple of months (love it!). Thank you for sharing your journey. It has been an inspiration and a comfort to me.
In July I was diagnosed with Stage II Endometrial cancer that had spread to my colon by way of endometriosis through my fallopian tube. I had a full hysterectomy and colon resection (sigmoid colon) on July 20. My surgical oncologist and my chemo oncologist disagree on the staging (chemo guy says stage 4) and I have chosen to go with my surgeon's diagnosis. In 5 days I will have completed 5 out of 6 chemo treatments (paclitaxel and carboplatin). So really, I have only about 3 /12 more weeks of chemo to go!! I have just started doing research on radiation (which is recommended for me) and I have managed to completely freak myself out about the side effects only one of which is severe lymphadema. Up until the surgery and the chemo, I have been super active in running, yoga, skiing - all the stuff that makes life fun! I am worried that the long term effect of radiation will take all of that away.
I remember in one of your posts that you were considering radiation or talking to your doctors about it. Did you decide not to do it? If so, would you mind sharing your thoughts with me?
Keep up the great blogging - it is so great to watch you heal!
See? That's pretty good stuff, isn't it? I'll be in touch with Cindy (whose real name, by the way, isn't Cindy; I protect identities when necessary) to let her know that, fortunately, I didn't have to endure radiation as well as chemo. I understand why she is freaked out because I was freaked out by the side effects of radiation I read about as well. I'll also tell her that no matter how bad it is during/after radiation, things will get better physically and emotionally after her treatment is finished. I'm thrilled to report that with each day that passes by, the nightmare of the past year is a more distant memory...AND that with the exception of the pretty awful looking scars I've got on the outside (still need to work on those!), everything else feels great. Hang in there, Cindy! This, too, shall pass and YOU will heal!
In other news, I think my uncle George is going to take my aunt Patty off of life support this morning. I'm so appreciative that aunt Patty was a part of my life, especially over the past six months. She sent me so many sweet, encouraging cards and called me a couple of times a month to see how I was doing. In fact, I think we had some of our best conversations during my treatment. What a gift.
Unfortunately, not all of my news today is so happy. Toward the end of our walk with loaner dog this morning, my mother and I received yet another unpleasant reminder of the circle of life. It seems that my Great Aunt Patty, who is the matriarch (or, "auntriarch," as she never had children) of the Keller/Koch clan, had a massive stroke last night and is in the ICU on life support in a hospital close to where she lives in Pennsylvania. At press time, my Uncle George and grandmother are with her at the hospital waiting to get more information from her doctors before deciding on next steps.
I have a new appreciation for and acceptance of the circle of life after my experiences over the past year, during which I've met so many wonderful souls fighting not to be taken before their circle is complete. Given this, my prayer for Patty this morning is not necessarily for her to live (as she is almost 80-years old and has enjoyed a very full life) but rather for her to experience only peace and comfort and joy and love in whatever world she experiences from this day forward.
The group (L to R): Molly, Kristin, Michelle, me, Melissa R., Sarah, Erin, and Alison. Not pictured: My friend Stephanie, who ran the half-marathon in my honor. Thanks Steph!
Sunrise over the U.S. Capitol.
Love this team's t-shirt!
A shot of the 5K racers just before the start. Survivors were given yellow t-shirts to wear.
Love these gals' hats: "Rock the Speculum"
Love this team's shirt, too. I'll have to figure out what my team is going to wear for future races.
Kristin, Alison, and Michelle approaching the finish line.
There they are waving to me. Sorry...very out of focus.
Stephanie's husband, Brian, and daughter, Dylan, as they waited for her to finish the two hour + half-marathon. Go Steph!
We enjoyed a post-race breakfast back in Alexandria at our favorite greasy spoon breakfast place, Table Talk.
Sarah and Erin.
Kristin and me.