On the Road Again: Friday, July 31, 2009

I haven't been a very productive blogger this week, have I? Well, I guess I've had a couple of good excuses: a chest and abdominal port insertion. I'm doing okay this morning but I have to say, the abdominal port, which actually rests on one of my rib bones, isn't very comfortable. At all. I'm pretty sore to tell you the truth.

Despite the soreness, I'm in the middle of packing my bags to head up to NYC for the weekend to co-host Ali's bridal shower and bachelorette activities. I'm looking forward to seeing the bride-to-be, Christina, and a few other Deloitte friends during my quick visit. So, I guess I just have to play with pain, huh?!? (Don't worry, I'm taking my beloved vicodin with me.)

I'll be back on Monday with an update on the weekend...and to announce the arrival of a new summer house guest!

Taste Test: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Well, my chest port was successfully implanted yesterday. I'm a little sore where my interventional radiologist made the two slits to implant it but other than that, it was no biggie. One down, another to go on Thursday. Hopefully, my abdominal port implantation will go just as smoothly.
So, in my quest to find satisfying non-dairy dessert options, I indulged and purchased some SO Delicious ice cream bars, which are really frozen coconut milk with cocoa shell, today at MOM's. Who better to help with the taste test than my friends Thomas and LEW, both of whom stopped by the pool for a swim (and some "ice cream") this afternoon/evening. I think everyone, including me, was a fan of the ice cream bars!


Gone! As Thomas said, "Mmmm!"

LEW, who is the Summer Sanders of the two-year old set, swam for a bit before her taste test.

Say cheese!
Showing off her floating skills...

Now for the ice cream!
It was a hit!

Let's Catch-Up: Monday, July 27, 2009

I didn't intend to take an extended break from blogging but I've been busy and a bit uninspired, which is why you haven't heard from me the past few days. Here's a quick summary of what's been going on since I last wrote.

First, my good friends Krista and Michael had a lovely barbecue for me and some other friends on Wednesday evening. They wanted to show off their pretty new backyard deck and landscaping and treated us to a delicious meal of grilled salmon and pork tenderloin (just salmon for me!) and a yummy cucumber, tomato, and feta salad (they made a special portion for me without the cheese...so thoughtful!). Here's a few shots of the evening:

Thomas getting his carb fix from a big piece of bread.

LEW lounging in the Adirondack chair.

Some of the group enjoying cocktail hour on the deck.
The yummy cucumber salad.

Thomas and LEW sharing dessert with their moms.

On Thursday evening, I headed up to Michelle & Jim's to spend the night with Michelle and Lucy, their newly adopted yellow Lab. Michelle made a great veggie dinner. I took a little time after dinner to call Emily, who I was able to connect with through Imerman Angels. Emily is in her mid-thirties and went through treatment for ovarian/uterine cancer last year. She's doing well these days and it was great to connect with someone so close to my age who had been through everything -- including a total hysterectomy and IP chemo -- that I'm going through now.

I was able to catch up with Meredith, an old friend who I met in Brownies when we were 6 or 7?, over lunch on Friday. We had a great time filling each other in on the last few years of our lives, including many good laughs over stories of child care (hers) and dating (mine) mishaps. One of the silver linings of my unfortunate situation, has been the opportunity to reconnect with so many wonderful old friends. After lunch with Meredith, I headed back out to FARfax (that's my nickname for Fairfax) for more chemo class with Jan at Dr. E's office. Jan coordinates all of the chemo care for the patients in Dr. E's practice and is one of the busiest people I know. Despite this, she spent about an hour going over my new protocol with me to ensure I had all the necessary dates, instructions, prescriptions (six new ones to fill!), etc. that I need for the next nine or so weeks. Truth be told, I felt a little more optimistic about my ability to handle the evil IP regimen after talking with her. I joined Alison and her neighbor Lea for dinner at the newly opened Columbia Firehouse that evening. The staff is still working out some service kinks but the food is pretty yummy. Oh, and while we were out, Alison presented me with a surprise gift from a friend of hers who I met the night after I was diagnosed. It seems that Missy is following my blog and decided to treat me to the FABULOUS Trish McEvoy mascara after reading about my need for a new product. Missy, it really is the best! Thank you so much!

I was joined by several friends at the pool on Saturday, which was our first truly HOT day here in D.C. this summer. Thanks to Michelle, here are a few shots from the afternoon:

Lucy tested out the pool before the rest of the crowd arrived.
Kristin and LEW and Christy, Amelie and Harper also joined me. The little ones love the water! (Dad: No comments about my posture, please! Thanks.)

Lucy relaxing in the shade after a long afternoon of swimming (sort of) and running around my parent's big backyard.

My friends Jill and Heather treated me to a fun and delicious dinner at Cork (they have the best veggie small plates!) on Saturday night. It was wonderful to see Heather, who I don't get to see very often, and Jill was just as entertaining as usual with her tales of life in Bristow.

Yesterday I met with two design clients -- the Riddys and Whitmans -- regarding their projects. Both meetings were productive and I finished up in time to still make it over to the pool where I was joined by Alison, Michelle, and Lucy.

So, that's about it. I can't eat or drink anything right now so I'm off to get a pedicure before I head back to FARfax to get my chest port inserted later today. And you thought your Monday sucked?!?

Suggestions, please!: Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but I'm DEFINITELY planning to head out of town to celebrate New Year's this year. I want to be somewhere wonderful with good friends to kiss 2009 goodbye and to usher in what will hopefully be a much better year. (Even years tend to be better for me than odd number years, so let's hope that holds true for 2010!)

I like getting away over New Year's as a general rule. Last year, I went out west to ski in Jackson Hole over the holiday and while the skiing was great and I made two new girlfriends during the trip, I'm seeking a warm, perhaps tropical destination this year (and so is my friend Jill who was with me in freezing Jackson Hole -- she broke down in tears as we rode up the gondola one afternoon and said, "I don't know where you're spending New Year's next year but I'll be on a beach somewhere.") However, as you know, I am mentalpausal and have chemo brain right now so I'm not the best travel brainstormer these days, which is why I'm enlisting your help!

When you have a chance, please comment or email me with your suggestions. I'm looking for both location and accomodation recommendations but if you just have a location idea, that's fine too. I am open to foreign or domestic locales. The only place I know I'm not interested in is Cancun or the Mayan Riviera as I've been to that part of Mexico two times already. Oh, and in terms of budget, Bora Bora is probably out of the question (definitely out, actually) but I'll deserve a little luxury by the end of the year, so $$$$ (not $$$$$) is okay.

Designing Woman: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Okay, enough of this cancer business. I want to take a small detour away from some of the doom and gloom that has dominated this blog for the past couple of weeks and share a little bit of my...uh...art (?!?) with you. Below is an example of a design project I worked on recently for my friends Claire & Mat (and little Leo, too!). I spotted an old club chair and ottoman during a recent trip to Charleston (it was being stored in my parent's house...uh, long story...) and thought it would make the perfect addition to Claire & Mat's transitional traditional bungalow living room re-do so I emailed this picture to Claire and she agreed. Check out how we transformed this outdated set!


And after...notice that we removed the skirt from the chair and ottoman to give the pair a more contemporary look. Oh, and soon the brick fireplace in the background will be painted white as well to give the room a little cleaner look. Right, Mat?!?

I'll post other examples of my design projects from time to time so you can see more of the things that I find very therapeutic to work on during all of this cancer craziness.

Final Analysis: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When I got to Dr. E's office yesterday, I found out that he was stuck in surgery and that I could be seen by Katy for my post-op visit if I wanted to. I think that actual steam might have been coming out of my ears at that point but I managed to retain my composure and took a seat in the waiting room. Shortly thereafter, I was called back to see Katy and she was her usual comforting self while she gently removed my staples and listened to me bitch about the fact that I had many questions for Dr. E that I'd wanted to ask during my appointment. Fortunately, shortly after Katy left the room she came back to let me know that Dr. E had just returned from surgery and would be able to chat with me for a little while if I was willing to wait. Well, since I had dragged my patient advocate (Melissa S.) out there with me, I figured I might as well. Fortunatley, we didn't have to wait too long to see him. So, here's the outcome of our visit:

  • When we walked into his office, Dr. E was grinning from ear to ear while he reviewed my pathology report. I don't know if it was the first time he'd seen the report or not but he acted as though it was. He was "shocked" to see that my right ovary had had no cancer in it when it was removed because of its physical appearence (remember the bloated dead mouse image?) but still pretty ecstatic about it nonetheless. Oh, and speaking of shocking news, I was shocked to learn that I only weigh 114.5 lbs these days. I haven't weighed that much since before the "freshman fifteen." Thing is, I really don't know how I'm going to put any weight back on since I think this is what I'm supposed to weigh when following an anti-cancer diet/lifestyle. Something else to ponder...to be extremely thin or not to be?
  • Next, we discussed what we thought my official diagnosis really is now that he/we had all of the pathology. After a little more debate, we agreed that I have really do have synchronous primaries: Stage IIC/IIIA ovarian cancer (there's a very thin imaginary line between my abdomen and pelvis separating the two diagnoses) and Stage I uterine. That's it. That's the final answer.
  • Then I brought up the favorable odds people with my diagnosis have versus those with singular ovarian cancer, which is also when I told him how he'd upset me by bringing up negative odds in the hospital. He agreed that I should have about an 80% chance of five-year survival. However, at the same time, he also cautioned that I have about a 50% chance (maybe a little higher actually) of a recurrance within five years. (If you don't understand the overlapping stats, here goes: I will probably still be alive in five years but could very well be alive fighting a recurrence of the cancer if we don't knock it out this time.)
  • Given those odds and my youth, we have decided that it makes the most sense for me to endure (yes, endure really is the right word for what about I'm to lay out) three rounds of IP/IV chemo.I will go into Fairfax Hospital next Monday, July 27 to have my chest port inserted and I will go back on Thursday, July 30 to have my abdominal port inserted. Both are outpatient procedures for which I will be sedated. On Wednesday, August 5 I will start my final three, 21-day cycles of chemo, which will be extremely intense and will not end until Wednesday, September 23. See below for my schedule:

Day 1 (August 5): 24-hour Taxol infusion via chest port; will be admitted and spend the night at INOVA Fairfax

Day 2: Several hour CisPlatin infusion via abdominal port; will be discharged after finishing the infusion

Day 3: Hydration therapy and shot of Neupogen to boost white count; both occur at INOVA Ffx

Day 4: Neupogen shot; hopefully, will be self-administered at home

Day 5: Neupogen shot

Day 6: No scheduled treatment - AMEN!

Day 7: CBC/BMP labs

Day 8: 8-hour Taxol infusion via abdominal port; will spend the day at INOVA Ffx

Day 9: Hydration therapy and Neupogen shot; again, at INOVA Ffx

Day 10: Neupogen shot

Day 11: Neupogen shot

Day 12: Neupogen shot

Day 13: Neupogen shot

Day 14: CBC labs

Day 15: No scheduled treatment

Day 16: No scheduled treatment

Day 17: No scheduled treatment

Day 18: All labs

Day 19: TBD

Day 20: TBD

Day 21: TBD


Day 4o-something: REPEAT ABOVE

Day 63: Thank God that it's all over!!!

Day 73: Serve as maid-of-honor in Ali's wedding in Quechee, Vermont!

Sounds like a good time, huh? No, I know it doesn't. And it won't be. But the ONLY thing worse than all of this would be getting cancer again because a recurrence would mean that I likely would never be "cured." That doesn't mean I might not live 5, 10, or 30 years but I'd be battling cancer on and off for the rest of my life and that really doesn't seem like a good time. So, yes, this is insurance chemo. It's the strongest, harshest regimen out there for this kind of cancer but I think I've got to try doing it. And if I can't take anymore after a cycle or two then I'll switch back to plain IV for the last cycle or two and that will be fine too.

So, that's the final analysis folks. Wish me luck with the next two months of my life. I think I'm gonna need it.

Cause Celeb: Monday, July 20, 2009

This morning I have my big appointment with Dr. E. You remember, it's the one during which I'm going to tell him he messed with my head in the hospital and that he is to never ever do that again? It's also the one that I'm going to try to nail him down on exactly what he thinks I have (my guess: synchronous primaries; stage II/III ovarian and stage I uterine), what my prognosis is given an official diagnosis (see, I think it's far more positive than he suggests given the rates of survival for synchronous primary cancers), and what my remaining course of treatment is. Wish me luck!

Before I head out, I want to share a wonderful surprise that arrived in the mail during my total meltdown at the end of last week. It seems that some of Hollywood is concerned about my welfare. See below for my get well messages from none other than Glenn Close and Tate Donovan, who are the stars of one of my favorite shows, Damages. Would the person behind this wonderful surprise please come forward and identify yourself? I love them, thank you!

In case you can't make the note out, the note says: Glenn Kessler (the director of Damages) told me that you might like this. Hope you feel better soon and thanks, Jennifer. All the best, Tate. And the headshot: To Jennifer. Thanks for watching. Tate Donovan.

That's right people: Tate Donovan wants me to live! Does anyone know if he's single? Ha!

Again, in case you can't read it: Dear Jennifer - I hear that you are ill and just wanted to send along my love and encouragement. It is obvious that there are many people who love you. Bask in their love. Courage! With my sincere best wishes, Glenn Close.

I HEART you, Glenn! If it was up to me, you'd win the Oscar every year! I mean, who can forget, "I'm not going to be ignored..." from Fatal Attraction? The chick is good!

Thanks to Melissa S. for scanning these documents so that people actually believe me when I tell them that I got a get well message from Glenn Close and Tate Donovan.

Away We Go: Sunday, July 19, 2009

I went to see "Away We Go" with Alison and Jill last night following a wonderfully relaxing afternoon at the pool, and really enjoyed it. Despite a bit of a slow start, it's a pretty funny, heartwarming flick. And in a sign of my improving mental health, I made it through the movie's storyline about all of the important decisions a couple faces regarding the impending birth of their child, as well as others' infertility and loss, without shedding one tear. Yay me! I'm fighting my way back to the land of normalcy.

Well, I'm off for a few morning errands with my mother, who has been on chauffeur/maid/nurse/shrink duty for over a week now, before spending the rest of the afternoon by the pool. Oh, and to those of you have been nice enough to call or text over the past 10 days and whose calls/texts I haven't returned (I think the list is up to about 15 or so right now, including my brother, several aunts, and some very good friends), please know that I appreciate you reaching out very much and will be in touch soon. As I'm sure you can tell from Thursday and Friday's blog posts, last week was a bit of shitshow for me (literally on Monday and then figuratively the rest of the week...) and I've just been focused on living in the present and trying to do what I need to do to put Humpty Dumpty (that would be me) back together again. So, please excuse me for not making my call list a top priority the past couple of weeks...or months.

TGIF?: Friday, July 17, 2009

Today has been a really bad day. In fact, it's probably the worst day I've had since all the way back to March 10 when I found out that I had cancer. However, I was way more in control of my emotions and in a much better state of mind on that awful day than today. Of course, I'm sure the fact that I still had estrogen in my body and a cute boyfriend who claimed to love me helped me get through that day. But now they're both gone. Long, long gone. Ahhh...the casualities of cancer, right?

I'm afraid that by removing all of the estrogen (read: ovaries) from my body last Thursday in order to save my life, my doctor's scalpel has caused me to slip into a deep, deep depression. My doctor also helped further that depression by being flip when reminding me of the bad odds I face in battling this disease following the surgery.

I think it's time to start taking the happy pills now. I took one awhile back and it made me sick to my stomach so I stopped but I think I've got to try it again. For my sanity and for others'. I really don't want to spend another day in tears (literally, almost all day), contimplating how I'd like to commit suicide (my current thought is to overdose on my beloved vicodin), throwing things around my condo while my poor mother ducks in the corner. Yes, all of that really happened today. And a few other upsetting things that I won't bother mentioning because they don't deserve it.

Hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend. As always, I'm sure tomorrow will be a better day. The sun always comes out tomorrow, right?

Hope Floats: Thursday, July 16, 2009

Well, it's been one week since the big H and I'm pleased to report that unlike my last surgery, there is no infection present and I'm feeling great despite a little tenderness and bruising around my surgical staples. In fact, I dragged mom out to do my 30-minute walk with me yesterday and since she's at an appointment this morning, I did it on my own today. So, I'm slowly but surely getting back in the swing of things.

Unfortunately, I've had a lot more negative thoughts about my long-term prognosis ever since Dr. E's visit to my hospital room last Friday evening, when he dropped the Stage III/IP chemo bomb on me and said something to the effect of, "Things look really good right now so I want you to do [IP chemo] because I want you to get married and adopt or make a bunch of kids and never have to think about cancer again and let's face it, we're not dealing with the best odds here..." His comments burst the hopeful bubble I'd been floating on and caused me to fall through the sky, crashing back down on planet Earth. We had never discussed my prognosis before and I didn't appreciate the negative reference to it at all.

Since then I've been struggling to get my hope and positive frame of mind back on track. To that end, I've been reading a wonderful book my grandmother sent me called, "The Anatomy of Hope" (it arrived just at the right time this past weekend!). In the book, the author teaches readers how to distinguish true hope from false hope, why some people feel they are undeserving of it, whether we should ever abandon our search, and what is an authentic biology of hope. Anyway, it's a wonderful read and particularly interesting for someone in the middle of cancer treatment (...and winning the battle, by the way) who is trying to keep her hope floating along.

Despite my best efforts to stay positive, I had a really morbid thought toward the end of my walk today as I struggled up the hill on Cameron Mills Road: I think I have about the same odds of getting married in the next five years as I do of having a recurrence of my cancer regardless whether it is Stage II or III, which led me to think, "I wonder if people will toast me at my wedding or eulogize me at my funeral before I'm 40?" I know. Sad, right? It gets sadder. Then I started to think, "Maybe the reason I haven't ever gotten married is because God doesn't want me to abandon a husband and children who love me and He knows I'm going to die." Really sad, right?

In case you're wondering, after a little more discussion about my exact diagnosis and prognosis during next Monday's appointment with Dr. E, I plan to tell him that he is to NEVER EVER make another reference to any negative odds again unless I ask for an honest opinion.

Now, off to the podiatrist to deal with the damn plantar's warts on the bottom of my heel...

MENTALpause and Chemo Brain: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Have you heard of these phenomena before? Well, if you haven't, I'm here to tell you that they really do exist. My usual steel-trap short-term memory is M.I.A. (Fortunately, the long-term memory is still in tact.) I already had a touch of A.D.D. before all of this cancer/chemo/menopause craziness but now it's so bad that I think I might need to be medicated. Also, my spelling and grammar skills have vanished before my very eyes. I can't remember how to spell simple words like "tiara," which I first spelled "tierra" on yesterday's blog post. Fortunately, shortly after I posted, Kristin's thank you note for LEW's birthday gift arrived, in which tiara was spelled correctly, so I quickly changed it.

While I don't know how long the MENTALpause will be around, I have read that the effects of chemo brain should lift within a year or so following my last treatment. Let's hope. Otherwise, I'll be dependent on Microsoft's spell check and thesaurus tool, as well as a whole (by the way, I've been incorrectly using "hole" and "whole" a bunch, too) host of other things for the rest of my life.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, no hot flashes yet but the night sweats have arrived and they are INTENSE!

Getting To Know You: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say (but maybe not what to show, as you'll see below...)


Well, I'm back, minus a few parts. I was planning to post yesterday but my intestines had other plans for me yesterday so I'm just now feeling up to it. I thought I'd give everyone a quick rundown on what's happened over the past several days:

First, one of my favorite little people, LEW, came over with her mommy and daddy to wish me well the night before my surgery, which happened to be on the eve of her second birthday. What does every two-year old girl need from Aunt Jennie for her second birthday? A ballerina outfit complete with a tiara, magic wand, and tutu, of course!

LEW with her pink birthday beads and magic wand. Is she contemplating whether to do good or evil with the wand, hmmm?

Here she is with her tiara, beads, and wand. We'll worry about the leotard and tutu later on!

Now for the hysterectomy...where to start? Well, let's start from the inside out, okay?

What is that, you ask? Well, folks, it's my upside down uterus and cervix. Doesn't look like the photos we all studied in 9th grade Family Life, does it? In case you're wondering, apparently, it's normal looking.

And all of this? The two fatty blobs in the cups in the first
row on the left are my omentum and the rest are perfectly normal looking lymph nodes (all of my nodes looked normal so my doctors only removed about a half dozen from right pelvis).

Okay, now for the show stopper: See that thing that kind of looks like a bloated dead mouse in the cup on the left in the second row? That would be my right ovary and fallopian tube. Pretty funky looking, huh? Now you know why more than one health care provider described my ovaries as "scary" looking over the past several months. As for the rest of it, just more omentum and lymph nodes.

Okay, enough of that. Just thought you all might want to try to get to know the diseased parts that have been troubling me for the past several months (years?) a bit better. As you can see, I did.

Here I am posing for my dad just a couple hours out of surgery. I didn't know it at the time but my thumbs up was appropriate, as you'll read in a minute.

Beautiful flowers from Christina & Andy, my mom, and Ali & Pete. Thank you!

This fortune ("Good health will be yours for a long time.") was in the second fortune cookie that came with the great noodle soup Krista brought me. Let's hope it's true!

Okay, one last rough shot for you: Here's my stomach four days post-hysterectomy. Looks like a line of railroad track, right? In case you're wondering, Dr. E is known for how cleanly he's able to remove tumors growing on the inside NOT for the straightness of his incisions. Time to line up the plastic surgeon for the tummy tuck!

So, here's where we're at right now: On Saturday morning, the Fellow with Dr. E's practice delivered some great news to me. Except for the small polyp tumor in my uterus, all of what was removed during my surgery was cancer-free, including that funky-looking ovary. The cancerous polyp in my uterus had been there from the start and we knew it probably would still be there since the chemo is not particularly great at penetrating the walls of the uterus. However, the good news is that the polyp was definitely confined to the endometrium lining and had not penetrated the myometrium (middle layer of the uterus). The other great news is that all of my lymph nodes were clear so the cancer had not spread to the lymphatic system.

I have my follow-up visit with Dr. E next Monday, July 20 and there is much business to discuss. You see, Dr. E dropped a little bomb on me in the hospital late on Friday evening: He told me that since it looks as though I might possibly have a stage 3 ovarian cancer (because it seems that the cancer had metastisized from my ovaries - definitely not my uterus - to the upper part of my colon - lower colon it would be stage 2 but upper colon is 3 - and my bladder), he wants to talk to me about doing my final "three-ish" (okay, is it three or not?) rounds of chemo via intraperitoneal chemotherapy instead of intravenous chemotherapy, which I had been having and which I knew I could handle three more rounds of. I freaked out on him when he suggested this in the hospital (during the same conversation he also said, "Let's face it we're not dealing with great odds here...) but since I've been reading National Cancer Institute clinical announcements and various studies since our conversation (thank you Kristin for bringing them to me in the hospital!), it probably makes since to try it -- even if I can only handle it for a round or two. As you might imagine, there are more complications when you insert a catheter into someone's body cavity and push poisonous drugs directly into their pelvis so some people can't tolerate the treatment.

So, that sums it up for you. If you have questions about all of this ask Kristin W. or Melissa S. because I'm tired of explaining and am just trying to get back on my feet right now.

We Interrupt This Blog...: Wednesday, July 8, 2009


So, I'm 10 hours and 22 minutes away from going under Dr. E's knife again. Thankfully, I'm (finally) feeling peaceful and prepared for what lies ahead tomorrow and hopefully, the days to come. And my colon is, too. I've accomplished everything on my to-do list except for the relaxing deep tissue massage and the much less relaxing time entry for work but you know what...I'll get to it another day, right?

Since many of you have asked about how you're going to find out that I made it through surgery in one piece (but minus a few parts), here's the deal: I think I'm going to use Twitter to give you all my status updates, which you will find on the right navigation of my blog if you don't already follow my Tweets (shame on you if you don't!). You might question the use of this new social networking technology to communicate something as important as my health status but lest you forget, I am a marketer afterall and being such, it's all about driving traffic back to the Web site (or blog or Twitter, in this case)!

So, this will be the last post for a few days. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday, July 13. Have a good rest of the week and a great weekend everyone. Goodnight!

A Conversation with Karen: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Well, today had its bad moments for sure (I've been a little weepy at various points over nothing particularly important) but it is finishing up on a high note. I'm feeling like my old, glass-half-full self -- even if a few sips of that glass still occassionally go down the wrong pipe. Here's the rundown from today:
  • Had accupuncture this morning, which always makes me feel better.
  • Managed to get my drycleaner to maneuver the belt on my khaki dress back into the slit. Yay!
  • Worked with Kristin to ensure I will receive a new Netflix shipment within a few days. More Big Love and Damages almost make the next incision worthwhile...
  • Called UnitedHealthcare to follow-up on my wig claim and found out that it had been denied (what did I tell you?!?) but in the same breath the operator said, "I don't why it would have been since it's clearly part of your benefit package." I had to be transferred to a dispute analyst who put me on hold for about 10 minutes. When he returned, he sounded chipper and said that it had been resolved and a summary of my benefits would arrive in the mail within the next 10 days. At which point I said, "Great but exactly what are the benefits? How much am I getting back?" And he said, "Oh. Let me look. Hold on for a second." Huh? Didn't you just resolve this dispute, buddy? Anyway, when he came back he told me (with a sound of pride in his voice) that I'd get a check for $910 within the month. Amen! You can run, UnitedHealthcare...but you CANNOT hide. What do you think would have happened if I hadn't called to follow-up? NOTHING. NO CHECK. Thank God for that tenacity I inherited, otherwise I'd be $910 poorer.
  • I decided to see if CVS had both the Miralax and Gatorade necessary for tomorrow's bowel prep since I already had to pick up some prescriptions there (...and since I try to avoid Alexandria's own un-Safeway like the plague) and sure enough, it did. Fortunately, I was finally able to put all of my Extra Bucks to good use and only had to pay about $3 for my bowel prep ingredients. I love it when things work out like that!
  • In addition to checking off many items on the to-do list, there was another thing I finally did, which made me feel much less anxious about life after the big H: While enjoying another beautiful afternoon at my parent's pool (but still totally depressed and angry about my looming hysterectomy), I finally called Karen, a friend and colleague of my good friend Kindra's in Richmond, to discuss her total hysterectomy. Karen is in early fifties and was diagnosed and treated for ovarian and uterine cancer (probably the rare synchronous primaries kind that I might have) about two and a half years ago. Like me, she had a total hysterectomy and six rounds of chemo to become cancer-free. Karen and I discussed a wide range of topics ranging from chemo side effects to the side effects of surgical menopause caused by a TOTAL hysterectomy (you see, a total hysterectomy is very different than your garden variety hysterectomy that non-cancer patients have) to the various ways in which I can eventually become a mom. While she admitted a couple of minor changes, our conversation did more to put to put me at ease about my future, uh, romantic life post-H than any other I've had to date. So, thank you Karen, you were so nice to give up part of your afternoon for me and your generosity will help this 32-year old sleep much sounder tonight. I guess all Karens are sweethearts, huh?
  • I had a lovely alfresco "last supper" with Alison at Tallula, which was delicious. I started with soft shell crab tempura followed by red snapper...followed by a decadent chocolate toffee cake with pistachio ice cream (I did split that with Alison...although I ate some of her half, too.)

So, that's it. I'll start the day tomorrow with a walk and full breakfast (my final meal for the next 36 hours) with my most faithful supporter, my mom, and then it's car inspection and house cleaning before I start...you guessed it...bowel prep around 3 p.m. This bowel prep will hopefully be my last for a long, long time (like, we're talking years!).

Pre-Hysterectomy To-Do List: Monday, July 6, 2009

Good morning! I hope everyone had as nice of a long holiday weekend as I did. Before I share the enormous to-do list I have to get done before going under the knife again, I thought I'd share a few of the photo highlights of my very fun Independence Day celebration, which was spent with my cousin Heather, her boyfriend, Josh, two of her children, Madison and Reagan, and my good friends Michelle, Jim, and Alison:

Can you guess which one is the mother and which one is the daughter? Madison and her mom, Heather.
My faithful pool companion, Alison.

Two J's: Jim and Josh discussing the current state of the residential construction industry.

Michelle looking sporty.

Kissing Cousins: Me and Heather

Croquet anyone?

I promise to learn how to download video to post an awesome piece of footage highlighting Regan's athletic ability.


Okay, now for the to-do list. There's an expression, which I'm forgetting right now, about how some people live by their lists and others make them only to lose them right away. Guess which type of person I am? Right. Here's a glimpse at what's on my agenda for the next couple of days as I prepare to go under Dr. E's knife yet again. These are in no particular order:

1. CVS: Pick up BELOVED pain meds in advance of post-surgical pain, as well as a refill of chemo steroids for last three rounds of chemo. Kill two birds with one stone, right?

2. Safeway: Purchase one container of Miralax and 64 ounces of Gatorade for bowel prep on Wednesday afternoon. Check cupboards and fridge to make sure that I have enough JELL-O and chicken broth to accompany Miralax and Gatorade combo. Yum!

3. King Cleaners: Pick up pink blouse that got stained with black bean dip during Christy's sprinkle. Enlist their help in getting belt back in my new khaki dress that they removed for last cleaning and which I cannot figure out how to weave back through the slit!

4. Call United Healthcare to check on status of $1,500.00 wig claim. I'm onto their strategy: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Deny. Deny. Deny. Give in.

5. Call colorectal surgeon to request they fill out a Short-Term Disability Claim for my 6/17 colonoscopy so that I'm within the 30 day window at the start of my next leave (today) so that I don't have a week waiting period for my STD leave claim to kick in. That way, I don't have to use another week of vacation time for the start of this leave.

6. Make sign for hosptial room door to inform resident doctors that they are not to enter my room before 7 a.m. to ask me a bunch of dumb questions in order to brief my doctor around 8 or 9 a.m. IT IS BAD PATIENT CARE TO WAKE UP A SLEEPING PATIENT AT 5:30 a.m. TO GET YOUR STUPID WORK DONE. GO BOTHER SOMEONE ELSE! I think that's what the sign will say...

7. Call Deloitte LEAVES team to let them know that they should receive my 6/17 STD claim shortly.

8. Enter my time codes for the past month of work in the Deloitte time entry system so I don't receive numerous messages from my colleagues in India (a.k.a R10) informing me that I'm deliquent in my time entry.

9. Do final check-in with all design clients (a.k.a friends) to make sure all of their pending projects are at a good place so that no one has a breakdown over a custom pillow while I'm laid up.

10. Clean house. I started this yesterday afternoon but have a lot more to do. My second bedroom is filled with many gifts, gift bags, fabric samples, etc. from the past several months. I need to be able to see the floor again in order to make room for the Aerobed my mom will sleep on when I first come home from the hospital.

11. Call condo association office to ask them to spray for roaches, spiders, and crickets on Tuesday. I've seen all of these critters in here lately and since I won't be able to move very fast over the next several weeks, I want to make sure they won't be making an appearance.

12. Call Sugar House to see if I can get in for a Brazilian wax in order to remove the remaining dozen or so hairs "down there" so that I don't have to get shaved for the bottom inch of my incision. The only thing worse than a fresh incision? A fresh incision with an ingrown hair in it. I mean, this is a "tell all" account afterall, right?

13. Try to get a deep tissue massage from someone good somewhere. I developed a lot of little lumps in my back in the last week or so as I worked to tie up loose ends at work. A laptop is not very shoulder and back friendly.

14. See accupuncturist on Tuesday morning in an attempt to improve liver function and general well-being before the BIG H.

15. Get car inspected (it expires at the end of the month) so that I don't end up getting yet ANOTHER lecture from my father about proper car maintenance at the end of the month.

16. Swing by post office to mail the last batch of Ali's shower and bachelorette invitations.

17. Make bank deposit. MIRACLES DO EXIST! I actually got a freakin' $20 refund check from my former OB/GYN, Dr. G. I consider it restitution for him telling me I have/had flippin' cancer.

18. Pack for the hospital: Laptop, videos (hurry up Netflix and send me some more BIG LOVE!!), iPODs, nightgowns, plush socks, wig, bandanas, toothbrush and paste, make-up, a book or two, and trashy mags (need to buy some!). I think that will just about do it.

19. Determine how I'm going to let everyone know I survived (well, at least physically anyway...) the hysterectomy. No idea yet.

20. Pray hard that I'm not weepy and that I don't hate the whole world when I wake up on Thursday afternoon.

Welcome to the World, Harper Sabine Przystawik!: Sunday, July 5, 2009

Late this afternoon my friends Christy and Tom welcomed their second child, Harper Sabine, to the world. It's rather ironic to me that today my friend since the fourth grade is holding her second baby in her arms and that later this week an INOVA Fairfax pathologist will hold my uterus in some sort of medical canister to try to determine what went wrong and just how wrong it all went. And while I keep telling myself that this is far from the final chapter, it's weird to see how things are working out for all of us, isn't it?

A little over a week ago I hosted a "sprinkle" (What's a sprinkle, you ask? I know, it's a new term for a lot of people. It's the small shower you get after your first baby...) for Christy. It was a fun gathering filled with many of our friends from junior high and high school, as well as Christy's first baby, Amelie. Here are some of the hightlights:

The guests of honor: Christy and daughter, Amelie.

Our friend Kate and Christy's step-sister, Greta, who is expecting her first baby in August.

Me and Alison, who has gotten to know Christy well as a frequent Food Matters wine tasting attendee.

Melissa R. sporting my substitute wig, "Sally." She looks good as a blonde, doesn't she?

The whole gang: Amelie, Christy, Greta, me, and Kristin. Back row: Kelley, Christina, Melissa S. Melissa R., Claire, and a SPECIAL TREAT, Melissa M., who is back home following her last deployment.

One of my best friends since junior high, Christina, who happened to be able to join us at the sprinkle because she was in town attending a work conference.

Happy Independence Day!: Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wow. I had a really interesting Independence Day Eve last night. The nice weather we were supposed to have yesterday did not materialize until about 5 p.m. so my day at my parent's pool was cut very short. Instead, I went to see, "Public Enemies" at Potomac Yards with my good friends Michelle and Jim. Well, unfortunately, it turned into a gangster movie in more ways than one.

The previews had just started when three youth, all of whom had their jeans hanging from their mid-thigh and smelled of alcohol, sat down in front of us. Shortly thereafter, I noticed that the one in the middle was complaining about Michelle's and my laughter at this hilarious trailer for a new Vince Vaughn movie. He also complained under his breath to his friends at one point about Michelle's foot rubbing against the back of his chair. She's about 5'2" I think -- it was barely touching. Anyway, it wasn't long before they were laughing and talking during a particularly tense moment in the movie, which wasn't funny at all. So, another gentleman in their row leaned over and asked them to keep it down. Uh oh. Big mistake, pal. That's when the kid in the middle (he was definitely the leader of this pack) told the nice man that he should, "Shut the f*** up." Hearing that, the older man started to get up and the middle kid said, "Why don't you come over here and try to make me shut up." Great. So, as if I needed more stress in my life, I'm sitting there thinking that I'm going to have to see these kids beat up this poor man and probably his wife, too. I also started looking for a good hiding place for myself so that I didn't get caught in the crossfire. I can fight cancer just fine but I knew my ass was toast if I tried to defend myself against these three. Apparently, Michelle and Jim were thinking the same thing too.

Anyway, the man temporarily diffused the situation by saying, "No, I'm just going to go get the manager." But before he could do that, he had to walk over the legs of those kids so I still thought there would be violence of some sort. Fortunately, they let him pass without any. Shortly, the man returned and again, had to cross over the kids to get back to his seat. Great. Here we go again. I just knew they were going to trip him or something but mercifully, they didn't. Finally, the manager appeared with his flashlight at their row and told them to come with him. They resisted. So, the manager said, "If you don't come with me now, you'll be kicked out." Well, I guess he said it with just enough force that the kids knew he meant business. They followed him out and we never saw them again. Amen. And amen for a manager with balls. I guess it helps to have balls when you know Alexandria's Finest are around the corner at the front of the theater.

Despite the fact that we never saw those kids again, after watching two hours of a gangster movie where most people get mowed down outside of a store or theater, actually, the three of us still worried that they'd come back and be waiting outside the theater for that man. They weren't, so we moved on and made plans to meet up with Alison at Hank's Oyster Bar in Old Town, which is where mini-drama #2 occurred.

We thought our luck had changed for the evening when we scored the only outside table at Hank's. So, the four of us were sitting there enjoying our wine and a gorgeous evening when first, someone decided to put their full body weight into blowing their horn for no apparent reason at another car turning onto King Street by the restaurant. Rude. After that rather upsetting 30-second noise pollution interruption, we all resumed our conversation. Well, no sooner did our hearts start beating at a normal rhythm again then we looked up to see an older man being carried out of the restaurant by four people. At which point, I thought, this can't be good. They got him out of the restaurant quickly and laid him on the brick sidewalk almost right in front of us. It seems that the older man had passed out in the restaurant. Seeing as how I've passed out or nearly passed several times lately, I was probably the least affected by this scene. I simply asked if anyone had called 911 yet and when they said yes and I saw that a restaurant employee was talking from a landline (so I knew she was actually going to get an operator in Alexandria), I went back to sipping my wine. I think the rest of my party was a little more disturbed, particularly Alison, who went into full event mode (she's a corporate event planner) and got up to start looking for a doctor at nearby restaurants and businesses.

Fortunately, the Alexandria paramedics and fire and rescue (yes, not one but TWO very loud vehicles) showed up within about two mintues, I'd say. They surveyed the scene, talked to the man's cute wife, and had him loaded up before my delicious oysters arrived. Ahhh. Mini-drama #2 over.

The rest of the meal went on without incident and a good time was had by all. Oh, and an even nicer treat is that Michelle gave me a very generous early "33 and Cancer-Free" birthday gift. It seems that the other night when I attended her jeans party at The Denim Bar and decided that I could only afford to buy either the fun purple linen dress OR a new pair of dark jeans and ended up deciding to purchase the dress, Michelle took it upon herself to put the jeans aside for me and bought them as an early birthday gift. Wow. I was shocked when I opened them last night and was so touched by her over-the-top generosity. Unfortunately, Michelle has a lot of experience as a wellness cheerleader, as she has had many friends both succumb to and beat cancer, but I will say that she has learned from their experiences and has been so helpful to me throughout my campaign. Upon opening the jeans, I shared with my dinner companions that recently, on a particularly bad day, Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life Again" came on the radio and I started balling immediately. Sometimes it takes very little, folks. Anyway, I declared that my new hot jeans would be a big help in recapturing my high life again. THANK YOU, MICHELLE!

Well, I'm off for a walk (I did the 45-minute version yesterday for the first time in over a week and think I'll try it again today) and then it's off to my parent's pool for what will hopefully be a beautiful Fourth of July with some family and friends. I hope that everyone has a wonderful day!

Ahhh...: Friday, July 3, 2009

Well, it's almost noon and after finsihing some morning errands for my fledging interior design business (more on that later...), I'm about to head over to...you guessed it...my parent's pool to kick off the holiday weekend. Yesterday was my last day of work for a long, long time. It feels good to be off again and able to focus entirely on my wellness campaign. I hope that all of you regular readers are enjoying a great start to the holiday weekend as well!

Two Letters: Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I made a big mistake yesterday and I paid for it dearly. And I mean dearly. It's probably the reason why I didn't post yesterday. So, because I yawned about 50x on a 2 p.m. conference call with a few colleagues, I decided I best break my no caffeine/no coffee rule and have a bit so that I didn't have a repeat performance on a 3 p.m. conference call with one of my internal clients. I drank up (for the first time in about four months, I think) and it did the trick: No yawns on my 3 p.m. call. However, shortly after my call concluded I started having what can best be described as upper stomach contractions every 10 seconds or so. It was as if someone was wringing out the top of my stomach. Unfortunately, the problem persisted for several hours, including through the start of a delicious dinner at Kinkead's with an old friend and mentor. The pain was so bad that I ended up packing up most of my meal in a doggy bag and left dinner early. Fortunately, once my coffee-soaked stomach knew it had ruined my catching up with an old friend, the pain subsided and by the time I got home (in the pouring rain), I was finally able to enjoy the meal. I guess the acid was too much? Lesson learned. No more coffee. EVER! The pain left me exhausted and so I crashed as soon as I finished my delicious cod with lump crab imperial on top.

Anyway, enough about that. I was greeted with not one, but two heartwarming messages when I woke up this morning that I'd like to share with all of you. The first is from my brother, who just started graduate school at the University of Florida and whom I don't hear from too often so it was an extra special treat! It also was a good reminder of who I want to be throughout this short-lived ordeal and I guess what people have come to expect me to be.

From Bobby...

Subject: Good Morning

Hey! Hope you're doing well and feeling ok.

I am rereading 7 Habits of Highly Effective people for school and came across a passage that made me think of you...just wanted to share with you...

"It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts. Of course, things can hurt us physically or economically and can cause sorrow. But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all. In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well."

and a little further down the page...

"We have all known individuals in very difficult circumstances, perhaps with a terminal illness or a severe physical handicap, who maintain magnificent emotional strength. How inspired we are by their integrity! Nothing has a greater, longer lasting impression upon another person than the awareness that someone has transcended suffering, has transcended circumstance, and is embodying and expressing a value that inspires and ennobles and lifts life."

just want you to know i'm thinking of you on a daily basis and i know you hear it from many, but you truly do inspire me and these words express it far better than i ever could...thanks for being a great sister



The next note was a welcome surpise in my Facebook inbox. It is from a guy with whom I grew up. We played the "Lifesaver swap game" together at Megan Grindstaff's Valentine's Day party in the fourth grade back when I was Jenny, not Jennie. (Yes, all of that stuff started early with our group!) He lost his mother to cancer in the fourth or fifth grade, I believe. I remember being so sad for him when she died but also feeling so lucky that cancer didn't take away my own mommy when she had it a few years earlier. Anyway, I haven't seen or talked with Andy in years. I'm sure I have since college but honestly, I can't remember when. So, his note was a nice surpise and I, too, hope we see each other again soon.

From Andy...

Subject: Hi


I was very moved by your black and white photographs. It's funny how you can not see someone for a while, see a picture and then Really remember them as if nothing has changed..and feel an overwhelming connection.. ah..the power of the rarely seen "powerful" photo on facebook. Thank you so much for putting those up, they really grabbed me by the collar, not that I wasn't interested in seeing someone's 4thousanth picture of their baby in a different state of eating, :-) .....but to be honest I'd rather see an old friend, armor shining, standing up to throttle cancer anyday... they are an exquisitely courageous form of self expression and i sincerely thank you for sharing their beauty. I know I haven't seen you for a long time but I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you. If there is a "Team Jenny" i'd very much like a pom pom. and if I'm guilty of going off the deep end with my message... then all i have to say is, I hope you're having a great day and I hope I see you soon!