Dear Cancer: Saturday, October 23, 2010

Victory! Take that, stupid Cancer! This photo was taken after all members of Team TRIumph crossed the finish line out in San Diego last weekend. After a year filled with one six-month cancer treatment, the birth of three babies, and one divorce, we all crossed the finish line in less than two hours (our goal) and managed to raise nearly $15,000 for the fight against ovarian cancer. From left to right: Melissa Sigler, Jori Tulkki, me, Jill Rowlison, Krista Drescher, and Kristin Whitman. Thanks so much, ladies!

Dear Cancer,

Well, we've come to the end of the road. I'm writing this final post from my beloved South Carolina Low Country, which was where I came so often during treatment to escape the craziness you caused. It's been a gorgeous weekend down here - one that has been filled with much laughter (my mom, Aunt Kathy (remember her? Kathie Lee meets Sex in the City's Samantha?), and my dear friend, Alison, are all down here), exercise (love my bridge walk!), good food (ate at my favorite F.I.G. last night), shopping (I have the best design karma down here and find the best things!) and reflection on the beautiful beaches of Sullivan's Island.

Thirteen months ago today, I finished my treatment to get rid of you for good. In between that day and today, I have experienced some amazing highs and some scary lows. While doctors know very well how to try and get rid of you, they aren't quite as knowledgeable as to how to deal with the aftermath of you. Particularly you, my Stage IIIa ovarian and Stage I uterine Cancers (otherwise known as synchronous primaries), because in order to get rid of you, I had to bid farewell to so many important things that most 32-year old women are lucky enough to take for granted. Things like my fertility, my mental health (for two brief periods during and post-treatment), and many other more minor things.

However, what I do know for sure today, Cancer, is that like most others thing in life, if you don't kill someone, you make them stronger...and smarter...and braver...and perhaps, a tad more creative? And you do this for cancer caregivers too. It's funny but while I'm now minus a uterus, cervix, ovaries, omentum, appendix, and a tiny bit of colon, I've emerged from my battle with you a more hole person. So, you might wonder, Cancer, what is my overwhelming emotion towards you on this day? The truth is, while I resented the heck out of you in the beginning, today I'm grateful beyond words to you for some many really wonderful reasons:

Thank you, Cancer, for helping me know more than I ever would have otherwise just how much I'm loved by my family and friends, who are all truly the family I chose so well for myself.

Thank you for making me learn about the benefits of the anti-cancer lifestyle (even if I don't observe all of them on a daily basis anymore...), including eating more locally grown, (mostly) organic fruits and vegetables, less meat/dairy/alcohol/refined carbohydrates, continuing my daily exercise, and eliminating harsh chemicals (bye, bye bleach...I'll miss you!).

At 10 + years into my health care communications and marketing career, thank you (and Deloitte) for giving me the opportunity to take a much needed six-month sabbatical, which not only allowed me to fight you with all of my physical and emotional energy but also nurtured my creativity. Writing this blog was so therapeutic during treatment and the time off allowed me to also enhance my interior and event design skills (when I was feeling up to it). As a result of the events of the past 18 months, I'm finally ready to launch my side design business, HOME COMING (check back for hyperlink later), and I couldn't be happier about that.

Thank you for helping me realize that my legacy was not meant to be the lives I would create (although, I still very much want to meet my half-orange and raise a couple of great kids -- whether they be step-children, adopted children, or reproductively engineered children) but rather, the women's lives I will help save. It is true that I finally found my purpose and passion as a result of you, Cancer, and I'm so grateful for that as well. To date, I've raised nearly $20,000 toward the fight against gynecological cancers and have told my story in a variety of ways -- whether on this blog, through the CDC's Inside Knowledge PSA campaign I'm "starring" in, the congressional briefing I participated in, or in "Dancing with N.E.D," which I hope to help produce and launch within the next eighteen months. You picked the wrong gal to mess with, Cancer, because I'm considered the Mouth-of-the-South by some, and my new mission in life is to tell every woman who will listen about the symptoms of your invasion. If I can help save one woman's life or fertility, for that matter, I will have fulfilled my purpose in life. And I think I'm well on my way to doing that.

Speaking of half-oranges, thank you also for making me slow down for a bit, Cancer, and giving me the time to really start to think about what I want and deserve in a romantic relationship. As a result of you, I have a much clearer picture today of the kind of relationship I want to have - not the man who might look good on paper - but rather the feeling I want to have when I'm in a loving relationship. Today, I'm as optimistic as ever that I will find someone who wants to build the same kind of life with me as I do with him. It's a life filled with good friends, wonderful travel adventures, great food, working out together, a couple (just two!) beautiful kids who we raise to be thoughtful and caring people (not little brats...), DANCING (my friends and I have decided that, as ridiculous as it may seem, not dancing is a deal-breaker for me), and a whole host of other wonderful things.

And thank you so much for the AMAZING people you helped introduce me to, including in no particular order: Dr. John C. Elkas and his staff of the most amazing chemo nurses in the world (Darlene, Marianne, Rosemary, Thuy, and the list goes on...); Dr. Alkhas, who was the cute Fellow who I crushed on during treatment; my genetic counselor, Grace, at INOVA Fairfax, who helped me figure out why the heck you invaded me; Sage Bolte with Life with Cancer, who is a rock star of an oncology counselor; all of the "ists" in my life, including great massage therapists, my acupuncturist, and Richard; and finally, and most importantly, to all of the amazing cancer survivors along my journey - from Kris Carr to Johnny Imerman to all the ladies in the chemo room at Mid-Atlantic Pelvic Surgery Associates, who are all so wonderful to be around during treatment.

But most of all, Cancer, thank you for retreating quickly in battle. From the blood results from my first chemo treatment when my CA 125 went from 88 to 26 to the fact that by the time right ovary was removed during my total hysterectomy and was found to be cancer-free at that time, you didn't have much fight in you and I'm so thankful to you for that. I am well aware of the fact that this could have all ended much differently and am more thankful than anyone knows (well, at least anyone who hasn't battled cancer) that you've allowed me to live.

So, that's it. That's how I feel about you 13 months out of treatment. In case you're wondering, I'm going to see Dr. E every three months for another year to make sure you haven't returned and then after that, we'll catch up every six months until I reach my five-year CURE on September 23, 2014. Hopefully, by then I will have improved my sprint triathlon time significantly from the 1:42 minutes it took me to do the race in San Diego last weekend. And hopefully, I will have also found my half-orange and be well on my way to becoming a mother. Oh, and maybe by then I will have published my funny yet poignant cancer memoir, tentatively entitled, "The Change."

I've got big hopes for my future, Cancer, and my only ask of you today is that you allow me to realize them.


Hitting My Stride: Friday, October 15, 2010

Well, we've almost reached the end of this road. I'm not even going to bother apologizing for the lack of posts over the past several weeks because those of you regular (or, formerly regular) readers are probably tired of hearing them by now.

So, here I am in San Diego. I'm writing in my hotel room and one of best friends, Jori, is relaxing in the room with me. My parents are here in their room as well. The rest of the triathlon crew are in town and headed to the hotel. We're all going to have dinner at Nobu (yum!) in an hour or so.

I feel as though I've finally hit my stride in many ways over the past several weeks: First and foremost, I had a FANTASTIC one-year check-up with Dr. E two weeks ago. My CA 125 had actually dropped three points to 11.5 and Dr. E found nothing suspicious during the physical exam so it was a great appointment. I've got one year of cancer-free under my belt now and four more to go to get the cure I'm striving for!

Next, I am finally ready to compete in this triathlon. I did a practice sprint triathlon with some of my teammates last weekend and survived it. Granted, it wasn't quite as intense as the real thing because there was a fairly long break between the swim and bike portion but regardless, I did fine and it felt good. Also, earlier this week I did a final swim with my unofficial training coach, Al, who grew up a competitive swimmer, and he proclaimed me ready for the race after our swim. In fact, he later admitted that he had tried to engage me in coversation between some of our laps because he needed to catch his breath in order to keep up with me. Woohoo!

Finally, I recently got a promotion and raise at work when I started a new position in mid-September. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying my new role. It's like I've been asleep professionally for several years and suddenly I'm awake. The position is right up my alley as it involves external stakeholder relationship management, event planning, business development for smaller accounts, and some media and community relations. It's fantastic and I'm just so excited to enjoy my work once again.

There are other things, too. But for now, all you need to know is that just over one year following treatment, and after a pretty rough patch this past winter, things are looking up for J-Woww. And I couldn't be more grateful for all of it.

So, that's the update at T-minus 36 hours before my first sprint triathlon. More soon. For real.

Dancing with N.E.D: Friday, September 17, 2010

Dancing with N.E.D. is what every cancer patient dreams of. Please check out this documentary trailer about the rock band, N.E.D., which stands for No Evidence of Disease, and please donate to the project if you're so inclined. Oh, and let me know if you catch my brief cameo! Thank you.

Cover Girl: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Well, folks, here it is. Check out the CDC's "Inside Knowledge" PSA ad campaign that I'm "starring" in. Thanks to cancer, I got my BIG modeling break. Ha! If only that were really true.
Seriously, though, playing a small part in the rollout of this important campaign has been a hugely rewarding experience...and is another item to add to the ever-growing list of "why having ovarian cancer isn't the worst thing that ever happened to me." Please check out the campaign site and READ the symptoms of various kinds of gynecologic cancer. You owe it to yourself and the women you love.
Oh, and speaking of women we love, I'd like to give a special shout out to yet another fabulous woman afflicted with this insidious disease: Hang in there and stay strong, Mimi Cheney! (a.k.a my dear friend Ali's 91-year old grandmother who has just started chemo for stage IV ovarian cancer)

Broken Promises: Monday, September 13, 2010

So, once again, I lied. Not too long ago I promised that I would post more regularly leading up to my celebratory triathlon in October and guess what, I haven't. As many of you regular visitors know by now, September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. And so for this recent survivor-turned-activist/fundraiser/budding triathlete, life is in HIGH gear in more ways than one. I'm up to my eyeballs right now with event planning (search Rock, Paper, Coctails! on Facebook and you'll see what I'm working on), fundraising, media outreach and interviews related to my fundraiser and triathlon, and, of course, triathlon training. But, fortunately, life's not totally all ovarian cancer all of the time. Thank God!

I PROMISE to be back soon with the photo highlights (just for you MPR!) of the past several weeks of birthday celebrations, which seemed as though they would never end, Labor Day festivites, events (including Circque du Soleil's OVO and the men's semi finals at the US Open), and much more! Oh, and be sure to check back tomorrow to see how cancer has helped launch my modeling career...

Two Birthday Wishes: Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I am 34-years old today. Wow?!? I suppose being another year older beats the alternative, right? I’m celebrating my birthday in a much more low-key fashion than I did last year: I’m out in Denver right now visiting my paternal grandparents. Last year’s craziness precluded me from making a visit so it’s good to be back out west spending good quality time with grandparents who have provided me with so many fond childhood memories (...and who introduced me to New York City and Big Sky, Montana!) We just finished a big breakfast at Lucille's Creole Kitchen and tonight we're doing a wine tasting and having dinner with a couple good family friends at my favorite French restaurant in Denver, Le Central. Last year when I blew out the candles at my “33 and Cancer-Free” birthday bash, I had two wishes for my next birthday: 1. That I would be healthy and 2. That I would be in love, preferably with someone who was in love with me as well. (Over the years, I have found that it generally feels better that way.) Hmmm…what’s that old saying – one out of two ain’t bad?

The good news is that I am, as far as anyone knows, a healthy 34-year old today. My mind, body, and soul have rebounded well from last year’s warfare and I’m proud to report that I’m probably in as good of shape as I’ve ever been in. My (sprint) triathlon training is going well (and so is my fundraising as I've already reached 50% of my goal) and I’m looking forward to being out in San Diego in seven short weeks with some of my best friends, who have all done so much for me over the past year and a half, to finish the race and declare victory over stupid cancer.

The less than great news is that I’m not in love…yet! And so the search for true, lasting love continues. But that’s okay. At press time, there a couple of interesting prospects and so I remain optimistic that sooner or later I will meet my “media naranjo,” which, loosely translated, means my perfect other half. That is, if I haven’t already yet! The truth is that I’ve had more romantic interests -- and even fleeting love -- during my diagnosis, treatment, and first year post-treatment than many gals in my position could hope for. And, if nothing else, it sure has made life interesting. So, I’d like to take a moment to thank the men that have been in and out of my life over the past year and a half and whom, up to this point, I’ve only made casual reference to on this blog. So, here goes: I’d like to thank Mike (last seen in "Wine & Cheese") for making me laugh (so much!) and letting me freak out (a few times…) during the very dark, scary early days of my diagnosis and treatment. And, frankly, for getting out of the way once he realized the situation I faced was way above his pay grade, so to speak. I’d like to thank James for asking me out on a date while I had a wig on my head (that green Ella Ross shirt of mine strikes again!). I never anticipated being asked out during treatment and our brunch date was very fun (and yummy!). James called about two weeks after our first date to check in and I received his voicemail while laying in the hospital bed recuperating from my hysterectomy. I never returned his call because 1. he waited two weeks to call, which I took as a sign that he just wasn’t that into me, and 2. because, how would I answer the question, “So, what have you been up to?” Hmmm. ”Ummm…well…actually, James, I’m recovering from my total hysterectomy. How ‘bout you?” I decided that at that point in my treatment, I should just focus on getting better and not wondering whether some guy was going to call back for another date. But being asked out by a younger, pretty cute martial arts fighter/wine importer provided a fun high during treatment, so I’m happy we met. And finally, I need to thank Dave (a.k.a. my favorite Excel geek) for taking a chance on a gal with a bald head who had just finished chemo and who had just been through the most challenging year of her life. While we both agree now that we aren’t a long-term love match, we certainly had some fun times racing (or crawling, as the case may be) up and down 95 to see each other over the past nine months. I, for one, am left with many happy memories, including a couple of fun oyster roasts, some Richmond black tie events (incomparable people watching!), many great runs on the GW Parkway, fun dinners with his family and our Alexandria and Richmond friends, a special Valentine’s Day weekend in Charlottesville, and much, much more. My relationship with Dave helped me get my groove back following treatment and for that, I am more grateful than anyone can imagine. And the good news is that we’re still friends (…and he just gave me the most awesome birthday gift: a triathlon training mix for my iPod!!!), which as anyone who knows me knows, is not something I generally believe in being following a break-up. And speaking of break-ups, thanks also to a whole bunch of former beaus who sent sweet emails, notes, and even took me out on (platonic) dates during treatment, including everyone’s favorite texter, Hot Marine, who really did turn out to be a good guy in the end (to be friends with, not to date). Oh, and lest I forget to thank the very dreamy Dr. A for not only helping save my life along side my beloved Dr. E but for providing such good eye candy, as well as really good actual candy, during his visits to my IP chemo treatments. He has no idea how exciting his 30-minute drop-ins were to a young cancer patient who was temporarily out of the dating world. Or, perhaps he did know? Regardless, my heart skipped a beat every time he came in the room, which was another great complementary therapy to help fight the big C.

So, what is my wish on this birthday? Of course, I can’t tell you or it won’t come true! Ha. Though I will say that if your guess is the same as last year’s wish, you’re probably not too far off track. After you’ve had an illness like mine you realize, there really is nothing more important in life than your health and the people with whom you can share life’s ups and downs. And, so, if I all have for the rest of my days is good health and the love of my family and friends (and, hopefully, my media naranjo!), I will be a lucky girl!

Thanks to everyone for all of the wonderful birthday wishes. Until next time, be well.

Stars and Stripes Forever: Monday, August 23, 2010

Well, since I recently promised my followers that I'd post more leading up to the final chapter of this blog in October, I figured I'd better start my birthday week with a Monday afternoon post.

A couple of weeks ago a good friend introduced me to one of the best (and most patriotic) free activities you can do on a Tuesday or Friday night during the summers in D.C.: The Sunset Parade of the Marine Bugle Corp. If you haven't been, it's a wonderful - albeit a bit sticky - way to spend an evening with visiting family or friends...or, in my case, your 84-year old retired Naval officer grandfather.

You know, that circle of life, which I talked about before on this blog, sure is a funny thing. When I was a young girl, my grandparents did whatever they could to make outings together fun for my brother and me. And now, as they enter the twilight of their lives, it's me who is trying to so hard to provide fun experiences and happy memories for them.
Here's a sweet shot of me and Grandad following the Parade at the Iwo Jima memorial this past Tuesday evening.

Photo credit: Al Quaye. Thanks for capturing this moment!

Support Team TRIumph!: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dear Friends and Family:

Next Tuesday, I’ll celebrate my 34th birthday. Sadly, there was a brief moment (okay, maybe a few…) last summer when I wasn’t sure I’d live to celebrate this birthday. That is what life with cancer does – it makes you doubt whether you’ll live to experience the milestones that others are lucky enough to take for granted. Fortunately for me, it looks as though I’ll not only see this birthday but, hopefully, many more to come.

When my doctor told me about the “grave” situation I faced on March 10, 2009, I could not imagine all of the ways in which my life would life would change over the next 12 months and beyond. And certainly on that day, I couldn’t have possibly imagined I’d celebrate my one-year wellness anniversary by competing in my first sprint triathlon with five of my best friends, all of whom have supported me in such tremendous ways over the past eighteen months. It’s funny how certain physical fetes that once seemed overwhelming suddenly seem much more manageable after having faced treatment for Stage IIIa ovarian and Stage I uterine cancers. My friends and I will be competing in the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series race in San Diego on October 17th. The race seemed like the perfect choice for our celebration since the official charity of the Series is the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), which is one of the nation’s leading independent agencies dedicated to advancing ovarian cancer research in the United States.

We’re not only competing to achieve a great physical fitness goal but also to raise critical research funds to help save women’s lives – women who are our friends, sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, and most importantly, our daughters (present and future!). During my many hours in the chemo treatment room, I was struck by the fact that “the disease that whispers,” as it is known in cancer circles, doesn’t discriminate. I had the good fortune to meet some of the bravest and most interesting women from all walks of life: Many of the women were quite old but several were young girls in junior high and high school (JUNIOR HIGH?!?). While most were white, I also met quite a few from other races. And while some of these women were quite poor, some were clearly very affluent. The one thing we all had in common, besides having been diagnosed with one of the most lethal cancers (the fifth leading cancer killer of women and the deadliest of the female reproductive system), was the will to live.

So, while ovarian cancer has taken some pretty precious things away from me, including my ability to have biological children, it has indeed given me many wonderful things too, including new friends, a deeper faith in God, and a real sense of purpose to help educate women in order to save their lives. My participation in various awareness and outreach activities, including lecturing local third year medical students on the symptoms of ovarian cancer and “starring” in an upcoming CDC PSA ad campaign to educate women about gynecological cancers (check back later for the ad), have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And while important advances in research are being made every day, there is still no diagnostic available to help with early detection of ovarian cancer. For many women, the disease is simply found too late -- but YOU can help change that!

Please support me and my Team TRIumph so that the OCRF can continue its mission to fund research to find a method of early detection and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer. Any donation amount -- $5, $10, $25, $100 or $500 -- is so appreciated. My goal is to raise $8,000 between now and race day, which is just EIGHT short weeks away. To that end, please feel free to forward this note to anyone you know who might be interested in making a donation.

You can make your 100% tax-deductable donation on the secure Web site below:

Thanks in advance for your support of Team TRIumph and this important women’s health cause.

All the best,

P.S. To all of you loyal blog followers, whom I love so much, I promise to keep the posts coming with a bit more regularity until I write the final chapter after crossing the finish line in San Diego on October 17th!

Priceless: Thursday, August 5, 2010

Registration fee for a US Women’s Series sprint triathlon in San Diego: $85.00

Cross-country airfare, race hotel, bike repairs to my old five-speed (yes, that really is what I’m going to train on), tri shorts (since I’m loath to wear a real tri suit), bike helmet (the last time I rode a road bike in 1988 they weren’t in fashion), wet suit rental (for the freezing San Diego Bay, which should be a balmy 66 degrees on race day), and bike rental (renting a real bike for the race but don't worry...only using one gear since the course is flat): $750 (give or take)

Finishing your first sprint triathlon with five of your best friends to celebrate your one-year wellness anniversary following treatment for stage III ovarian cancer: PRICELESS.
Good thing that for everything else there's MasterCard. (Just kidding, Dad!)

And the Results are In...: Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So, in case you haven't heard the news on another social networking channel, I got the results of my latest CT scan back (finally)...and it's all clear! And so was my inaugural mammogram! (Ladies: If you haven't had one already, it's really no biggie for us average-chested gals. I mean, it's not a great time or anything but I'd describe it as "uncomfortable" versus "painful.") After hearing all of this good news, I felt as though as I could push the "play" button again on my life after having hit the "pause" button two weeks ago when Dr. E ordered the scan.

Despite the good news of the clean scan, Dr. E and I are still a bit baffled (and nervous) about my continually rising CA 125 level. If you'll recall, once you've had ovarian cancer, most doctors want your level below 20. My all-time low was around 8 or 9, I think, and now it's climbed to 14. So, we'll continue to monitor it (and me) closely, which means that if it's higher at my one-year check-up (woohoo!), I'll have to have another CT scan again. And I'll have to hit that "pause" button again.

So, that's it. Life is back in full motion and I'm looking forward to a quick trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law next weekend (leave it to me to pick the first weekend of August to visit people living in Florida!) and a visit to Denver to see my grandparents later in the month, which I will now book the airline ticket for since I know for certain that I won't have just had surgery (again) or be starting another round of chemo. Oh, and I will FINALLY put my tri training and fund raising at the top of my priority list as well!

Until next time, be well.

Test Time: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I just started the day with one of my least favorite pre-test rituals: Drinking a nice tall glass of barium. I have my inaugural mammogram (woohoo!) and my CT scan later this afternoon, which means no solid food until after the test (just green tea and water for me!)...and two more large containers of vanilla-flavored barium to go before it's showtime at Washington Radiology Associates.

In case you missed the announcement on Facebook and Twitter, there is some good news to share today: Fortunately, due to my diligence, my missing lab results were found at the end of last week. It took a trip to LabCorp and a couple more phone calls to determine that the idiots at LabCorp misspelled my name and the idiots in my doctor's office didn't put two and two together when they received four faxed pages of results with the name Jennifer MiGihon on them. Seriously?!? I think everyone needs a BIG lesson in THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX to figure out how lab work that was supposedly done well over a week ago could be missing.

Anyway, enough with my rant. The good news (I think) is that my labs all looked relatively good. My CA125 rose again to 14 (12.4 at last visit; 9 at the end of treatment) but it is still well below the acceptable level of 20. Also, my CMP (metabolic rate for liver and kidney function) and HE4 (I really don't know...another cancer antigen I think?) looked good too. So, in case you're wondering, I'm relatively optimistic as I head into today's tests. I really have no time to ponder what life would be like if the tests don't look good because, honestly, that scenario is just far too depressing for someone training for a triathlon and trying to lead a normal 33-year old life.

I should have the results from today's test by the end of the week so check back then for an update. Prayers, please!

9 Month Stats: Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Well, I wish I could report the news I'd hoped to report following today's appointment with Dr. E but, alas, I can't. Here are the stats from my 9 month check-up with Dr. E:

Weight = 132 lbs. (okay, this is just about as upsetting as the other news I'm about to share...MUST GET BACK TO MY STRICT ANTI-CANCER DIET since this only 7 lbs. lighter than my highest weight ever!!!)

CA125 = ??? (also very upsetting is the fact that the blood work I had done at Labcorp last MONDAY is M.I.A. and not in the system)

Exam = Suspicious fullness?!?!?

Yep, that's right. Dr. E found suspicious fullness in my pelvic region during today's exam so he has ordered me to get a CT scan...and soon. He's pretty sure that what he felt is just scar tissue as scar tissue increases with time but just to be on the safe side he's ordered the scan. And because I need pre-authorization from my damn insurance company for the test, I have to wait to have it done until next Tuesday afternoon. Oh, and he hounded me about the mammogram he's wanted me to have for a long time too so that's on the schedule for next Tuesday as well. Good times! Would anyone like to volunteer to go in my place? Come on, you know you want to! The banana barium slushy is so darn good it's totally worth the inconvenience just for the taste of that stuff. Oh, and as an added bonus, if they can't find my blood work in the Labcorp system by Thursday, I have to get the blood work redone. Yipee!

I'll be back soon to let you know what we find out...

Passages: Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wow! A lot has happened since I last wrote in late April. It's hard to believe it's been nearly two months since I've checked in but, as usual, I've been a busy (and thankfully, happy!) gal. So, here's the rundown of the many events, or passages, if you will, that have occurred since I last wrote:

First, on the happy news front, there have been a couple of births since before I last wrote (apologies to the Brisendines and Whitmans for the delayed mention). Brooks Andrew Brisendine was born to my dear childhood friend, Elena, and her husband, Briley, on February 25th. As you'll see below, Brooks is a happy, beautiful little boy and I was so thrilled to spend time "talking" with him on a couple of recent trips to Atlanta.
A pre-dinner shot of me (check out the straight-ish hair!) with Brooks and his mommy, Elena.

On April 6th, the Whitmans welcomed their second daughter, Katherine Phillips Whitman, to the world! It was a special treat to meet her on her actual birthday when I delivered yummy Atlantis to her hungry daddy, Shawn. Katherine is just as cute and sweet as her older sister, Lauren, and I had the pleasure of introducing her to a potential future boyfriend, Alex Tulkki, when he made the trek east to visit the Alexandria gang in late April. I think they hit it off!
Alex meet Katherine. Katherine meet Alex. Both of you, please check out Aunt Jennie's straight-ish hair!

Let's see what other happy passages have occurred recently? Well, I guess these two are both bittersweet to a certain extent but since I'm a glass half-full kind of a girl, I think they're mostly happy. Two weeks ago my Grandad moved down from Delaware to Greenspring Village - the best retirement community in the world in my opinion - to be closer to the Alexandria McGihons. It's bittersweet because in order to do so Grandad had to leave behind his wife, Grandmary, who suffers from late-stage Alzheimer's. I know it was difficult for Grandad to leave Grandmary (she is in good hands in Delaware, though) but since he's had his own health issues over the past year and since Mary doesn't really know who any of us are anymore and is very frail, I'm happy to have him close by and in a thriving community where he can enjoy his time. Continuing with grandparent updates, my grandmother, Denny McGihon, just celebrated her 80th birthday this week! While she may not be celebrating being another year older, she should celebrate being a great example of longevity - both in the physical and mental sense. Granny has had her own challenges with a sick spouse over the past year so I was happy that they could be together and feeling well for her birthday celebration. And now that life seems to be back on track for me, I'm looking forward to a trip out to Denver to spend time with her and my grandfather, Clark, later this summer.

And in other news, I've been helping a few friends deal with some far less pleasant passages of their own. One good friend's nearly six-year marriage is ending later this month. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and it is sad to see something that was once filled with so much promise come to an end for reasons none of us can really understand. I've been helping her try to embrace the single life (...and decorate her adorable new carriage house!) as much as is possible while the wound is still so fresh. And another friend was forced to abandon the urban home and lifestyle that she and her family loved for a new one in the 'burbs. I've tried to demonstrate that life in the 'burbs ain't so bad but I know it's a big shock to their system and not one they would have chosen. And finally, yet another friend has had to help her parents pack up and sell her childhood home so that they could move to a town and home better suited for the daily trials of her father's Parkinson's disease. While it feels good to give back to some of the many people who helped me during my wellness campaign, I'd rather they not have to face these challenges at all. But, like what I kept telling myself last year at this time, better days are ahead for all of them. I don't think it; I know it. It turns out that my dad was right when he said that things always get better ( the way, he told me this when I was in 4th grade and had very few friends -- I think you'll agree, I've got plenty now!).

Oh, yes, and there's another passage to report: My good friend, Melissa Maclin (or "Mac" as we call her) is on her way to Afghanistan yet again. We had a good bye dinner for her the other night at Christy's restaurant. This passage is definitely bittersweet as it's wonderful to get together to wish her well and welcome her home but we all worry about her while she's overseas.

Mac's goodbye dinner at Food Matters: Mac, me, Melissa R., Christy, Kelley, and Christina, who was in town from NYC. Be safe, Mac!

There are many other less important passages that have occurred recently as well:

The official start of summer! Yay!

My first trip to NYC in nearly a year where I spent time with Christina, Ali, and Skei in Brooklyn and where I met Kavitha's baby girl, Sasha, before we headed out for the most delicious sushi I'VE EVER HAD!

My registration for this fall's sprint triathlon and Team Hope, which is the OCRF's fundraising team for the race! (You'll hear much more about that later...)

The two-month countdown to my next birthday! (Today! I wonder if both of my birthday wishes will come true?!?)

Oh, yes, but there is one final passage that occurred recently and it was both BIG and HAPPY. It's the one that happened almost a month ago in Charleston during Memorial Day weekend when my "baby" brother, Bobby, married his long-time girlfriend, Ansley. The weekend's festivities reminded me (and others) what a difference a year can make in one's life. Last year, during the same weekend, I was very ill from my first chemo treatment and was recuperating in Charleston. Me, my mother and good friends endured a weekend filled with much bleeding, fainting, puking, and bone pain (...but some good times too!). My brother was there to help me that weekend by running out to pick up my Vicodin prescription from the drugstore. So, you can imagine, that it was quite wonderful to be there again this Memorial Day feeling well - and with reasonably good hair -to celebrate this happy occasion. As you'll see below, it was not only a beautiful wedding but a very fun one as well!

The Daniel Island Club where the wedding and reception took place.

A happy, healthy bridesmaid (with decent hair!).

The proud papa escorts the bride.

The ceremony.

You may kiss your bride!

Mr. and Mrs. Robert John McGihon!

Okay, clearly a big jump from the last picture to this one!

Bobby and my mom bustin' a move.

Dad and me doing our thing. Hard to believe I was bald and 15 lbs. lighter just 9 months ago!

So, that just about sums up the passages of the last two months. I'll be back again soon to report out on my 9-month check-up (yippee!), my triathlon training and fundraising, and other things.

Until next time, be well.

A Good Haircut is a Good Haircut: Thursday, April 29, 2010

I loved that Hair Cuttery ad campaign so it seemed appropriate for this blog entry. There were several other titles I debated giving this blog post, which included:

How Stella Got Her Groove Back,
Back in the Saddle Again,
I Get Knocked Down But Get Up Again,
Here Comes the Sun

But the Hair Cuttery slogan won out for a number of reasons.

What's been going on, you ask? Here it is: Q1 2010 was not the best for the Jennster (or J-Woww, as I prefer to be called in 2010). I had been warned by many a cancer survivor and counselor that I should prepare myself to have a post-treatment crash but I was convinced I wouldn’t have one since I had weathered my treatment so well. Well, I was wrong. Big time. Following the holidays and my sailing trip to the BVIs over New Years, I settled back into full-time work – really, full-time life – and did so in the midst of record snow fall in the D.C. area. To say this winter was miserable for this summer-lovin' gal would be an understatement. But there were many other complicating factors to add to my misery than the two to three feet of snow (and ice) that was on the ground from mid-January through the end of February. What's so upsetting is that I think my crash made some doubt who I was and whether I would rebound. Shame on them.

Let’s see. Where to begin? Well, first there was my heel. Remember my decision to have a colony of planter’s warts removed from the bottom of my heel? Dumb move. Real dumb. Our first heavy snow fall happened within a couple of days of that procedure so there I was hobbling around with a Safeway bag wrapped around my surgical boot so foot didn’t get wet. To make matters worse, I couldn’t work out due to the wound so there I was trapped inside and unable to escape even for an hour of cardiovascular exercise, which I’m sort of addicted to. I didn’t believe my podiatrist when he warned me that the healing process would be slow – perhaps even two to three months. Well folks, I'm here to tell you that it really took a full three months.

What else? Oh, yes. So, unfortunately, it seems that the antibiotics I was on for most of the month of January for a couple of infections (don't worry, they're not important...) led to a chronic yeast infection, which then led to “atrophic vaginitis.” Consider yourself lucky if you don’t know what “atrophic vaginitis” means. The bottom line is this: Basically, this winter my worst fears of my post-surgical menopause life came true. I was in and out of various doctors' offices searching for a cure – anything really – to help my you-know-what feel better. The search took about three months. No joke. And all I have to say is thank God for the geek (or, more likely, the team of geeks) who developed Premarin. Bless you!

Moving right along...oh, yes, then there was full-time work and my personal finances. It seems that both had me equally overwhelmed and depressed by the middle of February. So much so, in fact, that in order to function and deal with both better, I got back on my happy pills. Lexapro to the rescue! But the most amazing thing occurred once I started taking the happy pills again: Not only did my debilitating anxiety disappear but so did my almost equally debilitating HOT FLASHES (well, disappear might be an overstatement but they almost disappeared...). I went from having a dozen or so hot flashes a day to having maybe one or two a day? You can't imagine what a relief that's been. As I would later learn from Dr. E, whose own wife also takes Lexapro, it's known to be a balancer -- and I guess it balances body temperature and mood equally well. Amen!

(An aside: In case you're wondering, yes, between last year and this winter I have become BFFs with my local CVS pharmacist. John is his name. I love him. He knows my name and asks me about how I'm doing everytime I'm in. In fact, sometimes I daydream about starring in a CVS commercial -- you know, like in one of the spots where the pharmacist is instructing the patient in how to take a new drug and the smiling patient is nodding their head that, yes, they understand how to take the new drug. That's John and me.)

And then there was the hair. Oh boy, did the hair get me. I'm sure many of you reading this have known other cancer patients who've lost their hair and then it's grown back funky -- whether in color and/or texture. Well, mine grew back funky in texture. Simply put: I looked like a poodle and it didn't make me happy. In fact, it didn't make people who are close to me happy because I bitched about it so much. I felt as though the poodle perm that chemo had blessed me with was frumpy and just another injustice of my cancer sentence. But, you know what? I think that my hatred of the poodle perm look I was sporting was about a lot more than just the poodle perm. I'm pretty sure it had more to do with a sense of loss -- loss of control, loss of my fertility, etc., etc. But then it dawned on me: God invented relaxers for a reason...and I should have one. And I did! And now, I'm happy to say, I'm in love. I really love my new hair. It's not perfect but you know what, it's pretty damn close. I finally look like my old self again after nearly a year and it feels good. I finally have a hairstyle that does not give away that I had cancer (...or just an unfortunate choice in hair stylist) last year and it feels good. And it has made a world of difference in my outlook.

So, that pretty much sums up the misery of Q1 and why you haven't heard very much from me lately. As for Q2, it's looking much, much better:

I've already covered the hair. I'll post a picture soon.

Thanks to a healed heel, I'm working out again regularly, which is both good for my mood and my waistline. I'm re-committed to the goal of completing the sprint triathlon in San Diego in October to celebrate my one-year wellness anniversary.

Work is more manageable these days and so are my personal finances, thanks to the super cool Excel budget spreadsheet that my favorite Excel geek made for me.

Oh, and I had my six month check-up with Dr. E and I'm pleased to report that I got another clean bill of health. My CA 125 is 12.4, which, while not my lowest level ever, is still really good.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm giving my first "patients teaching students" lecture to med students at Georgetown University. I'm doing it through the local chapter of the NOCC. The program is designed to help med students learn to listen to symptoms better and deliver bad news more effectively (er, sensitively?). I'm looking forward to that and will let you know how it goes.

In addition to all of that, I'm slowly but surely learning how to juggle everything again, which also feels great. This past weekend my mother and I co-hosted a shower for Ansley, my brother's fiance, which was a lot of fun. It felt great to entertain again.

So, that's how things are looking at just over six months post-treatment. Thank you to all of you who supported me during the winter of my discontent. You know who you are. Once again, I have the best family and friends.

D-Day Anniversary: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time flies when you're fighting for your life and then fighting to have life get back to normal!

I thought it appropriate to end my month-long hiatus from blogging to recognize the fact that today is the first anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. This isn't really an anniversary to celebrate but I do think it's important to note it -- for me and for all of those who were there for me last March 10. In many ways, it feels like just yesterday that my gynecologist told me the news about the "grave" situation I faced and in other ways, it feels like a decade has passed since this time last year. It's funny -- I don't think I've ever admitted this to myself or others but I think I knew everything I was up against the minute he told me that I had some sort of cancer. I didn't want to admit it at the time but my gut told me all along that my treatment (...and its aftermath) was going to be a rough ride and not something that would be over quickly. But I always knew I would survive it. And I have. And I will continue to survive it even on days when I struggle to understand how and why this happened and am pretty frustrated by some of the minor inconveniences and issues of my post-cancer treatment life. I'm just as determined on this March 10th as I was last March 10th not to let the cancer get the best of me...and on most days, it doesn't.

So, congratulations to me and my friends and family for surviving this past year because I know that it wasn't just a struggle for me but for everyone in my life.

Winter of My Discontent: Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yes, I do realize that I'm misusing this reference to Shakespeare (if you don't know what I'm referring to, look it up!) but it just seemed an appropriate title for the post since I'm pretty miserable on this blizzardy winter day. Why am I miserable? Oh, I don't know, maybe it's because:

I'm overwhelmed with nearly every aspect of my life -- from the things I have to do, to the things I think I should do, to the things I want to do. It's all just totally overwhelming to me. Totally. I would list everything -- which ranges from searching for all of my 2009 medical receipts in order to write-off my medical expenses, to writing long-overdue Christmas thank you notes, to launching the Junior Committee (fundraising committee) for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance -- but honestly, if I did, you'd fall asleep before finishing the list. It's long and I just don't know where to begin.

I'm sick and tired of dealing with the Plantar's wart removal wound on my heel, which frankly, has caused me as much pain and suffering as my hysterectomy incision (just the incision, not the aftermath of the hysterectomy). Maybe more, actually. If you saw the bottom of my heal, you'd lose your appetite. Guaranteed. Despite its grotesque appearance, the real thing that's bumming me out is that it's keeping me from working out and everyone who knows me knows, that ain't good. I'm like a thoroughbred horse that has to be exercised everyday. Thus far, I've only managed about an hour and forty minutes on the stationery bike in the last 10 days. Not good. At all.

I know someone who has escaped this weekend of snowy misery (about 18" at press time) while I'm stuck here to shovel, pray that the power doesn't go out (I'd really lose it then!), eat all of the unappealing morsels of food in the house, and ponder when I'll be able to drive again. I mean, I'm happy for those who could escape but misery does love company after all, right?

My hair is growing back in a less than desirable fashion. I know I should just be happy to have hair on my head but I had such high hopes for how it would grow in and now, alas, those hopes have been dashed. My post-chemo hair sucks. Plain and simple. It's kind of wirey and very wavy and I have a curly rat tail developing in the back. Please see photo below and then try to tell me you wouldn't be equally miserable if your hair was growing in that way?

That's not me, by the way, but it's really that bad (check out for some awesome examples of rat tails). And while I could cut it, it's going to have to grow someday so why not now? I'm so desperate about this situation that I actually googled, "How fast does hair grow?" last night and discovered that it grows at a rate of about .5" per month, which is what I thought. I can only imagine how great my new style is going to look for my brother's wedding in humid Charleston, SC during Memorial Day weekend, which is just a short 16 weeks away. I suppose if I'm really disgusted with how it looks, I could just shave my head and make Brenda join in the festivities. I miss Brenda! To clarify, I don't miss having to wear a wig but I liked that hair. It was the best hair - not style, just hair - I ever had and I miss it. I miss the texture. I miss the color. I miss it. Okay, I better shut up so as to avoid a "be careful what you wish for" scenario someday in the future.

I'm gaining weight. Everyday. Well, maybe not everyday but I've continued to gain weight following treatment and it's upsetting to me. I think I'm about 126 lbs right now, which is about 10-13 lbs lighter than my all-time high. While I know 114 lbs may not have been optimal, I really liked being super skinny and having much smaller hips than I've had since the 9th grade. I know some of the weight gain is muscle, as I've been working out with a trainer and swimming a ton, but a lot of it isn't. I'm still doing (or, at least trying to do...) the anti-cancer diet but let's face it, it's hard when you're social life is back in full gear. I really wish I didn't have such a wicked sweet tooth. It would all be so much easier. Sigh.

My constant hot flashes. They come at the most inopportune times and they interrupt my sleep. They just suck.

Yep, I think that just about sums up the list of my grievances.

Perhaps I'm starting to experience the post-treatment crash that so many cancer survivors experience when they re-enter the real world? It's a world in which their friends and family expect them to just pick right back up and resume life as normal because they look healthy again and aren't puking on a regular basis. But it's not the same world they left the day they were diagnosed. This new world is filled with a much different (better?) perspective on many activities of daily living, as well as a much, MUCH shorter attention span. It's often a lonely and frustrating place -- one that, as you already know, you really don't ever want to have to experience.

Or, perhaps, Old Man Winter has just finally got the best of me after the second consecutive weekend of crap weather? I mean how much snow can one gal raised in the mid-Atlantic region take? This is just not what we're programmed for. The occasional 4-6 inches that gets you out of work on a weekday? Sure. Bring it! But this?!? This is INSANE. And I think it's making me go crazy, slowly but surely.

What to do?

Well, first, I'm going to wrap up this rant because while it's therapeutic to bitch sometimes, I really need to stop wallowing in my misery. Second, I think I'm going to hobble outside to shovel again so as to make sure I can get out of my house if I need to for some reason. Although, what that reason would be, I can't imagine. And then, maybe, just maybe, I'll actually start to tackle some of the things on that daunting to-do list.

Wish me luck on both getting some stuff done and snapping out of it!

Reunited...:Thursday, January 28, 2010

...and it feels so good! Who or what have I been reunited with, you ask? Vicodin, my friend. We're back together for a limited engagement and I gotta tell you it's a happy reunion. I had yet another minor surgical procedure this afternoon, hence my reunion with vicodin. Fortunately, this one was not of the gynecological sort. I had enough of those in 2009 to last me a lifetime!

Here's the deal: I've been plagued by Plantar warts in my heel for the past couple of years (actually, they showed up at about the same time the first symptoms of my cancer appeared and that's probably not a coincidence...). I had a cluster of about 12 -18 in the bottom of my heel and while not painful, they were a pretty big nuisance. Frequently, it felt as those I was walking on a pebbly beach. Yeah, not cool, especially when spending a lot of time training for a triathlon.

So, I decided enough was enough and that it was time to have them burned out/off (nothing like smellin' your skin burn!) since all previous treatments proved unsuccessful. The whole procedure lasted just about an hour and a half and was relatively painless (thanks to about a dozen shots of some numbing agent into my heel...).

I'm home now resting comfortably in front of the TV with my leg up...and with my beloved vicodin in my system. As for the recovery, I should be walking without my surgical boot (it's really hot, let me tell ya) within the next couple of days and exercising again in a week or two.

That was the big excitement for the day. Perhaps now that I'm laid up, I'll finally find the time to post all of my holiday and BVI pictures...hmmm...we'll see.

Four Months!: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Today is my four-month wellness anniversary and guess how I celebrated? With exercise, of course! It was a sunny and relatively warm (48 degrees or so) day so I headed down to the GW Parkway trail and did a five and a half mile run/walk. It felt great!

Another important event occurred today. My friend Jori gave birth to her son, Alexander Britton Tulkki, at 3:13 p.m. PT. Alex was a big boy weighing in at 8 lbs and 9 ounces! Congratuations to Jori and Mark on their new arrival. I can't wait to meet him!

Welcome, Alex! You look just like your mommy.

The Lululemon Manifesto: Friday, January 22, 2010

In thinking about my New Year's resolutions, I was reminded of the Lululemon Manifesto and thought I'd share it with you in two ways:

First, with artwork...

Next, with just the text because, while the art is cool to look at, it's a tad hard to read...

Drink FRESH water and as much water as you can. Water flushes unwanted toxins from your body and keeps your brain sharp.
A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphins gives you the power to make better decisions, helps you be at peace with yourself, and offsets stress.
Do one thing a day that scares you.
Listen, listen, listen, and then ask strategic questions.
Write down your short and long-term GOALS four times a year. Two personal, two business and two health goals for the next 1, 5 and 10 years. Goal setting triggers your subconscious computer.
Life is full of setbacks. Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.
Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.
That which matters the most should never give way to that which matters the least.
Stress is related to 99% of all illness.
Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to.
The world is changing at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you 2 steps behind. DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!
Friends are more important than money.
Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment. Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.
Take various vitamins. You never know what small mineral can eliminate the bottleneck to everlasting health.
Don’t trust that an old age pension will be sufficient.
Visualize your eventual demise. It can have an amazing effect on how you live for the moment.
The conscious brain can only hold one thought at a time. Choose a positive thought.
Live near the ocean and inhale the pure salt air that flows over the water, Vancouver will do nicely.
Observe a plant before and after watering and relate these benefits to your body and brain.
Practice yoga so you can remain active in physical sports as you age.
Dance, sing, floss and travel.
Children are the orgasm of life. Just like you did not know what an orgasm was before you had one, nature does not let you know how great children are until you have them.
Successful people replace the words “wish”, “should” and “try” with “I will”.
Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.
Nature wants us to be mediocre because we have a greater chance to survive and reproduce.
Mediocre is as close to the bottom as it is to the top, and will give you a lousy life.
lululemon athletica creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives. If we can produce products to keep people active and stress-free, we believe the world will become a much better place.
Do not use cleaning chemicals on your kitchen counters. Someone will inevitably make a sandwich on your counter.
SWEAT once a day to regenerate your skin.
Communication is COMPLICATED. We are all raised in a different family with slightly different definitions of every word. An agreement is an agreement only if each party knows the conditions for satisfaction and a time is set for satisfaction to occur.
What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.
The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness.
I love this list and while I don't practice all components of it, particularly the yoga part (much to my yogi cousin's chagrin), I think they've got most things right. I'll be back with my 2010 "I WILL" list (a.k.a. my New Year's resolutions) once I have hammered it all out. I've got a lot of balls in the air these days so it's taking some time (like, the whole first month of the year!) to sort things out.

Otherwise Engaged: Monday, January 18, 2010

No, not me, silly. Ha! I just did that to get your attention. But someone is engaged. This was a big weekend for the McGihon family: Not only did my "baby" brother, Bobby, turn 30 on Saturday but he also proposed to his girlfriend, Ansley, and she said YES. It's still early yet but between my great check-up and Bobby's engagement, 2010 is shaping up to be a MUCH better year than 2009. Amen to that. Congratulations to Bobby and Ansley on their exciting news! I am very happy for them both...and for their dogs, River and Coach, who will be probably equally happy to spend the rest of their lives together, too.

In other news, my sprint triathlon training is progressing nicely (...just under 10 months left until showtime!). In fact, I think my swimming must really be helping my running because I just ran outside (it's a gorgeous day for mid-January) for the first time since the Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving and I was barely winded after running about 4.5 miles in 40 minutes. Yay me! I should be in good shape for the Monument Avenue 10K I'm planning to run in late March.

Okay, off to get a million things done during this federal holiday!

Farewell, My Friend: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Well, I knew this day would come. I think I'm really ready for it. (And I think my parents are too since they've shouldered a lot of the burden as of late.) However, I'm still a little sad. River, my loaner dog, is heading South tomorrow to be returned to his rightful owner (my brother, Bobby, in case you're just joining...).

The fact is, I'm back to my old self again, which means I'm running around like a crazy woman and am rarely home. Obviously, this is not condusive to having a 90 lb. Lab who needs lots of exercise and wants company all of the time. As I've told many people, I knew there was a reason I didn't have a dog before I got sick and my post-treatment lifestyle has been a big reminder of that reason. I just don't have time...or the space...or, frankly, the patience.

So, while I won't miss finding my bathroom trash can partially emptied every time I come home (because I rarely remembered putting the trash up or closing the bathroom door...), or having dog hair all over my mostly black wardrobe, or paying large vet bills on top of my own medical expenses, or being relegated to one small corner of my queen bed so that he can stretch out comfortably, or having him wake me up at about 5:30 a.m. everyday to be fed and walked ( the dark, bitter cold), or having him want to play with his nasty toys at the most inopportune times, or...well, you get the picture, I will still miss him.

I will miss our long walks, our trips to the dog park (where I endured dozens of dirty looks due to his humping issue), the way he patiently laid by my side or at my feet everytime I got teary during my treatment, and most importantly, I will miss seeing just how excited he is to see me after everytime I've been gone -- whether for five minutes or for five days.

So, his departure is sad...and I must confess that I'm a little weepy as I write this. As one friend just pointed out, his departure is a watershed moment in my post-treatment life. He was always going to go home after I was better. And I am 100% better now so it is time. It's a new year, I'm healthy again, and it is time for River to be reunited with his master, who has missed him terribly.

Thank you, River, for being my constant companion during the dog days of treatment this summer. Your affection was one of the best complementary therapies I arranged for myself. I will miss you and can't wait to see you again.

We had our last walk together with my mom this morning. This shot was taken when I stopped by my parent's later to drop off a few more of his things for my mom to take with them when they return him to Bobby this weekend. It was so cute, he wanted to follow me out so we let him. Always a gentlemen, he walked me to my car and gave me a kiss goodbye and only left the side of my car after my mother called for him to come inside for a treat. He loves his treats!

Oh, and you can see above, "Brenda" has been on vacation since we left for the BVIs. My hair is pretty thick (actually, thicker than before I was sick...) and while I still don't know that I like that I look like I might prefer women, I'm just so much more comfortable and seem to have fewer hot flashes without her. Another watershed post-treatment event, wouldn't you say?!

Vacay is Over: Monday, January 11, 2010

All good things must come to an end, I suppose. Vacation is over and it's back to the grind. Stay tuned for many updates from the holidays, my trip to the BVIs, New Year's resolutions, etc.

Okay, back to work. Sigh.