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!)