Notorious O.V.A.R.Y. in Action

September has great energy. A new academic year begins, the seasons start to change, and one of my favorite annual events takes place- the Silent No More 5k to benefit the Rhode Island Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

I am pleased to share that with the support of family, friends, and friends of friends, team Notorious O.V.A.R.Y. raised $2890 (exceeding my goal of $2000). As a whole, this event raised over $32,000 with donations still rolling in!

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I’ll chat more about the walk in a minute. For as many times as I’ve had to write about being in the hospital, needles, pills, NG tubes, and general unpleasantness, it’s important to highlight when life is just normal. That includes visits with friends, good meals, professional growth…pretty much any moment that is not spent clinging to life on my couch. So weekend recap- commence!

The weekend began with a visit from two of my childhood best friends, Stacey and Michelle. Our time together was filled with good food, a carnival on the beach, hot tubbing in the back yard, and several moments where I laughed so hard that I almost cried.

At the carnival we may or may not have shamelessly ridden a kiddie coaster and the “bear affair”. I’m guessing three 28 year olds are not the target demographic for these rides but hey, if we fits, we sits.

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Living in three different states and starting the majority of my weekends with chemo makes it difficult for the three of us to be together at the same time very often. That said, my heart was very full this weekend with these goons.

In the midst of their visit I did have to work on Saturday to facilitate a training for the MyPath mentors. The mentors are (mostly) juniors and seniors that serve as resources for students that are exploratory. Exploratory meaning, undecided about a major/career path, questioning their path, etc. It’s a fantastic program made better by these incredibly motivated student leaders. Despite falling on an already busy weekend and me running it for the first time I was very pleased. The mentors blew me away with their insight, discussion, and willingness to share their personal experiences. I’m looking forward to the upcoming year with this program.

My ability to be at this training without stressing over leaving my transportation-less guests home was made possible by Cory continuing to be the best human. He cleaned, made sure Michelle was caffeinated (super important), and picked up Stacey at the train station without complaint. What a gem, right?

Our weekend wrapped up with the Silent No More 5k to benefit Rhode Island women touched by ovarian cancer. To give you a little background on the name of the walk, one of the most grim nicknames of this disease is “the silent killer” because it’s symptoms (bloating, feeling full quickly, GI issues) can mirror a massive number of other, more minor, ailments. That said, many women are not diagnosed until later stages when the disease has spread from the ovary to other parts of the body. Being “silent no more” flips the script on that ugly nickname because as a small cancer community we are educating women on how to listen to their bodies and spreading the word. The more preventative we can be, the more women will thrive in the face of this disease.

Speaking of thriving, there were FORTY survivors at the walk this year. That is incredible. That means forty women that are either still kicking some OC keister or in remission. That is forty more women that are defying the odds, blowing up the statistics, and truly thriving.

It was nice to see familiar faces from previous years and exchange big hugs. The Rhode Island OC community is truly full of kind and remarkable people. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, but I’m glad that it brought us together. (Shout out fellow cancer crusher, Dorinda for my new favorite bracelet!)

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I was lucky to round up a great team to come together as Notorious O.V.A.R.Y. (team name credit to Sarah Breen). Thank you Mom, Dad (Peepaw), Cory, Stacey, Michelle, Sarah, Zack, Kerri, Monica, Robin, Becca, Maddie, Joseph, Austen, and Ginger for waking up early, going full on teal, and braving the humidity for this cause. It meant the world to have you there.

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Congrats to Donna Ricci (President), John Morris (Vice President), and the rest of the RIOCA board members on another successful year. So many bear hugs, so little time! Jessie was most definitely proudly smiling down on you today through the sunshine.

Before I wrap up, I have a minor health update but it’s nothing exciting. One of the small incisions from the port placement wasn’t healing quite right and became infected so I completed one course of antibiotics. Unfortunately it still isn’t better so they have extended antibiotics for another two full weeks. So far they aren’t wreaking havoc on my life like the mega-antibiotics I had to take over the summer. On Friday, they drew blood cultures from my port just to rule out another infection in the port but they’re pretty sure that the infection is superficial.

CA-125 will be drawn this week, I see Dr. Robison for a check up on Thursday, “big” chemo on Friday. I’m not banking on a great CA-125 considering this infection business but here’s to hopin’.

Now that I have survived and chronicled such an eventful weekend, I’m going to plop down on the sofa, watch the Packers (hopefully) crush the Vikings (sorry Larz Barz), and restore my energy for work tomorrow.

 

 

 

Eat, Work, Chemo

Knock on wood…

I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital for over two weeks now.

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Let’s let that one sink in for a minute.

I’m grateful for every second that I can live my life on the outside. We take slow, incremental steps to reestablish a sense of normalcy. It’s not easy…but it’s lightyears better than where I was just weeks ago.

1.) Going back to work

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Although have been working remotely throughout medical leave on projects, reports, etc. I’ve been transitioning back to the office little by little since mid-July. Part in person/part telecommuting. The nature of summer in undergraduate advising (after orientation of course) involves some sparse phone appointments but mostly administrative work to gear up for the next academic year. Degree audits to make sure your rising seniors are on track for graduation (and to light a small forest fire under the ones that aren’t), adjusting freshmen schedules to account for their AP/transfer credits, finalizing study abroad course contracts, prerequisite reports, and general ‘i’ dotting and ‘t’ crossing. It’s pretty low-key stuff but keeps me busy and isn’t terribly draining. That said, my return is well timed.

The fall semester is full on. Two straight weeks of walk-in’s during the add/drop period, classroom presentations and workshops, probation meetings, study abroad advising, registration advising, collaboration with other departments on projects/events and “other duties as assigned”. Student contact is high and this is where more of the student development piece (my favorite piece) comes in. It can be intense, but it’s truly the part I love the most.

Part of living with chronic illness is having to make tough choices about your limitations. As someone who fiercely cares about the work I do, I don’t like “scaling back” or not taking advantage of opportunities to grow in my role. One tough choice came recently when I decided to take a step back from a teaching opportunity in the fall. To be clear, no one at work made me feel as if I had to do this. I’ve gotten nothing but support to take on this additional role. I just knew that in light of this summer from hell, I didn’t want to put my students or the rest of the staff in a tough position if these secondary health issues were to persist. It’s just not fair to anyone.

For now I’m going to keep focusing on my advising role, partnership with the Honors Program, and advising the Colleges Against Cancer club. That keeps me plenty busy.

2.) Om nom noms (…eating)

Reteaching your body anything that is supposed to come naturally is nothing but frustrating. When you’re a baby learning how to eat solids you aren’t worried about the capacity of your stomach or if/how certain foods will digest. Babies eat, poop, occasionally throw up, and move on quickly into hysterical laughter when someone blows a raspberry on their belly.

When I say relearning how to eat, in this case, I don’t mean relearning how to chew or swallow. I’m referring to my atrophied stomach slowly growing to increase food intake and the intestines absorbing nutrients and passing the food without obstruction. It is easy to get in your own head and stress yourself out. There is a sense of urgency to gain weight because I’m super underweight but you also walk a fine line of taking in calories but not so much that you exceed the (very small) capacity of the stomach.

I have been off of TPN for just over a week now and luckily, I didn’t lose weight. I thought that my dietitian would be concerned that I didn’t gain this week because she really hammered home the importance of a 1400 calorie per day diet. Knowing that I didn’t even come remotely close to 1400 calories per day or even 1000 for that matter, I put myself in a tizzy and shed some involuntary tears when she asked how the week went. She was incredibly encouraging and reminded me that this is a process and that I have a lot to be proud of. Getting off of TPN and not losing more weight, actually digesting the food I can take in, eating at a restaurant, are all victories. I felt a huge weight lifted after that conversation.

So things I’ve mostly been taking in that have agreed with me: Stonyfield whole milk baby yogurt, blended fruit/vegetable pouches (yes also for babies), smoothies, cottage cheese, rice cereals, milk (cow or coconut), soft fruits without skin or seeds, very soft cooked vegetables without skin or seeds, bagels, grilled chicken, rice, noodle dishes (lo mein, pad thai), hummus, pita chips, soups, ice cream…

Oh and I was able to eat half of an insanely good reuben (sans saurkraut) the other day. I was in love and proud of myself for keeping it down.

I am fortunate to have a damn good cook in the house so it’s nice to enjoy Cory’s creations as tolerated in small portions. This week I actually ate a small helping of braised short ribs, crispy polenta, and mushrooms:

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Not bad for an architectural lighting salesman, eh?

I’m sure most people could house the above meal in two bites but that’s just about how much my stomach can take right now. It was perfect. I look forward to my stomach normalizing even more to take advantage of Cory’s natural culinary talents.

3.) Getting rid of the PICC

The PICC line was supposed to come out yesterday and I was supposed to have the new port placed this coming Tuesday BUT a scheduling miscommunication has pushed both back. I won’t have the port placed until August 15th which means I need the PICC for another week to receive chemo.

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I was disappointed but in the grand scheme of things, living with a PICC line for one more week is nothing in comparison to anything else I’ve had to do this summer.


So that’s it for now. I have a big weekend lined up with both Cory’s parents and my parents coming to visit. Should be a lot of fun to get everyone together 🙂 It’ll be good to see family after having a slightly emotionally challenging week.

Perhaps next week will turn around as flawlessly as Meyhem Lauren.

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I should just pay rent to the hospital

Tuesday was a gorgeous day. I was working from home in the backyard under the patio umbrella. As my creative juices were flowing in front of my lap top I got a chill. More than a chill really, it felt like winter inside of my body. I chalked it up to sitting in the shade and threw on a sweatshirt. Finally I couldn’t take it and moved into the warm embrace of the sun. I let it soak into the fibers of my sweatshirt like a little oven. Eventually I just went inside and piled myself under blankets. A couple hours later I felt feverish so I took my temp. YUP…104 temperature. CRAP.

I knew what my fate was. I would have no choice but to check into Hotel de Women and Infants pretty much kicking and screaming.

Cory drove and stayed with me in the emergency room. Around 11pm I was admitted and moved to a room on the oncology floor. Prior to that they did a chest x-ray and drew more blood cultures. The end result is that I have another/still have the same (?) blood infection. I am neutropenic at the moment which means that I am low on white blood cells that would normally fight against bacteria and infection. This is common in cancer patients undergoing chemo. Our immune systems are just shot.

That said, if you are sick or even suspect you have a cold- GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME.

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This is currently on my hospital door with a box of super attractive bird flu masks

So I’m not going to dissect every  detail of my time here so far because it’s exhausting. Here are the cliff notes:

  • I will most definitely be here for a few days 😦
  • My port just stopped working yesterday. Can’t flush it, can’t get a blood return. Nothing. That said I’ve had to have a couple peripheral lines put it (like normal IV’s) and that sucks a lot. I’ve had more needles jammed into me in the last 48 hours than I can count.
  • Since my port was infected previously my doctors are erring on the side of caution and having it removed. It will happen sometime today but we’re at the mercy of whenever Rhode Island Hospital can do it so until then I must fast.
  • They have two interventions to give me a boost and make me a little stronger. First it an injection to bump up my white blood cells. The other I am having as we speak and that is a blood transfusion. My hemoglobin was low so that should help too.
  • Again, no port = tubes hanging from each arm uncomfortably. I’ve never missed my port more. I’m not afraid of needles but I certainly do not enjoy getting stuck with them multiple times a day.

    With all this tubing hanging from my arms I’m tempted to recreate the fake party scene from Home Alone:

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  • No chemo this week so we can deal with the infection first
  • Once the infection is gone they will be putting in a temporary PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter).  Eventually they will come out they will place a new port like the one I have now. Anyway, the PICC looks like this (photo cred: Happy Colon):

 

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So those are the facts, here are the feels:

My initial reaction was anger. I’m actually still pretty angry which isn’t my typical response to something like this. I have just had so many hurdles thrown my way in such  a short period of time, it’s exhausting. You are just always playing catch up to feel well. When will the day come that I can do that? If the last few months is any indicator it’s going to be an even longer road than I imagined.

I explained my frustration in these terms to a social worker on the floor. Most everything I do now has an asterisk next to it-

  • I can go back to work but I can only be physically there 4 days a week
  • I can take a shower but I have to spend 10 minutes taping a plastic bag over my port needle to keep it dry. (and DEFINITELY no swimming)
  • I can go to that barbecue but I can’t eat any of the food there

You get the point, everything is conditional- at least for right now.

I get complimented often on my positive attitude which I sincerely appreciate. It’s still in there somewhere! I’m just salty at the moment. For now I need to honor and acknowledge the pain/anger/frustration because those feelings are authentic and part of the process.

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Don’t worry George, it’s not the summer of Jess either.

Maybe there will be an autumn of Jess? Hope so.

 

 

Top 5 Tuesday: What’s in your bag?

For anyone that has seen and come to love the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack you would know that he would be proud of this addition to the blog since his character makes Top 5 lists throughout the film. Luckily I won’t be listing top 5 saddest break up songs or anything like that. This is a little more practical and cancer-esque.

Now I tend to shy away from dishing out “how to’s” because there is no instruction manual for cancer and everyone’s experience is uniquely theirs. But I can offer some nuggets that have come to help me personally over the years. If you find any of it useful, perfect! If not, find comfort that I still have a day job.

When you’re in chemo you have a lot of time on your hands and comfort isn’t always optimal. Here are my Top 5 must-haves packed for a chemo infusion.

1.) A designated chemo bag

This seems like a silly one but let’s face it, chemo brain is very real and without some level of consistency I will likely forget to bring something to treatment. I generally use one of those reusable cloth grocery bags. I’m glad they’re getting used somehow because I am the worst offender of owning them and forgetting to bring them with me to the grocery store. Sorry environment. I’m trying, really.

A reusable grocery bag or tote will be enough to fit a few necessities. Keep it in your car if you drive yourself to treatment or pre-packed in the same spot in your home.

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I think we can agree that I should upgrade from stop and shop bag to this gem. GASP. NEED.

2.) A soft/fuzzy blanket

As a blanket enthusiast I have many throws around my apartment but I have one specifically that I keep in my car so that I never forget to bring it with me to chemo. Why BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket)?

  • Hospital blankets are generally glorified burlap tarps. They don’t provide much warmth beyond the first few minutes out of the blanket warmer and the material doesn’t make for a cozy experience.
  • Emotionally it’s nice to have one blanket specifically for chemo so I am not making that association when I am trying to relax at home. That blanket serves one purpose, my other blankets are my home blankets.
  • Sometimes one of the pre-drugs for chemo (depending on your treatment) is Benadryl. If you are anything like me you’re cross eyed within a few minutes and ready for a solid chemo nap. When I’m napping I am seeking optimal comfort, especially if I’m being infused for a few hours at a stretch.
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This is what I’m 99% sure I look like post-Benadryl

3.) Entertainment

Boy is this necessary. My first stab at chemo had me there for 8-9 hour infusions. Now it’s more like 2-4 hours. You have a lot of time on your hands here. In the chemo units I have experienced there are usually televisions and maybe a few magazines hanging around. I would suggest packing one or more of these items for variety.

  • A good book. I prefer something that is going to make me chuckle. If you haven’t read anything by fellow blogger Jenny Lawson do it. You will undoubtedly be THAT person belly laughing in the chemo unit.
  • Cell phone with good battery life
  • Tablet or iPad if you have one. Good for movie watching/Netflix binging if the cable options aren’t great or answering work email if you’re still working and a true overachiever (just don’t answer email post-Benadryl…trust me. It makes for some weird outcomes)
  • Favorite magazines or crossword puzzles. Nice touch for your chemo bag for the sake of anyone volunteering to come with you for support. If you’re a chemo napper like me, your friend/loved one is going to need entertainment as much as you.

*Ok, ok so I know I cheated with #3 and listed 4 different things in a Top 5 list. You can write angry letters to the editor if need be. Spoiler Alert: I am also the editor.*

4.) Phone charger/Ipad or tablet Charger

I mean, if you’re there for a few hours killing time with non-stop Facebook and Insta-creeping you’re going to need to charge up.

5.) Sweater/Sweatshirt

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Maybe have a little bit of chill and don’t pack this one…

I’ve found that comfort and layers are key. The particular chemo drugs that I get make me immediately freezing then I wake up sweating bullets shortly after. Having an extra sweater to keep in your bag can help to manage that. Also if you’re low on magnesium and they add that to your IV, it tends to make people run a little warm

 

So there you have it, my top chemo staples for maximum enjoyment  okay-ness?

I purposely did not include water/snacks/meals because in my experience the infusion center has graciously provided that in all three hospitals that I have been in. If yours does not it never hurts to have a bottle of water to stay hydrated and a granola bar or fruit to keep your tum tum happy.

 

Cancer friends- what are your top chemo necessities? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.

 

 

 

Three Years

About 20 days ago I posted a letter to myself in the form of ‘Dear Former Self’. It was an emotionally charged tribute to success in light of illness caught at a moment when I actually felt like I had my shit together. I meant every word of it and I am glad that ’20 days ago’ Jessica wrote it because ‘today Jessica’ really needed a reminder.

Today marks exactly three years since the diagnosis that re-charted my future. I can and do frame this anniversary as a celebration of life and thriving in spite of adversity. Honestly though, ‘today Jessica’ and ‘yesterday Jessica’, and ‘day before that Jessica’ are feeling pretty run down. Exacerbated by another week of chemo and an antibiotic in my system, I feel weak and worn out. My body aches, I’m exhausted, and my stomach is torn to shreds. Moreover, strong emotions float to the surface of my mind.

I left work a little early, curled up with my favorite blankets and watched a mind-numbing amount of Netflix. It turns out this was the best decision I could have made to honor myself today.

 

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(My friend Kerri emailed this to me at work today and it couldn’t have been more well timed)

If I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps any harder I’m going to put my entire foot through the sole. So today, I take the advice of my parents, Cory, my friends, co-workers (and all of the other highly perceptive people that have nudged me to be kinder to myself).

On this third anniversary I do three things:

1.) Re-read ‘Dear former self’ and pat myself on the back for making it this far in spite of crummy circumstances.

2.) Allow myself to be sad (for now). This disease has a thousand silver linings but actually replaying delivery of diagnosis in my mind is incredibly painful and can be difficult to ignore. If only I could use ‘chemo brain’ to selectively forget that moment.

3.) I rest. I shut off my work email, silence my phone, and just allow my body to be still and comfortable. It is working on overdrive to fight the disease and super-overdrive to keep up with the unfair demands I put on it constantly.


 

On a final note, I cannot thank everyone enough that has stood by me over a long three year period of highs and lows. Through the fear, successes, disappointment, and hopeful moments I have never once felt truly alone. I thank you for every pep talk, prayer, or kind “how are you holding up?” check in.

From the bottom of my heart,

Thank-you 

 

Vacations & Expectations

*Blows dust off of keyboard*

I have been slacking on the entries this month. Not for lack of interest or not having any thoughts to share but every time I sat down to articulate them I just couldn’t. But here I am- on a plane with several hours to go. I might as well use this time to collect my thoughts.

Right now I am en route to beautiful San Jose, California for a real, much needed, vacation. I will be visiting my brother and hoping so see some of the friendly faces that make up his adopted “west coast family”. I already told Adam that since my appetite is in working order that an In N’ Out Burger (animal style of course) was a necessity.

I opted for the cheapest flight through Southwest and was blown away by the affordability. To no one’s surprise that means flying from Providence to Baltimore to San Diego THEN San Jose. Despite a long day of flying I have been fortunate to be seated next to some lovely people (and avoid the Detroit airport for once).

As I lined up to board my first flight, distracted by matching up ‘B17’ with the appropriate place in line, I hear a familar voice in front of me say “oh hi!”. It was Erin, a resident at Women and Infants.

If anyone is new to the blog or needs a refresher, Erin was the doctor that was responsible for inserting an NG tube into me during the first intestinal obstruction. It was traumatizing for all parties involved. She felt so badly about it that she visited me in the hospital after her shift every single day. In fact, she always seems to find me when I am inpatient which brings a smile to my (often delirious) face. In short, a surprise catch-up with Erin on our way to Baltimore was beyond exciting.

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With the exception of a surprise plane ride alongside Erin, I am free of the hospital for this week. My oncologist kindly granted me a week off to travel. Actually, Dr. Robison mandated that since I am in California I must eat a burrito, like a good one. Welp, doctor’s orders.

A week off from treatment couldn’t have come at a better time. The time I would have spent this morning getting blood drawn and rushing to work was spent entirely in bed easing into the day. Bliss.

Over the past few weeks I have gone through periods of feeling a little deflated. I recently had a discussion with my oncologist about expectations. Dr. Robison can see that I am disappointed that there is no established “end date” for when the taxol (chemo part) might end. We had a healthy discussion about, based on what we know, what this means for my immediate and long-term future.

From a clinical perspective, the goal is treat to prevent new tumors. From a patient perspective, my perfect-world scenario would be to treat to prevent new tumors and get rid of the ones I already have lurking around my abdominal cavity. I constantly toggle between feeling wildly optimistic that I can achieve a cancer free life (someday) and settling with the fact that the cancer may never entirely leave me but with treatment/maintenance I could still live with a pretty good quality of life.

After I left treatment last week I was frustrated, I didn’t want to be made to reconsider my expectations. After a week of sulking, crying, writing and rewriting I think the only conclusion that I can draw is that it is important that I recognize that this process is going to continue to be long term. It is important that I dig deep and accept that if these tumors are going to be freeloaders and live inside of me for the long haul but aren’t growing, I am still winning. Most critically, it is essential that in accepting these realities I still allow myself to believe in a world where I no longer have cancer.

No one knows the outcome of this story. Establishing realistic expectations and dreaming do not necessarily negate one another. So I choose to accept and believe simultaneously to the best of my ability.

I know it sounds like I have this all figured out in a nutshell but I assure you that I will continue to grapple with it until the cows come home. Friends and family are ever important in maintaining the balance. Strangers too…

I am currently sitting next to a woman on the second leg of this journey (Baltimore –> San Diego). It feels like a chance encounter where we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This woman noticed that I was drafting a blog entry and asked: “are you a blogger?” from there we discussed blogging, writing, etc. Naturally it came out that I write about living with cancer to which she responded: “I am a cancer survivor too, breast.” Her name is Billie and she is a minister. She is returning from a trip visiting her grandchildren in Virginia. She has overcome many devastating tragedies in her life, yet maintains such honest and positive perspective.

We spoke a lot about our common thread, cancer. Treatments, surgeries, being bald, confronting changes in the body, menopause, relationships evolving and dissipating. We also chatted about books, goals, and bucket lists. Billie is the type of person that has a lot to say, but no words are wasteful. She opened herself up to me in a way that was not imposing and I found her to be most insightful. She is a walking, talking, breathing reminder to keep living and finding comfort and joy in the simple pleasures.

Thank you Southwest, you’ve nailed this trip thus far.

Speaking of thank-you’s I would like to thank everyone that has donated to the 2015 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Walk to Break the Silence. On Sunday, September 27th I will be joining the Rhode Island chapter of the NOCC for their annual walk. I created my fundraising page just two or three days ago and already donations are pouring in! I am in awe of your generosity and support.

I would also like to thank Miss Stacey Applesauce Goldman and Emily Nason for registering as team members. In speaking with other friends, it sounds like we are going to have a solid posse on the day of! If you would like to join this team, Teal All Your Friends, you can do so through my donation page in the top right corner.

Seriously though…

“She is BALD, Jerry”

I will preface this entry by saying that I am fresh off of chemo this morning and still feeling the Benadryl haze. I typically try not write the same day I receive chemo. My fear is perceiving that I am … Continue reading

“You’re doing a good job at having cancer” -Big Brother

Some days Most days, I feel like my life is spinning out of control and I would like nothing more than to hide under the covers until its all over. Today is not one of those days. Today I feel strong, optimistic, and oh so grateful. So yes Adam, I agree that I am doing a DAMN good job. I mean look at me- rocking the shit out of that wig for my beautiful roomie’s 25th birthday this past weekend. Not bad for a “make a wish kid” (as one of my best friends so eloquently puts it).

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Today I had my scheduled pre-chemo exam with Dr. Robison. I am happy to report that she gave me nothing but optimistic news. She examined my abdomen and told me that she heard good bowel sounds and that it looked soft and normal. I haven’t had any abdominal pain since I left the hospital so it looks like the obstruction has resolved itself for the time being. I also asked her about my chemo schedule. If my CA125 levels continue to go down like they have been, normalize, and don’t start to creep back up there shouldn’t be any reason that we need to continue chemo beyond the scheduled 6 cycles. The goal is to get my CA125 levels below 21. Right now I’m down to 64 from 1600- woo-hoo! If I am able to stay on track with chemo as planned, I will finish chemo the last week of April. AMAZING. In terms of aftercare there are a few options but the one that Dr. Robison is leaning toward is a monthly injection that would help prevent a reoccurrence. The plan would be to have this treatment for the next year. This means that my abdominal port would come out at the end of chemo but my other port would need to stay in for a year. A small price to pay to be cancer free.

Due to the unpredictability of this disease I have learned that I can’t count on anything so I have to be prepared for everything. So much can happen in the next few months but after talking to my oncologist about where we are headed, I am truly starting to see the light at the end of the chemo tunnel. I still have three more, achey, pukey, cranky, miserable rounds but in a few days I will be more than halfway done! (At least it gives me an excuse to curl up on the couch with my amazing roommate and watch more Lifetime movies than we’re both willing to admit)

I don’t know how I would make it this far without the support and faith of everyone in my life right now (especially the Kaplan Clan this week 😉 You know what’s up). Cancer has taken away my ovaries, many organs, the ability to bear children, and my hair. Cancer has not and will never be able to take away the love and warmth that has surrounded me by family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and complete strangers. If I don’t acknowledge you in this particular post please know that you are NOT forgotten. The gifts, cards, messages and loving gestures will stay with me eternally.

I feel compelled to highlight my colleagues this time around because they have been so essential in this recovery process. I feel normal at work. I come alive at work. I’m pretty sure I smile more and worry less between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30 Monday through Friday. I am incredibly lucky to work where I do simply because I work amongst such thoughtful, understanding and inspiring people.This is a group that I have only known since July of this year yet without a second thought they have met with my students, run my reports, covered my presentations, fed me, made me laugh, hugged me when I needed to cry, visited me in the hospital, driven me to work, driven me to support groups, and in return I have driven them crazy 🙂 kidding! I think? I hope? Right guys? Guys…?

(I hope I am not embarrassing my office by posting this picture. Steph made it the Advising Office cover photo on facebook so blame her! Sidenote- The fine people of Academic Records, The Registrar and Study Abroad are not pictured but equally loved and adored)
bryant

Sorry for all of the rambling (not actually sorry) but I want to share one more story while I continue my gratitude kick:

Since my diagnosis I feel like I have connected with people on a more intimate level. For example today I went back to my gym to reactivate my membership and inquire about personal training (It’s time to get jacked!!! Ok maybe not but some light exercise couldn’t kill me). I explained to the BSC staff member why I had to freeze my membership and that lead to me to spilling my guts about whole saga. It must have been fate that brought me to my gym on this particular night, at this particular time, to speak with THIS particular person because we instantly connected. It turns out that this girl has been through a series of unimaginable life challenges herself. Even though our experiences were very different from one another, it was as if our struggles granted us permission to open up and have a very human moment in a very unlikely setting.

The next time you open a newspaper and read about a shooting or international conflict remember that in the midst of such chaos this is still a kind and gentle world. I know this because I wouldn’t have come so far in this disease had I not been on the receiving end of infinite love and compassion on a daily basis.