Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reinvent or Refine?

Recently I've noticed that women's magazines seem be be focusing on reinventing and organizing. (I'll save organizing for another post.) I read "More" Magazine fairly regularly.The February issue has an article "Reinvent Yourself"with stories of women who have changed jobs, started businesses, etc. In the body and mind section of the magazine, five women reinvented their middles.Yes, their middles. I admit my middle might need help ( two surgeries have done it in) but reinvention?

I've even seen contests on telling your reinvention story. Sharing your story can be important. There is a website called "Voices of Survivors" . On its pages there are stories - written words or videos of cancer survivors telling their stories and explaining what surviving cancer means to them. That is helpful stuff to read when you are newly diagnosed or just finishing treatment. The stories are inspiring. But reinvention stories?

Cancer like any major illness causes major changes in your life- at diagnosis, during treatment, and after treatment. It presents a time when you think about who and what is important in your life. When you are done with treatment , when your hair grows back and your body functions almost like normal are you the same person you were before? You might come close but I believe you never return to being that same exact person.

Does cancer cause you to reinvent yourself? I like to think of it as becoming refined. You take the time to think about who you are and who you want to be in whatever time you have left. For me the cancer experience let me refine those interests and relationships that mean the most to me. What activities do I want to spend time and effort on? When I was younger I would doodle a lot . Not so good when you are in a Catholic elementary school and the nuns see what they think is "scribble " in your notebook. Years later, after I finished treatment I started to paint. I had painted those small ceramic Christmas houses and paint-by-numbers but I had never painted free hand on canvas. Turns out I like doing it. Did I reinvent myself- nope I just allowed myself to refine an interest I already had. Refining myself is an ongoing process. I am given new opportunities that help me refine what it is I do and what I spend time on.

So I continue to refine my life- cancer and all.


Every Day is a Blessing!
PS Thanks Lynn for all the "Voices" you've shared.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Still Recovering

I read this article the other day in the NY TIMES. It was called Healing Physically,Yet Still Not Whole. The writer, diagnosed 2 years ago is a stage 3 prostate cancer survivor. He writes about how cancer was a life changing event , how he needed to slow down , how he "... retreated into a chrysalis of healing" but how he still to this day needs to recover. It was very powerfully written.

He got me thinking I've been down this" healing" road twice. I've been through the first diagnosis, surgery, chemo treatments including the lost hair and back pains, and foot pains. My hair grew back I started feeling pretty good for two and a half years. Then I went through the CT shows spots phone call, the "it's BACK"feelings, subsequent surgery, chemo , hair loss, the reaction to one of the chemo drugs, the numb fingers and toes , the back pains. Then I was done with the chemo and disease free once again. My skin color returned. I had to change foundation colors during chemo because the other was too dark. My hair grew in salt and pepper and curly and my appetite returned. Maybe too good since I could use to loose a few pounds.

I have traveled and gotten back to doing everyday activities. Thing is I still need to take naps , when I go full tilt one day doing things around the house or out with Nick, the next day I am wiped out so that I can't concentrate and have trouble writing. And some days when the weather is cold, the toes on my left foot hurt and I kind of hobble around. I'm not complaining cause I am blessed and I am alive but I think people need to realize that being done with treatment is not being back to normal ( whatever normal is for a person who has had cancer).

Recently, I saw someone who I hadn't seen since my no hair / scarf days. She looked at me and said " You look great! I love your hair. I'm glad you feel so good" . I said, "Thanks". I do look ok. I am physically healed but you know what I'm still recovering.


Every Day is a Blessing! I am blessed by my husband and children

Friday, January 22, 2010

Contrast Ultrasound and Biomarkers

In an effort to find an early detection test for ovarian cancer, researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and Vanderbilt Medical Center looked at combining contrast-enhanced ultrasound and biomarker tests ( Proteomic tests). In February's issue of the American Journal of Roentenology the researchers wrote the article( link below is for the abstract),

New Frontiers for Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation: Proteomics and Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound

They concluded that the contrast-enhanced ultrasound may pick up on "aberrant vascularity" ( abnormal vessels or ducts that carry fluids ) required for tumor growth before a mass appears and propose the two in combo as a way to diagnose early stage Ovarian Cancer.

I wish I could read the entire article for more details about the research.
And I hope to update this blog a bit more frequently than once a week.


Every Day is a Blessing!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Then and Now

I've been thinking the past day or two about what I should write about next. I could have written about things related to Ovarian Cancer research or the bra color statuses on Facebook. But I kept coming back to my father's time in the Army during World War II and my son-in-law's recent deployment to Iraq.

My father, Robert, served in the Army during World War II. He enlisted in 1942 and was trained at Fort Lee , Va as a plumber and pipe fitter. After a short stint in California he was off to build sanitation facilities - toilets, outdoor showers and water drinking water lines which were very important components of the bases throughout the Pacific theater. He spent some of his time in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, the Phillipines and a number of smaller islands like Goodenough Island. My father's brother ,Mike, also served during World War II. I have Uncle Mike's footlocker which contains well over 50 letters, postcards and Western Union Telegrams that were written to or by my father while he was overseas.

He traveled by train from Virginia to California and then by ship to the different stops in the Pacific. He spent weeks on a ship traveling to each assignment. In most cases the only way to communicate with a loved one who were serving in the military overseas was through letters mailed to an APO address. I noticed that my Aunt Dora sent most of the letters and typed them on a typewriter. The letters took weeks to catch up with my dad and included news about the family and the house on Fairmont Avenue in Newark. Sometimes the letters crossed paths so the exchange was very disjointed. The letters also contained questions about how the war was going. Some of the letters my dad wrote were censored- with words and sentences blacked out. At home they never really knew where he was located. For music, my father had a LP record player made out of metal that you had to assemble and wind up to play the few records he had with him. He also had a film camera, I don't know what type, but it took the tiny 2" square photos that I am trying to organize as I straighten things in my basement. My dad was discharged on Dec 2, 1945 as a staff- sergeant.

A week ago Andy,my son-in-law, a captain in the Army, deployed to Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division Headquarters out of Fort Riley, Kansas. Unlike my dad who went my train and ship ,he flew from Topeka, Kansas to Bangor ,Maine to a stop in Europe and after a total of 22 hours, he landed in Kuwait on his way to Iraq. At the various stops the USO gave soldiers in his unit cell phones to make free phone calls home. Before they deployed each soldier was given an AT&T phone card. Andy was able to bring his iPod loaded with his favorite music, a digital camera and a small laptop. From the base in Iraq thanks in part to the USO, he will be able to watch satellite TV, e-mail and call home. He can also get a coffee at Green Beans Coffee and visit a Subway or Burger King on base.

It is difficult today like it was over 65 years ago to have a family member deployed but I am so thankful that communication is easier and quicker. I am thankful too for a Facebook page provided by the Family Readiness Group at Fort Riley that provides support for the families while there soldier is deployed.

I will still write letters and send packages the old fashion way to his APO address but I will also be able to stay in touch by e-mail. I am proud of my son-in-law and pray that all the soldiers in his unit return home safely.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Monday, January 11, 2010


I have been in Kansas visiting my daughter and her husband who recently deployed with Fort Riley's 1st Infantry Division Headquarters. The weather here has been cold. I stopped looking at the weather channel when it hit 8 below zero ( 25 below zero windchill ). Needless to say I haven't been able to spend much time outside. Even my usual long walk around the neighborhood with Silvio, Terry and Andy's cute pug had to be cut short.

Lucky for me though Terry's home has large windows and her development borders some forest, a few fields and the Wildcat Creek, so I have taken the time to look out on the snowy hills for different birds and animals. (When Nick and I visited in October I brought Terry a "Birds of Kansas" a field guide by Stan Tekiel )

Last Friday morning, I looked out her dining room window to see a red fox in the forest across the street from her home. He was walking through the snow and on top of some fallen trees- his color really stood out against the white snow covered hills. How I wish I had brought my camera.

On Saturday morning while eating breakfast, I noticed some pretty blue birds flying into the pine trees next to her house. I think they were male and female Eastern Bluebirds. Their blue coloring matched the photos in the field guide exactly. This is a bit north in Kansas for them to be in the winter but I think that was what they were. I also saw starlings and crows.

But the best part was a beautiful bird gliding right outside the large picture window. At first I thought he was a Turkey vulture but the underside of his wings were white and the tips of the wings were dark brown. Out came the field guide again. He was a male Northern Harrier ( hawk). Gliding like he did reminded me so much of the Bald Eagles we saw when we were in Alaska. Stan's notes for the Harrier says " Harriers glide just above the ground , following contours of the land while searching for prey. " The photo you see of the Harrier is from photographer Phil Myers and the eastern bluebirds are from

So the Harrier was out there gliding along. And I am gliding along finding that I can put thoughts of cancer further back in my mind while keeping my eyes open to new experiences.

Every Day is a Blessing! I am blessed to see such beautiful birds.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Got Sick Then I Got Better - Teal Tea / Ovarian Cancer Research Fundraiser

I will be attending this show along with a number of ladies in my CINJ support group. Drop me a line if you will be attending. Hope to see lots of survivors and supporters there.


The Teal Tea Foundation and the Arts Council of Princeton


A special event to benefit Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Research

Ovarian Cancer Teal Tea Play Fundraiser.jpg

The performance is a one woman show about her battle with ovarian cancer, which is playing to rave reviews and sold out houses in NYC

Paul Robeson Center for the Arts

102 Witherspoon St., Princeton, NJ 08542

P: 609-924-8777 F: 609-921-0008

February 20, 2010

11:00 a.m. Performance

Tickets: $50 pp

Tickets on Sale at:

Monday, January 4, 2010

iChemoDiary - Neat iPhone app

I just learned about this great new iphone app - iChemoDiary. It is made by Merck Onoclogy part of Merck and Co. Merck makes that wonderful nausea drug Emend.

The app works on the iPhone or iPod touch and an online version will be available soon.

The app uses a calendar so you can keep track of your chemotherapy appointments, treatments and medications. It also lets you track side effects like fatigue, nausea, pain, temperature etc. It even lets you make reports that you can e-mail to yourself so that you can discuss side effects etc with your doctor or nurse.

I downloaded it just to see how it works and it covers lots of what I would write out by hand on my trusty Rutgers alumni calendar. Wish I had it when I was in chemo.Thanks Merck.

For more info:

Every Day is a Blessing!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Twenty - Ten .....Beginning this Blog's Third Year

It is hard to believe that this post marks the beginning of 2010 and the beginning of the third year of writing this "Women of Teal" blog. Through my posts I have connected with wonderful people from all over the world who are ovarian cancer survivors, caregivers or health care providers.

During the past few years the awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms has increased and more women are sharing their stories and supporting one another. I am positive that activities to raise funds for research and awareness by groups such as the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, The Sandy Rollman Foundation, northern NJ NOCC , Ovarian Cancer 411, & Meghan's Message have saved lives of women in NJ. We have more work to do on an early detection test but we have made progress.

As I wrote on my facebook page:
Good bye 2009- Thanks again to my friends and family for all your support from January to April while I was in chemo. Thanks too for being part of the travels of Nick and Dee from May to December. From the Flint Hills of Kansas to Denali National Park, from the Shrine of St Jude to the Candlelight Processional, the memories we made were wonderful. Every Day is a Blessing! Here's to an even better 2010!
( July of 2010 will mark the 5th anniversary of my initial diagnosis and I can't wait to celebrate!)