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cancer

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My Biggest Medical Asset

I have something that will help the cancer patient in your life, something that has been helping me for years. Why didn’t I think of sharing this sooner? I’ve eluded to it, even directly recommended it, but I’ve never included (that I can remember) a true description with photos. I’ve been sharing this info one-on-one with patients and caregivers, but for whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me to officially write something on how I stay organized in the wild wild world of cancer. Any large accordion style briefcase will do. The more slots, the better.Spring for heavy duty, this thing will take a beating with the amount of use it will get. I get copies of every medical record, and I carry this with me to all of my appointments.I have saved many a headache, and lots of time, during meetings because I have my own copies of my various pathologies, radiology reports, etc. This is a mini case that has its own slot in the big case. It holds every single one of my MRI and F18-Dopa PET scan disks. I’m able to pull out any disk that I need, in a matter of seconds. It’s astounding how helpful these disks have been in appointments.It has been common, in my experience, that new doctor appointments often do not receive my records in a timely fashion. By carrying all of my document and disks with me,I don’t get held up with delays or partial information from my doctors, because I’m able to provide the data for review and assessment. This briefcase has been worth its weight in mom’s cookies. Recently, at a new neuro-oncologists’s meeting, the doctor even asked what I do for a living. I replied, “This.” He responded by saying, “Want a job?” For a woman who has disabilities, who…

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We All Need A Wizard

Dang it, why are there so many cool people out there? I just finished an interview with Refinery29, about the TV show, My Last Days. Yes, that is the horrible name chosen to document six different people diagnosed with a terminal illness, one of which is my story. It makes my body retch to even type it. I physically hate the title, with a palpable rancor, but I understand they’re trying to gain the biggest viewing potential, and that potential could help people. It’s all about pulling people in, about shock value. It’s the world we live in. I just don’t believe I’m in my last days. I don’t describe myself as terminal, although that’s exactly what I’ve been told. That I will die of this. But I know so much more than I used to. I know that a cancer diagnosis is a hopscotch of jumps, just to find a new treatment to outlive each phase. There are no guarantees in life, and that means we don’t know what our life has in store, for example, when we will die. So, anyway, the production company set us up with a public relations agency that’s helping us understand the marketing/promotion process which includes doing an interview or two. Back to my point, I was partnered with one of the PR peeps, and she is a true wizard – one of those spirits that you instantly connect with. The Refinery29 interview this morning held the typical questions, When were you diagnosed? How has this impacted your life? My wizard had addressed all of us subjects in a recent conference call and one specific point resonated with me. I started thinking about what I want my message to be. If I can sum up my goal in discussing my cancer journey, what…

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In All The B’s

*Written somewhere over the midwest, as I flew home from NYC late last night.* I never anticipated growing up. I mean, who does, or we would choose to wear sunscreen at age 4, and I’ve never seen a child apply SPF by choice. When you get this crazy diagnosis it’s like living in an alternative universe; you’re instantly catapulted into the raw threads of life. You’re 29 and 99, all at once, wondering where your life went. My favorite part of cancer is that there’s people whom I’ve fallen in love with. They’re kind, they’re gracious, they’re real, and explosively smart. They’re honest, we quip, tease, and I can’t believe that somehow my life collided with theirs. I know that I would have crossed paths with other people in my sliding doors life, and they would have been deep, and knowing, encompassing, challenging, hilarious, so I know you don’t have to be a cancer patient, or caregiver, to be “enlightened” – yuck, I don’t even like that word in the context. I’m swirled with people of all backgrounds, different histories, and the longer I live, the happier I am – if that’s possible. Who would pick cancer? Not me. And I’m not convinced that I needed to get cancer to meet these souls. We could have met when we were in a shared taxi, at a resort, on a hiking trail, in a public bathroom. I mean, come on, you guys know me – a person is just a friend I haven’t met yet. I’m expected to do another brain surgery in Oct, and that was put off from May. I kinda want to point out what a bad girl I am, but it’s not that simple. I needed proof to make sure that when they saw into my skull…

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Grit: The Best Four Letter Word

A girlfriend just introduced me to the concept of “grit”. I knew the word well, although in my family it’s termed sticktoitiveness, what I didn’t know is that a curious woman is researching it. Angela Lee Duckworth has evolved into a scientist (she was corporate, then became a teacher, then went back to school to become a psychologist), and her work focuses on determining what is “grit”. She did an amazing Ted Talk, sharing what she had learned, and at that time she didn’t know if grit could be taught. Here’s the cool part, one day, probably not too long after her Talk aired, Coach Carroll happened to turn on the tv to the Ted Talks, and listened to Angela. The subject so moved him, especially the part where she wasn’t sure how to transfer or teach grit, that he immediately got in contact with her. It was fateful that Coach caught Angela’s Ted Talk (of all the days to turn on a Ted Talk, and for all the TT’s out there, it had to be this one), but it was grit, that drove him to reach out. See, Coach has been living a gritty life, full of purpose, and drive. With strength, and humility, and he’s been teaching it.  So tonight, my girlfriend invited us to attend the Town Hall Meeting at Seattle University to listen to Angela and Coach talk about what it means to have grit, how you can foster it in yourselves, how we can nurture it in our children, and in those around us. And good God it was powerful. And it was just what I needed.  You see, even though I’m not convinced I’m dealing with a recurrence, I still have cried quite a bit about this turn of events. At first, I thought…

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Don’t Fear Germs

I’m miserable. But I’m excited. I’ve had a temperature for a few days. At first, I just thought it was weird how much my body was hurting. My bones, every single bone in my body was full of needles, and I joked with Dan that maybe I had contracted meningitis. (I love to throw out the impossible and laugh.) Looking back I had been noticing for the past few weeks a pain in my lungs. A burning, hot, achey sensation that I’m not used to. On Saturday, after I had written my last blog post about my lack of exercise, I became inspired and went to the gym, punched 5k in on the treadmill, and went to town. My goal was to finish the one person race in under 30 minutes. It was a little hard with the burning in my lungs, but I was able to complete it in 29:17 so I felt amazing. I did it!! Then I proceed to hack a lung. The weird part is that the stuff in my lungs isn’t getting loose so the coughing didn’t last. The weird thing is that I’ve been feeling hot for the last week, and achy. But I always find a way to reason it out. This brings me to yesterday. Finally, so miserable that I couldn’t move, so miserable that it was hard to walk, it occurred to me that I should check my temperature. And sure enough, 104 was hitting heavy. When I saw that I had a fever I was thrilled. I leaned over and high fived Dan. Weird right?! But it isn’t weird. I had read a few months ago that when you get a fever it stimulates your immune system, including the production and release of t-cells which also happen to love to…

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Impending MRI Impending Life

I don’t want to share this. I don’t want to say it. I hate that I have to release, but the truth is that I can’t handle my feelings. I have best friends, and I know that they would do anything for me. They know that I hurt, but they don’t know my pain because I can’t tell anyone, not even them. I’ve never told anyone how I badly I hurt. The pain of this, the diagnosis, the hamster wheel I live on. I give pieces to Dan, to my mom, to my dad, but if I gave any one person my whole sadness, it would be the meanest gift, and I refuse. Yet here I am, I can’t stand it anymore. But it’s a choice to read; close the window if it’s too much.I would rather cry alone, than burden my friends. I would rather hurt, and sob, by myself, because my friends have their own lives. No one’s life is easy. It has taken me years to understand that, but I get it now. I’m a ghost that is here, but that doesn’t live. People see me, or my hologram, but they don’t know me. I just float.I was meant to be a mother. I was meant to be a mom. What is my life without that? I found the most kind, handsome, generous, thoughtful, fantastic, man, but he always expected a family too. But now he worries about me. ME. He should have kids by now, he should have that beautiful love from his own children, that sticky snot filled, accidental wet bed, picky eating life, and I can’t give that to him. And what is a life without children? Seriously, to those of you who read this, can you imagine your life without your kids? That is the life…

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The Carrolls meet THE Carroll

I’ve been up since 4:00 am and it’s all because of a seizure. I’ve had a seizure in my sleep before (according to Danny – I don’t remember it), but on September 11th, just a few days ago, just at the same time as the anniversary of the twin towers collapsing, I was jolted out of bed, screaming to Danny that I was having a seizure. He jumped into action, knowing fully what to do, but I couldn’t stop myself from screaming, “Water, pills, water, pills, water, pills, hurry, hurry!!!” It was like I was in a trance. A trance where you can’t feel or move your right side. A trance where you have no control over your body, or your mind. It was powerful, but not a grand mal. My whole right side, from the tip of my toes to my cranium was tingling and throbbing. I was paralyzed, even unable to drink on my own. Danny held a glass to my mouth as water sloshed all over my face and neck, soaking our mattress. When the seizure subsided, I couldn’t talk or think or make sense of what had just happened. So here I sit in the dark while most people sleep. I don’t sleep because I’m afraid to. I don’t know how long this fear will last, and I know it will abate, but I wonder if this new experience will stick with me forever. Will I always have a deep-rooted fear of a sleep seizure? Is this going to haunt my dreams, nestle into my subconscious? Ever since I was diagnosed I’ve been afraid to miss anything. I want to soak up life, to enjoy every moment. But sleep is paramount too. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this new found issue. I…

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Germany Again? Excellent!

I’m home; I am resting after flying out to NYC for treatment (yep, what a week). I was able to get my immunotherapy shot, but was also informed that I am dangerously low on my dendritic cells (the part of the white blood cells that boost the immune system and that they use for my treatment). That means I need to head to Germany to engage in an another leukaphresis where they separate my white and red blood cells for harvest. I emailed the clinic just to verify, hoping I could squeak out a few more months before travel, but was graciously informed that it’s best to head to Germany ASAP. So, although Dan took off some time for filming, and a few other random days this month, we are hoping that he can take off more time in the next couple of weeks so that he can accompany me for treatment. I kind of see it like a super sexy medical honeymoon. Because there’s nothing sexier than life, am I right!? I’m still on cloud nine from the surprise wedding, and the whirl of my awkward self, filming to share our story. A couple of people have thought I was crazy for being filmed, but I see it as an honor. Our journey has been loud (if you read the blog anyway). It has been hard, and fun, and beautiful, and unexpected, but most of all, it has been an example of following our hearts, of being strong, and true. When we were approached for filming I was hesitant for a little bit, then I thought of the good we could do by sharing what we’ve gone through. When you get diagnosed with cancer it’s like being thrown into a burning ring of fire, and sometimes you can find…

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A Film Crew?

Hey Guys! Thank you for all of the birthday comments, texts, and emails, and phone calls, and Facebook messages! You guys all make me feel deeply loved. On my birthday Dan surprised me by taking me on a bike ride along the Burke Gilman, which I have run but never rode. Riding bikes on the BG is awesome! I’s mostly flat and you can literally ride for miles and miles. It’s stunning. But that’s not even the biggest news. One part of the big news is that I am flying back to New York next week, the 19th, for an attempt at another immunotherapy shot. It should be fine though, I’m expecting smooth sailing so to speak.  The next part is that in 24 hours or so, SoulPancake a media/production company (“We create stuff that matters. That opens your heart. That makes you think. Our mission is to help you and your audience figure out what it means to be human and feel damn good doing it. Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality, and humor is designed to get people talking, sharing, and engaging with this crazy, exciting, creative journey that is life.“), along with WayFarer Entertainment, is sending out a crew to film Danny and I for an episode of a series about people who get diagnosed with cancer. It’s kinda crazy, and a huge honor to get to share what we’ve gone through, and share how we live our lives. My hope is that we can make others feel more comfortable about what they’re going through, or have experienced. And that goes for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, and those who haven’t.  We all have hard things that pop up in life, and personal stories always help me, so I’m hoping to inspire others and put…

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Podcast Interview “Living With…”

I had the honor of being interviewed for the podcast, “Living With…” recently. Here is what this iTunes channel is all about (in Tom’s own words):  Description Living With… is about those living with cancer and other diseases or challenges. It’s a community of inspirational people who got some bad news, were dealt a terrible hand, a horrible diagnosis, which changed their lives forever. I have Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a progressive bone marrow disease which robs the body of its ability to produce blood cells and fight infection. For some reason the body stops making proper blood cells, leaving the body weak and vulnerable. Treatments include blood transfusions, drugs to boost blood cell production, and ultimately bone marrow transplant. My levels have declined considerably. I take drugs to keep my levels from declining even more, but no one knows how long they will work. I get routine blood tests to monitor my levels. I used to be an avid runner and have run several 5k, 10k, half & full marathons. I suffer from lack of energy and fatigue, but I’m able to work and do most things if I pace myself. Now, I am a walker, but I haven’t given up. I miss running, but I’m alive! The Living With Podcast is my way of bringing you interviews with inspirational people who are living with cancer, illness, and other challenges. I feel we can learn a lot from them, be inspired by them and ultimately live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. I hope you will listen to the podcast and will be entertained and inspired! Here is my interview: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/living-with…episode-023/id975036684?i=347582559&mt=2 It’s a little bit long because, hey, it’s me – I was born talking – but you could listen to some, go take care of some stuff, then come back, etc….

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