Good News all Around

Last Monday, June 2, 2014 Mike and I drove to Indy to visit with Dr. Caring, my oncologist and breast cancer surgeon.  It was something most people would call very routine, but in my world nothing involving the girls is routine.  It would be my first mammogram on both sides at the same time.  You see, once you have breast cancer you go every three months for the a mammogram on that girl.  I know, why on earth would I be worried if I have been looked at every three months?  Plain and simple, on the last day of school last year I was diagnosed with cancer.  I am exactly one year out from my diagnosis day.  And as with many moments in life sometimes you celebrate days because they are socially and culturally set, like a birthday or an anniversary, diagnosis day just simply took on a life of its own.  With that said, I was anxious to get a clean bill of health for the summer…not another diagnosis.

Skip ahead to the end game on this, I am completely clear and I do not have another mammogram until December, 2014.  Yippee! 

For those of you that like to hear all of the details, lets just say the appointment was less than desirable.  Initially the mammogram on the “other” girl was showing something about a quarter in diameter.  The technician taking the pictures quickly took more, but I am not going to lie, the time it took to have a radiologist look at the pictures was a complete meltdown.  In the end it was nothing…nothing….the size of a quarter!!!  Tissue can be tricky is what the technician told me.  Tricky….

When I walked out of the mammogram appointment I looked like a truck had hit me.  I know, no cancer, but a wave of emotions I hadn’t invited to the appointment did show up.  A wave that quite honestly hits me periodically.  The result is usually tears and a quick reminder that life is so very good and I need to be living it to the fullest. 

Which brings me to the other piece of good news.  I am headlong into writing my diner book.  Initially this was going to be a book solely about my diner trip up the east coast last summer.  While that is the foundation the true lessons of life I have learned in the past year and honestly my whole life will be showing up in this little endeavor.  My diner classroom will also be center stage. 

When will this book be completed?  My goal is by the end of the summer I will have a published book.  Now don’t get too excited, I am self-publishing.  This is a life goal, so please keep your fingers crossed that the words keep flowing.

Tonight my dear friends are having a small gathering to celebrate that Miss C continues to stay away.  I think the thing I love the most about moments like this is that my friends have been with me each step of the way.  They have helped me carry this burden, laughed with me, cried with me, cried without me, and have continually supported me.  I love that.  I love them.

Without coming across as too weepy and sappy, please remember to live each day the way “you” want because each journey is uncertain.  Even after having this rather large wake up call with Miss C. I do slide into old habits at times.  At times I live the life others have planned for me or attend to things that do not fit into my path.  For whatever reason, life does that and it takes a very strong soul to travel your own journey.  I am always thankful for summer, because it does bring everything back to center.   And, as I embrace that wave of emotions on those more difficult days I am still reminded that life is good.  Everything does happen for a reason. 

I  am gearing up for an extended trip to NYC, the city I fell in love with last year.  I will be blogging while I am there, attending a writing workshop at Columbia, as well as writing my book.  Having the opportunity to live in Greenwich Village for a few weeks is such a dream come true.  Yes, I will be pretending the entire time that I truly live there….and maybe it will magically happen…hahaha.  Fingers crossed, or is that click my heals?!

Hugs to all!

 

 

Super Powered

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Last week my Diner Kids and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a Super Hero Day.  We came in cloaked in our super hero tees ready to take on the role of a super hero for the day.  Each person received a detailed character sketch of their new persona and within minutes we all snapped into our new roles.  The day was filled with super powers, teamwork, and many humorous and fun moments.  Our goal, to solve a mystery before all of our super powers were taken from us.

Spin ahead to today.  Mike and I traveled to Indianapolis to check in with one of my incredible doctors.  This time, my medical oncologist was our destination.  He is that guy that makes sure the medicine I am taking to prevent Miss C from coming back on the scene is indeed doing its job.  When I met him during radiation week I was full of questions and he addressed all of them.  He is what I would coin old school, but believe me I love that about him.  Dr. H. is a straight shot and very direct in his approach.  Today was exactly what I had hoped for.  We kicked it off with drawing blood.  I know, why am I giving you so much detail, hang with me for a moment.  When I was a child no one ever drew my blood.  Doctors truly made decisions by looking at me.  I was an average kid with average illnesses and average results.  When I became an adult I met a doctor that drew my blood and told me what was happening “inside” of me.  Yep, he stole my heart and I knew right then that if a doctor didn’t do that, then they weren’t the doctor for me.

With all of that said, the reason I travel all the way to Indianapolis for every appointment is because my doctors. not only take my blood, but also immediately analyze it.  I knew before I leave each appointment how I am doing.  Today I know that my platelets are up (they were down just one month ago) and my blood counts are great.  What I also know is that I am doing great on my Tamoxifen journey.  I honestly felt like I was talking to a close friend as I found Dr. H. finishing my sentences and chuckling with me as we discussed the night sweats, energy levels, and how much my body has been through.  Another milestone was made.

So what does all of this have to do with my classroom Super Hero Day?  I realized today that I have been on an incredible journey that in reality was like my classroom Super Hero Day.  In May of last year I was diagnosed with cancer.  When that happened we all took on our new roles.  Yes, when I say “all” I am talking about all of you out there either in my Internet world and/or in my personal world.  You all chose your super powers and each of you have been there for me in so many amazing ways.  Those closest to me know that my role became very succinct, I can do this and I needed the super powers of grace and dignity to get me through.  I feel like my super powers continue to hold steady and they are a part of my everyday moments now.  I take very little for granted and I value even the simplest of things.

I want to thank all of you for using your super powers to push me forward and make my journey so much softer and brighter.  Thank you.

As I lay my head on my pillow tonight I am going to think about each of you and the doctors that have mended me along the way.  I am going to continue my quest to bring to the table what I have to offer.  I am going to remind my Diner Kids of the value of a caring heart, a hard work ethic, and help them to find what they have to offer in the world with their super powers.

My cancer journey is far from over, but today I am reminded that Life is Good.

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Journey 2: My Little Slice of Heaven

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It has been almost six weeks since I have blogged. What has been going on in my world? My life has been amazingly special on just about every level. When I walked out of radiation two-a-days I didn’t want to go home. All I wanted to do is keep going forward. I jumped back into my life with both feet in. I have focused on staying present in the moment and living each moment to the fullest. Of course, my body hasn’t necessarily been able to follow that lead, but I am getting there.

What I continue to realize is how lucky and fortunate I really am. My journey with breast cancer has taught me a lot. I see the world differently. And I respond to the world differently.

I also realize this journey is far from over. Cancer is not something you get past in life. As I sat with a dear friend and looked at cancer through her eyes I realized cancer will always be a part of me. It will be that piece that will bind me to others, bring tears to my eyes with them, and will ultimately be yet another piece of the fabric of my life.

I have spent a great deal of time reading about recovery and living a healthy life after breast cancer. It has been insightful and even a little bit humorous. In a nutshell I am already on the right path. My pescatarian lifestyle and focus on clean daily living both fit the bill. I am anxious to put my new running shoes on. Yes, they are pink.

This week and next I have the opportunity to reconnect with Dr. Caring and my radiology crew. My body is healing and my energy is coming back day by day. A good friend reminded me that I am now on the other side of cancer. You know, the side where you think about cancer coming back. Well, I can’t say a day goes by that I don’t think about it, but what I can say is that I am not worried. What I think is that time is precious and you need to live each moment. Seeing the doctors again will be such a great moment…six weeks.

I know, why start out my blog entry with a picture of my classroom? It is my slice of heaven. I didn’t have the opportunity to start my year in the Diner, but I can tell you I am living my days to the fullest there. Teaching is a true treasure and I will never lose focus of that.

All I really know is that at 51 I am living each moment as open and present as I ever have. I feel fortunate and very happy. I have an incredible life, family, friends, career, students, and outlook. In life it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Journey 2 will continue. And each step I will learn another layer. These past six weeks have taught me a lot. I am confident the next six will do the same.

Hugs to all. Life is good, very good. 💗

Journey 2: Life is so VERY Good

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Good.  As I looked up the word good in the dictionary I found the definition of “in excellent condition, healthy” and it seemed to fit.  But then I looked a little further and found “cheerful, optimistic, agreeable, and pleasant” and that fit the best.  Life is good on so many levels.

I have completed radiation and Miss C is officially gone.  Radiation and a drug regiment for the next five years will ensure that none of Miss C’s friends will enter the picture.  How cool is that?  Life is good.

Along the way on my journey I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with a whole host of incredibly kind and hard working people at St. Vincent’s Hospital, the Cancer Center, and the Breast Center of Indiana.  I have shared about Dr. Caring in previous blog entries, but what I haven’t had the opportunity to do is tell you about all of the “other” heroes I met along the way.  The first hero was an 88 year old lady named Priscilla.  She quickly became my Savi Sister.  You see she was on the same journey I was, minus the second surgery.  She had radiation right after me each day last week.  Priscilla is one of those women that you know from the moment you meet her that she has always been a true lady.  She was humble, kind, and really quite fun.  I enjoyed my moments with her.  I admired her strength and positive attitude throughout the process.  What a dear soul.  Life is good and I am so glad I met Priscilla.

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The other crew of heroes I met and spent a good deal of time with was the Radiology Team at St. Vincent’s Hospital.  Sadly, I don’t have a picture of “all” of the doctors, physicists, and nurses, but here is a part of them.  What I found is that their preoccupation with doing their best and ensuring my comfort were like no other.  I cannot thank them enough.  They made something really rather scary in the beginning quite comfortable.  I actually laughed as we neared the end because we no longer talked about my radiation, but rather how about our families and how to encourage their children to read.  They became a special part of my journey.  Life is good.

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As I have traveled both journeys this summer Alex (my youngest son) has been taking pictures and shooting a documentary for me.  This picture actually brings tears to my eyes.  This is final trip into the hospital for the last round of radiation.  To say this day was an emotional one would be an understatement.  I was not worried, but rather emotionally raw by this point.  With my pink boots and the pink jersey Mike had made for me, team Pinto made their way into the hospital to finish the breast cancer journey I had been on.   Life is good.

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The great news is that after a lot of tears of joy we walked out of the hospital with Journey 2 completed.  What I have now is my life back.  We celebrated with a meal in Indy and I trekked back home to hug and celebrate by visiting friends.  In fact, I have been doing that for three days and I hope to continue that all week.  I feel like I only stop now to sleep.  I don’t want to miss a thing.  Dr. Caring told me early on that life would mean so much more to me.  I thought I understood that, but I really didn’t until my radiation was completed.  Life is good.

Thank you all for your support and kindness for the past four months.  Tomorrow I become a teacher again and live the life I will never again take for granted.  Life is so VERY good.  Hugs!

Journey 2: Relationships

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Relationships have been a treasured part of my journey.  Radiation two-a-days have been no exception to this rule.  Each day my dear friends Gary and Allen let me enjoy this beautiful view in their home as I rest between treatments.  Their cozy couch has become one of my favorite spots.  OK, I have to share that the color palate you see in the window engulfs the entire room I have had the pleasure of resting in.  It is a little slice of heaven.

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Stan and Ron have been a bright light as I enter and exit  the hospital twice a day for treatment.  What I love is that they always have a smile and a kind word to share.  Their presence continues to remind me of how important relationships are.  They light up every time I lock eyes with them and they have become a fun part of my journey.  They call me by name and even share encouraging words as I travel past them each morning and afternoon.  Stan and Ron are such great guys and they understand the importance of relationships.

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A dear friend took this picture when my “new” class was with her.  She knew I couldn’t wait to see them, so she sent me the next best thing.  I can’t wait to get back to school to work on my relationships with my new baby carrots and reconnect with my big guys.  I miss them so much.  The relationships I build as a teacher are such a big part of who I am.

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We all know that clear is my favorite word these days and to think this whole crew is a part of that…so treasured.  Yes, Kelli took this photo with the “old” Diner Kids as well.  These guys traveled through the Diner for two years and I have a relationship with each one of them.  How special to have such a good friend that knew exactly what to do for me, relationships.

What I don’t have is a picture of is all of the texts, emails, phone calls, and little treasures that appear on my doorstep each day.  Those have come from those comfortable relationships that I have spent years enjoying.

As I push through the last two days of radiation this week I find myself very thankful for both the old and the new relationships I have.  They have both been an essential part of my journey.  I have learned a lot about life and myself on this trek and I realize now I will never be the same.  I mourn having my life back, but realize my life will truly be so much better when I step back into it.  Yes, I am hoping that is very soon.

Journey 2: Radiation Two-a-Days is my Miss Liberty

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In “Journey 1″ this summer I was fortunate to go to a city I had only dreamed of, New York City.  As I gear up for Radiation Two-a-Days I harken back to the moment I was on the Staten Island Ferry.  Seeing the Statue of Liberty was something I never thought would happen.  As I peered over the side of the ferry I became overwhelmed with her beauty and the history she carries with her.  That moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.  OK, how does this memory fit into my current spot in time?  I find myself humbled like the day I saw Miss Liberty.  She was a strength that every immigrant saw as they approached NYC.  She was the picture of hope.  Getting to Radiation Two-a-Days is my Miss Liberty.  The only way I could get to this point is because of the road I have traveled.  Two surgeries, an immense amount of perseverance, waiting for results, positive thinking, Dr. Caring, many dear friends and family, incredible acts of kindness, and true strength were all parts of the road I have traveled.  No, I haven’t been riding on a ship like the immigrants did, but this has been a heck of a ride.  Radiation Two-a-Days is my Miss Liberty.

Preparing my classroom for a year I couldn’t start was tough.  Doing this prior to knowing I had clear margins made it that much more of a challenge.  I have been in school either as a student or a teacher for the past 46 consecutive years.  This is my 30th year of teaching.  In all of those years I have only missed the start of school two times.  Once, 26 years ago when my oldest son Brent was born and now with breast cancer.  Clearly I love what I do.  When I finished up my classroom on the day prior to school I found myself in tears.  How could I not be there the first day?  I find myself thinking back on Miss Liberty.  No one that looked over the side of their ship knew what was ahead, but they knew they were going in the right direction.  I knew I was going forward, so I had to trust it would all work out in the end.  I could only do what I could do.

As I travel through this next week I will take this on as I have taken on this entire journey, with grace and dignity in the forefront.  I am confident there will be moments of challenge and things that will push my core, but I know the end is coming soon.  I know I will walk away from this healed. I know I will never see the world the same way as I did before this journey.

This journey has taught me a great deal.  Life is truly very good and I am VERY lucky.

Hugs to all.

Journey 2: Clear Margins!

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Clear.  What a fascinating word that has many definitions.  Free from…  I will never look at the word clear as a simple word ever again.  Having clear margins means Dr. Caring got the breast cancer.  Miss C is truly not on this journey anymore.

As I type this entry the tears continue to roll.  I finally feel like I can breathe.  This journey has been life altering for me and I have learned so much, but today I can breathe.  Today I am going forward.

My goal from the start has been to do this with grace and dignity.  Those two words have gotten me through some very difficult moments along the way.

But today, “clear” is the word that is allowing me to breathe.  No, the journey isn’t over, but the cancer is gone.  It was completely contained.  Dr. Caring is my hero.

What is next?  Going forward is next and forward is all I have hoped for since I heard the word cancer.  This week I have the Savi catheter put in and see my radiologist.  Then the following week I do two-a-day radiation for five straight days.  During that week I meet my oncologist that will guide my body to stay cancer free.

I know, why the picture in the poppies?  I love this picture in the poppy field and it was taken at the start of this journey.  My husband has spent the past three months by my side.  He has done everything in his power to make this journey the best it could be.  He took me to this field because he knew I would love it.  What I love is that he drove by this field and knew it would make my day.  In life I have known many people that don’t have a person like Mike in their life.  I am so very lucky and thankful he has walked this journey with me.  This picture…a treasure.

And to all of my friends out there, thank you.  From visiting a horse (Miss Abby….love her) to having my nails done you guys have calmed my storm.  The cards, flowers, meals, gifts, kind words, and laughter have been the best medicine.  You allowed me to travel this journey with grace and dignity.  Thank you.

Tonight as I lay my head down to sleep I will breathe.  Clear is my new favorite word….free from.  I am free from Miss C and that simply means the world to me right now.

Thank you all for following this journey.  I will continue to blog and keep you posted, I promise.  Please just know blogging has been very comforting for me because I always knew you all were out there reading it and that you cared.

Life is so very good.

 

Journey 2: Calm Moments

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A special moment with Abby sure did bring a lovely calm to my world.  My dear friend invited me to spend some time with her horse Abby and it was priceless.  My love for horses goes way back, so the moment I saw her I felt everything else fall away.  The peace that comes when spending time with these gentle giants is something I truly can’t describe.  What a lovely moment.

For the past few weeks my goal has been to heal and go forward.  I am healing.  The forward part seems to happen no matter what.  With the onset of school I find myself a bit more hurried at times, but a good hurry.  I love teaching and this time of year is the best.  Teachers are buzzing around the building, my phone is blowing up with texts from friends, emails are pouring in, and I am hunkered down at home planning for the start of school.  I know, how are these calm moments?  Calm for me sometimes is when I am actively involved in something I enjoy.  I have helped friends arrange their rooms, talked about their classroom themes, and enjoyed chatting it up about the latest books I have read…calm.

My next surgery is rapidly approaching, next Tuesday.  I know, doesn’t that just fill you with lots of questions?  I totally understand, but I have learned that I am taking this one step at a time.  I am looking at August 6th and nothing further at this point.  I have found that this helps me have more calm moments.  When you start to look ahead there are just a few too many unknowns, which truly don’t help.  When I met Dr. Caring he told me to let him be my guide through this and to not veer away from him.  Well, we all know I thought I was doing that before and it became apparent I wasn’t. This time I am.  This time I am only looking at August 6th.

As I sit here in my planning room surrounded with materials I love the calm I am living right now.  I am anxious to connect with my class and start yet another amazing year of teaching.  And, for the record, this is year 30 for me….can you believe that?!

I know I don’t have all of the answers to the questions many of you have at this point, but please just know that right now I am ready for round two and I am in great hands with Dr. Caring.  I promise to continue sharing via this blog as this journey continues.

Life is good.  I wish I could put into words all that I have learned this summer.  What I can tell you is that I value the Calm Moments as they roll through my life.  My goal is to say yes far more than I say no.  Yes feels so much calmer, just like spending time with Abby.

 

Diner Diaries Doc teaser trailer!

Happy Saturday everyone! Here’s a trailer for our upcoming doc. Enjoy!