Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. - MLK, Jr.
Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway. - John Wayne
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. - Albert Einstein

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy and HEALTHY 2011!

Have you ever had that feeling that you are so exhausted, you just need to lay down where you are and sleep for a few hours?  At the end of 2009 I had that feeling every time I tried anything physical; not that I didn't do anything physical, but it was such a challenge to do anything.  I blamed allergies and the return of cedar season in Austin.  In December I found out I had breast cancer.  I was sick.  Not sick with something like the flu, or allergies, something that could be fixed.  I had cancer.  And not just any cancer, but I had Stage IIA triple-negative breast cancer; a particularly nasty and aggressive form.  Needless to say 2010 was not a good year.  I endured, I survived, and I'm still here!

This morning I took my first jog of the season around Town Lake, and was not expecting anything but to feel crappy about how out of shape I am.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I can run again!  It felt so good to feel my legs pounding the dirt, my lungs could take in full breaths, and I felt energized and not drained.
Who knows what 2011 holds in store?  I will do at least 2 triathlons, the Danskin races in Austin and Seattle.  In the Austin race my mom and Nancy and Linda will form a relay team, they have been training for awhile now.  And in Seattle my Aunt Theresa and I will conquer Lake Washington in what promises to be my chilliest swim ever.

Here is to a Happy and HEALTHY 2011!!

Memorable moments of 2010...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catching Up

I’ve been neglecting my blog since I started working again and am moving on to a “normal” life again. September 27th I started work at Ultra Clean Technology in Austin. Currently I’m the NPI buyer responsible for engineering projects. It is more stressful that I had hoped for. Originally I was hired to be the indirect buyer for all of the locations worldwide, but after only 3 days my trainer ran off with her girlfriend to Equador. She quit via text message. Needless to say it has been a crazy couple of months. October 25th I had my first post-treatment checkup with Dr. Gonzales. It went very well. She was really excited and I think really glad to have a good outcome to report. I took a bone density exam and my bones did not degrade from the chemo – YEA! We took off for Houston on Saturday, and took a field trip to the St. Arnold brewery with Sarah. We had a blast, and found a great new place to hang out on a Saturday in H-town.

 Sarah in front of the brewery.

 Who could resist sitting in this cool car??

 Enjoying our free beers!

 St. Arnold

On November 6th we participated in the Wurstride with our friends Tim and Amy. It was 100 km ride from Austin to New Braunfels with free beer and sausage at the finish line. After stuffing ourselves we made our way over to Wurstfest and shared beer while dipping our toes in the Comal River.

Still smiling at the second rest stop in Uhland.

The BEST Wurst Ride in Texas.

Tim, Amy, and Rachel at the halfway point.  It was a cold morning.

Wayne, exhausted from the ride, sleeps peacefully in the grass by the river.

We waited all year for this!

Monday we headed back to MD Anderson for my final appointment with Dr. Chang before getting my expanders replaced. Tuesday I got my new fake boobies. They are smaller than the expanders, and soft like real ones. They don’t push against my ribs and make it difficult to breathe. I think I can live with these.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Clinical Trials

This article in the New York Times, New Drugs Stir Debate on Rules of Clinical Trials, brings to mind the brutal anguish that Cody and I experienced waiting to hear if I would receive the trial drug in my clinical trial.  I was literally ringing my hands in the waiting room.  Another patient noticed my obvious distress and tried to calm my nerves by telling me that she "eats a bucket of chicken" on the way home to New Orleans after chemo.  On our way back to Austin I would let Cody know I was okay by asking him to stop for a bucket of chicken at Williams Chicken, just off of 290 in Prairie View, on our drive home from chemo.  Hearing that I had been randomized to receive the drug, one that could help save my life, was the best news that I could have possibly received at that time.  I didn't think of all the people who would hear that they had not been randomized to receive the trial drug, this article really drives that point home.  At what point do we, as society, accept a certain amount of collateral damage in our "war" against disease?  I'm not sure of the answer, but I do know that everyone should have access to treatment and drugs that could save their lives.  I also know that as a patient I wanted verifiable studies to pour over and aid me in my decision making.  Another patient that I spoke with a couple of times in the waiting room had a friend with my exact diagnosis, in the same clinical trial, and she didn't get the drug.  Her tumor grew to over 6 centimeters in 3 weeks, and she was immediately pulled off of the trial and put on F.E.C.  I never saw her again, and wonder if she survived.  I hope so.  I know that participating in a clinical trial was the right thing for me to do, and hopefully my days as a guinea pig will help save another.  Would I feel the same if I had been randomized to the control group?  Especially if the outcome had not gone as well?  Maybe on our next trip to Houston I'll stop for a  bucket of chicken.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rainy, Rainy Tuesday

Today we woke up to rain and cloudy skies. Thank you tropical storm Hermine. The rain is really nice, very slow and has cooled us off for a nice change of pace. It makes writing and working on finding employment an easier task. My interview last week was a bust. The recruiter called me over thirty minutes late, then proceeds to tell me that they filled the position the day before. There had to be a better way of communicating this information. Now I’m working on preparing for an interview tomorrow; an indirect buyer position with Ultra Clean Technologies. I’m also hard at work preparing my state application for a position with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and an application with the University of Texas. It will be nice to get back to work and begin to get my life back in order after this horrible year.

Cody and I had a nice three day weekend. On Saturday we attended the North by Northwest Anniversary Party, benefiting the Breast Cancer Resource Center. Redd Volkaert played and we had some much fun dancing, we danced to almost every song. Monday morning we were going to head down to the Austin Triathlon and cheer everyone on, but there was a nasty rain shower right before we left. So we decided to go to the Tour de Austin bike races at the J.J. Pickle Research Center.. Those people are crazy. They race in huge groups, going really fast, negotiating tight turns. Amazing more people are not seriously injured at those races. We spent the rest of Monday watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations marathon, and making homemade pizza. It was a great weekend. It was so hard this morning to watch him leave for work. I am alone again in the house. Some days it is nice to be alone with your thoughts, but I have been alone so long…

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August Wrap-up

Let me start by apologizing for not writing more this month, but its August in Texas and I think the heat effects my brain. I volunteered at the Breast Cancer Resource Center golf tournament, Suzy's Soldiers. It was a lot of fun. The girls and I worked the bar between the 9th and 10th hold. Being my first golf tournament I had no idea that the players would start drinking at 9am; but they were very nice and tipped very generously. Our bar raised the most money; maybe the tequila had something to do with that but I think it was because we were so damn cute. That night Cody and I went to the gala at Barton Creek Country Club after the tournament. It was the first time we have been back since our wedding, and we are happy to report it is still a beautiful place. The silent auction had some really cool sports memorabilia.

Yao Ming's shoe, size 18 or the size of my femur.

Ricky Williams football shoes.  

On August 23rd I had my six week follow-up with Dr. Chang. He said I am healing very well and gave me permission to exercise. I’m even allowed to ride my mountain bike, as long as I “don’t fall forward.” Not sure how to accomplish this so I’ll probably stay off the trails. It would suck to pop one of my expanders. My exchange surgery is scheduled for November 9th. Dr. Chang is also a bike rider, so he understood when I asked to wait for surgery until after the Wurstride. The most gratifying thing about the entire visit was leaving, knowing that we do not have to be back until October 25th for my first post treatment follow-up with Dr. Gonzales.

Cody and I at the start of the 2009 Wurstride.

Cody, me, Tim, and Amy at the end of the 2009 Wurstride.

Now I’m concentrating on getting back to my life. I am actively looking for a job, and have managed to land two interviews. Hopefully by the end of September the heat will have subsided, life will be back to normal, and we will keep moving on.

My new hairdo.  Cody dyed it blond, and after two weeks it is almost twice this length.  No sign of curls, but I now look like a Chia Pet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Mysterious Healing Powers of the East Route

Sunday I did it. I got back on my bike and rode with a group, only four weeks post surgery. I can comfortably lift my arms above my head and support my weight on the handlebars. The only problem would be if I hit a hole or flatted a tire, but since I did the no-drop ride I didn’t have to worry about any of that. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shinning, and the air was slightly cool with the promise of intense heat as the day wore on.

The Jack and Adam's shop ride was heading east. I love the east ride!

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The group slowly winds its way towards Springdale along 2nd street, past Full-screenCristo Rey Catholic Church where the priest has a Spanish word of the day, past the urban Boggy Creek Farm, and over the railroad tracks to Springdale Road. On Springdale we pass the house where the crazy lady once through a rock at the bikers in “her bike lane”, move through intersections most of us never see in our daily lives, pass old forgotten cemeteries, and small churches with bands starting to warm up for daily services. The group moves up and down small hills warming up for the larger hills ahead. We take a right on Loyola and make it through the intersection at 183; then up the hills on Johnny Morris in a single file line so cars can zoom by without getting too annoyed at the bikers. At the Budweiser distribution plant we take a breather and let everyone catch back up to the group. Then we move faster down a winding country road before popping out on Decker. None of us want to do the loop around the lake yet, so we ride down Decker to Loyola, go back across 183, and back towards the shop. While we were riding the neighborhoods have started to come alive. People are waiting at the bus stops, some in their church clothes and some just hoping to find someplace cool for the day. The Catholic churches are in between services and people are rushing to take their places inside, or are leaving ready to go about the rest of their day. As we cross under I-35 Mobile Loves and Fishes are feeding the homeless, and we are almost done. Rowers in their boats cut though the water as we pass over the Congress Avenue Bridge, and we are back at the shop.

Cody making sure that his bike is ready to go before the ride.

Zac and I, ready to conquer the morning ride.

Mark making sure everything is in tip top shape before proceeding.

Did I mention that I love the east ride? Cody and I started riding with the group in January 2009, it was so cold then. It was the ride that originally helped me get into shape, and drop 50+ lbs. I know that I can show up to the ride, and even if I’m not in the best shape or mood, by the end of the ride I will feel great. Since being diagnosed with Stage IIA Breast Cancer (T1N1M0) in December 2009 it has been the one activity, happening every Sunday morning, that if I felt well enough to attend, I would be there. And when I didn’t feel well enough to go, Cody tried his best to be there. It allows us to feel connected to our community of friends.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dog Days of Recovery

Four weeks out of surgery, and my recovery is progressing nicely. I have some sections on my incisions that look like a skinned knee, but they are healing. To facilitate their healing I am still covering the wounds in Bacitracian and Xeroform, and wearing a soft jog bra. No tape! Of course all of this is happening to slowly for me. We are in the hottest part of the summer and I want to go swimming! It is frustrating to have to hide in the house because it is too hot to go outside.

My flexibility and reach is increasing everyday. I have exercises that I do three times a day, and am now able to reach my left hand straight over my head. This is a huge improvement, last week I could only get it about 45 degrees over my head. I have no problems with my right arm because they did not remove any lymph nodes enabling the muscles in my chest area to recover quicker. The edema in my left arm has also decreased significantly. After surgery my left arm was significantly more swollen than my right arm, now it is difficult to detect a difference. I am still waiting to be allowed to exercise, which is starting to drive me slightly stir crazy. I don’t understand how people can just sit at home day after day… it is so boring.

I have been passing the time by reading and volunteering for the Breast Cancer Research Center of Central Texas. On Friday August 20th I am selling raffle tickets at a BCRC's Suzy's Soldiers Golf Tournament. That night, Cody and I are attending the Gala Event at the Barton Creek Country Club. It will be the first time we have been back to Barton Creek since our wedding reception. The dress is “Texas Chic” and it sounds like a fun event. I finished reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain; a great book about working as a chef in New York City. I am now reading Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, recommended by my Aunt Ellen. In order to keep from going completely nuts I have requested that I be allowed to start working out. If Dr. Chang agrees, I may be on the bike by this weekend. Wish me luck!

My poor bike has been relegated to the trainer.  I think we should get an award for creative use of a phone book.

A new game for Cody and I to learn to play.  It sounds like a lot of fun, a mixture between scrabble and crossword puzzles.