It’s been a while since I have checked in. I always think that I don’t have much to report on. Now that my cancer treatments are finished, things naturally have calmed down. We had a pretty uneventful Halloween. The weather was wicked with high winds and the first flakes of snow. We took a ride down to Lake Michigan to see the high waves that people were tweeting about. I failed to get any photos of me handing out toys, stickers, and pencils to the trick-or-treaters. I dressed up with my zombie makeup and Bride of Frankenstein wig on. That’s as far as I went — just wearing normal clothes. I did get a few compliments on my look from some of the teens that came to our door.

I have yet to blog about the new book that my friend Linda Serpe shared with our support group. It’s called Radical Remission. I keep telling almost everyone I meet about it. The author — Kelly Turner, Ph.D. — spent eight years researching thousands of cases of people who have recovered from their cancer against all odds without the help of conventional medicine, or after conventional medicine had failed. She was so fascinated by this kind of remission that she dedicated one year traveling through ten countries to learn what factors the people experiencing this phenomenon encountered. This book is great! In her research, she learned that all of the cases she studied had nine factors in common. The book is structured with each of those factors as a chapter, so in each chapter she explains the factor and then shares a miraculous story about one of the survivors. I still haven’t finished it; I am savoring it for some reason. I really think it’s a great read for everyone, even if you don’t have cancer yet. These nine factors should be helpful for all of us to learn about.

I have been fortunate to be able to do some work from home. Karen, Mark’s sister, has me helping out the company she works for (SMG3 — Strategic Mobility Group) with some computer work and phone calling. It’s great to be able to have flexible hours and work around my sporadic doctor appointments. I worked on a marketing campaign directed towards hospitals. In the middle of November, we had a cocktail party inviting the hospitals to check out the latest in durable bedside tablets.  I was asked to help out with greeting our guests as they entered the room. What a treat to be up on the 95th floor of The John Hancock building, looking down onto one of my favorite cities! We had a great night.

I met my new radiation oncologist, Dr. Kelly. My previous one, Dr. Hwang, left St. Catherine’s Cancer Center just two weeks after I finished my radiation to join a hospital down in Florida. Dr. Kelly is very well liked by all of her patients. My sister-in-law Colette had her when she had breast cancer, and couldn’t say enough good things about her. I feel like I am in very good hands with Dr. Kelly. She took so much time with us. I even brought up the fact that I was experiencing a lot of discomfort from what we thought was an ingrown hair. This was right in my bikini area, just under my waistband. She said, “Well, lets take a look.” She then diagnosed that yes, it was an ingrown hair, and that I should keep applying warm compresses followed up by Neosporin.  So a warning to all of you out there who may be faced with losing all of your body hair due to chemotherapy: when it comes back in, you may be susceptible to getting an ingrown hair. I took a poll at my last support group, and three other women said they too experienced them. Ouch!!!

Dr. Hijjawi, my plastic surgeon, didn’t like the tightness of my skin that was radiated, so he referred me back to physical therapy. I have been going once a week to get a massage of the scar area, along with the region under my armpit where the lymph nodes were removed. Gina ,my physical therapist, says that I need to keep up on my daily exercises. I got a little lax in doing them, and my range of motion suffered. I have been working out at the YMCA pretty much Monday through Friday with a whole lot of swimming. This seems to help with maintaining my range of motion as well.  I also asked Dr. Hijjawi if I could loose some weight before I have my DIEP flap surgery next year. I put on 20 pounds or so from the time I was diagnosed in August 2013. I really thought that by being on chemo, I would have lost weight. Dr. Hijjawi said I am not alone, that a lot of breast cancer patients end up gaining weight due to the steroids.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving visiting with both our families. Last year, because I was on chemo, we opted out of celebrating with others, due to my low immune system. This year I felt so great that I told Mark we have to be with both families this year. My family is quite large so we meet at the fire station in Paris, Wisconsin. It is great to be able to have all 50 or so of us together in one hall. Then wee went to Mark’s mother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a very nice day. We did have some sad news though: Mark’s mother’s cousin Wanda passed away the day before Thanksgiving. Wanda was a wonderful woman who lived 92 years. This woman worked at her job until she was well into her 80’s. She ended up being diagnosed with stomach cancer just weeks before her death. It was really hard for Shirley. Wanda was like an older sister to her. We went down to Cicero, Illinois for Wanda’s wake the day after Thanksgiving. While we were down there, Shirley took us on a guided tour of her old neighborhood, reminiscing about the great times she had down there.

I got my hair cut for the second time since chemo. Before my hair starts getting too long, I thought I would try a style that I have loved for quite sometime. It’s kind of like a pixie, I used to get them as a kid, and surprisingly I hated them. It’s funny how this is something that I wanted to do on my own. It was a tradition with my grandmother to take us every summer to get our hair cut, and we always ended up with a pixie. Grandma would be proud of me.

Christmas lights on a house in Hunter's Ridge, Kenosha, Wisconsin

I can’t believe it’s already Christmas. (This photo is of an impressive light display in Kenosha, Wisconsin.)

Last Christmas. I had no hair whatsoever and remember putting on a fashion show for everyone with all of the various wigs I had. What fun!

I want to thank all of you for keeping up with me and being there for me. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of you.

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