Tag Archives: Cancer

The Next Fifteen Minutes Publication Date

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My memoir, The Next Fifteen Minutes, is going to be published October 1st, 2011 (just in time for Oprah!) by Behler Publications. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover. Currently, I’m knee deep in final revisions (well, hopefully final!) tightening and polishing the manuscript one last time.
Strangely, the rain at Crystal (yes, that’s right, the dreaded “r” word) has been a hidden blessing. I’ve been able to take a few extra days off a week from patrolling in order to finish the draft. So I’m making the most of this drizzly, decidedly non-La Nina weather pattern and sitting my butt in the chair and pouring over my new computer (yes, my insurance came through after my old one was stolen).
Of course all bets are off once the snow returns. I am, after all, a powder girl at heart.

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The Big 4-O

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Today I am 40 years old.  Just yesterday, I was turning 21, and then 30 and now this.   I remember my father’s 40th birthday party.  We children spied on the grown-ups doing God-knows-what with those hats and feather boas.

And now here I am.

Turning 40 begs a little soul searching–a literal sweep of the cobweb strings clinging to my psyche.  And ever since I woke up this morning, mentally rehearsing the words I’m forty years old in my head, I’ve been doing just that.

What have I learned in my forty years on this earth?  A little of this, a little of that, I suppose is my best answer. But there’s something more just under the surface.

When I was younger, I amassed adventures like glass paper weights, setting them on the mantle to be admired.  See that one?  That’s me in the Alps.

Here I am climbing Mt. Rainier.

 

 

 

And how about this one?

 

That’s when I jumped out of an airplane.

 

Oh and over here, that’s when John and I kicked cancer’s ass.

 

 

 

 

 

Standing here on the very verge of 40, I know now that it’s more than collecting snapshots.  I go to nature to open up, so that when I return I can better connect.  It’s my way of preparing myself for human interaction.

I’m neither an introvert or an extrovert, but rather an adventrovert.  I need to challenge myself a little, put myself out there just a touch, shake up my routines.  Then I can connect with others.

Over the weekend, my husband threw me a 40th birthday party.  There was a photo booth with a life-sized cut out of me that guests could pose with (hilarious).  Beside the bar was a shot luge–an ice sculpture complete with ski tracks, down which would swirl peppermint schnapps for the lucky recipient waiting at the runout (dangerous).  And best of all, most of my friends and family, including childhood cohorts, sung me happy birthday (amazing).

40 doesn’t look so bad anymore.  After all, this is the good stuff.

A Doctor Speaks Out

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Today, over at Laura Munson’s blog, I found an amazing doctor.  Dr. Gary Hammer, a rare-cancer specialist at University of Michigan, wrote an open letter to cancer patients everywhere.  In it, he shows humility and grace. 

Debunking the myth that a doctor has to maintain “objectivity” when treating patients, especially terminal ones, Dr. Hammer claims, instead, that vulnerability and grace open up for both patient and doctor.  During an illness, when everything else has been stripped away, the patient and the witnesses, come to be present in a way that everyday life rarely offers.

When my husband, John, lay dying in a hospital bed, I witnessed heroic doctors and surgeons that never gave up on him or his treatment.  John’s too was a rare cancer that most patients die from (quite often cholangiocarcinoma patients are given only months to live).  But because of the tests at Mayo clinic, and the work of Dr. Gores, the cancer was found early for John and he was able to have a transplant, which saved his life. 

Just as Dr. Hammer suggests, rubbing up close to death brings a vulnerability that John and I both experienced.  Perhaps that is the lasting gift:  stripping away the noise to reveal the vulnerable present. 

Here is a link to Dr. Hammer’s letter: http://www.annarbor.com/health/the-roller-coaster-chronicles-an-open-letter-to-cancer-patients-everywhere/.

Cancer Assassin: Laura York

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Laura York is a cancer assassin. Really, she’s a hero. Except she doesn’t wear a cape or a Wonder Woman outfit. Although I have a feeling that she’d like to. At least she’d rock the big W on her chest. And the tights. I think she’d like the tights. Instead, she wakes up each morning, goes to her chemotherapy sessions with a smile on her beautiful face and thanks the universe for the nurses and naturopaths that keep her going.

Laura has bile duct cancer. She was diagnosed a few months ago. Like most patients diagnosed with bile duct cancer (also known as cholangiocarcinoma, or c.c, by the specialists), Laura is young, otherwise healthy and completely surprised by the egregious diagnosis.

My husband was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma in 2007. We were lucky. His cancer had not spread from his bile ducts into the heretofore (at least by me) unknown abdominal lymph nodes. Cancer kills by multiplication. And c.c. is no different. Usually it wraps itself around the veins and arteries feeding the bile ducts (the small vessels ushering bile through the liver), until those vessels are clogged and useless. It wins by a thickening multiplication that builds in secret.

Laura knows about the dire circumstances. She’s been rejected as a potential liver transplant patient. But she’s not giving up. Far from it. She’s truly inspiring. I admire Laura for her beautiful outlook and positive attitude. I’ve been there, and I know that being positive isn’t as easy as they make it out to be. Most of the time, it’s a real crock. But Laura’s the real deal. And I truly have to applaud her for that. Anyways, you can cheer her on by checking out her blog at http://thecancerassassin.blogspot.com/.