1 year ago today, 12-29-10, my life changed forever with a cancer diagnosis.  What I am doing this week is making a BUCKET LIST.  No, not because I’m dying, but because I’m living. I’m doing well and recovering. Miracles DO happen.
There are so many things I want to do before I do die, but there never seems to be enough time, money or energy so I’m making a list as I go and changing that.  I’m fortunate that I have already done so many things, but there are so many more yet to do!  I no longer stress out over the small things and they were right, they are all small things! 
  • #  1 – eat a hangover burger – 12-28-11
  • #  2 – go to a PRO football game
  • #  3 – go to a PRO hockey game
  • #  4 – finish my novels
  • #  5 – finish my cookbooks
  • #  6 – get published
  • #  7 – Go to Vermont/New England and see the changing colors in the fall
  • #  8 – Go to Disneyworld/Epcot Center
  • #  9 – Go to an Olympics
  • #10 – Get a postcard series of pictures published
  • #11 – Go white water rafting
  • #12 – Go Deep Sea Fishing (if only for the pictures)
  • #13 – Design and publish a quilt pattern
  • #14 – Travel 1st Class
  • #15 –
Every time I update this list I will change to the current date to show my progress.
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Finally on my way… home and cancer free…

So as we begin the trek home after being here for a year and a half (thanks mom), we realized that we acquired a few things while here. For Martha’s sake I’d like to be able to say that we could pitch it all, but alas these are real treasures for our house and unpitchable and unreplaceable. Since I have yet to have all my strength return, moving has become a major endeavor for us.
We decided to hire a mover, you know, an end of the load kind of deal. We don’t have many pieces of furniture (just a few BIG bargains ~ 2 tables, an antique file cabinet, an antique bar stool and a bed frame), but it’s primarily boxes so we started contacting companies and decided on a home grown American based mover that uses up and coming mom and pops, Proud American Moving Network. The day we signed the contract, the local news station did an expose’ on moving scams. So off to the Better Business Bureau to check out our new found mover we went. We are pleased to say they are not part of the scam and had no local open complaints. That was when it hit me – do a blog post, take some pictures and chronicle the move.
Think about it – one of the biggest complaints you hear from people is about moving companies – how they damage your stuff, don’t settle the insurance claims, etc…
The very first piece of advice I have is PACK YOURSELF!!!!!!!! My mom has moved a few times and used the same company each time. The last time I was in college and needed a few extra bucks so offered to do their packing for them at a reduced rate. If I remember correctly even with paying me a nice sum, she still saved A LOT on their packing fees, used less space and nothing I packed got broken in the move. It’s all about space, organization and weight distribution.
For this move I have created an inventory, numbered and weighed the boxes myself. One of the points on the expose was that some of these companies overcharge based on weight. Now how are you going to know the total weight of the load unless you weigh it yourself – one box at a time. That also ensured poor me who has so little strength right now that the boxes would not be too heavy. After all, if I can carry them, some guy with a dolly certainly can!

 Even the kitties are getting used to their temporary house for the move!

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Most of you know that I’ve been recovering from Ovarian Cancer and the aftermath of the surgery and treatment.  The good news is that I’ve been released by the oncologist to go home, the bad news is I still don’t have all my energy back and the packing has been slow go, but we’re getting there.  All the packing made me think about this quote I saw in Ladies Home Journal so I decided to share it with you.
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I called my doctor’s office this morning because of serious side affect concerns (nothing important, just congestive heart failure)  from a new drug he put me on.  He’s not in on Fridays, but I was asked to call back in 15 minutes to speak with the person that could help me.  REALLY??  I asked if the couldn’t just take my name and number and have them call me when they were available and you’d think I’d ask the girl to fly to the moon.  With an exaggerated sigh she said, “okay, what’s your name and number?” and then offered up another exaggerated sigh and hung up.  Like I said, REALLY?? How unprofessional is this? 

Ironically I’m only on this new prescription because he doesn’t particularly like the one I was on from a previous doctor.  I had been on it for quite some time, it worked, but I no longer live there.  I just needed a refill of the prescription that worked!!!

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A year ago I gave myself a birthday present and decided to make all my yearly appointments that I’d neglected the previous year while dealing with my in-laws.  I was dealing with a new city, new insurance region, new doctors. As with any insurance these days, I needed referrals to specialists.
When I received the first referral in the mail, I called to make my appointment. The receptionist was quite pleasant, but I was quite taken aback when she asked what my cancer diagnosis was.  I said I didn’t have one and she said I’m sorry we can’t see you then, but that’s good news.  I called my doctor back and asked for a new referral.  In all, I was seeking 3 referrals for 3 separate problems.  The next week I received the referral for problem number two and was met with a similar conversation with another receptionist.  Once again I called my doctor’s office back and started over on the referral process.  Next came the third referral for another doctor at the same facility.  I was met once again with the same conclusions, “sorry we can’t accept you because you have no cancer diagnosis”.  All of these referrals were to MD Anderson.
My doctor’s office never did get any of the referrals handled with the insurance company. I called the insurance company myself and found that I didn’t even need a referral for my well woman exam in this region and they gave me the information for the UTMB women’s clinic.  It was here that I was finally seen and originally diagnosed.  It was here that a humble doctor said he wasn’t comfortable dealing with this and asked where I’d like to be referred.  I know and believe that all of these “misdirected” referrals were so that MD Anderson would be on the tip of my tongue.   When the doctor said the tumor was the size of large grapefruit I was distressed.  When he told me he was uncomfortable removing a tumor that size and wanted to refer me somewhere else, I said MD Anderson.
Spillage (yep, that’s a technical term) of tumor cells influences the incidence of local recurrence.  Spillage of tumor cells,  has a negative effect on survival rates. When the diagnosing doctor used the term “spillage”  I thought  he was making it up.  Then I looked it up.  Spillage is basically what happens when a tumor tears, rips or ruptures.
260 days ago, a mere 37 weeks, enough time to gestate a baby, I was diagnosed with the “silent killer”, Ovarian Cancer.  Ovarian cancer, if detected early is 90 percent curable. But very few cases are discovered in the earliest stage. Then, there are miracles, while not many, and I am blessed to be one.
When my surgeon, Dr. Diane Bodurka (a wonderful lady, doctor, surgeon, oncologist – there’s a good reason she’s head of the department)  said that she believed she got the tumor out intact without spillage, I felt relieved.  When she told me it was actually the size of a volleyball, had torsioned itself around everything, but not adhered to any major organs, I felt blessed.  260 days later – in REMISSION and alive to live another birthday I feel twice blessed.
When I was first diagnosed, they limited ALL my activity including driving in an effort to prevent rupturing the tumor.  Ironically the year prior had been full of strenuous activity, moving boxes and furniture – once again proving that my guardian angel was looking out for me.  The only symptom I ever had, I didn’t even know I was having because it mimicked a chronic appendix of some 35+ years.
Ovarian cancer is often called the “silent” killer because many times there are no symptoms until the disease has progressed and it’s too late.  Most die within five years of their diagnosis — because by the time doctors find the disease, it has already spread. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer are often mild, making this disease difficult to detect.  Sadly, a lack of symptoms from this disease means that about 75% of ovarian cancer cases will have spread to the abdomen by the time they are detected and, unfortunately, most patients die within five years.
New methods for early screening of ovarian cancer are being investigated including ultrasound in conjunction with a blood test. The blood test may detect a cancer protein called CA 125, which is sometimes detected in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. This is the test that would have probably saved Gilda Radner’s life.
These tests are useful in evaluating tumor growth, however neither of them has been proven as a reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer. Ultrasound can detect changes, but it does not give enough information alone to diagnose ovarian cancer. The CA 125 blood test can return positive results when no cancer is present due to other conditions a woman may experience including fibroid tumors, endometriosis, pelvic infection, pregnancy, or other non-gynecological problems.
The treatment for ovarian cancer varies according to a number of factors. For most women, the first treatment is also a diagnostic procedure which involves surgery to determine the extent to which the disease has spread. As a result of surgery, the cancer will be staged.
Stages range from I to IV, with I being the earliest and IV being the most advanced stage. Treatment of ovarian cancer is based on the stage and grade of the disease. A pathologist will determine the grade (how likely it is to spread) of the malignancy.

Are You at Risk?

  • An immediate (mother, sister, or daughter) family member who has had ovarian cancer increases your risk of developing this disease about three times, giving you a 5% to 7% risk of future ovarian cancer.
  • When the cause is genetic, ovarian cancer usually shows up a decade earlier in each successive generation. (If your mother had ovarian cancer in her 60s, you stand a good chance that this disease will develop in you in your 50s.)
  • Genetic counseling is a good idea for women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers. Women with a family history may opt for oophorectomy, although this procedure does not offer absolute protection it does reduce risk by 75% to 90%
  • Research has determined that women who use powders to dust their genital areas have a 60% higher risk of ovarian cancer. Feminine deodorant sprays can almost double your risk.
  • Women who use oral contraceptives for at least five years reduce their chance of developing ovarian cancer by half for the short-term following use and possibly for lifetime. The longer you use the pill, the lower your risk.
  • Having two or three children can cut your risk by as much as 30% over women who never conceive or give birth. Having five or more children reduces the risk up to 50%, and breastfeeding your children can further reduce your risk.
  • Tubal ligation reduces a woman’s risk up to 70%.
Remember, the best way to detect ovarian cancer is by regular  examinations.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • unusual abdominal feeling of fullness
  • pelvic discomfort
  • unexplained indigestion, gas, or bloating
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • abnormal bleeding
  • swelling and/or pain in the abdomen
Ovarian Cancer Fact 1. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths among American women.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 2. Only 24 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is confined to the ovary. Most cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat successfully.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 3. One woman out of every 55 (approximately 1.8 percent) will develop ovarian cancer at some point in her lifetime.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 4. Ovarian cancer is most common in women who have already gone through menopause. The average age for developing ovarian cancer is 61 years old.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 5. For the small number of women who are fortunate enough to have their cancer diagnosed before it has spread beyond the ovary, the chance for recovery is 85 to 90 percent. (A fact not lost on me)
Ovarian Cancer Fact 6. For the majority of women in whom the disease has spread beyond the ovary, the chance of living for five years after the diagnosis is 20 to 25 percent.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 7. A major risk factor for getting ovarian cancer is a personal history of breast, endometrial or colon cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 8. The only sure way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through microscopic examination of abnormal fluid or tissue, obtained by needle aspiration (withdrawal of fluid or tissue from a suspicious area though a special, wide needle) or surgery.
Ovarian Cancer Fact 9. Hycamtin is one of the first of a new kind of anti-cancer drugs that kills cancer cells by inhibiting an enzyme essential to the replication of human DNA.
Give yourself a birthday present too and make your annual well woman appointment today.
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Many of you know about the ongoing struggle I have been having after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.  Even before the cancer, I struggled with living a clean eating and healthy lifestyle to cope with the aspects of Systemic Lupus.  Now sandwiched right before the cancer diagnosis was also a a diagnosis of Systemic Scleroderma which now labels me with a “mixed connective tissue disease“.  Oh and by the way none of them have cures.  This makes want to find a way to live even more healthy so I’ll be around for the cures!
Without going into a long story, many years ago after the Systemic Lupus diagnosis when I was in college and after 6 months of taking Progesterone and various other drugs, I went to my Rheumatologist (a fortunate recent referral and a truly great doctor and caring woman after several other doctors who really had no clue) and said I can’t live like this!  The Progesterone had put almost 60 pounds on me, I could no longer play racquetball (something I did 3-4 times a week) or jog (something I did 5-7 times a week after being a cross country runner in high school).
This great and caring doctor sighed with relief and asked me to sit down so we could talk!  Really, she just wanted to chat and chat we did for an hour and a half.  I truly believe that she changed my life forever!
The first thing she did was refuse me a support group – I know that sounds strange, but she truly felt I was better off with my positive attitude working through the steps with guidance.  Step 1 was to change my eating habits.  Remember I was in college, always eating on the run from whatever vending machine was close and diet everything to keep from putting on any more weight.  So, she had me write down my diet for a week and guess what?  When you see it in writing you realize how much all those “a little here” and “a little there” things add up! After that realization was Step 2 – eliminate the “non food” items from my diet.  She qualified these “non food” items as anything that didn’t have a direct receptor in the body.  This included saccharin, aspartame, splenda, anything processed with ingredients the average person can’t pronounce and preserved in a box or a can.  Below is the new food pyramid in an easy to read and follow format.

And here is an easy to follow breakdown!

It is a personal choice, but she also asked me to stay away from pork and shellfish – you know the bottom feeders of the world that will eat anything!  As she put it, garbage in, garbage out via your kidneys and liver!

Step 3 was to get regular exercise, proper rest and meditation to care for my whole being.  Oh and to avoid stress – yeah right in this world.  Sound advice for anyone, healthy or not!

So, the bottom line is that you were given only one body and despite popular belief, it cannot be easily replaced and does require the proper fuel and rest to work properly.  The easiest way is to start with a good diet.

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