Monday, December 13, 2010

Shelly Rockwell

Last year's holiday season came and went in a morphine haze. It's as if it never happened at all. I was skeletally thin, I could barely move following that asskicker (pardon le francais, mais, dans cette case, c'est necessaire) surgery, and prospects felt utterly grim.


'Cause I'm back. With a vengeance. I've got energy to spare. My scar is but a faded, winding thread down my abdomen. I'm nice and doughy and none of my old clothes even fit anymore, AND I DON'T CARE!

I have:
-Constructed and decorated a gingerbread house
-Rolled, cut, frosted and decorated at least 6 dozen Christmas cookies
-Hand-painted a dozen ornaments
-Lit and decorated a big tree, hung 4 stockings with care, wrapped garland on my stairs and plunked holiday paraphernalia on every available surface I could find
-Played Christmas music on my car radio nonstop since late November
-Taught my kids at least 6 carols
-Addressed 200 Christmas cards (want one? send me your address!)
-Watched "Frosty the Snowman" at least 5 times
-Taken the kids' photos with Santa. Twice.

...and it's only December 13th. Don't even try to stop me. Because THIS is what happens to you when what happened to me...uh, happens.

Love, Shelly,
formerly a professional writer.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reason #4827 to live long and prosper

From a conversation tonight at dinner with my 4-year old daughter:

Me: "Betty, are you ever going to get married?"

Betty: "No."

Me: "Ok. Why not?"

Betty, looking right into my eyes: "So I can always live with you."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Not bad news...

I literally have about 5 minutes to write, so I'll update you quickly now, then more fully later.

Bottom line is: the ultrasound was inconclusive, which isn't bad. They saw the area in my liver that the PET scan noticed, but it was very faint and hard to find. It's in an area of my liver that's too hard to biopsy, so my oncologist has advised us simply to wait til my next PET scan (3 months or so) and we'll see if the spot has changed or grown in any way.

I forced him to give me some numbers and he felt there could be a 75% chance it's just scar tissue.

In my favor: they've seen the spot before in several PET scans, so it isn't new and hasn't grown. The only reason we are talking about it is that in this last PET scan, it lit up (although only faintly). Perhaps in my next PET scan, it won't light up at all anymore.

If it DOES turn out to be cancer, we caught it very early and it won't have grown much by the next PET scan.

I should also point out that my doc is very conservative and very aggressive. He's being pretty calm about this, so-- so am I.

With all these facts-- I DON'T THINK IT IS CANCER. I feel like I'm still in remission, and I plan to celebrate this holiday season accordingly!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The waiting game

My ultrasound is scheduled for Wednesday at 10am.

It's a funny thing, when you are receiving big news during Thanksgiving week. You link the two very directly.

If it's good news, YOU GIVE THANKS DOUBLY HARD. "To hear this now, of all weeks!"
If it's bad news, you sort of stew over the irony of it all. You probably feel a little extra sorry for yourself. "To hear this now, of all weeks!"

So, on Wednesday, I have to fast. On Thursday, I stuff my face. On Friday I will probably get really drunk. On Saturday I'll be sick. On Sunday I'll go to church. By Monday, I'll be locked up, and everyone will be unfriending me on Facebook.

I don't know what it means, either.

For the record, I'm doing fine. (At least I feel that way as I write this.) This could be just a scare. If it's not, they caught it early, right? Nothing a little chemo can't kill. We'll be back in business by mid-2011. Not to sound blase, but how else are you supposed to process this kind of thing?

And: I do have a ton to be thankful for. More than most people I know. I mean, my God, look at me a year ago! I was practically dead. Today I feel amazing: strong, peppy, alive! I swam a mile with Neil last night, and it felt really good to get back in the water. (even though I was getting passed by a woman whose suit had a molded shelf bra... ok, I'm out of shape.)

Today Seattle is covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. My brother is in town, my parents arrive on Thursday. It's going to be okay.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

They found something

I'll keep this short and sweet until I have more information. The doctor called me at 8:30 last night to tell me that my PET scan showed a spot on my liver, right at the same site where the metastasized tumor once lived. It's a small spot, and he doesn't know what it is. An ultrasound is planned for early next week (not scheduled yet) to learn more definitively if it's cancer.

I asked him how worried he was and he said, "medium".

It COULD be scar tissue.

It could be a false positive, like I had on my last PET scan in August. The difference is that, last time I wasn't worried. A positive area made no sense then. I was still doing chemo, and the chemo was WORKING. Why would there have been a new growth? And as it turned out, there wasn't.

This time, however, I'm not on chemo anymore. Just Avastin.

I'm not going to lie. I've already shed a few tears about this news. I've felt every emotion imaginable, from fear to terror to dread to sorrow to anger to despair to fatigue to depression to anxiety --- to a sense of resolve that I can and will overcome this, if it's indeed bad news, and that I'll get my old game face back out of the dusty depths of my closet where I placed it a few weeks ago, back when I started to believe that this was really all over. Back when I once again started to live like a normal 36-year old, making plans with friends, planning trips, and having tons of energy to shower all over my kids. I am NOT ready to surrender my renewed energy and sense of hope.

I am PRAYING that this does not turn out to be cancer. I don't know if I can handle this rollercoaster hellride again.

But the truth is, if it turns out to be cancer, I KNOW I'll put up a crazy fight, once again, and for one simple reason:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hoping for 5 months cancer-free

In case you are wondering what my next steps are, I have a PET scan this Friday morning. If it's clear, I'll have been in remission for FIVE months. Baby steps, baby steps.

Am I nervous/scared? I'm trying not to think about it too much. I think it's going to be clear. I hope. God, I hope.

I don't think I'll really be able to exhale and totally relax til about 5 years pass without recurrence. But that's a ways off, so I'm just trying really hard to be grateful for each day that passes.

I've been done with chemo now for about 8 weeks. I have tons more energy. I'm occasionally bowled over by how lucky I've been, and other times I freeze up with fear about it coming back. I kind of feel like I just returned from a war and am slowly processing all that has happened. I think I have mild PTSD. But in general, I feel a little more normal each day.

As far as medicine goes, I still get bi-weekly Avastan injections for a full year. It's relatively quick (30 min) and has practically no side effects. Well... relative to chemo, that is. I still have high blood pressure and occasional bloody noses. A walk in the park.

So there's the quick status check. I'll let you know how things turn out. CROSS FINGERS, TOES, EYES, ETC.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pardon the radio silence

I know it's been a while since I posted. I can't explain it, I just felt uninspired to write. Or maybe, to be more precise, I felt uninspired to write about THE C-WORD. And that's sort of what this blog has been about, hasn't it. Yet one day, I suddenly felt "over" the whole cancer thing. It's not gone from my life now, but I didn't need to talk about it ad nauseum anymore.

So now maybe I'll just shift the focus of this blog. A little about cancer, a lot about normal life.

NORMAL LIFE. What does that even mean now? I have a new "normal".

Life IS starting to feel like it's getting back to normal. Not going to chemo every two weeks really helps. Because, man, when you're doing that, when you're in the throes of those bi-weekly poisonings, you're constantly reminded of what's "wrong" in your life. Little reminders everywhere... feeling sick. Doctor visits. Concerned calls from friends (you always talk about cancer, then if there's time left, you might talk about other, normal "life" stuff.) Feeling too tired to take your whining kids to the park. Even the good ol' U.S. Mail reminds you, as you receive several medical bills or insurance statements every day, tucked in with the occasional personal letter. Just when you start to forget about that big lousy thing in your life, SOMETHING will yank your focus back in and remind you. You never make it a day. Not even an hour, really.

But that's starting to change.

It feels like a luxury to have a mind clear enough to think about something other than cancer. To have a life healthy enough to be able to focus on small, insignificant things. And it's a luxury to feel ready to write about something other than cancer.

Now I just need a topic. Cancer's a tough act to follow. "AND FOR MY NEXT TRICK, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Boiled chicken

Today I boiled a whole chicken for the first time EVER. Bought a nice organic one at PCC, threw it in the pot with celery, carrots, onions, garlic and a lot of water. It's almost done right now. We're having enchiladas tonight. I'm going to make up the recipe as I go.

Significance, you ask?

(Gosh, imagine if there WAS no significance to the above snoozer of an update. When that starts to happen with my posts, somebody make me yank this blog off the web, stat.)

The point is, I actually had the time and energy to plan ahead, make an effort, and do something new. To me, that steamy carcass represents life, post-chemo. (Wait! Not in the sense of me being akin to soggy bird remains.) Rather, in the sense that I am recapturing my life. Getting back in the driver seat. Grabbing motherhood by the proverbial cojones. Cooking for my family. Having the gumption to try different things. Embracing the fundamentals, even getting excited about them, and not wallowing in the drudgery of life's more mundane moments.

That steamy bird is practically clucking to the world on my behalf, "I'M BA-ACK."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We here at "Team Shelly" are a bunch of ACHIEVERS!

The 5-person "Team Shelly" of Seattle recently completed a swim race (see my previous post titled "Swim Across America"). Over 150 people competed, and Team Shelly members finished FIRST AND SECOND. And the other members also represented impressively.

Not to be outdone, our midwestern friends on the Columbus, Ohio -based "Team Shelly" just completed a 5k run. And guess who finished first place in that? A TEAM SHELLY RUNNER, THAT'S WHO.

The lesson here is: Be on our team! We are winners!

(Cue the theme song to "Against All Odds") (Actually, that song has nothing to do with beating the odds, but the title of the film does.) (For the record, I've never seen that film. Nor do I wish to.)

p.s.: A huge thank you to anyone who contributed to either of the aforementioned races. Both raised money for cancer research, which we here at Team Shelly feel is a pretty freaking terrific cause. I'm proud to say that the Seattle Team Shelly raised over $6500! BULLY FOR US.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Last chemo

Hi all,

I'm happy to report that as I write, i am enduring the last of my chemotherapy sessions. NINE MONTHS down. I don't feel all that chatty, as this one's felt particularly ... oh what's the word.... toxic? full of malaise? annoying? uncomfortable?

It's hard to find the right words to describe pain. You either know it or you don't. Experience is really required to "get it". We all know what a headache feels like. Then there's heartburn. Then there's that panicky sick feeling you get just before food poisoning. There's that dry, crunchy feeling of strep throat. Or the sharp pierce of an ear infection. Or the achiness of the flu.

Well, this is something still different. How do you describe this pain? to me, it's like drinking a bottle of Windex. Feeling chemical-ly. Feeling a sense of malaise and disinterest in things. Nausea. Fatigue. Annoyance.

I want to embrace all the great encouraging comments I've been getting "last one, shell!" and they do help, but i also kind of feel like i'm at mile 8 of a marathon and i know i still have 18 to go. Gotta hang in there. Then I'll be ok.

My doc tells me it takes 6 weeks for the chemo to leave my body. At that time, I suspect I'll once again feel like drinking a big toast to myself. I'll slowly get all that great energy back and I'll once again be the fireball you knew me to be. I can't wait for that time. Just a few more days.

Then, I really like to think and hope, this will all be over. FOR GOOD. It won't come back in a year, or two. Or five. That it will really be OVER.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bye-bye, piss and vinegar

Hello, sugar and daffodils.

In other words, I have a new attitude. My chin is up, my nose is to the grindstone, and I'm going to finish out this chemo with a bang. I've come to realize that complaining about it aint going to do me a stitch of good. I've got a TON to be happy about, and I'm sure a lot of people would kill to be in my size 11 1/2s.

(Before I go further, I want to go back and say, it's hard to know how to change that expression "piss and vingear" into a positive one. if you keep the bodily fluids theme going in exchange for "piss", you are left with things like "bile", "blood", "mucus", "hemoglobin", and other less palatable things. None of which scream "happiness" outright. Then "vinegar"... "corn syrup"? "oil"? "soy sauce"? It just doesn't work.)

So I found out yesterday at chemo that I have JUST ONE CHEMO LEFT! TWO THURSDAYS FROM NOW IS MY LAST ONE! RIP CHEMOTHERAPY. NICE KNOWIN' YA. Then after that, I have bi-weekly injections of Avastan, a tumor-fighting drug, but it's not chemo. It won't drain my energy or make me feel like crap for several days. It won't take up my entire Thursday, either, or ruin my weekends-- the whole process takes a half hour or so.

So even though today I sit here with tubes coming out of me and a large vial of poisonous medicine hanging from my port (our joke is that someday I should go into an airport like this, open my trenchcoat and announce, "I'VE GOT A BOMB!"), I'm feeling rather content. I see the light at the end of the tunnel at long last.

And talk about aggressive therapy... I went into remission in JUNE. It's now September and I'm still on chemo. If any cells of cancer remain in me after this atomic bomb of poison we've thrown on them, well... they are some strain of supercancer and I should give my body to medicine to be studied.

ps- big props to my friend Libby for watching my kids plus hers all day yesterday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More chemo

well. i just found out i have "a few more rounds" of chemo. not exactly sure why, as I am "all clear". i know i should be happy about the bigger picture, but quite honestly, this news has really thrown me into a funk. so that's all i have to say right now.

More A+ news

I got great results today on my latest scan. They used not one but three scopes to see if they could find anything, but despite all their searching--nada. No problem areas. Nothing unusual. Not even anything to biospy. All clear!

This is terrific news for me, and I'd write something more interesting if I weren't still so drugged (I slept through the entire day after the test. If you see my friend Julie Lund, or my mother-in-law, Bea, give them some serious high fives for all their availability and childcare this week.)

Now, the next question is: will they FINALLY let me stop chemo at tomorrow's appointment? Will we get to have a NORMAL Labor Day weekend? I'll let you know. My fingers are crossed. And my colon is completely empty. (For the SECOND TIME in A WEEK. But that's a neat story for another time.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Testing, three four


More tests on the horizon for ol' Shelldogg. Not outta the woods yet.

Yes, the colonoscopy showed "all normal", but since the PET scan showed "something", they are now going to really dig in and see if they can find and identify that elusive "something".

SO! It's another fun colon procedure for me this Thursday. I will have a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a endoscopic ultrasound. In this procedure, they send out ultrasonic waves to try to find the problem area. If they find a problem area, they will take a biopsy. Then we'll know what it is. It could just be a garden variety infection. It could be a tumor (though that would be "unusual", given that the chemo has melted away all my other why would there be this one hold-out spot?).It could be something else.

In any case, I am nervous. Because once again, I have to wait for test results, and so much is at stake once you've been diagnosed with cancer. Any test like this makes you nervous. You try to remain positive, but your mind does tend to wander...

Pending the results of this, I may or may not have chemo on Friday.

p.s.- Today, Neil and I celebrate 7 years of wedded bliss.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What a glorious colonoscopy that was!

My colonoscopy yesterday went great. OH MAN WAS THAT A FUN COLONOSCOPY. I don't have any "official" results other than the piece of paper my doctor gave me. Under the comments section, he wrote, "Normal" and circled it. AND CIRCLED IT. That must mean, "Big-time normal." As in, I rocked "normal" very hard.

He also took me aside afterwards and said he wasn't sure what that spot on the PET scan was. Sometimes spots just show up. Irritation, now gone? Perhaps it was on the outside of the colon? In any case he wasn't visibly worried, but he would confer with my oncologist in the next few days and someone will call me with official results and next steps. My only real question is: does this mean I can finally stop my freaking chemotherapy? COME ON, PEOPLE. CANCER'S LONG GONE. SHELLY'S GETTING TI-TI OF ALL THIS CRIPPITY CRAP.

Some other details about the c-scopy:

1. I got a fake spray tan this week. (Hey, we got a great deal on Groupon. It was going to expire. They came to our house and everything.) HOWEVER, though she did a fine job on the overall tan, there are some telltale fake dark areas and also some completely white areas on my very, very "upper legs", in the back. I figured, "No big deal. Who's going to see that?" OH WAIT. MY COLONOSCOPY TEAM IS GOING TO SEE THAT. I felt like such a vain dork, on that table, a team of men staring at the shoddy fake tan, probably thinking, "Women. I'll never understand why they do the things they do."

2. I've been through enough medical procedures in the last 10 months that I figured I'd really have a rip-roarin' time with this one. I decided to test myself, Shelly vs. medicine. When they went to inject the pain medicine into my IV (fentanol and some other medicine that "makes you forget"), I announced to the team of medical professionals, "Just so you know, I am going to do a little test, just for fun, to see if I can resist the power of this medicine and stay completely awake."

The nurse nodded at me, and said, soothingly, "OK, now. Just lie back."

So I opened my eyes really large and concentrated REALLY HARD. I said, "I'm still awake.......................Still up.........................I'm still here..............I'm being bionic..........I'm still conscious................."

And the thing is, I DID stay up. I remember the whole 20-minute procedure. I watched it on the screen. I got to see my colon up there, in all its twisty glory. I asked them questions about what that thing was?, where are they going now?, are you going to cut that little nubby thing out?, etc. (I have thought about all of this since it happened, and I really do think I was concious for all of it. I don't THINK I have memory gaps from the "forgetting" drug, though I concede it's possible.)

When it was over, I was able to walk out, unassisted, and I was alert. (No, Mom, I would never drive after such a procedure, nor would I sign legal documents.) My friend/driver Julie and I went to Geraldine's Counter and I ate a corned beef sandwich with fries and two large Cokes. (They said to go with broth or something light, but that did not jive with my whole "Bionic Shelly vs. medicine -theme"). I got home and did all kinds of productive activities around the house.

So the way I figure it, I conquered that colonoscopy in every possible way. If you ever have to get one, don't dread it. It's not so bad. It can even be, dare I say it, kind of fun.

Haiku #2

Prepping is such glee
For my colonoscopy
Lucky, lucky me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somewhere between good and bad

When listing off the potential results to my PET Scan, I didn't realize there might be Option C. That's what I got.

First, my "chest and lungs and body are clean as a whistle". This is great news. In and of itself, it might have meant the end of chemo!


There is a "spot" in my low colon. PET scans aren't diagnostic, so they only show that something is there, not what it is. It could be inflammation. It could be an infection. It could be a tumor. It could be still something else. The way to find out is through a colonscopy, which I now have scheduled next Thursday at 1:30. (Julie, we are going to have to work around our hair highlight appointments! Let's take that one offline.)

In my favor: it's very near my surgery site, near the suture line, and those tend to get inflammed. Also, after almost 9 months of colon cancer chemo, it's possible that YES, my colon is in fact inflamed! Makes sense to me. Also, if the chemo has obliterated all the rest of the cancer, why would a new little cancerous area be taking hold at this point? It makes no sense and even my doc said it would be "unusual". Still, the bad little voice waay in the back of my head says, "yes, shelly, but everything about this has been unusual from the get-go. 'Unusual' is how you roll. you should never have even gotten this..."

So yes, I cried when i saw there was a new spot. It's such a terrifying experience, I wish it on NONE OF YOU. It's like an awful nightmare that's really true. The first thing I thought of were my kids' faces. Knife in your guts. Then I also got this surge of anger, like, "WHEN THE HELL IS THIS GOING TO BE DONE? I CAN ONLY HANDLE SO MUCH OF THIS CRAP."

But now, a day later, even though I've resumed chemo (dangitall), I am feeling relatively mellow about things. If i had to bet, I'd guess it's just an irritation. And my dear dad, who has had many scares in the past, has always advised me that there is no good to be done from worrying before you know what is really going on. Truly, it might be nothing! Then you'll have worried yourself sick for no reason. He is so sensible. I wish I had a LITTLE more of that gene in me.

So. Til next Thursday. Maybe I'll do a live webcast of my colonoscopy. I really need to up my blog viewership and this may be JUST the way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Will the groundhog see his shadow?

That's kind of how I view the results of this latest PET scan. Based on the results (which I should get today or tomorrow), I'll either continue with the chemo, or I get to stop, at long last.

I'm not even totally sure what the doctor is looking for this round. Have you ever seen a PET scan image? All these amorphous blobs of different colors, all these insane cross-sectional layers...they could be showing me the scan of a baboon and I'd believe it was my body.

Anyway, I think this scan has something to do with the scar tissue they found on my last, all-clear PET scan, in June. If the size of the scar tissue has LESSENED this time, he'll assume the chemo is still working, and I continue on. Like maybe there were still a few, undetectable cancer cells hiding in that scar tissue, and they're still getting killed off.

But as I told my family today, either way, it will be good news. I mean, think of it. One way, I'm done with chemo. PARTY. The other way, it means the chemo was still doing me good and he wants me to do more. If I need more, better to have it now than to start up again in 6 months. Ick. I want to have a normal Christmas.

In some ways, an oncologist is a bit of an artist. And I am his watercolor paint. Right now a bit muddy and washed out. But I got potential, baby!

So, either way, it'll be ok. It'll all be done in a few months, right? Sometimes, in moments like this, I give myself a little slap (no I don't) and remember that I am actually quite lucky. When Neil and I started this process back in January, we were told that "BEST case scenario, the chemo COULD make the cancer totally go away, all on its own, no surgery." We looked wistfully at each other. Oh, wouldn't THAT be something. In our dreams! It was one of many possible outcomes, and the odds weren't with us. But IT HAPPENED!

To put it mildly, we have reason to be thankful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swim Across America

A cancer-fundraising swim race!

A Team Shelly, 5 members strong! (maybe 6, if I decide to do it.)

A touching write-up, by husband, Neil. A dazzling photo of my friends Mark, Heidi and Colleen, sister Laura, and Neil!

Check it out:

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have written a few drafts, but haven't completed them. Following is one I wrote a while back, but never posted because when I re-read it, I felt like parts were too "happy" and flippant, considering all that was going on. And other parts were too depressing. No one wants to feel depressed. But I think therein lies a strange and interesting aspect of going through chemotherapy. Some days you feel on top of the world, other days you are literally laying on the bathroom floor, moaning. So. Because this entry personifies the mood swings brought on by chemotherapy, I'll deem it post-able.

August is here. I'm entering Q3 of my chemo year. GEARIN' UP FOR A STRONG YEAR-END.

Things are going well, overall. I have no reason to complain. I could be in wretched shape, unable to manage life or to complete my chemo, and this isn't the case. So I'm a lucky dawg.

However, I will share a few observations on how these heavy toxic chemicals are affecting my faithful workhorse of a bod (hang in there, big guy) as we enter MONTH NUMBER EIGHT of this peculiar drug habit I've cultivated in my mid-30s. (Valium seemed too retro. Cocaine? Nah, done to death. But "5-FU"... hmm. Expensive. Obscure. Now we're talkin.)

1. Ick
Because of gastrointestinal mayhem that is starting to follow no particular timeline, I can never be sure if I should bite the bullet and go out on the town, or stay home where I can be sick with dignity. I honestly can go from completely fine to miserably sick within 10 seconds, with no prior warning. (I've timed it.) The result? Chemo IS affecting my social life. (and come on, EGAD. Anything but that. Take my limbs, not my parties.)

2. Oww
"Ok," say the chemo gods. "Your wish is my command. We'll take your limbs. And your little dog, too." My feet and hands are now in a perpetual state of numbness. I have a bit of a hard time typing now, as I hit all the wrong keys. I also stub my toes almost daily. D'oh.

3. Ack
After a hearty start to the year, my exercise regimine has tapered off to... NO EXERCISE AT ALL. The last time I swam, two months ago, I couldn't feel my fingertips or feet, so I got out in a huff and decided to "let it be". (Even though I may feel like "I am the Walrus", I gotta remember: "Happiness is a Warm Gun.") However, I am now signing up for a 2-mile open water swim on Sept 11. It's a cancer fundraiser, and I'm a swimmer. How can I say no? I got in the pool a few days ago for the first time in months, and it felt utterly insane. Shooting needles of numbness (trippy, I know) coursed through the length of my arms and legs, so that I could feel about half of what was really happening. Were it not for my many years of swimming and just inherently understanding how to move through the water, I would have totally felt like an out-of-control aquaspaz.

4. Ummm...
At my last chemo appointment, my doctor let me know that I have "nerve damage" from the drug oxalliplatnin (sp?), and all my insane tingling and numbness is normal. Ahem. "Nerve damage". Does that make anyone else feel a little funny in their tummy? Ah, but don't worry-- once I complete chemo, it should go away, in a year. Should. Year.

He also told me the cold water of Lake Washington would be very uncomfortable for me to race in, due to my neuropathy. I'm now waffling if I should do the race or not. This is depressing to me, as I NEVER miss a challenge like a swim race. Grrr.

On the days following chemo, my brain is really STOOPID. I can't track conversations very well, I don't feel like writing or talking on the phone, and I'm easily frustrated by all of it. I miss the old me! If you met me for the first time on the days just following chemo, you'd think I was an uninteresting bitch. (INSERT JOKES LIKE, "THAT AND EVERY OTHER DAY!" HERE.)

But, my next PET scan is Tues the 17th. Based on the results of that, my doc will let me know if I'm done with chemo or if I get to trudge into month #9. And don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that I was in fact planning to get pregnant this past January. Here we are, almost 9 months is strange, isn't it?

Feel free to donate to my team's efforts, if you like. And check out Neil's write-up about me. Awww.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bundle of joy

In the hair salon today, I found myself caught in the most improbable lie.

First, so you understand how I got there, you need to know that I typically spend the Tuesday after each chemo session being sick all day. It's something I've gotten used to. Annoying, but happily, it's like clockwork, so I can plan around it.

But this particular Tuesday, I had a haircut appointment with a really-hard-to-get-into stylist, an appointment made literally months ago. I hoped that if I took enough medication, I should be able to get a quick cut without incident, then return home and get sick all over my house in peace.

I dropped my kids at my friend Libby's house. (Side note: Libby RULES.) I drove downtown. As I entered the salon I started to feel symptomatic.

The assistant stylist squeezed a blob of fruity shampoo into my hair. " enjoying this yummy sunshine today?" and all I could think was, "Would you hurry up?" I didn't even appreciate her scalp massage. "Don't make a scene, Shelly. Hold it together." As soon as she was done, I excused myself and went to the restroom and was sick all over the place. Apparently, over-the-counter preventative meds aren't strong enough to stave off post-chemo sickness.

So I got back to her chair and my stylist began to comb my hair. "YOU are looking pretty blonde there, lady! Been outside a lot this summer?" I smiled halfheartedly and nodded. She stopped combing and let her scissors go limp at her side. "You ok? You look sort of...grey."

"Oh, I'm ok, just...well actually, not feeling all that well."

The brown-haired woman in the chair next to me turns and looks my way. "Oh my GOSH, do you have the flu that's going around?"
Her stylist nods emphatically and murmurs, "Mmm...Don't want to be getting THAT!"
Brown-haired woman: "It's really nasty. My cousin's got it." She kind of backed up in her chair, to get farther away from my germs.

Me: "Nope. No flu. Just..." (Oh, brother. How do I sum this up quickly for a few strangers?: 'No flu, nope, I'm just riding out the chemo storm. CO-LON CAN-CER CHE-MO. Try sayin' that three times real fast! Ah, but seriously, how you ladies doin?')

My stylist narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips. She pointed her comb at me and broke into a big smile. "WAIT A MINUTE. You're PREGNANT, aren't you? I remember we talked about this last time! [No we didn't.] You were going to try! You guys were going to go on vacation and try to get pregnant! You're totally pregnant aren't you!?"

Brown-haired girl and her stylist both looked at me expectantly with wide eyes.

What can I say? I blanked! "Um, yep! I am. And that's why I'm sick. So...yep. Good ol' morning sickness. It's the worst."
(The moment I said it, I thought, "Shelly. You just told them you were pregnant. You dumb ol' liar. Get out of here as soon as possible.)

But, for some reason, the idea of being barfy and nasty as the result of a growing BABY has a sort of sheen to it. Being barfy and nasty from chemotherapy is just... well, sad. And a little gross, especially in a hair salon.

Then, the barrage:
"Is your husband sooo pumped?"
"Is this your first baby?"
"How far along are you?"
"Do you, like, want some tea?"

So. The haircut ended, and I left in a rush with wet hair. I ran to my car and drove home, my abdomen in a Windsor knot. (My conscience in a slipknot.)

I'm going back for a trim in 6 weeks, so either I have to come clean with my stylist, or show up with a pillow in my shirt.

Be warned people: One of cancer's worst side effects is IT MAKES YOU A BIG FAT LIAR.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I know, I know-- it's been two weeks since I posted? What gives? Well, I just returned from a blissful 9-days up in Tupper Lake, NY, at our family's camp, where I chose not to check e- or voicemail for the entire trip. Then we had a slight delay in getting home (post to come on that debacle), and as soon as I returned, I got to indulge in yet another round of chemo! So that's what I'm doing now. Sitting on the couch in my jammies, cringing occasionally, trying to get the courage to go drink some water (it always tastes slightly pebbly and waay too cold to me, but I absolutely have to drink it). In a few days, I'll be back to my old self and you can expect several postings. Maybe a sonnet or two.

Til then, I will sit here scowling, watching Hitchcock films, and wishing I had some fresh nigiri sushi in front of me. Preferably salmon.

TGIF, folks. In my case, thank goodness I only have about 36 more hours of the wonderdrug "5F-U" coursing through my body. GIDDEUP!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Haiku #4

Chemo in the heat
In a land with no A/C
Really, what a treat.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My friend, "A"

Back in January, when I first went to chemo, a young woman showed up for my first session. She was not a nurse, she was a former patient, and we share a doctor. Like me, she had two very young children when she found out she had stage 4 colon cancer. One of her sons was just three months old, in fact.

She is a marvel. The cancer had filled her pelvis and 95% of her lungs. But she's a rockstar and a fighter. She endured THIRTY rounds of chemo (I'll be at a paltry #14 tomorrow, by comparison), plus 2 surgeries AND radiation. And then she went into COMPLETE REMISSION!

Seriously. Think about that. I can't think of anyone deserving anything more than she deserved that.

Since January, she came to almost every single one of my bi-weekly chemo sessions, always making time in her busy life to support me. She made herself available for my weird questions ("Did this ever happen to you?"-type stuff) and talked me off the ledge more than a few times.

On top of that, she's feisty, funny, and she has the greatest attitude despite the crappity crap crap she's been through.

Last week, at her one-year scan, she learned the cancer had returned. Just a little bit, here and there, but she now will start chemo again. We have decided to ride out my remaining chemo sessions together. She and I, in our chemo chairs, shooting the breeze all the livelong day (and believe me, this girl can talk. Just like me.) That cancer ward won't know what hit it. The noise level will be deafening. Girl power all over the place. Oozing.

Just wanted to tip my hat to my pal, A.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pop Music

Isn't it funny how, when you are going through something traumatic (like a break-up or say, cancer), pop music suddenly seems to be targeted AT YOU? The same cheesy classic rock song you've heard a million times will suddenly contain bits of seemingly inspired words and you think, "Man, he's been there, too. Layla actually has him ON HIS KNEES. That poor man."

So I was driving yesterday and of all the freaking songs to come on the radio, it's "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton, which was written after his toddler son fell to his death from a window. "Would you know my name/ If I saw you in heaven?/Will it be the same/ If I saw you in heaven / I must be strong, and carry on /Cause I know I don't belong /Here in heaven."

Of course, I instantly think of my young son Rhodes, whom, at age 2, is practically glued to my side. But someday, if I weren't still here, he may barely remember me, or not at all. The thought of it is... (I don't know. Fill in your favorite word for "devastating")

The sad context around which this song was written is pretty heartbreaking, but when you can actually apply it to your own situation, it becomes sort of unbearable. I suddenly started to breathe in a very shuddery way, and I got this urgent, panicky feeling.

Then something AWESOME happened.

I interrupted my own sorry train of thought and did the thought equivalent of grabbing myself by the shoulders and shaking sense into myself. Because I realized that in my heart I actually DO NOT BELIEVE I am going to die soon. I don't think cancer is going to win. I am really beginning to believe that now. It's an exciting breakthrough for me, as there's a big difference between hoping for something and actually believing it.

Of course, the cancer could come back. According to statistics, there's a healthy chance of it. But nothing is written yet, so I guess I'm just going to ignore that and get on with things.

Oh, and for the record, once I had my big realization, the song lost its hold on me and went from being personally gut-wrenching to simply sad.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mairzy Doats

We awoke Friday to rain, rain, rain, so we skipped our morning swim lesson and headed to the Museum of Flight.

There's a really cool World War II permanent exhibit there. It's filled with all sorts of WWII memorabilia-- leather bomber jackets, medals, propaganda videos, huge black and white photos of handsome flying aces from Nebraska or Maryland or wherever, etc., and a big collection of real fighter planes, with the noses colorfully painted showing which squadron they belonged to.

In the back of the room, in a large open space next to a P-47D Thunderbolt (it's a plane. impressive. I know) painted with an Ace of Spades and the words "Big Stud", sits an old-fashioned radio. There are several "stations" you can tune to, playing actual broadcasts from 1944, along with music. This is where my kids love to play.

Their favorite song is a rousing 19?? recording of "Mairzy Doats". You know, the old song:

"Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing 'Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.'"

Betty and Rhodes just CUT THE RUG back there, playing that song over and over, spinning, leaping, clapping, swaying, rolling around. It's sort of ridiculous, but, it's so far in the back of that huge, dark room that no one's bothered by it.

My feet were feeling a little numb. (Mildly alarming, but just another neat side effect of this blessed experience). So I sat on a bench and watched them burn off all kinds of energy to this jazzy number. Finally, a family approached. There were a man and woman in their 60s(?), pushing a wheelchair with an old timer on board. He looked REALLY OLD. He had this look of fascinated nostalgia in his eyes, and he'd run his fingers along various artifacts as he passed them. I gather he was a WWII vet. (He looked like he may have also fought in WW1, if you get my drift.)

He sat up straight when he heard the music. His lips started mouthing the lyrics. Then he noticed my kids, in full dance party mode. His eyes completely lit up, and he motioned for his daughter to push him over near the kids. He started clapping and grooving with his shoulders. Betty's little pink dress ballooned out as she spun circles around him. Rhodes high-fived him repeatedly. They were all boogying and whooping with joy. A few people and a museum docent stopped to watch and clap and sway. Each time the song ended, one of my kids would hit replay, and they'd continue dancing.

For some reason, I felt touched by the whole scene. It was nothing grand or significant, just the discovery of an improbable connection in an unlikely place. But it was somehow joyous. I love it when that kind of thing happens. Life can be so sweet.

p.s.--I just re-read what I've written. I will publish it, but I'm acutely aware of how much it sounds like a cheesy email forward you might receive from an old friend. (young kids bonding with veteran. dancing ensues. life lesson taught.) Forgive me. xoxo

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Epidermal dishonesty

I have never shown my kids my scars. I have one very long gash up the front of my stomach, and a round, button-like lump on my upper right shoulder where my port is (not-so) hidden underneath my skin.

In fact, we've never really talked with the kids about the cancer. For heaven's sakes, they're only 3 and 2 years old, and I haven't SEEMED sick to them, so... we just let it go. If Betty asked, we would have addressed it, but she never did.

I guess I was afraid the scars would freak them out. I didn't want to have to explain what they meant. I also figured I could buy some time. The stomach scar would continue to lighten until one day it was no more than an unalarming, pale vertical stripe, and the port will be removed (but not for at least a couple years, I'm told. Dash it all.) (For the record, I am getting rid of most of my bandeau-style shirts and tank tops that don't hide the port. If you have one you'd like, send me your address. I'll mail it to ya!)

Today Betty was playing with my necklace, then her hand wandered over to my shoulder, and she looked up at me. "Do I have a dot like you do?", and she pulled down the shoulder of her shirt so I could inspect her clavicle area. I realized she was acknowledging my port, and in fact, the way she'd so calmly asked about it made me think she's seen it plenty of times. I told her she didn't have a "dot", only mama did. She asked me to look again, as if I would find one if I looked hard enough.

She wasn't freaked out at all.

Same day, little Rhodes and I were playing in my room. I was tickling him and he jumped on top of me. He pulled my shirt up to my belly button, pointed at my scar and asked, "Oww?", then he looked at me searchingly. I realized he had seen it before, too. I chirped back, "Nope! No owies. It doesn't hurt. Mama is fine!" He smiled and continued playing.

Two scars noticed in one day.

I'd been dreading them seeing me scarred, thinking perhaps they wouldn't be able to handle it. But clearly, the issue really belonged to me.

Someday, when they're much older, I'll be able to tell them about all the scary things that happened to us this year, right under their little runny noses. For now, I'm so glad they feel like everything is and has always been just FINE: Mama and Dada are happy and healthy. Only good things happen! The world is forever a safe place.

High five, Neil. We pulled it off.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Waiting for the good news to sink in.

Oddly enough, just after I got the best news of my life ("cancer's gone!"), I have this sort of dark post to make. Not sure why, but I'll go with it because I know that no matter how I'm feeling, it's just part of the process and it's ok. (Look at me! A therapist would be proud of that statement.)

Ever since I got my "all clear" results, I've been sort of holed up in my house, enduring the chemo. I have not been partying like you might imagine. You know how, when you're sick, everything is just harder to handle? Little decisions suddenly become difficult to make. "Do I want a glass of water or not? I CANNOT decide.... hmmm... Well, maybe a small glass. No, no. Definitely not." Tiny hurdles can almost feel insurmountable. "Oh my GOSH, are you KIDDING ME? I forgot to run the dishwasher last night? HOLY CRAP. Now I have to run it this MORNING." So being a little under the weather (chemo) has sort of stunted my ability to think about what has happened in the last few days.

I think I am just really backlogged, trying to process all these emotions. I haven't even touched the "YOU'RE IN COMPLETE REMISSION" yet, and all that that means.

Here are the ridiculous thoughts I'm thinking, all at the same time.

-Part of me still wonders if the cancer is REALLY, TRULY gone. I mean, this is my life we're talking about, I really don't want them to make any mistakes here. If there are still a few bad cells hidden in there somewhere, they BETTER be sure they've found them and are going to get rid of them.

-I never can completely forget the fact that, statistically, this sort of cancer sometimes tends to come back. Even though my recovery has been remarkable and I really seem to be beating all the odds and statistics, my vivid imagination does not serve me well here. I envision scenarios 6 months out, 1 year out, 3 years out, where my doctor has to tell me that bad news, "It's back, Shelly. 8 more months of chemo." I then do the math to figure out how old my kids will be by that age, and what I will need to tell them so they can process the terrible news of mommy being sick. (Torturous, I know! And stupid!) Usually I am able to squash this line of thinking before it gets too far developed, but not always. I think that's just a natural part of coming to grips with all this, but it still aint fun.

-I wonder why I'm not more overjoyed about hearing the words "You're in complete remission". Is it because I've spent so many months getting used to the idea that I was "sick", and that now it's hard to just instantaneously erase that? Is it because I don't really believe it could be true? Is it because I feel like it's potentially only temporary? Is it because, now that I feel like the real danger is more or less gone, I can finally feel sad and angry and scared?

-Amidst all this, I know that tons of people would KILL to be in my shoes. From stage 4 in December to ALL GONE in June. That's insane! I'm so lucky I should get some sense slapped into me. (quick! someone slap me!)

I'M SORRY, I KNOW, THIS IS ALL SO NEGATIVE! WHAT THE HECK, SHELLY? This is so unlike me! Bear with me folks. I will come around. This is just how I'm feeling right now, and I'm not totally sure why.


p.s. It is now one day later, and for some reason I feel incredibly hopeful and happy. I considered deleted the above post, but I figured it might be interesting to you, to see the ups and downs that A SURVIVOR goes through. Moving forward, I can see myself being in the "hopeful, happy" camp more often than the "dark depressed" camp.

What a crazy experience this is.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I am in Complete Remission

This will be a really quick update, as I'm very tired and feeling overall nasty from the chemo, but I need to let you all know what's going on.

1- According to my PET results, I have no more cancer left in my body. ****This means I am in complete remission.***** (insert expletive here.) My mind is truly reeling. I am still trying to believe this is true. Massive news like this, oddly, is difficult to ingest. It's almost like I'm still waiting for the moment when it's going to sink in, and then I'll start jumping for joy. (I think this is a protective mechanism I've built up, after having gotten so much bad news early on.)

2- I have to do 4 more rounds of chemo, just to be extra safe. (some cancer can conceivably still be there in tiny, undetectable amounts--this would hopefully take care of that!) Then I'll have one more scan, to check things again. That will be at the end of August.

3- I will still have to take medicine (Avastin) for a year, but that's not chemo, so it will be no big deal by comparison. I probably will have scans pretty often, too.

I feel thrilled, confused, excited, nervous, unsure, full of wonder and gratitude, and tired. I also know I am not out of the woods yet. The scary truth about Stage 4 colon cancer is that in MOST cases, it DOES come back. Usually within 3 years. I am going to have to get my head set so that I can live well knowing this possibility exists. This is going to be a process for us-- it's not over yet.

And I know that sounds all Negative Nelly, so here's some Positive Polly: With each month that passes, they are developing better and better cancer drugs. Truly, 2 of the drugs that saved me were developed in the last 2 years. Another was developed 4 years ago. Imagine what they'll have three years from now! Secondly, if the odds aren't with me, so what. The odds have been solidly against me this entire time, and I've known it, and I've beaten them all. I think part of it just has to do with the fact that I am not the average person to get this disease: I'm much younger, much healthier, and very determined.

My doctor told me that the progress I've made thus far ranks me on scale of 1-10, at a 12. Think of it. In January I was wasting away, post-surgery, with stage 4 colon cancer (there is no stage 5)--tumors in my lung and liver. In June, the cancer is completely dead and gone, and I'm doing absolutely terrifically.

It's remarkable, and yet I still can't believe it's all happening. I now have as much cancer in me as YOU do (which is zero, baby.)

I am sure that over the next few days I'll be processing all this and I'll have some epic blog postings. Til then, just know that I'm doing great (although sort of despising this chemo, which IS, as they predicted, getting more tiresome each time), and am utterly, completely grateful to YOU, yes YOU, for being my friend and supporter. Collectively, your messages of love and support have made me KNOW that my life is definitely worth fighting for. And so I did.

And it looks like I won?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Will it be Lucky #13?

Today was an exceptional day.

The USA won their World Cup match in the last few breathtaking minutes. The longest match in tennis history occurred at Wimbledon, with the match finally being suspended due to darkness at 59-59 in the fifth set! (Ten hours of tennis with no winner, are you kidding me?) A very close friend of mine won their dream job and is completely, utterly thrilled. Also, it was a ridiculously gorgeous day in Seattle.

Goodness all around. With the way things were rolling, I felt pretty sure I'd also get an extraordinary phone call from my doctor. But no one called. (So, no results yet.)

That's ok, though. Oddly enough, I'm not really sweating over these results. I have faith that things are moving in the right direction for me, and if this test does not yield the "all clear", the next one probably will. Sure, I'd like to hear the words, "Your cancer is gone" (not to mention the words, "Soon your chemo will be FINISHED", because that crap is getting _A_LITTLE_BIT_OLD), but I know there's nothing I can do to influence those results. The test is over, now it's time to wait.

It's a strange thing, this cancer business. For most people, your actions directly influence your health. You exercise and eat well, you lose weight and stay healthy. You brush your teeth, and prevent cavities. You wash your hands, and you won't get a cold. You wear sunscreen, and your skin won't prematurely age. But with cancer, I can do everything right, but I can't really do a damned thing to change the course the disease decides to take. I am not whining here, I am simply marveling over the strangeness and inequity of it. It's not like I "had this comin'". I was living a pretty clean life before my colon decided to stop editing out its mutant cells.

Ok, I think there are a few exceptions to my "I can't do a damned thing to change all this"-statement. I can eat even better, I can stay positive, I can exercise, I can see good doctors and take good medicines. I know, I know. But even so, only so much is within my control now. And for a headstrong young person with big plans for her life, this is a tough pill to swallow.

Actually, I think I just realized something: Was any of it ever truly in my control before? Or did I just THINK I was the person pulling the strings?

Well, that's a big question for another day. Right now, I'm laying in bed, prepping for my big day tomorrow. It's Chemo #13. And my doctor is going to tell my what he learned from Tuesday's PET scan. And I'm going to be ok with it.

And I promise to let you know what I learn!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Really big scan tomorrow!

Tomorrow at 10:30 is my big PET scan. Hopefully it will yield the results of "all clear! cancer is gone!" I should get results by Thursday, but possibly sooner.

Til then, I am on a strict PET scan diet. This is just one more way the cancer gods STICK IT TO YA:

"24 Hours Prior to PET-CT scan
No sugars or carbohydrates, avoid the following items:
• Bread, pastry, cereal, pasta.
• Fruits, (no tomatoes),
• Desserts, muffins, crackers, candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream, yogurt, jams, jellies, honey
• Soft drinks, milk, soy milk, tonic water, juices, beer, alcoholic beverages.
• Starchy vegetables (rice, potatoes, corn, lima beans, soy beans, parsnips, peas)

You may eat:
• Meat, firm tofu: do not use sweet sauces and do not bread the meat
• Eggs, prepared without milk
• Cheese, butter, mayo, unsweetened peanut butter
• Non-starchy vegetables (Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, green beans, cauliflower)"

I have to run now, as it's 10:15, and I only have 15 more minutes to cram in the carbs and fruit and starches. This is serious business. What the H am I doing on my computer?!

Cross your fingers for me, please!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lavatory Love

I just wanted to say that on the 4-hour flight home from Ohio, my kids needed to use the airplane bathroom not once BUT FOUR TIMES.

This particular airplane's bathroom was so small that there wasn't even a changing table behind the toilet. While standing in there, the three of us were all touching each other. There wasn't even space for space between us.

The kids had kicked off their shoes and socks, and so they were barefoot. (i tried to re-shoe them but it was to no avail, and when you are flying alone with two kids aged 3.5 and 2, you pick your battles). In the bathroom, there was amber-colored fluid pooled up on the floor just below the toilet. Betty started jumping in it, making mini splashes, as if we were frolicking in a rainstorm outside our house. I shudder to think of whose urine had soaked into my ankles. The hairy guy wearing the kilt in 27C?

The kids essentially palmed every surface in the bathroom. Toilet seat. Area behind toilet seat. Flusher. Door. Floor. Sink. Garbage pail. You name it. I tried so very hard to keep their little chubby starfish-like hands at their sides, but no dice. I tried even harder to then keep their hands away from their mouths, and I was about 70% successful. (As for the other 30%, hey, it's just good clean dirt, right?) I washed their hands when done, and when we returned to the seats, I Purell-ed the hell out of them, but all the while I wondered how long the gestation period would be for whatever virus and bacteria they'd acquired. Would it be a stomach flu, a cruddy cold, or something far more sinister, the kind of thing you'd only find under a dirty toilet seat in a dark, cramped lavatory? Ah well, WE'D FIND OUT IN ABOUT A WEEK!

The results are in: it's just a cruddy cough, an extra-runny nose and a grouchy disposition. A little long-distance dedication from the business traveller in the exit row, perhaps. No barfing, no scabby rashes, no worms. I think we dodged a bullet. Things are looking up for us, people! I think this is going to be OUR YEAR!

Monday, June 14, 2010

New feelings and fears

Just a quick status check-in from everybody's favorite soon-to-be-cancer survivor.

I'm gonna hammer this post out, so pardon the wordiness and lack of editing. Kids are napping, so time is precious right now.

Ok, it's Monday. The sun is shining, banana bread is baking, mom is coming tomorrow night. The last few days have been interesting for me, emotionally. I have shifted into yet another phase of "coming to grips" with all this. And there seem to be about 9,000 phases of coming to grips with having cancer, because every time I think I have a handle on the whole cancer thing, another aspect of it comes to light and throws me for a loop. Then I learn to deal with that one, and all is well for a bit, then the process repeats itself.

[For the record: All in all, I think Neil and I (and all our family and friends) have done a superb job getting used to the idea that this is all happening and not completely freaking out. So, A+, people.]

Lately however, I have been thinking a lot about what comes next. Let's assume this cancer does in fact GO AWAY soon. That will be awesome!, of course!, and i should be doing back flips over the fact that this seems to be the direction I'm headed. But for some reason I've been fixated on the rotten idea of the cancer someday coming back. How does an ex-cancer patient move on, knowing that the cancer might at any time COME BACK? Maybe in 2 months, maybe a year. Maybe 3 years. Are you ever safe? Can you ever just exhale with relief? THere is no rhyme or reason to it, some cancers simply re-emerge on the scene. Others never do. And I have no idea which camp I'll be in. But how do you go on living with that uncertainty? UGH.

I guess I will just have to choose NOT TO think about it. And just to keep on living, happily and gratefully, all the time keeping the hope alive that my cancer will just have been a fluke thing that is now done and gone and never coming back.

Still, I keep hearing these blasted reports about someone who WAS in remission but now their cancer is back. DAMN CANCER. Why does it do that? I mean, if the chemo kills it all, why would it re-emerge 3 years later? I don't understand this disease. I wish I could go back to those innocent pre-cancer days, when I was invincible and I absolutely KNEW I was going to live to be 100.

I suppose in some ways it's a gift to be grateful for each day you have. To take nothing for granted in life. To be conscious of the fact that it's great to have been here at all. But honestly, I think I'd prefer to be living with blinders on, like I used to, unaware that I could die at any time. It's so much EASIER, not to mention a lot more FUN.

Anyway. I have MY NEXT BIG SCAN on Tues, June 22. This time around my doc has ordered me a PET scan, the granddaddy of all scans, the big kahuna of the scan world (a note to my doctor friends out there: Feel free to correct me if this is not true, and the PET scan is actually a minor scan-- it sure SEEMS like a big deal.) They make you get there really early and over a period of an hour, you have to drink two containers of this vile fluid. You are not allowed to move (!) as movement will cause your body to process the sugars you are ingesting and those will show up on the scan and give you inaccurate results. The idea is, any cancer cells will process the sugars faster than regular cells, because cancer cells are hungry, needy little suckers, and thus they will show up on the scan as darker than the healthy cells. So the goal is to have NO DARK SPOTS on the scan, as those indicate abnormal cells.

Then they inject you with all sorts of biohazards so you light up in the scanner like a Christmas tree. Then they create something like a topographical cross-sectional map of your physiology, so they can see all the mountains and valleys of your your organs. Then, just before you are about to leave, you get violently sick. For about 10 hours. (At least I do, but then again, you know me, I'm such a sensitive girl.)

The fact that my doc ordered me a PET scan and not the ol' standby, the CT scan, shows me he might think this will be the scan where I'll learn that I'm cancer-free. Because it's so comprehensive. And he had told me he hadn't planned on getting me another PET scan until after we learned I was cancer-free.

So. There is a peek inside my head for the week of June 14th, 2010.

And: if you wait a week for my PET scan results, I can show you a peek inside my entire abdomen!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's no place like home.

While back in Ohio, a series of gigantic storms raged through town one night. Like Dorothy before us, we had to retreat to the basement--twice!--at midnight and again at 3, in case one of the tornados decided to turn down our street. The thunder and lightening was intense, kind of exciting actually (for me, not the kids). The devastation was notable: a local high school destroyed, a fire station ruined, and tons and tons of homes obliterated. And all of it, just a stone's throw (well, if you throw like Ichiro Suzuki) from my parents' house. Also, 5 people died. Some down in their basement, just like us.

I was thinking about how strange it is, that you could start out the day like any other, then randomly be plucked from your basement and thrust into a stormy vortex. Death by tornado. No thanks! I remember thinking, "MAA-AN. After ALL I've been though, I'm sure as HECK not going to let a stupid tornado take me out." (and alongside it, imagine me doing that wavy-finger gesture that people do while they say, "OH NO YOU DI-INT!")

Needless to say: WE LIVED. Disaster averted. And for the record, it was FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC to be home again.

Coming soon to a blog near you!: Shelly decides to write something uplifting.

Bite me

Ohio has the best insects.

I just returned from an 8-day extravaganza in the motherland. SO fun.

I feel so happy lying in bed at night, windows open, drapes blowing, listening to the crickets and the .... to be honest, I'm not sure what combo of creaky insects are responsible for that noise, but it just sounds so quintessentially OHIO SUMMER to me. Mix that with the the wind in the trees (my fave sound), and I sleep like a baby.

The locusts, when they come out, only add to the effect. They make a GREAT noise. If you haven't heard it, well--- go Google it or something. They're pretty fascinating insects, actually, but that's a story for a different post. Another fascinating, fascinating post.

Then there's the lightning bugs, popping up in the dark backyard at night. My kids thought those were fun to chase. I guess I took it for granted that we got to spend summer nights growing up collecting those things. (I am dangerously close to sounding like Andy Rooney now.)

BUT: the mosquitoes can go suck themselves. They're not really a problem in Seattle, so I'd forgotten how annoying they are.

The real injustice here is that you'd think they'd take one bite of MY BLOOD, in all its toxic nastiness, and they'd do the mosquito equivalent of running to the sink and spitting their mouthload directly into the drain. BUT NO, they bit and bit away. I was hoping this might be one of the little-known PLUS SIDES of getting chemo, the natural mosquito repellency, but alas.

Before all this is over, I'm determined to figure out SOME cool side effect chemo has (like acting as a very expensive and drastic mosquito repellent). Stay tuned.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hello, from Shelliqua

Perhaps I should invent an alter-ego or nom de plume to use when writing a post while deep in the throes of chemotherapy drugs. Because Lord knows Shelly Baker Butler doesn't want credit for these posts. Writing under the influence of drugs, for some, was the very point of it: (Coleridge, Burroughs, Poe, Kerouac, etc....), but for me, I want to feel normal again. Ah well, just gotta wait a few days.

What would a good pen-name be?

Not Shelly--

Sheila Butter?
Shirley Bacon?
Shelly Seacrest?
Admiral Von Schellgenstein?

I'm accepting suggestions.

Anyway, moving on-
I spent the day getting loaded up with chemo. Today was chemo #11. Some people ask me how it feels to be on chemo, and I can't answer for all types of chemo because they all have different side effects. But I think I'm getting close to it when I say that it feels like I just drank two bottles of Windex. Or, it's what you'd get if you took a nasty flu and a major hangover, and you forced them to have a baby: that could be chemo.

My first appt was at 8:20 a.m., and I got home around 5. i'm tired. I have looong chemo sessions. longer than most people. Some people are in and out in 30 minutes. Apparently it depends on the type of cancer you have, and the stage. I asked my doc today if the treatment they were giving me was on the heavier side of what is available, and he chortled and said, "HOO-OOH YES." So, I'm getting the hard stuff, apparently. If i can handle this, i can handle anything. Plus, it's working.

Now, though, I'm home, and for two days I'm still mainlining a pack of the drug flourouracil, commonly called "5 F-U", which has to be the best chemo drug name ever (Think of it: not just one 'F-U', but FIVE!). My nurse calls this drug the "2-day kill', because it keeps on releasing poison over time, which will continue to hit the cancer in every stage of its pathetic lifecycle. (eating, cell division, resting, and whatever else cancer cells do in their spare time.)

(Now wouldn't THAT be a fun book to write, written from the point of view of a cancer cell in his "spare time" between mitosis and feeding. wonder what he thinks about. wonder if he has any friends in there. Doubt it. )

So here I am. Nestled in our new bed (well, it's a new mattress... I found that after my brutal surgery in December I was able to make all kinds of demands on Neil, including a super-soft new mattress. Normally Neil is not a "let's get more new stuff!" guy, he doesn't like to buy lots of new things because the act of having lots of STUFF just doesn't make him any happier. Simplify, simplify. Which explains his 6-teeshirt wardrobe. Love that guy.) (*That being said, THIS GIRL _does_ need some new clothes, and soon.*)

Our bedroom looks out over the lake. It's a slightly overcast day here in Seattle (out-of-towners, insert your clever weather joke here), and the lake is pretty glassy. Neil is downstairs wrangling the kids so i can have some time to relax.

I guess this is all my way of saying, "If this is as bad as it gets, me loaded to the gills with medicines marked all over with huge 'BIOHAZARD' symbols, laying here, feeling a little barfy, but not too bad, if this is as bad as it gets, and I'm getting better, I'LL TAKE IT ANY DAY."

Let me brag a little now.

My nurse today looked at my blood counts. She said they were excellent. Then she looked at how many rounds of chemo i'd gone through, and she actually gasped when she saw this was #11. She said, "but these counts are so must be getting (forget the name) shots to help increase your white blood count every week, right?" And I said, "No, i've never gotten one of those. " And she just looked at me and said, "Well. All I can say is you are ONE VERY HEALTHY PERSON."

And that made me smile harder than anything all day.

-Shirley Bacon, out

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Yesterday in Seattle, I caught two interesting perspectives about life, both tacked onto the backs of motor vehicles.

The first was found on the license plate of a Harley. It was the rider who initially caught my eye. He was a young-ish guy, early 40s?, all in black leather of course (chaps, even), but what really struck me was this guy's expression. We were sitting at a stoplight, and this guy was wearing the biggest shit-eating grin his leathery face could muster. He was lost in his thoughts, alone, no other cars around except me. He looked like he was having THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. There was clearly no other place he'd rather be than out on the open roads in the sunshine. (We were in a slightly rural area.) I still remember his face: big straight white teeth, tanned skin, high cheekbones, deep laugh lines around his mouth, Ray-Bans. I think I could pick him out of a police lineup, I remember it so well.

As he pulled away, leaving my sleek silver Subaru Impreza in his dust, I glimpsed his license plate. It read, "Lifrox". Life rocks. And for some reason, this dude's great passion for life suddenly yanked me out of my mid-day slump, and I, too, felt like, "HELL YEAH! LIFE ROCKS!" I wanted to catch up with him so I could look over at him and give him the thumbs-up sign, or some cooler, more-Harley version of the same sentiment. Unfortunately I'm not that cool.

I then did something rather dorky that I'll share only with you (because this is such a private and intimate forum), I blasted the radio and started belting out the lyrics to the song on radio (it happened to be "Santeria" by Sublime). I was practically screaming. Happily.

It's amazing how you have all that zest for life inside of you, and it could be released at any time, with the right stimulus. That your day could go from zero to 100 without warning. To go from bored to thrilled by the time the light turns green. Inspiration is everywhere. It For me, that day, it was a stranger on a Harley, happy to be doing his own thing.

I mentioned that I saw two life perspectives yesterday. The other one was plastered to the back of an old white pick-up. It read, "Ditch the bitch. Go hunting."


Hey, as long as you're happy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wide Load

Hi all. So last week when I went into chemo, they weighed me, as they always do. Each time I go in, I gain a few pounds, and then I turn to Neil (or Laura, if she's with me that day) and start doing this dorky little spastic clap, because it has been my goal for many months to gain weight.

Well, mission accomplished, friends.

Last week I was up to 154. This is my old fightin' weight. My pre-cancer, pre-baby/ post-baby-fat -days weight. And this is up from my ghastly 129 lbs., in December.

(Side note: it might SEEM like it'd be neato to lose a ton of weight and to see what it's like to be crazy skinny, even just for anecdotal purposes, but the truth is, when you can't keep weight on due to serious medical issues, there's nothing interesting about it. It's actually terrifying.) (In fact, I even had to buy new pants, and I was a disgusting size FOUR, with a 34-inch inseam. Why would they even MAKE pants of those dimensions? Who fits that size? YOU FREAK!) (For the record, those trousers are now gathering dust in the back of my closet. And they could be yours for just $9.99!) (RIP.)

So then I go into my doctor's office and he tells me that since I've gained so much, IT MIGHT BE TIME TO UP MY CHEMO DOSAGE.


"More poison, Shelly?"
"Yes, please. Pile it high and deep."

He reviewed all my blood counts, etc., and happily, didn't raise my dosage last week. THANK YOU JESUS. But I'm going back in on Thursday for some more. I believe this will be Round 12. And I've been eating a lot of Skittles this week. And ice cream. So. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Almost 2 weeks since I posted!

For some reason, since my last post, I've felt uninspired to write anything. I wonder why? I think the "C" topic has started to lose its luster for me. It's been 6 or so months since my diagnosis, and maybe that's how long it takes to exhaust the topic in one's mind. To talk it to death. Or, maybe I just feel like it might not have as strong a hold on me anymore (since I appear to be getting better!) (Cross fingers.)

Anyway, I will continue to write, but I expect I won't focus so heavily on that dreary "C" topic so much. "Hurray!", you must all be thinking, "This was becoming a real DRAG. This blog was the low point of my day! A vicarious cancer experience through Shelly! Who needs it?"

So: ONWARD AND UPWARD! Next posting will probably be called something like, "Spring Fever: The latest disease I've caught!", and I'll regale you all with stories of my newly planted veggies. And I'll throw one little cancer fact in there, just for good measure.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great scan #2 results

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NEIL!! 37 TODAY! You are endlessly patient with me, and I did not so much as get you a card today. Talk about a self-centered wife. ("My cancer this! My cancer that!") But you still came with me to chemo and brought me blankets and juice and a burrito and you sat with me happily while I took a three-hour nap. You rule. I love you.

So below is my humble gift to you. I worked extra hard on it. Blood, sweat, toxins and tears:

**My tumors have reduced in size over 50% again! They are now tiny. Just millimeters long.**

My doctor repeatedly said this is "fabulous news" and we have "reason to celebrate". He also told me on a scale of one to ten, these results are a "10". He never sugarcoats news, either, so he means it. Believe me, I tried to read his face for a trace of falsehood, but I get the feeling he's not in the business where you lie to patients.

I asked him to compare my results with others in my boat. He said that if you took 100 people who have the same situation as me and compared our test results, my results today would probably put me with the top one or two.

Greedily, I asked him if he was surprised the tumors weren't completely gone. He said that would have been exceptionally rare. But he also said that the results I'm having are consistent with the results he sees in a person who gets well again. (This bit of news makes me stop breathing when I think about it. I almost can't bear to think it could be so good again. My heart will explode.)

I am completely aware how incredibly, incredibly lucky I am. Most people who have my diagnosis do not respond this well. I don't know why I am the lucky one (age? overall health? just dumb luck?) but I'm beyond grateful to be going down this road now. I also know that NOTHING is certain and I have to keep fighting, so this thing doesn't dare come back. I have some work ahead of me still.

My next scan is in two more months. Late June. Assuming it's GONE by then, I still will have two more months of chemo after that. So any way we slice it, I'll be in chemo through August. Not my favorite thing to think about, to put it mildly, but with great results like I'm having, I'll take it.

I'm really tired today, having just gotten chemo (which is getting a little harder each time. I've now had 9 of them), but I wanted to pass along the GOOD news, and I'll chat with you all soon. Feel free to call, but if I don't answer, I might be snoring in the couch. It doesn't mean I don't love you.

A big thanks to everyone-- you included-- for caring about me. It means the world to me to feel supported. I wonder if I would be doing this well if I were alone. I kind of doubt it.

Here's your free pass to party tonight. Do it for me! I would join you if I could. And I promise I will in September.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Speak your mind!

In response to several requests, I somehow managed to hack into the mind-bendingly complex settings of BLOGGER.COM and alter the "comments" settings. It's probably never been done before, but hey: I went to college in the mid-90s. I know a thing or two about the WW Interweb.

Now you should be able to post comments without any trouble, no matter what your email address is. So bring 'em on, amigos!

Love ya(s)!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Big day manana

My big scan is tomorrow, to see how much of this crapola cancer has decided to stick around. And how much longer I'll get to take part in the experience of chemotherapy!

Good ol' chemo.

Inspiring chemo.

"Chemotherapy: Not quite aspirin!" (TM)

"Chemotherapy: It really deLIVERs" (R)

Perhaps one day I'll put it all down to music.
"Chemotherapy: The Musical"

or an epic novel.
"Chemotherapy: The story of a girl and her lung."

Lots of inspiration to be found there. Anyway, stay tuned for my test results. Get ready to party, because I know they're going to be GOOD.

Maui. Wowie.

Neil and I just returned from 5 days in Maui, COURTESY OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Once again, I find myself completely indebted to others. Honestly. What kindness. How can I pay everyone back? Cat-sit for you? Do your mending? Spell-check your resume? Let me know, and I'll do it.

Yes, our time in Maui was amazing. GO FIGURE. There's something about walking outside in a tropical place. I love the sound of the palm trees going "shhhhhhhh" all around you while the waves crash in the background. The warm air just feels SOFT. I love it.

We stayed at this real-super-fancy resort called the Honua Kai. It's in N. Kaanapali. We were la-zy. We snorkeled and swam and ate a ton (I ate two breakfasts, sometimes three, each day. Because why not.) Lotsa fish. No kiiiiiidddds.....

I felt terrific the entire time. Oh, EXCEPT one night. I had 1.5 beers at dinner, which is more alcohol than I've had in 6 months, and at 3 a.m., I experienced what felt like a monster hangover. I think it's because my body is already filled to the brim with poison. My liver was like, "OH GOOD, MORE TOXIC JUICE FOR ME TO FILTER OUT. THANKS FOR NOTHING, BAKES." But I was better by 10 am, and we spent the day outside. So that passed!

On the last morning, we snorkeled a final time and ran smack into a huge sea turtle, paddling alongside the reef. I remember wishing that at that moment, my mask would turn into a live-feed video straight to your computer so you could be seeing what I saw.

Big props to Grandma/Baba, Gramie, Sydney, Kim, Julie & Erik, and Laura & Shannon for helping with our kiddos!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Here are some milestones for me in the next few weeks:

This Wednesday-- Mom arrives for a visit.

This Thursday--chemo #8

Next Wednesday, April 21--GO TO MAUI WITH MY HUSBAND AND NO KIDS. For real. OMG. Cannot wait. Also: my brother Scott's b-day. Send him a card/gift, he deserves it. He just spent 9 days here wrangling my children.

Next Sunday--Return. Mourn.

April 26th-- 3-year old daughter's first dentist appointment. Should be really smooth and easy to keep her in the chair.

April 27th-- My next big CT scan, to let us know how much cancer is left, if any! SEND ME GOOD VIBES!

April 29th--My husband's birthday, also the day we get the results of my scan. That HAS to bode well for us.

After that, we'll know how much longer I have to go through all this fun chemo stuff, and what other next steps might happen. I'll keep you posted, of course.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet guts o' mine


-Is my hair frizzy?
-Do I look fat in this?
-Is that a wrinkle?
-Why don't I have ANYTHING to wear?
-Is she mad at me?
-My stupid nose! (I broke it a few summers ago, it's slightly crooked now. I'm sure you all have noticed.)

Funny how times change. Now I am more into topics like:
-Are my organs functioning?
-How big are my cancerous tumors today?

And, getting down to the more fancy-free worries:
-Do I have ANY summer shirts or sundresses that will cover this ugly, bulging port they put in me?
-Neil, mind if I go shopping?

Plus!: Instead of worrying about the shape of my schnoz, now I wonder if it's dripping blood down my face while I'm telling a story.

I bring all this up NOT to complain or to draw sympathy (the idea of that makes me barf), but to point out a curious shift in my thought processes. I now have TREMENDOUS gratitude for things I used to take completely for granted, like properly functioning intestines. Lungs with great capacity! Blood counts high enough for me to feel energetic and happy! I consciously think about what a great job my body does. By simply functioning (and well), it makes me so grateful. So grateful that I think about it pretty often. I even sometimes hug myself over it. (Seriously. I've done it more than once. Mostly when I'm sitting on the floor. Arms around knees.)

When you think about it that way, who cares what shirt you picked out today. Who cares if you look a little chubby.

It's kind of liberating, actually.

This all came to me while I was in the fitting room last week, trying on clothes. I saw a few thin young women totally fretting about how "fat" they looked in their clothes. I kept telling them they were wrong, and to buy those pants, for sure. They tuned me out (In retrospect, I was probably creeping them out. "Who's that girl in room #4? She keeps telling me how hot I look.") But it made me sad. Their unfounded worries were actually turning their fun girls' day into a depressing affair.

Well, aren't I all Gloria Steinem today.

I know none of this is groundbreaking thinking. But if you're gonna worry, make it about something IMPORTANT. I wish people would be kinder to themselves. You look great, you aren't too fat, people like you. Your guts are humming along like clockwork. Give yourself an "A+" for the day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

From Zero to Terrified in 1.5 seconds

Last Thursday, (4/1), I had chemo #7. PARTY.

At my appointment, I asked my oncologist a couple questions, and in hearing his answers, my mood went from hopeful to cocky to stone cold terrified to grateful, all within the span of about 2 minutes. Just thinking back on the conversation brings back those feelings again, all blended up like a frappe. A Fear Frappe with a twist of Cocky.

Here's how our convo went:
"So, Doc, I had a really good scan last time. My two lil' tumors are over 50% gone, after just 4 sessions of chemo. Do most people in my same boat do as well as i did?" (Ok, I was setting myself up here for a big pat on the back, I guess because I just needed some encouragement. Feeling scared, but hopeful.)

He never sugarcoats his comments, nor is he prone to hyperbole. None of the "Oh, Shelly, truly, 'twas the finest scan I've seen in my THIRTY-PLUS YEARS. I overnighted it to the Mayo Clinic for their 'Wall of Fame'." Instead, he answered, "It was above average." And I believe that's his way of saying, "Crack the bubbly."

I got the answer I wanted. Suddenly I'm all cocky.

So then I asked him my second question. "Ok, then. So how come very often when I talk to people who happen to be doctors they don't flip with excitement over my great progress? I want a Roberto Benigni-style reaction,
not Simon Cowell. They're so MEASURED and SERIOUS all the time. What gives?"

My doc answered, "The truth is, for the last 30 years or so, we haven't had many good drugs for colon cancer. So we haven't had a lot of good news. Success rates were NOT high. But the good news is, and what studies aren't really reflecting yet, is that in the past 4 years, we've gotten some really great new chemo drugs for colon cancer. Especially in the last 2-3 years. Drugs that are really seeming to work well."

More encouraging news! A little more cocky, with a huge twist of hopeful.

And then, he turned to me and looked me squarely in the face and said, "Even so, the truth is, most people who have what you have will DIE."



Then he quickly added, "BUT, a small group of people do FABULOUSLY." He put his two hands about 4 inches apart, as if he were about to clap, to indicate the size of this group. "And as of now, you're in the fabulous group, Shelly."




I'm doing 180s here. Happy! Sad! Hopeful! Scared! It's enough to make a person insane.

What's funny is, I knew all this stuff before, but hearing it put so plainly just reminded me (again, like I need another reminder) how serious this all is.

And more importantly, at the same time it also reassured me that I AM CURRENTLY HOLDING A POSITION ON TEAM FABULOUS. In fact, I'm center fielder! Actually, at this point I'm still on the bench. But I have the uniform. (And I wear my socks pulled up high, it's way cuter.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Butler the Underdog

For those of you who don't pay attention to such things, the NCAA college basketball tournament just wrapped up this week. The small college, Butler, a #5 seed, made it all the way to the final game.

As the tournament went on, I have to say, I started to really pull for that team. "Hmmm. 'Butler', that's my name, too!"

Against the odds, they were beating their adversaries. "Hey... Just like I'M beating this disease."

It is totally hokey, but I started to think of their successes as mirroring my own. For a non-fan, I was cheering pretty damn hard for Butler in that final game. And they played awesomely. In the end, they lost to the big powerhouse, Duke, by just two measly points. But in my book, they won. And, thus, by my highly scientifically sound theory, so will I.

Hokier than the hokey pokey, I know. I know.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I don't wanna party like it's 1499.

There's this game I always used to play. After I'd get over a particularly bad illness or infection, I'd ask myself, "If I lived back in medieval days, would that have killed me?"

(You can change up the game and substitute "wagon train days" or "the Victorian era", etc., to give yourself improved odds.)

Consider your own health history. Would you have made it this far? Not me.

The way I figure it, if I were living back in the days of King Louis XII, I'd for sure be a goner. I had a horrid "peri-tonsillar abscess" back in '97 that made my throat swell almost completely shut. It took surgery, IV penicillin, and several hospital visits to straighten that sucker out. So, that would have done me in--at the tender age of 23.

And actually, who's to say that, back then, I wouldn't have contracted some disease that my modern-day vaccinations have thus far prevented? No rubella, whooping cough, nor beriberi for me, thank you very much.

[Side note: Does anyone know ANYONE who has actually gotten the disease beriberi? It's my favorite disease name. Not to make light of it. I'm sure in reality it's no picnic.]

Back to the topic at hand:
Also, if I lived back in "the days of yore," I could have also contracted one of their plagues (Black death, or one of those other pandemic flus they had going around. You know, "back then.")

Or: I might have drunk some water from the same community well where the oxen had just relieved themselves (after gorging on a rancid carcass, probably.) Or I might have drunk some mead that had "turned". Or, died in childbirth (at the age of 15, for heaven's sake!) Who knows.

Them was some bad times.

I'm also glad I didn't get cancer anytime other than NOW. Even a few decades back, say in the 1970s, with my current situation, my future would have been pretty grim. Chemo is really advanced these days, and it works! This wasn't always the case. Medicine is truly making some incredible strides. (As far as I can tell. For the record, I did not attend med school.)

But then again, don't we always think, "THIS is the best time to get sick. Medicine is SO advanced now." ?? It's funny to think they were probably saying the same thing back in 1906. Right before they leeched you.

Friends, if you're going to follow my example and get cancer, please: WAIT A WHILE! Don't do it for another 20 years. Or more! Just think of the medicine they'll have by then. You'll be FINE. It'll be like getting rid of a bad staph infection. A little of WonderDrug X, and the cancer'll be history.

(FYI: Also in 20 years, we'll each have our own private droid, and we'll all drive around in spaceships.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nose Woes

Ok, this is a little gross.

If you are squeamish and not a fan of blood and gore or questionable blog content, please don't read this post. Just skip it, and check back in a few days.

If you're still reading, consider yourself warned, this isn't really dinner table-stuff.

So, the tumor-starving drug, Avastan, features some neat side effects. One of my faves is bloody noses! Avastan sort of perpetually eats away at the lining of your nose. Now, each morning when I wake up, I feel a strong urge to blow my nose. When I do, it's a blood and gore-fest. Not blood from inside my body, but from the lining of my nose. Occasionally, and with increasing frequency, it'll be the middle of the day and suddenly it feels like my nose is running. I'll get a tissue and find myself shocked to see bright day-glo RED. Out of the blue.

Awesome. Creepy. All in a day's work, with Avastan. (TM!)

I'm starting to get a little paranoid now, and I constantly find myself checking my nose for fear that I am unwittingly dripping red stuff down my face. I worry I'll be in the checkout line at the grocery store and start dripping blood on the conveyor belt. "Cleanup, Check Stand #2." Or I'll be chatting with a new friend, and my nose will start bleeding while they shift awkwardly, trying to figure out how to alert me without embarrassing me.

My doc checks the lining of my nose at each appointment, because apparently, if this gets out of control, it can eat a hole through my nose, at which point, I must discontinue Avastan. But my thoughts are, if Avastan will kill cancer, IT CAN TAKE MY NOSE! I can get a new one. Michael Jackson did, right?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Team Shelly on the run!

This morning, a group of my friends gathered together to race in the Mercer Island half marathon for TEAM SHELLY!

It's a race to help raise money for colon cancer awareness. (I am a still bit bewildered that I am now linked with the COLON of all organs... How sophisticated! How typical of me!)

They wore their team Shelly regalia (bracelets, blue shirts, etc.)

I had grand plans to meet them at the finish, but since I just finished up my chemo, I slept in LATE....zzzzz... I am sure they forgive me. And I hope they know how much I love them all for doing this! I will see to it that photos are posted on my Team Shelly Facebook page for you all to see my studly buds racin' their little hearts out for me. LOVE YOU GUYS!! XOXO

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Identity Theft

Since my late Nov/early Dec diagnosis, I've met a few new people. It's so strange to have a person enter your life for the very first time when you are going through something like this because, in their eyes, it instantly becomes your defining characteristic.

I can't really blame them. Let's say I met someone tomorrow, and she told me, "Hi, I'm Tina. That's short for Christina. I grew up in Connecticut. I have 2 sons, Lester and Lyle. I am a lawyer. I study Buddhism. I have cancer. We live in West Seattle. Next weekend, we're going to Hawaii." The ONE THING I would take away about my encounter with Tina is, "HOLY COW, SHE HAS cancer. WOAH. THAT S-U-C-K-S."

It's especially jarring because most people our age don't have cancer. I don't think my generation can handle this very well. We aren't ready for this stuff to start happening yet. It feels like we're just getting STARTED with life.

So, of course, this is the impression the new people get of me: The nice, young girl who, shockingly enough, has cancer! But sheesh, it's such a misrepresentation, because this disease is SO NOT who I am. For goodness sakes, I've been alive now for 36 years, but I've only known about the cancer for a few months! I didn't do anything to earn it. I don't like it. There are lots of other parts to me that are easily three times as interesting. But it's hard to get past that detail.

It's odd, because I think if the disease I had gotten was high blood pressure (also a killer, albeit "the silent one"), no one would ever whisper, "That's Shelly. She has HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE."

On Monday, during Betty's dance class, I introduced myself to one of the moms. She was really sweet, and she had just moved to Seattle. Plus, she has 3 kids, around the ages of mine. I thought, "She just moved here! She could use a friend!" So I really started chatting with her.

There is always a pivotal moment in these conversations with new friends where you have to decide if you are going to drop the c-bomb on them, or let them remain blissfully aware about the beast that lurks within you. Sometimes, you can't avoid it, and once you tell them, the conversation gets SO serious and grim. Really puts folks off-balance. Kind of kills the mood.

Our convo went like this:

Her: "So, ok, you have... two kids?"
Me: "Yep. Just two."
Her: "Ever consider adding a third?"
Me, laughing a bit and shaking my head: "Actually, yes. In fact, turns out we were going to try to get pregnant in January. But. We...didn't yet. So."
Her: "You just decided not to try anymore?"

--so I've lead her to the pivotal point, where I have to decide if I tell her, or if I lie and make up some convoluted excuse, which will probably catch up with me later, anyway---

Me: "But.... well, I got sick. Yeah. See, um, turns out I have cancer. So, YEAH, YEAH, no, IT'S OK. I know, really weird. I know."
Her: "Oh my God. WOW. I NEVER would have guessed it in a million years. You seem so healthy! You have all your hair! I am SO SORRY. Ok, you know what? I am going to pray for you. Tell me again: what's your name?"

So she knows I have cancer before she knows my name.

I desperately need a new come-on line.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Genetic Counseling

I went to a genetic counselor two weeks back. It's in my best interest to learn if this cancer is the result of a genetic mutation. They say that 30% of colon cancer IS. (which means that 70% isn't.) (I just did that calculation in my head, easy.)

The points of knowing are these:
1- If i have a genetic mutation, it could mean I am also in the crosshairs for other types of cancers. So I'd need to be screened extremely proactively for those. Like every year, or more often.
2- If I have a genetic mutation, it could mean my sis and bro, my kids!, heck, even my parents, could be in trouble, too. So they need to know.

The doctor said it was possible I might have a mutation called "Lynch Syndrome", which effectively means that there is a protein missing in me that is designed to get rid of bad cells before they multiply. It would also mean I was at a hugely increased risk for ovarian, uterine and bladder cancer. SIGN ME UP.

To test for it, they first took my tumor out of cold storage. Yes, they keep tumors in the deep freezer! Just for situations like these. I would like to get my hands on it so I could beat the snot out of that stinking clump of cells. (Can't you see me, holding the tumor away from me after I'd punched it left and right, finally throwing it back down on the lab table, sputtering "YOU'RE NOT WORTH IT.") Anyway, they did some preliminary screening work on the tumor prior to doing the full blood work-up, because the test for Lynch costs $3000!!! So if they could rule out Lynch, they could save me the $$ for the test. (and someday, Betty can have braces after all!)

Anyway, I got the results today. I do NOT have Lynch syndrome. So that's good. I could have some other mutation, but they highly doubt I have anything that they are able to screen for.

So I guess that means I can't blame ma or pa for this. It was my own damn colon's fault.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The X-factor

I am getting better. I feel TERRIFIC.

I wonder why I am so lucky to be one of the people who is getting better. Not to count my chickens before they've hatched, but I've got a really good feeling about things.

I have been considering the myriad factors that may be contributing to my cancer dying. I wonder if I did something special, something out-of-the-ordinary, that contributed to this. Here are the things I have done, or that others have done for me, both tangible and intangible, that may be contributing to my getting better.

1. chemotherapy
2. good doctors
3. exercise (swimming 3x/week for 45 minutes. usually around 2600 yards.)
4. Loads of help (babysitting, food delivery, people giving my kids rides, etc.)
5. a strong partner in my husband
6. a super-supportive and strong family
7. amazing friends and community
8. Lots of people praying for me
9. Visualization techniques, wherein I imagine my immune system destroying the cancer
10. Drinking freshly made organic fruit and veggie juice every day
11. Eating way, way healthier. (more fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, less dairy and red meat, etc...)
12. Vitamin D supplements (supposed to help w/colon cancer)
13. Agaricus Blazei and Turkey Tail Mushroom supplements (both recommended to me for their purported anti-cancer characteristics)
14. Keeping a positive mental attitude, feeling like I am going to beat this thing
15. cranial sacral therapy
16. I visited a healer (check it:
17. Getting regular cards and well-wishes from friends, to keep my spirits up on a daily basis
18. Having my kids here to remind me every minute of every day that I simply cannot die. Not an option.
19. Youth
20. Good luck tokens given to me by others
21. Reading up on the disease. Knowledge is power.
22. The undefinable magic of SHELLY POWER

I am sure there are others. Those are just off the top o' my head. I guess I'll never know exactly what all is contributing directly to me getting better. It's like a multiple choice question where they could say,
a) 1
b) 2 and 5
c) 7, 14, 18
d) all of the above
e) none of the above

But the answer is: