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Saturday
Nov132010

Preparation

A couple of days before I'm set to get chemo -- for example, today -- I start to get my game face on...I start to prepare for chemo.

I'm pretty sure everyone knows this, but these chemo drugs are no joke. They are meant to be strong enough to devastate your cancer cells but they take a toll on your healthy cells, too. Some people lose their hair, others lose lots of weight, and almost everyone feels fatigued.

Luckily, I've done great during these first two rounds. If chemo has fatigued me, I can't really tell and neither can anyone else. Since I was given clearance to lift weights, I haven't missed a day because I didn't feel up to it. And, as I recently posted, once I got the green light for basketball and tennis, I was out on both courts having a blast. During these chemo treatments, I've been to three concerts, Santa Barbara (twice), Palm Springs, and even to the dentist. I usually get up around 9ish, hit the sack at around midnight, and have very full days in between. I can honestly say that my body hasn't stopped me from doing anything I've wanted to do during chemo (not that I actually wanted to go to the dentist). It's pretty incredible, I'll admit.

Part of my success thus far, I'm sure, is the preparation I undertake days before chemo. During those days, I continue to push myself when working out (I know I have doctors reading this blog, including my doctors, so when I say "push myself when working out," in no way am I saying I'm pushing myself too hard or overdoing it - nobody panic), but I also slow down a bit. I make sure I get enough sleep, and if I feel a little tired (like yesterday) I take a little nap. I also try to load up on healthy food (especially protein), just in case my monstrous appetite wanes a bit during chemo week.

I also visualize the whole process -- from needle in the portacath to 4.5 hours of soaking up the chemo to becoming detached from my bag o' -- and get excited for the next onslaught that whatever is left of this foolish cancer will face. I figure out which Rocky shirt I'm going to wear to treatment, make sure my mom has all my snacks ready to be packed (as if she wouldn't), and try to keep the adrenaline from pumping too much because the cancer-killing party is about to get wild.

Like an athlete or lawyer knows, preparation is essential when seeking a good outcome in a game or for a client. I know it's essential for my battle, as well. You'd better believe your girl is prepared for it.

Unfortunately for cancer, it's simply not prepared for me.

Friday
Nov122010

The Importance of Sport

I don't know how else to put it: today, I was a sporty little machine.

  • For breakfast, a brisk 1.5 mile walk.
  • For lunch, basketball.
  • For a mid-afternoon snack, some tennis.
  • And for dinner, Educogym.

Once I got the green light from Dr. Lenz on tennis and hoops, it was just a matter of hours until I was going to do my thing. Tennis because Ruth is here and, given her former college tennis star champion status, I knew she could teach me a thing or two on the court (and she did). Basketball because it's one of my great loves and I've missed it dearly over the last month and a half.

Working out for the better part of the day felt great. I felt strong and healthy during my walk, learned that I haven't lost much on my three point shot (preserving my long-range shooting is key), and found that I'm a pretty quick study with a tennis racket. The gym was awesome tonight as usual -- graduated to benching 120 pounds, worked my triceps until they were burning like nobody's business, and engaged my chest muscles without irritating the portacath. 

Today was awesome not just because I had so much fun literally playing around all day, but because I reunited with my old self. The tough athlete and serious competitor version of myself that, while always a part of me, doesn't really come out until I'm actually playing a sport. Basketball was particularly satisfying, mainly because I've been itching to get back to it since the day I checked in at Good Samaritan. Ironically enough, just a few days before I walked into Good Sam's ER, I had just come off one of my best games of my life. 19 points. Lots of threes, but I was pretty much hitting from everywhere on the court that night. Before today, I had to close my eyes and remember that feeling of shooting a ball and watching it swish through the net.  

But today, I got to experience it again. And -- wow -- it felt so good.

In my view, sports are one of the great equalizers. It doesn't matter what you look like, or what language you speak, or whether you've got cancer or not. All that matters is if you can play. Today, while I played, it was all about the game -- I felt totally and utterly cancer-free.  

And one day, I will be.

Thursday
Nov112010

Seeing With New Eyes

Now that I know I have "the cancer" (I think calling it "the cancer" is pretty hilarious but maybe you just have to hear me say it), things look differently to me. It's not like cancer was this wake-up call that helped me appreciate my life because it wasn't as if I hadn't thoroughly enjoyed my life and loved my family and friends pre-diagnosis. But still. These days, everything seems to burn brighter. The love I feel for others, the beauty of nature and music and art, the joy and happiness of good times and laughter. It's like my view of life has turned from normal color to an enhanced, vibrant, super-HDTV version of itself.

The first time I actually realized that I was living in super-HDTV was on the evening of my first chemo treatment, at the Mumford & Sons concert. The beauty of music (especially the earnestness and purity of the lyrics of some of the songs), and of the fans passionately singing along with the band (this fan included), and the light as it played off the contours of the Palladium - man, it was really something. Before I knew it, I was tearing up in the dark. Instead of choking the tears back, I just let my gratitude for those moments flow right through me. (Luckily, I wasn't obvious about it so I didn't disturb my fellow concert-goer. Seeing someone living in super-HDTV while you are not might freak that person out -- or make him jealous.)

Another example of super vibrant WunderGlo-land happened just the other weekend, during my Halloween party. I didn't cry like a baby in the dark this time, but simply soaked up the many hours with so many of my awesome friends: the conversations, the laughs, the costumes, and the fun. I felt energized, so in love with and loved by my friends, and really, really happy. I've always been a fairly frequent party planner and host, but try hosting a party in super-HDTV. It's pretty sweet.

Even just over the past couple of days, I've seen things with new eyes. A silly song that I've made up on the spot with my mom isn't just a funny, hold-your-sides-because-you're-laughing-so-much moment -- it's a bonding between two people who have been through everything in life together. Cuddling with Will while he lovingly/grudgingly watches Celebrity Ghost Story with me isn't just nice telly time with my hubby -- it's a loving moment with my partner of over 10 years. And chatting away at a Starbucks with Ruth (which happened today) or laughing out loud while emailing with Tim (also happened today) or giving a high five to Aymee after a hilarious joke (you guessed it, also happened today) isn't just a good time with a good friend -- it's an incredible moment of connection with a beautiful person that I'm blessed to have as a friend.

So yes, I'm seeing things with new eyes. The great things in life are even greater because I'm taking the time to realize how meaningful they actually are. And not because I think my days are numbered, but because I know I need to fight for those days. When you are fighting for your life like I am, you start to really look at your days -- the moments and people that color them -- and realize how awesome your life is. I am proud to announce, without a doubt in my mind and with incredible joy in my heart, that my life is awesome and so worth fighting for. And, seriously, that is a massive understatement.

So, my dear readers, I have a challenge for you. Try to live in super-HDTV. Do whatever you can to slow down and really examine your lives. Pretend you have cancer if it helps you (but don't freak out because you can beat it, I'm sure). Just recognize how precious life is, and how beautiful yours is in particular. You can thank me later. :)

Tuesday
Nov092010

The Happiest Blue Devil on the Planet

Last night, when I arrived home from a solid workout, I dug around my parents' mailbox and found a package. In the package was a DVD that had the words "For Gloria" written on it. Given the return address on the package (my classmate and Coach K's daughter, Jamie), I had a feeling that something incredibly awesome was in store for me.

I can't really describe how I felt as I watched the DVD, which was a personal message from Coach K to me, but it was more than happy, encouraged, or touched. It was pretty much a dream come true. Coach K told me that he'd spoken to the team about me, about my attitude as I faced this battle, and used my story to inspire them. 

Oh. My. God.

He went on to describe how, if I'm up to it, there's a place for me behind the bench at any home game this season.  

I'd WALK to Cameron Indoor Stadium RIGHT NOW for a seat behind the bench at a home game, but all I actually need to do is fly to Durham. I'm so there.

He went on to note that if we -- the team and me (we are a "we" now) -- are both successful, we'll all be in Houston for the Final Four in April. Yes, ladies and gents, my personal hero has promised me two tickets to watch my beloved Blue Devils win a National Championship this year. 

OH. MY. GOD. 

You know those moments when you're almost out of body because an experience is just so awesome that you can hardly believe it's happening to you? I've had a couple of these moments throughout my life -- when I got a call from my mom after school during my senior year in high school letting me know that I had been accepted at Duke, when I got the email upon returning to my Duke campus apartment after Winter Break that said that I had been accepted to Stanford Law School, when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day at Stanford's Memorial Church. This was another one of those moments. To know that Coach K and the team are thinking about me, supporting me, and wishing me well on my battle to beat down cancer is an incredible feeling. It fills my heart with joy and strengthens my resolve more than I can express. 

Incredible thanks to my Duke friends that made this happen. I'm going to go ahead and say that this was the best surprise ever.

And incredible thanks to Coach K for being an amazing person (as always). He has always inspired me but, today, he has inspired me even more. 

And I can't forget that shivering, fearful cancer. Hats off to you for playing a role in this magical moment. I'm still going to mercilessly kill you, though. My team is too strong.

Monday
Nov082010

Week in Review/Week in Preview

Ok, I'm going to blame Daylight Savings Time for throwing everything off (seriously, how is it THAT dark at 5:30pm?) and making me forget that yesterday, in fact, was Sunday. And Sunday means a "Week in Review/Week in Preview" post. Now that we've identified the culprit, I will remedy this problem now.

Week in Review

  • Chemo Round Two: spent time with my USC crew (Lenz, Taline, Roger), 5 hours of soaking up the juice while spending time with best friend Rhett, Mom, Dad, Will, and stranger woman who couldn't stop staring at me, bag o' chemo attached on Monday and detached on Wednesday, experienced very minimal side effects (if you count a tiny headache on Wednesday and a couple of slightly off bowel movements on Friday) -- all in all, very fun, easy, and deliciously murderous (to cancer, of course)
  • Worked out at Educogym, even with the bag o' chemo: loving my new routine and definitely getting stronger (I'll show you my muscles if you ask and, frankly, even if you don't ask)
  • Had a great appointment with Mary Ellen (five-element acupuncture): seriously, how is acupuncture that much more relaxing and energizing than massage? I'm still in awe.
  • Bought paints, brushes, and canvasses, and painted my first painting! The main theme (as you can see) is the message "Love Life," but I'll vary the size and font of the words, the background design, etc. I plan to make a bunch of these paintings, so if you're interested, maybe you'll be getting one soon!
  • Worked on the blog and, instead of working on the book, I did my yearly self-report for work: pretty sure I could've gotten out of doing the self-report this year, but skipping out on a responsibility (especially an OMM-related responsibility) is not the way I roll
  • Went to my second cousin's engagement party -- spent time with lots of family (my great-grandmother had about a dozen children -- think about what that means for family parties) then finished the night with some yummy food at Drago in Downtown for my Dad's 50th Birthday
  • Ate nutritious foods and managed to gain another pound -- under two pounds to pre-hospital weight
  • Got a handwritten note from Coach K along with Duke Basketball stuff (OMG - AMAZING)
  • Caught up on some of my favorite TV shows -- In Treatment and Dexter. Still need to catch up on Mad Men.
  • Meditated, drank lots of water, got all my Lovenox shots, and took all my vitamins

Week in Preview

  • Today: Heading in to OMM to work on my book and blog and spend quality time with my OMM family
  • Tomorrow: One of my best buds from law school, Ruth, comes to visit! She's coming all the way from England and staying until Saturday night. Can't wait to hang out with her and go on daily adventures (about which I will keep you all updated, of course).
  • Wednesday: appointment with Mary Ellen to make sure my energy is still flowing well, and hanging out at the beach after that
  • Thursday: since Ruth was a tennis star in her college days at Northwestern, and since my portacath is feeling just fine, maybe I'll try a little tennis (after Dr. Lenz says I can, of course)
  • Friday: trip to Palm Springs with Ruth, Tim, Will, my parents, my grandma, and my uncle -- good times!
  • Saturday: head back from Palm Springs, jump on a plane to Seattle to meet with the queen of five-element acupuncture (and Mary Ellen's mentor), Judy Worsley
  • Sunday: enjoy Seattle, meet with Judy Worsley, fly home, and get my game face on for more chemo (although I'm pretty sure it's already on)
  • At some point this week: since I was a slacker last week, attempt to read Anatomy of an Illness book
  • Also at some point this week: paint more
  • Every day: meditate, drink lots of water, get my Lovenox shot, take all my vitamins, beat the hell out of cancer 

 

Have an awesome week, everyone!