Tuesday, November 27, 2012


In the spirit of the season, and without getting too mushy on you, I should let you all know what I am most thankful for this year: my dad's margins were clean. His doctors were able to remove all of the cancer. We got the news the day before Thanksgiving, in the midst of a spectacularly chaotic week at my mother-in-law's house. I cried, of course, when I saw my dad's text: "They got it all - all the edges are clear." Suddenly it didn't matter that Quinn hadn't napped in five days or that I'd been tethered to my laptop attempting to work with a clingy toddler pulling the threads of my sweaters loose or that we were trying to prep the house for a 13-person dinner while keeping Quinn out of the pool and away from Grandma's feral cat. My dad was cancer-free. There is nothing like the sense of calm that news brings.

I am also thankful for all of you for reaching out to ask me about my dad, for supporting me when I'm exhausted and scared and running on fumes, for bringing me dinner or calling me to let me cry or texting me pictures of another successful pub crawl that raised more than $1200 for metastatic breast cancer research. I can't say it enough: you guys rock. Thank you.

And I am thankful that I can help answer questions for another young mom who sent me a message last week with the news that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her little boy is five months old; she had surgery today and will start chemo next month. I hate that anyone else has to go through this, has to cry into their pillow at two in the morning because cancer hit far earlier than it should, has to wonder if they'll get to watch their little boy grow up.

As Chris says anytime I get anxious about this: "You are watching him grow up."And so will this woman, who is also stronger than this damn disease.

Which brings me to what I'm continually thankful for - my boys. Quinn's arms wrapped tight around my neck as he says, "Rock, rock, rock" in the rocking chair before I put him to bed at night. Chris' arms wrapped around my waist in bed at night, as I cry over a woman I didn't know who died of lung cancer in a book I probably shouldn't be reading. Even when I'm at my worst (and holy cow does chemo give new meaning to that phrase: short-tempered, splotchy-faced, eyebrow-less), my boys keep me grounded - even if that means Quinn knocking me over and jumping on my back like I'm his personal trampoline - and remind me what this time of year is all about.

See? Only a little mushy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Sorry for the radio silence, guys. Just as I was hitting a happy plateau of life with a chronic illness, I got hit with a double whammy of news that shook me pretty hard. First, a member of my extended family was told she had ovarian cancer and a tumor that looked to be the size of a grapefruit. She had surgery and expected to undergo intense chemo, but got news this week that they were able to remove all of the cancer and she will just need to have her blood monitored for the indefinite future. All of us who know and love her are breathing huge sighs of relief tonight.

Then, last week, I got a phone call that felt nearly equivalent to the one I got last August telling me my cancer had spread - like I had been punched in the gut. My dad called to tell me that a mole he'd had removed from his chest was malignant, even though he'd been told repeatedly it was "probably nothing" - seriously, that phrase should be banned from doctors' offices. It turns out that the spot was melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. 

Cancer couldn't just affect me - it had to come after my dad, too? 

Yesterday, my dad went in for surgery to have a wider swath of skin around the area removed; his doctors are confident it had not spread and the surgery was sufficient to call him cancer-free. The surgical pathology report in a week and a half will confirm this; I'm trying not to spend all of that time biting my nails.

In all honesty, my dad has probably taken this news better than I have, and I've spent the better part of this week trying to figure out exactly why it hit me so hard, when he has reassured me over and over that his doctors are confident. It isn't just the fear of losing him, but the news also shook up a hornet's nest of emotions I thought I'd laid to rest about my own mortality. I looked at Chris one night last weekend, tears streaming down my cheeks, and said, "I don't want to die of cancer." 

"I don't know why you'd think that," he said. "You've beaten this twice."

But my dad's news reminded me that we don't have much control over how or why or who this disease hits, or who will beat it. Now I just have to recalibrate how to be okay with that, but it might take some time for my dust to settle. Please bear with me in the meantime.