I’m convinced all your Birthday wishes were received loud and clear!!!

I’ve been up at Hopkins all day working on a patient and caregiver project in the world of pancreatic cancer.  I was worried that being up there today would add another layer of stress on an already tough day, but truthfully, it was just the opposite.  Maybe because we spent so much time there and he got such good care and many of his friends from that time are there. 

What ever the reason, I was OK being there.

Hearing from so many of you today, meant so much and if you noticed a lot of hawaiian shirts being worn on the streets, that wasn’t by accident…not today!!

And tonight…there will be a few extra mai tai’s being poured and a little more chocolate being eaten… all with good thoughts and great memories of a big guy, with a big laugh and big heart.

Boy oh boy, do I miss him….

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It’s June 16th, NOT just another day. 

This is Leroy’s birthday.  He would have been 56 years old this year.   Instead, I think about this day and realize in one day less than two months from now, it will be three years that he died from colon cancer. 

I often wonder what he would be doing at age 56, if things had worked out differently.  He was such a solid journalist, I’m thinking he’d still be involved in the business, in some way.  He always wanted to give back to those who were struggling to survive in this world.  He saw so much of man’s inhumanity to man as he covered war zones around the world….he had hoped to find a comfortable fit that would allow him to make a difference. 

So much of  the bad stuff he witnessed stayed with him.  The images often came back to him in the night.  I think the only way he figured he could turn them into shadows, was to face them in the daylight…to bring them aid and comfort, while telling their stories to the world.  That would have eased his mind.

I think some of that happened, as he told his own story, fighting his cancer.  He lifted the burden of the disease, not just from his own shoulders, but from a community of cancer patients and their caregivers too. 

I hope that’s right.  I hope he felt that way at some point in his final days. 

As each year passes, I find myself understanding more about him and who he was.  It’s funny, I thought I knew him backwards and forwards, but as I think about him every day, I discover new parts that made him who he was.

June 16th…NOT just another day.

Happy Birthday Leroy.

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I’m about to step into the week that was.

What does that mean?  This week in June used to be filled with anticipation and celebration.  Now…maybe just the anticipation…or better put…trepidation.

June 16th…Leroy’s birthday.  June 19th…the day we got married.

Each year since he’s been gone, it will be 3, in August, I’ve reacted a little differently.  Maybe that’s because more time between these important dates has changed how I get through them?  I still struggle with the memories of celebrating and the traditions we created around them over the years.  I miss going to the restaurants that screamed “birthday” dinner.  We always opened a specific bottle of wine that brought back memories, not only of birthdays, but of the early days in our relationship.

Birthday cake and wedding cake equalled chocolate cake in our house too.

So, here I go…one step at a time, one day at a time….moving forward, into the week that was.

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How important is it to share family information?

We have birthday parties, anniversary parties, maybe we need to have family tree parties.  A time when we gather the generations of a family together and share the genetic thread that connects everyone in that family.

Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to know from the elders in the family how our family members lived and died over the years?  I mean, if heart disease is a common problem from generations back, wouldn’t you want to know that?  Cancer…colon, breast, prostate…all connected through the genome..it would be nice to know if family members suffered with those cancers. 

It would mean more frequent check-ups.  Symptoms that you might shake-off as nothing, might take on more importance if you knew a relative had the same issues.

Charting the family tree can prove to be an interesting history lesson as well as a life saving one too.

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There’s a big article in the Washington Post today about strokes.

The headline reads, “Strokes are common, but you can avert them”

Reading the piece, the prevention hints are “lower your blood pressure,” “quit smoking,” “trim your waist,” and “drink moderately, if at all,” among others.

These are all good hints for all of us to follow, but it hit me that the same could be said for lowering your risk of cancer too.  As the years have gone by and dieticians have entered the expert field in cancer world, diet has taken on a much bigger piece of the prevention pie.  Life style is part of the prevention picture.  Remember,  experts from the U.S. Agriculture Dept. have just come up with a new food group pyramid too.  In fact, it’s not a pyramid anymore.  It’s a plate. And there are five major food groups, not six or four.  Dairy, Protein, Grains, Fruits and Veggies. 

And don’t forget the exercise.  They can’t put that on the plate, it’s considered a big part of overall health too. 

I know all this makes sense and it’s good advice, but I think back and can’t help but remember a big, healthy, 6-foot-5-inch man in this house, who was the healthiest guy I knew.  Sure he probably would have included chocolate somewhere in those five major food groups, but he was a strong, healthy guy, until cancer came to call.  No question, in Leroy’s case, genetics played a role.

And sometimes, as we all know, you can do all the right things, but if that genome has other plans for your future, there’s not a protein or a vegetable that’s going to make a difference.  It will be what it will be.

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IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!!! CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WARRIOR, OUR LIFTER, AL CATO.

HE REPRESENTS SO MANY THINGS TO THIS COMMUNITY, BUT TODAY HE IS THE POSTER BOY FOR N-E-D AND THAT MEANS WE SHOULD ALL BE SMILING.  THAT PROBABLY ALSO MEANS, AL IS BACK ON SOLID FOOD AND HIS BLOOD PRESSURE HAS DROPPED BACK TO THE NORMAL RANGE.

THAT’S WHAT THOSE SCANS DO TO YOU…THEY UPSET THE BODY, THE MIND AND THE GENERAL RHYTHM OF LIFE UNTIL THE REULTS ARE KNOWN.

THOSE THREE LITTLE LETTERS MEAN EVERYTHING IN CANCER WORLD.  THEY GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO FEEL BETTER. 

AND KUDO’S TO AL’S RADIOLOGIST.  AN ANGEL IN THE LAB WHO CARES AND CONNECTS WITH HER PATIENTS.  WE’VE ALL MET THEM AS WE’VE TRAVELED THROUGH THESE CANCER CORRIDORS.  THEY MAKE WHAT WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH A LITTLE EASIER.  W WE’RE BEING WATCHED OVER BY SOME ONE WHO HAS TAKEN A SPECIAL INTEREST IN OUR LIFE.

IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT….EXCEPT WHEN YOU HEAR THE LETTERS,

N-E-D

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N-E-D

 

I just want to say, I’m thinking all good thoughts for Al today.  Going in for scans after being free of the beast for a while is nothing short of scary time.  I can remember back to those days and they were not fun.  I think the waiting is the worst part of  the process.

When any cancer patient goes in for scans, there should be a special radiologist assigned to read and report as quickly as possible.  You know the old saying in cancer world, “It’s not what we see, it’s what we don’t see that worries us.”  So, going in after being NED, you can only hope there is nothing new to see!!  I’ve always asked the question, where does cancer go when it drops off the scans?  Why can’t they see it?  Why can’t they find it?  Why can’t they attack it before it invades another part of the body?

Cut it off at the pass…ambush it. 

So, Al…I hope hear the letters N-E-D again…real soon.

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Is it important to cut the cord and step away from the friends we made during “cancer time?”

So many of us connected with our doctors and nurses and other caregivers as we marched through cancer world.  We saw  some of them on a daily basis.  Some were other patients who walked into the chemo room with us because they were on the same treatment schedule.  Some were a part of cancer group sessions where families shared their fears and their feelings.

But once the cancer was treated, or in some cases, took a life, and we moved out of that circle, did we take steps to stay in touch?  Was there a level of comfort there, that was just too hard to separate from? We felt protected and taken care of, in some ways while our loved ones were getting great care.  It was a new way of life that became the new normal. 

Now that we’re out of it and the normal has changed again, where do those “cancer” folks go?   Where do they fit?

I’ve held on to some of them.  They are still important to me in so many ways.  What they did for Leroy and for me will stay a part of me forever.  My friendship circle expanded to make room for these special people.

The “cord” gets stronger every day.

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I’ve just discovered my computer is really a “cancer-keyboard.”

Take a look at the keys. 

ESCAPE…wouldn’t we all like to hit that key and escape from cancer world.

CONTROL…we fight NOT to lose it as we stumble through this fight.

DELETE….hit that key and all those horrible signs of cancer evaporate instantly.

HOME…back to normal…back to where we feel safe and sound.

PAUSE….to collect ourselves after a long day at the cancer center.

END…too many ways to interpert this one.

SAVE…life after life after life.

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Chemo brain. 

It’s an awful part of living with cancer.  It’s not enough that chemo therapy is so tough on the body. Sure, it kills cancer cells, but while it’s hunting down the bad guys, it’s steam rolling over the good guys too.  I’ll never forget Leroy’s blog, “My doctors are trying to kill me.”  He talked about wondering what would kill him first, the cancer or the chemo. 

Once you get past that part of it, then you’re faced with the side effects of the drugs.  I have a friend right now, who is battling some terrible side effects of her chemo.  Her cancer is in check.  She’s grateful the chemo is working, but the headaches, the diarrhea, the constipation, the nausea, oh how that weighs heavily on the quality of her life.  And then there’s the chemo brain. 

She says she feels foggy all the time.  Clear thoughts are unreachable.  Some days complete sentences float out there, in her minds’ eye but that’s where they get stuck.   She gets depressed and frustrated and then she starts to wonder, “Is it all worth it?”

That’s the worst part of chemo brain.  It’s another low-down trick cancer plays on its’ victims.  It plants the “doubt” seed and then steps back and watches it grow. 

We’ve talked about quality of life vs. quanity of life many times.  I’m afraid my friend will weaken in her resolve to keep up the fight.  Her chemo brain could turn off that drive to live.

Cancer and it’s side-kicks…more than any one of us can handle.

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