Mimi's Cancer Journey  


November 2011
Just checked out the last message I wrote in January. It was 1-1-11. This week in November we had 11-1-11. Fun dates!

Several people have asked me to update my messages- so here goes!

It's been two years since my breast cancer diagnosis and this is a much better place to be! I'm doing fine! I had a biopsy last month "to rule out any problems" and everything came back OK!! Hooray!! My hair has grown back- a bit different- but it's mine! I got a new "author photo" taken last month- look for it soon. The last one was taken ten years ago! I really like that photo but it was time for a new one.

I have been working on my series of Get Well Card Quilts- I did get busy with teaching and haven't made as many as I hoped- but I'll be working on it!

I wrote a new book this year- it will come out in July 2012. It's called Baltimore Blocks for Beginners and will be fun to use a teaching tool to get students started making Baltimore Applique Quilts- my favorite!!


New Year's Resolution- January 1, 2011

Oh, wow! Today is 1-1-11 Happy New Year!!

Here's my New Year's Resolution I've got this fun idea for 2011. It's an "artist" idea. I have so many cards from the past year and I have loved every one of them. But there is a Top Ten! I'm going to do an "Artist Series" of quilts adapted from my favorite cards. They might not look just like the cards, but they will be all the same size and have words or images from some of the cards. I plan to do one each month- so maybe there will be a Top Twelve! I'm also planning to use things besides fabric- maybe some beads or glittery things- I'll try to post photos of them so you can enjoy them too.

Oh- and I plan to be healthy and happy this year!


Top Ten Creepy Side Effects- December 31, 2010

Here it is the end of 2010. It's been a roller coaster year for me but I feel so much better now than a year ago- I'm ready for 2011!

I wrote a list of the Top Ten Creepy Side Effects of Chemo when I finished my treatments, and have been waiting for the perfect time to add them to my messages. I need to post them today- I do not want to take any of them into the new year with me!

Here goes! Notice that losing my hair is not on the list! That's because I was sure it would happen. It's the things I wasn't sure about that were creepy- I never knew how long they would last.
I could deal with all of them because I was so thankful I never threw up or had really severe pain.
We are told that everyone is different and we all get different side effects. Some days they appear – some days they disappear! None of these things lasted the whole time- every day has been a surprise!

The Number 10 Creepy Side Effect: Skin peeling off feet and hands
Number 9: Funky red rash (redheads hate rashes!)
Number 8: A sore in my throat for two days (I was afraid I would not be able to breathe!)
Number 7: Sores in mouth (but I had a special swish-and-spit med from the dentist!)
Number 6: Some days things tasted like cardboard
Number 5: Chocolate totally lost it's appeal (but it's back!)
Number 4: Toenails hurt- and fell off! (super creepy)
Number 3: Having the port for chemo- It's like a semi-permanent IV. It's gone now!
Number 2: Exhaustion (well, this was-and still is- hard to deal with)
And the Number 1 Creepy Side Effect: For one week at the beginning of chemo- a painful hemorrhoid the size of a Buick!

Yes, you are allowed to laugh at the last one!

The Creepy Side Effects are gone- the frustrating part is that new ones show up every once in awhile. It's the New Normal for someone who has gone through chemotherapy.

I'm looking forward to 2011! Happy New Year!


Holidays - December 29, 2010

Oh My Goodness! Christmas was soooo much better this year than last year! It was so wonderful to get together with friends and family and enjoy the time together! I don't remember much about last year- except sleeping during snow!

I got out my Holiday china and used it six times! For friends and family and just for tea with the girls next door! Last year I didn't have the energy to even get it out of the cupboard!

Last year I remember being exhausted from wrapping one present- and from mixing cookies and then being too tired to make them. This year is so much better!

I'm looking forward to a good new year- with some fun quilting projects.

But right now I think I will have a cup of tea in my Holiday china- it's so nice to enjoy it!

Happy New Year!


Hair Fertilizer - December 20, 2010

I'm making chocolate chip cookies for Christmas tonight and have been updating my blog while the cookies are baking. I just found this entry- it's from July- and realized I never posted it. It's now 8 1/2 months since I finished chemo- my hair is almost 2" long and I'm still waiting for my hair to grow longer than my brother's.

From July:
Bob's wife is hot! Really, Headly (my wig) is hot in this 100 degree weather here in B-more!

So if you see me around town or in a fabric store, I'll have on a cute baseball hat with a preppy ribbon. The hats are made by a survivor named Cindy from Delaware- you can see her hats at www.ribboncapclub.com. They are cute- and they are saving all my friends from seeing my fuzzy head and saying, "Gheesh, I thought she would have hair by now!"

It's been three months since I stopped chemo and my hair is growing- slowly. It's about 3/4 inch long and is a much different color than I am used to. There's a few longer strands that seem to reach up to heaven, saying to the others, "C'mon- grow! Catch up with us! We should be longer by now!" It's also very soft and fuzzy.

At the beginning of chemo, everyone said "You will lose your hair but it will grow back." It's just a long time for the second half of that sentence. Think about growing out your bangs- it takes a long time. But it's an adventure. I get to have all kinds of hairdos- from very very short- to who knows what!

I did see a product in the grocery store the other day- it made me laugh! It's called Hair Fertilizer! Really!

Then I saw an ad for Big Sexy Hair- not ready for that yet!

I love it when I run into friends and they say
Love your hair! Or Love the color! Or Is it yours?
Sure it's mine- I paid for it! It's the most expensive hairdo I've ever had!


The Week Before Christmas 2010

'Tis the week before Christmas and I've got time to think!
I'll have some more cookies and maybe a drink!
I want y'all to know that I'm doing just fine
It's been a long road but I can see the signs
Breast cancer is gone, chemo is done,
Things aren't all the same but I feel like I won!

You all helped me do this with lots of support:
Prayers and hugs and cards and calls and emails and food and notes and visits and rides
and tea and cookies and lots of other things that don't rhyme with support!

Thanks to all of you!
I send you good wishes-
Of holiday cheer and help with the dishes!
Poems are fun but my mind's in a fog
I'll just stick to quilting-
Thanks for reading my blog!

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday I was shopping in the Mall (for the first time in more than a year!) and I met a student and friend Kathy. I didn't know if she would recognize me, so I went up and said "HI Kathy, it's Mimi!"- she said "Wow! I've been reading your blog- good to see you!"
The neat thing for me was that was all we said about the past year. I knew that she knew everything. We went on to talk about quilting and the block she is making from one of my classes, her job and her new house. It was a fun conversation! It made me so glad I wrote the blog! Thanks to all of you who have read it and kept up with me. I have 2 more things I want to write about- I'll try to do it before the new year!


Sleeping for the Cure- October 4, 2010

Yesterday was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure here in Baltimore. One time about 15 years ago I did the 5K walk with some friends. Then other years I did the one mile walk. Last year and this year, I signed up to "Sleep for the Cure"! It's a great way to support a wonderful cause- we pay the same as a runner, get a T shirt mailed to us if we sign up early, and get to sleep in!

When I woke up yesterday morning, I immediately thought of my friends Claudia and "the other Mimi" from St. Agnes who met at 5:30 am and walked the 5K yesterday. I'll see them tomorrow and hear about the Race. I can remember how emotional it was to see all the people- survivors in pink shirts- and their friends and supporters in Race shirts. This year there was great weather and there were 30,000 people! They take a photo of all the survivors and play a heart-wrenching song like Whitney Houston's Hero and there's lots of tears. That's OK because all those survivors are so glad to be there!

I have some friends in Iowa who slept in with my grad school team of "Sew Sleepy Stitchers" and three friends in Washington State (not DC) who slept in, went out to lunch, and then went to a mattress store and had their photo taken with a big pink stuffed sheep- they made a party out of it!

So next year, first week in October, support a great cause and as they say in the ads for the Race- support you local breasts! Get your mammograms- I'm a believer! They save lives!


Crazy Hair Day - September 10, 2010

This morning when I left the house for yoga, the kids across the street were leaving for school. It was Crazy Hair Day at Hillcrest Elementary! One little guy had a green mohawk and a little girl was so excited about her ponytails. Wow- I felt really "with it"!

I've been fussing about my hair- it is growing much too slow, I dyed it and it came out bright orange (think- Oriole Bird!)and it took a few days for it to calm down to the right color. I researched some natural shampoo that has natural dyes in it (madder and henna) but was told that my hair would probably turn pink- PINK!

But who knew that I would feel just right this Friday morning when my neighborhood was all excited about crazy hair! What an adventure!


One Year Ago - September 4, 2010

One year ago today I went for my annual mammogram, expecting everything to be OK and ready for a nice Labor Day weekend. Instead I was knocked off my feet with news of breast cancer.

It's been a wild year. That mammogram saved my life- found the cancer early- and here I am! So if you are putting off any tests that you should have, get those big girl panties on (or tighty-whities if you are a guy) and go for it!

I've learned that I am "braver than I believe, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think" (That's from the quote from Christopher Robin talking to Pooh.)I have met incredible people who smile in the face of bad things and get through. I've learned the great value of words and Hallmark cards and homemade cards and comfort food and friends and family and prayers.

It's amazing and I feel very very fortunate! How about that!



Anybody else notice how many butterflies there are this summer?
There's big yellow ones and black ones with blue spots- so many!

Each time I see one I think of how they are are a symbol of Hope.
And that's a good thing!

And there are lots of roses this year, too!
Lately I can feel myself getting the "butterflies" when I do too much.
I want to just stay home, slow down, and smell the roses!!


Chemo Brain- August 4, 2010

There's a side effect to chemotherapy called "chemo brain". It simply means that your brain doesn't work correctly- altered a bit by the chemo drugs. I thought I was doing OK. I only had two episodes that had to do with cooking- I fried a teapot back in December- that's why I now have a new electric teapot. And I pushed the wrong button on the stove a few weeks ago and "custom broiled" a quiche- it sure got done fast- kind of "blackened".

Then this week I wrote a check to someone using their first name and the name of their street for the last name…..and I pushed a button on my computer and sent a message to the wrong person.

Oh my!

So if I do anything weird, or send you a crazy message…let's blame it on chemo brain.

I got a strange email the other day- it was a quote but it was missing the words. It simply read "."
I read it as a message to stop, wait, slow down, take it slow.

My doctor told me that the chemo would be out of my system within a few weeks, but the side effects would linger. Of course she was right. She told me to use my hair as a guide. It's growing slowly.

This adventure ain't over yet!!


Chocolate Therapy and Striking Out - July 25, 2010

I just got back from five days in Hershey Pennsylvania at Quilt Odyssey. Hershey- the Chocolate Capital of the World- and for a wonderful fun week, the Quilt Capital!

I will admit now that last week I did not want to go- too many people- thousands!, haven't taught a big class in awhile, had to get up in front of 500 quilters for show and tell, I felt like I had to wear Headly (my wig that has been resting in this Baltimore heat), had to be very organized, not enough time to rest, had to get up too early, yadda yadda yadda!

But a friend sent me a message right before I left and she talked about how much fun we all have with our fellow quilters. Even when we don't feel like going somewhere or we are overwhelmed with things or crazy thoughts (see above) it's ALWAYS better when we get there and meet up with old friends, meet new ones, and just enjoy the wonderful world of quilting (you can substitute other things here- knitting, shopping, eating, kayaking....) that we all love.

Then I opened my $1000 Journal the day I returned and here's what it said: "Never let fear of striking out get in your way." I was so glad I had "struck out" last week and pulled those big girl panties on and went to Quilt Odyssey.

Then I read the author of that quote- it was Babe Ruth. I really would have "struck out" if I had not gone! Here's to bravery and strength and survivorship!! And of course, friends, quilts, and Hershey Kisses!


Moving On- June 20, 2010

If you read the previous message, you will understand that one of the wonderful things that cancer and chemotherapy has given me is time- time to rest, time to do what I want or need to get better, and time to think about "what to do when I grow up".

I've been trying to decide whether to continue teaching quilting. Scary cancer thoughts make me think about the commitments about having to be there to teach if I don't feel good or have enough energy. But three things happened in the past two weeks that make me realize that's what I need to do- slowly get back to teaching.

First. I was watching Oprah and she asked her guest about his spiritual beliefs. His answer was that he believed if you are good to other people it will come back to you. That was an "aha" moment for me.

Second. I went shopping with my friends Laurie and Laurie at a local quilt shop. A customer recognized me and told me how my classes affected her- she loved appliqué and was hoping to be recognized by her guild at their next show. She credited me with her success and her love of quilting. I was stunned. I could hardly say anything to her. (I was afraid I was going to cry.) I gave her quilting skills- she returned the favor and gave me some confidence! Thanks, Rita!

Third. A student sent me a photo of her almost-finished "wonderful absolutely fabulous" Baltimore quilt. She sent the photo as a "gift" to me because she knew I would love seeing her quilt and she had enjoyed the class so much. She thanked me for sharing myself, my gift, in class- and then sent a photo of her quilt back to me. Thanks, Sandy!

I believe these things happened together for a reason. I gave myself to my students in class and they gave something wonderful back to me at a time when I really needed it. The syncronicity of it made me get up, go to my local shop, and sign up to teach two classes this fall. This is what I do!

I am so excited!!


Time- June 20, 2010

Here's an article that I cut out of a magazine- written by a cancer survivor. I pasted it in my $1000 journal.

"The greatest thing to have come my way is time. Time to reflect on that which is important in life; time to embrace, process, and release old emotional wounds; time to cook a really tasty meal; time to hang out with friends; time to sleep according to the body's own rhythm; time to make plans which include dreams; time to meditate, pray, watch movies, and take naps; time to appreciate, time to be, time to love and be loved, time to heal."


Well- June 8, 2010

Last night a friend told me that a friend of ours told her that someone else who I haven't seen for a long time (got it?) told her I wasn't doing well.


Today I cleaned a toilet, got the messy guest room ready for 5 1/2 year old Julia to come for a sleepover tomorrow night, am happy that Julia is coming over for tomorrow night, am planning to stop at a quilt shop on my way to get her tomorrow, and am planning a tea party with her. I went to the craft store and bought some goodies to glue and cut and paste. That- to me- is doing well!

I have new grown-back-in eyebrows and eyelashes that are longer than last week. My fingernails went to the dermatologist yesterday and she was thrilled with the way they look (a few more months and we all will be thrilled, too). All that stuff is doing well!

I went to a Survivor Party on Sunday and two friends who are 48 think I am their age (I love that!) and our doctor came around and gave all of us hugs. So did one of our favorite nurses- George. We survivors compared notes and I know what my hair will look like in 2 months- better than today's fuzz! My hair is doing well!

I'm not taking as many naps- just if I am planning to go out at night. I'm thinking about teaching, but I promised myself I would take off 2010 to get really better- but I'm thinking about it! That's doing well!

SO- hey! I'm doing WELL! Maybe not GREAT- but WELL is good right now! As one of my friends said after chemo- "My body has taken a hit!" And as everyone says, "It takes time". The hardest part for this patient - is being patient!

And when Bob reads this, he will say, "Oh, yeah, she's feeling better!"


Believing - June 4, 2010

Have you ever seen the play Peter Pan? Do you remember the part where Peter Pan asks the audience to help Tinkerbell and to clap if you believe in fairies? That always got to me- maybe because the whole audience clapped together – and then, of course, Tinkerbell got better! Amazing!

It was nine months ago today that I went for my annual mammogram and got bad news. Throughout these nine months I have felt the incredible power of so many friends, family members, students helping me and Bob through our "adventure". Clapping! Praying! Me feeling better! Amazing!

I believe in fairies! I believe in hugs and prayers and love and faith and hope. I believe in the power of friendship and family. I believe in the warmth and comfort of quilts and knitted shawls and healthy food. I have a totally new respect for greeting cards and notes- they make you laugh or cry, but they touch your heart and let you know that someone cares. I believe in the caring people I've met at my hospital. I believe in yoga and acupuncture and quiet meditation. I believe all of these things have helped me through the past nine months and will keep me going. Amazing!


CSI - DNA- Hooray! - May 28,2010

You know how on CSI they send DNA to the lab and the results come back after the next commercial? Well, that doesn't happen in real life!

A month ago, I did a DNA test to check a gene mutation responsible for breast cancer called the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. We were expecting the results in 2 weeks.

Whew! It took almost a month and I got the results this week! The results were good! Everybody has these genes, but it's a mutation (change) in the gene that makes patients more likely to get breast cancer (and other cancers too). My results were NO mutations in my genes. That also means that my children and grandchildren do not have the mutation from me.

Hooray! This is very good news!

Now, the next question comes up- where did I get breast cancer? We don't know. We truly don't know. But thank goodness for mammograms that found both of mine early.


Good-bye to the "Port" ! - May 25

The "Port" is a "sort-of-permanent-for-awhile" IV that was placed in my chest and into a vein before I started chemotherapy (in November after the Bruce Springsteen concert). It was inserted with a "special procedure" in the hospital's "special effects" department- most of us would call it "surgery". The port makes it safer and easier to get treatment with chemotherapy because it allows chemo drugs to be dripped into a larger vein than the one in your arm. You can't really see the port- it's under the skin- but the nurses know how to find it and know just the right place to insert the needle to drip in saline, preventative drugs, and chemotherapy. While a cancer patient has it, it's wonderful to have.

But Hooray!! I had another "special procedure" and got the port removed today!!! Yes, it's been good to have it, but to this "non-nurse who doesn't like to know every little detail", it's creepy!

There are two ways patients think about the port. Some patients like to keep it in for a longer time- for superstitious reasons: "If I keep it I won't need it." Some patients want to get on with things and get rid of it and hope they never need it again. I've had both of these feelings- I am superstitious, but I'm also trying to be very positive and move on- and that "move on" part of me wins!

I'm trusting my journey. This was a BIG step today! Good-bye port! Hooray!!


Another Hope Report - May 23

Eyebrows!! My eyebrows are starting to grow back!! Signs of Hope!

And just to let you know, my eyelashes are almost 1/8" long now- the cutest perfect little eyelashes all lined up along the top of my eyes. Amazing!

Now, my hair is a different story. Last week a friend I hadn't seen for awhile said, "Wow, I love the way your hair looks now that it's grown back." I loved it! That meant that Headly was doing her job and lookin' good. But the real hair is taking it's time- it's still in the peach fuzz stage.....


Bionic Woman - May 18

Today I became a bionic woman!

In one magic hour, I got a new shape, new body parts, new "girls", new boobs! I didn't realize how much I missed them! They look like "me"! The professional name is breast forms- if you can say "breast cancer", you can say "breast forms". Ever since my surgery in October I have been hiding under sweatshirts, sweaters, jackets, and very comfy clothes. But soon it's going to get very warm (even hot and humid) here in B-more and I needed to come out!

So I made an appointment with a specialist in "fittings" and spent the morning having some fun. Insurance pays for basic breast forms and bras. But then I tried on a bra worthy of Oprah- wow- comfy- nice- pretty- expensive!

I was "hooked"!! I am worth it!


Hope - May 14

Yesterday Hope appeared in the form of Baby Eyelashes!
They are only 1/16" long, but they are real !

Cancer patients lose their hair because of the drugs in the chemotherapy. The chemo attacks cancer cells, but also attacks fast-growing cells like hair. That means all kinds of hair. The weird thing is that I didn't lose my eyelashes and eyebrows until the chemo was over- last Thursday! A friend told me I had to lose them before they would grow back. I didn't expect them this soon! Hooray!


A Top Ten List- May 10

I can't believe it's been a month since the last chemo! I've been saving some things to write about when I'm done. There's still a few test results to collect, and I still need to get the chemo port removed, but here's a Top Ten List of Things I'm Very Proud Of!

#10 That I didn't throw up (this is really a big one!)
#9 That I didn't get an infection and have to go to the hospital (this is a big one too!)
#8 That I didn't have to go to the emergency room (I was very scared about this one!)
#7 That I only went to chemo one day with a hat instead of my wig
#6 That I went to yoga all through chemo
#5 That I only cried a few times
#4 That I got out of my jammies every day
#3 That I always had tea, diet coke and cookies for visitors
#2 That I tried to be "normal"- to read, to sew, to cheer for basketball teams.
And the #1 thing I'm proud of: That I put my big girl panties on and did this!

Stay tuned for the Top Ten List of Creepy Side Effects!


Peach Fuzz!

The day I finished chemo, one of the nurses jokingly said, "And tomorrow morning you will feel your hair starting to grow…."
No way! I've talked to other survivors about when they finished chemo and noticed how long it seems to grow hair. It's going to be awhile….
But! There seems to be a difference today! There's peach fuzz!

That was all I was going to write today, but then I thought of some other things…

Do you know that most cancer survivors who wear wigs do it for other people? We don't want others to be uncomfortable around us. Yep. That's mostly it, but we also feel better when we look in the mirror.

One day early this month it got HOT- over 90 in B-more in early April! That's when the wig (her name is Headly) went for a rest. I had to figure out what to do- my winter knit hats were also a bit hot! And the comfy cotton knit hats look like a cancer patient. But my friend Penny gave me a cute baseball hat with a preppy ribbon across the front- too cute! It even looks cute on, and feels so much cooler than Headly.
Last Friday I wore it out- like in the car to really go somewhere. I noticed that people smiled and said Hi to me. It was fun. I'm going to get these hats in different colors! They come from RibbonCapClub.com

And- just so you know- there are perks to not having hair. A shower takes less time (but every once in awhile I still think I'm going to get wet hair in may face), drying my hair takes much less time, and I guess I've saved on shampoo and hairspray. But here's a great one- last week I had a massage- the first one since chemo began- and the head massage was wonderful!!

Maybe by peach season in August, I'll have more than peach fuzz!


Feeding Our Souls - April 17

I am deeply indebted to everyone who supported me and Bob during my adventure in chemotherapy. It only took a few days of feeling the effects of chemo to realize there was something we really needed. I remember telling my friend Laurie that if anyone asked, the answer was "food"!

So Laurie set up a website on www.volunteerspot.com and contacted friends to make dinners for us. The website let them know the schedule and it reminded them when it was their turn. This was THE BEST- absolutely THE BEST! Several days a week, a friend appeared at our door with dinner, sometimes visiting for awhile, and this was a life-saver in many ways. Without all of you, we would have had Bob's famous pasta and cheese many more nights! Or I would have just ordered pizza!

Instead, there was a great variety of healthy dishes- including veggies! Every week when the nurses asked how my appetite was, I always said "no problem"! There was something wonderful about having dinners appear. Everything was fabulous. I ate everything! And it tasted great! (I did have some scattered days when things just tasted like cardboard and there was one or two nights when I had trouble eating.) But because I didn't have to think about what to have, to prepare things, or to have the energy to fix dinner- we ate great! Another thing that was really important to me, was that Bob really enjoyed everything- and I mean everything!

It was wonderful to have you all feed us, but more than the food, you fed our souls. Your friendship and love really sustained us at a time when we really needed it. We will always remember it- and I know what to fix if any of you ever need help!

Love, Mimi (and Bob!)


The Happy Dance - April 14

This morning I went to St. Agnes at 8:15 am to do the first part of my day- have blood drawn before chemo. I was supposed to go back in the afternoon for the actual treatment. After a detour to Rheb's Chocolates, I came home and got a call about an hour later.
Oh, dear! My white blood count was so low they could not give me chemo today!

But here's the good news- the doctor decided that I could skip the last treatment!! I went back at 1:30 to ring the bell signifying the end of my treatments! Hugs from all the nurses and staff!

I ripped the last piece of the REALLY UGLY FABRIC!! I didn't have to wait until the end of the treatment week. It's time to do the Happy Dance- if you ask Bob he'll tell you I've been flying high all day!!

What a great day!!


Amazing People - April 14

Today is my last day of chemotherapy. I started on December 3.

Right before you walk into the chemotherapy room at St. Agnes, there are three Administrative Assistants. Satia, Kristin and Alice are usually there on the days I am there. They always smile and say hello and we have a fun conversation.
I will never forget when I first met Satia. She smiled a big smile and said "You're going to have a great time here."
Can you imagine? - as a patient in the cancer center?
But, amazingly- it's true. The people make it great!

Mary and Kevin- our "Navigators" have an office in the hallway. The door is usually open and I feel comfortable asking them anything.
Gail the receptionist never has to ask my name; she greets me and lets me know which nurse I will be with that day.

The nurses know me, and I always feel like they are taking their time just with me. They are friendly, kind, patient, and willing to share information. They are positive and very encouraging. I've seen them handle emergencies calmly and quietly. They even answer questions from my friends and make them feel welcome.

Charlie the volunteer always smiles and brings his "special blend" of ice water.
Sister Monica brings blessings and always remembers that my name is Mimi.
Pauline takes blood pressure and makes me laugh and remember the first day when my bp was crazy- she crosses her fingers and prays that it will be normal.

Halfway through my treatments, one day I spent from 8 am until 4:30 near the entrance to the chemo room. You know what I noticed?
All of the patients came in smiling!

That is a testament to all of all of the wonderful people who work there. I feel safe, feel welcome, and feel confidence in the staff.

Satia was right- I did have a great time. The people at St. Agnes are amazing!


The Little Things- April 10

This morning I noticed that I only have one eyelash left on my left eye.
How come a little thing like that can make me so upset?

Tonight I was waiting in Catonsville and a stranger walked by and said "I really like your hair."
How come a little thing like that can make me smile and change my day?

Don't forget how important the little things are- you can make someone smile!


Spring- April 8

Back when I started chemotherapy, I begged Dr. G to postpone it until I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert in Baltimore in November. It gave me energy and strength.

Here's some of my favorite lines from a Springsteen song- it reminds me of the many "angels' that have supported me and Bob throughout this adventure:

"May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love."

So- I started my adventure with SPRINGsteen and here it is SPRING. The flowers are blooming, our pink tree out front is gorgeous, the sun is shining and the weather has gotten warm (maybe a little too warm but here in B-more we are not allowed to complain after the snowy winter we had!)

I feel things changing with the season. One more chemo treatment next week! One more piece of REALLY UGLY fabric to rip! The world is coming back to life and a new adventure is beginning for me. What a great time of year!



Mr. Nutty the Easter Squirrel - April 3

Mr. Nutty came to live with us in the fall in November after my surgery. My friend Becky discovered Mr. Nutty in the Giant grocery store when he made her smile. He's a big helium balloon shaped like a smiling squirrel holding an acorn. He greets everyone who comes in- but some people don't understand him so I'd like you to know his story.

Bob and I love him because he makes us laugh. He "rises to the occasion" when we need him, scaring away bad thoughts. He's "uplifting". He's been a fun presence in our house on some cloudy- or snowy- or rainy days. He's losing some of his helium these days, which just makes him more fun. He's floating a little lower, he's a little flimsy, he turns to follow us as we walk by, he seems to turn to look at us when we cheer for basketball games (or he floats around and turns his back on Duke), but he still makes us smile. He reminds us of the "lighter" side of life.

So Rejoice! He's done a great job. Instead of jelly beans, we are getting him some new helium for Easter. We might let him live outside in a dogwood tree this Spring. We might even set him free and let him rise up. He deserves it!

Happy Easter!


Supportive Angels- March 31

There are angels all around me. I know them as my support system.

When cancer (or anything bad) happens, you think you are going through it alone. After all, it's my body that had surgery. It's me that gets hooked up to chemotherapy each week.

But I am not doing this alone. I have an incredible support system. There are friends and family and quilters and students and health-care professionals and other patients and prayer groups and friends-of-friends and even strangers – angels who are holding my hand on this journey.

How do I know? Healthy food appears at my door. There are friendly emails and phone calls. Friends and neighbors stop by for tea and cookies. Cards and quilt blocks appear in the mail. Surprise packages show up at my door- tea, magazines, flowers, candles, soaps, fruit, CD's. Comfy knitted shawls arrive in the mail. I love the comforting quilt of pink roses and ribbons. Friends go to St. Agnes with me, give me a ride when I can't drive. Angels treat me like I am "normal". And of course, I can't forget Bob- he is my Rock Star (even more than Bruce or Skynyrd).

Some days when I was so tired from the chemo, I would lie down for a nap and imagine angel wings surrounding me- and think of the wonderful things my angels have done. It made me feel calm and safe and I relaxed into sleep. It's been a comforting image for me.

Most of us don't like to have help, much less ask for it. I want to get through this all by myself. But years ago I learned something very special. People want to help- they need to help. Really, they want to make it all better- but can't. So helping makes them feel like they are doing something positive. It was hard for me to accept at first, but then I promised myself to "pay it forward" when I feel better. I found out that there were things that I just couldn't do- I needed help! This is when I understood the great importance of the angels in my support system.

We all have support systems- we just might not know how incredible they are. If you ever have to use yours, do it graciously and promise yourself you will pay it forward. Not sure what you will do? Don't worry.

The angels will teach you.


Comfort- March 27

There's a reason that "comfort" is another word for "quilt". A special quilt can comfort a person physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.

A few months ago, Polly in my Graduate Class sent out patterns of my appliqued Baltimore roses and ribbons to other students and friends in the Baltimore Applique Society. They passed the patterns on to other quilters. They appliquéd blocks, signed them, and sent them back to Polly. Friends pieced the blocks together and Illona Hull quilted them with patterns of Circles of Love, Ribbons of Hope, and Reflections of Sunshine.

I have not been speechless many times in my life-but I was when Polly gave me the quilt in class. It's amazing. It's beautiful. The quilt fits perfectly on the bed in my sewing room where I take naps in the afternoon. I read a few names and messages each day- some days it's very emotional. I love the surprise of finding familiar names of friends, students, and colleagues. Most of all, it's comforting to know how many people care. I can feel the love and good wishes in the stitches.

So when I take a nap I think of it as "quilt therapy" and snuggle under the prayers, signatures, and lovely stitches of some very special friends. Thank you all!


I'm not the only one- March 24

I ripped off another piece of REALLY UGLY fabric this morning. There are three pieces left- one for each of the next three weeks. Each one is 1 1/2" wide- it's a 1/8 yard total piece left- so much smaller than the yard I started with!

I'm dragging, low energy, but this is really a good sign – it means that the chemotherapy is working, knocking out cells. This is the ninth treatment with this drug, so I think it's building up. This morning I really did not want to go to St. Agnes, so ripping the fabric helped. I reminded myself of another patient there who has trouble showing up- she is very brave and she does it! She deserves a big gold star because I know it's been tough for her- but she is tough! She inspires me. Our paths have crossed for the last several weeks and we talk about fun things- she's a basketball fan too!

Today after my treatment, I talked to this friend- she is "the other Mimi". Yes, there are two Mimi's (we could just blend in with all the "Mary's" there but we found each other because we are Mimi's!) Today is her last chemo treatment- after I left she was planning to "ring the bell"- a bell in the center that patients ring after their last treatment- a time to celebrate. Her sisters and daughter sneaked in for the day and the nurses were so good about the extra visitors.

Today was my fourth-to-last treatment. The last one should be on April 14. I'm looking forward to ringing that bell but I am also getting the feeling that it will take awhile to really get over this.

When I asked the doctor what I do next, one of the things she said was "Quilt!"- I love it!


Spring, Basketball, and Quilting - March 20

Because it's the first day of Spring- I'm resting because I have been tired this week. Maybe the effects of the chemo are cumulative and I'm feeling it more now. I've been taking some "monster" naps and could not stay up for the late game Maryland won last night!

Because it's March Madness- I'm watching basketball games and cheering for the underdogs- especially the Northern Iowa team- read on.

Because it's National Quilting Day- I'm quilting!

A few months ago my friend Karan from Northern Iowa sent me a 4 1/2" hand-pieced star made with reproduction fabrics- pink and brown- adorable! My first reaction was- "Oh dear! What am I going to do with this! It's too special." So I pinned it to my wall and just enjoyed looking at it. Then- surprise! I got another star in the mail! Then another! Then a book about antique doll quilts with a photo of a star quilt! Then some pink fabric to put between the stars! Then more stars! And border fabric! There are seven stars and they are all different pinks and browns- wonderful!

But just like the "reading recovery", there were days that I couldn't even think about picking up a needle to sew. It was just enough to look at each star–to study the variety of fabrics and love the hand stitches-and maybe to think about putting the stars together into a doll quilt.

It took awhile before I arranged the stars and sewed two blocks together. It felt great to sew again! One step at a time, just like lots of other things lately. But today I stitched the last star into the quilt. I hand-pieced the quilt just like the stars- that was fun to do! I cut and sewed the borders today, too. It's a darling doll quilt and a perfect Quilting Day!

And….Northern Iowa beat #1 Kansas!! Tomorrow we cheer for Maryland!!


Music- and the Rippin' o' the Green- March 17

Today was a good day. This morning before going to chemotherapy, I ripped another piece of REALLY UGLY fabric (there is a little green on the fabric but that's all I can tell you). Happy St. Patrick's Day!

They give me Benadryl before the chemo treatment and it makes me sleep for about an hour. When they start, I get out my iPod and listen to music as I drift off. Here's some of the music that I love:

Anything by Bruce Springsteen. It reminds me of the concert in November. "Hungry Heart"" because it mentions Baltimore. "Born to Run" because this is a wild journey. "Thunder Road" because I wanted to memorize the words and sing at the concert (American Idol I am not!)

"Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat. A fun song that just makes me happy and reminds me of my energetic friend Katie. In the past week, two people referred to me as "bubbly" – is this a coincidence?

A "Healing" CD put together by my nephew Sam and sister-in-law Sarah. Beatles music, "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley and "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (this wakes me up at the end of chemo). Fun, relaxing, cool stuff from special people. Bob says I hum when I listen to this.

"Italia" by Chris Botti from my friend Marty. Great relaxing music- it has a beautiful version of "Ave Maria".

And then there are two things on my iPod that I listen to when I take a nap in the afternoon. "Deep Relaxation" from Learning Strategies makes me relax even if I don't sleep. And "Essential Relaxation" by Debbie Jensen- a 45 minute yoga nidra- I wake up feeling like I had a long good nap.

I Love my iPod!


The Steps to Reading Recovery - March 13

I love to read- especially when I find a book that I can't put down- I love to get lost in the story and enjoy the ride. But this journey of mine has made reading a challenge at some times. Finally- I feel like a "reader" again- here's what it's taken to get back......

Step 1: The "Just Lay Around and Be" Stage. After surgery and the first chemotherapy, I was just happy to be here- especially when "here" was a comfy place with pillows. This was a short phase. I stared at a few magazine covers.

Step 2: The "Magazine" Stage. I wanted to be reading "something". So turning the pages of a magazine helped. I turned the pages, looked at the pretty pictures and maybe read a caption. The pictures and colors helped the most. Magazines are worth their weight in gold. This seemed like a long phase, but my friend Kay showed up with new magazines.

Step 3: The "Maybe I Can Read a Book" Stage. The first books I picked up needed to be very special. For me there are two books I remember from this time. The first is "Out of the Box" a quilting book by Mary Lou Weidman- it's full of colorful quilts and ideas for creativity. It's not a book with quilts and directions, but a book to inspire ideas. It made me think- but not too much! It was the perfect step up from the magazines. I could stop on any page and pick it up later. The second book is "The Goddess of the Last Minute" by Robbi Joy Eklow. This is a book written by a traveling quilt teacher with a great sense of humor. Her short essays about quilting make me laugh. Robbi is Erma Bombeck for quilters!

Step 4: The "All Right it's Time for a Real Book" Stage. My friend Karan gave me a Nora Roberts book that I really wanted to read- "Bed of Roses"- the second in a new series. I tried and tried, but I think I picked it up too soon. It took me 2 months- and I kept forgetting who-was-doing-it-with-whom. I will have to read it again before the next one comes out.

Step 5: The "Oh my Gosh, I think I'm Better!" Stage. Near the halfway point in my chemotherapy, I picked up "The Help". I read the first page and could not put it down! Hooray!! A book grabbed me and I loved it!! There's Hope for this reader!!! After that I read "The Lost Symbol" and went on an adventure with Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks in the movies) through Washington, DC. So much fun!! My friend Candi brought over Anne Tyler's new book "Noah's Compass" and I'm ready to meet her new characters and share some quality time with them!

Is this Reading Recovery? It feels good to me!!


Trust Your Journey- March 9

Last week when I was getting chemotherapy, I could hear another patient. She was upset and said,"I just found out that a low grade fever indicates that the cancer has spread."

OMG I thought, my fever is always low- usually 97.5- yikes! I worried for a day or two until I googled "Low Grade Fever Cancer" and got a definition. It doesn't mean a low fever - it means a low fever higher than 98.6! Whew!

So my doctor and I laughed about that today and talked about trusting MY journey, asking questions to the right people, and not listening to the wrong people. (That can be hard sometimes.) She reminded me that I am still doing chemo and still have to be careful about being upset by insensitive people or overdoing things. (OK- that did happen last week.) I need to think about myself (that's hard for me) and make the right choices. And...I'm doing fine and doing everything I can to prevent a recurrence.

I have a wonderful bracelet with a charm engraved "Trust Your Journey". I'm going to start wearing it more!


Mrs. Rip - March 9

I'm getting ready to RIP another piece of REALLY UGLY fabric- it will be less than 1/4 yard left now! About 6 more weeks. A month and a half.

Just call me Mrs. Rip (Van Winkle, that is!)

This week I've been thinking about time. Perhaps I'm waking up from the worst chemo drugs. It suddenly dawned on me that I have been on this journey for six whole months! Julia proudly said she is 5 1/2! Where did that half year go? It was September 4 when I had my mammogram. How has all this time gone by? I was really astounded when I realized this! I've been doing chemotherapy treatments since December 2- that's three whole months! It will be 4 1/2 months of chemo before I finish.

I think that the reason I have made it this far is that I have thought about it in baby steps. One week until this appointment, a week until surgery, two weeks between treatments, and so on and so on. One step at a time. One thing at a time. Focus on what has to be done. Stay in the moment and do the best I can. I've rarely thought about months or half-years. This is some journey!

I am amazed at how it all adds up!


March Madness - March 3

Whew! I have had some crazy days in my life but this one is way up there! I spent the morning at St. Agnes getting my blood checked (I'm a bit low on some counts but they will check on that next week) and then getting chemotherapy. I came home and took a nap and woke up two hours later feeling like a truck ran over me. Nancy Pelton sent dinner (Thank Goodness and Scott who delivered it!) and Bob warmed it up. I felt better after eating.

So much better that I felt OK to leave at 7 to go to the Maryland- Duke game at 9 pm. I can't believe I did it! And Maryland won! GO TERPS!!! It was a close game all the way through, but we won by 5 sure points at the end. The students "stormed the court" and as we left they were chanting some things I can't include here- but it was very festive and fun. Bob and I always laugh about how "proud" their parents would be if they saw them! One young lady was standing on a bench cheering and showing off her lovely pierced belly button- cool! It's been a long time since the students have been this excited about a game. I've only been to 3 of the 20 games this year and I'm so glad I pushed it for this last home game. GO TERPS!

I'm so excited I'm going to rip another piece of UGLY FABRIC off- now there's just 1/4 yard left!!

Maryland Mimi


Chocolate - February 28
It's the end of February and I have had a busy week. I ripped off another piece of REALLY UGLY fabric and am still tired- but not as bad as before. I have even ventured out more this week. I played bridge and went to a Maryland basketball game and did something I have not had any desire to do for awhile- go out and eat, coffee and scones, and even a lunch. These are big steps!

So people ask me about food. How do things taste? Am I eating OK? Surprise! Food really has not been a problem. I just eat smaller portions. Food tastes good except there have been some days when everything tasted like cardboard- but fruity things have a good taste- and so do vegetables. Juices have been great- water has a strange taste sometimes. I think it's the "metallic" taste I was warned about.

The strangest thing is that chocolate has no appeal. None. Nada. Weird! Bob and I did eat alot of Lindt Truffles before chemo started, but I'm saving a box of chocolates until chemo is finished. I even have a bag of M&M's that have lived in my house since Halloween- very unusual! Bob brought home a box of Berger's cookies and I didn't touch them- but that's OK- it's more for him! This is probably a good thing since Rheb's Chocolates has a shop right across the street from St. Agnes!


Ripping and Dancing- February 17

Rip- there goes another strip of fabric!

This morning my neighbor Danielle drove me over to ST. Agnes. In the parking lot, she helped me rip off a piece of the REALLY UGLY fabric- she twirled it around and we laughed. I thought she was going to dance around the snowy parking lot! There's a total of 5/8 of a yard ripped off and gone!

Maybe when this is all over, you can all come over and each person can twirl a piece of the fabric and we can do a Happy Dance!! For those of you far away (especially Margaret in WA and Karan in Iowa and Julie in CA) I can send you a piece and we can agree on a time and play Cool and the Gang's "Celebration". It's something to look forward to!!


Acupuncture- February 17

Calm, Peace, Balance, Strength.

These are the reasons I have an acupuncture treatment before chemotherapy treatments. I started acupuncture because of my knees about 2 years ago. It helped…didn't make them all better, but helped. Then I found out that acupuncture helped with other things, especially when I was overwhelmed or upset.

I always walk out of the treatment feeling calmer and stronger than when I arrived. I know acupuncture gave me the peace to deal with the cancer diagnosis and surgery. It gives me the strength to get in the car each treatment day.

A few weeks ago I was very scared about the change in the chemo treatment. I hated that the word "reactions" was being used so much. "We'll be giving you extra drugs to prevent reactions…" Yikes! I was halfway through and had figured out how to live with the first drugs. I hate change.

But after acupuncture that week, I left with Carolyn's words, "Yes, it's a change- it will be a good change!"

And it has been!

Strength, Peace, Calm, Balance, Positive Energy……that's why I love acupuncture.


Thinking Good Thoughts - Valentine's Day

One time when 4 year old Julia spent the night and wanted to get up and get going early, I told her I liked to wait a little before I got up. "What are you doing, Grammy", she asked. I said,"Thinking Good Thoughts!" She remembers that I like to start my day like that!

So this morning when I was Thinking Good Thoughts I thought about my yoga class. One morning I felt like a ragdoll with no energy before I went to class. Our teacher Debbie read to us about "Loving Ourselves". And I went home feeling better.

Gheesh- it's a little hard to love oneself when there's scars from surgery, no real hair to comb and a funky rash (redheads- or "previous redheads" freak out with funky rashes.) But then I thought about how good the yoga class made me feel and realized I'm supposed to love myself from the inside out. If I feel good I can put a smile on my face and feel OK. So I try to quilt and read a little each day, keep in touch with friends, wear my favorite jeans and comfy cotton t-shirts and sweatshirts, take a nap when I need to - and feel good inside!

I just gotta stay away from mirrors- and that funny reflection in the computer screen!!


Snow and Yoga- February 14

I just have to mention the snow! It's huge! We set a record here in Baltimore- about 80" this season- so far!

The reason I say "so far" is that I looked in my $1000 Journal (see January 1 about the Journal) and almost every weekend after I had a chemotherapy treatment, we had snow. If we didn't have snow, we had rain. I made notes about it because the weather made it easy to take naps. I didn't feel like going anywhere and it was good to rest with nature's beauty outside the window and me cozy inside. So I have 9 more treatments- watch what happens the next 9 weekends. And some people blame this on the Groundhog!

So the only place I've been since the Blizzard of 2010 this week was yoga on Friday morning. It was amazing to see the one lane snowy streets in the neighborhood, then the huge piles of snow along the highways. I have been taking a wonderful class for cancer survivors in Columbia. My teacher Debbie taught a class I took at the Columbia Yoga Center. I love the class because Debbie is so good at taking things slow, step by step, and she gets me to do things I would not try by myself. I also feel more energized when I come home. Bob has been taking me on these snowy Fridays and on days I didn't feel like I should drive. He enjoys it too- there's a coffee shop and a place to sit and read.


Big Snow- Smaller Fabric - February 9

Rip! There goes another strip of REALLY UGLY fabric!

If it seemed fast since the last rip, it is! The cancer center at St. Agnes is closing tomorrow because of the new snow storm tomorrow, so they called me in a day early. It was busy this morning.

We had 28 inches of snow over the weekend and they are calling for 12-18 inches more! That's alot of snow! The weather person just described it as two storms coming together and they are going to "bomb out" over our area!.

My brother John and niece Caroline came up from North Carolina on Friday. It was a great visit- they got to experience the Blizzard of 2010. Caroline played with the girls next door, Sarah and Emma, and John and I had a fun visit. I took naps every day to keep up my energy and that worked! John and Bob went to the Maryland- North Carolina game on Sunday. Caroline flew home last night. John is working in Baltimore until Thursday.

Bob and I are "hunkering down" and staying warm. I'm going to read, quilt, and hibernate! And try to enjoy the beauty of the snow.....


Hopefully Moving Past Exhaustion- February 3

Rip…I tore a 1 1/2"-wide strip off the REALLY UGLY fabric today.

Slowly but surely I'm getting through this. I got my second "lower-dose" treatment today….I get to rip the fabric for this one next Wednesday.

This has been a better week. I don't know if it's the blood transfusion or the change in chemo drugs- or both, but I didn't feel so totally exhausted. And I sewed a little this week!

So what's it mean to be exhausted from chemo? You know how it feels when you watch a movie late at night and you wake up and realized you missed something. That's it! I feel this cloud come over my brain and realize I just better lie down and take a nap- I can't do anything else. And then it takes an hour to wake up from the nap. For the longest time, I could not read or watch anything on TV for longer than an hour. The world has been very fuzzy but it is clearing up.

Every once in awhile I found some energy and thought I was coming back…..but one day I wrapped some presents and thought I was going to faint. Another day I mixed up some chocolate chip cookies and thought my arm was going to fall off. One day I turned on the tea kettle and went to watch TV- yep! I got a new tea kettle- an electric one! One night I needed to drink a cup of tea but I was so tired I could not even ask Bob to get it.

So I learned a few lessons and decided it's been best to sleep through chemo and love the moments in the morning that I do feel good. There's also been two days in the old two-week cycle that I have felt like "me"- usually the two days before a new treatment when I see the doctor. The nurse always asks how I feel and I usually say "90-100%" but I really wished she had asked me on the days when I felt like 10%- that really tells the story!!


Almost Half Way Through- January 28


That's half of my yard of REALLY UGLY fabric ripped off!!! It's amazing how much smaller the half yard looks than the whole yard did 8 weeks ago! Hooray!!

Yesterday I spent 8 hours at the chemotherapy center. I had to have a blood transfusion because my red blood cells were low. That was a surprise because I felt fine. Then I started the "second half" of the treatment. It's a different drug and it took time yesterday to make sure I didn't have any "reactions" to it. So today I feel great because I have plenty of red blood cells and because I got through yesterday without any "reactions".

The new treatment will be once a week with a lower dose to help prevent a side effect - tingling and nerve sensitivity in fingers and toes- that makes it hard to sew. "Sew" hopefully this will help, but it will take 12 weeks instead of the 8 for the higher dose.

OK- for you quilters and math people- that means I get to RIP the fabric every week- but only 1 1/2" each time!


Four Letter Words- January 25
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the first word out of my mouth was "Shit!"- I do try to be careful about using this word because I'm afraid that's what I will say on TV when I win the Publisher's Clearing House money. But that four letter word just comes out so easily.

Just so you know, back in September I also dropped a few F-bombs, too!

But then my niece Caroline who is 11, wrote me a darling letter and used another 4 letter word- it was LOVE. That letter changed my attitude and I started to realize that all the cards and notes and emails were sending me love and giving me strength to do this.

There's another 4 letter word I want you all to know about. It's written at the top of the page I had to sign to give permission for chemotherapy. There's a line that says "Reason for Treatment" and the word is "CURE".

Great word, huh!


Quote for the Day- January 21

"We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing."

The quote is from Ben Franklin, but it's on the back of a book my brother John gave me called "Ace of Cakes". If you have ever watched The Ace of Cakes on the Food Network (you should) you will enjoy Duff Goldman making wild cakes at Charm City Cakes and meeting deadlines all over Baltimore- and other fun places. I met Duff at UMBC a few years ago when he made "Retreivers for the Decades" cakes for UMBC's 40th anniversary- what a creative guy!


The Pink Glove Dance- January 21
Have you seen the Pink Glove Dance video? Back in November I got several emails with this video- I've been saving this to write about it- but it really speaks for itself! Check out the concert with 17,000 people in pink gloves, too. Doesn't it make you want to dance? Enjoy!


Here’s the story behind the video…
“Our daughter-in-law, Emily (MacInnes) Somers, created, directed and choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves.
I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.
When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community. Please check it out. It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?
Ann Somers”


January 13, 2010 Can you hear it?

All right!!! I just ripped off another piece of the REALLY UGLY fabric!!! That's the third one! Three are completely done!!

Today I go for the 4th treatment and it is very tempting to rip the fabric as I go- but the harder part is making it through the two weeks afterward. No details :) just that each day is different, sometimes I get surprise side-effects, and some days I just have no energy.

Yesterday was a good example. I felt great and "planned" to go to the hospital to simply visit the doctor and do my pre-treatment blood test. It took me from 12:30 to 5 to do what I had to do- I was ready to rip more than fabric yesterday afternoon! I don't have to go this afternoon until 2- so I am enjoying this morning.

And maybe I will just take the word "plan" out of my vocabulary for awhile!


Quote in my $1000 Journal January 7, 2010
Here's a cool quote that showed up today in my $1000 journal:
"Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."
That's Christopher Robin speaking to Pooh!


Inquiring Minds want to know on January 5, 2010
OK- I've been asked twice in the past week and here's the answer- I have not been "sick"!!! There's a bit of nausea and things don't taste quite right, but Hooray! I have not thrown up!!!
That was one of my biggest fears and apparently the drugs they have developed for this work very well. Several friends told me this- now I know it for myself and feel OK writing about it! This makes other side effects bearable.
If I do feel strange or queasy, I use wrist bands that have pressure points that take away the feeling. I bought them for sea-sickness on a cruise. The first pair were called "SeaBands" and you can get them at any pharmacy. But then I found some very cute ones called "PsiBands"- they are light green and have little flowers printed on them- the "cute" factor does help! The fun thing is that I ordered them from Amazon- so now they keep suggesting books for me for morning sickness :) Don't need those!!


It's January!
For me, January means my birthday month! This year I have made a big January decision- I'm moving my birthday to July! I've always wanted a summer birthday! My birthday comes too close after the holidays each year, and this year I would LOVE to move the celebration to a time when I have more energy. In July, I will feel like having a party, going out to dinner or lunch, and celebrating at Quilt Odyssey. So plan to celebrate with me this summer!!


Happy New Year- January 1, 2010- Journals
My friend Susan gave me a beautiful journal for 2010. It has three short lines for each day. I am going to use it as a Gratitude Journal. Each day I plan to write a few things that I am very thankful for in 2010.
That's my New Year's Resolution!
But I also have another journal I want to tell you about- it's my Incredible $1000 Journal. I've been writing "stuff" in it since September- what's happening, what I feel, what's going on. It's taught me that the Tuesday after my treatment is NOT the day to do anything important. It's just a 5" x 7" spiral notebook. I can rip out the page if I don't like what I wrote or if my handwriting is messy (but I never do- it's just nice to know the option is there).
I learned to "journal" in an Artist Way class several years ago. My teacher Karen also loves to "collage" - that's a verb! So Karen offered to come over one day and collage with me. Instead, I asked Karen to do something a little different. I had some catalogs with cool stuff in them- lots of stuff with sayings or important words- stuff I liked or wanted but really didn't want to buy. So I cut and ripped out pictures from the catalog and let Karen paste them in my journal to decorate the pages- anywhere, anyway, whatever! It transformed my journal from a plain notebook to a collage full of beautiful meaningful images, each page a surprise. I didn't have the desire to order anything any more- I had them in my journal. We decided that if I had ordered all those things from the catalog, I might have spent over $1000- hence my Incredible $1000 Journal!
So if you still have those catalogs or magazines from Christmas, get out your scissors- or just rip the pictures out! Get a plain notebook and paste them in to decorate the pages. Start writing a journal in 2010 and enjoy the images that appear every day. You'll learn a lot about yourself!


Third Treatment- December 30, 2009- ripping!
This morning I ripped off the second 1/8 of my yard of REALLY UGLY fabric. That's 1/4 of the journey done!
My rule is that I can't rip it off until right before the next treatment. It's relatively easy to get the treatment, it's living with the side effects for two weeks afterward that is the challenge. At the end I feel like ME again and I'm ready to rip!
Rules are made to be broken, so this morning as I left to get the third treatment, I ripped just a little for the next time- it wasn't easy to get in the car and go, so that helped. I did it!


What was your favorite Christmas present this year?
Mine wasn't wrapped in paper or tied with a big bow. My favorite present has been happening all this fall and holiday season. It's all the wonderful and sometimes overwhelming expressions of support from friends, family, students and quilters. It's cards, notes, emails, ecards, videos, phone calls, appliqued hearts, surprises in the mail and in my front door, prayers, good thoughts, and food, food, food! You all make me believe that I am not in this alone and that with your support I can get through this.
So as I get ready to rip off the second 1/8 yard from my yard of REALLY UGLY fabric- thank you all so much! I'm 1/4 of the way through!!


Tis the Day After Christmas
Twas the day before Christmas, the weather was dreary,
I was grouchy and weepy and tired and weary.
Bob cooked his first turkey and mixed up a pie,
I unrolled the crust, in the wink of an eye.

But Christmas Day was a whole different story,
I awoke bright and cheery, not feeling a worry.
Ry and Andrea came for lunch and brightened our spirit,
Because the day before I didn't want to hear it.

We ate turkey and gravy!
Mashed potatoes- Yum!
Opened presents and laughed.
I was so glad they had come!

Bob and the kids went to visit the Grandkids,
I stayed home for a nap and closed my eyelids.
When I awoke again I felt great,
Everybody came home and again we ate.

They entertained me with stories of their Christmas visit,
Showed me their presents and opened more gifts.
The night before Christmas I really felt crappy,
But Christmas Day was really quite happy!!


The Gift of the Magi
Remember O'Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi"? The wife cut her hair to get her husband a present? Well, here's a twist to the story- read on if you want to hear about my shaved head :)
As I've talked to doctors and nurses and health care people and friends, 100% of them have told me I would lose my hair. 100%- that's right! So, while I still had my wits about me (and my hair), about 4 weeks ago I went and tried on wigs. I had a party with some friends. We laughed alot and I chose two that looked like "me"- passing on the Tina Turner and Rod Stewart looks.
Last Monday I went back to get the "right" one. It really was an amazing day. The woman who owns the shop is a cancer survivor and very compassionate. We agreed on our plan of "attack" and she sat me in the chair, turned me away from the mirror, and I heard the buzzzz of the clippers. Surprise! It felt cool, it felt smooth, and it was very liberating!
I tried on some more "do's" and chose the one I liked first- it's short, easy to take care of, looks like me, and has a little "bounce" to it! She styled it and trimmed it and there was a new "me"!
I left feeling really great.
Here's the fun part- I got in the car and I had a rock station playing- Jingle Jingle Jingle- it was Bruce Springsteen"s Santa Claus is Coming to Town. When I pulled up in front of my house, a strange song finished and the guy on the radio said "And that was some Skynard for ya!" It was a sign! I knew I had done the right thing! I was in a great mood!
The next day, my doctor put it into words. She told me that "I took care of my hair before it took care of me!"
So a few days before Christmas, Bob's present is that he has a wife who is very happy and thankful to have "hair"- and I feel good about it!
Merry Christmas!!


The Big Snow- Dec 19-20
It's a winter wonderland and we are definitely going to have a White Christmas! We broke a record here in Baltimore and got almost two feet of snow over the weekend. It's beautiful!
As for me, this was my weekend to hibernate. I watched the snow fall and then took naps. That's what the chemo does to me- gives me a little energy to do one thing and then sends me into a nice nap. That's how my week will be...hopefully getting some energy back at the end of the week.


Second Treatment - December 16- Quilters will understand!
The past three days were great- my energy came back and I felt like myself again! I have to remember those days when I feel so tired in the next week. This morning was my second treatment.
There will be eight treatments total. I was thinking that quilters use fabric in eighth yard measurements. So I found a yard of REALLY UGLY fabric and snipped the edge every 1/8 of a yard.
This morning before going to the hospital, I RIPPED off the first 1/8 of a yard to symbolize 1/8 of the chemotherapy done! It felt great!


First Week- Tuesday Dec. 8
We had a beautiful snow this weekend here in Baltimore. I slept through most of it! I feel like I crashed on Friday afternoon and woke up Monday feeling a little bit better. This is how Bob describes it- you know those big inflated Christmas decorations? Well I was the deflated part! I am feeling better today. I did not have any of the side effects that I was really afraid of. So hopefully, I am going up the roller coaster this week.
Yesterday I went to a class at the hospital that taught us how to do make-up during treatment. We got lots of make-up samples and lessons on drawing eyebrows. Everybody looked amazing when we left! It was really neat to see some of the transformations and I thought what a fabulous gift these ACS volunteers gave to us who are make-up challenged.


First week of December 2009
Wednesday December 3 was my first chemotherapy treatment. I'm writing this the next day and all is well. My head feels a little "fuzzy" but otherwise today I feel good. Tomorrow may be different, but I'll enjoy this sunny day in Baltimore.
Yesterday Bob went with me. Everyone in the Chemotherapy area was wonderful. My nurse took her time and explained everything and gave me written information- apparently patients don't remember it all! So nice to have someone admit it and help us with written info.
The best thing this week was meeting with the doctor (medical oncologist). Here's what she said to me when we were discussing the entire schedule until March. First I should tell you that she knows I'm a quilter and that she likes to sew:"I've been thinking about you. The last part of the treatment has a side effect that makes your fingers numb. I think we will adjust the treatment so that the side effects are not so tough- I know you like to sew!" WOW! That was amazing to me- and I'm sure that all of my quilter friends will understand!


Last Day of November 2009
I am very thankful for the month of November! Mostly thankful for the wonderful notes and cards I received this month. I rested, I healed from surgery, I had tests and a procedure (getting a port placed to get ready for chemotherapy), I enjoyed Thanksgiving, got together with friends, and started feeling great!
One of the best events this month was the Bruce Springsteen concert in Baltimore- 3 1/2 hours of music and fun- followed by a big nap the next day!
Today I finished a quilt that will be in a magazine in 2010- using my new line of fabric- Christmas in Baltimore by P&B. You can view the fabrics on a link on my home page, but the fabric won't be in stores until May.
So now it's time to fasten my seat belt and start chemotherapy this week. The treatments are every other week until the middle of March.
I'll be in touch!


November 2009
This is my happy month! I get to heal, rest, get better, and then start chemo on December 3.


October 2009
On October 6 I had surgery for breast cancer and have really been feeling good, but it's surprising how important a nap can be!

But even more important...

I want to thank everyone who sent me cards, e-cards, emails and lots of good thoughts and prayers. I really feel the power of prayer. I feel strength and peace and know that I can go through this. My family and friends and sisterhood of quilters are helping me- it is truly amazing! Sometimes the cards are overwhelming and I have to stop and catch my breath (and sometimes cry) but they are so wonderful.

I have received cards from guilds- usually signed "From Your Friends at --- Guild". These cards are very special- there is no way to thank you all personally, so if you read this, please pass the word along that I love and appreciate you all!

I have also received appliqued hearts- they are adorable!! I love them and can feel your care in every stitch!!!


September 2009
Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and have lived cancer-free for all these years. One of my favorite books that I wrote was Pink Ribbon Quilts- A Book Because of Breast Cancer, and many quilters made quilts inspired by that book. On September 4, with a routine mammogram, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again.

Needless to say, this was a shock and surprise.