A Mother and her Two Daughters

31 March 2010

The Pink Glove Dance

My friend Amy, a breast cancer survivor, sent this video today in hopes of making me smile. Well, it made me smile, but it also brought on a river of tears. This video was produced by the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR, a beautiful creation to support and promote breast cancer awareness. The video has gone completely viral including a separate web site that gives additional information about the song, the artist and the follow-up awareness efforts. .

Why did I cry? As I watched the video, I was quickly reminded of the many brilliant and wonderful medical professionals at the Rockefeller Cancer Institute who are working diligently to save my life. From oncologists and surgeons, to nurses and lab technicians, to receptionists and pathologists, and the rest – ALL of them comprise the care teams that are diligently working to cure hundreds of cancer patients each day. Watching the video was a very sentimental moment for me, causing me to contemplate how to thank them all. Any ideas?

The past two days have been very good for me - no mouth sores no fever, no infections. The daily medicines prescribed by Dr. Makhoul are obviously working since chemo treatment #2 has resulted in very little side effects! Yesterday I got a little excited about feeling so well, so I attended three meetings and lunch with some agency colleagues. At the end of the day, I was exhausted. So today, I stayed home and handled my work from here, between a few naps.

Thank you friends for your continued support and all of your love. I feel it and it keeps me energized each day. I oftentimes worry about those who are fighting cancer and have little or no support networks. You have made me a very lucky cancer patient. Thank you!

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This is the first time I've posted a video file on this blog. So, I think I'm going to need to consult with some experts as the right part of the screen is not visible. My recommendation for you to watch - click on the top left of the video screen so that you can watch it on YouTube so you can get the full effect.

30 March 2010



Last evening I had a very introspective night a déjà vu from almost twenty-three years ago when a drunk driver killed my husband three weeks after Allyson was born.  Being only 27-years-old, I must admit that my faith in God was not nearly as secure and experienced as today.  So, when well-meaning people would tell me, “This is all a part of God’s plan,” well – let’s just say I had a terrible “faith crisis” to deal with.  I was fortunate enough to have wise friends in the ministry like Dr. Gladwin Connell and Dr. James B. Argue to help guide me through the crisis. 

For those of you who remember the late Dr. Argue, you will remember him as a man of at least 6’6” tall.  When I was a small child growing up in his church, watching this sizable man with his large and crisp voice wearing a beautiful white robe in the PHUMC pulpit, I sometimes wondered if maybe he really was God.  As I grew older, I came to know him as very human, but very thoughtful and wise. 

The night after my husband’s death, Dr. Argue came to the house and said to me, “I have no answers because God does not intend for terrible things like this to happen.”  He then handed me a book entitled “The Will of God” written in 1944 by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, a Methodist minister from England.  The original book is actually a total of 55-pages broken down into five sermons Weatherhead delivered to his London congregation at City Temple during the tumultuous time of World War II.  It was Dr. Argue’s last copy of the book’s original printing, and one that I will forever cherish. 

I reread Weatherhead’s book last night and felt an instant sense of comfort after reading the opening paragraph.  Weatherhead says that the phrase "the will of God" (or in today-speak, “God’s plan”) is used loosely, and the consequence of that looseness to our peace of mind is serious.  “God’s plan” and “God’s will” are trite phrases that are often used to explain life events that we cannot find meaning for otherwise.

Was it really a part of God’s plan for Allyson to lose her dear father as an infant child?  Does God really intend for millions of people to suffer from the ravages of cancer or multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease? Did God have some plan for the death and destruction experienced on 9/11 or by the people of Haiti and Chile during their recent devastating earthquakes?  When my friends lost their baby to a rare form of cancer, was this really a part of God’s plan? 

Weatherhead points out that the will of God isn't something that calls for a sigh of surrender to the inevitable.  Instead, he points out three different forms of God's will:
  1. Intentional Will: God's will is unfailingly positive and creative.  He has an intentional and positive purpose for every life.
  2. Circumstantial Will:  Based on the circumstances of life (death, illness, war, natural destruction, sin and human folly), the intentional will of God can be disturbed. 
  3. Ultimate Will:  Our recovery from the circumstance to a unity with God, a faith with our father. Whenever life becomes far more treacherous than we can handle alone, it is God’s Ultimate Will that we turn to Him for guidance and light for our "sacred journey."

For you see, God does not Will us to experience the early death of a child or terminal illness.  There are no master control switches or puppet strings where God is orchestrating the evil and sorrowful circumstances of life.  Death and illness and natural destruction are not what God intended for us.  Instead, God’s hope for his children (Intentional Will) is that during sorrowful times (Circumstantial Will) that we seek His message of love and comfort and hope (Ultimate Will). 

Dr. Weatherhead gives the example of a good friend, a physician, whose dearly loved wife had recently died. For weeks this brilliant physician had been fighting for his wife’s life.  He had called in the best specialists in London.  He had used all the devices of modern science that could be used to fight this disease.  Weatherhead asks, “All that time, was my friend fighting against God’ plan, the will of God?”

His own response:  “Your wife’s death is not the will of God at all.  It is the fruit of human ignorance.  If we could spend as much on medical research as we spend on building battleships, your wife’s life might have been saved.” 

It is NOT a part of God’s plan for me or anyone else to experience Stage III breast cancer.  Instead, I am quite sure that the battle AGAINST disease is the will of God.  Let us give thanks to all who have made their path into medicine and research.  We should also give thanks for philanthropists like the Rockefellers and Cellas and Tenenbaums and Higginbothams, and so many others, who create and sustain outstanding facilities like the Rockefeller Cancer Institute.  Today I will give thanks to all of them, for they are part of God’s will and his plan. 

After reading such serious thoughts, you must know that my mind is clear and that I’m feeling much better, enough so that I read a 55-page book last night and felt clear enough to write this rant about the loose phrase used by so many – “This all a part of God’s plan.”  

My first chemotherapy treatment resulted in some terrible side effects 8 days later, and a three-day hospital stay on days ten/eleven and twelve.  Today is day 8 after chemo and I am feeling so much better than before.  Dr. Makhoul has certainly found the right balance of drugs to help me endure the powerful chemo cocktail. Thank you Dr. Makhoul, and for all of those on my UAMS medical team, and to all who have made this medical team possible.  Today life is good and I am very thankful.  

28 March 2010

Question: Is it Okay to Post Twice in One Day?

It’s almost 7 pm, I’m awake and it’s the second day that I feel good – very rested and without a strong bodily sense of cancer!  Maybe my chemo-induced sleep has passed and I’m back on the road to a sense of physical normalcy again.  Oh wouldn’t that be grand - to enjoy “normal” again on these beautiful spring days.

In addition to celebrating Palm Sunday, today I have celebrated being a mother.  Anna-Lee is home from her wonderful spring break cruise, with many thanks to Mark, Janet and Megan Baker.  She had so much fun, and since her homecoming I’m reminded of what a beautiful soul she is.  When I picked her up at the airport last night, Anna-Lee’s first words to me, as she found me among the crowd wearing my magic hat:  “Momma, you look beautiful.”  There wasn’t anything she could have said to me that was any more perfect.  And this morning she brought me home a cross made from a palm leaf from the PHUMC Palm Sunday service.  Thank you Anna-Lee for including me in today’s celebration. 

Today I have celebrated the life everlasting.  A dear friend continues to mourn the loss of his daughter a few years ago, and today would have been her birthday.  A few of us gathered at my home for lunch where we celebrated her birthday, talked about the loss of those we love, and shared stories about her beautiful life that touched so many.  We will forever miss Amy, and many others who have left this world too early for our liking.  But today we recognized that they will forever remain in our hearts. 

Today I also celebrated the community of friendship, for friends who continue to provide me with love and hope and color each day.  Yesterday a dear colleague, Jennifer, brought color to my yard in beautiful pots that now adorn my porch and front wall, sitting next to the lovely pot of lavender from friends Ken and Sandy.  When the doctors tell you that you cannot play with the color of spring, friends who create it with such beauty and love are friends you will always remember.  Today I am thankful for the color purple on my porch, for wonderful friends who continue to bring me color and feed my hope each day. 

Our longtime friend Spencer dropped by for a visit this afternoon, with a lovely framed photograph from a very special night in 2009 when we all celebrated Allyson’s 21st birthday at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Rogers.  It’s is a beautiful photo that reminds me of their 20+ year friendship, and how magical it has been to watch both of them grow up to become such happy and successful young adults. 

Today was good.  It started off with warm glazed donuts from Shipley’s, ending with my recent favorite movie “The Blind Side,” and included many nice things in the middle, such as masterful steaks grilled by Tim on the BBQ.  Today was a wonderful day.   

The Hope of Palm Sunday

Today I will celebrate Palm Sunday, Jesus’ glorious ride into Jerusalem, the day that Christians express our deep grief, and at the same time, our great hope as we move into Holy Week.  Hosanna!

Hope itself is the belief that something better is coming. Its very definition implies that to have hope, there must be suffering or despair to overcome. It requires the one who is suffering to make a choice between despairing in today’s pain and grief, and hoping for the better day that is coming. 

Last night I read a beautiful story about the butterfly that depicts the strength found in our challenges and the power of hope . . .

While walking in the park, a child came upon a cocoon that obviously had a butterfly struggling to get out. The child felt sorry for the butterfly, and decided to help break it free from the cocoon. As she watched the newly freed butterfly, expecting it to take flight, she noticed that its body was withered, and its shriveled wings were not strong enough to lift itself off the branch. You see, with all goodness and kindness, the child did not realize that the butterfly’s ability to fly comes from the strength that is built during the struggle to free itself from the cocoon.

Just as it is true with the butterfly, it is also true for people.  Without the struggle, we cannot grow stronger. We cannot always choose the condition of our adversities, but we can choose how we will engage in the struggle. By confronting our obstacles, we sustain hope in the knowledge that we will emerge stronger than we were when we began.  Sometimes it is the struggle that we need in our life. 

Today I will celebrate adversity and hope.  If God allowed me to go through life without any obstacles, I would be crippled, never able to fly on my own with the confidence and grace found in the beautiful butterfly. 

Today, through the grace of God’s hope, I commit to a life without fear. I will confront all obstacles, and have hope that I can overcome them.  Through His love, I will find hope and the strength to spread my wings and fly.

26 March 2010

Overwhelming Fatigue & Magic Hats

Friday seemed like just another day for this chemo-dependent junkie, with most of the time on the couch in deep sleep.  Surely nobody is ever really prepared for this sense of overwhelming fatigue.  I never required much more than six hours of sleep each night, one reason for my infamous middle-of-the-night emails with a Word document attached.  I’ve often found that PR planning and writing works best for me when the world has shut down.  However, this is much more than fatigue.  This is like a total sucking out of almost every ounce of energy and strength that I have long relied upon.  Without a doubt, it feels as though life has been sucked from me.  This cannot be good for my spirits either.  So, I plan to spend the weekend trying to address this loss of energy, try to find some ways to restore it and allow me more wakeful and productive hours each day. 

On a good note - I found it.  By “it” I mean my magic hat.  It’s been a tough week learning how to feel confident as a bald woman.  No matter how many friends say that you look younger, no matter how many bank tellers compliment your earrings, it’s really been a challenge to get out of the house and feel good about having a naked headdress. 

But today, my warrior headdress presented itself to me at Catering To You, a chance stop-by to pick up some twice-baked potatoes.  And there it was, in all its glory, just waiting for me to come by and put it on my head.  And I did.  And I like it. 

Maybe tomorrow I will get outside wearing my new magic hat.  Maybe a stroll outdoors will help to combat this sense of zero activity and energy level.  I hope so. 
Hoping you all enjoy a beautiful weekend. Goodnight . . . 

25 March 2010

“Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite Lucky.”

I’m always amazed at how easily I can return to childhood memories, and remember the powerful lessons taught by Dr. Seuss, Winnie The Pooh or The Little Prince – so many beautiful lessons we learned as children, oftentimes read to us by our parents. 

I feel most fortunate that Tuesday's chemo has not meant any nausea; instead, just two days of feeling quite lethargic.  I keep telling myself that this is okay, that sleep is good for healing.  Again, Abbey Rose remains close by and helps me sleep this chemo cocktail off.  While I remain so terribly tired, my spirits stay high from the powerful love of dear friends.  

Today I began the morning eating some decadent meringue cookies that Mica and Greg made and brought by last night.  I’m sure they were prepared as a late night snack, but those delicious cookies served as MY “breakfast of champions."  Later I received a most thoughtful note from former CJRW colleague Erica.  Was her dream about us having coffee together a mysterious message for us to reconnect?  I think so.  And to spend my lunchtime with First Lady Ginger, Natalie and longtime friends from Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church – well it was just like old home week, spending precious moments with Mom and Dad, the Bishop & Elaine, Lou & Cathy, Nancy & John, Miss Joann, Pastors Vic and Lynn, and so many other longtime family friends. 

Dear friend Jennifer came by for my very first meeting with her darling daughter Sloane.  She was the perfect baby today, and gave her “Aunt Stacy” a few big smiles.  It was so lovely to hold new life in my arms, look down upon the inquisitive face of a two-month old child who didn’t seem to mind a bald-headed Cancer Vixen stroking her lovely face.  Thank you Sloan for stopping by today.  It was my great pleasure for us to finally spend some time together.  We’ll plan on more time together in the near future. 

This afternoon I received these very fun photos from dear friends at the Governor Mike Beebe campaign headquarters.  According to the email, they temporarily changed the campaign slogan today.  How nice – and what a nice looking bunch of friends, including our Governor.  While I believe in Governor Beebe and in Arkansas, it warms my heart to know they believe in me! 

And finally, my partner in crime Hugh came by with a hot cup of java from the local Starbucks.  Hugh and I have been engaged in many a battle together, most especially education reform and free pre-k for low-income children here in Arkansas.  It’s nice to know that Hugh, and his lovely family, are also in my corner for this next fight called “cancer.” 

I can’t help but remember a quote that goes something like this:  “You may just be one person in the world, but to one person you may be the world.”  Well, I continue to be reminded on days like today, even though my eyelashes have now started to leave me, that each of my friends means the world to me. 

Friends or eyelashes?  I’ll take all my friends any day of the week.  Heck fire, I can go to the beauty supply store and buy some more eyelashes. 

Thank you friends for lifting me up, for taking care of me each day, for your sustained messages of love and support.  You continue to give me the strength I need to get through this very tough battle.  And when I win, I want you all to be in the winner’s circle with me as we accept our blanket of roses.  It will be OURS because you will have helped me to get there. 

Much love to you all. And P.S. - I miss my Anna-Lee!  Ready for my roommate to get home!  

24 March 2010

The great Southern Tradition of Comforting The Sick

Many years ago my mother drove a big black Lincoln Continental.  It seemed like it was as long as a Greyhound bus, but, at the time (1980s) it was the perfect car for an incredibly successful real estate agent.  A client jokingly told her one evening, “Georgia, I love it when you stop by the house.  Our neighbors always think that someone has died, the Hearst has arrived, and they all bring us food.” 

We southerners are known for our hospitable treatment of visitors and friends, especially in times of despair or crisis. Although few can explain the Southern hospitality phenomena, few would ever deny its existence.

Case #1:  At one time, my friends Grant & Rebecca left Little Rock and moved to Colorado for a time.  They both had good jobs and worked with an army of people.  You would have to know them to understand that these folks are “instant friend makers” who are filled with kindness and caring for others.  For goodness sakes, Rebecca is even from Texas!!  While there, they gave birth to their first baby.  Before and after Sarah’s birth, those folks in Denver had one piddly office baby shower. And when Rebecca returned to work, there were a few who asked to see a photograph. 

What??  How dreadful for them!  In the South, the arrival of a newborn means several baby showers, flowers, coordinated food deliveries, more gifts, and several home visits to “Oooo & Gooo” over the tiny one.  Well-wishers might even arrange for little extras, such as a gift certificate for a “New Mom” Massage, or a gaggle of friends helping with the endless baby laundry.  In the South, we think of it all. 

Case #2:  My caretaker Tim is a native of Milwaukee, WI. Attending law school in Chicago, then some time practicing law in San Francisco.  Throughout the past month, he has been marveled at the amount of food and flowers and visits and other acts of kindness from friends.  After moving to Arkansas in the 1990s, his mother, who still lived in Wisconsin, passed away.  He shared with me one night . . .

“My office colleagues and neighbors began to call with offers of food.  I didn’t understand.  We had food, and plenty of it to feed our family.” 

I asked him the loaded question:  In Milwaukee, how would your friends offer their personal condolences to you.  Tim said, “They would call you up and offer to buy you a beer.”  Hmmmmm . . . a beer, you say? 

All the more reason that it’s great to live here where hospitality and helpfulness are a natural part of the Southern experience.  In our part of the country, there are no strangers. 

“You sick, or new to the neighborhood?  Well, food is on the way.” 

“Lost your cell phone?  Here, use mine.” 

“Having a bad day.  Here’s a big ole hug for ya.” 

Just last night, my friend Jordan stopped by with a bowl of Caramel & Pecan ice cream along with some camellia blooms from his own garden.  My colleague Jennifer wants to stop by and add some color to a few front yard flowerpots. Now both of those rank as total TENS on the southern hospitality scale.

From Arkansas native Shirley Abbot’s book, Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South:
"The southern courtesy was not to invite but to go.  People just showed up and were always made welcome. To stay less than an hour was an insult, and there was always a meal.  And nobody was ever let out of the house without the goodbye ritual, which could take up to three hours"

Today I feel very blessed to live in the South, and to have so many great friends who live by the traditions of Southern Hospitality.  Many thanks ya’ll!  You are certainly making life more enjoyable and colorful. 

My physical update:  Chemo #2 seems to be going rather smooth.  I’ve been extraordinarily tired today but the nausea medicine seems to be working well.  I’m not flirting with disaster so I’m staying on a rather bland diet.  All seems to be going rather well today, including these glorious naps.  My sweet Abbey Rose has been the perfect nap partner too.  

23 March 2010

Chemo #2 and some Good News from Dr. McCool

Okay, his real name is spelled “Makhoul” but it’s pronounced “McCool” and I think that’s nice.  We met again today for another long spell after my lab work and before the second round of chemotherapy.  No doubt, I am very lucky to have him for my oncologist.  He’s brilliant, compassionate and one of the best medical caretakers that I’ve ever encountered.  But the bottom line report today was this:
·      My white blood count (WBC) was ON TARGET!
·      In addition to my Neulasta injection, Dr. Makhoul is giving me an antibiotic so that we hopefully don’t have a repeat performance of this last week back in the hospital.  YEAH! 
·      But the good news is this – Dr. Makhoul said he couldn’t remember seeing such an improvement in breast tissue as a result of ONLY ONE chemotherapy.  In his words regarding the prescribed chemo cocktail, “I think we’ve hit the Jackpot.” 

These words, coupled with last week's good news about my body's extraordinary ability to reproduce white blood cells, I’m hopeful that this nasty cancer is on its way to total eradication.  Of course, my optimism went into overdrive, asking if this might mean that a total of eight chemo treatments might be reduced.  No luck there, but I’ve now come to realize that chemotherapy is my temporary friend.  Together we’re fighting cancer, and I’m even more convinced that we’re going to win!! 

It was another good day with more encouraging news.  Thank you to my dear family and friends for all your prayers, kind gestures, and well wishes.  You continue to lift me up and give me cause to stay in this fight.  Thank you, and much love . . . . 

22 March 2010

On Being Bald

It’s gone – meaning my hair.  Saturday I ventured out to buy a shirt, but today was my first real day to really get out around town for a few hours as a bald headed woman.  My, I had no idea how much courage it would take to do it. 

Like most mornings, the first thing I did this morning was to enjoy a cup of java and then head for the shower.  These days that doesn’t take too long.  Not only do I not have to wash and condition my hair, I also don’t have to shave the legs or under the arms.  It’s very quick. 

Now, time to get myself ready.  No towel drying my hair, no gels or blow dryers or fancy curling irons.  It’s now all about putting on my make-up (and I don’t wear much) and then getting dressed.  Tim and others have long said that I get ready faster than just about any girl on the planet – and that’s true – probably because I really don’t have a hairstyle.  My hair USED TO just kind of sit on top of my head, dry.  Anyway, getting myself ready to go out is a piece of cake, now that I just sport a hat. 

But leaving the house without my hair was a little tough.  Tim said all the right things – “You look fabulous,” he said, me knowing that I really didn’t.  I kept changing my outfit.

“Do you like the shirt with a scarf or without?”

“What about this jacket?”

“Would you wear these earrings or do these look better?”

Bless his heart . . . we finally got out the door, and on our way to the Clinton School lecture series for the long awaited Rachel Maddow. 

Tim dropped me off, and then parked the car. I knew when I walked into the Statehouse Convention Center that I looked different from the rest of the crowd.  The nice man at the entrance informed me that the escalators were not working and asked me if that would be a problem, showed me where I could catch an elevator.  He knew.  I just know it. But he was very, very kind.  

Then upstairs to the big WOW!  Rachel Maddow is my national news anchor hero and she was so much more than what I had expected.  The Dean gave us the opportunity to meet with her prior to the formal presentation, and she is such a kind and gentlewoman, even though she can be like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew when she’s interviewing a political opponent on her news program.  Maddow was so smart and poised and logical, and I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to meet with her, along with my dear friend and social justice activist, Rep. Kathy Webb (yes, that's me on the right in the hat).  Thank you Dean!! 

As we left, it was the usual time to run into a mob of longtime and good friends.  I held my breath, was so frightened; that is, until they touched me, and held me.  From PHUMC friends Lane and Jenn and Donna, to my high school history teacher and mentor Marcia, to the Rev. Larry who held me tight and whispered a prayer into my ear.  It was not just okay, it was heart-warming.  In fact, it felt good to be held into the arms of those who love you. I’m so blessed to have many dear friends, solid friends who care and who can make all my awkwardness go away. 

Later Beth and I went to Whole Foods, Bedford Camera and to pick up my car from the body shop – the same car that was hit on the day I caught cancer.  Yes, it’s taken more than a month to take care of this matter.  We also shopped for shirts with high collars that can help me feel much better about the newfound nakedness around my head.  I bought two cotton shirts and I like them. 

Tonight I will have dinner with the Mike & Beth and Michaela, and then repack my chemo bag as treatment day #2 begins tomorrow morning at 10 am.  I’m fully aware that the soreness in my breast has gone away, only attributable to the chemotherapy.  I’m looking forward to another encounter tomorrow. Chemo and I are a potent combination.  Look out cancer – here we come! 

21 March 2010

Sunday night

My friend Sheila got worried last week when I missed a "daily post."  She told me I should at least tell friends that I was not feeling well, or I was too busy or whatever . . . 

With that said, I did not post today for a variety of reasons.  I had more energy today than I've had in a long time.  So, it seemed like a good day to clean my closet.  

It was a busy day with friends today -- Maggie and Mickey, Eddie, Frances Jane and my brother -- and I enjoyed the time with them.  All of them were good medicine for a rainy day.  

Tonight I watched the historic health care debate and the ultimate vote.  Better than a college football game for a policy junkie like me.  I posted plenty this evening on my facebook and twitter, so I won't go into much detail here.  But I will say this . . . I have never thought of myself as a radical socialist, nor have I ever desired to live in a communist or socialist country.  However, by virtue of the passage of this bill, I will no longer need to worry about being plagued by the pre-existing condition of inflammatory breast cancer.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was right when she revised the famous quote by Tip O'Neill: "All politics is personal."  Tonight's debate became very personal for me.  I've recently learned that with inflammatory breast cancer, there are some companies that might try to prevent coverage for my own daughters.  That's just not right.  

This new health care law is not perfect, but I think it moved America's health care system in the right direction.  The gender gap for younger women has grown significantly in the last year; in 2009, 25-year-old women were charged as much as 84% more than men for individual health plans, compared to as much as 45% in 2008.  Gender ratings by the nation's largest insurance companies has been in practice for many, many years.  Now is the time for women to stand up and be heard.  Being a woman should not be a pre-existing condition.   

More tomorrow.  Looking forward to my much-welcomed second chemotherapy on Tuesday.  The good news - I can physically tell that my chemo cocktail is working!!!  This is good . . . 

20 March 2010

A Very Normal Spring Day

The first day of spring has fortunately been a very normal one for me.  

With thanks to Cissy and Steve, I was able to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, a rather normal thing for most of you but something I truly relished today.  They surely thought I acted more like a kid in the candy store, a dog panting in the back seat of the car, than a 49-year old woman who was running a few normal Saturday errands. Not holding back my feelings whatsoever, I was marveled at the beautiful pear trees, jonquils, forsythia and the advent of the changing season.  Today I am most thankful for God’s beautiful world. 

Life has also been quite normal for my girls – even though in very opposite directions. 

With thanks to our friends Mark & Janet Baker, Anna-Lee has boarded Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Oasis of the Seas, for a 7-day cruise with her BF Meg.  Here’s a photo they were nice enough to send via iPhone. Love you girls and know you’re having much fun!!

Allyson has enjoyed the weekend with her lovely Jeff – celebrating his birthday and tonight attending her last Chi Omega formal at Mizzou, all of this in about an inch of snow on the fist day of spring. 

Oh yeah, another normal thing in my life for the past several weeks . . . The Birdman of Little Rock (a.k.a. Skip) filled up my birdfeeders again this morning.  He’s as quiet as a mouse, never rings the bell, and I’ve yet to catch him in the act.  But I will one day. 

Oh, I forgot to mention . . . Beth helped me cut off the rest of my locks this morning.  It was much better than having them dropping into my soup and breakfast cereal.  It was exactly what the doctor recommended and it’s done, the hair is gone.  Beth was a real trooper and actually made it fun, even trying to convince me that I look younger with no hair.  Now that’s a friend.  And then Mom took me out to buy a few new shirts that are a bit for stylish with a baldhead.  Okay, maybe the haircut and the shirts for my new headdress are not very normal, but the rest of my day seemed to be. 

I’m at home resting, reading a great book my friend Janis brought by, and enjoying the rain.  Rebecca is on her way to babysit me; I mean we’ll have a sleepover at my house.  That’s normal between two grown women, isn’t it?

Once again, today I am celebrating a very normal weekend, and wishing you one as well.  Because being normal is so very beautiful. 

19 March 2010

My Very Bad Hair Day

There once was a lady with breasts, 
That cancer tried putting to the test.
She had long locks of brown 
That fell to the ground
But chemo put her cancer to rest.

Yesterday it happened.  My hair started falling off in bunches, especially after my morning shower and my daily routine to brush, dry and style my hair.  I put the huge glob of brown locks from my brush into a plastic wrapper for safekeeping.  It looked like enough to almost make my own wig. I spent much time in my backyard brushing my hair, not wanting to mess up the house with my shedding. 

I admit it. I’ve spent the last month preparing myself for this fight with cancer.  But did I forget to get ready for living with baldness?  I knew that I was going to lose my hair – but so suddenly, with so little warning, virtually no segue?  It seemed like my hair was there one day and almost gone the next.  In an instant, my wildest dreams to walk down someone’s red carpet were instantly vanished. Show me just ONE woman who proudly walked down the Academy Award’s red carpet without hair?? 

My Aunt Alice sends me this very funny card that I’ll keep close at hand . . .

Advantages of Losing Your Hair:
Eliminates bed head.
Can be a shining example to others.
No need for expensive hair products.
Takes off years because you look more like your baby photo.
Gray hair?  What gray hair.
And the number on advantage of losing your hair . . .
More places to be kissed. 

Since antiquity, men and women have engaged themselves in a daily ritual referred to as “hairdressing.”  It is the art of changing the hair from its natural state to something with more with beauty, elegance and style.  From the gray wigs of English barristers to the lacquered black wig of the Japanese geisha, hairdressing has been an important part of most societies.  Although they will seldom admit to it, some women spend hours each week arranging their hair in such a way simply to fulfill man’s basic desire for personal adornment.  Women have spent bazillions of dollars to imitate notable celebrities like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Hamill and Farrah Fawcett.  And today, for professional women, we know that coiffed hair is perceived as an essential part of the workplace dress code.

Typical for Americans, we have taken the matter of hairstyling to a much higher level.  It’s estimated that there are 400,000 hair salons in the United States, employing 1.7 million beauty professionals. Total US salon revenues equal a staggering $56 billion each year with another $38 billion spent on hair care products at stores like Wal-Mart, Kroger and local grocery stores.

Hello!?!?!?!  And someone tried to tell me this weekend that nobody cares that I will no longer have hair!!! 

The good folks at St. Vincent’s New Outlook have given me a wig - FOR FREE!!  Take that you nasty wig store ladies!!  And I’ve purchased some hats from the American Cancer Society’s TLC Direct.  They’re all okay, but they’re not my hair.  And I have lovely friends like Mrs. Mason, and Pamela and Barb who have made with love some very beautiful head caps to keep me warm at night – truly they are gifts made from the heart, and I will cherish them always.  I have all the right tools, but I still don’t think I was mentally prepared for the hair loss.   

Yesterday I received an incredibly timely message from my friend and colleague and local cartoonist Jim.  The subject line begins, “Hi Beautiful.”  Boy did I need to hear that as I looked at my long locks inside the Zip-lock bag.  He goes on to write me some very uplifting messages, nice things to make a friend feel good about her inner self.  But he ends it by saying this . . . Oh yes---I lost all my hair years ago and people still liked me. I think. Save your hair and make a dog pillow.”

So, Abbey – get yourself ready for a new dog pillow made with mommy’s golden brown locks.  I might as well find something useful to do with this good hair that I’ve spent much money hoping to make look good each day.

And to my friends, when I pass you somewhere in town, I hope that you’ll recognize me under whatever scarf or hat I choose to wear on that day, that you will remember my eyes and my smile and the rest of me.  I hope that when you see me, even though I look very different, that you’ll realize that I’m okay, that I’m getting by without my hair, and that you’ll say hello. Please don’t feel awkward.  It’s just me with no hair, but the same girl inside, just fighting cancer with a temporary change in my headgear.  Maybe you’ll even give my bald-headed self a big hug, and we might possibly engage in small talk about how bald is beautiful, at least for a while in this time in my life.  

18 March 2010

March 18th-One Month Anniversary

                  - Dana Jennings, New York Times columnist

The past thirty days seem to have been the longest days of my life.  In fact, it was a month ago that I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer; but some days it feels like I’ve lived a year since then.  I feel as though I’ve packed a year-full of physical and emotional change inside four weeks, which maybe the reason for the term “emotional rollercoaster.”  For me, it’s been a physical rollercoaster too. 

In the course of two weeks, I have physically undertaken more medical tests and procedures than I have in a lifetime . . . biopsy, blood labs, MRI, PET Scan, inserting my port into my chest vein, MUGA Scan, more labs and more tests.  And in the two weeks since my first chemo, the after-effects have included extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, body temperature shifts, mouth and throat sores, systemic fungus, two unscheduled trips to the hospital with one lasting for two days and nights.  Then add the fuel to my fire – “you must stay away from people who might threaten your immune system.”  That’s much to pack inside four weeks, not to mention an overall threat to my sense of well-being.  

I can only recall one thing I always do at this time of year, and that’s to cook my traditional Irish Stew for St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s simple and delicious and makes my home smell comforting for days.  My family and a few friends are known to expect it. This year the stew went unmade.  Instead, I ate two beautiful shamrock sugar cookies that Sheila and Richard picked up at Boulevard Bread.  

And last night . . . my hair began to shed itself ten to twelve strands at a time. 

All of this is to say, it’s been a very long four weeks, maybe like a triathlon that I forgot to train for.  But so many friends have sent to me the gentle reminders that I need to keep my spirits high, to remind myself that this in only my “temporary” life, my life with a brief distraction called Cancer.  Even though I cannot see them or get out of the house to thank the, the encouraging words by friends and family wrap around my soul, and it is good. 

Last night my friend Sarah reminded me once again that “my moon” was outside – the crescent moon, the one that looks like God’s smile in the sky. 

My friend Larry sent me this beautiful photograph taken by a friend.  Larry said as he takes his morning walk each day, he says to himself, “there’s Stacy’s moon.” 

 My hero Ellen sends me this:  “Things will get better.  Your job now is to take care of you.  Eat ice cream, drink cranberry juice, and in the down times, thank God for chemotherapy in that aren’t we glad there is a cure!”

In Matthew 6: V 25-26 Christ said DO NOT WORRY.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Today I’m going to worry less.  Instead, I’m going to drink more water and cranberry juice, take a long walk in my neighborhood to admire God’s pear trees and daffodils, write more thank you notes, and cuddle with Abbey Rose.  I will listen to beautiful music by Vivaldi and celebrate the four seasons in my mind, maybe even dance with myself to Glen Miller.  And then I may watch Peter Graves in that silly film “Airplane.”  And I’ll do all of this as my hair continues to fall out, because this “bad hair time” is only temporary, too.  My hair will come back, and hopefully the cancer will not.  Thank God for chemotherapy!  
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