Thursday, January 31, 2008
I don't think I'll be on the computer tomorrow to post my February calendar, so here it is one day early.
I remember the many Valentine's Days I spent without someone to share that day with. It is hard to believe this is my 7th Valentine's Day with M. We were just talking last night about our first V day together. I borrowed my best friend's china, table cloth, silverware, and glassware. I cooked chicken breasts stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese and served it with steamed asparagus. I think I also made dessert, but I can't remember what it was. I sent M a fancy invitation in the mail inviting him over for V day. It was a fun night! I am so thankful for memories like these.
In the distance I can see the storm clouds coming my way,
And I need to find a shelter
Before it starts to rain,
So I turn and run to you Lord;
You're the only place to go,
Where unfailing love surrounds me
When I need it most.
You're my hiding place;
Safe in your embrace,
I'm protected from the storm that rages
When the waters rise,
And I run to hide;
Lord, in You I find my hiding place.
I'm not asking You to take away
My troubles, Lord,
'Cause it's through the stormy weather
I learn to trust You more.
And I thank You for Your promise;
I have come to know
Your unfailing love surrounds me
When I need it most.
So let Your people seek You
While You may be found,
'Cause You're our only refuge
When the rain comes pouring down.
Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my favorite artists of all time. I like his music, but the words to his songs often blow me away...not because the words are so great but because they say want I want to say.
I am often amazed that people can come up with new songs, new music, new books, new movies, etc. I am amazed that people still have new ideas. M thinks this is very strange of me. "Of course people still have original ideas" he says. I am not one of those people. My mind does not work like his, so I am amazed when someone writes a new song that says exactly what I want to say (but didn't even know that was what I wanted to say).
I really like this song. It is a beautiful reminder to me that God is my hiding place and shelters me from life when I am overwhelmed.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
- He chewed up one of M's sandals.
- He keeps pulling paper off the toilet paper roll.
- He broke the lid to our trash can - it used to have springs that made it open, now it doesn't open the same.
- When I sit down, he no longer tries to sit on my lap or put his paws on my lap. He doesn't seem very excited to see me, either. He still follows me around everywhere, but I think that's because he wants treats.
- When I got home this evening, he had pulled half the stuffing out of his bed.
I have taken him for a walk every evening. In my book they have been long walks, around an hour. These used to wear him out and he would just be out for the rest of the afternoon or evening. He hasn't even been phased by these walks. I am not sure what is going on with him.
I am SO glad M is coming home tomorrow. I would be glad no matter what, but I am not sure I could handle Max one more day by myself...especially a day I was home all day. I feel like I need a break. I shouldn't feel that way about a dog, should I?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Saturday, our nephew had a 24 bug which almost everyone has gotten by now (all but M's mom, dad, and me). We are all praying that M's mom will not get this bug since she is undergoing chemo and will have a weakened immune system. She was in very good spirits when I saw her over the weekend. And she is no longer in the hospital. She is staying in an apartment (owned by M's brother-in-law's family) that is just a couple of blocks from the hospital where she has some sort of treatment 4 days each week. M is supposed to go with her to the doctor tomorrow. He is really looking forward to meeting her doctor so please pray that he will be back to 100% so he can go...and so he can spend time with his mom. He had to stay away from her today since he was sick.
Here's a picture of Max over the weekend. Isn't he a cutie? How did she get him to stay so still for this picture?? He stayed with M's aunt and uncle that live about an hour away. It was so nice to not worry about him while we were away. I think he was a little depressed to come home - back to being the only dog around. He apparently had a good time chasing all the German shepherds. They were busy playing and running all day, and he was exhausted when I picked him up on Monday. I think he is ready for M to get home, too.
Friday, January 18, 2008
So I told Max he was going on vacation (somehow vacation sounds better than "we're leaving you for a weekend, but we'll be back"). He really likes other dogs and people…we’ve found that he pretty much likes everything and everyone, especially when he is getting attention. I think he’ll have a great time as long as all the dogs warm up to him. M’s aunt sent us an email this morning to let us know he has been playing and having a good time so far. He has been chasing their puppy and both are enjoying the chasing. We’ll miss him, but I am glad he is staying with family who love him and will pay plenty of attention to him.
I hope he’ll want to come back home to us after having so much fun this weekend!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Max is now 20 weeks old and weighs in at a little over 50 pounds. He still doesn't look that big which is good considering he will get much bigger. He is a mess! Here is my weekly update.
- He has lost most of his puppy teeth without our noticing, but he lost a big one this week. We noticed blood on some toys he was chewing on and found which tooth was missing. Then last night while playing with him, I found a tooth on the floor.
- In my last post I mentioned that he found the toilet brush oh so interesting. Now he has discovered the plunger.
- He really likes some rawhide bones we got at the store based on a recommendation. He could sit for hours chewing on them. They have meat in the middle which must be really tasty. They get disgustingly slimy and sticky though. Do you know of something similar that wouldn't make such a mess?
- Every once in a while, M will sing really loud, opera-like. Max flips out and runs all over the place really fast. It's quite funny.
- Generally when I am in the shower, he just lays on the floor right against the shower door until I get out. Then he likes to lick the water off my legs. He's weird.
- Basically, he would like to chew anything and everything that he lays his pretty brown eyes on. M says that I spoil him. I replied that I don't know how not to spoil him. He's a cutie and we really enjoy him!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
We had a fun and busy weekend. Friday night we had some neighbors over for pizza and a movie. Max apparently went crazy when they came over. I was out picking up the pizza so I missed it. Saturday we drove up to M's aunt and uncle's house. We spent the day there with two aunts and uncles and two cousins...and 4 German shepherds. Max was a bit intimidated by the big dogs. He preferred to stay inside with the people. He was exhausted all day. He was very sweet and won over everyone's affection.
We woke up to snow this morning. I would say we got 2 to 3 inches. It was in the 50s yesterday so it was unexpected to wake up to the white stuf. Today while in the kitchen, Max put his paws on the counter and grabbed a blueberry pancake off a plate. That is the first time he has done something like that. I guess we are going to have to do better at keeping an eye on him. While we took the lights and ornaments off our Christmas tree last Saturday, we did not get rid of the tree until today. I have to say I am glad that it is gone. I was ready for the house to get back to normal. We bought a white fir this year for our Christmas tree. It was the prettiest tree we've ever had and still looked really good today when we took it to the treecycle place. We haven't watered it since we got home on Christmas day and it still looked as good as the day we bought it. It's too bad we couldn't plant it somehow.
- Since Christmas, Max has discovered the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom and how fun it is to pull the paper off the roll.
- He also discovered the toilet brush that sits next to the toilet. How fun!
Friday, January 4, 2008
Good evening. I am Carolyn Merritt.
I’m a mother, wife, gardener, motorcycle rider, presidential appointee, former agency head and CEO, and I am a breast cancer survivor.
In February 2000, following a biopsy of a lump in my breast, I got a call from my surgeon’s office.
I heard two words that would change me forever.
Hearing those words sets off a flurry of emotions and thoughts.
Fear, panic, anger, worry, denial.
Just saying the word “Cancer” to my husband, father, children, friends and co workers was unbelievable to me.
Like a nightmare.
The days between that revelation and the date of scheduled surgery were the worst.
Like some monster inhabited my body and all I could think about was getting it out of me!
But the fear of surgery was looming in front of me as well. The disfigurement of my never perfect body was unusually disconcerting to me.
Somewhere in the next few days however there came acceptance that I would face something heard about in whispered tones about women who were old and who had died.
Not me. I was only 53, still young and active. Not me!
I had had a lump in my breast for years!
Every mammogram said it was fibrocystic breast tissue. Benign.
Now it was cancer? How could that be? Words like mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation swirled in my head.
One of the first things I did was to go on line and find the American Cancer Society page on Breast Cancer.
It told me all about the things that would be done to me and that I would experience in the months to come.
Words like survivability now crept in and mortality.
Even before I saw the Surgeon, I had read about medical terms, procedures and chemical treatments I had never heard about before.
I was profoundly amazed by how much information there was out there.
Some of it very bad.
Then I saw that with the type of cancer I had and the stage I was told it was in, I had a 60% chance of living 5 years and if I survived 5 years without a recurrence, I had an 80% chance of living another 5 years.
My God, I was only 53 years old. I was determined to do all that was available and beat all the odds.
I decided to take charge of this process and not be a victim of it.
When I met with the surgeons and the oncologists my next two words were “Cure Me!”
But in the middle of the night I also whispered in my prayers to my creator two more words, “Heal Me”.
People all over had my name on their prayer lists. In Christian churches, Jewish Temples and Muslim Mosques, people were putting up my name in request for prayers of healing.
Every month I went in for my chemo treatment.
As the potions dripped into my body, I thought about the little molecules of chemicals searching out every cell of cancer and I envisioned the cells dying right before my eyes. “Cure me!” I thought.
In my hours of treatment I also thought of the many scientists that had spent their life’s work seeking out the right formulation of chemicals that would know how to find that cancer cell and know just how to kill it.
I envisioned a person in a white lab coat, late at night peering through a microscope or pouring over stacks of research notes muttering another two words “That’s funny?”
That moment of recognition that something in this experiment was different or unexpected.
That moment may have been the very moment when the mechanism for killing my cancer was found. The moment that meant I would have a better chance of making 5 years of life that might not have been there only moments before.
That recognition of something unusual by a scientist some where in some lab sponsored by donations from millions of people walking in walkathons and running in races in memory of those who have been taken by this phenomenon called cancer.
Millions of people walked, ran and gave in honor of those who have survived this experience. Many gave in the memory of those who did not.
While I was in treatment, there was a “Race for the Cure” in Chicago. The company I was working for donated $10,000 and organized a team in my honor to walk in the Race.
I walked too, 5 miles and between us we carried the names of over 200 people we were honoring who had survived due to the thousand of researchers and millions of hours committed to searching for that one moment when they would say two words “That’s it!”
That recognition of something different might prove to be the answer to the question about conquering breast cancer.
March of 2005 was my 5 year mark. I beat the odds. I have two more words to say. Every day I think of two words for the people who worked to raise money and who donated to fund the research that had made those five years possible.
Those two words are “Thank you” .
Thank you for the sacrifice, generosity and charity given to provide more opportunities to say “That’s it!” Funding that answers the prayers of people who beg “Cure me” and “Heal Me”.
So what have I done with the 71/2 years given to me since 2000?
I retired from corporate life.
I helped incorporate a NGO with the mission of saving the Monarch Butterfly habitat in Michuacan Mexico.
I helped an alternative high school in Chicago develop a plan to expand and grow so it could serve more children at risk with no where else to turn for education.
I traveled Europe just for fun and been to China, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Australia helping ministries and companies understand how to prevent catastrophic industrial accidents.
I was appointed by the president and served as Chair and CEO of an agency in Washington, DC that investigates and promotes prevention of Industrial Chemical Accidents. The impact of this agency work has changed the culture of major corporations in preventing industrial accidents all over the world.
I have gone to India to work with an international body to highlight the problems still present in the place called Bhopal where hundreds of thousand of people still suffer from the impact of one of the world’s worst chemical accidents.
I have seen my son married in Austin Texas and our daughter married in a castle in Scotland
and I am awaiting the birth of our second grandchild, a girl named Caroline.
I have been with dear friends who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer knowing that they now have a higher chance for survival than I did because of improvements in the technology of treatment of breast cancer over the past 7 years.
But now I have another two words in my life. “Bone cancer.” Discovered over a year ago, I have now a new frontier to challenge. Managing bone cancer until a cure is found.
My future and the futures of thousands of others rest in the hands of the researchers who are looking for a way to give us longer life. For people like me it used to be a 5% chance to live another 5 years. Now it is 20%. That is not good enough for me.
My two words now are ”Please Give”. My life depends on it.
If I can, I would like to pass on my own story and the lesson I learned from my own experience.
Like many women for years I was told I had dense breast tissue.
I was diligent in my own care.
I was about 40 when I had my first mammogram because of the amount of dense tissue I had.
Every year I went.
We moved around a lot so every time we moved I got my mammograms and took them with me.
I had breast exams at many hospitals including the Cleveland Clinic and a variety of community hospitals.
Every year I was told that the lumps were dense tissue and were nothing to worry about.
So I did not worry.
At 52, I began hormone replacement therapy.
Over the next few months, I noticed that the lump in my breast was growing.
I went to my doctor and pointed it out. I even drew a line around it so she would know where I was feeling the lump now about the size of a small egg.
She sent me for a mammogram. The radiologist report said “dense tissue, benign”.
Something kept nagging at me however and I went back a few weeks later and insisted we do a biopsy.
She did not think this was necessary but if I insisted she would give me the name of a surgeon. I insisted.
Taking my films with me, I met with the surgeon and he said it was nothing to worry about. He was 99.9% sure it was dense tissue but just to give me peace of mind he did a stereographic punch biopsy.
On Friday, Feb 24th, I got a call from him. “It’s Cancer” he said.
What I learned from the second surgeon at the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was that from study of my past mammograms the cancer was at least 7 years old and it was what was called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. Not rare but not common either.
It grew like a spider into the surrounding tissue. It was hormone receptive and although it had been slowly growing for all those years, the addition of estrogen to my system caused it to really take off.
What did I learn from this?
1. Go to a center with a Specialty in Breast Health or Imaging Center.
2. Don’t ignore any lumps.
3. Mammograms do not detect every cancer and 12% can go undetected
4. Insist on a biopsy or MRI of suspicious breast tissue not just needle aspiration.
5. Get educated! Be assertive!
I have also found that my story is not unique.
Talk openly with other women about their experiences.
Help other women through the walk of cancer treatment and recovery.
Every woman is at risk of breast cancer just because they are a woman. Help them recognize and take control of their own health care.
Breast Cancer should not be the final two words in anyone’s life. Thank you.