Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"You Have Cancer" - Chapter 1 of My Cancer Story

Ten years ago, on December 26, 2001, my gastroenterologist called me at work to deliver this bombshell. “You have colon cancer,” he said, and my world came to a grinding halt at the age of 46.
Blood was rushing in my ears, so I almost didn’t hear the doctor when we asked me, “Do you have a surgeon?”
“No.” Who the hell has a surgeon?
“I’ll have your gynecologist call you”, he said before he hung up.

This was the beginning of my journey with cancer. Many of my friends have heard bits and pieces of this story. Others may be curious. On the 10th Anniversary of my diagnosis, it’s a good time to tell all. I’m thankful for what I went through and learned, for the love and support I received during the difficult times, and for the gracious God that allowed me to survive. Maybe hearing about my experience will push you to face any nagging health issues you have, sooner rather than later. I hope you will be inspired to extend kindness to someone fighting their own life-threatening battle. When people are ill and afraid, little gestures are really meaningful gifts, and are remembered fondly.

People ask me whether I had symptoms of my cancer before I was diagnosed. In retrospect, I did; but I did not recognize their significance. I was often tired, which I attributed to being overweight and getting older. On occasion, I had blood in my feces, which I blamed on hemorrhoids. Constipation was a sign, but who doesn’t get constipated now and again? I explained away every symptom, because I couldn’t admit to myself that there might be something seriously wrong. There was some history of colon cancer in my family – but only at advanced ages.

Pelvic exams related to another medical issue (in preparation for a hysterectomy scheduled for January 7th) shed light on my other symptoms. My gynecologist tested a stool sample then recommended a colonoscopy to “rule out” any other issues before my surgery. Dr Gilbert Thayer’s diligence saved my life.

In shock and teary after the abrupt call with my diagnosis, I was in my office with the door closed with my husband Ron. All I could think is, "I have cancer, and I am going to die". Minutes later we got the follow-up call from Dr Thayer. He was calm, sympathetic, and reassuring, and asked me if I could see the surgeon he recommended, ASAP. We left the office for the hospital immediately to meet with Dr W Scott King.

COMING SOON – Chapter 2: Meeting Dr King, learning more about the seriousness of my cancer, and undergoing a double surgery (hysterectomy and colectomy).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Apricot Jumbles

We’re gliding into the heart of Christmas festivities, with Christmas Eve on Saturday and Christmas itself on Sunday. My shopping and shipping is done, and I have just a few presents left to wrap. Now there's time for a little baking of holiday treats!

The first thing I made, yesterday, was “Apricot Jumbles”. These are tasty little bites introduced to me by my friend Dave’s late mother, Nancy. I asked for the recipe as soon as I consumed one. They are easier to make than I expected, and I think the dried fruit and nuts in them is a little reminiscent of fruitcake – but so much yummier!

I don’t think Dave will mind if I shared the recipe. And I know Nancy would have been pleased.


2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Dried Apricots – chopped
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Cup Nuts – chopped
1 Cup Graham Crackers – crushed small
1 Cup Shredded Coconut (optional, but recommended)

Melt butter and add apricots. Beat eggs and add sugar; then add to apricots. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in everything else (except the coconut). Chill. Once chilled enough to handle, roll into bite-sized balls. Cover with coconut if desired. Best stored chilled. (Makes 3 dozen.)
My Notes: I love coconut, so IMHO it's a key ingredient. It also makes the process of creating balls easier, because the dough is very sticky; plus they look more festive. I didn’t have enough dried apricots, so I also used dried pears, and that combination tastes great. For nuts, I chose Walnuts, but either Pecans or Almonds would be good too.  Lastly, to reduce the sugar levels somewhat, I used half sugar and half Splenda, and unsweetened coconut (already naturally sweet).

Our thanks go to Nancy and Dave for this recipe. Next, on to Ron’s Rum Balls.  Merry Christmas to All!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hidden Treasures

If we lived in Chicago for the rest of our lives, I am sure we would not discover all of the city’s hidden treasures. But yesterday we found another one – the Mercury Theater. We attended a wonderful musical there, called “The Christmas Schooner”, for Ron’s birthday.

The building that houses the Mercury Theater opened in 1912, as a silent film nickelodeon called the Blaine Theater. With the advent of “talkies”, the Blaine moved to a larger space down the street, and eventually became the Music Box Theater, which is still in operation today. The original Blaine lived many lives for the remainder of the 20th century, and housed numerous retail operations and even a carpet-cleaning business. Thankfully, a veteran Chicago theater producer purchased, renovated, and re-opened the theater as the Mercury in 1996. It has been operating as an active live theater since then.

Little of the original Blaine Theater still exists, although they salvaged several stunning plaster pilaster busts (pictured) that now flank the house, which has 292 seats. The seats themselves were recovered and refurbished from a 1933-era Boston movie house. The interior walls are a warm, exposed brick.

This wonderful “hidden” treasure is within walking distance of our condo.

“The Christmas Schooner” is a beautifully produced and performed show that had us completely engaged for two hours. A mini live orchestra provided the musical backdrop. The costumes for the actors, portraying subjects from the 1890’s, were spot on and visually effective.

Creative staging allowed the action to transition credibly from the captain’s living room to the deck of his ship. The ship’s anchor was raised and the sails hoisted, and we believed. We laughed and we cried – glued to the storyline and the professional performances. I’m sure we will recall the experience for years to come.

What a delight to stumble across this hidden neighborhood treasure!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Merry and Bright

Our Christmas tree is now decorated and glowing in the front windows of our home in Chicago. The possibility that it brightens the evening commute of our neighbors as they trudge home pleases me.

We trimmed the tree last night, after hors d’oeuvres and while sipping champagne and listening to Christmas music. This night is so special to us, and we savor every moment. Some of the magic of the season is here. Almost every ornament sparks memories of good times, dear friends, and places we have enjoyed. Over the years, holdovers from childhood have been retired and new additions added to reflect our own sentiments and traditions.

The Knights Templar were a gift from Dave…the handcrafted angel made by Tracy…the hand-blown ornaments from Germany we purchased on annual outings to Chicago’s Christkindlmarkt… this one commemorates the show we saw the week we got engaged…the collection of ornaments we have received from Aunt Elaine and Uncle Jerry over decades… The stories and memories go on and on, and we revisit them every year during the tree trimming ritual. Our Christmas tree will never be mistaken for a designer tree. We wouldn’t want that. It is a reflection of our life together, and it makes us proud and happy.

This will probably be our last Christmas living in Chicago. Next year, we will start new traditions in our home in Prescott. We look forward to that.

I hope these holidays provide each of you with opportunities to make your season merry and bright, to treasure traditions, and celebrate your blessings. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feeling Grateful

I’m back in Chicago after a long and, thankfully, uneventful travel day yesterday. What with all the sitting and waiting, I had plenty of time to let my thoughts wander pleasantly. There is so much for which to be grateful…

We are fortunate to have two beautiful and interesting places to call home, when many are struggling to maintain a single residence. This is a temporary luxury in which I am reveling.

It warms my heart to have a friend and neighbor who allows us to invite ourselves over in the evening to visit (when I already have my pajamas on).

The grace and benevolence of my golfing buddies has not only led me to fall in love with the game, but also provided an environment in which my skills are improving. What fun it is to play with friends!

This city of broad shoulders and bright lights will provide me with one more exciting and sparkling Christmas season. I will enjoy every minute of it. Let it snow!

Our circle of friends has grown and our ties have strengthened over the past year. I hope you know how much you mean to us, and how much joy you add to our lives.

Prescott and Talking Rock Ranch have accepted us for who we are, and will shape who we become. It’s so exciting to explore this new chapter of our lives with such interesting friends and neighbors.

Our planning and decision-making have led us into a life we love. Luck and good fortune have graced us. I am so grateful. Thank you.  Enjoy this holiday season!