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Escape from Cancer

It is possible to regain a piece of life after cancer. It won’t be the same reflection as before but in some ways it’s more precious and amazing than before cancer. You will appreciate the moments of happiness more, the forgotten smiles, the laughter that comes from enjoying each others company. Somewhere during our time in Jamaica we awoke that truly unique love for each other. It might have been all the sun, refreshing drinks, swimming, frolicking with the dolphins … But I’ll take any day that includes Andy smiling and being himself again…his new and improved awesome self.
I dare say the trip was a success with some speed bumps that we overcame. The manager at sandals was great and helped us with Andy’s eating arrangements. Even when we were down the manager and chef surprised us with evening treats and smiles. One Jamaican cook was shocked that andy had no stomach, he wanted to help and even said he would say a little prayer for him that night. There still was the awkward looks by waiters when we ordered such small portions but we tried to shrug them off.
Every night andy was exhausted from the day but finally it was a good tired. Being drained from cancer treatments is far worse than being tired from having fun on the beach and climbing waterfalls.











Healing Eyes

Shall I have this dance

Life after cancer does exist.

Its shape and form is different but if you squint close enough you can see the light at the end and pieces of a past life emerge. Slowly Andy is growing stronger every day, we may have set backs out of the blue one day but then the next we bounce back. It’s not all cheery celebrations after beating the odds and shoving that cancer into remission. I dare say…with a very low whisper…I think we may just be seeing hope return. She disappeared for a bit but after going back home to where we first fell in love I dare say she is creeping back in. It’s strange how Marquette holds such a strong place in my heart, it pulls be back again and again. It reminds me of new life and where I found my Andy and learned how to be independent. Perhaps to get real philosophical, going back there at this point in our recovery was therapeutic because it allowed me to find my Andy again, to remind each other how strong our love is and that nothing seems to break it. Our life is a new one, we came close to losing each other because of cancer but we’re given a second chance. So many months ago Andy held me close and begged for more time with his Sarah and now we have it! We have started new this weekend, walked thru our old college campus and stood where we first met and caught each others glance. Walked up the same mountain we did over and over and stared out at Lake Superior which always calms the senses. Then we ran across the beach to our private spot hidden on the coast line that only him and I know is ours, the pups played in the water and explored hidden smells while I once again saw my Andy, before Cancer robbed us of months of our life.

Hope is something I want to hide from, push it aside and tell it to wait a bit more. It’s hard to explain why.. perhaps with hope comes disappointment.. and that means falling again. But no I will whisper very softly that hope can come back, if only to bring a smile to Andy and to hug our puppies even closer.

We are on a being pulled up the roller coaster and daring to reach the top again.. we aren’t quite there yet, it’s a slow journey to get back on top while dealing with our new challenges in life. We have all of June and July to live it up and get our feet planted again. Two months.. two months of time on our side. We are new to this ‘living with cancer’ and the counting of days that come with it. August is looming out there and what it signifies is scarey. 1 year since it all began from diagnosis to the ‘1 year survival’ title. The next round of scans and the unknown of what may or may not show up. I can’t say we are special in this step though, most people living with cancer have to do this dance, the dance of scans and waiting.

Healing Eyes

Heads stuck in the mud

What to write about when the doctor appointments have slowed down and Andy’s health is leveling out. That’s a tuffy. It’s easy to list our procedures and doctor visits in an update. Not so easy to share what it’s like after treatment is done.
The dust has settled and as i feared its not the easiest to just pick up and go on with things as they once were. Routines are different now and things we once enjoyed are tainted or lacking in fulfillment.

Andy drove to work twice without me. Strange letting go, it felt nice to be needed. But last week I got sick and he had to take care of me and himself. I am shocked I made it 8 months without getting sick. Maybe my body knew it was ok to weaken and catch a stupid virus at the start of summer. Or it could be I used up all my energy and immunity up over these past months and the virus snuck in while I was weak and my defenses were down. Either way I still am sick and andy has been a great nurse to me, feeding me and petting my head secretly at night to comfort me:)
I would do that to him at night to see if he was still breathing during those long chemo treatments. Seems a life time ago and not 2 months ago that the chemo stopped.

Andy is getting better though. Adapting to a no stomach life is hard though…I don’t know what it feels like but looking in from the outside it looks hard. Our meals are different now, I always ate less but now I look like I’m gorging on food. I feel guilty eating .. It’s not fair what happened to andy.

I’ve been searching blogs for others with gastric cancer but there are hardly any out there. The rarity of the cancer is painfully clear. The similarities of how others cope and experience cancer are comforting though. It’s comforting to read others journeys and to see so many “ah ha’s” between other strangers in the world.

For now we are waiting and hoping cancer stays away. But part of my brain can’t help but replay what the oncologist said to us during our last visit with her. I desperately asked her about reoccurrence and probability…knowing full well what I’d hear and how it wouldn’t be news that would help our healing. It’s a fine line between being prepared and sticking your head in the mud. We are told to enjoy each day and to not worry about what may happen in a month or two or a year or beyond. Continue living while still preparing ourselves for worst case scenarios. We need to collect all the medical records, ct and mri scans, to be ready to jump on a dime in case a specialist is in another network or state because you can’t fumble with that during a crisis. It’s a new living while knowing there is a bomb ticking away in the shadows, either waiting to explode or to diffuse….maybe if we are lucky they will only be small hiccup bombs in the future….or mud bubbles.

Healing Eyes



Healing Eyes

Small world

Bought new running shorts for Saturdays race and coincidentally met the sister of Andy’s Oncologist surgeon, who saved Andy’s life in November. Talked about cancer and her husband that passed away from skin cancer… Small world when touched by cancer.. So many people out there and so many stories of loss and encouragement.

Healing Eyes

pickles and squirrels




Lovely trip to work today with andy. The Campus was bursting with flowers.
We had a cute picnic lunch together near some dorms..almost like being in college together again, minus the cold Lake Superior breeze 🙂
On our walk around campus there was a jimmy johns pickle on the ground near a trash can, we wondered whether squirrels would eat it or not. We giggled over the sight of a squirrel carrying a pickle thru campus.

When we got home we had to rush off to the YMCA for our first day of therapy. We signed andy up for a cancer well fit program where we get a free membership too. Very nice gym and great pool, complete with splash pad.

The only huge downer of the night was when we found out our neighbor kids are now throwing rocks over the fence. Sigh…our cars are probably only safe on the street now. But on the upside this hiccup would have been more bothersome pre-cancer…since now we have bigger issues to stress over. .. It’s all perspective.

Healing Eyes

Week 2 Begins

It’s been almost a week since Andy tried his first step back to reality. I have waited quite awhile before writing on it, I am not quite sure why. Perhaps i just was procrastinating, or trying to feel we could have a normal week. It’s strange, when you go thru a traumatic event you never know how you will come out afterwards. One can’t compare one trauma to another, just as you can’t compare one person to another. A trauma will stay with you forever, it marks you as unique. Uniquely qualified, certifiably un-normal. hmm one could go pretty deep down that path of thought. I think I best come back up for air and talk reality.

His first day back was unique. I drove him to work, that was the first thing not-normal. Then we both walked in together and contained our composure. Success was found when we made it to his desk and I pulled out my computer and went about working remotely (second thing not-normal, working from Kalamazoo was a first for me). Gotta keep the mind going and the money flowing. Andy busied himself with catching up on things, he was energized by the change I think. In plain truth, it was very very nice to see my Andy again. He was happy I believe, but that was only my observation. By the end of the day  he was exhausted, we both were. It was a good exhaustion that was long overdue. Not exhausted from an ER visit or another never ending parade of doctors listing out ‘what ifs’ and ‘if then’ statements.

We went back another day that week for an encore performance. It was just as wonderful and therapeutic.

Now its week 2..whatever shall we do. I’m not sure and its 9 pm on a Sunday night. Tomorrow is so far away. If i’ve learned anything these last months is that anything is possible. One minute is as different as the next. I will be optimistic for this week and not let myself listen to the pessimistic perspective. This week we will wake up each day and breathe in…and than decide.

One thing is for certain. I love Andy, Andy loves Sarah. Nothing will change that its a tale as old as time (yes that cues the song from Beauty and the Beast..hmm which is the Beauty and whom is the beast. I always thought andy was more of the Beauty since he brings out the best in me)… cough cough yes soooo mooshy:)

Healing Eyes

Back to school jitters

ImageTomorrow is Andy’s first day back to work after our Cancer diagnosis. It’s a test to see how far we’ve come since August 2012. His desk is probably just as he left it. It’s strange that this time last year our routine was to get up at 6am and both get ready to go to work. We would eat our breakfast, kiss each other goodbye and get in separate cars and drive to our separate jobs. That all changed one Fall day when the oncologist said those awful words, Cancer. Just like that Andy’s desk was abandoned, his computer left on from whatever he was working on before he vanished. In an instant the daily routine was doctor’s appointments and scans, instead of office meetings and phone calls. Daily fears of the cancer spreading, the unknown of what the doctors could do, instead of worrying about computers breaking or office squabbles.

I can only imagine what Andy is feeling right now, if he’s excited or scared, anxious or worried, but I know that I am for both of us. My stomach is churning, my heart is being squeezed, and breathing in I feel tightness in my chest. It’s only a ONE day test run but it feels so weird, our lives were put on pause for so long, it’s not just an easy on/off button we are pushing here. This is a reboot, waking up from a forced hard return, something you don’t wake up from and return the same. There are still bugs in the system, that virus called Cancer wasn’t easily removed, it took a part away that can’t ever be replaced. This whole time I have continued on for both of us, I went to work while Andy healed. I worked amongst others living there normal lives. I have experienced the awkwardness, the feelings of not knowing what to say, how to just work even though that pressing personal crap lingers. At any minute the phone could ring or a text comes thru saying come home now, or it’s time for a doctors appointment, another ER visit delaying a normal 5 day work week. I didn’t have cancer inside me but it sure put perspective on life. 

Knowing you have cancer is completely different than living with it, this new normal is terrifying, it’s not a happy day even though many think this is because going to work must signify healed. This is a slow return to reality where everything will be different and yet the same. It’s hard not to think too deep into this but .. wow .. we survived Gastric Stage 3b Cancer, we came out the other side, its now learning to live with what we were given and coping with what was taken away that is the new and most difficult stage of this journey. Cancer doesn’t end at diagnosis or even remission, I think, at least I am guessing we are not alone in this thought… but the next days and months and hopefully years are going to be an entirely different life. One day, one deep intake of breath, and one hug at a time. Those lurking CT scans and doctor visits won’t go away but maybe the ‘On’ button will start flashing again and we can heal.

Healing Eyes

Down sizing


Andy needs a new wardrobe after losing so much weight. It’s like we went back to the college years and skinny Andy is back.. And I love him just as much as I did back then. Maybe even more. So off to goodwill with the big clothes and in with the new.

Healing Eyes

Down sizing


Andy needs a new wardrobe after losing so much weight. It’s like we went back to the college years and skinny Andy is back.. And I love him just as much as I did back then. Maybe even more. So off to goodwill with the big clothes and in with the new.

Healing Eyes