‘Tis the Season!

Aloha friends, family, loved ones, associates, people of all shapes and sizes!

It’s the season of love and family, food and gifts, and the season of thanks and new beginnings.  It has been a rocky road, this 2012, but it’s ending in an up-swing.  And for that I thank you all.

First and foremost: Santa has already made good on my request… I have a head of hair, new eyelashes and new brows growing in!  I look less like an alien (just less, right brothers?!); and also less “sick.”  My hair grows so slow, and I should know… I stare at it a lot in the bathroom mirror willing it to be long again.  I shall just have to see what Miss Anne Hathaway does to hers as she grows it out since she is a few inches ahead of me.  So trendy, the styles to come!

I also found another famous twin with my hair style and glasses… Christoph Waltz from Django promoting his movie on Live with Kelly and Michael!

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I got a new tattoo (my second real one… it’s a lot more common 1) “these days”, and 2) in Hawaii where everyone runs around half-naked and covered in colorful, usually meaningful, art work).  Mine is a key (to Sean’s heart… he has a locked up heart tattoo) with a whale tail (a Hawaiian humpback of course!) surrounded by a pink ribbon.  It’s on my wrist where I can cover it for work.  But if I don’t have to, I leave it out.  I’ve gone back to work on the boats and between the tattoo and the new hair, I have had some questions from some very curious women (so far it’s always been women, the observant sisterhood they tend to be).  I had someone outright ask, “What kind of cancer?” and later another woman said, “Ah, I saw your tattoo…” and I even got, “So, what’s the story behind your hair?”

All of these questions are just fine by me because isn’t this cancer something we can all relate to and should be talking about more?  I find a lot of women that ask have either had some kind of cancer themselves or have been a care-taker.  The woman that asked about my tattoo was on the boat for a photo safari with her thirteen year old son who had been battling leukemia–mainly via chemo–for 3 and 1/2 years.  He got the clean bill of health blessing and so his family brought him to Maui for his first real vacation since he’s been diagnosed.  I may meet thousands of people in my line of work (tourism) and everyone has a story.  It’s what we’re here for, this living thing!

I completed radiation in mid-December and have been dealing with the after-effects of that.  Basically, imagine the worst sunburn you’ve ever had, on the softer skin of, say, your armpit.  Now imagine sitting in the sun all day for five straight days after that without wearing sunscreen.  That’s kind of how it works, or at least you can imagine how skin looks and feels after that!  The actual radiation zaps are quick and invisible; much of the redness, irritation and itchiness comes later.  Mine was deemed red enough to warrant a prescription for burn cream.  I hug with my left arm only these days.  And it is healing and fading.

I mentioned earlier that I am back to work, I am.  I also juggle unemployment insurance and work, at least through the end of December.  I started back at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua as a naturalist at the Ambassadors of the Environment Program (tomorrow is my first “big” day) and have been nannying some.  I hope to be back full time to work in January, spread between my multiple jobs; and remembering to take days off.  I do function best with my calendar in hand and staying busy.

Sean and I are starting to think about an official vacation in May or June or July.  I haven’t been “home” to Massachusetts and New Hampshire in three years and I’ve never been to Chicago (where he is from).  Ah, it sounds so nice.  Even though we live in paradise–Maui–we still need to take vacations!

Chemo continues on through August, once every three weeks for a light dose of “easy stuff.”  I also have in my possession the drug Tamoxifen.  A drug that I have yet to start since it will give me the lovely side effects of hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia and can be most difficult for the first three months.  My goal is just that: make it through the first three months and then reassess.  Ultimately, I need to take it for five years (five years of hot flashes starting at age 29?  Tell me, ladies, is that fair?!  I would still not, then, be excused from hot flashes later in life; unfortunately, there’s no “quota” that I can finish early!).  Research shows that 2 years of this drug is great for cancer-free survival; 5 years is awesome; and ten years is no different survivorship-wise than five.  I’ll take five over ten any day!

I’m also, technically, “cured.”  I’m set free from the majority of treatment and on to monitoring and life.  I will get a blood test soon to make sure my body is bouncing back from chemo and radiation.  And more tests eventually to keep an eye on things, making sure those little cancer cells don’t pop up somewhere new.

Most importantly, Sean and I celebrated our engagement at a party thrown by our awesome friends, Ashleigh and Thomas and Gene and Leigh.  We had so many wonderful people come and share in delicious food, lots of wine and say such beautiful things.  It was an emotional time but probably one of those nights that will stand out for the rest of my life, not just because of the significance of the event but because after all I and we have been through, life still felt “normal,” and normal in the best sense that word can be used: life was moving onward and upward with hundreds of hands holding us and pushing us up.

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