Thursday, March 20, 2014


Today I got a piece of terrible news about a dear virtual friend. She was a real friend to me, a fellow Lymphoma survivor, but I never did meet her in person. Liz seemed to know everything about everything important. Blood cancers, treatment, recovery, parenting, ethics, taking care of strangers. No situation was too big for her to offer her support and encouragement.

When I first came in contact with her, she was posting lots of information on behalf of a group called Patients Against Lymphoma. That group dissolved and she went on her own, advocating for and educating Lymphoma patients and their families through a new name: Hope For Lymphoma. 

She moderated a number of support groups and was active in her local government. Every once in a while she'd disappear from FB due to real life circumstances (Hurricane Sandy, the death of a friend's 14 year old daughter, illness in her family), but she'd always come back with some timely posts - occasionally snarky, always smart.  She offered me lots of advice and was a blog reader. We shared private messages and she always wrote with pride of her 3 children (youngest is finishing his senior year in high school), while she appreciated the anecdotes and photos I posted of my own Mr. J. 

Absent from the online scene for the past few weeks, I did not think anything major was going on. The last time I'd checked in with her (last August), she explained that she'd taken a break from facebook to spend time with her family and friends following the accidental death of her friend's teenager).  Totally understandable. 

But then today, her mother let her friends know that Liz died on Monday, following a few weeks with flu-like symptoms and then a massive heart attack.

I am totally in shock about it, but it's all I've been thinking about since I read the news. I can't help thinking this should be national news. The world should know that someone so warm and caring, smart and generous, was here. She was a helper to others, because she knew that's the only way to get through this short and unpredictable time we have here together. I don't know if I can get a blurb into the New York Times, so for now, this will have to do.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to connect with someone who brought so much to the table. She devoted so much of her time and energy to other people - usually other people who were experiencing the toughest challenges of their lives - and she made those lives better. I hope her children know how proud they made her and how highly she thought of them. The lesson she left with me is that one person can have a huge impact. Not money, nor fame, but talking to others and sharing knowledge. The world is certainly a better place because she has been here.

Thank you, Liz.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hard Choices

anyone else nauseated by this sign?
In the spirit of both openness (my aunt pronounced me Master of Communication yesterday) and honesty about life after cancer, I am taking a cue from Gina Shaw, author of Having Children After Cancer.

Last week, I had my 6 month check up with Dr. Henry, my main oncologist. After updating him on my health ups and downs (see E. Coli 0157 and Surgery on my Reproductive Parts 2.0), he took a gander at my bloodwork results (they work fast over there, not just same day results, but same HOUR results) and declared them "pristine".

While clearly the news was all good coming from my onc, it was super depressing to even sit in the waiting room. I didn't realize how anxious I was until the little vitals cart showed my heart rate was up around 100. Keep in mind I take a pill for that. Hmm.

I did mention to the doc that we are still trying for another kid, though no luck yet. And Dan and I have set a deadline for changing course. That detail, however, I will keep between us. The deadline is there, though. And if you know me, you know I like to have a plan. A plan I have checked and double checked for all possible snafus. A plan that is a stage for success.

That kind of plan is virtually impossible to create when dealing with infertility. No one, even the best planners, can predict outcomes or prepare for all of the unexpected twists and turns along the way. Of course there are statistics, but I'm not a number, I am a person. We can use those stats to help make our decisions, but not to predict the future.

Hey, I fully recognize we are lucky to live in a day and age when we have options before us.  The scary part is choosing the right one. Yes, I know, we will only know in hindsight which was right, what was meant to be, blah blah blah. But there certainly is a great deal of unknown with all of the options of assisted reproductive technology.

Donor egg or own egg IVF? Donor embryo? Adoption? Bali or Fiji? (I wish - that's the kind of decision I'm game to make.)

Clearly, if these are our choices, the biggest challenge in the near future is making a big and bold decision. We have to take into consideration everyone's health. The risks vs. possible benefits. COST (Jeez, domestic adoption is expensive). We know what the end goal is: a happy and healthy (larger) family. It's how to get there that is leaving question clouds in the air over our heads.

I leave you with one request. If you know someone struggling to grow their family, take a few minutes and read THIS, as she says it all so I don't have to. I would just add one thing to the bottom of her post (filed under: DOs). In place of advice, I will never turn down a foot rub. Thanks!