Thursday, April 23, 2015


A few years ago I participated in a cancer survivor program as part of my treatment at Cedars-Sinai.  It was for people who were mostly done with their treatments and needed some help getting back into the swing of things.  It specifically addressed issues such as chemo brain (i.e. forgetting things), physical effects (neuropathy, nutrition, balance), nutrition going forward, dealing with mood changes, etc.  We met once a week for six weeks and were a group of six people.

Since the class ended, we have kept up via email and shared our successes and setbacks from time to time.  Only one other person besides me was dealing with metastatic cancer long-term, so the attitude of the group was, "we made it through, so now what".  No one in our group embodied that attitude as fiercely as Shanee.

She was young, had started her own business, and was very ready to get on with her life.  Her cancer experience had been, in my interpretation of her view, an inconvenience or a side step on her way.  She was very positive and full of ideas and plans.

Shanee "completed" her cancer experience in January with her long-awaited breast reconstruction, and off she went to conquer the world.

I first heard something was wrong from another group member about a month and a half ago.  She told me Shanee's cancer had returned and that she was in the hospital, but that she was in good spirits and would like visitors.  Three weeks ago I went to visit her after my treatment and found her just leaving her room for a procedure.  I spoke with her briefly, she was very happy to see me and I told her I would try to come back on my next treatment day.

A week or so later I heard she had been moved out of the critical care tower where I saw her and was in a regular room.  She appeared to be doing better.

After another week she was moved back, but this time into ICU, was intubated and on oxygen, and needed to have her lungs drained periodically.  A tumor ruptured a major artery and she was bleeding internally.  She slipped into a coma and stayed there.

Shanee died early yesterday morning in the intensive care unit of Cedars-Sinai.  Lord, receive her soul.  I heard the news while I was driving to my chemo appointment.

This loss hit me very hard, although I did not know her well.  She was so full of life and plans and she never saw this coming.  I was attending the class with a very different perspective and was wistful that she was going to get to return to her normal life and I never would.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Cancer is a nasty, sneaky disease.  No matter the stage a person is diagnosed, the experience is really never over.  You always are on guard.  In some ways, I am grateful for my stage IV diagnosis right off the bat because I will always be monitored regularly and will have a chance to get on top of anything new before it gets out of control.  No, this doesn't make me totally safe, but it certainly helps.

I can honestly say that I am at peace with whatever comes my way. I understand that I am not in control of any of this and God's will is always what is best for me.  In the meantime, I am trying to make the most of every day I have (as we all should).

The doctors who led our group are planning a get together for us to remember Shanee and to share some coping strategies with us.

In the meantime, please pray for her soul and for her family and friends.  Rest in peace, Shanee.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Further Proof Kids Are Worth Having

When I picked the kids up from school a few days ago, Natalie had something to tell me.

"Mom," she said.  "We finished Family Life today."

Family life, in Catholic Schools, is a euphamism for the facts of life.  It starts out quite simply in the early grades, but gets more complicated as the kids get older.  In 5th grade the truths of the body come out, and from there it gets to bigger issues that kids need to know and some parents are reluctant to talk about.  I have seen the materials and have no problem with the program or how it is presented, and none of my kids have had anything to say about it at any level.  We talk about most of these things at home before they get to them in school, and I like that it is taught from a purely Catholic perspective and focuses on building faithful, happy families.

Given that Natalie is in first grade, I couldn't imagine she heard anything she couldn't handle, but I could tell that something was bothering her.

She began to explain that there was a section on vocations and everyone had to check a box next to what they think might be their vocation as adults.  The list included being married, discovering a religious vocation, etc.

With complete dismay, she went on, "There was no box for 'I want to stay home with my mommy',  so I had to check the 'become a religious sister' box."

How sweet it is to be loved by Natalie.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

She Did It!

After mentioning a few posts ago that Julia had not had her best competitive season this year, it is my absolute delight to tell you that she had the best meet of her life today!  It was her state meet, the last of the season, and she turned it around in a big way.

She hit all of her routines, nailed her often-troublesome back handspring on beam, and scored a 37.125 all around, which earned her 7th place in her age bracket.  She also medaled in beam (9.5) and vault (9.375), and scored well on floor (9.2) and bars (9.050).

I was praying she would get a 36.0 all around and that she would make her back handspring on beam.  Clearly, that prayer was answered and more!  I really wanted her scores to show what I know she is able to do and does in practice, and they certainly did today.  I wanted her to see her consistently hard work and conditioning pay off and that they were not in vain.  I am so glad she was able to see this and can begin her off-season with the confidence of a job well done.

Congratulations to my beautiful and determined daughter who, starting tomorrow, will be training level 7!