Friday, August 16, 2013

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today I woke up from a tonsillectomy to hear my ENT doc say, "I am sorry to tell you this but you have cancer."

Looking outside Penn Medicine window September '12
Those of you who have received a cancer diagnose may have experienced the unreality of those first few days with the thought galloping around in your head "I HAVE CANCER" accompanied by your stomach doing a flip-flop every time you try to re-digest the thought.

It's amazing what you can get used to with the passing of time. I still get flip-flops in my stomach on occasion but I'm getting used to the idea that yes, my days are numbered ~ like every one of us. It's just that I've had a longer look behind the curtain than you. It certainly gives flavor and relish to mundane tasks. Mowing the lawn (about a 3-4 hour job) used to peeve me and make me sigh with resignation. I can't say I leap upon the mower seat with zest now, but I appreciate the beauty around me more & enjoy looking at my finished work. This summer, with all the rain, I've certainly had a lot of enjoyment :)

Looking outside the same window August '13
In the past two months I've had another MRI, blood tests and a few doctor appointments. All is well. I will continue this gig for years as this cancer has an 85% chance of coming back in five years if it is going to reappear. (Flip-flop!)

A friend surprised a laugh out of me when he wrote "... At least 50% of (doctors) graduated in the bottom half of their class, and, when you get down to it, academic stardom does not translate into professional competence, so that makes all of them suspect. ..."
I must say, my doctors at Penn inspire my confidence & hope. What ever comes down my path, I will never worry that I made a wrong decision choosing them.

I think I am more easy-going now and ~ this may seem odd ~ in a way, happier. I don't sweat the small stuff so much. I'll catch myself worrying about something and then ask myself, "So what? What's the worst that can happen?" Cancer puts things in perspective.

I always opt for dessert these days. I buy a book if I want it. And, losing 40 pounds has made it more fun to shop for clothes :)

I'm baking again and have been put on a strict "One Pie Per Week" limit by my son who has discovered he likes my pies very much. I've made a few batches of jam, planted lots of flowers and am redoing a bathroom. 

Our beloved Fluffy >"<

On a sad note, I had to put our amazing & wonderful Fluffy to sleep. This kitty was my Constant Companion as I went through operations, radiation & healing. She was always at my side. She was 15 years old and I hope I see her again. She was one of a handful of animals I have known in my life who were truly Special Souls.

Phil & me @ Rolling Stones concert
Health Stuff for others who may be going through this: No sleeping through the night due to a combo of waking up with dry mouth, quaffing water, then waking up to pee several times a night. I've been using a number of mouth-moistening gels & lozenges to find the right combination to allow me to sleep. ENJOY your restful, unbroken sleeps, people! Thank goodness for interesting podcasts, Solitaire & Facebook. 
• My scar bothers me just a little. It feels stiff & stretched & sometimes itchy. Been putting Vitamin E oil on it. I give myself lymph massages because I can feel lymph fluids collecting in the area above the scar as it tries to find a new route. 
• I've been off Gabapentin (Neurontin) for a few months now and, glory be! My memory is slowly improving, if I remember correctly.  :)
• I have normal energy levels and there's no limit on what I can do. This was tested on recent college tours where we walked miles of sidewalks looking at schools. Just give me a water bottle & a place to pee and I'm good to go!
• My left ear is back to full-strength hearing levels. Shadow (our dog) gives it regular workouts.
Look Ma! No cavities!
• Teeth are holding up well ~ radiation is tough on teeth because saliva glands are destroyed. I'm in good hands with the Phoenixville Family Dentistry team of Anns & a Linda.

Since being diagnosed with Tonsil Cancer (Tonsil Cancer still sounds like a fake cancer to me), I have heard of or met three other people who have it. One has had a neck dissection & TORS at Penn as I did, then went to Mexico for a different form of chemo treatment. He did well and I have not heard any updates so I'm taking that as good news. 

My son Phil has his first Gardasil shot, which prevents certain HPV viruses, found to be the new leading cause of throat cancer.

I'll leave you with a beautiful pie shot. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. Ya all Rock.
Craig's favorite pie. I love you, Craig!


  1. Those pies look amazing! Apple picking season is just around the corner, so I am getting ready for PIES here too!

    Sorry to hear about your cat. It's like a member of the family... so tough.

  2. Hi Erica! Hopefully there are no more "TORS Pies" in my future :)
    I've enjoyed reading your other Penn interviews and your own posts. You're a funny lady!

  3. Susan, you simply amaze me with your openness and wit. The wisdom you have gained through adversity shines through in this blog and though you didn't "choose cancer", you HAVE chosen how to respond to it and deal with it. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections, beautiful photographs, and comedic take on things!

    1. Wow, if I ever write a book, I'm a-gonna ask you to write the flyleaf for me, Camille.

  4. Hey I have a quick question about your blog, could you email me when you have a chance? Thanks! -Cam

    1. Hi Cameron,
      I sent you an email but got no reply ~ is there anything I can do for you?

  5. Susan, So glad you are doing well!

    Hope you remember me. I would like to have a chat with you when you get a chance so I can pick your brain (bwahaha). I have a friend who has been diagnosed with throat cancer and I am hoping for some thoughts and guidance from someone who has kicked its ass. Whew I hope you remember me or this will be doubly weird. (

    1. Hi Miz. Munch,
      So sorry for your friend's diagnose. My brain is yours for the pickin'.

      Check your mailbox, I sent you an email with my personal email address.
      Leave a reply here if you need my to resend an email.