Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Magazine 2013 Beauty Search Finalist

This past April, I did something I've never done before: entered a beauty contest.

In my race bag for the More Magazine's / Fitness Magazine's Half-marathon in NYC, there was a postcard advertising the contest. Entry requirements included one photo and an essay answering the question: "What makes you beautiful, now more than ever?" Since I love writing, the challenge of the essay appealed to me, and the question was a softball. In my first weeks post leukemia diagnosis, I couldn't have been uglier. Two years later, I'm so much healthier!

So I wrote my essay, picked a photograph from the ones taken by Magique Studios, and applied. And then I perused all the other entries, and was awed and inspired by all the amazing women. This is how I met my new friend, Elizabeth Grant, whose writings about her faith in God while battling stage IV breast cancer are moving and comforting. Meeting other entrants via social media, and being inspired by them, was a prize in and of itself.

Since I felt so humbled by the other women's stories, it never occurred to me that I might be a finalist, and so was very surprised when I received the notice. Out of the approximately 1500 entries, I'm one of 20 finalists (5 in each category, for which there will be one winner: 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60+). The judging criteria is: "inspirational quality of story (50%) and appearance, photogenic quality and vitality depicted by the Contest Entry photo (50%)."

I had to submit five additional photographs and will find out by June 3rd if I've won. The grand prize is $5,000, a three-night stay in NYC for me and a guest, a hair and beauty session, photo shoot and opportunity to be featured in a future issue of More Magazine. A sweet package for sure. If in the off-chance I do win, I plan to donate a portion of the cash to my favorite nonprofits: the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, First Descents, Stupid Cancer, and the University of Minnesota Foundation.

I have only a 20% chance of winning my age group, so I'm assuming I won't. Why so pessimistic? Because I've been trying really hard to reduce my anxieties about relapsing and latent side-effects by convincing myself that if something has less than a 50% probability, it's unlikely to happen. I can't get excited about 20% odds in one scenario, only to write them off under different circumstances. (Oh the mind games a cancer survivor plays...)

If you'd like to see my entry in the contest: click here.

The pics I sent as follow-up for the final judging are below:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Remission Test Results

According to my PCR test, conducted on blood drawn two weeks ago, I'm still in remission! Two years in remission now.

At my last appointment, my doctor said this hasn't been a good year for him with APL (in terms of relapses/deaths). This made me very sad to hear. And serves as a reminder that I cannot take for granted a favorable test result.

Only five days left in this ATRA round. Then I plan to celebrate this test result as any sensible woman should, by shoe shopping! (and of course eating chocolate cake)

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Cancer Patient's Perspective: The Importance of Saying "Thank you" and "I Love You"

In the fall of 2011, I  recorded a video in response to a health advocacy group's request for tips for other cancer patients. At the time, I was between rounds of Daunarubicin, and too fatigued to figure out how to email such a large file to the video editor of the website. I came across the clip on my iPad this weekend.

As I watched the exhausted, subdued woman in the video rambling on, I couldn't help but shudder. But it does serve as a good reminder for all of us cancer patients/survivors to say, "Thank you" and "I love you."


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day, to my mom, to all the moms, and this year, a special note of appreciation to all the swim moms!
I've been thinking a lot about how dedicated my mom was to me growing up. Swimming is an intense sport, and she was perfect at being a swim mom- she was supportive, and never pressured me. She came to all my meets, tracked my times, bought me the coolest swim suits, and made the sport fun. She carted me to and from an uncountable number of practices, and she served as president of the swim club multiple years, and meet director other years.  
Katelyn has been learning to swim this spring, and it brings back memories for both my mom and me. When my mom visited in February, we went to family swim, so that my mom could see Katelyn attempting freestyle. When my mom saw her on the pool deck, wearing her pink cap and goggles, my mom started to cry. Later, she told me that Katelyn reminded her of me at that age, and she couldn't help but think that back then, she never could have imagined me getting as sick as I did.
But on to happier thoughts! Now my mom and I get to enjoy Katelyn's love of the pool. Will she become a swimmer? Who knows. Though she does grin the entire time during swim lessons, and she's determined to advance to Eel level.
And another happy thought: next year, fingers crossed, I will feel well on Mother's Day. This morning, I woke with massive head pain. Ryan and my dad took Katelyn for a walk to give me some quiet time. This is my third year of feeling sick on Mother's Day, but it's worth it because hopefully it means I'll be healthy on Mother's Day next year.
Have a wonderful day everyone!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ATRA - Round 7 of 8

This morning I started my seventh round of ATRA (al trans retinoic acid, or Tretinoin), and I already feel crummy. In the past, I've been better prepared before a round starts, with my medicines organized, my survival supplies stocked (G2 Gatorade and blue corn tortilla chips). This round, I started a day late because of a project at work, and I didn't get home from work until 10pm last night. I didn't even take the time to think through my strategy for the pain / nausea management (each round I've tried different combinations of drugs and timing). Yes, I was busy at work, but also, I think I'm experiencing a bit of treatment regimen fatigue. By this evening, when I'm really feeling crummy, I'm sure I'll be regretting my lack of preparedness, but at least my dad will be here shortly to help. Only one more round after this!