Friday, December 26, 2014

Our Miracle Baby...

Baby Nolden joined our family early this November, after over 48 hours of labor (a fitting end to the difficult journey that began four years ago when we decided to have a second child). She was born 21 inches long and weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces.

She's a big, beautiful, healthy baby, and we thank God every day we have her, and that I was healthy enough to carry her to term.

The day before Christmas Eve, the oncologist who diagnosed me with leukemia called to congratulate us on our new baby. Hearing her voice made me feel like we've come full circle. And now it's time to begin the next phase of our lives: being a family of four!

Day Three

Day Six

Week Seven

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Stupid Cancer Show: Having Children After Cancer

This coming Monday, October 13th, at 8:00 p.m. ET, I'll be interviewed on the radio show, The Stupid Cancer Show. Matthew Zachary and Annie Goodman do a fabulous job with this program, and so I'm very excited to have the opportunity to participate. Also, I'm thrilled to sharing the airwaves with the other guest, Gina M Shaw, whose book, "Having Children After Cancer," I reviewed on this blog in 2011, when we didn't know if I'd ever become pregnant again.

Hopefully my Chemo Brain and Baby Brain don't kick in at the same time during the interview...


For many young adults diagnosed with cancer, the fertility repercussions of treatment are often eclipsed by the primary objective of treating the disease. Join us as we talk with Gina Shaw (Author) and Shelley Nolden (blogger and mom to be) as we explore the options, risks and tough emotional and psychological issues of having children after cancer. 
Survivor Spotlight on Jen Rachman

Link to live broadcast at 8:00 p.m. ET and podcast replay: The Stupid Cancer Show: Having Children After Cancer

And for any young adult affected by cancer, who happen to read this, I highly recommend you check out the topics in other episodes of the show, which can be downloaded as podcasts at the above site.

At 36 weeks, I finally feel like it won't jinx us to post a belly shot.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cord Blood Banking

As I'm writing this, I actually have tears rolling down my checks that are splashing on my legs.

For a long time, I was under the assumption that I would not be able to bank this baby's cord blood. I'd thought the stems cells were tainted by my potentially still leukemic blood. Yesterday I decided to look into the possibility once more before writing it off. I'm glad I did.

It took a lot of digging and several phone calls to determine that yes, the baby's cord blood is safe, since there is a separation of those cells from my cells. The baby's stem cells have no history in common with my blood. There may be other maternal diseases that rule out a collection, but at least for leukemia, it is safe. So that was great news.

In doing my research, I came across a notice for a program at one of the major family cord blood banks (CBR) called the Newborn Possibilities Program. CBR offers free cord blood and tissue banking (including the pricey fee for processing the cells, shipping, and the first five years of storage) for anyone who has an immediate family member need for stem cells. The treatment for a relapse of leukemia is a stem cell transplant, so that means I qualify.

I spoke to a genetic counselor, who confirmed I qualify and enrolled me in the program. I'm so thrilled the tears won't stop. Within an hour, I found out both that 1) we can actually bank this cord blood, providing me with an insurance policy, and 2) that due to the generosity of CBR, that insurance policy, worth thousands of dollars, will be free.

If we don't use the cord blood within five years (by which point I will be considered cured, knock on wood), we can choose to continue storing the cells by paying the annual storage fee (but we won't have to reimburse CBR for any of the original hefty processing fee).

Both the medical advancements and the generosity of this company take my breath away. Or maybe that shortness of breath is actually being caused by the little pair of legs pressing against my lungs right now..

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lightning, Ebola, Sharks, and Twenty Weeks Pregnant

Today, I thought about:

1) Lightning strikes (Did you know you shouldn't lie flat on the ground if you are caught outside in a thunderstorm?)

2) The "out of control" Ebola epidemic in West Africa

3) The 7.9 earthquake near Alaska

4) Great white sharks off the Jersey Shore (video of great white near boat)

5) Sun exposure and the risk of developing melanoma (five major sunburns between the ages of 10 and 15 can increase a child's melanoma risk by 80%)

After worrying about all five of these threats, it occurred to me that none are the actual source of my anxiety. I'm now twenty plus weeks pregnant. The last time, this is when I developed leukemia, and it's when it killed our baby.

Next week, we have the body scan ultrasound, at which last time we first learned our baby had died. As I'm typing, I can feel Baby Bean kicking. Yet I still don't want to go to the appointment next week.

Cancer patients often suffer from something coined, "scan-xiety." They may have a fear of or don't like getting test results, because the results might be bad. I'd never dreaded my quarterly blood draws for my PCR remission test. Yet during this pregnancy, I've found myself wanting nothing to do with doctors. Don't get me wrong: I have great doctors. It's just hard to shake a traumatic medical past. It's hard not to walk into my OB/GYN's office and not revisit what happened in 2011.

After everything goes fine at the ultrasound appointment next Wednesday, I think we'll start to feel like we're actually going to have a baby, that I'm going to be okay. We might actually start tossing around a few baby names, and discussing what it will be like to be a family of four. Until now, Rob and I have had an unspoken pact not to go there, not to jinx ourselves.

In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to focus on Baby Bean's kicks instead of lightning, Ebola, earthquakes, sharks, melanoma, or a leukemia relapse. Thump. I just felt another one.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day! (and some news)

Mother's Day seems like the perfect time to share our happy news. Three years after my diagnosis for acute promyeloytic leukemia, we are pleased to announce that God has blessed us once again.

Are we nervous? Yes. Have I been having flashbacks? Yes. Am I worried about relapse? Yes, but pregnancy doesn't increase my chances. Are we worried about side effects of the chemo? For the baby, no, since it's been shown there are none. For me, a little, since I have a risk of cardiomyopathy from the anthracyclines, and pregnancy puts more stress on the heart. But my EKG and echocardiogram were good, and I've got an awesome cardiologist.

Are we excited? YES. WE ARE THRILLED!

Because we are trying to move past cancer, and keep a positive mindset throughout this pregnancy, we've started a blog about the baby instead of writing about him/her here. It's called, From Poppy Seed to Pumpkin: A "Fresh" Perspective on Pregnancy. We hope you enjoy it (or at least find it amusing.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Young Adult Cancer Survivors Conference: April 5, 2014

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is hosting a free conference for young adult cancer survivors and their support networks on Saturday, April 5. (We'd love to see you there!)

I love the theme. Young adults definitely travel in the fast lane, and a cancer diagnosis makes it very difficult to keep traveling at those same high speeds. My speech at the conference will be on this topic. Hopefully I'll think of a few good metaphors, like the time Rob and I were driving from WI to NYC, and I suddenly noticed that we were nearing Ann Arbor, Michigan...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chocolate Cake Tasting Party

To thank all of our local friends for all the meals, help with with our daughter, rides to the hospital, and emotional support, Ryan and I hosted a chocolate cake tasting party in November. Why chocolate cake? Because each time I've had a good remission test result, we've celebrated with a piece, and the party happened to coincide with receiving the news that I'm still in remission. (Two years now, three to go until I'm considered cured.)
The party, with so many dear friends, was wonderful. The cakes delicious. Our only regret is that so many of those who helped us through this ordeal weren't local. (In retrospect, we should have FedEx'ed the leftovers!)
Below is a pictorial summary of the event:

We had five full-size cakes in the competition. Guests received a voting card, one side of which had room for notes, and the other side contained the voting ballet for the three categories- Best Looking, Best Taste, Best in Show. We decided to have guests cut their own pieces,
so that we wouldn't waste cake (throwing away chocolate cake is a crime!)
At the end of the evening, we handed out Chinese take-out containers,
so guests could take some of the extra cake home.
We displayed the cakes amongst white flower floral arrangements that contained chocolate roses,
which I had specially made from a chocolate shop.
The other decorations were brown and gold.
Each of the cakes in the competition had meaning to Rob and me. It was a blind taste testing, so after the ballots were turned in, we shared the below details with our friends:

"Death by Chocolate" from the A&P Supermarket bakery
Cost: $26
Our close friends, John and Vanessa, who were there for us through the daily grind of my hospital stay, recovery, and chemo treatments, introduced us to this cake for one of my first remission celebration moments.
The inside had layers of chocolate cake and fudge / chocolate frosting

Customized cake from Sugarflake Bakery in Wyckoff
Cost: $55 post $5 coupon
The theme of this cake matches the theme of my blog,
and the attitude my family has tried to maintain since my diagnosis.
The inside had layers of chocolate cake and pudding filling.

"Our Famous Turtle" from Cafe Latte in Minneapolis
Cost: $38, excluding shipping costs
When Rob and I were dating in Minneapolis, Cafe Latte was one of our favorite restaurants,
and we always ended the meal with a slice of this cake. Since then, my mother-in-law
brings us each a piece whenever she visits.
Rob's twin brother, Derek, shipped this cake to us for the party (thank you Derek!)
The layers contained chocolate fudge, caramel, and pecans.

Chocolate Rosettes, homemade by Mom
Cost: $18 for ingredients
It goes without saying that this entry was particularly special to me.
My mom made these same rosettes for my sister-in-law's bachelorette party, since Jen had a rose-themed wedding.
There was no fudging layering in these, and so were a big hit for the guests who favor a slightly less sweet dessert.
Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake from The Palm in Manhattan
Cost: $85
This was our favorite cake while living in NYC. In advance of our wedding, we took a slice of the cake on the plane and give it to the baker at our reception venue, with the request to model our wedding cake after it.
As the name suggests, the cake contained seven layers of chocolate cake and a fudgy/mouse filling.
The box it came in was from a place called Sweet Street Bakery, so if anyone not in NYC wants to try this cake, it can be ordered here: Sweet Street Bakery


And the winners are... but first, a few more pics:

My parents surprised me by flying in for the event, and helping out with all the prep work.
The sweetest treat of all!

 GORGEOUS roses from Bill and Emily, who couldn't make it to the party.
Thank you!!!
And a few of the voting cards:


And now, the winners: