Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Ok, this may not fall under the "small things" category, but...

I've decided that losing your hair is so much less stressful than when it grows back in. I'm really struggling to embrace my new locks right now. My original hair was very dark, almost black, and fine and shiny.  The hair that first began to grow back was dry, gray, and curly. Now it is not quite as gray or curly, but in between. It is still dry. After a year of growing it back it is still very thin and sparse. You can see my scalp underneath and there are a couple of really thin patches. It's very difficult to style and even when it does, it looks like I don't know how to fix my hair. Very frustrating.

Recently, well over the past year of taking Megestrol, my cortisol levels (a hormone that works very much like the thyroid) fell very low. It sapped all my energy, patience, and brain power. Life was challenging.  What would normally feel like a stressful situation I could handle became so overwhelming I would shutdown. Just like when your thyroid level is low your hair falls out, low cortisol did the same for me. It was tough. I'm normally pretty strong, but this was more difficult than chemo was for me. After working with my oncologist and endocrinologist, I was placed on a low dose steroid. My hair isn't better, but I do have better clarity, more energy, and much more happiness as a result.

So, I feel better, but I still have hair problems. I have used a number of excellent products. I have always taken care of my hair for fear of it becoming thin and damaged, ironic huh? My hair is better with them, but still not up to my own standard. For this reason, be prepared to see me in wigs, hats, or ugly hair until I decide that I like my hair enough again to wear it bare, unless it becomes too hot first. If you see me out and about and you think my hair looks great, chances are its a wig. So there!

Monday, October 17, 2011


I am back to being me again. I finally allowed myself that pity party I never had, I guess. I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with family and loved ones, and now I am ready to move on. There is much to do! I've refocused on better eating habits and working as hard as I can to be healthy. I am enjoying playing with Jack and the beautiful weather we've had. We had a great weekend celebrating with the Riley family who were all in town for the Jack Riley Memorial Golf Tournament for the Sanctuary Hospice House. We celebrated Kevin's mom's birthday, Matt's commitment to the US Army, and Erin and Geoff's engagement. So, there was definitely a lot going on.

Jack played in his first soccer game of the season with the Yellowjackets, and they won! Yaaayyy! Jack scored his first goal and had a great time. It was all so much fun.

I just wanted to let you all who follow know that I have bounced back. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

All Mixed Up

I feel like cake batter...all mixed up. It's been a really emotional couple of weeks, or more, for me. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed, tired, pitiful. Other times, I feel angry or just scared. Then, there are the times when I look at my beautiful life and precious family and remember how lucky and blessed I am. Kevin's brother, Tim, once told me that it's ok to be mad with God. He's big enough to take it. I remember that often. I try to equate it with when Jack is angry with me for making him do something he doesn't want to do, because I know that in the long run, it's in his best interest. At the time, Jack doesn't see the big picture. So, it is fine for him to feel frustrated with me. I know he still loves me, and I still love him.

          Bennie D'Amico
          Lisa Palladino
          Fran Stafford

These are the names of three very special people who fought cancer at the very same time I did. They had chemo, radiation, and/or treatments at the same time I did. Each one of these fighters entered the gates of Heaven through their own personal battle with cancer. They didn't fight alone, however. They each left their legacy behind in the hearts of their family, friends, and loved ones who fought right along beside them. Each one of them left behind children in school (elementary, high school, and college). Their deaths resulted in eternal life, pain-free,in heaven with our Holy Father. They also resulted in a void in the lives of all who love them. Over time the void may be masked with fond memories, but it still exists.

Lost loved ones cannot be replaced. I know this because my own husband lost his father to cancer almost 11 years ago. My son and I know him only through his legacy, the countless stories we've been told about him. We feel as though we know him and lived side by side with him, though. There often times when something happens and I tell Kevin, "You know what your Dad would say..." Over time, the Riley family has chosen to focus on the positive things about Jack Riley's life rather than his struggle with cancer, and there are many. Still, his fight was heroic.

Bennie D'Amico, Lisa Palladino, and Fran Stafford were also heroes. I don't know how anyone lands on the "cancer list." It doesn't seem fair. What seems even more unfair is how some of us survive and others do not. Those of us who have had cancer, whether we are currently in remission or not (and I could name many) know it isn't fair. It's especially difficult to explain the relief, guilt, and fear that one feels all at the same time from having "No Evidence of Disease." Relief that you and your loved ones can enjoy a normal life again, go outside, and play. Guilt that those you love and personally know, like Bennie, Lisa, and Fran, didn't survive, yet, their loved ones see you thriving. Fear that no matter how far you distance yourself from the illness of cancer, it can always return, and you might not survive next time. Kevin's dad experienced it. Bennie experienced it. Fran experienced it, and I don't want my family to experience it. I am ok with death, but I don't want Jack to grow up without me. I don't want Kevin to go to soccer games or Christmas shopping alone.

Fran's terminal illness and death yesterday has been a reminder of all these things. I realize I could die of many other things before Jack grows up, but this has been on my mind of late. I am trying to get back to my positive place. It's just been more difficult than usual lately.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hot and Heavy!

Hot and Heavy...That's basically the weather forecast here in Mississippi for the foreseeable future...probably until the end of October if you want to know the truth. The temperature is about 100, give or take a degree, and I am absolutely psyched about it! I'm sure you must think I have been in the heat a little too long or lost my mind. Let me assure you I haven't.

Last April I found out I was sick again. One of the requirements of my chemo regimen was that I stay out of the sun. I couldn't really handle it anyway. This summer is different. I can do whatever I like. I have enjoyed being outside...getting my flower beds back into shape,  planting flowers, watering flowers, watching Jack play and Kevin grill. I'm not so pasty anymore. My color is coming back. I love my life.  I feel my energy and strength returning.  We've enjoyed swimming, visiting with friends, going to baseball games.  I love the smell of sunscreen on my little brown boy. Every single day is a precious gift.

When I think of all the changes we've been through this past year, it makes me almost cry...Cancer, Luz went home, 8 inches of snow, We lost Birdie and gained Bogey, Aurora and Natalee moved on,  Kevin lost his job, Kevin was blessed with an even better job, Jack graduated preschool...I was here for each and every one of them, good and bad. Now, we anxiously look forward to a summer visit from our beloved Mexican daughter, Luz. I cannot wait to see her!

I am grateful for every experience I have and that cancer helped to refocus my priorities.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A year ago today...

It was just a year ago that I was experiencing my first round of chemo. What I remember about that first experience was how nice all the oncologist nurses were. I love Jerri and Jill, and still drop by to visit when I have check-ups. Another thing I remember was watching clear toxins enter my body through the IV, one drop at a time. I wondered if they would be the magic we, I prayed they would do exactly what we needed them to do. Dr. Reed explained to me up front that metastasis of endometrial cancer is NOT good. He explained that we would follow the most aggressive regimen of chemotherapy available for my cancer. When I asked him what my chances were, he explained that if this chemo didn't work I would have less than a year to live. Oh yeah...and we wouldn't know for at least three months what it was doing. I remember feeling my stubborn chin stiffen. I was ready for the fight. Kevin was my biggest cheerleader and still is.

That was a year ago. I began chemo on April 26th, 2010. Today, I am cancer-free. I received my most recent clean bill of health on April 8th. Everything looks good. With my cancer medication (and I take it 4 times daily indefinitely) it is difficult to keep my weight under control. I gain and lose and again and lose, but I am back at it again. I want to be healthy. I am grateful for the new perspective on life that cancer has given me. I enjoy each and every minute I have. It truly is the small things that are important.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good News!

My CT results were great. No problems. We were beyond relieved to hear the good news. I'm never afraid or nervous to have a CT scan. It's no big deal, and the ladies at the clinic are so nice. We always hold our breaths until we receive the official results, though. I return to the doctor in three months, but I don't think I have another CT scan for six months. So, for now I continue to try to be as healthy as possible.

I'm back on Weight Watchers. I lost my five Christmas pounds last week. Yeeeehhhhh! I need to get more active since the weather is nicer now. Plus, I have a gym membership that I haven't really been using. It's so hard to get there! Once I start going, I'll feel good and be motivated, it's the first step...I'll work on that this week. It's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy.

Another high note is that I had to get my first haircut since April yesterday...ok, it's more like a trim. I needed a little shape over my ears and along my neckline. Right now, it's kind of straight, kind of curly. It think it will be curly, it's just not long enough to complete a curl right now. So, it looks like I don't wash or brush my hair. Trust me, I do! It just have a mind of it's own. Of course, if I was suppressed for nine months I'd want to express myself, too. :) At least it's not a weird color. It's my normal dark brown color; only it has a lot of silvery-gray mixed in now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Whole New Year!

Ok, I'm blushing...I have been feeling guilty about not updating my blog for quite some time now. I knew in the back of my mind that I had not posted since my last chemo. I've been meaning to post, but life got busy. Since I was feeling like me again, I got busy with it. I felt better by the end of October. Halloween turned into Thanksgiving, which turned into Christmas, and here we are in 2011. The most embarrassing part of not updating my blog is that until today, the background was still a fall scene. Yikes!

I'll do my very best to catch you up on things. I enjoyed every single turning leaf in October. Each one was majestic. I was honored to witness each one turn then drift to the ground when it couldn't hang on any longer. Kevin, Jack, and I enjoyed being a healthy, happy family.

In November, my good WGU buddies Jen Smolka and Scarlette Studdard met me in Memphis for a girls weekend to celebrate being cancer free. Debra was going to meet us there, too, but she got sick the week before. We had a great time...good BBQ, good drinks, good fun. When you work online, you rarely get to see your best buds that you work with. We added a new member to our family in November, 11 year old Aurora. Yes, I said ELEVEN. Never a dull moment around here. Also in November, my Dad had open heart surgery. The surgery was successful, but he'll feel much better when he is completely healed. I wasn't able to be there with him and the rest of my family, but I'm very grateful to my sister and brother for keeping me informed and supporting my mom through this very scary time. The most exciting thing for me in November was the reappearance of hair on my head. Yippee! It was a pretty big deal for me...a sign of health. I now have eyebrows and eyelashes, too. :)

In October and November I lost 20 pounds with weight watchers, but have gained about 5-6 back since Christmas and New Years. I have really got to get back on that train! Losing weight is important to keeping the estrogen that causes my cancer as low as possible.

December was filled with joy and happiness in the Riley household. God gave us all another Christmas together. I plan to celebrate each and every one of them to the max. Please don't feel unloved that you did not receive a Christmas card from us. It's all my fault. I was busy being healthy and happy. Kevin and I thought of each and every person who have made a difference in our life over the past year. We are so grateful to count you as friends and loved ones. Christmas was wonderful. The best part was the surprise snow that fell during the night on Christmas Eve. The kids woke up to a winter wonderland after Santa left. It was magical!

So, that brings us to January. Like most of the rest of the country we've been snowed in this week. We were excited to receive over 7 inches of snow. It was beautiful, and it's been so cold that it is just now beginning to melt.  

The real reason I decided to finally post another blog today is that I had my first 3 month check-up since going into remission and finishing chemo. Dr. Reed said everything looked great. What a relief. I told him about a little cough I've had at night for the past few weeks. I also had one when I was going through chemo before, since my metastasis was in my lungs. So, just to be safe, we decided to move my CT scan up three months to next week, rather than wait until April. I don't expect there to be a problem, but it's natural to be nervous. So, my CT scan is Tuesday; and the follow-up with Dr. Reed is next Friday. I promise to let you know what we find out. I'm sure many of you will be praying right along beside us.