Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Arizona 3 Day Walk Pictures

Opening ceremonies start early, very early - it is still dark

One Heart One Goal One Step At A Time

Many of the reasons we walk - someday I hope to carry in the adventures flag

Team Grand Canyon ready to go!

Team Grand Canyon's favorite girl scouts

Even the horses wear pink during the walk

Enjoying the rain

You have to watch out for pirates on the course

And knuckle rapping nuns!

Follow the arrows

Loved this shirt

The crew was great helping set up tents this year

Home sweet home for two nights - this year we got rain during the night

Some of my flair

The shower water was wonderfully hot this year

This sign says it all for me

Closing ceremonies - survivors circle

Big smiles

Holding up our shoes in honor of the survivors

Love Love Love This Picture!

Our Team T-Shirt "From the Canyon to the Cure - Team Grand Canyon"

Yea! Team Grand Canyon!

Goofing Off

Team Grand Canyon, Three Long Days and We Are All Still Smiling

Enjoying some post walk celebratory champagne!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

AZ 3 Day Walk Begins This Friday

I leave tomorrow for the Arizona 3 Day Walk.  Thank you everyone who donated this year.  The seven of us on Team Grand Canyon have raised over $22,000 this year which puts us at $58,000 in three years.  We could not have done it without all of our friends and family.  It is nice to know that such good had come out of such a terrible time of my life.  This is my third year walking. Since last year I have had two friends diagnosed with breast cancer.  Both of them in their 40s.  This year I walk for them and for the hope that I have that in the future others will not have to experience the breast cancer nightmare.  I look forward to spending time with the ladies on our team.  There are three of us that are walking for a third time, three of us walking for our second time, and one of us getting to experience her first walk.  Three of us live in Grand Canyon National Park, two of us live in Denver, one of us lives in Phoenix, and one of us lives in New York.  I am truly blessed to have such amazing women to walk next to for three days.  I look forward to the others that I will meet this weekend.  Everyone who makes the commitment to raise the $2,300 and participate in the walk has a story about how breast cancer has changed their lives.  I would like to thank each of them personally for making a difference.  The weather looks like we might be rained on a little.  We only had a slight shower in 2009 so we are not used to rain on the walk or on our tents.  I’m bringing more rain gear and some trash bags to wrap everything up in during the day when we are away from camp.   I have the world’s largest sleeping bag since I get so cold at night.  I needed help last night smashing it into my duffle.  I don’t have much room for anything else now but at least I’ll be comfy when I sleep.  I will take lots of pictures again this year and I’ll post them next week.  Thanks again to all of you who donated.  It means the world to me and it does make a difference.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We Saw 50/50 This Weekend

I really liked it.  I could tell it was written by someone who went through a cancer battle.  It was funny and sad. I laughed a lot and teared up a few times when it hit close to home.  They nailed it when the whole world sort of slowed down and he didn't hear another thing after the doctor said the word "cancer".  And when he walked out of the doctor's office after his diagnosis into a hallway of people.  The whole world looked different, he was no longer the same person he was just a few minutes before and yet here was the world continuing around him like nothing happened.  He was healthy, he didn't smoke or drinks, he recycled and yet he still got cancer. 

The only time I couldn't stop the tears was when he put his head against his Mom's and hugged her before his big surgery.  That just reminded me of being with my parents before each of my surgeries.  I tell you, it is much easier being the one who is sick than one of the loved ones watching.  This was the second show I saw in a week that had cancer patients with overbearing Mothers.  Mothers that smothered and let everyone know just how much their kid's cancer diagnosis affected them.  That was completely opposite of my experience.  I have the two most wonderful parents.  They let me know from day one that they were on the train ride with me and that they weren't getting off until I got off first.  They only made me feel loved and supported, I never had any inkling of the sacrifices they made during my treatment and since.  They never acted like they were scared and were always positive.  It had to be a terrible experience for them and my sisters seeing me in such pain and getting sicker and sicker not too mention how it all could have ended.  But they never let me see it.  Seeing them being so strong and positive gave me the strength to be the same.  I owe them for so much and can never ever repay them. 

Anyway, back to the movie.  It was a great movie, a bit raunchy but it hit a lot of true notes.  I thought they handled the subject manner well without being too light hearted but not too heavy handed.  The main character "Adam" is very likable.  The others are like in real life, some are there for you and some pull away just when you need them most.  There are those that tell you how to beat the cancer and those that tell you about how their aunt died from exactly what you have.  Some medical professionals are personable and caring, others are professional and move you from here to there without answering many questions.  Some of the best people you meet are in the chemo chair next to you and not everyone survives.  Losing you hair is no fun and chemo is painful.  It is nice to have a canine companion to sleep next to during treatment. You can't do it alone and you are going to inconvenience others. It is good to get your rage out when it builds up too much and it is also good to apologize to those who you took your pain out on.  You try to hang in there but eventually you get so tired of being sick that you feel like you just can't handle it any more. 

The movie screenplay was written by Will Reiser.  He was diagnosed with cancer in his late 20s and the movie is loosely based on his experience.  I read somewhere that he was encouraged by Seth Rogan to write the screenplay. "We thought the best way to pull something good out of the situation was to get him to write a screenplay," Rogen is quoted as saying in the production notes.  I think they succeeded in pulling something good out of the situation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This is what drives me crazy about cancer treatments

(MedPage Today) -- Breast cancer patients treated with endocrine therapy might improve their odds for survival by starting with tamoxifen and then switching to an aromatase inhibitor, authors of a meta-analysis concluded.

Upfront therapy with aromatase inhibitors have substantial cumulative toxicity, which could explain the lack of overall-survival benefit despite significant improvement in disease-free survival observed with the agents.

Longer-duration use of aromatase inhibitors increased the odds of cardiovascular disease and bone fractures but decreased the odds of venous thrombosis and endometrial cancer.

Overall, five years of treatment with aromatase inhibitors resulted in a trend toward increased mortality compared with five years of tamoxifen or a switching strategy, as reported online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"Our pooled data are consistent with data reported previously in the individual studies, which showed that compared with tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors are associated with increased odds of bone fracture and reduced odds of venous thrombosis and endometrial carcinoma," Eitan Amir, MB ChB, of Princess Marget Hospital in Toronto, and coauthors wrote in their discussion.

I take my new little aromatase inhibitor pill every day with the hope and faith that I will get to live a fulfilling long life.  Then I read things like this - "substantial cumulative toxicity" or "lack of overall-survival benefit" or  "longer-duration use of aromatase inhibitors increased the odds of cardiovascular disease and bone fractures" So, while my little pink pill may save me from breast cancer, there is no increased overall survival benefit because it is going to kill me with something else.  The whole article can be read at Aromatase Therapy Timing Key in Breast Cancer Survival on the site.  Yes, it looks like it is a good thing that I started with taking tamoxifen first and then switching to an AI but notice that the study was done with women taking the two meds for five years.  My oncologist wants me to take the letrozole for eight years.  Eight years.  What is the "substantial cumulative toxicity" of EIGHT YEARS of this stuff.  Heart problems run rampant through my family history while there is no one who has had my type of breast cancer.  Am I shortening my life each morning when I take my pill? Am I lengthening my life each morning when I take my pill? I just don't know and it drives me crazy. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oncologist Visit

I finally stopped my boycott of all doctors on Wednesday. My tamoxifen prescription ran out and I had to make an appointment to get a new one. I had a good run though from the beginning of March until this week. I made it almost through the whole appointment before he gave me a hard time about the length of time between visits. I put my head down like I felt badly about it and promised it wouldn’t happen again. But between you and me, it was worth it! It has been a great doctor free spring and summer.

But I am now back in the medical fold. He suggested that I change from tamoxifen to an aromatase inhibitor (AI). He said that there is a better chance for survival on an AI for someone with my cancer history and since I had the hysterectomy and ovary removal. In an oversimplified nutshell – tamoxifen stops your body’s ability to use estrogen while AIs stop the body from making any estrogen. Of course ovaries are the main source of estrogen in a female body so women with their ovaries who have not gone through menopause cannot take them. But in the case of those of us without ovaries, the body also makes estrogen in other ways. Taking an AI will stop those other ways. My cancer was estrogen positive – meaning it fed and grew off of estrogen. So, if there is no estrogen, any cancer cells left in my body will not grow. OK – simple enough, I buy it. I tried to read the different studies concerning tamoxifen vs. aromatase inhibitors. One I read said that in women who have been on tamoxifen for two to three years and then switch to an AI, there is a 50% better long term survival rate. I don’t know who did the study, maybe it was the manufacturer of the AI I am going to be taking but I like the sound of that. Other studies show the opposite. So, it all boils down to my decision. Through it all I have always taken my doctor’s advice and I start taking letrozole on Monday.

The list of potential side effects is as long as the tamoxifen list and then some. I hope I do not have the hair thinning, the debilitating joint pain, the brain fog, or the sky high cholesterol that others complain of. I was worried about how much it was going to cost but it seems that there has been a generic version since last year. My pharmacist called today and said that it will only cost me $15 a month. Awesome! AIs do cause the body to lose bone density each year so I will have to go twice a year to have some sort of infusion to counteract the osteoporosis. I have my first one next week and I’ll find out more about it, I didn’t ask. My oncologist did say that I may feel achy like I have the flu for a few days afterwards. I can handle that. It is no chemo. I also go back in three months (I promised!) and we will discuss any side effects I am having and I can decide then whether I want to change back to tamoxifen again.

We also discussed how long I was going to continue to take medication. He had told me when I started on tamoxifen that it would only be for five years. I asked about the letrozole hoping it would be the same. He said that there have been some promising studies out of Europe showing that ten years is the most beneficial for both tamoxifen and AIs. He said we could discuss it again in three years.

So, I went to the doctor’s office this week thinking I had two years left of taking a medication which is causing me no bad side effects to seven years of taking a medication that could cause me all sorts of problems. See why I avoid doctors as much as I can?

But of course, if there is any chance that this new medication can give me a large chance of survival, I am obviously going to give it a try. And after spending too much time reading about the negative side effects, I’ve decided to not worry about them. Life is too short for worrying about something that may not happen. I’ll let you know………

Friday, July 8, 2011

Three Years Since Breast Cancer Came Into My Life

Today is my three year cancerversary. It almost snuck up on me this year. Not much has happened since last year but this past year has been a year of healing for me both mentally and physically.

I can have days go by without dwelling on my diagnosis or treatment. I still spend time on the internet researching treatments /side effects/research findings, reading other breast cancer blogs, and visiting the message boards but it all doesn’t seem so personal any more. Almost like it happened to someone else, someone I am close to but not me. I’m not saying that something won’t trigger my memories and that I don’t end up back in the horror of that time but it definitely happens less often. I hardly ever dream about having cancer anymore and I’m hoping my friends and family find I talk about it less.

Horrible things happen to people every day. This day three years ago was one of those days for me. Hearing the pain in my doctor’s voice over the phone as he told me and then hearing the pain in my parents’ voices as I told them are memories that will always be seared in my brain. Time stood still as my mind tried to wrap itself around how much my life had changed in that one instance. I can’t erase those memories and I don’t think I want to any more. The whole cancer experience is now a part of me and a part of who I am.

I worry that sometimes I am a little too Pollyannaish but no matter how terrible and scary life can get, it has so far not even been close to how bad 07/08/08 was for me. And I survived that. I am still here plus I am happy and healthy. I am not saying that things are always great and that I always have a smile but when I start to get brought down by something happening around me, I can draw on the knowledge that I have the strength to get through just about anything. Plus there is the elephant in my brain that, while he has grown much smaller, he is still there making sure that I know I am not out of the woods yet. People often survive the first round of cancer but it can come roaring back in a second and next time I might not be so blessed/lucky. So, when time could be short for me, why the heck would I want to spend time worrying about something that happened at work or something breaking that can be fixed, or something that I am going to recover from. My life could be short, why spend it sweating the small stuff. And as long as I and my loved one’s are healthy, it is truly all small stuff. Life can go oh so wrong in just a second. One phone call can change your life forever. If there is one thing I have learned in the past three years, it is to live life like that phone call could happen any second. Today is a glorious day and so far the phone has not rung.

Physically, since my hysterectomy in January, I feel almost normal. I still have some constant aches from just above my lumpectomy scar and in my joints, I still have burn scars from radiation, and my hair is still very dark. Other than that I have no complaints or even any concerns right now. With all of the pain and subsequent testing to see if the cancer spread in the past three years, it has been wonderful to just live life and not have those constant scares. I think it has been three months since I have been to see a doctor! I still have two months left on my tamoxifen prescription so I might even make it five months. I used to go years with no contact with the medical community but for a while there I was going in daily which isn’t fun when it is over an hour drive to the cancer center. Not that I don’t love and appreciate all of my medical care providers, I just hope I don’t have to see them much in the future.

I’ve read that the side effects from chemo can linger for years. I think I am over the worst of them. My hands no longer get numb, my hair is long, my memory has come back, and I am starting to lose the weight I gained during treatment. I still have some circulation problems with my lower legs and feet but it is getting much easier to walk long distances. My mantra after treatment was that each day was better than the last and I truly believe that was true. The body’s ability to heal after being pumped full of poison is an amazing thing.

My last thought of the day – improvements in cancer treatment are made every day. I was very lucky to come into the fight at a time when some huge advancements had been made and I am feeling great today because I had some less invasive treatments than cancer patients had even five years ago. I am encouraged that I am reading about research findings that have been made even in the three years since my diagnosis. Please consider donating to a cancer research fund. Or even to my team for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk. I have to believe that there is a better way to fight cancer and that someday there will be a cure. I hope it is in my lifetime.

Here's my post from this day last year.  I didn't write one on the first anniversary of my diagnosis.  I think it was still too raw in my mind and I still just wanted the whole experience to go a way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Welcome Hawai'i !

I first started the Wander Linda blog on July 21st, 2008.  I can't see who visits my blog but I can track where they visit from and I have been waiting for the day that all fifty states had visited.  I had to wait awhile but someone finally visited from the beautiful state of Hawai'i.  New Mexico was the second the last state to visit about six months ago. 

I don't have a very popular blog compared to the millions out there but since it started my blog has had 10,408 visits with 3,304 unique visitors.  In addition to all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, I have had visitors from 80 different countries.  Including some interesting place such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Nepal, Slovakia, Reunion, Laos, Latvia, UAE, and Kenya.  My top ten countries from which I have had visitors are, in order; the US, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Australia, Spain, India, Germany, Malasia, and Italy.

I have not had a visitor from Greenland yet, that is my new goal.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grand Canyon Chili Cookoff 2011

Saturday is the third annual Grand Canyon Chili Cookoff held in memory of Deb Gardner.  For the second year in a row all proceeds will go to Team Grand Canyon's AZ 3 Day Walk fundraising.  For $10 you can enter your best chili.  For $5 you can taste all of the chili and vote for your favorite.  The winning chili cook gets $50 and dinner for two in the Arizona Room at the Bright Angel Lodge. 

In conjunction with the Chili Cookoff Team Grand Canyon and their supports are selling raffle tickets for Arizona Diamondbacks games.  Sysco, for the third year in a row, has generously donated four of their box seat tickets - this year the July 23rd Rockies game.  We also have tickets for four other games as prizes.  Raffle tickets are $5 for one or $20 for five.  The drawing for the tickets will be held at the Chili Cookoff. 

Last year we were able to raise over $2,000 with the raffle and cookoff.  We shall see what this year brings.  If you are interested in either make chili, tasting chili, or baseball raffle tickets please leave me a message and I'll contact you soon with details.

My fundraising went over the $2,300 required minimum today.  Thank you so much for everyone who donated this year.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

National Cancer Survivor's Day

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day.  It falls on the first Sunday of each year.  The first year it came around after my diagnosis I was invited to a luncheon that is put on by the NA Cancer Center.  I at that point just wanted to put it all behind me and honestly, I was a bit embarrassed that I was a cancer patient.  Last year, I got the same invite and enjoyed going to the luncheon with my boyfriend and another dear friend.  It was great to see the staff from the cancer center and to laugh with them on how different I looked with hair.  This year I did not get an invite so maybe they didn't hold it this year or I just didn't make the list.  I think I wouldn't have gone though, I am enjoying the simple pleasures of boating this summer.  Each weekend that we can spend out exploring seems like such an important life affirming time for me that I would hate to miss one.  Playing with Daisy in the water, reading a book on the boat as it sways with the waves, starting to get my body in shape again while exploring the desert slickrock, the easy relaxed conversations with my boyfriend, swimming and laughing in the cool water, ending the day with a fire on the beach - all of them are exactly what I was fighting for as I battled cancer.  So, it was the perfect way for me to celebrate that I am here for another National Cancer Survivor's Day.

Here's to all of my fellow cancer survivor's out there.  I hope you each had a perfect day also.  And I also have a quiet prayer for those who cancer took too soon and to those that are still battling to get back to what they love in life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Weekend, Another Trip to Lake Powell

Last weekend was out third weekend on Lake Powell with Greg's new boat "Serenity".  It is nice to start getting out on the weekends more often than I have since my diagnosis in 2008.  

Our first weekend out was a lot of fun but I couldn't believe how sore I was from getting off/on the boat, climbing into and out of the cuddy, hiking, lifting, and walking in the sand.  My whole body ached all week afterwards.  Boating is a full body workout!  This week I felt great after the weekend.  I'm hoping I am starting to get back into shape.  

We could spend every weekend for the rest of our lives exploring around Lake Powell and not see everything

Daisy Loves Boating and Exploring and Swimming.  Here she is being a good girl

I love spring cactus flowers

This weekend's private beach

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Melissa Etheridge

Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.  I clearly remember her bald performance on the 2005 Grammy Awards show.  I thought - wow, I could never do that.  Well, it was only a few years later that I made the choice to be out in public bald.  I'm glad it wasn't in front of millions.  Here's a video of Melissa talking about her breast cancer fight and how it affected her music.

Here is that 2005 Grammy performance

Here are the full versions of the two songs she talks about in the video

I Run for Life

This is Not Goodbye has a breast cancer awareness page that can be seen at

Lake Powell

We have a new addition to our family - a 19 foot boat.  I hope I don't drive everyone crazy with Lake Powell pictures this summer but this weekend was our second weekend on the lake.

 Lunch on our private beach
 Afternoon exploring - the boat is back that way
 Gunsight Butte
 Globe Mallow in bloom everywhere
 Where did Daisy come from?
 Hey!  Not Cool Daisy!
 That's better
 Daisy searching for her duck water toy
 Pretty colors
 Daisy loves exploring
The perfect ending to the perfect day