Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Break -- from cancer, Take 2

It is that time of year when the annual Azalea Festival celebrates the beauty of Wilmington North Carolina’s gardens, historic homes, and its history. In April of 2015, I shared my first experience at the Azalea Festival’s Garden Party in my post Spring Break—from cancer found here. For me to walk the grassy landscape of Airlie Gardens and admire all the beautiful colors of spring for a second time was not expected since cancer is always on my radar, so I felt excitement to be there. If not for Greg’s employer being one of the many sponsors of this event and my current drug keeping my disease under control, I would not have been able to feel the exhilaration that comes from putting my fears in another part of my brain and simply enjoying the beautiful day. 
Greg and I April 9, 2016

Though the weather was on the chilly side--for me anyway--the visual enjoyment I found from the tamed landscape providing a living backdrop for the party was tremendous. Again, the colorful, lively people decorating the lawn proved more enjoyable than the flowers that line the pathways.

A party like this leaves me with thoughts of sipping mint juleps, pinky finger daintily floating alone away from the cup handle. But, a glance at the tables under tents filled with bottles of varying types of alcohol and bartenders ready for action to fill small plastic cups with your drink of choice takes away such thoughts of sophistication leaving my pinky finger to serve as the security force behind me not dropping my drink--still it was no college fraternity party.  

The liquor started flowing at 10 am and stopped at 3 pm. Drinks were not the only item served that people could indulge themselves. Plenty of pork barbecue, coleslaw, large French-fried shaped cornbread, and green beans were available for everyone—it is a Southern event after all.

The Summerall Guards
The Summerall Guards from the Citadel Military College of South Carolina did their precision drill routine as was done last year. You can read more about them here.

With such a variety of colorful clothing gracing the green carpeted event I felt like I was shopping for next year’s dress and getting to see each item on a live model. For whatever reason, dresses with pink held my gaze. Pink: you would think I would hate that color.

Dresses, jackets, hats and even men in shorts were part of the scene once again. The biggest change to the garden party this year came from a group of men who took dressing for the event seriously with an added flair for fun.

Men who take fashion to a new level!

I spent more time this year getting to know Greg’s co-workers and enjoyed the company of a wife of one of them. She is an identical twin, I am a mother of identical twins, and I have identical twin sisters so of course that topic had to enter our conversation.  We also chatted about the job her sister gets paid to do. She types/typed up the transcripts of the interviews—word for word—for the television reality show Kate Plus 8 and the former show The Duggars’ 19 Kids and Counting. I admit I have watched these shows and even have an affinity for Kate because she doesn’t seem fake. Dealing with 8 kids would make me crazy, can you imagine? Dealing with 19, well that is a different kind of crazy all together. Of course a lot of what is said does not make it past the final cut. She is sworn to secrecy which is unfortunate cause if I am being honest—which I am—I would be entertained by such secrets.

At around 3 pm, Greg and I said goodbye to the group of people from his work. I wish I could have said, “See you next year,” without thinking . . .

Well, if you read this blog with any regularity then you know what I was thinking.
Greg and I April 9, 2016 Airlie Garden Party
Hopefully, I will be there next year.

Friday, April 1, 2016


Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my knowledge that my cancer had metastasized. It was a Monday, April Fools’ Day, 2013. The irony lingers.

On that day I was driving my youngest daughter to her gymnastics class. I answered the buzz of my phone, and the few words my oncologist spoke set a course for my life I hoped would never happen. I was sad and scared. At the time I had no idea I would also become disappointed. The person I depended on to guide me; the person I relied on to answer my questions or concerns did not have the courage, or perhaps the time, to give me all the facts. Instead, the task to tell me I was stage IV and terminal was pushed to someone else--a person I didn’t know.

This person continues to be my oncologist today. I can only imagine what she was thinking when she realized I didn’t know the details of my diagnosis. She had been chosen to do the dirty work. The image in my mind of her looking down at my new patient form, reading the words I had written stating why I was there to see her that day still remains. She looked up, and I learned my hope for stage III was not to be.  

I have thought a few times about contacting him—my old oncologist--to let him know how I am doing, but then I remember our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was. I felt deserted by him then and now. At the same time, though, I am glad he sent me away. If I had not been reassigned to a new doctor at a new facility far away from home, I might not have no evidence of disease like I do now. (I would like to say completely-gone-disease, but words like those are not used—well, only rarely, very seldom, most often not, okay, usually never—to describe people with stage IV breast cancer.) My former oncologist did say he wanted me to have access to the newest and best treatments. He might not have been as willing to listen to my suggestion of Cyber-Knife radiation to zap the nodule in my right lung the way my present oncologist did in October. Not that he couldn't have sent me to Chapel Hill or Greenville where Cyber-Knife treatments happen every day, but would he have? So, really, sending me away has worked well for me—and him.

The view from my front porch--wisteria blooms.
What I thought was unwanted, this move to a new oncologist and new facility, I now appreciate. It has taken awhile for me to trust and even to like the oncologist that told me the horrific news three years ago. But, like the wild wisteria that grows along the roadways that lead to my house, what seems unwanted can bring big surprises. Weeds can become beautiful if nurtured in just the right way.