Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Enjoying Life!

Dear friends and family,

Happy September!  I hope you had a wonderful summer and are living life with gusto--treasuring the gift of each day.

In August, my family and I celebrated my one full year of remission from Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer!  Hallelujah, and praise the God in whom we live and move and have our being.  (Acts 17:28)

When I visited my oncologist in August, my CA-125 ovarian cancer blood tumor marker was normal, at 18 (normal is 0 to 30), and my physical exam was perfect.  I have felt well this summer, with about 80% of my strength and energy restored.  So the doctor said I didn't even need a CT scan!  I am cleared to continue enjoying life for the next three months, then I will see her again.  Yippee!  

We celebrated the good news of that exam with a week at our favorite beach--our peaceful place, where our bodies and souls get refreshed--Cannon Beach, Oregon.  At the end of this post you will find some trip photos.  As I look at these photos, my eyes well up with tears of joy at the blessing of this past healthy year spent enjoying the gift of my loving family and friends.  To have the strength to hike mountain trails, walk the beach, ride my bike, and play with babies this summer has been exhilarating! And to be able to eat anything I want without nausea--well that's pretty awesome too!

As some of you know, my oncologist had me take early retirement from my 30-year career in nonprofit fund raising last year.  She said that a "low stress" life is one of my best hopes for living longer.  Thus, I finally have time to volunteer.  Today was my volunteer day this week at Seattle Children's Hospital where my "assignment" was to rock, play with, and sing to two tiny baby girls with so many tubes coming out of them I couldn't count them all.  Of course, as I read, sang, dangled toys, and rocked these sweet girls, I prayed silently that the Lord will heal them and give them a chance to grow up and lead full and healthy lives.  What a privilege it is to spend time with these babies while their parents need to work or just have a break from round-the-clock weeks spent in the hospital.  If you live in Seattle and want to volunteer, the Child Life Program I volunteer for needs more help!  Go online to Seattle Children's Volunteer Program and check it out.  You have to commit to three hours each week for a year.

I read a very encouraging article about ovarian cancer life expectancy research today.  After being told I might have just two to three years to live, here is what I read in a UC Davis cancer research article:

"Of the 11,541 patients in the registry database, 3,582 (31 percent) survived more than 10 years, Cress and her colleagues discovered. It was the first time that research has looked at 10-year trajectories for patients; most survival studies have looked only at 5-year survival or less. What struck the researchers was that of the long-term survivors, 954 of them had been considered to be at high risk of dying from their disease, either because of their tumor stage, grade or older age at diagnosis. 

Reading this research is really the first time I've even considered that I "could, potentially, maybe, if God wills it"--live more than 10 years!!  Will you join me in praying that I be in that 31% group that  lives longer than expected?  Thank you, and here's to the 31%!

Meanwhile, I just treasure each day as it comes.  Even this past week, when wind storms in Seattle left us without power on two different days and without internet or TV for three full days.  That first night, we lit about 30 candles and played scrabble while eating up ALL the melting ice cream in the too warm freezer!  Then the second day of no power, everyone was off to work except me, and I bundled up with a blanket and a great novel, sitting near the window for as much light as possible on a gray day.  I tell you--EVERY day--even days that contain some level of hardship, pain, or loss, is still a good day for me--for I am here to experience life in all it's joys and sorrows.  

Speaking of loss, I may have already mentioned that I lost my beloved cancer buddy, Jeanie, this summer.  She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.  As I began to grieve her loss, I read a book on grief that said that grief is the "tax" we pay for loving.  When we love someone, we will one day grieve for them, for love and loss are two sides of the same coin.  You can't have one without the other.  I am trying to lean fully into the grief while remembering that it is the price I must pay for the precious gift of so much love and friendship. 

In closing, I have been studying the book of Philippians this summer.  There is a verse I aspire to.  It is something the Apostle Paul said when he was suffering in chains in prison for sharing the good news of Jesus.  This is my prayer too, as I continue in this ovarian cancer journey.  And it was Jeanie's.  

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Phil. 1:20-21

Love, grace, and peace to you all,

Gabrielle

Selfie at Haystack Rock where my Mom's and Grandma's and Steve's Dad's ashes were scattered.  Very special place for us.


Renee, Daniel, and Steve hiking from Seaside to Ecola State Park.

After a long day at the beach, go to Nonni's in Seaside for their monster meatballs and spaghetti!

With Steve, my one true love of 33 years, and my rock through cancer.

Oh how I love hanging out with these three!

Steve, working on his tan in the sand dunes, where he is out of the wind.

It doesn't matter if your daughter is 27 and your son is 25.  He will still want to bury her in the sand!

Renee Dudley--the daughter I always dreamed of and love so very much!

Lucky me--a huge bowl of "nuts for coconut" ice cream with not one, but TWO fresh waffle cones!

One of life's best blessings--my dear friend Sally.  We met up for a beach walk in Lincoln City.

Never dreamed I would have a son this great.  Daniel--I love you!

And lastly, note my "Enjoy Life" t-shirt at a deserted beach in Ecola State Park.  Your assignment for the month of September:  Enjoy Life!