Monday, December 28, 2009

One more medical update.....some good news!

Dear Friends and Family,

Today (written on December 20th) is exactly four months since I had a Whipple procedure to remove a neuroendocrine tumor on my pancreas. While I said I was done writing mass emails, I cannot help myself from reporting to all of you (my supporters) the great news that I received on Friday. Last Monday I endured an MRI - this was not really for diagnostic purposes, but was done to get a post-operative baseline. In any case, I got a call from the oncologist’s nurse telling me that my MRI was totally fine, and there was no need to come back in until August! I must say those words were music to my ears! After one entire year of endless tests, invasive procedures and doctors’ visits, I am looking forward to 2010 to just live and enjoy life.


For those of you who are my “Facebook Friends” much of what I am telling you is not new, but for those of you who have not yet ventured into FB-land, I’ll fill you in. A lot has happened in these past four months. As you know, I spent 23 days in the Stanford Hospital. During those 23 days, my son David left Berkeley to start his 2nd year at Brown, and my daughter began the college application process. As you also know from my friend Susan Meadow’s incredible email updates, my time spent in the hospital did not go so well. However, when I was finally given permission to go home to see how I would do, I got dramatically better day by day. It was truly a miracle! There was something about being in my own home, sleeping in my own bed, and pureeing my own food that slowly but surely brought me back to life. It was a long haul, but I did it, with the help of so many of you who brought food and gifts and sent good wishes via mail, email and phone. I honestly believe I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the support I got from each and every one of you.


So, back to all the things that happened during the past four months….Gradually, I began to swim – little by little until I reached my pre-operative distance. After about 3 months, I was back to swimming 4000 yards at a time – not quite at the same speed that I was previously swimming, but I can now do flip turns again – so all in all, I’ve pretty much recovered most of what I lost. I’ve also returned to my exercise classes and getting personal training twice each week. I’m working on various projects and life seems to be pretty much back to normal. Also during this time, David trained for and ran the NY City Marathon on November 1st. Richard and I were there and were extremely proud (and somewhat emotional) parents as we watched him cross the finish line in Central Park. David finished 7th in his age-group (3 hours and 14 minutes) and ran with a sign on his back that said, “For my Mom”. I was so greatly touched.

During this time, Aly turned 17 and was busy beginning her senior year at Berkeley High and figuring out the college application process. Mind you, I was not much help to her at all in this endeavor. On her own, she figured it all out. She was recruited by several schools and narrowed down her choices to Williams, Amherst and Brown. While her brother was lobbying strongly for her to join him, Aly fell in love with Williams during a recruiting trip there and applied Early Decision. And….just last week, on Tuesday, she was accepted. Again, I’m quite proud of how (during this very difficult time in our lives) she managed to bring complete sanity to a process that appears to be completely insane! So, now both of my children will be living on the east coast. Clearly, I see many trips crossing the country for our family in the next few years – let’s just hope the rumors that airlines might be dropping their frequent flier programs are not true!


During these past four months my sense of time became totally altered. The 23 days in the hospital felt like an eternity, yet the 3 months since I have been out seem to have flown by. Having survived cancer for the 3rd time does weird stuff to one’s brain, psyche, and emotions (not to mention one’s body!). I am so grateful to be here and am still processing what it all means and how to put it all in perspective. Last month I celebrated my 54th birthday – and now I look forward to living a long and productive life, missing many body parts, but with renewed motivation to learn from what I’ve been through, and to hopefully provide inspiration to others who might face life challenges similar to mine.

I won’t bore you any longer with this email which is already much too long, but I do want to thank you one more time, from the bottom of my heart, for being my virtual and real community of supporters. To those of you struggling, particularly with cancer – you are in my thoughts and prayers every single day. I haven’t written in my blog for a while, but I am going to start up again in 2010. I will also be launching my Health and Wellness Matters website which I hope you will visit. Many of you have asked me for the Swim Across America website address, and if you can still donate to the 2009 swim - the answer is YES! and the website is listed below.

To each and every one of you, I wish you a very happy holiday season and a peaceful, safe, and healthy New Year. Thank you for everything.

Love,
Susan
www.susanhelmrich.blogspot.com

www.healthandwellnessmatters.com (not yet live, should be in about 2 weeks)

www.swimacrossamerica.org (look for Team Susan Survives! or Richard or Aly Levine)

and of course “Just Keep Swimming” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmyUkm2qlhA

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