Thursday, November 5, 2015

So Where Have I Been Hiding? -- November 5, 2015

Over the last six years I have really enjoyed writing this blog and it seems like a few of you have actually enjoyed reading my thoughts. I find it a bit humorous that I have found some small success with my writing because I was never thought of as a great English student. I was always a math guy and English was something I had to take if I wanted to graduate to the next thing. About the only teacher that I ever had that thought I was a good English student was Sister Mary Immaculata who was my eighth grade teacher. For some reason she thought I was special, even having me sing in front of the class a few times.

The rest of my education included more English that I had to suffer through including reading The Odyssey and several Shakespeare creations where I couldn’t even understand the language. After graduating from college, I never wrote anything of significance until a soon-to-be friend of mine asked me to write an article or two for his new website,  I had been a fan of the University of Dayton sports teams for a number of years and had penned a few thoughts on a listserv that was utilized for UD fans to share their thoughts with other fans.

Chris “Notre Dame Fan” Rieman had started and was writing every article himself along with doing everything else associated with being a webmaster.  He asked a few of us if we would like to put some words down and see if anyone cared. It generally doesn’t take me too long to throw out 1,000 words (which Julia, an internet expert, thinks is too long) so I thought why not? One thing led to another and I was soon writing more than one article a week including extensive interviews with players, coaches, administrators and even a Basketball Hall of Fame coach, Don Donoher.

I had more fun with those interviews than I could ever imagine. The Donoher interview was one that looked like it wouldn’t even come off but eventually he relented and said he could spend a little time with me. That “little time” turned into four hours in his living room where he took me through his life’s triumphs and tragedies including the death of his son. When I finished writing the article it totaled over 10,000 words and I was off and running.

When I got sick in 2009, I didn’t know what to do. I had cancer and the internet told me that I would likely be dead in 27 months.  I did my best to stay positive but it wasn’t easy coming from parents that had both died of cancer. I knew that I would eventually contract some type of cancer but I certainly didn’t feel it would happen like this and this soon. I was lucky enough to have a few friends at the time that seemed interested in my well being and Julia thought I could keep them informed by writing a blog.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I started putting together my thoughts. Since I didn’t start it on day one, I had to go back and write the first two weeks at one time. I was very clinical and matter of fact. Julia read the first draft and basically said this was not me. This is not who I am and not how I write.  She made me go back and make it more like who I am. The goal was to be real and funny where I could be but still make it informative. Hopefully I have hit the mark in the hundred or so entries I have written.

I slowed down quite a bit last year only writing three blogs. The driving force behind that was I was doing so well, I didn’t have much to report and seemed to have lost the edge on what to write if I wasn’t writing about being sick. I wrote an article in November about Brittany Maynard and her choice to choose the time and means of her death.

Then I got sick again.

This time, I didn’t know what was wrong. I had been fighting something that the doctors could not solve. I had daily headaches, a low grade fever, low energy level and the feeling of having the flu. It started in early December and I thought I would kick it quickly, but it just kept hanging on and on. I went to my family physician and he prescribed a Z-Pack. I took that and nothing happened. Two weeks later, I made a return trip and he prescribed a steroid and different antibiotic. Ten days later, no change.

During this time I was popping both Tylenol and Excedrin like they were M&M’s. Understand that because of my damaged kidneys I shouldn’t be taking either of them. I would wake up with a headache, fight that all day and begin to see a fever late in the afternoon. Both of these forbidden medicines were getting me through but I knew I was rolling the dice with my kidneys.

The thing that was starting to dig at me was the headaches. Since I gave up iced tea and artificial sweeteners six years ago (two more things that were not good for my kidneys) I rarely had a headache and now I had multiple every day. After a while you start thinking the worst. Was there something growing in my brain? People that have transplants have a significantly greater chance of secondary cancers, including brain cancer.

I continued to stay positive but after weeks of no improvement, your brain starts to wander and occasionally the negative thoughts start to force their way in. Despite the lack of progress, I decided to try my doctor one more time. This time they started mentioning things like meningitis and Valley Fever. (Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is caused by fungi only found in the soil in specific areas and can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction and wind. The fungi can then be breathed into the lungs and cause the disease to spread.) I thought they were grabbing at straws but what the heck, I can do another blood test and x-ray. The results of the x-ray was available later that day and it was negative for Valley Fever and I moved off that possibility. I had several of the symptoms but missed several too. I went to a company function during the weekend of my birthday and I had several suppliers tell me how bad I was looking. You know things are bad when people tell you how bad you look despite the fact it is your birthday.

A week later, I get a call from the doctor’s office and I did, indeed, have Valley Fever. I not only had it, I had a very significant case of it. I was put on a regimen of Fluconazole which fights the disease but has side effects that mimic Valley Fever. I was told I would be on the “cure” for six to twelve months. After several weeks, my blood work improved but I still felt miserable. I really had no choice but to continue with the routine. After five months on Fluconazole, it started damaging my kidneys. We experimented with going on and off the medicine and it became clear that it was the culprit. Luckily I was far enough along that I could stop the medicine. It was now July before I started feeling better.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had a return visit to all of my doctors, Infectious Disease, Multiple Myeloma and kidneys.  Thankfully everything is looking good.  The Valley Fever is not improving but it isn’t getting worse either.  As a result I will be able to stay off of any medication and hope that my body does a better job of eradicating the fungi than the side effects of the anti-fungals.  The MM is almost undetectable. One of the two readings was a little out of normal range but the ratio is excellent. My kidneys are back to their normal mediocrity but that is OK by me.

As a result of what was happening earlier this year, I had not been in a writing mood. Lucky (or unlucky) for you, I am back and have a few blogs in mind talking about my summer, just like elementary school. Hopefully my writing will be as good as Sister Immaculata envisioned.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Forty Years Is a Long Time -- September 13, 2015

It is funny the things you remember in life and the things that sit in the background. Some things are fuzzy and other things are crystal clear as if there is a photograph somewhere in your brain to remember what things looked like at the moment something happened. They don’t always seem to fit into what you think the priorities should be. 

It was forty years ago that I received the call from my Dad that I needed to come to Dayton from Columbus because my Mother was nearing the end. I know I received the call but I remember nothing about it. Yet, the scene in the hospital will be forever etched into my mind. After we arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital, we were met there by our neighbor and friend Dr. George Markus.  He spoke to us briefly and insisted that we not enter the room. It would be better if we didn’t see her this way before her death.  This moment is the photograph in my mind.  Sitting there in the waiting room waiting for the final notification.  After being at my Dad’s side in his last moments, I understand why it was suggested that we not be in the room, but in retrospect, I wish I had been more insistent that I wanted to be with her.

You may have noticed that I referred to my parents and Mother and Dad.  I was never to call her mom. That is what I called my grandmother, my Mother’s mother. In her mind, being called Mom would make her feel old.  She always looked older than she was because of her early gray hair, actually being asked several times if I were her grandchild. As a result, she was always “Mother.”

She did not have an easy life. She only attended 10 years of school because she needed to work.  She had more health issues than you could count. She always joked that she was the fifth child and was made with left over parts. In addition, she suffered a nervous breakdown and went to Florida for some time with my Aunt Edna to get her life back together. She went through times where she considered suicide.  Yet through it all she had a love for me that was never ending.

My parents were married for 18 ½ years when I was born. It was always “18 ½” as if the ½ made it more officially a long time.  They had tried for years to have children with my Mother having three operations in the 1940’s to help her conceive.  Finally in 1944, they gave up when the doctor told her she would never have children.  They had thought of adopting but my grandfather had forbidden them from adopting. Not sure about all of the details, but it was made clear that he would not accept the child as his grandchild. They were a couple that loved children, having a hand in helping raising my two cousins, Nancy and Jeannie when their parents divorced and my Aunt Ethel and the two girls moved in. They just would never have their own.

Then the miracle happened. My Mother was pregnant. It wasn’t that she had miscarriages in the past, she had never been pregnant. It was late spring 1952 and their world changed. He would soon be 40 and she would be 38. They were finally going to be parents. Six months into the pregnancy, my Mother started bleeding. She was immediately told to go to bed and stay there for the next three months. One thing my Mother was not, was someone that liked to stay inactive. She always had to be doing something. That had to be one of the most difficult times in her life.

There was always the hope that there would be additional children but that just was not to be.  In my Mother’s eyes, I was perfect and I was enough. Little Johnnie did no wrong. I actually was a pretty good kid, but in my Mother’s eyes I could have been a juvenile delinquent and she wouldn’t have believed it was my fault. Because I was this special gift, she was extremely conservative with everything about me. I have no memory of having a baby sitter that wasn’t a relative. I would stay at the neighbor’s house after school or with my parent’s partners in business but that was as close as it got.

I was going to receive a bicycle from my aunt and uncle when I was 12 but they were told to take it back.  We lived in a park like area with very little traffic but the thought was I was sure to die if I actually wondered out in the street. Finally, at Christmas when I was in the eighth grade I actually received that bicycle. Do you know how hard it is to learn how to ride a bike when you are 13? And it is a lot farther to drop when you are taller than four feet.

When I entered high school, my mother decided that they would sell their portion of the grocery store they shared ownership in.  Since she never felt comfortable driving, we only had one car and she was home every day when I came home and a snack was always ready.  For breakfast, I would have whatever I wanted.  Since she only slept about 2-3 hours every night, she was always awake when I got up.  When I started working in the summers, she would make me two hamburgers and French fries for breakfast.  (Please keep your spoiled only child brat comments to yourself.)

I have a standing comment that I have with people that meet my wife, Julia (not sure how that happened name wise), that everyone loves her. She can walk into a room of strangers and an hour later walk out with 10 new Facebook friends. That is the way my Mother was. Everyone loved her. She could not do enough for you. If you needed something, she would do it. If she could help in any way, she was first in line. My Julia is the same way. They say you marry your Mother, maybe I did.

It has been 40 years since I have heard her voice.  I miss her and who she was. I think I was a pretty good son, but I wish I could have been there with her more as she was fighting her losing battle against cancer.  I have a million questions for God when it is my time, but before I see Him, I want to see her and ask her how I did.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Choices — November 3, 2014

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, two women with brain cancer made decisions that could change the way we look at cancer. 

Brittany Maynard was a newlywed of about a year when she found out she had cancer in January, 2014. Nine days after the initial diagnosis she had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of her temporal lobe. Both surgeries were attempts to slow the growth of her tumor. In April, she learned that not only had the tumor returned, it had become even more aggressive. She was 29 and had six months to live.   After a great deal of research and consultation it was determined that there was little she could do to impede the ultimate victory that cancer would eventually claim.

Young and otherwise healthy, the cancer would destroy her brain while the rest of her body would continue to function. The last months would likely be a horror for both her and her family. The thought of dying in hospice, suffering daily seizures and receiving high levels of pain medication was not how she wanted to live out her life. This is not how she wanted to be remembered.

Brittany wanted to be in control of her own death. She moved to Oregon, one of five states that allow for death with dignity. Brittany would receive a prescription that would end her life and be given the power to administer it when she felt it was time.

Brittany became a spokesperson for death with dignity after she posted a video on youtube explaining her choice. It has received over 10,000,000 views.

On Sunday, surrounded by friends and family, Brittany decided that it was time to end her struggle.

Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group who had worked closely with Brittany, said she "died as she intended -- peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones."

Having been raised a Catholic, I have always looked upon suicide as a sin. Now that I have cancer and with an understanding of how I will likely die, I have to say that I have to wonder if I have been too closed minded. As would have been Brittany’s, my own death will not be pleasant. Multiple myeloma, when no longer under control, destroys the bones. It starts with the larger bones and moves to the smaller ones. Bones become brittle and eventually break. In my own case, I had 29 areas that had been affected including a tennis ball sized tumor on my pelvis. My kidneys were shutting down and potassium and sodium were flooding my blood stream. I was lucky that chemotherapy saved my life.

I have seen both of my parents die of cancer. It was horrible. I cannot believe that this is what God wants. We have the technology to keep people alive long after they should. Sometimes past the point of cruelty. It is not my plan to end my life when it becomes hopeless, but I can certainly understand why someone would. Is it really suicide when you are already dying?

On the other side of the country, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Lauren Hill was having the best day of her life.  Lauren, too, is dying of brain cancer. There is a good chance she may not see Christmas. But Sunday, she didn’t think about that. She woke up at four in the morning with a terrific headache. It was so severe that later that day she would have to wear sunglasses and headphones to drown out the light and sound. That would not keep her away from completing a dream, the dream of playing college basketball.

It was just a little over a year ago that Lauren announced on her birthday that she would attend Mount St. Joseph’s University and play basketball. Less than two months later she found out she had brain cancer. In September, she was told that she had months to live.

The University then petitioned the NCAA to be able to play their game against Hiram College two weeks earlier than had been scheduled so Lauren could fulfill her dream. The game was moved to Cincinnati so her friends could attend. Forty five minutes after the tickets became available, Cintas Center and its 10,500 seats was sold out. This was for two teams that normally would have 100 family members and friends show up for a game.

Hiram College and its coaches and athletic department were completely on board even working with the Mount St. Joes coaches to allow Lauren to score on the first possession of the game. A backdoor screen was run for Lauren so that she could move to her right which would allow her to shoot with her left hand. Although right handed, she has been forced to shoot with her left hand as the cancer has begun to disrupt her body movements. After scoring, time was called and everyone in the arena celebrated including the Hiram coaches and players. 

Lauren has made it a point to bring attention to the plight of those with pediatric cancers. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised for this cause. Lauren has issued a challenge to Lebron James and others in her own version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Fox Sports Ohio televised the game and it was streamed nationwide on the internet. After the game an emotional Lauren summed up what many were thinking, "To reach and touch this many people is amazing. Not many people knew about DIPG before me, and now that they do, we can get research going to cure this cancer. I won't be around to see that, but it's going to help so many people. That's why the support can't end with this game."

Both of these women have touched millions in their own way. Hopefully, we will see increases in cancer research so that we can experience an end to this killer in our lifetimes.

In my own little world things are going well. I continue to receive good results with my blood tests. I have been in remission without the help of chemo for 16 months. I never thought I would be able to say that. Now the goal is to see just how far I can take it.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk is this Friday. If you haven’t had an opportunity to donate, please do. It will be my sixth walk. I hope to be doing this years from now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 3, 2014 - Twenty-One

Is was twenty one years ago today that Jason came into our lives. Jason was the quiet one even before he was born. He was very restful before he breathed his first breath unlike his maniac brother.  Justin was always moving, often reminding us of the creature in the movie “Alien.” It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a foot or a hand trying to push its way our of Julia’s stomach. Jason, on the other hand, was content to just relax in the warmth that the womb provided.

Their personalities didn’t change a great deal after they were born.  Justin was always moving, refusing to sleep. He walked at seven months and would climb anything that wasn’t moving. Jason also walked at a fairly early age (nine months) but he did it in a more cautious manner. Justin would fly across the room, invariably smashing his face into something while Jason was steady and calculating in his movements.

When Justin would jump onto our bed, he would immediately stand up and analyze his chances of death if he jumped off, then dive.  Jason was fine getting up there, but would more likely take his time getting down not risking life and limb like his brother.  There was never a minute that Justin was clean. It seemed the second we put his clothes on him, they were filthy.  Jason was just the opposite. There were times that he would get a little water on his shirt before going to school and he would have to change it to stay perfect.

Justin was well known in the neighborhood for his antics with his toy cars.  If they lasted three months without some type of cataclysmic accident, it was only because he forgot about it. You have no idea how many die cast cars I found in the back yard that looked like they had found the business side of a sledge hammer. Jason would line his cars up in straight lines just to make sure they all looked good.

When Jason was two years old, he had a vocabulary of five wolds, highlighted with the usage of the word, “no.” Justin would talk your ear off at two which is probably why Jason didn’t have to talk much when he turned two. He had Justin to interpret his grunts and as a result didn’t need to talk. We were so concerned that we took him to a speech and hearing clinic to see if he had hearing loss. Instead, we were told that he had an excellent vocabulary and was just too stubborn to talk. For years this has been an area of discussion between Julia and myself as to whom he got that from.

When each of the boys turned three, we took them for formal portraits in keeping with the tradition started by Julia’s family, taking each of the children on their third birthday to get their picture taken.  Justin practically ran the photographer out of film. He loved being in front of the camera, often posing himself without a hint. Jason had to be coaxed to even smile for the camera. The day could not have been over quickly enough.

It has now been 18 years since that third birthday. Each of the boys have changed in their own way. Justin became the fashion plate with gym shoes matching the color of his shirt and Jason became the kid that you would only see in gym shorts, a baseball tournament tee shirt and one pair of Nikes all in white and black.  But, I guess we all change at our own pace. There is no one template that we follow.

When Jason went away to school we began to see him change.  Although he went to South Dakota to play football, it was probably an injury the first week of spring practice that began the change. It seems Jason learned more outside the classroom than he necessarily did inside. When he returned and made the decision to not return we began to see subtle changes in our quiet son.

Instead of tying all of his friends to the particular sport he was playing he started to branch out. He still had friends from high school football, but he started to make friends at the gym and at church. When he started a job as a student ambassador at his college he added his fellow workers to the mix. But the biggest change came in his interactions with other people. Being forced to be on stage with others during student orientations, he became less reserved and more outgoing.

He then decided to expand his gym workouts to enter a Physique competition. This forced him to go on stage in front of 1,000 people wearing just a pair of shorts.  If that doesn’t force you to break out of a shell, I don’t know what would. Then given an opportunity to begin an internship where I work, he had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of our associates before our biggest event of the year. At that event, he was a spokesperson for our IsaBody Challenge speaking to many of the 10,000 people in attendance.

Now at 21, the boy we thought might have a hearing problem, has grown into a man that will likely make his living talking to people about nutrition. It is amazing how we change in life and what molds those changes. I cannot say how proud we are of both of our boys as they have become their own people. Jason might actually be happy to get his picture taken now.

It has been a while since I have written as I have just enjoyed my renewed good health.  I have been off of chemo for over a year now and my most recent test all came back with good results.  As I have often said, you should use every moment of your life to enjoy the gifts we have been given. I feel like I have been given additional years that I fully intend to take advantage of. I might even find time to write now and then.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014 — Time

Time is a funny thing. We live our lives knowing that there is only so much time that is allocated to us, yet we either waste or wish away significant portions of that allocation. The amount of time that I have wasted just waiting for something to happen is ridiculous.  I don’t even want to think of how much time I have wasted sitting in a doctor’s office, or waiting for a red light to turn to green or for the pot of water on the stove to start to boil.  I dare not even try to calculate how much of my life has been wasted on sitting through commercials.

When we are young we think we have all the time in the world.  We also think it takes forever for things to be completed.  I’ll never forget sitting in my little wood desk while in elementary school watching the clock tick at an amazingly slow pace.  Waiting out those last two weeks before Christmas was excruciating.  Crossing out and marking down the numbers of days left until summer vacation on one of my notebooks could not have taken longer.

Things don’t change much as we grow up as we count down the number of hours left until 5 PM on Friday and we finally have our lives back.  For some reason a day at work takes a lot longer than a day of vacation. Time never seems to be on our side.

The thing that really jumps out at me when I take a look at my life is how far away the future seems, yet the past seems so close.  How many times have you tried to guess how long ago a celebrity died? I’m not sure how good you are at it, but I stink. I almost always think they died much closer to the present than they actually did. 

Not sure how many of you are “Gilligan’s Island” fans, but I always have followed the characters as they lived out the rest of their lives. I was always a fan of the “Professor” and when he died last week, I tried to remember how long ago Bob Denver died. I vaguely remembered that it was four or five years ago. It will be nine years in September. How long ago did Jim Backus (Thurston Howell, III) die? Would you be surprised to know that it will be 25 years in July? 

Completely off topic, but I preferred Mary Ann to Ginger.

I’ll never forget when Harold Kidwell, my boss from, oh-so-many-years-ago always talked about how you should double the time that you think something happened when you are trying to pinpoint how long it has been.  I have found this to be pretty accurate when I really don’t know the specific year that something happened.

All of this brings me to the point that it has been five years that I found out that I had cancer.  I’ll never forget the call I received from my doctor stating that my kidneys were in failure and that I was at a high risk of a heart attack and that I had better get myself to the nearest Emergency Room as quickly as possible. It seems like it was yesterday. I still sit at the same desk with the same telephone at my side. It could have happen yesterday if I would believe the vividness of that memory.  Even with all I have gone through, I would never think it has been five years.

When I saw Dr. Mikhael last week to go over my test results, I had to ask him a question that has lingered with me for some time.  Because I am still in remission, I felt a little cocky and I asked him, “When you saw my original results five years ago, did you think I would see 2014?”  I really wasn’t sure what he would say. If you asked me that same question back then, I would have given a definite “No.”  From everything that I had read, I felt that I might have a couple good years left and the inevitable was bound to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I was going to give it everything I had, but the disease had progressed pretty far and the average life span was 27 months for someone in my condition.

His answer surprised me at bit. He said he thought I had a good chance to make it to five years, but not a great chance.  Funny thing with cancer, you never know what is going to happen.  If there is a 95% chance you will not survive, that means that one out of 20 actually do survive. That is why you never give up. You may be that one out of 20.  He did say that I probably have a better chance of lasting another five years than I did to make the first five years. The miracles of cancer research continue to give all of us survivors hope for a future.  Even though that future may seem to take forever to get here, I’m looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 9, 2013 -- Remembering our Past

This Christmas is a turning of the page for me. This is not some earth shattering thing, but for some reason, it is important to me. You will probably think I am crazy to even think about it, but let me explain.

I finally broke down and bought a new Christmas tree.  There it is. It is out in the open.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? I guess it isn’t the buying of the new tree, it is the realization that I need to throw one away.  You see the tree that will be thrown away is the one that we have used every year since Justin was born. It has been in dozens of photographs and hours of Christmas videos. It is really the only tree that Santa has left presents under for the last 22 years.  It is the tree that Justin almost knocked over when he was five and sprawling under to get his next big gift.

I have always been a Christmasaholic. I was the guy that was going elbow to elbow with all of the crazy women shoppers at Hallmark the day after Christmas.  One year when we were staying with Julia’s parents we went to a mall that had two Hallmark stores and sent Julia’s brother running back and forth between them so we knew what each other was buying (pre-cell phone days.)

It was 23 years ago that Julia and I fell in love with a Christmas tree that was way over our budget. Today it would be a bargain, but at the time it was rather pricey. We waited until after Christmas hoping that it would drop more than the typical 50%.  We waited and waited but there was no further dropping of price.  It was February and the tree was still in the window just taunting us.

It was February 8, 1991 and we decided to drive across town to see if a miracle had happened and the price had dropped. The store was closed and I can remember Julia staying in the car while I went up to again check  if the price had dropped.  We decided to head home still debating if we should just splurge and buy the tree.

Just a few hours later, Julia went into labor and we were soon holding our first born.  The tree search became part of one of the most important nights in our lives.  After we returned home with Justin, we bought the tree.

The 21 Christmases have been wonderful, but there isn’t enough shipping tape to hold the old thing together. It was time to move on.  As a result, there is a Costco 9 foot tree with blinking LED lights flashing between white and multi-colored standing in our family room. It will be beautiful on Christmas morning, but there will still be something missing.

Sometimes in life we attach important moments or times in our lives to inanimate objects. For whatever reason, they bring back memories that are worth far more than the object ever was.  I have hundreds of old science fiction books that my dad read in the 1940’s and 50’s sitting in the basement.  I still have a couple of the sets of clothes that I wore as a baby that my Mother loving set aside. We keep mementoes from our senior prom or ticket stubs from our first game or concert. To someone else, they mean nothing, but to us, they mean the world. We always want to move on, but we love where we came from, sometimes is the strangest things that take us there.

Julia lost one of her dearest friends this last week. Robyn Driscoll fought a seeming endless war against breast cancer for almost a third of her life.  Robin was a fighter that refused to give in to the monster that stole her life well before her time.  But that was just a small part of who Robin was.  Everyone has nice words to say about someone after they die, but Robyn’s were completely deserved. She was a thoughtful, loving person that will be missed by many. Please keep Robyn’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

I feel so lucky with where I am in my own battle as I remain in remission heading into the new year.  We get caught up in our own lives sometimes, especially at Christmas.  Keep those that are fighting serious illness in your thoughts and remember to give a little gift to your own special charities as you never know when a cure might be found or a person’s life changed by your thoughtfulness.