Monday, December 29, 2008

Ringing in 2009

It will soon be 2009 and one of my resolutions is to come back to blogging. I haven't blogged for awhile because I realized my previous blog, which I called Doubleloop, just didn't fit my life anymore. So I've updated my blog look and changed the name (Tripleloop) to acknowledge what I now accept - that the last year's trip through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment has changed things. It's a part of my every day life now and what I blog about will often have some component related to that life changing experience.

I will still write about academic science, hopefully in a more positive note with the new incoming administration. I will also blog about what it's like to juggle two science careers with two small children. I will blog about what it's like to be an "academic" in the world of biotech. And I will blog about breast cancer research, survivorship and it's impact on my life.

But first the family will head out for a well deserved trip to the snowy mountains of Colorado. After last year, we deserve a little fun. The kids will try skiing for the first time and hopefully SciDad and I will get a little shushing of our own in. We'll be riding a horse drawn sleigh on Jan. 1st and maybe some ice skating. Mostly I want the kids to experience the snow. Since I grew up in Vermont, it's important for me to share that experience with them.

So I hope you join me on this new adventure.......see you in 2009

Monday, October 06, 2008

I remember......

Yesterday was an auspicious day. It marked the one year anniversary of my diagnosis with breast cancer. I remember that day and those that followed with visceral clarity. I remember my physician saying "Next year this time, you'll be smiling again". I remember those words and thinking about how long that seemed. Is it my "one year survival" milestone? I don't know. I don't know how you decide when you became a survivor. It seems a bit arbitrary.

In the month and a half since my final radiation treatment, we've weathered a hurricane which thrust us back in time without power and air conditioning for 10 days. Then this weekend the 5th birthday party that I had been planning for months for my daughter was destroyed when the dance school forgot about it and wasn't there to open the room or studio. It's very easy to place a higher value on these life events in the context of an illness but these things happen in life whether you're well or not. I can't say I'm "smiling again" as my physician suggested I would be. I'm working my way through the emotional journey one takes after you've done all you can to treat your cancer. I don't have the luxury any more that most people have of living without the constant thoughts of a cancer recurrence. But each day I'm well and active is another day I have to share with my family - for better or for worse.

So I will always remember Oct. 5th but mostly now I choose to move forward, no matter what lies around the corner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Should I stay or should I go?

So we've been doing the "Should I stay or should I go" dance for the last week due to hurricane Ike. This hurricane season stuff is hard on us transplanted New Englanders! Give me a white-out, Nor' Easterner blizzard any day. I know what to do. With these hurricanes, by the time you have the best info, it's almost too late to go. SciDad found this great website, for tracking the hurricane, forecast models, wind probabilities, etc. It's sort of addicting and I've had it open on my computer for the last 5 days. We're not under any mandatory evacuation but we're expected to get 100 mph winds. I've never been in those conditions before. In the 3.5 years we've been here, all the hurricanes that were predicted to hit us before have managed to veer off and miss us. I think for this one, we're hunkering down. We expect to lose power, which when it's in the 90's and humid, willl probably be a miserable experience, especially for the kids. But we've got our supplies so we'll see what happens. SciDad cut some branches away from the lines that go to our house yesterday. Being from Europe, he can't figure out why we don't bury powerlines here.....can't say as I understand that either. I think I'm going to use this hurricane stuff as leverage to get back East some day (do you hear that SciDad?)

On a side note, I went to the ice rink yesterday and got back on the ice. After the last year, this is something I really want to do for myself. It took about 30 minutes before I had my feet underneath me again and the legs were like jello, but it felt good, like "going home". I mostly tried to remind myself of all the dance steps and patterns but it was like visiting a long lost friend. I'm going to try to do that every week. I deserve it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What's up Doc?

As part of my new life as a biotechie, I support, through seminars and customer meetings, life science instrumentation for different types of genomic analyses. This can be a fun experience because it gives me the opportunity to "talk science" with a variety of investigators researching a broad range of scientific questions. But it can also be extremely frustrating. In my years in academics and now with said Biotech company, I find many scientists too willing to stick with the "standard" when new approaches could clearly be better than what is accepted now. And if they have tried an approach themselves and have been unsuccessful, they are often not willing to accept that it can or does work.

I wonder where this slow adaptation of new approaches comes from. Is it based on what is thought to be suitable for obtaining funding? Is it that people in general are adverse to change or the unknown? Fortunately for me, I live with SciDad, who is an early adopter. He sees a new technology, looks into the near future and can see that it will or won't move his research forward. He is not afraid to test the new and if successful, is quick to incorporate it into his standard research program.
I'd be interested in knowing what other scientists feel are the impediments to adopting new technologies.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Like Water for Chocolate

School is underway here and my son started 1st grade. I'm so excited to see him move forward in his life and I take great pride in each little advance that he makes. I remember how excited I was when he started Kindergarten last year - it seemed like such a huge rite of passage to finally be in "real" school. It was shortly after that, though that I received my cancer diagnosis and life seemed to implode. I wasn't able to be involved in the class as much as I had wanted to. I missed events while hooked to IVs. Thank goodness there wasn't any homework.

This year the start of the school year feels different. In amongst the happiness of letting him lead me through his new classroom, showing me his first few days of work was a sense of "fear". I almost felt afraid to be excited or happy. My mind was doing some pretty interesting associations. "Don't get too excited, you know what happened the last time", I found myself saying.

Standing in the hallway waiting for his class to finish one afternoon, I looked at all the other parents chatting away with one another, and I felt a bit jealous that their lives seemed so carefree. And then I saw her. The woman sitting a bit away from the crowd, sort of inbetween two easels. She was thin, had a shy smile of her face and was sitting a bit rigidly, watching all the acitivity from a distance. She looked a bit gaunt but the bandana on the head was the give away. We made eye contact just briefly but enough to communicate the "I know what you're going through". (You see my hair is still very short and although I don't need a hat, it has that "chemo" style to it.). I really felt for her because I know the pain of that feeling, as if because of what you are fighting, you can't totally immerse yourself in the joy of your children's lives. I wanted to let her know that she would get through it and move forward - and then I realized having only finished my 9 months of treatment 3 weeks ago, that I'm just now making that transition myself.

Moving on is a process - tough and fragile. While I'm getting my feet underneath me, I realize I learned two very important things this past year. One is to take it one day at a time. You hear that so often, it sounds cliche. But it really is a different way of living life. Yesterday afterschool I made cookies with my son. He loves to cook and he was so happy to be involved. A year ago I would have felt less patient about taking twice as long to get them cooked or having cookie dough dropped on the floor or him constantly licking the spoon and having to get another clean one and always wiping his "cookie" hands on his clothes. (Note to self: remember to put his apron on the next time). It was a truly fun experience and the cookies came out the best they've ever been! There's a lesson in there I'm sure. If you've ever seen the movie "Like Water for Chocolate" you'll know what I mean.

The second thing I've learned is to "look around". If you observe those around you, you'll see "us"; people struggling to make life work. It may not be health issues, it may be other things. I will never completely forget what it's like to be there at the edge; in some sense that's where I live now. I don't know what life holds for me tomorrow, a year from now, 5 years from now. But I know that I have today and that's what is important.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dancing in the Rain

Hello, it's me. It's been a long long time. I've been thinking about coming back to blogging. I'm not sure if I'm ready. It's been a hell of a year.
At last blog I was thinking about leaving academics for the biotech world - I did that. It was going well and I was enjoying being out of the current stresses of an underfunded academic situation. Then it seemed like the two loops of my life exploded and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I've spent the last 9 months mostly being a cancer patient - chemo, surgery, and now radiation. I'm 10 days from being done with it all....but what does that mean. You see I was an academic studying breast cancer for over 17 years! I've met, worked with and been touched by a lot of women that are no longer here because of breast cancer. People say knowledge is power and it is to some extent but too much knowledge, like mine, can be counter productive - at least for me.

So my struggle now is to find a way to get those two loops (Mom and scientist) working in sync again and learning to "live for the moment" while trying not to think too much about the unknown future. That will be the greatest challenge for me specifically. I have a 6 and 4 year old I want to be around for....

I found a saying the other day. I don't know who to contribute it to but it sums up how I feel about my life from here on out.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.

If I can make this blog about science, motherhood and sometimes breast cancer, I'll write. Maybe some of you will read..........