Saturday, April 17, 2010

We're Carrying On

"Keep Calm and Carry On" new motto. It's the beginning of the long-awaited Spring school vacation week and I have promised myself that I will be "cheerful". After the past few months of cancer scares and cancer losses, I'm thinking of taking a week off from cancer...I only wish Andi and Nancy could do the same.

It's been a week of quiet grieving since hearing of Diana Pillas' death from breast cancer. I first met Diana in 1983 when I joined the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. She, Jeanne Cahill from Atlanta, and I were among the few women on the board at that time and we immediately became fast friends. In every city we traveled to, we chose to be "roomies". It was like being back in college; after busy days full of "very important meetings", the three of us would hang out in our room for hours just talking, laughing, and sharing our lives. Diana was always larger than life to me; she was outgoing, loved everyone she met and wanted to help every child with epilepsy. In her work at Johns Hopkins, as counselor in the Pediatric Epilepsy Clinic, she got to do that. Her work on the ketogenic diet with colleagues Patty Vining and John Freeman not only led to a book but was featured in the movie "First, Do No Harm" with Meryl Streep (1997), on Dateline NBC (2003), and in six episodes of the television series, "Hopkins". And when I brought Kristen to Hopkins to see Dr. Freeman many years ago, Diana was there for us too. Her death was a huge loss, especially to all of "her" kids.

Which brings me to my very brave sister, Andi, who is now a little over a week out from her double mastectomy (she said I could talk about this:-) As readers of this blog know, the four "Stunning Smith Sisters" all had genetic counseling in November and were tested for the BRCA 2 gene, which causes hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Andi and Nancy came out positive for the mutation. What that meant for Andi was a very high probability that she would get breast cancer within the next ten years. After extensive genetic counseling, Andi and her doctors chose a preventative mastectomy. I feel so bad to see Andi in so much pain but know that, in the long run, this means that she will not become another breast cancer statistic, like Diana. Andi has a really positive attitude about all this and is beginning to be able to move around a bit so I know, given time, she will be feeling better. And her nurse (Dave:-) is doing a really good job of keeping her comfortable.

Speaking of sisters...Aaron took Nancy on a week-long trip to Disney World as a surprise before she begins her next round of chemotherapy. Hank and I picked them up at the airport last night and it sounds as if they had a great time. They arrived looking tan and happy and carrying a fresh box of Krispy Kremes! I'm sure that Nancy will be posting photos to this blog as soon as she catches her breath. I'm so glad that Nancy got this break before having to deal with cancer treatments again. She has two out-patient surgeries scheduled in May and, before then, will be receiving her first of six monthly infusions of Doxil to get her ovarian cancer back into remission. (It seems that every time the weather starts to get warm here in Maine, Nancy starts chemo again...What's up with that, Nanc???)

In other news:
  • Mom was in the hospital for two days last week but is home now and feeling better. She had been having difficulty with shortness of breath.
  • Joanne and Mark are back from a vacation in Arizona and, I hope, will share some photos.
  • Takanori has learned how to dial "Nanny and Grampy's" phone number all by himself so Hank and I are having frequent conversations with him now:-) His latest news is that he just won two trophies for chess tournaments he was in...pretty good for six years old! He, Tomo and Toshi will be spending this summer with their grandparents, Umeyo and Tokuhide, in Japan. (Taka told us that he will have to speak Japanese there:-)
  • Kristen and I had a special "girls day" together yesterday...we went out to lunch and shopped at LL Bean; finished the day with Kristen's favorite, "hazelnut decaf", in the 1912 cafe.

Thought I'd end this blog entry with a vintage photo that made me laugh. I decided that, in the spirit of "keeping calm and carrying on", I will pretend that it's my sisters and I heading off on a "cheerful", cancer-free vacation (obviously, one of us already fell out of the car!)

OK Andi, Nancy, and Joanne...your turn to blog now...


  1. Hi Cheryl,
    I'm so sorry to hear of Diana's death. I remember when you met her and how much you valued her friendship. I know in many ways she was helpful to you in researching Kristen's condition.

    Andi was very brave to go ahead with the surgery. It takes a strong individual to make a decision like that. I'm afraid if I were in the same situation I would be in the "let's wait and see what happens mode." I really admire her ability to face this head on.

    I didn't know Nancy needed more chemo. Is this part of the program or did the cancer return. I wish her all the best.

    I hope you enjoy your spring vacation. I thought I was out of that need for this break but Tori is student teaching and I am reliving all the trauma of everyday life in a school system. Her break from Berlin High is also this week. She graduates May 22nd. Then the hard part - finding a job. She really has a lot of enthusiasm about teaching but the work that is generated from the university is truly exhausting.

    Say hi to Hank and of course wish both of your sisters the very best.

    Your attitude is wonderful.
    Keep calm and carry on.
    Love, Barb

  2. Barb - Great to hear that you are still reading the blog...miss you! If you scroll back on the blog to "Older Posts", Nancy wrote about her recurrence:-( Keep calm and carry on!