04 FebDaffodils make me smile!

I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I hear that a lot from fellow cancer survivors.  It is like it was yesterday and a million years ago all at the same time.  A hard concept to understand, but one anyone who has gone through a difficult journey understands, regardless of the disease or situation.

So when I meet people who have joined the cancer club I automatically bond with them and think back to four years ago.  I was about half way through my chemo, lost my hair and facing radiation and a year’s worth of the intravenous drug Herceptin.  My life was in turmoil, but I was doing my best to make it normal, only through the love and support of God, my husband, family and friends.  Normal has a new meaning to anyone who has this experience.

And then something good and unexpected happens to change things and help the healing.

One day in mid-March, I was walking out of my radiation treatment at Abbott Northwestern.  I was handed a beautiful bunch of daffodils in a vase.  Really, for me, I asked?  And they told me that the American Cancer Society held a fundraiser called Daffodil Days and some people anonymously donated $25 so I and all cancer patients could have a day full of hope.   Well, I am sure you can imagine my appreciation to be able to come home with a beautiful reminder that I will get through this journey.

Fast forward to February of 2012 and I now work for the American Cancer Society and am promoting the pre-sales of daffodils through February 17.   I now know how hard volunteers are out there right now promoting Daffodil Days  so that the week of March 12 they can change the life of someone going through this difficult journey.  They also can be enjoyed for yourself, friends, family neighbors, co-workers and clients.

Who doesn’t want to be cheered up with bright yellow flowers in March?

If you are interested in helping out by volunteering or just want to purchase daffodils yourself, let me know at 725-426-5448 or kellie.burrows@cancer.org.

 

24 NovThanksgiving Memories

I love Thanksgiving and everything it stands for, including the best comfort food ever.  And really, what a great opportunity to reflect on all the things we can be grateful for over the past year and beyond.

Back when I was a kid it meant my grandparents coming over, sharing a great meal with my parents and brothers, playing cards and having some laughs and a few disagreements.  What’s Thanksgiving without a family squabble or two?  But we were all together and it was fun.

One year my mom came out the kitchen flabbergasted that she couldn’t find the can of black olives she was sure she purchased.  I sheepishly admitted I ate the whole can days prior, too young to think about the consequences.  Amazingly, I still love black olives today.

Over the years of growing up and apart, marriages, divorces and death of the matriarch, Thanksgiving has changed for me.  I miss the innocence of just being able to be thankful for my newest Barbie doll.

Though, there are some new Thanksgiving memories that I will cherish forever.  The two most recent were four and five years ago.

Five years ago, my husband Bob and I flew out to New Jersey on Thanksgiving Day to visit his family.  The rest of his family lives out there and were already at the house on the Jersey Shore in Spring Lake.  Thank goodness my husband’s family is not related to Snooki or the Situation, who really give the Jersey Shore a bad name, but that is another story.  

Bob’s father was fighting prostate cancer but as far as we knew he was on the mend and his prognosis was positive.   When we got there it was so wonderful to see my father-in-law and his big smile at seeing his eldest who had been away to long.  I thought he looked great, Bob thought he aged, but either way he looked happy and we were both comforted.  We enjoyed a big feast with his family, playing some games, having some laughs and of course, a few family disagreements. Awwww, welcome back Thanksgiving of my past!

Sadly, seven months later Bob’s dad passed away and we would never have a Thanksgiving like that again.

Four years ago, Thanksgiving was five months after my father-in-law’s passing and six days after my lumpectomy for breast cancer.  It was still a somber time for us and while our families were not having Thanksgiving, we were invited to our River Falls family home.  We were just not up for it and opted to stay home.

At what could have turned into a pity party turned out to be one of the best Thanksgiving’s ever.  We just hung out in our sweats, watched a couple great old movies and had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, when Bob really loves to cook an Italian Thanksgiving dinner.

It was then I truly realized what was important about Thanksgiving.  While we always say the obvious things we are thankful for, like our health, that year I understand it at a much deeper level and I was so thankful to share a private, quiet Thanksgiving with my husband that year.

Regardless of the type of Thanksgiving we have, there is always a reason to cherish every one.

May everyone have a safe, happy and meaningful Thanksgiving this year!

 

 

21 Mar“When’s the Cancer Party, Mommy?”

I was at the River Falls Chamber Coffee this past Friday morning and shared that the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Pierce County in River Falls is coming up Friday, March 25, 6:00 p.m. at the River Falls High School.  

A minute later Heather Logelin, Executive Director at the River Falls Area Hospital Foundation told the group that her 4 year old son had just asked her that morning “When’s the cancer party, mommy?”

Not only did that warm my heart and make me laugh, it reminded me that is exactly what it is….a celebration of cancer survivors, caregivers and of a community who cares. It’s also a time of reflection and remberance of loved ones lost.  

If you have never been, you have to check it out, because you have to expereince it to really know how significant of a community event this is.

I’ll never forget the first Relay in River Falls I attended in 2008 as a newly diagnosed cancer survivor.  To be honest,  I really didn’t want to go.  

I knew it was this really cool event as I had participated in Hudson years before.  And I knew there were a lot of great things going on with inspirational opening and luminaria ceremonies, spaghetti dinner by the Rotary, silent auction, live music, games, breakfast by the Lion’s Club and more, but I still didn’t want to be there.

It made my cancer to real. But my “little sister” from the Big Brother Big Sister program put together a team for me, which was such an honor that I couldn’t disappoint her.

I went to the area where all the survivors gathered and I had no idea what to expect.  They started to lead us through the commons to the gym and everyone was clapping.  What was this all about?  They are clapping for me?  This community cares that much about me that they are here, raising money to help keep me alive, celebrating my life and supporting my journey?  Wow!  Really?  They really care that much about all of us survivors?  How cool is that? Even as I think about it now, I can’t help but tear up.

And before I knew it,  the healing had begun. 

 Thanks Relayers! And thanks to my fellow survivors, especially those who are 5, 10, 15 and more years out.   Your journey before mine gave me hope and I so appreciate you all for continuing to inspire others so we know we can fight this thing!

And while a lot of great things are happening in research and education of cancer, the pain is still there for families who have had loved ones that went on to a better place.  To those families, thanks for sharing your angels with us so we never forget and never give up. 

I look forward to seeing everyone this Friday at the River Falls High School.  The opening ceremony starts at 6:00 p.m.  Please stop me and say HI. 

And if you can’t  make it Friday please join me  at the Relay in New Richmond on June 10-11 or in Hudson on June 24-25.

There are also 3 Run/Walk’s in Pierce County… Friday, July 8 in Plum City, Saturday, July 23 in Ellsworth and Saturday, August 20 in El Paso.

For more information please feel free to contact me at kellie.burrows@cancer.org or 715.426.5448.

20 FebLoving your bad hair days.

A few weeks ago  I was having a string of bad hair days.  Can you relate?  I’m guessing you can, we all have them.  And it is  the one thing you have to wear everyday so you just want it to behave. Is that to much to ask?  I swear my hair has a mind of its own and enjoys playing little jokes on me.

So Iwas getting frustrated for a very stupid reason and then my brain took me back to three years ago.

Finding out I was going to have chemo was tough news.  I thought I would avoid it since the cancer was not in my lymph nodes, but since I was HER2NU positive it was a must.

Okay, I could handle this.  But the anticipation of losing my hair was scary.  And there was still the hope that I might be one of those rare people who did not lose my hair, even though deep down I knew better with my type of chemo.

Three days before my second treatment, I woke up with an unusual pain in my head, different from a headache.  I felt like someone was holding me up off the ground by my hair.  Any touch to my head hurt, even trying to rest my head on a pillow.  It was happening, I was losing my hair.  I still wanted to deny it.  There wasn’t much hair coming out yet.

The next night I was at a dinner banquet for my job, still hoping it wouldn’t just all fall out.  My husband kept picking hair off of my jacket.  I did everything I could to not touch my hair, as more and more would come out.

Finally, I had to face the reality of just having it all cut off.  I didn’t have the guts to shave it or have someone do it for me and I still waited through the weekend to deal with it.  I was scared.  Even though I knew it was just hair, it was the outward fact to everyone that I was sick.

Early Monday morning while Bob slept, I sat on the edge of our bathtub with a scissors and started to cut it off. Tears were streaming down my face uncontrollably as I continued.  But at the same time,  I knew this was a step towards healing.  And just when I realized I wasn’t so strong, my little 4 month old kitty Daisy jumped up on my lap, stood up and tapped her two front paws on my cheeks.  I then knew that it was going to be okay and thanked God for giving me that comfort. 

I went to work that day in my new wig and no one pointed or stared.  And within a few days I was  use to it and actually liked having a wig.  I mean, I was always having a good hair day.  Though windy days still freaked me out a bit.

Even though there were benefits to wearing a wig, I was thrilled when I finally had some of my own hair back (but not on my legs!)  It was mine and it meant I was on the road to recovery.

 The experience also taught me another lesson on looking at the big picture of  life and not worrying about the smaller things.  So the next time I have a bad hair day, I’m going to tell  myself at least you have hair and pray for all the people going through chemo who do not.

If you or anyone you know is losing their hair from chemo please let them know about the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better classes available at the River Falls Area Hospital and Westfield’s Hospital in New Richmond.  I went to this class and it was wonderful beyond words! For more information on time and dates, please contact your local hospital.

There will also be a Survivors Reunion in River Falls at St. Bridget’s Church on March 7 at 6:00 p.m. and in Hudson at Bethel Highlands Church on May 12 at 6:00 p.m.  These events are free and open to all survivors and caregivers.  I was hesitant to go my first time as I was unsure what it really was, and then I went and  was thrilled to be having such a great time with my community members who understood the journey. Not to mention the inspiration of meeting many cancer survivors who were long time survivors.  It gives me hope for all of us.

If you are interested in getting invovled by volunteering with the fight back against cancer please contact me at 715-426-5448 or kellie.burrows@cancer.org. We are in need of volunteers.

Pierce and St. Croix County American Cancer Society Events:

Daffodil Days; March 7-11: Realy For Life of Pierce County/River Falls;  March 25-26: Relay For Life of New Richmond; June 10-11: Relay For Life of Hudson; June 24-25: Run/Walk of Pierce County; Plum City, July 8; Ellsworth, July 23; El Paso, August 20.

01 JanGood-bye 2010…thanks for the smooth ride

I am very blessed to be able to say that 2010 was the most boring year I have had in a while. And I am excited that I ended the year just us uneventful.  We had a couple friends over for a while but they were gone by 8, we played a game of trivial pursuit and went to bed by 10.

I think I am getting old!  But it is all in the head and I am thankful for being able to be old enough to enjoy the contentment.

I just wish that everyone could be so blessed.  I know to many families who are missing loved ones that left the earth this year.  And a bunch of others that have had a rough ride. So as I look back on all the blessings of nothing exciting this year, I pray for the ones in pain and hope that 2011 will bring them an uneventful year.

Here’s to a Happy New Year!

If you want to help make a Happy New Year for the people in your life who have been affected by cancer, invite them to a local American Cancer Society Relay For Live event. You can find details at www.relayforlife.org and enter your zip code.  Not only is the event healing, it is life changing.

11 DecThe Best Christmas Present Ever

I recently asked my husband what his best Christmas present ever was. He didn’t have an answer so I asked him if he knew what mine was.  He said the Barbie Dream Townhouse. I laughed.  Gosh, he really knows me better then I thought.  Though,  that wasn’t the correct answer, well, at least not since the Christmas of 2007.

It was December 14 and Bob had just come home from covering a game. It was about two weeks since I found out I was going to have chemo afterall. Bob told me he had been thinking really hard about what he could get me for Christmas that would be really special.

Bob does a lot of wonderful things, but buying presents for me is not one of his best qualities, so I was a little nervous.  But then he said he wanted to get me a kitty, but didn’t want to just bring one home if I didn’t think I would be up for caring for one.

I was estatic!  I’ve always wanted to get a kitty but Bob wasn’t a cat person and I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to deal with cat hair and a litter box.  But now that the opportunity had presented itself I said yes, with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe that is what he came up with so I asked him how.  He said that not ony did he want to make it a special present,  he thought a kitty could always be there to keep me company when he couldn’t be.

Of course, that created more tears, and then I asked “How do you know how to take such good care of me?”  He said “That’s all I know from watching my Dad taking care of my Mom.”  You see, Bob lost his Mom to brain cancer when he was only 8 years old.  And then he lost his Dad to prostate cancer 4 months before my diagnosis.  His experience with the harsh side of this disease gave him the strenghth to be there for me 110%.

And that is really my best Christmas present ever.

Though, two days after that moment we got little baby Daisy and she is a close second.

If you or anyone you know needs some extra support for cancer during the holiday season, please let them know that there is a 24/7 live person that will help  them in any way or direct them to the right place at 1-800-ACS-2345 or www.cancer.org.

Dedicated to Robert and Maureen Burrows and to all the families who have been touched by cancer. 

Merry Christmas!

22 NovI Bleed Purple…do you?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a Vikings fan.  Whew…that is much tougher to admit this year and living in Wisconsin.

While I will remain loyal to the end, that is not the purple I am talking about.  I am talking about the signature color of the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life events. This purple represents survivorship and hope and I couldn’t be more honored to be part of this elite group. 

I’ll never forget going to my first Relay.  It was about 11 years ago when I was working for the Hudson Star-Observer.  About 6 months prior to the first ever Relay in Hudson I remember this lady coming to our workplace to talk about how important it was for us to get involved and we  did.  It was such a fun, rewarding experience for our workplace, coming together as a team and making a difference for our community of survivors.

The most moving part of the event was the Luminaria Ceremony.  After celebrating survivors earlier in the evening, we took time to reflect on the effects of cancer on our families and friends. We walked the track in silence looking at all the names on the Luminary bags, in honor of and in memory of .

It was particular moving for me as I had a dear friend, Sean Smith from college fighting for his life against brain cancer.  Sadly, Sean lost his fight about a year and a half later at 31 years of age.  A very sad, but very real reminder why we need to keep on fighting.  Because 11 years later we are making progress and while cancer is still taking away our loved ones, through research we are saving even more.

I learned about a statistic that the American Cancer Society’s efforts are saving 350 more lives a day from cancer. And in the last 60 years the American Cancer Society has been involved in every major breakthrough in cancer.  

While this is very impressive, another statistic states that in 2011 29,610 people in the sate of Wisconsin will be diagnosed with cancer. 

Wow…just think about that for a minute and what that could do to your life if you or someone you know falls into that stat.  Scary to think about, huh? So if it happened, would you bleed purple? 

Would you be willing to join hundreds of others in your community to volunteer, form a team or donate knowing you could make a difference in saving the life of someone you love?

Now you know the real reason  I bleed purple.  Because of all the work that the American Cancer Society communities have done, I am able to be here to ask you to join me at the Relay For Life in River Falls (March 25-26), New Richmond (June 10-11) or Hudson (June 24-25)  To find out more, enter your zip code at www.relayforlife.org.  And if you can’t join me at one of these Relays, please consider getting involved in your area.

I would love to know why you bleed purple.  Please comment or e-mail me at kellie.burrows@cancer.org.

02 NovDo you believe in Guardian Angels?

I know I always believed in Guardian Angels but I’m not sure if I ever experienced one in quite the obvious way as in the Fall of 2007. 

I was overdo for my first mammogram.  In July of 2007 my doctor reminded my that I was now 41 and I really needed to get that baseline. For wahtever silly reason, I had always been afraid of getting a mammogram and dreaded the day I turned 40…for other reasons too, but I won’t get into that.

So I took the little pink slip from the doctor at the River Falls Medical Clinic with the phone number to call the River Falls Area Hospital and put it in my desk.   Yea, Yea, I’ll call tomorrow, I thought.

At the time I was working in downtown Minneapolis and was a manger with a great team.  One of my team members, Karen, was in her early 60′s and very motherly towards me.  She came in my office in September to let me know that she needed to leave early on Thursday because she needed to get her mammogram.  I told her that I really needed to do that too and nodded towards the dreaded pink slip that had been eyeing me for two months now.  She ponited her finger at me and said “you better do that!”  “I will, I will, I promise.”  was my response.

But then I got side tracked with work and before you know it, I was once again ignoring that little reminder on my desk.   But Karen wasn’t so easy to ignore.  About two weeks after that conversation, we were in the break room and she asked if I had scheduled an appointment yet.  I lowered my head and meekly said “no” and she quickly said “you lied to me.”  Well, I didn’t want to be a liar so I marched right into my office and made that appointment.

On October 8, 2007  I walked out of the River Falls Area Hospital thinking that wasn’t so bad and I actually felt good about being proactive about my health. 

I won’t get into all the details between October 8 and October 22 when I was told I had cancer,  but what I will tell you is that Karen was my real life Guardian Angel.  As it turns out, I had a very fast growing tumor and any further procrastiantion on my part could have been the difference between life and death for me. 

I did later tell her thank you for saving my life.  And it also gave me one big huge reminder to appreciate all those Guardian Angels God has put in our  lives everyday doing so many wonderful things for us, that we may not even realize.   

Okay, I’ll try to avoid the sappy ending here, but I know I learned a lesson on gratefulness and appreciation.  It’s so easy to get caught up in day to day drama…I’m guilty…just ask my friend Lisa, my venting partner…but I try really hard everyday to thank God for all He has given to me and to be grateful, especially for that Guardian Angel, Karen.

21 OctPink For Life in Hudson!

Words are not enough for the experiences I have had with cancer  and   I am so grateful to share my story so we never have to say the words “you have cancer” to any one you love.

  I grew up in St. Paul,  love the Twins, Vikings, Wild…teams people are  loyal too.

And I love…love the loyalty  of women to be PINK to celebrate sisterhoood..

The Hudson Downtown Retailers are examples of being loyal to this sisterhood by hosting “Pink For Life…a shopping and dining event. ” Proceeds for the event will benefit  the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Hudson which will be held at EP Rock Elementary School on June 24-25, 2011.

 This event is Saturday, October 23  from10 am-6 pm.   It sounds so much fun!  I can’t wait to dress in pink and meet my friends in Hudson to shop and eat!

Some samples of what you can expect:

 

Barker’s Bar & Grill – Pink Ribbon T-shirts

Bella Luce Boutique – Unique & Stylish accessories

 

Casanova – Pink wine and “Bitch” bubbly tasting

CocoBello – Pink items on special and treats

Digital Garage – Pink flash drives

Elan Clothing & Gifts – Pink treats

EtCetera – 15% off anything pink (except consignment items)

Grapevine Interiors “AT HOME” – Fall Decorating Demos, wear pink and receive 10% off anything in the store, 20% off pink tagged items, refreshments

Hudson Flower – All Pink flowers

Kelley Frame and Art Gallery Specials on pink items

Knoke’s Chocolates – pink treats

La Rue Marche – women’s apparel and accessories

Lavender Thymes – breast cancer mugs, key chains, pink stones and pink bath cupcakes

Lillian’s – pink bracelets, pink nail files, pink long and short tees “Cancer picked the wrong Diva!”

Pangea – International jewelry and gifts

Pier 500 – Pink specials

San Pedro – special pink ribbon t-shirts

SEASONS on St. Croix Gallery – pink lemonade, pink cupcakes and “in the pink” drawings

The Nova – pink wine $5.00 and special pink dessert

The Purple Tree Eco-pink message necklaces and rings made in WI from recycled materials

Urban Olive and Vine -PINK PARTY, with wine based $5 Pomegranate Margaritas and Cosmopolitans. Wear pink and get an olive oil and baguette appetizer for $3

 

Ultimissimo Boutique Salon – “Bras For A Cause” see store for display and details

Meet at Urban Olive & Vine for door prize drawing at 6:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

 
 

 

15 Octwhat to do this weekend?

So after a long week and meeting some great people who are dedicated to fighting back against cancer with the American Cancer Society I am ready for some fun on what looks like to be another beautiful weekend.

Tonight I get to have date with my husband.  He actualy has no football game to cover…that’s a rarity this time of the year.

So we are meeting at Bo’s-N-Mine for some good food and then over to the River Falls Library…and that is not a pseudonym for a bar.

We are heading there to see the River Falls Community Theatre’s production of “Dilemmas With Dinner.”   A comedy in two acts: When a professional woman, Brooke, invites her boss and his wife over to dinner, things do not go exactly as planned.

If its anything like past performacnes of RFCT comedies, it will be a fun night out, worth every minute and dollar. 

Tickets are $10 and available at Dish & Spoon or at the door. The performances are in the Gallery on October 15, 16, 22,  23 and start at 7:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there!