10.11.17

As I sit here and type this, Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera is replaying in my head over and over. I distinctly remember my mom singing that song to me (as I do for Nora & Peter) when I was a little girl. It’s always stuck with me and I feel like it’s been my anthem for life over the past few years.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It’s hard to believe that 10.11.12 was FIVE years ago. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.

Thankfully, I’m happy to report that my latest test results indicate that I’m still NED (no evidence of disease). Wahoo! Happy 5-year cancerversary to me!

As most of you know, making it 5 years without a recurrence or distant metastasis for a triple negative-er is a really big deal. At this point (assuming the scientific literature out there is still accurate) my rate of recurrence drops significantly. Metastasis could still rear it’s ugly head one day, but I’ve learned to embrace the Que, Sera, Sera part of life!

Does this mean that I’ll rest on my laurels and go back to “normal” life? No my friends, there is no such thing as “normal” life anymore – just the new normal – which includes exercise (ugh.), self-care (read: switching to non-toxic make-up, personal care products, laundry detergent, household cleaning items, and trying to eat “clean” while balancing ALL of that against just living my life and enjoying myself!) and continued check ups with Garrett every 3 to 4 months.

But seriously, as shitty as things have been, they’ve been equally as amazing. I wouldn’t trade a thing about the past 5 years because I’ve grown so much as a person. Of course, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody, but for me, it was (and is) a profound experience. I’ve met so many beautiful souls along the way. Without my community, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I thank all of you who have been there for me and my family — holding space for us and holding us in your hearts and prayers when we needed it most. I hope to return the favor as many times over as I can.

For now though, I’ll happily continue cruisin’ along in this lane. It’s not a bad lane to be in…

xoxo,
Andrea

_F8A1234b (1)_F8A1234 (1)_F8A1270 (1)img_2255
Photo Credit: Piece of Heart Photography

 

This one snuck up on me

Yesterday was my 4-year cancerversary. It snuck up on me for sure – but it’s not like I forgot about it. It’s always in the back of my mind. Happily though, Paul totally forgot about it. Which I’m fine with. It’s not a ‘versary I like to dwell on too much.

I spent a cozy, delicious day snuggled at home with Peter. I had plans to run an errand or two – but ended up nesting at home with my new little bug instead. It was heaven. Until the witching hour that is. Around dinnertime, literally, everybody in our house was grousing. Peter was crying for a feed, Nora was melting down after a long day at daycare, Maisey was plead-barking at the back door to be let out for a potty – and Paul and I were divided in separate rooms tending to the tiny humans. It was perfectly imperfect. I felt like crying, but chuckled in my head instead. I suppose these are life’s little moments!

Some updates for you on the cancer front:

Earlier this summer, I was accepted into a clinical trial for TNBC survivors. The trial is by Cynvenio and they believe that they can perform a biopsy on our blood to detect whether we’re having a recurrence up to 8 months before current tests could catch it. The trial is specifically for triple negative folks like myself. I don’t have to do a whole heck of a lot except give my blood 4 times a year. I thought I’d get kicked out of the trial b/c I missed the second draw due to bedrest with Peter. But they were cool about it and let me miss one draw and stay in the study.

One of these days when I have some time I’ll post more details about the trial itself. I’m sure you can google it if you’re really curious. Who knows if it actually can detect what it says it can — but that’s the point of the trial, right? I’m happy to participate and do my small part to help advance science.

I’ll leave you with some scrumptious pics of the kids and a hilarious video of Nora and Peter, enjoy!

1st Birthday Party

Dearest Nora,

You’ve brought me pure joy this year. You’re beautiful, smart, happy, curious, expressive and kind. You’re the most active kid I’ve ever met! I love that you keep me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you. Below are pics and video from your birthday party. I love you so much my darling!

Photo credit goes to our amazing babysitter Ana (check out all of her work at www.anabrazaityte.com)

#TBT – Full Circle

Throw back Thursday — I wrote this piece when we were on vacation last month:
Here I am, once again, blogging by the pool on the magical island of Kauai.  My absolute favorite place on this earth.  We came here on our “cancermoon” in 2012 to center ourselves before my surgery and chemo.  The island worked its magic and we got back to San Francisco ready to face my cancer head on.
We were also here on Kauai that dreaded day when Dr. Smith called to tell us that IVF didn’t work.  Earlier today we walked by the store and bench we sat on in Hanalei when the sad news was delivered to us. We got a little emo remembering that day – then looked down at Nora in her stroller and felt like we won the lottery!
This trip, we’ve come full circle.  It’s been 2 years since I finished treatment, I have a full head of hair again and my beautiful, perfect daughter is here with us (only piece missing is crazy Maisey).
It feels so nice to be reclaiming those sad times and to *finally* rewrite our story.
But I can’t help but wonder and feel scared when Paul says things like “we have our whole lives to watch Nora grow and take her on adventures”.  Last night at dinner he said something along those lines again (a perfectly natural statement for any new parent to marvel about) and I quietly whispered “what if I don’t have my whole life to watch my baby girl grow and thrive?”  And told him that I feel scared and sad when he makes grand, long-term statements like that. I could see Paul processing my statement and; for the first time in a long time, he just sat quietly and looked at me with love. Normally he’s so quick to say “You’re fine now. And you’re going to be fine” but this time, he didn’t give me a canned answer. He just accepted my feelings and didn’t try to fix the situation or dismiss my fears. His eyes were sad, I could tell part of him wanted to be the cheerleader and dismiss my negative nelly thoughts — but I’m so glad he didn’t.  It was only a 2 minute exchange, but I felt closer to him than ever.  The reality is that I might get cancer again. or I might not.  That’s it. There’s nothing more to it. It may or may not happen. But having already been there, I really don’t want to go back.
I also think that all new parents feel a sense of mortality when they bring a baby into the word.  I think it’s natural to want to be there for your child no matter what and to wonder what would happen to your child if you weren’t there.  It’s scary to think about whether you’ve had a history of cancer or not.
I look forward to every milestone with my precious, gorgeous, smart Nora. But I don’t allow myself the luxury of looking too far into the future. I just enjoy every single moment of every single day with her and my wonderful husband. Life is damn good right this very second and I am so thrilled to be living it!
   

Another year, another cancerversary….

Happy two year cancerversary to me.  Wow. Time really does fly. I can’t believe another year has gone by.  I also can’t believe that I now mark time by my cancercerversary — more so than my birthday. Weird.

As I get further and further away from my diagnosis date, I’m learning some important lessons and coping skills.  While cancer (and it’s potential recurrence or mets) are still at the forefront of my mind everyday, I’ve gotten much better at acknowledging those thoughts, and then filing them at the back of my brain and carrying on with my day.

I’m not sure what changed or why I’m coping better these days. I suspect it has a lot to do with the life that’s growing inside of me! I put our daughter before myself now — even though she’s still in utero. I don’t have time to let the past haunt me.

Don’t get me wrong though, while I feel less afraid of recurrence (or perhaps more at peace with the fact that I’m not in control of whether or not I have a recurrence) this year saw a new set of issues crop up…  Recently I’ve struggled a lot with survivors guilt.  How is it possible that I had cancer, took all the steps that the doctors recommended — and it all WORKED.  I’m still NED and I’m pregnant on top of that. So much good luck and fortune smiling down on me.

Yet, I know people who did all of the same things I did, but their cancer didn’t go away. In some cases, those people are no longer with us.  It’s so hard to wrap my head around all of this.  But it’s my reality. Though I can’t help wondering why them and not me?

I don’t have the answers to any of this at the moment, I’m just slowly trudging through these waters and trying to remind myself that my feelings are legitimate and normal.  And I focus on our family – I marvel every time baby girl Sieminski kicks inside my belly. It’s such an amazing feeling that jolts me back into reality and reminds me to be happy — to revel in all of our good fortune.

Speaking of good fortune — we’re currently in Buffalo visiting our newest niece, Anna Yasodhara! She is the cutest, smushiest, yummiest love bug I’ve ever seen.  Paul is madly in love with her! I can tell he’s beyond excited for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Watching him coo over her makes me love him even more (didn’t know that was possible!).

20141011-094407-35047964.jpg

Our lovely sister-in-law, Sandy, is throwing us a baby shower this afternoon.  I truly can’t think of a better activity to do on this cancerversary! OH! Here’s another tidbit for you — today is not only my two year cancerversary — but it also marks the first day of my third trimester! Whoot!

Obligatory bump pic below:

20141011-094406-35046835.jpg

 

Breast v. Bottle

Guys! I can’t physically breastfeed so PLEASE, for the love of all things sacred, stop asking me about it!

Ever since I found out I’m pregnant — I joined a new club — the “mom-to-be” club. I’ve waited years to gain entrée into this one and am elated to finally be here! As I suspected, people crawl out of the woodwork to offer support, guidance and helpful tips. It’s incredible!

Most notably, however, is the ease with which people talk at you about breastfeeding. The conversation always starts from the assumption that you’ll be breastfeeding.  For the oodles of women out there who choose not to breastfeed for their own personal reasons, this is a terribly invasive and rude conversation.

For me, it’s just a kick in the gut.

Obviously perfect strangers that I meet now have no idea I had cancer.  All they know is that I have weird, short hair (what can I say? I’m in that awkward grow out stage right now!)

20140902-124635-45995478.jpg and I’m having a baby. Great! inevitably, the requisite baby small-talk commences: “OMG, congrats! Your bump is so cute! When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? How are you feeling?” Then comes the breastfeeding convo: “Are you going to breastfeed? It’s a total bitch – hands down, it’s the hardest thing about being a mom. Natural Resources, which is in your neighborhood, offers great classes on breastfeeding — they’re worth the money.”

Since they’re strangers, I politely explain to them that I can’t breastfeed because I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  I give my 2 minute cancer bio and that usually quiets the conversation. Only the most special people like to return to the topic 5 minutes later. It’s usually in the form of “Well, since you’re not breastfeeding, your boobs are going to KILL after the milk comes in and you have to let them dry up.”  Ummmm, no they won’t. I’m not sure how many ways I can tell you this — but while my breasts are anatomically stunning (!) and easy on the eyes, they’re 100% silicone.

It’s shocking to me how many people who are fully aware that I had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy STILL mention nursing to me! OH EM GEE, for real? This includes family members and fellow BAYS (my breast cancer support group) friends.  As for my BAYS ladies, there are many paths to treatment for cancer. Some of my BAYS friends had lumpectomies, or single mastectomies and the possibility of breastfeeding still exists for them. Some breastfed their children before being diagnosed, so they don’t stop to think about having a baby post DX. But still, I expect more from this group of people.

Now that I’m showing, these conversations happen pretty frequently. I’ve heard a lot of silly things come out of people’s mouths. But this next one is by far my favorite: “There’s so much pressure to breastfeed, it’s like you’re a monster if you don’t want to do it — you’re so lucky, at least you don’t have to choose whether or not to do it — the decision’s been made for you — AND nobody can give you grief about it because you don’t have boobs” WTF? That one is up there with my favorite breast cancer insult “Well, at least you got the easy cancer.” Not comforting people, not comforting.

Here are my conclusions:

1. People are so damned excited about a brand new life entering the world, they get amnesia about any and all sickness you had in the past.  Essentially, babies are blinding! (This helps me explain away close friends and even family members who talk to me about breastfeeding.)

and

2. People don’t really understand what a bi-lateral mastectomy entails. Little refresher for you – all of your breast tissue is removed in surgery. You are left with skin, pectoral muscle, anatomically shaped implants and rib cage. In that order. I assure you, there’s no breast tissue. No milk ducts. Nope, no possibility of milk comin’ outta there.

In all, it just sort of sucks to be reminded so frequently that I had breast cancer because it makes me think about the limitations I’ll face after giving birth. It makes me sad that I don’t have a choice in whether or not I nurse our baby. I’m also really sad that my chest is still pretty numb, the skin on my chest is cool to the touch (silicone implants aren’t a great heat conductor) and my implants are pretty hard. I wish I could give our daughter a nice warm, squishy landing pad to snuggle up to (and that I’d be able to physically feel her laying on my chest). But I can’t, and that’s sad to me.

If there’s one lesson I want you to take away with you from this post, it’s this: the breast v bottle conversation is as taboo as asking someone who they’re going to vote for. It’s really not your business, so please don’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Blue Door

Paul and I recently had the good fortune to eat at The French Laundry! For those of you who know me — you know I LOVE to eat. Almost as much as I love to sleep.

Getting the last minute reservation was total dumb luck. I called two days before we were heading to Napa and got the rezzie 30 hours before we showed up to eat. The meal was so many things — intimidating, exhilarating, scrumptious, tiring, spendy, inspiring — in sum, a foodie and chef whore’s wet dream. I was in hog heaven!

Never one to disappoint my readers, I took a million pictures — just like a proper tourist should. I didn’t care that I looked like a fool — this is a meal that should be fawned over.  You should revel in the art that Thomas Keller has created.  Allow me to take you on a photo journey of our evening:

The obligatory bathroom selfie -- what? It's NOT obligatory? Harumpf to you!

The obligatory bathroom selfie — what? It’s NOT obligatory? Harumpf to you!

 

Roped Paul into a selfie. His expression is priceless!

Roped Paul into a selfie. His expression is priceless!

This post is entitled “Beyond the blue door” because the French Laundry’s front door is blue. I’m super clever, right? Little known fact (well, not so little) is that the restaurant used to be an actual french laundry — hence the name.

The blue door

The blue door

In a nod to it’s old laundering days, every napkin has a cute clothespin on it. Yes, we stole ours. Please, do you think we’re rookies at this game?

The clothespin nod

The clothespin nod

There were two tasting menus offered, one veggie, one not.  Normally I don’t eat a ton of meat (read: no rabbit, duck, lamb or red meat) — but I made an exception for this meal. I’ve included pics of both menus for you. Check out the second line from the top — our menus were personalized and said “Andrea kicked cancer’s ass”. I mean, come on. Attention to detail anyone?

Tasting Menu #1

Tasting Menu #1

Tasting menu #2

Tasting menu #2

Don’t worry if you can’t read the menu — I’ll write everything out for you below. Here we go……..

OK, I’ve already lied to you — I don’t quite remember all the details of our amuse bouche. The first was a salmon ice cream come with caviar. The second was some sort of delectable cheese puff. Honestly, the ice cream cone thingie was one of the highlights of the meal for me. AH-maze.

The amuse bouche

The amuse bouche

The second amuse

The second amuse

Oysters and Pearls: “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar. Perfect way to begin the meal — this was the perfect balance of rich and light — if that’s even possible!

Oysters and Pearls

Oysters and Pearls

Slow-Roasted Garden Beets: Silverado trail strawberries, celery branch, pearson farms pecans, miner’s lettuce and black winter truffle “coulis”.  Another fan favorite over here. I love me a salad — and that this one was all locally sourced, made my heart sing.

Beet salad

Beet salad

Our waiter told us this next one was chef’s attempt to to take us all back to childhood.

Peas and Carrots: Sauted fillet of pacific yellowtail, english peas, nantes carrots, pea tendrils and sweet carrot emulsion.

Peas and Carrots

Peas and Carrots

Clearly, I hated this one:

hated it :)

hated it 🙂

Herb Roasted Pacific Abalone: Sacramento delta asparagus, arrowleaf spinach “panade,” satsuma mandarins, garden turnips and applewood-smoked bacon. (Neither of us really cared for the abalone — too chewy for me — but everything else was awesome).

Abalone

Abalone

Next up — Thanksgiving on a plate. By far, one of the best dishes I’ve ever consumed in my life.

Four Story Hills Farm Poularde: Black mission fig jam, Garden cauliflower, cipollini onions and sicilian pistachio vinaigrette.

Thanksgiving - and boy did I ever give thanks

Thanksgiving – and boy did I ever give thanks

This next course is where Paul and I diverge. I went with the tasting menu lamb — but Paul upgraded to the Wagyu. I read somewhere that the wagyu served at the french laundry is grown and slaughtered specifically for this restaurant only. Who knows if that’s actually true or not. Paul said it melted like butter. I didn’t love the lamb  — since I don’t really eat lamb. So Paul got a double course on this one!

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye: Garden broccoli, caramelized green garlic, polenta “croutons” and “creme de morilles”.

Lamb

Lamb

Charcoal-Grilled Japanese Wagyu: Yukon gold potate “rosti,” black trumpet mushrooms, garden radishes, hearts of romaine lettuce, lava bean and “sauce bordelaise”.

Wagyu

Wagyu

“Soumaintrain”: Garden sunchokes, brown butter “beignet,” royal blenheim apricots, sunflower seeds and red russian kale. Yumm-o

Beignet

Beignet

Finally, we’re at course No. 8 — the dessert course (if you include the amuse, it’s really course No. 10). They give up on writing all this stuff out on the menu at this point b/c dessert is about 5 courses in and of itself. Died!

“Assortment of Desserts” Fruit, ice cream, chocolate and candies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, I forgot to mention the bread! I didn’t take any pictures of it — but we were given two small plates of fancy butter to go with our bread. One was from Vermont and the other was local (I think). One was saltier than the other — and both were divine.

Alrighty, so 3 hours later, we finished eating.  It was after midnight and we were the last patrons in the restaurant. By now, we’ve befriended our waiter, and we’re having a good ‘ole time.  So I pull yet another touristy/foodie move and ask for a tour of the kitchen.  I read that you can totally do this. Our waiter was happy to oblige. We didn’t get to see any action as service was over and the kitchen was gleaming.  We did see chef (not Thomas Keller though) prepping his team for the next day. They were all gathered round the expediting table (died!).  Also our waiter confirmed that it is indeed true that there is CCTV to Per Se in the kitchen. How F’ing cool is that?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I asked our waiter if a ton of people try to stage at FL — he said yes, but that they don’t really take anybody — some sort of liability issue.  I was sort of drunk by this point — so I don’t fully recall what he said. But wanted to include the tidbit for the other foodies out there. I tried to ask all the questions we wonder about!

Woosh. I am absolutely beat after writing this post. Hope you enjoyed it and hope each of you get the opportunity to eat at French Laundry once in your life!

xoxo