My Birthday & a Year since chemo began

I celebrated my birthday on January 11. Today, January 13, is the anniversary of the day I started chemotherapy a year ago. Thinking back to last year, on my birthday, I was honestly just so thrilled to be alive. I proudly told everyone that I had made it to 45. We celebrated and had a great day, but when January 12th/13th rolled around, I was truly terrified. I wondered what the next six months of treatments would bring for me.

This year, there is no terror or fear. I am happy to be here, but no longer worried about what tomorrow may bring. Of course, there is that tiny bit of me that worries about the cancer coming back, but that is no longer a predominant fear in my every day life.

My birthday weekend this year was a celebration of the “normal”.

Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the weekend for me was having one of my heroes in life and running say that she will come help crew and pace me at Bryce. I will write more about that in the future as our plans come together, but I went from feeling very stressed about this race to be head over heels with excitement! With my new found sense of excitement and purpose, I went for a 17 mile run in the hills with my husband.


I came home and had cake and got some gifts from my family. My favorite gifts were the letter from Riley. I will not disclose the contents except to say that she made me tear up in a good way. Here is a cute picture she drew at the bottom. I love that kid!


Peyton made me another one of her fabulous cards.



The inside had pictures of things I love.


We watched Peyton compete in a karate match.


I worked a few hours and attended a Girl Scout troop meeting with the kids.

It was the simple, quiet celebration of normal life that brings me the most joy.

I woke up today thinking about the responsibilities of my day-to-day life. I am relieved that these are the things that are now occupying the space in my head, rather than living with the daily fear of what cancer or chemotherapy may do to my body. But I have several friends who are still engaged in the battle for their lives. My birthday wish is for those friends to be able to regain their health and to have their lives return to something as close to normal as possible. Their fight is my fight and they are always in my heart.


“Beating” Cancer

As I went through my cancer treatments, people often said, “You kicked cancer’s ass!” or “You beat cancer!” I always felt a little uncomfortable with these phrases. Frankly, I never felt like I kicked anything’s ass. In fact, during my treatments, I felt like I was getting my ass handed to me on a regular basis. I had no other choice but to keep moving forward, no matter what nasty side effects cancer and my treatments kept throwing at me. Like many people confronting a deadly illness, I would have done anything in the world to get one more day, one more hour, one more minute with my family.

Right now, and hopefully forever, I show no evidence of disease. If it comes back and I am not so lucky the next time around, does that mean that cancer beat me? As I have watched many wonderful, amazing, kind, loving, vibrant human beings die as a result of having had cancer, I never once thought, “Boy, cancer sure beat that person” or “Cancer kicked that person’s ass!” I have only thought how unfair it is that we continue to lose so many wonderful people who fought so fiercely and valiantly for so long.

I know the people who say these things are doing so out of love and kindness. I have appreciated every single person who has been supportive as I have navigated this journey. I just find the language we use in regards to cancer to be interesting. We don’t hear people talking about “kicking ass” in regards to other illnesses. Yet we often talk about cancer in fighting terms. “Warrior”, “fighter” and “battle” are all terms that we use in regards to cancer, and for good reason. The treatments that we undergo to save our lives continue to be nothing short of barbaric. We undergo extreme surgeries and pump toxins into our bodies in order to save our own lives. It is a battle. We are fighting to for our lives.

Where it makes me squirm a bit is when we start talking in terms of winning and losing. The implication when someone says, “You kicked cancer’s ass” is that somehow I was tougher, stronger, or a better fighter than a person who died as a result of their illness. This is simply not true. I would like to think I am a tough person, but I really attribute the fact that I am still here largely to luck. I got lucky. At least this time around. If my cancer comes back and ultimately kills me, I am still the same person. I am still the same fighter. I am still the same “strong” person with human frailties and vulnerabilities who just wanted to live with ever fiber or her being.

I woke up yesterday to the news that Stuart Scott, of ESPN, had passed away. Stuart Scott had fought cancer since 2007. He gave one of the best speeches about living with cancer that I have ever heard. You can listen to it here.

As Stuart Scott says in his speech, “When you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” I could not agree more. So while I am so saddened that the world has lost Mr. Scott, I never for one minute think cancer beat him. He was an inspiration to so many survivors. He was strong, while not being afraid to express his own human vulnerabilities. He acknowledged that he relied on the support of many people while going through his treatments. I appreciate his honesty about how much we need other people while facing a significant illness, because it is true. He demonstrated that you can be a tough fighter while still needed help from others. He expressed how desperately he wanted to see his children grow up. I can relate to all of the feelings he articulates because I have experienced them myself. Stuart Scott demonstrated how to live a full life in the face of adversity. Cancer did not win. Cancer did not beat Stuart Scott, just as it does not beat any of us who have fought to save our own lives. We will all truly “beat cancer” when we find a cure for the many diseases that fall under the “cancer” umbrella.When we find real cures, then I will rejoice and say, “We really did beat cancer!”




Maybe I am crazy, but 2014 was a great year!

It is New Year’s Eve day 2014. This year has been amazing. People probably think I am crazy when they hear me say I had a great year. I am serious, though. Yes, I had Cancer. Yes, I went through chemotherapy. Yes, it was a really hard year. But out of the hardest times often come the greatest gifts.I am fortunate that even though I have not forgotten the hard times, I am able to focus on the good times we had in 2014. Thankfully, there were lots of good times. When I think about the medical challenges and the stress it placed on everyone in my family, I know it was really difficult. But then I think about the ways in which those challenges made us all better people.

I remember when I first got diagnosed with cancer, how I would tell people, “I know I should feel “lucky” because I was diagnosed early enough for surgery, but I don’t feel “lucky” yet. Does anyone with cancer feel “lucky”? Maybe in a year or two, I will feel lucky.” Now that a little time has passed, I do feel incredibly lucky.

I feel lucky because I continue to show no evidence of disease. I feel lucky because this year has brought me the gift of seeing life in a different, more meaningful way. I feel fortunate that my family made it through this journey. We are all stronger and closer than ever before. I feel so blessed to have been surrounded by old friends and new ones this year. I know I have said it before, but my experience has brought an extraordinary group of new people into my life.

Going through something like this strips you down to the bare essence of who you really are as a human being. I am glad that people have been so loving and accepting of me during a time when I have gone through my greatest challenge to date. What matters most to me in my life is the relationships I have had. I am thankful for all of the people who have been a part of my life this year. Thank you to my family, friends and readers who have made 2014 a year that I will remember mostly for the good that came out of the challenge. I am looking forward to sharing 2015 with all of the wonderful people in my life!





























Rock Canyon Half Marathon race report

I ran the Rock Canyon Half Marathon today. My husband, Stephen, loves this race and has run it several times. I, on the other hand, have not run Rock Canyon since 1999. I had nothing against the race. Rather, it was more a matter of us having to divide and conquer when the kids were younger. We both love to run but we each picked a couple of races each year and called it good.

I have only a handful of half-marathons under my belt. I honestly had no idea what kind of pace I would be running today. I knew that it would not be easy for me to run this race at a fast (for me) pace. I have been nursing some nagging injuries since I finished the Bear Chase 50 mile race back in September. Of course, there was also that little cancer thing that I dealt with this past year. Between my leg and my lungs, I cannot remember the last time I really was able to run “fast”.

In any event, Steve really wanted to run this half and wanted me to come along, too. I reluctantly allowed him to sign me up. I felt fairly ambivalent about running the half leading up to the race. Then, on Thursday, I woke up feeling sick with a sore throat, cough and overall fatigue. On Friday, my body was aching all over. I wondered if I should bother to go to the race at all, but I knew I would end up running somewhere, whether I went to the race or not. I figured I ought to at least give the half-marathon a shot.

We arrived at the race start by 8 am and proceeded to race number pick-up. One thing I like about this race is that it always draws a ton of people from the Springs. We milled around, chatting with other runners who we knew or recognized. I was pleasantly surprised to run into two of my former chemotherapy nurses. We caught up with them and snapped a couple of photos.



I did not think that it was a good sign that I was still not feeling well and that I was actually yawning while waiting for the race to start. Nevertheless, I said good-bye to Steve, and I lined up somewhere in the middle of the pack. As the gun went off, we walked and jogged across the start line. I quickly realized that I had lined up too far in the back. I had to struggle, bobbing and weaving around large groups of people. The first couple of miles are run on city streets and I was running somewhere around an 8:15 pace. It felt comfortable. But by mile two, my hamstring started to hurt badly. I knew this was not good, but there was nothing I could do about it. I just wanted to finish without doing too much damage.

So, I pushed on as best as I could, watching my per mile pace drop to 8:20, then 8:40s and eventually to just over a 9:00 pace. Worse than that was just how much literally every single step hurt. I lost focus. I forgot to drink and forgot about the gel I was going to eat mid-way through. Pain clouded all of my decision-making processes. I was getting passed by way too many people, but I was limping and there was no way I could give chase. With about two miles to go, I seriously wanted to cry. At this point, I just wanted not to have to walk.

As I approached mile 12, I happened to see a guy who I run into occasionally around town. He had finished and was out doing a cool down. He made a comment to the effect of, “Come on! You can do it!” I was at a really low moment. I was in a lot of pain. I was feeling miserable and on the verge of tears. All I could think to myself was, “Do you know what I have been through this past year?! Of COURSE I can do it!”

I had no idea what my finish time would be going into this race, but I definitely wanted to break 2 hours. I was starting to wonder if that was possible, but my ability to do math was now completely out the window. I crossed the finish line in 1:54. I was 5th in my age group of 33 women. I am not upset with my time or placing. I just wish I felt good while I was out there.

As I crossed the finish line, I saw Steve and Meghan waiting for me. Steve could tell I was hurting and it really was all I could do not to cry. I said a few bad words, and then announced the pity party was over. I was glad I went. I was glad I gave it my all. I was also really happy that I was able to celebrate my husband’s accomplishment with him. Steve finished in 1:34. I am so happy for him and super proud of him.



I also got to chat with my chemotherapy nurses at the finish line again. They both did awesome and it is fun to see them outside of the Cancer center!


After the race was over, I invested in a couple of headbands from Bolder Bands.

I am lucky that I never lost all of my hair when I went through chemo. I did, however, lose a lot of my hair. It is growing back in now and I am very happy about that fact. However, I am a little self-conscious about how crazy my hair looks when I put it in a pony tail. I have a full on shrub growing out of the top of my head and no amount of hair spray can keep it tame. It is the little things in life that make us feel good, and I am excited to have a way to try to make my hair look a little less bizarre while it grows back.

This will be our last race of 2014. The Rock Canyon half is a nice event. It is about as flat and as fast as a half-marathon can be in Colorado. Though I really struggled, I am happy that I ran today. I enjoyed the ride down and back with my husband. I loved seeing lots of familiar, friendly faces out on the course. I am glad that I was able to tough it out when I felt really miserable. I am really proud of my husband and am happy that I got to celebrate with him, even if I came in 20 minutes after he did! I have to get a handle on these lingering injuries. My immediate goal right now is to just feel good and healthy again.

What was I thinking?

I woke up panic-stricken at 2 am Tuesday morning. I had an overwhelming sense of fear. What on earth had I been thinking the day before? I had been toying around with the idea of signing up for another 100 mile race, which would be my first post-Cancer 100. I had gone back and forth in my mind on which race I really wanted to do, or if I even wanted to do one at all. For the last two months, I had been unable to make a decision on the matter. Monday morning, after yet another run/discussion with my supportive and encouraging husband, I went home and registered for the Bryce Canyon 100.

When I talked about the challenge of the race and the beauty of the area, I became very excited about tackling Bryce. It just felt right. So why did I wake up in a panic less than 24 hours after registering? Why did I choose to take this on in the first place? What the hell was I thinking?

I had wanted to run a 100 mile race since I moved to Colorado in 1999. I had heard of the Leadville 100 and I was intrigued. When Steve and I first met, we had set a goal of running that race together some day. When I got pregnant with Peyton, that goal evaporated as day-to-day life and family obligations took over. We continued running and ran shorter races, but Leadville was no longer important to either of us.

In 2009, I ran my second 50k (Greenland trail race), and then ran the American Discovery Trail marathon in Colorado Springs. I had two great races but ended up injured. For the next nine months, I hit the pool nearly every single day while I could not run. I hate swimming, so this was physically and emotionally challenging. Every single day when I went to the pool, I had a pity party. The thought of getting into the cold water made me feel like crying, but I did it anyway. When I finally got back to running, I was afraid to race. I was afraid I would hurt myself again. Steve forced me to sign up for the local XTERRA half marathon at Cheyenne Mountain state park as a “date run”. I balked, but agreed to run it because it was important to my husband. The weather was horrible, with a snow/rain mix pelting us sideways. However, when I got out there, I rediscovered how much I loved being at the races. It was exhilarating, even though we were just running and not “racing”. Shortly afterwards, we signed up for our first 50 mile race. I figured, if not now, then it might never happen.

And so began my real love affair with ultras. I ran a couple of 50s and decided I was going to attempt a 100 mile race. I chose Vermont because it is one of the oldest 100s in the country, and has a reputation for being an extremely well-organized race. Also, Steve and I both have family in the area, so we were able to leave the kids with family and make a vacation out of the experience. I trained very hard for the race, and finished in 22:33, as tenth female. More importantly, I had an amazing experience from start to finish in that race. I smiled and had fun the whole way.

Smiling at the beginning of the Vermont 100!

Smiling at the beginning of the Vermont 100!

Still smiling 22 hours and 33 minutes later at the finish!

Still smiling 22 hours and 33 minutes later at the finish!

After I got my Cancer diagnosis, I thought, “Thank goodness I did not put off running a 100 mile race any longer, because I don’t know if I will ever get the chance again!” I was so glad I had fulfilled a long-term goal. All of my memories from that day are good ones. It was at that point, the hardest physical endeavor I had endured, but I enjoyed the experience so much. I will always treasure the memories I have from that event.

Now I look at life a lot differently. I had a discussion with a friend recently about running long distances. I used to want to undertake these events because I wanted to push my limits and see what I was made of. This entire last year presented one challenge after another. I know I can get through difficult times. I do not need to create artificial hurdles in my life. Any doubts I may have had about how mentally tough I am have been erased.

So why on earth did I sign up for another 100 mile race? The answer to that question is complex. I do not feel the need to create artificial obstacles and difficulty in my life. However, I am not ready to rest easy in the rocking chair quite yet. I had a goal before cancer to do a western 100. Goals can change and my life will be no less full if I do not attempt this race. However, I have continued to ask myself, “Will you be disappointed if your cancer comes back and you had not attempted it?” I cannot say for certain how I would feel, but I do not want to look back with regret. My goal now is not to go and kick ass, but to enjoy the training, take in the scenery on the race course, and finish with a smile on my face.This time around, I hope to have my kids greet me at the finish line.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one other significant motivating factor. I have said all along that there must be a purpose for my having survived pancreatic cancer when other equally deserving and wonderful human beings have not. This event will serve a purpose. I will be running for the cause of pancreatic cancer. More details on that will be forthcoming in the future. I do not want to do this for just myself. I want to tackle this for everyone who has been touched by this disease.

So on Tuesday, when I woke up in a panic, I did what made sense.. I went for a run with some significant elevation gain. It was the first time in a long time that I have attempted anything that involved a lot of climbing. I have my work cut out for me. It is going to take everything I have to get in shape for this race. However, when  I was on the single track trails that I used to train on all of the time, I remembered what I loved being out there: the challenge, the tranquility, the beauty and the peace that it all brings me. I hope the training over these next few months will be as fulfilling and gratifying as it was in 2013. My body is forever changed, but I still find joy and the world around me.



I Guess I Really Did Have Cancer

Yesterday marked exactly one year since I found out that I had pancreatic cancer. The date was November 22, 2013. I will never forget the date, in part because it is also my father’s birthday. I still feel badly about delivering that news to my family on my dad’s birthday.

A couple of weeks ago, I sought out a second opinion from another oncologist. This has nothing to do with the care I have received. It has everything to do with my own peace of mind. I really should have sought this opinion last November or December, but my insurance company fought me and denied me so many times that I just gave up. For some reason, I could never shake the feeling that I should have gotten that second opinion. This may sound silly, but there was even a little voice in my head that wondered if the original pathologists had been wrong. Perhaps I never had Pancreatic Cancer after all!

On November 21, 2014, one day shy of the anniversary of my original diagnosis, I heard back from the doctor’s office where I had sought out a second opinion. Not surprisingly, my original diagnosis was confirmed. I honestly felt only relief at hearing the news a second time. I was happy to hear that I could now put to rest any lingering questions I had. Yes, I had Pancreatic Cancer. Yes, I am glad I went through surgery and 18 rounds of chemotherapy. I have no regrets about the path I took, and though I am sorry my family had to experience so much pain, I know it was with a purpose.

Denial is a powerful thing, but I think my continued sense of denial helped me through this last year. I rarely thought of myself as a Cancer patient. I thought of myself as a really healthy runner who had a touch of cancer. I think that is part of why I was able to do the things I did all through my chemotherapy. I was not “sick”. I was a healthy person in a temporarily unfortunate set of circumstances.

I have written previously about seeking peace of mind. Even though I got my second opinion much later than I would have liked, and I had to pay for it out of pocket, it has helped me achieve some of the peace of mind that I have been seeking. It was truly worth every penny simply to hear, “Yes, your original diagnosis stands.” To anyone facing a major medical condition, I highly encourage seeking out that second opinion. There is no price tag that can be placed on knowing that you are on the correct path.

One of my goals going forward is to eliminate from my life things that take away from my own sense of mental peace and calmness. During treatment, I was pretty good at establishing my boundaries, and most people respected them. As I have gotten healthier, I am allowing obligations to creep into my life that in no way contribute to my own sense of emotional well being. I take ownership of this. It is my own fault when I find myself agreeing to responsibilities that do not add to my own quality of life. On the one hand, I am pleased that I am now getting healthy enough that some of the lessons Cancer taught me are not always in the forefront of my mind. On the other hand, those lessons were so valuable to me as a person, and to my family as a whole, that I will do everything in my power not to forget what I have learned. As a mother of daughters, I try to live my values and lead by example. I know I personally struggle with attempting to please others while honoring my own needs. As I work towards my second year as a Pancreatic Cancer survivor, I owe it to myself and my family to continue to evaluate the choices I make. What adds to our lives and what detracts from the time we have together? I sure hope I have another 45 years of healthy living, but I cannot afford to take one day for granted.

Remembering on My Cancerversary

There are certain moments that you will always remember in your life: your first kiss, your wedding day, the birth of your children. I can add to that otherwise happy list the moment I heard the words “Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma”. November 18 is the day I had surgery one year ago for what turned out to be Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. I went into the surgery thinking that I had a precancerous lesion. I did, but there was also cancer present. This past year has been an amazing journey.

I remember seeing my primary care doctor and being told I needed some additional testing. I remember the moment when he got the report from my CT scan and we went from laughing and joking to a very sobering conversation. I remember feeling like the air had just left the room. I remember thinking that my then 10-year-old daughter Peyton was in the waiting room and we were headed to a high school cross country meet. I remember wondering how in the world I was going to pretend that everything was good around my children.

I remember calling my husband at work and saying, “Do you have a minute?” He knew instantly that something was wrong. I remember going into a state of denial, and feeling convinced that I was completely fine. I remember texting my friend who is a PA and asking her if it was really necessary that I get a follow up MRI. I remember her telling me that yes, I had to go and that often these things were “nothing” but sometimes they are something.

I remember expecting the MRI to be fine, but finding out that it was not. I remember going in for the Endocscopic Ultrasound (EUS). I remember the warm and funny nurse who tended to me. I remember being in the operating room waiting for the procedure and talking the nurses into looking up the Screaming Goat video on Youtube, because it made me laugh. I remember the doctor walking in and not looking amused.

I remember waking up and being told that the doctor thought the lesion was pre-malignant, but that it needed to come out as soon as possible because it was showing “worrisome features”. I remember being terrified thinking about the major surgery coming up. I remember reading about the high rate of complications with pancreatic surgeries, and wondering if I would come out of surgery alive, let alone if I would able to run, take care of my family or work.

I remember the somber drive down to the hospital on the morning of November 18, 2013. I remember trying to joke with the nurses to mask how terrified I was feeling. I remember waking up in the recovery room and staying there for hours because there was no hospital room available for me. I remember finally getting to a room and being hooked up to an epidural for pain, a catheter because I could not get out of bed, leg sleeves to prevent blood clots, an oxygen tank and numerous other wires.  I remember spending days in the hospital. I remember seeing my scar and having my surgeon tell me that he had sewed me up in that particular fashion in case he had to go back in.


I remember first hearing the words “Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma” from my surgeon on November 22, 2013. I remember having to tell my husband that I had Pancreatic Cancer. I remember that it was also my father’s birthday, and I had to call him and tell him the news. I remember not knowing a whole lot about Pancreatic Cancer. I remember googling it for the first time and being absolutely astounded by the abysmal survival rates. I remember how surreal it all felt. I remember thinking this was not my body or my life.

I remember pulling each of my daughters aside and breaking the news to them that I had, in fact, had cancer. I remember feeling like I had betrayed them. How could I get sick and shake their sense of security? I remember wishing I never had to have those conversations but that I had promised my kids I would always be honest with them.

I remember how my relationship with my husband changed over night. We went from being loving but not overly demonstrative to laying awake curled up together night after night, seeking solace and comfort and intimacy. I remember thinking that maybe if we could just hold each other tightly forever, we would be feel safe and confident again.

I remember walking hunched over like an elderly woman because it hurt to stand up straight and stretch my incision. I remember those first extremely slow walks around the neighborhood, first with my husband, then with my parents and daughters, and finally with the friends who came to walk with me. I remember feeling so grateful to have people willing to walk with me now that I could no longer run. I remember friends bringing meals and gifts and books. I remember not being able to focus long enough to finish a book, whereas before my surgery I would read at least one per week.

I remember telling a friend, “I know what is going to kill me now.”

I remember seeing my oncologist for the first time and discussing treatment options. I remember deciding to do chemotherapy.  I remember telling my mom and her breaking down in tears. I remember feeling terrible about that conversation because it broke my heart to make my mother cry.

I remember when my parents went back to NY. I remember thinking that I knew we all had to get back to our lives, but I did not want to let either of them go.

I remember counting down the days until I could run, and I remember that first painful and yet blissful run I took with my husband, just shy of a month post-op.


I remember running every day even though it hurt after a month layoff, because I did not know how much running I would be able to do during chemotherapy. I remember feeling so incredibly grateful that I could run at all. I remember thinking I had to be as physically strong as possible before I started my next round of treatments.

I remember getting my chemotherapy port installed and how much it hurt the first couple of weeks.

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I remember being very afraid the night before chemotherapy started. I remember the nurse telling me not to be surprised if I did not make it through the first cycle without a delay in treatment due to my blood levels being off. I ended up never missing a treatment.

I remember taking a chemo selfie with Riley.


I remember being nauseous. I remember losing a lot of my hair. I remember being exhausted all of the time. I remember having pain in my limbs. I remember having to go to the Emergency Room because I was sick. I remember setting a goal of running at least two times per week. I ended up missing only five days over the entire six months of treatment. I remember running the Super Half Marathon with Debby.


I remember running the Greenland Trail 25K with Steve.


I remember how my husband never missed going to a chemo appointment with me.


I remember that final 18th round of chemotherapy, and coming home to a decorated house.


I remember my friendships deepening with long time friends. I remember making new friendships and being amazed by how kind and generous people were towards me. I remember all of the people who were willing to run slowly with me.




I remember watching my scar heal.


I remember finally getting my chemo port removed.

I remember my kids feeling anxious, stressed and angry. I also remember lots of long, thoughtful conversations and how much I loved just spending time at home with them. I remember learning a lot along the way. I remember feeling mentally calm and focused because I just wanted to live and enjoy each day. I remember going from thinking I may not see my kids grow up to thinking that there were so many positive things that had come out of my diagnosis. I remember being grateful for every day, for the opportunity to run, and to spend time with people I loved. I remember thinking that my perspective on so many things had changed and I hoped that I would never take a day or for granted or worry about insignificant things again. I remember re-evaluating everything in my life, and how I learned to cut back and streamline my obligations. I remember thinking that I would only choose to do things that were truly important to me. I remember thinking that as long as the cancer did not return and kill me, maybe this would ultimately be a positive experience for all of us.

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There is so much I could write about this last year. These are the moments that are etched in my mind. I have survived for a whole year, which 75-80% of Pancreatic Cancer patients do not. I am incredibly lucky. I hope I always remember all that we have been through this last year, the good and the bad. I hope the lessons always stay with us. I remember feeling better and not wanting to forget, but starting to move forward.