I know it’s been awhile. We’ve been busy traveling almost every weekend. Over Memorial Day we went to Calgary, Canada with friends and ran the Calgary half marathon. The past two weekends were whirlwind trips to Seattle and Denver. We drove to Seattle, spending about the same amount of time driving over as in the city, and Denver was less than 36-hours.
I wanted to post about our fun trip to Calgary that included a night in Great Falls, MT where we saw mermaids at the famed mermaid bar and eating our way through Calgary. I wanted to write about how Seattle was a jam-packed seeing friends and family, and Denver was a relaxing vacation of eating and drinking around the city.
I haven’t been posting though because we have been dealing with insurance fall out from last year when I was flown from Montana to Seattle. I received a call at the beginning of May from the hospital where the fixed-wing plane flew from. Apparently insurance had denied the claim of over $63,000. I was speechless. I called insurance who said that the flight hadn’t been pre-authorized and therefor they wouldn’t cover it, even though our insurance has a policy that they will if it’s medically necessary.
It’s been a lot of back-and-forth and fear that we would be stuck with the bill. I lived in constant anxiety of being in debt. Every time I wanted to buy something I questioned whether I should be saving money. Everyone told me not to worry, we wouldn’t get stuck with the bill, but how can you not worry about that?
We also couldn’t find out who ordered the life-flight. My local hospital didn’t have a note in my medical records, and the hospital in Missoula only had information about an ambulance from Hamilton and another to the airport to get me on the plane. The life-flight hospital didn’t know who had ordered it either. It seemed like the local hospital had dropped the ball.
We finally heard back from the life-flight hospital last Friday that they were adjusting our claim and that we wouldn’t owe them anything for the flight! I have to thank our advocate at the flight hospital for taking over our case and helping us out. There’s no way we could ever afford a $63,000 bill. The news was a huge relief and helped us thoroughly enjoy our getaway.
This whole process would have been easier if insurance had taken care of the flight. Instead, it brought back memories of last year, being in so much pain, landing in Seattle and being told I would have to do chemo during pregnancy, then losing our baby after days of strong heartbeats. It’s not an experience I wanted to relive, yet it was still clinging on to us. Now that this final bill has been taken care of, I hope that we can officially close that chapter of life. I look forward to seeing what life has in store for me. Hopefully less heartache and more joy.
I’ll try to be better about posting as we hit the busy summer season!
You guys, I made it out a live. I completed a century ride on Saturday! I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day or better group of friends (well, it would have been better if Dan were there) to keep me going.
We left Friday afternoon for Libby, MT which is in the northwest part of the state in the Cabinet mountain range. The ride is called STOKR and stands for Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River (they really like their biking acronyms in Montana). It’s a beautiful area with lots of trees and mountains. My friend rented an AirBnB right on the river so we spent a lot of time on the back patio watching the river rush by.
We woke up early Saturday to start riding at 7am. It was 17 miles until the breakfast stop. The first 17 miles were amazing and gorgeous. We rode along the Kootenai River and there was a blanket of fog over the mountains that dissipated as we went along. If you’ve never enjoyed a sunrise in Montana, you’re missing out. The blue skies here are nothing like I’ve seen before and Libby did not disappoint.
The breakfast stop consisted of bread and bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese, some fruit, and cookies. Because eating cookies at 8am is acceptable when one is riding 100 miles.
It was 27 miles to the next stop, the longest stretch. During that time, we encountered a flat tire that cost us 20 minutes, got lost by going on a walking trail instead of staying on the road, and had to climb a super steep hill for four miles straight. We did stop by Yaak Falls where there was a clothes drop off (the weather went from 34 degrees to 70), water, and candy.
I was so happy when we pulled into the second food stop, which was a table filled with carbs. There was potato salad, multiple types of pasta salad, Asian noodles, and of course, cookies. It was probably the best stop of the ride.
I left a little before the group to get through the next 17 miles thinking they’d catch up to me, but it didn’t happen until half a mile before the next stop. It was actually pretty nice biking alone, I didn’t feel the need to ride fast to catch up to anyone and could go at my own leisurely speed. I did miss the social aspect of biking though.
The third stop was soup and sandwiches (and cookies). The sandwich was ok (pretty sure it was from Subway), but their soup options looked pretty good and I went with the salmon chowder. It was a smart choice and I wanted more, but the fear of having too much cream-based soup on a hot afternoon with a 12-mile hill climb ahead stopped me.
One of my friends decided to take off early to start the ascent and I followed shortly after. I ended up passing her on mile two and continued climbing. The first four miles were steep, but the ride evened out and I felt confident I could get through the next eight miles (it got steep again at mile six). Around mile 70 my Apple watch decided it was time to shut down, so I debated stopping mid-hill climb and saving my workout (I’ve learned if your watch shuts down it doesn’t save your workout, though I could be wrong because it ended up saving my second ride), or waiting until I got to a flat spot to stop the watch. My pride won out and I stopped mid-hill to save my workout and start a new one that would go until my watch died. I continued up the hill and hoped that it would flatten out soon, but apparently I was going to have to keep climbing until the top.
I kept biking around the same six people, and we cheered each other on as we passed each other. Actually, they would cheer me on as I passed them when they took a break to stretch, and then they would cheer me on again when they passed me after their break. There were fun signs at the last mile that helped me keep going, but I have never been happier to see an aid station when I hit the top (I take what I said back about the carb stop, this was definitely the best one). There were people cheering, a warm fire (it got colder as went over the pass), and the best cookies I’ve ever eaten (and not just because I was exhausted, they were the butterscotch type cookies that also have nuts, one of my favorites). I relaxed and waited for my friends to finish their climb. When they all arrived we enjoyed a swig of bourbon from the flask I’d been carrying around, rested, and then sailed downhill (up to 29 mph!) to the infamous pie stop.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by the pie stop. My blueberry pie was meh, but my friend’s rhubarb was pretty tasty and I was sad I picked the wrong pie. We didn’t hang out for very long because we were eager to get the ride over with. The last leg of the ride was pretty flat, but I was hoping for more downhill so I wouldn’t have to work so much! I stayed with the group this time, but ended up getting ahead because again, I was eager to get the ride over with! We finally sailed into town and ended up at our AirBnB, but we were only at 97 miles! There was no way I wasn’t going to finish a century ride. We went to the race hotel to pick up clothes we had dropped off earlier, and took a scenic tour through town to get those last three miles in. I was exhausted, but it was worth it.
It’s hard to believe that nine months ago I was finishing up chemo and couldn’t muster enough energy to get off the couch. My hematologist said that it could take awhile before I got back to my old energy and strength levels. I would like to think that I’m rocking this whole post-chemo/radiation thing.
Now that I’m finished training for STOKR I was planning on turning my attention to my half-marathon Memorial Day weekend in Calgary, but I have run into complications of being a female and spending too much time biking and on the saddle. Hopefully things will clear up soon and I’ll be able to start running again. If not, well… This may be the worst half-marathon I’ve ever run. Oh well. At least Calgary will have great food and shopping!
I realize it’s almost the weekend and I’m just now doing last weekend’s review. It’s been a busy week including getting back at midnight on Monday, and almost going to the ER last night for horrible stomach pains (I’ll touch on this later in the post).
Dan and I flew to Seattle Thursday night for my scan on Friday. This scan was CT only, so I had to hang out and drink contrast for an hour before the scan. It also took two nurses and three tries to get an IV in. My veins are over being poked and close up and start rolling as soon as a needle gets close. Luckily, they were able to draw my labs at the same time so I didn’t have to get poked for a fourth time that day.
After my scan, we went to another appointment, then headed to University Village (probably my favorite place on Earth) for a quick bite and drink at Eureka! and some shopping. We then headed downtown to meet up with the friends we were staying with, and Dan’s two sisters (who flew in from the Bay Area) for dinner at Serious Pie.
Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful Seattle spring morning. JK, it was pouring buckets and my friend debated doing yard work as we drank coffee by the window. After Dan got up, we headed downtown to meet up with his family (the rest flew in from the Bay Area) at Serious Biscuit (his family loves Tom Douglas). We did a little shopping downtown then had a snack of oysters at Blueacre before dinner at Steelhead Diner in the market (which was a little disappointing).
Dan’s family left after breakfast of Top Pot donuts on Sunday, then we hung out with friends for the rest of the day, we also had Thai food at one of my college hangouts. Dan flew home that night.
Monday morning I had my appointment with Dr. Goff. Scans were negative and my physical exam was clean! Six more months of being cancer-free! I wasn’t that concerned, but I have been having some issues lately that made me wonder if something was going on. This is going to get a little TMI here, but one of those issues was going to the bathroom.
After the tumor removal and hysterectomy, some of my organs were moved around and going to the bathroom (both) were uncomfortable. Things started to go back to normal, but then chemo and radiation caused some constipation issues. I thought things were ok, but lately I’ve been having horrible stomach pains, really sharp and out of nowhere. I attributed it to gas pains and thought it would pass, especially since I had experienced this before in my mid-20s. The stomach pain showed up again on Tuesday but it went away after a short time. Yesterday though, the pains started around 3pm, and they never went away. They got worse as the night went on and I ended up calling Dr. Goff’s office. Her resident on-call put me on a regimen of Miralax/Docusate/Senna, but when I tried to eat a little pb&j to take Tylenol and Ibuprofen, I threw it up. I was on the ground curled up and wailing in pain, and Dan wanted me to go to the ER. We headed down there, but I started to feel better, so after sitting in the parking lot we decided to go back home (I will not go into a diatribe about how messed up this country is that people don’t want to go to the ER because of cost). We got back home and I tried to take another bite of sandwich and drink more Miralax and I threw up again. This time, instead of laying back down, I sat up leaning against pillows. Dan said my face was turning slightly blue, but I was so exhausted I didn’t want to try and get back in the car. I covered myself in blankets and fell asleep sitting up.
I woke up this morning feeling much better. I had a small stomach pain, but it went away quickly and wasn’t as strong as last night. I took more Miralax/Docusate/Senna, and was able to have two movements today. While I no longer have the gas pains, I am having cramps from all the softeners. My body is really loving me right now. Apparently this is something I need to keep an eye on for the rest of my life. Chemo can mess with your gut flora and radiation has effected my bowels. I know now to not let this linger. If something isn’t normal, I’m going to start taking softeners right away and not let it almost send me to the ER again.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with these beautiful macarons from Ba Bar.
This weekend was filled with more of the regular — biking and running. After spending Friday night making Thug Kitchen’s Chickpea and Green Chile Soup and finishing up season 1 of Game of Thrones, Saturday was much more social with a 52-mile bike ride with friends, a baking party, then dinner with friends. Sunday was Easter brunch and an 8-mile ride.
The 52-mile bike ride really kicked my butt. My friends and I signed up for STOKR and I’m doing the Saturday, 98-mile ride. It goes over a pass so I need to get my legs ready for a 17-mile hill climb. I’ve been told the food stops on the ride are amazing, but is it really worth 98-miles? I’ll let you know.
After gorging myself on french fries and a veggie burger after our ride, a couple friends came over to help me with my March bake. Making amaretti biscuits for the cake batter was a one person job, so we stood in my kitchen and snacked on dessert bars one friend brought over while I made the biscuits. After the biscuits baked and were crushed down, I made the cake batter, one friend left, and the other friend’s husband came over for dinner.
A couple of months ago I borrowed a some Rick Bayless books from the library and we made the most amazing pork tacos. I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere online or remember which book it was from, so I borrowed both books again to find it: Tacos de Picadillo Oaxaqueno from Mexican Kitchen. It uses pork shoulder and has a tomato and chile adobo sauce that the pork cooks in and is topped with toasted almonds. It’s time-consuming, but worth it.
On Sunday I woke up early for Easter mass, then came home and assembled my cake. I went over to my friend’s to prep pancakes while the group was out bike riding (my legs said no) and we celebrated with a big brunch that included homemade bagels, my cake, and of course, mimosas. I fought my instinct for an afternoon nap, and instead went grocery shopping, cleaned the yard, and went on an 8-mile run with a friend. Suffice to say my legs are completely dead today.
I’ll get a nice exercise break next weekend when we go to Seattle. I have a six month scan and a check-up with my Gyn Onc. Dan’s dad’s side is meeting us up there so we’ll have a weekend filled with good food and fun times!
The picture above is a good summary of the weather this weekend: Sunny and stormy, all at once.
We kept pretty busy this weekend, starting with watching the Quebec folk group Des Temps Antan at our local performing arts center, then went to an after-party with friends and the group, staying up way too late.
Saturday we went with friends on a 35-mile bike ride down to Bandit Brewery to take mine and Dan’s new Kona cyclocross bikes out for a spin. It was my first time biking on a dirt road and I loved it. It was much easier to talk to friends on a road less traveled and fun going over bumps my road bike couldn’t. While the bike ride was beautiful, we fought a head wind and some grapple. At least the precipitation was dry so we weren’t soaking wet. And it was like getting in an extra workout fighting the wind.
After the bike ride, I needed to bake a dessert for a BBQ we were going to that night. In my quest to continue using my cookbooks, I looked up the dessert section in Ina Garten’s Foolproof and decided to make the Raspberry Crumble Bar, using strawberry jam since it’s what we had. I imagine Ina saying, “store-bought, strawberry jam is fine.”
The BBQ was fun and we spent the evening hanging out by a fire pit, but it was still so cold. I’m looking forward to summer where we don’t have to bundle up to be outside!
Sunday was meal prep day. Well, not really since we don’t meal prep. Sunday was spent cooking, and I forced myself to do a 3 mile run.
Ever since the cruise, Dan and I have been trying to lose the cruise weight (plus the couple pounds I’ve put on since I’ve been back…) and get back on our budgeting track. We have about $20 left in our budget before the month ends, so I looked through our cookbooks and tried to find what would last for the rest of the week.
After going through our cupboards and seeing what we already had, I settled on making NYTimes Cooking Curried Split Pea Soup (we pay for a NY Times subscription and the app comes with it, like a cookbook…ish) and Thug Kitchen’s Curried Hand Pies from their Party Grub cookbook. The Curried Hand Pies was also a great way to use up coconut cream from a dessert disaster that happened earlier this week. Both turned out pretty good, but I would add more curry powder to each.
Both recipes also included ginger, which I had been avoiding since the “Great Ginger Drowning of 2017”, aka what I am calling my mom force-feeding me ginger drinks during chemo. I peeled and grated the ginger without gagging, so I think I’ve finally conquered one of my chemo battles! Though now the weight is slowly coming back, so maybe chemo will win the war.
I’m planning to make Thug Kitchen’s Chickpea and Green Chile soup from their Thug Kitchen 101 cookbook later this week. Fingers crossed we got everything we needed today, because we can’t grocery shop until Sunday!
Speaking of the cruise, I’m still working on posts about the trip, there’s so much to tell though! It’ll show up someday, I promise.
Olá! After two and a half weeks, we’re finally back from South America. Ok, technically we got back last Wednesday, but we’ve been busy and fighting jet lag, I haven’t had time to write anything.
I have so much to tell about our adventures through Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Brazil. Our favorite city was Buenos Aires, but our favorite eating was in Rio. I’ll write posts for each of the countries we visited, and what life was like on a luxury cruise line (where we were easily the youngest people on the boat by 20 years).
Pictured above is a building in beautiful Paraty, Brazil. Easily one of my favorite stops, minus the fact that it was 94 degrees, plus 92 degrees humidity, which equals 132 degree heat index. It’s a good thing I had been going to hot yoga before the trip, because that’s the only way I could breathe through it. Fun fact, Paraty is also where the Twilight honeymoon takes place.
I can’t wait to tell you about our trip! It’s crazy to think you spend so long planning a trip, and then it goes by in a flash. We had this trip booked 8 months in advance, which is one of the “shortest” timelines we’ve ever had. Normally, we book trips almost 11 months in advance because we use airlines miles and jump on tickets as soon as they’ve been released (example: upcoming Europe Christmas trip that was booked at the end of January).
South America was beautiful and we can’t wait to go back. Be sure to look for future posts about our adventures!
One year ago today, I received a call from my doctor asking if Dan and I could come into the office ASAP. One year ago today we sat in her office and I blatantly asked if I had cancer because she was describing things, but not using the word. One year ago today our world turned upside down.
This past year has seemed to crawl by. It seems like ages ago Dan and I were traveling to Seattle and Houston to decide my treatment plan. Chemo and radiation seem like a distant memory from years past, not something I just went through six months ago.
Today though, I am spending the day biking around Montevideo with Dan and spending time with his mom and stepdad. I thought by this point we would have a six-month old taking over our life, but instead it’s just me and Dan. Life may not be where I thought it would at 33, but I’m taking what I have and trying to make the most of it.
I feel better and am getting stronger. I recently ran 5.5 miles at a 9:18 pace, then ran three miles under a 9 minute pace the next day. I’ve started doing spin, yoga, hot yoga, and rock climbing.
Dan and I have booked a trip to Europe over Christmas and will have that to look forward to once we’re back from South America. While Dan and I have traveled a lot this past year, minus a work trip to Boston, everything has been for health reasons. We haven’t seen his siblings in over a year since his youngest sister got married last September. We’re hoping to meet up with them, his dad, and stepmom in Seattle in April, and we’ll be doing a week in Hawaii to celebrate his stepmom’s birthday.
We’re trying very hard to make up for all that was lost last year. While I know nothing will take away the pain that we have gone through, trying to enjoy what we do have helps to ease some of it. Here’s looking to future adventures.
My sorority and now cancer-sister sent me this last week. It made me giggle uncontrollably in front of friends at a wine bar and they wanted me to share what was so funny. They didn’t get it. Neither did my best friend. It must be a cancer thing.
As a huge Potter-head/nerd I loved this more than anything. Gryffindor forever!
I got back from a quick Seattle trip late last night (early this morning technically). I had my three month follow-up with Dr. Goff’s nurse practitioner. The exam was short, fast, and only slightly painful. The exam was good though, nothing out of sorts. It’s always nerve-wrecking going into these things. My next follow-up is in April, when I’ll do another scan.
Less than two years to go of every three month check-ups. I’m looking forward to that time! While I love visiting my friends in Seattle, it’d be nice to use that airplane ticket to go somewhere else… We haven’t visited family in almost a year. The only trip we went on last year (minus NYC which was planned before pregnancy and cancer) was to Boston, and that was tacking on to my work trip. We’re headed to South America next month and can’t wait for that trip to happen.
I went out for a friend’s birthday on Saturday, and after a few too many drinks, I broke down crying. I have been so stressed out over last year and lost my ability to cry things out. While I feel bad for crying to all my friends (and being a hot mess), I woke up Sunday with a weight off my shoulders. It was nice to get all that emotion out. Though, it would be nicer if I could cry like I used to instead of holding everything in. I used to be one of those people who cried at the smallest things like commercials. I’ve found myself to be more cynical after last year and having trouble with letting go of emotions (unless apparently there is wine involved).
I am hoping to return to my old self, even if it means going back to silly things like crying at Google and Maxwell House commercials. 2018 is already starting to look up, so I’m hopeful that the old Gina will return.
Happy New Year! As with everything I do, this message comes a little late. But at least it showed up, right? I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year. I had time off between the two holidays and had grand plans for reading, cooking, blogging, and binge-watching Big Little Lies, but instead I got sucked into reading the new Dan Brown novel, Origin, and then began re-reading the Robert Langdon series. Should I have read something a little more thought-provoking? Maybe. But it was a fun way to finish out the year — A little European, art history adventure.
Dan and I hosted Christmas dinner for friends who were staying in Montana which was a fun evening filled with good food (crab over-nighted from Seattle!) and lots of wine and bourbon. New Years Eve was spent in Spokane at our new favorite bar, Durkins. We sipped French 75s and champagne all night. I may have fallen asleep at our hotel before the fireworks went off.
2017 was a horrible year, but it also brought a lot of support and love. I’m hopeful for 2018. I am going to try and spend this year enjoying life and doing more things. I want to make up for things that didn’t happen last year: travel, cooking, baking, reading, outdoor adventures, and more.
We are headed to South America next month, and are planning on running the Calgary marathon/half marathon (and hopefully the Lululemon SeaWheeze half marathon in Vancouver). We’re hoping for another big trip around Christmas as well. And of course, my every 3-month follow-ups in Seattle start up again next week. We’ve talked to family about doing a weekend meet-up in Seattle for one of these trips.
My friend gave me a Great British Bake Off calendar for my birthday, and I plan on making the baked good on the calendar each month. Great for dusting off my baking pans, maybe not so great for my waistline, but definitely worth it! I have also started borrowing cookbooks from the library to try different recipes. I was barely in the kitchen last year, and this year I’m going to make up for it.
As for reading, I should challenge myself to read books with a purpose. I love a good dystopian novel, perhaps throwing in a book about finance or self-betterment wouldn’t hurt. I’m also hoping to spend more time reading instead of watching TV shows that I don’t even like.
And finally, I’m sure outdoor adventures will come. Our love of trying new things and living in Montana, I have no fear we’ll get out and do things.