Thursday, January 16, 2014

1/16/14 Happy News!

Dear Friends and Family,

This is just a quick note to tell you that I had my quarterly CA-125 ovarian cancer tumor marker blood test today and it was normal again!  As a reminder, a normal reading is anywhere from 0 to 30, and mine was 12.8. 

We are rejoicing over this good news and in fact, are about to go rejoice over a plate of spinach enchiladas to celebrate.  News this wonderful might even require a side of guacamole and chips, don't you think? 

Thanks be to God for all the prayers that He answered for me through this great test result, and thanks to all of you for praying!  Fifty-three and cancer free--that's me!  :-)


P.S.  Daniel was interviewed and photographed for a story that will appear in the Seattle Times either tomorrow (1/17) or Friday (1/18), so if you get the Times, look for his picture! 

P.P.S.  Go Seahawks!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1/4/14 Happy New Year!

Dear Family and Friends,
Happy new year to you all!  I'm sorry I am so late with this blog post.  After rejoicing over my great CA-125 score in late October, we threw ourselves with gusto into making memories in November and December. 
November brought Steve's 57th birthday, celebrated with carrot cake from our favorite bakery, Simply Desserts in Fremont. And our counter is now totally overcome by his b-day gift--a fancy 14-cup coffee maker.  I thought that he wanted this just for "entertaining," but alas, he loves his new toy and does not want to put it away.  Then we hosted Thanksgiving for Steve's family, where a good time was had by all.  And Daniel's chocolate chip pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream was a huge hit.
One week later, Steve, Renee, and I took off for Kauai for 8 nights of heaven!  We had not been to Kauai since our honeymoon in 1982.  On that honeymoon trip, the island had just been devastated by hurricane Eva and our trip to Waimea Canyon was hindered by fog.  On this trip, the weather couldn't have been more perfect and Waimea Canyon was one of the most beautiful sights I've seen, as were the beaches and mountains of the north shore.  We swam in the ocean, pool, and saltwater lagoon at our hotel, snorkeled, read good books, and had deep and wonderful conversations.  Oh--and Renee and I took an intro to SCUBA diving course.  She was a natural--a true fish, like her dad. 

I was also blessed on this trip to meet three women on their own cancer journeys.  One woman at our hotel, about 35 years old, was struggling to walk up the path from the pool to the lobby.  Her head was bald and she had little strength or breath.  We spoke and I learned she had just finished chemo.  This was her celebratory trip.  I encouraged her, I hope, that just months after chemo ended, I had hair and energy, and told her she would too.  I told her she was doing GREAT!  Then at the top of the water slide, I met a 29-year-old bald woman and her husband.  I learned that she had just had chemo to shrink her tumors and that in three days time, she would return home to a double mastectomy.  She has a baby boy.  She is a strong Christian and I was able to share more words of encouragement and hope.  We had a great hug.  Lastly, I met a woman about my age as we were both gazing at an endangered monk seal napping on the beach (there are only about 1,000 of these left in the world!).  We got to talking and the next thing I knew, she showed me her breast surgery scar and said her chemo would begin in January.  She was also a Christian with whom I exchanged words of assurance that God would help her through.  We hugged and committed to pray for one another in the year ahead.  What a joy to play a small part in comforting others with the comfort I myself have received from God in my cancer journey. 
December 18th brought our 31st anniversary, which we celebrated at Canlis.  Daniel's friend Kyle, who is a manager there, made our evening extra special.  This was our "do-over" from the Valentine's Day Canlis trip we had to cancel last year as I had just finished double chemo!  Later in December, we arrived home from a movie with Renee to a dark house.  As we entered, lights flew on and many of our dear friends yelled "surprise--happy anniversary!"  We could not have been more shocked!  A perfect surprise party, complete with some good friends, tasty appetizers, fun games, and lots of hugs and smiles. 
On Christmas Eve, we went to a Mexican restaurant near our house, Puerto Bonito, for a new favorite tradition--Feliz Navidad dinner.  Check out the photo below to see the mammoth amount of food I enjoyed!  Oh man, does it feel good to be able to eat after starving with nausea for half of last year.  We also enjoyed a wonderful Christmas Eve church service at Ballard Lutheran church, complete with a live nativity acted out by the kids in the church.  When we walked up to look at a real "baby Jesus" in the manger, he was sound asleep, sucking his thumb.  His real-life mom, playing Mary, smiled at me and said "this is a true Christmas miracle!" 

Christmas day brought few gifts to the Dudley tree.  We decided this would be "homemade" Christmas, since money has been a bit tight after cancer, med school, Kauai, and a master bath remodel.  This simple Christmas was one of our best ever.  We hosted Christmas dinner for my mom and aunt and uncle, Julianne and Oliver, as well as Renee's girlfriend, Riley.  Daniel and I treated everyone to a choreographed dance we had worked on to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."  So much fun!  Then on the 26th, we celebrated with Steve's family at an amazing dinner hosted by Steve's mom at Anthony's restaurant in Kirkland.  Once again, there were lots of smiles, hugs, good food and more Christmas memories to cherish.  It was extra special since Aunt Peggy made a special trip to be with us all the way from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 
To work off some of that Christmas food, Daniel and I headed to Snoqualmie Pass for "snowshoeing."  Alas, we needed only boots.  The ski area was closed due to lack of snow.  But we did enjoy a snow "hike," with a little bit of snow, here and there. 
On New Year's Eve of 2012, I just lay on the couch with severe stomach pain and was unable to eat any of the king crab leg dinner Steve had made.  We had no idea what was about to unfold just a week later with my cancer diagnosis.  Well guess what?  On New Year's Eve 2013, I ate three king crab legs!  I was overcome with memories of all we went through last year and how faithful God was to provide strength, peace, hope, expert care, loving support, and ultimately, healing.  My heart is full of love for God and for all of you, who were the hands, feet, and voices of God (in prayer and words of encouragement) for us. 
Now it's January and though it's only the 4th, a lot is happening!  First, we resolved to learn to make homemade pasta and practiced last night before a debut dinner we are hosting tonight.  It turned out GREAT!  So much fun and so much better than store bought pasta!  Second, we (Steve, Gabrielle, Daniel) are having "no sugar January," to make up for all the excesses of Daniel's baking while he was home for Christmas break.  Day four and so far, so good.  Next, I am leaving my job at SPU on January 9th after seven years of joy serving my alma mater.  I will have a few weeks off then will be heading over to the University of Washington.  I hope to give you more details on that as they develop. 
Please enjoy the photos below and please, would you pray with us that my CA-125 test on January 17 will be normal?  Thank you!!
Love and hugs,

Renee and Steve take a dip, Kauai, Dec. 2013

Steve and Gabrielle enjoy 31st anniversary dessert at Canlis, Dec. 18, 2013

Steve and Gabrielle at Feliz Navidad dinner, Christmas Eve, 2013

Renee and Daniel enjoying happy hour at Sunshine Tavern, Portland, Dec. 2013

Gabrielle on our "snowshoe" hike, Dec. 2013

New Year's resolution--learn to make homemade pasta!