Saturday, August 4, 2018
Friday, August 4, 2017
enjoying the beautiful scenery after selling my house in
|Mitch, Dan, Kendra, Me & Debbie - Dec. 9, 2016|
|Daniel McDonald & Me, 12/8/16|
|Kendra Keiser & me, 12/11/16|
|Mitch Nathan & Me, 12/10/16|
|Toby Hessenauer & Me, 12/9/16|
|Mitch Nathan, Mary Wright & Me 12/11/16|
|Mary Wright & Me, 12/11/16|
|Bubba, Dad & Me-Jan 14, 2017|
|Annual Family Christmas Party at Becky & Francis Giardina's house. |
Andy Mayer, me, Weezy Coy & Dad (Arthur Sigur, Jr.) Dec. 17, 2016
Just wanted to give y'all hope if you've gotten a similar diagnosis. Life is short so enjoy every moment and stay close to God. Before Communion we Catholics say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and MY SOUL shall be healed." That's the most important thing to keep in mind in any prayers for cancer patients, including your own. Our bodies are mortal, so any healing is temporary. Pray for SPIRITUAL healing for your/the patient's immortal soul. Can't go wrong with that no matter what the prognosis! Spend time with your loved ones. Pick up the phone and call, or VISIT. RIGHT NOW!! Life is precious and there's no do-over. None of us know when it will be our last day, cancer or not. God bless you on your journey! All readers of this blog remain in my prayers. --Helen
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Got established here in New Orleans with Dr. Mark Meyer, an orthopedic oncologist at Ochsner with whom I'm very impressed so far. He reviewed my films and records before my first visit and knew about my case at my first consultation with him recently. He spent a lot of time with me and agreed that it was OK not to have TWO CTs this year since as of August I'd be going to one annual CT now anyway. As a singer, I REALLY don't like that the massive cumulative dose of radiation to my lungs from the CTs puts me at greater risk for lung cancer when I don't even smoke. So only ONE CT this year, which I had today, and an MRI (with contrast since I haven't had one in a while, and they'll have a recent one in their records at Ocshner.)
Both the MRI of my leg and the CT of my lungs today were completely clean as always, praise God!
I really don't worry about it coming back at all, and as my surgeon advised me when I first was diagnosed, PLEASE, if you're reading blogs like this on the internet, don't assume that just because a blogger stops reporting that they have DIED. The fact is that I honestly don't think about it at all anymore, and I HAVEN'T for at least 2 years now. It's just not a part of my daily life since I'm fine now.
So if you've been diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma like I was, (or any cancer,) you are in my prayers since I know the fear you're going through, and the endless obsessive hours a newly diagnosed patient spends scouring the internet for information good and bad to prepare you for what you'll experience. I hope that my blog, as brief as the section was about my actual treatment, and the followups I've tried to give when I have my checkups will give you comfort and peace of mind that many people like me CAN survive this and go on to live a COMPLETELY normal life.
My life is in very distinct chapters with really no overlap at all, with 2007-2010 being my "Reunions" chapter, and 2011-2012 "Coming Full Circle" with my move back home to New Orleans. (It's a quite literal chapter title too--I moved from New Orleans to Baltimore (10 years) to Milwaukee (8 years) to Atlanta (almost 5 years) to New Orleans....a big full circle.) As of Valentine's Day this year I have felt strongly that I have transitioned into the final chapter of my future book, (although that doesn't mean my story is finished--it's just that I feel like I'm not wandering/journeying any more. I've finally found my destination at home.) This chapter is going to be called "Happily Ever After." It's still unfolding, but I have faith!!
God bless you and keep you safe through YOUR journey! He is always with you every step of the way.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I had lived out of state for 23 years and was never homesick until I got on Facebook in Feb. 2009, reconnected with my first love who came to my 30-year reunion with me last August, and started rekindling friendships and starting new ones with "old" acquaintances.
I moved back to New Orleans on the Feast of the Assumption (there's Our Lady again, always with me!) and have been singing regularly at the Vigil Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church, which is just 3 minutes away from where I live. I've also subbed for the 11:00 pianist twice already since late August. On September 17, I went to a Dinner Theatre Reunion attended by over 200 fellow actors/actresses/directors who were involved in the theatre scene in Baltimore prior to 2001.
|Me, Mitch & Mary at the Baltimore Dinner Theatre Reunion, 9/17/2011|
It's GREAT to be back home, and I'm amazed at how happy I still am. It's far better than I ever dreamed it would be. LOVING my new job, love my old-fashioned neighborhood and the amazing blessings that are being showered upon me every day.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Since about April of 2010 I haven't "felt" like Helen Nathan anymore. Reconnecting with so many people from my childhood and college days has made me feel like I'm really Helen Sigur again, so I filed a petition for a legal name change which should be final hopefully by Thanksgiving. Here's a fitting song to listen to while you read the rest of my post. Enjoy!
I feel that the purpose for my keeping my married name has definitely already been fulfilled (that's how I got my job here in Atlanta. NO LIE!) My predecessor's mother's name is Helen and her Dad's name is Nathan. That odd combination was a sign from God to her that I was "the one" they'd been looking for after three months. (And I was!) It would have been interesting but wouldn't have had nearly the impact had I just been "Helen Sigur." They hired me pretty much over the phone and I moved from Wisconsin to Georgia 4 days after returning from my interview. I never played a note for them. That just does NOT happen normally, but it's the kind of stuff that ALWAYS happens to me when things are right.
Now at this point in my life I feel like it's finally time to reclaim my true identity. After all, I haven't been "Mrs. Nathan" since 1999 and the only contact I have with Mitch is a couple of emails a year now at birthdays and Hanukkah/Christmas. It just doesn't fit who I am anymore.
During my "Reunions" chapter, various seeds were planted that haven't yet come to fruition, but I feel like I've transitioned into my next chapter already. Right now my working title is "Coming full circle," and I hope that's what's in store.
So for those of you who know me as Helen Nathan, I'm afraid you'll have to get used to saying "Helen Sigur." It sounds like "secure." Let's practice. Sigur = sig-YOUR. (That's not so hard, is it?) Enjoy this gorgeous fall weather. It's my favorite time of year!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Thanks to everyone for your prayers. I feel great and have lost 22 pounds since Thanksgiving of last year. I took my first love with me to my 30-year high school reunion in New Orleans a few weeks ago and we both had a FANTASTIC time. Danced to "Stairway to Heaven" just like the olden days...
My 25th reunion was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina (the city was under water and completely shut down at the time it was scheduled in September of 2005.) So this one was very special to everyone, and the people who had reconnected on Facebook beforehand probably had the best time, because we weren't long-lost strangers. We all knew what was going on in each other's lives now, and over the past year I have become friends with several people I didn't really even know very well in high school.
Everyone started posting high school pictures a couple of weeks beforehand, which added to the excitement as the date approached. Usually when there's such hype before an event, the event itself is a let-down, but this one wasn't. I laughed for at least 9 hours straight and the joy, energy and fun that night for everyone was through the roof non-stop. It was truly one of the best times I've ever had in my life. (Thanks, Sheryl and all the girls who put it together for us!)
Life is GOOD! Enjoy every moment!
(That's me with my Divine & Earthly Physicians who have kept me cancer-free these past 2 years. Thank you, Jesus, and Dr. Shervin Oskouei!)
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
As I mentioned above, I've been exercising regularly for the first time in my life, really, and I'm in better shape than I have been in years. Since last Thanksgiving I've lost almost 20 pounds, 13 of those this year (since I gained some back when I wasn't as diligent in mid-April to mid-May it took a while to lose it again.) I went to New York in mid-May for a girls' weekend; my friend Denise Killeen & I stayed with our friend and fellow sorority sister Laurie Gregg in Manhattan. We did a lot of FAST walking and I was able to keep up with both of them, and I'm positive that even pre-cancer I would have had to slow down or stop occasionally since they are both twigs and Denise's legs are so long it seems I have to take 4 steps for every 2 of hers.
Which brings me to one final thought... it's hard to believe that I've been in this position for 3 years and 4 months already, almost exactly as long as I was Director of Music & Liturgy at St. James in Mukwonago WI. (Although Glen & I covered the Vigil Masses there for 3 full years before I became the Director.) Time flies....
and Happy 15th anniversary tomorrow to my sister Valerie and her husband Kevin. I wish y'all all many more!
Friday, March 12, 2010
I had my most recent 3-month checkup last Friday, and am still cancer-free as of that day... 1 year, 7 months and 1 day.
I'm feeling great and have been exercising regularly--more than I ever have since college. I lost 10 pounds in January just by walking, and am trying to do 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 steps at least three days every week. My leg still retains fluid from time to time due to damage to my lymph system from radiation, but I'm relieved that it's never as bad or long-lived as it was all last year. At worst my leg just feels "full" or "tight" and maybe a 2-3 discomfort level rather than 9-11 on a 10-point pain scale. :-)
Thank you to all my friends and family for your continued prayers over these past couple of years. August 4, 2010 will be my 2-year cancer-free anniversary, and at that point I'll have passed the most common time frame for recurrence or metasasis. (And I get a T-shirt from my surgeon; woo-hoo!) Instead of having CT scans of my lungs and a checkup with the surgeon every 3 months (and MRIs of my leg every 6 months,) I'll go every 6 months for the next 3 years for the CTs and checkups (and not sure how often the MRIs will be.) I'm looking forward to that, because it's usually a half-day affair at Emory every time I have to go.
This weekend, the 4th Sunday of Lent, Catholics celebrate Laetare Sunday, the "rose" colored Sunday in Lent. Laetare is Latin for "Rejoice!" as we anticipate the joy of the Resurrection at Easter, and I certainly have reason to do just that. I am truly blessed!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Things are getting busy at work now as we approach the singing season. We had our long-awaited first-annual music ministry mini-retreat last week, which was well-attended, and seven members of the children's/youth choir sang with me at the Assumption Vigil Mass last night (their first time to sing "out of season" since their rehearsals won't start till mid-October, a little later this year due to unavoidable scheduling conflicts.) Next week Bob (my assistant) and three cantors and I are attending the Archdiocese of Atlanta's second annual Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium. The following week I'm attending the Confirmation retreat from Friday afternoon through Sunday, and adult choir rehearsals start up the following Thursday. Then it's the mad dash to Christmas. Bring it on!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I went downtown to Crawford Long Hospital yesterday for my 3-month post-radiation checkup with Dr. Godette, and she told me that I won't have to come see her anymore unless I feel I need to, since any relevant news from my 3-month checkups with Dr. Oskoui is shared with the rest of the team in their weekly "sarcoma conferences." That was also good news since the trek downtown is ~45+ minutes each way. I also requested (of a nurse, a resident AND Dr. Godette) that they please ensure that my diagnosis is entered properly on the records! Hopefully they will remember....
I've lost 5 pounds since Ash Wednesday. That's all the good news I have to share for now! It's been a great start to the week!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I'm also livid that I got my medical reports in the mail and they STILL have my diagnosis listed as "synovial sarcoma" on both my CT scan and my visit with Dr. Oskouei even though I have gone to extreme lengths since August 20 of last year to have that corrected in all of my other reports done since then. My CORRECT diagnosis is "high grade, undifferentiated (NOS-not otherwise specified) sarcoma." Dr. Oskouei told me they ran over one million dollars worth of tests to EXCLUDE synovial sarcoma (a really bad one) and I DO NOT have that.
Further, my CT report of my lungs says "purpose of exam": CHEST PAIN (in all caps!) NO, the only chest pain I have is from reading the errors in these REPORTS!!!! ARRRGGGGHH!! I made this appointment 3 months in advance, and have never had chest pain. It's just my regular 3-month checkup required of all sarcoma patients for the 1st 2 years (at which point it goes to every 6 months up to 5 years, then once a year though 10 years.)
This CT says I have a "moderate sized hiatal hernia." Funny, the last one with contrast in November didn't show anything. Did I all of a sudden develop a hernia since November? Whatever. The only reason I know this is actually my scan is because it mentions the two small nodules (whatever they are) in my lungs which have remained stable in each scan, thank God.
Also, there's no mention of the "lung cyst" that was present in my other two scans, so either they missed it, or it went away, which I hope is the case. But the massive number of errors I've found give me a great deal of concern since I am in the critical phase of when both recurrence and metastases are most likely to happen. I'd really like my records to be correct every time without having to jump through hoops to ensure that they ARE correct.
Anyway, it's nice to have ALL skin on my leg now, even though you can tell there was a wound there since it's still kind of red.
It snowed in Atlanta on Sunday, and I'll post pictures next time. My cousin Cathy had to overnight in Atlanta Monday night on the way back from BWI to New Orleans, so we had lunch on Tuesday. I don't think we'd seen each other since our grandmother Mimi's funeral in 2002.
Gotta run for now. Have a blessed Lent!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Had my 3-month followup with my surgeon, Dr. Oskouei today, and CT scans of my lungs (no contrast this time.) I was at Emory for over 3 hours....wanted to go see "Dialogue in the Dark" and/or the Bodies Exhibition at Atlantic Station before they end on March 1, but I called from the Emory parking lot after I was finished, and the tickets were sold out this afternoon until 4 p.m. for "Dialogue" (and nothing today for "Bodies.")
Anyway, my scans came out clean, praise God!! My next ones will be May 22: a CT (no contrast) of my lungs, and an MRI with contrast of my left leg (this will be the first one since before I had surgery last August.)
Other good news this week is that Bill's annulment was granted and he finally got the letter from the Archdiocese in the mail. I really don't know what I would have done without him during my health crisis last year. He has really been a sweetheart and a huge help to me.
My youth cantors (5th-7th grade) sing this Sunday at 10:30; we just started after Epiphany and I already have 14 members--we just picked up ANOTHER one on Thursday!! The adults will be at 8:30 for the OCIA Rite of Sending this week. We're excited to be able to sing Mozart's "Ave Verum" now for the 3rd week in a row--at 12:30 a couple of weeks ago for Deacon Joe Carter's first Mass after his ordination to the Permanent Diaconate, then last week at 10:30. I am so proud of them; they really did a great job both times so far. The Children's Choir has about 20 kids, the same number I had in the fall, which is FANTASTIC for the spring--I lost a bunch to other spring activities but gained a bunch, and I retained most of the ones who couldn't attend Thursday rehearsals this spring by forming the youth choir. (They just come 1/2 hour prior to Mass on their singing dates.)
I took some pictures of the adult choir at rehearsal last week and Glen is going to make a slideshow of them singing his setting of Psalm 146: Praise the Lord who heals the brokenhearted. We sang it at Deacon Joe's first Mass and they did a great job of that. Glen was really excited to hear it, and will post it on Youtube for us. That'll be cool.
The day before I posted my last blog entry, I took Sybil to the vet to get her vaccinations since she was overdue, and to also check out a bump on her tail that bothers her when you touch it. Other than that, she's not biting it or anything, but she hadn't seemed herself for a few weeks. She's better now, but the vet said there was a 50-50 chance it could be cancer at her age. It would cost >$500 to get it removed and biopsied, so I opted not to do that since her wellness exam, X-rays and shots cost $400 as it was (and I also had $900 of car repairs--new water pump, thermostat, hoses and belts and other stuff) at the same time. That's why I MUST do my taxes soon so I can get my refund!! Then I'll change my W2 exemptions soon so I can use my money throughout the year instead of Uncle Sam.
Anyway, I don't want to cause Sybil any undue trauma by putting her through surgery since the bump doesn't bother her. If I had the money I might be tempted to have the thing removed; I'd be relieved to find out it's just a cyst or something, but even if it IS cancer, I wouldn't opt to do chemo or radiation--that would be absurd to go through that enormous expense and put her through extra pain and vet visits at her age (14+--she was a ~2-year old stray when she adopted me in 1996, but I don't know exactly how old she is) . From what I've read, cancer treatments don't usually prolong pets' lives very much even when they work. So I hope my little kitten isn't in any pain. Her appetite certainly hasn't suffered! She eats like a hog but I love her so. She's so cute!
Other bad news I heard this week was that the small group of villains still causing trouble at St. James in Mukwonago WI succeeded in pushing Fr. Frank out of the parish. My friend Carol P. called to tell me he was gone all of a sudden last week "on sabbatical" and won't be returning. That is now the FOURTH priest they've done it to, and the second time it's happened to Father Frank since 2006. Please keep my former parish and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in your prayers--they are in deep need of healing. Rumors are flying that Archbishop Dolan will be named Archbishop of New York very soon and he is on track to become a Cardinal. I hope whoever comes into Milwaukee next can clean up the mess that the pre-Dolan bishops created, and although I'm sad that Archbishop Dolan wasn't able to accomplish more there, I'm glad they didn't ruin HIS career; he seems like a very good man. What goes on between the parishes and the Archdiocese there is shocking and sad, and unless you live there, you wouldn't believe some of the corruption I've witnessed, in three separate parishes, and the disobedience to and disrespect for church authority on all levels is rampant. I am so grateful to be OUT of there.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Basically they just put cocoa butter on my leg and scrape it with this hard plastic tool, not even very hard, and not for particularly long. I don't understand how it works but I am completely amazed at the results. I'm almost positive this will help prevent the swelling in my leg when I sit or stand too long, and my calf is staying more "stretched out" now instead of feeling cramped up.
There's a video of what they do at the link below.
Talk to y'all soon,
Monday, January 12, 2009
January 7 was the first time since August 2 that I had even attempted to wear long pants, and I'm so relieved that I CAN now because it's getting COLD, especially at night.
Last night I slept in sweatpants for the first time since surgery, and am starting to feel back to normal now, even though I haven't attempted to wear heavier fabrics or less-full-cut clothes like jeans.
I also was able to put my light cotton blanket on the bed last night for the first time all winter. Again, because of my leg, I couldn't tolerate any weight on it, and from August through almost all of November I actually had to sleep with my leg on top of the covers first while my scar was healing and later because of the burns on both the back of my knee and the side of my leg.
Physical therapy is going well. Today I was able to scoot 2/3 of the way around the room on an office stool before stopping to rest, which was a marked improvement over last week when I could only go a few steps at a time without resting. So Natalie had me go around twice today, and she has added new things for me to do each time. Unlike PT for my shoulder in 2007, none of this hurts or is uncomfortable; I'm just terribly weak. I'm very glad I'm doing this in a formal way, however, because I'd never do it at home on my own and would probably hurt myself if I tried to just jump in and start exercising again.
Things are picking up again at work since choir starts this week and the kids will resume in two weeks. I've got a lot of scheduling to do before then, so that's all for now.
Monday, January 5, 2009
However, the developments are as follows:
Just before Thanksgiving, I was supposed to have an MRI of my leg. That didn't happen. Instead, I had a CT scan with contrast of my chest, abdomen and pelvis, which came out clean (so they said) even though the written record shows a "lung cyst" and either a cyst or a hemangioma in my liver, and I found out I have uterine fibroids. They didn't TELL me any of this...I wouldn't have known had I not requested and paid for the records.
Anyway, I'm feeling much better since Thanksgiving, and my burn healed really quickly up to the point where it has been stuck since Immaculate Conception. Christmas went remarkably well considering how late I had to prepare for everything since I wasn't able to do ANYTHING much at all until Thanksgiving.
A lady from church (thanks, Maggie!) gave me a little kit of Burts' Bees products including some salve that contains comfrey and lavender. I started using that just before Christmas; the comfrey stimulates cells so that they repair faster.
When I went home to New Orleans the day after Christmas, Mom gave me some medicine she used when she had cellulitis. That helped within one day to reduce the inflammation and discoloration around my wound, and it has continued to help. Within a couple of days, it seemed like the wound was getting shallower (but still not SMALLER.) So the combination of the Burts' Bees and the medicine was helping to spur on some new healing since I was stalled for almost 3 weeks without any encouraging signs of healing at all prior to using these.
By the time I left New Orleans (Dec. 30) I was able to sleep without a pillow between my legs for the first time since the summer. Prior to that, it hurt a LOT if my legs touched if I tried to sleep on my side and if I put any pressure on the wound at all.
The other development since Christmas is that it doesn't hurt if I press around it or even on it (when covered.) Prior to even Christmas Day it hurt, especially in two little swollen spots on opposite ends of the wound.
Last night I put a hydrogel on the wound, and it stayed in place all day, even through physical therapy this afternoon, and two games of bowling with Bill and his son Will, whose birthday it is today.
So I guess my leg is healing deep under the skin, but it is taking FOREVER. The part that's left was right where I tore off the tape which made the original wound, and that's the same spot where the beams exited my leg, and I would have gotten the concentrated "boost" of radiation in my final week of treatment.
My next CT is supposedly without contrast, of just my lungs, in February. I'll finally have an MRI of my leg in May, but Dr. Oskouei said he wanted my leg to be completely healed before that since scar tissue can appear similar to tumor tissue.
I started physical therapy on Friday back at Benchmark Physical Therapy on McGinnis Ferry Road. They did such a great job with my shoulder in Fall 2007, I definitely wanted to go back there again. I had to ASK to get the prescription; they didn't automatically offer it to me. It's incredible to me that they don't prescribe PT for everyone who has not been able to have full range of motion in a limb for several months. It just goes to show you that the patient really has to be proactive about their own treatment.
I'm still tired from the "holidays" which for me include some pretty heavy workdays. I've got to get my house cleaned up now that I have a reasonable amount of energy. It's making me crazy. At least I got all my laundry done over the past couple of days.
Will try to check in again before my next Doctor appointment and post pictures of my leg (now OK for mainstream viewing) and hopefully SOON, one of my leg fully healed with all skin intact!
For now, Happy New Year!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Even better, the swelling in my leg around my largest wound (and also in the back of my knee) is starting to subside enough that I can bend my leg to a 90 degree angle (but still not much more) because the skin is extremely tender and thin right where the folds start when I bend my leg. The area that's a purple color around the wound has also gotten smaller and the fluid seems to be less noticeable, which I'm sure is due to the antibiotics.
Anyway, I got a lot of legwork (no pun intended) done for Advent in the last couple of days, and today and yesterday taught all the kids in the 4 RE sessions the music for their end-of-year Mass in December. It was a blast and I got a lot of nice compliments including from a catechist who asked if I was a music teacher--she said she'd been a teacher for 24 years and thought I was very professional and did a terrific job.
I must say I was REALLY, REALLY happy with all 4 sessions. I started and ended exactly in the time allotted, without rushing, and covered everything that needed to be done in an organized way. My voice held up better today than yesterday, but my cough is still persisting even after 5 1/2 days of Augmentin.
I was able to get through both sessions both days without excruciating pain in my leg, and I haven't used the gel packs since the weekend. Last night after soaking in the tub with epsom salts, which I've been doing almost every night since radiation ended, my largest wound developed a shiny hard coating for the first time. I've been able to leave my leg uncovered most of the day as long as it has either XClair or neosporin on it to keep it moist. I've also been using a lot of Vitamin E oil on my skin, still using my manuka honey (which is almost gone) and for the past week or so, "bag balm" to keep the skin around the wound soft since it has lanolin in it. Up until the last couple of days, it has been very difficult for me to do even the most simple tasks if they require walking into other rooms, standing for very long or moving around too much.
I go for my CT scan of my lungs, MRI of my leg and followup with Dr. Oskouei on Friday, and my followup with Dr. Godette on Monday. I am hoping that my leg will be almost back to normal by Thanksgiving, and what a happy one it will be this year now that all of this is behind me.
I've been taking pictures of my leg daily, and will try to post those on Friday after all my appointments. Bye for now,