Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Update your links! My old blog address has MOVED to: since I'm going back to my maiden name.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Gotta Be Me!--I'm going back to my maiden name.

So much has happened this past year during my "Reunions Chapter" of my life. This chapter, like all the chapters in my amazingly compartmentalized life, had very clear boundaries: it started in the beginning of Feb. 2009 when I got on Facebook at the insistence of my sister and my first high school best friend Michelle, and ended just after attending my 30-year high school reunion with my first love in late August 2010. I'm going to stretch the end date of this chapter till the end of September, though, because this was the month I finally found and reconnected with my second high school best friend Sharon, who had been on the "whereabouts unknown" list in our reunion booklet.

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

Got my 2 years cancer-free T-shirt!!

Well, I had my last 3-month CT scan of my lungs on 9/1/2010 and all was clear again, thanks be to God! I am now officially 2 years (and 1 month) cancer-free, which means that from now until September 2013 (my next big milestone at 5 years), I will go for CTs of my lungs every 6 months instead of every 3, and MRIs of my leg once a year instead of every 6 months. The MRIs will also be without contrast from now on, instead of views with and without contrast. Although the injection is no big deal, I won't have to be injected with a chemical every time any more, which can't be good for you...

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

Helen the Hibiscus has bloomed!

I'm so honored to be the subject of my friend Carol Shulfer's blog post today! She named her hibiscus tree after me and it bloomed. Thanks, Carol! Miss you! :-) ♥

Also, while I'm here, I'll give you a quick update about what's been going on since last time. I had my 3-month CT of my lungs and 6-month MRI of my leg on June 9 and the results were both clean again. God has been VERY good to me and I am grateful for everyone's continued prayers. As of August 4 this year, I will be cancer-free 2 years, and after my September checkup I'll go for CTs of my lungs every 6 months and MRIs of my leg once a year (through 2013.) Then I'll go for annual CTs once a year (I don't know the frequency of MRIs) through August 2018. It's still surreal to me that this ever happened, and amazing that 2 years has passed already. I only rarely have problems with lymphedema in my leg now, and when I do it's usually mild, which is a huge improvement over this time last year. The scar from my worst radiation burn is much smaller than I would have expected and the tightness I had in my calf muscle for a long time is gone, probably because I've been exercising regularly since January. I also can sit on my heels which I WASN'T able to do until this year comfortably due to swelling in my calf and also the tightness in my quads and muscles/tendons/ligaments around my knee since I couldn't use it fully for so long.

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.

I'm looking forward to my 30-year high school reunion in New Orleans on August 21; it will be much more fun for the people on Facebook than those who aren't, because we're all up to date with each other's lives and won't feel like strangers.

That's about it for now. I'm enjoying a more relaxed pace this summer and recharging my batteries so I can have a productive year. This is really the first opportunity I've had to rest mentally and physically since I moved to Atlanta over 3 years ago.

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....

Happy birthday today to my ex-husband Mitch--he's 56 today)

Helen & Mitch Nathan, May 28, 1990

and Happy 15th anniversary tomorrow to my sister Valerie and her husband Kevin. I wish y'all all many more!

Mike Rareshide, me, Kirk Redmann, Peggy & Kevin Schott
at Val & Kevin Linn's wedding, July 1, 1995. (Kirk & I sang.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

So far, so good...

I haven't updated this blog in ages since I'm on Facebook and all my friends know what's going on with me, but for the sake of anyone searching the internet for sarcoma survivor stories, I thought I'd just give you a quick update.

What my surgeon told me when I was diagnosed in 2008 and frightened by all the scary blogs I found is TRUE: People like me who survive and go on with their lives are less likely to continue blogging about it as time passes by and they go on with their regular lives. Amazingly enough, less than 2 years later, cancer is simply not something I think about every day, much less want to dwell on! I have so much to be grateful for, and "I've got a lot of livin' to do!"

So please keep that in mind when you come across all the heart-wrenching stories of people who aren't as fortunate as I have been... there ARE a lot of success stories out there, but most people who are staying cancer-free are too focused on their daily lives to continue updates about their good fortune. This blog was a necessity when I was going through my ordeal so that I didn't have to re-tell what was happening to me to every person who asked. It's mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting (and virtually impossible) to keep track of what everyone knows and to recount your story by phone or email when you're actively going through this. Blogging was the most efficient way to keep everyone informed about what was happening to me, and it was cathartic for me at the same time.

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!