Posted by: phanz | October 3, 2015

Six Year Update

Hello out there!


Keith and Pat 2015

I had a very interesting experience this week.  About three months ago I received a call from Kaiser asking me to set up an appointment with my oncologist for the regular 6 month check up.  I thought I was now on yearly ones, but okay….   I went in on Friday to Wildomar (40 miles) to do my obligatory blood draw and was met by the same woman who has done every one of my pre-appointment draws since day one.  (Such a sweet lady!  We remember each other because once she commented on my home made earrings that her daughter would love them.  The next draw, I brought a pair for her daughter.)

The next day I drove the 60 miles to Riverside for my appointment.  Found out that Kaiser had cancelled it.  Turns out that I do only need to go once a year!  BUT they told me the results of my day-before-blood-work.  The tests look great and actually they are better than six months ago.  The doctor told the nurse, who told me, “better than great!”

While waiting in the office, I had a conversation with a 30+ year old mom, holding a six year old on her lap.  Both of us were survivors.  She said how she feels the chemo every time she steps off the elevator on the fourth floor for a yearly check.  I thought it was only me!  The feeling is one that cannot be accurately described.  It’s kind of a general sense of exhaustion that my brain tells me will follow the visit.  I don’t feel exhausted when I leave, but the memory is incredibly insistent.

That leads me to talk a little about the power cancer holds over all of us whether we are in the soup or past it.  So many of my friends have been tapped by this disease and I just want to remind them that there is a huge community of survivors out there who are sending you positive energy.  We share a bond that should bring you some strength.  I am so lucky and I know it.  Happy to be entering year six, but know that can change in an instant.komenie

I am off to sign up for the race for the cure on October 18th!  Join me.

(I am a little sad to see that there is no longer an MSJC team.)


Posted by: phanz | June 14, 2015

Year 5

Hi Everyone,

It’s been five years since my surgery.  I am doing well and my last oncology visit (about two months ago) was really good.  I just wanted to keep everyone informed.

I took a stressful job as the Executive Director of the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative and am holding my own!  I hope to be able to keep working for at least another year.

I hope you are all well.


Posted by: phanz | October 8, 2013

October 2013 Update

msjc-pat-jamesWell, it’s been a while since I posted here!  I wanted to let you all know that I have entered year four of my recovery and am doing well.  I plan to retire from my dean’s job in December but will continue to work on a variety of Distance Education projects (I hope!).

There’s been a variety of cancers as unwelcome visitors of my friends lately and I think of them everyday in my  hopes and prayers.  I’ll be walking in the Race for the Cure later this month in Temecula on Oct. 20th, if you would like to join me!  Please sign up under the Mt. San Jacinto College Team.

Today, I received some information about new developments in the treatment of Her2 positive breast cancer.  You can check them out at CURE magazine online!  It’s so great that things are getting better.

Love to you all,


Posted by: phanz | June 18, 2012

The Dance

Good Afternoon

A couple of days ago, I received word that the “other” Pat left this world carried away by a cancer that she fought well.  If you remember the post, Chair Dancing, then you  might know what Pat did for my perspective at the time and from then on.  I wrote the following to her amazing husband, Floyd, and wanted to share it with you.  There is music at the end of the message below.


While I morn the loss of such a striking character in the world, I also was blessed to briefly know her.


“Good morning, Floyd
I didn’t know that she had passed over to God, but I sensed it when I saw your email this morning.  Your strength and hard work, along with her incredible tenacity resulted in her having years, not weeks, added to her life.  I got to meet her (and you) because of that.  How privileged I am to have had that special experience of bonding with you both over the experience of facing our own mortality with strength and hope.  The chance meeting, the dance, the prayers, and the love are now a part of how I live on.  Pat and I shared more than a name.  We shared the fight that is the core of life, living for love of our family and friends.  In my heart, I carry a piece of her because we shared the path for a short time.  My path has gone a separate way from hers, but I know that I am destined to honor her as I continue on.

You are amazing in your determination to do what was needed, through many hardships and doubts about your own ability to handle it, you kept on, too.  It should not be underestimated what it takes to stay by someone through the long journey that we have to take when cancer invades our lives. Because you took the courageous step to share your path in your writing, including the doubts you had about your ability to continue and your descriptions of that, caused me to view the actions and emotions of my own husband with understanding and love.  I think your writing has helped keep  us together through my cancer journey.

Take care of yourself now and go forward with new energy for the life in this world that Pat so cherished.  Your life is far from over as you now have the opportunity to rest, recharge, grow and love again.”


Floyd sent me this:  The Dance


Posted by: phanz | May 16, 2012

Two year anniversary….

I just wanted to mark the two year anniversary of my surgery.  I am well.  This blog carried me through and I want to thank you all for posting and reading.  I read through it tonight and it leaves me so grateful.Image

Posted by: phanz | February 20, 2012


…. is really short!

Haven’t been writing here for a while.  Life gets going again after being sick and things ramp up to a high level of activity.  I haven’t been thinking about cancer much, which is a good thing, for the most part.  However, some issues around having cancer should be thought about.  A friend of mine, who also had his run against the disease posted a video on my Facebook page and since I was having trouble sleeping tonight, I thought it might be a good time to see why he thought I should watch it.  It is really great and ends with a huge portion of hope.  We all need hope, but more, we all need to take better care of ourselves.  I HOPE to take better care of myself as a result of viewing this great talk by a doctor who also had cancer.  Maybe it will help you, too.

Posted by: phanz | August 27, 2011

Cancer Side Effect: Better vision????

Well, here I sit at the computer without glasses.  Wow!  I’ve been wearing glasses for about 25 years and still sometimes go to straighten them only to find they aren’t there.  The lens implants are working great.  Chemo doesn’t mess with your vision, but evidently the steroids in the pre-meds cause cataracts.  The fix for cataracts these days is lens implants.  So, I now no longer look at the world through a green-brown haze and can read without glasses!  I await the final verdict about the glasses until next Wednesday, when I have my week-after surgery appointment.  But colors are beautiful now and I noticed that I have a renewed interested in looking at the stars.

Learning Moment:  Sometimes good can come from bad things.

Posted by: phanz | August 21, 2011

Volleyball, plastic and “Law and Order”

Ok, you’re thinking, “what do the things in the title have in common? ”  I’ll try to explain, however, the connection may only be in my particular brain.  There were three things that reminded me this week to be grateful that I am a cancer SURVIVOR.

The first actually happened in the last couple of weeks.  My surgeon’s office called me and told me that I had to make an appointment with the doctor to discuss the results of my recent mammogram.  YIKES!  Why does she have to “discuss”?????   What’s wrong?????? of course the office staff member couldn’t tell me.  So after waiting for a few hours I jumped on to email her.  Within an hour and a half, the doctor herself (what a sweetie) called me and told me that there was something on the mammo that was, quite possibly, a small piece of plastic and that as soon as she received the images, she would call me.  So for a week, I worried.  Then she called and indeed it was a piece of plastic left when the cath in my shoulder was removed.  Whew!!!!!  I was surprised at how I felt during the short time of uncertainty–really scared.  So, I recalled what I’ve been through and felt the gratitude for where I am.

The second was a moment that triggered a strong memory.  I was watching an episode of “Law and Order”  while I was angrily mopping the living room floor–angry because I had to mop the massive concrete floor in our house–slinging that mop with a vengeance.  In the show the lady who played the Lt. for a while, don’t know her name, had just returned to work after having cancer and they were throwing her a party.  She had very little hair and I think maybe she was recovering in real life, too.  Anyhow, she got a cell phone call and stepped away from the party to take the call from her doctor.  The dialog was, “Yes, doctor, I understand”.  Then she covered her face in her hands and wept, looked up  and mouthed the words “thank you”.  She went back to the party and whispered something in the ear of her new fiancee and they hugged and smiled.    I knew that moment, I had that moment, too. When,  the surgeon called me on a Friday evening because she didn’t want me going all weekend not knowing that the results of the lab tests on the newly removed breast tissue showed that I had a “complete response” to the treatment for cancer.  While watching and mopping, I sat down in the chair and cried.  I know this sounds funny, but I was grateful that I could mop that floor!

And then there is yesterday.  I went to the beach with Ian and his friends and their families.  We played the craziest games of volleyball on and off all day.  I hit, ran, jumped (only about an inch high, mind you, but jumped) and laughed a lot.  One of Ian’s friends has a dad who had a horrible work accident about two years ago where he was severely burned.  We were both recovering from pretty severe medical issues at the same time.  He and I were both out there running, jumping and hitting that crazy volleyball like we were young kids.  The moment didn’t escape either of us.  We were so lucky to be there doing what we were doing.

Yesterday was a good day.  I am grateful for all of my days, good and not-so-good.  I hope those reminder moments keep coming.  There’s a saying among health care professionals when things happen that are mistakes or whatever, “no one died today”.  It’s a saying that I have often used to make people comfortable when things aren’t going so great at work to help them put things in perspective.  I am grateful for the noteworthy moments in my life that help me keep perspective.

Learning Moment:  As my grand son Sam would say, “Say your gratefuls”


Posted by: phanz | August 11, 2011

MSJC Academy Time

So, we are headed for the last day of our 22nd @MSJC Academy professional development event.  I’ve been so blessed to be able to teach another three-day workshop to about 30 great teachers.  We are having fun and I learn from the participants everyday.

On the first day, so many people complimented me on how good I look.  What a shock!  I look in the mirror with my new left eye (the right will be done at the end of the month) and see wrinkles and how old I look to me.  It was so sweet to have folks tell me that I look good!  Last year at this time I was recovering from surgery and had white hair.  But, maybe it’s the no-glasses?

I am paying close attention to changes in the world, particularly our teaching environment and am finding that my own thinking about teaching an learning is in transition, too.  Our students are different than they used to be.  We have to admit that and work with it.

Learning Moment:  Things change all the time.  We can’t be in denial about it or life will pass us by and we will succumb to our wrinkles.

Older Posts »