I have this thing called a blog…

…and it’s something I never use anymore.  I have been in a writing mood lately so maybe I’ll pick it back up again.

Last I checked in I had accepted a position with Cancer Research of the Ozarks and was running for LLS Woman of the Year.   That was a year ago.   In case you didn’t hear, I won!

Woman of the Year    me-john

I am still very involved with the LLS and am serving as the Nominating Committee chair this year.  One of my nurses from Dr. Ellis’ office is a candidate this year – Team Patty all the way!

I am still working at Cancer Research for the Ozarks.  I’ve learned a lot over the past year – about different cancers and about how research works.   One of my tasks is to inform the IRB about the status of patients, whether they are in follow-up care or deceased.  Sometimes it’s hard to have info about cancer in my face all day, but most days I just hope I’m contributing to the good cause.

1620518_10152276316832421_685362482_n The family is good and Ryan is another year older.  Very hard to believe that he was 19      months when I was diagnosed.  He is 5 (and a half, he says) and will be starting kindergarten  this fall.  He is in pre-school at Immaculate Conception (where John’s Mom taught and where  John went to school), but starting next year we are going to move him to St. Elizabeth Ann  Seton  (SEAS), which is our home parish.

Ryan has started flag football with his little buddies (Grant and Jackson pictured here).  He’s       no longer running back to us after every play, like he has in t-ball.  So big.

Ryan keeps John and I busy – that’s for sure.  Yesterday we played hooky and went to Silver      Dollar City in the afternoon.  It was a beautiful day and no lines, we walked onto every ride!

This past February John and I went to Cozumel with my cousin Brian and his wife Jenn.  It was amazing, wonderful, awesome, and every other adjective that describes being on an all-inclusive resort without children for 5 nights.  :)


Health wise there is no new news and that’s a great thing!  I saw Dr. Ellis last Friday and my counts were a little off but nothing he’s concerned about so it’s nothing I’m concerned about.  I see him every six months and will eventually see him yearly.

I’m looking forward to marking a couple bands off my concert bucket list in the next couple months – hopefully I’ll still be in the writing mood then!

Woman of the Year

If you’re my Facebook friend I’m sure you’ve heard about my Woman of the Year campaign.  Just in case you haven’t (and even if you have), I’m going to talk about it more.  Let me back up a little and tell you how I got roped into this.  I wanted to volunteer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a ‘first connection’, which is someone who talks to someone who is newly diagnosed and shares their story, answers questions… that sort of thing.  I filled out the form online and never heard anything.  Then in December I get a call from my cousin Dustin’s friend Andrea, who is on the committee for the Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) Campaign for SW MO, asking if I would consider being a candidate.  I was really just wanting to volunteer, not be that involved, but I told her we could talk after the holidays.  In January I had lunch with Andrea and Beth, who is in charge of the campaign.  Beth sent my info along to be a first connection volunteer, but also told me all about the campaign.  I told her I’d think about it.  Now, if you know me, you know just how competitive I am.  I told her I’m not going to accept unless I know I can win.  After a couple more meetings and trying to gauge the support I would have, I accepted in February.

Thanks to Joanna for designing our logo!

Thanks to Joanna for designing our logo!

How it works:  In a nutshell, it’s a fundraising competition.  There are 6 candidates in SW MO, 3 women and 3 men.  So to win, I have to raise more money than the 2 other girls.  Doesn’t sound so hard as there’s not many people to beat out, but we’re talking about raising a lot of money.  The two winners last year combined raised $22,000 and as a group they raised more than $50k.  I can’t officially state my goal as it’s a blind contest, but let’s just say it’s a lot.  We have from now until June 21st to collect money then on June 27th we have a Grand Finale Gala.  At this event we can have 5 silent auction item groupings and 1 live auction item, which counts towards our final fundraising total.

I need your help and here’s how:

  • Donations through my fundraising page-  http://www.mwoy.org/pages/mid/swm13/lwinsteij5
  • Do a small fundraiser on my behalf – initiate a dress down day at your work, do a bake sale, yard sale, etc.
  • Auction Items – We are collecting items from local businesses, but I am also needing out of town things- specifically a 2 night hotel stay in STL.  We will take any and all donations you can get your hands on, especially if you can get your hands on some iPads or exotic vacations :)
  • Support our local events- Next Event:  Celebrity Shake-Off on Thursday, May 2nd, at Parlor 88 East – find more information on the FB Event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/533988946643669/  Jay Fotsch from Power 96.5 and Springfield Cardinals fame is my celebrity
  • While you’re at Parlor 88 East for the Shake-Off, purchase a $1 blood drop.  You can also do this at south side Parlor, any Dublin’s Pass or Big Whiskey’s Location.  Tell your friends or let me know if you’d like to sell blood drops as well.
  • Follow the FB page to keep up to date on all events:  https://www.facebook.com/LauraWinsteadWOTYCandidate  We are working on something really cool so you’ll want to stay updated.
  • Buy a ticket or table to the Grand Finale Gala on Thursday, June 27th:  http://www.mwoy.org/pages/mid/swm13/lwinsteij5 – ‘Attend the Grand Finale’ Button

I have an amazing campaign team that’s been working their butts off to help me so far!  My cousin Dustin is my campaign manager and has been putting a lot of time, thought and energy into this!  John, Torie, Neal and Niki are all in it to win it too and I love it!  We are overcoming some frustrating defeats in planning fundraising events, but are also super excited to roll out the next one in the works.  All of the fundraising is done in honor of a Boy & Girl of the Year and the team got to meet these cute little kiddos last week at Kick-Off!


For me, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a way to give back to an organization that helped me upon my diagnosis.  Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the #1 cancer in children, but thanks to research over the years, the survival rate is over 90%!  My hope is that with more funding and research, we can raise the adult ALL survival rate as well.

Every dollar puts me one step closer to my goal and every donation is so greatly appreciated!!

Long Time No Blog

Yep, it’s been awhile.  Again.  At least this time I have been super busy and have lots to share.

Health update:  While I’m done with chemo, I am starting to see the impact of having poison pumped into my body for 3 years.  Nothing too serious, just lots of little things that add up to still too frequent trips to the doctors office.  I have osteoporosis and just had a bone density scan;  I have a fatty liver and out of control cholesterol, which is most likely hereditary, so I see a lipid doctor next month; The chemo causes pap smears to come back abnormal so those have to be repeated a few times a year;  Still seeing Dr. Ellis every 3, last time all of my counts look great;  I had a CT scan a couple weeks ago that found some nodules on my spleen that Dr. Ellis isn’t worried about, but I have to repeat another scan in 4 months… You know, just to keep me on my toes.

Family Update:  We are doing great!  Ryan did some art classes this winter and will be starting t-ball again next month!  We’ve been practicing and he’s fielding and throwing a lot better this year.  Now let’s just hope he wants to stay out on the field by himself now :)

Work Update:  I have accepted a position with Cancer Research of the Ozarks/ Cox as a Regulatory Compliance Coordinator!  I have orientation this Saturday and start one week from today, 4/22.  My job will be to review cancer research trials, meet with the review boards from Cox and Mercy and draw up contracts for the patients to sign to participate.  At least I think that’s an accurate description, I can update you after I’ve been there for a few weeks.  I think it will be awesome to get to see research at work!

What’s been occupying my life update:  Charities!  My last blog post was about the ACS and Relay for Life.  It’s just a few weeks away and while I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to speak about for almost a year now, today I started putting it on paper.  I’m not nervous about it… yet.

And my Woman of the Year campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!  See the next blog post for details!


2012 Music & Book Review

I always make a year-end playlist of my favorite songs from the year.  While I would venture to say most of my readers don’t like my style of music, I still wanted to share.  You can listen to any of the tracks free on Spotify, here is the link for this playlist:  2012



I only read 33 books this year, way down from last year.  My reading goal for the year was to read or re-read the classics.  I think I did a pretty good job on those:  The Fountain Head, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Confederacy of Dunces, Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye, 1984 and The Stranger.

My favorite book, besides maybe The Great Gatsby or the Catcher in the Rye, was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I cried approximately 7 times and finished it in about 4 hours, staying up until almost 3 AM.


Gone Girl and Defending Jacob were also very good reads, although none of them particularly happy stories.

I read several I didn’t care for, so in 2013 I need to decide not to waste my time finishing a book that didn’t resonate with me from the beginning.  I can stop watching a horrible movie, why do I feel I need to finish a book?


Overall, 2012 was a pretty great year.  Ups and downs aplenty, but lots of great memories.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Turning 30 & celebrating with lots of great friends.

421247_10151332221185534_588978142_n  feb12 010

In April we went to Biloxi with my parents.

557650_10150778451457421_1741344128_n  SONY DSC

I was very excited for Ryan to start playing T-ball this year!  Below is his first hit and spectacular fielding position.

578191_10150878957487421_1412383241_n  SONY DSC

I had several friends have babies this year, guess I’m at that age… Congrats to Lauren, Erin, Jenn, Jamie & Emma!  And Elisha, one of my best friends, is going to be having a girl this May!!

I had my last Chemo treatment on October 9th.  It sort of feels like I am 18 again and not sure what to do with my life, sort of like a blank slate.  I still don’t know what adventure will come next!  To celebrate being finished, we went to Disney World over Halloween.  Defiantly the highlight of my year, and a check off the bucket list.

trip30   trip46   IMG_0791

Our Christmas was great, lots of time with family and a spoiled little guy to whom Santa was very good to.

On a sadder note, this year I also lost a couple people who I cared a lot about.  The first was Christy, my friend with ALL, who my last blog was about.  And just on the 30th of December my Aunt Jackie passed away.  She married my Uncle Kenny when she was only 15, and being that she was completely blind, they were ALWAYS together.  I pray he can find some peace in this new year.



It’s a special bond you have with other cancer survivors, but for me, it was especially more so with Christy; she is the only other person I’ve ever met with Adult ALL.  Our nurse Shawna introduced us at my first Relay for Life in May of 2010 and we became fast friends.

Me, Shawna, Christy & Joni

Relay for Life 2011

This past March Christy relapsed and had to go to Barnes in April to go through the stem cell transplant surgery/ recovery. (Some of you might remember me asking you to send her a card while she was there).  She never let it get her down, not Christy.   She was always bringing a smile to everyone else’s face, her spirit was infectious.  She loved the Razorbacks, so while she was in the hospital in Springfield, before going up to Barnes, she got Dr. Ellis a Razorbacks shirt and had him yelling “Woo Pig Sooie” :)

She finally got to come home to Arkansas after a lot of time in St. Louis, but wasn’t home hardly any time at all before it came back again.  The last time I talked to her was Oct. 11th, the night before she had head back to Barnes.  It was a heartbreaking call, she was crying, telling me she was scared and how much she loved me.  Through the tears she told me she was a fighter and I assured her she would be fine, that I know she’s scared and I loved her very much too.

She passed away on the 23rd of this month.  I regret not calling her again, or mailing that card I have had in the drawer for months.  Cancer sucks.

Disney World

To celebrate being done with treatment, but more to cross “Take Ryan to Disney World” off my bucket list, we went to Orlando over Halloween!  The trip started off with Ryan’s first plane ride, which I’m proud to say he did incredibly well during.  The first couple days of the trip we went to New Symerna Beach, about an hour outside of Orlando.  I booked a room at the Best Western based on reviews and we were super impressed, I didn’t know they made Best Westerns like that!  Separate bedroom and living room/kitchen areas, with shutters in between so Ryan could watch TV and go to sleep in there while we stayed up in the other part, all while being able to peek in on each other.  Brilliant!  We were looking forward to some fun on the beach, but it turns out there was little beach and a bunch of waves.  Super Storm Sandy was headed up the coast when we were there, so the waves were huge, coming all the way up to the wall of the hotel.  Not that I’m complaining, I feel bad for those who really had to deal with the brunt of that storm.  We agreed we’d love to go back to this specific hotel, maybe when it’s not hurricane season and a little warmer.


On Monday the 29th we headed into Orlando to go to Universal Studios.  I don’t officially have “Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” on my bucket list, but it was something that I HAD to do if we were going to be within a 50 mile radius of the place!  Ryan loved the Dr. Seuss part of the park, I love this picture with him and The Cat in the Hat.  Look at how happy he is, his little hands clinched up with excitement :)

Ryan rode his first roller coaster, The Flight of the Hippogriff and he “did not like that at all.  Please do not make me do that again”.  Which was pretty much his mantra for the entire trip concerning rides.  My goal was to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which ended up being my single favorite thing the entire trip.  John and I were both able to ride it separately in a span of about 25 minutes thanks to the single rider line.  What a wonderful thing!  Oh, and the Butterbeer!  I waited in line longer for that than I did for the rides.  I wanted to browse the shops a little more, but I think 75% of the people in the park were in Ollivanders.  I did end up getting a wand from a different place… I mean Ryan got a wand :)  Another highlight of the day was meeting Shrek & Fiona and the parade with a bunch of Despicable Me Minions running around.  I could have spent several days in Universal, John & I both agree it’s more fun for adults and has better rides than Disney.


So I’d been trying to keep the whole Disney part of the trip secret, like I said in my last blog post.  So I told him we’d find a place to stay in Orlando that night instead of going back to the beach because it was late.  In all actuality  we were meeting up with John’s brother Jim, Amy, Amy’s Grandma Ann, Audrey, Will & Cashel at Shades of Green, the  military resort in Disney World.  Turns out we had an adjoining room so we had Ryan knock on the door to be greeted by his cousins!  He humored me by saying it was a surprise, but just the other night he told me he heard us talking to them on the computer one night (Skyping about the planning while he was supposed to be sleeping).

We had 4 days in Disney World, the first day (Tuesday the 29th) we went to Hollywood Studios.  I think the highlight of that park for us was the Disney Junior live on stage show.  It was just puppets, but it was Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins… all shows Ryan loves.  That was the first excited pic I captured:

The next day was Halloween!  They do “Mickey’s not so scary Halloween party”… for an extra $70/ person so we opted not to do that.  We did do something special that day, I had made reservations before we left for Chef Mickey!!  Mickey is hard to catch just strolling through any of the parks and during this lunch, he comes to your table!  Along with Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald.  I think this was the highlight of my time at Disney.


Earlier that morning we had gone to Magic Kingdom as soon as it opened.  John & I each took turns riding Space Mountain (single rider), we did the Buzz Lightyear ride, Monsters Inc laugh floor, the Teacups, Dumbo, the race track thing and It’s a Small World all before lunch!  So then after Chef Mickey we went back to the room and took a well-deserved nap.  That night Epcot was open until midnight so we went there for the rest of the evening.  Our favorite thing hands down was the Finding Nemo ride and the aquarium you go through afterwards.  Epcot does a fireworks show over the big lake in the middle, which I think Ryan enjoyed.  I call the first picture “Like Father Like Son.”


The next day it was back to the Magic Kingdom to see the rest of the park.  We all rode Splash Mountain, which Ryan again replied “I don’t ever want to do that again!”  That day we met Woody and Jesse, another highlight.  Ryan’s favorite thing of the whole trip were the parades (there was a daytime one in Hollywood Studios, one at Universal too).  We watched the fireworks behind the castle then reserved about 9 spots on the curb (we were with Jim, Amy, Kids and G-ma Ann) to catch the parade.


Our last day we went to Animal Kingdom in the morning.   Some of the highlights from this park include the Kilimanjaro Safari, a Finding Nemo Musical, Everest (roller coaster) and my favorite ride (interaction, show?) at Disney:  It’s a Bug’s Life – It’s Tough Being a Bug.  It’s a 4D movie, I don’t want to give too much away in case anyone is planning a trip, but it was my favorite!

I think one of the things we loved best about Disney is the pin trading!  You get a lanyard and buy pins, then you can ask any Cast Member (Disney employee) to trade with you.  The last half of our last day we headed back to Epcot with the mission of trading all the cheap pins we’d bought for cool ones :)  The best one we landed was a Halloween pin from 2008, the year Ryan was born.

That night we went to Giordano’s, the best Chicago-style pizza place in Chicago (yes I do like it better than Gino’s) has two locations in Orlando.  The whole crew went and it was a great way to end the trip.

The trip was a lot of fun, although exhausting!  Kind of like writing this blog post ;)