Sister Love!

IMG_3537Spring has arrived! Can’t tell by the four feet of snow outside our door but it’ll be history soon. Things are in a stand-by mode concerning my cancer. If that’s a possible thing! Chose 6 month follow up, and going by last information learned (increase of lung spots from previous scans) but too early to know if they are something to be concerned about. Choosing not to be concerned about. Can drive yourself crazy wondering this and that, but thats added stress and who needs that. Next check-up is in May so will know more then. A side of me thinks why bother, it’s not like anything can be done if the news isn’t good. Right now I feel like I’m in a good place. Not being defined by my challenge, living life day by day, some are good, some not.
Mike and I have been watching past seasons of a show named “Brothers and Sisters”. Goofy show, acting is sort of cheesy, but dynamics interesting. One of the sisters learned she had cancer and it was like a brick hit both of us. Seeing the things we’ve been through being played out brought back a lot of memories. The news, doctors, telling family and friends, chemo, hair falling out, surgery, radiation, etc. TV attempts to do a good job at it but falls short. There were scenes that brought tears to each of us because of what they were dealing with. Its a family that appears on the outside to have everything great, but peel away a few layers and you see one messed up bunch! Makes us appreciate what we have thats real. The interactions the sisters have together, thankfully, are far from the one Lori and Chrissy and I have. We’ve always been close. But experiencing this ordeal with them has certainly brought us closer. Their love and support, literally, has been nonstop. I get overwhelmed by their generosity. We’ve always have tried to be self reliant but when the health challenges hit it was a WTF moment! First Mike having the cardiac battles and then the dreaded “you have cancer” words flipped everything completely upside down. What are you going to do? You go through the shock of all of it, suit up, and learn how to live 24 hours a day. Thats probably been the most prominent thing. Getting too far ahead is depressing. It can be without having health challenges. I know today is a gift, and I try to see it as that. Said I’d send a card to the surgeon who did my whipple once a year, on the day surgery took place. Just put it in the mail. Have already beaten the odds and statistics. Wasn’t sure for awhile! None of know what or how we’ll be living a year from now, heck a week or day for all that matter. Can have all the plans in the world but reality can and does change in seconds. What this experience certainly has changed is my perception on everything! Two steps forward and one step back seems to be the norm. We wanted to take a trip to Wausau at the end of March but plans, once again, don’t always work out as desired. Been having car problems, which suddenly increased the last couple of days, so maybe it was for the best. Breaking down in the middle of no where, with no cell phones, would’ve been our luck. Nice to be be closer to siblings here but the missing of family and friends in Wisconsin is tough. Each have to manage health issues that can and do pop up like whack a mole. Whoever said golden years are full of bliss and rose petals were crazy! Wanted to update everyone on things, been awhile. Will know more in a couple months. Looking forward to gardening and days enjoying the lake and freighters with visiting family members. Missing people fews like a physical ache at times! So thankful for the internet and technology! Nothing beats the real thing though! Seating around laughing and sharing, tearing up when saying goodbye. Before that was a real tough one. Wasn’t sure if there would be another visit and if the one experienced was the last. We are doing good today though! Wanted to give a shout out to my sisters! You have my back and your love and sharing has taught me so much. Thank you! And to my friend sisters, and you Charlie, I love you!
Mike: Another season is upon us! Sweet! Christmas lights still up but we don’t turn them on! Will deal with them soon though. This past winter was a mind blower. Snow drifts were a foot higher than our car! Should do a commercial for Prius! Presently needs a little TLC but got us through another Upper Michigan winter so thankful for that! That little car is like the little red train or the fish Nemo!
As Bobbi wrote things are in a waiting period. Cancer has a lot of these times. You learn to live with them and just push ahead. I often compare life to be a lot like being in a boat. The outside elements we have no control over will let us know how little control we really have over some situations. All you can do is your best. Try to have the right mindset and know when the waters are calm. Not too many days are completely “calm” most have a little rocking back and forth. It’s the awareness of whats going on thats key. Know when a little rocking is good, and that life will certainly have it hitting the shore rocks. Makes appreciating things just a little bit more enjoyable. Can’t worry about the weather to come, cause it changes quickly! Just enjoy the moment. This way of looking at things is the best regardless of health challenges. Enjoying watching Bobbi having better days, but some she has serious issues that are hard to watch being unable to lift the hardship. She has the same for my moments of extra nitro, morphine and oxogen keeps me housebound. Don’t tell others about them, whats the sense in that? We all have our rough days and it gets old explaining things. Suck it up buttercup and manage. Try to keep Bobbi unaware but she’s no dummy. We do go with our worries on each other, A simple hug, or cuddling up under CC’s blanket with music or mindless TV on does wonders. Things are pretty good today. How I can feel that after not sleeping 40 some hours I have no idea! But thats another story. You have to separate inconvenient moments, for whatever reason, from the bigger picture. Trying not to worry about the future check ups she’s got coming up. Just keep in mind that worry doesn’t change outcome. We’ve been told a number of times that her cancer “appears” to have metastasized, only to learn it’s undefined. Just can’t live that way! Looking forward to this Summer! Missing like crazy son Sean and Jen, CC and partner in crime Aiden. Seeing Shay in a couple months so really excited about that too. Adam and Julie should be having their little one soon and thats been on our mind a lot to. Trying to simply give them their space and not complicate things. Missing both and hoping the best. Its been really nice not seeing doctors every few weeks, for my own mumble jumble, so glad that decision was made to go every 6 months. Knowing no more intrusive or un-intrusive procedures really is nice. All things considered we are doing pretty good. The waters are rocking the boat, but its not sinking! Thank you for the read and continued prayers and support! Have no idea how we’d make it without it! More news soon with next post!

Keep On Keeping On

A new year is upon us. A strong blistering winter storm dumped 17 inches of snow on the area, and really glad we didn’t need to drive in it. Had a nice and mellow holiday season. Not sure what this new year is going to be like but who does.

On our last visit to Petoskey, to meet with Bobbi’s oncologist, she talked to us about her last scan. The doctor read over the report and said there were a couple of spots on her lungs, which we knew there was from past scans, which would need monitoring. No big deal, just have to keep our eyes on them. Bobbi shared that regardless what the future held she was done with any future chemotherapy or surgeries. The doctor said she had wondered what she would do. When asked about the next follow up, 3 or 6 months, Bobbi said 6 months. Doctor agreed. She said it concerned her as a oncologist, but understood as a person. Bobbi was put through the wringer in 2018. We’ve talked hours upon hours about every possible scenario and what she wanted. If any bad news awaited us what could be done about it anyways? She’s gone through every possible treatment. 8 weeks of chemo with Gemzar and Abraxane, a full Whipple procedure, 6 weeks of daily radiation with chemo, to follow that up with 4 more additional months of chemo. At one time she could barely walk, was in severe pain with bile duct closing, and then the stent falling out. Not to mention all of her hair falling out. 2018 was enough! Now it’s about quality over quantity with the hopes that there will be both. All lab numbers are good so left the meeting feeling pretty optimistic.

Somethings didn’t sit right in my thoughts. I wasn’t sure what it was. We celebrated her ringing the bell after her last chemo treatment, but there was just something that didn’t quite feel right. Usually we are given a copy of scan results. Kept my thoughts to myself and counted our blessings.

Because we do keep copies of everything Bobbi decided to stop at the hospital here in the Soo and went to the records office for the scan paperwork. Reading it was somewhat disheartening. There were more than “a couple” of lung spots. There were five. One had grown larger since the last scan. The radiologist also wrote she suspected possibly that her pancreatic cancer was metastasized, meaning it had spread. Lungs and liver usually are impacted first.

Was a lot to take in. We’ve been told a number of times, with her having spots on her liver, that they believed her cancer had spread, to later learn that it hadn’t. The back and forth with the maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t was hell. How does one wrap their thinking around it? You may have years to live, or a much shorter time. Her oncologist didn’t mention any of this to us about the radiology suspecting Mets. Which we understand. It was the holidays, nothing was written in stone, so why get all worked up over something that could very well be nothing at all. Bobbi told her she wouldn’t pursue future treatments either way so that might have played a role too.

It certainly lead us to some serious discussions between us and family. At first we were a little dumbfounded and shocked that the word “Mets” was used, as well as learning one spot was growing. Do we keep the news to ourselves and just deal with it without concerning loved ones and friends? Why get everyone worked up for no reason if it turns out to be nothing?

I felt, at first, that we should have another scan in 3 months, instead of 6, so we’d have more solid information. If it was going to be a long period of thinking the worse, then it might be better to know ASAP. At least then we’d know exactly how to position things in our head. Bobbi agreed, though preferred to have it checked after 6 months.

I agreed. I always said that whatever her wishes are they would come first. So that’s where we stand on things at the moment. In May she’ll have another scan and we’ll go from there.

Depression started to sink in. Sleepless nights, every thought consumed with WTF?

Then it seemed like a real change took place. We really started to feel blessed with where things are. We had a super nice holiday. And our interaction feels a lot like when we first met 25 some years ago. Loving and laughing a lot and not spending time concentrating on the maybe this or maybe that. Bobbi never had time to bake or cook before, as a cardiac surgical nurse there were long hours and on call times. Now, she’s doing both and whipping out some wonderful meals! We sit at the kitchen table more, together, and really are enjoying each and every day.

Of course we’re concerned if it’s metastatic. But all the worry in the world isn’t going to change the outcome. Life comes at you full speed and is pretty raw and in your face at times. You wonder how your going to deal with it, worry, and it takes away the time you could be trying to enjoy whatever time life is lived. We are at that point. When I was going through all my heart procedures (close to 30 surgeries) it was like a bad dream. Then Bobbi was diagnosed with cancer. Here we were, not having a dime to our name, having our savings evaporated from bills, no home, and totally emotionally and physically beat down. I wasn’t going to suddenly get better and to top it off placed on medical palliative care.

Nobody knows what their tomorrow’s hold. Today, we have a beautiful apartment, everything we need in it, a good car, and are closer than we’ve ever been as a couple. Our kids and grandchildren are healthy (with a new grandchild on the way!) and we’re alive. We are not going to let our appreciation for the good become weighed down by the tough. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a boat load of tough situations. It took every dime to eventually have this beautiful woman ring the bell at her last chemotherapy treatment. We wouldn’t had made it that far without the love and support of our family and friends. The “you are loved” gathering came out of no where and truly helped save her life! Thousands of miles were traveled. Getting a Bobbi to that finish line with the chemo was a mission that there was no compromise on. Today we are thankful for seeing the sun rise in the morning and settle in the evening. We live on about $60 a week once insurances, bills, and medicine co-pays are done. Often wondering how we’re going to find quarters to do laundry. But somehow, today, we manage. Is it stressful? You bet you it is. But we try and put things in perspective. We deal with 24-hours at a time. That’s it. When either of us have a rough day physically we say we can get through today. That’s all we worry about. Period. Would it be nice to be able to plan a trip to see the kids, or see family in lower Michigan, yes. But you can’t squeeze water from a rock and reality is reality. We don’t mope around and have a pity party. We have life and it’s working today! We’ve been doing some drawing and watercolor artwork and really have been enjoying it. Bobbi mentioned to me the other day that she finally feels like she’s retired and it was a long time in coming! Hair is coming back nicely. She is by far one of the best things my life has ever experienced! I look back the last 25 years and just smile at all the things we’ve shared. Motorcycle adventures, children, trips, mostly just enjoying the other’s company.

Bobbi would probably share in this update but is soundly sleeping comfortably. Right now it’s 4:15am, have stayed up all night writing this and taking in the quietness. Have earplugs in so I don’t hear the pumping of the darn oxygen machine, cause that’ll drive you nuts more than anything else, and a cup of coffee.

Today, or I should say yesterday, was a good day! Binge watching seasons of Game of Thrones for the 4th time, and slowly recovering from the missed field goal the Bears screwed up last Sunday in the playoffs! What’s helped a lot is turning off the round the clock world news! Seeing the government on this “shutdown” is a head scratcher. The less fortunate lives are impacted the most, as always, but nothing we can do about it. Maybe someday the politicians will work for the people… ya right, seriously when has it ever been any different? The love of family and friends have continued to pour in! The area up here in Upper Michigan is really starting to feel like home for me. We miss Wisconsin terribly but I’m so glad that Bobbi is close to her mother and siblings. I’ve grown to love them like my own. Each of them are special in their own unique ways.

Well, enough with this book! Just wanted to update everyone and let them know we are still fighting the good fight and happy to be alive. I received a very special book from Cinneidi, our 16-year-old granddaughter, a few weeks ago. She had different pictures of us made into a book and it’s now one of my most prized possessions. Kids are doing great! Sean and Jen doing an amazing job with Cinneidi and Aiden, and working hard, reconnected with Adam and Julie to learn their soon going to have a son, Shay went scuba diving on the east coast of Australia, and we’re simply living life on life’s terms. Thank you for the read!

The Bell

October 6, 2018

Bobbi- What a 15 month whirlwind this has been. Chemo Abraxane, Gemzar, hair loss, no eyebrows, eyelashes, completely stripped of recognition. The only control I had was to shave my head when it was literally coming out in clumps. I remember walking from the bed to the kitchen and not sure if I would make it to the nearest chair. Having to sit on the floor of the shower because of not being strong enough to stand. My first thoughts when told I had pancreatic cancer were I will not be around in 6 months, a deadly diagnosis. How I felt then I did not care if I had a time limit on life. When on the brink the human spirit seems to dig deep within to survive. There was a chance that chemo would shrink my tumor and a Whipple surgery would be possible. How can one embrace a huge surgical procedure? I questioned if this would even occur. Next scan liver spots now facing possible metastatic disease, the lifeline was shorter. At time of biopsy spots are gone. WTH . More chemo. I have literally gone through health hell. When told Chemo indefinitely I was done, no more. The day after my decision the surgeon called, said scans were reviewed and I was a candidate for surgery. How would I endure this when I could barely stand? I trained starting with baby steps. Then I was walking a mile, at times having to sit on the side of the road to make it back. I had surgery March 27th and was out of the hospital March 30th. Was I ready to leave the hospital? I put on a warriors face and said I can and will do this, though was unsure. I walked and never stopped. One month after surgery I rode a radiation bus daily for 30 trips along with chemo, with my brother Steve fighting his cancer battle. That period of time we grew even closer. His wife Debbie always with encouraging love.

After my first chemo and radiation treatment, after the surgery, was spent in a motel getting sick for 12 hours. Probably should have gone to the hospital but was seeing doctor next day anyway. I was told I would have 4 more cycles of single agent chemo after chemo radiation was complete. Finally had about an inch of hair and lost it twice so I guess three times the charm. Remember pulling at my hair on day 14 and was shocked when none fell out. Maybe I will luck out this time. By this point the once revered hair mattered little. Never thought I would be writing at this point. Didn’t expect to make it through the ordeal but am so looking forward to my final chemo. Ring the bell. I did not fight alone there are too many champions behind me. My sister Lori and husband Jim came to many appointments and comforted me more times than can be counted. Remember being at her house when I was extremely ill lying in bed together, just being sisters. Our son Sean and wife Jen, who made many trips from Wisconsin with the grandkids were a HUGE motivation. Weekly messages with positive inspiring words from Jens Mother helped. Sharing calls with Shay, our Daughter halfway across the world going to school was a blessing.

My sister Chrissy always called after each treatment meant so much. Visits with brother Mike kept me cheerful and laughing. Meeting with my mother each week, with some really deep talks kept me grounded and feeling positive. All the friends in Wausau were in my corner! The doctors, nurses, social workers, financial assistant coordinator, the nutritionist who provided me with protein drinks and vitamins. The Hope Lodge in Grand Rapids was amazing, along with Surgeon Dr. Jill Onesti. Oncologist Dr. Elena Copolla, Becky Tom NP, and Dr. Boike, Andra, Wendy, from Karmanos were true miracle workers! I would have perished without everyone’s help. When humanity seems to be at all time lows there are people out there.

And of course Mike, my husband. Whose wise words of “worry does not change outcomes” will always stick in my mind when I get too far into the future with it. He was my trainer and coach. And he always told others we were oath keepers not caretakers when the word was brought up. We battled his serious health issues for 7 years, with me doing the same. Guess we do things big at our house, cancer and heart disease. Know his endurance was limited but he made meals, shopped, laundry, shaved my head (and his own), and many sleepless nights looking over me while I slept. Drove 180 miles once a week for over a year. Called hospitals, doctors, loved me, massaged my aching muscles and bones, the list goes on.

I just know today I am here and will spend my remaining days appreciating life. It is not what you have but who you have in your lives. I certainly didn’t fight this alone.

October 11th, 2018

The day finally arrived. We were in Petoskey just a couple days ago, I was the speaker at a survivors meeting, and was unsure what to share. I knew it was a good sign to be speaking at such a meeting. It really dawned on me that I was in fact now a survivor! I still had one more treatment and it’s all I could think about! And today was the day! Lori and Jim met us there, I had the first nurse I started out with, Melissa, and in the exact same chair and room of the first chemo treatment. After the treatment it felt like a ton of weight was lifted off my shoulders. There were many hugs, and when I rang the bell joy never felt before went through my body! We celebrated by going out to a wonderful deli. It feels so good to be alive.

The ride here was stormy and windy. The ride back the same until a giant rainbow appeared the closer we got to home. It was an amazing sight. The timing of it was like an out of the body experience.

There will still be future scans and doctor appointments. No big deal. Today was a good day, no… it was a great day!

October 9th, 2018

Mike- Bobbi spoke at a survivors group today, sharing her story. Many had tears. From barely being able to walk last Christmas to the woman today is a total transformation. So many thanks to everyone! During the talk it sunk in that we were very close to the end of this journey. I was so proud of her using her story to now helping others with their journey.

October 11th, 2018

Seeing Bobbi ring the bell today, having completed all treatments, was an unexplainable feeling. What a long 15 months it’s been. Over 10,000 miles traveled and we are finally done. Lori and Jim met us at the infusion center which was extra nice. Lori presented her with beautiful flowers and the entire experience felt surreal. When we arrived home, and alone we hugged and tears rolled down both our cheeks. Her writings did an excellent job sharing what took place. Glad we have a happy ending. So very proud of her. So grateful for this new chapter. So appreciative for all who have stood by our side with compassion and love. Thank you. Thank you Karmanos!

Today I’am a survivor! To all reading this I hope this inspires you in your battles. The worse odds and statistics matter little. Fight like you’ve never have before and lean on the lives around you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, just get through the one second, minute, hour, and the day you are in.