Don’t Drop The Rose’

Seen The Guess Who last week. Bobbi’s mom surprised us with two tickets for a night out. A year ago, to the day, Bobbi was discharged from the hospital after undergoing her Whipple surgery. After the concert the car had to be pulled out of the mud by a tow truck though! The right side of the front wheel was parked on grass, and it sank about 4 inches into the soft wet ground. Being a front wheel drive car it only took a couple spins of the tire and there it sat. What can you do? Shit happens. Made little sense to get worked up and upset. It wouldn’t have suddenly lifted the car and float it over two inches. Was a good concert and felt good to get out. The temps here in the Soo finally hit 60 so that’s a reason to celebrate on its own. Bobbi has spent the last few weeks getting her seedling started, and garden area set up. Looking forward to some calm evenings simply enjoying peaceful nights and hearing the freighter horns passing through the Locks. It was one long winter. Nice to have it in the rearview mirror. Though now dodging the pot holes in the road is an adventure. Had great news on the birth of a new Grandson, Jordan Everett Stouffer. Adam and Julie’s world suddenly changed on April 4th. Really happy for them. Believe everyone should experience the love that bringing a child into this world together brings. Wishing the world was a kinder and more peaceful place right now, some interesting times we live in. You really do have to live one day at a time. Turning off cable news and all the talking heads on TV is huge. 

Bobbi and I have talked a lot on the next round of her medical scans and follow-up appointment. She’s decided to not go through with them. She’s said realistically what can be done if the news wasn’t good? Her doctor told her endless treatments of chemotherapy for palliative care if things turn south. The last paperwork from radiology said that spots on her lungs were suspicious for Mets and should me monitored. First reaction was disbelief. Really? After all this? “Might be, could be, believe so…” Have heard it before to only become concerned and stressed of what the future held for false readings. Not going to go there this time. She told her doctor that she wasn’t going to live her life based on one scan after another. If anything could be done in helping her great, but playing whack a mole wasn’t going to be the road she was going to travel. Many assumed after the surgery, radiation, chemo, ringing the bell, that she was “cured”. We knew that wasn’t the case. It’s easy to confuse being done with a set of procedures as the illness being beat. She had exhausted all medical procedures that could be done. She’s in a really good space not thinking nonstop about whether its Mets or isn’t and accepting today for what it is. The good, the bad, an the ugly. Really, all we could learn from this point on is bad news. These are some heavy issues discussed. I support her decision 100%. I did the same with my situation. Have everything available to us that the hospitals can provide. Bobbi said she didn’t need a ton of tests, monitors, needle pricks, to tell us what she already knows. If each of us are happy with today, why enter into different waters? We believe we’re going to continue to beat the odds and so called statistics. Chemotherapy indefinitely would destroy the quality of the life Bobbi is determined to live. Whether its a year or ten years. Ask her how she’s doing and your going to get thumbs up and a smile. She is one tough woman. Yet a hug and understanding with no words exchanged go a long ways. In addition to a few pep talks now and then. She knows what’s going on and is facing things like a warrior. Its hard to read either of us because we tend to put on our best face during the worst times. She’s not giving up or quitting. She’s deciding what’s best for her and what her wishes are. We are looking forward to many things the next few months.

This experience has certainly opened our eyes to a lot of things. The people in our lives are keeping the wheels on the wagon going. Emotions really have to be kept in check. These are tough times for millions of people. I’m all for freedom, baseball and apple pie but a majority of people are living from paycheck to paycheck. You just have to keep on pushing forward though. Have your priorities on the things that matter most in order. It’s a shame what’s happening to families, friends, neighbors when hardships hit. The loss of a job, falling ill, many are quickly drained of lifesavings and poisoned with promises of false hope. Insurance and the price of medicine is a joke and should be a crime. Insurance companies decide life an death decisions that should be left to doctors. I could go on and on. Is there bitterness and anger? Yes, a lot. But so what. It doesn’t change anything. Now the politicians will again start their rants on how “they” will change the system. The system won’t change as long as big money and power are calling the shots. Power doesn’t conceded power too often so not holding our breath on that one. Many live on the hope each day that an accident or illness is avoided. Insurance is simply a coupon. Our most positive experiences have been dealing with the workers on the frontline of healthcare. Most the doctors, nurses, support workers have been a huge blessing. Is it embarrassing? Sure, at times, it sucks telling bill collectors they’ll get what we can give them and no more. I tell them their name is put in a hat and who gets their name pulled out gets a bit. If you call 40 times a day your name won’t even be put in the hat. They could careless about a family already having to skip meals, cut medications, or both. Or their car flashing “service engine soon” is a panic light. Won’t even get started about the telemarketers! A lot of times, out of nowhere, loved ones and friends have changed what seemed like dire circumstances in our world that we had no clue how we’d deal with them. We’ve had to make some tough choices between different things but you do the best you can with what you have. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about. As many have heard, It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about figuring out how to get back up. That really is what defines a persons character. I’ve witness some unbelievable courage and strength from the woman I’m blessed to call my wife and share our world together. I’ve really grown closer to her family the last few years and it feels good.

Traveling long distances is a thing of the past, physically and financially. There are good days and bad days (not going to get into all that). You make adjustments. You don’t let a bad day or moment define you. What use to really bother Bobbi was hearing “your looking good” (after having just lost 5 pounds and not sleeping for 2 days). She understands it now. Compared to past pictures and videos being on deaths doorstep it’s certainly true. She takes it as the compliment its meant to be. Would you rather hear “man, you really look like crap today”? Do the best you can, tackle each day with faith, wear your chains with grace, and believe you will get through whatever life throws at you. Not an easy chore at times. It’s about attitude and being unafraid to tell your challenge “screw you, not today”! And before you know it you go to bed and start the process all over again. The impacts of our family and friends is what heals the heart the most! A short message, a call, card, go a long way. Allow yourself, and loved ones, the time and space to comprehend everything. There is grief, anger, sorrow, victories, life is a rollercoaster. Know when your on calm waters because you can be assured your boat is going to take on water at some point. 

And finally, if you know someone battling a health issue, a loved one, friend, don’t feel sorry for them or define them by their circumstance. Simply love them and know each person is a temporary gift in each others life. Don’t let petty gripes turn into long drawn out battles. Don’t let the fruit rotten before its picked and we heard from someone important to us not to drop the roses that come your way. Look for the good in others and speak up for the ones who have no voice. This is our last posting so thanks having followed and encouraging us. Hoping something will help another when their boat takes on water.

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!

Happy Holidays!

It’s been close to two months since I rang the bell after my last chemo. Three weeks ago I had another scan and things looked promising. They hesitate to tell a person they are cancer free, but I’m believing so. On the follow up appointment with the Doctor a week later we discussed how often people follow up with scans and appointments after chemo. Some 3 months, some six months. I chose the six month. I can’t live my life living and worrying scan to scan. If things turn south then it is what it is. All the worry in the world won’t change anything. It concerned the Doctor and Mike some but they each get it. Everything that can be done medically has been completed. Next week I’m having the port taken out. Feeling good and getting stronger each day. Taking daily walks with my mother and enjoying this a lot. Getting prepared for the holidays and glad I’m around for it! Wasn’t too sure about it a year ago. After going through an experience like this each holiday is appreciated more. We have our tree and lights up outside, they look really pretty.

“Faces and voices of cancer” organization want to do a interview on the 6th, in a couple days, and I’m glad to be able to help others fighting their battle with my story. I believe hope comes in many forms and if it’ll help another with that then mission accomplished.

Hoping everyone has a nice Christmas and great new year! We have lots of snow here in Upper Michigan, even built a small snowman on Saturday. Got a hat and scarf for it, just need a bit more snow, which I’m sure we’ll get. Not really sure what our Christmas Day plans are, but have awhile yet to plan. Just very grateful for life and being here for it!

Mike-Wishing the same to everyone in having a great holiday season! My gratefulness to everyone is hard to put into words. My admiration towards Bobbi is beyond words as well! Seeing her getting stronger each day is calming. Knowing the scan was good, and blood work, very assuring. What a wild ride it was. Seems so surreal now. I knew she’d be a monarch again, beautiful and shining. But it certainly took a serious toll on her. She fought Twisty and decimated it. Happy that she’s decided to have her port taken out. Doesn’t need a reminder what yesterday’s battles were. We’ll never forget them that’s for sure!

Thank you again to everyone! Have a Merry Christmas and a peaceful new year. Never give up your fight in life, no matter what the odds and so called “statistics” are! Everyone is unique and gifted in some way.

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.

One Year Ago Today

A picture Cinneidi brought up on visit! Thank you!

Hey cancer… SCREW YOU! One year ago today I learned you were in my pancreas. You took my hair, parts of my stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, small intestine (Whipple). We battled. 26 rounds of chemo, and 30 radiation treatments, I’m still standing! You tried to break me, bury me, and destroy me. Not today you monster!

6 chemo treatments to go and the bell at the infusion center will ring!

We haven’t posted for awhile because of tunnel vision on the finish line. I certainly didn’t fight this alone! Family, friends, doctors, nurses, 3 different hospitals, and answered prayers battled this storm with me! Thank you!

Mike –

Yes indeed, one year ago today we learned that Bobbi has cancer. Neither knew what was to come or to be expected. The fight is still on, we’re not going to lift our foot off its neck for one second. What a year. Strange how three words ‘you have cancer’, that took 3 seconds, can change a life so quickly!

A month ago we were sitting at Lori and Jim’s cabin in Detour and talking about how nice of a summer its been. Out of the blue Bobbi says “Best summer ever!” Everyone there was silent for a second. How in the world could this be the best ever for her? We talked about it and she shared because she was still alive and the lens she sees through, with cancer, changed her perception on life. Little things meant more. She’s always found the silver lining in difficult situations but it’s more than that. I’ve witnessed her taking this fight on and never known a stronger person in my entire life. This last month seeing the kids coming up here was a real blessing and exactly what she needed.

Awhile back someone asked me about caregiving. I was like WTF? We don’t use that word. We call it ‘oath keeping’. When we married our vows contained through sickness and health… never once has it been caregiving. With each having our health challenges both have been oath keepers. You don’t just stick around during the good times and hit the road during the tough. What kind of marriage would that be? Nobody ever promised life would be fair and easy. You just have to suit up and swing away. You win some, you lose some, and you keep fighting. Today we’ve got this!

Radiation Treatments Completed

A picture Bobbi painted of a fairy with watercolors after she lost her hair last year. It’s grown into what she imagined it to look like. 

Today Bobbi completed her 30th radiation treatment. Man, there is simply no words that can describe my admiration to this woman. From the start, the bleakest day’s, to now crossing over a milestone that’s deciding everything. It was a long-haul, 6,000 miles! And she did it with her head held high, a sense of humor, and uncompromising attitude of screw you cancer. Knowing the odds, not being sure if she would see Christmas or spring. I am thankful to family and friends to catch her when she needed it, all being proud and concerned. Her friends and family have been unbelievable from the start. The party in Wausau last year opened her eyes to all the love and support that others have for her. Kindness, having others back at times, returned ten fold to her a time she needed most. The love from direct family made her smile during the darkness days in many ways. Sean and kids visiting more, staying at hospital during Whipple, her siblings love going to chemotherapy with her, all made a difference. Nobody was sure of anything at one time.

I’ve notice small but significant things that show me her old cocoon is really shedding. We were out playing frisbee the other day and it reminded doing so before all this. Last weekend there was a big get together for her sister Lori’s birthday at their cabin in DeTour. Bobbi arranged everyone to meet a few miles away so we could drive there and surprise her. Mike, Bobbi’s brother and she escorted everyone in there on the back of Mikes motorcycle. Driving the car behind her and seeing this brought back so many memories of our days flying in the wind. Seeing her smile, hands out stretched like a bird, told me she was on a natural high. Was great seeing her and Mike leaving the way. She also had a great week with her sister Chris. After the party her mother Betty took a fall and shattered her shoulder. After just getting over a hip replacement stairs can be a bit of a challenge and proved to be. We were all very fortunate to have been there when it happened. She’s 84 years old and one tough woman! Was hard to witness.

She met other cancer patients at the hospital at 8:15 every morning. Didn’t miss a day. The drive to Petoskey proceeded. It did her a world of good to connect with others fighting this unforgiving foe. A lot of hours and miles spent bonding. She said none of then talked about cancer. Each day someone brought a snack and they plowed ahead to get treated. She made some lifetime new friends. Her doing this with her younger brother Steve has been good for both of them.So proud of her. That page is now officially turned as of today, and we have sometime to enjoy part of the summer. Her hair is returning and is so soft and pretty. Has curls in it! She looks very attractive. It so nice to see her with the sparkle returning to her eyes.

4 more months of weekly chemotherapy after a few weeks off. It’s a lot. It won’t be easy, but when has it ever? I’m starting to see news signs of change and it’s beautiful. The 4 months going to Karmanos and she will be ringing the bell hanging on the wall there. Surrounded with the many who work there, and get treatment there. Their like family now. Always with a kind smile and words. They share pictures of their kinds and humor is always present. There are very serious moments of course, it is a hospital, but it’s like Norm walking into Cheers. Everyone is happy to see her. I stay back in the woodwork and just watch. Taking everything in.

It was time for a positive post. Cancer is terrible. It’s so far from being black in white. A lot of blurred lines. Yet you push on, knowing some days will suck. I often didn’t know what to say. Simply get her pillow, and the blanket Cinneidi made her and cuddle, knowing it would bring needed sleep to her. Often not saying anything. It’s great being able to gentle rub her hair again and knowing she’s sleeping.

A page has been turned. Eyes are wide open to life. We may never know if she is officially cancer free, doctors are hesitant to declare those words, but she is definitely a survivor. Yesterday is over for all of us! Be it good, bad, or just a lot of work. Now passed. Today is new. People often wonder if they’ll get through something. They can. Maybe not in leaps and bounds, sometimes you have to crawl through it, but you can. There are many distractions each day that try to rob and blind you from the good. We push ourselves, are hard on ourselves. We jump from one project to another. Which is good to a certain point. Just don’t let the years add up wishing for things you already have.

A Challenging Time

The last month of daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy has really taken a toll on Bobbi. A thousand miles a week where each day becomes longer and more draining. There isn’t a whole lot of joy taking place. This is really whipping her out. She calls it a night about 7:30 and begins the same preparations in the morning. She hasn’t had a decent night sleep since the surgery, getting up 3 to 4 times throughout for the bathroom.

It’s tough as hell to watch. She puts on a brave face and cheerful persona with others but I see the toll it’s taking. She shares with me how difficult this experience is. Will be so glad when September approaches. Our life consists of hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, needles, and highway signs. It’s hard trying to keep her spirits up when I’m angry having the one I love struggling. We thought after the Whipple we’d be done with the degree of hardship, but there just doesn’t seem to be an end to them. Bobbi has always done things at 100mph, and gets frustrated with herself after growing tired 5 minutes into a chore. Going on a year soon, and hopefully will turn the page on this chapter. Now mouth sores are developing. Recently had lab work done so hopefully they look alright.

Nobody promised life would be easy and fair, all of us have our mountains to climb. But damn! This is a tough cancer. She’s beating it but it’s taking everything she’s got and then some. Haven’t written in awhile, just going through the motions of living life. Thankful for family and friends love and support. We do find time to laugh and love, but there is an underlying struggle taking place that words really can’t describe. Nights of staying up thinking in the dark, where it’s quiet and calm, I try to make sense of things. Just have to keep pushing ahead. One more day, one more treatment, one more doctor.

Not really sure what to write. Numb from everything. I want her to get better so badly. Days of yesterday’s seem so far away. Having to learn how to live life at the moment is important. You really can’t get too far ahead with plans because we don’t know how she’ll be feeling when something is.

May 18th, 2018

Bobbi – Friday morning and it’s 5:00am, been up 2 hours already. Gotta love the pre-chemo steroid effect. Riding the radiation van has been interesting. The War Memorial Hospital here has a volunteer program where different drivers take people here from the Soo down to Petoskey for radiation. My younger brother Steve is receiving radiation too so the van makes a quick stop near Pickford to pick him up. Certainly feels surreal. We were born on the same day, three years a part, and now each are challenged with cancer.

Wednesday we had a quick ride to Petoskey, all green lights. Got to the hospital and when the elevator doors opened five of us had a quick stride so we could return sooner. I almost chuckled out loud… cancer peeps are a strange breed are we really jogging to get radiated? Thursday is chemo day as well. You know when they wear thick gloves, gowns, and mask and your IV infusion comes in a biohazard bag they’re not exactly sprinkling you with fairy dust. Will get a break from both for 2 weeks then it’ll be the home stretch. 4 additional months of chemo and done, at least that’s the plan. I really don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this if plans change.

May 30, 2018

These times seems endless. Each day that goes by is taking its toll. Just have to get through it I keep telling myself. Both of us keep battling. He rarely mentions his heart issues, is a good bluffer, but takes all of it in stride. Our primary family doctor is moving so we’ll be looking for another at the end of June. The third one since we’ve been up here. Really like the Doctor we have but she is moving to Grand Rapids.

Cancer has literally taken me to the doorstep of death. The great robbery, hair, body and often times strength. At one point I was so ill my breath was cold, my body emaciated. Yet somewhere in the depths of illness is a courage to forge forward. I refuse to surrender, a smile is contagious. Try it, it costs nothing. 10 more radiation treatments to go 20 completed. 5 of 6 chemo treatments done this cycle, for a total of 17 since last year. 28 total sessions by the time things are supposedly finished. Certainly feeling the effects. Successful Whipple surgery didn’t come free of side-effects. Up every morning at 3:00am using the restroom for the next 4 hours. Trying to tweak pancreatic enzymes, diet and still learning what’s tolerable. Sure didn’t sign up for this but we play the deck we are dealt. Days are long and challenging. Mike said give yourself permission to rest, I know he is right but it is foreign.

At least the weather is nice and my flowers are coming to life. Haven’t had much time to enjoy them but it’s pleasant when we sit out and relax. Just feeling so tired and whipped out all the time. Looking forward to seeing the kids this summer. Gotta keep on keeping on! Tomorrow is a chemo day so up early and on the road.

Tattoo

Thought it was time to update family and friends on the next set of plans in Bobbi’s battle. On April 25 we met with her oncologist Dr. C, and in Petoskey, at Karmanos. She was surprised to see her doing so well after the Whipple procedure close to 4 weeks ago. It was nice visiting with the team of nurses, social worker, all who’ve become friends. Bobbi was her positive and cheerful self. We anxiously waited to see what was coming next.

It was decided that it’d be best for her to undergo 6 weeks of daily radiation and chemotherapy once a a week, then 4 months of additional chemo to follow. We spent the night in Petoskey because we had to meet with the radiology professionals early in the morning. Karmanos is an amazing place to have this done. The social worker there presented us with a voucher for a hotel stay that night.

When we met with her radiology doctor he explained the process. Bobbi drank contrast dye, had a CAT scan, and the areas where it was to be administered was tattooed with three separate dots. One on each side of her midsection and one in the center. Appointments were set up to start this coming Thursday.

Twisty, the tumor in her pancreas was destroyed. But it was adhered to her portal vein. Cancer cells left on the portal vein was confirmed by pathology, which is why they are going to aggressively continue treatments.

Bobbi – “Appointments back to back. Wed met with Dr. Coppola to map out my future chemo. 6 weeks radiation with reduced strength Gemzar 1 week x3 then week off with radiation mon-fri. Then 4 cycles gemzar full strength. Well so much for an optimistic 2 months chemo, but now it’ll take us to probably Labor Day. When does it flipping end? Where does the human spirit find the energy to keep going? The well is pretty damn deep and if I hollered down it an echo would surely sound. Thursday I met my radiation oncologist, very nice doctor. Kind and thorough, making sure our concerns were addressed. Pretty sure he is about Sean’s age or younger. After meeting was given contrast dye to drink and IV access for more contrast then off to CT to get my dot tattoos marking the spots for radiation. Hmmm a permanent reminder of my cancer journey, like I needed anything in permanent ink to remind me that I have cancer. I had to bite my lip! They stung!

The next six weeks ought to be interesting. We’ll be riding the Road to Recovery bus, a program the War Memorial Hospital has here in the Soo, with others getting radiation. It leaves each morning and arrives back later in the afternoon.

Mike shared with me a good insight in looking at all this coming up, because it’s discouraging to now have to endure the upcoming daily radiation, and months more of chemo. It’s depressing. He compared the start of this new journey as the last one. When there is a major storm you look at outside and still the destruction taking place and question how in the heck your going to survive it, rebuild, endure. You wonder where your going to find the energy and positive attitude it’s going to take to get through it. Yet, when you venture out after, take things one day at a time, things slowly look better. Not at once, not without hardship, but you survive. Going into the first rounds of chemo, the Whipple, felt like this. There were many WTF moments! It’s taking awhile for my digestive system to heal. I’m on a medication named Creon to help the pancreas break down food better. What type of foods that can be handled is still a hit or miss type of thing.

Thought after the Whipple there’d be less of a battle. Doctor C said she wasn’t going to BS me in saying this would be easy. And we know it won’t. Yet I know I’m going to beat this. Didn’t know how or when in the beginning, but we did. Don’t know how or when we will now, but know we will! It just gets so exhausting digging deep and finding the energy it takes to fight this cancer. We talk a lot, he gives me pep talks when down. I know it’s been difficult on him emotionally and physically but he keeps on going and is the glue of this crazy experience. Everyone’s support and love has played an important part. I’m glad he stayed on me about trying to write what feelings are taking place. It’s helped a lot. Doing good and have to remember we’re only 4 weeks out of surgery. Today was spent digging in my garden and getting hands dirty. A place where I forget about what’s taking place. Wasn’t sure if there’d be a garden this year some months back! Onward we go, Thursday chemo and first radiation treatment. Adds up to about 7500 miles of traveling the next 5 months. Glad it’s not winter!

While we drove to see brother Steve on Sunday we seen hundreds of Sand Hill Crane birds in a farmers field. It was amazing. When different wildlife cross our path I often look up the message to see what they symbolize. This is what was written – “Here in the center of the storm you can see the vortex surrounding you, the vortex is the field of your unharnessed emotions, fears, pain and stored trauma where you can feel lost and overwhelmed and not know how to find your way out.  At the core of all storms is the eye, it is where you see the light has broken through the clouds, this is where the calm waters give safety.  It is here that you have perfect clarity and can see the overriding power of your emotions surrounding you.”

Kind of feels this way right now. A few months off chemo has brought a lot of clarity to everything. After all this the butterfly will soar!”