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!

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.