I can’t believe it has been a month since my last post. Where is the time going? Is it really Christmas in 5 days?
November 8, 2013 – One Year Anniversary
So much goes through my mind when I think back to the day I was told I had cancer. That first week is forever etched into my brain. I remember vividly arriving to get my colonoscopy and being totally freaked out by the procedure I was about to endure. Funny thing is the worst part was over by the time I arrived for the actual procedure. If you are delaying your colonoscopy because it just seems like a horrible experience then delay no more it really is not that big of a deal and can save your life, what’s not to like about that. The nurse was awesome. She talked me through the whole procedure. Told me about her own procedure and made me feel well at least a little less stressed. I remember thinking to myself that the procedure seemed to go really quick well that’s what happens when they can’t get the scope past the tumor about to completely block off your colon. I was laying in the bed and the doctor walked in with a very serious look on his face. He got straight to the point and said you have cancer. I was in total shock. I didn’t know how to respond, what to ask, what to say or what to do. My friend Megan was supposed to pick me up from the procedure because Jon was picking up the girls. I let Megan know the prognosis and attempted several times to call Jon. He of course thinking I was just calling to tell him all went well wasn’t picking up his phone. I began to panic a bit because I needed him at the doctor with me immediately. Finally, I sent him a text telling him I had cancer. Great way to break the news but I needed an immediate response. Once Jon arrived, we were handed a piece of paper with three things written on it: go to pacific laboratories and get a blood draw immediately, tomorrow at 10:20 am you have a CT scheduled at cottage imaging and at 1:30 pm an appointment with Dr. Lee, a surgeon. My head was spinning. I knew right then that things were not looking good but it wasn’t until 2pm the next day, November 9, 2012, that I received the most devastating news of my life. Stage IV, metastasis in my liver and lymph nodes and almost complete blockage of my colon. What the Fuck! I remember sitting on the exam table as the doctor was talking about who knows what until I finally said so what did the CT say, she was obviously figuring out how she was going to tell me the news. I just sat there dumbfounded. How could this be? When I heard her say Stage IV I was like wait isn’t that the worst you can get? How can that be? I ate decent. I exercised all the time. Just turned 40 and they don’t even recommend colonoscopies till you are 50. Career in full swing and most importantly my family and my two beautiful girls. How could this be happening? Dr. Lee began to tell me that at this point there really were no options but to do surgery due to the size of the tumor and the massive blockage. Usually, chemo would be the first line of action but that would have to wait. She wanted to schedule surgery for Monday. I was like Monday what about right now, what about tomorrow. I had been fasting since Wednesday so I was prepped and ready for surgery. She looked at me like maybe I was a little crazy but hell you just told me I need surgery ASAP, I’ve been told by others that you are a great surgeon so lets get this show on the road. Jon and I sat and waited to see if an OR could be booked for Saturday. At this point it was almost as if I was having an out of body experience. I had cried a little bit but it wasn’t until I walked out of the office that I just started sobbing, uncontrollably sobbing, I sat in the car and my body was shaking, I couldn’t stop. Jon began making phone calls and then sat in the car and asked what are we going to do? At that point I had no answers. I went in for surgery on Saturday, November 10, 2012. It was weird I was not scared. I was more like lets get this show on the road and get this shit out. I remember waking up in my hospital room and clearly knowing what I had to do. Clearly knowing I was in for the journey of my lifetime, a journey that would take me places I never thought possible, a journey that would take me to some very dark places, a journey that would make me a better person, a journey that would open me up to so many possibilities, a journey that would impact others more than I ever imagined and a journey that would teach me what life truly is about.
At this point you might be wondering okay, we know all this but what is going on now. Well, I had my first post operative scan and although the surgeon thought he got all the cancer this would be the first real test of whether anything was left behind. I was pretty confident that the scan results would be good but there was still that little part of me that thought what if there is more, what if they missed something, I was nervous. I headed over to Nuclear Medicine and got ready for it. Luckily my appointment was early in the morning so the fasting was easy and I was hopeful I might just hear some preliminary results by the end of the day. The waiting sucks and the scan was on a Friday so I knew if I didn’t hear anything by Friday afternoon I would be on pins and needles all weekend. As soon as I left I emailed Dr. Woliver to let him know the scan had been done and to look out for the results. At 12:57 pm I received an email from Dr. Woliver with the following information:
Re: Scan – (Great) Hello Team Tara, The preliminary results are great! NO areas of uptake worrisome for cancer anywhere!
I couldn’t believe it. I needed to know exactly what that meant. It means no tumors detected. It means no indication of cancer anywhere. It means I am currently disease free as far as we can tell. They of course don’t know if there is disease on a microscopic level which is why unfortunately I will be continuing chemo indefinitely. My doctor would like me to continue on my current regimen for at least a year but I’m going to have to do some serious soul searching and seeking out of many different opinions on both the western and eastern front before I decide on the length of Phase 2 of Chemo. It’s interesting because they really don’t know what to do with me. They never thought I would respond so phenomenally to the chemotherapy. There is not a definitive answer to what Phase 2 should like. They never thought I would become a surgical candidate and here I am disease free one year later. Pretty much a miracle! This doesn’t mean I’m in remission. My doctor says remission will come when I am disease and treatment free. I of course can’t wait for that day but for now I couldn’t have received any bigger or better gift than this. I am truly blessed in so many ways.
I started chemo back up on November 19th. I’m calling it Phase 2. I just had my second round on December 10th and so far so good. My labs look great. My CEA number is less than .5 which is awesome! I can feel my energy is down a bit but other than that I have to say I’m feeling pretty darn good. My next infusion will be on January 2, 2014. I still can’t believe it is almost the new year. 2014 is going to be an incredible year.
This year we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving. Jon had surgery on his foot the Friday before Thanksgiving and we decided a no travel holiday is just what the doctor ordered. It turned out that a few other families also decided to stay home so we all got together and had the most wonderful day. The plan was to head down to Shoreline Park at 12pm for football, soccer and appetizers then dinner around 4pm down at the park as well. It was a good plan at the time but was derailed when the wind picked up and it got cold. We realized dinner at the park wasn’t going to be so fun. We had 26 people so we needed a space to accommodate all and as many of you know the houses on the mesa aren’t known for being spacious. As luck would have it one of the families is having their home remodeled and the family room had been framed, roofed and insulated so we decided it would be the perfect place for dinner. The guys headed up and literally took down the wall separating the kitchen from the remodeling going on. We set the tables up, pulled chairs from all of our houses, and watched Jenny do her design magic on the room.
It was perfect. The food was amazing. The company even better. The desserts, well I made them and I have to say they were awesome. If you know me, you know I love to bake and last year with all the craziness going on I didn’t get to bake much so this holiday season I’m packing it all in. I made a rum cake, snowball cookies, carmel hazelnut bars, chocolate carmel macadamia nut tart, chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple sour cream crumble pie and a pumpkin cheesecake. I spent a day and half baking and loved every minute of it. It was a Thanksgiving I will never forget. It was another milestone for me and this cancer journey. I sat at the table surrounded by friends who have become family. The emotions were running high as I took in all the energy of the wonderful day and was so thankful for the life we have built and those that have become a part of our extended family.
Gals Give Back
Six local women, Brady, Haley, Kristie, Lisa, Maggie and Victoria, turned their holiday gift exchange into a holiday party raising funds to give back to the community. Last year they raised funds for the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and this year they raised funds for Heather Black and her family. She has an amazing husband and a wonderful little boy. She was diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer in 2003, and though the disease was non-aggressive for 8 years, it came back in full force in 2011. She is now battling for her life. She has been so disenchanted with the western medicine treatment she has received over the years that she has decided to attack the disease through alternative medicine and as many of you know insurance doesn’t cover much when it comes to alternative ways of battling disease. Since realizing the disease has spread she has asked for no help and has been very private about her struggles. Her friends and community have been trying to figure out a way to support and show their love and Gals Give Back gave them the opportunity to do just that. They raised money, they sought out raffle items, they rallied their energy and love all for their dear friend. They gave her so much more than they will ever know.
This year Gals Give Back became a non-profit so all donations are tax deductible. They are still accepting donations for the Heather and her family so if you have a penny to spare I ask that you make a donation to this wonderful family. You can make a donation on line at:
I am so honored to know these six fabulous women. We are so lucky to have them in our community. They have touched so many people with their generosity.
As we all know cancer impacts not only the person with the disease but everyone around that person. We have done our best to be open and honest with Madison and Lucy, keeping them informed of what was happening. If you’ve met Madison you know she is a thinker and will ask you question upon question until she fully understands what is going on. Lucy is quite different. She is quiet in her thoughts. After my surgery I could tell Lucy was feeling like she could finally just let herself lose it and wow have we had some breakdowns over what you would think are everyday easy fixes. Then the other day we were walking on the breakwater and I asked her to come back over the rail after climbing on the rocks. I said I don’t want you to slip and land on the rocks and end up having to go to the hospital. She immediately came through the rail and said to me I don’t like that word. I asked what word? She said hospital. Her eyes welled up and she just started crying. She said I don’t want to hear that word it scares me. My heart broke. She has been impacted in so many ways that I did not even know. I gave her a big squeeze, let her know that it was okay to feel scared.
Our children are impacted by everything we do. They observe, they listen, they emulate. They soak in our every word so be sure your words are kind even when you are angry. Be sure to listen to them. Be sure to spend as much time with them as you can because life is too precious and fragile. Show them how to be kind and caring by your actions. Last but not least hug, kiss and tell them you love them everyday many times a day.
FRIENDSHIP PADDLE DOCUMENTARY
Our wonderful friend Paul Westmacott took all the footage he compiled from the paddle and turned it into the most amazing 40 minute documentary. It captured so many tender moments and the true essence of the paddle, Friendship. The film is so much more than I ever imagined. It is something that I will always treasure. One of the best gifts I have ever received. I’ve watched it twice and each time the emotions come right to the surface, the tears flow and I notice yet another wonderful moment of the paddle. We are forever grateful. Love you Paul and Briana. I will post a link to the video once it is uploaded. Watch it when you have 40 minutes without distraction and if you can on a bigger screen to get the full effect. It is powerful, the smiles, the gratitude, the energy, the friendships new and old and the journey.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday!
Hugs and Kisses!