Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Cancer, COVID and Small Celebrations

Each year when flu season comes around, I worry about people spreading germs and about mom coming down with some weird flu strain and how something as simple as the flu could take her down fast. Because it happens - I have known people to die from the [regular] flu.

Enter the COVID 19 Coronavirus. IF there was any good to come out of all of this, it is that people are wearing face masks (mom included) and are taking extra precautions. Mom's immune system has been severely compromised. Since 2009, mom has been through invasive surgery, 5 rounds of a variety of chemo cocktails and terrible (at times almost deadly) side effects. Her body can't fight infections like it used to and she is in a high risk category as we make our way through the pandemic.

Eleven years has passed since mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. At the time (2009), her prognosis was 3 years, tops. When I reflect, there was no doubt in my mind that she would live beyond the 3 years. I knew she was strong enough (and stubborn enough) to get through it. And here we are in 2020.

Valentines Day 2020 at the Cellar in Geneseo
These last 11 years have been a curse, but they have also been a blessing, because once you see someone live through the unthinkable, then you understand the important things... and the rest of it has to fall away.

Cancer doesn't hold the power that it once did - even though it is *technically* still lurking in her body, mom has turned the tables on cancer and silenced the effect that it has had on her life. The focus has not been on the cancer, but on the power of prayer and a positive attitude.

So this is a cause for a small celebration - even though we can't really celebrate together right now. I'm thankful to be at this point in the journey where she has made it through the worst and that her story can give someone else hope that they can beat the odds too.

In the same way, it gives me hope that we will make it through the pandemic. Cancer has given mom a new normal and the COVID 19 is giving us another new normal. Even though our lives are changed, we are still together.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas 2019

Mom, Chad w/ girlfriend Katie, and Mother-in-law Anna.
Christmas 2019 - a busy week with family! It was a full house on Christmas Eve (three boys and the girlfriends!) and we all managed to squeeze around the dining room table for a lasagna dinner. As usual, we had our fill of cookies, snacks, candy, a very good variety of cheese (thanks to Chad).

On Christmas morning, Mom went with Tom on his daily walk through Longview Park. All said and done, they put in over 2 miles of zig-zagging around the park while Tom picked up trash. A little while later, we decided to walk to Friendship Manor (an assisted living care facility) to say hello to Tom's mom, Ann. It was such a beautiful and balmy day for the Midwest so mom got plenty of steps for the Fitbit.

As 2019 comes to a close, we have a lot to be thankful for. Mom has had good health overall, and her doctor check-ups continue to show positive results. The cancer has been kept at bay, partly due to mom's great attitude and partly due to continued prayers by family and friends.

We are looking forward to 2020 and hoping for more of the same - good health and good times with family and friends!

Aunt Carol, mom and Aunt Rosemary at the Seneca All-Class Reunion
in October.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

September and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month! Teal Toes!

My teal toes along with my cousin's and aunt's teal toes!
There are two great things about the month of September - my mom's birthday (Sept. 15) and it is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. 

Teal is the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness, and every year I paint my toes teal in honor of mom and recognition of Ovarian Cancer Awareness. 

My mom, Barbara, has been battling Ovarian Cancer for 10 years ... she is a strong girl and is a source of hope and inspiration to me. Her oncologist calls her his "miracle child."

I share mom's story whenever I can - about how there was no family history, the subtle symptoms and the too-late-diagnosis. Featured on the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's website >>

Ovarian Cancer is often diagnosed after it reaches Stage 3. It's important to know the symptoms and signs of Ovarian Cancer and important to know that women can start a conversation with a physician about the seemingly littlest things... bloating, abdominal pain, achy back and even heartburn and frequent upset stomach issues. 

Because those little things can mean a big problem if not addressed immediately. Women have to listen to what their body is telling them. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Post Port

This is a late post but an important one nonetheless. Mom's port was removed last Tuesday without much incident. There was a little more bleeding than normal - but she has been on Xarelto (SP?) for the last year and that was expected. She stopped taking it a couple days prior to the surgery but sometimes it takes a little while longer to get out of the system. The nurses bundled her up good and had her keep pressure on the incision points for over 24 hours and it worked out fine.

Some have asked about removing the port - and yes this is a good thing as there is no chemo in mom's foreseeable future. Her blood counts are great and her CA125 has been really low since her last round of chemo a couple of years ago. If anything changes, she will address it as it comes along. She is thankful for every day and I am too.

Mom is such a celebrity at Hammond Henry Hospital! I love going there with her. Everyone (nurses, doctors, volunteers) is always happy to see her and they don't go without saying how much she is missed (even though she has been retired 20 years) and loved. Truly wonderful to know she has impacted so many and I know she took good care of everyone while she worked there. Being a post-op nurse (and a surgical nurse too... she filled a lot of areas in that hospital) is not work for the faint-hearted. As we all know mom is a tough girl but also has a lot of compassion as well.

The only thing on our agenda for the fall is hitting a couple of mom's reunions - she has one coming up for her nursing class (in Peoria) and then a high school reunion in Ottawa in October. She's looking forward to both events.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ovarian Cancer at Bay but Fight is Never Over

NOCC Illinois Walk May 2019
A couple of pieces of good news to share - mom had her regular check up with Dr. Porubcin last week and her blood work was very good and her CA 125 was at 7!

Even better news: Dr. Porubcin gave the go-ahead for mom to have the port removed! She is getting the port out on August 20.

Mom's story keeps getting better and better!

I wrote a piece for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's web site after we did the NOCC's annual walk in Chicago last May.


This does not come without a lot of sadness however because we lost one of our own to ovarian cancer last year. I think about my cousin Heather just about every day. Her cancer was really far along before she was diagnosed and for a while things seemed ok but eventually her body caved in. Her spirit never did however. 

So I can talk about having all the hope and praying that I want to, but it doesn’t erase the underlying fact that Ovarian cancer is a very silent disease, and every woman and man should know the signs and symptoms and be aware. 

I’m a  firm believer that whatever energy you put out an universe will come back at you tenfold, whether it’s good energy, or bad energy. Let’s make it good energy. There are others out there fighting their cancer and they need a lot of prayers. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

All Roads Lead to Ransom

Jerry's Tap in Ransom, IL has been a McCann family hotspot for decades, so when Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bernie came into town last week from Kentucky, that was the place where everyone wanted to meet. No matter where anyone lives, when it comes down to it, all roads lead to Ransom.

Every now and again I think of something my dad used to say to me - "There is no such thing as time" and I wonder if he must have been referring to mom and her siblings. I have learned over the years that the McCann side of the family has their own individual concept(s) of time. However, the stars must have been in alignment on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, because everyone - mom (Barbara), Carol, Rosemary, Ruth and Larry were able to be in the same place at the same time.

Mom and I were not able to make it back to Ransom last January for Heather's memorial service, so mom and her sisters went in together and purchased an angel in memory of Heather and gave it to Uncle Larry, Aunt Marilyn and Dax. Mom also gave Uncle Larry a quilt she had made for him with a big star on the front in honor of his time serving in the army during the Vietnam War.

It has been 10 years since mom's cancer diagnosis. She really did not believe she would be here today. She is thankful, as am I, but it is somewhat bittersweet, because we lost Heather last December. Heather's passing is still fresh and it was not the same at Jerry's without her there.

Mom and I are going to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's (NOCC) 5K this Saturday to walk in memory of Heather. Heather did the NOCC walk in Chicago for the last 3 years and also raised money for the NOCC. I deeply regret not walking with her last year.

We have a McCann group (cousins Alaina and Jane) and also many of Heather's friends and S/O Chris are also walking on the team Together 4 Heather and raising $ for the NOCC for Ovarian Cancer research and support.

Remembering Heather is easy, but living without her [here] is hard for many.

Aunt Carol, Aunt Rosemary, Aunt Ruth, Uncle Larry and Mom (Barbara)

Mom and Uncle Larry

Uncle Larry, Aunt Marilyn and Dax

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Silence Like a Cancer Grows

Dr. Porubcin dubbed mom as his "Longest Ovarian Cancer Survivor" patient at her last check up! What an amazing, awesome thing that is!

This month, mom will be coming up on 10 years since her cancer diagnosis. Rewind to March of 2009 - a year after Grandma (mom's mom) had passed from Alzheimers. Mom was traveling, Jazzercizing 8 days a week and enjoying retirement. Then life came to a halt and the word CANCER became a part of the vocabulary... even though many factors were not certain - what kind of cancer did she have? How far did it spread? What was her outlook? Ovarian Cancer did not have a good reputation. The general prognosis was that she had about 3 more years, based on survivorship statistics.

She has beaten the odds!

Ten years ago Ovarian Cancer was the silent killer - the cancer that grows in silence until it is often too late in the game to turn the odds in the patients favor. I'm sure that the cancer was growing inside her, silently, for a long time. By the time we found out, mom was Stage 3.

In the last 10 years, mom has not only been through surgery, 5 rounds of a variety of chemo cocktails and terrible (at times almost deadly) side effects, but she has also served as a rock and resource for others around her who were also diagnosed with cancer. Mom has also been a rock for those families who have lost loved ones to cancer.

I think that amid all of the complexities of cancer, mom would credit two things to her survival: prayers and a positive attitude. These last 10 years have been a curse, but they have also been a blessing, because you understand the important things... and let the rest fall away.

Cancer has taken a back seat. The power of prayer and a positive attitude are at the wheel now. Mom is surrounded with love and family and friends. Cancer cannot compete with that.