Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Very Merry and Blessed Holiday

The whole Fam! 
Christmas 2018 came and went. We had a full house on Christmas Eve (three boys home at once!) and we all managed to squeeze around the dining room table. I tried to fill mom up with as much cookies, candy and lasagna as she could handle and I even made Grandma McCann's "Snack Puffs" recipe - Corn Pops with a caramel coating (just downright evil). Tom and I got mom a new and improved FitBit that has more features than her other one, so I'm sure she will be walking off those Snack Puffs around Geneseo for awhile!

The holidays have not been without heartbreak. We lost my cousin Heather, who was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer a couple of years after mom was diagnosed. Things went rapidly downhill the week of Thanksgiving. Heather had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks with a lot of small bowel issues as the lesions on her organs had rapidly expanded into tumors. Surgeons took a look and determined that there was not a lot to be done, Heather went home with hospice care and passed on December 5. She was only 46.

Mom and I went to see Heather a few days before she passed. For the first time in six years (since she was diagnosed), I really got the full effect of how much the cancer had sucked the life out of her. Heather was always sassy and full of fun... even in this last year, but her last couple of months of life were less than wonderful as her body caved in to cancer. It was ugly and painful but I am comforted by the fact that she went peacefully at the end.

The week before Christmas, mom also lost one of her dear friends, Judy DeBoever, to cancer. Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer before mom was diagnosed with her cancer, and Judy was a world of help and inspiration to mom as she was going through her surgery and chemo. Over the years, Judy's cancer metastasized to bone cancer and then to her liver. Judy's health took a turn for the worse right at about the time of Thanksgiving and she passed on December 16.

I had only been around Judy a handful of times... but she was one of the most enthusiastic people I will ever meet. She never let her cancer get her down, and I think that is why mom has that same attitude about cancer. It is not going to get her down either.

We were blessed to have a nice holiday with family and friends - and are looking forward to an uneventful 2019 other than routine visits with Dr. Porubcin and the usual blood work and port flushes. I'm sure we will sneak a few road trips in as well!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Thankfulness and Prayers

Mom and me at Fireside
Mom and I took a bus trip last week to see ELF at the Fireside Theatre in Wisconsin. The group was organized by her bank club - the "Classic Club" and literally all we had to do was to get on the bus. We had a great time and ate too much food... but that is what those kind of days are for. I was thankful for the day together. Next year's holiday production is The Christmas Story so I'm thinking we will have to make the trip to see that one - bus caravan or not.

Mom is doing well and has been getting along fine this year other than a few aches and pains here and there. Unfortunately, we had some grave news this week about my cousin Heather. She was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer a couple of years after mom. The scenario was the same - with no cancer history in the family Heather's diagnosis was not immediate. Once Heather was officially diagnosed, she had two large tumors in her abdomen and not a lot of time. After surgery and large rounds of hard core chemo it seemed like things were manageable, until a few months ago.

Heather went into emergency surgery on Wednesday as she was having major intestine blockage from tumor growth. The surgeons opened her up to take a look and determined that the tumors were too aggressive. Lesions had grown into tumors in other places. The outlook for Heather is not good and there are no words to say that is going to make everything all right. Many many prayers are needed for Heather and her family.

In the world of cancer, things happen so fast. I do not take that for granted, however I know that the force of prayer can do amazing things, and I hope that in Heather's case it will. It worked for Demara (cousin) and it HAS to work for Heather too. Hope and prayers.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Chicago Marathon and 4.9 CA 125!

4.9! Mom had a checkup with Dr. Porubcin yesterday and her CA 125 is still below any levels of concern! It's a good feeling. Each time she has a check up, you never know what the results will be until you hear it. It's a nice relief and we can go on enjoying the rest of the summer.

Last night mom sang in the Geneseo Community Choir event (all 2 hours of it!) and I was very proud of her and happy that she was able to participate. This weekend we are going to a house tour in Geneseo on Saturday and then we have a McCann reunion in August so there are plenty of things to do!

I decided to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon again this year on the American Cancer Society DetermiNation Team! Last year was my first on the team and I had such a good time that I want to do it again for a number of reasons - but mostly to help raise awareness for those who are fighting cancer and to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. They do a lot of good work and I'm happy to be an advocate.

Cancer is tough, and I admire each and every person who has had to battle with cancer. That's what I kept thinking as I ran those 26.2 miles at the Chicago Marathon - if my mom and cousin Heather and cousin Demara (and many friends) can go through chemo, then I can run 26.2 miles.

I have a page set up for donations! Please help me reach my goal with the American Cancer Society >>

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Great Aunt Barb!

Mom and I took a trip to St. Charles, MO over the weekend to see Grant, Kira and Erin Stock (cousin Melinda's three kids) graduate from high school and also to spend some time with Aunt Rosemary, Uncle Steve and cousin Laurie.

I can't believe how time flies - it seems like these three were babies only last year! Hanging out at the graduation party was like reliving when Scotty and Ethan graduated. It was a nice mixture of friends and family, and fun looking at all of the photos from the last 18 years.

Mom made each of the triplets their own quilt. I can't remember what triplet is going to what college, but at least they will be comfortable with a quilt from their Great Aunt Barb!

It was a fun getaway. This was the first long road trip in mom's new car she got back in the fall (a 2017 Chevrolet Equinox with all the bells and whistles) and mom was comfortable the entire way - we stopped when we needed to stop and took our time getting there.

Beautiful young ladies Erin and Kira! 

Mom, Aunt Rosemary, mom of triplets Melinda and Uncle Steve!

Me and Laurie! 

Kira, Erin and Grant

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

World Ovarian Cancer Day 2018

holly sparkman
Me and mom, circa 1969
Today, May 8, is World Ovarian Cancer Day #WOCD

We have come a long way since 2009 when my mom was first diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. In the last nine years, my mom has beat the odds, survived beyond what was expected (three years) and is considered by her oncologist a "miracle scenario."

Even after all of this time, Ovarian cancer still has the lowest survival rate of all gynecological cancers according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Ovarian Cancer is STILL characterized around the world by a lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis.

My mom was Stage 3 when she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009. Her symptoms were mild at best. She noticed a change in her bowel habits, but was that enough to go to the doctor and be concerned? For her, yes as she was a retired nurse (and we all know that nurses don't turn their brains off EVER - regardless of if they are off the clock much less retired). My mom went to her physician where they did a pelvic exam. The she had a colonoscopy. Then she had a scope done down her esophagus to see if there was any clue to her symptoms. The doctors didn't find anything abnormal.

We now know the cancer was there, festering. At that time, Ovarian Cancer was a big unknown to both of us. There was no family history of ovarian why put it into the equation?

Then my mom's body started throwing out more aggressive symptoms - and in a month's time her abdomen had bloated so much that she looked like she was in her first trimester of a pregnancy. After the doctor drained the fluid (over a gallon) and ran tests - the diagnosis was a reality: Ovarian Cancer. It changed her world and the world of everyone around her.

I am so proud and blessed to say that she is still here - after aggressive surgery, 5 rounds of chemo and thousands of prayers every day.

So, on this day, May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Day #WOCD if ONE person (woman or man) reads this and takes the time to read about symptoms of ovarian cancer ... that is enough. It is enough to know the symptoms and keep them in your head, because it is crucial information you can use to combat Ovarian Cancer before it gets out of control. Ovarian cancer is treatable if you can get to it early.

ovarian cancer day

Friday, February 9, 2018

Beyond Cancer - Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis HLH

Me, Demara and Grandpa McCann at Easter, @ 1980.
Cancer is devastating. Once a diagnosis is made, it changes your life forever. I can't imagine the feeling of being diagnosed. I know too many people who live with cancer (including mom) and too many people who have lost their lives to cancer.

So - what could be worse than a cancer diagnosis? Enter into the equation a disease that takes months to diagnose, is rare and can severely debilitate a person in less than 6 months. That has been the story of my cousin Demara. Demara is my mom's sister Ruth's (Sharon to some) daughter who was eventually diagnosed - after many months - with HLH... Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis... a life threatening immunodeficiency. It started out with fever and fatigue. The symptoms not pinpointed to anything specific until it got way out of hand.  A simple overview here >>

Basically, Demara's body betrayed her and turned into her worst enemy. And even though it is not cancer, she has received rounds of chemotherapy to combat what her body is doing and slow the disease. The only hope Demara has is through a stem-cell transplant. The good news is she has found a match and now has a date to start the treatment - March 5. Demara and her family have moved to Boston for the next several months in order for her to have the transplant.

We take so much for granted - walking, eating, running...going to the bathroom by yourself! I am thankful every day for my healthy body. Demara has been blogging about her experience (as we know blogs are a great way to keep family and friends updated) at Glittered Path. I am amazed at what she has been through - surgery (remove spleen), chemo, infections and sickness, hip surgery (effects of HLH and steroids have eaten away the joint, very painful) and more chemo. Her attitude is amazing.

If you can help Demara, she has a GoFundMe set up to cover expenses while she and her family are in Boston for her stem-cell transplant. In my mind it is simple - give up a few dollars and go without something for a month...not only because Demara needs this, but because you can. I want to go without a new pair of running shoes or whatever-is-on-sale on because I can. Demara can't go without a stem-cell transplant, and Demara's family can't go without her.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dr.'s Visit - Steady as She Goes

Mom had her 6 month follow up with Dr. Porubcin this morning and all is good and steady! There are still no outward signs or symptoms that her ovarian cancer is active and or growing elsewhere!

All of mom's blood counts/numbers are good AND her CA125 is still hovering in the 4's. Hallelujah! That low number made Dr. P. very happy and he considers mom an amazing case of Ovarian Cancer remission.

Mom also had her osteoporosis test results and thankfully that has not progressed any further as well - it is still at a negative 3 [something]... but no worse that the previous osteoporosis test done the year before. The chemo does take a toll on the bones, but Dr. Porubcin is happy that osteoporosis has not progressed and credits mom with her walking regimen. In the winter months mom gets her walking done throughout the halls at Hammond Henry Hospital. She does at least a mile or more and that is impressive to me. She can hold her own on a walk.

After Dr. Porubcin said how amazing mom is doing, then he said that he was concerned that he hadn't heard mom cough during the visit. As Dr. Porubcin has gotten to know mom over the years, he has gotten to know her cough (as we all have) and is now worried that she is not coughing as much. Are doctors ever satisfied?

Mom's next check up is scheduled for 6 months - the fact that she is scheduled that far out is a good sign that no one is worried about her cancer growing anytime soon. Cheers!

Mom and Uncle Steve walking in Peoria Race for the Cure 2017