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. I can say that she really did not believe she would be here today. She is thankful, as am I, but it is bittersweet because we lost one of us last December. Heather's passing is still fresh and it was not the same being at Jerry's without her there. I kept expecting to hear her voice.

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.

Cousin's Alaina, Jane and 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.

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 2016
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