Monday, December 27, 2010

Is 2010 over yet?

Maintenance therapy wasn't as easy as I thought I would be. I thought going from 5 drugs to 1 would be a piece of cake. But those 2 days in the hospital were rough. Maybe it's because they're pumping 5 days worth of that drug into my body in the span of 42 hours?! But the good part is that it is only 2 days which makes it so much easier mentally. Coming home was also brutal because I developed a rash 2 days after being discharged from the hospital and we couldn't figure out if it was a side effect of the drug I was getting, or an antibiotic I had started 5 days earlier for a sinus infection. It turned out to be the latter. Thank goodness. That rash kept me up for nearly 4 nights (right before Christmas) and I have never been that exhausted in my lilfe. I had so many last minute Christmas errands to run on top of that, pack for our weekend trip to UT, and take care of kids. The only reason I got through that week was through "angels" aka friends who offered to help with kids, bring meals, and take me to and from the doctor's office. I'm so blessed. And I know despite my lack of sleep that God was watching out for me and blessing me in these other ways.

Christmas weekend was nice and so great to spend with family, but I was ready for it be over. In fact, I'm ready to kick 2010 out the door. Sure, there were some great highlights and we have been extremely blessed, but let's be honest. 2010 was one for the books, being the hardest year I have endured thus far in my nearly 33 years of life. That includes physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I'm still here alive and kicking. The fight in me will never die. I have too much to live for and too many things that I want to accomplish in my life. Mostly, I want to change lives and help others. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that yet, but I have to hold onto that hope. There is more life to be lived! 2011 better go off with a bang! I usually make lots of goals or resolutions every year, but this year I'm simplifying it. My only goal for 2011 is to kick the cancer out of me once and for all!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scan results

Well, my gut instinct was right. I was really hoping it wouldn't be, but it was. I didn't have a complete response from the biochemo. I still have one tumor remaining (the biggest one), although the good news is that it is still shrinking. Maybe the shrinkage has slowed down, but the tumor isn't "metabolically active". Which is good. My doctor thinks that with the maitenance therapy over the next year I have a good shot of having a complete response by the time I'm done. I have to hold onto that hope. I know the doctor can't predict what will happen, but I have to trust my health and life in his care right now (which is hard for me!) and just keep on truckin'. I also have to remind myself that I've had a very positive response thus far, with 5 of the 6 tumors completely obliterated. That is still good. I have to ignore the risk of recurrence and the statistics. If I get too tied up in that, my spirits are just not what they need or should be. But it is a daily struggle to always remain optimistic and hopeful. And this month has been harder to do so because of how physically exhausted and weak I have felt. I'm hoping as I continue recovering and feeling better, the mental part will also get better.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Now I know why they only do 6...

This last treatment was a real doozy. I mean, it seriously felt like all of a sudden these 6 cycles of biochemo finally caught up to me all in one week. It felt like a semi-truck, a bus, and a freight train ran over my body! Crazy! On top of the sheer exhaustion and overall weakness I was facing, I was also dealing with sinus issues which was affecting my sleep at night. Not fun. And talk about timing, right before the holidays! I had so many things to do, plus take care of the kids. It just wasn't happening!

I'm so glad that the biochemo is over, it has been a rough few months. I have to admit though, I'm not looking forward to scans soon, I just want a complete response and I don't want to be disappointed if I don't have it. Crossing fingers and toes and saying lots of prayers...

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm back. At least for now.

I've been a terrible blogger lately, for obvious reasons, but with the holidays here, it's only getting harder to keep up. It's been a little rough lately, the fatigue has got the best of me unfortunately. The hardest part is that I have young kids to take care of ON TOP of taking care of myself, and I just want so badly to feel normal and do normal things again. But I know I have to be patient. My doctor, along with some other patients who have gone through the same treatment, have told me that it will probably take 3 months to feel normal again. That seems like an eternity when you have young-ens to care for. It just doesn't seem fair sometimes.

On top of the fatigue I've been battling with, it's been a tough week mentally too. I'm nervous for the scans coming up, just praying that the last tumor will be completely gone so I won't need surgery. And I just haven't been feeling as positive about things as I normally do, probably because I physically feel so crappy. I just need to get out of this slump so I can move on and concentrate on the "miracles" that have already occurred and that I'm healing. I do know that I have been blessed and that God is watching over me everyday. There are so many good things that have happened in our lives.

This quote has been a good reminder to me this week, "Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway." ~Emory Austin

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Something to celebrate.

I have officially finished my biochemo treatments. WOO HOO!! I thought this day would never come. My last round was brutal. Lots of throwing up and fatigue. But I don't care because it's my last full week in the hospital!!! I am so ready to start feeling "normal" again (which might take a few months) and not feel weak and tired all the time. I will never take that for granted again. Scans come in mid-December when I start maitenance therapy (which is once for month, 2 days in the hospital and only 1 drug). That's when we will find out how well this treatment worked and if I have a complete response or not. Last x-ray revealed one tumor still, although very small and not active. We are praying that it will be gone though by the time I get scans.

This picture is of me with my brilliant and wonderful doctor, Dr. David Minor, and his nurse practitioner, Christine (who is also wonderful). I took this on the last day, so you can get an idea of how crappy I look by the end of the week (but happy to be done nonetheless!).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Attitude is everything

My acupunturist once told me that the best thing I had going for me was my positive attitude. Even though my attitude isn't perfect 100% of the time (we are human and have doubts and fears sometimes!), I really try to remain optimistic about my current health state, my prognosis, and my future. It's not that I live in a "bubble", completely ignoring or denying my disease and the fact that it takes the lives of over 8,000 people/year (that's one every hour). I also know the statistics for Stage IV melanoma (less than 5% survive past 2 yrs), but I choose not to surrender to the "numbers game" and know that I am not a statistic, but an individual. There are so many variables when discussing prognosis for a late stage melanoma patient. Cancer is complicated and so are we as individual human beings.

Studies have been done that often the common denominator between cancer survivors is their positive attitude on life. I fully believe this and know that our subconscious mind has more power over our bodies than we realize. I've learned this more fully through hynotherapy. I think that when I was Stage III, the thought in my head often was, "The cancer is going to come back." I was living in constant fear of the melonoma returning, and becoming Stage IV. Then when I was restaged to Stage IV with lung mets and I was going through the brutal decision on choosing treatment, I was stressed out worrying that the tumors would grow or move to different organs in my body. I truly feel that these thoughts did NOT help my body or mind, for that matter. And then look what happened! The cancer came back and more than doubled it's size during my stressful time figuring out treatment.

I now have a much healthier state of mind. I have told myself during the entire treatment that I will be a "complete responder" and now that this statement is coming true, I will now focus on thinking, "The cancer is not going to come back" and that "I will be a survivor". It might be difficult at times to always think this way, but I'm going to work really hard at keeping my stress levels in check and my attitude optimistic. Stage IV doesn't have to be a death sentence. Lots of people beat the odds and I know I will be one of those. I also know that my mission is now to help others. Once I get through treamtent, I plan to start a foundation that will focus on one, prevention and awareness (especially in schools with youth/teens), but most importantly, will focus on helping those fighting melanoma get the best opinions and treatment options to increase their chances of survival. I firmly believe that we can change statistics if this happens. Especially in the late stages of melanoma. I want to help people have the same opportunities that I have-to get the BEST CARE wherever that is. And in doing so, I hope to help them not only find the right and best doctors and treatment options for their case, but help them financially do those things if they are unable. This is where I hope to make a difference.
So, watch out're going DOWN!!!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Inspirational melanoma survivors

A friend of mine, whose husband has Stage III melanoma put this list together of melanoma "survivors" and melanoma "warriors" recently. I think it's good to read these inspirational stories of survival, because the stories of the lives of those that melanoma took are very abundant (which are hard to read when you're in the thick of the trenches). Thank you Emily for putting this together-you inspire me! I might be a melanoma warrior right now, but soon I will join the ranks of survivor!!!

SURVIVORS OF STAGE IV MELANOMA – Marty Tenenbaum is a 10+ year survivor of Stage IV melanoma. He started a company that offers “personalized oncology” and genetic testing. It is a very expensive right now, but I hope some day this will be available for every patient with cancer – this is the future of oncology. Jimmy B is a long time Stage IV survivor – and such a great resource for research – Stage IV survivor – his last update to the page was in 2008 – Stage IV Biochemo patient from San Francisco - Stage IV survivor Kari Worth also did biochemo in San Francisco - You can chat with Carver on the Melanoma Research Foundation forum (where there are many more survivors)

I also personally know two other survivors of Stage IV melanoma. Both of them did the same exact treatment, biochemo, as I with the same doctor in SF. One is named Tina Rosenthal who developed lung mets 5 1/2 years after being Stage III and "cancer free". She is now 4 years out of treatment and N.E.D (no evidence of disease) still. She has become a great friend, has visited me in the hospital, and is such an example of doing it "all" to keep herself healthy. And all with an optimistic attitude. The other friend that I know that is a survivor is Sue Lescure, also from the Bay area. She is 4+ years out of treatment and remains N.E.D. as well, even though she has had multiple surgeries to her eye (she has ocular melanoma). She is also a great inspiration to me and really helped prepare me before treatment.

BLOGS OF MELANOMA WARRIORS - Andrea is a Stage IIIa survivor who has created a great melanoma brand “Melanoma Girl”. Check out her cool “Proud to be Pale” t-shirts and fun events to support the cause.
Mindy Lanoux was featured in a NY Times Article on the MD Anderson Cancer center. She is Stage IV and has done many chemos and clinical trials. She is a teacher with young children.
Mother of a 6 year old with Melanoma – and such a great writer. – A father in his 30s with Stage IV melanoma. Mike Brockey chose to do the Gerson cancer therapy (juicing/enemas) when he was given a year to live – that was one year ago. Instead of chemo, he chose carrot juice. He is now healthier than he was a year ago (even if he has turned slightly orange). I think he is on to something. Most of the time (80%) chemos and other toxic drugs just make melanoma spread faster. Keeping your body in a stress-free state seems to work well with melanoma – and that’s what I have heard from Stage IV survivors. (Kerri is a Stage IIIa melanoma survivor and just celebrated clear scans) (Stage III – young lady with melanoma) (Please support Andy - a police officer and father of young children fighting Stage IV melanoma)

Monday, November 1, 2010

5 down, 1 to go

You don't know happy I am to almost be done with treatment. It's actually gone by quite fast, thank goodness! It's hard to believe that I only have one more treatment and then I'm done with the hard stuff! (I have to do maitenance therapy for a year which only requires 1 drug and 2 days in the hospital vs. 5 drugs and 5 days-totally doable.) I'm so grateful that I've had my parents with me throughout the entire treatment, I can't imagine getting through it without them. Eric has done a great job "holding down the fort" too while I'm in the hospital and our family members and friends that have helped with our kids, cleaned our house, and brought meals are such blessings to us.

This last round of treatment was actually harder than the previous ones. Not the recovery part so much, just the week in the hospital. I was more nauseous this time with less appetite. I was also more wiped out and tired, which isn't a bad thing sleeping through the entire week! :) The doctor says he can hardly see my only tumor left on the x-ray, so we are gearing up for a "complete response", which is awesome! That's what every cancer patient strives for. Now, I just need to stay that way, which I plan to do! I know that in combination with the treatment, the exercise (when I can), the diet (especially the juicing which I added to my regimen), the acupunture and hynotherapy to help with stress and positive visualization are all very important in this process of getting rid of the cancer. I firmly believe that it's EVERYTHING I'm doing, not just one thing. I also know that having a positive attitude and faith in God are probably the most important things that I'm doing!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Best Sunscreens

Another thing people ask me about all the time is sunscreen. What the best kind to purchase is and what to look for in a sunscreen. Sunscreens are available in a variety of preparations (sprays, lotions, creams) and potencies (SPFs typically range from 15 to 100). Some things to know before you buy: Ingredients are directly connected to protection. There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVB light causes common surface sunburns, while UVA light triggers deeper connective-tissue damage (like premature aging and skin cancer). In addition, there are two kinds of skin-damaging UVA rays -- short waves and long waves. Experts say a good sunscreen should protect users from UVA and UVB rays.

Additionally, the SPF rating listed on sunscreens applies only to UVB rays, there is no rating system in the United States for UVA rays. Experts say that, for the most part, SPF 15 is suitable for everyday use, and SPF 30 is recommended for extended periods of sun exposure. Higher SPF ratings are also suitable, but overall, experts say they don't offer any extra protection.

Instead, to best protect yourself, experts suggest looking at a product's ingredients. They say titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb (outside of the U.S.) are the only ingredients that can effectively block long-wave UVA rays. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are mineral sunscreens that sit on top of the skin and effectively block both UVA and UVB rays. Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb are chemical sunscreens that absorb UVA rays before they can cause damage to the skin. Other active sunscreen ingredients, including homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene and oxybenzone, block UVB rays and short-wave UVA rays.

Here are some other things experts say about sunscreen:

•The No. 1 cause of skin damage is sun exposure. Therefore, reviewers recommend your sunscreen contain no less than an SPF 15 for daily use and no less than an SPF 30 for extended periods of sun exposure. Sunscreen should include UVA protection with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX (or Tinosorb outside the U.S.). The SPF factor only indicates UVB (or surface sunburn) protection, and an SPF greater than 30 doesn't offer any better protection from UV rays. Sunscreen should be worn any time you are outside, regardless of how long you will be out, and should be reapplied frequently (every 40 to 80 minutes if swimming or perspiring, even with water-resistant sunscreen).

•No sunscreen is truly waterproof. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that manufacturers change their labels from waterproof to "water resistant" or "very water resistant," because no product can be completely waterproof. Not all manufacturers have made this change. Water-resistant formulas protect against sun damage for 40 minutes while in the water, and very water-resistant formulas protect for 80 minutes.

•For the best protection, apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to exposure. Sunscreen can take up to 30 minutes to dry and become effective enough to reduce the effects of sun exposure. It's also important to follow the directions about the amount required to fully protect the skin.

•Sunscreen SPF ratings on the bottle are only realized when you apply enough product. Experts say that adults should be using 1 ounce of sunscreen for full-body coverage. This is the equivalent of approximately 2 tablespoons or a palm-full. Experts say that most people do not apply enough sunscreen and that this is the most common mistake that people make.

•Some medications (such as skin creams or lotions containing alpha hydroxy acids or topical retinoids) can significantly increase an individual's sun sensitivity. To head off potential problems, check with your pharmacist about medications before heading outside and carefully read cosmetic labels.

•Children's skin is more sensitive than adults' and they should wear UVA/UVB sunscreen, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises avoiding sun exposure and dressing infants or children in lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts as a first defense, but it says sunscreen can be used on infants less than 6 months old, if adequate shade and clothing aren't available. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the gentlest UVA-protective ingredients for children's more sensitive skin.

•Antioxidants can increase the efficiency of sunscreen. They do not protect against sunburn, but studies show that antioxidants in combination with broad-spectrum sunscreen protect against cell damage better than antioxidants or sunscreen alone.

•If you wear makeup with SPF in addition to a second sunscreen, the resulting SPF is not additive, but only the highest of the two products. Because sunscreens can clog pores and cause breakouts, experts say that women with oily skin may prefer to use a foundation with a good SPF on their faces, and a good sunscreen from the neck down.

•Unless otherwise noted on the bottle, sunscreen is good for about three years from the date of purchase.

•Ideally, sunscreen should be applied daily to the face, neck and hands, whether or not you will be outdoors. UVA rays can penetrate through windows. (Ever gotten a sunburn while driving?) In fact, experts say that not wearing sunscreen daily for a year is equivalent to an entire week at the beach without sunscreen.

Also, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Direct sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Although experts don't agree about whether sunscreen prevents vitamin D absorption, many say direct sunlight creates too much of a risk of skin cancer. If you're concerned, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement instead.

Top rated sunscreens:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The ABCD's of Melanoma

People ask me all the time what changes to look for to spot a possible melanoma. Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless - but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That's why it's so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

The shape of one half does not match the other.

The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.

There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (1/4 inch or 5 millimeters).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Run From the Sun

Eric and I went down to SLC for the weekend (sans kids) for the Run From the Sun benefit (the 2nd of 3 benefit runs). It was the most amazing experience! There were over 300 runners, many I didn't know, all there to support me and our family in my fight. It was overwhelming to see so many people there to run on behalf of me. Our dear friend, Joe Roylance, organized the event, with the help of other good friends and family members. A big thanks to EVERYONE who helped organize and support it! It was such a fantastic event! More pictures on

Friday, October 8, 2010


We finally got the big news we had long awaited for...that the treatment was working and the tumors are shrinking!!! Prior to my scans last Friday, I was pretty nervous (to be expected), but I tried to trust my gut feeling, which was that all would be well and we would get good results. Well, boy did we! The doctor came in Monday beaming from ear to ear, exclaiming, "FANTASTIC scan results!" He then proceeded to tell us that 5 of the 6 tumors are gone, undetectable on both PET and CT scans. Amazing! And the large tumor had shrunk by 50% and didn't even light up on the PET scan (meaning it could mostly be dead tissue).
This news was above and beyond what I expected. I mean, I had prayed hard for "remarkable results", but Heavenly Father really hit this one out of the park! Only one word can describe this event and blessing...MIRACLE. I have witnessed with my own two eyes many miracles in my life, but this one takes the cake and I'm grateful to be at the receiving end of this wonderful blessing. I know it was the collective faith, prayers, fasting, and love from everyone around us, not just my own. Thank you for all of your prayers and love, one of the most amazing gifts to me is to "feel" of the power of prayer of so many people praying on behalf of us around the WORLD. It is truly astounding and humbling. We are so blessed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fight for Fina Benefit Run

The crew (our family and a few friends) who made this happen! (More pictures on my other blog.)

The first of 3 benefit races for us was held yesterday in Logan, UT. Eric and Austin drove down for it. There were more than 300 participants there all in support of our family and this cause! In addition to a 1 mile/5K/10K race, they also had a silent auction and raffle. So many companies and people donated their services and goods to help us out, including 2 treadmills from ICON. We are SO grateful to our family and friends who put these events together for us-the support means the WORLD to us! I only wish I could've been there.... :(

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Half way hump

I can't believe I'm halfway done with treatment. In some ways it has flown by, and in other ways it seems like forever since I felt completely "normal". This is a crucial point because before my next treatment I will do scans to see how well the treatment is working. I feel good about things though and because we have some idea that the tumors are shrinking (from the chest x-rays I get each time), it's not as nerve-wracking as it could be. Let's just hope and pray that not only are my lung tumors shrinking, but no new lesions are popping up in my body.

The recovery from this treatment has been rougher. And longer. I've been more tired and my stomach has been more unsettled. I think that is because each treatment builds on the last. I don't even want to know how I will feel by the 5th and 6th round! I just keep telling myself that it will be over before I know it. And then there's maitenance therapy for a ENTIRE year which requires me to travel back and forth once a month and do 2 1/2 days in the hospital with ONE of the drugs. UGH. But I'm trying not to think about that part. I gotta just focus on getting through the toughest part. Completing 6 treatments is a FEAT and there will be huge celebrations when it's all said and done and I'm "cancer free" (that's what I tell myself at least). In fact, my parents are taking the family to Maui in January and I CAN'T WAIT. Something to look forward to!

For now, I'm just glad to be home and be together with my husband and kids. And when I start coming out of recovery and I'm left with a "good week" there will be lots of "livin' it up" to be done before the next round! :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Down days

Sometimes I think that everyone believes that I'm always positive, optimistic, bearing no negative or doubtful thoughts all the time. But let me tell you, that is just not so. I am human, people! MOST of time, I do feel optimistic about my future and extremely blessed given our circumstances. Really, I have so much to be grateful for. I have everything that I need and everything that truly makes me happy. A loving and devoted husband, two wonderful and amazing children, unbelieveable parents and family members, incredible friends all over, the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, and most importantly, a knowledge that God loves me, has a plan for me, and only wants the best for me. When you add in all our temporary needs, we really can't ask for too much more. We have it all.

There are days, which I call my "down days" when I really think about the reality of the situation I'm in. Which leads to all kinds of doubts and fears of the unknown. The question I struggle with the most at times is, "How am I any different from "so-and-so" who gotten taken away from her/his family too early?" We hear and see these tragedies happen all around us. I believe these moments are a wake-up call for us to not get comfortable with life, and realize that life is short and can change in the blink of an eye.

Sometimes I find myself crying myself to sleep or in the shower as I think about the possibility of being taken away from my family too early. I'm only 32 years old! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be fighting cancer at this stage in my life (or any stage in my life). The thought is too much to bare sometimes. I often doubt my own strength and courage, and even my will to live because I know that the odds are greatly stacked up against me.

Then I realize I'm not a "statistic". I'm a person. I'm an individual and I either have a 0% chance or a 100% chance of living. I'll take that 100% anyday and keep on going. What helps me snap out of my "moments" is reading thoughts, letters, and cards from loved ones. Anytime I'm with my children and engaged in them, I am quickly reminded that I can't be sad for THEM. They are the reason I'm fighting. Or I say a prayer and then immediately feel the calming reassurance that Heavenly Father loves me and that all will be well. These are just a few of the things I use in my "artilerary".

Oh, and one last thing, I love inspirational quotes, so if you have a favorite one, send me some love! :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Will Win This Fight

Some of our family members and dear friends are starting a fundraiser/race on our behalf. We are so humbled by this offer to help raise money for all of our medical expenses and travel! There are two races being held, the first in Logan, UT on Sept 25th and the second on Oct 16th in Kaysville, UT. You can register on the below website. It is awesome. We are SO blessed with such amazing family and friends that are wanting to do this for us. Check it out!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Food is medicine

As an anniversary gift to ourselves, Eric and I bought this...

It is one amazing machine that can juice just about anything-coconuts, cherries, kale, beets, you name it. So, I'm officially a "juicer" now, which means I'm going to start buying even more produce than I normally do (which is a lot). I need another fridge! We are going to mostly stick to juicing carrots, apple, kale, and beets w/ a little bit of lemon. It's super yummy and is PACKED w/ so many good cancer-fighting nutrition. The kids love it too, which is great. I just give them some every morning too!

Just when you thought I couldn't get any healthier! :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Round 2

I half expected Round 2 to be worse than the first because they say each treatment builds upon the last. Well, in some ways it was and in other ways it was better actually. For example, I was able to keep a decent appetite the whole time in the hospital. A friend even brought me a Chipolte salad and I ate every last bite! On the other hand, the itching was worse this time. And the medicine DID NOT really do much. But I still feel like I'm doing better than anyone expected (including myself). I don't have nausea (thank goodness), fever, or rigors (chills) which are some of the hardest side effects. Fatigue is the biggie. And I don't get very good, deep sleep in the hospital because they wake me up every 2 hours to check my vitals. UGHH. It's the most annoying thing in the world. I just want to sleep, people!!!

The BEST part of the week in the hospital (besides the Chipolte salad, opening a letter or card every day from someone different, and having my parents w/ me) was getting some good news on the first day. The tumors are SHRINKING. The doctor could see that on my x-ray (I have to get one each time I get a PICC line). This is a miracle and answer to our prayers. And it is especially great because that was after only ONE treatment. Cancer, I say, "Take that!" It doesn't stand a chance. Whatever happens, I'm going to win. I always do. There just isn't a way around it. I have too much to live for, plus, I'm too stubborn and competitive to let it overtake me!

When I returned to Boise, I was SO happy to be reunited once again w/ Eric and the kids. Like always, I missed them terribly. I am so grateful for our family members, friends, and ward members who are helping out with kids, meals, and cleaning the house. It takes so much stress off of my shoulders. The first few days home were tiring, like the first treatment, but do-able. I tried to sleep as much as possible, juice it up, eat frequently, take my meds, and just take it easy (which is a hard thing to do for me). I am also grateful for my hynotherapist and acupunturist who do wonders for my stress, sleep, immune system, visualization, and many more things! These things are pertinent to my healing process!

On a side note, I found this blog, written by a girl who is battling Stage 4 cancer of an Unknown Primary. That means that doctors can't figure out what kind of cancer she has, so it is hard to treat. She lives in SLC and is just a little younger than me. When I read her blog, I am reminded of how lucky and blessed I am to not be as advanced as she is (she has tumors throughout her entire body and was given very little time to live), and more importantly, we know what BEAST we are dealing with at least. I am also humbled and inspired by her own strength, will to keep fighting, and her positive attitude. You can read for yourself at:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Morning talk with Austin

This morning, my better half and I were happily cuddling in bed, when Mr. Austin decided to pounce into our room.

Austin: "Dad, it's MY turn to snuggle w/ Mom now."

Eric: "But I want to snuggle too. Why can't we both snuggle with her?"

Austin: "Because I need my mom still. I'm only 5 and so I need my mom." (sniff, sniff)

Eric: "Don't you think we ALL need moms?"

Austin: "Well, Mom needs her mom because she is a cancer grown-up. So, she needs her a lot right now."

The things that this child understands truly astounds me. For only being 5, and for knowing very little about the scope of what we're dealing with right now and the big "C", he does get it. What a special, sweet spirit he has! Oh, I just love him!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New 'do

I decided, after talking to a friend that has gone through the same treatment, to chop my hair off. This is only the second time in my life that I have had short hair. I know it really isn't that short (although it is to my standards!), but I'm not that gutsy when it comes to my hair. I wanted to just do it though because my hair is going to start thinning a lot and there's nothing worse than long, straggly-looking hair! Hopefully it will help me feel some control in things! :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My fave scripture as of late...

Alma 26:12 "Yea, I know that I am a nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."

Monday, August 16, 2010

One down, 5 more to go...

I think a herd of elephants, a semi-truck, and a train ran over my body last week. The week in the hospital was rough, but the first 5 days home from the hospital were even rougher. The fatigue is something that is so foreign to me. I mean, I've been exhausted before, but not like this. It's like everything wears me out-eating, talking, SITTING UP even, going to the bathroom, you name it, it exhausts me. So foreign for someone like me. For awhile there, I couldn't remember how it felt to feel GOOD, or NORMAL.

But then Day 5 came around, a friend came by to bring me some "super juice" (beets, carrots, and apple), and I started to come around. I was starting to feel HALF HUMAN again. My appetite was finally returning. The yucky taste in my mouth was going away. I actually felt like getting dressed and talking didn't feel like such a CHORE. I am grateful. I'm grateful that I really didn't experience a lot of nausea in the hospital and at home. That is the one side effect that I can LIVE WITHOUT. I'm grateful for all the help we've been given through friends and ward members this week. And for the help of family while I was in the hospital. Our kids are being blessed and protected. I can feel it and know that Heavenly Father is watching over them, keeping them safe, helping them feel loved and secure. They are handling everything SO WELL. I'm grateful to my parents who stayed in the hospital, by my side the entire time I was there. And for their care, concern, and willingness to do anything for me. We are truly blessed.

I can't think about going back in a week right now. I just want to enjoy this moment, enjoy this week of feeling good and normal. We're going to live it up too. Pool, park, bike rides, whatever!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Beginning.

I will try to sum this up as best as I can. In February of 2008, I was diagnosed w/ Stage 1 melanoma while I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my second child. I had noticed a mole on my upper leg change over the last couple months, at first thinking it could be the melanin in my skin darkening from pregnancy hormones. But then it turned BLACK and the texture of the mole got rougher. I couldn't ignore it anymore and decided to go get it looked at by a dermatologist. We had just moved to Boise a couple months prior, so I had to find a good doctor fast. Luckily, a friend of mine referred me to a well-known one in town. Little did I know at the time, that the diagnosis would change my life forever.

When I got the call that the pathology reports determined it was melanoma, I knew very little about the disease. I did know, however, that melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. And the deadliest. It was definitely a wake-up call for me. We attributed the cause being all the sun exposure I had while growing up (I spent countless hours in in the pool-- in my backyard and as a lifeguard and swim instructor in my teens). I remember thinking back then that getting skin cancer would never happen to me. I wasn't light skinned, I didn't burn easily, and I didn't have any family history of it. Boy did I learn my lesson to never say never!

The melanoma, along with the skin and margins around it were removed a week later. Those results came back as negative. WHEW. We were pretty lucky that we had caught it early, that it was fairly thin, and that all the margins were clear of melanoma. At that point, I was given only a 10% chance of recurrence. 80% of melanomas are treated and cured if caught in the early stages and at the time, I figured that I was one of the "lucky ones" and it wouldn't come back. For the next 2 years, I went on to live my life fairly free of worry of recurrence. Of course, I had more regular check-ups and I was more diligent about checking my skin, but I didn't stress too much about it. Hadn't we caught it early?!

Fast forward to January 2010. It was right after Christmas when I discovered a small, firm, round lump in my groin on that same leg. It literally popped up out of nowhere. It immediately concerned me because I had never found a lump like that on my body before. Plus, I knew there were lymph nodes in that region, and being as my melanoma had been only a few inches away from there, I kind of jumped to conclusions and put two and two together. And I was right. A lymph node biospsy had confirmed that the melanoma had returned and had found a home in at least one of my lymph nodes. I remembered my dermatologist telling me back at my initial diagnosis that it was good that the melanoma was contained to the skin (or so we thought) and that if it had spread to my lymph nodes, then that wasn't good and my survival rate would drop dramatically. To say, at this point that I was scared to death was an understatement.

A few weeks later I had surgery-a lymph node dissection, in which they removed all, or most, of the lymph nodes in that region. Prior to that surgery, I had done my first PET/CT scan (which was a nerve-wracking experience). The results came back as negative for any metastatic disease. This was good news. Then, the surgery results were the same. The cancer was contained to that one lymph node. Both of these results were huge answers to our prayers. But the fact of the matter was that I was now Stage 3, and had a 40% chance of recurrence now. There aren't many options for this stage of melanoma. We had made the difficult decision of opting out of the only FDA approved treatment for this stage which is Interferon based on the fact that it only improved the risk of recurrence by 10%, and not overall survival rate. Plus, the fact that it is a toxic treatment that would make me sick for a year didn't appeal to me (for little to no benefit). We decided to take our chances by participating in a clinical trial.

Since there are no melanoma specialists/oncologists in the Boise area, I sought out a well-known one in S.F. My parents still reside in the Bay Area, so it made sense to go there first. In March of 2010, I started a Phase III clinical trial studying a vaccine treatment. The biggest risk of this option was one, we didn't know how successful it would be, and two, I wasn't guaranteed any treatment (it was a double-blind, randomized study meaning neither the doctor nor I knew for sure if I was getting the drug or the placebo.) All the other clinical trial options that we researched though were a 50-50% shot of getting the drug, and with this one I had a 66% chance.
This decision felt right too. Because the induction phase of the trial required me to get injections every couple of weeks, we decided it would be best if the kids and I temporarily moved out there for the time being. This was in March and the plan was to return home at the end of June. Those 3 months in CA were actually quite stress-free. And I think I was getting the drug (and not the placebo) because I had side effects after each injection. The kids and I really enjoyed our time with my parents, even though we missed Eric a lot. Luckily, those 3 months flew by and pretty soon it was time to pack up and return home to a little normalcy.

Tuesday, June 22nd was a day I will never forget. It was the day before we were supposed to go home. The weekend prior to that, we were in Lake Tahoe for Eric's sister, Erin's wedding. It was a good distraction for me before my routine CT scan on Monday, the 21st. But I really didn't expect any different results other than a clean scan. Boy, were we wrong. Eric and I went in that next day, Tuesday, to meet w/ my doctor and get my last injection for the next 3 months. He came in with bad news. The melanoma had returned...this time in my lungs. Now, we were dealing with a whole new ball game--Stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Evidence of disease. In a vital organ. I already knew the statistics and quite frankly, they are very alarming and depressing. I had 4% chance of survival in 2 years. I tried to ignore this, but it was easier said than done. It was the first time in my life that I felt about death. Everyday. Was this it for me? Was I going to even make it to see my kids grow up? Better yet, my next birthday?

The next 6 weeks proved to be the most stressful weeks of my life. The lack of sleep and anxiety caught up to me too. The only thing that saved me were some anti-anxiety meds and a hynotherapist to deal w/ the stress and help me sleep better. There was a lot of researching (which was very depressing and overwhelming), visits and discussions w/ several top melanoma experts acros the country, more researching, and then lots of prayers, fasting, going to the temple, and pondering. We finally made a decision though. We decided that the best treatment option for this stage in the game for me was biochemotherapy--which is a cocktail of 5 different drugs-3 chemotherapeutic agents and 2 biological or immunotherapeutic agents. It is a very rough and toxic treatment. And it's administered in the ICU because of some of the side effects that can occur. But we felt, based on the doctor's opinions, that this was my best shot at having a good response and most importantly, long-term survival. I was given about a 25% chance of having a "complete response", which is actually quite good considering the alternative options gave me more unknown stats on long-term survival. If I was a complete responder and I stayed no evidence of disease for 3 years, then my survival rate would jump up dramatically. We also felt that I should try the hardest treatment first, while I'm healthiest and presenting no symptoms of disease.

Then the decision was WHERE to do treatment. We toyed around with the idea of going to SLC at the Huntsman Center, but in the end, we felt going back to S.F. where the experts were (and my parents, equally important) was best. I would actually be treated by a different doctor this time though, because my last doctor didn't offer the same treatment at their hospital. This doctor has A LOT of experience though, a good track record, and a long list of Stage 4 survivors (a couple that I actually know). This helped my confidence level tremendously and I just knew that I needed to go here. Plus, I would be in a hospital under excellent care with
well-trained nurses and staff. That gave me peace of mind too.

So, that is where I'm at. I am back to feeling optimistic about the future, I am ready to fight this "bad boy", as I like to call it. Cancer will not win. I will come out on top eventually. Someone once told me that during treatment, you will feel like crap, but the cancer will feel even more like crap. I love that! I know that I have everything I need to conquer this-a strong body, a healthy and positive mind, an amazing family, wonderfully supportive friends, and the help of the Lord along the way. In the end, it will be alright. I am not done yet. I have many more things that I know the Lord wants me to accomplish, with the most important being raising these 2 boys!

Please, please join me in this journey as I share my experiences, my joy, my fears, my emotions, my "wins". I can't do this without you! Your support has meant everything to us, and I hope that people will read this blog as a way to not only get updates from me, but to leave a comment-a thought, a "boost", or even a bit of inspiration for me. It's important! I know that writing on this blog will be therapeutic for me as I go through this trial, and I also hope I can help others along the way!!!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why I write...

For about 6 months now, I have had the urge, desire, or even call it prompting from God, to share my story and journey cancer. It has taken me this long to do something about it (yes, procrastination is a big problem of mine!). I guess this blog serves many purposes in my eyes. One, is that it is a way for me to document and journal my experiences for my kids and their kids to read about someday. Since my children are so young right now, they won't remember much of the trials we are facing at this time in our lives. But one day, I want them to remember and know how much this trial, the fight for my life, changed our lives. For the better. I want them to know how blessed we were, how much we grew and were strengthened through this experience, and most importantly, that we can and will get through whatever obstacle in life we are handed with the help and love from our Heavenly Father.

It is therapeutic and helpful for me to write this blog while I am in this fight. It gives me an outlet to let go of my stress, worry, and fear and remember who I am, what I've been blessed with, and how strong I really am. Obviously, it is also a way for our family and friends to know our happenings and get updates (along w/ our family blog). The last reason I share my journey, and probably the biggest, is to hopefully strengthen and inspire others to have courage, optimism, and faith through their trials. If I can do that, then mission accomplished.