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Michelle Hastings: Mission::Remission - Medical Expenses Fundraiser

$4,520raised of $10,000 goal
45%

Organizer: Jennifer Buck Beneficiary: Michelle Hastings

mission:remission Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and colon cancer ass-kicker. Pretty cool titles, all in all. We are creating this fundraiser to help Michelle and her family with the...

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mission:remission Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and colon cancer ass-kicker. Pretty cool titles, all in all. We are creating this fundraiser to help Michelle and her family with the medical expenses that will be incurred during her second battle with Colon Cancer. We would love your support, as every dollar counts and will help ease the financial burden of the Hastings family. Michelle used to create magic for thousands when she worked at Walt Disney World, Now it's time to create some magic for Michelle. Please join our campaign and donate today! Join Us on our Facebook Page - Search "Mission:Remission" Read Michelle's Inspirational Blog: www.michellewillwin.blogspot.com From Michelle: "I survive for so many reasons. Among other reasons, I survive to prove a point. I am NOT going to be a just a number or just a statistic. I want to let the medical community, society, and other survivors out there know that this DOES happen to people my age, with no family history, with no REASON. I survive because I have a voice. I am a survivor, one of many, and proud of it. We will be heard, and we will make a difference." Michelle Hastings Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Colon Cancer Ass-Kicker!!!
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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

10 years of motherhood (oh, and Julia's birthday)

When I had Julia, I didn't want her born on the 13th of the month....I was worried she would eventually have a birthday on Friday the 13th.  Well, since that happened, and her 10th birthday was on Friday the 13th, my views have changed.  This birthday was the best she's ever had.  It was awesome.

My gorgeous birthday girl - she got to dress up for school, and was the happiest little girl on campus that day!

Couldn't let the day go without getting a photo of us.  

Julia had 4 friends over for a sleepover, and it was epic.  They had such a good time!

We also had a party on Saturday with some friends.  This is the morning after the sleepover, and they are recovering, while watching the new Muppet movie.  Fresh waffles, good movies, etc.  All in all, a good morning!

I don't know where this gorgeous young lady came from, but I am so proud that she's mine. 
God, isn't she beautiful???

The past two days caught up with her, and she crashed Saturday night.  
Overall, it was an amazing weekend.  We had a wonderful time with family and friends, and we are so grateful  for the many memories.  
It's amazing to me to think that I've been a mom for ten years.  As a teenager, I didn't have a single desire to have children.  Now, I can't imagine what my life would be like without them.  They are my life, my pride and joy, my soul living outside of my body.  Knowing that my children are growing up to be such amazing people is such a fantastic privilege.  
They are my reason for fighting.  
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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2012

CTCA, Days 1 and 2

Yesterday, my folks and I went into CTCA for my initial intake appointment.  Walking in there as a patient was a very different experience.  It's one thing to be there as a visitor or a guest.  It's a completely different experience to walk in there as a patient.  Not in a bad way; just...different. 

Once Mom and Dad were badged up, we were escorted to the clinic.  I've only been in there before on a tour, so walking in there knowing that I was going to be seen there was a little intimidating.  When I walked in, they gave me an identification bracelet, sort of like the one you get at a traditional hospital.  And, it's begun. 

We got called back into a room, where there was a very comfortable chair for me and two "normal" chairs for Mom and Dad.  Vitals were taken, and the meetings began.  I met with several people over the course of the day, but instead of me going to a variety of places to meet with them, they all came to me.  I was given a schedule when I got to the room, and they also had the schedule on a white-board outside my room.  I knew who I was going to meet with, and when.  I will also say that they kept to the schedule, almost to the exact minute.  But, if there was someone I needed a few more minutes with, they took the time. 

I met with a Patient Navigator, who will be my contact at the hospital to help me answer questions about policy, get clarification about something, help me get a call back from someone, etc.  She's super nice, and she and I had a very nice conversation this morning.  After her, there was a Nurse Navigator, who's my contact for the medical team this week until I'm officially a patient (which happens if/when I accept the treatment plan next week).  I met with another nurse, who made a list of all of my medications.  I met with the intake oncologist, who has read through (most) of my medical history and gave me his version, then asked for clarification.  He did a physical exam, then we talked some more.  After that, the meds nurse came back in and took 7 (yes, seven) vials of blood. 

One of the things that my parents and I noticed was their willingness to answer questions.  When I indicated that I had a question, they stopped what they were doing and focused solely on me.  They answered the question(s), then made sure I understood what they said.  I even tested the theory with the intake oncologist, by asking him about something he did during the physical exam.  He stopped what he was doing and explained it to me.  Unreal - no cell phones, no emails to distract him, no looking at his watch.  And, I wasn't made to feel like I was intruding or irritating anyone.  Awesome. 

Once that was all done and they vampire had taken what she needed, we were taken to scheduling to set up the appointments for the next couple of days.  After that, my Patient Navigator Jessica took us on a tour.  I had seen the facility (when Kim was there, I became all too familiar with an inpatient room), but my parents had never been there.  Jessica took us through the kitchen/cafe area, into the salon (hair, nails, wigs, etc.), to the back of the facility into the massage/chiro/acupuncture, radiation, etc.  We went up into infusion (the chemo room), inpatient, outpatient hotel facilities, library, game room, chapel, relaxation room, rooftop garden, etc.  It was amazing, and better than I remembered.  You can take a tour of the facility by clicking on this link.  I can tell you that the tour is actually the hospital I am being treated in, and the facility is truly as beautiful as they make it look. 

This morning, Mom and Dad met me at the facility and we went back to the clinic.  Yvonne, my intake nurse from yesterday, met me and brought us back to the room for today.  She took my vitals (apparently, I've grown an inch - I'm 5'6", which is the tallest I've ever been....can chemo make you grow?), and we started today's meetings.  Naturopath, nutrition, and mind/body.  The naturopathic oncologist is a board certified physician, and he works in conjunction with the "regular" oncologist.  My favorite thing he said?  I will see my oncologist, my naturopath, and my nutritionist each and every time I come in for chemo.  No more waiting for weeks to see my doctor.  No more coming in on an off-chemo week because there aren't any other appointments.  They see me each and every time.  Freaking amazing! 

I liked what the naturopath had to say - they are going to use the traditional chemo, but complement that with naturopathic remedies to help.  For example, I have had an issue with diarrhea earlier this week.  Immodium worked.  They have a solution that might work better - charcoal.  Totally stoked about this! 

Nutritionist came in - I was a bit worried that this would be a "Thou Shalt Not" kind of appointment.  Was I ever wrong!  Rather than asking me a bazillion questions about my current diet, etc., she asked me about my last two weeks, how my diet has change, have my tastes changed, etc.  Then, she gave me some immediate relief items that can help with the nausea, smell sensitivity, mouth sores, etc.  We will be working together to make sure that I don't lose any weight during this treatment, and that I'm able to eat something.  Her words exactly - if cherry pie is the only thing I can eat and keep down, then by all means, I eat cherry pie.  Once we get me back into remission, we'll worry about how to eat in a way that can help prevent another recurrence.  I like this thought process very much. 

Mind/body therapist came in next - our talk with him was awesome.  He got a good feel for me (and for my parents), and I am seeing him again next week so he can help me with my sleep issues (I'm having trouble getting to and staying asleep).  I think talking with him will be really helpful to my overall recovery. 

The past two days have given me hope.  Plain and simple.  It's allowed me to look ahead at the journey I'm on with optimism.  I feel like I finally have a team with me that is actually WITH ME.  They are all here for me.  Their only focus is my well being, my mental outlook, my health.  I am the center of the treatment plan.  I normally don't want to be the focus or the center of attention, but this time.  It's all about me. 

And, it's awesome.  Feeling like there is a whole group of people there, focused on me and my fight, is such a fantastic boost.  Where I came from and where I'm headed is just unreal.  It's like two separate ends of the cancer-fighting world. 

Speaking of that, the other oncologist's office head nurse called to talk.  She asked what my thoughts were, and if I was planning to pursue treatment at the new facility.  I told her that, while I appreciate their efforts in fixing the issue, I couldn't imagine coming back into that office and seeing Icky Nurse.  I was promptly told that she was no longer there.  Does this make me happy?  Yes, and no.  No, because I don't want to be the person responsible for someone losing their job.  Yes, because my speaking up means that no other cancer patients will have to deal with her again.  Regardless, I told head nurse that I think I'm better off at this new place.  She understood, and it was done.

So, that's it.  I'm with CTCA now.  And, I would be absolutely remiss is I didn't thank my amazing friend, Amy, for taking the time to contact the hospital and working the insurance end of things to even make this possible.  Without her doing this, I would be facing this weekend dreading the coming week.  I would be completely and utterly distressed at the thought of going back into that office.  I wouldn't be looking at this fight as something I can win - just something I have to get through.  Now - I have hope that I can beat this thing.  Amy - without you, I wouldn't have that kind of hope.  That kind of optimism.  I wouldn't be fighting this with my normal attitude.  Now, I can.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart - thank you.  I love you, and will forever be grateful to you for this chance.
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 9:53 PM6 COMMENTS<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2012

Emotional Day

As I got closer to today, I realized that I'm nervous.  I don't know why - it's not that I don't trust CTCA.  I think it's that I'm anxious about how things are going to go.  In the past, my drs appts have been pretty predictable.  I go in, get on the dreaded scale, head to the room, they take my vitals, and I sit and wait for the dr or PA. 

Today's (and this week's) visits are going to change that.  I think I'm in for a new experience, and one that will change my expectations about this whole journey I'm on. 

Over the past few years, I've become more superstitious than I think even I realized.  Each time I feel like things are going well and I start to relax, something happens that puts me back on high alert.  This time, high alert took on a whole new level.  Just when I felt like I was heading towards the words "You're cured" I heard "Your cancer's back".  Not exactly what I had imagined. 

So, having hope and feeling optimistic about this appointment today makes me a little nervous.  Am I expecting too much?  Am I holding CTCA up on a pedestal, setting myself up for a true letdown of meltdown proportions?  Will another place I've come to trust let me down? 

God, I hope not.  I think today is going to be emotional - if things go as well as I'm hoping, it will be a sense of relief and hope and teamwork and love.  If things don't pan out today and something goes awry, I'm not sure my psyche can handle it.  I think that's what has me edgy. 

I know I'm in rough waters.  Emotionally, I go back and forth.  I feel hopeful and warrior-like one minute, and depressed and frustrated and tore-down the next.  I think this is normal - I can't imagine how it isn't.  Three weeks ago, I thought I was on the tail-end of remission, well on my way to a cure.  I thought that life was going pretty smoothly, and this was all behind me.  Then, I got slapped upside the head with this cancer coming back, and my life changed, in a heartbeat.  I went from "I've got the rest of my life to live" to "Will I be here next year?".  That's a hell of a jump, especially at 35.  No one should have to think about those things when they are this young. 

Isn't it funny how our perception of age changes as we get older.  I know that, at one point in my life, 35 seemed old.  Now, it seems way too young, especially with what I'm going through. 

Anyways, sorry for the ramble.  Just thought I'd get my thoughts down and hopefully help my emotional status.  I do think today is going to be fairly emotional.  I'm really hoping that it's in a good way - a sense of relief, of optimism, of love, of true, unbridled teamwork. 

I only hope I'm not setting myself up for disappointment.
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 6:34 AM5 COMMENTS<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2012

Initial Intake Interview with CTCA

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2012

Initial Intake Interview with CTCA

My phone call with CTCA yesterday was, in a word, amazing.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  Whatever I was expecting, they exceeded it. 

I hadn't realized it, but my experience over the past week or so with my other oncologist's office had left me very depressed.  I didn't realize that I was consciously ready to give up chemo treatments all together, so as not to have to deal with them ever again.  The thought of walking into their office again makes my stomach turn.  I literally get nauseous when I think of it.  I don't think that's healthy. 

Catherine, the Patient Navigator I spoke with, was kind, gentle, and understanding.  She understood the lingo, so I didn't need to explain the results of the PET scan (she had already looked at it), CEA levels, etc.  She had the information in front of her, and was able to talk with me about what they had already gathered.  We talked about my medical history, my family's medical history, how I was feeling prior to my re-diagnosis, how I felt during chemo last week, and how I'm feeling now. 

The conversation went around and around, in a good way.  The list of things we talked about are numerous and more than I could ever list here.  Here's what I remember discussing:

  • my relationship with my husband, my kids, family, friends, caregivers, etc.
  • my emotional status - this one came up several times in a variety of questions
  • how I handle stress (what do I do to de-stress)
  • how I prefer to express pain (pictures of faces, scale of numbers, verbally, colors, etc.)
  • my physical activity level, and whether I'm willing to continue with that (um, YES PLEASE!!!)
  • my spirituality, and whether I'd like to talk with the chaplain
  • my willingness to look at alternative methods of treatment for side effects
  • what I want to see happen, and why I'm leaving my current oncologist
  • what my goals are with this journey
  • whether my long-term plans have changed as a result of this re-diagnosis
I can't tell you the sense of relief I felt when I was on the phone with Catherine.  When she hung up with me, I cried - happy tears.  I finally felt like I had someone on MY SIDE.  
Don't get me wrong - I know I have an entire army of people supporting me, fighting this battle alongside me, and willing to step in at my first whimper to push me along.  But, with what I've been fighting at my former oncologist's office, I had honestly forgotten what it felt like to be a person, not a patient.  I had forgotten what it feels like to have someone consider me as Michelle, not cancer patient/recurrence number xxxx.  
My first in-person appointment with them is tomorrow.  I'm anxious, but excited.  I'm terrified, but happy.  It's a very confusing bungle of emotions, and I haven't been sleeping well.  Until I get in there and really know what it feels like to be a patient of theirs, I don't think I'll settle down.  I'm hoping I sleep better tomorrow night.  
All I know is that, for the first time in well over a week, I have REAL HOPE.  I think I'm worried that my appointment tomorrow will dim that feeling.  I'm hopeful that I'm wrong.  
My phone call with CTCA yesterday was, in a word, amazing.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  Whatever I was expecting, they exceeded it. 

I hadn't realized it, but my experience over the past week or so with my other oncologist's office had left me very depressed.  I didn't realize that I was consciously ready to give up chemo treatments all together, so as not to have to deal with them ever again.  The thought of walking into their office again makes my stomach turn.  I literally get nauseous when I think of it.  I don't think that's healthy. 

Catherine, the Patient Navigator I spoke with, was kind, gentle, and understanding.  She understood the lingo, so I didn't need to explain the results of the PET scan (she had already looked at it), CEA levels, etc.  She had the information in front of her, and was able to talk with me about what they had already gathered.  We talked about my medical history, my family's medical history, how I was feeling prior to my re-diagnosis, how I felt during chemo last week, and how I'm feeling now. 

The conversation went around and around, in a good way.  The list of things we talked about are numerous and more than I could ever list here.  Here's what I remember discussing:

  • my relationship with my husband, my kids, family, friends, caregivers, etc.
  • my emotional status - this one came up several times in a variety of questions
  • how I handle stress (what do I do to de-stress)
  • how I prefer to express pain (pictures of faces, scale of numbers, verbally, colors, etc.)
  • my physical activity level, and whether I'm willing to continue with that (um, YES PLEASE!!!)
  • my spirituality, and whether I'd like to talk with the chaplain
  • my willingness to look at alternative methods of treatment for side effects
  • what I want to see happen, and why I'm leaving my current oncologist
  • what my goals are with this journey
  • whether my long-term plans have changed as a result of this re-diagnosis
I can't tell you the sense of relief I felt when I was on the phone with Catherine.  When she hung up with me, I cried - happy tears.  I finally felt like I had someone on MY SIDE.  
Don't get me wrong - I know I have an entire army of people supporting me, fighting this battle alongside me, and willing to step in at my first whimper to push me along.  But, with what I've been fighting at my former oncologist's office, I had honestly forgotten what it felt like to be a person, not a patient.  I had forgotten what it feels like to have someone consider me as Michelle, not cancer patient/recurrence number xxxx.  
My first in-person appointment with them is tomorrow.  I'm anxious, but excited.  I'm terrified, but happy.  It's a very confusing bungle of emotions, and I haven't been sleeping well.  Until I get in there and really know what it feels like to be a patient of theirs, I don't think I'll settle down.  I'm hoping I sleep better tomorrow night.  
All I know is that, for the first time in well over a week, I have REAL HOPE.  I think I'm worried that my appointment tomorrow will dim that feeling.  I'm hopeful that I'm wrong.  

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2012

Two trips to the onco office today

Dad and I put some serious miles on his Prius today.  I wasn't supposed to go to the oncologist's office today - it was supposed to be a pump-only day. 

But, I woke up this morning and there was a little but of blood in my tubing.  When I asked Dad about it, we both agreed that we needed to go to the office to check it out.  In we go....and, apparently, the blood showing was left over from yesterday's blood draw through the port.  Sometimes, the tubing can hold a small reserve, and  the nurse thought that it has just worked it's way back up the tubing during the night.  Ok.  We get it fixed, and off we go.

No sooner did we get home, and I looked at my tubing, and it was bright red, completely full with blood.  Crap. Called Dad (he had only been gone for maybe 4 minutes) and back we go.  *sigh*

We got there, and when I opened my shirt, I realized that the blood actually leaked onto my shirt, etc.  Well, after some investigation, it appears that the connection between the port tubing and the pump tubing (a kind of plumbing connector) had a leak.  This meant that every time my heart pumped, it was pumping blood back into my tubing.  Eventually, there ended up being a clot in there, too.  So, we made the decision to replace the tubing, which seemed to be the most effective way to resolve the issue.  Luckily, it doesn't appear that I missed any chemo (didn't have any chemo leak out of the tubing), so I consider that a blessing. 

Needless to say, it was a long day.  I had been looking forward to a day without having to go into the office, and I didn't make it.  Oh well - next time. 

Tomorrow, we go back in for my first dose of Avastin and to get the pump removed.  I'm nervous about the Avastin, since I don't know much about it.  It's a longer infusion (90 minutes), I imagine so that they can make sure I don't have a reaction.  I've purposely not looked up side effects.  That whole mind over body thing....

Today has been okay from a side effect standpoint.  Still some nausea, but I've been able to keep it under control with mints, lemon drops, snacks, cold drinks, and (admittedly) a Compazine first thing this morning.  Hoping that tomorrow brings me an easy day, with no Avastin side effects.  I'm off to bed, with the help of some antacids and Ativan.  Antacids to help with the atrocious heartburn, and Ativan to make sure the nausea (and anticipation) doesn't wake me up in the morning. 

Good night, all!
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 8:07 PM<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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1 COMMENTS:

Carol Pack Urbansaid...

Both my Folfox and Folfiri rounds were with Avastin. I don't recall having any side effects from it.

MARCH 29, 2012 2:10 PM

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 2012

Be your own advocate!

I'd like to say that my mouth sores have disappeared and are gone for good.  I'd be lying.  However, I can say this morning that, with the help of my primary care doc and another very helpful pharmacist, I am finally getting a little relief, no thanks to my oncologist. 

Over the weekend, my mouth sores did not get any better.  Matter of fact, they got worse.  TMI alert: By yesterday, my tongue was completely raw on the top and sides, my lips were lined with open sores just inside my mouth, and my mouth was actually bleeding from open wounds.  Gross, and SO painful.  Hard to eat, difficult to talk.  I called my oncologist's office yesterday morning, and didn't receive a phone call back until later that afternoon.  The nurse that I don't care for told me that she had called in a script for Lidocaine (a numbing agent).  I asked what that does and how it was going to help the problem.  Oh - the dr wants to see me.  Great - when?  2pm on Tuesday?  Well, I had plans (my daughter was being awarded with 2 academic awards at school, and I missed the last one - I don't want to miss this one).  I asked her what other times were available.  None.  At all.  For the entire week.  If I couldn't make it at 2pm on Tuesday, I would have to wait until chemo next week.

Really?  In two offices and with all the PAs and doctors you have, there isn't a single appointment available? 

Well, luckily, I was at my primary care doctor's office when this all went down.  I spoke with him about the mouth sores, and he took it upon himself to make a phone call to his local Walgreen's compounding pharmacist, who looked at the most recent mouth rinse, and they worked together to tweak it.  Within 30 minutes, I had an updated prescription for a better mouthwash, and was on my way. 

Needless to say, I'm not at all impressed with my oncologist.  At this point, they have now let me down more than once, and they aren't interested (in my opinion) in anything more than getting me in so I can pay more money.  They aren't looking at me as a person - to them, I'm nothing more than a number.  I'm just another recurrence.

But, I'm not.  I'm not willing to settle to be just a number.  This is my life we are dealing with.  If I have to fight with them to get what I need now, when I have energy and stamina, what the hell is going to happen when I am sick and laying in bed all day? 

I shouldn't have to fight this hard for something so simple.  If I had finished this posting this morning, when I was still so worked up about everything, it would have been much longer, and likely a lot more crude.  But, since then, I've had a conversation with CTCA, and I have true hope for the first time since this all started.  I'll update on that later - just know that I'm going to a place that will absolutely treat me the way I deserve to be treated - like a person.

Moral of this post:  You are your own best advocate.  For all the good you think your doctors and nurses are for you, it's up to you to make the final decision.  If something doesn't feel right to you, look at other options.  You are the patient - this is your life you're fighting for.  You have the right to make decisions without worrying about hurting someone's feelings or letting someone down.  When it comes to your health, you are the only person who can make a decision that is right for you.

For me, it's changing to another oncologist.  More on that amazing adventure in a bit.
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 5:01 PM<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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3 COMMENTS:

papadragonsaid...

When all is said and done you are not JUST their patient... YOU are their BOSS! Without you they have a store front office with cracked windows and leaky pipes. Sadly insurance or lack of rules the day and dictates your level of care, but even the best insurance will pay the worst doctor.

APRIL 3, 2012 10:55 PM
I'm Nic.said...

Unnecessary and unkind. So sorry you had such a mess to unravel. Hope your mouth feels relief quickly....

APRIL 4, 2012 7:40 AM
Hollysaid...

Well said Michelle! I fired my first two dermatologist's when it became clear that the had little interest in having a patient with a serious Melanoma history and were treating me with disdain for having questions when I came in for appointments! We ARE our best Advocates! Way to liveSTRONG! Glad your seeking better out a better treatment team!

APRIL 4, 2012 9:00 PM

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2012

Saturday Morning Update, and Hope

Ah - Saturday.  Woke up this morning with minimal nausea, so I consider that a mark in the win column.  LOL! 

As you saw, Wednesday didn't go quite as planned.  Once I got home from the second trip to the onco, I was exhausted.  A short nap and nausea meds, for sure.  My dear friend Karena brought over dinner (chili and cornbread - YUM!), which was amazingly helpful.  I will definitely be asking for more help with meals - having that taken care of made all the difference.  I was able to function normally with the kids that night, which helped us all. 

Thursday was an early morning back to the onco office, after we dropped the kids off at school.  We got called into the financial office and were hit with the numbers.  Don't let anyone ever tell you that chemotherapy is cheap - my one drug is around $400 each time.  Another drug is well over a grand per use, and the Neulasta shot will be around $600 per use.  Needless to say, hitting my $8000 max out-of-pocket isn't an issue.  *sigh*  We got that figured out, and we went into the chemo room. 

I hate the chemo room.  I know I shouldn't, since it helps me and it will give me my life back, but I hate it.  I hate the smell of the office.  It makes me nauseous.  I hate the chairs we have to sit in, the IV poles, the fact that everyone in there is older than me.  I hate that people look at me with pity when I'm in there, especially when they hear it's my second go-round with cancer.  I don't want pity.  I want to smile and laugh and LIVE. I don't feel like I can do that in there. 

Anyways, we got to chemo and got hooked up with the Avastin.  I had a conversation with the nurse about my concerns - everyone keeps assuming that, since we went through chemo almost four years ago, that we know what's going to happen.  I had to stop her and explain that I have willingly and purposefully forgotten everything I learned during that time frame.  That doesn't even take into account what's leaked out of my brain as a result of chemo brain.  :)  So, we had a discussion about side effects, the differences between Folfox (previous chemo) and Folfiri (this chemo), etc.  I was glad we had the discussion, but upset that we had to initiate it. 

I had them give me a full dose of Ativan before they started the Avastin - the Ativan is an anti-anxiety medicine that also has anti-nausea properties.  I was super-nauseous before we walked in there, so I knew that this was a necessity.  Needless to say, I fell asleep (one of the great things about Ativan), and actually woke myself up snoring in the chemo room.  Embarrassing, but at least I wasn't nauseous.  :) 

We were out of there by 10:30 or so, and headed home.  My dad dropped me off at my house so I could sleep some more, and he went back to his place to greet my brother Bob, my SIL Ashley, and my niece Bella.  Yeah for family visitors!  I went over there a bit later, before I grabbed the kids from daycare for their parent/teacher conferences.  Those went well (of course - my kids are amazing...), and off we went back to Mom and Dad's house for dinner with (some of the) whole family.

Yesterday brought with it more nausea in the morning, but some iced coffee (so odd) and toast helped.  We took the kids to the Wildlife World Zoohere in West Valley.  It was fun - tiring, but fun!  While there, I started to notice some sores in my mouth.  So much for no side effects from this chemo.  When we got home from the zoo, I called the oncologists office to try to get a script for the mouthwash that helps with mouth sores.  What a debacle that was. 

Getting in touch with a chemo nurse is a treat.  Leave a message and wait for a call back.  Then, they called in script.  Perfect - except, when I got to Walgreens, the pharmacist told me that one of the ingredients of the compound is no longer made.  Really?  After much discussion between the pharmacist and the nurses (and some bitchiness on both sides), we finally got the ingredients settled.  Basically, the nurses kept saying that the pharmacy could just use my script from four years ago (really?), which they couldn't because a) they only keep records for 18 months, and b) one of the ingredients is no longer made.  I can't be the only person in this four year time frame to have asked for this "miracle mouthwash".  How have they not run across this issue before?  Luckily, the pharmacist was willing to stick up for me, and fought to make sure I got what I needed.  He said that the nurses at chemo were bitchy and mean, and he decided that he would be a jerk back to make sure I got this ASAP.  Thankfully, he was able to compound the mouthwash and I was on my way. 

I think what bothers me most is that I have to fight to get answers and to get my script.  If I call the drs office, I shouldn't have to go through a bodyguard (aka, pharmacist) to get what I need.  And, even though I went through this four years ago, I still need help with this.  This is all still new to me.  I know it's not new to them, but to me, this is all new territory.  And, to have someone keep acting like it's a pain in the ass to them to give me answers makes me feel like I should start looking elsewhere. 

And, that brings me to the next piece of news.  With the help of my amazing friends, I have started the process of changing doctors.  Nothing is complete yet, but we are in the process of getting the new facility the medical paperwork.  The new place is called Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), and is one of the foremost leaders in treating advanced cancers.  Thelocal facilityis in Goodyear, which is closer to our house than the current doctor's office.  I'll go into their facility more in detail in a future posting (especially once we get more information from them).  Right now, I'll say that I have had personal experience with this facility (it's where my friend Kimwas treated), and I know of several other colon cancer patients that have been/are being treated there.  It's where I told my family that I wanted to be if my cancer ever came back.  My friend Amy did some research for me, and got me enough information that it was worth pursuing this facility.  Long story short, the financial impact is the same whether we stay at the current facility or go to CTCA.  I firmly believe that the treatment I'm going to get at CTCA is going to be much more complete and personalized, and right now, that's what I need. 

We have meetings with them next week - they will be going back to my original diagnosis to look at all of the tests, including a potential rediagnosis if needed.  They are going to look at my case completely and totally, and we will be working with not only an oncology team, but a nutritionist, naturopath, mind/body therapist, and others to give me a complete, whole body treatment plan, rather than just dealing with the cancer.  I am so excited about this!  I'm especially excited about the nutritionist, b/c I've forgotten to eat in the past couple of days, and that had a big impact on how I felt.  My eating habits have changed just in the past couple of days (my tastes are completely different), and I know it's not good for me. 

Anyways, now that this post is way longer than I intended, I'll say that I have more hope today than I did a week ago.  I'm excited about this new possibility for treatment, and I'm so glad that I have this opportunity.  Don't get me wrong - cancer still sucks, and I wish I wasn't dealing with this.  But, with the help of my friends and family, I'm going to absolutely and completely beat this.  I WILL be one of the stage 4 survivors! 

Boo-yah!
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 9:16 AM<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

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05/13/2012
by Jennifer Buck

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2012

Round Two: Cycle 1, Day 1

So, day one is down.  Well, sort of.  It's about 3:45 local time.  Right now, I'm not feeling great.  I was nauseous this morning almost from the moment I woke up.  I imagine that is part anticipation, part left-over meds from yesterday, and legitimate nausea from the chemo. 

<u>Rambling from here on out:</u>
I know that my own memories are tainting this round.  I'm remembering (consciously and non-consciously) things from last time.  Every sound, touch, taste, smell, experience is a reminder.  Walking across the threshold from the waiting room into the chemo room was, exactly as I expected, horrific.  I felt like I was walking through a really long hallway - it couldn't have been more than 15 feet.  I felt like it was the beginning of the end - it's not; it's the beginning of the end of this cancer.  Walking into the room itself was the hardest.  Just seeing the purple chairs lined up, empty, as if they were waiting for me. 

My parents and Lisa, the AMAZING chemo nurse, got me through accessing the port.  I can tell you that the whole process is pretty much a blur, like pieces of a puzzle sitting on a table, waiting to tell a story.  My story. 
I remember picking a chair, at the end of the row along the wall.  I don't know why I picked that one.   Anyways, I sat down and just blanked out.  I wasn't sure what to do - it was very surreal being there.  I was worried about the port being accessed.  I was worried about being sick, since I still felt nauseous.  I was worried about how I would feel.  The smell of the office wasn't helping.  It's a smell that sticks with you. 
Okay, so they access port, and pull cbc's (complete blood counts), to make sure I can get chemo.  They didn't need to do it, since they did the same thing yesterday for the port placement.  I think that it was a matter of giving me the time and space to come to grips with everything. 

Accessing the port didn't hurt.  Lisa numbed me up good, and I didn't feel the needle go in.  I can tell you, I tasted the saline.  Blech - dirty sweaty sock taste.  Very fun.  Thank God for mints.

First bag of drugs were pre-meds - aloxidecadronAtivan, andEmend.  All good things.  I had her only give me half a dose of Ativan, and the other half just before I left.  After we got those in, the Leucovorinand Camptosar.  Then, once those were done, the chemo nurse administered a push of 5-FU (into my port), then sent me home with my chemo pump.  All in all, it took about 3 hours.  By the time we headed home, stopped at Walgreen's to pick up the meds, and grabbed a sandwich, we made it back to our house and I rested up.  Mom and Dad left shortly thereafter, and I rested.  I'm feeling - ok.  Not great.  Still a bit nauseous, but I just took a Compazine, which should help.  I also have Ativan to take if I need it - trying to hold off, even though that works, b/c I'm waiting for the kids to get here.  Ativan makes me tired.  :)

The good news is that I don't have to go into the office tomorrow.  Last time, each cycle was three days in the  office.  This time, first day is about 3 hours in the office.  Then I go home with my iPump (still need a better name - any suggestions?) until Thursday.  Thursday's appointment will start at 8:30am, and should be less than 2 hours.  My first round of Avastin is 90 minutes, then I'm disconnected and FREE for two weeks.  Next cycle, the Avastin is an hour, then subsequent appointments are 35 minutes.  Not too bad at all, in the overall scheme of things. 

I'll probably start getting my Neulastashot next cycle.  They expect my white blood counts to go down pretty quickly, so I'll need to watch who I'm around and what I expose myself too.  But, for now, I'm okay. 

As I'm sitting there, the sound of my pump pushing the 5-FU to me makes me nauseous.  The Compazine seems to be helping, as did Mom and Dad arriving with the kids.  Stories about drama at 4th grade recess are the best medicine against nausea. 

Smells are bothering me right now.  All of my senses are heightened, but I'm definitely more sensitive to smells.  My son is sitting next to me right now, and all I can smell is kindergarten boy.  I don't mind that too much.  Means he's having fun.  :)

I think that's about it, especially now that the kids are here.  Thanks for your help in getting me through this first, emotionally difficult day.  Together, and only together, can we beat this thing.
POSTED BY MICHELLEAT 5:25 PM<img alt="" class="icon-action" height="13" width="18" style="border-top-width: 1px; border-right-width: 1px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-left-width: 1px; border-top-style: solid; border-right-style: solid; border-bottom-style: solid; border-left-style: solid; margin-top: 0px !important; margin-right: 0px !important; margin-bottom: 0px !important; margin-left: 0.5em !important; vertical-align: middle; padding-top: 4px; padding-right: 4px; padding-bottom: 4px; padding-left: 4px; border-top-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-right-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-bottom-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); border-left-color: rgb(61, 129, 238); " src="http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_email.gif">
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Tinasaid...

Reading what you went through today, I can smell it and I can taste it. I always plug my nose when they flush my port. This keeps me from tasting it--the taste makes me nauseous! Other people smell tea bags or something, but plugging my nose has always worked for me. 
Glad you are done with your first day. Kids definitely help! I remember thinking I was too sick, or too tired to visit with my girls--but then they'd all come plop on my bed and I ended up feeling so much better. What a blessing our children are! 
Hope the steroids don't keep you awake all night!

MARCH 27, 2012 6:51 PM
chaoticfamilysaid...

Hope the first round goes well.

Erinne

MARCH 27, 2012 7:44 PM
I'm Nic.said...

You got it right - the beginning of the end of this cancer. Now you got me thinking of another name for the Ipump (we call it "Mom's waterbottle" cuz it kinda looks like one). But we need something catchier. Hmmmm. Wishing you heaps of rest and calm

MARCH 28, 2012 5:15 AM
Carol Pack Urbansaid...

I can't believe that I forgot about the fanny pack! You may not need the Neulasta. My blood counts never went down on Folfiri like it did with Folfox. I never had any of the side effects they expected me to except for hair loss. It came out in clumps and was extremely thin but never lost all of it. I was so happy not to have nausea like with Oxaliplatin!

MARCH 28, 2012 8:08 AM

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03/27/2012
by Jennifer Buck

From Michelle's Blog: 
www.Michellewillwin.blogspot.com

Monday, March 26, 2012

Port Day

Another rambling post - sorry about this. I have found that using my blog to vent my thoughts helps me deal with what I'm facing - sometimes, that means that it may not make a whole lot of sense to the reader. Hopefully, you'll indulge me. I won't be offended if you don't read this. :)
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I'm sitting here, cherishing my coffee and water and oatmeal. After 6am, I can't eat or drink anything. Stupid port surgery. But, it's all good - I'm going to put chicken in the crockpot for dinner tonight. Mmmm....

Looking in the mirror this morning, I realized that it was the last time I'd be looking at my body this way. It will change irreparably today. Either my original port scar will be opened again, or they will create a new one. (Here's hoping they create a new one...I don't want them to mess up my tattoo.) Today is the start of a new chapter in my life, one that I never hoped I'd have to write. It's the beginning of a journey that I never, ever planned to take. Honestly, who does?

Four years ago, I felt so alone. I spent the first four months of my treatment thinking I was some sort of freak of nature, that I was the only person under the age of 50 diagnosed with colon cancer. Since then, I've found out that I'm part of a group of people (well, several groups) that are just amazing. The young adult cancer community is unbelievable, and I'm so so so proud to be part of it. Other colon cancer survivors lift me up every day. Their resilience, their strength, their optimism, their honesty is what inspires me to live a good life.

I woke up this morning to find out that my Mission: Remission group on facebook has over 300 people in it. That's 300 people that are supporting me, that care enough to want to join, that are curious in some fashion about what I'm going through. 300. I'm blown away. $700 has been raised to help my family pay for medical expenses. This is huge, since my out-of-pocket expenses (at least immediately) are pretty steep, and anything helps. It will help me pursue homeopathic and naturopathic remedies to help me deal with the side effects, rather than relying on prescription drugs solely. Hopefully, it will help ease my husband's mind. He's working in California this week, and can't be here with me. I don't know what he's feeling, or how he's handling this. We don't get to talk much while he's on work travel. That part sucks.

Sorry - rambling again.

So, today is port day. Before I get to that point, I have to get the kids ready for school, take them in and let the teachers and administration know what's going on (I hate to be the bearer of bad news...), and hopefully get my hair cut. Don't panic - I'm keeping my funky spiky style - I just need a trim. :) This time 'round, I'm not going to change much drastically. I'm keeping my funky hair cut (need to get my color done too...hmmm...), I'm going to continue to wear my big hoop earrings, my rings, and wear what I want (within reason). Keeping my sense of self is very important to me this time around. I feel like living my life MY WAY in spite of my cancer is the best way to tell it to eff off.

Off I go - wish me luck! I'll try to update tonight, maybe with pictures. Lucky you!

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03/27/2012
by Jennifer Buck

From Michelle's Blog:
www.michellewillwin.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Night Update

As I sit here, I'm listening to my favorite sound in the world - my children's laughter. It's an amazing sound that people often take for granted - it might bring a smile to their face, but do they really appreciate it?

By this time tomorrow night, I'll have my port in. I'll be tired, and sore, and likely emotional. By this time on Tuesday, I'll be connected to my chemo pump.

I don't think I've quite come to terms with that. I mean, I get it. I know what's coming. I understand what's happening, and I do get it. But, I think I might be in denial or something. Or, just ignoring it.

This weekend has been a mixed bag of emotions. I still haven't had my expected breakdown. I'm wondering if that won't happen. Maybe on Tuesday when I'm in chemo, or when I'm home, lugging that stupid pump around. I should probably name it. Note to self - ask Julia for help with that. Heck - she's helping me decorate it with a slipcover...why not name it?

Part of the emotions I'm feeling have to do with the outpouring of support I've been getting. I almost feel like an imposter - I don't feel sick. I'm not ill, and I don't have anything (visibly) wrong with me right now. For all intents and purposes, I'm exactly the same person I was a week ago. The difference is that now, I KNOW I have cancer again. I feel like, b/c I'm not sick, I shouldn't be on the receiving end of such generosity. And yet, at the same time, I'm aware that, in a matter of hours, that will change. Crazy.

I know this is a very rambling post. Forgive me - my brain is on overload. In the past couple of days, my friends created a logo to start this battle theme, set up a giving account (which is already over $600!), and set up an account to allow people to help us with meals. I've seen my friend count on facebook grow by more than a dozen, reconnected with a ton of people from my past, and had support come my way from literally all around the world. I'm still in shock.

Tomorrow will be a rough day. I know it will be. My hope is that I make it through with little pain, a matching scar on my left side (so they don't mess up my tattoo on the right), and no side effects. :) Wishful thinking? Maybe. Why not?

I'll try to update tomorrow sometime. Please know that the support you all have given me is more than I could have ever imagined. A girl from Syracuse, NY just doesn't deserve the kind of family and friends I have. I can only hope that I would be the same kind of friend, were the situation reversed.

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03/27/2012
by Jennifer Buck

From Michelle's Blog: 
www.michellewillwin.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Overwhelming Support

Ladies and gentlemen, the amount of support you've given me over the past couple of days has been completely overwhelming - in a good way. The love and prayers and support and kind words and good thoughts and happy mojo coming my way have made a very difficult time a bit easier, and I can't possibly tell you just how much that means to me. I've been friended on facebook by people I didn't even know, but who knew me through others and wanted to keep in touch. I've heard from people that I had lost touch with. I've gotten emails from all over the world. It's just been....wow.

My fabulous friend Jen came up with a logo for this battle. Can you say FABULOUS?!?!
She also set up a group on facebook, <font color="#613b77">here</font>. I'll do my best to remember to link this blog to that facebook posting.

Levi headed back to California today for work - unfortunately, in spite of this devastating diagnosis, we still have to live life, and working is part of that. It sucks that he has to be gone this week, but it is what it is. The kids and I are going to head to the gym this morning (I'm not letting this cancer ruin my newly-found love for running and working out). Tonight will consist of cleaning the house and watching Syracuse (hopefully) kick some ass on the basketball court!

Again, thanks. So much!

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03/27/2012
by Jennifer Buck

From Michelle's Blog:
www.michellewillwin.blogpot.com

Thursday, March 22, 2012 -

Mission: Remission

Well, let's call this blog reboot 2.0. Apparently, this is going to be a long war that's going to be played out in many battles. Battle Number 2 is about to begin.

I haven't kept this updated, because I wasn't sure what to write. I'm not even sure what I'm going to write now, so you'll have to bear with me as I ramble. My mind isn't quite together yet.

I found out two days ago that my cancer is back. Lymph node involvement in the upper left region of my abdomen, with some potential activity in my lungs.

At the last scan, my CEA level was up from 1.5 to 3.5, which was still within normal range (0-5 is considered normal). Because my PET scan and colonoscopy were clear, my oncologist felt comfortable monitoring me for a while. When I went in for my CEA testing two weeks ago, the level was up to 10.7. He had me go back in for a re-do. Number was up to 10.8. Not good.

So, per the drs instructions, in for my PET scan I go. *sigh*

When I called the following day for my results, I was told I could come in that day or the next day. Well, that did not make me happy. I knew it wasn't good news.

The long and the short of it is that I have active cancer in lymph nodes in my abdomen (outside of my colon), and some suspicious spots on my lungs that are not currently showing active. That means I'm stage 4 colon cancer.

Crap.

What's the gameplan? Port gets put in on Monday, and chemo starts on Tuesday. I'll be on a chemo combination of Folfiri and Avastin. Folfiri is 5FU, laucovorin, and irinotecan. Once again, I'll be on my chemo pump for three days every two weeks. According to the doctors and nurses I've spoken with, the side effects should be nothing like what I dealt with last time - there's no Oxalipalantin, so no sensitivity to cold. Lisa, one of my chemo nurses, said I will be able to supplement my chemo with a cold beer. :) The biggest concern is diarrhea, which I'm very excited about. *insert eye roll*

So, you might ask - how am I doing? Well, ok, considering. I'm scared shitless about the possibility of what this means. I am all too aware of what this disease has the potential of doing, especially b/c it's (probably) already in my lungs. That's the ONE place I didn't want it to go. I know the stats, and I know what could happen. However, those stats aren't me.

I'm ready for the fight. I've had time to kind of get used to talking about this. I know that I'll have a very difficult time on Monday when I have to go in for my port placement. I expect Tuesday will be even more difficult - the memories of that chemo room, the smells in that office, the thought of sitting in those chairs again are just too much to bear. But, I have to do it. Why?


Those, right there, are my two biggest reasons.

The doctor seems optimistic that long-term remission is a possibility. So, that's my new goal. As the title says, Mission: Remission. Let's get there. I know a cure isn't going to happen to me. I don't like it, but I have to come to terms with it. So, let's aim for remission. LONG-TERM REMISSION.

You with me?

Let's do this. Bring it on, bitches. You ain't got NOTHING on this chick....

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03/25/2012
by Jennifer BuckShare This Update!


03/25/2012
by Jennifer Buck
Michelle Hastings

Ask those with cancer the date of their diagnosis and most likely they’ll be able to tell you without thinking twice. Michelle Hastings, 32, is no exception. “Friday, May 23, 2008, was my mother’s birthday and a week before my son, Kevin’s second birthday,” says Michelle wistfully. “When I was diagnosed with colon cancer, it was devastating and my only reaction was to cry.”

<img align="right" src="http://www.twccaz.org/Common/Img/MichelleH.jpg" border="0" hspace="0" alt="">
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03/25/2012
by Jennifer Buck

MY VOICE - Written by Michelle Hastings June 14, 2009

As I sit here looking back on the past year, I marvel at where I was, where I am, and what I have to look forward to. A year ago, I was Michelle: mom, wife, daughter, sister, employee, student, etc. I had titles that clearly defined who I was and what was expected of me. I was okay with them. I was content, and looking forward to a life raising my kids and growing old.

Then, on May 23rd of 2008, my life completely and totally turned upside down. After what I thought was going to be a routine colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I was 31 years old. At that point (though I didn't yet know it), I added survivor to the titles I have had bestowed on me. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the title that would forever define who I am.

I could bore you with the details of my cancer journey - here's the condensed version. May 2008 - Stage 3 Colon Cancer. PET scan - no mets. Surgery - they took a foot of my colon (which, I am told, makes me a semi-colon!). Lymph node activity came back positive - 7 months of chemo, 3 days every other week. 1 additional hospital stay (infected port). Clear PET and blood work January 2009. Whew.

Since then, I have become active in the Colon Cancer Alliance of Central AZ, where I have the honor of being the co-chair. I am also working with i[2]y, Imerman Angels, and The Wellness Community. I know that I have a purpose with this disease, and it's working with other survivors to help them through. I don't have a clear path yet, but I'm working on it. I know what I need to do - I just need to get there.

The word "survivor" was very scary to me, until about a month ago. I am still a little terrified of that word. Why? Because to me, it indicates the end of the fight. "I survived, so I'm not fighting anymore." I am not able to accept that. I am NOT done fighting. While I may not be in active chemo any longer, I still fight every day for what is mine - my life. I also fight for the others that still need help in their fight. There are too many of us out there, and each of us could use one more happy thought, a positive bit of energy, a smile, a laugh, or a prayer to help get us through.

What made me start to get over my fear of the word "survivor?" I was at the Women's Expo here in Phoenix, working for the Colon Cancer Alliance and i[2]y. Across the way was a gentleman working the Ovarian Cancer booth. Yes, a guy working a women's cancer booth. Why? Because his wife had been diagnosed, and he didn't want any other husbands to go through the heartache that he has had to deal with. (She's a survivor as well.)

He and I became friendly, and he asked me how long I have been a survivor. I don't know if this is true, but I think cancer patients can understand why I hesitated with my answer - am I a survivor from the date of my surgery? My chemo? The end of chemo? The date I got the clear test results back? No - according to this person, I was a survivor from day 1 - the day I am diagnosed, I am a survivor. And, that makes sense. As soon as I found out that I had cancer, I became a survivor.

I blogged the other day about being a survivor. I have a term I prefer over this word - I want to be known, from here on out, as a colon cancer ass-kicker. It has such a strong, bold ring to it. And, given my particular cancer, it makes sense - this cancer invaded my butt; I kicked it's ass.

I decided at the beginning of my journey that I wasn't going to let cancer take me down. It could have - had I postponed the testing and waited the three months like I originally wanted to, I wouldn't have made it to see my kids open their Christmas gifts this past year. The cancer was that far along. I wasn't going to let some rogue cells ruin my life by taking me away from my friends and family. I have too much to do - I have too many things to take care of. I said from day one that it's going to take a whole lot more than cancer to bring this chick down.

I look back on the past year with amazement - it's unbelievable to me what I have gone through. I tend to be the type of person who plays down the chemo, the surgery, the emotions, the medicines, the side effects....others have had it so much worse than me, and complaining about it seems like disrespect to those people. But, when the end of the day comes, we are all still in the same boat. While I haven't had to go through some of the things that others have had to ensure, I know that the road I traveled was hard and trying and brutal, nonetheless. I am trying to remember that, and not belittle my struggle.

My two biggest reasons for survival - well, they are sleeping right now. I took them out for ice cream tonight. We sat on a bench, watching the sun set, trying to finish our sundaes before they melted. I look at my kids, and I know that I need to be here for them. I remember the day after my diagnosis, taking a shower and getting ready to pick my mom up from the airport. I was standing there, and it all hit me - I started sobbing, and couldn't stop. What was my new to-do list? Casket shopping? Funeral arrangements? Burial plot? How was I going to let my kids know how MUCH I love them?

I have so many other reasons for living. I am married to the most amazing man in the world. My parents and brothers (and their respective significant others) inspire me daily to be the best person I can be. I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends. And, throughout the past year, I have been given the honor of getting to know so many fabulous people through the cancer. This is truly one of the blessings I can say came from the cancer.

On day 3 of my cancer journey, I started a blog. It's called “Michelle Will Win”, and this is my mantra. I will win. I will get to the other side, and be an advocate for this disease, in all it's disgusting forms. Weekly, I make contact with people through my blog, networking, walking down the street, etc. and I am able to educate, inform, and maybe make a new friend.

This weekend, I took the kids to a Memorial Day parade. I wore my "I Will Win" tee shirt and my "Colon Cancer Survivor" pin. It was my cancer-versary, and I was proud. I had people stop me in the vendor section to ask me about it. I had people literally step OUT of the parade to congratulate and hug me. I didn't know these people. They don't know me. But, now, I consider them friends.

I have been given the most amazing gift. At the age of 31, I had to re-evaluate what was important in my life. I had to take a long, hard look at my priorities and really think about what I needed to spend my energy on. I have chosen to live my life in this sense - the cancer could come back. I am optimistic, but realistic. I could die from the cancer. I could also die tomorrow in a car crash. So, I'm not going to dwell on the inevitable. I'm going to go to bed each night knowing that I lived that day to the fullest, and that I have no regrets. Not many people anticipating their 33rd birthday can say that. I say that's pretty special.

I survive for so many reasons. Among other reasons, I survive to prove a point. I am NOT going to be a just a number or just a statistic. I want to let the medical community, society, and other survivors out there know that this DOES happen to people my age, with no family history, with no REASON. I survive because I have a voice. I am a survivor, one of many, and proud of it. We will be heard, and we will make a difference.

Michelle Hastings

Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Colon Cancer Ass-Kicker!!!


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