Category Archives: cancer

2013 Blog in Review

Wow, here we go again it’s December 31, 2013, where has the year gone?  I swear I was just writing my 2012 Blog in Review post and here it is 365 days later and I’m doing it again.

I was a *bad* blogger this year.  I lost the urge to blog.  Had no time to take photos.  My energy was zapped from working full-time.  In other words….I sucked at blogging in 2013.  Last year I blogged at least once in 11 of the 12 months making my Review post more exciting  This year I didn’t blog for five whole months – aka BORING post!.  That is so unlike me!

I’m joining in in a Project 365 blog meme.  A *true* participant in Project 365 would take (and post) a photo every day during the year, I know myself and that there’s no way I could do that so I am tweaking it to fit me.  My 2013 goal is to blog at least once every single week.  It may not be every day, but that’s an achievable goal.

Without further ado my 2013 Blog in Review posts, a little shorter then usual but it’s here!

january-2

Goodbyes
[January 29, 2013]

 

february-2a

1,000th Post & Giveaway
[February 21, 2013]

 

march=-2

Spring Snow
[March 22, 2013]

april-2

Crying Baby Photo Contest
[March 22, 2013]

 

july-2

2013 Mariners Games, thus far
[July 7, 2013]

november-2a

Totaled
[November 20, 2013]

december-2

Volume 12 Baby
[December 28, 2013]

Hope you have a fantastic and safe New Years Eve!  See you in 2014!

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In case you missed my 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Blog in Reviews, be sure to check them out!

I’m linking up with Jo-Lynne from Musings of a House Wife in the 2013 Blog Recap Carnival!
2013 linky

Goodbyes

Almost a year ago, I was faced with a high probability, sad, “good bye”. 

A good bye, that I couldn’t believe I may have to be facing.  She is to young to die.  How am I supposed to go on with life without her?

Those days, while they seem so long ago, in retrospect they seem like just yesterday.

Nine months ago, my families life was turned upside and shook dramatically. 

Nine months ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Incurable Metastatic Carcinoid Cancer.

Nine months ago, my life changed.

Now nearly a year later, we’re getting ready to say good-bye to Kelly, but not in the way we once feared.  We will be saying good-bye to her for five months, while she lives out her life long dream of attending school in France.

A year ago, we didn’t know if we would have Kelly with us, a year from now.  And yet now, a year later, she has been give the green light by her oncologist to study abroad.  How amazing is that?

As I watch her begin to prepare for this huge milestone in her life, I’m constantly sent back to that night when her diagnosis became a reality.  A night that I replay over and over again in my head, often still daily. 

They say when you are given traumatic news you remember EVERYTHING about the moment and a year later I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  I have yet to share how I found out, because I wasn’t ready yet to talk about it.  Like everything else, time heals all – not to mention Kelly being so strong has really helped me finally feel ready to share that night on my blog.

My side of the story…..

I was in out of town and visiting Arizona.  For days my mom had been pestering me asking “when are you coming home.”  I knew she was going to freak, when I told her how long I would be gone, because I was missing school during my final quarter, so I kept putting it off.  “I’ll look tomorrow….”

Well, after nearly a week of “I’ll look tomorrow,” I found out why she was so inquisitive about when I would be returning home.  She had some really big news to share and wanted to tell me in person – not over the phone, nearly 1,500 miles away.

It was Easter 2012 Night.

photoI had spent Easter in the sun lounging by the pool and enjoying the HOT weather of Arizona.  Life was good.  I was doing my favorite thing in the world, sunbathing in the sun!  I even took the picture to the left….Everything was perfect.

That night after all the kids had gone to bed, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on homework (remember I was missing school to go on this vacation), Julia had also gone to bed and Alec and his parents were watching TV.  My phone lit up and it was my mom calling.

I hadn’t talked to her yet that day, so assumed she was calling to wish me a Happy Easter.  I happily answered the phone and excused myself to talk to my mom.  It was still warm out and I went out to the front patio to talk.

As soon as I answered the phone, I heard the uncertainty in my mom’s voice.  It immediately sent me into a state of panic.  I knew something was wrong. 

I still remember my body temperature shooting up and my heart racing – this was before any words had ever come out of her voice.

Then I hear her say, “Cori, do you want to know why I’ve been so persistent about finding out when you come home?”

Immediately running through my head was the knowledge that I was about to receive life changing news.  My perfect vacation was about to be clouded. 

My response to her was, “No, not really …. do I need to go take an anxiety pill before we start?”

Yes, I told my mom I didn’t want to know and was ready to medicate myself. 

My initial thought was my parents were getting a divorce.  Why I thought that I don’t know.  Them getting a divorce would be a huge shocker, because they are so happy.  But, that was where my mind went.  It was the only thing that seemed possible.  Never once did I thought the “C” word was going to come out of her mouth.

All I remember at that point was ….. Kelly ….. Cancer ….Unsure ….Big Appointment on Tuesday to learn more.

My head was spinning, my heart was racing and tears were flowing.

At this point, I sat down on the lawn chairs on the patio.  Asking every question imaginable and to my horror, she had no answers.

  • We didn’t know what kind of cancer
  • We didn’t know what stage of cancer it was
  • We didn’t know if it was life threatening
  • We didn’t know if she would need chemotherapy.  Or radiation.  Or surgery.

We didn’t know anything.

At this point, I’m sure she knew I was losing it and being 1,500 miles away there was nothing she could do to help.  She asked me to go get Julia so she could talk to her.  Shakily I set my phone down, went in the house and woke Julia up.

This time it was my turn to tell someone about the cancer and again all I remember was telling her ….. Kelly ….. Cancer ….Unsure ….Big Appointment on Tuesday to learn more.

Julia shot up and joined me outside.  She and my mom talked for a long time.

It then came down to my understanding that all our questions would be answered at the big appointment on Tuesday.  My mom wanted me to have the opportunity to attend if I wanted to.  After talking and some thought, I decided I didn’t want to be there for the meeting, in fact I wasn’t ready to go home.  My hope was the craziness of vacation would keep my mind off of all the unknowns.

After we hung up it was time to go inside and again tell people ….. Kelly ….. Cancer ….Unsure ….Big Appointment on Tuesday to learn more.  However, this time I had Julia who was able to fill in some of the blanks.

The next two days we kept busy.  Everyone was wonderful about trying to keep me distracted, which was exactly what I needed.  The distraction included a trip to an Ostrich Farm….bet you’ve never been there before!

However, even as distracted as I was, the ….. Kelly ….. Cancer ….Unsure ….Big Appointment on Tuesday to learn more kept creeping back into my thoughts.  Somehow I had to make it through the day until the big appointment the next day.

Tuesday FINALLY came and I waited for my mom to call as soon as they got out of the appointment. 

The call finally came and that’s when I heard the diagnosis.  Stage 4Incurable. Cancer.

We also learned that neither chemo, radiation or heavy medication could fight it.  We were dealing with a new and very rare cancer.

Luckily, they had caught the cancer early and it was very slow growing they believed.  She would need to have surgery immediately, but the good news is we had time on our side.

Metastatic Carcinoid Cancer is still a fairly new cancer.  There isn’t a lot of research being done on it yet, but it is rapidly growing.  We have great hope that we have enough time for them to find a cure or way to slow the tumors down that our coating her liver.

If this is your first time reading my blog, I invite you to read more about this rare cancer and see how many family is living with it. 

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Now, nearly a year later, I am so thankful that we have this year behind us.  I’m so happy to see Kelly packing and planning her trip.  I’m so honored to have her as a sister.

Kelly and I aren’t BFF’s.  Nor do we get along, but (even though my mom doesn’t see it or would we admit it), we have grown a lot closer throughout this obstacle. 

I will miss her when she’s gone.  I will cry when she leaves.  But I am so happy to be saying Good-Bye for five months, and know that she will be back home before I know it….and not forever. 

This post is also part of Wordless WORDFUL Wednesday on the following blogs:
Parenting By Dummies & Seven Clown Circus
Live and Love…Out Loud
Crazy About My Baybah!
Carrie with Children
Project Alicia

Kelly Cancer Update – 11/21/2012

Here is the email that was sent out by my mom on behalf of her and my dad about Kelly’s cancer update from the day before Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve,
 
We are very grateful for your support this past few months as our family has processed the news of Kelly’s cancer diagnosis. We have felt so supported and cared for and want you to know how thankful we are for all your prayers and all the thoughtful things you have done for us.
 
Kelly’s health continues to be good and as I have shared with many of you, our biggest job right now is to help Kelly dive into her life so deeply that she will have the will and strength to fight this disease when it hits. We will be ready too, but in the meantime, we will continue to look for the best possible clinical research opportunities and for the miracles that we’ll need to ultimately beat this.
 
The good news continues to be that time is on our side, and while her most recent MRI unfortunately showed some small growth in one of the tumors in her liver, her oncologist remains confident that she will likely not feel symptoms for another year, which of course would then require some aggressive treatment. But for now, she is strong and healthy and has stepped up her plans to live some of her dreams, one of which is the reason for this email.
 
Kelly’s number one life experience is to live and study in Paris, which she has been working toward for the past six months. As of Friday, we thought we had everything in order for her February 11th departure for France; but wouldn’t you know it, her student loan was denied at the last minute due to a number of factors that no one expected, not even her college. Bob and I have already contributed the lions share of her tuition and trip, but the student loan was going to augment our support and Kelly’s savings.
 
Her heart is set on this and so we offered to share her story with you all in the event you might be in a position to help her with a little financial support. She has created a profile on Greennote.com, a site that helps kids with college support, so if you would take a couple of minutes to take a look, we’d be very grateful. Here is the link: http://www.greennote.com/student.aspx?id=1055
 
Thank you for your love and support and we wish you a very memorable Thanksgiving celebration with your family and friends!
 
Lots of Love,
Bob and Linda

Operation: Send Kelly to Paris!

In April, my younger sister, Kelly, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-curable (or is it incurable?  I suppose both!) Metastatic Carcinoid Cancer.  It sent my entire family into a deep down wording spiral of depression.  It was awful.  For those of you who have never had a loved one be diagnosed with a disease that comes with a death sentence, it’s scary.  Really scary.

Oddly enough, while my family became withdrawn, depressed and reliant on each other, Kelly stayed strong.  We all wanted to be with her because she brought light back into our very dark days.  I would have never expected the person with the cancer diagnosis having the ability and strength to not only cope and accept the diagnosis, but also be the rock that held our family together.  It was quite remarkable.

In April, my mom sent out an email to our family and close friends (which I also posted here), explaining more about the diagnosis and cancer Kelly has:

The bad news is that her cancer is stage 4 and incurable and because the tumors are extensive and not in a mass, it is inoperable. Chemotherapy is also ineffective against this cancer, so our treatment options are limited.

It’s called metastatic carcinoid cancer.  The only place they can find evidence of it is in her liver, but it originated from somewhere else and they can’t seem to find the source.

However, the good news is that this is a slow growing cancer, so we have time.  How much time is the focus of our next step.  The other good news is that the tumors are incredibly small, so small in fact that they didn’t show up on the radioactive scans.  They did however show up on the MRI, but no other cancer could be found which is also good news.

So the bottom line is that we have time.  It’s very serious, but not so urgent that we need to move into treatment right away.   She’s probably one of the youngest people to ever get diagnosed with this thing since it’s generally a cancer that affects people 55+.  (Sounds like Kelly, huh?)

The plan is to run a few more tests to see if we can find the source, and then begin the vigil of benchmarking the changes of the tumors she has.  So every couple of months they will rescan her to see if there is growth.  After 6 months or so, we’ll be able to get a sense of how slow or aggressive it might be.  That will give us a better handle on the amount of time we have to figure out how to treat this.  (Click HERE to read the whole email)

Not to long after her diagnosis she went through several surgeries back to back, in hopes of removing the cancer host (where the cancer originated).  This is where it gets to medically involved for me and I get confused :) The doctors and medical staff could tell her cancer had spread, but wasn’t sure where it spread from.  They had a couple of inklings of where the host was, but weren’t 100% sure.  Since the two organs they removed weren’t “needed” we elected to just remove them and not worry about it anymore.

That was a great idea in hindsight, but Kelly then spent a good part of the next two weeks in the hospital and when she was home she was horribly sick and in and out of doctors appointments.  Seeing Kelly so sick was extremely saddening for myself and my family.  She (obviously) is a VERY STRONG PERSON, and seeing her in pain was … well … painful.

However, despite all the surgeries, doctors appointments, different medical procedures, etc., Kelly continued to have a dream living in Paris.

While most people would slow down, Kelly never did.  Going to Paris was her dream and nobody was going to stop her … not even Stage 4 non-curable cancer.

Even though Kelly held this dream, it took several months before she was ready to make this dream a reality.  In July, we received AMAZING news that there had been NO growth of the tumors and of the 30 tumors that had originally seen, 27 of them were GONE!   Below is a segment of the email my mom once again sent out to our family and friends (and once again it made it onto my blog!

Kelly had her initial follow-up MRI as our first benchmark to determine whether or not the tumors are active. The doctor told us the good news is that there was no growth in size of any of the tumors, nor were there any new tumors. This was plenty of good news to us, and just as we all gave a sigh of relief, the doctor said….”but wait….There’s even better news.” This we weren’t expecting. She went on to say the scan showed that all but three tumors appear to have been treated and were dead. After a collective “huh?” she went on to explain that the 24ish tumors that were ablated in her surgery were ones that showed up on the MRI as being inside the liver. As it turns out, they were close enough to the surface to where a small part was visible on the outside. What we all originally thought were 30 or more inside her liver and a couple of dozen on the surface were actually mostly the same. In short, we are now only monitoring 3 tumors in her liver!!!!!!!!

This was a game-changer and the nightmare surgery has a happy back story. The other good news is that Kelly still has no symptoms, which means that the tumors are not active. We don’t know how long this will continue, but we are banking on years. We will continue to monitor things every three months to track any progress, but as of now, she is healthy and as sassy as ever! In fact, she’s moving on and has decided to do a semester abroad in Paris next Spring and has her application pending. She has declared French as her major and will be able to finish her degree in two years. The semester in France will provide her with not only credits, but the fulfillment of a dream of hers since she was 5. We’re all very excited and grateful for this moment in time.  (Click HERE to read the entire email)

However, 7 months after her cancer diagnosis she was able to apply, be accepted into a program and will be studying abroad in Paris for a semester (February-June I believe).

Everything was all set financially until she was solidifying financial aid with her school and was suddenly told they would NOT be able to provide her with the money.  This is AFTER they had told Kelly on numerous occasions, approved her forms saying they supported this study abroad program and would assist financially.  In the end she got no money and a very apologetic “We’re so SORRY!”

My parents are kicking in 3/4′s of the money its taking her to go, but somehow Kelly needs to come up with $5k in a short period of time to be able to hold her spot and be on her way to Paris.

Can you help her?  She is trying to raise the needed $5k to be able to live her dream and study abroad in Paris.  As Kelly states in her message below, she doesn’t know how long she’ll be feeling good and really wants to do this before she gets to sick (paraphrased :D)

Click HERE to be taken to her GreenNote: The Higher Education Donor Network Page)

Through this site you can donate however much you feel inclined to share.  It’s all paid through PayPal so it’s nice and easy to do!  Please help us send Kelly to Paris, to  live out her dream in life!

Thanks again for all your love and support of Kelly, myself and my family!  We truly appreciate it!

XOXO

 

Kelly Cancer Update – 07.13.2012

Below you will find a letter written by my mom about an update on Kelly’s cancer diagnosis and current prognosis.  The actual doctor’s appointment where this information came from was actually on July 13th, but my mom has been so busy it wasn’t until Thursday night when she wrote the update!  Luckily you will find only good news in the below letter to our family and friends!

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to our family, we are so very thankful for each one of you!

XOXO,
Cori

~~~~~~~

Dear Family and Friends,

You know the old adage….”No news is good news…” Well in our case, this is very true. I am excited to finally share with you an amazing update from Kelly’s doctor, but before I do, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers and good thoughts. They are working!!!

To remind you of the journey we are on, back in April, we learned that Kelly has a rare form of cancer – metastatic carcinoid tumors. It was discovered quite by accident during a surgery she had in late March to remove her gall bladder. While in there, the surgeon noticed some unusual growths on the surface of her liver and took a sample to biopsy. They turned out to be carcinoid tumors that had metastasized to the liver from an unknown place of origin. We were stunned.

After our first meeting with her doctor, we were devastated to learn that this was a stage 4 cancer. To make things crazier, we learned that it does not respond to traditional chemotherapy, and due to the sheer number of tumors inside her liver (approximately 30), it was inoperable. Our best strategy was to keep her strong and healthy long enough for research to catch up. However, the good news was that this is a very slow growing cancer and that we have time – how much time we don’t know—but possibly many years before things became dire. The plan was (and is) to do regular MRI scans to track the growth and movement of these tumors to determine how much time we have, in essence, “to find a miracle.”

Several weeks after the diagnosis, Kelly underwent surgery to see if we could identify the source of the carcinoid. One of her ovaries was showing a mass and was triple in size, so that was a possibility. The doctors also noticed something unusual in her appendix so that was also targeted along with a mass of tissue called the omentum which covers the lymph nodes in the abdominal region. So they removed her left ovary, appendix and omentum to biopsy to see if the cancer originated in any of these sites or if it had spread via the lymph system. And while she was under anesthesia, they also brought in a second surgeon to ablate the tumors that were evident on the surface of her liver. They cauterized approximately 24 tumors in an attempt to reduce the cancer load.

This was an incredibly difficult surgery not just because it was pretty darn intense, but because there always seems to be scary little surprises when Kelly is involved. After a very stressful few days of complications and an emergency blood transfusion, Kelly began to recover.

The news was positive from the biopsies, although there continues to be two opinions on the source. The good part is that it didn’t originate in the ovary which is the rarest source of carcinoid and one of the most aggressive, and they didn’t find evidence in the lymph system, but they did find a tumor in her appendix. There are two camps of oncologists on Kelly’s case – one group who believe the appendix is the primary and the other who don’t. So we’re not completely sure, but if it is the appendix, it is no more.

Now back to the amazing update…

Kelly had her initial follow-up MRI as our first benchmark to determine whether or not the tumors are active. The doctor told us the good news is that there was no growth in size of any of the tumors, nor were there any new tumors. This was plenty of good news to us, and just as we all gave a sigh of relief, the doctor said….”but wait….There’s even better news.” This we weren’t expecting. She went on to say the scan showed that all but three tumors appear to have been treated and were dead. After a collective “huh?” she went on to explain that the 24ish tumors that were ablated in her surgery were ones that showed up on the MRI as being inside the liver. As it turns out, they were close enough to the surface to where a small part was visible on the outside. What we all originally thought were 30 or more inside her liver and a couple of dozen on the surface were actually mostly the same. In short, we are now only monitoring 3 tumors in her liver!!!!!!!!

This was a game-changer and the nightmare surgery has a happy back story. The other good news is that Kelly still has no symptoms, which means that the tumors are not active. We don’t know how long this will continue, but we are banking on years. We will continue to monitor things every three months to track any progress, but as of now, she is healthy and as sassy as ever! In fact, she’s moving on and has decided to do a semester abroad in Paris next Spring and has her application pending. She has declared French as her major and will be able to finish her degree in two years. The semester in France will provide her with not only credits, but the fulfillment of a dream of hers since she was 5. We’re all very excited and grateful for this moment in time.

Our deepest thanks goes out to all for your love and support. We have rounded a very difficult corner in our lives and know we could never have moved through this without you. The future is uncertain, but then isn’t that the case for everyone; so we are living life a little more aware of the miracle of it all.

Hugs and more hugs,

Linda and the Benson clan.

Arizona: Day 6 (Easter)

*Sigh* I’m so far behind in my blogging, lately I just don’t have the energy by the end of the day to blog.  Not sure if it’s school or my new medication, or a combo of the two, but I am exhausted come evening time!  It’s crazy for me to not get on the computer at night, but for some reason I have no desire to power up my laptop like I normally do.  Anyway, I’m still trying to get through all my Arizona photos.  Two days left after today’s post!  Oh and did I mention I graduate in 16 days! Yippee!!

Back to Arizona….

Easter Sunday started early, very early.  I attended a sunrise service for church at get this …. 6:30am.  I struggle to get to church by 9am when we’re on that cycle, but 6:30am!  I’m still amazed that I was up and and we all made it to the service by 6:30am. 

I’m used to church lasting three hours long.  This service we were in and out in just over 30 minutes, kind of crazy.  Just long enough for the kids to get hyped up for the Easter Egg Hunt that awaited them when we returned to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

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It was fun watching the kids hunt for eggs and goodies.  With us being in Arizona the Easter Bunny had to be careful about where he hid the eggs as we were surrounded by cacti!  Needless to say the kids were extremely careful when picking eggs up!

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We spent the balance of Easter at the pool lounging and swimming.  It was a great way to spend what normally at home is a rainy icky day!  Bring on the sunshine!

Easter evening was the night when my mom called and told me about Kelly’s diagnosis of cancer.  This was the last real carefree day of my trip, as my mind became quite preoccupied and anxious after talking to my mom.  One of these days I’ll write out how I found out…not very exciting, but I think it would be good for me to document.  Writing is a good stress reliever for me…

On a happier note …. Happy LONG Memorial Weekend to you all!

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Relay for Life Pictures

On May 5th my family participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life! Late last month I put out a plea for friends {see plea here}, family and complete strangers to help put an end to cancer and join Team Benson in the Relay For Life.

We were absolutely astounded by the love and support that came pouring in.  We initially asked for $1,000, but we quickly surpassed that goal and set a new goal of $3,500!  Currently we are $65 a way from our goal.  (If you would like to donate and help us reach it click here!)

I unfortunately missed the event, as I had prior plans, but I wanted to make sure to document the race and follow up with everyone who donated and is interested.

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Oh and I forgot to mention Team Benson earned the most money of any of the teams there!! 

WAY TO GO!!

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Mini-Breakdown

Ever since Kelly’s diagnosis of cancer I had been pretty strong. I had a couple of negative-anxiety ridden posts following the initial diagnosis but overall I felt strong and in control. Well that all ended last night.

I had an okay day, went to the laundromat and got all my laundry cleaned (still need to put it away ugh!). After Jaime and the girls came over and we hung out.

They left around 5pm and my mood began to deteriorate.

Around 7pm I lost it. Tears, anger, frustration all came to a boiling point. I felt completely out of control.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried like this. Worst part was I caused my mom to lose it too and then I really couldn’t stop crying once we both were on a roll.

Cancer sucks.

What sucks even more is this out of control – crazed person I feel I’ve been lately. Part of me is happy I had my mini-breakdown last night. I let down my guard and the dam came crashing down.

I once again feel in control and best of all, all my tears have been shed….at least for a few more days!

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