Posts filed under ‘Cancer’

This Time’s For Real

Danny REAL first day backFirst day back – TAKE TWO! I swear, this is the last time you’ll see a post about Danny returning to work because, this morning, Danny’s plane actually took off with him in the co-pilot seat, making it his OFFICIAL first day back! YAY!

And how appropriate that the first city he should fly to is the one we left to move to Denver for his new job at Frontier Airlines, three years ago – St. Louis, the Gateway City.

Right now, he is meeting our friends for dinner in the Lou, where it is 95º, but feels like 109º with humidity. Being from Arizona, I can attest to the fact that a dry heat is much preferable to a midwest summer. But, I’m sure the heat is of no consequence right now to my patient husband, whose long wait to get back in the saddle has finally arrived. Ride ’em cowboy!

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August 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm 4 comments

Trying to Have It All

SuperwomanI’ll never be SuperMom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try and have it all.

If there’s anything that turning 40 and watching your 39-year-old husband battle cancer teaches you, it’s that thinking you’ll always have later to live the life you really want is foolhardiness. Later is NOW and I’d rather not be the fool who on my death bed rattles off my list of “should’a, could’a, would’ves” to my loved ones in a pathetic attempt to add meaning to my life.

That is what I kept thinking when I knew I’d have to give up being a full-time, stay-at-home Mom to return to work. If I now had to give up some of my time caring for my family (which is all I wanted to do), so that I could provide for them, I’d better love what I do. Otherwise, it felt like we were all being cheated.

Gretchen Reid of Motherhood Transitions helped me to see clear of the box I had put myself in, which is why I’ve written a guest post on her blog today about where I started over a year ago and how this month, I finally find myself Coming Full Circle…

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August 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

Hey! Where’d my blog go? And more important matters.

dead houseplantWhile I’m sure no one really noticed, *ahem* it has been over TWO MONTHS since my last post! Ack! Hellooooo… anybody out there? You’ve all gone on to more important things than checking in to see if I’ve come back from the dead, I know. After my first successful year of regular (okay, somewhat regular) posts, I let a few weeks lapse give my perfectionist ego all the justification it needed to apply the “all-or-nothing clause” and wait for my world to stop spinning on its’ axis so I’d have a good hour to devote to a proper post. HA! My poor house plants, which have been brought back from the brink more times than Dick Cheney on a stretcher, were sadly under the same clause. Only, there’s no bringing them back this time.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging over this past year, it’s that you can’t wait to finish the laundry, pay the bills, mop the floors, and have dinner simmering on the stove before you give some love to your blog. Nope. Bloggers are probably some of the worst housekeepers you’ll ever meet, and they’ll be the first to admit it – on their blogs to the whole world. Because it’s all about being genuine, not perfect. And genuine means you may only have 15 minutes to get what’s in your head out on the page; typos and all. I’m still learning to embrace this part of blogging… seizing the moment when inspiration hits. Kind of like a Cialis ad.

There have been many moments of inspiration over these past two months, but since I didn’t seize those moments then, here they are in a nutshell now:

  1. Mile High Mamas at Denver Childrens MuseumReagan and I attended the new bubbles exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Denver with the Mile High Mamas. We had a blast!
  2. Jim Kelly’s Second Annual Crawfish Boil was held. Reagan managed to eat the tops off of 6 cupcakes without me seeing, until I found the evidence all over Jim’s yard.
  3. I was finally making progress on my New Year’s resolution to go back to the gym when a short-term, full-time contract position was plopped in my lap. Given a little lapse in my freelance work, I gladly accepted it and started work the next day.
  4. After 2+ years on disability because of cancer, my husband won his fight to return to the Air Force Reserves! He won’t be able to fly with his C-130 unit at Petersen Air Force Base for another 3 years, but, will be cross-trained into another position. A letter from Senator Mary Landrieu of Danny’s home state of Louisiana was sure to have helped and we are forever grateful.
  5. Danny receives the long-awaited letter from the FAA telling him he can return to work at Frontier! Our livelihood is finally restored!
  6. Danny is studying full-time while I’m working full-time and Reagan is at daycare full-time. *Ugh*
  7. Working full-time, taking care of my family and the house, begins to take it’s toll. I’m bone-tired and the house is slowly sliding into a sinkhole of disorganization. My perfectionist side gives up.
  8. Danny’s first day back at work at Frontier (in training)!
  9. My iMac goes in for repair for the 3rd time in as many years. It has now had more parts replaced than Tara Reid. Or Heidi Montag. Take your pick.
  10. Apple refuses to see it my way and give me a new computer to replace the lemon they gave me after all the trouble I’ve had. *fuming* But, they will fix it.
  11. Reagan gets a new princess sleeping bag and we have the easiest bedtime routine ever every night for the next week!
  12. 4th of July in Steamboat SpringsWe spend a glorious 4th of July weekend in Steamboat Springs with friends!
  13. My contract job is finally up and I’ve decided that two parents working outside the home is definitely not for us.
  14. Reagan’s first sleepover birthday party for her friend, Ana (4) in Winter Park!
  15. City Park Jazz in Denver with our friends, the Kellys!
  16. Packed up Reagan’s baby monitor. Forever. *milestone*
  17. My iMac is ready! (2 weeks later) Now for the miserable task of restoring all my files from back-up. *blech*
  18. Back to the gym and feeling good again!
  19. Another friend turns 4! Good times with the Bickings!
  20. Reagan takes her first swim class!

cockpitAnd last night, Danny passes his check ride and we pop open the champagne to toast to his official return to the friendly skies as soon as next week!

But the biggest news of all… today Danny got the official word from his Oncologist that his most recent PET Scan shows no signs of Lymphoma and that he is AS GOOD AS CURED!!!! Hallelujah!!!

Time to pop open another bottle of champagne!

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July 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm 9 comments

Michelle: Survivor from Cancer to Katrina Part II

Michelle’s Story. Part II of II: Last week I introduced you to my friend, Michelle, who even in the middle of her fight with Leukemia, never gave up hope of one day being a mom.

The strain put on Michelle’s body by the cancer while she awaited a bone marrow donor had caused her to lose her cycle. And once she had her transplant followed by chemotherapy and radiation, she would be rendered completely infertile. But, one year after her cycle had stopped, much to everyone’s surprise, Michelle inexplicably became pregnant.

Against her doctor’s advice, Michelle and her husband, Ryan O’Regan decided they wanted to continue with the pregnancy and delay a transplant even though the odds of carrying the baby full-term were very slim. And the chances that Michelle could die from the cancer if she delayed her transplant any further were very great. It was a chance Michelle was willing to take. She felt it was her destiny to be a mom; all her life she had prepared for this and the very deep maternal nature in her could not terminate her pregnancy. Even if it meant losing her life. Ryan, not easily convinced, eventually agreed to his bride’s heartfelt wish.

The doctors warned Michelle that to continue would mean 100% bed rest and daily blood transfusions. She would likely not survive the birth, if she even got that far. Her risk of infection from the Leukemia alone meant that the slightest scratch could send her to the hospital. She had already spent two weeks in the hospital as a result of a popcorn kernel stuck in her teeth. So precarious was her situation that even shaving and brushing her teeth were forbidden. She was not dissuaded from continuing with the pregnancy. Then, only two weeks after discovering she was pregnant, at just 16 weeks, Michelle miscarried. It would seem the pregnancy was never meant to be as soon after, a donor was found. Michelle’s transplant was scheduled immediately.

A few years later, after many hurdles had been cleared and the cancer was now behind them, the O’Regans began exploring their options to have the family they always wanted. With Michelle’s medical history, In vitro was immediately eliminated. They began hearing about “open” adoption. After much education, counseling and talking to both adoptees and adopters who were living it, the O’Regans decided open adoption was the way to go. They were concerned that a closed adoption would leave their child feeling “incomplete” or like something was missing, and they wanted to be sure their daughter felt “whole.”

Molly

Once Michelle and Ryan had been chosen by the prospective birth parents, the date was set for the two moms to meet: September 11th, 2001. While many people’s plans were canceled that day, rocked by the events that started to unfold that morning, Michelle and Janice chose to keep their plans amidst the chaos. The adoption process would not be held up by any catastrophe, no matter how great. They spent the entire day getting to know each other and twelve days later, the day the United States flag was finally raised from half-mast and the nation officially came out of mourning, Molly was born.

Janice and Eric, Molly’s birth parents continue to play an important role in her life. They have big family gatherings in California a couple times a year with Janice and her family, which really has just become an extension of the O’Regan’s own family. Molly has more grandparents and family to dote on her and spoil her than any kid could wish for.

Meggie

Otherwise known as, “Hurricane Meggie,” the O’Regans adopted their second daughter through open adoption after Megan’s birth mom was almost lost in Hurricane Katrina. Rebecca, already the young mother of a toddler, was very pregnant and alone when the hurricane hit her home and sent her scrambling to the attic. She and her daughter spent two nights there before finally escaping to the roof where they were eventually found and evacuated to Houston. Like so many others, the O’Regans had also evacuated to Houston and were safe. Unbeknownst to the O’Regans, Rebecca had already chosen them to be her baby’s adoptive parents and their social worker, Danna had planned to call them with the news the day of the hurricane. But now, with everyone scattered to the wind, there was no way to reach them, or to even know if they or Rebecca were still alive.

Remarkably, Danna ended up at the same hotel as the O’Regans in Houston. They would bump into each other in the courtyard. But, with no way of knowing the whereabouts of Rebecca, Danna kept the news of the adoption to herself. Meanwhile, in another hotel in Houston, Rebecca was frantically calling the local Catholic Charities office, trying to find Michelle. Of the few possessions she had with her was the O’Regans profile album from the adoption agency.

Rebecca refused to give up on the O’Regans being her baby’s adoptive parents and continued to call Catholic Charities, never doubting that one day she would find them. Here’s where providence would again plays its’ hand: Danna began helping out at the Houston Catholic Charities office. Another social worker at the office, who knew Rebecca was looking for a family from New Orleans, had heard Danna was an evacuee and asked if she happened to know of the O’Regans. Danna was finally able to share the news with Michelle and Ryan that not only had they been chosen, but the birth mom was there in Houston looking for them. Their first meeting was a joyful one indeed.

In October, when everyone including Rebecca and the O’Regans were finally returning home to Louisiana to much clean-up and repairs, or no home at all, Megan was born. Their story made the local news and “Hurricane Meggie” was featured on TV and in the Times Picayune.

Rebecca has lost touch with the O’Regans, perhaps carrying some guilt about giving up a child after already being a mother. Janice, however, has taken on the role of Meggie’s birth mom, and her family has fully adopted Meggie as their own. Both girls are a very special gift of providence to Michelle, Ryan and their families and they will forever be surrounded with love.

Michelle is a frequent speaker for Catholic Charities on adoption and says she has loved both her girls since before they took their first breath.

May 16, 2010 at 5:30 am 5 comments

Amazing Mom – Michelle: Survivor from Cancer to Katrina

A Mother’s Day tribute to an extraordinary Mom.

This Mother’s Day, just like last, I want to recognize a Mom in my life who inspires me to be a better Mom. There are so many ordinary women doing extraordinary things in ways that often go unacknowledged as mothers. We laud the accomplishments of women in the workplace, but, equally important are the sacrifices of the women who choose to stay home and raise the future members of our society with love and devotion. Against the grain. And, against the odds. Like Michelle.

Michelle’s Story. Part I of II: Michelle had dreamed of becoming a mother her entire life. It was all she ever wanted to do. It was her calling. And she was ready to answer her calling when she met and married Ryan while they were both still college students at the University of New Orleans. They had dated for just four months. Michelle was 21, Ryan 19. A few months into their marriage, Michelle started to feel fatigued. A stop in at the campus health clinic where she received a blood test resulted in an unexpected phone call from the doctor that same evening. He was sending her to see a Hematologist first thing in the morning. Her blood test showed that her hemoglobin was dangerously low, at a level where her organs could fail at any time. The next morning, she had her first bone marrow biopsy.

Michelle was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or preleukemia, which meant she had no healthy blood cells. For the next two years, she underwent numerous blood and platelet transfusions, had her gall bladder removed and suffered endless infections because her body had become so weak. Time was running out for Michelle and her doctors knew it. Bone marrow transplants were still experimental at that time and none were being performed in the New Orleans area. Michelle was sent to Baylor University Hospital in Dallas to take part in an experimental bone marrow transplant program. The search was now on to find a donor.

After testing everyone in Michelle’s family, there were no matches. The odds today of being matched to a donor in the National Bone Marrow Registry are 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000. But, incredibly, a match came up for Michelle at a time when even fewer people were registered. Unlike then, becoming registered today requires nothing more than a simple cheek swab. And, donating can be as easy as donating blood to collect the stem cells. (Join the Be the Match Registry and you could be the one to save a life.)

Michelle was moved into a facility in Dallas for treatment. At this same time, Ryan, an Engineering major who was now a senior at the University of New Orleans and top of his class, was recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers for an internship. That internship would provide the necessary insurance, working under federal employee guidelines to pay for the experimental treatment that could save Michelle’s life. Those guidelines don’t permit denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Without the internship, Michelle would be uninsurable and Ryan would lose his young bride to Cancer.

Ryan would now have to work 20 hours a week at his internship, carry a full course load in school and maintain his high G.P.A. to keep the internship and his scholarship. All the while his wife is about to undergo an untested and possibly life-saving transplant a state away. No sweat.

Treatment began with two days of chemotherapy and three days of full-body radiation before receiving her donor’s bone marrow. Michelle spent the next month fighting infections and on anti-rejection meds as her body tried to reject the donated marrow. She suffered from fevers, rashes, constant nausea and most painful, Mucositis which left her unable to swallow for ten days. But, in the end and against the odds, the transplant was a success!

While Ryan maintained his grueling work and class schedule, Michelle’s mother stayed with her at the hospital the entire 35 days. Their insurance paid for Michelle and her mother to be moved into an apartment for daily outpatient care for two months after that, and for Ryan to be able to fly out for visits two weekends a month. After three months, Ryan was finally able to bring Michelle home.

The fight didn’t end there. It would be a year and a half before Michelle would start to feel “normal” again. She would need constant care and supervision at home because of the risk of infection with her fragile immune system. The survival rate after transplant is 60% before the end of the first year. Michelle would have ten more bone marrow biopsies during the course of the next few years to confirm that the disease hadn’t returned. It never did.

Michelle was thankful to be alive. But, what of her dream? Would she ever become a mother? Next Sunday, read how Michelle and Ryan’s desire to become parents would not be impeded by two of the most tragic events in American history: 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

May 9, 2010 at 6:00 am 3 comments

Thankful for New Beginnings

While we give thanks for what we have–family, friends, a roof over our heads and food in our bellies—in our house this year, we’re even more thankful for what we’re about to have. Because of what we’ve been given: a new lease on life. Not once. But twice. And when I say we, I mean Danny. Which through transference, also means me. By marriage. Remember that part of the vows that goes “in sickness and in health?” That part of the lease.

The first lease was taken out just over a year ago when Danny was officially proclaimed in remission from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after six long months of treatment. Recovery from treatment ended less than nine months ago, which is when it genuinely felt real. The survival rates for Lymphoma have doubled over the past 25 years because of the advances in chemotherapy, radiation and stem-cell transplantation which give Danny a great prognosis to be able to declare himself “cured” in five years!

The second lease was taken out exactly one week ago when Danny had a fairly new surgical procedure known as Lumbar Disc Replacement. Not your ordinary back surgery. So new, his surgery was played on a big screen in the surgical center auditorium for visiting doctors around the world to watch and learn from. Danny now has a hunk of titanium where one of his discs used to be. In just five more weeks, he will be completely recovered from surgery and able to do things he hasn’t been able to do since his 20’s when he first injured himself. Almost 20 years he has suffered, often out of commission one week out of every month since we first married eight years ago. He’s promised me that the monthly back spasms starting around the same time we got married have nothing to do with the proverbial “ball and chain,” if that’s what you’re thinking. So there.

As happenstance would have it, Danny turns 40 this Friday. The big 4-0. The convergence of his new lease on life with a possible mid-life crisis might have other wives worried. But, not me. I know what’s most on Danny’s mind is the prospect of being the husband and father he wants to be. He dreams of rolling around on the floor with Reagan, tossing her up in the air, teaching her to snowboard and father-daughter dances. He woos me with the promise of taking on additional responsibilities around the house to give me more of a break. Just the idea of Danny cleaning bathtubs and toilets, hanging shelves and laying tile has me all weak in the knees. He throws around tackling my “500-tasks-long Honey-do list” like it’s an aphrodisiac. Tip for all the men reading this: IT IS.

And finally, in just a few short months Danny should be cleared medically by the FAA to return to flying for Frontier Airlines again. We are thankful that this day is so near after two very difficult years of struggling physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Here’s to a bright and healthy 2010!
Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 26, 2009 at 5:08 am 3 comments

Southwest and the Unknown Frontier

DSC00394_2

Okay, I admit it. I was excited to marry a pilot. I know it shouldn’t matter, but, isn’t it true that marrying a pilot is equivalent to marrying your prince in most little girl’s (and big girl’s) fantasies? There’s something about a man in uniform commanding a mega-ton aircraft with hundreds of lives in his hands every day that commands our respect and makes us dream about happily-ever-afterwards. And the travel benefits don’t hurt either.

Before we walked down the aisle, Danny felt it necessary to give me “the talk.” I think he wanted to be sure I knew that being married to a pilot wasn’t likely to be the fun-filled fantasy he expected I was imagining. He warned of higher divorce rates for pilots (mostly anecdotal), job instability, low starting salaries and long periods of time apart among other stressors. It would be a long time before his career choice might pay off and there were no guarantees that it would. No longer the secure, glamorous and lucrative career it once was in the ’70’s and ’80’s, becoming a pilot now is a career gamble and sometimes marital suicide, he cautioned. Who did he think I was? Alice Green? I could take it. After all, our entire relationship had been long-distance up to this point anyway.

That was 10 years, 5 moves, 3 states, 3 airlines, 2 furloughs, 1 bankruptcy and -1 ugly malignancy ago. Neither one of us could have imagined how seriously more stressful being employed (I use that term loosely) in the airline industry would become since our talk, pre-9/11. Furloughs, bankruptcies and base closures uprooting your family are now just part of the regularly-expected career hurdles.

frontier_airlines-740489In April of 2008, less than a year after Danny was hired and a few months after his cancer diagnosis, Frontier Airlines declared bankruptcy, following the flight path of many other airlines in these tough economic times. A few months ago, Republic Airways announced it was putting in a bid to buy Frontier, shutting up all those who previously thought this a preposterous rumor. And then, they were trumped. On Friday, Southwest Airlines announced their plans to outbid Republic for the bankrupt, yet still “profitable” and much-loved hometown Denver-based airline.

Republic has already gone back on its’ word not to merge the pilot seniority lists, a move that would make many Frontier pilots junior to their new and primarily less-experienced counterparts and decrease their salaries. There are lessons to be learned from the America West/US Airways merger debacle of 2005, still being fought by the pilot unions today.

Should Southwest win the bid, one of the possible options, and the one we hear most frequently, is that Frontier pilots would have to interview for their positions. For junior pilots like Danny, this would be the end of the runway. Another option could be that they are “stapled” to the bottom of the Southwest pilot’s seniority list, but their jobs are secure. Since salaries at Southwest are higher, and the pilots are already mostly senior in flight time and experience, this would be the preferable outcome. The fear is that Southwest may have more finite plans in mind than they are willing to share right now. That is, to cut all Frontier employees loose after a few years as their only goal may be just to dominate gate space at Denver International Airport where Frontier right now is their biggest competitor.

Southwest_Airlines_logo-1It’s hard not to feel like cattle on the auctioning block as we wait to hear our fate. Will we win the airline lottery with Southwest as Danny’s new employer, or will we soon be exploring Plan C like several other of our pilot friends who have had it with the airline industry and have started over in new fields? Keep your seat belts fastened, until the Captain has turned off the “fasten seat belts sign,” we’re expecting more turbulence ahead.

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August 3, 2009 at 1:44 am 8 comments

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A half-hatched role-reversal takes flight on a wing and a prayer.

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