Friday, June 28, 2013

Family Vacation!

So what is a good sign you have returned to some normalcy after your wife has battled with cancer and is in remission?


That is what our family found out after helping my wife deal with her breast cancer.

Because of all of the treatments, operations, recoveries and medical costs our family put this aspect of our lives on hold for a few years. Once we saw that her final reconstructive surgery was scheduled and she began to feel good again we started saving for a trip.

Once we evaluated our finances and the time frame that would work we asked our 4 kids where they would like to go. I was expecting Disneyland or Disney world and other theme park destinations. When they all chimed in with Hawaii it took my wife and I off guard...but we were excited. Battling theme park crowds did not sound like a good jumping off point in re-acclimating ourselves to vacations.

Because we live close to the west coast it was cheaper than we thought it would be and we had a really good travel agent that hooked us up with great cost saving alternatives. It was a fun experience to all save for the common good of the vacation. Instead of the children spending all of their allowance on cheap toys they enjoyed putting money in out "Hawaii jar" every chance they could. They also sold cookies to our neighbors to drum up some activity money.

But the person that loved it more than anyone was probably my wife. She thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the planning, saving and travel. She mentioned many times how it really took her mind off of cancer and let her focus on something positive in nature.

The kids behaved better than I thought they would and it was awesome to see my wife as happy as I've seen her in a long time. We've already started planning a National Park trip for next year!

As soon as its feasible I recommend doing a family vacation to any destination you can afford as you will all need it!

Friday, May 31, 2013

You're not alone!

As I have continued to blog about different cancer subjects over the past year occasionally I will hear from others who have fought the cancer fight or have helped someone get through the battle.

Some people have a tremendous amount of support from family and friends. But some fight the fight by themselves for the most part with no family or close friends to assist them.

One of my mothers friends (JoAnn Carroll) reached out to me to explain some of her feelings from her battle with breast cancer.

I did not have the support that you gave your wife.

Divorced and on my own was very hard.

My cancer was found the day before I received
my church mission call.  The surgeon told me to go back to Virginia
to have the surgery because there was a lot of
post care. But living away from most of my support was hard.

My sons acted like this was nothing as they did not phone
or send a card or flowers. People are embarrassed and don't want to talk about it.

This August I will be taken off the Femera and have one office visit and one mammogram
per year.

My Doctor told me sometimes breast cancer comes back, when it does it usually comes in the
third year after the surgery.  So I sailed through that.  Good thing she did not tell me that
until I was in the fifth year.

I still worry and wonder.  I tell very few people. I have a few friends that have been a support to
me and let me vent once in a while and I try not to dwell on it.  I think of it every day and hope
I can stay strong.
I have survived but there were a lot of times I
wondered how or why I would get through it.

But I did! 

I have nothing but the utmost respect for those that have battled through cancer and I appreciate JoAnn for sharing her story.

We can all do a better job reaching out to others to offer love and support as they go through their battle.

That is my hope!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Chicago Tribune wire report
10:00 a.m. CDT, May 14, 2013
LONDON -- Hollywood actress and activist Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer, saying she hopes her story will inspire other women fighting the life-threatening disease.

With the surprising news this week I thought I would share some of the excerpts from the Chicago Tribune and attach her announcement as well.

Knowing that a positive BRCA 1 test increases a women's odds of breast and ovarian cancer it is becoming more common for women to take the necessary steps to decrease these odds. In Angelina's letter she mentioned they would go from an 87% probability for breast cancer down to 5%. Amazing!

Here is a link to her letter:

My wife's BRCA 1 gene test came back negative but her mother (my mother-in-law) was diagnosed with the same breast cancer a year after my wife. So that leads me to believe there are other genetic factors out there that are left to study but the BRCA is the most common test. Our daughter will still have to be watched more closely due to these events even though my wife's BRCA was negative.

Richard Francis, head of research at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity in Britain, said it demonstrated the importance of educating women with the gene fault.
"For women like Angelina it's important that they are made fully aware of all the options that are available, including risk-reducing surgery and extra breast screening," Francis told Reuters.
Breast cancer alone kills about 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated that one in 300 to one in 500 women carry a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation, as Jolie does.
If your wife's test comes back positive make sure you seek out a genetic counselor to go over all of your options.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don't Panic!

From time to time I will notice an article dealing with cancer treatments that I will pass along to my wife and alarm us but I have to remind myself that you have to give way to treatments that improve the percentages of recovery and no re-occurrence.

For instance I came across this article in March about a recent study on radiation therapy for breast cancer patients and a negative side effect:

By Marilynn Marchione
Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 9:18 p.m. MDT
Women treated with radiation for breast cancer are more likely to develop heart problems later, even with the lower doses used today, troubling new research suggests. The risk comes from any amount of radiation, starts five years after treatment and lasts for decades, doctors found.
Patients shouldn't panic — radiation has improved cancer survival, and that is the top priority, doctors say.
For example, 4 to 5 of every 100 women who are 50 years old and free of heart risks will develop a major cardiac problem by age 80, and radiation treatment would add one more case, the research suggests.

In all of the studies we read it was a discussed side effect so we knew about the risks. However I'm confident that the medical re-search field will continue to develop laser treatments that will do less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

The study "will raise the antenna" about the need to do more to prevent this, said Dr. David Slosky, a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University, one of the growing number of medical centers with special "cardio-oncology" programs for cancer survivors.
With today's lower radiation doses, "it is less of a problem, but it is not going away," he said.

The risks to radiation therapy may not go way entirely but it has come along way and will only get better!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Breast Cancer advancement!

Isn't it interesting how alert you become when something like cancer happens to your wife or close loved one. I knew of breast cancer awareness with the pink ribbon initiatives at sporting events prior to my wife's diagnosis but I never really tracked what was going on in breast cancer related studies or treatment advances.

Now I cannot read a paper, magazine or online news feed without noticing them. I came across this one in the Salt Lake City Deseret News the other day and thought I would break it down in my blog for you.

The title was:

FDA approves breast cancer drug
Recommended by Katie Ardmore, Deseret News
Published: Friday, Feb. 22 2013 11:23 a.m. MST

Anytime there is a new drug approved for use I get excited as a new drug means one thing to me, the possibility of fewer severe side effects. That is what this drug hopes to provide to the average patient.

"The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new type of drug that combines the widely used breast cancer medicine Herceptin with a powerful toxin to more effectively kill cancer cells while potentially reducing side effects."

Anything that can run down and kill cancer cells while keeping a patients down time limited due to horrible side effects is a great find.

"The drug, which will be called Kadcyla but was known as T-DM1 during its development, extended the median survival of women with advanced breast cancer by nearly half a year in a clinical trial.
 It is approved for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, about 20 percent of cases."

The drug is pricy but you cannot discount anything with positive results. You can read more at: Cancer drugs on New York Times.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Hello friends!

With Cindy recovering from her major reconstructive surgery in December I have decided to let you know about the reality of set-backs.

She has had to deal with one reconstructive surgery that didn't work out earlier in 2012 due to the transplanted skin not healing properly because of compromised blood flow. So it was on to another recon surgery called Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforators (DIEP). Of the half dozen surgeries she has had this one was by far the longest and most arduous. She spent 13 hours in surgery and then 5 days in the hospital so they could monitor the blood flow of the newly attached vessels and veins.

That was the part that worried both of us the most with the falier in blood flow from her Latissimus Flap surgery. But that aspect went well. Here set-back with this surgery was with her hip to hip incision that pulled the skin on the stomach extremely tight. Sure enough it has had a hard time healing, leaving her with a quarter size hole that the doctors are watching carefully. They hope that with time it will heal from the bottom up and that she can avoid any infection getting in there.

This surgery has really taken a toll on her both physically and emotionally but she has been very brave and positive in dealing with all of it. She could very easily get down and take it out on me and the kids but it is a credit to her that she has been able to deal with this latest set-back. I find that I get more angry thinking about them than she does and I think that comes from being the husband and trying to deal with a situation and outcome that you control.

Just know that set-backs are a part of our life and you just have to get through them no matter how long it takes.

There is always a rainbow at the end of a storm to remind you that better days are ahead!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cancer is like a hurricane?

As my wife gears up for reconstructive surgery next month I asked her if she was ready for it and if she really wanted to go through another surgery. I told her I would love her no matter what and not to do it just for me. That's when she mentioned her battle with breast cancer was like surviving a hurricane and she needed to try to rebuild herself. She explained that when it hit her life a few years ago, her life became very chaotic.

When a hurricane hits, buildings are destroyed, debris is flying all over, and landscapes are changed beyond recognition. This was like going through her treatments for cancer. They made her hair fall out, body parts were removed, skin was burned and she felt like she was unrecognizable.

But do you just give up?

Do people after a hurricane just give up?


They get to rebuilding the lives they once had. Yes, their life is different from the one they had before but they still rebuild.

I realized that my wife was going through these surgeries to get some of her old self back as best as she could. Not for anyone else to recognize her, but for her self-recognition.