Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why I stand up

Did you see the Stand Up to Cancer event that aired last Friday night?

Did you make your donation yet?

I want to tell you why I have.

Two years ago, in January of 2006, my Mom went in for a routine hysterectomy. She previously had been diagnosed with polyps and fibroids, and they had reached a size where they'd become troublesome and (not remembering all of the details at this point) the decision was made to do a hysterectomy, as she was no longer of childbearing age.

Only when they went in to do the surgery, they found the worst situation possible.

My mother was diagnosed with a Uterine Leiomyosarcoma, and there was a grapefruit-sized tumor growing outside her uterus. We were told it was inoperable, as the tumor had grown around the arteries that supplied blood to that organ. The doctor said she could bleed to death on the operating table if he were to attempt the surgery.

He gave her six months to live.

I remember feeling dumbfounded, to hear this about my mother. Worse yet was the idea that I had to call each of my three brothers and tell them. Sharing that grief with them just about broke my heart.

After recovering from that surgery that essentially did nothing (everything was "left in place" due to the delicate location of the tumor) she came home and prepared to wait for the end.

I became a researching fool. I Googled myself silly, each time finding more information that made me feel lower and more pessimistic. Between Tom and I, one of us found that the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota had experts in these rare sarcomas, and I think it was Tom that found one at Northwestern. We were determined to get her a second opinion!

To say we forced her to go is no understatement. Believing she should die during any attempt to remove the tumor, she fought us...angrily. She wanted to spend her time left in this life loving her family and making the most of what little time she had, but the rest of us were not willing to accept a "roll over and play possum" mentality. A few weeks later, we all but pushed her into that car, and Tom drove her to Chicago to see a doctor that ultimately delivered the first glimmer of hope.

This doc believed it was possible to surgically remove Mom's tumor, and in fact, there was a doctor in our area he referred Mom to see. Later that same week, she got an appointment to see Dr. Peter Johnson at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, and with his reassurance that he felt the surgery would be successful, the operation was scheduled.

On March 2, 2006, Mom underwent surgery to remove the tumor, her uterus and ovaries, as well as surrounding lymph nodes and tissue for testing. That testing and subsequent MRIs showed that the cancer had not spread as the doctors had feared.

Much of 2006 is a blur to me now. This second, life-saving surgery was not her last. The complications that came with each were minor in comparison to the quality of life she has now, but know that all her cancer was removed in that one surgery. Everything that happened after that was due to side-effects of having surgery so close to her bladder, and other hardships that come from such drastic tissue and organ removal. She was in and out of the hospital many times that year.

In the spring of '06, Nick was just over a year old. Hubs worked second shift and I worked first, as we do now, but I went to see Mom every day she was in the hospital, Nicholas in tow. I had no idea how powerful the vision of a tiny little boy could be, toddling into her hospital room with a big smile on his face, day after day.

When Aurora contacted her asking if she'd be willing to make a commercial about her experiences to be broadcast on a local station during last week's showing of the Stand Up To Cancer program, she didn't hesitate to say "yes." In fact, she called me, asking if my boys could be in the commercial with her.

I'm having a little trouble getting the video in a decent format and getting it uploaded, but I'll edit this post as soon as I do. Just know that I cry every time I see that 90 second spot, and hear her call my boys "angels" who gave her the incentive to never give up hope.

I cry every time I think of two friends who, within the last four months, both lost their Moms to cancer.

I cry every time I read another story just like mine. And there are too many.

PLEASE - make a donation today if you haven't already.

We need to Stand Up to this disease.



Miss said...

What an amazing story. Your mom is one strong woman. Thank you for sharing it. Please let me know when you get the video up.

Shannon said...

Thanks for sharing your story. My aunt found out she has cancer in January, docs gave her 1 to 3 years to live. She is only 55. It is so heart wrenching to watch this strong woman feel so helpless as her body gives up on her.

Anonymous said...

Dude! Is that your mom in that picture??!! She looks so young! How old is she?? She's a knockout!

I am blown away by her story (your story.) Such an amazing journey. My family has not been so lucky. Entirely too many deaths at young ages due to this disease. I contribute every chance I get because it is necessary.

Anonymous said...

you made me cry!!
i donated.
a few days ago.
one of my closest friends was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. they found it during a routine PAP SMEAR!!! which is rare! her baby was 6 weeks old at the time. it's been 3 years and it's come back 3 times. yet...she remains optimistic and happy. she is a hero to everyone around her!!
just like your mom! what an amazing story!!!!

Cheryl Lage said...

What a wonderful call to action! My mother is a testimony to the value of regular mammograms...her breast cancer was discovered before a lump could even be felt.

My husband, our twins' Daddy, is a 2+ years (and counting for the long haul) melanoma survivor.

We're standing up!

Karen said...

You brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful story and reason for everyone to fight and not give up. We will find a cure!

Karen The Pond

Suzie said...

Wow what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it.

By the way I did get the necklace Im wearing it now in fact I love it!

Spice said...

You've got me crying too. What an amazing story! And thank you for sharing it with us. I missed the Stand Up For Cancer show this past Friday, but I have walked in 3 Breast Cancer 3 Day Walks in honor of my mother-in-law who is a breast cancer survivor and I also walked for my daughter so that she won't have to.

Anonymous said...

That made me cry! Seriously, what an awesome and inspiring post. Your mom looks awesome! Can't wait to see the video.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for raising awareness like this. I lost my mum 13 years ago to lung cancer, she found out the same week I had Jordan. Having a grandchild kept her alive another two years.
My sadness comes from her never being able to enjoy her two grandsons as long as she should have.
Now I'm bubbling too!

Kim H. said...

Wow! Colleen, that was an AWESOME post - the best I've read in weeks, months - I don't know - just so inspirational!

When you go through a situation like your family did, you truly know you have to appreciate every second we have on this earth with them.

Your Mom is beautiful - you look a lot like her! :)

And look at how little your boys look. So precious.

And yep, like everyone else, I'm waiting to see that video.

God is good!

THopgood said...

Wow. Miraculous story!

Kate @ Life As I Live It said...

I love happy endings! And kudos to you for not rolling over and accepting the dr's prognosis. Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed by the bad news and you get paralyzed by it. Good thing you didn't!

Harmony said...

So touching - thanks for sharing, and so happy your mom's story has a happy ending :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Your Mom looks so young! Wow!
That is a great story--I'm so glad you fought and won and now pass along your success and battle the disease for others.

Zip n Tizzy said...

So glad she is doing well.
My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when I was pregnant with my first. Statistically she had about 18 months to live and she's still with us nearly 5 years later!
Amazing women our mothers! (And everyone along side them who has gone through this ordeal!)
She looks fantastic, and I know how grateful she is to get to see your little boys grow. My mom tells me every day it's what keeps her alive.

Colleen said...

It is so inspiring to see that your research and persistance paid off, even if your mom wasn't too accepting of it in the beginning. I'm glad she was able to make it through the tough recovery period and that Nick was able to give her the hope through dark times.

Kim said...

This hits so close to home..

Thanks for sharing this..


Tom said...

Colleen, it seems like such a long time ago. I found the website for the second opinion program at Aurora during our reserach and had you and Sue convince your mom to go knowing that she would never listen to me. Dr. Peter Johnson said he could successfully do the surgery but because St. Joes said it wasn't possible and West Allis said it was,there was still some doubt. Dr Johnson then suggested we go for a third opinion at Northwestern to confirm his diagnosis. This doctor confirmed Dr.Johnsons opinion and explained all the medical procedures that would make it all possible. This was the turning point that set the ball of recovery into motion.