Friday, February 27, 2015


These two.  They rebelled against the dress clothes for sure.  And to stand next to each other?  C'mon.  Pure torture.  Plus, although the sun was bright, it was in the teens for the temperature.  They were not happy.  So we told them to look serious in the photo.  

It's one of my favorites.  Because somehow we pulled it off.  And you'd never guess by looking at the photo, all the drama that ensued before it was taken.

In the end, it was just worth it.  The time.  The patience.  The cajoling.  All worth it.  

No different than this group of boys below.  Nolan's Squirt A team from what feels like ages ago.   For some of these boys it was their first Squirt International Tournament.  For most of these boys, it was the first year they had all played together.  The coaches invested a lot of time teaching them how to play the game. 

We had no idea out of the 64 teams from across the country, we'd end up finishing in 5th place.

Their ability to finish so well, far exceeded our expectations.  I think the seed was planted.  The dreams ignited.  And every time these boys have been on a team together in the following years, they've gelled as teammates more and more.  They lead with their hearts, their strong will,  and their desire to compete at all costs.  

This weekend we have a big tournament.  It's the MAHA Regionals for Bantam AA hockey, held in Roseau, MN.  The top two teams will advance to the State tournament.  

Good luck boys.  

Time and again you've shown us, what happens when you leave it all on the ice.  And you always do.  Lots of sweat, sometimes blood, and even tears- along with the victory celebrations like the one above.  

We believe in you.  

Onward Moorhead!  

Monday, February 23, 2015


Muhammad Ali
(American Boxer and Social Activist, b.1942)

The Moorhead Bantam AA VFW North Region Champions! 

We had a great weekend of hockey in Fergus Falls and the Moorhead boys will go on to play at the VFW State Tournament hosted by Moorhead at the end of March.

Rick was asked to take a photo of the hockey mom's and (a Dad, plus a Grandma) with their boys.  Do you see all the beaming faces?  We're so proud of these boys!

And this guy, obliged his mama, and even took a picture with her.   

Here are their medals. 

We have another big Regional tourney in Roseau next weekend.

 Onward Moorhead!  

We arrived back in Moorhead just in time for Colton's last game of the season.  Colton was picked two weeks ago, as Captain of his team.  Regretfully, I didn't get my hands on a "C" to get placed on his chest.  But he was pretty honored by getting asked to perform in this role.

Even though they lost last night, 2-0, he played a good game, getting peppered with shots and making save after save.

He earned the coveted reward stick the, "solid performer," for his final game and was pretty excited despite the way their season ended.

I got a call back from Dr. Panwalkar's nurse last week.  She relayed the message from Dr. P to me, that he does not want me to have a colonoscopy.  I asked if she knew why?  But she doesn't, and offered that he will discuss it with me the next time I see him, which isn't for quite a while.

Last week is was hard for me to quiet my swirling brain. Why?  But time moves forward, and my focus has shifted to what is right in front of me, now.  

~all shall be well~

My mom is holding her own.  Still not able to walk with her walker independently, or get out of bed on her own.  But she perseveres in her spirit and will to keep on.  Something about her and what it takes to be a champion- "a will stronger than your skill."

She has set the bar high.  And we're learning its not about wins and losses, in the end, its really your character that matters the most. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

just believe

It's late afternoon when the phone rings and my heart races a little when I see the Sanford number appear.  The male voice hesitates, than says, "Vicky?"

I instantly hear mere remnants of his Indian accent, as he fully pronounces the "V" in my name like a pro. It's Dr. Panwalkar calling, and I assure him its me.

He jumps right into the report.  He always manages to condense a 3 page report into a few sentences.  

"The scan shows that the 3 spots in your lungs, have slightly progressed now.  They are showing more uptake on the scan.  However, it does not seem significant enough at this time to discontinue your current treatment.  Okay?"

And then he says, 

"Oh, and there were no new spots found."  

So it appears "stable mabel," is slipping from my grasp, but she's rather on the slow side.  

He asks if I have any questions, and I don't.  

"Very good.  I'll put the report in the mail. Have a good one!"

And he's off.

I still steel myself for the actual report the day it arrives in the mail.  I trust Dr. Panwalkar's interpretation, which is usually in keeping with the radiologist's report.

It's just the details- the finite detail of how much cancer, and precisely which vital organ the cancer is next too, that causes me to conjure up pictures that make me feel anxious.

And then there is that one little sentence that throws me for a loop, this time.  Its suggesting "uptake," on the left side of my abdomen, in my colon.  (It is not reporting a lesion, or spot of any kind.  Only that for some reason, my colon shows uptake of the tracer, on the scan.)  The report suggests a Colonscopy is in order based on these findings.

Ohhhhh.  Dr. P didn't mention anything about that, yet.  Even though I'll see him again soon,  I place a call to him and am waiting to hear back.  

So can breast cancer metastasize to the colon?  Or can you get colon cancer and breast cancer?  

How can I possibly think my way through this? 

My mind whirls, and it all starts to feel like too much.

So I'm choosing to go back to my word.  I have to put something else in my brain and hang on to that.   

Really, all I have to do, is look down.  Its right there on my chest… Just believe.  

Just the other day, the doorbell rang, and to my great delight and surprise, was Shirley, a friend of my mother's and myself.  Shirley and I were both overcome by emotion.  

Her daughter, Susan, had sent me a copy of picture of the sweatshirt above on Facebook.  I loved just seeing it! I think its part of the reason I chose this word.  I hoped to lay eyes on the word "believe," as often as I could, in whatever ways I could.  

The sweatshirt fits perfectly and I wore it all day yesterday, even when I went to see my mom.  My mother couldn't get over her friend Shirley, and her daughter Susan, had so generously given me this lovely gift.

And the doughnuts?  Homemade by my childhood church- Grace church, by Shirley and a group of woman- and they are divine! So we brought some of those over to my mom as well.

Out of the blue, mom said she was craving pizza.  Would we want to come over and have pizza with her one day?  I mentioned a childhood favorite of hers, Duane's House of Pizza, and she was instantly excited.  "My favorite!  Oh could you bring that?"

It was just the tiniest hint of the mother I've known all these years, peeking through the veneer of contentment, and stillness, that prevails these days.  

So we spent the night giggling over whose rooster tail was bigger, Colton's or Grandma's?  

And we ate, and watched hockey and relaxed.

~all things are possible, if you believe~ all things~

Monday, February 16, 2015

Where I am...

I had to tiptoe back into Cancer World last week.  I spent every day at Roger Maris getting my "State of the Union." 

In all honesty, I may be out of touch with what is happening with my cancer.  As I prepared last week to see Dr. Panwalkar, I knew he would ask what my questions were… um… hmmmm.  Did I have any?  I haven't given it much thought.  

Its kind of funny, my cancer has been the least of my worries these past few weeks.  

I've been wrapped up in my frail and fragile mom, who is trying so hard.  She had filled with fluid around her lungs and had a thoracentesis last week to remove the fluid so she could breathe again.  I felt so bad that I was at Roger Maris every day last week, and mom had no scheduled times I could try to work around.  She was a trooper, never complaining about any of it, and quickly befriending the ones who went with her.

All of this has me deep in thought when Dr. Panwalkar strides into the room, last Tuesday.  He smiles and then reaches for my hand and holds it while smiling at me and saying hello, and how are you?

I smile right back and say, "good and you?  You sound like you may have been sick?"   He has an upper respiratory something- so his voice is more raspy than usual.  He says he has some of the "stuff" going around from his kids- just a virus and he is fine.

I smile, as he is assuring me he isn't contagious, but I already know that.  I was more concerned with him feeling okay.  I so rarely ask personal questions about him.  Any communication outside of medical questions, has to be delineated amongst subtleties.  

He mentions my blood work and I tell him it looked pretty normal to me.  "Yes," he says, "except your tumor marker went up to 40."  And then he moves the computer screen to show me a graph of my past tumor markers and I can't help myself, I burst into laughter, as Dr. P starts to chuckle, then laughs too, as he shakes his head side to side.  Clearly we are on the same page.  

The lines are all over the place- up, then even, then down and then shooting up again.  Its a maze that sort of replicates exactly how I feel.   But it does little to tell us what my cancer is actually doing.

He asks if anything new has cropped up?

I tell him I have noticed an area that seems thicker, right by my mastectomy scar. The healed one.  (Makes me smile every time I can say that.)  He grabs a gown for me and says he'll examine it.

He thoroughly feels along my chest wall, along the scar and all around.  "I feel nothing noticeable to me," he says. " But its been 6 months since we've had a scan.  Lets get you in for a scan."

So I then decide to broach the subject of what treatment he may consider if the scan does show something?  He mentions a new pill on the market, with some side effects like Xeloda, but one to consider.  He also mentions another hormone treatment taken in combination with another pill.

Or we could go back to Eribulin, the one I had before for a few rounds.  It shrunk my mets in a few rounds.  Then my hair fell out.  Then we stopped it- as my counts plummeted.   

I like to see where his thoughts are going.  And so as long as we're talking treatments, I decide to ask him about his thoughts on my brain mets.  

I've been researching options.  I've been reading up on something called Intrathecal Herceptin.  Essentially, they surgically place a reservoir in your head, called an Ommaya, and then they inject Herceptin right into the fluid around your brain, since most chemotherapies cannot cross the blood brain barrier.  

He rolls his chair back and I can tell he is turning this idea over in his head.  I ask if they do this kind of procedure here at Sanford.  "Oh yes, with other cancers its quite standard.  We treat some types through lumbar punctures, or reservoirs."  

"Let me read up on it, not many studies on this that I know."  

"Yes," I tell him.  

I dress quickly while he waits in the hall.  Then he walks me to infusion.  He ushers me into a seat off to his side, and I hesitate for a moment, turning to look at his face.  He looks back at me and smiles again, as he reaches for my shoulder and squeezes it, as I simply say, "Thank you."  He nods, and saunters off.

Its merely a day later and I am called with instructions for my PET scan that was scheduled for the next day.  I am jaw-dropping shocked.  It often takes days just to be approved.  But I was both approved and scheduled without my knowledge.  

So early Thursday I had my PET scan.  I prayed for everyone who came to my mind and made it all the way through.

Results coming soon…  

So much more to share.

The heartbreak of a son…

A job offer… (!)

And one of the best Valentine's presents ever.  When your baby sends his Spud cupcake with his hockey number on it, from Walker, MN, all the way home to you.  

Its still the smallest things that say "love," to me.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

be loved

It was the shampoo bottle that got me.  I had stood up well all last week.  Despite how horrific it all seemed ( as shown in the photos above.)  I handled it all, day in and out.    Until I reached for mom's shampoo bottle when we transferred her back to the Nursing Home on Friday.

The bottle was empty.  And she had resorted to using a hospital grade body wash for her hair and body.  She hadn't complained.  Or even mentioned to me she was out of shampoo.  

And then I saw the most telling sign… the toothpaste.  Generic.  And for her sensitive teeth- nothing but Sensodyne will do.  In fact, she chastised me last time for not getting the mint flavored one.  

But now?  Generic nursing home stuff, was what she was willing to tolerate.

I was so surprised by the onslaught of tears I could not hold back,  as I gathered up her things to bring to her new room on the skilled side.

With each passing day, a bit more of her is muted.  Hushed.  A veil of pain, and loss, of so much, flattening the emotion in her face.  She is drawn, and weak, wincing as she tries to adjust to get comfortable so often.  She can no longer stand on her own.  I haven't seen her walk in over a week.  This is so not my mom.

Mom had the most spectacular team of doctors last week in the hospital.  Several were interns, and residents- still in the process of learning.  A couple of the physicians have seen her before.  And the Attending physician, was compassionate, smart and a great teacher.  They actually saw mom more than once a day, and repeatedly told me to have them paged with any concerns or questions I might have.

When the ring of doctors would form around the bed, the circle would always widen, to include me.  As weak as my mom was, she had an uncanny tolerance for the pain when they came.   She let them examine every square inch of her injuries, her swollen knee, the torn skin, the bruises everywhere.  

And somehow, she'd leave them laughing.  Every time.  The Attending told us, they always looked forward to visiting with mom- she was of great interest and concern to them for so many reasons. 

So when a room opened in the transitional care unit, at Bethany, her nursing care facility, the doctors determined she was stable enough to go.

But they very softly admonished, she would most likely be back soon.  And so I boldly asked where we are in the progression of her disease.

They felt she was fairly advanced.  That she won't be getting much better.  And when I asked if it was fair to consider talking about Hospice or Palliative Care should she worsen?  They said yes.  

I crawled in bed with mom, that night.  And we talked.  She seemed relieved, in a way, to have some validation over what she has most likely been thinking about.

Her heart's desire that night?  Could she please go to the funeral home when she got out, to pick out a casket?  No sense in spending too much money.  Plain and simple would do.

Her wisdom has been made so clear.

"Live for today, and hope for tomorrow," she'll say.

We talked at length that night,  just her and I.  

She seemed peaceful, and yet still has a firm grasp on living as fully as she can, as long as she can.

As she began to drift off to sleep, I readied to go.

She ran her fingers over her cast, smiling as she saw the names of her grandsons, her nieces and nephews. We had teased one of her nephews that he should put his old football jersey number by his "autograph."  Instead, he left something, that mom looks at often.

Instead of saying his number, it simply reads "I love you." 

I'll see Dr. Panwalkar tomorrow and have infusion afterwards.

~All shall be well~  

We're deeply humbled by the love and support of so many.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Be living it...

"Believing something is one thing.  But the best only comes when you decide to be living it." ~ Ann Voskamp

The sunrise was spectacular as we left early Saturday morning for hockey.  I had talked to mom to be sure she was okay with me going.  She assured me she wasn't feeling up to moving out of her chair.  She had a queasy stomach and they were bringing her something to help settle it so she could take her meds.  "Go." she said. Quite firmly. 

So we headed up north.  

We were playing the number 3 team in the state according to some Bantam AA rankings.   How would we match up?

The arena was great.  We loved the wood beams, making it truly feel like a "barn," and yet it was comfortable instead of freezing cold inside.

The game got off to a quick start.  My stomach told me right away Grand Rapids was going to give us a good game.  I was clenching my fists, and stomping my feet in nervousness, until the very end.  While #6 put the first two goals in net for us, my own #7 came up with a shot from the corner that none of saw coming- including the goalie.  It literally went in off the goalies back. 

Our boys would go on to win 3-2. 

I kept seeing this sign and thought, how did they know that about us?  Okay- so its their sign.  But truly, our team exemplifies this in every way. These boys, are the true definition of team.  

Yet, there's one thing we want, too.  The dream.  See those banners hanging across the rink?  These boys, would like to win one too.  

One team.  One dream.

So we left the arena and headed even further up North to Duluth.  Its always a beautiful sight dropping down into the city.

Sunday morning is when I received the phone call.

Mom, had a terrible fall at Bethany.

She was headed via ambulance to the ER.

We made some quick calls, as we were 5 hours away.

Our cousin, Pam, was our saving grace.

Seeing mom Sunday night, was one of the hardest things I've had to lay eyes on in a long time.  She is in rough shape.  She is black and blue, from head to toe.

She has a broken wrist.  Potassium built up in her system to a dangerous level and affected her kidneys and her heart.  

But despite everything, her feisty spirit shines through.

I'll be off spending time with mom in the hospital for however long it takes to see her through.

By the way, we won our second game to- 2-0.  #7, with the help of all his team mates, got two pucks past the Cloquet goalie and they won another big game.

"Believing something is one thing.  But the best only comes when you decide to be living it." ~ Ann Voskamp

So many truths in the quote.  

"Be living it, while believing in it…"  Amen.

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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