Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Part of me now...

Happy (a bit late) Birthday, Superman.  So thankful, you share your heart with me!  Aren't the heart shaped sparklers cool?  It's like love on fire, literally.  And here we are, side by side, through it all. 

Would you believe the sparklers were a part of a"goodie bag" for my first role in a documentary?  If you go to imdb, and google my name?  The documentary I was beyond honored to be a part of,  "Part of me Now: Living With Breast Cancer," will pop up.  We're just waiting for the director, Emily Gerhardson, to announce how we can all see it.  She's done an amazing job from start to finish in getting this project out into the world- so many film festivals it has gone to- we're just hopeful it gets picked up somewhere!  

Thanks to Ria for capturing this at the end of our photo session last August- somehow she always finds the best light.  

Speaking of light- I've spent days and days going through photos we took in and around Pittsburgh.  The light was simply stunning and the leaves were in full color.  I've formed such a deep connection to feeling "alive," when I spend time in nature.

 “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”

—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

So many places and activities we savored in Pittsburgh have continued to stay with me... despite how much I had to concede and surrender along the way.  It became quite clear when we arrived back home, the toll so much of this "journey" has taken on me.  Two days after we arrived home: 

Tuesday,  November 1st, 2016
Roger Maris Cancer Center

He strides into the room, his voice booming, "Hello, Vicky, how are you?"  Then he stops mid-step.  One look at my face, and his whole demeanor changes.  I have yet to truly say anything, but he reads me in that moment.

"Ohhhh, what is going on with you?"  Dr. Panwalkar's face falls from smiles, and registers concern, as he scans my face.  His voice softens as he sits down, but turns to look at me as I try to answer him.

"I just don't seem to bounce back like I once did."  I shake my head, and say, "I just don't know what is going on with me."  He starts to run through the list of questions about fatigue and appetite, sleep, and breathing.  

My appetite is good- but my tolerance for so many foods is limited.  I feel sick, after I eat, with a tenderness in my lower left side.  I still eat.  I'm just never sure what will set my stomach off.  I can certainly use meds to calm it back down. But soon the gnawing sets in again.   It's just a vicious circle.  I can't see clearly enough to cut a clean swathe through the maze.  And really?  The bigger question?

Are my symptoms treatment related?  Or is it cancer progression.  My blood work actually looks good.  Although my tumor markers have climbed yet again.  

He thoroughly examines me, asking questions as he goes head to toe. 

He's nodding his head when I offer, "that small inner voice is telling me to scan."   

 Dr. Panwalkar helps me sit up, then goes to sit and begin the process of garnering approval for a PET scan, and a brain MRI.  Soon, we shift to discussing what a new treatment might be.  

He mentions going back to Taxotere, since I had a good response to it, and we quit before it stopped working, due to my intolerance for the side effects.   He also mentions another chemo agent I'd done before- Halaven.  

And then, mustering much enthusiasm, he mentions the one I've blocked from my mind- Adriamyacin- also known as "The red devil."  

I'm nodding my head, understanding the gift of knowing I have options, while also sliding right into denial, so that I don't have to focus on the toll those options can take on a weary body and spirit.

He also mentions looking into immunotherapy trials and asks where I'd be willing to travel?  "Anywhere," is our answer.  But just days later our insurance agent informs us my new policy will only allow me to have treatment at Sanford in Fargo.  I try to cling to gratitude that I can still at least find a policy that will take me on, despite its limits, and expense.  

Dr. P and I conclude our time together, and he ushers me out of the room and walks with me to the infusion waiting room.  He stops and motions towards the seating area, but then looks at me, and rubs my back as he smiles and simply says, "See you in 3 weeks. We WILL get to the bottom of this."  

So I get up each day and I try.  Some days it's merely hours later, and I'm back in bed, down for the day.  But each day I push a little more.  

After a day of resting at home, I take a chance and attend the steak fry fundraiser for the Moorhead hockey team.  I even managed to eat half my meal and felt so encouraged to see so many friends attending.  I manage to clean house, spend time outside with Crosby, and work on this blog post.  Stringing all of these moments together crafts a sort of "seat belt" that tethers me in place, for the curves we endure on this tenuous ride.  

At the end of our trip to Pittsburgh, we go to say goodbye to our friends, Matt and Bridget Cullen, after the Penguins come away with a big win. Smiles abound.  We've had such a great trip.

Those light-filled eyes, and big smiles, from the bigs and the littles, melt my mother's heart.

We're pulling out of the parking lot after the game, when the car with the little boys stops.  Their Dad says, "I have some pretty sad young boys who have requested just one more hug from the big boys?"  

He has taken the time to stop, and they all unbuckle and tumble out of their car seats... as my big boys jump out of their seats for that last big hug.  The littlest guy looks up at Colton, tears streaming, "l'll miss you!   Please come back again soon so I can see you!"  

Out of all the moments, so very many of them, its this one I tuck away in my heart forever.  

My brain MRI will be Thursday with sedation at 1 and scan at 2.  Then the PET scan will be at 730 am on Friday, with injection at 730 and scan at 9.  

How can I pray for you?  I will bring a list and pray fervently for anything on your heart and mind.

~All shall be well~


  1. I will pray for you....
    Thursday is my daughter's 35th birthday. As I celebrate the joy of that day, I will pray to our Lord to be with you during your MRI asking Him for yet another miracle on your behalf.
    I love you,

  2. Oh honey,
    How grateful I am for every fun moment you had on that trip and the memory you have tucked away of the car stopping since the "little guys" needed a last hug from the "big guys." And your two special, handsome and wonderful sons are now "big guys." :) And those photographs...what a glorious fall, light-filled time you captured. Just seeing those gorgeous pictures felt like a mini-vacation for my spirit!

    Most of all, thank God for Dr. P. and for how tuned in he is to you. As you put it. "he reads me in that moment." I LOVE his reassurance that "we will get to the bottom of this!" I trust him, his words and that he is looking out for you, my precious friend. So glad he is in your corner!!

    I will be praying for you this Thursday, my dear friend, and if it crosses your heart, please pray
    for Amy and sweet Jenna. This has been a hard, hard week, yet we are trusting that God is there in the midst of the hard.
    Love you to the moon and back, Vicky Held Westra!

  3. I love your pictures and your stories. Hate that you must live pieces of it thought. Happy you have the joyful parts, very blessed! Pray for my 53 yr old husband coming to the close of first year of stage 4 kidney cancer. It stinks too and the pain and weight loss have picked up this month. We travel 2.5 hrs to Vanderbilt and are grateful insurance covers it, but don't see the doctor every time, get the assistant and it's not the same. I'm grateful for your Dr. Prayers for you ongoing.

  4. oh dear Vicky, I pray for you. For a bit of a break from all this discomfort, and trial. You are the bravest person I have ever known. I am in awe how you still blog, and spend time with your children and smile and get up everyday to do what you can. You are truly an inspiration to all of us, especially in these tough times, that hope carries us. Love you Vicky.

  5. I have followed you for 5 years since our Given girl did a guest post. I recently (2years now)moved to Fargo to make memories with mom. I will be praying for you. Please pray my Veteran son finds a local job Or help us accept that he will take a contract job in a dangerous area overseas.

  6. There's so much love in this post, I can hardly hold it. My heart is overflowing.

    The pictures. Dr. P. Your rugged Spirit. The Hope that lives within you.

    And your precious boys smiles.

    I'm praying--and will pray--pray--pray moment by moment for the next few days.

  7. Beautiful Friend, The photos of the red bridge in the fall colors and the cabin in the fall colors are perfect! So beautiful! I to heal my soul when I am out and about in Gods nature! Sweet Lady, I know I am not the only one who has noticed that your blog post's are further apart. I know this means that the fatigue and getting thru each day is 'harder' then it was. I love how Julie wrote rugged spirit! for it means; durable · sturdy · robust · strong · tough · resilient or rough · uneven · bumpy · rocky · stony · pitted. It describes you so well...and being of rugged spirit...that means your soul is all of the above. You are withstanding in many ways, what cancer is taking from you. I can only imagine as you have options, how your spirit may flounder knowing all to well the side affects... The plain truth is... these side affects just plain 'suck' and that yucky feeling is even worse then that! How courageous you are! What a example you are. I will be praying for you and sending positive 'vibes' your way. P.S I love love that the lil boys wanted one last hug from the big boys. Oh Vicky, it means you have amazing sons!!! and of course they are amazing! they have you and Rick as a example!

  8. I have tears in my eyes. Such a sweet post. You continue to be in my prayers, dear Vicky. Good luck on Thursday.

  9. Today tears cannot stop as I read every beautifully shared word, and look into the eyes of the children and the big ones in the photos. Thank you for gifting me so much beauty today. Just two weeks ago a dear, dear friend's journey with bladder cancer ended...only faith kept her around for the extra years...thank you, thank you always for all you give to me.

  10. Hi Vicky, I so enjoyed hearing about and seeing your pictures of your trip to Pittsburgh. I am sorry that you are not feeling so well. Yet you ask if you can pray for others. Please know that I will be thinking and praying for you as you go through more testing on Thursday and Friday. Wishing and praying for the best, Kristi

  11. I pray that all your tests come out well! I will PRAY for YOU! As always.

  12. The photos, Vicky....oh my gosh. And the light.... isn't it the light that always makes a difference to the picture? It's the same setting but it's the light we see it in that moves us or illuminates the beauty that was there but, without the right light we can't perceive it. I've decided that's what you are to us: perfect, crystalline, warm glowing light. We would look at your situation, or our own, and potentially see only the harsh. But your words, your perspective, and your heart cast a hue that changes the image. He is alive and well in you, Vicky, and we can see Him in your light. I would love a calendar featuring your perfect light-filled photos. If I can buy such a thing, let me know. I bet I'm not the only one who would love to have that.

    And to have that full-circle moment of watching your boys look up to Matt - the dearest of men - and then to see little ones looking up to, and loving, your boys. What a mother's heart moment indeed.

    I am sorry you are so weary and having such hard days, I pray that Dr. P comes up with solutions and that, even without insurance approval, maybe there will be a way for immunotherapy. Dear God, could you please clear the path and carve a trail through the wilderness? May it be so and may your symptoms and side effects ease, Honey. I'm truly sorry that you must endure these times.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and may there be new hope on the horizon. Love you.

    1. Robynn,
      Your words always touch my heart. You said it so perfectly. For me, Vicky's words, her perspective and her heart DO cast a hue that changes the image! She is a warm glowing light in my life, too, and I can see Him in her light. Sending you, Robynn, warm hugs and loves and prayers!
      God Bless! Love, Linda

    2. The same to you, dear Linda. I always read your insightful responses and look forward to seeing you here. We know we have something very wonderful in common: our love for Vicky. Merry Christmas, friend.

  13. Dear dear Vicky, love love love to you. Thinking about you and as you keep championing this journey. You are doing amazing, with your ups and downs, your peace and weariness, your questions and faith. So much love to you!!

    ps. did you read Ann's new book? I think you did right?
    XOX, Hope

  14. Thursday
    Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  15. Oh my dear friend,
    Vicky, you have been on my heart and mind for days. Know that I am sending you
    loves and hugs and prayers and that I am grateful beyond words that you are my friend!
    Thank you for the life-lessons you have taught me about choosing JOY.
    I am on that old truck with you, dear Vicky, no matter the twists and turns.

    May you know today and always that God has you in the palm of His almighty hand!
    Your soul sis


I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

Popular Posts


Minnesota.com - MN Weather, Map, Businesses and Blogs
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape