Wednesday, April 5, 2017

after all the words...

I've been longing for some clarity, and ability to sit comfortable, and write to my heart's content.  The urgency on so many levels enshrouds me- how can I not write it all down per usual?   Yet, I feel disappointed when first days go by, then suddenly its weeks, and that chunk of me that is expressed through writing? Is stumped, and stifled in some way. 

So I'm just going to try.  I'm standing by the water with my toe hovering inches from the edge, wondering if it'll be too cold?  Will it be rocky and I'll slip?  Will my feet cramp?  This isn't really me- I simply know if I'm at the edge of any body of water- in is the only way to go.  So this is me - jumping right in.

I saw Dr. P yesterday and the first thing he asked me was about the tv story!  So here is the link to the WDAY story as promised many moons ago.  It was a precursor to our spectacular week of hockey.

Kevin Wallevand is a gifted reporter.  I think he and the photojournalist, Devin Krinke spent nearly 2 hours interviewing me.  Then Devin spent 7 hours, editing all the content down into the beautiful story.  I'm in awe of the sheer magnitude of their talents and work!  And shaking my head- they picked me- still humbles me to this day.  

WDAY story here:  Moorhead Hockey Mom Puts Cancer Treatment on Hold to Attend State Hockey Tournament.

The outpouring of support and love we felt was immense.  They even ran the story again as the first story of the newscast at 10 o'clock that night.  I was already in the midst of hockey in St. Paul, so I didn't see the story as it happened- only much later when a link was provided.  But then I started receiving texts from people in the Minneapolis area telling me the story was running locally too.  So cool!  I love that it highlighted our hockey community to an even broader audience.  

 So lets get to the main event- truly these are just a few photos from our spectacular weekend at the State Hockey Tournament.  Here is a pic of all the moms who wore their sons jerseys and we were gathering while waiting to see our boys.  Are those faces not beaming?  Sheer happiness, that I don't think any of us will soon forget.

This was the first night, at the Xcel Energy Center.  There's Nolan, putting out the back of his hand to give a high five to whoever the young boy is reaching out his hand.  Its surreal as a mom to see him being the one sought after because it's  the very thing we've watched him do for so many years.  And my husband who has had the pleasure of shooting pics at the Xcel for years, knows just where to go to get the best shots.

Then there is this... the first night when the players get introduced before the start of the game... the camera zooms in tight on their face, and so many of our boys said hi to Mom, and Dad, or Grandpa and Grandma- I have yet to actually hear Nolan- and yet I was told he said hi to his mom.   But watching it in person, was the best possible experience ever.

There goes our number 7! 

How cool is that to score a goal in front of a sea of orange!  The arena was packed!  The far biggest crowd our boys have ever played for!  Each game had around 19,000 fans! 

Rick climbed up to the catwalk area to shoot down for this pic... 

Here are just some of our Moorhead fans... people we hadn't seen in years came out to the game.

Another big celebration- as Moorhead goes on to win their first game against Hill- Murray!

Someone got the crowd into the wave and I was impressed with the number of times it went around.

Suddenly it seemed, it was the night of the championship game- and WE WERE PLAYING IN IT!  Its our first trip to the State High School Hockey Tournament in quite a few years,  and not only did we win our first game- but we went on to beat another Cities team to win the second game and go right on to the Championship Game!

Another of Rick's panoramic photos of the whole rink.  If I closed my eyes it was as if we were at a Wild NHL game, but when I opened them and looked around- it was filled with familiar faces.  So many surreal moments stacking up on each other.

But we were outmatched this night.  Grand Rapids just had a bit more of everything, and we couldn't get it done... we took second place, with a 6-3 loss.

It took awhile for the team to come up from the locker room.  We know these boys play with their whole hearts- and those were some pretty sad and heavy hearts that night.  And yet, the enormity of the experience wasn't lost on them either.  They're young and their fires have been fueled to be back at this tournament again.  I got some really big hugs from this kiddo, and my mother's heart couldn't be any more proud.

Plus, the biggest surprise and bonus to the whole tournament?  Were having Kristi, her son Christopher, and my friend Elizabeth come to the 2nd game, and then they brought their families to the third!  They're both life-long friends of mine, and were also former Spuds, and we had a wonderful time hanging out together at the arena.

After the championship game, the team was gathering back at our hotel.  Rick is walking in just behind them... and look at the cool reception they got! 

All up and down the floors, are Spud fans, cheering for our boys! 

I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  But it wasn't easy on me by any means.  I spent any time outside of being at the arena, snuggled into my bed with my heating pad and blankets.  I slept long hours, too fatigued to even try and leave my room to socialize.  I had so many wonderful invites, but could not say yes to any of them.  Mid-morning the next day we packed and left for home- knowing infusion day was just around the corner.

Despite how I look, I'm still struggling physically more than I like to acknowledge.  Its easier to say, "I'm fine," because in that moment I may be... but those moments are fewer, and more time lapses between them than ever before.

But so many, are doing so much, to see me through.  With my blood pressure going so low last week, they decided to add in a bag of fluids.  And because I wanted to get to my stage iv group, I had limited time.  So my nurse was a real trooper.  She figured out how to attach the second pump to my pole.  Then we hung the fluids along with the chemo and the anti-nausea.  I was quite a sight trying to maneuver the crazy pole with the constant need to use the rest room.  But I got through... and made it to group.

Despite all the time I spend in bed, or in my recliner, or on the couch... my doorbell dings non-stop.

Like these beautiful roses that had been part of the ice show.  Judy used to bring them to my mother, who beamed from the sight of them every time.  Now its my turn, for two years Judy has brought these glorious flowers to my house and I promise you, I'm beaming too.  Its such a brightener to my days.

I have oodles of things I could share, but I struggle in keeping up.  Please know we love the visits, the food, the texts with offers of all kinds of things.  Being as weak and fatigued as I have been, it can be a little isolating.  So I welcome visits, and meals, or treats.  We're deeply grateful of how thoughtful everyone is.  I think I can definitely say, the advice to just go do something for someone with a chronic illness- is spot on.  It's really easy for me to say "I can't think of anything I need right now..."  But if you just offer and do something, its well received.  

Yesterday, I saw Dr. Panwalkar.   He walked in with a big smile on his face, in a really good mood.  Its been 6 weeks since I've seen him, and I was happy to get to talk about some of the big picture issues.

So when he mentioned with a big smile on his face, that I sure looked great- his whole demeanor broke, when I told him the truth.

"But I'm not feeling well.  I haven't in a long time.  And what I truly wonder?  Is the treatment just causing too many side effects?  Or is the cancer progressing?  Because I've been struggling with food, both throwing up, and only able to eat a few bites at times.  And my pain has not subsided in the least.  I haven't missed a dose of morphine in weeks.  And while the pain is no worse, its not showing signs of getting better."  

And he listened, and folded his arms across his chest.  He sat astutely, for a long time, thinking.  Then he started making a list...  "well here are what we have left for treatments..."  

Carboplatin, Doxil, Affinitor with Aromasin, and Ibrance.   

He points to the Carboplatin and says it only has about a 20 percent chance of even working- so its not high on his list.   I love the Affinitor and Aromasin combination- but it would take 3 months for it to work... can I tolerate "belly pain" for that long, he wonders? I wonder too...

He is open to any of the combos and ready to let me decide.  First he'd like to scan, to see what is really going on, but then he'd switch to one of these other treatments, if necessary.

And while he asks my preference and I selfishly tell him I'd love the Affinitor because its a daily pill and its like Arimidex that I did really well on... he is willing to do that... but his preference?

Is the Doxil.  Otherwise known as Adriamyacin.  Or "the red devil."  But he feels the most confident with this one.

And its this one I will choose.  

And this leads me right into telling him, that it's been 6 years that he has seen me through.  And I think I get the biggest, most heartfelt smile from him... and when we stand and he asks if there is anything else- I simply ask for a hug.  Then I get his hearty laugh, and a hug that is tight, and real,  and somehow it leads me all the way down the hall, right out the door.  Sometimes all we need is someone to walk with us, so we can take that very next step, whatever it might be.  

So I've pondered these words for a long time...  they could be about my life... or they could be about my boys... or superman.  But maybe, just like me standing at the edge of the water- we try anyways.  I may not have been able to sum any of them up with all the writing I've done- but when I get the letter below?  Well... you'll just have to read for yourself.

Colton agreed to let me share with you the letter he wrote to me for the year-end hockey banquet they held for us mom's this year.  It's officially my last year of Moorhead Youth Hockey, as Colton will move on to the high school program.  I could't attend the event,  it was chemo day- but the moms graciously included Colton and I in all the cool things they did.  One of those things was to have our boys write a letter to us about... well I don't know the words given to them... but Colton wrote this in the last 15 minutes of his Study Hall....  

Sometimes, its enough. The few lines, the whispered words, the hugs, all of those tiny moments can add up to simply enough.   

Colton, you couldn't have written it any better!  You make ME feel like the luckiest mom ever...  I know there were other moms sniffling when they got this kind of letter too- its our hockey community that helps our kids grow, while we the parents grow right alongside of them.

I'll have my PET scan on Friday.  How can I pray for you?  I have hours of solitude while waiting and I'd love to pray!  Love and blessings to everyone! 


  1. I'm praying for you - for more time, for quality of time, for rest and feeling better, some recharge of your batteries... for more of everything. I'll ask you to pray for this world we live in - for peace, for patience, for tolerance, for compassion.

    1. Amen to that Karen, consider it done! Thank you for your prayers!

  2. I'm so happy to hear from you! I've been checking for posts daily and it makes me worry when I don't hear from you! I don't always comment -- sometimes I don't know what to say except that you are always in my prayers. I had asked for your e-mail before but never contacted you. I finished radiation treatments last year and I often wonder if I will go down the same path. I couldn't have a better companion than you. I hope I have the same strength and grace as you Vicky. Again, you are always in my prayers.

    1. Genny, I feel bad that time slips by before I update. I'll try to be a little more current with everything- I don't want anyone to worry! Did you have radiation for breast cancer treatment? If you were earlier stage - 1 or 2- the chances of you becoming stage iv like me are not very high. I would try, even though I've heard its hard, to believe you'll be ok and not be walking down this path again. I pray breast cancer is behind you! Thankful for your prayers, Genny- and I will pray for you!

    2. Hi Vicky! Thank you for responding -- it was stage 1 but I have irrational fears, mostly because radiation causes weird feelings in the area. Thank you for your prayers! We'll pray for each other!

  3. My prayers are always with you, Vicky. You are such an inspiration and you have the most beautiful soul. Thanks for sharing so much of your life with us!

    1. Nichi- wow, your words are so sweet and touch me deeply- thank you. Those prayers have truly seen me through!

  4. OMG Vicky... I am sobbing. Colton's letter was so heartfelt! What a beautiful post and the interview was wonderful. So glad to put a voice to your pretty face and your writing. You continue to be in my prayers.

    1. Thank you, Katie- such a beautiful compliment- I'm very touched. I had the beginnings of such a cold the day of the interview- but otherwise that is me! Thankful for your ongoing prayers!

  5. Still kneeling with you! (((HUGS)))

  6. Your family is a blessing to me. There is so much to say, and I always feel inadequate when I write to you, but here goes anyway.
    As you receive your next treatment, please know that you aren't there alone. I know that you know that, but this is a gentle and loving reminder that we who love you from a distance are praying for you.
    Thank you for asking for prayer requests from those you care about. You are a caring friend. I have always loved that about you.
    I love the roses that were sent to you. What a blessing your friends and family are as they care for you and for those you love.
    Your son's letter was icing on the cake for this blog post. There is nothing like the love of your child. It makes a Mother's heart smile.
    The hockey games were wonderful to keep up with! Even for this southern "gurl" who has never seen a hockey rink (is that what the ice is called?)..... I lived vicariously through your love of the game and the fact that your sweet ones compete and love the sport so much. I'm proud of the team. What a great experience for all of you.
    Your hubby is such a fantastic photographer. His captures bring joy and smiles to every person who sees his photos. Kudos to Rick for such beautiful photographs. He has a talent with that camera.
    Now, to you, my sweet friend, I hope this comment isn't too long. I just wanted to type like I would "talk" to you if I could. There is no one who knows just how you feel about this journey you are on. I cannot even begin to think that I know what you are going through physically or emotionally. You are enduring much. I love you. My prayers are always with you and for you.
    Mama and Daddy are doing well. I say that because I know that you always ask about them, and I know that you pray for them. Your love for my parents means a great deal to me. I loved your parents. There's just something about a Mama's and a Daddy's love that gets one through even the toughest of times. I still think of your parents with much love.
    I'm glad you got that hug from Dr. P. I felt the warmth and the hope from here as I read your response to that much-needed hug. I pray that the treatment you will be taking will be one that gives you relief from the pain.
    Gentle hugs from me to you. I'm right here.....
    Loving you from South Georgia,

    1. Oh Jackie, your sweet conversation means the world to me! It feels like you were just here sitting on the porch drinking some tea. You and I have such a long history- we're like family. I love that I know all the important things about you and those you love so dearly. No comment is ever too long, friend- they're very special to me and I hang on every word. You know I will tuck Mama and Daddy into my prayers again tomorrow and pray their health continues! Gentle hugs right back to you~

  7. thank you for all the effort you expended making sure we are updated on what is going on in the Westra World. it informs my prayers and helps me hold you close in my heart.

    i ask that you would pray for my son Michael and his wife Sarah. Michael is graduating next month and is in need of a job in the field of industrial chemistry. Sarah is looking for a paying internship this summer. more than those, though, i would covet your prayers for them as newlyweds, that they would find community and grow in their understanding of what it means to not only believe in, but follow Jesus. thanks for praying--love you so much!

    1. I would love to pray for Michael and Sarah. So many new challenges face them, it must be both exciting, but daunting at the same time. A deeper relationship with Jesus, and growing in community sounds like such a great foundation for them- your insight must help them so much! Love you right back, sweet friend!

  8. Hi Vicky,

    I have followed your journey for years, reading your blog and praying for you... "watching" your boys grow into young men... watching your friends, family and community wrap their arms around you and fight with you. When I read that you look for people to pray for before your scans, I wrote you two years ago to ask you to pray for my mom, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is doing well, in part to the strength she received from everyone who has prayed for her. I now have another prayer request. I have been diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer. I had surgery at Mayo 1 week ago, and I will start chemo at Roger Maris in a few weeks. Will you pray that I have the strength that you have had to stay positive and fight through this journey? Much like you when you started your journey, I have two young boys, ages 6 & 9, who love their mama more than anything in the world (and I love them even more).

    I will continue to follow you... to cheer for you... to pray for you... your strength is admirable, and your passion for your family, friends and community is inspiring. Sending my best wishes for you during your next scan and upcoming treatments...


    1. Oh Kristi, I'm so sorry to hear about your diagnosis! How scary for you! I'm going to throw my email in here, in case you'd ever like some more support, or might have a question or concern I could help you with. Please feel free to shoot me a message anytime. I have so much running through my head right now- I just know how overwhelming it all can be. Are you recovering well? Have you seen an oncologist at Roger Maris? Your boys are so young! Oh my heart- it's definitely what keeps me going. I also want to share with you its okay if you don't feel strong all the time- or positive. Feel whatever you feel, its ok. Then find a way to release it, so you step back into your daily life. Today is the only thing any of us are promised- just try not to let cancer steal your joy. I will absolutely pray for you- for your sweet boys- and a whole long list of things to help see you through. Please feel free to email any time! Much love to you!

  9. Oh my dear sweet soul sis,
    This post leaves me almost speechless...the fantastic hockey photographs, the hug you received from Nolan, and the priceless letter from Colton. Oh my goodness, I could not stop crying after seeing his handwriting and reading the message. Straight from his heart to yours. You are his rock, you are the best Mom ever, a perfect Mom for him.

    Most of all, my heart breaks to think of you in bed missing so many invites, but one of the real life-lessons is to be grateful and I am focusing my gratitude to God that YOU ARE STILL HERE!!! As hard and gut wrenching as this part of the journey is, you are still CHOOSING love and joy and gratitude. That truly is your legacy, sweet friend.

    Thank you for posting, for being so authentic and asking how could you pray for us.Please keep Amy and Annora in your prayers. And speaking of prayers, dear Vicky, You are in mine...every day.

    I love you, Vicky Held Westra to the moon and back!

    1. Oh I have such a fresh image of sweet Annora in my mind- I will love praying for her and Amy. Thank you for your wonderfully kind words- they lift me so and I treasure them as much as I treasure you! I thought you would like to see Colton's "to the moon and back-" We always loved that it rhymed with Colton Jack :) I love you dear one- more than I could ever put into words.

  10. The pictures were fantastic. I am so glad that you got to participate in the hockey journey that your son is on. I will pray for your scan that you will have this Friday and that some of your pain will cease. May God have His arms around you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Francis, your prayers have helped keep me going and I truly appreciate them so much!

  11. I'm probably gonna use a lot of words for someone who feels like she has no words.

    What an epic game and moment, Vicky. I'm thrilled for and Rick and the boys and the experience and memories of it all. And yes, big things are ahead of them and, while I wish they would've won, Nolan certainly won by having you there with him to cheer him on and be totally with him. I wish you had felt up to the opportunities I know you would've like to be part of but I so admire you for taking care of yourself and doing what would facilitate the big stuff.

    Glad for a new approach with and from Dr. P and we still hope and pray for that study or breakthrough, as I know you do and all those who love you.

    And that letter from Colton......what a heart. Love that kid. Tears.

    Can't wait to watch the interview. I haven't yet as I just walked in and plopped down at 10pm so it's on my list in the next few days when things slow down and I can take it in and savor it. I don't want to be distracted.

    Praying for that PET scan, Honey, and for your terrible pain level. I'm SO sorry. Pain is a VERY lonely road because no one can really walk it with you except the Lord who fully sees and understands. And it's so you to ask how you can pray for others. Pray for endurance for me with my mom. Very challenging times and history and I know you know so, enough said. Love you and you've been on my heart. <3

    1. Robynn, I can only imagine what these days with your mom must look like and the toll they take on you. I'm the one that has no words for what it must be like- I truly believe you have your own book to write some day. I prayed fervently for you the other day, and will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Love you!

  12. Oh, Vicky...

    Tears. Tears. You're feeling so much joy mingled with your pain. And of course, your writing--you know what it does to me.

    And what about Nolan's expression?! He's so tough. He's a man. He's made the transfer. And Colton's beautiful letter. Not only did he write it, he let you share it. Which is huge! Especially for a boy. Well, for my son it would be.

    So grateful for you--for Jesus in you, the hope of Glory!

    I love you~~

    1. Oh Julie, I'm behind on reading your blog as well- and I'm so excited to see your sweet face pop in here- because I know where I'll go next- you minister to me so! Thank you for your insightful words- I think they are spot on and I am grateful for them! I love you right back!

  13. Dear Vicky...I read and pray and read and pray for healing. Adriamyacin was the first drug I had to treat my breast cancer. I am still amazed and inspired by you. I'm so glad you have so much support. You are dearly loved by so many.

    1. Adriamyacin goes way back- and its amazing to me that they still use it- but it does work. Thank you for your sweet words and for being one of the ones that comes and supports continuously!

  14. Thank you for the flowing tears of joy this morning as you share the two beautiful stories of your sons. You are a blessing in my life and it is always my gift to self when I take the time to pray intently for you dear Vicky. Always, always I hold you in light and love.
    Thank you for all you give to me through your words and pictures and sharing of your journey.

  15. Oh, Vicky, that letter from your son just did me in. It's the kind of thing my dear daughter writes to us, and his tender heart is so precious and rare. Thanks for taking the energy to post this. Praying for you.

  16. I'm so happy you shared that with me, Robin- that you've grown to trust Dr. P and God- that is a powerful way to look at everything and so spot on. Colton just has a way with his words- I continue to be completely blown away by him. Love you dearly, sweet friend!

  17. I have also been checking daily on you to see how you were doing. The letter from Colton brought tears to my eyes. I hope this new medicine will help you feel better. I pray for you every day. Good luck with your PET scan.

  18. You are marvelous. I miss seeing you and talking with you. I had to reach out and tell you it has been an absolute joy to get to know and teach Nolan at MHS. He has so much of your kindness and gentleness. He is an amazing young man and I couldn't imagine anything less having a mother like you. You are in my prayers and I think about you often. Thank you for the energy and effort you put into keeping us all updated!

    Marissa Van Vleet

    1. How fun to see this pop up on my blog, Marissa! After I read it to myself, I brought Nolan in to see it- he smiled a bit and then finally saw the name, then he smiled really big, and went "Whoa, that's cool!" I'm so touched by your sweet words. Plus, I absolutely love the projects Nolan did in class! I think the license plates one, is my absolute favorite. Such cool material to work with, and I love the creativity it inspired in Nolan to make that. Thank you for all your hard work in helping Nolan and the other students truly tap into their creative sides- you have such a gift and talent for helping us all feel like we can- and I love how openly you share that with anyone open to learning!! I'm so thankful for those prayers and I hope that I will be around school one day when I can stop by and see you! Take care sweet one! Thank you for taking the time to write!!

  19. Dear Friend, I'm sorry I missed this earlier. Troy was gone this week for work so I was a bit more consumed than usual. But now, I'm looking forward to possibly seeing you soon and that makes me very happy. God bless you dear one. The note speaks volumes about the kind of person you are, and the kind of person you've helped form your boys into. What an achievement! :) XOXO

    1. Gosh, Roxane, I've missed way more of yours lately, than you of mine- so no worries! I pray I can get back to reading blogs and writing on my own again, on a regular basis! Next week- finger crossed for next week!

  20. What a wonderful hockey weened it was!! It was so fabulous to watch Nolan and his teammates play their hearts out -- and they did amazing!! So proud of all of them. It was absolutely fabulous to have some time to "hang out" with you....and with Rick and Colton...and to hang out with you at the games -- and seeing Brett and Elizabeth - icing on the cake! My family had a blast at the games and my kids are already planning on watching the Spuds next year (although Brynne is still a little suspicious of the's a What? a potato?). Thank you for sharing your wonderful hockey life with us - it was so fun to be part of the experience and enjoy the weekend!! So, let's start planning next year my dearest friend...because I am staying for the celebration as well...:-)

    1. Why am I "unknown" have a feeling you know who this is... :-) so I guess that is all that matters!!!

  21. My dear, wonderful soul sis,
    When I woke up this morning you were on my mind and heart...your PET scan too.
    Praying about the results knowing that All Is Well, no matter what! I am so grateful to have you in my life, dear Vicky, and grateful for all you have taught me about choosing LOVE and JOY and PEACE.

    On this blessed Easter weekend may you fully know His love and His presence in your life.
    You are never, ever alone in all of this journey.

    Love you always to the moon and back!
    Happy Easter, dear friend!
    Your soul sis, Linda


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