Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 94 - Wonderful things ... and meds too.

I went to pick up my side effect medication today. It made me cry. It's a lot to think about - what I'm choosing to put into my body - how much - and what else is going to be put into my body. More than anything, it's just scary at this point. I guess chemo officially starts Wednesday night. I have to take a steroid the night before chemo, the morning of chemo and then the night of chemo - just to help prevent an allergic reaction. If I don't have a reaction, then I don't need to take it the next 3 times. So, there's 2 kinds of meds for nausea, 1 for anxiety and 1 is the steroid. It's quite the cocktail in addition to the chemo cocktail.


The BETTER cocktail came in the mail today, courtesy of Ms. Judy! Thank you Judy for a wonderful gift, it's timing couldn't be any better - truly. And how did you know I like martinis?! It's absolutely perfect.


And to enjoy all these wonderful cocktails, came the perfect cozy outfit to wear! Thank you my wonderful friend Linda - I LOVE the outfit! And I truly did need a smile today, so your package (also) couldn't have been better timed. AND it made it before my first treatment!

Thank you both, from the bottom of my heart. I told Mike, it seems like these wonderful gifts seem to arrive when I need them the most.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chemo Coverage - CJ Hats: www.cjhats.com

I asked my sister, Maria, to lend me some of her hats. She has a great sense of style, and her hats are really cute. I don't think initially I'm going to need a full blown scarf but as my hair starts to thin - I think a regular hat will work fine, for a few weeks anyhow.

I'm realizing that I'm really cold at work now. They have the AC blasting inside the building and I assume it's at the same level it's always been for the past two summer seasons. What is not the same as it's always been is the length of my hair. I guess I didn't realize how much it helped regulate my temperature and keep me warm. I'm finding my hands get so cold in the office that it makes it hard to type. I guess my hair kept the rest of me warm in the past, so my extremities never really got that cold. It makes me wonder if everyone with short hair gets cold easily? Or is it just me - since I'm a short hair novice? At any rate - this winter I'm assuming it's going to be really cold for me ... but that's where this website comes in: http://www.cjhats.com/.

I found this site because I was looking for "chemo hats" If you know me ... specifically, if you know my shopping philosophy - I want quality stuff for the right price. I almost have a size to price ratio, if you will. For example - a cute pair of strappy heels should not cost as much, or more, than a cute pair of pointy toe pumps. Why? Because there isn't as much material! Plain and simple - I don't care whose name is on the shoe - ("Russian components, American components - ALL MADE IN CHINA!" -- Armageddon anyone?) I don't think it makes sense to pay more, for less material. It's silly. Full knee high boots? Yes, those should cost more because there's a ton of material. And unless they're on dramatic clearance - you should think twice before you pay a super low price for boots. That whole -- "if it's too good to be true ..." philosophy. Conversely, if I do pay a low price for something - I do it because I don't expect it to last very long, and I'm OK with that. And if it lasts longer than I thought it would - well then score! It was a good deal.

Anyhow - I found this site - and not only is the cause a great one - but the prices are right. My caveat - I have not yet ordered any, so I can't speak on quality just yet - but if the quality is as expected (and from what I see online, I expect it will be. Did I mention I'm also great at online shopping?), then yes - this is a site that falls neatly into my shopping 101 rationale. And to top it all off - this is the ONLY site I've found for "chemo hats" for women - that makes stylish looking hats that would work for women who are - say 29 - and not in their 70's. Just because I have to do chemo at 29 doesn't mean I have to sacrifice my style. And I'm not saying women in their 70's sacrifice their style -I've met some really hip 70 year olds - what I'm saying is - the styles are just vastly different.

There are a few on here that I really love - and I think when the time comes, I will order 4 or 5 of the scarves, a couple night caps, a few of the 3-band chemo hats and a few hat liners (It is football season after all, and I can't not wear my favorite Boston hat to watch the Patriots games) ... and most likely more since I like to accessorize.

So hat's off to you CJ Hats ... you'll see my order soon.

Day 92 - 5 Days Until Chemo, 9 Weeks after Surgery

My first chemo treatment is creeping up on me ... and I'm not sure I know how I'm dealing with it. Usually I know myself and my feelings very well - too well, too often. But this is different, and I'm not sure why. The days immediately following our appointment with Dr. Borges last week were tough... and I was unaware. I guess I thought that since I'd made the decision to follow through with the chemo treatment - I wouldn't be as emotionally affected as I was when I decided to do the bi-lateral mastectomies. I thought I made a decision and that was that - and I was OK. But I wasn't.

By Thursday last week, I was tired - emotionally and physically. I felt drained and unmotivated. Sleep was escaping me - and that is torment for me. I have never had any issues sleeping. I can sleep anywhere, anytime, after any amount of sleep I may have had already - I can still fall asleep. I like sleep. I'm good at it. But last week it started becoming harder. I just couldn't get comfortable so I'd toss ... and toss and toss and toss. I'd lay there with my eyes closed prepared to fall into my natural rhythm with sleep and instead of falling asleep, I'd listen. I'd listen to all that was running through my mind and I couldn't turn it off - tune it out - or calm my thoughts enough to let myself fall into sleep. And I wasn't thinking about anything in particular or specifically about chemo - which was more frustrating because at least if it were that - I could work toward making more peace with my decision and eventually that would lead me to a calm state - and I could fall asleep. But lately it's nothing special and no position is comfortable. Point blank - tissue expanders are hard. Period. And that hardness makes it tough to be comfortable - especially when you like to fall asleep curled up into a ball, on your side. Impossible. OK - not impossible, but really darn hard. And especially frustrating after feeling "healed" from surgery and like I should be able to sleep however which way I want.

After the weekend I feel great, rested and ready to go in to the next week - but by the time Wednesday comes around - my energy is waning and my frustration is growing and the glow of my spirit is flickering.

I told Mike two nights ago that I think I'm teetering on the edge of depression. I haven't had my major meltdown that should have come with the decision to do chemo - and maybe the suppression of those emotions is causing the sleeplessness. Maybe I just need to sit down and cry and get it out and over with. I'm not "depressed" clinically speaking - but I am feeling deflated. And all of this very well could be the effects of the lack of sleep. I just keep telling myself that it's only until the end of the year. It's only 4 months that I have to deal with this. In 4 months I'll have my "exchange" - the softer, gentler, kinder implants will be in and at last, I will sleep a deep, long, restful sleep - that is comfortable. I really can't wait, and what a great Christmas present that will be.

What's weighing on me about chemo? I don't want to look or feel sick. I don't feel "sick" - and I haven't looked sick throughout this whole process. Undergoing chemo could very possibly land me in the "cancer patient" category to the outside world. I don't identify with that label. I can't -- because I don't understand it. I don't consider myself a "cancer patient." I don't feel like it's that serious. It just feels like regular doctor visits and regular steps to ensure my health. And maybe I'm in denial about my diagnosis and maybe that's because I feel fine. But it's plaguing me that I'm going to actually feel, and look, sick - in order to NOT be sick. It's such a paradox and I'm having difficulty accepting the underlying truth.

But (sigh) - regardless ... the show must go on. At least I have the perfect outfit for opening night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Plan

SO, the plan is ... to do chemo and reconstruction at the same time ... and have my final surgery - the "exchange" - in December before Christmas.

We start chemo on Sept. 2 and we have expansion on Sept. 3. My blood counts are anticipated to be at their lowest around Day 10 after each infusion - so it's at this time that I'm most susceptible to getting sick. But after Day 10, things start to go up again and I start to feel better, just before my next infusion. I'm hoping we can work the expansions in around Day 15 or so and then maybe again the day after the next infusion. This would give me something like 2 weeks on, 1 week off. If everything goes according to plan, and I bounce back after each infusion like I should, my last infusion will be November 4th. By Thanksgiving, I should be on the up swing of the last infusion and feeling much better (meaning, okay to feast!). And, this will give me all of November, and some of December, to recover before we do my final surgery to swap out the expanders for the implants. Not such a bad Christmas present! By my 30th birthday in March, I should be feeling like myself and the side effects should start fully subsiding - and hopefully I won't miss snowboarding after all! April 10, 2011 ... our one year wedding anniversary ... this should all (for the most part) be behind us, and we'll hopefully have a 2nd honeymoon where we can do-over this first year properly and cancer free.

This is the plan anyhow ... the ideal plan. My hope is everything goes smoothly and if we have to deviate from "the plan" ... it's only slightly and we get back on track quickly, without much lost in the process.

It makes me feel better knowing that there is a plan - that the steps are laid out and all we have to do is cross them off our list as we accomplish each one. It's nice to have some direction, even if it does involve chemo, at least it's a direction - with defined steps ... defined goals.

I think a mini celebration is in order each time we complete an infusion .... something to say "hooray! one down, X to go."

Day 82 - Making the Choice, Getting Informed

Yesterday was a big day. A teary day ... it's been a while since I've cried about all of this, but yesterday brought me to the verge. I can't say they fell, but they were on the brink.

At 11:30 yesterday we had my follow up visit with the Oncologist to give her our decision and what not. Well, my haircut obviously gave it away -- so we jumped right in to talking about the process, going over the details, getting all the prescriptions, meeting with nurse, going over what was essentially a chemo side-effect handbook and getting all the appointments scheduled. As we dove into the nitty gritty of chemo - I could feel a lump developing in my throat ... tears starting welling in my eyes and I couldn't get close enough to Mike. As we worked through the handbook, it made things feel very real. It's one thing to make the decision to do "chemo" when you're blissfully ignorant of the rest of the side effects in addition to hair loss and maybe nausea ... but once you start talking about what's really going to happen - what you have to watch out for during the process ... when you have to call the doctor or nurses ... what's an "expected" side effect and what's not - it's seriously daunting.

Pat, the nurse, kept flipping through page upon page of this notebook reviewing all the different side effects of each chemo drug. Next, she gave me, and reviewed, 5 different prescriptions that are used to manage the side effects of the chemo drugs, and then went over the individual side effects of those drugs.

I'm seriously going to need a pill box labeled: "Nausea A", "Nausea B, if A doesn't work", "Anxiety", "Constipation", "Steroids" ... No wonder it's called CHEMO! Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals ....

I'm going to need to go into detox after this is over.

When she finished and left the room, I just closed my eyes and breathed. I exhaled a long, slow breath -- fluttered my eyelids in an attempt to hold back the tears - and just nodded my head when Mike asked if I was alright. He asked me why I'm so strong when they're in the room, but the minute they leave, I fall to pieces. I told him I had no choice when they're telling me everything -- I have to focus. If I let my emotions take over, I won't be able to hold on to what they're saying and I need to understand.

Before I could truly lose it, plastic surgery walked in and we started our next appointment. They removed the 6 stitches, said things "look good" and we said a little "good vibe" prayer to that spot that is slow to heal. But we didn't expand. We're going to wait two more weeks before we start expansion again on the left side to really give that spot an opportunity to heal up before we ask it to stretch. It certainly does look better than the last time they took out the stitches, so I'm hoping it stays that way.

On our way out, we scheduled the next round of appointments - the chemo appointments - which take us into November. Two appointments for each infusion - the Oncology appointment where they draw my blood, run their tests and give me the green light for my infusion and then the actual infusion appointment, where I get my chemo cocktail. Too bad "infusion" and "cocktail" don't apply to vodka ...

We walked through the "Infusion Area" so I could see the environment ... we only went halfway before I told Mike I wanted to leave -- Everyone in there receiving their infusions .... truly looked sick ... like yes, they needed to be in the hospital. I can't identify with that - especially because I don't feel sick, at all. Of all the steps throughout this journey, this seems like it's going to be the most difficult. Hopefully - it's not so bad and I just get some cute hats out of the deal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 75 - The Chemo Cut

Why waste good hair?


Cutting my hair is - I would say - the second step to accepting chemo, with the first obviously being choosing chemo as my treatment. How many more steps there are in this process I'm not sure, but I knew that I needed to take this one myself, before it was done for me.


Dealing with this is going to be on my terms - my choices - and I won't be dictated to by the doctor's or by side effects or whatever else ... Yes, I didn't have a choice in having cancer, but I certainly have a choice in how to deal with it. And I'm not about to let that go or miss an opportunity to make peace with the process in my own ways.


A little bit of my philosophy, if I may ... everything is a choice. And I mean everything - attitude, mood, emotions, perspective ... lunch - it's all a choice. I know there are things that are beyond our control that dramatically affect how we feel or how we perceive things - and sometimes it's impossible to choose to feel differently when we're involuntarily thrown into experiencing those unwanted emotions or negative perspectives - but that doesn't mean we can't still try.


But why try, right? Try because no one ever wants to feel anything negative. Try because it's your life ... and your life affects all those around you, all the time. I don't mean "be fake" or false or ignore what you're feeling - by no means don't ignore your emotions - but make the effort to put yourself in the state of being that you prefer to be in ... which for most people, is happy. If that effort means finding the silver lining and holding on to that with all your might - do it ... find the positive in the negative ... and if you feel like you can't find the positive ... then at least find a way to accept that which you cannot change ... and make your peace ... and in that peace, I promise - you will feel better and you will feel better because it was your choice.


So for me - my positives (thus far) in this whole experience are 1) I can help others by participating in clinical trials and allowing doctors in training to listen in on my appointments and learn from my case, 2) through this blog, I can help someone out there who is 29 and also recently diagnosed, who is scouring the internet trying to find information that is relevant to her age, and situation, and 3) I can donate my hair to help someone who is in chemo and lost her hair or who's hair never came back after chemo. For me - this whole experience allows me to help the future, the present, and what's already passed .... that's not a bad silver lining.


So why waste good hair? I'm going to lose it anyway so might as well give it to someone who can use it. It makes me happy to help. So here's the new "a-symmetrical do"





And here's the donation that's going off to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They partner with the American Cancer Society and make real hair wigs and give them, for free, to women who need them.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 73 - A little fun

"Boobies for Babies" I guess you could say.

Every year for the last 5 years, we play in the March of Dimes Mudd Volleyball tournament the first Saturday in August. This year, I had to sit out and cheer and play referee, but nonetheless, it was still really fun - and really dirty. The single day event raises over $200,000 to support healthy babies. Our "Team Melissa" captain, my hubby, raised over $1,500. Mike named the team in my honor since he knew how much this event means to me. He also designed and printed T-Shirts to show our team support of breast cancer, and his support of his wife.

What a wonderful husband I have.

The tournament is round-robin style, 5 games each team, 6 teams to a court, 50 courts and over 4,000 people playing and spectating. Lots of beer and food and great fun. We made it to the 2nd round of playoffs before we were eliminated - that's the farthest we've ever made it in 5 years! I can't wait until next year!!

THANK YOU to everyone who donated and supported us, and a thanks to all our teammates:

Mike Bingham (El Capitan), Mike and Jessie Bailey, Dolores Carrillo, Keri Dugan, Samantha Halliburton, Denise Leon, Dustin Prichard, Jesse Cowan, Nic Jones and "Grif" (Photographer extraordinaire)


Here is our "clean" team picture:



And ... our dirty team picture:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 72 - Post Oncology Appointment

So yesterday was a long appointment and laden with information ... and choices.

I'll start backwards. We left the appointment feeling encouraged. It wasn't what I was expecting to feel - at all - leading up to the appointment. I expected to feel really sad, or maybe even really happy - but not encouraged, so that was nice - and unexpected. But that seems to be the effect my medical oncologist has on me. She has a way of explaining things to me that is comforting, reassuring and most of all - trustworthy. When I listen to her, I feel like she hears me, understands me - and more importantly - cares about me. Not just as a patient - but as a person ... She respects that I have my own opinions and feelings - and doesn't condescend my questions or information just because I read it on the Internet, or someone told me about it -- she talks to me - to us ... as she is always sure to include Mike in the conversation - and she talks to me like I'm a person, not like I'm not a doctor.

She told me my pathology had a few things in it that concerned her to the point where she felt I needed chemo. First and foremost, the grade of the tumor was a 3 out of 3 - the most aggressive ranking a tumor can receive. This is common however - in younger women who get breast cancer. It's rare to be under 30 and diagnosed with a "nice" tumor. Second, the simple fact of my age was a concern. (The YSC reports that breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women 15 to 54. ) Third, she said that pathology reported "lymphovascular invasion." The way she described it was like this - The lymph node was the exit, and even though the cancer cells didn't make it there, they got on the on ramp. So, they were on their way. They were moving. Invading ...

When I read the pathology report in its entirety Tuesday after we got home from the plastic surgery appointment, I saw those same words -- "lymphovascular invasion" -- it rang a bell. Something else was being invaded.

When she confirmed my suspicion about what I read in the report - I felt something click. I knew I had to do something in addition to the hormone blocker therapy - in addition to the Tamoxifen. It was moving.

She knew before coming in to the exam room that I wasn't on the chemo bus. So she gave me another option. Absolutely, the hormone blocker therapy is needed for a total course of 5 years - my tumor cells feed and grow on the hormones my own body produces, I have to. In conjunction, the possible second treatment in the regimen, she offered me what is popular in Europe, "the European standard", as they don't use chemo as much as we do here in the states. It is a quarterly shot that I receive that shuts down my ovaries - and puts me into a clinically induced menopause. By doing this, I don't produce the hormones that feed my cancer cells. This induced menopause is also a 5 year treatment.

OR, I could opt for the U.S. standard of treatment, which is chemo therapy. She said the chemo she would prescribe for me is a more modern method of chemo, it's 12 weeks and 4 doses, spaced 3 weeks apart. The drugs are "Cytoxan" and "Taxotere" (also seen as CT or TC). I would lose my hair and may have irregular periods, or even a clinical menopause, but after chemo is finished, my periods should return just fine. And my fears about chemo and infertility - she assured me that unless we were already having issues, I should have no issues, no long term side effects -- no harm -- to my ovaries and potential children. I would have the "normal chance" of having a normal, healthy baby.

Given the options, I'm 99% sure I'm choosing the chemo. It's shorter, effective and then over with, hopefully as quickly as it came. I want to be here to experience my children - watch them grow and have their own babies. My cancer didn't just stay in the breast tissue ... it was moving. If it didn't invade the surrounding tissue, this would be a different post - but it did. So that changes things for me.

She wants my stitches to be healed up before we start, so I see her again on 8/17 along with the plastic surgeon, to remove the stitches. If they're healed and things are "ok" we should be starting chemo at the end of August and working in expansions when we can, when my body can handle it. 12 weeks puts me into Thanksgiving and Christmas. Starting the new year with chemo behind me, sounds kinda nice. We can then re-focus on finishing reconstruction and starting the Tamoxifen. I'll be 30.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peaceful Thought

I've decided that regardless of the outcome of today's appointment - whether I have to do chemo or not - I'm going to donate my hair. If I miraculously don't have to do chemo - it's the least I can do to be supportive of those that do, and to show my thanks.

This decision is the first thought I've had today, that has brought some peace to my nervousness. It makes me feel good - knowing that, even when I'm faced with a situation where I can't readily do anything to help myself - at the very least - I can help someone else.

It takes 6 to 10 ponytails to make 1 wig. I should see my stylist soon.

Day 71 - Nerves

My nerves are getting the better of me today. 5 and a half hours until we meet with the oncologist. I have a feeling it's either going to be bad news or news that we have to wait a little longer for some more tests before we make a chemo decision. I have a feeling it won't be good news right away. It's never that easy ...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 70 - Deflated in Limbo

You know how when you're trying to blow a bubble ... and you try as hard as you can to get it bigger than the last one you blew? But on the outside of the bubble you can see right where the gum is getting thin, but you keep blowing - hoping it will hang on and won't pop just yet ... and just when you think you're going to make it that thin section opens up leaving you with a hole and suddenly deflating bubble. So you hurry to try to salvage it before it goes all the way flat - you pinch the hole together and start blowing again - and it lasts for maybe a few breaths - but eventually another hole develops and the darn thing pops, and you have to start over .... well -- yesterday was like that, kinda.

I have a section of skin, on the left side, a little smaller than a dime, that is thin. There was some trauma during surgery to a larger area surrounding that section and the whole area was a deep purple. As it began to heal underneath, that deep purple area blistered and fell off revealing new, pink skin, but there was a small section that wasn't healing like the rest. It just kept getting worse. SO ... 3 weeks ago, the put in 3 stitches in that spot, and 7 more in the incision. They hoped that by cleaning up that dying area and putting in those 3 stitches - it would heal up and we could keep expanding. Last week, they took the stitches out and everything looked fine, we expanded. This week - that stubborn spot started looking thin ... again.

The decision was to deflate the left side, put in tiny, superficial stitches and give that area a whole month to heal up before we started expansion again. The alternative? Watch it to see if it gets better. If not, and the expander ends up showing through - then put me back through surgery to remove the expander, close up the hole - and start over. So we deflated the left side. They removed 100 CCs (2 weeks of effort!), put in 6 tiny stitches and said come back in 2 weeks so we can take the stitches out and see how it looks and then maybe start expansion again 2 weeks after that. OH - and they expanded the right side. So now the right side is 300 CCs and looking close to like I did before surgery and the left side is half, 150. So the whole month of August is just a big, lopsided wash.

This is the complication I was waiting for -- but just because I was "expecting" it, doesn't mean I'm taking it very well. This is a 6 week set back! 4 weeks to heal, another 2 weeks to "catch up" the left side to the right side ... ugh. It makes me angry.

And to top it all off - we meet with the medical oncologist tomorrow. If she tells me I have to do chemo too - I'm most likely going to have fit. It doesn't feel fair -- I made the harder choice - or what seemed like the harder choice. You're not suppose to have a double mastectomy at 29, 2 months after you get married, before you have kids. But I did - isn't that enough to please the cancer gods? Why must it be even more difficult than that? Why must something as simple as healing - be difficult too. It's not even the incision - it's two inches below the incision! It's the non-cancer side! It's so frustrating ... and I can't do anything about it. I have to just sit and wait ... in limbo. It's like watching the grass grow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 67 - Pay It Forward

This blog post is dedicated to all the wonderful people who have supported me. "Thank you" isn't nearly enough, but thank you, to: my husband, my mother, my sister and my brother-in-law, my aunts, uncles and cousins, my friends, both near and far, my amazing, amazing co-workers (I work with truly good people, and many are both friends and co-workers), my husband's friends and co-workers, our neighbors and to those that I've only met once who know my story and sent their well-wishes. I promise to pay it forward.

Quiet Sunday mornings are by far, my most favorite time of any day, week, or weekend. In any season, Sunday mornings are usually quiet - Mike usually sleeps in (except during football season) and it's just me, my coffee and my Tomo. No sounds other than the hum of the washer and maybe the ceiling fan or the heater, if it's cold out. Occasionally Tomo howls at some other dogs but typically, he's sprawled out on the patio, enjoying the morning sunshine. It's quiet ... and it's easy for me to reflect on everything.

This quiet Sunday morning I can't help but reflect on the many wonderful people we have in our life. Cards upon cards, phone calls, emails, texts, FB postings, dinners, flowers -- time ... it all poured in the moment we shared I was diagnosed. Endless support from truly wonderful people -- from people who just cared and from people who could relate - from people who followed the blog quietly, without saying or sending anything - still sending the message that they want to know. People sharing their stories and life experiences with us, guiding us and supporting us, as we embark on our own story.

What has truly touched me is the time. Time is a very precious thing - it's something people can't give without effort or attention - without it requiring something more of that person than just their time. The time it takes to make a dinner for someone else -- you must think about it, plan it, shop for it ... and then prepare it and carry it to work. You put effort into it - especially when cooking for someone else because you worry they might not like it or if they might have allergies - you give time from your work day to tell that person "Here, I've made you guys dinner" and have a quick chat, ending it with "I hope you like it."

The time it takes to make a phone call - you must take a quiet moment for yourself, away from your responsibilities or even just away from what you'd like to be doing, so you can give your attention to the call - to the other person - and have a candid conversation. You tell them that you care, that you're sorrowful that this has happened, you ask questions, you listen - you share. You share your time with this person along with a part of yourself through your experiences. And when the call is over, you think ...

The time it takes to send a card ... you think you'll just grab one while you're at the store, I'll just stop real quick. And when you find yourself standing in front of the sea of greeting cards at the store - you mull over the categories "Get Well," "Friendship," "Encouragement," "Blank Inside" -- you pick through the cards reading the greetings - you consider a blank one, but would you know what to write? - eventually you find one you like but it doesn't have any more envelopes - so you search for a similar size envelope from a different card. Before you know it, your "quick stop" is 10 or 15 minutes of your time ... and that's just picking the card. You now must add effort - writing a note inside, finding their address, finding a stamp and getting it to the mailbox. And once it's mailed off, you wait to hear - to make sure it was received, and maybe you even have a phone conversation with them when it is.

And even if you're one of those wonderful people who keep a stash of greeting cards on hand, just in case - you still must take a moment to select one from your pile, and when you're pile is running low down the road - you go out and spend the time to replenish it ...

All this time people have given to us, I don't know how to repay. I never thought I would experience what it is like to receive so much that I feel incapable of being able to repay. I can say "thank you" and "it means so much" until I'm blue in the face - but I don't ever feel like it truly conveys how thankful I really am ... how much it really does mean.

I don't know if thank you is enough, and I hope that one day I can repay all of the time, effort and attention - the support - that was given to us throughout this, but thank you - all of you - from the deepest depths of my heart. What has been given to me, to us, has brought me to my knees with humility and graciousness - has brought tears of gratitude to my eyes, many times over, - and has impacted my spirit in a way that I don't know how to convey.

I constantly ask Mike what I can do to give back... his only reply is that he thinks this isn't something I can pay back - that it's something I can only pay forward.

I hope that one day I can - for each and every person.