Sunday, February 28, 2016

Colleens Dream Gala and Golf Tournament

Tenielle and Tony came to join us last weekend for the Colleens Dream weekend.  Friday morning we woke early and went to the golf course to set up for the golf tournament.  It was fun for Tenielle and I to register all of the players.  I thought it was so cool that at one point all of the football players signed a bunch of footballs.  They are the nicest bunch of guys.
 This is the Cardinals QB
When the golf tournament started, I got to spend time talking to Steve from Iowa.  I met him last year.  His wife Nadine passed away from OVC 1 1/2 years ago.  What a strong man this guy is.  They have raised so much money for OVC in their small town.
After the tournament Tenielle, mom and I went for a pedicure.  That night we met our friends the Sondrups for dinner at the local pizza place Spinets.  It was delicious!

Saturday morning we relaxed and then Tenielle and I went to Laura's to have her do our hair.  She did such a great job.  I then went to the Marriott Resort where the Gala was being held so that I could practice my part in the program.
Colleens Daughters
Billy the Co-Founder
Remember Matt from last year?
Dr. J
Nicole one of the co-founders asked me the day I saw my oncologist if I would tell my story at the gala.  Without hesitation, I said yes.  I was grateful for the opportunity to share my story.  As I was on the stand I'm felt Nadine on one side of me and Colleen on the other.  It was a neat experience.  Apparently it affected everyone, because many people had tears in their eyes as I got off the stage.  I couldn't walk five steps without someone telling me how much they enjoyed my talk and how inspired they were by me.  I was humbled.  I even had some of the players tell me they wanted to have me come to a game next season.  I can't wait.  You know I love FB!
Aunt Leslie, Uncle Gordon, my cousin Deborah and her husband Nathan, mom, dad, Tenielle, Tony, Janelle and Matt Sondrup, Linda and Ken Jensen and her brother and his wife and my friend Cathy were in attendance.  It was so wonderful for me to have been able to share this night with them.  It would have been so awesome to have had all of my siblings there.
After I finished talking, they auctioned off a trip and a dog.  Then the auctioneer did something that she has never done.  She said that someone gave her $5000.  She then asked for others to match it.  A few did.  Then she went to $2500, $1000, $500, $100.  She talked about my speech and how the money raised was all going to research.  I'm so grateful for the people who were in attendance and giving to a cause so near to my heart.
The food was delicious, the company was enjoyable and the event was out of this world amazing.  I am disappointed it's over, but can't wait for next year's event.  It's now one of my yearly traditions.

Colleens Dream Speech

I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend and an Emergency Room Physician Assistant and on June 4, 2013, at the age of 36, I became a Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer Patient and Survivor.  

For several months before my diagnosis, I experienced classic symptoms of frequent urination, change in bowel habits, a poochy abdomen and low back pain.  I wrote them off to the new woos of being in my mid 30’s.

I have always eaten healthy and had an active lifestyle.  However, as my symptoms worsened, the pressure in my abdomen intensified preventing me from going on my daily run, so I walked 4 miles a day instead.  

It wasn’t until I felt what I thought was a vaginal mass (which ended up being a 13cm ovarian tumor) that I made an appointment with my primary care provider, who got me in immediately.  I underwent a battery of tests and the next day saw my GYN who told me, “You have Ovarian Cancer and it is quite advanced.”    

The following day, I saw a gynecology oncologist, who abruptly stated, “You have a 30-50% chance of being alive in 3-5 years.”  It was at that moment amidst the shock and fear that my faith and instinct to fight kicked in.

Later that day I underwent an 8 ½ hour surgery, had 2 blood transfusions and woke up in the Intensive Care Unit.  Life as I knew it came to a screeching halt, while all around me, the world kept going.

After 15 days in the hospital, I left with an ileostomy bag which would remain attached to my abdomen for the next 7 months.  Four months of chemotherapy left me with several side effects including a bald head, neuropathy in my hands and an extra 20 pounds.  

In November 2013, I was declared in remission.  I resumed my normal life of working and traveling.  It was my hope that cancer was behind me.

Every summer, I head to Martha’s Vineyard to work and relax by the beach.  This past June, just 18 months into remission and only 2 days after arriving in Martha’s Vineyard,  I was diagnosed with a recurrence.  To say I was devastated is an understatement, but I prayed for strength to endure all that the coming months would bring. Again I started chemotherapy, while still enjoying life between treatments.

In September, despite being on chemo, I met my entire family; parents, 6 siblings and their spouses, and my 10 adorable nieces and nephews ages 9 to newborn, at Disneyland.  We were supposed to be celebrating my 2-year cancer-free anniversary, but instead, we celebrated life.  It was a joy to be together as a family and to watch the expressions on the children’s faces when they saw Mickey and Minnie for the first time.

Just 5 weeks ago, I finished 7 months of additional chemotherapy.  I was hoping this regimen would cure me.  However, after a PET scan last week, I was told there are still signs of cancer in my pelvis.  For now I’m going to take a chemo holiday to see what happens with the blood levels.  

It’s hard to plan my life because of the “what if’s.” Even though my future is uncertain, I’m not going to stop preparing and planning.

Because of cancer I will never have the opportunity to bear a child.  I worry that it will prevent me from finding someone who will love me regardless of the train wreck of scars on my torso and not knowing what my future might hold.  

While cancer has taken quite a bit from me, it can’t take everything. It cannot take from me the love I have for my family, especially my nieces and nephews, who bring more joy and happiness to my life than I ever thought possible.  It breaks my heart that they are too familiar with the words chemo and cancer.  At their young ages, they can’t possibly understand the depth of its meaning, but they have visited me in the hospital, cheered me up during chemo treatments, and literally fallen to their knees in prayer when they have seen me crying in pain and disappointment.  They are expecting a miracle and so am I.  

I am extremely grateful and humbled to each of the 475 people here tonight who are supporting not only Colleen’s Dream, but my dream for an early detection test, and a world without ovarian cancer.

It’s too late for an early detection test to help me. But it is not too late to help the thousands of women who will one day be diagnosed. If their disease can be caught early, when it is most curable, it may spare them from the surgeries, chemotherapy and uncertainty that I have come to know.  

I have ovarian cancer, but ovarian cancer does not have me. Until it puts me in the grave, I’m not giving up.  I still have a lot of fight left in me and I have big plans  for my future.

I plan to fall in love and somehow be a mother. I bought a house this week, and will travel to New Orleans in the coming weeks.  Later this year, I am looking forward to a vacation with my girlfriends to celebrate  our 40th birthday’s.

I am determined to live life to the fullest by finding joy in my journey. I am enduring this trial with a positive attitude and a smile on my face, by making each day count.  I encourage all of you to do the same.  One never knows what life has in store.

Thank you so much for your time and support. I’d like to leave you with a favorite quote of mine by Thomas S. Monson:

“To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.”  

February Came and Went

I know 3 whole weeks of February without a post.  I've been busy with my parents who visited from February 8-25.  We had a whole lot of fun.  But I must post that my friend Sarah from DC and who I've been friends with since jr. high came for a visit.  Well actually I only saw her on the evening I returned from SF, but we had a lovely time in the short hours we were together.  We are looking forward to later this year when we will celebrate our 40th birthdays.

Things we did while mom and dad were here:

1.  Went to Mexico, just over the boarder.  We stayed the evening with our friends the Jensen's in their trailer, well actually I slept in my car, which wasn't bad, but not something I'd do on a regular basis.  It was super hot the days we were there, like 90's.  But we had a fun time buying my favorite wooden soup like spoons, vanilla and medications.
2.  I saw my oncologist and had a PET Scan.  The scan still shows cancer; a spot in my pelvis close to my hip, several areas in the lower pelvis, one on the anal/vaginal wall and something on the lower side of my heart (whether this is cancer or not is up in the air).  I'm disappointed that the chemo didn't kill the cancer.  We did another test that looks more at the cells and I'll see Dr. J on March 9.  For now I'm taking a chemo holiday.  My CA-125 was 28, 3 weeks ago, so I'm still in the normal range.  I keep having to remember these quotes:
3.  So instead of crying all day after seeing the oncologist, we looked at houses. And I bought a house!  I am currently in escrow waiting for my loan to go through.  It is really nice, needs a backyard makeover because it's pretty bare and a new kitchen, which I'm going to do before I move in.  The best part is it's in my ward and one story!  I love the fireplace which gives it character, even though I can't imagine making a fire here and the floor plan is great!  There is a lot of storage in the garage and the bedrooms all have walk in closets.  The master closet has organizers and tons of space.  I love that when you walk into the house there is a dining room on one side (which I want to put wood floor in eventually) and a living room on the other.  I'm going to put plantation shutters in the front windows to the match the back shutters and I'm going to change out the ugly light in the dining room.  There are a lot of cosmetic things that are easy, but need changed, like the bathroom fixtures and the door knobs.  Here are a few pictures.
4.  I got a new calling in church.  I am sad to leave primary.  I loved being the pianist.  But I'm going to love being with the Young Women as the Beehive Advisor.  It's been 21 years since I've been in Young Womens.  I loved my Young Women leaders and still have great relationships with them.  I hope that these girls that I teach will love me as much as I loved my leaders.
5.  We celebrated mom and dad's 40th anniversary by going to The Tenors concert.  It was so amazing.  Tenielle and Tony came last weekend for this event and for the Colleens Dream weekend (will post about that later). While mom and dad did the meet and great, we played cards.  Before the concert we went to a delicious Greek restaurant called Cafe Mix.  I highly recommend it.  We love the Tenors.  Several years ago we were visiting Palmyra, NY and Kirkland, OH.  We drove out of our way to Franklin, PA to see the Canadian Tenors.  The concert was in a high school auditorium and we bought tickets at the door.  This was just before they got big and we were able to talk with them and get autographs after the show.  The best part was that it was all acoustic.
6.  While mom and dad were here we spent a lot of time at hardware stores looking for backsplash, sinks, door knobs, and granite.  This kitchen is going to be darling.  My mom has quite the eye for colors.  I'm excited to make this house my own!  I should be closing mid March.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl Mania Recap

Wednesday morning Cathy and I flew to San Francisco.  I've never been there but really enjoyed the few days were there.  The weather was perfect.  I always thought it rained there all the time, but we didn't have any rain.  We took the subway to downtown where out hostel was, which was a few blocks from the Pre-Super Bowl events.  We couldn't have asked for a better location.  I got the hostel on airbnb.  The room was small, but clean.  The bathroom was tiny.  If we were both trying to get ready at the same time half of my body was in the bathroom and the rest was in the hallway, while half of her body was in the tub.  We thought it was pretty funny.  The crazy thing was we actually had to purchase soap because there wasn't any and there weren't any wash clothes.  Lucky we had towels.

We dumped off our luggage and then went to be tourists.  But first we had lunch with one of Cathy's friends, who has now become one of my friends.  He is a sports radio talk show host from Austin.  After lunch, we took the trolley, which is so cool, to Fisherman's Wharf.  While on the trolley we met a very nice lady named Karen who quickly became our new best friend.  We even toured with her.  Her husband was there working and she was visiting for a few days.  We also toured China Town and walked up one of the steepest hills ever.  My hamstrings definitely felt the hill.
We went back to our hostel, changed and then met up with some of Cathy's friends from when she lived in Texas.  We went to a Latin restaurant called La Fusion.  Our dinner was delicious.  I had chicken and the best mac and cheese ever.  For appetizers we had the most delicious Ceviche, which was out of this world delicious if you like fish.  These friends of Cathy's are sports radio hosts and they are the ones we hung out with while we were there.  After dinner we went out with a few guys for drinks next door to our hostel.  I had the best fresh squeezed lemonade!  We walked over 17,000 steps this day and our feet let us know it the end of the day too.
Thursday we got up rather early.  We walked the few blocks to the event center and stood in line to get our day media passes, which gave us access to Radio Row, which is why we were there.  Radio Row is this huge event center filled with several different radio and TV stations throughout the country.  Basically they interview current and past sports players, mostly football players, but some basketball and wrestling.  There were also some actors there promoting their latest movies.
I must say I was in Heaven meeting these awesome guys and getting photos with them. I waited all day for Steve Young's interview.  I'm pretty sure the reason I love football so much is because my Grandma Young watched Steve Young from the time he was at BYU until he retired from the 49ers.  I'd dare say she was watching down from Heaven as I enjoyed my short time with him.

It was super fun to meet the darling actor Liam Hemsworth. He was so nice as were all the other guys I got pictures with!

Thursday night we attended a NFL Legends dinner and program.   And because we were tired, retired to our room early.

Friday we did pretty much the same thing as we did on Thursday.  We had such fun meeting so many people on Radio Row.

Friday night we had dinner and then hit Super Bowel City which was super fun!

Saturday morning we headed to the airport just as everyone was heading to the city.  San Francisco is a beautiful city with some awesome architecture.  This was such a fun trip, quick but oh, so worth it.  It would have been fun to stay for the game, but my feet were ready for a foot massage and pedicure, which I immediately had done when I returned to Phoenix.