Wednesday, May 31, 2017

10 Years

If you were to go to Barnes & Noble and pick up the autobiography titled "The Married Life and Adventures of Nin & Deek", you'd know that this week has great historical significance. According to legend, the story began something like this:

On May 26, 2007 I went to a friend's house to celebrate his and his brother's shared birthday. They aren't twins but they share a birthday. What do you call that? Birthday twins?  It's not important but let me know what you find out.

I don't remember everything that happened that night because the memories of meeting Nicole made everything else seem so insignificant. But I do remember sitting on the couch with my friends while two mysterious girls sat by themselves at the wet bar. It was Nin and her friend Liz. I used the excuse of wanting to get some Laffy Taffy, that was in a jar behind the bar, to break the ice and talk to them.  Or did I use them as an excuse to get some Laffy Taffy?  I think you'd agree that either scenario would have been acceptable.

Now this part of the story I remember as clear as day. Nin might (would definitely) tell it differently.  My friends and I were planning on going to Lava Hot Springs that next Monday (Memorial Day).  I did my best to convince Nin that she needed to quit the job she'd started a few days prior so she could come with me.  Had the weather forecast not changed to predict a storm  on the day we were supposed to go, I still believe she would have quit her new job to spend the day with me. She'd tell you otherwise, which is likely a more accurate account of what actually transpired. My memory is not to be trusted.

We eventually made it to Lava Hot Springs the next week and I seduced her with my cat-like reflexes and flawless acrobatics off the high dives, as clearly demonstrated in this video. Who could resist such graceful perfection?

It still stings.  But at least I fared much better than this uncommited patron:

After we starting spending time together on June 1, 2007, she was mine and I was hers. We both knew it from the start and spent almost 90 consecutive days together.  We've been inseparable ever since. This Thursday, June 1, 2017 marks ten years since that first date. That is roughly one-third of our lives spent together and I can say that they've been the best of my life.  Nin's probably had better...

This Thursday we're adding another June 1st milestone that isn't quite as precious as the two little juveniles in the picture above. Thursday Nin will start her chemo treatments. 

Knowing what's coming up has really made us want to take advantage of each day and maximize our pre-chemo adventures. We've been going to all of Nin's favorite restaurants before her taste buds get rocked by chemo.  We've spent every possibly minute enjoying the beautiful weather.  Eating every meal on the back patio, naps in the hammock, bubble parties, sidewalk chalk, scenic drives, walks around the neighborhood, and a magical trip to our cabin for Memorial Day.

We're not looking forward to chemo but we are looking forward to killing all of the cancer in Nin's body so we can get back to adventuring our hearts out. We'll make the best of these next few months even though we know they will be hard. We'll get through it together because that's what we do.

My family visited us at the hospital after Nin's big surgery earlier this month. Unbeknownst to us, my brother paparazzi'd this picture of us. I was hesitant to post it because it didn't want it to seem like I was tooting my own horn.

I'm posting it anyways because it makes my heart warm every time I look at it. I love this girl with everything I have and I know she'd say the same about me.  We got this.

I love you Nin, Happy 10 Year Date-aversary! Here's to 50 more!

To clarify: Not 50 more 10 year date-aversaries, that would be absurd.

Also to clarify: You might think that I have a blanket on me in the picture above but you'd be wrong. I'm just prepping for Lobsterfest.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Chemotherapy Schedule

Nicole's positive attitude and strength has been amazing.  Beyond amazing.  If you saw her walking down the street today you wouldn't even know she had cancer and you probably wouldn't even notice that she had a gnarly surgery just a couple of weeks ago.  She's a tough cookie.

Two weeks ago she and I were able to go to a little bit of church.  One of the speakers said, "We all go through trials and struggles in our lives." Nin leaned over to to me and whispered, "Not me. #blessed".

I added this gif because anytime Nin sees this scene, she laughs out loud.  Regardless of how many times she's seen it. (I'm out of town and Nin called me tell me how she laughed out loud and watched this over and over. Then read the sentence above. Nailed it!)

This week we got Nin's chemo schedule which is essentially a schedule dictating the next 6+ months of our lives.  Its going to be quite the adventure.  Here is a breakdown of her chemo treatments.

(Chemo is pronounced "key-mo" but I think it should be pronounced "chee-mo".  Feel free to use either pronunciation in your mind as you read the rest of this)

Chemo Treatment #1: Nin will be starting the first round of chemo on June 1st.  This will be an eight week protocol with four doses, one every other week.  This treatment is called DDAC: Dose Dense Adriamycin and Cytoxan.  They say it is one of the most aggressive chemotherapy treatments (along with her second treatment) available for Breast Cancer patients.  They decided to implement this protocol due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Nin's young age, her hot bod (their words, not mine), it spreading to her lymph nodes, and her great overall health (besides the cancer, obvi).

This chemo protocol can wreak hacov on the patient's bone marrow (the production factory for white and red blood cells...probably).  To help her body continue making white blood cells, which fight infection, she will be given a drug the day after chemo called Neulasta.  Some people say that the bone pain side effects of the Neulasta can be worse than the chemo treatment side effects.  These first eight weeks will be pretty intense.  It'll only be six weeks from the first dose to the last dose so we're doing our minds a favor and calling it six weeks instead of eight.  If all goes well, she'll get her last dose on July 12th.

Chemo Treatment #2: Nin will start her second round of treatment two weeks after her last dose of DDAC.  This protocol is Taxol + Herceptin.  It will be a 12-week protocol with weekly injections. No chemo is great but this will be much better than the DDAC.  Some people can apparently work full-time through this treatment.  After these 12 weeks, she will continue to receive Herceptin injections once every three weeks for a few more months, a total of one year.

Let's talk side effects.  Chee-mo is a systemic treatment that attacks quickly reproducing cells throughout the entire body.  The most obvious side effect is hair loss.  One thing we aren't looking forward to, and hoping to avoid, is neuropathy.  It is common for chemo patients to experience neuropathy which can cause numbness in the hands and feet.  In some cases it can be permanent.  Imagine picking up your phone or a TV remote and not being able to feel your fingers.  Pretty crappy.  I didn't add this section of the post to bring you all down.  I added it in hopes of getting feedback or ideas from other cancer survivors or current patients to prevent this as best as possible.  Our Oncology Nurse recommends wrapping your wrists and ankles with ice packs during chemo to restrict blood flow.  Anybody else out there have any suggestions or recommendations that worked for them?

Radiation: There is a possibility that Nin could be done with chemo on October 11th, one day before her 30th birthday!  Sometime shortly after that date she'll start Radiation Therapy.  Or as our Nurse Practitioner from Germany awesomely pronounces it "Rad-iation".  She will get radiated every weekday for six weeks.  We're hoping she gets a super power from it.  When I think of radiation therapy, I think of this clip from Family Guy.  Apologies for the terrible quality and the insensitive cancer reference but it's too good not to share.  Especially when you know that the voice of the character is Adam West, the original Batman.

I've forgotten to end posts with inspiring quotes.  Since this post is about cancer treatment I'd thought I'd share this gem from Jack Handey:

"I just thought of something, what if the cure for cancer was something really ridiculous that can't be discovered in hospital research? Like what if the cure for cancer is: "Put a croissant on a tractor" or "Rub your head with grass" or "Put your nose hairs in a paper bag." You can make up some yourself, who knows, they might be the cure for cancer." -Jack Handey

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fanny Packs

If you saw Nicole after her surgery, your probably noticed her bitchin' fanny packs. Arguably cancer's hottest summer fashion trend of 2017.

(If you are from a country where the term "fanny" has an impolite meaning, pretend I mean it that way. I bet it will make this post much more fun for you.)

Not only did her fanny packs look incredibly good when paparazzi would catch us in public, they also served her great utility. Along with her phone, fruit stripe gum, slap bracelets, and pencil erasers, she used her fanny packs to store her drains. 

Drains are racquetball sized bulbs at the end of surgical tubing designed to pull out any excess liquid from her recently excavated chest cavity.  Why drains? I'm glad you asked. Let's take a journey. A gross journey.

Breasts need support within the chest, it's science. Google "Boobs" if you don't believe me.  In lieu of Nin's own breast tissue that she grew all by herself, she now has a layer of "Alloderm" between her chest expanders (temporary fake boobs) and her chest skin. Alloderm is essentially cadaver tissue that has been repurposed to replace removed tissue.  From what I understand (I'm not even a little bit qualified to explain medical things so please feel free to quote me to any major publications) Alloderm serves two purposes: First, it gives the patient a flesh/tissue later between their skin and implants. Second, it is anchored to her rib cage in a way to provide support for future artificial breast tissue. I like to think of the Alloderm as a hammock of tissue for her temporary and future permanent foobs.

It may serve other purposes but I didn't learn about them at Not A Dr University.  Back to the purpose of the drains. The Alloderm tissue will connect to Nicole's chest skin. It starts with her skin sending tiny blood vessels to the tissue. Think space station docking.

If excess liquid gets in between the Alloderm and her skin, it could compromise the tissue and connection.  If the blood vessels do their job and everything goes well, her body accepts the tissue, supplies blood to it, invites it to meet her family, and the rest, as they say, is history.  That's why if you saw Nin these past couple weeks I warned you not to get near her chest and to refrain from boob touches. 

The slightest bump to her chest could break the connections of those tiny blood vessel bridges. It wasn't at all stressful having two small wiggly children around Nicole most of the time. Luckily, everything is connecting and working well so Nin was able to get her drains removed last week! I recorded it for your viewing pleasure. In this clip, starring Nicole and Dr Crofts, you'll see the drains being removed. This is from her viewpoint. Well technically it was from my viewpoint. I was standing at her head looking towards her feet for reference. That bump under her skin is the port that would be used during chemo. Think of it as an auxiliary cable port directly to her veins, we'll talk more about this in next week's lesson.  This drain is being pulled from her left breast.  

Warning: there isn't any blood but the video might gross some people out. Here it goes:

A few minutes after the drains were pulled out, blood started to fill the space where the drains were. The Dr said, "I've never seen that before," which is what we look forward to hearing after medical procedures. It wasn't a big deal but I wish someone would have taken a picture of the Dr, his assistant, and myself all putting pressure on different parts of Nin's breast to make sure the blood didn't interfere with the Alloderm. It was very romantic. 

For a timeline update, we are doing another round of IVF (to harvest eggs for future Schweppe's) which will be done on May 27th-ish.  Chemo will start on June 1st.  More details to come soon.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Public Service Announcement

I feel like I shouldn't even need to be writing this but I do.

Please for the love of everything that is holy, when talking to Nicole or myself do not tell us a story about a relative, friend, or acquaintance that had breast cancer or another type of cancer and died. Know your audience! Read the room!

Don't let this request detract from the tragedy of losing a loved one, regardless of how long ago it's been. We are so sorry for your loss. Just understand that at this stage in our lives, mid-cancer battle, we need stories of survivors and successful recoveries. Positivity for the win!

Rant over. Love you guys.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hair and Makeup and Thoughts by Steph

If anyone knows Steph they know what an amazing human being she is. I don't think she has a mean bone in her body. I met Steph and Kollin about 6 years ago. In that time we have lived together (they rented out our basement while trying to find a home), been our next door neighbors, traveled near and far together from Costa Rica to Italy and so many places in between, we've laughed, cried, had what we thought then was a near death experience, she has seen me on my highest highs and lowest lows. She is one of those women that make you want to be better. I cherish our friendship more then she will ever know.

She recently wrote about me on her blog and she was able to put into words what I try to express in writing but just can't quite get the words right. I thought it might be interesting for others to read her perspective on this whole cancer thing. I decided to just copy her post down so you can read it here or you can go to her blog here and read it. 

From Steph:


One of my best friends Nicole has cancer.  It's been a huge part of my life lately, so I wanted to write about it.  She has her own blog if you want to follow her journey.

When you hear that someone has cancer, it’s hard not to think “Yeah, everyone has cancer these days.  My neighbor and my coworker and my aunt and my brother and my sister's dog all had cancer once.”  Up until now, I’ve never had someone close to me have cancer.  My grandma had breast cancer, but she was in her 80’s, so she was already pretty sick and immobile.   All I remember from that experience was that every time I saw her she’d say “do you want to see where my boob used to be?”  and then pull down her shirt and show me before I could say “no that’s ok grandma, thanks anyway.”

One of my best friends has cancer.  I hate writing those words “my friend has cancer”, not because it’s hard to write, but because something so personal and painful can’t possibly be summed up in a sentence so small and generic.  It's impossible to accurately portray those emotions.  In the words of Shakespeare:   “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” 

I’m not a family member of Nicole’s, and I’ve only known her for about 6 years which is pretty short compared to everyone else, so I’m really not qualified to write about this at all.    But friends are the family you choose, and writing is my outlet, so when one of my chosen family members has cancer, I can’t help but write about it.   

The complexity of emotions that come with cancer (or I’m sure any debilitating illness) are so deep that it’s hard to even try to put it into words.  When I used to hear about other people who had cancer, my heart would genuinely ache for them, but I’m just realizing now that I had no idea the extent of what they were going through.  It’s not just the life threatening physical illness that’s difficult (as if that weren’t enough), it’s the emotional and mental stress, suffering and sadness that come with it.  In some ways I would imagine the emotional and mental pain would be more trying than the physical pain.  Fear, guilt, anger, confusion, mourning, these are just a few of the things I know Nicole has already been going through. And on top of that, knowing that so many other people are sad and hurting for you would somehow make you feel worse in and of itself.  The debilitating illness you now have is not only consuming your own entire life, but the lives of everyone around you.  Even if you know that those people love you and want to be there for you, it has to be hard to accept, especially for someone as aware of those around her as Nicole.
Through this whole thing so far, Nicole has been so composed, so put together, and so positive.  It wasn’t until the last couple of days that it was almost like the weight of everything was crashing down on her.   She told me through tears how she saw herself naked in the mirror for the first time without her bandages, and that she wasn’t prepared for how she’d feel.  She told me through tears how guilty she feels for even being sad at all, because everyone has done so much for her and been so generous.  She told me through tears how she can’t help but think about how perfect her life was before any of this happened, but at the same time how she feels so bad for even thinking that, because things could be a lot worse.  And then there’s her kids.  Don’t even get me started on Penny and Jude.  If anyone knows Nicole, they know she absolutely loves being a mom.  And they know that both of her kids are extremely adorable and pretty easy.  She’ll be the first to tell you she has amazing kids.  When my twins were born early at 1.7 and 3.6 pounds, the hardest part was wanting to hold them and care for them, but only being able to ache for them while I stared at them through the incubators.  Even though I was grateful they were being taken care of, and that they were doing so well, leaving them every day at the hospital was nothing short of heart wrenching.  Hearing Nicole talk about Penny and Jude right now reminds me of exactly how I felt at that time in my life.  Here she is with two beautiful kids that she couldn’t love more, but she can’t hold them, or take care of them or make memories with them.  Every day she leaves them with a family member or friend because she’s literally not physically able to be with them right now.  She’s knows they are having a great time with their cousins and friends and family, and she’s so grateful for all the help people are offering up so freely, but that doesn’t change how painful it is to think about how much she doesn’t even want to be in this situation, and to wish she could be the one making those memories with them.

Nicole and Derrik definitely know how to count their blessings.  She’ll be the first to tell you there are worse things happening in the world right now than her breast cancer.  She has so much gratitude, but even still, the weight of this experience is real, and it’s heavy.  This experience has reminded me that life can be painful sometimes.  Really, really painful. And the worst part is knowing that a lot of people have to suffer through their trials alone.  When we hear a simple sentence like “my friend has cancer” or “I have depression” or “my loved one passed away” or “I’m getting a divorce” or any other trial that someone might be going through, we can't forget the amount of emotion and pain behind those words.  All we have is each other. Anytime you feel like someone might need your help, or words of encouragement and love, and I can guarantee you they do.

The amount of love and support Nicole and Derrik have been shown by people from all over the world is overwhelming.  It's not even me that's going through it, and I still get emotional when I think about it.  It makes me wish I would have been more open to sharing my feelings and experiences while my girls were in the NICU.  The love that even complete strangers are willing to give to those who are going through a difficult trial is humbling, and reminds me that the world is a beautiful place.  
Nicole, I love you.  We all love you. I know that you hate that we are all making such a fuss over you, and that you think you aren’t worth it, but you are.  
You’ve got this!!

Here is Nicole's GoFundMe if you want to donate.  


I told you Steph was an incredible writer. I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Habdahumbadahubuda SOLD !

That was my best auctioneer voice via type.  I hope it worked because it did in my mind and it was magical.

Our friends put together an Instagram auction with all of the proceeds going towards Nicole's medical bills.  We are absolutely blown away my how many people have donated such great products and are bidding.  If you are interested in bidding or donating something, you can find the page on Instagram @warriornicoleauction. <-- Click the link.  Auction is currently live and ends at 8pm MST today.

We have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by the generosity from family to complete strangers.  This is a tough journey, especially for Nicole, and minimizing the stress of the cost of cancer will be immeasurable for both of us.  We can't say it enough but THANK YOU.  I wish I could wrap my arms around each of you and thank you personally.  Maybe a kiss on the lips too if you play your cards right.

It's been hard for both of us to be on the receiving end of so much charity and generosity.  We can't help but feeling guilty about it all.  This is our trial and part of us feels like it's our cross to bear and ours alone.  In preparation for all of this, we were very blessed last year with the ability to allocate some of our money specifically to help those less fortunate.  The feeling we got from giving was nothing short of spiritual and felt so good that it was almost addictive and made us want to give as much as possible.  We didn't realize how much harder it would be to be on the receiving end.  Knowing how great it feels to give makes it a little easier to be on the receiving end.  As we were hesitant to receive help from someone this month, they said "Don't you dare deny me these blessings!"  So I guess what I'm trying to say to everybody that has and will serve us is you're welcome.  Enjoy the blessings!

I kid.  In all seriousness, thank you all from the deepest depths of our hearts.  We promise to spend the rest of our lives paying it forward and giving back as much as we can do those in need.  Please know that we promise to be worthy stewards of your hard earned money.

Nicole likes to end her posts with quotes so I'm going to follow suit.  I heard this the other day about being diagnosed with cancer and it feels ridiculously accurate:

"You've just been hit by a train.  And it's a long train."

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Today was hard

Sorry you'll have to take a break from the amazing writer that is my husband and have to listen to me for a post. I'm not near as clever or funny but I can be a lot more depressing, so that's fun. 

Today has been a hard day. My medication is giving me nightmares so I was up, no joke, every 20 minutes last night. I woke up scared and crying out every time. It was exhausting and frustrating. I was so fed up in the morning I decided to get off my pain killers cold turkey, even though my mom warned me against this. I was so tired I totally forgot that she told me to wean off of them. As the day went on I could not shake this sadness I had. It was like a dark cloud following me around ready to storm at any time. I chalked it up to no sleep. I finally layed down to take a nap and woke up with no relief. I moved to my room hoping that would help being in a dark, quiet place. Again nothing. I tried a third time. When I woke up on the verge of tears I knew there was something wrong. I was trying to figure out why I was feeling this way and what had changed. All these thing I said I was okay with, was I really okay or just burying my emotions? When I really thought about it I was okay with it. I had come to terms with these things, so why was I so sad? I finally told Deek how I was feeling. He told me I was having a reaction to the medication. Even knowing that my hormones were just out of balance did nothing to lighten my mood. I still felt crappy. 

I was at my friend Steph's crying to her when the rest of my friends showed up. They had a pear tree to plant in my yard next to my lovely peach tree. The tree was full of quotes and money from them and their families. The rest of the night was spent in each other's company. It could not have been a better distraction from my pity party I was throwing myself. 

The tree is part of the Anything for a Friend.

I hate to write such a negative post, but maybe it might help someone else to know they aren't alone. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Summer of Bubbles

[Closes eyes] There's no place like home, there's no place like home.

Above is an accurate depiction of how we've felt this week.

We've had a constant wave of friends and family visiting this weekend. It's been so good to see everyone. I have a feeling we'll remember this as the "Summer of Bubbles"... [lowercase subtitle] "and that one time Nicole had cancer."

We came home from the hospital last Friday to a lovely surprise waiting for Nicole. [Queue song] Millions of peaches, peaches for Nin, millions of peaches, peaches for din.

Her family surprised her with a peach tree, which she's wanted for years. Her 8-year old nephew Boen had the idea to get her the tree for a service project and the whole Call Family rallied together to get it before she came home. That is way more thoughtful that I ever was at 8 years old. I was too concerned with Space Jam and rollerblading to be thinking about other people. Just a real class act. Not me. Boen.

Speaking of farming, we farmed out the kids to family for the better part of the past week. It was hard to be away from the them but it made us really happy when each time we picked them up and Penny would see us she'd immediately growl, "NNNOOOOO!" It's such a relief to know she is having so much fun that she forgets we exist. When she's 14 that will hurt but this week it's been quite comforting.

Penny is typically a heavy sleeper. For the first few days she was with her cousins and would wake up early (8-9am being early for her) because she knew there were toys and cousins to be played with. All those strenuous days of waking up at such an ungodly hour (for her) caught up to her and she crashed haaaard on Monday. Here is the evidence. Keep in mind this isn't a nap. This is her still asleep from 9:30pm the night before. Check the clock...

That's not a typo. Penny slept in until 12:45PM. That is basically like four hours before old people go to sleep. She then napped from 3-6:30 then went to bed at 9:30. It's tough being Penny.

Congratulations, you made it past my nonsensical ramblings. As a reward I will share the GREAT news we just found out today. The pathology results are back from surgery and the cancer DID NOT SPREAD past the single lymph node they discovered during surgery! This means she remains Stage 2(B).  We're soooo relieved.  Wasn't that a nice surprise? It's like getting two egg yokes in one egg or the fruit at the bottom of your yogurt (if you're a rebel and don't stir it up before you eat it).

Nicole will have a few weeks of recovery, then chemo.  We'll know more details once we meet with the Oncologist. Probably towards the first of June. We'll be expecting all of you to buzz your heads. Mainly the women. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Upside Down

Derrik here again.

Have you watched Stranger Things on Netflix?  If you haven't, put your damn phone down and go binge watch the entire series right this minute.  If you have seen it, congratulations on being one of the cool kids.  Please feel free to continue reading the blog.  And treat yourself to a decadent dinner, compliments of the Schweppe's.  You still have to pay for it though.

I was hoping to add a couple blog updates yesterday but it turned into a pretty tough day with not great news.  I can only liken it to the "Upside Down" from Stranger Things.  Barb wasn't there but it was still dark times.

Picking up where we left off yesterday:

Nicole ended up being in surgery for 9 hours.  Two different surgeons worked on her.  Dr Crofts the Plastic Surgeon did the breast reconstruction and Dr Tittensor the General Surgeon did the mastectomies.  She has a great last name for a mastectomy specialist. She was destined for glory.  Dr Tittensor was in charge of a few things:

1) Removing the tissue out of each breast.  I assume the procedure went something like this but not as delicious:

2) Removing and sampling lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the breast tissue.

3) Being awesome.  Dr Tittensor is fantastic.  We heard nothing but good things about her from Ogden to Provo.  Having worked with her, we get it.  She's great.  Dr Crofts is amazing too.  He's the whole reason we came all the way to Utah Valley for this surgery.

I was hoping to hear from Dr Tittensor around 2-3 hours after surgery started when we expected she'd be done with her portion.  I sat across from the double doors to the surgery area in the lobby watching like a hawk for any movements.  I had the entire hospital lobby to myself. As Bruno would say: Don't believe me, just watch:

I was a bit anxious to get updates because I knew that we would know with 90% certainty if the cancer had spread.  She updated me at around 3 hours then again at 4 hours.  When Dr Tittensor walked out the second time, I immediately knew it was bad news.  Of the two lymph nodes they sample and biopsied from her armpit, one was clear but one was cancerous. This was pretty hard news to receive because the intensity of Nicole's future treatments were riding on the lymph nodes being negative.

Dr Tittensor went back in and removed five more lymph nodes to send in for testing.  She said one looked a little suspicious but the other four looked normal.  These were sent off to pathology and we won't get the results back until Friday at the earliest but most likely sometime next week.  We don't know for sure what these changes mean in terms of the cancer stage and grade.  Before this procedure she was considered to be in Stage 2A.  If the cancer only spread to the one lymph node then she would be upgraded to Stage 2B.  We're hoping it hasn't spread any further and she can remain in Stage 2.  I don't like that I used the word upgrade for that.  It sounds like she's getting promoted to something better.  It's probably more appropriate to say "downgrade".  I could have just gone back and changed the word from upgrade to downgrade but I made it this far and it's too late to turn back now.  We're past the point of no return.  Welcome to how my brain works, it's a bumpy ride but always an adventure.

So that sucked.  It was hard for me to receive the news because I knew that my beautiful wife would have to wake up from surgery to this bad news after going in with so much optimism and hopefulness for good results.  It broke my heart knowing for the final five hours of her surgery that I had to break the news to her.  These results changed the intensity of Nicole's future chemo treatments.  It is assumed that Nicole's chemo protocol will be upgraded to a TCH-P cocktail (I don't have the energy or brain power to explain what that means but Google does so click the link for more info).  This will be a six dose treatment with one dose every three weeks, spanning 18 weeks.  She will then continue to receive antibiotics every three weeks for an entire year.  This treatment will likely wreak more havoc on her reproductive system which could make it much harder to have kids.  This is the hardest part for Nicole.

Nicole was so sweet when she woke up from anesthesia.  She grabbed my hand and just kept saying "I love you so much" and "I missed you so much".  She couldn't open her eyes but had small tears in the corners of them.  At first they were tears of joy.  I knew it was only a matter of time before she asked me how it went.  I kept changing the subject by saying "Just close your eyes" or quickly asking her other questions to divert her attention.  After a few minutes she opened one eye, looked at me, and asked "Did it spread to the lymph nodes?"  I didn't have the heart to lie to her or divert her question.  I just looked her in the eye through tears in my own and said the words that we were hoping we wouldn't have to hear or say, "the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes".  She was still a little groggy from anesthesia but the news shattered her.  She just cried and repeated the same four phrases over and over, "Oh no love, I am so sad, I am so sorry, This is the worst."  For me personally that was one of the hardest moments for me during this whole cancer journey.  It absolutely broke my heart watching that news just crush her hopefulness.

After recovery we were able to go into the hospital room.  Nicole was in a lot of pain last night. To top it off she was nauceous from the morphine.  There's nothing quite like vomiting right after the meat in your chest cavity was ice cream scooped out of you.  It was hard to watch.  Finally around 1:00am she was given an anti-nausea medication that helped with the nausea which also helped her sleep.  We were both able to get a few hours of sleep with the nurse coming in every two hours to check on her.  It wasn't all doom and gloom, there was one fun thing from last night.  Nin's pee was Irish Green from the dye.  So that was fun.

This morning Nicole woke up so happy and optimistic.  It was like she needed those few, crappy hours of sleep to rejuvenate and re-energize her soul.  I was blown away, I thought it would be doomsday when we woke up but it wasn't.  Her bright spirit and positive attitude continues to amaze me every day.  She could have easily woken up and had a pity party for herself but she didn't.  She made the choice to accept the results and prepare herself for the next steps like a complete and utter badass.  Which leads me to one of the best text messages of encouragement she received before surgery yesterday from her boss Adam.  Here it is in all its glory:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Game Time

This is Derrik. (I know, sorry)

It's go time!

First things first, can you believe how great Nicole looks with her new haircut? I love it. I won't lie, I'm super excited to see her with a buzzed head. She looks great with all hairstyles so why not try them all??

Starting from the top of today:
We forgot Nicole's wallet this morning so we had a 15 minute delay to go back and get it. We were still good on time until we hit two traffic stopping wrecks in North Salt Lake. We only ended up being 7 minutes late so it wasn't a problem.  As a side note: If I ever become absurdly wealthy I'm going to buy tons of billboards and TV commercials to explain how freeway lanes work.  In the meantime, this will work:

In preparation for surgery they rolled Nin into the radiology lab to map her "Sentinel Lymph Node". They used this radioactive compound called Lymphoseek (look it up, it's pretty cool) which uses a radioactive dye that will travel to the lymph node(s) in charge of the breast tissue affected by the tumor. It's pretty interesting how it works. Some guy somewhere in the world thought, "If I added a nuclear radiation compound to this formula, it would know the exact path to travel to identify lymph nodes affected by cancerous tumors." Meanwhile I'm over here thinking, "How can I sell some toothbrushes? Or when does Game of Thrones start back up?" I was clearly not blessed with special cognitive abilities. Enough about my instabilities though, back to Nicole.  Here is a picture of her getting scanned. The light spots on the screen are where she was injected with the radioactive dye. In the boob.

Next the Plastic Surgeon came in and drew a very intricate connect the dots all over her chest. I'm excited to connect the dots with my sharpie after surgery. I bet it's a unicorn. Sorry, no picture of Nin to accompany that part. Here is a picture of what the unicorn might look like though:

They rolled her back at 12:30 and estimate the surgery will take about 6 hours. The general surgeon will take about two hours then will come out to update me and most importantly to share the pathology results from her lymph nodes. Praying that the cancer has not spread to them.

I just have to say how insanely proud I am of Nicole. She's has been so strong and brave through this whole process. I've probably watched her comfort more people than have had to comfort her. These have easily been the hardest few weeks of her life and she has taken it in stride. She's so positive and optimistic that it's contagious. But don't worry, the cancers not contagious. Maybe wash your hands after touching her though, just in case.

They will keep her in the hospital until Friday (FriYAY anybody?). Maybe you're a burglar reading this blog and are thinking "Perfect, I'll go burgle them while they're in the hospital." Well the joke would be on you because we have security cameras, a dog comparable to "the beast" from The Sandlot movie, armed house watchers, and broken Christmas ornaments and micromachines all over the floor. You've been warned.

If you can't tell, I'm a visual learner. Well, that's enough rambling and inevitable grammatical errors for one post (see reference to cognitive ability above). I'll try to post another update or two later today when we have more news.

Love you bye.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Free Breast Exams & Not Free IVF

Derrik here again. We're so lucky that Nicole found the lump in her breast on her own and so quickly. Mammograms typically aren't covered by insurance until you're 40. Luckily you can perform a self breast exam on your own, at any time, for $Free.99.  Some women may not be comfortable doing a self-exam.

I'm here to make sure everybody stays breast cancer free. As a service to you all, I will be offering complimentary breast exams to help make sure you are in the clear. [Warms hands]. Help me help you.

Obviously I'm joking. I was disappointed when none of the Dr's that deal with breast cancer had seen the "Breast Exams by Cam" commercial. I now feel that it's my civil duty to make sure everybody has seen it because it's pure gold. For reals ladies, check those boobies regularly.  Enjoy the commercial. Actual update below.

This morning we are doing IVF to retrieve and freeze Nicole's eggs in case we unable to have children naturally after chemo. Getting a cancer diagnosis at 29 is devastating but learning that she might not be able to have more kids was possibly even more devastating for Nicole.  

As we started down this cancer journey, IVF/Egg Preservation was priority #1 since we'd already had most of the tumor removed. I started doing research and coordinating appointments for IVF while were on vacation in Mesquite, NV. (The armpit of America. Do yourself a favor and drive an extra hour to Vegas if you are considering a vacation down South.) It was disheartening to learn that our insurance didn't cover IVF and that we'd be looking at a $20-25,000 out of pocket expense. I didn't have the heart to tell Nicole. 

Luckily, during my research I learned about the Livestrong Foundation's Fertility Assistance Program for cancer patients. An employee at the Fertility clinic told me about it (who had gone through almost exactly what Nicole was about to go through with breast cancer) and directed me to apply. There will essentially be two sets of costs for IVF: the egg retrieval/cryopreservation which is happening today, and implantation which will happen further down the road IF we are unable to have kids naturally. The quote for this first part of the process was somewhere in the $18,000 range. Almost $6,000 of that was for medication alone. 

The heavens opened and Livestrong accepted our application and subsidized this cost for us. They sent us the medication absolutely free and dropped the total clinic cost closer to $5,000. Overall they saved us upwards of $13,000! I normally wouldn't post about cost of medical bills but thought this was appropriate to fully express how grateful we are for the Livestrong Foundation. Nicole will have enough to deal with over the next few months so this blessing helped to remove a small portion of the stress and worry off her plate. 

If you know of anybody diagnosed with cancer at a young age that still wants to have children, make sure to tell them about the Livestrong Fertility Assistance Program. What a huge blessing during such a tough time.

Another huge shoutout to Dr Gilliland at the Reproductive Care Center in Layton. He's a brain cancer survivor so he knew what Nicole was going through and was so sweet to her through the whole process. Plus he's lived all over the world, including France which is a dream of ours. Good juju all around!

Sorry I'm not sorry for the long update. The next big step is surgery on Wednesday at Mountain Point hospital in Lehi. #BeckyWithTheNewBoobs. The surgery and corresponding pathology results will help us to understand if the cancer has spread past her breast tissue or if it is contained. Keep the prayers coming, especially for good pathology results and a successful surgery and recovery. We feel your prayers, we appreciate them, we love you all long time.

Here is a pic of Nin post-op. Doing great!