Tag Archives: Breast Cancer

5 Ways to Beat Breast Cancer

This logo is totally something that would have made my mother laugh, so that’s for you, Mom. But I digress…  I love the beginning of October–there are so many of my favorite Saints to celebrate–St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Faustina…etc.  But the one that I think about and talk to the most, especially in asking for help, is my Mom.  Although it has been 20 months since Breast Cancer claimed her life, I can remember like it was yesterday the incredible attitude and faith in which she fought the good fight.  Breast Cancer took her life, yet she did not let it rob her of her joy, her faith, and her pure love for others–Mom did not let Breast Cancer win!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  I love seeing pink, from the grocery store to the football field, but if I learned anything from my Mom, it takes more than sporting a pretty color to battle an ugly disease.  Learning from the best, here are 5 ways to not let Breast Cancer win.

1) Be honest. Cancer is not like a Common Cold, where one could perhaps carry on a type of normalcy in the day-to-day while addressing it.  Honestly, Breast Cancer is a serious disease with serious forms of treatment.  A gambit of emotions will roll over you and your loved ones throughout the course of dealing with it, and avoiding the feelings is not going to cure or help anyone.  Now that’s not a license to say or do anything, or dwell in what could become a negativity that could suck you into depression; rather, its acknowledging whatever feelings arise — fear, anxiety, loss of functionality, etc — talking about it, praying through it, and moving along in due time.  There were times when Mom was feeling ok with things, and there were times when she was not — and we were able to talk about it either way.  But if someone with Cancer needs to talk, remember to try not to fix everything – listening to someone be honest is what is really important.  And trust me, they will talk about some topics that you would rather not discuss – like being afraid of dying.  Let them. They obviously need to.  And guess what, you probably need to as well.   

2) Surround yourself with love. We all need each other to help us to carry on, but when you are battling for your life, it’s even more important.  Cards, emails, Facebook, phone calls, visits, text messages – there are so many ways to connect with people.  Having the love and support of the people that mean the most to you during this time makes the journey easier – you can share the load.  Note to the loved ones: I encourage you to continue to reach out over the course of treatment – a card, a call, a visit can really lift the spirits of someone who may feel completely awful that day and do more than you know.  My Mom kept all her cards on her bedroom door during her 1st bout with Cancer, and they were a cheerful reminder (especially on a hard day) of just some of the people whose love and prayers were behind her.

The first time Mike met my Mom – a few months after she was diagnosed with Bone Cancer, when the Breast Cancer returned in her bones.

3) Have a sense of humor.  Going through Chemo, Radiation, surgery, or whatever kind of treatment it is, probably will not put you in a joking mood.  Find reasons to laugh anyway.  Besides the fact that laughing and smiling actually lift your mood, losing all ability to laugh or even joke about the situation will contribute to the tendency to want to cry and sink into self-pity.  My Mom had a great sense of humor, and that made a huge difference.  I remember one time, a side effect from the Chemo made her voice sound super strange for about a month.  They finally figured out that in losing all her hair – yes, even in her nose – it was causing a post-nasal drip that ended up making her sound kinda-like that little Poltergeist lady.  We were talking on the phone, and I was trying not to laugh to avoid hurting her feelings, but I couldn’t help it.  My laughing made her laugh, and we just laughed for a few minutes straight on the phone.  I told her I was sorry as my laughter dissipated, but she told me that it was good – she hadn’t laughed that hard in awhile, and it was what she needed.

Attitude is what changes up the game.

4) A good attitude is crucial. The TV host Brian Lacy said, You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. How true that is. At the beginning of my Mom’s second bout with Cancer, the majority of her kids and grandkids went to be with her.  She planned a “surprise” for us not long after we all arrived, telling us to meet by the side of the house in our swimsuits at 1:00 pm.  There were bottles of whipped cream for everyone to squirt on each other, dozens of eggs for an egg toss, and coolers full of water balloons to pelt – it was time to get dirty and have some fun!  For whatever reason, she had always wanted to smash a pie in my Dad’s face – so that’s where the whipped cream became especially fun for her.  Afterwards we swam in their pool, and she shared that she wanted to show us that we could laugh and have fun, even during hard times.  

5) Keep the faith.  Never, never, NEVER let go of hope!  If there is nothing to believe in, to hope for, to me, the battle would seem futile.  The miracle we all pray for is healing, but for whatever reason, a physical healing may not be part of God’s plan.  Not having faith, a bigger purpose, would have made this journey 100% more difficult on my Mother.  Mom was a woman of faith throughout everything that life brought her, so Cancer was nothing different.  Her journey brought some very hard times, definitely; but despite it all, I did not see her waiver.  I never heard her curse God for allowing her to get Cancer twice, never saw her walk away from the Church (when she couldn’t leave the house, she would watch Mass on EWTN and have a Eucharistic Minister bring her Communion), never witnessed her stop living her faith, never did she turn away from the Bible or stop praying, never watched her let go of a bigger purpose that her suffering could serve.  She eventually came to be at peace with whatever would happen, and kept the Faith to the very end. And in my heart I know that the Angels carried her home to a Father who said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, and live in my Love.” 

I saw the impact that these 5 things had–not only on my Mother, but on those around her–and can say most undoubtedly that Breast Cancer did not win.  People were inspired by her, they loved her, they wanted to be near her.  The Doctors told her that she could come back to the office anytime to talk to patients during their Chemo, because her way made people feel at ease.  She taught me all of this, so I thank her and dedicate this post, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in memory of Eve Sanchez.

Now, go and do your part to “Save the Ta Tas”!

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A Life Well Lived: My Mom’s Obituary

Eve Marie Sanchez

January 21, 1947 – January 23, 2011

Praying for Mom

Our Family Praying Over Mom after her Diagnosis

Eve Marie Sanchez, 64-years-old, died on Sunday, January 23, 2011, at her home in The Villages, Florida. After her valiant fight with Breast Cancer in 2006, Eve’s battle resumed in May 2010 with Stage 4 Breast Cancer that spread to the bones. Her strong will to live, unwavering faith in God, and the love and prayers of family, friends, and many supporters carried her through 4 more months of grueling Chemotherapy. Yet even throughout her own struggle with Cancer, she reached out to others affected by the horrendous disease in many ways, including: 4 American Cancer Society Relays for Life, 2007-2010; Support Groups with other Survivors; participating in John Hopkins Cancer Research Study, and even just comforting others sitting nearby receiving their Chemo treatments simultaneously.

Eve was born on January 21, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan to Anthony and Helen Perlaki. The oldest of 4 beautiful girls, her sisters – Karen, Nancy, and Susan – still live with their spouses – Bob, John, and Wally respectively – in different areas of Eve’s home state of Michigan.

Known for her ease in frequent conversation with even total strangers, some may be surprised to learn of the extreme shyness of her youth. Yet even as a child, she possessed a contagious smile and an entertaining sense of humor. Throughout her life she maintained a sweet and simple demeanor that won the trust and hearts of many, who even now are being changed by her witness of constant nurturing love and faith. Her signature gift of joy, shown through her constant smiling, laughter, and joking around, will never be forgotten.

After graduating from Allen Park High School and working as a Secretary, she met her Sweetheart, Richard Sanchez, during a summer camping trip. The couple was married the following year on August 19, 1967 at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Melvindale, Michigan.

Married for 43 years, Eve & Richard raised their 4 dear children, Paul, Jeffrey, Christopher and Lisa over the years in Inkster, Livonia, and finally in Dearborn, Michigan. Possessing a true servant’s heart, Eve faithfully cared for family and friends through delicious cooking/baking from scratch – including cake decorating, sewing and crafting. A woman of faith and the heart of the Sanchez family, Eve shaped their spirituality by her tireless Christian example, and also through various Catholic Charismatic prayer groups and activities. With a real zest for life, Mrs. Sanchez loved to dance, write, read, pray, bowl, play games/cards – especially with her Grandchildren, chat with friends and family, and travel…just to name a few.

After the couple’s retirement in 2000, they built a house in The Villages near several of Eve’s brothers and sisters-in-law, and later many close friends. She loved to go on outings with her Red Hat Society and eat with friends through the Enrique Dinner Club.

Her surviving family members are numerous, but mainly include:

Husband of 43 years: Richard P. Sanchez

Mother of 4 Children & Partners: Paul and Pilar Sanchez, Jeffrey and Annette Sanchez, Christopher and Jennifer Sanchez, and Lisa Sanchez and fiancée, Mike Martinez.

Grandmother to 6: Daniel and Abraham Moreno, Jacob Sanchez; Alyssa, Jon, and Annalyse Sanchez

Immediate family: Mother, Helen Perlaki; 3 Sisters and Partners: Karen and Bob Hayward, Susan and Wally Green, and Nancy and John Bialowicz

In-Law’s: Bob and Virginia Sanchez, Joe and Barbara Sanchez, Pete and Carmen Bava, Mary and Bob McIntyre, Virginia and Doug Atha

Other family members: Unfortunately too many beloved cousins, nieces, nephews, and God-children to list or even count.

Visitation information for friends and family of Eve Sanchez: There will be a Memorial Service with a Rosary led by Deacon John Sullivan at Hiers-Baxley Funeral Home, 1511 Buenos Aires Blvd, The Villages, FL 32159, on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm.

The funeral Mass will be presided by Fr. Gene Weis at St. Timothy Catholic Church, 1341 Paige Place, Lady Lake, FL 32159, on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:00 am. Pallbearers include: Paul Sanchez, Jeffrey Sanchez, Christopher Sanchez, Mike Martinez, Joe Sanchez, and Wally Green, with Bob Hayward, Jon Sanchez, Abraham and Daniel Moreno, as Honorary Pallbearers. A luncheon reception for the family and close friends will be held at St. Timothy’s Parish Hall immediately following the Funeral Mass.

For more information, please call: Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services of The Villages, Florida at (352) 753-8353

Memorial donations can be made to:

  • Communities of Prayer in Dallas, Texas: A Memorial Fund to be set-up in Eve Sanchez’s memory for the organization Lisa Sanchez, her daughter, is helping establish. Checks payable to: Communities of Prayer, 1303 Hillsdale Drive, Richardson, TX 75081, or online at http://communitiesofprayer.com/donations
  • The American Cancer Society, Marion Unit Office, 2201 SE 30th Ave, Ocala, FL 34471
  • Christian Foundation For Children and Aging, 1 Elmwood Ave, #301, Ocala, FL 34471, for the child from Venezuela, Edgardo Alfonso Suarez Hernandez, that Eve and Richard have financially supported.
  • Yet, beyond financial donations, Eve always lived by the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. i.e. Do a loving act of kindness, make someone laugh, send a card, give a hug, or say “I love you” to your special friend in her memory.

The family is deeply grateful for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support in many heart-felt forms from too many people to name individually, but including: Hospice – the amazing Village Team, family and friends – either through prayer and/or visits, neighbors, and even random acts of kindness through total “strangers”. A special thank you to Mary Catherine, owner of an Ocala Bridal Shop, who helped Eve cross one life-long dream off of her bucket list: She brought 10 dresses to her home in order for her to shop and buy her newly engaged daughter, Lisa, her wedding dress.

The urn that Eve’s earthly remains will be held in nicely sums up, in one sentence, how fondly she will be remembered: Our Angel that lived, laughed, and loved.

This is the Obituary written by yours truly, Lisa Sanchez, in honor of my dearest Mother. It is my tribute to her memory, which will be carried on in the legacy of love which is now each of us – the lives she formed and touched by her love.

NOTE: All funeral arrangements and details can be found on my Mom’s page with the funeral service we are using, Hiers-Baxley.

Messages, donations to preserve her page, online “candles”, pictures, videos and the like can all be left there at that page,

which is: http://www.hiers-baxley.com/obituaries/Eve-Sanchez/

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Our Angel

But He said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

This passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has come to me so many times in my life.  As my mother still lays dying, simply awaiting the birth of her Grandchild, Jacob, (more on that later) I am grasping this profound scripture on a whole new level.

Many people have told my Mom throughout her 2 battles with Cancer that she is an inspiration.  She would tell you, “I’m just me.”  My sweet Mom did not feel like she was stronger, most definitely not more “heroic” then any other person fighting for life — she was simply doing ‘what needed to be done’ to sustain the life she so desperately wanted to still share with us that know and love her.  Yet, she is a hero to many–I told her last night that she was mine–for leading a life uncommon and leaving a legacy of love that will continue to be passed on from generation to generation in her honor.  In a world fraught with so many problems, tragedies, persecutions, etc…a beautiful, pure, light such as my Mom seems so rare, and thus that more precious.

As for me, I first learned love and truth from my earthly parents – and I thank them for the beautiful example they have set.  Not perfect, as no one is except in Heaven, but as good as they could possibly try to be.  And as I continue to receive so many beautiful messages for Mom, my family, and myself, about how the love we have given has made even a small difference in someone’s life, well, it is extremely humbling.  Mom always believed in treating people the way you wanted to be treated.  How drastically would this world change if people actually followed that “Golden Rule”, based on the premise that they actually love themselves in an ordered way and know also how to carry themselves with dignity?

Back to St. Paul, I know more about weakness then strength.  I read kind and thoughtful messages from dear friends saying such things like how ‘courageous and strong’ I am, and quite frankly it is nothing at work in me except God that provides those appearances.  I know that’s probably what my Mom feels, and definitely what St. Paul was referring to in my opening scripture.  You see, as a friend of mine discussed with me the other week, it takes a more strength (to assent from your human will) to surrender then to hold on.  It seems the natural thing to try and hold on and control things, but through experience and being disciplined, I have learned that the more I try and hold on, the more turbulent things become.  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, and just when it appears that I have seemed to make even the smallest progress in that area, the Lord asks me to go deeper in trust and let go, or detach, from something even greater or harder.

Letting go of my Mom is the hardest thing that has ever been required of me.  But seeing how greatly such an angelic woman has suffered, well, it provides the necessary motivation to surrender.  My Dad, 3 brothers and their wives, myself and my fiancee, Mike, have all made our peace with Mom.  We have shared all the love, tears, laughs, and words needed, and told her to go Home in peace.  All that she asks about now–as her earthly light fades, and her heavenly one increases–is about Jacob, who will be the newest addition to the family of my brother, Paul, and his wife, Pilar.  I imagine this baby, Jacob, wrestling in Pilar’s womb, with his frequent starts and stops, much like Jacob in Biblical times wrestled all night with an Angel.  As many refer to my Mom as an Angel, I pictured the two, Jacob and Mom, in a tug-of-war, with Mom praying for him to arrive quickly, and Jacob resisting leaving the comfort of his mommy’s tummy to enter life as we know it.  And poor Pilar is caught up in the mix of it!

Well, God-willing, we will hear of Jacob’s arrival soon.  As my Mother laid crying in her Hospice bed the other morning, I asked her what it is that she wanted before she passed away.  All she kept echoing was, “I want to see Jacob, I want to see Jacob, I want to see Jacob,” as the tears streamed down her face.  I told her God was listening to her, and we prayed as my brother, Jeff, led us into trying to help usher that child into being born.  Well, as of the last we heard at around 9:00 pm EST last night, Pilar was having contractions 15 minutes apart and Paul was pre-loading their bags into the car to be ready.  I am up in the middle of the night with much anticipation, as I await the news about Jacob, and wait to see how it will affect my Mother’s delicate state.  Her body is shutting down now as the Cancer grows and takes over.  I hate Cancer, I hate it.  But I love my Mom and God, and know we all will get through this as so many before us have, and many after us will as well, God forbid.

But there will be one more Angel, or I think of her now as standing more with the Saints, Eve Marie Sanchez, in Heaven to intercede for suffering Cancer patients and families.  She will be powerful in prayer, and loving as ever – true to always how she has been, and perfected in Love for all eternity.

I am quite certain that I am sharing some very personal thoughts and family moments with you here and now for a purpose greater then I can now understand.  I know undoubtedly that there are people who need encouragement and to experience GOD’S LOVE for the first time, or again; and even in her preparations to leave this earth, it is amazing to see how the love in and around my Mother is still doing that.  I am in awe, and know that people will still respect my family and the suffering that are also going through even now.  I write to process these things as well, and it is something healing for me, and hopefully for my family too.

I will bring this to a close now.  As my Mother’s first Grandchild, Alyssa, my niece, holds a special relationship with my Mom.  At only 13-years-old, I am very proud of the sweet and faithful young lady she is growing into (good job, Jeff & Annette!).  She has shared many beautiful writings with us over these trying months and weeks that have moved many adults to tears.  The last one she wrote before they left my parent’s home on Monday is what my Mom said that she’d like to go with her in her casket.  Since a public tribute it will become, I felt it honoring to both my Mom and Alyssa to share it here and now, as it says everything much more simply and perfectly then I am able to at this point.

On the front of the paper, Alyssa drew a picture of a lovely Angel, and it says, “My Grandma”.  On the back, it says that which my Mom is longing for as well as what I will leave with you for some time now (I will be with some of Mom’s family coming in soon, and attending to some of the many loose ends to wrap up as time allows…):

You will have long hair in Heaven.

You will have the most beautiful dress in Heaven.

You will have nice long legs so you may dance in Heaven.

You will have wings to show you are free and can fly in Heaven.

You will have the brightest smile for when you look down at us – our day will be wonderful!

You will have a halo to show you are an Angel, but you don’t need one to show you are one now.

I love you, Grandma,


Your 1st Granddaughter

UPDATE as of 6:15 AM on 1/18/11:  I just got a call from my brother, Paul.  They are at the hospital, and Pilar is dialated at a 4 out of 10 right now.  She is having pretty severe contractions right now, and they will not be going home – this baby is coming!!!  But it will still be awhile.  Poor thing, she is exhausted, not having slept in 3 days, and has even gotten sick in her labor.  Please pray for God’s will, including strength for Pilar, support for Paul, speed for Jacob, steadfastness for Mom, and peace for us all.

Finally, this beautiful song from Audrey Assad, has also been speaking to my heart.

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The Fight for Life Continues

I can hardly believe its been 3 weeks and 2 days since that day.  On December 22nd, 2010, Mike, my nephew, Abraham, my BFF, Kelli, and I set off on what appeared to be a road trip to spend Christmas with our families.  Would that I have known how my world would have turned upside down such as this in that short of an amount of time…

Even though 3 weeks and 2 days seems a relatively short amount of time, I cannot believe how these days have packed in such intense extremes: joys and sorrows, laughing and weeping, grieving and celebrating, teaching and learning, giving and stretching, sweetness and snapping…on and on and on.  Each day contains too many things to really try to do justice in sharing more of it now.  And honestly, often times from lack of sleep, trying to deal with mine and others intense emotions, working with our Hospice Team and helpers to manage Mom’s care & meds, still settling Mike and I into the spare bedrooms, slowly discussing with the local awesome retired Priest our wedding preparations (FYI, no we don’t have a date or location as of yet – discerning that still), receiving the calls/emails/cards/visits from so many family and friends that love my Mom and want to express it while there is still time….well, I simply haven’t had the energy to write a blog, respond/read all my emails, return that last phone call, or respond timely to all the texts.  Thanks for your understanding, and please do not stop them!!!  As I am convinced more than ever that I am far from being alone in this, thank God.

I must also say that what the Priest told me in Confession the other day has perfectly captured what I’ve been living.  The Christian life, and our experiences within it, is meant to be “played like a team sport.”  He explained it using this metaphor:  I’m a Cheerleader at the top of a Pyramid, and all the others are supporting me to do my thing up on top.  Well, unlike my sister-in-law, Jennifer (who we picked up from the airport last night as we dropped Paul off at his hotel for a 6:00 am flight back to Dallas) who as a high school 4’11” Cheerleader did this frequently, I’ve never physically experienced standing at the top of a Pyramid formation.  Frankly, just thinking about it makes my knees quiver a bit, ha ha ha.

Yet this morning, with my sister-in-law, Jennifer, here for a short visit and spending time with Mom and taking care of her needs with my Dad now up too, it gives me a short bit of time to write and reflect.  I actually was trying to sleep, since 4 hours or whatever it was between the things Mom needed to be comfortable, but with too many things swirling in my head, it was time to write.

Some people love the thrill of standing on someone’s shoulders, or whatever they do up there, at the top of a pyramid formation.  As for me, being a “solid girl” as Grandma used to say as she touched my powerful physique (wink), I’m used to being lower in the base to support the tiny girl on top.  I’m used to that, it’s comfortable, and I can do it well, I humbly admit.  Now being asked to climb up a few levels quite suddenly, well, it’s a whole other routine now.  Bit-by-bit, with your prayers and God’s grace, I’m “getting my sea legs”, so please continue to pray.  So many wonderful family and friends have been supporting me, it sometimes is overwhelming.  From something that appears as small as a whispered prayer, to dropping off a meal and giving a hug, to the huge blessings such as the local wedding shop owner coming to our home with 10 dresses (1 of which is now MINE – and no, pictures will not be posted here since Mike visits my blog) so that my Mom could cross off the 1 more important “Bucket List” item of dress shopping with her daughter…well, all I can say is that, “He loves us.”  But this really isn’t about me, now, is it.

I know you want to know how my Mom is doing, so I will give you a brief update.  We’ve had her set-up on Hospice for about a week now, and they have been a tremendous support.  I really like the team of caregivers we are working with, such a relief.  They told us the only thing we can do wrong is not to call them, so we’re getting pretty good at that.  🙂

Mom doesn’t have a lot of pain at this point, thankfully it is more discomfort.  She is on lots of medications to help everything possible, but probably the best one she takes is what they call the “wonder drug” – a steroid that helps manage her pain and increase her appetite.  And she certainly has been eating better and more in the past week.  From one day to the next last week, Dad and I saw her legs stop functioning enough to support her, and that was really hard to witness.  She is bed-bound now, which is beyond difficult for an almost 64-year-old ‘Life Lover’ who likes to get-up-and-go.  I believe that between that and her own emotional battles, let alone what the ugly Bone Cancer is doing to slowly destroy her body, it’s causing a lot of Anxiety and rightfully so.  So we’ve been working with Mom’s nurse to get the dosage right on something to “take the edge off.”

Sleeping through the night is always a difficult thing for all of us.  God help me if I ever take for granted again the simple comforts of being able to turn over, get up and go to the restroom, move my own pillows, grab my own glass of water, etc… Yesterday I called the Nurse telling her we needed a new sleeping aid, as the Ambien stuff just isn’t cutting it, and believe me, we’ve tried.  Last night, we gave her something new, and after a couple of dosages according to instructions, Dad said the restlessness finally abated after an hour.  Yet, throughout the night she still will wake up and ask for things.

Although she is “cloudy” from the meds, she still is mentally coherent mostly.  And she of course still pulls out that dazzling signature smile, will make us laugh, or start coughing from laughing herself.  She doesn’t complain, only asks for what she needs, and doesn’t say all that much anymore.  Again, that’s really hard to witness from a woman who even talks to herself out loud.

Anointing of the Sick

Fr. Gene leaving after a beautiful family time to see her Anointing of the Sick, and share our thoughts and tears with one another, experience LOVE in a whole new way

Well, I’m getting sleepy now, so I’ll end with an excerpt that I received from St. Faustina’s Diary this morning.  If you don’t know, St. Faustina was the one that Jesus revealed a lot about his Divine Mercy to.  This is quite paradoxical to what the world screams out to us- I’m sure it may raise some eyebrows. But this is what He reminded me about redemptive suffering, and for those striving to follow the Lord, you may find the spiritual meat also satiable…

From the Diary of Saint Faustina

“Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me. You must be annihilated, destroyed, living as if you were dead in the most secret depths of your being. You must be destroyed in that secret depth where the human eye has never penetrated; then will I find in you a pleasing sacrifice, a holocaust full of sweetness and fragrance. And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer. I demand, My daughter, that your sacrifice be pure and full of humility, that I may find pleasure in it. I will not spare My grace, that you may be able to fulfill what I demand of you.”

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Letter from my Dad

My Dad sent out this email last night, and as he sat crying at the computer, I rubbed his back and told him that I’m sorry…


I would like to thank everyone for praying, sending cards and emails, visiting and phone calls, and bringing her meals.  Just for loving her and accepting her as your friend.  We are sorry if we ever did anything to offend you.  I personally feel that the time is growing very close and, if it is not for a miracle, she’s going to be called home to be with God.  We both love you and pray for your special needs.  I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with her; she is still the joy of my life.  2011 is going into our 44th year of being married.
Friends Always
Eve & Rich Sanchez
As we did this, my dear friends – Karla, Sefanit, Kelli, and Mike (my Fiancee), called from my home in Carrollton, TX, to “FaceTime” chat with us on our iPhones.  Their joy, prayers, laughing, love, talking with my parents were so special.  They all tag-teamed my Condo to pack things that I will need (since I hadn’t ‘planned’ on staying here at my parent’s home in Lady Lake, Florida, but don’t want to be anywhere else currently), which Mike will be bringing to me when he drives here this weekend.  Please pray for him, it’s been a loooong week for all of us since he left, and will be making the 20 or so hour trip with just our Guardian Angels to join him.  Thankfully he likes to drive!
I want to also thank each one of you for taking time to write, call, pray…etc.  I wish that I could write to/call each of you personally to express my gratitude, but as my Dad said, we love just spending time with her.  I think of the things she has loved and has done for me as she raised me so lovingly, and now I do them for her.  She instilled my love of reading, so from time-to-time we pick up George Bush’s autobiography for me to read to her.  I always loved when she read to me.
I put on a private “concert” for my parents in our living room, with my new Christmas gifts – a Martin guitar, and a “refurbished” Fender amp from a dear friend I play music with.   I told Mom that someone had paid me $1 million to bring me off of tour to come and do this little house concert, and it made her laugh.  Dad held her and sang to her, and she closed her eyes during many of the songs.  I think they are awake now, so I’m going to be with them.  You never really realize how precious each moment truly is until you are hanging on to each one of them.
Mom & Dad

My dear parents

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Nutrition for Cancer Patients

The more that I learn about nutrition, and the more I hear others share their stories or see their results, I am totally convinced that it is central to not only how our body operates, but also how we feel.  In my own pursuit of trying to lose weight that started more seriously about 8 or so years ago, I started to understand more about nutrition’s primary role in trying to get my body to function more “optimally”, shall we say (wink).  Along my journey, I have continued to learn more about nutrition through professionals in various parts of the health & fitness industry – which is extremely helpful in the current situation with Mom’s Bone Cancer.

My Mom’s body has gone through a real beating after 4 months of Chemo in 5 months time.  She only missed 4 weeks of treatment (which was to be done on a weekly basis) due to terrible Diarrhea that she suffered with.  She has lost weight–which the Doctors do not want to happen while on Chemo–and now between the Bone Cancer, her general either loss or depleted appetite, and her fear of what food may end up doing to her body again; well, I’m trying to focus on nutrition right now.  She drinks Ensure, and has small portions of whatever sounds good to her at the time, but you can only have so many of those little Ensure shakes before wanting a change of pace.

I started doing some more research yesterday on Bone Cancer, and foods that Cancer patients should eat or avoid.  I was shocked to realize that none of her medical staff had ever given her even a simple list of foods such as this – it has been trial and error.  My Dad has been doing everything to just take care of Mom, himself and the house – when would there be time to study this, shop for very specific and sometimes organic ingredients, and even do special cooking, juicing, smoothies, etc?  When she tried to take a pill supplement a few days before Christmas, if made her vomit.  So, with me now here at my parents home, we can share the “load” a bit, and try to figure out creative ways to keep her eating and drinking the best things for her.  After all, there is no better time than now to focus on trying to help Mom’s body heal from her treatment and try to function better.

Since she is not taking Chemo currently, and her body was fighting the 2 days the Doctor tried of a new Chemo pill.  It looks like her body just needs to recoup.  She had been sleeping a lot for the past few days, and now is becoming more wakeful. Last night, around 1:00 am she said to Dad and I, “Maybe I’m all caught up on sleep!” Without taking Chemo right now, and the fact that Cancer markers had begun to rise, I feel that we need to do our best to naturally help Mom’s fragile system right now. With her quality of life going down so much, mainly from side effects, she says that she feels very little pain from the actual Cancer.  She needs a breather right now.

For anybody needing it, or wanting to know more, here are some helpful links that I have initially found:

I looked up Bone Cancer prevention – this had some helpful info: http://curezone.com/dis/1.asp?C0=784

The Cancer Center also has some nice recipes on their website:  http://www.cancercenter.com/after-care-services/recipe-cards.cfm

I spent a good while at the grocery store last night loading up on some important things, especially with Antioxidants:  like fresh and some organic produce (especially Blueberries), Agave nectar, Rice Milk (she didn’t like Almond milk, and is supposed to avoid dairy), Green Tea, Dark Chocolate (with more than 60% cocoa), Chocolate Covered Digestive Biscuits, and some simple whole grains.  Mom also loves canned apricots, which have helped her become more regular.  I’m also learning about the timing of when we give her things is also important, because giving her things too late in the day can make her have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom – and sleep is really important for her (and us, her caregivers) right now too.

Healthy Foods

Yummy & healthy foods to fight Cancer

Last night I made her a smoothie that was not only delicious for her but also very nutritious, and the ingredients balanced things to prevent her from worrying about Diarrhea.  I didn’t measure the ingredients, but I put in a Banana, fresh Raspberries, fresh Blueberries, and fresh Strawberries, a bit of Agave Nectar to naturally sweeten it, and Rice Milk. Rice and Bananas are recommended foods to help firm up the poo-poo, and the berries are high in Antioxidants.

This morning we all enjoyed a bowl of Pumpkin Oatmeal (there’s a link to it below) – it tasted like Pumpkin Pie and is really healthy too!  I love http://www.AllRecipes.com, because it can scale the recipes based on number of servings you want to make, as well as see how others rate or modify it: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/pumpkin-oatmeal/Detail.aspx.  She’s still sipping on her Decaf Lemon Green Tea, which we sweetened with the Agave Nectar also – so good!

Later today I think we’ll make some Dark Chocolate covered Strawberries for a sweet treat that will boost her system as well.  Hey, all that time that I spent living/working with Chefs needs to be put to good use, right?

I know that my Mom is far from being the only one to suffer with Cancer, so I hope that by sharing some of this information, it may help others too.  We need to support each other – we’re not alone!

Today we have an appointment with Hospice to talk about what they can do for Mom to improve her quality of life, manage the pain, and help us to care for her.  Contrary to perhaps popular belief, Hospice is not a “death sentence”.  I have heard great things from many sources, and have several dear friends that work in various capacities for different Hospices that have either given me some advice or have offered to. Mom’s friend is also a Hospice nurse here in their Retirement Village – how cool would that be to have her friend giving her care, if that works out.

Yesterday a sweet Angel neighbor, Josephine (Jo for short), brought by a really nice wheelchair from St. Timothy’s, our Church.  They also have loaned us a shower chair, and getting back in there to take a shower yesterday did wonders for Mom.  My Uncle Joe and Aunt Barbara brought over a “potty chair” the other day, which has also been a big help.  The neighbors have offered to do whatever they can, and our friend across the street told me not to make dinner tonight as she’s bringing by Mom’s favorite – Perkin’s Chicken Pot Pie.  There are such beautiful moments that I get to see by being here, which helps with the difficult ones and having to live and talk about it so much to all the dear friends and family who love, pray, and worry about us. Mom is rallying at this time, I see it, and I’m so inspired by her fighting spirit and will to live despite everything.

Thank you again for your love and prayers.  We are just trying to keep up with the long “to do” list right now, let alone time to try to think about my wedding planning, which has fallen down on the list for the time being, as we need to first figure out Mom’s care.  There are a ton of life changes and decisions that need to be all at once, so yes, it’s stressful.  But I also feel God’s blessing amidst everything – that is Grace. Please keep your prayers coming, you have no idea how much they carry us…

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"Breaking Bread"

"Take and eat, this is my body given up for you"

Today I have been given the image of brokenness to ponder.  Writing through it helps me gain clarity, hence the blog post.  This image kept coming to me throughout the morning, starting with the visit of Mom’s Eucharistic Minister, Rocco, and his wife Liz.  They didn’t realize that I would still be here at my parent’s home – not even I did – so he didn’t have three hosts for all of us.  He told Dad and I that he would break one to split it between us.  And we had a sweet little Mass service at my parents’ home, with Mom receiving the communion and Dad and I splitting the other one.

Thinking about that image more, it becomes a beautiful Metaphor.  And when I say Metaphor, I don’t mean it the way my precious almost 9-year-old niece, Anna, understands it.  This story is too funny, I have to pause to add this tale of comic relief.  This conversation happened yesterday before the rest of my family departed to tend to all that God calls them to, allowing for this time for Dad and I to share with Mom:

Anna and I sat on the couch in the living room, while my 15-year-old nephew, Abraham sitting near us made some funny comment, as is usually the case.  Anna asked, “Is that a Metaphor?”

Abraham replied, “Yes, it is.”

Somehow I felt Anna might not yet fully grasp what that word that she’s heard from her older sister, Alyssa, meant.  So I asked her, “Anna, do you know what a Metaphor is?”

Matter of factly, Anna replied, “Yeah, it’s an animal – like in the movie, Percy Jackson.”

Trying not to laugh, because sometimes it embarrasses her, I asked her more about that “Metaphor”, and she continued to share how it was mean and pounced on the sheep in the movie.  I had a feeling she was thinking of a Minotaur, but hey, I often get those confused myself, and I’m 34-years old…but I digress.

Back to brokenness…  The Lord calls us to imitate him, and as Christians, Catholics, or any type of Believer, we say that we will.  Yet, something we so easily profess with our lips often becomes quite a struggle when presented the opportunity to put into practice.  Still, Jesus, of all people, publicly showed the ultimate act of brokenness – crucifixion although not guilty – laying down his life that we might share in eternity with Him.

I think of that single host, which I know undoubtedly is Jesus, being broken and split between my Father and I.  And right now, Jesus is tending to us both in order to carry our shares of this “burden” right now.  It brings us into the mystery of Calvary – in the blending of sorrow, hope, agony, peace, pain, humility, divine assistance, sacrifice, death, resurrection, and ultimately triumph…

I’ve never experienced anything quite like this.  Sometimes tears just roll down my face when I realize what lies ahead, as my heart “readys” itself.  Sometimes I just walk over to Mom, kiss her on the cheek and watch her smile, and it makes me smile.  Sometimes I want to lose it when I become impatient and frustrated because I am just tired, and have perhaps a thought such as, “she may never hold the children Mike and I want to have” crosses my mind.

But Mom told me on New Years Eve, “I will always watch over you.”  Dad, Mom and I cried as she shared this, and more from her tender heart.  I don’t know much, but I can tell you that I believe more then ever heaven is real.  I also know that my sweet Mom will be eventually return there, as we all were created to do.  She will be so happy, no longer suffering, and will be back with all of our dear friends and family that have gone before us, and with God, his Angels and his Saints.  These things we know, but they do not always comfort us as we struggle with detachment.

I have to share that we honestly have no idea how long we have with her, or from one day to the next how she will be.  Mom continues to fight and gain strength, and I will let y’all know when we feel like things are really declining.  Just as Mike, Abraham (my nephew) and I arrived here, she had a bad allergic reaction to the new Chemo pills the Doctor had just given her for 2 days, and it was scary.  But now that her 6 days of Steroids (which are hard on her – not being able to sleep) are finally over, I think she will be better.  We just take it day by day, which is how we are called to live anyways.

Thanks for all your comments, emails, phone calls, texts, and the like.  I may not always be able to respond, or do it in a timely manner, but know that I receive them with the love that I know prompted them.  I will try to use my blog to periodically give updates– it’s easier then trying to constantly re-tell something we are living and sometimes need a break from – I’m sure you understand.  Thanks for the advice from experienced dear friends and family too, and all the offers to do whatever, whenever, and the phone is “always on”.  I am humbled and blessed by the incredible network of support God has provided.

I’ll just wrap up by relaying about the love that is so tangible to us right now.  I can almost taste the Love, it can be felt so strong.   God is Love.  You know that I, like other people, utter prayers out of love while never really knowing what they do for another; but it brings love, hope, courage, fortitude — whatever virtue or fruit of the spirit that the other needs.  Only in heaven will we truly understand.  In God’s time, Mom will know how her love touched and transformed so many lives.

Feel free to leave messages here, on her Facebook wall, in a card or what not to let her know how you have been touched by God’s love through her.  She loves to hear all those things, and even needs them sometimes just like we all do.

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Making Progress with Cancer and Beyond

“Physical strength is measured by what we can carry; spiritual by what we can bear.” ~Author Unknown

Thank you to everyone who has reached out in one way or another to me and my family as my Mom continues to fight her battle against Bone Cancer. From emails, calls, notes, pilgrimage intentions, hugs, prayers, etc…all of your love and support have helped us bear this weight.  I’ve been wanting to post an update on her status for quite some time, but it seems as there are never enough hours in the day!  Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought it was even more fitting to post an update now.

Mom’s weekly treatments began on July 27th.  As is true for anyone that has gone through Chemotherapy, she has good days as well as rough ones. But amidst these highs and lows, there have been some truly grace-filled moments. Even strangers have performed random acts of kindness on more than one occasion that have moved us to tears.

Despite the fact that from week to week her physical symptoms change, her accepting spirit and positive attitude have remained steadfast, which she says are the effects of prayer and grace. We’ve seen that prayer and grace at work in many ways.  Over two weekends in September, Mom suffered with diarrhea to the point of becoming dehydrated and losing 10 pounds. Imodium eventually helped, and instead of her chemo treatment that week, she received two big bags of fluid to rebuild her system. Two days later the doctor arranged for an anti-diarrheal injection which now will be done monthly.

Shortly thereafter, Mom fell in her bedroom while getting dressed one morning.  She twisted her left foot and ankle – which became a bit bruised and swollen.  After this incident, her left foot dropped–meaning she experienced significant weakening in her ankle and was unable to flex it or her toes. The result is a loss of feeling or control over the foot, so she had lost her stability to walk.  Thankfully my Mom’s sister, Sue, was visiting that week. I know my parents were so grateful for my Aunt’s unselfish service and cheer during a week that soon became full with doctor’s visits, an MRI, Pet-Scan, EMG, Flu and Pneumonia Shots, blood work and results.

My Mom has been doing physical therapy to regain her strength in her left leg and foot drop, which was supposed to last four to six weeks.  But over the past two weeks it seems to have been too much for her system as she’s been vomiting the past two Fridays during her PT.  After this past weekend with the diarrhea starting back up, she ended up in the hospital today.  Since she was so weak and run down, they gave her an IV with fluids and something for the nausea.  She’s going to talk to Dr. Reyes tomorrow about stopping Physical Therapy for now and just doing exercises at home.  She’s already seen some progress with being able to move her toes somewhat.  In the meantime she will keep sporting a slick pair of black Converse high top tennis shoes she got because they provide better support.  She receives Chemotherapy three Tuesdays a month teamed with Herceptin, and then the last Tuesday does Herceptin with Zometa (to strengthen her bones).

She was accepted into a John Hopkins clinical study, which will help future female cancer patients. Doctors are studying what her vitals do with cancer in her blood.  The positive news is that Mom’s oncologist, Dr. Reyes, has said that some of the markers of where her cancer first started are coming down.  This is a good indication that not only is this the right treatment for her, but also that it is gaining control over her cancer cells.  The blood work done prior to the Chemo also gives her Oncologist the ability to decide whether she will proceed with treatment or not.

We continue to lean into your prayers.  If all goes well with her results like we hope, Mom will be on a shorter Chemo infusion plan, approximately four months (until around Thanksgiving).  Then she would take her Chemo in pill form and continue to be tested in order to monitor her markers.  Otherwise she would have to do the eight month plan, which would  be until March of 2011.

My  parents continue to pray the Rosary daily, offering it for the special intentions of our loved ones praying with us.  How appropriate that October is also the month of the Rosary!  I plan on posting another blog in a bit on Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro S.J., a 20th century Mexican Martyr – as we intercede for the cause of his canonization and ask him to intercede for healing for my sweet Mother, Eve.

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Fighting Cancer, Again

With three out of four of her children and my Dad crowding the examining room at the Doctor’s office, Mom met with her Oncologist a few hours ago. Dr. Reyes is the same Doctor who took her through her Breast Cancer treatments, when it first appeared 4 years ago.  He was very disappointed with the Biopsy results, showing that the same aggressive Cancer that she once fought and seemed to have conquered, is in fact back and now in her bones.  It has a name now, Metastatic Mammary Carcinoma.  She falls in the 20% of patients with a reoccurence.  It has metastasized (spread) to 6 places already: neck, spine, 6th rib, right hip, a lymph node near her collar-bone, and pelvic bone.  The good news from the scan is that there were no fractures seen in any bones at this point.

Dr. Reyes said that he has no regrets about the course of treatment that they took from the start – that as aggressive as the Cancer was, the treatments were very aggressive as well.  He felt that they did more than they should have, and it still came back.  She’s now stopped taking the drug, Femara, which is intended to stop estrogen production in postmenopausal women used to treat early estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer like hers.  Obviously that hasn’t helped in her case.  The Herceptin, which is recommended after surgery and chemotherapy is a monoclonal antibody that targeted the HER-2 protein, meant to help the chemotherapy work better…that caused heart problems a few years ago.  Thankfully the damage to her heart was not permanent, earlier tests this year revealed.

Since she had already planned to get a 2nd opinion on treatments, Mom was really glad when Dr. Reyes said that he’d like to refer her to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to the Breast Cancer team under Dr. Perez–considered among the best in the country. Mayo oncologists are known to use innovative therapies to treat even the rarest cancers, all while trying to help patients maintain a quality of life.  They are even able to utilize drugs in clinical trials, so they have access to treatment that Mom’s current doctor does not.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, Chris asked Dr. Reyes, “Why was this Cancer not found before – with all the continued tests that you’ve done?”

“That’s a good question,” the Doctor replied.  “I would say that there is no test that is 100% fool-proof, unfortunately.”

Then it was my Dad’s turn.  “Would you consider this Bone Cancer terminal?”

Dr. Reyes replied, “I define ‘terminal’ as end stage Cancer, where the patient has 6 months or less.  So no, I would not consider it terminal.  Could it eventually take her life?  Unfortunately yes.”

Yet as an Oncologist, the Doctor said he’s an optimist.  They are well paired then, as so is my Mom.  He feels that the treatments they give her can extend her time with reasonable quality of life.

Mom has been a true witness of a woman of faith and courage throughout this time of testing and waiting over the past several weeks.  She admits she is doing much better with it this time around.  Looking sympathetically at my Dad, the Doctor said that the spouses often do worse than the patient.

Complaining of pain under her right breast, Dr. Reyes sent Mom straight from his office to get a CT Scan.  He wanted to ensure it wasn’t a blood clot.  We are awaiting the results of that, but the technicians said it doesn’t appear to be a clot.  She will start receiving Zometa injections, which are monthly bone-strengthening intravenous medication.  This is to help prevent or delay broken bones or other bone damage.  Currently there are no restrictions in her activity or diet.  Sadly she will need to cease sky-diving though, LOL!

My family is so grateful for a perfectly timed holiday weekend that we could almost all steal away to be together.  As pictured below, Mom has kept the party going and her ultimate Margaritas flowing.  We are celebrating life in many ways, and are about the task of making more great Sanchez family memories. A family weekend of fun, good food & drink, surprises, and lots of love.  I ask, what could be better?

Poolside Margarita time for Mom and Dad

I cannot express enough how grateful we’ve been for the outpouring of support in the form of: emails, calls, Facebook postings, cards, and especially prayers and Masses offered.  Please keep them coming, as this leg of the journey has only just begun.

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