Tag Archives: Cancer

Two Years Later

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5photo (15)

IMG_7230Mother Mary, at St. Monica’s, was really where the story of Mike and I began, happening at the same time as my Mom’s illness.

Last night we visited Our Lady, in remembrance of Mom.

A mingling of joy with tears, gratitude, love, petition, thanksgiving…just laying it all out before Our Mama.

Mom and MeMe as a toddler with my beautiful Mom.

We celebrated your birth into this world two days ago. Today, we celebrate your rebirth into another.

It’s been two years without you, physically; but I’m grateful for the 30-something I had with you.

We love you, miss you, and are all better for having known and been loved by you.

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Today We Celebrate Her Life…

I imagine that it was a cold, January day in Detroit, 1947, when little Eve came into this world. She was the first of four beautiful girls born to Anthony and Helen.

Family Photo: Tony and Helen, my Grandparents, are both 2nd from the Left

The blond curls of her tow-headed youth faded at some point to the short, brown hair that we always knew.

My Mother’s Graduation Photo

So too, her shyness as a girl later gave way to the chatty-with-anyone Mom that sometimes made us, inpatient children, sigh in exasperation in the grocery store line.

Little Me & Mom

Yet she showed us how to love, just by being who she was.

Simply by taking the time to have a friendly conversation with a stranger, or bringing a glass of cool lemonade to a worker in the yard, or giving her freshly, baked goods to the staff at Dentist office, or making her Fluffy Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes when your friends came over…all her simple acts of love were saying “you are special”. Such a beautiful reflection of God, who provides so many little and big ways to let us know of His love and care for us.

She made us laugh by making herself laugh.

She would thoughtlessly shake her foot on the bed as she tore through the paperback pages of her library romance novels.

She would tell you all the ingredients, measurements, and instructions to a recipe that you didn’t realize you wanted.

She would say, “Better let you go,” at least three times around the end of a phone conversation before she actually would let you go.

She would have your favorite meal on the table when you came home for a visit.

She spent many evenings playing cards or board games.

She would befriend someone that she just met outside a movie theater.

She loved us incomparably.

As did we.

My Parents on their Wedding Day

Our family in the great outdoors – as usual.

Grandma & Friend, with Four Daughters & Son-In-Laws

Mom spent every Christmas with her Grandchildren

Mom loved to be with her family. Family Reunion 2009

She would play games and/or cards on a dime

She loved her daughter-in-laws like her own

Spending time with family was always a priority

Always making something delicious from scratch

She took a surprise like a champ. My airport surprise when she was going through Cancer treatments the 1st time

She had a good time wherever she went

Mom + Dad = Witness of a loving marriage

Her humor and faith brought her through everything. At the games she secretly organized, after found out her Cancer had come back. Mom showed us we could laugh, even in the hard times.

She was able to meet my Sweetheart, and get to know him a bit…

Beautiful Mom, inside and out

Whatever she was made, it was bound to be gooood

Many family meals together…

She instilled the Faith in us that kept her strong

Loved her sisters, and shopping. Sporting her stylized Converse – fashionable, and Doctor-recommended 🙂

Beloved and loving Mom, thank you.

It is the first time that we are celebrating her birthday without her physically present…tough stuff. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of her or miss her.

Mom, it gives me peace that you are forever happy and whole now. You ran the race with endurance, rest in the greatest Love of all now.

As for us, today we will celebrate your life, that gave us life; the joy that brought many joy; and the love that made others feel so loved.

Love you, my Mom, my hero.

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2011 Year in Review – Part 1

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Henry Ford

I started a tradition quite a while ago of writing a recap of the year before the new one was to begin.  I did start this post before 2012 began, but I just wanted to enjoy visiting with family instead of writing about it.  As I begin this post, we currently are more than halfway on our 2 day drive back home to Dallas from Florida, so with the Cowboy’s game on in the background which is occupying my husband in our hotel room, now’s as good a time as any.

2011 was quite a year!!  It brought both some of the hardest and greatest times in my life.  Here are some of the more memorable moments:

Out of the gate of 2011, in January we had to gather all the courage, strength, and hope that comes through faith. My Mom’s Breast Cancer had come back in her bones with a vengeance. She spent her 64th birthday with her friends and family on January 21st, and then 2 days later departed this world.  She still managed to cross some important things off her “Bucket List” first, including seeing me try on my wedding dress from her hospice bed; and Skyping to see her newborn Grandson, Jacob Richard — Paul & Pilar’s youngest boy — born just a few days before her birthday.

1 of about 7 dresses I tried on before I found the one. Mary Catherine was the Angel who brought the dresses from her Ocala shop that day

In February, before returning to Dallas, Mike surprised me and Dad with a short trip to St. Augustine, Florida.  That’s a special place for me, and I hadn’t been back for many years.  It was a much-needed time away together, and we wanted to pray for all those who had prayed for us during our time of need.  We lit candles and prayed for you all when we visited Our Lady of La Leche at the Shrine, and walked the Sacred Acre where the 1st Mass was celebrated in the US.

A short trip to St. Augustine, Florida with 2 of my favorite fellas. Trying to start getting our heads out of the fog...

Meeting my newest nephew, Jacob Richard, upon our return to Dallas. Holding him was what my heart needed...

Then it was back to Dallas, commencing the journey to find a new “normal.” Of course, wedding plans began immediately in high gear, to plan it in just 5 months down where Mike grew up in San Benito, TX and South Padre Island.  I do not recommend grieving and destination wedding planning, but it’s just how things ended up… And so we rely on God’s grace, and those He’s given us to do what we need to.

I never even got thank you notes out to all the people who sent flowers, Mass cards, gifts, Edible Fruit displays, sympathy cards, books, and reached out in so many ways.  So please know that everything meant so much to us, and we are grateful for your friendship, love, prayers and support – truly.

In March, Mike’s Mom came to Dallas and spent Spring break with us.  We had fun crafting and she was our first passenger in the new vehicle that we bought.  God blessed us with a fantastic deal on fully loaded red Mercury Mariner, with less than 5,000 miles on it.  As hard as it was for Mike to let go of Ol’ Blue, this little crossover has served us well.

Our new Mercury Mariner - we love "Ruby"!

Mike's Mom with baby, Jacob. Can you tell she is ready for more little ones??

In April we went to Hollywood, Florida. I was Alyssa’s, my niece, Sponsor for her Confirmation.  We had a great visit with family, and are so proud of the beautiful young lady that Alyssa has become, inside and out.

Cracking up with my niece Alyssa at her Confirmation Party

On the last day of Spring Blooms at the Dallas Arboretum, we had our Engagement photos taken.  Our friends John Wehlage, and his wife Julie, did an amazing job on both our Engagement Photos and my Bridal Portraits. More photos (includes the events surrounding our wedding) are posted on our wedding site blog, the Martinez Lounge so I’ll only post a couple here:

Mike + Lisa - Engagement Photos at the Dallas Arboretum during Spring Blooms

Bridal Portraits & Engagement photos done by John Wehlage. Taken at St. Ann's Catholic Church, Holy Saturday, 2011

Wow, April was really busy.  We took a jam-packed wedding planning trip down to South Padre Island.  It felt like a contest – how many vendors can we book in one weekend? HA! The last weekend of the month we headed to Eunice, Louisiana where I used to live and work.  Our friends hosted a beautiful engagement Mass of Thanksgiving and Party, Cajun style, at Walnut Street’s Atrium of the dear Miller family — where I served at many events for others.  Again, more stories and photos are all on our Martinez Lounge site.

Celebrating with my Cajun Family - Cajun dancing with Garrett

Last year it was May Showers, Bridal Showers that is. A beautiful shower was hosted on Mother’s Day (aren’t my friends amazing??) by friends & CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) sisters. The other was graciously hosted by St. Ann’s choir members after a Wednesday night practice. My Bachelorette Party was hosted by my Maid of Honor, Kelli, at my friend’s, Cynthia, home in Coppell. We also attended Engaged encounter, along with our NFP classes.  My oldest nephew, Daniel, graduated from High School. My Dad came to stay with us before the wedding, and so we began the big move of Mike into the Condo – and it was the three of us in close quarters until the wedding. Wedding planning pretty much consumed all the other moments – LOL.  Lots of photos of those great moments on our blog. I’ll leave you with a few.

Bridal Shower with friends & CRHP Sisters

Bachelorette Party - Hostesses, Cynthia & Kelli

My nephew, Daniel, graduated from High School.

That’s the first part of 2011.  More to come friends, but sleep most come first!

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Painting for Mom

Painting for Mom

Inspired by my Mom, this was my submission for the 2011 Artists Competition

I could talk about it, or I could paint about it.  So paint I did…

Indeed, this was a stretching exercise for me.  I’ve drawn using various mediums since I was a kid, but painting has been a virtually untouched medium for me.  I was discovering the seemingly limitless world of Acrylics mostly as I went.  Thankfully I was blessed to have the support and supplies of loved ones.

The Catholic Foundation has done a competition for Artists for the past 6 years.  This time I actually found out that I hadn’t missed the deadline about a week or two out.  So I started to toss around ideas of subject matter. Should I go edgy – do an urban jungle?  What is appealing to those who will be judging?  Then it came to me…for centuries Artists have been expressing their emotions in their work.  This could be used not only as an opportunity to express some of my grief, but also to pay tribute to my beautiful Mom.

The painting is entitled “Cloud Dancers.”  It was inspired by my Mom’s love for Angels (she has left us a huge collection of them) as well as her love of dancing.  I always loved watching her and my Dad dance- to think of it still makes me smile – how they glided almost over the top of the floor, embracing each other, in the rhythm of the song, smiling…

To finalize my composition, I took my sketch book to St. Catherine’s adoration chapel 5 days before the deadline, and I asked Mom and the Holy Spirit to guide me.  How do you look now?  How do you want to be represented?  I kept coming back to Degas’ dancers, and various pictures of angels and dancers.

I picture her now running across the clouds, using her legs like they had never not worked.  She is in her prime, experiencing more joy then my heart could know this side of heaven.

Here are a few notes from moi, the Artist:

My Mom is the yellow figure in the middle – such a bright and joy-filled Spirit.

Mike’s brother, Tony, who passed away in his early 20’s is on the left.  His pointed finger leads us upwards to the Father.

And on the right, is my beautiful Grandma, Luisa Sanchez.  She was such an example to me, and many, of unfaltering love.

It’s amazing how a piece of art can not only reveal what is in our hearts, but can also help us to also get in touch with what it is feeling.  So even if my painting is not selected and my Mom doesn’t dance on a mural in the Dallas Art’s District, nothing is lost.  I have pushed past where I was:  In my art, in my expression of self, as well as where I was in my emotional life.

This painting gives a message to her too.  “I love you Mom.  Keep dancing on the clouds for me until we meet and dance together again…”

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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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