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Posted 2016-12-03T02:41:49Z

In Conclusion.....

How nice do those words sound?  "In Conclusion."  I titled this entry "In Conclusion" because I pray that this is the last entry that I'll ever write on posthope.org.  The "last entry" because Andrea had her final surgery (breast augmentation) this past Monday and I want this to be the final chapter in a story with a happy ending.  [...]

Posted 2016-08-11T06:24:56Z

Making a New Memory

A year ago today - on August 10, 2015 - we got one of those calls that no one wants to get.  It was Andrea's doctor telling her that she had breast cancer.  We had known for several days that we'd be getting a call, but we were hoping and praying that good news would come our way.  Now, as much as we were hoping and praying for good news, we were also giving thought to how we would handle the worst case scenario.  Let me be honest, we weren't prepared for the news that we received.  While we were told that Andrea's tumor and lymph nodes tested positive for cancer, we were not given any additional details - and quite frankly, I don't know that we were in a position to understand anything beyond the realization that "Andrea has cancer".  "This couldn't be; This happens to other people - not us; What do we do?" were just a few things that were running through our minds.  "What next?; How quickly can we begin treatment?; Wait a minute, what type of breast cancer is it?" and on and on and on with the questions.  And those questions came so quickly - within the first few minutes of finding out the news.  Just after we got the call, Andrea and I went to a nearby park.  We needed to get away - to a  peaceful place.  We sat on the grass on the side of a hill.  Our heads were spinning as we talked (unknowingly) about "the fight" that we were about to endure.  We told each other that "It's only breast cancer and millions have survived it".  We told each other that we'd seek the best care, that we'd talk to the best doctors, go anywhere for treatment, and that we'd do this together.  And tears came to our eyes as we talked about how we'd tell the kids, our family, and our friends.  Although we had incredible determination it was a very difficult day at that park.[...]

Posted 2016-07-30T05:57:22Z

Andrea-style

Another sleepless night.  Another 4:00am wake-up call.  Another early trip to the hospital.  Another surgery.  And yet, in typical Andrea-style she turned a rough day into another example of her toughness.  Going into the day we weren't sure if the doctor would be able to perform the surgery laparoscopically (resulting in a few small incisions) or if she'd have to make a larger, single incision and perform the surgery in a more invasive manner.  The concern was that the scar tissue from Andrea's previous stomach surgeries would get in the way of the laparoscopic procedure.  Fortunately that was not the case and Andrea was in and out of the operating room within two hours.  She recovered slowly but nicely throughout the day and we were able to bring her home at about 4:00 in the afternoon.  She's been moving around on her own, resting quite a bit, and gaining strength.  Tomorrow, we expect to be up and walking around the block.  So that's two cancer-related surgeries down and one to go.  The next step on the road to recovery will be her breast augmentation surgery sometime in the October-November timeframe.  In the meantime, we'll be making sure that her body recovers and that she continues to regain her strength.[...]

Posted 2016-07-28T05:35:57Z

Staying the Course

As Andrea continues to follow the plan that her doctors outlined (almost a year ago) she'll be having a hysterectomy on Friday.  As many of you may recall, Andrea has the gene mutation that causes her to be susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer.....so on a precautionary note she/we decided to have the hysterectomy performed to lessen the chances of her having to deal with this issue further down the road.  It was a conscious, well-thought choice that she/we made based on the facts that we've learned along this journey.  The surgery on Friday may be an in/out procedure or it may result in Andrea being in the hospital for 3-4 days.  The timeline will be determined during the surgery based on the surgeon's ability to complete the hysterectomy without any challenges presented by the scar tissue that exists from one of Andrea's previous surgeries.  So while there's a bit of uncertainty (with the length of her stay) Andrea is in really good shape going into the surgery and we are all optimistic about an event-free procedure.  Now - with all of that said, and with all of the optimism that I try to write into these posts - there have been a wide variety of challenges along the way.  Andrea's blood tests have shown a wide variety of chemical imbalances (all along).  From magnesium and potassium level issues to kidney concerns and anemia; from skin rashes and fatigue to occasional sleeplessness.....Andrea has been beyond amazing with her positive attitude and her resilience.  She's literally fighting for her life and all-the-while trying so hard to not appear to be complaining.  If I sound proud it's because I am.  Andrea is amazing.[...]

Posted 2016-05-09T05:33:58Z

Beginning Another Chapter

Andrea has been doing really well.  Her determination and her fighting spirit have kept her strong and optimistic.  Over the past two-and-a-half months we have been making trips to Stanford University to continue the steps necessary to prepare for her eventual breast reconstruction surgery.  (And a special thank you to Lisa Cleaner and Lisa Sporer for helping to make these trips a bit easier.). Both her surgical oncologist and her plastic surgeon tell us that Andrea is doing really well and should be ready for the reconstructive surgery in several months.  Along with the Nurse Practitioner who's been doing the "expanding", we've managed to have a few laughs along the way - even though Andrea has been poked and prodded more times than I care to remember.  You'll have to ask Andrea about all that we've learned while she was being "expanded".  On Tuesday of this week (5/10) Andrea will begin her radiation treatment.  The treatment - in its entirety - will last for six weeks and Andrea will have to go five days per week.  Each session will last approximately 30 minutes.  As has been the case from the start, Andrea is in great spirits and knows that the radiation treatment is but one more step on the road to a compete recovery.  Wish her well![...]

Posted 2016-02-27T03:44:27Z

Thursday, February 25th was a GREAT day!

Andrea and I went down to Stanford on Thursday for her post-op check-ups.  We saw both her surgical oncologist (Dr. Dirbas) and her plastic surgeon (Dr. Nguyen) - both of whom are brilliant, compassionate, and fine surgeons.  The doctors agreed that Andrea's incisions are healing nicely and both separately discussed Andrea's next steps.  The reconstruction process will continue over the next several months and radiation will begin in 4-8 weeks (and last for approximately 6 weeks).  But the best news of all was that the pathology reports have been finalized and the doctors told us that "THERE ARE NO MORE SIGNS OF CANCER IN ANDREA's BODY".  Thursday, February 25th was a GREAT day![...]

Posted 2016-02-18T09:05:53Z

Surgery Outcome

Andrea had a long, but very successful day at Stanford Hospital on Wednesday.  Her bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery (6 hours from start to finish) went as well as we could have hoped.  The surgeon told us that he removed the tumer and the two lymph nodes that originally showed the cancer.  There was no need to remove additional lymph nodes because the two that were removed no longer showed traces of cancer.  That's incredible news.  While other tests will be performed on the removed lymph nodes (to be 100% sure), the Doctor believes that the chemotherapy did what it was supposed to do.  It's too early to give Andrea an "all clear", but every sign on Wednesday was a good one.  Andrea is resting (sore, but fairly) comfortably and should be staying in the hospital until sometime on Friday.  Thanks to all of you (Laura Ferrigno, Mitch & Lisa Reitman, Mel & Sheila Reitman, Mark & Lisa Cleaner, Lisa Sporer, Nancy Mike, and Monica Smith) who were at the hospital and helped Andrea through a very long day.  And thanks to all of you who were texting me (and Andrea) all of your positive thoughts and prayers.[...]

Posted 2016-02-15T05:31:06Z

Surgery Update

Hello.  I hope that this entry finds you all doing well.  I just wanted to let everyone know that Andrea's surgery is on Wednesday, February 17th at Stanford Hospital.  We expect her to be in the hospital until Friday and then we'll be staying in the area through Saturday.  Andrea is feeling strong and is in really good spirits.  As always, thank you for your past thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes.  Please keep them coming.[...]

Posted 2016-01-27T03:56:26Z

Andrea won! Chemo done!

After 5+ months of chemotherapy, Andrea had her last treatment today - and the relief feels good.  She spent her day yesterday baking goodies for the nursing staff and walked into the hospital today with her head held high.  I could go on and on about how strong Andrea has been through all of this, but I'm sure you know and I'm sure that you're as proud of her as I am.  While I know it's cliche, I'll alter the saying a bit by stating that "we wouldn't have wanted to do it with you".  Andrea and I have drawn so much strength and courage from your love and support.  As much as I hope I'm including it in all of these posts, we'll still never be able to express our appreciation for the kindness, compassion and words of encouragement that you've all shared with our family.  There's much more work to do (surgery at Stanford on February 17th) but Andrea is mentally stronger than she's ever been and ready to continue the fight.  Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for "getting us this far" and keep those prayers, good thoughts, and well-wishes coming our way.  Lastly - just a few words to David and Rena:    We know that it hasn't been easy being away from home as your Mom endures her treatments and the challenges that go along with it.  You've been the perfect blend of strong and vulnerable and empathetic.  We're very proud of your ability to deal with your very full lives and still stay so closely connected to what's going on at home.  We love you.  #insidersforever.  #andifightsback.  #cleanerstrong.  #andiisarockstar.  P.S.  Take a look at the latest picture posted.[...]

Posted 2016-01-03T23:52:13Z

Attitude.....

New year - same determination. Andrea continues to fight hard. She is in the eighth week of her second chemotherapy regiment and has four more treatments to go. Her doctor says that the tumor has shrunk "considerably" and baring any unforeseen challenges Andrea should be finished with her chemotherapy treatment on January 26th. Following that last treatment we'll be heading to Stanford University to have some images taken and to meet again with the doctors that will be involved in her surgery. At the moment, we believe that the surgery will take place in the latter half of February (still waiting on a date). The approximate timeline will go something like this: surgery; recover/rest for six weeks; radiation (5 days per week) for six weeks; various appointments and procedures for breast reconstruction for 3 months; breast augmentation surgery. At some point following all of that Andrea will have a hysterectomy. So while it would be easy to say, "Wow, that's a lot to go through" - and it certainly is - we're feeling better based on a few things - 1) we have a plan and can see a finish line, 2) we feel very good about the Stanford doctors that will be doing the surgeries, and 3) we're staying positive. Andrea is truly amazing. Her attitude has been great even considering that there seems to be something new popping-up every week in her blood tests. Sometimes it's her magnesium or her creatin levels, and sometimes it's her white blood cell count. Other times it's concern about her hydration (although she drinks an incredible amount of water) and sometimes it's the numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes (neuropathy - not a good thing). And yet each week we make an extra trip (or two) into the hospital for an infusion or injection of some drug. And each week Andrea is able to receive her chemotherapy treatment. She's not sweating the little things and seems to take everything in stride - with a focus on the finish line. Tough as nails! Finally, thank you to those who continue to post messages, call, send cards, text, email, etc. Andrea draws so much strength from your concern and kindness. Andrea's fight is our fight. Andrea's success is our success.