Steve's story

I have stage IVc cancer. It's in my lungs and it's inoperable. Radiation in hopes of a cure is not an option either. This is my 3rd time to have the cancer since it all started 3 years ago.  But I'll go back to the beginning so you understand how I got to where I'm at now.  


I was first diagnosed with oral cancer in February 2006. For several years I had battled with a condition called oral lichen planus, which was painful but relatively harmless. On the advice of my doctor I had the sores biopsied every year or so. It had always been negative until 2006 - this time the diagnosis was squamous cell carcinoma (in case you're wondering, it's pronounced 'skway-muss').


I began treatment in March at MSTI (Mountain States Tumor Institute) here in Boise. My ENT surgeon decided that the tumor in my tongue was too big for surgery, so my treatment was radiation and chemotherapy. They could have taken it out surgically but it would have significantly restricted my speech. I'm sure there's a few people who would have appreciated that, but :-)

I started a course of radiation, with treatment every weekday for 7 weeks. My Cisplatin chemotherapy was done at the same time - three cycles over a total of 9 weeks. The nurses don't call it Cisplatin. They call it "Cis-puke-in". I probably don't need to explain that one....


Following treatment there were some significant recovery issues - suffice it to say the treatment was brutal.  But over the months things got back to normal (or at least my 'new normal') and all my scans were looking clear. Everything looked great until.....July 2007. I had a 'routine' PET/CT scan, right on schedule. The scan indicated that cancer had metastasized into a right side cervical lymph node (a lymph node in my neck). So, back to treatment.


This time it was determined that my ENT surgeon would remove the affected lymph node (actually a bunch of lymph nodes) in a procedure called a Radical Neck Dissection. This procedure took place in July of 2007, and the doctor removed 40 lymph nodes from the right side of my neck, along with a significant amount of suspicious tissues from around and on my carotid artery. The result was that it looks like I'm missing part of my neck (I am), although the scars that wrap from my ear to my adam's apple have healed nicely.

Unfortunately, the margins from the surgery were not clear, so more treatment was necessary. Again I entered radiation and chemo. I did 6 weeks of radiation again, along with 3 cycles of a 'triple chemo' they call TPF- three different chemo drugs at the same time: Cisplatin, Taxotere, and 5-FU. Following this chemotherapy I did a 10-week course of just one newer chemo drug called Erbitux.


Again, I got through treatment, ending at the end of 2007. Everything looked great and healed up nicely. Over the course of months again, things got back to yet another 'new normal'.  After cancer treatment I don't think a person's 'normal' is what it was before...so we call it our 'new normal'.  I even competed in the Boise Ironman 70.3 triathlon. 'Officially' I was 5 minutes past the allowed finishing time of 8 hours, but I did finish and that was good enough for me. I was hiking in the mountains and really enjoying being active over the summer.  


But towards the end of summer 2008, I was experiencing some pains in my chest. I saw a few of my doctors but nobody could determine what the pain was. Over the months it seemed to get worse instead of getting better. Finally in November, my ENT ordered a PET/CT scan to get to the bottom of it.


The scan indicated that cancer had metastasized into both of my lungs and pleura, causing an effusion in my left lung, where pleural fluid fills up the space in the lung. Because it was in both lungs and in several locations, surgery was not an option, and neither was radiation. This left me with really only one modern medicine treatment option: chemotherapy.  So I started chemotherapy again in November 2008 on three drugs: Cisplatin, Erbitux, and 5-FU.


If you do any research on cancer metastasis to the lungs, you'll find that the statistics not pretty. The 'survival odds' that they give you-  percentages of this and that - are pretty hard to take if you believe them. But here's the deal: I don't believe in them! Those numbers don't know anything about me. Those numbers don't know anything about my will to fight. Those numbers don't know what I am capable of. They don't know me at all!


The number that counts to me is this: "1".  One life to live, which is what we all have.  One day at a time, which is all we can control.  Slowly but surely, cancer has taught me what Jen had told me all along - that nothing is achieved by worrying about tomorrow.  None of us know how long we have.  We all like to go about lives like they will never end, but all of our lives will at some point.

As a cancer patient, you're just forced to face your own mortality sooner than you might have to otherwise. Although cancer has been a tragedy for my family and I, the lessons it has taught us are a gift.  Cancer teaches you to live like this might be the last day you have.  It teaches you not to take anything for granted.  It teaches you to appreciate the little things.  It teaches you that you're capable of far more than you ever realized you were.  There's a song which has become my life story: "I hope you get the chance to live like you're dying". I'm sure not done fighting this battle.  But no matter how many years, or months, or days I have left, I hope that's what I never fail to do from this point on: To live like I'm dying.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Journey

Dear Family & Friends,
Steve's cancer journey  ended Sunday night September 13th.   But the journey that has forever weaved our lives together lives on.  Thank you for your loving support and your continued prayers.    Although our hearts are hurting as we remember our husband, our father, our brother, our son, and our friend in these very emotional times, we continue to LiveSTRONG!

12 comments:

  1. I am very proud of Steve for how hard he fought. I will miss him terribly, but this morning, while my heart aches, I'm so happy for him that he's in a better place. He has no more pain and no more tears. We can find comfort in that.

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  2. Please know that you continue to be in our thougnts and prayers. May God wrap His arms around you and give you peace knowing that Steve is free from any pain.
    Steve was great to work with and will be missed.

    God bless

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  3. Jen, Kate, Bradon, Dallon and all the families
    You are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. May God poor out His blessings and wrap you all in his loving arms. We love you!
    Ted and Deb Kollecker

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  4. Steve has been such a great inspiration in my life. Never have I met a person with such humility, humor and strength. He will always be remembered as someone that taught me so much about what's important in life and achieving things I thought were unachievable, all while laughing uncontrollably. He climbed that last 12,000ft peak so God could reach down and lift him up to the Heavens. Tomorrow marks the day that one year ago we climbed Mt Borah together.
    Carolyn

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  5. Thank you so much for your memories of Steve. I was just remembering the mountain clim yesterday! They mean so much to me. And the stories we are sharing as we gather with the kids are such a precious gift. I welcome them. Thank you!

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  6. We have never even met Steve personally, but attend 10-Mile and have always enjoyed his music and his part on the worship team. We've been following his blog for several months now and just wanted to send a note letting you know you and Steve's family are in our prayers. He was definitely an inspiration to us!
    Danny & Melva Bade

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  7. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. We love you and our hearts go out to all of the family. Steve was a special person and you had a very special relationship that has allowed you some wonderful memories to cherish. We pray for God's blessings now for all of you.

    We love you!
    Uncle Tom Faircloth and Nancy

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  8. Jen, My sweet, sweet, sister...I love you and admire your strength! You are and have always been an inspiration to me. Your relationship with Steve was precious and full of love. I hope that you are able to reflect on those tender moments during this hard time! The two of you experienced in four years what most couples hope to achieve in a lifetime...I love you with all my heart.
    Kari

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  9. Tawna and Tom NoftzgerSeptember 15, 2009 at 6:33 AM

    Dearest Jen, Tom and I are extremely saddened to learn of Steve's passing. We never got to know him, but have learned through others that you two had an amazing relationship and love, and that he was a very special man. We pray also for God's blessings for all of you as you attempt to find peace with his passing. We know you are a strong woman, and that is a blessing in and of itself. We love you and send our deepest regreats.

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  10. God Bless Steve and his family. You will continue to be in our prayers.
    Mardell and Ted Faubel

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  11. God bless you and the kids Jen, we are always here for you. This verse reminded me that Steve fought the good fight and he ran the race and he really beat us all home...
    2 Timothy 4:7-8
    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)
    Steve will be missed terribly! He was a great man... a wonderful husband & father. You are all in our prayers.
    Love The Trick Family,
    Sheila, Steve, Brent & Amanda

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  12. The Sound of joy that came from his guitar, the strong faith he always glowed and the love for all shall always be with us in our hearts. Jen, I pray that GOD gives your family all you need in this time and thru all the rest of your journy. I am sure Steve is standing tall and straight with the lord praying for all of us. Keep strong and keep faith that one day we will all be in GOD's glory.

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