My amazing friends.

After the first week of preliminary diagnosis, came a much needed weekend of trying to enjoy my normal life.  Thankfully I had a few days to enjoy being with my friends! Here are a few highlights of my weekend.  These ladies (+Brad)  are the most amazing prayer warriors around and have selflessly given my family and me their endless support and love in our time of need.

To all the many, many angels who are praying for me and traveling this journey with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and want you to know that I feel all every single one of your prayers. You bless me beyond what you will ever know and I am so very grateful for you!


Amazing epiphanies to add to the story.

Well, we made it to Friday.  Needless to say, this was a life-changing week, full of news you never want to hear. But there’s more to the story.  Even though I did wallow for awhile in a place of fear and dread, I started to piece some pretty amazing things together which gave me great hope and faith that God is in this, He’s in control and I do not need to be afraid.

#1 Remember the way I found the cancer!  When I received a slightly irregular mammogram report back in February, I was unfazed.  Women my age often experience a change in breast tissue, so I chalked this up to my age.  Ok, I’ll do the follow-up ultrasound test, just to be sure, but I wasn’t one bit concerned.  There was no lump, no symptoms, and the radiologist who read my ultrasound advised me to come back in 6 months so we can keep an eye on it.  I was sure that this was just a brief chapter and everything would soon be normal as usual.

But when my Sarah caught wind of my journey, she was VERY pushy about me getting an MRI, which is a more targeted test.  I gave her no reason to be concerned, but even still, she was adamant that I get that MRI and the very MRI that did, in fact, show that I had more of a problem than I knew. The MRI lead to the biopsy, and the biopsy lead to the diagnosis.  In hind sight, Sarah says  that she had a “bad feeling.”  I believe that is was God who gave her that nagging inkling. Sarah may have saved my life.  The kind of cancer I have is very aggressive and if I had waited for a recheck, my story would have been very different. Thank you God for using Sarah! I am so grateful!

#2 About 3 months ago, I had this nagging feeling that I needed to do something drastic to get healthy.  Even though I felt fine, I felt like at my age, I needed to something to step up my health, or I could be at risk for serious illness.  Then one night, when I couldn’t sleep, I turned the TV one to try to fall back asleep and stumbled upon a PBS show featuring a book about an eating plan that focused on including bone broth combined with a paleo diet.  Well, I quietly ordered the book on Amazon that night, and quietly read the book, trying to discover if this way of eating made sense.  I had heard that bone broth is really great for minimizing inflammation, helping with arthritis and a lots of other benefits.  Quietly, without anyone knowing except my family, I embarked on this new way of healthy eating. It was super easy to make the change and in 2.5 months, I lost nearly 30 pounds, which is of course WONDERFUL.  but even more amazing, is that this kind of diet that I am well settled into, is the very kind of diet that is most effective in fighting cancer and would be the way I would be encouraged to eat while I’m in treatment.  Wow!! I was already well on my way to the kind of lifestyle that I would need to adapt.  Done! Thank you Lord that,in the midst of all the hard things ahead of me, I don’t have the burden of a radical diet change!

There are more stories like these, but suffice it say that I started to piece together things that some might consider lucky coincidences. But I know they are far more than that…I know that God has been paving the way for me to fight the good fight, with Him in the middle of it, comforting me, guiding my family and covering me with peace that passes all understanding.

Most of the time I feel strong and optimistic and sure that complete healing is mine in the future. But even when I have those rare moments of fear, all I need to do is to cry out to my Father in heaven and He brings me the comfort I need.


Phase 2 of Diagnosis

Today I saw the oncologist for the first time, and liked her. First thing, I said to her “Are you confident you can heal me,” and she emphatically said “YES!” That felt great to have her confidence.

Dr. E confirmed Dr. Curcio’s report that the tumor is Stage 1.   Also, it appears that the lymph nodes are NOT affected, but won’t know for sure until the biopsy during surgery in 5 months.

On the table, when Dr. C looked at my MRI, there was an area in question that was nearby the tumor, with a seeming line attaching the 2 masses. That second area was not biopsied. When their radiologist looked at the MRI for a second opinion, my team decided we want to biopsy that too :/   Of course I don’t want MORE cancer, but if its also positive on biopsy, this will allow me to add yet another drug into the cocktail, called Perjeta, which doubles the chance that the chemo will completely get rid of the cancer. So, it’s good news/bad news.

Let’s see, what else…She said that the chemo treatment has historically not been too painful for patients, but I absolutely will lose my hair…so there’s that :/ Looking into wigs etc. Can I just pause for a second and acknowledge how strange it seems to lose my hair??

This cancer thing is a full time job!  Before I can start chemo, we have daily appointments to undergo tons of testing.  Blood test, CT Scan, bone scan, echocardiogram, MRI guided biopsy, port surgery and oh yeah, have an infected tooth extracted to stop an ongoing infection in its tracks.  Phew! It’s a lot!

Then the tumor board will meet in a week to discuss my case and I will see my doctors afterward. All this is to get me to the point that I can start Chemo. While time is of the essence, Dr. E said that a few weeks, the time we need to this all sorted out, won’t hurt anything.


A day off with Sarah!

Today is Wednesday. Yesterday is behind us, and tomorrow, the day we meet our Oncologist for the first time, is looming just around the corner.  Please Lord, I  begged, don’t let tomorrow bring more bad news.

Time stood still.

As I said before, to my great delight.  My Sarah extended her trip home and she was with us until she would return to SF tomorrow night. Have I told you lately how amazing my daughter is?  She sprung into action and planned a fun adventure for the two of us to give us a a much needed break!

Laying down taking a cat nap and in bursted Sarah.  “Mom, get up, take a shower and when I get back from the gym, be ready for a fun day.”  Of course, that’s exactly what I did! I know better than to be uncooperative.


Off we went!  We drove to Santa Monica with her plan to go on these amazing swings on the beach, then go shopping for comfy jammies I could wear to Chemo treatments and the icing on the cake, have dinner with my sister Joan and niece Elise.

Well the day was exactly what I needed. Time with my girls was precious…lots of laughter, lots of tears.  This is the way most days are for me these days. Every emotion is raw and runs the full gamut.

A highlight of my was a phone call from my friend Maudi.  She heard the news from her daughter and Sarah’s friend Chloe and she called to offer her support.  The amazing thing was that she had had the exact kind of breast cancer that I have, had the same treatment as I would soon receive, was in remission and wanted me to know that the treatment was/is survivable.  Thank you Maudi for your words of encouragement.  I cling to the hope that I too will soon be through this daunting chapter and be in the position to call others at the beginning of their journeys and offer them the same gift of encouragement.

Bad news, good news

Tuesday morning came quickly.   With Greg and my sister Marcia by my side, we went to meet my surgeon, Dr. Curcio and receive the detailed report about my breast cancer.   After saying our “hellos” and “nice to meet yous,” the first thing Dr. Curcio said was “You have an aggressive cancer.”  If she said anything after that, I sure didn’t hear it…I heard her voice but everything became muffled and indiscernible after that.  For a hundred reasons, I was so very glad that Greg and Marcia were there to listen specifically, since I couldn’t get past that first daunting reality.  Eventually I tuned back in and I heard more news that I needed to factor into the big picture.

The good news is that we caught it early, thanks to my Sarah who was persistent in getting me to speed up making my MRI appointment (she now confesses that she had a “bad” feeling…praise God for giving her the inkling)   I had no symptoms, no detectable lump.  I

It is currently Stage 1. However, the bad news is that it is a very aggressive form of cancer, her-2-neu positive, and in just a few short weeks it has doubled in size. So after the tumor board meets to discuss my case a week from Thursday, I will likely begin treatment right away. Treatment will likely be 6 rounds of chemotherapy, with 3 weeks between iv chemo treatments, then a 4-6 week rest, then surgery, then radiation. More good news is that the type of cancer I have is “very curable,” with nearly 90% success rate, and the fact that we are catching it early is very good.

Dr. Curcio did say, upon reviewing the MRI with us, that there was another area of question that was not biopsied. She would confer with her in-house radiologist and we would possibly need a second biopsy.

I tried hard to take in everything that was said…but this was A LOT!  Remember, I had pretty much settled in to the fact that this would probably mean surgery, but I naively thought that that would be the extent of it.  In other words, I didn’t factor in a long term treatment plan that would include chemo, surgery and radiation. Basing it all on my mom’s experience 40 years ago.

Wow.  Ok.

The rest of the day was a blur, as our family tried to digest what we had just heard.  Marcia, Sarah and I went to go paint at Color-Me-Mine, so we could have a little fun and escape the burden of the morning. Nothing there looked the least bit appealing to paint (besides, just to paint one piece would cost between $50-$100!!! No thank you!) So instead we just walked around the mall, completely numb.  Sometimes laughing, sometimes in silence, sometimes in tears.

We returned home and had a great family dinner, just wanting to be together. Greg and me, Marcia, Michael, Valerie, Sarah and my second daughter Jori.  Lots of laughs, lots of tears.

May I just say how very blessed I am to have the family that I do?  They are my biggest source of strength and encouragement.


The calm before the storm.

With the delightful weekend behind us, the weightiness of Monday morning was palpable.  Today was a day of waiting and wondering what tomorrow would hold: what would we learn at our appointment with our surgeon?  My thoughts ran the gamut.  Truthfully, I thought they would find that there had been a mistake.

Since I had no choice but to wait, I decided to make the most of my day.  I went walking with my friends Jody and Margo on the beach, and visited our friend Shawna and play with her new puppy. Then I went to the grocery to get all the fixings to make Greg a wonderful Father’s Day dinner.  Since we were away at Becca’s wedding on the official Father’s Day, we still owed Greg a celebratory dinner, and the best part was that our family would be all together. Sarah opted to stay an extra few days so she could be close by for the upcoming doctor appointments. So, the great icing on the cake was that we could all have a family dinner, which is a rarity these days.

We had a great, intimate dinner and we all had the chance to tell Greg why we love and appreciate him. We went around the table and expressed to Greg all the many ways he is so very special to us.  For me, I focused on how very faithful he is.  Not only is Greg a man of great, God-honoring faith, but he always has and will continue to be faithfully by my side in good times and bad.  I am blessed.  Truly blessed.

The night was really special and our deepest hope was that my husband and father of our children felt affirmed and loved. He is an amazing man.  I am so grateful for him.  Off to bed early, tomorrow would be a very important day in our new journey.

A brief, delightful reprieve.

I acknowledge that the following post may seem scattered and “all over the board.”  In fact, these days, that’s exactly the way I feel :/

Needless to say, the events of the last few days were heavy.  Even though I had made up my mind that the news wasn’t as terrible as I originally thought, the power of positive thinking could only take me so far.  I yearned for an enduring sense of peace and well-being.

There is only one place where lasting peace can be found, and that is at the throne of God. After all, it was a miracle that we found the cancer, so surely God will carry us through to complete healing. At Val’s invitation, Greg and I met up with her and Michael at their  worship and healing evening church service. I was so grateful to be prayed over by their Pastor Roger. The healing power of Jesus was and is a huge comfort and allowed me to put my battle aside so I could enjoy the incredible blessings of the upcoming weekend!

My Sarah was coming home to be the maid-of-honor in her best friend’s wedding, our whole family would be together to celebrate the nuptials of our dear Becca and her husband-to-be Taylor and I have a new dress!!  There would be plenty of time for coping with cancer AFTER the weekend!

The weekend did not disappoint.  Nothing makes me happier than being with my family and to have this blessed wedding distraction was truly a God-send. Sarah got home late Friday night, and we had a quick, big bear hug before she headed for bed. Then the next morning, as quickly as she arrived, she had to leave again.  I chuckle when I think of her running around trying to get her things together for the wedding and me scurrying around behind her, helping her pull everything together so she could get on the road and drive to Temecula to arrive in time for the pre-wedding festivities. (Sarah’s says she going to look into how to hire me as her personal assistant, to free her up at her job to focus on the big issues and have confidence that the small things are being handled correctly by me, hahaha! It’s taken me years and years of on-the-job training to become the top-notch assistant that I am!)

Once Sarah was on the road for the pre-events leading up to the Sunday wedding, the rest of our Saturday was wonderfully low key.  Of course, my thoughts continually wandered back to the cancer, but somehow I was able to put it on the shelf for now.  Besides, I had contained the scary thoughts with the assumption that this would be a blip on the screen and then, back to normal. After all, my mom had surgery, no chemo and no radiation, so I wouldn’t either!

We had dinner at True Foods with Michael and Val, then went to see Finding Dory in 3D.  (Let’s be honest…under other circumstances, I’m not sure our men would be too excited about seeing this Pixar movie, but everyone is so eager to make me happy, they’ll do just about anything! I’m a lucky girl!)

My good sports, sporting’ 3-D glasses to Find Dory!

Sunday rolled around and our first stop was church!  After a really powerful service, Greg and I went into the Elder Prayer Room to again receive anointing and healing prayers. We were completely overwhelmed by the divine power of the prayers said on our behalf and strongly felt the Holy Spirit there with us, offering His peace, strength and healing. We are committed to praying this cancer away!

Finally, it was time to get “gussied up”and head to Temecula for the wedding of the year!  Never mind the 110° heat, the evening ahead was nothing short of spectacular.  Congratulations Becca and Taylor!  Your wedding day is a memory we cherish always!IMG_2241.JPG

Even in the midst of trials and tribulations, God simultaneously gives us great joy! Life is full of both.

The journey begins.

I woke up this morning, still reeling.  There is no way really to explain, except to say I felt like I’d been kicked repeatedly in the stomach.  Wait. Was that just a terrible dream?  Am I still dreaming?  NO 😦 the enormity of the news was real.  This cancer is now PART of my life. I got on the phone.  There were people who had to know.  First on my list, was my mom.  But for some reason, my fingers couldn’t dial her number.  This is NO comment about my mom, because if you have the pleasure of knowing her, you will agree that she is one VERY strong lady, one TOUGH cookie. She’s the kind of woman that all of us aspire to be.  Graceful in the face of disaster, faithful in every circumstance, a fearless Christ follower, a cancer survivor..and she’s MY mom.  So my hesitance wasn’t just about her per se.  It was about knowing her tender mother’s heart and how terrible it will feel to her that her little girl is in crisis. As a mother myself, this I can emphatically tell you.  I can personally take just about any hard knock, but nothing is more painful than watching my children hurt.  So knowing the depth of how that feels to me, I couldn’t bring myself to inflict pain in her life.

I summoned up my courage and dialed her number…BUSY!  Phew.  I’ll try her back later. Then I called my big sisters, my angels and you can imagine the wave of emotions this triggered for all of us.  Of course, they both knew this was a possibility.  Marcia was with me at the biopsy and I casually told Joan a few weeks ago.  But truthfully, since I thought it was nothing, I’m sure they did too. I can’t actually recall how I told them the devastating update. I can’t remember what was said, I was in such a cloud. I can only recall that there were many, many tears.  Then, thankfully, we were quickly able to make a plan to meet up.  Joan was due to be in OC that day for work, Marcia and I already had plans and miraculously we were able to pull together a spontaneous get together.  I really needed my sisters.  The only detail left was to reach my mom, so we could all meet up at her house.

Next, I contacted my friend Holly, who is like a sister to me.  She’s away visiting her daughter in Austin.  I had texted her the night before, but the time difference meant she didn’t receive word until early the next morning.   Thank God for FaceTime.  Seeing each other face to face was almost as good as her being here.  Few words were spoken…we just cried in disbelief.

Next,   I sprung into action! I got on the phone to call the doctors recommended by my general practitioner.  When you have cancer, you see both a surgeon and an oncologist. (Who knew? Certainly not me!) My GP Brandi gave me her recommendations for an oncologist, but hmmm, how do I find a surgeon.  Then it came to me…two of my prayer partners, Kim and Janet both rave about their breast specialist.  Maybe she’s an option!  Emboldened, I placed a call to Dr. Curcio, and to my great relief, I was able to get an appointment with her Tuesday of the next week.  Ok, surgeon, √.  Now for the oncologist.  I ended up making an appointment with Dr. Ein-Gal who, thankfully is in the same group, Breastlink, as my surgeon Dr. Curcio.  Later, I would learn that working within one practice is a life-saver.  More on that later!

Like the wind, I was out the door, picking up my records, dropping them off at my Breastlink, filling out the paperwork, wham bam, gettin’ this ball rollin.  Then on to meet  my sisters and my mom (who I finally did reach and took the news like the compassionate, strong, amazing champ that she is).  Let’s go, let’s run, let’s jam, and then we’ll go sit on the beach and digest all of this. Plan for the day, √ .

Meanwhile, my sweet husband was, of course, amazing: strong, unwavering, faithful, and loving.  I’m sad to say that that morning, my independent spirit was on overdrive and  I took off like a tornado to seize my day.  Greg’s response to me?  He sweetly gave me complete latitude to handle things in my own way. A big hug and a kiss and off I went!

Later that day when my sisters and Mom and I settled in together to sort things out under the sunshine and cool breezes of Salt Creek Beach, I was able to arrive at a place of peace…my cancer would undoubtedly be like my moms.  It was going to be hard, but I would have the surgery, get rid of the cancer and move on.

Then my mom offered a piece of advice that I will forever thank her for.  She gently reminded me that I am not the only one who is going through this crisis.

“Sandy, don’t forget. Greg is going through this pain as much as you are, maybe more so.  You’re the one who has the disease.  He’s the one who’s standing by watching his wife in crisis.”

Mom, you’ve given me some great pearls of wisdom throughout my life…this one was probably the greatest piece of advice ever.

At that moment, I realized how right you were and immediately recalibrated.  Unwavering, we will fight this battle together as one; the way it should be.  As always, thank you Mom.

What happened?

My story, about the way I discovered my breast cancer*, is in many ways, unremarkable.  But in other ways, it’s a MIRACLE.

Like all women should, I went for a mammogram.  No lump, no pain, no nothing.  As a matter of fact, I am the healthiest I’ve ever been (more on that coming, so stay tuned to learn about one of my MIRACLES.)

Shortly after the mammogram, I got a call back that I should return for an ultrasound, because they saw something questionable. “No big deal,” I thought, “women of my age frequently experience a change in their breast tissue.  And besides I feel GREAT.” So I went through the motions and returned for the ultrasound.  The results of the ultrasound were, “Hmm. We think we see something, but its vague, so we’ll keep an eye on it. Come back in 6 months.”  Okie dokie, no biggie.  Meanwhile, because my precious mom had breast cancer umpteen years ago (and yes, still going STRONG at age 87) the recommendation was that I get an MRI.  I balked at that.  You see, 2 years ago, it was also recommended that I get an MRI and there were NO concerns on my mammogram.  Simply, the AMA began recommending MRIs to anyone who had family history.  So, I THOUGHT, here they go again pushing the “money-making” MRIs on me. Oh geez…how annoying. :/

Since my daughter and I have a solid pact that we will hide nothing from each other, I told her all about these recent, seemingly benign events.  Her reaction, however, was far from “no worries, Mom.”  She FORCEFULLY told me to go get that MRI.  Do not delay, get it on the schedule NOW.  Well, frankly I didn’t share her urgency, but I acquiesced, because it was clear how important this was to her, and that was enough of a reason to me.

So I had the MRI, and the results were, again, “we THINK we see something,” but to be sure, we want you to come in for a biopsy.  So with my husband and my sister Marcia at my side, I went in for that biopsy.  Now, I’m a little more concerned, but still, I thought these are just the necessary steps and recall telling the few people that knew, that I was sure that the doctors were just being overly careful due to my family history.   Side bar, I thought the needle biopsy would be “easy cheesy”…hmm, not so much :/

So a week went by and I really didn’t think about it too much…until the call came in from my General Practitioner, who had received the lab report and called me, thinking the radiologist had already called me and she was just following up to see how I was doing.  GULP!   Things turned very serious, very fast.  Poor thing had to deliver, over the phone, the news that no one ever wants to receive: “Sandy I’m sorry to tell you, you have breast cancer.”

It was a good thing I was parked in my driveway, because the world around me started to spin and I couldn’t completely take in nor process this terrible news. Right before I talked my doctor, I had placed a call to my daughter Sarah in San Francisco, but she didn’t pick up.  So, right away she returned my call, unfortunately RIGHT after I hung up with my doctor, giving me NO opportunity to get ahold of myself and put on my happy, cheery Sandy voice.

“Mom. What’s wrong.”

“Um. Sarah.  I just got the call from my doctor.  It’s bad news.”

Then we both just sat on the phone in silence, both us not knowing how to process this.  We agreed to “press pause” and talk in a few minutes.  (She’s in the middle of her  busy work day and I’m frozen in my driveway.)

After only a few minutes, I called her back again and first thing, needed to tell her THANK YOU.  Because of my daughter being “Miss Bossy Pants” about the MRI, I learned about the cancer early. THAT WAS THE MIRACLE!  I shudder to think of what might have been, had I waited another 6 months to follow up the ultrasound.

What followed the rest of that night will always remain a very special memory for me. I called Greg, no answer.  I called Michael, no answer. Having just left my daughter-in-love Valerie, after a fun day of celebrating her birthday, I then called her.  Within minutes, Valerie was at my side, hugging me, praying with me, and knowing me so well, making me LAUGH.  “Sandy, of course this is awful, but look at the bright side: Maybe you’ll be able to get a new set of “CANS,” with no judgement (not many 56 year-olds get implants, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?)  Man, she had me rolling on the floor.

Soon, Greg and Michael returned home and together we processed, and talked about this shocking news, with me mostly crying and sometimes laughing.  (What an emotional burrito I was, and am!) The best time of all was spent praying together.  I thank God that HE was right there with us and that our first line of defense was, and is, to PRAY.

So that night I went to bed, stunned, but I quickly figured, this thing is early, my mom is still living life LARGE after all these years, and this thing will not be that bad…cut it out and let’s get on with my wonderful life!  Or so I thought…

  • please note: I will NOT capitalize the words breast cancer.  I refuse to let this be the biggest thing in my life.

A new chapter, a new adventure.

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Only 9 months ago, Greg and I were delighted to embark upon our epic month-long RV trip through California, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon and several beautiful destinations in Canada, including Calgary, Banf, Lake Louise and Victoria Island. We had a wonderful time together, waking up every morning with the thrill of wondering what would the day before us hold, and enjoying discovering every second of the unknown.

Little did we know then, that 9 months later, the open road ahead of us, as a couple, would be navigating the unfamiliar and scary territory of cancer.  This week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while I am the one whose body this affliction has invaded, it has attacked both of us, affecting us equally, both standing together in solidarity to seek God, define treatment and go forth together, doing whatever it takes to rid our lives of this terrible disease.

If you’re reading this now, you probably already know about this shocking development. If you didn’t know before, I’m sure you are quite surprised.  Believe me, to say this recent turn of events is jolting, is probably the understatement of the year.  But nevertheless, it is our new reality and we are dealing with it as best we can.

Why am I writing about this particular adventure in our blog, which was formerly focused on travel?  It occurs to me that our journey with cancer is really just another kind of adventure and in some ways, there are similarities:

We didn’t really know where we were headed then, (even though we had a general idea) and we don’t completely know now; where will the twists and turns of this journey take us? But this we do know: wherever we go, we go together and we have a deep and abiding faith that God will be with us every step of the way.

Greg and I want to personally invite you to travel with us.  Knowing we have incredible, loving family and friends who would like to know the details and receive updates, and anticipating that it will be difficult for us to thoroughly communicate with each of you by phone or email, we’re thinking this will be somewhere you can check in with us.  Also, I love to write, so I will enjoy creating a narrative that we will look back on some day when I am fully healed to remember the faith journey that this will undoubtedly be.

If you want, you can subscribe to receive an email alerting you when there is a new post,  Or you can check back on your own, whenever you want to see how we’re doing.  In either event, thank you so so much for your unwavering love, persistent prayers and overflowing support for me, for Greg and for our entire family.

Feel free to leave a comment…it will be such a blessing to hear from you!

We are so grateful for you!  We are sending lots of love to you!