November 17, 2011

Reconnecting With the Doctors!

Today was our first day back to appointments. We began at Lakeside Hospital this morning. Melissa had an ultrasound on her left breast. She felt a hard lump. The good news is that it was scar tissue from her previous fibroid cysts that were removed when she was 17 years old.

In the afternoon Melissa had blood work done at UNMC at Village Pointe. Her lab work was great!

Next was our appointment with Dr. Bierman, her oncologist. He felt her neck and underarm and said the lymphnodes are normal. He was pleased with all lab results too!

Dr. Maribeth, her oncologist nurse, hugged her and remarked how good she looks! Steve, Melissa, and I are thrilled. We feel so blessed! Melissa's next appointment is February 16, 2012. It will consist of lab work, a CT scan, and Dr. Bierman's appointment.

As we continue to pray for Melissa, we now add Aunt Sally! Sally is Steve's sister, Melissa's godmother. She was diagnosed this week with lung cancer, stage 4. The lung cancer has spread to her brain. Radiation treatments have already begun on her brain. Chemotherapy for the spot on her lung will begin November 30th. She, too, is going to UNMC for her treatments.

As the holidays approach, we thank God for the oncologists at UNMC, and for the prayers and support we receive from all of you!

Thank you!

September 25, 2011

Remission Celebration!

Time to Celebrate:)

Aimee, Matt, Melissa, Maggie, Steve
Fully Rely On God

What a beautiful day! Thank you to all who came and and also to those who were not able to come but were with us in spirit! Your prayers and support these past 8 months have been overwhelming! Melissa was so excited to celebrate and wanted everyone to join in! Matt and Aimee were here for the weekend. Marc and Nancy(Steve's sister and husband) were here from Missouri! Lots of family, friends, neighbors, sorority sisters....everyone joined in the fun! Thank you so much!!!!

Melissa and Maggie with Ed's delicious cupcakes!
 Melissa's Kappa Kappa Gamma Girls supporting her with "Team Melissa" shirts.
The back of the shirt says "Remission Accomplished"!

A beautiful day to celebrate!
Melissa, Steve and I are participating in a 12 week support group for cancer survivors and their care givers. It is called "A Time to Heal"; a program that is provided through grant funding. It started 2 weeks ago and has been very informative and enjoyable.

Melissa is teaching kindergarten and enjoying her students. She has found an apartment and that she will move in to next month. Steve and I , her "roomies" will miss her. Yet we are happy for Melissa as she continues to get her life back to normal!

Melissa's new class!
Celebrating River City Round Up!

Thank you for your continued support and prayers. November 17th is our next appointment with Dr. Bierman. I will continue to update the blog.

Hugs to all of you! Life is Good! God is Great!!

August 24, 2011

Remission! Remission! Remission!

Lab work---Great!
PET scan-- Great!
CT scan----Great!
Pulmonary test--Great!

Dr. Bierman said, "All scans look marvelous! Not one abnormal test!" Wow! I have been crying ever since! Her next appointment will be November 17th with Dr. Bierman. She will have lab work but no scans at that time.

Melissa is so excited....even her hair is growing! It is coming in wavy, just as it did when she was a little girl.

This is definitely a time for prayers of thanksgiving! We are so thankful for all of your prayers and support these past 7 months. Again...more tears of joy!

We are planning a remission party, Saturday, September 24th. It will be an Open House from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at our home. It will be very casual. Please come and celebrate with us!

REMISSION is the magical word!  We are truly blessed!

August 12, 2011

Anxiously Awaiting August 24th!

We met with Dr. Imbrock, the surgeon this past Tuesday. He examined the incision from the port removal surgery and all is healing nicely! Melissa continues to look forward to having all of this behind her!

 Melissa enjoyed her last week of summer by socializing with friends, shopping, and working out. Melissa has also been busy getting her kindergarten room ready.  As she was working at school one day this week, she ran into a kindergarten student from last year. The student hugged Melissa and said "Miss Maher you have real hair now, it's growing!". Melissa was so excited with the student's comment she hugged her once more!

Our next step is Wednesday, August 24th. Melissa will be at UNMC early that morning. It will be a whole day affair consumed with lab work, scans, and appointments. We are hoping and praying for all tests to be negative so we hear the magical words "Melissa is in remission". We will let you know the results once we have met with the doctors. Thank you for all of your support and prayers.

August 4, 2011

Chemo is Done! Port is Out! Scans to Come!

This morning was port removal surgery! It was quick.... done with a local numbing shot! Melissa was awake and alert during the procedure. She enjoyed visiting with Dr. Imbrock, the surgeon. Next week, we meet again with him for the follow-up appointment.

Melissa is now resting on the couch. Her left arm and shoulder will be out of commission for a few days.

Since chemo has ended and graduate classes are completed, Melissa has been busy getting ready for the new school year! We have been decorating the classroom, printing nametags, organizing her daily schedule, and making numerous trips to the "dollar bin" at Target!

We will let you know how next week's appointment goes. Please continue with your caring thoughts and prayers. August 24th is the scheduled day for all the tests and scans to be done.

We are blessed to have all of you in our life! Thank You!

July 18, 2011

Graduate School Completed!

Melissa completed 2 major goals this summer; all 12 chemo treatments are completed and so are all courses to earn her master's degree. Quite an accomplishment for her as she continues on this journey!

We all went to Indianapolis this past weekend to help Matt and Aimee move into their first home.

Aimee and Matt in front of their new home!

Aimee's parents, Ed and Lynne Helbig from Pittsburgh, also came to help. We worked hard, laughed, and even had a nice dinner out!

Steve, Ed and Matt working hard!

Aimee and Melissa assembling a table!

The Maher family

The Helbig family

Matt and Aimee surprised Melissa with balloons, crepe paper streamers, and signs to celebrate her masters. Ed and Lynne brought her 2 beautiful plants from Pittsburgh. It was a thoughtful, unexpected party...complete with a Dairy Queen cake!

 Sklyar helping Aimee with the decorations!

A celebration cake for: Masters completed, chemo completed, Steve, Aimee, Matt's birthdays, and a thank you for helping them move into their home!

A toast to family time well spent together!

We have the port removal surgery scheduled for Thursday, August 4th. One more item for Melissa to check off her list of "Things To Do"!  Steve's and my list remain the same....prayers and thank-yous to all of you for your continuous prayers and support.

July 8, 2011

Cancer Be Gong!

Ready.. Set..

 "Cancer Be Gong!"

Chemo treatment #12 is done! All of her treatments are now completed! We are so excited! Her positive attitude has been exemplary during her journey with Hodgkin's Lymphoma these past six months.

Melissa's blood work was good. White counts continue to be low but Dr. Bierman was okay with that. He said she looks great!

Steve had prepared a list of 15 questions for Dr. Bierman. When do we schedule the port removal surgery? He told us we could schedule it anytime. August 24th is the day for all  her tests and scans. If the port is removed before that day, the blood work will be done through her arm. As Melissa says, "No big deal! Let's schedule the port removal surgery before the school year starts!"

Another question asked, "What are the chances that Hodgkin's Lymphoma will return after treatment?" Chances are less than 50%. Melissa will periodically have scans during the next five years to check for Hodgkin's and also monitor her heart and lungs.

Blood counts should return to normal during the next few weeks.
Gradually Melissa will begin to physically feel better and stronger.
Her hair should begin to grow over the next few months.

Before our trip to UNMC, Melissa's friend, Shelby, stopped by to give her a book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Surviviors. It is a book of healing, hope, and inspirational messages. It is written with much humor, too. We shared it with Dr. Bierman.

Melissa's friend, Katie, made a special trip to the Med. Center during her lunch hour from work. She was there to hug and cheer with all of us during this final treatment.

Laura also came to visit, support, hug, and cheer Melissa during her last chemo treatment.

All of us were teary eyed as Melissa rang the gong!

 Katie and Melissa practicing her swing!
 Katie, Melissa, and Laura
Laura and Melissa in their purple!

Never, Never, Never will we stop cheering, praying, and thanking God, family, and friends for the continuous support for Melissa!

The video of Melissa hitting the gong! Enjoy!

We made it to the finish line!

I will continue to blog as our journey has not ended. Hugs to all of you!

June 26, 2011

Eleven and One!

Melissa had her 11th chemo treatment on Thursday instead of Friday this past week, Dr. Bierman was on vacation on Friday. We gladly moved it up to keep her on the same cycle schedule for the treatments.

Melissa's friend, Nicole, joined us at the  UNMC Cancer Center at Village Pointe. The nurses and staff were very nice. The two pharmacists came out to meet Melissa and introduced themselves as her "bartenders".

Melissa and Nicole

Melissa was able to go to two College World Series games this week.

Shelby and Melissa enjoying hot chocolate at the stormy Monday night CWS game.

Melissa and Katie at the Friday night CWS game.

On Saturday, Melissa attended a friend's wedding. Her hair is getting very thin and light, so she decided to wear her wig. Melissa's wig looks like her real hair! When Melissa came home, she took off her wig, looked at me, and said humorously, "I look like a drag queen with full make-up on and a sweaty head!"

One treatment to go! Friday, July 8th, will be her 12th chemo treatment. Melissa will have a battery of tests done six to eight weeks after chemo #12.   These tests are scheduled for Wednesday, August 24th. It will be a full day at UNMC. The day will conclude with a meeting with Dr. Bierman.We are hoping to get the results during our meeting. We will be praying that all tests are negative and that Melissa will be in remission!

Melissa's attitude is  positive and her faith is strong! Prayers are powerful! We thank you for all of your  prayers and support!

June 19, 2011

Unexpected Trip to the UNMC

Melissa has been feeling her heart race along with some heartburn this past week. Thursday morning, she called Dr. Bierman's office and told them of her unusual feelings. An appointment was set up for Melissa that afternoon.

Steve, Melissa, and I were at the Med Center for 5 hours on Thursday.  The doctors told us that heartburn is a common side effect from chemo. However, blood clots in the lungs is also a side effect from chemo. To be on the safe side the doctors took many tests. Melissa had her blood checked, an EKG and a CT scan. The tests came back clean! Blood is good! EKG is good! CT scan is good! Melissa has heartburn, not blood clots!!!

This is the first time, Melissa, our "healthy patient", has experienced any side effects. The doctor told us to get an over the counter heartburn medicine, Prilosec. On the way home, we made a quick trip to Walgreens to purchase the medication.

Melissa has also been working on her portfolio this week for the completion of her master's degree.

Two chemo treatments to go and two graduate classes to go! Melissa is anxious to cross both of these items off her "To Do" list.

Melissa continues to stay positive even as she experiences this "bump in the road" heartburn! She just keeps looking forward to the finish line.

Thank you for your continuous prayers and support!

June 13, 2011

Chemo #10 Completed!

Wow! 10 down...2 to go! Melissa is so ready to be done!

Friday morning on our drive to UNMC, Melissa's brother, Matt, called to let her know he's thinking of her. He also posed a question for Melissa. She laughed and said, I'll ask Dr. Bierman."

As always, she begins with her lab work. Melissa's blood work continues to be low due to the cumulative chemo treatments. Dr. Bierman is not concerned. He stated it is protocol to "push forward". Years ago that would not have been the case. Needless to say, Melissa is glad to have her treatment as she is getting closer to the finish line!

Melissa mentioned to Dr. Bierman that she has a punch card where she buys her running shoes. When Melissa purchases ten pairs, the next one is free. She wondered if Dr. Bierman has a punch card so that her next chemo treatment would be free. He smiled, shook his head and said no. That was the question Matt presented to Melissa in the car.

Melissa continues to do well. She and Steve are currently reading a book titled, "Chemo Brain". In the book, Melissa would be described as a "healthy patient"; free of many of the side effects of chemo.

We feel the power of prayer is working strongly in her favor. Melissa is in God's hands! We are so very thankful for our faith, family, and friends!

June 6, 2011

A Change of Pace!

Summer brings a change of pace for Melissa. This past week was calmer, less stressful; with time for her to relax and rest. Melissa took some long walks, attended a workshop for school, socialized with friends, and even had a night out with her mother! Melissa and I went to see the Broadway play, "Wicked". We had a wonderful time!

Yesterday, Steve, Melissa, and I went to the "National Cancer Survivors Day" celebration. We arrived late but balloons, t-shirts, canvas bags, and smiles were all apart of our experience.

The pace picks up today. Summer grad school begins today. Melissa plays on a sand volleyball team and has a game tonight. She has chemo #10 on Friday.

Melissa is amazing with all of her energy! As parents, we worry about all she does. I have learned to text her with a code, "Melissa, you know you have more than a head cold." She texts back, "I get it, Mom!" Fortunately, Melissa knows her body and when it needs to rest, she does! The couch, then, becomes her bestfriend as she takes a nap.

Prayers are our family's best friend so please continue to pray. Melissa continues to say, "I'm going to BEAT this!" We agree 100%!!!!

May 30, 2011

Chemo #9 Completed!

Friday, May 27th, Melissa completed her 9th chemo treatment. Dr. Bierman, her oncologist, asked Melissa when her school year will end. She responded with a huge smile, "The last day was yesterday. Today is my first day of summer vacation and I have chosen to spend it with you!" Dr. Bierman started laughing!

Melissa's bloodwork was "borderline" today. The doctor went ahead with the chemo treatment as scheduled. The nurse told us to watch for any fever or chills or other reactions. Why was the lab work "borderline"? We don't  know.....could be Melissa's head cold, stress, last minute paperwork for school, closing her classroom, or even the sadness of seeing her kindergarteners move on to first grade. All in all, Melissa has had alot on her plate these past two weeks.

Melissa relaxed this weekend at our cabin at Woodcliff. She walked around the lake, slept, went for a boat ride, and socialized with friends. It was very low key....just what the doctor would have ordered!

Melissa did ask Dr. Bierman about bug bites. What should she do? Should she be concerned? He responded that the bug would probably die due to all the chemo in her. We all laughed!

Melissa's summer consists of 2 major goals:
1. complete all her chemo treatments (12 total)
2. complete her master's program (9 hours left)

So....three more treatments to go to complete goal #1!
Summer school begins June 6th for her first graduate class. Melissa will be taking 3 classes this summer to complete goal #2!

God continues to bless Melissa with her strength, courage, and positive attitude. We continue to thank all of you for your prayers and support as her journey continues!

May 22, 2011

New Wheels!

Grandpa Maher is in town from Scottsdale, Arizona, and staying with us. We all love Grandpa...everyone loves Grandpa! Steve and I gave him a job as soon as he got to Omaha. That job was to help Melissa buy a car! He was to be her "bargaining" person. Melissa has been driving a '94 Honda the last 5 years. My sister, Kathy, had previously owned it. The car was 17 years old with 128,000 miles. Time for Melissa to buy!

Grandpa, (Tom), Steve, Melissa and I all went car shopping. Melissa purchased a Hyundai 2011 Tucson! She had her eye on this car model for the past month. Grandpa did a great job helping her. Now Melissa is in debt like everyone else. She sure is a happy poor person!

 Melissa and Grandpa

Melissa and Iris (named after the color of her new ride)
The school year, 2010-2011, will end this week. Many fun activities have been scheduled for the last few days. One of the activities this past week was  "Bug Day"! The kindergarteners participated in many hands-on lessons about bugs! They even made their own dirtcups (oreo cookie crumbs and gummy worms) for snack. We are so blessed that Melissa was able to continue her teaching this past semester. The classroom truly is her "happy place"! Life is good! God is great!

 Bug Day activities

 Bug Day activities

Bug Day activities
Kindergarten Quotes:
  • Kindergartener:"Miss Maher do worms have eyes?"  Melissa:"I'm not sure. We will have to google it." Kindergartener: " Well, there's our google question for the day!" Melissa is thinking she maybe using google's "words of wisdom" alittle too much in her classroom!  
  • After being a part of Girls on the Run a boy asked his mother "Can Miss Maher do a Boys on the Run? I would like to show her how fast I run!"

May 14, 2011

Two Thirds Done!

Yesterday was chemo treatment #8! Dr. Bierman walked into the room for her appointment and happily announced, "After today, Melissa, you will be two thirds done!" Melissa answered with a huge smile, "Yes!" Her blood counts were low due to her head cold. However, it did not stop the chemo treatment.

Today was the "Girls On The Run" race. Some of the Gretna girls, grade 3 thru 5, participated in a  5K run at Holmes Lake in Lincoln, Nebraska. There were 600 participants from Lincoln, Kearney, Hastings and Gretna. Melissa was the chairman for this activity for her school. However, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in late January, she had to ask one of the other volunteer teachers to take her place. Melissa practiced with these girls every Wednesday after school and continued to help with the program as much as she could.

Melissa greeting the girls from the bus

Melissa warming up the girls

It was a phenomenal day! The Governor of Nebraska spoke and declared "May 14th is officially called 'Girls On The Run Day' in the State of Nebraska!" Next, Melissa was asked to speak. She did a fantastic job of explaining how the program promotes inner beauty, builds self-esteem, positive self talk,  and having fun while exercising! Melissa then climbed a ladder to be the official starter for the race. She pushed the air horn button; the siren noise was loud and clear. The girls, coaches, and parents were off!

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman
Melissa's speech
Melissa starting the race
Steve and I drove her to Holmes Lake Park and watched from the sidelines. It was emotional to see these Gretna girls hugging, smiling, and huddling around her! Melissa was laughing and cheering them on! Not even 24 hours from having chemo treatment, and Melissa is there to support her girls! She is amazing!

Melissa and the girls

We attribute her positive attitude to all of her support and prayers that all of you send her way. We thank you so much! Enjoy the pictures! They speak for me as I share this emotional day with you!

May 8, 2011

Wonderful Chemo Free Weekend!

Melissa taught a unit on the farm and barn animals to her kindergarteners. They had a field trip on Thursday to Gifford farm in Bellevue, NE. This activity included a picnic lunch too! Another fun and educationally rewarding day for the children! Melissa had her hand sanitizer in her pocket ready to beat any and all germs! The students and Melissa were exhausted on the bus ride back to school.

Matt and Aimee came in for a very short weekend. Friday night, Steve, Melissa, Matt, Aimee, and I went to a surprise party for Matt's good friend, Scott. Scott's twin brother, Chris, and his wife flew in from California. Scott's wife, Beth, did a great job keeping the party and Chris's visit a secret! We all had fun !

Maggie, Steve, Melissa, Matt and Aimee

Saturday night we celebrated Mother's Day at our house. I created a Mexican theme for our family fun night. I made beef and chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, and a strawberry margarita pie for dessert. Steve was in charge of the drinks, including the "Skinny Girl" margaritas. After dinner, we played Mexican train; a domino game. Melissa laughed so much! It was the best treatment and good medicine that she could have! She and Matt kept each other laughing and telling stories all night! It was so good for Matt and Aimee to see how upbeat and positive she is! They both remarked how good Melissa looks. They were so happy they made the long trip in for such a short period of time!

Melissa, Matt and Aimee

Melissa is working at the Market Basket today for their Mother's Day brunch. Matt and Aimee left early for their 11 hour car ride home to Indianapolis. We all got our "family fix" of hugs, laughs, tears, and smiles! Thank you, God!

Tomorrow...a new day begins as we continue on Melissa's journey with her!

Kindergarten Quotes: Melissa's students wrote and drew pictures in writer's workshop on Friday about what they liked or learned at the farm.
  • "I like the pigs the best, one even peed in front of me!"
  • "I learned that cows give us lots of stuff!"
  • "I learned pigs can sunburn really easily. They are really lazy too, they just lay there."
  • "I like the the fuzz from the sheep. It's soft!"

May 1, 2011

Happy May Day!

Laura's Team in Training jersey

Laura and Danae before the race

What a cool, brisk Sunday morning for the Lincoln Marathon! Melissa's good friend, Laura, ran the half marathon in her honor! Laura and Danae were part of  "Team in Training" for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! Together these girls raised over $6000! It was fun and also an emotional time for us. Steve, Melissa, and I cheered Larua and Danae on as they ran in her honor! We are so proud of them!

Melissa cheering at mile 4
Melissa and Laura after the race
Danae, Melissa, and Laura after the race

Round 7 of chemo was completed on Friday. Melissa's lab work continues to be good. Dr. Bierman, her oncologist, and Maribeth, her nurse, enjoy seeing Melissa and her upbeat smile! They both remarked how great she looks!

We continue to pray and thank God for Melissa's positive attitude and her courageous strength to handle this disease! Steve and I thank you for your many prayers and continuous support. We are blessed to have all of you praying for Melissa!

Melissa and Laura