February 26, 2011

What Life is All About

Melissa taught full days this week.Her energy level continues to keep up with her schedule. The staff continues to be outstanding with their help and support!

Melissa introduced the new hospital activity center she received from UNMC to her students this week. The children loved all the medical toys, plastic shots, stethoscopes, plastic gloves, etc. Melissa brought in stuffed animals to be their patients. The students made a class book of thank you's for the child life specialist at UNMC.

Melissa's class with their new doctor toys!

She met with her instructor from her graduate class on Tuesday evening. Later that same evening, Melissa met with her small group for their research project. Melissa is truly blessed with such special people in her life! Everyone is willing to help her keep her life as "normal" as possible.

Steve, too, has been helpful this week. Melissa's car battery died in the school parking lot on Thursday. He resumed his job as her chauffeur on Friday. Today he put a new battery in her car. Melissa now has her wheels back!

Melissa has handled chemo well! She is very tired but is also good about napping. Her hair has really begun thinning and shedding. She and I went hat shopping and bought a few stylin' caps! Melissa had a rash on her legs on Wednesday evening. We phoned the "on call" oncologist. Steve and I bought benadryl and zantac and the rash started to disappear within the hour. Amazing!!

We've had fun visiting with my cousin from Arizona, Mary Jo, and her mom, my Aunt Marion. We met my cousin Mark's wife, Pam and their daughters, Justine and Anna, for bagels this morning. Melissa, Justine, and Anna were in the same sorority at UNL. Melissa's friend Curtis, is in town from New York. His parents are also in town from Wisconsin. She went out to dinner with friends from the McCarthy Engineering group.

 The McCarthy Crew

Her "Aunt-Pac" continues to support her on a regular basis. Thank you Aunt Ginny, Aunt Kathy, Aunt Sally, and Aunt Nancy.

We thank all of you as we continue on this journey with Melissa. It truly is what life is all about!

February 19, 2011

Round 2 Completed!

Friday was lab work, meeting with Dr. Bierman, her oncologist, Mary Beth, the case worker, and having the chemo treatment. Dr. Bierman said the lymphnodes were smaller and her blood work looked good! He would continue the same chemo treatment of ABVD.

Steve, Melissa and Maggie

Melissa was reminded of common sense awareness.....good hand washing and to keep her distance from sick kids! She is very aware of the risk of infection! The next chemo treatments will be March 4th and March 18th. A second Pet Scan and Cat Scan will be March 25th. Keep the prayers going!

Melissa's friend, Meg, did the lab work. The two of them had fun visiting and chit chatting! Melissa's friend, Marnie, stopped by to visit while she was having chemo. Marnie is in her 3rd year of pharmacy school at UNMC. Both of these girls are college friends!

Melissa and Meg

Marnie, Melissa and Maggie

The child life specialist from UNMC met with Melissa briefly. She gave Melissa picture books to read to her students and hands-on materials for a hospital activity center in her classroom. Another fun opportunity for the children to learn!

This morning, Melissa, Steve, and I went to mass in honor of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer. This special mass is celebrated once a month at the Servants of Mary chapel at Marian High School. Melissa and I are both graduates and alums of Marian!

Prayers, Support, and Sunshine.......Life is Good! Thank you!

February 17, 2011

Day By Day

Melissa, Steve, and I continue to take one day at a time. Melissa's positive attitude keeps her and everyone around her going strong!

She taught school 3 full days this week. Kindergarten Round-Up for new parents was in the evening on Tuesday. She taught in the  morning, came home, rested, and then headed back to school for the parent meeting. Melissa is keeping life as normal as possible. Her energy is going full steam right now! We are so proud of her! 

Steve and I have officially completed the task of moving her out of her apartment. All her belongings are either in our home or packed and moved to a storage unit. My friend, Julie, and I played Cinderella today and cleaned the apartment! 

Tomorrow is Round 2 for chemo! Melissa is blessed that Renee, her wonderful para, is a certified teacher! Renee will be her sub when she has her treatments! This will make life easier for everyone!

Melissa and Renee

Melissa has been taking advantage of our nice weather and going for a few short walks! Fresh air and peace of mind does a body good! Keep all of us  in your prayers as we tackle tomorrow! 

February 12, 2011

Melissa's New Hairdo

This afternoon Melissa and I went to get her haircut. It was suggested to get it cut before the hair started to fall out from the chemo treatments.We were told it would be less traumatic for her!

 Melissa before the scissors

Linda, our dear friend, has been my sisters and our hair stylist for years! We all trust Linda! Melissa was nervous but told Linda to "Go At It!" She knew she was in good hands.

Wow! Look at all that hair!

Linda and Melissa after the scissors

End result--- Great! Melissa is very happy with her new "Hairdo"! She told Linda she is an artist! It looks beautiful! We all love it!

Chemo Free Friday

Another full day of school! Melissa did well this week. She completed conferences, taught a couple half days and 2 full days! She even walked on the treadmill Wednesday evening!

Her classroom is full of 5 and 6 year olds filled with excitement to learn! We are concerned with germs but there has been many preventions taken! The classroom has hand sanitizers, students are continually reminded to wash their hands, the tables are being cleaned with a disinfectent spray, the nurse is a regular visitor, and the custodial staff use a fogger in the evenings!

The kindergarteners had "hibernation" day! Many hands-on activities and lessons were taught about animals hibernating, migrating, and adapting to winter.

Melissa feels good being at work! Right now, it is her "Happy Place"!

Melissa enjoyed Friday evening with friends! She continues to be positive and strong!

I want to thank all of you for your caring thoughts, prayers, cards, phone calls, flowers, and more prayers! It is so overwhelming and so much appreciated! My sisters, Ginny and Kathy, and good friend, Julie, helped me pack and move most of her belongings to our home. Melissa is so appreciative of everyone's help! Thank you for your support as we travel on this journey!

February 9, 2011

First Full Day

Melissa taught the whole day today! She is so strong, positive, amazing, and dedicated to her classroom!

Steve lost his job as chauffeur----Melissa fired him! She is ready to drive tomorrow. Her plans are to teach part of the day, rest, and then go back to school for Parent-Teacher conferences.

Our meeting with Fr. Shane was wonderful yesterday! Melissa discussed her feelings from these past 10 days and how confident she is and wondered if that shows a reflection of her faith. Later that night she had a dream that her hair had fallen out. She saw herself with no hair. She realized it wasn't as scary as she feared! Melissa felt God was speaking to her and that it will all be okay! We all realize that we must Fully Rely On God (FROG)....an acronym we learned from the Novacek family! She then called us using her cell phone from the bedroom 20 feet down the hall at 1:45 a.m. to tell us all about her dream!

Looking forward to warmer weather and not having any treatment! We are going to try to do something fun every weekend that is chemo free!

February 7, 2011

Reality Hits!

Today, Melissa taught in the morning! Her kindergarten students were so happy to see her! She and I went to school yesterday and worked in her clasroom for a short time. I wanted her first time back after chemo to be as smooth as possible.  Her classroom looked fabulous! What a great sub!

Melissa teaching this morning.

The school counselor walked into the classroom to discuss with the children Melissa's illness. Melissa showed the children her wig and also her gauze bandage that covered her incision and the port. The little ones listened well and then proceeded to tell their own stories of being sick and how they throw up sometimes!:) The counselor brought in a stuffed teddy bear and plans to read "When Bear Gets Sick" on her next visit.

Melissa handled the morning beautifully! In fact, she has handled her first chemo treatment well. She tires easily. Melissa is learning her health has to become her priorty.The hard part for Melissa is to ease back from her classroom! She loves her job! She is learning that it is OKAY to ask for help.....and she is blessed with a staff who is so WILLING to help!

Tomorrow is Parent-Teacher Conferences. She plans to teach in the morning, rest in the afternoon, and then return later in the day for the conferences. Steve is her chauffeur as he is "Driving Miss Daisy" back and forth!

Besides resting in the afternoon, Steve, Melissa, and I have an appointment to meet with our parish pastor, Fr. Shane. Not only is he our pastor,but a very good friend. Melissa is so at ease with him and is looking forward to our visit. We are so blessed!   Thank you for all your prayers and support. We are taking it day by day and are grateful for all of you! Melissa loves knowing that everyone is there for her!!! Thank you!

February 5, 2011

Judgment Day

Friday, February 4
Melissa, Aimee, and I went to Bravados, the wig store, again today! Aimee was so helpful! Melissa chose one, ordered it, and also picked out a ball cap! Matt and Aimee generously paid for it all for her! Melissa yelled at them and then cried and hugged them.
In the afternoon, we met with her oncologist, Dr. Philip Bierman and her case worker, MaryBeth Hohenstein.  He agreed with the diagnosis from the biopsy – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 4. Her bone marrow tests, heart and lung tests were all good! We were so happy to hear that!
Melissa with her brother Matt
Me and Melissa
All of us!!  Aimee, Matt, Melissa, Me (Maggie) & Dad (Steve)
Matt & Aimee.  These guys drove eleven hours to be here with Melissa.  Brightened her day and lifted her spirits!!
Melissa began her first chemo treatment this afternoon.  Her treatment will be every other Friday for 2 months.  Then a Pet Scan to determine how the disease is going! If it is improving, she will continue another 4 months of the chemo treatment. If it is not improving, a more aggressive treatment will take place.
Throughout these past 10 days, the support of family and friends have been overwhelming! We thank all of you! Melissa is a strong, positive girl! Her faith in God is so strong! A very special friend, Mark, has been her guardian angel! He went to UNL with her, was a member of the same fraternity that Matt was in, and has always been a good friend. He had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 2, when he was at UNL. He had lost his hair while on treatment. The whole frat house, shaved their heads, including Matt, to show their support! Mark has been in remission for 5 years! Melissa contacted him last Friday to tell him of her diagnosis! He has been in contact with her daily! I call him my “wing man”!
Another wonderful support for her is a girl named Joelle who lives in Arizona.  She too, had Hodgkin’s and is a survivor! She and Melissa email daily and talk about ups and downs! Melissa is so appreciative!

Meeting the Oncologist

Wednesday, February 2
We met the oncologist.  Melissa was nervous and yet anxious to meet him! He examined her and knew it was not localized but advanced.  He said probably it was Stage 4 but he needed to look over all the tests that had been taken the day before. We met her case worker that would be working with her. Melissa had more blood drawn, a blood marrow test and an EKG.
Thursday, February 3
Melissa was at the Med Center for a heart test and a lung test.  We had a short break before having to be at Bergan for the outpatient surgery for her port. 
We decided to go to Bravados and look at wigs.  She found 2 she liked. We will go back again later.
Next was Bergan for the port! Surgery went well! She is exhausted from the past few days but positive and just wants to get everything rolling!
At 7:00pm our doorbell rang! It was Matt and Aimee from Indianapolis! What a wonderful surprise! Melissa and Matt are so close! It is fabulous to have him here! Aimee is so sweet! Melissa is so happy to have them here with her! We are all so happy to have them here.

Biopsy Results Are In

Friday, January 28
Results came back – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma!
We were all shocked! She had been being treated for scavies for the past month! Melissa is healthy, working out daily, running, and looks like the picture of health!
Monday, January 31
Monday was the follow-up from the biopsy from last week.  Doctor checked the incision and all looked well.  We scheduled surgery for a port for Thursday (2/3)
Tuesday, February 1
Melissa had a Pet Scan and Cat Scan. We were at the hospital for 5 hours for all the testing.

And the Journey Begins...

Late November
Melissa started itching and looked like she was developing a rash.
We started using over the counter creams to stop the itching.  Nothing was changing.
Glands on her neck started to swell.  Thought it was stress or mono. 
In December, had a blood test but all was clear! So we made an appointment with a dermatologist.  Melissa started January 3 going to a dermatologist.  He thought it was scavies.  So he treated her for scabies for a month – ointments, creams, antibiotics, but the itching did not stop.  It got worse! She had so many on her back.  Her lymph nodes on her neck, armpits, and groin were growing.  Dermatologist ordered a blood test, thinking infection from scavies was causing an infection in her body. 
Blood test, again, came out good.  After paying $140 in co-pays, rash and itching getting worse, glands continue to enlarge, it was time to call our dear, close friend who is a pediatrician. 
Monday, January 24
Steve and Melissa visited him.  He looked at all her itching and some of the enlarged lymph nodes.  He suggested an ultrasound.  We said fine!
Tuesday, January 25
Melissa had an ultrasound in the morning.  The radiologist, also a good friend of our family’s – suggested we see a surgeon and get a biopsy.  So we call our dear friend, the pediatrician, who is the radiologists’ father.  He was able to make an appointment with a surgeon for us!
Steve and Melissa went to the surgeon. He examined her and believed a biopsy would be a good idea.
Later that same day, Melissa had a biopsy.  He took a lymph node from the right groin area.  Results would be in on Friday (1/28).

Introduction to Melissa

We (Melissa, Maggie & Steve) decided to create this blog to share Melissa's new journey with family and friends.  Melissa has recently received the diagnosis of Stage Four Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  As you can imagine we are all still in complete shock.  Melissa's world has been turned upside down.  It's a true rollercoaster, with highs and lows.  Even with this bump in the road, my daughter manages to be upbeat and positive.  Her faith is so unbelievablly strong. 
"I'm going to beat this, Mom, I'm GOING to beat this" is what Melissa is always saying. :-)
Now let me tell you a little bit about our amazing daughter...

Melissa is a busy, bubbly and energetic 25 years old and is in her second year of teaching kindergarten at Squire John Thomas Elementary School.
  • She attends graduate school on Tuesday evenings, working towards her Masters Degree.
  • Melissa works part time on the weekends at the Market Basket.
  • And she runs, lifts weights and has a daily workout regimen.
  • In her spare time, she socializes with many friends and shops with her mom!
The staff at her school, which is in the Gretna Public School District, have been fabulous! Her Principal and Kindergarten team, along with many others are being so kind to her! They are helping with the classroom needs and lessons! Her chemo treatments will be every other Friday. She will have a sub on Friday, Monday and Tuesday of those particular weeks. If she does not need the sub on Monday or Tuesday, then the sub will easily be cancelled.

Melissa has been living out on her own for almost two years and has decided it would be best to move back home! Not sure if she is excited to have us as roommates, but we'll make it work!
As we speak, Steve, Matt and friends are moving her furniture. Steve and I, my sisters and friends will pack up the rest of her stuff! We are in no hurry! We will pack up and move things during the days while Melissa is teaching.

Since ALL of you are a part of our family, we want to keep you updated on Melissa's journey as much as possible.  However, feel free to continue to call us ANYTIME, as personal communication is still important and comforting to us.
It is our goal to keep you informed on details relating to Melissa. 
We welcome your support and prayers as we all join Melissa on her journey forward. 
She is not alone!