25/10/2017 - Teddi's Recovery: Week Two

Teddi's Recovery: Week Two

Hello friends and family! We have now made it through two weeks of hospital time since Teddi's surgery on 10 October. Moving on from my last update, we've had heaps of progress in her recovery. She has had a steady removal of all of her tubes, wires & miscellaneous connections at the rate of about 1 per day.  Out have come the neck ports, catheter, chest & abdomen drains, the drug button (PCA), the liquid nutrition... on & on it goes! :-)  

LEGO time in the ward

LEGO time in the ward

She's now had the X-ray scan of her stomach to check for any leaks - and the test was negative! So she has been able to have that evil NG tube removed, and transitioned through liquid & then onto solid meals!  Hooray! This also means that she's switched over to taking her medications orally, instead of via an IV. All of these things are small steps in the right direction - towards getting discharged from the hospital!

With the reductions in wires and her increasing intake of solid foods, we have seen daily progress in her strength and energy levels.  Teddi's spent some of that energy exploring the hospital, finding quiet spots to relax and even spending some time outside in the glorious Sydney spring sunshine.  This has enabled longer visits with our four-year old son Wyatt. They've become quite the master duo in building lego & advanced colouring projects!

It hasn't been all positive over the past week, with one minor setback: a low grade fever and re-insertion of a canula for IV antibiotics (#sadface), but you'll be happy to know that as of yesterday, she was back on track! Only 2 short days of a little extra help were needed - it looks as if we avoided the major setback an illness or infection would have entailed, phew! 

Given all of this excellent progress, we anticipate she'll be coming back to Bezzina House (where Wyatt and I are staying, across the road) in the next 1-2 days! Hooray! We can't wait to have her back in our little life & out of the sterile, crazy hospital ward

Some updates from Teddi over the past week:

Wyatt and I have been frequenting playgrounds, Macca's and toy stores, including one scream-filled failed attempt to go to the library (trust me, this single-parenting thing has been frustrating and exhausting at times!).  Wyatt has been desperate for some socialisation, and thankfully we've been able to find some other kids to play with in various settings over the past few days. These mini-adventures have given me some time to get a few things done at work, which was a relief!  This has been quite the mega-interruption to all my #BIGideas as you can imagine!

Looking forward, over the next week, we hope to have Teddi successfully escape the hospital ward.  She'll spend time back at Bezzina House (5-7 days) & even start to take some mini-adventures out into the real-world (you know, exciting things, like out to the supermarket!). One step at a time. One day at time. We continue to travel the winding path back towards our version of 'normal'.  

Once again, this time in the hospital has Teddi and I thinking a lot about our health, looking into the future and considering how we'll apply our time and energy in pursuit of it.  It is honestly quite depressing being around so many sick and unhappy people.  At times, strong auras of negativity enter the room and it can be quite overwhelming. While not all illness is within our sphere of control, our attitude/response to life is, and the things we spend our time and energy on are as well.  Here we feel reinvigorated to choose positivity & to choose the pursuit of a life full of whole foods, exercise & community. We hope to share some of our thoughts on these things over the coming days!

I'll update you again with news from Week 3! 

-Nick-


17/10/2017 - Teddi's Recovery: Week One (Days 5 & 6)

Teddi’s Recovery: Week One (Days 5 & 6)

Hints of normalcy returning

Hints of normalcy returning

It has now been one full week since Teddi’s surgery, and things are progressing as well as we could have hoped!  Not only have we been successful in #HealingTeddi of her cancer, but we have also seen a remarkable rate of recovery.  Over the past two days, since my last update, Teddi has had a big ‘perk up’ in her energy levels and alertness. Yesterday, she even requested I bring along her art magazines and art supplies! Hey now! Teddi’s back :-).  We’ve also had some Teddi - Wyatt coloring and drawing sessions, which are a wonderful hint of normalcy returning to our lives (Teddi arts with Wyatt, I wrestle him, team parenthood!).  

Yesterday, we reached a key milestone, her chemo treatments are finished! It was hard, particularly Day 3, but she did it!  This was something she had planned to dedicate mental fortitude to, and totally kicked ass at it.  Thanks to all of you for sending her encouragement! With the chemo done, she is down a few more connections.  Her chemo input was port removed yesterday (not fun at all unfortunately!), and the buckets attached to her abdominal drains were removed.  She now has them attached to bags for just 1-2 more days.  This makes her much more mobile and mean she might even get to take a shower soon and feel human again!.

Teddi's artwork, depicting her walking post surgery last time around. See more @teddiconfetti on Instagram. 

Teddi's artwork, depicting her walking post surgery last time around. See more @teddiconfetti on Instagram. 

None of you will be surprised to hear that Teddi has already been walking walking laps around the ICU2 ward. She did one lap on Day 5 and two yesterday (Day 6). A total badass! Go wifey! All of this progress has her cleared for the general ward, which is yet another victory for her.  But we’re in no hurry to get there as it is much quieter here in ICU2 :-).  Another positive note - her digestion has been waking back up, and in 3 days, she’ll have a test on her stomach to check the patch they had to give her during surgery. If all OK - she’ll lose the evil NG tube and start eating again - that’s our next key milestone, from my opinion!

Wyatt and I have been exploring local playgrounds and child friendly facilities. Currently Macca’s (McDonalds for all you Americans) is currently a close friend - free WiFi, cheap coffee and play areas FTW.  And many thanks to our friends back home who have been putting us in touch with Sydney connections. We have a few offers now for looking after Wyatt - which is so helpful! Thanks for that! 😀

It’s been a great first week of recovery. Looking ahead, let’s hope that stomach test goes well and that Teddi can start eating again. Next update, I hope to have good news on that front and some indication of when we might get to go HOME. Looking good folks!

-Nick-

14/10/2017 - Teddi’s Recovery: Days 3 and 4

Teddi’s Recovery: Days 3 and 4

Day 3

Healing reflexology hands for Teddi! :-)

Healing reflexology hands for Teddi! :-)

As you are all aware, Teddi has been moved ‘down’ to ICU2, meaning she required less intensity of care. A good step in the #HealingTeddi direction.  She also lost another wire, with the epidural coming out.  In this transition, her pain was well managed, which was a concern - so glad that went well! She was also able to resume her follow-up chemo treatments, which put the chemo into her abdominal space.  This was chemo treatment 2 of 5, and a blood transfusion made it possible - this made me conscious of a much needed thanks to everyone out there who gives blood

IMG_6784.JPG

When I arrived today, Teddi was sitting up a chair and talking on the phone with her brother, which was a great encouragement for her. I also noticed that she had started sending some text/facebook messages out - another encouraging sign of recovery.  Marching down the recovery route, we also received the go-ahead from the ICU doctors for Teddi’s reflexology treatment #1. These made a tangible difference last time, and we are very glad to have Verena back on the job!  (If you are coming to St. George for a peritonectomy surgery, I highly recommend these from about day 3 or 4 onwards).  She will have these every other day for the remainder of her stay in the hospital, thanks to all of you!  

Thanks to the reflexology and our awesome nurse, Teddi was able to get some very good rest/sleep on recovery Day 3 - which was really needed more than anything else! 

Day 4

When I came into visit Teddi on day 4 of recovery, she was finding chemo treatment 3 of 5 quite tough.  These treatments can be quite uncomfortable due to the volume of fluid in the abdomen, pressing in on all those organs that just saw some trauma. This has caused some nausea, but the nurses have been on top of the meds, keeping it to a minimum. 

On Day 4, two friends came to visit, which lifted her spirits.  I asked them to keep the visit short, and at ~20 minutes, and that worked out very well.  I think that 2 minutes feels like 10 minutes for her in conversation at the moment!  These lovely folks also brought some much needed survival tools including an eye mask and ear plugs! Thanks heaps!

The main reason for their visit was to bring Wyatt up to Sydney from Canberra.  Wyatt just wrapped up his one week stay with family friends in Canberra, and it has been a big week for the little guy!  But he has kept his appetite and it is clear that he enjoys all of the ’new’ toys and experiences such a week brings.  He has had all sort of extra care and kindness from his friends, teachers and families from his school.  We appreciate that very much!  

Obviously this whole cancer treatment process is a big event for a four year old boy.  I’ve been working on the explanation for what was going to occur for the past ~10 days.  I’ve explained to him from the start that momma had some ‘bad things in her tummy’ which were a ‘disease’ and that the doctors were going to do some 'hard working’ (a term he uses for focusing!) and get them all out. But this meant momma was going to be in the hospital for awhile and that he needed to go to a friends house for 6 sleeps.  After that, he’d get a car ride up to Sydney to be back with Ma and Da!

Now, Teddi is still in quite the state. I think she still has about 8-9 connections still in place, including some drains with some very interesting colors coming out. So this needed some prep!  I gave this some thought, and before his visit, I decided to work with him on drawing a picture of what Momma would look like. I also showed him pictures I took of the hospital room, machines and his momma sitting up in her chair. This seemed to really help. When we arrived, instead of being overwhelmed, he was confident and walked right in with his little gift bag.  Right away, he was already explaining what all the connections and machines were! The only mistake I made was forgetting his toy doctor kit at home! He was asking for it straight away!

Needless to say, Teddi was very happy and relieved to see him.  He took her some pictures that he drew, and made friends with all of the doctors and nurses (he had them giving him chocolates nearly straight away).  There were even some police officers there for him to interrogate - he made sure they knew that they needed to ‘drive really fast to catch the bad guys’. 

That’s all from us today. Right now, what Teddi needs is the strength to get through these last two chemo treatments - so aim encouragement in that direction.  We’ll have a quick uphill climb ahead once she gets through these. We should get #4 of 5 in today - if all goes well! I’m off to visit her soon.  

Last thing, Wyatt is headed to a friend’s house in Sydney for a birthday party today!  If there are any family friends Sydney-side over the next 2-3 weeks, let me know if you can help out with Wyatt for a few hours

Much love

-Nick- 


12/10/2017 - Teddi's Recovery: Day Two

The more of these we lose, the closer Teddi is to coming home!

The more of these we lose, the closer Teddi is to coming home!

More good news peeps - Teddi is down one more wired connection (each one is a step in the right direction!) and has been moved out of the ICU (1 nurse/patient) to the ICU2/HDU (1 nurse/two patients).  It is much quieter there, so we hope she'll get some sleep! She was a bit exhausted yesterday, but remains strong and upbeat, remarking on how much better she feels than she expected.

Yesterday, we had to skip a chemo treatment due to low blood count, but they will likely try again today (nuke the bastards!). This will be post surgery chemo treatment 2 of 5 - and will kill off any remaining tumour cells. 

Teddi's been able to get her phone back, so send her some LOVE - audio & video messages are best (but don't expect any replies or phone calls just yet! And try to make your message free of any questions that she has to reply to - send questions to me!).  This also means she can access entertainment and some distraction from the discomfort - hooray!  We've had a stack of folks offer external hard-drives full of media options - thanks heaps for your help

Her pain remains well controlled, and is most intense in her left diaphragm region, where they scraped away scarring/tumour.  She'll keep the epidural for a few more days, but then will transition to other pain management options - this could be a rough transition, so I'll be sure to stay on-top of the doctors.

On the topic of pain and comfort - she'll start reflexology massages today, which made a huge difference for her recovery and comfort last time. A GIANT thank-you to the close family friends who have donated some funds for these massages - you have made a tangible difference for Teddi during this difficult time!

-Nick-


11/10/2017 - Teddi's Recovery: Day One

Gratefulness Abounds!

Gratefulness Abounds!

"I feel so grateful"

Those were Teddi's words today, in the ICU.  Take that in for a second! A woman with more wired connections and tubes than the internet is feeling upbeat about life. Wow.  Well, what can I say? It was a good day!

I am totally exhausted after spending 9 hours in the ICU today, but write to you with an energized spirit.  Because, Teddi is doing very well with her recovery already. She remains alert, engaged and in good spirits. Her pain is well under control, she does not have nausea and is happily eating away at ice chips (we had to wait until week 3 for that last time!).  One nurse commented that she was doing 'awesome' for being only one day out from peritonectomy. Heck yeah! That's what we like to hear!


And that's not even the best part. Today, Prof. Morris used the word "cured" in describing their treatment of the disease.  That's right CURED.  Meaning that their team of experts is very confident they've seen the end of this. While there are no guarantees in lifewe could not ask for better news than that! They only found a few spots of additional disease in Teddi's pelvis, on her stomach and diaphragm, and were able to remove it all. No disease remains, and with the 5 days of follow-up chemo (nuke the bastards!), we've seen the end of this thing. 

That's exactly what we wanted. A little bit of #HealingTeddi  - it just took a bit more work than we first expected! 

I'll be back with some more specifics with tomorrow's post - I'm beat (just like Teddi's cancer- oh snap!).

-Nick-


10/10/2017 - Teddi's Surgery Day As It Happens

UPDATED 5:30PM Australian / 2:30AM US Eastern

Well, here we go again.  Teddi's surgery day. 

At least we have some idea of what to expect this time around, eh?

Throughout the day, I will be updating this blog post so that you all can follow along, as many of you will be quite anxious, I'm sure! Teddi is quite important to all of us, trust me, I totally get it :-) .

We have had a pleasant 48 hours leading up to this moment.  On Sunday, Wyatt was dropped off with a family friend (thanks heaps Monica and Stuart!) for the week, and then we road-tripped up to Sydney (without a four-year old in the car - magical!).  Yesterday, it was surgery prep day. Teddi was restricted to clear fluids (check out our Phò shots below!) and we spent the day in the hospital meeting with all of the doctors.  The most relevant conversations was with one of the surgical team members, who will be in the operating theatre today.  

He said, they never completely know what to expect about the extent of the progression of this disease, prior to opening up the patient.  This is because it is very difficult to see this type of tumour on CT scans - but we'll have a good idea of 'what's going on' when they give me a call this morning (approximately 10:30AM Australian Eastern Daylight Time).  Then, by this late afternoon/evening, we should also know the extent of the surgery required, which will give us a vague idea on how long Teddi will be in hospital (if we can avoid bowel resection, that's a big win!). 

Right now, its 5:55AM Australian Eastern Daylight Time, 2:55PM US Eastern. I'll be putting both timestamps on the updates today.


Surgery Day Updates

5:55AM (Australia)/2:55PM (US): Teddi is taking one last shower, and collecting herself for the day ahead.  We'll head over to the hospital in one hour to 'check-in' for the big day. I had a good night of rest and am chipper with my morning coffee.  I ask Teddi how she feels... "incapable of processing the crazy" - can't blame her! I do know one thing though - she is looking stronger and healthier than last time we did this, and I know we've both built up a toughness that makes us as 'ready' as we can be.

Surgery day selfie... has a romantic ring to it, no?

Surgery day selfie... has a romantic ring to it, no?

8:20AM (Australia)/5:20PM (US): Teddi has been carted off, once again lookin' fine in her surgical gown and stockings. From memory, this was the hardest part last time around, it didn't disappoint. Such difficult uncertainty and emotional challenge. The moment you've felt fear and anticipation of arrives. So crushingly poignant to watch her be wheeled away.  The surgical team was confident and ready to work their magic. I should hear from them in about two hours..


11:00AM (Australia)/8:00PM (US):  I have just been updated on Teddi's surgery from the (lovely) peritonectomy nurse Helen. She just called into the O.R. and was informed the procedure is going well, with no complications. At this stage, they are working in Teddi's pelvic region, and are removing the localised tumour material there. After they finish up here, they will move upward towards the diaphragm.  This includes the material on the left ovary and in the lower portion of her right pelvis. No word yet on whether the ovary was able to be saved.  Her PCI in this region is a 4, indicating there were 1-2 medium size tumours in each of those areas. I've attached a little diagram below to help this make sense.  The maximum possible score in the pelvis is 9.  They have confirmed she will be undergoing the follow-up chemotherapy, which is also good news. 

T peritonectomy pelvis.png

Estimated Next Update: Early Afternoon (Australia time)


2:35PM (Australia)/11:45PM (US):  Another update from Helen. Teddi's surgery is drawing to a close. They have finished the tumour removal/resection process and started her hot-chemo (HIPEC).  The report is that there was only a bit more disease on her diaphragm and nowhere else.  That's great news - but before we celebrate, let's wait for the "Big Update" from Prof. Morris, which I should get shortly. All looking very good folks! If there is no bowel resection, that should mean a speedier recovery than last time. I should be able to visit my sweet, beautiful wifey around 5-6PM this evening in the ICU.  More info soon!


5:30PM Australian / 2:30AM US Eastern: Teddi is now out of surgery!  She is also now finished with chemo and headed to the ICU.  It was a long day (the looongest day ever!!) and a long operation, with much of the time spent mobilising the scar tissue/adhesions from the last surgery, so as to be very thorough. This thoroughness/exploratory nature of the surgery was done with great attention to detail, so as to catch any of the tumour material.  Even after all that work, they only found a small amount of tumour on the diaphragm, with most of the recurrence limited to the uterus and left ovary.  Ladies and GentsThis is really positive news overall! 

She has had a full hysterectomy and the left ovary has been removed (don't worry, we have 5 embryos stored, thanks to all of your LOVE & support last time!). We knew ahead of time, that this was quite likely, and it is actually good, from a hormone replacement standpoint, for the uterus to be removed along with the left ovary (so says the gynecologist).  She has had to have one chest tube this time around, due to the diaphragm scraping.  Onto the best news - no bowel resection was required, so hopefully she'll be eating in a few days time.  That has a huge influence on recovery times. 

Go TEDDI! Blog update from the Kogarah Library!

Go TEDDI! Blog update from the Kogarah Library!

Last time, she had a lot of issues with pain management, which we raised with the pain team this time around. Thankfully, they listened and Teddi was given an epidural today. I think this is going to make a BIG difference for her comfort levels.  Thanks pain team!  We want Teddi drugged up & pain free!

We now expect Teddi to be in the ICU for the next 1-2 days. She is unlikely to be 'extubated' (taken off the ventilator) until tomorrow morning, but I will be off to see her soon anyway.  I don't mind a silly tube or wires sticking out - I need to go put some chapstick on those poor dry lips! 

I'll let you know how she's looking after I visit.


8:30PM Australian / 5:30AM US Eastern: I just visited with Teddi in the ICU.  She was awake and alert.  Her pain is under control - a huge win. I was able to communicate the success of the surgery to her, as well as apply that much needed lip balm.  She was telling jokes and doing blood pressure math for the ICU nurses, all whom had excellent bedside manner and abundant kindness. Things are good here folks. Thanks for being here for us during this wild ride! I don't know about you, but I am friggin' exhausted and glad this day is over!!

 

-Nick- 


7/10/2017 - Three Realizations from My Wife's Journey with Appendix Cancer

As I've prepared for Teddi's surgery next week, I've spent time reviewing our 2013-2014 blog entries, archived webpage material and packing lists from that period.  This has come about during a time where I've also been reaching back into pictures, video, journaling from the past several years of my life during a highly introspective two week holiday down at Broulee (NSW, Australia)This combined experience has led to some synthesis, some distillation of these life experiences into life principles and personal realizations. 

When I say, "realization" - I define this as a deep understanding, an epiphany of sorts. Not merely a philosophical thought process, but a re-programming of one's belief systems. Something, that when absorbed and processed, results in a different way of thinking about life, one that results in action, and resides in emotional conviction on a topic.  

I've come to several key realisations in my reflection over the past four years of this cancer journey, here I'm ready to share three of them...


Realization #1: We are not in control.  

The problem here, is that prior to truly realizing this, we really try to be in control.  We even largely think that we are able to be. This control gives rise to "should" and "should not" style division of the world, where we create resistance to life's unfolding.  But life's unfolding is actually a process far beyond our very limited ability to control it.  Therefore, in these efforts we are destined to be disappointed.  In fact, we are bound to create more upset, more problems, more internal turmoil, the more we believe we can control and the more we try to exert that control.  

Damn it life, do what I want you to already!

Damn it life, do what I want you to already!

This realization is an important one for me, as I used to be the type of person who wanted control life. Schedules, to do lists, plans, or the ability to adapt myself and my actions to control the way others felt about me, even into forcibly controlling my emotional reactions and responses to events.  But I’ve come to realize, through this cancer journey, how very little control we have over life, and so I've had to dig deep within myself to find a different energy. That energy is best referred to as surrender. Yielding to life's unfolding instead of resisting it. Saying “yes” where I'd like much prefer to say "hell no!".

This choice can be as simple as accepting the cold, frosty walk to the caravan park shower stalls on a cold, foggy Canberra winter morning - letting the freeze be just as it is, biting my fingers and stinging my toes.  Or as complex and nuanced as accepting that my wife has to have another peritonectomy. To change my attitude from one of control, to one of surrender, releases me from the real source of difficulty in these situations – the inner turmoil, the inner angst and frustration, stress and anxiety, even the rage and anger of “why?!”.

Wave the white flag, it's the only choice you actually have...

Wave the white flag, it's the only choice you actually have...

Of course, the paradox here, is that one's response (note I differentiate “response” here from “reaction”, meaning one actively involves their conscious thought patterns into the situation) to a situation like the frosty shower walk, or a car accident, or spilt coffee or the mother of all surgeries is the only thing one can control. And the best choice to make, is to forego the resistance, the struggle against what is, and let it be. Let it go. Don't force anything. Life's unfolding is beyond you. Whether you like it or not!

From here, we actually become self-empowered, collected, calm. "Okay I cannot change this, so I accept it, what now?” - this decision to surrender creates release with in us, release from the ickiest parts of it all - the angry parts, the upset parts, the hopeless parts, the “this is unfair!", "this is terrible!”. The continual onslaught of "life should/should not be _____" ongoing in our brains.  

With this decision to surrender, we can come back to the present moment, come back to life, as it is before we obsessed with changing or resisting that which we cannot control. This allows us to then look within ourselves, to find peace in our hearts, to process our true feelings and beliefs about the situation.  From this space, gives rise to creative energies that actually reveal to us what we can do about the situation we can't control. Such as seeing opportunities to transmute our suffering, or the suffering of others into powerful lessons about life, or messages of support to others going through similar life challenges!

So, Realization #1: We are not in control! We need instead surrender to life's unfolding. 


Realization #2: There is no answer to “Why?!” 

In the first realization, I came to understand our fundamental lack of control. This was neatly paired wth the inability to understand “why?!". Why is this happening to me? Why is my beautiful athletic, strong, health-conscious wife struck with such a terrible disease? Why does my son have to see his mother in such a state of pain and incapacitation? When Teddi's recurrence was revealed to me by Prof. Morris in April 2016, the “why?!" question was front and center. As I looked over my sleeping son and wife on the evening of his birth, after the trauma of discovering cancer during his C-section, “why?!" was understandably on my mind.

Question-mark-blackandwhite.png

While in 2013, my mind was filled with more thoughts of action than contemplation, my 2016 experience was different. The recurrence was a different type of blow – it struck deeper, it communed with the years of angst dreading follow up CT scans, as well as flashbacks of the trauma and terror of those five weeks in Sydney last time around. As I processed that news from Prof. Morris, as I communicated it to Teddi shortly thereafter, “why?!" resounded.

After delivering this news to Teddi, she headed across the street to talk things over with her friend and neighbor, at that time I found myself screaming “why?!” into a pillow, with tears of sadness for Teddi's pain, and of anger, denial and frustration that we had to do this all again. “Why?!”.  Shortly after those screams, I actually found myself on my knees in a prayer, in prostration to the Universe asking this question.  In that moment I had a profound experience, that I did not expect, I saw, at a deep level of understanding that the mind was completely and forevermore devoid of answers to this question.

Empty

Empty

While my planning, scheduling, control-loving left side of the brain could come up with heaps of answer to "what to do about it", I found my mind empty of answers to the question “why?!”. I saw then, that for the deep answers of meaning, purpose, understanding of existence – the mind could not save me. Silence, was the only answer it could give me. The resulting emptiness of the universe the only reply. In that moment, not a single thought arose. My mind, empty, open, thoughtless, as I waited for an answer - but the only answer for “why?!” was that silent mind.

I saw then, that this next challenge was all part of life's unfolding, not just out of my control, but also outside of my realm of comprehending. It is all as it is, and will be as it will be. There is no answer to “why?!”, as it is really, a silly human question. A silly human question whose answer, if it does exist, is so large, so complex, so voluminous, that I would never be able to fit it into my puny, finite brain

Realization #2: There is no answer to "Why?!", at least not one we can comprehend. So stop asking


Realization #3: Don't wait for “someday" to chase what’s in your heart.

When it comes to life, we have no guarantee that tomorrow will be there. This is said so often that it's almost cliché, but I cannot overstate how profound this is as a realization – As in, when that message becomes a part of your programming, when it is believed, and acted upon (as defined above!). For us, it took appendix cancer to reprogram our brains, our hearts, to really "get it" on this point.

Oh hey doc, didn't think I'd see you for a few more decades...

Oh hey doc, didn't think I'd see you for a few more decades...

Both of us were in our late 20s when it struck.  Cancer was not on our radar – it was that "maybe when I’m older" thought at most (note that two of my other close friends in their 20s got cancer in that same year!). But when it struck, it came with an acute sense of our mortality. Shit - we are not invincible, we are but mere mortals, and these bodily vessels have a limit to their use. An expiry date that can be unpredictable (beyond our control a la #1 above) – and strike for reasons bigger than we can understand (back to realization #2).

What's remarkable about our experience from 2013 – 2014, is just how deep that lesson sunk in. With it clear we had no guarantees, our mortality was acutely felt, and a transformative process was triggered in our lives. We no longer had the luxury of "someday", that elusive future state we all conveniently store our dreams up within, expecting we'll get around to opening it at some future date. The fundamental problem with this container of future possibility – is that it is just that – in the future, always. And our minds have a known evolutionary bias with that state of affairs - our future self stays in the future, our presents self stuck in perpetual inactive, half-assed pursuit of our dreams.

From this experience of cancer, what did we learn? To “do it". To get started. To write the checklist, create the goals, articulate the dream. NOW.  We realized that one should even take one step backwards - to a psych surf of your feelings, values, and deepest desires to figure out – what do I want from life? And how do I want to feel each day I have left? – And then go for it. Relentlessly. No excuses. Now.  

Teddi in her happy place

Teddi in her happy place

As a result of her cancer, Teddi has made incredible life changes since that March 2014 5 week stint in the hospital. She started a successful business, she quit her day job, she enrolled in art school.  All part of aligning her present self with that "someday" version  - for her, an artist, a palette in her hands and paint covered pants.  

Victory over the PhD!

Victory over the PhD!

Myself? I learned, somewhat vicariously, the same lessons - to go for it. For me, that meant to go BIG. To take my crazy, ambitious ideas and make them happen. That experience pushed me aggressively into finishing my PhD, and from there,  building up a #BIGideas research project for solar energy, even creating a start-up company to drive my research out into the real-world.  I found myself using the courage I learnt from our cancer journey to drive forward with bold ambition, with the absurd idea in my head of making a dent in the Universe with this short little life of mine.

As a family, we've also acted collectively upon this realization. We have taken the ski holiday we always wanted, the dream vacation to a tropical island in the Whitsundays.  We even sold off 95% of our belongings in a minimization frenzy driven by a family desire for peace and freedom.  In relentless pursuit of living a life aligned with our values. All of this made possible and driven by this third realization - that "someday" isn't guaranteed - unless you bring it to the "Now".  So take it from Teddi – don't wait to chase your dreams – learn from our experience, if you can! Because, if you've been paying attention (and I know you have!) - Life is out of control (#1),  inexplainable (#2) and unpredictable (#3). A trifecta of 'get 'er done' messaging, if you ask me. 


I've learned to live my life in recognition of these realizations & that has been completely transformative - in ways I think are really just getting started. I hope that they will benefit you in your own journey. Please feel free to share and/or comment below

More from me on these topics soon - I'm not done yet! :-)

-Nick-


6/10/2017 - Teddi's Surgery Date: 10 October 2017

Hello to all of the #HealingTeddi supporters!

As you likely are already aware, Teddi will unfortunately have to undergo a 2nd peritonectomy (same surgery as last time) next week, 10th October (2017).  Teddi’s latest scans (September 2017) were definitive that the small amount of tumor/disease they had detected in April 2016 was spreading.  

Although this news was at first incredibly upsetting and hard to take, we have reason to be optimistic about her future.  Thanks to the regular CT scans and blood testing, we’ve caught it early, and her surgical team believes there is much less disease to remove than last time.  We (including her oncologist) are optimistic that this could be the last of it, and that her recovery will be much less intense than last time. 

Teddi is feeling strong and ready to take on the challenge, and has been using her art to process her feelings. She’s posting that onto Instagram at @teddiconfetti. Please follow her there if you'd like to tune into her thoughts directly. 

Artwork from Teddi depicting her first walk around the hospital after the last surgery

Artwork from Teddi depicting her first walk around the hospital after the last surgery

 

I’m keeping everyone up to date on the surgery and recovery via this blog, with the home page http://nickengerer.org/healingteddi

Thanks for all of your support! We have already received tens of kinds messages.  Please tune into this blog for updates for further replies from me though, as I’ll not have the energy or attention to respond to individual messages over the next few weeks. I'll be focusing 100% on Teddi and making sure her health and pain are managed appropriately.

Much love,

-Nick-

29/9/2017 - Strong words from Teddi about the upcoming surgery

I wanted to share a social media post from Teddi onto the blog, to help convey her current state of mind on the impending treatment for her recurrence event


"Sorry this one is a little upsetting.. some of you may have noticed on my Facebook that I'm gearing up for another cancer beating battle. 
Here's the repost from my fb💞

Ok friends! Crazy things happening on this side of the world. Despite my best efforts, the tumor i have had for more than a year is no longer playing nice and has gotten bigger/spread to a few different spots in my abdomen. My surgical team has called to let me know that the risks of waiting now outweigh the risk of the big surgery (the mother of all surgeries.. don't google that one if you're faint of heart..) This is so much craziness. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all, but turn around time is going to be quick so I thought I would get the word out sooner than later. It's most likely going to be happening as soon as a week from Wednesday (depending on my health and ability to undergo the whole thing etc). Will keep you guys informed with the details as we know them. (Like for example, were now permanent residents of Australia and so all of my treatment should be covered this time! 🎉🇦🇺) Most importantly we are hoping for them to get every last tiny little cancerous cell out of me and that none of the nasty cells get caught up and "protected" by my scar tissue. I would also like to keep as many organs as possible.. 😅

There were a couple of years there after my last surgery where I had that serious ice-cold-water-down-the-spine fear of having to go through it all again. This moment was that thing in the back of my head that caused all the worry. But here we are and I feel really ready. I feel really strong and confident that I can boss this thing and make it through to the other side. 
Ive got an epic team of support and an epic team of docs and surgeons behind me and I'm ready to do this. I just really think this disease messed with the wrong girl. 💪🏼 If I could make a request. One of the biggest lessons I've learned from this ordeal is to stop putting things off. Whatever it is, no excuses, just do it now. 🐻🎉"

Read more, see Teddi's artwork & follow Teddi (@teddiconfetti) at: https://www.instagram.com/teddiconfetti/

The above artwork is a depiction of one of Teddi's tumours, removed during our son's cesarian section in September 2013. 

The above artwork is a depiction of one of Teddi's tumours, removed during our son's cesarian section in September 2013. 

Read more about that September 2013 ordeal in the "Round 1" blog posts.


29/9/2017 - After a year of uncertainty, surgery is now certain

#HealingTeddi Round 2

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Over the past 12-14 months, Teddi's treatment team in Sydney, have been monitoring Teddi's condition closely.  In September 2016, after the poor scan results, delivered in April 2016, we thought we were only a few weeks from surgery.  But a brutal flu season struck NSW and overwhelmed the ICU, pushing the surgery back a few weeks. So we decided to have another CT scan to follow-up.

Interestingly, that scan revealed that the localised tumour recurrence had actually gotten smaller.  This was unexpected, and led to our decision to watch and wait and see what happened.  Given the invasive surgical procedure, big recovery times and the localised nature of the disease, this was a smart move.

However, we've moved past that watch & wait stage. The latest results are definitive, showing clearly that Teddi needs to have another peritonectomy in order to halt the progression of the disease. Thankfully, the indications from the treatment team are that this next surgery and follow-up chemotherapy could be the end of it!

It is simply exceptionally difficult to get every single pseudomyxoma cell in the first go. There are tens of thousands to millions of sites where the tumours have attached to internal organs/peritoneum.  Last time, we clearly got 99% of them - but not all of the bastards.  3.5 years later, there will be far fewer to deal with, and with them removed, we have great hopes of Teddi having a long happy life, cancer free far into the future!

At this stage, we expect that we will have a surgery date for Teddi in mid-October. This is progressing quickly, from a period of relative inactivity.  From here on out, I will use this blog to keep you informed. 

If you want to have a better understanding of this disease and context for our story, be sure to read up on part 1 of this journey. I think you'll be impressed with just how tough Teddi is - she'll be back on the mend in no time at all. (Look where she was 3 months post surgery last time!)

-Nick-