Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hope Next Exit - April 3rd + Surgery Update

The party is back on and is scheduled for Saturday, April 3rd. If we are connected on Facebook, you are probably already aware. If we are connected on Twitter and you happened to be online in the 5 minute span I tweeted this, you are probably already aware. If we are not connected via these two means, the dilemma is how to share the news. We have all these amazing technologies to communicate but there are so many of them. As such, my last approach is to create a blog entry to give you the details then go to FB, Twitter, personal email and work email and blast out the link.
Our first attempt at the celebration was postponed and, as it turns out, with good reason. The most important reason was that Crea needed a little more time to heal. I was a little ambitious with wanting to do something for her and failed to take into consideration the party was only 1.5 weeks after major surgery. This shows signs of good husband and bad husband all at the same time. The other reason is that it was pouring when we would have had this celebration. I know many would have battled the weather but it just didn't feel right to Crea and I. The reason we are all to get together feels like a very SUNNY occasion. Sitting inside to avoid the rain did not seem to fit the bill. Personally, if we all sat outside in the rain.....that would fit the bill for me but I am certain I am alone with this thought process.

I can tell I might be slightly long winded here so let me give you the details first:

When: April 3, 2010
Where: 1047 Berkeley Street, Santa Monica (any issues, call my cell at 310.863.9607)
Why: To celebrate a new cancer free life for Crea and the clearing of another hurdle for our family.
Why: To make strides towards finding a cure for Cancer so that one day we no longer need to hear of the losses created by such a horrible disease.

Kids are welcome by the way. If enough interest, we will try to provide a sitter on site and my do some Easter egg hunt to keep the kids entertained (leaving religion out of the hunt in case Easter isn't your thing....just something fun for the kids)
There is an event created on Facebook. Feel free to connect with me (Christopher Wilno) on Facebook and I will officially invite you there or the invite is public so you should be able to find it under the name HOPE NEXT EXIT - CANCER BEATEN . This link might also take you there:

Anyway, by now you probably understand the nature of the party. It is first a celebration and second a fundraiser. I will talk about Crea's procedure briefly below but this party is to honor my wife's second battle with cancer that was won on February 24th. We have an amazing space thanks to our good friends Nick and Jon who have opened their house to us. As a side note, Nick is currently a survivor thanks to the drug Gleevac. We met on a run with Team in Training where I learned after he kicked my butt that he was on this drug that literally saved his life. We will have a lot of food. We will have a lot of drink featuring a stocked bar and bartenders to serve you. If you know me.....there will most definitely be dessert.....a lot of dessert. Later in the evening S'mores will make an appearance at the fire pit outside where pictures must be taken and posted to Facebook and Twitter. In addition to the outside fire pit, there is a great deck on top of the house, a pool room, etc, etc. We will be playing music throughout the house for your listening pleasure. Most importantly, Crea will be there and she will be there cancer free.

The secondary point of this party is an attempt to raise money to fight cancer. All of you know my father passed away from a blood cancer. Crea was next on the target list but cancer lost this battle. On the guest list there are many stories tied to cancer. One of my very good friends has his wife currently battling stage 4 cancer......a battle that currently doesn't portray a happy ending. My good friend is watching his Mom battle non Hodgkin's lymphoma....a blood cancer without a cure. My good friend battled cancer 4 times, won each time, ended up with a weakened heart....had a heart transplant and I stood in Malibu as he crossed the finish line an athlete. The stories go on and on and on and on. Some happy. Some sad. All warranting that we fight on their behalf. So, if you are so inclined, we are suggesting $20 per person at the door. You can give more, you can give less and you certainly do not have to give anything at all. There will be baskets around the house if you want to donate. Nobody will be collecting at the door. WHETHER YOU DONATE OR NOT, PLEASE COME EAT AND DRINK AS MUCH AS YOU WANT AND STAY WITH US FOR THE EVENING. Many of you have already made very generous donations and it is all greatly appreciated. To date, I have raised $15,000 to honor Crea's battle and help fight cancer. Since joining Team in training, I have raised $65,000 to honor Crea, my Dad, my daughter Isabella and all the stories I have heard over the years. I owe all of this to amazing friends and family. I am not creative. I just write letters and emails and you guys respond in an amazing way.........I guess I do train a little too.

Another way to help is to buy raffle tickets which we will have at the party as well. They are $20 each. Currently the plan is to sell 250 tickets and then cut it off for a drawing. Prizes as of now are an HP Media Smart Server, and Acer netbook, an autographed football, Target gift card, Starbucks Gift Card and a Kodak Pocket Video Camera. Some of these items were donated and I bought some of them. That is the skinny on the party. It would mean the world to us if you can make it to celebrate with us. Friends and family were such a part of this journey and we would like to end this segment of the journey (while praying the trip is over) with a bang.
Now to give you some brief details of the day and how it transpired. We arrived at Cedars Sinai at 10am. I should say Crea arrived at 10am. While the hospital is amazing, the parking situation is not so amazing. It took several lots and 30 minutes before I gave up and parked at the Beverly Center and raced back. Shortly after I made it back to Crea we had to head to imaging for an ultrasound of the affected area. The picture at the right is Crea and I waiting for the docs to come for the ultrasound. This ultrasound was to look for the cancerous nodes and nodules and mark a path for the surgeon so he could more easily get to the cancerous area. One approach is to actually inject die in the node but, as it turns out, this was not the chosen path. The approach chosen was to simply mark the skin with X's indicated affected areas.

After a few minutes, the ultrasound was underway. I am not sure but it seemed like I was more nervous than Crea. I am not sure why but I think it stems back to the loss of my daughter. I remember clearly sitting in the hospital while an ultrasound was performed searching for a heartbeat that was never found. Ever since that moment I have not been the biggest fan of the ultrasound. In this instance, however, the ultrasound was serving a great purpose. The doctor was able to find 5 Lymph nodes and/or nodules. One was in the thyroid bed itself and the others were to the right of the bed. One X marked the spot of the nodule in the bed. Two X's marked the beginning and end to the area containing the other 4 nodules. Once we were done here we actually headed over to the waiting room where Crea would be admitted for surgery. I would say the mood was pleasant but tense. Crea is an incredibly strong person........I would say far stronger than I in certain capacities. If she was nervous........she certainly wasn't showing it. Just prior to Crea being called back for surgery we were able to take this next photo. I posted it online so you may have already seen it. You can see the X's that I refer to above. Looks like a tattoo gone bad but a very useful tattoo it was.

At this point, Crea was being prepared for surgery and I was in 'sit and wait' mode. The wait was to see her one last time before going under and to speak with the surgeon clarifying time expectations. While in reality, not much time had felt like hours before I was told I could go back and see Crea. She was certainly ready for her gown all set up for an IV... which helped bring the reality of everything to further clarity. Crea was still as calm as could be. The surgeon came in. He seemed calm and confident and that was very reassuring. He walked us through details of the procedure and told me that he hoped to be complete with surgery by 4pm and that, if he wasnt complete, he would send somebody out to provide me an update. At this point, it was time to say our 'See You Later's' which we did. I was then off to the Theater of Good News To Come.........which if you follow me on Twitter know is what I call the waiting room. Also if you follow me on Twitter, you know I was not in the theater long for I needed food. I headed to the cafeteria to take in some calories and more importantly kill some time to keep my brain from going on overload. I ate and tweeted. Everyone on Facebook and Twitter were AMAZING!! These guys talked to me all day and helped me get through some tough hours. I like to laugh my way through everything so I doubt my nerves showed in CyberSpace but truthfully, 4pm couldn't come soon enough for me. After food, I went back to the TOGNTC (the theater) where Crea's Mom arrived. I updated her with what I knew and how the day would play out and then sat to do some work. While half of me was offended I was working, the other half was thankful for something to take my mind off things. We were very near month end at work and I took some time to make sure everyone on my team was going to earn their bonus and, if not, figure a way how to get them there. Other than this, I dont remember too much except for some HORRIBLE coffee I drank in the theater. Once 3 o'clock rolled around, I just finished wipin' my car down.........sorry, Summertime by Will Smith just jumped into my head (yes I know it is 6 oclock in the song). Once 3 o'clock rolled around, I just finished .......Damn. I did it again. Okay, at 3pm, it was time to put down the work. I checked out FB and Twitter to kill some time but I was just waiting for the doc. I remember the theater was full of people. I have always said to remember people's names and to know their story. I wondered what stories were in this room. I had met a few folks and wished them all well. I could tell some stories were happy.......some sad.......same as the real world outside the hospital walls.

The clock strikes 3:45 and the surgeon shows up........early!!! I guess I could have assumed early was bad but I took this as a good sign. The surgeon said everything went great. The marks on Crea's neck aided tremendously. He was able to find everything.......although he did find a few more than the five........and he was able to do so without harming the vocal chords which was certainly a risk to the surgery. The other risk was harming a parathyroid gland and he felt confident that all was well related to this. We all have 4 parathyroid glands.........they produce Calcium. Crea had one harmed in her first bout with cancer so she is living with 3....which is fine. If another got harmed........she would still be okay but would be on some heavy doses of vitamins the rest of her life. I remember hopping on my iPhone to tweet the news. I believe I wrote "Cage Match Over - Cancer Beaten" or something similar. Within seconds, I had so many responses from FB and Twitter friends. The support was truly overwhelming. I appreciate you guys so much. Some are friends of many years and some are folks Crea and I have never met. Either way, Crea and I never felt alone through the process and to have everyone share the joy of the moment was incredible!
Anyway more time passed and then Crea's Mom and I were allowed back. Crea will kill me for posting this picture but this was what I walked into. It gets me a little upset even seeing it today. She was so out of it and in pain. Tough to watch when you can not really do too much to help. After some time here, Crea was moved to her own room (we were in post op here) to settle in for the evening. Once there and settled in.........I hate to admit it but I fell asleep for 2 hours while she remained awake. The release of stress from everything being over and having gone well made my eyes extremely heavy. To shorten the story from here, Crea was released the next day. She was very tired and very sore and spent most of her time resting..........and catching up with Lost Season 5 so we can watch the final season together. A week or so later she was back at the doc having her stitches removed. At this appointment we also received the news that 7 nodes/nodules had been removed. Of the seven, six were cancerous. The doc was very confident that he removed it all. This isn't to say it wont come back but the odds of a return keep decreasing as time goes by. Crea is technically considered in remission at this point.

So, that is our story. The next blog will have pictures from the party of people and s'mores. After that this blog will probably head a different direction but stay in the spirit of Good Plus One. I will focus more on running and my experiences with Team in Training, my beliefs that 26.2 miles can change your life and my belief that blessings come from even the worst of times. Until then, I hope to see you at the party!!!!
In case you are not at the party and want to make a donation, you can click on the link at the top left of this blog. If you would rather go directly to my fundraising page, the link to there is as follows:

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