I was born May 5th 1967 in Spokane Washington, a fighter from the beginning as my heart stopped once on this day and my Mom’s heart stopped beating 3 times. Thankfully, the doctors managed to bring us both back around with no ill effects. Aside from this, I was a happy, healthy baby with not a care in the world until I was about 8 ½ months of age; then my whole world changed.
The day this all began was typical, my sister (who had just turned 8 almost 3 weeks before) was attempting to change my diaper. Mind you, back in 1968, it was cloth diapers with safety pins. So, she’s trying to fasten the safety pins and to her astonishment, she couldn’t get the diaper to go around me because my stomach was as hard as a rock and unforgiving. She immediately went out to tell our Mom what happened which brought Mom in a hurry to check out the situation. When she realized that she wasn’t able to pin my diaper on me either, she decided it was time for me to go to the hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, I was admitted and taken for tests. The doctor was clearly disturbed by his findings, but he nonetheless told my parents he believed I had cancer - possibly Neuroblastoma. (As it turns out, I ended up being diagnosed with Stage IV High Risk Neuroblastoma.) I was admitted to the hospital at 4 p.m. and my parents went home at 10 p.m. that night. This was on my Dad’s 37th birthday and I was in St. Luke’s Hospital. I was there from Monday the 22nd through early Saturday the 27th, when I was then transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center where my surgery was scheduled to happen on January 28th at 11:00 a.m.
Surgery took 3 hours, but I was under from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It took my right kidney and a 2 ½ pound tumor the size of a big man’s fist. My chemotherapy didn’t begin until the 5th of February. I can only say I know I had 5 series of shots, spaced at 2 day intervals (given the 5th, the 7th, the 9th, the 11th and the 13th of February) and it was 250 individual shots in the tops of both my hands to dissolve away what remained of the cancer on the outer lining of my stomach and on my left kidney. I do not know the name of the chemo drug I was given but I do know that my Mom asked how potent it was and my doctor (Dr. Chadwick F. Baxter) showed her. He held out his arm, exposing the starched white cuff of his shirt, allowed one drop to drip onto it and it ate right through the cuff of his shirt. My initial stay at these 2 hospitals was a combined 26 days, but all toll I was in the hospital for 110 days, with treatment, check ups, etc. until I was found to be NED in early 1969. I was literally caught teetering in the balance - would I live or would I die. Six people believed I wouldn't even see my 1st birthday, yet in May I marked my 47th birthday and unfortunately those 6 people are no longer here to share in it. I suppose I should also mention the fact that thanks to my parents, I donated to science before I even had any idea what science was; they donated my right kidney and the tumor to the University of Washington’s Medical Department for study. (So, hopefully, I’ve already had a hand in helping with the research toward finding a cure!) I am in this fight for life, childhood cancer has met its match and I can say I will not stop until there is a cure!
For me, advocacy and awareness wasn’t even on my agenda. In August ’08, I was invited to join the PAC2 (People Against Childhood cancer) website and as I became used to maneuvering through it, I began to get more comfortable. Not more comfortable with all I was reading, learning and being exposed to, but instead more comfortable with the people I was meeting there. That level of comfort allowed me to slowly open up with my own battle against Childhood cancer. About 2/3 of the way through January ’09, ‘The Story Room’ (an integral part of the PAC2 Forum) was in jeopardy of closing down and I couldn’t allow that to happen. On January 26 ’09, my story finally hit the internet where it could be seen and read by more people than I’d ever told before. THIS is the moment when everything fell into place and finally clicked with me.
Thus began the transformation of me: from quiet, somewhat reserved, unassuming Survivor to very vocal, outspoken, hardcore Advocate willing to do whatever it takes to help the kids & families who need to know they are not alone in this fight and that there is HOPE!!
In September ’09, my advocacy literally “took off.” Honestly up until 09-11-09, I’d NEVER even flown before, here’s what has happened since then:
~Sept ’09 - Scranton, PA - Aimee’s Army Childhood cancer Awareness Walk
~Dec ’09 - became one of the 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave
~April 17 ’10 - Lacey, WA - Rally Foundation’s Night Of Hope
~May 1 ’10 - Lebanon, TN - Hawk’s Walk & Fun Day
Sept ’10 - Los Angeles, CA - Inaugural 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave/St Baldrick’s Fdn Event, 46 Mommas internationally televised on Stand Up To cancer
Scranton, PA - Aimee’s Army Childhood cancer Awareness Walk
~Sept ’11 - Scranton, PA - Aimee’s Army Childhood cancer Awareness Walk *Washington DC - 2nd Annual 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave/St Baldrick’s Fdn Event
~July ’12 - Los Angeles, CA - 3rd Annual 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave/St Baldrick’s Fdn Event
~August ’12 - Medical Lake, WA - 3rd Annual Childhood cancer Awareness Walk (Clayton Schneider Fdn) - my 1st time there
~Sept ’12 - Los Angeles, CA - in audience for SU2c live
~June ’13 - San Antonio, TX - 4th Annual 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave/St Baldrick’s Fdn Event
~August ’13 - Medical Lake, WA - 4th Annual Childhood cancer Awareness Walk (Clayton Schneider Fdn) - my 2nd time there
~Sept ’13 - Aurora, CO - The 6th Annual Miracle Party (1st time there)
~Mid-March ’14 - Los Angeles, CA - LAFD/LAPD’s 11th Annual St Baldrick’s Fdn Shave Event - honored on stage as Long Term Survivor (over 46 Years)
~July ’14 - Boston, MA - 5th Annual 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave/St Baldrick’s Fdn Event (Met Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh, 40 yr Survivor Burkitt’s Lymphoma
Picture with Mayor Walsh featured below.
~August ’14 - Medical Lake, WA - 5th Annual Childhood cancer Awareness Walk (Clayton Schneider Fdn) - my 3rd time there
~Sept ’14 (pending) - Jackson, MS - 2nd Annual RUMBLE AGAINST CHILDHOOD CANCER!