Leigh's sister Lynnie, here:
On behalf of the Fortson family, I'd like to express my deepest thanks to all of you who have continued to visit Torchlight with your donations and notes of support. You are making a huge difference, and we appreciate you so much!
With love and gratitude from us all.
Leigh's sister, Lynnie here...
Leigh's memorial service will be held on Monday, December 16, at 7 pm in The Great Room at the Two Rivers Winery and Chateau. The address is 2087 Broadway, Grand Junction, Colorado 81507.
We all thank you for your continued support.
Leigh's sisters, Leslie and Lynnie here"¦
We are in awe of how many people have supported Leigh during the course of her life, and, in the aftermath of her passing, continue to offer comfort to those of us in her family. What a blessing Torch has been to us all! What a blessing you are, too.
Leigh was a devoted and passionate wife, mother, friend and advocate who taught us so much about curiosity, creativity, tenacity, compassion and the faith to overcome life's obstacles. God knows she had her share!
Ed, Tucker, and Lyric have shown sustained courage and resilience during this difficult time of transition. For you who have known people who have had to deal with a prolonged illness in the family, especially when there is hospitalization at the end, you are probably aware that once the person transitions from this life, there are outstanding bills and expenses that need to be finalized. Also, there is a big adjustment the family is walking through having lost Leigh's income.
Your generous donations made a huge difference in maintaining the best available treatments for Leigh.
It's hard to ask when you have already given so much, but if you are so inclined to donate something in memory of Leigh, your donations will assist the Fortson family to recalibrate and bridge the short term financial adjustments they are navigating.
Will you join us in keeping Torchlight aglow? Let's gather around the Fortsons and show them we are keeping them in this circle of loving light by offering this gesture of support.
With love and heartfelt thanks to you,
Leslie and Lynnie
Hello Dear Friends, Leigh's husband Ed here.
I must let you know that Leigh passed away this morning (Sunday) at 8:26 a.m. I was fortunate to be by her side and I can tell you that she went painlessly and very peacefully.
It's important for you all to know that her cancer did not take her. Thanks to your amazing, awe inspiring generosity, Leigh was able to find cancer therapies and treatments that prolonged her life and helped vastly improve the quality of her life.
Ironically, the bug that got her had nothing to do with cancer. A bacterial infection called necrotizing faciitis, also known as flesh eating bacteria, attacked her, apparently through a cut in her heel. It spread astonishingly quickly. She was symptom-free last Friday, October 25. On Saturday she noticed a little swelling and tenderness in her left leg. By Sunday afternoon, her knee was badly swollen and she couldn't put weight on the foot. We went to the doctor Monday morning. By Monday night after tests and x-rays, she was called into emergency surgery, where the surgeon quickly determined that the infection was already so far advanced that it was inoperable and terminal.
The doctors said Leigh wouldn't live more than a day or two. But they don't know her. There's not a more courageous, tougher human being on the planet. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the doctors were scratching their heads and admiring her incredible strength and resolve.
Eventually the infection weakened her and she lost consciousness. But the infection never diminished her spirit. And this morning, she transitioned during the solar eclipse - just as her beloved astrologer Dulce said she would.
Please know how deeply she - and I, Tucker, and Lyric - appreciate your magnificent generosity. You not only allowed Leigh to extend her own life, but you also allowed her to continue helping others who, like her, are involved in that mysterious, mercurial, demanding dance called cancer.
We will all miss Leigh terribly, but we are also deeply inspired by her spirit, courage, tenacity and boundlessness of heart. Please continue to send your love, prayers and good thoughts to Leigh as she makes her way onward on her spiritual journey.
Thank you all so very, very much.
Dear friends and family of Leigh--Moira here. Please send Leigh and her family--Ed, Tucker, Lyric, Lynn, and Leslie--all your love, light, and prayers; illuminate her journey with your love.
Hello to All of You that I love:
The long silence since the last letter is simply a reflection of what's going on with me. I'm waiting. I'm in limbo. I'm on an island called "Not Yet."
Essentially, what that means is that I'm continuing my work with Dr. Winters (Nasha) in Durango. She supplies me with supplements that are keeping me afloat. I'm also working with a local MD who has an open mind for alternative cancer treatments. He administers vitamin C to me twice a week and is there to answer questions. There's also a doc in San Francisco who has been hugely helpful. Fortunately, the three of them pretty much agree on the protocol I'm on. It's comforting to know they're all on the same page.
The cost of the supplements and vitamin treatments add up to about $2000 per month. It's because of you that I can maintain my work with these doctors.
What they're providing is good, but I need more. And that's where residing on the island of "Not Yet" comes in. I need a clinical trial and finding the right fit doesn't come easily. Meanwhile, I'm anemic and have low iron. I've had one blood transfusion which hasn't made that much difference. I have another next week. Given those things, I'm amazed that I feel as good as I do on most days.
I'm now also working with a local oncologist. I was pleased to discover that he's pretty open minded to the alternative stuff I do. He doesn't believe in them, but he knows they're not harming me, so he's ok with them.
I'm really glad to have this guy on my team. He's semi-retired, calm, a good listener and he agrees with me that priority one is to find a good trial. Maybe there's a boat approaching the island after all!
It's hard to know, though, given how long it's taken to get all of my records to MD Anderson. I first requested them a month ago. All this time I thought it was the local hospital falling short on the job. Yesterday, it was revealed that MD Anderson has had the records since early October.
Now I wait for the nurses to go through everything and make sure they have what they need. Then they take them to a doc who examines the records to determine if I qualify going down there. Once I go do there, they talk with me about what they think would be good treatment for me. I suspect they'll be unhappy that I don't want any chemo in the trial. But even my oncologist here in GJ said, "You must know by now that chemo doesn't work well for most people with your type of cancer." I didn't know that, but now I do.
So, that's the story of waiting. Thank God I'm pretty functional, although it's best for me to take about a two hour nap every day.
The family is doing well, although we had to put our 15 year old dog, Gradie, down the other day. Very sad. But other than that, Lyric claims to hate school but she's doing well anyway. Tucker is thriving still at CSU. Eddie's work load has picked up. And I'm dutifully going to all my doc appointments, resting when necessary, working part time, soaking up the warm sun while it lasts, and counting my blessings, of which I have many.
My healing fund is almost depleted, so if you find a spare buck "˜r two under the bed, I will accept it gratefully"”dust bunnies and all. Thank you in advance for whatever you can give. It will help me in so many ways.
Sending love to everyone, especially my family in Estes Park who were so deeply impacted by the floods. Love to you in droves. And love to everyone else in bundles.
Dear Friends and Family:
I know there's been a long silence on my end, and I'm sorry about that. It might be better if I wrote more often. But I've been absorbed in researching clinical trials, getting on a whole new set of supplements, working, being a mom and wife (at least I'm trying!) and spending time inside with all the complexities of my situation.
First, I did go to Denver to check out a clinical trial that sounded perfect. It involved a pill, a weekly visit to Denver, and that's it. But after the long drive over the mountains, we were told in about 60 seconds that I wasn't eligible because the tumor is squeezing the ureter, the tube between the kidney and bladder. The one side effect they have discovered from this trial drug was kidney problems. They didn't want to take a chance on me.
Since I'm loathe to doing "shock and awe" chemo as the Denver doctor suggested (admitting that it would be very hard on me since I'm frail now), Eddie and I left the office feeling deeply unsatisfied. The doctor also said that I should get a stent put in the ureter or else I wouldn't be eligible for any other trials. That seems presumptuous, but I'm checking it out. Most of the gab on the internet says that it hurts really badly after inserted. I need no more pain.
My doctor, Nasha, suggested I talk to a urological oncologist at MD Anderson in Houston about how to make sure that a stent could be properly inserted so as to avoid the pain. She's on vacation now, and I can't find his email"¦so I'm on hold for that.
Today, I had a conversation with a progressive doctor out of San Francisco who is also naturopathic. He had some suggestions for me based on some blood work. But in the end, he recommended that I find a good oncologist at MD Anderson who could be my advocate and feed me the latest clinical trials. It's true that it's an overwhelming task to keep up with. So, I will talk to Nasha about it soon and get her take, but that's probably what I'll do.
There are newer treatments, like the pill in Denver, referred to as targeted therapy. They go straight to the cancer and leave the rest of your body alone. That sounds a whole lot better to me than chemo that blasts at your immune system and good cells. So, I'm trusting there will be some targeted therapy trials that I can try. Indeed, I'm banking on it.
I'm a little blue here today as things are moving slowly, and uncertainty rules the day. But I'm not always blue. I've been enjoying this Seattle-like weather we've had the past few days after 90+ degrees over the past month or so. I was visited by some very dear friends whom I haven't seen in seven years, and we laughed and talked and it wasn't all about cancer! What a wonderful relief! Then I went to Telluride for a night to be with them during film festival and catch a film or two.
Meanwhile, Lyric's got such a busy schedule between school, helping manage the boys tennis team and her job. Oh, and then there's her social life. Tucker says he's really busy at CSU but it's good. He sounds great. Eddie is hanging in there and sweet as pie to me. I have a wonderful community who is always ready to help, although I'm a bit of a hermit most of the time.
Thank you so much for your donations. With travel upcoming and all that comes with that, I will most definitely need the support. I couldn't do this without you. I hope you know that.
I'll keep you posted. Sending my love to everyone.
Dear Angels: You are angels. THANK YOU. I am blown away by the generous response and gifts you have given to my fund. The relief I'm feeling is huge.
Because of you, I have met my financial goal at this site, but I can't stop now, as you can imagine. I think we can continue with this specific site, but we may have to start another one; it depends on the rules they impart. Regardless, thank you from every fiber of my heart.
Next step, I'm going to find a treatment that enables me to operate with a good quality of life and I'm going to toast every one of you every single day of my life. So when you feel a sudden gush of love and you can't quite figure out where it came from, it's from me.
Being in a solo retreat for the last few weeks here at New Smyrna has been good for me. I'm feeling ready now to embark on the next leg of whatever's necessary to get well. I know it may not be easy, but it's what I have to do and I'm ready.
I even went to the beach the other day (I really don't like sand and the ocean scares me and I can't go in anyway since my leg can't negotiate the tide) and it was nice! I'm planning on going back today as long as it's not too hot. I don't get why people like heat and humidity. Takes all kinds.
I'm rambling, but happy. This is really just a thank you for supporting me. I'll keep you posted about what I find and where I will go.
I love you.
Dearest Friends and Family:
Yes, it's been a while since I've updated this site. The silence was actually good news. Back in May, my cancer numbers dropped so far that it was cause for celebration. I was feeling pretty good"”other than the ongoing pain which we are still trying to figure out. Oh, it was a good feeling.
But last month, the cancer numbers tripled. After a CT scan, we saw that the tumor is growing. Not fast and not much, although that depends on which doctor is interpreting the scan. It has grown anywhere from 2/10 of a cm to 2 cm. Either way, this growth has occurred in the past year. This is discouraging news. It means that all the chemo I did in Phoenix didn't shrink the tumor, although it may have kept it from growing. Unfortunately, at this point, it seems to be taking the direction of invading the pelvic floor.
Dr. Winters, my most amazing doc in Durango, ordered a biopsy and has sent the tissue to a lab that will test both chemical and out-of-the-box substances on the tissue to see what kills it. We will also be sending blood to a lab in Greece that does similar testing. Between the two, we're hoping/trusting/praying that one or more solutions will show up.
I spoke to Dr. Winters today who said she's been doing a lot of research and has tapped knowledge from all of her resources. One of them is a doctor at MD Anderson who has a penchant for doing things less invasively. He has given her the names of several places that are doing clinical trials for vaccines. They make them from your own cancer tissue. There are places both in the US and Europe doing this stuff, and the approach has been showing some good results.
Dr. Winters has sent me all the information and asked me to look through it to see what seems most plausible to me. Clinical trials are free to the patient, so that's appealing. Established labs who do it aren't free, and I don't know if they take insurance. I have my research cut out for me.
Meanwhile, Dr. Winters continues to have me on a number of powerful supplements with the intention of waking up my immune system so it can start doing its job of destroying the cancer. I can spend up to $1000 per month on those.
This has been a difficult jolt for me and my family. Things were going so well, but no one knows why those numbers decided to spike. All we can do at this point is our best to find an effective treatment. Why it has never been suggested to me before to do these tests, I'll never know. Tell anyone you know who gets a cancer diagnosis"”the first time"”to have the tests done. If we can determine what's effective in the very beginning, it could save so much heartache.
Throughout my ongoing walk through this jungle, people have asked what they could do to help. There are only two things: Donations to this site and prayer. I need both.
I know that many of you have given and given and given again. If you can no longer give, then please use whatever spiritual powers you possess to put in a good word for finding a treatment that will enable me to have a quality of life while destroying the cancer.
I have no idea what kind of financial demands will be asked of me in the coming weeks and months. I know that the tests in Greece are $3000. If I don't get on a clinical trial, who knows. If I have to travel, then there's that expense. It's pretty daunting and exhausting to think about.
Any amount is deeply appreciated. It feels crass to ask for your support this way, but this is indeed the best thing you could do to help.
Meanwhile, I'm writing this to you from New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Lyric was accepted into and given a scholarship to a writing retreat for teens here. This is a national conference, but only 21 students are accepted. I came down with her on airline passes given to us by a friend.
Unfortunately, stand-by isn't what it used to be, and it took us 36 hours in Atlanta and Charlotte to finally make it to Orlando, our destination. But we finally made it and Lyric is safely sequestered in a lovely setting at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and I in a quaint motel within a mile of the beach. It's hot, muggy and raining here. But I have time to meditate on my next moves; read; relax and build my reserves for the next leg of this "¦ walk through the jungle.
Thank you for your love and support. I take it deeply into my heart. It helps sustain me. Truly.
Love to you all. With eternal gratitude.
Dear Friends and Dear Family:
It's been a while since I've written. I apologize for not keeping in closer touch. I'm in a bit of a hibernation cycle right now which is keeping me curled up in my life with little reaching out.
Lots of changes going on. I am no longer going to Phoenix to get treatments, which is both a huge relief and a little unnerving. My numbers were good last time they checked my blood, so the protocol was working. The bad news, however, is that I could no longer sustain the (minimum) cost of $10,000 per month. Even with your generous support and selling as many resources as I could (I won't sell the house, thank you very much), it was no longer doable. I trust the docs down there and would highly recommend them to people. But the cost"”even with some insurance reimbursement"”just got unbearable. And so, I am movnig on.
Which has led me to the very competent care of Dr. Nasha Winters, whom you met in my last update. Yes, she's the one who took us to Hawaii. She's a brilliant Naturopathic Oncologist who practices in Durango, about 3.5 hours from here. She's got me on a rigorous program of supplements, IV treatments, shots of B12 and more. She also draws blood once a month and will monitor me in the same way the Phoenix guys did. But her protocol will cost me less than $2000 per month. With your continued help, and by the Grace of God, I'll be able to do this for the long haul.
I feel incredibly blessed to have Nasha in my court. She knows what she's doing and has plenty of success stories to back it. I love her holistic approach and feel that she's on to things that no one else has ever broached in my years of dealing with cancer. I am confident that we will make progress. It may be slow, but it will be steady. And both of us are committed with all of our hearts to make sure I stay on a forward moving path.
That said, it's been a rough month for me. A friend died of the same type of leukemia that my Mom had. He was only about 38. We didn't hang out a lot together, but we shared this special journey together. He also sought alternative treatment as the prognosis with that kind of cancer is only a few months according to oncologists. He went to Mexico for treatments and was still doing yoga nearly a year later. But he had complications from Crohn's disease which were prompted by the cancer treatments. In the end, his body couldn't take it anymore. And so he left. It's never easy to lose someone with whom you share something unique.
And then there's this pain thing I have going on. Prior to my last cancer diagnosis in July of 2012, I was diagnosed with something called RSD, or these days it's called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It's a nasty and completely perplexing pain condition that no one can figure out. There's no physical reason for it and currently no cure. It happens typically after surgery or an injury. People of every age get it. And I can tell you, it's a nightmare.
I experience pain in my left leg, the same one that's impacted by the tumor. From my butt to my baby toe. If you've ever ridden bike and fallen on the pavement, it feels like road rash coupled with a deep ache. Because of this, I have gratitude for narcotics.
The pain subsided last fall and I was doing pretty well until about five weeks ago when I started wearing a brace on my foot to correct its weird position. When muscles are awakened that haven't been used in a while, the RSD kicks in. Think about hitting your thumb with a hammer"¦you know how it hurts really badly for a minute, then starts to subside? Well, with this condition, the pain doesn't subside. It stays at its peak and won't stop. The brain gets a pain pattern stuck in there and doesn't know how to shut down. The brace sparked the pain and now"”even if I don't wear it"”the pain is relentless.
The good news is that when I awake in the morning, it's not terrible. But by night time"¦ oh dear.
Anyway, that's why I'm hibernating. It's what's required to gather my strength and go through this. I am starting an intensive program this month with micro current and acupuncture to try to break that pain pattern. I'm also trying some new drugs and"”I can't believe I'm saying this"”I'm going to get a medical marijuana card! I hate being stoned, but Nasha says there are tinctures that won't affect my mind, but will definitely help with the pain. I'm game for anything. I'm trusting that all these things will bring me through.
All in all, it's great to be home and not have to go to Phoenix. I'm working and still very much enjoy my job. I love my home, my backyard, the view, my dogs, my shedding cats, being around Lyric in these crazy teen-age years. It's wonderful to have coffee with Eddie in the morning and cuddle with him at night. He's an incredible support for me in every single way. I don't know how I would make it through this without him. So yes, all in all, it's good. A rough patch for sure, but because I am surrounded by love, because I feel so much love from my friends and family, because love is all that matters, life is still good.
Thank you for your ongoing support. I maintain the intention of reaching my goal on this website, so I'm not going to stop asking for support from those who can give until that's been met. Please know that I ask with such gratitude, such amazing thanks for you in my life. Wish I could give each and every one of you a hug. But that will have to wait until I see you next. Be prepared"¦
Until then, know that the love in my heart spills over to you.
With that, I send you wishes for all good things.
Hello my most wonderful family and friends!
It's hard to relay how grateful I am for your continued support. It's hard to say the thank yous that actually reflect the thanks I feel inside. Maybe that's why it can be hard for me to post on this site. It's awkward, in a way, to need your help. It's uncomfortable to continue to need it. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but I've not yet been given the green light by the docs in Phoenix. We don't know how long it will take. It will take as long as it takes, that's all.
The last report on my blood work wasn't bad but it wasn't great. Things were stagnant. I had been dealing with a series of viruses and they believe that's likely why things hadn't improved more. Their advice: stick with the treatments"¦stay the course.
So, I will continue to venture down to Phoenix every ten days. Much better than weekly, but not as good as twice a month. Now I'm back at work 20 hours per week, so my time is all taken up. So is my energy. The good news is that I get to work at home which means I can actually capture the 10 hours of sleep I need each night. I'm so grateful to my colleagues at CSU for allowing this.
The greatest news I can share is that in January, I went to Maui for two weeks to co-facilitate a retreat for women with cancer. All expenses were paid, and so was I! I have written about it and posted it on both my Embrace Release Heal and personal Facebook page. If you're not a Facebook person, drop me a line and I'll send it to you (firstname.lastname@example.org). It will tell you a good bit about what I learned from the doctor who created the event and invited me to help out. I can, without hesitation, say that it was one of the most magical, educational and healing experiences of my life.
I want to share just a piece of it here; I'll tell you why after you read it:
Another hike occurred on our last day. We went to the Rad Sands beach. It's not a long hike; an able-bodied person could probably do it in under 20 minutes. But this hike is steep and in places, a scary climb with cliffs that fall 20 or 30 feet down to the ocean or rocky beaches. The miniature, slippery rocks under our feet were playing with miniature pine cones that Steve said were like ball bearings"”all adding up to very intense climbing.
The scenario was the same on this hike. Someone in front and someone behind me. When the path was wide enough, someone was at my side with a steady hand to hold. I did well, stayed present. One foot in front of the other. And at one point, laughing so hard with Nasha as our shoes slid down the hill and we caught ourselves butt-gliding only to catch ourselves with available trees. That wasn't near the cliffs though, or we wouldn't have been laughing.
The beach itself is stunning. Red sands, indeed. There's a cove where people can swim that is protected by a ledge of steep rocks that keeps the ocean out. But there is one open mouth at the far end of the rocks where the ocean feeds into the cove. It has to be a daring soul who ventures out of the mouth and into the muscular undertows and waves of the ocean. I hear there are souls who thrive on such adventures. Not me, thank you very much. Not even with two strong legs and a life preserver.
I sat on the beach watching my new tribe swim in the cove. I didn't have the legs to negotiate waves, so I was happily perched taking photos of the others. They all went deeper into the cove and at one point one of the women got very close to the mouth and rocks that lead to the ocean's torrent.
In seconds it became clear that she was in jeopardy. Steve, a strong and confident swimmer, ran into the water and raced to her, while the other women who were already fairly far out there must have heard an internal alarm. And then I witnessed something beautiful. All of a sudden, as if orchestrated by a universal and urgent tug, every other woman, no matter where she was swimming, headed to the one in danger. Their little heads bobbed and their swift, hurried movements all convened around her all at once, helping her to safer waters. I was stunned by the timing, the certain magnetic movement to their new friend. It reminded me of birds in the sky flying one way, then suddenly turning in another direction all at once. They fly in perfect synch to a flow that draws them all at once. All at once.
She was shaken, but fine.
That's what happens in life, isn't it? When we're in need, those who love us show up. There's an invisible field of energy and its broadcast through the field (plus social media helps) that there's a need. Love takes us there. It's just what we do. All at once.
That is what I feel happens at this site. I was somehow sucked too close to the mouth of the rocks and undertow which threatened to carry me away. Moira felt the tug of alarm and responded by creating this site. Each of you has also responded by contributing to the current that is bringing me back to safe waters.
All at once, I feel carried and I believe I will make it to shore.
Thank you. A million times thank you. I wonder how I can repay you and then I know I cannot. All I know is that I love you"”even those of you I have never met"”I love you for sending your loving energy, financial gifts, and belief in me so that I can see the shore, even feel my toes tickling the sand of the ocean floor. Thank you for whatever you have or can give, and for helping me to be less afraid of that the enormous and mighty body of water out there.
If you haven't done so yet, and if you are so inclined, please post the Torchlight site on your Facebook page. There have been so many generous people who have donated that way.
I am humbled and grateful. I hope this finds you in as warm an embrace as you have given to me.
From Leigh's friend, Cindy:
Living life to the fullest, loving with arms wide open and bringing laughter and lightness to our times together. These beautiful things are a small part of what Leigh has taught me and brought to our relationship. I'm sure she has done this and more for many others.
I write this to express my gratitude for her and all she has contributed and to try and return some of the many blessings she has given me. Please join me in supporting her on her current journey by donating any amount to continue her path of healing.
It's Leigh's Birthday! Let's light 1,000 candles"¦
Hi! It's sister, Lynnie. To celebrate February 7th, and continue supporting her brilliant life, I have an idea:
For each dollar you contribute to Torchlight, consider it a candle on her cyber cake. To honor her 55th birthday, I would love to witness the glow of 1,000 candles here by midnight, as a way of continuing Torch's light-filled recovery and healing.
Think of how a single candle - emerging from the darkness - can impact your life. It can provide hope, comfort, tenderness, intimacy, guidance, sanctuary, and companionship.
It can become a focal point, inviting a peaceful, meditative state.
Let us all take a moment today to meditate on the light of Leigh's life, and how we can strengthen it by continuing to support this campaign. Will you join me as we light these 1, 000 candles?
Even the smallest donation will illuminate this day for Leigh.
Here. I'll start the trend with 100 candles.
Happy birthday, dearest one.
February 1, 2013
Leigh's and my memories of our first meeting differ. But the essence of each memory is the same. We met at the city park with our children. The" ah-ah" conversation occurred while Leigh was pushing 2 year old Lyric in a swing and next to her I was pushing 2 year old Jared. We discovered that both of our families had recently moved to Grand Junction. She asked me if I liked it. I replied that it was okay, just difficult to make friends. When she agreed, we looked at one another, sized each other up and thought, "Maybe." Older mom, short hair, physically fit, bright. Over our next couple of times together we made our friendship a resounding yes. We shared interests in books, political ideals, parenting, health, spirit, dogs, cats, and hikes. And enough differences to have lively discussions.
Fast forward 14 years. Lyric and Jared now 16 remain good friends. Tucker is at college. We are still married to our husbands. We talk on the phone 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes daily. Leigh has written and published a book. I've moved across the state and returned. I've changed jobs. Leigh's mom died. I lost a job.
But what makes this friendship different is that Leigh is living with her fourth cancer diagnosis. I've seen her frightened and overwhelmed and all I had to offer was presence and love. I've seen her feeling strong and confident and I offered my confidence in return. During her interior journey as she tries to make sense of it and allows herself to surrender to the process, I also see that she never loses her determination to be healthy again. And why? Because life is such a joyous miraculous gift, full of love and surprises and heartache. And she continues to participate in it to the fullest.
One thing that is incredibly difficult for Leigh is to leave her family and fly to Phoenix every 7-10 days for cancer treatments. Not only is it physically and emotionally demanding, it is a financial hardship. She needs our financial support. Dollars from friends, acquaintances and strangers are essential to continue the treatments.
If you know of anyone who might appreciate the journey that she's on, even if they don't know her, someone who might be inclined to contribute, please send them this along with the website: www.gofundme.com/Torchlight
It's amazing how many people have given to her who don't even know her. That's because she's walking a path we can all relate to; either because we've been there, we know someone who has been there, or we know that we, too, might someday be there. In a way, we're all in this together
Leigh is now in Hawaii as a facilitator in a women and cancer retreat. She is learning about food as medicine, breathing as medicine, and the overall atmosphere of our bodies that can offset our health and create disease. She is teaching about the importance of self love, play and fun, and creativity. There is lots she can share upon her return. So our investments aren't lost. They will be given back as she shares what she's learned and can help us navigate our own paths if and when we need it.
Thank you so much. Your friendship is so meaningful to her.
Andrea Bartlett Leak
From Leslie Boyer, Leigh's sister
Good news! Leigh's cancer markers are down which means she will be going to Phoenix for treatment every 10 days rather than every week. Your contribution helped to make this happen!
If any of you have had a person close to you deal with cancer, you know it's often a complex and elusive process. If any of you have had to deal with the health care system in this country, you know it can also be a complex and elusive process. The purpose of the TorchLight fund is to help Leigh navigate the economic aspect of getting the treatment that is working for her. The goal is to raise $31,000 and to date we've raised about $21,600. So close!! If any of you have had a big hairy audacious goal, you know that the closer you get, the more challenging it can be to cross the finish line. There are a team of us that are committed to making sure TorchLight reaches the goal of raising $31,000. Our goal is to accomplish that by March 1.
Since many of you have contributed and contributed again, we are asking you to turn on your creativity and think of different ways to get the word out to your network that we are on a mission to reach this goal so Leigh can sail through the next several months of treatment. Post on your Facebook page. Send an email blast to friends with a link to TorchLight. We can do it! We can rally our resources and hit that target. There are plenty of ways to ask for support, and plenty of people who want to give.
And, if you are called to do so, we welcome your contribution again!
Let's do it!!!!
Leigh here on Christmas Eve:
Usually at this time of morning, the Colorado National Monument is bursting out if its hems with bright oranges, yellows and reds as the sun adores it with his wide open mouth. But today it's snowing huge flakes, almost in sheets. It isn't supposed to snow in sheets like rain. Bu that's what I see.
Today, I am reminded of the necessity of seasons. In this cold white outpour--in the midst of shopping and cooking and wrapping and stressing--we must bring the blankets sung around our chins, gather together near the warmth of the fire or the hope of the Christmas lights, and remember.
We are asked to pause and contemplate that which represents our highest potential. The birth of a man 2000 years ago remains a holy day because his life is a demonstration of a devotional life lived in love. This is no easy task. Even with all the church talk, the dogma, the spiritual hype, it's hard to fathom, and seemingly impossible to carry out. Even the simplest attempts to live this love requires a deliberate choice to listen when we want to talk; forgive when we'd rather protect our fragile hearts; to give when we feel there's little to spare. This holy time of year is upon us once again to remind us of what we are truly made of.
These past months for me have not been as gentle as the Hallmark movies to remind me to seek, be and act on what I'm capable of. Indeed, in moments I've known heart-wrenching fear--about as far removed from living in love as snow is from rock. But this time of my life as also been a season, and I have made deliberate choices about how to go through it.
In a way, taking time away and separating from the usual hustle and bustle of work and life to get the necessary treatments is like living on an island. On it, I have contemplated a great deal. I have learned to quit asking why. I have come to a much deeper trust of life and the knowledge that God, as expressed through love, is the very best of who we are. And that being any less than divine love is both the ultimate challenge and the eternal reward. Even if for a fleeting moment.
These have been inexplicably valuable months. Anyone who has experienced a life-altering event and opened their heart wider because of it knows what I mean. I have met many people--most through the book I wrote--who are going through cancer or who have experienced intense trauma. They are also taking a path that brings them closer to the heart of life. A woman told me recently that for a full year after her baby was stillborn, she was much more aware of beauty. She maintained enormous compassion for people. She moved slower and relished her own life more, as well as the for of Life that we occupy. Ironically, it was a time of marvel.
In these months, I have been bestowed with love from dear friends, old friends, friends I haven't seen in 40 years, friends I have never met, friends I didn't know I had, and of course, my most wildly warm and generous aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws. I have been brought to tears or brought to my knees on more than one occasion because of how firmly propped up I felt by the love of all of you. I have been reminded that we are not alone--not in body or in spirit. We are all in this magnificent, mysterious pool together. And by giving me your love, you have enabled me to love both myself and others with greater abandon.
I've been readying a lot of Sufi poetry these days. My favorite is Hafiz. Here's a short poem he wrote that says so much:
It Felt Love
How did the rose ever open its heart
And give to this world all its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of the light
Against its being.
Otherwise, we all remain
There's no need to wait for a trauma, tragedy, disease or loss to awaken the beauty, love and splendor that surrounds us. Let's live it out in this Christmas season and throughout our lives. I send you this note on a snowy morning with a fire so great in my heart that it could melt a glacier. Thank you for being an ember in that blaze.
Oh, and by the way, my latest report from the doctors was good. Things are moving in the right direction. Indeed, they are.
All my love.
Hello One and All:
Trusting you had a warm and fulfilling Thanksgiving. It's truly my favorite holiday. Love that it's about love and appreciation. Love that it's about gathering together to celebrate the good fortune of our lives. Love that it's about good food! This is truly the holiday about what sustains us: Love and food!
After a well-deserved ten days off from treatments, I'm preparing to head back to Phoenix tomorrow. And I will continue to go down weekly until the blood work shows stable progress. The last set of labs didn't reflect that which was a bummer. But as a friend at the clinic said, "You didn't get this thing overnight. It's not going to go away overnight. You have to patient." He should know: He was diagnosed with throat cancer and after being patient with the treatments at this clinic, it is now gone. He is continuing with them to rectify the leukemia he's had for decades. And it's working.
So, although my husband says (with a bit of tapping foot) that patience is not my strongest virtue, I am breathing deeply, feeling such appreciation that I found this way of doing treatment, and trusting that by the grace of God, my numbers will soon stabilize and I will be on the clear path of recovery.
Meanwhile, I had two--count them TWO--kids home for Thanksgiving. Sort of. They have a lot of friends so weren't at the house all that much. But when they were, I relished it.
So far, it's been sun bathing weather in Grand Junction. Seriously. I sit outside in the sun each day at least for an hour. And I'm talking in shorts and a sleeveless shirt. So the thought of preparing for Christmas is, well...confusing!
So until I hear sleigh bells ringing, I'm going to continue doing what seems to be the best thing for me: being in awe of what this season really represents. I know it through all of you: my most beloved friends and family.
Thank you again for your support. I have few words to clearly define how much it means to me.
My love to you and yours.
Hello my most beloved community of friends and family!
It's been a good week in Grand Junction since my return last Thursday. I have good energy (could the 10-12 hours of sleep a night be why?) and am feeling deeply grateful. Even though it's just not right, I'm loving this shorts and tee-shirt weather in conjunction with the bright yellows of the trees down by the river. Oh, Dorothy, there's no place like home!
I forgot to relay that last week, I took advantage of an organization called Angel Flight. It's a non-profit organization that recruits private pilots to donate their time and aircraft to fly people to their treatment destinations. It's completely free to passengers. It's really a great thing.
I was picked up in Grand Junction by a husband and wife pilot team in their 6-seater Cessnea with a single engine. I was nervous about flying in such a small plane given that I am prone to motion sickness. But it wasn't like riding in a boat (which the mere thought of makes me gag). It was, rather, like riding in a jeep on a mountain trail. Sharp bumps, not wavy ones. So I was fine in that way.
Plus the pilots were so professional and kind and considerate (she brought me a ham sandwich and some water) that my fears were easily put to rest.
The only downside was that we had to plow into a fierce headwind that made the trip nearly four hours long. It was beautiful no doubt, and I couldn't have been in finer company. Still, a commercial flight takes less than 90 minutes, so it was a bit much.
The flight home was pushed by a good tailwind, so our flight time was cut in half. But there was still an adventure; about 20 minutes before landing in Grand Junction, we hit some stormy weather. It wasn't like a bad boat ride, but it was like a roller coaster. And, um, I don't like roller coasters. So, yeah, there were about 15 seconds where I closed my eyes and had to talk myself into thinking that we were going to make it out alive. The pilots, on the other hand, simply said, "This is annoying."
Angel Flight is such a good thing. Pass it on to people who might need the help. As for me, I think I'm going to stick with US Air and the relatively cheap flights I can get by booking far in advance.
I'm back to Phoenix on election day. I was hoping I could stay home because if our candidate doesn't win, my husband might expire. So I wanted to be on hand to revive him if possible. But, due to scheduling in Phoenix, I have to go. Alas, he'll have to figure it out on his own if things don't go the way we want.
Wishing all of you love and hugs and deep thanks for all you've done to keep me looking ever forward. More later.
Leigh here: Hello to all of the beautiful people who have given so generously. I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written. I'm now travelling back and forth from Grand Junction to Phoenix each week. I'm deeply grateful to be home for five nights a week, but it does take a toll. Add to that, the treatments are starting to have greater impact on me. I used to have one bad day, then two. This time it took four days to recover. And even then, my energy lags. So, that's my feeble excuse for not being in touch, but it's the way it is.
Been home now for several days and will return to Phx on Tuesday. I love breathing in the cool air, watching the clouds, marveling at the brilliant yellows that make up our autumn landscape. It's truly magnificent. The open spaces also fill me. There's nothing like being surrounded by nature. It's how it should be, me thinks.
I have seen just a few friends but don't have a lot to spare for socializing. My dear friend Rita came down from the Telluride vicinity today and we gabbed for hours. Then I took a nap! Tomorrow I'll just prepare for the trip back to Phx.
I'm so happy that the fund has almost reached $20,000! That's WONDERFUL!! We're way beyond the half way mark. Thank you all again for helping me. The choice I made was right for me, but without your help, it would have been a whole lot harder.
I send you love from a reclining position, and am often overwhelmed with gratitude that my life is peopled by hearts of such magnitude.
Love to all.
Greetings, all! Lynnie, here. As Torch's sister, I wanted to create an incentive to help keep these golden funds a-coming in. Here's my scheme:
I am a seasoned voice coach, and would like to offer four 50-minute voice sessions, via Skype. By specifying that your Torchlight donation of $125.00 (the cost of each session) is for this 'bonus', I will happily set up a time with you to receive this coaching. I specialize in working with speakers, actors, singers, transgender women, presenters, executives, teachers, lawyers, etc. etc. who want to improve their vocal production, breathing, confidence, stamina, and/or communication skills.
Simply put the word VOX next to your donation, and it's a done deal! Individuals can certainly donate for more than one session, to be used as a series or to be gifted to someone else. I cannot think of a better way to give back to some of Torch's ardent supporters.
This offer expires October 20, and sessions will be scheduled thereafter. THANKS!
Hallelujah! The treatments at EuroMed have yielded positive results! Leibchen's recent blood work reveals that the cancer is retreating. O happy day! This means that Leigh can return home to Grand Junction. True, she will still need to fly to and fro to Phoenix once a week for chemo, but she now gets to spend most of her time healing in the loving presence of her friends, family, and community. This is indeed good news. Many, many thanks to all of you who've contributed to Leigh's recovery. You are stars! "”Moira
I'm trying to write personal thank you's to everyone, but my energy is low and I'm doing a lot of nothing. So, let me shout it out right here and now: THANK YOU to all of you, the people I know, the people I don't. Moira's friends, MOIRA for her most incredible request that her birthday gifts be given to this site rather than to her. THANK YOU ALL for your generous hearts and the sustenance of your love. I'm bowled over. I'm speechless, really. I'm deeply appreciative. thank you.
A heads up to all of Leigh's friends and posse in Grand Junction (and parts close by): This Saturday, September 29, Kohava Howard is putting on a fundraiser for Leigh called "Dance for Healing" at Movement Therapies. It starts at 6:30 p.m.
The address is:
2232 North 7th St.
Grand Junction, Colorado 81501
This should be a beautiful event for our wonderful friend. Spread the word far and wide!
Thanks, Kohava, for organizing this!
Leigh Here: Been home for three nights and about to head back to Phoenix. It's been a really good visit. Hanging out with Lyric and Eddie has been so good, so important. I am grateful beyond words to live in Colorado with the views I have from my back door. The fresh cool air. The seasons. We went to Grand Mesa and saw some lovely colors. My energy was pretty good until today, so I guess it's good to get back to my home away from home so I can return to the rest I obviously need.
Many thanks for the continued support from those who have contributed, and the ongoing love and prayers from all of you.
As far as I can tell (although I don't know for sure) I'm probably about half way through treatment. The docs will assess my situation at the end of this coming week and we'll make a game plan from there.
So, upward and onward with love sustaining us all.
Hugs and kisses. Me
Lynnie here: To all who have contributed here and elsewhere to the healing path of my dear sister, Leigh, I thank you for your remarkable support and love. You polish the light in her eyes and release the joy in her voice. With your continued presence, she is gaining strength and wholeness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Leigh again: I wasn't finished with that last post and it kicked me out. Ok anyhow, they design your program JUST for you in every way. Chemo cocktails, supplements, diet, everything. I get to meet with all 4 docs every Wednesday if I want to. They're totally available and will discuss any aspect of my care.
I especially like Wanda the Good Witch. Well, that's not what she calls herself, of course, but she is so cool that she deserves the title. She's from Poland, is short and stout and strong. She has a very thick accent despite having lived here for 20 years. She was trained as a trauma surgeon, but when she came to the States she started introducing her knowledge of integrative care to the places she worked. She's the Queen of the Chemo Cocktail. She knows at what moment to administer it and what kinds and how much. One of the docs says it's true artistry. She also makes me laugh because she has a gruff exterior, but you can tell she's absolutely passionate about her work and wouldn't let ANYTHING get past her. In other words, that gruff bossy exterior is the coating for a Mega Muffin of Love. Wow, tons of nicknames for her already!
The other docs are equally committed and each comes with their own unique talents. I feel in very good hands here.
And my Aunt Elise is the perfect roommate. She gives me my space and takes hers. But we both love to watch The Voice. We argue about the merits of Christina Agulera and whether she's too much of a Diva (she is) or not (no, she IS). We both get very involved.
We also watched the DNC which was fun. She had a bunch of her girlfriends over and it was a blast to see their involvement.
Overall, I am well. Now that the nausea us under control, I'm well. For those of you who knew about all the pain I was in for the past year, I can say with great optimism that it has subsided somewhat. That's the first good sign. I will look for others as we continue, but that's a very good thing.
Tomorrow I"m going to see a Chinese acupuncturist who apparently is world renown for his work with cancer. He just happens to live here. Lucky me! Then I'm off to Sedona for a night. I need a hit of cooler air, trees and silence. I will stay at a retreat center that I was supposed to visit last year to do a book signing. It appears to be a lovely, contemplative place, and I look forward to meeting the owner with whom I've had many provocative conversations on the phone.
I am so grateful, so deeply, deeply appreciative for all of your donations. They will make this possible for me. I don't know how else to thank you, but please know that I will be there for you, too, in every way I can if and when and however you need me. Just ask. I did...and look what it's getting me! I love you all.
Hi All-Leigh here:
Started week two of treatments. Thankfully, they plugged me full of anti-nausea drugs so I wasn't spending the day barfing in bed like I was on Saturday. For the first time in my life, I'm considering investing in drug companies! .... (NOT!!!) ...
The docs here are top drawer. They drew blood and have created a supplemental/homeopathic program based on my unique numbers.
Moira again. I'm popping onto Torchlight for a moment to let folks know that we are now over 1/3 of our way towards our goal! So far, over 60 people have contributed to this fund! Amazing! Already your donations have helped Leigh out with medical expenses. She is grateful. And she knows she is blessed. This Monday marks Leigh's second week of treatment at the EuroMed Foundation in Phoenix. I'm crossing my fingers that it's a week of healing with minimal side effects.
Hi everybody! Moira here. I spoke with Leigh last night. She was in good spirits though a wee bit tired. Yesterday she had minor surgery to install"”is that the word?"”a port through which the chemo is delivered. She receives chemo twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, her rest days from chemo, she receives immunotherapy"”vitamins and immune supplements to boost her immune system. She's experience slight nausea, but says that so far, overall, it's not bad.
Many of you have asked where you can send Leigh cards and get well wishes. During her four week stay in Arizona, Leigh is rooming with her aunt Elise Sweet just outside of Phoenix. Elise said that it would be fine to post her address so that Leigh could hear from friends and family. So...here you are:
Leigh Fortson c/o
240 North Concord St.
Gilbert, AZ 85234
Thank you, Elise, for taking such good care of Leigh! And thanks to all of you who've been so generous with your donations and in-kind gifts to Leigh. She feels the love, for sure.
And yes, one more important bit of news, as of last night, we're just a little over 1/4 of the way towards our goal of raising $32,000. Incroyable!
I'm speechless and I'm still. Thank you all so very much. This heart of mine has grown by acres by absorbing your love. I'm not sure what to say, but thank you.
I had my first treatment yesterday. It went well. I've been VERY tired though, and slept for about three hours today. I love the people here, though, and am so glad I made the decision to come here.
It's great to see names on on this site that are people from my my past, my work life, and my current life. Wish there was another way to bring us all together.
Much love to all.
This is Leigh here (even though the photos is of Moira and Eric). I'm in Phoenix now with Lyric and Eddie. I'm ready to start treatments tomorrow. I can barely express my gratitude to all of you. Whether you gave $25 or $1000, my heart is just filled with thanks. Those of you who don't know me or haven't seen me since middle school--a special thank you to you. I am learning to breathe all of this in. Love is really and truly all there is. I AM knowing this more and more. May you feel it too. Here we go!
All your contributions sent in over the last three days. have sent Leigh over the (blue) moon! And right now"”late Sunday evening"”Torchlight is at 20.27 % towards its goal. Thank you everyone! Sweet dreams.
In-Kind donations: Dr. Nasha Winters, N.D. Free consultations and laughter throughout the adventure.
Elise Sweet is providing housing in Phoenix equivalent to about $3500 worth of hotel expenses. Oh, and she's got a kitchen and bathroom too!
These matter... Big Time.
(There are others but I need to get their permission to post their names and what they're giving.)
Oh My God. What can I say. I'm speechless. I'm grateful. I'm going to do everything I can to be well. Not just for me, but for the community spirit of love you have created.
Holy moly! In less than 24 hours Torchlight is just over 1/8 towards goal. Thank you, good souls! Your generosity alleviates a lot of worry on Leigh and Ed's end, which means Leigh can focus on healing.
WELCOME family and friends of Leigh
During the first week of August 2012, Leigh was diagnosed with a
squamous cell carcinoma mass on her sciatic nerve. As many of you already know"”through
either your friendship with Leigh or Embrace,
Release, Heal, her book about treating cancer"”this is Leigh's fourth
cancer diagnosis. While this latest news has left her stunned and somewhat
dispirited, she is nonetheless gathering her energy, assessing options, and fully
committing herself to healing.
On Sunday, August 19, Leigh flew to Chicago for five days of evaluative testing at the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA). While she received some good news there (the tumor has not spread to her blood or bones"”yeah!), she also learned that the mass is interfering with kidney function, and has compromised her kidney. The CTCA team recommended a series of procedures: stent insertion, removal of the tumor, blasting the tumor bed with radiation, and then afterwards chemo. But...the hitch is that CTCA's particular recommended program could possibly jeopardize the use of Leigh's left leg. And she just didn't feel good about that course of action.
So Leigh returned home, determined to investigate other options. On Tuesday, August 28, she flew to the EuroMed cancer clinic in Phoenix. The staff and doctors were warm, personable, and positive. They outlined for her a more specific, targeted type of chemotherapy. Pleased with EuroMed's thorough, compassionate, non-alarmist approach, Leigh has decided to pursue treatment there.
On Friday, August 31, Leigh will fly home to prepare herself for an extended stay in Phoenix. She will return to Phoenix on Tuesday morning, September 4, where she will undergo a minimum of four weeks of cancer treatment. By the month's end, her doctors will be able to inform her of the progress she's made during her stay.
For the time being, though, Leigh recognizes that she needs to
be at peace with the inherent uncertainty of her situation. To this end, she's
summoning both inner and outer resources to allow her to *be* in this
uncertainty, fully present with wisdom and grace.
What is certain, however, is that treatment is costly. Leigh's
insurance covers some, but not all expenses"”think gas, airline travel, work
leave, and innovative medical therapies, to name just a few. Her EuroMed treatment alone will cost $4,000 a week minimum. On top of that,
Leigh and Eddie are still saddled with enormous debt incurred from her cancer
treatment of four years ago.
The good news is that we can help to not only offset the
monumental medical costs that are coming down the pike but also enable Leigh to
arrive at the best possible cancer treatment. Her goal"”our goal"”is to eradicate
the cancer and ensure that her left leg retains full mobility, using protocols
that are both compassionate and humane.
This is no small feat, but together, as a community, we can do
invite you"”family, new friends and old, acquaintances, and first time visitors
to this site"”to help this wondrous, lion-hearted woman on her healing path.
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN
* On a spiritual
Send Leigh your positive thoughts and wishes"”whether it be through letters,
email, this site, prayers, meditation, or the spiritual practice of your
choice"”it's all good.
* On a practical
Donate on this site. It's simple. All you need to do is click the donate
button on this page and follow the directions. Aside from a small processing
fee that goes to GoFundMe, all of the money goes directly to Leigh. (Ignore the GoFundMe wording that says that the donations go to Moira Magneson. Leigh herself has set up the banking end of this site, and she is the only person who will see your contributions.) The minimum
donation is $5.00. You are welcome to donate as often as you wish. Since
time is of the essence, our goal is to raise $32,000 as quickly as possible.
* Pay it forward
through the power of
social media! Cut and paste this link and email it to folks in your address
book, Tweet it, or Share on Facebook and Google-Plus"”whatever your inclination.
A BIT ABOUT THE
First off, you should know that Torchlight is eponymous, homage
to Leigh's nickname from birth"”Torch"”she was born with fiery red hair!
Second, the de facto ringmaster of this site will be me, Moira
Magneson, Leigh's friend and college roommate from back in the day. As best I
can, I will keep you posted as to Leigh's health, decisions, and developments.
When I get updates, I'll let you know. Hopping in now and again will be my
lovely, on-call assistant (and Leigh's sister), Lynn Skinner Elliot.
From time to time, you may hear from Leigh directly, but most of
the website posts will be done by me, Lynn, or all of you. Our thinking is that
Leigh needs to devote every ounce of her energy towards healing. And by the by,
we can't wait to see your posts. We hope to be regaled with many notorious
stories! C'mon, we know they're out there; this is Leigh we're talking about
after all, the high-priestess of goof and hijinks.
huge, wild heart; her mother wit; her unblinking honesty; and her quicksilver
mind have infused and buoyed our lives in big and small ways. As well, her book
Embrace, Release, Heal ( www.embracehealingcancer.com
has been a real force for change in the medical and cancer communities,
initiating dialogue on the need for more compassionate and integrated care for
cancer patients. Please join us in expressing our gratitude for her generosity
by donating to this site. Our dollars will enable Leigh to address her cancer
with intention and clarity, allowing her to tap into a multitude of
resources"”doctors, clinics, family, friends, and her own wellspring of energy.
cancer can be pesky, brutal, confounding, and unruly. Often we find ourselves
cursing it"”dumb cancer, bloody cancer, god*#$% cancer, and on and on. (Leigh would definitely second that
emotion.) That said, she would also be the first to acknowledge that cancer has
been one of her greatest teachers. As she notes in Embrace, Release, Heal, cancer has opened her up to be
"inspired and driven by the ongoing discovery of ways to trust in this
magnificent, painful, rich, mysterious, challenging, brilliant and benevolent
ride we call life."
ride with Leigh as she navigates this terrain. Send her your love. Give what