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Ashleigh's cancer killing warriors

$18,425 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 104 people in 1 month
Created November 5, 2018
BP
Bev Peterson
on behalf of Ashleigh And Jordan Dueck
Hello, my friends and family.

Our family has recently entered a new season of challenges, and I want to share with you what is happening.

The last few weeks have been filled with medical appointments, and I have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. At this point, it is unclear how far the cancer has spread, but we do know it has spread to some of the surrounding lymph nodes.

I am in the middle of several meetings with a medical team, and they will set out a treatment plan. If it is still localized, I will be having chemotherapy and radiation, followed by surgery, and then more chemo.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of difficulties in this new reality, especially as we try to navigate this with three kids and a baby. One thing we have learned from our previous seasons of medical troubles is that we can do hard things, especially because we have such an amazing community of support, both near and far.

I don’t have answers for what the future is going to contain, but I do know I want to walk bravely into this new wilderness. I want to remain awake to my loved ones, my self, and all that is within this space—even when that means being awake in the darkness. The One Who is Love is in the darkness, too.

If you are someone who prays, I ask you to pray that I will live these days well.

We also ask you to hold in your hearts and your prayers,

- our three little girls who have already had to go through times of stress and a sense of instability, and who are wary of and discouraged by the upcoming hospital stay and appointments I will have

- Skandar, as I try to figure out how to best care for his little baby self in this time

- effective and timely medical appointments and treatments

- practical needs to be met in the coming days (such as child care, house cleaning, pet care, meals, snow removal)

- financial needs, as Jordan will be working less and we will be trying to manage unforeseen costs

As I step into this wilderness with Jordan and our children, I am heartened by knowing our people.

So many of you have consistently shown up for us in the past, and I am incredibly grateful that we have you.

Ashleigh
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Inhabit the Dark
by ashleighdueck
The logging division had allowed our village horse club to use some of their land to build stables on. It was not far out of town, but anything outside of town was already in the dense forested mountains that spread on for an eternity. Even life in town was peppered with wildlife, and it felt natural to co-exist with the wild and untameable. During the winter months in the mountains, daylight is short, and I vividly remember the long walk down the stable-lined dirt road with my father for nighttime feedings. Our stable was at the end of the track, and there was a decent stretch of bush between the penultimate stable and ours. I was certain that stretch was populated with cougars. Or mother bears. Or maybe rabid raccoons. Right there; just inches from us. I remember pleading, "Papa, please don't turn off the lantern." But he would. "It's easier to walk in the dark without a light; your eyes will get used to it."

Seriously? Who turns off the light to see better in the dark?

He would hold my hand, and I eventually learned that he was right. Even though those minutes right after you turn the light off can be terrifying, jarring, discombobulating—your eyes do adjust and you find you see more clearly than before.

I would notice things that were hidden when we walked within the circle of the lantern. I would notice the black outline of the evergreens rising tall on either side of us. I would notice the path of night sky that opened above the valley and I would start looking at the sparking stars, rather than searching the bushes for glittering eyes. The noises would change, too. Rather than threatening, they became friendly sounds. Familiar: the creak of old trees, the crunch of snow under our feet, the horses stamping and blowing, my father faintly whistling between his teeth.

During my previous health issues, these memories kept returning, and I began reading about this idea of inhabiting the darkness, rather than rushing past in an attempt to escape it. I have practiced dwelling in darkness. The dangers do exist there—there are hungry beasts alongside the sleepy little critters. But here's the thing; when you turn out the light and let the darkness enfold you, your eyes adjust and you see things more clearly. All of it—the monsters, the beautiful, the familiar, the unfamiliar—all of it is seen more accurately when you learn to walk in the dark. If I refuse to see the darkness, refuse to inhabit where I am, I will miss what is there in my frantic effort to regain control.

If I inhabit the darkness, I can face my enemy. Rather than a vague or vivid but imagined enemy, I can look it squarely in the face and know it.

If I inhabit the darkness, I can discover beautiful things. My senses can become sharpened to the good and joyful and loving that has always been there. I can see the faces of friends who choose to walk with me in the darkness.

The darkness is around me. It does not go away by lighting a lantern. Why not turn the light off, give my eyes time to adjust, and learn to walk in the dark?

It is not an easy thing to do. I wish more than anything this darkness was simply not here; that I could inhabit a sunlit day. But to live today well, I have to see today for what it is. And it's not a sunlit day. It's darkness. And I will learn again to walk in the dark, knowing that Love (God) is there, holding my hand, and helping me to see. Knowing that, somehow, my hand is held by the Light that darkness cannot overcome.

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise…

Dawna Markova
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Old Church Bakery
by ashleighdueck
We fell in love with Old Church Bakery when they relocated to Steinbach. When we bought our house a year and a half ago, one of the positives was its proximity to OCB—and the little ones and I have loved making morning walks to buy our bread or special treats.

Here's the thing. They make quality products. They use sourdough and oh, my goodness! The variety of delights they can bake with it!

As a family, another major factor has been the Women of Old Church Bakery. We have loved getting to know these women. Jord and I also have loved that our girls get to buy their bread directly from the artisans who make it, and that these women have taken the time to become part of their village.

Last year, when I was so sick with HG during my pregnancy with Skandar, picking up bread was one of our "life-giving things." Just a five minute interaction can make a difference. For real. Let the Women of Old Church Bakery (WOCB?) inspire us to take seriously the difference small, genuine acts of welcome and kindness can make in another's dark night. My book club read Susan Pinker's, The Village Effect, in which she describes the results of years of research into longevity and quality of life. You know what one of the greatest predictors of overcoming illness, and of attaining longevity? Frequent, regular friendly interactions with others. Not just deep friendship (that's important, too), but a stand-alone significant predictor is whether or not you say hi every morning to that runner you always pass on your way to work, or have a short exchange with the bagger at the grocery store you go to every Wednesday.

So, not only are the WOCB helping me fight cancer by being who they are when we go buy a pastry, they are also putting on a fundraiser for my family. I know. Whose bakery does this?! Ours. Ours does. They offered, and have organized a pizza fundraiser at the bakery on their day off.

Here is how it works.

You pre-purchase tickets from OCB so they know how much pizza to make, and you pick it up this Sunday, Dec. 2, between 12-4. It's $10 a pizza, and I am positive they will be delicious. As Nienna and Eveah are known to say, "You just can't go wrong with Old Church Bakery."

It's a surreal experience to be in the beginning of my worst nightmare, and also have all these beautiful people joining me in beautiful ways. I am thankful from my core for my village; for each one of you who are part of it.
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Round One

"We're going to start you with the most aggressive treatment up front..."

Those words sounded good while sitting in the office with my Med Onc. {By the way, people on the inside say Med Onc instead of Medical Oncologist, and Rad Onc instead of Radiation Oncologist, but NEVER shorten Surgical Oncologist. Now you know.}.

Yep. That sounded like a plan and I was on board! Let's hit the cancer cells with all we've got!

So, on Monday morning, Jordan and I walked into the Cancer Care Unit for my first round of chemo. The nurses there are superb. They have worked to make it less hospital-like, and are so very kind and warm. We made some tea. We met with the nurse and the doctor, then I went over to emergency and met my friend M., who deftly inserted a PICC line from my arm, right to my heart. Not exactly the kind of thing you normally have your friend do, but I was ever so thankful to have his grounded, peaceful presence. Plus, he's apparently a kind of wizard with lines, and he did an amazing job. After a quick x-ray of the PICC placement, we walked back to Cancer Care. I got into one of the fairly comfortable, brown recliners set in a semi circle around the nurses' desk, with bright windows behind us. There was a man playing beautiful guitar for us, and someone sent in a bright array of flowers.

We had to wait for the PICC placement to be approved by a radiologist in Winnipeg before they could start the chemo, so Jord and I popped in an AirPod each, and picked up on our audio book. Ever since we've been together, we've been consuming books together; either taking turns reading aloud, or through audio books. Right now, we're listening to a fantastic reading of The Hobbit. A fitting tale to journey with me, as I face my own versions Mirkwood, Loney Mountain, Giant Spiders, and Dragon. Just a small, inconspicuous creature, abruptly set out on an unlooked for, unwanted, and perilous quest. Nurse B. smiled when she heard what story we were listening to and nodded her head—she's of the race of Joseph.

We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, they made the call here in Steinbach, since the Winnipegers were unresponsive. Two bags of chemo started pumping into me over the next two hours. After that, they gave me a booster of the third chemo med {If booster is the correct term? Can you pre-game chemo?} and attached a bottle of it to my PICC line. This bottle of toxicity was placed in a bag that I wore around my neck for the next 48 hours, as it ran through the line and into my body slowly and constantly. I felt OK leaving unit.

Less than two hours later and I was replaying those words "most aggressive treatment" as it hit me—hard. What followed was horrible. And I get to do it every two weeks. Oh, dear friends, this was truly a most stressful and difficult week. I know Jordan is working on a post about how this first round affected us as a family, so I won't dwell on this. Suffice to say, there is no joke in the word "aggressive."

Thursday, the weight began to lift, and on Friday, I felt alive and human again. And HUNGRY. It is SO good to feel hungry. I have learned through my HG pregnancies to never take for granted the delight of eating delicious food and downing a glass of water. After being unable to eat for three days, it felt good. Jordan and I ended up in Winnipeg for another CT scan, and I broke my three day "fast" with a delicious eggplant-olive-red pepper-tomato-garlic dish at Stella's.

And so, we've made it through the first round. It was definitely harder than anticipated, as I was barely able to look after myself, let alone the girls and my weaning, teething baby. We are so grateful for the people who showed up in real time—helping us and loving us in the chaos, the stress, and the pain.

Here's some amazing news. My parents are flying my dearly-loved and highly competent sister-in-law out to help us find our feet in the next couple weeks. After she leaves, my parents will come. Two very dear friends and my mother-in-law have also committed regular specific ways in which they will be there during my chemo weeks. Also, I'll be discussing with my doctor what can be adjusted in my support meds to make those days more bearable.

Tomorrow, I head in for a day surgery to get a port-a-cath, and then we will try to have a couple "normal" days for our little ones before round two begins.

Thank you for holding us in your prayers and your hearts,

Ashleigh
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Hello friends and family,

Today our beloved Ashleigh started chemo.

Please hold her close in your thoughts and prayers for wisdom for her medical team to provide the best treatment, strength for her body to resist the harmful side effects of chemo and that she feels our love pouring out for her.

Please also hold Skandar up as he has had to be immediately weaned and is not a fan of bottles to solid foods and has been resisting feeding opportunities. He needs to eat, he needs to drink. For his well being and for Ashleigh and Jordan's too.

And of course please also keep Jordan raised in thoughts and prayers as he is supporting and caring for the family while also needing to care for himself so he can continue to be string for - and with - Ashleigh on this journey.

Thank you for loving her, thank you for supporting Ashleigh, Jordan and their sweet cherubs.

Bev
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$18,425 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 104 people in 1 month
Created November 5, 2018
BP
Bev Peterson
on behalf of Ashleigh And Jordan Dueck
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