My name is Jody Hogan and I am a 5 year survivor of one of the worst cancers possible. I have never reached out personally for help during my cancer journey and now, I am asking for a lot of help with a very small window to raise the funds needed. This campaign is for my survivor’s expedition with the Survive and Thrive program. It is this August.
Five years have passed since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET), to be exact.
The same cancer that eventually killed Steve Jobs. It is actually pretty amazing I made it this far. Recently, for the first time, I allowed myself to look up the cancer I had. I will never do so again.
Can't let that kind of negativity deter me!!
The reason I even have the opportunity to go:
Survive and Thrive Cancer Programs
The Survive and Thrive Cancer Program has found someone to sponsor me to take a trip with them on the rapids of the Grand Canyon! They are the most kind and determined people I have ever met. They would not let me give up hope. Mikey Lang found Corey the sponsor, who is a Godsend I have yet to meet. I am blown away that a stranger would do such a generous thing for me.
My fundraiser was created for travel and supply expenses.
"Survive & Thrive Cancer Programs uses adventure expeditions, films, experiential workshops and retreats to encourage and inspire those touched by cancer to live well."
I am asking you to donate because this trip is once in a lifetime for me. It is my bucket list. The only one I have allowed into the bucket. It was a dim hope that I did not think I would ever see.
I created a video with the help of the lovely ladies from Weasel Tale Digital Storytelling. It helps to explain my need to go to the Grand Canyon and the States. Thank you for watching! Please FB message me if you have any questions! I am more than happy to talk. <3
The Grand Canyon! One of the wonders of the world!
Joe Dirt is my favorite movie because I wish I could be like him. He keeps fighting to find his place in this world while keeping a good heart. I regret being the timid person I was before cancer. I have never left Canada and now that I have endured cancer, I fear starting anything new because it seems I fail before I try. Joe Dirt is my hero simply because he never lets life deter him from finding his dream.
I should have been better by now I tell myself. It has been a year since my last cancer scare and subsequent surgery on my new liver. 3 years since my liver transplant and 5 years since I was diagnosed and my first surgery.
But I just cannot seem to move forward.
I want to do something with my life but each day it seems I am going backwards. I am weaker now than I have been while actively fighting cancer. I feel lost and emotionally destroyed by pretending to be stronger than I was. Everyone around me just wants me to be "normal" again. God only knows how much I would love to be the woman I once was.
They see a woman with the world before her. All I can see is how wasted my potential has become. Wasted away by cancer and my own fear of failure. I am left with chronic pain from my surgeries as well. Pills have become my routine, every morning and evening. Required because of the transplant, diabetes and a blocked liver artery.
These days I spend my time distancing myself from my sadness. I stay busy with my nieces, nephews and my dog Max when I can get myself out of my apartment. Hiding in front of a television screen when I can't.
Going on this trip will be my hiatus from the life cancer left me with. It is a bet. A risk. A chance on myself and what I can do with what I have. I am usually such a big chicken so this HUGE for me!!
It is My Time to Survive and Thrive!
I know this trip will be the catalyst I need to keep moving forward! I need to go to the desert to find myself.
Please help me get there!
Please consider donating to my campaign. We are all connected and are in this world together.
God bless you and thank you for your support.
If you should have any questions I would love to answer them!! Find me on Facebook! Jody Hogan.
I am also doing a bottle drive. Please message on me on Facebook to set up a time and location if you want to donate your recyclables. As well I am actively collecting bottles, working out and conditioning my body for the hotter climate. I am not relying only on the GoFundMe campaign to make my way. I will work hard to get to the Grand Canyon!!
+Any money donated will be spent on the airline ticket, medical travel insurance, a passport, emergency funds to get home, tips for the river guides, supplies for the trip and as well as a small amount of spending money.
++Excess donations will be given to the Survive and Thrive Cancer Program for people like me to keep thriving beyond surviving!
+++I was invited on this trip by Mikey Lang from the Survive and Thrive program. He went out of his way to find a sponsor to pay for the trip down the river. My only job is to get there!!!THANK YOU!!! Mikey Lang and Corey th e sponsor!!! Thank you as well to Misha and Danielle from Survive and Thrive!!
*March 2017 Survive and Thrive Retreat at Camp Kindle. I'm near the back with my white granny hat lol my sister looking cool in her shades.
Amazing people are all over the place in this world!! Renewing my faith in humanity each and every day. <3
My cancer journey so far.
I began surviving the moment I was told I had cancer.
It was April 2012 and I was a week away from my 24th birthday. I had just finished exams for the 2nd semester of nursing at Norquest College. I managed to pass my exams even though I could not understand for the life of me why I was so tired for the better part of a year.
Nursing was my biggest dream. SO much so that I still feel like a failure for having to drop out because surgery was needed immediately. I spent a year working and attending NAIT upgrading just so that I could take that program at Norquest. I was going to do it. I would become a woman with a career. Someone my nieces and nephews could look up to and emulate.
I chose nursing because my parents are getting older and my Dads health was not the best. My plan was to move where they lived and work for the community while caring for my parents. I wanted to help my people. To show them we are stronger and smarter than we were made to believe.
But all that changed.
This city I live in has become my prison.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor with liver mets. That was my diagnosis. A mouthful to say the least. I was in a nursing course and I still did not understand. But I think it was my minds way of coping with the horrifying reality of my new life.
What I remember most is the doctor saying "There are lesions on your liver." All I could say "Lesions?! What are lesions?!" While holding myself in a ball, trying to keep myself from shaking with fear off the hospital bed. I was alone when I was told.
Another doctor said my liver looked like Swiss cheese. "Just imagine the holes as bumps instead." Jesus..
From there it was a whirlwind of testing, doctors’ appointments and the presence of my family. I was rarely alone. I am the 5th born of seven children. My parents are together and the grandchild keep coming. My family is big. This cancer business rocked us to the core. But we pulled together I think.
My doctor told me the only way to survive was to have major surgery to remove the main cancer from my pancreas then to wait for a liver transplant.
They proceeded to put me on a chemo pill called sunititib for 2 years to prevent the cancer from spreading. I convinced myself there was no side effects while dealing with cramping and flushing syndrome from my liver.
Before my first surgery I ate and ate to deal with my fear and anxiety. I had gained 20lbs by the 18th of May, the day of my surgery. By that time, I was weighing in at 280lbs.
The surgery I endured was called a Whipples procedure. There is only 25% survival rate after five years with this procedure. I was in the hospital for two months, unable to eat due to complications from the surgery. I had tubes coming out my nose that would not stay in. They had to tie it to my nose. I still have scars where the string cut into my flesh. My depression kept me from getting better.
My sister Jessica and my best friends (Nadja and Raquela) would take turns sitting in my hospital room so I would not be alone. Many times I would be in a stupor from pain meds and have conversations with people who were not there. Only waking up when I needed more pain killers. The perfume my sister wore comforted me because it reminded me of home.
The hospital is a terrible place and many do not know how to deal with it. I knew I should be doing things to help myself; coming from a nursing course, I was well aware I needed to do more. Depression is dangerous to let overtake you.
At the time, Nadja was pregnant with her first child. I was heartbroken because she could not stay with me while I battled cancer. She had only came home to settle her affairs when I was diagnosed. Soon after my first surgery she left to the States to be with the father of her baby, they married and had another child soon after. Before she moved, Nadja convinced me to tell the nurses to reduce my pain medications. I resented her for that but who knows how long I would have stayed there otherwise. I miss my friend so much. I have known since since Junior High school. We have matching friendship tattoos . She made me go first. LOL she knows me so well. I am such a chicken shit.
* Nadja and I after getting our friendship tattoo, January 2012.
Not being able to eat and missing my best friend just added to my depression and hospital stay. Eventually though, I began to get better. I still remember my first meal.
Tomato soup. It was so beautiful and delicious, I wanted to finish the bowl but could only take a few mouthfuls.
It was months later that I found the courage to look up the Whipples surgery I endured. When I saw the survival rate I felt woozy. I became diabetic after the first surgery. They only took the head of my pancreas but it was enough to cause diabetes.
Afterwards I was very weak. Climbing stairs was scaling a mountain and it took two years to feel strong again. But by that time, my family tells me my skin was turning yellow.
Sometime during my wait for a liver I was talking on the phone to my sister Kimberly. I was upset about something ridiculous that I cannot remember anymore and I asked loudly “Well, what am I?? Chopped liver!?" We both paused for a beat then practically died laughing! We were both so horrified and amused at the same time because yes, yes I was. I had tears rolling down my cheeks on that one. It felt great to laugh about cancer. My mom and I used to make each other laugh when we were at the doctor’s office, disturbing everyone around most likely. But we were only breaking the tension we were all feeling.
When I got the call for my liver transplant.
I was volunteering for the Edmonton Food Bank and was sorting food when the phone rang. I burst in to tears and handed the phone to my friend Raquela.
Luckily she was there because I might have ran away. I was so frightened. I did not want a liver transplant. I thought I was finally getting better and they were doing something unnecessary.
After getting the call, the wait is really long. They still needed to make sure it was healthy enough. My donor was a man. That is all I know. I have not been able to thank his family because of the shame I feel about not having moved forward long ago. It is ridiculous to feel that way but there it is. I even bought a blank fancy card. Sometimes I look at it and try to find the words. But all I can feel is shame for my lack of new experiences, career and lack of children.
When I woke up in ICU I was mad. Just angry at everyone and I had no clue why. Later I learned it is a reaction to losing parts of yourself. Pretty freaky.
*after the liver transplant.
I was only in the hospital for two weeks. It was a record apparently. I still had to go to physiotherapy and had to rebuild my body yet again, but I could do it this time. The final step was over. I was determined to not let depression overtake me. I have to be on immunosupressants for the rest of my life. As well as two kinds of blood thinners because of a blocked artery to my liver. Also medication for diabetes too.
BUT! I am alive. I am here. I can keep fighting! Nearly forgot what that felt like.
Dr. James Shapiro did all my surgeries. I believe he was meant to save me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! By the grace of God, you saved my life.
A year passed by and I finished physio. I lost my friend Annie. I had made friends with her while enduring the transplant aftermath. Her soul was beautiful and not meant to stay here too long. She was too kind and sweet for this world. Seeing her strength in the face of her physical weakness made me stronger to fight for myself. I wish I could have helped her more.
I withdrew after that. I was scared to make friends with anyone else that was sick. Even though I knew they would be the best people to talk to. They understood.
But I was scared to lose them.
In January 2016 just as I was about to begin the process of going back to work, they found a MASS in my new liver. Any plans I had gone out the window yet again. Surgery was two weeks later. The mass turned out to be a bunch of capillaries forming together. My doctor was surprised it was not malignant. It was benign but enough to scare me from returning to work. After the liver resection my sister Cheryl and her family took care of me for a month while I healed.
Raquela and Elizabeth helped me to get my body strong again. Elizabeth would meet me at the gym when I could get there and Raquela loved to hike in Mill Creek Ravine. Her tiny baby riding shotgun while we walked along the leafy canopy shaded trails.
*Raquela and Me
*Elizabeth and Me
So here it is. A year later. I have written this so many times and ways that I feel almost as if it wasn't me. How could I lived that and be so flippant?
Like it was just a Tuesday. Well.. It was just a Tuesday. Then there was the next Tuesday and the next. On and on. Until I am right here. Not forward but slightly backwards. Still, living because others tell me what to do and how to live. Left behind by those I care for most. Not because of spite but because that is just what happens with life. I could not do as they could. They could not feel as I was feeling. A gap began to form, one that I am hoping to build a bridge across with the help of the Survive and Thrive program.
Is life worth living if you never have lived?
To have that one moment shining in the glory of your life to look back upon and cherish. Is that not what we all wish for? That is why I wrote my story down as fully as I can remember. So you can decide for yourself if that shining moment is something we all deserve. My only dream in my bucket. Please help me to reach my goal.
Thank you for considering donating to my campaign. Thank you for helping me to realize my dream. Most of all thank you for reading! That was a tough one to get off my chest.
Please share my story. To bring awareness of pancreatic cancer and the Survive and Thrive Cancer Programs.
There are truly remarkable people in this world. I know you are one of them. Whether you can help or not, God bless you.
With a hopeful heart and kindest regards, yours truly,
*Most recent picture in March. At a Survive and Thrive Retreat with my sister Jessica (Chech). Thank you Dustin for getting us there!!
<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 MY BIG THANK YOU <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3
I just wanted to thank a bunch of people who got me this far with my cancer journey. This is a THANK YOU for the all the kind words, thoughts and prayers. For those who touched my heart whether you knew it or not.
Thank you all so much. My life is blessed by your presence and knowing you.
I am grateful for the kindnesses you have shown me.
I am sorry if I miss anyone. My memory is shot with the all the pills they got me on.
My Family: THANK YOU!!
Mom and Dad, Tanya, Cheryl and Shawn, Kimberly, Aaron and Melanie, Jessica and Jeff, Jerrica, Raven, Tyryn, Gavin, Trystan, Taija, Trey, Kaira, Dakota, Jarynn, Jaedyn, Justyce, Jaiyah, Willie, Shadyx, Daxtyn
John and Max.
Extended Family: THANK YOU!!
Mosom Eugene (RIP(Grandpa)), Kokom Louise(RIP(Grandma)), Mosom Pat(RIP), Kolom Florence, Kokom Maria(RIP), Mosom Elmer(RIP), Auntie Charlotte, Auntie Charlene, Uncle Lloyd and Auntie Lorraine, Uncle Darryl(RIP) and Auntie Shannon, Uncle Lulette, Uncle Wilfred, Auntie Marlene, Uncle Marcel, Uncle Virgil, Aunty Patsy, Ashley, Jenna, Tyler, Shania, Trenton, Paul, Craig, Amanda, Arlene, Jordan, Alexandra, KP, Josephine, Burton, Auntie Agnes, Elsie, Agnes, Nathan, Derek, Diane, Amanda Potskin, Wardy and Tracy, Amy, Rachell, Chantel, Bertha, Bailey, Elaine and Dion, Carolyn, Noelle, Kari, Kelly, Ryan, Ronald, Karen, Muriel, Tammy, Keanen, Garrett, Shawn, Waylon, Curtis, Marie, Lillian, Laura, Lorli, Greg, Shawn, Kyle, Lenny(RIP), Carla(RIP), Archie, Joe, Violet, Monica, Sonia, Trisha, Ashlin, Janessa, Davy and Anita, Katherine, Janessa Quintal, Kiesha, Leonard, Eva,
My Friends: THANK YOU!!!
Nadja, Raquela, Elizabeth, Jeff, Kelly, Deanna, Bonnie and Alan, The Darrahs, Jane Peterson, Ms. Mercer, Jackie, Lizette, Leah, Julie, Ruth, Sandy and Darryl, Sherry, Theresa, Amy, Natasha, Caitlin, Lindsey, Melinda, Candice, Darcie, Bre, Janice, Carmen, Alecia, Clara, Meagan, Annie(RIP), Lisa, Cindy, Rhianne, Mike, Yolanda, Loana, Lana, The L'hirondelles, Jealisa, Jolene, Tanya, Norquest Student Union, Tyrann, Alix, Chelsea, Allayne, Char, Charmaine, Chris, Kimberly, Melinda, Tamara, Tavis, Tess, Tiffany, Cheryl, Dustin, Connie, Rachel, Debbie, Mike, Bonnie, Crystal, Jean-Paul, Leila, Linda, Craig, Marie, Shelena, Tiffany, Tisa, Tracy,
Healthcare people: THANK YOU!!
Dr. Shapiro, Dr. Maria Ho, Dr. Jeraldine Chan, Zam, Dr. Cogen, Krem the pharmacist, Crystal Gooley, Collen, Katherine Transplant Coordinator, Dr. K, Transplant Physio at the University of Alberta Hospital. The nurse that held me while I cried one of the nights I could not sleep. I wish I remember your name, I gave you a nursing angel pin. To all the nurses who saw past my surliness and fear, who treated me kindly when I did not know how to feel. The healthcare aides!! Good golly those people can work hard and still make you feel like they are present with you. To the orderlies who took me around the hospital making conversation because you knew I needed to talk about things that did not matter. To the ladies at the Westmount cancer art groups. Ipax Pain Clinic, Mira Health Centre, The Cross Cancer, Royal Alex Hospital, University of Alberta Hospital
My list of thank you's is ever growing. I am so sorry if I missed anyone
The biggest thank you's I could give goes to the God, Jesus and the Liver Man. Dear Lord God you strengthen me. With Jesus I can do anything.
My deepest thanks to the Liver man. Whoever you are, I thank you with all my heart. I am here because you chose to give a piece of yourself to a stranger. I have been blessed by so many people I have never met. I will always pay it forward. Every day, I search for ways to be kind. It’s the only way I can think to repay you. The only way I can honor your memory liver man. Peace be with you, wherever you are.
*Mom and me2012
*All my siblings 2010
*My sisters and I 2015
*Me last year
*My Dad and me Fall 2013