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Cancer Strikes Alaskans a 3rd Time

$8,020 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 56 people in 11 months
We are hoping that the third time is indeed a charm.  Rick and Tanya live in Homer, Alaska.  They have had their share of challenges over the years with cancer.

In 1999 Rick was diagnosed with Stage 4B Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  He went to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle for Chemo treatments which put him in a short remission. 

Then, in the early spring of 2000 the cancer came back and he again went to the UWMC in Seattle.  This time he underwent a very successful Peripheral Stem Cell Transplant for Stage 4B Recurrent Hodgkin's Lymphoma  and remains cancer free to this day!  18 glorious years and counting!

Then nearly 5 years to the day Rick was diagnosed Tanya was diagnosed with Hurthle Cell Carcinoma of the Thyroid.  She had her thyroid completely removed, went trough 2 rounds on Iodine 131 treatments and has been free of thyroid cancer since.

In March while on vacation in Seattle she went in to have a CT scan for another issue that turned out to be a hernia on her Xyphoid process.  That was the good news.

The bad news is that the CT scan identified an abnormal thickening area in her right side abdominal wall and 2 areas of concern in her right breast.

Further investigation by the Doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shows she now has invasive ductile carcinoma.  It has escaped the confines of the milk ducts and has invaded her breast tissue.

She and Rick will be returning to Seattle on May 2 (just a few days from now) for an MRI to see if the swollen lymph nodes are connected to the cancer and to get proper staging.

They had to give up their health insurance because the premiums in Alaska for the lowest coverage available was over $36,000 a year.

They are now a facing paying for their home in Alaska as well as trying to set up a small efficiency apartment for her near their son and daughter-in-law's place in Seattle.  I looks like they will be paying around $1600 a month for an fully furnished studio apartment.  These apartments are set up specifically for folks who come from outside Seattle for medical treatment and Tanya and Rick are VERY grateful that they were able to get on the waiting list and get a place right away!

There will be considerable expense, $1500 ($1000 if can afford the additional time away from work and can drive to Anchorage) each time Rick flies to Seattle and back to Homer.

We are running this campaign to help raise money to assist in these expenses.

Tanya has started a Caring Bridge page where everyone can go and see how things are going for them.  You can check it out at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tanyanorvell


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Hello everyone!

Everything went well with my surgery on Monday. Unfortunately this morning I am experiencing redness, swelling and soreness at the graft sights. I sent pictures and called the Doc. I expect I will be returning to the clinic today.

Our granddaughter is here with me so she is going to accompany me to the hospital. I just wanted to make quick post to let you know what is happening. Hoping we caught it early enough that IV antibiotic will take care of it before it turns into another abcess.

Seems like there is never a dull moment with me these days.

Blessings to you all,

I will post again in a couple days.
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Good Day Everyone,

Well it has been a busy week here in my temporary home away from in Seattle. I had my CT on Monday, met with my therapist, met with my surgeon on Tuesday and we formulated our plan for the 18th, and saw my Oncologist on Thursday.

She was smiling when she came in so I was pretty sure she had good news. The results of the CT scan show that one node has shrunk and the other remains the same size so no biopsy at this time. Can you see us doing the happy dance?! We are all set to move forward with my next reconstructive surgery on Monday! Recovery is expected to be 3 weeks this time. And hopefully that will be it except for check-ups.

Every 4 months for a year them I image I will graduate to yearly and we will once again begin clicking off those year counts to year 5 then 10 and so on.

Rick is coming down April 24th and we will go visit the little town we will retire to in 2 years. Ricks brother and his wife will be there and we are hoping that the other brothers and sisters can come to for the weekend.

Then I will have my last 2 appointments one on the 6th and 7th of May. Then we go home to Alaska the afternoon of the 7th or the morning of the 8th.

Then I have to get to work on the glass creations for my show at Ptarmigan Arts which will be showing the entire month of August. I have several great pieces planned and am very excited to get to work on them.

Our son and daughter-in-law are going to be out of state the week of my surgery so I am gonna hang at their place with our lovely granddaughter. I am praying that there are no illnesses or accesses this time. I will come home with an abdominal drain but none in my breasts this time! Thank heavens for small favors!

My first post-op appointment is April fools day… First Halloween now April fools day, I think I am seeing a pattern here :-)

I think that is about it for now. We hope you are all having a great March!

Blessings to all,

Tanya, Rick, Winston, Squirrel Girl and Katey Kat
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Good Evening everyone,

I went to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance yesterday for my CT scan. I do not have results on it yet but hope to have them possibly tomorrow but possibly not until Thursday.

Today was my pre-op appointment for what Dr. Gougougtas to discuss the next step.

We are both hoping and he seems optimistic that it will be my last surgery. This surgery is expected to be about 4 hours. It will include some scar revision to minimize the scaring as much as possible and some additional work on my tummy. The work on the tummy is because apparently the side I had the infection on (the left) is bulging a bit... okay quite a bit.

The Doc says it is not a hernia but is kinda similar in that the muscle layers have pulled apart and can't hold the tummy tight on that side so he will fix that and fix what they call "dog ears" at both ends of the tummy incision. They are bits of skin that remain after the main reconstruction that are kinda shaped like the ears of a small dog except they are thick and not terribly attractive.

Now that all the swelling has subsided the "hollows" left between my clavicles and the breast proper are quite noticeable so he will harvest fat from wherever he can find it and fill in those areas.

He seemed a tiny bit concerned that he may have to take the fat from a few places as there may not be enough from just one location. I never thought I would be able to say "I don't have enough fat on me"! Yep, you got it... another silver lining!

I am stressing much less this month as I was actually able to get all of our year end tax papers done and to the accountant before I left home and got the sales taxes paid for the month.

Unlike last year, at least I am not sitting here fretting because the paperwork was piling up month after month.

Now I am concentrating on glass designs for my Gallery show at Ptarmigan Arts Gallery in Homer this August. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to gather enough art work for a show so a fellow artist who works in stained glass is going to show a few pieces also. Making kiln worked glass is much more fun to think about than paperwork!

Well, I guess that is all for now. Rick and the kitties all wanted me to thank all of you again for being our cheerleaders and taking this journey with us. Knowing you are all there makes this whole thing so much easier.

Blessings to you all!

Tanya signing off for myself, Rick, Squirrel, Katey Kat, and Sir Winston.
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Good Day Everyone,

Squirrel Girl here. Mama took a plane back to Seattle on Saturday for what we are all hoping will be her last surgery.

She was using air miles to get there and she had to leave a week before her appointments or she would have had to use up all their available air miles.

Since she is gonna be there so early she is visiting family in the Tri-Cities area of Eastern Washington until the 9th. Then she will head to Seattle and have her solid week of doctor appointments in preparation for the surgery on the 18th.

Her next CAT ( I told her I could do a CAT scan for her but she said it isn’t that kinda “CAT” ) is scheduled for the 11th so we are all praying for a clean CAT. The lymph nodes behind her chest wall while a little smaller on the last CT were still enlarged so we are hoping that they will all be back to normal. Mama says, “we are operating on the theory that they were just enlarged because they were upset with the cancers invasion and they were just doing their jobs”

After all she had 2 kinds of breast cancer at the same time, followed by 2 post op infections two weeks apart, so the lymph system had plenty to be riled up about.

The wonderful folks at Pete Gross House do not have a room for her right now so she says she is going to be couch surfing with friends and family until her treatments are done or Pete Gross gets an opening.

Papa will be heading down on the 24th of April and then Mom and Dad plan to return together on or around the 7th of May.

Right now Mama is hanging out with Aunty Kathy and Uncle Mitch until Saturday. Then she goes to Seattle for a FULL week of pre-op appointments. Her next surgery is scheduled for Monday the 18th. With luck and God’s grace she will get a clean CAT scan and be home for good in May!


We are praying our hearts out and crossing our little kitty paws and toes that all goes well. We sure did miss her last year and did our best every time she got a chance to come home for a few days to let her know how much we missed her and smother her with love and affection. I think she knows how much we all want her home for good.

The totally awesome news is that she got to actually get in her studio for a few days while she was home so I thought maybe you would like to see a few pictures of her work. She has her first official Gallery show the entire month of August at the Ptarmigan Arts Gallery here in Homer, Alaska. The table top and wall scone are only in the fabrication stage but the 2 masks are from a group show she participated in a bout 18 months or so ago.

The table top is self explanatory (mama has been teaching BIG words), the birds will become a wall sconce, and then of course there are the masks.


I guess that is about it for now, till next time,

May your days be filled with many cat naps and romps in fields of blooming catnip!

For now this is Squirrel Girl signing off for Mama, Papa, Winston and Katy Kat
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Raised by 56 people in 11 months
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