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Cancer Strikes Alaskans a 3rd Time

$7,970 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 56 people in 8 months
Created April 26, 2018
Fundraising team
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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Update 26
Posted by Tanya Norvell
25 days ago
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Merry Christmas Everyone!


Oh my, my, my, we kitties feel like we have landed in the middle of a humongous field of fresh blooming catnip! I can imagine rolling in it right now :-). Mama is HOME for Christmas! She arrived the night of the 20th and Papa took her and Grandma Peggy to dinner at Cafe Cups.

They dropped Grandma off at her place and Mama and Papa came home. We were all waiting for her when they got here and convinced her that it was imperative that she go to bed. As soon as she got in bed we all piled on top of her and Papa and we all snuggled and watched movies. Then the next day Papa had some things to do. We 3 kits decided to make sure Mama rested really well. We kept her in bed most of the day :-)

She was so tired by the time she got to our home we thought she was gonna fall over right on top of us. She said she couldn’t sleep the night before she came home. She wanted to come home so bad and she was afraid she would sleep through the alarm and miss her flight so sleeping was difficult. Pretty much she was up from 8AM the morning of the 19th until 10PM the night of the 20th. Then there was the “always energizing” airport experience and a 6 hour layover in Anchorage for the final leg of her trip home from Anchorage to Homer. She was more tired than a mama kitty with a passel of newborns!

She is healing slowly but surely. Both infection sites are still open but they are taking a wee bit less packing every day. They should soon be healed enough to no longer need packing. That will be a red letter day :-)

She gets to stay home until the middle of March! She has to return to Seattle March 11, 2019 for what the doctor thinks and we hope will be her last surgery to finish the reconstructive process. There is a bit of “fine tuning to do on the reconstruction and a little bit of “damage” from the infection sights that will be fixed and well as a bit of work on her abdominal incision.

She will be gone 6 to 8 weeks and that will hopefully be it! She should be home shortly after May 6, 2019… for real!

The BIG news now is that this latest escapade in health care has made it clear to Mama and Papa that they need to up the schedule on our retirement plans. Yep they are OUR retirement plans because we are a family so kitties get a say in things :-)…kitties rule

They are now working on finishing out the lower level of our current house so they can get it on the market. Ceiling and floor trim and flooring are the big things on the “to-do” list.They hope to have the house listed by mid summer. They know it could take a year or more to sell so they want to get it on the market ASAP. They are hoping to be moving up their original retirement plans form

They said they found a great little town in Washington called Goldendale, that will be our new town. They said that we will be able to watch lots of deer right in our front yard ( kind of like watching the moose here only according to mom the deer are a whole lot smaller.

I know Mama and I have said it many times but we just want to thank all of you for everything you continue to do for her and Papa, and by extension us kitties.

We all wish all of you the very best Christmas and New Year!


For Mama, Papa, Katey Kat and Winston, the is Squirrel Girl sending love and head rubs to everyone!
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Update 25
Posted by Tanya Norvell
1 month ago
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Hello Everyone!,

I am here to update you on Mama's progress. As you all know mama was re-admitted to the hospital this past Tuesday night. She was battling another infection. This time it was just below the tummy incision on the left side.

They put her on IV antibiotics again and after about 24 hours it started to make red inflamed area recede. By Friday morning the infection had localized to an area about the size of a half dollar but it was now filled with "fluid" AKA was beginning to form another lovely little abscess. The on call plastic surgeon said they needed to drain this one now so that the infection can have a "way out". Once again, when he got it opened up he said that it was a good thing they did it 'cause the antibiotic would not have completely killed it and it would have come back once the antibiotics were done. They cleaned the infection out on Friday morning and discharged her that afternoon. She has been sleeping a lot but makes sure she gets up and walks a bit every day to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and build a little strength.

Mama was worried that she was doing something wrong to cause the infections but the Doctors assured her this was not the case. Every body (even us kitties who wash incessantly) have all sorts of "bugs" on and in our bodies at all times. Apparently some of these bugs are good, helpful and necessary for good health and others are nasty bad things that wreak all sorts of havoc. This is especially true for those with stressed immune systems. They said she was doing a great job which was proven by the awesome way the scars were healing. It is just that somehow one or more of the nasty bugs found its way under the skin and set up some rather successful housekeeping.

Those nasty bugs have been kicked to the curb now though and things are clearing up nicely.

Mama said there is a strange phenomena that goes along with cancer treatment. She said that she a Papa both experienced it when his treatment was done and the doctors said he could go home to Alaska. She says that when you are actively doing all the things that need to be done during cancer treatment that your brain gives all it’s concentration to those things. Everything revolves around treatments, appointments, tests, etc. Everyday is all about survival and getting well. Then as suddenly as it all started it comes to an end and you get your “walking papers”.

She said it is kinda like being a tiny kitten. Your mama kitty takes care of all your needs, food, bathing, learning proper potty protocol, etc. Then all of a sudden a stranger comes and totes you off to a new life. You feel a loss at the separation from your mama kitty but you also know you have a new and exciting life ahead of you.

She says that even though she knows she still has at least one more surgery and a follow-up CT scan coming in March that she is becoming anxious. She will be giving up her little “home away from home” on the 20th. This means she won’t have a place to come back to in Seattle in March. She will be a long way from her doctors which causes a bit more anxiety. She calls this phenomenon “separation anxiety”. I know what she means because I get it every time she leaves us to go back to Seattle. She says it is a very weird feeling because as much as she really wants to come home there is a strange fear of doing so.

She is however getting things ready to come home, trying to eat the food she has left, figure out what she is bringing home and what she is leaving behind for future patients, getting instructions from all her various doctors, etc.

This is going to be a very special Christmas in our little home in Alaska. We are already making plans to have Grandma over for dinner on Christmas. Papa says we are gonna get a whole bunch of snuggle time with both him and Mama over the holidays. We are all on board for that! We have been practicing proper snuggle and relaxation protocol so we can maximize our time with them when she gets home!

Well, I guess that is about if for today. Mama and Papa both want me to tell you again how much all of you have made such a difference in her treatment and recovery. We (us kitties too) are all so grateful for everything all of you have done for us and all your prayers!

For Mama, Papa, Winston and Katey Kat this is Squirrelly Girl signing off until next time.

May your days be filled with sunny naps and dreams of catnip fields!
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Update 24
Posted by Tanya Norvell
1 month ago
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Squirrel Girl here!

Yep I am back, and you know what that means. Mama isn’t feelin’ so hot these past few days so I am here to fill in for her.

It’s been a while since I have written all you fine humans! Dad, Winston, Katey Kat and I are doing our best to “hold down the fort” here in Homer while Mama does her best to recover in Seattle so she can come home to us.

When I talked to her on the phone today she said she has tickets to come home on Dec. 20th! She’s gonna be home for Christmas! We are saying our kitty prayers every night that she gets all better and gets to keep her date with Alaska Airlines on December 20th!

Yes, God listens to the prayers of kitties too. I know that because when I was a really tiny kitten and I was waiting for Mama to discover me I prayed everyday that I could find a family that would love a kitten that looked and acted more like a squirrel than a kitten. Then Mama saw my picture on Facebook. She said she fell in love with me the second she saw my picture! Proof positive that God listens to kittens too!

As you all know she has been having some struggles with a couple nasty infections. The one in her breast is doing quite well now. She has been diligently been packing the wound everyday and keeping it extra clean and dry. She was really lucky when Jan was there because she just got her Medical Assistant certification and she packed it for her the week she was there helping mom.

Mom has been tending it again since Jan left and the Doc is pleased with the healing. He thinks it will be ready to close (possibly on it’s own) within a week, maybe week and a half!

So, now to the reason I am writing tonight instead of Mama.

She has been re-admitted to the hospital. The new infection in her tummy surgery site is not responding quick enough or thoroughly enough to oral antibiotics. The margins of the large inflamed area have receded a bit but the portion that has not receded has become a wee bit puffy, the skin is shiny and a small area about 1 inch by 1/2 inch is peeling like a bad sunburn. It appears to be free of abscess. No mass is palpable like the one in her right breast was. Unfortunately the redness now runs the entire length on her abdominal scar extending about 3/8 to 1/2” above and below the incision scar. The main infection (original location) is on the left lower abdomen below the incision scar and covers an area approximately 4” long by 3” wide.

She was re-admitted this evening about 5PM and has just finished her first round of IV antibiotics. Her treatment is hampered somewhat by the fact that she is allergic to penicillin and Vancomycin. Vancomycin is one of the top antibiotics they use for this condition so it limits the options they have for IV antibiotics.

The doctor felt it was best not to continue with oral drugs because they do not seem to be providing enough bio-availability to get the infection under control. Once the infection is in full retreat she can go back to her apartment and continue with oral antibiotics like she did for the breast abscess.

She is in room SA6407 at the University of Washington Medical Center. She said her “frequent flyer” rewards at the hospital got her a really nice room with a beautiful view of the park and river.:-)

I guess that is about it for now folks. We hope you all get lots of catnip and stuffed toy mice in your Christmas Stockings!

For Mama, Papa, Winston, and Katey Kat this is Squirrel Girl signing off ‘till next time


Now we are gonna go say our kitty prayers that mama’s infection will heal and she will be home on the 20th!
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Update 23
Posted by Tanya Norvell
1 month ago
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Hello Everyone!

The unexpected just keeps bringing it’s version of gifts. I choose to beg to differ with it’s interpretation of gifts at this current moment, but I am sure there is a silver lining in here somewhere. I will continue to look until I find it.

SO, the good news is that the infection in my right breast seems to be in full retreat. All swelling is gone and with daily packing of the open wound it is healing quite well. I saw the Doctor today and he is delighted with the healing of both the infection site in the “new” breast and all of the incisions (both breasts and the abdominal incision). He said several times, “I can’t believe how well you heal”. As much as I would love to take credit for that I think it has little to do with my determination and more to do with nature… But, I sure like hearing it!

Now for the not-so-good news… as the “very nasty abscess” (doc’s description not mine) seems to be in making a full about face, I now have a totally unrelated infection at the site of the abdominal incision. We knew this was ALL a possibility before we moved forward with the procedure one is never truly prepared for the eventuality. We think we are, but truly… not so much. This one is VERY painful and very angry. It is very, very red and totally unhappy.

The first infection did not respond to Bactrim (the first antibiotic) because it turned out to be a strain impervious to that antibiotic. It responded very well to Clindamycin. Unfortunately the new infection reared its ugly head at the end of that course of treatment. While we were waiting for the Clindamycin to work it’s magic on the abscess a totally different infection took hold in my abdomen. This one is clearly not afraid of Clindamycin or it never would have started so Doc G. put me on a new anti-biotic to see if it would get it under control.

I just started the new antibiotic today and the doc marked the margins of the infection with a sharpie so we could keep an eye on the margins. If the margins shrink we will stay the course. If not, we will move to the next option which will most likely mean another round in the hospital in hopes that new IV antibiotics will be the key to an infection free future and the ability for me to go home before Christmas. I must say I am a bit hesitant to put to many hopes up for a before Christmas return home with all the road blocks that keep arising but non-the-less I will make reservations for my return home shortly after my December 14th appointment all the while knowing there is a better than 50% chance I will have to delay the trip.

My sister-in-law, Kathy left Tuesday the 20th and my longtime friend Janis came last Sunday the 25th. They have both been true gifts and helped me immeasurably both physically and emotionally.

Jan is waiting to leave until Sunday to make sure the newest infection is under control before she goes home. Then if all goes well with the new infection and it begins to subside, I get to start my new round of PT on the 5TH of December.

I will be looking for tickets home for after the 15TH of December. My final Post-op appointment for now is the 14Th of December. I am praying that everything stays on track now so that this all comes to pass.

I guess that is it for now. I hope you are all planning a low stress and Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year.

Blessings to all,

Tanya
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$7,970 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 56 people in 8 months
Created April 26, 2018
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