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Cancer Strikes Alaskans a 3rd Time

$8,120 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 58 people in 13 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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Oh Happy Days!


Squirrel Girl here with the wonderful news the MAMA IS HOME!! Papa Rick went down to Portland and borrowed a rig (that is my new word for the day, Mama says it means car. I swear I don’t know why people have so many different words for the same thing! Seems like a waste of meows to me ;-) ) Anyway, Uncle Steve and Aunt Debbie have a spare “rig” that they let Mama and Papa use. Mama met papa in Portland and then they ran away for a whole 10 days before they came home. They couldn’t get a cell phone signal on the property so they were “incommunicado” for nearly the whole time. Mama said it was like being in the olden days way back in the 1990’s when there were no “cell phones” and internet was something called dial-up.

Mama says they spent the time at the property we are all going to retire on near Goldendale Washington. Our Aunt Kathie and Uncle Mitch had a travel trailer that they brought for Mama and Papa to stay in because there is no house or septic on the property. All Papa’s brothers and sisters came up one weekend and they had a great time. Then most came the next week end too. They all helped with cleaning and clearing debris and trees. Mama felt bad because she was still on doctor’s orders to not do anything that required her tummy muscles. Bending, lifting, hauling, were all forbidden. She is really looking forward to getting back to “normal”.


Uncle Steve and Aunt Debbie have a piece of property real close by and both pieces have lots of trees. The forest service is helping mama and papa figure out how to keep the forest on their property healthy and build fire defenses. They also are helping them learn about how to make it wildlife friendly.

They went back to Seattle on Monday the 6th and had a doctors appointment that afternoon and then her appointment with her surgeon on Tuesday the 7th. The doctor is very pleased with the healing but the right breast is still a bit wonky from where the infection was so she needs one more minor procedure. Mama says she wants to wait for that until near the end of the year. She just wants to have 6 months with no surgeries of any kind.

The doctor says she can start doing her everyday things now and start building strength back. She is very excited for that and looking forward to some garden therapy now that spring is here!

Neither one of us will be writing much here this summer as we will all be busy with summer projects, mama has a gallery showing in August for her glass so she is gonna be working day and night on that and int the garden and on business paperwork the rest of the time.

Our whole family wants to thank everyone for everything they have done for us in this past year! Without all of you it would have been s much more difficult journey. Mom’s next check-up will be in late August and we are all confident it will be nothing but good news.

Until then we wish all of you a MEOWVELOUS summer. We hope you find time to take a roll in a giant field of catnip while it is in bloom! It is best when it is in bloom ;-)

Blessings to each and every one of you and all of yours,

For Mama, Papa, Miss Katey Kat, and Winston this is Squirrelly Girl signing off with love and purrs for all of you
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Good Evening Everyone,

It has been one year since my diagnosis and exactly 3 weeks since my marathon 3rd surgery in this journey to health. Time flies when you're having fun! I am very pleased to say that the last 3 or 4 days I have been feeling much better! I have been waking up at 7AM. I was able to do laundry on Saturday, clean the itty bitty kitchen yesterday and sweep and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors today. I is only one thing a day and doesn’t seem like much but it feels huge right now. Indeed, it's the small things that make a day worth looking forward to .

A few other “little things” being strong enough and healed enough to actually get across the cross walk of a 4 lane Seattle intersection in the 19 seconds they give you to make the trip. Being able to actually take a bath instead of a shower. Not that I take a lot of baths, but it's kinda like when you go on a diet and you know you can’t eat cake. Even when you never eat cake, just knowing you “can’t” have it makes you want it! I am taking my first bath since surgery tomorrow! I’ve been dreaming about it since a week before surgery . I hope it turns out as delish as the dreams have been! Not having to sit down to wait for the elevator to get from the first to the 6th floor is another milestone. Finally being able to push myself up with my arms to get out of bed yet another. In the daily scheme of things they all seem like insanely small things but each one is a triumph these days and I like celebrating triumphs. I think a glass of red wine might be in order

One of my favorite little things is when I get an Instant Message from my most wonderful husband that has a flower emoji in it. He knows I can’t have flowers at Pete Gross House because so many of the other patients are immuno-compromised because they are stem cell transplant patients so he sends me pictures of them. They always make me smile and then there are the pictures of the kitties all piled up on the bed with him.

It truly is the little things that make my days of late.

Since I last wrote I have had 3 Doctor appointments and lots of rest. Previous to my surgery at my Pre-op appointment we discussed the fact that the left side of my abdomen was quite distended. Dr. Gougoutas was very clear we needed to investigate and fix it while I was in surgery for the final breast reconstruction and revision of the “dog ears” at the outer aspects of my abdominal scar. And… this is where the 4-1/2 hour surgery turned into and 8-1/2 hour surgery. Doc G. told me that the reason my surgery took so long was that the area that was distended (the same side as the infection that reared it’s ugly head during the first reconstruction surgery) had become very lax and had filled in with A LOT of scar tissue. While my body seems to have difficulty fighting the infections when it is worn down, the actual surgical incisions heal very well and quickly. This means it also builds scar tissue rapidly and apparently when incisions are combined with infection damage, it means it builds a lot of scar tissue. It took all that extra time to clean out the old wound, install some “binding material” to strengthen the abdominal wall, and do the revision on the rest of the work.

He is not surprised that I have been so fatigued and that it is taking so long to heal. He had to harvest the fat from my "love handles" and from multiple locations on my back to get enough to fill in the concave areas of both breasts that were left after all the swelling subsided. I think I counted 8 different access locations with another 6 insertion locations.

I now get to experience wearing a compression garment that reaches from my knees to my shoulders for six weeks. I have to say, it gives me an all new appreciation for “women of a certain age” wore these things on a daily basis just to fit into tiny waisted dresses in the mid 20th century! These would be the same ladies who would wait until their husbands went to sleep then get up, take their make-up off, roll their hair and tie it all up with a bandana. Then they would get up in the morning before their hubby woke up, put their make-up on, come out their hair and go back to bed so they looked perfectly “put together” when their man woke up. Seriously… they really did this! In fact they went to “finishing school” to learn these and other various things to keep the hubby wanting to keep coming home!

I am so glad I am an adult in this century. I think my mom was the last generation that went through that.

The infection has mostly cleared and this time without hospitalization! It was slow resolving and the skin continues to be quite sensitive. It itches something fierce so I am going through cortisone cream at a fairly rapid pace.

I spend a lot of time counting the days until my sweetheart gets here, T-minus 17 and counting and 23 days until my final post-op appointment with Dr. G and our plane flight home that night!

I will be sending the next 3 weeks resting a lot, eating well, walking as much as I can and staying healthy so we have no delays in our schedule to return home!

Thank you all for continuing on this journey with us. We have almost caught up to that light at the end of the tunnel and you have all made it a much easier ride!

Blessings to all,

This is Tanya signing off for myself, Rick, Squirrel Girl, Katey Kat and Winston
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Dear Family and Friends,

I a m so sorry it has been so long since I wrote here. I know you all rely on these pages to know what is happening with me.

I made the error of deciding in my own mind that this one would be cake walk compared to the previous 2 surgeries. Little did I know I had another lesson in humility coming.

I had my surgery on Monday the 18th. The surgery was scheduled to be 2-1/2 to 4 hours long and turned out being 8-1/2 hours. More on that in a future post.

On a really good note, a room opened up at Pete Gross House just before my surgery so another prayer answered there.

I spent the week with our Granddaughter and she took very good care of me. I had to leave this weekend though as she started to come down with what we think is the flue. I feel very bad because I am sure she picked it up at the emergency room visits we have had to make since surgery. We decided that the best thing to do was to err on the side of caution and move me to my little efficiency apartment at Pete Gross. It almost feels like coming home and we are once again grateful to have this wonderful option.

My immune system is so exhausted that the wretched skin infection returned 2 days after surgery. This time it encompasses the majority of both breasts. They are treating it with 2 different types of oral antibiotics but so far they have not readmitted me to the hospital. The infection appears to be a dormant strain of Staph that has been playing hide and seek in my body for about 40 years. The first time it reared its ugly head was when I was working in a hospital kitchen in Pendleton, Oregon. I was in my early 20’s and cut it from a cut in the kitchen. They treated it and it subsided. Only to hang out for 40 years waiting to make a reappearance and quite the reappearance it has made.

It has been exactly one week since I got out of recovery and the infection, while very slowly receding is still quite painful. It is kind of like having a 3rd degree sunburn. It is very red and is raised like welts. The welts are hard and painful to the touch be it hand or clothing.

As this infection continues to be an issue, I need to stay in Seattle until I am at least 4 weeks out from surgery so my plans to return for a visit to Eastern Washington are on indeterminate hold.

I was able to get to the store VIA Reach Now. They provide each cancer patient at the Pete Gross house with $250 a month free car rental or rides. So I mustered up conviction, put my big girl panties on and called for a driver to take me to the store. My driver (Peyman) was really nice and said he would hang out in the area as long as he could so if he was available he could give me a ride back. I told him it could be a long time because I can’t move very fast and he said it was okay. I really didn’t think he would be there but low and behold, there he was! He had just returned from a fare to the airport and had just gotten back in the area.

He loaded and unloaded my groceries for me and put them on the trolley at Pete Gross for me.

I was able to get enough groceries for at least a week as well as my needed staples. Now I am set to hibernate in my room until I get over the infection and gain some strength back.

I do get to go to the hospital tomorrow and get my abdominal tube removed tomorrow. I will take the shuttle that takes us there and back and that will be my outing until April 1 which is my first official post-op appointment with reconstructive surgery.

Well, I guess that is it for now. I need to muster the determination to make some dinner and get some rest.

Blessings to all of you and again thank you for your continued love and support.

Tanya, Rick, Winston, Katey Kat and Squirrelly Girl
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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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$8,120 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 58 people in 13 months
Created April 26, 2018
Fundraising team
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