Goodbye Maire

Yesterday I was privileged to attend a farewell ceremony for Maire Kent, a 24 year old sarcoma patient whose battle with cancer ended on September 27. Maire and I were not only linked by the similarity in our diagnosis, but we shared a family connection as well. Her Uncle Mike is married to Ryan's Aunt Colleen.

I didn't know Maire before she got sick, but had a few short opportunities to visit with her in her hospital room after my clinic visits, and finally at Relay for Life of Fowlerville, just two weeks before her death. Maire and I did the Survivor's Lap together. Uncle Mike pushed her wheelchair around the track, and Maire reached out and asked me to hold her hand. As we walked along with all the teams cheering and clapping in the bright sunlight, my eyes filled with tears and I realized that the strong, warm hand gripping my own would not be there next year. But still, I thought she had more time than she did. Despite the way her body had been ravaged by her disease, at each visit Maire was cheerful, smiling, and at Relay just seemed happy to be there with her family.

The service that honored her life yesterday was beautiful. The room was full of people grieving her loss but also full of love. Aunt Colleen gave a thoughtful, heartfelt, and moving tribute to Maire when she delivered the eulogy. She also offered a message of hope and salvation that I pray will enter the hearts and minds of the people in that room who needed to hear it the most. Ryan and I sat in the back, listening and learning more about the life of the girl Aunt Colleen and Uncle Mike loved so much. Her short years in this world were not easy ones, but somehow she still managed to touch others and keep fighting right to the very end.

We watched the pictures flash across the screen of happier times, and I thought about how close my family had come to having to hold a service much like this one. My heart squeezed in my chest as I thought about the pain Uncle Mike must be feeling as he sat in front of the casket of his young niece. Because of a strained relationship with her parents, Uncle Mike had stepped up to fill a much bigger role in Maire's life than he might have otherwise. His pain must have been overwhelming and I said a prayer as I thought of my own beautiful nieces, that they would have long healthy lives and Ryan and I would be spared the loss of any of them.

Partway through the service I looked up to see Dr. Chugh enter the crowded chapel. Dr. Chugh is my oncologist and was Maire's as well. She stood at he back of the room with her friend and colleague, a cardiac sarcoma specialist who played a hugely important role in Maire's final year of life. As I caught her eye and waved I became overwhelmed with love and respect for the woman who saved my life and led my family through one of the darkest times we will ever know.

The service drew to a close and we headed outside for the military honors Maire would receive and to watch pink balloons of Maire's favorite color released into the sky along with a single white dove. Dr. Chugh greeted me with a hug and whispered "this must be so difficult for you" and she gently rubbed my back as she had done in the hospital when I was bent over a basin unable to stop vomiting. It was difficult of course, but Ryan and I had come in support of Aunt Colleen and Uncle Mike who have been there to help us through our struggles over the years. So I just nodded at Dr. Chugh and wiped away the tears from my cheeks.

 As we stood there Dr. Chugh and I made small talk like we do at each clinic visit. I was happy to introduce her to my goddaughter, nephew, and my sister in law and mother in law. She laughed when Aunt Colleen and my mother in law stood together and said she finally understood the connection between our families.

After the service we said our goodbyes, and I told Dr. Chugh I would see her soon. Ryan and I moved away from the group to wait for his mom to bring the car around for his grandma. But Dr. Chugh came over and told me she wanted to tell me one more thing. She said that she was so happy to see me there at the funeral home and teared up when she told me how bad it was for Maire and how that compared to the horrible shape I was in when we met. Other doctors in my care team had already told us how bleak my future had looked when they first saw my scans and some had flat out told us they didn't expect me to make it. But never Dr. Chugh. Throughout treatment and even in the years afterward when I was out of immediate danger she acknowledged the enormity of my fight but was always optimistic and hopeful.

Last night was the first time I saw the fear she must have had for me and it came as a shock. The longer I have been healthy and the more clear scans I have had, the more I begin to take my miracle for granted. If witnessing what Maire went through and helping her family say goodbye had not been enough to renew my thankfulness, those words from Dr. Chugh certainly are. She said that I was a source of inspiration for her which humbles me beyond words. It must be so difficult and devastating for her to do everything she can for a patient like Maire and still watch her slip away.

It's hard not to feel guilty that each step of my journey was met with healing and success and so many others gain their victory over cancer only in death. But I know that my God had me and Maire in the palm of His hand and while I will never fully understand our different fates and I deeply feel the injustice of the tragic losses cancer brings, I know that God has a bigger plan and He can work good from all things.

I know that Maire's memory and the conversation I had with Dr. Chugh during Maire's final goodbye will never be far from my mind. I pray that I can honor Maire, other sarcoma patients, and all those touched by cancer by living this life I was blessed to keep with purpose and a grateful heart. I feel so fortunate to be here to continue the fight against cancer alongside warriors like Dr. Chugh.

The University of Michigan has set up a memorial fund in Maire's name and I am looking forward to witnessing the positive impact it will have on those who are facing a diagnosis of a rare, poorly understand cancer such as we did.


Rest in Peace with our Lord, Maire. You will not be forgotten.



I am all clear, still! What a relief. My oncologist is starting to be concerned about all the scans I have been exposed to though, so she wants me to think about spacing them out a little more. I don't know if my nerves can handle that just yet.


9 Month Post-Chemo CT Scan

Yesterday morning I went for my nine month scan. I won't have any results until February 15th, when I meet with my oncologist. I didn't feel as confident as I usually do, which is worrisome. My mom had a CT at the exact same time as mine, which all the staff thought was amazing. We decided we would have rather gone to the spa.

As far as CT scans go, this one was pleasant enough. There was a new flavor of barium- mochaccino smoothie, which is very misleading, but slightly more tolerable than berry or banana. My IV was inserted on the first try, and the scan itself was over in a matter of minutes. Now I just wait for the news...


My Speech

Last week I was able to speak at my cousin's Relay For Life Kickoff Event and I thought I'd post my speech here since it is cancer related and all.

Good evening. As Marissa said, my name is Angela Emond, and I'm honored to speak to you tonight. In May of 2008, I was diagnosed with a rare and often deadly form of cancer: Ewing's Sarcoma. Those two words, formerly something no one close to me had even heard, soon became a refrain that took control of every aspect of my life.

Like many cancer patients at first I was completely overwhelmed by the unfamiliar and seemingly insurmountable obstacles ahead of me. My tumor extended from my left kidney, through my renal vein, into my IVC all the way to my heart. I underwent major surgery and 12 rounds of chemo. During this time, I struggled to remain positive and focused on getting better. What made the biggest difference to me was knowing that I was blessed with a wonderful support system. My family, friends, coworkers, students, neighbors, and members of my church surrounded me with love and assistance. Even strangers in the community read about my condition in the newspaper and reached out to help.

One of the most difficult tasks facing a cancer patient and their family is staying informed . Because my treatment began almost immediately, there was no time to prepare for the damaging effects chemotherapy causes as it enters you body. My caregivers and I were not aware of the precautions that needed to be taken in order to prevent mouth sores, and unfortunately I developed the most severe case my medical team had ever seen. I ended up losing the lining of my esophagus. This caused me months of pain as it grew back and kept me from being able to get proper nutrition for a very long time. Even taking a sip of water sent a searing, burning sensation down my throat into my chest. By my second round of chemotherapy my mother had educated us all on the steps I needed to take for mouth care. She found that important information, as well as many other tips and advice addressing the specific problems cancer patients face in the booklets that are published by the ACS. But that's just one tiny example of what the American Cancer Society does. They also offer the Look Good Feel Better Program which teaches women how to look their best, allowing them to feel a little more like themselves.

Last year I had the chance to participate in my first survivor lap at relay for life. As I began my walk around the track, I was in awe as I observed the many different types of people walking beside me, in all stages of the battle with cancer. Cancer indiscriminately touches people’s lives. I was joined by men, women, young children in strollers and older people in wheelchairs. I felt a sense of pride to be part of this community. It is one that no one chooses to belong to, but it is a group who as a whole refuse to give up. When my family joined me for the caregiver lap, I became even more emotional. I was happy to have a chance to publicly honor those closest to me who had attended to my every need and fought just as hard as I had on a daily basis.

Fundraising for American Cancer Society through Relay For Life events made a difference in my life, it continues to make a difference in the lives of millions of cancer patients across the country. My favorite aspect of Relay for Life is that it is the most well known event to raise awareness and offer support for ALL types of cancers, not just the most common. The funds raised from events like this one help people like me, who's cancers are not yet well understood. I am so grateful for the people who organize and participate in Relay for Life each year and I hope that you keep in mind that you are helping to bring about change. The survival rate is difficult to predict with my type of cancer because it is based on the people who have lived for at least five years after treatment. But those statistics are already obsolete because I received treatment that was far superior than those who were treated five years ago. My doctor advised me to live like I am part of the percentage who has been predicted to survive. So that’s what I am doing, staying involved and remaining hopeful that this disease will become better understood, treated and eventually cured.

Cancer is terrible. But I've found that you have to respond with courage and faith. In some way, you have to fight back. Relay for Life allows us all the opportunity to do just that. I’d like to close with a poem entitled I Walk for You, I Walk for Me, the author is unknown.

I walked around a track today
I walked to help a disease go away.
I walked because there is a need
I walked that bodies could be freed
I walked to give a small child hope
I walked to help someone cope
I walked for a husband or a wife
I walked to help save a life
I walked with my head held high
I walked for that one about to die
I walked excitedly not demure
I walked to help find a cure
I walked for everyone to see
I walked for you, I walked for me

Thank you all for coming out this evening, thank you for your support of those touched by cancer and your support of the ACS.


Monday, October 12, 2009

I went to my primary care physician today because I have been experiencing a lot of fatigue lately. I was concerned about the fact that I may still have anemia, but she blew me off and suggested I do a sleep study. She did however order blood tests, so we shall see. Hopefully she is right and I am overreacting.


Monday, September 28th, 2009

The search for a new job goes on and on...

In the meanwhile, I have been nannying for a great family. They have one baby boy who was born in June. He has the same name as my godson's- Jackson! He is such a cutie he has the longest eyelashes and is a very happy baby.

Tonight Ryan and I are attending our first meeting to get information on becoming foster parents. I hope it goes well, it should be very detailed as it is three hours long!

Onto my health news, I have almost nothing going on! I had my port flushed a week ago, it went very well, this time both sides gave me a good blood return. My next scan isn't until the end of October.


Sunday, August 16th, 2009

To keep up my new routine of taking the good with some bad, I had two big events happen recently. The good news is that I had my three month scan on August 3rd, and on August 10th, I met with my oncologist. I got the results of my scan- ALL CLEAR- which is something to celebrate for sure! I will have to continue to go back every three months and hopefully my entries into this blog will get boring and predictable and that is all I will ever have to report.

Right now, everything with my health looks great and Dr. Chugh cleared me to go back to work. Unfortunately, the bad news is that I don't exactly have a job to go back to. Due to financial difficulties and enrollment changes, my position teaching preschool is no longer available to me. My boss is going to try to work something out so that she can offer me some hours in the daycare part of the center, but like the rest of the childcare facilities in Michigan, nothing is certain. I will probably end up having to pick up hours here and there all over the place, at a couple different part-time jobs, if I am lucky. This will not be an easy transition back to the work force, which already would have been hard after over a year's abscence with a different immune system, energy level and haircut!

I am so disappointed because some of the siblings of my former students would now be enrolled and I was looking forward to having them in class, as well as working with my fantastic assistant teacher, Marge, and coming back to rejoin the staff that was so incredibly supportive to me during my time of need. As has become my new habit, I am going to have to tough it out and stay positive. A lot of people are giving me leads and I am sure whatever happens will be for the best!