Day 365 – A Lot Can Happen in a Year
It’s so hard to believe that one year ago today, Sean was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer. One year, wow. Tears fill my eyes when I think about how much has happened this past year and those tears start flowing when I look over and see that Sean is still here. It has not been an easy year but it has been another year together. Another year of memories. Another year of hope. Another year of love.
We officially made it to day 365. Since I last posted, so much has happened and so much has changed. I wrote on Day 111 that this journey felt like a rollercoaster and that is exactly how to describe this year. Throw in some ups. Throw in some downs. And throw in some brake runs as well. It has been one moment after another. Cancer doesn’t have a playbook. Every day is a new day that brings new challenges, struggles and wins.
Wow, has it really only been a year? It feels so much longer than just one year. Cancer came on the scene in February and then less than 30 days later covid was here in full force. Like the title of this post says, a lot can happen in a year. Let’s do a little reflecting and see where we came from and where we are today.
It’s February 24, 2020. We are both at work when a producer comes into my room and says I need to take Sean to the hospital because he may be having a heart attack. What?! Moving in high gear, I load Sean in the car and drive him over to the ER. His pain wasn’t a heart attack but he was admitted to the hospital for high blood sugar. During that stay, a CT scan was done and we got the devastating news that Sean had terminal pancreatic cancer. That hospital told us Sean had roughly 3 months to live and sent us on our way. That timeline was not acceptable to us so we began to look at other options. A great friend helped us get into the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Sean has been a patient there ever since.
The chemo begins. Sean has gone through 17 rounds of intense chemotherapy so far. Intense…that word doesn’t nearly describe chemo. The side effects from these drugs are horrendous. Garbage bags full of vomit, dark negative thoughts and overwhelming sadness. Sean’s chemo was more than intense, it was hell in a bag. Seeing Sean go through chemo was the first time I felt truly helpless and that was not acceptable to me. The poison running through Sean’s body may have to run it’s course but I would be damned if I would sit there powerless to this monster. I was determined to find something I could do to help.
With that determination, I have learned a lot about ways to help with chemo side effects. Little things like putting a fuzzy cover on the toilet seat helps with neuropathy. Meds crushed in pedialyte gets a little medicine inside, when nothing else will stay down (yes, I know meds are extended release and you should not crush them. But when you are faced with getting any kind of nausea or pain medicine inside, you do what you have to do). Electrolyte popsicles stops nausea in its tracks and still hydrates as well. Making a bed out of pillows in the backseat of the car will help alleviate the motion of the car if you are traveling with fluid in your abdomen. Sunshine helps bring back positive mood feelings, even if you have to push a wheelchair. Using devices like insulin readers and pumps helps alleviate unnecessary sticks and jabs (and gives you peace of mind when you wake up 3am and wonder if something is wrong. Quick boop with the phone and ahhh, everything is good, back to sleep. Thanks technology). These are only a small sampling of how I took a powerless moment and flipped the script. I could keep writing this list on and on and on. I have learned so much through this process and I continue to learn new things everyday. Every day truly does bring new challenges.
Ok, let’s talk about some good stuff that happened this past year. Although we had been living in chemo and covid hell, the year wasn’t a total waste. Actually on the contrary, I feel like we lived and loved more this past year than we have anytime before. Maybe that’s why the year felt so long.
We started daily vlogging again. If you missed those, check out the link below. The videos were a great distraction during a dark time. Editing kept Sean’s mind active and filming kept us always busy. We were documenting the good times, the sad times and everything in between so we could look back and say “look how far we have come”.
We also went on two very amazing trips this year. Our first was a sponsored trip to Gatlinburg. We had a cabin all to ourselves and saw all the sights of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The greatest moment of the trip was seeing Sean walk off a coaster at Dollywood. I had tears in my eyes because it was the first time in 9 months that Sean was pain free. 8 months earlier, speed bumps would cause Sean to cry out in immense pain and here he was, walking off a rollercoaster, smiling and carefree. It was a moment that I will never forget.
Our second trip was celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas. Sean was told that he wouldn’t be here for Christmas so it was a really big trip for us. We didn’t gamble but we lived it up in Vegas. We walked and saw all the casino Christmas decorations. We rented a convertible and drove out to Red Rock Canyon, where Sean actually hiked and climbed a canyon. We zip lined down Fremont St, hit golf balls at Top Golf, took a gondola ride through the Venitian and even topped it off with 2 five star meals that we never would have tried before. It was a week of magic. A week of happiness that will be remembered forever.
And that takes me to now. It’s February 24, 2021. Where are we? Well, things are not positive at the moment. We found out that chemo has caused significant liver damage and is causing fluid to build up in Sean’s abdomen. We just finished Sean’s 4th paracentesis and it has been rough. Sean has lost more weight and is struggling to find strength to move around. He is getting better each day but it is taking sheer willpower and determination to find that strength. We have decided together to pause chemo indefinitely. Our goal right now is to get Sean back to feeling like he did in Vegas. If we make it to there, we will then reassess treatment options. Right now our only goal is to improve Sean’s quality of life. This is going to be a long road but we are hopeful and always holding out for a miracle.
As you just read, it may have been a tough year but it was a year of life. It was a year that we didn’t think we would get together and I owe this year to all of you. First, to our GoFundMe and PayPal donators. From the bottom of my heart thank you for all of your support. We did not have the correct insurance for cancer treatments last year and your donations allowed Sean to go to the Mayo Clinic and receive the chemotherapy that he needed. Without your support, Sean would not be here today.
A special thanks to Tammy and her company Unbridled Productions for paying for an entire round of chemotherapy for Sean. It still brings tears to my eyes that a company could be so generous to someone they have never met.
Another special thanks to Sean’s dad, Rick. Rick has been amazing this past year and has kept us afloat financially. When covid hit, we lost all of our income and he was there to help us pay bills and continue to survive until I found more work. We are forever grateful for all that he has done.
More thanks goes out to everyone who writes me on a daily basis to ask if we are all right. Your messages help me get through the day and help me find the strength to keep going. I cannot thank you enough for all of your kind words and love.
Emma – you are such an amazing friend and even though we are separated by an ocean, I feel like you are sitting on the sofa next to me when we talk daily. Your love and friendship is something that I will treasure forever.
Ben & David – your video messages are like beacons of light on very dark days and we are forever thankful for the 24 hour telethon that you, Emma and Seen in the City put together. The money your raised from that video gave Sean an entire year of life.
Sanna – thank you for your guiding words as we tackle all the new procedures. You are always there with the right thing to say. I appreciate your expertise more than you know. Your love and kindness has been amazing. We cannot wait to meet you in person one day.
Tim – thank you for being the one to say “Sean, you need to go to the hospital now”. That day will be etched in my brain forever. We love you more than words can say and we are determined to give you the biggest hug in California here soon.
Katrina, Ana, Trent, Dana, Jay, Tony, Ashley, Frank and the rest of the Disney Family– thank you for checking in with us every day. I cannot thank you enough for the messages of kindness and Ana, thanks for all the memes that kept me smiling, even when there wasn’t anything to smile about that day. You all will always have a special place in our hearts and we are honored to be part of such a special team.
Ella – I have treasured our conversations this past year. You have helped me get through the hardest points of this journey. You are an amazingly strong woman and you inspire me to smile everyday.
Youtube Creators – thank you for all of your continued support. We are forever grateful for your love and messages. Josh, we love you and your family, more than you know. Don & Jim, thank you for you kind words. As cancer survivors, you both inspire us to keep pushing forward.
Sean & Stef Cruise Buddies – thank you for all the messages of hope, love and support. You all are part of our family and we are forever grateful for each of you.
Global Thank You – thank you to you all for this past year of hope. We do not know what this next year will bring but you help inspire us to keep looking forward to positive thoughts. It’s been a tough 365 days but thanks to all of you, I know we can get through the next 365 ❤️
Daily Vlogs – Season 2 (click on the 1/109 button to see all the videos in the playlist)