The family and friends of the Hartford/Wiebe family are raising money for all treatment/support costs not covered by their insurance.
I realize it has been awhile since I've sent out an update. The holidays came and went. Sorrel had a birthday and there were many doctors appointments. Post surgery, I was not prepared for the level of discomfort and fatigue I would feel. Also, the anxiety of having lymph node involvement and the implications of that, was taxing. All of the meals, prayers, emails, cards, gifts and donations were music to my ears during my recovery. I have so much appreciation and awe towards my friends, family and community for their support. Thank you. YOU made my life and my family's life easier and full of love during a time when we needed it.
All of this aside and into a new year, the stars are aligning with me already! The biggest concern post surgery has been how to treat in order to best reduce my risk for re-occurance. Come to find out, there are many opinions on this. Before surgery, I began researching radiation because I knew that was the standard course of care recommended for a pre-menoausal woman with lumpectomy. Radiation, while it has improved over the years, is still a powerful drug to administer and does have significant side affects. Chemotherapy, also improved, has significant side affects. There is also an estrogen blocker called Tamoxifen that is recommended for 5 years, also with many side effects.
As I dug into my research and met with different oncologists, I kept asking myself and the doctors the question. "What about the right follow up treatment for me, Chris, a young healthy mom with 4 young children" Ryan and I tried our best to ask the right questions so we could gather as much information as possible to determine the best course of treatment for ME. The recommendations I was getting from most of my doctors seemed overkill for me. After surgery the cancer was, for all intensive purposes, gone. I was a low stage, I did all the tests to make sure there was no further spread, and all of my blood work looked great. Even the oncologists and surgeons I was talking to said I "barely had cancer" it was so small and controlled.
I finally got the clarity I was looking for on Friday when I went to meet with Dr. Michael Hunter, a Yale/Harvard educated radiation oncologist in Seattle voted best breast cancer radiation oncologist in Seattle for 8 years. When I first met him. He said "Well, from the looks of your tests and reports, you could walk out of here to day and probably not have cancer again, but we'll spend the next two hours making sure you're making the right decision for yourself"
Well, as you can imagine, that was the brightest ray of sunshine I've had in awhile. We spent the next two hours talking, he spent the first part of the time asking me questions about my life, my family and what I wanted for myself. We crunched numbers, researched data, and looked at the real risks for me not pursuing conventional treatment and the risks of following conventional treatment. Here's what we came to:
• The benefit to doing a combination of all the above treatments raises my overall survival rate (meaning dying from Breast Cancer or a distant cancer) only 3%. Dr. Hunter said because of my good health and commitment to lifestyle change, it would probably go down to 2%
• The risk of death from radiation is 1 in 1000
• My risk of lymphedema (a chronic swelling of
the arm) goes up 5%
• The risk to my heart is greater because of the
location of my tumor if they radiated.
• These are just some of the risks of radiation for , not to mention chemo.
• If I skip radiation, my chance of local re-occurance is 25% greater, but that's just local and I"m not going to die from that. Should I get a re-occurance in the same area in 5 years, according to Dr. Hunter, we'll be treating breast cancer completely differently anyway and we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
Needless to say, we were thrilled. The next stop was to run it past our naturopathic oncologist, Leanna Standish, in Seattle. She was supportive of my decision, but said it comes with a lifestyle responsibility and echoed what Dr. Hunter already mentioned, plus some additional recommendations for supporting my system to stave off cancer.
Here are the recommendations for prevention of cancer in Chris, based on a combination of naturopathic and allopathic advice:
• Eat an 80% plant based diet
• Avoid sugar
• Avoid caffeine
• Don't gain weight
• 1-2 glasses of wine a week max (post
menopause it goes up to a glass a
day...something to look forward to!)
• Exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
• Sleep, sleep and more sleep
• MRI once a year
• Consider tamoxifen, but go off it if the side
effects are bad (it only increases my overall
survivability rate by less than 1%)
• Mammogram 2x year for 5 years
• Bloodwork regularly
• High doses of Vitamin D
• Journaling every day
• "Do what makes my body sing" (That's from my
• She did tell me to go to Hawaii for 10 days to a
cancer survivor retreat, but we'll save that for
So, here we are, breathing great sighs of relief and renewed enthusiasm to kick ass in my forties so I can live to be 100, dancing and singing all along
I want to thank everyone again for your support. Melina, my dear friend who is organizing this fundraiser for me, asked me to clarify our financial situation so that everyone might feel more connected to my needs. Right now, we are estimating $15,000 will be the culmination of all of our bills. At this point, further treatment looks like supplements an appointments, but nothing bank breaking (hopefully). However, we are in the red by $7,000, our out of pocket expense from insurance. Any and all donations are welcome, and at the same time, we know that many of you have given all you can and we thank you.
From our family to yours, deep appreciation and love
Chris, Ryan, Sorrel, Madrona, Wren and Amber
Happy Holidays to all of you! This has been one of our most meaningful holidays we have ever had. We have been blessed with both great challenge and great joy in the last several months. As we approach the new year, we have been reflecting on the profound spirit of generosity that has come from family, friends, and people we're just meeting. Without this support, our family would be ok. But with this support, we feel encouraged, and blessed. We can't fully express the appreciation we feel through words, but please know that your contributions of encouragement, in whatever form you have expressed it, have renewed our faith and optimism.
From our family to yours, may your Holiday and New Year bring you joy, peace and lots of love.
Ryan, Chris, Sorrel, Madrona, Wren and Amber
UPDATE: The Hartford family was on the News 12/23:
Cut and Paste the above link into your browser to watch!
UPDATE: Message from Chris on 12/19/2011
Well, I don't know if any pathology report can be called good, but I talked to my surgeon today and he shared some details of my report. It sounds like the tumor was very small (1cm) and the cancer in the lymph nodes was only in the sentinel node, and not in the other nodes tested. The cancer in the node was also very small. There are more details that will come at the end of the week that will offer more interpretation, but I wanted to let all the beautiful people know who have been praying, donating, cooking, child caring, and loving, that it's working, and I feel optimistic about great health in my near future. I have felt the warmth and generosity of each person that has helped me with words and acts of encouragement. Thank you, I will share more in the coming days.
UPDATE: Message from Ryan on 12/15/11
Thanks to each of you, our family and community, for being a profound source of strength for Chris and I. It really means the world to me. Post surgery, Chris is sore, but in good spirits. She'll need to rest until tomorrow, and then keep her arm attached from the elbow to her waist with a safety pin to remind her not to lift it!
Our surgeon removed a (small,) tumor and was hopeful about the margins that will be tested. The results from the pathology report should be ready on Monday and can be discussed then.
He also removed and tested the sentinel lymph node and the immediately available test showed positive for cancer. This led him to remove another 3 or 4 to be tested. He was surprised, but optimistic and said 60% of infected sentinel nodes are limited to this node only. The test of the other nodes will indicate the degree of spreading.
We will be following up with our medical oncologist with the surgeon's initial pathology report in hand to better understand their recommendations for follow up treatment.
Following those appointments, we'll return to Seattle to see our naturopathic oncologist to consult and further compliment treatment options.
While this is not the outcome we had necessarily hoped for, we're optimistic that Chris is healthy and this is just a hiccup.
Keep the love coming, it's keeping us going!
UPDATE: Message from Chris on 11/20/11
I am so touched by the generosity and comments of the supporters on this fundraising project. I had no idea how much my friends and people I don't even know are stepping up to help me. Thank you so much. I feel much less alone in this journey, and feel the wind behind my sails.
I went to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Friday to get the whole workup from those at the top of their fields. While their research and experience is amazing, I came away feeling like I was in a cancer factory with a number instead of a name. With my experience raising Maddie in the medical system, I know I won't be satisfied with this for myself and hope to find a doctor/oncologist who can oversee my treatment in a compassionate, thorough and skilled way that takes into consideration my lifestyle and treatment preferences.
What I did get out of my visit, after 5 hours of poking and prodding, is the best analysis of my breast cancer that can be done before surgery. Fortunately, since my breasts are so small, I was able to find the lump early and unless it has spread into the lymph nodes, it should be a simple matter of surgery and radiation. I am still learning more about radiation options/treatments so I can shorten the time commitment they recommend. i hope to have surgery in a couple of weeks, although I am planning it around support since I won't be able to lift my kiddos for a week or so. It will be 3 weeks until they get final results from the biopsy during surgery. So I just assume have surgery early, and know I have a small break before radiation.
Again, thank you for lifting me up in so many ways through your donations.
UPDATE: Message from Chris on 11/16/11
"I'm so grateful to Melina for spearheading this and looking out for me during difficult and challenging time. I have not even begun to think about the financial repercussions, and knowing people are helping from the kindness of their hearts is encouraging and inspiring. Thank you!"
My very dear friend Christine "Chris" Wiebe was recently diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in October of 2011. She and her family are still waiting to learn more about her prognosis, but we already know that her high deductible health insurance will not cover much of her medical expenses.
She and her husband Ryan have 4 daughters: Sorrel (11), Madrona (9), Wren (5), and Amber (3). Madrona has Cerebral Palsy and therefore requires a high level of daily care. Ryan and Chris currently have extra support for Madrona, but it's very possible they will need additional funds for longer-term care. Any funds raised above and beyond the immediate medical and support needs will be put into a trust for Madrona's ongoing care and enrichment. Information about Madrona and her fund can be found here: http://www.madronasmiles.com/donate
As of 11/14/2011, all we know is that Chris will need to have the lump removed and tested, and she will require a minimum of 7 weeks radiation treatment. We will know more soon about the extent of her cancer, and updates will be provided.
The Hartfords are the most generous, positive, and loving people I have ever known, and I would love to see the generosity flow back to them in a big way in this time of great need.
Thank you for visiting their page! I hope you can help their family find stability during this difficult time! Your donations are greatly appreciated.