Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wait . . . what?

When I started this crazy cancer journey two years ago, I knew what was facing me. I knew the reality of what a Stage IV Metastatic diagnosis meant. Never to be cured. Which I have learned to accept. But, in Cancerland, there is this something that people strive for, hope for and dream of: NED. NED stands for No Evidence of Disease. A more commonly used word for those non-cancer patients is remission. NED means that there is no cancer detectable on your scans, but that cancer cells still do likely remain in your body. You could be NED or “in remission” for years, but you will never be deemed cured; cancer is a vicious little shit and could always come back. I can honestly tell you that the past two years I have prepared myself to never hear those words spoken to me.

I had my set of quarterly scans last week. My bone scan ended up revealing a fracture in my foot. Between chemo, hormone therapies, and other drugs to rid my body of cancer that past two years it has also weakened my bones and muscles. I am at a high risk for osteoporosis so they told me to get used to stress fractures, especially in my feet. Monday I was given an air cast boot to wear for the next 6 weeks. Yesterday I talked with my team about the results of my CT and bone scans . . .

                                               NO EVIDENCE OF ACTIVE DISEASE

Wow. I really just wrote that. I had to ask a couple times if they were sure if that meant that the scans didn’t reveal any cancer and what exactly did it mean if there wasn’t any they could see. Officially, they won’t give me the NED or “remission” status because they cannot say for sure that there is no cancer in my body. However, there are no tumors that they can see. The lesions I had in my bones are healing. When I asked if it meant I was finally NED doc said “It’s as close to remission as we’ll get”. And you know what? I will friggin’ take that. I’m not cured. I never will be, but, I don’t need it because I have something better . . . TIME. This means I have more time with my family.

So now what? Well, this changes nothing as far as my care is concerned. I will be on my Herceptin treatment for the rest of my life no matter what. I will go every three weeks and get that infusion. Herceptin stops the cancer from producing rapidly and is what has gotten me to where I am today. If I stop, the cancer comes back, simple as that. As far as my bones are concerned, the lesions where they previously saw bone mets are healing. Not having active cancer in them does not mean I can now run a marathon or be pain free. Cancer has greatly damaged my bones. I have been going to PT and exercising to help decrease pain. I will still go for quarterly scans for the rest of my life as well.

I am happy. I am sad. I am shocked. I am numb. I am angry. I am about a gazillion emotions right now. I was off of the Cancer Roller-coaster for a long time, now I am right back on it. I am happy that this has happened to me. I am sad that it hasn’t happened to others. I am numb to this feeling of having more time. I am angry that I have lost so many friends to this disease. For a long while I wished for good to come of this, and I never felt it did. I stopped wishing, and I started praying. I prayed and trusted. I let go and let God. I trusted that whatever He has planned for me will be, and in the end, it will all work together for my good, even if it brings pain and sorrow. If He blesses me with being able to say that I do not have any detectable cancer in my body for the next 5, 10 or 20 years then I will praise and thank Him each one of those day. And if one day, my cancer comes roaring back, then I will ask Him for guidance, strength and courage; and I will still praise and thank Him for each one of those days, no matter how hard they will be. 

I’ve done exactly what I set out to do, and I am going to continue to do it. I am gonna keep working on that bucket list, because, I know, life is short, so I am gonna live the heck out of it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Battling Breast Cancer

Rostraver woman with cancer, family raise thousands for fighting disease

Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Kate Crawford, 31, of Rostraver and a patient with stage IV breast cancer, rings the Chemo Graduation Bell, which was her idea, for the first time in celebration of the money she has raised through her LemonAID the Cure project, at Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland, Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

When Kate Crawford was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in January 2013, doctors gave her a 15 percent chance of surviving for five years.
She and her husband and their three children put together a “mommy bucket list” — things they wanted to accomplish together during Crawford's lifetime, including raising funds for cancer research, said Crawford, 31, a Rostraver resident.
She thought it important that patients of UPMC Cancer Center at Magee-Womens Hospital be able to mark milestones in their battles against the disease. That milestone marker recently came in the form of a bell, nicknamed “the chemo graduation bell,” that Crawford donated to the cancer center.
“When they're done with (chemotherapy), they ring the bell,” she said Wednesday during a gathering to showcase the bell.
With LemonAID the Cure — a lemonade stand — and other fundraisers, Crawford and her family have raised about $30,000 since 2013 to benefit the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, the UPMC Cancer Center at Magee and other cancer research organizations.
Last month in Atlanta, Kids II Inc., a baby product company, honored Crawford and seven other women as Pink Power Moms who have personal connections to breast cancer and who have helped others. Each woman chose a charity that would receive $9,000 over five years. Crawford chose the Magee foundation, which has received a $5,000 check.
A positive outlook such as Crawford's can make a positive impact in a cancer patient's fight against the disease, said Dr. Adam Brufsky, director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center at Magee and Crawford's oncologist.
“She's living with it. She's not letting it dominate her life,” Brufsky said.
Crawford's cancer has spread to her liver, spine and pelvis, but she describes her condition as stable. She receives hormone therapy every three weeks, she said.
“I feel good. I'm doing well,” she said.
The Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation raises money for clinical care that is not covered by insurance, as well as for research, said Arthur Scully III, vice president of development and communications for the institute and foundation.
“It's amazing to us that people who have gone through a disease … how much they want to give back,” he said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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Greater Rostraver Chamber plans annual recognition dinner

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Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Kate Crawford gets a hug from her kids Stephen 4, Lily 6, and Grace 6, on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 as they look over pictures of a kick ball tournament that was held on her behalf.

Kate Crawford was having breakfast one morning with Greater Rostraver Chamber board member Mary Esther Antal and Executive Director Gina Lynn, when Lynn told her of a surprise they had for her – Crawford was chosen as the GRC's community service awardee.
“I cried because everybody at GRC is like family to me,” Crawford said. “They are the greatest friends. And for them to get together and choose me for the community service award means more than they will ever know.”
GRC will hold its annual recognition dinner April 23 at the Willow Room in Rostraver. In addition to Crawford, the chamber will recognize Rostraver Shop ‘N Save as the business of the year and Jamie St. Clair Davis of Salon Eye Candy as the young professional of the year.
The event began in 1975 as the Founders Day Dinner, held by the Rostraver Business Association to recognize those who worked to build the chamber and support the surrounding communities.
In 2009, GRC began honoring a business and an organization at the event. The GRC combined the Founders Day Dinner with additional recognition of a business or organization that actively contributes to the surrounding communities.
“Giving special recognition to the men or women who contribute their time, money and talent to build a stronger chamber and support the surrounding communities has become a time-honored tradition,” said Lynn.
Crawford lives in Rostraver with her husband Steve and their three children, Stephen and twins Lily and Grace. She created a bucket list after being diagnosed in 2013 with stage IV breast cancer.
Crawford's cancer is still stable, although she has dealing with a lot of pain in her spin because the disease caused a fracture.
“Mainly, we've been just trying to get my pain under control,” Crawford said. “As long as I stay busy and my mind's occupied, it's the best medicine.”
Crawford has definitely been staying busy.
Last month she traveled to Atlanta, where she was recognized as one of eight women worldwide named a Pink Power Mom by the Kids II Foundation. They were recognized for their efforts in breast cancer outreach and fundraising.
The award carries a $5,000 donation to the breast cancer association of Crawford's choice, the Magee Research Foundation in Pittsburgh.
She will also be donating a cancer bell so that when women complete their chemotherapy sessions they can ring it to celebrate.
The bell was purchased with proceeds from a lemonade stand she operated last year. Crawford raised more than $12,500 to benefit the Magee Women's Cancer Center.
Last weekend, she traveled to Boston for a fundraiser for Project Sweet Peas, the nonprofit she started in 2009. Crawford stepped down from the nonprofit, which provides support to families with infants in intensive care and to those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss.
Earlier this winter, she hosted a polar plunge in Narragansett, R.I., to raise funds for the cause.
Crawford credited the GRC for supporting her fundraising efforts.
“Kate is one of the most inspirational and amazing women I know,” Lynn said. “Her selection was made easy by her giving spirit to those causes and organizations that touch her life personally. She is a doer.
“When she puts her mind to doing something, nothing stands in her way. Not only does she support her own community, but she supports projects that affect so many other people from so many areas. When you mention Kate's name, people smile in acknowledgement of her kindness and service.”
Rostraver Shop ‘N Save, located in the Willowbrook Plaza in Rostraver, opened for business in March 2000, relocating from the Kmart Plaza.
It is a family owned and operated business begun in 1973 by Bob and Betty Duritza.
Now retired, their children Bob Jr., Jeff, Laura and Scott currently operate the stores.
The Durtizas first opened the Rostraver Shop ‘N Save in partnership with SuperValu, their wholesale supplier. In 2003 they purchased their portion of the business from SuperValu.
The Duritzas currently operate 11 supermarkets in southwestern Pennsylvania and one in Weirton, W.Va.
The selection of business of the year recognizes outstanding community support, involvement, employment and leadership in the community, Lynn said.
“Our recognition of Rostraver Shop ‘N Save and the Duritza family is of a business that truly represents family and community,” Lynn said. “They are leaders in the business community and supporters of our chamber.”
Jamie St. Clair Davis opened Salon Eye Candy, located at 535 Broad Avenue, Belle Vernon, in February 2012 and has more than a decade of experience.
Salon Eye Candy is a full-service salon that offers a wide range of hair styling and related beauty services, such as manicures and pedicures.
The entire staff is actively involved with the Greater Rostraver Chamber's annual Ladies Night Out event, said Lynn.
“Jamie St. Clair Davis is being recognized as our Young Professional for her success as an entrepreneur who started her business, Salon Eye Candy in 2012, and has shown tremendous growth and sustainability in just a few short years, while balancing a young family,” Lynn said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642