2012 Crusaders

Nicole McComas-Waukee

Turning 40 turned out to be not so much fun!!!  As we women know that with 40, comes your first mammogram. The mammogram was easy. However, I received a follow up call stating they had seen a “shadow” in the left breast and wanted to repeat the test. So a few days later I had another mammogram. That was quickly followed by an ultrasound. The radiologist stated there were several “suspicious” masses she would like to biopsy. Sounds like fun huh! So a few hours later, the biopsy was complete. The next day, I received the call. The lumps were in fact cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (most common kind).  Within days I met with a surgeon who stated I would need a left mastectomy. Well, if you are going to take one, you might as well take the other one.. I do not want to have “suspicious” lumps show up on the right side in a few years!!! We then met with a plastic surgeon, a genetic counselor, a care coordinator  and of course an oncologist. The oncologist stated that while I do infact have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma… Mine is the more aggresive type, as it is Triple Negative. This means it is not fed by hormones(Estrogen negative, Progesterone negative and HERS2 negative).  Thus, they do not know what is feeding it.  While it is more aggressive it reportedly responds very well to chemo, but has a higher reoccurance rate.  So the oncologist stated he was going to hit me “hard” with chemo and possibly radiation.  I will have  surgery on July 7 with chemo starting approximately 3-4 weeks following.  4 rounds of “hard” chemo then 12 weekly doses of an “easier” chemo.  My journey as begun. It will become reality tomorrow.  I have an amazing team of doctors and am very confident in their skills.  Though I have always known we have many who care, it has become very apparent as we have received  an overwhelming amount support from both family and friends.  Thank you… we are very grateful. I selfishly ask for all your prayers through this journey to allow me to proceed with the necessary measures with grace, strength and humor.

Read Nicole’s CaringBridge

Angie Sanders-Waukee

My name is Ami Bolles and I am writing this email to nominate my friend and neighbor Angie Sanders for the 2012 Katie’s Crusader.   Angie and her family live in Waukee and are very active in the Waukee community.  Angie is married to Jeff and they have 2 awesome children, Nathan (13) and Olivia (10).

Angie Sanders was diagnosed with Breast cancer on May 17, 2010.   It was unexpected as Angie and her family thought they were dealing with a hip injury. When they visited an orthopedic surgeon to schedule a hip replacement surgery serious concerns arose as advanced images were viewed of her hip. She was referred to an oncologist immediately, where the concerns were confirmed that Angie had Stage 4 breast cancer.  The cancer had spread to other places in her body, including her hip and brain. Angie immediately started a very aggressive treatment including radiation and 2 forms of chemotherapy.  Her friends and family rallied around her and through everyone’s prayers and delight the treatment worked and the scans that followed came back clear until just recently.

On December 20th, Angie and her family received some pretty devastating news. The cancer came back and she has quite a few spots on her spine and in a lymph node in her right arm pit. Instead of the reconstruction surgery that was planned,  Angie had to start  back up on the “bad chemo” which makes her very weak and sick.  She will undergo treatments of this chemo every 3 weeks for 3 months and then re-scan to see how she is doing.  This was not the news they were expecting.  This has been especially devastating to Angie and Jeff to think about how this affects Nathan and Olivia this time around.

It has been very difficult for them to explain to Nathan and Olivia why this is happening to their Mommy. Angie and Jeff both have taken a lot of effort and time to be with the kids.  Through their strong faith Angie and Jeff have been very open to Nathan and Olivia explaining as best they can but in the end saying “God loves Mommy and we believe He will heal her.”
Here is just one of many great moments that displays their families courage in this battle.  Nathan and Jeff had the opportunity to share their story with Nathan’s football team and during the devotional time with the Waukee Varsity Football team before one of their games. Nathan read his paper he wrote for school about faith.

Nathan wrote:

“That day I discovered that life doesn’t always go your way. This is a way to be a better person. I learned faith and that life has ups and downs and there is nothing you can change about it. I was so sad that I cried a lot but I knew that this was not the end. I knew that we will find a way to get rid of all this cancer and have so much faith, we will be happy forever. Today I know that God will heal my Mom and that we will become better people in Him!

Even though this was not the news they were expecting Angie, Jeff, Nathan, and Olivia have had an amazing, positive attitude and faith in God through this process.  Most people and families would focus on themselves through this, not the Sanders.  They have become active in the cancer community and anytime they hear of anyone’s diagnosis they become personally involve and give of themselves to help.  It is because of this and many more reasons that I truly believe that Angie Sanders should be a 2012 Katie’s Crusader.

Read Angie’s CaringBridge

Heather Jenks-Pleasant Hill

Update:Written Feb 1, 2012 8:48pm Caringbridge

After three separate trips to Methodist today, we have results.  The bone scan report says “progression of the disease.”  My oncologist, Dr. Buroker, says that that is not as concerning to him as that I am having pain now, wheras before, with a similar, but not quite so brightly lit bone scan, I had no pain.  For clarification I felt that I had to ask, so I did, and it is definitely cancer in my bones.

The next part of the conversation is what left me befuddled.  Dr. Buroker went on to say that if we can find the right combination of medications for my body and this cancer, we can slow it down “100%.”  Somehow, I don’t think that he took statistics in med school, but I’ll trust him for now.  He said that bone cancer will not kill you.  My thought is ‘maybe not, but we gotta slow it down now before it spreads to some place that will kill me.”  I’ve cared, long term, for two hospital patients who had liver failure and it was some of the ugliest, meanest, stuff I’ve ever seen…..But that’s not me, not right now.

So, the treatment plan is to add an estrogen blocker.  One pill, twice per day of Tamoxifen, which I already took before my first recurrence.  The thought is that that, along with the Tykerb, will block the growth.  I will also get an IV infusion to strenthen my bones so that they do not break.  As for the pain, the new pain med, tramadol, is not nauseating for me.  It makes me just a smidge sleepy.  I’m supposed to take more of that and more often.  So the trick now is to balance pain and sleepiness, allowing me to have quality in life.  Which to me means being able to drive – pick up my kids and continue working part time, going to Target when we need to, etc.

So as I’m writing this, I google survival rates (and I look for reliable articles in Pub Med) and it’s 2-3 years depending on a lot of things.  I always say that denial is a powerful tool, so perhaps that’s why I’m not freaking out right now.  I also know that some of my drugs are new within the last two years, and obviously that would affect research.  (Look how outcomes changes for AIDS patients with new drugs in the 90’s!)  I also know that I am stubborn, that I have HOPE and that I will enjoy today AND tomorrow.  But I do think that I’ll start planning for our Legoland and Universal Studios trip.  (I decided that would be better than Disney.)  You never know – nothing in this world is set in stone.

Thank you so very much to everyone for your encouraging comments and prayers in my guestbook and the texts.  It really helped me today!  I’ll post again if anything changes.

My plan is to become a breast cancer survivor – a really old breast cancer survivor. My story goes like this: In December 2008 I found a lump. Mammography & ultrasound resulted in a biopsy on New Year’s Eve. January 2nd, 2009 I learned that I had “poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma” (breast cancer) in three spots in the right breast. The left breast showed no signs of anything suspicious. January 15th was a right total mastectomy including the removal of 13 lymph nodes. Two of those lymph nodes were positive for cancer. I had a port placed (to avoid IV’s) on February 2nd. I had a small surgery to clean up my incision on February 16th. I started chemo February 27th. I had a lot of side effects, including severely low white blood cell counts, viral outbreaks, nausea and dehydration.  I spent more days of March in the hospital than out and was hospitalized once in April.  I finished my last chemo on June 17th, 2009!!  I finished 52 treatments/infusions of Herceptin (antibody- no chemo type side effects) in May of 2010.  I had reconstruction surgery in August 2010 and was hospitalized after that overnight due to nausea.

In May 2010 I found a lump very close to where the original lump (2008) had been.  We thought that it was a puckering or a dimpling in the implant.  Then it grew – and quickly.  The mass was removed August 6th and found to be cancerous.  There was another surgery August 16th to clear up the margins.  I kept not feeling well, running fevers, etc. so I made the decision to have the implant removed on August 23rd.  (That was the 12th surgery in a 20 month period. I asked about frequent flyer punch cards.  They said no.)  ;)  A PET scan showed that the rest of my body was clear of cancer – a local recurrence only.  There was a small spot near by 10th thoracic vertebrae but it was thought to be arthritis.

I had a routine mammogram on my left (and only! breast) in March 2011.  I was totally surprised to learn that there was cancer there too.  All three cancers look identical under microscope plus the spot near my spine had grown a little, so the doctor thinks that it’s metastatic…..That’s been a hard thing to deal with.   I’m currently doing oral chemotherapy plus another drug that is made to fight anything with the aggressive growth factor (HER2) found in all of the cancers.

I’m 35, I have two small children that are the center of my world, and I have a lot to live for….So I’m working on that!  ;)  All the support from family, friends, co-workers and sometimes people that I don’t know that well,  have been so uplifting and something that my family and I could not have done without.  So, let’s keep on kicking butt!

Read Heather’s CaringBridge

Sue Mixdorf-Ankeny

Things I’ve learned:  (1) You can feel totally fine and still have cancer. (2)Mammograms don’t always show the tumor.  (3) Hand exams and physicals are important.

On September 27, 2011 during a routine physical my doctor found a “sizeable lump” in my left breast.  Two days later, a mammogram and ultrasound.  There, the radiologist said she was 90% it was a benign lump, although it was 3 cm in size.  The next Wednesday (8 days after finding it) I had a biopsy.  The next day, October 6, 2011, I received the news that is was indeed cancer (while I was at my daughters volleyball game and my husband was out of town, mind you)

The pathology report reads that it is an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a cancer to starts in the milk duct and then spreads outside the duct.  Mine appears to also be classified as a “Triple Negative”.  This is a more aggressive form of cancer with a higher tendancy to reoccur within the first 5 years.

The plan, a double mastectomy eventually followed by reconstruction, eight rounds of chemo and 33 radiation treatments.  I am 43 years old with 3 daughters…this can’t be happening to me!

Read Sue’s CaringBridge

Tiffany Spencer-Winterset

Update: The news that finally made me cry came today…NO CHEMO!! I can not tell you all how relieved I am. I truely felt in my gut this would not be the news I would receive.-Facebook

I would like to nominate Tiffany Spencer to be a receipent of Katie’s Crusaders for 2012. Tiffany has been a friend of mine since we were about 12. We have been through many different phases in our lives with both good and bad, but we have stayed close through it all.

When diagnosed, Tiffany decided day one that she would be a fighter. She says that she draws her strength and courage from watching her friend Angie Plagman, recently go through the same battle. Tiffany and her family walked with Angie’s Army in 2011 Katie’s Crusader walk supporting her through all of the fight. Tiffany has not complained, but looked cancer straight in the face and said I will beat this!

Tiffany has an amazing support system and family at her fingertips! Her husband Ben has already organized a Motorcycle ride-Ride for the Girls-in honor of his wife. They believe in paying it forward, so instead of keeping the profits from that ride for themselves, they are donating the money to Katie’s Crusaders. They are planning on feeding 700-800 people, so this will be a huge gift to women battling this disease. They have seen the powerful things that Katie’s has done and love the fact that they give back to people in the community, including to their friend in 2011.

Natalie is the light in Tiffany’s life. She is a beautiful, smart and funny little girl that adores her parents. Tiffany decided after being away from Natalie while she was at work, that she wanted to start staying home with her and quit her career to be a full time Mom. She also runs a daycare out of her home, which shows her love of all children. Tiffany hasn’t used the C word when explaining it to Natalie. She is trying to keep her from worrying about her mom. As with any Mom, Tiffany is more concerned about how this will affect Natalie than how much it will be for her to deal with.

Tiffany had a masectomy on March 27th. They ended up taking 4 lymph nodes, but they appear to be negative for cancer but ofcourse will be tested to verify. She will most likely go through chemo after she has healed up. She will be starting reconstruction of her breast either late 2012 or early 2013.

I feel you should select Tiffany because she has already shown how much she cares about others and not just herself. She wants to make a difference in other women’s lives that are going through this terrible disease.


Joni Jamison

Brenda Guerink-Norwalk

Three years ago, my family and I moved to Des Moines. It was the third move in 6 years. We didn’t know anyone who lived in Iowa, but we came. One of the first people to invite us over was Amy, one of the teachers at my husband’s new school. We went to dinner at Amy’s and there was another teacher there – Brenda – and her family. I remember being there and thinking that I hoped that I would be friends with these two amazing women and their families. The years began to pass and what is interesting is that Brenda and I were Amy’s best friends.

We were at many different functions together over this time, but not as close to each other as we were with Amy. Then, last summer, our best friend Amy moved to Bolivar, Missouri, six hours away. Brenda and I were both very devastated. But, who would have known that this was God’s plan? We decided that we would have to spend more time together as we both had grief from missing our friend. So, we did. We saw each other more often and we were so blessed to have our youngest children in the same Pre-K class. The school year was going so smoothly until January of this year.

Brenda let me know that she had found a lump and that she wasn’t worried because she had had something like this before. She felt that it wasn’t a big deal at that point. She called me afterwards because she had such a terrible experience with the doctor following her mammogram. We talked through everything and decided maybe she should consider a different doctor. However, she got a call about an hour later to come back in the morning. She went back in the morning and everything went downhill from there. They confirmed it was cancer, she had a double mastectomy on March 6th and her first chemo treatment was yesterday, March 30th. She will do 6 months of chemotherapy – 4 treatments that are 1 every three weeks and then once a week for 12 weeks.

We were and still are in some amount of shock, but Brenda has taken everything in a stride that is so admirable. I think that her being a teacher and mom has made the world of difference. She is used to knowing that you never know what is going to happen in life. The classroom often offers adventures and experiences that you never thought you would have. You come to expect the unexpected. Brenda teaches 4th grade at Mount Olive Lutheran School in Des Moines. She works very hard every day to make her students successful. She values Christian education and believes that all students can be great. She enjoys music and assisting the school musical. She also spent many years in the past working with students who have special needs.

The most important part of Brenda’s life is her family. She has a husband, Bob, who is also a teacher at Dallas Center – Grimes High School. They have four children – 3 boys and 1 girl. Shane is in 5th grade, Luke is in 4th grade, Garrett is in Pre-K and then, Trista is their newest. Trista was adopted by Bob and Brenda just last year. She was in a very negative situation and Bob and Brenda went through the process of becoming her adoptive parents. Brenda’s love for her children is endless. You will see her at sporting events, field trips, church services, fundraisers and more. There is no sacrifice too great for her family. I believe that is why Brenda has been so strong. She has to be for their sake.

I wondered if I would be able to be there for her when she needed me. She was so strong through all of the diagnosing and planning of what to do. She made appointments and scheduled surgery and never was upset. I knew there would be a day when she had to “let it all out”. I prayed that I would be there and her kids weren’t. And I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. On February 4th, she had a melt down at church. She kept saying “I’m just so scared”. I remember the tears rolling down her face and I realized it wasn’t just her face it was mine, too. I couldn’t stop them. I told her that I wasn’t scared – I just didn’t want her to have to go through all this. I wanted there to be another way, another option, a better option, but there wasn’t. Another teacher and I sat with her for almost an hour that morning. We held hands and talked about how her feelings were right on. It was scary, it is scary, but she could do it. She can do it. And she is.

I believe that Brenda would be a very good candidate for your Crusader funds. We have already been doing all that we can to help with meals, transportation for the kids, help getting to and from appointments and some fundraisers. There is not a lot of money in the teaching profession and one of Brenda’s biggest concerns is being able to pay their bills. She is already talking about how soon she can get back to the classroom because of her financial concerns. We have all been recommending to see how the chemo goes, but I believe she is just so worried about the money. Brenda is one of those people who continues to do what is best for her students and family day in and day out. She rarely does much for herself and this would be so wonderful for her spirit and bank account.

I didn’t know that I would ever have a passion for finding a cure to breast cancer, but through a weird series of events, I participated in the Susan G. Komen 3 day for the Cure. I met survivors along the journey, I read about the Komen sisters and have come to realize that we have to find a cure and soon. I am going to do all I can to contribute to this cause. It is even closer to my heart now that I am going through the whole journey with Brenda. She is an amazing woman and I pray that her doctors will be fabulous, the chemo will kick it all and that a year from now, I will be able to write to Katie’s Crusaders to say that my friends is doing amazing. Thank you for your consideration.