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This is Curtis writing, of course, but I knoe Becky's password. So let me start by quoting her first post here:

My name is Becky. I am 30 years old and have never smoked. I was diagnosed with NSCLC in January (2003) after complaining of a cough that would not go away. They orginally thought it was stage II, even after multiple scans, and I was scheduled for a lobectomy on Valentine's Day. When they had me out on the operating table, the biopsied my mediatinal lymph nodes and found cancer there. The plan at this point had been to just sew me up and send me to a medical oncologist. However, there were complcations in the form of uncontrolled bleeding in my chest that caused the surgeon to crack my breastbone and open me up to stop it.

After that I spent 4 weeks recovering and started chemo and radiation concurrently with the hope of controlling the lymph spreading so that I would be a candidate for surgery. I had 34 radiation treatments and two rounds of Cisplatin and Etopicide. The radiation wasn't so bad, but chemo weeks were absolutely miserable. Now I am almost 4 weeks past treatment. My hair is starting to come back in. I just got the results of my CT scan--the tumor hasn't shrunk much, but the oncologist said it looks "beaten up". He is hopeful that the miscroscopic tumors on my lymph nodes took a good beating too. Next week I head to Houston to see what is next. My oncologist here says that it wll be a surgical decision, but he expects that I will be back in surgery before long. Hopefully it will be more successful than the last one!

My family, friends, and employer have been amazing through all of this. My daughter is almost three years old and has handled all this stress better than I ever imagined. For six weeks I couldn't pick her up and when she sat in my lap she had to be very careful not to hurt my chest--she just said, "You can't carry me because of your owies." When my hair fell out, she said, "You got a BIG haircut, Mommy." I had been in a new job for less than six months when the diagnosis hit. I missed a lot of work, but have not missed a paycheck. We had meals delivered by friends 3 or 4 times a week for three months.

It's not exactly true to say tht I am looking forward to surgery--the last one was far from pleasant, but I am definitely ready to get on with the program--the waiting is so hard.


Ok, now it is Curtis to continue the story. The second surgery never took place because of pleural effusion that contained tumor cells in her right lung. And so we tried taxotere. No shrinking. Then Iressa, which kept things stable for five beautiful months.

But in December, two spots were found on her left lung, too. And so followed a third type of chemo. It was basically ineffective, not touching the tumor in the right lung at all.

Throughout this process, she dealt with radiation pneumonitis and the tough time breathing associated with it. That came on in July for the first time. But steroids seemed to make it better, so that except for three weeks in July, she was able to function without oxygen all fall. She would sleep with it, but not need it all during the day. After the spread in December, she needed the oxygen more continuously. But she was always able to teach. She missed only two days of classes in the spring, and they were both to go to see the doctor in Houston.

Her decline was sudden. On March 6, we had the nicest day of the year. Our best friend Sarah's daughter had her fourth birthday party. And Becky spent that entire party off of oxygen, helping Katie throughout their gigantic backyard and onto and off the trampoline. On the 15th, we took Katie and our nephew Nickolas to the zoo in Tyler, and had a fabulous day. The 20th was another great day, as we went and bought clothes for her to teach summer school from the mall in Lufkin. And she needed her oxygen to get up and down the mall, but she walked the whole way. And she taught her classes that week, of course.

For the last few days, let me just copy the post I made that night:

Becky died tonight. I guess that says it all. Last Saturday was a good day; we had gone down to the mall and she walked up and down it getting some new clothes to teach her late spring and summer classes in. But Sunday she felt worse, and while it stabilized, it never seemed to get better. So she got subs for her class on Friday, and we trucked down to Houston to have a bronchoscopy. Her right lung was entirely collapsed, which we knew from the previous ct scans, but it was not because the tumor was blocking the airway, which was what the doctor might have been able to fix.

All day Friday, she was drowsy and coughing from the bronchoscopy, as expected. Yesterday her breathing was a worse again, the worst it had been in months. This morning was even worse, so we called the doctor and had her taken into the emergency room. Her blood oxygen levels were very low, so they put her on a much higher flow, and she really seemed to be doing better. Moving into the ordinary room was traumatic since it meant cutting off for a few minutes the higher level of oxygen, but after a few minutes, her breathing and voice were stronger than they have been in the last week. About 7:30, she took a turn for the worse. The nurses called the doctor, and they were about to put her on a ventilator when she blue lined. They were able to get her onto the ventilator and into the icu, but she was basically gone by 8:00. The last things she responded to were the things I most needed her to know, the promises I most needed to make. By the time her parents came in she was no longer looking in the direction of sound as she had when I was with her.

The scans basically showed that only one fourth of her left lung was operational; her right lung was entirely tumor and the left lung more tumor than we had ever seen and pneumonia to boot. So there was no point in prolonging her suffering; her three doctors, her parents, and I all agreed, and we removed the ventilator. Within minutes, she was gone entirely.

In some sense this is what we prayed for. Obviously, we wanted remission, we wanted a cure. But failing that, we prayed for a minimum of suffering. Becky was able to teach her classes on Thursday. Tomorrow I will go tell her students that she is gone.

Back to the current: There have been many blessings that surrounded us in this. Not the least of which is that Becky was never dying of cancer. She lived with it; then she had died from it. But a half hour before she died, she was correcting a project she was planning to give her students in the fall, because we both thought she would be teaching in the fall. So hers is a story of victory even in death itself.

Our family, friends, and especially Becky's co-workers and students continued to be tremendously supportive throughout; the debt of gratitude I have to them will never be repaid. It is perhaps the best tribute of all to an amazing woman who I miss with every breath. More breaths are happy now than months ago, but none as happy as they would have been with her here.

I have been meaning to put this story in for many weeks now, but finally tonight mustered the strength. I miss you, my love. May God bless us all.


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