Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear friends, today I write with sad but hopeful news...

As many of you already know, I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in late September and have been undergoing intensive chemotherapy. My apologies for unanswered email about classes, the holiday family fair or your vmails to check in on how we're doing...

We're actually doing quite well. There is no history of cancer in my family, so this was an absolute shock that turned our world upside down. But my prognosis is good and already Friday marked the halfway point for the aggressive chemo regimen, which I decided to do through a clinical trial. We are praying that my MRI tomorrow will show a reduction in the tumor before I go on to the second round of chemo -- so pray with us!

How can we thank so many of you that have sent cards, meals, care packages...? It has truly left us humbled at the amount of love and well-wishes. We hope this holiday season brings you much joy and peace, and we are excited for the new year with new adventures and opportunities to create memories!

All our love-
Gaby, Steve, Evan and Alec

This photo was taken on the day I lost my hair. I'm actually getting used to the new hairdo and my 2 and 4 yr old boys swear I'm still a Mommy-princess :)

Pegasus Rising

A few weeks ago I was looking for a program where I could spend an hour a week volunteering with horses as a way to calm my mind during this challenging time as I undergo chemo. As many of you know, I have always loved horses. And even though I certainly couldn't ride during this time, even being around them would be theraputic for my soul...

Well I found the Pegasus Rising Program and as it turns out this is a herd of Arabian horses that were rescued last year and is now being rehabilitated to serve as therapy horses for U.S. veterans and others in need.

I had a chance to visit the herd a few weeks ago and it was amazing to see that despite enduring such terrible conditions before being rescued, this herd is still friendly, positive and offering their kind souls to help humans. These are wild horses in the sense that they have not been "broken" or ridden, and I admire the project's goal to keep them this way as they also train them for therapy.

One horse in particular came to me immediately and was so intense in taking in my scent and standing firmly next to me as if to let me know she understood and would help. This was Lady Avalon (above) the lead mare in the herd. As the organization's president, Gary, explained to me this horse also has cancer and seemed to innately understand that I faced the same hardship.

Please take a moment to learn more about this wonderful organization: I went to their site to "adopt" Lady Avalon and can't think of a better gift than helping to keep this herd together so that they can in turn help others in need.

I'll be sure to post more photos and info as I plan to help this organization with the same passion I brought to Habitat years ago. And as I get better I will surely take any opportunity to visit the herd again and embrace the strength and support that only a noble horse's spirit and soul can provide. (below is the herd in therapy with a veteran -- there are heroes all around us!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amazing support from amazing people...

In addition to Steve, my boys, two sisters, parents and family, I am even further humbled to see what a wonderful community of friends we have. So many of you have just been amazing in reaching out to see how we're doing, sending books that have helped me keep a grip on things, bringing a meal over when I was just too sick from chemo to cook for my boys, sending lovely scarves for my bald head, cozy socks, mindless magazines and movies to help pass the time...

My long-time gal pals from high school (Ali, Brooke, Beth, Kathryn, Amy, Staci, Molly, Dana, Michelle, Keri) have been relentless in their support from all corners of the country, and the moms in my playgroup (above) have only known me since Evan was born but have just been there getting me through each day. My firm GovPartner has been amazing, and so many of you that I met through FWClass have also been incredibly generous and supportive: Laura at VPG, Liz Dang, my SDBargainMama Stacy... my apologies now because there are just too many to list and there really is a thing called "chemo brain" where I swear my brain cells are most affected by these strong drugs...)

And do you remember way back in the Fall of 2007 I sent out an email asking our friends to "Help find a bone marrow match for Lisa"?

As always you all responded then with generous hearts and showed up at a bone marrow drive here in San Diego to sign up and become part of the registry -- a national registry that ultimately DID find a match for Lisa!

Well, I kept getting emails asking "How is Lisa doing?" and am so happy to report that she is doing great! In fact, Lisa has been a tremendous support for me now, especially since I know the words come from another mom who has been in the same situation....

One message in particular that Lisa sent me sticks with me every single day - as a nurse at Sloan once said to her: "A positive mental attitude won't heal you, but a bad mental attitude will kill you."

Yes scary thoughts come all the time, but thanks to the support from so many of you I have been able to keep a positive attitude and know that I too will make it past this difficult time.

Please be sure to read about the Pegasus Rising Project, which has has provided me support from four-legged friends, and I will post more pics of these new members of my support team soon :)