Father’s Day Blessings

As I look back on Megan’s Journey, it’s hard for me to believe that today was my third Father’s Day we have celebrated with Megan fighting cancer.  Father’s Day has always been a special day to me, because although I don’t have any boys, I’ve always felt there was a special bond between a daddy and his daughter(s).  I can remember when both of the girls were young, and numerous people would ask me if Deb and I were going to have a third child to try for a boy.  Without hesitation, my answer was always consistent…I was perfectly content with my two beautiful girls.  To this day, I have absolutely no regrets as I cannot imagine being any more blessed than I have been with Kenzi and Megan.

Although I have always treasured Father’s Day, the last three of them have taken on added significance to me as I have watched Megan fight this brutal disease.  This journey has taught me to live in the moment and treasure not just each day, but each and every minute I have with my girls.  Cancer teaches you to never take anything for granted, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.  Each hug is a just a little more special.  Each “I love you dad” is just a little more special. Each kiss goodnight is just a little more special, and each Father’s Day gift is just a little more special.  Although the last three years have been brutally tough, it’s days like today that are a not so gentle reminder of how lucky I really am.  Having Kenzi and Megan call me dad will never, ever get old.

Megan had a very big week as she started out Monday with her usual chemo treatment.  Since this was the second week of her three week treatment cycle, her visit on Monday was out-patient.  She and Deb left for the CDH clinic at about 8:15 a.m. for their 9:30 a.m. appointment.  So far, Megan’s blood counts have always been just hanging in there to the point that she didn’t need a transfusion, but her luck ran out on Monday.  Her hemoglobin count dropped to 8.4, and since she had surgery scheduled for Tuesday morning, her doctor wanted to give her a liter of blood.  Megan hates the blood transfusions, because they make her visits much longer than normal.  It takes about an hour for the blood to arrive, and then another two hours to transfuse.  As a result, she didn’t get home until nearly 3:00 p.m.  Although Megan wasn’t happy about the transfusion, her day got a whole lot brighter when Allie showed up with her new baby boy.  Allie is the Child Life Specialist in the CDH clinic, and Megan absolutely adores her.  Since Allie had her baby, she has been out on maternity leave, and Megan misses her terribly.  So when Allie and her new baby showed up at the clinic on Monday, it really made her day.  Here is a picture of Megan holding the new baby boy.

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As is usually the case following her chemo treatments, Megan came home and immediately went up to her room to try and sleep it off.  It’s a good thing she got some rest, because she had a very early morning ahead of her on Tuesday.

When Megan’s relapse became official in February of this year, it was because of a mass she found on her left breast.  To date, scans have shown no further cancerous activity in her body other than that one tumor.  Even though Megan has been so anxious to have the tumor removed, her oncologists wanted to wait to see if the chemotherapy treatments shrunk the tumor, or even made it disappear.  When it became apparent that it was not doing either, her doctors decided it was time to have it removed.  Megan wanted it removed because it was a constant reminder of her cancer, and feeling the tumor made her anxious, so she was actually relieved that the surgery was on Tuesday.  We left the house at 4:30 a.m., because we had to be at CDH by 5:30 a.m.  As always, Megan was so brave.  She has been through anesthesia so many times that she knows the drill, and it really no longer bothers her.  She also was relieved when she got her favorite anesthesiologist.  At about 7:45 a.m. they took her to the operating room, and it was only about 45 minutes later that they called us back to see her in recovery.  Her surgeon said the surgery was successful.  The tumor was easily removed because it was not embedded in the muscle, which meant Megan will just have a small scar to show for her troubles.  When the anesthesia started to wear off, she drank some apple juice and ate a cookie, which made her feel better.  She also flashed that infectious smile to let Deb and I know that everything was under control.  She is the toughest and bravest 16 year old girl I know.  I really don’t know how she does it every single day.

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After the tumor was removed, it was sent to pathology to determine if there were still any live cancer cells in the tumor.  In the meantime, we brought Megan home and tucked her into bed for another long nap.

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When she woke up, she was a little sore, but she said her stomach hurt more from Monday’s chemo than her chest did from that morning’s surgery.  In a matter of a couple days, you would have never known she had surgery…but the stomach issues from the chemo continued most of the week.  Chemo is such a brutal process that it makes surgery seem like a walk in the park.

Grandpa and Grandma Bugg have made it a tradition that when each grandchild graduates from high school, they take that grandchild out for dinner and give them a very generous graduation gift.  Kenzi had been communicating with Grandpa, and they set up a date to meet for sushi in Bloomington this past week.  Kenzi was so excited to see them, and she was very grateful for her graduation gift.  Kenzi even talked Grandpa Bugg into trying sushi for the first time 🙂  Grandpa is quite the softy when it comes to his granddaughters 🙂

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Although Megan continued to fight some stomach issue over the weekend, she still felt good enough to finally get out and about.  On Friday evening, she went over to see Kenzi at work and help her at the restaurant.  On Saturday night, she and her friend Katelyn went to the Major School of Dance recital at the high school to see our neighbors (the Tjelle girls) perform.  She also felt well enough after the recital to have Katelyn stay for a sleep over.  On Saturday afternoon, Megan even helped Kenzi with her make-up before a graduation party she was going to 🙂

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On Father’s Day, we were thrilled that Uncle Todd and Gina came over for a cookout.  I threw some ribs and chicken on the smoker and we had a great time.  Megan has been planning the desserts she is going to make for Kenzi’s graduation party on July 15, so today she decided to test one of her recipes on Todd and Gina.  She made birthday cake truffles, which were amazing!  Here she is putting them together.

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Before Todd and Gina got to our house, the girls gave me my Father’s Day present.  Since it was so nice outside today, we spent most of the day out by the pool, which is where they gave me a raspberry white chocolate bundt cake, which was absolutely incredible.  They are both so sweet, and they make me feel like the luckiest dad on the planet!

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We had so much fun with Todd and Gina.  Here is a picture of the girls with them.

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On Friday morning, we received a call from Dr. Salvi with the pathology report from Megan’s tumor that was removed during Tuesday’s surgery.  He reported that the tumor still showed the presence of live cancer cells.  Although the best possible news would have been that all of the cancer cells had been killed by the chemo, Dr. Salvi said the fact that the tumor did not spread, is good news.  Megan was really disappointed, because she hoped that the tumor was dead.  However, we will continue to hold onto the fact that her cancerous tumor was not growing; that her scans show no signs of any further cancerous activity; and that the cancerous tumor has now been removed.  She will continue with her chemo treatment protocol and begin radiation soon.  In fact, she has an appointment at the proton radiation center on Wednesday to get everything set up and determine a start date for her 28 days of proton radiation.  One day at a time…

To all of the fathers out there…please take the time to give your kids an extra hug for me tonight.  Until next week…

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The Bugg Girls Come Back Strong

Before last Sunday’s post, our family had just returned from an amazing four days in Los Angeles.  That vacation was the perfect example of Megan’s ability to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow.  She knew she had a rough chemo treatment coming up on Monday, but she wasn’t about to let that ruin her vacation.  Throughout this journey, she has developed an uncanny ability to not worry about tomorrow until tomorrow comes.  Not only did Megan have to live in the moment on vacation, but so did Kenzi, because both of them had big days coming on Monday.

Megan always has her chemo treatments on Monday, and this past treatment marked the first of her new three week cycle.  This first treatment of a cycle is always the toughest because she receives all three of her chemo medications, and it always takes a toll on her.  Megan and I left at 6:45 a.m. to get to the CDH clinic, because the earlier we get started, the better chance she has of getting home that night.  Unless she is throwing up, her doctors release her to come home after her three chemo treatments and two follow-up doses of Mesna.  However, on Monday, Megan wasn’t the only one with a morning medical treatment.

Kenzi was scheduled for oral surgery to have her wisdom teeth removed on Monday morning at 9:15 a.m.  Kenzi has really never had a medical issue, so she has never been put under anesthesia.  On the way home from vacation, Megan was giving her a pep talk to let her know what to expect, and that everything would be okay.  Kenzi wanted Deb to take her to her surgery, because she said she didn’t want me to hear if she said anything crazy when she came out of anesthesia 🙂  Megan had already gotten her blood work back, seen Dr. Salvi, and was admitted to her in-patient room by the time I got a message from Deb that Kenzi was out of surgery and doing fine.  A few minutes later, Kenzi FaceTimed Megan in the hospital, which Megan thought was pretty funny.  It was good to know Kenzi was okay and headed to the comforts of home.  It’s so hard not to be there when one of your kids is having a medical procedure, but since both girls were scheduled at the same time, we had no choice but to split up.

Megan powered through her day in the hospital pretty well.  She took a dose of Benadryl at about 1:00 p.m., which she is required to take to combat the effects of one of her chemo drugs.  The good thing about the Benadryl is that it helps her sleep away the afternoon, which is the optimal way to handle a tough chemo treatment.  She didn’t wake up until about 5:00 p.m., and she immediately asked for something to eat.  She wasn’t really hungry, but she has learned that if she keeps a little food in her mouth, it really helps to stave off the nausea.  After she ate, we called Kenzi again to check on her, and then just tried to pass the last few hours until she could get released to come home.  Luckily, she never threw up, so at about 9:00 p.m., she completed her last dose of Mesna and was released to come home.  She slept the entire drive home, and then went straight to bed to sleep it off.

The toughest thing about this particular round of treatment is that it leaves her absolutely exhausted for a few days.  Usually, by Thursday night, she starts to feel a little better, but this week it really seemed to hit her hard.  In fact, on Wednesday evening the nausea got the best of her and she threw up.  Throughout the week, she felt tired and had an upset stomach.  In fact, it was Friday night before she started feeling like she could get out of the house and do something.  In the meantime, Kenzi was trying to recover from her oral surgery, which left her in some pain and unable to eat any solid food.  It was definitely sick bay at the Bugg house this past week 😦

Kenzi recovered enough to go back to work on Thursday night, and by Saturday evening, Megan was ready to get out and about as well.  She and her friend Katelyn went to the Broadway Dance Center recital on Saturday night and had a great time.  Here they are at intermission of the performance.

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Megan also had a special event on Saturday morning thanks to Don Phillips.  The annual Morris Tractor Ride, which is led by the popular agriculture radio personality, Max Armstrong, made a special stop at our house to present Megan with a hat and t-shirt.  It was such a pleasure to meet Mr. Armstrong, and he was so kind to Megan.  We also found out that he knows my sister Amy really well, which was quite a coincidence.  It was a lot of fun seeing over 50 old tractors drive by our house as every single driver waved at Megan 🙂  Here are a few pictures of the event.

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Max Armstrong with all of us. Unfortunately, Kenzi was at work and couldn’t be there.
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Max Armstrong signing Megan’s hat for her.
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Megan with Don and his wife Melissa. Don is the one who made this special stop possible. Thanks Don!

On Sunday, Broadway Dance Center, and its owner, Kim Scerine, was holding its 30th anniversary party at the Morris Country Club.  Both Megan and Kenzi used to dance for her before they got into athletics during middle school.  During Megan’s illness, Kim has reached out to Megan and our family many times by bringing over food and taking Megan to her physical therapy sessions.  Kim asked Megan and our family to attend the anniversary party, but she wanted to do something special for Megan.  About two weeks ago, she and Megan went dress shopping because Kim wanted to get her a dress to wear to tonight’s gala.  She also had Megan come over before Sunday’s final recital performance to get her make-up professionally done.  Here she is getting her make-up done before the show.  Chemotherapy has caused most of Megan’s eyelashes to fall out, so she was pretty excited to get some fake eyelashes on today 🙂

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Here are some pictures from tonight’s 30th anniversary celebration of the Broadway Dance Center.  We all had such a good time.

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Megan with Kim Scerine

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Megan and Kenzi with two of Kenzi’s good friends who are dancers for Broadway Dance; Macey Spencer and Natalie Benson.
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Our fun table at the event. From left: Megan, Deb, Kenzi, Jack Micetich, Ann Gill, Danielle Porterfield and Shannon D’Agostino. Lots of fun with some great people.

Last Sunday, which was the day after we got back from vacation, Megan was invited to do some modeling for a company called Healing Heels.  They are a company that sells shoes and shirts, and for every purchase, they donate money to cancer research and cancer victims.  Deb drove Megan to Chicago for the event, and even though it was a long day, it was lots of fun for Megan.  Here are a few pictures from her photo shoot.

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I am happy to say that both of the Bugg girls seem to be recovered from their rough week of medical treatments and procedures.  Unfortunately, Megan has another very tough week ahead of her.  Tomorrow morning she heads back to CDH for another chemo treatment.  She will receive two different chemo drugs, but it is an outpatient procedure, so she should be back home by early afternoon.  Hopefully this week’s treatment is a little more kind to her than last week’s was.  Then Tuesday is a very big day for her as she will undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tumor in her left breast.  Her surgeon is confident that she can remove the tumor with minimal scar damage, which was a relief to all of us.  Megan is so anxious to have the tumor removed because it is something she can feel that serves as a constant reminder to her that she is still fighting this awful disease.  Once again, if all goes well, and she is doing well when she comes out of anesthesia, she should be able to come home sometime Tuesday afternoon.  When you are fighting cancer, there never seem to be too many dull moments 😦

Last week started out rough for both girls, but they each bounced back strong this weekend.  I was proud of the resilience each of then showed in overcoming last week’s adversity.  Let’s hope everything goes will for Megan on Monday and Tuesday, and that her surgery is successful.  Hopefully everyone on “Team Megan” can send some positive thoughts to her on Tuesday morning.  The battle continues…

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Angels in the City of Angels

Over the past two and a half years of “Megan’s Journey”, our family has learned some very important lessons.  One of the most salient of those lessons has been the importance of living in the moment because you never know what tomorrow will bring.  Cancer has a way of trying to dominate your thought process every minute of every day…but only if you let it.  Cancer wants to completely control your attitude towards life..but only if you let it.  Cancer wants to isolate you from those who care about you…but only if you let it.  Cancer wants you to be so anxious about what tomorrow will bring that there is no way you can enjoy today…but only if you let it.  During Megan’s first go around with cancer, we learned the importance of not looking too far ahead, because tomorrow can be completely overwhelming.  Instead, we learned to focus on today.  We learned not to let opportunities go by because we might get to them at a later date.  Today is for sure, but tomorrow is an unknown…so carpe diem!!!  No regrets!!!

Throughout Megan’s battle, there have been so many kind people who have stepped forward to give her some unbelievable opportunities.  About six years ago, our family took a vacation to San Diego and Los Angeles.  Megan absolutely fell in love with the west coast, and ever since, it is her vacation spot of choice.  She also loves the entire LA scene, because she is fascinated by the entertainment industry.  That fascination has only been enhanced because of opportunities provided to her and our family by some of the actual angels who inhabit the City of Angels.

Megan and Kenzi both love the television show, “The Fosters”.  A couple years ago, one of the show’s writers, Dan Richter, reached out to me because he had heard that Megan was a huge fan of the show.  He sent Megan some autographed pictures, and a couple stars of the show sent a get well video to her.  One thing led to another, and Dan actually worked it out that we could go on the set of the show, where the girls got to meet Hayden Byerly, who plays Jude on the show.  That moment was such a thrill for them, and it was so nice of Dan to make that event happen.

I have kept in touch with Dan throughout Megan’s treatment, and when I told him about Megan’s relapse, he didn’t hesitate to once again invite our family out to see their show being filmed on site in Long Beach, CA.  To say both girls were excited would be quite an understatement.  Everything came together very quickly, because Dan had to wait to see what the schedule would be like on the days we were going to be there.  In fact, we had to go ahead and book our airfare before we even knew for sure we would get to go on the set…YIKES!  Before Megan’s illness, we never would have rolled the dice like that, but now…we try not to let such opportunities go by.

We ended up flying in to LAX on Wednesday morning, and of course, our first stop once we got our rental car was to stop at In-N-Out Burger, where the girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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On Thursday morning, we left our room at 5:45 a.m. to make sure we made it to Long Beach by 7:00 p.m. to meet Dan Richter.  Dan has definitely turned into one of those angels for our family.  He was not even scheduled to be on location that morning, but he got up extra early, and drove over an hour to meet us so we could be on site for the taping of the show.  He is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.  Thanks to Dan and the cast of “The Fosters”, the girls had an experience they will never forget.  Here are some pictures of that incredible morning.

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That’s all of us with Dan Richter in the middle. We are standing right in front of the actual house they use for all of the outdoor scenes on “The Fosters”.

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Cierra Ramirez, who plays Mariana on the show.
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Sherri Saum plays the role of Lena.
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Sherri even came back between scenes to talk with the girls. She was so nice.
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Teri Polo plays the role of Stef.
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Teri also stopped over between scenes to chat for a few minutes. Everyone on the set was so kind.
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Hayden Byerly who plays the role of Jude.
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Kenzi is a huge fan of “Grey’s Anatomy”, and it just so happened that one of the stars of that show, Chandra Wilson, was directing the episode we were watching. That was an exciting moment for Kenzi.
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Kenzi even got to have a little private conversation with Chandra between scenes 🙂
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The girls even got to sit in the Director’s tent with the creator of The Fosters, Bradley Bredeweg. That was quite a thrill.
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Here is one last picture with the girls and Dan Richter. We could never thank him enough for making this experience possible for both Megan and Kenzi. Thanks Dan!!!

Dan is definitely one of the angels in the City of Angels, but there are two more angels who continue to lift Megan’s spirits every chance they get.  Jonathan Sadowski plays the role of Josh on the hit television sitcom, “Young and Hungry”.  He reached out to Megan during her first bout with this ridiculous disease, and he has been a staunch supporter ever since.  When we knew we were coming to LA, we contacted him to see if we could meet he and his fiance, Melissa, for supper one night.  Well…in typical Jonathan and Melissa fashion, not only did we meet them for supper, but we spent the majority of every day with them.  When we told them we wanted to go to Disneyland, they even accompanied us there for the entire day!!!  They are unbelievably kind and generous people, and it is such an honor to consider them friends.  Jonathan and Megan text each other often, and he never fails to bring a smile to her face.  He is starring in a television show, directing another project, won an episode of the Food Network’s show Chopped, and yet still took nearly three full days out of his crazy schedule to spend time with us and make Megan feel special.  Jonathan is a food aficionado, so you will notice that a lot of our pictures revolve around some awesome food 🙂  It was so much fun!!!

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We met Jonathan for pizza on Wednesday night.
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We had some amazing sushi on Thursday night. Jonathan’s food choices are always on point! Kenzi said the sushi was nearly a spiritual experience 🙂
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Melissa was able to join us for sushi. The girls were so excited to see her.
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At Disney with Minnie 🙂
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Here we are with Jonathan and Melissa at Disney.
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Another selfie with Jonathan.

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Nothing better than a golden churro at Disney 🙂

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Disney was so much fun, and I still can’t believe Jonathan and Melissa came with us for the entire day.  We got there at about 10:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m.  It was definitely one of those moments we will never forget.  Jonathan and his fiance Melissa are both angels to Megan and our family.

We had so many more amazing experiences before we had to head home late Saturday night.  Here is the rest of our trip in pictures.

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The girls wanted to get macaroons at Laduree in The Grove. Their macaroons are shipped from Paris daily! Yummy!!!
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At The Grove
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Megan on the beach in Malibu.
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Jonathan got Kenzi a graduation gift. He is so thoughtful.
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Megan thought this huge bottle of chocolate syrup was pretty impressive 🙂
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Getting ready to head out into the City of Angels.
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Megan ordered pancakes at The Griddle and they were huge!!!
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We also made a stop at the famous Pink’s Hotdogs, which was a lot of fun.

On Saturday, we had to head for the airport, but of course, Jonathan and Melissa asked to see us one more time before we left.  They actually invited us into their home, and then Jonathan took us to his favorite burrito place for lunch (You may have noticed a common theme when we are with him…FOOD 🙂  Megan thought her burrito was top notch!

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Besides learning the importance of living in the moment, Megan’s Journey has also taught us that there are many beautiful people out there who have helped create many beautiful moments for Megan and our family.  Cancer is a brutal journey, but the kindness of people like Dan Richter, Jonathan Sadowski and Melissa make the journey just a little more tolerable.  Who knew that there really are angels in the City of Angels?  We are so grateful and thankful for all of them.

Tomorrow, it’s back to reality as cancer never takes a vacation.  Megan heads back to CDH tomorrow morning for her first treatment of a new round.  This is always the tough one for her as she receives three different treatments that tend to knock her down for three or four days.  If all goes well, late Monday night she can be released to come home to the comfort of her pets and her own bed.  Let’s hope for the best.  Until next week…

 

 

 

Living With the Fear

I apologize to everyone who was looking for my usual Sunday post, but the holiday weekend kind of got in the way of my usual schedule.  However, that was a good thing because we had friends over for a cookout, which allowed all of us to get our minds off the daily grind that comes with fighting cancer.  Most importantly, it was an opportunity for Megan to smile, laugh, relax and get away from what has been a very tough week for her mentally.

As I have explained before, there have been many times throughout Megan’s Journey where I have questioned whether battling cancer is more a mental battle or a physical one.  Obviously, the physical battle takes its toll as chemotherapy at times seems nearly a barbaric treatment in a scientifically advanced country such as ours.  Although Megan seems to be tolerating this current combination of chemo drugs treating her relapse better than her initial chemo cocktail, it’s still chemotherapy; and it’s still poison.  The physical aspect of this fight is obvious and expected, but the mental battle…especially during her relapse…is unforgiving and omnipresent.  Megan knows she is in the fight of her life, but the constant reminders of such can be nearly overwhelming for her.

Every time she turns on the television, there are commercials about the best medical facilities to receive cancer treatment; fundraising commercials for childhood cancer facilities like St. Jude’s; cancer victims on various talk shows; news segments about new cancer research (although hardly any of those breakthroughs are ever related to childhood cancer!!!).  When Megan looks at social media, there are always posts from people who just found out a loved one has cancer…or tougher yet…those posts lamenting the loss of yet another loved one to this vicious disease.  And then there are the friends Megan has made via social media; other beautiful teenagers who have been inflicted with cancer.  These kids have been such an important part of Megan’s recovery as they are the only ones who can truly understand the trials and tribulations she goes through on a daily basis.  They are the only ones Megan can turn to who can genuinely sympathize with her very real fears and trepidation.  Then tragically, cancer unceremoniously rips these kids away from her far too soon, and when it does, it hits Megan like a ton of bricks.

As I posted last week, Megan is still mourning the loss of her very special friend Mia from Kansas.  Mia was, and continues to be, a special source of inspiration to Megan.  She was such a special girl, and I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life that I was able to meet her in person.  Cancer took her from this world far too soon, and I will never understand why, but I know Megan believes Mia is looking after her, which provides some level of comfort to her.  Unfortunately, Megan was still struggling with the loss of Mia when she got the news about a week ago Friday that her friend Sophia from Australia had learned that her cancer had spread and her doctors had declared her terminal.  That devastating news has made this past week really difficult for Megan as she not only copes with the reality that she is going to lose Sophia, but also the fear and doubt it brings to her own personal battle with this awful disease.

This week has been a mental challenge for Megan, and when it hits her most is at night.  During the day, she usually finds ways to keep herself busy, which keeps her mind off of her fears and insecurities.  In fact, she has found that one of her favorite things to do is to accompany her sister at work.  Kenzi has been working at a local Mexican restaurant as a waitress for a couple months.  It’s a family owned place, so it’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere.  Recently, Megan was bored so she hopped in her car and said she was going to see Kenzi at work.  Well…she called and said Kenzi was really busy so she was going to stay and help her.  Megan ended up assisting Kenzi for about three hours!  Kenzi came home and said it was the best day at work she has ever had, and Megan said it was fun.  Ever since then, whenever Kenzi works, Megan usually pops over and hangs out for a while.  Sometimes she helps Kenzi, but when Kenzi is not too busy, she entertains the owners kids.  It has become a great outlet for her.

Since Kenzi graduated, she no longer has the plethora of school activities to be at, which means she is home more.  She also doesn’t have summer basketball and volleyball games, which also gives her more time with our family.  As a result, she and Megan have been hanging around together a lot, which has also been very good for Megan’s mental state.  This week, the two of them went on a big shopping extravaganza on Wednesday.  Megan had her usual Monday chemo treatment at CDH where she received two different chemo drugs.  She responded really well, and by Wednesday she was ready for the big shopping trip Kenzi had promised her.

 

Kids Deserve So Much Better

Tomorrow, Megan will be heading to CDH for her 14th straight week of chemo treatments.  The treatment protocol for her relapse calls for 36 straight weeks of treatment consisting of 12 three week rounds of chemotherapy.  Last Monday, she underwent the first treatment of the 5th round, and that first treatment is always tough on her because she receives three different chemotherapy drugs.  It’s always good to get that first treatment completed, because she tends to respond better to weeks two and three of each round.  Although she seems to have the nausea and throwing up under control, last Monday was still a very tough day for her.

We checked into CDH at 8:30 a.m., because if we get there early, there is always a good chance Megan can get released and head home to the comfort of her own bed and her beloved pets.  After Nurse Jennie accessed Megan’s port and took a blood sample, Dr. Hayani came in to examine her.  We got great news on Megan’s most recent scans as they showed that the tumor in her breast had not grown and there was no other sign of the disease.  Dr. Hayani reinforced what good news that was, which I know made Megan feel better.  We also discussed her upcoming surgery to remove the breast tumor, and talked about when she would start her radiation treatments.  It sounds like her surgery will be scheduled for the second week of June with radiation to start about two weeks later.  Dr. Hayani said she would most likely receive four to six weeks of daily radiation, which would take her to mid-August.

Once Megan’s blood counts came back at acceptable levels, Nurse Kathy escorted her up to the pediatric inpatient floor for admission.  After Megan was hydrated to an acceptable level to receive the chemo, she started to receive her first dose.  I still get emotional every time I see the nurse hang that first chemo bag from the IV pole and watch that poison drip into her port.  As I have said many times before, chemo is both the hero and the villain of this saga.  I hate that Megan has to endure such a toxic substance that causes so many awful side effects, but I also know that the chemo is what got her into remission the first time, and her last scans are showing that her body is responding positively once again.  It’s an awful treatment, but due to the lack of attention and funding for childhood cancer research, she is receiving the best possible treatment that is currently available.  As Megan continues to battle with everything she’s got, we can only hope that medical science will somehow find the silver bullet that will remove so much pain from so many children and their families.  I will never understand why cancer is allowed to inflict our children, but IT HAS TO STOP!!!

Megan has connected with childhood cancer victims from all over the world, and although all of these brave teens have been an amazing source of emotional support for Megan, many of her friendships have ended in heartache.  Cancer can be so unforgiving, and Megan has had to watch cancer overcome too many of her friends.  Recently, Megan connected with an incredibly brave 15 year old from Australia named Sophia.  Megan has always been fascinated by Australia, so when she connected with Sophia, they had lots to talk about.  They have texted each other numerous times and they have been able to see each other via FaceTime as well.  Sophia had quickly become another source of emotional support that Megan counted on.

On Friday, Megan had a great day as she was finally feeling better from Monday’s rough chemo treatment.  In fact, she felt well enough to go on a shopping trip to Orland Park.  She had some gift cards to use at Sephora, which is her favorite make-up store.  As you can see, she was all smiles on Friday night 🙂

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When we got home, Megan went upstairs to put her things away when I heard her crying.  I quickly went upstairs and saw her crying as she stared at her phone.  After a little prodding, she told me that Sophia received her scan results, and tragically, her cancer had spread to the point that her doctors told her there was nothing more they could do.  Megan was devastated.  She is going to have to watch another one of her friends fall victim to this awful and ridiculous disease.  Not only is it so hard on her to lose her friends, but every time it happens, Megan once again questions her own mortality.  However, just like she did with the awful passing of her special friend Mia, Megan is going to use Sophia as even more motivation to win her battle.  The fact that Megan can take her emotional trauma and use it for further motivation gives a little insight into just how tough she is.  We are hoping for a miracle for Sophia, and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.  With all of the technological advances our society continues to make, I am utterly baffled that we cannot find a cure for childhood cancer.  Our kids deserve so much better.

Megan handled Monday’s treatment like a champ and she was able to get back home by 11:00 p.m.  There is nothing better than coming home to Ophie 🙂File May 18, 5 32 49 PMSaturday marked the third performance of the “Megan Bugg Concert Series” hosted in the CCHS Auditorium, which featured performances by BOGO Free and Marvin Minarich.  One of my good friends, Pat Halloran, is the singer for BOGO Free, so it was a special honor to have them perform.  All proceeds from this concert series go into account kept at CCHS, which is used to fund future community performances.  This concert series is a way for Megan and our family to give something back to this community that has given us so much love and support throughout Megan’s Journey.

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Megan and Kenzi with the two members of BOGO Free–Roger Hoegger and Pat Halloran.
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Megan with Marvin Minarich

Megan is still enjoying her newfound freedom now that she has her drivers license.  After her tough chemo treatment last Monday, she didn’t feel well enough to drive until Thursday, which is when Makenna Emerson showed her how to pump gas for the very first time 🙂  Thanks Kenna!!!

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Tomorrow morning, Megan heads back to CDH for her second chemo treatment of this round.  She will receive two different chemo drugs, but if all goes well, she should be home by the early afternoon.  Given all of the emotional and physical stress she has endured, Megan continues to be as motivated as I have ever seen her.  She is not only fighting for herself, but a part of her is fighting for her friends, and for all the other kids who are battling childhood cancer.  Please keep Sophia and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Clean Scans & a Graduate…Life is Good

In last week’s post, I wrote about the never-ending roller coaster that Megan and our family have been riding for the past two and a half years.  In the course of the ride, there have been some really trying times, but there have also been those beautiful moments that we will forever savor.  This week was chock full of moments that our family will never forget as Megan received the best possible news, and Kenzie experienced a once a lifetime moment.

The week started on Monday with Megan heading to CDH for the final chemo treatment of her fourth round.  Monday’s treatment marked her being one third of the way through her current 36 week chemo protocol.  For Megan, the final week of each three week cycle is always the easiest on her as she only receives one chemo drug.  She and Deb headed up to CDH for her treatment early that morning.  Megan came bearing gifts for the nurses as she made some awesome peanut butter sandwich cookies that everyone thought were amazing.  She even had some of the nurses asking her for the recipe 🙂  The treatment went well as Megan was back home by about 1:00 p.m. and as is usually the case following chemotherapy, she went straight up to her bed to sleep it off.  By Monday night, she was already feeling better, which is always a relief.

Tuesday was another big day for Megan, but for a fun reason.  Since she now has her license, we have been car shopping for her.  On Tuesday, she pulled the trigger and picked out a silver Ford Escape from D’Orazio Ford in Wilmington.  She was so excited!  It is so much fun seeing her enjoy milestones that we never knew for sure she would reach.  When you have been through what Megan has, you absolutely cherish those memorable moments that much more.  Here she is showing off her new wheels.

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Wednesday was yet another big day for Megan as we had an appointment at CDH with the surgeon who will be removing the cancerous tumor from her breast.  Deb and I were really worried about how invasive this procedure might be, but the surgeon was very reassuring, which was such a relief.  Megan is so anxious to have the tumor removed, because she feels it everyday and it’s just another constant reminder to her that cancer is still in this fight.  We are hopeful that we will be able to schedule her surgery in early June.

Wednesday night was also an exciting night for Kenzi as it was Scholarship Awards Night at Coal City High School.  Kenzi was recognized for being in the top 10% of her class academically, which was a great reward for all of the time and effort she has put in over the past four years.  She also received three different scholarships, which was quite an honor for her as well.  Here she is showing off one of her awards.  We were so proud of her.

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Thursday day was an important day for Megan as she had an MRI and CT scan scheduled.  We had to leave the house at 4:30 a.m. because we were scheduled to check in at 5:45 a.m.  Due to her issues with claustrophobia, she has to be under anesthesia for the MRI, but Megan has been through this routine so many times that it really doesn’t bother her anymore.  She also had her favorite anesthesiologist, which always makes her feel more comfortable.  Sometimes, the nurses who do not work in the CDH clinic have trouble accessing Megan’s port, which can really be painful for her.  To help ease Megan’s nerves, Nurse Kathy came in at 6:30 a.m. to access Megan’s port.  I still can’t believe everything she has done for Megan over the past two and a half years.  Nurse Kathy is like Megan’s mom when she is in the hospital, and we could not be more grateful to her.  She has definitely become like a part of our family.  Megan went under anesthesia and was headed down for her CT and MRI at 7:30 a.m. Here is a picture of her waiting for the anesthesiologist.

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At 11:30 a.m., I was finally called into the recovery room to see her.  Just like she always does, she greeted me with with a groggy, yet still infectious smile.  I know she uses that smile to let us know that everything is okay.  I can’t tell you the relief I feel every time I see it.

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Megan was obviously exhausted, so she slept all the way home and then went right up to her room to sleep for the rest of the afternoon.

The hardest part of scans is the “scanxiety” the accompanies the wait for results.  Since she had the scans on Thursday, I was so worried that we would not receive the results until Monday, which would make for a stressful weekend.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from Dr. Salvi late Friday afternoon to let us know that Megan’s scans showed no change in her condition.  Her current tumor has not grown, and she is showing no new evidence of the disease!!!  That is the best possible news we could have hoped for.  Now we have three more months until our next bout of “scanxiety”.  Megan continues to defy all of the odds by refusing to allow cancer to take over her life.  She is the strongest 16 year old girl I have ever known.

It was so nice to get the good news about Megan’s scans on Friday, because today was Kenzi’s high school graduation ceremony.  Aunt Amy and her friend Jason flew in from Kansas City on Friday night to stay with us prior to today’s festivities.  Since Kenzi had to work, Megan and I drove to Midway Airport to pick them up.  It was so good to have her here for the weekend, and Kenzi was thrilled that she came for her graduation.  Megan even talked Aunt Amy and Jason into going shopping with her on Saturday morning in Joliet, which of course meant that Megan had to visit the puppies 🙂

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Sunday was the big day for Kenzi.  Besides Aunt Amy and Jason, all of her grandmas and grandpas were in attendance for the graduation ceremony, as well as Uncle Todd and Gina. I still cannot believe that Kenzi is now an alumnus of Coal City High School.  These past four years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  Even though it seemed to go by very fast, I am so proud of her for everything she has accomplished.  These last two and half years have not been easy on her either, and yet she has maintained her focus and reached all of the goals she set for herself during high school.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her as she prepares to start her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin.  Congratulations Kenzi!!!  Here is a pictorial account of her graduation day.

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Ophie wishing Kenzi luck before the ceremony 🙂

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Nick, Megan and Kenzi

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Kenzi with Aunt Amy and Jason

On Monday morning, Megan heads back to CDH for the first treatment of her 5th round.  This is always a tough one for her because she gets admitted in-patient due to needing three different chemo meds.  As long as she reacts okay to the treatment, she should be home in the comfort of her own bed by late Monday night.  Hopefully, the great news she received this week will carry her through tomorrow’s tough treatment.

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Clean scans and a new graduate…LIFE IS GOOD!!!

 

The Never-Ending Roller Coaster

After watching Megan fight this battle for two and half years, we have learned that one of the most challenging aspects of her journey is dealing with the ups and downs that not only come week by week, but sometimes day by day…or even hour by hour.  In previous posts, I have written that fighting cancer is akin to being on the biggest baddest roller coaster you have ever ridden.  During this journey, we have experienced the euphoria of many beautiful moments including clean scans, remission, and the incredible kindness of everyone on Team Megan.  We have also powered through some very rough moments like seeing Megan fighting for her life in the ICU, watching her throw up over and over in her early chemo treatments, and hearing the devastating news that her cancer had relapsed.  By staying in the moment, we have managed to savor the beautiful moments, and by supporting one another and feeding off the power of Team Megan, we have been able to successfully navigate the tough times.  Although the extreme ups and downs can be difficult, sometimes it is the smaller battles that begin to wear on Megan and our family.  This week was a microcosm of this as Megan started the week with her Monday chemotherapy treatment; followed that up with a milestone; and then struggled through the rest of the week fighting off the side effects of her chemo treatments.

On Monday, we left the house at about 8:00 a.m. to get to the CDH Clinic in time for Megan’s 9:15 a.m. chemo treatment.  The medical professionals who care for Megan continue to be some of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met.  Many of them have become like a part of our family, and Megan loves them dearly.  When Megan was brought to her examination room, the nurses had taken the time to decorate for her 16th birthday.  They even decorated with kitten pictures!!! 🙂  After Nurse Jennie accessed Megan’s port and took a blood sample, all of the nurses came in to sing Happy Birthday to her.  They also had a cupcake and a gift for her.  It made Megan feel so special, and just for a few seconds, she was able to forget she was there for a chemo treatment.  That’s what makes everyone at the CDH Clinic so special…they make Megan feel comfortable and do their best to make an awful situation at least a little more bearable for her.  Here is a picture of Megan with a few of her room decorations.

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After Megan’s blood test came back, she was able to receive her chemo treatment.  She has to take a dose of Benadryl prior to her chemo, because one of the drugs can cause skin irritation.  Megan hates taking Benadryl because she doesn’t like the way it makes her feel, but she knows it’s better than being itchy all day.  While Megan was there, little Ellie and her mom were also there, and they also had a birthday present for Megan.  Megan thought that was so sweet of them.  Thanks Ellie!!!  At about 12:30 p.m. we were headed back home.  Like always, Megan is exhausted after receiving her treatments.  The combination of the Benadryl and the impact of the chemotherapy drugs tend to knock her out on the way home.  However, Megan knows that when trying to recover from a chemo treatment, sleep is by far the best medicine.

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Megan slept most of the day on Monday, and then slept late on Tuesday morning.  She was motivated to start feeling better because she wanted to go get her drivers license, and we should all know by now that when Megan sets her mind to something, it usually happens.  Here she is at the DMV and with a paper copy of her new license.

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Getting her drivers license picture taken. With that infectious smile, it will be awfully tough for a police officer to ever give her a ticket 🙂

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Reaching another milestone 🙂

And of course, when she got home, she had to take Madison Emerson for a ride.

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Although Tuesday was definitely a high point for Megan, the rest of week proved to be pretty challenging for her.  On Wednesday, she was exhausted and fought headaches all day.  Then on Thursday, she started having some pretty tough stomach issues.  She made it to school for a period, but that was about the extent of her activity on Thursday.  On Friday evening, she was really excited because we were going car shopping for her at D’Orazio Ford in Wilmington.  She drove about five different cars, but then she hit the wall and we had to leave.  We came back on Saturday morning to drive another one, but she is still waiting to make a decision until she sees exactly what she wants.  On Sunday, we were supposed to go celebrate her birthday with Grandpa and Grandma Coope, but she just wasn’t feeling up to it.

Some of her symptoms, such as the lethargy and headaches are classic symptoms of a low hemoglobin count.  At Monday’s CDH appointment, we should get some answers as to whether or not a simple blood transfusion will make her feel better.  However, her stomach pain continues to be an issue for her.  It gets to the point where she doesn’t want to eat, and the only way she can find comfort is to lie down in her bed.  Hopefully her doctors can figure out what is going on because the stomach issues had her home bound for much of the weekend.  She was able to get out this morning and go to breakfast with Madison Emerson, but that was about the extent of it today.

She has been handling this new chemo protocol pretty well as Monday and Tuesday are usually a little rough, but by Wednesday evening, she is usually feeling better.  This week, she really didn’t have any days where she felt good.  We are hopeful this is just an aberration that her doctors can figure out, and that it’s not a sign of the cumulative effects of her chemo treatments.

This upcoming week is a very big one for Megan.  She has her usual chemo treatment on Monday, but then on Wednesday we have a consult with the surgeon that is going to remove the tumor on her left breast.  After that appointment, we should know when that surgery will be scheduled.  If Megan had her way, she would have already had that surgery by now.  The hates that she can feel the tumor on her breast, so she just wants it gone.

On Thursday, Megan has her first set of scans since she started her relapse chemo treatment.  She will receive a CT scan, and then go under anesthesia for an MRI.  Of course, we are very anxious to receive the results of these scans, because it will give us a good idea of how successful her treatments have been.  It will obviously be a very long weekend as we await the results.  Obviously, the wait is the toughest on Megan 😦  We will once again need all of Team Megan’s thoughts and prayers on Thursday morning.

In the midst of everything going on with Megan this week, Kenzi graduates from high school on Sunday afternoon.  It will be an emotional moment to see her walk across that stage as she prepares to begin a new chapter of her life at the University of Wisconsin.  She has taken advantage of all that high school has to offer, and we are so proud of her.  She has definitely come a long ways 🙂

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The roller coaster ride continues next week…

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