Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thank you

I would like to personally thank everyone for all of the kind posts, words and cards that have been sent to me and Jessica’s family.   The response has been heartfelt and very much appreciated by all of us.

Our bunnies Blossom and Gracie are preparing for their annual celebration this weekend, so I would like to wish everyone safe travels and happy weekend as you head out to see your loved ones.

~~~ Seth, Blossom and Gracie

 

Blossom   Gracie  Jessica and Blossom

 

 


The Final Chapter

Last Friday night was probably the hardest night of my life.   At the young age of 33, my best friend, my fiancé, the love of my life, Jessica Beth Rice passed away from complications due to Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma lung cancer.

Early Tuesday morning on March 25th, Jessica was rushed to our local hospital by ambulance due to extreme head pain, nausea, and dizziness.  After several rounds of Morphine and then Dilaudid for pain relief, the doctors were able to keep her stable enough for a cat scan.   The cat scan revealed severe swelling of the tumors in her head, most alarming was the one at the back of her head near the cerebellum.   The ER doctors immediately consulted with Jessica’s regular team of doctors, and she was then quickly transported to the larger sister hospital facility located a bit further away.

Once there, I met with our regular team of doctors and surgeons to find out what could be done.   An MRI was ordered, and the hope was that most of the tumors were just swollen, and possibly treated with a combination of steroids and minor surgery.  Unfortunately, the MRI revealed that all 25 tumors had grown “significantly” in just the past two months.   The tumor at the back of her head which was the most alarming had grown from 1cm to 3cm, and was causing extreme pressure in her head.   This was the realization that she was running out of time.   Surgery was not an option due to the size and number of tumors, steroids were no longer effectively controlling the swelling as they had previously, and we were out of options.  Doctors gave us 3 weeks…. at best.

On Wednesday, Jessica woke up for a few moments, and I just held her as I told her what was going on.   She looked up and just said, “I thought we would have more time”.   As I held her, we both cried for awhile until she fell back asleep.   For the next several hours, I sat there accompanied by her mother, held her hand, and talked to her as much as possible.   I met with the Hospice navigators that afternoon, and arranged for at-home hospice at our house, which was Jessica’s wish.

Jessica’s brother, Cisco arrived at the hospital a few hours later, and she woke up when I told her he was there.  She opened up her eyes, and said “Hi boy, it must be pretty bad if you’re here.”   They talked for a few minutes, and she told him it was going to be OK, and that he should “take care of mom.”  Cisco held her hand for the next few minutes, and talked to her until she again fell asleep.   I again sat by her side, holding her hand all night, and monitored her pain level and vital signs.  By early morning, we had to increase her pain medication once again to keep her comfortable.   The increase in medication made her extremely drowsy and she mostly stayed asleep, but her comfort was the most important thing to me.

Just before the hospice-transport arrived on Thursday afternoon, I met again with our Oncologist who came by to see her again before transport.   I told him what I was seeing in how long the current level of pain medications were working, and how the window of effectiveness was shrinking with each dose.   He just nodded his head and told me to make sure that beyond everything, my job now was to make sure she was comfortable once I got Jessica home.   His said that we were now down to just a few days, no longer the initial time of up to 3 weeks.

Jessica came home for the final time that afternoon.   The Hospice nurse was at the house, and Jessica was made as comfortable as possible in the surroundings she wanted to be in.   Family and friends were by her side for the next several hours, and I kept vigil by her side for another night, administering her IV medications every two hours as prescribed to keep her comfortable.

Nurses arrived early Friday morning, and reviewed the medication and activity log I kept which described what I was seeing in her condition overnight.   After an examination, our nurse told us to prepare, and that we only had a few hours left.  Jessica took her last breath at 9:12pm that evening.   She was surrounded by family in her final moments, with her bunny Blossom guarding from under her bed.   She was not in pain, which was something I had promised her, passing peacefully in her sleep.

Jessica had hoped that this blog, and her story be a source of both inspiration and hope for others with cancer.   Not just lung cancer, but for any illness that we as mere mortals fall victim to.   She didn’t think of herself and a patriot or fighter, but just someone that “did what anyone else would do” in here situation.   She was not religious, but did have faith in the science that was being worked on by so many researchers around the world.   It was that faith that pushed her to seek out the latest treatments and drug trials, both of which extended her life from the initial diagnosis in November 2011 of 10 months, to almost 2 1/2 years.   I will be forever grateful to Dr. Robert Roush and his team, for every stone they turned over in order to get Jessica the best treatments that were available in the country.  We both believed in him and his team, and they never let us down.

Jessica would want to be remembered for her love of animals, and her devotion to them in both her volunteer work, and for the many who still reside on the family farm, especially her pony Shadow.   She was an advocate for the cancer community, and many of the articles she wrote are listed throughout this blog.   She also never believed that anyone “loses their fight to cancer,” and would debate anyone on the topic all night long.   I will remember all of the wonderful places we went together, and the time we spent together.   The big grin on her face when she climbed into her MINI Cooper, dropped the top, and took off down a windy road.   And the peaceful look on her face while holding her bunny Blossom, or the two of us just curled up on the couch together.   I miss you so much Jessica!   You were my better half, and the love of my life!   Goodbye for now, baby.

 

 

Jessica and Seth Jessica Jessica and SethJessica

 


Rest in Peace Jessica

Hello, my name is Wayne Gossger.  Seth and Jessica are really close friends of mine.  It is with deep regret that I need to inform you that Jessica has lost her fight with cancer and has passed away Friday evening on March 28, 2014.

Seth is trying to deal with this and cannot write an update to Jessica’s blog at this time.  He promised Jessica that he would write a final post after she passed, and I’m sure he will at some point, but now is not that time.  I wanted to help him out by providing something to post so all of you are informed.

All Seth and Jessica’s friends and family are now rallying around him to help him in this difficult time as well as helping Jessica’s family.

I would ask each of you to say an extra prayer, hug your loved ones a little harder, and stop and make time for anyone that is struggling with such a disease.

At this time, all I can do is remember all those great times I’ve had with Jessica.  Attached is one my favorite pictures of Seth & Jessica.  We went to a minor league baseball game with a large group of friends and had one of the greatest days ever.  This was well before she learned of her cancer.  Not a care in the world, just all of us enjoying life and living in the moment.

I understand that when she found out she had cancer that she was given 10 months to live.  She ended up enjoying over two years and I was lucky to help her enjoy some of that time along the way, when she was able.  I know Seth and Jessica definitely made the most of it.

Jessica, you have inspired many who follow this blog, you provided hope for us all, and made us all want to be better people.  While you’re no longer with us physically, you will live forever in our memories and our hearts. We look forward to making an incredibly well-deserved toast of scotch to your life and your spirit.

 

 

June 2007 at Campbell's Field

June 2007 at Campbell’s Field


Keeping My Promise

My name is Seth, and late last year, Jessica asked me if I would write a post or two to her blog once she was unable to.  This blog has been both therapeutic and rewarding to her, and it is her wish that this journey is recorded, and that everyone who has so graciously spent their time reading this blog have some closure, whenever that time comes.   That time is not yet here, so I will do my best to honor her wishes.  I promise that this will not be my final post for her, as I am sure I will have more to share about the amazing person I have come to both love and respect these past 8 years.

In the past few weeks, Jessica has been fighting nausea, seizures and extreme head pain.   All of these which are a result of her lung cancer which has metastasized to the now 25 tumors in her brain.   All of her tumors have had “significant growth” in the past two months, the largest having grown to 3cm.  As I sit here now, we are still at the hospital, but I expect to have her home later today in Home-Hospice care.  Last night, I found the following draft of a blog entry she was composing on March 16th.  I know that this was not complete, but I think it gives a hint of her mindset during this period of time.

First, the background of the post.   On Saturday, March 8th, we drove down to the new farm so that we could “farm sit” while her mom made a quick trip back to WV to retrieve some last minute items from the old farm.   Unfortunately, Jessica had what we decided to call, “an episode”, that lasted about 30 seconds.   That “episode” resulted in the obvious call to 911, who quickly arrived and checked her out.  By the time they had arrived, she was feeling fine, and we decided to not go to the local hospital near the farm since they didn’t have her records anyways.

And now, her post as I found it in draft form from March 16th:


 

I’ve been starting to think a lot about the process of dying. And I don’t know why it’s comes to mind other than maybe this is just the time that it should.

I suppose no one has the opportunity to go back and do it twice.  Right now I can only speak on the feelings I’ve had around my seizures, and whatever the event was after, and the feelings I’ve had since.  Sometimes a very smooth spherical cylindrical funneled like, and if I can allow myself to let go and not be scared for her even the smallest moments of time, they are creative fun spaces full of happiness.  Sometimes I feel like there’s a playful dangerous yet still very safe fun place that’s very very available to me.  I think I have Shadow, him target riding along the very beginning of trails on the farm and in Brogue or Windsor whichever.
I remember when we did our Foxhunt, and my main concern wasn’t that I would get hurt but that he would get hurt when going down one of the rocky hills and into the road.

I don’t know what to think of the combination of these fluid and solid examples that are being presented to me.

This really has me wondering if my brain is starting to form its final reorganization. Or am I just going mad? Or is this the actual reason people do go mad!?

 


My Old Man

imageEach February I blog when we celebrate the birthday of my first pony, Shadow. ( This post tells you more about our special bond.) This year Shadow is turning 38 years old – or so we thought…

During the move, my mom found the registration document from when I first adopted him. At that time, the veterinarian’s guesstimate as to his age would have been much more accurate. And using that information, well, that means that Shadow may have celebrated his 42nd birthday today!

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. I’ll bring you something special on Sunday!


The Mane Event

Seth and I decided to go very light on gift-giving last year. And after an unexpected August engagement, I had received the only physical “gift” I might hope for from Seth.

Like many of my friends, I appreciate the intrinsic satisfaction gift-giving brings. Receiving gifts is nice too; it’s a chance to have some fun with friends, see how well they know you, etc.

In the past I’ve known people who will spend the entire year judging or otherwise measuring their relationships based on how much ‘thought’ (read: money) was spent on their gift. There are different kinds of relationships and people in the world – and I suspect these are some of the shallowest. But that’s okay. They make me giggle, and I have the time to judge. (Hahaha, I’m FAR from flawless!)

All this rambling is to tell you about one gift I received this year. As Seth would say, “It broke me.”

I have a huge heart for animals. But beyond that, I think I’m pretty average, maybe a little tougher than usual. Hallmark cards and movies about separated lovers don’t make me cry. I’ve never been moved to sponsor a fly-covered malnourished child shown on TV commercials. (I can’t watch the animal abuse commercials, though!)

I’m sensitive, but for most of my life, I’ve successfully kept it secret. I’ve decided to open up a lot since my diagnosis, but the open demonstration – exposure – of feelings is still a struggle.

For all of those reasons, even my mom was surprised when she handed me my gift. I opened the tiny box and had a complete break down.

She found an artisan who weaves jewelry from horse tail hair. Back in August, my mom clipped a (surprisingly thick!) chunk of Shadow’s tail hair and mailed it in. The resulting gift was a beautiful bracelet delicately woven from Shadow’s tail hair and sized just for me.

I bawled tears of joy. Then I cried some more. It is so special and thoughtful. I have yet to wear it; although the weave is very sturdy, and it seems perfect. There are no short hairs poking out like when I would braid my own hair.

I’m not sure I’ve ever received such a unique and thoughtful gift. Just like the pony it came from, I will cherish it forever!

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Pack Your Pony!

On the Friday after Christmas, Seth and I closed on a very special property where my mom and our small family of animals will live much closer to us. I’m over the moon!

Having my mom and lifelong best friend so far away has been one of the most difficult things about being sick. We have an integral bond not completely definable in terms of friendship, love, and endearment. (It will make good book fodder should anyone ever talk me into writing my memoirs.) Needless to say, it’s a key ingredient in the special sauce that is my intrinsic happiness.

And while I am too scientifically stubborn to believe my medical progress is directly correlated with stress or support of one relationship, I know many of my friends and even casual acquaintances reading this who do. It doesn’t seem like a productive ‘argument’ to have, so I’ll agree “stranger things have happened” and leave it at that. What I do know is that I will be a much happier bunny once my mom and I are more available to each other than we presently are.

Knowing this better than anyone, Seth has done his part to move heaven and earth – again.

I grew up on a small, rural farm which my mom literally built with her own hands, and sadly we lost it due to a combination of the economic downturn and unrelated domestic events. Seth and I had been work friends and dating for only a short period of time; I was bowled over when he offered to invest in a new farm, essentially providing enough capital that would allow us to keep our family (animals) intact and not homeless.

We had to find a place on a very small budget, and time was of the essence. We found a tract of land with a half-finished house in West Virginia. The distance would be a challenge (going from a 2 hour to 7+ hour drive), but what we could afford wouldn’t be anywhere near Philadelphia. I promised my mom I would visit once a month, and that’s exactly what I did for two+ years, while I was healthy and airplane flights were competitive.

Unfortunately things went to hell in 2011. My mystery illness turned cancer diagnosis made independent travel nearly impossible, and the 7+ hour drives became more frequent.

Previously Seth and I would drive out for a week-long visit just two or three times a year. Now he is schlepping me there every six weeks or so. (And not once has he complained.) Seemingly overnight the farm’s distance went from unhappy to unbearable. I was in and out of the hospital, while my mom had no one we could trust to tend to the animals, not to mention help her with a very long, stressful drive, so she could visit me.

We listed the farm as ‘for sale by owner.’ A year passed with little activity. We broke down and decided to list with a Realtor in early 2013. To date, we’ve had some interest (showings) but no offers. I have listed the property information at the end of this post and appreciate you sharing the listing with anyone who will read and share.

Seth and I knew we had to sell the existing farm in West Virginia before buying a new one. To carry an extra mortgage for an undetermined length of time would be foolish, stressful, and insane! And that doesn’t even explain that I would need to use every penny I’ve ever amassed for a new downpayment. What kind of crazy person would do such a thing?!

Me, apparently! There are few events that will make two balanced, logical and otherwise risk-adverse people take a chance like that. And frankly, I hope you never figure out where your limits are. Mine was a grand mal seizure and the discovery and growth of a dozen+ small brain tumors. Seth having to check for life signs after my seizure may have been his breaking point.

Very quickly our priorities clarified, and we made the conscious decision to move my mom immediately, no matter what that meant.

Fast forward five months, and here were are! The house needs some basic pieces (appliances, a floor refinish), and the barn and fence need patching before we can safely move everyone to their new home. Paint and other cosmetics will be projects along the way and aren’t considered critical to the move (or in the budget!)

Even though she will have to manage everything at a distance, my mom hopes to move by the end of January. I think an end-of-February goal is more feasible. She has been tasked as the general contractor on all things ‘new farm,’ and my brother (a marketing pro) will continue to focus his attention on attracting a buyer for the farm in West Virginia. Please help us spread the word about this beautiful property for sale!

* Via our custom, mobile-friendly site: http://propertyforsalewestvirginia.com/

* Via realtor.com: http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/2468-Dudley-Hill-Rd_Middlebourne_WV_26149__M37821-07279

* Contact our Realtor, Harry Cain, at (304) 455-2550 or harry_cain21 (at) hotmail (dot) com

I’ll do my best to keep you updated as the big move nears! Please know that moving our furry and feathery family is a delicate process! My fundraiser stays open to help me pay all expenses on my Frog List, including the cost of moving one very handsome, roan pony! 😃

Here’s to the Happiest New Year yet!


67 Miles

A few weeks ago I made a conscious decision to keep something from my blog readers. I haven’t felt guilty about it; I don’t feel like I “owe” my readers anything but my gratitude, which you certainly have.

Still, secrets and half-truths are a real pain in the ass. My favorite Judge Judy saying is, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to have a good memory.” And when I began keeping this one, I thought my silence would be needed only for ten days. That was November 3rd.

It’s now five weeks later, and I find that keeping one secret has really stalled me from sharing other things, too. So without further ado…

Seth and I found a small farm where my mom and our animals can live. It seems to meet most of our needs, and it’s less than an hour and a half from our home. Can you imagine?!

We made an offer, and it’s been accepted on contingencies. The time issue is that it is a bank-owned foreclosure; so paperwork that should take days is taking weeks.

Yes, weeks! For five weeks, we have been holding our breath (insert lung cancer jab here) and hoping that the building and septic inspections don’t turn up anything devastating that we can’t afford to fix. (Like most foreclosures, the bank plans to sell “as-is”.) Perhaps this would be as good a time as any to begin building my contractor contact list for the Delaware/Maryland Bay Area!

I’m not a superstitious person, so I can’t say that I was afraid of “jinxing” the deal by blogging about it. But I was trying not to get my hopes up until we got through inspections. After all, if we have to install a new $20,000 septic system, the deal is off. But now my hopes are up, and both my mom and I will be devastated if this falls through. (sigh)

We are waiting for the bank (owner) to approve a quote and make repairs needed after they un-winterized the house. Then one Saturday or Sunday very soon we will head down to Maryland to meet the inspectors. The bank originally wanted to close before the end of the year, but with their self-imposed delays, I doubt it will happen until early next year.

Now that I’ve spilled my guts and shared all my deep, dark fears that we’ve found the perfect place that could have hidden, expensive problems, allow me to say… I’M SO FREAKING EXCITED!

Less than an hour and a half south there sits an empty farmhouse and some assorted outbuildings on four acres of land.

It’s just about perfectly square and was fenced for animals which hopefully now have happy homes elsewhere. The two acres around the house is mowed, but the rest of the property, mostly in shrubby pasture, hasn’t seen a deck mower in a few seasons. Looking at the aerial map I can almost imagine the horses grazing out in the back pasture.

The house was built 95 years ago and is small compared to some others of its era. Inside it needs a lot of cosmetic help, but it’s always what you can’t see that concerns me.

You can tell it was loved once; even recently you can see where new pavers were laid for a back patio that never saw its first summer barbecue. There is granite, probably rescued from remnants, atop the old, painted beadboard cabinets. And someone started to drywall a room upstairs, presumably for a master bathroom. This place feels right.

Of course, if this all works out (it just has to!), the pressure is really on to sell the existing farm in West Virginia. Yes, we know that will be stressful. But having my mom close to me couldn’t be more important!


Patrick Leer

Earlier this week, lung cancer extinguished a bright star. Patrick Leer is the first cancer friend I’ve lost. It’s heartbreaking in so many ways; some were anticipated, others were not.

Patrick was diagnosed in January 2012, just a few months after me. He was stage 1 and had surgery in March 2012. After 14 months cancer-free, his doctors discovered new lung tumors and brain mets in May 2013. He had WBR for his brain and was suffering through chemotherapy to treat his lungs when he started going downhill. I know he was hospitalized with an infection but had come home shortly before he died.

I knew Patrick through his blog, our emails, and short Twitter direct messages. He was a kind man whose primary passion was to love and care for his wife, crippled by MS only four years into the 28 they would spend together. He loved her so much and spoke of the time they spent together only as a privilege and never a burden.

Patrick blogged at http://lung-cancer-survivor.blogspot.com. I’ve found myself going back, seeing if I could piece together his last few weeks, but I can’t. Maybe his daughter will finish his story someday.

Lung cancer only exists to kill, and after two years in this unfortunate club, it has taken one of my friends. The rest of us can only hold hands a little tighter and hug our loved ones a little longer. And when we tell you “I love you,” please know that we mean it so much it hurts.

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Race Weekend!

It’s time to take a break from cancer and update you on our awesome NASCAR race weekend!

On Friday night Seth and I flew to Greensboro, NC. The flight was uneventful and plane definitely reusable. (That’s how I judge a good landing!) From there we rented a car and drove ten minutes to our hotel.

The DoubleTree by Hilton was very nice and clean. After plane tickets were purchased, my mom made some calls to hotels where I have a member number, explained why I was coming to the area, and tried to get the lowest rate. Her efforts paid off! The DoubleTree manager was very nice, and with the discount, we essentially got three nights for the price of two. Another bonus? Free hot breakfast each morning.

Saturday morning we drove approximately one hour north to the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. Our first stop was the NASCAR credentials trailer. My ticket donor said there would be pit passes waiting for us. We filled out the disclaimer form and waited in line. But once we got to the front they couldn’t find us on “the list.”

“That’s okay,” I said to Seth, trying to hide my disappointment. “We’re still here and have great seats!”

The woman at the table pointed to a closed door which led to a small, separate room. “They have other packets. I don’t know if they can help you or not.”

So we squeezed our way into the tinier room and waited for one of the two women to be available. We gave our names, and she scanned her list. She was flipping pages quickly when Seth said, “Wait! That’s us!” A packet was passed from one woman to the other, and two magic pieces of paper emerged. They said “HOT.” We printed and signed our names on a form already containing others. They trashed our disclaimer forms.

I was barely able to get back to the car and tell Seth, “close your door, close your door” before going “SQEEEEEEEEEE!!”

A “hot” pit pass gives you carte blanche to be INSIDE the track before, during, and after the race, including qualifying and practice. We were there for all the events both Saturday and Sunday. One of my favorite highlights was attending the pre-race driver’s meeting. While there was no room under the tent, we were all the way up front and just a few feet from the drivers, crew chiefs, and teams.

The races themselves (a lesser series on Saturday and the main event on Sunday) were great. The Sunday race was my favorite that I’ve ever attended: it had plenty of action, our seats were great, and the track is so short, there is always action right in front of you. (You don’t wait or watch with binoculars while the cars drive around a 2+ mile track.)

Seth and I took many pictures and a few small videos; I’ll share some on Facebook when I’m up to it.

Thank you for making this trip possible. Your donations via my YouCaring site paid for the airplane tickets, rental car, and hotel. And guess what? I can cross it off of my Frog List!

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