Here’s the Link. Thank You, Amy Lange and Fox 2 News

31 05 2011

Amy Rauch Neilson kisses her son Theo. Credit: WJBK |

Local Mother Fights Inspiring Battle with Cancer for the Second Time
She blogs about her experience despite chemo

By Amy Lange | FOX 2 News

(WJBK) – A local wife, mother – and cancer survivor – is fighting her toughest battle yet.

Her message is both inspiring and informative.

Five-year-old Theo never wants to leave his mother’s side. There’s always time for another hug or another kiss.

It’s that kind of time that his mother, 42-year-old Amy Rauch Neilson, is fighting for.

“It terrifies me,” Amy said. “I don’t want him to grow up without a mom.”

“He needs his mom, and I need my wife,” said her husband Don.

For Amy and Don, a fight they thought they had already won has once again reared its ugly head. Amy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2006. It was stage one, a lump the size of a blueberry in her left breast.

But because she’s a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancer, Amy went to the extreme to ensure this cancer would gone for good.

She underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Then later, doctors removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes. This made her sure that she’d be cancer free forever; a wife and mother with a healthy future.

Then, in January of this year, after a day of winter fun with her family, she made a devastating discovery.

“I flopped down on a coach and I pulled a blanket up and I felt this lump,” Amy recalls. “And I put my hand down my shirt and I’m like – what could this possibly be?”

Amy had a biopsy the very next day, which was Monday. By Wednesday Amy knew that it was cancer again.

But this time it was stage four, and it had spread into her chest wall, her lymph nodes and both of her lungs.

“Sometimes I wake up and it still seems surreal to me,” Amy said. “Like is it really possible that I’m waking up into this world where I have stage 4 breast cancer and I really am in treatment for this and my life is really in jeopardy?”

Amy says those thoughts are overwhelming.

Cancer killed Amy’s grandmother and mother.

Her sister Julie is a two-time cancer survivor. Her other sister Lisa is also a carrier of the gene, and she also had a double mastectomy and her ovaries removed as a preventative measure.

Now – they know – it’s no guarantee the cancer won’t come.

Amy’s on a mission to make sure people are aware. She writes a blog called It’s In The Genes, and she has subscribers in all 50 states, as well as 17 countries.

“I want to share this story with as many people as I can reach – to give them hope – to give them inspiration and they give it back to me because I feel connected,” Amy said.

Connected during such an uncertain time. Amy is currently undergoing chemo treatment, and she says nobody really has the answer to when she’ll be done – or if she’ll be done.

The good news is, she’s feeling better and her doctor says cancer treatment is advancing so fast there is hope she can manage this, like hypertension or diabetes – even at stage four.

Amy’s not letting it slow her down one bit. She joined her team, “Amy’s Walking Angels” at last weekend’s Race For The Cure.

She carried little Theo in her arms.

“I believe I’m going to survive – and I tell him that I’m going to be okay – Mommy’s going to be okay.”

After all – there’s so much to live for.

To view the piece that appeared on Fox 2 News last night, go to:

Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Amy Lange, cameraman Larry and their Team at Fox 2 News for sharing a story that I hope will save lives. Amy, you really are an angel.

The Miracle of Cardinal Red When I’m Blue

30 05 2011

Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

The first time it happened, well, perhaps the first time I was really certain it was happening, was the week before our son, Theodore, was born. It was August 2005, a sweltering summer, and my ankles were so swollen from the heat and the pregnancy that I’d long since given up trying to wear shoes.

I was in our bedroom, folding tiny socks and organizing onesies, when I heard it. A soft but persistent tapping at my bedroom window.

I looked up. There, staring at me from the other side of the glass, was a bright red Cardinal. He was perched on one of the branches of our enormous Maple tree, looking at me, his head tipped to one side. Time froze for just an instant while we observed each other, then he took to flight and was gone.

A coincidence, I thought to myself. But a gift nonetheless.

My Dad, after whom our baby boy would to be named, was a lover of nature. After the last flake had found its place following a Michigan snowstorm, he’d head out with a snow shovel to clear the driveway. Most of the time, I’d follow him with my kid-sized version. I loved to be around him. His corny sense of humor made me roll my eyes, but his laughter — even at his own jokes — was infectious. And besides, if I worked really hard, there was always the potential of a hot cocoa at the corner Big Boy when we were done.

Often, before he’d begin clearing the first path, he’d stop for a moment, lean on the handle of his shovel, and look all around him. Sometimes, he’d even pull his camera out of his pocket, snapping photos of branches bending under the weight of the ice, or of the fluffy, milk-white flakes like sleeves of a down-filled winter coat over the boughs of our pines. I’d stand there in silence, beside him, seeing the world through his eyes.

My Dad was a bird lover and had taught me to recognize the calls of all the varieties that chattered in our treetops, from the Red-Winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove and Blue Jay to his favorite, the Cardinal. It was always easy to pick out the Cardinals in their cherry red coats after a newly-fallen snow.

If we dawdled too long, we’d hear the side door open. “Are you two just going to stand there, or actually get to clearing the driveway?” my Mom would call out to us. Mom was very practical-minded and couldn’t understand for the life of her why my Dad needed to stop and stare at the snow-covered pine trees in our front yard, not just once, but every single time it snowed. But in them, I believe, he saw miracles. What nature was capable of, each and every snowfall. What was all around us, powerful in its silence.

One of the greatest joys I’d experienced during my pregnancy was learning that I was to give birth to a boy. I’d always wanted a boy — one that I could name after my Dad, and I was glad that during his life, I’d been able to tell him in the definitive way that only a teenager can, that that was exactly what I was going to do. My sister Julie remembers the hot summer day that I turned to him in our garage and declared, “Dad, someday I’m going to have a baby boy. And I’m going to name him after you.”

There had never been any question after the ultrasound, the one that confirmed I was carrying a boy, that he would be named Theodore, which means Gift of God. Somehow, some way, I’d been able to make good on that promise, even though my Dad had not lived to see it.

One of the greatest sorrows was that my Dad would not be there to hold his namesake in his first hours of life, to throw him up and onto his shoulders for a piggy-back ride, teach him how to catch a baseball. My Dad, my hero, a tall, blue-eyed blonde who’d played ice hockey on the “Over 30” league well into his 50s, had been taken from us in 1995, after an 18-month battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was only 59.

That was the thought that was weighing on my mind that hot summer afternoon, as I worked to get every last detail in place before the baby came. “If only Dad could be here to meet the little guy,” I thought more than once, brushing tears from my cheeks.

As if in answer, that Cardinal showed up not just once, but three times in that week before Theo was born, each time finding me on the other side of the glass as I readied the bassinette, stacked diapers and folded receiving blankets.

Still, I wouldn’t allow myself to believe that it was more than just a coincidence. Until. Until the final time, when at the very moment that the Cardinal appeared at window, the clock radio on my nightstand clicked on. I was at least ten feet away when it happened. And then. And then the song that was playing. It had been a favorite of my Dad’s and I’d often heard him belting out the chorus when he was working around the house. “Me, me, me, me and Mrs., Mrs. Jones…”

What were the chances that, as I prepared for the baby who would be named Theodore, that the Cardinal was tapping at the glass, the clock radio turned on to a station I never listened to and was playing one of my Dad’s favorite tunes?

This is the miracle of Cardinal red when I’m blue. It hasn’t happened to me many times since, but it has indeed happened. A bright red Cardinal crosses my path seemlingly out of nowhere when I’m facing one of life’s toughest battles — my Stage 4 Breast Cancer diagnosis — or just crying quietly to myself, missing them, my Mom, my Dad. A bright coat of feathers swoops past me, or taps on the glass, reminding me that I am not alone, that there is far more going on all around us at any given moment than we can see or truly absorb.

On this Memorial Day, I remember my Mom and my Dad — two people who loved each other, me and my two sisters with all they had, who gave selflessly and sacrified deeply so we could become the people we were meant to be, people who are full of love and who, yes indeed, believe in miracles.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Status Update: Catch Fox 2 Promo

29 05 2011

The piece Amy Lange did on me and my family and breast cancer is a go for tomorrow night, Monday (Memorial Day) during the 10 p.m. newscast. Fox 2 News is running promos on this morning’s newscast — catch one if you can!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Status Update: Nausea. Ugh!

26 05 2011

I’m in week 2 of Round 6 of chemo and the nausea is really bad. Today is my last treatment for this round, and then I’ll be off until Tuesday, June 7! Hallelujah!

Looking forward to getting through today’s treatment, which is just one infusion of the PARP Inhibitor, so less brutal than Tuesday’s triple-play.

Then, it’s off to the Detroit Zoo tomorrow with my kid and his school! We’ve been looking forward to this field trip for months now. It’s a rain or shine event, so Mother Nature has no say over this one! (Should it rain, I can see Theo bending his classmates to his will and spending a lot of time in the amphibian house…).

Will be keeping my eyes on the prize during today’s chemo — a holiday weekend kicked off by the Zoo, with warmer temps and sunshine on the way!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Fox 2 Update: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Monday!

25 05 2011

Courtesy of Fox 2 News.

I heard from Fox 2 News Reporter Amy Lange today and it looks like the piece they did on me will air this coming Monday, Memorial Day, during the 10 p.m. newscast. Amy says that’s tentative right now, so keep tuning in for the update and confirmation! For those of you outside of the Fox 2 Detroit viewing area, the story will be linked on their website, and I’ll pass that link on to you as soon as I get it.

She did say that the date and time is a plus as Fox 2 will be promoting the story all weekend and it will air after House, which, of course, is a medical drama!

Speaking of medical dramas, I’m working my hardest to get that out of my life and back onto the TV set, where it belongs!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Yup, That’s My Ride

24 05 2011

Me looking cool in a BMW. Photo by Michelle Hicks.

There’s nothing perky or fun or giddy about going to the infusion center for my twice-weekly chemo cocktail.

But no one said getting there couldn’t be way cool and exhilirating.

Today, I arrived in style. Just check out this BMW Z-4 in cherry red. Yep, that’s my ride. At least, it was for today.

My friend and chemo bud Michelle Hicks surprised me by picking me up in her convertible. We drove to and from chemo with the top down, our blonde hair blowing in the wind on a beautiful, sunny Spring day. We even threw in a stop at Olga’s Kitchen along the way — for a pair of those delicious orange coolers.

I may have to do chemo. But no one said I couldn’t do it in style.

I’m home now. My wind-blown hair is a tangled mess. I think I’ll keep it that way for a little while. I kinda like it.

Thank you, Michelle. It’s always a wild ride when you’re in the driver’s seat.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

In Search of The Pink Lady

24 05 2011

This is an open letter to the lady with the bright pink, glittery hair that my husband met by the poolside at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort the week before last. The Pink Lady, as my family has nicknamed you.

You were there celebrating four years in remission from Stage 4 cancer, from the same tumor type that I’m now fighting. You’re me, four years into the future, and I want to find you. I want to talk to you.

My husband says that you told him only that you are from Pennsylvania, and that you travel to the Caribbean Beach Resort every May to celebrate your victory over breast cancer. That’s all he learned about who you are. But he did give you my blog address.

So, if you are reading this, please let me know. I want to chat with you. I want to learn how I can do everything possible to follow in your footsteps. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even meet you myself sometime, at the Caribbean Beach, when we’re both celebrating remission.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Live Like There’s No Tomorrow

23 05 2011

I often act like there’s no tomorrow. And rightfully so, I suppose, since I have a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis.

But I’ve learned a lot in the four months since my diagnosis.

For one, I’m still here. And I’m doing well. Very well.

For another, I need to behave like that which I expect to become: A long-term Stage 4 breast cancer survivor

Of course, it’s terrifying. Of course anyone in my shoes would have the right to feel like “this is it” – and then act accordingly. That’s why, for example, I insisted on two Easter Egg hunts this year, instead of just one. Why I’m thrilled that it’s almost summer – and I’m still here.

There’s nothing wrong with living life to its fullest and seizing the day…unless you’re pushing yourself to the point where you’re going backwards – and enjoyment has turned into obsession. Obsessed with squeezing every moment out of life… just in case. I was teetering on that edge.

This is an excerpt from my blog for The Pink Fund for this week. To read the post in its entirety, go to The Pink Fund.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Lighting the Pathway of Hope

23 05 2011

The luminary created in my honor by Lori McGuire for the Relay for Life, Garden City. Photo courtesy of Mollie Finch.

Saturday was a busy day. Not only was there the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the early morning hours, but the Relay for Life was going on in various locations Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

My loving friends found a way to make sure I was able to be in two places — Garden City and Farmington (my hometown) — at once over the weekend. Heck, if I could figure out how they did it, I could patent the process!

Luminaries in my honor shone brightly at both Relays for Life going on in those cities. In Garden City, Mollie Finch — Team Captain of Amy’s Walking Angels — her Mom, Lori McGuire, immediate and extended family participated for the second year in a row.

“It is a very emotional event,” Mollie said. “All the cancer survivors lead and everyone walks a special lap around the track in memory of those who have lost their battle to cancer and in honor of those who have won the battle. I am so honored to be a part of such a wonderful cause and will do it for many years to come.” (To catch a glimpse of the event, click on the Garden City link above.)

Next year, I hope to join Mollie and her crew on that lap, as a survivor in remission.

Team Amy’s Monica Lesnau not only completed the entire 5k at the Race for the Cure with her family, but then was off and running to the Relay for Life.

“I’ve been involved in the Relay for Life for a number of years,” Monica says. “We started one in Walled Lake years ago, while I was on the Council. It’s grown. We Lesnaus were in Farmington this year, participating with the kids’ school. There were 31 teams, raising more than 53,000 dollars.

“To honor you, a luminaria must be imbued with all the lively colors of the rainbow. It was a intended as a celebration – a celebration of friends and family, wellness and hope, talent and tree frogs. Very happy. Very Amy!

“Small luminaria. Big impact! It took its job very seriously, inviting passersby to visit http://www.itsinthe – for that seems like the best way to honor you.”

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

Race for the Cure 2011

21 05 2011

Amy's Walking Angels 2011. Photo by Emily P. Sybert.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day and I couldn’t have asked for a better team.

A couple dozen of us made our way through the crowd of thousands as Pink Fund Founder Molly MacDonald shot the pistol to start the 5k Run. Teams walking the 5k or the One Mile fell in step behind the runners.

For once, I took my sister Julie’s advice. I turned around at the One Mile Marker. I suppose a mile isn’t too shabby for a girl who had chemo twice this week and two Neupogen shots to boot. “Do the One Mile and you’ll still get the whole experience,” she told me last night after I got home from chemo.

I wasn’t convinced at first. I wanted to do the whole 5k. I’ve always done the whole 5k, even in 2006, after I had undergone a double mastectomy and Round 1 of chemo.

But when I hit the One Mile Marker, I knew. To keep going, well, that would have been foolish. There will be other years. My body needs all of the reserves it can muster.

Julie was right. I got to do the important part — be there in front of Comerica Park, surrounded by thousands of people on a mission to End It — alongside my friends and family. Shades of pink stretched as far as the eye could see under the bright blue canopy of a brilliant Spring morning.

As we made our way back to the parking deck, I heard a group rapping on one of the many stages. “Survivors. You are Survivors. Survivors. Never forget. You are Survivors.”

I let those words and that beat stay with me the rest of the day.

Special thanks to Team Captain Mollie Finch — who has organized Amy’s Walking Angels since my first diagnosis in 2006.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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