Goodbye Sweet Cancer Vacation


My last infusion of chemotherapy was March 15th. I realized that I might be getting a chemo break aka cancer vacation in April just as some of the heaviest detoxing from avistan was happening (relentless headaches and body pain.) My two docs officially agreed to give me the summer off in May. Loving the concept, I greedily pushed to delay testing until August and the answer was yes!

Oregon’s weather during these same spring months was a rare and absolute delight – day after day. Most agree they have never seen a more perfect spring. I took delight hour by hour. My many walks each day slowed by the need to smell too many flowers. My husband finished off our patio giving me a dream location to visit and rest between walks and the occasional task.

The first month I moved slowly with recovery, the second month I jammed in a four state solo road trip across the great northwest then returned home to transform a barren gravel area into a newly envisioned meditation loop. I cleared the area, I gathered 36 boulders from other places into an oval, I dug down two feet to loosen the hard gravel and then relocated five yards of compost berming up my new “meditation garden.” (More on that topic soon.)

My Meditation Garden!

My Meditation Garden!

Done I collapsed thinking, “wow, I might just have overdone these past few weeks.” But I was pleased as I took to rest and recovery. Every day I seemed to need more rest and had a few new complaints but I stayed slowed down and waited to feel better.

Yesterday I sent the below email to friends. My cancer vacation is over. It was a lovely break.

Subject: Marcy’s cancer takes a gallop

As some of you know the last two weeks I have faced dramatic changes in how I have felt. Technically, for the first time feeling “symptomatic.” It was almost hard to take seriously cos the changes are so fast and severe. Almost.

I asked for testing Monday. It was approved Tuesday. Tests happened yesterday. Doc called this morning before 8 am to say the cancer is very active and moving fast. She said she would be back in touch asap w.a plan and “we would fight.” Her immediate suggestion being topotecan and avistan.

I am working to get my files to UPenn hoping they might be game for surgery. I dont believe my cancer is very responsive to chemo. My doc here is not open to surgery. I have not yet seen the report myself but I feel it – deeply and constantly. It is effecting my breathing and moment by moment comfort.

Mike is sad and I am pretty focused with little room for emotions. We had the separate drama of me losing consciousness Tuesday morning. He didn’t like finding me collapsed on the floor bleeding. We think it’s a food/sugar related thing but it’s hard to get a doctor to comment on that right now.

So, not much more to say. I had felt pretty cocky that this was not my year to die but I dont feel cocky about anything right now. Cancer is relentless and random and I am a teeny tiny pawn doing what I can. YOUR support means so much. Right now we have nothing much to say – this is all that we know. Two weeks ago we were on a cancer vacation. ;  ) Neither one of us has much ability to manage a conversation right now unless you are a doc.

I do value what a very lovely spring this has been. Watch out – it’s Friday the 13th out there. Stay safe.

lots of love, marcy10152646_10152422082198708_4231432561548744429_n


About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

41 responses »

  1. Ah, so that’s the story, my boulder-toting friend. Very sorry to hear it. I’m so glad you have UPenn behind you at this point, and hope you hear something concrete from them that eases your decisions. Whatever you choose, you are indeed strong enough. Thinking of you with love and a little bit of awe.


  2. Marcy – although I am always so happy to get your updates, this was a difficult one to read….you are courageous, insightful, and filled with love for your family, your friends and your new meditation path – it made the news a bit hopeful……..the combination of love and fight is a strange one to contemplate. I am thinking of you and sending a heart full of love your way…….your pal, Doodle

  3. Here’s to hope that Topotecan will quiet the fire that’s raging in you. I’ve had friends who found more time and few side-effects with that drug. Your meditation garden looks beautiful…finishing it must have satisfied your soul.

  4. Sending love and prayers for the right treatment at the right time. You are an amazing woman, Marcy Westerling….thank you for sharing this difficult journey.

  5. Marcy, sending you love, wishing you and Mike all you need to get through this, whatever it turns out to be.

  6. I, too, LOVE the garden and the meditation loop. What a nice place to spend some time as you regroup and decide the best course of action for you at this stage in your journey. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
    Sending hugs and warm wishes,

  7. Marcy, you are in our hearts and now we will be increasing our thoughts and prayers to you and Mike. Sending strength, renewal, and as always, big hugs and love!
    Margaret and Sharyn

  8. Mary … you have been so strong and such a blessing to all people .. we love you so much. Stay focused, stay strong! Big Hugs and Love – Cliff

  9. Marcy, I too was so saddened to read your last post. It was not what I had expected nor hoped for. I will be sending extra love and light your way as you make your way through this new chapter. I do so hope U Penn is able to help with surgery and that they are able to offer you more in the way of treatment. My heart is heavy for you.

    Love, Yvonne

  10. Marcy, I am not far behind you in my cancer journey. I wish we would have had a chance to chat at the OVCA luncheon. I recently finished writing my letters to my husband , children and grandkids. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but so freeing once I was finished. Now I’ve turned over my fate to my spirit guide and will just enjoy every minute of everyday. Sending you love, strength and courage as we face our uncertain future. ♥

    p.s. I just figured out how to live graciously. ..dying graciously seems a little tougher.

  11. Marcy,

    I am so saddened to hear of this new turn of events with your cancer……but I am hopeful that Penn will have some options that you will feel comfortable with.

    The meditation garden that you created is beautiful! I’m sure that you will find it to be very centering as you decide upon the next steps of this journey.

    Thinking of you, Marcy……and wishing you much love and peace.

  12. Dear Marcy, I am just reading this update – a day after you posted. As I meditated today over this news, it occurred to me that we are all on the same path. It is not possible for me to describe how appreciated your honest and heart felt blog is to me. I too am not far behind you. I await the day when my symptoms knock at my door to the future. It is important to me that you know these things: 1.) I love your meditation garden. Go there, meditate, and enjoy each moment. Enjoy living, loving, laughing. Enjoy knowing that TODAY you are living YOUR life! 2.) Hold close to your heart – your courage, your strength, and the love that surrounds you. You have made a lasting impression on many, myself among them. From you I find strength, inspiration and understanding. 3.) Never, ever give up – after years of struggle – I have learned of many ladies that have amazingly overcome situation of despair. Knowing your personality and character – I believe you have MUCH in your future, much you will continue to share with all of us, and much we can learn from your example. Much admiration, much love, much hope, LA

  13. Love the garden – and know finishing it was a satisfying bit of life. May you find ways now to feel satisfied in surrounding yourself with it’s growth and seasons. I’m so sad reading this post – and sending you and Mike all the love and prayers I know how to send. May blessings come in unexpected ways during these days, Marcy.

  14. Hi Marcy, I just returned from a daylong meditation where I included you in a wide all-encompassing sendout of lovingkindness to all life on planet earth….  love + light,  Lily

  15. My beautiful friend with her beautiful garden, you are so strong and it’s so sucky that mike and you are back on the cancer fight. Love and hugs to you both.

  16. I am so happy you were able to enjoy the spring, create your meditation garden, and see the completion of your patio. You deserve so many more years, but I know you will make the best of whatever you are given. My thoughts are with you and Mike.

  17. Oh dear Marcy, there’s more to your story and it’s unfolding before you as you walk into the great mystery called life.

    Marcy, you mentioned both SOB (shortness of breath!) and surgery. I don’t know what’s causing your SOB, but if it’s pleural effusion, then a short, simple out-patient procedure called thoracentesis can drain without a big trip to UPenn. Ask your doctors.

    It can be hard to get on a plane for a big trip with SOB and even a temporary respite might help.

    Marcy, your meditation garden is lovely!

    I hope it’s a place of calm, solace, nurturance now that you’ve done the heavy lifting of creating it.

    Many blessings, Stephanie

  18. Oh dear Marcy, oh dear Mike, I’m thinking of you, hoping for the best for you and for everyone I know who is dealing with cancer. I read the Lynne Knowlton poem (thank you Nancy) which so well states the frustration with and anger towards cancer. What can I do? I love you dear Marcy.

  19. Hi Marcy. I do love the hive of activity of your meditation garden. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing things for the love of it only to be taken out by exhaustion afterwards. I hope you find delight in losing yourself in these times. During harder times, there’s just nothing to be said and that’s ok. One day at a time. Thinking of you & sharing your space.

  20. Marcy, you are in my heart, head and ongoing prayers to stop the cancer and discomfort; to bring you and Mike time to return to loving and laughing and enjoying the beauty of spring and garden and life. Si Se Puede!

  21. Marcy…your light in this world has made a brighter place for us all. Wishing you the deep satisfaction of living to that highest light. You’ve always been my hero. Love, Sue

  22. Marcy. So sorry to read this update.
    You are a true warrior – you were helping me last week with all this going on…
    Thinking of you as you find the best way to fight back.
    Love your meditation garden!

  23. Hi Marcy,
    What a beautiful creation your garden is and I hope you feel well enough after you next intervention to enjoy what you have accomplished. You have used the cancer break well, which in the end that sometimes is all we can do.
    Just a side note, I have had positive effects from both avastin and Topo and I hope if it ends up being your path, that it is effective for you too.

  24. Marcy we were dx nearly the same time. You’re knowledge, compassion, and inspiration have helped to keep me in the battle to kill this ugly disease! I appreciate your determination while traveling to PA. for the trial that could save many sisters! I pray for you daily and will pray for your medical team too.

    Love and hugs,


  25. So sorry that your cancer vacation didn’t last longer. I hope with all my heart that you get another one.


  26. Well damn, damn and damn Sam! Saying this sucks doesn’t do it justice. Telling you how strong you are, how much I love and admire you and how sick at heart I am doesn’t do this justice, either, but it’s what I can say. But know that I’m cursing heartily and shaking my fist and will continue to blast the fates with all my strength! Oh my dear friend, courage, yet again. xxx

  27. My heart goes out to you dear sister goose. You are strong and vibrant, a joy to be around. I pray you find the doctor that will find the answer in helping you heal, surgery or not. I remember the numbness and fear as if it were yesterday. Like Carol, I’ve never reached NED so it’s a waiting game of when & how bad the cancer will be when it starts spreading again. I only wish I had your writing skills in order to express myself and to give you the hope you so need and deserve. Thinking of you.

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