The Final Ascent

Here we are. Tomorrow, when Abby checks into UWMC for her final chemotherapy, our journey together marks 41 weeks. Like mountain climbers rising at dawn for the final ascent to the summit, we hold onto the vision that Abby is now one treatment away from complete healing.

Over the past month, the climb has been more challenging but also more rewarding with every step forward. Abby completed her final morning of radiation listening to Jimmy Cliff sing “I Can See Clearly Now”. Before exiting the Radiation Oncology unit at UW Medical Center for the last time, the nurses, radiation techs and staff that had spent every morning with Abby marked Abby’s closure by ringing a gong together. The reverberations sent waves through the room. What a powerful moment.

In the weeks since, we’ve been busy enjoying the school year and seasons. The Seattle Hebrew Academy and its community continues to be a source of strength for our family. Jaren’s transformation from Pre-K to Kindergarten has been incredible and Miri’s new Chickadee class is inspiring her to learn all about the world around her. On the weekends we’ve been cheering on Jaren and his Eagles soccer team. Last weekend, we returned to the Methow Valley for the first time since being evacuated by the wildfires this summer. While the fires are now long gone, the trees were ablaze with brilliant fall colors and the mountain air proved the perfect final getaway before Abby’s final treatment.

Visit Abby this Week

Visit Abby at the UW Medical Center this week. She’ll be there from Monday, October 26th to Saturday morning October 31st. She would absolutely love to see you. If you can’t make it over, give her a call or text her, she’d love to hear from you.

Life after Treatment

As we prepare to plant our collective flag at the summit of Abby’s journey, we recognize that there is still a long journey ahead for our family. As Maurice Herzog, the 20th century mountain climber declared after a harrowing first summit on Anapurna, “There are other Anapurna’s in the lives of men.”

The coming months and perhaps years will no doubt include lots of monitoring and meetings with Abby’s SCCA Oncology team. Much of this we have yet to fully understand. But to close this chapter and turn a new page in our lives, Abby and I are planning a few days in Hawaii in early December. We’re so excited! Abby has been planning this trip since treatment plans overturned our April plans. When we return we hope you will save the date and join us on Sunday December 13th to celebrate Abby’s 38th birthday and a year ahead filled with health and happiness.

As we look ahead to a new year, Abby and I are profoundly moved by the collective love and healing we have received and continue to receive from you all. Your acts of loving kindness, your visions of healing, your blessings and your support has given us the strength to reach this point.

To celebrate life and honor you, Abby and I plan to lead an Obliteride 2016 Abby’s Army team. This year Abby’s Army raised over $10,000 contributing to over $2 million that went straight to cancer research. We believe we can do so much more and we hope you’ll join us to do more good together.

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren, Miri and Ari

 

Sweet New Year

This week marks the Jewish New Year, a time to celebrate new beginnings; reflecting on the year that has been and the year that will be. Looking back across this year, the words ‘gratitude’ and ‘thankful’ don’t come close to describing the overwhelming love we’ve felt in what could have been a very lonely time. You’ve made the impossible seem ordinary and the unbearable feel manageable. Our home is filled with hope and aglow with your love. As we begin to look forward it is with tremendous humility that we ask your forgiveness for a year in which we struggled to be the friends, family and co-workers we aspire towards or that you’d hoped we would be. Thanks and we wish you all a sweet and healthy new year!

Tomorrow Abby goes in for her next 5-day stay at the University of Washington. As she gets comfortable in her hospital bed tomorrow night, she will be able to begin counting down her treatment days using both hands! After this 5-day stay, she has a 1-day out-patient treatment in three weeks and her final 5-day treatment scheduled for the last week of October.

The finish line seems so close, but Abby knows there’s still much work to do. She’s currently three weeks into, and half-way through, her radiation therapy and her body is talking back more than it has most of these past 9 months. As Abby says, she’s at mile 20 in her marathon – that point at which everything hurts and mental discipline and focus is critical. Abby is inspired by all of you and determined to finish strong.

Help Abby finish strong and visit her at UWMC this week. She goes in this afternoon and is there until Sunday (Sept. 20th) and would absolutely love to see you. If you can’t make it over, or if you’re not feeling 100% healthy, give her a call or text her, she’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for everything you do for us and stay tuned for the next update with details on how we plan to celebrate!

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren, Miri and Ari

Blue skies

It continues to be the nicest summer we can remember in the Pacific Northwest and we hope you are all enjoying this magnificent time of the year wherever you are. Thank you for all the family vacation pictures, texts, and e-mails. We’ve been thrilled to have so many of our out-of-town family and friends come visit. Seeing your smiling faces and hearing about your families has been the absolute best medicine and our doors are always open. Thanks also to those of you who have shared your homes with us. We’ve enjoyed getting back to the Methow Valley, visiting Portland for a weekend, taking a day-trip to Mt. Vernon, and spending a week in Sunriver.

But far and away the brightest part of the summer is Abby. She is doing terrific. Her latest CT scan was just as encouraging as the first – with no visible signs of cancer in her body.

I wish you all could have seen Abby’s fist pump and exuberant “YES!” when she heard the positive news. Lee, Abby’s radiologist dad, also got the opportunity to put his eyes on the scans. It has been such a blessing to have Lee and Mary Jean – an oncology nurse in her own right – join us for these checkpoints. Everything is working as we’d hoped and your love, thoughts, prayers, and encouragement is helping so very much in our healing process.

The next waypoint on our journey is radiation therapy, which begins in August and runs five days a week for five weeks alongside chemotherapy treatment. The radiation’s job is to pinpoint the areas of positive margins where cancer cells may have been left from surgery and eliminate them. It’s tricky business. The team at SCCA is carefully examining how to position Abby to safely radiate these areas without risking damage to her organs. Please focus your thoughts, prayers and meditation that Abby’s doctors find the optimal placement to radiate any and all remaining cancer cells while being as gentle on her body as possible now and down the road.

With Abby gearing up for radiation I’ve been spending more time on my bicycle getting ready for Obliteride on August 9th. Last year, Obliteride raised $2.245 million, 100% of which benefitted cancer research at Fred Hutch. Even after spending years racings bicycles, I’ve never been more excited, more thankful, and more proud to ride my bike, than I am in preparation for Obliteride.

For Abby: Visit Abby at UWMC this week. She goes in this afternoon and is there until Sunday (July 28th –August 2nd). She would absolutely love to see you. If you can’t make it over, give her a call or text her, she’d love to hear from you.

For Jaren and Miri: Weekday Playdates for Miri – Let us know if you’d like to coordinate a playdate between our sweet little toddlers between now and back-to-school, and we can connect you with Ari, our au pair.

For Justin: Ride or Fund Obliteride – It’s not too late to ride with me and the Abby’s Army team or to fund this important cause.

Thanks for everything you do for us. Hope you enjoy some of the photos of our summer exploits and please keep sharing your family photos too!

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren, Miri and Ari

The Middle-leg of Abby’s treatment and Riding for a Cure

The sun is shining here in Seattle and we’re thinking about you all.   It’s been seven months since our journey began and Abby is now a third of the way through her treatment with another 5-day in-patient stay planned next week. As we prepare to take on this middle-leg of Abby’s treatment, your constant words of encouragement, love and creativity continue to lift us up every day. Thank you.

As we look ahead toward the summer, we have so many people to thank for helping our family get through this school year. Our deepest gratitude goes out to the amazing teachers, the go-the-extra-mile staff and the truly extraordinary families at Seattle Hebrew Academy. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the love you’ve given Jaren and Miri and our family. Picking-up and dropping-off, bringing ingredients and assembling lunches, keeping our fridge (and freezer) stocked with meals, baking bizcochos for Abby to take on her treatment days, and sending uplifting pictures of Jaren and Miri on treatment days only begins to describe the immense support we’ve felt from the entire SHA family.

This summer break holds great promise for our family. Helping us on the next leg of our journey is Arianna Avila Rincon, our new au pair. After spending the past year with a family in Connecticut, Ari is ready to thaw out and spend the next nine months in Seattle with us before returning to her family in Torreon, Mexico. Between Isla, Kailyn, and our dear friend Kristen Keeler – a triumvirate of angels who helped make afternoons and evenings easier – Ari has big shoes to fill. Already Jaren and Miri love our newest family member and we couldn’t be happier.

We spent our first weekend with Ari in Whistler and Birch Bay (thanks Marinellis!) getting to know each other and enjoying the majestic Northwest. Ari helped us celebrate Jaren’s 5th birthday and today we get to return the favor and celebrate her feliz compleanos! Ari and the kids will be on the go this summer going to various camps and activities. She’d love to coordinate playdates, especially for Miri.

While the days are longer and noticeably sunnier we continue to be reminded that this is a marathon. Here are some ways you can help us this summer.

For Abby:

  • Visit Abby at UWMC next week (June 15-20th) – The emotional low-point for Abby and our family is while Abby is in-patient at the hospital, especially during her 5-day treatment stint (every six weeks). Here is Abby’s updated treatment schedule and suggestions to help you plan your visit. Some options…
    • If you and your family are healthy, Abby would love to see you, hear what’s going on in your life, knit, talk cooking, do a few laps around the unit, anything really. As you can imagine, hospital rooms aren’t exactly cheery places, so your love and presence will help.
    • For our office-bound friends, a lunchtime call or 5 min Facetime chat is a great pick-me-up.
    • For out-of-towners planning to come visit, this would be a great option if you can get away mid-week. Suggest buying travel insurance, as the go/no-go treatment decision isn’t usually made until a day or two before treatment.
  • Walk with Abby – After spending so much time inside during treatment or the days following, Abby wants to be outside and active. She lights up when she tells me about the many long walks many of you have taken with her. Keep it up.
  • Get Togethers – We love seeing you all, and with Ari here, Abby is enjoying being out during the evening again, especially the week before she goes in for treatment.

For Jaren and Miri:

  • Weekday Playdates for Miri – Let us know if you’d like to coordinate a playdate between our sweet little toddlers, and we can connect you with Ari. By the looks of it, Miri already has some projects in mind for the summer!
  • Weekend Playdates and Sleepovers – Summer days and nights are way more fun with friends, so if you’re up for a weekend playdate or sleepover at your place or ours,lets discuss.

For Justin:

Now it’s my turn to ask for some serious help. Inspired by Abby’s last message, and motivated by the many bicycle rides I’ve shared since, I will be riding Obliteride in two months on August 9th. As I’ve learned many times this year, I can’t do it alone and I need your help. Here are three ways you can support me and the global community cross the finish line for a cure:

  • Join me on the ride! We’ll ride and raise money together – 50 miles and $1,250 commitment – finish together, and celebrate together!
  • Fund me! You can donate here.

Thanks for everything you do for us. We hope you enjoy some of the photos celebrating these past few months and can’t wait to enjoy more time together with you in the summer months.

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren, Miri and Ari

Gratitude and Training

Earlier this week Abby had her first CT scan since before her surgery and we got some fantastic news. The scan showed no signs of cancer! Take a moment and join us for a collective fist pump and celebratory woo-hoo. Don’t worry we’ll wait…

…Feels good right? Okay, so what does this mean? Obviously it’s a promising sign, but fundamentally it doesn’t change Abby’s course of treatment. Abby’s docs want to take it a bit slower to be gentler on her lone kidney and let her body recover more fully between treatments. This change pushes her treatment intervals from every two weeks to every three weeks and we’ve updated the treatment calendar to reflect that.

Now that Abby has a little more breathing room she wanted to share what’s on her mind:

So, now it’s my turn to give an update about me. Before I dive in, I have to begin by thanking everyone, from the bottom of my heart, for all the love, support, time, organization, spirit, visits and so much more for our family.   Going through such a marathon of a process (which they called it at my first appointment at SCCA), could not be done without our community of cheerleaders. THANK YOU.

I like the marathon theme. As a cyclist and racer, training and long races are an analogy I get. Granted, I would so much rather be on my bike, especially on the beautiful days we’ve been having lately, but we have our “training plan” and we’re putting in the time. In the interim, I’m walking a lot and doing a modified yoga practice, and am always looking for a walking buddy – the hills around our house are a good workout, there is a reason you often see riders and runners doing hill repeats up Madrona Dr.

Most of the time I feel strong and am working on being “present,” which is a good lesson regardless of our situation. My team has tweaked my schedule to lengthen the intervals between treatments a bit so it’s giving both my body a chance to catch up a little bit more, and our family more “normal” time when I’m feeling like me. We took a great trip to Mazama (even got some hiking in), and celebrated Miri’s birthday on Wednesday. Jaren and Miri have settled in to their new routine and we’re getting some good play time and reading in.

And finally a moment to express my enormous gratitude to my training and life partner Justin. He is juggling so much with intention, grace and love. I’m so lucky that 15 years ago around this time of year I spotted him at a Hillel chocolate Passover Seder and wanted to meet him. Justin too could use some riding buddies, to keep his training going… So please reach out to him.

With love, Abby

Please keep channeling your positive energy and thoughts, prayers and meditations that the chemotherapy completely eradicates any remaining cancer cells while being especially gentle on Abby’s body and especially her kidney.

Many of you will be traveling for Spring Break in the coming weeks, so please send us some photos of your exploits. Here are a few photos of our recent weekend in Mazama (thanks Bill and Justin) and this past week’s Passover celebration (thanks Aunt Kiki and Uncle Mark and friends Tracy, Arthur, Tamar and Ronnie)

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Meet the Abby’s Army Crest

Who said we can’t have fun while we kick Abby’s kidney sarcoma in the proverbial kidney beans!?

With the immense talents of Nic Thomassen and our friends at Kotis Design, Abby’s Army now has a visual identity and it’s time to celebrate you; the army of family and friends that make so much possible for our family during this extraordinary time in our lives.

Behold the Abby’s Army Crest!

Love+Healing-Logo

The Abby’s Army crest helps us tell our collective story – how seeds of hope within a rich community bear the fruit of love and healing.  Pomegranates adorn Abby and my most important keepsakes like our ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract) and are a part of our everyday including jewelry and artwork we’ve designed and commissioned.  Like Abby and our community, the Abby’s Army pomegranate is vibrant, glowing inside and out in brilliant pink.  Yellow is the color for sarcoma awareness, grounding us in Abby’s mission and focus.

Cool. Now what?

Tomorrow Abby begins her next 5-day in-patient treatment.  Of course we would love to see all of you, but we know that’s not possible, so here are a few fun ways we can smile together during Abby’s 120 hour inmate status.

  • Feeling smiley? Send Abby a selfie with the crest  (“crelfie” anyone?)
  • Feeling silly? Extra points for a selfie somewhere interesting or hilarious
  • Feeling introspective? Tell Abby what you see in it and what it means to you? Or take a video of your kids telling you what it is that they see
  • Feeling creative? Have your kiddos draw their own crest.  Write or perform a crest inspired tune
  • Feeling hungry? Share your favorite recipe that has pomegranate as a key ingredient

You continue to amaze us with your creativity and love, so keep doing what you are doing.  It’s making a big difference. And as you amaze us we’ll share more gems like these to celebrate your spirit and love.  You can download the Abby’s Army Crest here.

If you’d like to visit us at UWMC, please contact me beforehand to schedule a visit and get Abby’s room #.

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

First Month of Treatment is Behind Us

It is hard to believe that it has been a month since Abby’s hair became a portable object.  A big thanks to all of you who helped us wig out with inspiring texts, calls, silly photos, etc.  Those of you who know Abby, know that her curls are her pride and glory and you gave us tremendous strength and courage as our journey became extra personal.  To celebrate your love, we’ve posted a few pictures of your colorful, loving and even spooky hair.  A special thank you to my Aunt Kiki and Aunt Candy who held Abby’s hand during her wig day – you are a true model of inner-beauty for us.  Among the beautiful people we now consider our friends, is Anton Schoenbacher, Abby’s wigmaker.  You can learn about Anton’s story to get a glimpse of the unsung heroes that devote their life’s energy to cancer patients.

Abby’s first 5-day in-patient treatment came and went.  She approached her stay with much ruach (hebrew word for spirit), love and grace and the entire 6th floor of UWMC loved the “kiki” board celebrating these amazing qualities and helping Abby feel more at home while in a hospital room for 5 days.  Abby’s platinum team of doctors and nurses were amazing.  It really is a small, connected world, our lead nurse was someone I grew up with at Herzl and Camp Solomon Schecter.

The treatment itself was a bit gentler on Abby than she expected and the actual chemotherapy was only 1 hour each day.  This gave Abby a lot of time and energy to visit with many of you and indulge in all the magazines, cookbooks and uplifting texts and e-mails you shared with her.  One of the highlights of her week was being able to join her Seattle 12 Wexner cohorts remotely for their monthly study session.  #ThanksWex.  In true Abby fashion, she used time in between visits and resting to outfit the family with knit hats and has plans to explore some other projects.  Jaren and Miri loved visiting Abby and on the morning of her discharge we surprised her and the 6th floor nurses with a kid-made Valentine’s Day pancake breakfast.

Abby’s energy rebounded well the week after, but the compressed week of recovery just wasn’t enough to keep her on her treatment schedule.  This gave us an unexpected extra week to be normal around the house – the first real down time we’ve had since December.  For our bike racing friends, the feeling was analogous to that first chance to sit up and catch a breath after a very intense race start.  Treatment resumed Monday and we’re shifting back into our big ring.

Our focus has been aided by our close friends Maya Hasson, Tracy Brazg, Tamar Benzikry-Stern, Beth Balkany, Joe Goldberg and Melodie Schneider, who have stepped up to help us channel and implement your many offers of support.  Thanks to those of you who signed up at www.AbbysArmy.org, Abby and I are now able to let Maya, Tracy, Tamar, Beth, Joe, Melodie and others collaborate directly with all of you in ways that are personal, focused and helpful.  With your support we’ve already secured consistent childcare, squared away a sustainable meal plan, and are getting some help around the house.  It’s all going a long way to make things feel a bit more normal and giving us some solid ground to stand on.  While many of our core needs are getting organized, here are some immediate needs.

For Abby:

  • Check-in – If you only have a minute, send her a text (206) 605-2976 or e-mail (abbycalvo@gmail.com) or give her a call.  She’d love to hear what you are up to from time-to-time.
  • Walks – If you’ve got 30-60 minutes and want to enjoy the sun and blooming flowers in our neighborhood, come join Abby for a walk.
  • Visits & Rides– Abby has lots of medical appointments these days and if you’ve got more time to spare, she’d love to have you give her a ride to her next appointment or keep her company during her 1-Day and 5-Day stays.  To make this easy for you, we’ve updated the Visit Abby page to include her up-to-date treatment schedule as well as sign up for rides.  Her next 5-day appointment is currently scheduled for 3/16-21st.

 

For Jaren and Miri:

  • Weekend Playdates – The kids are really enjoying spending time with friends on a weekend and we’re finding this gives us a chance to catch up on the backlog of house work. Mornings (10am – 1pm) seems to be the best window for everyone.

Many of you have asked about sharing www.AbbysArmy.org with friends, family and our community at large and we would be honored if you’d like to share our journey with others and give us the opportunity to continue to celebrate you, Abby’s Army, throughout this experience.

Thanks again for everything you do for our family and for keeping us in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.  There are some very fun and creative things brewing that we can’t wait to share with you in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Love and healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Time to wig out!

If it’s possible to send a group hug by e-mail – you should be feeling it right about now. Abby spent her first chemotherapy treatment pouring through your many texts, photos and messages of inspiration and encouragement. You lifted us up and that feeling of community support, friendship, love and prayer was just what we needed. We also got the final report while we were in treatment that Abby’s bone marrow is clean!

Back home now, Abby would tell you that the chemo is working as advertised and we’re now adjusting quickly to life during treatment. A house full of sick kids, two ER trips and a Super Bowl spent in the hospital cheering on white blood cell regeneration has accelerated our acceptance of what this new normal is going to be like.

This week is going to have their own physical and emotional hurdles. Our continued focus is that Abby’s chemotherapy is fully effective against the cancer while being as gentle as possible on her body.  When we have our next CT scan in April, we want to see signs that Abby’s treatments are working and any remaining cancer continues to be localized and shrinking.  Please continue to join us and focus your prayers there for Abby (Abby’s Hebrew name is Rachel Chaya bat Miral veh Lee).

Here are some other ways you can help.

For Abby:

  • Wig Out! – Tomorrow Abby’s hair will be transformed into a wig. It will be bittersweet for her to reclaim her locks in the form of a wig. Dig out your best wig – costume wig or otherwise – and send her a silly picture of you wigging out! If you don’t have Abby’s contact info, you can send it to me and I’ll pass it along.
  • Hospital Visits – On Monday Abby goes back to UW Medical Center for her first 5-day chemo treatment. If you would like to stop by, please give me a call the day before or the day of and I can advise a time.

For Jaren and Miri:

  • Find a Nanny – We are continuing to look for an afterschool nanny (3:30-8:30pm) on weekdays. E-mail Maya Hasson – mlhasson@gmail.com – if you know someone with a car that would be a good fit for our family.
  • Share Your Nanny – If you have a nanny and are willing to share them with us while we look for someone, that would be most helpful. We would pay for their time.

For Justin

  • Evenings at Calvo House – Let me know if you are willing to spend time at our house while the kids are asleep (after 7:30pm). This will give me the opportunity to get out of the house to take many of you up on your offers of good beer, conversation, and learning opportunities.

Okay, the time for shock, sadness, and disbelief is over.  It’s now time to kick the %&#@ out of this cancer!

You’re already doing a lot. Many of you have e-mailed suggesting different ways you could help – watching Jaren and Miri, giving a hand at the house, keeping Abby’s spirit sky high, and helping us cover some of these new costs. We’re starting to organize and harness your heartfelt offers so we can hunker down together for this journey. One step in that process was creating www.AbbysArmy.org to make it easy for you to share how you’d like to stay engaged in the coming days, weeks, and months. In tandem with the AbbysArmy.org, as our family leans into the treatment process, you’ll start to hear more and more from some of our dear friends who have offered their time and energy to help us mobilize and activate your support. Thanks for everything you do for us.

Love and healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Thank You – An Early Win and Moving into Treatment

Abby and I want to thank all of you for your support.  Every one of your emails, texts, phone calls, hugs and visits this week provided the inspiration we needed to get through a very difficult week. It’s incredibly humbling to receive so many offers of help.  Thank you all and please know that we will take each and every one of you up on it. Although we don’t know exactly what’s in store for us, it is very comforting to know that we can pull from all of you.  Thank you.  As a family we’re finding our resolve and gearing up for this marathon battle.  It’s only made possible knowing that you’re all there. Thank you and please forgive our slowness to respond to your outpouring of kindness as things are happening so quickly in preparation for Abby’s first Chemotherapy treatment today.

Your focused prayers and positive thinking helped this week and we want to share an early win.  As many of you know, our first ask for Abby is that any remaining cancer be localized to the positive margins from her surgery without spreading to other parts of her body.  It’s too early to call this a victory but early indications are that Abby’s bone marrow is clean.  While only cautiously optimistic at this early stage, having cancer-free bones is a great place to start.

Keep your prayers coming. As we move into treatment, we want Abby’s Chemotherapy to be effective against the cancer while being as gentle as possible on her body.  When we have our next CT scan in April, we want to see signs that Abby’s treatments are working and any remaining cancer continues to be localized and shrinking.  Please join us and focus your prayers there.

In addition to prayers, many of you have asked how you can help. We should know a lot more about meals and nutrition, the kids’ routine, in-hospital treatment schedules for visiting, etc. this week.  We will definitely take you up on your offers.  Please be patient.  In the interim, here are some things to be thinking about.

For Abby:  

  • She needs to be strong today as she starts treatment (1 day/night) – send her inspiration today
  • Text or e-mail her a selfie picture of you and your families to wish her well…blow her a kiss, be silly, make an intimidating face and write a message to her cancer telling it to take a hike – Be positive, have fun with it and make her smile!
  • If you’d like to visit today, please call or text me (206) 718-5872. There will be lots of time in the hospital this year and this may not be the best one as it’s her first experience, but I’ll be happy to ask her if she’s up for it. Please don’t be offended if she takes a rain check.

For Jaren and Miri:

  • We are looking for an afterschool nanny (3:30-8:30pm) on weekdays. E-mail me if you know someone with a car that would be a good fit for our family
  • We met with a Child Life Specialist this week and will talk with Jaren and Miri this evening, here are some early notes on what we’re sharing and how you can create a loving environment for them
  • Biggest thing is consistency of routines and discipline – we will document all this to make it easier for many of you who will spend time with them
  • In communicating with the kids, our job is to help them find answers
  • We will use the word “cancer” as opposed to words like “sick” to avoid generalization
  • Explain that every part of our body has a job, and part of her doesn’t work very well right now
  • Cancer is not contagious or something that was caused by anyone (anyone’s fault)
  • Mommy will take medicine to fight cancer, but it can make mommy tired and some parts of her body, like her hair could change.
  • Mommy is still mommy
  • It’s okay to feel scared sometimes
  • Everyone’s cancer is different.  You might reference someone in your family that is a survivor.  This is our goal for Mommy.
  • Be prepared for questions anytime. If you are uncomfortable, good ways to respond could be “What makes you say that?” to address their underlying feelings or simply “I don’t know the answer, but we should find out.”
  • We will share more documents with Jaren and Miri’s teachers – if you want them, e-mail me.

For Justin:

  • Sports (skiing, slower-than-usual bike ride, paddleboard, hikes, tennis or watching them) are a welcome distraction.
  • Music (playing or listening) feels really good right now

Calvo House:

  • While the doctors treat Abby’s cancer, keeping Abby healthy is our top priority
  • Purell hand sanitizer when you come into the house everytime
  • Low immune system diet (similar to pregnancy diet + high iron) – e-mail me if you want specifics
  • If you are sick – or think you are coming down with something – please don’t be offended if we ask to find another time to visit.

Hug your loved ones and take care of yourselves.  We’ll send out another update later this week after treatment.  Thank you for all of your support.

Love and healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Abby Calvo’s Diagnosis & What’s Next

It’s with a heavy but hopeful heart that Abby and I share this news with you.  After removing Abby’s right kidney last month, we learned that the tumor in Abby’s kidney was Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.  It’s not heredity, environmental, or other and the reason for its occurrence is unknown.

Abby’s pre-surgery neck-to-pelvis CT scan showed no cancer outside her kidney, which is important. The tumor removal was successful and Abby is healing like a champion, but there were positive margins – meaning some cancer cells may have been left behind and Abby is in for the fight of her life.

She is now a patient at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, one of the top cancer treatment centers in the world, working with an esteemed team of doctors to eradicate her cancer.  Over the next 9 months, Abby will destroy any remaining cancer with the help of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She’s already transitioned from work to focus all her energy on this new fight.

The fight starts this week:

  • Tuesday – Port placement – Abby will have day surgery to make it easier to get ongoing treatment.
  • Wednesday – Bone marrow biopsy – Ewings Sarcoma often presents itself in bones and we are praying the biopsy comes back clean – we need your positive energy and prayers focused here
  • Thursday – More tests…
  • Friday – Child life specialist meeting – We will get guidance on how to explain all of this this in ways Jaren and Miri can comprehend. We’ll share the guidance we get with those of you who interact with Jaren and Miri at home and out of the home, including teachers
  • Saturday – Abby’s first treatment takes place as an in-patient at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) for 1-2 days/nights.

The ongoing fight:

It looks like Abby will go in every two weeks for chemotherapy as an in-patient at UWMC – sometimes staying at the hospital for 5 days/nights; other times for 1-2 days/nights as she is this week.  Radiation is planned to start after about three months. We will share treatment schedules and visitation guides later to make it easy for you to visit UWMC and keep her spirit sky high.

As you can imagine, this has been a shock for the family and we’re quickly coming up to speed on a new lexicon and defining a new normal.  Abby has been tremendously strong. Anything less than complete healing is not an option and your outpouring of love and support makes us truly believe this vision will be realized.

How can you help us in this journey?

For starters, congratulations, you’ve officially been enlisted as a member of “Abby’s Army”.  We will be working through long-term planning for meals, home help, school rides, playdates, etc. We will definitely take you up on your offers.  Please be patient.  In the interim, here are some things to be thinking about.

For Abby:

  • Please send your positive energy, prayers, thoughts to Abby for this Wednesday’s bone biopsy.  In our meditation and prayers we’re asking for any remaining cancer cells from her surgery to be weak and localized to the surgery site w/out any spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Abby wants to hear from you, but she wants the focus to be on what’s happening in your lives, etc.  No need to focus on the cancer.  Tell a funny story. Make her laugh and smile. You get the idea!
  • We understand laughter may be difficult at this stage.  An uplifting e-mail works or a positive text during day hours.  She loves bright vibrant colors if you want to send a card.  Go nuts! Our address is 186 36th Ave. E. Seattle, WA 98112.
  • Walks! If you’re local, Abby will have some time around the house as things kick off.  She’s mentioned several times how much walks with many of you have lifted her spirits.  Just follow her lead and energy level
  • We will be spending a lot of time at UWMC so if you were ever needing an excuse to shop at University Village we will be just down Montlake and I’m sure if Abby is up to it she would love to see you.

For our family:

  • Smiles, hugs, positive energy.  Keep it coming!
  • If you have kids the age of Jaren (4.5 yr) and Miri (21 mo) we may call on you for play dates.
  • Just knowing you’re there will help.

We’ve never been through this before, so I expect this list will grow.  Share this e-mail if it can help inform others. I’ll add any e-mails to this list other updates like these. Please no social posts at this time.  There may be a time for this later, we’ll see.

We’ve already received great guidance and feedback from friends and family who have dealt with cancer in their homes, including a Ewings Sarcoma family.  More guidance and feedback is welcome.

When you see us, don’t feel obligated to do anything and please don’t feel awkward.  A hug, hello, and a smile is all you need.  We know that every one of you is very sorry to hear this news.  We are too and our hope is that none of you ever have to have this news.  For now – we are where we are and the most productive use of all of our energy is positive thinking and push for the best possible outcome.

Love and healing,

Justin and Abby