Our Hearts Are Broken

Dearest family, friends and community,

Yesterday evening, after spending time with Jaren and Miri, and surrounded by family, our beloved Abby passed away.  Our hearts are broken as we summon the strength and courage to face a new day.

We welcome you to join our family in celebration of Abby’s radiant life starting at 1pm on Tuesday, April 19th at Evergreen Washelli, followed directly by burial, a meal of condolence and shiva.  Note that each of these events will be in three separate locations. Addresses here.

 

Meals

Please coordinate with Meghan Pinch – mpinch@gmail.com – or sign up here to support the family with meals.

Taking Action

Please consider a donation to the following organizations which Abby held close to her heart:

Please share our news and find comfort in photos from our journey together. There are no words left in these moments.  Only love and gratitude.  We love you all.

Love & Healing,

Justin, Jaren and Miri Calvo, Lee and Mary Jean Michels, and Lucas Michels

 

 

A Successful Procedure

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers yesterday.  Abby’s ERCP procedure was a success! The team at UW Medical Center placed a stent to relieve the pressure and she’s already looking more her usual self.

She’s very tired after a long week and yesterday’s procedure, so we are planning a quiet and peaceful day of recovery.  In the coming days there may be time for visits or spending time with Jaren and Miri.

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Abby’s Status & ERCP Procedure

It has been a challenging few days and last week.  Please send your thoughts and prayers for a perfectly executed and effective ERCP procedure today.  Here is a video update on Abby and our family.

We know all of you want to help in some way and we ask that for today you send all your love, strength, and courage to Abby as she prepares for this critical procedure, which will allow her to return to finding a cure and complete healing.

Love can be expressed in action, so if you’d like to help our family and take action, we ask that you sign up for our Obliteride team or direct any donations to the Chesed Fund, which has been a bedrock of support for our family and many others in our community.

Love & Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

Finding a Long-term Cure

I understand some of you did not receive the February update about Abby’s Ewing’s Sarcoma coming back.  I’m sorry if you’re just hearing now – the past seven weeks have been touch-and-go as we try and find a new long-term cure, reset our support infrastructure, and keep a positive mindset.  Here’s an update on each of these efforts and some ways you can help us.

Finding a Cure

We’re all-in on finding a cure!  Less than 24 hours after re-diagnosis, Abby was back on chemotherapy, this time with a treatment called Irinotecan.  The nurses call it “I run to the can” due to its primary side effect.  Aside from living up to its name for six weeks, it didn’t do much else, and we’re now embarking on another chemo treatment in search of something that will stop the tumor from spreading further.  We are incredibly hopeful that Abby’s team and her body will find a way to team up to combat her cancer for good.  With recent breakthroughs in cancer treatments, including in our own back yard at Fred Hutch, there’s great reason for hope and we’re starting to line up all our options. One near term step to help us understand the spectrum of possibilities will be to visit with other Ewing’s Sarcoma experts at world-leading institutions in New York, Houston, and Boston to explore clinical trials.  If you or someone close to you would be willing to host us in one of these cities, please e-mail me and I will be in touch as we advance our plans.

Getting Support

In February we found ourselves back in an all-too-familiar position juggling treatments, family life, work, etc. and we are so grateful for all the big and little things you’ve all done for us to help stabilize our home.  So many of you have gone above and beyond – bringing us meals, managing rides, coordinating playdates, sending encouragement and prayers and nearly everything else.  In every way possible you have filled our cups and then some.  On Sunday, with great generosity and love from the Seattle Chesed fund, a combined Seward Park synagogue effort, we were able to welcome a new au pair into our home.  Sandy Romero Estevez comes to us from Mexico City by way of Dallas. The kids are so excited to have another big sister-like figure here at home.  For Abby and me, Sandy gives us the ability to redirect much of our energy into Abby’s healing, knowing that Jaren and Miri are in loving hands.

Staying Positive

It’s been a rough few visits with our SCCA oncology team, but we’re managing to keep our heads up and focus on each next step in front of us. Keep sending us all your wonderful pick me ups.  Your notes, e-mails, phone calls, texts, letters, get-togethers and visits, prayers, and more keep us grounded in our path ahead.  You’ll read more below about Obliteride, an organization Abby has committed time and energy to support this year. While we receive immense support, it feels extra good to give right now, and we invite you to do some good together with us this year. Details below.

How Can You Help?

For Abby:

  • Send Abby major positivity! If you are religious or spiritual, please focus your prayers and meditations that her new chemotherapy treatment attacks the cancer, preventing it from spreading and receding its progress until it is in complete remission. Pray for the pain in her right side and back to go away completely. Abby’s Hebrew name is Rachel Chaya.
  • Visit Abby at our place – Abby’s back pain has limited her mobility a bit and she’s found some comfortable perches in our home. Note that rehashing her own situation takes a pretty big emotional toll on Abby right now.  I’m sure she’d much rather hear all about what’s going on with you and your families, learning something new, and just enjoy your company. Mid mornings and early afternoons are good times to come by.
  • Get Abby (less) high! We’re heading to the local pot dispensary tonight to explore new ways to quash her back pain without sending her into such an opioid daze.  If you have other solves, let us know.
  • Visit Abby at SCCA – All of her treatments are outpatient at SCCA (no overnights!). Abby’s next treatment is this Thursday from 3-6:30pm.
  • Ride Obliteride 2016 with Team Abby’s Army – Help fuel breakthrough cancer research at Fred Hutch. Distances start at 10 miles. Sign up today and let’s do this together! Big ups to Joe Goldberg and Rachel Bender Ignacio and David Ignacio for being trailblazers.
  • Get out of Seattle – When Abby’s up to it, she likes to get out of dodge and clear her mind. A few weeks back we went up to see the tulips in Skagit River Valley tulips and she had a great time. Message her and see if you can go for a ride together, or let me know if you’d let our family use your second home for a quick weekend getaway.

 

For Justin, Jaren and Miri:

  • Help me explore treatment options – Just last night by coincidence, I stumbled across this Wired article, which describes modern research approaches and includes an anecdote about a Ewing’s patient’s cure. There’s some amazing new innovations coming – likely much more than I can find on my own. If you have experience with Ewing’s, knowledge of trials or connections to Ewing’s experts, or are just interested in helping me learn what I need to know about new trials, let me know. I realize this is casting a wide net, but for the next two weeks we’re on a fact finding mission.
  • Host us – Again second opinions may take us to your city. Direct message me if you have a place we can stay.
  • Help me out around the house – There’s a million little projects with your name on it. Let me know how much time you have and I’ll help coordinate a time.
  • Rides – Let’s train together for Obliteride. If you’re interested in short, mellow rides let’s talk.
  • Weekend playdates – We’ve got weekdays covered now, but a weekend playdate gives the kids a chance to have some fun, and lets me get some fresh air or catch up on the backlog of housework.
  • Au Pair outings – Some of you have au pairs and we’d love to introduce Sandy to them so she and the kids can do some outings together.

Thanks again for being here for us.  We are where we are, and we’re so blessed to have all of you here rallying around us and cheering us on.

Love and Healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren, Miri and Sandy

Our Journey Continues…

 

Yesterday, Abby had her first check-up since completing her 9-month chemo/radiation treatment in November.  The results were not what we had expected and Abby’s Ewing’s Sarcoma has resurged. It appears to be localized to the same spot as before. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s that it is smaller than before, is in a “safe” spot (no kidneys this time), and has not spread. Despite this setback, Abby is showing incredible resolve and strength and many of you are already showering her with love and support – thanks!

Not one to waste a minute, today Abby began down a new treatment path with her esteemed team of doctors at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance leading the way.  She’s already completed her first of a 5-day chemo treatment with her new chemo drug friends – Irinotecan and Temozolomide.  After these 5 days, she’ll have 16 days off and then the cycle repeats once more before we scan for progress.  The goal of the next 6 weeks is to attack and then remove the tumor. We will share more details of her progress, but suffice to say anything less than complete healing is not an option and your outpouring of love and support makes us truly believe that long-term healing will be realized.

Things are now moving quickly again for our family.  Despite this setback, we are finding great comfort knowing that you are there with us as we march onwards towards a cure.

How can you help us in this next chapter?

We will be working through long-term planning for meals, home help, childcare, school rides, playdates, medical expenses and budgets, etc. We know from experience that we can’t do this on our own and will definitely take you all 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 as she starts her second wave of treatment.  In our meditation and prayers we’re asking that the cancer remains localized and in a place that can easily for a minimal invasive removal; that her doctors will bring new treatments that fight the cancer – preventing its spread and making it easy to completely remove when that time comes; that Abby remains pain-free with a clear and strong mind required to focus on this new fight.
  • Abby wants to hear from you. Tell her what’s happening in your lives. Share a funny story. Make her laugh and smile. You know what she loves.
  • You can also send her an uplifting e-mail or text during day hours.  Our address is 186 36th Ave. E. Seattle, WA 98112 if you’d like to send a note or pick-me-up through the mail.
  • Meet ups, walks, meditations, whatever, Abby wants to do normal things and be surrounded by her friends. Your energy gives her strength and purpose.  Just follow her lead and energy level
  • Abby will be at SCCA over the next 4 days for 3-4hrs/day.  If you’d like to spend time with her, text her to arrange.  We will update dates / times to the calendar on www.AbbysArmy.org so you can check your calendar.

For our family:

  • Smiles, hugs, positive energy.  Keep it coming!
  • Play dates and child care – our amazing au pair, Ari, just left our family two weeks ago and we’ll be scrambling again to sort through our options.  It may take a village again, while we find our next au pair.
  • Just knowing you’re there will help. Keep asking how you can help.  We found last year that often times we didn’t know what we needed until we needed it.
  • Bike rides, walks and hikes for Justin
  • Did we say hugs?

Please share this e-mail if it can help inform others.  Anyone is welcome to register at www.AbbysArmy.org to get future e-mail updates like this and to stay connected with our community as we begin this new chapter. Please no social posts at this time.

We know that every one of you is very sorry to hear about this update.  We’re still a bit shocked ourselves.  But we are where we are and the most productive use of all of our energy is towards positive thinking.  Stay positive with us and let’s all push together for the best possible outcome. Thanks for everything you do for us.

Love and healing,

Justin, Abby, Jaren and Miri

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