Victory.

ShellyTatoo

 

 

Today marks 1 month since Heaven gained the most amazing angel of all – my Hayden.

I have been dreading writing this update for many reasons. The obvious is that I never thought I would write a blog update or any other document from the perspective of a widow. But the main reason I have been dreading writing this is that I have put pressure on myself to write something that will accurately and willingly serve as the final post from my husband — a greatness that you simply cannot put into words. How do I describe a man who touched so many people with his words, appearance (admit it, ladies), story, and smile? How do you talk about a man who captured every characteristic I look for in a partner? Will anyone ever be able to understand how special the past two years have been? How do you tell someone what the last days of his life were like? Will they understand when you tell them that as horrifying and scary they were, they were also miraculous and precious? I will try.

Hayden and I met. At a bar. Through my friend, Leigh Anne. Some would say our meeting was not one that you would read about in fairytales — we were partying, having fun, both not looking for anything serious at the moment. I even recall a first date to the Motley Crue Concert and Pink Pony. I tell you this as, to me, this WAS a fairy tale. Who actually meets someone in a bar and it actually works out for them?!? ME.

Truthfully (and Hayden will love that I am saying this), Hayden was the quintessential “Hunk”. On paper, he was a football player, he was good looking, tall, muscular, had a great smile – and could make anyone in a room laugh, without even trying. He was the life of the party. Those that know him well know that he was down-to-earth, honest, caring, and treated everyone equal. He could capture the attention and respect of a room of immigrant laborers the same as he could a room of multi-millionaire investors. And he treated everyone the same – with the utmost respect and concern for their well-being. He was the best. He was my favorite.

One night – a few drinks in at the “Hole in the Wall” bar – Hayden grabbed my hand, took my ring that was on my right hand, and put it on my left ring finger. He then dragged me over to Parker and said “Hey, Park! Tell mom I’ve met my wife!” Being that we had only hung out a few times, and even less times that we could remember, I thought he was trying to be smooth and make me actually think he was serious about me so I would go home with him.

Six years later, on November 6, 2010, we were married.

When Hayden was diagnosed on April 13, 2012, our world came crashing in. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday and was totally in disbelief that my husband, the non-smoker who eats well and works out everyday, that has no major history of cancer in his family – has stage 4 cancer. In his first journal entry he wrote:

“ Make it Count. There is no tomorrow, there is only today. Relax because the chemo will work and I will live to be a servant for God and his fight against cancer. You have to go through hell to get to heaven. Dig deep, Hayden, it’s your game to win. Love yourself and have confidence!”

This first realization began our two year journey which you all have followed. During this time we became new people and had a new relationship. Our perspective completely changed. We literally took things one day at a time. We were thankful for our love and for each other and nothing else mattered. We held hands more. We hugged more. We prayed every night together and read scripture. We talked about life. We talked about death. I knew Hayden was strong as an Ox, but I saw a weakness and vulnerability neither one knew he had. I was always weaker, but found an immense strength in me that we never knew I had. It was the worst two years of our life. It was the best two years of our life.

We found therapy in music and we would listen to it every night and every morning to get us ready for the day and night ahead. One of our favorites was Mumford & Sons and particularly their song “Timshel

“Cold is the water It freezes your already cold mind

Already cold, cold mind

And death is at your doorstep

And it will steal your innocence

But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this

And you are not alone in this

As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand

Hold your hand”

 

Hayden’s “Never Give Up” attitude did not surprise me at all. From his UFC training days with Forest, he was always a fighter. He won every fight he ever started and finished every fight he did not start. His strength , both physically and mentally, was immeasurable. I knew that this fight would not cease until he was ready.

In the days before Hayden’s passing, I was able to witness some of the most beautiful and miraculous acts of courage, selflessness, and divinity that I had ever witnessed. At the beginning of April Hayden was still in full-fighting mode. We had been in the hospital for weeks trying to determine what other treatments were out there that we had not tried.   We were closely monitoring his labs several times a day as his liver levels had reached highs that doctors had not seen before – yet he was still able to function fairly well. We had a lot of difficult conversations and cried a lot as we knew deep down that things were starting to become critical.

After meeting with our doctor on Friday April 4th, Hayden made the conscious decision to go home. From this point forward, I saw a peace in Hayden that I had never seen. I will never forget when he and Parker called me in the room and Hayden shared with me that he was ready to go home. He sat up in his bed, which he had not done in weeks. He was very matter-of-fact and in control. His voice had strength. He said he wanted to see his son, see his dogs, and spend time in his home with his friends and family- particularly his mother. Though I was in disbelief and felt a tremendous amount of fear and sorrow, I could see in his eyes that he had made up his mind and he was ok.   He just needed to hear that I was going to be ok. Though I could feel myself crumbling inside, I looked at him and said “It’s Ok. You are going to be fine. And I will be okay too. “

From that moment on, Hayden did not shed a tear. I, of course, could not stop crying. I will never forget that as we wheeled Hayden into the ambulance for our final journey home from the hospital, he looked at me and said “Stop crying, p&@($y. I should be the one crying! “. Classic. He had been taking Dilaudid and Morphine every 3 hours on-the-dot for 2 months straight. From this point on, Hayden did not need one ounce of pain medication. It was truly miraculous.

During the rest of our time at home Hayden was in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he would make sense in his words and sometimes his words were not logical — but if you listened carefully you would know that every word he spoke had meaning. I wrote down every word. He was very concerned for my and Thomas’s future and that we would be okay. He was very concerned about Parker and how he would go on. He was so selfless and even questioned if he should be at home as he did not want me to have bad memories of our home after he passed. I assured him I would be fine and wanted him to be comfortable. He talked about what he needed to leave this world peacefully. He whispered of saints, eternal life and beautiful things. He cracked jokes (as usual). In fact, on that last day Hayden was conscious, he said it was not his time yet, but he needed to music to pump him up for his final days. At his request, Hayden and I sat in our living room and listened to ZZTop’s “Just Got Paid Today” and Guns n’ Roses’ “Paradise City”. You should have seen Brian’s (Hayden’s best friend’s) face when he walked inside to see us jamming out!

Hayden was unresponsive much of Sunday. Sunday evening was spent in our room surrounded by his family and our dogs.   As I went to sleep that night, I knew this was going to be our last evening together in our house. I grabbed his hand, told him I loved him and goodbye, and fell asleep. A few hours later, I was awakened and heard Hayden mumbling. He was talking about needing to “find a shortcut” and find “someone Higher”. He then mumbled that in a few hours he would be “ready to ride”. I held him tight and fell back asleep. The next time I awoke, I felt his heart and he was gone.

To those who remember the morning of April 7, 2014, it was storming and I around 7:00am I heard a rumble of thunder like I had never heard before.  It sounded exactly like a Harley Davidson peeling out of my driveway — a sound I had heard many times before. I smiled. He was on his ride.

These thoughts may come across to many as too personal and spiritual to share on a blog, but I tell you all these details for several reasons:

Number one is to assure you that Hayden is fine . I cannot go into detail about the amount of totally spiritual and divine things that happened in the days and weeks preceding his death, but I can assure you he is in Heaven and okay. Coming from two people who have not always been religious, it is a miracle to me that he was able to leave me with the final gift of assuring me of his destination. In this way I will never wonder if he is okay or where he is — I know he is there waiting for me.

Number two is to reiterate that Hayden did not give up or lose his fight. He was in control the whole time — up until the very last breath. He was able to decide when he was ready and when he would ultimately leave this world as we know it. He was able to tell me exactly what he needed to complete his journey. I believe he had a glimpse of eternity weeks before his death and then was content with his path. He chose his destiny and ultimately was victorious. In the 2 years we fought cancer, there was a quote from a coffee table book that McKenzie (Parker’s wife) had given us, that he read every night before we went to bed:

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.” – Thomas Edison.

We tried every possibility for Hayden and did not leave any stone unturned – something his family and I will never regret. However, in the end, there was one possibility left and that was the ultimate victory.

 

The third reason why I share all of this with you is that as stated in his first journal entry, he indeed became a servant of God’s miracle. His short life was stricken with tragedy and illness, yet he used these obstacles that were put in his life to change his life, to find faith, to fight hard, to live life and love and ultimately share his perseverance and fight with thousands of people. In the beginning, I was looking for God’s miracle to be a cure for Hayden. After a year of vigorous chemo and radiation, Hayden and I miraculously became pregnant, naturally, with the most perfect baby boy one could imagine. This was something that doctors said was impossible. It was then that I realized that God’s miracle may not lie in a cure for Hayden, but in this beautiful legacy and gift that Hayden was leaving me.

 

Of course I am devastated. I have lost my husband, my partner, my lover, my best friend, my half. I come home to an empty house with unfinished memories. I look at our child and wonder if I will ever be able to accurately portray how amazing his father was as he will have no memories of his own.  I feel defeated and failed as I devoted my life to Hayden’s happiness and comfort – which in the end I had no control over.  The hours of researching and caretaking are now filled with silence – something I thought I would welcome, but now feels empty. I have lost my future as I thought I knew it. But, I am comforted in knowing where he is and that we will meet again one day. I feel privileged and thankful that God brought this perfect man into my life and allowed me to share the most precious and miraculous journey with him. The last few weeks and days with my husband were precious and intimate – we laid together in silence not needing to talk, yet told each other everything we wanted to say. Though it was absolute hell, I would not trade it for the world – and I know Hayden would not either. “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” ( Hayden would crack up knowing I threw a “Steel Magnolias” quote in there!) We did not have a lot of time together, but we loved deeper and fuller in those two years than most people do in a lifetime.

 

In closing this blog, there was one thing that Hayden shared with me time and time again. He was worried that his fight was “all for nothing”. He was worried that he fought courageously for 2 years, and that no one’s life was changed or he would be forgotten. I assured him this was not the case, and I know that he will continue to impact peoples’ lives for years to come. The day Hayden was diagnosed he printed out a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger and posted it on our bathroom wall:

The Secrets to Success:

1)       Trust Yourself.

2)      Break the Rules.

3)      Don’t be Afraid to Fail.

4)      Ignore the Naysayers.

5)      Work Like Hell.

6)      Give Back.

 

 

So with that, I challenge you to change your life. Whether it be to do something that makes you happy, to better your marriage, to grow closer to your family, to find faith, to better yourself – remember that life is short and to Make. It. Count. Do not be afraid. Hayden faced the most fearful of times and was still able to remain positive and changed his life and others. I look forward to hearing correspondence in the future of how Hayden’s fight influenced your life (blanchard.shelly@gmail.com). In Hayden fashion, I leave you not with words but a simple hand gesture, which he gave multiple times along the way.

ILoveYouSymbol

XO, Shelly

Rock Solid

In the words of our surgeon, Dr. Fulp ( whom I must say, I was VERY impressed with),  Hayden was “rock solid” during his procedure.

This morning was very emotional and full of ups and downs, lots of tests, difficult conversations and choices, a lot of confusion — but at 4:00pm the Dr came out and said Hayden was doing well and the procedures went as well as they possibly could.  They were able to place in the biliary drain and the IVC filter successfully and he was breathing well on his own after being sedated.  Now the plan is to wait and see if the drain is effective and allows his liver to function properly and his bilirubin levels to come down.  This process may take several days so he will be monitored closely during this time.

As for Hayden, he is pretty aware, his voice is strong, and his personality seems to be coming back. For those of you who know Hayden well, you know that he is rarely serious, tells inappropriate jokes, and gives me a hard time.   He is doing all of these things, so I can tell he is feeling better and it is now “business as usual”.

For tonight, I’ll take it.

Thank you all for your prayers. Nite Nite.

Shelly

Wednesday March 19th

Today is Wednesday March 19th and is our son’s 4 month birthday!  Happy Birthday Thomas!  I cant believe it has been 4 months already. I know parents always say that their children grow quickly , but I feel like it has FLOWN by since we have been in the hospital for much of his life.   I constantly feel guilty about having him spend so much time in the hospital at such a young age, but my optimistic side  says this is making him more “flexible” 🙂   He is a trooper.  Just like his daddy.  And who knows…. maybe he will grow up to be a doctor 🙂

So here we are, back in the hospital.  the remainder of our last stay at CTCA was full of ups and downs and finding solutions to one problem, which then would cause complications to another issue.   We spent the end of last week battling a low Hemoglobin issue which was thought to be caused by the fluid that we have to pull from Hayden’s abdomen daily.  Hayden was on blood thinners for his clots which was causing more blood to escape and therefore pulling down his hemoglobin levels.  The IV nutrition he was on was causing him to produce more fluid, so we made the decision to take him off IV nutrition (he can eat orally just fine) so that he does not have to take off as much fluid and therefore not loose as much blood.  We also had to take him off blood thinners which is running the risk of future clots, but felt we could not afford for him to continue to loose blood.

We got some good news on Friday in that they are  considering doing 2 procedures that we did not know could be done.  They found a couple dilated biliary ducts in his liver which they can place a stent in to unclog.  We heard back from the liver specialist in NYC and this is the only visable liver issue right now.  The theory is that if we unclog these ducts, the bilirubin level will lower and everything else will fall into place.  They are going to also place an IVC filter in his vein to block any clots from entering the lungs or heart.  We have also reached out to the CTCA in Philadelphia about traveling up there to do a hyperthermia treatment on his abdomen once we get everything else under control.

Hayden was discharged on Saturday after his sodium and hemoglobin levels came up.  He was getting around pretty well at home.  We scheduled a pre-op appointment for today and were here to do that when we were admitted into the hospital again.

You know we always like to start out with the good news — so the good news is that his hemoglobin levels are up and his is not nauseous or in much pain.  The challenge is that his bilirubin, kidney function, White blood cell and Potassium levels have shot up.  He is very lethargic and dehydrated so they decided to admit him for close monitoring in hopes that they can continue with the procedure tomorrow.  Ideally, tomorrow they will unclog his liver without any complications and then his liver, kidney, and other labs will improve.  The white blood cell count rising usually indicates an infection (could even shoot up from a small infection from a cut) , so they are doing cultures to determine the type of infection.

As I am writing this, I pray that the thousands (yes, thousands!) of people who follow this blog will choose to pray for us tonight.   Specifically, we pray that they are able to do the procedure on Hayden’s liver tomorrow without complications and that they are able to get his bilirubin levels down to a normal range.  We are praying for strength, both mentally and physically, and for the guidance of our doctors to help Hayden get on the path to recovery.   And of course, we always pray for complete healing and for the cancer to disappear!

Before I conclude this post, I want to share with you an incredible gift we received from a friend the other day.  I thought this was so amazing and remarkable :

thomashaydensign

Though Hayden’s mom did not initially plan it that way , the meaning of Hayden’s name is “TWIN : VICTORIOUS”.  It is amazing how much comfort I got from this, especially when victory seems so far away.  Hayden has already lived up to his first name, and I know he will live up to the second.  I believe.

Shelly

 

 

Back Home

Hi. It’s Shelly. 

So, I have finally convinced Hayden to let me help with the task of “updating the blog”. To anyone who has a blog, I am sure you know that updating a blog can be equally as stressful as it can be rewarding – so being that I am one who is short and to-the-point anyways, so will be this entry 🙂

Hayden has had a great first week in Austria.  They performed additional testing, he received all sorts of vitamin infusions and cleanses and received local-regional hyperthermia on his abdomen.  He was starting to feel a little better and getting ready for a weekend of sightseeing in Vienna, when Dr. Kleef came in and said Hayden’s bilirubin levels (measurement of liver function) had spiked, which was a major concern. Parker and Hayden made the decision to take the next flight out of Austria and come home so his levels could be monitored at our home cancer center in the US.

We checked into Cancer Treatment Centers on Monday and have been there ever since.  Over the weekend prior, his bilirubin had increased even more. High levels of bilirubin can be very dangerous and can be attributed many factors including blockages, influx of various meds and vitamins, cancer growth, clots , and many other things.   It was also discovered that Hayden had developed a blood clot in his lungs and several blots clots in his legs so he would need to be placed on an IV blood thinner in order to alleviate these clots.  This news made us confident that we made the right decision of bringing him home from Austria when we did — after all, we can always go back.

For several days we have been staying in the hospital.  They have been monitoring Hayden’s blood content, nutrition, and bilirubin levels.  His levels continue to go up and down and were down this morning.  He has had multiple Xrays, ultrasounds, and CT scans to try to get to the root of the issue. Its seems that we have been able to rule out some things but have not found the cause of this spike as of yet.

At 5:30pm last night we spoke to our oncologist to discuss any options we may have for Hayden at the moment.

The great news is that we have confirmed that no progression was shown in Hayden’s scan. In fact, there was even a reduction in ascites ( fluid) in his belly from previous scans.

The only thing that they can figure so far that is causing the bilirubin spike is perhaps a very small clogged bile duct in his liver.  This clogged duct was shown on the last few scans, so they do not know why this would all of the sudden be a problem, but it is the only thing that they can come up with.

Our oncologist said that they would usually go down the throat to unclog the duct, but since Hayden had a stent this would not be a good idea and they would have to perform a small surgery to unclog the duct– and even then we are not 100% positive that is the problem.  Dr Pabbathi (our oncologist) says that this would be a risky procedure only because Hayden is on blood thinners for his clots and would have to come off them for a week to do the procedure– if the surgeon even agrees to do it.

The other idea is to wait a few days to see what the bilirubin does.  As it was explained to me, bilirubin can spike overnight , but can sometimes take weeks to come down.

We have decided to wait the weekend to see what the bilirubin does and approach the procedure next week once Hayden has had more time to be on blood thinners and resolve any clots he may have.

 

I have sent Hayden’s scan to memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC to be reviewed by my friend’s aunt, who happens to be one of the top liver specialists in the world. Hopefully she will be able to give us some insight over the weekend.

In the meantime, unfortunately Hayden cannot take any chemo as they do not want to overload his liver .  It crossed my mind that since his ascites reduced, perhaps something they did in Austria was working.  I have inquired with our oncologist of we are able try the local hyperthermia that Hayden did in Austria on his belly as it would not require filtering anything through the liver. The radiology department is going to talk to us about this possibility.

They have put H on a new IV nutrition formula to help with his calories, but not overwork his liver.

As for Hayden , please continue to pray for his comfort and ability to get over this hump. He is in a good amount of pain and requires meds all the time.  He is fighting many issues and side effects on a daily basis. The good news is that he has not lost his sense of humor nor his fight— we take it one day at a time.

Thank you for all of the messages, texts, assistance and prayers over the past few days.  We have the best group of friends that are so willing to drop anything to help us and we hope that one day we will be able to return the favor. 

 

 

Hayden’s Health Update 2.18.14

Dear Friends & Family:

I wanted to update you all on my current health situation, but before I do, I wanted to show you (brag) what really matters to me – my baby boy! I cannot measure, nor describe, the amount of joy Thomas has brought our family over the last 3 months. He truly is a gift from above.

As for me, we’ve had a rough few months and for once, I have had a valid excuse not to update my blog. I’ve had a series of procedures performed and then dealt with a variety of complications that started around Thanksgiving, ran through the Christmas Holidays, and then New Years. We actually spent New Year’s Eve at CTCA (hospital), but don’t feel sorry for us – we ordered about $300 of food from Longhorn, drank beer and champagne (not me), and watched terrible television shows with friends and family. But hey, we’ve made the most of it and we continue to make lemonade out of lemons. Truthfully, & more so than ever, I’ve been fighting. Fighting to stay awake when I am tired, fighting to stay strong when I am weak, and fighting to stay positive when I am “down”. I am fighting for my life like just the cancer is fighting to survive. To give you a better idea of what I have endured (mentally & physically), to date, I’ve had 48 rounds of chemotherapy, 5 different radiation procedures, hundreds of doctor appointments and in April, will be recognizing (not celebrating) two years of fighting this disease. I am mad & I will NOT quit.

As for the cancer, my disease has progressed, primarily in my abdomen. That said, as a family, we have recently decided to pursue treatment overseas to get me healthy again. We collectively agree that we need to take different actions to receive different results. This Friday afternoon, Parker and I are departing for Vienna, Austria to receive “alternative” treatment which will be less toxic and hopefully, more beneficial to my health. We both purchased one-way airfare and I will be overseas for a minimum of one month. Shelly, Thomas, Mom & Jen will be coming to spend time with me as well. I will be receiving a very comprehensive set of treatments / therapies such as: Hyperthermia, IP Hyperthermic Perfusions, Mistletoe, Immunotherapy, various Vitamins and Nutrients (via IV), low dose radiation & chemo, etc. Our goal is to activate my Immune System so it has the ability to properly fight the cancer.

We will arrive in Vienna Saturday morning and will likely recover from jet lag, may do some light sight-seeing, and will start “work” on Monday morning at 9:00am. I will be checking my email, do have the ability to Skype, and have also downloaded the free international texting app called “WhatsApp”. I will not be making many phone calls so the aforementioned is the best way to communicate with me. The time zone / change is 6 hours (ahead) and I will be in treatment daily, so I may not be prompt to respond, but I will enjoy hearing from each and every one of you often and will do my best to respond in a timely manner.

In closing, I want to thank each and every one of you for your endless support, love, and friendship and I hope to come back with positive results soon.

With love,

T. Hayden Blanchard
(770) 722-7845
haydenblanchard@gmail.com

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Friday the 13th

Seventeen months ago today I found out today that I had cancer. Technically, the following Monday the lab tests confirmed the adenocarcinoma but who is counting. Words are hard to describe the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that I have encountered along the way. You really cannot capture it all. I did write in a journal for the first 6 months or so and then got too lazy to finish the drill. I have recently started writing in it again and it is amazing how therapeutic it is for me. Let me clear about this…it is a journal and not a diary so keep your smart aleck comments to yourself.

You know, part of me wishes that I had been diagnosed sooner. What do you mean?! I do not think there is ever an opportune time to be diagnosed with cancer, but it has made me a stronger man of my faith, a stronger husband, and a stronger friend. I really feel like that it took me 31.5 years and a cancer diagnosis to mature.

My soul, body, mind, and spirit have been completely been torn apart and rebuilt with something much better. My perspective on life is so much different. I have clarity. I dont’ sweat the small stuff (ok, I am fibbing a little bit…I cannot tolerate blue tooth earbuds), I could care a less about traffic on Peachtree, and I could care even less about people complaining about their “case of the Mondays”. I was most certainly that guy pre 4/13/12.

I have learned to love deeper, to laugh more, to be less judgmental, and to appreciate life and everything it has to offer. And trust me, life has so much to offer. Another day above ground is always a good one! I continue to work out 5-6 days per week, ride my motorcycles, and spend lots of time at Chastain Park contemplating life and walking. If the doctors would clear me to run, I would probably run to Florida and back. I refuse to let cancer slow me down. Seriously, cancer can take away a few things from you, but you cannot let it run your life anymore than it already does. The tiresome treatment schedule, nausea, and paranoia are enough!

As far as my health updates are concerned, I had a not so favorable meeting at Johns Hopkins about 4 weeks ago. It seems there is a small pocket of fluid in my abdomen that may be cancerous. All of my other organs are still stable, but, JHMI was more concerned about it that than the previous doctors. Most thought that it was basic fluid retention from the prolonged chemo (side effect). We have not completed a biopsy to confirm that it is cancerous so I am really not worried about it. When I have my next scan in a few weeks, we should know more. If the area of fluid has enlarged, than it is more than likely cancerous…if it has not, it is just fluid. Again, I am not worried about it. Whether I have 5 months, 5 years, or 50 years left on earth, worrying about it will not change the desired outcome.

I continue to have chemo treatments every other week (next Tuesday) and my hair is growing back, although it looks kind of weird (think steven seagal).

Enough already about the “c”, I want to thank everyone again for the endless support and love that has been shown to my family and I. We could not have made it this far without you all. Have a great weekend and Seize the Day!

HB

CT Scan Update 7/31/13

You know what the worst part of writing these darn blog updates is? The first sentence! For those of you who know me well, you know that I never address anyone formally. Its usually more like a “cat call” or some smartass comment! I will attempt to provide another update for everyone below : )

After our last set of scans at the end of May, we as a family, were pretty frustrated with Winship Cancer Institute (Emory) so we decided to switch treatment providers. I am currently undergoing treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan, GA. I can honestly say that CTCA is INCREDIBLE. Their staff is amazing, they have an organic cafeteria (food is phenomenal), and they offer a plethora of services that the average treatment centers do not. CTCA specializes in advanced cases and they focus on healing the patient by way of mind, body, and spirit. As a part of their services, they offer naturopathic medicinal treatments. For each patient, the doctor will evaluate the case and will recommend a variety of herbal remedies (among other things)  that can assist the body in repairing itself from the inside out; a holistic approach if you will. I could not be happier about this because I personally have been taking my diet and supplements very seriously over the last 15 months. A lot of the alternative treatments combined with traditional chemotherapy have proven to be very effective.

Now for the meat and potatoes, the CT scan results from yesterday showed only very little thickening of the primary tumor in my stomach. This is GREAT news considering that I have had some pain in my left side for about 3 weeks now. I try to be as tough as possible mentally, but It is extremely challenging to NOT let your mind go to the wrong places and have negative thoughts after you have been diagnosed with cancer. The scan results showed NO metastasis in my bones, lungs, or other organs.

So what are my next steps? My oncologist at CTCA has recommended that we try another chemo named Irinotecan combined with Fluorouracil (bring the fanny pack back) for the next few cycles (8 Weeks) and then I will get reassessed. In the meantime, I am still speaking with the specialists at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for treatment options. As of now, I will be travelling up there again the week of 8/12 to meet with a surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist. Will definitely keep everyone posted on the outcome of the meetings.

On a much lighter note, we have Parker’s bachelor party and wedding coming up, football season right around the corner, a few birthdays…AND last but not least, Baby Boy Blanchard coming on 11/21!

I am looking forward to the sunny days ahead.

With Love,

HB

THE MAN, Vann

Over the last year I have been very fortunate to spend time with a man named Vann Troutman. We visit one another every other week at the infusion center at St. Joseph’s (Emory). We often spend hours together talking about past & future plans (vacations we want to take) as well as stories about high school, college, and pro football.

Vann Troutman is the epitome of a true warrior and is one of my heroes. For the past TWENTY FOUR years, Vann has battled cancer. With TWENTY SEVEN surgeries under his belt, he remains as optimistic as ever and his positive mental attitude is not just a mood; it is his way of life. We’ve spoken quite a bit & I have asked him what has kept him going (kept him alive) — and his answer is “my children”. As most of you know, we are expecting a baby boy this November & like Vann, our child is my “fuel” to fight and to win.

I started another new chemo regimen today and will be facing more nausea and will most likely start losing my hair in the upcoming weeks. After speaking with Vann about this trivial matter, he is such a great reminder (as is Hollis Youngner) that attitude is everything!

Never Give Up,

THB

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The Roller Coaster Continues- 6/4/13

Hey, guys. We’ve had some recent news that I want to share with you all. Over the past few weeks I’ve had a series of tests performed (on me) to ensure I was 100% ready for surgery. Those tests included another MRI, CT Scan, PET Scan and meeting with both the chief of surgery as well as a thoracic surgeon.

My MRI and CT Scan were performed about 3 weeks ago and after these tests, I was immediately notified that I have a blood clot in my left lung. This is not necessarily bad news, and may not even be cancer related, but is a complication that could delay surgery for 2-3 months.

Now, here’s the hard part to discuss. We received my PET Scan results late yesterday afternoon. We discovered that I’ve had some new cancer activity show up in a few of my lymph nodes (upper chest and lower back). Honestly, these enlarged nodes could have been there this entire time, but, they were just noticed due to the increased sensitivity of the PET scan versus the CT scan I had a few weeks ago. My primary tumor and liver still appear to be in stable condition, and unfortunately the doctors are not willing to perform surgery at this time because the cancer is considered “active”. Again, we cannot have the surgery if there is any “active” cancer due to the fact that I wont be able to have chemo before and after surgery (we don’t want the cancer to proliferate while I am
recovering). Anyhow, every problem has a solution right? Well, after a long meeting with our Oncologist today, they’ve agreed to change up my chemo regimen to eliminate / fight the cancer. I am hopeful that this new drug (Docetaxel) works and we will have another CT scan in about 8 weeks to see if the drug is effective.

I don’t ever ask much of anybody, but I am asking each of you, near or far, that you send your love, prayers, and good vibes to our family. I want to get healthy and put this behind me! I am strong as hell, I am determined to win, and I am NOT going to take no for an answer.

Here is my upcoming treatment schedule:

Chemo @ St Joes: 6/5, 6/25, 7/16

Much love,

THB

Another Small Victory!

We just got back from our progress scan update at Emory and I am pleased to inform you all that my liver lesions are still nowhere to be found! So with a clean liver and a clear set of scans, I am now a definite candidate for surgery! We will be meeting with the chief of surgery in the next week or so to discuss my options. In my mind, there are no options other than to move forward with it albeit the surgery risks involved. I will keep you all posted on our conversation with the surgeon…

Below is my new schedule:

Chemo Infusions @ St Joseph’s on 5/22/13, 6/5/13, and 6/19/13
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5/31/13 Update:

• PET Scan: 5/31/13

• Appointment with Dr. Charles Staley (Chief of Surgery) on 6/3/13

• Endoscopy and PET Scan results discussion with thoracic surgeon on 6/4/13

Thank you all for your continued support for our family.

HB

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