Climb. Conquer. Cure.
March 26th, 2023
Hello Friends! I am participating in Big Climb Seattle on Sunday, March 26th. It's a hike up 69 flights of stairs in the Columbia Tower. The Big Climb is important to our family because it was very near & dear to Apryl; it was a challenge she did every year.
When we first met, Apryl and I teamed up for our first Big Climb together (I had done a few before). I must spent months training for that climb. Apryl trained when she had time to & of course she beat me (we were competitive at everything we did). It was frustrating to me that I'd trained so hard, while Apryl barely did anything & easily beat me.
Apryl loved the experience so much she decided to make The Big Climb "her thing". The next year she trained harder & ended up winning her age group. And I decided I would never be going The Big Climb again ;)
And then things changed. Apryl isn't here to do "her thing" & represent our family. We miss her so much. So this year I'm doing the Big Climb in her memory. And so are her daughters. We are going to call this "Team Apryl". It will be an annual event & we invite you to join us!
I know its a LOT of stairs and its not easy...it's a challenge. Folks of all ages & backgrounds team up to complete this challenge every year. If you're unable to participate in the event, please consider donating as you are able to. We'd love to have you on Team Apryl, however you're able to be involved.
We miss Apryl so much. It feels right to be honoring her this way & hope you'll join us. I know Apryl would be so proud to know we are doing big things and carrying on her legacy of doing "her thing" at the Big Climb & and raising money for cancer research.
If you need some inspiration and motivation, please read Apryl's story that she wrote a few years after her diagnoses.
I wanted to reach out and share my story with you all. Sharing my story gives it purpose and meaning and can some how bring about something positive. I try and make sense of it all the time and wonder why, but I always come back to the same answer, sharing my story is the reason I was given this story!
I will take you back to March 20, 2016, like I had done for the last three years around this time I was getting ready to climb the Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle for the 30th Annual ‘Big Climb’ to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This year was a little different than the previous years because I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby girl. My baby bump and I sweated our way to the top of the 69 flights, 1,311 steps, in 16 minutes flat, as we heard people say, “we’re getting passed by the pregnant chick!” This was not an astonishing time for me since the previous years I would finish the climb in 10 minutes and 20 seconds, but it was a great time for me considering I was 7 months pregnant. I am not sharing this with you to brag about how fast I can climb stairs, but rather, just to express the fact that I have always been a fairly fit and healthy person. That is why it was such a shock two days later on March 22, 2016 when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). Due to the nature of this disease I was immediately stage IV and doctors gave me two years to live......But wait, I chose to live a healthy lifestyle, eat healthy, exercise regularly, I didn’t have any unhealthy vices, and I was young, how could this be happening? Growing up whenever I was educated about breast cancer, everyone always said, check for a lump, get regular breast exams, I had done all of that, but there was no lump! I thought Breast cancer was something I had to worry about when I got a little older. I had no idea you could be young, healthy, fit, and get breast cancer without a lump. Had I heard a story like mine before, maybe I could have caught this earlier, it could make the difference of life and death. That is why I want to share my story, so maybe somewhere out there, through all the intertwining connections and social media, just maybe I can help save a life!
As you can imagine this news devastated us and sent us through a whirl wind of emotions. What does this mean for us and for my unborn baby? Two days later I was in surgery getting my port placed so that I could begin receiving chemo therapy immediately. We couldn’t wait, we had to do what ever we could to try and save our baby as well as myself. There was so much to learn and understand and it was all happening so fast! One week from the day we were diagnosed, on March 29, 2016 we started our first round of aggressive chemotherapy. As you could imagine this was very overwhelming for me as a young, ‘healthy’, pregnant woman. My world had just been turned upside down and I was filled with so much fear and uncertainty. I remember crying everyday for the first two weeks, In fact I cried almost constantly for those two weeks. I wondered if excessive nonstop crying could somehow harm my unborn baby, and the thought of that just made me cry more! I was so scared and didn’t feel like I was in control of anything. I was so deeply devastated that my sweet girls would never really know their momma, they might not even remember me. I thought about what I wanted to do for the last two years of my life. I discovered all I really wanted to do was hold my babies and be as close to my husband as possible everyday to soak up all I could! Then one night, I just stopped. It’s like I had an epiphany. I remember as my husband was holding me, I said, “wait a minute, that doctor doesn’t know me, she doesn’t know how strong I am, she can’t tell me I only have two years to live” immediately after that, I dried the tears and put my game face on and said, “we can fight this!” From that moment on we started fighting!
I am not going to say that there were no more tears, cause there were, but most of them were tears of joy and laughter. Laughter and positivity can be healing so that is what we focused on. Even when I was sitting in that chemo chair and on the hardest and darkest days, I still managed to find my smile. Through the pain, I found my smile. As I grew weaker and weaker with my friends and family around me, my smile kept me fighting strong!
We had months of aggressive chemo therapy, then a small break to get my blood counts back up so I could deliver my baby girl. With what felt like half the world watching on stand by to take her away for immediate blood transfusions and extensive tests the minute she was born due to the chemotherapy she had to endure. We had faith that she was in a ‘safe Haven’ through Chemotherapy, and she was! We knew instantly we had to name her ‘Haven’. She is a fighter like her momma. she was perfectly healthy and I got to hold her immediately and keep her with me. That moment I saw her, as my heart grew, my fight doubled in strength!
The next six months would consist of more aggressive chemotherapy. Two surgeries and 36 rounds of radiation. All with a new born in tow! We were very focused on our fight and determined to prove the doctors and statistics wrong! It seemed as though we lived under a rock for a year just fighting with all we had!
This last year has been a year of rebuilding strength and getting back to living life again! We have had a great response to chemotherapy and as of our last scans have no evidence of disease, the doctors still only give me 5-7 years to live. I continue to fight everyday and have targeted chemotherapy every three weeks and will have to have it for the rest of my life. I plan to continue to prove the doctors and statistics wrong! With our two year cancerversary here, I feel so much strength and hope in sharing my story. two years ago the doctors told me to get my affairs in order because I will not live to see March 23, 2018. I plan to see that day in all of it’s beauty and plan to see the next 21,900 days after that! I am here two years later to spread hope and inspiration and show people that even the impossible is possible. Everyday is a gift and we will continue to cherish every moment we get in this world! Through the hardships and struggles, ups and downs, kindness and sadness, we still see the beauty in everyday. I am so grateful for this life and want to live everyday to the fullest.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you. I know it can be hard to put yourself out there and open up about yourself, but the only thing I really have to fear is not having the ability to fear, this is why I am not afraid to open up about our journey. I wish I could be the last one to ever be diagnosed with this terrible disease, but I know that isn’t reality, so if I can share my story and somehow bring hope and inspiration, to your life to help you get through what ever you may be dealing with or spread awareness that could possibly save someone’s life, then that is what I have to do.
Each day is a battle won, but I will never stop fighting until I win my war against cancer. I will fight stronger everyday so that I can watch my girls grow into the beautiful women I know they will become and I will fight so I can be by my husbands side every step of the way!
Team Apryl : Strength, Love, Fight, Conquer!
What is the Big Climb?
The Big Climb is a stairclimb up the Columbia Center - the tallest skyscraper in downtown Seattle. There are 69 floors of stairs, 1311 steps, and 788 feet of vertical elevation. Although it will be challenging, it pales in comparison to what blood cancer patients go through. All proceeds benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.