7 years and counting…

Today marks the day that our journey with cancer began. ½ of Carlie’s life and the majority of Luke’s life has been spent watching their dad fight a disease that is sneaky and most likely devasting. They have been brave and make sure that they keep the faith that their dad will be A-OK. 

7 years ago, this all started with a sharp pain, which we thought was a ruptured or inflamed appendix or related to the ribeye sandwich the night before. He went to the ER, had a CT scan that lit up like a Christmas tree and was then referred to North Memorial Hospital for what we were told was likely stomach cancer. At the time, we thought our time together was short. There was silence. 

You are kidding, right? James doesn’t drink, smoke, he was in great shape and eating healthy. How could he have cancer, let alone stomach cancer? He has no trouble eating. He is fine except for this pain in his side. 

The next 3 days were awful. My grandpa was home with my kids, my parents were trying to get to MN, and every day James deteriorated before my eyes. They were running test after test, all normal – all benign. He wasn’t able to eat, or drink. He was fading away and it was happening fast. On 12/23/10, he gladly jumped onto a surgical gurney, for emergency exploratory surgery. The surgery lasted 3 hours and well into the early morning, and he was sent to recovery not really knowing much more than we did before he went in. His appendix was unrecognizable, they did a right hemicolectomy and told us he had a jelly like substance all over his abdomen. 

The good thing was he was able to start eating and drinking and my husband started to rebound. The bad news is we would likely wait a week for pathology because of Christmas. We did receive a preliminary result of Appendix Cancer and the surgeon said his life expectancy would be about 5 years!! Well, that was 7 years ago..

My real life Superman has undergone two cytoreduction surgeries since then, with one of them including HIPEC. He has surpassed the 5 year mark and continues to fight this nemesis every day. 

He is now in a trial and seems to be doing well with relatively good results so far but it is cumbersome and tiring. 

Life has gone on. Not always easy and not, at all, how we thought our life would be, but we continue to be blessed. Our life is good and my little family has come so far. 

We wouldn’t be here today without the love and support of our family and friends. We wouldn’t be here without your prayers and help, financially, when needed. 

We are forever grateful to every doctor and surgeon that we have crossed paths with, as they are the reason we are where we are today. We are grateful for medical and science advances that have progressed to the point this trial could not only extend James’ life, but also the ever growing number of Appendix Cancer patients. 

We are forever grateful for everyday that we are still on this side of heaven with James. 

Hug your loved ones, tell them how you feel because, as the Richter’s know, life comes at you fast and can change in a blink of an eye. 

Happy Birthday, Luke! 

Happy 11th Birthday to our sweet boy! Hard to believe that he is 11 today! Time has just gone so fast. 

At 11, Luke still has an unbelievable imagination, still loves to play outside with his friends, he is a technology junkie (which we have put a hold on), he is growing out of his dairy allergy and still has a tree nut, peanut and egg allergy. His favorite book series is Diary of a Wimpy Kid and he loves all things Country music! He won’t go to sleep at night without saying good night to his sister and is just now starting to understand what is going on with his dad. 

Sometimes I am sad that the majority of his and Carlie’s life has been living with a dad with cancer. I don’t think Luke understood or paid much attention to it until this year. I think now he knows and understands that this disease could take his dad away from us. 

However, both kids have taken this journey in stride. They have faith that their dad will be ok and have embraced the changes that have been forced to happen as a result of James’ travel every other week. I appreciate their strength, flexibility and understanding.

One thing James and I have tried to do is make sure Luke and his sister have as normal of a childhood has possible. I think, overall, we have been successful. 

As we enter Luke’s 11th year, I pray for him to continue to be happy and that his dreams all come true. I know that he has made ours come true just by being born. We are super proud of him, love his spirit and independence and we are so thankful God had allowed us to be his mom and dad! 

We love you to the moon and back, Luker! ❤️

Day 6

Day 6 of chemo – not sure what any of us think of it, but we are grateful that James seems to be tolerating it well. Apart from remembering not to share drinks or other little things, I think we have all managed ok.

So far the only noticeable side effect is fatigue. His energy level seems to come and go but he claims it is nothing he can not tolerate. He has had a few other minor things, but they seem to be improving. As of today, no terrible rash, but being me, I have him using cleansers, creams and lotions!

He was over joyed today when Carlie asked him to go fishing. He quickly plugged in the boat, let her finish her homework and off they went. Normalcy can be a good thing and our home has been anything but normal over the past several weeks. But this week can be normal, both parents home, meals are prepped and nothing out of the ordinary is scheduled. Next week, that all changes… But that will be our new normal.

I want to thank you all for praying for James. Holy mackerel, we have all needed them these past 6 days. You know it is needed when even Luke tells you he “is nervous for his dad.”

Thank you for those who talked me off ledges this week and for those that have checked in on James. Your support means more than we will ever be able to tell you. Special thanks to both of our employers who are being extremely understanding and working with us on our new crazy schedule.

I don’t have a day 6 picture of James, but you will get a Day 15 next Tuesday when he is scheduled to be in Houston for his second infusion. So I picked this one. I think this was this Spring on Mille Lacs (James’ happy place). 

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I also want to thank the Thiede’s who God has blessed us with! Not only are they totally cool (They have Prince on vinyl and LOVE Chicago sports) but they are kind and have opened their home up to strangers. As a result, we don’t have to worry about housing/hotel while in Houston. This is HUGE and saying “Thank You” doesn’t seem adequate.  We are beyond blessed to call them friends. Keep them in your prayers too, as Kathleen also battles the PMP beast.

Also, for next week, thank you to the Tatro’s. They are opening their home to our minions, while we are in Houston. Adding our two to their three is a big sacrifice, especially on a school night. We love you all very much.  Also, thank you to Mary and Dain for taking Finley — I am not sure what we would do with out you!

Have a great week and love one another! 🙂

Grateful 

This weekend, James, the kids and I were blessed beyond measure, thanks to my cousin Sean and his business partner/extended family member, Bryan. One night at dinner, they heard about James and his acceptance into a clinical trial and came up with the idea of having a benefit for him. Then with the help from several others, they managed to put together a fabulous afternoon and as a result, some of the burden will be lifted from us (especially James) during the months to come. 

I don’t know how many people were there but we were surrounded by friends (some we haven’t seen in 20+ years), family, extended family, and people we had never met. If I had to guess, I would say at least 250 and one of them made the trek all the way from MN, which was pretty amazing! 

This was the 3rd fundraiser we have had and each year it has raised awareness to Appendix Cancer, which really is the most important, and also for the Appendix Cancer Research Foundation. This year brought us two more families afflicted with this crazy disease – all living within minutes of our old home in Illinois. 

As we always say, awareness is our top priority, research and helping that research are next in line. 

We are eternally grateful to all of you and love you all! Most importantly your prayers and good thoughts are appreciated. Without them, James’ past 6.5 years would likely have been very different. 

Please pray for Houston and all of those displaced. MDAnderson is currently closed through at least tomorrow for all outpatient services. As a result thousand are having their treatment postponed. James beginning his trial next week is questionable, which means he will need another scan (as he will fall outside the 28 day window). We are not thrilled about another barium filled scan so close the last one. But our only option would be that or wait 4 months to his normal scan and begin the trial then. So we are praying we are able to keep his currently scheduled appointments.