Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Maura had surgery to remove a canteloupe-sized tumor from her abdomen on April 17. She named it Toby. 
During ten days in the hospital, Maura's friends and family rallied around her, showing love and support. She had over fifty visitors; she received so many cards and gifts and flowers and phone calls.  People showered us with attention, kept us fed when we couldn't remember to eat. On Facebook there is a Group called Let Terminate Toby the Tumor Together [sic] where you'll find lots of pictures from around the country (and out of the country) of teal-painted fingernails. Friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, mom, dad, sisters, work groups, Sunday School classes, and random strangers, including NYC construction workers, are wearing the teal. Teal nail polish is the color of choice and has been renamed Toby the Tumor Terminator Teal.  
And the cranes...
On our first Sunday in the hospital, Jessica, an origami enthusiast, told us of a Japanese tradition that says if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, your prayer will be answered.  After a couple of comments about how nice it would be to get 1000 cranes folded for Maura, one of Maura's college friends, Jacob (who is the very model of a modern major general), said, "Well, let's do it!" Fifteen of us made cranes in the hospital room, and we kept making them. Adam taught his students to make them. Jacob sponsored crane-making parties back at the college. Matt put boxes in the music building labeled "Cranes for Maura". Adam and Jacob and Matt hung the first strands of cranes in the hospital room. The day of Maura's surgery, Matt brought over 500 cranes from SHSU and he and Lydia and Megan Mulkey hung them while Maura was in the operating room. When she returned from surgery, there were over 700 hanging in her room. We currently have almost 1200 hanging in her room at home. 

After what seemed an interminable wait, on May 2 we found out that the pathology results showed that the tumor was a GIST (Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumor). Until 1998, GISTs were treated like any sarcoma. Someone discovered that the drug Gleevec, previously used on patients with a certain type of leukemia, also worked for GISTs. Gleevec is a special kind of chemotherapy that doesn't kill quickly-dividing cells, but, rather, inhibits a protein that lets the cancer cells divide and multiply.  It is a pill taken daily. therapy can continue for years.

The very next morning, May 3, we were back in the emergency room because Maura experienced severe pain.  Another CT scan and a couple of ultrasounds later we were told that a second mass was visible near her right ovary. 

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