Faith's Mom

A Mom's battle with breast cancer from a Dad's perpective
Breast Cancer Ribbon

Archive for January, 2013


posted by:

* UPDATED article here *

I’d like to update you on surgery plans and a few other matters.

Preoperative testing will be on February 5th and Surgery on the morning of the 6th. Sue and I will be staying in the city at a hotel near the hospital since commuting into the city each day is not an option. Family will be at home with the kids. Two days and surgery seems like a walk in the park at this point in our lives but I will still be much more at ease when it is over and we are home. I will keep you updated each day as I can.

There are two additional stories about the “sick bank” effort at Susan’s school. While most comments are supportive some have vitriol and claims facts that are not accurate.

‘Unacceptable’ Sick Bank Deal Rejected By Teachers

Teachers Rally For Colleague With Cancer

To our visitors from the Mendham-ChesterPatch

I would like to thank all of those from the community and staff at the school who have helped our family over the past year. All of your prayers, well wishes and help has been truly appreciated by our whole family. Teachers & Staff have given money, cooked meals and offered any help they could. Without her colleagues an almost impossible situation would have been all the more difficult to bear.
Many have asked about or assumed facts that were not in the story so I would like to clear up some assumptions so you may review and revise your remarks.


  • My wife Susan is 1 of 2 nurses at West Morris Central High School, she has been a registered nurse since 1989. She is my wife of 21 years and mother of our four children.
  • Susan has been the grateful beneficiary of employment and it’s benefits at West Morris Central High School since 2008.
  • Our family has and will continue to have health insurance coverage through her job.
  • NJ Short Term Disability is NOT available to public school employees
  • NJEA offers a Short Term/Long Term disability plan to employees. The open enrollment period is very variable “Open Enrollment opportunities generally occur only once every three years” This year is the first opportunity we have had to purchase. The last period was before her hire date.
  • All disability plans have a waiting period and require complete/substantial disability before eligibility and use of all sick and personal time first. She would not qualify for disability because of the intermittent nature of chemotherapy.
  • My wife did not ask for the Sick Bank, it was asked for by her colleagues. The school district had “banked” days for other employees that encountered catastrophic health events in the past with district support.
  • Some have suggested that she simply did not prepare or wishes something for nothing:
    • Since the beginning of school, Susan has completed 6 cycles (18 weeks total) of TAC chemotherapy, she has taken a total of 21 days off since the beginning of the school year.
    • In March of 2012 our 8 year old daughter was hospitalized for 70 days in the PICU of the Children’s Hospital of New York until her death on May 20, 2012. During that time both my wife and I were with her, someone was at her side 24/7 until and including her death. Faith’s Story
    • Susan used all unused sick, personal and NJ Family Leave during that time along with unpaid leave.
    • After our daughter’s funeral and 5 days bereavement leave my wife returned to her job caring for your children on May 29, 2012 and completed the school year.
    • Two months after she received a diagnosis of advanced stage breast cancer.
    • If anyone is prepared for two such catastrophic events in their lifetime let alone both in a 6 month period God bless you.

I have not commented on any of the stories on the Patch.  I am not a member of your community nor a taxpayer in your district. I believe it should only reflect the beliefs and opinions of the people who live there.  If you would like more information or to discuss this further feel free to contact me. My email address is

Thank you for taking the time to visit.

Hocus Pocus

posted by:

A long overdue update.

Sue completed her 6th cycle of 6 on January 4th 2013. She is happy to be done with it. The last two cycles were the worst taking the most to tolerate and sucking out any energy she had left afterward. She went through what’s known as TAC chemotherapy that was given every 3 weeks. Her oncologist calls it “Kitchen Sink Chemotherapy” some of the strongest nastiest stuff. So was it all worth it? Let’s look at the pictures.


Mammography before starting Chemotherapy

Mammography before starting Chemotherapy

All the white area in the green circle is the cancerous tumor.


Mammography after Chemotherapy

Mammography after Chemotherapy

Where did it go? What looks like a ribbon is in fact a surgical clip shaped like a ribbon that marks the spot of the tumor that was biopsied when Sue was diagnosed (click on the picture for a better view).

On January 21 we went to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in Basking Ridge, NJ to get a second surgical opinion on what are next step will be. Our first opinion was that now a lumpectomy was a viable option. We are naturally suspicious of the medical field these days and wanted confirmation. The surgeon at MSKCC wanted some more information before she made a decision. While we were there Sue was able to get a Breast MRI which is much more sensitive and can detect cancers that mammo or ultrasound do not. Its use is mostly in high risk patients.  It is also nice to know we were getting the best idea of what we faced before going in surgically. They also wished to redo the mammo on the left breast (the one without a tumor) because they were not satisfied with the images we had provided.

The results. The left breast is fine, the mammo was clear. We did not immediately get the other result. Well at least until we got home and while eating dinner got a call from the surgeon. She was happy to report that both studies could not identify ANY CANCER growth whatsoever.

Great, lets stop now that was enough fun for a lifetime… Nope. Sue will still need to have a lumpectomy and the tissue must be examined microscopically by a pathologist to ensure no cancer cells survived.  The endgame here is not only to prevent localized regrowth but to prevent catastrophic metastatic cancer from occurring.

The Plan

The lumpectomy will be done in a two step procedure each are same-day but will be done on consecutive days.  The first is lymph node testing and excision, then the next day is the lumpectomy.  I really don’t understand the full detail yet but will soon enough. We have elected to have the work done in the city at MSKCC Main campus. They have all the people, equipment, experience and laboratories they need right there on site.  A second to surgical skill will be the pathological examination of the tissue removed to ensure the surgeons margins are clear. Getting a CLEAR with be the measure of success for the procedure. Reconstruction, etc will be addressed after Sue has had healing time and radiation therapy. There is plenty of time for cosmetic touch up.

The tentative date is Tuesday Feb 5 and Wednesday Feb 6. We will be getting a hotel room in the city as driving in and out to the east side two days in a row (especially post-op) is just insane. We will have family or friends stay at the house with the kids those two nights. Recovery should only be a few weeks which is a good thing as Sue has been using unpaid FMLA since the end of December as the “sick bank” option never materialized and we exhausted all of the paid FMLA with Faith last year.

I will be updating this blog much more often now as more information becomes available and dates and times approach.

Thank you all for you support and prayers and to our little angel who has been busy.