Abby’s Story

My story will bring you back to the beginning our newest life's challenge.  It is meant to answer the many similar questions people have asked, such as how was the lump discovered? Journal entries will give you the "day in and weeks out" of what is to be called my journey..  Thanks for being a part of this with us.

February 9, 2013

On a Friday in early January, my primary doctor found a lump of concern during an annual check-up for my heart meds.  With the instant messaging system now used via computers, he requested a diagnostic mammogram ASAP.  The following Tuesday this was done, leading to a biopsy on Wednesday, and news that confirmed a cancerous breast tumor on Friday.  (Bam.)

Because I have discomfort in my chest from the vascularspasms and also deal with back pains, the following Monday additional tests were ordered: an MRI of both breast and a bone scan.  Both of these were negative for cancer in any other area and allowed me to make the decision to proceed with a lumpectomy.  (Simple.)

This surgery took place on January 22.  A clear margin around the 1.5 cm tumor was obtained, and the single lymph node removed tested negative for cancer.  We were encouraged and optimistic that treatment of radiation and hormone therapy would be the end of it.  (Nope.)

As we anxiously awaited the report from California on tumor specifics, I added in a colonoscopy during my recovery time.  My mom’s cancerous tumor in her secum, many years back, puts my sisters and me at a higher risk.  Though I was very aware of the presence of the scope during this procedure (that’s another story) my intestines were given a “clean” bill of health. (Wink.)

On February 7, Tony and I made the trip to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for a radiation consultation. At this point, I was debating the necessity of radiation and hoping hormone therapy would prevent future recurrences.  Little did we know that this simple option would not even bea consideration later in the day. (Dang.)

That afternoon, the oncologist’s appointment provided information that we had not even considered.  The HER2 positive, “comedo” ductal tumor was given a high risk rating for ‘distant’ recurrence elsewhere in the body. This added the word‘chemotherapy’ into the necessary treatment plan.  We were totally caught off-guard; the box of tissues was emptied as the reality set in.  The ‘nasty’ cancer tumor removed may have sent small cancer cells out into my body, and now they need to be dealt with aggressively.  (Crap.)

The journey has taken an uphill climb…I’m getting FIERCE!  Thanks so much, to all, for the love and support already given to allow me to proceed with GRACE.  Angels watch over us!  (Amen.)

Latest Journal Update

Words for Toni

Words for Toni - Friday, July 17, 2015 - Christ Lutheran Church, Marine on St. Croix

When John called to ask if I would speak at Toni’s funeral, I replied, “I’d love to.” It dawned on me later, what kind of a response was that? I am not loving this. No one here can say they love the reason for gathering today. So to clarify, I stand here for the love of Toni, who we’re not done loving.

I don’t have the history that many of you have in terms of years spent with this woman. She was not my mother, step-mom, sibling, auntie, cousin, or lover. But when I went to the Marine Garage to seek advice after my diagnosis of breast cancer, she wrapped me in her embrace and moved right into my heart. I know it’s what she did for everyone.

And dang, she almost convinced us that she was invincible, that cancer would not take her from us, and that we wouldn’t be here. I can imagine her like Tom and Huck, who walked into their own funeral. I see her walking into this one and wondering, “What’s all the fuss?” She’s pulling her oxygen tank as she hurries in. And I hear her saying, “Here I am; I haven’t left you!” You jump up from your chairs, and we’d be overjoyed.

But, she won’t. So, if tears were allowed in heaven, I say she’s watching us now ~ and being the soft-hearted soul she is, she’s adding her own tears with a plea for us not to cry. And then, if she could, she’d make bars or cookies up there and send them down for the reception. And she’d figure out a way tell some story that would make us all laugh – you know, that gut-level one that burst out of her mouth with an explosion – can’t you hear her?

Toni and I shared ‘cancer stuff’ together. I wrote about her in my Caring Bridge entries. And because my husband is also a Tony, I qualified her as Toni-from-the-Marine-Garage. There was one particular PG-13 story I wanted to add, so sought her permission. She gave her OK with a grin while exclaiming, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Later, when the entries were to become a book, I wasn’t sure about the title my publisher wanted me to slap on the front cover, being Minnesota nice and all. I asked for her advice. “Toni, what do you think? Should we go with What About the Hair Down There?” It wasn’t a surprise that her response came out as laughter followed by a boisterous, “You go, girl! What about the hair down there.” Slap your thighs and laugh like Toni.

And then the paperback hit the shelves at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, John brought Toni after work, as exhausted as she was, to be a part of the author visit and book signing. During this event, I read aloud parts that included her, and she chuckled in her chair.

John agrees that she would love for me to share that PG-13 one, since she can’t be here to tell it herself:

Written November 17, 2013 (excerpt from What About the Hair Down There?)

As Matthias sat behind me in the car one day, he commented
that I needed to shave. I thought he meant my lip hair, but he
clarified I had a beard. He was right. It reminded me of a
story my Breast Cancer’s Bitchin’ Club friend, Toni, told me.

When Toni was first diagnosed with breast cancer over 13
years ago, she was part of research studies for many of the
chemo drugs approved and used as common infusions today.
The difference was in the potency. She says the stuff about
killed her.

She warned me of the ‘baby’ growth of hair that would come that on newborns ~ all over the body. It’s soft and
fine, and what Matthias noticed on my cheeks was blond.
When I had my first ‘trim’ this fall, my stylist took a razor to
it. It hasn’t grown back, unlike the lip hair that he still reminds
me needs ‘shaving.’

Toni complexion and hair are darker than mine. When she
first noticed the growth on her face, she said it looked like that
of a guy’s. In a frantic mode, she called her oncologist. “What
did you do to me?! When I agreed to this, you didn’t tell me it
would increase my testosterone! I look like a man! What
should I expect next?! A “thing” to sprout between my legs?!”

If you know Toni, you know she didn’t use the word “thing”
when ranting and raving to her doctor. Replace it with any
four or five letter word used to describe that particular male body
part, and you’ve got the Toni version.
wink emoticon


I believe in angels. There have been signs from Toni – the song “Stairway to Heaven” playing at just the right moment for Kala, the skittish cat coming downstairs amongst the company after she passed, a feather in my path… I know she will send more to let us know she is OK in heaven.

And I am not afraid of dying; I have faith we will see Toni, again. But it sure hurts grieving this loss down here on earth, because we’re not done loving her.

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1 Comment

Kathleen Luoma
By Kathy L.
Beautiful, Abby! I'm sure she would be laughing and so, so proud!