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Deanna’s Story

Welcome to CaringBridge. We have created this site to keep our friends and family updated about Deanna's progress. Please read the latest in the journal, view the photo gallery, and drop us a line in the guestbook.As of Friday, December 12th, Deanna is still at Abbott Northwestern hospital in Minneapolis, staying on the Spinal floor, with her husband Neal close at hand. Several months ago (August of 2008), she started experiencing back pain. After an initial MRI, she was told she had a fracture in her vertebrae. For several months Deanna diligently wore a brace to heal the fracture. The past two weeks, the fracture, however, got worse.

On December 8th, Deanna had another MRI and at the doctor's request, a subsequent biopsy of the lower back. She was admitted to the hospital on December 10th because the biopsy had come back malignant. She was admitted by the Spinal doctor, but the Oncologist quickly became involved. It turns out, the bone in the vertebrae had weakened, and had fractured because of the cancer within the back. Running point on all the activity and follow-up testing was Dave Tetzlaff, Neal and Deanna's brother-in-law, who is a physician at Abbott. It has been a god-send to have Dave involved.

After a CT Scan, the news became worse, and that it was not only in the back, but had also gotten to the pelvis, with a couple spots on the lung. Because the form of cancer appeared to be estrogen based, the breast was still the likely culprit. This had not been verified. The doctors still needed to verify the source as the breast, so an ultrasound and biopsy of chest was proposed, and conducted on Thursday, December 11th. On the evening of the 11th, the Oncologist gave Deanna and Neal some positive news, that the lower back could and would be treated immediately with radiation. And Deanna would be feeling better in the back by Christmas. As of Friday, however, we still haven't heard back from Pathology on the biopsy of the breast.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, discussions around next steps for the breast cancer will be discussed. The real difficult aspect for Deanna, is having to deal with two sources of cancer and pain: the lower back (immediate) and the breast (longer term depending on the stage it is in).

We will update the details here and in the journal as they become known. It is obviously a fluid situation, and changing by the day, if not the hour. Please check the journal as well, since Deanna will be updating that as her pain improves, and she begins her radiation treatments. Please keep Deanna, Neal and their two children, Linnea (12) and Annika (9) in your deepest prayers as they move through this trying time in their lives.
Thank you, Noel Thompson (Deanna's brother).

Latest Journal Update

Low Numbers and "Living Beyond Cancer"

Dear Family and Friends:

On a cold morning in late January, I had my most recent oncology appointment and treatment, where I received great news of continuing low numbers. My tumor markers were just over 16, which is the lowest they’ve been in the six years of living with this cancer thing. It was thrilling news.We were so grateful to receive it.

We went right from the oncology appointment to the funeral of our wonderful neighbor and friend, Gretchen, a fifty-year-old mom and wife who had gone into the hospital in December with the flu and pneumonia and never came back home. The funeral was standing room only, packed with family, friends, neighbors and community members all there to express their love and support for Gretchen and for her dear husband and four children. Words to talk about Gretchen’s death have been hard to come by, as were words to talk about my low numbers amid the deep sadness that has set up camp in our neighborhood.

The night before Gretchen’s funeral, her church encouraged as many people as possible to fill Grethen’s snow-covered yard with candles, so that when her family returned home from the reviewal on that cold and dark night, they wouldn’t come home to just to darkness, but rather to signs of warmth and light.

Close contact with death does many things to us—it brings on deep pain and sadness and much more, especially for those who closest to the one who’s gone. At the same time, it forces us to acknowledge that none of us knows how much time remains for us. So when low cancer numbers come our way,even in a time of sadness, close contact with death prods us to savor the joy and the beauty when they comes, even when we have few words to talk about it.

Last fall, Twin Cities Public Television called for nominations for a project called “Living Beyond Cancer.” Neal nominated me—TPT interviewed him, interviewed us, and asked us to participate. They filmed from December through January, and last week we attended the preview of “Living Beyond Cancer” at the Minnesota History Center with the other people and families featured (which is where the above picture was taken). The showing was actually a “live taping” session where they interspersed the five taped segments with interviews of doctors and clinical trial directors and others to talk about where things stand with cancer in 2015. While it was a hope-filled and celebratory night,cancer was not neatly “beyond” the gathering, as the youngest person featured was on a three-hour hospital leave to attend the showing before his bone marrow transplant the next morning.

“Living Beyond Cancer” was filmed as a companion piece to the new Ken Burns documentary “The Emperor of All Maladies” (a history of cancer based on a book of the same name) that begins airing on PBS at the end of the month. See a promo of “Living Beyond Cancer” here:

This link will take you to a listing for airings of the show (I’ve been told it will be available online in early April as well):

In addition, Twin Cities Public TV is doing a series of “Chatbacks”about issues related to the show:

I’ll be on the March 24 show after I finish giving a midterm.

What was most striking to me about the five segments in “Living Beyond Cancer” was the way those of us living (not always “beyond” but) with cancer are accompanied, loved, supported, held up by family, friends, and communities near and far. I continue to be so grateful for your care, concern,and support as we continue to walk this path. On this first day of spring, may you be rejoicing in this gift of life, even if sadness at life’s fragility remains close at hand.  Much love, Deanna

18 people hearted this



Bonnie Wilcox
By Bonnie Wilcox
Wonderful news about your most current 'markers.' That's an interesting term all on its own, isn't it?
A friend's oncologist at Mayo was recently reminded that 'living with cancer' is a bit like an important shrine or art piece in our homes. It is always there, always important, but not always noticed or having an impact on daily life. It isn't going to leave our home, but we spend a great deal of time living without really interacting with it.
His image has been rattling around in my head for weeks in light of friends and church members who are living with cancer.
Thank you for your witness of your experience, and for the background and promo for upcoming projects through PBS. And so glad you are part of the project!
1 person hearted this
Carol Bruess
By The Bruess family
Deanna - There are few words to express your beautiful way of being, expressing, caring, and living! Inspiring. Thank you for including so many of us in your journey. We all live and love better thanks to you.
1 person hearted this