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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

Six Years Ago on a Wednesday

Six years ago on a Wednesday I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.  Six years later, this Wednesday the 10th bears some similarities to that Wednesday the 10th: it’s the last week of classes for all of us at Hamline; I’m home, grading the stack of papers piled next to me; and it’s Advent, a time of sitting in darkness waiting for light. It’s the first time this Cancerversary has fallen on a Wednesday, the same day I got word that life would never be the same. 

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Linnea texted me from college to let me know that a high school classmate’s father who had stage IV cancer had died that morning.  I had sat next to this father at the International Baccalaureate banquet last spring.  His body bore many signs of cancerous invasion; he was weak and had trouble eating the banquet food.  We talked of how grateful we were to be making it to our daughters’ graduation.  But there was a sobering gap between my place of gratitude and his.  It seemed a remote chance that he’d be around for his younger son’s high school years.  I’m still holding out hope that I’ll be around for all of Annika’s. 

And so this father with stage IV cancer died on a Wednesday, his daughter back at college after having been home the weekend before.  And Linnea, daughter of a mother with stage IV cancer, away at college, texted to let me know and to say it was hard news for her.  Even though we had only met the family that one time, it was hard news for us all.

The next week Linnea wrote a not very nice poem about Wednesdays.  About how they’ve been bearers of bad news.  So this 6th anniversary of the diagnosis on a Wednesday carries sadness, grief, and anxiousness a bit differently than it has in past years.

At the same time, I know well how different this Wednesdayis than that Wednesday six years ago. This Wednesday I’m not living on Vicodin to dull the 10-out-of-10 pain; I’m not wearing a torso brace and struggling to walk; rather than getting malignant news about a biopsy on my back I’m headed to yoga this morning to stand on my head.  Sunday we were in Decorah for our first experience of the glorious Christmas at Luther; last night Annika and I baked Christmas cookies and watched Rudolph.  In ways more numerous to count, life is so very different than it was six years ago.  

This is a day where we mourn what we lost that Wednesday in 2008; it’s a day where we find our grief intersecting with other grief, such as the grief of the family of Linnea’s classmate.  For our family, we also grieve my dear Grandmother SwaneeThompson, who on December 11 last year had a stroke and died on the 15th.  We miss her dearly. 

But this Advent Wednesday, I also give thanks—thanks for the really good health I have right now; thanks for incredible family and friends and church and school and CaringBridge communities; thanks for work I love; thanks for it all.

Blessed Advent Wednesday to everyone.  Much love, Deanna

25 people hearted this



Tamara Root
By Tamara — last edited
Thank you, Deanna, for your post and reflections and your friendship. May your blessings continue for many, many years to come. My very best wishes to you and your family for a Christmas full of good cheer and joy. Hugs, Tamara
1 person hearted this
Allen Jorgenson
By Allen
Thanks for this touching reflection. Emotions seem to be ever rolling over one another in this journey. Gratitude and grief, each one outstepping the other... blessings to you.
1 person hearted this
Anne  Park
By Anne Elstrom Park
Blessings to you and your family, Deanna.
1 person hearted this
Carol Kohlberg
By Carol Kohlberg
It is strange that you posted this today. One week from Sunday it will be two years since Jeremy's diagnosis of Ependymoma. This time of year seems to bring a great deal of sadness to our family and yet we are full of hope. Cancer can't take that away. Deanna, I think and pray for you and your family everyday. We have been given a five year survival rate for Jeremy, and your story gives me Hope. Our lives changed forever on December 21, 2012. I am amazed by your strength just as much as I am of Jeremy's. You are both superheroes in my book. Peace be with you and Live Strong.
1 person hearted this
Carolyn O'Grady
By Carolyn O'Grady
Jim B. shared this with me. Beautifully written. Moving. Glad you are still with us 6 years later, and optimistic that your time will be much, much longer.
1 person hearted this
Gary Simpson
By Gary Simpson — last edited
I'm glad for you and yours, amidst the grief.
1 person hearted this
Carolyn Tonneson
By Carolyn Tonneson
What a wonderful, thought-provoking post, Deanna. I'm so glad this particularly Wednesday is so significantly different for you from the one 6 years ago. Life, in general, poses many opportunities for "sadness, grief, and anxiousness', does it not? Life with cancer--past and/or present--seems to magnify those opportunities many times over. For me, I am struck by the swings I experience between huge amounts of gratitude for being cancer-free, the anxiety I feel about another upcoming oncology visit, the sadness and anger I feel over the ongoing neuropathy leftover from my chemo treatments, as well as sadness each time I hear of one more cancer diagnosis or death among people that I know...and those I don't know.

In the midst of such a mixed bag of emotions, I am glad to be reminded (via your last paragraph) that I, too, have so much for which to be thankful!

Advent Blessing to you and your family!!
Love, Carolyn
1 person hearted this
Kim Guenther
By Kim Guenther
I am so pleased to read that you are in good health, and hope you remains so for decades to come.
1 person hearted this
Schurhamer Family
By Love, The Schurhamers
It's funny that you mention Wednesdays. Because for me, that is when I get to see my dear friend, hug her, teach with her, and just be present with her. Wednesdays with Deanna, if you will.... I look forward to them every week. We pray for continued good health for you.
1 person hearted this