Our Warrior Queen

Darlene Stensby All Shall Be Well

First post: 7/27/2017 Latest post: 10/14/2017
Welcome to our Mom, Darlene's, CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. We are grateful for the help you give to us, and for listening to us when we need to cry, scream, talk, and also for the times you just sit with us, feeling the unfairness of it all.  Thank you. For everything. 


Our Mom's story is so much longer than what you will read below. She is the toughest woman we know, and all who know and love her realize that what is listed on this page is just new stuff. It's part of her newest history, but you all know her true story. She is the best of the best, and our world wouldn't be right without her. 

Earlier this Spring, Mom noticed an unexpected lump on her lower left side. She called her primary doc and scheduled an appointment to get things checked out, and reached out to Heidi, Sooze, Maddie and me to get our perspective on what might be going on. I can't speak for anyone else, though I, myself, told her it sounded like her girly parts. I told her to wait to worry about anything until she visited her doctor...wasted breath, to be sure, since I know it nibbled horribly at the back of my mind while I tried to send myself that same rational message.

The first weekend in June, Maddie, Heidi, Sooze and I took mom to a beautiful townhome in Beaver Bay to spend a weekend celebrating her 75th birthday (May 21st). Heidi, Sooze, Maddie, and I all noticed some marked differences in her on this trip. Mom seemed so much more tired and so very quiet on this trip than she had in the past when we went away. It was a wonderful weekend away, and we made some great memories. But we all knew something was very, very different. 

Mom had an appointment scheduled to see her regular doctor the next week. Her doctor wasn't really concerned about the lump, though thought it would be wise to do some blood work and get a CT scan. None of that made any of us feel less worried.

Our world became even less bright on June 16th. Despite the fact that it was the day we were celebrating Nick's 13th birthday (Angel's son), with a fun party planned for him with friends during the day, and a backyard gathering for family that evening, our mom Darlene received a phone call from her doctor that threw our lives off balance ~ a CT scan revealed that she most likely had ovarian cancer. Cancer?!? Our mom has endured way more health challenges than the average person experiences in a lifetime, so I think we all thought she would have a pass on cancer. Apparently the Universe wasn't asking our opinion on the matter.

On June 20th, Heidi and I went with our mom to visit Dr. Argenta. A gynecological oncologist. Oncologist???? I sat in that waiting area watching so many women who were obviously pregnant, wishing that we were there for exciting news, but dreading that we were about to hear confirmation to the contrary. Sure enough, Dr. Argenta, in a kind & compassionate, though matter-of-fact & no-nonsense manner, showed us the CT scan, pointing out the many anomalies which indicated potentially cancerous tumors. His recommendation was to move ahead with surgery, which would involve a full hysterectomy and removal of other organs that had tumors, followed up by six rounds of chemotherapy. Cancer? Chemo? I, for one, was sitting there thinking, "What the hell?" Heidi, Mom, and I went to Caribou to have coffee and chat about next steps, and as we sipped our last drops, Mom decided she would move forward with surgery and move on from there. She called Dr. Argenta's office, and surgery was scheduled for July 6th. And then we waited, while trying to pretend to go on with life as usual.

July 6th finally arrived. We were at Methodist by 6AM, and Mom was brought into surgery prep, while we waited for that stupid beeper to let us know that we could join her there to wait for them to wheel her into surgery. Once that blasted beeper went off and we could finally reconnect with her, we had the chance to meet some wonderful people who would be taking care of Mom before and during surgery. We felt she was in capable hands, although part of me wanted to threaten to kick the ass of anyone who f-ed up in the operating room. The nurse who sat and waited with mom was so amazing and patient and kind, and did a wonderful job easing mom's anxiety. Mom was wheeled away in her bed after we assured her we'd be waiting in her room after surgery with her lipstick ready, and then we went to the family waiting room. Todd, Nick, Patch, Merijean, and Jan (Favorite) were waiting for us in the waiting room when we came down from pre-surgery, and we did what we could to make those surgical hours pass by as quickly as possible.

SIX HOURS LATER...Finally! Dr. Argenta was there in the surgical waiting room. None of us felt reassured that he had arrived himself, since we had seen countless other family members walk to the desk after their beeper buzzed and being escorted to a meeting room. It seemed like bad news that Dr. Argenta had come to us first, asking if we wanted everyone in the room for the update about Mom's surgery. Jan stayed with the boys in the waiting room, and the rest of us met with him to hear the news that the tumors had been much more extensive than expected.  Cancer was officially confirmed. They had done a full hysterectomy and also removed two feet of her intestine, a part of her colon, a part of her lung, her spleen, her appendix, and a lymph node. Here again, I can't speak for anyone else, but it seemed we all sat there completely stunned by how much had needed to be done.  He asked that we share the news with Mom when we re-connected with her in her post-surgical room, since he didn't think he'd see her until later that night. Emotional numbness is a friend at times like that.

Mom was at Methodist Hospital for 9 days. There were good days, and shitty days. Good = walking the night of her surgery! (Mom is SuperWoman), positive attitude, doing the tough stuff when it hurt; Shitty = no food for 8 days~ only some ice chips (ridiculous!), Ng tube put in on July 8th which just about broke her spirit. Pathology came back a few days before her release, and gave us confirmation that it was ovarian cancer, high grade. Dr. Wykowski (Mom's next oncologist) met with mom and they shared some quiet moments together. He shared with her that she has Stage IV ovarian cancer, and the prognosis isn't good. Finally, she was released from Methodist on July 15th, and went home to some very happy cats. 

The days since surgery have brought smiles and tears. Mom ended up back in the hospital on July 25th after her energy dropped to an all time low. Turned out her sodium level was at 113 (expected levels fall between 135-145), and she had fluid on her left lung. A liter of fluid was removed from her lung, relatively painlessly, thank goodness. Sodium was slowly given to her through her through an IV, and she began feeling much better. We all agreed she needs more of her favorite french fries from Dairy Queen to keep that sodium up.  And that cancer in all forms should be damned to hell.

As we move into the unforeseen, please do NOT refer to this as a journey. Cancer sucks, and this will be a trip through hell - NOT a journey. We're all moving forward into unchartered territory, and let's support each other and deal with it together. No platitudes. Let's be real.

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