Becky’s Story

Site created on March 6, 2019

The end of January, mom started to have a lot of pain in her stomach.  She went to see her primary care Nurse Practitioner who prescribed her medication for gastric reflux/ulcers.  In two weeks time her pain was worsening, she was having some dizziness, and a constant headache.  The NP told her to double her antacids and was given medication for dizziness.  Nothing seemed to be helping, but she was scheduled for a routine colonoscopy and dad talked the GI doctor into also ordering an endoscopy.  Both came back essentially unremarkable, but by the following weekend, she was hardly able to keep anything down and dad drove her to the ER.  After about 6 hours in the ER dad suggested they do a CT scan to see if they could find anything because all other labs were not finding anything.  The CT scan found a lump on her lungs that was concerning.  

The following weekend, during an old fashioned northern Wisconsin blizzard, mom developed mental status changes and she was taken by ambulance to Medford and then to Marshfield after discovering what they thought was a possible developing brain bleed.  Over the next week in the hospital it was unveiled that she had two tumors in her brain and a lump on one of her lungs.  Biopsy results revealed malignant melanoma, with an extremely poor prognosis because it is in her brain.  The Neuro Oncologist told us that there is no cure for the cancer and stated that even with treatment, her life expectancy is only a few weeks to a couple of months.  Given this information, mom opted for no treatment and was initially sent home on hospice.

The following week, her general oncologist from Marshfield told us the cancer was a re- occurrence of her melanoma that was deemed stage 0 in 2014.  With this knowledge and a minimal amount of reading, we knew immunotherapy was a strong possibility for her.  We then scheduled an appointment with an oncologist in Wausau to get a second opinion knowing that she would then no longer qualify for hospice.  He too felt immunotherapy was a strong possibility for mom but the leptomeningeal carcinoma (many small pieces of cancer throughout her brain) made her prognosis much worse.  He stated that full brain radiation would help with that, but mom had previously told us she would not want to extend her life only to live as another person or a vegetable.  Therefore, full brain radiation was declined as it is only considered palliative and defeats that purpose of living 2-4 more years should the immunotherapy be successful.

However, she needed more testing to determine the type of melanoma.  Two more lumbar punctures, her lung biopsy sent in for more testing, and one more MRI later, it was determined that she was BRAF positive in her melanoma, her cancer had significantly increased in her brain, but she was eligible to start oral immunotherapy.  By this time, mom was very hard to direct and made less and less sense while talking with her.  A week later we FINALLY get approval from her insurance company for the treatment, but mom was almost unable to talk and was coughing when drinking water.  Dad and I (Melissa) managed to get mom to swallow the pills on Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday we were already starting to show slow improvement.  It honestly felt like a miracle.

Newest Update

Journal entry by Melissa Price

Sam did such a wonderful job with Mom’s eulogy that we wanted to share it with you all:

I stand before you to honor the life of my mother-in-law, Rebecca Lynn Price. There’s an unfortunate stereotype of the mother-in-law as meddling, controlling, jealous. My mother-in-law was 
none of those things. Becky was unusual. Unusually kind. Unusually calm. Unusually filled with the qualities that all of us wish we had in greater measure: She was considerate, patient, trustworthy, smart, cheerful, caring.

Sometimes, as we swim exhausted by the river of life, we find a rock, something steadfast to brace us against the current; and holding on there to rest, we realize that we are safe, and never let go. That rock was Becky, when Dan met her in 1975; in his words, the best thing that ever happened in his life. The debris catches on that rock, the current of life slows down into a pleasant eddy, the silt settles, and a fertile island forms, growing into the vibrant paradise that we call a family.

    Becky loved reading, cheering for her sports teams, cooking, gardening, canning, playing cards. But all of this took a back seat to what mattered most to herfamily and God. Her parents and siblings, though far away for the last decades, were always close to her heartHer trips back to South Dakota were a highlight of her year, exploring the Black Hills by day, playing cards by night. And playing cards by day. She relished her trips with Judy and Barband her vacations with Dan. Her children, and later her grandchildren, were the lights of her life; she’d do anything she could for them. She loved putting on the home-cooked, home-grown meals that drew us all together for holidays and birthdaysand lots of just regular days. She was the person you could trust to meet your sorrows, hopes, and worries with encouragement, understanding, and love. As the oldest of 8 children, she became the world’s best babysitter—so good, in fact, that when her little brother Doug fell through the picture window onto the porch, he didn’t even get a cut. Becky was the kindest person that most of us have ever known. We don’t just say this because she’s gone—we have said it all along.

    The Catholic church was enormously important to Becky. She attended Catholic grade school and worshipped faithfully all her life, teaching catechism and confirmation classes. Her faith was unwavering, but Becky didn’t preach. She didn’t need to; she taught by example. Becky showed us how to enact the teachings of Jesus in our everyday lives—putting others before herself, shunning the temptations of money and possessions, being honest, not judging others, loving unconditionally. She was exemplary of the wholesome Christian life.

    When Becky was quiet, you might think that she forgot about you—but she didn’t let you think that for long. She’d pull out your favorite drink and set it before you, and give you her wink, the one that said, “I was thinking about you.” There was room for everybody in her expansive heart. Her legendary heart gave second chances, third and fourth chances. After all, that was her job. For 26 years she gave second chances to imprisoned teenage boys from broken homes with broken dreams who had broken rules, but never once did she speak of them as if they had broken souls. Because Becky practiced forgiveness, saw the world through hopeful eyes, and knew that God could work everyday miracles. She made us see that too, because she was one of them.

    Becky was brave. She joined the military at 18 years old, ready to do what her country asked of her. She left her beloved family in South Dakota to try gardening in the short summers and shallow soils of northern Wisconsin. She gave birth at home. When her children were old enough, she went to work—at a dangerous job where she might get punched in the eye, or worse. She didn’t flinch. She did get a black eye. She was level-headed. Stoic, never dramatic. Just like she was when this horrible monster that took her from us crept in so quietly before showing its fangs. When that monster roared she stared him straight in the eye, ready to fight, ready to die, calm and strong with the Lord beside heras always, the anchor of our family, even in this turbulence, comforting us.  

    That rock is invisible now. Invisible, but not undone. Because the island built upon it, vivid and lush with the fertility of her love, remains.  

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