Monday, May 3, 2010

Why I Relay By: Michelle Sims

Today's guest blogger is Michelle Sims. Michelle has been a dear friend of mine for many years and this will be her 3rd year participating in relay with me. She is designs T-shirts and at the bottom of her post there is a link to her T-shirt shop where a portion of the proceeds from the cancer shirts will be donated back to our relay team. I am also posting a few pictures of my favorite shirts below her link. There are shirts for all different types of cancer, not just breast cancer. Love you Michelle!
In July of 2003 my life changed. Not just my life, but the lives of my entire family. My mom had been sick off and on for several months. Repeat trips to the doctors had brought no answers. One day my brother had come home to find her lying on the couch. This wasn’t new since for the last few days she had hardly left the couch for feeling so bad. The difference this day was her coloring. She had a distinct grey pallor and my brother feared the worst. He woke her and they went to the hospital. That hospital trip finally brought answers. She was in complete kidney failure. Further testing showed that the kidney failure had been caused by Multiple Myeloma. CANCER! I remember the sadness and overwhelming fear that over took me when my dad called to tell me the terrible news. The part that amazed me was my mother’s strength and desire to fight. It was to be a tough battle. With the kidney failure came kidney dialysis, 4 hours a day, 3 times a week. This meant ports, surgeries, hours of each week lost in a clinic, and complete total exhaustion. The Multiple Myeloma meant chemotherapy, losing her hair, sickness, nausea, and more exhaustion. Our pre-planned family trip to visit that month was saddened by the fact that mom (and grandma) was in the hospital the whole time. In August, I made another trip down for a weekend. Mom was well into her chemo now and her hair was starting to fall out. Through tears, I shaved my mother’s head and went with her and a friend to choose a wig. It was hard to see her like this, but she continued to amaze me with her strength and desire to fight.

Mom fought for almost 3 years. She didn’t let the cancer get her down and she found ways to continue her life despite being tied to dialysis. Through her research she found a method called peritoneal dialysis that gave her the freedom to do her dialysis on her own and at home. This cut her tie to the clinic and allowed her the flexibility to travel. She visited me here in Colorado several times, she visited shortly after my youngest son was born, she traveled to Hawaii, she even took a cruise to Alaska with my dad and her siblings and parents.

It was during one of her trips here that things changed for the worst. Mom and dad were here to visit us for Thanksgiving of 2005 and for Tiffany’s baptism which was that Saturday. On Thanksgiving morning she had to go in for dialysis. (She had recently returned to clinical dialysis when her peritoneal dialysis port fell out and could not be replaced) During her treatment, she passed out. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and spent a few hours while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. They ended up sending her home with no defined reason for her passing out. That evening we had Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. Mom wasn’t feeling well so dad took her back to our house to rest after she ate. A little bit later, I got a call that mom was being taken from my house in an ambulance again. She had gone unconscious again. It was determined in the hospital that she was probably having mild heart attacks. Her weekend trip turned into two weeks in the cardiac ICU here. During that time she had 9 episodes of cardiac arrest and a defibrillator put in. Once she stabilized she was sent to my home for a few days to recover a bit more and then she returned home. When I put her on the plane to go home to Las Vegas, I feared it might be the last time I would see her alive.

This was the beginning of the end. She had fought long and hard and never ever gave up, but in the end her body just couldn’t take any more. It was just 3 ½ months later that I got the call from my dad that mom was once again in the hospital and this time, he didn’t think she was going to make it. I hopped on a plane and spent a very short amount of time with my mom on the evening I arrived. The next morning upon our arrival in the hospital, we were informed that during the night things had changed. She was now brain dead. We gathered the family and with each one of us holding some part of her, we had the doctor turn off the machines keeping her alive. It was just a short minute or two until her heart stopped beating. It was the saddest experience of my life so far but also one of the most spiritual. I don’t think we are ever closer to heaven than we are at the birth of a child or the death of a loved one. She passed from this life to the next. She was no longer in pain. No more suffering. She had moved on, but it left the rest of us here to mourn the loss of her in our lives. I have 34 years of memories of her. I have all that she taught me and all that she helped me to be. The saddest part for me is that some of my children don’t even remember much about her. It is only though pictures and the stories that I tell that she can remain in their hearts, but I will always be sure they know her.

I miss my mom every single day. I don’t know how many times I have picked up the phone to call her. She was my best friend. She was the one I called with all of my good news and she was the one who lifted me up when I was having a bad day.

Over the first year after her passing, I had good days and many bad days. I decided I needed to do something to honor her in some way.

Shortly after mom’s passing one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now a 4 year survivor and is the one who introduced me to Relay For Life. When I heard about Relay I knew that this was one of the best ways I could honor my mother. Now I do what I can to help our Relay team to raise money in the fight against cancer. I walk the track with my friends; some cancer survivors themselves and others who have also lost loved ones. We walk together. We share our stories. We share our memories. We cry and support one another.

I relay for my mom. I relay for my grandmother who died of brain cancer in 1990. I relay for my friend Eliza. I relay for my friends who have also lost loved ones. But, I also relay for my children in hopes that through our efforts, cures can be found, so they will not have to worry about cancer affecting their lives.

If you want o help my cause check out my Cancer T-Shirt shop at A portion of proceeds from sales in the cancer shop will be donated to my Relay For Life team.

To read more about why Nikki does Relay and to donate to Michelle's Relay for Life Efforts Please click here.

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