Monday, January 7, 2013

How Angels Party

I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Today would have been Amy's earthly birthday. I was going to post something about her birthday on Facebook and then I thought to myself: "How silly to think that angels celebrate their human birthdays"...

Just a few minutes ago, I went her her facebook page just find comfort in how many people were still celebrating her birthday here. The first post I saw on her page was a picture posted by her husband:

And then I silly of me to think that Amy would be so selfish as to not let everyone enjoy a celebration, even if human years meant nothing to her any more. Amy was a bright and colorful woman from her ear to ear smile to her fuscia hair. Amy would decorate the sky with rainbows so that everyone here on earth could celebrate; celebrate her, her life, and the prospect of us all being together again.

Happy Birthday Amy! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If I could write a letter...

...and postmark it to Heaven, this is what it would say:

Dear Amy,

I have been missing you so much since the day you left. There are days when I'm o.k. and days when I can barely keep it together. There are moments when I smile and moments when the emotions completely overwhelm me. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you and the inspiration you have been to me and so many others. In fact, your inspiring nature is what prompted this letter. I wanted to let you know just how much you have impacted my life, even since leaving this earth.

1. Accomplishment 1: December 2012. I will never forget the phone conversation we had as I drove home from work. I was telling you about how I had gotten into a fight with the man that never treated me the way I deserved, and Evan was there to be my shoulder to cry on. I had described the nice little thing Evan had done for me and how he always seemed to be there to make life better. You asked me: "Amanda, why aren't you dating Evan?" I responded "I don't know"...and that was true. You made me realize that what I was needing was right under my nose. You inspired me to leave a negative situation and pursue a better one.

2. Accomplishment 2: Giving in to the fact that it's o.k. to fall apart because your family will be there to piece you back together. Your memorial was the first time I was truly able to give in to this. I had watched you for years, unafraid of appearing "weak" or "broken". I had seen you cry, seen you pray, and seen you reach out for help. I wish it hadn't taken your passing to inspire me to do the same, but it's because of you that I finally was able to let others be strong for me for once rather than the other way around. You inspired me to lean on the ones that love me.

3. Accomplishment 3: You inspired me to re-evaluate my life. I had been searching for what was "right" for me. Where I was supposed to go, was my career path the right one. I had looked into jobs across the U.S. thinking I just need to keep moving up and I'll eventually be happy. A few days after I returned from an interview in Chicago, I found out that your time here was going to be cut very short. I began to feel panicked, as I was about to face the challenge of moving even farther away. I found out that I had not received the position in Chicago and that a position in AZ opened all in the same day. I was upset about the job but relieved that it meant I could stay closer. I had planned to come out and visit you and wanted to badly to hug you one last didn't make it till that visit. I will never forget the last phone conversation I had with you. The only phrase I could understand from you was "I loved my song, I love you". I somehow knew those were the last words I would ever hear from you. I was so mad at myself for not being able to be there with you...that day I vowed I would find a way back to my family. I would not let distance separate me anymore. That was the day I completely redirected my goals and ambitions. I realized the reason I was unhappy was because I was searching for happiness in the wrong places.

Amy, I am now finding happiness. In 1 week I will be making my way back to Arizona with the job of my dreams and to the family I so desperately need to be close to. Thank you so much for the inspiration you have been. I may not be able to put this letter in an envelop and address it to: "Amy Schultz, Heaven" but I know that these words will find you. I am so excited for the day that I will see you again, but will miss you ever day till then. I love you so much.



Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is all this controversy really needed?

Human beings are very good at giving a moments peace...and then giving in to the appeal of controversy. We  see it in the news after every tragedy. A mass murder turns into a debate about gun control and health care reforms in less than 24 hours, with each of those innocent lives lost being used as mortars against each other side's attacks.

Amy's passing has made me realize that the controversy never stops where people say it does. It is never just the media, never just the politicians, and never just the activists. It is a habit of humanity, not of news reporters, an act of American citizens, not limited to radical party leaders. I have witnessed it within my family, friends, and just in glimpses of conversation on the street. Amy's passing was a tragedy within my family and her network of peers, friends, and students. But just as is seen with so many tragedies, it did not take long for me to recognize the controversy.

Many people whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer have a passionate desire to work towards a cure. For some it may be as simple as getting a yearly mammogram and reminding their friends to get theirs. For others it may be participating in races, walks, and cycling that fund raise for research and education. And for some still the fundraising and education never stops. Many of those that participate in fundraising causes pick a "favorite" (if you will) organization they consistently participate with. There are so many organizations that are working towards a cure (whether through funding research, education, treatment, or all three):

Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Avon Foundation: Breast Cancer Crusade
IBC Network 
Breast Cancer Fund...and others.

In the past month I have heard criticisms against so many of these wonderful organizations..."Oh that organization doesn't do enough with IBC", "Well this organization only donates x-amount to research","Most of that fundraising goes to payroll".

Why is any of that needed? There are many organizations doing great things in our communities, and many have focuses in different areas of funding...that's the beauty of it! We have one organization that donates a majority of funds to research, one to education, and one to assisting in treatments. All of these things are critical to continued survival of breast cancer sufferers, survivors, and potential patients.

My "favorite" has always been Susan G. Komen for two reasons:
1. Accessibility to a young woman through college and early stages of her career with regards to the availability of information and fundraising opportunities I can take part in
2. A large portion of their funding goes to education ($140 million), and still grants $75 million to researchers and research projects.

You can pick your favorite, but here isn't a need for criticism of others trying to help solve the same problem.  I have decided to take the journey of the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk again in loving memory of my Aunt Amy. I have a goal to raise $3,000 by November. I will proudly walk in this event and I will reach my goal. Please don't let "favoritism" get in the way of helping those around you that are trying to reach their goals, because some day the small goals they reach themselves may help reach the goal we all strive to achieve...a cure for breast cancer.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Amy's Most Important Lesson

Today was a beautiful and difficult day to say the least. We began the day with a short intimate ceremony at the cemetery to say goodbye to our beloved aunt, daughter, sister, niece, and friend. Later in the afternoon we had a celebratory church service and memorial in her honor.

Our family sat in the front row, but as the service began, I turned to look behind me and saw a sanctuary full of people that came to remember and celebrate the beautiful woman of God that Amy Schultz was. The site brought me to tears as I realized that the same impact Amy had on me was also the impact she had on that entire church full of people...and then some. The service was beautiful, full of worship (just as she would like it) and wonderfully heartfelt speeches from my mother (Amy's sister), two of Amy's friends, and one of Amy's teacher colleagues. The words they all spoke described the Amy we all knew. She was a unique, fierce, romantic, outspoken, and faithful woman...and never once was she afraid to be just that. I pray that one day, I too will be remembered the way she will always be.

Amy taught me many lessons over the years: to appreciate myself, family is irreplaceable, and to love my God....but today I may have learned the greatest lesson from her. Amy was a strong woman through and through...but she knew that strength did not mean going at it alone.

Like Amy I am the oldest of 3 sisters. I am outspoken, creative, romantic, unique, and at times fierce. But I have always struggled with a need to be strong for others, particularly my two younger sisters. I have done my best to hide my tears, my worries, and my uncertainties, in hopes that they would be able to rely on me for strength when they felt too weary to muster up their own. Amy was a care taker of all,  but she was not afraid to let her guard down, because she knew that God blessed her with loving family and friends to be her strength when she was weary as she had always been for them. Today in church I sat in the front row, staring at the pink and white flower arrangements humming softly to the song being sung. Out of no where I fell apart, I collapsed in on myself shaking and weeping into my hands. My sister put her arms around me and instead of lifting my head and wiping my tears, I buried my face in her shoulder and continued my sobs of mourning. I have always felt blessed to have my two little sisters, but today, for the first time, I let them be for me what I have struggled for 18 years to be for them: a shoulder to cry on, a comfortable embrace, and the strength I needed when I felt I had none left. Today I truly experienced the unconditional love and support that can only be found between sisters.

Thank you Amy, Andrea, and Mom. It may have taken me a few years but thank you for teaching me that being strong does not mean you cannot be afraid, sad, angry, or mournful. Being strong does not mean you cannot show those feelings to others that you love. But instead, being strong means knowing that even if you do fall apart in your sister's know you will be OK, for your sister will be the first one to start piecing you back together.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Memory of Amy

Last night the world lost a great mother, teacher, aunt, daughter, sister, mentor, and woman of God. She is now the angel she always lived like on earth.

Amy Snow Schultz was 41 years old when she was tragically diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC).

IBC is a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer that is believed to make up only 1-5% of breast cancer cases. When Inflammatory Breast Cancer is diagnosed, the patient is often times already in stage III or IV of cancer due to the lack of traditional symptoms in early stages of this cancer. IBC forms as a mesh through the muscular tissues of the breast blocking the lymph nodes.

When Amy was diagnosed she was told that the cancer may have been living inside her body for years before it was diagnosed. She went in for a completely unrelated check up and happened to have the doctor look at a spot on her breast. The skin had a dimpled look, a symptom known as "Orange Peel" skin, due to the resemblance to the pitted skin of a citrus fruit. She was sent to an Oncology specialist that diagnosed her with IBC. Fortunately for her, the cancer cells were HER2 cells, short for Human Epidermal Growth Hormone 2. These cells were equipped with receptors on the outside that responded to Human Epidermal Growth Hormone 2. When this hormone is around the cancer cells, it attaches to receptors and fuels the reproductive process of the cancer cells. It sounds terrible that a hormone that naturally occurs in our bodies would fuel the cancer life cycle, however there is a positive side to this. When a cancer cell has a receptor on the outside, it gives doctors an easy target to attack. Many type of cancer medications target these receptors. Now HER2 cells are not the only kind of cancer cells with receptors for human hormones, but they were the type present in Amy's situation.

Amy battled hard for several years, she underwent many types of medication regimens and chemo, lost her hair several times, and experienced times when all she wanted to do was give up. But her faith in God kept her going, and she was able to beat the cancer and receive a clear scan about a month ago. The whole world it seemed rejoiced.

Less than 2 weeks ago she had another scan that showed the cancer was back. While everyone wanted to be hopeful, the reality was we knew this fight would be much harder to win. The doctors then informed her that her HER2 cells had turned into Triple Negative cells.

Triple Negative cells are much more difficult to treat than other cancer cells. The term "Triple Negative" refers to the lack of all hormone receptors on the cancer cells surface. These cells do not need the same conditions to reproduce and do not have the same weaknesses as others.

The cancer had spread to her liver in the form of tumors, and her liver was not capable of processing Chemo Therapy. Surgery was not an option due to the weakness the rest of her body was suffering from. Amy was given a short time to come to terms with the unavoidable fact that her body could no longer battle the monster inside her.

Last night she passed away peacefully with her husband by her side. She left a legacy behind through her amazing husband and son, as well as the ways she has touched the earth with her presence. She will forever be remembered as the strongest woman I and many others knew and I will do my best to honor her name as long as I live, by increasing awareness and encouraging early detection.

Amy, I love you miss you more than words can express. It doesn't make sense that you were taken so young, but even though my human brain cannot comprehend, I know that God's will has been done. You have been a living representation of what a Godly Woman is through your caring, love, nurturing, and open mind. Even after life on earth has ended, I know you will continue to watch over me. You will sing at my wedding, your voice in the wind through the trees. You will be a part of my own family in the name my daughter (if I am blessed with one) carries. You will be the woman I aspire to be. From this point on, I will wait patiently till I can cross through Heaven's gates and be reunited with you.

Love always,

Chicken butt

P.S. I will always remember this lesson from you: Never hold up a green marker and say it's purple in hopes of clearing your name of matter how cute you are.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Amy's Song

My Aunt Amy is one of the strongest women I know and has been a prominent influence on my life growing up. She has taught me so many lessons I will carry with me till the end. Amy battled IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) for about 5 years before finally receiving a clear scan. Together our family rejoiced, from thousands of miles away I cried tears of joy and relief that Amy was going to be able to stay with my family longer.

1 Week ago I found out that her cancer was back, and over the past several days I have received more discouraging information about her condition. I have prayed non stop since the day I heard that her scan was not clear. I have cried till hyperventilating and woken up at 4 am shaking. I discovered something over this short time that is a complete reflection of her in myself. I take comfort in making music. I wrote this short song in her honor:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Something to be proud of from the biggest party school in the nation

Being in my senior year, I'm figuring out classes, graduation, where my life is going, all that jazz. I just signed onto ASU's website and the title of the first article shown was: "Scientists Help Aid Early Detection of Breast Cancer". ASU is one of the highest funded research institutes in the U.S. and it's team of researchers, professional and student alike, are striving to make leaps and bounds in scientific advancement. The first part of this article provides a basic overview of the actual process that was followed to achieve results. The latter part of the article provides a summary of results and conclusions. Very interesting! We've begun identifying the immune responses to early formation of cancerous cells :-). Early detection saves lives!

Reading this article lead me to find a link about yet another study that was done here at ASU. This study lead to the identification of more than 30 target genes in the development of breast cancer. These genes range from factors making an individual more susceptible to cancer itself to genes that lead to increased gene resistance that can cause complications with or non-responsive chemotherapy treatment.

These articles fairly easy reads, and I find them very interesting. Happy learning!