Category Archives: The Journey

It’s time to weed the flower bed


I’ve never been a fan of weeds. I don’t like picking weeds, spraying weeds or looking at weeds. I have however found a use for them….an analogy. A lot of you have asked many questions about the “weeds in my garden” (the cancer in my lungs) and so begins the blog of the day.

My lungs are my flower garden and in it we have found a few weeds. They are small weeds, but they are there and need to be removed. We all know what happens when you don’t weed the garden. Unfortunately these weeds cannot be dug out of the flower bed (as is the most effective form of weed removal…roots and all). The weeds have grown into my flowers. Come taka a look at the mess my Azalea bushes have become and you will understand why we cannot “surgical remove the weeds'” without killing the flower or the entire bush. So that being said we will move on to weed killer aka…chemo. We will spray with weeds and with hope and prayer the weeds will wilt and die off leaving the flowers to grow and bloom in the sun.

I start chemo tomorrow morning. I am excited and scared.  I know not to expect any horrible side effects this early or or maybe ever.  I prefer to focus on the excitement of moving on to the next step in my treatment and getting that much closer to becoming … “weed free”.

Thanks everyone for your prayers, well wishes, hopes, laughs, beer and cupcakes!!!!!  You all keep me smiling.



A reason, season or lifetime


I remember John telling me a very long time ago that people/things enter your life for a reason, season or a lifetime.  Well it’s taken me more than a few weeks to realize that this applies to every bit of what I am going through.  For the very first time in my life I got the urge to run more than three miles.  I have no idea what possessed me to do it , but I was committed.  I did know that the running group I was joining was filled with all the amazing people that helped me put Get Your Rear in Gear on … My coaches are Dan Keller from Omega Sports and Paige Hauff from PR Race Management.  Many of the coaches are employees of Dan’s who I have worked with at every packet pickup in years past.  Jenny Miller Cousin Extrodianre and GYRIG Coke Vendor, Sandra Downey newest GYRIG Planning Board member and the ever fabulous Michele Mattachini…Post Race Food Court Godess. Why would I ever pass up this opportunity.  So I jumped in committed to run the 13.1 miles and get my cool little sticker for the back of my car.

My last long distance run was 11 miles.   While working up to that mileage I met many new people that I consider more than coaches and aquantencies…Mike, Emily, Dawn, Deb, Smita…the list is long and ever growing…

So while on my runners high, I ran face first into a tree I didn’t see coming.  At first glance, this was a road block.  I was so mad.  Really mad….not “whoa is me”, but more like “WHAT THE HELL???”  I mean really?  Now?  I am so close to my 1/2 marathon in Nashville.  After peeling my face off the bark of the tree, I got a perscription for Xanex and gave myself time to process this unfortunate encounter with nature, I gained some perspective along the way.  Xanex is great for gaining perspective … you can actually think instead of crying … worth every penny for me -‘the broken hearted runner”. By the way, this is not a plug for drugs unless you happen to be in my running shoes and then I say … save yourself some pain, take the drugs and see what beauty you can find in your unfortunate circumstances.

So I woke up yesterday and finally realized that I did not sign up to run a 1/2 I signed up to save my life.  The 1/2 marathon was never truly part of the plan. Don’t get crazy on me … I haven’t given up (not even close), but what i realized is that this 1/2 marathon training was in my life for a reason.  Had I  not been on this training path I would have missed the tree and goodness knows I don’t want to know how that story ends!!!!  So I am now thankful for that tree.

The tree was there for a REASON

I will endure a difficult SEASON

And I promise you I will make a difference that will last a LIFETIME!!!!

On the road to recovery…


I’m finally back online.  This stinkin’ surgery took the wind out of my sails, but gave me more than enough time to plan this blog.  It literally did…my lung was collapsed or something like that…they messed with it I know that for sure.  Now that I’ve re-inflated I am ready to share and then will head to a Percocet induced slumber for the afternoon.  

Before I get into the details of my crazy journey ahead I need to thank everyone who got us to this point.  From blog updates (thanks MK) to meal planning Kelly, Michele and Ali), to meals, well wishes…many phone calls,flowers and txts thank you all.  You have lifted up the Falco family and we are so greatful for all of it.

Now on to the experience of a Thoracotomy.  We went from thinking I was having outpaitient surgery to spending a few days in ICU with open heart surgery patients…let’s just say I dropped the average age level by a few decades.  What you might have thought would be a breath of fresh air to the nurses was not. I think I was just a perky pain in the ass.  Anyway I survived it and was finally released and sent to the nurses a Presby on 5C.  From there the pain level was low (very low), but so was the amount of sleep and general ability to function. I got home Sunday and have not stopped sleeping.  

So on to the road to recovery…Do I take the ’66 TBird used in Thelma and Louise, the RV from National Lampoon’s Family vacation or the Delorian from Back to the Future.  Please adivise…I need something reliable so that I can go the distance, something fun and sassy to match the way in which I plan to approach this next phase, room for the family…can’t succeed without them.  I know that rules out the ’57 Corvette.  This is going to be a harder decision than I thought.   GPS and hands-free installed so we can all keep in touch.

Tomorrow I get my road trip map. Appointment with the oncologist in the afternoon.  I will update you sooner if we get good news and later if I need to process any major twist and turns ahead. I might hit a road block, speed bump, or detour but regardless I’m in it for the long haul. 




Homecoming Update


I talked with Sue today and she’s getting LOTS of sleep at home without being poked and prodded every 15 minutes.  Surgery was a little harder on Sue than she expected and she’s not quite ready to take over blogging.  So ‘yall are stuck with me (Mary-Karen) for the time being 🙂  I’m going to go see her this afternoon and will tell her that you all send your love and are thinking about her.

The Painted Pony


This will probably be one of my last updates as John is bringing Sue her new iPad tonight.  She’s chomping at the bit to get going on her blog I’m sure.

I spent the afternoon with her after she was sprung from the CVRU.  Sue was so happy to be in a room of her own.  Some of her friends had brought beautiful flower arrangements to brighten the room and supplies to brighten her toes (thus the “Painted Pony”).  Her room has a great view of Uptown which I’m sure she will enjoy as soon as she wakes up from her much needed nap.  John is bringing her girls, Mia and Ava, to see her tonight which I’m sure warms all of their hearts.  Sue is in great spirits and continues to recover at lightning speed (would you expect anything less from a champ???).

Morning update


Sue did well last night and was up and at ’em texting us this morning. You all know that Sue can’t be held down for long and she’s itching to get into a private room. Our little mare is also very hungry! She is waiting for a room to open up so visitation is still limited. I’ll let ‘yall know when she has been moved.

Out of the Gates


Well our Long Distance Hero is out of the gates and headed down the track!  Sue looked so good after surgery and is really enjoying her Mint Julep..errr I mean her epidural cocktail 🙂  She is her funny, playful self and was having fun telling her nurse some good stories and having her mother feed her ice chips.  Sue, of course, wanted to know if she was allowed to have her phone but John managed to keep it away from her for the time being.  She needs her rest to keep running down the track chasing after that Derby title!

Sue is out of surgery!


This is Mary-Karen filling in for Sue for the moment. She will surely kick me out as soon as she is able to! Her doctor said she did really well with her surgery and it was not as invasive as he expected it to be. She is currently in recovery (12:30pm) and will soon be moved to the cardiovascular recovery unit (CVRU). Pam Gwaltney (GI Cancer Nurse Navigator extraordinaire) has kept a really close eye on her and has alerted all of the nurses that Sue is coming to their floor. Pam has been such a great friend and source of information and comfort to Sue, John, her family and friends. We are waiting for the call that she has been moved to the CVRU. In the meantime, John and I had lunch and Sue’s mom, Barbara, has been phoning updates to everyone on her list. Sue will not be able to have any visitors today and we’ll see how she is feeling tomorrow. More to follow as we get updates from the nurses. Thanks to everyone who have sent John and Sue words of encouragement. Your support means the world to them!

Off to the Races


This isn’t the Kentucky Derby and no one had better place any bets on the spunky mare, Long Distance Hero, but I have it on good authority that she will work her tail off to win this race!!!

Had it not been for my half marathon training with the most amazing team ever (Omega Nation) I would never have known something was wrong.  Everyone tells you that running is good for you, but this takes it to a whole new level.  Thank you coaches and training buddies for getting me to where I am physically…I know it will serve me well.   All this great physical shape did not prevent my cancer from coming back.  It has a mind of it’s own and this time it decided to move uptown into my lungs. Super crappy…trust me I know and I’m being kind with my words.

I head to Presbyterian Hospital Charlotte for surgery tomorrow.  Since I don’t do many things slowly it’s only fitting that this treatment is starting quickly.  I’ll be staying at the Ritz (oops sorry) Presbyterian for a few days and then I’ll be home recovering. They will remove what they can in my lower right lobe and then test the cancer to confirm that it is in fact my colorectal cancer and not lung cancer.  Yes…who knew you could get rear cancer in your lungs.  So much to learn.

While I’m enjoying my morphine and epidural cocktail do not hesitate to stop by for a visit.  I would love the company even if I don’t remember you were there…that’s what the iphone camera is for.

I plan to blog about this journey in the only way I know…silly, fun, humorous and light hearted, but filled with answers to your questions.  Please raise your Mint Juleps high this will be a derby like no other. 

Love you all  – Sue