During one of our many meetings Dr. Schlabach asked what kinds of activity that Libby and I enjoyed and we told him that our typical family vacations involved snow skiing. I could tell by the way Dr. Schlabach’s face lit up that he was intrigued with our answer and he asked about our favorite destination and Libby and I each told him a brief story about one of our family ski trips. One of those stories was our first “out west” ski trip which began with a 36 hour drive to Crested Butte, Colorado with our friends Kelly and Helen Hawkins and all of our kids. A few days into skiing both Libby and Helen suspiciously injured their knees and couldn’t ski, but they both managed to walk to slope side restaurants where they would sip hot cocoa or relax in the hot tub and then shop for hours on end for the remainder of the week.
We also told Dr. Schlabach about one of our favorite trips to Big Sky, Montana and he asked specific questions about our favorite runs, places to eat, and where we stayed; then he went on to tell us that he had a cabin in Big Sky where he and his family would go several times a year.
Later in the conversation Dr. Schlabach asked if we were going to ski this winter and we said that we were a little afraid to go during chemo treatments for fear of Libby getting sick. Our doctor offered a solution, “If your family goes out to Big Sky while I am there with my family, then if Libby gets sick I will be there to take care of her”, but when our schedules did not match up Dr. Schlabach said, “I am confident that Libby will not get sick from the remaining drugs, so check your schedule and I’ll see when my cabin is booked, maybe it will work out for you to stay there.
With assurances that fresh mountain air would be beneficial and help to get our mind off of things we rented Dr. Schlabach’s cabin at a reduced rate and booked our flights to leave on Sunday March 8, 2009 just a week after Libby’s 52nd birthday.
There were lots of things happening in the winter of 2009, including Libby’s treatment, trial drugs, her mom’s recent cancer surgery, preparations for Libby’s radiation treatments and plans that I had been making for several months to celebrate the end of Libby’s chemotherapy treatments by throwing a party.
The NO MOE CHEMO party actually started out with the idea of getting together with a few close friends and going out to eat to celebrate the end of the chemo treatments, but the sheer volume of people who were following Libby’s progress on her Caring Bridge site, other churches, prayer chains, emails and plain old word-of-mouth was staggering. After a short time of planning this celebration it was evident to me that this thing had a life of its own and was going to be bigger than any of us ever thought.
Two years earlier, in March of 2007, I had thrown a surprise 50th birthday party for Libby so building on that list of contacts I began planning the NO MOE CHEMO party as a simple gathering of a few close friends and family but it morphed into an overflow crowd in our church with just over 400 people and included tributes in song from children, teens, friends and the Chattanooga Valley Community Choir.
The following is an excerpt from my Caring Bridge Journal as we arrived back home from our trip:
By Barry Gilley — Mar 18, 2009 4:23pm
Well, a lot has happened since we last posted in Caring Bridge; our trip to Montana was GREAT, we had a lot of snow the first two days that we were there and cold weather (-12 at night and +10 degrees in the afternoons) then later in the week it quit snowing and the sun warmed us up to a comfortable +25 degrees. The conditions were perfect and the skiing was over too soon. We did get Libby out on the slopes after it warmed up, but she really preferred the peace and quiet of our cabin with its views of the slopes and afternoon naps in front of the fireplace.
The Chemo countdown is on, with less than one week until Libby’s final Chemo treatment on Monday March 23rd! After that, it is only a few days until the NO MOE CHEMO party that we have been planning. It will be a concert and covered dish supper on Saturday April 4th at 5:00 PM at Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene in Flintstone, GA. We are expecting a large crowd so come early to help us celebrate and bring your best dish and a drink.
We had our introductory meeting with our radiologist (Dr. Gefter) on Monday and radiation will begin about a month following her final chemotherapy treatment, so sometime around the end of April. Libby will go in for radiation treatment everyday, five days a week, for 6 ½ weeks, likely ending sometime in the second week of June (all details are not worked out). After initial setup, Dr. Gefter said that her treatments will take about 20 minutes each with only minimal effects at the beginning, but the cumulative effects of fatigue, itching, burning, and weight loss will be a concern. He said just when she begins to recover from the side affects of the Chemo we are going to “zap you” again.