Thursday, December 29, 2011

new post

Our Sarah (click link)

In lieu of flowers, Sarah would have wanted donations sent to Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.    To donate in her memory, click here

For those close friends and family who have asked to help with funeral costs - you may donate to Sarah's memorial fund.  (on side bar)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I'm sorry to be so behind on updating about Sarah - but it's been a hard month for all of us.  Dr. Taub (Sarah's oncologist in New York) decided to stop the chemo treatment because of the harm it was doing to her body.  He said their goal now was just to make her as comfortable as possible and asked her what she would like to do.  She said she would like to go home.  On November 29th, she and Shaun flew to Utah and arrived safely to their Ogden home - much to everyone's relief.  She is happy to be home in her Christmasy house and to see her kids, friends and family and feels like a freed prisoner (not a fan of hospitals).  She is very, very sick but is handling it amazingly.  A lot better than most of us.  Shaun is her 24/7 caretaker and continues to be an incredible husband and nurse.  We are all so very very thankful for him.

Before I went to Utah, I took a last minute trip to New York.  My parents were already there and it was good to be able to spend time with Sarah.  I left feeling a new admiration for my sweet sister.  Like she always has - she is dealing with this terrible trial with grace and humor.  I think we were all in awe.

dad, the official foot rubber
mom and dad washing her hair
Can you believe her beautiful hair?
I spent one day back home (in memphis) and then packed for Utah and headed there and stayed about 3 weeks. 

Sarah with Luke

Sarah's fam  - Sarah, Rachel, Shaun & Jack

Sarah with parents and siblings
Oh and here are a few snapshots I took of the "Favorite Things" book I put together for Sarah.  Thank you everyone who sent stuff - I think she really likes it and looks through it when she feels up to it.  If you didn't write anything and still want to - there are empty pages in the back. It was so beautiful to read all the things people love about someone I love so much.  It ended up being about 40 pages - not sure how many people wrote stuff but a lot. Thanks again!  (sorry for the poor quality pics)

I don't know how to say on a blog post the things I feel - and even if I could I'm not sure it would be the place for that anyway.  I hope you will all understand my not sharing sensitive emotions and just simply updating all of you who love her so dearly.  Our family appreciates your thoughts and prayers and all you do and have done for Sarah.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dear Friends and Family of Sarah -
want to make a "These are a few of my favorite things..." book for Sarah with notes and pictures from her friends and family.  Just a quick note of your favorite things about Sarah and your favorite picture with her (if you have one or if it's handy).  Who doesn't love to know everyone's favorite thing is about them right?  So, just send me a few lines just saying the top things you love about Sarah at  And if you want to include a funny memory or story to illustrate your point - feel free. :-)  I want to get this done as soon as possible - so try to respond by Monday DECEMBER 5th.   If you don't make it by then and still want to  write something - do and I will just add it to the book later.  Okay, thanks everybody!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thank you for your thoughts

Thank you everyone for your positive thoughts and prayers for Sarah. The response was overwhelming. There were 83 people doing this that I know of. Those are just the ones that responded, there were probably more that I didn't know of. Sarah had a friend participating from Mongolia! What a powerful thing. I know people stopped whatever they were doing - paused a movie, stopped in the middle of working on the roof to have a moment to think of Sarah, stopped making dinner to gather a family to pray - it just fills my heart with gratitude for all of you that love and care about Sarah so much. Thank you. My aunt wrote to me and said "We felt the power and strength of everyone praying at the same time. I thought.... if we felt it.....Sarah must have felt it also. Yes... we love our Sarah!" That was a great idea - thanks Rebekah! And now Sarah is back in Utah for a visit and I'm sure it will strengthen her spirit to see her kids, dear friends and family before she goes back to New York. Thanks again everybody!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts for Sarah

Dear people who love Sarah -

My sister-in-law Rebekah had a great idea. Starting tomorrow we are going to stop what we are doing at exactly 6:00 pm (utah time) 7:00 (memphis time) or 8:00 (eastern time) and send positive thoughts to Sarah. You can do it however you want - by yourself or as a family, as a prayer or positive thoughts. Or if you want to write her a note or text her at that moment. Whatever you want. But I think as we all live across the country and even the world - this is a way we can unite and do something for our Sarah. So many of us feel helpless and want to do SOMEthing. So, this is it. For a week - let's all do it. And at that moment - for those 10 seconds or however long, we can all know that we are all thinking of Sarah are are part of something. And she can know and hopefully feel our love and a power beyond her own and it will lift her spirits and help her body fight this cancer. We will do this for ONE week. Starting Monday October 17th and ending October 23rd. WE LOVE OUR SARAH!

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26th) there was a special on the Today Show and the Meso Foundation received a lot of press and were able to raise over $65,000 for Mesothelioma Research. Here are Sarah and Shaun at a fundraising banquet with a member of the Board of Directors of Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

Also - here is a really cool post that my brother's family did on that day.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Last week I went to New York to visit Serber and I am so, so, so glad I did. I loved being with her. As hard as it was to see her so sick, it's Sarah. The same vibrant, compassionate, funny Sarah who I love so dearly. It meant so much for me to just be with her. It's been hard being far away and it was healing for me to be able to look in her eyes, to give her hugs, to laugh and cry with her.

Here she is with her amazing oncologist, Dr. Taub. He is the perfect doctor for her. Not only does he specialize in Mesothelioma, but he has a great bedside manner. I watch her light up when he comes in the room and he does a good job joking with her and I can tell he truly cares about her. I met people from all over the world who came to New York just to have this doctor.

Our awesome self-portrait. I think we are trying to be our old "o-po-so" selves. A weird chant we made up when we were little. So, Sarah was in the hospital for the first 3 days I was there. She had been there for 3 weeks already and hated it (to put it mildly). It was psychologically really hard to be there and she was determined to get out. Her abdomen is distended because of all the tumors and problems they are causing with her internal organs. She hasn't eaten a single bite of food now for a month (just doing iv nutrients). She has been in so much pain. But it was great to see her get a little better each day I went back to see her.

This is the day that Dr. Taub told her she was going home!!! (well, her home away from home. She is staying at a place called the Hope Lodge - which is such a great place. It's for cancer patients and their care givers to stay for free while they are being treated. Fran Drescher is a cancer survivor and visited there on Friday. Sarah signed up to meet with her - fun huh?)

Going home finally! / home

Let me just tell you how awesome this guy is. Here he is (appears to be flashing us some gang signs) after a long day of running from pharmacy to pharmacy, meeting with 20 some odd doctors, nurses and social workers, filling out paper work, making phone calls and just being his normal loving-husband self. He also had to be trained by the nurses on how to do a lot of the home care she will be needing. He is so amazing and I can't even begin to express - on behalf of everyone who loves Sarah - how much we appreciate him taking such good care of her. He's a really, really incredible person. I don't know many people with the emotional stamina and strength he has. It was so great to see what a cute and in-love couple they are through this hard time. (sorry for the picture, i couldn't get my camera to work and made him do this 3 times, so he was just laughing at me)

My sister. Oh, I wish I could express how full my heart is with love for her. It's like no matter what is going on in our lives, we can always just stop it all for a minute and return to our childhood bond and pretend that nothing really matters but silliness and each other. I got to just hang out for days with no children, none of my everyday responsibilities and just enjoy my dear sister. We went on walks around the hospital, I washed her hair, did a facial, some foot rubs, we watched funny movies and clips, did deep relaxation exercises and meditations, and talked. That was my favorite. I loved talking and feeling connected and loved. It was so important. So priceless.

Here are some pictures of us as kids...

check out the jellies. this one is a talent show we have on video. It's me singing zip-a-dee-do-da dancing around Sarah as I adjust her by pushing in her tummy - the whole time upstaging her and not letting her do much of anything. She is a sweet little girl and graciously put up with her bossy stage-hog sister.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hi! My name is Hollie.

Hi! My name is Hollie. Shaun and I went to graduate school together and subsequently became great friends. Shaun is one of those people in my life that I never want mad at me because he has far too much dirt on me! I am only kidding, of course! I met Sarah while she and Shaun were dating. I knew immediately that she was "right" for Shaun. They both glow when they are together. I am sure all of you can attest to this fact as well.

Okay, so you're probably wondering why you are hearing from me. Early in August the Cancer Wellness House held its annual event to raise funds to support their efforts. A morning at Snowbird, breakfast, fresh mountain air, and a tram ride was simply too much to resist. My husband, Dennis, and our 22 month old daughter Delanie took to the hills looking for some fun and adventure.

Like you, I have many family members and friends who are battling cancer, have battled cancer and won, and unfortunately those who fought valiantly against cancer and eventually lost the battle. Cancer is not something I would wish on an enemy, let alone a friend or family member. To this end, I attend and participate in events that either provide services for those battling cancer and their families, or fund research to find a cure for cancer.

I do not share this to brag and draw attention to myself. I share this information for a few reasons: I wanted Sarah and others to know that we were thinking of her and them, and we participated in this event for her and the others listed on our bib. Additionally, I know that sometimes I feel like I don't know what I can do to help my friends and family members with cancer. And, by participating in events such as Survivors at the Summit I get the sense that I am doing something...and every something matters.

So, this is me. Hollie. I love Shaun and Sarah like they are my family. I pray for them daily and think about them multiple times daily.

As a friend of mine who recently passed away from cancer would say, "To the fight!"

And we're all in your corner, Sarah!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

in the hospital

On Wednesday at about 4:00 Sarah went to the hospital to get checked cause she was in so much pain and couldn't keep anything down. Turns out she has a blocked colon. She was admitted to the hospital where they inserted a tube from her stomach up through her esophagus and out her nose. It is to relieve the pressure in her stomach. Her stomach right now is the size of a football and her colon is as hard as a rock. She is in so much pain. Her friend Emily is there with her and of course Shaun doing all they can but she is in poor spirits. They might have to do surgery if they can't solve this problem in other ways. She and Shaun really, really don't want her to have to go through surgery. So pray that it will be resolved without surgery. As far as I know she is still in hospital but I'm not sure what is going on. She was in the middle of her 2nd round of chemo and was supposed to have the 2nd part of it yesterday - but I'm thinking they probably are just focusing on this problem right now. I hate to think of my little sister in so much pain and this on top of everything else she is dealing with. Just thought I'd let everyone know so you can send her some cheer if you want. Oh, her address in New York is:

132 West 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
(this isn't the hospital - it's the Hope Lodge where she is staying so it's good even after she gets released from the hospital)

Thank you all!!

PS - Hurricane Irene is supposed to hit New York today or this evening. They have shut down all the subways and canceled flights out of all 3 airports but Sarah and Shaun feel like they are in a pretty good place for a disaster - a place with food and medical supplies. So, hopefully they will be ok.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1st day of chemo

This was our first week of real treatment and boy has it been intense. First, there was much anxiety surrounding Sarah's belly due to the fact that she had been presenting with so many symptoms last week the doctors were very concerned thinking about the possibility of a surgery. However, after several scans and some blood work we were excited to learn that all was a go for chemotherapy as long as Sarah didn't go and get herself with child.
Whenever I think of the disease, "Sarcomatoid Peratineal Mesothelioma," in my mind I see it as a nasty, "Cancer with an Attitude" full of fight and whenever it gets pushed, it pushes right back. This is why the chemotherapy approach is so sensitive. The most empowering thing for a patient to do with this disease is to get into a medical trial. That way, the "disease with an attitude," doesn't know what's hitting it and if it tries to react, we can hit it with a proven medication. So, that is what we are doing. We started Tuesday and we are going to punch this cancer in the face! This week, we will also be getting a port. Cancer can cause long term failure of the veins primarily at point of insertion. That is what makes a port the safest approach, a port is a small devise that is inserted just below the skin in the chest which connects to a catheter, which connects to a vein. This allows easy, hook-up without placing the veins at as much risk. It seems as if with the schedule in place, the port inserted and a good exercise, diet plan from our meetings in Pittsburgh we feel in a very good place to beat this bad-boy down.

So today I got my very first dose of chemotherapy. I was really nervous. Shaun had to leave before I woke up to go and get our friend Holly and help her take the Subway to the hospital (she's only 17, visiting from Pittsburgh). I woke up to Cindy Lauper's True Colors and immediately started to cry. It was a chaotic and exhausting day. We ended up waiting at the hospital for 5 hours before I actually got seen by my doctor. I was a stressed-out wreck by the time we finally met with Dr. Taub and Alethia (his PA). They did a great job of calming me down and explained how I'd likely react to the different medications. They told me that there hasn't been much growth since the last CT scan, which was great to hear. The actual chemotherapy session was pretty anticlimactic.. It was super short. Holly read to me while Shaun went to drop off my new prescriptions. The nurse given me the medication sympathized with me over my very long tedious wait Then it was just over. We were walking out before Shaun even came back to join us. I started to get pretty nauseated on the way back to the subway. I thought I was going to be okay, but just when we were all the way down to the very bottom level, it hit me. There was really nowhere to go, so I ended up puking onto the tracks under a stagnant train. It was pretty embarrassing, but I immediately felt better and have felt okay ever since. I am just so relieved to have already started my treatment. Last night I was practicing my kickboxing moves so I could get all geared up to fight my very unwelcome cancer invasion.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New York

Sarah is on her way to New York to start chemotherapy at Columbia Medical Center. The doctor treating her there specializes in Mesothelioma and Sarcoma and really knows how to treat this rare cancer. Her cancer has gotten worse and they will be doing systemic chemo for a few months and then move to peritoneal chemo until she is to the point that she can have a debulking surgery done. We are scared for her but know that she is super tough and can fight this. Please pray for her. She will really need help during this hard time.

Also, I am starting another fundraiser - so if you didn't get a chance to donate or if you want to donate again - please do. I will try to get her address soon so you can send her well wishes in New York.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We reached our goal!!! (again!)

Well, it's a few hours until June 1st (the date we had as our goal end date) and we just got a donation that put us at our goal! It's been so amazing to see these donations come in. I want to share the note from the last donor.
Please give Sarah my best wishes for a complete recovery. Sarah was so good and helpful to my daughter Colleen while at Island View. Colleen also sends her thoughts and prayers. Colleen graduated high school last year and is now volunteering full time for a year at Catholic Charities in Baltimore and begins college this fall. She could not have turned her life around without Sarah's care and help. We are pulling for Sarah. She is a kind, giving and special person with a true gift in helping young people. Thank you Sarah for all you have done for your family and please let us know if we can do anything to help you.
I love my sister! And thank you all for your love and help!

Monday, May 23, 2011

I just got off the phone with Sarah. Today she met with a Sarcoma Specialist at the Huntsman Clinic. Since her diagnosis was GIST from McKay Dee and Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma from the Mayo Clinic - The Huntsman Clinic would like to do some of their own testing. Dr. Gouw is certain that she does have a Sarcoma cancer but thinks there may be a possibility it could be Sarcoma Synovial. This cancer travels through the whole body and so she would have to do Chemo and lose her hair. But this is a little less rare than the Mesothelioma so they would know better how to treat it. I guess the Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma only has 25 documented cases since 1950 so the treatments for that are considered a little experimental. They are going to test her for a specific gene and if she has it - the diagnosis will be the Synovial cancer. They are also going to do a PET scan at the end of this week that will detect areas of increased metabolic activity (cancerous tissue is very metabolically active) to see if the cancer has spread elsewhere. Then, she'll get all the test results and meet with Dr. Gouw again to go over her options (around the 2nd week of June).

She sends her gratitude to everyone. She's feeling very loved and taken care of. A special thanks to my brother-in-law Dr. Pulsipher who helped get the ball rolling at the Huntsman Clinic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Yesterday Sarah met with her oncologist and she does indeed have Abdominal Mesothelioma. It's such a rare cancer that the doctor she met with has never treated it before. He is going to refer her to a more specialized oncologist. He's checking with the Huntsman Clinic in Salt Lake but also said she might have to go out of state to be treated. So, it's kind of annoying that she had an appointment just to tell her she will need to see someone else. We are just waiting now to hear back.

We reached our goal!!!

Can you believe it!! We reached our goal of $3,000!! There are still people who want to donate - so I've upped the goal to $4,000. We are feeling very grateful and I know Sarah wishes she could thank each of you in person and give you all a hug . She cries every time I tell her about another donation and the wonderful person who gave it. I can't even begin to express our family's gratitude for helping our sweet sister/daughter. Thank you all so much.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sarah's update

This is a text from Sarah last night:

Okay, so I know it's late, but I'd like to update you all on what's been going on with me. I got my staples out today and it looks pretty good. At the doctor I weight 156 which is only 16 lbs over my presurgery weight. I finally feel like I'm on the mend. This is the first day I haven't cried since I came home from the hospital (poor Shaun). We saw a PA who started all this and there are definitely more than one diagnosis being thrown around. My appt with the oncologist is on the 9th. We may or may not have a diagnosis after that. But the good news is I'm feeling good! My goal is to start walking 3 times a day for 20 min. Anyone who wants to stop by for a walk is more than welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Isn't she the best?

This is day 7 of being in the hospital for dear Serber. And it's actually the only picture I have from my whole visit to Utah. We decided she needed a good hair wash and facial - so that's a green mask mind you. But not much different from her actual skin color though. She's had multiple blood transfusions and is still pretty pale. She is actually home now!! She was discharged from the hospital on Sunday April 24th after being in the hospital for 10 days. She is still in a lot of pain but is able to walk without a walker and doesn't need an oxygen tank anymore. She is taking Percocet for the pain. It doesn't seem to be managing it as well as she would like.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sarah had her surgery on Friday April 15th. It was a five-hour ordeal. The surgeon removed a fist-sized tumor along with four nodules. He also had to take a portion of her small intestine and a portion of her upper colon. The tumor is a rare form of cancer called GIST - gastrointestinal stromal tumor. It is a slow-growing cancer, so the doctor said Sarah has probably had it for years. He explained to us that it is treatable with a mild chemo.

It became a much more extensive surgery than they had anticipated, so the anesthesiologist has spent the last few days just trying to help Sarah stay on top of the pain. She will be in the McKay Dee Hospital for about a week. Sarah changed jobs a few months ago, so Shaun is trying to sort out what the insurance will cover.