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  1. BergerKing's Avatar

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    Default The Big C: Survival, Milestones, Memories, and Memorials.

    To the readers of this thread, I welcome you to my first major post within the CrackBerry forums, and thank you for any comments in advance.
    *****
    Cancer is a difficult subject for many to face. I have shared my story with many, and knowledge can save lives. Fear is normal, but it can be overcome. This is my story....


    This past week marked an important milestone in my life, one that some thought I would never see.

    Just over 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with a lovely little friend named Burkitt's, a very rare form of lymphoma. I was told that at the time, there were maybe 100 cases in any given year that are discovered.

    I was 4 months past 33, locked in a bitter struggle with my soon to be ex, fighting to get my daughter from her grasp before she could inflict permanent damage, and now, fighting to stay alive.

    Six weeks before, I was in perfect health, and now the doc wakes me, and I ask him what the verdict is. Cancer. I laughed, shocking him. My new friend was, at this point, little more than a golfball sized mass, comfortably growing itself in my large intestine.

    So they packed me up, and I called for help, someone to drive my new truck home, with me in the sleeper. It took several days getting back to Missouri. It was a. miserable 3 days.

    Seven days after initial diagnoses, my friends were preparing to take me to the hospital the following morning. But I collapsed, and had it not been for a passing survey taker, I might not have made it.

    My friends came home and rushed me to the hospital. Some rapid tests were taken, and several medical types surrounded me in short order, hooking me up to everything under the sun. They didn't know how I was still alive, I'd lost so much blood.

    After a CAT scan, they told me I was going in for surgery in the morning. Meanwhile, tHey pumped me full of whole blood and prepped me for the morning to come, and it was a long night.

    After surgery, they informed me that they'd removed a softball-sized tumor, and they had it in lab for analysis. So far
    I was lucky, because it had not spread from the intestine.

    Two days later, the bad news. I was being shipped to St. Louis so that they could figure out what to do with me. I was a case study for a number of oncologists, and they worked up a plan for my upcoming course of treatment.

    I was now facing at least 4 months in the hospital, and 4 rounds of chemo. I started this near the end of January, and I was looking at June before I would be finished.

    WhiLe I was in St. Louis, my mother, Grandma, and Aunt came up to visit. They remarked that I'd already dropped so much weight, and asked how I was faring. At this point, it wasn't too bad.

    Later, as events unfolded, I realized that this was the last time I saw my grandmother before the Alzheimer's disease had become apparent, when she still had her faculties. I was glad for this time, as reflection warrants.


    **********

    Part 2

    My friends came up on their anniversary, Feb. 14, to take me back down to my hospital in Joplin to start the second round of chemo. it was a miserable ride, as I couldn't get comfortable, and I-44 was a rough road . We didn't get home until very late, and no one was interested in dealing with the hospital that night.

    The following day, my Doc started chewing my backside for not coming in the previous night, and I forcefully, yet politely told him to back off. He pumped me up with more blood, and the real torture began

    They brought in this plastic bag full of methotrexate. iIt looked to contain about 3 gallons of liquid, and they hooked it into my infusaport, a device planted under the skin of my left chest. it would take 24 hours to pump this into my body. And I can emphatically tell you, this was far from the worst part of it!

    Now, the waiting game began. Seconds became minutes, minutes hours, and then days. I watched the seasons slowly begin to change outside, and being an outdoor person, it was hard to watch. Sleep was a welcome diversion, but the body doesn't want to do it all day. Fortunately, they had a pretty good cable selection on the tube, so I did OK with the Discovery Channel and syndicated shows. The thing that really confounded my nurses and docs was that I watched a lot of the medical shows, like ER.

    I lost my hair, every one! Eyebrows, eye lashes, body hair. I would trip my friends out by reaching up and pulling a handful out, and going, Whee! And dropping it on the floor. I began the painful part, the methotrexate caused the inside of my mouth to break down, and I could no longer eat. I have an extraordinary pain tolerance, but this was ridiculous. It was mind-numbing and all-encompassing.

    I could not go out of the room unless I wore a mask, and the constant misery of my mouth was so bad, I pretty much just stayed in my room.

    My immune system was zeroed out. And I got a cold that almost killed me. 105 is where I spiked, and eventually, the fever went down with treatment, but it was a near thing. 37 days of this, and they told me I would get a break near the end of March, prior to starting my next rounds. And, as fate would have it, just prior to my first divorce hearing.

    I had to learn to give myself injections of neupogen, to help get my immune system back up to speed. When I got out for my break, I was as weak as a newborn kitten. I was staying with my friends, for now, the State was giving me a monthly income of $80. I had no place of my own to stay, and no family nearby.

    I went to my 1st hearing on April the first, cue irony, someone. My soon to be ex was there, but she left my daughter hidden. See, her first reaction was to call Social Security and my Insurance company to find out how much money she was gonna get when I kicked the bucket. She had little idea what I was engineering, and I was working to make sure she could never pull off another stunt like she had, ever again.

    I walked in, bald and haggard looking. She got this disgusted look on her face, and went back to powwow with her latest fling. And it ended up that nothing got done that day, a case had overrun, and a postponement came down. This worked out for me, as I really didn't want to go before the judge in that condition.

    I am normally a fairly pleasant man, and so it was hard to deal with the fact that I wasn't as nice as usual with the combinations of things I was dealing with, especially the side effects of some of the meds. My temper surfaced more easily, and I was a quite snappy with folks, but, thankfully, they accepted my apologies when I found out what caused this.

    I went back in on April 6th, and I wouldn't be out again until June.

    ********
    Part 3
    As I entered the hospital to begin round three, one of the associate oncologists scared the living crap outa me. He came in and told me that they were gonna have to do some more tests, that some abnormalities were found, and not to jump the gun, but prepare for the worst.

    But my worries were tempered later when my Doc came in and told me his younger partner had jumped the gun, had misunderstood what he was seeing, and that any concerns were honestly minuscule.

    Suddenly, I could breathe again.

    The third round went quickly. By now, I was totally hairless. My nights were nearly dreamless, if I could get to sleep at all. The clock on the wall marking off minutes that would fall behind a crippled snail. The 2 to 4 a day blood draws, endless packs of blood and plasma. The last of the snows fell, and watching outside the trees were beginning to green up.

    Many times, I awoke swimming in pools of sweat, my sheets drenched, as the chemo worked and my body fought to recover. And let's not forget the wonderful joy of intrathecals.

    For those that have never heard of these, in those days, because of the nature of the central nervous system, intrathecals were used to inject chemo into the spinal region. A hefty needle would be inserted into the lumbar spinal region, and the would ease the chemo in, making it possible to treat the nervous system and brain.
    During one of these procedures, the attending physician missed, causing a reaction wherein I kicked a table completely across the room. The pain was brief, thankfully, but fiery hot.

    As April waned, my second round of methotrexate began. This time I made a plan with my Doc. I explained that my belief was that part of my extended recovery from the first round of metho was my constant battle to suppress pain. I asked for something to take my focus away from the pain.

    He agreed, prescribing Demoral, and we found out the first dosage only lasted me th first 90 minutes out of 6 hours. I told him on his next visit at the end of the day, and he doubled the dose,halved the dosing schedule, and now we were cooking with gas!

    For the first time in months I wasn't fighting the brutal agony of this experience. But the cost was the pain washing in every 2 and a half hours, until I could get a nurse to bring in the next shot, pushing the tide out for the next cycle.

    The best part was that they would use one of my infusaport lines, and the meds would dump right into my heart, which pushed through my system in seconds. I didn't so much as enjoy it for a rush, I rejoiced at not having my entire body ache like an infected tooth.

    Now the ravages of the chemo were apparent. I looked like I was 60. My arms and legs withered. I slept randomly, wandering in and out of the halls of my consciousness. Once again, I was unable to eat, so my IV was my source of nourishment. My mouth felt as if I'd run a disk sander through it a couple of times. I couldn't even sip a soda, they burned horribly.

    And then, ever so slowly, I began to climb out of that ghastly pit.

    As I began to return to the land of the living, I was told that my physical condition was pretty deteriorated(as if I couldn't figure THIS out), and I was looking at several months of physical therapy before I would be able to work again. Right.

    They began easing me off the pain meds. I told them it wasn't necessary anymore, anyway.

    I was determined to get out of their clutches as soon as possible.

    As my immune system began working again, I would stagger down the halls and take the elevators down to the gift shop, where I could pick up a couple of quarter boxes of candy. I fell a couple of times, and when staff would try and help me up, I'd growl at them to let me do it!!

    The 11th of June rolled around, and this would be my last day on the ward, 4 East. I was wheeled down to my friends' car. And triumphantly I eased myself out of that chair and into the world again.

    I'd been told it would be 6 to 9 months before I would be able work again. Not if I could help it!
    I also knew that my divorce and custody hearing would be coming up in September, so there was little time to waste.
    I started gutting it out through each day. Without transportation, I couldn't go to physical therapy, so it was all on me. I pushed til the sweat ran in rivers, sometimes until I had to be dragged or wheeled on a cart to bed. Some days I raged through fits of anger, raging at my body to do what I wanted.

    I took falls, but I'd crawl to something until I could drag myself up again, and just keep going.

    And then I experienced one of the most annoying sensations in my life. All of my hair started to grow back out.

    I couldn't sit still. The itching, oh, how it irritated, became a nuisance, driving me to total distraction! I itched every minute of they day for the next 2 weeks.

    And then I was back. Mid August sweltered in, and I went in for my latest checkup, and informed the Doc I was ready to go back to work. He ROLLED his eyes at me.

    He began the strength tests. I stood and he held out his arms for the
    push up test, I braced myself and lifted this 210lb man clear off of his feet and braced him against the wall. Different look in his eyes, now!

    He asked me how I'd done this without PT. I casually informed him that nobody puts limits on what I can do but me.

    At the end of the visit, he gave me clearance to return to work.
    ********

    Epilogue
    I walked into the Joplin courthouse with my daughter in September, my attorney and his assistant wheeling a file cabinet. Arriving at the anteroom, my estranged was shocked to see that I looked normal and healthy. I walked up to her and pointed to the file cabinet, and explained, icily, that she would agree to the terms I was asking for, including child support. As she started a retort, I informed her that if my attorney opened that file cabinet, she was looking at 5 to 10 years in substandard government housing. Her eyes got wide, for she knew what I knew about her illegal activities.

    1 hour later, I was a free man and my daughter was no longer endangered by her own mother. My ex had agreed to all my requirements enthusiastically, almost with glee.

    I'd spent a number of years playing poker with shipmate during overseas deployments, but never have the stakes been as high.

    And it was by far the most rewarding bluff I'd ever made. I had enough, though, that she would have had a really bad time.

    I moved forward, and these days, I can look at back at the wondrous turn of events from that point.

    I met a wonderful lady in Yahoo Personals. We blended our families, and have just 2 of our 6 kids still living at home. My oldest step daughter has given us 2 grandchildren, and taken on the raising of 3 step kids with her new husband. My daughter is a Certified Nursing Assistant, working in SW Missouri. Another step daughter works at the college she is attending, while the other is just learning the art of driving a car, living with her father, for now.
    The two youngest boys are being home schooled right now, and we're looking forward to the day they are out in the world. Time is so fleeting.

    I still drive, and recently logged the 2 million mile mark. My company informed me that I was named Driver of the Month for January, the second time for this honor in the last 2 years.

    And tonight, this story is done. I have shared a part of the Journey that has brought me here today. For those enduring a battle with the Big C, my heart goes out to you. Fight hard, fight well, and make a lasting impression on those around you.

    For the families, lend strength to your loved one, make sure they know they aren't alone.

    For everyone else, take in the joys of the day. Live and love well, make every day count, and take nothing for granted.

    Thank you for your time. I for one, am glad to be here. And a big thanks to everyone at Crackberry!

    Well, here we are 4 years later. 2.6 million miles and so much more as time has passed. Two daughters married, with a cluster of 7 grandkids, yes, some inherited, so far, with daughter #3 getting married in October and adding two more. One daughter is currently serving in Okinawa in the Air Force. The youngest of my biological children has turned 20, but still have two stepsons at home. One of them due to graduate this year. The nest is getting smaller.

    The hospital I was in has been torn down, a victim of the Joplin EF5 tornado. A replacement is being built not too far away, and I was there just before the last tower from the old hospital came down. It was a strange experience, but the new one will be bigger and better.


    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
    Last edited by BergerKing; 01-10-2014 at 12:16 AM. Reason: update
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  2. -FeistyCJ-'s Avatar
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    I wanted to congratulate you on this wonderful milestone you have reached. I hope you continue to enjoy good health for many, many years to come.
    Thank you for sharing your story...it's nice to see happy endings.

    Sincerely,
    Carol
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    Im sure that something like that always weighs on your mind. My Mom is a 3 year breast cancer survivor.

    Positive thoughts bring positive results.



    claire
    Well behaved women rarely make history.
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    Default Im there...

    Im there...

    Almost two years ago, I went in for a colonoscopy. I had blood where it wasn't supposed to be and the doctors didn't seem too concerned. I went in for the test on Friday, went to sleep and woke up with the news of a 'growth' that seemed ruptured. They scheduled me for surgery on Monday, kept me in the hospital through the weekend where I watched a lot of movies and stayed on a liquid diet.

    The removed about a foot of my large intestine, and tested the 'growth.' They installed an ileostomy and later they told me that I had type 3 colon cancer. I spent the remainder of the year doing chemo and radiation therapy... and they reconnected my digestive system after I had recovered from the treatment.

    lcg...
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    The focus here should be on you, and the **** you have lived through. Just... amazing. IDK how -I- would take such a thing in myself, but my oldest son is a cancer survivor. Hepatoblastoma. They took most of his liver out when he was 18months.

    I never had to have the chemo... but I feel the after effects just the same.

    Wow...this year will mark 10 years for my son later this year.

    I just want to say:

    To those that have survived, and those who love one who has (or who didn't) ... you are MY heroes.
    It could be the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.
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    I am so glad you are here to talk about it. I know it was a rough ride but you beat it. Feels good, doesn't it? Did you get your kid?

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    I will be updating to finish my story soon. Been real busy all day. I am glad to see others posting now too, and thank you for the nice comments. TearBear, the answer is yes, I was able to get full custody.


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  8. BergerKing's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by lcg8080 View Post
    i'm there...

    Almost two years ago, I went in for a colonist. I had blood where it wasn't supposed to be and the doctors didn't seem too concerned. I went in for the test on Friday, went to sleep and woke up with the news of a 'growth' that seemed ruptured. They scheduled me for surgery on Monday, kept me in the hospital through the weekend where I watched a lot of movies and stayed on a liquid diet.

    The removed about a foot of my large intestine, and tested the 'growth.' They installed an electric and later they told me that I had type 3 colon cancer. I spent the remainder of the year doing chevy and radiation therapy... and they reconnected my digestive system after I had recovered from the treatment.

    lag...
    Yes, I understand this all too well. I was fortunate in that they were able to remove about 18" of my large I, although mine was at the other end.

    My worst part was I developed an internal infection in my 2nd week after surgery. We got to have a *lot* of fun with that, and it took forever to heal, complicated by the massive dose of methotrexate they gave me for round 2 of chemo.

    How are you doing these days?

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  9. BergerKing's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by clairegrrl View Post
    Im sure that something like that always weighs on your mind. My Mom is a 3 year breast cancer survivor.

    Positive thoughts bring positive results.



    claire
    Surprisingly enough, for me it isn't really a weight. It is a fact of life I have used as an example to others of how to conquer fear, and overcome obstacles.

    I extend congrats to your Mom, and my wishes that she maintains good spirits, and a love of life we have learned to appreciate anew.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carol64 View Post
    I wanted to congratulate you on this wonderful milestone you have reached. I hope you continue to enjoy good health for many, many years to come.
    Thank you for sharing your story...it's nice to see happy endings.

    Sincerely,
    Carol

    Thank you. I have been blessed with many experiences since this story began.

    The greatest gift has been a new appreciation for each day I have now.

    And now I can share with others what has been an enlightening twist in life. Again, thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jdoc77 View Post
    The focus here should be on you, and the **** you have lived through. Just... amazing. IDK how -I- would take such a thing in myself, but my oldest son is a cancer survivor. Hepatoblastoma. They took most of his liver out when he was 18months.

    I never had to have the chemo... but I feel the after effects just the same.

    Wow...this year will mark 10 years for my son later this year.

    I just want to say:

    To those that have survived, and those who love one who has (or who didn't) ... you are MY heroes.
    My experience is one thing, but few things are more gut-twisting than watching your child go through this kind of battle.

    I extend my best wishes for your son. To you, my personal philosophy and mantra; Improvise, Adapt,Overcome. You, I'm sure, found a well of courage you were unaware you have. Use it wisely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bergerking View Post
    Yes, I understand this all too well. I was fortunate in that they were able to remove about 18" of my large I, although mine was at the other end.

    My worst part was I developed an internal infection in my 2nd week after surgery. We got to have a *lot* of fun with that, and it took forever to heal, complicated by the massive dose of methotrexate they gave me for round 2 of chemo.

    How are you doing these days?

    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com

    My life feels kind of surreal after over a year of 'treatment.' I'm just trying to live each day with the cloud of my cancer returning. I try not to be obsessed with my cancer returning, but I have to think more about taking care of myself than I did before.

    And of course I think more about what's really important...

    For all the things cancer took from me, it taught quite a bit.

    lcg
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    Wow what an amazing story. Puts things in perspective real fast. Ill never biatch about anything again. Seriously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cereal killer View Post
    Wow what an amazing story. Puts things in perspective real fast. Ill never biatch about anything again. Seriously.

    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
    2nd that, you are a strong person. I am from St. Louis, were you at Barnes Hospital?
    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he did not exist...
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    Quote Originally Posted by SevereDeceit View Post
    2nd that, you are a strong person. I am from St. Louis, were you at Barnes Hospital?
    I'll be finishing the story here soon, so all of the ends are tied. Yes, I was @ Barnes. North Side with a limited view and a lousy TV. Longest and strangest 2 weeks of my life.

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    Icg8080

    Don't let it become an obsession. Turn into the person you always wanted to be. Do the things you want to do.

    Take care of and appreciate those around you. Too much navel gazing will make you miss the moments that are really important.

    I have been posting the thread mainly to share the story. When I went and 'walked the mile' I used it to inspire others.

    Set your worries free, live for each moment, and learn to love the things that will make your day.
    Let not your heart be troubled, a new dawn awaits....

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    Last edited by bergerking; 02-13-2009 at 11:35 PM.
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    Wow, I finally found this thread! I wondered where it was, and I love that I'm a good part of this story!

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    Inspiring story! My Aunt just entered her 5 year of recovery from Small Cell Lung Cancer, which they told us was 98% fatal. Guess she's gonna be in that 2% who survive it.
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    Excellent! Always glad to hear another victor's story. I'm glad that I am still around and making a difference to some folks.

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    awesome ending to a heart-wrenching story, berger. my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma about a year and a half ago.. his is non hodgkins, but still scary.. i hope the very best for you and your family
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    Quote Originally Posted by SofaKingKev View Post
    awesome ending to a heart-wrenching story, berger. my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma about a year and a half ago.. his is non hodgkins, but still scary.. i hope the very best for you and your family
    Thank you, Kev, and I extend my best wishes to him, your family, and you in this time of trial. I think one of the best things to hold these trials at bay is a combative attitude in body, and a lightness in spirit.

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    Last edited by BergerKing; 05-07-2009 at 02:21 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BergerKing View Post
    Thank you, Kev, and I extend my best wished to him, your family, and you in this time of trial. I think one of the best things to hold these trials at bay is a combative attitude in body, and a lightness in spirit.
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    thank you berger, and i couldnt have said it better myself! my dad has a famous sense of humor around here.. gets him into trouble sometimes. he learned it from me, or is it the other way around?
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    BK-i truly started to cry reading your story.....no bs. I am amazed at how triumphant you are-i think I wuldve crawld under a rock....CONGRATULATIONS on your success----you,sir, definately deserve a wonderful life that you now have!!!! Enjoy everything to your fullest!!!

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    Progeny inherit it from their progenitors, and create a blend all their own. My wife sometimes wonders how I keep an even keel through the tempests that toss us to and fro. Every day she learns a little more about a true survivor's mentality.

    I face Death every day. We play our hands, and some days the cards are great, others less so. I know that one day I'll be all-in, and stare at the Royal Flush topped by the Ace of Spades, but I'm gonna play every hand until that day.

    I put down the bag of **** I'd shouldered a long time ago. I have given forgiveness to those who have trespassed, where I could. My passions lie where I can best prepare my family and friends for an unknown future. I consider it a sacred charge, passed on to help through difficult times.

    I live and love with a passion. I make many laugh, and I do my best to will a legacy of the world, passed down and entrusted to me by my predecessors, to my family down the line.

    I found much inspiration in Tim mcGraw's song, Live Like You Were Dying, and I have found that some, including me, just don't really live until Death deals that last card onto the table.

    Place your bet...

    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
  25. BergerKing's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustShelli View Post
    BK-i truly started to cry reading your story.....no bs. I am amazed at how triumphant you are-i think I wuldve crawld under a rock....CONGRATULATIONS on your success----you,sir, definately deserve a wonderful life that you now have!!!! Enjoy everything to your fullest!!!

    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
    Thank you for your kind words, Shelli. Writing this thread was the first time I'd shared my story outside my circle of family and friends. My greatest hope was to give others the same; Hope.

    Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
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