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…The Road Less Traveled by Natalie Unga continued

October 19, 2009   

Freedom to Travel

I finished my last session of chemotherapy at the end of May and on June 4th I was on an airplane to New York. It was as if the doctor said, “No more chemo,” and I said,”Then I am out of here.” I had felt so confined for so long that the freedom of being able to travel was exhilarating. My incredible boyfriend decided I needed a pick me up from the last five months and so we planned a trip to New York and Georgia. These two states were significant because I served a mission for my church in New York and he served his mission in Georgia. The trip was one of extreme emotion and a lot of traveling.

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We spent the first day in New York City and my favorite part was a ferry over to the Statue of Liberty. After one day there, we flew to upstate New York where we visited many historical sites. I had been a missionary in these places and was given the honor of taking tours through the sites. To be back in those places where I could feel a strong peace and spirit, was a soothing treatment for me.

We went to Fairport, Newark, Palmyra, Fayette, Niagara Falls, and Buffalo. We then flew back to New York City where our flight took us to Georgia. From Atlanta we drove to Augusta, then on to Statesboro, Savannah, Alma, Cordele, Columbus, Warner Robbins and back to the airport.

The scenery was beautiful. We experienced good southern hospitality and no one even knew I was wearing a wig! With all that traveling, you would think that I was traveled out. But the very day I landed from my trip, I was back on a plane, this time to Hawaii.

This trip was not a vacation; this trip was my Graduation. We arrived in Hawaii and I got chills as I felt the warm sun and could smell the sweet scent of the island. Memories began to flood my mind of so many precious moments I had spent here. I had not see my friends, professors or even old roommates that I never had a chance to say goodbye. This trip would bring the closure I needed to move forward.

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The reunions were endless and everyone was so surprised to see me. I cried a lot and hugged and kissed a lot. I realized how many friends I truly had within Brigham Young University Hawaii. I tried to catch up on the details of the last six months and yet so much had happened it seemed impossible. I gave continuous thanks for the support and love I had been given.

June 19, 2004, the day of graduation, was such a memorable day for me. I was emotional from the beginning. The moment I stepped up on the stage and my name was called over the microphone, I knew I had taken a huge leap to get here.

President Shumway handed me my diploma and tears streamed down my face. The choir sang, “You Raise Me Up,” by Josh Groban, and I really cried then as I thought of all the people who had raised me up to help me get to graduation. The traditions of Hawaii make graduation a celebration of love.

After the ceremony we stepped outside and were showered with leis from all of our friends and loved ones. I could now say goodbye to Hawaii and leave feeling complete.


To be continued…

Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

Celebrate National Boss Day

October 16, 2009   

Today, celebrate National Boss day by taking the time to celebrate your business, your success, and, of course, you—the boss.

Take a look at this card–from Heritage Makers to you.

…The Road Less Traveled by Natalie Unga continued.

October 16, 2009   

A Time Never to be Forgotten: Chemotherapy

If I had three words to describe chemotherapy, they would be: Sick, Sick, Sick. You feel sick while you sit in a chair for three and a half hours and taste the medicine that is dripping from the bags into the veins. You feel sick as you get home, throw up and then crash—simply sleeping the days away. You feel sicker knowing that in three weeks, as soon as you begin to feel better, you get to do it all over again. Yet, it was through this sickness that I began to see miracles happen. It was at this time I began to see life in a different light.

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One of my favorite things about Chemotherapy was spending time with my mom and the women there. Mom would always go on a treat run for me. I would eat candy to displace the taste of medicine in my mouth. We would laugh and talk and it wasn’t all bad.

I often had visitors come with me. One special visitor came to almost every one of my appointments. She is definitely one of God’s angels that came to help me smile, make me feel good and show she cared. I don’t think she will ever know how truly grateful I am for the time she spent with me.

I had a great job while going through treatments where I was able to just sit. And some days that was all I could do. I had professors who allowed me to work on my last few classes long distance so that I could graduate in June. I ordered books and read and wrote papers. Oh, I forgot to tell you that chemotherapy makes it impossible to concentrate and remember what you read. As I look back on what I accomplished during that time of chemotherapy, I know it was because of the many prayers, fasts and simple pleas to my Father in Heaven. God answers prayers.

Race for the Cure

A very special time of year is Mother’s Day. It was this weekend in 2004 that I had an incredible experience at Race for the Cure. I had just received chemo the day before so I was heavily drugged with chemo and anti-nausea medicine.

I don’t remember much about this day, but I do remember the support and love I received. My mom, Hillary, Stephanie, Andrea, Aunt Holly, Melissa, and Mandy all put their white shirts on and then they wrote on a sheet of paper: “In Celebration of Natalie Overson.” I tear up simply thinking about those signs on their shirts.

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We walked the mile race and laughed, but didn’t go very fast, because I was slow moving. We hit the finish line and cheered.

After the race, all the survivors met at the tent for the survivor’s parade. I walked with a rose in my hand with hundreds of women surrounding me. We followed a bag-pipe band to a set of steps.

While I was standing there, it was as if time had stopped just briefly and everything was moving slow. I was all alone in a crowd and I felt misplaced until I scanned the faces of the women standing by my side. I did not know any of them, yet I was part of them and they were part of me. The reality that I had breast cancer was clearer than it had ever been. I knew that I would wear pink shirts and race for the cure until the end of my life.


To be continued…

Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

Let the Fight Begin

October 15, 2009   

…The Road Less Traveled by Natalie Unga continued.

I had surgery and the tumor and one lymph node were removed. Then I had surgery again and breast tissue and 13 more lymph nodes were removed because that one lymph node had traces of cancer. My cancer had begun to spread throughout my body and it was time to start the chemotherapy.

It was at this point of time that my large support group was formed. Lori Kinghorn and her mother and sisters wanted to do something to support me. So they threw me a chemotherapy shower. The invitation asked everyone to bring something for my “hair raising experience.” I received a small note from everyone who came to wish me well on my journey. I received enough money to buy a very nice wig and enough hats to never go without. The love I felt that night was so intense.

Flowers were sent to my home. The women in Hawaii made an aloha blanket and sent it with lots of love. Chris gave me a blanket with the quote: “Friends are like Angels. You don’t have to see them to know they are there.” A journal was passed around the school and all of my classmates signed it with words of encouragement. The women where I lived wore pink ribbons to church. On Easter Sunday the same women wore hats to show their support for me. My family rallied around me to help me laugh and help me cry.

When I was wheeled into the operating room in January, I looked straight at my mom and said, “Let the fight begin!” How would I lose? I was given wings from all of these angels in my life.

I did not cry until I knew without a doubt I would lose my hair. I remember before I started chemo, I cut off about six inches so that the shock would not be so great. I was in denial that I would really lose my hair. Little did I know that losing my hair would be the best part of my cancer journey.

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I learned why we feel the hair on our heads is a defining feature to who we are. Even though I no longer had my hair I was the same person inside. I talked, laughed and even thought the same. (Imagine that.) I gained a confidence in myself because I recognized “Natalie” had so much more to her than her long curly hair. I was also told many times that I had a perfectly shaped head. Just think what I would have never known if I didn’t have this experience.

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The process of actually losing my hair was a scary one. Two weeks after my first treatment, my head began to hurt. The next couple days I woke up with hair matted to my pillow. I wore a hat to work and didn’t dare wash it.

Finally, one night, all the girls were at my sister’s house an they began to tease me about my awful comb over. I had lost all the hair right on top of my head. We laughed and laughed as we played with my hair. I finally let friends [take care of it]. Stephanie cut it and Hillary finished it off with the clippers. I had made the choice to let it go and in the end it was a choice that made a difference.

To be continued…

Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

The Truth be Told; The Rest of My Life

October 12, 2009   

…The Road Less Traveled by Natalie Unga continued.

Coming to terms with the outcome was a difficult challenge, but I felt fairly confident that I would be okay. I called my professors, leaders and friends in Hawaii to explain my situation; they were extremely shocked but more importantly supportive. I called my boyfriend and he immediately came to Utah.

The doctor visits began and the surgery was scheduled. It was not until I met with my oncologist Dr. Wendy Breyer that I realized the extreme consequences of a one centimeter tumor that is rapidly dividing in my body. It was Christmas Eve and I had planned an exciting and cultured day for my boyfriend and me. We went to Dr. Breyer’s office completely unprepared for the news she would share. My mom and I sat in her office while my boyfriend sat in the waiting room. She was firm and direct and basically told me because of my age I would have strong chemotherapy and I would do all the treatments possible. I felt okay about that, until she handed me the Kleenex box and explained that I would lose my long flowing hair and I may never be able to have children. I cried hard for some time. I gathered myself and we walked out to the car.

On our way home, my boyfriend asked me what she had said. I couldn’t get a word out the tears began flowing down my cheeks. I then recounted what she had said. I was crying so hard I was shaking I turned to see his response and I saw the tears swelling in this eyes I became very scared. Scared of losing him, scared f death and scared of change.

That night we went to see the Nutcracker. What a nightmare! We sat in silence watching these people dance around on a stage and all we could hear in our heads was CANCER! Celebrating was the last thing we felt like doing that night.

I told him that I had no expectation of him, that he could walk away at any time and I would understand. He said nothing, but that night he left me a note in my room. It said that he knew that everything was going to be okay and that we would both fight through this trial the Lord had given us.

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He became the rock I relied on and the strength that I needed to face my fears. I know that whatever may come our way we will be able to weather the storms. It is clear that the Lord sends people into our lives to guide us down the paths we must travel. I was never alone.

To be continued…

Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

 Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

 

The Road Less Traveled by Natalie Unga

October 9, 2009   

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What is Breast Cancer?

I sat and relaxed on the warm Hukilau beach thinking of home and how great it will be to take a break and see my family for Christmas. Little did I know that this trip home would be nothing short of a break. My life that I had created in Hawaii would soon be stripped out of my hands. This life consisted of one semester left in school, a position as the Vice President of Clubs and Organizations and believe it or not a respective prospect for marriage. I was ready to graduate and find my place in this world. I should have known that things were just too good.

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In Hawaii on December 8, 2003, the day of my 25th birthday, I found a round lump in my breast and became somewhat alarmed of my discovery. I called my doctor and he scheduled my appointment. The day after I arrived home I found myself in the hospital waiting room. The events that unfolded that morning in the hospital are forever etched in my memory. The surgeon told me he was a little alarmed by that he was 98% sure it was a fibro-adenoma. Yet it is what he said next that I will never forget. He said, “But if you were my daughter I would want to be 100% sure.” I had not had a mammogram or any other tests, but one hour later I had a needle point biopsy; a test that cannot lie.

The next few days to follow seemed to be slow, and my mind did wonder as I pondered the possibilities. Yet I had found comfort from the 98% surety I had received at the hospital and also later that day from my own doctor who checked it for me.  I was obviously the least of candidates for breast cancer since I was 25 years old and there was not family history on either side of my family. I also led a very healthy life style which furthered my chances of this tumor being nothing more than fibrous tissue.

On December 26, 2003, my family gathered at our house and we were all sharing in the fun of the holidays. I nervously picked up the phone and walked upstairs to a quiet place. The doctor who picked up the line sounded somewhat subdued and this is when my stomach tied up in knots. I wasked for the outcome and apologetically, he said, “I am so sorry your tumor is malignant. You have breast cancer.” I choked up, walked down the staires and with tears streaming down my face announced to my family, “I have breast cancer; I have breast cancer. WHAT IS BREAST CANCER?” It was that moment that started my journey. One moment and one phone call changed my plans and changed my life. But it didn’t change who I was.

To be continued…


Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

 Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada

October 9, 2009   

Here’s a special card to all our Canadian friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

To: You

From: HM

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Celebrate the traditions of your holiday in a Thanksgiving template.

A Butler Thanksgiving – 12×12 Storybook

Thanksgiving – 12×12 Scrap Page

10 Things I am Thankful For – 8.5×11 Scrap Page

 

New Art Collections

October 8, 2009   

Check out the beautiful new art! We’ve released 18 new collections today! All of the art found in the catalog can now be found in your Studio.
The art is now alphabetized, so search for these collections to see what’s there.

 

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Worth a Thousand Words by Cathryn Williams

October 8, 2009   

This a brain tumor survival story about my son who is now a healthy, crazy 2 1/2 year old boy.

October marks the 1 year anniversary from when we learned that his seizures were due to a brain tumor just above his left ear; he was then 19 months old.

After many grueling tests, he underwent neurosurgery in December of 2008.  He came out of the 5 hour surgery paralyzed on his right side.  We came home from the hospital a few days later and began daily PT and OT sessions.  Then he developed meningitis through the incision site, and had to undergo a second neurosurgery on Christmas Eve to fix a popped suture around his brain and to cleanse the wound.

He was in the hospital for a week, confined to bed with a drain coming out of his back, to keep the pressure on the internal sutures down.  It was so hard to keep him flat on his back. By then he was 21 months old and who can keep a 21 month old still?

He was discharged home with heavy antibiotics that were administered around the clock.  We continued the PT/OT, and as the swelling in his brain subsided, the function on his right side slowly returned.  Within 8 weeks of his second surgery, he was back to his normal self, wandering around the house, laughing and playing with his older brother, and no one could tell he had undergone such a difficult winter.

We learned that the tumor was benign, and now my sweet boy has a clean bill of health, with a bright future ahead of him. To God be the Glory!

We celebrated his success in September 2009 at the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children’s annual 5K walk, and raised $1500 in support, which was way beyond what I imagined we could raise.

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We also learned that the pediatric neurosurgeon, who we had not seen for many months, was moving to another state. I made him a thank you card through Heritage Makers because I wanted him to see, with recent pictures of our son, what his skill and care as a surgeon meant to us. A picture is worth 1000 words, and there is no way a traditional card could have conveyed our gratitude for the surgeon’s fine work.

Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.

 

Celebrate Life—Share Your Cancer Survival Story

October 7, 2009   

Every story and every experience need to be heard.

This month Heritage Makers is supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month by encouraging you to write your own cancer survival story. Help raise the awareness of cancer (of any kind). Help the world know what it means to survive.

Doug Cloward, President of Heritage Makers was diagnosed with lymphoma leukemia in 2008. A year ago he learned of his remission. Upon announcing his remission, he said, “So, where from here? Day-by-day, week-by-week I will strive to recognize the real priorities. Repent and change when errors are called to my attention, and pursue with all my vigor and resources the eternal happiness of my family and the success of our business and business associates. It is all a great and grand adventure, and I love it all—every bit of it.”

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Storybooking is a celebration of life. Celebrate yours today.

Need help getting started? Choose a cancer awareness template: Cancer Survival Story (feminine) or Cancer Survival Story (masculine). Or pick from our wide selection in the Template Gallery.