In Her Own Words

Earlier today, the Bonnie J Addario Lung Cancer Foundation shared Emily’s journey with all of its local followers in the Bay Area.  Below is the letter that went out via email – Emily’s story, told in her own words.  Enjoy..

Three short months ago, I was leading a happy and healthy life as your average all-American girl.  I grew up in Northern Idaho before leaving my small town roots to attend college in Southern California.  My athletic abilities and competitive nature earned me a spot on the college volleyball team.  While in school, Miles Taylor, a player on the men’s basketball squad, caught my eye, and he’s been by my side ever since.

We married on the 4th of July, found jobs, rented an apartment, adopted a dog, hosted weekly game nights for friends, planned camping trips in the summer, and stayed healthy and active playing recreational volleyball (me), basketball (Miles), and co-ed softball (together).  From the beginning, Miles and I were in sync that we wanted a big family and soon began looking for our dream house for the future little ones.  In June of this year, we found the perfect place and prepared to make an offer.

That is when the all-American fairytale took an unexpected turn.  The very same week, I went to the doctor for a pain behind my shoulder blade and a persistent cough that I thought was the result of allergies.  I was diagnosed with asthma, and given an inhaler, but something in my gut told me to ask for a chest x-ray.  Four days later, after a CT scan and biopsy, I was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I was in shock – I am 28 years old, active, and have never smoked.

I jumped on treatment as quickly as possible, but my first concern was to preserve my fertility for the family Miles and I had been so eagerly awaiting.  I started fertility treatments immediately, and 10 days later we were lucky enough to freeze nine viable embryos for our future family.

Since my diagnosis, family, friends, colleagues, and teammates have rallied to blanket me and Miles in love and support.  They bring meals and water, wash our cars and bathe the dog, clean the apartment, and contribute to an engaging website, created by my friend and former teammate Annie Daun.  Miles and I are steadfast in our belief that we will someday have the family of our dreams, and that with your support, together we will all beat lung cancer, big time.

No one should have to go through lung cancer.  Not me, not Bonnie, not Jill or Gabby, not the countless other people who have been affected by this disease. But in my opinion, everyone who has been diagnosed should be so lucky to have the amazing resources available at BJALCF and Jill’s Legacy.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have their support, along with the care of my amazing doctors at City of Hope, UCSF, UC Davis, and Mt. Sinai.

Please join me for a 5K on September 16th in Golden Gate Park as I team up with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation to kick cancer.  CLICK HERE to join Team EmBen or make a donation to the cause

Thank you for supporting the cause and finding a CURE.

Much love.  Live in the moment.

Emily “EmBen” Taylor

Nonuplets!!!

Drum roll please…

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the nine (9!) newest members of the Bennett-Taylor family.   Please meet Gunner, Boomer, Truck, EJ (Emily Junior), MJ (Miles Junior), Superman-Batman, Michelley, Kevich, and Princess Consuela Banana Hammock!!  These nine little embryos are the product of the fertility treatments that Miles and Emily underwent prior to Emily starting chemotherapy.  Word cannot begin to express how excited we are to meet these little guys and gals down the road once Emily’s cancer has been kicked.  SO. FREAKING. EXCITED.

Aren’t the little embryos so cute just like their mother?! Note: You can only see 8 because MJ is a little camera shy

Gunner, Boomer, Truck, Michelley, and Kevich snuggled up for some quality time together before heading into the cryogenic freezer!

Tales from the MIL

Prior to Emily (EmBen) starting chemotherapy this week she underwent fertility treatments to preserve her and Miles’ dream of one day having a family.  Her mother-in-law (MIL) Michele was there for support every step of the way.  While Michele probably never imagined that she would be so intimately involved in the creation of her future grandbabies, the story is something that we can all laugh about.

What you will read below is not the script of a Saturday Night Live skit.  It’s the tale of Day 2 of EmBen’s fertility treatment told by Michele.

Miles mixes a mean hormone cocktail..

To set the scene, we need to go back to Day 1.  We are all in EmTay’s (sister-in-law) apartment, gathered to celebrate the news that the cancer is confined to the lung and has not spread to the brain and liver.  Music is playing, wine is flowing, steaks are being carved and the sun is visibly setting over the Pacific Ocean from the floor-to-ceiling balcony windows.  Then seven o’clock rolls around and Miles and EmBen retreat to the tiny bathroom determined to overcome their major needle phobias and inject EmBen with the fertility drug that will bring them the large family they always desired. No such luck.  They call for help; EmBen ends up keeled over in pain while Miles lays face down and lifeless on EmTay’s bed.

Realizing that we have another two weeks of this, we all gear up in our individual ways for Day 2.  To re-emphasize what we are dealing with here, my pathetic family melts at the mention or sight of a shot, syringe, vaccination, or needle.  They physically turn ghost white and disappear into the floor.  This includes Miles, Rich, EmTay, and to a lesser extent, EmBen.  Personally, I don’t get it; I could shoot up all day long.  However, I am determined to make this as comfortable as possible for my daughter-in-law, so I spend the day researching the art of follicle stimulating hormone injections.  I learn that this drug can be painful as it enters the body and so I watch hours of YouTube videos of women inserting needles into their “muffin tops” and take notes on tips for reducing the discomfort (all the while wondering how my life evolved into this in two short weeks).

But resigned to do anything for the woman who brings absolute joy to my son, I walk from my daughter to my son’s apartment the next night armed with insider tidbits for executing a less painful injection.  We position EmBen up against an array of pillows on her king-sized bed, her mother resting alongside her, holding her hand.  I have the needle positioned to insert when Miles decides it’s a Kodak moment and we all plant fake grins on our faces, mine the most bizarre as I am holding the needle Dr. Kevorkian style.

Michele, Emily, and Shelley preparing for hormone injections. Miles is passed out on the floor off camera.

Take 2, I tell EmBen I will be rotating the needle after insertion to disperse the medicine.  She tries to pay attention to what I am saying, but is distracted by the music emanating from the laptop computer that Miles is holding at the base of the bed.  The screen displays a slideshow of Anne Geddes baby photos, meant to comfort EmBen as she is shot up with hormones. The moment is brief, as Miles starts to pale, EmBen worries that their pricey laptop will come crashing to the ground, and she redirects him to Stage Left, into the bathroom, where he can lean against the sink and continue to safely play his baby video while keeping eye contact with her.  Did I mention he also has photos of morphed baby faces that he has created using software that combines both of their faces together?

Take 3:  I ask EmBen to grasp her abdominal muscles and apply pressure to the point of pain to supplant the pain of the injected fluid.  She grabs hold, her mother is steadfast at her side, I position the needle, and then out of nowhere, Miles starts singing, loudly: “Si-i-lent Night, Ho-ol-ly Night.”  We stop, look at him, his face in a grimace, eyes clenched shut in denial, unaware that he has interrupted the process, trying only to block out what is happening so as not to collapse into the shower stall.  EmBen screams, “Stop, wait!” (to prevent me from poking her) as she throws her head back in gut-wrenching laughter. EmBen’s Mom smiles good naturedly but had to be wondering if it is wise for her daughter to procreate with this weenie.  Personally, I’m impressed because I thought the only song Miles knew the lyrics to was “Happy Birthday.”

Crushing Chemo

Emily started chemotherapy on Monday.  After weeks of determining the type of cancer, treatment methods, etc., we were finally able to stop ‘practicing’ and actually ‘play the game.’  EmBen treated Monday like any other of her past game days, and by the time we got to the hospital, I think she was ready to take a few cracks on a volleyball net.  It may be hard to find someone that eager to receive chemotherapy treatments.

City of Hope once again provided excellent service.  We were given our own private room, where under heated blankets, EmBen was able to cozy up and watch a Romantic Comedy — all while being simultaneously injected with two different types of chemotherapy and one additional drug.  The three hours went by quickly and harmlessly.  Once again, EmBen’s vitality and optimism just illuminated the room.

After touching base with several oncologists and reading numerous websites, pamphlets, brochures, etc., Team EmBen was ready to fight chemotherapy side effects.  However, EmBen responded wonderfully to the anti-nausea medication; as of now, she has yet to have a spell of intense sickness.  Rather, she has been walking the dog regularly, eating often, sleeping soundly, and of course, enriching us with that beautiful smile and humor.  Just the other day, she looked at me and said, “How cool is this?  I am going to be a Cancer Survivor…and people are going to want to pay me for every mile I run!”

As always, EmBen continues to amaze me with her optimism and spirit.  In the last few days, my truck has broken down and will need to be replaced, our dog has gotten an infected tail and is required to wear a giant head cone, and all our cars in the garage were broken into and robbed.  Yet, EmBen just sees this as us saving our ‘Good Karma’ for the chemotherapy effectiveness.  Plus, as many of you can imagine, she is beyond ecstatic to see the demise of my Ford Ranger (which she has refused to ride in since 2010).

In other great news, we were notified late last week that our fertility treatment went without a hitch.  We have 9 embryos that are now frozen and ready to go as soon as we hear the beautiful words, “No Evidence of Disease.”  Given the amount of babies, I made another pitch for the names Gunner, Boomer, & Truck, but was shot down with the comment, “We have 9 babies, not dogs.”

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for all their generosity.  We have been overcome with emotion by all the support from family, friends, workmates, friends of friends, family friends, etc.  The gifts have been so personal and touching.  The cards keep providing daily motivation.  This past Sunday, more than thirty people came and supported EmBen at a nearby restaurant to kick of her start of chemotherapy.  That night before bed, she told me that she was on such a high and that now she had even more reason to fight.  I could visibly see her get stronger.

Thank you so much again for all the support.  Personally, I feel so indebted to all of you.  There is nothing I want more than to have my wife healthy…thank you all for getting us closer to that point.

-Miles

      

The Road to Recovery

Over the past week, EmBen has been taking daily estrogen shots.  Each night, she is injected with hormones.  Consequently, she has developed a little ‘baby bump’ and plenty of healthy eggs (which we see daily during an ultrasound).   A fertility doctor informed us that in another life Emily could be an egg donor…however, in this life, she will have to settle for being a donor to herself.  Tomorrow, she will undergo surgery to remove the eggs.  After a few days of intense nausea, Emily is excited to end her brief pregnancy and pass on that future responsibility to someone else.

This past week, we learned that Emily’s tumor does not possess the most commonly seen abnormalities in lung cancer.  Therefore, we will not be able to utilize targeted therapy for now.   Instead, we will be undergoing chemotherapy.   Emily’s first treatment will be next Monday.   For the administeration of the chemotherapy, we will be given a private room where Emily will sit in a Lazy Boy and be able to watch movies on a television, read an iPad, sleep, etc., while being injected with cancer killing chemo.

Emily is as strong as ever.  She is resting up and preparing to start the fight.  We are excited that the ‘waiting game’ is nearly over and now we can watch her dominate.  The doctors have emphasized that this is not typical lung cancer given her age and lack of smoking, and that she is not the typical lung cancer patient with her youth and health.  Therefore, they will not treat it as such and plan to be very aggressive.  We are excited about this approach knowing that in combination with Emily’s will and heart, she will beat this.

Thank you all again for the kind messages, letters, and flowers*.  We have hung up all the notes of encouragement throughout the apartment and read them daily.   Emily continues to tell me, “I am fighting for us (Emily and I), myself, family, friends, future babies, and fixing up a future house (damn HGTV).”  Thank you all for providing that extra motivation to Emily.  Your kind words only continue to inspire her.

Love to All.  Live in the Moment.

Miles

*One Note: I hate to bring this up due to the generosity shown in the gifts; however, it ends up Emily is allergic to flowers.  The flowers started restricting her breathing and given the circumstances, we want to maximize her breathing.  So, if you want to send her anything, make sure it’s incapable of blooming.  And for those who did send flowers, thank you.  The arrangements were beautiful and are still visible on our porch.

Morning of the egg retrieval – ready to make some babies!!

Battles & Babies

This past week we received good news:

The cancer is only located in the right lung.  It has spread to the lining of the lung and chest lymph nodes — eliminating a possibility of surgery for now.  However, we are so grateful that it has not spread throughout the body.  It was a stressful few days.  Soon, we will finalize a treatment path (testing on the biopsy currently underway) and it will be game on.  We know we are in for a battle — the doctor stated that the lung is ‘kind of a mess.’  However, now that we know where it is, we feel we are back in control.   EmBen is beyond excited to start the ‘fight’.   She just keeps looking at me and saying, “I am going to kick its f*cking ass.”

Thank you to everyone for all your support, flowers, letters, emails, thoughts, prayers, etc.  We have been beyond touched.  And most importantly, it rejuvenates EmBen and inspires her even more to beat this.  As always, I cannot stress how upbeat and positive she has been throughout all of this.  She continues to laugh and make all of us laugh.   She eats like Kobayashi at a 4th of July BBQ.  And of course, she is still just as beautiful.

Additionally, Emily has started fertility treatment.  Due to the circumstances — treatment will most likely damage her remaining eggs — USC was able to expedite the fertility process.  In 10-14 days, they will extract 10-20 eggs — which will be waiting for us when she is healthy.   And after talk of gestational carriers in the future, Emben keeps looking at the size of my head and finding another reason to be grateful.

Best to all of you and your families.  Love the moment.

Miles