Wednesday, September 5, 2012 Supports Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

From Yahoo News, "In support of patients undergoing treatment for pediatric cancer, this September during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Greeting Card Universe, the world’s largest greeting card store, will donate 100% of profits from the sales of specific greeting card collections to Kiss the Toad Creations." To see the entire Yahoo News article click here.

Super excited to find out that Greeting Card Universe is supporting Childhood Cancer Awareness by donating to "Kiss the Toad Creations," which brings
 smiles to pediatric cancer patients across the country by giving children facing life threatening illnesses a superhero cape. Founder Barbara Casados shares, "It is our belief that the real superheroes in this world are the children who are battling a life threatening illness and it is through their courage and superhuman strength that we are inspired to help support them in their fight by presenting them with their official superhero cape." Continues Casados, “They wear the capes and they feel brave. It gives them a sense that it’s going to be OK“.  Click here to check out Kiss the Toad Creations' inspiring video.

100% of profits will be donated from the sale of greeting cards in these unique categories: 
(below is just a sampling of qualifying cards ... click heading to see all cards in the category)

Congratulations - Donating Your Hair Cards

Congratulations - Cancer Survivor/Treatment Cards


End of Chemo Party Invitations 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From a Caregiver's Perspective

Very honored to have a special guest contributor today, who has graciously agreed to give us a glimpse into her caregiving journey. On March 29th, Joy's son lost his battle with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Throughout the past 5+ years, Joy, her son John, and her husband Bill, have been an inspiration to me and many, many others as they've battled their way through everything that goes along with a brain cancer diagnosis. Thanks Joy, for your willingness to share your story!

written by Joy Purvis

Joy and John enjoying time together before their life
was changed forever with John's brain cancer diagnosis.
     Robin asked me several months ago to write a blog on what it was like to be a caregiver. Just now being able to settle my mind, put my thoughts together, and try to express just how I felt. When we found out that John had a brain tumor and would need surgery, it was like – ok that is bad, but they’ll take the tumor out, sew him back up and he’ll be back at work in no time. Isn’t that the way it happens with surgery? After all, John is 23, and he is healthy and strong. How could things be any different? We were sort of naive – I guess you would say! Then after surgery, ok – he’ll do six weeks of radiation, and my husband and I will have to be there for support, and then things will be back to normal. Wrong! Things never got back to normal. Before John had surgery, he told me that I was going to have to be in control and make sure things were done correctly, and I couldn’t cry! I took that very seriously and pulled up my big girl panties and got going!
Joy, John & Bill
     John was not married, so even though he was out on his own, he needed help, and his dad and I were the only ones to do that. Gratefully my husband and I had just retired so we were open to the caregiving opportunity. We lived with John during radiation and his first chemo and his daily trips for 6 weeks back and forth to Emory. Everything at that point was new and we had no idea what was ahead of us. That’s a good thing – not to know what’s ahead! When I made the first call to Duke, the doctor that called me back that night, said in no uncertain terms that John would have much more than this initial chemo, that he would always have to be on chemo. Maybe that was our first sign that this was going to be a journey. As we began to read and research glioblastoma, we soon realized that if John was going to survive, he was going to need our help, and we would all need the Lord’s help to get us through. We also prayed together and said that whatever was ahead that we would pray together, make a decision and go with it. We wouldn’t or couldn’t look back once the decision was made. We followed that for 5 years never saying, what if! I feel like that was an important step we took that night with the Lord – going forward not looking back!

John undergoing one of many chemo treatments.
     With brain cancer you live from one MRI to the next, and as you approach the next MRI you can just feel your body tensing up and your mind racing to the what ifs! John was able to live on his own, but we made trips to Atlanta every other week, and every other month to Duke, and then John would come up to our house and stay after chemo until he was feeling better. After it all got started, I really don’t think John ever knew again what feeling good meant. I tried so hard to let John have his space, to be there to help when he needed help but not to try and hover over him. He wanted and needed our help, but I wanted our specific help to be his decision. It didn’t take long to realize that he couldn’t handle talking with the different insurance issues, so I pretty quickly took over that job. He would tell anyone that called to talk with me. With brain tumor patients, it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with mundane activities. Stuff like that just stresses them out. That’s why brain tumor patients travel with lots of family behind them – never on their own.           

     It takes lots of patience being a caregiver. Once John had surgery he never got in a hurry! It was almost like there was no concept of time. We all had to walk to a slower beat. Eating was slow and he could almost sit at the table from one meal to the next unless there was a nap in between. Sleeping until 1 or 2 pm – no problem. John would stay up late, and I think that was, in some way, his way of staying in control when everything around him was out of control.

     For 5 years we were all in total stress. There was never a time that we weren’t dealing  with terminal cancer hanging over our heads. If John wasn’t with us I was always wondering how he was doing, what he was eating, and how he was feeling. When I look back I wonder how we all made it. How we kept our hopes up? How we feel so blessed to have had the privilege to care for John while he had cancer? How we feel blessed because he beat all odds and lived beyond the 15 months that typically befalls this disease. The only way we made it through was trusting in the fact that we knew that the Lord was in control and that He had John in His hands. Leaning on family and friends that held us up in prayer got us through the 5 years. Was it hard? Yes. Would I do it all over again and never complain? You bet I would in a heart beat. God has certainly taken John away, but I try not to focus on that, but rather on the joy that we had caring for John. Each day of that experience drew us closer to the heart of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tribute to John

written by Alan Chaffin

On Saturday, April 7, I was honored and humbled to be part of a Memorial Service to celebrate, not the death, but the life of a my courageous 29 year old friend, John. On Thursday March 29, John's incredible 5+ year battle with brain cancer ended with him passing from his family and friends that loved him very much into the presence of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

In May 1983, my wife Robin and I began attending Lebanon Baptist Church. It was there through Sunday School that we met John's parents, Bill and Joy (at that time John was only 3 months old). We developed a quick relationship with Bill and Joy that through the years became a very dear friendship. As a result of that, we were proud to watch John, and his older brother Michael, grow up through childhood into fine young men. 

John achieved a number of accolades and awards during his youth, including becoming an Eagle Scout (like his big brother) and serving as Drum Major for his high school band. After graduating from Georgia Southern in 2005 (where among other things John was a founding member of his college fraternity, Delta Chi), John settled into his job at Verizon and was ready to start his adult life of achieving the "American Dream." After having watched John achieve so much in his first 22 years, I was confident that he would be successful in whatever he wanted.

In December, 2006, John's (and Bill and Joy's) life was suddenly put into a tailspin when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Brain Cancer. After surgery, he began a courageous and heroic battle to beat this dreaded disease. For the next 5+ years, John with the unending love and support of his parents, began a journey that touched the lives of countless number of people (many of whom were praying for John that did not even know him personally).

Shortly after John's initial surgery, and a recuperation period at his parent's home, John returned to Alpharetta to live on his own (albeit with a brain tumor !). It was not long after that, Robin and I began meeting John for dinner on a regular basis. Very quickly, our relationship escalated as John went from being the very special son of a friend to being a very special friend. Those dinners became very special to Robin and I as we drew even closer to John. We watched close hand on a regular basis as a handsome, respectful and humble young man courageously took on a dreadful adversity that Robin and I could not fathom. As the months passed, John's infectuous smile continued to be present whenever we got together. After a few years of positive reports, as we headed to the latter half of 2011, John's tumor was beginning to beat its treatment.

I will never forget our last dinner with just the three of us at California Pizza Kitchen in December 2011. John had made the decision to move back to his parents home in Tallulah Falls. While it was somewhat apparent that John's physical condition was starting to deteriorate, we still were able (just like the dozens of other times we had met) to laugh and share and enjoy each other's company despite a 25+ year age difference.

While we never got together again with just the three of us, John's parents graciously allowed Robin and I to be part of their "last" family Florida vacation with John in February. During those days together, we knew John's time with us was short. I will always remember those last couple of nights I was there sitting with Michael, as he tried to help his brother swallow a number of pills. Even then, John was battling with all the strength he could maintain.

The last time I saw John before he left us was on Wednesday, March 14th (15 days before he died) at his parents home. While the cancer had physically ravaged John, I was able to see him one final time on this Earth and before we left that night, as I told him goodbye and I loved him, his final words to me were that he loved me too.

John is free of pain and battles now. He leaves a legacy behind that touches people all over the country. I am so thankful to my God that he created the situations that brought John (and Bill, Joy and Michael) into mine and Robin's life. As an avid sports fan, I have had a number of "heroes" in my 56 years. But, I have never had a closer relationship with a "real life" hero as I had with John Purvis. I do not know how long my life will be here on Earth, but I do know that John's life will never be far from my thoughts.

I love you John ! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Goodbye my friend

With tears in my eyes, I say goodbye to my sweet, courageous, young friend, John. Hopefully, I'll soon be able to give John a proper tribute here, but since I'm at a loss for words right now, I'll share what his mom just wrote in his Caringbridge journal, and ask for your prayers for his family.

For everything there is a season, 
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; 
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

John's time for healing has come. He went to be with the Lord at 10:55 am, March 29, 2012. John's time to be born was February 5, 1983. He lived 29 wonderful years and his dad, brother, and I and those that had a part in his life are better because we knew him. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Test of Hope

Hope ... one of my favorite words. However, my "Hope" has been tested over the past few weeks as I have watched a young friend’s cognitive and motor skills diminish, more and more each time I see him, due to that nasty disease called cancer. Oh, I fully realize that John is a walking miracle! To have lived over five years with the most deadly form of brain cancer is truly a gift from God. But how difficult it is to see someone you love struggling to walk, talk and even eat because their brain can’t send the proper signals to their body. And equally difficult knowing how heartbreaking it must be for his parents to watch it happen. My heart goes out to them, to his brother, and to all his family members and friends. But, even though my heart aches, at the same time I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity these past five years, to spend some quality time with John, to get to know him better, to experience the joy of seeing that beautiful smile of his on a fairly regular basis, but most of all to share his journey of hope ... his hope that someday he would beat this disease and be healed. And you know what, John will be healed ... either God will choose to miraculously heal him in this life, or He will grant him a much greater healing. And while I selfishly hope for the miracle, I'm confident that John's hope is in the Lord and he's ready for whatever God has in store for him!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Little Help from My Friends (part 2)

If you read my previous blog post, you may have noticed that, at the bottom, I mentioned there would be a "part two" ... well, here it is! (If you missed my previous post, just scroll down below this one!)

As stated before, the artists at Greeting Card Universe were challenged to choose a favorite greeting card (not one of their own, but one from another artist) and post our selection to our own blog. Now, "part two" is a contest and I'm asking you to vote for my favorite card choice, a lovely "Hope" card by artist Barbara Schreiber! It's quick and easy. Just click here, scroll to the bottom of the blog post, and vote for #9. If the card I chose wins, Barbara and I each get a $10 prize. And, if we win, I will donate my $10 prize to the same organization that my Hope card commissions are sent to, the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. So please take a minute and vote for #9 !!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Little Help From My Friends

The artists at Greeting Card Universe were challenged with a new contest this week called "A Little Help From My Friends."  Each artist was told to choose a favorite greeting card (it couldn't be one of our own, but had to be from another artist) and post our selection to our own blog, along with a few words about why we liked that particular card. 

There are so many wonderful cards at GCU, it was hard to pick just one! But, because of this blog's usual theme, I narrowed my choices to other artists "Hope" cards and found this beautiful one from my friend, Barbara Schreiber (who you met in this previous post). I've admired this card before ... the soft, dreamy colors are beautiful and I've always been drawn to Barbara's painting style. She is a very talented artist. Click here to check out her GCU store.

Even though Barbara's card is my choice for this particular contest, there are several other artists who have encouragement cards for cancer patients that I really liked, so I decided to share a few of those as well!



Stay tuned next week for part two of this contest!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Many Thanks!

So appreciative to all those who purchased our "Hope" cards during 2011! This past year, we sold 421 cancer-related cards, bringing our total to 1,063. All of the commissions earned have been donated to the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. If you don't already know the story behind Rycky Creations' "Hope" card line, click here to read the April 23, 2010 post, "Honoring John." To see all of our items eligible for donated commissions, see this post.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Encourage Someone Today!

Most of us know someone who is battling cancer. Why not send them a note of encouragement? By sending any of the cards or gifts found here, not only will your friend or family member be encouraged, but also 100% of Rycky Creations' commissions earned on these items are donated to cancer research.

Click here for more "Believe HOPE Trust" merchandise.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

GCU Blog Carnival V: "THE BIG C"

Check out these wonderful cancer awareness blogs from my fellow GCU artists!

Pets and Wildlife Cancer “One area of cancer research we do not often hear about, cancer in pets and wildlife, which is also on the rise…” Blessing Art Cards, Sharon Fernleaf

Breast Cancer Awareness and Pink Ribbon Cards & Gifts “Believe in the power of the pink ribbon...” Creative Paradise, Tanitu

Breast Cancer Awareness Month “I cannot remember a time when when there wasn’t a dear friend or family member battling cancer...” Cards from the Heart, Lisa Charlton

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month “My mother had breast cancer as well as lung cancer...” Eliz Designs, Elizabeth Eells

Ways to be Supportive, Helpful and Encouraging for Cancer Patients “This post is in honor of our friends, colleagues and family members who are currently battling this dreadful disease…” Heart to Art, Sri Devi

Breast Cancer Awareness “There are several things you should look for when doing a self exam…” Sheryl Kasper Card Store, Sheryl Kasper

Breast Cancer Awareness Month “Most advanced breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50...” Janet Lee Designs, Janet Palaggi

Cancer Bummer “I was diagnosed with cancer about 12 years ago.” I Love Cuttables, Cindy Johns

October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month “Cancer is cruel, cancer makes no exceptions…” At Sparky’s, Antoinette Van Kleef

Canine & Feline Cancer “I’ve seen much too much cancer in the lives of my beloved pets over the years…” Salon of Art, Doreen Erhardt

A Sobering Subject “I think, today, how cancer has impacted my life...” Warm Traditions, Candace J. Hardy

Monday, October 3, 2011

Barbara's Story

I am so excited to introduce you to a fellow GCU artist, and my new friend Barbara Schreiber. She is a wonderful artist whose work I have admired for a long time. Several months ago, I read in her blog that she'd just finished chemo treatments. I asked if she'd be willing to share a little about her battle with cancer and she graciously accepted. Although the timing didn't work out the first time we discussed doing this, it seems God had a better plan (of course, God's timing is perfect)! Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Barbara has battled breast cancer since 1997, what better time to tell Barbara's story? I hope you will take the time to read this inspiring interview!
Thank you so much Barbara for agreeing to be interviewed! First, please share a little bit about yourself.

This photo was taken last year,
when I still had my hair :D
      Hi, my name is Barbara. I'm a German artist and I live in Cologne. Prior to Cologne, I have lived in Cyprus, France, the Netherlands, North and West Africa and India. I'm a single mother of two great kids - my son Matteo is 16 years old, my daughter Joy 15 years old.
     I teach part-time, and my remaining time is spent painting, drawing, making cards, writing, and spending time with my kids. Sometimes I even manage to clean the apartment. That is, if there is no urgent painting that needs to be done! And there always is that card to be made. That's why we live in a creative chaos :D. I just love art, especially watercolors, illustrations and mixed-media/collage/folkart, playing around in Photoshop, browsing the internet for all that wonderful art information and eye candy.
     I have written and illustrated a book. It was accepted by a publishing house and is available in every German bookstore or It is only available in German language. Hopefully, one day, also in English (keeping my fingers crossed here!). It is a Christian encouragement gift book. I am currently working on my second book, and have plans and dreams for many more.

Tell us a little about how you were first diagnosed with breast cancer.
     Well, actually I had breast cancer three times. The first time in 1997. The second time was 7 years later. The third time in 2010. The first time I discovered the lump myself. My left breast felt funny. As I had recently breastfed my daughter, my gynaecologist said that that was normal. Thank God I did not accept that diagnosis and insisted on a mammography, where the tumor was discovered. (I went to another gynaecologist after that!).
     The second time, my radiologist found the tumor in my right breast during a normal routine scan and the tumor was removed.
     The third time, I found out myself again. In January 2010, I had a routine mammography. This mammography did not show the tumor. A couple of months later I again had the feeling that "something" was wrong. The magnetic resonance images were ok. The ultrasonography was ok. The tumor was only discovered after a biopsy was taken. This just proves a doctor and a test are not 100% foolproof. Check your body/breasts yourself, listen to what your body is telling you, be firm if a doctor thinks you're imagining things and insist on further tests!

How did you and your family react to your diagnosis?
     Every time, I was devastated. It was so incredible. I just could not believe it. Guess it was the shock. I felt angry, hurt, afraid. It took some time (every time) for the info to really sink in, I had to chew on it, digest it, accept it, and to get into the "trusting God and fighting cancer mode".
     The first two times, my kids were smaller (the first time, they were one and two years old) and did not quite realize what was going on. The last time, the kids suffered more, as the chemo treatments were awful and I was flying off the handles with pain and the side-effects of the medications. We are all very glad that things have returned to normal.

Were there any friends or family members that helped you get through it?
     My family members are all dead. I do have a sister, but she lives far away. She supported me by phone/email. Thank God I have a bunch of very good supportive friends living in Cologne. I had plenty of helpers and supporters every time I had cancer. Bless them, they babysat my children, took care of them when I was hospitalized, invited my kids over to their house when I felt weak and needed rest. Every time I got my chemo treatments and stayed in hospital, a friend would stay at my apartment to support my teenagers. My friends visited me, called me, helped me do household chores, cooked (during the last round of chemo treatment, they provided us with home-cooked warm food for three weeks!), listened when I felt like griping, held my hand ... I would not have been able to make it without them!

Tell us a little about your treatments?
     First cancer: mastectomy, chemo therapy. Second cancer: operation, radiation, tamoxifen tablets. Third cancer: mastectomy, chemo therapy, herceptin infusions.
After the operation in September 2010, all normal routine scans were made (bone scintigraphy, magnetic resonance, ultrasonic scans, liver, lungs, kidneys etc) and were ok. Every three weeks my blood gets checked. The last operation was in September 2010. In spring 2011, I finished the last round of chemo therapies. I'm still getting Herceptin treatments every three weeks, over a period of one year.

What is your prognosis?
     My doctors tend to be a bit vague about that - as I have survived cancer three times, they find it difficult to make any prognosis. My latest oncologist is quite confident that hopefully after having my Herceptin infusions for one year, the cancer will not come back again. So far, there are no metastases. And that's the way I want to keep it :D !

What would you say was one of the most challenging battles in your war against cancer?
     The thought what would happen to my children if I would die. My husband died in 2000. I do not have family members who could take care of my children. The idea of leaving them behind as orphans had me driving up the wall. I come from a close-knit family and tend to be very protective with my kids (like a mother hen :D). I had made arrangements with a befriended family that in case I die, they would adopt my children. The knowledge that my kids would not end up in an orphanage helped me a lot. Another battle was the self-pity battle. "Why me again?" I don't have answers to that question, but I want to stop seeing myself as a victim and want to start seeing myself as a victor.

How do you deal with the emotional aspects of cancer?
     I believe in God. So I screamed and ranted and cried and poured my heart out before Him. And then I asked God to heal me, to protect my children. It's a daily decision to trust Him with my life and the life of my kids. I have my "up days" and then I have my "down days". But I have found God to be a trustworthy shelter and a haven of safety, acceptance and love. I have decided to trust God, even if I do die early, that He will take very good care of my kids and that He has good plans for them.

What would you say to someone who was newly diagnosed with cancer?
     Never give up hope! Fight against cancer! Your thoughts are very important and influence your health.

If there was any one piece of advice you could share now that you have gone through this battle, what would it be?
     I can only say what I find important and what has helped me. Everybody is different and has different problems or ways to tackle them. But here is my advice:
     I find it very important to keep my soul "clutter-free." I tend to worry, to fret, to think too much about things that have happened in the past. Or that could happen in the future. I sometimes nurse old grievances. I have found out that these things are not helpful and don't do me good. I have to "let go and let God." To forgive people who have hurt me, to ask for forgiveness where I was wrong. Untended old wounds can really fester. When my soul is sick, my body gets sick. To take better care of myself. To be more easygoing and loving, to others and to myself. To become more of a child gazing at the wonders of this universe and less of a burdened, worrisome adult. To not take myself so seriously. To love life, enjoy it, and to be thankful for all blessings. To surround myself with positive people who love and accept me.

Any final thoughts?
     It was a few hours after my first cancer operation. My body was shivering with pain. It was a winter night and I looked out of the bleak hospital window. Outside it was dark and cold. A thought crossed my mind: what if I died tonight (or this week or next month?). What was important in my life? What would Jesus ask me if I would stand in front of him, face to face?
     I knew for certain he would not ask me how much savings I had in my bank account, or if I always had A grades or a university degree or if I was the best employee in my department or company or drove the biggest car and lived in a mansion or had a lot of power and might. He would not even ask me if I had lots of success as an artist, or how many paintings I had painted, or did I win any awards? (Not that he does not care about my life and what I do – in fact he is very interested in that – but that these things pale in comparison to the more important things). I knew for certain that he would ask me: "Barbara, do you love people? your neighbors as you love yourself? your family? your children? do you love me? Do you love, Barbara ? Love is the most important thing of all".
     That was some years ago. But it's still important for me today : Love is the only thing I can take along with me when I leave this earth. All the rest stays behind. Like one popular song said it some years ago "there is no u-haul on a hearse."
Thank you, Barbara. Your story, advice, and positive attitude is such a blessing to me and I'm sure it has and will touch many lives. It was an honor to interview you and I pray God will continue to touch your life with peace and perfect healing.

Below are links to Barbara's online presence, and just a few of her wonderful cards.
Click here for Barbara's blog
Click here for Barbara's GCU store
Click here for Barbara's Zazzle store
Click here for Barbara's book