If you find yourself here, you’re likely seeking information on Judy’s health, whereabouts, or general state of mind. Well, here we are.
I’m making good on my vow to go on adventures!
I went to San Diego with Brian to see my Dad and Mom2 and we well had a great time at the Wild Animal Park. I really recommend it. My Dad wisely rented a motorized scooter for me at the park, I never could have done the miles of walking up and down hills without it. It gave me hope for being able to still do stuff, even if my strength weakens more.
Michele and I made an epic trip to Las Vegas. Three nights, 2 Cirque du Soleil shows and The Blue Man Group, the Fremont Street experience, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity room at the Bellagio, and lot’s of good food. It was a blast! Oh, and how could I forget, I turned my hair blue!
I did get super sick at a Cirque du Soleil show, the staff was amazing, great problem solvers, helping me enjoy as much of the show as I could. And I didn’t puke while in the audience, which I consider a win!
Michele and I also went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Always amazing!
And for my 54th birthday in April there was a very fun High Tea hosted by Tom and Julia and cupcakes with Alexis!
The cancer and treatment are kicking my ass from time to time, but I’m trying to live life on my own terms, not just being a victim. I have been in and out of the hospital in the past few months. Mostly because cholangiocarcinoma is fucking hard to treat. The good news is the chemo seems to be holding it bay, at least for now.
A POST BY JUDY!
I’m thinking I want this blog (and my life) to be positive, not just bad stuff about cancer. So I’ve decided to go on more adventures, the more the better! (The photo above is me with my bestie Shellie at the Berkeley Art Museum, weekend before last.) And I’m looking for ideas. Looks like I’m not going to make it to Italy, where in the Bay Area is a fun substitute? Weekend trips driving distance from home? Trips you’d like to make with me. Let’s make some memories while we can. The time for fun is now.
“Got a place for my friend to stay in the EB?”
My friend Vickie Hall has very generously offered to help Brian and I clean our apartment. (We all know this is a BIG give) But, she lives in Redding and would be coming down a couple of days at a time. Does anyone have the space to put her up, in the East Bay preferably?
I’m trying to make an effort to pare down my possessions and her assistance would be a great help. Anyone else who wants to clean and or organize? my door is open.
Probably the best way to reach me is to text my cell.
Last week sucked. I spiked a fever on Tuesday and my doc put me in the hospital Wednesday. It’s really easy, with Cholangiocarsinoma, to get an infection where the liver is connected to the small intestine. (That’s also where most of my tumors are)
But 2 days pumping me full of lots of antibiotics and a quick surgery to replace my stents and I’m good to go. I was out by Friday afternoon.
Miss Judy has three-and-a-half rounds of chemo under her belt (or I should say ‘below the belt’—man those life-saving chemicals are a bitch).
Time for testing!
The tell that he had good news was when her UCSF oncologist was startlingly positive, to the point Judy didn’t realize how doom and gloom he was during their previous visits—who knows what a person’s baseline is, aye?
The tumors have stopped spreading! This is huge. And while the current configuration isn’t much improved, this is a better result than her oncologist anticipated.
Other positive news is that her bilirubin (her liver enzyme that describe the health of her hepatic system) looks great. Judy will still need to have the stents in her bile duct replaced every 3 months-or-so—her next procedure is right around the corner.
There’s no question that the chemo has taken its toll on Judy physically, but her spirit remains ebullient and lovely. Adjustments in her medication to treat the symptoms of the cancer itself and side-effects of the drugs are returning positive results, and she is feeling much better. (Far less vomitous!) She’s even drawing again!
All-in-all she is coping fairly well, especially given the circumstances. There are lows, of course, but Judy maintains her pragmatic viewpoint of the situation.
And now, far better in her own words…
Isn’t it nice to get some good news?
I have another heartening tidbit—a preliminary blood test shows that my cancer probably has the DNA marker that will make me eligible for a trial immunology-therapy treatment when chemo stops working. Immunology-therapy is the next big leap in cancer treatment. My cancer is so rare the only approved treatment is the somewhat “catch-all” chemo I’m receiving, and it is only effective for 40% of patients at that. Any additional treatment will be via trials.
A support group for women with metastatic cancer that I recently joined is really helping me feel not so alone in this. All the folks have great tips and tricks for getting through it all. It’s also facilitating me in accepting that I have a terminal illness. Because, although I’ve been sick since October, it’s been hard for me to accept that this is really happening. Overall, the group is assisting me to become more grounded and centered.
The fact that the chemo is working is really positive. Now, I’ll go through another 3 rounds of treatment and then get tested again.
As always, your well-wishes and support are a huge boon toward her mental and (by extension) physical well-being. Thank you for all you do for her, even if it’s simply sending positive thoughts her direction.
And now for your enjoyment…
A tribute to you. Seriously. You guys are amazing.
The outpouring of help; physical, psychological, and monetary, and just plain old love, has absolutely been overwhelming and beyond heartening. It’s your efforts that are keeping Judy’s spirits bright during these tougher-than-she-deserves times.
A Sampling of the Kindnesses
Rebecca Cates has improved Judy’s journey through chemo by providing her with healing acupuncture.
All the excellent and generous peeps who have donated to the “Make Judy Well” GoFundMe.
All the awesome peeps who attended the Fuck Cancer Art Show.
All the amazing and awesome peeps who bought art at said show, or otherwise.
All the splendid volunteer peeps who helped set up and tear down the show and everything in between, with a special shout-out to Joanna who was there for all the things.
All the other superb peeps helping in countless ways to make Judy’s new-found cancer/chemo path easier including all your thoughts, well-wishes, etc.
You’re the bee’s knees. We mean it!
Judy’s now into her 5th week of Chemotherapy treatment, and while things aren’t great side-effect-wise, we know it could be worse. The pattern is 2 weeks on, 1 week off, and let’s just say that 3rd week is a godsend.
If you’re curious as to the actual treatment she’s receiving, it’s a combination of 2 therapies—Cisplatin and Gemzar. And in true Judy fashion, she’s handling it like a boss! In fact, shortly after starting treatment she got together with some close friends and family and had a kind of hair sheering ceremony—as one of the side-effects of Cisplatin specifically is temporary hair loss.
She’s spending most of her time resting and recuperating at home with Brian in Berkeley these days, enjoying the good days and riding out the bad.
Please drop us a line if you have any questions or would like to express your well-wishes to Judy via our contact form. Also, the fundraiser is still active if you have any rubles to share toward her recovery.
The art show will be continuing through December 29th, 2018 with a “Fuck Cancer Teardown Party” the afternoon of the 29th—save the date!
There will be no further open hours (aside from the closing party), but viewings by appointment. Please text or call Brian to arrange a viewing at 510-684-9828.
Where we left off…
Unfortunate news in that Judy was not able to get into the trial in Louisville, KY as hoped due to some insurance red tape (in that they won’t take it). We got a little lead down the garden path as they thought that Portland, OR might be a good alternative—but same same—the healthcare system in the US SUCKS!!!!! Unless you’re infinitely wealthy. Then, it’s hunky dory.
The upside is that there will be no additional delay to her starting treatment, and she is embarking on chemotherapy right away!
Surgery is off the table…
Originally, and for quite a while, we thought that a surgical intervention was going to be the most advantageous. However, in the interim, those little cells decided to continue to mutate and proliferate and have spread between the gallbladder, the bile duct, and the liver—but are contained to that general area. The good news is that as there aren’t signs of cancer in her lymph nodes which indicates that it has not spread systemically. Woo!
Chemo is the most advantageous and hopeful approach at this point, and so Judy cheerfully got her little chemo port installed on Friday and is “looking forward to” starting this week.
During a factilicious chemo class last week the ins-and-outs of the process were discussed, complete with the gory details. Some things we learned were:
- She will be very nauseous, especially right after the weekly treatments (taking place on Mondays)
- She will have an awesome opportunity to wear wigs (the hair’s going to go splitsville)
- She’s can’t eat raw fish. (OK, maybe NOT the most critical piece of information, but dammit! Sushi!!)
As mentioned previously, the turn-out for the art show was beyond fabulous. All of you incredible people who showed up and contributed in all the ways really put the shine in our sun.
The show will still be up through the end of the month. We too will be having another shindig on the 29th for a “Fuck Cancer Tear-down Party”. Please help us make this normally solemn occasion fun and upbeat for a goddamn change!
I guess that’s it for now…
We would encourage you to reach out via the contact form or email Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, suggestions, strange philosophical assertions, et al. rather than contacting Judy directly. Especially now that treatment is starting in earnest this will be the far better option for her. That isn't to say that she won't be getting back to you personally, it just takes one more step off her psychic heap.
We had an absolutely amazing opening reception followed by a steady weekend, and now, thanks to the generosity of the gallery proprietor, Lisa, we will have the show up and available for sale through the end of December
We had an amazingly colorfully* cheerful weekend crowned by the opening event on Friday, December 7th. So many well-wishers and supporters had the exhausted but delighted Judy beaming throughout the inspiring evening. Not to be cheesy (but really, what the hell—when your gal-pal has cancer, why the eff not!), you could truly feel the love.
Lot’s of Judy’s work sold as well as that of the many other artists that donated their work to the cause. Several are still up for grabs, including a piece generously donated by Mark Pauline, of SRL fame! You are all the absolute remarkable best. Honestly.
Also a special shout-out to all the friends and family who volunteered, most of which are mentioned here: Joanne Bloomfield, Jennifer Rivera, Amy Jenkins, Rebecca Cates, Meggan Oxford, Michele Bellah, Sue Glover, John Law, Jennifer Holmes, Katy Bell & Tracy Hobbs. Robert Collison, Abbey Reynolds & Aaron. You were of such great help and facilitated the evening going off without a hitch—it wouldn’t have been nearly the perfect time without your generous assistance in the different capacities.
And last, but far-and-away not least, all of you who have contributed and bought and just been all-around amazingly supportive people. Thank you from the bottom our hearts. You have no idea what this means to Judy and all of us on “Team Judy”—which we really all are, aren’t we?.
*Imagine that, a Judy Garvey show colorful?
The show will be hanging through December 29th 2018, with Saturday [1-6pm] and Sunday [1-5pm] hours. Appointments to see the collection will be available within 24 hours of calling Brian at
Hey, don’t go yet!
Also! We are going to have a fun and energetic “Fuck Cancer [Show] Tear Down” party on December 29th, noon-ish til five-ish. ‘Will post invite here when solidified.
Need Weekend Volunteers!
We’re earnestly seeking volunteers to help man the gallery weekend afternoons on December 16th, 22nd, and 23rd. Please drop us a line if you can help out.
Post by Alexis
Finally. Last Thursday (Nov. 29) Judy underwent a successful procedure to get a biopsy of the tissue in the affected area—something required to inform any kind of treatment at this point. They also replaced the bile duct stents, which was just fine with her considering she was beginning to see the old liver-related symptoms again.
Not to be outdone by the other organs, her pancreas (the brat) decided to act up whilst Judy was convalescing on the heels of the treatment/procedure at her sister’s, hours away, and she had to be transferred by ambulance back to her now “home” hospital in San Francisco (UCSF Benioff—oo-la-la) due to pancreatitis. The pancreas is a sensitive soul, apparently, and throws a tantrum when his other organ friends are messed with.
Despite the suite room she’s in, Judy will be happy to say adieu to “The Benioff” tomorrow morning. We expect results sometime this week.
A reminder: We’re having an art show for Judy this coming weekend in Berkeley with an opening reception on Friday 7-10 pm. Come to buy some of Judy’s gorgeous work or just to show support for our wonderful friend.
a post By Judy
I know you guys are used to Alexis making these posts, but I thought I’d chime in every once in a while. But Alexis is a much better writer than me. Maybe she’ll run it through the Alexis-edit and make me look like I can string a few words together.
You all know I love a metaphor and my current one for having cancer is that it’s like government thugs have stormed my house, taken my plain as toast barely used passport and changed it for my new blood red cancer passport. I suddenly have a new citizenship. God knows I didn’t ask for this. And now there’s a membrane that separates me from everybody else.
The heavens are raining anger and denial, guilt, and puzzlement. No one knows what to do, or how to act or what to say. Every doctor’s visit or phone call has brought more bad news. Trying to do research on the inter-webs is a hell hole of depressing statistics (if you want to look at anything I recommend https://cholangiocarcinoma.org/ it’s the home of the cholangiocarcinoma foundation, it’s only about bile duct cancer, and a good hub of information.)
I am gobsmacked by the outpouring of support and love I’ve received.
Alexis has totally thrown herself into making this bearable, putting up the websites, so I don’t have to answer everyone’s individual questions. And the money’s been a godsend. We were going to have to put December’s rent on a credit card (Brian hasn’t been able to work, because he was dealing with his warehouse being demolished) And we have to make our tiny apartment clean and safe enough for some one who’s getting chemotherapy. Obviously we’ll need help with that. I can’t believe in 60 people have given me over $8,500. I don’t even know some of you. I hope it’s not crass, but when I’m feeling down I look at the list of donations and get hit by the love bomb all over again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And don’t for a second think I don’t super appreciate all the love and support and kindness from the buckets of other folks who haven’t donated financially. Really, it’s not about the money.
So, now I’m going to talk about the health stuff.
It’s been almost a month and a half since I was diagnosed, I’ve been in the hospital twice, and I’ve had lots of tests, but haven’t been treated yet, the cancer is too advanced for surgery. I had no idea the bureaucracy for getting chemo is so slow, a month and a half, the tumor is twice the size from the first scans, and it’s spread, although all in the same general area. The original, benign biopsy, was only benign because it’s so hard to get to my tumor, so they didn’t really capture cancer cells, so of course, they were benign.
Monday the 25th I saw my Berkeley oncologist, she gave me the preliminary results of my PET scan which showed I do have multiple tumors, and one is invading my liver. The good news is that while the last CT scan showed enlarged lymph nodes, as of the 19th they are benign. And also because my cancer is so aggressive the UCSF oncologist won’t wait for the first round of chemo to start finding a research study for me to enter, that will start as soon as possible.
I’m having another trans-esophageal procedure Thursday the 29th at UCSF where they will try to take more biopsies, the results of which will guide next steps, probably chemotherapy and maybe radiation and maybe more new exotic stuff. We will see. I don’t expect results until the middle of next week.
So, that’s it in a nutshell. We’ll be updating this blog as news surfaces. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you at the opening on the 7th! Oh yeah, and fuck cancer.