The Cancer Visa

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 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.


Fuck Cancer! Art Show and Benefit

Hey! Have you heard? We’re having an art show and benefit to help support Judy’s treatment and recovery!

Be there or be square! Join us for this celebration of Judy Garvey and peruse and buy her and other lovely artists’ donated work. Opening Friday, December 7, 2018, we’ll have goodies and the lady herself. The show will remain open through Sunday, December 9, 2018 (times below).

Where?headquarters – 2302 Roosevelt Ave, Berkeley, California 94703
When?December 7th – 9th
Friday, 7-10pm [Opening Reception]
Saturday, 12-6pm

Sunday, 12-5pm

If you’re feeling extra generous and would like to donate your work or time to the endeavor please contact us via this site’s contact form or on Facebook.

Progress… kinda

Judy met with her oncological surgeon to review the results of the high-resolution cat-scan. What was conveyed isn’t what we wanted to hear, but at least it’s a step closer to treatment.

It seems that the anatomy of the tumor means that surgery is off the table—at least for now. They found that it is in both the gallbladder and the bile duct. The next logical step would be chemo with surgery a potentiality later. However, there is a preliminary procedure that needs to be done in advance of chemo, another endoscopic biopsy to determine the nature of the tumor—if it is indeed cancer. More hurry up and wait, I’m afraid.

All things communicated are indicative of what we had been advised from the start. That the cancer is rare, and extremely difficult treat.

But you can help! Do you know anyone with connections at UCSF oncology who might be able to influence the timeliness of the endoscopy? If you could please pass on that info via the contact form or any other email/numbers you have for us, it’d be hugely appreciated.

Also, stay tuned! We are going to have an art show/fundraiser/benefit for Judy on the weekend of December 7-9 in Berekely. Watch for a Facebook event.

Thanks for checking in!

Looking for the path forward


Update: Judy got her CATscan pushed up to this Friday, November 9th.

TL;DR: Judy met with her new surgeon who was impressive and direct. A high-resolution CATscan is scheduled for Wednesday, November 14th.

Judy met her new oncological surgeon at UCSF on Monday! They had an excellent and informative discussion about the nature of the possible medical interventions and outcomes, and while nothing “new”, per se, was discussed, he was very direct and forthcoming with information. Both Judy and Brian were very impressed with his knowledge and expertise. He emphasized the “team” nature of their work which too is an asset, compared to other smaller surgical groups consulted with. Her surgical oncologist will be the leader, but otherwise, it will be a definitive team effort.

Some things did come out of this meeting that weren’t necessarily discussed explicitly during other previous consultations. There is a possibility that a surgical intervention isn’t an option depending on the anatomy of her bile duct, the tumor, and its relation to the hepatic artery (which is the main supply of blood to the liver)—so the first order of business is a higher resolution CATscan which will be taking place a week from Wednesday. And it turns out that no laparoscopic exploratory surgery will be necessary with this new team.

—Post by Alexis


Judy at Alta Bates with stuffed pal octopus Oscar

Yay! Judy was released from the hospital today after a 5-day stint for an infection related to her cancer.

As with any gut infection, treating it was rather intensive involving between 2 and 3 different intravenous antibiotics while she was there.

She realized that something wasn’t right when she was cramping and nauseous and wisely went to the ER. They admitted her immediately and she was on IV and no solid foods until last evening as she slowly recovered.

Headed to her sister’s family’s home in Graton now, she’s counting on some much needed R&R.

Her recovery was greatly bolstered by the amazing response to her Go Fund Me site!

Wow, are you people amazing! She and Brian are immensely grateful for your help in relieving the huge financial burden of recovery allowing her to heal unimpaired by that weight.

Other news [UCSF]:

Judy’s insurance has approved the consultation visit with the surgeon at UCSF who is renowned for their treatment in this area. She has an appointment for Monday and we are hoping that she will be fast-tracked for surgery and related treatments then. However, it is rare that a surgery date will be provided upon the 1st consultation—so we will be waiting to find out about that.

Stay tuned…


– Post by Alexis


Ah, life…


You may, or mayn’t, know that Judy has been going through a lot lately. Fairly recently she courageously embarked on a career be a full-time fine artist (with the full support of her husband Brian). She’s been showing places and has had some success with sales, but was really just getting started. And then…

A few weeks ago, after not feeling well for several weeks with all sorts of symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal to migraines followed by frustrating doctors’ visits and no cogent diagnosis, Brian noticed that Judy’s skin was turning a lovely shade of amber. A trip to the emergency room later, it was determined that Judy is actually very very ill.

First, they thought she had sediment in her gallbladder blocking her bile duct, but upon endoscopic examination, it was realized that it wasn’t that at all, but that she had a growth encroaching on her bile duct. They installed shunts in the duct, as a temporary solution but through other methodologies, she has been diagnosed with a rare tumor, extrahepatic carcinoma, which turns out to be malignant 90% of the time. Unfortunately, it’s true form won’t come to light until after it is removed.

Regardless Judy has some incredibly serious and rigorous surgery, other treatments and a likely arduous recovery ahead of her. If you’d like to and are able, Judy and Brian could sure use your support helping her through this toiling and expensive convalescence. We’ve set up a Go Fund Me page to help you do just that.

Currently, Judy is in the hospital in Berkeley with an infection more than likely related to her condition.

What we know: 

  • She has a tumor on her bile duct [extrahepatic carcinoma].
  • The stents they inserted into said duct as a temporary measure (essentially so that she wouldn’t die) are working nicely thank-you-very-much, and she  her amber complexion has turned much more pinkish hue (not to mention, she feels much better)
  • The tumor needs to be removed or it will kill her
  • The tumor excision requires MAJOR surgery that can last between 4 and 9 hours with a recovery period of 6+ weeks
  • Judy has only recently embarked on her career as a professional fine artist at great financial risk—she and Brian are pretty much freakin’ broke
What we don’t know at this point:
  • Exactly when she will start treatment—the sooner the better, but y’know, red tape, insurance, etc.
  • Where she’ll be receiving treatment—it turns out there are world experts in this surgery out of UCSF. Now we need to see if her insurance will cover her being treated there
  • If this is cancer. We will not know until they remove the tumor. (Only 10% of these tumors are not cancer, but the pathology on the cells they have biopsied says that it is not. —Fingers crossed!)
  • How many procedures will be required and subsequent treatments. There is a chance that they will do laparoscopic exploratory surgery to determine the state of the tumor 1st
  • Based on previous examinations, it looks as if the tumor may be wrapped around the artery supplying blood to the bile duct. If they find that to be the case, she may require chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before they can excise it, thus prolonging the process and her recovery time significantly


—Post by Alexis