Wendy Fitzgerel Blue was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. The day was June 9, a mere 19 days after having her daughter, Lilya.
Wendy Fitzgerel Blue gave birth to a baby girl on May, 21,2008.
Lilya Joelle Blue was born “happy, healthy and all out incredible,” Wendy wrote on her blog site.
Lenny Blue, the proud new father, looked forward to an exciting life with Lilya and Wendy.
“I was ecstatic,” Lenny said. “I was beaming with joy.”
But the life he envisioned did not involve what he was about to live.
Doctors induced labor three weeks early. Wendy had elevated liver enzymes and for a few days couldn’t hold down food.
Her doctor thought the symptoms were pregnancy-related and inducing labor would make them go away.
The symptoms got more intense after the birth. The loss of appetite, “she always felt full,” Blue said. The vomiting of green bile, “once every three hours,” he said.
She was losing weight and dehydrating, Lenny said.
Wendy underwent a battery of tests and after two “very hairy weeks” of waiting for the results, Wendy wrote, the then-37-year-old was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. The day was June 9, a mere 19 days after having Lilya.
The cancer was in stage IV, which means it had spread to other parts of the body. Specifically, it invaded her liver.
“The idea that she had cancer was unbelievable,” Lenny said. “It took me a couple days until it finally sank in. The doctor tried to explain to us about how serious this was. We got home and researched it and realized...”
They realized her diagnosis was a death sentence.
Lenny studied and memorized a grim statistic of pancreatic cancer: Five percent of people diagnosed will remain alive five years after that. “With those odds, we knew it was bad,” he added.
But Wendy didn’t want her family and friends to dwell on the statistics, she wrote. “I am not and never have been a statistic. Let it be known! We (my incredible family and I) will fight hard and ‘we will win!’
Chemotherapy was the only form of treatment, and she went through multiple rounds.
The treatments didn’t work because of the advanced stage of the cancer. The doctors told them to “get their affairs together,” Lenny said.
He took her to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, Okla.
The facility treated spirit, mind and body. It offered holistic treatments like herbals remedies and also spiritual meditation.
“It was the best thing we did because it really built our faith,” Lenny said, a devout Christian. “It gave us hope.”
The cancer kept spreading. Lenny made a promise to Wendy that he wouldn’t let her die in a facility or hospital. It would be at home, surrounded by friends and family.
It took them a couple days to get her out of bed and mobile enough to travel.
“The pain involved with this was so enormous,” Lenny said of the cancer. “It took so much morphine everyday.”
She died at their Blue Springs home on Oct. 2.
Joey Doering, Wendy’s sister, had never heard of pancreatic cancer.
“I knew nothing about it,” she said.
Lenny didn’t either. “Never heard of it.”
So Lenny started the Wendy Fitzgerel Blue Foundation shortly after she died.
The foundation’s goals are to raise awareness and money. Awareness so that the cancer is as well-known in communities as breast cancer. He cited the Susan G. Koman for the Cure, a global initiative that fights breast cancer, as a model foundation.
They’re hoping a purple ribbon, which represents pancreatic cancer awareness, becomes as well-recognized as the pink ribbon that represents breast cancer awareness.
Wendy’s foundation also seeks to raise money for research of the cancer.
Last Thursday, the foundation organized a wine-tasting fundraiser where Lenny wanted to raise $5,000. The money would go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network that tries to advance research and support to those affected by the cancer. Also, a portion of the money will go to Give Kids A Smile, a program that promotes dental hygiene in children.
Pancreatic cancer research constitutes less than 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s federal research funding – a figure far too low given the severity of the disease, according to statistics on PCAN’s Web site.
The network has provided over $3.7 million in funding for research since it formed in 2003.
“Maybe people will start to put the research dollars into finding maybe not a cure but for better treatment for it not to be a death sentence,” said Kristy Ker, Wendy’s long-time friend.
Ker said pancreatic cancer research is where breast cancer was in the 1930s.
Ker was a friend of Wendy’s going to back to when they went through dental hygiene school together at university of Missouri Kansas City. They were hired by a dentist in Independence, working about seven years together.
That’s why the Give Kids A Smile initiative was so important to Wendy.
Ker is four months pregnant with twin boys and she’s “absolutely thought” of what Wendy went through with the timing of her cancer diagnosis and birth.
Lilya is now 10-months-old and perfectly healthy.
Doering called it a miracle that her sister was 4 months away from death but still delivered a happy, healthy baby.
“You’re left with this newborn baby who doesn’t have a mother,” Doering said.
Lenny is raising the girl with help from family and friends.
He said it was difficult when Wendy and Lenny were away from Lilya while in Tulsa. Family and friends took care of the infant at that time.
“I owe so much to my family and friends. They’ve taught me how to raise a baby girl,” Lenny said.
Before the ordeal, he took for granted his health, but has since changed his lifestyle and eating habits at the first of year, especially with a baby to raise. They’re eating more natural, organic foods. And Lenny is exercising more.
“We have a bond that’s compared to none,” Lenny said of Lilya. “She’s a little piece of her mom that I get to look at everyday.”
In 2008, an estimated 37,680 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 34,290 will die from the disease.
Men are 20 percent more likely to get the cancer than women and the majority of cases occur in people age 65 or above.
Source: Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.