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Monday
Jan132014

Every Day Is A Chance

Upon awakening on the morning of December 27th 2013, Gloria immediately asked her mother for a pen and paper and wrote the following poem. These words will serve as WunderGlo's final blog post.

I thought of this this morning...

Every day is not a challenge
Every day is a CHANCE

to get better
  stronger

to learn
to live
to love

to embrace the world and be embraced

and to prepare for another day
should we be lucky enough to
receive it

Every day is NOT a challenge
Every day is a CHANCE

Monday
Jan132014

A Tribute to Our WunderGlo

As most of you know, Gloria Borges, or WunderGlo as she has been known for the last three years, passed away on January 5, 2014. On January 11, we honored Gloria's magnificent and brilliant life with a beautiful Memorial Tribute Service at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and a glorious mass at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The following eulogy was written and read by Gloria's mother Rebecca Keller at the Cathedral.

Born into Life on December 8, 1981 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Bellflower, CA

Called to Eternal Life on January 5, 2014 on the Feast of the Epiphany in Los Angeles, CA

"An angel on earth", "an inimitable being", "a generous spirit", "a force of nature", "a personal hero", "a true inspiration"… these are only some of the adoring words that so many are using to describe  my daughter, Gloria Borges. We have been so deeply touched by the astounding outpouring of beautiful words, love, and tributes that have flooded us through phone calls, letters, & emails, as well as through the social media world. There are lots of friends and family who are getting Wunder, WunderGlo, and Gloria tattoos to honor her legacy and on Monday, the California State Assembly will be adjourning their session in memory of Gloria and will also be entering a Resolution in her memory.  

Gloria lived an exquisite life, one of boundless generosity, unmatched brilliance, and uncompromising excellence. What Gloria accomplished while here on earth was truly astonishing. Her inner beauty shined like a blazing sunrise, her energy soared, and her determination & competitive spirit fiercely roared. As her mother, I had the VIP seats for it all.

A little over three years ago, Gloria began what she called her “cancer killing adventures, and believe me, they were! When first diagnosed, undaunted by the long odds of survival and the naysayers, Gloria took on her disease with the same confidence, energy, faith, spirit, and heart filled determination with which she had approached absolutely everything in her life. She started a blog called WunderGlo primarily to chronicle her adventures and  inform concerned friends and family. Gloria’s blog entries that were brimming with hope, happiness and positive energy quickly turned into something much larger than Gloria had ever expected as she found that people from all over the country and all over the world caught onto the magic that was Gloria. Her journey was filled with joy, laughter, music, dancing, travel, Duke basketball, gratitude, and love. Tons and tons of love. Gloria delighted in making so many friends and family her “Love Life” paintings and she successfully instilled this message in everyone she touched. I knew very early on in Gloria’s life that she just didn’t belong to me... Gloria belonged to Everyone.

One year after her diagnosis, Gloria launched The WunderGlo Foundation to seek to empower and inspire those fighting the disease, demystify the colon cancer diagnosis, and support research to eradicate it. In early 2013,   Gloria launched the foundation’s most ambitious capital campaign called The Wunder Project. So proud of this revolutionary and cutting edge approach to fund the “cure” for colon cancer, Gloria worked tirelessly to bring widespread attention and infectious interest in this realistic and groundbreaking goal toward the cure. 

Despite the fact that 2013 presented great physical challenges for Gloria, she never stopped running her foundation and running it with fervor. Gloria’s important work included traveling around the country to spread the word about the revolutionary Wunder Project campaign, which gained widespread media attention, furthering her own cancer knowledge and education by attending and participating at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conferences both in San Francisco and in Chicago, Illinois, delivering many inspirational speeches at speaking engagements across the country. And, of course, no matter how busy Gloria was she always reserved time to reach out and counsel newly diagnosed cancer patients and their caregivers in their darkest days and shining her guiding light to inspire them to fight the battle of their lives. 

Through it all, nobody outside of her inner circle knew just how much Gloria struggled. No one had an inkling of what she was going through. Whether ailing in bed at home, receiving chemotherapy, or physically being in a hospital, Gloria’s devotion to her foundation, followers, and campaign never took a back seat. Gloria always amazed me with the generosity of her time. Her selflessness truly knew no bounds. Even when Gloria filmed the foundation’s darker “The Time is Now” video, which attempted to get across the urgency of her message, she had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. 

Although Gloria achieved brilliant success in her lifetime, there was one goal that she wanted so much to reach. That goal was to attain her first million dollars for the Wunder Project. So many of you have directly asked me, my husband, or Will  what you can do for us, emphatically offering anything to help. Well, there is absolutely something you can do. Please help keep Gloria’s legacy alive through her foundation and help Gloria to reach the first million dollar goal that was so closely within her grasp.  

Please take the time right now to go to The Wunder Project website and make your pledge today to show Gloria your love and commitment to her living legacy. A financial donation at any level is appreciated. Volunteering your time to help with the foundation or a pledge to set up a meeting with a potential investor, either private or corporate, is also greatly appreciated. You can reach me directly at becky@wunderglofoundation.org 

During the last hours of Gloria’s beautiful life, I had an epiphany. For the past 3+ years I had been praying so hard for a Miracle; when in reality it was Gloria that has been the miracle all along. For the past 32 years we have all been graced by the miracle of her amazing life; we have been blessed by this true angel on earth. We were fortunate to get to love her each and every day. That was the gift. That was the Wunder. Gloria has been The Miracle all along. 

Always the competitor, and never quite gracious in defeat, please know that while Gloria may have been overcome by her illness, she was a HUGE Winner in the game of life. Now in true WunderGlo fashion we must all look for and see the joys in every single day, cherish every memory, remember to always be grateful, while always moving forward on a mission and living Gloria’s mantra to “Love Life”.

Wednesday
Dec112013

Checking In (Seattle, Chemo Round 60, East Coast, ER, 32nd Birthday)

Dear Readers, forgive me for being so quiet over the last several weeks - as always, it's not an indication of bad things happening but many things happening. There's almost too much to report so let me hurry up and get to it.

A few weeks back, I went to Seattle, where I spent time with a wonderful family (my friend Dan's), spoke to companies and groups about The Wunder Project (I'd say talking to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and to Dan's daughter Elana's 8th grade class were the highlights), spent time with my friend Buzz and chilled with my mom at the Space Needle, and generally had an incredible time because of some incredibly hospitable people. Seattle is absolutely one of my favorite cities.

After Seattle, I rocked Chemo Round 61. I'm definitely getting the hang of this new cocktail and monitoring any nausea with some good old Zofran.

After chemo, I left for the East Coast. New York City for Duke Basketball games and Thanksgiving, Maryland to hang out with our cousins, then Duke for more hoops.

New York was awesome. I spent time with family and friends, caught some basketball (although Duke lost to Arizona, it was still great supporting them at Madison Square Garden - plus, I got to see my Seattle bud Dan and his girls, Elana and Olivia again!), and saw an incredible performance of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway. I am still taking it very easy given my skinny, Zaltrap-weakened state, but I even made my way to the gym a couple of times for some light lifting.

I didn't quite make it to Duke in time for hoops because at the tail end of the NYC trip and the beginning of the Maryland one, my back was in excruciating pain. Turns out that some blood had bled into my back muscles and I had to be taken to the ER for a scan and an insanely welcome shot of Dilaudid. Luckily, I was in great hands since my cousin is a nurse and her husband is an ER doctor. They took good care of me and while I did make it to Durham, I was a day late for the game. I have a feeling there will be many more games, though. :)

Then, I flew home, got in a stretch Range Rover limo with some amazing friends and family, and celebrated my 32nd birthday. The next day, the 8th, was my actual birthday, and I relaxed in PJs with a fire roaring as my extended family came over to hang out. A very high profile and low profile way to celebrate one's big day, just within hours of each other.

Still feeling pretty wiped out from my back saga (I'm bruised, still a little swollen, and waiting for my newly downgraded blood thinner meds to help things balance out), I convinced Dr. Lenz to let me rest up a few more days and get chemo on Thursday (tomorrow). And that's exactly what I'm up to now - resting up!

Once this back bounces back, I will be back. I'm happy to report that I've gained two pounds and am slowly building some muscles. While Zaltrap dealt me a pretty tough hit during the five months I was on it, it's good to remember that I hit harder.

Never fear, dear readers, your WunderGlo is doing well, keeping busy, killing cancer, and still loving life.
Sunday
Nov172013

Chemo Round 60

After a productive time at the hospital and an incredible time at the Kanye West concert (didn’t I tell you that I went to the show the night after being released from the hospital?), I was ready for my next round of chemo. I was hoping against hope that Dr. Lenz would be switching up my regimen away from anything Zaltrap-related, and my wish came true. It’s a crazy life when you get psyched because you’re switching lines of treatment from one super tough chemo to another not quite as tough (but still not a walk in the park) chemo, but hey, it’s my life.

So we switched regimens, not because I’ve had a progression of disease – like I’ve told you, my disease is stable and basically sitting there like an idiot – but because I’d been on FOLFIRI and either Avastin or Zaltrap for over two years and it just seemed like the right call. Usually, a second line of treatment – which was my regimen of FOLFIRI and Avastin/Zaltrap (remember, I used to be on FOLFOX and Avastin, which was my first line of treatment) – works for about 3 months or so on average for the average patient. Mine worked for over 2 years, which is pretty unheard of and quite awesome. And it still could work – going back to these drugs or a combination of them is not out of the question. Still, it was time for a change and so we made it.

There are new drugs and an old drug in my new regimen. The old one is the notorious “bag o’ chemo,” or 5-FU. It is the backbone of FOLFIRI and the workhorse of the three drugs, so I’m glad that I’m still on it though not excited that I still have to infuse days after chemo day. Having a needle in my chest from Monday through Wednesday every other week just isn’t that cool, but I’ve handled it for 3 years and can certainly continue to do so. The other drugs aren’t exactly colon cancer drugs – they haven’t been approved by the FDA for colon cancer use yet – but Dr. Lenz has had great results with colon cancer patients using these drugs so we’re feeling really confident that these will be winners for me. One drug is called Gemstar (sounds like some kind of car company, right?) and the other is called Pazopanib. They are much gentler in terms of not giving me a searing headache and as much of that gross feeling, but they do make me more nauseous. I’ve puked so many times in my life at this point that a little upchuck here and there isn’t exactly a challenge, so essentially, this regimen is easier and nicer than my previous one. I’m a pretty happy camper.

Every day, my lungs are getting better and better. I’m walking further and am hardly getting out of breath at all. I’m not using the wheelchair anymore. I’ve been back to the gym weight lifting a couple of times. There’s just no doubt that I’m getting stronger, more mobile, and more “back to normal.” Soon, I know I’ll be back on the basketball court. It’s a pretty incredible turn of events, and, as always, I have to tip my hat to my resilient body for knowing how to heal and bounce back. I am really lucky to have this tough little bag of bones.

At this point, the only thing holding me back is my appetite. As I’ve reported, I’ve been losing weight pretty consistently and I don’t have any appetite to speak of…and because I haven’t eaten a lot in a long time, my belly is pretty tiny and I can only fit in small meals at a time. At this point, I think I’ve lost 30 or so pounds this year. I know it kills Dr. Lenz to believe that it’s all because of chemo, but I have to say it: it’s all because of chemo. But I’m pushing myself to eat more every day and finding more high-calorie things that I like (being a vegan and trying to bulk up in a healthy way is not easy), and I will stop this weight loss. Maybe I won’t gain much weight back, but I will stabilize and get healthier. I know that this challenge, like everything I’ve had to face in these cancer-killing adventures, will be overcome with determination, positivity, and a lot of grit. Luckily, I’ve got those things in spades.
Monday
Nov112013

The Hospital

So instead of getting my 60th round of chemo, Dr. Lenz had a different plan. After emailing with him back and forth during my trip, lamenting about my lung issues and wanting to focus on the issue head-on, Dr. Lenz put together a comprehensive plan to get to the bottom of my breathing. As usual, his planning and care was beyond criticism – the man is an incredible leader and so, so smart.

So he checked me into Norris, and during the next several days (I was there from Monday through Friday), he set me up with meetings and tests with pulmonologists, cardiologists, hematologists…you name it. Everybody working together to determine why I was getting so short of breath and everybody working together to restore me to my old self – pretty awesome. I don’t know how many doctors attended to me, but it was somewhere above half a dozen. Obviously, I felt like a VIP and the best news is, we got a few answers and made some good progress.

First off, my heart. It’s great. Second, my blood. It likes to clot but we’re pretty sure that Pierre isn’t totally to blame about this breathing stuff. My hematologist believes that there’s inflammation in the lungs and that’s the real culprit. Next, my lungs. Other folks on the team gave me some antibiotics, thinking maybe I also had a bacterial infection in my lungs that had been flying under the radar. The antibiotics were super helpful and totally cleared up the stupid cough I had, so I think they were right. Finally, my breathing. An awesome palliative care doc suggested I take a tiny bit of morphine when walking a bunch and that it would relieve the shortness of breath somewhat. And, of course, it did.

How did I get so lucky to have such incredible, devoted doctors taking care of me? Who knows, man. But I’m grateful.

I left the hospital feeling better, but knowing I still had a ways to go. But, slowly but surely, this lung thing has been turning around. I’m needing the wheelchair less and less and able to walk farther and farther. I am feeling supremely confident that I will be back in my old fighting shape very, very soon.

I also believe a part of my recovery, which has been nothing short of miraculous if you really want to know, is the fact that we switched chemo regimens on my 60th Round. I really wasn’t feeling Zaltrap and I believe – although who knows if I’m right (come on, I know I’m right) – that Zaltrap really weakened me and played some part in my lung drama. Saying farewell to Zaltrap was a dream and switching up my cocktail seems like just what the doctor ordered. And in my next post, which will officially catch you up on all things WunderGlo, I’ll let you know how the momentous Chemo Round 60 went.