Ver Beek Blog

Our young family battling stage IV breast cancer one day at a time
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Archive for August, 2010

How much is too much to ask for?

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No one knows when their last breath will be taken.  Not many people are given a time frame on their life.  When you are given a time frame, it makes things different.  Everything is different.  Every moment of every day is different.  I look at my kids differently.  I’m incredibly thankful for the time I’ve had so far with them.  I wonder how much longer I’ll get?  My hope is that it’s many years. 

The time I spend with Dusty is different.  Not that he ever got on my nerves, but let’s say if he did occasionally, he doesn’t anymore.  I’m just happy to be with him.  Things don’t annoy me anymore.  The moments I spend with my parents, family and friends is different.  I soak all of it in.  I’m grateful for it. 

I recently received a letter from a man at church who lost his wife to cancer.  I don’t think he’ll mind me telling you that his prayer to God was he would give them five more years.  Five more years.  God gave them five more years.  She was a wonderful woman. 

I’ve been given a year, but the five years has been on my mind.  Then I think to myself that I want more than five years.  I want way more than five years.  How much is too much to ask?  In five years Brooklyn will be almost 12.  Max and Samantha will be almost 7.  They have too much life ahead of them to spend without a mom.  Scrap the five years. 

Do I ask for ten years?  That puts Brooklyn at 16 (almost 17).  By then she’ll have survived middle school and have been through driver’s training.  Maybe she’ll have been through her first heartbreak (hopefully not) and had her first fight with her friends.  Max and Samantha will be 11 (almost 12).  I’m terrible with knowing what grade they’ll be in, but I would imagine it would be around the sixth grade.  Just beginning those ever changing middle school years.  They need a mom for this.  I need to be here.  Scrap the ten years.

How much is too much to ask?  I know that my days are numbered as are the rest of my family’s.  I believe I need to rest in God’s undying love for me and my family.  I know that His will is perfect.  I need to trust and be still. 

If you’re wondering, I’m not angry at God.  I haven’t been angry yet.  I’m tired.  I’m sick of it.  I’m sad that he chose this daughter of His to have struggles.  I do wonder why.  Why couldn’t it have ended with breast cancer?  That would’ve been enough for me. 

I never saw myself as a weak person, but that’s how I feel most days.  I don’t want to be the girl with reoccurring terminal brain cancer.  The one people give head tilt looks of pity to.  The one that all of these AWESOME people are organizing fundraiser events for.  I can’t believe I’m that girl.  I’m the girl who since on steroids for my brain swelling has gained another 10 pounds.  I am currently 35+ pounds beyond where I normally am.  I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself.  I’m heavy.  My head is burnt from radiation and starting to peel.  Did I mention that my reconstruction surgery had to be postponed?  I barely recognize myself.  A tiny fraction of what I looked like 1 1/2 years ago is still there.  That’s hard. 

I want to  be the girl who organizes the fundraisers for someone else.  Who donates the $20.00 for someone else’s family.  Who gives all their pop cans and returns all of them (thank you Jen) to give the money to someone else’s family.  Who organizes a bake sale, jewelry show, repairs their van and so much more for someone else’s family.  It is so humbling to be where I am.  I am so thankful for everyone who has stepped forward and is working on or has already helped our family.  Thank you. 

I’m also scared.  Scared for what Mayo Clinic and Duke will tell me.  Will they offer a new treatment?  Will they offer surgery?  What if they tell me they have nothing for me?  Fear is from my enemy.  I know that God is better than any doctor on the face of this earth.  He is the only one who can cure my cancer.  No one else.  He’s it.  I need to trust that.  Put my fear away and rest in God. 

On a MUCH lighter note.  I can’t end this on a ranting pity party for myself. 

I did have a great Saturday making salsa with my friend Jill.  We planted some  (by some, I mean at least 10) tomato plants in my parent’s garden and we have tomatoes coming out of our ears.  So we made the Bazan’s Sweet Salsa recipe (thank you Lindsay).  If you want it, I don’t think she’d mind me giving it to you.  It was easy and it’s really good.  It’s sweet though, so it’s not a traditional salsa if that’s what you’re looking for. 

No More Radiation

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I am done with radiation!  Yesterday was my last day and it felt so good to be done.  No more crazy mask.  No more burn on my head.  No more sore ears.  We won’t know for two months whether the radiation reduced the tumors or not.  Even though I’m done, it continues to work.  That makes me feel good, but the bummer is the side effects are still in place for that time.  So I’ll deal with the fatigue, but I’ve done that before. 

I’ve noticed my memory isn’t what it used to be.  I tend to get confused with days and dates, but hopefully that will improve. 

I have an appointment with Mayo Clinic on September 8.  Thank you to Randy and Gail Pugh for offering to fly us there and back.  I’ve spoken with Gail on the phone and through email and they are like angels sent from above.  I look forward to meeting them.  

I also have an appointment with Duke University on September 13. 

Once I’ve met with both places and have their suggestions I plan on meeting with Dr. VanderWoude (oncologist) to help decide what I should do.  

The kids are doing great.  Poor Max is so confused by my head.  Whenever he sees me without something on my head, he says “mama”  “hair” in a questioning voice and has to touch my head.  Then he’ll walk to a picture of Dusty and I, where I have hair, and say “mama” in a more definitive tone.  My hair should start regrowth in about two weeks.  I figure in about four to six months my hair will be the way it was before it fell out…again. 

Speaking of hair, Samantha’s hair is getting so thick and it’s growing!  For some reason our girls don’t like to grow hair until about they’re about two. 

Brooklyn is doing great and continues to have an amazing social calendar.  She is having a blast. 

The Best Weekend Ever!

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I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend at the cottage.  Thank you Russ and Rhetha Genzink. 

Dusty and I had a great night by ourselves Friday night.  We went out for dinner to Hearth Stone.  We laughed later because we realized it’s a gas station restaurant.  That’s right, we celebrated our 12 year anniversary dining at a restaurant hooked to a BP gas station.  In all fairness, you wouldn’t know it was a gas station restaurant until you go down the hill and see the BP is hooked to it.  It was good food and we couldn’t complain. 

We were given a couple presents from friends to take along.  Knowing my enormous sweet tooth, my friend Jill smuggled a Zeeland Bakery Cake (white cake, chocolate frosting on top and cream in the middle – there is no other way) and fake bubbly (I can’t drink on my drugs).  Susan Bakker made an awesome appetizer platter for us. 



Susan also made a cute little bucket of sparklers, rice krispie treats and fun things for the kids.  Brooklyn decided to try selling the Rice Krispie treats.  What a little entrepreneur!  Wonder where she gets that from? 




We did everything we hoped to do.  We played in the water, went on a boat ride, rode the Sea Doos (Brooklyn’s new favorite), caught a fish, watched a sunset, roasted s’mores, ran around with sparklers, ate too much food and had a great time with the entire family. 






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It was so hard to leave on Sunday because it meant coming back to reality.  I am so thankful that for one weekend I could focus on something other than brain tumors. 

I watched my kids play in the water.  Discovered Brooklyn cannot go fast enough on a Sea Doo with her Uncle Clair.  Realized Max thinks he’s a big boy and wants to drive a Sea Doo too (just like Uncle Clair).  Samantha loves the water.  Brynn (my beautiful newborn niece) is such a sweet and awesome baby.  Although…word in the cottage was that she didn’t sleep well and gave her parents and grandparents a rough night.  Somehow my family slept through the whole thing! 

I’ll write a new posting to fill you in on what’s to come with me from a medical standpoint. 

I wanted this posting to be all awesomeness. 

There it goes again…

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Where to begin.  Monday night was a memorable night shopping with Brooklyn and my mom.  We had a great time.  Thanks again to Lilly’s limo and the Meyaard family who provided this trip for us. 

God pulled through for me on Monday.  As you know, Brooklyn wasn’t ready for my hair to fall out so I had one simple request – please let my hair last through our shopping trip.  I put a helmet of hairspray on- it could’ve been bullet proof.  By the time the kids were in bed, however, I was pulling clumps of it out.  It came out quickly.  I’m officially bald….again. 

Disclaimer:  If you drop by my house unannounced (which is fine), but you see me, rush, dash, or army crawl in an effort to be avoided, it’s because I’m frantically looking for a headscarf to put on my head.  I will not answer the door without one.  It’s the vanity in me.  So please pretend you don’t see me flailing around throwing things on my head. 

Medical Update. 

Here is a call I received today:

Ring Ring


“Dr. Frieling” (monotone)

“excuse me?”

“Dr. Frieling Duke University” (he was speaking fast and monotone so I think that was his name)

Papers shuffle “I’m calling for Melinda Ver Beek (that’s me).”

“That’s me”.

“Yes, I’ve looked at your case and we can’t help you.  We only work on primary brain tumors, not tumors that have metastized.  Sorry.”

“So you’re telling me Duke is out of the running?”

“No, my department is out of the running.  Call Amy Blackwell – here’s her number”.

Peach of a man.  I mean really.  I bet he’s a great brain surgeon. 

I called Dr. Blackwell’s office and was more encouraged speaking with her staff than the brain surgeon.  According to her staff, her research is in breast cancer that has metastized.  If my case meets her requirments, I will be considered top priority and she will overboard her clinics.   Right now, I’m transferring my medical records to Duke to find out when I can be seen.  I have a tentative appointment on September 13, but she may want to see me before then. 

I’ve also been in contact with Mayo Clinic.  Currently a case worker is looking over my file and I expect to hear from them by the end of this week. 

Lots of things going on and much more to be thankful for:

Thank God for medicine.

Thank God for the amount of money that’s been donated to us.  This will be used wisely and toward all medical expenses.

Thank you for the prayers of His people.  I feel an intense peace that has also filled our home.  Our attitudes are different towards eachother and there is a lot of happiness despite the circumstances. 

Please pray that this weekend goes well for me and my family.  I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel physically.  My expectations are so high that I don’t want to let myself down.  Please pray that I don’t have headaches, nausea, or any complications.  I am excited to spend time alone with Dusty and then with the rest of the family.  I can’t wait to see Max and Samantha splash on the beach and put sand in eachother’s hair.  For Brooklyn to take her first sea doo ride and to cruise around on a Pontoon boat.  God is always good. 


My radiation drivers.  It’s a treat to chat with someone each day. 

Awesome Ironers.  This has taken a big load off our shoulders

Lawn Mowers.  Thank you Nykamp’s for mowing our yard.

Random Acts of Kindness people:  Cookies, Captain Sundae Coupons, Bars, Meals, Crafs for Brooklyn, Fun outtings for Brooklyn, scarf donations.  The list goes on and I’m sorry if I forgot to mention you.

For The Love Of Lindy – Thank you to the organizers of the various events.  I know this doesn’t come easy and much time and effort has put into it.   It hasn’t gone unnoticed.  I appreciate and love you all. 

A Very Memorable School Shopping Experience!

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Our 6 year old daughter Brooklyn, Lindy, and Grandma Loie aka “Bees” went school shopping last tonight in style, thanks to our friends at Lily’s Limos.  Check out the video below for a short glimpse into the experience they had in the stretch Hummer Limo.   

Thank you Steve and Julie from Lily’s Limos for making this year’s shopping trip extra memorable!   It was a special time together they will not forget. 

We had a blast.  It was the best shopping experience and one we will always remember.  Thanks for the great memories Steve and Julie!






Second Time’s a Charm

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It’s happening.  My hair is falling out in clumps.  Yesterday Samantha was sitting in her high chair eating a snack.  I bent down next to her to pick up food off the floor.  She decided to reach out and grab my hair.  In doing so, she managed to pull a hand full of my hair with her. It’s not that hard this time around.  I feel like I’ve prepared myself to lose it again and my prayer is that this time it grows back.  They say with radiation it takes longer for it to come back compared to chemo and it may not come back at all.  Small worry in the grand scheme of things. 

My goal remains the same: Stay alive. Raise my kids.

Thankfully I passed my old scarves onto a friend who went through chemo last summer and she kept them.  Not only my scarves, but she passed on a bunch of new scarves too.  Thank you Amy!  This morning Brooklyn and I washed the scarves and hung them on the line to dry.  They looked so pretty I had to take some pictures.

The scarves have accumulated from friends and family and there is even a scarf that was given to me by a dear friend – Anita Geurink who brought it all the way from Beautiful Gate in Leshotoho, Africa!  It’s the blue scarf with cones on it. 



Cottage Bound

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Thank you

to everyone who graciously offered their cottage to our family on short notice.  We were so honored by all the people willing to share the blessing of their vacation homes with us. Russ and Rhethea Genzink have kindly offered the use of their cottage on Upper Silver Lake.  I haven’t been to Silver Lake since I was a kid and am looking forward to seeing it again.  I also once had the honor of eating dinner at their cottage after my parent’s picked Kelli Huizenga and I up from Cran Hill Ranch.  I look forward to seeing if my memory from all those years ago still matches what it is.  I bet it’s even better.  I can’t wait to soak my toes in the lake, catch a sunset or sunrise (not sure what way the cottage faces) and watch my kids splash in the water.  Thank you Genzink’s!Lindy

My Hair

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How many times have you been told you’re going to lose your hair?  It’s coming out.  Nothing is going to stop it and a very official person in a white coat has told you this and even gave you a time frame?  I have been told this twice. 

First time was June 2009 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I was beginning chemo.  It was going to fall out within two weeks and it will happen fast – within 24 hours.  At that time, I shaved my head during a thunderstorm at 4:00  in the morning. 

This time out of shear rebellion I cut it myself.  I’ve always wanted to try cutting my own hair.  Just to see if I could do it.  How hard could it possibly be?  I stood with a black cape around my neck, hair dripping down my sides and my hands working like Edward Scisscorhands. 

I was going mod.  Something edgy.  Fresh.  Off-centered (not Flock of Seagulls), but maybe something someone would want to emulate.  A look only a woman about to lose her hair would dare sport.  This is what I ended up with:


That’s right.  A dutch boy haircut.  Nothing edgy.  No off-set bangs.  Nothing crazy and fun and wild.  A plain dutch boy haircut.   Even my own daughter looks disgusted by it. 

I don’t have the chops (pun intended) to cut my own hair.  If you need an edgy, mod, fresh hair cut, do not call me.  I am not your girl.  But I tried it.  Attempted it.  Failed it.  And it doesn’t matter because it’s going to fall out soon anyway.

Now when I hear Brooklyn pray at night “Dear God, please don’t let mama’s beautiful hair fall out because it’s so pretty”.  I can’t help but wonder if God is cracking up and figuring out a way to let Brooklyn know He’s doing me a favor by letting it go. 

Two Trains

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On Monday, July 26, 2010 I was on the platform of a train station boarding my train to the end of breast cancer.  I sat down on the nice commuter train, had a clean, comfortable seat and there was even some nice music playing overhead.  There was good lighting and everyone was in good moods.  I was on my way to meet with Dr. Song in Chicago for the last time before my procedure.  I had my best friend and our kids with us to make the most of the day at Shedd Aquarium.  I was excited about having reconstruction done by one of the best plastic surgeon’s in the field who was doing the best procedure for me.  We had everything lined up.  Our cousin’s sister graciously offered their Chicago basement apartment for Dusty to stay in while I was at the hospital.  We had childcare lined up for the six weeks following the procedure.   The train dropped us off the hospital.  I had a good meeting with the doctor.  I had a good meeting with the anesthesiology department and that was it.  I was looking forward to having my new, old body rebuilt – tummy tuck was the bonus!  One pesky thing kept creeping in during the day…headaches. 

Onward…we hopped the train to Shedd Aquarium and had a fabulous day.  The kids loved it.  We took in all the sites and made some great memories.  Drove home that night, tired, but happy we had such a fun, successful day.

On Tuesday, July 27 I went to physical therapy because I’ve been having problems with frozen shoulder since my mastectomy.  My PT also knew about my ongoing headaches and nausea and we assumed it was because of all the adjusting we were doing to my shoulder and neck area.  After PT I had such a bad headache that I called Dr. Hoberman (my surgeon) and she prescribed Norco (narcotic).  I took the pain pills, got through the day, but couldn’t seem to get rid of the headaches. 

On Wednesday, July 28 I began vomiting because the headaches were too severe.

On Thursday, July 29 I called Dr. Hoberman explaining the pills weren’t helping and the vomiting is bad.  She immediately conferred with Dr. VanderWoude who sent me to Holland’s Emergency Room.  Jill drove me there and it was there that I had tests run, including a CT scan.  I didn’t hear it then, but the second train was pulling into the station. 

ALERT!  God Moment:  Dusty happened to meet an old friend for lunch that day and as he was driving by the hospital on his way back to work he popped in so we could joke together about how silly my little ER visit is.  Stupid headaches. 

Jill met him in the hall and remembered telling him that we waiting for the results of the CT scan.  CT scan?  She needed a CT scan?  Dusty came into my room and a moment later Dr. Nicely came in to tell us of the two tumors the CT picked up.  All color washed away from Dusty’s face.  He looked like he was punched in the gut.  This wasn’t expected. I think my eyes were closed with my jaw on the ground and Jill was bent forward with her head in her hands.  This isn’t happening!  At the worst it was going to be meningitis.  That’s what Dr. Hoberman said!  Pesky meningitis.  Not brain cancer.   

Dr. Hoberman walked in the room and I swear as she did I could hear the train start up.   She explained that I could be admitted to get the tests going right away or go home and schedule the tests as an outpatient.  We wanted to get it done.  Get these tumors out of me NOW!  I was decided to send me to Spectrum because they have a bigger pool of brain surgeon’s to work with and that’s also where one of Dr. VanderWoude’s offices is. 

So I boarded the train.  This train was darker.  Not cheery.  Not comfortable.  Cold.  As I rode the train to Grand Rapids it was dark and as light fell through the windows I saw signs before me “Brain Cancer”  “No new body for you”  “How much longer”  “What about your family”  “What do I do now”.  There was no overhead music.  No brightness.  Disbelief.  Dispair. 

We arrived at Spectrum where we were well taken care of.  We had many well wishers and great nurses who took care of us.  The first night at the hospital was busy.  I had an abdominal CT scan at 10:30 at night and a head MRI at 12:30 a.m.  I had a bone scan the next day at 3.  The CT scan and bone scan both showed no signs of cancer – PRAISE GOD!  The MRI, however, showed six tumors throughout my brain.  It was explained that our brains have a natural defense against poinsons (chemo) going to the brain so my cancer spread the only place it could – my brain.  I have three large tumors in my cerebellum, two towards the top of my head and one on the right side of my head.  So far I can do everything I used to do.  I’m mobile and can still type on my blog.  The thing I miss the most is driving.  I’ve decided not to drive because of my risk of seizure.  But thanks to the great support I haven’t had a problem getting anywhere.  Aside from being very tired I’m okay.  I know I wouldn’t be this good if it weren’t for the prayers that are being said on my behalf – thank you. 

I was released from the hospital on August 3 and have been undergoing full brain radiation treatments in Holland.  When I’m finished with radiation (roughly 9 more visits) I will begin exploring Mayo Clinic and some other options that have been presented to me.  I plan on working closely with Dr. VanderWoude and greatly respect her advice for my next steps.

Please pray that God will continue to hold our family and friends up the way only he can.  Things are working really well for us right now.  Dusty is in a deep peace of mind and that is so comforting to me.  Brooklyn has been spoiled with a social calendar unlike anything I’ve seen before and the babies are doing great with grandma and grandpa.  Samantha is even showing interest in potty training!  YIPPEEEE. 

If you haven’t had a chance to read my post to my dad about his last day of work and would like to do so, please do it.  I would love if you could share a memory or story in the comments section so I can print those for him.  He will love to read them.  It will make his day! 

P.S.  There were no train rides.  It was just a metaphor.

Prayer Requests:

No Nausea

Good sleep at night

No Headaches

Continued energy for my parents, family and friends as we walk through this together. 

Thank you to all the radom acts of kindness that are being given to us – gift cards to restaurants, Captain Sundae, fundraisers, bake sales, the list goes on and on and I just don’t feel worthy.  God has been good to our family.  I believe he will carry me through this too. 

My goal is simple:  Stay alive.  Raise my kids.  Nothing else matters. 

Thanks Dad

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This morning my dad did something I never thought I would see.   He went to work at Genzink Plumbing where he has worked for 40+ years and put in his last hours.  It’s hard for me because I wanted him to do it on his own terms. 

My dad is a worker.  That’s who he is.  It defines him.  In the best way…it defines him.  He works.  That’s what he does.  It’s what he has done his whole life.   It’s what he loves to do.  He never worked at our expense.  He always included us.  He always taught us along the way.  He took us beside him and showed us what he was doing and if we were lucky, he would let us do it ourselves.  From milking a cow (I never actually did this – yuck), to stacking hay, to sodering a pipe, to sweeping a floor properly, to changing oil in our cars when we were 16. 

He grew up on a farm in South Olive, Michigan and has always been a farm boy at heart.  There is something that lives inside him to work hard for what he has.  Everything my parents have is because they’ve worked hard and have been conscientious with what they do.  They are kind and generous.   They have never hurt anyone to get what they have. 

I have many memories growing up of him receiving phone calls from neighbors, friends, family members, church members or someone in need a plumbing fix.  You know the perils – the water heater is broken, clogged toilet, overflowing something-or-other, the Mr. Fix-it’s trying to do their own work and now need the advice off a master plumber.   No matter what time of day or season – dinner hour (we always ate dinner as a family), or 9:00 at night in the dead of winter.  He would always go and help.  Not with a grudge.  He wouldn’t stomp his feet out the door shaking his head side-to-side mumbling under his breath.  He would do it with a SMILE.  He was happy to help.  He would say so-and-so needs some hot water or their toilet is clogged and they have company coming for the holidays tomorrow.  Off he would go.  Happy as a clam to do something he loved to do.  Work. 

I have more memories of job sites as a kid than what most kids would.  Genzink Plumbing has employed him well over the years and, if I may be so bold, my dad was a good employee.  I remember spending evenings in the warehouse at Genzink’s while dad would organize random parts from boxes to make the boxes complete again.  I remember going along at night with him to job sites while he worked.  I would pretend the poured concrete walls of the new homes were my balance beams and take my roller skates along to ride on the fresh poured floors.  If we were good and well behaved we would stop at the closest ice cream shop for a cone on the way home.  Yum!

It physically pains me to know that he worked his last hours today at a job he has held very well for many years.   I feel like he did it before he was ready because of me and my cancer/prognosis.  I didn’t want it to be like this.  I wanted it to be on his own terms and on his own time.  When he was ready and when he wanted to.  He deserved that much.  He earned it.

Thank you Russ and Rethea, Ross and Rick and the entire Genzink Family and team for working with my dad.  You have blessed him and our family. 

If you happen to see my dad, give him a hand shake, pat him on the back or give him a hug for what he has done. 

Even though his official days at Genzink’s may be behind him, he has a lot of work left in him and I think he’s saving it for his grandchildren. 

I love you dad.

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