Cathy Seemayer’s Story of Hope

This week’s Story of Hope features Cathy Seemayer. Cathy was the first recipient of a Powered by Hope Medal and is a reminder that anything is possible and to never give up hope.

 

Two years ago, I was experiencing some symptoms of discomfort. On March 19th, 2013, I decided it was time to have a colonoscopy. The results were so obviously cancer that the doctor wouldn’t let me leave his office without scheduling an appointment with the doctors at Siteman Cancer center. This is how my crazy journey began. I was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer that had metastasized to my liver. My liver was a mess. The best description I had was that it looked like it had polka dots all over. Dr. Tan started me on chemotherapy which continued for almost a year. I suppose I should have felt like this was the beginning of the end, but everything is so positive and upbeat at Siteman that it is hard to stay sad. I’m not saying that I didn’t have some very dark, hopeless times where I just wanted to call it quits and give up, but that just wasn’t an option.

I was considered “inoperable” at the end of 2013, so I agreed to enter a study. I needed one last set of scans to solidify I wasn’t a surgery candidate, so I had those scans in the beginning of 2014. By the grace of God, along with my talented cancer team, the “polka dots” were no longer visible in half of my liver! In 2014, chemotherapy continued, and eventually radiation was added for a week. Shortly after this, the surgeries started. Throughout this time I was thinking, I’ve heard of happy endings to cancer stories and I have also heard the not so good ones. I was approached during the summer of 2014 to be the first recipient of the “Powered by Hope” medal. Teri is just amazing, she has stood in my shoes once and persevered, so why can’t I? When I received the medal I couldn’t help but think, quitting is not an option, I can never give up hope.

Now here I am, two years later. Part of my colon and liver has been removed along with some lymph nodes. After my last surgery in October, I was told there were more visible tumors. I am still on chemotherapy, but just as maintenance. I routinely have more scans, and of course it makes me nervous, but I always remain very hopeful. I am very proud of my “Powered by Hope” medal. It hangs where I see it first thing in the morning and the last at night. I have no doubt that it takes a combination of things to succeed in recovering from a disease that takes so many lives. I have a fabulous team of doctors and nurses, an unbelievable amount of prayers and support from my family and friends and most of all a positive attitude.

“The journey isn’t over, but I am still along for the ride, singing to songs on the radio”

 

Michelle Insco’s Story of Hope

This week’s Story of Hope features Michelle Insco. She is a true fighter and an inspiration to us all that anything is possible and to never give up hope.

michelle1On June 29, 2012 I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 42.  Two weeks later I had colon resection surgery to remove the tumor.  The results of the surgery were excellent – we caught this early and the tumor was T2N0 – Stage I colon cancer.  No further treatment needed. Follow up scans a few weeks post surgery changed my life dramatically as eight tumors were found scattered throughout my lungs.  My Stage 1 diagnosis quickly changed to Stage 4, metastatic colon cancer.  We met with Dr. Tan, our wonderful oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center, and started chemotherapy immediately.  We followed various courses of chemo treatments with many ups and downs until early in 2014, when we made the decision to have the cancer surgically removed from my lungs.  Doctors in St. Louis did not advocate for this very difficult surgery, but we met a wonderful surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ who agreed with us and our medical team that the surgery was worth a shot.  On February 12, 2014, Dr. Lanza at Mayo Clinic removed ten wedges of my lungs to get rid of the eight tumors which were confirmed through pathology to be colon cancer.  I spent eight days in the hospital and another three weeks in Phoenix recovering before being able to fly home to St. Louis.  Surgery and recovery were hard, but we know this was the right decision for me.  About six weeks post-surgery, we resumed chemo treatments which continue today.  There are currently four very small tumors in my left lungs which we are holding stable with the chemo treatments.  We may opt to do one more surgery with Dr. Lanza to remove these tumors, but that is yet to be determined.  I just finished my 57th chemo treatment. I have learned that battling cancer is a marathon, not a race, and that it is important to take everything one step at a time.  Tomorrow I celebrate my 45th birthday, and I know that I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing and wonderful life!

michelle2Throughout this journey, I have found it to be incredibly important for me to continue to lead a “normal” life.  I am very happily married with two active boys and our family life remains very busy and filled with baseball, soccer, basketball and music.  I have a job that I love and I take pride in the fact that I have not missed a day of work since I was diagnosed, outside of planned vacation days, treatment days and time off for my surgeries.  I am responsible for all of the U.S. giving programs for Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, and I work hard to give my all to the people in need who benefit from the grant dollars that we give away every day.  I am honored to be of service to so many people, and every day I can see the positive impact that our programs have across America.  My team is incredibly supportive, and they bring me strength, joy and laughter every day.  I am very lucky!  Another source of strength is my focus on fitness.  I work out 5-6 days a week and I do this no matter how my body is feeling (and believe me, some days that is tough!).  I believe that my workouts in the gym and sweating it out at boot camp make me strong in both body and mind.  My advice to anyone battling a disease like cancer is simple – stay positive, rely on your community of support (whatever it looks like) and exercise, exercise, exercise!  I am incredibly lucky as I have a huge network of support to help me through this journey.  My husband, Jeff, and my boys, Ryan (age 13) and Andrew (age 12) have been with me every step of the way.  They are absolutely amazing!  Our parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues are a huge source of support every single day.  Their encouragement and love for our entire family is amazing to see!

wwIt was an honor to be nominated by the Siteman team and to receive a Powered by Hope medal.  Receiving this award is a reminder that being strong and fighting this terrible disease is worth every ounce of energy that I have, but also a reminder that I am not in this battle alone.  The medal hangs in my office on a picture of me as Wonder Woman which my team at work gave me and both Wonder Woman and my Powered by Hope medal remind me daily that I am strong and that I am surrounded by an awesome team supporting me in this battle.  Teri and the Powered by Hope team are a huge source of inspiration for all of us on this journey!

Gearing up for March: Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Next week is the beginning of March, and the official start of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I have some exciting events and speaking engagements in the coming weeks, and look forward to sharing my experiences with you.

To kick off the month, I’ll be a speaker at the Continued Fight Bootcamp on March 3. Fellow speakers include Ben Newman (founder), Aeneas Williams, Scott Underwood and Lieutenant Commander Bob Gassoff. Following this, I’m heading to Miami for the International Women’s Day event by the World Trade Center. I’ll be the guest speaker as they honor prominent business women in Florida.

I urge you to please take time to read more about colon cancer so you can help spread awareness of the disease and the importance of prevention. There are some great resources out there including the Colon Cancer Alliance.

If you are looking for ways to get involved in Colon Cancer Awareness Month, here are a couple of ideas:

  • The CCA Dress in Blue Day is March 6
  • The annual Undy 5000 5k run/walk in St. Louis is Saturday, March 28 at Forest Park. Join the Powerd by Hope team!  Here’s a fun photo from last year’s race:

Powered by Hope Team Undy 5000 Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Kansas City WIN for KC

Yesterday and today, I’ve been in Kansas City where I’ve had the amazing opportunity to attend the WIN for KC Women’s Sports Awards Luncheon. The Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WIN for KC), was established in 1994 to empower girls and women through sports and fitness. As part of the awards, Kansas City area high school female state champions were recognized along with six local individuals with the following awards: Youth Sports Girl Award, Resiliency Award, Teamwork Award, WOW Award, Senior Sportswoman Award and Leadership Award.

It was an inspiring event and the keynote speaker was six-time Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen. Her story is incredible and it was wonderful to have the chance to meet her.

Kansas City

Before the luncheon, I was a guest on WDAF FOX 4, where I shared my story. Thank you for having me as a guest! Here’s the clip:

And a behind the scenes photo during my interview!

Kansas City WDAF Interview

 

Book Signings and Valentine’s Day

2015 is off to a great start with several speaking events and Powered by Hope book signings! Please be sure to join me this weekend on Saturday, Feb. 14 at Barnes & Noble in Chesterfield Mall from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. for a special Valentine’s Day Powered by Hope book signing. I had the opportunity to do a book signing at Barnes & Noble in West County Mall at the end of January, here is a photo from the event. Thanks to all who attended!

BN Book Signing

On Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., please also be sure to join me at the St. Charles County Library. Check out their website for further details, here.