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Meet me in St. Louis

22 Nov

The 'lesser photographed' side of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign

Ta-Da, I’m back!  This phrase happens to be the personal credo of a dear friend, and I found it quite appropriate in this case after a long hiatus from the blog. I ended the last update indicating we were in the process getting second and third opinions regarding the next steps for dealing with the growing cancer throughout my liver and lungs.  In addition to doing just this, we’ve also made some big moves. Literally. After working out a telecommuting arrangement with my office, we packed up our house and officially relocated to St. Louis.  This was a plan that had been in the works for a while, and with the latest rounds of scans detailing my health was not yet stable, we recognized the importance of being closer to family in order to deal with the challenges this next set of treatments was about to bring us.  For those of you who may not know, Nick’s family resides in St. Louis and we also have an established network of friends, colleagues and resources here.  While we wanted to consider moving back to Minneapolis where many of my family and friends reside, the sheer idea of the cold, long winters froze that thought right in its place and we haven’t revisited it since!

After a whirlwind packing episode, two friends from college – Joe and Jenny – flew out from Michigan to help us make the drive.  Before we know it, we were on the road with a tightly packed 26′ U-Haul truck, my car, four rotating drivers and two Siberian Husky co-pilots.  Twenty-six hours and 1,610 miles later we arrived at our quaint little rental home in St. Louis. (For anyone that’s interested in our new address, I’ve added a Contact tab at the top of the site.) We are now ready to face that which lies ahead of us: the next (and hopefully final) round in this fight against cancer.  Although strong and optimistic, we’ve prepared ourselves for this to be one of the toughest battles yet. Stay tuned for a series of updates that will bring you up to speed on our current cancer-fighting progress…

Sir Isaac Newton once said ‘What goes up must come down.’  In the case of the Akerberg’s, however, they who move westward, must eventually come back.

March, 2003: Em and Nick move from St. Louis to San Diego

October, 2011: Em and Nick move from Las Vegas to St. Louis

The story of Dick and Jane…or something like that

21 Aug

So imagine this…Amazing girl meets incredible boy. They fall in love and graduate from college. When deciding where to move to, the boy suggests they go to a far away town, where his parents have a second home; they can start a life here.  Girl agrees.  Coincidentally, the girl’s brother and sister also live in this far away town. A few weeks after moving to the town, the sister gets some bad news. She has cancer. The next fourteen months are the hardest she would ever know. But the amazing girl is by her sister ‘s side every step of the way. She entertains her at chemo appointments, helps her in and out of hospital beds, refashions her wardrobe to accommodate an ostomy bag, and watches as she slowly regains her strength.  One day, the girl has an epiphany. True to her very nature, she decides she wants to do something to contribute to the world and make it a better place. She knows she has to go back to school so she can become a teacher. The amazing girl and the incredible boy move back to the far away place that they came from so she can pursue this dream.

I know you’re thinking this sounds just like one of those Dick and Jane tales you used to read.  But it’s not…it’s actually the story of Em and Jane.  Today my sister Jane and her boyfriend D.J. moved from Las Vegas back to Portland where she’ll begin a program to obtain a Master’s in Montessori Education.  While I am extremely proud of her, it was so hard to watch her go.  I can’t help but think it was no coincidence that she arrived in town just weeks before my diagnosis…I think she was brought here by the cancer angels.  And now that she’s moving on, maybe that means this battle is almost over?  We will know soon.

This past week I finished the last of three chemo treatments.  Unlike the past few rounds of chemotherapy, the particular drug I received this time – Avastin – has no debilitating side effects.  After Labor Day, I go in for another PET scan to evaluate the progress and determine next steps.  Fingers crossed the scan is clean and shows no remaining lesions.

While this particular chapter of Em and Jane has come to an end, I anxiously await what the future chapters will hold!

The best birthday present ever

28 Jul

It’s funny how things change as you go through life.  When I was younger, I eagerly awaited my birthday party each year.  I would plan it meticulously down to the theme, the cups, the napkins, and the friends I invited. As I grew older, it wasn’t the parties that mattered so much, rather the cultural milestones such as my 16th and 21st birthdays.

And now here I am turning 30 years old today.  Despite the lack of balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling, I was elated when I learned my sister Jane would be getting a colonoscopy on my birthday.  It arguably runs a close second to the Pretty Pretty Princess showing up at my 8th birthday party, however, knowing my sister is getting screened for and could potentially prevent the hereditary onset of colorectal cancer is quite possibly the best birthday present imaginable.

The patient is all prepped and ready to go! Seriously, how many people can manage to look this good in a hosital gown?!

Fortunately the procedure was over just as quick as it started and the results were in…she had a clean colon, making it an even better birthday present!  Just having this piece of mind will let me sleep better at night.  And now there’s just one sibling left to go in for the screening process, my brother.  I’m sure he’ll surprise me with a really great Christmas present…right Bill?!

What a weekend

4 Apr

After an amazing, whirlwind weekend Nick and I finally arrived back in Las Vegas this evening.  I am elated to report that the E-Team was in full effect at the Fool’s Five race and represented a healthy portion of the participants!  My cross-country coach in high school always used to tell us that like many strenuous activities, running was 90% mental and 10% physical.  I prayed this was still true as I lined up at the starting line, about to embark on a 5 mile run; this would be the first real exercise I had done since starting chemo last July (assuming you don’t include the countless walks I took down the hospital hallways, sporting my backless gown and pushing an IV cart).  Thank God this was still the case, as it was my determination – and not my scrawny, deteriorated quad muscles – that allowed me to cross the finish line a mere one hour, fifteen minutes and forty-eight seconds later.  And who can forget the sea of Team Emily shirts surrounding the finish line and cheering me in…with a crowd like that, I probably could have gone another five!  Thanks to everyone who came out to support, as well as those who were there in spirit.  Numerous people have told me that even though they couldn’t make it to the race, they walked or ran in my honor yesterday, including my brother who took the dogs on a five mile hike! As I am quite exhausted after it all, I will keep this rather short but share a few pictures from the weekend…more to follow.

My thanks again to everyone who made this a truly unforgettable weekend.

The E-Team! This is a nice hi-res photo, click on it several times to get even greater detail.

The photo finish!

Post-race photo with Jane, Dad and Em

On your mark. Get set. Race details!

1 Apr

With the Fool’s Five race just two days away, I wanted to provide some last minute details for those who will be participating.  I am so proud and inspired by the fact that the E-Team will be comprising a healthy percentage of the race participants!

Saturday Evening Pasta Dinner

My amazing Aunt Karen, the consummate cook, has organized a pasta dinner tomorrow night in order to provide everyone with sufficient carbs and energy for race day.

What: A hearty pasta dinner with garlic toast will be served. Plates, napkins, utensils, non-alcoholic beverages and coffee will be provided.  There will be a small fee collected at the door to cover cost of food and lodge rental.  Feel free to bring any other beverages you wish, keeping in mind glass containers are not allowed.

Where: Holzinger Lodge, 651 W. Lake Blvd., Winona, MN

When: Saturday, April 2nd, 4pm – Midnight

Directions: (from Twin Cities) Take Hwy 61 South to Winona, Turn Right at Huff Street, and then take another quick Right. Go approximately 1.5 miles to the Lodge.

Fool’s Five Road Race

Sunday is race day!  With over 2,000 participants pre-registered, things may get a bit hectic, however we have secured a prime meeting place for everyone to congregate at.

Registration/packet pick-up: 9am – Noon at the Lewiston Altura High School, 100 County Road 25, Lewiston, MN 55952

E-Team meeting place: 24522 County Road 25 (look for the Team Emily sign posted in the front yard).  This location is on the SE corner across from the High School, just strides from the starting line!  Note: arrive early, as parking could be scarce.

Race start time: 1pm

For those who will be there in spirit

For those of you who cannot make it, keep us in your thoughts on Sunday and pray for some decent weather.  A number of people  have inquired how to donate towards the cause.  While I couldn’t find a direct link for donations, click here for a link that will take you to a pledge sheet (on page two) that you can fill out and send in.  Just make certain to indicate it is on behalf of Emily Akerberg’s team, as we are keeping a total tally of all donations received.

Thanks again for all those involved, I’m looking forward to sharing photos and stories after this weekend! 

A foolishly good time

24 Feb

First off, welcome to the new blog!  I decided we were in need of a makeover as we prepare to welcome our 20,000th visitor, and in celebration of National Colorectal Cancer month in March. Now on to the fun stuff…

Remember the amazing support network I keep talking about?  Well they are at it again!  On Sunday, April 3, 2011 a growing number of family and friends will be gathering in Lewiston, Minnesota to participate in the 33rd Annual Fool’s Five Road Race in my honor!  The race proceeds benefit the Mayo Clinic, Gundersen Lutheran Foundation and the Lewiston Area Cancer Support Group.  This is not the first time, however, that family members have participated in this race.  Last year, my cousin Erica and her family participated in honor of Mike Trigg, husband of my cousin Jessi.  Mike had recently been diagnosed with Non-Hodgekin’s Lymphoma and the family support system was ready to act.  Mike has since won his battle with cancer (yay!) and this year, he and Jessi announced they were making the trip from Chicago to Lewiston for the race in order to pay it forward in my honor!  How cool is that?!?  Since then, I’ve learned of a number of other family and friends that will be joining. When I first caught wind of the race, I was uncertain if I’d be able to make it, not knowing what my docket of doctor’s appointments would look like.  I recently learned however that I’ll be able to participate, as it falls nicely between my chemo appointments!

Not only am I looking forward to participating with family and friends in this amazing cause, but it also is a great goal to work towards.  I have to keep reminding myself though that registering for the race is one thing, but actually finishing the race is a whole other story!  In my past (pre-cancer life), a 5 mile run was fairly regular accomplishment; in December, 2005 I ran the Las Vegas Marathon.  However shortly after my cancer treatments began last summer, my exercise regimen quickly became non-existent once chemo fatigue set in and surgery followed.  It’s time to reverse that, and the Fool’s Five race is the perfect catalyst to jump start a cautious training routine!  Stay tuned for race updates, and if you are interested in joining us register today at See you on Main Street!

2005 Las Vegas Marathon - Mile #23

It takes a village

26 Dec

I think we’ve all heard the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”…and any mom certainly knows that’s true.  But to put a new twist on the saying, I believe it takes a village to beat cancer.  I left snowy Minneapolis a week ago to spend Christmas here in Las Vegas with my kids.  Within a day or two I was truly overwhelmed at the many, many ways others have reached out to Emily.  I know I’ve done what I can to help, but, that’s just what a mom does.  However, when I see all the ways so many others have helped, it’s easy to see the true kindness of others.  Many have sent Christmas cards merely saying “You’re in my thoughts and prayers”.  Others have sent little Christmas presents which indicate “I’m thinking of you”.  A diagnosis of cancer is devastating, but when it happens to someone you love, it hits you to the very core and we all want to reach out and help…believe me, you have.

Merry Christmas to the village.

An evening to remember

19 Nov

It often feels like we live in a world where one has to dig deep to be reminded that there are still kindhearted, generous and caring people.  When you turn on the television or open a newspaper, we are quickly reminded of the ongoing housing crisis, are witness to political smear campaigns, or learn that Brett Favre is once again dealing with another injury.  Through my battle, however, I haven’t had to look far at all, as the amount of love and support that has been pouring in has been incredible.  The cards, flowers and emails I receive from friends, family members, and even people I don’t know is overwhelming – in a good way.  Another example, is the benefit dinner that my amazing friend Allison Luse is putting on for me tomorrow night, Saturday, November 20th at the Fireside Lounge at Camerata Park in St. Louis Park.

Always a go-getter, Al can’t just sit back and watch when someone is struggling…and my case was no different.  Allison held nothing back when she was organizing the festivities for tomorrow night.  The evening will be catered with a great dinner, feature Ruth Bachman as a keynote speaker, a silent auction, and best of all, a Zoolander-inspired dance off competition.  I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me that she did this.

An Evening in Support of Emily Ihrke Akerberg

Thank you Al, and to everyone else who is coming together to make this an incredible evening.  While I am bummed I will not be able to physically be there, I’m hoping to be able to join in via Skype to say hello!  It is always neat to see people join forces on someone’s behalf…never in a million years did I imagine that it would be on my behalf.

Come home soon Mom…

10 Nov

...We miss you!

A family afair

12 Aug

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I feel incredibly blessed by the support network of family and friends I am surrounded by.  While I am lucky enough to see certain members of this network on a daily basis, there are others that I only get to see a few times each year or sometimes less – yet this doesn’t mean their thoughts and prayers aren’t heard and felt.  Case in point: The Ihrkes gathered together over this past Fourth of July weekend at Jellystone Park in Wisconsin for a joint baby shower (congrats Jessi & Mike), bridal shower (congrats Sam & Olan) and high school graduation (congrats Adam).  While I was bummed Nick and I couldn’t be a part of this weekend, I enjoyed seeing everyone’s photos and hearing stories recounted of trying to place the cousins in order from oldest to youngest – no easy feat.

Fast-forward to yesterday.  I received a FedEx at the house from my Uncle Joe.  Enclosed was a powerful piece of artwork along with a photo that brought me to tears.  The Ihrke clan had taken the time to create a banner that said ‘Emily, we’re thinking of you’ and then gathered around it for a photo (to get a better look at it, click on the picture to enlarge it).  As you can see from the photo, I have power in numbers on my side (and that’s not even all of them)!  Thank you to all that participated in this – you don’t know how much it means…

The Ihrke Support Network

Now, if only I could figure out who took the picture!