Monday, February 28, 2011
But today, we wanted to answer a common question. What is a lymph node?
We know that Alexis has Non-hodgkins lymphoma, large B-cell.
Simply: Alexis has cancer in her immune system. Below is a little more explanation.
The the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system. It includes many things: tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes, etc. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures that help fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are located along the network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the arm pit, the pelvis, the neck, areas of the abdomen, and groin. These bean shaped nodes are like little fortresses placed throughout your body and work to kill off infection.
Alexis has cancer in her lymph nodes. Some of these nodes have more cancer then others, like the ones in her neck (cervical lymph nodes). It is normal for our lymph nodes to get bigger when they are working to fight an infection, just like when your tonsils become inflamed with a sore throat. However, Alexis has large lymph nodes because they are filled with cancer cells growing inside.
What is a B-cell?
A B-cell is part of the lymph system, and it's job is to help produce antibodies. Antibodies are the "fighters" who work inside the lymph nodes (or fortresses) to attack bacteria & viral infections. There are other types of cells too that help produce antibodies, but B-cells are a major contributor. The cancer has essentially turned many of these b-cell fighters into cancer cells.
What do we hope chemotherapy will do?
We hope that the chemotherapy will stop the growth and spread of the cancer. But in order to do this it has to kill the cancer cells. In Alexis case, it will kill the B-cells and the cancer cells because they are part of each other now. This is one of the reasons that Alexis will be at high risk for infection. The Chemotherapy will essentially kill a big part of her immune system and she will be vulnerable to illness because she has no way to fight it off.
But none of this information changes the fact that Alexis has a fighters spirit. She will rise to the occasion and with the help of medical staff, friends, family and intervention she will be able to overcome this cancer.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Nothing like an email from Bronson, and a picture to make me cry, but it also made my day! Love my little brother and miss him so much! I also love that he is reppin' the purple all the way in New Zealand. I'm sending him a new purple tie this week so he doesn't have to wear the same one over and over again. He gives me so much strength and although I wish he was here to make me feel better, I know he's out doing what is truly making him happy right now. Love you Bronson! This one is for you!
Saturday, February 26, 2011
The team sported new shirts for Alexis today and ended the season on a memorable note for her too.
Another great surprise was when 150+ Kaufsi family members and friends all showed up in purple to show their support to Alexis. The effect was overwhelming!
Friday, February 25, 2011
So after weeks and weeks, ok just kidding like 3 weeks we finally have a final diagnosis. I have officially been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Large B Cell, stage 3. According to the doctor they were so confused because this isn't normally a cancer that young people get, especially people as young as me! According to the CT scans, my biggest tumor is about the size of an orange, and they are found above and below my diaphragm. That's what makes it a stage 3 I guess. They also said its not in my bone marrow (guess Bronson doesn't need to come home for bone marrow tests) but there are lesions on my bones, but its not in the bone. As of right now my biggest worry is the fact that we have been using the color purple where in reality purple means Hodgkin's. To keep things simple we are going to keep the color purple! Not lavender purple, but true purple! It will stand for, Alexis Kaufusi has cancer and I love her! :) But for all of you people, don't worry I will be fine! The difference between me and everyone else with Non-Hodgkins is that I'm 21, and I'm freaking young, and I got a lot going for me. And I'm so stubborn I refuse to give up to this stupid cancer! Don't worry though I'll be fine. Thank you for everything you all have done! Keep wearing the purple and I will keep you guys all informed as we go through this long process! Thank you again! I love you all.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
At Daryl's soccer game tonight, the entire team (and coach) came out wearing these bands on their arms. AK 10 printed in purple. The support of a sister is some of the greatest in the world. I don't have a sister, but I now that I have three girls I am getting a new perspective entirely. I have learend that sisters are often the hardest part of the day, but often the sweetest part too. They are as different as flowers in a garden, but somehow, they are still growing in the same garden making it beautiful. But most of all, life without a sister seems like you are eating a cookie, which is great. However, life with a sister is eating a cookie with the chocolate chips.
Any way you look at it, the support of a sister is a sweet thing.
The biggest bulge is where they will insert the chemotherapy. There are no pieces outside of the skin to see because the skin is the best barrier to infection. By having to poke through the skin with each infusion and medication the skin helps keep any infection out.
(that is a wig on the right, not Alexis hair, I didn't notice it's bad placement until too late, oops)
I think this was fun, all the hair you have ever wanted to try.
She just switched out the wigs and teased them a little, and "Ta-Da!" A new you.
One lesson of the day: you need bangs on a wig
Yep, each wig has a name.
But let's just take a moment to remember how beautiful Alexis hair is today. Her real hair.
(she debated whether to get a wig with a fountain to match Ella's, but we assured her she could grow her own after chemotherapy was over)
I can only imagine what a hard thing that would be to lose your hair. Be assured Alexis, your smile will still shine and you will still be beautiful. Sometimes the scars of living our lives don't feel so beautiful, but in the end they are what make us who we are. They are what helps us remember the road we have traveled. Everyone has these scars, some of us have scars that are more easily seen. But no matter how life marks us up, the light we emit cannot be dimmed. This light beautifies us from the inside out.
She also gave a cute white board that the Kaufusi's can fill out so you know when Alexis might be up for visitors. What an adorable and useful gift that helps everyone in this process express their love and also helps Kaufusi's as they head into this next chapter. Thank you!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
"The BYU men’s basketball team donned the pink shoes to promote cancer awareness en route to an 84-76 win against Colorado State University Wednesday night in the Marriott Center.
Wearing pink was something special for the the Cougars, whose coach, Dave Rose, has overcome pancreatic cancer. It also allowed the men’s basketball team to show support for women’s basketball player Alexis Kaufusi, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and had her season cut short this year." Click here for full article on Game
Also there are a lot of articles written on when rivals at the University of Utah wore their purple shirts for Alexis as well. Click here to see that article.
And here is a sign that was made by Steve Day and his grandson Landon at last nights BYU game. It means 'have courage' in Tongan.
Hey everyone! Thank you for all the love as usual. You guys are all so amazing! Surgery #2 went really well I'm glad it's done and over with. Now its the waiting game, AGAIN! Its ok though because I'm learning all about patience. The biopsy isn't what hurts right now, its the port itself. Its really weird because I can actually feel the tube going up through my neck its the craziest feeling! Today was very low key which was nice. I took a nap, ate some chocolate cake, hung out with a friend, and got some new music which is always a good treat. I'm really excited to be going though and moving towards getting better. Its all part of the healing process and I can't wait to be better! Tonight my team played Colorado State. There's :24 and we are up by 9 so I am assuming we will win. I hate that I can't travel and be with my team its been really hard. But it was a great win for the team! Thank you again to everyone for the love and support. It means so much to me. I love you all!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Alexis checked in to the hospital for her second surgery this afternoon. The surgery was less then 2 hrs, and everything went as planned (even though her doctor was a University of Utah fan). She had a second lymph node removed for biopsy and the port placed that gives the doctors and staff access to her carotid artery for treatments, medications and other things.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Jess Mullen, Alexis' academic adviser, took time to have 16 different sports teams sign posters for Alexis. Team members from cheer, volleyball, football, basketball, etc., etc., etc., all signed their names next to personal messages to Alexis. Then Jess Mullen delivered them to Alexis at home. These 16 posters will surely make amazing wallpaper to study over the next few months of bed rest and few visitors. And (as you can see) each poster also was decorated with the custom design AK 10 that the woman's basketball team also wears as a patch on their jersey. Thank you to everyone! But especially Jess Mullen for all she does to keep Alexis on track in school and bringing this little bit hope to home.
What an overwhelming show of love. It is moments like these that the battle seems a little less overwhelming.
Yesterday another letter from Bronson also arrived, and he challenged Alexis to read the Book of Mormon with all her new down time. He then added, "read it and finish it." A true missionary at heart in every situation.
Corbin will also play a big part in this quarantine. He will be given the responsibility to give the sacrament to Alexis each week. What a great missionary prep experience. But Alexis laughed when I said he could help feed her spiritually each week. I wonder why?
Perhaps Sundays will be a day of rest amid the chaos of doctors visits and the roller coaster ride of this disease. It is a day when Alexis knows no new news will come in, and no new information will be collected (we hope). A day when the world gathers with their families (regardless of religious views) and takes time to renew those relationships and remind one another why they love being a family.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Tonight Blake Roney hosted a Cancer Party for Alexis and her basketball team (and of course the Kaufusi family came too!). The night was full of wipe outs, catching waves on the flo-rider, a little basketball in the pool, and some serious hot tub time.
The end of the night was highlighted with Alexis cooking pancakes for all. And if there is something I want to hire Alexis to cook for me, it's pancakes and omelets. WARNING to those who indulge: you will dream of them all night long, and the breakfast you eat in the morning will not taste the same.
Good times, good friends, and I hear Alexis may have even squeezed a nap into the evening. Let the good times roll!
Highlights of the day that honored Alexis included (but I'm sure not limited to):
* The Team sported a new purple patch on their left shoulder to honor Alexis, #10.
* The BYU team had pink warm up jackets (as fashioned on Alexis as well) to honor women's health and cancer awareness
* The entire team also had pink shoe laces on
* After her introduction, a TCU player ran over to Alexis and delivered a nice card with a hug.
* Friends and family there to show Alexis they are supporting her.
* BYU won!
Friday, February 18, 2011
On Tuesday Alexis will again visit Huntsman (and the UofU) for surgery. During the surgery they will remove another lymph node from her neck. A doctor specializing in Lymphoma Cancer will assist with this and evaluate the lymph node after its removal. Also, at the same time, they will put in a port in the area of her clavicle (just below shoulder). This port is to give the doctors and nurses access to Alexis veins throughout her treatments. They anticipate this port to allow them to draw blood, give medicines, and administer chemotherapy. Hopefully the port will remain in place and not get infected allowing them to use it for approximately 6 months.
Some days (in the life of disease) are full of waiting and anticipation. Some days are full of news and change. At the end of any of these medically taxing days it is easy to feel so many things that you feel nothing. Other times you feel so much that tears escape and you have no certain reason why. Whatever the end of the day brings, we rally around Alexis and her family and hope that during some hour they will feel some peace and find a few reasons to smile.
Tonight Alexis ventured out to Corbin's Senior Night with the Timpview Basketball Team. She cheered Corbin on while he showed off his talent, took time to play with all the kids, gave out lots of hugs, and made sure to capture a few moments on camera.