Monday, June 27, 2011

Relay for Life Tribute to Nancy

Honoring My Sister…Nancy Smith Tufts
Relay for Life 2011

My sister, Nancy Tufts, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on May 23. 2005. Since that time, she underwent two major surgeries, numerous rounds of chemotherapy, and many hospitalizations. In spite of all of that, she was the most upbeat person I ever knew. She had a personality that was larger than life: she could tell a story like no one else and brought laughter to everyone who was lucky enough to meet her.

In 2006, Nancy asked me to go to Falmouth High School with her to see what “Relay for Life” was all about. She walked her first Survivor lap and felt empowered meeting so many other survivors and caregivers. The next year, she formed her own team, Tufts Teal Warriors, and became an enthusiastic volunteer for Relay. When the event moved to Windham High School, Nancy fought the side-effects of her chemo to work tirelessly with the planning committee to make the first Relay for Life of the Sebago Lakes Region a reality.

Last year, Nancy told her survivor story at Closing Ceremony. Those of you who were still awake at 6:00 a.m. may remember the skinny little survivor in the purple t-shirt and teal Crocs…what you may not have known was how sick she was. But Nancy wanted to tell her story… to offer hope, and…to encourage other women with the kinds of vague symptoms she had in 2004 to trust their guts and get checked. She wished she had not waited so long.

A few months after last year’s Relay…on November 14th, 2010…Nancy passed away.

Although Relay will never be the same without her leading our team, we know that she would not have wanted us to be sad tonight. She’d tell us to “get a grip”, “snap out of it”, and “start walking”!

Nancy’s favorite movie was “The Wizard of Oz”. She even had her own ruby slippers …well...glittery ruby flip-flops! After she passed away, we found pages of her favorite quotes on her laptop and, not surprisingly, many of them were from “The Wizard of Oz”...

You know the story. The characters traveled to Oz to meet the wizard hoping that he could solve their problems and give them what they needed…a way home, a heart, a brain, and courage. What the characters ultimately discovered is that the wizard was unable to give them anything more than what they had come to him with.

They had the ability, the strength, the heart, and the courage all along. It was inside each of them and they just had to discover it.

When Nancy was diagnosed with cancer, she started looking for answers. With the support of family, friends, and organizations like the American Cancer Society, she found the answers she needed…and the strength to persevere. She endured experiences that a few months before would have seemed unimaginable.

Like Dorothy and her friends, Nancy found that she already had the brains, the heart and the courage she needed to fight her cancer…it was there all along, right within her. We each have that strength deep within us. We are braver than we realize. I know that Nancy Tufts was.

So, in memory of Nancy and all cancer survivors, let’s walk that Yellow Brick Road together tonight, with faith that somewhere…over the rainbow…we will find a CURE. Let’s honor Nancy by laughing and hugging and sharing happy memories. Let’s click our heels together three times and repeat, as Nancy would if she were here… there’s no place like HOPE…there’s no place like HOPE, there’s no place like HOPE.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks for the Memories

This will be my last post on "It's Always Something". It's been so much fun doing this blog with Nancy for the past few years and I will leave it up so that we can come back to the posts here from time to time and relive the memories through her posts and photos.

All of us in Nancy's family want to thank you all for your kindness and expressions of sympathy at this difficult time. One thing I know for sure, though, is that Nancy would not want us to be sad. She would probably say, "OK you guys, get on with it, I'm fine". So, on that note, I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

On a personal note, I have found that writing is a way that helps me deal with difficult times and I have missed blogging about Nancy. So...I have started a new blog - very different from this one - but dedicated to Nancy. It is called "My Sister's Cottage" and can be found at I hope you'll visit me there from time to time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

a message from Nancy

This is to all of you. It was found on Nancy's computer:

From Dark to Light

Today is a very special day
Not just for me but for all of my friends and family
It has been 5 years of success
Unfortunately, not all of it was filled with happiness.

There were days of darkness
And others filled with anger
Wondering why I was chosen
To be in this much danger.

I have cried and yelled and screamed
Wondering why God was doing this to me
What did I do, was I bad?
I was not sure and became very sad.

I was scared and felt helpless
Not many people my age had been through this
As I wondered how I was going to get by
I was blessed with angels who were always by my side.

As the days and months went on
I started getting strong
And as I learned to cope
I discovered the meaning of hope.

I am in a much better place today
Than I was 5 years ago
And I have my friends and family to thank for that
You are all my angels…and I just wanted you to know.
I love you all

Monday, November 15, 2010

Services for Nancy

Visiting hours for Nancy will be held from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 17, at Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 1024 Broadway, SouthPortland. A Celebration of Nancy’s Life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 18, at East Point Christian Church, 58 City Line Drive, Portland. The church is located just behind Time-Warner near the Portland Jetport. Interment will be at Old Calvary Cemetery, South Portland.
There will be a reception at East Point Church Hall immediately following the service at the cemetary. All are welcome.
The full obituary will appear in Tuesday's Portland Press Herald (& the on-line edition) and in Thursday's York County Coast Star.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In a Better Place

Nancy Ann Smith Tufts
September 20, 1952 - November 14, 2010

Nancy's journey ended at 5:00 a.m this morning, Sunday, November 14, 2010. She left us peacefully, surrounded by those who loved her, and is now in the loving hands of God. This quotation was found on Nancy's computer last night:

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me". did...and no one you touched will ever be quite the same because of you. Love you forever...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Tribute to Nancy

This just arrived via e-mail:
I can not put into words how much I love Nancy. I am certain that there are countless others that feel exactly the same way. I know also that you love her dearly. I am so sorry that you all have had to endure a farewell such as this. It's not fair to Nancy or to any of you, pure and simple. Nancy was more than just someone that I worked with in the fight against cancer. She was a friend, an inspiration, and she was also a "teacher" on many levels. I will take with me many lessons I have learned from Nancy, and carry her strength into this fight for a cure. It was just a day after losing a cherished member of my family to cancer that I began this journey, and I will not ever stop fighting for a cure in his or Nancy's name. No one should have to go through this.
I am working to put together a resolution in Nancy's honor. This is something that the American Cancer Society does for it's most cherished volunteers. I would like to get it to you before her service. It is a personal proclamation that I know will be very meaningful to you and all of her family and friends. Traditionally it is read to, and then presented to a family by an ACS staff person. I would love to do this for you all in Nancy's honor. I could bring it to you any time next week, as it will take a few days to put together. I would also like to read it at the Relay in June.
Please let me know if there is ANYTHING that I can do for you all! If you would please share this email with Kit and Erin. I would like them to know how to get in touch with me as well.
I feel truly blessed that you would all allow me to come to see Nancy last night. I will not ever forget the feeling of her hand in mine. I could not say goodbye to her. I believe that there are some things in life that can never leave you. Nancy is one of those special things to me. I will carry her in my heart forever.
Sending you all love, and hope for peace,
Dawn Emery
American Cancer Society, Maine Chapter

Native American Poem
I give you this one thought to keep -

I am with you still -
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still - in each new dawn.

Share your love and memories with Nancy!

Nancy is resting comfortably. Her whole family is with her. She is never alone now. We appreciate your thoughts and will read them to her. Thank you for all the love and prayers. Andi

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Goblin with Donkey Teeth?

Stopped in to see Nancy early this morning on my way to work. When I got there at 6:30, Joanne, Kit, Erin and two nurses were in the room with Nancy....all red-faced from laughing. When I asked what I had missed, Erin said there was a "side issue". Apparently, after a pump or two of morphine, Nancy decided that one of the legs of her IV stand resembled a goblin with donkey teeth! She said it with such a straight face that there apparently were howls of laughter, with Nancy joining in as soon as she realized what she had said. As I was hearing the story about the goblin with donkey teeth, in came a resident with a picture of a goblin she had printed off of Google and Nancy said, "Ya...that looks like it but the teeth need to be bigger". Next thing we know, another nurse came in with a print-out of a very Shrek-like set of donkey teeth for Nancy's careful inspection. Once Nancy agreed that the teeth were correct, the whole Goblin got taped to Nancy's wall amid howls of laughter from Kit & Erin, stunning Smith sisters, and Gibson staff alike. It was so good to see Nancy laugh and to belly-laugh with her again. She has always been the one to bring laughter to our lives and continues to do so even now.

Nancy had a liter and a half of fluid drained from around her lungs yesterday so is more comfortable breathing today...that is a relief to see. Kit and Erin have been spending every night at the hospital with her and last night Joanne stayed as well. Tonight is my turn. The staff at Gibson have been so amazing and so kind to Nancy. Her night nurse, Addy, actually came in to hug her goodbye at shift change at 7:00 a.m.

Nancy's wall of cards and photos is growing every day and she really appreciates everyone's thoughts and prayers. Kit brought Mom in again yesterday and she spent a long time just being with with Nancy. Joanne brought Nancy a book about the cats who live on Mt. Washington and read it aloud to her last night...beautiful story and illustrations. Nancy is surrounded with love right now and she is still giving it right back to all of us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Good Night & A New Room

Nancy had a good night last night and is resting comfortably this morning. Right now, she is visiting with two friends from her church, Donna and the pastor's wife, Beth. Nancy gave a big smile as soon as she saw them. I have found a quiet little reading room on the floor to sneak away to so that Nancy can have some private "visitor time". Kit is grabbing his first cup of coffee and some Tony's donuts, a perq of the MMC cafeteria, and Erin is making some phone calls.
Last night, Nancy moved to a NEW ROOM, #556. It is just to the right of the nurse's station in the section of Gibson she has been in all along. The new room is much larger and has a beautiful view of Portland looking to the west. Nancy's NEW PHONE # is 662-7698.
Nancy had a pretty comfortable day yesterday. Hank brought Mom in for a visit in the morning and, in the afternoon, Nancy saw Pastor Scott, Lisa from EastPoint Church, Betsy Seavey, Andi and, of course Aaron, Kit and Erin. I hope I haven't left anyone out. Her new room looks really cheerful and is full of flowers and cards. She received roses from Joanne and Mark and a big bouquet of balloons from Joanne Sizemore and Claudia Dalton that are floating right above her bed.
Nancy has always been a "night person" and last night was no exception. This morning, at about 1:00 a.m., Nancy decided that she wanted to go for a walk. She said she was "sick of being in the room" and wanted "out". So, with the help of Nancy's nurses, we packed up the IV pole and oxygen tank, loaded Nan into a wheelchair, and headed down the hall to surprise Kit (Nancy's idea:-) We "snuck" past the second nurses station (wink*wink*) and took a long walk. Nancy told the nurses at the last nurses station we passed to look for her IV pole along the side of the road:=) After our adventure in the wheelchair, the nurses offered Nancy the larger room so, at 2:00 a.m., she moved. After she was settled in 556, Nancy finally was ready to sleep and slept well until this morning.
I know that Nancy appreciates everyone's cards, visits, thoughts and prayers...she says so all the I'll pass that on to all of you this morning on her behalf. Love you all...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Morning Update

I know that everyone is wondering how Nancy is doing so thought I'd post a quick update this morning. She has had a rough few days since my last post.
Yesterday they scheduled her for a CT scan and she showed her typical sense of humor by asking Kit to put her "black cat" Halloween socks on her....she wanted to wear cat socks to the "cat" scan. Yup, that's Nancy!
Nancy got a beautiful flower arrangement yesterday from the "Gold Bond Girls" and Nancy Whitman from Wells Elementary School...just gorgeous! They are right on her bedside tray. I know she misses all of her WES and Gold Bond friends a lot. I heard that some of you would like to visit her and think she would like to see old friends when she feels up to it. I'd suggest you call her first at 662-7706 just to be sure she is up for visitors, or check in with Aaron at 775-7290.
Off to work...more later...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween with Nancy

Hank and I took Mom to see Nancy Sunday afternoon. Aaron was there too. Here are some photos.
Nancy has been busy: Yesterday morning, before we visited, she had her kidney stents replaced and today she had a procedure to drain the fluid (ascites) from her abdomen. She was still a little sore from that this afternoon when I stopped by but was glad to have the ascites gone. Nancy seems to be getting stronger and is now walking laps around Gibson with her IV pole three times a day. You go, Girl!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday evening with Nancy

Just got back from visiting Nancy and thought I would update everyone. She looked good tonight and was comfortable...still on the morphine drip she can control herself. Tomorrow morning she will have minor surgery to replace her kidney stents. They are also giving her medication through her IV to lower her Coumadin level. Once the level is low enough, hopefully on Monday, the doctors plan to drain Nancy's ascites again. Their theory now is that ascites is probably causing the bowel obstruction. So...lots going on.

I had my camera in my purse (had just been to Kristen's Halloween party) so here are a couple of photos from Nancy's room. And yes...that is Halloween candy she has on the bed. Her friend Betsy came in yesterday and decorated Nancy's room for Halloween. She left some "trick or treats" for the nurses...which Nancy and I decided to sample. Nancy was able to eat a little solid food today (she chose Cheerios!) but will have to stop again at midnight due to the surgery in the morning.
Long day so all for tonight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Update on Nancy

I just got back from the hospital and wanted to update everyone on how Nancy is doing. Aaron spent most of the day with her and her close friend, Betsy, and her daughter-in-law, Erin, were also in for awhile today. I didn't get there until about 5:00 today and when I arrived she was in quite a bit of pain. When I left at 7:00, she had been started on a morphone drip that she could control herself and was more comfortable. She was very tired from an uncomfortable day so I shut out the lights and she was hopeful that she could get some sleep with the pain under better control. She is getting wonderful nursing care so I know she is in the right place. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Nancy has her laptop with her and I read her all of your comments on the blog...she was really moved that so many people were thinking of her and sending their prayers. Thanks to everyone. It is probably still best to limit the number of visitors and phone calls until she is feeling a little better.

Some people have asked about donating blood. You can't designate a recipient when you give blood (without paying a hefty fee and undergoing tons of red tape) so I would recommend that anyone who wants to donate give blood at their local Red Cross donor center to keep up the general blood supply. It will make you feel good and help insure that there is plenty of blood on hand for Nancy and other patients like her who may need it.

Tonight, Nancy had on some adorable Halloween socks that Erin had brought with ruffles and black cats with pom pom tails! Nancy's personality always shines through on even the darkest days.

p.s. Nancy's room is very nice but a little DULL. If you would like to send her a card, we'll hang it on the wall for her to look at. The address is Maine Medical Center, Rm. 562 Gibson, 22 Bramhall St., Portland, ME 04101.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nancy admitted to MMC tonight

Nancy has had a rough couple of weeks and I haven't really known what to write because on some days she was feeling O.K. and on others she was miserable. She has tried so hard to "not be sick anymore" as she puts it. Tonight, though, she was readmitted to MMC by her oncologist, Dr. Laurie Small, for a combination of anemia, pain,and a bowel obstruction. She is in a private room in the Gibson Unit, room 562. I'll try to bring you up to date since my last post on her condition.

If you've been following the blog, you know that Nancy came home from MMC on September 10th after 12 days. She was so happy to be out and, although still weak and suffering from some fatigue and nausea, managed to do a lot of things she was looking forward to: Uncle Ed's visit, her birthday dinner with the family, "Cousins' Weekend", her 40th KHS class reunion, a foliage trip to Jackson, N.H. with Aaron, and Kristen's annual birthday bash. In the meantime, on September 23rd, October 7th and October 14th she had more infusions of Topotecan as well as blood transfusions for the anemia. She was supposed to have her third Topotecan infusion in this cycle this week but today's blood work showed that she is too anemic for chemo right now.

Aaron brought Nancy to the doctors this morning and I joined them there as the Maine Women's Cancer Center is very close to my school. Aaron had insisted that she go as she has been in a lot of pain with vomiting and intense fatigue. Yesterday was especially difficult. She was going to try to wait to see Dr. Small until her regular appointment on Wednesday but I am so glad that Aaron stepped in and called for the appointment today instead. (Nancy is tough...we all know that...she would have waited). The doctor prescribed some medication but apparently, when this morning's blood work results came back, the doctor called Nancy and told her she needed to come to the hospital. Once Aaron brought her in, she received two more units of blood. much as we all want to see Nancy at home, the hospital appears to be where she needs to be right now while she regains her strength.

Nancy continues to fight this thing so hard that sometimes it breaks my heart. She is the strongest, bravest person I know and the best sister in the world. I know that everyone reading this loves Nancy too so, Nancy, if you're reading this on your laptop at MMC, hang in there...we all love you and can't wait for you to get home!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010