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Since the very beginning, CollapseNet has survived through the silent support of my wife, Catherine Miller. From the very first month, and on countless occasions ever since, Cathy's financial contributions have kept CollapseNet and various staff members operational and afloat. It is for this reason that I feel it appropriate to inform our members and staff that Cathy was recently diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. This afternoon, Monday, Sep. 30, she will be undergoing a double mastectomy followed immediately by reconstructive surgery. We are asking for your support and to send all the positive energy possible toward her.
Here's how our nightmare began: Cathy found on small lump on our third day in North Dakota while shooting our documentary, "Black Gold Rush", and by the time we left a week later, she was having a dark discharge on the other side. She immediately had another mammogram and an ultrasound, both coming back negative. We were told it was nothing. Still, to be certain, her doctor referred her to a breast cancer specialist and scheduled an MRI. Six weeks later, she finally had the MRI and it found three suspicious spots. A week after that, at the breast cancer specialist center, Cathy had a much more thorough ultrasound and they biopsied five spots. She bruised up pretty bad from the needle gouging she took - her breasts ended up looking like they lost a fist fight. Anyway, I was really pissed off about the false negative and losing that 6 weeks of potential treatment time (not to mention that we thought it was OVER!). But I am very happy we found it at all, avoiding a much worse diagnosis down the road.
While Cathy's battle with breast cancer certainly is not unique (even my mom is a 10 year survivor), her family history has made this diagnosis particularly terrifying. Cathy's mother died of breast cancer at the age of 38, when Cathy was just 2 years old. Her ultimate nightmare (and mine) has always been for her to get breast cancer and leave her children without their mother, as she had to grow up. The past few weeks of uncertainty and anxiety, awaiting a full proper diagnosis, has been nothing short of agonizing for both of us. Finally, about a week and a half ago, we met with the breast cancer surgeon and received the complete diagnosis.
We got the best of the worst news - all 5 spots were positive for cancer but it does not look like it has spread to the lymph nodes. At this point, the prognosis is very good, although she will be down for 4-6 weeks to recover. The prospect of her dying from this is almost completely off the table, and for that we are all very relieved and grateful. One of the best moments of my life was telling my children, with total confidence, that their mother would not die from this cancer. The look of pure joy and relief on their faces will stay in my brain forever.
The whole situation is very surreal - it's a relief for both of us for her to have this double amputation, even though the recovery will be painful and long. There is just no other choice, which makes dealing with the rest very simple. My family is doing OK, everybody is very supportive and helpful, and my kids are handling all of this better than I could have hoped. They are rocks.
Those folks who have met Cathy know that she is the personification of grace and beauty, and I have always counted myself as very lucky to know her much less be married to her. Please send all the positive thoughts you can, she welcomes all the love and support she can receive. Just a note for your families' benefit - all of Cathy's mammograms have been completely useless and found nothing, even though we are told the cancer has likely been there for a few years. Women need to get MRI's if there is any bad family history. Without that MRI, we would have been facing a whole other prognosis in a short time down the road. Time is everything with cancer. On a positive note, our "Black Gold Rush" trailer for Kickstarter is at the sound man and we should have it up in a few weeks (Kickstarter has up to a 2 week delay in approval and posting). It looks good - I think you'll like it. Assuming we get funded, I'll be going back to North Dakota in a few months to complete our interviews and filming. I'll keep you posted.
Thank you all, in advance, for your kind wishes and support.
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