Watch my hair grow...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Secret Surgery

Last week I went through a pre-planned, optional, prophylactic surgery. Because I am positive for the breast cancer gene, I had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer over the rest of my life.
To reduce my risk of breast cancer down to 3% and improve my chances of a longer life, I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, with reconstruction. That means that I chose to have both my breasts removed, and then replaced with implants at the same surgery. Gratefully, my surgeon was able to do this, and I am recovering quickly with the help of my mother and daugher Laurel.

I told almost no one ahead of time. Even family members did not know. When I first found out about the broken gene I carry, I wondered who should I tell, and how do I tell them. I really never came to a resonable answer for either question, so I kept it secret. Please forgive me if you felt excluded. I still need your prayers and support, and your understanding about my decision to do this quietly.

Please also know that I spent a lot of time researching the procedure and finding a doctor here in Idaho Falls to do the work. Now that I am on the other side of this, I am happy to talk to other women who have done this or are contemplating doing this. If you have any friends that could use a phone call or e-mail from me, I would be delighted to help out.

My check up numbers look very good, as do all the office visits I've had lately. Thanks again for your continued prayers on my behalf. And by the way--I am grateful for my cute little new bosoms!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Hairdo

Sorry all, I miscommunicated with Mom and was slow about putting up this great photo by Christine Bennett! Here's the news:

Amy's youngest, Hannah, was baptised on Saturday, February 6th. It was a great day for Amy. She felt great and was happy to have a bunch of family and friends around. She was still taking it easy on the solid foods as a result of another bowel obstruction surgery earlier in the week, but she had a little pudding as a treat! Yesterday, she had the last of the staples out but an hour later she felt very ill again. Fritz took her back to the emergency room (she's got to be racking up frequent flyer miles by now, don't you think?) and they admitted her over night. Amy really loathes having an NG tube to help her eat. It makes it impossible to speak clearly. She would like to see any friends that can make it over though. It's hard to be back on the merry-go-round when you were just there a week previous.

The doctors are not sure why this is happening. She had invasive abdominal surgery a few weeks ago to correct the scar tissue that was binding up her intestines, so there shouldn't be any remaining adhesions. The only think Fritz can think of is that the bowel is hurt from the previous surgeries and has twisted again out of a lack of muscle tension. He can fix that with a probe--no more surgery we hope.

Regular Grandma (Virginia Sargent) is the resident angel in the house (although I'm sure she's anxious about her home in Salt Lake as well) and we are all so grateful for her willingness to serve! Her help allows Fritz to bounce between doctoring, stake president work, taking Hannah and Anthon for treats, and being with Amy.

The older kids wish they could be around to help. Chris is on a mission in Kiev Ukraine (write to him by commenting at, Hans is working on a chemical engineering degree in Provo, and Laurel is on the wrong side of snowy mountains with a sick toddler while her husband prepares for medical school.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Elder Schmutz has a website!

Hi All,
Laurel is running a blog for Chris' mission. Check it out at Any comments you post will be forwarded to Chris. It's a great way to keep track of him and to send him encouragement!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Amy enjoyed a wonderful holiday full of excellent health reports from her doctors and plenty of family time. Her hair is growing back slowly but surely and she'll soon be wig-free. She wants to do a post on her own soon, but I thought this picture was so cute that I wanted to share it with you all!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September 3: Some Points of Gratitude

I have a lot of gratitude to share. I was brought to the foot of a big mountain and was told to move it by faith, and what I got, all unexpected, were hundreds of you all praying for me and adding your faith to mine.

Thank you to my mom, who came for almost every one of my chemo appointments and sat by me for those tedious hours. Thank you to my doctor and those kind nurses at Chemo Island. Thank you to my daughter, Laurel, who set up this blog and kept you all updated so well.

Thank you to everyone who put my name in at the Mormon temples around the country. Thank you to the Catholic community of Idaho Falls and the Calvalry community of Idaho Falls who have prayed over me, and all the other congregations who have also prayed for me. Thank you to the prayer circle in England that includes my Aunt Jenny and Uncle Mike. Thank you to every individual and group and family who remembered me in their prayers.

Thank you to my Japanese exchange student son, who prays for me in his dorm room at a Tokyo university. Thank you to the family friend who prays for me in his cell at the Oregon penitentiary. Thank you to our friend, who facing the long dark hallway of dementia, each night is reminded by his wife who I am and what I need, and then prays for me. So many people have told me, "I haven't prayed in years. God probably doesn't know who's talking. But I pray for you every night." Well, He knows, and He's pleased to hear from you.

What does it mean to have so much loving faith sent my way? I can feel it supporting and lifting me. Now, when people stare at me in a scarf in public, I tell myself it's one of the congregation who prayed for me last Sunday, and they're just trying to guess which name is mine. Now I smile conspiratorially at the little children who stare shyly at my scarf, because after all, I still might tell their fortune or serve them pancakes. Some even smile back.

My biggest point of gratitude is this: my CA125 blood counts are now back down to the normal range. NORMAL. What a beautiful word. I still have work to do and get my counts down even more, but: thanks to you, I have felt the mountain move.
As long as you're in the habit. . .keep up the prayers for me!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Graduation Amy!!!

Hooray! Amy completed chemotherapy on August 26th. Here she is with her swell certificate from Dr. Shull. She also received a bottle of sparkling cider, a Livestrong bracelet, teal ovarian survivor pin, lovely hat and super car magnet. We went to Whitewater Grill/Wasabi here in Idaho Falls and had a combo Yeah Amy/Goodbye Burches celebration. We are grateful for Amy!
The doctor says I am now in "No Evidence of Disease" (Remission is only used for lymphomas and leukemia). This state will hopefully last until I am five years out at which time it will be considered "Cured." This is what we are praying for now. Thank you so much for your continued prayers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20

Claire converses with her "Hooma" on the shuttle boat across Jenny's Lake. Amy and Chris prepare to hike to Hidden Falls.
Amy is doing so well! She has only one more chemo and that will be next week. She feels awesome (as evidenced by these "action shots"!) and is working hard to achieve total wellness. We are grateful for your continued prayers in behalf of our family.
Adam, Laurel and Claire will leave for Eugene next Thursday. After that, Amy will attempt to keep up this blog. Amy begs your patience while she learns the e-ropes.

Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31st

We're back on a chemo schedule! Amy was cleared to resume next Wednesday in the morning. She has just two sessions to go, three weeks apart. It will be four hours of treatment all into the chest port (which Fritz put in, so there's no way it will fail like the other). She is happy to be able to make progress towards putting this in the past.

As a glimmer of what's to come: This morning Amy discovered white peach fuzz on her head. We all gently rubbed it for luck and Claire was especially impressed to be a twinner with "Hooma." Amy was delighted with the snow white color and hopes that it comes in that way after the chemo is all the way done. She says, "Then I'll finally look like my blondie daughters!" Amy's grandma had beautiful snow white hair and she used to joke it was her version of blonde too.

Chris will receive his temple endowment next week just before Amy begins chemo again in order to time things to her energy advantage. He is EXTREMELY excited :D

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24th

Happy Pioneer Day! We are celebrating with that fabled food of the mighty pioneers: Pizza Hut. When it's Friday, it's Anthon's turn to do dinner and let me tell you, he's BIG on consistency!

Amy is making progress. She walks half-way around the block each day, sews baby projects and gardens a bit. Her big achievement recently was a return to doing the dishes. Before you call me a terrible daughter; she is deliriously happy to have a chore and it makes Fritz very proud. Throw my silly hand problems into the mix, and it really is a big contribution.

Adam and I estimate our moving date to be sometime very near September 10th.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20

Happy Birthday to Fritz on Wednesday!

Amy is walking on her own, bathing herself and eating soft foods with the rest of the family at meals. We are proud of her work. She took her first "chewing food" yesterday, and it was no surprise that as a Schmutz, she chose French Toast ("You don't have to be French to enjoy French Toast! Hurnh Hurnh Hurnh!"---Sorry, family joke :D).

Thank you all for the continual prayers. Amy says they envelop her like a warm blanket and remind her of reasons to fight for wellness.

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17

Amy has made a bunch of progress all in the last few days and we expect her to badger the surgeon into letting her recover at home today! She is using her own stomach again and is off almost all IV's. She can even shuffle walk without a nurse. We think she'll get better faster in the midst of the kid circus we run back here, so we'll be happy to have her back. This whole episode does mean that chemotherapy cannot resume until she has healed from this surgery, placing her finish date closer to Thanksgiving and well past the time when I must move to Oregon.

Chris is working hard on a Russian language course he borrowed from Adam and I and we take periodic trips to IdaRuskie in downtown Idaho Falls (you can't beat their borscht--or anything else on the menu for that matter!). It is great to have something fun like his mission to put energy into.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 8

Amy went into the hospital early yesterday morning with a painful bowel obstruction. She underwent surgery with Dr. Hammond here in Idaho Falls to remove the port and rebuild her small bowel. The surgery had complications and she lost quite a lot of blood. She is estimated to be in the ICU for 5-7 days. Fritz is by her side and is managing her care with extraordinary wisdom and foresight. He does not eat or sleep until her care decisions are all set with the oncologist and surgeon. There could not be a more caring physician!

We need continued prayers, as Amy expressed in her testimony on Sunday. Please also include the request that her mind and heart be healed and strengthened along with her body.

In happy news: Congratulations to Elder Christian Friedrich Schmutz, called to serve October 7th to the Kyiv, Ukraine Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ. Please enjoy this web exclusive!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beginning July

Amy had a bad surprise in the past few days when her second port failed. It caused some abdominal internal bleeding and she was hospitalized for a day in a medically induced coma. We were of course concerned, but Fritz happens to specialize in internal repairs, so he took the helm and made sure the clotting proceeded along in the best possible way. What this means is that she will now double her remaining chemotherapy doses through the chest port. We will still probably finish on time and she's had one of these double doses already so we know that it doesn't really cause any extra discomfort to get the medicine that way. At the end of July, Amy will undergo a surgery to remove the broken port from her abdomen and at the same time, Dr. Zampolloch will look to see whether any nodes have reestablished themselves.

We also lost Fritz's foster father on Sunday. "Grandpa Ken" was a tremendous force for good in this world. He served the Lord in all he pursued and was one of the principle people who helped Fritz become the man he is today. We loved Ken Homer very much and the loss is deeply felt, although our faith is that he is in the care of our Savior now and is enjoying freedom from the body which had of late hurt him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back from Yellowstone

Amy began her fourth treatment cycle today. We've had serious colds going around in our family the past week and we've been very anxious about the possibility of having to delay Amy's treatments if she were to contract anything, so it is a tremendous relief to have had her cleared for the rounds this morning. Amy is hiding out in her bedroom until the illness blows over. Although terribly dull, it's the best way to ensure that no errant hugs and kisses spread the "joy."

Last week, we enjoyed a family vacation to Yellowstone Park (which is like Disneyland for Amy). We rented a cabin in Island Park and stocked it with plenty of goodies--including Mystery Science Theater 3000 films! While in the park, we witnessed the Pink Cone Geyser going off; a rare and awesome experience. Pink Cone is our favorite geyser because it looks like a pimple on the chalky face of the caldera... Pictures to follow when I upload them.

Also, Anthon has a blog with stories and videos authored by himself. He'd like to share it with everyone:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Half Way!

As of last Monday, Amy is half way done with chemotherapy. She's well into the routine now and she's often complimented on her lovely scarves. Amy always keeps her wellness covenant by helping others wherever she goes. She recently comforted a lady who was at chemo for the first time and looked frightened. After they unhooked Amy for the day, she went and sat with the lady and taught her how to tie scarves in a turban style. She wants to be sure to show her gratitude to the Lord in every way possible.

Amy was delighted to be reunited with her granddaughter Claire last night after the Burches returned from a scouting trip to Oregon. They will move at the end of the summer, but in the meantime, it's so much fun to have the baby right here!

Friday, May 22, 2009

May 22

Amy had another meeting with her surgeon yesterday in which she was given the green light on resuming baths! Baths were Amy's primary relaxation tool before all of this started, so it's tremendous to be able to have them again. The doctor also said that she has healed so well and so surprisingly quickly that she really has no restrictions at all. With that, Amy promptly stole Fritz's truck and treated herself to a massage.

This week marked the end of the second treatment cycle, meaning that Amy is now on vacation for a week and she is one third of the way DONE. She still has eyebrows and eyelashes and goes around winking and making expressive faces to get the most out of it. At treatments, the chemo nurses look at her askance and wonder if she even belongs there.

We know that Heavenly Father has a plan for our family and that He is mindful of us. We are so grateful for the love we feel from all of you and for your continuing prayers. We appreciate the opportunity to grow together and hope that you feel the hand of God as directly in your days as we do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mr. Congeniality

Yeah for Chris! Last night, he won Mr. Congeniality and Second Runner Up in the Mr. Idaho Falls High School pageant. He's pictured here this morning wearing his lovely sash. He did a reader's theater with voice impersonations of Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin, Crocodile Dundee and Sean Connery for his talent. His bathing suit stunt was hilarious---a Victorian style red striped bathing costume, complete with moustache, top hat, monocle and cane! We are so proud. What a cool way to finish off your senior year!

Thoughts from Amy

Top Ten Things about the Shave
10.The suspense is gone.
9. The rain of hair on my clothes, furniture, and dinner is over.
8. I look better than Sinnead O'Conner and almost as fine as Nefertiti, but not as cute as my granddaughter.
7. Oil of Olay on the scalp. Mmmm!
6. The scarf gets some respect. Suddenly lines are shorter and there's room to sit in public.
5. I might tell your fortune.
4. I never have a bad hair day, and I can change head looks easily.
3. Sunshine on my scalp.
2. Shower spray on my scalp.
and number 1:
Standing in a 60 mph wind in a bare head. Whooha!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thoughts from Amy

When my brother John and I were little, we used to play Monopoly on the floor of our home. Our 20 pound housecat, Henry, would make unannounced charges through the game, tossing it into the air and ruining the play. At the beginning of March my life gameboard was upset, and for a moment it was all a blur of colored paper, property cards, little houses and hotels, and the puppy dog and the shoe. Things have settled now, and I see that my gameboard is now cleared of all but two things: my family and my faith. But it still has two things! Two can be many, if they include loving people and God.
My old life was complex and rich, and there are hundreds of things I will miss about it, but I must do over and rebuild a new life. I'm not exactly sure of the direction, but I do know it involves music and service. Keep watching--this should be a good trick I'm about to do.
In the meantime, thank you so much for your prayers, thoughts, meals, e-mails, and cards. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Divine in their life on my behalf, including benevolent ancestors and musical offerings. I feel all of these, and they support me like a layer of warmth. Please continue to pray for me, and I will work hard to rebuild.

May 4th

We have now arrived at our first vacation week in the chemo courses and Amy feels really good. The nausea has been well under control (what a blessing!) and Amy is still taking daily neighborhood walks. She feels tired, but uses her bursts of energy to go on errands, play with the little kids, or to go visiting people with Fritz. Because the chemo purposefully weakens her immune system so severely, she cannot be touched by people outside of her immediate family. She feels terrible about having to turn down people that want to hug and kiss her, but right now it is necessary. We are all so thankful for the love everyone has shown--the great food and the cheerful blog comments are a comfort.

Amy thought this picture was hilarious and wanted to share it with you. Hannah dressed up as John Fogerty from Credence Clearwater Revival today for her elementary school's "Dress up like your favorite musician" day today. She took a little plastic guitar to school. We love her flamboyant streak---what a ham!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 22--Happy Earth Day!

Our first week of chemo is finished (treatment-wise) and Amy's taking it like a champ. She feels tired and achy and is working hard to obey her doctors, but on the whole describes the treatments as "not so bad."

Dr Schull's outfit here in Idaho Falls is a chemo dream come true! If you must undergo it, what's better than 4 hours in a plush leather easy chair with your own tv, window, and permission to have endless treats and crosswords? It's a blessing to be able to do this outside of a hospital room.

We took this four generation photo just minutes before Amy left on Monday morning to get started.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 13

We had a lovely Easter yesterday, including a surprise egg hunt set out by a mysterious Easter Bunny. Anthon, 9, and Hannah, 7, absolutely loved it! Thank you.

Today, Fritz put in a chest port for Amy (one of the procedures he specializes in luckily). He was able to make it a lot less scary than it would have been otherwise and the surgery was a total success. Now Amy has a total of two ports for targeted and general chemotherapy.

We are actually looking forward to Monday in a way. It will be nice to finally be "in" chemo instead of forever approaching it. Fritz has blessed Amy to be healed and so we view chemo as a means toward this end. Crummy, sure, but doable and worth it----definitely!

Also, thanks to those who have been sharing their survivor stories with us. We love to hear about other people who have kicked this. Amy certainly has noble company in her battle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 7

Dr Schull in Idaho Falls will be starting Amy's chemo on April 20th. She'll have 4 hours the first day, 2 the second and 2 the next Monday followed by a week off (as one complete three week cycle). We'll do this cycle 6 times consecutively. Dr Schull is confident that we'll see a cure at the completion of the chemo and agrees that Dr Zampolich's surgery was thorough and very well done. Amy is walking (she can even kneel and do stairs) and feeling pretty well, so we are positive about chemo coming up soon. Laurel plans to become a chemo nutritional expert and we're already seeing the benefits of papaya enzymes in healing from the surgery.

On the 20th, Amy will have a big dose of Benadryl right before the chemo, so she may sleep the whole 4 hours. She will be in a comfy easy chair with plenty of Elvis movies just in case she wakes up.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Whirlwind

Dear Friends and Family,

This blog will follow Amy's progress since her recent diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer. We appreciate your continued prayers of healing on her behalf and we believe that Heavenly Father is holding our family in the hollow of His hand. Miracles are already becoming manifest.

In August, Amy's grown daughter Laurel and husband Adam moved to Idaho Falls to have their baby, Claire. Now Laurel is able to care for Amy's young children and to run daily household matters.

Fritz is an extremely talented physician and is making sure that Amy receives absolutely top of the line care. His priesthood blessings of healing make all the difference in our positive outlook.

All of Amy's children are stepping up to help with the family and we've experienced a deluge of love and support from our extended community.

Here's the story so far:

Beginning in January 2009, Amy felt more discomfort than usual with her cycles. In mid-March, she visited her OB/GYN to address the matter. The doctor found a fibroid and ordered an ultrasound to see if there were any more. The ultrasound showed a concerning mass above the uterus and Fritz performed a CT scan that same night to get the dimensions of the mass. What they found was a mass that had consumed the right ovary and was taking up much of the pelvic cavity. It needed to come out immediately, so Fritz contacted a gynecological oncologist in Salt Lake City to perform the surgery. Within a week, Amy had the tumor removed. It was malignant but had not metastasized (a tremendous miracle brought about by a community-wide fast). She must now undergo 18 weeks of chemotherapy through both a chest port and a pelvic cavity line. The prognosis is unusual for stage 3 ovarian cancer--she is expected to achieve remission after undergoing the chemo to clear up any microscopic remnants of the cancer. Later today, Amy will have her chemo consult and the schedule will be set for the doses throughout the summer.