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Hello High Hopes Family! 

This isn't an easy email to send but it's one you all deserve to have before you hear this through the grapevine. I'm going to save you the frustration of having to read through a long email and cut to the chase - then explain. I have cancer. It's a brain tumor and it isn't pretty. 

My husband Ryan and I went to Mexico a few weeks ago and went diving. I've had headaches my entire life and have managed them with ibuprofen and a nap, but I couldn't shake one following the dive. I thought I blew my sinuses out!  

On March 14th I went to the doctor's office because I felt the headache "moving" in my head overnight. It sounded like a balloon was letting out air as it moved from the back of my head to my  forehead. Freaky, I know! When my pupils didn't react to my doc's flashlight she immediately ordered an emergency cat scan. In a matter of just a few hours, my world collapsed. The cat scan and various tests revealed a 3x4cm brain tumor sitting right at the brain stem. 

I had emergency brain surgery on 17th to reduce the swelling of the brain and managed to "break out" of the hospital by the 19th. Train track staples and all. While they were "in there" they were able to successfully get a biopsy, and then came the news we really didn't want: it is a grade 3 astrocytoma. Cancer. Of your brain. 

On the 27th I had my second brain surgery to implant a permanent shunt. It takes excess fluid from my brain and drains it down into my stomach. It's all internal and you can't see it - modern medicine! I broke out of brain surgery, again within 48 hours, and I'm sending this email from the comforts of my own home. :-) I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like superwoman. 

Once I heal from this surgery I begin 8 weeks of chemo and radiation. Surgical removal is not an option because of the tumor's location. Apparently you have important things going on near your brain stem! The goal is remission so that I can live with the shunt operating on my behalf. It just needs to stop growing. Piece of cake, right? 

As it turns out, a cancer diagnosis gives you a lot of time to think.  I can’t sleep at night because of the steroids so I’ve been working on a book. The book will get published at the end of this road. Now, the ultimate goal is for ME to publish it. However, you can’t always choose the way things go (clearly). So, if I cannot publish it, my family will and it will take great care of them in the future (because it’s going to be a bestseller and make a LOT of money.)  ;-)  

In the upcoming weeks I'll be launching a “Michelle Boyd Dejong, Author” Facebook page to begin a following before there's ever a book. But there has to be a reason for all of this, right? The ultimate goal is not actually to publish a book. It’s fun, but it’s meaningless. It’s just a book and if (when) it makes a lot of money – well money is just money.

I’ve thought a lot about what I can do that’s meaningful on a large scale and have decided that while we’re all “waiting” for the book to be published, the Facebook page will serve as a source of insight and realizations throughout this crappy journey.  The REAL goal is to help people lead better lives and take better care of one another. If a single person stops taking something for granted or starts treating someone better, it's all going to be worth it. 

So, I've been working on this and now we’re at the point where you probably say “what can I do?” like everyone else has throughout this entire process. You can be patient and you can continue being the amazing women that you all are. Seeing all that High Hopes in High Heels does for our community truly makes me happy. If you're passionate about something, volunteer more. Let your Board of Directors know how you'd like to make a difference in Tampa Bay and if we aren't doing a good job at providing great opportunities, we are going to work harder for you.  We don't know what we don't know so please speak up and we will find ways to better accommodate everyone's ideas. We really believe in what we do but we are only a few gals. We need your help. :-) 

That’s all for now and I'll try my best to provide updates as I have them. Before signing off I wanted to share a little something I've believed in the past few years. It's a great way of going about life regardless of what beliefs you have. It's "believe there is good in the world"  but what I find fascinating is it's hidden message of "be the good." So go ahead, do it! Be the good! 

❤ Michelle
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