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The Cancer Diagnosis

During the summer of 2006, Carli was diagnosed as having uterine fibroids. She was having continuous periods for four years, but only at this juncture did the doctors come up with fibroids as their best guess. Her gynecologist sent her for an MRI to get a closer look, and they evenutally found cancer instead. With Denise and Hartmut at her side, the diagnosis was confirmed on 31 August 2006 at Health Sciences Center when the doctors said that Carli had clear cell adenocarcinoma, a very rare and aggressive form of cervical cancer. Worse yet, she was told that she was in Stage IV of the disease. Her case was terminal, and she was given a prognosis of six to nine months of life. Radiation treatments would increase the quality of the time she had left, but the treatments would not extend her life at all.

After hearing the “bit of bad news” Carli had to tell him, her father, Gary, rushed to her side. He spent the entire Labor Day weekend with Carli, who was floored by the unexpected visit. With a surprising calmness and emotional detachment, together with Hartmut, she proceeded to plan out how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. They discussed one last trip out east to see family in New Brunswick, and they even talked about what to do with her mortal remains after her death.

The month of September 2006 was not a pleasant one for Carli. She was in and out of Health Sciences Center with severe nausea and bleeding, and also had to go to CancerCare Manitoba for her radiation treatments.

Despite her condition, she was determined to take part in the Terry Fox Run, which had become an annual tradition for her. She had been a participant every year since she was very young, and this time, she was part of Terry's Team, which is reserved exclusively for those with cancer. She walked the entire course all by herself on 17 September. In her most meaningful Terry Fox Run to date, she raised over $300 for the Terry Fox Foundation, which provides funding for cancer research.

Fortunately, the radiation treatments did succeed in stopping the bleeding, and her condition improved sufficiently to enable her to make her last trip. Carli and Denise were on an eastbound bus on 11 October.

Linda had inquired with Greyhound and they generously provided a pair of Discovery passes at no charge, allowing both Carli and Denise to make the trip without the worry about how to pay for it. On the way, their first stop was the Terry Fox memorial site just outside of Thunder Bay. They were only able to spend a few minutes there, but it was particularly meaningful in light of her recent cancer diagnosis. After an unexpected layover in White River, ON that lasted more than 10 hours on account of an early season snowstorm, the next stop was Guelph, ON to see uncle Paul and aunt Andrea.

It was there that Paul noticed something wrong and advised Carli to check into a local hospital. The doctors found that Carli's iron level was alarmingly low and advised a prompt return to Winnipeg after a two to three-day recovery period. Paul drove Carli and Denise back to Sault Ste. Marie, and Hartmut took them the rest of the way back to Winnipeg.

Aside from a return trip to the Terry Fox memorial site, the trip was a virtual write-off. Carli was devastated and shed tears that even the cancer diagnosis didn't bring on. There would likely not be another opportunity to make the journey, since the trip was specifically planned around the time frame when the effects of the radiation treatments would be most beneficial for Carli.

However, upon her return, there was a significant and unexpected improvement in her condition. The improvement held its course through November and she was able to make a day trip out to Gimli with Linda. In December, she began making plans to make another attempt at her eastward trip. With the financial assistance of both her family and many generous members of Asperger Manitoba, Inc., she left Union Station in Winnipeg on 26 December 2006 on an eastbound train.

This time, she made it all the way out to Moncton and spent nearly a month in total away from Winnipeg. The trip did wonders for her and it showed when she returned in late January.

There would be no time to rest for Carli, who was back on the road days later, this time on a westbound Greyhound bus headed for Saskatoon. In addition to seeing her cousin Gisèle Dagenais, who lived in nearby Vonda, SK, she got the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong wish to be at a dog sled race. It wasn't the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest, but the Canadian Challenge was still a major race, and Carli was there for it. It was as close to the dog racing world as she had ever been, and she enjoyed the experience immensely.

Carli returned to Winnipeg in early February. As important as her two recent positive experiences was the fact that she was holding the cancer at bay. She went back to CancerCare Manitoba for another round of tests, and, in late February, she got a new prognosis. Six months after her initial prognosis of six to nine months, she was given another six to twelve months to live.

Two weeks later, however, Carli took a turn for the worse. She became sick a great deal and was badly constipated. She had to make another return trip to Health Sciences Center, and, come 18 March, spent her 25th birthday in a hospital bed. Gary flew in to be with his daughter, but it was anything but a happy birthday for Carli, who had a particularly rough day on what should have been a joyous occasion.

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I passed my ethics course. I cheated, of course.