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Interview with Teri Palmer from Big Island Jeep Club – Kona Hawaii

Your journey with cancer started when?

My journey with cancer began long before I was first diagnosed. And I say this because I knew I had cancer long before the diagnosis of Stage IV (High Grade) Ductal Carcinoma in situ came down on 7 June 2010 from the doctors at Mountain States Tumour Institute (MSTI) in Boise, Idaho.

I had noticed an indention on the underside of my left breast in 2009 during a time when my older brother was going through a tough time with a divorce as well as having an issue with prescription and over-the-counter medication addictions. Dealing with him and with all of these issues he had wasn’t easy with him being in Raleigh, North Carolina and I being in Boise, Idaho, but he has two incredible boys and they deserved to have a father in their lives.

The battle in trying to help him ended in May 2010 when we buried him in Idaho beside our mother and grandparents. He was 41 years old.

After the whirlwind in dealing with those events, I made an appointment with my doctor (who knew instantly just by looking at my left breast). Before the meeting with my doctor, I had been unable to feel the lump and needless to say it was surprising when my doctor was unable to feel it as well, due to the location of it being so close to the chest wall.

My doctor immediately sent me to MSTI for an MRI, CT, and needle biopsy, and exactly one month after the death of my brother, I was diagnosed on 7 June 2010, with Stage IV Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.

My cancer was so serious at this stage due to my waiting so long, that I was immediately sent to a surgeon and scheduled for the insertion of a port within two weeks, with chemotherapy starting five days after the insertion of the port.

There must have been moments of great despair in that period but knowing that you have a great zest for life, what was the driving force that kept you going?

There are numerous moments of great despair when one is dealing with cancer. You never know what the next day is going to bring, whether it is going to be a “good day” (feel like yourself and want to be seen in public) or whether the day will be a “typical chemo day” (one of those that you don’t leave the house because you don’t want any of your friends to see you in this condition).

But you have to understand what type of cancer the person is dealing with to understand how one can push on every day. Then there are the odds. How you handle receiving the response from your oncologist to every single question you have regarding the chemotherapy you will be receiving that “Everyone reacts differently to this chemo drug.”

I was diagnosed with a type of cancer that the odds were 1:1,000,000 women survive the first bout.

However, if you do survive, then you WILL have a recurrence within five years. Besides, my cancer was also considered triple-negative. Triple-negative means that the three most types of common receptors known to fuel most breast cancer, growth estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene are not present in the cancer tumour. But and interestingly enough, my cancer fed on estrogen.

So, I had a cancer that supposedly was not fuelled by estrogen, but the higher my estrogen levels were in my body, the worse my cancer got. Impossible? Yes and no, because I have this type of cancer. Completely unnatural. Most doctors didn’t and still don’t believe that I have this type of cancer and thus no one knows how to treat me.

Thus my moments of great despair began right at the very beginning. My odds… huge to overcome. My oncologist… unable to put together a chemotherapy regimen due to the makeup of my cancer.

No genetic testing was able to be done because I was adopted and had no information on my biological parents’ history about cancer. Final kicker… I would/will ultimately die from this. My cancer is not curable. There is no “once you go with no recurrence in five years, you’re cured” statement. In ten years? This will kill me. Period.

So why fight?

Well, I had two options. One, give up and become another statistic of many women who had already succumbed to this nasty disease. Eight out of ten women are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Seriously? With all the research, all the funding, and those are the odds of women?

Or two, fight like I never fought before and see what happens.

I had lost my brother just over a year prior and now I’m faced with what I was calling the “longest shit day ever.” But what else are you going to do? Die? I heard that alternative sucked.

I had too many things on my Bucket List to see and do, plus I had just met a man who, when I gave him his walking papers, said he wasn’t going anywhere and was sticking by my side. Even said he would move me to Hawaii when he retired from the military and I was well enough. Well, there’s one item off my Bucket List! Let’s start this fight!

So, the first bout was pure and utter crap. A good amount of time I was treated like the “Angel in The Room.”

Most people didn’t know how to talk to the person in the room that was dying. Most didn’t know how to treat me, some even thought I was contagious and wouldn’t come near me. I lost a fair number of friends who had been in my life for decades who couldn’t deal with my “dying”, yet I gained so many valuable friends that carried me through and are still with me to this day.

My now-husband, moved me to Hawaii a year after my first bout was concluded. That bout consisted of chemotherapy for sixteen weeks, a double mastectomy, and radiation every day for six weeks. My treatment from my first bout concluded on 14 February 2011.

Even with all that, sure as all of the information predicted, my cancer metastasized into both of my lungs and in late 2011, I was re-diagnosed with breast cancer in my left lung and had to have a lung resection to have 80% of my left lung removed and again in 2015 I was re-diagnosed with cancer in my right lung whereby I had to have another lung resection to remove 20% of my right lung.

I am still faced with the statistic that this cancer may eventually kill me, that I will never be fully in remission. Well, I suppose something has to. However, I will fight it every step of the way.

I have made it through three bouts – had more than seven surgeries and more than thirty-five scans over the last nine years and that’s okay because it makes every day a little bit more special, it makes the sky a bit bluer, the sun a bit brighter, and every day a bit more special.

Since my original diagnosis, I have found both of my biological parents and have learned a bit more about my family history as it pertains to cancer in my family. It doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it does answer some of the whys.

I may still be the “Angel in The Room” to some people, but to me, I am the “Angel in The Room” who tries to help as many people as I can going through cancer and will continue to fight for my life each and every day when most people take that for granted and because my Bucket List still has a few items left on it!

What was your first connection with 4WDs?

I grew up in a small town in eastern Oregon and have always been around 4x4s.  We had a small farm when I was growing up that involved horses and cattle, so I pretty much learned how to drive by driving an old seventies Ford truck by sitting on my Daddy’s lap on the road to the dump. Yep, just like the old stories.

The first vehicle I bought when I moved to Boise, Idaho after I graduated from high school was a maroon two-door Toyota Hilux 4WD pickup. These were the best Toyota trucks before they got into the Tundras and all that. I loved that truck. Put over 150,000 miles on that truck before I sold it and got another truck.

Shortly after that, I purchased my first Jeep Wrangler JK. It was a 1994 Wrangler two-door and painted purple.  I loved that Jeep, but during that time I preferred a truck for carrying and hauling whatever I needed and that way I didn’t need a man to help me.

What is it about the Jeep brand that you find so attractive?

I have always loved the CJ5 and CJ7 versions of the Jeeps as well as the late 1990 – 2016 Jeep Wranglers and Rubicons. To me, they have always spoken as “anyone’s ride, anyone’s destination.” They are a vehicle that may not have fancy bells and whistles, but if you want a vehicle to get the job done and get you from point A to point B, here you go.

I wasn’t going to buy a Jeep when we got to the Islands because there are so many of them on the rental side of things. You see them EVERYWHERE. But when it came to functionality, they won the coin toss.

They are versatile in their looks going from having their top on to topless, doors on to doors off, tube doors on or any other permutation Jeep make possible. There are so many combinations just for a day drive or weekend camping trip and they can just look downright sexy if you get it right!

Tell us about your Wrangler and the mods?

When we ordered the 2014 JKU, it was built to our specifications. Unfortunately, we’d ordered it in a brand-new colour called Dune that was just coming out in 2014 and as there hadn’t ever been one ordered on the island before, no one knew what the colour would look like.

Let’s just say that the colour in no way matched any of the catalogues that the Jeep dealership had in its showroom. I hadn’t planned on doing any immediate mods, but because my new Jeep was hideous in my eye being all the one colour (except the top), I knew I had to make some adjustments before I’d accept the vehicle.

As a side note, I have tried to keep my JKU somewhat basic with the mods because I use my vehicle as a daily driver as well.

Due to the purchase of a Rubicon for my hubby a little over a year ago (no, that wasn’t planned), we have his to build up for ramblin.

Back to the colour issue. The immediate mods were made so that I could look at the Jeep without gagging and to accept Duner I had to break up that colour. I had black Line-X (truck bed liner) sprayed on the front grill, on the inside of the back tailgate, and a strip of four inches along the bottom of the doors. This was all done by Maverick Kang who owns the Line-X business in Hilo. That made the Jeep much more appealing and to the point where I could live with it and brought it home.

The other immediate mod that I did was have Island Performance in Kailua Kona put a two-inch lift in it.

Since the purchase, there has been a lot of moving around of parts and plenty of changes made to Duner, k/n/a Double Tap. You wouldn’t even recognize her anymore.

Maverick had done some additional Line-X work on her to include the top and T-tops so upon removal they no longer get scratched up. That added quite a bit of weight, but it was well worth it. I also had the stock fender flares and stock front and rear bumpers all done in black Line-X. The last three parts have since been swapped out and the new bits and will soon go under the knife at Line-X.

A fifty-two-inch light bar and a couple of three-inch square lights were added and I put on a slightly better front bumper, but again, it wasn’t good enough.

After all that Line-X it was time to get serious. That and I needed new tires. So off with the stock fender flares and an upgrade to the Bushwhacker flat fender flares which will ultimately be covered with the same black Line-X for protection by Maverick once more.

The original black grille that I had Line-X’d upon purchase now sits on the Rubicon that my hubby drives and I have a new metal Angry Bird grille with a skull on the front. Yes, it too will also get the black Line-X treatment for protection by Maverick.

Once I got the new Bushwhacker flat fender flares, I was finally able to upgrade to a larger size of tire. I am now running all-terrain Pit Bulls 2256RE 35×12.50/R17. This, of course, required a small adjustment in that the two-inch lift I had as well as the flat fender flares weren’t big enough to give me the space I needed to pull off the thirty-five’s diameter.

Another minor modification was upgrading the headlights and lower fog lights. I upgraded my headlights to the RGB halo headlights. They run the brightest light on the road that is DOT approved and believe me, you get flashed from everyone when you are driving at night. The lower two lights are made by the same company and are of the same brightness. Between those four lights; the light bar, the two three-inch square lights and two LED lights in the rear bumper, running at night now is not a problem.

Getting the new front and rear bumpers on were probably the most fun. That’s where the Smittybilt Gen 2 front and rear bumpers came in. They are a great addition and much better built than the stock bumpers. The front bumper has the Smittybilt X20 Winch with synthetic rope with a 10,000 lb load capacity. Double Tap can now play with the big boys and talk about feeling invincible.

The final mod was the installation of a waterproof stereo. I guess Jeep still hasn’t figured out that people do drive with their tops offs and get caught in the rain? That happens a lot here in Hawaii!

After happening to me one too many times my stock stereo gave up the ghost, so I installed a JK2001 Insane Audio unit. Probably still only using half of the functions, but it is sure better than the stock unit it came with. I now have Insane TV for any of those beach camping trips that may be coming up and we can watch Judge Judy anytime we want.

The most recent modification I had done was to add a little bit more height to make sure there is no more rubbing. I’ve had the Pit Bulls for about two years and it seems that Double Tap was sagging just a bit. Denny Duquette owner of Island Performance put on a new set of four-inch springs on top of my old springs and spacers, replaced my shocks and that picked up the required height that’s now around four inches taller than stock.

I may now have gone past the point of keeping Double Tap as a simple daily-driver, but I know if I ever wanna go play I’m ready to play in any situation I find myself in!

Where do you source your accessories from US mainland or local?

All the Line-X was done on the island on the Hilo side.

The fender flares and winch were ordered and shipped through Amazon with free shipping.

The bumpers were purchased through 4×4 Hardware on the mainland and shipped to Hawaii via vessel. Since I had already purchased so much through them, they gave me an incredible deal on shipping.

The tyres were purchased locally at R&G Tires.

The lift was also done locally at Island Performance, with all parts being purchased and installed by them.

The stereo was from a California based company, Insane Audio, and was shipped for free through them. Installation was done by myself.

I’ve seen pictures where you’ve dropped the doors and driven your JK “naked” (as-in car stripped down, not you driving in the buff). Have you gone ramblin sans doors and if so, what was the sensation like (noisy, dusty, unbearable and/or a stupid idea, or better able to look out and pick your lines, epic and fun)?

It can be both, depending on where we are heading. I had to drive my JK up north to Mauna Kea Beach for a catalogue shoot for Eddie Bauer and that was simply noisy, unbearable, and loud. As there was no ramblin involved and simply highway driving, it was not enjoyable.

However, driving my Jeep naked for ramblin to me is the BEST!

Yes, it makes picking the lines easier, but for me, it puts you right in the outdoors, right in the middle of the action, just you and your Jeep and it’s an incredible sensation. If I could choose to have it that way every time, I would!

Your bloke Ken also has a Wrangler. Do you have to fight for the car park spaces in the garage?

I have to say that I am a very lucky woman when it comes to my mate as he is very accommodating for both of the jeeps.

At the time that we just owned mine, we had no intentions on purchasing a second. We were going to deck this one out and mod it up for off-roading. I parked in the carport and he parked his truck in the open. He installed a lift system in the carport so I could take the top off of my Jeep by myself (after I had the top coated with Line-X, it weighed so much more and taking it off and on with just the two of us was just not an option anymore.)

When we were told about the new Rubicon and went to test drive it, we bought it on the spot.

It was such a good deal that we couldn’t pass it up.

We drove it home, moved mine over, backed them both in, and done deal. They both fit perfectly in the carport.

After a week, we each had our designated side.

After a month or so, Ken had moved my lift system to remove my top over to my side of the carport and installed a second lift system over his Jeep on his side of the carport.

Now, either one of us can remove our tops off of our Jeeps by ourselves, the tops store above where we park up out of the way and when we want them back on, we simply pull in and lower them back on to our Jeep with the simple push of a button.

So, needless to say, no fighting over parking spots.

How about fighting over the tools when you want to do a mod on the cars?

Oh, I decided that one early on, two Jeeps, two sets of everything when it came to tools, etc.

We both have locking lugs on our tires and each has a special bag for the key in our glove box. Each Jeep has the same toolbox, roadside assistance kit, first aid kit, air pump, lockbox, etc.

I figured it may be better in this situation to have more rather than less. If I wasn’t around for some reason and he needed tools out of my Jeep, it would be silly for him not to have a set in his.

It does add up after a while, monetarily speaking, buying two of everything, but it is worth it knowing that each Jeep has everything in it that you will need when you are out on the trail.

Membership with the BIJC. What is it that you enjoy about sharing weekends with the club?

Hawaii is an amazing island to live on and having Jeeps to be able to get to certain areas that no one else can get to, makes it extremely enjoyable.

What I most enjoy about sharing time with BIJC is that I have made friendships with people that will last a lifetime.

With some of the members, it’s just about Jeeps. With most of the members, however, it’s not just Jeeps. It’s about the people and getting to know one another.

Because we all have more in common than just Jeeps, some of us have similar life journeys, some of us have similar life struggles. Once you start asking questions and start learning more and more about one another, beyond just the Jeep interest, you realize those interests you have in common.

Everyone should cherish every friend in their lives. We are all human and we are all on borrowed time.

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