May 13, 2011
Here’s a link to the WTVF story about the therapy dog:
She did a great job. We’re so proud of her.
May 13, 2011
Here’s a link to the WTVF story about the therapy dog:
She did a great job. We’re so proud of her.
February 2, 2011
I dropped Tanner off half-hour late to school yesterday knowing that she wouldn’t make it all day. The steroids had done her in, but I thought she had a couple of hours in her. As expected, she called me about noon and we picked up a movie and she spent the rest of the day on the sofa.
I didn’t think there was any way she would make it to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year reception that evening, which was fine. It’s not mandatory that the Girl of the Year be there, but it’s nice for candidates and potential candidates to meet the kids who are inspiring them.
Tanner insisted on going (surprise, surprise) despite the fact that she didn’t feel very good and her legs were itchy (she has been having some kind of allergic issue or something).
The four of us arrived at Cabana in the pouring rain and spent a nice evening with some of the candidates and some potential candidates. We are so grateful to these soldiers of hope for a cure, some of whom have personal connections to the cause and some who don’t. It was good we came because Jack, the Boy of the Year, couldn’t make it and I think it meant a lot to people to meet Tanner. I was asked to tell our story and shared with them the extent of Tanner’s treatment and what she has been through. They were eager to learn and I’ve already made facebook friends with a few who wanted to know more.
I was asked to keep my comments brief, so I decided to tell our story in numbers – in doses to be more accurate. I went back to Tanner’s chemo roadmap in our 3-inch Vandy binder and counted up all the chemo she had received thus far. It took my breath away to see it listed that way. I wanted to share it with you as a testament to the toughness of my girl and of all the kids who endure this brutal treatment and more:
Tanner’s Story in Numbers
25 days inpatient in the hospital
8 ER visits
47 visits to the oncology clinic
3 blood transfusions
5 platelet transfusions
3 antibody transfusions
196 doses of dexamethasone (high dose steroids)
27 doses of IV Vincristine
482 doses of oral mercaptopurine
2 doses of Peg-Asparaginase via simultaneous injections to the thighs
8 doses of IV Cytabarine
1 dose of Cytabarine injected into the central nervous system via lumbar puncture
5 doses of IV methotrexate
15 doses of methotrexate injected into the central nervous system via lumbar puncture
56 doses of oral methotrexate
1 dose of IV cyclophosphamide
3 doses of doxorubicin
13 doses of oral thioguanine
This is, of course, only part of the story… the physical part. The emotional part can’t be put into numbers… it’s too complicated for that. And, Tanner’s numbers are really the best case scenario for a kid with leukemia. Boys would have a whole year more of chemo, and those who are standard or high risk or who have a more difficult to treat type of leukemia would endure much more than this.
It was good to remind myself of what she has been through… to remind myself that she has reason to act cranky sometimes or be angry or frustrated much more than the normal child. To marvel at how often she is not these things… how often she is happy, enthusiastic, excited and joyful.
Like today, for instance. I kept her home from school today. She didn’t feel great and there was some strep in her class that we wanted to avoid. She watched some TV this morning, then decided she would make some valentines for the kids who will be inpatient over Valentine’s day… her idea. She was so excited about it and got out paint, stickers, jewels and markers to decorate them with. She, Jake and I made nearly 30, and Tanner excitedly pulled out the last of her Halloween and Christmas candy and taped pieces to the valentines. She made a special one for Alli, the little 2-year-old who was on the ventilator and is now off, but still inpatient. We’re not due at clinic again until Feb. 23, so we’ll make a special trip in to deliver them. She wanted to go today!
We were so proud of her last night. Proud of how poised she was as adult after adult she didn’t know came to shake her hand. Proud of how she stood sweetly next to me while I read off the list of chemo she had endured, and of how she poked me with her elbow when I got a little teary and reminded me to buck up! Proud of her for just making it through with fierce determination to still find the good things in life. Proud of how her teacher said she did all the work asked of her yesterday at school even though she had to put her head down several times because she didn’t feel good. Proud of her for recognizing that it was important for her to be there last night even though it isn’t really a fun event for kids.
It was a great night to hope.
November 20, 2010
Friday was full of good news. First, I got my scan results… and they were clean!!! I should have posted last night, but I think I was just so relieved, I just wanted it to all go away and not even think about it anymore. They found remnant tissue around my thyroid, as they expected, but the radiation was doing its job in killing that. And, they didn’t see anything else… nothing!!! That’s what I like to hear. Now, to get back to life without all these interruptions.
Second, we found out Tanner got a role in Annie. She will be an orphan named Kate. Talk about one ecstatic child! She threw her arms up in the air and screamed as only a seven year old girl can. Rehearsals don’t start until January, but she’s been singing “Hard Knock Life” for days. Even Jake can belt out a resounding rendition of “Tomorrow” at this point.Today, Jake had his end of season soccer party at CiCi’s pizza. He had a great team with really nice kids and parents so we had such a good time. The coach gave out trophies… you’ve never seen anyone more proud than Jake. He carried that trophy around half the afternoon with this big grin on his face. The pictures are on John’s phone, but I’ll post some next time. He really was adorable.
I think it’s just sinking in for me that this latest health debacle is actually over. I think one of the side effects of becoming strong enough to handle what we’ve been through is that you also become a little numb to news – be it good, or bad. It’s like you just brace yourself for the worst and it’s difficult to believe it’s actually good news instead of bad. Even though my cancer has not been hard to deal with physically, it’s been hard on our family mentally. Just the disruption to our lives over and over and, for John and I, feeling like we were kicked when we already down. I just want to be able to move forward with some things, instead of always feeling like we’re treading water trying to keep from drowning. Swimming to shore and standing on dry ground would be a nice change.
Celebrations all around. Hurray for good news.
November 12, 2010
I’m aglow… with radiation! I’m sitting on a plastic tablecloth on my BFF Kim’s couch watching the Today show. It’s like a vacation as long as I forget why I’m here. I don’t feel really bad, but I don’t feel good either. I feel like I’ve been poisoned… go figure.
I’m still on the low iodine diet through Sunday to ensure the radioactive iodine absorbs into any remaining thyroid tissue as well as possible. So, Beth is coming over to make us hamburgers with homemade French fries and homemade ketchup. Yum! How does a girl thank friends like these? The thing is, I knew that they would take care of me… it’s just what we do for each other.
John and the kids dropped by last night and rang the doorbell and drove off before I could answer (This is affectionately referred to as the “Ding Dong Ditch” in the South). They left funny gifts the kids had picked out… a reindeer antler headband and a “Do Not Disturb” eye mask! Too funny!
Yesterday was surreal, but a little anticlimactic. No hazmat suit for the lady who gave me my RAI pills (I feel ripped off), just gloves. But, the pills themselves came in a space age looking metal canister. When she opened it, the metal was 2 inches thick and there was a very small indentation inside with a small plastic vial in it. The pills were in that vial and I had to take them without touching them (apparently it’s okay to touch them with the inside of your body, but not the outside!). Then, after I took them, a guy came and measured me from one foot and three feet away with a radiation detector to determine how radioactive I was. Apparently, everyone is different depending upon body mass (this is the one time it would have paid to have been more overweight than I am). Then, they write your contact precautions based on those measurements.
So, no closer than three feet from someone for me and six feet for kids or pregnant women for at least three days, but our doctor suggested we go seven days for that precaution. Even after that, I’m not allowed to have direct contact with the kids for more than 30 minutes a day for the next 16 days. Bummer. I’m going to miss cuddling with my babies so bad. But, I can get out more than I thought. No reason I can’t run to the video store or grocery during off hours when there aren’t a lot of people.
I feel like I’ve hijacked this blog… it is called Tanner Time, after all. So, here’s how Tanner’s doing. She’s having a somewhat hard time handling this extra chemo load. I think we had gotten spoiled being on 50% chemo for so long and now she’s on 100%. She missed school Monday and Wednesday. She just didn’t feel good. And, she’s fighting some kind of cold. Jake had a mild case of croup this week and missed school, so it’s been a little nuts this week.
Tanner auditioned for an orphan role in Annie last weekend and did so well. She has a callback this Monday and is so excited. It was a leap of faith for John and I to even let her try out because the rehearsal schedule will probably be a little tiring, but we just felt like it was something she wanted so badly that it was worth it. I was so proud of her for doing so well at the audition; she had just had that big dose of chemo and was on steroids, but she still got up there and gave it her best. Hope her cold clears up by then.
I think if nothing else, I am gaining a new respect for Tanner’s resilience. She has pointed out to me several times over the last few weeks that I am just like her – I can’t eat what I want, I have to stay away from people and I have a yucky taste in my mouth that changes the way food tastes. And, now I feel bad like she must have so often over the last year-and-a-half. I’m having a mini-dose of her life. Wow. I respect her even more. She doesn’t complain often and now I realize she really could. I have to say if I woke up one morning and felt like this, I would call in sick to work, but I think she goes to school like this some days. Strong kid, that girl of mine.
Thanks for all the well wishes; I’m doing just fine.
October 28, 2010
I made it through my first day of the low iodine diet. Thanks to Beth and her yummy bread and muffins, it wasn’t too bad. Although I will say that scrambled egg whites are a little weird (no point in trying to make an omelet without cheese). I never realized how often I must take a little “taste” off the kids’ plates while I am fixing meals until today when I couldn’t.Jake had his Halloween party at school day. They wore costumes and trick-or-treated to all the classrooms and offices. He was Batman, of course, and his little best friend at school, Spencer, was the Joker. Too funny. Hilariously, he insisted on wearing his new Superman pajamas under his Batman costume so when he took it off, he was still a superhero! Imagine if Batman could really fly, instead of just gliding, and had x-ray vision in addition to that Batarang… talk about superpowers!
Last night, when I was picking up Tanner’s room before bedtime, I found a little piece of paper on her bed with “Wish List” written at the top. Tanner had written 10 things that she wished for. Most were cute things that any seven-year-old would wish for like “more Silly Bandz” and “All the Build-a-Bears I can make.” But, what broke my heart was #1 on the list… “No More Leukemia.” Further down the list, but not far behind, written in a second grader’s careful scrawl, was, “No More Medisun.” It solidified for me my suspicion that no matter how much Tanner seems immersed in school and friends and play rehearsals, leukemia is still top of mind for her. It still dominates her life.
John and I recently had a conversation about Tanner and I expressed my concern that all this fund-raising and cancer awareness stuff we are involved in could cause her identity to be wrapped up in having leukemia. John said, “It already is. How could it not be?”
And, he’s right, of course. How could a child endure the type of medical treatment she has had; be told all the time not to touch something, eat something or do something because she might get sick; and know how much longer it will go on, without it becoming an integral part of who she is? It’s become a part of who we all are, really.
And, now, ever so slowly, cancer is becoming a part of who I am. For the next two weeks, I will be reminded every time I choose something to eat, that I have cancer. I will cook and freeze food so my family will not have to cook while I am out of pocket. I will frantically try to do all the laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping I can do to leave the house in good condition before I’m not able to help anymore… again… for the third time in 3 months. No matter that it’s not a big, scary cancer like Tanner has… it’s still affecting us all. I can understand how leukemia is top of mind for Tanner.
If you remember, this summer I wrote about a film crew following us for a fund-raising video while we were at Vandy. The video is now available for viewing online at http://pediatrics.mc.vanderbilt.edu/interior.php?mid=7926. It’s a powerful testament to the blessing that the Children’s Hospital is to our community. Tanner appears at about 4:15 if you don’t want to watch the whole video (it’s about 8 minutes), although it’s worth watching. There are no words to describe how proud John and I are of her role in this video. From a child’s perspective, she tells it like it is. No adult explanations needed. Her child’s view is pretty mature, considering all she has been through.
As Tanner says, “Kids shouldn’t have to go through all this mess.”
October 26, 2010
Some exciting news has come our way this week… Tanner has been named the 2011 “Girl of the Year” for the Tennesee Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!!! What an honor! We’re so proud of her.
What does this mean? It means that the 14 or so candidates for Man of the Year and Woman of the Year will be raising funds in honor of Tanner and the Boy of the Year, Jack Woods. The kids will be LLS ambassadors at parties and events for the fund-raising campaign and even appear in ads. Tanner positively lit up when I asked her if she wanted to do it. Her duties will begin sometime in January and end in June.
Thank you all for supporting her during the Light the Night walk. Our unprecedented success as a “friends and family” team definitely played a huge role in Tanner receiving this honor.
Another piece of news is that I am starting my low iodine diet Thursday in preparation for receiving a radioactive iodine treatment in a few weeks… ugghhh. This radiation treatment is a pill that I take at the hospital and then I can’t be around anyone for five days (and the kids for eight days) while my body is ridding itself of the excess radiation. The iodine is absorbed into any remaining thyroid tissue, along with the radiation, and the idea is that it kills any remaining thyroid tissue, hopefully decreasing the chance of cancer recurrence. Thyroid cancer can recur at any time, even 20 or 30 years later, so I will be tested every year for the rest of my life, essentially. I’m actually relieved that they recommended the radiation… I just want to get rid of this stuff.
Once again, John will have to do it all… work, take care of the house and take care of the kids. I feel so helpless that he will have to do all this… again. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again… cancer sucks.
The low iodine diet is interesting. Since most salt we use in the U.S. is iodized, almost all processed foods are prohibited. No soy, dairy, seafood of any kind, etc. It made for an interesting shopping trip. Thank God for my friend, Beth. She spent all day yesterday baking bread, rolls, muffins and crackers for me from the thyroid cancer cookbook so that I wouldn’t have to survive without carbs for the next two weeks. Who has friends like this? I figure with bread and salt-free natural peanut butter, anyone can make it.
We’ve had a good week so far. Tanner’s energy seems to be back full force and she and Jake are amped for Halloween. Next week, she has a lumbar puncture with chemo injection, so that is looming over our heads, but we are trying not to think about it too much.
Tanner’s school is doing “Pennies for Patients” again in her honor. It’s a LLS fund-raising campaign where kids bring in change from home to benefit LLS. Moore Elementary continues to support our family in ways we never imagined.
I’m going to relish my last day of processed food tomorrow. I’ll miss pizza most, but diet coke is allowed, so I’ll make it!
September 27, 2010
Good grief! What a Sunday! The Lord’s Day… a day for worship, for fellowship, for community, for putting others before yourself. Thirty kids at Bethlehem United Methodist Church did just that on Sunday. They raised $2,400 for Team Tanner by baking and pounding the pavement, Light the Night style.
We arrived at church on Sunday morning in time to set up Tanner’s lemonade stand across from the kids’ bake sale and sold after early service and before late service. In a couple of hours, together, we made more than $1,000, thanks to the generosity of our congregation, people who have already shown us immeasurable kindness.
Then, Sunday night, we went back for the kids’ Light the Night Walk. They started in the gym and ended up outside running and walking around the parking lot. Preschoolers through 5th graders… kids who asked their classmates at school to bring in their change for Tanner… kids who went door to door in their neighborhood, sharing Tanner’s story and asking for help. At the end of the walk, they took their money, which they had folded up in bandannas and carried with them, and dumped it happily, one by one, into a green box. Tanner and I watched in disbelief as it piled up… $1,200 worth, collected by children just to help a friend.
It was a triumphant night. One in which kids dealt a blow to the type of cancer that makes up ¼ of all childhood cancers. Imagine if we were able to find a real cure for leukemia? One quarter of all childhood cancer would disappear in one fell swoop. So fitting that kids should play a role in that. I was so proud of them and so humbled by their enthusiasm and dedication to helping their friend.
But, the night wasn’t over. John took Jake home to go to bed, but Tanner and I headed to Rally Mania, the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research concert at the Factory in Franklin. Along with Tanner’s friend, Madelyn, and two other little girls, Tanner was a Rally Rock N’ Roll Princess. After dancing and singing for an hour or so, they brought the girls up on stage, each escorted by a teenage boy who was also a cancer survivor. As the crowd cheered and clapped, they presented the girls with pink guitars, signed by all the artists who participated in the concert, including Eddie Money, Kix Brooks, Ashley Cleveland and Jars of Clay. Tanner was beyond surprised and has been “writing” songs on it all afternoon today. We danced and sang until the very end and Eddie Money brought Tanner and another Rally Princess up on stage with him. Then he kissed Tanner’s hand and called her an “Angel.” We had so much fun and she felt so special.
On the way out of the concert, carrying the pink guitar in a big cardboard box, I told Tanner I thought she was a pretty lucky girl. It sounded odd as it came out of my mouth, considering what she has been through and still has on her plate, but it felt right anyway. I told her that her having leukemia had given us the ability to see the fullness of peoples’ kindness, their wonderful way of reaching out to help when we needed it most. She agreed and said, “I think a lot of people love me.”
So, now Team Tanner stands at $14,600… a number I never dreamed to reach.
September 21, 2010
Oh, you wonderful people… with a little more than 2 weeks to go, we have officially surpassed our Light the Night goal of $10,000!!!!!! Oh my gosh!!!! As of this writing, we have $10,185!!!!
We are so thrilled to be making this contribution toward hunting down this vile disease and finding a way to make it go away for good!!! A way that doesn’t hurt so much, doesn’t take so much, and doesn’t take so long. A way that works for all forms of blood cancers, not just a few. A way that offers hope where there is currently little.
But, we’re not stopping here! Let’s see how far we can go. Let’s see how big of a difference we can make. We still have our church’s Light the Night walk for the kids on Sunday the 26th, for example. So, we know we’re not stopping at $10,000.
If you need more information to decide whether this is a cause toward which you would want to dedicate some of your charitable giving, there is a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society video on YouTube that would be worth watching. It is a good overview of the nationwide event with personal stories from survivors and those who are walking in honor of those who didn’t make it. Last year’s Team Tanner is all over the video. Look for signs with Tanner’s picture, our Team Tanner banner carried by Keith and Leslie, and a shot of the whole team grouped around Tanner’s wagon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df4a9XV8rBk It really is such an uplifting, special event.
Tanner’s story from last year’s walk is also on the LLS Website. Tanner was extremely sick the day of Light the Night. She had endured four types of chemo that day and we pulled her in a wagon because she was too weak to walk. Her strong spirit was intact, though, and she insisted on coming. You can read her story at http://www.lightthenight.org/tn/localchapter/patients.We had a great weekend with Jake’s soccer game on Saturday and Tanner singing in church on Sunday. Jake LOVES soccer! After a rocky start (he pulled the goal down on top of himself and spent a considerable amount of time crying about it instead of playing), he did super and looked so proud of himself and happy playing. It was great for us all to be there, cheering him on and for him to have the spotlight.
I’m feeling stronger every day. I’m pretty much back to my day-to-day activities at this point with the exception of not being able to lift anything heavy (including Jake) or doing any strenuous housework. I have an appointment at the end of October to find out if I will need the radioactive iodine therapy, and won’t know if my parathyroid came back clean for another week or so. So far, so good.
Thank you for all the well wishes, kind thoughts, prayers and meals this past week. I have said it often, but I will say it again… you do not walk through a year like we’ve just had alone. You would wither up and blow away. You are carried by the kindness of those you love, those you know and even those you don’t know. Never underestimate the power of even the smallest of kindnesses. They make life bearable when everything else says otherwise.
We are blessed amidst our difficulty.
August 19, 2010
I have struggled with writing this post. Not because there is anything difficult about the topic, but because I want it to be perfect. I want it to be so inspiring that Team Tanner alone ends a little piece of cancer. But, after poring over cancer statistics, strategizing and waiting in vain for inspiration to hit me, I finally realized that this is simple.
This is me, the mother of a child with cancer, asking the people who love us to help us make sure this doesn’t happen to another family.
Last year, Team Tanner raised $8,200 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. Friends and family gathered that night to carry illuminated red balloons in support of Tanner, who carried the white balloon of a survivor. We pulled her in a wagon because she was too weak to walk. Her little body had been injected with four kinds of chemo that day and she had spent the afternoon vomiting and sleeping. We left the decision to come up to her, and frankly, we discouraged her from coming because she was so sick. But, she was determined to see what it looked like when 3,000 people come together in support of those who are battling blood cancers and in honor of those who have lost the battle.
This year, we’re determined to raise even more money to fight blood cancers. To improve the prognosis for those who are not as lucky as Tanner, and to help find new treatments that are easier on patients and that don’t steal two to three years from someone’s life.
Our goal this year is $10,000. Tanner is planning lemonade stands (more on that when we get the details mapped out) and we’ll ask you all to help us with the rest.
Here’s how you can help:
1) Make a tax-deductible donation to Team Tanner by going to http://pages.lightthenight.org/tn/MidTN10/TeamTanner
2) Come walk with us. You can sign up on the Team Tanner site. It’s an easy, beautiful walk through downtown Nashville, across the Shelby Street Bridge and around the stadium.
3) Expand our reach by setting up your own fund-raising page on Team Tanner’s site and send emails to your friends, family or co-workers and ask them to help us stop blood cancers. Go to the Team Tanner site and it will create a page for you.
As parents of a child with leukemia, John and I come across many ways to help end cancer, especially for kids. These are all such worthwhile causes, but we feel strongly that we need to concentrate our efforts in one place. We have chosen the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which last year funded more than $71 million in research, contributing to advances in chemotherapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and to the development of new drugs that are affecting patient survival and quality of life. Light the Night walks around the country raised $39 million last year. Talk about giving cancer a swift kick in the butt!!! We’re proud to be part of this event and are hopeful to make a major contribution.
Tanner is determined to “win” this year. Last year, our team raised the second highest amount for any non-corporate team in the Middle Tennessee area. Tanner would like to be #1 this year… that’s my husband’s daughter all right!
Can you help?
July 17, 2010
I got to the theater on Friday at about 1:30 with Jake in tow to get a good seat for Tanner’s performance. Aunt Beth had beat me there and as I walked into the building, I realized I had left my camera at home… doh! I left Jake in Beth’s capable hands and drove like a bat out of hell all the way home and back, just in time to slide in my seat and catch my breath before the lights went down and the show started.
The kids were doing 10 songs, one from each of the ten years the Boiler Room Theater has been in existence. The first song up was, “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line. The song is really upbeat and the kids had learned some fun choreography to go along with it. Tanner was so cute doing the dances. When the music suddenly slowed, my daughter stepped confidently to the front and center of the stage and belted out her solo. She was FANTASTIC!!!!
As Beth, John and I were giving each other high fives, the kids launched into several more songs from Gypsy, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Fiddler on the Roof. Then, they all went back stage and the lights went out. A spotlight came on center stage and Tanner walked out from behind the curtain and all by herself, and sang the first stanza of “Day by Day” from Godspell. She was dressed in jean shorts and a purple t-shirt with a long psychedelic vest over it. Her long, skinny legs ended in a pair of sneakers that looked too big for the rest of her. Her short hair set her apart from all the other girls. She looked very small on the stage. But, she was so confident and so beautiful. John, Beth and I cried, of course. Tanner caught my eye while I was crying and I quickly smiled so she wouldn’t be thrown off.
It was an arena where it did not matter that she has leukemia. It didn’t matter that she has spent 25 days in the hospital over the past year or visited the oncology clinic 37 times, or spent countless hours in the ER with a fever. It didn’t matter that she had blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, antibody transfusions and an unbelievable variety of chemo drugs injected into her small body.
It just didn’t matter.
She could still stand up there and sing with a confidence and a natural ability that could not be stolen from her by this disease or her treatment. It was a great victory in what has been a grueling battle. In that moment, it just did not matter that she has cancer.
John and I were left speechless all that night. We kept watching the videos we had taken over and over. She had zero fear on the stage and why should she? What could be scarier that what she has already endured? I think we just couldn’t believe that after all that she has been through in the last year, there she was, shining on that stage. Making a place for herself, despite the fact that she had been in the hospital just the day before getting chemo.
It was just a great day, one we will not forget for a long time, and the first of many we will spend sitting in a theater watching our daughter perform. We’re already trying to figure out how she can do Alice in Wonderland in the fall. She’s found what she loves and what she’s good at; and I think it will really help her get through the next year to have something she is passionate about to focus on.
I realize I have gushed beyond what is acceptable, considering this is my own child. But, it’s been a long time since we have been able to proud of her for anything other than fighting cancer.
P.S. You can watch two of her solos by following this link http://gallery.me.com/john_page#100082. We kept the clips short so as not to compromise the privacy of the other kids in the show.