Big News

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!


Lighting the Night with Joy

October 8, 2010

Light the NIght 2009

Last year, at the Light the Night Walk, we pulled Tanner in a wagon, propped up on a pillow, and covered with a blanket. She was pale and weak and tired, but determined.

LIght the Night 2010Last night, as we crossed the parking lot at LP Field, John and I exchanged a meaningful glance as he took a video of our daughter, pulling that same wagon, loaded with chairs and posters, all the way to the tent. She was bright-eyed, pink cheeked and, as always, determined.

It was a beautiful night and our tent was overflowing with the love and support of the friends and family that came there to lift up our family. Jake came this year, which made the night complete. After all, the four of us all have cancer in one way or another.

We had the best time. Tanner had three good girlfriends there and they sang, danced and skipped their way through 1.75 miles of sparkling downtown Nashville. The kids had their faces painted by Titans cheerleaders, jumped in the inflatables and ooohed and ahhed at the fireworks that started right as we crossed the Shelby Street Bridge. Jake was fascinated with the lighted balloons and collected them from walkers as we went along.

How many squealing 7-year old girls can fit in a wagon?

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. After I dropped the kids off at school that morning, I met my friend, Margaret, who had come all the way from New Jersey with her husband, Larry, to walk with us. We had coffee and shared stories, then I picked up both kids early from school and got them home and down for naps.

Then, I checked Team Tanner’s site.

I couldn’t breathe for a moment.

There had to be some mistake.

Just five hours earlier, when I had last checked the site, we had a little more than $15,000. More than I had ever dreamed and I was so grateful. At 2 pm we had $19,000… really.

I searched through the individual fund-raising pages to figure out where this much money had come from in such a short period of time. I began finding large donations from John’s coworkers at Franklin American Mortgage Company. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I called John to tell him to personally kiss all of them for me.

I checked the site again about 2 hours later… $21,000. More tears. Another call to John.

One final check before we got in the car to head to the walk… $24,132. My hands were shaking as I yelled out to John to look at the computer screen. Unbelievable. Nearly $10,000 in one day… we could probably fund a study just from the money raised by Team Tanner this year.

It is a dream of ours that no family ever have to go through this again. That no child ever have to sacrifice so much of their precious childhood to a disease so insidious that it would kill in a matter of weeks if left unchecked. A disease that hides in their little bodies for years, waiting for a weak moment so it can make it’s way back into their bloodstream. Last night went a long way towards realizing that dream. You all have helped us feel victorious when it is so easy to feel beaten down.

We are so grateful that there really are no words.

Beth, John, Tanner and Jake

P.S. The walk was such a beautiful celebration of the spirit with which children and adults fight for the right to keep living, to keep finding more and more joyous days.
But, I was reminded in one swift moment, how quickly cancer can end a celebration. I saw a friend whose son is 20 months out of treatment. She said they had been to clinic that day for his every 3-month blood check and his counts were still very low; they have never recovered from treatment. He is having a bone marrow biopsy today to determine whether the leukemia is back. Sobering and terrifying and I can’t stop thinking about them. Please pray that the leukemia leaves this little boy and his family alone so they can keep enjoying their lives.

Clinic Day #41

October 6, 2010

Seems like I’ll never really understand counts. Tanner’s neutraphils were at 1,100 today, which is the low side of where they want them (1,000 to 1,500). But, her monocytes were very strong and they eventually become neutraphils, so they assumed she was about to go up to about 1,300. So they raised her chemo. Huh?

I’m going to be surprised if this little chemo bump doesn’t mean Tanner has to be pulled out of school for a month. Her counts do not recover quickly these days. It will be a devastating set back for her if it happens.

All her other counts looked great. Her hemoglobin and red counts have been very strong lately, which equals lots of energy and means she has been feeling pretty good.

The Tennessean ran a very cool article on Tanner’s lemonade stands today. Tanner took a copy into school to show her classmates. I’m hoping it results in more donations to Team Tanner. Click here to see a copy of the article LLS_Tennessean_Oct. 6

Light the Night is tomorrow night. We are ready!


Finally… Some Good News

October 4, 2010

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the pathology report from my most recent surgery… and I mean anxiously. You see, we’ve gotten used to bad news… even come to expect it. I thought for sure, they were going to tell me my parathyroid glands were cancerous as well and we were going to have another surgery to take out those. Three surgeries in three months… I told John I was seriously going to cry if that happened… for the first time in a long time.

Today, we were pleasantly surprised! My pathology report was clear… no cancer at all in the right side of my thyroid… hallelujah! So, no more surgeries. I will go to the endocrinologist later this month to determine what the next steps are… maybe nothing… maybe radioactive iodine. But, we can handle that.

Score one for good news!

We had a fun weekend with the kids. Jake had a soccer game Saturday morning, then we took them to Toy Story on Ice. They had a ball. Then, Sunday, we took cupcakes to the sweet kids at church who had raised so much money for Team Tanner. I took the check from the church, along with some other checks people have given me, to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society today. Our total, to date, is $14,491. Ah-mazing!

The Light the Night Walk is this Thursday. Tanner’s clinic day is Wednesday. Sucks, but it just seems to work out that way. She’ll be on steroids for the walk and for Moore Miles, her school fundraiser, the next day. Don’t know how many laps she’ll be able to run with the steroids and IV chemo in her, but I’m willing to bet she will surprise me… she always does.

I gave up trying to make them be serious for the picture!

This picture serves as a special thank you to everyone who sent in poptops for Tanner. We received several packages of poptops; Tanner and Jake are so excited by how many we now have. We’ll take them to church this week and put them in the jar for the Ronald McDonald House. Can’t imagine the extra burden of having to be away from home for this treatment. Thank God we live so close to Vanderbilt Children’s.

So much good news… feels so good.


A Very Lucky Girl

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.

That's Eddie Money pointing at Tanner!

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. 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

Go Jake, go!

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.

Making a friend

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.


Big Day Tomorrow

September 17, 2010

Big day tomorrow. For two reasons: 1) Jake has his first soccer game. If you have never seen a three-year-old soccer game, it is hilarious, and Jake is a soccer animal. 2) Tomorrow is the Franklin 4 the Cure Race/Walk and Concert in Westhaven.

We, for the second year, won’t be able to participate in Franklin 4 the Cure. It has just happened on bad weekends for us, which is a shame, because it is an awesome event that raises lots of money. This year it will all go to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for childhood cancer research. They have a race/walk in the morning followed by a one-mile fun run for kids (named in honor of our friend, Lily) and an evening concert featuring Heidi Newfield. It is an awesome event and we are determined to make it next year.

This year, though, we have important business to attend to. We are all going to watch Jake play soccer. It’s not that having leukemia is fun, but it certainly offers Tanner lots of opportunities that Jake does not get. Next week, for example, we will go by our church where all the kids will be holding their own Light the Night Walk in Tanner’s honor, then leave and go to the Rally Mania concert where Tanner and some other little girls with cancer will be presented pink guitars and tiaras as Rally Rock N’ Roll Princesses. Again, not worth having leukemia to attend these events, but lots of attention for her, nevertheless.

So, tomorrow, we all go watch Jake tear up the soccer field with his new cleats and his “lifeguards” aka “shinguards.” He is so proud we are all going to watch him play. I’m going to bring a chair I can plop in and try not to jump up when he scores and injure myself. But, I can’t promise anything.

If you want to attend any of the events at Franklin 4 the Cure, go to for more info. It really is a great event in a beautiful neighborhood. Lily’s family is very involved, as they live in Westhaven. There is a great silent auction and a Hope Street Festival for the kids with inflatables and kids’ activities.

Tanner is feeling good. She’s had a great week of school is looking forward to her Alice in Wonderland rehearsal tonight. She is singing with another little girl at church on Sunday. AND, she convinced that little boy to give up his pop tops. Atta girl.

Thanks for the donations to Tanner’s Light the Night Team. They continue to come in and we are forever grateful.


Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September 7, 2010

Every time I sat down today to write a post, I felt scattered… pulled in lots of directions. Should I write about this… or that? I feel scattered for a really good reason – there are lots of exciting things going on.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Which means we are busy with activities designed to raise awareness and raise money to help end childhood cancer.

Did you know that research dollars designated for Childhood Cancer account for less than 2% of all cancer research dollars annually? This, despite the fact that gains made in treating children with cancer directly benefit adults (the opposite is not true). Chemotherapy was developed for children and tested first on children. When childhood cancer research is underfunded, not only do children suffer, but adults suffer.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of childhood cancer. It is the type that Tanner has, and thanks to those who have funded research in the past, and those who have participated in clinical trials, Tanner’s prognosis is good. In 1960, someone with ALL had an 10% chance of survival, today it’s 80%. Tanner’s chances are even better, thanks to the particular type of ALL she has and her individual risk factors.

Here’s the problem, though. The levels of chemo they give are as toxic as the kids can stand. They can’t just give more to make 80% become 100%. There’s no where to go. We need new therapies, hopefully kinder and quicker therapies.

So, we’re committing to everything that we possibly can this month. Any way we can help raise awareness or money, we’re doing it.

For example, Tanner is now officially a Rally Kid for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. Her picture and story appear on their web site at

It’s sobering to me to see her photo among all those stories of battling children. It seems a little too real. Tanner will also be a Rally Rock Princess (along with some other little girls with cancer) at the Rally Mania concert on September 26 at 5 pm at Carnton Plantation. The headliner is Eddie Money with special guest appearances from Kix Brooks, Jars of Clay, Ashley Cleveland, Jordan Pruitt from High School Musical, and many more. It’s a great place to bring a picnic and watch the concert. You can buy tickets at online at or at the gate the day of.

Last year's Lemonade for Leukemia stand raised $259!

I’ll post in the coming days about other fun opportunities to help this month. But, I do want to dedicate a little space to our most important event of the month… Tanner’s lemonade sale tomorrow!!! Tanner and her friend, Corinne, will be holding a lemonade stand tomorrow from about 4 pm to 5:30 or 6 pm in Moore’s Landing subdivision off of Lewisburg Pike in Franklin. Come by if you’re in the area and buy some lemonade from the girls. They’re donating all the money to Team Tanner.

Speaking of Team Tanner… oh my gosh! It has been just 2 weeks and five days since I first posted about our efforts to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk on October 7. Our goal is $10,000. To date, we have raised more than $7,000. Really. We are humbled beyond humble and can’t thank everyone enough for such a great start to our campaign. People have been so amazing. Even the kids at our church are planning a Light the Night walk of their own and getting pledges for Team Tanner. They’re also having a bake sale and Tanner is doing a lemonade stand between services. If you still want to donate go to

I always say if one good thing comes out of this whole mess, it’s a firm belief in the goodness of people.


P.S. I have shamelessly plagiarized my childhood cancer statistics and info from my friend, Larisa. She, obviously, is much better read than I. I know she won’t care if I plagiarize as long as it makes a difference. She has as much at stake as I do.

Clinic Day #39 — Just a Counts Check

August 25, 2010

Jake and I picked up Tanner early from school today so we could go to clinic for a counts check. We loaded her in the car, slapped some EMLA (numbing cream) on her port, and headed to Sonic for some ice cream and to give the EMLA time to do it’s job.

Her counts were still very high, as we expected they would be. They were 4,700. They’ve upped her 6MP and methotrexate dosage to nearly 75% and we’ll see what happens in two more weeks.

Clinic was very quiet, so the kids spread out with legos and Barbies while we waited. We played a new paper electric guitar with Sara, the childlife specialist, danced in infusion room and generally got a little crazy. It is amazing how like family these people who care for your child will become. It is actually possible to have fun while we are there for such serious business. I had to promise Jake we would come back soon so we could leave.

Believe it or not, we are already past the half-way mark to our goal of $10,000 for Tanner’s Light the Night team… you have no idea how we are humbled by this outpouring of support for our family.