August 23, 2010

Wow! We’re speechless. We’ve already raised $3,600! That’s 36% of our goal of $10,000 for Light the Night!!! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and to those who are spreading our reach by fundraising among their friends, family and co-workers. We are so grateful. Tanner let out a huge cheer when I showed her our total.

We’ve had a good past few days. Tanner made it the whole week at school last week. She is a trooper and is really enjoying her teacher and class.

Jake gave up his beloved “boppies” (passies) last week and has had it rough, poor little man. He’s finally sleeping better, but is now very hoarse and coughing. I can’t tell if he has a virus or is just so exhausted from trying to sleep without the comfort of a passy. But, he finally had a really good night’s sleep last night and he and I stayed close to home today and did lots of laundry and rested, so hopefully, we’re on the road to recovery for his sake and for Tanner’s.

Jake put every one of those pegs in the holes

The kids had a really fun weekend. Tanner’s cousins gave her a gift card to Build-a-Bear for her birthday, so John took she and Jake to make bears on Saturday. Tanner made a peace sign/smiley face bear (don’t ask) and Jake made… Darth Vader… really. Too funny.
Sunday we took them to the Discovery Museum in Murfreesboro (why have we never been there before?) We had a ball. It’s a kid’s museum with very hands-on exhibits like a fossil digging area, a play grocery store and house, a craft area and music center. Very fun.

Tanner loading coal at the Discovery Center

John came home on Friday with a new ipod player for me to use in the kitchen with my iphone and tickets to a concert on Sunday night with babysitter already arranged. He said I used to listen to music all the time and he wanted me to be able to do it again. I listened to it every time I was in the kitchen today. To the music I like, not the kids’ music. It was heaven. As usual, he was thinking of me and recognized something I didn’t even know I missed. We went to the Ray LaMontagne and David Gray concert on Sunday night – our first date in months. It was nice to just get away from everything.

Jake starts school next week and I’m looking forward to getting back a little “me” time. Unfortunately, it won’t last long as I’m having the second surgery on September 14. I’ve been really mad the last few days that all the things I had planned to do this fall once the kids were back in school will, once again, be put off. It feels like we’ve been treading water for so long and I thought this fall would finally represent a little normalcy and we would finally be able to swim, instead of float. Now, I feel like we’re back to treading water, waiting to see what this surgery finds. Will I need radiation? Will I be fatigued until they even out my thyroid levels? Will they find something on the other side that will change my treatment plan? We’ve been waiting for a long time… for many things… and we’ll wait some more, I guess. But, I’m planning on milking everything I can out of the next few weeks. I’m not going to slow down until I’m forced to.

And, while I’m down, I can raise money… just a warning ☺


Join Us for Light the Night 2010 on October 7

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?


Clinic Day #31 — Or, How to Have Fun at Clinic

April 8, 2010

So, here’s how you have fun at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Oncology Clinic:

1) Have counts high enough to still go to school, but not high enough to raise your chemo level (her neutraphils were at 1,100, down 200 from 2 weeks ago, so she’ll stay at 75% for now)

2) Make friends with the music therapist who is holding a music session in the infusion room. Get her to play your favorite Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift songs on the guitar so you can have a solo that makes everyone in the room clap. Tell her some other songs you like so you can plan to sing again next time.

3) Participate in a study that helps other people and get money from the doctor so you can buy ice cream downstairs.

4) Discover they are having a “medical play” clinic downstairs in the lobby and color your own “patient” doll which you can then give shots, access her port, set up an IV drip and generally use all your medical knowledge you have gained in your more than 50 visits to the hospital.

5) Get to see Dr. Mixan and Nurse Cari – our favorites

It was, hands down, the most fun we have had at Clinic. It is a testament to Vanderbilt Children’s that it is possible for a place that holds so much sorrow for so many is also the place that holds so much hope and light. We are forever grateful to have this community treasure so close by.

We’ve been on Spring Break all week and having a great time! We’ve been swimming twice, eaten out some, played in the yard and in the cul-de-sac a bunch, had playdates and now, E. (John’s Mom) is here! Tomorrow, we are hosting our church playgroup at our house and having a visit with Allison, the play therapist, in the afternoon. We’re hoping to get to the zoo this weekend to round out our super fun week.

Got some really fun news recently that Tanner is going to be one of the faces of this year’s local Light the Night, which is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s big fundraiser. Tanner’s picture and story are on the invitation being sent to corporations to invite them to a kickoff breakfast. She is also going to be featured in the Country Faces Cancer campaign where country celebrities, like Blake Shelton and Nan Kelley, host walk teams for Light the Night. Tanner will have her picture taken with all the celebs who sign on and be in the TV public service announcements. She will LOVE this! My girl loves her some attention and loves anything to do with music.

So, we’re hanging and enjoying the week off. With her counts down to 1,100, we might rein ourselves in a bit to try to protect her, but overall, the doctor feels good about where she is. During maintenance, the goal is for her counts to be between 1,000 and 1,500, so she is right where she should be, although I’d always prefer to be on the high side, rather than the low.

Hope you’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather, like we have.


Golf Carts and Scarecrows

IMG_1216September 29, 2009 It’s a strange title for a post, but I couldn’t think of any other way to sum up our jam packed and super fun day today. We got up this morning and headed to Lily’s house for a play date. You’ve probably heard us talk about Lily before… she is 8-years-old and has pre-b ALL, just like Tanner. She and Tanner had such a good time playing and her Mom, Larisa, and I got to swap stories and share information, so it was good all around. Lily has a little Chihuahua named Rosie that Tanner fell in love with and she spent the rest of the day asking me if we could get one after our dog, Millie dies… thank God the dog can’t understand English.

Larisa took us all, even Rosie, on a ride around their neighborhood to tour some playgrounds and parks in their golf cart. Everyone loved that and it was such a beautiful day. It just felt so good to be out. And, I think it probably felt good for Tanner and Lily to be playing with someone that just “gets it” with no explanation needed. Lily had to take some medicine while we were there and I could see Tanner thinking, “just like me.” Both girls are out of school now, so we’ll try to get together again soon.

We came home after Lily’s house and ate lunch. Tanner got up to go to the bathroom and fell down, then she fell down on the way back… uh oh. Five minutes later, she was sitting on the couch and just began screaming and grabbing her right leg. I could tell she was in great pain and no position we tried to lay her in helped. I ended up having to give her pain killer, which eventually made her more comfortable, but she lay on the sofa and whimpered on and off for the next hour or so. She was supposed to have a dance lesson, but we canceled it. She started having pain in her leg last night and I noticed her limping on it several times today. I assume it’s neurapathy from the Vincristine, but it’s still unsettling as this is the leg that hurt so bad from the leukemia at diagnosis.

The painkiller eventually did it’s job and we went to a friend’s house for pizza and scarecrow making. All the kids stuffed their own clothes and created some very cute scarecrows. It was great fun and Tanner just seemed like one of the girls with these friends who have been so unfailingly good to us. I got a lot of grown-up girlfriend time today too, which I think really lifted my spirits.

Tanner’s six-year-old friend, Leah, held a lemonade stand today to raise money for Light the Night… so, so sweet. We’re taking her proceeds with us to the coinstar tomorrow so we can count it up and make another donation. We’ve raised almost $7,000 thus far, surpassing our original goal of $5,000 and even our second goal of $6,5000. We’re humbled beyond humbled and so hopeful that Tanner will be able to come to the walk and see all those who will be there to support her. I know I will be an emotional mess that night… it’s really just too much to believe people’s kindness. If you see the blond woman mopping her eyes and sobbing at LP Field, it will be me.

What a great day!


Lemonade for Leukemia

Lemonade for Leukemia

Lemonade for Leukemia

September 28, 2009 This afternoon, Tanner, Jake and I made a pink sign that said, “Lemonade for Leukemia.” Then, while Tanner had school with Mrs. O’Hara in her classroom, Jake and I made lemonade and packed the wagon with a card table and chairs, cups and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society red bracelets.

At 5:10, we pulled the wagon across the street and set up shop. An hour later, we packed back up, having collected $259 for Tanner’s Light the Night Team. Yes, you read correctly… $259!!! Tanner is so excited. We came home and I thought after dinner we would count up the money and make the donation on-line. But, Tanner had other ideas… she wanted to know if she could have the loose change that John and I throw into various containers throughout the house. Needless to say, we’re taking it tomorrow to Kroger to put it in the Coinstar machine to be counted.

But, here’s the best part… she lost a tooth today (that’s a whole other story) and we put it under her pillow for the tooth fairy. After putting her to bed, I came down to eat dinner and she showed up on the balcony and said, “Mom, I want to write a note to the tooth fairy to ask for extra money for Light the Night. Can you help me?”

So, she dictated the following note:

Dear Tooth Fairy,
Please leave extra money so I can get ahead of the other team and have the most money for Light the Night.
Love, Tanner, Jake, Mommy and Tanner

She asked me, while I was writing the note, why I kept laughing. I wanted to tell her that I loved her competitiveness, her never-give-up attitude and her wonderful innocence in thinking that we could somehow make up the $4,000 that separates us from the first place team. That is the attitude that will help her come through this stronger than before and I love seeing it.

So, look out! Tanner Page is on a rampage to be the high dollar fundraiser for Light the Night this year.

I want to thank my friend Robin Embry for putting together this Light the Night team for us and all my dear friends at Lovell Communications for jumping in to help. I don’t think we would have ever done this without her and it has turned out to be the most positive thing for us. I know that I’ve dedicated a lot of blog space to this event, but it’s not just because we want so badly to see this cancer eradicated. This fundraiser has given us, and especially Tanner, something positive to focus on and has empowered her to feel like she could have some effect on this disease. That is priceless and we thank everyone for helping her feel this way.

Now, excuse me while I go find my wallet and make sure the tooth fairy is generous.


This Is How a Cure Happens

September 27, 2009 I’ve been sitting here on the sofa for the last hour writing thank you emails to those who have donated to Tanner’s Light the Night Team. I’m happy to say it’s not the first time I’ve spent time writing thank yous for the event, nor will it be the last, as I am still not finished. I’ve had tears in my eyes for the vast majority of the time I’ve been writing. I can’t believe the generosity of our friends, our family and those we have never even met.

Tanner was so excited when I told her that we had passed our goal. In fact, we haven’t just passed it, we’ve blown right by it in a flurry of generosity that has made me hopeful that someday, no one will have to ever get leukemia. In the past four days, we have raised another $1,000 for a total, as of this writing, of $5,920. I can’t believe it!

This is a how a cure happens… one donation at a time… donations in honor of a little girl who appreciates it so much.

We’re planning our lemonade stand for this week so Tanner can contribute as well. She’s really excited and so hopeful that she’ll be able to walk with us on Thursday. John and I said today it will be a “perfect storm” of circumstances if she is able to come, but we’re still hoping.

We had a wonderful weekend. My parents took on the responsibility of Tanner’s medication (I didn’t realize how complicated it was until I tried to explain it) and kept the kids overnight while John and stayed in downtown Nashville Friday night. We had a great dinner at my favorite restaurant, a good night’s sleep and a leisurely, uninterrupted breakfast before meandering our way home Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful and my parents are awesome. They stayed with us Saturday night and the kids loved getting to see them.

Tanner has had some odd moments of not feeling well and not being able to describe her symptoms that have me worrying about her red counts, but her energy continues to be great, so I’m trying not to worry about it. Poor thing, I keep staring at her face to see if her lips are blue and picking up her hands to look at her fingernails. I’m sure she’s sick of me.

We have some cancer kid friends that need your prayers … Tanner reminded me last night not to forget to pray for Kinsee – an eight-year-old with T-cell ALL who goes to St. Jude on Tuesday to begin preparing for a bone-marrow transplant. She will undergo intensive radiation and chemo treatments until all the cells in her bone marrow have been killed and her white counts are down to 0. Then, they will transplant the donor’s marrow into her bones and see if she recovers. She will be in the hospital for a minimum of 100 days. This is a very dangerous procedure that, Thank God, is not part of Tanner’s treatment plan.

Another eight-year-old you have probably heard me talk about, Lily, has had very low neutraphil counts. Neutraphils are your big, infection-fighting white cells and a normal count level would be from 5-10,000. Lily’s neutraphils last week were at 300. She has had to be pulled out of school until her counts recover, after just having been able to return. Lily has not been feeling well the last two days and has had a low fever. Please pray that her immune system recovers and she does not have an infection or virus.

Thank you so much to everyone who has donated to help stop this disease, or at least find a more humane way of treating it.

We love you,

Clinic Day #14

September 24, 2009 I’ve yawned and rubbed my eyes through this entire day and just finished spray n’washing a mound of laundry, so I’m going to make this update brief and go to bed.

John took Tanner to Clinic today while I stayed home and tried to get done some of the things I keep not getting to recently. She just went in to have blood drawn for Counts and we were concerned she would have to get a blood transfusion if her Hemoglobin levels had dropped any more than the previous week. They had dropped some (down to 8 from 8.5). Somewhere around 13 is normal and below 8, they will consider transfusing, but the doctor thought that since Tanner wasn’t really experiencing many symptoms (i.e. her energy level is at it’s normal uncanny level) and she was not receiving any chemo this week, she did not need one. Again, we’ll watch her to see if anything changes, but they anticipate that level to be rising.

Her neutraphil level, which is the other level they watch carefully and is indicative of her infection fighting ability, was still great, although it had dropped 1500 points to 2000 from 3500 last week. Although the normal person would have between 5-10,000, 2000 is still excellent for a kid on chemo and they were pleased.

So, barring any unforeseen drops in levels, Tanner will begin the dreaded Delayed Intensification phase of treatment next Thursday by beginning steroids, receiving an IV dose of Vincristine and getting a lumbar puncture with Methotrexate. Nothing like starting with a bang.

Thursday is also the day of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk to raise money to find a cure for blood cancers. Team Tanner has raised $4,925 so far, just $75 short of our $5,000 goal. But, we don’t want to stop at our goal, we want Tanner’s team to be #1. (We were #2 at the point when they gave away the Taylor Swift tickets.) Sooooo, if you haven’t donated yet, but feel moved to do so, you have 6 more days to do it. Just go to http://pages.lightthenight.org/tn/MidTN09/TeamTanner and click on donate. Tanner is planning on holing a lemonade stand in the next week so she can donate to her team as well and… as long as her counts hold up and she holds up after a day of surgery and chemo… she will be allowed to walk with us and carry the white balloon!!! All of us who are walking will carry a red balloon in support of her. At first, she didn’t want to do this walk because she was embarrassed for people to know she has cancer, but now she is excited and hopes to be able to do it. She’s really started to accept that she has cancer and to believe that people still love and support her.

Brief post… I am just not capable apparently.

Good night,