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?


Why Me?

August 15, 2010

I’m struggling a little today with “why me?” Why does it feel like just when we’re getting our feet back under us, something else comes along to wash away the very ground under us? Why do we keep having to scrabble back up to dry land? Why should one family have so much to deal with at once?

It’s not that I don’t believe it could be worse… I know it could. But, it could certainly be a lot better, too. Can I get an Amen?

My extended family is at the beach this week. It’s an every-other-year trip that I really look forward to. My parents, brothers, nieces, sister-in-law, aunt, and significant others and the Pages all rent a big house in Santa Rosa for a week in August. Except this year we can’t go. Tanner can’t swim in the ocean and the chemo makes her extra sensitive to the sun, so us going would have been an exercise in frustration.

I love the beach. There is something about that breeze that comes off the water, the salty smell, the sound of the surf hitting the sand… it all makes me feel like I somewhere so far away from home that none of my problems can follow me there. I found myself this morning crying because I knew that even if we had been able to go there this year, our problems would have still followed us. No amount of fresh salt air could have washed away Tanner’s cancer, much less mine. It couldn’t have washed away the year behind or the year to come.

So, I’m stuck in “why me?” land. But, I find that when I ask that question, more good things come to mind than bad.

Why me? What did I do to deserve such an awesome husband? One who puts us before himself every day. One who is unfailingly thoughtful. One who is there like a rock, no matter how bad it gets.

Why me? Why did I get such sweet, funny, spunky, creative, bright, energetic, happy children? One who is brave beyond her years and one who makes his mama smile even on her worst days.

Why me? Who has friends and family like we do? The kind that send a gift card to Panera, or flowers, or a meal, or a pair of flip flops for my tired feet. The kind that just show up when you need them, no matter what time. What a blessing.

Why me? Why did I get the most successfully treatable cancer there is? Why didn’t I get something scarier, like breast cancer? For that matter, why didn’t Tanner get AML instead of ALL? Or be 15 instead of 5 when she was diagnosed? Or be a boy instead of a girl? There are so many ways we have been blessed within our difficulties.

“Why me?” can be a pity party or a revelation. It depends upon how I choose to look at it.
I choose the latter.

I choose this life. The one I have right now with these people in it. With all the surgeries, the hospitals, the doctors, the pills, the cancers, the fear of what may come… I still choose it. This is my life with my family and friends and the good things will still outweigh the bad… if I let them.


This Never Ending Week

August 13, 2010

An important note before you read this post: The news in this post would be very disturbing to Tanner if she knew about it, so I know I can count on you all to keep it on the down low when she is around. She has more than most seven-year-olds to deal with and doesn’t need anything else to be worried about.

I’m eating Key Lime Pie… a big piece. There is nothing else to do at the end of a week like this.

First, the IVig transfusion on Monday, the headache reaction to it on Wednesday, the crazy ativan/LP/runaway saga and then Thursday I get a call from my doctor’s office at 4:20 pm, just 2 hours before the girls are supposed to show up at my house for bunco, telling me that I have thyroid cancer.

I’m not kidding.

Despite the fact that the fine needle aspiration and the initial pathology during the surgery showed no cancer, the nodule had some very slow growing, early stage cancer cells.

So, back to the OR next month to have the other half of my thyroid removed. At this point, they do not think that I will need radiation or anything other than surgical removal. And, they have no reason to even think that the other half is cancerous as well, but I do have a very small nodule on the remaining side and it makes sense to just get rid of it.

Lollipop cancer compared to Tanner’s version. I have no right to complain, really. We caught it very early, thanks to my awesome Internal Med doc, and we’re just going to move forward and do what needs to be done.

Enough about me, this blog is about Tanner. She did get to go to the first day of school, but didn’t make it all day. She got very overheated at recess and couldn’t cool off. I picked her up and after an hour or so, she felt better and I took her back for the last hour. She started her five-day-steroid pulse Wednesday night and they upped her dose because she had gained some weight. It is very easy for John and I to see the effects of the increase. She is acting on day 2 like she usually does on day 4. She was a little out of it this morning and cried some for no reason. We just decided to only send her for the morning and come get her before lunch. But, Tanner wanted to stay for lunch because “I think they are having popcorn chicken.” Too funny. It was a good decision. She is definitely having a harder time than normal with this pulse. She may or may not make it on Monday. It’s her last day of the pulse and the increased dose may wipe her out. It’s sad to me that her first week of school is being marred by the steroids.

I think I also forgot to mention in my last post about the crazy ativan reaction how high Tanner’s counts were – 5,540!!! Holy Moly. We haven’t seen counts like that in a long time. They aren’t sure why they are so high, although she has been coughing some in the morning lately, so it could be a virus. She is still on the 50% chemo dosage and they didn’t change it, but we have to go back in two weeks for a counts check. If they are still above 1,500, they will raise her chemo again.

It’s been a tough week, and I think it will probably be a tough couple of months until the second surgery is over and they get the thyroid medication I will need adjusted properly to keep me consistent. But, we will make it… like we always do.


Laughter is the best medicine

P.S. Thanks to my bunco girls who kept me laughing on a night I could have definitely had a pity party. Pity Parties are lonely, but laughing with girlfriends is priceless. And, to my husband who is my rock.

A Quick Update

July 27, 2010

Jake hid in the garage during the shaving cream fight

Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. A few of you… ahem… (you know who you are) have gently reminded me I have been slacking a little. As my friend Ashley said, though, when I don’t post for a while, it usually means everything is great.

It is. Great, I mean. We’ve been busy enjoying the end of summer before school starts in a few weeks. I’m having that thyroid surgery tomorrow, so summer is pretty much over for me and I’ve been trying to squeeze in the last little bit of time with the kids before I’m out of commission for a little while.

So, here’s the short story about the last week or so: We had water day in the cul-de-sac… slip n’ slide, water balloons, shaving cream fights, etc. We’ve checked a few items off our family summer fun wish list like making homemade ice cream and swimming at night with the lights on in the pool. Tanner’s in dance camp this week which will culminate in a show that neither John nor I will be able to see, but Aunt Beth and E. and Jake will attend. And, other fun summer stuff like bike riding, swimming and throwing rocks in the creek.

So, surgery for me in the early a.m. and I probably won’t post for a few days until I can be sure that my posts will be coherent (pain meds and public forums do not mix). We are, as always, well taken care of by our family and friends. Our support network is nothing, if not efficient, by now.

Wish me luck.


Theatre Camp Redo

July 14, 2010

This week has been theatre camp redo week. Tanner’s been attending camp every day and having at least as much fun as she did last time. She is singing and dancing her little heart out and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she makes it to the performance on Friday this time.

Tomorrow is clinic day. A dose of Vincristine and the start of a five-day pulse of steroids. She’ll miss a good part of the day at camp tomorrow, but seeing as how she’s already been through camp week once before, she won’t miss anything too important. We’re hoping to get her back to camp by 1 pm, but heard clinic is packed tomorrow, so it might take a while.

Been spending some quality time with my little man this week. We’ve been to Jump Zone and to the pool, the dog park, and the library. I’m enjoying some special time with him. Jake gets overlooked in this whole process sometimes, not intentionally of course, but because sometimes you just have to give your time to the child who needs you most at that moment and that is often Tanner. Jake is so used to Tanner getting medical attention that he now asks for medicine so he can get in on what seems like (to him) some great attention from John and I. He doesn’t realize what that medicine does to Tanner. We keep sweet tarts to give to him when he wants some of that kind of attention for himself.

Went to my pre-op appointment this week for some minor surgery I’m having in a few weeks. I have a nodule on my thyroid that has tested negative for cancer in needle biopsies, but John and I agreed to just get it out. We’re not so big on taking chances with cancer these days. I’ll lose half my thyroid, but the other half should take up the slack and I should be fine, minus one largish lump in my throat, after all is said and done. Me having surgery is causing Tanner some minor stress. She keeps asking if I have cancer or if it is going to hurt and if I’m getting “sleepy milk” like she does.

Hoping to report good things from clinic tomorrow. Good neutraphils and hemoglobin levels. That’s what we look for. Just trying to make it through Friday’s performance and to the church Fish Fry that night (Bethlehem United Methodist — yummy!). We’ll keep you posted.


Love Letter to Tanner

June 15, 2010

Mothers and Daughters have it tough. Our relationships are not always the easiest. Maybe it’s because our daughters fall too close to home that we find it somewhat easier to parent a boy, or at least I do. But, what I hope Tanner realizes, in the middle of all the mom-daughter tussles, is that I love her completely and really do want the best for her.

The beauty of this blog is that maybe someday she’ll see that. That even though it didn’t always come out right, I was always doing my best and that anything I did came from a place of love.

So, this post is a love letter to Tanner. A letter that she can read when she’s old enough to understand some of the grown-up things I write about here, and old enough to forgive her Mom for the blunders and maybe even understand where I was coming from. But, mostly, for her to see how much — how very much — I love her.

Dear Tanner:

I hope by the time you read this, that this leukemia business is far in our past and we have moved on to arguing about what you will wear to school or whether it’s okay to wear makeup or not. I’m thinking you won’t remember much about being treated for leukemia, but I know it will have shaped who you are. Maybe reading this blog will help you understand some of things you do, and some of the things Daddy and I have done.

I don’t know who you will become, but I do know one thing… you will be strong. You would have been strong before this damn cancer, but after you will be a force to be reckoned with. There will be nothing you can’t do.

Being your Mom is a privilege I wouldn’t trade for all the power jobs or peaceful Saturday afternoons in the world. If it hasn’t always felt that way to you, I apologize. Being a Mom, and maybe particularly a stay-at-home Mom, is decidedly unglamorous. And, I’m a pretty lousy homemaker, so I probably gripe about that part. But, never doubt that I stayed home with you and Jake because I wanted to… desperately. I didn’t want to miss one minute of the wonder that has been you. I didn’t want to look back and have not been a part of all the things that made you grow into the wonderful young woman I know you are becoming.

I’m sure it won’t always be easy for us… we are too alike. You have inherited my stubbornness, which makes us a little like gasoline and matches at times. As long as you can remember that being right doesn’t equal happy (I’m still trying to get that one down), your stubbornness can serve you well. It will help you not give up, but instead work harder than everyone else. And, it will free you to be yourself all the time and not care too much what other people think.

I’m going to try to practice what I’m preaching here and admit that I haven’t always been right when it comes to being your Mom. You are a hard cookie to parent with a strong will, but a bright spot of joy also, and I have often struggled with how to teach you right from wrong without breaking your beautiful spirit. If I haven’t done it right, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to or because I wasn’t trying or because I didn’t care. It was because I am human, and what you will learn someday is that there is no instruction manual for raising a child and we all just do the best we can. In particular, there’s no instruction manual for raising a child with leukemia and few qualified people to ask for advice.

Daddy and I were nearly broken in two when we found out you had leukemia. It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life. Either one of us would have gladly taken your place rather than watching you suffer so. The physical treatment was hard on you, but it was the isolation that was the really tough thing for you to swallow. You are a social butterfly and love people, so being kept out of school and away from friends and activities was so difficult for you. I know you blamed me for a lot of that, because I was usually the one breaking the news that you couldn’t go to a birthday party, or spend Thanksgiving with family, or go to the beach with your cousins. And, that’s okay. I just hope that one day, maybe when you’re a Mom yourself, you’ll get that being a parent means loving someone enough to let them hate you when you have to. We did everything we could to keep you safe and assure that you had a life to live at the end of this seemingly endless chemo.

When I was a little girl, I thought my Daddy was stronger than anyone. I knew he and my Mom would never let anyone or anything hurt me. I am sorry that you had to learn at age 5 that the bogeyman is bigger than Mommy and Daddy put together. It’s not a fair age to learn that and we did everything we could to retain your childhood, but cancer is ugly and you are too bright to not notice that no one could ever really promise you would be okay. You must have been so scared and I wish I could have made it better.

I want to make sure, more than anything else, that you walk away from reading this letter knowing three things: 1) I haven’t been the perfect Mom, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. It’s not the easiest job, this Mom business, but I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2) I am prouder of you than you will ever realize. You have been braver, stronger and more poised than I could have ever been in the same situation. 3) I love you… fiercely and completely… just the way you are. And, I always will.

I hope this helps… for you to understand what happened to you, and to our family, many years ago, and for you to realize that you have been all I could ask for from a daughter.

I love you, T.

Our Last Night

May 14, 2010

We went our separate ways today. We were all planning on returning to the Magic Kingdom to hit all the attractions we couldn’t get to on Tuesday, but I had a feeling that Jake needed a break. So, I asked him this morning, “Jake, would you rather go to Magic Kingdom and ride the Buzz Lightyear ride or go to the pool?” As I suspected, the pool won out. There’s only so much overstimulation a three-year-old can take, particularly one who likes to toodle around as much as he likes a big event.

Tanner, on the other hand, never gets enough overstimulation… bring it on! So, she and John went to Magic Kingdom and Jake and I played around the pool, took a walk on the nature trail, chased some lizards, scared a turtle and, generally, just took it easy. He took a big nap and will be ready for our last day tomorrow at Animal Kingdom!

Tanner and John blew it out at Magic Kingdom. Without Jake and I to weigh them down and with the trusty Wish Button at hand, they tore up the park at lightening speed and returned home in the late afternoon, happy and sated.

As always in the Village, there was a party this evening… a Pirates and Princess party. So, we ate dinner, got faces painted and tattoos sprayed on at the spa and headed over to the pool for a great time. All the kids got to go on stage and be presented as Pirates or Princesses to the crowd and there were some hilarious pirates leading the dancing and fun, not to mention characters from Sea World. Amazing!

So, we’re sad it’s our last night… really sad. This has been such a respite to the drill that is cancer treatment and when we get back, chemo will come back, too. Back to the hospital, to the poking and steroids and… yuck! But, we will have these memories to hold us up for a while. And we can look at the pictures and talk about all the fun we had and thank Tanner for taking us all to Disney for a week… on her.

Tomorrow, we’ll check out and head to Animal Kingdom for our last day of fun. When we leave the park, we’ll head home and get as far down the road as we can before we have to stop for the night. We are welcome back here in the Village anytime we wish – but as day visitors, not overnight guests. And, I think we will come back again, to remember and to continue to thank those who make this gift possible.


Happy Anniversary

December 11, 2009

cabo san lucas 072Ten years! I have been married to John for 10 years. There have been ups and downs, good times and bad, smooth rolling and rocky moments and… well, the unimaginable. Together, we have traversed this road side by side and I can’t imagine having taken this journey with anyone else.

The best part about John is that he gets me. He knows I usually have a negative knee jerk reaction to new things at first, but that, usually, after thinking about it, I’ll consider it rationally and come around. (And, no, I don’t usually apologize for the knee jerk reaction.) He just knows that’s what I’m going to do and rolls with it. He knows that’s me and it’s probably not going to change. And, he doesn’t make me feel bad about it. I have a big personality and need someone confident enough to deal with that. If anything, John’s personality is bigger than mine, but somehow, he complements me instead of overshadowing me.

Over the past six or seven years, John and I have faced a lot together. On the way to having Tanner and Jake, I miscarried three times. Jake was born with one kidney and had bladder reflux… thankfully it resolved itself without surgery. John’s Mom has had breast cancer… twice. Then, of course, leukemia for Tanner, an unimaginable diagnosis that could rock the foundation of any relationship.

All these things could have separated us. The stress alone certainly drives John and I to say and do some things we wouldn’t normally say or do. We certainly don’t always agree on everything to do with Tanner’s treatment. But, in the end, I think we’re a tighter team than we have ever been before. We work on it, forgive each other, and sometimes just agree to disagree. But, mostly, I think we come out on the same side and face things head on… together.

Dr. Phil (I can’t believe I’m quoting Dr. Phil) once said that marriage is NOT 50/50. Sometimes it’s 80/20, sometimes 60/40 and, occasionally, 100/0. I think you have to have faith that it evens out in the end and not keep score. I think the best thing about our relationship is that John and I carry each other when we need to and try not to make a big deal about it. No one needs to feel bad about the times when you’re not really pulling your weight.

Bottom line is, I’m crazy about my husband. He is goofy and kind. He has an unwavering commitment to me and to the kids that is rare. He is strong and solid an amazing dad and husband. He makes me laugh and still gives me butterflies. And, I just like hanging out with him… he’s fun.

Happy Anniversary, Baby. I love you.

Christmas Has Arrived!

December 2, 2009

I’ve been having a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit. Our tree is up, but is not decorated. We still have pumpkins on the front porch. I haven’t bought even the first Christmas present.

But today, Christmas came to us. My friend, Pat, had sent me an email several days ago saying a surprise would be delivered to us one morning this week. This morning, I got a call from a man saying he had a special delivery and would be to our house shortly. I told Tanner there was a surprise on the way and she and Jake were glued to the front windows asking me every 2 minutes when the surprise would be there.

Within 10 minutes, a black pick-up truck pulled up to the house with a special driver… Santa Claus was behind the wheel!

I yelled to Tanner, “It’s Santa in the truck!” Tanner and Jake began screaming and we opened the door to watch him as he came up the walk in the drizzle and brought us our sopping newspaper out of the yard. I think I was every bit as excited as the kids.

We invited Santa in and he hugged Tanner and then picked her up and carried her to the couch where they began talking about what she wanted for Christmas. Jake was a little leary at first, but warmed up pretty quickly and I was able to take pictures of them both on Santa’s lap after Jake told him he wanted a motorcycle and Tanner told him she wanted an American Girl doll.

IMG_1310We spent about 10 or 15 minutes with Santa before he had to go tend to important seasonal business. He hugged Jake and Tanner and told him he loved them. Then, he turned and hugged me. I felt the Santa magic… really. As we embraced, I whispered in his ear, “You have no idea what this means to us. I never dreamed we would be able to take this picture or that she would be able to sit on your lap this year.” Santa pulled back and held me by the shoulders and said, “That’s why I came; because I knew you couldn’t come to me.”

I cried, of course. And, Tanner got embarrassed and told me to go away if I was going to cry! We stood on the porch waving and yelling, “Merry Christmas, Santa!” as he drove away.

Just days before, Tanner had asked me when we were going to sit on Santa’s lap. I hesitated, trying to find a gentle way to prepare her for the fact that we probably weren’t going to get to sit on Santa’s lap due to the crowds. I started by saying, “We’ll have to ask Dr. Mixan about that,” but I didn’t have to finish. She already knew. She paused a moment and then said, “I have an idea, Mom. You take Jake to sit on Santa’s lap and he can give Santa my list.” She wasn’t overly upset about it; and that’s what broke my heart. She didn’t even expect to be able to sit on Santa’s lap this year. It was like she knew already that this kind of thing just wasn’t going to happen for her.

IMG_1308I don’t have to open any of my presents this Christmas to know that this will be my favorite Christmas gift. Christmas came to our house. Not on a snowy night in a sled pulled by reindeer, but in a black pick-up truck in the rain.

I could assume that my friend Pat told Santa we needed a personal visit this year. But, I prefer to think that Santa already knew and just asked Pat to call us to let us know he was coming. Either way, it was magic.