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.


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.


The Runaways

August 4, 2010

We’ve officially run away. With no planning and little preparation. A spontaneous getaway to the faraway land of… Huntsville, Alabama! Just an hour and a half down the road, but it feels like a million miles away from cancer and sickness and impending surgeries.

John and had planned what we thought was a pretty spontaneous day trip to Huntsville last Friday night. I had seen an article in a magazine saying there was a cool Star Wars exhibit at the space museum and thought the kids would love it. After putting the kids to bed, we talked about getting up and jumping on the road early so we could get there and beat the crowds. About an hour later, Jake started throwing up. End of trip.

He had a nasty stomach virus, which put him pretty much out of commission for about three days, but he was fine to go to his first day of school on Tuesday. He was so cute. So proud of how “handsome” he looked in his new shirt (turns out another little boy in his class wore the same shirt that day!). So excited to carry his Lightening McQueen backpack and his Star Wars lunch box. He marched into his class and showed his teacher his new stuff and was smiling from ear to ear when I left. That’s my boy!

We had kept Tanner completely separated from Jake for the course of his virus. John and Tanner did all kinds of fun stuff and Jake and I hung around the house. We thought we had escaped Tanner getting it… until Tuesday night. She started throwing up at 8 pm and I was not far behind. Uggghhh. Let’s just say the girls did not fare as well as Jake did. It was awful! John stayed home from work all day Wednesday to care for Tanner, Jake and I and to liberally apply hand sanitizer and Lysol to avoid catching it himself. What a long week.

Sometime during the week – the particular day has faded from my memory – Jake also passed another milestone… he learned to ride his bike without training wheels. I took them off and after giving him a little push, he just rode away. No teaching, no hunching over and running behind the bike holding the seat… he just rode away and that was that. His balance is uncanny at three-and-a-half years old. Oh, did I mention he was wearing a batman cape at the time? Crazy.

So, today, I woke up and took Domino for a walk at a new park in Franklin that was once a horse farm. It’s about 56 acres of rolling green hills and dilapidated old barns. Just beautiful. It was cool and breezy and both of us came back rejuvenated. When I got home, John and the kids were headed out the door to go to downtown Franklin for frozen yogurt. I sat down on the sofa to check email and noticed that same magazine with the article about Huntsville. Suddenly, it seemed like the best idea in the world to run away for a night. Everyone was healthy for the moment, Tanner’s counts were good, it’s a short trip away from Vanderbilt… the stars were aligned. I called John on the phone and pitched the idea… he was in. I got the kids next door to take care of the dog, we threw some stuff in bags and we were out the door in an hour. It felt like we had escaped.

We arrived in Huntsville this afternoon and met my Aunt Debbie at the botanical gardens, which were beautiful and very fun. They had 12 tree houses throughout the gardens the kids could play on and scarecrows all over that had been decorated by local businesses. Super fun! Then, we checked into the hotel and went out to Huntsville’s awesome outdoor mall for pizza and a carousel ride. Back to the hotel and everyone’s in bed. Off to the Star Wars exhibit in the morning and then back home. Priceless.

This is the best way for us to do a vacation. Our best laid plans often end up in bitter disappointment and there are so many limitations. We just grabbed the opportunity because we could, and it has saved me from feeling like the beast had gotten the best of me.


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.



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 ☺


Right Day, Wrong Year

August 6, 2010

It’s August 6 and I know I should be grateful that Tanner’s made it through 14 months of chemo and only has one year left, but I can’t help wishing it was August 6, 2011. Today marks exactly one year left of chemo treatment. Even Tanner didn’t know exactly how to feel about this.

John brought home a cake that said… “Go Tanner! One more year!” Tanner was happy for the cake, but at bedtime I asked her how she felt when I said that one year from today, she would stop chemo. “A little sad,” she said. “A year is a really long time.” See, “one more year” is not very inspiring. (see my “No More” post from last week)

So, we had a small celebration, not a huge one, and we’ll keep on keeping on.

Jake came home yesterday! Hurray for my little man being home! My parents brought him back and stayed the night and we spent the morning watching shows the kids did in the basement before they left to return home and get ready for some more grandchildren to show up at their house next week.

Tanner has some kind of weird cold virus that she is apparently fighting pretty well. She sounds lousy when she wakes up in the morning, but seems fine during the day and then feels a little bad again at bedtime.

We go in on Monday for another IVIg transfusion. IVIg is an immunoglobin transfusion that provides antibodies to help bolster her immune system. She had one back in February and it helped so much. She was catching one respiratory virus/infection after another and then once she had the transfusions, stayed pretty healthy the rest of the school year. I asked the doctor to check again before school started and, sure enough, her levels were even lower this time. Just didn’t think that was the best way to start the school year. She’s caught her fair share of colds/coughs/strep this summer and I think the infusion will help. It takes about three hours so we opted not to tack it on to her clinic day on Wednesday, since she is having her spinal that day and it is already a long day. So, transfusion Monday, clinic day Wednesday, first day of school Thursday. Busy week.

We’re going to let this day pass somewhat quietly… it’s the wrong year. August 6, 2011 though, look out. The celebration will be completely out of control.


Girl Time

August 3, 2010

Tanner at Lookout Mountain

We miss Jake… we do. It’s so quiet and calm and girly around here. But, there’s something nice about it, too. It’s a little more grown up and less chaotic, and Tanner and I are soaking up our time together. Jake is in heaven at my parents’ house where they bought him his own set of golf clubs and take him to the golf course every day to hit balls on the range. Dad said he hit seventy-five balls the other night!

It has been so cute to watch Jake and Tanner miss each other these last few days. I forget how much time they have spent over the past year and, despite normal sibling squabbling, how close they are. Jake told my Mom and Dad that Tanner was his “fweind… and my sister.” And, today when we skyped him, he said, “when I get home I am going to give you a motorcycle… a purple one!”

Then, today, at quiet time, Tanner took a little create-a-book kit and wrote him a whole book that told him she loves him and that he is “the best brother” and he is going to be a race car driver when he grows up. It is adorable and something I will keep for him for the rest of his life.

I’m feeling stronger and better every day. I’m still turning my whole body to look to the right or left, but I’m driving and not in real pain anymore.

Yesterday, Tanner and I went to buy all her school supplies then laid on the sofa and watched movies. Today, we went to the movies with friends, had lunch out with Aunt Kim and bought some sneakers at the mall. After a rest at home, we did a late afternoon swim at the neighborhood pool (I sat, she swam) and ran into some friends. Tomorrow, Tanner has requested to go to Sweet and Sassy for a pedicure, but we may have to settle for a manicure. She has an open cut on her toe and soaking in one of those tubs might not be the best idea germ-wise.

She’s been feeling pretty good these days. Some sporadic stomach upset, but lots of energy and no leg pain. That will all change next week. Wednesday is dreaded Lumbar Puncture day. We are switching clinic days from Thursday to Wednesday to follow our doctor. Wednesday she will get her Vincristine through her port, start her five-day pulse of steroids and get methotrexate injected into her spinal column. She has already started worrying about it and is asking every day how many days until then. The next morning after all this chemo, she will have her first day of school. Yeah… it sucks, but what are you going to do? Hopefully, we can be proactive with the anti-nausea medicine this time and she won’t get so sick. I just think it seems unfair that it should be such a joy for her to be able to be there for the first day of school this year after missing the first seven months of school last year, but she may feel like crap and it will be ruined by this rotten disease… again. This, in a nutshell, is cancer… unfair on so many levels.

Jake comes home on Thursday with my parents who will stay a few days (Happy Anniversary tomorrow, Mom and Dad!) to help out before they go back home. Last chance for all things girly tomorrow…


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.


Nine Screaming Girls + Jake = One Good Time

July 10, 2010

I’m sitting on the sofa completely spent from hosting Tanner’s Rock Star birthday party for nine little 7-year-old girls. Two super teens from the neighborhood did the girls’ makeup and hair, Aunt Beth applied tattoos, they all decorated cardboard guitars and then we did some dancing and singing and got our rock star on! It was one of the most fun parties we have ever had for the kids. Pressure is on for Jake’s next party; we’re going to have to make it a doozy!

We’ve spent the last few days mostly preparing for the party and swimming at the pool. Thursday night (for Tanner’s actual birthday), we had pizza with E. and LaLa, cupcakes with some neighbor kids and caught fireflies outside. Tanner finally got to catch some fireflies. They had a great time!

Even Domino wants to check out Tanner's fireflies

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday messages… Tanner and I sat at the computer for two days and read them all. They made her smile and feel special.

Poor Jake had a little bit of a hard time with Tanner’s birthday. He’s apparently just gotten old enough to realize that he isn’t getting the same special treatment she is. He would ask in his little voice, “Why I not get a cake? Can I get a car cake?” We made him a special non-girly gift bag for the party, which he loved, but he hid in the media room for most of the party, playing Star Wars wii by himself. Poor little man. When the excessive girliness and screaming was over, he came back out, busted a move or two on the dance floor, got a tattoo and ate his ring pop. It all turned out okay in the end.

Domino attended the beginning and end of the party, but stayed in his crate during the rest, hiding from the chaos. He managed to snag a piece of pizza from the trash after it was over, though. Score one for the dog. He loves him some pizza.

It was a really awesome party and I think Tanner and the girls had a great time, thanks to everyone who helped!


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.