A Whole Week

March 19, 2010

Tanner made it. A full week of school. It seems so surreal, but at the same time, so normal. Normal, normal, normal, normal… I love the sound of that word. I’ve kind of forgotten how to do normal. I had the opportunity to do cool things with Jake this week and couldn’t remember what to do. We did go to playgroup today for the first time in more than nine months. He got to play with a whole group of kids his own age… priceless.

Tanner’s teacher said she did great this week. She isn’t behind at all academically and she said she was astounded by Tanner’s stamina. When she gets tired, she lies down in a beanbag chair in the classroom for a rest, but has mostly seemed like any other energetic first grader. Many thanks to Mrs. Franklin for taking such good care of her this week and to Mrs. O’Hara for preparing her so well for returning to school. Because of her expert tutoring, Tanner has been able to keep up with her peers.

I’m so scared to really enjoy the moment, though. So afraid it won’t be long before she is disappointed again. Scared that the recent increase in chemo to 75% dosage might have tanked her counts and we’re sending her to school with no immune system. Scared Tanner is pushing herself too hard and will get fatigued and get sick. Scared, scared, scared. I hate living like that. It’s one of the not-so-great side effects of this journey.

Beth and I sat out on the deck today and ate lunch while watching the birds and the squirrels playing around the creek. So much nicer than looking at a fence. It’s peaceful here and that’s something I’m trying to remember to take time to enjoy.

Played in our old neighborhood today. Jake and I parked there and walked over to the school to pick Tanner up. We brought scooters and just stayed to play with our friends. It was good medicine for Tanner to see how easy it was to still play with Corinne. She has been so anxious about that.

More unpacking and curtain hanging on tap for the weekend. And rest for Tanner. Recover from this week and gear up for the next. I’m not so naïve as to think there won’t be bumps in the road, but I’m really hoping for a smooth ride for a little while. Tanner needs it.


Steroids and Playdates

February 27, 2010

Our new-found freedom has been a little limited by the fact that Jake was sick and I didn’t want to share his germs with anyone else and Tanner being on steroids again.

Jake’s fever broke sometime in the night on Thursday and he is feeling better, though still coughing. Tanner is coughing some and complaining of a sore throat, but it’s difficult to tell what is the steroids and what is her actually not feeling well. She’s handling the steroids very well. She’s been tired (took a 2-hour nap on Friday) and asked to go to bed at 6:30 tonight. That’s pretty typical of steroid week, though.

Although we’ve got this new freedom, we have our eye on the prize and are still being somewhat cautious. School in two weeks, if her counts can stay up. There’s not really anything you can do to affect counts, but getting sick certainly doesn’t help. So, I’m carefully controlling who she sees so we can try to make it the next two weeks without catching anything. She seems more susceptible to getting sick during steroid week – or at least that’s my non-medical opinion.

The kids went to Aunt Beth and Uncle Glenn’s this morning to play and give John and I a chance to get some things done at the new house. Awesome! They had a great time, as always, but Tanner had fallen asleep on the couch while watching a movie and we had to wake her to go home. She rested when we got home and had a much-anticipated playdate with Corinne this afternoon. She was wiped out by 6:30 and ready for bed.

John and I got to spend some time cleaning the construction dust out of the new house and putting together some shelves we bought for the kids’ rooms. The renovations are going well and on target for us to move in two weeks… yikes! So, I suspect we will do lots of packing tomorrow!


Indoor Fun

February 14, 2010

Tanner and Jake playing wii

How many ways can you have fun while stuck in your house and no visitors allowed? We’ve tried ‘em all… trust me… but have had lots of help from friends.

Thursday afternoon, our dear friend Anna Lynn, who is forever thinking of us, and is forever creative, brought Jake’s valentines from his class to us. He had missed his valentine’s party (and his Christmas party and his Thanksgiving party). His class made valentines for Tanner, too, so we had a lot of fun opening them. She also brought beautiful yellow tulips (that’s so Anna Lynn), valentines from our church staff and sugar cookies with a cookie decorating kit (from another dear friend). We were opening those valentines when I got a text from Tanner’s home teacher, Mrs. O’Hara saying there was a package on the doorstep. It was an early housewarming gift – pots with gardening gloves, tools, seeds and even dirt. How cute!

Friday, Corinne brought home Tanner’s valentines from her class… she LOVED them! There was one unsigned valentine and she’s still trying to figure out who her secret admirer is (I love this!). I opened the door to find another package from Mrs. Wood’s 4th grade class – they have been so super to Tanner – they sent valentines and birthday cards for Jake. So sweet.

We also had valentine packages from some of John’s co-workers and from all the grandparents. It has really helped alleviate the boredom. These days have been hard on all of us, but Tanner is especially frustrated. She had a small taste of freedom and then it was taken away so quickly. She is definitely feeling it.

We had a breath of fresh air Thursday and Friday from Aunt Beth. Beth is one of my two best friends and has been so unbelievably generous with her time. She is my savior when I need to balance the impossible – a child who can’t leave the house and a necessary task that requires me to leave home. Thursday afternoon, she came so John and I could meet with Tanner’s school. Then, she stayed overnight so I could take Jake first thing Friday morning to his annual kidney ultrasound. Jake was born with one kidney and has to be monitored. His one kidney is stellar! Tanner got to stay with Aunt Beth while Jake and I left for several hours and I think Beth must have been totally pretended out by the time she left!

The meeting with the school went great. They were so awesome and are doing anything and everything they can to make sure Tanner will be as safe as possible when she returns to school. She will have her own bathroom and her own computer to cut down on sharing germs. Together, the group of us that met developed a 504 plan. It is a legal document that spells out Tanner’s limitations, outlines what the school will do to accommodate them, and excuses her from normal absence rules, etc. She’s done so well here at home keeping up with her schoolwork, thanks to Mrs. O’Hara. She continually scores at or above grade level.

Thank God we have this new house to go “visit” when we are bored out of our minds and tired of looking at these same four walls. We go jump in the bouncy house and ride the little train and run around in the empty space to get out our ya yas! John went over there for several hours today to put together Jake’s new Batman battery powered ATV. We’ll give it to him tomorrow on his birthday… he will, to say the least, be beside himself. He loves anything to do with cars and motorcycles and asked to have a motorcycle birthday party. Beth and I painted a mural on the wall of his new bedroom with a road coming through a green hill and clouds in the sky. We’ll use the road as a headboard for his race-car bed and put his airplane shelves in the sky looking like a red plane flying out of the clouds (Thanks, Johnny). It has been a rough road for him, too, and he deserves an awesome room.

We all made valentines for each other today and had fun giving them to each other after dinner. The kids and I decorated the sugar cookies for John, but couldn’t eat them after all the valentines candy.

So, we’re stir crazy, but trying to make lemonade, if you know what I mean. Tomorrow is Jake’s birthday. I am sad that there is no one but us to celebrate his day. Usually, we invite family and maybe a few close friends for cake after dinner. He’s too little to really understand the big party is coming. We’re hoping Tanner’s counts will be high enough on Thursday to come to his party, but if not, will have it anyway. He needs to have his birthday… even Tanner said so.

Three years ago today, I was going to bed right about now, bags packed, knowing that I was getting up to head to the hospital to deliver a baby that threatened to be too big if we waited. Jake beat the doctors to the punch and came on his own that day, without induction. So like him to be accommodating. Eight pounds, 15 ounces of beautiful, long, sweet baby boy. John and I knew Valentine’s Day would be forever spent preparing for his birthday and could care less. He is the best Valentine’s gift we could ever ask for.

Much love,

A Blizzard in Tennessee

December 7, 2010

No point in posting yesterday… just would have been another steroid rant. But today was a totally different matter. It snowed… Nashville-style, which translates into a ½ inch dusting of snow! School was cancelled the night before (yes, before it even started to snow) and we expected to wake to 2-4 inches. Jake woke up first and he and I pulled back his curtain to peer outside hopefully, in search of the much- anticipated snow… NOTHING! Tanner was really indignant.

But, by mid-morning it had started to snow and we started the long process of suiting up for a snow walk. After getting officially bundled up, we met Corinne and the gang over at the school next door. The kids found some ice to slide on and traipsed all over the field, our friends’ golden doodle romping happily in circles around us.

We threw sticks in the river, jumped on icy patches in the field until they cracked, piled up sticks and pretended we were making a fire and were joined by some other neighborhood friends. I expected Tanner to peter out early since she doesn’t always regulate her temperature very well and because she had just finished steroids and had felt terrible and seemed weak the day before. But, as always, she surprised me. We stayed out, in sub-30 temps for more than an hour. Jake actually begged to go home first, but everyone stopped on the way home to pepper the neighbors’ driveway with snow angels. Jake had never made a snow angel before and was delighted.

We came home and had hot chocolate with a LOT of marshmallows. Jake skipped the hot chocolate and just ate a cup of marshmallows. Boy, can we make the most of a ½ inch of snow in Tennessee!

I, believe it or not, appear to have pink eye. I’m so disgusted to be sick in some way again I just can’t tell you. My immune system is pitiful this year. I think it makes a serious case for the effects of stress on your body.

So, we’ve made it through the first rough week of the month. Each first week for the next year and 8 months will be difficult – Vincristine, steroids, methotrexate. But, the next three weeks should be easier, so that’s something to be thankful for.

No school again tomorrow. Ice. Not that we would have gone to school anyway! But, that means friends at home to play with.


My Monthly Steroid Rant

December 4, 2010

I wonder if a month will ever go by where I do not complain about steroids? I feel for those of you who read this blog; you must be saying to yourself, “Enough about those stupid steroids, how bad could they really be?” That’s probably what I would say if this were someone else’s blog and I were reading it.

But, I write here about what I know and about our daily life and I would be ignoring the elephant in the room if I didn’t say, once again, how much I hate steroids.

I came out of the bedroom this morning to my early birds, John and Tanner. Tanner makes fun of my “morning face” – eyes scrunched up against the light, shuffling walk, scowl. She and John spring out of bed at the crack of dawn each day, chipper and ready to go. But, this morning, I came out and Tanner said nothing. She didn’t even look up when I said good morning. When I made a spot for myself in the nest of blankets on the sofa, she just crawled silently into my lap and cried a little. Steroids. They’re back.

She did rally mid-morning and wanted to go to Target. She and Jake got Target gift cards from “Uncle” Larry and wanted to go spend them. Tanner wanted to use hers to buy a doll for her best friend Corinne who, unlike Tanner, did not ask for an American Doll for Christmas. Tanner wanted Corinne to be able to play dolls with her and was prepared to spend the entire amount on a doll for Corinne. When we got there, the dolls were on sale and she was able to buy herself something, too. As Corinne’s mom said, “She was being rewarded for her generous heart.” She’s so excited about giving the doll to Corinne.

Before we left the store, Tanner started not feeling well again. When we got home, she started to get out of the car and screamed in pain. Her leg was hurting from the steroids or the Vincristine – hard to tell which. I carried her into the house while she cried and said over and over again, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.” I put her on the sofa and went to the car to get our purchases when I heard a loud scream from inside the house – the kind that says someone is really hurt. I ran in and found her curled up on the hardwood floor, screaming. She had tried to go to the bathroom and fell on the way. Damn. I want to hold her and tell her it will go away, but I would be lying. We have to take the steroids for two more days, so it will likely get worse. So, I scoop her up carefully and take her to bathroom so she doesn’t have to walk and then I get her a dose of painkiller and tell her I hope it will help.

She spent most of the day in her room in bed watching TV. She just didn’t feel good. And, she won’t feel good again tomorrow. I told her I would take her to see Princess and the Frog after we dropped Jake off at school and she said, “I don’t think I’ll feel like it.”

We will repeat this cycle every month for another year and eight months. She will know that the pain and exhaustion will come back. She asked me today if she could use the “H” word to talk about steroids. I told her to let ‘er rip. “I hate steroids,” she screamed.

Throughout the day I would hear her get up and make her way slowly down the hall to the bathroom, wincing, crying out when it hurt particularly badly to walk. I would climb the stairs and scoop her up silently and carry her down the hall and wait for her so I could carry her back. There really isn’t anything I can say to make it better.

Recently, she asked me why the doctors made a medicine that made her feel so bad. “Why would they make chemo if it makes me so sick?” she said. The only answer to that question doesn’t seem appropriate for a six-year-old, but unfortunately, none of this is appropriate for a six-year-old. I told her that a long time ago, before they had chemo, people died from leukemia, so when they discovered chemo and realized that it could “fix” leukemia, people were happy to take it. They were happy to know that they would live. So, even though it makes people feel bad to take it, we should be thankful there is chemo at all. I tried to avoid the obvious, but as usual, nothing gets by Tanner. She said, very matter of factly, “Taking chemo is better than dying.”

So, I will probably continue to gripe monthly about these damn steroids. “Better than dying” just shouldn’t be good enough. I want to be grateful to these drugs, but oh, it is hard these five days of the month.

I know she will feel better in a few days, but it’s still so painful to watch her hurt and know we signed her up for it. Know that I administer the pill that makes her so sick.