One Year

May 30, 2010

One year ago today, at about 5:30 pm, I stood in the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital ER and asked a young, nervous resident, “Are you trying to tell me my daughter has leukemia?”

When he nodded, solemnly in response, I distinctly remember taking a step back from Tanner’s gurney, so she couldn’t see my face as I fought to comprehend how a sudden backache in the middle of the night could turn out to be leukemia… couldn’t see me crumple in disbelief… couldn’t watch my eyes grow wide in horror as I bent over at the waist and pushed a scream back into my mouth before it could make a telltale sound.

I was alone with Tanner at the ER. John was home with Jake, and my friend Beth, who had come so quickly when I called, was on her way back to our house to trade places with John so he could come to the hospital.

I called John and told him to come quickly, but didn’t tell him why. No one should drive with that kind of news rattling around in his head. When he got there, I took him out into the hallway and told him what the doctor had said and we held each other and cried.

The next two days were a whirlwind of false hopes that it could be something else followed by a deafening silence when the bone marrow biopsy results were definitive. This was it… our daughter had cancer.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since that day. It’s trite to say, but it really only seems like yesterday. My memory is now organized by the things that happened before May 30, 2009, and the things that have happened since. They feel strangely like two different lives.

It’s not a day I want to celebrate… this diagnosaversary, as some call it… but it’s too big to let pass without mention and without reflection. It changed our lives, mostly for the worse, but admittedly some for the better. We now know the incredible strength of our daughter and the unending and unexpected kindnesses of those we know and of those we don’t.

Tanner is asleep on the sofa as I write this, having given in to the affects of the high-dose steroids she takes, her new hair curling softly around her peaceful face, her chest rising and falling slowly. I am struck with the fact that she is alive… not just a little, but a lot alive. She is thriving and growing and having fun, despite it all.

She had made it through one year, and she will make it through another and then just 67 more days after that, she will take her last dose of chemo. She will just stop, wherever she is in her monthly chemo cycle, on August 6, 2011. She will be eight years old. And, we will work hard to make all of this a distant memory and to use what we have learned from it to make our lives even better than it could have been BC (before cancer).

One down and one to go. Go get ‘em Baby.


A Field Trip to Aunt Beth’s

March 24, 2010

Did you ever have someone’s house that you went to when you were a kid that seemed magical? My grandparents’ house was like that for me. They had three acres with a big vegetable garden, fruit trees and grape vines that stretched across the yard. I remember doing the simplest things there… like playing in the gravel in their driveway, or climbing up this big weeping willow that was in the median of the circular drive, or sitting on the swing in the dark with my granny, listening to grown-ups talk and the cicadas sing.

When I look back on it now, there was really not anything to do. They didn’t keep any toys at their house for us to play with, although sometimes we would borrow the neighbors’ bikes. The house was tiny and modest, with one bathroom that all seven of us would share, and I slept on the floor every night, sharing a pallet made of old quilts with my two brothers and falling asleep to the drone of the television.

But, still, something seemed so magical about being there. Food tasted better, the simplest things were more fun. I think it was just so different from where I grew up, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My grandparents lived in the country in Huntsville, AL, on a road named after them because theirs was the first house built there.

My kids have that at their grandparents’ houses, too. The magical basement at Grandmom and Grandad’s house where you can hit a golf ball into a net or “work out” on the exercise bike, or ride a scooter. And, the great cul-de-sac at E. and Papa’s where they ride the battery-powered cars she keeps for them, sled for days, and play with their cousin, Mack.

Digging in Aunt Beth's garden

But, as a bonus, they have Aunt Beth’s house. On an acre-and-a-half in Spring Hill, Aunt Beth dabbles in lots of things that I don’t… namely gardening and cooking. Today, the kids dug holes in the dirt, spread four-o-clock seeds under the weeping willow, fed the geese in the pond, “worked out” in the basement and cooked up some pretty darn good pizza roll-ups.

Being able to spend the morning at Aunt Beth’s took a little bit of the sting out of not being able to go to school for Tanner. She came home tired and napped while Jake napped.

Tanner manning her rock store at Aunt Beth's house

Overall, Tanner doesn’t actually seem to feel bad, although she is stuffed up. I really believe she has allergies, but without knowing for sure or having any idea where he counts stand, keeping her home again today was probably the right decision. We’re off to the clinic tomorrow after dropping Jake off and we’ll find out for sure where she stands. She’ll also get her monthly IV dose of Vincristine, begin her five-day course of steroids. Tomorrow night, she will also take her weekly dose of oral methotrexate, which can kind of wipe her out the next day. So, even if her counts are high enough to return to school Friday, I don’t know how long she’ll last. Monday and Tuesday will also be pretty doubtful as she is usually pretty wiped out by the steroids.

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this rollercoaster. I might numb myself to it, but then I find I’m numb to all the good stuff, too. For right now though, that’s how I’m sleepwalking through this current disappointment… numb and in a fog.

I’m hoping to wake up tomorrow.


We Almost Made It Through Sunday

October 11, 2009dec 08 015 Just when we thought we had gotten through this rotten, unending week, our beloved border collie, Millie, died today. She was 12 and over the past few months, had seemed to be getting old quickly. Today, she suddenly was unable to move and John quietly took her to the emergency vet so as not to upset the kids. The vet said she had several cancerous tumors and one had ruptured causing internal bleeding. John called to say she would only live an hour at best and I piled the kids in car and left a check taped to the door for the pizza guy who was on his way. In the car, I explained to Tanner that Millie was an old dog and had a cyst that was bleeding in her tummy and that the kind thing to do was to keep her from suffering any more.

Together, the four of us said goodbye to our sweet, gentle, Frisbee-loving dog and watching her pass peacefully. Tanner sobbed while Jake patted her and said, “Bye, bye Millie.” This sweet dog slept at the end of Tanner’s bed every night to keep away the monsters and keep a child with an active imagination “safe” at night. She was intelligent, loyal and the model of good doggy behavior. She is already missed.

Sadly, Millie’s passing is just one more loss for Tanner. Millie was her security blanket at night and she has been up 4 times already in the first 2 hours after bedtime. John will go sleep in her room tonight; if I go, I will wake her with my coughing. It was the worst possible time for this to happen (not that there’s a good time for your dog to die) when she most needs comfort and security in what is often a very scary world for her. I’m not sure what we will do.

John is devastated and keeps questioning whether he did the right thing by not opting for a surgery option which the vet said would only give Millie a few months. It would definitely have been nice to have some time to prepare Tanner for her passing. It was just so sudden (it all happened in a matter of an hour) and I think it’s hard not to second guess a decision you feel you made in haste, even if it was the right one.

We’re all tired from the week behind us, with nothing to really look forward to this week.

As John said when I came down from putting Jake to bed, “I want a do-over.” I think he was talking about the dog, but I was thinking about 2009.


To My Wife On Her Birthday!

I know all of you read this blog to learn about Tanner and get a glimpse into Tanner’s world through Beth’s eyes as well as to support us in this place where we find ourselves – and for the prayers and well wishes I thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I mean it – we could never make it through this without you!  I do not write like her, nor do I express myself as she does – (She is really good at this thing)   But today I want to make my post – and it is for my wife.

Beth Page

Beth Page

Beth Brisbane Page you are amazing!   One of your home co-workers cries and wets his pants (Jake),  the other is fighting an ugly disease that does not allow for a normal life of school, parties, etc (the time most moms get breaks)  – I want you to know that I realize that in many ways  this is as difficult for you as it is for Tanner – the feelings of being trapped in a house, the feelings of not wanting to go to clinic one more time, the feelings of exhaustion when no one sleeps at night – trust me I realize!  I watch you (a social butterfly is an understatement) a past VP of a Public Relations firm – working everyday with polly pockets and dinosaur toys.  I know that this gets old –  and the pretending games and motorcycle races drive you almost to the place of insanity – I realize – I promise!  But Baby – let me stop today on your birthday and in front of all these witnesses and remind you why I married you. I married you because…

  • you are strong!  You remind me of that everyday when you get up and start a new day of exactly what you did yesterday – not knowing how Tanner will feel, or if she will say thank you for the grind you work through each day.
  • you are smart! You remind me everyday when you learn something new about the disease and find new things we can do to make Tanner’s treatment better and easier for her.
  • you never give up!  You are the mother tiger – you fight for Tanner – if it the school, the hospital, or even me (for all the readers – I am a germ-a-phobe – If it were up to me Tanner would be in a bubble) Beth gives Tanner a life!
  • you are balanced!  You remind me everyday by how you make the kids exercise, do school work, give to others, and play without screens in front of their faces.
  • you are beautiful!  You look great in Pajamas or Jogging Pants, Dresses or Jeans – I know Jake tells you that you are cute all the time – maybe I need to learn from my 2 year old son and tell you more often!
  • you are you – no matter what any one else thinks!  That is a  lesson we all could learn – I am not sure that you have ever followed the crowd a day in your life – I do believe, however,  you may have looked which way the crowd was going and chose the other route for fun!
  • I just love you and I am crazy about you!

This post was so easy to write – and I could have gone on and on and on – that is how I know I love you – these things just spilled out – my fingers could not even keep up with my thoughts  – you are as amazing as I knew you would be when I married you – you are committed to our kids – advocate, cheerleader, mommy, and more – so on the days when you can’t feel it – read it!

We all stop and wish you a Happy Birthday!  You are a great mom and wife – you are my soulmate and my friend – you are amazing

Happy Birthday!

Not My Best Moments

September 16, 2009 As I write this, my children, by some miracle of God, are quietly and peacefully playing by themselves in a tent in the playroom. So, I expect that as soon as I dare to write something here, bedlam will erupt! (Actually, they did come down the minute I started typing, but I bribed them with fruit snacks and they have gone back upstairs!)

So, I’ve just not been at my best this week. I’ve long struggled with staying home with my kids. I want to do it, believe it is the right thing to do for them, and enjoy it most days. But, sometimes, I miss having a job that doesn’t involve sticky hands, playing barbies or doing laundry. Last year, with Tanner in kindergarten and Jake in Mom’s Day Out 2 days a week, I felt like I had finally hit my stride. It was just the right balance between being able to spend time with my kids and being able to do something mentally challenging, like co-chairing the fundraiser at Jake’s school.

When Tanner was diagnosed this summer, I had her signed up for some cool camps and activities and was looking forward to spending lots of time at the pool with the kids. Of course, none of those things ever happened. When fall came around, I was ready for the familiar schedule are structure of school, but that never happened either.

Jake is going to school 2 days a week, but Tanner is, of course, home with me. And, while I try to make those days special for her, it’s hard when you can’t really go anywhere and she sometimes doesn’t feel good. I don’t stay home well; I like to get out. It refreshes my spirit and gives me energy.

So, I’ve not been at my best this week… being here all the time is dragging at me. Yesterday, I thought maybe Tanner and I would go to a movie, but she woke pale… very pale… and not feeling well. I suspect her red cell count is down; she had a headache, didn’t feel well and slept late, all signs of anemia. Instead of going to a movie, we rented one and stayed home, which sounds nice, unless it’s the 30th day in a row you’ve stayed at home. She started feeling better around noon and we went to an outside restaurant for lunch, but it was still a long day.

I miss sitting with my friends at McDonalds talking about grown up things while our kids play on the playground.

As I write this, I feel ungrateful for the miracle that my child is alive despite this insidious disease she has. I should be cherishing every moment, right? And, I feel guilty because this is difficult for Tanner, too, and here I am feeling sorry for myself. But, in the immortal words of my good friend Ron Whitler, there are just only so many kid games an adult can play without losing their minds. My temper is short, my tolerance for pretending is nil and I really wouldn’t like to be my kids this week.

Ugghhh. Must be the rain.

I’m going upstairs to be the monster outside the tent. I’ll try to pretend that I’m enjoying it and maybe eventually I will!


Ten Grays Closer to a Streak

September 2, 2009 Poltergeist was one of the first horror movies I ever saw. I still remember how the mom, played by JoBeth Williams, showed up with a big, distinct gray streak at the end of the movie from the stress of being scared for her children’s lives. I keep thinking, especially on a day like today, that it will be a miracle if I don’t have one of those by the end of this whole ordeal.

Today, Jake knocked his front tooth out. We were, once again, in the cul-de-sac riding bikes and he was on his razor scooter, which he dearly loves. He is a bit young for the razor scooter, but Jake has an uncanny sense of balance and rides it as well as any 5-year-old. I turned to check on him just in time to see the scooter hit a rock, sending him flying over the handlebars, face first. I knew it was not going to be pretty. When I picked him up, his tooth was just hanging from his mouth and he reached up, pulled it out and threw it on the ground… it was every bit as gross as it sounds.

We couldn’t get our dentist on the phone (ironically, two of the hygenists had been by the house that afternoon to bring Tanner a gift and wish her well), but called a friend who is a pediatric dentist who told us there is really nothing you can do as long as it was knocked out root and all, which it was.

Amazingly, he didn’t have any other loose teeth and didn’t cut any other part of his face… must have been a direct hit.

I had a moment when I was sitting on the curb with him, a washcloth pressed up against his mouth to stop the bleeding, when I just thought I would like to go back in time before I had kids and redo things. When I only had to worry about myself. It was a fleeting thought, but in the interest of honesty, I must admit to having it. I think I am about 10 gray hairs closer to that JoBeth Williams streak.

It’s not that Jake losing a tooth is the worst thing that ever happened. I mean, I lost both my front teeth at three after having run into a little boy’s forehead, teeth first. And, 45 minutes after Jake lost his, he was happily sucking on a popsicle and shoving tiny pieces of buttered bread in his mouth. No evidence that the gaping hole where his tooth once was bothered him at all. And, as Tanner happily pointed out while I was still trying to stop the bleeding, “Good for you, Jake. You can put it under your pillow and the tooth fairy will bring you money.”

It’s just that some days, I think I’ve had enough. I’m especially over that sickening adrenaline rush you get when your kids are hurt. I may have a heart attack long before I ever get that gray streak.

But, we get up and move on. People do it all the time. People with much worse problems than mine. A family I read about in the news has one little girl with leukemia and the other with recurring brain tumors. Jake’s tooth seems hardly worth mentioning when I think about that family.

So bring it on. I’m not afraid of a little gray. In the wise words of my 6-year-old daughter, “It’s just hair.”


P.S. We are just $25 short of $3,000 donated in honor of Tanner’s Light the Night team. Our goal is $5,000 and we have until October 1 to raise it. Thank you to everyone who has donated and who has volunteered to walk in honor of Tanner that evening. We are deeply touched by these acts on generosity on behalf of our girl. To donate and/or join the team, go to

My Fervent Hope

August 6, 2011. That is the day that Tanner will take her last dose of chemo. How crazy is that? Crazy that the doctors can pick a date out of the air 2 years from now and say the leukemia will be gone for good then. Crazy that we will be living this new strange life for two more years. Crazy that anybody, much less such a little body, can take that much abuse and survive.

I don’t know if I’ll dance in celebration that day or spend it crying with relief. I’m hoping that the little 8-year-old girl I see that day is happy and thriving and left with as few physical and emotional scars as possible.

I’ve grappled this week, for the first time since the day Tanner was diagnosed, with the possibility that Tanner might not make it through this ordeal. As I mentioned before, I learned about two children recently who died during long-term maintenance after getting infections. These were kids whose parents, I am sure, were certain their kids were strong enough to beat the beast, who were bolstered by the doctors’ assurance that their children had a highly favorable prognosis, who thought their kids had survived the worst of it.

The truth is, it was not the leukemia that killed these kids, it was the chemo. The chemo keeps their white counts so low that they are susceptible to these infections, and it ravages their little bodies so that their vital organs are not strong enough to weather the storm. It is my understanding that it ends quickly for these kids; the infection does it’s work swiftly.

So, as much as I have tried to stop thinking about this, I have had to admit to myself this week, that this could happen to Tanner. That, as strong as she is, as well as she is doing, as low as her risk category is, there is still the possibility that none of this will matter and that the unthinkable could happen overnight.

I think Tanner has been thinking about it, too. She has, for the second week in a row, made cemeteries in the sand box at the play therapists’ office. When asked by the therapist to “Make your world” in the sandbox, she buried little figures and topped them with tombstones. Earlier this week, she asked me to tell her what I liked so she would know where to bury me, and asked if I wanted to know what she liked so I would know where to bury her. And, we wonder why she’s acting out…

We have to find a treatment for cancer that is not as dangerous as the disease itself. Or, better yet, a cure that eliminates the need for treatment altogether. It is my most fervent hope that, as my friend Robin put it, we will look back in 20 years and think how barbaric it was that we treated cancer patients with these debilitating drugs. Heck, why not shoot for 10 years from now?

Whether it is a child or an adult with cancer, no one should have to endure this. No family should have to go through this. No six-year-old should have to worry about where they’re going to be buried if they die.

There has to be a better way.


Take Nothing for Granted

August 11, 2009 Such a nice, relaxing day hanging out with my girl. I think she may have been a little tired from all that running we did yesterday, so we just kind of took it easy today. Went to the grocery store, ate lunch, showed up at the play therapists on the wrong day (oops!) and went to the movies.

The afternoon movie on a school day may become a staple for Tanner and I this fall. It was so nice — only two other people in the whole theatre. We went to see Up! in 3-D. It was a great movie.

I’m glad we took it easy today. Tanner definitely had some moments of not feeling well, although overall, she is taking this round well so far. I noticed today she seemed a little slow going up the stairs and sometimes didn’t alternate her legs on the steps, so I’m afraid the dreaded Vincristine may be making itself known. Hopefully, though, she was just tired. I’m also afraid that she may be developing the mouth sores that plague some people on chemo. She’s been complaining of burning in her mouth when she eats and drinks. It’s a side-effect we saw from the Vincristine during Induction, but it seems worse this time. In fact, she ate no dinner tonight at all because she said it hurt her mouth and she really balks at medicine time now, since that hurts as well. Ugggghhhh. Have I mentioned how unfair this seems?

One more girls day tomorrow and I may have to ask my parents to give Jake back on Thursday. Tanner and I miss him. It’s so quiet and Tanner keeps wanting someone to play with. He’s having a ball, though. He got to go to the golf course with my parents today. Mom said he hit about 50 balls on the driving range and then went back later and hit about 20 more. You have no idea how excited this makes my parents after enduring 3 granddaughters with no interest whatsoever in golf!

I’m enjoying this time with Tanner, though. I think when Jake goes back to school later this month, we’ll have Mommy/Daughter day once a week. Some recent blog entries I have read about kids with ALL who have died during long-term maintenance after developing an infection have really gotten to me. I think I always believed that getting to Long Term Maintenance is our goal and then we coast through the rest. First, the chemo road map we received for Tanner made me realize LTM is no picnic; there is still a lot of chemo during those remaining 1 ¾ years of treatment. Then, hearing about these kids who have died because the chemo has weakened their bodies’ ability to fight infection during Long Term Maintenance have really made me realize that there is no “coasting” during this process. This is really 2 ½ years of treatment; all of it exhausting and painful, all of it as dangerous as it is life-saving.

So, these days, I’m trying to hold Tanner a little tighter, kiss her a little more often, stop cleaning and start playing.

Hug your kids. Tell them that you love them. Take nothing for granted.



July 25, 2009 What is worse than renting a storage unit, decluttering your house, moving all the clutter into a storage unit, and painting, caulking and patching your house to ready it for sale?

Moving all the clutter back into your house without ever having moved.

John and I stood today at the open door of that storage unit and stared glumly at the “clutter” in it, completely disheartened. We had a contract on a house we loved when Tanner was diagnosed with leukemia and got out of it because it was the right thing to do. It’s still the right thing to do, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

This was a house with a huge, park like backyard with mature shade trees that backed up to a lake on which you could fish or canoe. It was in a neighborhood with lots of kids and a playground just four houses down the lakefront from ours. It almost didn’t matter what the house looked like; the yard made up for any fault we could find with it. But, we loved the house, too. It was a little bigger than the one we have, but not too big, and had an unfinished basement like the one I grew up with, where you could ride a bike or a scooter or roller skate on a rainy or cold day. It was the house we were never going to move from (and that’s saying a lot for us; we’re serial movers). When I picture it in my mind, I picture the kids running, hand in hand through the yard and Tanner turning toward us to say, “Please, please can we buy this house?” the way she did the day we took them to see it.

It was just one more in a series of disappointments for her that we didn’t buy this house. We told her it had radon (which it did, but they fixed) so she would never know we didn’t buy it because of her. Not only would moving have been the straw that broke our backs during this stressful time, it would have meant a change in schools for Tanner, a fact that the social workers agreed would have been devastating. Nothing like being the new kid at school… entering halfway through the year… with no hair.

Since then, both of us have admitted to each other that we have driven by the house we were going to buy, looked it up on the Internet to see if it had sold to someone else and checked intermittently to see if another house had popped up for sale on the same lake. It’s just been hard to let go. Even though a new house seems completely unimportant when compared to your child getting leukemia, it still bothers us. For me, that house represents the life we could have had without leukemia and I long for it.

Today, I think both of us were able to let that house go. The thankless task of moving this clutter back to our house got easier as we got moving. We even pulled aside a considerable pile to give to goodwill; after all we have lived just fine without this stuff for months now. And, I’m grateful that we did the painting, patching and caulking that we did on our house… it needed it and we needed a deadline.

We’ve tabled the idea of moving until we get through at least the next 4-6 months of chemo and see how it goes. And, I know we’ll find another house with a beautiful yard.

Still, it won’t be the one we lost, that we dreamed about as a family. That one is gone. It is just one more casualty of childhood cancer.

Tanner, however, will not be lost. We will continue to fight the fight, even on the days when we have to do it for her… even on the days when she fights us, instead of the cancer. I refuse to let cancer take anything else from my family.

Childhood cancer takes so much from so many. Please pray for all the kids who face this disease… for Thomas, the teenager we met the other day; for Lily, our 8-year-old friend who is fighting to get her counts up so she can start school on day one this year, with all the other kids; for Kinsee, who bravely endures the grinding chemo schedule that her rare early T-cell leukemia demands; and for the countless other kids we have yet to meet who battle this insidious disease every day.

And, if you need any “clutter,” drop by our garage. I have a feeling that stuff might stay there for a while.


P.S. Have I mentioned in all these novellas that I write nightly, how important it is to have a good partner when you are going through something like this? How I don’t know how anyone could do this alone? How I don’t know how I could do this without John? I am so fortunate to have someone who recognizes the strain of spending every day immersed in this disease and who goes above and beyond every day to make it easier for me in any way possible. A weak marriage would never survive. It’s easy to turn on each other in the heat of the situation, and believe me, we’ve done it at times. But, all-in-all John and I make good partners; we always have. We divvy up the extra responsibility of this disease, and, if I’m being honest, John does more than his part. He is strong where I can’t be and, hopefully, I’m able to return the favor when he needs it. He has arranged, in cohorts with my two best girlfriends, a 3-day trip next weekend and is sending the three of us away while he and his Mom take care of the kids. Who has a husband like this?!!! I do, I do!!! Lucky me.

Twinkle Toes

Tanner dressed for a recital 2 weeks before diagnosis

Tanner dressed for a recital 2 weeks before diagnosis

July 14, 2009 Tanner had a private dance lesson today… for an hour! Her very sweet dance teachers took time after their workout to teach Tanner and her friend Corinne. They had a ball and I was amazed at how well Tanner held up. Only by looking at some really subtle things could you tell anything is wrong with her. Like the fact that she can’t skip (although she tried) or leap, or spin quickly. But, she kept up with all the moves they taught her and the ballet stretches and positions, and never knew she was getting some of the best physical and mental therapy. Thank you so much to Morgan, Rachel and Elisha at Histown Dance Studio ( for caring so much about my daughter.

Tanner’s been taking dance for about a year-and-a-half, both hip hop and ballet. The lesson today stirred up a memory that haunts me. Two weeks to the day before Tanner was diagnosed with leukemia, I took her to our pediatrician because her back was hurting. She had been complaining about it on and off for several days and had even woken up in the night once, crying, saying her back and leg hurt. The pediatrician, and I, agreed that she must have strained a muscle. She had been unusually active (which is saying something) for several days before that with two dance recital rehearsals, the recital itself, field day and the kindergarten rodeo. Anyone could easily strain a muscle with all that going on. We gave her ibuprofen for a few days and it went away.

It came back on June 28th at 9 pm, just an hour-and-a-half after Tanner went to bed. This time, it made her scream and curl up in a ball and writhe in pain if you touched her. It was leukemia and it had been stalking my child for at least two weeks.

So, I’m haunted by the pictures I have of her at that recital. She looks like any other 5-year-old, happy to be in a cute costume and excited to show off her moves at the big show. But, I keep looking at those photos. I zoom in on them sometimes, trying to see if there were dark circles under her eyes. Is that a bruise I see on her leg? Tanner has always been very thin, but her legs look super thin and long in those knee socks. Too thin? Her face looks really pale, especially for the middle of May when we have playing outside so much in the beautiful spring weather. Almost ashen.

Then I compare them to the photos from her December recital before the bactrim reaction sent us to the hospital for 5 days in March and before the leukemia. She looks so healthy and beautiful. Why didn’t I notice how pale she was later?

Tanner at a Dec. 08 recital

Tanner at a Dec. 08 recital

Then, I remember my Mom telling me on a visit that she thought Tanner looked tired because she had dark circles under her eyes. When was that? I can't remember. Tanner has chronic ear infection problems, so I thought they were the "allergy shiners" kids with sinus and allergy problems are prone to.

The point is, I am haunted by the fact that the leukemia was already there in those photos of the spring recital. It was lurking there conducting its evil business and no one knew. My beautiful, happy, dancing, twirling daughter was being stalked by a killer and we didn't know.

Not that it really would have changed anything; I just don't like it. It mars some happy memories for me. Those pictures will never just look like harmless pictures of a little girl going to a dance recital; to me, they look menacing.

It's just another of the many things this disease has take from us– our freedom to go places and do things, the house of our dreams that both the kids and John and I were so excited to move into, our peace of mind in believing that nothing really bad will happen to our kids. I am sure that one day it will give us something back (besides our daughter). I'm sure we'll get something out of this — strength, courage, new friends, a closer-knit family — but there are days that are tough to remember that, or believe it even.

This was one of them.