Team Tanner Ready to Walk!

September 19, 2011

I’ve dragged my feet a little bit this year… I admit it. Light the Night is October 14, less than a month away and I’m just getting started on Team Tanner’s fundraising. I must confess that it has been tempting to just forget about the whole thing. Not because I don’t love this event or because I don’t fervently believe in the cause, but because I sometimes just want to close my eyes and pretend none of this ever happened.

But, it did, and it continues to happen to children and adults every day. And nothing will be solved by pretending that leukemia doesn’t exist. So, I’m putting on my big girl panties and announcing that we will host our third Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night team on October 14 at LP Field.

If you read this blog, I don’t have to tell you why this is an important cause. But, if you’ve never been to this event, I do want to try to tell you how special it is.

As you can see, Team Tanner had a nice, big team last year. And, I hope you will consider coming to walk with us this year. It is really a wonderful, celebratory event. We walk through downtown Nashville at night, across the Shelby Street bridge, down First Avenue and back across the river on the Woodland Street bridge. We carry beautiful lighted balloons — red in support of someone battling or who has survived blood cancer, white for the survivors themselves and gold in honor of someone who has lost the battle. I can’t really explain the way I feel when I look back across the bridge and see that sea of lighted balloons, except to say that it is a wonderful visual reminder that we have not been alone in this fight.

It is not a strenuous walk; just two miles of celebratory strolling. Tanner and Jake walked most of it last year and rode some in a wagon. There were even fireworks over the water. This year, the walk is on a Friday night, which makes it a lot easier for kids to attend, so I’m hoping we might get a nice group to walk!

Most importantly, this event raised more than $250,000 to fund research and support families who are affected by blood cancers — leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

If you feel moved to give to Team Tanner or even sign up to walk with us, you can click through to our fundraising page at

There. I’ve set the wheels in motion, so no more hiding now!


Clinic Day #62

September 16, 2011

I was worried that Tanner would have a really hard time today at clinic since it was the first clinic visit since she had her port removed. That means she had to have needle stick in her arm to get blood drawn. We numbed up both inner elbows with EMLA cream before we went and they looked pretty numb by the time we got there. She panicked a little bit at the last minute, but was very brave and toughed it out. I was proud of her. I think it will go even better next time.

Now, for the exciting part… her neutraphils were at 3,300! Woot! Woot! Haven’t seen those kind of numbers in a while! When I look at her lab results online, it is so gratifying to see her red (abnormal) numbers disappearing little by little. More and more black (normal) counts show up every time.

Clinic day continues to be a difficult day for us. I wish it were different; but it’s just not. The doctor was talking about survivorship clinic and mentioned that eventually, we would stop seeing her and just go to the survivorship clinic once a year for the rest of her life. Tanner was playing with Mr. Potatohead and suddenly sat up and said, “The rest of my life?!!! Are you kidding me?”

When we told her no, she curled up in my lap and cried. She just wants so badly to walk away and never look back. I can empathize.


Your Official Invite

September 6, 2011

Tanner recovered from her port removal surgery lightning quick last week. By the end of the next day, we found ourselves telling her, “No, you cannot play football with the boys in the cul-de-sac!” She went back to school today and did just great.

Jake is loving being back at school. He’s especially proud that the class chose the name he thought of for their hamster, Zoom Zoom.

If you remember, I mentioned in previous posts that we wanted to have a big party to thank everybody for helping us get through the last two-a-half years… This is your official invite to we’re a skating party at Brentwood Skate on Wednesday, September 28th from 5-7 pm. We’ll skate (or watch people skate) and shake our groove things and eat pizza and maybe some cake! Mostly, we’ll just celebrate wonderful friendships and the end of a journey we’ve all walked together.

So, if you know us or even if you don’t know us, but have been following our story, please come! Everyone is welcome and the more, the merrier. Just do us a favor… if you are planning on coming, just drop us a comment, email or facebook reply or something to let us know you’re coming and how many, so we know how much pizza to order.


It’s Out!!!

September 1, 2011

Surgery went well. She wanted to keep the port so she could take it school and gross out her friends! She’s in recovery and John and I are waiting to be called down to be there when she wakes up.

Thank you for all the prayers this morning.

Beth & John

A Mixed Bag

August 31, 2011

First day of school!

I’m not gonna lie… it’s been a rough week. In some ways, Tanner is doing very well. She seems to be adapting to her new school beautifully and making lots of friends. I think she is feeling a little better, although last time we had counts, she was still anemic, so I don’t know if she will truly feel better until that improves.

Mentally, she’s struggling. I think she was a little disappointed that off treatment hasn’t initially looked much different than on treatment. We still had a clinic visit which didn’t seem a lot different except for not getting her IV chemo. She’s still taking a lot of meds, although those are starting to dwindle now. She is still limited by her immune system (which is improving, but still not normal by a long shot). And, I think she’s scared it will come back.

We’re not seeing Allison for therapy anymore. Tanner refuses to go to her, so there’s not much point in dragging her to something that is supposed to alleviate stress and anxiety! But, we’re meeting with a new therapist that will come to our house and meet with all of us to help us all begin to heal. I’m hopeful that this will help Tanner vent some of her stress in a productive way.

Tomorrow morning, Tanner is having surgery to remove her port (yay!). She is, in her words, exared. That means excited and scared at the same time. As you know, she does not like going under anesthesia, but she wants that port out very badly. I think it will be a real visual reminder that she is moving on. We have to be at the hospital at 6:30 am for an 8:30 am surgery. Should be home in the afternoon for a couple of days of R&R.

Jake started school this week… finally. He was very lonely the past couple of weeks with no one around to play with. He loves school and has had a great first two days.

Tanner and Jake are both playing soccer. Tanner is keeping up with the other girls better than we expected. She does get tired, but overall, is doing really well. And, next week, she starts rehearsals for Schoolhouse Rock Live.

So, life is good, but we’re still struggling to cope with post traumatic stress, if you will. Kind of a mixed bag.

Think about us tomorrow morning… hope she is able to let the excitement win over the scared.



August 6, 2011

Today ended the way this whole excruciating journey began — with tears — but for very different reasons.

After a day filled with friends and excitement and laughter, we ended it quietly, just the four of us — the core fighting team. I mixed up Tanner’s last 6-MP pill with some blue gatorade and Jake, John and I brought it, along with her other meds out on a little tray singing, “Happy last chemo pill to you…” She took it like the pill-taking-champ she is, and then we went into the kitchen and threw the remaining chemo pills in the trash together.

The Crew

After our last-minute attempt at a skating party didn’t work out, John had the awesome idea of renting a limo and taking the neighbor kids out for a ride and laser tag. When we took our Make-A-Wish trip last year, we were supposed to ride in a limo to the airport, but Tanner got a nasty cough right before we were to leave. We decided not to expose her compromised immune system to airplane air and drove instead. She never forgot about missing that limo ride, so this was an especially appropriate surprise.

Trying out the TV remote

We didn’t tell any of the kids that a limo was coming and just said we had invited a few friends for a playdate. When the limo got there, we called Tanner and Jake to the door. Tanner just stood there and said, “Who’s that limo for?” John said, “It’s for you!” to which she replied, “To keep?!!!”

When she finally realized that we were taking all her friends out in the limo, she ran inside screaming and they all piled in. We went to laser tag and played a couple of games there, then went on to Mellow Mushroom in downtown Franklin for some pizza. We ran out of time to go out for ice cream, so instead we stopped at Kroger (yes, in the limo!) and got cupcakes and ice cream and took them home to eat there. Several of Tanner’s friends ended up staying the afternoon, which made the day even better.

We stopped to pick up some friends in our old neighborhood!

I don’t know that we could have had a better time. No one mentioned cancer or chemo at all. I think all the kids knew why we were there, but were just focused on having a good time. They opened the windows on Main Street in Franklin and waved at all the people walking downtown, posed for pictures in front of the limo, and laid on their backs on the limo seats and watched themselves in the mirrored ceiling.


It was the best way to banish fear that I can imagine… with child-like abandon.

In September, we’re going to reschedule our skating party, but as a private party that everyone can come to. We would have never made it through this journey without the support and love of people that we know, and even some that we’ve never met before. It wouldn’t feel right to end this phase without all of you to help us celebrate.

The fact that we will be at clinic this Friday for our first survivor check-up is not lost on us. This is the end of one phase of this walk, but is certainly not the end of the doctor visits, pokes and prods, or worries. But no matter, because today, we KICKED CANCER’S ASS… in a limo!!!


Balancing Hope & Fear

August 2, 2011

It wasn’t what I expected… and still isn’t. Which is why I haven’t written in so long. I’m struggling with finding the balance between hope and fear during Tanner’s last week of chemo. Our last clinic day, several weeks ago, was really a more sobering day than I expected.

We started out the morning with Tanner hiding under a bed, refusing to come out because she didn’t want to be put under for her last lumbar puncture. We managed to talk her out, but it was heartbreaking, nonetheless, and not a very celebratory way to start a milestone day. I had hoped to make T-shirts for all of us to wear to clinic that day — Final Spinal shirts. But, both John and I agreed she was just too anxious to have seen it as a celebration.

When we saw the doctor, before the spinal, the information he gave us about what was in front of us, was a little depressing. He starts out by reminding us that 15% of all kids with ALL will relapse; that’s 3 in 20 kids. And, given the fact that there was only a .004% chance of Tanner getting leukemia in the first place, 15% seems like a lot. There’s no predictor for relapse, so even though Tanner has done so well in treatment, she is just as likely to relapse as a kid who had lots of problems. Okay, sobering.

Then, he tells us that we will come back for blood work and checkups every month for the first year, every two months for the second, every three months for the third, every six months for the fourth and fifth year and every year thereafter for the rest of her life. Hmmmm. So much for walking away from this thing.

Then, he tells us that we will come back for survivorship clinic to do some baseline testing to see which long-term side effects Tanner is currently experiencing or may experience in the future. These are both physical and mental effects (19 injections of chemo into the central nervous system has to have some effect on your brain, right?). Again, just sobering.

It was like rain on the parade I was trying to muster up in my mind. I long for all of us to just leave this whole thing behind and forget about it as best I can, but that’s just not reality. And, I feel ungrateful for thinking that. After all, she will feel so much better without the chemo in her system, and that, in and of itself, is more than enough to celebrate.

After Tanner went under for her lumbar puncture, I stood in the hallway and talked with one of the staff members about how conflicted I felt about all of this. Sara had given Tanner two gifts from the hospital and told her how proud they all were of her and how brave she had been. We felt Dr. Mixon and Carrie’s absence. These are the people who had walked this whole journey with us and they were not there for the end. Sara told me that she had orchestrated big celebrations for the first six kids who had gone off treatment when she started working at Vandy. They had made signs, sang songs and celebrated No Mo Chemo in style. All six kids relapsed… all six. And Sara realized that you can never promise a kid that it’s their last dose of chemo. You can celebrate their courage and be proud of them, but you can’t tell them it’s the last time. Wow.

While Tanner was under, John went down to the gift shop and bought her a stuffed monkey and a balloon for both she and Jake, who was home with his grandmother. When we left the hospital, they were waiting in the car for her and she was thrilled and seemed to relax and be a bit more celebratory now that the LP was finished.

But, still, she is reserved about all of this. When I point out on the calendar how few days she has left, she smiles, but it is fleeting. She seems afraid, which I can identify with completely. It’s terrifying to know that if there is one rogue cell left in her body, it will now be free to go crazy and start this whole awful process over again. I literally have nightmares about having to tell her we have to start chemo again.

The chemo is a safety net, and now we have to learn to live without it… just like we had to learn to live with it.

I am constantly amazed by how difficult this journey continues to be, on so many levels. In the midst of the last few weeks, we have had some deep conversations and made some hard decisions. Tanner decided she didn’t want to return to her beloved Moore Elementary School, but instead go to school with her neighborhood friends at Winstead. A hard decision because the kids and teachers and staff at Moore have been like family. I think it’s a good sign that she’s so confident about attending Winstead, though. We went last week and toured the school, met the principal and enrolled her. We will miss Moore, but look forward to getting to know everyone at Winstead.

I’ve also had to answer a question I hoped Tanner would never ask because I don’t really know the answer myself. After Vacation Bible School where we learned that God listens to us and answers our prayers, Tanner asked me one night at bedtime if God could do anything.

“Yes, of course,” I answered.

“Anything?” she asked again.

“Yes, Tanner, anything.”

Tanner teared up and said, “Well that hurts my feelings.” And, I knew without a doubt, where she was going. “If he can do anything, why didn’t he cure my leukemia.”

I took a big breath and wondered how I would answer this question, since I couldn’t really make sense of it myself. How many times have I thought the very same thing? But, I knew she needed an answer… an answer that was comforting.

“You know how we read the Narnia book, and when the kids came back from spending years and years in Narnia, no time at all had passed in our world?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, doubtfully.

“I think God might work like that,” I continued. “God has been alive for millions and millions of years and so maybe to him, two years is just a little blip in time. Maybe he blessed the doctors and nurses so they could help you and he is curing you.”

Tanner considered this for minute and then, still crying, said, “Well, he should know that two years is a really, really long time for me… too long.”

“You’re right baby,” was all I could think of to say. “Amen sister,” is what I wanted to say.

So, it’s been a more difficult couple of weeks than I anticipated. And, I don’t feel exactly like I thought I would. I do have hope, despite the grimness of this post. I really do. But, I think the key is to keep fighting fear to make room for hope. Choking back the darkness to allow a little light in and trying to hold on to it.

In this vein, we’re having a little skating party for Tanner and Jake’s friends on Saturday to thank them for helping us through this tough time. We’ll get to celebrating with you adults later. We had been told by Tanner’s therapist not to really have a party or to put too much emphasis on the last day, but it seems a disservice to all she has been through not to err on the side of hope. To throw caution to the wind for the moment and just relish THIS day and not worry about what will come. No big speeches or big moments at the party, just some kids skating the celebrating the friendships that helped all of us through.

I think this will continue to be a balancing act over the next few years, but we’re doing our best to let hope win.

Five more days…


Tanner in Newspaper

Tanner’s theatre group put on an awesome show last week and raised $1,300 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Take a look at the article in the Tennessean this morning:

Also, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tickets are now available online or by calling the Boilerroom Theatre. Tanner is in the younger cast, which is performing Thursday at 7 pm, Saturday at 3 pm and Sunday at 7 pm.

14 days until Tanner takes her last chemo pill! Woot Woot!


Big Week

July 14, 2011

Tomorrow marks a major milestone for us… Tanner’s very last IV chemo and lumbar puncture with chemo! It’s surreal to think this will be the last time she gets Vincristine through her port – or any chemo through her port for that matter. After tomorrow, she’ll continue to take her oral chemo until August 6 and then, NO MO CHEMO!!!

She also starts her last 5-day steroid pulse. We should probably be celebrating that the most! If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I am sure you have heard me spew hatred at the evil steroids. In all reality, they cause her more side effects than the chemo.

Tanner has not really been able to look forward to this being her last time. She is too paralyzed with fear and anxiety over the LP. I’m hoping after we get this over with, she’ll ease up and be a little more excited about finishing this mess.

She has her lumbar puncture at 11:30, which means we will get home sometime around 1:30 or so. From 3-5 pm, she has a rehearsal for Disney on Stage that she insists she is making… and unless she is throwing up, she probably will. Then, on to the Fish Fry at Bethlehem United Methodist Church. Our church hosts about 3,000 people for Fish Fry and has a great children’s area with inflatables, etc. It will be interesting to see how long Tanner lasts.

Saturday brings more Disney on Stage rehearsal and the show itself at 2 pm. Disney on Stage is a coffee house benefit show conceived of and directed by some teens at Act Too Players, which is Tanner’s theatre group. All proceeds are benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Tanner’s honor. You can find more info at

Tanner’s also been rehearsing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s such a funny show with a great story… kids will love it… very colorful. Tickets are on sale now at the Boilerroom Theatre at the Factory and can be purchased over the phone at 794-7744. The shows are at 7 pm on July 28, 3 pm on July 30 and 7 pm on July 31.

Like I said, big week.