Thursday, November 26, 2015


I've stared at this blank page for a while trying to find the words that are in my heart. My heart is just bursting with gratitude as I think about my life, this past year, today. There is so much to be thankful for, I think the following quote sums it up nicely:

I am very thankful for the flowers outside and the birds that sing in the morning and the sunset that's so beautiful and my mom and my dad who love me. ~Amanda

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 61

Today I am at home instead of in New York City getting my final treatment. I am weary and frustrated, working on just letting it go and taking great comfort in the fact that God knew about today before I ever got here. The control is not mine and I am embracing that fact....SO thankful this, all of this, is not up to me!

Why the delay? Well, it goes back to Saturday morning when I woke up at 3 AM with a fever. It climbed all morning until I took Tylenol when it reached 102.5. There was really no discussion, no decision to be made, it had to be a trip to the hospital. I just said, I don't want to do this and Shaun said, I'll be ok.

So we woke up sleepy kids who'd been at the show the night before and dropped them at my sister's, where our extended family was to be gathering for an early Thanksgiving celebration. We drove on to  New York City and checked into Urgent Care where they immediately started a battery of tests, including but not limited to blood work, chest x-ray and CT scan. Slowly results came in, all negatives for any type of infection.

Many of the tests take several days to come back so they wanted to keep me for observation. I got settled into a room and eventually Shaun left to get the kids and prepare for the last show the following day. I was resigned to it but it was still hard to be in the hospital...again!

Though it was the weekend, I was able to see the fellow who assisted with my surgery and who checked in on me everyday of my recovery in the hospital back in July. My Infectious Disease doctor (you're jealous that I have one and you don't, aren't you? :) also happened to be on-call that weekend so I saw her twice. Truly God's favor to have both of them involved and to see familiar faces!

On Sunday I woke up feeling good and, after a process, I was released and my sister-in-law braved NYC traffic to pick me up. I had her drop me off at church, unshowered and in yesterday's clothes that I slept in, so I could sneak in the back and catch the end of the show and then go home with my family.

Home sweet home!! Tip: if you ever find yourself grumbling about doing the dishes again, or folding laundry, or sweeping your kitchen floor, I recommend checking yourself into the hospital for a couple days. It is a sure cure for being dissatisfied with the ordinary.

A follow-up call with the oncologist's office on Monday gave me the news that she would need to see me before treatment and would not be in the office on Tuesday, my scheduled last day, so we got switched to Friday. Oy!

Its Thanksgiving week, so I am trying to be especially focused on all there is to be thankful for. Even in the uncertainty and frustration I am so aware of how very blessed I am.

Over the weekend, my nurse asked about my support system, with all that I've been through over the last year. My smile got big as I told her we have been extravagantly supported in every way possible by family, friends, church family, strangers, friends of family, family of family, friends of friends. I stumbled over my words as I tried to express the extent of the love we've been shown.

Thank you. For hanging with us all these months, for caring, for praying, for showing love in big ways and small ways. We are so very grateful.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Project 365, Week 47

Phew...I'm home!! I spent the weekend in the hospital because of a fever, but I am finally home with the people I love. My carefully planned list of things to do before treatment and Thanksgiving got shredded up and condensed into today, but I'm so happy to be feeling well and able to do what I need to do to be prepared for tomorrow. 

Here's a look at our week....

November 15
Amanda was having a tough day, as Amanda's are apt to have. While Shaun took her out grocery shopping (brave man!) Avery and Aiden schemed a way to brighten up her day. They decorated her bed and left her a couple special notes and made a colorful melty bead thing. So sweet!

November 16
Homework with tunes.

Homework without tunes.

Pre-bed basketball with their big brother.

November 17
My favorite Jedi-knight.

We've cleared out the cleats and soccer balls to make rooms for the high tops and basketballs.

After work and before rehearsal, Shaun went to the school. He is a leader in the TSA (Technology Student Association) club. He was heavily involved in it in high school, even at the state level, and has the trophies to show for it. I think its so cool that he and Avery will get to do this together. She is excited about doing robotics and catapult.  Clearly, her father's daughter! Avery was checking out some videos of previous competitions. Strangely, there were no youtube videos of Shaun in 1988. ;)

November 18
We all joined Shaun and Aiden for the final dress rehearsal. SUCH an amazing show, SUCH an amazing cast, SUCH a special thing to be a part of!

November 19
It was a rare day that R was here in the middle of the day. He and his girlfriend did school pickup and Aiden got a ride.

This game was played several times this week.

November 20
Woke this sweet boy up from his post-school/pre-performance nap.

November 21
I woke up with a fever that kept climbing so Shaun and I headed to the hospital in NYC while the rest of my family celebrated our traditional pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. I was super sad to miss it, its always so great to be together and Amy and Colombo always do such a great job hosting, but getting pictures from the day made me happy. Check out that gaggle of kids. :)

I hope to post again tomorrow, but I make no promises.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Do Something

As I'm sure is the case with most survivors, cancer will forever be "on my radar" in a very real and personal way. And in new ways, I'm thankful for all the research being done and efforts being made to discover prevention and cures.

I used to be stubborn about going to doctors, preferring the wait-long-enough-it-will-go-away method, but cancer does not generally just disappear on its own. What's more, catching it early can often mean the difference between treatments or no treatments, surgery or no surgery, life or death.

Don't be stubborn! And maybe you are not stubborn but someone who you love is. Go get screened, be diligent about annual checkups and harass encourage those you care about to do the same. If you are insurance-deducitble conscious (hand raised), now is the best time since you have another 40 days left in this calendar year before your deductible starts over in January.

Its also a good time to win some stocking stuffers for the man in your life.

For the month of November, Tommy John is teaming up with the Testicular Cancer Foundation, to broaden awareness of testicular cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35. 

I have a new appreciation for individuals and companies who are getting the conversation started, spreading awareness and in general just doing something toward a cure and prevention.

How is Tommy John helping?

  • Giving 5% of all sales coming from their limited edition “Stache” and “Ball” print products
  • Contributing $10 for each purchase made by new customers who were referred by someone else
  • Donating $1 for each entry in an Instagram contest up to $1,000 (more on that below)

Please, don't put off any longer what you know you should do today.

Here's the details on the contest...there's still time left!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How Can It Be

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.” 
― Dietrich BonhoefferLetters and Papers from Prison 

My sweet little Polish boy. I can't kiss those cheeks enough!

Mom, there were six million Polish people killed in the holocaust. That means there was only one person left because there are seven billion people in the world...right? (He looks at me unsure because this logic isn't making sense to him, but like any good first grader he knows very well that seven minus six equals one. I solved the riddle for him by pointing out the million vs. billion discrepancy.

Last night on the ride home from dress rehearsal, Aiden pressed me about the holocaust. The more we talked about it, the more he struggled with why someone would want everyone to be the same. The thought of it just sounded so absurd to him. The song How Can It Be? came on the radio and he said, Mom! That goes with what we were just talking about. HOW can it be?!

Like his daddy, he has a thirst for knowledge and a fascination with history. I love that. He is sweet and innocent and doesn't distribute his love differently based on size, shape, color. I still smile when I think of his thoughtful question this summer after a family reunion, Mom, is our family mostly brown or tan? Six year-olds have much to teach us. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 60

Its Monday, the day I write about my week with cancer. I am looking forward to the day when that is not the case. Shaun and I are just barely starting to talk about the possibility that a life beyond this could exist. We have big dreams, like maybe I can take over the household grocery shopping. Or once in a while we might be able to go out in public as a family like to church, or maybe even the two of us...on a date!

Oddly, it feels a little scary to think we are done soon. What does "done" mean? What does "done" feel like? Does "done" exist? For fourteen months we've been actively, daily fighting cancer. How will we know that its ok to not be actively taking action?

My brain, currently operating at about 60% normal capacity (maybe that's giving myself too much credit) swirls these and other questions around. How long will it be before it feels like I am integrated back into society? When can I feel like a good friend again? Can I be the wife and helpmate Shaun needs me to be? Will I ever feel whole again? What will the lasting effects be on our family, on the kids? When will we ever get a dog again? (Just kidding on that last one...mostly, Shaun and I have reveled in a pet-less environment. :)

I don't really have any answers to these questions (other than that last one, which is probably Spring-ish because a household with four kids and no dog? That's just weird. ;), so I try not to spend time on them, but they crop up anyway. So I bring it back to today, to this moment and JUST DO TODAY. And I focus on the immeasurable reasons I have to be grateful.

I read this post today and just loved it, especially this quote:

Based on the story I tell myself, I am content or not, confident or not, trusting or not, grateful or not.
Telling the story is so, so very important. Because I don’t want to forget. I want to make sure I always tell myself the story of what is true, of what is good, of what is life-giving.
The story I tell myself, the one that is true and good, is one of Hope that wouldn't let go, Love that never gave up, Life overcome the grave. That is my story and its not dependent on the answer to any of those questions above.

Arriving in the city....

"our" breakfast place, where we sit for half an hour in between the time we arrive and the time we can check in.

Leaving the city...


Blue hair! :)

I was on the "overflow" floor this time and I got a bed...

...handy because I pretty much sleep most of the time.

A little bit of out-and-about...I got to see the empty dress rehearsal of the show Shaun and Aiden and my sister and niece and nephew and dear friends are involved in.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. ~Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Project 365, Week 46

I'm happy to have made it to this side of the week, though there was lots of fun in the beginning, too. Its a little cliche, but life has felt like a bit of a roller coaster...we're up, we're down, I feel great, I can't get out of bed, there's good news, there's bad news. I don't think that's life with cancer, I think that's just life. 

The trick, I believe, is to constantly be on the lookout for something to be thankful for. Its always there, even if you have to start with the fact that you are breathing and living. Many didn't start today that way. Or, you can take a swift view of the world and be grateful that you live in the USA. We really are so blessed.

November 8
Z's family let us know his football team was undefeated and in the playoffs, so a couple of us made the hour drive to see him. Our visits are always a mixed bag of emotions (for me), but I'm so grateful for the ongoing contact. 

When Shaun and the kids got home from rehearsal, there was still a little time left on the Broncos game so we sat on the couch together for the first time in months. I despise TV and video games, so our TV only goes on for the occasional sports game. (I know...our poor deprived kids! :)

November 9
The bad news: my dear friend's baby was breech so she was scheduled for a c-section. The good news: it landed on one of my best-feeling days, so I got to be there capturing the first moments. Such an incredible honor!

The family gathered in the waiting room, anxious to catch their first glimpse of the newest baby.

Meg was alert and beautiful right after a significant surgery...amazing!

November 10
Fun cousin time!

November 11
Shaun and I tease that he's in a rut with his date ideas. He thinks it'll impress me if he takes me to the Big Apple, but its just gotten old. I tell him he needs to change it up! ;)

November 12
Our every-other-week snuggle movie this week was Singin' in the Rain.

November 13
No picture.

November 14
Saturday, 7:30AM and this girl has her homework out, all kinds of ideas swirling in her head for a school project.

I went with Shaun and the kids to the first dress rehearsal of Mystery. What an incredible show! Its unpredictable and fun, with lots of layers. The music is moving and the cast is top-notch.

If your boyfriend is in a date rut, have him bring you to this show in East Hartford. :) You will not be disappointed!

Shows are THIS week, November 19, 20 & Nov 22.