Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to ALL

Julia made sure the reindeer were not forgotten, and that Santa was sure to know that these were for his team, not diet food for himself.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May peace and joy permeate your home this day.

Suzanne and Family

P.S. Apologies for not posting the news of Joey's pathology, as many of you have asked. His lymph node tested negative for everything and the doctors have concluded that it just reacted to something and went a little crazy. He is healthy and completely through with all of this. Thanks for your concern and prayers!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Over and Done With (I Hope!)

We are home!

Joey had surgery yesterday to remove the inexplicably swollen lymph node in his neck, and all went very well, thanks be to God. Nonetheless, his surgeon admitted him for observation overnight and as anyone who has ever been in the hospital knows, it is a bit like the roach motel...you can check in, but you can't check out! It took hours and hours to clear him for departure today and we were both literally dancing out of the ward when we were finally released.

Since I've had such a life-saving experience at UCLA we chose to have Joey's surgery there. Once again I was impressed by the care we received, not just medically but from a human standpoint as well. Everyone was so very kind and accommodating, which helps a lot when you are worried about your kid.

The surgery took about two hours and left Joey with a roughly two inch incision mid-neck with a small drain, which was removed right before we left today. He was amazingly stoic throughout the whole thing and didn't even need any pain meds at all today. His doctor ended up removing two lymph nodes rather than just the one since it had become fused to its neighbor due to its significant swelling. She assured me that he still has plenty left and that he won't miss these at all. Since she managed to deftly avoid the two nerves that ran right through the area and maintain all of Joey's facial movement I am feeling quite grateful to her.

Joey's lymph node is now in pathology where it will be dissected and cultured a dozen ways to see if they can figure out exactly what went haywire with it. We should have results in a few days. His blood shows no sign of infection of any kind, so if the pathology is clean this may be the end of this all. I certainly hope that is the case.

Thanks to those of you who have been praying for him and checking in to see how he is. We are truly grateful.

Here is a picture of Joey acting goofy right as they were wheeling him into the OR. The meds hadn't yet put him under but clearly had done their job in relaxing him. You can see the lymph node protruding from the left side (his right). He is not sorry to have that bulge gone.

Here's to great medical insurance...hip hip hooray!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Post Season Report

Perhaps the football team she cheered for didn't win any games this year, but at least its cheerleaders were champions.

Julia and her talented squad brought home the first place trophy at yesterday's cheer competition, and boy did they deserve it! I could not believe how good they were. They are, after all, only seven and eight year olds, but darned if they didn't pull off a complicated, original, perfectly synchronized and virtually flawless performance. As soon as I get the DVD I ordered I might have to put it on youtube for you all to enjoy.

Both my girls kept their routines tightly under wraps in order to surprise me on competition day, and I was so completely delighted by not only Julia's but also by Lindsey's unique and playful performance. Lindsey's team did not place this year (don't get me started on why she should have placed above a team that relied on a raunchy dance to secure its trophies) but that did not diminish the beauty of a job well done for her team as well. I'm very proud of my girls and somewhat surprised (and don't quote me on this) to discover that cheerleading actually IS a real sport. Kind of.

Like my football players, my girls have learned to be part of a team, how to rely on one another, how to win and lose, and that a group is only as strong as its weakest link. Plus, they've learned to yell really, really loudly, and when is that not a skill to be valued in a family of seven children?!

As for the end of the football season, Sam's team lost in second round playoffs and Joey's team lost in the championship game. So, neither brought home the first place trophy, but both had a great season and played for well-coached and classy teams. All in all, a great year.

So, while everyone around here is a little depressed that football is over for the year, I am personally reveling in the fact that for the next six months I don't have to stuff pads, run the practice trolley and keep track of multiple hair bows. I'm entering my off season as well, and I'm pretty happy about that. Whew!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Bella Brought to the Dentist


Just in case, cuz you never know what you might need.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Cancerversary to Me!

One year ago today I was given the news that would change my life, and that of my family and friends, forever.

Cancer.

Four days later I learned the unimaginable...Stage IV, no possible cure.

On this day one year ago, I could not have imagined the challenges and blessings that this year would bring. I wouldn't have predicted how close to the brink I would come and how resoundingly I would bounce back. I could never have guessed how tightly my family, friends and community would embrace me and how they would keep me from falling. I couldn't have understood that this bleak diagnosis would do so many wonderful things for me.

For here I stand, one year later, a stronger and more peaceful person. Confident in God's love and mercy, sure that whatever path he ultimately chooses for me is the right one. Not afraid of anything life might throw at me now. Grateful for each and every day I have to (hopefully) positively influence the character of my children. Astounded at how completely this disease has backed away from the medication I have been blessed with. Unshakable in my belief in the power of prayer.

No one knows how much time they have left. I am not unique in my situation, unless I consider statistics. But I won't. I have already won the lottery of life in my faith, my marriage, my family and my friends. This gift of unexpected health one year after bracing for an early death is decidedly a great bonus, and I will gladly accept many more to come, if that it what is to be. And you know? I'm feeling more and more optimistic that this will be the case.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support over the past year. I wouldn't be here without them!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Order Up

We have been busy writing our letters to Santa.

It is my understanding that the elves have less stress in their lives if they have time to respond to specific Christmas requests, so we are getting a leg up and starting early this year.

The way it works around here is that each child asks Santa for three things and can reasonably expect to receive one of those things, at Santa's discretion. So, for the last few days I have been sitting with each child and helping them write their letters.

This afternoon Bella said to me, "I'm going to put my princess bike with the baby carrier on back, my princess scooter and my princess kitchen all next to my bed." I stopped for a minute to process what she had said (it always takes me awhile since her chatter is near-continuous) and then realized that she had listed all three things from her Santa letter, as if they were a done deal.

"Bella," I said, "you know that Santa generally only brings one of the things from your list, right?"

She paused and thought this over for a moment. "No." She finally said with complete confidence. "I ordered all three."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

From the Football Field

It's been a great season!

We just returned from Sam's first round playoff game, which his team decisively won. Joey's team had a bye for the first round of playoffs because of their regular season ranking, so that was nice. What this all means is that now both boys advance to round 2 of playoffs. If either or both win next Saturday, they will go on the the Superbowl. We've got our fingers crossed!

Sam, after playing most of the season on defense only, was put on offense today as well with good results. The kid is not afraid of hitting and comes off the line like a heat-seeking missile. It is really fun to watch. He has turned in some nice sacks this season, which always gets me on my feet in the stands.

Joey is now playing tight end and wide receiver on offense, and defensive end and tackle on defense. He has had a really good year in these positions and made his first touchdown--an impressive jump for the pass followed by a 30 or 40 yard run--a few games ago. He has been a solid pass catcher since.

It seems a funny thing to say, but I am so grateful for football and the character that it is helping instill in my boys. When Joey first played two years ago he was a third string player. He could not finish his lap without walking and he begged to quit that first week of conditioning hell. Three years later he is a leader on his team, playing almost every snap, and is someone his team needs to win. A few weeks ago I watched him at practice as he went back, after finishing his run, to help along a teammate who was struggling. Not long ago that struggling kid was Joey, and it is through three years of consistent hard work that he has changed his situation.

From football my boys are learning how to be part of a team, how to be counted on and, best of all, how working hard at something over time can bear great fruit. They are learning how to win, how to lose and how to help lift up another person for the greater good of the team. They are learning how to receive praise when they've earned it and honest criticism when they require it.

If I could have known that first week of football three seasons ago how much I would come to appreciate this sport that, at the time, I thought was going to break my firstborn, I wouldn't have believed it.

Go Rebels!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Finally, I'm Queen!

So what if it's of a hive of bees? A queen is a queen.


In other Halloween news, Edward's got nothing on Tony...

Sam and his friend Darian chased eachother around all night long...


And Bella flashed her winning smile, oblivious to her sister's plight behind her.


Joey was "too old" (his proclamation, not mine) to dress for Halloween this year (sniff, sniff) and elected to stay in to watch the Steelers/Saints game rather than take the neighborhood for all its candy.

How is it that he's too old and I'm not? Perhaps I'd better not think about that too much.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where's McDreamy?

Life has been a medical drama as of late. I would so much rather watch this all on Grey's Anatomy with a big bowl of popcorn than experience it all myself! Nonetheless, after many stressful days we have had a number of happy endings that I thought I would share.

First of all, Joey has had a very swollen lymph node under his jaw for over a month now. It is just about a square inch in size and is very noticeable. It looks like he's storing a golf ball or a walnut in his neck. His pediatrician tried antibiotics, thinking it was infected. They did not help, so he was referred to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. That doctor ordered a CT scan, a fine needle biopsy and six buckets of bloodwork. After nearly two weeks of waiting, we have finally learned that the biopsy is non-cancerous (as you can imagine, that is what we were mostly worried about given my history) and shows, basically, nothing at all. He has now been referred to a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist at UCLA for follow up. I spoke to this new doctor on the phone today. After reviewing Joey's case he feels that this is probably a non-specific viral infection (in other words, something we humans haven't identified yet) that will probably resolve on its own in a few months. He will see him next week and will follow through with him until it is resolved, but he basically told me not to worry, so I will try not to! Whew!

Meanwhile, I myself had my routine PET/CT last week and received the results yesterday. Overall, the scans look great as far as the cancer is concerned, but I have developed some sort of lung infection (as anyone who has seen me in the last six weeks can attest to, since I can hardly make it through a sentence without coughing). I now have a pulmonologist who is reviewing my scan images and may or may not decide to stick a tube down my throat in the next few days to pull out some of what's in there and analyze it. The fun just keeps on coming! He assures me that, given the relaxation drugs they will give me to keep me from gagging, I might actually thank him rather than hate him after the procedure. I will reserve judgment on that.

My oncologist's concern is the possibility that my anti-cancer drug is causing this infection, which is why he is so all over this. Since my drug is untested, he has to be careful with any side effects that show up, as they could be medication-induced. It is probably a standard cough, especially since Jay and Lindsey also had one, but, as Dr. Glaspy put it, he did not save me from cancer to watch me die of a lung infection that he could put a stop to. Have I mentioned that I like him? A lot? Well, I do.

So, that's about it from here. I have to close so I can go pick up Julia from school--they just called to tell me she's sick. Why am I not surprised?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

You've probably noticed that it's "Pink October". Everywhere you look there are pink ribbons intended to make people aware of breast cancer. I think we can safely say that, by now, just about everyone is aware of it.

Most of the time, breast cancer reports are accompanied by survival stories--courageous tales of women who have taken a stance against this nasty disease and beaten it. Happily, there are many such stories.

Very rarely does a news report focus on those 160,000 or so of us that are living with metastatic breast cancer--that which has spread to other parts of the body. This is probably because there aren't very many happy endings in this subset of cancer patients. It is not inspiring to fund research for those who, statistically, only have an average of three years to live. People want to help those who can win, and more often than not those with early stage breast cancer CAN win. So I completely understand this focus.

Many women with metastatic breast cancer feel left out and overlooked. I know this because I am active on discussion boards for those in my situation. Although I personally am delighted by any research or awareness done, as it ultimately benefits us all, I nonetheless am happy to report that today is National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness day. The intent of this day is to educate the general public about those of us living with more advanced breast cancer. And while, no, it's not curable like early stage breast cancer, it IS treatable, and we are living longer and longer with this chronic condition. I, for one, plan to be here much longer than average!

There is a nice article today about it in the Huffington Post, here.

Now that you know, have some cake or something!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Lessons Learned?

One thing about driving a fuel efficient car: it's not very fast going uphill. It COULD be, if I took it off of eco-mode, but since I got it for its gas mileage, I simply won't do that. Therefore, I have recently become accustomed to semi-irate people behind me, tailgating and gesturing until I can graciously move over and let them by. Now, I am not moving at unsafe speeds, mind you. I'm simply not engaging in the speed demonics of the drivers in my area, which irritates them to no end.

A few days ago, as I was moseying up a freeway on-ramp, I noticed a motorcycle so close on my tail that I could hardly see him in my rearview mirror. I was thinking to myself, "That's really not smart, to tailgate someone so closely especially when on a motorcycle."

Simultaneously, I noticed Bella, who in this car can easily reach the window button for the first time in her young life, dangling a little pink purse out the window. I had just finished talking to her about this on our last car ride. I explained that if she let go of whatever toy she was holding, she would never see it again. She seemed to take it to heart and rolled up her window at the time, but here she was just a few hours later doing it again. I had not noticed earlier or else I would have rolled up the window and engaged the lock.

Before I could fully process these two concurrent events, I witnessed, in my rearview mirror, the pink purse fly out of Bella's grasp and solidly thwack the motorcyclist in the head. Thankfully, he did not swerve or falter (for if he had, this story wouldn't be quite so amusing). I watched in horror as he removed one hand from his handlebars so that it could be put to maximum gesturing use. He shook his fist, he gave me a, "What the heck?!" and then he passed me on the left. All of this happened in a split second. Bella still hadn't even time to understand that she had lost her purse.

As I slowly began to understand what had just happened (about the time Bella let out the first of a solid 20 minute wall of wails), I was struck with the poetic justice of it all. Dangle a toy out of the window? You will surely lose it. Tailgate at a dangerous distance? You're sure to regret it.

How lovely to quite passively instruct both a preschooler and a motorcyclist in one fell swoop.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Wish is Granted

There is a metastatic breast cancer conference in Indianapolis in mid-October that I really want to attend.

So much of the information and resources available on breast cancer are mainly applicable to early stage patients--once metastases are diagnosed, it is a whole different ball game, and this conference is solely dedicated to treatment and quality of life issues for those of us a little farther down the line with this disease.

I registered for the conference awhile ago thinking that I would use Jay's air miles to fly there. But, alas, when I went to book my flight I found that my travel dates were blacked out on all three of the airlines we use miles on. I had never considered that! So, I decided that our family had other financial priorities and set about canceling my plans.

As I was just about to notify the group of ladies I was planning to meet there (united through the message boards at breastcancer.org, a wonderful and active forum for those grappling with the ins and outs of breast cancer of all types), I took one last visit to the conference web site to see what I would be missing.

That's when I noticed the "grant" section. It stated that anyone with metastatic breast cancer who would not be attending the conference due to financial concerns could request a grant for airfare. I thought, "Hey, that's me!" So I wrote and asked for airfare.

Within a few hours, my grant was requested! Genentech (let me tell you, I am beginning to like that company more and more) and the Susan G. Komen foundation have sponsored my airfare so I can attend this conference without straining my family's finances. I am positively giddy!

So, off I will go in October to learn about all the latest and not-yet-to market treatments for metastatic breast cancer, to meet others who are taking the same drug as I am, to attend Q&A panels where I can ask every question I've ever had about all things cancer and treatment related.

I am delighted, and totally grateful for the opportunity.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'll Bet She's Never Heard THAT One Before

Lindsey is working on a book report for school. As part if it, she has to write down the first sentence of the book she just read. This she will read out loud to the class when she presents her report later this week. No problem, right?

Wrong.

Lindsey came to me very upset because the first sentence of her Newbery Award Winning Book called Al Capone Does My Shirts has a *bad word* in it. Indeed, the phrase, "bird turd" happens to be in the very opening sentence of the book. Go figure!

(Although, if you know the book is about life on Alcatraz, and if you've ever been there yourself, you'd know why that was an appropriate opening line.)

"Mom!" she wailed, "I can't say 'turd' in front of the class! I'll get in trouble and they'll laugh at me!"

As I choked back my laughter and attempted to put on my concerned parent face, I assured her that she could not possibly get in trouble for following instructions for a book she is most certainly allowed if not encouraged to read. I read it myself so I know that it is a clean, decent book. It just happens to open with an attention-getter.

I suggested that if she was concerned that she should talk to her teacher about it. But, no. She is way too shy to broach this particular topic. So guess what I got to do tonight? That's right! I wrote a note. To Lindsey's teacher, telling her about this whole turd situation and could we please work something out, as Lindsey's progress on her report has stalled out of sheer panic.

As I wrote, I wondered if she had ever received such a note in her teaching career. I have certainly never written one like it. I'm also pretty sure I've never written the word 'turd' before today.

I think I liked my previous status better.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today's Embarassing Preschooler Comment

Bella and are in mass today, at the really quiet part after communion, when out of the blue she announces loudly, "I miss my OLD daddy."

What?!

Who's her new daddy, that's what I'd like to know! (And probably so do the dozen or so people sitting near us that must have heard her.)

Update: Turns out, she was talking about her great grandfather who she never met. She finds it unfair that she never met our grandparents and has been asking to see pictures of them and so forth. Mystery solved! Just took me a few days to get to the bottom of it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Insightful

We have a new car! Well, it's almost 2 weeks old now, but that's still new, right? I'm bubbling over with enthusiasm for it, so I just have to share.

After examining our budget and our driving needs carefully, Jay and I decided that we really had to get a fuel efficient car. Truly, we couldn't afford NOT to. We were spending upwards of $700 per month on gas given how often we go to Los Angeles now, and the fact that we have one car that gets 18 miles per gallon and another just 10. Moreover, since Jay has our Toyota van parked at the airport not infrequently, I am driving around in the huge gas guzzler with only one or two children during the day--rarely do I have all the children with me at once and need the giant van.

We tracked how many miles we were driving and calculated how much we would save in gas by adding a 40mpg car to our garage. We realized a new car would pay for itself while giving us the security of having a more reliable car to take to Los Angeles (the Toyota van is rapidly approaching 200k miles and is starting to require frequent repairs). Plus, if we drive our big church van less, it will last longer...hopefully until we don't need it anymore. Seemed like a no-brainer to us!

After researching all the available options (we seriously considered four cars in all), we settled on the Honda Insight Hybrid. After driving it nearly 1300 miles (in just 12 days--I TOLD you we drive a lot!) we couldn't love it more. We have averaged 47 miles per gallon and everything we read tells us that the mileage improves over time as we get more used to driving efficiently and the car gets broken in. This beats the numbers in our spreadsheet, so it was even more definitely a good decision. It was quite inexpensive for a new car...and Honda is having its 2010 clearance right now so they are offering all kinds of favorable deals.

Our favorite part about the Insight is the feedback it gives the driver. It actually helps you to drive it more efficiently. In some ways, it's like a giant video game. You earn "leaves" on your screen for driving efficiently and you lose them when you accelerate or brake too fast. It's all about slow and steady wins the race. When you drive efficiently for a certain amount of time you can earn trophies and more layers of leaves on your "tree". It's pathetically fun. Plus, you can watch your real time average of mpg and it catalogs your last three trips along with your current one, so you can see how you're doing over time (or criticize your spouse for their less than optimal fuel efficiency, if that's what you prefer to do with the information).

At any rate, we love our new addition and highly recommend the Honda Insight to anyone who might be in the market for a more fuel efficient car. But hurry...the 2010 clearance is ending soon (oh, and get the internet price...it's quite a bit less than the sticker!).

Monday, September 06, 2010

Take Five

The venerable Cardinal Newman will be beatified by Pope Benedict later this month. If you are interested in learning a little more about him and his writing in the wake of this event, I recommend this approachable book, co written by Mike Aquilina and Father Juan Velez: Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman.

If, like me, you like to do a little spiritual reading each day but find it difficult to fit it in, this book is a perfect read. It is designed to be consumed in five minute chunks and takes the extensive works of this great author and boils them down to their most relevant points. It also puts the work in the context of his life, which helps to understand where he is coming from.

If you are interested in learning a little more about Cardinal Newman, especially since we will be seeing a lot about him in the news over the next few weeks, this is a good source.

Happy reading!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Now That's A Friend

This morning was "picture day" for my football players and cheerleaders. They had to be at the field in full uniform by 7am. No, that was not a typo. 7am.

Football players? No problem. Roll out of bed, no fuss, no muss. Cheerleaders are an entirely different story. They require hairdos that match their team. They must have the correct (out of three, mind you) hair bow. They go out with curls. They need hair product.

I am terrible with girl hair. TERRIBLE. This is not a good thing for a mother of 4 girls. When I got the requirements for the girls' hair a few days ago, I panicked. Lindsey had to have her bangs french braided into a high, curled ponytail. Julia's was a little easier, just a high curly pony, but still quite a challenge for someone like me. I was stressing to my neighbor about this and, in typical Robin fashion, she set about solving it for me.

She found our good friend Julie, who has been doing cheer hair for years, and before I knew it Julie and her daughter Alyssia (our long-time babysitter) arrived at our house at 6am this morning armed with curlers and mousse. The result was great hair, unified teams for both girls and a really relived mom (me!). Not to mention how happy my girls were that their hair actually got done correctly!

If I was unsure, before this morning, as to whether or not I had good friends (which, happily, I wasn't), I DEFINITELY know it now. Thanks, ladies.




Friday, August 27, 2010

Denied

Today the FDA denied Roche's application for fastrack approval of TDM-1 based on what seems to be a technicality. It was generally thought, given the convincing results of Phase II trials conducted in heavily pre-treated woman, that the drug would be approved for commercial use in the first months of 2011. It has now been delayed until at least mid-2012.

You can read the full story here.

This is devestating news for women with HER2 positive breast cancer. This development does not affect me directly because I am guaranteed, through my participation on the clinical trial, to have uninterrupted access to TDM-1 as long as it continues to work for me. But indirectly, I am sad, mad and frustrated for the thousands of women who did not qualify for clinical trial (the requirements are very specific) and will run out of time before 2012 arrives. I know I would have, had I not been accepted into the trial.

TDM-1 (not at all discounting divine intervention) has saved my life, plain and simple. It is a travesty that women who have no other options cannot receive this drug.

I certainly understand the importance of properly conducted clinical trials. I definitely believe that drugs, before they are released to the public, need to be thoroughly evaluated. But why isn't there a provision for the compassionate use of drugs which, though not completely evaluated, show such promise that they just might turn the tables for someone who has no other option and is surely going to die without at least a try? It seems to be only humane.

In the meantime, keep at it, Roche--and I'll keep providing you the data you need to help bring this baby to market.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

At Last It Has Arrived

This year we officially gave up the pretense--we are not a soccer family, or a baseball family or a basketball family. We have participated in those sports in the past only to kill time until the real action begins, so this year we didn't bother. We just waited. Patiently. And now it's time!

Last night Joey and Sam both opened their season with a scrimmage and did pretty well. They missed some blocks, they were not perfect, but overall it seems that we are in for a great season. Both boys are playing first string offense, Joey at Tight End and Sam at Tackle. This is a huge accomplishment for Joey in particular, as he has worked hard for two years to have a chance on the starting line. Joey is also starting Defensive End and loving it. Jay caught this action in particular last night:

This is Joey charging the running back behind the line of scrimmage. He completed the tackle, resulting in a loss of 5 or 6 yards for Palmdale. Good times, good times.

This, of course, is Sam. He shows a lot of promise and has no fear, so I think he will have a great season. By the second half last night he found his groove and was consistently driving his opponents back a number of yards. Number 68, by the way, was Jay's high school number, so it's pretty neat to hear them call another Di Silvestri by that number over the loudspeaker.

Welcome to fall--we are definitely fans!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Weeks Under His Belt

For those of you wondering what I finally decided to do with my little man Tony, here is a photo of him at pick up time during his first week of Kindergarten at Valley View, our local public school.

So far, he absolutely loves it and I feel comfortable that I made a good decision. We are calling this "Kindergarten 1", and he knows that he will be going to Sacred Heart next year for "Kindergarten 2."

Only time will tell if this was the right thing to do, but as parents all we can do is the very best we know how to do at any given moment...and for me, this was it.

Thanks to you all for your willingness to share your opinions and experiences in this matter--ulitmately, it was all of your comments that let me to my decision.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scanxiety Alleviated

Just got the results of my latest PET/CT and bone scans...everything is stable, thanks be to God.

My favorite quotes:

-"No evidence for solid organ metastases." (Hello, beautiful liver of mine!)
-"Stable metastatic disease to the axial and appendicular skeleton without metabolic activity."
-"No new nodules."
-"Subcentimeter right and left axillary and subpectoral lymph nodes remain stable."

What does it say about my life that these lines read like the finest poetry to me? (That is a rhetorical question, by the way.)

So, to summarize, some disease remains and doesn't seem to be going away. However, it is not active or growing, nor is it on a vital organ, so it does not impact me at the moment. Treatment will continue as is for another nine weeks, at which time we will scan again and see where we are.

Here's to another nine weeks. Yippee!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Good Archbishop

Last week Jay had the pleasure of meeting Archbishop Jose Gomez, the new co-adjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, in a small group setting. The Archbishop celebrated mass, visited both before and after with the attendees, and stayed for dinner as well. Jay was particularly impressed that Archbishop Gomez was among the first to arrive and the last to leave, making sure all who wanted to speak with him had the chance to do so.

All reports of the Archbishop's kindness, generosity of self and obvious love of Christ were confirmed by Jay, who was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with him during the evening. Jay told the Archbishop about me and asked for his prayers on my behalf, which he readily agreed to offer, even asking Jay my name twice to be sure he had it right. Quite humbling for me, I assure you!

We are very fortunate indeed to have this man as our new Archbishop. I wish him all the best in his tenure in Los Angeles.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Health Update

It has been awhile since I've posted anything about my health (how's that for a postive change!?) and I know many of you are wondering how I'm doing, so I thought I'd take a minute to share what's been going on.

Right now I am exactly where I want to be: my last few scans have shown no active cancer, only evidence of where cancer has been. My doctors tell me that Stage IV cancer cannot be cured, which means that even when the cancer is inactive and too small to be seen, it is still there lurking and a potential threat. Therefore, they use words like "control" rather than "cure", and "stable" rather than "clear". At the end of the day, this is all just semantics, and the summary is that I'm doing as well as I could possibly be doing and can potentially remain in this state for years to come.

Or, it could all change at any time, which keeps things exciting.

I will continue with my treatments of TDM-1 every three weeks as long as my liver can process the medicine and as long as my heart muscle is not damaged by it. So far, both of these measures are just fine. The treatments vary in how hard they hit me--some are hardly noticible and some deal me a bit of a blow, but nothing life-stopping. I am truly fortunate in this, as it means that I can continue treatment without giving the cancer a break to regroup, as I would need to if I were on traditional chemo.

I will continue to be thoroughly scanned every nine weeks as long as I am in treatment. I will always post those results here as I get them. My next scans are this Thursday and the following Monday so look for news probably around the end of next week.

I will not be having surgery. My oncologist and surgeon agree that once the cancer has spread around as mine did, there is no benefit to surgery at the original tumor site. Plus, there is no detectable tumor left in the breast anyway, so they would basically be cutting off a healthy breast to prevent nothing. I am good with this.

So, that's about it for now. The medicine is working beautifully, I feel pretty good most of the time (more often than not I feel normal, which was unexpected six months ago), and I am hopeful for a good, long run at this status quo.

Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers for so long.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Tony's birthday is in July. Since he just turned five, he is eligible to start Kindergarten at Sacred Heart this year and, until recently, I had no doubts that he would be doing just that.

In the last few weeks, however, I have been strongly contemplating holding him back for a year and having him start Kindergarten next year when he has just turned six. If I send him now he will be the youngest in his class (or close to it), and if I wait he will be among the oldest.

I have heard many arguments in favor of holding him and few in favor of sending him. He himself likes the idea of going to our local public school for a year of Kindergarten before starting "for real" at Sacred Heart, especially since his very good friend will be doing the exact same thing. This is the same public school that gave Joey such a positive experience, so I do not worry about sending him there in general.

By all tests, Tony seems ready to start Kindergarten. Yet, giving him an extra year to mature (especially since he is a boy, and since our children are notoriously handwriting challenged anyway) and develop his fine motor skills seems like it might give him confidence in the long run. If he ends up struggling academically, I will always kick myself for not having done this. Plus, if he ends up being bored, I can move him up easier than hold him back later, right?

I am interested to see if any of you have an opinion about this. Valley View starts on Monday, so I am going to have to make a final decision over the weekend one way or another. Have any of you held your children back or started them early? What have you done with your "summer birthdays" and how have they fared? Any advice or thoughts are appreciated!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bypassed

The fire moved southeast and passed us by. The house smells like smoke and the sky is gray and ashy, but thanks be to God we are all fine.

Bless the firefighters who have been up all night defending our homes and may they continue to be successful as the fire threatens other parts of Palmdale!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Fire Photo


Here is the current situation, as viewed from Lindsey's window. The power of nature is astounding...makes one feel very small and insignificant.

Fire!


It's big, it's moving fast, and it's too close for comfort. Please pray for all of us who are in the path of this beast.

Above is the current view from Lindsey's bedroom window (a bit blurry, but you get the idea).

My mother in law, who lives about a mile and a half away from us, was just evacuated, so we are preparing to go as well. No small feat for a family of our size, to be sure.


Hopefully it won't come any closer. Hopefully the ring of fire fighters waiting for it at the bottom of the hill will knock it out before it threatens us. Hopefully no one will lose their lives or their homes.

Off I go, to decide what goes and what stays. Talk about a grounding prioritization! I'll keep you all posted, of course...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

Today Joey and Lindsey spent a decent amount of time trying to outdo eachother as to who had the better school schedule.

Joey goes from 8 to 1:55, Lindsey from 8 to 3. They have (I think) the same number of school days in a year, but Joey starts earlier with longer vacation times throughout the year.

As they argued the merits of their particular situations, it became evident that they were near parity. It came down, finally, to that extra hour or so that Lindsey has four days out of the week (she gets out early every Friday).

I explained to Lindsey that her extra time must be so that religion could be taught, as she goes to a Catholic School. Public schools don't teach that subject so they can have a little less time. I went on to assure her that Joey, too, had religious instruction, but with me in the evenings. Therefore, I tried to help them conclude, they ultimately had the same amount of time in school each year.

Joey, not one to lose any argument at all, quickly came back with, "Ha! My religion only takes us 15 minutes, so I win! You have an hour!"

Lindsey gnawed on that for a few moments. Then, with her voice reflecting all the desperation of a sinking sailor, she wailed, "Maaaaawwwwm! You HAVE to make Joey's religion longer!"

Yeah, I'll get right on that. So they can find something new to compete over.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation

Sorry for the very sparse blogging, folks, but I am enjoying some time off with my family in Northern California. We are on our annual visit to Marin County where some of our kids are attending Bible Camp at St. Rita (our former parish), Joey is at another week of football camp, and I am hanging out with the three little ones being domestic in someone else's house (which we all know is WAY more fun than being domestic in our own homes!).

It has been a really great week. Tony turned five on Monday and is enjoying his new Buzz Lightyear suit immensely. We are staying with his godparents so it was extra special to spend his birthday with them. Tuesday we had dinner with friends from my Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream days and had so much fun catching up.

Yesterday Jay and I went to mass at a church in Sausalito where we had heard our former pastor (the one who brought me into the church and baptized my first four children) was now retired. Luckily, he was presiding and we got to visit with him for awhile after mass. It was so good to see him and we were happy to learn how well things are going for him now. He prayed over me especially for my total healing.

Today the kids went to the beach on Tomales Bay where they saw dozens of jellyfish washed up on the shore. Sam, especially, had fun with that. Tomorrow Joey will visit Angel Island (his camp ended today and was a great opportunity for him to work out at wide receiver before hell week begins with his regular team on Monday) with a friend.

Jay is working from here and enjoying lots of peace and quiet to do so in the detached cottage at our friends' house. I am cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and taking the kids to the playground. Best of all, I'm watching lots of chick flicks with my dear friend Tina and eating way too much dessert. My carb reduction plan is reduced this week, and I'm totally OK with that.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer and I will try to get back into a more regular blogging routine when I return home on Monday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blast from the Past

Remember this guy?

Clearly, the picture is not that great, as his head is cut off by the tree, but I had a toddler and a three year old on the loose, so cut me some slack...I did what I could!

Bella, who is newly potty trained (thank goodness), had me turn off the I-10 in a hurry on Saturday to make a pit stop. Imagine my delight when I found the famous "world's largest" dinosaurs that I remember so well from my childhood. I didn't even know they were still around! I would never have thought to even look for them, much less realize that we were anywhere near them. So, thanks to Bella for her urgent bathroom visit that sent me down memory lane.

What was I doing on the I-10, you may be wondering? I dropped Lindsey off at camp in the San Jacinto mountains, somewhere inbetween Hemet and Palm Springs. I went through Hemet on the way up so I decided to go through Palm Springs on the way back. I'll be heading back on Saturday to pick her up. Which way to go, which way to go?

Perhaps the dinosaurs will help me decide!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Just for Fun

A friend sent me this optical illusion. Give it a try if you have some time to kill!

***


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fond Memories

Sam, Joey and Jay are in Marin County this week so the boys can attend football camp. Joey is staying with a friend he is still in contact with from his kindergarten and first grade days at St. Rita School, so Jay and Sam are enjoying lots of time together, just the two of them.

This morning Jay took Sam out to breakfast at a coffee shop where we nearly always had breakfast after mass on Sundays. Sam (who was just turning 4 when we moved) remembered the place right away. He surprises me constantly with how much he remembers from his early years in Marin.

This quote demonstrates just how well he recalls it:

"Oh, I remember this place! Joey tied my shoelaces together and I fell down right there!" As he said this, he pointed enthusiastically to the exact location in the restaurant where he hit the ground.

Now, I remember the place more for the waffles, but we all have our favorite memories, right? How nice for Sam that he can relive that one.

Monday, July 05, 2010

So Tired

Dishes make me feel like this too. I totally get it.

What I don't get is how she managed to stay on the stool after she fell asleep. When I first walked in the kitchen and saw her like this my heart stopped!

I'm thinking that perhaps I missed a few "I'm tired" cues that would have led me to put her to bed before it came to this. But since I didn't, we now have this great picture!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Marriage By The Numbers

Years Married Today: 15
Children Born: 7
Children Loved But Not Born: 1
Communities Lived In: 2
Houses Owned: 3
Dogs Loved (or Endured, depending on which one of us you are): 2
Other Animals Housed: 2 cats, 1 hamster, 1 guinea pig, 4 fish
Trials Endured: A Few
Trials to Come: Only God Knows--but we'll survive them together!
Blessings to Count: Innumerable
Duration Ahead: 'Till Death Do Us Part

Happy Anniversary, Jay--I love you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's All Part of Nailing the Cancer, I Guess

I have had it pretty easy through this whole cancer thing. A little fatigue, a little nausea, some anemia...at worst, it's been like the intense part of first trimester pregnancy. I recently told a friend that I have managed to contract the Disney version of Stage IV cancer, if there is a such a thing, and for this I am truly grateful.

HOWEVER, today I feel the need to log my first real complaint about all of this. This week, after treatment 10, my fingernails have suddenly betrayed me. I know, I know, you are thinking, "Seriously, is she really going to complain about her FINGERNAILS when she is giving cancer a fatal blow with minimal side effects?" Well, yes, I am. And then I'm going to feel ashamed about it later.

I have always had strong, long fingernails. This was true even before my pregnancies, but childbearing served to enhance their growth and strength further. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was proud of my fingernails, but I will say that I had come to comfortably rely on them as tools. I used them to pry things open, parse and cut things and generally make my life easier.

This has all ended for me. All of a sudden, my nails have begun bending backward, splitting to the quick and breaking off, from simple activities such as rotating the laundry or even reaching for my shoes. So, today, I mourned their loss and cut them all back to the quick. Sniff.

As I gaze at my stubby fingers or find myself reaching for a knife to do the job I once could do unassisted I will try my hardest to remember how lucky I am in all other aspects of this. But I'm allowed a brief mourning period for this small sign of my loss of health, aren't I?

I thought you'd agree.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

As I was praying my rosary this morning (as you all know, that is when I have my "deep thoughts"), I was thinking about why Jesus was at first unrecognizable to his disciples after his resurrection.

Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener when she saw him outside of the tomb. The seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberius did not recognize him when he asked about their fishing. The men walking to Emmaus had a lengthy conversation with him about his own crucifixion without realizing it was him. It was only later that their eyes were opened and they all realized that they had been talking to the resurrected Jesus.

What could be the reason for this, I wondered? Why would so many not recognize right away and need their eyes opened for them to see what was right in front of them?

I did not wonder long before I knew the answer: Jesus is in all the people around us, whether we can see him or not. Often we need our eyes opened to see him, but he is there. Not in body, as was the case with the befuddled disciples, but just as real.

He is there in our spouses, our parents, our children, our friends. It is easiest to see him there, in those who are good to us or who treat us as we imagine Jesus would--with loving care and concern. But he is also in those who don't treat us as they should. Those who drive us crazy, those who we judge.

Our eyes are opened to his presence in these difficult people when we allow ourselves to see. We see the opportunities these people provide us to work on our patience, our compassion, and our Christian kindness. We see the needs that these people have that cause them to act the way they do, needs that we can often help fill. The need for acceptance, love, or understanding. When we see these thing, we see Jesus in everyone, and our eyes are opened.

Is this easy? Of course not! It is nearly impossible. But nothing is impossible with God. Lord, may my eyes be opened to see.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Further Evidence I'm Failing Completely As A Parent

Joey: I'm bored.

Me: Don't ever say that in this house or you'll quickly find yourself doing manual labor.

A pause...

Joey: OK, then. I'm unsatisfied with today's entertainment.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Relief

Scan results just came in...

I am stable, with virtually no change from prior scan. This is fantastic news--may I continue to enjoy this kind of news for decades to come.

It is always nerve-wracking waiting for scan results, but this time was worse than usual. About two weeks ago I discovered a new lump in my breast, similar to and in the same location as the most stubborn one I had before. I was hoping it was all in my head, but my nurse practitioner confirmed it and sent me for scans right away, a week and a half ahead of schedule.

I did not share this news with anyone, as I did not want to take the people who love me and suffer along with me on a roller coaster ride of worry and waiting. I figured bad news wouldn't go away, so I could share it when it was confirmed rather than suspected, thereby alleviating some stress for those who I so hate to hurt. As you all know, I am usually quite open so it was nearly as difficult for me to keep my mouth shut about all of this as it was to wait, but I am glad I did. See how much worry I saved you all?

So, when the results came in today with no metabolic activity or masses noted, it was not what I expected at all, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the relief that flowed through me upon hearing the news. I was prepared for all sorts of things--new, nastier chemo, immediate surgery, short life-span, you name it. I had not even considered "stable scan" as one of the likely outcomes, so I am nothing short of delighted.

As for the lump? I don't know for sure what it is, but since it appeared at the same time I came out of my chemically-induced menopause, it is likely hormonal in nature. Perhaps it is scar tissue from the previous mass that will flare up monthly. Perhaps it is necrotic tissue that is settling. Whatever it is, it is not cancer, and I feel as if I have been given a new chance at life all over again.

This scare has been good for me. Over the past few months of good news, I have slowly come to take for granted that I am on a path to being cured. It is never good to feel confident about something like this, and I have been shocked into remembering this. I am back to being supremely grateful for each nine week block of "good scan" and not looking toward anything else. I am more thankful than ever for my faith, and I thank God above all for this good news.

I will always worry that the cancer is returning--I will live in it's shadow forever, no matter how well I am doing. Any pain I have is cause for concern, and any lump or swollen lymph node will be a major drama. But as long as my faith remains strong, I will not be afraid. Concern is quite different than fear, as it is productive. I can watch for early signs, take better care of myself and continue on my medication because I am concerned about my health. But fear, which is pointless, is not part of my plan--and this is a fruit of faith.

Thanks for your continued prayers for my healing. They are obviously working!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What A Blessing!

Today our parish community gathered together outside in a ground blessing mass on the property recently acquired for our new church building. And what a blessing it was.

An estimated 2500 people attended what we believe to be the largest mass the Antelope Valley has ever had. Four priests concelebrated, three deacons and our pastoral intern served the mass, and voices and instruments from all four of our diverse music ministries joined together as one. The Knights of Columbus turned out in full regalia, adding to the ceremony of it all. It was nothing short of exhilarating.

And hot. But back to the exhilarating part...

Each parish family in attendance brought with them a small jar filled with dirt from their own home. As the gifts were being prepared, the families came up one by one and poured their dirt into a large clay jar. This dirt, representing the individual families that make up our church, will be used in the foundation of the new building. I was brought to tears many times during the mass, but most decidedly while watching these families, many of whom I know so well, offer their piece of the church's foundation. I am a sucker for symbolism, and this mass was chock full of it.

The very best part I did not even see--it was later reported to me by several who had seen it. At the moment of the consecration, three white doves flew over the altar. It seemed, to those who witnessed it, that it must have been planned, so perfectly timed it was. Indeed, it was planned, but not by those who arranged for the mass! Hearing about it gave me chills. Indeed the ground has been blessed today.

I can't wait to see the new church take shape. In the meantime, it's not just the ground that has been blessed--it is all of us who are part of this historic event.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Slick

On my way to UCLA on Monday my doctor called me. This is highly unusual, particularly since I had an appointment to see him 30 minutes from then. I didn't figure it could be for any good reason and, indeed, it wasn't.

He proceeded to tell me that he had just learned from the medicine manufacturer that there had been a contamination of silicone in all the medicine of a particular lot, the lot that all of my doses so far had come from. Kindly, he explained that the amount of silicone I received intravenously was 100 times less than the amount known to be toxic to humans but, of course, he had to let me know since it was an unexpected ingredient and because it is probably not generally a good idea to send unregulated silicone coursing through one's circulatory system.

Naturally, I questioned him as to what I might expect, what I should look out for, etc. He did not really know but assured me that any physical complaint I have will be looked at carefully for its possible involvement with this. Bottom line is, he doesn't really expect me to be affected by this one way or the other but did need to let me know.

Later, when I saw him in the office, he half-jokingly said that he hoped it wasn't the silicone that had caused my tumors to shrink. He went on to explain that, really, oncology was all about injecting people with toxic chemicals in the hopes that they will kill the cancer without killing the patient. So, there is nothing revolutionary about being infused with silicone, even accidentally, and perhaps it has even contributed to the positive effect this medicine has had one me. In fact, he went so far as to ask the manufacturer to hold rather than discard this lot in case the efficacy drops with the removal of the silicone. Educated trial and error, that's what it all is at the end of the day.

As for me, I am not alarmed in the slightest about this turn of events, simply because of what my alternative is. Would I have skipped receiving this medicine if I had known? NO! Would I stop taking it now because I think the manufacturer might make a similar mistake? NO! This medicine is not a "nice to have". It is keeping me alive, additives and all, so I have no beef. As part of his legal obligation to me, my doctor had to formally ask me if I now wished to be removed from the trial. I actually laughed.

So, I am now thinking of all the great things that might come of having a body full of silicone. Well-oiled joints? Veins like slip-n-slides? A heart that just got a great lube job? Who knows? But it's kind of exciting to be a guinea pig.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yet Another Benefit of Cancer?

When I picked Joey up from school today he asked me if he could go to a friend's house. I said he could but that he had to be home by 6:30 because we were all going to sit down for dinner together.

This is something we used to do regularly before I began treatments. Now, unfortunately, this is pretty rare for our family. We have become a group of "grab and go" or "eat at the kitchen island" people. I do not like this at all and am trying to get us back to regular, or at least not infrequent, family dinners at the table. Of course, this requires energy, something I have been lacking more often than not over the past six months.

The kids, for some reason I cannot understand at all, hate it when we all sit down for dinner together. They fight this tooth and nail, and complain loudly whenever they hear it might be on the horizon. I, on the other hand, think it's great. We all talk about our days, what's going on, and things that are coming up.

Tonight I made, literally, the ONLY dish that everyone in our family likes--Chicken Almendras (chicken in an almond and tomatillo sauce). I thought this might ease everyone back into family dinner.

When I told Joey we were having dinner together, his first comment was, "Awww, man!" Shortly after he added, "What are we having?" When I told him, he said it was almost worth it, but not quite.

After a few moments he asked, "Mom, when is your next treatment?" I answered, "Tuesday, why?" He grinned and didn't say anything, so it dawned on me--I am too tired the week of treatment to cook, so we are definitely not sitting down together for dinner on treatment weeks.

I laughed and said, "Do I have a little too much energy for you right now?" He admitted I did and then said, "But when you have treatment I don't have any clean clothes for a few days, so I don't know which is better."

Who knew that there was yet another unexpected benefit of my cancer, at least as far as my children are concerned--fewer family dinners! But maybe clean jeans trump it. Just maybe.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lindsey the Lung

Warning: shameless bragging about to commence, but this mom is totally delighted.

Lindsey was in her class play on Friday, and she was great! I had no idea she could sing so well. I know this sounds crazy since she sings all the time around the house, but as I know from experience, singing with a microphone is a whole different ballgame. I knew she could carry a tune, but until I heard her amplified, I didn't know how clear her voice was. She loves to sing, so I am so happy for her that she does it well. Singing will hopefully bring her great joy in her life, as it does to me in mine.

It wasn't just Lindsey who did well--the entire 4th grade class turned out an amazing performance. I found myself completely entertained during the entire show. It was funny, the kids were all perfect in their roles and the whole thing was obviously very well rehearsed. Nice job, kids!

Here is a link to her song, beautifully shared by her good friend. Lindsey is the one in the red hairbows. Enjoy...I sure did!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Best Vacation Ever


Well, if there is one thing we've learned this year, it's that life can be short. So, last Saturday we said, the heck with it, let's USE all those frequent flier miles and hotel points that Jay has been racking up for the past several years and take the family to Hawaii. So, with one week's notice, we went, and, I'm so glad we did.

The thing that lit our fire was that Jay won some money last month in a programming competition that his company sponsored (great job, honey, we're so proud of you!). The contest required that he be gone over a weekend, which piggybacked with some client calls, so we endured nine long days without him. When he placed second, securing a cash prize, he decided that we should use it to do something together to make up for the time we were apart. With the hotel and flights handled with miles and points, this money covered the remaining trip expenses so it was truly one of those perfect storms that had to be taken advantage of.

For the first time we went to the island of Kauai. I've been to Maui twice and Oahu twice and, while I certainly enjoyed them, I never really understood why Hawaii is considered such a BIG DEAL. In general, I prefer the Mexican Carribean, but since the kids don't have current passports, that was not an option for us. However, after this trip I now GET Hawaii. I can't imagine that there is a more beautiful place on earth than Kauai. We stayed on the sunny southern part at Poipu Beach, but my favorite place was at the north. It was "stop the car and let the jaw hang open" beautiful. Here is a picture of our whole family at Haena Beach. Note the rainbow behind us...it is the perfect representation of how blessed our time there was.




We spent six days at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club, a collection of time-share condos. These were perfect accomodations for us as they were equipped with full kitchens and laundry in the rooms. When we arrived, we went to Costco and stocked the kitchen, and we ate every meal right there in our little condo. Restaurants with all the kids are miserable in addition to being expensive, so this was great! Here is the view of part of the enormous pool, with some of the kids in the hot tub.


Here is Lindsey next to one of the many monk seals we saw on the island. They climbed right up on the beach to snooze, seemingly unfazed by people.


Joey's birthday was on Thursday, so for his present he and Jay went on a series of zip lines. We have some great videos of Joey zipping along with a gargantuan smile.


Tony and Bella spent some quality time together while the older kids were out snorkeling...





Here is our family at the "Grand Canyon" of Kauai. Pretty impressive. (I'm referring to the canyon, but the family isn't bad either!)



The kids had so much fun just rolling around in the surf.






Natalie wasn't too sure about the ocean, but she loved the sand.

The snorkeling was amazing right outside our hotel. I went every day we were there, swimming from reef to reef looking at all kinds of tropical fish, including Nemo. The kids saw a sea turtle while snorkeling, but I didn't see one until the day we went to Haena Beach and I spotted one swimming just offshore.


The best part wasn't even where we were, (although we couldn't have been anywhere better)...it was just that we were all together, away from everything that pulls us in nine different directions during our everyday life. It was really seeing and hearing the kids and eachother, saying "OK" instead of "not now". I will never, ever forget this time we had.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blog Not Abandoned

Seriously. It's owner has just been on vacation.

I will post in the next day or two about our amazingly wonderful family vacation to Kauai, pictures and all.

I meant to do it today, but when I happened to log onto Google today I got sucked into the 30th anniversary of Pacman and wasted at least 15 minutes playing the pop-up game instead of completing the search I intended to do. I wonder how many hours of productivity were lost worldwide today because of this? It is possible that our GDP actually went down today as a result? I know mine did. But, truthfully, after three hours of sleep on the red-eye last night sandwiched between Bella and Natalie, I was pretty distractable today anyway. I can't blame it all on Google.

So, here's to being back in my own bed, a full night's sleep (I hope!) and lots more blogging this week. Promise!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

At Least I'm Predictable

My neighbor Robin took the kids to school this morning. I sent them over to her house in a rush and then hurried out to door to drive Joey to his different school. As always, I left their lunches on the counter for them to pick up and put in their own backpacks.

As I was pulling out of my garage, I noticed Robin returning to her house, obviously for an item left behind. She, like I, always asks as she pulls away, "Does everyone have their backpacks/lunches/sweaters/belts?" and the kids have an opportunity to double check.

This morning, one of her children had left lunch behind. Sam, in his wisdom (and extensive experience), said to the crowd in the car, "My parents wouldn't have turned around to get that. They would have told me too bad." (This would only be true if we had already left the neighborhood, but that is tangential...)

Imagine my amusement, then, when the phone rang at 11:59am. It was Sam, letting me know he had left his own lunch behind, in hopes that I might do something about it. Clearly, he was too busy spouting his wisdom to check for his lunch when given the opportunity.

The call was not necessary, because he had accurately shown earlier that morning that he knew exactly what my answer would be.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Bella climbed into bed with me bright and early and said excitedly, "Happy Mother's Day! What did you get me?"

It was an amusing (and apropos) way to begin a lovely day with my family. Jay made eggs benedict, among other things, for me and our two mothers, and I got to see my friend Angela received into the church during mass this morning. A good day, I'd say!

One of the best parts? The poem Lindsey composed for me. Apparently, love for the rhyme runs in the family! Here it is:

Your hair of golden brown
Your feet as big as a clown
Oops, I didn't mean to make you frown
I'll turn that frown upside down
You're my only mom around
And the smartest girl in town

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. Isn't it nice to be appreciated? (Foot comment notwithstanding, of course...)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Yep, That About Sums it Up

Bella woke from her nap, looked at me sitting next to her, and said with a touch of panic...

"Mom, I want...I want...I want...everything!"

Don't I know it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Au Contraire

Tonight I took Joey over to Joe Walker, the middle school he will be attending this fall. He was encouraged by his teachers to apply to a program called AVID, which encourages students along the path to college. Among other things, it focuses on teaching students the organizational and writing skills necessary to get accepted to and succeed in four year universities.

It is crazy enough that I have a middle-school aged child...do I really have to be thinking about college already? Apparently, I do, and so does Joey.

Joey did not want to go. AT ALL. He wanted no part of this AVID business, no part of the informational meeting about it, nothing whatsoever that might separate him from the average student. He could not articulate to me why he was so opposed to this, just that he was, and he dug in his heels with complete obstinance.

Because I respect Joey's teachers so much, I did not waiver. If they believed that this program would particularly benefit Joey, I was at least going to learn more about it. Joey has become an A and B student under their guidance, and they know his particular challenges well. His success in school is still new, possibly fragile, and I will do anything I can to protect it.

So off we went. Me smiling, chattering away; Joey silent and sullen. When we arrived he would not get out of the car. I marched right in, knowing he would eventually follow me. He did, but the hostility was palpable. Luckily, his two best friends from school were there so I had enough credibility to at least get him in the room.

Quite unfortunately, I realized immediately that this was not just information night, but it was application night too. As soon as we checked in, the proctor called Joey in to write an essay, to be followed by an interview.

I almost died.

Joey despises writing, strongly objects to any work he can avoid and didn't want to even attend an informational meeting on this program, much less apply to it. I held my breath waiting to see what he would do. To my complete surprise and delight, he hesitated just a moment, then said, "OK" and followed the proctor. I went into the parent presentation and waited.

When Joey met me after his essay and interview, I could immediately sense the change in his demeanor. He really clicked with the teacher who interviewed him, so much so that he took me over to meet her. Turns out, she is the language arts teacher for 7th graders on the AVID track. My first positive indicator was his question, "You mean that I'd definitely get her for language arts if I do this program?"

I learned in the parent program that only 25-35 7th graders will be enrolled in AVID out of several hundred, so I told Joey that we would have to wait and see if he was accepted into the program, that he might not get to choose. He stopped, looked surprised and said, "You mean some people aren't going to get in? Then I TOTALLY want to do this!"

Nothing like a little competition to get him revved up.

The rest of the evening was spent discussing why he thinks he'll get in, why this is such a good program for him, and what college he wants to get in to.

Isn't that human nature? Alive and well in my son.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Requested

Last week I had the opportunity to thank the students of Sacred Heart School (SHS, as referenced below) who have been praying for me so diligently both in their classrooms and at home with their families. I attended the morning assembly and read a poem that I wrote for them, letting them know that their prayers are working.

I have had some requests to post that poem, so here it is...

Prayers Answered

Six months ago, dear SHS
You heard that I was ill
My family asked you all, “Please pray!”
And you all said, “We will!”

Then pray you did from that day on
So much I cannot tell
You offered up your sacrifice
That God might make me well

From day to day you never stopped
In asking for my cure
Now, did you know, of all the prayers,
That children’s are most pure?

The prayers you say go straight to God
In quite a special way
He listens to your hopes and thoughts
And every word you say

How blessed I am to have you all
As soldiers in this war
Because with you all on my side
I’m winning more and more

Thanks be to God, I’m getting well
In part, because of you
I was not sure I ever would
But now I know it’s true

God heard our prayers and answered them
According to His will
Now please don’t stop those prayers quite yet
Because I need them still

I have some road to travel down
My journey’s not quite done
But when I reach the end of this
I hope to say, “I won!”

I want to thank you, each and all
For keeping me in prayer
I’ve never been alone through this
Because you’ve all been there

But most of all I hope you know
How much that you can do
By praying for the things you need
The What, the When, the Who

God loves you and He wants you to
Approach Him with your needs
So keep Him close and talk to Him
And follow where He leads

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Could Only Happen To Joey

Tonight our whole family went to a Jethawks game (our local minor league baseball team).

We don't often do this unless it is a special event (like Scout night), simply because doing anything with seven children is not only labor intensive, but expensive as well. However, we went to just an ordinary game tonight because we picked up some tickets from the Knights of Columbus (thanks, guys!) that made it much more feasible to squeeze our entire family into the stadium.

It started off on a good note, because we ran into Joey's football coach and two boys from his team. It continued to go well, as Natalie enjoyed climbing up and down the aisles and generally left us in peace, and Bella loved Kaboom (the giant bird mascot). Everyone was warm enough (until Natalie dumped an entire bottle of water on my jeans, that is), no one begged to go on the ever-present inflatable jumpers.

The real kicker came, however, when Lindsey ventured into the gift shop to buy a baseball with money she had brought. It was a "photo ball" and had a collage of five or six snapshots of players and fans running around it.

As we were about to leave, she asked if she could unwrap it and have Kaboom sign it for her. I said she could and she started to skip off to find him. She didn't get far before she came running back and said, "Mom, this looks like Joey!"

Sure enough, one of the photos on the ball was very clearly of Joey, getting something signed by Kaboom. We are guessing the shot is from two years ago, but are not entirely sure. Given that we go to two or three Jethawks games a year, it was absolutely shocking to me to see him on the ball. What are the chances?! Further, what were the chances that Lindsey would decide to bring money and buy that, of all things, in the gift shop? We could easily have never even known.

By this time, Sam had tuned into what was going on and said, "I almost always follow Joey, so if he's in the picture, I probably am too." Darned if he wasn't right. He is standing behind Joey, wearing his Cub Scout shirt, although his arm is in front of his face so only I would know it was him. Still, he was beaming to be included, no matter how obscurely. (I later joked with him that he was just like Mike in Monsters, Inc. when he kept getting covered up in the company's ads.)

Needless to say, we ran back in and bought three more balls. So far.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Re-Entry

I have had the absolute pleasure of spending the better part of the last week just outside of Cancun, Mexico in a beautiful resort with my dear friend Jennifer in honor of her 40th birthday. Jennifer's very generous husband sent us away as his gift to her (since she didn't really want the big party he was willing to throw for her).

Thanks to family and friends, not to mention Jay's complete support and encouragement, I was able to spend 5 days away from home reading, relaxing, napping and eating way too much. Of course, the best part was being with Jennifer, who I have missed so much since she moved to Texas years ago. We tend, when we are together, to revert back to the age we were when we met (that would be eight years old) and end up laughing about completely immature and ridiculous things, and this visit was no exception. I laughed an awful lot and had a really good time.

Naturally, I missed my family and was thrilled to find them all waiting at the airport in a row when I arrived. I was relaxed, my buttons were all reset, and I was ready to face the mountain of laundry that I knew was awaiting me at home.

This is where things started to get a little squirrely.

About half way home I started to feel not so well. I figured it was because I had to get up really early to catch my flight and just needed to sleep, so I went to bed pretty quickly when I got home. The next morning (Monday) I went down to UCLA for my usual blood draw. My neighbor Robin went with me so I could bring the kids with me--I did not want to leave them so soon after just returning. I was feeling fine, thinking that the sleep had done me good. And this was indeed the case, until I had something to eat.

When Robin and I stopped for lunch on the way home (at a really cute kids-only restaurant, but that is another story) I started to feel really bad. I was suddenly very glad she had come with me so she could drive.

Not long after I got home I spiked a fever, so I emailed my oncologist to let him know. His nurse practitioner emailed me right back and told me to go to the ER because, apparently, a fever can be a big deal when you are going through chemo because of potential problems with white blood cells. Feeling a little ridiculous, I went.

To make a long story short, after a bunch of bloodwork and some X-Rays, the ER docs concluded that I had a fever, probably from a virus. Since my white blood counts were OK, they sent me home around midnight. Far from making me feel silly for coming in, the ER staff from start to finish was great, assuring me that my oncologist had done the right thing by sending me in, and even giving me a private room (those of you who have been to the AV Hospital ER know that this is no small thing). I was consistently surprised by how seriously my little fever was taken by all involved, and I felt very well cared for.

One might think the story ends there, but alas it does not. About a half hour after I fell into bed, exhausted, Tony began to throw up. This repeated every two to three hours throughout the night, and not once did he make it without soiling his pajamas and bedding in the process. Even with the middle-of-the-night laundry load, I had to do four loads today just to get back to the beginning of the enormous pile that had been awaiting my return in the first place.

Today my fever is gone and Tony is better too. I am reassured that all this has nothing to do with the cancer and is, instead, some sort of virus. Everyone gets sick, and not every ache or pain I have is cancer-related, although it is hard to remember this when it is happening.

So, here's to vacations...and the inevitable crash when we return home from them!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thanks Be To God

I just got the results of my PET/CT, bone and heart scans, and they could hardly be better. I am actually in shock, as I was prepared mentally for, really, anything.

There is no longer a breast mass of any kind--previously cancerous tissue is indistinguishable from healthy tissue. The bones are no longer active at all and present as "treated", showing only scarring from where the cancer used to be. The liver spots can hardly be seen and are not active at all. Nothing in these three areas is measurable.

The only remaining trouble spots are on two lymph nodes, both of whose tumors are now measured by millimeters rather than centimeters and are no longer active.

Folks, we are on our way to that NED party! Four months ago I didn't actually believe that could ever happen, but I'm a believer now. Thank you all SO MUCH for your prayers throughout (and please don't let up yet!).

Oh, and for all you financiers out there, I might look into a "buy" on Immunogen and/or Genentech stock, because this drug is, clearly, amazing. How blessed I am to have access to it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Who's Educating Who?

Question on Sam's science homework: How would you describe the surface of the Earth?

Sam's answer: Fun to play on.

I love that kid.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Like Father Like Son


Tony is in a "just like daddy" phase.

Many mornings, he puts on one of Jay's shirts and a pair of his shoes, get his very own Lightning McQueen laptop, pulls up his chair, gets his "coffee" just like dad's (i.e. milk), and starts to work alongside him. He can stay there quietly working next to dad for surprisingly long periods of time, and his attention to detail in imitating his father is quite amazing.

I love seeing how content Tony is when he is with his dad, and how patiently Jay supports his little shadow. I know this phase will end all too soon, so I am trying to absorb every moment.

Oh, and, yes, Jay does work in our master closet, although we have an amply large house for him to have his own office. Why? You guessed it--it's the only place quiet enough for him to take work calls without resonant kid noise! (Good thing he doesn't mind a bit...what a good sport I married.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poppy Fields


The hills outside of Lancaster are aflame with poppies. For those who might think of desert as barren and brown (although you are sometimes correct), I thought I would post a few pictures of our current landscape, filled with color and the promise of spring.

Natalie loved marching around the fields, barefoot. We had to help her avoid stepping on the flowers.


Our Godson Michael and his mom, our dear friend Lori. As you can see, the flowers go on forever, on all sides. It is really a spectacular sight to behold.

If you've ever contemplated a visit to the Antelope Valley, now would be an excellent time!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Breaking News

It looks like Los Angeles has a new Archbishop!

Although not yet official, all signs point to the current Archbishop of San Antonio, Jose Gomez, who happens to be a priest of Opus Dei--the only bishop in the United States who is.

Needless to say, I think this is wonderful news. The priests of Opus Dei with whom I have become acquainted have been consistently inspirational, filled with fortitude and deeply motivated by love of Christ. Goodness knows, Gomez is going to need all of these traits and more to tackle the job of running our nation's largest diocese.

I will look forward to hearing this "on the record" tomorrow. Meanwhile, good night!

You Know You're An Adult When...

You are SOOOOO excited it is raining...
...because it's watering your lawn for free.

Update: As it turns out, this is only effective if you actually remember to put your sprinklers on "rain delay." Otherwise, you're just the idiot who is paying to water your lawn anyway. (Not that I would know, of course.)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Blessings

As I'm sure many of you are, I am feeling a great sense of release tonight. Lent is over, Easter is here!

The eggs were dyed, hidden and found. The baskets were filled and emptied. Dinner ingredients were purchased, prepared, consumed and cleaned up. It is done.

I have been at church more over the last four days, it seems, than I have been at home. I love the Holy Triduum liturgies and have enjoyed them more intensely this year, partly due to changes in me brought on by my illness, and partly due to my increased participation as a minister of music.

Singing the Psalm at this morning's Easter mass was one of the happiest moments I can ever recall. I was overwhelmed with joy, totally humbled that I could be there at the ambo, part of it all. I could not stop smiling all morning.

How can we despair when we have faith? For from true faith comes hope and, with it, lasting peace. May this peace be with you throughout this Easter season and far beyond.