“The Climb”, Part 1

26 03 2014

Last October, during one of her class “Write to Music” assignments, my younger daughter, Brynn, wrote how she was sad that our family could not do things together because of my cancer. Her words make me cry.  How dare this bully enter our lives AGAIN, to a SECOND parent, to worry my sweet babies who already went through this before.  But to read Brynn’s words written in response to hearing the Miley Cyruses song, “The Climb”, I am moved and I am inspired.  I believe all will be well:

“I love that song it is a good song to listen to and life has struggles and we get through. And nothing can stop us from what we want to do.  She says in the message of the song, “there’s always gonna be another mountain and I’m gonna have to make it move”. It makes me sad because its sad to think about my mom and whats going on even though she is going to be fine.  So it is true that there is always going to be another day that we can do things we haven’t with each other and that will be and always will be another mountain.”

The 5th grade teachers had considered changing the 5th grader’s annual outreach project from one in which cans of food were donated during a community service project.  After Brynn wrote the above essay, the idea was discussed once more.  It was this paper that inspired her teacher, Kristen Yockey, with a defined purpose: the community service project would benefit a family from the school, and since Brynn is a 5th grade student, the project would be more meaningful for the students.  A perfect fit.

So began approximately 6 weeks of gathering materials and donations and creating crafts which the students then sold to the younger students.  All three fifth grade classes and teachers were involved with the project.

In the next “Write to Music” assignment, the students wrote to “I’m on top of the World” by The Imagine Dragons.  Brynn wrote:

My mom said that it is okay to tell people what is going on in my life.  This whole thing you are doing for us Mrs. Yockey, my whole family is touched. (It’s true. I would cry everytime she would come home with an update, how many materials were donated, how all the kids were enjoying the project. Happy tears. LOTS of happy tears!) I love to have someone feel special and I love that this time its my turn and I love to come to school and have people ask how is your mom and I say she is doing great because she is.  I know everything is going to be okay.

The students raised enough for our family to plan some serious family fun time.  In addition, a parent, and local restaurant owner, Vince Stewart, contributed by gathering donations for a Kalahari Waterpark Resort package, complete with transportation. “Overwhelmed” is an extremely underwhelming description of how touched and flabbergasted we were by the effort of the student, the teachers, Mr. Stewart and the community.

A snow day interfered with the 5th graders presentation of the project results to us so the teachers stopped by our house with a wonderfully written description of the project history and a video of the students in action.  More happy tears- they would not stop! I could not believe that, being so new to the community, our family would be wrapped up in this great big hug!  The efforts by everyone involved inspire me to stay positive and helps me to believe that all WILL be well.

In a “Community Outreach Reflection”, Brynn wrote the following:

  • I’m happy we got to do something for my mom.  She needed a little cheer (very true!)
  • Usually we help other families but people are helping us this year (it’s a wonderful feeling to help others)
  • I had a great time meeting new people from the other classes and working with them. (very cool way for her to meet new people!)
  • I liked that we did not just help my mom we also helped other kids who could not go to the store to buy gifts for their family so that was cool. (Christmas shopping right at school, can’t get better than that!)

The Kalahari trip was this past weekend.  I’ll write a Part Deux later this week.  Until then, I miss volunteering on the Speaker’s Bureau and raising funds for Ele’s Place, a healing center for grieving children that helped both me and Asher after the death of her father. I miss helping local widows with young children.  However, we started paying it forward last Fall when Fred and the girls took part in a couple of fundraisers for a few families struggling with their own cancer issues.

We are not wealthy people, but we are making it through.  A small donation of $25 or so once a month is easily squeezed from our budget. And for such good causes.  People in need.  Locally.  I post about them on my Facebook page, KindergartenCrush from time to time so feel free to check it out if you’re feeling a little Robin Hood-y ;)

There is ALWAYS going to be a mountain to climb but if we face it head on and keep taking one step, then another, it isn’t that bad.  Giving is a great way to make you feel better about your own mountain.  Keep those chins up, Peeps. :) xoxo





What Up Recipe Wednesday!

15 01 2014

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, and recovered from the initial shock (lol…), the first thing I wanted to do was, what I call, “Feed to Fight”.  Feed to Fight is eating to kill cancer.  For a long time, I couldn’t stomach many, many of my favorite foods, namely vegetables.  Now that I am more mobile and off of assistive oxygen (i.e. no blowing up the house while using the gas range LOL), I’ve started juicing and cooking.  Following is the recipe of one of my all-time FAVORITE teas from the book The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Matt Edelson. Cinnamon Ginger Tea – isn’t it pretty???

018

Cinnamon Ginger Tea

4 cups water

4 1/2″ peeled knobs of ginger

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp honey

Bring the water, ginger and cinnamon stick to a boil in a saucepan, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the ginger and cinnamon stick, and stir in the honey.

Personally, I prefer to turn off the heat and let the ginger and cinnamon steep awhile longer.  I taste it every five minutes or so to make sure it’s not too gingery or it can become quite spicy.  I love a heavier cinnamon taste so I take the ginger out when I’ve reached a preferred taste and leave the cinnamon stick in to steep until the tea becomes this beautiful amber color.  So yummy and so good for you.  Enjoy!

Much love to all of my Warrior Peeps, Yetis and other friends ;)





Walking Like an Egyptian…Almost!

2 12 2013

No oxygen machine, no walker or cane…I may not be walking completely normally, or like an Egyptian (yet!), but I am walking unassisted BABY!  Woo hoo!

I feel like a toddler, walking unsure, unsteady and stiff-legged.  Thank God for this and thank God, I am able to climb a step or two.  Each time I do, I remember how I couldn’t even manage one 4″ step into the house not very long ago.  The frustration of not being able to support myself muscularly just to step into the house was maddening- my heart rate would escalate to abnormal heights and it would take every ounce of energy I had for the entire day.  Maddening.   My brain would scream, “WHAT THE HECK?!  Didn’t I run 740 miles last year??? And now, I can’t manage this one, tiny, transitional step???”

Oy.

Thank God.

Next week, I have one “last” chemo treatment.  Mentally and physically exhausted, I am trying to rest up this week.  My brain hurts as I work it to schedule appointments and manage my everyday tasks.  I hope and pray this is the end of my war with cancer.  A PET scan will be scheduled sometime after this last treatment and we will learn the next step, if there is a next step needed.

Until then, I am going to keep listening to The Bangles and practice walking like an Egyptian.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support.  It means SO very much. Pray on my Warrior Peeps and Crushers! xoxo





Flo’s Nemesis & Her WMDs

30 04 2013

Flo’s Nemesis’ name is Stage 4 “Primary Mediastinal B Cell Lymphoma”. Hmm, we definitely need to work on that evil name. ;)  Now that we have the true diagnosis, its high time that the researcher in me, uncork her head from the sand to learn more. So, my Peeps, here is your crash course on my cancer :)

My thanks to the Mayo Clinic for providing the following information:

The What

First of all, a mediastinal tumor is made up made of reproductive (germ) cells or develop in thymic, neurogenic (nerve), lymphatic or mesenchymal (soft) tissue. That’s all we really need to know there…

The Who

In general, mediastinal tumors are rare.

LOL of COURSE they are rare.  I always get “rare”.  Really?  I mean, really?  Rare?! Come on!  @$%*%$#?!?!&#$% ….. Deep breathe in, Lisa…….and ouuuuuut!  Sigh. Ok, I’m sorry. Tantrum over. Blame the steroids.

Mediastinal tumors are usually diagnosed in patients aged 30 to 50 years, but they can develop at any age and form from any tissue that exists in or passes through the chest cavity.  In adults, most mediastinal tumors occur in the anterior (front) mediastinum and are generally malignant (cancerous) lymphomas or thymomas.

Of interest to me, is that every winter, I am sick with bronchitis (germs, coughing,etc.). Coupled with the intense back pain I misunderstood as stress, and there you have it: cancer.  Ta da!

Hot Off the Presses

On April 11, 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published this piece on the course of chemotherapy to treat the exact cancer I am battling.  The results are nothing short of miraculous:

“The patients had a median age of 30 years (range, 19 to 52) and a median tumor diameter of 11 cm; 59% were women. During a median of 5 years of follow-up, the event-free survival rate was 93%, and the overall survival rate was 97%. Among the 16 patients who were involved in the retrospective analysis at another center, over a median of 3 years of follow-up, the event-free survival rate was 100%, and no patients received radiotherapy. No late morbidity or cardiac toxic effects were found in any patients. After follow-up ranging from 10 months to 14 years, all but 2 of the 51 patients (4%) who received DA-EPOCH-R alone were in complete remission. The 2 remaining patients received radiotherapy and were disease-free at follow-up.”

This is the EXACT same course of chemo drugs that Flo, the Intravenous Superhighway, is slowly dripping into my body for the next four days. :)  Go, Flo, GO!  Every three weeks, I will return for another 4 day stint for a total of 12 courses, to be completed in August.  Somewhere in between, I will be back in the hospital for a different course of chemo drugs that will specifically target the tumor on my spine.  I believe I will be hospitalized for two of these treatments.

At any rate, my entire treatment will take place in-hospital.  The cost of it has me curious. Fortunately, we have excellent insurance if you happen to be diagnosed with cancer.  Already, my insurance is saying, “Hey wow, what’s going on here?  Didn’t you just HAVE an MRI? Do you REALLLLLLY need another?”  LOL I know, it’s their job and trust me, I would rather not be stuck in a tube for an hour, concentrating on breathing instead of hyperventilating. ;)

But here I am, doing just what I’ve asked my Warrior Peeps not to do: using negativity. Allow me to put this to rest: no use worrying, the treatments must be done, we will find a way for the rest.

So let’s turn it around with this: my first treatment is going very well.  So far, so good. No side effects, other than being sleepy.  The end result will be LIFE.

For all of you following, sharing, praying, I love you. Keep the positivity Peeps! Much love to my you! :)

Just Born Marshmallow Peep

Just Born Marshmallow Peep





The Journey 2.14.13

14 02 2013

Rearview MirrorMousy little me proudly walked in late on my first date with Jay only to realize that he thought he had been stood up.  It was never my intention to hurt his feelings but I didn’t know yet that Jay did not have luck with the ladies. Which baffles me…

He was nearly 6’4″, slim, green eyes and light brown hair.  A kind, yet quirky, disposition, someone who made friends easily and who enjoyed making people laugh.  Yup, you guessed it, I hurt the man who would never hurt a fly.  Great.

Jay recovered pretty quickly once he saw me enter Clementine’s.  Later when he heard why I was late, he just laughed and accused me of playing hard to get.  Yep, that’s me, major game player! HA!

The restaurant hostess seated us at a table in the bar where we sat and talked until we realized the staff was trying to go home for the night.  We walked outside into the snowy March night.  Jay gave me his phone number on a piece of scrap paper and gave me a hug saying, “I always hug my friends”.  Awwww!  I thought that was sweet until the next moment when  a pang of disappointment hit me that he may only think of me as a friend.  Of course, I learned later that since I had called him with the intention of making new friends, he called me a friend that night.

I drove home to Kalamazoo at nearly 2am feeling calm, happy and serene.  And I knew, Jay was “The One”.





The Journey 1.31.13

31 01 2013

I used to think each person had a chance for one true love.  Now I know that’s not necessarily true.  A person may be lucky/blessed enough to have a shot at more than one.

Small towns are full of beautiful gems, historic buildings full of wonderful architecture and rich with the stories of the town life.  On our first date, Jay and I met at one such place, a local restaurant named Clementine’s.  This building was once the town bank.  Tin ceiling and beautiful carved wood everywhere, the bank’s vault door still present.  You can almost hear the townspeople as they go about their everyday banking.

Not sure if I mentioned this previously, but I was a bit on the mousy side back then.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that :)  I was no game player!  However, for some reason on this date, I decided to show up late.

I guess it was because I hated being the first to show up on a date.  It’s very awkward.  And call it old-fashioned but I think it IS a good thing to keep a man waiting sometimes ;)

Being that it was a weeknight, I spent some time primping in the office building restroom.  Taking my time, I reapplied makeup lost to the day and tried to make my hair look better.  It never seemed to look very good.  To me, anyways.

Finally, I was ready to meet Jay.  I was a good fifteen minutes late.  I was actually PROUD of myself for being late!  But when I walked into Clementine’s and saw Jay, that pride vanished in an instant.

Sitting on a barstool, one foot on a rung, slouching and looking down at the floor, I realized he thought he had been stood up.  My pride turned to sadness.

 





The Journey Continues

25 01 2013

Jay Patrick was his radio name.

I remember checking him out and thinking, “Hey, he’s not bad!” LOL  He was tall with light brown hair and soft, kind green eyes.

Jay was working that morning, which was unusual.  His normal shift was in the afternoons.  Unfortunately, the morning show host had suffered a heart attack and Jay had taken over hosting the Morning Show in his absence.

My interview went well and I left the studio to return to work.  A month later, I returned for another stint on the Morning Show.  As I was leaving, I heard someone in the Sound Room. “Hello, Lisa”.  There was news guy Jay Patrick, leaning back in his chair so he could see me.  I thought “Wow, he remembered my name!”  We shook hands and chatted for a few minutes.

On my way out, I stopped to chat with the receptionist and the radio show host, Annette and Dick.  Little did I know, both had encouraged Jay to ask me out.  Actually, the rotund radio host, Dick, had mused aloud about asking me out.  Thank goodness the next event took place! ;)

As I sat at my desk, a crazy stream of consciousness coursed through my brain….I could just invite him out for a drink.  As friends.  Women can be friends with men, right? Wait. Did I want just a friendship?  Does it matter? Good relationships start as friendships, anyway, right?  This is crazy.  I live in Kalamazoo, I don’t even know where he lives.  Well duh, you don’t know anything about him….yet! Ask him out!

Annette answered the phone when I called.  She seemed to have a little mischievous lilt to her voice when I asked to speak with Jay.

During the next few minutes, I fumbled and stumbled over my words like a complete moron.  I said something to the extent of “Hey, all of my friends graduated and moved away. I need to make new friends. Would you like to have a drink sometime?”

Instantly, my brain began the assault.  It screamed, “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY? THAT WAS PATHETIC!  EMBARRASSING!”  Sitting in my office, my cheeks burned bright red.  I could feel the heat in my ears! LOL But….

He said yes. :)








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