Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell to 2013

Dear 2013,

The TV is droning in the background with a "year in review" program.  How in the world did "selfie" make it into the dictionary this year?  Who decides that?!?  I guess we should be glad the word isn't "twerk."  Blech. I am finishing this year in the same way that I have spent much of the month of December:  in bed, propped up on pillows, waiting for the next round of medication.

I am also waiting for the clock to wind down the minutes until you are gone.  You've been unkind, 2013.  There's no other way to say it.  I will not shed tears at the stroke of midnight.

The Year of our Lord Two Thousand Thirteen has taken me on a wild goose chase as I continue to pursue care for the Monster.  I went from Texas to New York to Oklahoma, only to be sent back to Texas empty-handed.  Monster has grown, uninhibited, while doctors literally across the country seem to shrug their shoulders and wish me the best before passing me along to the next stop.

I am discouraged.  I am tired.  I am uncertain.

2013, you have sucked the fire out of me.  All of the bravado I can muster has fallen short when stacked up against you.  

Things that I have held on to for security or comfort have also been taken from me this year.  Important things, like my AbbyDog.  There's no question that it was time, but I would be lying if I said that I haven't missed her during this ongoing time of convaslescence.

Husband just got notice that when the ball drops tonight and 2013 expires, so does his job.  It's all about budgets and contracts and he's not the only one, but in no way does that calm my fear.  

My very identity--how I define myself, how I find my self-value--has been undermined this year.  For the first time ever, I have serious doubts about my mothering abilities as I spend more time being "sick" and less time being "Mom."  Of course, the "right" answer here is that my value is found in Christ, not as a mother or a wife or through any level of activity or accomplishment.   But the enemy of self-doubt is hard at work, and I feel it so strongly in my soul!

My natural inclination is to hide.  It's actually been easy to do this month as the wretch of radiation has almost dictated hibernation.  This way, I can nurse my wounds--and my fear--in peace.  The warrior in me is beat down.  You've busted her up, 2013.  I hope you're proud of yourself.

Before I go, though, I want you to know one thing:  You don't win.  You've tried hard, no question.  But tonight, while the clock ticks down, I have the sense to count my blessings.  Forefront among them:  I was there to welcome my nephew into the world this year.  I honestly did not think I would live long enough to hold that precious baby, and there is no way the joy that is knowing Truett can be stolen from me.  

There are others, of course.  My own 3 sons are healthy and growing well.  I am part of something much bigger than just me:  a family that loves and cares for one another in unbelievable ways, ways that so many other people just don't have.  I get to be Auntie to darling pieces of my own heart.  I have amazing friends who are committed to walk this path with me.  I am part of a dynamic church that supports, loves, and helps us.

So, 2013, take that.  I am tired of you.  I will not stay up tonight to even give you the satisfaction of  a proper send-off.  I'm so done with you.  Here's to a happier, healthier, all-around better 2014.

"Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, indeed He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.' "  Isaiah 35:3-4

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Digging Out

Six Days.

Six Days.

SIX DAYS!

Six days is how long it has been since we have had any kind of normal (cough, cough) in our household.  Six days ago, Old Man Winter caught DFW in his sights, and life as we know it came to a complete standstill. Here's what I've learned in the last almost-week:

Ice is pretty when it blankets your world and you can snuggle up by the fire with nowhere to go.
Ice is fun when school is cancelled for the first day.
Ice ceases to be pretty or fun when school keeps closing and cabin fever sets in.
If you live in a continual state of winter, 3 pairs of flannel pajamas is not enough.
A major ice storm is in Texas what a major heat wave is in New York.
You can only toss so many coats, jeans, gloves, scarves, hats, and socks in the dryer at one time.
Little boys do not freeze or tire easily.
You should clear the ice not only from your windshield, but also from the roof of your vehicle before you drive.

Our children's children will be regaling their children with stories of The Great Ice Storm of 2013.  How we didn't see our youngest for more than 24 hours because he went to a friend's house and stayed...and stayed...and stayed.  Or how we got what seemed to be the last loaf of bread in the city before store shelves were completely emptied by crazy frantic citizens...or how the freighbor girls, who hail from Michigan, shared their real live sled and showed our Texas boys a thing or two.

Finally--FINALLY!--this morning, everyone went back to work and school.  I love my family, but all of this quality time (and wet shoes tracking in leaves and mud) has pushed all of us a little closer than we want to be.  There is still plenty of ice around.  We live on the north/sunny side of our street and there are still several inches on our back patio!  Across the street, where there are more shadows than sun, dangerous icicles (seriously!) still hang from the rooftops and the sheet of white in the yards remains largely the same. Every night, what little bit has melted refreezes on the driveways and sidewalks.  Because it's still cold.  Yesterday we reached a whopping 37 degrees...heat wave!!!!  


Now, you might be wondering how a Texas girl passes the time when she is iced in.  Good question.  I'll tell you:  She warms up with a bit of radiation.  Oh, yes.  While the rest of the world is snuggled up drinking hot coca and playing board games, I (and my darling I'll-do-anything-for-you friend, Rachel), drove into Dallas to the hospital for radiation treatments.


Here's the deal on radiation:  I've never done it before.  I've never done it before because radiation is not a typical treatment for ovca patients.  In my case, the cancer has been too widespread to risk radiation in lieu of more traditional treatments.  Now, though, I've exhausted traditional.  We are all done with standard.  The choices are 1) Non-traditional, or 2) Nothing.  So, I am allowing myself to be radiated.  In exchange for making the trip to the hospital every. single. day., (You heard me.  Monday through Friday, for three weeks.  I get off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.) allowing strangers to use me for their own personal sketchbooks ("x" marks the spot!), and risking a slew of side effects (they were said to be no big deal.  Liars.), I might get some relief from the harsh, relentless symptoms of fast-growing Monster.  Did I make a deal with the devil?  Perhaps.  It has not been an easy go.  Of course, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.  Topping the list:  nausea, extreme fatigue, and fever-like chills and shivers.  Rounding out my bottom-of-the-barrel, my radiation oncologist had a medical emergency of his own and will be out for the remainder of the month.

Reeeaaalllyyy?!?  I only need him this month.

This morning I woke up feeling super-nauseous.  I have plenty of meds to meet all sorts of needs, but today not even prescription-strength anti-nausea was making dents.  I went ahead and went to radiation anyway, because I thought I could not feel much yuckier.

Bad call.  I found out I could feel worse, and I found it out while I was getting sick in a McDonald's parking lot close to Highway 75, with my deserves-better-than-me freighbor patting my back and looking on helplessly.  (I switched drivers yesterday.  Lucky Rachel.)

Damn cancer.

I hate this wretched disease.  If you piled all of my "dislikes" together--cold feet, wet blue jeans, empty toilet paper rolls, children with no manners, alarm clocks--it still could not amount to the level of hatred I have for cancer.

Susan graciously delivered me into my own driveway, although hers is about 10 feet away.  I managed to wiggle back in to my pjs and when Little Middle and Baby got off the bus, they found me on the couch in exactly the same position I was in when they went to school this morning.

I've had a few words to say to God about this new treatment, and they haven't all been nice.  Actually, hardly any of them have been nice!  I am so over it.

When I started writing this post this morning from my position on the sofa, I occasionally glanced up to look at this:


It's not a perfect tree, but it's ours.  There is something really peaceful about sitting by the Christmas tree, isn't there?  I yearn for that peace all the time.  It is a hard-fought battle every day.  "Let every heart prepare Him room....."  

Lord, please help me to make room for you.  Thank you for being my Friend and for being a safe place for me to go.  Please give me joy, especially in this season.  I want to be soft and open to You and to Your spirit.  I believe that you can heal, both inside and out.  Please let this be a season of healing and miracles.  I want to be ready to receive my King:  You.  Thank you for loving me and for your promises that are always true.  Amen.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insomniac Blogging: Twelfth Edition

Good morning.   4:34 a.m.  Yawn.

--I have never cooked a turkey all by myself.  I consider that to be an adult fail.

--Strong opinion alert!!!  I am not a fan of folks who put that crazy Rudolph the Reindeer costume on their car during the holiday season.  First, costumes are for Halloween, not Christmas.  Second, your car is not a reindeer.  It's a car.  It's just silly.  All those rein-cars sitting in the parking lot do not inspire Christmas cheer--they just make us roll our eyes heaven-ward.  Strong opinion rant over.


--We put our tree up and did all the decorating on Sunday afternoon.  I was working hard to get the ribbon on the tree "just right!", when I heard it...the unmistakable "Away In A Manger" tune from the Little People Nativity.  You know the one--you push the angel down on top of the stable, and she sings.  My cowboys are 8, 9, and 11 years old, and they will not hear of passing on "their" nativity scene that they have painfully outgrown.  I guess it's not the biggest thing I have to worry about.


--When I woke up, my immediate thought was:  "I don't have anything to put in the boys' lunches!"  Then I remembered what day it is.  It's Waffle Wednesday!!! Phew. (Yes, that's a real thing, and they LOVE it.)

--Every meteorologist in DFW is going nutso right now promoting the upcoming "Winter Weather Event."  It's December.  It's supposed to get cold.  This happens every. single. year.  Settle down, troops.  Settle down.  

--All I want for Christmas is to see Saving Mr. Banks.  Sixteen more days.

--I worked a shift at the book fair at the boys' elementary school.  Maybe I'm just viewing it through jaded adult lenses, but the book fair isn't what it used to be.  I remember volunteer moms spending weeks ahead of time working on decorations, and hyping it up to us kids.  It was magical!  Now, Scholastic decides on a theme, and packages everything you need for a successful book fair:  Book Fair In A Box.  Twice a year like clockwork, the boxes arrive, the kids come, the parents spend, and then everything is boxed back up and the Scholastic truck picks it up.

--While I was working, two classes came in:  one 4th grade class and one Kindergarten class.  All of the kids are paired off as "book buddies."  The big kids were so sweet as they helped their little friends write their "wish lists".  I saw one big, tough-looking 4th grader gently put his hand on his buddy's back to guide him through the crowds.  That touched my heart.

--We did get our hands on the highly-coveted brand new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  Little Middle is super-excited!

--When I was a kid, we also did Santa's Secret Shop.  It was awesome because I, as an eight-year-old, could buy Christmas gifts for my entire family for $4.00.  I remember feeling pretty good about that, and I always bought something for my brother (that was the spirit of the season at work in my little heart).  Do schools still do that?

--I feel sorry for people who work for the USPS.  They must walk around feeling unsettled all the time.

--I hate days when I have so many things to take care of that I don't get to be at home for any period of time.  I mean, I like my life and I don't sign up to do anything that I don't really want to be a part of.  Some days, though, stack up quickly because I underestimate.  That's how I get mountains of laundry like what we have going on right now.  Luckily, the Winter Weather Event is coming!!!  Maybe it will be a good excuse to be homebound.

--We do not have an Elf on the Shelf.  Honestly, I think that little Elf is sort of creepy, and I don't want it watching me all the time.  So it's bad enough that my kids believe (probably correctly) that we are the only family without our own elf.  Honestly, you over-achieving moms out there:  there is ZERO reason for you to make me feel worse by allowing your elf to take a "bath" in a bowl full of marshmallows.  Or allowing the elf to pull the laundry from the drawers and toss it onto the floor.  Or let the elf build a roller coaster out of toothpicks on the dining room table.  For real--there' already so much pressure on parents to make the holidays picture perfect.  If you MUST have an elf in your home, please tell your children to keep it a secret from their friends.  That way I don't have to hear about how WE don't have an elf who made chocolate milk last night and fed it to our dog!  Thanks a lot.

--My favorite boots are falling apart, and I find myself for the first time ever needing a shoe hospital.

--I love, love, LOVE being an Auntie.

--Four words:  The Cowboy Rides Away.  What would I not give to see George on his farewell tour?!?

--I have a nearly-neurotic fear that if I leave the Christmas lights on the tree on when I leave the house, then they will start a fire and the house will burn down.  It's a little ridiculous--even to the point that I was halfway to Target and I turned around and went home to unplug the lights.  But if the house burns down, well...that would be a BIG thing to have on my conscious.

--(Walking in to church on Sunday...)
Me:  Doesn't our church look so pretty with all the Christmas decorations?
Baby:  There's too much mistletoe in here, if you ask me.

--All three of my little cowboys have asked for a puppy for Christmas.  And they each want a different breed.  We still have Gus the Terrible, and that's all the dog --and more--that this mama can handle.

--In other Christmas list news, Baby wants an elf.  Not a creepy Elf on the Shelf, or even an Oompa Loompa. He wants a real elf.  As in, one who is trained and certified by Santa himself.  I asked him what he would do with a real elf, and he said, "He would do stuff for me, bring me a drink when I'm thirsty, and build me toys to play with."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monster Madness

I have been sitting on the counter in my mom's kitchen for the last little bit, popping cherry tomatoes into my mouth like they are the last morsels of food on the planet. That's because I ate next to nothing today. I couldn't eat anything because I was too busy being treated like a cancerous piece of crap. Wanna hear about it? I'm here in Houston, where it is actually cold, ya'll. Well, cold by Houston standards, anyway. I'm wearing a sweater. It's unheard of. I'm here because I had a crazy lineup of cancer appointments at MD Anderson. I was there from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. yesterday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today. It's been a long, grueling, unbelievable 48 hours. Yesterday was Test Day. I had blood work done. I did an echocardiogram, an EKG, x-rays, and last but not least, my favorite: The CT Scan. It went ok up until the end when the nurse was trying to start an IV for the CT contrast. She was not able to find a usable vein. She called a friend nurse, who found one, stuck a needle in me, and then watched the vein collapse. Nurse #3 came along, stuck me, failed, and stuck me again. Ow ow ow ow ow ow ouch!!!! After that, they gave up and sent me to the Infusion Therapy department, where I waited an HOUR for a member of "The IV Team" to save the day. Ridiculous. But Super-Craig easily placed the needle and got good blood flow. Once that was done, the test itself was far from enjoyable, but was manageable. This morning I put on my sweater and my tall black boots, and braced myself for the day. Mom and I got to MDA 40 minutes before my first scheduled appointment. I can't go into all the details here--you wouldn't believe it if I did--but it will suffice to tell you that I FINALLY saw a nurse practitioner at 2:30...more than 4 hours after my 10:10 appointment time. Unbelievable. I'm usually a pretty nice lady, but I wasn't feeling all that benevolent this afternoon. So much so, in fact, that I rounded out my day by filing a complaint in the Patient Advocacy department. MDA needs to get it together. The complaint came as a result of someone failing to do their job. We have been waiting for our insurance company to approve the clinical trial. Staff that I spoke with assured me that it would be taken care of by the time my appointment rolled around today. However, when I arrived at MDA today, insurance had approved only one of the two pills that make up the clinical trial. One without the other is useless. (Confidential to all you haters: This is not a political thing, an Obamacare thing, a Democrat thing, or whatever else you want to blame it on. It's just a stupid money thing.) An appeal has been filed, but if Aetna doesn't come to their senses, then the clinical trial is out. I also discovered that under clinical trial rules, if insurance doesn't come through and pay, then all of the tests that I did yesterday will be for nothing. They are only good for a short period of time. After that time is up, I will have to go back and redo every blood draw, heart check, and The Scan. Grrrr. One of the appointments that I had today was with a radiologic oncologist. (Try saying that three times fast!) Interestingly, this is the first appointment I've had with a radiologic onc. Ever. It has never been a viable treatment option--until now. The radiation intern showed unmatched kindness as he explained how it works, and more importantly, why I need it. Monster is growing...really, really fast and really, really big. Dr. Brown displayed the images from yesterday's CT scan. He patiently explained what I was looking at on each frame. What I saw was astonishing, and then was confirmed by the paper report from the radiologist. That report tells of "a large pelvic mass", measuring nearly 10 centimeters at its widest point. The mass, aka "Monster", is tangled up, wrapped around, and filling up every nook and cranny in my lower abdomen. He is even touching my tailbone! Additionally, there are two Monster babies in my lungs--one on the right, and one on the left. With such exponential increases in growth, radiation would be a palliative care option for me. There is some hope that it might help to control the symptoms that Monster has brought along. The always-amazing Nurse Allyson gave me a name of a doctor who works with Dr. F. I'm banking on him agreeing to do the radiation so I can be close to home. Two days before Thanksgiving, and this bombshell was dropped in my lap. It's not a surprise, per se, but there's something about sticking a number on it... 10 centimeters is a big enough space to birth a baby. 10 centimeters is approximately the diameter of a bagel. 10 centimeters roughly measures an average-size man's palm (crosswise). 10 centimeters is the diameter of a wiffle ball. Those are sobering measurements. While I was lying on the table listening to the machine instruct me on when to breathe, I closed my eyes tight. I did not really care to see the fake ceiling tiles that I suppose are meant to be calming. They had lovely cherry blossoms on them. In my mind, cherry blossoms don't belong in the fifth circle of hell. I chose instead to keep my eyes closed and concentrate on Truth. Snippets of Scripture played through my mind like an old recording: "You are precious in my sight...I will not leave you or forsake you...wherever you go, I am there...when you go through the fire, the flames will not touch you...I know the plans I have for you...I will strengthen you and help you...My yoke is easy and my burden is light...I will lift my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help." Those same pieces of Truth ran through my head as I looked at the pictures of Monster. His ugliness, his scariness stared back at me through the screen and made my heart beat faster. Even the doctor said, "He is angry." But I know this: Whether Monster is the size of a bagel or a beach ball, my God is bigger. My God is stronger. My God will not leave me to do this by myself. Every day brings me a little bit closer to the reality of Psalm 23: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." I don't have to be afraid. Words like "palliative" don't exactly conjure up warm fuzzies, but I know that this hurting is for such a short time...and what waits for me is a forever that is so much more beautiful than even the prettiest cherry blossoms. He is worthy, friends. Oh, He is worthy. This Thanksgiving season, when on the surface it may look so dark, I will still be grateful. He has given me so much--SO MUCH--that I don't deserve. Jesus owes me nothing, yet He gave everything. Me and my wiffle ball-sized Monster will worship and give thanks. He is good all the time. THAT is TRUTH. P.S. My grandparents love me a lot. Like, a bushel and a peck. At age 38, that still amazes me, and is one of the most precious things I know in this life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Dear Baby,

It's Monday, it's Veteran's Day, and most importantly, it's YOUR day!  I woke you up this morning with a special birthday song, made better with my own lyrics, of course.    You were smiling before you ever opened your eyes!  And when you did finally bat your handsome eyelashes, you said, "My armpit itches."  Good morning, birthday boy!

Let's talk about that smiling thing.  So often I look at you and think of Buddy the Elf saying, "I like smiling.  Smiling's my favorite!"  You are the most smiley creature I have ever laid eyes on.  You smile in the mornings, you smile when you jump off the bus in the afternoons, you smile at bedtime.  I swear, happiness just seems to puff up around you wherever you are!  I don't understand it, but it is my single favorite thing about you.  You don't even know how many times you have changed my mood or calmed my soul with your inescapable cheerfulness.  You are one happy Baby boy!!!

You wanna know what else you are?  Roly poly, Tigger-bouncy, jumpy-jump bundle of boy.  You are almost never still.  Every morning when I come in to wake you up for school, you are wrapped tight--in a corner of your sheet.  All other blankets have fallen on the floor during the night because you move around so much in your sleep.  Your favorite move?  Somersault.  You can somersault with the best of 'em, even across the whole house.  On almost any given evening, while I am cooking dinner, I can glance outside and see you bouncing away on the trampoline.

You have a ton of friends, so you have plenty of social activity going on.  You go to more birthday parties than any kid I know!  Occasionally, though, you will turn down a playdate invitation just so you can stay at home with us.  You are content to simply be.  I think that's a great way for a person to be.  In fact, I wish I could be more like that.  Who would have thought that I would be learning things from my youngest son?

In between all your bouncing and your somersaulting, you make us laugh.  Like that day at camp last summer when the weather was particularly cool and very rainy.  You were so frustrated because you couldn't go to your favorite recreation activity.  You looked at the sky and said, "WHY does God have to cry so much at camp?!?!?"  I almost fell in a puddle laughing.  Or the morning not too long ago when I announced at breakfast that I would be washing the sheets and going to the grocery store that day.  You never missed a beat:  "Hmmmm.  You are not lucky, Mommy."  And last week, when I asked you about your homework, you sighed a great big sigh and said, "It's the same thing everyyyyy singllllle dayyyyyyy."  I'm sorry (sort of) that I laughed at you.  One more for good measure:  you recently had an assignment where you had to draw a picture of your favorite animal.  You brought it home, and I was quite surprised to find a billy goat on one side and a yak on the other.  Or, a "yack", as you labeled it.  :)

One of the things that hurts my heart for you is that you are still dealing with that blasted speech impediment.  After years of waiting, the school district finally agreed that you needed extra attention.  You started going to see the speech therapist at school at the end of 1st grade, and I know you hate it.  I know that because we had one of those everything-stands-still conversations about it.  You asked me, with tears streaming down your cheeks, why you talk different than other kids.  Why you try, but you can't make the right sounds.  I swear I could hear my heart breaking as I swiped at my own tears.  No mom ever wants to watch her child hurt, and if there were any kind of a magic fix, I would do it in a second for you.  Keep working, baby.  It will come.

Daddy and I have had the pleasure of teaching your 2nd grade Sunday School class.  There's not much that is more exciting to me than watching you learn about the Bible and the truths that God put there for us.  When we first started back in August, I was really surprised to find that you can quite easily navigate through the Bible.  We are building on that skill, and I pray often that you will find verses and hear stories that touch your heart.  You have great ideas about Jesus and the way that He wants us to live and treat other people.  I love listening to you.  He made you incredibly special, Baby boy.

I hope you are always happy.  Even as I write this, you are following my directions to finish your homework.  (Who gives a kid homework on his birthday, anyway?)  You just passed me with your homework folder singing, "I get to do my math homework!  I get to do my math homework!  And it's my birthday!"  May you always carry that same enthusiasm and zest for math homework--or whatever else your precious life may bring.  Our God is so good, Baby.  I know that life won't always be joyful, and you won't always get what you want.  But the God who made you with such meticulous care certainly has good things in store for you.  Your very existence is a testament to Him!  On the night you were born, I held you in my arms and counted ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes.  I clearly remember how you were so very calm.  That was the moment that I KNEW the most clear definition of grace:  God giving you something that you don't deserve.  God gave me you.  I certainly did not deserve you, and I still don't.  But every morning when I pick up your covers off the floor and untangle you, I get my first glimpse of grace for the day.  What an amazing gift you are, sweet son!  An amazing gift.  And I am so incredibly thankful.

Happy, happy birthday, Baby of mine.

Love,
Mommy


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Something

On Monday afternoon, it was raining in Big D.  A promised cold front had pushed through (finally!) and brought with it a brisk wind and much-needed rain.  It was the perfect afternoon to snuggle up with a warm cup of coffee--pumpkin spice creamer included--and watch the Disney Channel with the cowboys.  Ahhhhh.

Except.....that's not what I was doing on Monday afternoon.  I was speeding across Dallas in the cold rain, trying to beat the rush-hour buildup.  My hair was a frizzy mess, my makeup was smudged, and my sweater was hanging halfway off because I couldn't decide if I was hot or cold.  I was a hot mess, on my way to the airport to catch a plane to Houston.

After weeks of trying, I was finally able to score an appointment at MD Anderson.  My regular MDA doctor rejected my request to see her, by flat out telling me that she had nothing to offer.  Instead, I was referred over to the Center for Targeted Therapy.  The doctor there, Dr. W, was one of those people who makes you feel dumb just by being in the same room with you.  Not because she was arrogant or talked down to me; she was just SO SMART!  It was almost like she was speaking another language, which I had to struggle to follow.  Dr. W also had two assistants:  Rosa and Roosevelt.  I think that Roosevelt is an awesome name.  (Hey, Brother and his Other!  Take note!  Just in case you want to change your mind....)  

So, the culmination of my meeting with Dr. W, Rosa, and Roosevelt resulted in an agreement to do two different things:

1)  Molecular mapping.  Samples of my tissue will be analyzed at the molecular level.  Through this analysis, they should be able to determine the exact abnormalities/defects that cause cells in my body to be "bad" cancerous cells.  With that information, they may be able to match me to a specific drug that would not normally fall within my standard of care.  For instance, I might have the same abnormalities as another group of patients with liver cancer.  I would then be able to be treated with medications for liver cancer.  Weird, but interesting.

2)  Clinical trial.  The molecular profiling will take a while--at least a few months.  The trial in question is an "in the meantime" solution--completely different from the Oklahoma fiasco trial.  This clinical trial involves 2 drugs, both of which have already been approved by the FDA.  One drug has been used for a long time with diabetes patients, the other has been used to treat breast cancer.  The trial is testing their efficacy when they are given in combination.  Both drugs are given orally.

Now, a few things you should know about this clinical trial:  The temptation to dance a jig is pretty huge.  Just the fact that she did not dismiss me but instead had some ideas is a cause for celebration!  But I need to step back and gather my thoughts before I jump off the cliff of crazy.  The truth is that these medications, even if successful, are not designed to be a cure.  They are meant to, at best, slow the growth of those wretched bad cells, thereby buying me some more time until, hopefully, there IS a cure.  (Worst case scenario, I'll endure funky side effects, but maybe I won't get diabetes or breast cancer.)

Knowing that truth reminds me of the sobering fact that cancer is what I have.  Unless God changes his mind or intervenes, I will have cancer until I die.  It may not always be as big, or as painful, but modern medicine tells me that this is my lot in life.  Many have prayed for my healing.  And it may still be done, but it has become pretty clear to my medical team (and to myself) that this Monster intends to stay.  

I am not publicly declaring my "I am thankful" list this month, but I do have one.  While the rest of the world is using social media to advertise what they are thankful for, I am keeping mine private.  But on Tuesday afternoon, when my plane landed safely on the runway in Dallas, and I knew I would soon be home with my babies, there was no question about it.  I am thankful for something.  Something to do.  Something to take.  Something to aid in my fight.  Something instead of nothing.

I don't claim to know God's plan.  I don't understand why he chooses to withhold physical healing.  I don't like my situation, and there are a lot of days when I don't say, "Your will, not mine."  And still...He loves me with a depth that I can not comprehend.  He values me to a point that I can not understand.  He is faithful to provide for me--whether that be the miraculous healing, or a small "something", He is good.

P.S.  This is for sale in the Dallas airport, as if the world needed reminding.  Poor taste, Dallas. Seriously.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Insomniac Blogging #11

--Out of all of the celebrations we have throughout the year, Halloween is my least favorite (except for Labor Day).  It is so much WORK for us moms, and a money drain!!!  And at the end, we have tons of candy that the kids fight over.  Then I have to hide it, and they get grumpy with me.

--There are some things about Halloween that I do like, though.  One of them is this guy in his costume:


Can you see it?  He's a Smartie Pants!

--Goliath is too big/old to go trick-or-treating this year.  I thought it would be a fight, but thankfully I was wrong.  He is going to sit in our front yard and pass out candy while his brothers trick-or-treat around the neighborhood.  Then the candy is all going in to one big family pot, which I will have to hide.  It's the only way to avoid the crazy crash and burn that I know will happen.

--We have an awesome neighborhood for trick-or-treating.  One family rents a cotton candy machine, and makes it right there in their driveway.  Kids line up to wait for it!  Another family makes homemade root beer and hands out samples to all the trick-or-treaters.  Another family shows Halloween movies (i.e. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) on their garage door and does a mini-potluck.

--I attended fall teacher conferences last week for both of my little boys.  There was nothing really that they wanted to say.  Both boys are doing great, both socially and academically.  I'm a proud mom.

--Something I don't fully understand=Daylight Savings Time.

--Dear person who smashed the window out in Hubby's pick-up truck:  Thank you so much for leaving his Bible safely on the seat.  I mean, you were such a gentleman.  The Bible hardly had any glass on it, it having been preserved perfectly.  Enjoy your new laptop and the other equipment.  Next time you steal, might I suggest you grab the Bible with your other loot.  It would be beneficial for you to do a little light reading.

--Baby:  What are you cooking?
Me:  Blueberry muffins.
Baby:  Oh.  What's in them?

--I mentioned that my local Kroger is remodeling.  A few shopping trips left me frustrated, as they moved the coffee to the organic section and put the Gatorade on an aisle separate from the other drinks.  One afternoon, I needed  just a few items for the chili I was making for dinner, so I ran into a different Kroger.  Wouldn't you know that they also remodeling? I couldn't find anything.

--It is a bothersome problem that I and O are next to each other on the keyboard. 

--On a whim, I bought a can of potato sticks for the cowboys.  Remember those?  I think when I was a kid we called them shoestring potatoes. The boys l-o-v-e them!  So much so, that they wanted to sprinkle them in their soup last night at dinner.  It's weird that I've never thought to buy them before.

--Middle school.  Oh, middle school.  There is so much I could say about this.  I did the math, and not counting this year, our family only has 6 more long  exciting years of middle school.  (It helps to double up on kids.)   Ugh.

--Goliath has been going to school 1 1/2 hours early for the last week for archery practice.  Apparently, his school has a really good archery team.  Like, really good.  And he really wants to be on it.  But this practice before the sun comes up?  That's for the birds.

--I took Goliath to see a marching band competition over the weekend.  We had a great time being together, and my inner band nerd was happy, happy, happy.

--Speaking of happy, happy, happy...like millions of other American families, we are Duck Dynasty fans.  Hubby has started complaining recently about the show, saying that there's no way that it could be "reality" television.  I say that their reality is a lot better than ours, so let's shut up and tune in.

--If we were all genuine and honest about our lives and the struggles we face, wouldn't it be a much more meaningful life?

--My kids broke my OtterBox phone case.  That's talent.

--Reese the Niece can now clearly say "Auntie!"

--Just a few more weeks until Nephew Truett arrives!  The doctor is estimating that he already weighs 7 pounds...I am guessing that he will be big, crazy-smart, and perfect.  Come on, Truett!

--When I was in college, I was convinced that I had narcolepsy.  Sit me in a desk, put a professor in front of me, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....The condition has recently resurfaced, only now, it can happen anytime, anywhere.  If you're talking to me and I suddenly fall asleep, don't be alarmed.  Just cover me up and leave me alone.  At 2:45 my phone alarm will go off so I will at least be awake when the boys get home.

--I think that my iPhone is haunted.  It is mysteriously changing ring tones, playing tunes by itself, and cutting off calls before they are over.  Apple has taken over the world.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Blog for Buck

Dear Buck,

Today I am missing your birthday party.  A lot of our family is gathered there with you, and I am here.  I hope you know that I am so sad that I can't be there to celebrate with you.  And this is a birthday that deserves to be celebrated!  90 is pretty amazing, after all.

For 90 years you've made the world a better place just by being you.  For 38 years you've made me a better person by being my grandfather.  Lots of little girls have grandfathers who love them, but I had YOU.  

They tell me that when I was born, you made a "It's A Girl" sign with my name so that everyone at work could share your excitement.

You let me wear your pajamas when I spent the night at your house.  Yes, I had my own, but it was so much more fun to borrow your striped, button-down pjs.  You would roll up the sleeves and the pant legs to make them "fit."

You gave me my first "driving" lessons on the old John Deere tractor.  I remember the thrill of moving from turtle speed to rabbit!  I thought I was so wonderfully grown-up...and you never would have let me think anything else.

You traveled with me.  Those trips to Lake Livingston and Arkansas were childhood highlights!  You and Grandmama introduced us to The Oak Ridge Boys.  I remember how I felt like I had beat the system when I stood with one foot in Texas and the other in Arkansas.  And you know that I can't think about going to the lake without recalling how I went running to you for help when Phil's raft became untethered from the dock.  You were set on finishing your Oatmeal Creme Pie before moseying down to the water to save my brother.  Ha!

You took me to work with you, giving me hundreds of hours of fun and thousands of delightful memories.  You allowed us access to the activities building where we played pool and foosball.  Phil and I loved to roller skate, but we loved it so much more when you skated with us!  When we were hot and sweaty, you opened up the soda machine and gave us Mr. Pibb.  You took us in to the sanctuary where I played the organ and Phil preached from the pulpit (which he could barely reach).  

You taught me to love good food.  I don't know why you let me drink pickle juice or mix mashed potatoes in my Blue Bell...oh, I DO know:  I wanted to! Your fried catfish and the infamous Buck Burger are forever unmatched in yumminess and love.

You drove up to my middle school in that old church van to pick up Caroline and me.  How embarrassing! You came to see me off to my Prom. You were there for my high school graduation. I often found "a little extra" in my mailbox when I was a poor college student at HSU.

You bought my wedding dress.  There couldn't have been a sweeter gift.

You loved Abby Dog with me from the time she was a puppy.  She made countless trips to your house with me, and she just knew that you would take her for a fun walk.  She was always right.

Each of my sons met you when they were just a few weeks old.  Even as infants, they were a captive audience for Buck.  That has not changed as they have grown.  You are a hero to your great-grandsons, as you are to all of us.  They are fascinated by your war stories, and they know you can be counted on for a pocketful of Tootsie Rolls.

Some of these memories are funny; all of them are good.  You've given me a lifetime of happiness and love.  But I think that the greatest gifts you've given me are not things you have done, but it is who you are.  You are calm and you are gentle.  You are a hard worker, and sometimes you are stubborn (remember when there was the huge flood and you refused to leave with everyone else?).  You love Jesus, and you are committed to His church.  You are quiet and peaceful.  You have a great sense of humor, and you make people laugh.  You are love.  That's the thing: I have never doubted for even one second that you love me.  You make me feel special, like nothing matters more to you than being with me.  I wish everyone could have that feeling at least once.

I want you to know today that you are so very important to me.  I am proud of the man you are, and I am enormously proud that you are my grandfather.  I am thankful that my sons have a relationship with you and that they get to make their own memories with Buck, just like their mom did.  I appreciate the investment you have made in me.  I know that I would not be the same person without your influence on my life.  I love you very, very much.  No matter where I am, my heart is there with you.

Happy 90th Birthday, Buck!

Love,
Allyson


Friday, October 11, 2013

Insomniac Blogging: Tenth Edition

*You know that feeling you get when you work really hard to make your husband's favorite cookies and then the dog helps himself?  Me too.

*The comma key fell off of my keyboard on my laptop.  It is gonna be a problem for sure:  
Dear Hubby Could you please stop by the store after work?  We need milk bread bananas soup cereal coffee mayonnaise pepper waffles chips and ice cream.  

*Goliath is having an adventure today!  Later this morning he is flying to Houston for a fun weekend with Poppy and Nana...all by himself.  This is a first for our family, and a BIG deal for my boy who might be a little afraid of airplanes.

*My family has all sorts of fun things planned for Goliath.  First on the list: Nephew & Nana camp at Uncle Phil's.  Goliath and Uncle Phil are going to cook a special dinner together.  

*Speaking of my brother, he is going to be a daddy very soon.  My nephew, Truett Neal, is growing perfectly and running out of room in his mommy's tummy!  Come on, Truett!

*Hubby's sister is also expecting her first baby.  I love being an Auntie!!!

*Little Middle is now taking jiu jitsu classes with Goliath.  We have been surprised to find that he really enjoys it!  I'm thinking that it feels good to him to be able to punch and wrestle someone without getting in trouble.

*I am simply stunned that our federal government shut down, and can't manage to pull it together to resume operations.  The USA looks terrible on the world stage right now...its embarrassing.  And, every time I think about all those hard-working government employees who had their paychecks yanked away from them, it makes my blood boil.  And I won't even go into the slap in the face that this is to our military servants and their families.  The greatest country in the world isn't that great these days.  

*George H.W. Bush is getting more adorable in his old age.  There's something about his wheelchair and his outrageous colored socks that makes me smile.

*Goliath has started bringing his euphonium home to practice each day.  Huh.  It might be a long and noisy year.

*This is one of my favorite commercials lately:


*Baby:  "Mommy, will you  help me get a six-pack?"
Me:  "What?!?!?"
Baby:  "I want a six-pack."
Me:  "Baby, do you know what a six-pack is?"
Baby:  "Yes.  It's when you have really strong muscles in your belly button."
This kid cracks me up.  And I'm so thankful he wasn't actually asking me to take him to the liquor store.

*Little Middle had to leave his iPad at school yesterday because of some technical glitch that prevents all of the safety settings from operating correctly.  This is a real bummer for him because it's a 4-day weekend.  

*I almost never go to Wal-Mart anymore.  I typically shop for groceries at The Kroger, and anything else we need is a good reason for a Target trip.  But yesterday, I stopped at WM to pick up a few things for Goliath's trip and some food items.  When I got home I realized that I was missing a bag and I had to go back.   Of course, they couldn't find my missing bag, so I had to retrace my steps and pull everything off the shelves again.  I am affirmed in my decision to NOT shop at Wal-Mart.

*My usual Kroger is undergoing a major remodeling project.  I'm certain that it will be lovely when its finished, but right now I can't find anything.  They moved the coffee into the health food section and the cereal is next to the canned vegetables.  Huh?

*The 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination is coming up next month.  There's an app for that, courtesy of the local NBC station.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that, but it seems disrespectful and unnecessary.

*Goliath's middle school sent home information about the upcoming Middle School Parent University event.  This is a repeat of the one I attended back in May.  I will not be attending this round of MSPU--or any others, EVER.  It only takes one try to freak me out.

*I don't understand the zombie trend.

*Halloween is 3 weeks away, and I have done zero work on costumes for the cowboys.  Maybe they will dress up as zombies.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

C is for Cancer

It cracks me up when I go to a medical office and I have to do the assessment with the nurse.  They're all basically the same:  current complaint, history, vitals, and then she will ask, "Do you have any other conditions that we should be aware of?" My answer:  "Nope.  Aside from the pesky cancer, I am perfectly healthy."

It's an answer that came in handy on Sunday  morning when I found myself in the emergency room.  I started feeling more cancer-y (yes, I just created a new adjective) than usual late last week.  Friday afternoon was a rapid decline of stomach-related symptoms and pain that refused to be controlled with meds, even heavy duty prescriptions.  I had more of the same on Saturday, growing progressively weaker and dehydrated.  By 8 a.m. on Sunday I knew that I had to get help.  We called ahead to Dr. F's office and Hubby drove me to the ER.

I have only been in the ER once before, on the day that Monster moved in and set up shop.  That was six years ago.  It hasn't changed much.  Even though we had called my doctor ahead of time, I am an established patient at the hospital, AND I was miserable, it took more than two hours to get past triage, and I didn't see an actual doctor until I had been there for seven hours.  In spite of feeling terrible, though, the wait gave me plenty of time for people watching.  One quartet was particularly interesting.  The gentleman who turned out to be the patient (it took me a while to figure that out!) was dressed in a heavy camouflage hunting coat.  Now, we had a cold front come through DFW, but this coat was crazy.   It was the I-am-going-out-in-a-snowstorm-to-kill-a-wild-animal coat, not a there's-finally-a-chill-in-the-air jacket. Coat Man was accompanied by an entourage of characters who appeared to be family members...maybe his mother and siblings?  Mama was probably so distressed about her sick son that she rushed out without her bra.  It was frighteningly absent beneath her straight-from-the-junior-section Tinkerbell t-shirt.  Coat Man's brother might have been equally distracted, because he forgot to pull his pants all the way up.  He also never removed his sunglasses.  For hours.  Coat Man's sister won the prize, though, because she forgot to get dressed AT  ALL.  She seemingly fell out of bed and straight into the car that brought her brother to the hospital.  Had I been brave enough, I might have given her this nugget of advice:  You might receive better service in this fine health care establishment if you wear undergarments with your paper-thin white t-shirt, don pants that are NOT decorated with flannel Cookie Monsters, and leave your bathrobe with holes in the elbows at home.  Oh, and please just try to last longer than 5 minutes before you go outside for another smoke.  Good grief.

I finally got called back into a tiny room.  I had x-rays done, blood taken, and got fluids going.  The sweet nurse gave me injections of pain and anti-nausea meds.  After the second round, I felt relief.  FINALLY.  Turns out that I have a couple of nasty infections.  Monster welcomed the visiting germs...he probably offered them lemonade and asked them to stay a while.  I walked out of the ER with hefty meds to add to my collection and directions to call my doctor during regular business hours if I needed anything else.  

Two days later, I am still feeling blah (but better than Sunday!).  Monster and his buddies seem to have their seat belts fastened in their easy chairs in there.  Lemonade, anyone?

As is my practice, I have been trying to find the proverbial silver lining.  First, it was a weekend.  As much as I hate it, Hubby was able to step up for full-time Cowboy Duty so I could rest.  Second, there is nothing like a crisis to bring the best out in the best people.  I've said it so many times, and I will say it again:  We have been blessed with some amazing people.  They continually stand with us, behind us, and around us--encircling my guys and me with incredible love.  This is the body of Christ as it should be...Jesus with skin on.   

Finally, and I know this sounds strange, but this weekend was useful as a practice run.  Dr. F expects that Monster will culminate his stay by causing obstruction of some vital organs/functions.  When that happens--and it is WHEN, not IF--it will be a true, life-threatening emergency.  We have a plan of action ready for that occurrence, which begins with me getting to the MCD ER as quickly as possible.  Now we know a little more of what to expect, and that is not a bad thing.

C is for cancer.  C is also for Cookie Monster and coat and crazy and cry...and cowboys.  I despise this disease that I sometimes say is ruining my life.  But there are times when I think of all the things I have seen and done and learned because of cancer that I would never have encountered otherwise.  And I have just enough sense in my little head to be thankful.

P.S.  Highlight of the long, sick weekend:  Lengthy FaceTime with Reese the Niece.  She showed me her puppy dogs, she took me outside, and she read me her favorite books.  The Princess was astonished that Auntie knew 5 Little Monkeys and could do the hand motions with her.  Our favorite part, of course, was when "one fell off and bumped his head!"  She'd bump her head, I'd bump my head, and then we would laugh at each other.  I am so totally in love with that little girl!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Oklahoma (Not) Okay

I have just returned from a whirlwind 27-hour road trip to Oklahoma City.  I am sitting in my quiet-for-now house, absorbing the familiar surroundings and a little bit wishing I had never left in the first place.

I left Texas, my Texas yesterday morning with my mom.  Can I just take a minute and tell you how great my mom is?  She holds down a full-time job in which she pours herself into other people.  But...she is Mom and Nana first.  We all know it.  She insists on attending each doctor visit, regardless of time, location, or convenience.  She has traveled literally across the country with me on the search for a cure, and she is my #1 cheerleader.  She has lived in my home, taken care of my family, and stepped in for me when I simply could not do for myself.  She created an Allyson playlist just for this trip with my favorite tunes, and we listened to it going and coming.  There is no one who gives more, expects less, or has a bigger heart.  I love you, Mom.

Back to the story....Mom and I drove the 3 hours to OKC and made it there with a little time to spare.  We checked in to our hotel and I managed to get in a quick nap before we were in the car again headed for the OU Medical district.  I have to say this for Oklahoma:  The CT scan I did there was the easiest, most pleasant (if such a thing can be pleasant) radiology experience that I have had.  The staff was efficient and kind, AND, instead of the terrible barium drink, they only asked me to drink a regular bottle of water before the test.  It made for a much, much more comfortable exam.  I was in and out of there in record time.  I didn't leave empty-handed, either!  The sweet nurse loaded me down with a fresh bottle of water, a granola bar (to make up for not eating for 6+ hours), and a thank you card.  Texas, take note! There IS a better way!

We had been back in our hotel room for just a few minutes when my phone rang.  It was the research nurse calling with results.  The scan had disqualified me from the clinical trial.  Just like that, I'm out.  Yes, there is cancer in there.  But instead of being one (or more) large masses, there is what is known as "papillary smattering."  It means that there are lots of small pieces of cancer just...everywhere.  Monster is having a block party.

I couldn't help it.  I cried.  I have found that the longer the fight wears on, the less I tend to cry.  I suppose I'm used to it.  But never before have I wanted for the cancer to show up bigger or plainer on a scan...and the one time I need it to, it does THIS?!?  The news was more than my heart could bear.

We spent a long and noisy night in OK, thanks to a rambunctious group of retirees who stopped in during their bus tour  (Tour of what?  I am still wondering.) and the truck stop next door to our hotel.  Neither of us was sad to pack up and check out.  On our way out of town, we stopped back in at the medical building so I could retrieve the CT disc and copies of the report.  The research nurse met me in the lobby and provided this tidbit of encouragement:  There will be a site for the MEK162 study opening in several months closer to my home.  By that time, perhaps my cancer will have grown to meet the criteria size.  

Yes, and perhaps the farmer and the cowman should be friends.

I did not cry when I finally saw the Red River in the rearview mirror.  I would sum up my visit to Oklahoma by borrowing the words of a friend I once traveled with:  "This state is a complete disaster."  (**No offense, of course, to my friends with OK ties.  You can still feel free to eat your fried pies, cheer for your football team, and house your law firms inside your churches.)


So what now?  Good question.  Before I even left Oklahoma, I called Dr. F's office.  He again offered to set up chemotherapy, just to give me something to try.  I again declined, noting that if I have any more chemo--no matter where or what--I will have zero chance of EVER getting into the MEK162 trial, as I have already maxed out what they allow in that area.  Not to mention that any chemotherapy that is available to me as a "standard of care" I have already taken and found no success.  He was not surprised.  Dr. F suggested that I might try calling MD Anderson again, essentially starting over there with another doctor.  MDA has clinical trials that are exclusive to their organization.  For that reason, I will take his advice.

When Goliath was little, he loved to play hide-and-seek.  I would hide, usually with a baby brother on my hip and Abby Dog following closely, and he would look for me.  Some days I would deviate from the usual hiding places--in the shower, behind the laundry room door, underneath a blanket in the closet--and he would have to work harder to find me.  If it was taking too long to find me, he would just stop looking.  At age 3, he didn't have the courtesy to call out and let me know he was done...he just quit.  It was too hard, it was taking too long, he couldn't find what he was looking for.  (Would have been nice to know on that day I hid in the dirty laundry hamper.  I couldn't stand up straight for two days!)

I feel like that little Goliath now.  I am so frustrated!  The search has gone on for a really long time.  I just want to wave the white flag of surrender and be done.  I want to get back to what I want to do and forget what I have to do.  

This week's disappointment has brought back the old question that has nagged for such a long while:  What does God want?  I rarely do the "why me?" thing; I tend to think instead "why NOT me?"  I know that there is nothing about me that is better or more deserving than anyone else.  But why the ongoing suffering?  "Suffering" is a heavy word, but there is not a better one to describe the physical pain I have, but also the emotional anguish that I carry--and others share.  Sometimes I think that this would be so different if I had never married the man I love....or if we had not had children....or if my "Original Five" weren't so close....or if....
I were alone.
I HATE knowing that I am causing pain for others.  If I could walk away........

I would get exactly nowhere.  Cancer would still be there, suffering would follow me.  It is hard to follow God when you don't understand Him, isn't it?  It's hard to know what to do when you feel forgotten.  It is hard to trust when you feel let down.  

"He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  Micah 6:8

Lord, help me to do what is good.  I want to walk with you, and I need your strength in these difficult days.  I don't understand cancer, I don't like it, and I would love it if you would erase it completely from my body.  But I know that you have a plan for me and I believe that it is good.  Please help me to trust you.  Show me where to go and what to do next, and then lead the way!....because I will follow you wherever you go.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Insomniac Blogging: Ninth Edition

Sleep, oh sleep,,,where for art thou, oh sleep?

*First things first:  I hated sixth grade math in 1987, and I still do.  Decimals are my nemesis..  I desperately want to tell Goliath that he will never actually use this skill in real life, but I realize that might be overstepping my bounds with the math teacher. You and and I know the truth.

*As long as I'm on a school soapbox, let me just throw this out there:  Those reading logs?  Tiresome..Seriously.

*I turned on the lights in the kitchen early last week and nearly stepped on a gecko. Ewwwwww.  I immediately took refuge on the top of a chair and summoned Little Middle to save my life.  Turns out the beady-eyed little guy was already dead.

*I love the beginning of school.  LOVE!  There is something so satisfying about buying a fresh box of crayons and a notebook with crisp white pages, just waiting to be filled.

*I wish I was still teaching.

 *Our school district not only acknowledges that technology is the way the world is going; they embrace it  wholeheartedly and are encouraging students to do the same. Within a few years, every student in the district will have an iPad.  The iPads will be distributed just like textbooks.  Students are expected to use their iPad for educational purposes, both in and outside of school.  4th graders are in the first wave of iPad deployment...Little Middle is beyond excited!  All we hear from him is "When I get my iPad, I will..." and "Can I download _____________ game on my new iPad?" and "My teacher said I don't have to share my iPad with my brothers!".  For the love of all things Apple--hurry up, iPad day!       

*My sons'  teachers spend more time with them than I do.  Their paychecks should reflect that, don't you think?  I don't understand WHY we pay a guy millions of dollars to catch a football, but beginning teachers make somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000 (if even that much).  CRAZY.

*I also do not understand a world where Kris Jenner manages to get her own  talk show.  What does she possibly have to talk about?!?

*I saw a nun driving a F150 pickup truck one morning as I was taking the little boys to school. 

*In church during the sermon, Baby leaned over and whispered in my ear, "What is a belly button for?"

*I watched the new show Uncle Grandpa with the boys on the Cartoon Network.  I swear that I could hear my brain cells dying.

*The Summer of Shakes at Sonic is over, and I only had one shake.  Fail.

*I put out my fall decorations yesterday.  Well, everything except the candles in my lantern on the front porch.  I am afraid that those will melt.  Texas doesn't know that it should be cooling off by now.

*I wear a patch that is time-release pain relief.  The regular pills (even the heavy-duty stuff)  just don't cut it anymore.  Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the patch is itchy skin.  Hello, Benadryl.

*Hubby and I have both accused the other of talking in our sleep..  However, I think he won the prize on Monday morning.  My alarm went off at 5:45.  He immediately said, "Your table is up next!"

*Goliath is selling cookie dough for a band  fundraiser. In a few short weeks, Little Middle and Baby will join in, trying to earn money for their school.  Ugh.

*My new favorite snack is banana chips, dark chocolate-covered raisins, and cinnamon/sugar almonds.  Toss a handful of each into a sandwich bag, and VOILA!  Portable yumminess!

*My goal for the new school year is a pretty lofty one.  I am determined to pack healthy, more interesting lunches for the cowboys.  Packing lunches is #2 on my List of Hated Chores, beat out only by laundry.  I got into a bad habit last year of making sandwiches and tossing in a bag of chips,  the occasional applesauce, a juice box, and some type of dessert.  Every. Single. Day.  So far this year, I've done pretty well.  My boys are feasting on carrots, fish sticks, cornbread muffins, fresh fruit, and their favorite:Waffle Wednesday.

*Gus the Terrible has not been quite as terrible lately.  I wonder what is going on inside his little.dog head.

*I wonder if CL:R.really works the way the commercial claims that it does.     

*"If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care." --Marvin J. Anderson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Friday, September 13, 2013

"If she liked me any more, she'd sic the dogs on me."

Over the Red River and just across the state line, things are quiet.  Too quiet.  It has been nearly five weeks since I signed consent to participate in the MEK162 clinical trial.  On that day, the researchers seemed thrilled to have me.  The head doctor was extremely interested in Monster and our history together.  She promised that they would work quickly to obtain and dissect a tissue block from one of my debulking surgeries.  That did indeed happen, but with unfortunate results:  There were not enough cancer cells in the sample to qualify as measurable.  Monster did not meet their strict criteria.

I was slightly confused, but of course I granted my permission for them to try again.  A second block of tissue was FedExed to Oklahoma, and the investigational researchers got busy doing their thing.  After another week of waiting, I called and was given news that I did not care to hear.  Sample #2 was also a bust--the necessary slides were easily made, but none of them contained enough tumor.

"How can that be?" I asked Michelle the research nurse.  "There is plenty of tumor in there!  I can feel it!"

Michelle suspects that during each of the surgeries, the doctor cut out the tumors (which he was supposed to), but did such a good job that there was very little left over for remaining tissue.  In other words, I was greatly debulked.  That is good for surgery, but bad for research.

I should have started treatment by now.  I need to have started treatment by now.  Monster has made his presence known in a few new and frightening ways in my body.  Dr. F says that there is nothing to be done but to proceed with treatment as quickly as possible.

After all this waiting and receiving discouraging news, I was not quite prepared to make the decision that was presented to me yesterday.  I could a) be released back to Dr. F to receive the standard of care (read: chemotherapy), or b) travel to Oklahoma for a scan and intense biopsy.  I have already taken every chemo drug that is considered "standard of care" for ovca patients.  Each drug was unsuccessful.  I chose to pack my suitcase and go north.

Of course, nothing can be simple or easy.  The appointments must be done at certain times of the day with certain medical personnel.  That means more waiting for me while Oklahoma tries to get their act together.  With any luck, I will be able to travel next week.

Through all of this, Monster lives.  He is such a pain (literally!).  I think of him as being like those animated germs in the Mucinex commercials.  You know, the ones where they set up homes inside the sick person's body?  They stay there, relaxing in their easy chairs and inviting their friends in, until the miracle Mucinex comes in and kicks them back to the curb.  I feel like Monster has claimed my body as his own personal space.  He doesn't care that he is creating chaos.  He only cares that he has found a good spot, and he is fighting to stay put.

Although I am frustrated and discouraged, I continue to fight.  I get out of bed each morning, determined not to let Monster change my life, or even cramp my style.  I have three very good reasons, after all, to fight back...they call me Mom.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Back-to-School Letter

Dear Goliath,

Tomorrow is a big day for you!  You will go to your first day of sixth grade, your first day of middle school.  I can hardly believe that the time that we have talked about for so long is finally here!  I can hardly believe that I will take Little Middle and Baby to the elementary school in the morning without you....sniff.

What I really want to say to you here has nothing to do with sappy mom feelings, though.  I want to tell you something that is very important about the adventure that you are about to begin.  For as long as I can remember, when I have tucked you in to bed at night, we have said your prayers together and I have thanked God for making you "strong, smart, and special."  I believed it when you were a tiny little guy in a crib, and I believe it now that your feet are bigger than mine and you are going to middle school.

I'm pretty sure--in fact, I know--that lots of other moms believe that same thing about their sons and daughters.  And I want you to remember that when you encounter other kids at your new school.  You will have plenty of opportunities to make new friends, or at least a lot of new acquaintances.  Every single person you are in class with deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.  Every individual that you see in the hallway was created by God--same as you--and that alone makes him/her very special.  Every kid that stands in the lunch line near you or shares a locker in your hall needs someone to be their friend.  I don't mean that you should be best buddies with every person you see.  That would be impossible!  Just be mindful, sweet son, that sometimes yours might be the only smile that another student sees.  Your kind word, even if it is a simple "hello", might be the only nice thing one of your classmates hears all day long.

You have everything that you need to be successful at school this year.  You have a mom and a dad who love you and want the best for you.  You've got two pretty cool brothers (come on now--admit it!).  You never miss a meal, you have a soft bed to sleep in, you've got neat-o new shoes and clothes.  Do you know that there are kids who don't even have those basic things?  Families who don't have enough food?  Parents who can't afford new shoes?  There are kids whose parents work long hours and they don't get to spend a lot of time together.  There are kids who have sick family members, or who don't do well in school, or who are going through a thousand other hurts that they don't tell anyone about.  There is a well-known quote that goes like this:  "Be kind.  Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  Tuck that away and draw it up when you need to:  in sixth grade, and later, in your adult life.  Some rules never, ever will change.

There is a lot of talk among us adults about how hard it is to be a middle schooler.  That isn't because the schoolwork is so hard (but be prepared to study!); its because you have a crazy need-desire to fit in and be accepted.  Over the next few years, you will have to make some hard decisions about your relationships:  who to keep close to you,  and who to keep farther out.  Be smart, son.  Don't change who you are to make someone else happy.  EVER.  If you have to change, then they aren't worth it.

Tomorrow morning I will feed you a good breakfast, pack a grown-up lunch and a water bottle, and then for the first time in your whole life, I will drop you off at the front of the school and NOT walk you in.  You are growing up.  Sometimes that makes me feel sad and miss the cute little guy in the crib, but I would not trade in 6th-grade Goliath for anything!  Dad and I are so proud of you.  You will be awesome in your new school, and I fully expect that you will make a difference to lots of people there.  Always treat everyone with kindness and respect.  They, just like you, are strong, smart, and so very special!

I'm so glad I got to be your mom.

With love and great expectations,

Mom

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The One In Which Summer Comes To An Abrupt End

Technically,  there are 4 days of summer left.

But today, I called Summer 2013 finished.  Done.  Complete.  Concluded.  Over.  Terminated.

I am a firm believer in "too much of a good thing."  And that's what these last weeks of summer break are:  too much.  We've been to camp, we've done VBS, we've done the road trips.  We've visited family, we have good (enough) tans, and we've checked the main stuff off the bucket list.  In fact, all that's left on the bucket list are the things that I hastily wrote on there with good mom intentions.  Things like "Write a snail mail letter," "Do something nice for our mailman," and "Go to a farmer's market."  I know, I know--I was fighting a losing battle.

Today, the cowboys had their favorite neighbor-brothers over to play, making five little boys all together.  The problem started when my two oldest cowboys felt the need to show off for their friends, vying for wins against each other in  competitions such as Insult Hurling, Name Calling, and Steal-a-Wii-Turn. Their friends were probably overjoyed when their mom called for them to come home for lunch, and that was the unfortunate moment that The Cowboy Who Shall Remain Nameless made a very poor choice in the way he spoke to his father and myself, and he ended up washing my car (lovingly nicknamed The Bus).  At 12:02 in the afternoon. Yikes.

Once all the cowboys had been denied a trip to Sonic for lunch, and once again been forced to eat sandwiches (the horror!!!), I strongly suggested that we enjoy a screen-free afternoon.  "Screen time" applies to TV, video games, phones...anything fun.  I logged their complaints as usual and assured them that they could do it.

Little Middle and Baby decided to play Legos.  They had been upstairs maybe 10 minutes when they came back down.  One of them was crying and one of them had his arms crossed defiantly across his chest.  Apparently, one brother needed 5 specific Legos that were in the other brother's building, so he just took 'em out and made the whole building collapse.  This led to an argument about each individual Lego in the tub and who its rightful owner was.  Seriously?  We own approximately 2.4 zillion Legos.  So Little Middle says to me, "So what are you going to do about him, Mom?"

Before I could escape those two jokers, the big one comes in.  He is supposed to be reading a book, but LOOK!  While he was reading, he found the walkie talkies that have been missing.  "I'm just going to try them out, OK, Mom?"

Nooooooooooo................

I managed to wrangle the walkie talkies away and I declared a mandatory Quiet Rest Time for everyone.  We haven't had a formal QRT since 2008!  

Little Middle ended up falling asleep for a while.  I wish the other boys had too.  I think my Baby might have slept a little bit if he had stopped somersaulting for just a few minutes.  He's cute, but the constant movement can be irritating.  It didn't help that the doorbell rang about 14 times in a row.

By the time we were ready to go meet the new 2nd and 4th grade teachers, I wasn't feeling very rested or refreshed.  I was feeling sweaty and melty.  August in Texas is hot, no matter how you slice it.  So it would have been very nice indeed if the air conditioning to the elementary school had not been shut off just a few hours before Meet the Teacher began.  I imagine that heads will roll for that little shenanigan!

Attending MtT meant that I had to drop Goliath at his jiu jitsu class earlier than usual, which earned me quite a bit of complaining.  He would be bored, blah blah, he didn't want to watch the other class, blah blah blah, couldn't he walk down to Pet Smart, blah, blah, NO!  I ignored him most of the way to the gym, but before I smashed The Bus into the windows of the strip mall, I had to put a stop to his sassy mouth, which probably raised my blood pressure into the next universe.

Somehow, we all managed to get home not much worse for the wear.  Hubby was kind enough to make the dinner that I had on the menu for tonight:  Burger Sliders.  Well, Monster is having none of it.  He's not a fan of burgers.  Monster and I were hungry, so we settled on Toaster Strudels.  I don't think I've eaten Toaster Strudels in a year!  The strudels popped out of the toaster, I put them on a plate, and guess what?  There were no icing packets left in the box.  All gone.

I had to make my own icing.

That's it.  I love my kids with all my heart.  But really...settling arguments about Legos?  Quiet Rest Time?  Icing-less Toaster Strudels?  And I haven't even told you that it was a bad hair day, that Monster conquered Ambien again last night, or that the one thing I have volunteered for begins on the very first day of school.  This is all too much.  I will be a much happier mama, and thereby we will have a much happier family, when we aren't all together all the time.  Summer is over.  Starting NOW!