Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 CHRISTMAS LETTER.




Make Believe
JANUARY: Mary-Elizabeth and I were invited by the Obama’s to Washington D.C. We stayed at the White House. We had the Lincoln Bedroom of course.
FEBRUARY: I was picked to be the first hip replacement/old lady to travel to the Space Station for a couple of weeks.

MARCH: Mary-Elizabeth was doing some research and located an entire cavern of Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso’s paintings and the famed Amber Room stolen by the Germans. The French were so happy that they gave us the Mona Lisa.
APRIL: Mary-Elizabeth was picked to travel for a month with Madonna on a tour of Europe, Mideast and Africa. She met with the Queen and many other heads of state. The Queen was so impressed with Mary-Elizabeth’s collection of Queen Elizabeth flatware that she was gifted a palace and promised she could have a choice of any of the Queen’s subjects as a Senior Prom date.

MAY: Mary-Elizabeth and her friends were escorted to the prom with the real Harry Potter and his peeps. (Of course we know the books are real stories and not make-believe.) The girls were picked up by a Broom Limousine, had dinner on a platform in the sky overlooking Seattle put there by Dumbledore. Mario Batalli was the chef. Of course they stopped by Dicks after the Prom creating quite a stir as the Broom is 40 feet long and has a hot tub.

JUNE: Mary-Elizabeth was invited to attend Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Brown. They all gave her a full ride scholarship even though she never applied.
JULY: 17th birthday came and went without much hoopla. Her red Ferrari was a welcomed gift delivered by Edward Cullen and Jacob Black. (Twilight Reference)
AUGUST : We both competed in the New York Marathon. I was 3rd but Mary-Elizabeth took 1st. She beat the men a true first. We were both dressed by Mode Magazine and featured in the opening episode of Ugly Betty.
SEPTEMBER: Mary-Elizabeth settled into school for her last year at Holy Names. She is so loved by her teachers that she has no homework and only must appear each day in class. Her lessons are downloaded onto her IPod and she just has to listen. No tests, mid terms or projects are required. Only A’s will be given
OCTOBER: Martha Stewart finally confessed to the world that I gave her all of her ideas. She will be providing me with gardening, organizing and weird eggs for life. I may have the floor of my choice stenciled.

NOVEMBER: Mary-Elizabeth arranged for all of my friends to fly on the 787 Dreamliner to Vegas. I know everyone thinks there has not been a flight of the new Boeing plane but then it was a secret. She rented out the Venetian for the week-end. Everyone won at each game. The private Elvis show was pretty amazing….
DECEMBER: Central Props from Universal Studios came to our house and we are decorated to the max. 50, 0000.00 lights are on the outside and snow falls only on our house. The interior is completely done, tastefully of course. Each room is a different theme. A tree from each continent. The best part is that someone will be there on January 7th to take it all down.



REALITY; nothing happened in 2009. No big trips, other than a couple of fun weddings. A couple of college visits, some great time with family and friends. A few trips to Whidbey Island where the dogs made dog friends.

We are so so grateful and thank God and Mary and the Saint’s every day for our return to NORMAL.

Merry Christmas 2009!!!!! Sally, Mary-E, Tucker and Sadie

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thoughts about Christmas and other matters


There are things about Christmas I just love. The smells, the out door lights. That small feelling your gut that tells the tension is building.



There are things about Christmas I don't love. I hate the endless advertisements, busy stores and poor selections of Christmas cards.

This year we are going to do some things differently. We are not doing much shopping. Even when money is tight, I find that there is a lot of ways to fill the "needs on the list". We are headed to Eugene and gathering to do puzzels and eat big meat with the family.



Then we will be do lots of family bonding which result in lots of loud screaming and the we will return with stories and deep desires to not go home for Christmas. I think there will be blood when we get out the monopoly set or Mia (the dog) eats a puzzle piece. Lots of cooking, and cleaning up and dishes and valium for everyone.

And then we do it all over again.... That is how this all works.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cancer World and Christmas


ME is fine.


Others are darting back and forth into the must loathed world. Let's see. Amy, Alex's wife, my former college roommate, has been searching for the cause of the metastasis in her lymph nodes. Lots of drama and worry and well placed concern. Yesterday they determined, as much as they ever can, that she has a form of thyroid cancer. Not the one easily treated but she will be having surgery next week. The next round of candles to be lit need to be for "containment". They seem to think things are fine.


A very good friend's mother with a rare form of breast cancer may not be celebrating Christmas this year. Lots of family is gathering. No one will be surprised but as we all know, even when expected, there is no way to prepare for the loss and hole that used to be that person in our lives.


One of Mary-Elizabeth's kids she was in charge of this summer, Maddie died last week. While Maddie could not beat leukemia, she never lost faith in the existence of Real Mermaids...


All of this has made me edgy and Mary-Elizabeth sad.


We are looking for some good news. We will take it anywhere we can find it. Maybe we have to be happy that when the Christmas Tree tumbled, nothing was lost.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All Most Turkey Day!!!!!

Well we are in the count down. Lots to do but then that is life. I continue to work on organization and other such nonsense. I don't have too much to do. People are coming and it is a potluck. I am doing the Turkey, Stuffing, Gravy potatoes, oops, better go do the cranberries.....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BIG WINDS AND OTHER DOINGS


BIG WIND. LOTS OF BIG WATER. OH YEAH..... WINTER IS ALMOST HERE.

Update: Children's still drawing blood and poking my daughter. In search of the answers about the endrocin system. Oh, is that a mushy science. Sort of like cooking. A little of this, a little of that. See how that works, and then ask you a whole bunch of really vague questions:


Are you tired? Well I am a teenager and am up lots and lots of hours each night studying AP Calculus and Physics, Yes I am tired.

More so then before? Well, I had cancer before that and had taken hundred's of doses of chemical specifically designed to rob my body of all energy making matter.


Do you hop out of bed in the morning? NO, but then I have never been a morning person.


Do you seem cold? Well my mom loves to sleep with her bedroom windows open and Tucker pushes the back door open all the time. So our house is the same temperature as the out of doors on a good day.


Does your hair fall out? Compared to what? I have totally lost all of my hair twice and then just for fun, at the end of treatment most of it went.... But then I guess the last few months has not been good.


Good news, no real issues that can not be address. Thyroid seems to be toast. It can hop out of bed if it is so inclined. The pituitary gland needs to be evaluated. Evidently it has lots to do with some of this. Human Growth Hormone is still needed and it gets to decide what to produce and all of that.


So we sit in the warm house and watch the howling wind and are very glad not to be in the storm.

Friday, November 06, 2009

November has Arrived!


Some how it snuck up on me. Here it is. Halloween came and left lots of candy this year. The full moon was here and we are heading to the last Friday the 13th. Lots of weird days and projects and rain and hail and thunder and lighting. College Applications, planning for the end of year. Making of Fruitcake, a birthday for me and then Christmas. How can I complain?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

College Searches and Visits

So welcome to our world. Since I applied to college it has become oh so much more interesting and expensive. You no longer fill out an application, send it in and pray. You have "To show a real interest" . I am not sure what that means but evidently, I should have sent letters of inquiry when ME was born, if not before. One is supposed to research, contact admission counselors, the campus and then go visit and have an inteview and then visit again. It is always good to build a library also.

I can not abide college visits. They are BORING. This is how it goes:

The college was founded ____________. We have great social activities. We have a great cafeteria. We have a strong alumni association that will get you a job after you finish school. A new one. We have our own postal zip code.....

I have a whole different set of criteria. Do they take the Common Application? ( you fill that puppy out and the computer sends it to all your colleges) Is there an on campus coffee stand and can I obtain a decent triple short latte? Is the parking easy? Is it a place I will want to visit again? What is the book store like. So far the bookstores are ranked as follows:
1. U of Washington
2 U of San Diego
3 U of Portland
4. Seattle U.
5. Gonzaga.

How many boys are on campus and how many smile at ME as we walk around.

I refuse to do more than a brief visit and am not packing in 10 colleges in the upcoming "Senior College Visit" time allowed in ME's Senior schedule. I don't have time for a fall vacation. This is a racket...... Maybe after the "we want you to come" letters arrive then we might take a second look.

ME has a bit of her mom in her. She was drilled this last weekend about college and what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said the on Monday Gonzaga was having it's first audition. She would then determine whether or not there would be a call back.

Gonzaga has been placed on the list. Okay, the pizza smelled good. Lousy book store but I was able to see Bing Crosby's Oscar and all his gold and platinum records. What could be better.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remission, Five Years Later

Sunday, September 13, 2009 marked the 5th year since remission was announced. It took a month for her to go into remission. The way it works is that they do a bone marrow aspiration, for diagnosis. Then a week of chemo therapy is administered. Seven days later they do another bone marrow aspiration. The goal is that they can achieve remission in that very short period of time. Before the chemo makes the kids sick. If you fail the first test then they schedule one 30 days post diagnosis. If the first one fails they bump up the length and intensity of treatment. You are moved from bad to very bad. Words like High Risk and extra phases of treatment are added.

Because of her age and the fact that there was a mass in her skull/brain made her High Risk to start with but the lack of remission on day 7 was a blow. It made us very nervous at the time and I didn't know what I know today. If kids don't get into remission within 2 months, they don't pass go and head directly to bone marrow transplant. No one ever wants one of those.

So on the 12th of September both of us were thinking about the 5 year mark. That was supposed to be when Mary-E received her mini cooper, the one I promised her 4 years ago. But then that was before 5 years of treatment and no license and bad juju with money and the economy. But the 5th year was still on her mind.

She quietly said to me: Mom I made it, I get to graduate from Holy Names. That is enough.

It is not often that she lets us see into those dark worrying places of her mind. Where she harbors are the years of pain and suffering and worry.

As we watched the fireworks from the ferry on Saturday night, I gave her a hug and told her they were for her. For her birthday, her remission birthday, for her survival.

Now, we wait, 5 more years before they will say she is cured.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Matching Socks


Socks, they are a bother. They seem to hide, don't stay with their friends and seem to like swirling in the sock basket endlessly. The theory is that if one keeps putting the socks in the basket they will be matched eventually. IT IS A LIE.

So this week-end is the week-end that the socks are either with their friends or they go to Good Will where people with much more cleaver mines than mine will do something with them.

Friday, September 04, 2009

New Year, New Start and Lasts

Nothing has really changed other than the books get heavier and the days longer as the work more complicated. Mary-E is having a great year so far as they all settle in and begin to celebrate "lasts".

Last First Day of School
Last Classes at Holy Names
Last First Assembly of the year
Last Homecoming
Last Christmas Ball
Last high school finals
Last...........

We count them down and begin to disconnect for the firsts to follow next year.

First year at college
First time in the dorm
First roommate trouble
First time cafeteria Jello

All in all it is an adventure. One of many to come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hubris


Remember reading all those Greek Dramas and the long discussions about Hubris and the fates that befall those that think they can control their world and figure things out. Well they were right. There is no control or any reason to believe we mere mortals have any control over our lives or those that are near and dear to us.


We have been smug... Or more accurately, I have been smug. I think I know how the systems work, I can maneuver through the medical crap like that irritating guy on the small motor cycle during rush hour.


Then the E-Mail comes: WE NEED YOU TO COME BACK IN FOR SOME MORE BLOOD WORK. THERE APPEARS TO BE A CHANGE IN SOME OF THE VALUES THAT LEAD US TO BELIEVE.......


The word choices are very specific:


Need to come back. Not You might want to drop by the lab sometime in the next month or so....


It appears that 12 doses of Spinal Cranial Radiation did not make her thyroid very happy. It seems to have been a slow but expected death. Unless the blood work shows some other auto-immune issue- it will be very treatable. Thyroid pills for the rest of her life. Joy, Joy.


We talked about it last night and I told her that she should not expect more than her fair share of long term side affects and that I thought 3 would be enough thank you very much.


So......... Off to the lab for a fasting blood draw.
The photo is of Grandma Armstrong Lanham. She was a stong willed women that fought her way through life. She seemed to be an approriate person to be on guard.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yes They are goingg to Be Seniors and That is a great thing!!!


Okay, lets be very clear here.


1. We are not losing our children.

In fact I bet for everyone that is upset that their child is a senior will be complaining in 5 years that they have moved back home and are leaving their shoes every where. They are always going to be our children.


2. They will return home less but won't love us less.

Sure when they come home they are going to need to reconnect with friends, they will stay out late, they will not share what they are doing and they won't honor curfews. They love coming home, they expect it to be the same. Just ask any parent that dared to change a room or God forbid move.


3. They were never ours in the first place.

If we wanted them to stay with you forever, you should be remained that slavery has not been legal in the county for a long time and then refer to number one.


4. Be thankful that they can leave the nest.

I remember sitting in a hospital room at Children's Hospital and looking out my window. I could see St. Joe's spire and Holy Name's Dome. I just looked out that window and prayed and pleading and hoped that she would be able to go from St. Joe's to Holy Names.


Each and every step, and milestone and moment that marks her journey to Independence is a gift and proof there is a God and while she has a very wicked sense of humor, she answers prayers, pleading, threats.


Instead of worrying about what it is going to be like to not have an obnoxious, self important, teenager in the house, use this year to re-discover your life BC (before child). It has been waiting for your return.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Real Story of Gastrocnemius Recession Recovery

Now we have a new problem. She is walking, sort of like a penguin but as tippy as a clown blow up boxing thing. She can fall flat in a second. Seems kind of funny. She did a ton yesterday so there were some pain and discomfort last night. Seems to be doing better now but now the word of the week is moderation. So first I complain she is not walking, now I complain she is walking too much.

No, I am never satisfied If we had been satisfied we would have been sitting around the camp fire in caves. It is important to want to make things better.

Thank God She does not have Avvascular Necrosis

Survivor Issues: Avascular Necrosis (AVN)
Avascular necrosis is a condition characterized by cell death in bones caused by a compromised blood supply to the bone. Advanced cases show bone collapse in the affected joint. AVN can be caused by high-dose steroids and radiation treatment. It is usually seen in the first year off treatment; adolescent girls are most susceptible.
The hip bone is the most common site for AVN, knee, shoulder and other joints can also be affected.
Also known as:
osteonecrosis (ON); ischemic necrosis of bone; aseptic necrosis; osteochondritis dissecans
Description of AVN
Merck manual
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of AVN vary; in general, the symptoms include pain and loss of movement in the affected joint. Some patients have intense, incapacitating pain, others experience tolerable pain and little loss of movement.
Diagnosis
According to the Merck Manual, "Early diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion in patients presenting with pain, particularly of the hips, knees, or shoulders." In other words, unless the physicians suspect AVN, they will not find it. An MRI is the most sensitive test for AVN; x-rays might not show AVN until it has progressed to the point of bone collapse.
Treatment
Cortical bone grafts, core decompression (the central portion of the bone is removed to reduce pressure), osteotomy (a wedge of the bone is removed), and hip (or knee) replacement.

I bet they never told me that was a posibility!!!!!

Tomorrow we have an appointment to see Dr. Mankey and have the stitches taken out. I offered to take them out for her and she refused.

One thing about spending so much time at Children's is it takes 2 nano seconds to return to a place of gratefulness......

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Real Story of Gastrocnemius Recession Recovery


Walking, we are walking, the get up and come to Mama moment happened on Friday. Day 11 we threw the walker away and began to totter around sort of like a penguin. Seemed to be a good thing. A few steps, down stairs easier than upstairs. Bruises created by placement of the incision by the top of the boot. Too much walking or sitting with feet down, bad. Feet up good.


Short distances with slow pacing seems to work okay.


I made her unload the dishwasher. As someone said, Nurse Ratchet needs to stop by every now and then.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Real Story of Gastrocnemius Recession Recovery


Day 10: Lots of steps, only with a walker. No willingness to leave the house yet. Even for a movie. I may try movie and sushi...... I am a very very bad mother. But then we all knew that.


Senior books purchased. Need to have senior pictures taken. I am thinking that we need to have some sort of mobility and of course Tucker.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Real Story of Recovery from a Gastrocnemius Recession

Day 9: Walking with the walker and stating
"fine go to bed, I don't need anything from anyone"

She is doing way better. When she gets mad, she is getting better.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Real Story of Gastrocnemius Recession Recovery

So. We are now a week away from Surgery. 3 steps in the morning and about a dozen after dinner. Like I mentioned, this is not the recovery process we were expecting.

We liked the: Walk out of Surgery. Rest a bit. In tennis shoes in a couple of weeks.

I think the first part is a bit optimistic. I think the real story is:

No significant weight bearing for 5-7 days.
Stay on top of the pain.
Add visterill to the pain management program. (muscle relaxer)
First steps at day 7 or 8
Add as able.

Make sure you have a "mobility devise" at the ready and a dad to carry you into the house.
Showers are best accomplished with a hand wand device.

For the care taker. Don't get freaked about the lack of mobility. It will be okay.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Real Story of Gastrocnemius Recession Recovery


gastrocnemius recession is commonly performed to correct an equinus contracture of the ankle that may accompany foot and ankle pathology in adults. The equinus deformity leads to excessive pressure and pain that manifests as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, posterior tibial tendon insufficiency, osteoarthritis, and foot ulcers. The procedure is also performed on individuals who have limited ankle dorsiflexion.



So those are the official words. She had the surgery on Monday. This is Saturday and she is still not able to stand. We had been told that she would be able to walk out of the surgery center. That was sort of a fib. She was not even able to stand up let alone walk. The last few days have been about pain management, arm only transfers, trips to the bathroom on a scooter that was not devised for sitting and waiting.



Waiting. I am not sure that I will ever be good at waiting

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I had forgotten how hard this all is

Surgery went fine. Recover is not. Oh, well there always needs to be a challenge. Everyone is sleeping. I cannot get her to walk. She transferred from one chair to another and the pain was excruciating. Now I can't get her to walk. We finally have the pain under control but she is afraid of that very bad pain again. So. I don't know the answer. We shall see.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I should never just drop by the office

It is a very bad idea when I am supposed to be on vacation. We went to visit Mom and Dad in Eugene. This A.M. in the office was supposed to be for a couple of brief meetings. I had forgotten how bad it is when I don't relax and just get away. So here I am very uptight and I am having my chain jerked by a certain medical assistant that works with a beloved doctor. Let us say, Sally does not take very well to being told how Mary-Elizabeth's medical procedures are going to be managed. Oh, I will never make the mistake of taking her out of the Seattle Children's system for as long as she can stay there.

Adult medicine is a whole new ball game and I don't play well with others. Suffice it to say, I have not killed anyone yet but will be doing so in the near future. Opps, that makes it sound pre-meditated.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

She has gone to her "Dark Place"

She use to go there a lot. She does not stay as long but it is still there. Yesterday A.M. went fairly well. As she began to come out from under the happy pill, the reality of what was ahead began to sink in a bit.



I did some reading about the operation she is going to have on the 10th it is called a double endoscopic gastrocnemius recession. They go in and cut the main calf muscle, throw her in some boots for a couple of weeks and in 12 weeks she is back in the boat rowing.
Boy I hope this works......

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Age Torture


We visited Dr. Eva Young today. She is this very sweet, tiny 8 month pregnant doctor that evaluates muscle and nerve function. She has some fancy title but in essence she sticks really long needles into people and runs electric shocks into people's bodies. To make things even more fun after she puts the long pointy needle into the muscles she moves it up and down until it is just right.



Eva warned M-E that the electric shocks would feel like touching a door nob during the winter. Mary-Elizabeth wondered what kind of door nob the doctor was touching because she certainly did not ever want to be anywhere near it.


So here is what we learned. The left leg has the most nerve damage but has pretty good muscles activity. The right leg has little or no nerve damage but the tightest muscles.


Surgery is scheduled for August 10th to lengthen the calf muscles.


Who can believe we are even talking about this sort of thing. It has been almost 5 years. I am tired of all of it. But then I must remind myself that I have been given 5 more years and quit whining.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

She is Off to Camp.... If she only knew


My only claim to fame as a mother of a camper is the care package I send every year. Some mothers lovingly bake cookies, find lovely treats, send notes and cards and send e-mail through the system where you pay to e-mail your child, less they forget you are still hovering over them and interfering with all of their fun. I drop my child, after being made to wait for the bus to leave, and head to China Town. I head into Owajima and spend about an hour finding a nice variety of items. Packages with little dancing fish and bears in brightly colored wrapping dancing on the surface and no food label are my favorite. I fill a box of such treasures and off it goes. I figure most of it is fed to the raccoons.


I don't ever send the really really bad stuff. I should just for fun. the picked fish heads, the toasted tiny fish skeletons and other such mysteries. It could be a fun fun package if I could imagine some sort of consumption and not just screeches from the girls.


I am just so glad she is at camp. This is her favorite thing. She is coming back to unhappy but necessary "procedures". Her summer will end August 10th. Surgery on both legs to lengthen her calf muscles. More later. It is too YUCK to think about today.


Today I am thinking about gummy weird candy that no one can identify.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Birthdays, Non Parties and other Matters







She is now 17 years old. Hard to believe. She spent her birthday with Grampa and other Grampa in Eugene. Her father and clan went for a three day visit. In ways it seemed odd to have them going to visit and not me but then in other ways it was more than fine. I was at home and doing some minor gardening projects and then took off to visit Margaret and Mary-Jane's Whidby Island cabin. (That is certainly something I intend to do more.)






I came home on Saturday to find the porch filled with boxes addressed to the birthday girl and plants that were more than happy that the marine layer was coming for a long visit. (We don't do well in 80 degree weather.)






Mary-Elizabeth came home and promptly attended her first R rated movie without adult supervision. Of course she wanted me to come give her a ride home because the "bus takes too long". Gee.....






So things on my mind. Sarah Palin.... Michael Jackson.... Minidoka Internment Camp.... What to cook for dinner. Gee... that might take too long.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Wedding in San Diego


Wonderful, wondeful, wonderful......


We had such a great time. We love San Diego...... Time at the Zoo. Time at the University of San Diego. San Diego Mission. What more do I need to say....

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Girls are Seniors!!!!


Sliders, giggling, time with friends and family. A bit of wine (now officially a clear liquid) time to reconnect with important people.


Life is good, the backyard is clean and there is some sunshine and much needed rain coming. what can we complain about.


M-E is going to camp, being a camp counselor at Gilda's Club, "Camp Sparkel" We have a fancy wedding and them on road trip to visit colleges. Gonzaga, Whitman, College of Idaho, and them maybe U of Portland.


I suggest a trip to Shoreline Community College and she declined.


Monday, June 08, 2009

First Draft the of the College Essay.

It is said that the hardest time in out lives, other then the “mid life crisis”, are the teen years. We hit puberty like a brick wall and we are stuck in the middle of the adorable sweet child, and the self reliant adult. Yes it is hard, it does not sound like fun, and most people do not want to repeat their teen years but its “normal” and part of life.
This all was taken from me when I was twelve. I was looking forward to becoming a teenager and could not grow up fast enough. However, life had a different plan for me; I was diagnosed with Leukemia the summer of ‘04. It was a shock to hear that I had to go though 2 ½ years of treatment. Part of my treatment was radiation. I was told I had to have tattoos so they could line me up precisely as to not harm me. I walked in to the waiting room of UW Medical Center on the day of my appointment, checked in and sat down in the dull waiting room with the matching vinyl chairs. There were not many people waiting, giving me time to think what the person doing the tattoos. I thought of the word “tattoo” and immediately an image of a biker man with a leather vest and tattoos all over into my head.
My name was called interrupting my thoughts. After winding through long hallways like a lab mouse, we finally enter the room. There standing in front of me was not a big burly biker man and lots of tattoos, but a short dorky man with a lab coat on and glasses too big for his face and was not what I expected. He explained to me what to expect and I was told it might “pinch” meaning “it’s going to hurt but my med school training tells me to say it will pinch to make you feel better”. By spending a lot of time at the hospital, I had learned to decode words like this and find their true meaning. They warn me they would start so I prepared for the worst. The first one was painful and I thanked God I had a high threshold for pain, but it got better as they continued. As they worked, they started talking to me. They asked about my life and I told them my story. As I did, I realized I would never have a “normal” life. At 12 I had to learn to take a lot of responsibility and learn to deal with a great burden and had to grow up in a shorter time then most girls. Most teenage girls worry about which boy likes them, who they will eat lunch with, and when they will learn to drive and here I was worrying what procedure is next, hospital times, and what side affect I would get next. I also had to become comfortable with the idea of death. I learned quickly humor was the best antidote to all this and that we can not dwell on death or fear it. I came to realize, even though it sounded crazy, I wanted to be a normal teen that had acne, had to worry about shaving their legs, and had to spend hours on her hair on a bad hair day. These little small stupid things were what I wanted to do and deal with. All this went through my head in seconds.
By that time I had leaned not to dwell on these sorts things and continued the conversation. Before I knew it, the procedure was over, and I had tattoos, which my mother gladly paid for. This is something that happens very rarely in a teenager’s life. To this day and for the rest of my life I will have these tattoos. They are a universally symbol of radiation treatment and remind me of all the things I missed from the ages of 12-14, but they also show me what I have taken from my life. It has been hard, but its one I enjoy everyday without out a doubt. I know what is important now and what to notice in my daily life. I have also accepted that “normal” is not part of who I am and I have learned that I would not be Mary-Elizabeth Sierra Lanham if I was normal.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take Two Aleave and Call me in a Couple of Weeks.


So we went back to see the doctor. There is a thingy, ME does not want to name it. It looks like a bubble. There are also some small inflamed areas in three of the small foot joints. May be a problem, may be nothing. There is also still talk of heel cord lengthening surgery. It just makes me cringe.


A very tall woman with a thick eastern European accent drew about 6 viles of blood to see if there is anything weird going on. She had purple nail polish. I had warned M-E that there were be blood letting.


So to sum it all up. There is a thing. We are exploring all the Things it is not. M-E is pretty quiet about all of this. I am totally freaked out but then this is the first post-treatment THING we have had to deal with so maybe I am supposed to be freaked out. I am stressing eating fresh halibut and Paseo Cuban sandwiches and badly burning cookies.


So, I have been here and done that......

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I hate MRI's

Just once I would like them to be good news. So here is the deal, thought we had a stress fracture. All signe, sore foot, no apparent trauma, just pain. So off to the doctor, nothing on the X-Ray, then off to the MRI. No appointment available until June 2, 2009. Does anyone believe that I am going to wait that long.... NO WAY.



E-mail Karyn at Childrens and she finds the reports. (Children's/UW and The Hutch are all working together for a better tomorrow or some such nonsence. So..... I get the report.



THERE IS A A 5x6x7 MM CYSTIC LESION BETWEEN THE HEADS OF THE THIRD AND FOURTH MEATARSALS.



Oh joy...... So here we are things we don't like in places they don't belong. Could be a normal thing, could be a bad thing, I would prefer, nothing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Regionals, Visits from Mother, German Sheppard Puppies and Maple Trees




I am exhausted. So here is the story
1. Leave from Seattle to pick up Mom from the Train Station.
2. Take the wrong exit and fail to drive far enough on wrong street. Find Mother EVENTUALLY
3. No room in the good hotel but check into newly remodeled Comfort Suit. Mom then refuses to move the next day. Settle in.
4. Get up early because I just always do and go to breakfast and then to see the Girls row.
5. Watch Mary-E in the 4 and a very very bad race. Wipe tears and spread on more sunscreen
6. Return to the hotel, have dinner with the team, receive reprimand for talking during speeches
7. Take Mom to the train, head to Maple Nursery. Find out that Nursery and Quilt Barn both open at 10:00 a.m.
8. Find a couple of trees that need homes. Maybe 3 trees. Give one to neighbor to plant so I can enjoy it.
9. Travel home to find Tracy Hentz on door step with a 9 month old puppy (size of small horse) and 13 week German Sheppard Puppy.

Puppy anyone?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mac and Cheese Recipe

Fun shaped Pasta- one box. cooked about half way.
Saute (fancy name for fry) in some a little bit of olive oil, one small finely chopped onion, one green, red or yellow or orange pepper, add two hot Italian sausages,

Mix pasta and other stuff in a backing dish.

take a cube of butter 3 or 4 tablespoons of flour and combine. Add a half a cup of half and half and a 1.5 cups of milk simmer until it thickens a bit. Add at least three types of cheese about a cup of each. I used aged Gouda, medium Cheddar and a Gruyere. Melt all the cheese and pour over the pasta

Top with bread crumbs and shredded Parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes.

Variations, any kind of meat, mushrooms, veggies, artichokes, asparagus, salami, chicken, Any kind of cheese that seems to be around. It is fair game.

confession: Favorite Mac and Cheese. Kraft.

New Variations on Mac and Cheese and Prom Night

So, Mother's Day 2009. Thank God, Mother Earth, the Great Spirit, the Sun, the Moon, every possible superior being in the universe and beyond.... I am still a Mom. Now on to important things.

Prom Night in Ballard:

Last night we met at our house. By we, I mean friends, family and the kids. Flowers were pinned on nervous boys, pictures were taken, snacks were consumed and then the kids were off to dinner. Parents and friends stayed for a couple of hours and did a group therapy session about their own high school highs and lows. It was concluded that there this generation of young women have made a very big leap from "our day".

I cannot talk about the whole gang but at least for Mary-Elizabeth and Madeline the process went like this:

Need a date, but no need to find a date until the perfect dress and shoes are found. Once that happened then the date became paramount. Mary-Elizabeth went with a guy named Corbin. Senior, going to the New School in New York next year. Great sense of humor, writes and performs poetry, has a rap CD. His mom made sure that he had the right colors for his tux, the right flowers and was on time. It all was good.

The prom going group was a bit unsure of what to do a the house. Food is the great equalizer. The girls were afraid to eat anything sloppy but the boys found "snacks' a good thing. Mom told this morning that she was sure they ate a full meal before they got dressed and would eat when they arrived home.

They came in last night, Sadie let me know that they were home. Both were chatting with that great ease of friends that had a good time. Lots of laughing. Finally a very tired and pleased child came in and told me life was good. Prom was fun, and that Corbin made her dance.

She unloaded her stuff on the table. Only my daughter would take tape and bandages to address blister issues.



Saturday, May 02, 2009

SAT's Eye brow plucking and other rites of passage


This is the color of the dress with a brown ribbon.


The SAT's are this A.M. Lots of anxiety. She will do fine. I told her this was just the first time she would be taking them and now we don't have to send all to the colleges and who knows, they might be good enough. Bacon and mangos for breakfast seems to help and off she went.


After this event we have bunches of stuff to do before next week. Let's see. Nails, eyebrows, decisions about where to go for dinner. I am having a small "cocktail party" pre prom so that should be fun. Wine cheese, something hot and spicy, a sweet and a chance to wish the children off on their big adventure.


Seems like the thing to do. I don't remember much about pre-dance stuff other than my father cleaning all his rifles while my quiet shy timid boy friend came and picked me up. Ugly........



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Holy Trinity of High School

Perfect Dress
Perfect High heels
Perfect Date for the Junior Prom.

What more needs to be said.

SAT's on May 1
Junior Prom May 9
Crew Regionals May 15th

Seems like we have lots of Trinity Moments happening.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My newest distraction

Type in Falcon Webcam and then just sit back and enjoy. The whole country has these set up and this is active active time. Babies are less than 4 days old in San Francisco, WAMU tower has a very devoted pair about 15 days away from a hatch. It is just too much fun.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter is the Ever Evolving Holiday




I love this time of year. I totally understand the original cultures (pagan seems harsh) that joyously embraced this time of year. Small little shoots of new life reappear, the trees send out new leaves for a years of energy capturing and then the breeze brings that new scent of spring. A bit of pollen is not much to complain about.

We both have been sick. M-E started with great collapse of her system last week-end. Trips to the doctor, assurance that it was only a virus, then lots of soup. We are so tired of soup. No energy to cook or even bother to eat. Cereal seems to be the best thing. Maybe toast if a burst of energy hits.

BUT IT IS EASTER!!. Okay, so a few chocolate representation of small juvenile creatures, some springy sorts of plastic glittery grass and an Easter basket. I think I have done a very good job. The bunny is years and years old and so is the basket. The Annies Bunny Pasta was just genius. Mary-Elizabeth has a DVD wish list and I had to choose one. I thought the Secret Life of Bees a story of new life and discovery was the most appropriate followed by Slum Dog Millionaire, another story of struggle and new life. But in all fairness, Twilight was the right choice. This is the holiday about ever lasting life. The renewal of life, the changing from one form to the other. So Twilight ended up in the basket.

Another big change: No Church.... I love this time of year within the Catholic calendar. Maudy Thursday with the foot washing, Good Friday with the bare quiet church and no mass and then the Easter Vigil. The dark night that tells the whole story from Genius to the discovery that Jesus has left the tomb. I love the quiet, the hymns the light that begins to grow stronger and stronger until the whole church is filled during the darkness.

this year.... The Ten Commandments... How long is that movie! it was on from 8:00 to 12:45. They spend years and hours in Egypt. I think Baby Moses was played by one of Heston's kids and I think they were in Egypt because everyone could run around with their shirts off.

Oh, well maybe some Dim Sum today or some more soup.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Head Line Would Read like this

The family sadly said good bye yesterday to the 1996 Honda Accord Station wagon that met it's untimely end on February 19th 2009.

The family was traveling home after watching Lion King and an evil and fast traveling SUV decided the red light did not mean anything and blew through the intersection.

Even though the air bags did not employ, there was enough front-end damage to realize it was time to send the car to the land of "parts" There she rests among those of own kind. Waiting to be needed in another way. Her head lights and door handles will be used by other with such vehicles, those that value their vintage Honda's and try to keep them on the road longer than those stinky Toyota's and Subaru's...

In her place a new vehicle has arrived. She has been loved beyond words by her prior parents. She has only 101,000 miles and is pristine. I mean, it is possible that no one has ever sat in the back seat. It was reported that no animals and no more than two children have been in the car. No food, no coffee, no muddy boots or even shoes. The second set of mats are in perfect shape.
She came with touch up paint. We are bonding with her perfect, never scratched, never dinged Champagne exterior.

I know brown and beige are brown and beige, no matter what you call them. Someone has already found a bright orange Wag More, Bark Less magnetic medallion and put it on the rear. I just could not help it. (Also there is stuff in the back.) It is down hill from here

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Opening and Closing Doors

I guess I am with Mary-Elizabeth, I just want all of this to stop. I have had enough of the Cancer World thing. It just does not give up. Every time you think life is going to "get back to normal" something trips you up. The dogs leave a bone on the floor and trip, or the favorite restaurant is gone, or the weather man forgot to mention the 2 feet of snow that is falling. MAKE IT STOP.

That being said, I had that horrible feeling last night. I was securely nestled on a very high end brocade sofa in the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. A very quiet, smiling woman dressed in black exited the elevator. She had a perfect splash of color from her tasteful and folded scarf. She walked over and introduced herself to Mary-Elizabeth. I asked if I was needed, both said "NO". She and Mary-Elizabeth entered the elevator and the door closed. I had the same feeling and flash back to the days she entered the radiation chamber at the University of Washington. Pressure builds in the chest. I become short of breath, maybe because I had stopped breathing all together and then I waited for her to come out again.

This time the wait was for an hour or more properly a therapist hour, of 50 minutes. She did re-emerge. After her radiation treatments she was usually smiling, complaining about how her mouth tasted funny, and she just wanted to go home to bed. She would have some crazy craving like Costco hot dogs and only Costco hot dogs.

A different person came out of the door. There were signs of tears. When I asked what was wrong, she said she just wanted to go home, now, please, don't ask, don't enquire. She hates to cry. I asked if everything was okay. She gave me the "LOOK"...

I guess we have to enter the hard places and address the hard issues in order to find the good doors to enter. Maybe if she goes up that elevator enough time, she can close the door on Cancer World.

Monday, March 23, 2009

David never changes.

Sally:

Hey, little brother
So you weren’t in Montana

David:

You know me better then that, this time of year I am in Mexico more often then no

Sally:

So what happen in Montana?

David:

No one will know for awhile, but I can tell you, I would never fly a ___________ (I didn’t catch the name)

Sally:

Do you think he ran out of gas?

David:

'I don’t know?

Sally:

Does it make you nervous?

David:

No! whatever it was, I wouldn’t let it happen to me! I am too careful.

Monday, March 09, 2009

You Know, they always keep a few instructions in a secret place


There are just so many things how would you ever learn it all, relay it all, forget it all. We are looking for therapist for Mary-Elizabeth. She is going to need to "PROCESS" all of the last five years. I guess this blog will help educate whomever we choose. So that will be easy. I have called all the resources I know and asked for referrals. A very wise individual left a very short part of a message that really sort of explained it all.


"She must be doing this now because this is the first time she has been able to stand it." Okay, we will deal with it now. Not later, not during but NOW.


So wanted: the best Cognitive Behavioral Adolescent Therapist in the greater Seattle area, should accept Boeing insurance.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I Just Hate Surprises

I guess this is not a surprise. I guess we have been talking about it endlessly on how it would happen. It is sort of like pre-parenthood. You are sure that (no matter the knowing look for other parents ) your life will return to normal. Normal never comes. We have all been waiting for the time that Mary-Elizabeth fell apart and began to really deal with being a cancer patient/survivor. Well

SURPRISE!

On Monday we had a big ACCESS appointment. I have yet to know what the letters mean but it is what happens when you are off treatment for two years. The gist of it was that M-E received a list of all her surgeries, treatment chemo drugs and the amounts. She was given a book of side affects. At 16 she heard a discussion about later cancers, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and her possible lack of fertility.

Monday we had to have Won Ton in Hot Oil Sauce (Two orders). Tuesday she forgot her English books and needed a note. Wednesday she lost her planner and can't find Frankenstein, cried, needed to be tucked into bed, with Tucker and needed me to sing to her... Thursday she is still asleep and unable to face the world.

Well, I always need a plan. I am thinking sleeping in, breakfast, pedicure, a trip to the hardware store and maybe a movie. If that does not work we will try plan B. I will work on that while my toes are being painted.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Windows and the choices they give us.


Yesterday was cold and clear and beautiful. God was trying to make up for the snow dump on Wednesday. As I left the office I looked south and saw menacing clouds slowing creeping over the horizon. Our systems often sneak up from that direction. As I looked north I could see endless blue sky and a few wisps of clouds that would color nicely at the sun left for the day.


At that moment I decided to take the clear and sunny view as my view of the universe.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some People Just Don't Get It

Every single day, I am thankful to the bottom of my toes that I am still a mother and that Mary-Elizabeth is still alive and relatively unscathed. She is grumpy and sleeping and leaves my shoes on the steps so I can trip. She expects to be fed and nurtured and demands attention. She was so so mad at me today because I told her she was not taking a car with her to college. She was huffy and left the car after announcing that "She was not going to discuss this with me."

We had never discussed this before. But it must be time.

All in all I would not miss a day of all this time. The moods, the expectations, the disappointments, the laughter, the tears.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Children's asked for a contribution. This is what I wrote last fall.

A Bit Removed from Treatment



Mary-Elizabeth’s story has been said, told and retold. We went to the eye doctor where he found swollen optic nerves. After many other appointments to detect the cause over two months we arrived fully into the "Cancer World" and all of its glory: side-affects, puking, fights with the insurance company and bottles of pills equal to mortgage payments. I want to talk about time away from the "Cancer World". It is a place that many people forget exists. Life after cancer is as jolting as life in cancer treatment. Cancer is like air, it is always there. Every sneeze, bump, bloody nose, strange look, craving, headache, bump, rash or anything else you can think about is the dreaded "RELAPSE". Every news story about a famous person that now is fighting the good fight again is gut wrenching. Time does make it better with each day being a little bit better than the last. Mary-Elizabeth went to bed by 7:30 every night during treatment. It took about six months or more of being off of treatment but she started to stay up later and later. She is now 15 months off treatment and is staying up until 11:00 p.m. doing homework. When she first ended treatment she was barely able to walk the dogs down the block and had to use the elevator at school. Now she takes all the stairs at Holy Names and does crew five nights a week. This fall she will row in three regattas! I realize that we have very gradually arrived back to "normal". It is more of a life similar to pre-cancer where it feels safer and healthier. It is a place where I can now plan to cook Thanksgiving Dinner this holiday and know it will happen. I also realize that I had unrealistic expectations about how long it would be before we arrived in this new place. In our experience for every two months of treatment, it took a month to really recover. She was in treatment for 30 months and we are 15 months away from it. Time in the "Cancer World" makes you appreciate so much about life, health and most of all “normal".
What does Children's mean to you, your child and your family?
Returning a phone call and hearing: “Hem/Onc Garcia here” is never good. It is not what any parent wants to hear, but having returned the phone call to Children’s was the best part of the call. I truly believed my daughter would survive treatment and would go on to live a good life after. I don’t know if I would have survived the process anywhere else but Seattle Children’s. To me Children’s is sort of medical department store with its labs, psychiatry, ophthalmology, dentistry, radiology and physical therapy all on site. There was no need to do more than take an elevator or find a new hall way to get between appointments. We only had to leave the main campus once for an appointment and that was for 12 doses of spinal cranial radiation. The Schedulers took care of making all of scheduling all of Mary-Elizabeth’s appointments and if there was a problem, they would solve it. The staff always took care of transferring records and x-rays between clinics and appointments so I never had to. Children’s is runs so well and they are so careful to make sure the patients come first. We had the luxury of having the same doctors and nurses throughout her entire treatment. They welcomed us with understanding, compassion and hints on where to find good coffee. Each cancer patient has a nurse practitioner and ours was Karyn Brundige. She was never rushed, always listened and worked with us on making cancer treatment palatable. Never can I say enough about the people, the care and the support we felt while there. Mary-Elizabeth is off treatment and she now seeks treatment for ordinary things from her primary care doctor. She loves him but we always look for an excuse to return to Children's instead.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This college thing is not scientific

We were able to find University of Portland and have directions to lots of other schools. If you don't leave the house with maps and directions, it is possible to not make good progress. M-E met one of her classmates at the University of Portland and the place is warm, inviting, people friendly, the guys passed my tests. Next time we will do a real tour and visit. She did score a sweatshirt, hooded of course.

She was sleeping both times we past St. Martins so that will have to wait. She will not even be looking at the University of Oregon. They are just too mean. We went to a couple of hockey games. The final was between Oregon and Washington. The players were a bit aggressive and very mean. The fans left something to be desired. She was not impressed.

So the search continues......;

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So this is how it begins.

First you have to find the college and then you have to pay for it. I am going to let Mary-Elizabeth shop and I am going to work on the financing. Right now I am sorting through lots and lots of web sites and foundations for cancer survivors. Most are open to mostly everyone; some are just for certain counties in Maryland.

So the hunt begins for schools and scholarships. It is nice to have a goal that does not require waiting on the result from a blood draw.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Friday the 13th is Coming

I should ignore it so I am going to take my daughter and head to look at colleges. I will not worry, I will not fret, I will not be concerned in any possible way. On the list this trip, University of Portland and St. Martins. Maybe a quick peak at the U of O.

See I am not worried. I am just g0ing to go and have a good time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So now we enter "Long Term Follow-up"

I guess it sort of goes like this. A whole round of tests including an new Eco Cardiogram. Lovely type of test, very easy, non-evasive, fast and THE most expensive single test we have done and an fairly regular basis. Blood tests, lots of extras like Thyroid and Lipids and....... Then we sit down with our new Karen (not to be confused with our old Karyn) and are give the book. The book contains the whole story to date, all the treatments, number of doses, the whole nine yards. The best part is the "What to Look For" sections. When we have this I will see what it has to say. This is the FINE PRINT.

We aren't going until March so I should be in quite a stew before then.
I think I need to go to the Library. I need to read the biography of the Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I watched the movie last night and need to know more.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Inaguration

Loved it. Grandmother would have been appalled by the day dress but would have approved of ball gown. It has been a week. I'm not sure things have changed but there seems to be some movement towards some good things happening, eventually.

It has taken a long long time to get from being 3/5ths of a human to being President. I don't think we can last that long to work on some basic issues but then we shall see.

TREE UPDATE

All the ornaments and lights are off. Trying to make it out the door next.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

College

I am not certain why just thinking about sending my child to college makes me giddy. I am surrounded by people full of anxiety and concern.

What school?
What Program?
How will it be paid for?
Will horrible and deadly things happen while she is there?
Will she be sucessful?
Will she have a good time?
Will she find those dear and lasting life long friends like I did?
How do we help her through those first few months?
Will anyone accept her?
Do I have to go on the big "college tour"

I just can not hop on that anxiety wagon. This is what I know.

Finals are next week.
Some great school she want to go to will take her.
The money will come from somewhere.
She will make great friends and have a good time.
She will be homesick but will handle it.\

But what I really know is that she will be going. I am more than content and satisfied with the fact that she will be
GOING