Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September a month of Contraditions

It is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month.  I have been aware of Pediatric Cancer for way too long but never really knew it was the month of awareness for until last year.  I am not sure when this all started but September has been significant for a bunch of reasons.

September 13, 2004:  Date of first remission.
September 28, 2011:  Date of Relapse
September 30, 2014:  Things seem to be fine.

So I am working on loving September since we are having good news for two out of three times. 

My questions for today are:  Now What?.

Its time, very much time for me to start generating money in a constant and steady manner.  More efforts in networking, redrafting my resume and then seeing what I need to do to convince someone I am exactly the right person for the job.

I will keep trying... Because if we have learned nothing about the past few Septembers... Trying is the only option.  Eventually you get good news. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lessons from Cancer Mom Parenting.

This was published in the Huffington Post.

I didn't write it but could have.  I am working on my list. 
I learned that kids can get cancer when Jackson was 1 year old. He'd just learned to walk. He still wore OshKosh B'gosh overalls and loved to be rocked to sleep. There was nothing that he did wrong, or was exposed to; one day, there was just a lump.
Chemo. Radiation. Surgery. Stem cell transplant. Immunotherapy. Intensive Care. Oncology. Even though it's been four and a half years since he finished treatment, some days it feels like it was yesterday.
At times, I think I was born the day Jackson was diagnosed. The world falls silent as cancer shuts out all the background noise of work stress, mortgages, that extra 10 pounds or what's on TV. It awakens a level of empathy to suffering and an awareness to what's truly important in life.
Once a cancer mom, always a cancer mom. These are 20 things I know by heart:
  1. It is the most unnatural thing in the world to be told your child has cancer.
  2. There's nothing you can do or say to take it away from them. There's no fixing it.
  3. Babies can be born with cancer.
  4. Toddlers can lie on the floor and throw a tantrum while having cancer.
  5. Little Leaguers will miss their games because of cancer.
  6. Teenagers can go straight from the hospital to high school graduation, then right back to the hospital.
  7. Children can often handle higher doses of chemo than adults.
  8. Kids can play hide-and-seek, chase each other in toy cars and build an epic Play-Doh creation, all while toting an IV pole with chemo.
  9. Treatment straight up sucks.
  10. I can feel a fever without even touching my child.
  11. There's such a thing as radioactive urine. And I've changed that diaper.
  12. Sleeping in a hospital bed with a sick child teaches you interesting life skills, like the ability to wake from a sound sleep, grab a bucket and catch vomit.
  13. Some kids can have the opposite reactions to medications... like for instance, something that makes an adult sleepy might amp a child up. Having a toddler stuck on "fast forward" will make you bone-weary.
  14. The first scar is always the worst. Taking that beautiful, soft baby skin and seeing it cut open is like ripping your heart out.
  15. You realize nothing is as important anymore as getting your child well.
  16. A mother's love knows no bounds. Not even being puked on, directly in the face.
  17. You'll never forget the smooth, sticky feeling of a bald head against your cheek.
  18. Every ache and pain, no matter how long your child's been in remission, will remind you that cancer can come back.
  19. Statistics don't mean a damn thing when it comes to your child.
  20. Kids never give up. And neither do their parents.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Moving Forward and still Staying Connected.

She is off treatment, she is back at school, she is thriving. She even missed a class this week because she slept in... how normal is that?

So there is a part of me that wants to step out from under the Cancer World Cloud and move on. We are done, it is over there is no looking back. Wouldn't that be great. Wouldn't that be a perfect thing to do.  Any sane person would do so.  

But we Cancer Mom's are sort of like holocaust survivors. We might have not been in the camps (our kids were) but we carry the scars with us.  Our kids have the tattoos from radiation but we had to be there with them. We were there, we were trying to keep them alive and keep them sane and keep them safe. 

I want to flee and pretend it did  not happen.  I want to flee and pretend it won't return.  I want to think it is done.  But we all know it is never done.  No matter how far out, no matter what the research says... it is never over.   

Someone shared this little picture.  Sort of a reminder that it is never over. So I guess I have no choice but carry on. Work on a book. Do something great to fill the hole cancer dug in our lives.  We are strong and determined and nothing..... will keep us from doing everything we can with our lives.  Small steps.  Each more normal than the last. 

Friday, September 19, 2014


We keep marching forward but sometimes it is necessary to step back and spend a few moments in the past. 

I found this picture with some other's.  I don't know when it was put away but sometimes it is good to see take them out and look.  My daughter will laugh at the glasses. Jerry Tapia will be dismayed that he ever ever did my hair like this.  I am amazed that I knit three sweaters for Mary-Elizabeth and her cousins.  I am amazed I convinced a guy from Astoria to come to Cannon Beach and take the family pictures.  We are sort of once in 20 years sort of folks. 

I am still pounding away at becoming employed.  Mary-E and Tucker are off doing college things.  The world keeps moving forward no matter what we do but it is good to take a few moments and pause and think about the good things from our past. 

Boy what a difference 20 years can make.  WE both are still very very cute. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Someone Wants to Hire Me... They Just Don't Know it yet....

Maybe you know who they are.  I know who does not want me to come be part of their team.  I am looking for a job.  It does not have to be a big jog.  I does not have to be too exciting.  I would love to work for a company in the Human Resource Department.  I am great with people, insightful and very creative. 

I cann't begin to count the number of applications that have gone from this computer.  I don't seem to be able to get to a person.  I think if I was able to find a person somewhere that did not just look at my age, my weird back ground, I think I could convince them I could be a great person in their company.  

So here is my Resume.  Pass it around.  Let me know if you hear anything.  
®  Experience in Human Resource Management, experience in employee recruitment and retention, staff development, mediation, conflict resolution, management of complicated litigation matters.
®  Demonstrated success in negotiating win-win compromises, writing and reviewing complex legal documents, my skills could easily transfer to drafting policy manuals corporate policies, job descriptions and management reports. 
®  Excellent communication skills, writing, oral, understanding of different learning styles and communication flexibility.
®  Marketing and Presentation of CLE Programs, worked at promoting and recruiting for legal committees,
®  Special interest in Health Care Matters

®  Labor Law
®  Employment Law
®  Mediation & Advocacy
®  HR Policies & Procedures
®  Staff Recruitment & Retention
®  Employee Relations
®  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
®  Workforce Planning
®  Marketing and Sourcing

®  Orientation & On-Boarding
®  Problem solver
®  Training & Development
®  Performance Management
Employment and Human Resource Consulting 2012 to Present

®  Utilized updated skills and knowledge to work with small companies on all areas of Human Resources.
®  Working Knowledge of Employment Law and other matters
®  Employment Compliance
®  Training regarding Sexual Harassment, Workplace Discrimination
®  Workplace investigations.
®  Drafting and updating work place policies

Mikkelborg, Broz, Wells and Fryer PLLC 1999 to 2011
®   Headed up Family Law Practice Area.  Played a key role in managing staff. Worked with employees on a one to one basis on problem solving and other conflict matters. Worked with clients dealing with employment issues including wrongful termination, FMLA, ADA and other work place issues.
®   Fostered  teamwork/open-door environment conducive to positive dialogue across the organization
®   Negotiated settlements in complex situations.  Honed negation skills through extensive mediation and arbitration settings.
®   Attended and was certified in Dispute Resolution and Mediation training. (40 hours)
®   Worked with staff on training and assessing needs for further education and skills.

Law Office of Sally A. Lanham 1987 to 1999
®  Owner and Manager of Small Private Practice:  Fulfill a broad range of HR functions, including recruiting and training employees, administering benefits, overseeing disciplinary action and managing HR records.

Education & Certifications

Health Care, ACC, Medical Malpractice Certificate From Seattle UNIVERSITY
Human Resources management Certificate from the University of Washington
University of Idaho School of Law   JD
Central Michigan UNIVERSITY BS

Of Note

Other Professional Experience and Education of Note:
®  Adjunct Professor in Paralegal Program Edmond’s Community College
®  Taught English 7-12, Speech and Drama and Librarian, Dietrich Idaho.
®  Consulting on Human Resource Matters
®  Attendance of LERA Annual Collective Bargaining and Arbitration Conference
®  Trained Mediator (40 Hours of education.)

®  Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
o    Seattle Chapter
o    National Chapter
®  NW Chapter of LERA  
®  King County Bar Association
®  Washington State Bar Association
o    Employment Law Section

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Comfort of Continuety

There is comfort in knowing something of value comes from our lives.  Some little piece. A moment, a thought, the solution to the common cold, a great novel. Something.  Or maybe it is someone that cares we have gone. 

It seems silly to put much effort into it but as a person who studied history.  We spend most of our efforts on the big events. The big people and artist and the musicians and the like.  Even they have bits of their lives rushed over and forgotten.  The Dr. Seuss with a new book after 50 years, a manuscript found in the basement closet. 

So here I sit.  With a bit of deep sadness that has seemed to come to the surface.  It comes from finding a box of pictures.  These are mostly formal pictures but as I looked a the framed pictures, I realized there will not be any more of new humans that look like the rest of the ones in the box.  This group of genes is done.  No more high cheek bones and almond eyes.  No more big smiles that accentuate round cheeks from under a fringe of brown hair. No reflections of the past, Grampa's eyes, Great Grandpa's Nose, the weird family web toes.  

Does it matter?  Not really.  Will there be children that love the Stacking doll or Grandma Mary's ax or Great Grandma's Turkey Roaster?
Of course there will. We are a family of vast acceptance of the new and the interesting.  We just add some more water to the
soup and make a place at the table.

There is a loss here. A real loss. A real end. The mirror is broken.  No more reflections of the particular group of genes.  I get to be sad about that for a bit.  Then I will move on.  Because there is no other option. Not for us. Continuity is not a possibility. 

I guess I better get dressed!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Whats all the Fuss about Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.  Sort of like October is Breast Cancer.

I guess it is hard to believe there are people that are not "aware" of Childhood Cancer but given the small amount of funds (4%) go directly to Childhood Cancer research it is easy to understand.  It is such a small percentage of the cancer population the drug companies have not developed any new drugs for a long time.  That being said, I am still baffled at the lack of knowledge about what happens to kids during and after treatment.  

People often want to know if Mary-Elizabeth has been cured. I never know what to say about it. The medical people love to talk about 5 years, or 10 years of being cancer free.  We have small and young children. For example, if Robin Ulness makes it 5 years post cancer, she will be 7 or 8 years old.
 Mary-Elizabeth will be 24 years old.  Does not seem like much time.  She will maybe be just out of college.   

Just imagine if you only were able to allow yourself to look 5 years ahead.  No more, that would be all the time you have.  5 years.  Your child does not get to be any older then today plus 60 months.  The length of time it takes for most Americans to pay off a car.  1/6th of a house loan.  

I guess what I want is people to pay attention and maybe focus a bit on what is happening behind the smiles and the "sure we are great" that parents and Cancer Kids often have.   Because it is hard.  Even if you kid is "fine" and getting better each day.  Many are not.  Many are still trying to find away out of the grief and the pain of loss.  A family had to have the "talk" with younger brothers and sisters.  The your brother is dying talk. 

Don't take me wrong, I am so so grateful for what is available, for new and improved treatments, for less invasive treatments.  I understand how complicated this all is. But....

Just take a moment.  Look at the full moon and ask the universe to leave these kids alone.  Let them live out their lives. Let them fall in love. Learn to ride a bicycle.  Learn how to make a soccer goal. Learn how to drive a car. Learn how to get themselves out of jail without Mom and Dad finding out.

Okay, I'm done.  Maybe next year Seattle Children's Hospital will acknowledge the month since they do such good work in helping out kids. Maybe the White House will light up like they do for Breast Cancer. Maybe Century Link and the Ferris Wheel will do the same. Maybe the Empire State Building will light up for something more than the US Open.  Maybe we will do enough education so people will begin to understand the high cost of this disease.  

Mother Earth has lit up in Hawaii.  She is going gold. 

We All Have Our 9-11's

I am old enough tohave several "where were you when?" events in my life.  Some personal, some national. All life changing. 

John Kennedy's assassination
First Moon Landing

Cancer Diagnosis Day
Death of Father Day
Cancer Relapse Day

Transplant Day

Most are not days, most are moments but they forever change the landscape of our lives. 

Some times we don't realize the significance of a day or a time until long after it happens.  We can look back with great clarity and find the moment in time. The moment we should have known, the moment we could have known the seed was planted.  

We have many significant moments, hard impact moments, Lasts we did not recognize at the time.  We think there are going to be lots more chances and lots more days. 

I know I look at things differently.  I am much more concerned with this very moment.  I have seen too much to not be.  

I know there are limited tomorrows and no certainty. The moment of noticing the single humming bird as it locates a still juicy trumpet flower while the sun reflects off the feeder. 

We must never forget but we also have to keep going.  No matter how much chaos there is in our lives, the world keeps going forward.  See, I started this post on September 11 and now it is September 12th.  

Hoping for only good memory event creators. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

War and Peace

My dad and I both loved good books.  Not the easy reads, the good books. The thinking books.  He read to me weird stuff when I was young.  He also loved poetry.  I am probably the first 5 year old to love the Charge of The Light Brigade or Robert Service poems about the far frozen north.  He and I both loved Pat Conroy.  I think dad had a similar childhood to the one that formed the story of the Prince of Tides.  No the details but the struggles.  

The last book we shared was Pat Conroy's My Reading Life.  It is a book about books. Books he loved, books he hated.  It as sort of life time book report.  One chapter is devoted to Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.  Upon reading the book, Dad and I both decided to read War and Peace.  When he left the house after my December surgery, he promised we would both read it in 2011.   He only made it to January 3rd so I have forgiven him for not finishing it. 

I started and soon realized it was not an easy endeavor and stopped my efforts to watch 27 hours of the 1972 BBC production of the book.  Sort of the Clift note version.  I never would have been able to read it had I not done that first. 

I did read it.  I did read it and every single word.  I did so for three reasons.  

1. I told Dad I would and I always hated to disappoint him.  2. Pat Conroy loved it and I value him as a great American Writer. 3. Countess Tolstoy copied the book six times by hand.   

I read it during treatment.  Perfect book for Cancer World.  Slogging and endless and despairing and great loss are central to the story.  But in the end there is great love and satisfaction and happiness.  

Happy Birthday Leo....

Saturday, September 06, 2014

I wrote this when everyone thought Dad had Lung Cancer. December 2004....

In December of 2004 when Meb was just starting her treatment, there was a spot found on the his lung.  He was pretty sure it was bad, very very bad.  

I don't remember writing this but found it and thought it was interesting. 

I keep thinking if I say it enough, it will not be so hard. I keep thinking that If I say it enough it will be easier to understand. I feel so helpless right now with all that is going on. So many people need my attention. So many people need my help and my energy and I feel pulled in so many directions. For today I am going to watch a movie with my daughter that I think I am going to hate. I am going to carry on as if we have a normal life. I will call home only one more time. I will pray that I can accept the had we have been dealt. I will focus on not adding stress to M-E. I will weep a bit this morning. I will sit with my sadness and let the waves of sadness pound at me for a bit. I will know that there are many pieces of wood to hang onto in this time of great despair. I know I am not alone.

We all loose our parents. Those that have not, fear they will and those that have lost a parent are reminded of that gut wrenching pain and vast emptiness of loss. But even now Father is in teaching mode. He is making bread, and writing letters, and moving money around. He feels he has been given a gift. A warning that allows him to do some things. Not that he needs to do much because he has lived everyday with great deliberation. He has lived each day with purpose. He has seen those that have slipped to the other side and knows upon their return they report only good things.

He will do this with great grace and purpose. He will not let them do much to him but will take full control of the process and guide us all through it. There will be sadness and tears and screaming and yelling but there will also be no regrets. We might even be treated to a few revelations. No one will feel like we did not say enough or do enough for each other.

We will be stronger and better people. We will have been blessed with all the years of time and effort and wisdom that Father has always shared. We will have our letters and our memories and knowledge that he will always be with us in so many ways.
I will also miss him in so many ways...........................................................

Startling Discoveries

All my life I have heard about "3 Minute Eggs".  I am a lover of soft boiled eggs.  Egg cups, Eire Shires (egg scissors) and small spoons are just added fun.  But the fact is I have never been able to perfect the process. 

Boiled the water, dropped in the eggs, watched them break, never quite right.  Three Minutes did not seem to work, 5 was too much.  I just settled.  No big deal. Just looked for the right kind of runny but could easily eat hard eggs.  

Then, it occurred to me maybe what they meant was 3 minutes of boiling if you started them in cold water.  Ever the curious scientist, I did just that.... 3 eggs, cold water, and 3 minutes of boiling.  What could be easier?   

And it works. 

Moral of the story:
1. You are never too old to try something a different way.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gonzaga University and it's Place in our Cancer World Story

Heavy Sigh.... in order to tell this story in the way it should be told, I have to prepare myself for some feelings I have put in the back closet, in a box, with the label.. .do not open.  But sometimes those heavy sighs can be good things. 

So.  Recap... Cancer came in 2004, Cancer was pushed under the rug in 2006 and came back out with a vengeance in 2011. 

Meb was happily ensconced in her new life a sophomore at Gonzaga.  She applied to 11 schools, was accepted to 9 and wait-listed at one. She walked on to the campus of Gonzaga and said to me... "Mom this is it. This is where I belong."  She was so so right. From the beginning they did everything they could to make her successful.  

The gave her money, they wrote up accommodations to help with her the weird stuff Seattle Children's did to her brain. They have a great program for certain kids that come from mixed-culture families and she was able to settle in to her new life with a bit of a head start.  She was able to pick her roommate and life was good. 

She worked hard and thrived until three years ago today when we all received "the call", the "it's back" call.  

I was in a state of confusion and anger and frustration.  My great pal Shelley Buckholtz had the sense to tell me call the school to let them know Meb would no longer be in school.  I gave her the job.

Within 30 minutes, our room was filled with Sima Thorp a dean of students and Father Hightower, a great priest.  30 minutes.  

Within 6 hours I was called by the President, the dean of the Electrical Engineering department was ready to go to her apartment and pack up her stuff AND drive it to Seattle.  Student Accounts was sending all the money back for the whole semester and securing her future grants and aide for her return.  They even were able to return her GET money so we didn't have to pay taxes on it.  A student wrote an article in the paper. A great old priest reached out to her an wrote lovely encouraging letters.  They made sure she was able to go to the Battle in Seattle just before transplant.  Sima kept in touch and was ready to answer any questions I had and was so so good about helping her return.  Someone did a bone marrow drive in her name.

During her time at home they worked on a way for her to continue to study in a way never done before.  Father Tran came to visit us more than once to help with her questions and so did Dr. McKinney.  Over and over there was an effort for her to keep in touch with her school and to foster a feeling of belonging. 

When she did return last year, they again stepped over backwards, turned themselves inside out and then did more.  She was able to live in a Junior/Senior dorm with her old roommates, they worked with her to make sure she could get to her appointments and had time to do so.  

I have dropped her off again to begin her junior year. This time it was different.  Early drop off, books, settling Tucker into the dorm. (A much needed companion dog for her.) Lunch with Sima.  A feeling that she has found such a special special place to finish her education and be successful. 

Gonzaga is a place of real purpose and dedication.  They practice what they preach. They make significant and differences in the lives of the people in their sphere.  I know that what they have done for Meb, they have done for every single person on campus.  Those kids are loved, encouraged and given the space and tools to grow and be successful. 

As  I drove away from campus this year, it felt so good to know this was going to be a good year. A year of growth and learning.  She is so ready to be her own person and grow beyond being a kid that had leukemia twice in a decade.  She is headed to the best thing possible.  A degree from Gonzaga University. 

Now if Tucker could just meet Maddie the mascot... life would be perfect.