Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cancer Sucks...if I never heard the word again, I'd be happy!

So I've been delaying this post...just having a bit of a hard time figuring what to say. The past few weeks have been a bit tumultuous emotionally. I posted about the fundraiser for our friends Dave and Sarah. While it was a wonderful evening, the reason that we had to do it is just plain no good. Not to be down or anything, but life is hard enough sometimes...throw in some cancer and then money issues for extra spice seems a bit overkill at times. Anyways...not only were we feeling our friends' pain...but some others were getting added to the mix. With their permission, I'll let you in on some of the story.

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, I'm part of the most awesome MOPS group. (Mothers of Preschoolers...seriously, if you are a mom of a child aged infant through kindergarten, get ye hence to a group!!!! They are amazing!)  Ever since we moved to Connecticut almost 8 years ago, I've been attending the same group. We joke about how I had Buddy just so I could keep going! lol! That's where I met my besties Kim and Sarah...and basically all my other friends. When David was first diagnosed...and really, ever since, the support I got from my MOPS group was unbelievable! I don't know how we could have made it without those lovely ladies! Well, as it turns out, two more of my beautiful mom friends joined the exclusive cancer club. Not to make light of it...it's a club you hope and pray that none of your friends ever, ever receive an invite to. But, now that they're here...well, gotta have some humor.

I've known Linda ever since I started going to MOPS. In fact, at the very beginning, it was easy to get her and Sarah mixed up. They are both petite, black curly hair, and similar features...and the same bubbly, outgoing personality. Even people who have gone to their church for years still get them confused. 

Not the best picture, but the similarities are evident :)

Linda's youngest daughter is a year older than Red 3...so we've had many a playdate and birthday party together. After Linda graduated from MOPS I didn't see her quite as much...but then this year she came back as a Mentor Mom. Basically, a Mentor Mom is, obviously, a mom further along in her mothering path who shares wisdom, advice, helpful tips, etc with the rest of us. When she messaged Sarah and I to let us know that she had been diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, I was shocked! Thankfully, this form of cancer is highly treatable and curable, praise God...but still...cancer is cancer and it's always scary! 

She had surgery three weeks ago to remove her thyroid. Unfortunately, scans showed that the cancer had spread to lymph nodes, I believe...but again, the treatment for this particular cancer is amazing...and kinda crazy! Basically, they'll inject irradiated iodine, and the only cells that are affected by the iodine are the thyroid cancer cells. It should eradicate all the stray cells no matter where they are in the body. However, during the treatment, she will have to be isolated, as she'll be nuclear...lol...not really, but kinda. I was able to go to lunch with her a couple days ago and she looked great! The treatment should begin once she's all healed up from surgery, I believe. We are all so grateful that even with it having spread, the disease should be easily dealt with. I mean, no one wants to be radioactive! but the effects should only be a few days...and then hopefully things will all go back to normal, other than the thyroid meds she'll be on. Linda is an exceptional vocalist, and so having throat surgery was a bit of a concern, but so far, it seems her voice is normal...all kinds of blessings!

Gorgeous!


On to friend number two's story...

So I met Kim's sister-in-law several years ago when she started attending MOPS and we became friends as well. When Kim said that Carey had found a lump in her breast and was getting a biopsy, well, dread just filled me. It was actually during the night out at the brewery that I had to chance to talk to Carey and she confirmed that it was cancerous. While she's a beautiful, confident, strong lady...there's no way to be OK when you get the news. I couldn't believe she was able to function that night, not only that, but actually have fun! If you look back at my post about the fundraiser, she's in several of the pics, with that huge smile lighting up her face.

Carey's been meeting with doctors galore...lol...the process is fairly intense. Thankfully it's not emergency situation or anything...she can take the time to set up a good treatment plan without having to rush terribly. I believe there have been surgery meetings, plastic surgery consultation, oncology appointments, biopsies, multiple scans, and even a trip over to Dana Farber to get a second opinion from a top grade cancer center. It seems that the consensus is to start chemotherapy first...see how the tumor responds...and then surgery in the early fall. That seemed backwards to me...surgery is always the best option at removing and chemo is usually more of a mop up. But she said they explained it as being able to see which chemotherapy was actually effective on the cancer before surgery removed all visible tumors and then not being able to see if the chemo was working or not. Made a bit of sense. 

She's been keeping her sense of humor intact. She got an awesome haircut to prepare for chemo. I told her she was missing a funky color though! lol...

Maybe a blue like the Run or Dye pic...lol...actually, that pic on the right might be my favorite...the pigtails work Carey ;) 
She found this adorable cancer cell plushie that flips inside out to a healthy cell at her doctor's office...I kinda want one!

She said I could link her blog, if anyone would like to follow her story. I loved the title of her blog post about her cancer..."Killer Boobs" 


Honestly, at this point in our own cancer journey, we've adjusted. It's the new normal...as normal as we'll ever get. I can go for days without even thinking about it. Basically, yeah, it's like the Sword of Damocles, it's always there, but, then again, it's always there...you can forget about it and live. You don't sit there staring at it...your eyes just pass over it for the most part. But when people around you start to have to deal with it, it's almost harder...I don't know...hard to explain. I guess you start to remember how it was at the beginning again...the sorrow, the uncertainty, the fear...the disbelief. You don't want that to happen to anyone else, but it is, and there's nothing you can do. I find that lately, when I cry about cancer, it's not because of my David...but all our dear friends who are struggling with it. I cry, I pray, and then I try to live. I'm so eager to help as much as all our friends helped us...not just because they helped us, but because of how much it meant to me, I want to be able to give that to someone else.

I know it's been really hard on Kim also! Not only do both her best friends' husbands have cancer, but now her sister-in-law. Sarah and Kim and I were talking...it's just crazy! Seriously, in my MOPS group, since I started going, there have been 5 members who either got cancer or their spouse did in just the last few years. That's insane! I mean, that's a pretty small group, from about 40 in those first couple of years, now 5 of us are dealing with cancer?!?!?!?! Just, really young to have so many, and they are all different kinds of cancer. First throat cancer, then my David with brain cancer, then Sarah's Dave with colon cancer, then Linda with thyroid, then Carey with breast. That just blows my mind!


But, again, I fall back on my faith...I know that we are in the hands of a loving God...and that no matter what storms may come, no matter what sorrow or joy, He is there, holding our hands, never letting go. We need only trust in Him.



I will leave you with the Scripture verse that has been a lifeline to me...literally...when I had my darkest moments, this was all I could grasp on to.

Is. 45:6-7 "I am the Lord, there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. I make well-being and create woe. I the Lord do all these things."

When I was a teenager going through very dark days, this verse, oddly enough, comforted me. It told me that even though I could see no way out, even though my life was in turmoil and awful, God was in control. God knew, He was there...even though I didn't know what was going to happen, or even why, He was working. It comforts me now...it's my life verse that I can recite no matter what. and yes...joy comes in the morning. I know, with all my soul, I know. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Buddy's Birthday Bash!

This last Wednesday, my baby turned 4! I've never had my baby turn 4...my kids are all closer in age than that. I was actually a bit sad about it. We had been asking him for a while now what he wanted for his birthday. For the longest time he just kept saying cheeseburgers. I finally reworded the question and asked him what toys he wanted for his birthday. Tractors! What kind? Two tractors, two bulldozers, two dump trucks and two excavators! hahahaha


A couple weeks ago I took him to the party store to pick out what plates he wanted. At first he was holding on to the Cars 2 plates...I tried to tempt him with Iron Man or the Avengers or Captain America...but he really, really wanted tractor plates! They didn't have any...so I told him I'd buy them for him on the computer. He really knew what he wanted...it's not many three year olds who can walk past all these other cool options (he loves super heroes, and cars, etc) and hold on to what he really wanted. The only reason I was trying to sell him on something else was because he had a tractor party for his 3 year old birthday. Boy knows what he likes!

Anyways, I was unsuccessful, so tractors it was. I found the same plates he had last year online...but I really wanted to make a different cake than last year. I enjoy making the kids' birthday cakes...I actually took a cake decorating class as a teenager. I'm by no means a professional, far from it! But it is fun, and I know just enough to make it mostly cool ;) 

This was last year's construction cake...the really cool part about it was the surprising inside!

So of course, off to Pinterest I went to try to find a different spin...where else? lol...anyways, I found some cool ideas. One had the birthday age as a road made from crushed Oreos and butter, like a pie crust...I was worried it might get a little stale, but it actually stayed delicious the whole time! I was little offended, David didn't think I'd make it as cool as the picture...but I did! So there! lol

I had a bit of a mishap the day of his birthday though! I had baked and frosted the cake the day before, but hadn't decorated it yet. I stashed it in the old fridge down in the basement...it was a relic from the previous homeowners. It's an upright freezer/fridge...the fridge part doesn't actually work, but the freezer does. Anyways, I always stash my cakes in there...good holding spot. So, I go down to get it out to decorate it...and the freezer had decided to leak water all over it...it was ruined!!! 

I will admit to a minor freak out! It was about 1:00 pm, and I had no cocoa left in the house...I'd used it all on the cake and frosting. I couldn't even run to the store right then, because I was watching a friend's kid at the time. Aaarrrgggghhhh!!! I actually found a chocolate fudge cake mix in the pantry. Normally I'm a bit of cake mix snob...but what else could I do??? lol...so I put my snobbishness aside...well, mostly. I did doctor it up a bit (extra egg and melted butter instead of oil...trust me! much better) and got that thrown in the oven.

My friend picked up her daughter and off I went to pick up the girls from school...with a quick stop at the local grocery store for more cocoa and powdered sugar! Whew, crisis averted! I actually improved on the first frosting by making marshmallow cream based chocolate frosting...even better! I made the decorating buttercream...went with green and yellow...green for grass, yellow because those are construction colors. I made the Oreo mix for the road and went to work. The cake came out really well...I was super pleased with it! The Oreos were perfect! looked just like asphalt. 


We had decided to go to a local burger joint for dinner...after all, he had been asking for cheeseburgers on his birthday for weeks! There's this place, Catsup and Mustard....so good! The only problem is it's pretty small, and with a big family like ours, there's usually a pretty good wait. We figured if we went fairly early, hopefully we'd be ok. Rachel came over and we headed there around 5:00. We still had to squeeze at a small table, but were able to get in quickly.

My friend Kim had recommended the Cheesy Brisket Waffle Fries...we've been there lots of times but hadn't tried them. Let me tell you, divine!!! I love the fact that they have pretzel buns...not a big fan of regular bread/buns...but their pretzel buns are fantastic. They really are one of the best burger places around! They also make their own pickles...pretty yummy. Unfortunately, this time, my burger was very not good. The waitress asked if I wanted rare, pink, or no pink. Now, for steaks, I'm a bloody as it gets sorta girl. But for burgers, they should be cooked a bit more, so I said pink...after all, I don't want a hockey puck. And for the kids I said no pink. So anyways, my burger comes out, and it's really pink...but I didn't mind too much, like I said, I like it rare. Then I get to the middle, and it wasn't just rare, it was raw! And the kids had pink...again, not too concerned, just the fact that I said no pink and they got pink, not so great. Anyways, I'm not one to ever really tell the server if the food isn't great, but I had to let her know....I couldn't eat it, it was ground beef, not a hamburger. She was perfectly nice about it...but I hate when they ask you what to do...like, they're the ones who should take care of it...either tell me I'll get you a new one, or I'll let the manager know and see what they can do about it, or something. Don't ask me what I want done...I don't know, does that make sense? So, after awkwardly stumbling around, I said I didn't want another one, it was fine. I was full anyways...thankfully, when she brought the check, they had taken mine off, so that was good. I appreciated that...and definitely would go back. Like I said, we've been there plenty and that was the first time...must have been an off night. And their burgers are usually masterpieces! I'd definitely still recommend the place to everyone!


After we were all stuffed to the gills, we headed home for presents and cake. It's funny, it's basically a tradition that every birthday we ask "What comes first? Cake or presents?" I think it's supposed to be cake, but we're always so full from dinner that we do presents first...lol

The presents mostly followed the theme...lots of tractors! And he loved them all! I even managed to snag a remote controlled Caterpillar dump truck from Goodwill...and a big metal Tonka dump truck. Yes, I have absolutely no problem getting the kiddos presents from the thrift store...heck no!!! Those were awesome presents and he loved them! I also got him a Hulk and Captain America action figures.

Didn't get as many streamers/balloons up as I wanted due to the cake snafu...lol...oh well

Papa's present came in the mail...he loved it! We really missed you though!
This one combines two of his favorites, tractors and flashlights!!! It's even a nightlight!


 Time to sing Happy Birthday and blow out candles!




The cake was perfectly fine...thanks to the additions didn't even have the box mix taste. Not that he would have noticed! lol...he had even picked out the ice cream...peanut butter cup ice cream. After cake, he asked it he could have the tractors off the cake too! ;)


 His sisters had a good time too!

Red Two looks like an Elf from Middle Earth in this one!
Red Three had Wacky Tacky day in her class...so I did crazy hair on her...everyone really liked it!

 After cake it was definitely play time!
Freckles did not know what to think about the remote controlled dump truck!
Starting to get worn out...
And, he's down for the count! Yes, he likes to take his tractors to bed :)

David's been getting the older girls into paintball...Buddy really wants his own paintball gun. He loves to play with Daddy's paintball gear, but only when David lets him. Daddy let him play with one (without paintballs, obviously) the other day. You can see the glee on his face! hahaha...takes after Daddy!


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