For Her…

   About 1,340 children are expected to die from cancer in 2012… About 12,060 children will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012…

   Wait… Let’s try this again…

About 1,000 + 300 + 40  children are expected to die from cancer in 2012.  

   How many people really know this number?  Even more important, how many people are touched by seeing that number?  

 

    Meet Faith

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   Faith was a typical 5 year old girl, who loved to dress up and put on Tinkerbell eyeshadow and pick beautiful flowers for her mommy and daddy.  She had no comprehension of cancer or the terrors that came with it.  Her favorite color was yellow like the sun… her favorite song was Jesus Loves Me and her favorite thing to do was dance and play with her brother and sisters.  She giggled endlessly and loved playing jokes.  She loved princesses and ballerinas.  Faith only got sick on an average of once a year, even during flu season.  Strong, healthy, vibrant and beautiful.

   November… Thanksgiving Day, while playing with her siblings and cousins, Faith fell on a rock pile and scraped her back, leaving a bruise just like any other fall. A few days later, she was fine and her scrape was healing fine.

   December… While preparing for our first Christmas in our new house, Faith seemed to be a little less excited than usual, complaining of feeling tired.  One night, while eating dinner, Faith complained that her tummy was hurting and started projectile vomiting.  While she was getting sick she started crying and grabbing her back.  The bruise on her back was still there, but there seemed to be no other sign of anything wrong with her back from the outside.  A call was made to the bone specialist but they couldn’t get Faith in until the 28th, 3 days after Christmas. The following morning, Faith seemed totally fine and said her back didn’t hurt any longer.

   A week later, the whole family got the flu except Faith.

   Christmas Eve… While celebrating Christmas with her grandparents 100 miles away, Faith complained of not feeling well and asked to lay down. While resting, she began vomiting and the flu was evident. Faith was very pale and we decided to travel back home where we would be closer to the doctor. 

   Christmas Day, Faith still felt sick but was holding down food and fluids. She never spiked a fever, and managed to open her gifts with interest.  By that evening, she was complaining of back ache but her tummy was feeling better.  

   The day after Christmas, Faith felt a lot better and only had mild back pain and only when she bent over. She stayed in bed for the next 2 days to prevent any damage to her back.  

   December 28th, while at the bone specialist, the x-rays showed absolutely no sign of injury. Ribs were in tact, spine was in tact, and there was no sign of new bleeding.  The most concerning part was that fact that Faith was getting more pale by the day.  While the doctor ran his fingers up her neck, he found a lump on the left side and recommended that her pediatrician see her immediately.  She was rushed to her pediatrician who just happened to travel the world, helping countries who are less fortunate medically, to diagnose rare diseases.  He checked her over for about 10 minutes and ordered lab work to be done promptly.

   December 29th, 7:00 am… Faith is sleeping peacefully for the first time in days and wakes up with a sleepy sigh and sweet smile for her mommy.  She says she is feeling “okay”… The phone rings…

   I answer the phone to the doctor, a little confused that he is calling before the office even opens.  “Angie, I need to talk to you about Faith’s lab work,” he says gently. “I need you to listen real closely.”  I stopped pulling cereal boxes out of the cupboard. “You have my full attention,” I reply, fear creeping into my chest.  I knew it.  I just knew she had something wrong with her back.  What I couldn’t figure out is what in the world that had to do with her lab work. “Angie, after looking at Faith’s lab work, I believe she has something called leukemia…” I felt my legs giving out.

   Rewind… September, earlier that year… I sat watching a St. Jude’s fundraiser on television, tissue in hand.  A young boy, bald and pale, yet absolutely adorable, talks in a little voice about how much he misses his sister and daddy and how he just wants to be able to get better and go home… As tears roll down my cheeks, I thank God that I am not enduring what those mommies are enduring and swear that I would never be able to watch my child go through such terror.

   “Angie… Angie, I need to know you are hearing what I’m telling you. Angie… do you understand what I am saying?”  … I keep answering, “Yes, yes.” but he just keeps saying my name.  “Angie, I think you are in shock right now and I need you to only concentrate on answering me.”  I realize that my mind is saying yes, but my voice just won’t cooperate.  I take a breath and I don’t even recognize my own voice anymore.  “I understand.”  That’s it. That’s all that comes out. “There is already a bed ready for Faith at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.  They are expecting you by early afternoon.  You need to leave within three hours if possible. It’s critical to get her there as soon as possible.” 

   We packed light and called our friend and youth pastor and my mom and asked them to meet us at the church.  Several church staff members, my mom and sister, my husband, me and our kids all came together to ask God for something we didn’t even know if we had a right to ask… understanding.

 

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   Upon arriving at the hospital, we were flooded with strange smells, nurses, doctors, technicians & fellow doctors (doctors in transition to the floor).  We were overwhelmed by the confidence of the physicians and their thorough testing. Our family of 6, unwilling to separate, found a way to sleep all of us in one room.  I slept with Faith in her hospital bed, Vince slept in the recliner and the other three kids slept linked together on the couch.  I say slept and by that, I mean, in between beeping machines, flashing lights, nurses coming in and out, blood pressure cuffs resetting, and families whispering the nurses enter the rooms beside us.  Our lives felt like a slow moving horror movie.

   January 2, 2007… the test results have come in.  The team of doctors come in and their faces are unreadable. Calm, considerate, compassionate, and burdened, they walk into the room and quietly take a seat. Over the last few days, these people have not only earned our trust by being completely honest with us, but they have also become our only lifeline here on earth and we know it.  As soon as the words ‘cancer’ and ‘leukemia’ left the doctors mouths, we were flooded with paperwork, facts, statistics and plans for treatment.  One thing that our doctor told us that gave me great comfort, was that not only were they very familiar with the type of leukemia that Faith had, but that over the last 10 years, the survival rate had drastically gotten better due to research and modern technology.

   I didn’t know it then, but that little bit of hope would change my life and how I gave back in the years ahead.

   Treatment meant many things for our entire family. Separation, fear, strength, hope, growth, friends, knowledge, patience, FAITH, research, support, love, frustration, education, exhaustion, loneliness, and courage are just some of those things.

FAITH

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  At the hospital and while staying at the Ronald McDonald House, Faith would often fall asleep during prayer so peacefully that we just knew God was comforting her every time we prayed. As a mother, I can’t even explain how this picture still to this day floods my heart with so many conflicting emotions. The memories of her being this sick are still really vivid in my mind. 

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Our first trip home, Faith had a few good days.  We tried to capture them as much as possible. She slept a lot, vomited daily, and cried occasionally.  We tried to keep her as comfortable as possible all the time but the steroids made it difficult for her to get comfortable.  Between the chemo and the medication to keep the chemo from killing her, she was a roller coaster of emotion and her immune system was usually at zero. Often, we had to quarantine our home for months at a time and no one was allowed to visit and trips to town were very rare. The smell of most foods would throw her into a projectile vomiting.  We had to completely adjust our diets and cooking methods.

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Some days were significantly better than others.  This picture is Faith’s first trip into town, non medical related.  She was so excited that she even struck a pose for me!  We constantly saw glimpses of the vibrant, beautiful girl that we knew so well and our hope was high.  We had no reason to believe she couldn’t be one of the survivors we had heard about.

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As time went by, Faith had breaks in treatment that allowed her to have visitors.  (These were usually times that the treatment was subtle to allow her immune system to recuperate so she could be hit again) It was bittersweet because it was such a blessing to see her color return and her spunk to be up, but knowing in the back of your mind, it wasn’t over… but even more, just being grateful that it was atleast life.

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Friends came, bearing gifts, including the bicyclists from Candlelighters For Children With Cancer who rode with Cycle Oregon 2007 and sent postcards to Faith at their stopping points to remind her they were riding for her.  We love this organization.  They are wonderful!  Melissa, the first Candlelighters staff that we met continued to support Faith by coming to every one of her doctors appointments for the first 3 years of her outpatient treatment.

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Sometimes treatment even allowed us to attend awareness fundraisers where Faith was always willing to talk about what she was going through. Her smile is what carried me most days.

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Finally, the doctors cleared Faith to go to Disneyland.  She was so excited that she called everyone herself to tell them. Her Aunt Kristie gave her a Mickey Mouse hat that sat on a shelf until this special day of clearance! Faith had to take chemo even during her trip to Disneyland.  They wouldn’t allow us to take her pill crusher on the plane and when we got there, we couldn’t find one anywhere. She chewed her pills with ice cream.  Not even chemo was going to stop this wish from happening!

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There were good days…

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Crazy tired days…

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But they were days…

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They were life…

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She spent her very last day of treatment admitted in the hospital…

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But we still celebrated life…

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It’s all that mattered…  

   So when treatment ended, people assumed that everything ended, but really, it isn’t over.  We were fortunate to parent a survivor, but there are SO MANY side effects of treatment. Faith may never be able to have children… She is more likely to get a secondary cancer… She has to have continued doctor visits for the rest of her life.

 

HERE COMES THE BIG PICTURE… 

   We have a chance..

Image To help…

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ImageTo make a difference…

ImageIn the lives of these children…

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ImageTo bring giggles…

ImageSmiles…

ImageSeasons…

ImageMemories…

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Support is easier than you think!

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Whether you are a sibling…

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A parent…

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It doesn’t matter how you are effected…

         Maybe you are an aunt or uncle… grandma or grandpa…

                 Heck, maybe you are a neighbor….

Or maybe…

You just have a heart…

That is big enough to give in an area you can’t relate to, but you really feel led to reach out.

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Whatever reason you have… if for no other reason, FOR HER!

 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month… won’t YOU help spread the word?

 

Love,

Her Mom ❤

 

If you would like to reach out and don’t know where, please consider this worthy recipients that we have not only benefited from but support and have seen where the money goes!

Candlelighters For Children With Cancer http://www.4kidswithcancer.org

Caring Bridge http://www.caringbridge.org

Shane’s Walk http://www.shaneswalk.weebly.com

 

School Year 2012

I can’t believe it is time to start the new school year already!  Vincel is in high school this year, so that means another one off to public school and now all I have is the two girls at home!  This should make for shorter days and maybe even an early release for holiday breaks!

My favorite part about homeschooling is the versatile schedule.  My second favorite part is that it keeps my from running completely ragged with tasks away from home.  Let the school year begin! 🙂

What’s your favorite part about homeschooling?Image

Tell us what you think?

Women In The Military???

As much as I really would love to breach another subject, this is the one that is first and foremost on my mind these days.  My eldest daughter, Cynthia, is going into the Marine Corps.  This is not something that we were super excited about at first, to be honest with you.  Not because we don’t support our military, nor because we don’t have military experience in our family, and not even really because it’s far away. The reason was simple. That’s MY daughter!

The thought of her waking up at wicked hours with little sleep already exhausted just to have people screaming in her face telling her she is nothing terrified me!

When she first told us about it, it was easy because it wasn’t a sure thing and we had plenty of time to do some soul searching. I thought it was a phase at first, due to her passionate involvement with our Marine JROTC at her high school.

Over time, however, I started to see a great change in my not so little girl. I started to notice some really great habits developing.  Earlier waking hours, less makeup, more confidence.  I watched the relationship between her Gunnery Sergeant and the Lieutenant Colonel and the kids and saw what I had always loved about the Marine Corps family.  Honesty, pride, trust, honor, encouragement and love.  The more I watched, the more I realized, that my problem was that I was afraid of things that didn’t just happen in the military.  My fears were rape, judgement, conflict, failure and injury.  The problem with this fear, is that these things could just as easily happen if she went to work at a grocery store!  The enemy always sneaks in the back door.

So, I had to sit down and really think about this decision.  I could either encourage it and regret it if something happens to her, or discourage it and always wonder if she would have been okay.  In the end, it’s not our decision, obviously.  It’s got to be her decision, but lets face it… when our kids are making these huge decisions, we really do have to make a choice to either support them or encourage them in another direction.  I still wasn’t sure what I should do and I just started praying like crazy.  Not like you would think, but I was praying for God to find a way to make me see this as a good decision if she was supposed to go.

The following week, I brought up Cynthia going into the Marine Corps to several people and boy, were the responses contradictory!  The first response I got was, “I would freak the hell out if my kids ever wanted to go into the military!”  I thought for a minute and said to myself, “Do I feel the same way?”  The answer was honestly, no.  When I thought in general whether I was against my kids enlisting, the answer was, no. Another response is “You aren’t going to let her go, are you?”  Uh… she is 18… Okay, moving on.

Just a day later, Cynthia calls me from school, so upset I could barely understand her.  She informs me that upon informing the staff at her school at that time, that she was going into the military and therefore wanted to focus more on JROTC at the other school more than their ‘University based’ diploma, that they shut her down with comments like, “I can’t believe you are taking the easy way out” and “Joining the military is what people do when they don’t want to put in the effort of college”.  My favorite was “Cynthia, you know what your problem is?  You’ve had it easy your whole life and just can’t handle it.”  Are you freaking kidding me? I won’t go into detail about my daughters NOT so easy life, but it hasn’t been a piece of cake, by any means. One of the staff even referred to her as going into the ‘F’ing military.  I can’t even tell you what was building up inside of me at this point. When I asked her what her response was, she said, “Yeah and thanks to the military, you have the freedom to say that.”  I was SO VERY proud of her!  That is exactly what I would have said.  The following weeks until the semester ended, the staff not only treated her with indifference but they also made it difficult for her to transfer by delaying her final grade postings.  I was sick to my stomach, and felt my ‘ All American’ roots reaching out all over the place! Moving on.

Finally, I just asked Cynthia, honestly and truly why she wanted to join the military.  Her response was so quick and so relaxed, yet passionate, that I just knew it was where she needed to be.  We never once had to wake her up for PT.  She never complained about doing her chores after an exhausting day at an event.  She was serious when she said, it is just what feels right. “It’s where I belong.  I want to be there when our country needs help.  I want to travel the world. They are family to me. It makes me feel proud.  I want to serve my country and if I’m going to serve, I want to be with my family.  I want to be a part of the best.”  These are the things that just blew me away.  It wasn’t about so and so doing it or “I just want to be cool” mentality and it sold me.

Then, something terrible happened.  A friend said to me, “I don’t believe women belong in the military.”  Okay, I had to ponder this for a moment because I had always been kind of on the fence about this one.  Not because women aren’t capable of doing amazing things but because there are some no brainer things that need to be openly considered. Of course, all these things are things that I had only given little thought to in the past. Just some of these things came to mind.

  • Woman + PMS + Gun = ?
  • Woman vs Man physical strength
  • Woman vs Man mental strength
  • Woman vs Man respect
  • Woman vs Man risk

Okay, so considering the first one… Even though it still gets a giggle out of me, this was my biggest concern. Who on earth is going to trust a pms’ing and ‘unstable’ hormonal woman with their life when she is in a panic?!  Not me!  Unless of course, she had top of the line training that taught her not only to control herself when she wanted to love everyone, but also when she wanted to shoot everyone else.  Come on.  This is something, that even me, a woman, bought into.  Of course you are going to deal with hormones, but testosterone is a pretty healthy competitor! These women are trained how to function even in their ‘dis-functional’ times!  There is no worry here.

Women vs men physical strength.  Men are typically stronger physically, but even a fellow Marine will tell you that female Marines are a force to reckon with.  They are taught the same intense fighting skills as the men that if put in the position would allow them to not only defend themselves but be productive in protecting their brothers and sisters in uniform just as easily as a male. There will never be any doubt that physically, men tend to be stronger, but skilled individuals are on a different scale in my opinion and not all men are stronger than all women.  Therefore, we must also admit that not all women can be weaker than all men.

Mental strength?  Well, I will be honest with you.  I think that this area completely depends on the individual.  I don’t think either side is stronger as a gender in this area.  I think that anyone that trusts their gender to be stronger than the other mentally is playing with a ‘loaded gun’. It could go both ways and there are waaaay too many crazies out there to rule out any gender as more stable than another.

Woman vs Man respect.  This one is difficult.  I think generally, women tend to receive less respect but I’m not really sure that I notice this so much in the military from the outside.  Never having been on the inside, I don’t really feel that I am knowledgeable enough to really express an educated equation, but my opinion is that women are WAY less likely to be respected out of the military as they are in it.

Risk… ah… the consideration that freaks me out the most.  Is the risk of rape higher for women in the military than it is for men?  Absolutely! Is the risk of rape higher for women out of the military than it is for men? Absolutely!  I’m not being candid about this at all.  I have to be honest with you… if this act was taken against my daughter in OR out of the military, I would pity the SOB that did it because he would never sleep again without wondering if that night was the night we found him.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, I totally understand that the risk is higher.  An even better the reason for her to learn these intense life saving skills! Hellooooo!

So, anyway, when my friend told me she doesn’t believe in women serving in the military I said, “Not all women can, but then again, neither can all men.”

I am so proud of our daughter and am really looking forward to the day that she can proudly say, “I did it! I’m a Marine!” We are excited to support her along with all the other troops.  I am so grateful to know that she is going to be out there making sure we can all sleep at night. I’m thankful that God laid this on her heart and that she is so proud to join such an elite group of men and women! I guess I AM okay with women in the military…

Way to go, Cynthia!  Oorah!Image

Cleansed

Image While I am very aware that this entry should be titled, Return of the Dead, I felt that focusing on what has happened in the months I have been away is much less important than what has happened in the last few weeks.

I love to write.  It is why I am here, you are here, we are here… but the problem is that I am used to being a ‘closet’ writer.  I struggle with knowing how to say what I need to say because I am so worried about offending people, causing conflict or being misunderstood.  I have been urged for years to blog, have spoke at a few public events, and still, I just couldn’t seem to get past this toxic feeling that I really didn’t have anything that great to say or it was going to make too many waves, so what was the point of doing it publicly?

The truth is this… I am a dirty writer!  I write about things that are controversial, I don’t always punctuate properly and I usually speak ‘too openly’ of my personal experiences.  I’m not easily embarrassed and I don’t really mind talking openly about things that gross me out, whether it is physically or spiritually, or whatever. The problem is that I am open and blunt and confident in my opinions, just not in sharing them publicly.

I thought that God was calling me to write publicly because He was going to do something amazing to me to make my writings worth enduring.  I see now, that is NOT the case! God has already done amazing things in my life and He wants me to be honest about the things I have gone through and how I really feel about them.  I hope that people will jump in and correct me when I’m wrong… I want people to share their opinions about my situations or the situations I present.  I don’t want to be who I was a year ago.  I don’t even want to be the same person I was yesterday!  I finally get it!

Like clear, fresh water running over my body, I feel like I can finally write again.  I have been cleansed of this biting fear that has kept me trapped in my own notebook.  I have been set free from the stickiness of the ink that has bound me to paper locked away for no one to see.  I finally get it and I want you to get it too!  I’m ready!

Hopefully… so are you!

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin”?  Proverbs 20:9

Here’s to being cleansed every day for the rest of our lives!

See you soon!
Angie

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