Getting Away from it All (part 2)

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel and even before we got there, the kids were already asking to go swimming.

So we all got our bathing suits on and headed back to the pool.

Me

I really was on this vacation – see?!?

The pool had actually been closed for maintenance and had just re-opened all clean and sparkly on the day before we arrived. Between that and the fact that we were the only ones in the pool the entire time we were there…..it was perfect for someone with a compromised immune system.

So Happy

Josiah was SO excited to be able to be swimming. He spent the majority of the time in the hot tub, and so did I. We typically would go swimming every week, but, back in the summer, we had to cancel our membership to the Walnut Grove Rec Centre because the pool is just not a great place for Geli and we didn’t want the other kids picking something up and bringing it home and so it was such a treat to be able to swim as much as we wanted for a few days.

Thrilled to be swimming

Jon and Jeremy and Judah hit the weight room before they came swimming…..

Working Out

I think this was the most exciting part of the weight room – for Jeremy…..

The draw of the Fitness Room

We don’t have cable and so it was such a treat.

So Happy

Judah worked on some push ups…..gotta build up that upper body strength, eh?

Girls ready to side

This is the 80 ft water slide that is inside the hotel. It was AWESOME! It’s almost pitch black inside the tube and you can get going pretty fast. It took a while and a little bit of coaxing, but even Josiah went down the slide.

Siah on the Slide

There were lots of smiles….

Wet Smiles

and a lot of silliness…..

Silly Faces

And SO. MUCH. SWIMMING!

Frog Boy

It was so amazing to step away from everything. To get away from our house, from school, from work, from cleaning, for deadlines, from everything and to just do something totally fun together as a family. After Swimming on Tuesday morning, Jeremy snuggled up next to Jon and looked close into his eyes and said, “Thank you Daddy. Thank you SO MUCH for bringing us here. This is the BEST EVER!” All the kids mentioned many times, just how thankful and grateful they were to be able to get away and to stay at the hotel and to go swimming.

Everyone relaxed and it felt like everyone was able to catch their breaths and de-stress a little.

It’s amazing how little time it took, once we got home, for everyone to try to pick up the stress again. Xani came to me panicking about school and homework and I actually told her that for that night, we were still on vacation and that she got to relax and take it easy and then tomorrow she could make a list of everything she needed to get done and to then start plugging away at it.

This is kind of where we are at. Times away like this are so precious, because we do kind of have this weight of stress that we are living under. It’s like our reserves for dealing with normal (stressful) situations are all gone and we have barely enough to just hang on in each moment. I know this is not forever, but it does wear on me to see it playing out in my children. Children are not supposed to be stressed like this.

But, not to focus on the negative…..our time away was so fabulous. So needed. Such a blessing. So fun…..it was simply amazing.

We are so grateful to Jon’s parents for coming with us. It drastically reduced the kid to adult ratio…we were only out numbered by one. It was a blast to hang out with and to be able to spend some time away with them.

All of Us

We are so thankful to the Super 8 in Aldergrove for giving us a great deal. We so hope to be able to come back again.

And we are so grateful that we were even afforded this amazing time away. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The opportunity to escape was such a gift.

If you are interested in seeing the rest of the pictures from our time away, click here...

Getting Away From It All (part 1)

Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of some amazing people we were able to “get away” from everything for 2 days and 2 nights. It was so needed and so perfect for us.

We made plans to take the kids to the Super 8 in Aldergrove. They have a fabulous pool and water slide in the hotel. And that made this particular hotel so SO perfect for us. Our kids are the hugest water bugs that you’ve ever seen and we knew that they would love to go somewhere and swim as much as they could for a few days. It sounded like the perfect get away and in hind sight, it was! It was absolutely perfect!

We sent the kids off to school on Monday morning while we tried to get a few things done around the house and to ready ourselves to head out later that afternoon. Jon’s parents were up for “getting away from it all” and so they decided to join us.

At dinner time, we met up with Jon’s parents and we went for dinner and then headed out to the hotel. We got there, unpacked and took the kids down to the pool. We swam for over an hour and then headed up to bed. The next morning we got up and hit the complimentary breakfast. This hotel had the most amazing breakfast. Everyone enjoyed themselves and as soon as they finished breakfast, the kids wanted to head back to the pool.

Relaxin at Breakfast

Jon and Siah relaxing’ at breakfast

Xani and Geli were over the 12 year old age limit and so they headed into the pool – just the two of them – but the boys had to wait until I was able to take them into the pool. They were pretty patient through.

SO Cute

Judah got in some good cuddles with Nana.

Cuddles with Nana

After we finished a couple of hours of swimming, we headed up to our room to dry off and just relax.

We had picked up some fake mustaches before we headed to the hotel and in light of the whole “Movember” deal….we decided to try them out. I realize it’s not quite the same, but we had a lot of fun…

Even the Baby gets in on the action

Judah looked quite sweet in his “stach…..

Loving his 'Stach

Jeremy was throwing out his best Rico Suave vibe……

Looking Hot

Me and mah boy….rocking our ‘staches…..

Rocking it Hard Core

Geli rocks the teeny, tiny mustache…

Siah's Styling

While Siah sends out a little grey action….

Sibling 'Stach Love

Xani just ended up looking a little strange…

Even Nanagot in on the Action

We even convinced Nana to get in on the mustache loving…

The Men

And finally….here are my men. Looking so, SO sweet!

Playing

Looooooooong after the rest of us got tired of the mustaches….Jeremy carried on. He is SO cute.

Judah did pretty good in the hotel. He was happy and easy going. He did have some rough nights. And that meant that I had some pretty rough nights….which ultimately……SUCKED. But other than that….he was amazing.

Playing in His Chair

Xani and Nana pulled out the puzzles. We do love to do some puzzles.

The Puzzle Queens

After a bit, we headed for lunch….

Enjoying Lunch

Siah LOVES his ketchup. Basically, the fries are a tool to get the ketchup into his mouth.

Giggles

We had lots of laughs and giggles and after lunch, we headed back to the hotel for more swimming……..

(stay tuned for part 2)

Start of Another Week

Time just keeps moving forward and I find myself frustrated at all the things that I want to do that I never accomplish.

I’m doing lots, but I still feel like I’m running from behind trying to catch up. I “HATE” that feeling of not ever getting things done, but it seems to be the “norm” around here these days.

A little while ago, (I’d guess at a week ago, but I think it was even further ago than that) Geli’s friend came over to hang out and her Mom had picked up both the girls from school and dropped them off at our house.

When she came, she brought the MOST delicious Vegan Fudge Brownies….

I wish I had gotten a picture of them, but they were so good that we pretty much devoured them before I even thought to snap a photo of them and then I was just to lazy and tired to snap a picture of the remaining few pieces after we had all gorged ourselves on the delicious treat.

Siah was particularly thrilled and kept coming back asking for more and more and more.

The next morning we woke up and came downstairs and this was the sight that greeted us…

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He had come downstairs first thing in the morning and found the tinfoil that had been covering the brownies…

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It was SOOOOO delicious that he had to scrape every last lick from the tin foil…..

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Such a silly little boy, but it really was very delicious and we were so thankful to have been blessed like that.

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Laying Aside The Pride…….

This is a difficult post for me to write.

I need help.

I hate asking for help. I hate needing help. I’ve taken great pride in being able to take care of my family on my own and now……..now I am coming humbly and asking for help.

Up until now, I’ve been trying to “do” everything and honestly, we are not doing well. I am not doing well. I feel completely overwhelmed and like I am at my breaking point. I, personally, have had one too many melt downs just recently and I need to be a bit stronger to deal with the demands on my time and energy for the long haul. I’d like to say that were it not for all this cancer crap, that I’d be doing okay but…..we are dealing with cancer and 5 kids and all the craziness and chaos that surrounds us.

I’ll do a more detailed update on how we (individually) are all doing soon, but honestly, it’s not pretty. It’s pretty rough over here and we have a long road ahead of us.

There are about 32 weeks of Intensive Chemotherapy Treatment left for Angelica before she starts the maintenance stage. This (the maintenance stage) is when our Doctor has talked about things getting back to more of a normal stage of life. Until then, not counting any time for delays, we are looking at more than 6 months of treatment. That’s a long time!

Right now, we feel like we are barely hanging on and while we’ve had offers of help in the past, we just didn’t know what to do with the help. And…..I thought I’d be able to deal with everything.

And so, to anyone who has offered or is interested, I’m asking for help!

There are so many ways that someone could help. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. It could be a one time commitment, or weekly or even monthly. It could be 15 minutes or longer and there are many different ways that you could help. From cleaning, to meals, to helping with the kids, to sending a card or e-mail – anything that helps to lift some of the burden from us would be amazing.

The strain of dealing with the Chemotherapy Treatment is SO MUCH GREATER than just some physical discomfort for Angelica. Walking your child through the Treatment is a full time job. There are the physical issues that come as a result of the treatment like nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, weight loss, lack of appetite, muscle loss due to inactivity as a result of the physical devastation of the chemo drugs, insomnia, fatigue and pain. There is the mental anguish and fear from everything going on and not understanding 100%, to the fear of the unknown and the future. There is the schedule of treatment. It’s a brutal wicked schedule and the treatment center is an hour away from us, more if there is traffic. It is a huge thing to deal with.

Add in 4 other children each with their own specific needs and add on top of that the fear and confusion of having a sister dealing with cancer and a mom and dad who are distracted and overwhelmed and not available in the way that they have been.

Add in 2 jobs, neither of which are being done well. Add in the extra house work and meals and school work, oh and the stress of not having any time to invest in each other or the kids, individually, throw in finances and you have an unbelievable recipe for disaster. This is not even the whole picture……

I’m not trying to whine and complain. Realistically, this is just where we are at.

We are so grateful and thankful for every thing, big and small that we’ve been blessed with. We have been so SO blessed by so many.

If you have offered to help or are interested in helping, we are at the place where we are willing to accept it and we hope that we have an easy way to explain what we need.

We are not expecting anything and right now, we have nothing more than our gratefulness and thankfulness to offer in return.

But…….if you are interested in helping, please click here and see the sheet that we’ve created with some of the details.

Encouragement

I’ve got this hanging on my wall right now.

Encouragement

It’s in full view on the wall right in between my kitchen and my living/dining room.

And I must look at it a million times a day…..OK, maybe not that many, but I look at it a lot.

This was given to me about a week ago by a woman that Jon went to school with. They managed to meet up at Children’s Hospital last week and she gave him a present. She had read a couple of posts of mine…one that talked about “Keeping Calm” and another that talked about “Carrying On” and then she thought of this wall hanging and had to get it for me.

I LOVE it.

It speaks so much more to me than just a gift or just a great phrase. It encourages me immensely. Shannon and her sons and their whole family have their own journey that they are walking and it’s not an easy one and in the middle of her own battle she reached out to love and encourage us. I look at this sitting on my wall and at times when I feel alone – it speaks to me that there are so many out there loving, praying, and standing with us cheering us on.

Thank you, Shannon. Thank you for reaching out and encouraging me. Thanks for your support and your love. Thank you!

Love

I’ve been sitting here writing and deleting this first sentence over and over and over unsure of which words to write.

I don’t have the words…….

I LOVE words. I love to use words to paint pictures, to express myself, to help bring clarity out of chaos, to communicate, to share to love…..I love words and right now the combo of exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed and completely unworthy have left me without the use of my words.

She shaved her head for me, for us….for my daughter, for my family, and I can’t find the words to express my appreciation, my love, my amazement at her strength, caring, compassion, drive…….. She is amazing.

We’ve been friends for almost our whole entire lives. We’ve been through ups and downs. We’ve been through good times and bad times. We’ve lived near and far and through it all we have loved. I honestly don’t ever remember being mad at her. I’m sure that as kids growing up, we must have had the odd squabble now and then, but I don’t remember ever being upset or angry or disappointed with her. She is my forever friend and I love her dearly.

The cheese and bake shop that she manages, heard about Angelica and decided to donate their tips to our family. Hearing this, my friend announced that when the total of donations reached $2,000 – she would shave her head.

This is not something that we asked for and to be honest, I’m not sure that I really wanted her to shave her head. It’s not an easy thing to do and I just didn’t want her to feel pressured into doing it. At the same time, there are so many things that I have learned from shaving my head, and I wouldn’t want to stop her from her own journey in life……

I really wasn’t sure that they would end up reaching the goal anyway, so I stopped thinking about it.

LoveAt the end of August, the goal was reached (and in fact it has been surpassed) and my friend set the date for the big head shave for this past Saturday September 11.

We weren’t able to be at the actual shaving, but we participated in the event through Skype.

There were tears and laughter and the emotions ran high.

We were so touched to have someone sacrifice of their time and energy and their hair in support of us. We were so touched by all who donated and took part in supporting us in any way big and small.

I’m fumbling for words and the more I try to type, the less able I seem to be able to say what I really want to say.

My friend, you are beautiful. You are amazing. You are such a support and encouragement. In your own times of trial and stress, you give and give and give and LOVE. We feel so blessed to have you in our lives.

I love you more than my words can adequately express.

For all you’ve done and given and sacrificed and loved………Thank You!

First Days

I’m blown away that we’ve made it to the first day of school. That means that we’re in September and wasn’t it only like yesterday on June 16th that our world was rocked….

The whole summer has managed to slip right passed us and here we are staring fall in the face as it comes barreling towards us at full speed.

Xandra and Jeremy are headed to school for…….are you ready for it……..an hour. I was tempted to just keep them home as the excitement of getting up and getting ready is completely chaotic and them to only have them home and “bored” in a hour…..well, that’s hardly even enough time to get a cup of coffee, sit down and enjoy it….throw in a couple of trips to the toilet for Siah, a feeding for Judah and well……so much for an hour of quiet time, eh?

Oh well….there is always Wednesday and let me tell you, I’m looking forward to Wednesday.

DSC_0516Jon and Geli are headed into an appointment at Children’s Hospital. They need to be there for 10:15am and once there, they need to find out Geli’s counts (which at last report were brutal, almost non-existent low and are expected to be even lower), then she has two intra-muscular injections (one in each thigh) of a chemo med, and one IV chemo med and then…….they come home. We are hoping, hoping, HOPING that the rest of this week is SO boring and that we have absolutely no medical updates on how Geli is doing because there is absolutely NOTHING to report on…..that would be the most awesome week ever.

(This is the most recent picture I have of Geli. She is growing up to be such a beautiful young lady.)

She is doing well. She is still a bit nauseous and gags and dry heaves from time to time. This is particularly frustrating as she is on 2 types of drugs to kill the nausea 24/7 and a third one if things are still bad. I hate that she’s on that much medicine all the time but if the alternative is barfing, well….that’s worse and we’ll do what we have to not deal with that. She has pretty much gained back most of the weight that she lost in her two to three week barfing stint.

We finally got a referral to a podiatrist regarding her toes and he was able to help some. He’s been able to alleviate some of the swelling and irritation which helps with the pain, but the biggest concern is with the infection in the tissue surrounding the toenails. With her White Blood Counts too low to be able to fight any infection, she must be on an antibiotic. What we’d really like to see is a miracle with her toenails growing out quickly and all infection gone.

She is annoyed and frustrated with the sheer number of pills she needs to swallow multiple times in a day. Its hard to “have” to be always responsible and take all your meds and drink 2+ Litres of water and eat at all the right times. She is doing well, but we can tell that it wears on her sometimes. There is so much for a 13 year old to be dealing with and really, no child should be dealing with all of this.

School will be interesting this year. Geli is excited about starting Grade 8 and I think that having something to do will be so good for her. She has definitely perked up since we started talking about school and school work and routines and supplies. We bought her an Agenda and she’s even started filling it out already with the dates of her Chemo appts and other dates that she knows in regards to school. She is enrolled in the local High School and will attend when her counts are good enough, but will also do a fair amount of work at home or in the hospital. There is a meeting at the school scheduled for this Thursday and we should have more info after that meeting.

We are in the final stretch of this second stage of the chemotherapy treatment, and the third stage is scheduled to start on Tuesday September 21 as long as her counts are good.

We just keep moving one step forward day by day and hoping and praying for the best. This is not an easy road and I can’t help but think of others who have been through this or similar roads and I feel sick that I didn’t understand or know or realize the extent of what they were going through, I’m so entirely grateful to everyone who is walking along side of us. There are times when Jon and I feel so overwhelmed and burdened and yet we know that we are not alone, and even in our darkest moments of pain and fatigue or when we “feel” alone we know that there are so many (YOU) standing with us and supporting us with your love and prayers and thoughts. It helps us to keep on fighting, and so once again – We thank you!

Silence Filled With Thankfulness

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I’m sitting here in the silence of my home. The baby is squirming in his sleep and Angelica is sleeping on the couch across the room from me.

My sister, Michelle, took Xandra camping. My sister, Debbie, took Jeremy camping, and my parents took Siah camping. Yes, they are all camping together. It’s hard being here and not with them…but it is what it is and it’s not forever….again, this is just a season and we will go camping again, hopefully next year!

I should be doing laundry and cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the upstairs hall and bedrooms, and cleaning the boys room and tidying the kitchen, but I’m not…..I’m just sitting.

Sometimes, you just have to sit and breathe….and I need to do that right now.

Often when I do slow down long enough to think about all of this, I’m struck by how blessed we have been. I think of how much love we’ve been shown by so many. It’s truly awe inspiring.

I’m so thankful to everyone who has helped us and given to us in any measure. We are so grateful to everyone who has in someway shared this “load” with us. There are times that we feel crushed (but not destroyed) under the weight of all of this and when we shift our focus off of how difficult this all is, it’s easier to see that there are so many standing around with us carrying a piece of this or even propping us up. Every meal, every gift card, every package, every gift, every comment, every prayer, every e-mail or Facebook message, every donation, every little thing no matter how big or how small, has truly impacted us.

You are all so kind, thoughtful and generous. Your love comes from near and far and wraps around us and helps to carry us through….and in the silence of today…..I think about you all and I’m so thankful.

Round 2, Day 1

Jon took Geli into BC Children’s this morning.

They left before I had even crawled outta bed. They had an 8am appointment and so they left here at 6:40am. I was awake when they came in to kiss me good bye, but was still a little groggy. I had both Judah and Josiah in bed with me at that point. Our morning sleep in was cut short when Siah rolled over and slammed his head into the corner of Jon’s bedside table…..what a morning wake up call. Man!

I do know that Geli was the first appointment, and that she had the Lumbar Puncture, and then received her two chemo meds, had a big long visit with a physiotherapist, who seemed determined to figure out what’s up with her leg (it’s still bothering her 3 weeks later) and that they left to come home around 4pm. Aside from that, I don’t know much as I wasn’t there. Jon says that everything went well and that Geli felt pretty positive all day. She ate when she got home and then headed immediately up to bed.

We do have to wake her to give her another chemo med, her antibiotics and some gravol, but she should go right back to sleep again – at least I hope.

We have been told that this week should be a fairly good week for her, it’s next week that they are concerned about. Her counts could go quite low again….low as in decimated and we’d be once again on high alert for any possibility of infection, fever or any other indicator that something might be wrong.

We are praying with desperation that she stays as healthy as possible and that any brutal side effects would just avoid us……

Then, we have 2 weeks where we wait, hope and pray for her counts to come up again, and then we start the 4 week cycle all over again. 2 weeks on meds and 2 weeks off….Absolute best case scenario…this whole cycle is done in 8 weeks…..or it could take longer….which would obviously NOT be the best case…..

Today at home was….interesting.

Xani had a meltdown. Jeremy wanted to play on the computer ALL DAY and sulked and pouted when I kicked him off, Siah wanted to be anywhere and everywhere and to get into everything, and the baby cried when i put him down.

My biggest accomplishment today was that the kids were mostly sort of fed, and I didn’t “lose it” and end up a crying, bawling mess.

From that stand point, I consider today fairly successfull…..from any other standpoint, today was a colosssal failure.

Knowing how much I’m typically capable of and able to do…..makes my glaring lack of accomplishment today so much greater.

I don’t know how anyone does this.

I don’t know how we are going to get through the next month….let alone the next year of treatment….and yet we must!

Have you ever felt like you needed to take a big deep breath and you just couldn’t? The only thing you could do was to keep sucking in these little tiny sips of air….and you wonder just how much time each tiny breath is going to buy you?

This is a long, tough road and I know we will get through it. I’m just not sure how and the unknowns weigh heavy on me. The future weighs heavy on me. I’m feeling pretty weighed down right now.

I’ll be okay.

I do want to say thank you to everyone who has given a meal(s) or a gift card(s) or a card or sent an e-mail or even a comment…..

I keep trying to compile a list of people to send thank you’s too and I feel like my brain is a HUGE sieve. We are so grateful for everything. Every bit of love, care and support is truly felt….Everytime we eat a meal given, or buy some groceries or feel the love sent through some caring, thoughtful words – we are so touched and blessed. You have been such a blessing to us.

I, never in my wildest dreams, ever fathomed that we’d be on this journey. I never ever knew what other family’s who are dealing with cancer went/go through. This is a whole world of pain and hurt and physical, mental and emotional energy spent, that I could never have fathomed before now.

Thank you for everything. We are truly thankful!