Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Six months--the amount of time since I last posted. Shame on me. It is my New Year's Resolution to post more this year. Once a month is what I'm shooting for. How about you? Have you got any goals for 2014? Lose weight? Get organized? Save money? All of the above?

___    ___ Check Yes or No

Determination. That is the way to get it done. Just as I am determining to post more here.

While Emma's cancer journey is over, life after cancer continues, and that stinking cancer has definitely left its effects on Emma. I have a few things to say about that, so stay tuned. And thank you for stopping in.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Worry Wart

When I was young I used to listen to my mom rant and rave about all the things she worried about. My brother. My sisters. Her brother. Her friends. Burglars. Car accidents. Nuclear disaster (okay, maybe not that last one). I swore to myself that I would never be a worry wart.

Fate laughs in my face now that I'm an adult. My fears aren't quite the same as hers were, at least that's what I tell myself. I worry about every bruise on my children's bodies. I worry about every stray fever that has no other symptoms. My youngest has been tested for cancer three separate times now, just because I couldn't stop worrying. Poor kid.

Cancer isn't all I worry about, though. The other night I watched a news report about young children being abducted from their beds while they slept. Guess who didn't get any sleep that night? That's right. Me.

So maybe I have turned into a worry wart after all. I do try to overcome it. One way I do that is through repeating comforting things to myself. Here is my favorite:

Philippians 4:6 "Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made unto God."
How do you stop your worries?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life After Cancer

A few years ago we were at a beach retreat for families living through pediatric cancer. Every morning the parents met in a form of "group therapy", and one of the parental sets was a mom and dad whose child had already finished treatment. The mother talked about how hard it was to readjust to normal life. I remember thinking, at the time, that I didn't understand what she meant.

I understand now. It's not so much adjusting to normal life as it is no longer having that carrot out in front of me. For so long we had one solid goal--get Emma through treatment. Now there is nothing, at least nothing so concrete. I feel a little lost without my carrot.

Crazy, isn't it, that I should feel lost without cancer breathing down my neck?

If I had to wager a guess I'd say this is pretty common for all walks of life--be it getting married, having a baby, or finishing cancer treatments. You finally accomplish your goal, and then you say, "Now what?" I'm wading my way through this crazy life, but I am not alone. I have wonderful friends and family to help me along.

Have you hit a point in your life where you felt this way? How did you get through it? Suggestions welcome :).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Me Me Me!

I've heard it said that we live in a narcissistic society, and I am inclined to agree. No, I'm not saying everyone I know is self-absorbed. What I'm saying is that, through living in the world of pediatric cancer, I have become self-absorbed. For years there were many people who wanted to know all about Emma at all times. How is she? When does she finish? Has she been sick? It became second nature to just believe it was all about us. All the time.

Do I want to be a narcissist? Well, no. Do I want to believe it's all about me? Of course not. So I am working on it. I'm conscientiously lowering my expectations of people. I'm <trying> to speak less and listen more. I admit, I don't always succeed. But I am trying. It's a work in progress, and I'm afraid it's just a side effect of living through something "big". I have to believe that other people have dealt with this (at least that's what I tell myself to make me feel better).

But that reminds me of a song I learned in grade school. Have a listen, if you're interested, and enjoy :).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Life Lessons with Teacher Katie

teacher clip artYou can't judge a book by its cover--this is something we all know. But do we do it? Probably not, right? I was reminded of this mantra a few days ago. I was at a gas station when a very nice car pulled up. To my surprise, out climbed three women, all wearing pajamas!

I chuckled and shook my head. My first thought was, "Why would anyone go out in public in their pajamas?"

As soon as the thought formed, I remembered something. Nearly three years ago now I made a road trip to Memphis for the very first time, and yes, I was in my pajamas. It wasn't because I wanted to be comfortable for the drive, or that I had just woke up, or that I was lazy or dirty. It was because I was so out of my mind, I remember literally looking around my room wondering what on earth I should put on. I grabbed the first thing I came to, and I climbed in the car to go.

I sure am glad no one judged me based on my decision to wear bed clothes out in public.

Of course, it's probably a good guess that these three ladies weren't involved in a life or death situation. But how could I ever know? It was a good life lesson reminder--you can't judge a book by its cover!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lost Innocence

Everything we do in life changes us--either for the good or the bad. This post is hard to write, even though it's something I've been thinking about writing for a while.

Emma's cancer journey has changed her. It stole her innocence and left her fearful of everything. When she and Ashlyn play outside, Ashlyn runs into the trees, laughing and chasing butterflies. Emma stands back, near the porch, watching Ashlyn have fun. While Ashlyn tries the monkey bars, Emma does the safe thing and only sits on the swing. While Ashlyn proudly tries to ride a bike, Emma sticks to her 3-wheeled scooter because it doesn't wobble.

Have you ever seen a parent place a child on a counter top and instruct the child to "jump to daddy"? Most kids will leap without abandon. Not Emma. I don't think we could even bribe her into jumping. Not only is she fearful of everything, she is un-trusting of us as her parents. You see, we've had to put her through so many terrible experiences that she doesn't believe yet that we don't have something up our sleeves.

It is my hope and prayer that someday soon she will move past this, because while most kids are busy playing in their blissful innocence, Emma has none of that in her. It was lost long ago.

I didn't write this to sadden anyone, or to make people feel sorry for Emma. Instead, I wrote it to make you stop and think--what have you been through, and how have you allowed it to change you?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pictures from Emma's Party

First, I want to announce the winner of last week's drawing for Alice Wisler's new book, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning. Cathy Seehuetter is our winner! Congrats, Cathy!

We had Emma's No More Chemo party several weeks ago, and I thought some of you might like to see the pictures. I'm sharing them here now. I hope you enjoy them!


 And here's the slideshow we played at her party. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview with author Alice Wisler

Today I'm very honored to have a guest with us. She is a fellow writer, one I met online. I found out about her son, Daniel, when I mentioned I had a child with cancer. Alice was quick to share her story and offer a shoulder to lean on if I should need it. She has written a book about dealing with grief, and let me tell you, this book is fantastic--whether your child has cancer or not! 

Katie--Hi Alice, thanks for stopping by! Can you tell us a little about your son and his diagnosis?

Thanks for having me as guest on your blog.

Daniel was a mama’s boy, a lover of Cocoa Puffs cereal and Toy Story, best friends with his older sister, and born with a great sense of humor.  He was three when diagnosed with neuroblastoma and four when he died on 2/2/97.

Katie--There is a sweet spirit that eminates from his pictures. A beautiful boy! How long after Daniel’s illness did you realize that writing was a good outlet for your emotions? How did you cope before you came to that discovery?

When Daniel was in the hospital undergoing treatments for his malignant tumor, I was glad to have the companion of my journal.  When he died, I needed to write out my anguish more than ever before. My heart was broken.  Writing saved me.

Katie--I can understand that. Many people have encouraged me to write about my own experience, but I haven't found the courage to do that, other than this blog. When did you know that you wanted to write a book about grief, and how did you come to that decision?

Ever since Daniel’s death, I wanted to create a book about the journey of loss.  Although I wrote numerous articles on losing a child to death, the book didn’t materialize until later. Getting Out of Bed in the Morning:  Reflections of Comfort in Heartache stemmed from my own faith walk on this journey as well as from what I’ve learned about writing through heartache. I think I needed time to develop my new relationship with God—when Daniel died my old relationship seemed distant and I didn’t feel God at all. In fact, I felt abandoned.  Over the years, I was able to cultivate a new song, so to speak (Psalm 40:3).  I realized the strength God is when He sustains us on our journey.  He doesn’t take away our agony or situation, but He is faithful to give us what we need in order to travel over the rocky path.

Katie--Your faith is inspiring. What is your best advice for someone who’s dealing with grief (of any kind)?

Don’t try to skirt around it; you have to go through grief.  Weep boldly.  Don’t be afraid to question.  God can handle all your tears, your confusion, and your doubt.  Be authentic.  Don’t pretend.  That’s the best way to heal. 

Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your writing?

I grew up as a missionary kid in Japan and love sushi!  Now I live and write in Durham, NC and bake a lot of bread in my bread maker. I’ve written five novels—Rain Song, How Sweet It Is, Hatteras Girl, A Wedding Invitation and Still Life in Shadows.  All of them are Southern with recipes in the back, and all have an international connection as well as one to loss. I teach online grief-writing courses and all-day workshops locally as well as at conferences and seminars. I love speaking to groups from my Broken Psalms presentation—about how God sustains us in our circumstances (themes from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning).  I have three blogs and one website:  http;///www.alicewisler.com.  And oh, I really like going out for sushi.
Thanks for stopping by, Alice! I strongly encourage you to check out Alice's book Getting Out of Bed in the Morning. It is available here! BUT WAIT! If you would like to win a copy of Alice's book, then simply leave a comment and I will choose one random commenter as a winner. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you (i.e. your email address, etc.). Entry will be closed on Monday the 18th.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Parent's Love

Have you ever had to make your child do something that broke your heart? You know, something that was hard for them, maybe made them cry, but you knew they had to go through it? Think: dealing with a fight with friends at school, getting a shot, or taking yucky medicine.

It hurt you, too, right? Maybe you cried once you got alone. You wished you could take away your child's pain, but you knew you couldn't. It was something they needed to go through.

I realized recently that this is probably how God feels. When we have trials and tribulations, I believe God sits in Heaven weeping for us, his children. He wishes he could take away our pain, but he knows we have to go through whatever trial it is we are walking. He knows we must go through it to get to where we are going, but he sure wishes we didn't have to have so much pain. The book of Psalms tell us that God keeps our tears in a bottle. He hurts when we hurt, just like we hurt when our children hurt.

God's love is a parent's love.

This realization helped me so much when it came to accepting my life's circumstances, and not only accepting them, but also being thankful for them. Thankful? you say. That is a post for another day, and it took me a long time to get to that point. And truthfully, I'm not sure I could say that if my situation hadn't turned out the way it did.

What about you? Are you going through something that you don't see why God doesn't stop it? I hope you will come to see, like I did, that God is a loving father who cries with you.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...and all that jazz

LOOK! The countdown ticker says the most glorious words--complete. Technically Emma's treatment is complete, and she will never get that poison we call chemotherapy again.

However, things don't always go as planned. I had a few goals this week, and none of them will be completed. First of all, it was my goal to go to Memphis and celebrate Emma's end of treatment. Instead we ended up in the hospital for 5 days for an ear infection (yes, you read that right). "But her treatment is complete, right?" you ask. Uh, maybe. Maybe not. Technically she is done. However, her doctors may choose to give her one last dose of chemo, since she missed it. They haven't decided yet.

Another plan I had this week was to finish the first draft of a manuscript I'm working on. I was right on schedule to finish it by the end of the week, but being in the hospital zaps your creativity. Besides that, there was lots of playing going on to keep up the patient's spirits :).

So, my two big goals went down the tubes. Will both goals be accomplished? Well, sure. Emma WILL finish, whether now or next week, and I WILL finish my manuscript, though I won't try to predict when.

The point? Things won't always go as planned, but you've got to keep chugging away. What about you ('cause I know we've ALL had plans go haywire)? What's messed up in your life lately (ha!)?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life By Paper

At the time of this writing, the countdown ticker at the top of the page reads 10 days until Emma's No Mo Chemo. Ten measly days (and as of today, the day I'm posting, only 5 days!).

Mostly I am excited. Overjoyed. Grateful.

However, there is also apprehension. My life has been lived according to a piece of paper for two years and seven months now. That's a long time to be controlled, and the thought of no longer having to live according to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's guidelines is a little bit overwhelming.

You see, they have dictated what I do every single morning for more than 2 1/2 years--give Emma her antibiotic. They have dictated what I do every single night before I go to bed for over 2 1/2 years--give Emma her chemo. They have dictated what I do every single Tuesday--go to the clinic for much of the work day. They have told me what I must do every time Emma runs a temperature of over 100.4 degrees--make the hour drive to the children's ER. Not only that, but they've given me regular reminder calls, occasional out-of-town visits to the main hospital in Memphis, and stacks and stacks of paper work, blood draws, and measurements.

What will I do when I no longer have to live my life according to a piece of paper--a roadmap, as they call it?

I don't know. I guess I'll just try to enjoy it. Suggestions?