To Love a Rose: An Ethiopian Adoption Journal

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pictures from the Cancer Battlefield, Part 9: Birthday Blessings

The Birthday Girl in her princess hat I embellished for her!

Yesterday (February 25th) was mom's 52nd birthday!  I know so many people who worry about getting older, but we all feel incredibly blessed to get to celebrate another birthday with mom.  Who cares how old you are when you are healthy and alive?  We should all be so lucky!

Even though we had to go to clinic (as we do every day), mom still had a pretty good day; and she found out she was no longer neutropenic (woo hoo!), meaning she can eat fresh/raw fruits and veggies again - that's a pretty good birthday present when you've been craving everything from the CTCA salad/fruit/veggie bar!

Vanilla on vanilla "lucky Irish lassy" b'day cake for Quigg (our nickname for mom).
Peanut butter passion cake for all the nurses, doctors, stem cell patients and their caregivers, and whoever else waltzed into the stem cell clinic that day.
Dad cutting the cake with a plastic knife - ah well, it worked!  And, one of the stem cell patients said it was the only thing she's been able to keep down without throwing up for a week - proof that cake is probably the world's best food! ;-)
Mom and her friend, Neil.  He is about a month past his transplant and just found out he is 100% grafted in - WOO HOO!  Can't wait to hear the same news for mom! *oh happy day*
Mom and nurse Veronica getting her blood pressure taken.
Mom and nurse Lisa getting her daily labs drawn (notice both the nurses turned their heads once they saw me with the camera!).
Mom and I in the clinic waiting for her daily blood test results.
Dad and mom in the stem cell out-patient clinic.
Sean with his EMPTY cake plate!
"The Boys", talking shop.
Detail of Quiggs' "birthday girl" princess hat.
Mom reading one of her MANY birthday cards in her "Ang*y B*rd" hat that Karen Blakely made her.  She's had LOTS of compliments on that hat, by the way!
Sean in our apartment in Waukegan watching mom open her cards and presents.
Mom with some goodies from her "part in a bag" from our awesome Hickenbottom Inc. employees.
Angel pin from bowling buddy, Melva Dahl.
Cute and comfy outfit from Mark & Cindy Rinaberger and family.
Ang*y B*rd outfit from Jill Westercamp and her adorable boys!
Whitney drew mom a picture and sent it to her iPad - it's pretty awesome.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who sent mom cards and prezzies for her special day; it really means so much to know that you are thinking of her and praying for her.  She (as well as all of us) appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Here are some pix from the past few weeks:

Mom's childhood friend, Sharon (Holcomb) Strait came to visit her at the apartment.
We had a pizza party in the out-patient clinic one night when mom's infusion lasted until 7:30 p.m.  We pretty much took over and made ourselves at home - of course, the nurses didn't care, because we shared our dinner with them! :-)
Sean and I took two loaves of bread and fed the ducks and geese that live on the pond in the protected wildlife area next to the CTCA.
We were VERY popular that day - ha!

Well, that's about it for today.  Again, thank you to all who have continued to remember mom by mailing her; it really means so very much to hear from those in the "outside world", even those who don't know her very well, she has really enjoyed the letters and cards, so, - THANK YOU!

Life is precious, and I feel blessed beyond measure that my mother has lived to see another precious birthday.  God continues to be good to us; we are grateful and humbled every day by His blessings and mercy.

Love and Hugs to You and Yours,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daydreaming About Desmond

I know, I know...we shouldn't do it; but we are.  Ever since we were told it was pretty much a 99% chance that the baby would be a boy, we've been calling *him* Desmond and shopping for boy's clothes.  I know it's not smart...what *if* we're in that 1% that gets a girl????  But, we can't help ourselves; we're too excited!

Lately, I have been particularly bad...out-right scouring the web for cute toddler boy's clothes and goodies.  This little guy already has some pretty cool duds to don, and if it's a girl...well, paired with a frilly tutu skirt, I think most of it could be just as cute on a little lady. ;-)

So, what's been catching my eye lately?  Have a look for yourself:

Build-A-Bear Workshop came out with this ADORABLE "Year of the Dragon" plush that Dez just HAS to have!  Since our paperwork went through in January, Dez will be born no earlier than the end of that month; so, he will be our Year of the Dragon, baby; and mom's "re-birthday" from her stem cell transplant will be in this lucky year too.  What a year of blessings!  We want to send one of these to Dez in a care package with our voices recorded telling him how much we love him.

I have recently fallen IN LOVE with the designs of Cath Kidston.  She has so many beautiful things; but her children's clothing and goods are just magical, marrying a feeling of English country with New York hipster - I ADORE it all!  Here are some of the pieces that I'm just dying to buy up for little Dezzy!

Cath Kidston cowboy jumper, $46.

Cath Kidston guards shirt, $34.

Cath Kidston teepee tent (I'm not sure they're making these anymore - BUMMER!).

Another line that is screaming adorable all over the place is Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku Mini" line for T*rget.  I am already guilty of buying a couple of pieces for the *little man*, but I've found more from the spring line that he might also "need".

Harajuku Mini Orange Sea Monster Shirt, $14.
Harajuku Mini blue boy's Pirate Pants, $18.

Harajuku Mini blue Sailor Jacket, $20.

Lately, every time I end up running errands for mom at T*rget or W*al-M*rt or anywhere really, I find myself having to go look at the children's book section.  When I was little, I adored books (still do!).  They were pretty much my most-prized possessions; so, I really look forward to reading with Dez and sharing my most favorite childhood books with him.

"Bee-Bim Bop!" by Linda Sue Park.  This is supposed to be a really good book about Korea cooking and family time.

Korean Children's Favorite Stories
Anything by Dr. Suess

"Under the Same Moon" recordable storybook at Hallmark.  We want to send this in one of Dez's care packages, but every time I try to read it my voice catches in my throat and I have to fight back sobs.

There are sooooo many, MANY more books that I want to read with Dez...too many to name really.  He's going to have quite the bookshelf to work through when he comes home.

We make and eat a LOT of different kinds of Asian food, from Thai to Japanese to Korean; and we use our own, personal chopsticks when eating them of course!  So, it only seems fitting that Dez have his own (*cute*) set of child's chopsticks to use (these have the character, "Crong" the frog, on them - he is on a show called "Pororo" who is a penguin who teaches Korean children colors, shapes, words, etc.).

Mr. C and I already tried to buy these Ikea Kritter chairs and Kritter table; but they were sadly sold out the day we were there - NEXT TIME!
I'm fairly vocal about my love and admiration for Melissa and Doug toys, but this sushi bento box set is one of my all-time faves!

One of the bigger things we need to finish in the nursery is the rug - a MUST since we have concrete floors (heated though they are).  Our plan at the moment is to create one of our own using these:

Flor tiles in "dashed off", $11.99/tile.
I'm sure I seem like a crazy lady, planning and buying for a baby that we haven't seen yet; but I'm so excited I don't care.  It seems like every day I'm reminded of how much we struggled to get here, but I try to focus on the fact that our baby IS out there.  He IS going to be matched with us.  He IS going to make it home to us, by the grace of God above who set this all in motion and is bringing us all together.  I cannot wait to see my little guy's face; but in the meantime, I'll keep daydreaming...

All the Love in the World,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pictures from the Cancer Battlefield, Part 8: Happy Hearts Day!

Mom with some of her Valentine's Day gifts.

Happy Valentine's Day to you and everyone you love!  Mom, Mr. C, and I had a pretty good day at the CTCA.  They made all the patients heart-shaped sugar cookies like this:

And each patient got a rose (SILK ONLY for those in stem cell like mom) too.  It was really sweet the way they remembered this special day; which often gets over-looked in the midst of battling cancer.  So far, I have to say that they've done a wonderful job of trying really hard to make each holiday we've had here special (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years); I really appreciate it, and I know all the patients and caregivers do too.

Mr. C and I got mom a HUGE balloon and a pink sock monkey (he's soooo cute!).  Dad got mom a beautiful Pandora bracelet with "Psalm 118:17" on it along with a "commitment" bead - lots of wonderful meaning there!

As for Mr. C and I, we only exchanged cards; but it was enough for us.  Honestly, he makes every day feel like Valentine's Day for me.  He's always showing me how much he loves me by his actions, and he takes such good care of me...I'm a very blessed girl!

I hope you and your loved ones had a very HAPPY hearts day full of love and laughter!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pictures from the Cancer Battlefield, Part 7: Rembering Rose

Rose and I outside the stem cell out-patient unit in January of this year.
I know death comes to all of us, we all have our "time"; but sometimes it all just seems so unfair.  That's how I feel about the passing of my friend, Rose; and I am determined that, even in this small way, I will let people know how wonderful she was.

Rose and I met in the middle of a battlefield - the stem cell unit of the Cancer Treatment Center of America.  A violinist came in to play for the patients and was taking requests - we both asked to hear "La Vie en Rose".  Perfect. :-)

Nearly every day after, Rose and I would talk.  We would talk about music, family, and her career as a teacher (which she absolutely loved); but mostly we talked about God and her plans for her life after she was well.  See, Rose had big plans.  Big, beautiful, unselfish plans to use her pain and fear and struggle to help others; so, hopefully they'd never be in the position she had found herself in - misdiagnosed at one of the most prestigious East Coast cancer centers ending up at the CTCA where they were still willing to try to fight with her till the bitter end.

Even though Rose's situation was considered "bleak" by most, she never gave up hope.  She also never stopped scheming about helping others.  Some of her ideas were "small" - like the donation of a rocking chair for those who wanted to partake of its comforts.  Others were a bit larger - like wanting to start an organization that would help seniors citizens with cancer sort out their treatment options and answer insurance questions.

Most days, I would pass by Rose's open door to see her with her iPod earphones in dancing to some silent melody in her room.  She smiled every time I walked up into her room (right next to mom's)...even when she was in great physical pain and missing her family back in Maine.  In fact, through all the ups and downs Rose endured those 3 months I knew her, I only saw her cry once - the day the doctors told her that she had stopped responding to chemotherapy and that they were advising her to go home to her family.  Naturally, I think anyone would be devastated to hear that news; but when I spoke to her, she wasn't crying for herself, but rather for her three children (two sons and a daughter) and her husband who was also being treated for cancer at the CTCA.

Since Rose left the center here, my whole family thought of and prayed for her daily.  I was believing for a miracle for her, because I just could not imagine such a wonderful person losing her battle with such an unfair and cruel disease.

But Heaven was calling Rose home.  And three days after she left this world, her husband followed her.  Unspeakable tragedy.  I feel immense sadness for their children and families.

I know I met and became friends with Rose for a reason; God is always working all around us.  So, I will cherish the time I had with my friend, Rose; and I will try to live up to her wonderfully compassionate and selfless heart.

I've heard it said that you shouldn't pity the dead, but rather the living...those left behind.  So, I refuse to pity Rose.  I know she is no longer in pain.  She is probably dancing to her favorite songs right with her husband now, looking down on the tears spilling from my eyes right now thinking, "Oh silly Mandie...if only you knew."

If only I knew...

But what I know is that Rose was a special person, and I miss my friend.  But I also know that I'll get to see her again...and we will dance together on streets of gold.

All the Love in the World,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pictures from the Cancer Battlefield, Part 6: MERCI MONSIEUR!

Mom in an out-patient room today getting infused with her antibiotics and fluids while checking her mail.

Well, it's been a while since I've written a "Cancer Battlefield" update; so, here you go!  And trust me, it's a good one:


The match is REALLY good, around 9.5 out of 10; which is simply fabulous!  The non-matching parts can simply be removed through a process which I can only assume is magic. ;-)  But seriously, her doctors are both really excited for her (they literally were throwing around smiles, hugs, and high fives); and, of course, we (the family) is too!

Right now, she is out-patient; but tomorrow she will have another intrathecal (this is where they do a lumbar puncture, remove some spinal fluid for testing, and inject chemotherapy directly into the spinal column.  She has to have one of these done with every round of chemo; so, she will have had 8 total, by the time the transplant comes around.  She also has to have at least 4 clean bone marrow biopsies before they will do transplant; so far, she has had 3 come back CLEAN already.  She is waaaay ahead of schedule, PRAISE GOD!

After the intrathecal tomorrow, she will be in-patient (meaning she has to stay in the hospital day and night in a room with nurses on the floor ready to assist should she need anything) again starting Round Three, Part A of her chemo.  There is a "part A" and "part B" to each round.  She will have 4 rounds total before transplant, making a total of 8 parts or sections of chemo.  So, she is halfway done - woo hoo!

We also have moved into an apartment in nearby Waukegan, IL.  It's not fancy, but it's nice to have a place to go other than the guesthouse; which is essentially just hotel rooms.  We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/living room/dining room area, our own laundry, Wi-Fi, etc.  It's so nice to have a "home" here to come back to for some relaxation and time away from the CTCA.

So, anyway, back to the good part: mom's donor!  Really, all we were told is that it is a French man.  So, when it gets closer to transplant, he will be given Neupogen to up his stem cell production drastically.  Then, in a procedure much like a mixture of a blood-draw and dialysis, the "baby" stem cells will be harvested from his blood.  They will then be frozen and shipped here to the CTCA where the lab will remove the 5% or so that didn't match mom perfectly before giving it to her. 

Then, over the course of a day or maybe two, she will receive the stem cells in the same way she would receive a blood transfusion - "easy".  As her body takes them in and they begin to grow (the famous "100-day post-transplant wait"), these new, healthy, cancer-free stem cells will be sucked into mom's body and used where needed (ie: new, cancer-free bone marrow).  I'm amazed and beyond glad that they know how to do things like this.  Without treatments such as these, my mom and so many others would die from cancers like lymphoma and leukemia, including many, MANY children (in fact, the kind of cancer mom had is the most common type of cancer in children).  We are SO BLESSED to live in the here and now where God has given brilliant men and women the ability to help give LIFE back to their fellow human beings!  AMEN!

We may never get to know anything more about our heroic Frenchman (donors identities are kept secret unless they specify otherwise); so, all I can say is MERCI BEAUCOUP, MONSIEUR FRENCHMAN!  Without your selflessness, my mother would never get to see her soon-to-be grandchild, continue her crafting and sewing that she loves so much, take those trips she's wanted to go on so badly, or live out the rest of her years with her husband and family.  I will NEVER be able to thank you enough - how could I?! - but I want you to know, wherever you are out there in the world, that I am praying for many blessings and gifts to rain down upon you from God.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for giving us more hope, more years, more love, more joy!  We are so very grateful for you!

All the Love in the World,