Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmastime

Don't you just love Christmas trees and decorations? This morning we are having our first real snow of the season. It is beautiful to watch when I don't have to be out running errands in it. This is our first holiday season since Nathan was born (2000) when we haven't been traveling, had company, been in the process of moving, or had a hospital experience going on. I realize it is only Dec 8th and things could change, but I am really looking forward to the calmness of this year. Merry Christmas!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

More Celebrating

Rachel's new smile. After 4 1/2 years, the braces finally came off yesterday. She was counting down the days, then minutes. I don't blame her!
















Nathan works hard in cub scouts and earned 2 beads towards his Bear Award at pack meeting on Tuesday night. I went to my 12th elementary school Halloween parade - only one more left!

The last item of celebration - no visits downtown to hospitals this week, not for clinic or labs or procedures or emergencies. That means I had at least 6 more hours added onto my week!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CELEBRATING

Megan is on the school 6th/7th grade basketball team. She is quick, thinks well on her feet, has a great shot, can see what all is happening on the court and is a tough defender. We had a fun time watching her games and seeing her team succeed. The season ended this week and then her teammates voted her as the MVP. What an honor - I am so proud of her.

It is hard to catch her in action, but this shot is after one of her last games. She got tangled up with another player and ended up with bruised knees and a pulled hamstring.

Lauren - It's Official - the CT scan this week shows no sign of the mass of lymphnodes. She also had a heart biopsy which had no sign of rejection or other problems. The YW/YM came for a surprise celebration. We also went out to dinner and to a horse show she was excited about.
Nathan - Finally got to build his fire outside. The summer didn't quite go as planned but he was a good sport and held out until September.
Stay tuned because Rachel has something exciting coming up in 4 days.....

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Chapter Ends...

Today another chapter in Lauren's medical journal ends. Is it wrong to hope it will be the last and final chapter? Her last round of chemo was this week. The scan is clear and her heart has done very well. She will still feel sick for a few weeks, but we are hopeful she'll be back to normal soon. It is amazing to think that a mass 11cm by 5-6 cm was dissolved and destroyed by these drugs. The oncologist never would guess at how long it would take the tumor to disappear, yet told us she is surprised at this fast response.



Being on the other side of the hospital was an adventure - we could see the Sears Tower right out of our window!
Children's hospitals are almost a hallowed place. There are so many parents and families praying in their own manners, hoping for a miracle for their child. Illness is no respecter of age or nationality or religion - there are all types and sizes here. It is a place to witness great acts of charity from nurses especially. The veil is thin here as it is the place from which some kids leave this life. It is a place of rejoicing as problems are detected and solved, and literally hearts and bodies are healed. Life is simpler here - In a strange way, I'm grateful for the many important life lessons that have been taught to me here.

Some might wonder what I do at Lauren's bedside all these days. I read a lot and do some writing. My portable hobby is cross-stitch. Since January 2005, when Lauren was waiting for her 2nd heart, I have been working on this one piece, which I finished yesterday. It was very involved and detailed and kept my mind busy when I needed it. I only got it out when we were heading to the hospital - now it is done and ready to be framed.

I always go home thankful for my own bed and comforts of home, grateful for kids and a husband who are understanding, and grateful we don't have to stay in the hospital any longer than we did. We always seem to meet someone who has it worse than Lauren, who has struggled more than she has, or who doesn't have the support she does. I am always grateful that her mind hasn't been affected by this - that her faculties are in place, that she can do the basics of life - eat, walk, talk, see, etc.
Today I am excited to go home, sit and watch general conference and soak in all the apostles and the prophet have to inspire me with.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rachel Marching Band

I apologize for the randomness of the order of these pictures and videos.

So, I had my second football game last night. It was really fun!! We did a show called One Hit Wonders. We played "Tainted Love", "Mickey", "Play That Funky Music", and "Thriller".
This is a picture to show you how big the marching band actually is. We have 201 members. It's so cool, becuase when we all march out on to the field, we look like we're migrating because we're all together. (I know this because the band director videoed the last game, and then we watched the video.)

So, this is the band during pregame. We spell out the letters LZHS since those are our school initials. I am in the 'H' right next to the big white things (called Sousaphones).



This is a picture of me and my amazing band geek friends before the band lined up to go onto the field. (I'm in the middle)


This is before we went onto the field for pregame. I am standing on the 40 yard line. We had to stand at parade rest for like 15 minutes before we could start. It's hard to hold a metal instrument with two fingers for that long. Plus, we play with gloves which makes our hands slightly slippery.


video

This is near the beginning of the song "Thriller", when the trumpets have the melody. We sound just like Michael Jackson.


All throughout half time, I am in the front row, second from the end on the right.

video

This almost the end of "Thriller". This is us marching one of our nine sets of drill (meaning we are marching to one of the different pictures we make on the field). Seven of the nine are in "Play That Funky Music", but two of them are in "Thriller". This last video is the last move and ending of the song.


video

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Go Cougars!!!

I actually sat and watched the entire BYU game yesterday. I love BYU football, but don't often get the chance to sit and watch it. I love football season - so many great memories of going to games when I was in college. I loved sitting there with the mountains in the background, in my sweatshirt, cheering my team on. Yesterday made me reflect on my fabulous college friends and the good times we had back then. Lauren was sleeping, so my cheering had to be subdued. There is something missing from the whole experience when you are enjoying it alone, but I look forward to the BYU/Utah game when Blair and I will be intense rivals!!

Perfect Weather

















You may not ever hear me say this about Chicago weather again, but the past week or so has been beautiful!!! 70 ish by the afternoon, no humidity, a slight breeze, cooling off at night. Perfect pre-fall conditions. These pictures are from a quick outing I took to the Botanic Gardens - always a pleasure.

Lauren had a PET scan downtown at Northwestern hospital. We drove along Lake Shore Drive, which runs beside Lake Michigan. There are lots of beaches and boat docks and pretty sights. We ended up on Michigan avenue for a short few blocks. I must say that the city of Chicago beautification committee does a great job! The flower boxes and decorations are very well done. The drive down here is about an hour on a low-traffic day. I would do more city sight-seeing if I wasn't coming down here so often anyway.

CHEMO 101 - long but perhaps interesting

Here is a quick rundown on Lauren's chemo. Chemo is basically a set of drugs given through IV that are supposed to kill all the bad cells in your body while still trying to keep a few of the good cells in tact. The treatment plan varies depending on the drugs used. In 2006 when she had chemo, the infusions were 2 different meds for a few hours every 10 days. This time there are 5 drugs which are infused over 5 days. She got the first 2 on Friday. (Vincristine and velcade) The third - called methotrexate then began. This has to be followed by continuous fluid infusions to get it through your system. After about 72 hours, the blood test they take indicated that the fluids can stop. Then she gets a 4th drug - cytoxan for 6 doses, 12 hours apart. After each of those she has to get fluids with certain electrolytes in them for 12 hours. The 5th drug is prednisone - oral pills at a high dosage for 5 days. So, that is why each round is a 5 day admission. The 2nd drug she get again on day 4, 8 and 11, but that is about a 15 minute infusion with no need for fluids to follow so that can be given outpatient.

At about day 7, her white count drops really low, she gets a shot in her arm, and then the white count is supposed to go back up gradually. All of these meds have various side effects, the worst of which is nausea and bone pain, so we give her meds to try to lessen those side effects. During all of these infusions of fluids, her electrolytes can get wacky. Potassium and magnesium are particularly important to good heart function, so we watch those closely and adjust meds as needed.
Some have asked me if the chemo hurts. No, she can't really feel it going in - just the side effects are bad. The pain in her abdomen has been gone for several weeks, so she can't really tell if the cancer is disappearing either. These "rounds" of chemo are supposed to be about 21 days apart. Just enough time for the body to be strong enough for the chemo again, but not long enough for the bad cells to have time to start multiplying again.
I have also been asked about radiation vs chemo. Radiation is done by x-ray type machines and targets specific spots in your body. Some cancers respond to this rather than chemo. She isn't using radiation with this cancer. I have also been asked what her "plan" is. With leukemia and some other cancers, there is a long-term, many month protocol in place. Scanning and testing is done every 3-4 treatments to check progress. With Lauren, because of all the variables, it isn't such a cut and dry plan. We did a CT scan, then a PET scan, then round 1. After round 1, another CT showed shrinkage but the oncologist didn't want to continue a few of the drugs because of their side effects, especially on the heart. So, round 2 was a different recipe which we have done this round as well. Lauren did have a PET scan on Wed and the initial read shows some improvement. However, it is a holiday weekend, so official results won't come until at least Tuesday.So, we arrived on Friday to begin this 3rd round. Lauren had looked like this and felt great since Monday, but once these drugs began, she has been sleeping quite a bit. The nausea is worse this time around, so she takes Kytril and Phenergan which both knock her out. As for Blair and I, our system seems to work. I can only last 3 nights here before I need my own bed, a shower that I don't have to wait in line to use, and to interract with my other kids. By that time, Lauren and I have had enough of each other and she needs Blair for comic relief!! I do a few loads of laundry, get some exercise, run to the grocery store (they don't eat vegies in my absence), review the happenings of the kids, organize who is picking up who at what time the next few days I am gone, go through the mail, repack some clothes and leave again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Week of School

One week down, many more to come.
My 4th Grader - do you remember 4th grade? Nathan is so enthusiastic about his teacher, their activities, the new books they get to use, etc., etc. He and I leave shortly after 8:00. We walk to school when the weather is nice enough and sometimes ride bikes.
Megan made the basketball team and they have their first game next week. She is the first one to leave on the bus at 7:00 am.
Seminary girls and 2 in high school - hard to believe. Lauren drives to seminary at 6:00 am, they get home about 7:15 and leave on the bus at 7:30. Rachel is really busy with marching band and Lauren is busy making up some tests and work she has missed and will miss next week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Simple Pleasures of Home

We came home from the hospital today after Lauren's 2nd round of chemo treatments. This time around was much better than the last. So far, no mouth sores or nausea. The trauma of losing all her hair is past as well. She will have various follow-ups, but the plan is to be readmitted on Sept 4th for round 3. It is so therapeutic to feel the sunshine and hear the sounds of the outdoors. I took a long bike ride and enjoyed getting some much-needed exercise. There is something so calming about cleaning a bathroom and sweeping a floor when you haven't been home to do it for awhile. I enjoyed my dinner I cooked in an oven and on the stove rather than a microwave warmed-up campbell's soup or cafeteria food. There is a rhythm when you listen to the birds and the neighbor's sprinklers.

Lauren and I took a walk outside and she made it down the block and back. We will try for a longer distance tomorrow. Simple pleasures that we so often take for granted!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Camps, Nauvoo, and Chemo

Photoshoot of Megan and Lauren - 12 and 16 - better late than never!!!








CAMPS -

The first part of the summer was full of camps, camps and more camps. Megan went to basketball and band camp. Nathan had cub scout camp. All 3 girls went to girls camp, then the 2 older ones had youth conference. Rachel took a trip to Seattle, Washington to visit Jeff and family and go to Especially for Youth. Here she is with some of her newest friends.



With Conner at the space needle.


NAUVOO - Next we took a short family vacation to Nauvoo. Renee's parents are serving a 6 month temple mission there, so we went to visit them as well as to see the sights.



CHEMO - So, Lauren and Blair left Nauvoo early to head back to Chicago to Children's Hospital. Lauren had some sever back pain, which, after a CT and biopsy showed B-cell lymphoma - Cancer. This is her 4th time around and very discouraging. Anyway, the first round of chemo began Wed July 22nd, the same day she was supposed to have been on a plane to Utah for visiting and EFY. She came home for a few days but is back in the hospital again trying to fight an infection. As always, she can use any faith and prayers sent in her behalf.

Lauren has a blog with more detailed updates on her condition and activities. See lauren2hearts.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rachel's Week (and a little more)

So, Mom is currently busy and she suggested that I, Rachel, do an update on the blog to tell everyone what has been going on in my life.


The 8th Grade Bash
We'll start with May 29. The school threw a party for all the 8th graders. It was all Hollywood themed and tons of fun. They even put in a sign in the front of the school that looked just like the Hollywood sign. There was also a red "carpet" leading from the street up to the front door.
This is me with some of my friends. Marissa is in the middle and Sara is on the end.

These are more of my friends, Janine, Ahlena, and Sara (again).
8th Grade Graduation


Then on June 3, I had 8th grade graduation. Here in the lovely place called Illinois, they make a huge deal about it. I think it is way overrated. This is me standing in front of the house in my graduation dress and gown. I went shopping for shoes earlier that day.



This is me standing in front of my seat after we walked into the High School gym where the graduation occurred.




This is me standing in front of my seat after I walked across the stage (in high heels) and I am holding my diploma.




This is me and Marissa (you saw her earlier) after the graduation ended. I finished off the night by going to Panera with my family and our stake president from New Jersey.



The Botanic Gardens

Because I am an 8th grader this year, I got out of school the day of graduation and the rest of the district gets out on Thursday the 11th. I spent June 4th with my mom. We went to Jamba Juice then headed over to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

We saw this awesome chair. I think it looks like a sombrero, but it is also a chair. So, I called it a sombchair. It's pretty funny whether you think so or not.


This is me in front of a small section of a field of poppies in the garden. They were very pretty. We finished off by going to Quizno's for lunch and then went shopping at the mall.


My 14th Birthday Party

On June 6th I had a bunch of my Illinois friends over for a party where we played games. Here are most of us playing Pigs. It is an amazing game where you roll the rubber pigs and get points. You should buy it if you don't have it.



This is us playing the most intense peanut game in the entire world. You take turns being "it" and rolling a die to get a certain number. When it is rolled, everyone else has to pull their peanut out of the middle (they are attached on strings). If "it" catches your peanut under the pot lid they slam down, you have to give them a peanut from your bank of peanuts. It is very fun!!



This is all of us sitting in front of the piano after eating dessert. The back row from left to right: Aneta, me, Rachel, and Courtney. Front row: Jacquelyn, Marissa (again), Sara, and Katie.



The Band "Banquet"
June 8
Every year the band, orchestra, and chorus has a banquet. This year it was held at our school to save on the cost. Each group gives out awards. Megan got the Most Valuable Player for her 6th grade band. This is an award only one person gets, and the band votes on it. Mr. Koehler (our band director) also chooses a lot of other awards. However, the highest award you can get is the Band Member of the Year. He selects it for best performer, leader, attitude, and "all around darn good kids."


This year he chose me to be the recipient of this award. He also gave it to another kid which has never happened before. I was really excited.





Then, becuase we are 8th graders, it was our responsibility to give the speech and present to Mr. Koehler to carry on the tradition. Marissa, Sara, and I spent 5 1/2 hours on Monday and many other hours at her house putting it all together. We had a kid jump out of a box and we gave him over $200 in the space of 25 gift cards to Target, Starbucks and Best Buy. We wrote messages on all of them and everything. It was... fun. And interesting.



This is me and Megan posing for a picture with our awards. The giant bow on her head is the one that was on top of the box the kid jumped out of.


This is me and Megan with our band director, Mr. Koehler. Just so you know, I accidentally closed one of my eyes during the picture.
This week has been very exciting and fun. I hope you all have a great summer and I am happy I have just finished my very first blog post.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Fun

Father and Son's Campout despite bad weather - good thing we have a big basement floor.
S'mores are just as good in the microwave as over the campfire according to Nathan.


While everyone was having extended family barbecues and visiting cemetery's, we had a nice picnic and played games in our backyard to celebrate Memorial Day.

The morning had begun with a ward breakfast featuring the debut of the ward band. Rachel and Megan played their usual instruments, but Nathan was recruited to be the symbols and bass drum player.

They played a rousing version of the Star Spangled Banner.