Sometimes it takes the hardest fall, to know where you really stand

Ro baby. I’m back home. In your home where you should be but are not. It was strange to leave NYC without you only to wind up back at our house, without you. Your brothers were sound asleep as it was late when I got in. I went into their room and gave them a million kisses. I was thankful to have them to come home to. I woke up this morning to hearing your brothers get up and in the shower; all by themselves. I didn’t even have to wake them. They are getting so big and responsible. They are so much more responsible than most 8-year-old boys. I guess that comes with the hard lessons they have had to learn. When I came home last night, I saw a laminated poster that Liam had made for school that your daddy had helped him with. It was full of pictures of all things Liam. Along with the things about him such as his favorite place, food, thing to do, etc….. I read the words, “If I had one wish it would be _________. He had filled in the blank with, “unlimited wishes.” I looked at your daddy and I could feel the tears start to sting my eyes. I said to him, “Wait. He didn’t wish for Ronan back? Why wouldn’t he have wished for Ronan back?” Your daddy said he had asked Liam that question too. Liam simply replied that he would wish for that second, after he got his unlimited wishes. For a split second, my heart was broken over Liam’s answer but then I remembered how he is just 8 years old. How I know that he wishes for you back, everyday. But what kid wants to go to school and tell their entire class that they wish that their baby brother, who died of cancer, to come back? What 8-year-old, wants to explain that to their entire class? To me, that was even more heartbreaking. After my split second punch in the gut that I literally felt, it went away quickly and I thought to myself, “What a smart little kid.” I know how badly losing you has scarred your brothers for life. I am watching them, slowly learn how to live without you. And I can tell you everything they do is with 110 percent more effort, fire and passion. They are the best little boys in every way possible. I am so lucky, Ro. I am so proud of them.

I spent today with Dr. JoRo. We talked all about New York and how good it was for me. She is so glad I fought for that trip. I am glad too. I listened to myself tell her things that I never thought I’d hear myself say again like I feel hopeful and inspired. That I feel like I am starting to believe in myself just a bit. She had me fill out a few questionnaires that apparently, I had filled out when I first came to see her. I told her I didn’t remember filling out a thing. I stared at her questionnaire like I was seeing it for the first time. She assured me that I had filled it out before and she watched me as I checked the boxes off one by one, once again. She compared my answers to the one’s I had answered only a few months after losing you. My numbers were really high on her scale as far as PTSD and some other things go. My numbers are a little lower now. She talked about how she would never say I’m getting better because you don’t get better with something like this. But she did tell me I’m learning to cope with things a little more. I’m learning to slowly come back to life, one piece at a time. I guess this is progress. I told her she had given me this test at the wrong time….. straight from coming back from a NYC trip. I told her to give it to me next week, after reality came crashing down again. She laughed and said she would.

I forgot to tell you a totally funny story that happened on my last day in New York. I was out for my Central Park run and I had stopped at mile 4 and sent Katherine some really pretty sunny NYC picture along with some words about how lame this extra safe, Central Park daylight run was. She replied back with something even more clever and brilliant than my smart ass comment. I continued on my extra safe stupid this is not dangerous enough for me run, laughing at her words. I was a few miles back into my run and I guess I was running pretty fast, but I was totally zoned out. All of a sudden, I tripped on something and felt myself go flying through the air. And I’m not talking the kind of flying where you end up on your ass. I’m talking the kind of flying that it’s like you are running to home plate in a baseball game and go sliding in head first to score a run. Oh YEAH. That was totally me. Except I was not on a baseball field. I was on hard, black pavement. I picked myself up quickly and totally just started running again like nothing had happened. My hands, clothes, and body told a different story. My hands and clothes were covered in the black NYC streets, I had blood and asphalt, engraved into my skin, and I could feel the huge bruise on my thigh getting bigger by the second. I finished my run, in fits of giggles though, so wishing somebody would have caught my totally awesome fall on tape. I texted Kath and told her that it turns out, running in Central Park in the middle of the day, CAN be dangerous. I could be on to something here and I have the asphalt tattoos to prove it. I’ve scrubbed for 2 days now and my hands are still black. I told you NYC didn’t want me to leave. Or at least it wanted to send me off back to Phoenix with the reminder that no matter how hard I fall in life, I’m the only one that can pick my sorry little ass back up. Nobody else, Ro. There was nobody there to save me or help me when I fell yesterday. And even if there would have been, my stubborn self would not have taken their hand. Because deep down, I know that it is going to take a lot of falls, bruises and bloodied hands to get through this. I know that I am the only one that is capable of fixing my owies, as you used to call them. You are so worth each and every one or them, Ro. I love you so much.

I’m tired baby. I spent the rest of tonight doing all the things that I should be doing like helping your brothers with their homework and playing football outside with them. I missed you every single second. I love you to the moon and back. I hope you are safe. G’nite, little one. Sweet dreams.

xoxo

Soho and a Circus

Ro and I started off our morning the way we usually do. Cuddly and quiet. We sat and played in his bed and enjoyed our quiet time together. My mom came to the hospital with Tricia around 11. So happy to see my bestie. Ronan was not a happy camper at first, but he soon warmed up to Trish. It’s his whole I know my mommy is leaving thing that gets him into his little moods. I told him I was going home to shower and he agreed to let me. Thanks Sarg, as my New York Miss Macy likes to call him. I headed out the doors of Sloan with Trish and we went back to the RMH so I could shower and get ready for our few hours out. We figured out which Subway we needed to get on to get to SoHo… Woody  would have been SO proud. I am determined to master that thing by the time I leave here. We spent a few hours in Soho roaming the streets and had a bite to eat. It was so nice to catch up with my TT and to actually get to hear about things that are going on in her life. She is so concerned with mine that the phone conversations we have usually consist of what is going on with me and Ronan. I hate that. I hate that I feel like I am missing out on the little things that are going on with her, even if it is knowing what she is doing for lunch. I used to be so spoiled in that regard and would know what her entire day/night consisted of. I miss that so much. The simple things, the little things, the nothing is new because we talk 5 times a day about anything and everything and nothing. There is no more nothingness now as everything is wrapped up in this cancer cloud. The innocence has been lost forever in my life and I will never get it back. Neither will my best friend. But we keep holding on, telling each other that we will be stronger after all of this. Totally see a trip to Vietnam in our near future, TT 😉

After our Soho day out, we rushed back to RMH and I threw together my overnight bag so I could return to Sloan. My friend, Ed, emailed me a couple of weeks ago in regards to seeing a Broadway show. I told him about my mom and Trish coming into town and the next thing I knew we had tickets to “Billy Elliot.” Somebody he knows (a very kind person indeed) treated us to the show. THANK YOU, Ed’s friend:) I wasn’t able to go, due to Ro being in the hospital so I sent my mama, Trish, a woman, Barbra who runs this amazing organization called The Candlelighters in NYC, and a mom and daughter(who is 7 with cancer) to the show. They had an amazing time. It meant so much to me. This is my mom’s first trip to NYC and one of my wishes was for her to go to a show on Broadway. It should be something that everybody checks off their bucket list. It felt so great knowing that my mom was getting to do something that is so special to me; she deserves it so much. Thank you, Ed for organizing this. Thank you, Barbra, for taking such good care of my mom and Trish. They loved you and I cannot wait to spend more time with you. What you do for other cancer families is simply amazing.

I spent the night here with Ronan doing our usual thing. We made slime with the Childlife guys, played more Star Wars and I fed him dinner. We had a very special visit with my dear friend, Niki. It was comical and sad all at the same time. Niki, who is here with both of her young children put them in a cab and came to Sloan with cupcakes and dinner for us. I told Ronan that they were coming by and asked if I could go out to the elevators on our floor to say hi and grab our food. He said yes but was upset they couldn’t come in our room to see us. I left him in his bed and ran out to see Niki and the kids. I was greeted by the best giggles, smiles, hugs, and tears in the world. It was so nice to have my friend wrap her arms around me and hug me the way she does. She gives great hugs. I chatted with them for a few minutes then decided to go back and see if Ronan would come out to say hello. He agreed so I picked him up, and wheeled his “asspole,” out to the floor of our room. As I was wheeling it down the hall I was suddenly hit with a moment of panic wondering how Laely and Wesley would react to Ronan’s pole and the tubes coming out of his little body. My panic almost stopped me in my tracks but I then remembered feeling the same way over Laely seeing Ronan’s bald head for the first time and the conversation I had with Niki about it and how Laely didn’t even notice. To her, she was just seeing her friend, Ronan. She doesn’t get that he has cancer (they are the same age) she’s not scared of him… to her, he is the same little boy as always. The world is exactly as it should be in her eyes. Seeing those 3 kids tonight was the best medicine in the world. This is how our world works now, and we have to make the best of it. So tonight, Ronan got to see his friends through the glass doors of our floor as they could not come in and we could not go out. I held Ronan and watched as Laely and Wesley smushed their faces up to the doors and I got down on the ground and kissed them through the glass. We laughed, played, and loved. It was the best 10 minutes Ronan’s had in a very long time. Made both of our nights and we all parted way smiling.

Ronan and I then came back to our room to prepare for our nightly walk. Tonight though, he insisted we take all 4 of his guns with him and the very special balloons that were delivered to him from Dr. Maze today. I tried to talk him out of him out of taking the balloons with us, but he went into complete meltdown mode. (Thank you, Aubrey… you would have loved the smile those balloons got you:))) Ronan wins. I tied the bundle of the biggest, cutest, animal balloons in the world, onto his pole and I somehow managed to walk the halls with him for 30 minutes without breaking my neck. I couldn’t see a thing and everybody kept saying we looked like a circus. We got a lot of laughs tonight and went on a very special mission to try to find our nurse, Jen, who was hiding from us on the floor. She would jump out at random places and Ronan would blast her with 2 of the 4 guns that he made me carry. Very entertaining night around here. I swear, I’ll do anything to hear Ronan laugh these days.

After our walk, Ro was worn out so we came back to his room and snuggled in his bed. He kept telling me how much he loved me and we sang our nightly “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” together and he soon drifted off to sleep. I am listening to his little breaths as I sit beside him and write this. It’s my favorite part of the night, watching him sleep. We’ve been in the hospital for 3 weeks now, 21 days, 504 hours…. this is complete insanity and unfairness. I would give anything for this to all go away. I would give anything to be at home with my family, where I belong, taking care of my Liam who had to stay home from school today because he is sick with the flu. I would give anything to be the normal mom again. Except this time, I wouldn’t whine about my child throwing up all day due to the flu. I would be SO VERY THANKFUL. I cannot wait for the day that Ronan is well and this happens to me. One of my kids gets sick with only an ear infection, a cold, or the flu. It will be one of the best days of my life.

While I was sitting here writing tonight, I got an email from my friend, Jon who is cousins with the little girl, Phoebe I talk about sometimes on here. She was Ronan’s last roommate at Sloan and I just had lunch with her mom the other day. Jon came to visit us a couple of weeks ago before he took the train to visit Phoebe and her family. Love him.  I’ve been feeling pretty strong these past few days but a paragraph into Jon’s email and I was bawling like a baby. Not because I was sad, but because the things he wrote to me hit such a nerve. His words were filled with such truth and light and it was as if a little light bulb went off in my head. “DINGDINGDINGDING!!!!” I am doing this. Woody is doing this. Ronan is doing this. Phoebe is doing this.  We are all doing this and we are all going to get through this. We are too strong not to, Ronan is not going to let this cancer crap win and neither am I. Jonathon, somebody who did not know us at all, knew this after only spending a few days with us; just like the way I knew it about Phoebe within a few minutest of meeting her. She had this look in her eyes and I just knew she was going to come out the other side of this only more beautiful than ever. The same look that I see every time I look into those baby blues of Ronan’s. Fuck the statistics and fuck the odds. I refuse to listen to them because they have nothing to do with Ronan.

I’m ending my writing tonight with  Jonathon’s email (with his blessing) because his words are raw and real and give me strength. I love you and your beautiful family so much. Thank you for this gift tonight, my friend.

Goodnight to you all, my lovely souls. Thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts, prayers, support and love. But most of all, thank you for BELIEVING.

xoxo

Maya,

This is a quick note, not meritorious of a response. I’m writing tell you that you are a fucking badass. I’ve attempted to think of other ways to write this, less vulgar, more poetic, but fuck that.
I met a lot of folks at Sloan, visiting Phoebe for 6 months, or 8 months, or 10 months, or whatever the hell it was. And I worry about her every day, still. But the point of this note is to tell you that I knew you and Ro for only 4 days, and I saw that you were tired, and pushed against a wall, and still, more than anyone else I’d met, I knew in your eyes that you’d already won.
This was easy to see. I saw your resilience.
I don’t know anything about life. You called me out as a young fool, and you’re right, I know jack shit.
But I saw you, and Ro, your chests held high, and your smiles wide, and I felt your presence. Through those hideous turquoise plastic-felt curtains they threw between us, I felt your laughter, and your brilliant fuck-all attitude regarding the drivel we go through.
So this is one STRONG vote, from a kid in Chicago, saying laugh at their shit. Laugh at the crappy cots, and laugh at the exuberant candy-stripers, and laugh at the folks with FAKE smiles, because, let’s be frank, this is some bullshit. But that’s okay. Bullshit is bullshit is bullshit, and when I saw you, and Ro, and Woody, I saw the people I’d stake my livelihood on. I saw people I’d lay down in front of a train for.
Thanks for making me proud. Next time you feel that it’s too much, don’t worry. Just know that you’re already the most badass person I’ve ever met. You can do anything.
With love,

Jon

Never-ending tears

How much can one little person endure? It’s amazing because the strength of Ronan seems endless. All he has gone through so far… all he is going to have to go through still. I am exhausted just thinking about it. He is back getting his bone marrow aspirates done and MIBG scan as well. I didn’t tell him until we arrived here what was going on. He cried and said he did not want his sleepy medicine unless Dr. Maze gave it to him. I knew he was going to be upset about that. He was more than upset. He  threw himself on the floor while the tears poured down his cheeks. I told him we could call Dr. Maze and he could talk to him if that would make him feel better. He finally calmed down after that and we made the phone call. Nevermind the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning back at home. I put Ronan on the phone and watched his little face as Aubrey talked to him. It lit up and he kept saying o.k. and nodding his head. He then told him, “I love you,” and handed the phone over to me. I have no idea what was said to Ronan, but it worked for the time being and calmed him down. We were soon called back to the procedure room and I was able to hold Ronan as the doctor put him to sleep. I left the room freaking crying. Time to get used to all new doctors, people, nurses, etc….. We are so attached to our angels at PCH. I already miss Sharon, Kristen, Dr. Maze, Erica, Dr. Adams, Dr. Eshun, Elaine, Patty, and “A,” so much. They have been our family for 7 months now and here we are starting all over. I didn’t think it was going to hit me so hard, but today it did. Especially leaving Ronan in the anesthesia room with some new doctor whom I’m sure I’ll never see again. Don’t get me wrong, Sloan is beyond amazing. But this is going to take some getting used to.

Lovely. Lovely that I am a blubbering mess today. Lovely that as soon as I was called back to see one of Ronan’s main doctors, Dr. Modak, to sign papers for blood work that I immediately starting bawling. Lovely him took my hand and said “Tell me what’s wrong.” I couldn’t even get the words out because everything is wrong. I just told him I was worried about this arm pain of Ronan’s. He pulled up the latest  MIBG scan for me immediately and we looked at it together. I’m sorry, but nobody at PCH would have done that for me. As much as I love them, the fact that Dr. Modak was able to pull up the scan in 2 minutes and discuss it with me was something that would have never happened so quickly at PCH. And it should be that way. It should be that way everywhere. I should not have to wait days for results. We went over the new scan and he showed me that nothing has progressed. If anything, it looks slightly better. I was able to stop crying for the rest of the time while I was in his office. At least I can have that peace of mind for the moment. I was sent down to the blood donor room to have my veins looked. I made it halfway there before I started bawling again. The nurses kept offering me orange juice to calm me down. Made me laugh to say the least.

My friend, Ed, is in the city today and should be here any minute. There is no way I am going to be able to hold it together for him. He lost his little boy Jack to Neuroblastoma a few years ago. He and his wife have been so supportive of all of this even though we hardly know them. They are 110% behind our Sloan decision which makes me feel very good and just confirms that we did indeed make the right decision. I only was able to see Ed for a few minutes due to Ronan waking up from anesthesia as soon as he arrived. He woke up grumpy like always and wanted to just go back to the hotel. I grabbed the Starbucks Ed brought me and he helped me with the stroller downstairs until I was able to calm Ronan down enough to put him in it. What a sweetheart. We were planning on going to lunch but Ro baby was not having it. Ed grabbed a cab and we headed back to our room. I tried to get Ronan to rest a little bit but he was hell bent on going to FAO Schwartz. I bundled him up, threw him in the jogging stroller and ran up to FAO. We stayed for about an hour. He was tired and is in a lot of pain from his bone marrow aspirates that he had done today. He keeps asking why they put needles in his body. UGH. He is hurting tonight which kills me. I hate seeing him in pain and I know it’s bad because he never complains. After FAO, we ran back to our “hood” and went and grabbed our favorite pizza. He ate a lot as always and now we are back in our room. It is freezing out there and I am so exhausted today I swear I could fall asleep right now. It will be an early night for sure.

Woody is flying out tonight to NYC because Dr. Modak needs his blood by tomorrow. Nobody in Phoenix can send his blood that quickly so he is just flying in. Ronan has a CT scan at 11:30 tomorrow and we will fly home with Woody tomorrow evening. I hate to admit this; because I like to act like I’m such a tough ass and have everything under control; but……. these 3 days without Woody have been SO hard. I sometimes take for granted how helpful he is to me but I swear, never again. I could NEVER survive this without him. I miss him terribly and I am so insanely blessed to have him as a husband. He truly is the best thing to ever happen to me.

That’s all for tonight. An early update because I hear a hot shower and a very early bedtime calling my name. So thankful that todays MIBG scan showed no progressive disease. Maybe I will sleep a bit better tonight. I am anxious to get home, I feel like I’ve been gone a year.

xoxo, sweet friends.

P.S. Biggest HAPPY BIRTHDAY loves to my New York Miss Macy. This city is not even close to being the same without you:( Miss you so much. Kisses from NYC!

You belong among the wildflowers

I was telling my bestie today that I remember when I was a child and my parents used to watch the show “30 Something.” As  a little girl, I always thought the people on the show were so old and the show was really strange. I then told her how I wished I would have paid attention because then maybe, I would have picked up on the warning signs that being in your 30’s is hard. Or maybe it’s really not, and it’s only because of our situation, but is seems as if everyone around my age is going through something right now. Please tell me it gets easier…. because right now this is so not how life should be. WTF?? I also told her that I feel like someone just came along, took a look at me and thought, “Oh, hello. You’re life is too perfect so we’re going to give your kid cancer.” Just out of nowhere, BAM! This comes along. Really? Thanks a freaking lot. Couldn’t I have been hit with something a little less drastic? This is so not necessary. Trish and I both decided that if we were told that the world were ending tomorrow, we would believe it. It is the only explanation for all of this bullshit. I am laughing out loud thinking about something that happened after she and I hiked tonight. We were walking back from Camelback Mountain and we were almost to my house when some car comes flying out of their driveway and almost hit us. Tricia seriously had to grab me and pull me back from being hit by the car. We both then started dying laughing saying how we should have just jumped in front of the car so it could have hit us. O.K…. maybe not such a funny story as I sit and re tell it, but we were dying laughing. Totally kidding of course but I swear the only way I am going to get through any of this is laughing at as much stuff as possible. No matter how morbid it may be. Oh, bestie. How I love you so. I will tell you everyday of my life that you are my saving grace. I am so lucky to have you. Together we will get through all of this. I promise you this.

So, this weekend, as horrific as it was due to some terrible bullshit that has gone down; was absolutely lovely. Pain and sadness cannot be denied, but through all of the tears I see a soul being cleansed and renewed. It is amazing what can come of things when you are surrounded by the people who love you the most and who refuse to let you fall without picking you back up. This weekend was spent doing things that we used to do as a family before all of this. Hanging out, going to baseball practice, playing outside, movie night, eating out for breakfast. Such normal family things. It felt so nice because it has been so long since we have been able to really spend time together like this. Ronan is acting as if he is the healthiest boy in the world. He is full of nothing but giggles and smiles, love and light. He is so happy to be at home with his toys and his brothers. He happiness is infectious and keeps us strong.

I spent a lot of time outdoors this weekend doing what I used to do before all of this. I went on a 2 hour hike with Trish and Sarah yesterday. It was so therapeutic. I love nature, love being outdoors and the time with the two of them is always healing for me.  Then this evening I hiked Camelback with my Tricia Boo. Hiking Camelback is something we used to do all the time together. It’s our church and our special place. We got to the top, sat down for a bit, and I prayed my little heart out. It was so peaceful and gorgeous. I miss doing things like this so much. I’ve already made Trish promise that we will get back to how things used to be, as much as possible. I’ve got to have a little normalcy in my life and time spent with her, running or hiking is so good for both of our souls.

Ronan and I go to PCH to the clinic tomorrow. They will do the standard checking his blood levels to see how he is doing. I’m not sure when, but sometime this week we are flying out to NYC so they can check my blood and do his scans. You ready to hear step one of what we will be doing at Sloan for Ronan?? Here goes……

Full Title :
PHASE I STUDY OF ANTI-GD2 3F8 ANTIBODY AND ALLOGENEIC NATURAL KILLER CELLS FOR HIGH-RISK NEUROBLASTOMA
Purpose :
The goal of this study is to see if it is safe and feasible to give chemotherapy (topotecan, cyclophosphamide, and vincristine), natural killer (NK) cells, and an antibody called 3F8 to patients with high-risk recurrent or persistent neuroblastoma. 

The NK cells, a type of white blood cell, must come from a patient’s relative who shares half of his or her HLA proteins, which are immune proteins important in transplantation. Studies have shown that NK cells from a donor can be given safely and can be helpful in treating some diseases. These NK cells are collected from the donor and purified.

NK cells can recognize and kill abnormal cells in the body and can work together with antibodies to kill target cells. The antibody 3F8 specifically recognizes a protein present on neuroblastoma cells. Researchers have already shown that the 3F8 antibody can be administered safely to neuroblastoma patients. They want to determine the effects of the combination of chemotherapy, NK cells, and 3F8 antibody on patients’ cancers and bone marrow function, and how to maximize its benefits in treating cancer.

Eligibility :
To be eligible for this study, patients must meet several criteria, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Patients must have a confirmed diagnosis of high-risk neuroblastoma that has persisted or progressed despite standard therapy.
  • Patients must have a matched blood relative who can donate NK cells.

This is where we are starting. We will start this on March 21st and will be in New York for 5 weeks straight. We will then be able to come home for a 3 week break. To explain all of the treatments combined right now is too overwhelming for me. But I wanted to let you all know where we are starting off. Dr. Kushner has seen great results in the lab as far as this study goes and it’s been successful in kids as well. We are putting all of our trust into him. This has to be effective. We don’t need anymore bumps in the road, please. This is going to be tough on Ro. I know the 3F-8 stuff is painful. But he is so strong. If anyone can do this, it’s Ronan.

I hope you all are well tonight and had a beautiful weekend. We are so thankful for all the love and support through all of this. We are very thankful every second of our lives. Sweetest dreams to you all.

xoxo

I heart NYC

 

We had the most gorgeous, smooth, flight today. Not to mention, we made it to NYC in 3 and a half hours, didn’t have to deal with security, lines, people….. we just drove right up to the jet and aboard we went. The pilots were amazing and they even let Ro co-pilot the plane! He was in heaven and I was so relaxed, calm, and felt a sense of peace that I have not felt in a very long time. Just knowing that Ronan was on a private jet, without germs or 300 other people was the best gift I’ve ever received. Again, thank you Mr. W…. when all this is said and done, I hope you can meet our baby boy so you he can look into your eyes, and tell you thank you. We are so grateful to you and what you did for our family.

We arrived at The Ronald McDonald house this evening. It is quite a sight and a very happy place, all things considering. They really do it up for Christmas and make everything extra magical. I am thankful that places like this exist. I don’t know what we would do without it. Auntie Karen came and met us and we grabbed some pizza nearby. We then she came back here and she helped me unpack and organize. Feels like home ready:)

Ro is asleep and I’m going to try to get some shut eye too. We have to be at Sloan very early in the morning so Ro can have some blood work done. Just wanted to let you all know that we are safe, thankful, and so happy to be here.

Sweet dreams, angels.

xo