One foot in front of the other

Another day done. Ronan slept in for NYC time… 10:00 a.m. which was nice as we were all tired. He woke up a little grumpy, still complaining of pain. I tried my best to entertain him while Woody got some work done around here and he soon left to go back to RMH to get some quiet work done. For being stuck in a hospital, the days sure do fly by and I can’t even keep track of what we have done. We don’t really watch movies or T.V…..so I’m not sure where the time goes. We listen to music a lot and do a lot of playing. I do my best to make sure Ronan is as happy as can be; even though he asks for Liam and Quinn a dozen times a day. We did Ronan’s 4th day of chemo, and 5th day of radiation. So far, he’s done really well with the chemo. No more vomiting. We went down to RT (Radiation) tonight around our usual time, 5:00. I had Ronan waiting in his little wheelchair when one of the RT guys walked by and did a double take of Ronan. He came over and went on and on about how he is the most beautiful boy he has ever seen, how he has movie star looks and the most unbelievable eyes. I just nodded my head and told him I knew. He asked what Ronan’s name was and introduced himself as Kerry. He was really sweet and wouldn’t stop talking about Ronan’s piercing “Husky dog eyes”. It was very cute… you don’t usually hear a twenty something guy go on and on about how beautiful a boy is. Ronan can melt anyone’s heart and it was blatantly obvious from today.

Ronan knows the drill now. He knows he is to be perfectly still as he down still as gets his radiation. Our friends down in radiation had “The Killers,” playing on the stereo system for Ronan as they know he loves that band. I covered him up with GiGi,(his blanket) and he clutched his pistol gun in the other hand and I left the room. It only took a few minutes again and I watched my brave boy from the screen and talked to him over the speaker system. We were soon done and Ronan was very tired. He sat in my lap and our escort wheeled us back up to our room. I somehow talked him into a sponge bath, but only if I would put his Star Wars guys in the water too. He stood up and I got a tub, filled it with warm water and bathed him and brushed his teeth. I also scrubbed his Star Wars guys for him to make him happy. He is sleeping now and I am waiting for Woody to return so I can go on my run. It’s going to be a dark one tonight…. sorry Little M. I’ve got to go run tonight… my mind needs it.

Woody returned to Sloan around 8:00 NYC time. Ronan was asleep so I quickly snuck out. I went to the RMH, changed my clothes, and headed out. I was on the phone with my sweet Niki right before I was getting ready for my run. I got the usual, ” You be careful… I won’t even run in Central Park at night.” I gave her my nobody is going to mess with me answer and she laughed and said she it would probably actually be really good for me to fight off someone, so I could blow off some steam. I told her would just pretend like my slayers (as Marisa likes to call them) were cancer, and kick their asses. We had a good laugh about that one together. My new loop from the RMH and back ended up begin almost 9 miles. Perfection. The perfect run, perfect mileage, perfect night with no Slayers in sight, Marisa. It was refreshing, grueling, and just what I needed. I love running in this city and I love that I now have a set path and I know the distance. Gotta love GPS on the iPhone. I ran a fast 8 and a half-minute mile…. got back to the RMH, showered, packed a bag and grabbed some soup at Delizia’s, my one meal of the day. I have decided that I can seriously live off of my coconut water, coffee, Delizia’s minestrone soup, coke and chocolate. So ridiculous but whatever….. it works for me and I can actually keep that down without throwing up…. knock on wood.

I almost made it through the day without crying. Almost. I was sitting on the ground, rubbing Ronan who is now complaining of his legs hurting…. so I sit and massage him most of the day. Our senior in high school roommate started vomiting and we could of course hear her; which is awful. That threw me over the edge and I started bawling. Ronan watched me and asked why I was sad. I told him because the girl next door was sick to her stomach and it makes me sad. I quickly pulled it together and helped get new linens for her. Stupid cancer.

O.k. my dears… it is 12:30 at night here. My body is aching and my mind is officially done for the day. Sweetest dreams to you all.

Jar of hearts

Tonight, I honestly sat here and could not remember what month it was. It literally took me opening up my calendar on my computer to figure it out. That is how fried my brain is. What even happened today?? I’ll have to sit back and reflect so that I can tell you. We were all tired from a rough night, so slept until around 10:30 East Coast time…. 7:30 your time. Seemed so late but it really wasn’t as we have not adjusted to the time change yet. Once Ronan was up, we spent the morning playing and I snuck out around 1 to go back to the Ronald McDonald House to shower and change clothes. I called Fernanda and had a hard time talking to her due to just having a hard couple of days. I hung up with her and ended up being hysterical so I called Auntie Karen as I really needed to hear her voice. I just could not stop crying this afternoon, no matter who I talked to. After I hung up with her, I decided that I needed to go on a run. I laced up my shoes, and headed to Central Park. I cried most of the way… WTF?? I cannot seem to hold it together when I am away from Ronan. I do well with him, but when I’m by myself, I seem to have a hard time. My run was alright, gorgeous day, but I only ran about 5 miles due to my pounding headache and lack of energy. I came back to the RMH, took the hottest shower possible, and somehow managed to throw a bag together to head back to Sloan. I ran to Starbucks before heading back to the hospital and caught a glimpse of myself in a window as I passed by it. I had to laugh out loud at the outfit I had dressed myself in. To say I looked like a cute hobo is pushing it…. I was a mess from head to toe and topped it off with my favorite bright green North Face fleece hat on top of my head. Seeing myself gave me a good chuckle which is something that I really needed at the time. I sat in Starbucks and waited for my coffee and called Tricia to check in…the conversation started by me telling her that this cannot all possibly be real, that I still don’t believe it, because no matter how wild of an imagination I have, even I couldn’t make up the crap we have been through the past few days. I ended up bawling while on the phone with her in front of a coffee shop full of people. I don’t even care anymore…. I don’t care how ridiculous I looked, the stares, the wondering on people’s faces. I love that in this city, full of so many people, that I can completely break down and it doesn’t phase me in the least. I’m not going to hide my tears here; I’m tired of hiding them back home due to being so worried about my twins seeing me or because I am so caught up in our everyday life that it numbs me. Here, I am not numb, and as painful as it is, it is therapeutic in a way as well.

I returned back to the hospital to a very happy baby boy who was sweet as pie. He was so happy to see me. Woody was in bed with him and they had been playing Star Wars. It was so adorable to come back to. Ronan was due to get his second round of radiation at 6 p.m. so I told Woody to go shower as I didn’t want to be alone for it again. He left and soon after Ronan got sick to his stomach due to the chemo. They are giving him round the clock anti-nausea meds, but that isn’t enough. I had them give him another dose of something else before we headed down to the second floor for his “pictures.” Woody arrived just in time and we headed down to get started. Once again, Ronan was a champ. I set him up on the table, and watched as they raised him up high to start his treatment. Woody and I both kissed him and said we would see him in a few minutes and we left the room. We watched him on the monitors and talked to him the entire time. I cried once again. It’s really hard for me to watch him do this. The whole thing took was super fast today and took only a few minutes. So glad for that and so thankful he is not needing sleepy meds to do this. It makes it so much easier.

After radiation, we came back to the room and Woody ran out to get pizza from Ro’s favorite place and soup for me. Ronan didn’t eat much due to still being a little sick to his stomach but I did get him to eat a few noodles. We had a little bit of a scare while we were sitting in our room. Ronan was on my lap, shooting his pistol gun, and I looked down and he had completely stopped what he was doing and he was out like a light. I tried for about 30 seconds to wake him up, but he was out cold. I flipped out, told Woody he had passed out and to call the nurse which he did. I got him to wake up and within seconds we had a few doctors and nurses in our room checking his blood pressure and heart rate; all which were fine. I’m not sure what happened.. I don’t think he passed out as in fainted, but passed out as in from exhaustion. I think it was a combo of not napping today, chemo, radiation, morphine and anti-nausea meds that hit him all at once. It scared me to say the least. He ended up being fine and woke up and played for the next hour. I asked the doctor to reduce the amount of morphine they are giving him as I think it is making him a little loopy. They decreased it and he seems to be sleeping peacefully.

Woody is out like a light as well. He is beyond beat and is having a hard time too. It’s hard for me to see him this way, as I am so used to him playing the strong, lawyer, perfect husband and daddy role. Tonight he told me he is scared, which I of course already knew, but hearing him say those words is really hard on me. I’m trying my best to keep my ass kicking attitude going here, but it is hard when I know Ronan is in so much pain. This radiation just has to work on his arm so he can go back to the kid with cancer, who doesn’t feel a thing. I want my “healthy” boy back so badly.

I talked to Quinn and Liam tonight to tell them goodnight. I miss them every second of the day. We all do. I talked to them in my strongest voice and told them how much I love them and missed them. They sounded happy which gives me peace. Thank you Mimi and Papa for taking such good care of them. Thank you Lindsey for the text you just sent me with a picture of the full moon tonight saying you love me to the moon and back. After you sent me that text, I got up out of bed just so I could go and look out the window at the same moon as you. I love you to the moon and back too.

Time to get some rest here. Kisses and love to you all. Hope you are having a beautiful weekend. Thanks for checking in on us.

xoxo

Us right after radiation. That’s my boy:)

There’s beauty in the breakdown

Ronan and I headed to PCH this morning for his clinic visit and audiology test. Once we got to the clinic, I could tell Ronan had been put through enough this week, so I ended up calling audiology and rescheduling the rest of his test for next week. Enough is enough. It was a good thing because Ronan ended up needing a platelet transfusion and it took forever today. We were at the clinic all day long. I am so over this week. Next week is going to be just as busy. We are at PCH everyday except Friday. If I think I’ve had enough, imagine how my 3 year old is feeling. He’s such a good little guy though. He has been going with the flow with everything; except the audiology test. We’ll deal with that next week. We are going to spend this weekend letting him be a kid and enjoying being at home.

Our weekend plans are busy but low key. I am going to hot yoga with my friend Stacy in the morning. So looking forward to that. I need to get some of this toxic energy out of my body. Liam and Quinn have 2 basketball games tomorrow and their cousin Luke is going to come over and stay the night. All 3 boys’ are so excited, they beyond idolize their older cousin. We love having him here, and he is especially great with Ronan. I would love to sneak in a hike up Camelback but we shall see. I mainly just want to enjoy being at home with all of my boys. Our time together is so precious.

I just got some exciting news tonight. My dad, whom I have a very “special” relationship with, as it is not a normal daughter/father relationship. It’s complicated, it’s sometimes strained, but always honest to a fault. My dad, after being divorced for 16 years, got remarried. I never thought I’d see the day but I couldn’t be happier for him. I always pictured him growing old alone and the thought of this always made me very sad. He has been with the same woman for about 10 years now and I adore her. They finally tied the knot:) So happy for them both and I told my dad tonight that he’d better not screw it up again and he’d better take good care of her. I hope he listens. I have a feeling he will. She knows him better than anyone and knows just what to expect. My dad rarely reads this, but if you are tonight…. Congrats again to both of you. You have no idea how happy it makes me to know that someone will be by your side to take care of you, and in turn you will have someone to take care of as well. Everything is as it should be for just his minute in time and I am very thankful.

So, are you ready for “The List?” My friend, Fernanda, sent it to me today. It is something that she found while researching isolation for us. It’s a little overwhelming, but I have such a good army of people who are willing to do anything and everything for us, that I know it will be o.k. Thank you so much to all of you who are offering your help; you have no idea what this means to me. I can do this, Ronan can do this, we can do this. It is a glitch in time and I am going to make this positive in every way I possibly can. Nothing but the best for my baby; we are going to take this the crummy situation and make it as fun as possible for him.

I am going to make this list my bitch!!!!!!!! Let’s do this!!!!!!

Home away from home

Probably one of the most difficult emotional aspects of the transplant process is all of the time you will spend away from home if you don’t live near the hospital. Your transplant social worker or other hospital coordinator will help you arrange for housing if you live far away. During the weeks of outpatient transplant recovery most hospitals will require your child to be within a 30 minute drive (with traffic) from the hospital in case of fever or other medical issues. Although it’s comforting to be close to your hospital, chances are you’ll end up staying in a facility provided by your team, such as a Ronald McDonald House, local hotel, or temporary apartment. Some families are lucky enough to have friends or family near their hospital and able to accommodate them. Check with your child’s transplant team before making any arrangements, as individual hospitals have various guidelines and preferences for where a child may stay during the transplant process. Such guidelines relate to disease-control issues and are imposed with your child’s safety in mind.

Wherever you are, it isn’t home of course. That said, there are many ways to make your surroundings feel more comfortable and familiar.

Although lots of little knick-knacks can get dusty and are usually discouraged, bring a few favorite items from your child’s room or your home.

Consider laminating posters of your child’s favorite characters or movies to put up in the transplant room. Laminate family photos (easier with a copy printed from your computer if you have digital photos). Laminated items are easy to clean and make a better choice than framed items (usually not allowed on the walls because of nail holes).

If it is not provided, consider bringing a small lamp with a soft light. This can make any room more comfortable.

Invest in a portable DVD player or CD player if the transplant room will not contain a TV. If you’re staying for a couple of months, consider bringing a small TV if it is allowed (it may not be because of noise control).

Bring your child’s favorite towels, sheets, pillows, and blankets.

Bring washable stuffed toys for your child’s bed.

Consider bringing an area rug or play mat for the floor to soften up the room. Make sure it is easily washable.

If it isn’t provided, bring a shower squeegee. You can get one of these at Target, Wal-Mart, or the like. It will help control mildew in the shower.

Since food for caregivers is usually not allowed in individual rooms (to avoid germs), bring plenty of familiar snacks and foods to keep in the communal kitchen. Check with the medical team about any food since some are prohibited during transplant.

Preparing for isolation

Although your stem cell team will help you prepare, getting your child and yourself ready for inpatient isolation can be stressful and intimidating. Guidelines and rules for isolation stay can vary greatly from hospital to hospital; however, some suggestions and general information are provided below to help you get ready.

Insist that you be allowed to inspect your child’s isolation room before he/she is closed in. Check that every surface has been properly cleaned, sanitized, and repaired. Look in the corners, closets, etc. (Some hospitals go so far as to clean these rooms with toothbrushes and re-paint the walls and re-wax the floors between each patient.) Don’t be afraid to point out any dirty or damaged areas of the room. Check that your child’s bed is comfortable, safe, and clean. You don’t want to have to break isolation to get your child a new bed or have something repaired later.

All your child’s clothing will need to be freshly washed and completely dried in a dryer (no air drying) and placed in plastic sealable bags. This is for germ control. Hefty and Glad make oversized bags that make the transport a little easier. Once you get to your child’s room, these clothes will probably need to be removed from bags before entering the room.

You will also need to be freshly showered and dressed in freshly laundered clothes when you arrive at the hospital. Some hospitals will require you to shower again before entering your child’s room. Some will allow you to shower at home but ask that you not make any stops (gas station, grocery, etc) before arriving. If you do, you may be asked to shower again. Leaving the hospital may mean another shower (even if it is to just get a Starbucks). Remember, it’s all for your child’s safety.

Your child’s toys will probably need to be new or sanitized. Toys that can be completely submersed in water by either washing them in a sink or a washing machine can usually come in the room. Some hospitals will purchase new toys for children undergoing transplant, so check with your transplant coordinator before you run out to buy all new stuff.

Remember to sanitize and wipe down anything you plan to bring into the room. If it can go in the washer, put it in the washer. If it can go in the dishwasher, put it in the dishwasher. If not, seriously consider whether you need it or not. Check with your team about electronics, as anything electronic or with batteries will probably need to be cleaned by the environmental department of your hospital or otherwise may not be allowed. (Think laptops, DVD players, portable game devices, etc.) Notebooks, books, and other paper materials will probably need to be new or cleared by your transplant team.

Your child’s meals will need to be specially prepared, and the hospital will have a special menu for your child. Make sure your child’s meal comes wrapped in plastic. Check to see whether or not you can have a meal delivered for yourself as well, since you probably won’t want to leave your child to get a bite. Also check before you order any takeout. Some foods may be prohibited altogether in your child’s room.

As noted above, try to surround yourselves with familiar things — photos, posters, pillows, blankets, towels, etc. It may mean a little extra laundry for you, but it will help your child feel more comfortable. Rugs will probably not be allowed.

Make sure you purchase new toiletry items for your child- and COMPLETELY discard the old ones — don’t save them at home for use after transplant, because your child’s immune system will not be normal for a long time. These items include toothpaste, hand soap, toothbrush, nail clippers, lotion, deodorant, etc. Anything that has touched your child’s skin, hair, mouth, nails, etc. should be replaced, unless it can be washed or totally submersed in water (like a comb).

Bring a lot of straws and disposable cutlery for yourself, and don’t share with your child from your plate!!! This is not a time to be environmentally conscious or conservative. Don’t keep leftovers or leave food out for more than an hour. Don’t save a napkin from your takeout bag that wasn’t used. Germs are a totally different thing for your family now.

Consider bringing your own Swiffer and pads. Bring lots of anti-bacterial wipes and go over the computer keyboard, phone, door handles, counter tops, bed trays, buttons, blood pressure cuff, bed frame, and thermometer handle several times a day. Although the room should still be cleaned daily by the custodial staff, you may want to go over it yourself. The room CANNOT be too clean!

As convenient as it may have been during your child’s initial rounds of chemo, DO NOT share bathroom facilities with your child. Use the parent restroom outside your child’s room when possible. If your child does not use the toilet, make sure you wipe the toilet/sink after every use.

Be extremely selective about visitors, especially children. Your hospital will have special visiting policies during transplant, but be extra vigilant yourself. NO ONE (including you) should be in your child’s room if not feeling well. Young children (even siblings) should not be in the room at all (as they are less likely to report not feeling well). The smaller number of people you allow in, the better. Your child can get sick very easily during this time.

Insist that cleaning staff, food service staff, nursing assistants and any visitors entering your child’s room wear gowns and/or masks. Anyone entering your child’s room should ALWAYS wash their hands with soap and dry with a paper towel. If ANYONE coughs, sneezes, or sniffles in your child’s room, insist that they leave immediately. Small germs can cause big problems during transplant.

Some medical issues during transplant

Drugs. Your child will probably be taking several different drugs before, during, and after his/her transplant. These drugs are primarily administered to prevent viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, which can of course be very dangerous to your child during this time. Some of them don’t taste very good, so experiment if possible with your pharmacy’s flavoring system. Choose something that generally tastes good to your child, or whatever is most likely to go in and not come right back out. Get into a routine for administering these drugs — keep a schedule, checklist, calendar, or timer set, as each one is probably going to be administered at different times. Eventually you will be able to wean your child slowly off of each of these drugs as his or her counts begin to recover.

Nausea and fatigue. Not surprisingly, nausea and fatigue will be common for your child during transplant, as his or her body will be severely immune-suppressed. Expect lots of naps, easy fatigue even in low-activity situations, and overall crankiness while your child’s counts are recovering.

Food. Make sure you are fully-informed by your child’s medical team about food restrictions. The avoidance of fresh fruits or vegetables, deli meats, some breads, buffets, fast foods (unless freshly prepared), yogurt and some other dairy products, and tap water will be among the many restrictions for your child. Food also must be prepared in accordance with certain precautions, so make certain you understand all the requirements. Know what is safe and what is not. These restrictions are for your child’s safety, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some teams will refer to the rule “packaged, processed, frozen” as a guideline for foods for your child. As disgusting as it sounds, most of these foods are safe and should be the basis of your child’s transplant diet. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid an NG tube or TPN before now, you’ll probably become familiar with one during transplant. Since most children don’t eat or drink for several days or even weeks during this time, the provision of nutrition by IV infusion is likely. Both options have their pros and cons, so discuss both with your team so you can make the best decision for your child.

Skin. Shortly before your child’s isolation, he/she will receive the final round of chemo. These high- dose chemos come with some added precautions to protect your child’s skin and internal tissues that you probably have had to experience during induction chemo rounds. Again, discuss the requirements and side effects of these drugs with your team. Some of the protective precautions taken may include: use of a Foley catheter during the duration of the Cytoxan dose; 4-6 hour bathing

intervals (round the clock) during and a couple of days after a Thiotepa dose; frequent mouth care with lidocaine or similar mouthwash to counteract mouth and GI sores that accompany several drugs (ACT or lidocaine-free mouthwash helps for a young child that cannot spit yet, and offering frequent popsicles before onset of mouth sores help to reduce the incidence and pain); protective creams (also for the skin burns that can accompany Thiotepa- ask for the Remedy line if your hospital provides, otherwise ask other parents what they used). One cancer family concocted their own recipe — equal parts Kaopectate, A&D ointment, and Aquaphor cream. Mix it all together in a big bowl, put it in a squeeze bottle (like a shampoo bottle), and rub on diaper area and any skin fold areas where irritation occurs. Keep away from the eyes, of course! Even if your child is out of diapers, his/her diaper area will be very irritated for some time. There are several creams that parents have found to work well during transplant. Dr. Smith’s Diaper Cream, Flander’s Diaper Ointment, or the homemade version mentioned are all standard choices. Be prepared to try lots of things until you find what works for your child.

Pain. Your child will most likely be on morphine or other pain control (either PC or continuous) at some point during the isolation period. This may seem extreme to us, but it really does help control the continuous irritation from mouth and GI sores, as well as the sometimes severe skin irritations. If your child is old enough, he or she may be able to control the dose, and the pump may be put on a continuous flow for some children. The doctors will slowly wean your child from the pump, and most children must clear the pump before leaving the hospital.

Keeping your family together during transplant

It’s hard to keep your family together during this difficult time, especially if you are traveling to a distant cancer center, if there are other children in the home, or if one or both parents still need to work. Having a support system is very important. Many times neighbors, relatives, and friends will take turns with your other children. As much as you would like to help them with their every day activities, it may not be the best solution at the time. Because there are so many disease-control issues with your transplant child, you want to try to minimize the number of people who come into contact with him or her during this time. As much as possible, your child’s only contact other than the medical team should be you and your spouse. Many hospitals will also not allow young visitors when your child is in isolation. Keep this in mind, and be sure to talk with your team before bringing siblings to visit in the hospital.

While your child is staying at a facility, hotel, or friend’s house near the hospital (either before or after isolation) consider bringing siblings to these places to visit and/or stay the night. Most of the time accommodations can be made, although not usually every day, when siblings want to visit.

Also think about trying a web-cam service to keep your child in touch with siblings, other family members, or friends. Someone at the hospital may be able to help you hook up this service, either on your own laptop or on one loaned by the hospital. This way your child can chat live with his or her family and friends. It works out great for Grandma, too!

Older siblings might enjoy keeping a journal or tape-recording themselves for your child to read or hear. If your child is old enough, he/she may want to journal back or tape-record a message back. Hearing familiar voices is also good for little ones, as they are very responsive to familiar voices.

Keeping yourself busy in the hospital

There are many things that you can do to keep your sanity while you’re inpatient with your child. Although not always the case, some children sleep A LOT during transplant and may even be unconscious for periods of time. Although this may be scary for you and your child, it is generally normal and will pass. In the meantime, you’ll have to find something to keep your mind busy. Since you probably won’t want to come and go from the room very often (minimizing contact with germs), you should bring along lots of stuff to keep you occupied. Some suggestions are:

Magazines, books, crossword puzzles

Laptop computer with internet access (sometimes hospitals will loan one to you)

Movies

Sketch pad or journal

Crochet, knitting, or scrapbooking

Hand held game system (may sometimes be loaned by the hospital)

Healthy munchie snacks (nuts, popcorn, etc.)

A new address book to fill out

Remember that your child’s toys can also be therapeutic for you- coloring and crafting have actually been shown to reduce blood pressure and quiet the mind!

Keeping your child busy in the hospital

You will need to bring some things from home to keep your child busy and happy while in the hospital. Many hospitals that offer transplant procedures do a great job of making your child’s room comfortable and homey, and provide toys and other items to help entertain the child. Ask to speak with a child life specialist or social worker BEFORE isolation to see what can be done to help your child’s stay more enjoyable. Remember that he or she will be very tired and may not feel well enough to play or do any activities. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Each day, encourage your child to get out of bed if possible, read, interact with you, watch favorite videos, bathe and change clothes, eat or drink, and walk. There will be some days that your child will not be able to do any of these things, but daily encouragement and motivation will help your child recover. Here are some suggestions:

Bring new board games or puzzles.

Buy or rent new movies or movies your child has been wanting to see.

Encourage play that gets your child moving and out of bed — bubbles, window markers, floor activities, tents, ball pits, video games like Wii, anything that might encourage your child to move! Most hospitals are supportive about bringing whatever you think might help your child. Just make sure it is either new or properly sanitized first.

Many hospitals will stock your child’s room with age appropriate activities, new toys or games, and other favorites based on information you provide about your child. New things are always a nice distraction!

Talk about the view with your child and encourage him or her to get up and look out the window. Even if you can only see a wall, sunlight and a busy alley can even be exciting.

Keep a calendar of your child’s activities and status each day. Display a large classroom calendar (you can get one at a teacher supply store, make one yourself from a poster board, or even ask the hospital for one) and keep track of your child’s days inpatient. Encourage him/her to decorate it too.

Remember to be happy and upbeat as much as possible around your child. Even on the toughest days, being positive can help your child feel better.

Preparing your home for your child’s return

Preparing your home for transplant is a big job. Once again, check with your child’s team as every hospital’s guidelines are different, but here are some suggestions:

At the very least, have all carpets in your home shampooed, steam-cleaned and sanitized. If you are financially able and your carpets are more than a few years old, you may want to consider replacing them. If you do this, don’t forget to vacuum the floorboards before new carpet is laid. Usually the carpet-layers won’t do that.

Have your duct-work professionally cleaned if possible and change the filter in your furnace. Buy enough filters to change them every month for the next year, and if you’re financially able, buy the really good ones.

Have your home cleaned top to bottom. Whether this is done professionally or by you, family, and friends, be very picky about how your home is cleaned.

Wash all draperies, throw rugs, throw blankets, pillows, sheets, and towels

Wash any stuffed animals

Vacuum or dust behind and under all furniture, including appliances. 4. Clean out your refrigerator and freezer.

If you have a door-front water dispenser, change the filter.

Discard or give away any house plants. Ask your team if you’re really attached. Some plants can just be moved to other rooms of the house.

Put away or discard your portable humidifiers. You probably won’t be able to use them in your home for at least 6 months.

Wash out all cabinets (inside and outside) in the kitchen and bathrooms. Clean all blinds

Scour all bathrooms.

Clean all light fixtures and fans.

Vacuum or dust all ceiling corners and vent covers.

Wash all windows and windowsills

Scrub floors and grout.

Clean your child’s toys with an alcohol/water solution. Add essential oil or lemon juice for a better smell!

Dust, sweep, mop, clean, vacuum and scrub everything in sight! Again, your home CANNOT be too clean

Have your chimney swept.

Don’t forget to insist that everyone who enters your home be healthy. Anyone with a sore throat, cough, sneeze, or sniffle should not be near your child until it is okayed by your stem cell team. This includes grandma, siblings, and even you!

Ask your transplant team about pets. Even the cleanest of pets carry germs, shed hair, and create bacteria in your home. Your team will be able to help you make the decision that is right for your family regarding your pets. At the very least, your pets should be regularly bathed and up to date on all immunizations.

If you haven’t yet established this rule, insist that anyone who enters your home remove their shoes at the door or in the garage. They should also immediately wash their hands with anti- bacterial soap. This includes service professionals, nurses, family members, friends. This should become the new normal for your home. Shoes and hands carry way too many germs.

Do not put hand towels in your bathrooms for about six months. Although it may seem wasteful to use paper towels, this is again an easy way to stop the spread of germs in your home for your child. Bath towels should be washed after every use for at least a few months. Same with bath mats and washcloths.

For at least six months, wash everything your child wears, even if it doesn’t “appear” dirty. Don’t “re-hang” anything your child has worn. Wash or clean favorite toys as often as possible.

Replace your child’s toothbrush every week or two for about six months.

Buy anti-viral tissues (Kleenex makes them)

Wipe down all kitchen and bathroom surfaces daily with anti-bacterial wipes for about three months.

Never leave a snack or cup (especially milk) sitting out for more than an hour. Again, what is normal bacteria for us can harm your child after transplant. Also, don’t save an uneaten portion from your child’s plate or cup. Be wasteful!

Finally, as cruel as it may sound, be careful about how you and others touch, kiss and hug your child for a while. Kisses on the mouth should be limited, and make sure that anyone who touches your child is healthy and has washed their hands. If your child touches someone or something that you’re not sure about, break out the anti-bacterial wipes. Again, it is difficult to think about limiting something as essential as human contact, but unnecessary contact with germs will definitely affect your child’s recovery.

Take a deep breath! This is a lot to digest! Yes, transplant is a challenging process, but it is also an important step in your child’s full recovery and remission. Although you may be feeling overwhelmed by the idea of your child’s transplant in the future, know that you can do it! Become fully informed about the necessary safety precautions, make a plan, and stick to it! Also, don’t try to go it alone – now is the time to rely on your Neuroblastoma community and your family and friends to support you during a trying time.

www.nbhope.org

Did you get all that? I am still trying to digest it all. I will be having a little pow wow session on Sunday with a few girlfriends to hash all of this out. I was born a fighter, I can handle this, it was what I was meant to do in life. I will take on the entire world to get Ronan better. Cancer has no idea who they are messing with. Nothing can come between Ro baby and his Mama Bear. We are an unstoppable team.
Cheers to you all tonight. May your weekend be filled with love, light, and laughter. I hope everyday is filled with adventure and smiles. LOVE TO YOU ALL!!!!!!!!!

P.S. Today was World Cancer Day. You know what I have to say to that????????????????? Earmuffs if you must.

A big FUCK YOU, CANCER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is also my oldest and dearest friend, Sandy’s birthday. Happy Birthday my sweet, hobag, of a friend. LMAO!!!!!!!

The faces all around me they don’t smile they just crack
Waiting for our ship to come but our ships not coming back
We do our time like pennies in a jar
What are we saving for [x2]

There’s a smell of stale fear that’s reeking from our skins.
The drinking never stops because the drinks absolve our sins
We sit and grow our roots into the floor
But what are we waiting for? [x2]

[chorus:]
So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

Something’s always coming you can hear it in the ground
It swells into the air
With the rising
Rising sound
And never comes but shakes the boards and rattles all the doors
What are we waiting for [x2]

[chorus]

I am hiding from some beast
But the beast was always here
Watching without eyes
Because the beast is just my fear
That I am just nothing
Now its just what I’ve become
What am I waiting for
Its already done

Oh

The most wonderful time of the year

Christmas in New York truly is magical, even under our circumstances. Today, we spent the morning hanging out at the Ronald McDonald House, just enjoying the activities that they had going on. Around one, I skipped out, hailed a cab, and went over to pick up Liz so we could do a little holiday shopping. I had yet to get Wood a thing and talk about waiting until the last minute. Today really was the only free day I’ve had alone to do his shopping. Liz and I walked the streets of New York for 5 hours straight. It was busy, chaotic, and so much fun. We had the best time together and I feel so lucky to have her in my life. She is such an amazing young lady and truly is like a sister to me. The streets and shops were full of people everywhere and I could practically feel the city buzzing with the excitement of the holidays. I loved every second of being right in the middle of it. Today, I enjoyed a day of escaping our reality for a few hours…. even though Liz and I talked about Ronan a lot, we spent most of our day just enjoying our surroundings. It was a wonderful Christmas Eve day. Tonight, everyone came over to the Ronald McDonald House and we hung out. Ronan had a couple of meltdowns… he’s tired tonight; but happy. Liam and Quinn have been great and we have really been enjoying them. They love staying here with us. RMH does such an amazing job of having fun activities for the kids to do and everyday there is something going on. We feel so blessed to be staying here for such a long amount of time. It is a very safe, fun, positive, environment. I just know Quinn and Liam are going to look back at this Christmas and remember it as being a fun time, full of lots of laughter and love.

I wonder what you are all up to. I wonder if Christmas means more to you this year? It does to me. All I want for Christmas is for my family to be healed, my friendships to be stronger, and to have Ronan healthy. It was so hard for me to see his tumor on the scan yesterday. It made everything so real and seeing the very first scan, when the tumor was everywhere, took my breath away. It was so huge before. I just don’t know how that thing was growing in my baby and we had no idea. His stomach did not protrude at all…. he acted and felt fine. The doctors could not even feel it when they pressed on his stomach, yet it was everywhere. Such a scary thing. It it wouldn’t have been for his little left eye, we would have never known what was going on. I am thankful every single day that it metastasized up into the orbit of his eye… otherwise whose knows when or if we would have caught this.

Tonight, Karen, Olivia, and Liz went to church here at 11 p.m. I wanted to go with them, but felt like I needed to be with my boys. Karen said she was going to pray extra hard for Ronan, for me. What a beautiful gift they have given me this Christmas. I couldn’t ask for more. The thought of all 3 of those beautiful souls, sitting in a church in NYC, praying for us brings tears to my eyes. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. I know he is going to be healed, I know he is going to grow up and be the most amazing man, there are too many people thinking and praying for it to go any other way. Too much love surrounds this little boy of ours.

This Christmas, I would like to say thank you to all of you and leave you with a little toast. To all of my family, friends, strangers, near and far…… thank you for thinking of Ronan and following his journey and believing in him. A toast to all of you. Cheers!

To Nearest

To Dearest

To The Truest

To The One’s Who’ve Been There

To The One’s Who Who’ll Be There

To Dropping Everything

To Honesty

To NO Judgements

To No Doubts

To Loyalty

To Trust

To Humbleness

To Knowing What Matters Most

To Having Our Back

To Asking For Nothing In Return

To Accepting

To Loving

To Kindness

To Living Your LIfe Full of Being Selfless

To All Of You, Who Know This Is True, And Know It Is Your Soul We See Shining Through.

Happiest Holidays!!!!!!

Big lights will inspire you

I have so much to say tonight, that I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll just start by catching you all up on what we have been doing. Yesterday, Woody and I had the chance to walk the city a little bit by ourselves. We did a little Christmas shopping for the boys, since we have yet to get them anything. After that, all 3 boys came back to the Ronald McDonald House with us for the night. Ronan was in heaven and it was so nice to all be together as a family. I had a few little issues with Quinn that were concerning me. He was very moody, crying a lot, and really disrespectful to me which is so not the child we have raised. I am trying to be patient with him, but I am also not going to baby him and give him his way when he is telling me he wants soda at 9:00 at night and then freaks out because I won’t give it to him. I told Woody that I needed some one on one time with him the next day because I could tell he was in desperate need of it. He is hurting, he is confused, and he is scared. It kills me in every way shape and form. I cannot stand seeing my child this way; someone who used to be so carefree and not have a care in the world, has now had his entire life turned upside down. I don’t get to be a mom to him very much anymore….. it is all so unfair. Today, Quinn put up a little bit of a fuss, but I told him we were spending the entire day together and that is precisely what we did. We bundled up and walked the streets of New York together. We had a great breakfast and a very good talk. I tried my best to have a really good heart to heart with him. I told him how I was his mom, even though I don’t get to be with him as much, that would never change. I told him how when I tell him something that he doesn’t like, that he needs to be respectful of what I am saying because it is for a good reason. I told him how unfair this all is and how he has every right to be mad, sad, scared and confused and that he could come to me with anything he is feeling. I also told him that just because I spend so much time with Ronan, it does not mean I love him more. He listened, smiled, and told me Ronan having cancer makes him nervous. I explained to him why we were in New York City…. Not for a vacation, but because they have the best doctors here who are going to get him better. After this big talk we headed to Dylan’s Candy Shop. Nothing like a little candy to make everything alright. We had a great day together and I could tell it meant a lot to him. It’s been such a long time since I’ve gotten to spend some quality time with him. I refuse to let all of the parenting I’ve done, be undone just because I am not around. I have worked way too hard for that to happen.

Ronan, Liam and Woody spent the day together at FAO Schwartz. It was good for them. We all met up later in the day and then Ro, Quinn, Wood, and I came back to the Ronald McDonald House to hang out. I was having a lot of anxiety once we got back here…. I’m still having a hard time accepting our reality. I let Wood take the boys downstairs to enjoy a party they were having and then I decided to go on a little run. My little run turned into a 12 mile run. I feel like I could have run an entire marathon. I ran up to Central Park in the dark. If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I would have run Central Park, in the dark, alone, I would have told you no way. Surely I would have been mugged, raped, or even murdered. Tonight, I laughed out loud at this thought. My kid has fucking cancer; none of those things can even apply to me now. It was just what I needed tonight. So therapeutic, so painful, so raw. Every inch of my body hurt but I like the pain. It is nice to feel physical pain instead of the pain I feel 24 hours a day. A different kind of pain. It hurts so bad, that it felt good.  I am figuring this city out through my runs. I will know it like the back of my hand in no time. This will be my therapy while I am here and Central Park will be my Church. I did a lot of talking to the gods, stars, and moon above on my run. It was good for my head and was so gorgeous. I don’t regret many things in my life; but one of them will always be not living here. I was so close to going to NYU after high school…. This city is my kind of place; a place that everyone should experience. It is going to heal me, heal Ronan, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I vow to one day, own a place here. It is a city that feeds my soul.

I spent the night taking care of Ronan while Woody, Mimi, and Quinn went to see “Elf” on Broadway. Woody wanted me to go, instead of him, but my anxiety went through the roof as soon as I pictured all of the people I would be surrounded by in a confined place. I can’t do things like that anymore. I told him I was going to going to have to take my Xanex just to get though it. I opted to stay here with Ronan who has been such a handful. Oy vey! Maybe I should have went to “Elf”……

That post was from last night. I’ve been having Wifi issues so that is why there has been lack of updates. Sorry! It’s been driving me crazy, but hopefully we will get it taken care of. We are at Sloan all day today doing another Stem Cell collection. The days here have been very busy and this week is packed. I will keep you updated as best as possible. Just know that we are loving New York, feel very blessed to be here, and are taking things one day at a time. Love you all. Have a beautiful Monday!!

xoxo

Magic Medicine… Day 3, Round 3

Today I am happy and my spirit is renewed. I feel really good about things. Just looking at Ronan’s determination and strength gives me such a sense of relief. I always knew he was different and special; he’s always had that twinkle in his eye like he knew he was up for a fight. The strength and support of everyone around us is also so comforting to me. Ronan has such an army of people who are pulling and praying for him. The end result of this will be something good, something big, and something amazing. I can’t feel it in every fiber of my body. He did really well with the chemo last night. No vomiting or anything but he did wet the bed. They are pumping him full of fluids 24 hours a day. He wakes up about every half an hour to pee and refuses to wear a diaper. He usually does very well with this but had a little accident last night. No big deal, we called the nurse and changed his sheets, clothes, and wiped him down. He went right back to sleep after that.

Auntie Karen came by today so I could run home and do my usual routine. I can’t tell you how much that helps me get though these hospital stays. I had a visit from an amazing mommy and new friend, Pamela White. Her little girl, Victoria, is a cancer survivor. Their story is so hopeful and inspiring. Pamela is funny, strong, and someone who has walked in my shoes and has come out the other side with the most beautiful life possible. I know we will now be friends for life. She was very encouraging and we had a couple of laughs about some things like, how wonderful Christmas in New York would be;) Being sarcastic of course. I can tell she and her husband are a lot like Woody and I. Strong, grounded, smart, and would fight as long and has hard as possible to save the life of their child. They are a prime example of bad things happening to good people. But they got through it and are living proof that life can turn out more beautifully than you could have ever expected.

Tomorrow Woody and E.J. fly to New York. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers for safe travels. I am so excited for the two of them to go out there and meet Dr. Kushner and Dr. La Qualia. I know they will be in very good hands and come back with the answers we need to know that we are on the right path. Between Woody and E.J., no questions will be left unanswered. They will also be checking out the Ronald McDonald House while they are there. That is where we will more than likely be staying after Ronan’s surgery. It is close to the hospital and from what I hear it is a very good support system and very inexpensive which is always a plus.

Wow. How drastically things can change. My beautiful day has turned into a very hard night. I stupidly made the mistake of taking Ronan outside tonight, down to the playground. Duh, Maya. A playground? Poor guy is all hooked up to his machine and all he wanted to do was go down the freaking slide. Well guess what? He couldn’t go down the slide so I had to sit and watch my baby cry, hit, and scream for 20 minutes before I was even able to talk him into going back up to his room. Traumatic to say the least. Once we got up back to his room, he was still mad and obsessing over the playground. It has gone on almost the entire night, up until a few minutes ago when he finally passed out. My friend Stacy came to bring me dinner. She sweetly brought Ro a new Star Wars book that he does not have and that took his mind off of it for a bit, but not for long. Dr. Maze stopped by and Ronan was very grumpy to say the least. Dr. Maze tried to work his magic and asked one of the nurses if he could be unhooked for awhile tomorrow, to at least play on the playground and get some fresh air. She said she didn’t think so but he said he was going to talk to Dr. Wood for us. If that could happen, it would be oh so lovely. Just to see my little guy play and be a 3-year-old would be a dream come true. This week has been hard on him, even though he is acting like such a little trooper. Gay and Cal stopped by after Dr. Maze and Stacy left. Just seeing Cal made Ronan so happy. It reminds him of being with his brothers who he misses so very much. Cal and Ronan played and giggled the whole hour they were here. After he left the meltdown begin and lasted for about 2 hours. He was screaming, kicking, talking about the playground and wanting to go home and see his brothers. I stayed calm, tried to explain everything to him, and tried to distract him. He finally fell asleep after I rubbed his back and sang to him. Needless to say, my anxiety is through the roof right now. I need to go run about 6 miles and scream my lungs out. I know I won’t be able to sleep tonight<3<3<3 Gotta find something productive to do. Starting to write 5 billion thank you notes is sounding really good right about now.

Sweet dreams<3<3 What I would give for that.