Not following the yellow brick road

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! RO, MAMA, AND NANA WENT FOR PEDICURES!!!!

I wish I could tell you all that I have not updated my blog for a few days because I have been so busy soaking up all of my precious time with my amazing family. That we have had such a fun filled, fantastic weekend full of no worries whatsoever. But, that is not the case. The weekend started out that way. We left PCH on Friday happy as clams, ready for transplant and for a great weekend. We took Ronan on Saturday to the twins’ basketball game and had a wonderful time. Afterwords, I came home with Ro and my mom and we were playing outside in the backyard enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the day. 30 minutes later Woody arrived, came storming outside, demanding that he needed to have a serious conversation with me and needed to have it now. My stomach instantly dropped, my heart fell to the floor and I knew something was wrong. He said he had just gotten off a lengthy phone call with Dr. Eshun and they had done the randomization for one stem cell transplant or two. We were randomized for one. I knew this before Woody even told me. Woody had asked me 3 days prior to this if I thought we were getting one transplant or two. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “One.” He goes, “How do you know?” I told him I just had a feeling. This is not the news we were hoping for. My head started spinning and it was as if we were right back to where we started, at day one of Ronan’s diagnoses. Although Ronan has made great progress, Woody and I have done enough research to know that not enough of his disease is gone for us to go ahead with just one transplant. This cancer is too strong. I spent all of Saturday crying my eyes out, trying to wrap my head around all of this, and Woody went straight into Woody mode and armed himself with as much information as possible as far as other alternatives. He figured out who we needed to call today to get answers from. He has spoken with several doctors from New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta. Time is not on our side and time is not our friend.

The one thing that every doctor that Woody has talked to, cannot figure out is why is Ronan’s Bone scan is negative, his Bone Marrow clean, his VMA (urine test) is negative, yet he has so many spots left on the MIBG scan. Dr. Kusher believes that the Neuroblastoma, is still in Ronan’s bone marrow, not his bones. We are at a crossroads with what to do and are looking at basically two different options. As of now, we are deciding between an MIBG therapy in San Francisco or heading to Sloan Kettering to start 3F8. As soon as we heard that  Ronan had only been randomized for one stem cell transplant, we pulled him off the COG study we have had him on. There is no point in following their rules anymore. Although Ronan’s path is not clear, I have no doubt that we will find our way through this maze. I keep telling myself that Ronan is so unique and such a special little boy, that he was not meant to follow the yellow brick road on this journey. He was meant to make his own road full of yellow, purple, red, green and every other color you can possibly think of. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise because Ronan was not meant to have a transplant at all as it wasn’t the right answer. I have felt uneasy about his whole transplant thing from the beginning. I know what my heart and gut are telling me what the right answer is… but I think it is going to be a day or two until the answer is 100% clear. Woody and I are doing everything possible, with the help of my dear Fernanda who has been a godsend, to find out what all of our options are. We are still meeting with our transplant doctor tomorrow, Dr. Adams, but we will not be starting transplant on Thursday like we had originally planned. Just goes to show you how tricky this disease is and you really can’t ever prepare for anything. Talk about having the rug pulled out from underneath you. I told you Ronan was a rule breaker…. I really believe he was not meant to follow this protocol…. he is going to make his own.

I was a mess this weekend but tried to go on with some normal things we had planned. On Saturday night, Woody and I went over to Tricia and Max’s house with our friends, Danielle and Jay. We had fun, but I told Trish the next day, you know your in a bad place when not even Danielle’s toxic margaritas can mask your pain. We came home from Tricia’s around 1 a.m. and I tossed and turned the entire night. On Sunday, I had a dinner planned with some of my girlfriends and I refused to cancel. I joined Jen, Stacy, Jocelyn, Fernanda, Gay, Heidi, Bethany, Shelby, and Melissa, for a very special dinner that was supposed to be my “sending off” into isolation, but turned out to be, o.k…..here is the new news and what we are facing…now what the fuck are we supposed to do??  I tried my best to enjoy myself and when you are surround by the most beautiful women in the world, it is impossible to not enjoy yourself. I had to let go just a little bit and I have to trust in this new plan that is going to present itself. I texted my Mr. Sparkly eyes today and told him that decisions are begin made for us and we just have to trust. He believes this too, there is something bigger than us guiding us in the direction we need to go. I truly believe this with all of my heart.

What I am asking from all of you is just your continued prayers and love and your belief that we will make the right decision for our baby boy. Whatever path we choose, or whatever path chooses us, there is no looking back. We refuse to second guess anything we have done or are going to do. To live like that is foolish and we are very aware of that.

Hopefully by tomorrow, we will have a clearer vision of what we are doing as we need to get Ronan started on his next treatment as soon as possible. As far as Ronan goes, he could not be happier. He has been loving being at home with his brothers and playing outside. He looks amazing and his spirits could not be better. I am reminded everyday by looking at him what a gift he is as well as Liam, Quinn, and Woody. I am such a blessed mama and wife.

Please, no tears for us yet. Trust me, I’ve done enough crying the past few days for each and every one of you. This is a blessing in disguise. It HAS to be.

MRI, CT, and Pet scan results…. kind of

After what seemed like the longest day ever; we returned home around 7:30 tonight. Ronan insisted we stop at CPK for pizza so we met Woody for dinner. I ate my one meal of the day, Ronan didn’t eat a thing and ended up just making me hold him while I ate. As  soon as we got in the car I was almost instantly sick to my stomach. I told you I don’t do well with food anymore…. we got home and I threw up my entire dinner. Awesome. Ronan is so used to seeing me do this now he just looked at me and said, “I sorry Mama. Do you want your toothbrush?”  It was the sweetest, saddest thing ever. He then asked to be put in my bed and for me to go to sleep with him. That is precisely what I did. I curled up beside him and 5 minutes later we were both sound asleep. I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus and am physically  and mentally beat. Ronan woke up around 9:30 tonight asking for some pizza, carrots, apples, and whipped cream. Nice combo. What Ronan wants, Ronan gets. He ate all of the food that I got him and went back to sleep. We have another early day tomorrow at PCH trying to finish up his Audiology test and then going to the clinic for a possible platelet transfusion. When they drew his labs today, his platelet count was low. “A” wants them checked again tomorrow and told me he will more than likely need to get them.

After Dr. Maze came to get me when he was done with Ronan I returned to a very sleepy little boy. I sat quietly and let Ronan wake up on his own and Aubrey tracked down Dr. Wood for me so he would come down and go over the MRI,CT, and Pet scan results. The results are all preliminary results, but I’ll take them. Dr. Wood told me that the Neuroblastoma is still showing up in a few areas, which he expected. Ronan’s shoulder bones, his upper thighs, and his spine all seem to have some Neuroblastoma left in them. The activity has decreased immensely and he said for as much cancer as Ronan had in his body, in no way shape or form, did he expect it to be gone entirely. This is what the Stem Cell transplant/radiation/antibodies will do. Remember, Ronan had Neuroblastoma in every bone in his body; even his pinky fingers.  I asked Dr. Wood if he saw anything he was concerned with and he said not all, that Ronan is making great progress. I wish I could say a huge sigh of relief came over me today, but I am still left with a feeling of numbness and sadness. Ronan’s results are amazing and I am elated that his cancer is responding so well; but the bottom line is my beautiful baby boy has cancer and I just want it gone. Now. I know, I know…..this is not a sprint it is a marathon. We will get him there but for some reason today was a hard day for me. Harder than yesterday. As I said before, all of these results are preliminary and we will know much more next week after he does the MIBG scan. That is on February 10th. As of now, we are moving forward and preparing to go ahead with transplant.

I have not spoken to anyone on the phone tonight except my dear Fernanda. We talked about Ronan’s results and I listened to her as she told me how she took the time today to research what exactly needs to be done for isolation and she made out a list for me that she got from the internet of other Neuroblastoma moms. I mean really, Fernanda. Never in my life will I be able to thank you enough for all the things you are doing for me without me even having to ask. I am so thankful for you every second of the day. Fernanda’s list includes everything from scrubbing down our isolation room with a toothbrush (not even kidding), to making sure every item of clothing is bleached and sealed in a bag before it goes into the room. She told me to stop doing my laundry for the next two weeks and to leave it at my door so she can pick it up and I won’t have to waste time on that bullshit so I can fully be focused on Liam, Quinn, and Woody. I said to her, “Well what if I like doing laundry?” She then told me that the only reason I like doing laundry is because it gives me a sense of normalcy and nothing in my life is normal at the moment so to knock it off. I had to laugh as this is so true. Laundry makes me happy because it is the one thing that I freaking have control over in my life and it is something that will always be consistent and never change. It’s true; I absolutely love laundry:)

I am trying to wrap my head around giving up complete control of my life once this isolation thing starts. Just the thought of this gives me such anxiety. I think I need to make a list of the things I can control, just to make myself feel a little bit better. I have no idea what that even will consist of because my “normal” life is pretty much going to be gone. All I have to say to this right now is HOLY FUCKING SHIT. I still cannot believe any of this is real. Shouldn’t this be a movie that I am watching in the theaters or something?? This cannot be real life, this cannot be my life or Ronan’s life. I will never stop shaking my head and the tears will never stop. This is all too much. What I wouldn’t give to complain about the things I used to complain about like having to take Ronan to the grocery store because he would NEVER sit in the cart and would insist on running up and down the aisles which would drive me crazy. Or how I would feel so overwhelmed with my daily “to do” lists….. what a joke. Nothing in my old life was anything to ever complain about.  I would give anything to have my worries of the day consist of what I was going to make for dinner and how I was going to squeeze in Ronan’s nap for the day because of all of the “things” we had to do. My past life all seems make believe, like it was never really real and it was all just a dream. I could sit and cry just thinking of all the things I was ungrateful for and how much I miss what we used to have. That won’t do me any good tonight though. Tonight I am not going to sit and cry myself to sleep because today was a day full of good news. I have to remind myself that on days like today, I am not allowed to be sad. Ronan is working too hard so I will take tonight to be thankful for the progress he is making and be proud of what a strong little boy he is. He is the bravest soul that has ever existed.

Tonight, while we were waiting for my car from the valet, I caught a glimpse of myself holding Ronan in the doors to the clinic. It was another one of my out of body experiences as I looked at my refection and almost didn’t recognize who this person was with her baby boy draped over her body. It was me but I felt as though it wasn’t. It took my breath away for a second and I almost felt like I was going to faint. Had nothing to do with the fact that I had not eaten all day I’m sure;) It had everything to do with the fact that I will never get used to the fact that I am now a mom to a child with cancer. I will never accept this and I will never come to terms with it. This is just a moment in time, a sick and twisted way of Ronan having to prove how much he deserves to be on this earth. It’s my way of proving how much I love my son by fighting as hard as I can fight to keep him here and surround him with every ounce of love I have in my body.

God, am I even making sense tonight? I feel delirious and all fired up at the same time. One day at a time, one step closer to Ronan’s wellness, right Auntie Karen:):) She always tells me this…. love and miss you so much. Hope you are having fun in Cali:) Thinking of you there makes me smile because I can picture all of the laughing and fun you are having. That makes me happy and gives me peace tonight. You know what else gives me peace?? All of you. When I get pissed at the world, I think of all of you beautiful souls out there who love Ronan so much and who have faith that his journey is meant for a very special reason. Having you all believe in him and love him so much means everything to me. So thank you a million times over. You all give me strength when I need it most.

Ahhh….. my New York Miss Macy is calling me right now. Perfect timing as she gives me the giggles like no other and I can’t think of a better way to end the night. I am beyond blessed to have the most amazing friends. Love you all! Sweet dreams!!

xoxo

This picture says everything tonight. My favorite animal is a Giraffe. Ronan’s is a Zebra. Keep on holding on baby. We will get you through this.

Cheers to being finished with Ro’s Stem Cell Harvest!

We spent 12 hours at Sloan today. I took Ro over there this morning to finish up his stem cell harvest. We are finally finished and they got more than enough, thank the lord. I don’t think I could have handled one more day of him being hooked up and I know he couldn’t have. We did a stem cell collection at Phoenix Children’s and many of you have asked why we are doing another one here. We are basically doing it for “insurance.” IF Ronan’s Neuroblastoma comes back….. which we pray it doesn’t, Sloan believes by having his stem cells before a relapse will increase our chances of killing this god awful disease. If they were to try to harvest them after a relapse, they don’t think the stem cells will be as good. They will stay here at Sloan, frozen, and hopefully we will never need them. We are taking every precaution as parent; we have no choice.

It was a good day though. I had a visit from a friend that just happened to be in the city for the day; a friend who was my very best childhood friend and whom I have not seen or talked to really since I was 13. She was so sweet to come by the hospital to see me. It’s so funny how life works out; as soon as she walked in it was like, hello childhood! She looked exactly the same, except even more beautiful…. if that is even possible. I am so glad I got to see her and so hope to spend some more time with her when she comes back from her trip. Thanks, Jen for coming by. My friend from AZ, Danielle, or DD, is in NYC too! Yay for that! She is staying with her brother in the city for a few nights then heading to spend Christmas with her family. She came by the hospital and hung out with us for a few hours. Always love having her around. So, I had two nice treats today from two lovely ladies. I feel so lucky:)

We have nothing else too major going on tomorrow. Ronan will go to the clinic for platelets and then Thursday we have his CT scan done. So anxious and nervous all at the same time. Please pray extra hard for him…. hoping the tumor in his abdomen has shrunk even more after 3 more cycles of chemo. I will keep you updated as best as I can. We go in very early on Thursday morning.

I am taking a night off from my run tonight and all 3 boys are going to stay with Mimi and Papa. I am going to enjoy a night out with Woody and some friends. A night out together is very much needed. Ronan’s spirits have been great; he is such a little trooper. I am the luckiest mommy alive.

Enjoy the rest of your day<3 It’s the simplest things that are the sweetest!!

xoxo

Ronan baby takes NYC

Today, has been non-stop. We got up at 7 NYC time, got all ready and headed over to Sloan Kettering. Ronan was not happy and is still not happy about being here. He keeps asking for Sharon, our nurse back home, and said he doesn’t want to make any new friends here. He was so upset over having the blood taken out of his tubes (which is something he’s had done 100 times) that he kicked and screamed the entire time. We have met a lot of new nurses and doctors, all who have been beyond nice. I was a little overwhelmed walking in here. It felt a little like we were starting all over and just being told that Ronan had cancer. I quickly snapped out of it after seeing how much the doctors really do care here. Dr. Modak, who is part of the Neuroblastoma team, has an entire wall in his office full of pictures of Neuroblastoma survivors. Woody and I both got teary eyed over it. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen; a wall full of kids, young and old, who have survived this horrific disease. It meant the world to us, as parents. Everything here is very positive, inspiring and everyone wears a smile. We miss our few close friends at PCH but I think we will be o.k. here. It’s not quite as scary as I thought it would be:)

After Ronan’s blood work came back and was super high, they decided on the spot to harvest his stem cells. This is great news! It means everything will move a little more quickly. The Doctor even got his sugary date bumped up to January 3rd, instead of the 7th. We are so happy about that. The sooner we get the job done, the better. Everything here is really fast paced and precise. I like that; cancer is like a job to me now.  I know what we are here to do, and we are going to do the best job at getting it done.

Ronan is mad that he has been at the hospital all day. He is finally asleep while they are collecting his stem cells. We asked Dr. M about any restrictions as far as taking Ronan out in the city. He gave us the green light to take him wherever since his ANC is so high. I love a green light:) We are going to make the best of our time in the most fabulous city in the world. Ronan is so going to take it by storm and I know this is something we will look back on in a very positive way.

That was yesterday, I finally got the Wifi set up so now I can hopefully keep you all updated. The stem cell harvest went great yesterday but they did not get the amount they needed so we will have to go back on Monday to let them harvest again. Not a big deal… we are going to enjoy today and Sunday out of the hospital and have some fun in the city. Hope you all have a beautiful weekend!!

xoxo

“I soooo happy, mama”

Last night, we were able to leave the hospital. Ronan was fast asleep in his hospital bed and about 10:30 p.m. the nurse came into the room and said we could leave. I gathered up our things, managed to carry our bag, Ronan’s blankets, and pick up my baby boy and carry him to the car. He woke up just as we were waiting for the elevator, wrapped his arms around me and said, “I soooo happy, mama. I love you soooo much. I sooooo proud of you.” The tears welled up in my eyes and I felt like my heart was going to explode. It is things like that, that make all the bad parts of what we are going through, disappear.

Today, I am so thankful for so many different things, big and small. I am thankful that I have such a strong mother-in-law. Anyone who knows my mother-in-law, knows what an amazing person she is. But it is her strength as she is standing by our side through all of this that makes me love her, adore her, and look up to her more than I could have possibly imagined. I think she is possibly the strongest women I have ever met in my entire life.

I am thankful for my all of my dear friends. My Niki, who loves to leave me long voicemails, pouring her heart out to me. The fact that after a 5 minute phone conversation she can tell by the sound of my voice if I am having a weak moment or if I am doing o.k. And if she can tell that I am not doing well, she’ll call me back up to leave me a message or listen to me vent, cry, or not even talk at all. My Tricia, who is flying to NYC just to hold my hand through this. Who knows what it means to be a real friend, even in such an awful situation. She fills me with encouragement, hope and love. For the phone conversation I had with my Susie today, who doesn’t live here but because of our friendship and bond, it doesn’t make a difference in the love we have for each other. She is so understanding, supportive and knows just how to make me laugh when I need it most. My dear Kotalik family. They too will be in NYC with us and they have no idea how much that means to me. We are going to need all of the love and support we can get out there.

I am thankful for my strong husband, who refuses to give up this fight. Who questions the doctors every move, decision, and treatment option. For my amazing, strong twin boys. Their smiles and giggles light up my world. The way they treat Ronan, love Ronan, and take care of Ronan. They are so brave and beautiful. I love to see the way Ronan lights up as soon as they walk into a room. The bond the 3 of them have is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Their souls are connected and it will forever stay that way.

I am thankful for an amazing lady named Dr. Adams. She is the doctor who is in charge of Ronan’s stem cell transplant and when we met with her yesterday, we were prepared for a fight with the things we are requesting for Ronan and how we are questioning everything. She could not have been more compassionate, loving, and open minded. She listened, stated her opinions without being too overbearing, and agreed to listen to what Dr. Kushner from Sloan Kettering had to say regarding Ronan’s stem cell harvest. I know from listening to her and looking into her eyes, that she wants nothing but best for Ronan. She is amazingly brilliant and it is so nice to completely trust someone with the life of your son. I trust her 110%. She has poured her entire life into something she believes in and is passionate about. I will forever have the utmost respect and love for her.

I am thankful for the little things too. The fact that we have a house, food on the table, and the means to get Ronan the best treatment possible. Thank god for insurance. I am thankful that tonight I am going to go out to enjoy my husband and friends to the fullest. After this past week in the hospital, I really need some time with Woody. Everyday, I find myself humbled and thankful for pretty much everything in my life. Some things are new, some are old, but all are important. The thing I am thankful for most though is another day looking into Ronan’s big blue eyes and another night sleeping with him snuggled up beside me. He is such a precious gift to our family. We as a family will never be ungrateful for the petty things in life again. Ronan has put everything in perspective. What a big job for such a little boy.

P.S. Some have you have asked what we are going to NYC for. We are going there to have Dr. La Qualia, from Sloan Kettering, resect the tumor that is in Ronan’s abdomen. He is one of the  very top doctors at doing this and has been given the nickname of “The surgeon of the Angels.” They say he has a gift; a magic touch. We only want the very best operating on Ronan. He is our best shot at saving our baby and getting all of the Neuroblastoma out of his body. He knows what he is doing, knows what to look for, and has been recommended by everyone we have talked to. So NYC, here we come. <3<3<3

Have a beautiful weekend my beautiful friends.

Stem Cell Harvest day

Today got off to a bumpy start. I woke Ronan up around 6:45 a.m. and he was not happy to say the least. One, he was mad that I woke him up so early, and two, he was even more mad that he had to spend his day at the hospital. After having him hit, scream, cry, slam doors, and hide.. I finally got him into the car. He calmed down after a bit and I kept assuring him that there were no owies today. Once we got back to the stem cell room, our nurses, Heather and Kim, got things moving very quickly. They gave Ronan his Benadryl and Tylenol and soon started the process of collecting his stem cells thorough his broviac. Medicine and science are so amazing, the whole process was mind blowing.  After about an hour, we were able to see the stem cells start to appear in the bag. Ronan slept for the first couple of hours and after that, it was party time. He was a busy little guy but everything he did was done from his bed. We watched a little movie, shopped for Halloween costumes, played Star Wars, colored, did a sticker book, and last but not least, Ronan teased and flirted with the nurses the entire day. He was so playful and cute and he had those nurses eating out of the palm of his hand. Mimi Kay spent most of the day with us and Tricia came to visit as well. Ronan loves having those two around and so do I. It was a long day, but a fun day. Any day that Ronan is in great spirits is a good day for us.

After we got home, we played with the twins and waited for Woody to get home. It was a great day weather wise here… lots of storms and rain. Being a Pacific Northwest girl, a stormy and rainy day always make me happy. After it stopped raining I got a text from my friend/neighbor asking if we wanted to go for a walk. I knew the fresh air would be good for us so Quinn, Ronan, and I walked down to the Tarbell’s to pick our friends up. It was the best walk date ever. Ronan was so happy, running in the puddles and smiling. Laely and Wesley watched from the wagon and everyone was in a great mood. It made my heart melt seeing Ronan running around acting like the little 3-year-old he is supposed to be. What a great way to end our day. I love my neighborhood and I love our friends.

We heard back from the hospital tonight. We will not have to go back tomorrow because they got all of the stem cells they needed today. They needed 10 million and they actually got close to 15 million. So happy about that news!! One less day in the hospital for us! Our next big day will be Thursday when we go in for our MIBG scan, Bone Scan and MRI. We will then find out on Friday more in detail how the chemo is affecting Ronan’s cancer. Please, keep praying and loving him. I know all of your prayers, energy and positive thoughts are working on our sweet baby boy!

He is out like a light now and I am wiped out too. I hear some Nancy Botwin calling my name. I am going to indulge a little bit tonight and watch one of my favorite shows for a bit. Goodnight to all of our angels out there!