I was never going to be ready for today.

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Ronan. I was not prepared for today. I was not ready for today. But today happened anyway. It started off pretty normal. A normal check up at Dr. Schwartz’s office. I didn’t even have to see her, I just had to sit in a chair for a good 45 minutes so Poppy’s heartbeat and movements could be monitored. Just routine stuff that I’m having to do, twice a week now. It’s always quiet in this room and it’s easy for me to relax and get lost in my thoughts. Today, I thought alright. Of course about you. I was sitting there listening to your sister’s heart beat and she seemed to be moving non stop the entire time. I know she doesn’t have much room and there, but she doesn’t seem to care. Her movements are strong and never seem to stop. I had a flashback to that time I was at Sloan with you. We were back in a room and they had you hooked up to a machine  where we had to listen and track your heart for a couple of hours. I remember being up on the bed with you, holding you and trying to keep you entertained. You soon fell asleep in my arms. The next thing I knew, I was laying there with you but I was silently crying. I remember I was so overcome with emotion over sitting there listening to your little heartbeat. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard and I knew how lucky I was that it was still beating. We didn’t know at this time that your cancer was spreading, but I was just so grateful for your little beating heart. I hated that you were strapped up to a monitor when you should have been just out and about playing like a normal, healthy 3-year-old but I found the beauty in our day, anyway. I’ll never forget that day with you. It sticks out in my mind all the time. Today, listening to your Poppy sister I was taken right back to that day and the tears seemed endless.

I got out of my doctor’s appointment after a couple of hours. They were way behind today and I came home for a sight that I was not ready for. Your daddy and I have talked for a couple of weeks about taking the furniture out of your room to have it refinished to the color that will match Poppy’s crib. I came home to your daddy who had informed me that the people refinishing your things, would be at our house to pick everything up in a few hours. This meant drawers had to be emptied, toys dumped out, clothes moved, stuffed animals pulled out from the storage area under you bed, etc…Your daddy asked if I could empty out your dresser. I started crying and simply just told him, “No.” He did it. He did most of it. By the time the people got to our house your little room had been completely torn apart and I could do nothing but sit on the couch and cry. The lady working with us could not have been sweeter as your daddy had explained our situation to her on the phone so she understood what was going on. She told me how she had some bad luck, too as she lost one of her sons at 17 and also one as an infant. I could hardly get two words out as I was trying my hardest to somewhat control my sobbing. Your daddy was the one who told her he was sorry and did the rest of the talking as I just sat there in a cry fest trance. Your little room that I’m pretty sure I had made up in my mind, would never be touched, has totally been taken apart. I know we are going to put your things back but it still does not make any of this easier.

I sat in your room for a long time today. On one of your mattresses. I sat on the phone and cried to the couple of people I talked to. Thanks, Meg and Stace. I told them both how I was staring at your side of the empty room where your bed once was but now the only thing left there were a few of your Star Wars guys that had clearly fallen off of your bed because you would always insist of sleeping with 50 of them. I texted with Fernanda a bit. She is going to come over tomorrow to help me figure out how we are going to put your room back together while making it Poppy friendly, too. I am lucky to have such good friends who are truly there for me at all times. I am so lucky in that regard and so thankful.

The past couple of days, my emotions have been building up. It was your Sparky’s birthday. I remember his birthday from a couple of years ago when we were in New York. You made me take an extra special picture of you to send to him just for his day. It’s one of my favorite pictures of you, even though your body was all marked up with a Sharpie Pen from your radiation and your little arm was hurting so badly that they tried to make you wear it in a sling which you of course refused to do. The smile on your face was priceless and your eyes were so bright and beautiful as I was taking this picture. They were shining like diamonds. You were so excited to take this picture and send it to him. We called to tell him, “Happy Birthday!!” and I remember you saying this in your squeaky little voice that was full of so much love and happiness. As always, I did my best to try not to be sad on his birthday but I wished more than anything that it was you sitting by my side as I watched your Sparkly open up our gift and two cards. One card from me and one from the both of us. I of course signed your name on the card I picked out from you, to him. You would have liked it and called the card, “cute.” I sat and watched your Sparkly read our words and open our gift. I watched as he chuckled at something while the corners of his eyes got wet. It’s a sight I’m so used to seeing with him. That bittersweet happiness that I know all too well.  I did my best on his day, for you but it was still hard to hold it together without you by my side. I know your Poppy sister will help with things like this when she makes her little entrance into the world. Maybe days like this will become easier and help with the sadness because the happiness I know she is going to make others feel is going to be infectious. Next year it will be nice to have her by my side on days like your Sparkly’s birthday.

I spent much of the day and evening crying. Today was a hard day to get through. I literally went to bed telling myself, “You made it through today and you didn’t die. The pain didn’t kill you.” I’m always so amazed that it doesn’t. The sick joke is I know what I’m waking up to tomorrow and how none of this ever goes away. I don’t get to escape this. I still have to wake up to your totally disassembled bedroom that I said I would never touch. I was never going to be ready for today. You can never be ready for something like this.

I’m tired but restless. Of course, I’m not sleeping well. It’s because of my not sleeping well at night that I’ve noticed that we have this fucking bird outside of our bedroom that seriously sings all day and all night long. I don’t understand this as it’s only something that has started a couple of months ago. What kind of bird, sings all night long? It’s annoying to me and I don’t feel like hearing it’s song. Tweety bird, tweety bird please shut up. Between that and your empty room I’m surprised I’m not outside stalking this bird with my BB gun. That is totally a very Maya Danger thing that would have happened last year when I was in my Danger Baby phase. I’ve been stalking this bird to try to find out where it is hiding but I’ve only been stalking from it from the inside of our house. My body is too tired to truly investigate. Stupid bird.

Time to go, little man. It’s late and I need to try to get a little sleep before I have to start today all over again, tomorrow.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.

xoxo

P.S. Thank you, Taylor for what you did tonight. You are such a light that keeps me going even on my hardest of days. I know Ronan is so proud of you for all you are doing. So am I. I love you.

 

Your Happy Birthday Sparkly smile. I love you.
Your Happy Birthday Sparkly smile. I love you.

The election is over! Now, we can focus on turning the White House Gold for September and save some kids!

Ronan. I am having a hard time breathing. I can’t tell if it’s grief that is trying to suffocate me or Poppy. Either way it is making this life without you, harder than normal. I didn’t know that was possible. I spent the weekend at home, doing normal things with your daddy and brothers. The kinds of things we would have been doing, if you were still here. The things I have the hardest time doing now in life. Those simple easy things in life that I used to love so much but now I feel as doing them is harder than running a marathon. Without training. Liam was still a little under the weather. I tended to him and we went to bed pretty early on Saturday. It’s all I can do to make it to 9:00 p.m. without passing out. This growing a baby business is a lot of work. One that I am not a huge fan of. I never have been. The outcome is of course so worth it, but I have never been one of those women who enjoys pregnancy. It feels like a prison. I am trying to stay positive, but it’s hard to all of a sudden feel like you are just stuck in quicksand and there is nothing you can do to get out of it. Before I was pregnant, I had so many physical outlets that kept me sane. I could blow off steam so well with an easy breezy 8 mile run. Now I am panting at climbing a flight of stairs. So mentally and physically I am having a hard time getting out all of my grief in the ways in which I would before which may be another reason for my feeling of constant suffocation. I’ve been throwing myself into working on things for your foundation. That is saving my sanity a little bit I suppose. It is saving the shred of sanity that I have left.

Last night we had tickets to see my boyfriend, Eddie Vedder in concert. One of our little lovies, somehow got 6 front row seats where I got to sit about 10 feet away from Eddie as he gazed into my eyes and sang to me the entire night. That might be exaggerating a little bit but an over active imagination is healthy. He played our favorites. I was not the only one with tears streaming down my face as he sang our song, “Just Breathe.” I think everyone that was there with us, had them streaming down their cheeks too. I tried to fight it, but eventually the lump in my throat became too big and the tears came next. Buckets of them. I wiped them away and pictured you running up on the stage as Eddie sang his song, only the way he can. One that makes you get completely lost in another world. I, as always, was lost in the little world of yours. It’s my favorite place to be. I know Eddie had some Ronan ESP going on as next to last song was the one and only Neil Young’s, “Keep on Rocking in the Free World.” You’re telling me that was a coincidence? I know it was not. It was you working your magic in the ways that you always do. My entire body ached for you and I had flashbacks to the way you used to dance to that song. Thanks, Eddie V for playing it just for Ro last night. I know you did that for him. I could not have thought of a better way to end the night, then with that.

Today, I woke up bright and early. For going to bed so late last night, I woke up before the sun came up. I tossed and turned for about an hour before finally getting up. I had nothing of real importance to do today, but I was restless anyway. I ran some errands and went to the office. I worked through much of the afternoon on some foundation things and had about a half an hour phone interview. This one was hard for some reason. I forget what question it was exactly that I was trying to answer, but I know I had to stop myself and apologize for the sobbing that was taking place on my end of the phone. I think I remember telling the lady on the other end of the phone something about my last words to you and how I told you how sorry I was over and over again. She asked me what I was sorry about. I told her how I promised you I would save you and get you better and the fact that I didn’t or couldn’t will make me sorry for  the rest of my life. She asked if I thought you knew that you were dying. I think about that question a lot. I told her that I did not think that you did. How some of your last words to me were, “I don’t want anymore sleepy medicine.” I told her how you had to be put under anesthesia a lot and how I think you thought you were just going to sleep, but you would wake up again. I think about this so much in my head, all the time. I wonder if I should have told you that you were going to sleep forever. I didn’t. I don’t know if I should have or not. I’m so sorry you are sleeping forever and won’t ever wake up. I will forever have post traumatic stress over this. No mama should have to kiss her babies lips one last time and to be expected to live a life without kissing them again. Being a parent to a dead child is the hardest job in the world. Much harder than being the parent to kids who are alive and well. Being the parent to a dead child is the hardest kind of parent to be. I don’t think anybody in the outside world realizes this. It’s a truth I never thought I would know. It’s a truth that I will forever wish I didn’t know.

I had a board meeting last night at our new office. All of the girls were so excited. It was so nice to be able to have a space to go, that was not our own house. Our board meeting was long. A good 4 hours last night but we got a lot done as we always do. I woke up this morning with a big to do list. I got a lot of it done but by noon I knew I had reached my limit for the day. The little sleep I got last night combined with a raging headache led me to driving home and crawling in bed for a few hours. I took about a half an hour power nap but then had to get up to get some things done. Your daddy picked up your brothers from school and we all went out to grab a bite to eat as the cooking was just not happening tonight. I find myself sitting back and listening to your daddy a lot and the way he talks to your brothers and explains so much about the world to them. Once again, that bittersweet word will be used again because it is so bittersweet to hear the things they are learning and knowing you should be here, learning them, too. Tonight at dinner your daddy talked about everything from Shakespeare to the election. I watched them soak it all up like little sponges. They are so lucky to have a daddy like yours. Tonight, sitting at one of our favorite restaurants, I felt pretty lucky. Not every child grows up with a daddy like yours. So I felt lucky for that. Your brothers are amazing little boys and I know a big part of this is due to the strong male figure they have in their life. They are happy, loved, and have been through the worst, only to watch as we have survived it all. I feel like a bit of their self-confidence and security is coming back. I know this could have shaped them either direction. I am thankful that our situation has only seemed to make them stronger and have a love for our family  that is so strong because they understand how precious it is. Such hard lessons for young boys but I know this will make them stronger men. Of course you know I would rather have you here and not have to have them “learn,” any of this. I am just doing my best to be grateful for the things I have that are tangible to me, like your brothers brave little hearts.

I gotta go little man. Lots to do, always for you. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe. Sweet dreams.

xoxo

P.S. I am not going to get into politics on here but I am so glad the election is over. I took Poppy to vote yesterday and we as a family had such fun last night watching the polls. It was a good night. I am so glad we can now focus on turning that White House Gold for September. I have faith that our President will do the right thing and make this happen. There are too many babes dying. A change has to come. I am thankful for President Obama and the Creating Hope Act. It’s time to take this to the next level and with all of you on our side, I know this can happen! Love you all, so much!

A little seal and a hummingbird

Ronan. It’s only been a week since you left. How can that possibly be? It feels like you left such a long time ago. I think about you all the time. You are never not in my thoughts. I got through another day without you. I don’t know how; but I did. I took Liam and Quinn back to school today. We went in late and I was nervous for them to go back. As we walked in, I explained how some of the kids might ask about you, and I tried to prep them on what to say. I wanted to prepare them as much as possible. They both seemed o.k. I could tell Quinn was more nervous than Liam. Once we got to the classroom, they both seemed fine and their friends were happy to have them back. I left them there feeling like it was their first day of school; my heart was sad but I know normalcy is important for them now. We have such little of that in our life with you being gone. I have to slowly start picking up the pieces and I feel like getting them back to school for the time that they have left will be a good thing. They are such strong little boys. I know you are so proud of them.

After I dropped off Liam and Quinn, I ran some errands with your Nana. It felt weird to be out but I constantly feel the need to be busy. At one point we were at the cash register somewhere and I said out loud,  “I can’t believe he is gone.” I talk to myself all the time now. My hands shake all of the time. I talk to you out loud a lot too. We all tell you goodnight every night. I still feel like you can hear us. I took your Nana to get her tattoo today. She got 3 stars on her foot for you, Liam, and Quinn. It turned out so beautiful. Afterwords, we went to lunch. We were supposed to meet Tricia and Marisa at Wildflower, but I ended up going to the wrong location. My head is still not on straight. Fernanda called while we were sitting in a booth together. I stepped outside to talk to her for a few minutes. I ended up bawling my head off and I kept saying to her that I didn’t understand how your little heart could have just stopped, just like that. I mean it makes no sense at all; but I don’t even understand medically how it happens. How is it possible that you and your little life just stopped? You were so full of life and I will never understand how it was taken away so quickly. Just like that, in a blink of an eye. I’ll never forget when you were first diagnosed and your Daddy and I sat in a little room together and how scared he was. I remember grabbing him and saying, “Woody. If anyone can beat this, it’s him.” I had no doubt in my mind that you would grow up to be a healthy boy. I never in my wildest dreams thought this would have been the outcome. I don’t think anybody really did.

Once I returned home, I kept myself busy with stupid chores. I am putting together a hard core plan about how I am going to clean our already spotless house. How maybe if I scrub hard enough, it will pass the time more quickly. I’ve decided I will tackle the closet tomorrow. I know what this process is all about. I have already decided I am going clean every inch of this house until the only thing left to do is your room. The room that I walk past as little as possible during the days but I let me eyes drift over to your toys as I am expecting to see you in there playing. I am so scared of your room. But I know I have to go in there eventually. I will, after everything else is perfectly in place. Until then, I just simply cannot. My stomach instantly gets sick just thinking about it. I just need more time.

After Liam and Quinn came home from school, we had Luke and Lily over. We walked down to Uncle Jays and went swimming. Wesley and Laely came too. It was good for me to be around them today. I thought it was going to be hard, but there sweet souls soothed me. Well, maybe not soothed me as I don’t think there is anything that can do that right now. But it didn’t feel awful for me to be around them. Baby steps, baby. Baby steps.

Everyone around me is stumbling. I wish I could be blind to it but I’m not. Watching Liam, Quinn, and your Daddy is the hardest for me to see. Last night, after your service we were all walking out of The Desert Botanical Gardens together. There was a wishing fountain right before the parking lot. We all stopped and Liam threw in a coin. He said he wished for you to come back. I honestly thought I was going to crumble on the spot but Quinn distracted me by trying to steal the money out of the fountain. I gave him a quick talking to about how he couldn’t take the money out of the fountain because it was other people’s wishes. He then made some snarky comment about how wishes don’t come true. Fuck. I dug deep down and told him, that they indeed do come true, but I didn’t have the energy to finish the bullshit pep talk. How do you try to convince a 7-year-old who just sat though his baby brothers memorial service that by throwing a fucking penny in a fountain that what they wish for will come true. The truth is, you don’t. And if you do, you’re a better person than me. Or maybe just a better bullshitter:)

Your daddy asked me tonight when I was going to break. Or if I was just going to hold this all in until I finally explode. We are not in sync with our grieving process at all. I wonder, if this is normal? Am I holding it all together so he can grieve and I can be strong for him? Then when it is my turn, he will be able to be strong for me? Part of me thinks so. If we were both dealing with this, the same way, at the same time….. I don’t know how we would go on for Liam and Quinn. Don’t get me wrong. I have my moments when I sob like a baby. But I try my hardest to do this when I’m not around anyone else. I save it for the moments that I know you are closest to me and when I look to you for comfort. You are so good at comforting me, Ro. You still give me so much strength.

I have two pictures I am posting tonight. One, was taken by the insanely talented Emily Carroll. She came to capture some images from Ronan’s service last night. This hummingbird kept appearing in her camera. Do you know what they say about hummingbirds? I do. My dad taught me about he importance of Hummingbirds. They are special and the fact that this little guy was fluttering about during Ronan’s service.. well that speaks volumes in itself. Thanks for letting me know you were there, Ronan. And that you are o.k. Thank you for capturing this moment, Emily.

It is not commonly known that the fluttering wings of the hummingbird move in the pattern of an infinity symbol – further solidifying their symbolism of eternity, continuity, and infinity.

By observing the Hummingbird, we see they are seemingly tireless. Always actively seeking the sweetest nectar, they remind us to forever seek out the good in life and the beauty in each day.

Amazing migrators, some Hummingbirds are known to wing their way as far as 2000 miles to reach their destination. This quality reminds us to be persistent in the persuit of our dreams, and adopt the tenacity of the Hummingbird in our lives.

The Hummingbird animal totem is a messenger of hope and jubilation.

Hummingbird Animal Totems offer attributes like:

  • energy
  • vitality
  • joy
  • renewal
  • sincerity
  • healing
  • persistence
  • peace
  • infinity
  • agility
  • playfulness
  • loyalty
  • affection
 Need I say more? I don’t think so. The little signs are everywhere.
The last picture I am going to leave you with is one I took on my iPhone today while my mom was getting her tattoo done. I’m not crazy…. well at least not yet. Take a look at the white image where my mom is getting her ink done. I swear to god it looks like a little seal. The nose pointed to one of her stars, the flippers closer to her toes. Does anybody else see that??!!
I seriously think it was little Ronan’s spirit sitting with us today. After seeing this tonight on my camera, I am sure of it. I talked to him the entire day in my head. He never leaves my side. Thank you Ronan, for guiding me today. I know you know I am struggling with some things and how I am trying to figure out the path I am meant to take. You gave me a lot of answers today. I am going to follow your lead and listen to my heart and you. We are going to change the world baby. We are going to save others lives by finding a cure for this. I know it is our destiny. It was what we were meant to do in life. To help others, inspire others, teach others about what is REALLY important in life. Just to be better people in general. Let’s make this world a better place…. let’s find a cure for this Neuroblastoma bullshit by educating people and getting funding in place. I’m so going to be all over Yoplait soon. I am thinking they are my first target. If they can do pink ribbons for all of October on the top on their lids, the why the fuck can’t they do yellow for all of September. Mama’s mad. Mama’s on a mission. Somebody emailed me today and said they were ready to stand behind, “Maya’s Mafia.” That made me laugh out loud. I love it. I hope you are all game for this. If you stick behind my son and what we are about to do…. be ready for the most fulfilling journey of your life. Ronan had it all figured out by the almost the age of 4. I took very careful notes so I know all of his secrets, all of his tricks, and I now know what he was meant to do in this world. Just because he was so sickly robbed of his little life does not mean he cannot fulfill his dreams. I being his mama, his biggest fan, will get these things done for him. I’ll get by with a little help from my friends and all of his Rockstar Fans. I promise you. Amazing things are to come. Ronan was my gift that I am sharing with all of you and I am so thankful to do so. I know how much you all believe in him and know that he was meant to change the world. Start by helping me out anyway you can. Just getting his story out is the first step. This is going to take some time, but I want everyone to know about the most beautiful, bravest little boy, who could melt you with just one of his famous winks. FUCK YOU CANCER. You fucked up big time and you owe it to me that something good come out of this. We will start by raising awareness for your stupid ass disease that I had never in my life had heard of because I was uneducated and cocky. I’m sorry that ONLY 800 kids a year are diagnosed with this. 800 kids a year is more than plenty to fight for. So fuck you Neuroblastoma and your lack of education. I am about to blow your shit out of the water. You took my baby; so I’m not going to stop until somebody finally takes you, mother fucker.
Sooooooooo…… I think I got a little off track. Um yeah. It’s been way too long since I’ve said Fuck on my blog so I had to get a few of those out. And Ronan, you’re such a little badass now that you don’t even need earmuffs anymore buddy! I think you’ve earned your right to hear those words. I love you Ronan. We all love you so much. I told Quinn to dream about you tonight. I hope you visit him and you two play your little hearts out. Sweet dreams Ro baby. Sweet dreams my lovely friends. Hope your day tomorrow is full of all the little things my Ronan has left behind.
xoxo

You must have been a beautiful baby

Ronan’s counts are still rising. He had a great day. I came to the hospital this afternoon with Liam and Quinn. The 9th floor blocked off the playroom for us so Ronan could play with his brothers. We stayed in there for about 3 hours and the boys played their little hearts out. The twins then left with Woody to go back to the RMH so Woody could shower and get some work done. I stayed with Ro for the rest of the day and evening. We played out of our room most of the day, and walked the halls shooting people and playing in the playroom. Ronan took a red marker today and colored all of his arms and said it was blood from his battles. Pretty much anything goes in the hospital as far as I’m concerned as long as he is having fun. I gave him a good bath afterwords in a little tub of water on the floor. He’s all clean now and just fell asleep as he didn’t nap today. Woody is on his way back here to stay the night so I can have some time with L and Q.

We have some scans set for Friday and Ronan will be discharged after that. They keep changing the set of scans we are having but as of now, I believe it’s the CT and Bone Marrow on Friday and the MIBG next week. That is the last I heard from one of the doctors earlier today, but that could always change. I asked New York Miss Macy if she could take Liam and Quinn for a few hours on Friday so they don’t have to sit in the hospital with us and wait. She happily agreed and I know the boys are going to over the moon about spending some time with her. It will be so helpful to us to have them off somewhere having fun, rather than sitting in a hospital.

So anybody that knows me, knows that I have been obsessed with taking pictures my entire life. Just a hobby that brings me much happiness and always has. Taking pictures of my kids is definitely my favorite subject. I have over 11,000 pics on my iphoto… so to say I’m obsessed is an understatement. All of my pictures on my iphoto are now defined to me as, this was our life before Ronan had cancer and this is now our life after. Sad but true.  Going back and looking at pictures before all of this is painful to me and makes me break down in tears. Every picture of Ronan before all of this makes me sick to my stomach as I would have never in my life have imagined this happening to him. He was such a gorgeous baby…. how can he now have cancer???  I sit and look at all of our pictures before all of this and we were such a happy family. We have so many beautiful memories and we were so blessed. I get so angry that all of that has been taken away and we have to work so hard to now find our happiness in the hardest of times. Today, as I was pushing Ronan’s asspole around the halls as well as trying to carry his gun, Star Wars guys, and his Crayola markers that he called his “Missles,” I was overwhelmed with anger. I caught a glimpse of him walking down the hall as I followed behind and he almost tripped over all of his lines. He looked back and goes, “Mom, I can’t carry my tubies and my guns.” I wanted to punch a freaking wall. It makes me sick that my 3-year-old has to worry about tripping over his lines. I am also pissed because Ronan has his 4th Birthday coming up and all I wanted was for him to be home. Instead, we will have to celebrate it in the hospital. All he wants to do is go back to Phoenix and he tells me at least once a day that he is never going to get to go back home and be with his brothers. I tell him that is not true, but no matter how much convincing I try to do, he argues with me and does not believe me. In his head, he thinks we are going to stay in New York forever and he thinks he is never going home. So much for a little boy to try to understand. Too much for a little boy to try to understand. As happy as he is, I also know that he is worried and sad and there is nothing I can do to take that away no matter how hard I try. That is my venting for the evening. I feel a little better now. Not really, but I am trying to convince my self otherwise.

I left the hospital late tonight and came back to RMH with Liam and Quinn. We went down to the common area and worked on some of their homework that their wonderful teacher, Mrs. Martin sent with them. I cannot tell you how good it felt to sit and help my boys with their homework, like a normal mom. After we worked on homework for about 30 minutes, we played the board game Operation. I have not played that game since I was a little girl. We had so much fun playing it together tonight. We are now all snug in bed and Liam and Quinn are watching CSI. A bit mature for them, but they both say they love it. My 7 year olds are now going on 30….. They are growing up way too fast:( Makes me sad.

Tomorrow is a new day. One more day closer to getting Ronan out of the hospital. Cannot wait to see Miss Macy tomorrow. Cannot wait until Friday, when we can bust Ro out of there and all be together outside of Sloan. Sweet dreams, my friends. Thank you for checking in with us. Have a beautiful day tomorrow.

xoxo

Hello New York. We’ve missed you….

I don’t have days where I don’t feel like writing very often. If I miss a few days here and there, it’s usually because I am too busy, too tired, or just taking a little break. Today is honestly the first day where I don’t feel like writing; yet as I sit on this airplane while Ronan sleeps, I have too many thoughts filling my head and my mind refuses to be quiet. So, I’ll share. Today, is the first time that I feel like it may be too much but I started this blog and one of the promises I made to myself was to always be honest, no matter how painful it might be. Today stings. Today was a blur. Today does not seem real.

My morning started off with Ronan crying about his arm because he is in so much pain. He was actually up off and on all night and his pain medicine seemed to only help just a little. That led me to sending Dr. Maze a text telling him what was going on and asking him if he thought it was a good idea to call Dr. Eshun this morning to ask if we could bring Ro by the clinic to give him a dose of morphine before we got on the plane. He responded with a yes. I called the clinic, but it was too early and nobody was there yet so I was told to call back at 8:00 a.m. A few minutes later, Dr. Maze responded that he had called one of Ronan’s main nurses, “A” and that she would be calling me soon. He didn’t have to do that for me, but he did because he loves Ro and that is just the type of person he is. One who goes above and beyond. I was beyond a mess but was trying so hard to hold it together and waiting for the clinic to open up so I could speak to someone was more than I could handle. “A” called me about 15 minutes later and I had a lengthy conversation with her. We talked about what was going on, what she could do for me, and how we could go about getting it done to work with us leaving on a flight at 3. She wrote out a new, stronger pain medicine prescription for Ronan and my dear sweet friend, Melissa, drove down to PCH to pick it up for me, got it filled at the pharmacy and dropped it off to my house. “A” also decided that I should bring Ronan down to the clinic at noon so they could give him a dose of morphine to make him a little more comfortable for the flight. This all sounded like a good plan to me and it was one of the reasons I made it through today. Knowing Ronan is in so much pain is intolerable and if I have to numb him until we start this chemo, bring it on. I can’t stand seeing him hurt the way he is.

Tricia stopped by on her way to work for a very quick goodbye. As soon as she walked in the door, we embraced and both started bawling. We held each other for a few minutes and she gave me her best New York pep talk, but it didn’t really work. I felt as both of our hearts were smashed on the floor below us in a million pieces. Our goodbye was fast as that is the only way we could both handle it; anymore time spent together would have been too much for us and way too disastrous.

After Trish left, I was scrambling to get last minute things done. Fernanda came over to help me and cooked up a huge breakfast for the boys. I was in such a daze and she could tell as she kept trying to tell me things and I couldn’t hold a thought for a second. I tore through the last of the mail, finished packing our things, and made a few phone calls. Fernanda scattered around, cleaned up the kitchen, and helped keep Liam, Quinn, and Ronan occupied. Bethany stopped by next and brought her little Madden with her along with her to play with Ronan. She came with her arms full of groceries for me as I told her this morning, my fridge was empty and my poor boys were living off of the junk in the cupboards. I told her I needed fruit, veggies, meat and all things healthy or else I was going to lose my mind. She couldn’t have been happier to help and I am so thankful. Ronan was so excited to play with Madden and we all sat and watched the 4 boys run around, chasing each other with Nerf Guns and laughing away. I watched the look in both Bethany and Fernanda’s eyes today as we watched Ronan trying his best to keep up, all while keeping his right arm down at his side as he was trying not to use it. The look in their eyes alone was enough to kill someone. I tried my best to keep them both busy with tasks as well as myself because I knew if I didn’t we were all going to crumble to the floor and end up in a wet pile of tears. My dear Niki stopped by with her two little ones in the middle of all the chaos to say goodbye. Stacy stopped by as well. Soon I had a house full of friends, kids, and it was so beautiful…. for being so ugly. I kept thinking to myself, my house should not be full of kids running about, laughing, and my dear friends because Ronan has cancer and we are leaving for New York. It should have been because it was a gorgeous Spring Break day and nothing more. Fucking cancer.

Everyone left except Fernanda who held the fort down as I hopped in the shower and got ready to go. Danielle came over right as we were walking out the door to leave. I was so glad I as able to give her a hug and say goodbye. Mimi and Papa came over to stay with Liam and Quinn and Fernanda took Ronan and myself to the clinic to get his morphine. I knew once I got there it was game over. I took one look at “A” and the tears started and wouldn’t stop. Dr. Adams came over as well to say goodbye and gave me a couple big hugs and said some sweet words. Sharon also came over and held Ronan and told him she loved him. She hugged me to and told me everything was going to be alright and she loved me too. I left there still crying, holding on to Ronan’s hand as he looked up at me and told me he was sad too. I know he is sad and it is not just because I am… he knows what is going on and what is killing him the most is the same thing that is hurting the most for me; leaving his brothers behind. He has been crying on and off about it all day long and has been saying, “But, I’m never going to see my brothers.” He says these words over and over and it cuts like a knife. I just put on my bravest face, lie to him, and tell him of course he will, they will be coming to New York in a few days. Not true at all, but I think Ronan is young enough he is not sure how much time passes between seeing Liam and Quinn. He doesn’t fully understand the concept of a few days or a few months as it all seems the same to him. I hope anyway.

We finished up earlier than expected at the clinic so we ran over to American’s Taco Shop for some lunch. Fernanda hadn’t been there before and as little of a thing as it was, I felt good giving her something like taking her to my favorite spot to eat Mexican food. Now she can share it with her family and knowing that I introduced it to her, felt so good to me. So little and silly, but little and silly makes such a difference in my life now. We hurried and ate our food and headed to the airport. Woody met us there with Mimi, Papa, Liam and Quinn. Liam seemed alright with us going, it was Quinn who I watched be worried. He gave me his biggest, nervous smile and hugged and kissed me. The worst part was watching Ronan grab on to Quinn’s thigh and kiss it goodbye as it was the last thing he was clinging to. I turned around just in time to see there last embrace before we headed off to the plane. We checked our bags and got to the gate quickly and here we sit. Ronan is sitting in the middle of us and is sleeping soundly. So soundly that I was able to take one of his Oxycodone, break it in half, and slip it into his mouth. Ah, the joys of being able to medicate your child so he can’t feel his pain and it is a victory that he didn’t wake up to fight me on taking it. These are the things that I get to be thankful for now.

Woody. My Woody. My Woody who is so worried about Ronan’s arm that he was feeling it on the plane and is convinced that he can feel the cancer in it. My Woody who looked at me and told me he felt like dying. He then said to me, “Why don’t you?” My reply was, “I do.” I watched him push the tears away and then he grabbed my hand. We stayed that way for a while and he then too fell asleep. I just sat, stared at both of them, and cried. Today has been way too much for me. Sometime I am amazed at all of the tears I am able to cry as they seem to never end. I wonder if someday, I will have cried so many tears that my body will dry up like a cactus and there will be no more. I wonder these stupid things in my head all of the time because I now believe anything is possible because of what we are going through. The thing that I had never giving a second thought about because I thought it was impossible and we as a family, were invincible. Things like this don’t happen to good people like us, right.??? Wrong. So very, very, wrong.

Time to get this New York thing going. Time to get Ronan on the path he was meant to go on. Time to make the very best of New York and all that it has to offer. Time for this city to heal my heart again as it has done it before and it can do it again. Time to get him well so we can be one step closer to being back home for good where we belong. I know we can do this…. he can do this; he will beat this. I have no doubt that New York is the answer we have been looking for. I’ve always wanted to live here… so I will take this and make this as positive as an experience as possible. I’m tired of fighting this new life; I have no choice but to embrace it as much as possible. I will take all the sadness and find the happiness in it; even if that means finding happiness is in a run in Central Park or seeing my twins’ faces on Skype. I’m not going to let this break me, ruin me, ruin my family. I may keep getting pushed down, knees scraped and bloody…. but I will never stop getting back up no matter how bloody and bruised I get.

Thank you to all of my family and friends who have helped out so much. You all have no idea how much you mean to us. My words could never be enough to tell you how thankful we are. I feel like we have a little army of ants, whom just keep working away, never stopping, until they see us through to the end of this storm. When Ronan is cured of this awful disease, I hope you know that you will all be a part of the reason that he survived. Your love and support keeps me from digging a hole somewhere and never coming out; right Trish?? I love you all to the moon and back. Kisses from New York to all of you…. we will never forget how blessed we are to have the people surrounding us that do. Only the best of the best, and the truest of the true.

xoxo

Holy Shitballs. Macy Wood makes me laugh like no other!

 

She knew I needed a laugh tonight so here she is, the infamous Macy Wood. All bundled up in her Fur, WTF? I have no idea what this thing is she is wearing but it is awesome and I want one. Love you, MACE! Thanks for the giggles tonight!!

xoxox

I get by with a little help from my friends

There is no better way to start a Sunday morning than meeting up with my girlfriends at Taylor’s for breakfast. Tricia, Bethany, Fernanda, and Stacy all came prepared with everything we needed to talk about as far as getting things in the works for transplant. These women, I swear could rule the world. Smart, compassionate, funny, beautiful, and savvy are just a few things that come to mind when describing them. Fernanda came armed with a lot of printouts about questions we need to have answered about the isolation period and we put together a pretty good game plan. It was a little overwhelming but I know not to worry too much because these girls have it all under control. There is no way that they will not have everything and more covered. We started lists of everything from who will do laundry to the schedule for Liam and Quinn, to who will sneak me in coffee when I need it. There is nothing these girls will miss and I could not have more peace of mind with whom I am leaving things in charge of. Fernanda has read over 60 blogs of other Neuroblastoma moms and knows everything we need to do and ask.

As we were leaving Taylor’s I was getting into Tricia’s car and she looked over at me and called Fernanda a real life Superwoman. She hit the nail on the head with that one. Fernanda is a even better than Superwoman… she is my version of a Spanish Superwoman with sass, spice, brains, compassion, and just the right amount of  a fiery attitude to help me kick ass through this. Then there is Stacy. The most loyal person I have ever met who loves me like I am family. Who knows just how to calm me down by just giving me a look. If there is ever a time that I feel overwhelmed or panicked, all I have to do is look in Stacy’s eyes and I know everything is going to be alright. She is the type of person who will bend over backwards for you, without ever asking a thing in return. She gives with her entire heart, no questions asked, and fills me with the peace and calmness that I so need in my life right now. And Bethany. You look up the definition of Grace and Beauty in the dictionary, and you will find Bethany’s picture. She is somebody that I have known almost my entire life, just not well at all until now. She is guarded but wears her heart on her sleeve. I am honored that she has slowly let me into her life as it takes a lot to earn Bethany’s trust. She is the most amazing mommy, wife, friend and someone who I would trust with my life and the life of my children 110%. Last but not least, there is my Tricia Boo. My best friend for 6 years now and we have the kind of friendship that dreams are made of. It’s been a six year love story and now she has basically given up everything to help me through this. She is the Godmom to Ronan and my saving grace. There is no way I would be able to get through this without her. Sitting at breakfast this morning I felt so fortunate so be surrounded by these women. One of the biggest gifts I have received on this journey is finding out what people are really made of. The people that are in our lives, right now, at this moment, are pure gold. They are my hidden treasures whose hearts keep me filled with courage and strength. I am beyond blessed.

I think I just wrote a love letter to my sweet girlfriends above… I could seriously write a book on each and every one of them. You know how else I know I am beyond blessed?? Because I just took the time to write about those 4 girls above and I have a handful more amazing girlfriends who I could go on and on about as well. You all know who you are and I love you so much. I will never be able to thank you enough for all you are doing for me, for Ro, for our family. I will simply tell you everyday how much I love you and how thankful I am that people like you exist in the world and I treasure you all so much. Thank you for being the truest friends alive in the purest way possible.

After breakfast, Trish came over and we sat down with Woody to go over everything. We started an online calendar to get the ball rolling on what exactly needs to happen and to figure out which days/nights I will be in the hospital and which days/nights I will be at home. Seeing this on a calendar defiantly makes me feel better. Having something to look at helps to calm my nerves. I feel like we are starting to put a very good plan into place. The thing with cancer is everyday is different and you never know what to expect, but at least this gives me a little something to hold on to. I thrive in structure and with a good plan in place I feel like I will be able to fully focus on Ronan if I know who is doing what on this day and at this time.

Today, the boys’ played with their cousin Luke for most of the day. We also had Luke’s sister Lily over to play as well. She was such a little trooper, keeping up with a house full of 4 crazy boys. I took her up the street for some girly time and we got mani and pedicures. Lily is 8 and is just as sweet as her brother. I never get little girl time, so I was in heaven. She is darling and I loved spending time with her today. We both got glitter nail polish on our toes and Lily got pink on her nails with a little flower design. I would steal those kids every weekend if I could:) It is adorable to see this new relationship flourish between cousins.

After Luke and Lily went home, I could tell Liam wasn’t feeling well today. He took a big nap which he never does and woke up with a sight fever. I sat and held him for a bit but we had to call Mimi and Papa to pick him up so he could go and stay at their house for the night. We can’t take any chances around Ronan if Liam does have something. I hate that I can’t take care of my little guy who isn’t feeling well. I mean, that’s supposed to be my job… I’m his mom. We don’t have a choice though, we cannot have Ronan getting sick with anything before transplant. Off he went and Woody, Ro, Quinn and I walked down to Jay’s house to watch the Superbowl. We had a great time and Jay was the master of the BBQ making the best steaks ever. We hung out, watched football, ate, and played catch outside. Ronan got tired around half-time so I brought him home. Quinn and Ro are fast asleep now and Woody is having some boy time with Jay and Mark. He needs that so much. I am so happy that Woody’s best friend now lives right around the corner from us. It has been nothing but great for all of us.

Alright, xanex is kicking in. I must get a good night sleep tonight…. I have so much going on this week and if I am not sleeping, lord knows what I will forget to do or what I will mess up. I’ve got to try to start sleeping more at night…. otherwise my brain turns into mush and I cannot focus or remember a thing. Hope you all had a great weekend. It was one of the best weekends we have had in a very long time. Goodnight to all of you out there… sweetest dreams possible.

xo

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
Yeah, they were all yellow.

I came along,
I wrote a song for you,
And all the things you do,
And it was called “Yellow.”

So then I took my turn,
Oh what a thing to’ve done,
And it was all yellow.

Your skin
Oh yeah, your skin and bones,
Turn into something beautiful,
And you know
You know I love you so,
You know I love you so.

I swam across,
I jumped across for you,
Oh what a thing to do.
Cuz you were all yellow,

I drew a line,
I drew a line for you,
Oh what a thing to do,
And it was all yellow.

Your skin,
Oh yeah your skin and bones,
Turn into something beautiful,
And you know,
For you I’d bleed myself dry,
For you I’d bleed myself dry.

It’s true, look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for…
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine for you,
Look how they shine…

Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And all the things that you do.

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.

http://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 rebirth of Ronan Sean Thompson

I seriously feel like I’ve just been through labor again. I am that tired, exhausted, and so relieved. All of the same feelings that come with childbirth. Ronan’s surgery was smooth sailing. Dr. La Quaglia is a God, is blessed by God, and has angels surrounding him every second of the day. We met with him and he told us how perfectly the surgery went, how he was able to save every organ, and how great and healthy they all looked. He was very confident that he got all of the base tumor. He looked everywhere, even in his chest and under his arteries and did not see any other signs of Neuroblastoma. This does not mean we are out of the woods yet…. The Neuroblastoma is still in Ronan’s body, but the base tumor is gone. He said the tumor was about the size of the golf ball but wouldn’t let me see it due to it already being sent off to the lab. I don’t care that much; it is gone, Ronan is here, and we are so thankful. After meeting with Dr. L, we soon were taken back to see Ronan. I was so nervous but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Waiting for him to come out of surgery was way harder. He looked so brave and big in the bed, all hooked up to everything you could possibly imagine. The tubes didn’t freak me out at all because underneath all of that stuff was my baby boy… waiting for me. I kissed on him and told him how proud I was of him, how brave he was and how we could finally put this part of our life behind us. He kept nodding his head and was listening to every word I said. After surgery we had to be transported across the street to the Picu. The guys who were transporting us wanted Ronan as sedated as possible, but Ro wasn’t having it. They had to give him tons of medicine just to keep him calm. We heard a lot of “Wow, what a strong kid you have.” And also a lot of “He is really tall for 3.” There was a lot of laughing about Ronan and his strength. Everybody kept telling us what a good thing it was. This is par for the course with Ro… nothing is going to stop our little guy. After they finally got him sedated enough, he was transported across the street to the Picu. I rode in the ambulance with him and we were quickly moved into our room. Woody and I have been up for almost 24 hours now… my eyes are barely open. Ronan is just now getting his breathing tube out, or excavating him as they call it.

Awwww…. I tried my best to update you all last night, early this morning, but I was so tired and taking care of Ro. It is 7 a.m. here now and Ronan is asleep. He has been having a little trouble breathing on his own, so they have hooked him up to machine that is giving him a little extra oxygen. This is normal after such a major surgery. We will be moved over to Sloan this afternoon considering all goes well today. Woody slept most of the night; I did not. That’s a mama bear for you though. And Woo needs his rest; he requires much more sleep than I do. The nurses and doctors here have been amazing. So very sweet and attentive. We could not be more pleased with the job they are doing. Our nurse looks like she is about 12. She is the cutest little thing and is so great with Ronan. What a doll.

Guess how many views Ronan’s blog got yesterday?!?! 8,122! Can you believe that! In one day alone! You all were so busy spreading the word on Ronan to make sure we had everyone praying for him. I cannot say thank you enough. I know it is because of all of you, your prayers, and positive energy, that he got through yesterday with flying colors. Our little guy is going to change the world and you all are helping him. He WILL be the poster child for this awful disease. Please keep spreading the word and sharing his story. Thank you all for holding his heart in yours and going with us on this journey. We still have a very long road ahead of us; but I feel like today is a fresh start for Ronan. He is finally free of the tumor our of his abdomen. It’s as if he has been given a new life; this is his rebirth. January 3, 2010 will forever be Ronan’s second birthday. And that makes him a Capricorn, just like his mama:) Us stubborn goats can get through anything!!

Please know how much you all mean to us, even though we don’t know half of you. Your words kept me going yesterday and If it wouldn’t have been for all of you, I would have locked myself in a bathroom somewhere and would not have come out until Ronan’s surgery was over. To all of my family and friends, I love you all so much. I am so blessed and thankful for your support and love during this time in my life. I also could not have made it though yesterday without the most amazing man alive, my husband. He truly is one in a million and the best husband and father in the world. I am so lucky, thankful, and humbled.

I am seriously in the middle of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy right now. Well, minus all the sex. I was just visited by the most amazing woman Dr. and her “team” of residents. I am beyond fascinated, impressed, and the Doctor could not have been more knowledgable, kind, and positive. I got to watch her ask her questions to her residents and see them scramble for the answers. It was awesome. She said it is not often that she see’s children respond so well after such a major surgery. She said most kids lay in the Picu for days. Her exact words were, “I don’t know Ronan, but maybe he is just such a rockstar that this is just how he is.” How awesome is it that she, this incredible woman, called Ronan a Rockstar without even knowing his nickname! I loved it!!! Made my day:) Ronan will be transported back over to Sloan later this afternoon. He has been so corporative and listening to everything we tell him to do. He really is a brand new boy!

This mama has had no sleep and I don’t see sleep happening anytime soon. I am over the moon with how well Ronan is doing and I feel so fortunate that we were able to bring him here, to the best surgeon in the world. I know we made the right decision. We are right where we need to be and today we can breathe a big sigh of relief that this part of Ronan’s journey is done and over with. Bring on the Stem Cell Transplant!!!! Ronan has proven time and time again, that he can get through anything. He truly is such an inspiration and a Rockstar!! What a little blessing to the world he is.

Love you all so much. Thank you again for your support and love!!!

xoxo

I’m just a girl in the world

Favorite conversation of the night:

Me: “Ronan, you’re so nice.”

Ronan: “Thank you.”

Me: “You’re welcome.”

Ronan: “Mom, you’re so cute.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Ronan: “Your so welcome.”

I love his little voice so much. And that smile could melt your heart. I love that every night, he curls up beside me and holds my hand as he falls asleep. I love waking up to him each morning and his bright blue eyes, and how excited he is to wake up his brothers and start the day. Being with Ronan is like a piece of heaven. He is my little pea, and I am so lucky to be his pod.

Sarah came over early so I could go to my therapist appointment. It was a good one, as always. I always leave there more vunerable and with a flood of emotions running through me. I feel like it’s a cleansing of my soul that I really need though. After that, I ran some errands and came home to a happy Ronan who told me he missed me so much. He was all snuggled up in my bed with Sarah. As Sarah was leaving she told Ro she loved him and he told her he loved her too. So sweet.

Ronan is not feeling well today. He was really clingy most of the day. My dear friend, Gay, came over to help me pack. Thank GOD for her! She just comes in here and snaps her fingers, and bam!, it’s done. She is so much fun to be with, even when we are doing things like packing up bags. We got Liam and Quinn’s bag packed and Ronan’s. One more check mark off my list! Pam also stopped by and cracked Gay and I up the entire time with her funny stories about being at Sloan with her daughter and how important her flat iron for her hair and lip gloss were to her. It was her coping mechanism and I love it. Her daughter was having a major surgery done and Pam sat and applied lip gloss over and over again. I totally get it. I know I am going to be the same way. Anything to make the situation seem a little more normal. I was so happy and thankful for those two today. They made me laugh a lot which is something I needed today since I spent the majority of the morning crying over anything and everything. The anticipation of leaving her is enough to send me over the edge.

I also got to see Niki and Fernanda for a bit. They both buzzed by quickly. Again, so lucky for the friends I have. They keep me going because I can see how much what we are going through has changed them. Their lives will never be the same just because of the kind of people they are. That shows me what amazing hearts they have. All of my friends are this way; they are the one’s I keep closest to my heart. I will keep them there for the rest of my life.

Woody and I had a good little pow wow tonight. He is always so interested in my therapy sessions and sometimes I don’t really feel like telling him about them. We got into it a little bit, in a healthy way. I told him what was going on and how I need to deal with a lot of this, on my own, in my own way. He gets it and is giving me my space. He also told me he knows exactly what I am thinking…. how my deepest fears are he is going to walk out on me like my dad did. He told me he will never give up on me and never let me down… like me father has. I know this about Woody; it is one of the main reasons I married him. No matter how much I push him away, because I am hurting, he won’t let me get too far. He has been really great about giving me my space, but also reminding me that we need each other. Before I met Woody, I was used to dealing with things in my life on my own by myself. When you are in the middle of a crisis, it is easy to revert back to that. I am trying not to; but I am very independent and stubborn and my mind tricks me into thinking I can do everything on my own. I am working on these things… I don’t want to go though this alone, but I also want my space. I am hoping to find a happy medium, if that is possible.

Woody and I always joke the Gwen Stefani‘s “I’m just a girl in the world,” is my theme song. So tonight’s song is dedicated to the Wooddawg. And the other love of my life, Gwen Stefani.

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed
And it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!
The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things
That I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive
Late at night I’m just a girl,
Guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes

I’m just a girl,
Take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!
Oh…am I making myself clear?
I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!
I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb
Makes me worry some

I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to Is making me numb
I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

And yes, how lovely is this dress…. I would totally wear this dress while singing “I’m just a girl,” to the Wooddawg.

xoxox

Nighty Night! Sweet Dreams!