Day 14 OT --- Two weeks already, wahoo!
I feel slightly like a teller of “tall tales” to call the past twenty-six months of our life “troubled water”. Oh, sure, the first two months after Kendrie’s leukemia diagnosis were rough and choppy … it felt pretty much like being rushed downstream of a swollen river, not willingly, by the way, without a life jacket, going under and gulping for air, and crashing into uprooted, floating trees and churning, bloated animal carcasses, all the while terrified that when you turned round the next bend, there would be a giant, rushing waterfall just waiting to suck you over and plunge your defenseless body down onto the slippery, pointed, jagged rocks below. You know, something like that. If I were prone to exaggeration. Or whatever.
Once we got past the first two months of induction and consolidation, however, we were lucky. We were pretty much able to tread water for the next two years with very little in the way of turbulence. But that in NO way stopped the outpouring of love and care we received from strangers, friends, and strangers who *became* friends. To say you were our “bridge over troubled water” is like calling Paris Hilton “slightly” ego-centric. Our friends and supports weren’t a simple bridge. You have been the Golden Gate Suspension Bridge of our lives!
I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the wonderful notes, e-mails, guestbook messages, cards, care packages and gifts you have sent our family. I tried answering every single one personally, but just ran out of time before it seemed like it had been “too” long. I’m still working on the official thank you notes, but wanted to take this chance to publicly thank all of you for your kindness. Add in the fact Christmas was just a week later, and my kids are basically rolling in it. Short of winning the lottery (which will be difficult since we don’t *play* the lottery) they will probably never have another year like this one, so I sure hope they appreciate it as much as I do! Thanks to all of you.
Now, it's almost two weeks after the fact, but better late than never, right? Here are the photos and details of Kendrie’s Off-Treatment Party, which I am happy to say was a complete success. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t speak for the guests, some of whom drove ten, a hundred, or a thousand miles to be with us …… but *I* had a great time! My only complaint about the entire day was that it was a little bit cool and damp. BUT! My specific prayer was for “no rain” and I got that (it stopped about two hours before the party!) so I’m not going to gripe about the weather. Any more. At least not out loud.
And let me say up front that there is no way my Geocities site can support all these photos at once, for long periods of time, so if you can’t see all the pictures, please visit the site again later. Those pesky little red x’s should be gone eventually.
We knew the party was off to a great start when we blew a fuse heating up the hot dogs … er, I mean, chicken cordon bleu, in the microwave(s). Thank goodness none of the kids were in the bounce house when it collapsed. You can tell by the excitement on my nephew Lawson’s face that this was the coolest part of the entire celebration.
The TRUE miracle of Christmas was that I was able to stand up in front of 75 guests and give a welcome speech without vomiting or fainting. My speech started out like this: “If you had asked me prior to October 13, 2003, what my biggest fear was, I would have told you -- honestly -- public speaking. On that day, the day Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, my priorities certainly changed and I learned about real fear. But if you were to ask me today, I could tell you -- honestly -- that standing up in front of a crowd and talking is STILL in the Top Three, so bear with me while I fumble my way through this.” (Notice my pink Julianna-Banana wish bracelets on my wrist? Kendrie is done with treatment, but Julianna still has a few months to go, and those bracelets aren't coming off yet!)
Blaine and I wanted our guests to know how very, VERY much we appreciated them joining us for the party, so I sucked it up and talked. Not well, but I did it. We had friends who were local, including four of the teachers from Kendrie’s school, friends who came down from Atlanta (part of our “cancer crowd”), friends who came up from Moultrie (also part of our “cancer crowd”), friends who drove up from Florida, friends who drove down (over?) from Virginia, friends who were here from Maryland, my family who came from Oklahoma, and my best friend Kim who surprised me by showing up on my doorstep the night before the party from Ohio. Not only that, but she came bearing four gallons of ice cream. Now I ask you, is that a best friend or what?!?!?
We also wanted to do something to let Brayden and Kellen know how proud we were of them and all they went through themselves during Kendrie’s treatment. This part of my speech went something like this: “You’ve been dumped off at friend’s houses, left with grandma, and learned the meaning of after-school care. You’ve stuck up for Kendrie at school, hung out with her at home, and definitely gotten the short end of the stick the past two years …. Etc.”
So we bought them trophies that said, respectively, “Brayden Escoe, December 15, 2005, World’s Best Big Sister”. Kellen, especially, seemed to like his. At least he hoisted it overhead like it was an Olympic medal, so either he liked it, or his arm really needed some exercise.
And then I called Kendrie up. I have no idea what I said to her because I was practically hyperventilating at this point (have I mentioned I have a real fear of public speaking?) But she really liked her trophy and has it sitting on a place on honor in her bedroom.
Then, because we wanted to acknowledge all the kids there who have fought the same fight as Kendrie, we passed out medals that said, “No #1, I’m an Official Cancer Butt-Kicker” to Brandon, Brady, Mary Grace, and Chandler. We were sad that several of our other friends from this pediatric cancer world got sick and couldn’t join us, but I have the medals and plan to send them on to you all this week! We know you were there in thought.
Then, in order to thank all of the kids there …. whether they lived far away and sent Kendrie cards, or hung out with her at school, or invited us to their houses to play … they all helped her to have as normal of two years as is possible to have when you’re undergoing chemotherapy. So we gave all of them the following buttons to wear:
(Wow, I didn't do a very good job re-sizing this photo, did I?)
This is when I realized that I had used the word “Butt” an awful lot at this party. I mean, did you see our family shirts?
Kendrie's says, "I'm a Survivor; I kicked Cancer's Butt". Mine and Blaine's both say "Our Daughter Kicked Cancer's Butt" and Brayden and Kellen's both say, "My Sister Kicked Cancer's Butt". If you're interested, we ordered them at cafepress.com.
So to all the parents at the party, my sincere apologies that I sent your child home with a party favor that had the word “butt” on it. Really, my bad.
Then, on to the entertainment of the day (in case my speech wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped when I practiced it in the shower that morning, ha!) we had a magician come and perform. He’s really good, and has a great sense of humor. I think the kids and adults alike enjoyed it, except my brother-in-law Cliff, who was determined to figure out each and every trick. (Cliff, I’m telling you, I don’t know *how* he got all eleven coins back in my hand!)
The perk of being the “party girl of honor” is that you get called up with your brother and sister, and cousin, for almost every single trick! I don't know if you can tell it in this photo, but Kendrie was cracking up. Normally when she is in front of other people, she pulls the incredibly annoying "I'm so bashful I'm going to bury my face in my mother's big fat thigh" routine. But here, she was in her element and loved every single minute of it.
Then, on to what was the highlight of the party for me: letting Kendrie throw her leftover chemo pills in the lake! Er, pond. Well, ok, big ole’ puddle of rain water. But it worked! (Guess I should be grateful for that rain after all, since it meant we didn’t have to schlep over to the other lake.)
“Seriously, you’re going to let me throw this in the water????”
Kendrie gets ready to throw……………..
Kendrie throwing pills (if you look in the bottom right hand corner of the photo, you can see the pills flying through the air) …………
The remains of the pills, floating in the puddle. I should point out that my mom was freaking out that if we threw the pills in the “real” lake, a fish would eat them, then someone would catch the fish and take it home and fry it and feed it to their family, then the entire family would start glowing or something. So I’m sure my mom was exceptionally happy that we threw them in a puddle, instead. I’m quite positive that once they re-fill the lake next spring, whatever plant life grows in that one spot will be very large, and very green.
Anyway, the rest of the party was all about eating (hot dogs and chips, soda, and a big ole; make-your-own-sundae bar …. Are we high-class or what?) chatting, and watching the kids enjoy the moonwalk.
A few other fun things we did: I filled a jar with M&Ms to represent the number of chemo pills Kendrie took during treatment, then we let everyone take a guess and gave the jar to the person who guessed closest: The winner: (no cheating involved, I swear) my nephew Dalton …. the actual number of pills: 2121.
We also posted a few questions to see who might know the answers (it was funny to me that the other ALL mom at the party said to me, “You know, those questions were pretty easy” --- for her, I’m sure they were, ha!)
1. Number of ambulance rides Kendrie has taken: Two.
2. Number of days she has been inpatient during treatment: Twenty-five.
3. Number of times she has been stuck in the chest, arm, or leg, for flu shots, peg shots, arac shots, blood draws, or chemo: 115.
4. Number of blood transfusions she has received during treatment: Eight.
5. Her preventative antibiotic, Bactrim, she takes in a liquid form. How much has she taken over the past twenty-six months? Three and a half gallons.
Those sorts of questions …. I don’t know if anyone else found them interesting, but some of the numbers surprised me when I went back through her treatment protocol and added them up. Bear in mind that the 2121 pills she has swallowed is a fairly LOW number in comparison to other ALL kids. Chemo is based on weight, and obviously, lots of kids on treatment are older and heavier than her, so they get more pills. Also, Kendrie is a girl, which means one year less of treatment than the boys get (and not because they are stinky, like it says above, but because the testicles are sanctuary sites for leukemia cells) and like I mentioned earlier, she took her Bactrim in liquid form, not pills. So if *you* ever get invited to an Off-Treatment party and they play the M&M challenge ….. remember Kendrie was at 2121 and you’ll probably want to guess up from there! (Who would have imagined that taking over two thousand pills in two years would be a LOW number?)
And that was pretty much the party in a nutshell. Thanks to the guys who helped load up the cars afterwards, and helped put away the moonwalk, thanks to Susan and Ray for helping put away the chairs, thanks to Renee for the potato salad, thanks to Renee and Erin and I’m not sure who else for putting together all the hot dogs while I sat on my keister and visited with people, thanks to Andrea and Kelly and Kim and BoBo for being on picture patrol, thanks to everyone who made the effort to come to the party. … especially those of you who gave up an entire day, or entire weekend, to join us! Thanks to Postcard Cindy for the providing the sundae bar, thanks to everyone for their donations for Caringbridge and CureSearch (even though lots of you completely ignored my NO GIFTS rule!)
I know there is more, and that the second I hit the “post new journal” button I’ll remember and feel bad because I left someone out. But for now, thanks, thanks, thanks!