Monday, May 01, 2006


Kendrie -- Day 137 OT

Blaine -- Quick! Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! It’s, it’s ….. well, shoot, it IS a plane, with Blaine on it. He’s probably over your head right now on his way to Seattle! (Radiation starts tomorrow -- if you have a spare good thought you could direct to the northwest part of the country, I know he’d appreciate it.)

Yep, that’s right, we headed to our FOURTH Family Camp Weekend on Friday, courtesy of Camp Sunshine, at Camp Twin Lakes in Georgia. I could go on and on (and on and on and on) about what a great support organization this is, and how much our family has benefited from the outings and support groups run by them …. and how fabulous the workers and volunteers are …. and how much we cherish the friendships we have made with other pediatric cancer patients and their families …. and how we always have such a great time at camp ….. and how we hope they never kick us out even though Kendrie is off-treatment at this point …. As I know you all must expect me to …. Considering I never shut up for anything …. But I won’t this time.

Instead, just like our Florida trip, I’ll give you the highlights instead, in pictures. So that those of you on dial-up can permanently remove me from your favorites list since Lord knows all these photos will never show up for you.


Family Group Activity: painting birdhouses. Ours started out a very cheerful yellow and green. But then the kids wanted to “add details” and they got too impatient to rinse out their paintbrushes between colors, so we wound up with an interesting greenish-brownish-dingy-colored birdhouse that no bird in the tri-state region would nest in unless there was a hurricane coming and they had no other option for survival. I’m sure the Martha Stewarts of the bird world would choose death, rather than hunker down in something so ugly. But the kids had fun, and that’s all that matters.

Playing Frisbee on the lawn with all the other kids: Kellen had a great time, but unfortunately never figured out that the probability for actually *catching* the Frisbee would have been much higher had he kept his eyes open. Oh, well, at least (unlike Kendrie) he keeps his tongue in his mouth.

Hanging out with friends: Brayden and our friend Mary Grace spent all weekend in one another’s company. I’m not sure which one of them enjoyed it more …. Mary Grace, for having a “big kid” to carry her around, or Brayden, for having a “little kid” she could be the boss of for two solid days. Unlike Kellen and Kendrie, Mary Grace actually listened to what Brayden had to say. Quite a difference from the treatment Brayden gets at home from her unappreciative siblings.

Ahhhhh, the bloom of eternally happy siblings ………NOT! I think Blaine was standing behind me with ice cream bars and we told them they couldn’t have any unless they posed for a photo together …. Smiling ….. arms around one another. I am SO not above bribery.

Kendrie and her “new best friend” Keegan. They were inseparable this weekend, with both of them pushing hard for a “sleepover” at the other one’s cabin. Keegan, as many of you know from following his CB site, is currently undergoing some pretty harsh relapse chemo, and I was impressed with what a good job he did keeping up with the other kids this weekend. I don’t know if it was because of Kendrie, or in spite of her, but they both ran pretty hard the entire time. Which, or course, is better for us parents come bedtime, when they’re exhausted and fall immediately off to sleep, which is all that really matters in life.

This was one of the kids’ favorite activities this weekend: paddleboating. One which, by all rights, should have brought me a great deal of shame, since I refused to go in one (after Blaine’s rude weight comment the last time I went in HIS boat, I wasn’t about to risk having a camp lifeguard tell me I’m too fat! Plus, have you ever tried working those pedals? It's hard!!) and so my kids blatantly begged other adults, some who were total strangers, to take them. And people did. Wondering all the while, I’m sure, why my fat-ass was on the dock taking photos as they huffed and puffed by.

Another perennial favorite; gold panning. I keep hoping each time that the kids will find a nice diamond ring, or perhaps an emerald pendant or a pair of sapphire cufflinks, but no such luck yet. In the meantime, we’ve got a nice collection of shiny pieces of glass, plastic, and ornamental rocks, which they guard with their lives and think is truly valuable.

Not to leave all the fun up to Brayden and Kendrie, Kellen snagged another member of Mary Grace’s family for the weekend: Grant. The two boys had a great time playing sports together, and were surprisingly well behaved, considering the mischief they *could* have gotten into, if they had been so inclined. Luckily for us, they weren’t.

A new adventure for our family this weekend: tennis. Well, "adventure" in the sense that Blaine did nothing but throw thousands of balls for the kids to hit, and I sat on a bench and took photos. Considering none of them had ever so much as picked up a racket before, they enjoyed the quick bit of playing we did.

Kellen enjoyed it especially, once he figured out that a tennis racket is NOT the same thing as a baseball bat.

Kendrie never really got the hang of it, and decided pouting on her side of the court was a better outlay of energy than actually chasing the balls around.

Judging by the cheerfulness, cooperation, and gratitude our children showed us for taking them to Family Camp this weekend (I guess they think those suitcases just pack themselves? And unpack themselves at the cabin? And the van loads itself? And all the luggage and bags of crap schlep themselves to and from the cabin? And the dog walks himself to the kennel before hand? And the snacks and drinks just magically appear? You get the picture…….) Blaine and I have decided that our next few vacations will take place at Couples, or Sandals, or some other type of resort that doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 25 to step foot on the property. Not that we don’t love our kids, we do. We just have no desire to travel with them again until they are old enough to vote, pay their own way, sleep in their OWN hotel rooms, and NOT argue with us 24/7/365.

A few of the photos from this weekend that I didn’t take, but that would back up my version of the events:

1. The photo of our kids fighting over whose turn it was to select the movie for the DVD. For Pete's sake, it's not like they haven't seen ALL those movies a dozen time apiece!!!

2. The photo of our kids arguing vehemently with their father and me that Fruit Gushers and Gatorade are a HEALTHY and perfectly rational breakfast choice.

3. A photo of our kids fighting over who got which bed in the cabin (never mind that there are TEN beds to choose from!)

4. A photo of our kids protesting that to walk eight feet to the suitcase to get their own pajamas was simply too exhausting.

5. A photo of the kids fighting over whose turn it was to ride in the wagon, and whose turn it was to pull.

6. A photo of the kids repeatedly, REPEATEDLY, smacking their gum in the van, despite my frequent requests for them to chew with their mouths closed.

6 1/2. A photo of my face turning red as I scream at them politely and lovingly ask them one last time to quit smacking their gum!!!!

7. A photo of me (I am so not making this up) throwing a cup at my children and yelling at them to spit the damn gum out. In my defense, it was a plastic cup so there was no real chance of bodily harm. And I didn’t technically throw it AT the children, I just threw it over my shoulder in the van, towards the general direction of the smacking children. The fact that it hit Kellen in the arm was really more bad luck and unfortunate aim than harmful intent on my part.

8. A photo of Blaine rolling his eyes at the entire lot of us.

Thank goodness the weekend ended on a high note, as finally, in a scene eerily similar to last weekend, we stalked another Canadian family who were visiting the United States on vacation, and showed up on their holiday doorstep. This time, it was Katie and her family, staying with relatives in Atlanta.

Also an ALL patient, Katie was diagnosed a few months before Kendrie and went off-treatment a few months after. Her protocol was slightly longer than ours, but now Katie is reveling in her life post-chemo, and we were so happy, after “meeting” online over two and a half years ago, to get a chance to meet their family in person.

The kids had a great time playing together for the afternoon (or at least *my* kids did … perhaps I shouldn’t speak for Katie and her brother Alex!) Just like right after we met Finn’s family, and Julianna’s family, my kids want to know how much longer until they can get together and play again with their new friends. Obviously, they haven’t quite yet grasped the concept of borders, passports, and ve-e-e-e-e-e-e-errrrry long car rides. And after this past weekend, we’re taking no car ride farther than their elementary school or the local grocery store. But maybe after we win the lottery, we’ll buy ourselves an RV (with a soundproof cabin for Blaine and me) and tour North America, re-visiting these great families, and so many others. We can be the dysfunctional cancer family version of MTV’s Road Rules.

Until then, Blaine and I figure at the rate of one family a weekend, we will be able to party-crash all the families on our All-Kids list in a short five years or so.

So, who’s next??? Any volunteers??? :)

PS. All kidding aside, I am looking for a little bit of help here. Blaine starts his radiation tomorrow, and as WONDERFUL as the support and information I found online for pediatric leukemia has been, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction for head and neck cancers. I’m not sure if it’s because people are more inclined to step up when their children are involved, or perhaps adults are more private ….. I just don’t know why there isn’t a support network to be found (and believe me, we have looked!)

Specifically, we would love to talk to someone who has undergone radiation for salivary gland/sinus cancer …. Even more specifically, neutron beam radiation. But we’re not choosy, we’ll take anything in the ballpark. We would just like to hear from someone who has “been there, done that” and would be willing to give us their know-how with regard to treatment difficulties, severity and length of potential side effects, long-term experience, etc.

It’s too bad there’s no way to “search” these Caringbridge sites by diagnosis. Privacy issues aside, it sure would be helpful! So if you know of anyone, or know of anyone who knows of anyone … etc …. And wouldn’t mind passing our names along, we would certainly appreciate it. Thanks!

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