Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Look of Sheer Terror

Sorry it’s taken me a few days to update …. Not really sure what I’ve been doing. I haven’t been busy baking, as evidenced by the Kroger cake I bought for Blaine’s birthday this weekend. I haven’t been busy shopping, as evidenced by the lack of a birthday present and the Fathers Day card I gave him, with the Fathers Day message scribbled out and a Happy Birthday message written in. I certainly haven’t been busy exercising, as evidenced by the eight-pound weight gain I discovered when I got on the scale this morning. That’s always nice.

Oh well, six loads of laundry later, at least my family is Downey Fresh.

And I *am* doing the single parenting thing, while Blaine is in Augusta this week having his latest surgery.

So there you go. My short, and highly pathetic, list of excuses.

Just to recap our adventure from last Friday and my foray into public speaking, things went great. Well, maybe not great, but ok. If not OK, at least I didn’t throw up or trip going up the stage … thanks, *that* humiliating possibility hadn’t even occurred to me until someone suggested it in the comments section.

The morning started early with the alarm set for 4am. Of course, I was so paranoid I would oversleep that I woke up every five minutes starting at 3am. Kendrie and I drove to the Atlanta airport (almost two hours away) and met the Aflac Cancer Center representative who would be going to Kentucky with us.

We had a quick breakfast, flew to Kentucky, had a quick lunch (thereby incurring the nacho chili sauce on the boob incident) then went right into the Kentucky-West Aflac Quarterly Sales Meeting and Extravaganza, complete with loud music, noisemakers, disco-smoke, and strobe lights. Let’s just say, Aflac is SERIOUS about pumping up their employees!

We were slated to talk after the first intermission. During that break, I had Kelly, our travel companion, take a photo of Kendrie and me together:



Have you ever seen a better example of “deer in the headlights”? Not since Janet Leigh saw that curtain ripped open in the shower scene of Psycho has a face revealed more stress and anxiety …. Check out my raised eyebrows and strained smile. Definitely a case of pre-speech butterflies at this point. That is, butterflies that are shaped like demented rats, carrying e-coli and little spears and fire-swords and running rampant through my intestines. You know, butterflies like that.

So, Kelly got up, spoke to the crowd about the Aflac Cancer Center and the goals they have … the need for funding …. And showed a film about the center and the research they are doing, and the strides they are making in searching for a cure.

Then, because the Kentucky-West region of Aflac had the largest fundraising increase for the year 2006, their “REWARD” was having an Aflac family come and speak to them.

Yes. That would be me.

Suddenly, the word “reward” takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

So, here is my speech, or what I *think* was my speech. Since my mind was racing at 32 billion miles an hour, and my mouth, a sluggish 3 mph, I can’t be sure of what I exactly, exactly said. Plus, I'm pretty sure the pleasant smile I tried to arrange on my face looked much more like a terrified grimace. But here’s the speech I had written down, that I tried very hard to follow.

Regular words are what came out of my mouth. Italicized words in green are what were going through my head:

“Thank you for having me here today. {oh wow, what a let-down this is going to be for all of you!}

“If you had asked me prior to October 13, 2003, what my biggest fear was … I would have told you …. Honestly …. “Public Speaking”. {Thank goodness, they laughed!}

“But on that day, my youngest daughter Kendrie {I wonder if they can see the nacho chili stain on my boob?} was diagnosed with cancer, and I learned what fear really is. We stand before you today, three and a half years older, wiser, WITH hair {good, they laughed again} and thankfully, healthier. But, I can tell you, that public speaking is STILL in my top three. So, although I didn’t do anything to deserve it like you did, I helped myself to one of the glasses of champagne they were passing around a few minutes ago, hoping it would help keep me from shammer …. schtammer …. slammer …. STAMMERING my words … it doesn’t appear to be working, though! {oh my fuck I am too pathetic for words.}

“That fall, 2003, Kendrie was getting ready to turn four years old. She had a brother who was five and a sister who was six, and normally the three of them went 100 miles an hour, all the time. {Dear heavens it’s hot up here ... can they see me sweating?}

“She had just started her second year of pre-school and suddenly, we noticed that she couldn’t keep up. Not with her brother and sister, not with her classmates. She began to complain about her arms and legs hurting and ran fevers. We took her to her pediatrician, who said it was just a virus … push fluids. But it continued for several weeks, the fevers, the fatigue, and the complaining about her arms and legs hurting. I remember her sitting in her car seat, telling me that her legs hurt too much to walk and she wanted me to carry her. I remember, distinctly, telling her, in my kind and compassionate manner … ‘There is nothing wrong with your legs! --- WALK! --- You’re four years old now and you’re too big for me to carry!’ Obviously, no Mother of the Year award for me. {I probably wouldn’t be so hot if I took off this sweater-jacket}

“Then, in early October, on a Thursday night, she started running yet another fever, and nothing we did could break it. She had it all weekend so on Monday I took her back to the doctor. Again, he said virus, but this time he agreed to humor my concern that she might have mono… who knows? Even Lyme disease … so he agreed to run a blood test. {But then they could definitely see the stain on my boob …. What to do, what to do}

“Later that day, the phone rang. The doctor said, and I quote, that the results of her blood test were ‘interesting’”. In fact, he said Kendrie was severely anemic. “Anemic?” I said, “Well, that explains a few things”. But I was very specific, and asked him directly, “But it’s not cancer, right?” And he replied, “No, it’s not cancer.” Hmmph. Famous last words. {If I leave the sweater on, they can most likely see the sweat pouring off my body and I’ll have to start mopping my brow any moment. But if I take the sweater off --- dreaded chili boob. Ugh, the decisions!}

“We made an appointment with a hematologist for the following week, to find out why Kendrie was so anemic, but we never made it. The next day, Kendrie fainted on our front porch. We took her to the ER, and she was admitted, but didn’t respond to several blood transfusions. So, a bone marrow biopsy was performed, and then we got the diagnosis: Leukemia. Our four year old daughter had cancer.

“We live in middle Georgia, about 100 miles south of Atlanta, and we were immediately sent to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (Scottish Rite) for treatment. I remember walking through the doors of 3N, and seeing the sign that read “Aflac Childrens Cancer Center” and well, no offense to any of you, but all I could think was, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to be here!’

“We were inpatient for ten days at the beginning of treatment, and Kendrie had surgery to receive a port in her chest where she would get a large portion of her chemo. Then, her twenty-six months of chemotherapy was begun. The one “good” thing about her treatment protocol, if you want to call it that, is that although it was long, it was all slated to be handled outpatient at the Aflac Cancer Center, barring any complications or problems. {Hey, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this! The champagne must be kicking in!}

A few days after being released from the hospital, we returned for our first day of treatment at the outpatient clinic. At that time, it was still the “old” clinic. The waiting room was about the size of the master bath in my house, and the patients and staff were falling all over each other. There was barely room to turn around in the exam rooms, and all the kids got chemo in one room in the back. And we went two and three times each week --- gratefully. Thus began my long and intimate relationship with Interstate 75. {Look, I made them laugh again -- I so rock!}

“During that time, I could hear hammering and pounding and sawing noises coming from overhead. “That”, said the staff, “is going to be our new clinic, the one Aflac is building us … only six more months …. We can’t wait” Now, to be honest, at that point I was so shell-shocked that I wouldn’t have cared if Kendrie had gotten her chemo in a cardboard box in an alley. The important thing was that she was in remission, and she was staying there. Six months was too far in the future, I just couldn’t think about that. I was struggling to stay focused and simply get through each day.

“Then, I blinked. And six months had gone by.

“By then, the doctors, nurses and staff had become like a second family to us. They invited us to come for the grand opening of the clinic, and we wanted to support them, so we did. My husband, myself, and our three kids drove up for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“That day, we got on the elevator and pushed the button for the 4th floor. Then the doors opened, and we stepped out … and oh my gosh. This facility, this clinic --- that YOU made possible --- was unbelievable.

“We walked into the front waiting room, with its comfy chairs and big screen TV. And we wandered around and saw the video games, and pinball machines, and craft areas and play areas, and places on the floor where the kids could jump and make the pictures on the wall change …. And the kid-sized chairs in the infusion area with their little, personal TVs attached, and the sedation rooms with their twinkling lights on the ceiling, and more big screen TVs. About that time, my older two kids, who were six and seven by now, looked over at Kendrie and said, “WOW! You are SO LUCKY you have cancer and get to come here to play twice a week!” {Ha! Totally laughing again! What’s even funnier is that my kids really said that!}

“Then we saw my favorite part of the clinic, the private chemo rooms in the back. Some chemo appointments only last half an hour, but sometimes, you’re there all day. They pre-medicate your child with anti-nausea drugs, which knocks them out, then they give five or six more hours of chemo, and they just have to sleep it off. Now, we have private rooms where your child can sleep in a real bed, in the quiet … and recliners for the parents to sit and relax next to them. That’s about when my husband turned to me and said, “Wow! You’re SO LUCKY you get to come here and take a nap with her twice a week!”

“I wish you could have seen the faces of the doctors, nurses and staff that day. Proud, pleased, excited … they were so happy, and that made me happy. And I can tell you that now, almost three years later, they are just as proud, and just as pleased with that facility.

“And the kids, they love the clinic as well. Now, you’ll hear that *ding* when the elevator door opens, and you look over, and you often see a kid RUNNING into the clinic. Maybe bald, maybe with an oxygen tube in their nose, maybe wearing leg braces and not moving too quickly; they’re going to be poked and prodded, yet they come running to see if Dora or Spongebob is on the big screen TV. They love this beautiful facility, and they love coming here, because it lets them know just how very special they are.

“Kendrie finished her 26 months of chemotherapy in December of 2005. {Wow, I can’t believe she has stood here so patiently this entire time …. This is going to cost me a lot of candy when all is said and done!}

“She is seven years old, in the first grade, and is perhaps, the biggest tomboy in the history of the world. She prefers skateboards to Barbies, Matchbox cars to tea parties, and laughed IN MY FACE when I suggested she wear a dress today {Wow, that got the biggest laugh of all! Did that lady just shout “You go, girl!” ??}

“She continues to be cancer-free and to date shows no late-term effects from the chemo. Most of all, she is my hero.

“I am grateful to many people for the success story that is my daughter. The researchers, who you fund, who work so tirelessly to find treatments and a cure for all forms of pediatric cancer. The doctors and nurses and staff who kindly and competently administer those treatments to these kids. And to all of you, for giving, for helping, and for allowing them to do this incredible work in a place that is cheerful, and spacious, and wonderful. No family *wants* to be there ….. but if a journey through the world of pediatric cancer is something you have no choice but to do, how marvelous to get to do it with such style.

“Thank YOU, for giving us that style. Thank you for me, from Kendrie, and from all the families you have helped so much” {THANK THE STARS ABOVE ITS OVER AND I DIDN’T VOMIT OR HYPERVENTILATE OR FORGET THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, ALL THREE THINGS I WAS WORRIED ABOUT!}

“Now, Kendrie has something she would like to say.”

And thus began the Dance of the Goobers, as I tried to pick her up and put her on my hip so I could hold her up to speak into the microphone, only I was trying to put her on my left hip and she swiveled to sit on my right hip, then kicked me as I swung her around, then leaned so far forward to talk into the microphone that I lost my balance and practically dropped her on the podium and I’m pretty sure threw my back out a little.

“She wrote this herself on the airplane this morning” {totally true, although I did correct some spelling because I’m not sure everyone would know what the words “cansur” and “osome” meant.}

“Hi. My name is Kendrie. I got cancer when I was three years old. I had it until I was seven. Which is how old I am now. Thank you for the clinic. My favorite part is the big screen TV in the waiting room. I didn’t like having cancer. But the clinic was awesome. Thank you for giving money to help kids like me.”

And really, that pretty much says it all, don’t you think?

43 comments:

Nic said...

Well done to both of you! Kristie - it sounds like you entertained them just as much as you keep us entertained every day. And Kendrie - way to go! I don't think I could have made a speech like that when I was 7 years old. You should both be really proud of yourselves!! xx

scanmom said...

I have one word to say "osome".

kim said...

IOh my gosh, Kristie, that is SO osome! YOU DID IT, YOU DID IT!!! Aren't you just so proud of yourself? And Kendrie...WOW! You used that winning "humor and heart" combination--plus a cute kid--and you had them right away because I bet 99% of them could relate to you, even about the fear of public speaking. And making people feel really good about themselves is always a winner, too!

I'm just so happy for you that you were able to get beyond your fear to do something so important. You and Kendrie DID so rock!

But I'm still wondering about the ending up in Ohio thing?

cakeburnette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cate said...

You go girl!

cakeburnette said...

Kristie,

Glad your speech went so well! I knew you would be spectacular and it sounds like you were all of that and more! Just wanted you to know that we are praying for Blaine as he has his surgery and for you and the kids as you have to be apart again. Take care and give us a call if you need anything.

cakeburnette said...

okay, so I started a post that somehow got posted before I could finish it, so I tried to delete it because it looked stupid, but now it says POST DELETED BY CAKEBURNETTE, so it STILL looks stupid. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Oh... here I go again, crying. That speech was oesome.. and you should be so proud! We, who feel like we know you even tho we've never met you, are so proud.

I'm sure that the AFLAC employees feel pretty good about all their hard work now..

Good luck to Blaine this week.. keep us posted. (oh, and Happy Birthday Blaine -- meant to put it in the other post, but never got there)...

Rosemary in Albany NY

JoAnn said...

I felt like *I* was in the audience actually hearing your speech after reading your recount. It sounds like it went without a hitch ( even in spite of the chili boob, and the sweating). And kudos to Kendrie for having the courage to speak as well. I am glad it went so well and the speech with the actual words and the words that were going through your head- Priceless!!! Way to go!

Renee' said...

Kristie, An amazing speech! Made me laugh and cry. They must have felt wonderful. You rock and so does Kendrie.

Keeping your sweater on was wise.

WE MISS YOU!

Sharon said...

..."but if a journey through the world of pediatric cancer is something you have no choice but to do, how marvelous to get to do it with such style..."

just like you Kristie...with STYLE. Wonderful, wonderful speech. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Great job Kendrie! I'm sure your audience loved seeing a happy, healthy 7-year old who's KICKED cANCER'S BUTT!!!

Sharon

Sherri in NC said...

Kristie,

What an oesome speech! Cansur sucks but you and Kendrie rock. I'm thrilled it all went so well for you both, despite the chili boob. You didn't throw up! Give yourself a pat on the back, girl.

Sherri in NC

P.S. I DID trip going onstage one time, exposing my 9th grade panties to the world, and let me tell ya, after that happened not one word could have come out of my mouth if my life had depended upon it. Luckily, that didn't matter as it was a chorus concert in front of probably a thousand people and I just moved my mouth the whole time, appearing to sing while actually mouthing a silent prayer that a giant hole would open in the stage and I would fall through, never to be seen again.

Marcia said...

What an excellent speech!! I'm sure that tears were shed along with the laughter. I know they were at my
end.
Keeping Blaine in my prayers.

Kristina said...

Absolutely wonderful! By the time I got to the end I must admit I had tears in my eyes!


Kristina, Brookville OHIO

briana said...

Sounds like you did an awesome job up there on stage. And go, Kendrie, for getting up there and saying something, too.

Anonymous said...

You made me cry and smile and moved me all at the same time!

Lisa said...

Oh well done Kristie, and Kendrie. Love to you all.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I aspire to be you as a speaker! I'm actually taking a required speech class in school right now, and ironically, I had to work with E. coli this morning in Microbiology! (I'm taking my pre-requisites for the nursing program). It sounds like you were a big hit with the Aflac people...just watch, they'll recommend you to others and before you know it, you'll be making the rounds as a motivational speaker, lol. You are totally "osome" Kristie!
Kelli
Knoxville TN

Jeri from Hawaii said...

Kristie,
I've just been lurking on the site ever since the computer ate my comment to your spelling bee entry. Every day when I read your comments I'd think of something I wanted to say to you (supportive comments about public speaking, wishing Blaine a happy birthday, etc) but somehow it just never happened...but when I read your wonderful speech I HAD to tell you how wonderful it was.

Kristie, you are amazing...if you talk from your heart about something you know, you will always own the crowd - and you did! I am so very proud of both you and Kendrie. Oh, the chili boob, well that's just life - God's way of keeping us humble.

Amy and Jason said...

OK...balling my eyes out at work! You know they already think I'm crazy here. This will really do it.

Kristy - Great job. Kendrie - Your words "take the cake"! You do rock girl!!!

Much Love,

Amy

LIBSMOM said...

Kristie,
Posts like that are why I bought waterproof mascara! Very well done. I never doubted for a moment that you would, at the very least, make them laugh! Bravo for Kendrie's public speaking too!
Thanks for sharing the speech.

Jen from WI said...

I love it. I'm smiling with tears in my eyes. "OSOME"! Great job!

Stephanie said...

As always, Kristie, you make me laugh and also move me to tears. I wish I had been there to cheer for you during and after your speech. You rock!!!

Sandy Goldberg said...

Great speeches, Kristie and Kendrie and what a wonderful, well-deserved honor. We're very proud and happy for you.

Liz from Maryland said...

What a great speech! I was reading it to my husband and he said it was one of the most inspiration speeches he had ever heard. For me your speech was a combination of my laughing and than crying. You should be so proud of yourself and Kendrie!

erunginung said...

OSOME speech, Kristie! Despite having public speaking phobias, you do it SO well. Better than I could have done, that's for sure!
Serious kudos to Kendrie for getting up there too!

I hope everything goes well with Blaine's surgery.

Kristi said...

Well done Kristie and Kendrie.
You two totally ROCK!!!!!

Jessica said...

Laughing through tears in Texas!! I have to say, if you delivered that speech even half as well as you wrote it, those AFLAC folks should hire you on to replace the Duck. :)

Lisa L. said...

I am laughing and crying at the same time. Kristie, you have a gift with words and I know that God will honor your faithfulness in using your gift in such a powerful way. I am sure the people of AFLAC were so glad that they spent the money. People like you; down-to-earth, sincere, and funny help other to know that we can make through a cancer journey even if we are at the beginning. It does not seem so scary now. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

That is the most amazing speech - I have chills. Way to go Kristie and Kendrie!!!!

Cindy

Elle said...

You do rock, Kristie. What a wonderful speech. Dittos definitely to the "osome"!

Lisa said...

I wish I could have been there....

I'm thinking of officially starting the "Kristie for President" campaign. Any joiners??

Pam Doughty said...

Oh my.. that went really well! If I'd been one of the folks sitting in the audience, my heart would've been bursting with pride. You did a perfect job of helping them to know just how much their contribution is needed and appreciated. High fives, Kristie and Kendrie... way to go!

Shannon said...

Kristie (and Kendrie)

I read your speech and I can't believe that there was a dry eye in the room. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes...Although our road hasn't been the cancer road, I soooo know what it means to have the hospital be comfy and welcoming!

good job to you both!

Lisa from Texas said...

How is Blaine?

KathyA said...

Kristie, I first learned about the AFLAC center from listening to the radiothon that is sponsored by WSB radio. I listened for several years and thought *awwww that's nice*. Then I met Kendrie, John Michael, Catie and others on CB. When John Michael wanted to be at the radiothon, I helped him get there and that was the first year I gave to the Center.
I continue giving in honor of Kendrie, JM, Catie and all the children whose parents have shared their stories on CB. Of all the parents who journal their children's stories, your writing and Kendrie's story have made me most acutely aware of the good that AFLAC does and how important it is for us, out here in reader-land, to go past the reading and commenting and praying to actively do what we can to help erase childhood cancer.
I've chosen the AFLAC Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to be the entities that I donate to. I hope and believe that the awareness of others has been awakened and that they do likewise.
Thanks for your sage, funny, revealing stories and for waking me up to the terrible truths and the triumphant victories in childhood cancer. You've made the world better by what you do.

Jeri from Hawaii said...

I'm with Lisa...I'd vote for Kristie for President!

Hannah said...

OK, so I don't normally leave messages, but I found your page through a caringbridge link and have become a loyal reader! I was wondering who the artist is and the name of the song thats been playing the last coule of days!! I love it! Thanks!

Kristie said...

Hannah, it's All About Me, by Tokyo Joe. You can browse for it at iTunes (pretty much how I find all my obscure music) :)

Lisa and Jeri, I have to laugh at your comments about "Kristie for President" ... I am the most ambivilent political person on the planet, and I'm sure would be a walking time bomb for either party. I'm this Duke's mixture of part Republican ideals and part Democratic ideals and really, don't fit in anywhere.

First of all, I would pass a new law making me The Boss of Everything so that Anything I Say Goes.

I'm pro-choice AND pro-death-penalty ... I would triple the military budget AND the health care budget AND the under-18 education budget, find a way to deport all illegal immigrants, make it a crime to cross the border just to have a baby in this country, and kick people off welfare after a certain period of time In fact, I have an entire system in mind for anyone receiving Medicaid or public support that would require they work in a public day-care facility, taking care of the children of other working single mothers, before they could receive any benefits. Then, I would double the salaries of the firefighters, police officers, teachers, and social workers. And put a cap on pain and suffering lawsuit liability amounts and throw people in jail for filing frivilous lawsuits. Then I would require all celebrities, actors, singers, professional atheletes and professional politicians making over "XX" dollars a year donate half of their earnings to charity.

These things are just for starters, and I reserve the right to change my mind at anytime.

Seriously. Wouldn't either party run screaming in the other direction if I showed up with this mixed bag of opinions?!?! :)

jadine said...

Totally blubbering here.

What great speeches, and you're amazing for doing such a thing. Public-speaking is my biggest fear, and you rocked the place!

Please, though, check with me before ordering chili prior to a speaking engagement. My brain can't even get to the part of it being on your boob. I'm still fixated on you not worrying about getting (read in exaggerated-yet discrete-stage whisper) diarrhea! Were you not worried about getting chili diarrhea?!? Amazing, 'cause I'd have totally be worried about that.

Patty House said...

And you went through that whole speech without crying? You go girl! =)

Jill said...

I am telling you, I am a blubbering mess now. I hope you don't mind, but I posted about you on my blog.

Carrie! :o) said...

I'm in tears! What a touching/moving speech! My heart goes out to y'all! You did a wonderful job on your speech!!