Life, Lately.

Well, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now…I’m home! And all is right in the world. Well, a few things are¬†right. This world is a crazy place, so we’ve still got some work to do.

Regardless, I am home with my babies! I got out last Tuesday, early afternoon, and boy, what a glorious day it was! I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to be coming home then, it really just depended on how my counts were that morning, how I was feeling, etc. So when Dr. Mathews came in that morning and asked if I was ready to go home, he noticed all of my stuff was already packed and just started laughing. Am I ready go home?! I was ready three weeks ago when I checked in!

Now that it’s all said and done, the three weeks I was in the hospital was really pretty good. And it went by relatively quickly…at least for how I was expecting it to go. Apparently they set you up by telling you the worst of the worst that could happen…and I’m thankful for that.

Once again, my nurses were amazing. Truly amazing. I know there’s gotta be a bad one or two out there, but I have yet to find them. I had many nurses multiple times throughout my stay. It was nice to have familiar faces toward the end of my stay. Some I clicked with more than others, but every one of them blessed me and took care of me…and I am so thankful for that.

I did end up spending Mother’s Day in the hospital. I knew I would…but a tiny piece of me kept hoping I would get released in time for Mother’s Day. Alas, we celebrated at the hospital, minus the little bambinos. My mom, Mimi, Lexi, Chris, and Danny came up for a while and then my neighbor Michelle came to spend the night. Thanks for spending Mother’s Day with me, Michelle. ūüôā

The Friday before Mother’s Day, the kiddos had a Mother’s Day Tea at their school…and they sent me some precious pictures. Oh I wanted to squeeze them so badly! Their school has been absolutely amazing. It makes my heart so happy that they take the time throughout the week to send pictures to me since they know I can’t be there.

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Things I learned this Mother’s Day…I only weigh 60 pounds, I can cook the heck outta some dinosaur chicken nuggets, and I know she hears me when I tell her to listen. ūüôā Now does she listen? No. But she hears me.

Harper has been begging for her daddy to take her on a play date…when you ask her what that means, she says it’s where she doesn’t go to school and you go and do something fun together. Two weeks ago, Harper had her kindergarten screening on Monday morning, so Daddy took the day off and they had a play date. They went to the pool (it was freezing), played in the back yard, and then went and played at a place called CooCoos (ball pit pictures) and wandered around downtown Frisco. Hud didn’t get to go on the play date, but he definitely hasn’t been missing out on any lovin’…that boy gets SO much love.

A few Saturday’s ago, Hudson and Danny got to go celebrate Emmy’s first birthday. It broke my heart not being able to go, but I’m so glad Hud and Danny made it. In case you’re forgetting, Hudson and Emmy are getting married a few years down the road. We love Hud’s future¬†in laws (they are some of our best friends), and Emmy’s grandparents are a-ma-zing!¬†Not to mention, Hud and Emmy will give us some GORGEOUS grandkids…so that’s a plus. Happy Birthday, sweet Emmy! We love you, precious girl!

So, apparently we live in a small world. Sara was one of my dear friends growing up. We went to elementary, middle school, and high school together. We haven’t talked much since we graduated, but have kept up with each other through Facebook. Well, while I was in the hospital, I get a message from her saying, “Hey girl, I just ran into your dad…in Maui.” What?! How is that even possible? My dad was in Maui for a work trip. What are the chances that they are at the same resort? And then, how did they end up meeting each other? It just so happens that Sara’s husband, Ryan, works for the same company and they were¬†on the same trip. Crazy, huh? My dad and his friend were walking around the resort and Sara saw that my dad was wearing a Team Ashley shirt. She walked up to him and asked how he knew me. Then she asked if she could give him a hug…in Hawaii. Such a small world.

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And now…for my favorite day ever [so far]. In a post or two ago, I talked about how Amy made Harper a calendar for her to cross of the days until I came home. Like I said then, we over shot in hopes that it would end up being sooner and she would be surprised. So when it actually came time for me to come home, we still had like 8 more days to go, according to her calendar.

That morning, she was getting ready for school and decided to count how many days were left…she counted 8 and then got sad and said that was a really big number. So needless to say, she had no idea it was happening that day…and she needed her mama.

Getting discharged from the hospital normally takes a good amount of time…no one seems to be in a hurry to get you out. But apparently, we must have looked eager. Once Dr. Mathew’s came in, things started rolling. The nurse kept coming in and giving an update. Then, she unhooked me and took my poll away! Whoooo! I will not miss that darn poll. Not ever. Not one bit. I was so tired of dragging that darn poll behind me, I couldn’t stand it! No more pole!

Danny got the car packed while I got all cleaned up and bandaged. Then we went through the discharge papers and, man! They sure know how to scare you. They go through “these are all of the symptoms you could experience”, “these things could possibly happen”, and “if _____ happens, come to the emergency room immediately”. Maybe I wasn’t ready to go home…

JUST KIDDING! Yes I was! Once I was released, I said goodbye to my nurses (without any tears) and then I got to go outside for the first time in three weeks. The fresh air was amazing! And the best part, I got to walk out…I didn’t have to be taken in a wheel chair. Fantastic.

Unlike during all the rounds of chemo, I didn’t get pictures with all of my nurses. One, I looked like I crawled out of the sewer most days, and two, I felt like I had been run over by a truck…so I ended up with very few pictures. The few that I got, I love.

I will forever be grateful for Dr. Stone, Dr. Mathews, and for all of the incredible nurses I’ve had throughout this entire process. Each and every one of them made it so much easier for me to get through this whole thing. Without them, I wouldn’t have smiled as much. I wouldn’t have fought as hard. And I wouldn’t have made some very good friends.

Fortunately we were able to get home before Harper and Hud got home from school. I had butterflies. No, something bigger. I had like monkeys or something. My stomach was going nuts. I couldn’t wait to hold them. And I couldn’t wait to see Harper’s face. Unfortunately, since I don’t pay monthly for this blog, I can’t upload any videos…only pictures. The videos from the “surprise” are on my Facebook. But here are the pictures we were able to get. Sadly enough, I wasn’t able to see all of our neighbors right then. I had BIG plans of us all hanging out late into the night, taking fun pictures, etc…but by the time it was like 5:30, I was absolutely exhausted. My body was SO tired. It took everything I had to keep my eyes open until 6.

I’m not sure if you can tell or not…but in the picture on the bottom right…there is so.much.joy.and.love. I was about to explode! I will never forget what I felt at that moment.

I was hiding in the room right at the front of the house. Amy brought the kiddos in, and then once they were inside, I slowly walked out of the room. Harper turned around and then immediately ran to me, jumped in my arms, and started telling me about her day. It was like we hadn’t missed a beat. Kids are so darn resilient–and I’m so thankful for that. Hud looked at me and quickly ran the other way…I knew I should have been holding some type of snack…he would have been all mine.

We, of course, let both kids sleep in our bed because I just couldn’t handle it. I just wanted to be close to them. Did I sleep well? No, not really. But it didn’t matter…I was next to my babies.


Since I’ve been home, it’s been a little up and down. Overall, things have been going well. Everything I’ve experienced has been “normal”, considering the circumstances. I’ve been experiencing some serious fatigue. Man. I get up and walk to the kitchen and I feel like I’ve just climbed Mount Everest, except I’m not cold.

My stomach has been bothering me off and on, but nothing like it was in the hospital. More than anything, I’m just ex-haus-ted. I’ve got to remember to take it slow…and to do whatever I can to avoid getting sick. To get sick right now would be really bad for business. So, I wear masks when I’m around a bunch of people, especially kids. At first I was totally against wearing a mask out in public because I look like a doofus and it calls attention to me…but you know what? It’s not worth getting sick. A mask it is.

I’ve been back to the doctor three times since I’ve been released. I get blood work each time and meet with Dr. Mathews just about every other time. Oh! And when I went to see him last Thursday, I asked when I could have my friend¬†enemy (trifusion) removed…and I was expecting him to say a month or so, because that’s what we had talked about in the past. His response…”You want it out tomorrow?” I almost fell over. Since I still have my port, he’s okay with the trifusion coming out. If I need fluids, a transfusion or anything, they can access my port. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the trifusion because it saved me getting stuck with needles¬†hundreds of times. However, that darn thing was so uncomfortable. And since I got home from the hospital, it’s really been bothering me. Hud’s head bonked it a couple times and that just made it worse. I couldn’t wait to get it taken out. So, Dr. Mathews worked some magic, and I got to have it taken out the next day.

I will say, the process of having it taken out was¬†much more painful than having it put in. I’m not sure why, because they numbed it just the same…but ouch! I was very curious to see it once they were done taking it out. I got very excited and the doctor asked if I wanted to take it home…Um, of course! I mean, I know that’s probably weird…which is probably why he looked a little confused when I said yes…but I thought it was interesting. That darn tube went up in my neck and then way down inside my chest. So crazy. Here’s a picture. Don’t mind the little piece of skin on the right side…my skin had grown around it and they had to cut it out. (If you’ve got a weak stomach, sorry. I should have warned you.)

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So now that that’s taken out, I was all excited assuming I’d be able to swim once the wound healed. Nope. Three months. Bummer. They said there are just too many risks being in a¬†pool and not knowing what is in there. Try explaining that to Hud. Uh oh.

Moving on…Yesterday morning was Harper’s pre-school graduation. Surprisingly enough, I had not thought about her graduating in months. It had been so far out of my mind, that when Amy mentioned it, it really caught me off guard. Graduation? Huh? It hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a chance I would miss it. So once I knew it was Thursday the 25th, I¬†knew I had to be out by then. There was no way I was going to miss that, God-willing.

And you know what?

I got to be there. It may not seem like a huge deal, but it meant the world to me to be there. Where was Danny, you ask? Well, he had jury duty on Monday…and of course, was selected as one of the 12 jurors on a murder trial. Fabulous. I’m assuming the defense liked his smile and assumed he was nice and would let the guy off easy. Sucker. Fortunately, after what seemed like a long week in the court room, it ended up as a mistrial, so he was free as of yesterday. And by “free”, I mean, he gets to go back to work after almost missing an entire week. That should be fun.

After graduation, I headed to Dr. Mathew’s office for blood work and an appointment. I ended up having to wait a little over 2 hours, whoo hoo! But as always, I enjoyed my appointment with him. We laughed, I cried…you know, the normal.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety. Or I guess I should say, a lot more than usual. It’s like all of the emotions that I haven’t been expressing throughout this whole “journey” were forcing themselves¬†out now. I tried putting what I was feeling into words, and I just couldn’t. The other night, I was trying to put Harper’s carseat in the car so we could head to a graduation party. I struggled. And continued struggling. And I felt like at any second, I was going to lose my ever lovin’ mind…for no good reason. I just wanted to cry. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, nothing.

Over the last few days I’ve been telling Danny when¬†I’m feeling anxious…and he always asks what I’m anxious about. I can never answer him. It’s the strangest thing. I feel like there are a million different things swirling around in my head, but I can’t ever put it into words and get them out.

Because of this, I asked Dr. Mathews if I could up my anxiety medication for the time being. (I’ve been on Xanax since I was diagnosed. A very low dose…but on it consistently, none the less.) I don’t want to be on a higher dose forever, but for now, I feel like I need something to help calm myself down.

Several months ago, I was reading a blog of a lady who had been through a similar process, but hers was much more severe. It started out as breast cancer, came back in her brain, etc. It was a¬†much harder journey than mine has been. She wrote about how once she was finally in remission and things were good, she sank into a deep depression and her anxiety went up. That just didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t make sense of it in my head. You’re done with treatment…you’re now in remission…and now you’re depressed? And anxious? Now is the time you should be happy, grateful, thrilled…anything but depressed and anxious. You’re healthy! You’ve made it through the hard part.

I just didn’t get it. Until now.

Exactly what she described…is exactly what I’m feeling. And I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it. I feel like I’m on pins and needles almost constantly.

When I was trying to describe it to Dr. Mathews, he started asking me different questions about why I could be feeling that way. Do you feel bad for taking time away from your family? No. Do you feel sad for missing time with your kids? No. (I mean, I do, but that’s not why I was feeling this way.)

And then, he asked, “Do you feel guilty?” Ding ding ding. That’s the million dollar question. I don’t think¬†that’s all of why I’m feeling this way, but that definitely is part of it. Why guilty? Well. Just as of this past week, there’s a list of people I know, either directly, or through other people, who are currently battling cancer. They’re battling cancer, and they haven’t responded the way that I have. They are struggling. One of them is two years old. Another is 11. Another is just over 30, like me. Another, mid-40s. All with families, the adults with several kids. Why is it that my body responded perfectly [essentially], and they aren’t having that same success? They’re all such incredible people. Two of them are children. It’s just not fair. And it makes me mad/angry/furious.

As I explained myself through tears, Dr. Mathews said this…”You can’t question God. I’m telling you this because I know you’re a christian. You can’t question Him. He put you in this place for a reason. He made this outcome specifically for you. There’s a reason…and you have to believe that.” He’s a smart man, I tell you. I appreciate him taking the time to figure out what the heck was wrong with me…and reminding me who’s in control.

I still don’t understand…and I’m still angry. But as for myself…I was reminded that¬†He did this for a reason. He is using me to tell a story. I’m not sure where my story will go from here…but I’ve been able to tell one heck of a story so far. I hope someone is blessed by my story. As for the other people I’ve referenced that are currently battling…I will continue to pray for them and for their stories. Their stories aren’t over yet. Hang on tight…it’s a wild ride, and you’re not done yet. Keep fighting.

Thank you for the continued prayers. We feel them.

 

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8 Days Old

Well, it’s almost 3 am and here I am, wide awake. I can’t sleep. I’ve been wanting to get a post written but I’ve just been so busy too lazy. When I write, I have to really focus and think about everything…and right now, my thinker isn’t working too well. It’s tired.

So, I figure if I can’t sleep, let’s try to write. My friend Lindsey asked me today if I had been watching a Big Little Lies–I had mentioned to her that I couldn’t wait to start it…like a week and a half ago. And there couldn’t be a more perfect time for me to binge watch a show…so why haven’t I started? I can’t answer that. When I told her I hadn’t watched any shows since I’ve been in the hospital, she seemed really surprised and asked what I had been doing. Y’all, it’s the weirdest thing. I don’t even know. But somehow, the days are passing…and they are passing pretty quickly. I’m starting day 17 and I can’t quite believe it. It has flown by (praise the Lord). I’ve been reading. I just finished¬†The Woman in Cabin 10. I was not impressed at the beginning…but it was SO good, I’m glad I followed through and finished it. I can assure you I haven’t been reading 24 hours a day for 17 days, so I’m not sure what I’ve been doing. I haven’t really been napping, shockingly. I’ve colored a little. Walked laps in the hall with my pole in tow. But seriously, that’s it. It sounds like I should be bored out of my mind. But I’m not. I don’t understand…but I’ll take it.

Now I feel like I need to be more purposeful with my time. Which means I need to start binge watching Big Little Lies. Yep, that’s purposeful. Next week I’m starting a data entry job that I’m able to do from the hospital and from home. It seems pretty mindless…looking at stat¬†reports and then entering particular information into a spreadsheet. Sounds rather boring, but hey…it’s decent money and I can do it on my own time…so sign me up. I’ll take what I can get at this point. It will be something to keep my mind busy but will also bring in boo coos a teeny¬†bit of money. (Keep in mind I haven’t been paid since I went out in November. Awesome.)


Things have been going well here. Well, I suppose that could be subjective. It depends on your perspective. I have felt like crud since Saturday morning…but nothing compared to what I could¬†be feeling. Throughout all 6 rounds of chemo, nausea has never been one of the side effects that I’ve had to deal with…and for that, I’ve been SO thankful. Being nauseous just blows. I’d rather just throw up and move on. It’s like a tease.

Well this round, there was a whole bunch of teasing. I have been so incredibly nauseous and have had awful stomach discomfort. They’ve continuously given me medicine for it and nothing really seemed to help. Eventually the nausea wore off and my stomach just felt awful. It was so dang distended. I look like I’m pregnant…and feel like I just delivered a baby…I call it my Chemo baby. My stomach was SO full and so hard. But the thing is, I have felt so sick, I hadn’t eaten anything. I ate breakfast Saturday morning and didn’t really eat anything again until Wednesday morning. Don’t worry…”it’s normal”, they said. I hadn’t eaten, but I look like I had eaten a small animal. It was the strangest thing. And I had gained 5 pounds in 3 days…riddle me that, Batman. I mean if I’m going to gain weight, at least let it be because I’m eating junk I like…

I’m a snacker. I love me some snacks. I had all of my favorite things up here, right at my fingertips. I had Cookies ‘N Cream ice cream, Strawberry frozen yogurt with sprinkles, a Drumstick*, a Schlotzskys sandwhich and chips, Cinnamon Chip cookies, Raisinets, Starburst, Hot Tamales, Skittles, Oreos, Chips Ahoy. Y’all, it was like heaven. Normally, my inner fat kid would have been goin’ to town eating crap all day long. I.ate.nothing.¬†Nothing sounded good and I just wasn’t hungry. I suppose I should be grateful I wasn’t hungry because with all that sugar, I probably would have become diabetic and gained 20 pounds.

I’ve had pretty gnarly headaches daily, but fortunately, they respond to Fioricet. So they stink while they’re there, but they don’t last forever. I can handle that. My stomach was just constantly miserable. Tonight, I¬†finally feel like I may be getting some relief. Dr. Matthews came in yesterday¬†and was pressing on my stomach and doing different things and he didn’t like my reaction. It was obvious that when he pressed on it, it was uncomfortable. So he ordered some medicine hoping it would bring some relief…and praise the Lord, I think it has! I ate one and half chicken tenders, so that’s exciting. My tummy didn’t feel fantastic afterwards, but the discomfort seemed to be less than it had been. I consider that a win.

Mouth sores. Oh, mouth sores. Those were what I dreaded the most coming into this whole thing. The doctors and nurses made them sound awful. Dr. Matthews mentioned that I would have a pain pump specifically to lessen the misery of mouth sores. I got mouth sores several rounds ago when I got Thrush, got really sick, and ended up in the hospital. They.were.horrible. So I was expecting that again. It didn’t really seem like it was if I was going to get the, but when I was going to get them. Starting the day I was admitted, they gave me mouthwash called Biotene to help prevent them. I’ve used that sucker constantly. Like water.

And y’all, you know what? I don’t have a single mouth sore. (Yes, I’ve already knocked on wood.) I absolutely could still get them, but the fact that I’m 8 days post transplant and I haven’t gotten even the tiniest one is truly a miracle. God’s lookin’ out for me. Thanks, Big Guy. It sounds like the lady next door to me is absolutely miserable and hasn’t eaten in days due to mouth sores. My heart breaks for her. I pray she’ll find some relief soon. Mouth sores, you are not welcome here. #byebye

*I mentioned that I had a Drumstick in the freezer. I ordered this little taste of heaven from the hospital cafeteria. I was SO excited about it. Danny put a label on it with my room number–you’re supposed to label everything you put in the fridge so that no one takes it…but guess what? Brace yourselves. Are you ready for this? SOMEONE STOLE MY DRUMSTICK. At one point I¬†thought that maybe a Drumstick sounded good…so I asked Danny to go get it…someone had straight up taken it. Someone stole the cancer girl’s Drumstick. I’m telling you…Karma, she’s not a nice lady. She’s coming for you, Drumstick thief. [In all seriousness, I’ve been joking about being really upset about it being stolen…but when I thought about it, I realized this–there are two groups of people it could have been. It was either someone who is also receiving a transplant (everyone on this floor is receiving/has received/will receive a transplant during their stay), or it was someone visiting the patients. If it was a patient, I hope that Drumstick was just what you needed to make you smile. If it was a visitor…you stole ice cream from a cancer patient…I hope you’re beaming with pride. You’re not a good person. RIP Drumstick.]

Now that I’m off my soapbox, let me break your heart a little. Y’all. There is a 16 month old down the hall from me. He received his transplant several weeks ago. 16 months old. That’s [almost] like Hudson being here. One of his nurses was holding him and walking laps in the hallway, pulling his pole too. He was in a little hospital gown and was laying his head on her shoulder. He had little tiny patches of hair on his head…most if it was gone. A tiny little bitty human…going through hell. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand how that happens. Kids aren’t supposed to experience things like this. Heck, parents aren’t supposed to experience this with their kids.

I just can’t imagine his sweet parents. Mom practically lives up here with him. I talk about my discomfort and problems and stuff…and then, I think of him. And I feel like a jerk. And my heart breaks. He knows no different. He doesn’t know what it’s like to feel good. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be a little baby and explore. The thought of having Hudson locked up in a tiny room, hooked up to wires 24/7, and receiving chemo, just boggles my mind. I can’t begin to imagine what that’s like. And I pray I’ll never have to find out. If you would, say a prayer for he and his family. God has big plans for him.

Speaking of a prayer requests, I have another one. Try to follow me. Our next door neighbors who are our dear friends, have close family friends that they grew up with. (The dads grew up together, I believe.) Their 7th grade daughter was just diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. DIPG is an inoperable cancer located in the brain stem. They are going to do 6 weeks of radiation, but don’t know much past that. There aren’t a whole lot of options because of the location. Absolutely heartbreaking. Please pray for them. Pray for peace…for answers…and for guidance. How do you explain that to a 11/12 year old? They¬†shouldn’t have to. They have started a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses. If you feel led to donate, here’s the link. After my diagnosis, we received numerous donations from strangers and we were so grateful for each and every one of them. It meant so much to know that someone who didn’t even know us, was willing to support us in some way.


I just finished the whole blog post and then realized I never talked about the actual day of the transplant…my new birthday. So let’s back up.

The day of the transplant was actually pretty anticlimactic. They started me on¬†several different pre-meds to help prevent any reaction that could potentially happen. After the pre-meds were done, the prepped me for the actual transplant. It sounds like it would be a big process, but really, it was just like a blood transfusion. They hooked up the line to my tri-fusion and the cells started slowly making their way back into my body. A lot of people have asked if I could feel anything…and the answer is no. And I felt absolutely no different.

Apparently a stem cell transplant has a specific smell. Yes…a specific smell. They warned us ahead of time that I would probably smell like either garlic or creamed corn. Yah, I don’t get it either. How do stem cells being put back into a body produce a smell like that? So of course everyone here kept sniffing to see if this whole thing was real. My mom “smelled” it first. She smelled creamed corn, not garlic. She kept saying she smelled it…but she was the only one. Then eventually Danny smelled it too. So maybe there is something to that…

For the record, I took a LONG shower afterward. I don’t particularly like smelling like corn…or any vegetable for that matter. I prefer Amber Oil. (Shout out to Mar Mar.)

It took a little less than an hour for the transplant. Once it was done, it seemed like it should have been a big huge deal…but it really wasn’t. It was like, alright, well, that’s done…now what? Eventually the nurses all came in and sang happy birthday and gave me a cute little cake. They made the day pretty special. [Even though they didn’t get to be there, Harper and Hud wore party hats to celebrate mommy’s new birthday.]

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Since the transplant, I’ve had to have several blood transfusions and have had to receive a unit of platelets. But don’t you worry, it’s all normal. Chemo bears so many gifts! Over the weekend I had my “First Fever”. That’s really a thing. After your transplant, you¬†will have a fever. It essentially happens when all of your counts are at 0 and you have absolutely no immune system…and the new stew cells are trying to regenerate and mature. Mix all that together and you get a fever. It didn’t stay long, and I was grateful. My white count was 0.0, so my body literally couldn’t fight an infection, even slightly. When everything hits rock bottom, they say that you “nadired”. I mean it sounds kind of cool…yep, I nadired. Don’t be jealous.

So now the next step is getting the counts to go up…and then the challenging part, to stay up. It sounds like it’s normal for them to go up, drop back down, and then finally go back up again. Once they are consistently up, then we get to look at being released to go home. So y’all, when you’re talking to the Big Guy upstairs, maybe ask Him for some consistently high blood counts for this girl. I would reaaaally love to bust outta this joint and get home and see/hug/squeeze my babies. I miss them so much it hurts.

Harper seems to be doing well with everything. She has gotten upset and cried for me only once, which makes me happy. I don’t know if I could take it if she did that a lot. We FaceTime every day. She always asks when I’m coming home. Since we don’t know, we just say hopefully soon. Amy (Danny’s mom) made her a calendar where she can cross off each day as it passes and can see all of the fun things they have planned throughout each week. We chose a day toward the end of May to mark on the calendar and say that’s “hopefully” when mommy will be home. We [hopefully] over shot it by quite a bit. I’m hoping that things will continue to go well and we will get to tell her very soon, that mommy is coming home the next day. I’ve been feeling really crummy, but in the grand scheme of things…I’m golden. I have been so fortunate. I could be feeling¬†so much worse and struggling to get out of bed. But I’m not. I’m so blessed.

I haven’t had visitors…and to be honest, it has probably been good for me. It has allowed me to rest while I’ve felt flat out crummy,¬†focus on feeling better, and most importantly, not risking getting sick. I absolutely cannot wait to be out and see everyone, but I think that it has probably been for the best to have very little company. I feel a little guilty saying that. But, it’s the truth.


[Insert clever segway here.] Y’all, I was watching Ellen the other day and you know what I learned about her? That woman is almost 60. 6-0. Sixty. I was absolutely baffled (clearly, I still am). I almost fell out of the bed when she said that–which would have been a disaster because my platelets are completely gone, so if I started bleeding from the fall, it wouldn’t stop, and could potentially be¬†really scary. So, I’m glad I didn’t fall out of bed. But for real, I was shocked. She looks incredible. She looks 40. I still don’t think I believe it.

Oh, Ellen. My hopes of getting to be on her show with Kiptin are essentially gone…and that makes me sad. I was so hopeful she would pick up his story and eat it up. It’s seriously like the perfect story for her show. Alas, here we are. Y’all, the other day on her show she said, “I need a good chocolate chip cookie.” Umm, hello?! That’s like God screaming down saying, “CALL KIPTIN AND ASHLEY”. She’s not listening. C’mon Ellen.

Either way, going to her show is on my bucket list. Going to one of her “12 Days of Giveaways” shows is on my dream list. I’d be okay with either. I’m going to meet that lady one day. I’m not sure when or how, but by golly, we’re going to meet and she is going to love me. Then we’ll be friends. (I’m totally kidding about her loving me, I’m not actually that cocky. But I am pretty fun.)


In other news…sweet Harper Goose is finally starting to understand that we will never be able to have another dog because I am severely allergic to them. All of them. We had a yorkie who supposedly had hair and not fur, so she was supposed to hypoallergenic, yadda yadda. Well, she wasn’t. Apparently my allergies aren’t picky. They don’t like any dogs, not one. I would LOVE to have a dog for she and Hud to grow up with. But I would be completely miserable every.single.day. And my eyes would be swollen shut. (Same goes for cats, except I hate cats. Even if I wasn’t allergic, I wouldn’t want one. We don’t get along. They creep me out. Sorry cat lovers, ignore this.)

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So Harper asked for all different kinds of dogs for a long, long time. And she finally came to the realization that we just can’t have a dog because they make mommy sick. (Poor thing probably thinks mommy is a disaster…cancer, allergies, asthma.) So now she is moving on to other animals. The other day she asked my mom if tigers had fur. Because she knows if they have fur, mommy can’t be around it. Sweet girl wanted a tiger. (She doesn’t realize that tigers are cats…thus, we will never own a tiger.)

Then, get this. Harper hates snakes. (Duh.) She always says, “Me and mommy don’t like snakes, they are g-ross! Ew, we hate snakes!” At the zoo, she didn’t want to see them, and when she did, she would run away from the window.

And you know what she asked her Nana the other day? “Nana, is mommy allergic to snakes?” THAT GIRL WANTED A SNAKE. She is desperate. She hates snakes. I’m sure you’re dying to know how her question was answered. When Amy told me she asked her that, I responded with, “Yes, mommy is deathly allergic to snakes.” (Lord forgive me for lying to my daughter.) I mean I’ve never really hung around snakes before, but I’m pretty confident that if I touched one I would break out in horrendous hives and struggle getting adequate oxygen. Let’s not chance it. (You may call it a panic attack…but I call it allergies.) #nosnakeshere

Snakes


Cow Update…well, get ready to have your mind blown. The owner of the cow, is not liable. Say what?! His cow got out of his fenced area, caused a wreck and totaled a car…and he’s not liable? I don’t understand. Apparently he’s covered under some Texas law. Y’all, I’m a proud Texan. I love Texas and I love being from Texas. But right now, I think Texas is pretty darn stupid. How is he not liable? We have to pay because his cow got out and was standing in the middle of the road? Nonsense.

We finally got word that the car is totaled. Looking at it, you really wouldn’t have expected that, but the frame was pretty messed up where we hit him, the radiator was busted, etc. Fortunately, we lease my car. And in Texas, when you lease a car, you are required to have GAP insurance (Texas, you’re slowly redeeming yourself). So, insurance will pay what we owed on the car, and we start fresh. We will still have the deductible and a down payment on a new car…but had we not been leasing, we would owe the entire balance of the car. That could have been ugly. Small victories.

Moral of the story, watch out for livestock in the road. They are allowed to be out roaming the streets…you, the human, do not have the right of way and will pay.

Here’s a little irony for ya. At the hospital, each patient’s room is labeled with the first three letters of their last name, then the first three letters of their first name. My neighbors says CHA,CHA. I’m so curious what his name is. Another one is JAR,THE. I’m sure you’ve figured this out in your head by now…what does my room say? Yep. MOO,ASH. Could it¬†be any more fitting? I giggled when I saw it. And then I got annoyed when we found out cow owner wasn’t liable. I was telling one of the nurses about the whole ordeal and a few minutes later she came in the room with my door tag in her hand and was rolling in tears. She thought it was hysterical. Irony at it’s best.


As much as it breaks my heart to not be able to spend Mother’s Day with my sweet littles…I know that because of missing this one, I’ll be able to spend a lifetime of Mother’s Days (and every other day) with them. In that, I find peace.
I know Mother’s Day isn’t a celebration for everyone. I am fortunate enough to be mom to two of the most incredible little humans. Not all women are that fortunate…and if you’re one of those women, I’ll be praying for you on Sunday.
If you have lost your mother, I pray that you will be able to celebrate the time you had with her…or the memories you have of her.

If you have lost the¬†reason you became a mother, my heart aches for you…and I will be praying for you. I pray that you will still be celebrated as a mother…you will¬†always be one. ¬†I can’t imagine the pain you feel each and every day. Know that your baby is still celebrating you, even if it is up in heaven.

If you aren’t yet a mother, but you are longing to be, I’ll be praying for you. I pray that your heart’s desire will be fulfilled. I pray that you will feel peace on Sunday and know that God has plans for you. Don’t give up hope.
For all the mother’s in my life, I hope you feel loved and celebrated…not just Sunday, but every day.

Please continue to pray for my babies (and for me). They are doing well, but I just need to see them. I’m worried I may hurt them by squeezing them so hard when I finally get to hold them. I pray that the next time I don’t see them for more than three weeks at a time, it’s because they are away at¬†college. I don’t think I can do this again. (God, that’s not a test, I could totally do it, I just don’t want to.)


Harper has been a lucky little girl the past few weeks. She has gotten to do some fun stuff while mommy has been away. Yesterday she went to the zoo with the Fitzgerald’s. She’s been to the Dallas Arboretum, Play Street Museum, hiking trails…and has had quite a few play dates. I’m so thankful she and Hud have family close by to love on them, keep them distracted, and make them feel special during this crazy time.

Pray that my counts¬†go up…and then continue to stay up. And that mouth sores stay out of this room. And that my Chemo baby disappears and my stomach isn’t distended any longer. More than anything, pray that things continue to be positive. This really has been a pretty picture perfect experience. (Knocking on wood, again.) I am so incredibly grateful for the way my body has responded.

Finally, please pray for Danny. I wasn’t sure that I could possibly love him any more than I did…but I was wrong. Way wrong. Y’all, he is incredible. He has had SO much on his plate. Hail damage on the roof, hail damage on his car, dealing with insurance for my car, loving on the babies, staying with me at the hospital, and the list goes on. This is a crazy time in our life, but man, he’s killin’ it. Meanwhile, he’s working full time…and he’s crazy busy at work right now too. He has so much going on and the stress level is so high, but you know what? You can’t wipe a smile of that guy’s face. And I absolutely¬†love that about him. Danny Moore, you know will never know how thankful I am for you.

Thank you for the continue prayers…they are felt! I am so blessed.

 

No-Mo-Chemo!

I’ll start off by saying this post is going to be scattered…because let’s be real…that’s where my brain is at right now. So, try to keep up…if you can’t, just look at the pictures, hopefully they will make you smile.

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First, we’ll start with getting checked in.¬†After waiting for a while for the room to be ready, we were finally able to go check it out and getting settled. I’ll admit, it was a little weird knowing that once we walked inside the building, that was the last bit of fresh air or sunshine I would have for about a month…so crazy.

First answered prayer–our room had a couch! So, for people who are spending the night periodically, you.are.welcome. You would not have liked sleeping¬†on the chair.

Once we got set up, my nurse went through what the next few days would look like, etc. Here is her drawing…I appreciate her because this is exactly how may brain works. Each box represents chemo. On 4/26, I was only receiving BCNU…then on 4/27, I was receiving Cytarabine (twice) as well as Etoposide. That continued for 4 days. Then on 5/1, I had Melphalan.

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Yesterday when I had my last bag of chemo, Melphalan, I had to eat ice for 30 minutes prior to starting the chemo, continue to eat ice/popsicles during the chemo, and then eat it for 30 minutes to an hour after the bag was done. My mouth was frozen…and even a little torn up from chewing the ice…but it was all done in hopes of mouth sores taking it easy on me. We should know toward the end of this week how well that worked. The ice is supposed to help constrict the blood vessels in your mouth and throat, which helps prevent sores. Who knows. I just did what I was told.

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And then, the Gods started singing because I WAS DONE WITH CHEMO!

Waaaahoooo! That statement makes me a happy girl. Yesterday I finished off the last of my chemo…for.ev.er. The nurses mentioned that they may be more excited than I am about finishing…but I can assure you, they are wrong. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.

I had a little bit of Cookies ‘N Cream ice cream when I was done, just to seal the deal. I’m pretty sure that helped. Look at all of those check marks! No empty boxes! Chemo, we are DONE.

So now,¬†I’m on Day 8 in my jail cell hospital room and I will say, it has gone by pretty fast. The nurses have been great. I have had a lot of the same nurses several days in a row, so that’s always nice…as long as you like them.


Over the weekend, a dear friend of my grandparents (Luann) held a bake sale for our family. She has worked at a restaurant called Midway Point for over 20 years, and my grandparents have been avid customers for all of that time. Several weeks ago, I had lunch with my grandma and met sweet Luann for the first time. Little did I know what she had up her sleeve.

Soon after our lunch, she mentioned that she wanted to have a bake sale for us. Alright, I thought. We can do a bake sale. She was doing all of the planning, advertising, etc. But oh.my.word. I had no idea a bake sale could turn out like this one did. It was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, I was already in the hospital, so I wasn’t able to attend…but Danny, the kiddos, and a bunch of other wonderful people attended and made the most of it. I was able to FaceTime and see a lot of the people who were there.

For this short, 3 hour bake sale, sweet Luann brought in $6,000. That is INSANE. There were donations, people buying shirts, tons and tons of food that was made to be sold. I NEVER would have guessed that something like a bake sale could be that big of a blessing.

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Luann, my dear…you are one of a kind. You have a servant’s heart. You will never know how much your kindness has blessed our family. You have had such a huge impact on our lives in just a short time. I pray that you will be abundantly blessed because of your service.

I wish I would have been able to get some pictures of everyone working behind the scenes. They had matching shirts, flower arrangements on every table, stuff was everywhere…all to raise money for us. Absolutely incredible.


This hospital stay have been relatively uneventful so far, which I suppose is good for this sort of thing. Just as usual, when I’m actually receiving the chemo, I feel pretty good…but the week after, that’s when it all gets icky and hits the fan. So, they are expecting the end of this week to be pretty rotten. Yay for feeling rotten!¬†I will say, since I’ve been in for this round, my neuropathy has gotten worse. Danny and I were playing cards the other day and I was having trouble grabbing the cards to flip them over. That’s no bueno. I was, however, able to color a picture the other day…but it took me longer than it should have. The fine motor control that I used to have isn’t there so much anymore…I’ve learned to appreciate those things now that they’re gone/not all the way there. However, it could be worse. So, I’ll take my tingly, numb fingers and thank God for healing.

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I’ve been eating. Haven’t had a huge appetite, but I eat when I’m hungry. I love the Chicken Fried Steak they serve at the hospital, so I have that almost every day…it’s bound to get old soon. I need to start looking for a new favorite to try. Starting after the transplant, people aren’t allowed to bring any food in, at least until my counts come back up to a certain point. I’ll be on a Neutropenic diet in the mean time. No fresh fruit, unless it can be completely peeled by someone outside of the room. [Weird. I don’t get it either.] Veggies have to be steamed. So really, I think I’ll just stick to ice cream.

Tomorrow is the big day. At around 4 in the morning, they begin increasing my fluids to help prepare for the transplant. Then, at around 10, they will bring my stem cells up and start the transplant…it essentially looks like a transfusion. They will connect the pump to my trifusion line and will begin pumping those babies right back into me.

My night nurse and I were talking about the process last night and she said that the preservative that they put with the stem cells while they are freezing them is what is likely to cause any yucky side effects. For example…it can cause stomach cramping, diarrhea (yay!), and get this…she said that I will either smell like canned cream corn or possibly garlic. Umm…no thank you. I’ll stick to my Amber Oil. I asked how long that lovely “stench” should last and she said maybe 2 days or so. The more you shower, the faster it will go away. Well, friends. I may be in the shower for the 48 hours after I’m done with the transplant. This girl is not going to smell like garlic.

Depending on how many stem cells they are putting back in, determines how long the process will take. The nurse said that if she had to guess, she would say probably 2-3 hours. Once those 2-3 hours are up, this girl has a new birthday! Look at me, all fancy and stuff. I’ve got two birthdays.

The nurses and doctors come in and celebrate with a cake…these people are right up my alley. I love cake. And I love birthdays. And I hate cancer. So really, whole day is like happiness wrapped up in a pretty package (that may or may not spell like creamed corn)…I get cake, a new birthday, cancer is GONE [hopefully]!

The days following the transplant are the ones that sound like the doozies. Dr. Matthew’s said that I will probably be feeling pretty crummy by the end of the week, leading into next week. So we’ve got that to look forward to…In other news, Dr. Matthews has finished his rounding for the month. There are three doctors that rotate…whoever is assigned for that month rounds every.single.day. for all three doctors’ patients. That’s some crazy rounding. I will admit, I was pretty sad when I realized it was April 30 because that meant no more daily visits form Dr. Matthews. I love him. He makes me laugh…and we give each other a hard time.

So now, one of his partners is rounding for May. He is a riot too. He’s a cowboy. Comes struttin’ in here every morning with his cowboy boots on and his accent goin’. I’ve only had him for two days, but so far, so good. Dr. Matthews mentioned that he was going to come up for my party tomorrow…I hope he will. He’s the reason we’re celebrating. That guy, along with Dr. Stone, have saved my life. Ahh. Bless them.

As for visitors…we’re encouraged to take it easy with few visitors for the next week or so, at least. As much as I would LOVE to see everyone, I really need to hang tight and focus on healing. But, keep the texts coming…I smile every time I get one.

However, it’s coming to an end! I can¬†will handle it. And I will bust out of this joint and will run all the way home with tears streaming down my face as I finally get to squeeze my babies so darn tight.

Here are some pictures I’ve gotten throughout the week. Aren’t they sweet? He wants to be just like his sister. The last pictures, where they are eating popsicles. Melt my heart. [Pun intended.]

One more thing…these little guys again. They are my superheroes. They are the reason that I will fight…and I will win. I hope that later on down the road, they will be able to look back at this time in our life and realize how strong their mama was. I don’t always feel it now…but I’m hoping and praying they will see it.

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Speaking on strength, I’ll leave you with this…

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…Had I not been diagnosed back in November, I would be a completely different person. A person who took for granted what she had. A person who didn’t know how much it meant to show support and kindness to everyone. I wouldn’t have met and reconnected with people that have absolutely changed my life…had I not been diagnosed. What a blessing. Who knew so many blessings could come out of something so evil?

Why did the cow cross the road?

Well, time got away from me. It has been quite a while since I last wrote and I recently realized I never updated  after I asked for prayers regarding the insurance approval.

I hope none of you were holding your breath. If so, you can exhale now…they approved it. They actually approved it the day after I posted about it. It was quite a relief.

So much has happened since then. Buckle Up!

Danny, the kiddos, and Tony (Danny’s brother) headed to Oklahoma after work on Friday, the day I was supposed¬†hoping to be getting out of the hospital. I ended up having to stay until Saturday because the meds weren’t done. They went to OK to visit their Mimi, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was so bummed that I wasn’t able to go with them, but planned on going up at some point before the transplant. The kiddos got some quality play time with their cousins, and Danny and Tony got some quality time with the rest of their Oklahoma family. The kids may have¬†ran Danny ragged. Here’s a few pictures from their visit.

Once I was released on Saturday morning, I headed home with my mom and we worked around the house. At this point, I was feeling pretty good, so I was happy to be productive. We ended up going to my favorite place for dinner with some girls from the neighborhood that night.

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I started on the Neupogen shots on Monday. I felt pretty good throughout this process. Every day I had to go in for blood work and the injections. They were monitoring my blood counts and were looking for my white count to hit rock bottom and then start going back up. At the same time, they were checking my CD34 level. (I have no idea what that’s for…but it was one thing that had to be above a certain number in order for the collection to happen. I ended up getting shots Monday-Sunday. Sunday night I got a call from one of the nurses to say that I was ready for collection.

So Monday morning, mom picked me up and we headed to the hospital for a 6:00 am check-in. We got started about 6:30. They recommend that you chew on mints during the process in hopes of preventing mouth sores from forming. So, you can bet your sweet bum that I was chewing on Wintergreen mints the whole time. Mouth sores are from the devil. For real. No time for those. #youarenotwelcomehere

Because I had a trifusion line placed, the process was super easy and relatively fast. It took about 5 hours. At that point we were free to go. I knew they would take the next few hours to count what was collected and then they would call me later that afternoon¬†and let me know if I¬†needed to come back the next day to collect again, or if I had collected enough. They were needing to collect 5 million stem cells. I don’t know much about this whole process, but I know that 5 million is A LOT…so I wasn’t getting my hopes up to be done in one day. They said most people take about three days for the entire collection.

The day went on and I waited…and waited. And at about 6, I assumed I was probably going to have to go back in tomorrow since I hadn’t heard from them yet. Then as I was walking through Kroger, I got a call from the nurse manager who had facilitated the collection. Her name is Oerphelia and she is a RIOT. She goes a million miles an hour. all.the.time. I get worn out just watching and listening to her. She was just giddy over the phone and was thrilled to tell me that they had collected just over 8.5 million cells. Let that sink in. Eight and a half million.¬†That’s nuts! So, needless to say, I was done. I didn’t have to go back tomorrow. Okay, I’ll admit it. I was the slightest bit sad that I wasn’t going to spend the next day with Oerphelia…but she said I couldn’t bring her lunch whenever I wanted to. ūüėČ The bottom right picture was at Target. I realized I was going to be in the hospital for Cinco de Mayo…so I celebrated by myself, at Target.

Later that week, it happened. The time has finally come…I registered Harper for Kindergarten. Oh.my.word. I’m not sure how [almost] 5 years has gone by so fast. Each Spring, the school hosts an event called “Eager Eagles” for the incoming Kinder babies and their parents. They get to meet important people in the school, sing along with the music teacher, hear a story from the librarian, and take a tour of the school. While we were walking through the school for the tour, Harper turned to me and said, “Mommy, I am SO excited to come to my new school. I love Kindergarten!” I hope she’s always that excited about school.

Each kiddo got to choose a story book about Kindergarten that they got to take home. They also got a little goody bag that had an Eagle key chain. They encouraged the kids to put the keychain on their backpack to help make them brave on their first day of Kindergarten. It was precious. I can’t believe she’s about to start Kindergarten. Where has time gone? We’re praying for her teacher already. She can’t wait to find out who her teacher is. I do know one thing…that teacher is going to be so blessed by that little girl. She is one of a kind. Precious. Fiesty. Stubborn…but she has the biggest heart and the most beautiful smile.

The next weekend was jam-packed. Since my collection was done and I didn’t have to get any more injections, Danny, Hudson and I headed up to Oklahoma to spend some more time with Mimi. It worked out nicely because Danny’s dad and stepmom were there as well. We drove up Friday afternoon and then headed back Saturday afternoon. Although it was a short trip, it was so good for my heart. I got to love on Mimi, remind her how much she is loved, and just hold her sweet hand. Unfortunately, we now share a bond that no one ever wants to share…we both have cancer. However, I’ve learned so much from her. She is one of the most special ladies I have ever met. She is the most positive, loving, faithful woman. And more than anything, she is a fighter. You would never know she was hurting. She blesses everyone she meets. Mimi, I hope you know how much you are loved!

On Saturday we headed back to Dallas to see my brother who was in town from Colorado. We went to dinner at Babes Chicken to celebrate his birthday…and it was fabulous. Babes is amazing…every time. Can I get an ‘Amen’? It was SO good to see him. He only gets to come in a few times a year, so it’s always nice to see him and get to spend time with him.

We came home to have a Cookie Cake that Lexi bought from Tom Thumb…and it was completely raw. We’re still trying to figure out how that happened. And we couldn’t cook it because it was in a plastic container. If that was your job, you’re fired. #dontteasemewiththatcookie

And I have to share, my new favorite picture of me and my sweet girl…she is so gorgeous.IMG_7917

On Sunday morning, we headed to church with my mom and Mimi. We haven’t been going to church much recently because I’ve been worried about being around so many people and potentially getting sick. So it was really nice to be back. While we were at church, the Easter bunny made a pit stop at our house. Harper is at such a fun age for holidays. She gets really excited and it’s just so neat experiencing the holidays through her eyes. At this point, Hud is pretty clueless…but he’s also pretty stinkin’ cute, so that helps.

I had a few quick doctor’s appointments this week, mainly just to prepare for the transplant. On Tuesday I had an appointment with my doctor. I wasn’t completely sure what the purpose of the appointment was going into it…but in I went. Dr. Matthews ended up coming in and simply took the time to ask how I was doing with everything. He asked how Danny and the kids were, etc. I know he’s a busy man, but it really meant a lot for him to take the time to check in. I truly feel like he cares…and you don’t always find that in doctors. I have been incredibly blessed by the doctors that I’ve had during this whole ordeal. (Here are a few pictures while waiting for my appointments…you have to pass the time, somehow.)

I also met a sweet, sweet lady who was diagnosed with lymphoma and received a bone marrow transplant 13 years ago. We were washing our hands in the bathroom at the hospital and she said, “You know, I lost my hair 4 times during my battle.” And then we went on to talk for a while before my appointment. She commented on how I seem very positive and have the attitude to beat it. That’s always nice to hear. She then asked if I would email her so she would have my email address so we could keep in touch and she could check on me. She said she hoped that she would see me at the “Survivor Reunion” at the hospital next year. I hope I’ll see her too.

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This week I was able to get together with various friends of mine for dinner. It was so nice to be able to catch up, but also to get in some time with people I love before I head into the hospital for a month. I am majorly blessed by the people in my life.

Wednesday I had dinner with two of my best friends, Lindsey and Lynsey. We are very rarely able to all three get together…and I just love my time with them.

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Thursday was special. At a silent auction at my school, I “donated” Scooters and Sweets with Mrs. Moore. Each team of teachers was asked to donate something fun that involved spending time with the kiddos¬†who’s parents bid the highest. Our PE coach has these awesome scooters that I just love. They are one of my favorite memories I have from elementary school. I remember they only got to come out on Field Day and those darn scooters were always my favorite station.

So Thursday after school, me and four precious kiddos from my class class this year ate ice cream sandwiches, drank Capri Suns, and we scootered our little hearts out. I’m not sure who had more fun. Since it was a small group, I made each of them a shirt to remember our day together. I LOVED how they turned out.

While we were scootering, I ended up getting a wee bit carried away and my shirt wrapped around one of the back wheels. I unwrapped it and saw that I had torn several holes in my shirt. Fantastic. It was worth it…I love those darn scooters. I kept hearing one of the little girls yell, “This is the best day of my life!” Sweet girl, I loved that time with you too. If only you knew how happy it made me.

Then later that night, I had dinner with some of my work family. It’s always good for my soul to laugh with these ladies. We laugh…a lot. There were tears too. Reminiscing about kiddos we’ve had at Scott, times we’ve spent together, etc. I’ve gone from seeing them 5 days a week to one day every several weeks and I’m tellin’ you, I don’t like it. I miss them terribly. Oh, and I made several new friends at dinner. Apparently I get really friendly after a margarita or two three. #IblameGlorias

Friday after school, we headed over to the Fitzgerald’s house for a big surprise. The boys had been planning a night of fun all week. Knowing how much work these precious boys put into that night just makes my heart so full. When we got to their house, they were all waiting outside. And Rob (Fitz Dad) was dressed in a full out pirate costume. I had no idea what was to come…but boy were they precious. We all put on eye patches and me, Harper, and Hudson were each given our own basket to collect special eggs. We were going on an treasure¬†hunt! They handed me a clue that was rolled up and tied shut.

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Clue #1: Welcome to our treasure hunt, where riches will be found. Be sure you’re very cautious and search all around. The first of the riches will be seen when you roam, to a room in the house with the words “Home Sweet Home”. So we wandered around the house looking for “Home Sweet Home”. I knew I had seen it before, but of course, couldn’t remember where at this point. We ended up finding a pillow in the living room. Behind the pillow were three eggs–one large (for me), one pink (for Harper), and one blue (for Hudson). Harper and Hud’s eggs had little treats for them. My first egg had $500. [This was my kind of treasure hunt!] That one egg represented 50 dozen cookies that sweet Kiptin (and Colleen) had made. Remarkable. Behind the eggs, there was the next clue.

Clue #2: One clue down but there are more, so don’t stop now or quit this tour. The next hidden treasure that we will give, is exactly where Santa lives.¬†So of course, I start getting all excited because I’m thinking we’re heading out of town to the North Pole…not so much. After a little bit of wandering, we found a globe with more eggs and the next clue. This egg had $500 as well. In case math isn’t your thing…that’s 100 dozen (total) of cookies so far. Y’all, I haven’t baked 100 dozen cookies in my life. This was all just within weeks.

Clue #3: Congratulations! You’re almost there. But the clues get harder, so do beware. The next location might lead to cheers. Keep an eye out for Golden Ears.¬†I didn’t really have a clue what this meant. So after Kiptin and Nolan gave me a little help, we ended up in the play room. (See, teachers need help too. I may need a 504. Kidding.) Underneath a gold Mickey Mouse hat, there were eggs…and 500 more dollars. I just couldn’t believe it. This was already more than the amount he raised the first go-round…and there were more clues!

Clue #4: Three clues down and two to go. Where they are, you soon will know. The next prize is in a baby’s reading place. Behind an animal with a long neck and spotted face.¬†I immediately thought Brody’s (the baby’s) room…and Harper was quick to chime in that we were looking for a giraffe. You guessed it. 3 more eggs, $500. Unbelievable.

Clue #5: We must say, you’re pretty smart. ¬†We knew you could do it, right from the start. The final riches are the pirate’s best. Where you wonder? Where else? A Treasure Chest.¬†I get all excited because I know they have a huge treasure chest on a landing in the kitchen…I was quickly shot down saying that they wouldn’t put it up that high. ūüôā So we wandered around and looked for another treasure chest. Then, I spotted it on the mantle above the fireplace. In the chest was a gift bag with an envelope that said “A Big Treasure Awaits You…” You mean, there’s more? Before I opened the envelope, Kiptin asked me to guess how much money I thought there was all together. He had two signs. One said “Yes” and the other, “No”. When I said a total, he would hold up the sign telling me if I was right or wrong. So precious. I kept guessing…and guessing…and guessing. And finally, I got there. Well, pretty close. Y’all you won’t even believe it. I still don’t.

That sweet boy raised $5,150 by baking cookies…and that’s just from the second round. Total, from both rounds, he earned $6,200. Y’all, I’m no mathematician…but that’s A LOT of money. All from cookies and donations. Not only did they make over 500 dozen cookies, so many people/strangers/friends donated. Two days later, I’m still just in disbelief. I haven’t quite processed what this family (and a six year old) has done for me. I’m just in shock…and my heart has never been so full. This boy and his heart are going to change the world. He gives me hope. He reminds me that even just a little bit of kindness matters. And the love/morals/values that these two parents have instilled in their 4 boys absolutely just blows my mind. I pray that each of them will be as blessed in their lives as I have by them. If you’re the praying type, please pray that his kindness will spread and more lives will be changed for the better. Kiptin Ryan, you are truly an angel on earth. You will never know how thankful I am for you.

After the treasure hunt, we had pizza and the kiddos played. I can’t forget to mention that they made ice cream sandwiches with cookies that Kiptin made…a cookie on the top and bottom, with Cookies and Cream in the middle. It was heavenly. It took every ounce of self control I had to only have one.

Shortly after dinner, I got a text from a neighbor that a storm was coming and I needed to get my car in the garage. I responded and told him we weren’t home and we had my car, so we should be fine. Big hail and a lot of rain was coming quickly. In attempt to make it home before the storm, we got loaded up¬†pretty quickly and headed home. (Side note: When I drive to work, I go one certain way to work and then a different way home. I’m not sure why, I’m just a creature of habit.) Danny was driving. We ended up going home the same way we came. (This, my friends, is foreshadowing.)

So we’re driving on a street named Rockhill…there are no street lights. Speed limit is 50. Danny was going 50 because, well, he’s a rule follower. I was looking down at my phone because Colleen had just text me and said to come back to their house because it was about to start hailing really badly. As I get her message, Danny yells, “Cow!” and we came to a complete stop instantly. It was as if we had hit a brick wall. Not a whole lot of good comes out of going from 50 miles per hour to 0 in one second. As he yelled that, I looked up and saw what I assumed was a large solid black cow. I saw it like the second before we hit it. It was pitch black outside. I’m not sure why, but once we got out of the car, I fully expected it to be right in front of the car. It was no where.

The car immediately shut off, the two front air bags went off and the one on back passenger side (Hud’s side) came out as well. I’m so grateful we had our seat belts on otherwise, our faces out have been completely smashed. Those airbags are no joke. Smoke started filling the car, so we hurried to get the kids out. Harper was screaming and I didn’t blame her. I was trying to get Hud out, but because the air bag was deployed, I couldn’t really get him out. I grabbed Harper from Danny and he wiggled Hudson out under the airbag. Right at this time, it started raining. Not pouring, but we knew it was coming. There was radiator fluid all over the road, plastic parts from my car flung all over, and the windshield was shattered. Lovely.

We stood off to the side of the road and I called 911. Not even 30 seconds later, a Frisco police car pulls up. I was really impressed with their timing, until he said he wasn’t there in response to our call. He had actually gotten a call from someone saying there was a cow lose in the road, so he and another man in the squad car was driving around to find the darn cow. Well, we found him!

The man who came with the police officer found the cow…about 40 yards away. We hit that darn cow so hard, he flew almost 40 yards. My heart was sad because, well, he clearly wasn’t going to grow up to be an adult cow…but my heart was also so grateful that we were all okay. (Side note: I didn’t get any pictures of the car…the hail/crying babies/monsoon was too distracting.) While we were standing on the side of the road, all of the cow’s friends were standing right behind us, behind the gate (they follow directions, they didn’t get out) “mooing”. They were mad. Mad because their buddy Harold didn’t listen and now he was dead meat. (Too soon? That was supposed to be a joke, but I know this could be a touchy subject for some…)

It soon started pouring and the ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, so he had us hop in his car. Right as I got in the front with Harper (and the other gentleman with the officer), it started hailing. Since the three of us were crammed in the front passenger seat, the door wouldn’t close all the way so hail was coming in…he hopped out of the car and squeezed into the back with Danny and Hudson. A few minutes later, the ambulance and fire truck (we can address my fear of firetrucks later) arrived. We hoped in the back of the ambulance so we could all be looked at. Then the paramedic had to fill out a report for each of us and we had to sign saying that we refused service for the kids and for ourselves. It sounds a lot worse than it is. My hand was swollen and I had marks up and down my arm from the air bag, but it wasn’t anything serious. They said the kids looked good, so there really wasn’t any reason for us to pay to have them transported to a hospital. I mean, it’s not like we have any other medical bills or anything…[insert the emoji with the rolling eyes].

The paramedics and police officer were incredible. They were so sweet with the kids. At one point Harper started crying and said she wanted her pony from the car, and Officer Hawthorn (the cop who showed up first) ran to the car to get it for her. He kept making sure we were okay and kept saying how sorry he was that this happened to us. While we were in the ambulance, we started talking about how I was about to go into the hospital for a bone marrow transplant. He asked if we had a website or anything where he could support us. Wow. He was genuine. And he was on top of everything. We asked if he knew our friend Stephen, who is also a Frisco officer. He did…and he immediately went and called/radioed Stephen to let him know what had happened. He didn’t have to do that. He let us know that Stephen was going to come by and check on us but ended up getting called for something else.

While the paramedic was filling out the reports, I called our neighbor, Jonathan (Ding Ding) and he headed to pick us up without hesitation. We immediately got messages from our neighbors checking on us and asking what we needed. Have I mentioned that we have the most incredible neighbors? Once Jonathan got there and the paramedic was one with the reports, we got carseats and everything out of my car and put it in Jonathan’s car.

Several people had texted in the mean time making sure that we were okay from the hail. We were okay from the hail…just not from the cow. Y’all. We straight up hit a cow. It was like something out of a movie. When my sister called, (She had just left the Fitzgerald’s too, but she wasn’t coming to our house, so Praise the Lord, she went a different way. Otherwise, she would have slammed into the back of us.) I quickly told her what had happened and it sounded like a joke. “You hit a what?” Yah, I didn’t believe it either.

While we were loading up the car, Office Hawthorn said they were working on finding out who owned the cow. We weren’t sure exactly who would be liable in this situation. Selfishly, for financial reasons, we hoped that somehow, they owner would be liable since the cow was out roaming. We still aren’t sure exactly how everything will play out…insurance is in the middle of working on everything and the police are working on finished the accident report.

I can’t say enough about Office Hawthorn. Not all police officers are like that. We are thankful for you, sir. And for your service. Bless you.

As we were leaving, the tow truck got there and started hooking up my car. Hud finally fell asleep while we were waiting for Officer Hawthorn to bring us the accident report number. Once he did, he wished us well, asked again about the bone marrow transplant, and sent us on our way. By the time we got home, the rain had stopped. While we were out cow tipping, our neighborhood was getting nailed with tennis ball sized hail. It sounds like it was crazy. I’m glad we weren’t there…although I suppose I would rather be at home while it was hailing than sitting in an ambulance with Danny and the babies. When we got home, we were greeted by Danny’s car…and a shattered back window. Fan-freaking-tastic. When it rains, it pours, right? Or hails, I suppose.

Our next door neighbors had some friends over, one who happened to be a nurse. She looked at my hand and said she didn’t think anything was broken. I didn’t either, but it sure as heck hurt like a bad word. I went home and iced it and went to bed.

In the morning, the swelling had gone down quite a bit, but it was still really sensitive to the touch and had started bruising. Because of the chemo and medicines I’m on, Danny was paranoid and wanted to have it checked out. So, we headed to Urgent Care for x-rays. Just as we though, there weren’t any breaks…just badly bruised.

I will say, we chuckled a bit when we got there and told them what had happened…the receptionist then told the nurse, “These people need x-rays. They hit a cow. Her hand is hurt.” I wish I could have seen the nurses face. She was so confused. She thought I straight up punched a cow in the face.

While we were at the Urgent Care place, Amy took Harper and Hud to Hayes’ birthday party. They had more fun than we did.

The rest of the day we hung out at home. Harper’s soccer game was rained out…I’ll admit, I was a little relieved. However, as I’m typing this I just realized that that would have been the last game for me to watch this season…so maybe I shouldn’t have been so relieved.

My mom took the kiddos for the night so that we could get in some good quality time with the neighbors before I’m locked up. And let me just tell you…we didn’t do much, but it was one of my very favorite nights we’ve ever had. The temperature had dropped from the storms, so we had the perfect conditions for a fire. We hung out, laughed entirely too much, and even cooked breakfast tacos after midnight. At one point while we were sitting by the fire, I may have gotten a little teary knowing that I wasn’t going to get to see these guys for a month. Some of my very favorite people in the world live on this street. (Just a warning…I got a little picture happy that night.)

On Sunday, we planned a family day and headed to the zoo. The weather was amazing. Allergies were not. My eyes were a mess, Hud’s eyes were watering, Danny’s throat was itchy…but by-golly, we were going to have a good time. My body has been pretty achy since the last round of chemo. And when I say pretty achy, I mean that I feel like my body is 130 years old and hates me. It’s beyond me why I’m still hurting…normally by now I’m feeling good and just preparing for my next stay. These few weeks have been less than favorable…however, it comes with the territory. It will be over soon.

In other news, my eyebrows and eye lashes came back over the last few weeks. My eyebrows came back with a vengeance and I looked kin to Bert and Ernie. It wasn’t a good look, but I was happy to have them back. And then, just like that, they all fell out again. I have like 6 eye brows left…it’s a good look. Just a tease.

Back to the zoo…my hand was still really bothering me, thanks to the darn cow, but overall, we had a great day at the zoo. At one point Harper said, “I love this! I’m having so much fun!” Sweet girl. Hud hung out in the stroller, ate some chicken fingers, and eventually passed out while strolling. Eventually we all decided that we were ready to go. We had such a fun day together. We’ve been trying to explain to Harper that I’m going to be in the hospital for a while, but she doesn’t totally understand. She’s just excited because that means she gets to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed. ūüôā

If you look closely at the snake in the bottom right picture…he has longer eye lashes than me. He was an Eyelash Viper and he seriously had eye lashes. (I don’t do snakes, by the way. In fact, I hate them. However, I was intrigued by his eyelashes. If I was ever forced to own a snake…it would have to have eye lashes.)

Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about everything. Anxiety comes and goes. I seem to get really anxious when I think about not being with my kiddos on Mother’s Day. For some reason it just really bums me out. But, then I remember that I’m missing this Mother’s Day so that I can be there for the next 70. (I totally just threw out a number…I’m not so sure I want to make it to 100.)

I get anxious when I think about everything Danny is having to take care of with my car, the insurance, roof damage from the hail, etc. But then I remember, no matter how much gets added to his plate, he is¬†always smiling…and I am so thankful for that. It also calms me down when I remember what incredible friends and family we have to help him along the way. (Go ahead and say a prayer that the cow owner will be liable and will be the one responsible to get my car fixed/get a new one…we’ll hopefully know this once the police report is done.)

I get anxious when I think about not getting to see my neighbors, family, and friends for a month. Okay, let’s be real, I also have a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). I think about how much fun they will all be having together while I’m gettin’ new stem cells and what not. And then I remember what an awesome [forever] party we will have when I come home HEALED and in REMISSION!

So what’s the plan, you ask? I to in tomorrow at 4:00 pm. I won’t start chemo until Wednesday. I’ll get the crazy intense chemo for 6 days and then I’ll get one day ‘off’. Then, I’ll get my stem cells that were collected a few weeks ago, put back in…this will be my new “birthday”. Supposedly they make a big deal of it, with birthday cake and everything. I’m hoping there will be party hats and all sorts of fun party things. From then on, it’s all about recovering. There’s a whole laundry list of things that I have to be able to do/my numbers have to come up to certain levels, etc., before I can go home.

Now, for prayer requests. Please pray for my sweet babies and for Danny. Pray that my body reacts well to everything and the process isn’t too terribly painful. Pray that the whole car/insurance craziness comes out in our favor. And finally, please pray for other people going through this…pray that they have a support system like I do. I am so unbelievably blessed…and I don’t ever take that for granted. Thank you all for loving me so well.

Some random pictures from the past several weeks…

Here are a few recent #TeamAshley pictures. One day I was feeling a little down in the dumps and I got some love from my amazing work family. They are one of a kind.

I’ll leave you with this…I may have snorted when I saw this.

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*P.S. – I haven’t read through this…there is a good chance there are a lot of typos and many things out of order. I blame the Chemo.

Thanks for the prayers, y’all.

S’more for later, I’m plaid you came…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I had several weeks to recover…and I’m so thankful for that. My body has actually felt really good and I’ve felt like I could get things done around the house. Most importantly, I was able to get things ready for Hud’s first birthday party. I don’t know how it happened…but he’s now a year old. I know it’s cliche, but it seems like yesterday I was in the hospital delivering him. He is the chunkiest, happiest (most of the time), and sweetest little guy in the world. After I had Harper, I was convinced that I was meant to be a girl mom. Like, for real convinced. When we found out that Hud was a boy, I may have cried a bit. At the time, I knew it was selfish, but I just couldn’t help but feel bummed in my heart. I’m a sucker for bows and ruffles…and I knew it would be frowned upon if I had a little boy in bows and ruffles.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so incredibly thankful to have a healthy baby boy growing inside me…but in my head, I was convinced that it was another girl. Fast forward a year later…and I couldn’t love that little boy more if I tried. He brings us so much happiness and refuses to let us sleep normal hours…but he’s just SO dang cute. He absolutely adores his sister. He wants to do everything she does. He wants to go everywhere she goes. He just stares at her and smiles. He thinks she is hilarious. I love watching their relationship grow. I pray that he always looks up to her the way he does now. And I also pray that she loves him the way she does now.

A little about Hud. He¬†loves being outside. That’s his happy place. He’s walking everywhere. He was a couple months behind Harper when it came to walking…and I’m thankful for that. He’s a mess! He’s into everything…especially the things he’s not allowed to get in to. He hasn’t been a huge fan of baby food…but when we introduced him to table food, his world changed. He LOVES food…most food. If he’s upset, food turns that frown upside down…and then he gets crumbs everywhere. And then he just smiles with a mouth full of food…and my heart could burst.

Now on to the party…we did a lumberjack theme. When I first started telling people that, it seemed weird every time. What in the world does that look like. However, thanks to Pinterest, I was thrilled¬†with how everything turned out.

First, the food. We had egg quiches, cinnamon roll ups, kolaches, donuts on a skewer, and fruit skewers. For the sweets, we had a black bear smash cake (he wasn’t a fan), tree cupcake, fire cupcakes, and s’more cupcakes. The party favors were little bags of honey Teddy Grahams, Chocolate Teddy Grahams, and marshmallows. The tag said, “S’More for later. I’m Plaid you Came.” It gets me every time…I’m plaid you came…

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Yes, we all had matching shirts. Danny is a trooper.

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This boy makes my heart skip a beat!

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It’s a miracle…everyone is looking and smiling.

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Lolli and Grandpa

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Grandpa got to come visit!

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Mimi, Harper with an awkward smile, and a little boy who is about done with pictures…

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And now he’s for sure done with pictures…

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This is the face of a boy who got a slide for his birthday. Thank you Uncle T, Aunt T, Preston, and Greyson.

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Uncle James and Cousin Coy..who were 15 minutes early, I might add. (Chelsea, I’m looking at you.)

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We love the Winget’s! We will be in laws years from now…you just wait. See, Hud and Emmy are on the same page already…not looking at the camera.

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So thankful for this gorgeous human being.

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He is the best medicine.

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Grandaddy and Grandma Cookie came to celebrate. ūüôā

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You guessed it…these guys showed up too!

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What a ham!

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Hudson Thomas, you were the missing piece that made our family complete. You were the answer to every prayer we prayed before you were born. You keep us on our toes. You make us laugh. You have 8 teeth and weigh over 24 pounds…just 8 pounds less than your sister, who is almost 5. You are wearing 2T clothes and they are far from loose…slow down, buddy. We just got the go-ahead from your pediatrician to quit formula (can I get an Amen?!) so now you’re full time milk.

You love exploring. You are so curious about everything…mostly think you’re not allowed to mess with. You love following us around the house and love putting things in your mouth. We can’t take our eyes off you…1, because you’re handsome, and 2, you put anything and everything in your mouth.

Mommy has hated being away from you each week that I’m in the hospital…but I am at peace with everything because I know you are in such great hands and are being loved beyond belief. I won’t be in the hospital forever. We’ve got a little longer to go…the end is in sight. Then I’ll be healthy and ready to love on my baby boy who brings me so much happiness.

I’m sorry your first year wasn’t like most babies. It has broken my heart to be away from you. But being away from you now means that I will get to be with you for years down the road. I can’t wait to watch you grow up. I pray that you stay happy…adventurous…curious (although not too curious)…and full of smiles. I have a feeling you’re going to break lots of hearts…just make sure mine isn’t one of them. ūüôā I love you, sweet boy. We loved getting to celebrate you on Saturday. You loved your party hat…but you weren’t a huge fan of your cake.

In more exciting news…last week we had a Bone Marrow Transplant class. #nerdalert. It was intended for the patient and the caretakers that would be helping during and after the transplant. It was a lot of information, but we were also able to get a lot of questions answered. The Bone Marrow Transplant team at MCD is incredible. They are so thorough, organized, and they just have it together…every last detail. It was a little nerve-racking…but I guess that’s what I expected. There was another couple in the class…they were probably about my age. He was recently diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He and his wife are expecting their first baby at the end of June. When I saw her walk in pregnant, my heart just sank. I just kept thinking about the husband…and how I couldn’t¬†imagine the thought of missing the birth of my baby. We talked to them briefly after the class. They are hoping that he will be done with his transplant before the baby comes. If you think about it, please send up a prayer for them. They need it.

Some things we learned about our stay…
-No babies/kids. [Insert broken heart.]
-Every single thing that’s brought into the room has to be able to be wiped down completely.
-Any decorations that are brought up have to be laminated in order to be wiped down. Lovely.
-No plants/flowers.
-You have to bring an unopened twin size egg crate and waterproof mattress cover because they beds are so uncomfortable. Awesome.
-There may or may not be a bed for caretakers/visitors to sleep on. Half of the rooms on the floor have beds, half just have a chair. Luck of the draw. I’m hoping and praying for an extra bed…otherwise that’s going to make for a long month for my “caretakers” having to sleep on a chair every night. They said the way the building was constructed, half of the rooms have a large metal pole where the bed is supposed to be. So cross your fingers the Bed Gods are looking out for us the day we get admitted.
-No large groups of visitors. And if you have had even the tiniest cold…don’t come. It’s too dangerous. Something so small could set me back weeks, and as much as I want to see you, I don’t want to be in here any longer than I have to be.

I’m sure there is more, but that’s all I can remember off the top of my head.

The Friday before Hud’s party I¬†called my Bone Marrow doctor’s office to ask what time I needed to be at the hospital on Monday morning for chemo. The case manager called back and said that insurance had not yet approved everything…so that I wasn’t going to be admitted on Monday. My heart sank. Not because it was a huge deal, but mainly because I didn’t see it coming. I had no idea that they were still waiting on insurance approval. The previous times I had gone in for chemo, it had never been a question.

She said that Dr. Matthews wanted me to come in on Monday to check my levels, but that I didn’t need to bring anything with me because I wasn’t going to be admitted. She said she hoped that we would have insurance approval by the end of the week. I guess they were trying to get approval for the whole bone marrow transplant process as well, not just the week of chemo, which is why it was taking longer. Because essentially, when I start this next round of chemo, the process for the bone marrow transplant starts immediately after.

Fortunately, the day she told me I wouldn’t be going in Monday, I was busy getting ready for Hud’s party, so I was relatively distracted. We also had his one year pictures. I haven’t seen them yet but oh.my.word. He did AMAZING. Harper’s one year pictures were a nightmare. The experience was horrible. She did not cooperate. Somehow, our photographer ended up getting some great shots, but the actual experience was a mess.

Hud sat when he was supposed to, smiled when he was supposed to, he was so.stinkin’.cute. I can’t wait to see them.

Fast forward to Monday morning. I went in at 8:30 for my blood work and quick meeting with Dr. Matthews. He came in, said my numbers looked good, and then started talking about the plan. He got out his marker and started writing on the board–he has chicken scratch, remember? The first thing he said was, “I’m going to admit you today.” I almost fell out of my chair…and then I yelled at him. Not in a mean way. But a very surprised, I don’t understand way. (He has a very calm, chill demeanor, so I’m assuming I probably overwhelm him a little…but I’m okay with that. I really, really like him.)

He said that right before I came in, we had gotten approval for¬†this week of chemo. Not the whole process, but just this week. It would have been ideal to have approval for the whole thing right now, but we just don’t. He said that we could wait for approval…but he didn’t want to wait. He wanted to go ahead and move forward with chemo.

The hope and prayer is that we get insurance approval for the rest of the process by this Thursday–which he referred to as Decision Day. If we have approval, we move forward with the original plan. If we don’t have approval by then, we have to tweak the plan a little bit. It will push the transplant process out a week or two, which isn’t favorable…so for now, we’re just hoping for approval by Thursday.

Here are our two current scenarios…

Plan A – We get approval by Thursday. Then when I’m finished with chemo on Friday, before I go home, I will have my tri-fusion line put in. (That’s the pretty thing under my skin and has three lines that dangle outside of my skin. Sounds cute, huh?) It also occurred to me that once this is placed, I won’t be able to hold/pick up Hudson at all until after the transplant process is completed and I’ve done a good amount of healing. Y’all. That could be close to June. The thought that I could go from now until almost June without holding my big ball of Hud absolutely breaks my heart. I know it’s necessary for my health…but for my heart, it’s not good. Because the trifusion line is sticking out of the skin, there is a huge chance of infection…so mix that with a big ball of germs named Hudson, it’s just not a good combination. Not to mention, he likes to pull on things. So, pray for this mama’s heart. That I can make it that long without holding my baby. And pray that he knows just how much I love him, even though I’m not there to tell him myself.

Sorry for the tangent. I got home Friday then Saturday is my “rest day”. On Sunday, I start the 10 days of Neupogen injections. I will drive to Medical City Dallas each day and get an injection and have my blood drawn. Throughout those ten days they will monitor my white count. Once my white count begins to go up, I will then begin the collection process within the next day or so.

The collection process looks like this…I’ll go in super early in the morning and stay for 4-6 hours and will go through what’s called Apheresis. They hook me up to a fancy machine and filter out and collect my stem cells in a bag, while the rest of my blood is¬†put back into my body. Once they think they have enough, I will go home and wait for a phone call. It takes them about two hours once the process is complete, for them to count the stem cells that were collected. They need 5 million stem cells. Not 500, not 500,000…5,000,000. Y’all, that’s a LOT of stem cells.

They said to plan on the process to take several days. Some people can get 5 million collected in a day. Most people, it takes about 3-5 days. So if they don’t get enough the first day, I repeat the process the next day, and so on, until they have 5 million. This also got me thinking…how does one go about counting 5 million stem cells? That seems like quite the project. I’m glad they know what they are doing. They will then store my cells by freezing them…a process called cryopreservation. Since they take out so many cells, they will be able to keep some for the future, in the event that I would need another transplant, I wouldn’t have to go through the collection process again.

A few days after collection, I will be admitted to the hospital for the long stay. I’ll start the super duper chemo–BEAM treatment, that just sounds like an absolute blast. I mentioned the side effects in my previous post. I’ll get that chemo for 6 days straight, then I get two rest days! Whoo! Lucky me! It sounds like at that point I’ll be feeling pretty lovely awful. After I get two days at the spa of rest, they will go and put my harvested stem cells back in through the trifusion line.

After that day, we take it easy and allow the cells to mature. This process normally takes 2-3 weeks. There is a long list of criteria that I have to meet in order to be released from the hospital. Once I’ve met that criteria, I get to go home…and then come back to the doctor three days a week for several weeks…then two days a week…one day a week, etc. Did I mention how far we live from Medical City Dallas? Ouch.

They also mentioned the importance of having the house deep cleaned about a week before I come home…especially the carpets. So, we will add this to the list of things to do. They said the carpets need to be completely dry by the time that I get home because if they are wet, the chance of mold growing increases…and that’s bad for business after a transplant. So, timing is important for all of this.

Plan B¬†– If insurance doesn’t approve everything by Thursday, then I go home Friday night (without getting the trifusion line placed). Then on Saturday, I’ll go back to the hospital to get a different type of injection called Neulasta. I’ll get that for 3 days (I think) and then wait several days and begin only 5, not 10 days of the Neupogen shots and blood work. Hopefully by this point, insurance has approved everything and I can get my line put in and then we move forward as planned. Like I said, this pushes the process back a week or two…but it’s not the end of the world.

But for now, just cross your fingers that insurance will get a move on it and approve everything by end of day tomorrow.

I got the lumber puncture (chemo to my brain through my spine) yesterday afternoon, so I’m on bed rest, laying flat, until 5 o’clock today. Normally I do this the week after chemo, but Dr. Matthews wanted me to get it out of the way so that we can move forward with the transplant process and not have to worry about bedrest, etc.

I have several prayer requests…

  • Work – Because I have been on temporary leave for almost 180 days, I am about to have to resign. Once I hit 180 days, I have two options…I can resign, or they can fire me. Sweet. That was a fun phone call to get. So, I will be resigning soon. We have plans/dreams in the works, but we need a lot of prayers for everything to fall into place. There is quite a bit of anxiety with all of this, so please pray for a peaceful heart. This mama is anxious. (A post about plans for the future will be coming soon…once we get things in line.)
  • Finances – We aren’t totally sure how we’re going to make it on Danny’s income for the time being…but we’re going to have to make it work. We are hopeful that He will provide and that we will be blessed financially, just as we have been the past few months. With that being said, I am currently looking for flexible, part-time work that I can do once I’m done with the transplant process. Flexible hours would be great…maybe something that I could do online. I’m a fast typer, very organized, skilled with the computer…so whatcha got for me?! I know there is a lot available, sometimes it just takes knowing the right people to connect you to those opportunities.
  • Babies – Pray for Hudson and Harper over these next few weeks. They aren’t going to understand why I’m going to be gone for so long…and that just kills me. We can FaceTime, but it’s just not the same as seeing them in person. I pray that Harper will be strong and will not need her mommy too much during that time. I can only imagine how much they will change over that month. I keep reminding myself that this is what’s best for my health…but the thought of being away from them for a month is almost too much for my heart to bare. I don’t like it…not one bit.

Last but not least, here are some pictures from the past several weeks.

On St. Patrick’s day, I was able to take Harper to Disney on Ice. She was over the moon. It featured Toy Story, Cars, and Frozen…and it was incredible. I couldn’t get over the set display, costumes, etc. She wore a princess dress and had the time of her life. She had such a great time that she wanted to go about half way through…and then she heard the theme song from Frozen and was hooked. We went with Colleen, Nolan, and Kiptin (you’ve heard a lot about them). Their precious grandmother who live in New York, gave each of the kiddos $20 to spend at the show. As you can see Harper is the proud new owner of an Ariel Barbie. Thank you, Grandma Smith, it was such a nice surprise! Your family continues to bless us.

Some a ton of¬†miscellaneous pictures of the babies…

And then just some other miscellaneous pictures…

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Nolan…he’s an honorary Moore…until I can get full custody. ūüėČ

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This one is too. Kipton Moore…it has a nice ring to it. He gave me a chocolate chip cookie pillow. Fitting, huh?

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A bracelet from my mom. It’s perfect.

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Another sweet Frisco teacher who was recently diagnosed with cancer. We had lunch together and it was so nice to talk to someone who has been experiencing a lot of the same things. Praying for you, sweet Katie! You are a fighter, my friend!

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Meet Kiptin and Nolan Moore.

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And my favorite McCracken.

Quick backstory…4 out of 6 girls on my team are pregnant right now. That’s insane. Here they are. (Not pictured, Lisa…she’s not pregnant. ūüôā

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Sweet Julie is expecting her first baby in May. They are waiting to find out the gender…and we are about to lose our minds waiting.

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Jess and Julie…two of the most incredible women you will ever meet. Those babies are SO blessed to have you as their mommies. Jess is expecting her first baby, a boy, in early September.

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Nicole and Holly are new to our team this year…and they have been incredible! They both bring so much to our team. Holly (left) is expecting her third boy in July. Nicole is expecting her second child, but first girl, in May. I am so blessed by these women! I didn’t get to go to their shower because we had the Bone Marrow Transplant Class. Wah wah.

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Diaper cake for baby Emily.

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Diaper Trike for Baby Longacre.

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I am so grateful to have these two in my life. Two of the most genuine, loving¬†people¬†you’ll ever meet…and they just so happen to be my grandparents.

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Let me tell you about this precious lady. Her name is Luann and she has a servant’s heart. She is friends with my grandparents and is in the middle of putting together a huge bake sale as a fundraiser for our family. Luann, we appreciate you and your heart more than you know.

A few more #TeamAshley pictures…

And¬†I’ll end with this…

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More Chemo? Sign me up!

Well, I was released from the hospital at 8:00 on Thursday night. Those five¬†days were without a doubt the longest four days of my life. (Dramatic, but true.) I have never felt as bad as I did on Monday and Tuesday. After about 234 IV antibiotics, I finally started finding relief for my throat late Tuesday night. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since Sunday evening…and finally on Tuesday night, I forced myself to eat. My throat felt like I was swallowing glass every time I tried to swallow. It didn’t matter if it was water going down…it hurt like heck. I had Magic Mouthwash, Chloraseptic spray, and stuff that looked like melted butter…and none of it helped worth a darn. I had a sore in my mouth, inside my bottom lip that I wanted to straight up cut out of my mouth. It would have felt better than the stupid store rubbing up against my teeth.

On Wednesday things started looking up…it was about time. The only positive about this visit was that I got to spend some unexpected time with some of my favorite nurses and techs. That, was good for my soul. The rest of it…was not.¬†I had never treasured each and every bite of food the way I did that day. Oh, the things we take for granted.

Because of two injections I got on Monday and Tuesday called Granix, my white blood cells were through the roof when Thursday rolled around. They were so high that the Infectious Disease doctor was wanting to keep me until Friday because she was concerned I had an infection. On Sunday, my white count was .3. On Thursday morning, it was 49. Wowzer!

I couldn’t wait to get home and see my babies…especially since this little spontaneous hospital stay was just that…unplanned. I ¬†hadn’t expected to be in the hospital for four full days when we went in on Monday. I missed my little loves.

Because I was released on Thursday, that meant we were going to be able to meet with the bone marrow doctor on Friday–Praise the Lord! His office actually called Danny to move my appointment back a few hours and then asked about moving it to next week…oh no she didn’t! I have been so anxious about this appointment because I am desperately wanting to know what our plan is going to be moving forward. So, Danny begged…and she let us keep the appointment. Thank you, lady who let us keep the appointment. Me and my anxiety appreciate you.

So if you’ve read the blog from the beginning, you may recall that our first visit with Dr. Matthews wasn’t so fantastic. He came across as incredibly knowledgable, but also very matter-of-fact and straight to the point. He doesn’t sugar coat things and he just wasn’t warm and fuzzy. (I know, I know. As I typed that, I just asked myself how many doctor’s I’ve met who are actually “warm and fuzzy”. That may not be the best wording to use…but you know what I mean. And if you don’t, just let it go and keep reading.) He wasn’t incredibly positive with the news he presented to us. I left the appointment feeling really discouraged and down. It turns out my mom was feeling the same way. Danny thought it was a positive meeting…shocker. He must have been wearing his rose colored glasses that day.

Because of our last meeting, going into our appointment yesterday, I felt pretty anxious. Not horrible, because we had already talked to Dr. Stone regarding the results of the PET scan, so I kind of assumed hoped that he wasn’t going to give us bad news.

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Feeling positive before our appointment.

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I’m not quite a survivor yet…but I will be. ūüôā I couldn’t resist the opportunity for this picture.

So here we go. We got there at 11:00 and I had my blood work done. As I was finishing in the lab, Dr. Matthews comes in and notices me an says, “Oh, I know you! You got out of the hospital!” We chatted for a minute and then he said, “Did you get a PET scan done?” I’m sorry, what? Dude, that’s why we’re here! We’re supposed to be going over the results with you! I told him that I had one last Friday and that I had asked for the results to be sent straight to him…yah, that didn’t happen. Someone dropped the ball. I wanted to throw that ball into that someone’s face.

Apparently he could see the panic in my eyes and said, “Oh, don’t worry! I called yesterday and asked for the results to be sent over here. They said they would get it done today. Don’t worry, don’t worry. I’ll get them.” Did he not know that our appointment was in like 7 minutes? We clearly have very different personalities.

Once I was done, we went back down to the 2nd floor to his office and waited. We weren’t sitting down for 2 minutes before they called us back. The nurse asked me some routine questions, did vitals, etc., and then said Dr. Matthews would be in in a few minutes. With or without the PET scan? Only time would tell…

Not 5 minutes later, he comes marching in with papers rolled up and big smile on his face. (He’s not warm and fuzzy, remember? So this was already going better than last time.) He said he had gotten the report and that the cancer had a complete response to the treatment. (WHAT?! Can I get an Amen?!) He threw out the word ‘remission’ and I almost fell out of my chair…and then he clarified. He said that he misspoke and said that remission is not a good word to use. Instead of remission, he said that there was a complete response to the treatment…which essentially mean that there is currently NO ACTIVE CANCER in my body. NONE. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA. You know what we call that, folks? Answered prayers. I may even go out on a limb and say a miracle.

He said himself that he doesn’t see response like this often. He normally sees the worst or the worst…and this case thus far has been pretty close to ideal. (Knock on wood. Do it. Now.) So before we go any further, I need to praise sweet baby Jesus for answering our prayers.

At this point during the appointment, I’m thinking, “Oh, so since there’s no active cancer, then a 6th round isn’t necessary and we can just move right in to the bone marrow transplant, right?” Wrong. (Insert punch in the gut.) So although the report was all positive…we still need to do a 6th round of chemo–the same regimen I have been doing the previous 4 rounds. Bummer. I’ve been saying lately that because of how awful the past week was that I was really hoping to not have to do another round…but you know what? It is what it is. It’s what my doctor feels is necessary to completely defeat this disease. So, we will do another round.

I’m technically supposed to start Round 6 this coming¬†Monday…but both Dr. Stone and Dr. Matthews said that in my current state, my body simply could not handle the chemo. I would end up back in the hospital shorty after I finished that round. So, Round 6 will start Monday, March 27…the day after my sweet Hud’s 1st birthday. I’ve been so worried that with everything going on that the timing wouldn’t work out for him to get his first birthday party right around his birthday…either I would be getting treatment, or would be feeling too crummy to put it together and pull it all off. The way things are now, I have the next two weeks to get things together for his party. Pretty sure the timing in a God thing. See, He’s always lookin’ out.

Right after my appointment Friday, Dr. Matthews was going to take whatever necessary steps to get insurance approval for organ testing. We’re hoping that I’ll be able to get the testing done this upcoming week. Organ testing has to be done in order to do the bone marrow transplant. Once it’s approved, I’ll go in and have different tests done on my major organs. This will¬†be through blood tests, an echocardiogram, urine tests, pulmonary function tests, and whatever other tests they need to do to make sure my organs are good to move forward. Speaking of urine tests…this may be TMI, but I have to collect all of my urine for 24 hours. Holy smokes. But don’t worry, we were sent home with two large orange jugs for collection. This should be nice.

Once the testing is done, Dr. Matthews will then take the necessary steps to get approval for the bone marrow collection and the transplant. This could take a week or two. Prayers that all of this goes smoothly and that the insurance company doesn’t get greedy.

As I mentioned before, I will have Round 6 March 27-31. I was a little okay with having a Round 6 because that meant I got to see all of my nurses again…and then he burst my bubble. Round 6 (and everything else from here on out) has to be done at Medical City Dallas (MCD). In case you’re not familiar with the Dallas area…Celina (where we live) and Medical City Dallas are not close. Scratch that. They are FAR apart. Traffic is a beating. But, we’ll make it work.

[Putting on my rosy glasses.] This is an incredible hospital with a doctor that I trust completely. Although we will be driving far, often, I will be getting the best care and treatment. Plus, this just means that my favorite nurses have to come and visit me now. ūüôā (4th floor nurses, I’m looking at you. All of you.)

On the last day of chemo, once I’m done, I will have the methotrexate lumbar puncture done one last time. (This is where they send chemo through my spine to my brain to hopefully prevent the cancer coming back in my nervous system.) I will also have a procedure done to put in something called a trifusion line (or triple cumin). Remember when I got the port put in on the left side, just below my collarbone? Well the port got lonely, so we thought we’d give it a friend on the right side. Port, meet Trifusion Line (TL). I’m sure they’ll be BFF soon. The port is barely noticeable. You can tell where it is because the area is a little raised, but it’s not super eye-catching. The TL is a different story. Part of it is under the skin…and then there are three wires that will be sticking out. Sounds pretty, huh? I should be looking good for summer. Maybe a little alien-ish.

Here are some diagrams I saw that help you understand the placement of the Power Port and the Trifusion Line. Both diagrams obviously show the placement on the right side. I have my port on the left side and will have the TL on the right. But, you get the picture.

Port Animated

Power Port Diagram

TL Picture Animated

Trifusion Line Diagram

Thanks to Google, I was even able to find an actual picture of each device once it has been implanted. And no, neither of these pictures are actually of me.

PowerPort

Trifusion Line

So after the chemo and Trifusion Line placement, I’ll go home, and Saturday will be a “rest day”. Then beginning on Sunday, and for the following 9 days, I will go to MCD to get a Neupogen shot to help boost my white cell count. I received these injections three days in a row after an early round of chemo. After just the three injections, I thought I had been run over by a truck. My bones hurt. So I imagine that getting these shots 10 days in a row should be fabulous. I imagine I’ll enjoy myself quite a bit. Heck, maybe I’ll feel so good, I’ll go for a run!

During the 10 days of injections, they will be doing blood tests to track the white cell (can be used interchangeably with stem cell) count. For the first few days, the numbers will fall…but then they start to go back up. They will track the numbers each day so that when the numbers go back up, it will be time for the “collection” part of the process. The white cells typically begin to go back up around day 14.

For the “collection”, I’ll go in around 6:30 that morning. They will use the Trifusion Line to collect the bone marrow. The process typically takes about 4 hours. Dr. Matthews needs approximately 5 million (yes, you read that right…5 MILLION) stem cells. I’ll leave after the four hours and they will take the next several hours to count the stem cells they retrieved. They will call afterward and let me know if they were able to get the 5 million, or of I need to come back the next day and go through the same process until they get enough.¬†He said that most¬†of the time they are able to get all 5 million in one sitting. Let’s hope that’s the case. I’d rather not have this party two days in a row. Once they have what they need, they will harvest it.

Then, about two weeks after the collection (which is about 4 weeks after the start of Round 6 of chemo), we begin the long part of the actual transplant process.

I will be admitted to the hospital and receive 6 days of chemo (yes, again). But this time, it is what’s called a BEAM treatment. I mentioned this in the last post I did about Dr. Matthews. He referred to it as the chemo that is about 10 times as strong as the chemo I’ve been received. Well fabulous! This party just keeps getting better! I’m just giddy with excitement and counting down the days until it starts. (Who’s bringing the margarita machine?)

The BEAM treatment sounds rather terrifying, but maybe I’m just being negative. Essentially, it (the chemo) goes in and eradicates everything, good and bad. It’s not picky. It wipes out good cells, bad cells, and everything in between. After the 6 days of that party treatment, I get two days to rest! Yay me! Then, the following day, they will take the harvested stem cells and put them back in through the Trifusion Line. So by now we’re going on about 9 days of being in the hospital…from the beginning of the BEAM treatment chemo to putting the new stem cells back in. Let’s keep track of how many days this hospital staycation is going to last. (We’re at 9 so far.)

The new cells typically take about 2 weeks to mature. (So that’s 9 days, plus at minimum 2 weeks…I’m no mathematician, but so far we’re at 23 days. 23 days in the hospital. In the same room. Looking at the same walls. Hooray! Sign.me.up.

During the two weeks while the new cells are maturing, I will be receiving blood transfusion pretty consistently throughout.

Then he got to the good stuff…the side effects. The bone marrow transplant can effect your GI tract, abdominal cramping, diarrhea (ew, yuck), mouth ulcers (more on this in a minute), extreme fatigue, and taste. So if you’re not jealous by now, you totally should be.

He talked about the mouth ulcers quite a bit. He said this is usually the worst part. He mentioned that they will probably get so bad that I won’t be able to eat for a bit. (That’s what happened this past week, but the sores were in my throat…so now, let’s just move ’em to my mouth.) He did that say I would have a pain pump to hopefully help control the pain of the sores.

And then guess what? By day 14 (after receiving the new cells), I should start feeling better! I’m sure at the time it will feel like it has been 14 weeks…but, we’ll make it.

We figured out that I’ll be in the hospital for a minimum of 23 days. That’s assuming everything goes perfectly, no set backs. It sounds like it could easily be a little longer. Either way, once I’m released, I’ll go back to Dr. Matthews two days a week for four weeks.

30 days after the transplant, I’ll have a PET scan to give us a baseline for upcoming scans. Then, I’ll have a PET scan every 3 months going forward…for at least a year.

Once all of the treatment and everything is done, there’s a chance that I will be put on a chemo pill as maintenance. Of course, the first thing I thought was, “Oh man, as long as I’m on that pill, my hair will continue to be gone.” He assured me that the pill will not affect my hair. My hair should¬†grow back starting about 3 months after the transplant. Fingers crossed. Although now, I’m really nervous about it growing back and looking crazy. I’m assuming the first few months it’s growing back, it will look a little goofy. Maybe I’ll play with some wigs.

At this point in the appointment, I was feeling pretty good about things because I felt like we were really connecting with him. He gave me hope. He is absolutely one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. And he is so incredibly good at what he does. He just radiate intelligence. We laughed and joked…but we also made a plan. A plan that is pretty overwhelming and also rather scary, in my opinion. But, I’m in good hands. (There were no tears, for the record. Look at me, being a big girl and stuff.)

As we were finishing up, he told us a few more things that caught my attention. He said that if we stopped everything after the chemo regimen that I have been on, my chances of being “cured” are about 15%. (Remember, I have lymphoma…but I also have what’s called a double hit, which makes it much more aggressive and harder to keep away.) By going through with the bone marrow transplant, my chances of being “cured” go up to about 70%. That’s a big jump…and it’s a jump that I’m willing to take. It sounds like a wild ride we’re about to embark on…but I’m praying like crazy it will be worth it.

He also shared that the risk of relapsing is greatest within the first year. And that people who tend to relapse are the same people who did not have a complete response with chemo. (I had a complete response, WOOT WOOT!)

So, here’s a quick summary/timeline of our next steps…
-Approval for Organ Testing (ASAP)
-Organ Testing (Hopefully week of March 13)
-Approval for Collection and Transplant (Hopefully within 2 weeks.)
-Round 6 chemo, 1 rest day  (March 27-April 1)
-10 days of Neupogen injections/blood work (April 2-11)
-Collection (Once White Cell count goes up)
-6 days of BEAM Chemo treatment, 2 rest days (Approximately 2 weeks after collection)
-Transplant (Day after 2 rest days)
-Cell maturation process (At least 2 weeks)
-Meet with Matthews 2 days each week for 4 weeks
-PET scan (30 days post transplant, then every 3 months)

And that, my friends, is the plan. I’m currently at peace with the way things are going. I’m eternally grateful that the cancer has responded the way it has. I believe that happened because I have incredible doctors, but also because people have stormed the heavens with prayers…and I will be forever grateful for each and every prayer.

P.S. I had heard stories about how people who go through bone marrow transplants are completely quarantined, can’t have any visitors, etc. We asked Dr. Matthews about this and he said that whereas he is typically pretty strict with things, all of that depends on the doctor, hospital, type of disease, type of transplant, etc. He said that I will be allowed to have visitors (probably not a lot, because it sounds like I’ll be feeling pretty rotten for more of the time in the hospital). He also said that I could have someone stay with me at night if I wanted to. (To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about spending a month in the hospital completely by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love time by myself…but that’s a whole lot of time alone.)

The best part of everything…he said that my sweet babies could come up once (maybe twice) if I was really missing them. He said that we would just need to let them know when they were coming and the nurses would check them out for any infections, possible illnesses, etc…and if they were okay, they would be able to come in for a bit. It’s not much…but it makes the thought of not seeing them for a month a little more doable. That’s still a whole lot of time without that and that breaks my heart. But I’ll take a month without them is that means I get a lifetime with them once this is all over.

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These are the notes Dr. Matthews wrote on the board to explain the process…so everything I typed, matches what he wrote…can’t you tell?

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A positive appointment means the smiles continue.

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Those big orange jugs…those are for the urine collection. Whoa.

 

 

Thank a Teacher…or Student

Most of you know from previous posts that I recently got reconnected with a very special student from my first year of teaching. He, his mom, and little brother all came up to the hospital for a little reunion. And oh my, what a reunion it was. There were tears from just about everyone in the room. (Okay, mainly from me, but I don’t care. #noshame)

I was so anxious and nervous all day leading up to his visit. I’m not sure why…but I just knew it was going to be special. He walked in…and I just couldn’t contain myself. That boy had grown. A LOT. But his hugs were still just as wonderful. I hugged him and didn’t let go for a while. And then I made him take some pictures. Poor boy.

Hugging that boy for the first time in almost 8 years will forever be one of the most special moments in my life. I am beyond grateful to be reconnected with he and his family. It seems that I wasn’t the only one who was missing someone…apparently they were missing me too. God and stupid cancer brought us back together…and I will be forever grateful for that.

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One of my very favorite pictures. Ever.

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Sweet Brandon. He’s in fourth grade now…the same age Jonothan was when I had him. Such a doll. Some things never change.

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This family will never know how much they have blessed me. That lady on the end, Mary, is one of the most incredible mother’s/women you will ever meet.

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Yes, I made him take a picture of us hugging…poor thing. I think he secretly liked it. ūüôā

Because that reconnection was so special to me, I want to say this…if any of you out there have a teacher that was special to you, or vice versa…if any of you are teachers and had a family/student that impacted your life in a profound way…find them.¬†Put the effort into finding them. You may not have any success, but TRY. You will be so glad you did. And if you do reconnect, tell them what they did for you. There aren’t many things greater than that feeling.

With that being said, I have been trying for years to find my 2nd and 4th grade teachers. They were incredible…and are essentially responsible for me becoming a teacher