Welcome Back

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Well, we arrived in California around midnight on Friday night, but our amazing friends were waiting and welcoming when we finally reached their house around 1 am. It was a late night, but well worth it to see how happy David and Austin were to be back in San Diego.

Saturday found us dividing to conquer the pre-party tasks. Richard took David and his friend Sean to run some errands, and I went with Terri, Maria, and Austin to go to (wait for it)…. COSTCO! We love Costco, and the girls had a great time getting smoothies from the Vitamix guy doing demos.  We also checked out Sprouts, one of the many organic shops locally. Terri already had everything ready for the group of folks she had invited to come and visit, so really all we were doing was getting a few last minute additions.

The first person to arrive for the party was our friend, and the kids’ former music teacher, Jeff Lee. He is a really great guy, and we were so excited to see him. (Terri had kept him as a surprise.) He played a lot of great songs throughout the evening, and we had fun listening and singing along. The kids were so excited to be reunited with their friends. Austin looked at me at one point and said, “I forgot that we knew this many people!!” The guest list was confirmed at 44, but all in all there was closer to 60 people that came through during the evening.

We were so touched and lifted up by the friends who were able to stop by. It was limited mostly to the kids that were in David’s class – because a house only holds so many people! San Diego has always been a special place for the kids and I, so it was really nice to be able to connect with all of those positive vibes right now.

Today we were able to visit with even older friends – from when Austin was a baby and David was just toddling about. They told lots of funny stories about the kids when they were little, and how spoiled “Autin” was. We hadn’t seen them in years, so it was a great time for all of us.

Holiday Hustle

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The holiday season is upon us with gift buying and giving and all the accompanying hustle and bustle. I’ve only seen the kids for a few minutes here and there since their return from their vacation, but it sounds like they had a good time. I think they were shocked at how cold the water was, though!

Richard and I will be picking the kids up after school on Friday to fly out to San Diego. That was home until 2005, so the kids have a lot of friends out there. I’m told there’s quite a group gathering to see us, so that should be a lot of fun. It will be a fairly short visit in CA before we hop on a plane again to go to Wichita for Christmas. Our neighbors there have been so wonderful to stay in touch and keep us feeling like we still have a home there! In addition to our great friends, Richard’s brother & his family will be visiting from Nashville. So all three brothers will be in town for the holidays. We are anxious to spend some time with all of them as it has been a challenging year for the family. (Richard’s oldest brother, Brad, has had his own share of health concerns and has been back and forth to the Mayo Clinic a number of times. He’s doing well now, but still has some recovery.)

There are so many things I want to get done this Christmas, but in actuality,  I’m doing less than normal. No cards sent out this year, even though that is one of my favorite things about the holidays. Little time for crafty stuff or driving around to see the Christmas lights, although I hope to make up for that in San Diego. I wish I could at least say that I’ve been spending lots of time with family, but I haven’t had the opportunity for that yet either. It makes me kind of sad, so I just wanted to remind everyone to cherish the time we do have with our loved ones. There are a number of reasons why you might not be able to be with those you love, but don’t let those reasons be your fault. Make time to be with them if you can. The holidays are all about love. God loved us and gave us the gift of his Son. He sort of shared His family with us so that we could be forever included. God wants us to show His love to others, especially during this Holy season. I hope we all find ways to do that.

Waiting Time

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When patients are treated for cancer, there are different steps of treatment followed by a waiting period for the body to recover. David is in his “waiting period” following his radiation treatment. We had been using this time to make a decision about David’s continuing care.

This past week, we (Mark, Richard, Susan, & I) talked to the doctor in charge of the clinical trial in Pittsburgh and we decided that David will take part in that study. We told David about it, and he is excited. He said the science behind it makes sense to him. :o)  He’s talked to his Chemistry teacher and last year’s biology teacher about it, and they both helped him reason through it. Being David, he is also excited about the possibility that this could open up new treatment for other people so they won’t have to go through chemo.

David will start the clinical trial in January. This is instead of the normal chemotherapy that is given to most patients. The trial is for a vaccine that will attack the cancer cells in David’s body while leaving the healthy cells alone. It is the most promising thing we’ve seen, but even at that, the doctors are careful not to make any promises. They aren’t calling this a cure, but they do think they can give us the same results as the chemotherapy, but without the typical side effects of chemo.

They will also do an MRI at that time to see what was left behind after the surgery. Even after all this time, it still might not be a clear picture because of the swelling from radiation.

David is doing really great right now. He has shaved his hair for what we hope will be the last time because it should start growing back since the radiation is over. He is in Key Largo this week with Mark, Susan, Austin, Katie & Kelly. They are enjoying a lot of activities and of course, just being at the warm beach. Since we couldn’t be with the kids, Richard and I also decided to take a mini vacation. We had thought to head home, but decided that we probably needed the time to regroup as a couple.

It’s been a good few days. I confessed at dinner that I’m having trouble coming up with topics that aren’t related to the kids, work, or cancer, but it is a low-pressure environment. Richard and I have enjoyed some quality time, in spite of the pressures that are bearing down.

I also got a lovely message from a church in Alabama that is praying for David. We get so much encouragement from those messages. Thanks to all of you for keeping David in your prayers.

Standing in Line

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We wait in line for a lot of things in this world, but tonight, I stood in line to pay my respects to a mom and honor her young son who left this world way too soon. Richard and I stood in line for nearly two hours to say goodbye and try to offer some comfort. That’s a long time to reflect. We had only known Justin Yancey for the briefest time. Mere months, and yet he and his mother have touched my life in a way I will never forget. In the midst of battling leukemia, Justin held on to his sense of humor, sweet smile, and love for others. It was very obvious to me tonight that he got those qualities from his mother. He was barely 16 years old.

When we were next in line to speak with her, she looked up and saw us there waiting. She had a smile for us on what must be one of the hardest days of her life. We hugged and spoke of Justin, but she quickly asked about David and how he is doing. In the midst of all that grief, she was asking about my son. She is clearly heartbroken, and yet, strong enough to still love others through her own sorrow. I have had some good examples of strong women in my family, but tonight, I was awed by Kathleen Yancey.

Life is hard. It will try to knock you down. Kathleen showed me that even if you are down, you can pull someone up with you as you stand.

In her honor and in Justin’s memory, I’d like to tell you all about http://www.bethematch.org. It’s the website for the National Bone Marrow Donor registry. I’ve gone there and looked, and it isn’t nearly as scary as I thought. To enter the database, they can do a simple swab. Being a donor is a little more complicated, but the website explains  the whole process in easy terms. It saves lives.