Delaney and Broncos Awesomeness

Let me get the boring stuff out of the way. Delaney was supposed to start her next phase of treatment today, but yesterday’s labs revealed that her counts are way too low to handle chemo right now so the Interim Maintenance II Phase will have to wait another week. But as Delaney would say, “yeah, yeah, yeah… BORRRING!”
Okay, now to the fun stuff. You know how when your kid is super excited about something and comes running in to tell you about 10 minutes worth of stuff, but does so without taking a breath? WellthatisexactlyhowIfeelrightnowsoyouwillhavetobarewithme!
There was a whole lot of awesomeness that came together so in hopes that I don’t leave anything or anyone out, I’ll start at the beginning.

I was a poor schoolgirl living on a prairie with Michael Landon. What??? Okay, maybe I am just drunk on excitement. It all started a couple of months ago when Delaney said, “Dad, wouldn’t it be fun if you could take me to a Bronco game for my birthday.”  I’ll quickly digress to point out that when you have four daughters and one of them wants to spend her birthday with you at a football game, you can die a happy man.  Anyhoo, sure enough, her birthday falls on a Sunday this year and the Broncos are playing the Redskins that day. I thought to myself, “why not write the Broncos organization and ask if maybe they could help with an autograph or something?” Autograph… Ha!

A very nice woman by the name of Kelly who works for the Broncos called me. She didn’t want to get our hopes up, but said that she can SOMETIMES get passes to go on the field before the game. However, we would need to be able to find tickets and that they would have to be for a different game than the one that would bring ex-Bronco and current Redskins Coach Mike Shannahan back to town. That is of course, if we wanted even a chance of getting a pass to go down on the field. Hmmm…
Enter our friend Tracy from church who offered to give us two tickets to last night’s game.  Sweet! Delaney and I could go enjoy the game. Then  our friend, and Bronco Superfan, Wayne offered us one of his tickets so that my wife Stacey could also go.  I say “Superfan” because every inch of Wayne’s basement is covered with some sort of Bronco’s memorabilia. So much so, that Wayne and his basement have been highlighted in four different magazines. If it is related to the Broncos, Wayne already either has it or has done it. He has done everything except get to go on the field before a game… Until last night because Kelly and the Broncos organization delivered!
As a coincidence, due to changes at my wife’s work, I actually took a job with a new mortgage company this week. They sent me to get one of those handsome photos so people who have my card can put it up on the walls of post offices, public restrooms, weight loss clinics, etc .  Please enjoy this gratuitous goofy shot while I search for any relevance to Delaney’s night… still searching…:

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While my photographer was working the miracles of Photoshop to get my pic down to three chins, I noticed his co-worker editing photos of Broncos players. It turns out Rob (www.robhawthorne.com) just happened to be one of the photographers for the Broncos.  Hmmmm…
So like kids waiting for Christmas, we were anxiously counting down the days until our Bronco game. When last night finally got here we zoomed over to the stadium and picked up our pregame field passes at the media will call.  We were all bursting with excitement as we headed down the tunnel that we knew on the other end was nothing short of spectacular. When Delaney arrived at the the field she flopped down on the turf so she could literally be ON the field:

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We weren’t there five minutes before Delaney was on the jumbo tron. We then walked over and waited for the players to make their entrance. They ran in and as part of their warm up, jogged right in front of Delaney who was able to give one of them a high five. We then got to watch the players warm up only a few yards away.  Does anyone recognize this guy?:

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To give you an idea how close the players were, look at this picture (It’s just a shame Delaney wasn’t excited or anything):

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The players weren’t the only ones we saw.  I looked up and Rob from the photo studio was walking by, “Hey why don’t you guys come on this side of the line so I can get a picture,” he suggested.  Just like that we moved from the safety of the sidelines to trying to make sure the linemen didn’t eat us.  Rob took some shots for us and then we went back to the sidelines to take in some more Bronco awesomeness. As the warm-up was winding down, Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday ran directly over to Delaney and handed her his gloves. It happened so quick I was barely able to get this expert pic (okay, let’s just say Rob has nothing to worry about):

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However here is a pic of the gloves he gave her (Delaney loves the fact that they form the Superman emblem when put together):

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You might remember Holliday as the player who returned a punt 90 yards against the Ravens last year, but here is how Delaney will remember him: “Dad, I think Holliday is the nicest guy on the Broncos!”  We all stood there in disbelief and as Mom got a little emotional, we asked ourselves if that really just happened.
As our time on the sidelines was coming to an end, Rob came over and said goodbye and took some more shots for us. Only this time it wasn’t just the three of us, he flagged down a bunch of Bronco Cheerleaders and they surrounded Delaney for some pics. Then last but not least, she even got to take some pics with the Bronco’s mascot. It was truly a night of Broncos awesomeness and we are so grateful to all who played a part in making this a night none of us will ever forget!

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Resilience: it’s exactly like a Twinkie… I think.

Years ago I asked my wife what the difference between kids with cancer and adults with cancer was. She was able to summarize the difference in a word: resilience. Almost all of the kids had it, but only some of the adults. I am not smart enough to know what that means, so I’ll just share the difference between me and Delaney.
Now I obviously don’t have cancer but I thought I had something a bazillion times worse. I was heartbroken. I spent days then weeks crying and sobbing. The pain was just too much to bare. After my wife begged me to look at my medical atrocity (I think her exact words were “quit whining and show me your finger you baby!”), I finally succumbed only because I knew it had to be tough on her to possibly be losing me. I couldn’t understand the professional medical diagnosis because it was some sort of latin term (sounded like itsafreakinhangnailujackass!). Maybe I just didn’t hear her because I was too busy asking if at my funeral I should play “Amazing Grace” or a more non-traditional song like some old school U2, “Won’t you be back tomorrow?” I don’t speak Latin, but I think if you look up resilience in the dictionary, you might just see my picture.
OR possibly the likes of little Delaney would be a better example of resilience. Delaney who when pulled from school to get a bunch of chemo injected into her and then is told that she can expect to be feeling very poorly, asks, “Can l go back to school now?” Or when asked about her hair loss and what wig she chose, throws a backwards ball cap on her bald head and just wants to go play.
I may not understand resilience, but I think heroes have it. Today we were fortunate enough to attend a Heroes for Heroes event. It was held at the Centennial Fire Department for kids fighting different forms of cancer and their families. They got to participate in a junior firefighter challenge, tour the station, and even take a ride on the fire truck.
Besides the kids, the firefighters were the obvious heroes. However, there were less obvious heroes like the Wachter family. They lost their little girl Melina to leukemia about eight years. I don’t think anybody in the world would blame them if they just wanted to hole up someplace with their three surviving children in silence. Instead, they are out their hosting events like today’s function through their ForeMelina foundation and bringing so much joy to so many others. They come along side families with children fighting cancer and help in any way they can. The parents, Desiree and Mike, were personally working the Love, Hope, Strength booth getting people added to the bone marrow list.
I think heroes come in all shapes and sizes: they might be bald little tomboys, wear police or firefighter uniforms, or even be an entire family who turned their tragic loss into a mission to give back. Unfortunately for me, they come in every shape but mine.
Here is a pic of my mini little hero having a blast today.

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Today’s riddle

Q. How do you catch a unique bird?
A. Unique up on it.

I’m here all week folks! Actually, I guess I am still here on this crazy (non) adventure for two more years. So what’s my point? As usual with my little pebble I call a brain, there is no point.

Wait! Unique is how they described Delaney at the doctor’s office today. Her hemoglobin dropped even lower down to 7.5 (they transfuse at 7), her ANC is 350, and her platelets tanked. She should be very weak and sickly right now. Instead she is a dancin’ fool! No really, tonight she went to her hip hop class. Last night she went to and participated in her team’s first soccer practice of the season. She is definitely a unique little bird!
They did prep us again to be ready for her possibly needing blood on Friday, but for now she’ll just keep working on her moves.

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Rapunzel… I am your Fathhhher.

Delaney continues to kick butt! Tuesday’s appointment had her hemoglobin hanging in there but her ANC dropped down to 600. No bueno. Her doctor’s office stopped short of telling us not to take her to school, but reminded us that if there were any illnesses going around, the chances were good she would catch them. That didn’t stop her, she insisted we take her right back to school. Not only has she gone to school every day this week, she has been partying like a rockstar! Well… Technically like a princess.
Tonight Delaney got to go to her very first Germ Lite party. It is a pediatric cancer foundation that does things like rent out and sanitizes entire theaters so kids who are immuno-compromised can enjoy a movie. Well tonight they hosted a princess party and Delaney even got to bring a friend.
There were little princesses everywhere: Jasmine, Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Darth Vader… Yep our little princess Delaney wore the full black outfit complete with the mask that makes the loud breathing noises. They started the night by decorating their tiaras, which I was able to catch Delaney’s sheer joy in this pic:

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They then got to have their make-up professionally done. That was all we got to see, because this was a kid’s only party. By the time we got back to pick them up, there were a lot of smiling little girls who were too busy feeling beautiful to let cancer ruin their evening.
This is a pic of Delaney and her buddy Macayla at the end of the night. As you can see, Delaney might have had a special request for that make-up artist.

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First day of school

It started at about 2 in the morning. The wife was wide awake with worry. Is Delaney ready to go back to school? What if her counts are too low and we just don’t know it? Should we have made some sort of check-list for her teacher? What about the school nurse? She only knows four kids in her class, maybe we should have the child life folks come out from the hospital again to help educate the other kids. Basically, she was squeezing at least a week’s worth of panic into the few hours before the first day of school began. She had been listening to the staff at Delaney’s doctors office and just didn’t think Delaney would be feeling well enough to actually attend school on the first day. In her mind, she was unprepared.

Sure enough, the kids woke up and everyone was feeling great. The house had that “first day of school” feeling when everyone is still excited about learning (or at least seeing their friends). Everyone humored Mom by allowing her to take plenty of pics. As for the whole wig question, Delaney decided to go Au naturale with just a ball cap covering her bald noggin.

When we got to school, cool little Delaney just had one rule: don’t embarrass me. At the risk of getting one of her knuckle sandwiches, we couldn’t resist being those parents that at least checked in on their little one. Sure enough, she found her classroom, hung up her mustached Hello Kitty backpack, and found her seat just fine. I didn’t know who I was more proud of: Delaney or her Mom who seemed to be holding it together so well. I then looked at her Mom and realized she wasn’t holding anything together. She wasn’t getting emotional because she was sad though. Unlike every other year where we just take it for granted that our kids would be healthy enough to go to school, she was just crying out of gratitude that her baby, in middle of what should be one of the toughest months of treatment, was feeling well enough to go to school. Luckily for her, she was outside of Delaney’s classroom (and scope of vision) when she lost it or Delaney might have had to give her a knuckle sandwich.

Here is a pic of Delaney all decked out for her first day of school.

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Defeated!

When it comes to running, I’m like a cheetah. More specifically, I am like a cheetah that is missing three and a half legs. To me speed was always something I was supposed to “just say no” to. So you can imagine my dismay when my wife heard that I was doing a half marathon and suggested, “You should try to break 2 hours for Delaney.”
What??? Has she even seen my love handles??? Way to take a low-key, relaxed, supposedly fun run, and suck the joy right out of it Count Wifeula! The worst part about it was that she gave me so much time to train for this feat by sharing her words of wisdom… yesterday. Oh well, in my ironman days it wouldn’t have been a problem, so how much slower could an extra 20 lbs. really make me? I was about to find out!
I started the day with my thinking cap pulled down firmly over my fat skull, as I was just going to outsmart them. When they had us find the person that was holding a sign with our expected pace, I just found the guy holding the 1:50 sign. It was the perfect plan…until we actually had to start running. He pulled away from me about two minutes into the race and then the woman holding the 1:55 sign passed me at mile 2. That was not a good sign, but I had no delusions about posting a 1:50 or 1:55 anyways, so I did my best Forest Gump impression, and just kept running.
At mile 8, a woman holding the 2:00 sign was running next to me. “Crap!” She heard me say a little too loudly. “You are already past the half-way mark, just keep up with us and you’ll be fine,” she assured me. I wasn’t about to fall for that, so I quickened my pace.
At about mile 9.5 she caught me again, but this time she started to pull away. I only had one choice, so I jumped for her legs and tackled her. Okay, not really, but the thought briefly crossed my mind. As I saw my dreams of having a proud wife and kids move further and further away from me one step at a time, I just felt defeated.
I wallowed in my self-pity for about ten seconds, and then I prayed. I didn’t pray for something dumb like having the grit and toughness to push on and still finish in under two hours. That would have been just selfish. Instead I prayed for a magical cape that would allow me to fly the rest of the way and shoot lasers at my arch-enemy carrying the two hour sign. Again, not really. I prayed for my own kids including Delaney, but I still had 3.5 miles to go. So I prayed for Savannah, and Joshua (who has already had his 4th bday party postponed twice because of cancer), I prayed for Macayla and Brecken’s grandpa, and Luca, and Logan from the clinic, and Super Jace, and Hunter, and Caleb, and the leukemia slayer, and Tonja’s dad, and Emma, and Taylor Tornado, and Neomi, and John, and all of the other cancer warriors my oxygen deprived brain could think of… and then I crossed the finish line at just under 2:05… and again felt defeated.
But this time it wasn’t because of my race time or morbid obesity, it was just the realization (again) that cancer affects soooo many people. As I walked through the post race exhibit, I was thinking about the fact that for every cancer warrior, there is an entire army of loved ones who are also affected. There are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, grand kids, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, spouses, co-workers, followers of blogs and Facebook pages, and many others that ride the roller coaster with them. Instead of sulking and allowing myself to just feel helpless, I decided to do whatever I could, and just encourage others. Since I didn’t want to wait and wasn’t at a hospital or any place like that, I was grateful for the fact that we can almost always find people that can use some encouragement. For me today, it sounded like this, “Good job Marie! Almost there Joe! The finish line is right there Susie! Keep it up runners!”
Thank you to all of Delaney’s army of supporters as we are so grateful for each and every one of you. Heck, thank you for even bearing with this pathetic “race report.” Yep, I was like a god out there today… Unfortunately for me it was Buddha.

Weeeeeeee!!!!!!!

       So the roller coaster that is cancer rides on.  If I was in Mexico, I would say that Delaney is doing fantastico.  We are smack dab in the middle of one of her toughest months of treatment and she seems to be doing better than ever.  In fact, at her doctor’s appointment today, it hit us that this was the very first time in almost six months that we went a week without having to call the doctor about something or go in to the office unexpectedly.  Before we could go around the room giving high fives to everyone, the nurse came in with her lab results.

       Her supposedly all-important ANC was 2300!  Woohoo!  I’m not a genius, but I know it has to be at least 750 to receive treatment and 2300 was… like…. at least… more than 750.  Well I was busy doing the math on my fingers and toes, I was brought back to reality by the nurse practitioner saying, “so we are ordering her blood products for next week.”  Come again.  This made absolutely no sense. Delaney had been feeling great AND had a high ANC, why in the heck were we talking about a blood transfusion? Well apparently even though her ANC has been going up, her hemoglobin has been going down.  

        So there we were (including two of Delaney’s sisters) in her private room discussing what should have been a very somber subject, but for whatever reason we were laughing.  “So you’ll have to go to the main hospital’s 7th floor,”  the nurse practitioner was telling us when Delaney squealed, “Oooohhh… I love the 7th floor!”  I’m not sure how many kids are excited about the possibility of having to go to the Oncology (cancer) unit, but as I guess the mustache and bow tie will attest to, Delaney beats to her own drum.  Then after giving her the day’s chemo treatment, they reminded her that her Mom would be giving her the medicine at home over the next few days and encouraged Delaney to be nice to her. “Your just lucky you have such a great nurse for a Mommy,” the nurse reminded her.  At which point Delaney’s straight faced comedian sister Ashley, who had her face buried in technology and hadn’t made a peep the entire visit said, “You have no proof of that.”  While we were all cracking up, the nurse corrected Ashley and informed her that she had seen her mom in action more than once.  

       Anyway, that is our update and here is what our schedule over the next week looks like:

Friday- Sunday: Delaney’s port remains accessed so her mommy can give her chemo at home.

Monday: School starts and Delaney starts the first grade.

Tuesday: We go back in to have her lab counts checked and an exam.

Wednesday or Friday: Depending on the Tuesday’s lab results, we either go to the main hospital for Delaney to have a blood transfusion on one of these days.  They already warned us that even if her counts say that it isn’t necessary on Wednesday, it almost certainly will be on Friday.

As they say at the happiest place on earth, “Please keep your hands and feet in the ride at all times… permenecer sentados por favor!”