Merry Christmas!

Greetings,

       As much as we would like to send each and everyone of you a Christmas card, we wouldn’t be able to even afford the postage.  However, because we are so grateful for you, we still wanted to share our annual Christmas letter with you:  

Merry Christmas,

       2013 has been quite the year for the old Stafford clan.  Sure we had all the usual: Delaney (7) is still playing soccer and even started playing hoops for the first time.  Ashley (10) also played soccer again and was even elected mayor for her 5th grade field trip to Young Ameritowne. Mackenzie (12), is still a dancing fool and enjoys participating in her middle school’s daily video news program.  Emily (19) dropped out of college, started experimenting with drugs, and is now somewhere in Borneo trying to find herself.  Okay, not really, but I just had to see if anyone actually reads these things.  Emily is still doing great in school, playing on her college volleyball team, and is getting ready to leave for a semester abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands right after the New Year.

       Besides all the usual, for us 2013 will always be remembered as the year our daughter Delaney was diagnosed with cancer (specifically Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).  With what has felt like some sort of terrible curse has also brought us tremendous blessings and our family is so grateful for all of you that played a part in those.  We have met so many nice people.  We have had complete strangers show love to our family.  We have been the recipients of meals, gifts, cards, prayers, and so much more.  We had what felt like entire schools show us support and kindness.  We’ve had hair, been bald, and grew hair back again.  Delaney is doing great and her spunky self has inspired an entire “Cancer Can Kiss My Stache!” movement.  I know that for some of you this is the first time you are hearing about this so if you want to learn more about our journey with that specifically you can go to her blog (www.nomoreadventures.com) or to her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cancercankissmystache).  If anything our trials have reminded us that God is good… all the time.  May HE bless you and yours as you prepare for the celebration of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Love,

Delaney, Ashley, Mackenzie, Emily, Stacey, and Tom Stafford.

Image

Advertisements

Your Santa smells like beef and cheese!

Q.  How do you know you are visiting with Santa’s helper and not the real Santa?

A.  When you are a girl and Santa thinks you are a boy.

 

       That’s how Delaney knew anyway.  Santa took a break from the North Pole and visited my workplace last night.  I tried to loudly announce to him, “these are my DAUGHTERS Delaney and Ashley.”  Unfortunately, he still loudly said something to Ashley about her brother.  In his defense, Delaney was in all of her tomboy glory complete with a blue shirt, her patented emergency bow tie, and her ball cap.   If it bugged her, Delaney didn’t show it as we went from the jolly fat man to enjoying hot cocoa and cookies with her very own old man that happens to be jolly and fat. 

        Delaney has been feeling great lately.  She isn’t currently having to take steroids so that is a big help.  We are all falling into our nightly chemo routine.  She has to keep a two hour window where she can’t eat within two hours before or after taking the medicine.  If we can get her to be finished eating by 6, we are usually fine.  Any later than that, and  we have to wake up an angry bear just to force pills down her throat.  Besides that though, she is back in school and feeling good these days.

       Last weekend we got to tour the new Children’s Hospital where Delaney will get to finish her treatment over the next year and a half.  We went up to the blood cancers floor and saw a couple of familiar faces as her doctor and his medical assistant were at the desk putting tattoos on the kids.  After giving Delaney a tattoo on her hand, the medical assistant wanted to personally give us the tour.  She got to see all the cool stuff the new facility will offer (she’ll have her next chemo in her port on Christmas Eve at the old place, and then will begin going to the new place after that), and then we headed off the floor.  Before we left, we got the highlight of our day and got to take a picture (below) inside a giant snow globe.  Unfortunately, Delaney is eventually going to have plenty of unpleasant memories at the new hospital, it was nice that her first trip there was such a nice one.

        We Ho, Ho, HOpe you are all having a great holiday season and taking time to remember the reason for the season!

   

20131211-202807.jpg

What a difference a week can make!

      I thought it was a one time thing, so I made a joke that (like almost all of my jokes) wasn’t funny.  Some kid at Delaney’s school made a comment asking why was she in the girl’s bathroom, wasn’t she a boy?  I told her if that happens again, she should just kick that girl in the nuts (and for the 1000th time, I lost any chance I had at winning the “Father of the Year” award).  Unfortunately, it did happen again… and again.  It wasn’t just kids in her grade, as some of the older kids started chiming in.  

     Delaney isn’t one to complain so we didn’t know that she no longer wanted to use the bathroom at her own school.   She would basically try to “hold it” while she was at school.  After she was unsuccessful, she went from not wanting to go to the bathroom at school, to not wanting to go to school period.  This is a kid that loves school so much that when she can’t go due to low cell counts, she is almost in tears.  Now, even though she was feeling fine, she was in tears about the thought of having to go school. As parents, this broke our hearts.

      Well Mama Bear went down to the school and put an end to that.  We are fortunate that Delaney goes to school that is very supportive of her needs (and us).  They came up with a solution that works for everyone.  She now is allowed to go up to the front office and use their bathroom whenever she needs to. That was over a week ago, and this past week Delaney was back to loving being able to be at school.

       We ended that week by going to a place that doesn’t care about if you have hair or not, in fact they are trying to put an end to hair loss due to blood related cancers.  It was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training kick off party and Delaney was chosen to be an honored hero for the team.  As it frequently happens on this cancer ride, I also got another big dose of perspective.  While I was feeling down about Delaney’s week, I saw that my friend Desiree was also at the kick off party.  She was there to support the leukemia and lymphoma society and besides her warm smile, she was also wearing a pin with the picture of her beautiful baby Melina who lost the battle to leukemia.  Desiree is not going to stop supporting until no more parents need to worry about losing their children to cancer.  Maybe our week wasn’t so bad afterall. 

        Anyway, it was great to be at another Team in Training event.  I was involved with Team in Training long before Delaney was even born (heck, my personal email starts with tomintraining for a reason).  In fact, I met one of my best friends to this day through TnT.  So it was fantastic to be there and to hear how much they have done and the progress they have made in the fight to end blood cancers.  I’m excited to be supporting my wife and a group of over 10 women who are forming Team in Training’s Cancer Can Kiss my Stache Team.  Together these women have a goal of raising over $16,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and in April will be running a half marathon together.   I’m also excited that THEY are out running on this 28 degree day with snow still on the ground, while I am sitting in my warm cozy house offering my “support.”  Today’s support, unbeknownst to my wife, comes in the form of an ice bucket (Sorry but I’ve been waiting over 30 years to use that zinger from the Wonder Twins).  Actually, today I am showing my support by simply asking for your support.  This is only for those that can afford to offer it.  Please don’t feel bad if you can’t give at this time.  If you are in the situation where you can help with a donation to the leukemia and lymphoma society, remember that no donation is too small as every single dollar helps.  I think they will be giving Stacey a team page, but patience isn’t my strength and I really wanted to send this out while she is on her first group run.  So If you want to donate towards Stacey’s fundraising goal, here is her link (and THANK YOU!!!): http://pages.teamintraining.org/rm/pltrvrhm14/sstaffoj1t

Something different

      Although it was eight months ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday.  We were going over all the future phases of treatment with the doctor, and she warned us that “the last one, the maintenance phase, is a misnomer.  It sounds like it gets a lot easier, but it is just… different.”  Well now that Delaney is 1.5 weeks into this phase that will last a little over 1.5 years, we know what she meant by different.

        It’s different in a good way in that assuming her counts stay good, Delaney will go from weekly treatments in the clinic to monthly treatments. Different in a not so good way in that she is having to take chemo orally between treatments.  Depending on the day, she has to take anywhere from 1 to more than 10 pills a day.  Even worse than the chemo, the dreaded steroids are back.  I’m sure it isn’t the same for everyone, but steroids really do a number on Delaney.  She has to take them the first five days of the month and we definitely know when she is on them.  Yes, she eats everything in sight (she jokingly woke up her Mommy last week by gnawing on her arm), but it is more than that.  She gets these weird pains in her joints and also gets very emotional.  She just doesn’t feel well when she is on them.  As much as she loves going to school, she stayed home all last week while taking steroids.

       By the time the weekend came around, she was back to her normal studly self.  She played hoops with her team on Saturday and on Sunday, basically turned into Rocky Balboa.  It was a beautiful Colorado day, so after church we headed up to Red Rocks Amphitheater where we met some friends for a family workout.   If you aren’t familiar with Red Rocks it has 69 rows of benches and exactly a gajillion steps.  We jogged the steps, sprinted the rows, hopped with one foot of steps, then the other, then with both feet,did jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and then fell on our face… wait… that was just me.  Delaney on the other hand would not be stopped or even slowed down. 

      My friend had us do what he called the “Tough Mudder Trainer” where we started down at stage level and had to climb 20 stone walls to the top of the amphitheater. All the walls were taller than Delaney so I was worried about her falling backwards onto the concrete while trying to climb them.  My fatherly instinct kicked in and I helped her up the wall each time just to make sure we didn’t end up spending the rest of our afternoon in the ER.  She made it all the way to the top then ran all the way down the stairs to the bottom.  When we were about an hour into the workout, Delaney yelled, “I’m going to do the Tough Mudder one again.”  Before I could stop her or even catch her she climbed the first wall all by herself.  And I thought there was no stopping her before that!  Without any assistance from her old man, she tore up the 2nd wall, then the 3rd, then the the 4th, and so on.  At the 17th wall her sister came over and said, “Dad, we’ve got to go!”  At that point Delaney looked back at me and said, “Okay, you can help me with the rest of them.”  All of this from a little 7 year old girl that not even 24 hours earlier had to take 8 pills of chemo.  Simply amazing!  Now that is something different!

      Delaney ended the weekend by running an errand with her mom.  They went to the mall and were surprised to find that Santa was there.  Even more different than Santa at a mall, was Santa at a mall with no line.  So, Delaney went and had a little chat with Santa.  I don’t know exactly what she said, but I’m including a pic of a letter she wrote to him last night.  Sorry for the double post for those of you on her facebook page, but her letter said, “Dear Santa thank you for all the gifts that you’ve given me. How can I pay you back? From Delaney.”  Because I have been slacking on her blog updates, I’m not only including a pic of that but also a couple of pics from tonight (one with another of her lego masterpieces and the other proudly displaying a post bath mohawk— look at all that hair!!!).

 

20131111-201113.jpg

20131111-201130.jpg

20131111-201144.jpg

Enough!

Enough! That’s how my good friend from college had to feel when yet another family member of a loved one was diagnosed with cancer. Actually, knowing Kris, her exact words were probably,“Dammit!” What can I say, she has a potty mouth and she isn’t afraid to express what is on her heart. However, she didn’t stop at putting a bar of soap in her mouth, instead she got busy and decided she was going to do something about it.
Not too long after that I got a phone call. “I want to start a team to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer and I need a team name, what do you think of ‘Delaney kicks cancer’s butt’?” (except I already told you she has a potty mouth… so it obviously wasn’t “butt”). “Hmmm…” I thought to myself, “I’d like to be able to tell Delaney what you are doing in her honor… maybe we could work on a more kid friendly name.” And that was the night we came up Delaney’s very own, “Cancer can kiss my stache!”
Now that Kris had a cool team name, she started recruiting friends to join Team in Training with her to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Fast forward to today, Kris and her friends have raised almost $5,000!!!! In fact, at the time of this writing, they are just $150 shy of that aggressive goal Besides raising money, they started running… a LOT. While most of you are reading this on Sunday morning, they are running 13.1 miles! What better way to cheer them on from afar by clicking on their team link and donating a few bucks to help put them over $5,000 before they even finish this morning’s final run (here is the link for those of you that might be able to help: http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/nikesf13/delaney#Welcome-to-our-Teams-Homepage). Regardless of whether or not they hit their “stretch goal” or not, they have already raised over $4800… and it all started with someone getting fed up with cancer and deciding to do something about it. To Kris and your teammates that are running right now, on behalf of Delaney and all of these little warriors fighting cancer, we thank you.
Speaking of enough, Delaney has had enough of the interim maintenance phase. She had her last chemo treatment in this phase on Friday. She of course, handled it like the little stud that she is and did great. It had her feeling a little under the weather Friday night, but by Saturday she was feeling well enough to play in not one, but two soccer games. On November 1st she will start the maintenance phase which she will be on until May 2015. As one of the doctor’s told us early in the process, the “maintenance phase” is almost a misnomer because it sounds like things are going to get easier. Although she won’t have to go to the doctor’s office as often, she will still have lumbar punctures, oral chemo, chemo in her port, and steroids to deal with. Just thinking of her still having to deal with all of this the next two times we do resolutions makes me want to say enough!
She has almost had enough, of soccer. Okay, not really, she still loves it but is getting very excited to start basketball. This past week she got her jersey (which she loves the fact that it is a tank top and allows her to show off her guns) and a new basketball. Before you know it, she’ll be ready to try out for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Delaney has also had enough of being bald. It was actually very sweet, her twelve year old sister came home from the mall with a hair stimulating product that she had bought for Delaney. You’ve never seen a kid so excited to take a shower! I don’t know if it really works, but Delaney’s hair is definitely coming back. What is more exciting is that she is slowly getting more comfortable with it. Saturday she got all crazy and put gel in her hair. She doesn’t have much, but the little bit of stubble she has was up in spikes. The only thing that was more spunky than her hair was her fighter’s attitude, as she has definitely had enough and more than ever wants to tell cancer that it can kiss her stache!

20131020-045608.jpg

About time you update us!

So I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been slacking in the updates category. Worst. Blogger. EVER. Anyhoo, instead of having you read a few different posts, I’ll save you the pain and combine the updates here.
Delaney has been doing great. About six weeks into the school year, she still has only missed two days of school and both of them were treatment days. She had another incident at school where some girls were asking her why she was in the girls bathroom. She handled it in a very mature manner. I handled it as a loving, Christian father and told her that if those girls tease her again she needs to just kick them in the nuts.
It’s not just kids that still mistake her for a boy. We were at the farmer’s market last weekend and an elderly lady was commenting on the fake tattoo she just had placed near her bicep. What does he have on his arm?” she asked. “SHE just got one of those temporary tattoos on HER arm,” I told her in my subtle way. “Oh what tattoo did he get?” Betty White asked again. “SHE got some sort of cheesy dragon on HER arm!” I yelled to her. “I just thought he wanted to show off his muscles” she giggled to herself. “Lady, if you refer to my daughter as a boy again, they are going to have to fit you for new dentures!” I warned her sternly. And that is how I ended up with a black eye last weekend.
Delaney’s treatment continues to go well. In fact, she had more chemo just yesterday. She was a little nauseous last night, but the medicine helped with that. I think I may have explained that this phase includes an increased dosage of chemo with each treatment. Our little stud seems unphased so far… I’m guessing it’s because of his muscles. 🙂
We actually had something very exciting happen last week. However, before I share what happened last week, let me flashback seven months. It happened the first week we were in the hospital after Delaney’s initial diagnosis. After about the 4th day, her sisters were allowed to come visit her in the hospital. One of the Childlife specialists gave them a tour of the cancer floor and held a kids only Q&A session. When I went to check on them, she was explaining how Delaney now qualified for the Make A Wish foundation. She must have noticed my eyes get as big as my head and my “I am about to faint” look on my face because she stopped in her tracks and immediately said, “Wait, wait, wait…. Just so you know, they changed their policy and it no longer is just for a terminal diagnosis.” As soon as my heart started beating again it became humorous as her sister Ashley was VERY concerned that Delaney would “waste her wish” on chicken nuggets!
Fast forward to last week when two very nice women representing Make A Wish came to visit us. The wife and I tried to keep quiet and not influence her wish. Delaney alternated between her silly self and her “I don’t want any special attention” self. After about two hours of giggling and probably very heavily influenced by hearing how much fun one of her best friends had on a Disney cruise, she officially wished to go on a Disney Cruise. Actually in her little goofball style, she wished to take a limo on a Disney cruise that would allow her to wear a tuxedo.
We haven’t heard from the official wish fairies yet, but we aren’t waiting on anyone to have fun. This weekend while Delaney’s mom got to have a much needed girl’s weekend with dear friends she grew up with, we cashed in on the very generous offer of the manager from the local Embassy Suites to stay with them for a night. With that said, thank you Bridgette and goodnight all… We have a yummy complimentary breakfast to wake up for!
Here is a pic of Delaney reminding you that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

20130928-215409.jpg

Delaney is actually 6’5″, with the afro 6’9″

Excuse my Fletch quote, but guess who has hair growing on top of her noggin? It’s so darn cute when she gets out of a bath or shower and lets us give her “afro” a good rubbing. It’s not really an afro, but she has almost as much peach fuzz on her head as an 8th grade boy has on his upper lip. Pretty exciting stuff!

Overall she has been doing great. She is in her 2nd week of the interim maintenance phase. Last Friday’s treatment was a little different for a couple of reasons. On a personal note, it was the first treatment that I wasn’t able to be at. There is probably a part of the childhood cancer experience that most people don’t think about: work obligations. Let’s be honest, if your kid has cancer, they are going to be at the doctor’s office or hospital a lot. As a parent you want to be there to hold their hand or otherwise love on them. Your employer wants to be supportive, but also wants to make sure the needs of the business are met. As it is somewhat related, another cancer parent tagged me on a humorous Facebook article today titled, “22 Signs you’re a cancer parent pro.” This was # 17- “You wonder when you’ll get your paycheck — wait a minute, you don’t work at the hospital, or anywhere anymore (who’d want to hire you, anyway?).” The bottom line for me is that I am at a new job, so I was working while my daughter was being sedated , having her spine punctured, and then was injected with chemo.

The other noteworthy item was how Delaney did after the treatment. We’re used to her not feeling so hot afterwards (we basically expect it at this point). Last Friday was different however, in that her temperature shot up. So after spending the entire morning at the doctor’s office, she got to go home, only to have to go right back that afternoon. However, being the resilient little stud that she is, she was demanding to go join her soccer team in their game the following day and she has been feeling well every day since then.

Speaking of her afro, her teacher alerted us that another kid accidentally knocked her hat off at school today. She was upset but there were only 4 kids around her at the time and none of them teased her or anything. As a parent, we almost wish she would just own her beautiful baldness, but she is only six. No worries though as if her locks keep growing like they have been, she’ll have the late Chick Hearn announcing her in no time.

20130912-195234.jpg