Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Great Week... A Great Breakthorugh

Throughout the past year, I have had numerous people ask me how my kids were dealing with everything. In general, my answer has been that Leah is oblivious and Nathan has been a trooper. This week my boy finally broke and shared his heart.

But first… the good stuff.

We spent last week on vacation! A real, escape from life, family getaway. We had a blast visiting our awesome friends, the McAwesome crew, at their home in Northern California between the tiny towns of Fall River Mills and Burney. They live in a magical place where if you look to the north you see Mt. Shasta, to the south you see Mt. Lassen and to the west you see Mt. Burney. This is what I saw each morning when I opened the RV door.

Mount Shasta, California  
Still wonder why this is our new favorite vacation destination?

Let me just highlight, by family member, a few of the great things that we got to do during the week.

Pretty in Pink
  • Our baby grew up this week. While she may technically be turning two this Friday, she has taken on the independence of a 4 year old. That little girl kept up with the older kids like nobody’s business.
  • In sitting at the bar with the “big kids” (not in a high chair), Leah learned to swallow her food last week. If you have ever seen the girl eat, you know what I am talking about. She usually chews it up, sucks out the juice/nutrients, and then spits out the bulk. This sort of twisted baby eating disorder has finally been cured and we could not be more proud.
  • She conquered her fear of water and proved to be a true water baby. Floating on her back is her favorite. The girl is a fish.
  • She fell in love with their baby kitten and little teacup shiatsu. Poor animals could not hide fast enough. You would have thought she was a mama cat by how she carried the kitten around by the scruff of her neck. Let’s say the girl loved the kitten too much!
Nathan and Daddy
caught a fish!!!
  • 6 days in the spa for at least 4 hours a day. Raisin fingers… happy boy.
  • If it is possible to have a forever friend at 5 years old, I do believe Nathan can officially say he has found his. “Superman” (6 yrs old) and “Spunky” (4 yrs old) are the kind of friends we will keep for life. Nathan has decided he wants to marry Spunky… and we are all completely fine with his choice. What a amazing time to watch my son find friendship at such a young age.
  • Tape. Tape and paper. Tape and paper and pens. If they were not in the spa the kids were drawing. Bliss.
  • Nathan had a great time with his dad. They caught a fish in the stream and had a blast golfing. Here is a pic of his stance/swing. Eric says his swing  is near perfect… I don’t know enough about golf to argue. Love watching my boy and his dad share such amazing bonding moments.
The kid looooooooooves golf.
  • The man shot at clay pigeons and was an all-star. There were only about 10 left and I watched him hit 7 in a row.
  • Golf. He was able to go twice in one week and had a blast. As much as this habit can drive me crazy, I love how he comes home from a round relaxed and content.
  • The boys had the amazing opportunity to go fly-fishing on the Fall River during the hex-hatch. Basically this means they went out on the river at sundown during the time that a special mayfly hatches and the fish go crazy jumping out of the water trying to snatch the flies. My man caught a 17 inch 2+lb rainbow trout! Happy, happy husband!!!
  • I followed Mrs. Awesome around and learned a ton about gardening. She sent me home with a pallet of divided flowers that I put in the ground this morning. Just hoping I can nurse and love them to great health and vibrancy here in the valley.
  • I experienced pains near the intensity of childbirth. Got to go to the ER and the determined that I was border lined between a kidney infection and UTI. Ouch. Reminder that my body is still healing and that my immune system is not yet normal. Grrr… but this will improve with time.
  • Honestly, the kids were great and I just got to sit back and watch them have fun.  This is my favorite kind of mothering.
  • Deep conversation. Mr. & Mrs. McAwesome are very, very, very smart people. It is refreshing to have deep, intellectual conversations. About politics, about parenting, about religion… the list goes on and on. Loved the conversations of the week.

Okay, so you’re wondering what was the breakthrough with Nathan.

On our last night, while getting my boy ready for bed, he started telling me how much he as going to miss Superman and Spunky. This discussion turned to how he was going to miss me when I died. While he has brought up death since I have been sick, this was the first time he ever said, “When you die of cancer.”

When I was first diagnosed, I know he had a conversation with some of the kids in our friends group about cancer and dying. A teenager that greatly influenced my nephew and our friend’s kids died last year and I am pretty sure one of the kids talked to him about how she had died. We have talked about death… but never like this.

I tried to reassure him that my doctor said that they killed the cancer and that I am healthy. I talked to him about how the chemo and radiation fought the ‘bad guys’ and won. We talked for quite a while and finally, I said, “Nathan, you are 5 years old and all you need to think about are cars and dinosaurs and riding your bike.” With tears streaming down his face he asked me, “Mommy, how can I think about those things when all I can think about is you.”

I was speechless. Just hugged my crying boy and cried along with him. 

It kills me that he has carried these kinds of heavy thoughts and burdens. However I am so glad that he has finally expressed his fears and let go of just a little bit of the stress that he has been carrying. Honestly, Nathan has done an amazing job being the son of a cancer patient. He has not significantly acted out, he hasn’t regressed in behavior or cognitive learning, he hasn’t shut down. He has actually thrived and taken every bump without much issue. I personally believe there is great freedom in sharing and releasing deep emotions such as this, so I am so grateful that he is beginning to let things go. Poor boy… incredibly strong little man.

I love him. I love him a lot. 

Joppa Family - June 2012

Nathan and Superman in the spa.
(Showing off their dinosaur and camel figurines.)

Superman (6 yrs), Nathan (5 yrs),
Spunky (4 yrs) and Leah (week shy of 2 yrs)
"Best Buds"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Week Ago…

Today marked a full week since my 30th and final radiation treatment. The day was super busy and full of celebration and food. Lots of food. It was a day that I was not a focused whole-food, fruit and veggie, whole grains, and being an example of healthy eating change. I was naughty… and it was delicious.

When I walked into the Cancer Center, I was surprised and blown away to be greeted by one of the ladies that I had sat with through the first couple of weeks of radiation. With a huge smile, she stood there with open arms and a bouquet of helium balloons. We had become e-mail buddies over the past month and this new “sister” had remember me on my LAST day of treatment and showed up to celebrate. I was, and am, humbled by her kindness.

As I walked into the dressing room, the techs let me know that I could come back as soon as I was ready. It took about 10 seconds to change into the gown. I marched myself right into the radiation area, clapped my hands and energetically said, “Let’s get this done!” I raced to the table, they lined the lasers up, the machine did its thing, I sang a song of praise louder than the sound of the buzzing… and then it was all over. My last radiation treatment. The last time I would have to stare at my scared reflection in the glass ceiling tiles. I deeply hope that it was the last time I will ever have to step foot in that room again. My gown did not go back into my cubby; instead, it shoved into the laundry bin. In fact, I took my nameplate off of my cubby, waded that thing up, and tossed it in the trash! I met with the doctor for a few minutes and then jammed out of there as if I was late for an appointment. However, I was not late for anything. I was just free.

Two dear friends that have been helping watch the kids throughout treatment took me out to lunch to celebrate. A kid free lunch and an amazing dish of Thai curry was the perfect reward for finishing treatment. Then we went back to the house and Erika had made a rum cake for dessert. I am not a huge fan of cake, but this stuff is beyond amazing. When I had tasted it before I begged for the recipe… seriously beyond yummy.

I took the kids home, we all rested and then I prepared dinner. Our friends came over to celebrate with us and to enjoy the tri-tip Eric barbequed. We ate ourselves silly and then Holly brought out a special triple layer red velvet cake that she had made for me/us. The word ZERO shouted that my long countdown of appointments and treatment are finally over. It was magically scrumptious! The kind of cake that could possibly make me change my tune and say I like cake. So, so, so good!

After everyone left & the kids were in bed, Eric brought out the bottle of wine that we bought last year on our Napa anniversary trip that we had been saving for a “special occasion.” Together, under the stars, we sipped, celebrated, thanked God, and breathed relief that we had survived the past 10 months.

Yes, it was a day of a million calories. It was a day of floating on air. It was a day of feeling set free. And in true Joppa fashion, throughout the night Eric serenaded me with the theme song to Greatest American Hero:
Believe it or not,
I'm walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free-.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it's just me.

To top it all off, last week I was able to enjoy a celebratory massage. Several months ago a friend gifted me two massages with an amazing gal here in the area certified by the Healing Arts Institute in Oncology Massage. What a blessing this treat has been. Danette has become a cheerleader and support (physically, mentally, food wise & spiritually) throughout treatment and wanted to be sure to see me through complete healing... what a treat to be blessed with this kind of special gift. 

I celebrated hard, totally over booking my schedule and making sure to squeeze in more fun than one should have in a week. As a reminder that I am still healing, my body rejected the fun and finally put me in bed for a day. I knew I didn't feel good but when Nathan said I had "Sick Eyes" and Eric said I looked "Chemo Sick" it was clear that I really had pushed myself too hard. I have been reminded that it did not take a day for my body to get to this place... I need to take time to rest and heal as well. 

What joy and peace and thankfulness that this journey is all over I have enjoyed this past week. Sure, I still have a painful sunburn (radiation burn) that needs to fully heal and a port that needs to be flushed out and funky hair that needs to grow to a decent length. Nevertheless, I am free to enjoy each day and focus on the life I am here to live. And that’s just what I’m gonna do.

Hugs and love to all of you!

*** If you are looking for a massage therapist or know somebody going through cancer treatment or other chronic pain where massage would help in the healing process, I cannot recommend Danette enough. Her studio is in her home, so it is a very comfortable, peaceful environment and she is just the sweetest (most positive) person you'll ever meet. If you are interested, her email is .