Friday, April 23, 2010

The Clarification Blog aka The Back Story

April 23, 2010

Some of my sweet friends have helped me to realize that I’ve left out major details in my latest blogs making it a challenge to follow what I'm talking about when I mention Jodie or Larry.  I’ve assumed that you can read my mind or have heard so much about Larry the whale on the news/facebook/internet that I didn’t want to repeat a bunch of -what I felt was - unnecessary information.  And because I blogged about what Jodie was attempting to do a few weeks ago (Jodie's Crazy Ride - March 26th), I didn’t want to "bore you" with repetition.  What I realized is that when you're caught up in the wave of something pretty big, it feels like everyone is there with you.  That whole "the world revolves around you" thing.  Such a lie.  ANYWAY... my bubble has popped so let me fill in the missing details.

On March 28, 2010, my very good friend Jodie Nelson paddled (stand up paddle) across the Pacific Ocean from Catalina Island to Dana Point...nearly 40 miles.  This was something that had never been done by a single female (or married for that matter but I mean single as in solo).  Only three men have completed this paddle.  Jodie was attempting this as a way to encourage me to continue fighting against the cancer in my body.  She knew this was something she had a high chance of failing but was determined to give it a try anyway.  She was also doing it as a way to raise money to help further breast cancer awareness/education for the younger gals out there.  I’d thought about suggesting the use of a part of the money to redo my “horribly in need of it” bathrooms but didn’t think that would fly too well.  So I decided to “let” Jodie stick with her plan of raising money for education.  I’m so giving.

Ok, ok...on with the story.  Jodie chose to do her paddle during the Ocean Ohana Catalina Challenge, which is an annual stand up paddle relay race.  Jodie was given special consideration because she was doing this paddle for charity.  She had completed the race last year with another female paddler and ended up finishing in about the same time that it took her to complete solo this year!!  We were SUPER blessed with beautiful weather and lake like conditions on the water.  All of these things made Jodie’s trek easier but not at all easy.

It was very hard watching her suffer in the way she did especially because she was doing it for me.  I couldn’t get out in the water and relieve her of her misery, I couldn't make the food taste good to her or help her to keep it down.  I couldn't take away the pain.  A lot like how she feels when she’s goes to treatment with me.  It was brutal.  I was determined to be on the boat even though many people were concerned it would be too hard for me.  The only hard part was watching Jodie suffer...oh, and getting up at 4:00 that morning. 

But God, in His ultimate wisdom and humor, turned the entire event into a nationwide news using a whale.  Similar to Jonah in the Bible but Jodie didn’t end up all slimy from the whale’s stomach acids.  But their names do both begin with a "Jo" and have a total of 5 letters.  It's late.  Back to my saga...the whale helped to tell the story...all of it!!  It was quite obvious Larry was put in those waters to spread His - as in God's - word.

A few hours into the paddle, Jenny (Jodie’s sister),

Drew (video guy),

Ray (boat captain), and I suddenly saw this very large dark fish like thing getting VERY close to the back of Jodie and her board.  Our faces displayed fear as we were trying to pretend that there wasn’t this floating beast swimming up and down right behind our friend.  Then we had to give in and tell her what was going on because we couldn’t stop squealing.  Or screaming “OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!  ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?”.

After finally getting to the point of being completely confident that this was a friendly whale, Jodie settled into trying to paddle with him in front, underneath, behind, and all around her for almost two hours.  She made him her friend and named him Larry...for NO reason.

Larry turned out to be a Minke whale and is not commonly seen in the waters off the west coast.  It is estimated that there are about 500-600 Minke whales in these waters.  It’s even more rare to see this kind of interaction between Minke’s and humans.  Because we had lots, and lots, and lots of documentation of the encounter, the story became viral and went international within a few short days.  Hitting ALL of the major news outlets, the Orange County Register, Yahoo’s front page...and “Ellen”.  It’s been nuts.

This has been a God story from the first moment the seed was planted into Jodie’s head.  Larry the whale was one of God’s vessels in getting it out.  As we were praying the morning of the race, Jenny prayed specifically for God’s beauty to be revealed in His creation and in Jodie’s body giving her the strength to endure.  Obviously He answered the prayer in a BIG a way that only He could have dreamed of.

I think that about sums up the story.  Thank you for listening.  If you'd like to see the “Ellen” clip where Jodie totally kicked butt, the link is below.  Jodie also has a blog that has lots and lots of information about Larry and her/our adventure if you would like to know more.  You can also be really hip and trendy and click the special link, on her blog, to order a super cute “Larry the Whale” tee-shirt.  Mine’s in the mail.  Until next time...ta, ta.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eclectic Ramblings, Reflections and Pictures

April 18, 2010

eclectic [ɪˈklɛktɪk ɛˈklɛk-]

1. selecting what seems best from various styles, doctrines, ideas, methods, etc.
2. composed of elements drawn from a variety of sources, styles, etc.

*  In about 30 minutes, it is my 24th wedding anniversary.  I get the privilege of being married to the man of my dreams who has stood by me through sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and through the pregnancies and births of 5 boys.  Between pregnancies and chemo I’ve been nauseous a huge chunk of my adult life.  I think I was more emo during the pregnancies than the chemo...I think so anyway.  Reed has been an amazing trooper through it all standing by me without complaining even when I'm beyond snotty and acting like a female dog.   Divorce has never been an option in our marriage forcing us to work through the hard issues.  It has made us stronger - closer to each other and closer to our Jesus.  I seriously cannot imagine life without him.  I love you Reed!! 

*  Two years ago, on our anniversary, we renewed our vows.  I began chemo 3 months after our celebration and obviously have not stopped.  Super weird to think about.  Cam and Abe graduated high school at the one year mark.  Elijah was baptized and Cam became an "adult" and started college during year two.  Last year’s anniversary was spent having a special prayer night at our house to help us deal with and survive two upcoming shoulder surgeries and a broken foot...along with the chemo and my first gamma knife procedure.  This year we’re celebrating with breakfast out in the morning and chemo in the afternoon.  In two weeks, I will have officially celebrated all but one of my boys birthdays having treatment.  Abe will start college at what will likely be the beginning of year three.  I’m REALLY hoping next year is completely different.

*  Three weeks ago my face was at the lens end of miscellaneous media outlet’s cameras.  A week-ish ago, studio cameras were in my face preparing to beam my image to lots and lots of television sets.  The middle of this week I was lying in a tube with special “cameras” looking inside my brain and “televising” my cranial image to the only person that really mattered...Dr. Duma, my neurosurgeon.  He said my brain looked beautiful!!  The last two experiences caused a bit of anxiety...I preferred seeing Ellen’s cameras to seeing Dr. Duma’s.  Plus, Ellen’s people don’t use needles.  Well, on me anyway.

*  I’ve had three treatments with the “new” regimen.  So far not seeing anything encouraging but was told it would take a little while.  I guess I just keep waiting.  Side effects are minimal...mostly fatigue and some tummy aches.  I am, however, having a weird yucky pain in my left arm.  But new pajamas were specially delivered tonight so that I look cute while lying around and feeling gross!!  Always an up side.  I love pajamas.

*  On Wednesday, literally out of the blue, Reed was offered a job with DC Shoes (clothing division) that was too good to pass up.  He starts this Tuesday.  His next business card will read, Reed Robinson, VP Merchandising.  Dawn, please tell Luke...I’m sure he will be soooo excited...hee, hee. 

*  Friday night Ben went to his very first prom with sweet Hannah and Cam was a part of his very first garage sale to raise money for his France mission trip.  These two things have nothing in common except that they were both firsts and we had to prepare for both at the same time.  Ben had more fun than Cam did.  Can you tell why??

*  Pete and Eli got haircuts this week and Abe celebrated his 13th spiritual birthday.

*  Today was an incredibly relaxing and special day hanging at the beach in Surfside celebrating the life of Jodie’s business partner and good friend, Steve Adler, who died on March 11th.  Several people hoped that Larry the whale would show his cute face during the paddle out but evidently, he didn't feel like coming.

*  Onto tomorrow.  Need to wash my new jammies!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ellen? For Reals?

April 10, 2010

I’ve never been one that had ANY desire to be in front of a camera...of ANY kind.  I don’t want to be on the big screen, the small screen or any screen in between.  I’m really not comfortable with still shots either because they are most often less than flattering. 

I like the safety of my comfort zone (which is fairly big) but have a good amount of anxiety when being pushed out of that zone.  So, of course, that’s exactly where God placed me a couple of days ago...WAY out of my zone.

Wednesday night Jodie called and kept asking “How are you doing today? How are you doing today?” I knew right away there was a “Because I’ve got something to tell you” behind that.  And sure enough...there was.  No big deal, “Ellen Degeneres’ people” had just been on the phone with Jodie.  They 100% wanted her on the show, 80% chance she would need to be at Thursday’s taping but we wouldn’t know until, yeah, Thursday morning. Did I want to go? I wouldn’t be picture would be shown, that’s all...but I could just come and hang and enjoy the craziness.  Sure.  Why not?  Sounds fun.

Thursday morning came and sure enough, “Ellen’s people” wanted Jodie at the 6:00 taping.  And...they knew I was coming.  No big deal.  I didn’t think twice about my hair or outfit.  MmmmHmmm.  Entirely believable I’m sure especially since you’ve likely read my “Vanity” blog.

So, we headed to Burbank.  Me, Jodie, Jenny, and Jodie’s photographer Duncan.  It was exciting and fun.

After making it through the madness that is LA’s rush hour traffic, we arrived at Warner Brothers Studio, Gate 2...our names were on “the list”.  Weird.  Actually, not just weird, really weird.

We were met at the car by sweet Kelly, a producer I think.  She led us into the studio and into Jodie’s green room.  Nuts.  Because there are two tapings on Thursdays, an enormous spread of food is provided for “Ellen’s crew”.  We were invited to make ourselves at home so that’s exactly what we did!!  I was so thankful for food because my stomach was a ball of knots.  I’m not one to be phased by celebrity status but the fact that around the corner were a bunch of cameras, a control room and a big stage was all a bit overwhelming...and I used to work for CBS news.

Now enter Kelly and some other guy (producers?).  I haven’t a clue but they had come to prep Jodie for the show.  After the prepping was all done Jenny innocently asks “Do we get to sit in the audience?”  That’s when and how I find out that actually no, they don’t get to sit in the audience, only I do. Ugh. I pretty much panicked. Or something close to a panic anyway.

This is me (and Jenny and Jodie) before I found out I was sitting completely by myself in Ellen’s live audience just “in case” they wanted a shot of me while Jodie was being interviewed.

This is me after I’d been taken past the control room, behind the “Ellen” stage, into a side entrance to the stage area, across the lower part of the stage in front of the live audience and up to my seat (the “Drew Brees” seat) where sometime earlier that day they booted someone else out of their long awaited and coveted spot.
Ummmm...I was mortified.  Not only was I totally being stared at because of the way I was being led in, but the entire audience was in the midst of being hyped up for the show. 

As soon I as I was at my seat, at least two cameras immediately focused on me.  AAAUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!  Notice how tense my hands are.  I could not believe what I had literally just walked into.  It was SO loud, SO bright, and SO dancey.  I love to dance and I love music.  I had never heard most of the music being played and for whatever reason I couldn’t even clap to the rhythm.  All I could do was to try and pretend that I wasn’t freaked out and that there weren’t cameras constantly in my face.

Things only got worse right before Jodie’s interview.  Three steps down from my seat (I was on the aisle), one of the camera guys planted himself with the camera focused solely on me.  AND, two step down sat a girl with a boom mike just waiting in case I was supposed to speak.  Seriously, I don’t know that I could have felt more awkward. 

Jodie came out and KILLED it but you’ll have to watch the show to see that part.  I was so proud of her.  I totally became emotional and teared up at several points.  It made the entire awkwardness ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY worth it.  And evidently, I caused so much laughter in the green room at my awkwardness that I felt like I inadvertently prepared Jodie for her interview. 

It was all good...Jodie was done with her interview and was wrapping up some final stage things...I hadn’t been pointed out or spoken to...I was actually calming down and preparing to watch the last segment...and that’s when it happened.  All of the sudden I was literally being pointed out to Ellen by a small handful of the stage crew.  Next thing I know, she’s making eye contact with me and heading up the stairs to meet me.  Again, I’m not one taken by celebrity but there is something incredibly surreal about being pointed out to a celebrity in a room full of people who are there specifically to see her and she’s walking towards you.  I found out after the show that this is not something she normally does.  I’ve probably seen a total of 15 minutes of the “Ellen” show so I hadn’t a clue if this was normal or not.  It was not  - she couldn’t have been more sincere in how she greeted me.  All I can say is surreal.

Now, I am one of those Christians that sees God in all aspects of my everyday life.  Part of the God story behind this little event was that Thursday was the only day all week that I could have gone to the taping of the show. Monday I had treatment, Tuesday I was feeling awful and Wednesday I was feeling worse.  I couldn’t even get out of my pajamas on Wednesday.  And on Friday, the show isn’t taped.  It was obvious to me that I was supposed to be a part of this day.  

I don’t know what’s going on with this story all I know is that God is writing it and continues to spread it to the world.  Some people want to poo-poo the fact that God gave us Larry to help Jodie get the word out.  Only God could have guided the whale to be at that point at that time and have him follow Jodie for so long.  A whale that’s not at all common on the west coast.  A whale that God created.

Stay tuned.  I’m quite certain the story is not finished.  I’m not healed yet!!

PS...The show airs this Monday, April 12th.

Monday, April 5, 2010 it really so bad?

April 5, 2010

“You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you don’t you, don’t you?”  Oh sorry...I have that song running through my head because my thoughts over the last ummm many, many days are how vain I am.  And you know what?  I think I'm ok with it.  I’m not vain enough (yet) to endure botox or plastic surgery on my face but I have realized that I will willingly and eagerly endure plastic surgery to fix what’s been broken during this journey.  And, I would be more than willing to get braces again.  If I had to watch myself on camera much, I think I’d get botox...and a spray tan...and wear false eyelashes.  Oh, and buy a bunch of new clothes.  But I’d leave my hair the same color because it happens to be my hair color and I’m kind of proud about that.

Anyway...several weeks ago I was part of a facebook “conversation” answering the question “would you have plastic surgery?”  Or something like that.  I wholeheartedly said yes because of what I’ve experienced in my own recent-ish life.  Others were acting like “Of course not.  You should be thankful for the way God created you and look at all the stretch marks, saggy skin from child birth, extra flab, and deformities as a map of the journey your life has taken you on.  Oh, and just exercise more and eat better.  That will solve most of your problems.”  Ok, ok...I may have stretched this conversation a bit but...whatever.  From my best guessing after gathering as much insight as I could from the facebook comments, those that had this view had not experienced anything close to my journey.  It is really nice to believe that under NO circumstance would you alter any body parts but I personally think that is a little unrealistic.  I don’t have any desire to have my body look like a road map of my journey thank you very much.  My memory will serve me just fine!!  I want it to look like it did when I was my fittest.  Likely not going to ever happen again but hey!! A girl can dream.

So, when I am all healed and assuming God hasn’t miraculously restored what I’ve lost, you can totally expect to read blogs about the surgeries I’ve had sucking and trimming on part of my anatomy to create another part!!  Oh...and I’ll be exercising regularly again too so I’ll be feeling really good!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Freaking Out

April 2, 2010

If I was blogging like I really should be I would be posting the results of my scans long before I tell you the events of today but, ya know?!  I don’t much care about all that right now!!  I am TOTALLY FREAKING OUT because Jodie and I will be interviewed in a couple of hours by NBC Nightly News.  It won’t be aired until tomorrow but the interview is this afternoon.

I really don’t like being in front of a camera...ALL of my insecurities come roaring  out and take over.  Like how I wished I’d never lost my retainers or how I wished I’d made time for a mani/pedi this week, or is my hair going to look ok, or what about my outfit, or, or, or... I’d so much rather be spilling my guts through my typing.  But this is a really big deal and God has completely blessed Jodie allowing her to not only reach her financial goal but increase it $150,000.00.  It’s been absolutely crazy to watch the story unfold with no apparent end in sight.  Plus, He (God) has for YEARS made it clear to me that my story was supposed to be told.  All that to say, I don’t really feel like I can say no to being a part of this interview...even though I am unbelievably tired and would love just to zone out on my couch.  This is totally, 100% God’s story...all of it...and it HAS to be told.

As for my results.  Well...they’re not so good.  Both of my hips look better which is awesome but I was really hoping that after radiation on my left hip/leg that I would have NO cancer in this spot.  So, even though it’s good, it’s not all the way good and my hip hurts causing me to walk funny again.  The cancer in my right hip has shrunk some so that’s a huge positive.  My chest area is worse, I have a spot in my liver, a spot in my lungs that is irritating and causes me to cough, my lower spine, my rib...I think that’s all.

I am again on a new and different chemo regimen with three new chemos.  The hope is that if I take these chemos in really tiny doses once a week that it will bring the cancer under control.  I am off the daily pills which helps tremendously with stomach issues.  And I still have hair.  This chemo regimen is not supposed to effect my white and red cell levels as much and should not cause as much fatigue.  I’ve not seen any changes yet so I wait patiently...sort of.

Thankfully, God spoke to me again this week or the results of my scans may have thrown me under the bus.  And thankfully, this weekend watching Jodie risk her life and being entertained by a whale for close to 2 hours made “Monday Scan Result Day” a lot more bearable.  It took far too long to process the weekend so processing the results day got pushed way back.

But this is one of my journal entries from a couple of nights ago explaining the recent promise confirmation...

“I am so very thankful to you that you gave me another confirmation of the promise of healing two nights ago.   I went to bed late and the last thing I wanted to do was be up any later but I felt strongly that I was supposed to pick up my daily bible and read that days entry.  And I really wanted to.
    I tried to read through Deuteronomy and just had to skip it.  It wasn’t making any sense.  I went onto the New Testament part...Luke.  And lo and behold it was the story of the hemorrhaging woman who reached out to touch Christ’s garment and received immediate healing (Luke 8:43-48).  I was thrilled but I wasn’t done being blessed.
    I went on to read Psalms and this is what you put before me...”You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.”  Psalm 71:20  I know you’ve given this to me before...several times and I believe the first time was from Ben.  So, You didn’t just give me one confirmation, You gave me two.  Thank you.  Today these words are my lifeline because I am so wiped out.  I hate being wiped out but I’m thankful I can still type and get all my thoughts out.”

Oh my...I have to go.  My stomach is in TOTAL knots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Bye.