Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Movie Star Party

Like my class reunion, it was a sore spot for a while. Something I looked forward to, but didn't know for sure if I'd be able to do it. So of course it was nice to do it!

"It" was The Movie Star Party. I saw this idea in a magazine long ago, when I was looking for ideas for my son's first birthday. Back then I thought it was such a cute idea, and I looked forward to hopefully someday having a daughter and throwing this party.

Six months after my daughter was born I had my head cut open and received a grim prognosis. This went on the "wish I may, wish I might" list, with the hope that I might be here when she was old enough for this kind of a party.

Today we did it!

Guests were invited to the premiere of Emma -- Age Four. We met them at the curb, where they donned boas, tiaras, top hats, and sunglasses before heading up the red carpet to our front door. My mom was Nana Barrett, interviewing these young celebrities. My dad was the Grandpa-parazzi and my husband and son were the press photographers.

Inside, the guests autographed a large gold star and pressed their hands into air-dryable clay before heading upstairs for a screening of some Wallace and Gromit short films (complete with hot dogs, popcorn, and candy).

They came back downstairs for the awards ceremony. We opened with a reading of Jamie Lee Curtis' book, When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth. Emma opened her presents and then each child received an "Emma" award. (Emma won hers for Best Actress in a Birthday Drama.)

We had two cakes: one had Emma's name in a star, and the other was frosted and topped with a sugar cookie handprint.

We sent the child celebrities home with a gift bag, complete with cell phone-shaped bottles of bubbles.

It was super-fun! I (literally) live for this kind of stuff!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There wasn't a better title for this post, as my recent past has been filled with reunions.

We started with a trip to the Austin area, to help my son meet some requirements for his Texas badge by visiting the Texas State Capitol. While there, we made a side trip to meet with "Aunt Barbi," who plays a special role in our family history.

We returned home briefly before flying to Utah for our 25-year high school reunion. The event was held at our school, which had undergone many changes. It was symbolic, as we had all gone through many changes since graduation. And as always, I was just so happy to note that I had made it to another milestone event. It was a really great evening, and I even got in some gaggle therapy.

One of our gaggle -- a fellow cancer survivor and co-founder of the Longflicks -- wasn't able to make it to the class reunion, but I was able to meet up with her later. We continue to share a love of music, the loss of hearing in our right ears, many good laughs, and a determination to hang around and raise our kids. She's especially lucky, because no matter what she faces, she is always able to at least have half a smile going at all times.

There were other reunions that were just as joyful. On our first day in Utah we were invited to meet with Ardeth Kapp, who is a dear friend and mentor as well as my favorite author. She made us lunch and spoiled our kids rotten and let me pick her brain about writing, and made us feel like part of her family.

My husband and I also went to the temple, hoping for a reunion with some of our online 2ofus4now friends in the area. That reunion fell flat, but we were able to go on and reunite some of my ancestor family members by participating in temple sealings.

During our trip we stayed with my husband's parents, and had the pleasure of not only spending time with them but also my husband's sisters and their families. Our last evening in Utah was spent at my aunt's house, where several members of my extended family gathered for an impromptu reunion.

After many days of fun and friends and family we arrived home and found our beagle Chip eager for a reunion with us. There's nothing more wonderful than knowing you're loved in so many places...including back home.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

...and forty-TWO! two days!

I didn't forget. In fact, on the evening of the 11th I thought about posting early, but didn't. And then on the 12th I was thinking about two people who had birthdays that day, before getting swept up in the joys of cub scout camp.

I woke up this morning, remembering that it was Flag Day, and that's when it occurred to me that I hadn't blogged in a while.

But here I am, not only with another month under my belt, but another half-year under my belt! Three-and-a-half years of survival, with hopefully more to go.

Still trying to do more than just maintain a pulse. Still working toward my black belt. Still busy with work and family and church callings and all the daily stuff that I can't take for granted anymore.

I still have a huge scar on my head, which makes me grateful for long hair that covers it. I still make my husband laugh with my "Mrs. Short-term Memory" skits -- except they aren't really skits. And now I have a new reminder of this experience. My right eardrum is no longer retracted; it has eroded from radiation damage to the point of being perforated.

The plan is to watch it for a while, to see if it will heal spontaneously (although that isn't expected), and to guard against infection. If there is no improvement in six months or so, I get to look forward to another surgery -- this time to make me a new eardrum out of the fascia of my outer ear. (Only God can make a real eardrum, but this one will do.) Meanwhile, I mostly hear white static (and sometimes an effervescent bubbling sound) in my right ear, and sometimes it's not comfortable. But I have the benefit of context -- after all, it would be silly to sit here long past my projected expiration date, complaining about only having ONE good ear.

Gotta get that Cat Stevens "Moon Shadow" song out of my head! There's no "if I ever lose my ear.." lyrics, so (what's left of) my mind of course had to make some, and there's not much to work with here...

And if I ever lose my ear,
And when you say things, I can't hear;
Yes, if I ever lose my ear,
Oh, weeeeee -
I won't sit to your left no more

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Paying it Forward

My brother Jim has saved the lives of each of his siblings. He saved one brother from drowning and another one from choking, and later as a dermatology resident he saved my life. When the ER doctor said it was just one of those things that would go away on its own, Jim was insisting that I was having "textbook seizures" and he wouldn't leave me alone until I had EEG and MRI tests, which is how my brain tumor was discovered.

There's no way to pay something like that back, and I'm not sure I could pay it forward, either. However, I came close the other day. My youngest brother Blake called and told me about a stomach injury he sustained the night before, and he complained of a continuing abdominal pain. He wanted to know what I thought it was. I thought it was a good reason to go to the emergency room, and I finally convinced him to go. A few hours later he was in surgery to remove his appendix, which was in the early stage of appendicitis. They also had to deal with a hematoma that was close to the appendix. Together, those factors could have been devastating if he had not sought proper care.

This is not to boast, or to even suggest that I have anywhere near the medical expertise of my brother Jim. As I saw the parallel in these experiences it became yet another example to me of how much the Lord knows and cares about each of his children, and how he provides what we need. Sometimes he does it in the form of a nagging little brother, and sometimes he does it in the form of a nagging older sister. And sometimes he does it by putting other people in our paths, who are also our brothers and sisters as children of the same God. And so we never know when it will be our turn to pay it forward and unknowingly help someone with a word or a deed.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

You Bet Your Life

I'm not the only one who counts survival time in months!

I read a news story about a British man who bet against the prognosis he was given when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. In 2006 he was told that he would only live a few months (this is sounding familiar) and he responded by placing 100 pounds in a 50:1 bet that he would live until the middle of the following year. He made 5,000 pounds and renewed the bet that he would live until this past June 1. He did, and now he has put down another bet (100:1) that he will survive another year.

The man explained that physicians told him the longest known mesothelioma survival was 25 months. "I reached 26 months a year ago and on June 1 this year I will have reached 38 months," he said.

I guess I could have made some money this way, except for the fact that I'm not a gambler -- unless you count having insurance. (I heard a comedian say once that insurance was legalized gambling: "I'll bet you $1000/year that you won't wreck your car." "I'll bet you $1000/year that I WILL!" And then if you get in a wreck they say, "Double or nothing, you won't do it again!")

So the question in (what's left of) my mind is whether this man's bet helped keep him alive longer than expected. It's not a huge sum of money, but you never know what motivates people to hang in there. My motivation is my family, of course -- and the fear of people going through my incredibly messy closet.

One news report was headlined, "Positive Attitude Does Little to Boost Cancer Survival Odds, Study Says." However, the actual study conclusion was merely that emotional status was not independently prognostic (because - duh - other factors can weigh more heavily in predicting outcome). But the suggestion in the headline was flawed. Having a positive outlook certainly can't hurt, and surely it helps people take better care of themselves.

It's not hard to find the story of someone who has beaten the odds against a disease, and it's also not hard to find the story of someone who died much sooner than expected. (Another news story was about a man who died one hour after being diagnosed with cancer.) I think ultimately it boils down to what a patient once said to their doctor after being told they wouldn't live much longer: "It's not your call!"