Twelve Twenty

Like many of you, this is a reflective time of year for me for so many reasons. I often find myself saying “this year went by so fast”, “I can’t beleive it is almost Christmas”, and “where did the year go”. However, these past six years have taken on a whole new meaning of reflection. Six years ago today, December 20th, 2011 (twelve twenty), Eric received his diagnosis of having grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer. As I sit here and not only reflect on the last year, I can’t help but also reflect on the past six years. On that day six years ago, we couldn’t even predict what the next six months would bring, let alone the next year or even six years. If you were to tell me on that day six years ago where we would be, the challenges we would face, the ways we would overcome them and all the ways cancer has given us more than it has taken away – I am not sure I would have believed you.

A few days ago, I was looking through my nightstand and found the journal I had started when Eric was first diagnosed. If I am being honest with myself, I likely started the journal for the fear of the unknown to what was going to happen over the next six to twelve months. When Eric was originally diagnosed he was given a prognosis of 6-12 months. At that time, Bryce was only 3 years old, so in my darkest place, likely one reason why I kept that journal was to help keep Eric’s memory alive and so that we could never forget in case that prognosis became a reality. On this day six years ago, I wrote:

“Bryce went to daycare and I stayed home with Eric so I could go to his neurosurgery appointment. Eric rested awhile in the morning. I helped him get a bath. His appointment was at 2:45pm with Dr. Tranmer. We got to the appointment on-time. Dr. Tranmer came in, looked at Eric and said he looked well. We (Eric, me, Tracy) then looked at the MRI pictures of the tumor. It showed they removed about 70-80% of the tumor. After that was done, we were then told the results of the biopsy. Eric’s tumor was a grade 4 tumor, which is probably the worst outcome it could be. Dr. Tranmer said this isn’t typical for someone Eric’s age. Usually this tumor is found in someone 70 years old, not 29 years old. So, while the statistics might not be on Eric’s side for the outcome of the treatment, Eric is young and healthy, which will get him through. Eric was so strong in hearing the prognosis and is determined to stay positive. He is amazing and if anyone can beat this, it is him. I don’t even know how he does it, but even as he hears the worst news he keeps us all together. I love him more than anything. I won’t allow anything to take him from this family. We are going to do whatever it takes to beat this.”

While I may have started the journal in my darkest place, I am so glad to have found the journal in a positive place in our life. That positive place came from a recent trip to California.

Eric has had the opportunity a few times share his story, however on December 11th, he was able to share his story with an entirely new audience.  That audience would be Maria Menounos and her listeners on Conversations with Maria – Sirius XM Channel 109! About a year ago Maria and I connected on social media. At that time, her mom was recently diagnosed with the same cancer that Eric had. I was able to share some hope around the diagnosis, as Eric had just surpassed his 5 year survivorship with brain cancer. Maria asked if we would want to come on her radio show to share our story – which of course we said yes to!

The entire trip to LA was amazing. The Eagles were playing the Rams at the Coliseum when we were out there. We were able to get tickets to the game, and watch the Eagles defeat the Rams to clinch the NFC East! (of course I had to add this in about the EAGLES!) The following day we were scheduled to be on Maria’s show, which was nothing short of amazing. We arrived at the studio that morning, and Maria greeted us shortly after. Maria has such a beautiful appearance and demeanor about her. We were able to have an introductory meeting before going on live on-air, and then it was go-time.

During our nearly 30 minute on-air segment, Eric was able to talk about his diagnosis, our book, jewelry line and charity events, but most of all – Eric was able to share his story and give other listeners HOPE.

In those 30 minutes, I experienced so much reflection. On this day six years ago, we had been told two days prior that Eric had a tumor the size of a baseball in his frontal lobe. Who would have thought those moments would have been the beginning of our story with cancer. Since that first page of our story was written, we find ourselves six years later extremely blessed. On those pages these past six years, we have written many stories of life experiences, our changed perspective on life and how Cancer Canknot.

Something that Eric and I believe, is that he was given this diagnosis for a reason. With us having the opportunity to talk with Maria and her listeners added more validation to that reason. As Eric talked about on the radio show, we know that not everyone has the same story as he has had with brain cancer. However, no matter your story we all need to continue to fight for hope. Our wish is that our story will help keep that hope alive.

Maria, thank you for giving us the platform to share our story. The  awareness you have raised around brain tumors and brain cancer is amazing. We will continue to send positive thoughts to your mom and HOPE as she writes her own pages of positively with her story with brain cancer.

To Eric, thank you for being you. Thank you for your continued positivity, strength and hope that you have carried with you every day for these past six years. I LOVE YOU. xoxo

Conversations with Maria Menounos – 12.11.17
Twelve Twenty (12.20.11)

SNEAK PEAK!

Hi All! Eric and I have been busily redesigning a few pieces (and in the process of adding more items!) to our Cancer Canknot Jewelry Collection! We are excited to share a sneak peak of our updated design of the horizontal necklace with you all. The pictures show the design in rose gold and sterling silver. This design will be available for purchase soon! Please leave us a comment on how your like the new design and if there are any other pieces you would like to see in our collection. As always, thank you for the love and support! #CANCERCANKNOT

Eric and Anna – xoxo

Horizontal Necklace – Rose Gold
Horizontal Necklace – Sterling Silver
Necklace – Rose Gold
Necklace – Sterling Silver

 

One Last Stroll

Wow, it’s been nearly 7 months since our last blog. The last thing we wrote about was embracing unpredictability, and man – what an unpredictable year it has been! More to come on that, but for now…

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be able to take my mom away for her 60th birthday and celebrate in one of our favorite places: York Beach, Maine. There is nothing quite like driving up the coast, with the windows rolled down smelling the salty air and feeling the humidity turn your hair into an instant frizz-ball! I had the most amazing weekend, with an amazing mother. We indulged in plenty of lobsters, steamers and ice-cream.

We were only in York for the weekend and as Sunday afternoon rolled around we dreaded leaving the beach. Trying to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were blessed with, we decided to take ‘one last stroll’ through the shops. We had pretty much visited all of the shops except for one small store on the corner – The Beach Funatic. As we were walking in I caught a glimpse of a few employees setting up a table outside the store with some books. Within moments I realized there was going to be a book signing. Our family loves children’s books, so I was curious to find out if I knew the author. As they started to stack books on the table, I immediately recognized “Champ and Me by the Maple Tree.” For any of you who know us, that is a favorite book and we frequently gift it to new parents as a baby shower gift. Could it be that the author and/or illustrator would be here to sign copies? YES – as I waited outside I saw the author sitting at the table, Ed Shankman.

When Eric and I were originally inspired to write a children’s book, much of that inspiration came from the books by Ed Shankman and Dave O’Neil. We were even lucky enough to have a conversation with them about 5 years ago when we were in the beginning stages of writing our book. They gave us a lot of information on how to get started and left us with the inspiration to complete our first children’s book project, Bear Hugging and Cancer Crushing.

As I walked up to the table, I picked the book “When a Lobster Buys a Bathrobe” Mr. Shankman asked who I wanted it addressed to. After asking him to sign it for Bryce and Erica, I had the opportunity to introduce myself. I let him know that my husband and I had talked to him 5 years ago as my husband battled brain cancer and we were looking to publish a children’s book. Just as he did in our first conversation 5 years ago, he continued to inspire and remind me why we do what we do in raising cancer awareness.

Not only was this a great mother-daughter trip, but this trip also reminded me that inspiration can be found when you least expect it. I will end this blog on the note of Cancer Canknot stop you from feeling inspired….

I ask that you expand your prayers to include a friend of ours battling brain cancer who needs a lot of positive thoughts and hope sent his way…

(Sunset on our last night in York Beach)

Set Fire to the Rain

My Mom has always been my silent supporter.  5 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Brain cancer, she was there for me every single day.  Literally  accompanying me to daily treatments and doctors appointments and spending time with me everyday after she heard the news.  She was the live in Mom that provided normalcy during a trying time of uncertainty.

She is the one who is always there, always caring for everyone else… she is the one who doesn’t believe in the word impossible… she is the one who believed in me to set fire to the rain in my toughest time…  just as I believed in her during her recent health scare.  It was nice to be the one to provide support for her this time.

She is the first girl I ever loved, she taught me right from wrong, how to act everyday in a gentleman’s manner by holding doors and always saying please and thank you.  She has always inspired me to be better than my best.

An untested love may be taken for granted over time.  It’s in the times we need it most that remind us how lucky we are… and for me, how truly lucky I am to have her in my life.

I am so proud of you Mom, for your strength, your courage and now more than ever… your perseverance.

I Love You,

Eric

Cheers to Unpredictability – Happy New Year!

So many times in the first 6 days of the New Year, I have mumbled to myself that I can’t believe it is already 2017 – as I am sure many of you have done as well. Time sure does fly, and what a difference a year makes. As I think about the past year, I also find myself wondering what will be different as I go into 2018 – and the funny thing is, you really don’t know. None of us can predict what will happen in the future or even the path that life will take us on. As someone who is a planner, this unpredictability can be unsettling. I am a person that likes to be five steps ahead, plan my every move and have alternative paths laid out for various circumstances depending on the outcome. It seems just when I think I have it figured out, this thing called ‘life’ happens and can totally throw you off-course.

We first learned of this unpredictability eight years ago when Bryce was born. As I went into 2008, I had our whole life planned. We designed the baby room (because of course we knew we were having a boy – I mean I am a planner after all!), I had outfits picked out, bottles washed, car-seat in the car – things were planned – perfectly. After he was born, we were all going to come home together as a perfect little family. Then life happened. Two days after he was born, he was rushed to the NICU in another hospital and was soon diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease. All the dreams and plans I had felt crushed when I saw the little guy go through surgery at a few days old to correct his bowel disease. The first year of his life was hard on many people and so heartbreaking as a first time parent. That definitely wasn’t what I planned.

However, I think my most unpredictable moment came five years ago when Eric was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer. When we started 2011, never in my wildest dreams could I have thought someone I love was going to be diagnosed with cancer – let alone, brain cancer. For the first few months after his diagnosis, there wasn’t planning, it was just living in the moment, because every moment mattered.

Eric and I always say, we truly believe cancer has given us more than what it has taken away. Because of our unpredictability we live life differently. Recently at work I was asked to put together a presentation, and part of it had to include a little bit about myself and what my ‘beliefs’ are. Being in HR, some of the obvious ones came to mind with having empathy, having a purpose/goal, strengthen people around you, however, the most important belief I have is to LIVE LIFE. If not been for what our family has experienced these past 8 years, I am not sure I would have included that as a belief, but it is so important for every single one of us to do, because you never know when circumstances are going to change. It is important to not sweat the small stuff, because in reality – it is all small stuff.

It is hard to think that you are only given things in life that you can handle, but it is true. And while I am not someone, and probably never will be someone who can just ‘wing-it’, there is a portion of me that has to trust in the path that life will take me on.

There definitely is a power to positive thinking and envisioning what you want to happen, but if that isn’t what occurs you need to go with it and course-correct, as likely that wasn’t the intended path to take in the first place… who knows, maybe your ‘misstep’  is the path to becoming an author, or a jewelry designer or a motivational speaker…no one really knows…

If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would have a child born with medical complications, a husband that was diagnosed with brain cancer or that I would be able to add, blogger, author, or jewelry designer to my resume, I would have told them they were crazy. That wasn’t what I planned!

While many of you have already set your New Year’s resolution, I ask for you to consider one more:  Embrace the Unpredictable…

-Anna xoxo

Connecting The Dots

In my last blog I wrote about being in the Right Place at the Right Time. Well, this past week I experienced a continuation of the effect with the mottoes, ‘Connecting the Dots’, ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’ and ‘It’s a Small World.’

As some of you know, I spend my ‘day job’ as a Human Resources professional. Last week I was able to spend a few days at a local HR conference. The conferences usually consist of breakout sessions related to learning and development topics, as well as Keynote Speakers. This conference was no different…

On the Thursday evening before the second day of the conference, Bryce was showing me a new book he brought home, a Star Wars – Jedi Academy book. I didn’t really think much of it. Bryce loves to read and these types of books are right up his alley.

That next morning (Friday), on the second day of the conference, I was debating whether I should go or not. I was so busy at work, and it was going to be hard for me to be out of the office another day. Plus, the kids had dentist appointments that morning…however, just as life goes on – I decided to go. Work could wait and I could trust my husband to take the kids to their appointments. And I am glad that I went as I experienced one of the most inspiring Keynote Speakers that very morning.

I was a little late as usual, or as I like to call it ‘right on time’ – I heard the introduction of the speaker, his name was Jarrett Krosoczka. In the introduction, they gave a brief bio, which included being an children’s book author and illustrator. This immediately grabbed my interest given our work on ‘Bear Hugging and Cancer Crushing.’

As Jarrett spoke, he was greatly charismatic and engaging. He had people laughing and also brought them to tears. During most of his speech, he talked about his road to becoming a published author and one of his greatest accomplishments of the Lunch Lady book series.jjk2 jjk

While he spoke about the Lunch Lady, it became so relatable to what Eric and I are trying to do with Cancer Canknot and our book, Bear Hugging and Cancer Crushing. The Lunch Lady became more than just a book series, but a way to inspire many others on the importance that everyone has a purpose – including the lunch lady. It has expanded to be much more than just a book….

As I sat there and listened I began to think of all the things that we have done and what more we could do with our book and help the healthcare and cancer community – it was just the inspiration I needed.

At the end of his speech, he talked about a few other projects that he was involved in and as I looked at the marketing flyer, one of them caught my eye – he was the author of Jedi Academy – A New Class, that very book that Bryce brought home the day before… everything happens for a reason….what was the reason Bryce picked the Jedi Academy book – coincidence?

As I looked for follow him on social media, I was reading through his Twitter posts. One of them mentioned the loss of Anna Dewdney, as it seems the two of them shared the same publisher. For any of you with children, you probably know Anna  from the Llama Llama book series. What you may not know is that Anna, lived in a Southern Vermont town called Chester, Vermont – the same town that I grew up in….what a small world.

When Eric and I first wrote our children’s book, we had reached out to Anna to illustrate it. We told her our story and that it was inspired through Eric’s diagnosis with brain cancer. Anna was unable to illustrate it at the time, given some of her other commitments, but she wished us great luck in the process.

On September 3rd , Anna Dewdney passed away from a 15 month battle with brain cancer.

So on that Friday morning, with what started as uncertainty in attending the seminar, fully turned inspiration of ‘Everything Happens for a Reason and It’s *such* a Small Word. It was that very day that I connected so many dots, personally and professionally.

Through my inspiration I have been invigorated and know that we are trying to do with Cancer Canknot has a purpose, and I can only hope that one day our story will be as inspiring to someone else as I felt on Friday morning, September 9th.

 

selfie

(My Selfie with Jarrett)

Right Place at the Right Time….

Probably every person reading this blog has said ‘everything has happens for a reason’…or ‘it was just the right place at the right time’, well, “The RIGHT place at the RIGHT time” happened to us last week.

As many of you know Eric goes in for routine MRI scans every six months to evaluate if there has been any changes to his tumor. As I have blogged before, me and the kids go to every one of his appointments. At this point it has almost become a superstition and not wanting to change anything up from our routine that could possibly erase the great fortune we have experienced thus far in Eric’s cancer recovery. This time it was no different. We packed the kids in the car, waited for the nurse to call Eric’s name, kissed him good-luck and then went to eat dinner in the hospital cafeteria. When we came back from eating I noticed there was a young husband and wife as well as some additional family members in the MRI waiting room. For any of you who have had to wait for a family member in an MRI waiting room, you know that it is an open space, without much privacy. Many times when I am there, I wonder what others are there for…did they have cancer too? That wonder was no different this time. I heard the nurse call the man’s name, he went to the back MRI room, his wife kissed him good luck and she waited, just like me. What I would soon find out, is their story was not much different than ours.

The family member that waited with her began to ask questions, about his seizures, how long he had been in treatment, asked about the tumor and then said the word many of us wonder about in the waiting room, “Cancer.” It was at that point I realized that she too was the spouse of someone diagnosed with brain cancer. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on her conversation. A few times I debated whether I should interrupt, but I didn’t want to be rude. However, I got a sense of doubt from the diagnosis that this couple seemed to newly be facing so I decided to say something….I interrupted and said “I am sorry to listen in on your conversation, but it seems that your husband was also diagnosed with brain cancer?” It was almost immediate in seeing the sense of relief on her face knowing that someone else was going through something similar. As I began telling her our story, Eric walked out of the MRI with perfect timing, where I could say ‘ this is my husband, Eric – he is nearly a 5 year brain cancer survivor’. We were able to share Eric’s story of diagnosis, tell them about our book, how we are trying to help people diagnosed, but most importantly we were able to give them hope.  Before the conversation was over, we received no less than three hugs and endless thank you’s for helping them think more positively about the road they soon will be traveling.

So next time you are somewhere and you question yourself why, know that everything happens for a reason and there is always a right place at the right time.

I am also happy to say that not only were we able to give hope to that young couple in the waiting room, we also received the good word that Eric’s MRI still looks stable and there is no sign of cancer regrowth…not a bad story nearly five years later. He is still the Cancer Crusher, just as he is pictured. #CancerCanknot

 

Game Day

While it will become obvious within the first few lines of the blog post, I should clarify that this one is being written by Anna.

IMG_8674

With that said, last Sunday was one of the best days of my life! If any of you know me, you know that I am a huge PHILADELPHIA EAGLES fan. And well, Eric, unfortunately for him…he is a New England Patriots fan. When the 2015 Football Season Schedule was posted and  we saw that the Eagles were going to be playing in New England, which is something that rarely happens as they are in different conferences, we knew we had to go. So, for Eric’s birthday, I bought him tickets….but in the end, I think the gift actually ended up being for me.

It worked out that we were able to sit 8 rows from the field behind the Eagle sideline. There is nothing like being so close to the action. Like many Eagle fans, we are passionate about our team. We will cheer, we will chant, we will sing, and we will even BOO when the Eagles are playing. Being on away turf didn’t change that. I wore my Eagle colors proud, even in foreign territory – and oh, it felt so good!

The game started and I was excited beyond words. Something about seeing the boys in Green on the field gets that excitement flowing through your blood – you feel like you are bleeding green 🙂

Wearing my colors loud and proud made it obvious that I wasn’t cheering for the home team. For the first few minutes of the game – it didn’t look good for the Eagles, down 14-0, it was starting to look like a blowout, and then it all changed! Eagles tied it up by half time and the momentum was on their side! By half time, my mouth had gotten me in a little bit of trouble when someone dared to bash the then 4-7 Eagles, so I may have had to throw around a little comment on deflated footballs…and that just fired the fans up even more. It didn’t matter though, because the Eagles were on top of their game, and well, Tom Brady and the Patriots were NOT!

Going into the game the Eagles were the underdog…by A LOT, and they won 35-28! WooHoo!

We all know what it is like for an underdog to win. It just feels so good for those that are rooting the underdog on, and being able to prove the doubters wrong.

When Eric was diagnosed with brain cancer, he was the underdog. On December 20th, it will mark Eric’s 4th anniversary of being diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma. At the time of his diagnosis, he was given a prognosis of 6-12 months. Now, 4 years later he is a survivor, and to many, including myself, he is also a winner. If Eric is what an underdog looks like, then I will root for him every time!

Cancer Canknot Stop an Eagles Wife & Patriot Husband from Enjoying GAME DAY!

PS. Fly Eagles Fly 🙂

Dear John…

We’ve said it before in previous blog posts, but it really is amazing when you realize how many people this disease is actually affecting.  Last month, we learned that the Red Sox Manager, John Farrell has been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called lymphoma and will be away from the team as he completes his treatments.

As a cancer survivor, and of course a long time Red Sox fan, I am sharing with you, what I shared with him, hoping that the letter actually reaches Mr. Farrell.

Here is what I sent…

John Farrell Letter- 08.24.2015John Farrell Letter- 08.24.2015 Pg2#RedSox

Throw Back Thursday

12212011_932 - CopyThis is where it all started, Bear Hugging and Cancer Crushing. When we talk about the inspiration behind our children’s book, this is where it began. When Eric didn’t feel well, he would always ask Bryce for a Bear Hug, and inevitably it would make Eric feel better.

This picture was taken right after Eric had his brain surgery. Boy, does this photo bring back memories….some good and some not so good. However, no matter how tough the times got and how far our emotions wanted to bring us down, the important thing is we made it together.

On December 20th of this year, it will be four years since Eric’s diagnosis of grade 4 glioblastoma brain cancer, with a tumor the size of a baseball in his frontal lobe. Having been given a 6-12 month prognosis, we cherish every day, let alone every year that passes.

And so as the story goes….Cancer just means Daddy needs more of my bear hugs to help make him stronger, so he can be here on earth with me a lot longer!

27.lotlongerV2#ThrowBackThursday