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)

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)

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

Journey of Your Life

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I think there is something special about the way a song can speak to you and seem like it was written about your life.   This weekend, my wife and I were at a Jake Owen concert and he played a song that I had heard before, but this time, he gave it some extra meaning.  Right before he started playing, he talked about how his Dad had beaten cancer and how proud of him he was.  He said the song reminded him of what his Dad went through and how close they are.

This song resonated with me even before knowing that his Dad is a cancer survivor, just as I am.

Every time I hear it, I think of my grandfather and the type of man he was.  I learned so much growing up and working side by side with him.  He was a man of few words, but when he spoke he chose his words wisely and each one left its mark.  I lost my Grandfather earlier this year and I can tell you he is a man that had a huge impact on my life and will never be forgotten.

Thank you Jake for the song and thank you Gramp, for the advice on the Journey of My Life.

#JakeOwen #JakeOwenMusic #CountryMusic #JourneyOfYourLife

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

LakeMonsters 08.05.2015The Vermont Lake Monsters held a cancer awareness night at the ballpark last week and Cancer Canknot was invited to attend.  We were able to set up on the concourse and reach out to share our story with everyone that stopped by the booth.  We made some great connections with some great people during the event.

The cancer survivors and their families were all able to line up on the first baseline and be recognized for what they have overcome.  It was a humbling moment to look around and know that everyone else standing out there had faced the same Goliath opponent.

Along with the privilege to attend the game and be on the field, I was also given the honor of throwing out the first pitch.  As such a huge baseball fan, it was a very proud moment for me and it was made even more special by having my family there to cheer me on.

I’ve been to many baseball games in my life, but none as special as this one… a game I will truly never forget.

Cancer Canknot Stop You From Saying “I Do”

Eric and I have the opportunity to share our Cancer Canknot story with many people, and we always love it when people have an opportunity to share their story with us.

We are always impressed by the strength and resiliency that each story tells, however one conversation we had recently with a survivor really tugged at our heart-strings.

Eric and I were at an event that Cancer Canknot was a part of and a woman walked up to our booth. Usually Eric or I will try to tell the person a little bit about Cancer Canknot and how it got started, but this person already knew who we were….she proceeded to tell us that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Previous to her diagnosis she was engaged to be married and when she got the diagnosis, they quickly tied the knot. Having seen the story behind Cancer Canknot in the local news, and knowing of the Cancer Canknot Jewelry, she now has a Cancer Canknot Ring as her wedding band. Just Amazing. Love[1]

When Eric and I came up with the idea for Cancer Canknot, we couldn’t imagine that we’d inspire these types of stories to exist. It still amazes us  how each person wearing a piece of our jewelry has made Cancer Canknot their own. In this woman’s case, Cancer Canknot Stop You From Saying “I Do.” Beautiful.

Cancer Canknot in the Caribbean

One more thing that Cancer Canknot do; stop us from taking family vacations and making many more wonderful memories for us to remember. IMG_6087

Cancer Canknot made its way to the Caribbean last week through route of a Disney Cruise! As we’ve said before, family is what it is all about. We made some amazing family memories as we visited the islands in the Caribbean, all while reminding ourselves of everything that Cancer Canknot do!IMG_6109

We wore our Cancer Canknot t-shirts proudly – which even prompted a few people to stop and ask the meaning behind the slogan. Our conversations and mission truly seemed to inspire others, which still amazes us.

Having been given 6-12 months as a prognosis really makes us realize that every moment and vacation spent together is a blessing. Cancer Canknot take away those precious moments and memories.

MRI Results

As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I try not to spend too much time thinking about Eric’s brain cancer and the possibility for it to return. However, the week of his MRI’s and follow-up doctor appointments, I can’t help but find myself being a little more anxious than normal.

Last Tuesday Eric went to University of Vermont Medical Center for his routine MRI. He always likes to get a late day appointment  to limit his wait time at the hospital. No matter the time of day, me and the kids go with him. This time was no different. We all loaded in the car, walked down to the MRI wing of the hospital, kissed Eric on the head and he was off to get scanned. Since his appointment was around dinner time, while Eric was in getting scanned, me and the kids ate dinner in the hospital cafeteria. Shortly after we were done eating, Eric was finished with the MRI and we walked back through the hospital to go home and await for the results of the scan the next day with his Oncologist.

It isn’t the MRI itself the gets me nervous, it is waiting for the results. I will find myself looking at the clock frequently at work as I wait to leave in accompanying Eric to the doctor’s office. In preparation for hearing the results,  I will play through the scenarios in my head of what the results could be in anticipation of what the doctor will say.

Eric and I met up at the Oncology office for his late afternoon appointment. As soon as I walked in, I noticed myself paying attention to the nurses and office staff, watching how they interacted with us. If they seemed sad, did it mean that they had bad results? Eric filled out some paperwork in the waiting room, and then nurse called us back to the room. I could feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart starting to race. As we walked to the room, the doctor was in the hallway talking to another nurse – he didn’t look at us as we walked by – oh, no that couldn’t be good.

We waited in the room for a mere minutes, which seemed like hours. I heard the doctor open the door, looked at him, still trying to analyze his body language in anticipation of what he was going to say. Then the words came out of his mouth:

YOUR SCAN LOOKS PERFECT!

Ahh, I immediately relaxed, and found myself smiling. From there on out, it didn’t matter what the doctor had to say. My perfect Eric was still perfect.

Even though it has been over three years since Eric’s initial diagnosis, the anticipation of the results don’t seem to get any easier for me. I still get nervous with wonder in hoping that everything still looks clean on the MRI. We are blessed that Eric has continued to be a survivor of this disease and the results of his February 10th scan still are as perfect as he his.

I’m a RISER

Music can be so motivating. It’s amazing when you hear a song you can relate to… you listen to every word, turn it up and feel like the song was written about you.

While I don’t personally know Dierks Bentley, I feel like he knows me.  His new song RISER, feels like it was written for me and my journey over the last three years of my life…

“I’m a riser…I’m a get up off the ground, don’t run and hider… pushing comes to shovin’ hey I’m a fighter…When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter… a get out aliver… out of the fire…SURVIOVOR
I can personally relate to every word above.  It’s been a tough three years, but I’m thankful to be in year four. You truly don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice but to be strong.
Music is a very strong motivator, the right song is inspirational and extremely emotional.  It’s easy to listen to a song… but the special songs are the ones you can feel.
RISER is a song that I feel.  Thank you Dierks.
#RISER  #DIERKSBENTLEY #SURVIVOR

The Things Cancer Taught Us

CANCER CANKNOT. There are so many things that Cancer Cannot do, but there is one thing that it CAN do, it can teach you a few things about life.

In 2011 when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was young, happy, had a wonderful family and a seemingly perfect life… and then cancer happened. Cancer tried to take all of those things away, but instead it actually taught our family how to live.

Cancer Canknot Be More Powerful Than Those That Love and Support You

When they say, IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A FAMILY, well it also takes a village to help you survive cancer. Everyone you interact with plays an important role in moving forward with your diagnosis; family, friends, doctors, nurses, co-workers – everyone makes their own contribution and impact in beating this disease. Cancer Canknot be more powerful than those that love and support you.

Cancer Canknot Ruin Your Outlook on Life

Staying positive truly is key. Having moments of frustration, sadness, fear, and anxiety is one thing, but letting it consume you is another. You cannot let that bad moment turn into a bad day, a bad week, or a bad month. Having a positive outlook is what keeps you and everyone around you fighting. Cancer Canknot ruin your outlook on life.

Cancer Canknot Break You

Don’t sweat the small stuff. For every problem there is a solution. It is easy to get upset when things don’t go your way, but you can always find a way to move past it. For every moment of falter there must be a moment of strength. What doesn’t break you does make you stronger. Cancer Canknot break you.

Cancer Canknot Stop Hugs or Kisses

Kiss each other good night. Tell your kids you love them as they leave for school. Not only be appreciative of every day, but every moment. After cancer you realize that any moment could be your last, so always take advantage of your time with loved ones. Cancer taught us to be conscience of the last thing you say to someone, so make sure you have had that opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Cancer Canknot stop hugs or kisses.

Cancer Canknot Consume Time

Don’t wish away your days. It is easy to say things like “I wish it was Friday.” Cancer teaches you to live in the moment and appreciate all the days that you do have. Take advantage of your time and be thankful for your life as everyday creates new experiences and opportunities. Cancer Canknot consume time.

Cancer Canknot Stop You From Moving Forward

Don’t wait. You know the famous saying NEVER PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY, well it’s true. Seize every moment and take advantage of time. It is easy to say, “I will do that next week” or “we can take a vacation next year.” Do it now. Don’t save it all for the rainy day fund. Sometimes it is important to use those savings on the sunny days. Time is precious and never let a moment pass you by. Cancer Canknot stop you from moving forward.

Cancer Canknot Take Away the Importance of Family

Family first. We’ve all heard the saying “work-life balance” and cancer taught us the importance of that. A bad day at work is just that, ONE bad day. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t important. Family is what is important. Family is what keeps you going. Family is what keeps you strong. Family is what keeps you fighting. Cancer Canknot take away the importance of family.

Cancer Canknot Keep You From Being Happy

If you get angry… get over it. Just as quickly as you feel hurt, angry or upset, it is just as important to forgive, forget and move on. Resentment and anger can consume you, and the quicker you can realize those things aren’t important or healthy to hold on to, the happier you will be. Cancer Canknot keep you from being happy.

Cancer Canknot Take Away Love, Hope and Memories

Lastly, MIRACLES DO HAPPEN. What was a 6-12 month prognosis has turned into a three year SURVIVORSHIP. In those three years, we have had the opportunity to write a book, design a line of jewelry, and bring a beautiful baby girl into the world. All of which seemed impossible on that December day in 2011. Cancer Canknot take away love, hope and memories.

WHAT HAS CANCER TAUGHT YOU??