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

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

 

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!

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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.

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??