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

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

 

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

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

Cancer Canknot Take Control

In my downtime, it is typical for me to browse popular news-based websites to catch up on recent stories for the day. Today was no different, as I finished my lunch I popped open the web browser and did a quick search on Yahoo. One of the first headlines to read was ‘Massachusetts Mom Beth O’Rouke Types Own Obituary Before Her Death. ‘ Purely based on the title, I was inspired to read more. Was the obituary the result of a cancer related death? It was.

As I read through the article and noted the heartfelt words she penned before she passed, I couldn’t help but feel emotional for her story. She was a wife and a mother to two young children. This was yet another life taken too soon from this disease known as cancer.

With our family having been touched by cancer, every time I hear a story of a person affected by the disease, whether it’s a story of a survivor or of someone who has passed on, I always walk away with some hope and inspiration. After reading this article, it was no different. In her obituary, Beth wrote, ‘Cancer loses grace and love wins,’ which is so inspiring .

In this story, it proves that Cancer Canknot take control. Beth was in charge of her life until the very end. And while I never met Beth, her story has made an impression on my life. My heart goes out to her and her family. Cancer Canknot.

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.