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Port in a Storm

Abram’s chemotherapy graduation shirt couldn’t be more appropriate today. He endured a lengthy, ROUGH and painful port access.

 Accessing the port in his chest is always tricky. During the port placement surgery, the line kinked, and the doctor was forced to set it in a little deeper and at a slightly different angle. Sometimes, that makes for a troublesome access with repeated pokes to find the “sweet spot.” Today was one of those sometimes. With all of the surgeries and treatments and tests the little guy has been through, the port continues to be one of his hardest hurdles.

On a brighter side, we love Lurie Children’s Hospital; they have taken care of Abraham since our terrifying emergency room run in May 2014. The staff is talented, tireless and kind. Today was no different. The skilled nurses dealt with the stubborn port, child life kept the music and jokes coming while I held his little hand.

Currently, Abraham requires extensive monthly labs and a two-hour antibiotic infusion. The infusion causes stomach upset and nausea. He is currently fighting that back, but I can see he’s struggling. My sister is with us, and the little champ is bravely taking care of his business here in the infusion clinic.

Today, I should have been in my 8th grade classroom, sweating in the heat with my fellow staff and 100+ new students beginning the 2016-17 school year. Instead, I am in Chicago while Abraham gets the care he needs. Even as I type these words, I am certain this is where I should be-helping my son get better.

Please keep the positive thoughts headed our way as the day unfolds.

Peace, love and light…

The Wall

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Shout out to the teachers ready to begin anew 2016-17 style. May the schoolyear bring growth and wisdom to all you touch.

Abraham saw the above image (from August 2013) for tonight’s blog and commented that he wondered how long it would be until his hair looked that great again. I didn’t have an answer for him.

Also today, Facebook time hopped me to the following image from a year ago when my friend, Lori, shaved around the Babe’s radiated, tender, swollen noggin with its various hardware and scars. Look at that proud posture despite baldness and illness. He’s a champ.

Abraham has been through a lot since that photo was taken. He’s thinner, more tired, and less flexible. In addition, his bones ache, his hearing has deteriorated significantly, and his blood is still trying to recover. I wanted to take a comparative photo in front of the same Rose of Sharon bush, but Abraham’s legs were too tender to walk him there today. Plus, he has a trip to the city for labs and a two-hour IV antibiotic infusion at clinic tomorrow, so I didn’t push.

Instead, we focused on manual dexterity. I started him off by opening the bag, and the rest was all him. He allowed me one peek at the fifth step; and then here, upon completion:


It’s rewarding to follow directions sometimes. Like with Legos. And sometimes, we’re too tired to take a single step. Most days are a little bit of both.

My husband and I try to be decent examples for our sons by showing them how to be patient and kind. I figure, if life is a test and a complex question gets asked, isn’t it easier to answer when an example is shown first? Same concept. We shouldn’t try to tell others how they should “be.” We should instead live our lives as fine examples.

The Power of Fear

“Fear has its use, but cowardice has none.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday I was scared- repeatedly. But sometimes we need to feel as if all could be lost in order to comprehend that life is valuable. That is the power of fear.

The support for my first blog startled me. I had hoped it would read as genuine, but the responses in support of my writing surpassed my expectations and warmed my soul. The rush of claiming a domain name yesterday was also a fast high. Even though the fear of the unknown is sticky with pain, sometimes  a swift kick of gruesome reality can quickly wake us up.  As a result of a yesterday filled with security breaches, reckless drivers, and new exploits, today I discovered how fear can be “wella-useful.” See what I did there? Wellness remained my goal.

Between flickers of panic at the newness of blogging, and the extreme frustration with unreliable Internet, I am lit by the flashes of excitement that are slowly filling my half-full teacher’s heart. I have talked about publishing a blog for years, and now that I’ve pulled the trigger on its genesis, I can feel my identity returning. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but the innate call to vocation remains.

Even with deep roots in education, I don’t believe all questions are supposed to be answered. Often, I look to nature to figure out the basics of getting through tough times. For instance, think about the fear response and recovery time of a healthy dog. Obviously a dog’s brain is wired to react when it is attacked, and unless it’s been abused or conditioned in some unnatural way, once the immediate threat has passed, the canine instinct returns to “business as usual” and the fear response ends. I’ve watched my 12-year-old son, Tommy, repeatedly stumble (he’s not quite mastered those long legs yet) over our aging German Shepherd, Ivy, and sometimes, it causes her accidental pain. Seconds later, that same sweet dog can be seen stealing a kiss from him. For people? Our recovery takes longer.

1220  Few people are genuinely dauntless; I know I’m not. I’m afraid at some point every day. But I’ve come to realize that even though not everyone is built to play the fear game, participation is not optional. Fear doesn’t require our consent.

Fear also tends to fester.  If something frightened us to the core, even for a moment, the hesitancy to try again lingers. When humans are scared, pulses rise, eyes dilate, and the body becomes CHARGED. Our instinctive response gets muddied with our humanity, but the basic choice is to retreat or to advance. One difference between humans and wild animals  is how long that feeling of fear lingers in our mind and influences our actions days, months or years after our scare. Last night, Abraham was feeling “off” and had a small headache (don’t worry; he seems better today). My conditioned fear response kicked in, and I had to unknot my stomach as I rinsed supper dishes at the sink. I tried to push away the dread that he could be getting “the big sick” (as Abraham has coined his cancer). I couldn’t control the situation and make his pain go away, but I tried repeating  to myself, “His face looks flushed, I’m sure it’s just a cold.” Eventually, I was able to function again, but the paranoid residue stayed with me. It wasn’t until I turned off the tomorrow “what if’s” and focused on a night of snuggles that I was able to unwind enough to sleep. I doubt dogs with cancer worry about growing sicker. They are too focused on living and playing, and loving their human. We can learn a lot from our pets.

Don’t get me wrong, I know choosing to be brave is not just about facing fears like an animal or tackling demons like a slayer. It’s about recognizing and accepting that the alarm of distress will sound repeatedly in our world; but sometimes, that warning can be a lifesaver.

So, a blog it is…

Everyone has battles to fight. Some are hidden well, while others are marked blatantly with scars and loss. Personal struggles can deplete our will and our happiness and our health; but in most cases, there is at least some small thing that remains in our life for which we can be grateful for. I may not always feel balanced and sure, but I can always find some small moment to appreciate or some new way to be well.

Wellness by definition is not a goal; it is a process. And although the tenets of emotional, physical, social, vocational, intellectual and spiritual awareness create the framework for a model of wellness; each person’s goal is unique, and the paths can vary greatly.  I am all about finding workable routes on those individualized paths. For 25 years, no matter my occupation, I have aspired to help others learn on different levels.  I believe I was born a teacher, but I have officially taught Behavioral Health, Wellness, Nutrition, Yoga, Communications, Language Arts and Aromatherapy.  My current area of study is Integrative Health.

Last week, life led my career out of a beloved, concrete-block classroom and back to my humble home with my husband and two sons.  Keeping a job while caring for my youngest, medically fragile child was no longer in my family’s best interest. For two years, I have cared for my eight-year-old son, Abraham, as he battled brain cancer.  He was diagnosed at six during his final week of kindergarten.  Up until that point, he was a healthy, strong and active child. Then our world shifted into survival mode. As Abraham transitions to recovery after two years of treatments which included five brain surgeries, six weeks of a chemo-radiation combo, and then straight up chemotherapy for an additional nine months, I am recovering, too. His prognosis is still unclear, but with each stable three-month MRI, we celebrate. This blog is my outlet to simultaneously deal with my “new normal” while building my own version of a positive, happy existence.

I hope others will benefit from the intended transparency of my family’s journey, too.  Even though the online haters will bother me, the technology will challenge me, and my time to work still comes in waves, I want to share our story.

I may always prefer pencils to pixels, but I try to live in the modern world where some of today’s best helpers write blogs.  I may not have a classroom anymore, but I have a computer, basic internet service, and a desire to continue educating others on ways to find harmony amid the chaos of our singular existence.

So, a blog it is.

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