Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Anniversary that Almost Was.

Once upon a time I was single, so was Richard. We have been together awhile now, so sometimes I have to remind myself that once upon a time there was no "we", just a "me". Once we finally decided we liked each other, we had our first date around the beginning of April. On May 5th, I went to LA to meet his family. By June 2nd we were engaged. Then we got off the fast track, and stayed engaged for seven months. Seven months in normal life is really not that long. However, for two Mormon kids trying to get themselves married in the temple, it might as well have been seven years. December 21st, a Thursday, my favorite day of the week. My sister and I had plans to get married on the same day. Somewhere along the way she dumped her fiancee, I kept mine. The winter wedding was beautiful. Now four years, 2 kids, one house, two apartments, several credit cards, three cars and a couple of dogs later we decide to celebrate the day of our blessed union...the anniversary.

Now let me start by saying, I hate winter. Right down to my very core. I struggle to find any redeeming value in the months of December through February. Thank heavens for Christmas or I would put myself into an induced three month coma every year. It is interesting to note, that in the months of the calendar that I hate the most, I celebrate Christmas, my anniversary and my birthday. Boo. I promise to never bring a baby into the world during the cold, gray of winter. Babies should be greeted by springtime and sunshine. Anyway, I digress. Knowing what I know now, I would have made Richard wait another 7 months and gotten married in July. We didn't wait. So each year, on the shortest day of the year, or as Richard likes to remind me, the longest night of the year, we celebrate the day we married.

Trying to be a good sport, I planned a wonderful, snow filled getaway to Sun Valley for just the two of us. Our plans included a day of tubing down a snowy hill, followed by a horse drawn sleigh ride to a cabin in the woods where we would have dinner. It was the perfectly planned winter wonderland anniversary, and the forecast predicted a ton of snow that day. My parents took my kids, and Richard and I made our way to Sun Valley. The following morning, We bundled up in all our snow gear and headed over to the mountain to rent our tubes and towing tickets. Upon arrival, we were told that they hadn't received enough snow yet. Only the ski hills, where they were pumping out homemade snow, were open. Richard looked at me with pleading eyes. But I held firm. There is no way I will ever go skiing. I have been before, and I would rather wax off my eyebrows then go again. With our plans for the afternoon foiled, I told Richard that we could still look forward to our evening plans. We wandered in and out of the shops all afternoon wearing our snow pants and mittens as we browsed the overpriced merchandise that makes Sun Valley the place that it is. At three thirty that afternoon, I received the phone call. Our sleigh ride had been canceled, due to lack of snow. We immediately went back to the hotel and checked out before being charged for another night.

That night, as we ate dinner in Pocatello with my parents and kids, we kissed over a piece of pizza and wished each other a happy anniversary. The next day it took Richard over 6 and 1/2 hours to make the normally three hour drive form Pocatello to Boise. The reason for all the delay. The weather forecast from two days earlier. That night there was so much snowfall that most of the highways were shut down. I hate winter. Happy Anniversary Richard. I love you.

Its Official

It's official, I am the world's worst blogger. I just read my last post where I vowed to write something completely uncancer related within 24 hours. At last count, that was over two weeks ago. It is the same reason I have never been a good journal keeper. When the going gets good, and somewhat interesting...I find myself to busy to want to stop and write it all down. Here are my feeble attempts to catch up, and give myself some peace of mind.

Peace of mind. It is at the top of my current list. It is written in black ink and is immediately followed by the word blog. I always have a list. I love everything about them. I make new ones everyday, and can often be found carrying around up to three or four lists at a time. Grocery lists, things to tell my mom lists, Christmas lists, books to read lists, and of course, the beloved To Do lists. They are my favorite. I love the satisfaction of being able to cross tasks off one by one as I complete them. I have even been known to go back to my list and write in a job I have just finished. One that wasn't even on the list, just so I can cross it off.

So currently, it is 4:15 am and I can't sleep. the ugly side to lists, is that they can haunt you. Things left uncrossed off the list loom large in the middle of the night as you think about the stuff you still need to do. 'Write on my Blog' has now been moved to its seventh, and for now final list. I am going to cross off peace of mind as well, and hopefully I can get to sleep. In the meantime, I have a new list: Christmas, my anniversary, Amy Barlow, Brandon, the ice skating rink, surprise gift baskets. Yes, it's the things I plan to blog about list. And the lists go on.

P.S. as an interesting side note. I took typing in the seventh grade, at Franklin Jr. High on a manual typewriter. Sitting nest to me the whole semester was one of the largest crushes of my lifetime, Mario Cunningham. As a result, my typing suffered greatly. I am the world's worst typer. Before spell check, this blog entry had 25 misspelled words. That is pathetic, especially because I was looking at my hands the whole time. Dear Mrs. Lusk, my typing teacher, if you are out there, I am sorry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dog Years

Well, we did it. All of us survived our first round of overnight chemo. It wasn't pretty. For 32 hours, my job was to make sure Olive didn't pull out her IV cords. Now, this has never been an easy job. It, however, has been made all the more difficult by my little girl who now is up and walking everywhere. At the clinic, they have a little toy grocery cart that has become Olive's favorite item. For four and a half hours we roamed the hospital hallways. Olive pushing her grocery cart, and me, not far behind pushing her IV pole. I have decide that time spent in a hospital is like dog years. According to my calculations every hour spent at St. Luke's is equivalent to 7 years. I went in 31 years old and came out 52.

Due to the fact that Olive has been getting so violently sick after each round of chemo, her doctors decided to try some new medications and keep her over night. She is now taking a concoction of chemo drugs, fluids, steroids, anti-nausea medicines and allergy medication. The allergy medication is a new attempt at controlling nausea. Some doctors believe that patients can actually have an allergic reaction to their chemo drugs. Like every situation we have faced with Olive, however, there is a debate among the doctors on how we should treat her. One doctor prescribed Decadron as an anti-nausea med. Decadron is great at preventing vomiting, however it is a powerful steroid that can have terrible side effects including bone damage. Another doctor advised us to stay clear of decadron unless absolutely necessary. Once again, the choice of how to take care of Olive ultimately became my decision. We haven't taken any decadron since. This has lead to some vomiting.

Last night I was awakened by the sound of my baby gagging. She has quite the barfing reflex. When she throws up she does it in grand fashion. Richard was in charge of bathing, and showering Olive who was covered head to toe in barf, while I began to clean up her puke covered room. If throwing up was an Olympic event, we would have a gold medalist on our hands. Once cleaned up, Olive fell asleep while I was putting on her diaper. Yaking like that can really wear a girl out. I gave her another dosage of Zofran (another type of anti-nausea med) and haven't heard from her since.

I vow to write another entry in the next 24 hours that will have nothing to do with cancer. Believe it or not, we do have other things going on in our life, and I would like to remember those things as well. As for now, though, I need a shower.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coal for Christmas

If it looks like my kids are crying in these pictures, it is because they are. If you look behind them you will see why. In the five minutes it took for me to post the pictures in the previous post, Hurricane Olivex (Rex and Olive) hit Olive's room with a vengeance. The only thing twice as ugly, was me when I walked in to find the destruction. They are trouble times two. They used to be able to rely on how cute they were to help me forgive and forget their crazy antics, but lately they just aren't cute enough. To think just moments ago I was writing fondly about my sweet boy. Now he is screaming in time out. If what they say is true, he is going to have a lot of explaining to do, to both Santa and Jesus tonight if he hopes for more than coal this Christmas. Little Olive is no angel either...don't be fooled.

Christmas Confusion

The Christmas decorations are up, and we are in the full swing of the holiday season. Our decorations include two trees, my fake one and Richard's real one. We have lights up outside, and I have made and hung my handmade evergreen wreath. Norman, the Santa's helper elf, is watching the kids from his spot on the shelf. Our Santa figurines decorate the living room. And last, but surely not least, the nativities have been placed out on the hutch. This is where the confusion begins.

For awhile now, we have been teaching Rex about Jesus. He has a picture of him in his room, and several books about him that we read regularly. Rex even knows that Christmas is all about Jesus' birthday. Then along comes Santa. Another nice, happy, bearded man we all love. Yesterday, I found Rex in his room playing with one of our Santa dolls. When I asked him what he was doing he informed me that he was playing with Jesus. According to Rex, baby Santa was born in a stable near cows that say "moo". I have no desire to try and correct his confusion. I love how easy Rex has made it to incorporate Jesus into all of our holiday activities. At Target yesterday, we bought a plate that is especially for cookies for Santa. When Rex got home, he went to his plate drawer and brought me his favorite green plate. "This is the plate for Jesus' cookies." Of course it is sweet boy. On Christmas eve at our house, we will be setting out two plates of cookies for each of the nice, happy bearded men of Christmas.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Not So Tight

On most kids stockings like these are called tights. On my dear Olive they are anything but tight. It cracks me up how they sag around the ankle. Luckily my kids don't take after the Pixton side of the family when it comes to their body shapes. Their skinny little bodies are all Ashcraft. Their sparkling personalities, however, I take full credit for. The tights on Olive are sized 6-9 months. Olive just turned a year and a half.

Her blood labs came back today showing she is still low with her white blood counts. Her red blood counts are high enough that she doesn't need a transfusion. Her next round of chemotherapy, which will require two days in the hospital, will determine if she will have to start daily injections to simulate her bone marrow. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't come to that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Some kids have a special blankie that they carry around for comfort, while others might have a certain teddy bear or doll. Some kids suck their thumbs or a pacifier. My sister was known for sucking on her lower lip. A friend of mine has a boy who will only drink out of his Spongebob sippy cup.

It is not unusually for kids to have certain creature comforts to which they become very attached. I was prepared for this. Rex has a flannel blankie and a little stuffed bug that he sleeps with every night. Olive, however, has become attached to her red flyer rocking horse. It is true. Everyday, for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, Olive has to get her "pony fix". She cannot climb up onto he horse by herself so often I can hear her yelling. "DOWN, DOWN DOWN!" (For some reason the word 'UP' holds no meaning for Olive.) When I hear her demanding this at the top of her lungs, I can always find her clinging to the side of her horse. Of course, no ride is complete without the proper riding attire. If she is not wearing her hat while astride her pony, she cannot completely enjoy herself.

As a word of advice to new parents: It is inevitable that your child will probably attach him or herself to a special comfort object. If at all possible, try to help your child pick an object that is easily transported. When we go to Grandma's house, Rex can easily bring his blankie and bug. However, it is traumatic for Olive every time we go. Her pony can never be packed. Until next time... Happy Trails.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cancer Schmancer

To tell you the truth, I am getting really bugged with this whole cancer gig. A lot of my life is spent dealing with it. It basically is exhausting, and really no fun at all. Olive's blood counts were finally high enough that she was able to receive her fourth round of chemo last Thursday. The day actually went pretty smooth, and we were out of there in less than ten hours. Our real trouble didn't actually start until the next day...

Richard, Olive and I had driven to Filer, Idaho for a wedding reception of a friend of ours. Filer, by the way, is out past Twin Falls, so needless to say we were out in the sticks. As we were going through the receiving line, Olive started acting a bit funny. I of course, didn't clue in, and just thought she might be tired. Thankfully, heaven was smiling down on us that night. Olive waited until we had moved past the bride and groom before she began barfing all over. I quickly buried her head against my chest as she yaked over and over again. She made the pea green soup scene from the movie the Exorcist look like a Disney show. There was puke everywhere. It ran down my shirt and into my underwear. Before I got her head buried, however, she managed to barf all over my hair and hit me directly in the eyes and mouth. Richard quickly ushered us into the men's room. At least 7 men came in to find two, barf covered girls hovering by the urinals. Richard's brilliant plan was to have us rinse off in the restroom shower, and then dry off with paper towels. A bad plan, made only worse by the fact that the showers wouldn't even turn on. By now, the smell was so bad that Olive began dry heaving and trying to bury her face against my arm. Meanwhile, I tried to find a happy place to go to in my mind.

Half an hour later, Richard obtained the keys to the newly married couple's duplex. We drove, wrapped in plastic garbage bags, to their house where we could strip down and shower off. At that point, we should have headed home to Boise. Instead, we proceeded to Pocatello where we planned to spend the weekend. By the time we got to my parent's house, Olive's temperature had spiked to 101.7. We took her to the emergency room. At 11:00 pm, she was admitted with a heart rate of 183 and a fever of 101. They immediately drew blood labs and put a catheter in to obtain a urine sample. While we waited for the lab results, they began to give her fluids. The results came back showing she had no infection, but was severely dehydrated and had very low blood counts. We ended up staying in the hospital until 3:30 pm the next day.

Yesterday, back at the tumor institute here in Boise, they took another blood lab. Olive's counts have dropped lower than ever. Normal levels are typically 1400. Olive currently has a count of 412. What does this mean...It means most likely she will have to have a blood transfusion next week, it means she will now have to spend a day and a half in the hospital each time she has chemo, it means we can not go home for Thanksgiving, it means our trip to Mexico with my family in January has to be canceled. Cancer's exhausting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calendar Girl

At the ripe old age of eighteen months, my daughter is already posing for calendars. It's true she's a pin-up. Olive is one of the featured months of a calendar being distributed for the upcoming year. Shayla, a friend and fellow cancer fighter, contacted us about posing for a calendar featuring courageous cancer kids. We immediately jumped at the opportunity. The calendar is being produced by a foundation dedicated to raising money for kids with cancer and their families. We thought the cause was worthy, and the chance to be in a calendar was too cool to pass up.

Over the past few days Olive has been struggling to take her first independent steps. She is quite the walker when she has a firm grasp of my hand. On her own however, she lacks a bit of confidence and balance. To my utter delight, some of her very first steps were taken during her photo shoot. Luck was on our side. Not often does a mother get to have her baby's first steps captured on film by a professional photographer. When Olive does something she always does it in grand fashion. She took full advantage of the situation. I am thrilled.

A website is currently being created and will be up and running within weeks for calendar orders to be taken. The web address is
In the meantime, I can take pre-orders from anyone who thinks they are interested in having one of these calendars. It features ten kids who are currently battling cancer, and sadly two girls who have passed on this year. The pictures are some of the ones that were taken at her photo shoot. However, they are a bit blurry because I don't actually have a real copy of them yet. What you are looking at are pictures taken of the pictures on my computer screen from my email account. I was to impatient to wait for the real images to be sent to me.

As for Olive, we are trying for chemotherapy again tomorrow. Hopefully, the extra week of time has given her bone marrow a chance to regrow and replenish her blood supply. She has seemed exceptionally happy and healthy this week. She did, however, fail her hearing test today. We are still unsure if she has lost any of her hearing due to her chemo medication. She can't manage to sit still long enough to have the exam completed. In order to administer the hearing exam, Olive must sit still, remain silent, and wear ear buds for five minutes at a time. Yeah right. It will never happen. In fact, I don't think I could even meet those criteria. As a result, she is now scheduled to be sedated on December 16, just so they can do a ten minute test. Bless her heart she never does anything the easy way.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


One of the effects of chemotherapy is the destruction of bone marrow. Bone marrow is where blood is formed. Each week, Olive's blood production is closely monitored using blood counts. To qualify for chemotherapy, Olive's counts have to be at certain elevated levels. These levels indicate that her bone marrow has regrown and once again started reproducing blood cells. Qualifying blood counts are typically around 1100. Thursday morning, Olive's counts only reached 726. That meant no chemo for us. We were denied treatment. Who knew that not getting chemotherapy would be a bummer. She has now been set back a week. We are scheduled to try again this Thursday.

In the meantime, Olive broke out in a horrible rash. I called the hospital, and of course they had me rush her right down. Apparently, people with compromised immune systems are susceptible to a painful, blistering rash called shingles. Shingles are an ugly cousin to chicken pox. All this time I thought shingles were a type of roof covering. The good news's not shingles. Apparently my kid has excema. Oh brother. Add that to the list.

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time I was the owner of a really beautiful, new phone called the ENv. We became instant best friends. I took pictures of my kids, and texted my friends. I stored all my favorite people's contact information, and used it to call my mom every morning. Then carelessly I lost my new phone. We were only together for about two months. Now I am using some ghetto phone my husband found in the lost and found box at work. No one was sad to have lost this ugly phone, therefore it is now mine. In the meantime, I haven't been able to call anyone or receive any phone calls since early Thursday morning. Like every other cell phone owner on earth, I have become completely dependent on my phone. I have not written down 95% of the phone numbers I had. Now the only person that I can call is my mother since that is the only number I know by heart. If you know and love me, or if I ever called you, I now can't. Please get in touch with me soon, so I can store you in my less than new, ugly used phone. My phone number is still the same.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

True Love

I have been in love for a long time. In fact I fell in love long before I ever even knew Richard. It started in the seventh grade in a class called teen living. This class didn't have anything to do with being a teen or much to do about living. It taught us how to bake homemade brownies, balance a checkbook and the fine art of sewing a pillow. My pillow was a whale with three little fish. I loved that pillow.

I reconnected with my love in college. I decided to take clothing construction class on a whim. It was there that I realized I loved fabrics, and creating things with a sewing machine. I took every sewing class available to non-home economic majors. 217 credits and five years after starting my first year of college, I graduated with a degree in Zoology. To this day, I feel as if I the skills I learned in my sewing classes are among some of my most valuable credits. Since that first whale pillow, fabric has been my obsession. I can't stop buying it, collecting it and sewing it. I love it.

In the past few years I have taken a liking to quilting. I made my first quilt without a clue as to what I was doing for Richard's and my bed when we were first married. Countless other quilt tops have followed. Quilting is in my blood. Both my grandmothers were incredible quilters. I have decided I wanted to attempt to earn a little extra income by starting a machine quilting business in my home. While we were in Utah for Olives' MRI, I purchased my first quilting machine. It is a HQ 16, and I am in heaven. I just finished my first quilt tonight. It is a small baby quilt made especially for little miss O. As for Richard, he knows that I love him, but I will always need to buy more fabric.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's True What They Say

It has been said that dog is man's best friend. Truer words have never been spoken. On Tuesday, Richard and I discovered that Gus, my old english sheepdog, had a terrible infection and had to be put down. I was completely blindsided and unprepared to lose him so soon. It is strange that whenever personal tragedy strikes the world seems to start spinning faster and faster; while I remain stuck in a horrible moment. When I realized that he was going to die my world stopped. I forgot to breathe, and I couldn't think about what to do next. All around me however, everyone else kept on going. No one stopped to notice what was happening. Only my sweet husband felt the shift as my private world was forever changed. To some, he was only a dog. To me, he had been a true and loving companion. Gus and I had been together for about seven years. I rescued him from a shelter in Utah while I was attending the BYU. I was living in student housing at the time, and had no where to take him that night. He ended up living in my brother's garage in Draper for a few months until I could find an apartment in Provo that would let me keep a dog. 4 cities, 5 apartments, 3 houses, 6 boyfriends, one husband, two kids and another puppy later and we had shared a lifetime together. Gus had been abused before I got him. His back legs were both broken and he was completely covered in sores. It didn't take much love from me for him to become completely attached and truly loyal. He was very protective and wouldn't let any guys near me. Richard and I used to have to lock him out of the house whenever he came over. We could always hear him growling behind the door during our make out sessions. In the end, the love shared between them was as strong as the relationship between Gus and I. It is funny how one's heart can stretch and grow to make room to love someone new. When I became pregnant with Olive, I wondered how I could possibly love this next baby as much as the first. Yet, when she came, without any effort there was plenty of room in my heart to love her as much as the first. However, with the loss of someone who has carved out a special place in your heart, nothing can every fill the void. Hearts can't recoil like a rubber band. Once they are stretched they stay that way. Heartache is a true condition. My heart actually hurts. I miss Gus very much. Just like no one could ever fill the void of the loss of any of my loved ones, there will always be a corner of my heart just for Gus. I count all those who knew this lovely dog very lucky. I consider myself the luckiest. He was one of God's gifts to me in the form of a shaggy old sheep dog. He was exactly the dog I wanted, exactly when I needed him. He has shared the lowest points of my life and been with me through the greatest moments I have ever known. He was always happy to see me, and never held a grudge when I forgot to take him for a walk or made him sleep outside. True friends like that are hard to find. To some he may just be a dog, but to me, I feel a very profound loss. It is true what the say....Gus has been one of my very best friends.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coming Home

We brought Olive home one year ago today. A year I am glad to have behind me. We were at the hospital a lot longer than we ever anticipated. You always hear about complications, but before all of this I had no idea what that meant. Well, Olive had complications. Her tumor is located near the part of her brain that controls her breathing. Fearing that the tumor or surgery might paralyze Olive's lungs, she was placed on ventilators after each surgery until she could prove that she could breathe on her own. Following her first surgery, she was in the ICU for several days using a ventilator. While on a ventilator, no air moved past her vocal cords. Therefore, she could make no noise. For days, I watched my baby silently cry as she recovered from her painful surgery. It was heartbreaking to be unable to pick her up and comfort her as we watched her cry without a sound.

The hospital staff discovered she could breath by what would be a very lucky accident. One afternoon several days after surgery, the doctors wanted a scan of her brain to measure the size of the remaining tumor. As they were turning around a corner with Olive's hospital bed, her breathing tube caught on the door jamb. Without realizing what had occurred the tube was ripped from Olive's throat. From down the hall, I could hear my baby scream. I knew her cry in an instant. It was the first time I had heard it in days. The nurses were panicking as the realized what had just occurred. As I ran around the corner they were crowded over her bed. Miraculously, Olive had the strength to breathe on her own.

After that episode Olive failed her swallow study. This meant she could not safely eat without danger of aspirating. She had to be fed with a feeding tube placed down her throat through her nose. She also contracted a sickness commonly known as C-Diff. C-Diff is explosive, dehydrating, cramping diarrhea. she was than isolated to a room all her own. For several days Olive and I sat confined to a room on the third floor. Finally in the early afternoon of October 20, Olive passed her swallow study. I successfully fed her the first bottle. The next day, we were discharged and could finally take our baby home. Taking Olive home. Something so simple weeks before was now the biggest blessing I had ever been given.

These pictures show Olive in the last photo she had taken before losing her vertebrate. She is being held by her Grandpa Harold. The other picture shows her wearing her neck brace and hooked to her feeding tubes shortly after her first surgery.

Earrings, Necklaces and Bracelets Oh My!

I would like to think that I am a genuinely kind and thoughtful person. However, every once in a while you meet someone who is so naturally kind, it is astounding and very humbling. I have had the privilege of being the recipient of some of those types of people's generosity. Two of these amazing people live in Colorado Springs, one of them I don't even know in person. The first, my cousin Niki, the second, her dear friend Stephanie. Stephanie is a Lia Sophia dealer. Lia Sophia, is a beautiful line of jewelry sold out of people's homes. It is incredible stuff. Upon hearing of our plight, Stephanie informed Niki that she wanted to hold a benefit sale on our behalf. Acting as hostess, Niki held the party at her house. These two women then donated their earnings to me. I received nearly five hundred dollars worth of jewelry, and even more than that in cash. I am still breathless at receiving such a gift. The kindness of complete strangers. Olive's sickness has been horrible, yet such an amazing experience at the same time. The people who have come into our lives that we would have never known otherwise, have made this battle so much easier. In a world that lately seems very corrupt, ugly and selfish, I am blessed to constantly be surrounded by love and kindness. I have reconnected with old friends, made fantastic new ones, and strengthened the bonds with those people who have been constant in my life. I thank God everyday for all of you. It is your faith and support that gives me the courage to keep hoping when I often feel I can not. It is all of you who give me joy, strength and continually make me laugh. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

P.S. When you see me notice my beautiful bracelets. That dang Lia Sophia knows what she is doing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

All Dressed Up

If you were to ask me if I was superstitious, I would probably say no. However, over the course of the past year, I have thrown away at least a dozen or more shirts. It started the day Olive was diagnosed. I was wearing a cute, new shirt I had just purchased the day before at Old Navy. Then we received the news. That night I threw the now ugly shirt in the trash. How could I ever wear that cursed shirt again? I had no idea that subconsciously I had started a my own superstitious tradition. Every subsequent scan, surgery or appointment that Olive had, would result in a discarded outfit. It didn't take long before I started running out of clothes that I was willing to throw away. The clothing shortage was not only a problem for me, but one for Richard as well. I couldn't allow him to wear any shirt that would remind me of bad news. So, he was often required to throw his out as well. Nine or ten months down the road, as we began to run out of clothes, we could often be found wearing really old, and most often skin tight (due to the marriage weight we've gained) shirts to every doctor appointment.

Well, one year later, as we returned to SLC for the scan that would determine if Olive's chemotherapy was working, I turned over a new leaf. More appropriately, I wore a new outfit. The old habit of throwing the bad shirts away was costing us a fortune, and didn't seem to have any real benefit. For this appointment, I got up early to ensure that I looked good for our day at the hospital. I left for the scan looking "fine". Not just any old "fine" but first date kinda "fine". I was lipsticked, hair-sprayed and made-up. I had on my good jeans, a cute top and some jewelery. I pulled out all the stops. The end results, and this is the very important part, Olive's scan came back showing she had no new tumor growth since July. The chemotherapy is working. After just three rounds of carboplatin, the tumor has not gotten any bigger. This is the longest Olive will have ever gone in her whole life without surgery. This is the first time we have every been allowed to take her home immediately following a scan. All the doctors agree that she should continue with her scheduled chemotherapy, and she is not required to return to SLC until February. This is great news!! If I was superstitious, I would probably feel obligated to wear this lucky outfit each time we go. Since I am not, maybe all I need is a new outift every time. Next time we go, I want to hear that the tumor is shrinking. Hell, for news that good I should probably buy some new shoes too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moving Mountains

The clock says 3:22. I have been watching the minutes tick by since 1:17. I feel very sorry for people who suffer from insomnia. Not being able to sleep is so frustrating. I know the cause of my sleeplessness. Olive, is sleeping like a baby,
(which I guess she is). Ignorance is bliss. For her tomorrow is just another day. For me, it is another huge day in the cancer battle. These scans always change everything, and I am never quite prepared for the news they bring. I have the worst case of heartburn, and my mind won't stop racing. Richard, Olive and I are bedded down at the Ronald McDonald House here in SLC. It is where we stay every time we come to Primary Children's. My mind is constantly saying a prayer. I can't stop. It's the only control I have over the situation. It is the only power I wield, as if subconsciously I hope and believe that God will change everything. I have been taught that with enough faith, God can move mountains... I don't need a mountain moved, I need something much smaller, but in ways so much bigger. I need a astrocytoma spinal cord tumor to start shrinking.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thursday Morning

Thursday morning is our big day. Olive is scheduled for her routine MRI, but they are never routine. This will be her first scan since she started chemotherapy. The hope is that the drugs are keeping the growth in check.

A bad situation is that the tumor has gotten larger and she will have to undergo a de-bulking surgery, or increase her chemo drugs. Worst case scenario, the tumor has grown up into her brain stem. If that is the case, brain radiation that will severely affect her intellect will be necessary. To learn that the tumor is shrinking would be a miracle. Like always, we are praying for a miracle. We check into Primary Children's Hospital Thursday morning at 8:00 am. She will then be sedated and undergo her scan which will last about an hour. After she awakens, we will met with her doctor to review the results. We have never had a clean scan. However, there is always a first time. Last October when Olive was first diagnosed she began a regular, routine scan every three months. In January, she formed hydrocephalus, water on the brain, and had a permanent shunt placed in the brain ventricles to relieve the pressure from fluid build-up. In May, the scan showed her tumor had returned, and was removed for a third time. Finally, in July, when the tumor had regrown yet again, she started chemotherapy. Easy to see why I get so anxious when we have to go in for a simple scan. Like always, Richard is very optimistic. Thank heavens. Personally, I try to go numb until we get the news, otherwise, I get to worked up. Please keep Olive in your prayers over the next few days. Keep us all there. It is amazing the strength you feel when you know others are praying for you. We will let you know. The pictures show Olive's neck after her last surgery, and with Dr. Douglas Brockmeyer, her neurosurgeon. I am secretly kinda in love with him. I think it is because he is good looking, and has saved my daughter's life numerous times. Don't tell Richard.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Worth Its Weight in Gold

There is just no way around it, chemotherapy makes you sick. Olive has been throwing up a lot since her last treatment. Fortunately, the anti-nausea medicines available work wonders, and are super fast acting. A refill of her Zofran prescription is just a little less than one thousand dollars. This morning, as Olive was throwing up all over aunt Amy, I would have paid any price for it. So literally, these days, one pill is pretty much worth its weight it gold.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Smooth Sailing

They say practice makes perfect. That must be true about everything, because this session of chemo went without a hitch. Olive's blood counts came back high; qualifying her for this round of treatment. After such a rough session last time, they wanted to make sure she had plenty of fluids. Eight hours later, she was very hydrated and looking and feeling great. The best part of the whole dang day was the surprise visit from my sister Amy, her daughter Ruby, and my cousin Niki. Without ever spilling the beans, they had planned a trip out here from Colorado. I was completely surprised. Olive and I were sitting on the bed in her hospital room when my mom walked in with Ruby. I knew instantly who the round, little, butterball belonged to. I hadn't seen her since August, but her cheeks are unmistakable. In all the world, it was exactly the people I needed and wanted to see. The pictures show Olive and I at the clinic getting ready for chemo. Before she ever starts, they access her chest port with a special needle. Once her port has been punctured they can draw blood and then administer her medicine through the same needle. Nick, one of her nurses first cleans the port site, and then draws blood. Finally, she is hooked to an IV line and pole.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chicken Chicken Choo Choo

All day long, as Rex plays with his Thomas the Train, I have to chuckle under my breath. While other trains may be chuga chuga choo chooing down the tracks, Rex's train says, "Chicken chicken choo choo!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Next Wayne Gretsky

When Richard was in college he played a little bit of hockey. Since Rex was born, Richard has been chomping at the bit to get his boy on the ice. Saturday was finally the day to introduce Rex to world of ice skating. Now don't get me wrong, but my kid is a natural. I couldn't believe it as I watched my two year old skating around the rink. He loved it. Two hours later, he still wanted to skate. Richard firmly believes a new hockey star has been born. I decided not to mention he might be more like Scott Hamilton on ice instead of Wayne Gretsky. Sometimes you just gotta let a proud father have his dreams.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Holding My Breath

It feels as if I have spent much of the past year holding my breath. Once Olive was diagnosed with an intramedullary astrocytoma, which is just the official way of saying, big, fat, ugly, cancerous tumor in her spinal cord, our roller coaster ride had begun. Over the course of the year Olive would undergo multiple life threatening surgeries. More than once, I was faced with the possibility of losing my child. Our family's life was turned upside down. We had a house we couldn't sell in Twin Falls. For a little over 9 months, Richard lived and worked in Boise while the kids and I stayed at my parent's house in Pocatello. All of it was hard, but one moment stands out among the hardest. It was the early morning hours before Olive's first surgery. I had not released the hold on my baby since first learning of her diagnosis some 36 hours earlier. Already she looked different. Her face had become very puffy as she was pumped full of fluids and steroids in preparation for her surgery. We had been surrounded all day by family, doctors, and nurses. Olive was hooked up to IVs and monitors, and she had received a blessing of health and healing from her father, and my brother who had helped Richard administer the prayer. All that was left to do was wait. Wait for the doctors to rid my baby of the evil cells that had invaded her sweet, tiny, perfect body. Cells that if left alone would slowly paralyze her spinal cord and brain stem, eventually preventing her lungs from supplying her body with the oxygen it needed to survive. We were out of options. We were helpless and totally at the mercy of the Lord, and the skilled hands of her neurosurgeon. We knew we had to discuss one last thing. Where we would bury our baby. No conversation has ever been so difficult. This stands out as the hardest moment of my 31 years on earth. As I held my child, and felt her breathing on my neck, I had to think about her lifeless body, and her last breath. We finally decided we would lay her to rest near the family plots in Pocatello. We have never mentioned it since. At this point we were all physically and emotionally exhausted, Olive and I couldn't get comfortable around all the tubes and monitors to which she was mercilessly hooked. At this point, my sweet and loving husband gave me the world. With the permission of the nurses, they unhooked all the monitors and cords. The tubes were taken out and the alarms were shut off. I was able to lay down on the fold-out chair, and hold my baby without any interruptions. Her breathing became steady and even as she spent those last, precious hours asleep in my arms. The next morning at 8:00, I carried my beautiful baby down two flights of stairs and into the operating room of Dr. Douglas Brockmeyer. For the next 5 1/2 hours I held my breath.

Friday, October 3, 2008

One Year Ago Today

It all started one year ago today. I was sitting in the recovery room at Primary Childrens' Hospital holding Olive, not quite four months old, as she awakened from her sedation. She had just completed what was to be the first of many MRIs she would experience. Rex and my Mom where waiting for us outside. Richard was starting his first day at his new job in Boise. We were prepared to hear she had a cyst on her spinal cord that would need to be drained. We were unprepared to discover she had a tumor the length of her first seven vertebrate. I almost dropped her when they told me. They thought I knew. The doctor walked in and said, "Well, she has a very large tumor on her spinal cord." The other mothers, waiting with their children, all looked away as I started to hyperventilate. Someone went to get my mom. Someone else took Olive from me. Within minutes, we were in a private room with Dr. Douglas Brockmeyer, Olive's neurosurgeon. He would be responsible for saving Olive's life at least three times over the course of the year. He showed us the scans. It was impossible not to see the tumor. It filled the whole image. I couldn't breathe. I called Richard and told him to come to Salt Lake City immediately. They wouldn't let Olive leave the hospital. What was to be a quick overnight trip to Utah would turn into a 21 day stay.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Not Just a Rock

This is going to sound strange, but every once and awhile my babies go from being my babies to being actual little people. You see, my whole life is dedicated to my children. We are always together. Typically, if they need something done, I do it. They are fed by me, changed by me, bathed by me, dressed by me, groomed by me, carried by me, praised by me, punished by me and soothed by me. It is often easy to forget that although they need me in so many ways, they aren't actually an extension of me. They think on their own, act on their on, and feel on their own. Already, they are who they are.
It's strange how different my two children are. Their days are spent in almost identical situations, yet at the end of 24 hours their experiences have been very different. Rex is my tender heart and he lives life at his own pace. If he is given a cookie, without hesitation he breaks it in half and takes the bigger piece to his sister. He cannot sneeze that he doesn't bless himself, and those around him. If he gets into trouble his eyes well up with tears, and he needs me to hold him for a good five minutes after. When he needs some downtime, he takes one of his favorite books into our shower and sits and reads to himself. He asks to be hugged and kissed at least once every hour. He says "thank you" and "your welcome" every time you do or give him something. His favorite blanket tends to accompany him around the house, and he is very, painfully shy around new people. Olive on the other hand, is a pistol. This girl was born knowing what she wants, and doing whatever it takes to get it. Getting into trouble is part of the fun for Olive. Yesterday, she spent the five minutes I had my back turned pulling as much toilet paper off the roll as she could. She knew I would be mad, but she didn't care. As I began to scold her, she looked at me and reached for another handful. By now, Rex would be crying, and trying to figure out how to put the T.P. back on the roll, but not this kid. I hadn't reached her yet, so she figured she still had time to get more off the roll. Olive loves strangers, spending her time from the front seat of the grocery cart parade waving like a little princess to everyone we pass, and if you are lucky you can steal a kiss from her as she races by you.

Currently, rocks are one of Rex's greatest fascinations. He is going to save me a bundle this Christmas, because a box of rocks can't be that expensive. Everywhere we go, the kid is on the look out for a good rock. At the end of everyday, I have to empty the rocks he has collected from out of his pockets. When Rex finds a particular great rock he always brings it to me for safe keeping. Seeing nothing special about these rocks I usually toss them when he is not looking. Yesterday, about a half hour after I had ditched one of his special rocks, he came and asked me for it back. What.... this had never happened before. I told him I had lost it and he was crushed. He had given me one of his most treasured possessions, and I had the nerve to "lose" it. He spent the next half hour frantically scouring the backyard for the rock I had carelessly lost. By this time, it was time to go in and get dinner ready, and the search had to end. Rex was brokenhearted, and strangely, so was I. My kid had trusted me with something important, and I had just tossed it aside. This morning when Rex got up, he came out of his room with a different rock, after a small lecture about keeping it safe, he presented to me with a bit of hesitation. That is the great things about rocks, there are always plenty more. Trust isn't so easy to come by. Fortunately this little person, my kid, has decided I am worth another try. Currently, the rock is sitting on my jewelery box where it will stay safe and sound. To some, it is just a rock. To my son, it is a treasured possession and a symbol that he trusts me again. To me, this morning anyway, it means the world. I am worthy of another try. Sometimes, we carelessly toss aside some of the most important things without a second thought, but if we are lucky life will present us with the chance to redeem ourselves. I am very lucky, life and my son has given me another rock.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Motherly Instinct?

This morning, I looked over at my treadmill and it appeared to be very lonely and quite dusty. Feeling inspired I strapped on my running bra and some tennis shoes and hopped on. I was briskly walking at about 3.7 miles per hour when Olive, curious at what Mom was dong in the strange outfit came over to inspect. Anyone who as spent any real, quality time on a treadmill would have naturally known to pull the emergency stop. Anyone who has any natural mothering instincts would have realized what was about to occur. Not me, I had neither. I just kept right on walking as I watched what happened next. The last thing Olive did before she crawled up onto the treadmill was smile at me and say "Look mom." 3.7 seconds later her head hit the wall behind me. I think I remember her hitting my legs as she whizzed by. No new collar is going to keep her protected from me. They should have made her a new, customized, body suit with matching helmet.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Collar Fit for a Queen

On Thursday, Olive got her new, customized c-collar. "So what?" you say, to which I respond, "Are you kidding? She is already doing so much more!" It's true. Since Thursday afternoon, Olive has finally learned to crawl. Before, she had always moved around much like a chimpanzee. She would sit on her fanny, and use her arms to swing herself forward. It was actually quite impressive, and boy could she move. To beat that, Saturday night she took her first independent steps with her walker. I think she might just be the first child to go from crawling to walking (sorta) in less than 48 hours. Granted she is almost a year and a half old, but her old collar was very restrictive. It had been made for her when she was only four months old. At that age she didn't have much of a neck so they had to form a molded head piece that went up around her noggin. Well, she has grown considerably since then, and the molded head piece didn't mold anymore, instead it just pushed her in the back of the head. In the face down position she could never get her head up into a good position to crawl, and in a standing position in pushed her in the back of the head throwing off her balance. The moral of the story is; her no good mother should have had a better fitting collar made months ago. At this rate, I expect she will be tap dancing by Monday morning.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Buffet Line of Life

This morning when I got up and let the dogs out, it hit me, the feel of fall. The smell of damp soil and falling leaves, and the tingle in your nose of crispy, cold air. I bundled my kids up in their long pants and sweaters and turned on the heater. By lunch time we were all sweaty. Rex dragged his swim suit out of his closet and I turned the AC back on. Fall in Idaho has always been like that. Freeze in the morning, bake in the afternoon. The change in the air got me thinking, so did an email I received from an old friend, and the lunch (or something like it) I ate with my kids.

I have decided that life must be nutritionally balanced. Let me try to explain. When I met with Olive's nutritionist last week we had quite a lively discussion about the normal eating habits of toddlers. Olive is not alone in her poor eating habits. Rex is no better. Some times the only thing keeping him alive is milk and gummy fruit snacks. I actually laughed right at the poor woman trying to teach me about feeding them well- balanced meals that contained all the food groups. I can't even get my husband to eat from all the food groups. We finally agreed that every meal doesn't need to be nutritionally balanced, in fact every day might not even be 'balanced'. The goal is to find nutritional balance over the course of a week (or 2). Each food group doesn't need to be present at every meal, they just need to be consumed over the course of time. Sometimes our bodies tell us what we need nutritionally. We call them cravings. I know the one week I tried to be a vegetarian by Friday, my body wanted nothing more than a big old burger. My body needed the protein. So to me, a balanced week of eating makes sense, and even seems doable. Now what about my nutritionally balanced life?

Lately, I have taken up whining as a hobby. I spend most of my efforts on Richard. I whine to him about the kids, I whine to him about money, and my hair, and how I really miss school. I whine about missing my old job and all the friends we have moved a way from. The other day after quite a long whining stint I ended my tirade with a, "So what do you think about all that?" He reminded me that I always whine about change. I have never been good at it. I always painfully miss what I once had. That someday, in the not to distant future, I would be missing the very things I am whining about now. So what does this all mean? It means I am having some cravings, but overall I am living a fairly balanced life. I have tasted a lot of different things. In fact my life has been a buffet line. I have been able to go to college, travel, have friends, marry, serve a mission, have a career, study abroad, stay at home with my kids, have hobbies, read good books, spend some money, make some money, get exactly what I want, learn to live without. My plate might not have all those things on it all the time, but that is ok. My life is nutritionally balanced, and the buffet line never closes.

We met with Olive's new physical therapist today. After having read Olive's medical history, she was super impressed with all of her capabilities. Our plan for Olive is to have her walking by Christmas. Who knows, however, what Olive's has planned...
Tomorrow we go and get Olive's blood counts, and on Thursday she gets her new collar. Now I have got to go tend to my chocolate cravings.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

To Pee or not to Pee: Always the Question

So not that chemotherapy on its own is bad enough, but one of the listed side effects is actually anorexia. Figuring that Olive is half Pixton, I didn't plan on this ever being one of her issues. I was wrong. Olive tends to take after the Ashcraft side of her genes and is on the slim side. Slim is an understatement actually. She is almost 18 months old and is still wearing some of her 3-6 month clothing. Needless to say, she doesn't have any extra weight to lose. Well, the little turkey went right on ahead and lost most of her desire to eat and and drink. When we took her to the hospital on Wednesday for fluids she had already lost a little over a pound. She hadn't peed in quite awhile and number two was out of the question. To fix the problem they put her on a laxative and had me meet with a nutritionist. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. She taught me how to fatten up foods. I now go grocery shopping for foods with the most fat and calories. My daughter is now drinking milk spiked with heavy cream and carnation instant breakfast, all of her food is to be cooked with butter, and they told me to add a tablespoon of oil to anything I could, including her juice. This went against my entire moral being. I didn't even know that they made yogurt that wasn't "light". Needless to say, I am no longer eating the kids' leftovers. In the meantime they have me monitoring Olive's input and output. So the question every day comes down to... Did Olive pee today? Lucky for us the answer today is yes.
On a brighter note my mom and I went through an old box of my clothes as a baby. This week has been a flashback to 1977 for both Olive and I. One of the pictures is actually a snapshot of yours truly. Enjoy the fashion show.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Olive finished her second round of her Carboplatin chemotherapy on Thursday. Two months down, ten more to go. It was a long and torturous day. If all goes well, her treatments last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. However, we have yet to have a treatment go without a hitch. One of the biggest challenges is keeping Olive from ripping out her IV tubing. Olive had a small device called a portacath placed directly under the skin of her chest. It is a small chamber that is sealed on one end with a rubber plug, and a tube on the other end that enters a major artery near her collarbone. The doctors can then administer her medication and withdraw blood through the rubber plug end of her port. This is a great way to keep from destroying her arm veins with the hundreds of needle pokes she would require. The problem, however, is that Olive can see the tubing coming directly out of her chest and wants to do nothing more than pull it out. My job is to keep her from doing just that. Anyone who has every attempted to keep a 1 year old from doing something they are determined to do, knows how nearly impossible it is. To add more challenge to the fun her cervical collar rubs over the top of her port. When there is a needle in the port, she can't wear her collar. So for six to eight hours I am freaking out about her hurting her spine. For those who don't know, during Olive's first tumor resection, they removed her first 7 vertebrate in order to access her tumor. Those vertebrate were not replaced. Now Olive must wear a protective collar until they fuse her neck around age 8 or 9. By the end of chemo that day Olive had only pulled the IV out once, and I was exhausted. Chemotherapy did not sit well with her this time and she practically gave up all eating and drinking in the days that followed. Yesterday she was admitted to the hospital so she could receive 6 hours of fluid and some medicine to get her bowels moving. My mom and dad had already gone back to Pocatello, and I could not find anyone to sit with Rex, so he came too. It wasn't too bad having him there. He must have known he needed to be on his best behavior because he was a doll all day. In the meantime the fluids worked wonders and Olive is already back to her old self. Thank heavens.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Poison Mania

That's right Bret Michaels rocked it out at the Blackfoot state fair and yours truly was there to rock it out with him. The concert was fantastic. It really was. They played all their hits including Unskinny Bop, Talk Dirty to Me and Every Rose has its Thorns. I thought the evening was great, but then... on our way out of the fair we spotted a limo decorated with the words Rock of Love. Of course I had to go find out of Bret was in there. I knocked on the door, but alas he was not. However, I got to meet the four finalist of Rock of love 3. I had them take a picture of me so Bret could see what he was missing as far as Idahoan stay at home moms go. I am still waiting to hear from him. In the meantime, I found out that they all have slept with him, he has hair extensions, and his producers always make him wear the bandanna.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This Woman Works Magic with a Camera

When you have a sick kid, a lot of neat people and experiences cross your path that never would have otherwise. One of the neatest experiences we've had was meeting an incredible photographer named Kam Taylor. Kam has decided to use her talent to provide free photos and a photography session to families with terminally, or critically ill children. Her gift is priceless. Money, as most of you know, could not be tighter than right now. Currently, every spare dime we have, and alot we don't have, are spent on Olive. As a result, I have never had professional picture taken of either of my kids. We were introduced to Kam through my sister-in-law, and had our pictures taken. She did such a great job of capturing just the way my kids look, and she did a great job of making Richard and I look better than we really are. I am so happy to have such great pictures of my kids, and the frosting on my cake is that Kam and I have become friends. You can find out all about Kam at