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When you’re least expecting it

The lemur was all about that “the world is my toilet” motto

Fast rides, food, water shooting from the ground, high-hung net paths, wild animals to be seen and touched and the chance to be on TV….Nathaniel’s dream day in a nutshell. We got to Busch Gardens early on Thursday morning where the kid participating got t-shirts (that were totally trashed by the end of day) that promoted the about-to-be-previewed new area of BG, Jungala.

Shannon and Jamie, two fabulous staff members from the [url=http://www.childrenscancercenter.org]Children’s Cancer Center[/url], were there to spend the day with us and just made it that much more fun. We were with Scott and Lilly, both cancer patients, and Devaughn, a sibling of a cancer patient like Nathaniel.

We spent a lot of time early in the day waiting. The kids were so wonderfully patient and understanding that there were certain things that had to be done before their fun could really get started, and I was so proud of them for not flipping out. Luckily, there was quite a bit to keep them busy while they waited for their turns on the rides. They got to hang for hours in the world’s coolest jungle gym…3 stories high paths, made of net and mesh, just dangling from the sky…they loved it! There was a water area that made the heat a non-issue for them, with waterfalls, shooting fountains and middle school girls in plaid skirts with wet tshirts…”Oh, mom, can I go get in the water?”

Yeah, sure you can, you suddenly raging case of hormones. Go, son.

We got to see the Tiger exhibit, 4 of the most amazing creatures on the planet, just lounging and impressing the masses by their sheer existence…but don’t we ALL know how that feels! Nathaniel got to get up close and personal with a two-toed sloth, some African millipede thing, a talking parrot, numerous snakes…“come touch it, mom!” Thanks, Busch Gardens, thanks a lot…and a fantastic close-up encounter with an orangutan. The orangutan building has this big square plate glass partition built into the floor, where you can look down into a hammock hung for the orangutan’s pleasure. As the guide is telling us that O…I’m getting tired of spell-check telling me that I spell orangutan wrong…loves people and will often come up from the ground to interact with the people watching from the building, here she comes strolling over! She climbs up in the hammock and proceeds to sprawl out just looking up at us from the hammock. I get the impression that it was a reversal of situation for her, she’s laying there thinking, “How cool, I love when my humans get some interesting people for me to look at! Wow, that one’s pretty funny looking, that one looks a little scary!” But the neatest part was when Nathaniel and Devaughn were putting their faces and hands on the glass and O responded by climbing up into the corner of the glass so that she could stick her hand up to the glass and touch them, putting her face right next to the glass to get as close as she could to them. It was AWESOME!

There was a good number of kids there, besides the CCC kids, from different schools and organizations. So, it was sheer chaos the whole time. Our kids got orange wristbands that told all the media who was present for the announcement and test-drive of the rides that they could feel free to talk to the kids for their broadcasts.

Besides the newstations that stopped the kids for reactions for their nightly newscasts, the local ABC affiliate that is covering and highlighting the CCC for Oprah’s Big Give (You want to go to the “videos” link and then to the “Oprah’s Big Give Benefits Tampa Bay Kids” link) was there to interview the parent/kid combos and to talk with us about what the Center does for our families and what it means to us.

Seeing as how there is nothing I’d like to see more than a CCC in every city there’s an oncology patient, I love the chance to talk to anyone about what phenomenal work the CCC does. What an impact they have on the lives of the children, their siblings, the entire family…the way they raise the quality of life for us…the emotional and financial support, the friendships that they work so hard to facilitate between the families themselves. I told ABC and I would tell anyone…are you listening, OPRAH!???…that the Children’s Cancer Center exemplifies what the Big Give is all about, when you talk about giving big, you can’t do it any bigger, any better, any more sincerely and compassionately than the CCC.

Oh, and of all the stories that are being submitted to Harpo Productions during the Big Give from all the charities involved, guess which story sparked the interest the most?? Just take a guess which one gave the “Wow, that’s really something” factor.

The tattoos. I believe, not entirely sure how it works, the tattoo story is going to be highlighted on a Sunday Big Give show. I’m actually going to get to be associated with an Oprah show and it’s for getting a tattoo. Mom, are you proud of me now??!!

It could totally be worse, Pete could be having a baby. Which would tickle the heck out of me, but I am not even going to go there. Ok, maybe I’ve already been there and had to pull myself back from THERE, but really! Really? Can you imagine the torment that kid is going to take? We are not talking about being short/tall or having any strange distinguishing feature that would open you up to the normal amounts of childhood abuse….dude, your DAD gave BIRTH! That child is so screwed.

Ok, did you like that passive/aggressive way of deflecting the interest off me and my tattoo and onto the baby-birthing man?


Last night was family group night and the CCC put on an American Idol competition with music and singing and the kids had a BLAST. My kids? Karaoke? What’s not to love? They all got up and sang, loudly and with enthusiasm. Peyton sang and shook her booty to “New Girl in Town” from Hairspray, and it was so darn cute I was lightheaded for a few minutes.

While the kids were practicing their best Idol performances, the parents went up to the big group room. THIS is why the CCC is amazing, they arranged for two families to be there to talk about their experience with cancer, which included a relapse and bone marrow transplant and how well their children are doing now. We got to meet Derek, a 19 year old who so bravely spoke to us about his initial treatment, his relapse, then his second relapse. He shared about the treatments, the post-BMT issues, his never-failing belief that it would work. Then we heard from Michael. Now, I’d met Michael before because he was often caring for us when we were inpatient at All Children’s Hospital. He just finished his nurses training and will be helping even more children now. I always loved when Michael was on duty because Peyton just adored him, he had a great relationship with the children and never failed to stop and take a few minutes to chat, no matter how busy he was. I found out why. He’d been there, on our side of the bed. His daughter was treated for AML Leukemia and when she relapsed, they did her bone marrow transplant there.

At a time when confidence has been shaken and we are all reeling from the news of the relapses of precious friends, it was so needed to hear these positive stories, to know that relapse doesn’t mean that your child will die. For some, relapse doesn’t end the way we pray that it will, but for others, we still hope and pray for a cancer-free future. It was a strong reminder that we don’t give up hope.

Then, out of the blue, I got another great positive boost today! I love how God always sends the messages we need to hear, sometimes we have to be willing to listen.

I had Peyton with me today because she slept lousy last night and was quite unpleasant this morning. I had 1000 errands to run in prep for our trip…still no packing has begun, but I’m not worried about it…and I needed to get my hair cut. I had planned to get it done, but had considered putting it off since I had her with me. I decided to give it a try, worse case scenario, I have lopsided hair from walking out mid-cut. My normal hairdresser was out sick, my back-up was on vacation, I took door #3 because I really needed the cut.

I get there and I’m chatting with Dana, which should have been a good sign, since we love the only other Dana we know. We’re talking about Peyton and the subject of her chemo comes up and how she has leukemia and Dana shares that her nephew was diagnosed at 6 months old. He was so critical because it’s very bad to be diagnosed under 2 years old. He suffered a relapse and had to have a bone marrow transplant, which his brother was a match and able to provide. He’s now 9 years old. She said that he’s small for his age, undergoing hormone therapy to induce growth…he’s sterile…but he’s 9 years old and is out of treatment for 5 years now! He’s alive and wonderful and that was tremendous to hear.

I’m just sitting there feeling like, “wow, my hairdresser? Is that the person you’re sending to lift up my spirits, Lord? Whatever works for me!” It could not have been the more perfect message at the most perfect time. Dana happens to live in Fishhawk in Brandon, her kids went to school with Taylor Arrington and her mother cut hair for Zack Tucker. She even recognized Peyton from some different newspaper things she’d been in. Could I have been more meant to meet this lady?

Pray for safe travels for us this weekend, we are looking forward to a great visit with Pete! I can’t wait to get there, messy apartment and no furniture not even mattering. And not just because of the Wii, although that pretty much rocks. I am just looking forward to some quality time with Pete and I know the kids are seriously excited about waking up with Daddy.

f.r.o.G…fully relying on God

4 Comments on “When you’re least expecting it”

  1. #1 Patti
    on Apr 4th, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Great pictures! I'm glad Nathaniel got to have some fun!!! I think even you had fun from the picture. 😉
    Hope you ALL enjoy your time together. I'm sure no furniture will not make a difference once you are there. It's kind of like camping – but without the bugs. =)
    Thank you for making me smile.

  2. #2 Heather
    on Apr 4th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Love, love, love the picture of you & Nathaniel! I'm so glad you all had a great day together. Have a wonderful Spring Break with Pete!

    Love & FROG,

  3. #3 Karalyn
    on Apr 4th, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Great pictures-it looks like Nathaniel had a wonderful time.
    I saw that pregnant man on Oprah too and all I can say about that is ummmmmm….yeah.
    Anyway I hope you guys have a great time on your trip. Give Peyton a hug from me.

  4. #4 Dana
    on Apr 5th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I read your site almost daily and I enjoy your sense of humour and your writing. You should write a book! I'm so glad that Peyton is doing well too. My son is in long-term maintenance and has one more year to go (boys are treated one year longer than girls). I did notice in your last post that it is very bad to get diagnosed under age two. I wanted to make a correction to that. Up here in Canada anyway, you are high risk if you are younger than one year or older than 10 years. This is mainly because infant ALL usually carries a gene that puts them at high risk, although not all infants do have that gene. My son was 13 months when he was diagnosed and because he was over that "12 month" mark, he was considered standard risk. He's doing wondefully, just like Peyton. I just wanted to let you know that I pray for Peyton all the time. Take Care! I'll keep enjoying your posts!