Thursday, April 29, 2010

St. Baldrick's on Saturday--Let's Raise some Money for Childhood Cancer Research!

Unalaska really knows how to get behind a good cause! A couple of months ago, the firefighters and EMS folks started to plan the first ever local St. Baldrick's head shaving event to raise money for childhood cancer research. I had never even heard of St. Baldrick's but I was in Houston with Bonnie and Emery when the initial email arrived in my inbox, telling me about the foundation and its work. By the time I got back home, every time I turned around I heard about someone else who was shaving his head. I say "his" because everyone I heard about at that time was male. :) However, as the event has gathered steam and more and more participants who come from all walks of life, we now also have at least four females shaving their heads. (No, I am not one of them--sorry if you were hoping to see a photo of that!)

Soon our friend Steve asked me if he could sponsor Emery for his head-shaving. What a kindhearted guy he is! After getting Bonnie's okay, "Team Emery" was born and Steve has continued to go all-out raising funds! The whole event has taken on a life of its own and a carnival-like atmosphere, with many of the participants dying their hair in wild colors and getting into a bit of good natured rivalry. Click on Steve's blog here to see the latest info and some funny head shots.

My friend Judi has also taken the plunge--I think she was first just going to cut her hair for "Locks of Love" but now she is going all-in and shaving her head as well! Now that's a brave woman. One of my teenaged friends, James, just told me he is shaving his head, too. Way to go, James! If I look at the list of "shavees," I either know them or know who they are--I love that about small town life!

Saturday is the big day, with the event starting at 1 PM at the Burma Road Chapel. Our own Channel 8 will be televising the head-shaving live starting at 1:30 PM. If you're local, come on over and join in the fun. Rich and I will be there taking photos to document the craziness.

You can look here for the list of all the Unalaska shavees and make a donation to any of them. I am partial to Team Emery (and Steve is giving away some Alaska crab to a lucky winner!), but the money all goes to the same place so pick anyone that you want (or more than one!) and help us do away with childhood cancer. A donation of any size is appreciated greatly. If you are leery of online donations, you may send a check or call in to the live show on Saturday at 907-581-1888 and make a pledge. We'd love to hear from you!

Our family has been affected by cancer several times, including my dad's death at the very young age of 42 from lung cancer. (Hard to believe that all of his children are older now than he ever got to be!) Although I had heard of children with cancer in the past, it had never touched our lives closely till Emery's diagnosis smacked us upside the head and led us down a completely unfamiliar path. We are grateful that she has done so well and we have every confidence that she has a happy and healthy life ahead of her. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every child with cancer. Additional funds for research will help more and more of these little sweeties to survive and thrive.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We Breathe a Sigh of Relief and Life Returns to Normal

The best news is that Emery is home, happy and active, and we don't have any medical news to report. Hopefully Bonnie will be able to post periodic updates on her blog so you can keep up with their "back to normal" lives. I am glad this phase of all of our lives has come to a close and we offer our heartfelt thanks one more time for all of your thoughts, prayers, love and good wishes. Although Emery will have ongoing checkups and periodic medical appointments, we are thrilled that the most complicated part of treatment is done.

Our grandson Aidan is playing baseball in Texas and I am wishing we could go to some of his games! It would be great to sit in the stands and cheer him on. Good luck, Aidan--play hard! And, of course, we miss the little girls, Ally and Elle, too. Some day we will live closer and will be able to pop in and out more often.

There's been lots going on here but I haven't had the energy to blog about it! I never wrote about the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship after the first night of our arrival. It was a very busy and intense week, with a great deal of learning about working for the betterment of our communities and literally no time for me to write on my blog.

The faculty were superb and renewed my faith that there really are people who walk the walk instead of just being talking heads that tell us what to do. I was so impressed with not only their knowledge, but their spirit and their caring attitude toward all of us, the people we serve, and the community at large. It was interesting and inspiring to meet individuals from all over the country who are working in extremely difficult situations and never giving up--hearing their stories was an amazing experience. In some ways, it was difficult being the new person since I had missed the first retreat in January and everyone had already bonded and formed relationships. On the other hand, it was a good opportunity to listen, observe, and learn from others and I hope that the next trip will bring deeper relationships and more involvement for me.

Here we are with two other Alaska teams, one from Anchorage and one from Cordova.

Although we worked hard all day and had homework each night, we did manage to get out and have a little bit of fun, too. We made it to the San Diego Zoo and did a little bit of sightseeing around town. It was not as hot as I would have liked, after all, but still warmer than Unalaska, of course!

Old Town
A peacock wandering around the zoo

The polar bear was literally "chillin' out."

Cute panda!

Back at home, there's always lots going on. Last weekend was the Convention and Visitors Bureau annual wine tasting event. Rich was working since he and his crew had to prepare appetizers to go with each of nine wines. My friend Donna and I went together and had a great time visiting with everyone and sampling the wines. Donna even won the grand prize of a cruise! I was teasing her because I picked up our tickets and handed her one of them--if I'd handed her the other one, I would have been the winner! Funny, huh? I guess I said it once too often because she asked me if she should give the prize to me. :) Ooops! I really didn't mean it that way and was thrilled for her!

Beautiful sisters Danielle and Darcel

Alyssa is back in town and working for the CVB. We are happy she is here!

Susan and Debbie were serving wine and having lots of fun.


Rich finally got to come see us at the end of the evening.

The next night was book club at Steve's, where we discussed the last two books, The Book Thief and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Steve's wife, known on the blogs as Goldfish, made us some lovely snacks, including a delicious potato peel pie! See Steve's blog here for a photo. Thanks, you two! I have highly recommended The Book Thief before and will again. The Guernsey book was a fairly quick feel-good read--a sweet story that I enjoyed but I liked The Book Thief a whole lot more.

The Aleutian Arts Council's annual community art show has been going on for the last couple of weeks, including four sets of photos from Rich this year. For a town this size, we have a lot of very talented people and it's always interesting to see the various pieces of art on display. The show ended with the Arts Council's annual meeting and fundraising auction last night. Rich and his staff prepared the food again but he was able to join me at the event, which we enjoyed with friends. We came home with a couple of door prizes and two cool little baskets that I won on the silent auction.

The snow is melting and spring MIGHT be in the air but it's still a little hard to tell. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going Home....Finally!

Emery was discharged from the hospital today and Bonnie reports that she is her happy, active self, not seeming to be in any discomfort. They are spending the night with Lauren and Dan in Katy and then will fly home tomorrow. It is hard to believe that the past several months away from home are now finally coming to an end. I know home has never felt so good as it will tomorrow. I am so thankful that Emery has tolerated all of her treatment and surgery so well and hope that this is the end of anything major for that sweet baby girl (and her parents). She'll need checkups for awhile but hopefully there will not be any worries from now on. It will be nice to have typical baby news instead of medical reports!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Discharge? Hopefully!

Emery had a good day and is off all monitoring equipment so was able to get in lots of play time. She even laughed a few times--Bonnie told me earlier this week that David is able to get Emery to laugh more than anyone. I remember when I was there that we kept waiting for her to laugh out loud but she never did it before I left! Sounds like everything is going very well and it's possible Emery may be discharged on Thursday. Wouldn't that be GREAT?!

Chest tube is out!

Emery's chest tube was removed today. She is doing well and we hope this means she will be discharged in a day or two!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emery update

I just talked with Bonnie and she said everything is going pretty well. Emery had a little bit of a rough night so she was given some morphine to help her feel better. After that, she was able to get some rest. She's been feeling okay so far today and has just had tylenol for pain. Bonnie said the chest tube makes her uncomfortable so it's a little hard to pick her up and move her around but otherwise she's been happy. David's dad Bo came in so I am glad they have some family with them! Dr. Thompson has been out of town but will return tomorrow and come to visit. Nothing major to report, which is good!

I stole this photo from Bonnie's Facebook but I guess it was taken with a phone--pretty small, huh?!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Emery's out of surgery!

Our sweet baby girl did really well and the surgeons are extremely happy. Most of the tumor was removed, leaving only a little bit of scar tissue. Emery had very little bleeding and tolerated the procedure well. Her central line was removed. She has a chest tube, but they are hoping it will only have to be in for a few days. Bonnie and David were waiting to see her when we talked and she will be moved to a hospital room sometime today.


Hi everyone,

I talked with Bonnie briefly; Emery is in surgery right now and everything is going well. It will still be another one to two hours before she is out. They are also removing her central line, which I am thrilled about. It will be great not having to deal with it any more, and Emery can finally have a "real" bath one day soon. Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers! I will update when I know anything new.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Surgery for Emery Monday

Bonnie, David and Emery are back in Houston and will be at Texas Children's bright and early on Monday morning for Emery's surgery to remove the remainder of the tumor. The surgeon is reported to be one of the best in the country for operating on neuroblastomas, and Dr. Curry, Emery's neurosurgeon, will be standing by just in case he is needed for any reason. We have every confidence in the physicians and all of the staff at Texas Children's. I wish I could be there to sit and wait with Bonnie and David but know that they are all in good hands. Please keep our sweet girl in your thoughts and prayers on Monday, and the medical team as well. I will post something as soon as I have any info.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back at Home and Still no Time to Post!

We arrived home on Wednesday afternoon after a very nice flight with no stops in King Salmon or Cold Bay and no real delays. A little bumpy on the approach, but no big deal. It was snowing when we stepped off the plane--quite a difference from San Diego! But I am glad to be home. I went right back to work on Thursday and have not had a chance to load up any more photos or write about the retreat. Maybe this weekend!

Rich and I both weighed in for Unalaska's Biggest Winner, a year long health and fitness program that includes prizes for those who lose the biggest percentage of body weight. We are ashamed to admit that we both weigh more than we have ever weighed in our lives. SO we are getting back on the healthy path. Yesterday morning, I dusted off my tai-chi dvd to start out the day. We ate healthy food for all our meals. We planned to go to the gym but (there's that 'but') several things interfered with that (or we let them interfere!) Today's a new day, though, right?

It's a busy weekend--the Community Art Show opens tonight and Rich has several photos in it. Tomorrow night is the annual CVB wine tasting event, where he will be working and I am attending with a friend. Sunday night is book club and I haven't started the book.

Emery's surgery was changed from next Wednesday to next Monday so Bonnie, David and Emery will be back in Houston this weekend. They were given a short reprieve and got to go home to Amarillo for a week or so while awaiting surgery. I know they were happy to be at home and are anxious for Emery's treatment to draw to a close. Here in Unalaska, our firefighters, EMS, and others in town are holding a St. Baldrick's event on May 1, where they will shave their heads for donations to childhood cancer research. Fellow blogger and friend Unalaska Steve asked if he could shave his head in honor of Emery. We were very touched by this kind gesture--how great is that?! See his page here for more info. He's even having a drawing for one of his donors to win a box of Alaska crab. :) Thanks, Steve--you are awesome!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heading Home Tomorrow Morning

Hi everyone,

Well, it's been one heck of an intense week and I haven't had a chance to blog or post photos. There's been lots of great learning and interaction with a group of fabulous human beings here--I will write more about the whole experience when I get home. My computer power cord has bitten the dust so I have been borrowing cords from others to charge up the computer but it doesn't hold a charge for much more than an hour. Right now it is almost 11 PM and we just finished our last night of work! We are leaving for the airport at 6:30 AM and will overnight in Anchorage tomorrow, then home on Wednesday. Talk with you soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunny San Diego!

We were up at 5:15 and on the hotel shuttle at 6 AM for our 3 hour flight from Anchorage to Seattle. Very pleasant and no passenger issues. :) Had a short layover in Seattle and then off to San Diego, another pleasant flight which took about 2 1/2 hours. It was a beautiful sunny day. Here's our approach.

Just happened to catch the Aerospace Museum as we flew over.

Gettin' kinda low here. Thank goodness the airport was just ahead!

Char and Donna waiting for our shuttle. Char was smart and wore a light dress but Donna and I were still in our heavy Alaska clothes. It was 80 degrees when we landed! I was so happy!

We checked in for our training at the Bahia Resort Hotel and then went for a little walk around the area. We are right near a marina and Mission Beach is a couple of blocks away.

Char and I are sharing a room, which is more like a mini-apartment with a living room and kitchen. We have a little patio with deck chairs on it and a view of the water. Sweet!
After our walk and a taco dinner at Roberto's down the block, we came back for the first night and opening circle of the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship. Since I did not make it to the first retreat in January, I didn't know anyone besides Donna and Char, but everyone was very welcoming and friendly. We did several activities to get to know one another better and renew relationships for those who had met before. Soon we were all laughing and talking away. We have lots of work to do for the next week but it seems like it will be great fun as well.
Fireworks were lighting up the sky when we came back to our room! I'm up way too late after not getting much sleep last night. We have breakfast between 6:30 and 8:00 AM tomorrow. I doubt I will be there at 6:30!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Had a good flight to Anchorage till we were coming in for a landing and a passenger decided to get up and start down the aisle. The flight attendant was telling him, "No, no, you have to be seated, sit back down, sit back down," as she got up out of her seat and began walking toward him. Suddenly he passed out and fell to the floor. He was unconscious briefly and then the flight attendant was helped by another passenger to lift him up and get him into his seat belt. The flight attendant called the pilot and asked to have paramedics meet us in Anchorage. The passenger was taken off first and was being examined in the terminal when we arrived. Not sure what was going on but it was a little scary.

It's snowy and cold in Anchorage so we are happy to be going to California tomorrow! We have an early flight, 7:30 AM. Oh no! You know what that means. I am so not looking forward to the wake up call.

Bonnie met with Emery's surgeons today and surgery is scheduled for the 21st. They believe this is the best course of action and will remove what remains of the tumor. We are thankful that Emery's treatment is finally coming to an end and happy that everything is very positive. It's been a long few months and I know the kids will be so thrilled to get back to their regular lives.

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Travel

I hope everyone had a nice Easter. Rich had to work all day so his was busy and mine was quiet. :)

Bonnie will meet with the surgeons tomorrow to find out what's next for Emery. I am anxious to hear! I know they are ready to be finished and headed home.

And I am flying out again tomorrow, attending a weeklong retreat with the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship. I am excited about this trip, especially since I missed the first one in January when I was in Houston. We will be in sunny San Diego, which is an added bonus! I am really hoping for some nice, warm weather since we are still having snow here. I'm traveling with my teammates Donna and Char and looking forward to meeting all of the other teams from around the country. It's a pretty intense week with lots of listening, learning, discussing, and participating in activities together so I am not sure how much time I will have to email or blog but I will be taking photos and saving up info so I can tell you all about the experience.

Hopefully we will not have any trouble getting out tomorrow. The weather was not the best this evening but that doesn't mean anything! We are spending tomorrow night in Anchorage and will arrive in San Diego on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pre-Easter Fun

Every year the local Lions Club has a big community breakfast on the Saturday before Easter. One of my friends put a call out for volunteers to bake items for the kids' cake walk so I said I would make something. My goal was to get finished on Friday morning while I was still at home prior to going to work in the afternoon. It was a very windy, snowy and cold day so I was not in the mood to bundle up, scrape the car and go to the store before the sun came up. As the morning wore on, I found more and more excuses to put off the shopping trip. Finally, I made myself get out about 11 AM, which, of course, was already cutting it close. I also had to stop at the office supply store to get a few items for work. After running both of those errands and stopping by the hotel to check the mail, it was almost noon.

I'd found a recipe for cupcakes with coconut "grass" and candy eggs on top--meant to look like an Easter basket. It seemed easy enough! At home, I dyed the coconut with food coloring and stuck it in the oven to dry out. Meanwhile, I was going to make the cupcake batter. What? No cupcake pans? How can that be? I searched high and low, but apparently I borrowed some from Rich last time I made cupcakes. None to be found. By this time, I needed to get ready for work.

After work, Rich and I had plans to go to a friend's for wine, cheese, potluck supper and a movie. Months ago, some of us read the book King Leopold's Ghost, which led us to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which led to discussion about the movie "Apocalypse Now" being loosely based on Heart of Darkness, which led us to want to see the movie. I'd seen it years ago but didn't remember a lot of it, and some of our friends had never seen it at all. We enjoyed eating and chatting and the movie was just exhausting (in more ways than one, since it was 3 hours long). I'm glad I watched it again but it wore me out. So we finally got home after 10 PM and I still had to finish the cupcakes (in case you were wondering where this was going). They turned out pretty cute, though! I am proud of them!

So I had to get up early this morning to deliver the cupcakes to the school gym by 8 AM. While there, it was mentioned that the Lions didn't have anyone to play the Easter Bunny for the kids. Someone asked if I would be willing to come back at 10 and put on the bunny suit. Okay, sure...that sounds like fun!

This brought back a memory from my girls' childhood. When I worked at West Texas Rehab, a traveling show of Alvin and the Chipmunks came to town. Alvin, Theodore and Simon showed up at the Rehab to sing and dance for our patients, much to everyone's delight. For some reason, we were told that we could borrow the suits and go around to local organizations with a cassette tape player of Chipmunk songs--I am not sure now why they would give us their suits, but they did. Two of my coworkers and I were "volunteered" for this task. We decided that we would stop in at my girls' day care center and entertain the kids there for a bit. Unfortunately, it did not go over all that well and one of my own kids was screaming and hiding under the table in fear. I had to lift up my head and say, "It's okay, see, it's Mommy!"

Here are Pipa's cute boys with the Easter Bunny. I am telling you, that suit is VERY hot. The head is huge and heavy! I was sweating like a maniac under there! But it was lots of fun to see the kids get so excited and want to talk to the bunny or hug the bunny. Some were a little scared but were willing to give me a high-five, if not a hug.

I had the most fun on the cakewalk. I suppose because the suit affords a great deal of anonymity, I didn't mind at all acting like a fool. I was dancing and spinning and shaking my booty while the kids laughed and followed me around the circle. It was so funny that even though my face could not be seen, any time someone took a photo I was smiling my biggest smile under that big head. Now I realize that the bunny's facial expression never changes. :)

The breakfast was a big success, thanks to the hard work of my friends Hilary and Debbie and all of the rest of the Lions.

From there, I went to the office and did a little bit of work. Rich is very busy with several events going on this weekend, including Easter brunch tomorrow. Tonight, there's a 'hoe-down' at the hotel, also sponsored by the Lions. We may stop in for a little while if Rich is not too tired after his long day. It's been snowing off and on. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, I'm dreaming of a white...Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Emery's Preliminary Test Results

I stole this photo from Bonnie's blog. What a cute girl! I have been assuming that everyone realizes that you can click on Bonnie's blog on the sidebar to the right of my posts, but in case you didn't know that, you can see her latest post and photos here.

Emery tolerated her scans yesterday, though it was not a lot of fun to have to drink nasty fluid (after not being able to eat for hours), and to have to lie still while the scans were being done. Thank goodness that's over with (for now, anyway). Bonnie and David saw Dr. Thompson, who said that the tumor is now 40% smaller than it was after the second round of chemo, so that is fabulous news! It is also further removed from the spine. We are extremely happy with these results! On the other hand, it sounds like surgery is still an option. They are meeting with the surgeons on Tuesday to discuss surgery vs. no surgery. Although we would prefer no surgery and would love to see them all get to go home soon, either way it does seem like Emery's major treatment is coming to a close. She will still need monitoring for some time to come but at least the most difficult stages are about to be behind her. We can only be grateful for that. Bonnie said Emery was fussy all through her OT appointment after the long day at the hospital. Bonnie looked down at her during therapy and the poor baby was so exhausted that she had dropped off to sleep.

They'll be in Katy for the Easter weekend--hopefully, they'll have some good family time and get some rest after this busy week!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quick Emery Update

Hi everyone,

Sorry there has not been a lot to post about Emery lately, but that's a GOOD thing! She went in for her MRI yesterday morning and has finished with her CT and MIBG scans this morning. From what I understand, the MIGB scan highlights any cancerous cells. David arrived last night and they are all presently waiting in the Clinic for lab work to be done and to meet with Dr. Thompson. Hopefully he will have had a chance to look at the scans before they meet. Decisions will be made about the rest of Emery's treatment so it's a little nerve-wracking to wait and wait. We are hopeful that there will be some news before the Easter weekend, otherwise, more waiting....

Emery has been happy and doing well with her developmental skills. The therapist is pleased with her progress with holding her head up, rolling over, and trying to sit up. They are concentrating more on increasing the strength in her left arm and hand. Bonnie has had to start doing dressing changes on her own (instead of the home health nurse coming out to do it) but luckily she has had David, Dan and/or Lauren to assist. When I was there, it was a three person job--one to hold Emery's legs still, one to actually do the dressing change, and one to amuse her with toys so she didn't get upset! Hopefully the central line is coming out soon and that job will be ended.

Since I am not in Texas any more, it's hard to know the tiny day to day details. I miss those mornings with Emery when she was full of smiles and ready to play! All of our busy days seem like a blur now that I am back at home. It's hard being away but it sounds like everything is great overall and we are all just waiting to hear the going-home date!