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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Our (almost) California girl


On Tuesday, we returned from a nine day getaway to Northern California where we had a chance to escape the obvious realities of our life and enjoy time with Chris’ parents, grandmother and aunt & uncle. The weather was perfect. A welcome change from the frigid and unpredictable weather of the Midwest. I, for one, was thankful for the opportunity to pack a bag that didn’t include a spandex uniform for radiation or include a medical bracelet. How nice to know a doctor’s appointment wasn’t on the schedule – just rest, relaxation and laughter. I believe the three younger Kennedys embraced this change of pace and were sad to board a plane to return to “real life” . . . Speaking of, I have included (at the bottom of this post) the latest healing update/prayer requests from my oncologist visit on Thursday.

We spent the first five days in Redding with Ama & Opa (Chris’ parents) until they flew to San Diego for a BSF retreat. We then headed to Chico to spend the remainder of our time with Gigi (Chris’ grandmother, also know as Grandma Graf, but renamed to Gigi or GG for great-grandmother when Alexa arrived). We also had some precious time with Auntie Janet and Uncle Tom, who were the hosts with the most, while we were in Chico. I’m so sad I never got a picture of Uncle Tom. He’s a cool cat, you’ll just have to trust me on this.

Early mornings were normally spent with Ama (so Mommy & Daddy could sleep a bit more). Alexa loved to play castle, read books and play games with Ama. We also enjoyed walks and feeding goats in the afternoon – more on that below.


Opa & Alexa enjoyed lots of quality time in Opa’s garden. (It’s a shame she won’t eat anything he grows.) Alexa especially enjoyed feeding Opa’s chickens and gathering fresh eggs every day. She may very well be a farm girl at heart.


Throwing out scratch for the chickie-chicks.


Yummy yum yum!!

Stopping to smell the roses, er uh, daffodils which were in full bloom. They were gorgeous.


Alexa got a kick out of “driving” Opa’s Chevy truck, affectionately known as Ol’ Blue. I enjoyed sitting in the cab as well. The smell of vintage upholstery and steel took me back to my days of cruising in our family’s ‘65 Ford Mustang.

Opa decides to join Alexa in the play tent . . . quite a feat for Opa’s 6’4’ frame. Think small, Opa, very small.

Very impressive Opa!!

A contemplative moment taking in the snow-covered peak of Mt. Lassen. Redding, CA, is flanked on three sides by mountain peaks – Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta and Mt. Baldy. On a clear day, you can see all three, which we did on this sun-soaked day at the McConnell Foundation walking trails.


You know I couldn’t just capture the back of their heads.


I suppose this serves as evidence I was on the trip as well. I feel like Chris and I have the same hairdo these days minus the fact my hair is now curly and white (although this image doesn’t reveal my albino roots).


Alexa LOVED swinging!! Whether it was coming . . .


or going!


Here are some videos of Alexa whirling around with the help of Daddy & Ama.

Alexa was a bit surprised when her swing went full circle.

The funniest part is Alexa adjusting her jeans after the swing.

On a walk in the neighborhood and on our way to feed the locals (the goats, that is).

This brown goat was the “bully” of the group. Here he is demanding more grub by sticking his head over the fence. I threatened him if he tried to hurt my daughter, he’d be dealing with one mean Mama bear. He didn’t scare me. I am fighting Stage IV cancer, after all.

The goats cracked us up. They would eat – anything – dead leaves, grass, weeds, flowers. I’m pretty sure if we would’ve offered them styrofoam, it would’ve been fair game.

Goats will eat anything, even dead leaves!!

The mean goat fighting for a dead leaf. I call him “meanie.”

One evening, we enjoyed dinner with life-long friends, Jim & Carolyn Hardy. Sweet Carolyn spoiled Lil’ A with all sorts of goodies for her upcoming birthday, including a paint-yourself Minnie Mouse tee, a kitty tea towel (Alexa could also customize with markers), and a kitty cloth napkin. Carolyn even left her stuffed cat, Curly, for Alexa to sleep with while she stayed in CA.



I think she is excited!


Thank you so much, Ms. Carolyn!



Hooray for the finished product!!

One new element to this vacation was the introduction of our “traveling” juicer. (As part of my cancer-fighting diet, I drink three juices every day. According to the Gerson Therapy, it’s the allowable amount while on chemo/chemo pill, as opposed to the twelve you drink on the full therapy.)  We use an industrial sized Norwalk juicer at home. We take it with us to my parents and to Houston, but we really didn’t want to transport a 50 lb juicer on the airplane. We opted for a lightweight Omega (18 lbs) for flights. What this means is that we have to have reverse osmosis water available wherever we travel as well as the appropriate organic produce. My mom graciously prepared all of my juice packets in advance, and we checked them on the plane in a freezer bag/box. This new lifestyle is a hassle but we believe it contributes to my overall health and is aiding my body in the healing process. The prayer is one day, very soon, my body will once again be able to recognize cancer for what it is and destroy the heck out of it!! Please join us in praying for utter destruction of these utterly despised mutant cells.

After our time in Redding, we headed to Chico for more family time with Chris’ ninety-three-year-old (and totally hip) grandmother and Auntie Janet & Uncle Tom.

Auntie Janet, a retired elementary school teacher, thought it would be fun to have a belated Valentine’s Day tea party with Gigi. Brilliant!! Alexa enjoyed making the centerpiece for our party as well as a delicious almond cake. She also sang a fun “Love” song accompanied by an interpretive dance. At least, that is what I’m calling it.



The centerpiece was a hand-crafted bear bag with Uncle Tom’s daffodils, homemade almond cake, iced sugar cookies and a Minnie Mouse figurine.


Oh yes – it wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Party without a “Bee Mine” mask.


The three heart-luvin’ party girls.


Gigi (aka Grandma Graf) doing her best British tea imitation with pinky up. We loved the pink flower headband as well. Although not a fascinator, it made for a brilliant substitution for appropriate British tea party apparel. Oh, the useless knowledge we gained from William & Kate’s wedding!


Alexa’s sipping preference included apple juice and a heart straw.


Random fact (this is for my bro-in-law, John). This was the first teacup Grandpa Graf gave to Grandma Graf. She has quite a collection. We each got to select the teacup we wanted for the party. I chose this one, and then we heard the story behind each cup. It was so fun to sip from the first teacup from Grandpa Graf. It’s great to know he had excellent taste, just like me. Ha!

Love A’s interpretive dance and my scratchy voice from a cold.


After the tea party, we retired to the large pond outside of Gigi’s condo with the hopes of feeding the ducks. Alexa looks at them from a distance trying her best to entice them with her bread bits . . . unfortunately, they never came. I guess they heard it was “healthy” bread.

Oh well, it was a beautiful evening nonetheless. We enjoyed throwing rocks, watching the ripples and waving at kayakers.


Before we knew it, we were boarding a plane heading for home. This image says it all. Alexa was one tired little girl after all of her adventures in California. Don’t you love how we keep her “belted” in at all times. We do hope after my next visit to MDA (March 28-31), we will be able to make a trek to Southern CA to visit the rest of Chris’ family. Praying for good reports. Die cancer, die!!


A beautiful sunset above the clouds. We touched down briefly in Houston on the way home. I stuck my tongue out at the metropolis when we landed. It felt good to know we weren’t going to MDA, and it felt good to do something so childish. I’m not a fan of that city (for obvious reasons) but will gladly embrace it when I am “cancer-free.” For now, it’s a means to an end. I’m grateful for that means just never thought it would be on my “most traveled cities” list. I was certainly grateful to only see it from an airplane window this go ‘round.

Well – now for a healing update . . .


I had an appointment with Dr. Keefer as well as a bone-strengthening shot and my port flushed on Thursday. They are now checking my blood work, blood pressure, and doing an EKG to monitor my heart. I sighed when they told me about another test – especially concerning my heart. For me, it means the reality of another potential side effect with my treatment. I hate that, in order to fight cancer with medicine, one has to face so many other harmful things – liver & heart damage, high blood pressure, exposure to radiation, etc. It makes losing the pigment to your hair seem insignificant. Indeed, after a week of feeling almost “normal,” I always have a difficult time facing the fact I am not normal anymore. I hate that. Sorry, I won’t beat around the bush about it. I hate it!!

But on the sunny side, my blood work still looks good. My EKG was normal and Dr. Keefer said I looked very good. I do love my overall care at Mercy in OKC, and I’m thankful I still get to see them. I had some very meaningful conversations with workers from the gal who checked me in for my EKG (who is also battling cancer) to my EKG tech (who had a great sense of humor and a big faith). The gals in Keefer’s office always give me a hard time, and I always dish it back. Everyone commented on my hair, but I suppose that is what you do in an oncology office, right!?

Dr. Keefer is personable and gives me ample time to ask questions. I know he cares about me. He reminded me once again that faith and fight make up a great deal of this battle. It’s not just about the medicine. I agree wholeheartedly and am leaning more and more on my faith and fight every day.

-- PRAISE! I am grateful for an encouraging follow-up with Dr. Keefer, especially when nothing in me wanted to go. Please pray for my heart as we prepare for my next MDA trip (March 28-31). I am praying that God will utterly destroy the two suspicious spots (on T6 and back of calf) and that the cancer will not spread anywhere else. I am praying death to this beast forever, and total healing to the spots it has invaded.

-- My herniated discs continue to bother me – especially in the front right side of my ribs and my sternum. I am now praying for more than relief to pain but for complete healing of these discs so I can be more active without wincing.

-- I have had some pain return to my left hip. I am praying it is healing pain. Other than that, my back is feeling better every day. I hope to begin strengthening my core so my back can get stronger as well.

-- Please continue praying for my right hand/arm to get stronger. I realize I will always have limitations, but I don’t want to give up early because something is hard to do. I am still believing 25 lbs of grip strength is possible for me.

-- I continue to have a nagging cough. My blood work did not reveal an infection but Keefer encouraged me to take an antibiotic if the cough remains. I am very close to swallowing those pills as I am troubled by the fact that taking deep breaths is so difficult. Of course, I am asking the Lord to protect all of my major organs from cancer. I also need to pray He will protect them from viruses as well.

-- This month Chris and I celebrate our 8th anniversary and Alexa’s 4th birthday. Please pray this month would be preoccupied with pain-free fun, laughter, thanksgiving and celebration NOT worries about stupid cancer and a trip to MDA. I want to continually depend on God while enjoying every beautiful moment I have with family & friends, especially while I feel so good. It is my heart’s cry this feeling is here to stay!!

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