What an incredible week! And an even more incredible weekend! September 30th will be a day that I hold dearly in my heart. If you've been following the Facebook posts, almost everything I've put on there has ended in an exclamation point! I just can't help myself. The joy, the laughter, the excitement and the non-stop show of support from my family, friends and the community over the past week has been phenomenal. It's really very overwhelming in the most powerful way. I should have fallen over by now from exhaustion but I'm just thrilled at how many people came to promote childhood cancer awareness and raise much needed funds for childhood cancer research through amazing organizations like Cookies for Kids' Cancer.
The beginning of the week started with the usual...or unusual I should say. I had to make sure this event was going to happen and going to happen well. It was a steady stream of sending emails, making spreadsheets, returning phone calls, following through...every moment I wasn't spending time with my family, I was on the computer or the phone making sure things were getting done. I do admit that the computer was in my lap much more this past week and I had to reassure my girls that this wasn't going to be the norm. Pretty much every "free moment" this past month was making sure this bake sale was on the right track. Many moments happened at the very late hours of the night; but it was that important.
Friday started with a steady stream of amazing bakers who took on baking the recipes I handed out for the cupcake pre-orders. It was pretty incredible how well the bakers all came together for the cupcakes and all the goods in general. Saturday was spent with more cupcake drop off's in the morning then off to Pacific Cookie for the bagging party and arrival of baked goods. To see community members, friends, and family coming through the doors with baskets, boxes, and platters of treats was just a site to be seen! I felt as if I were floating on a cloud just watching this incredible outpour of generosity coming through the doors. Something completely extraordinary and marvelous happened those two days and it all left me speechless.
Sunday came along and we were fired up. Everything just happened and came together without a glitch. As the day started to unfold, my Gabriella's precious face and all the little reminders started to appear in my head. They were all the reasons we made this bake sale happen...those brave children and families that are traveling this similar journey. Some are still fighting, some are alive and well, some are on the verge of loosing their battle and some have become angels too soon. Running up and down the street doing my best to pursued onlookers to come and buy treats made me take a look at all the reasons I'm here...loosing my mind, chanting songs and making them up as I go along, sun blasting on my face and arms, etc. But it was easy to remember as my little girl came up to me, gleaming bald head and beautiful big eyes...I'm doing it for her, I'm doing it for all the little warriors out there fighting cancer...fighting for their lives. It's unbearable to think about the therapies these children endure yet alone watch it happen to your child. So I will push on until there is a better way.
There are so many people who contributed to this event and deserve a ton of recognition for helping put such a memorable and amazing event together. I'm not even sure how to thank everyone but I'm going to try. Cara from Pacific Cookie has been amazing. There is NO WAY this could have happened without her amazing efforts along with Michelle Riddle, who has been there with Gretchen from the beginning of Cookies for Kids' Cancer. These ladies know how to plan an event so make sure you attend the Mama's Night Out Event in May 2013 ;-)! My fabulous high school friend, Kellie of Surf City Coffee was the force behind Aptos along with fellow cancer mamma Claudia, Mariela and their whole family. In addition to starting her own non-profit, Teen Kitchen Project, fellow cancer mamma Angela was another driving force behind Capitola along with Laura, Kathy, Rick, Alison, Jessica, and the many volunteers that came out to rally. Rachael facilitated the use of her business, Drawn2Art, which Larisa headed up and Stacey rallied the SV Market location with all the participation from the parents at Circle of Friends Preschool. Jen and Jamison made special trips to pick up coffee donated by Surf City Coffee and drop them off to different locations. Brittany, one of my closest friends and Nik, our delightful neighborhood friend hit the streets clothed as an adorable pink cupcake and a big blue cookie monster. Brit is about 6 months pregnant and Nik attends SV Middle School. They went to cheer on volunteers at every location and draw in the crowds to buy treats. Just incredible.
At the Capitola location, we were visited by our comrades we met at Camp Okizu who know all to well what this journey entails and "Squishy", G's favorite camp counselor. Mel, better known as "Auntie Mel", Jeff, Kirsten and their girls, Bill, Uncle Ronnie, Lauren (also a survivor) and her friend along with the Girl Scouts were out waving signs and flagging people in to buy treats. At one point, Alison, Julie, Jen and I went out with cookies to sell in the parking lot. We actually sold a good handful because in this world or pediatric cancer, every bit counts and every bit makes a difference.
Surf City Coffee in Aptos had some serious motivation by Kellie and lots of volunteers were out in full force getting people into the bake sale. From what I hear, Kel was pretty much chanting, flagging people down and bringing them in the whole day! Claudia, who recently lost her daughter Tianna, was out there with her family including little sis Leilani, who had the biggest smile on her face the whole time...bake sale day and bagging day! So beautiful to see.
My sister Bronwyn, her boyfriend Andy, mom Loretta, niece Iskandria, Gail, Bonnie, MJ, Anders, Elena, Deb and Stephanie helped hold signs in the street and sell away at the Scotts Valley Drawn2Art location. They were doing awesome as well! When I drove up in the afternoon, I could see they needed a little more excitement on the street to bring in the customers and needed to be more present when the public drove into the parking area. We shifted the whole bake sale to the front of the parking lot, grabbed some signs and started chanting on the streets!
The SV Market was killin' it all day and I didn't get a chance to say hi before the day was over but I knew they were in good hands.
Along with over 130 volunteers, including about 60+ bakers making treats, 12 cupcake makers, 50+ volunteers for the day of event...picture takers, sign makers, banners, flyers, posters, sign holders, etc. the bake sale went off!
The contributions came from these different local (and non-local) companies:
Pacific Cookie Company
Sassy Cakes and Cupcakes
Surf City Coffee
Woodworm Party Store
Circle of Friends Preschool
Fresh Prep Kitchens
Drawn2Art Scotts Valley
Scotts Valley Market
Just Cake in Capitola
The Sugar Fairy in Morgan Hill
Sugar Bug Sweets
Patti's Perfect Pantry
Patti's Perfect Pantry
The Capitola Mall
Coastal Vibe Dance Company
Omega Nu Santa Cruz Chapter
Opal Cliffs School
The Ginger People
Birthday Cakes 4 Free
Ow Commercial Properties
Santa Cruz Community Media Lab
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Everyone came out in full force to make the day special, unforgettable, remarkable and one that will continue to stand out in my mind. It was a day when our community came together to make a HUGE impact not just on the lives of children fighting cancer but on the lives of each other. Over $22,000 much needed precious dollars were raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer. It was truly "magical".
|Me and Cara sporting the Team G t's|
|Girl Scouts pitching in|
|Close friends Gail and Valerie with my mom Loretta, |
Catherine with her baby girl, and G having a fun time
with cousin Iskandria and school buddy, Shelby
|Girl Scouts having a good time|
|Super sweet Leilani making sure that things were getting done!|
|Gorgeous cupcakes from Marina Sousa|
|Setting up at Scotts Valley Market|
|Working hard to flag 'em in|
|Lovely ladies ready to sell|
|Precious friends from Camp Okizu|
|Me want COOKIE!!!|
|Me want MORE COOKIE!!!|
|Kellie working her magic|
|CRAZY FOR COOKIES!!!|
|"Squishy" from Camp Okizu|
|Our "roomies" at Camp Okizu|
|More signage power|
|Me, my mom and sister|
|Adam, G, Bridget and Cookie Monster Nik|
|Baby B with Cookie|
October 1st... Three Drug Chemo Overnight #8 of 14
Monday night was spent at El Camino Hospital receiving Gabriella's 8th round of chemo. It's the combination of three chemotherapy drugs that forces us for a 24 hour inpatient stay mostly for pre and post hydration. She needs to have her kidneys flushed as much as possible so the toxic chemo doesn't sit and harm her bladder. With all that fluid going in, it makes for a long night.
Gabriella enjoys going to the art room to paint, playing with the dogs from pet therapy and watching movies but doesn't like the fact that she has to pee every two hours. She's not big on pausing what she's doing to go to the bathroom especially when she's watching a good movie. So I have to do a lot of prompting.
"Are you sure you don't need to go?".
"Mommy I don't need to go".
"Why are you wiggling so much?".
"Because I like it."
"You need to let me know soon so I have time to take you to the bathroom."
"Mommy I really don't need to go. If I say it three times, that means I don't have to go; I don't have to, I don't have to, I don't have to."
Finally after wiggling, squirming and trying to hold it in, she admitted and said, "Ok, mommy, now I need to go". I unplug her IV pole, make sure she's not tangled up in her "strings", grab her and try to make it to the bathroom in time. She just couldn't hold it in any longer and the pee started dripping on my arm, on the floor. I couldn't help myself and just started busting up laughing. She thought it was pretty funny too. Since the chemo is toxic to the skin, we needed to wash it off quickly. I got a bunch of towels and hospital grade wipes, gave her a quick shower from the belly down, cleaned (or sterilized) the floor, and put her in some fresh pajamas for the night.
With a little convincing, we acquired the room with two beds, one where we've stayed before and were able to push the hospital beds together in attempt to get some rest that night. As I watched her sleep and thought about trying to sleep myself, I made an attempt to update the blog. I think I was just too overwhelmed and exhausted to find the right words. So, I took G to pee again and shut the computer. It was a long night changing sheets, changing pajama pants and going to the bathroom about every two hours, sometimes every hour.
|A special visit from the guys at Santa Clara Co Fire Dept Truck 5|
|Lucky daddy...lucky girls|
Adam came from work to pick us up the following morning. It's been a while since G has gotten the three drug chemo since they stopped the dactinomycin during radiation. Needless to day, she felt pretty crappy that morning. Her temp was running a little high on top of it so we were concerned. After more fluid and a temp that was trending down, we threw some "day" clothes on (as G likes to call them), got our discharge papers and headed for home. We stopped by the Santa Clara Co FD administrative offices to check in on the t-shirt and goodies Adam left to sell after the bake sale. In jeans, sandals and tank top previously slept in the night before, we brought G in to say "hi" and use the restroom of course. Gabriella and I both got a chance to meet some of the dynamic and influential individuals behind SCCFD, including Chief Kemna. A very charismatic group of gentlemen, especially the Chief, who I got to thank for the delicious ice cream he and his family made for us during the summer. If I would have known we would be meeting everyone, I would have at least put something nice on for the day! These guys along with the rest of the department have been incredibly supportive through this whole journey and for that, I am so appreciative.
THOUGHTS ABOUT HOSPITAL...
One of the movies that we watched over and over again when Gabriella was first diagnosed was Disney's Tangled. It's still on the list of recorded movies every time we go to the hospital and G insists on watching it on every admission. I love this movie but I hate at the same time. It brings back all those memories when we were first diagnosed. Towards the end when Rapunzel sang her song to Flynn to heal him, the tears started rolling down my cheeks. The song triggered so many emotions from those early days; not knowing what kind of cancer Gabriella had, not knowing her chances of survival, thinking there was a chance I could loose my baby, and just waiting. I tried unsuccessfully holding the tears back and kept trying to wipe them off my face as they came down so Gabriella wouldn't asked me what was wrong. We've managed to keep things positive for her and I can see how much she's growing from this experience, unfortunate as it is. I know her chances are good and I have so much hope that she will be cured.
GOING BACKWARD TO LAST WEEK...
Last Monday we got the opportunity to meet with the Gretchen, founder of Cookies for Kids' Cancer and Emily Fowler, executive director for CFKC. Gretchen has a presence about her where she can light up a room. I'm so inspired by what she has done with this organization and pediatric cancer in general. How inspiring to overcome the adversities she faced and the hardship that her family has endured. She could have easily walked away when Liam passed but she continues to fight this battle for the all the children and families out their struck by this horrible disease. How very honorable.
One last note before this post gets so incredibly long...or even longer...
We had a meeting with our doctors last Thursday. After talking with Gretchen and questioning whether or not I was truly doing everything in my power to cure G, we called a meeting with our doctors who were able to schedule us a couple days later. We had a great conversation with Dr. Marina and Dr. Aftandilian and again, I felt confident and reassured that we were on the right track and in wonderfully capable hands.
And we continue our fight...