Sunday, September 10, 2017

Elephant cookies/ Let's kick cancer to the curb

During the month of September, these cute elephant cookies are being sold at Kneader's with 100% of the proceeds going toward childhood cancer research. Not only are they yummy and adorable, but they are bringing hope to my family and many other families across the globe. Check out THIS LINK to see how elephant DNA is making ground-breaking research in Salt Lake City!

Dr. Joshua Schiffman at the Huntsman Cancer Institute is the orchestrator of this amazing discovery. Since Tony was diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) in late 2008, Dr. Schiffman has been a big part of our family. He is the type of doctor who invests his heart in his patients, and Tony and our children are no exception. When I last visited with Dr. Schiffman this past June for my kids' annual physical exams with him, he was sure to let me know how hard his team is working to fight against cancer, with Tony as a source of their determination to make this work. If research goes according as planned, human trials are likely to begin in THREE years! This is simply amazing!

Following Tony's diagnosis of LFS, four of our seven children have tested positive for the mutated gene. Landon, Emma, Sophie, and our newest baby Caleb, all are at a very high risk for getting cancer (90-100% chance in their lifetime, often occurring at a young age). Each summer, these four undergo detailed cancer screenings in order to detect any cancers in their bodies. As of now, we cannot prevent cancer from developing in their bodies; our only defense at the present is early detection. My great hope is that Dr. Schiffman's elephant and cancer research will help discover a way to actually help prevent cancer for my kids! This would be a wonderful miracle for my family--- and for anyone. Cancer affects so many people in today's world and this research can help our world population as a whole.

For more information about this research as well as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, check out these sites and videos (some of which we are featured in)... And while you are at it, go buy an elephant cookie :)

 Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association

Elephant genes hold big hopes for cancer research

What is Li-Fraumeni Syndrome?

Monday, September 4, 2017

A baby grows in nine months

Thank you to the amazing Lovetta Reyes-Cairo for painting this beautiful canvas of our family.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I remembered today marked nine months since Tony died.

Normally when someone mentions a nine month time frame, immediately pregnancy comes into my mind--- maybe because it always seems that I am pregnant ;)

For nine months, the most beautiful miracle is happening right below your heart. From the first time to hear your baby's heartbeat, to the first flutters and kicks felt, to feeling your baby pushing and moving against your belly, a true miracle is witnessed. And then as your baby is born and your body is flooded with inexpressible joy at this new life created inside you, you realize that all your hard work to bear this child is over. You have reached the finish line, closing a door behind you and opening a new one right beside it. For many women, those nine months can be physically draining and taxing on their bodies while dealing with sickness, etc. But every mother would say that those nine long months was worth every single minute to create their beautiful child. And they would do it all again for that child in a heartbeat.

For nine months, Caleb was the miracle growing inside me. I was a mess the day I learned I was pregnant with him. Tony's body was slowly falling apart as he was physically less able to do more things each week, almost becoming bound to a wheelchair full-time. His mind showed very small changes but he lacked the energy to really enjoy a good conversation anymore. I knew I was losing him and knew the huge possibility of him being gone before Caleb was born. Accepting where my life was heading was extremely difficult. At first I thought that maybe we would be blessed with some sort of miracle and Tony would be able to continue living so that he could hold Caleb in his arms and sing to him softly. Or that his disease would even improve for some time so that we could have a "normal" life again for awhile. But deep down I knew Tony was leaving. Oh, how he wanted to stay and kiss Caleb's soft cheeks!

For nine months, Tony has been gone. Instead of having a joyful end to a nine month time frame, I am left pondering about what has grown within me through this experience of learning to live without Tony physically by my side.

- My heart has grown. When Tony died, I literally felt like half my heart died within me. I felt that deep connection, that tender love Tony had for me, dim away as I could no longer feel it. Slowly, ever so slowly, the half of my heart that remains has grown bigger and stronger. I've felt deep despair and sorrow more than I ever could imagine, coupled with deep appreciation and joy for the tender mercies I see in my life. These emotions have worked my heart as the muscle it is and has made it stronger than I could have imagined.

- My appreciation for the small things has grown. Taking a drive through the mountains, reading a story with my kids surrounding me, listening to Tony's favorite music, and holding my sleeping baby all have proven to be more sweet and tender, more fulfilling and beautiful if I slow down and allow them to be so.

- My understanding of humility has increased. Learning to ask and accept help poses one of the most difficult challenges after losing Tony. I want so much to be completely independent and capable of caring for everyone in my life, but it just isn't possible. Deep appreciation has been felt as many of you have blessed my family's life in several ways. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from your service and feel as if the Savior is personally ministering to me.

- My desire to teach my children has grown. All I want is for my kids to know how much God loves them, how much our Savior cares and advocates for them, that their father loves them and will continue to always love them, and that I will do anything to be there for them and provide the best life for them that I can, no matter what the sacrifices are for that emotional security to be theirs. I try to plan my days to teach them of their divine nature and eternal potential. To know our Heavenly Father is the greatest peace we can find in this life, regardless of our life situations.

- Lastly my desire to please God has grown. I just want "to be good" and to do those things that my Father in Heaven wants for me. I want to align my life with His will for me because only He knows the perfect path for me to take so that I can be with Tony again. I'm trying and failing a lot at this, but my desire is there and my determination to pick myself up and do it again and again and again only increases with each fall.

There has been a miracle through these nine months that is within me. It can't be seen by the world but it fuels every day of my life now. My growing heart is helping me to find my place in this world. I hope I can humble myself enough to let it keep growing until I am with Tony again. One day I will be able to look back at this life and say, "It was worth it. I'd do it all over again."