Last Week before THE Last Week

I can’t believe next week is really my last week. Who wants time to speed up for chemo? This girl. Is that twisted? Nah! Why is it that patience is hardest when the finish line is so close? It doesn’t seem right!

Good news is I have a pretty busy week between work & doctors appointments. Keep the mind & time occupied. I’m going out of my way to do just that these days.

My appointment Friday morning is my last-pre-chemo-check-up with Dr. Potkul. I’m doing my best to get lots of rest in anticipation of next week. Labs are tomorrow. Keep those numbers high, we don’t need any delays with treatment! Body has been feeling as well as it can. Exhaustion continues to be an issue and I’m starting to have some ringing in my ears that comes and go. I’ve heard that’s common with the drugs I’m getting. Pretty lame. I’ve had more of an appetite this go around which has been good! Food has actually been appealing. I love food, so that’s a huge win.

One of my¬†biggest points of stress since December 5th when I started treatment is keeping myself healthy. Do you know how hard that is during winter?! I mean, we’ve gotten so lucky with the weather this time around but my goodness, when you have to be aware of germs, you realize how disgusting the world is. I’ve never been a germaphobe. In fact, I’m a ’60 second rule (notice not 5 second), rub some dirt on it’ kind of girl so this whole hand-sanitizer-constantly thing is exhausting and beyond old.

So is missing out on public life. We venture out for meals here and there but I want to go to the most germ-filled-place when this is all done, because I can. Like the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese, is that still a thing? Germs galore there! While I’m not serious about that, you get the picture. I’m ready to be out of the house. And just in time for spring.¬†There’s never a good time to fight cancer but I will say my timing has worked out well.

By the way Kevin was talking about what he’s giving up for lent last night. I told him¬†I’m giving up cancer. He laughed pretty hard. I’m serious! And I’d be ok with it never coming back.

As for how I’m doing? I’m hanging in there. There are some hours¬†that are completely empty & I have a hard time prying myself out of bed. Then there are hours I feel completely motivated to crush this last leg. Sometimes there’s rhyme or reason to why the hours become hard and sometimes there’s no warning at all. Although chemo weeks are really rough on me physically, I have a lot to look forward to next week with some of my biggest cheerleaders coming into town for the last leg. I know how much that’s going to carry me through, along with everyone else there in spirit with me. Just get me to Tuesday & get those juices flowing. The sooner we start, the sooner we’re done. FOREVER.

And to cap it off tonight – a challenge. I need a good sign for some good pictures on the last day of chemo. Something clever, something that is cooler than, “My last day of chemo!” – which is all I can come up with. Creativity is¬†not my thing. Whatcha got for me!?

Beef

 

 

 

 

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A Mother’s Wisdom

Today is my Mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday! I texted her this morning asking if it feels good to be another year older & wiser and she replied back saying, “this year feels like ten!” Yes it does!

For those of you that know my Mom, she is many, many incredible things. She raised six incredibly strong-willed kids for crying out loud, all of which think they’re: 1.) always right 2.) the most competitive & 3.) the funniest, so please imagine how loud that house was growing up! Among those incredible things, My Mom has a battle-tested heart when it comes to losing a child and because of that, a heart of compassion like no other. She’s also incredibly wise. She gives the best advice at the most needed times.

When we had that first procedure done on a Friday that led to the Monday appointment with the oncologist, my Mom called us on Sunday, asking to drive us to that appointment. I remember saying a few times, “No, it’s ok! Save your day off for a baby shopping day!” “Why burn a day of PTO on a doctor’s appointment that surely can’t be anything?” She insisted. No where in our minds was cancer an option, it’s kind of funny how naive we were, to be honest.

But they say a mother just knows.

My Mom waited in the waiting room as we were called back for the procedure. Some day I’ll blog about that experience (awful). Fast forward 15 minutes and in front of 4 residents, a nurse and the doctor, Kevin and I were told it was cancer, we’d lose our baby & we’d never have children of our own. I could barely get past the first syllable of “cancer,” let alone understand the latter two consequences. I remember Kevin was behind me, holding me. I remember feeling really small in what felt like a really big room.

The nurse asked if that was my Mom in the waiting room and if I wanted her.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

They brought my Mom in and while I’ve never asked her what it must’ve felt like seeing our faces, I can only imagine. The doctor brought her up to speed, she sat down and grabbed my hand. We cried, and cried. I don’t even know if there were questions asked. There was nothing to understand at that point.

We walked out of the hospital, got lost in the wrong parking garage, got into the car and paid entirely too much for parking. Shell shocked. There was silence. And then I asked, “So, what do you do now? Do you eat? Do you go shopping?” We laughed. But seriously, what do you do?!

We found a diner. We ordered french fries, which have become a staple in our beat-cancer diet. We laughed a lot at that lunch, somehow, someway. Kevin and I started discussing head coverings & hats. I said I’d need an orange one, Kevin said I’d need a Hawks one and my Mom finally said, “Would you two stop?!” – clinging to hope that maybe that biopsy would show it isn’t cancer.

While it would’ve been easy to just let that lunch happen, my Mom didn’t. She had the foresight to know we would need so much help through this, starting now. During the meal my Mom said something to Kevin and me that has ultimately shaped how we’ve dealt with this. She said, “don’t get angry with each other.” Stick together even when everything seems impossible. I couldn’t have known at the time the magnitude of her wisdom.

Having now gone through surgery, a memorial service, radiation & four rounds of chemo, I can tell you this: I feel how cancer destroys a person. I feel how losing a child destroys a person too. I can understand how that can quickly spiral and quite frankly, it’d be fair to spiral. And because of that, I can see how cancer can tear apart a marriage and I can see how the loss of a child can destroy a marriage. Cancer alone is the most isolating, fear-mongering, beast there is. But then to lose your child AND be told you’ll never have kids of your own. That’s a LOT to be angry about. That’s a lot for a husband to be told, all of which he has no control over, but completely alters his life. That’s a lot of opportunity to burrow into a hole and shut the world out. That’s a lot of opportunity to throw up your hands and give up on everything, frankly. When you have such deep issues like these, it’s easy to make the person you’re closest too, your punching bag. It is sure a heck of a lot easier to be mad at someone, something tangible, than over a cancer diagnosis or the loss of your child.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to let yourself go to anger then I think it is to let someone in and to work through what you’re actually angry at with them. I am grateful my Mom planted that seed on Day 1, because fighting each other simply never became an option.

There’s a reason this happened to me. There’s a reason it happened to us. There’s a reason Kevin and I are married. We took a vow on 12/21 and we got a crash course test on what those vows actually meant to uphold, whether we liked it or not. It’d be easy to crack and run. But Esther 4:14. “Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.” We are in each other’s life to FIGHT this, to beat this, to support each other at our worst moments and to one day, God willing, have a family of our own. There’s a reason my Mom knew to drive us that day. There’s a reason she gave us that advice. There’s a reason we chose to act on that advice. There’s a reason that today, Kevin & I are at our most vulnerable point in life, we are battered, scarred and near rock bottom and yet we are together, fighting like hell everyday, with a marriage I am proud of. We have even found a way to laugh a lot, considering. We have found away to dream about the future, albeit a very, very different dream. We will have our bad days as we all do, but our commitment to sticking together has given me the peace I need in that area of my life so that I can focus all my energy on beating this cancer.

And when we do that, we will focus all our energy into adoption. And then we will focus all of our energy on being great parents. We can do all of that, because we have stuck together.

So thanks Mom. A mother’s wisdom is truly irreplaceable.

I asked my Mom not long ago if she just ‘knew’ that first appointment and that’s why she insisted on driving us. Of course she did. I love how fiercely my Mom loves and cares for me, for Kevin and for Hallie. She has stopped at nothing to get us through, one day at a time.

I know you’re going to kill me for posting this but I’ll take it. Kevin and I are going to be ok, in part because of you, Mom. We are all going to be ok.

I love you!

Beef

Rainbows

Today. Today is a beautiful day outside and yet it’s been one of my harder days. The irony, right? It’s as if the sun makes me feel good enough to feel, and “feeling” is just not a welcome thing for me, for us right now. “Feeling” right now is loaded far beyond anything I can describe and far beyond anything I hope you ever have to feel in life. Who knew feeling so empty could be so overwhelming? There really is so much irony in grief & in struggle. 

Physically I’m feeling better. My bones don’t hurt today. I’m shaky and feel weak but my guess is it’s just my body rebounding. I forced myself to get out for a walk. I felt like a baby deer walking. My pride has sure taken a shot in terms of my physical ability. Just another thing to rebuild in time. I think we can officially call round 4 in the books. 

After I posted that picture of the rainbow in the water at the WTC memorial, a few of you reached out with stories about rainbows and what they’ve meant to people in your lives who have lost. First, I appreciate the stories so much. You don’t know how much they make me think and how much they make me appreciate your effort to share. Second, I love the idea of signs and I would like to think that Hilary was right, it was a sign from Hallie. These days, I find myself desperately craving something physical to fill her void. It’s like I know nothing will ever fill it but I keep chasing it. Something to keep her name present. Something to make me believe her life was really for a greater purpose. Something to remind us that she is ours. And you all helped me to see I got that in that picture. And you know what? I’m proud! My daughter would show up in such an American place like that. She would take after her firecracker mama! No, I’m not feisty, I’m literally a firecracker baby. Ok, ok, I’m feisty too. Thinking of it that way made me genuinely happy. 

It got me thinking back to Mexico last June. We, as I’m sure all couples do, spent many many days (years) talking about kids, what it takes, what kind of parents we wanted to be, what kind of spouses we promised to be, etc. One of the stipulations we committed too before we started trying for a family was to take one last kid-free vacation, just the two of us, off the grid. We love travel, we love a good time and we love quality time alone, all things we knew wouldn’t be in our near future with kids! As time progressed and we realized we were ready to start a family, we were A.) excitedly terrified (is that a word?) and B.) pumped because they meant we were booking a vacation! I remember it vividly. It was last winter, we were at our local watering hole by our apartment and it was blizzarding out. We booked an all inclusive in Cancun for 8 days. No worries other than what’s the SPF and where are we eating dinner tonight. The countdown started and we had a game plan for life. A game plan that felt right for us. The irony again. 

One of the first nights there, we were out on the beach and there was this incredible thunderstorm over the water. You all know my maybe-weird, maybe-overboard love for thunderstorms so I was mesmerized. We stayed out on the beach, under our hut during it. Once the storm passed and the clouds cleared, there was the most beautiful rainbow over the ocean. I’ve never been a “rainbow” girl, meaning I’ve never been drawn to them but for some reason that day, we were obsessed with taking pictures of it & of us with it in the background.  I’m not kidding, we have like 30 of these silly attempts on our go pro. I remember we were laughing so hard the entire time and were so serious in our attempts to capture it! And we have one picture of Kevin that will show up one day, it’s so good. Here are just a few of the pictures: 

Maybe I’m grasping at straws and if so, let me have it. But maybe these are some of the pieces of the puzzle coming together to show us there really is a reason for all of this? You have to find hope in anything and everything these days. Maybe we weren’t just weirdly obsessed with that rainbow for no reason that day. Perhaps God gave us that memory at the start of this journey as a promise that there’d be one at the end. I choose to believe that! 

Here’s to finding a way to see the rainbow. 

Beef ‚̧

15 Thoughts, v2

Back by popular demand, the first 15 thoughts that come to mind today. No editing, no filter. A real life look into the peaks & valleys of a chemo week. And Lord help us with where this goes.

1. It has been a really, really hard week. I don’t know if it’s because it’s home stretch or what but I have struggled mightily this round. Physically & mentally. My head’s not in it, my heart is not in it. I feel like a lost puppy dog right now. 

2. I’ve obviously been pregnant & I had mono my freshman year of college. Combine those 2 x 1,000 and I think that cracks the fatigue I feel right now. Who knew lifting your head off the pillow could be so hard! 

3. This weather. My goodness. The sun is so beautiful. I cannot wait for summer! I spent a lot of the day outside yesterday and I plan on doing the same again today. 

4. Jonathan Toews tweeted me this week. That night I woke up around midnight and my phone was BLOWING up from Twitter. I saw his tweet and felt pretty cool for a moment. If the Captain says to keep fighting, I must keep fighting! My brother texted me the next day saying I needed a publicist, to which I responded, “I’m sorry, who are you?”

5. I find myself being an ‘angry elf’ a lot lately. That’s a nice way of putting it. Things set me off so easily. Don’t worry, I won’t start rattling off names here. ūüôā It’s things that matter and things that don’t. It’s things that are meant to be helpful. It’s things that just plain suck.  I’ve also found myself to be incredibly sensitive lately too. Maybe I’m finally starting to process reality. I’ve come to hate the words “unfair” and “never.” 

6. Paisley ate another bag of Werthers this week. Maybe I should just appreciate that he likes what I like. I give up fighting that dog. 

7. I’ve been on VRBO & AirBnB all week, planning (dreaming) on how we get through these next months. Hallie’s due date is March 31. And then it’s Easter, what should’ve been our first family holiday. And then Mother’s Day and then Father’s Day. That’s a really hard stretch. We obviously love hosting and when we bought our house one of the first things we got excited for was how new Hallie would be around Mother’s Day & Father’s Day and how our deck would be a perfect setting to host a brunch or BBQ. I can’t even think about it now without feeling sick. I’m not sure escaping is the best answer but maybe it’s good distraction. Candidly, the idea of living in a post March 31st world of, “we should be doing…” makes me break so I think escapes will be necessary those first few months.

8. Before all this happened, Kevin & I would do date night every Monday night. Odd day but you rarely have conflicts on Mondays. We’d end up somewhere in the city, talking for hours. Planning life, working through kinks or laughing at whatever, they were not only the best night but a necessary night. I miss them and I want them back. 

9. Kevin’s birthday is in two weeks. Last birthday before he turns 30. I’d say he has championed a lot this year. 

10. Kevin was doing the flooring in the pub shed yesterday (looks awesome) and our recliners are currently being housed in there so you bet I had him bring them out to the grass and laid in a recliner, in our backyard, all afternoon! Our neighbors are probably like, “who is this bald clown laying in a recliner?!” That makes me laugh. 

11. Birds are chirping right now. Springgggg! Although we’d be foolish to think spring is here. You know we are going to get pay back for this week in like late March, shoot! 

12. I am SO over chemo. It feels good to say one more round but yall might have to take me kicking & screaming to that round. It’s old news. I’m over it. I am over feeling like crap. I am SO over watching everyone live a normal life while I can barely get myself to reposition my head on my pillow. I am so over being the cancer patient. 

13. The dogs don’t come inside with this weather. The backyard is so money. They are two happy little clams out there!! 

14. A waffle sounds delicious right now. 

15. Grilling out should be a must for everyone today!! Don’t forget the pasta salad. 

Thanks for hanging in there with me this week. And thanks for walking a bit in my shoes this morning. It’s not always fun! Just trying to do my best to keep my eye on the prize. One day at a time. 

Beef

Round 4 Spoiling

Well, we conquered the treatments of round 4. I got totally spoiled today. So much so that I almost forgot that today should’ve been my last day. Almost. But, get over it Beef. 

First, I got to spend time with my brother Dave. His time today completed 4/4 of my brothers coming to chemo with me. How lucky am I? I’ll love forever how protective they are of me. Daveo has the most generous heart. He even brought me a pineapple before treatment this morning. Fruit is my jam during chemo weeks. Paisley & Toews also won today with a nice long walk after thanks to Uncle Daveo.And then my Dad surprised me with a Toews signed Hawks jersey! Oh Captain, my Captain!And THEN! 

I get home to find the most beautiful bouquet of flowers on my front porch from my amazing  husband. He knew I had a rough morning getting out of bed, I love how thoughtful he is. I’m a pretty lucky girl, aren’t I? My goodness. 

My body is exhausted. I’m dreading “the shot” tomorrow. I’m a bit better prepared this time around with some tricks to handle it better, hopefully it works. 

Keep us in your thoughts & prayers over the next few days. Hoping for a quick rebound. And then. We are only ONE round away. 

Beef

Round 4, Day 1

Day one, round four, done!

What a beautiful day outside. The forecast this week is incredible. Knocking on wood that this won’t mean snow in April! But seriously, the sunshine does incredible things. After chemo, we got a great walk in around the neighborhood. That’s a first for me, on a chemo day & a long chemo day, no less! It’s supposed to be in the 60’s this weekend. I’m curious how much the weather will help me in rebounding. Seems silly to say but the ability to walk a little further if the body allows + sunshine HAS to have some sort of impact on you mentally at the very least, if not physically too.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!  Call the day cheesy and I’m ok with that, I love cheesy. Any excuse to decorate the home for a holiday! Kevin sent me beautiful flowers yesterday. I am totally a flower girl, you can’t not be happy when you get flowers. I also wore my “Valentine’s Day” pants today – pink & purpleish leggings. For those of you who watch HGTV, you’ve seen the Fixer Upper commercial 1,000 times where Chip says, “Step in here Hot Pants,” — well you can imagine Kevin’s joy when he realized he could say that to me with real meaning today. Such a clown. I’ll forever be thankful for that demeanor of his & that he is my Valentine. It has sure helped me through so much of this.

We made the most of our chemo Valentine’s Day. We introduced my Mom to Dominoes and yes, we finally found a game she can’t cheat at. She claims we give her a bad rep but play any game with her (Uno especially) & add in the competitive Conrad edge, and you literally have to keep your eyes on her at all times. Unfortunately, Dominoes turned out to be a game she’s good at and since she can’t cheat, we had to listen to a lotttt of gloating (back to that Conrad competitive edge). I’ve learned through this that my mom & my husband together are like the odd couple – bickering, making fun of each other, calling each other out. I’m pretty sure I was the third wheel a few times today. At one point, our nurses looked over because of the noise they were making! It’s quite funny. I’m not sure any nurse has seen a chemo crew able to have so much fun in these kind of circumstances but there we were all day, playing Dominoes & rocking out to country music. Only thing missing was some wine, shoooot!

Mentally I’m feeling strong for the week. Physically feeling pretty tired. I’m praying big time that I’m not nauseous this time around. I wasn’t at all round 1 or 2, but round 3 was awful. Dr. Potkul said nausea isn’t a cumulative side effect like exhaustion is, so he said there was a real chance I could’ve had a bug last round causing the sickness. Lets hope!! I’ll take all the prayers & positive thoughts I can get from you guys on that.

I had two especially encouraging moments today that really helped me mentally.

One: Every round I get a calendar print out of my schedule for the month. This is the LAST time I’ll get such a calendar because next round I’ll be DONE! It’s like I’m starting to see that glimmer of hope that there really is a finish line to this cancer nightmare. A forever finish line! If you say it out loud, it has to happen! #beefsrules

Two: My friend Hilary is in NY with her Mama this week and they visited the WTC memorial today. She took this picture while visiting the fountains that are the footprints of the towers. When she looked at it after, she noticed the rainbow and thought of me. Call me (us, but perhaps that’s why we are besties!) cheesy, but this picture was meant to be. It is the ultimate reminder of the perspective we all need. Hilary said it best, it’s proof that even from the darkest of times, beautiful things can come of it. Will come of it. You saw it in 2001 when our country rallied together after 9/11 and we were stronger than ever, united. If beautiful can come from that, beautiful can come from this. It might be an incredibly twisted beautiful, but beautiful nevertheless. We hold fast to our faith in that, to survive. 

As always, thanks for all the encouragement via text this morning. You guys take such great care of me and it means so much. Even more on Valentine’s Day!

Lots of Valentine Love,

Beef

Scans, NED & Chemo Round 4

Confession: I wrote out a whole blog post on my day and by the time¬†I finished it, it was like 32 paragraphs. I mean, some of you have said I’m funny or I write well but lets be honest, I don’t write that well enough for you to stick with me through 32 paragraphs.¬†No one has time for that.

So, take two. Highlights Beef, highlights.

I had two doctors appointments today & we learned a lot. Heard a lot of reassuring things. And as Dr. Potkul said, “we are over the hump!”

Our first appointment was with Angela from Dr. Small’s team, my radiation oncologist. I’m just shy of a month removed from radiation. I have some scarring, but that’s normal. She did a physical exam of my lymph nodes, all normal! Highlights beyond that:

  • I will have a brain scan done two weeks after chemo ends. Brain scans will be part of my protocol because in small cell lung cancer, if a spread happens, the brain is a likely place. While Dr. Small doesn’t think sccc acts like small cell lung cancer, there’s so little data on sccc in the big scheme of things, it’s better to be proactive in monitoring.
  • I ‘accidentally’ read an article on Facebook two days ago (read: I was testing how brave I’ve become, the internet is a BEAST with a cancer diagnosis) about a woman in London with cervical cancer that “couldn’t be cured” & she had 1-2 years to live. I remember Dr. Potkul telling me (and I have it written in my iPhone notes from the day we had the call) that because of my stage, I had a 60%-70% shot of being cured. I asked Angela today, “Cured means cured means could never come back? That’s possible for me?” And she reminded me (bless her patience) that there are three 3 treatment buckets with cancer: to cure, to contain & to “lessen the symptoms (so sad)” and that yes, I was in the “cure” bucket. Nothing is guaranteed and only God knows my path but reassurance, yes!
  • My body, for all intents and purposes, is cancer free right now. We conceptually knew this after surgery when the pathology confirmed that & from the scans before surgery which¬†showed no signs of cancer anywhere else in my body and yet something felt different about hearing that today. The reason we do chemo & radiation is to kill any microcells left behind (which scans wouldn’t pick up). All it takes is one microcell for the cancer to come back so radiation targets where the cancer was and fries the life out of those suckers & chemo is my “get in the bloodstream and blast the body” insurance plan in case any cells tried to travel.
  • I asked when do you really know that you’re cured – and of course, I again hear how little information is out there on sccc but she said if a recurrence happens, its usually within the first 1-2 years. I will have doctors appointments every 3 months for the first 2 years. Two years, we have to crush two years.
  • My first scan post treatment typically happens a month after treatment ends but will likely line up with the brain scan. NED baby, NED (no evidence of disease). So much champs that night and everyone will be welcome to join in with me!!

Funny story for you? I got made fun of (more or less) about my high blood pressure & fast heart rate today. What was the cause you ask? The walk from the cancer center to the radiation basement. I’m a little out of shape, ok!? Angela reassured me I had good reason but when I asked about running & when that could happen again, she laughed and said I had a long way to go, clearly.

The appointment with Dr. Potkul was quick – my normal pre-chemo check in. He walked in with an orange tie on and of course I quickly professed my love for it. Turns out his favorite color is orange! #instantbesties Apparently he wears orange crocs in the hospital. A man after my own heart. I did say to him, “we were meant to be together!” to which he awkwardly laughed at me. I think sometimes I take these guys off guard with how much I¬†joke during appointments.

My hemoglobin count is low so I’m anemic, which makes me feel much better about how exhausted I am. It’s been a rough go with energy and unfortunately exhaustion is cumulative with chemo. I said to Kevin, I can’t imagine being any more tired than I already am so these next four weeks will be interesting with two more rounds to go.

BUT. Dr. Potkul was right, we are over the hump. By this time next week, I’ll be deep in slumber but I’ll be ONE round away from being done with active treatment.

At Yelp, we are big on white boards. Yesterday I was in a meeting and was showing off my makeshift whiteboard, aka a piece of paper, while I work from home. This morning I woke up to a dry erase board & markers (Amazon, you’re freakishly fast) on my front porch from my bestie Kaela. Amazing, right? Today I doodled this, excuse the language:¬†Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 4.27.42 PM.png

30 days left of active treatment. We are SO CLOSE. Choosing, for today at least, to focus on that and not on the “yet so far” feeling.

Have a great weekend.¬†Chemo round 4 starts Tuesday at 8am sharp. Best Valentine’s Day ever!!

Beef

P.S. Ugh, this ended up being long again. I tried.

 

 

 

6.2

Elation from Saturday + lots of rest + lot of Gatorade & water + a shot into the stomach (ok, it’s probably mostly¬†that but play along) ¬†= a white blood count of 6.2.

For comparison’s sake, last round during this week? 1.2.

North Park, you made me a whole 5 points better.

Seriously though. I can tell you without question, my spirits haven’t been this high since long before October 20th. I literally wore jeans again today, that’s how motivated I am. Jeans to labs? Unheard of! My walks yesterday & today were each 20 minutes long too. I mean, the weather helps but I attribute a lot of that to my spirits being so high! With chemo next week,¬†I’m doing my absolute best to make the most of this ‘good’ time. And this ‘good time’ I can attribute 100% to what Saturday did for me. It is¬†truly the gift that keeps on giving. After talking my Mom’s ear off today (literally), I’ve come to understand why Saturday was so meaningful to me, beyond the obvious. Sorry guys, about to get deep.

One, it made me normal. I was laughing, interacting, reminiscing, shooting a basketball (horribly). It felt so good. So good, like I can’t describe it to you. There was no pity or sadness. I can’t¬†wait for my life to be like that, everyday. You sure take normal life for granted.

Two, it made me feel like Hallie’s Mom for the first time ever. I’ve struggled mightily with the loss of Hallie for a million different reasons, one being what that makes me. That night, the way everyone spoke about her, the way everyone included her, it made me feel something so different. It made me so proud to hear her name over that PA system. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts like hell at the very same time but I love that they went out of their way to honor the THREE of us, not the two of us. Hundreds¬†of people in that gym heard her story. Hundreds¬†of people walked out knowing the purpose of her life. My mom told me that night was her proudest moment of me and while that meant the world to me, it was bigger than that. For the first time ever, I could relate to her pride as a Mom if even on a small scale. And for that, I am forever grateful. I could’ve never anticipated walking away from that gym gaining all of this. During the¬†first half of the mens game, I was standing with P. Al talking to him and at one point he said to me, “she would’ve had red hair, you know.” It made me smile so much. A huge, enormous, heartbroken smile. It was such a genuine comment & I don’t know, it just really made me smile. And I agree! I understand people don’t know how to talk about Hallie with us and please, Kevin and I even struggle to talk about her together, it’s impossible. But North Park, Lauren & P. Al specifically, you¬†gave me something I really, really needed in honoring her.

Three, it inspired me to think beyond my world right now. I want so badly to honor Hallie. I want so badly to pay forward what everyone has done for us. I am more aware than ever that life is not guaranteed, health is not guaranteed. I could beat this cancer only for it to come back right away. Scary? Insanely. Perspective? Like you wouldn’t believe. I want to¬†make my life mean more than the World Series the White Sox gave us, the 6 trophies from the Bulls & the 3 Stanley Cups from the Hawks. My life, my legacy¬†is representative not just of myself, but of my daughter who didn’t get a chance at life on Earth. That is something to live up too.¬†On Sunday, Kevin and I spent some time bouncing ideas off of each other of how we can accomplish these goals as soon as I’m cancer free (read: I know that’s not a guarantee, but mind over matter, I WILL be cancer free!!). I think we’re on to something good and I will work my butt off to make sure whatever route we go, it will be worthy.

Normally at this point in time, I’m looking ahead to next week and working myself into pure dread over the inevitable.¬†Don’t get me wrong, I’m 110% not looking forward to¬†next week. I’m finally feeling good (relatively speaking), only to feel like complete crap again. Andddd it’s not even the last round like it was supposed to be.¬†BUT, the difference this time is I have a little added motivation to get through it. When next week is over, we’ll have one more round to go. One more round ’til we can start to turn this horrific nightmare into something meaningful.

You didn’t realize how much you did for me NPU, did you?! Thanks again!

Beef

 

 

North Park, for the Win! 

As I sit down to reflect on last night, I realize there’s no way any blog post can do the night justice. There are no words that can appropriately capture the love we felt, the laughs we had, the incredible walk down memory lane that it was & the overwhelming feel of support from our North Park family that’s very clearly walking alongside us in this battle. And boy are they rooting for us hard.

Y’all, the gym was packed to its gills.  It was truly surreal. 

This was my first adventure out into the wild since October. My world, for a lot of different reasons, has been a bubble between doctors, my family and a few closest friends. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous heading into the night. I know this blog is very public but it’s also very controlled in how I deal with this all. There’s no control when facing the public & that’s a lot of vulnerability when dealing with something as harsh as our reality. Thankfully my first surprise of the day was my sister & the Von walking into our house just before we left. I felt a little braver just by having my sister by my side. So brave in fact, I put jeans on!  I can’t tell you how quickly all my fears melted away as I walked into the gym. I was handed my green & orange shirt (amazing), saw the team was sporting them as shooting shirts, and the place was decked out in teal and orange. We were enveloped in support from the moment we walked in. And then I saw Lauren. Talk about the biggest hug ever. There aren’t enough words in the world to thank her for yesterday. She was the catalyst for the evening & what a night did she put on. Lauren and I were teammates at NPU and she’s the assistant coach there now. She taught me everything I know about shooting the 3 and she sure as heck played a lot more D than me. We listened to a lot of Spirit in the Sky during our playing days. 

The next hug was P. Al (Professor Al Kamienski), our business professor. This guy changed the course of my college career (and now life) when I took my first business class with him. He set me up with an interview for an internship one summer with KIPP, one of his biggest clients at the time, and the rest was history in terms of how amazing that experience worked out to be in my life. A lot of my success in my career and life goes right back to how he pushed me in college. I love the idea of making him proud! And then, my teammate, my roommate & quite possibly the most hilarious human in the world, Anna & her husband Jerad. My favorite part about all of these guys- nothing has changed. Anna is just one of those that is so fun and easy to be around, an instant lift to your spirits. She is the most encouraging person and the fact that she and Jerad drove down for us (after a Disney on Ice adventure no less!!) meant the absolute world to me. I cannot wait for this all to pass and get back in the game of making memories with these guys. Anna & I lived a block down from Mount & Lauren (and Lily, that dang cat that loved Lauren more) on Spaulding Ave when we played, we were saying at the end of the night how badly we wish we were walking home there for a night of shenanigans. I don’t miss those radiatiors though A!! There was an entire section of fans in our teal shirts – family, friends & professors, including two of my absolute faves Professor Dluger & Professor Trujillo, who showed up on our behalf. There are too many to list and I would inevitably forget someone if I did but having each and everyone of you there meant the world to us. It’s humbling. It’s inspiring. Thank you so, so much. I will say a special thanks to our road warriors Uncle Ted & Blondie who drove up from Indy. Always love getting to watch & talk basketball with Uncle Ted.  And also to our great friends Eric & Kelley that drove up from Columbus, IN to surprise us. Nothing like a big bear hug from Eric!! They’re getting married in October and I did ask Eric a couple times last night if he was sure he really could trust Kevin as his best man. ūüėāAnd of course my tiniest fan, Miss H! Before the men’s game President Parkyn, Coach Crockett (women’s basketball) & Coach Conway (football) honored me & Kevin and Hallie with a few gifts and truly incredible words. P. Al than took the mic and my goodness, he made us laugh and boy was he on a mission to make me cry! In a very good way. His words honored Hallie in the most perfect way. I didn’t even realize how much we needed that. One thing last night taught me is a walk in your life is never just a point in time. The people you meet, the experiences you have always come full circle and my goodness did the North Park community rise to the occasion last night.

A special thanks also to Coach Conway and his football squad that were running the show with the raffles on our behalf. Kevin will be due up for a blog post on everything North Park football did for his life (and ours), including giving us some of our best friends in the world & of course the perseverance they all learned through those long, um, character building 1-9 seasons. (Sorry, had too.)Here are my coaches and a few of my teammates. I have so many amazing memories of my basketball career at NPU, thanks in large part to these guys & all our other teammates.  We will be spending a lot of time processing all the emotion from last night. I’m still feeling all the feels so I know this post doesn’t even scratch the surface of what last night did for us. It inspired us, truly. There was so much love in that gym. North Park is such a special place for me and Kevin and there will be a way, I promise, in which we pay forward the impact you all had on us last night. 

A million thanks North Park, we will hold on to that night forever. We are so grateful. And a huge thank you for the competitive kick for the home stretch of treatment. I wanted to play some ball so bad last night, it’ll be top on my list to get some shots up once I’m healthy. I did shoot a 3 last night and I think it barely made it to the paint. I said it was because of the cancer, my Dad said I was fouled. Either way, this body has a long way to go. And no Coach, no 20 suicides in 20 minutes in my future. ūüėā 

Thank you everyone!!

Kevin & Beef 

PS: If anyone took pictures last night, I would love you forever if you could email them to me at bethany.conrad@gmail.com. Thank you!! 

Cycle for Survival

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through this nightmare is thanks to all of you- the power of action on behalf of someone going through a life shattering event. I have felt over and over the profound impact of your actions and I have learned how much a simple act can help a hurting heart (a hurting Hart?). It has immediate impact in this current battle with treatment. It pushes me on in the moment. It helps me to fight even when I’m exhausted, because so many people care & so many people are praying. It gives me perspective that this isn’t just my battle, this is a community battle which makes the load seem a little easier to bear. Bigger than that it has changed the way I process things & the way I think about things. I have received support from far and wide, people have come out of the woodwork for me. If I saw a high school friend on Facebook going through something like this and I hadn’t talked to them since high school, would Old Beef have gone through the trouble of tracking down their address, making a blanket and sending it off to let them know they aren’t alone? No chance. Will new Beef? Absolutely. (PS: that’s a real life story. Thank you Ellen!!) There is so much power in simply “doing.” You have the ability to change someone’s life & that’s a special opportunity in times of crisis.

Why do I write about this today, you ask?

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and I noticed one of our AMs at Yelp posted a link about a cycle challenge they were doing in my honor to raise money for rare cancer research. They didn’t even tell me, they just did it. My heart melted all over again. Turns out there is a whole “Team Beef” riding, comprised of managers & AMs from my department riding on my behalf. They have already raised over 2k for rare cancer!! How impressive is that? They have since increased their goal to 3k (typical Yelp fashion, crush a goal & go for more!). I wrote the other day how hard social media is for me these days – but for the past week I usually see at least one post a day from these guys in their efforts to keep raising money for Team Beef and it’s like a little recharge of my batteries each time to keep fighting – to make them proud!  

Here’s the link if you’re curious to learn more about the ride. And I believe it’s no coincidence that the events color is orange!! 

To my Yelpers – you all amaze me! Thank you for doing such an incredible thing on my behalf. You have no idea how much this meant to me, how much it encourages me and how much I’ll be cheering you all on February 10th. And what do you say, how about we do next years ride together?! 

And to all of you, thank you for teaching us this powerful lesson through your actions. Trust me when I say how much we look forward to finding ways to spread the love when we close this chapter of our lives. We will do it in a big, big way!