Archive for December, 2007

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

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To rebels, her illness is a cause

“Punk Rock Mommy” fights terminal cancer.

By Michael Matza

Inquirer Staff Writer

At her home in Fishtown, Andrea Collins Smith, inveterate hipster, South Street fixture, and “Punk Rock Mommy” of the blogosphere, is speaking quickly – racing ahead like the fast-spreading cancer that will take her life. Smith, 37, the raison d’etre for a New Year’s Eve day benefit concert organized by Philadelphia’s Paul Green School of Rock to raise money for her care and her family’s support, has a rare and virulent form of the disease.

In May, two days after graduating with a psychology degree from Temple University and two days before Mother’s Day, the mother of six, whose tattoos and piercings are too numerous to count, learned she has inflammatory breast cancer.

Stage 4. Incurable, her doctors said.

Two weeks later she started chemotherapy – six rounds of caustic chemicals pumped into her body, three weeks apart.

Oct. 20: Radical surgery to remove both breasts and underarm lymph nodes.

Nov. 20: The start of radiation treatments.

This month, more trouble: A CT scan revealed cancer in two vertebrae. It wasn’t there in September’s tests.

“That’s how fast my cancer spreads,” Smith said. “That’s how aggressive this cancer is.”

Rallying around their stricken friend in this subculture of grunge and self-styled outcasts, the region’s rockers, tattoo artists and others have come out in force.

They cook. They clean. They run errands. They drive Smith to doctor’s appointments.

There have been bingo nights. Halloween fund-raisers. Poinsettia sales. A documentary in progress about the ordeal, tentatively titled The C Word.

Two weeks ago the Bawdy Girls, a campy burlesque troupe, peeled down to pasties and G-strings in a benefit striptease.

“Those girls are awesome,” said Smith, who had to stop working because of her illness, but once held what she called “the trifecta of cool jobs”: clerk at Zipperhead; waitress at Sugar Mom’s; and office manager at the School of Rock, where students 9 to 17, including several of her own kids, learn to perform like Carlos Santana, Frank Zappa and Alice Cooper, among other legends.

As grave as the situation is, Smith has not lost her sense of humor.

“I was meaning to lose 50 pounds anyway,” she mused about chemotherapy and the accompanying nausea. “And I was looking for an excuse to smoke pot again.”

Acupuncture, actually, is how she keeps nausea at bay, but clearly she and her comrades are having fun.

Before her surgery she made three plaster casts of her breasts. She plans to offer at least one of them – decorated with “flash” by her husband, tattoo artist Kelly Smith – at a benefit auction that could also include corsets made by her friends, designers Amy and Sid Delicious.

“I think somebody who loves me should have my boobies in their bedroom,” Smith said.

A parishioner at Kensington’s Circle of Hope Church, Smith has always prayed. Since her diagnosis, she said, she has had some “funny” conversations with God.

“I’m a mother. I just graduated from college. Now I have terminal cancer. I thought you wanted more from me. Besides, it’s very cliched. Very Lifetime television,” she told God.

On a more serious note, she has come to understand that everyone’s “life is very short. None of us knows how long we have. That’s part of a plan I don’t have any information about.

“You can sit around and wonder, ‘Why me? Why me?’ But do you ask yourself that when good things happen?” she said.

There are obvious challenges that come with a terminal illness, but insights, too, said Smith. After years of studying psychology in college, she said, she seems to have jumped right over “denial” into the “acceptance” phase of the classic stages of death and dying.

When friends try to encourage her, saying she’ll probably live a long time, she cuts them short.

“See, I told you I was going to die,” is the way she plans to begin the letter she will write to be read at her funeral.

Raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Smith moved to Northeast Philadelphia with her mother and sister when she was 17 and immediately fell in with the punk and New Wave scene anchored on South Street.

In 1989 she married Tony “Jeeter” Collins, of the band the Cisco Jeeters. A year later, their son Alec was born. Then came Jesse, now 15; the twins, Asa and Tucker, now 13; and Bailey, now 10, the couple’s only girl. They divorced in 2000.

Four years later, Smith married Kelly Smith. A year ago their son, Clay, was born. Persistent soreness that developed during breast-feeding led to the discovery of her cancer.

To keep friends and family apprised of her condition, she began a Web site, punkrockmommy.org, with a dedicated following that goes well beyond that original close circle of intimates. A friend set it up for her. You could think of it as an online version of Tuesdays With Morrie, with an underground spin.

“Thank you for this blog, your strength in difficult times is inspiring,” noted one post from California. “God Bless, and know that we are all pulling for you.”

Because there is no history of cancer in Smith’s family, and her strain of the disease usually hits without early warning signs, she titled her blog “Andrea Collins Smith and the Great Cancer Swindle.”

Routinely polite, especially to elders because of a deep affection for her grandmother, Smith said she had a telling experience when she and a friend were Christmas shopping in Cherry Hill.

They came upon a massaging chair. Cool, said her friend, but who has time to sit?

“I have cancer,” Smith said, “with plenty of time to sit around.”

“You shouldn’t talk like that. That’s awwwwful!” said an older shopper who thought Smith was making light of the disease.

“You know what? It’s my cancer, and I’ll talk about it any way I want,” fired back Smith, the punk-rock mommy, still edgy after all these years.

Is coke vegetarian?

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

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So it was a real shock to me that given all the things going on this world that I was on the front page of the Sunday paper. I was stunned. I thought the article was great. I hope a lot of people come out and see the kids at Rock School play their hearts out. In any case I am again perplexed and moved by the “attention”. I just wanted my friends to know how this whole cancer thing was going. Now my life is an open book for anyone who might chose to read a chapter or verse. It is a bit intimidating. Typically, my thoughts are viewed by a much smaller group. Today over 400 people logged on for a peek. These visits from strangers only lasted minutes. Barely long enough to even get the smallest glimpse of my world. But that suits me fine. It is mostly a world inhabited by my friends and a few loving strangers.

Speaking of loving strangers…Dina came by today with her husband Ed and 2 year old son Owen. They came to bring me all the awesome pictures that her class did about getting rid of cancer. It made me feel really happy to spend time with her family. It was nice to just sit on the couch and watch their son play. We had a full house here throughout the day. Sadly, for most of it my stomach was twisting in knots. It is currently doing that now. This is the back and forth of nausea and stomach cramps combined with an occasional shift toward what I think may be hunger. But the hunger pang is fleeting so it gets the least attention. This is no weight watchers diet. And people leave long messages about me going vegan,organic,raw,etc. And I can not even handle water. Water upsets my stomach. I miss food!

I am still not on any pain medicine. So really my only complaint is this nausea. And really that’s not too bad given the situation. Right now I enjoy glass bottle coca-cola. That is my favorite. It always makes my stomach feel better. The three other medicines I am on…they do not always work as well as coke. Go figure. All my love. I am signing off for now since I feel a bit challenged. I will write tomorrow all about the Rock School show.

Friday, December 28th, 2007

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It’s Friday. I got chemo today instead of yesterday. I was very nauseous at my visit, even before the chemo. But there is good news too. I have not taken any pain medicine since last Wednesday night. Not on purpose exactly. It just ended up that I forgot to take it when I was sick, nauseous, coughing with night sweats. I just did not think about it and I had no pain so it was Tuesday before it occurred to me that I had not been taking my medicine. This is a major thing because pain is a very good indication of how the cancer is doing, or what it is doing. Dr. DeMichele seemed stunned by this revelation. She was very encouraged. She was even smiling, repeating my words “you are taking no pain medication…you are having no pain?” So if I am in no pain…the zometa is probaly filling in the holes. And the navelbine is likely doing its job too. We can not say for sure. I am just taking it as a good sign for now. Don’t cancel my funeral just yet. Kidding.

As far as my response to the chemo…it is still a bit tough. I get super tired the day of chemo and the next. And I feel very sick to my stomach and eat very little food. I lost 8 pounds last week. I went to a Christmas Eve party and drank water. On Christmas Day I ate the smallest bit of food. And no dessert. I just do not have the same desire to eat food. I feel sick even with medication. I drink a lot of water. I sleep. There is nothing they can do. I am taking the meds and well….eating when I can. I always wanted to be thin. I always wondered how skinny people could just not eat, I sort of understand.

I spoke to the writer of the article on me and the Rock School benefit on Monday. He still has no idea at this time which section of the paper it will be in. Not the entertainment section though. It will be in the news section though. It may be in the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday paper. No idea yet. If he calls me I will tell you. It could be interesting.

I am feeling sick and tired but really blessed right now. I was talking to a woman at Rena Rowan today. I was just smiling and she started to cry. I am not even sure what I said. I said I was sorry for making her cry. Then she said, “you are just so positive. You are the opposite of me.” I reassured that I cry too. That I often feel negative. I don’t think she believed me. I thought about Alaina. I thought about she is always smiling on the end of the phone when I am down in the dumps reassuring me that I can get through treatment and that I am going to make it. I usually think man Alaina is so positive! I guess if this woman really knew that I do cry. I am really tired and sick. And usually I am mostly positive that I am not going to make it. So I hugged her and told her she and I are both strong. She is still here and fighting.

And a friend of mine battling this disease is doing poorly. And it is really effecting me. She is very dear and I want her to respond to treatment and I am going to pray for her fervently. I want her to make it. This is so difficult. We either respond or we don’t. We have recurrences. We get sick and then better. Or we get worse. My heart is aching for this friend. She has even considered Rexin G and other alternatives. I have her in my prayers. Cancer sucks.

Philly Ink…. or a needle and a pen

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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I left my house early this morning, with Heidi, to go to acupuncture. And I needed it so badly. I spent a good 5 minutes telling Ed about my symptoms. He smiled and said, “Should I be writing this down?” I was like oh I don’t know…do you need to? He smiled and reassured me that he had it under control. Today for the first time he did cupping on me. So now I have these awesome suction cup bruises on my back! I love them! I look like Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscar’s when she rocked the backless dress with cupping bruises. In any case it was a really good session. He gave me needles in my ears, back, hands, leg, and toe ( which hurt very much). I felt a little better when I left. But now hours later I feel quite a bit better. But sadly tomorrow is chemo. And I do not have another scheduled appointment with Ed until next Friday. I am hoping that the chemo tomorrow does not do me in. My fever, chills,night sweats, and deep cough seem to be dissipating.

When I returned home the kids and Kelly had totally cleaned the house. Not because they love me but because a reporter and photographer from the Philadelphia Inquirer were on their way over to do an interview with me. They were here for nearly two hours. It was a fairly easy and fun experience. I got to tell cancer jokes. Alec and Jesse were here with me as well. It was good to be here with the boys during the interview. I always feel more comfortable when they are with me. Mike the reporter and Tom the photographer were both very nice and the whole thing went well. I am pretty sure that it will be in the Sunday paper. Now it can not be certain because Benazir Bhutto’s death is surely more pressing than my cancer or our upcoming Rock School event which was the focus of the piece.

I did get to “plug” a few friends though which is always very nice. I mentioned Kelly doing pink nautical stars. And all the other awesome people in my life! We’ll see what he ends up writing about. Anyway, we had a nice afternoon with them and we will see what happens. By the way don’t even ask me what section or anything because I have no idea. And if it is not in the Sunday edition it will likely be in the a.m. Monday edition. Oh yes…public cancer.

He did ask me about the blog a bit. And I gave my little speech about how Jon O made me do this. Which in the beginning was true. Now of course I do it for me. I do it because it feels good to get some of this out. Likely the same thing as seeing a therapist. This is similar I suppose. Although I often feel like by the time I am writing about it I have already worked it out. It is really good for me though to see how my feelings about my disease change as time goes by. And it is very good for me to “count’ my blessings. To be able to say here all the beautiful things happening in our home. And it helps not to let the challenge of all this dominate my life.

I am happy also to get the word out about IBC. My new job title advocate/motivational speaker. Excellent.

The Day After

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

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I was supposed to be on the radio this morning. Mostly in an attempt to promote the benefit that Paul Green School of Rock is doing for us on New Year’s Eve day. But I was going to be deemed woman of the week on WBEN fm and I was looking forward to it. But I never got a special number to call so I was trying the request lines, which are typically busy with people making requests. I finally got through when they were done talking about me. I was so disappointed. They told me they will do something on Philly.com ( click on the picture of me for the full story!) about me too. But alas it is not the same.

Originally they asked me to drive out to Bala Cynwyd to be in studio. I just thought there was no way I could get up the day after a major holiday and provide coherent conversation. I am sure I was correct, because yesterday was a whirlwind of presents, food, sugar, and over stimulation. I did get something of Christmas Miracle in that I felt better than I had in previous days. Thanks to immodium and compazine. And probaly a lot of people who pray for me.

The kids are of so many different ages that Christmas is really different for everyone. I think Alec initially thought he may have gotten less. But then I pointed out that he got some of his presents before Christmas. And he got some more expensive items as well. The Breathing Room Foundation also bought my kids gifts. Tons of them, so when he opened a book they bought for him called punk365 he was stoked. It is a photographic history of punk rock from 1972 to 1982 (I think). We were all really into it. Alec seemed happy enough to spend a little time with us, although he frequently slipped the ipod on while in the same room. A move that we tried to explain to him is not cool.

Jesse was totally happy and laid back (as always). He was pretty happy with everything and was just into checking things out. The twins got some cool things that drew their attention for the rest of the day. And Bailey made out like a bandit. Christmas probaly has the most meaning to Bailey. And she got a lot of stuff. Not necessarily from us, from everyone. We bought her some cool things she likes. But so did the Breathing Room (bedding, Gap clothing, ID bracelet, books about fashion) and then Ori and Kristen came over and she got even more cool stuff. It was a non stop present fest for Bailey. Clayton got only a few things but everything either makes noise or talks to him. Except the $7 tent Kelly bought him that he retreated to frequently yesterday to hide from tickle-me cookie monster.

I thought a lot yesterday about how I want to have many more Christmas’s with my children and family and friends. Kelly is very inclined to think I will. My dear friend Alaina was diagnosed more than 4 years ago and she is doing great. I try to hold onto this hope like a life preserver in the middle of the big black cancer ocean. I am holding on for dear life muttering to myself “Alaina has lived this long…Amy has lived this long…”. With this cancer that’s where my hope comes from. The health of other women with my disease. And this Christmas, 4 years later, Alaina was happy at home with her children so I hope that four years from now that will be me.

And this Christmas was lovely. I managed to cook a nice dinner. Not my best but good enough. I managed to make the apple crisp for breakfast and that was great. And I was upright all day. And in a relatively good mood. I will be posting more about Paul Green’s benefit in the next day or so. It will be an amazing event. And if you heard the thing on Ben fm this morning let me know. I hope you all had a lovely holiday. Peace

Christmas Eve

Monday, December 24th, 2007

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No news is not always good news. Sometimes when I feel sick for a prolonged amount of time I try to avoid writing about it. I am not sure about other people with a long term illness, but you feel like a jerk for bumming people out with your complaints. I am sick. I do not know if it is from chemo or a virus I can not shake. In either case, the symptoms keep me up at night. This also makes me kind of useless during the day. Grooggy. I have a lot of stomach cramping and have been on the *brat* diet for a week. I want to have fun. I want to leave the house, (have not left since Thursday when I got chemo), but that is not happening.

Now the truth is chronic illness sucks for everyone. It is hard on me, but is equally hard on everyone around me. For the kids seeing their mom sick in bed or on the couch undoubtedly evokes a certain fear. I can reassure them. I sometimes do. But sometimes I am too tired to enter into a conversation about my chronic cough and digestive problems. And for Kelly it can be sympathy…to a point. And then there is also a real frustration in having to do everything your self even though your partner is home. Yes he knows I am sick. But truth is he has been too. But he does not hold a chemo card. I am sicker, I win, go make me toast. Not an easy thing to deal with. So I am still feeling pretty sick. And I hope and pray that I feel better soon. I want to feel good for Kelly and the kids. I want to feel good so I can enjoy the holiday. I want to have energy and wellness. It may be too much to ask. Or possibly a Christmas miracle.

And well its not all bad. True I have been in my room far more than is typical. But I was laying on the couch while Gina wrapped all the Christmas presents on Friday. I was laying on the couch while we watched “A Christmas Story” together and drank eggnog. I laid on the couch and changed a few diapers. It is not all bad. It is hard not to wish for more. And that goes with everything doesn’t it. It is hard not wish for more than we have. I am going to skip any analogies to the birth of the Savior in a manger. I will skip being poetic and deep and stick with this. I see that the longer I am dealing with this cancer diagnosis it’ s full impact on my family from the everyday things to deeper emotional things.

I wish you all a Happy holiday. I hope everyone enjoys their time with the family. I wish you all happiness and peace. Love, Andrea

Personal Jesus

Friday, December 21st, 2007

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God has spoken to me three times. It is hard to say that, but it is true nonetheless. I am not a zealot. I may be crazy but I do not hear voices. I am serious that I have actually heard the words of God directly three times in my life.

I was raised with little spiritual or religious upbringing. It was not a big part of my life as a child. I didn’t really pray or believe in anything. After I had Alec I became convinced that there must be a God. I saw the beauty in the world every time I gazed on my baby. I knew there must be a Divine being that would allow me to have such a perfect little child. But my faith barely went beyond that. It was just a sense of knowing that God existed. We went to Quaker meetings for awhile which I enjoyed. A quiet contemplation about the goodness of God. I could handle that. People being led to speak. It was a lovely introduction to religion.

When I was about 22 I was invited to a bible study. I really liked the ladies who invited me. All nursing moms like me. Crunchy granola types. I was an anarchist in earth shoes but I was up for a discussion about God. I did not know about this Old and New Testament thing. I had no idea about anything that Jesus had ever said, it was just Oh the bible…I’ve never read it. Clean slate sort of. I liked it. I liked Jesus. His stories seemed very deep and real. I went to bible study for more than a year. No big epiphany. Just a lot of “Wow, that’s so cool.” The ladies would talk about personal relationships with the Lord. I had no idea what that meant. But I liked going and hearing about this Jesus.

One night I went to bed and …began to “dream”. I dreamt that I was in my front yard and the sky above me turned black and was ripped apart. I fell to my knees and began to pray. I was in fear, but not normal fear. It was more like reverence because I knew it was God. And I heard His voice. He said, “My child how did you know it was me?” And I said,” My Lord I would know you anywhere.” I jumped out of bed and called my friend from bible study. It was 2a.m. I told her that God spoke to me and I thought I was a Christian. She asked me about what God said. “Well that certainly sounds like God.” We prayed and I became a Christian.

Several years later I was pregnant with the twins. I planned on giving birth to them at home with a few midwives. We found out they were breech at 38 weeks. I did not want a cesarean. My other kids were very young and I did not want to go through a painful surgical recovery and have to take care of four kids under four. I found a doctor who was capable of helping me give birth naturally to them breech. He had done other breech births. But I was also being influenced to go to a midwife in Lancaster who was very good at breech delivery also. I was conflicted. I went to sleep and in the middle of the night I was awakened by an angel. Wings.The whole thing. She said “These are the words of your Father who loves you,” And then she said a bunch of things that I can not recall exactly so I won’t write them down, but the answer was go to the hospital and meet this doctor because this is God’s divine plan. So I went. And I went into labor when I got there. And he delivered my babies both in the breech position. And 14 other people were in the room. And many lives were changed, because this doctor became a back up physician for many midwives. And the other doctor’s in the room did breech births naturally after that. God used me to fulfill His plan.

When I went out to California to see about Rexin-G I was filled with anxiety. I was nearing the end of my first chemo and I had no idea if it was even working. I felt that this new medicine might be the answer. But I was rejected from the study because the chemo had not failed. I was heartbroken. My last night there I was unable to sleep. I spent much time in prayer and meditation. Meditating is really hard. The goal is to keep your mind clear of your own sub conscious thought. It takes a lot of practice. But after many hours I was there. I was in the zone. Totally open. I have done this before and you know, no major revelations. But this night I heard a voice that I was convinced was not my own. I felt that again it was God alone and He told me it was not His will that I survive. He would do no miracle. It was His plan that I die. That I was His child and that I needed to trust Him. I felt oddly peaceful. I didn’t cry. I just said OK.

Now He did not say go home and don’t get surgery. Or you are going to die tomorrow. So I am doing what I can to stay here as long as He wills it and as long as Dr. Angie Demichele can keep me here. But well, I am not expecting a miracle. Maybe you are an atheist and these words are nonsense to you. Maybe you are without faith and they mean nothing. Maybe you think that this all psychological blah blah blah. For me this is all real. I believe these are the words of God. I do not question it because it is just very different than hearing the words of your own subconscious. In any case, if this explains my acceptance of my cancer or my likely passing then good. I just thought that maybe it was worth outing myself a little to explain it.

I do not think I am special. To the contrary I think God has spoken to me because I am a bit simple minded and He needs to direct a little more than some of His other children. More “special” than special if you know what I mean. I told Kelly when I got back about what I heard. He seemed oddly at peace with it too. Who are we to decide what God should want for us? I am not a demanding little toddler saying, “Heal me or else.” I am an adult and I have a strong faith. Faith that God alone loves us and has a plan for our lives. I believe we have free will, but that even in that He knows what we will choose. I believe that we live by Grace alone and that no amount of works or good deeds saves us, it is our faith alone that brings us to an eternal life with the Lord. So I have acceptance. I do not wish for more than the Father promises me.

Sometimes I take all this back and plead for more time. But I do not have any idea what even means. Maybe I will be here for several more years maybe not. My cancer is very aggressive. In the 8 weeks between the ending of my first chemo and the beginning of the next it spread to my spine and other places as well. I pray that this chemo works because I can be on it a long time. The other chemo options are quite brutal. Other medications that will make me very very ill. But you have to fight right. You have to try. Until God Himself tells me to stop I will fight. The news I got yesterday seems like good news I know. It is my hope that I will see an improvement. But all this talking to God stuff has interfered with faith and hope. I don’t think that was the intended message however. I think He just wanted me to have faith and hope in Him and trust His plan for me. I am trying just to make every day count.

And I tell you this. Every single day with my children and husband is a gift. I can not explain in words how deeply I want to take them all with me because leaving them behind seems so unfair. I want to take my children out of school and play with them all day. I wish Kelly did not have to work, so that I could be with him every minute. It is hard to let go. But it is also harder to deny what is true. If you have a terminal illness at some point you must let go. God calls us to go home to be with Him.And even if you practice any other faith…the afterlife awaits us all. Whether you believe it is another life or Valhalla or Heaven. This is not the end but a beginning.

I pray for you all. That you may be at peace in your lives with what ever God gives you. That you might believe in His divine plan for your life. God bless you all. Andrea

Today’s visit

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

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To be honest I am too tired to do this, but I feel I must. The MRI showed no new cancer beyond what we know about. And for that matter the cancer in my vertebrae  is not near my spinal cord. So that is good news.But I have a hard time with good news too. I am more prepared for bad news.

I was able to get my chemo. I felt sick afterward. They pushed the chemo instead of dripping it in. I guess they can do it either way. So next time they will drip it in slowly. I feel sick and tired right now and just want to go to bed. Thank you to all those who gave me rides this week. For those who made meals. I am very thankful to everyone who helped us. It was a tough week for all of us. I was sick and not much help. I am thankful to everyone who pitched in. And thank you to Dina and the Philly tap room for your fund raising efforts. I will see Gina tomorrow and we will wrap presents. And Saturday Liz is coming to cut all the boys hair.

Under the weather

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

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Germs. They are a funny thing, no? Some give you viral infections. Some give you bacterial infections. Both make you sick. I have been sick since Monday. I have an off and on fever…sort of low gradeish I think. I am coughing really hard, which is giving me a headache and stomachache. I laid on the couch for three days and just slept. If I eat I feel worse. I called my doctors of course. They really wanted me to come in. I understand. They have to be really careful that I do not get any kind of infection. They are very concerned. I have no real way of fighting off infection. White blood cells do that, and I don’t have enough of them. I actually felt pretty sick last week as well. I am tired a lot. But I can usually balance it with a fair amount of activity.

And everyone I know is sick too. Germs. I think I feel a bit of comfort in knowing that everyone I know is sick too. We are all laying on our respective couches groaning about our sinus headaches and sore throats. I guess though you all are not so afraid of your cold. I am a bit afraid of mine. I wonder how a person with a depressed immune system gets over a cold. Anyone want to explain that to me feel free. In the meantime I will be on the couch hacking.

Tomorrow I will likely have my 3rd dose of navelbine. If I am well enough. I really am looking forward to it. Okay this is a weird thing about cancer, even though your treatments make you feel sick, you really want them because they kill your cancer. Its a strange love/hate relationship. So I hope I get it so my cancer will stop spreading. Jon O is supposed to meet us at chemo tomorrow too. He’s going to take photos. He hasn’t taken any in a long time because he decided to go to grad school… geez! I’m kidding. I have missed him though. Yesterday, he stopped by while I was asleep on the couch and made my kids tuna melts. I think they conned him into it…but I was too sick to object.

I will get my results from my MRI tomorrow as well. I am hoping for some good news. Although every time I get a report it is bad news. I need some good news. I need a little hope. I just keep praying Lord please don’t let this be my last Christmas. I am not ready to leave these kids yet. I cry like a baby some nights. Last night actually. Fear. I usually have none. I am at peace, I have acceptance,I am a good Christian. Last night I begged God to let me have more time. Kelly held me for a long time. He said he was glad that I was crying. Mostly because my acceptance is a little eerie. A little too blissful maybe. He wants to know that I am fighting to live too. And I am. I am fighting from the couch. Coughing my brains out. Or crying in my bed like a baby. This is me fighting in the fetal position.

And the blessings. There are many. So many. And I do not dare talk about the cancer /the beast without talking about all the good stuff. Those lovely kids in Cherry Hill raised a lot of money for our family. It was very impressive. And Dina is amazing for organizing everything. I am touched by the constant flow of love and generosity that people continue to show us. Praise God. I have no idea what I did to deserve this. (I feel that way about the cancer sometimes too)

When we are all free of germs and sickness we should meet up and say hello. You should stop by next week when my children are home from school. You should call me and drop in on Christmas day. I will try hard to make sure there is food for you. And Tamara is giving me some masks and gloves that I can wear to arm myself against the germs. See you soon…in the cold medicine aisle of CVS.

Blog Love

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

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When I started writing the blog, Jon O taught me how to check the statistics of the site. This means I know how many people read the blog. Where they live, how long they read, what type of computer, how many times they have viewed the site. Everything. Some people read it from Jefferson Hospital or Temple University. I know this stuff. Scary, right? The weird thing is that I know that people rarely log on during the weekend. This is so consistent that it makes me not want to write anything on the weekends. And when the number of people reading the blog drops I wonder if it is something I said. I take it personally.

It is kind of funny because it started out as just something I was doing to inform everyone about what was happening to me medically. It quickly evolved into what I was going through emotionally and spiritually. Soon many folks I did not know were reading and commenting. Where did they come from I would think. Why do they even care to read this silly nonsense. My blabbering on about how I hated chemo or my fear about surgery. I did like letting people know about IBC. I liked sharing my faith. I liked reassuring my friends that I still had good days or that they could help me.

And the blog did help. It helped me get rides and food. People now knew what we needed. It prompted loved ones and strangers alike to go to benefits for our family. It allowed people I did not know to pray for me and my family. It is hard sometimes to understand the interest or the appeal in what I write. I do not think it is all that profound. I just know I am learning stuff that I want my loved ones to be part of. Some of the lessons are really hard. Some are easier. Some of this cancer stuff has been very sad. Some of it funny. Some of it is just a pain. In the end I am just glad you all care to know what I am going through.

So since beginning the blog some strangers became avid readers and supporters. One of them is Dina. She has been reading and commenting almost from the start. She is a 4th grade teacher in Cherry Hill. Tuesday her class is having an in school fundraiser for us. She has been sharing my blog/ my plight with them and they wanted to do something to make my cancer go away. They are going to sell pretzels and fruit smoothies. They are going to do temporary tattoos at their “tattoo parlor”, and they are going to have an art auction. Each student did a painting with the theme “What I would do to cancer”. The children depicted cancer getting stomped, thrown off a building, tossed onto spikes and whirled up in a blender. Each child is excited and thrilled to raise money for our family. And I do not know any of them. I do not know Dina. But her concern and care for our family born out of this internet connection is amazing. God Bless you Dina, and all your lovely 4th graders.

And of course there are others as well. Karen’s friend Sherry did a fundraiser for us in Santa Rosa.Circle of Hope’s Art Shop event last week. And the Philly Tap Room is doing one this week. Rock School on New Year’s Eve. I do not ask people for any of this. To the contrary it makes me feel emotional and overwhelmed. Why are people so good to us? What did I do to deserve this?All I keep thinking is how amazing God’s provision is. God is good….all the time.

I am hoping that you all continue to read and respond to my walk with cancer. I hope that some things I say you will relate to. I hope that it helps you have insight. I hope you never know first hand what any of this is like. I pray that God comforts you the way He does me. And I thank you for caring enough to check in and see how I am doing. God bless you all. Much love, Andrea