Archive for April, 2008

My village

Monday, April 7th, 2008


The energy in my home reached fever pitch around 6:30pm. Naomi and Tiny stayed in the blue room Sunday night. Jon O slept on the couch(happily) so that he could film the kids and I in the morning. I awoke at 5:45 am to find one kid in the shower and two more waiting for a turn. My dog was pacing waiting for food and a walk. The walk was likely to come first since it is my daughter’s job to feed her and she was still snoring away. Kelly and the baby slept while I made an attempt to get through online news. BBC news lets you pick each continent you want to read about. The Americas. Middle East. Europe. I tried to do a quick look at my world. Nothing cancer related for a minute. Find out what is happening around the globe. Interesting and depressing.

Clay snoozed until 7:30am. We did the morning routine of food and a movie. Naomi brewed me some mint tea. Tamara brought it over assuring me of its curative powers. I hate mint. But this stuff I love. And it works for hours. It takes away the nasty chemical taste in my mouth and calms my stomach. Eventually, everyone left at home was awake. And Erin arrived to watch Clay. 5 adults 2 kids. Nay, Jon and I slipped out the door.We went to Trader Joe’s and the bank. We came back and found Erin whispering about how Clay put himself down for a nap by climbing onto my bed. Soon after we came home Gina arrived. She planned on staying for a short visit but was at our home until 7pm. As was Erin. Jon O was over for hours. Eileen brought my middle three home from school. At times there were 15 people in my home. Everyone was busy helping. People buzzed around preparing things.

I recorded all my children’s individual medical history’s. Gina and I wrote about my family history as well. All those questions that only your mom can answer. What hospital was I born in? Is there a family history of mental illness? I felt accomplishment in finishing all six kids information. I hope that this is all a bit of an over zealous move on my part. But in case it isn’t it feels good to have done it. Later,I made dinner for 14 while my baby had three adults and an older sibling or two to entertain him. Jesse helped. Gina helped. Homemade pizzas hot and fresh at 5:15pm. Nay was on a short retreat to the coffee shop to do some emailing in peace. But there was still a house full of people here doing there thing. After I took my second dose of X(eloda)…X sounds cooler….anyway…I felt sick. Then sicker. My stomach twisted. I burped chemo flavor. I sunk into my permanent residence on the couch. I forced myself up to deliver cookies around 7pm. And I fell asleep with Clay around 7:45pm.

I woke up at 9:50pm to find no dishes and only two children awake. Most of the chores got done. The dog is sleeping and I am typing away while Clay snores softly a room away. Naomi is getting tattooed by my husband. A freebie. Considering all the work she does around here it seems like she paid for it many times over. Her daughter is the last child awake in the house. She is watching a movie on her mini player upstairs.

I am not put off or uncomfortable anymore with the sheer number of people involved in caring for my family. At first when I became sick I resisted all the company. I even was annoyed by it. Now it seems to phase none of us. Not even Kelly. We all seem to understand that it takes a lot of people to do all the work involved in taking care of 6 kids and a sick mom. I guess I used work my tail off. I still hound kids about homework, teeth brushing, and applying lotion to eczema. I still blow dry Bailey’s hair. I still pick up random junk from bedroom floors. But there is other stuff that becomes some one else’s responsibility. It is scary and comforting to let others do so much. Sometimes it feels like people are just hanging around the house but then I realize they are tidying up, doing dishes, changing diapers, and folding laundry. While I maintain permanent residence in my sick spot. The corner of a green couch in our living room. I sit there until I feel better. Then I emerge and do my house cleaning or cooking. Or I sit there and play with Clay.

Whichever, healthy or well, there are usually 2 to 4 other adults in my home nearly all the time. Many of you are thinking that you would hate that. Maybe you think I am fortunate, for truly I am. I ask myself a lot how it is that all these people ended up here. I believe that God is truly loving me through all of you. Every single act of kindness, selflessness, and generosity. It all reminds me how God loves His children. My house is full. My burden is light. I pray for healing and acceptance. Maybe I will get more time. Maybe the cancer will eat me up like an apple, as Bailey once described it. In either case, I have abundant peace about how my family will survive. Because of people like you and everyone who helps. And who cares for us. Maybe it will not be as it is now but I think no matter what it will be a good life. I think that that is a great comfort. I sometimes feel like watching all these people take care of us is like an sneak preview of a movie. It is God showing me that it will all work out. That is an amazing source of peace for me.


Sunday, April 6th, 2008



Erin Cloud is throwing this fundraiser for Andrea and the family.  She works at the Mexican Post on Cherry street, and has done a ton of work to get this organized and publicized.

We really hope that you can come and join us for this all you can eat and drink event next Sunday, April 13th, from 4-8.  

Tickets are $25 and kids 12 and under are free!  There’ll be a silent auction with great items from area vendors and a 50/50 raffle.

For ticket info or to make any donations to the silent auction, please contact Erin


In detail

Sunday, April 6th, 2008


In case you do not read all the comments, Jon O posted specific instructions on how to access the video.

Hey Video people…try to open the page page with Mozilla Firefox (this is your web browser)…Internet Explorer is kinda of clunky with this stuff, so I assume those who can´t view the video are using IE. If you don´t have Firefox download it here…

it far surpasses Bill Gates and Internet Explorer…I´m sure there´s a work around to make IE work , but this is the quick answer…

good luck,

To get the video go to Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer…if you don´t have Firefox get it here…

or go to this address

I have also been asked to post the phone # for our local Trader Joe’s, 215-569-9282. If you call just tell them it is for Andrea Collins -Smith. They will hold onto them for me at the desk. I still do most of the shopping and they know me there.

I have been asked about paypal. I do have an account. If that is something you want to do just leave a comment and I will get back to you. Ok wanna donate through paypal? Check out the button on the top right hand side of the website that says Wanna Help? Go there and it will tell you what to do. Thank you to all who have been so generous.
I am trying to stay out of all the organizing stuff primarily because it leaves me feeling overwhelmed. It is all I can do to remember what appointments I have and what my kids need to do. I really love to control everything but this is one of those times in which I know I am powerless over the situation. In any case, there are other lovely folks who seem to have no problem controlling things for me. Hence the meeting next Saturday.

Upcoming posts will let you know about a benefit for my kids at the Mexican Post (16th and Cherry) on April 13th. $25 all you can eat. Kids under 11 are free. We will be asking you to get to know my friend Shayna who does the Susan G Komen walk in my name. And of course I will be filling you in on the details of my treatment. I thought this new medicine would be a walk in the park. Its a walk in Central the 70’s. Cold dark and dangerous. Anyway, I love you all. Andrea

Pill poppin’ good time

Friday, April 4th, 2008


I started taking my new medicine on Tuesday morning. And since then Naomi and Jon O have been posting like crazy. So I was content to just let you enjoy the video and find out what has been happening in our lives. Also I thought it best to let Nay do her thing and let people help organize some of the stuff that has been getting forgotten. Tonight is Friday. From experience I know that you all do not really read the blog on the weekend either. That being said I am fairly certain you will not read this until Monday. I wanted to just kind of talk about what things are like for me right now if you want to listen.

Every day I take 4000mg of Xeloda oral chemotherapy. In the photo above I take 4 of the 500 pills twice a day. I take the medicine every day for 2 weeks and then I take off a week.I am adjusting ok I think. I have a lot of stomach pain. My oncologist is not lowering my dose just yet. I thought she would when I complained. But she wrote a Rx and sent me away. I have a lot of indigestion. I taste the chemo when I burp. It does get worse when I eat dairy. I am just eating sort of light. I will continue to get zometa every 4 weeks. That is the medicine that fills in my bone mets. In terms of how I feel its hard to say. I think I am very tired. But not in the way I was after chemo. I think this actually seems to not be that hard hitting down for the count thing. But it also seems to make me feel out of sync. When should I get acupuncture? How often?

I went to acupuncture today. Ed worked on a few different things. Spleen, liver, immune system. He put needles in my throat and legs and back.Gina came with me and sat in the room to watch. She asked Ed a million questions. He was more than happy to answer them. He was a gracious teacher. I was just happy to feel good. I had a bunch more stamina when I left. I felt less pain in my stomach. We ran a few errands and went home. Ruth came over and made dinner. And did dishes. And made me laugh. Gina too always makes me feel relaxed and cared for. I am really the luckiest/most blessed person. I can not believe how amazing and loving my friends are. What did I ever do to deserve this? Not my cancer…the love. It is such a gift. Jenni and Mark thank you both so much for your visit as well.

My good friend who shall remain nameless…we went to her house on Easter…. has graciously provided us with a place to vacation at the end of April. We are staying at her family’s beach house. We will be gone for 5 days. We will play games, ride bikes, take walks, and eat. I am thrilled to have my kids all to myself. And my husband away from a computer! Oh yeah! I am really looking forward to this. I feel like if I need to go on the killer meds I will at least have this time of fun to think about. Naomi is trying to use this time to get things organized for me . For the sick time. I am trying to plan and write. Writing kids medical history’s. And love letters. Stuff I couldn’t do while I was on the other chemo and recovering from my surgery. I am still hopeful. I am still praying that this medicine is the one that kills my big bad cancer cells. If not, I guess we will deal with that when the time comes. At least now I feel like we have tried other things to get the job done.

Got Help?

Friday, April 4th, 2008


Hey y’all, (I can say that ’cause I really am from the South!)

I know that a lot of people won’t be able to come to the meeting and that’s good, ’cause now we don’t have to feed y’all, but we still want to know what you’re available to help with. Just a few things that come right to mind….

I’ve set up an email account for people to send their offers of help with dinners, appointments, etc. It’s Please send an email there with your name, what you’d like to help with, and a phone # if you can be reached by phone. This account will be accessed by Andrea, myself, and anyone else who regularly helps with the family and scheduling.

*Leelee, the family’s wonder dog, needs love! In the form of regular baths and romps at the dog park…. is there a dog lover in the crowd? Anyone with a friend with a pet grooming business?

*Dinner needed by 5:00 on Thursday, April 17 & April 24 and Saturday, April 26. That would fill the calendar for April. If you’re available for May, we need dinners on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays by 5:00, and the schedule is wide open so pick your date quick!

*Trader Joe’s is where pretty much all the groceries come from. It’s way less expensive for her to shop there for her family, and she feels like she’s feeding them a better quality of food. If you know Andrea (or if you don’t) family meals and what the kids eat is very important to her. Trader Joe’s gift cards will always get used, and if you shop there you can leave one for her there at the main desk. Just tell them it’s for Andrea Collins-Smith, and they’ll give them to her the next time she shops. If you want to, you can call them @ , purchase a gift card, and tell them to keep it at the main desk for her. No amount is too little, ’cause every little bit helps. Yum Yum!

*Babysitting Fund– We’ve got an awesome girl helping out 3 days a week at Andrea’s house. Her name is Erin Cloud, (she’s throwing the Fiesta for a Cause Benefit on Sunday, April 13th) and she’s with Andrea and the baby all day on Monday and Wednesday’s while Kelly works, and is helping out with light house keeping/babysitting if needed on Thursdays.

She’s learning which kids do which chores, how to make dinner for 8 people (while 5 of them talk to you non stop), change poopy diapers and take Clay on outings, so Andrea doesn’t have to do so much while she’s sick. If you’d like to donate once or on a regular basis to help with this, please email us ASAP.

So… please email us at and we’ll get right back to you!

Thanks again y’all,


Punk Rock Mommy – Part 1

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

if you can´t see the video go here…

Direct Cinema

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Hey crew,

It’s been awhile, but I just wanted to mention a new project we have going on. For the next couple weeks I will be hanging out with Andrea and Company with a video camera and try to capture some of the special moments that happen in this little house. I’ve have had a wild couple of months and haven’t been around quite so much, I realize that the best way for me to be around is to tie myself to a creative project. The photos are still happening, but I am slow and way too particular when it comes to processing, scanning, cleaning up dust and adjusting tones…so for this side project it will be a day of shooting, quick editing and there ya go…a little more dynamic, maybe lacking a bit aesthetically, but these are special moments and that’s what matters. It’s been an honor to share in all of this. So, see the above post for: Punk Rock Mommy – Part 1 …



Meeting and Greeting

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

I think that one of the most overwhelming aspects of being Andrea’s friend is not the endless dishes, or cooking breakfast/lunch/dinner for 10 (Her 8 + my 2) at the drop of a dime, or the two, count ’em, TWO grocery carts full of groceries we shopped for and carted home from Trader Joe’s, or making the kids do their chores (and remembering who does what), the overwhelming part for me is that it’s really amazing how many people she knows.

She’ll often be talking to someone about someone, and turn to me to include me in the conversation and say “You know, so and so, they were at my wedding/birth/church/house/child’s birthday/dinner last night?” and I look at her blankly and think to myself, I can’t remember this morning, no less the face to go with the name she’s just said. Andrea then either tries to make me remember, or rolls her eyes and continues on with her conversation.

So I think it’s kinda funny that I’m organizing this big meeting for all of the people who know and love Andrea and the family, who are already helping, would like to get involved with helping, or would like to help more.

The meeting will be held at the New Life Presbyterian Church on East Roosevelt Blvd. The date and time is Saturday, April 12th from 1-4. You are all invited.

I am so grateful and amazed at all of the help everyone has already given with food and fund raisers and prayer and love. This meeting isn’t being held because there’s a lack of people helping and wanting to help. This meeting is being held to have people who want to help to do so more efficiently and not experience burn out in the future. Dr. Dan Gottlieb is helping me with a model he’s used for helping families in times of crisis.

We’re asking a few people to bring some snacks to share, as 3 hours is a long time to sit without food or drinks. If you’d like to help with this, email me at and let me know what you could bring.

We also need dinners on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. Could you email me up until the weekend of the meeting if you’d like to bring dinner? Mexican is a winner every time! Taco’s, burritos, enchilada’s, rice and beans, anything you can stuff in a tortilla is fine with them! We really need it delivered (or we’ll arrange to come get it) by 5:00 pm and not later. We try to get homework and dinner done early so that the rest of the evening is family time.

So do me a favor and put on a name tag at the meeting. I’ll forget your name and just call you “honey, sweetie, darlin’, come here” anyways, ’cause that’s just how my short term memory loss mind rolls, but I can at least make an effort at trying to remember your name.

So thanks for helping out….whats her name again…oh yeah! Andrea.

Love Naomi

P.S. The address and phone number for the church is

425 E Roosevelt Blvd, Philadelphia, PA

(215) 324-4566

You can get directions to the church on Google.

Love Hate relationships

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008


Today was day one on the new chemo. It is an oral medication. I take 4 tablets after breakfast and 4 after dinner. I noticed the stomach cramping throughout the afternoon. It got progressively worse. Now I am feeling pretty bad and I am “burping” up chemo medicine. The metallic taste is back as well as good old fashioned nausea. I have ginger tea and queasy pops. I have medicine. Right now I am on the couch waiting it out. Like a hurricane or wicked storm I am waiting for the pain to stop.

I do not want to complain. I know that these killer drugs are killing my cancer too. I hope so at least. I will be praying that my cancer does respond to this drug. I would rather be on this than adryamicin. I know there are people who do not believe in any of this chemo stuff. I unfortunately feel like is the only thing keeping me alive while it kills me. It is a love hate relationship.

A love hate relationship with these bad drugs. And even with my cancer sometimes. This stupid illness changed my life. My outlook and my relationships. The pain caused me to reach out. It caused people to come running. It also caused some to run away. It has taken so much from me and made me cry a million tears. But it has also made me laugh harder and love more deeply. And to find joy in everything. A song. A child’s smile. An embrace. I hate my cancer. But I do acknowledge that it added some things to my life to my character.

I am riding out the sick to my stomach storm. I do not want to talk about food or smell it or see it. My kids want to watch nothing but Anthony Bourdain food show episodes. I think I am being sickened by the thought of foie gras. No more cooking shows. Now the kids are talking about force feeding the goose to get a good fattened liver. There is no empathy in my home. I feel like a fattened goose myself. I made dinner tonight. But I am wondering for how much longer. I am sorry to complain. It will get better. It will get better. I am waiting this out.

I am praying. I am waiting. I am trying to stay hydrated. I hate this and also know I need it. I do not want to be a baby. I have been through this before. I have been sick before. It is what chemo drugs do. They make you wish you were dead really. They make you wonder if you are crazy for subjecting yourself to them. And while you are waiting out storms you also think well at least it is going to kill my cancer. The love hate relationship is very strong. You pray for it all to pass. This is the story of chemo.