Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To Be or NOT TO BE

Unfortunately I am not writing from New York right now. The blast of winter weather in the northeast caused thousands of flights to be cancelled, including mine. I can understand that no one can control the weather, but it seems that recently, for me, nothing can go right the first time or work out the way it was supposed to.

We are planning on rescheduling my wish trip for spring break (the first full week of April) though it is disappointing to have to wait longer, traveling to New York in the spring will probably be better anyway. We’ll see Central park in springtime, which I have heard is lovely. We won’t freeze standing outside the Today show or taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Travel around the city won’t be hindered by snow or wind. It will definitely be better. The best part will be that I will be moving better. My goal is to be able to walk the whole time in NY, no wheelchair. (Occasional cane use though, is acceptable.)

Needless to say, I was very disappointed when we got back home. But, as always my mother being the amazing mom she is came up with a plan to restore my spirits. She booked a room at the Edgewater hotel in Seattle for Friday and Saturday. Then she and I searched the internet for things to do. So now Thursday afternoon Brandon, Dad, and I are going to see A Christmas Story the musical at Seattle’s 5th Avenue theater and then Saturday the whole family is going to the Sound of Music sing-along at the 5th Avenue theater.

In the end everything works out for the best. We will have better time in New York. I’ll get to see a show I want to see (Christmas Story) and I’ll get to cross something off my bucket list (Sound of Music sing-along.)

Happy New Year everybody! See you in 2011!
Mischief Managed,

The sign my wonderful wish volunteer Al made for me

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An update, long overdue

I have been home from Orlando for two weeks now, and an update is much over due. I’ve been trying to make time to sit down and write, but I have been busy with homework, catch-up work, physical therapy, dentist appointments etc. As you may have heard the northwest has been hit by a bit of a winter storm. The snow and ice have basically shut down Seattle. Today is a snow day and I have lots of time on my hands so you’re in for a long post.

First, I know you are anxious to hear about my trip to Orlando, so I will end the suspense. It was wonderful. The weather was great, the volunteers and staff were incredible and the other kids were awesome. All the parks were amazing but my favorite (of course) was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was truly magical, I felt as if I was walking down the streets of my imagination. The park was Hogsmeade with a touch of Diagon Alley with Hogwarts watching over it all. My little group at lunch at the Three Broomsticks, I had two mugs of butterbeer and a very delicious shepherd’s pie. For those wondering what butterbeer tastes like, it is a cold root beer flavored drink with a hint of butterscotch and it’s extremely delicious! The park’s designers left no detail out. Moaning Myrtle talks and splashes in the bathroom. Mandrakes scream from a storefront window. All the paintings and photographs come to life. Like I said, magical.

Upon retuning to school I found out that my English class would be writing "This I Believe" essays. If you have been following me from the beginning you know that TIB was an assignment for my English class last year around the time I was diagnosed. You may also remember that a few minutes before brain surgery I wrote the following essay:

On Monday October 19th my English teacher introduced This I Believe and I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to write about. Ten days later I was in the hospital having a tumor removed from my brain.

When the doctor called with my results my mom answered the phone and I could hear her conversation from the other room. When I heard I just got my shoes on, printed directions to the hospital and packed a bag. Later at the hospital everyone was amazed by my laid back easy going nature. I can attribute this to two things gratitude and positivity.

In a hospital it is easy to be taken over by negative thinking. But I think that is just a waste of energy. Instead I am planning on suffocating cancer with laughter and smiles, smothering it with hope and positivity and with the love and support of my friends and family. That's not to say that I go around perpetually grinning. Sometimes it's a struggle to stay positive. That's when I just think of all I have to be grateful for. Today among other things I am grateful for non-skid socks, visiting friends and apple sauce. It's these rays of light that help me stay positive.

I know I am only at the beginning of my treatment but I can definitely say I am not putting up with Cancer; Cancer’s putting up with me!

My belief hasn't changed in the last year; it has just become more solidified. This is the essay I wrote last week:

I believe in the power of smiles and positivity. For fifteen years nothing truly challenged that belief. Then, the “Big C” came calling. When the doctors diagnosed me with brain cancer, I made a decision; a decision to smother cancer with smiles and positivity.
I believe that positivity can be infectious, because my decision to be positive encouraged the people around me to choose to be positive as well.
I believe positive doesn’t have to be synonymous with happy. It just means trying to focus on the good of a situation.
Yes, I had cancer, but at least my doctor caught it early.
Yes, I endured a harrowing experience, but in one year I found an appreciation for the important things in life that some people spend their whole lives searching for.
I believe that gratitude and positivity go hand in hand. While undergoing cancer treatment, staying positive can be difficult, but I always tried to find something to be grateful for. A day without pain. Having my favorite nurse. A card from my grandma. Sleeping in my own bed. Sitting up at a table. Eating a meal with my family. Visiting with a friend. Seeing my dog. Going outside.
I believe that smiles are the most powerful weapon. For, I witnessed one smile transform the somber expressions of worried parents into smiles as well. I saw how a simple up-turn of the lips from a stranger, lifted the spirits of an ailing child.
I believe complicated feelings can be communicated in a simple smile. I understand. I’ve been there. I wish. I hope. I care. I love you.
I believe my positive attitude had an enormous affect on the outcome of my treatment, because now I am cancer free.
I believe if smiles and positivity can help me survive cancer, they will surely help me through the rest of my life as well.
I believe that smiles and positivity killed cancer.

I love the symmetry between the two essays and feel like they bookend the most life-changing year of my life. It’s nice to see that while my life has changed, the beliefs at my core haven’t.

I definitely recommend checking out This I Believe’s website to read more essays. http://thisibelieve.org/
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Mischief Managed,

P.S. I think I will change my blogging goal from once every couple weeks, to when something blog-worthy happens.

P.P.S. I almost forgot to tell you. I have stopped using the walker and I am now walking with a cane! I’ve been using the cane since the beginning of the month and I feel great. The change is very freeing, I can move much better and navigate places I couldn’t go while using the walker. YAY!

The view from the den window
An update on the hair front

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One Thing and Another

I’m back! Sorry it’s been so long between posts. I try to write once every week, but recently I have just been so busy. Between doctor’s appointments, going to school, physical therapy and homework, I am just going, going, going. It is nice to be back to doing more normal things, but sometimes a girl needs a breather. This week I will get just that. Tomorrow I leave for my trip to sunny Orlando. We will be spending three days at Disney, one day at Universal (home of the Wizarding world of Harry Potter theme park) and one day at Sea World. I can hardly wait! It will be so nice to have a relaxing week hanging out with kids like me in the warmth of the Florida sun.

This past week has been a parade of wonderfulness. Until recently, I have been experiencing major theater withdrawals. Sunday, I got my fix. My family went to see Seussical, put on by the Northwest Savoyards, the theater group I usually work with. The show was fantastic, a perfect combination of a phenomenal cast and wonderful sets and costumes all underscored with great music to the stories of Dr. Seuss. If you have a chance, try to go see it. There are shows October 31 and November 5, 6, 7. To buy tickets visit: http://www.everetttheatre.org/ I know about half the cast and it was wonderful to get hugs from everybody.

Wednesday was another great day, the one year anniversary of my initial MRI and admittance to Children’s. The whole day was a marvelous celebration of life, because here I am a mere year after my diagnosis and I am done with treatment, cancer free, and moving on with life. I celebrated it like a birthday. My magnificent friend Megan made me a cake, got me balloons and wore a shirt she made that said “Smiles Killed Cancer.”

On Friday Megan and I revived our Halloween costumes from eighth grade, Thing 1 and Thing 2. Friday night, I was back at Seussical, though this time I was backstage (yes, I kept my Thing 2 costume from earlier on). I watched the entire show from my usual viewpoint and chatted with my theater friends. The whole time my insides were overflowing with the joy, happiness and the felling that I belonged. I was home. Hopefully I will be able to work on the spring show, Hello Dolly.
Today Mom, Dad, B and I are going to a costume party at a family friend’s house. I will be Thing 2 (I have a Thing 1 stuffed animal), Dad is going is as the Cat in the Hat, Brandon is going as a pencil and Mom will be The Scrabbler. That’s right, the Scrabble playing superhero.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Mischief Managed,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hard to Believe

It's hard to believe that this picture was taken about a year ago. About a year ago when my life was plagued by excruciating headaches paired with vomiting. A year ago when I had thick curly hair. A year ago when everything seemed to be going as it should. A year ago...

Life's so different now, in ways I could never have expected back then. My long brown curls have been replaced with hats and scarves and tiny new hairs. The freedom to move, run, hop, skip, jump and dance around has been cut back to a slow limp. My extensive plan for the future is now a plan for how to get through each day.

I am so different than the girl in that picture. I now live my life for me, not for my amplified version of what I thought others expected. I know who my true best friend is. I know who I want to surround myself with. I am wiser, stronger, braver. I'm a survivor.

I am the same too. I am still silly and goofy and gawky. I still love peppermint ice cream and sloppy joe's (not together.) I still love math and music and books. I am still positive, smiley, and giggly. I am still me, I just have a new perspective on life and what's important.

I wouldn't trade the past year for anything in the world. I'll be the first one to say that cancer sucks. But in its own way, cancer is a gift. It has given me in a year what can take people their whole lives to figure out. It has taught me that I can get through anything. It has shown me that positivity and hope and love are more powerful than anything.

Here I am one year later. Different and the same. Happy to be alive.
Mischief Managed,

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Can't Wait 'til Next Year!!!

Today was the 2nd Annual Run of Hope benefiting Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund There were 1,700 people participating in this year's 5K run/ 3K walk and $200,000 was raised for vital research. It was an amazing experience meeting other families, hearing their stories and connecting with their journeys. I also got to see my medical team. It was fun to see them out of the hospital and cheer them on as they crossed the finish line. (Their team is called Joggin' for the Noggin)
Because of my knee and Mom's foot, we weren't able to walk, so we volunteered instead. We helped run the kid fun table before the event. It was a blast: handing out cookies, blowing off rocket balloons, applying temporary tattoos and watching kids chase bubbles. I can't wait for next year when I will be out there walking!
My team, Sammy's Blob Slayers, raised $1,300. Brandon and Dad were the walkers for our team. Next year I want to have a super big amazing awesome team of blob slayers! This year's largest team was 250 people who collectively raised $50,000.
Thank you everyone who donated to this event and the brain cancer walk I participated in in June. Every dollar helps to support life saving research.
Mischief Managed,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The End of The End of The End

Finishing chemo was the end.
A clean MRI was the end of the end.
Yesterday, I got my port-a-cath removed and that was the end, of the end, of the end. The procedure lasted about half an hour and had no complications except for delays in start time. Our check-in time was 12:30, my operation didn't start until 3:00 pm. I am a little sore but am so happy to finally reach the real end of all of this; almost 11 months to the day that I was diagnosed.

I am very grateful to be cured, but many children are not so lucky. There is still so much research to be done when it comes to pediatric brain cancer. On Sunday October 3rd my family is participating in the 2010 Run of Hope benefiting pediatric brain cancer research at Seattle Children's Hospital. They gave me my life back and I want to be able to give something back by supporting the latest research. I know many of you have already donated to The Seattle Brain Cancer Walk that we participated in back in June. I am very grateful for your support. Please do not feel obligated to donate again. If you are interested in donating to the 2010 Run of Hope please click on the link below to pay by credit card only.


If you would like to make a donation by check, please send it to the following address and specify that it goes to my team "Sammy's Blob Slayers".

Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund
PO Box 9784
Seattle, WA 98109

Thank you all once again for your continued support.

Mischief Managed,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I have eybrows!!!

You read that right, I officially have eyebrows. It's yet another step down the road to normalville.

Today has been a particularly good day. I switched from regular Biology to Honors Biology. There was a tech meeting for my school's upcoming play and I am running the sound board. Both Michael Franti and Maroon 5's new albums were released today and to top it off, today is the season premiere of GLEE!

Sunday we went to the Train concert at Marymoor park. It was a gorgeous night and an amazing concert. Train is my favorite band and it was definitely the best concert that I have ever been to.

Mischief Managed,

P.S. Here is a picture I took for my photography class last week. What do you think?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Exhausted but Content

Who knew school could be so physically exhausting. Even though I came home completely worn out everyday this week I am so proud that I made it through . Being back at school has been a dream. Walking into the theater room felt like I had made it home. Seeing familiar faces. Talking about things completely unrelated to anything medical. Finally I am doing what kids my age are supposed to be doing.

Hopefully this week will be a little bit easier. With the promise of increasing homework I am hoping that I'll be less tired when I get home. Hopefully each day my leg will swell and hurt less. But in the words of the Beatles "It's getting better all the ti-iii-iii-iii-me!"

This week I have also seen how wonderful the Seattle community is. During my June chemo cycle I had a roommate who was just being diagnosed. His name is John (AKA Little John), he is a three year-old from Montana. His family has been staying at the Ronald McDonald house and this week their truck was stolen from the outside of the building. The media coverage of the event has born an enormous amount of support from the community.

Visit John's caringbridge: www.caringbridge.org/visit/johnhartle

If you are wondering about the background change on my blog, I am going gold all September long for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Mischief Managed,


Countdown to GLEE: 10 days

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lots to talk about this Labor Day

Wow, I have a lot to tell you about today. I'll start off by saying, i hope you enjoying your labor Day, even if it's overcast. Honestly, what else can we Northwesterners expect? Summer here begins and ends with overcast skies when everyone's trying to have a BBQ (Fourth of July to Labor Day.)

My weekend was very exciting. It started off with some really great news that I will share with you later. We stayed down in Seattle this weekend. Saturday we went on the very popular Ride the Ducks tour of Seattle on both land and water. It was very funny and I would definitely recommend it. You would have to try really hard to not have fun on this tour.

Sunday we went to the Mariners game vs. the Cleveland Indians. Back in June when we participated in the Brain Cancer Walk, I chose the tickets out of the many prizes that had been donated for the patients/survivors to choose from. These weren't just ordinary tickets. They were two Diamond Club tickets to the game of our choice. When looking at the prize options I decided I wanted baseball tickets because I love going to games and hadn't been to one in a very long time. My best friend Megan was helping me choose a prize and when her eyes landed on the envelope that read "Diamond Club," she looked at me and said "Do you know what that means?"

To be honest I really did not know, I figured it was something special but I never imagined anything close to what it turned out to be. Our seats were right behind home plate on the left field side. We could order food from our seats and it was brought to us in no time at all, or we could stay in the clubhouse. Everything was handled for us. As the man who showed us how the Diamond Club worked said "it is baseball heaven." Then to top it off the Mariners won and if you know Seattle sports, you know that's a big deal.

Now to the really great news. A few months ago I decided to change my Make A Wish. I decided that I wanted my wish to be more personal and unique. Something I would never be able to accomplish on my own. A true wish not an "I want to". So I changed my wish to this: I wish to go to New York and be backstage during a performance of Lion King on Broadway. Unlike my original wish, my new wish was in the hands of other people. I was starting to get a little anxious that we hadn't heard anything. The great news I got Friday night when I returned home from the first high school football game of the season was that my wish had been approved. We don't have anymore details yet, but they will be coming soon.

That's not all, there's more. Around the time that I changed my wish, I was invited to go on a trip with three other teenage patients from Seattle Children's to Orlando. The trip is run through a group called The Sunshine Kids. The group organizes trips and events for kids with cancer. The trip I am going on will bring teenage cancer patients from all over the country together for a week of fun in the sun. We'll be visiting the amusement parks in Orlando ; Disney, Universal, Sea World, etc. So, my original wish will be granted as well. But, to me the real treat will be getting to be around people who have had similar experiences. Since the beginning of my treatment I have wanted that. The trip will be October 31 to November 6.

I guess I rubbed a magic lamp because somehow I got three wishes.

Mischief Managed,

School starts in 2 days!

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to...

I just wanted to let you all know how this blog is different than the Caringbridge journal.

I plan to write once or twice a week just like I did with Caringbridge but, you can no longer get an e-mail whenever I add a new post; you just have to check in periodically.

One of my favorite parts of Caringbridge was reading your messages. To leave a note on the blog just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of a post.

Hope that helps. Have a fantastic Labor day weekend!!!!!

Mischief managed,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Beginning

Welcome to my new blog. As you know, over the past year I have fought cancer and flesh-eating disease. Now the fight is over and I came out on top. As my brother so appropriately said: "It's like someone hit pause for nine months and they finally hit play."

I plan to write at least once or twice a week and am so excited to share my journey back to a regular life with all of you.

Mischief Managed,

Days 'til school: 6