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Archive for March, 2012

Life this past year has definitely had it’s highs and lows for each of us as a family. Reflecting back, we’ve spent so many months in isolation. And, we do it because it is the “right” thing to do, but that doesn’t take away the emotions and the feelings of loss and missing out.

 No one has felt this more than Gabriel. And, frankly, quite often I think Chet and I have no concept how hard it has been on him. Gabriel has been such a trooper and just tolerated everything so well, we just don’t fully comprehend the hardship on him. He’s one tough kid, emotionally and physically.

 But, there are just things that happen that give you an little insight into his mind and heart. And, well, this is just one of them.

 

 Wow. All I can say is that it made me cry. And well, made Chet mushy too (don’t let him know I said that).

 Our crawfish boil is an annual event with friends and family from all around. And, well, this year we just couldn’t do it. Gabe’s counts were too low, we were too financially strapped, and emotionally, we were just too drained. Little did we realize how much that annual event, which normally also has a bit of a birthday celebration for Gabriel built in, meant to Gabriel.

 Honestly, quite often I’ve felt guilty that we have so often combined Gabe’s birthday with the Crawfish Boil. The timing each year just works out that way. But, it seems like it has been a good thing.

 Gabe’s counts finally came back up. He went back to school yesterday. The bummer is that Friday we head back down to Oakland for a five day hospital admission. So, he’ll be out of school again for a few days.

 That’s tough. He’s missing his class musical. He was going to get a part in it, but he’s missed so much school due to cancer that they had to give the part to another little boy. He’s been okay with it, but I know deep down it has to be disappointing. How can I take that away? I can’t. But, hopefully, the time out of school will get less and less. We’re all ready for that.

 But, this past weekend, Gabriel, Rebeka and I got out for a nice 3 hour tour. No, we didn’t end up shipwrecked anywhere, even though we were close to water. But, we did get about 2.5 miles of hiking in and had a good time.

 We hike on the Deadman Gulch trail in the Washoe Lake State Park. It was a whole lot of fun and I’m so grateful that we’re able to get out and do fun things together and not be stuck isolated at home.

Here’s Gabe looking out a big hole in a fallen tree at the trailhead.

Rebeka was anxious to get going and was impatient to get hiking.

Rebeka was beside herself to get into the water.  See how white her shoes were.  “Were” being the operative word – I failed to get an after photo.

Gabe enjoyed a water stop while waiting for his sister to catch up to us climbing the hill.

Not a bad view or a bad climb.

After taking a long and round about walk up to the lookout, this was the best picture I could get of the two of them.  What is it about getting two siblings to look at you and smile at the same time?

Rebeka was super excited about her backpack.  And she got many compliments on it from others while we were out on the hike.  I think it’s just adorable.

And here was one of the final photo opportunities before the battery was spent.  A great cut-out / exploratory mine out on the trail.

Stay tuned.  Next hike T.B.D.

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Where do I start? It’s been way too long, and I’ve meant to come and update so many times, but my heart hasn’t been able to put my focus to actually sitting down and writing an update.

I think I really last gave an update as we entered maintenance. And with that, I had high hopes of a smooth road of bliss and a normal life. Well, that’s been partly happening. But, there has been so much more occurring in our lives, not just cancer, and a lot of it resulted in a lot of stress and not so positive happy feelings in me. And, because of that, I just didn’t have the heart to write it out.

One thing I’ve learned over this past year is that it is one thing to write about the stress associated with watching your child go through a diagnosis of cancer and the resulting treatment. For me, writing and sharing about that was comforting and healing. I was able to face the emotions, fears, anxiety and other feelings and basically talk myself through them while sharing our journey.

Unfortunately, I’m not as comfortable sharing about the other stress inducing experiences in our life, and 2011 was packed full of them. As in the words of the old Morton Salt advertisements, “When it Rains it Pours.” And, that has been the last year for all of us.

Right about the time Gabe started maintenance, other factors outside of cancer resulted in a very dramatic increase in my stress level. I was just plain frazzled. And, unfortunately, these stresses continued for several months. And new things were thrown into the mix, including getting laid off from my job at the end of the year.

Whew, what a year – right? Started with a bang and ended with one.

Fortunately, the people I worked for were amazingly gracious to me and truly the economy just finally hit and like millions of other people in this country, I became one of the statistics.

Really, how do you talk about that? For me, I couldn’t, not particularly when I was in the depths of the emotions and everything else. And because of all the stress associated with that, along with other things happening in our lives, I just didn’t have it in me to keep my chin up and look at the bright side.

I was fighting depression and felt for many months that I didn’t have a whole lot else in me to keep on the good fight. I was beyond exhausted, beyond frustrated, beyond exasperated. As I said to a close friend, I was at the end of my rope desperately clinging to the knot at the end praying that I didn’t loose what little grip I had left.

But, in life, all things pass. I started to feel better and get over the despondent emotions and began to pull up my big girl panties and move on. And, just as deep in my heart I knew, as soon as I was ready to emotionally move on, things would develop. When one door closes, God, in his own time, opens another – and at the end of February I started a new job as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Nevada.

So, when you’re down, feeling awful there really isn’t a lot inspiring to even frank to talk about.  That’s just not the kind of person I am.  I try not to whine too much about life.

I’m sorry I haven’t been updating, but there’s a little bit why.

Okay, that’s more than enough about me. Let’s talk about the stuff that this blog is really all about – our family!

Gabriel is doing great! We had the hospital admission over Halloween, which sucked. Really sucked. Poor kid came off of a 5 day admission for Nelarabine in Oakland only to come down with a fever. Much to our surprise, his ANC was crazy low and stayed crazy low for the entire time we were in the hospital – 11 days. And, all that was due to a sinus infection. Yes, a simple run of the mill sinus infection.

But, those days in the hospital, I sewed his Halloween costume and while he missed trick or treating this year and all the fun festivities, he did get an awesome costume.

And even after 11 days in the hospital, we got sent home with quite a nifty set up for continuing to give Gabriel some heavy duty antibiotics.

But, slowly his body recovered and he was able to go back to school.

Yes, finally, we are starting to be more NORMAL! Yes, there is a normal life during cancer treatment! It just takes a very long time and also requires a bit of redefining of “normal” for our family.

Gabe’s been participating in Cub Scouts and has almost completed all the requirements for his Wolf badge. He’s going to school, having fun with friends and even got to go on a field trip a while back. WOW!

But, in treatment, there’s still adventures; ups, downs, and the like. We had another hospital stay right before Christmas. That was pretty emotional, as it was my biggest fear that we’d spend another Christmas in the hospital. Again, Gabe missed out on the school Christmas festivities, which really bummed him out. But, due to the incredible compassion and advocacy of our treating doctors (who are all A-M-A-Z-I-N-G), Gabriel was discharged on Christmas Eve and we got to spend Christmas at home, albeit it was with incredibly low counts but he was home and that was all that mattered to us.

We also got to have our first legitimate family vacation over MLK weekend. It had been more than a year and half since we had been able to go out of town – all four of us – and just have a great family holiday. It was fantastic! We loaded up the camper and headed north to the Modoc National Forest and went obsidian mining! Seriously, it was awesome. We came home with more obsidian than I can shake a stick at (several hundred pounds worth) and we’ve got grand plans for our next adventure up to the Modoc for more mining and exploring.

On the drive up to the Modoc.

The weekend was truly and adventure, filled with tree chopping, digging, cuts, blood, and exploration.

A perfect Fairbank Family vacation.

And who can miss Rebeka’s 3rd birthday.  It was a blast.

We were able to get out of town for an impromptu camping trip again a few weeks back.  We visiting Indian Grinding Rock State Park and just had a great time as a family.  It feels so good to be kind of normal, even if it only comes in waves.

Gabriel was also a guest speaker during the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation’s Elevate Life Campaign.  Gabriel and I were interviewed by Dan Mason on KKOH here in town.  What a cool experience to be able to share with people in our community a little about our journey and to support the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation’s fundraising efforts.

And a few weeks back Gabriel’s Cub Scout Pack did a community service project to reseed part of the area burned in the Washoe Drive Fire in January.  The Pack went out to Little Washoe Lake and spread seed over about two acres.  And, the pack got a bit of press, and Gabriel’s picture made the front page of the newspaper!

Probably the most difficult part about this phase of treatment is that Gabriel no longer looks and acts like a sick kid (not that he’s often really looked that bad). But, it’s easy for people to forget that he’s still undergoing treatment. We’ve still got a very long road ahead of us.

For example, last week, despite all efforts to work out his oral chemo, we’re still on a roller coaster ride.  Gabe’s counts dropped below 750, and they stopped his oral chemotherapy to hopefully avoid ending back up in the hospital with an infection and zero immune system.  But, we’re about 6 months into maintenance and we’re still trying to work out those ups and downs.  Dialing in the oral chemo is a huge challenge for everyone, the doctors, us and Gabriel.

And, even though Gabe doesn’t look or act sick, he’s still in a cancer kid.  The Cub Scout Pack had their pinewood derby, and even though Gabe’s counts were low, we let him go anyway.  He had to wear his mask, but he got to go.  And, his Den won Fastest Den!  How cool is that. 

Granted, the journey is getting easier by the day, but there’s still more than two years of treatment left, and that’s just still a long time. And, Gabe’s still going through a ton, emotionally and physically. But, he’s adapting to being back in school. He’s re-learning important social skills, and he’s got an incredible relationship with his sister, which I can only pray will continue throughout their lives.

So, there’s a quick update of the past several months. I’m not going to be such a stranger any longer. I’m out of my funk and there’s awesome things to share with everyone about my incredible and amazing family.

And, here’s a parting shot of Little Miss Fiesty.  She’s definitely gotten the short end of the attention stick this past year, but she’s a great kid and we sure love her to death too.

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