Reality check

reality-check.jpg

I am not an optimist. Never have been. At times during this cancer journey I thought my cancer was retreating. A scan usually (always) proved me wrong. And regardless of prayer and hope or expectation I am looking at the cold hard truth of my situation. My cancer has spread to nearly all my organs. It is extensive through my spine and pelvis. The most daunting are the lymph nodes in my neck which now resemble tennis balls. They have grown into my jaw and face and cause me great discomfort at the base of my head.People who know little about “cancer” tell me I look good and will beat it or live a lot longer. Doctors do not. I do not. Actually, I am now in so much daily pain that I hope I do not linger for a long time. I love my husband ,children and friends ….I would love to be here forever for them…but not like this.

I say that knowing that when I returned from the hospital I had an evening of game playing with the kids and an array of close friends who came to visit in short bursts. I say that knowing I spent time cuddling with Kelly until late in the evening. I say that knowing I can no longer be alone in the house..ever again. Not even with the kids. My cancer in my neck is beginning to make deep breaths a challenge. Swallowing too. Hospice told Naomi and I that in these head and neck situations the tumors sometimes grow into the major arteries and will cause internal bleeding. I signed an advanced directive. I am going to try a couple more rounds of chemo for kicks I guess, and then if there is no improvement I will enter hospice “full time”. I am still happy. Everyone else is sad. I am just in pain. And I have tried almost everything they have folks. Except maybe crack…I heard crack is good.

No I am not an optimist. I am realist. And reality is just fine with me. Today is the day of my twins’ 8th grade graduation. They each have won several awards of academic merit. I know I will cry. In the fall both boys will attend St. Joesph’s Prepatory Academy (the Prep) on full scholarship. I am so totally proud of them. Afterwards we will go to lunch as we have always done at my old work, Tattooed Mom’s. A family tradition. It is a wonderful day. We also found out that our daughter Bailey was accepted to Penn Charter with a full scholarship. She will start there in the fall. Tomorrow is Alec’s high school graduation. He too has won academic merit awards. He will attend Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall. It is the #5 engineering school in the country, according to Alec. He will major in mechanical engineering with a biomedical option. I am so proud of all these achievements. Who needs optimism? My cancer motivated me to find safe places for my children. My realistic nature let me be honest with them, myself and others and ask for help. And it reminded me to stay in the moment and not worry about what might be around the corner. The future is a bogeyman to all you anxious types. I am a realist I only live for today the future is fine on its own.

My today is not perfect or cancer free.But is a good day nonetheless. I have no idea how many more I have, and that is fine too. I think the biggest fear at this stage is suffering. Physical pain kind of suffering. We all want to go out quick and painless, no? We shall see. I am no optimist though….but not an anxious type either…it will be as it is meant to be. Today is a fine day. I am here.

55 Responses to “Reality check”

  1. Juanita says:

    And that you are here today is indeed a gift, to your family, and to me, someone who you’ve never ever met. You have all become very dear to me, and being a realist as well, the reality is that you’ve made an enormous difference in this world, and will continue to do so.

  2. Michelle Wienke says:

    I totally agree with Juanita- you are a Blessing to so many, in addition to your own family. Your children will prosper and lead wonderful lives, they will be able and confident and those are two great gifts for anyone to leave their children!

    RIT is an awesome school-I live about an hour away-it has a great reputation, and it sounds like all of your “scholars” have landed in wonderful places that will nurture their strengths.

    Hospice will keep you pain free-they are trained to manage all of this stuff-I know that my world will be a little less bright one day without you-you have reminded me on numerous occasions that none of us knows how long we have, and I remember to hug my own two kids and tell them that I love them a bit more every day-

    You are a gift, your family is amazing, and I wish for you a peaceful and peace-filled day today!
    With love-
    Michelle

  3. toni g says:

    “the reality is that you’ve made an enormous difference in this world, and will continue to do so.”

    AMEN Juanita……in this world, in my world, in many worlds here on Earth and knowing Andrea, in her new World to come. She has left her children to us to nurture, nourish and embrace…we shall not falter Andrea.

    It’s been a pleasure my new friend whose soul shall flourish in my heart forever. Thank you for the privilege of letting me know you.

    In Friendship and With Love, Toni Alperin Goldberg

  4. The world is a better place because of you…

  5. shayna and jahna says:

    we love you so much

  6. Tina, French Creek, WV says:

    I’m glad you’re here. You’ve got some great accomplishments to celebrate with your children. Party on Proud Momma! I hate that you are in so much pain and I’ll be praying for some comfort for you. I want to tell you that I pray that a part of me will celebrate your life for the rest of mine. Gosh, this sounds like a eulogy, but here goes! In this life, we don’t often get the chance to know of someone who touches us the way you have. I can’t even begin to express to you how these months reading your posts have changed my life and my way of looking at life. I can’t help the tears, but I’ll be smiling even more because I will be happy no matter what comes – that’s what I’ve learned from an awesome chick named Andrea, the Punk Rock Mommy.

  7. Lisa White says:

    Andrea,

    I sit with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I read your latest entry. These are not tears of sadness, for I believe my sister in Christ that heaven is just waiting for you! Waiting for Andrea to open her own tattoo shop. :o) You are a brave woman who is so willing to share all you have, are experiencing and will experience in this journey. For this, so many are eternally grateful!!

    Though the time will come for you to leave, the legacy you will have left behind is mighty! God’s plan you are fulfilling to glorify Him!! I have no doubt that the first words you will hear Christ say to you is, “Well done, my faithful servant. It is now time to go home!”

    My tears are for your bravery, your selflessness, your willingness to open up your heart, your family and your life to thousands of strangers! What you have taught each of us is more valuable than any piece of gold, silver or precious jewel! Your humor has brought us laughter in times of sorrow…your insight has brought us wisdom! But most important….your faith in the Lord of Lords and acceptance of this plan, has taught us where true strength comes from. It is not found deep within us, but far above us!

    Kelly, you are a brave husband who also shares from deep within his heart! Your pain I can only read about and try to understand, but it is your words, your actions, your committment that leads me to love my husband more passionately, with my whole heart!! Making sure that he never doubts the fierce love that I have for him!!

    You both have caused many who are parents to take a step back and re-examine our relationships with our children…causing us not to take them for granted!! Helping us to realize that our lives are way too busy, and that it is the small things in this life, spent with them that make the memories!!

    Your family has softened many hearts, allowing us to see this world in a different light! Allowing us to truly feel the life that we live! You have all helped us to come to grips with the fact that we only get one go round in life on this earth, and helped many change their go round to be more productive, more loving and more worthwhile…for themselves and others!! WHAT ROLE MODELS!!!

    Although we will probably never meet here on this earth, you can bet once I get to heaven…I will be looking you up my brothers and sisters in Christ!! And heck, maybe I will get my first tattoo then!! :0)

    Loving all of you from Crawfordsville, IN

    Lisa White

  8. Linda, Palm Harbor, Florida says:

    I can’t even imagine the pain you are in Andrea. But, as always, you continue to amaze me with your outlook on living in the moment. I have learned so much from you. Your truthfullness and love always came through in your blogs. Enjoy the graduations – your children are as amazing as you! They will have such success in their future and will have wonderful memories because of YOU! May the days ahead be precious for you, your family, and friends. God bless you. You have been a blessing and the Lord will take care of you always. Love you.

  9. jenni bender says:

    i love you very much.

  10. Emo says:

    “I heard crack is good” !!! I love you Andrea, Congratulations on raising such beautiful shining children (no easy feat in this town), I’m so glad I know you and your family, Kelly has become like an older brother to me, and you like an older sister. You two have shown me the truth about what love looks like. For that I will be forever grateful, I’ll see you two soon. love – emo

  11. Alexis says:

    You are seriously one of the most badass women I know. I think, for me, the order goes 1- my grandmother, 2- my great-grandmother, 3- Andrea.

    You probably don’t remember, but I came to the Rocky vs. Hedwig show years ago and saw your kids perform. When I think of you, Andrea, I think of that night, with you making sure wigs and makeup were on right, and laughing and beautiful and happy and so passionate about the lives of your kids and about life in general.

    That’s the same person I think you are, now. I don’t think there could possibly be a day that goes by in your family and friend’s lives where they doubt the overwhelming love that you have for all of them.

    That is the most beautiful thing I can think of.

  12. deezee says:

    such powerful words. you give so much in your sharing…

  13. You have provided for your family in every possible way – what an accomplishment. Love to you.

  14. Julie says:

    Part of me (the Jewish part I think) feels guilty for not crying right now. I’m just sitting her in awe of you. Thinking about how blessed I am to know you. To have the ability to know and share your stories with those around me. That my son will grow up hearing stories about Mommy’s friend Andrea and the crazy things we did as kids.

    Your children are incredible. I’m not telling you something you don’t know but every mother loves to hear it 🙂 They are a true reflection of you and you have every right to be proud. I am so happy that you are able to share in these celebrations with them now.

    I’ll just continue to pray for a miracle for you and let Gd decide what that miracle should be.

    I love you!

  15. Larue says:

    It’s like Lisa White read my mind-I also was reading through the tears and couldn’t breathe while reading this. I am so glad I got to meet you-as brief as it was. I must admit when I saw you, I felt like I was seeing a celebrity. You have made such an impression on thousands if not millions of people and your legacy will continue because of that. I thank God that your plans for your children are set in place, that must give you the greatest comfort. They will continue to be incredible people. Kelly is the best person to be in their lives and your loved ones will continue loving them.

    I also wonder what I will do when this blog no longer continues, I’m seriously addicted.

    I look forward to getting my first tatoo from you in Heaven.
    Enjoy the special time today & tomorrow. The Lord is smiling on all of you!

  16. Amy says:

    Andrea,
    Even though we have never met…I have grown to cherish you as a person. As PUNKROCK Mommy you have given me the oppurtunity to understand my daughter (of whom is 21) and lives a punk rock philosophy. You helped me put my life into perspective and validated every thought that I too have had with living with breast cancer. With your words you have shown all who reads them how to stop and cherish the small things that life has to offer……. family, children and friends. Your legacy will live not only through your family but by all that you have touched by bringing us into your life through this journey. Know that you are loved from near and far……sending you and your family love from Lincoln,NE
    Amy Sherwood………Lincoln, NE

  17. Indiana says:

    I stumbled across you blog and I don’t even know how. I guess that just shows that God is always at work. I have read your story from beginning to end, over the past couple days, and you are an amazing woman!! I have cried, laughed, and cried some more for you. I am so amazed how honest and open you are to share your story. I am certain this is part of God’s plan… but it is not what you planned, or any of us, and that is what makes it so hard. I will pray for you, your husband, and your kids, wow 6 kids and they all sound amazing, good job!! I will also pray for peace and pain tolerance.

  18. Jill Bacon says:

    GOD BLESS YOU Andrea!! What ever may lay ahead for you, you are so strong in your faith, and that hasn’t waivered. I will continue to pray for you and your family, that HIS will be done… You have blessed my life so much through this blog, THANK YOU for opening my eyes to this gift we so often take for granted called life! You are such an inspiration.

    Please take care!

    all my love,
    Jill

  19. kristine says:

    Andrea,

    I know you are right with everything you are saying. I think I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes. I, however, am in denial. I know it is very selfish of me to not want to believe where this situation is going. Sometimes I just feel like I can’t do this without you. Just writing this makes me cry. You have been my partner in crime or I guess you could say my partner in cancer. We started at the same place. We had our surgeries just weeks apart and now I watch you making plans for the end and it hurts to much to embrace the truth. Sometimes I think that we should just Thelma and Louise it and go together!

    Just knowing you has made a huge impact on my life. I am jealous of all of your frineds that have known you for so long. I have only had you for just over a year and I probably will be the one sobbing the loudest at your funeral. I love you!

    Kristine

  20. Penny says:

    Andrea, you are a blessing to your husband, your children and this dear Earth. I hope all the days you have left are filled with contentment, peace and pain-free as possible. Thank you for sharing your spirit here at your blog. Blessings, Penny

  21. Elizabeth from West Chester says:

    Dear Andrea,
    This is an adapation of a prayer from Naomi Levy’s book ,”Talking to God.” I thought you might like it.

    “I am preparing myself for my departure from this life. Teach me not to fear. Stay with me., God; don’t leave me. I can’t bear the thought of being separated from my loved ones. I will mis this world.

    Please watch over my loved ones, God. Ease their pain, be their comfort. Protect them from harm. Grace them with all that is good. Shelter them with gentleness and love, as I would. Answer their prayers. Grant them health and strength, blessings and joy.

    May my life be a source of wisdom to my loved ones and to all those whose lives I have touched. May the love I gave remain with them always, may the lessons I have taught guide them to acts of goodness and honor and compassion. My my memory be for a blessgin.

    I don’t know what You have in store for me now, God: I don’t know what lies beyond this world. I place my body and soul in Your hands, God, and pray that You will be bside me through this next journey.” Amen.

    Andrea, thank you for the gift of sharing. Love, Elizabeth

  22. Renee Khan says:

    God, help comfort Andrea, please.

    Please please please. I’m begging you.

    Love Renee

  23. debi says:

    I am honored to be able to read your words. I cannot say it any better than has been said by all of these loving people. You are never not on my mind these days. I feel we are all like those people in Close Encounters that were drawn to the same place. God has brought us all here for a reason. I pray always for your pain to be less and your joy great. I love you.

  24. Jenni says:

    LOVE

    (and pomp and circumstance…takes on new meaning huh?)

  25. Michele says:

    Andrea,
    You don’t know me. I live in Florida. I first became aware of your blog when our local newspaper ran your story several months ago. I have followed the blog regularly since then. I feel the need to tell you how much you have blessed my life with your faith and courage. I have often wished you were closer so I could find a way to help in some small way. I know you wouldn’t have chosen this path but you have chosen to embrace each day in spite of it. I love how you always say you are happy with what you have right now. I am sure you hear this a lot but I felt the need to say it again…You have left a mark on my life. I hope to meet you in heaven someday. Michele

  26. Barb says:

    “God has brought us all here for a reason” thank you debi. I feel this very strongly. If each of us are to walk away from this blog with just a tiny little drop of all the beauty within Andrea, then we are the blessed. Thank you Andrea for your beauty and strength, honesty and wisdom and for the ability to bring total strangers into your life and teach them valuable life lessons

  27. Nikki says:

    You don’t know me, but I’ve read your entire blog and your words are such an inspiration! I’m an old punker from the 70s as well and wish that I had half your strength and determination. I am glad you are able to share in these important graduation and awards milestones with your kids–they sound amazing, just as you are. Will be keeping you in my thoughts.

  28. Bonnie says:

    Andrea, I know we haven’t know each other long and have met under horrible circumstances, but I feel truly blessed to know you. Your positive attitude and words of true wisdom seem to always help me get through my days 🙂 I didn’t really even know what a blog was until Sat. night when I asked someone to help me get to yours. (So now I know) I have been reading it from your very 1st entry. You have touched my heart and my sprit. I’m sure it’s not easy being so open and public and for that I thank you. Congratulations on all of the accomplishments of your children. They have worked so hard to be accepted to such wonderful academic schools and to receive scholarships what can I say but truly awesome!!!! Please let me know if I can do anything to help, I know you have lots of wonderful friends and family already but please let me know, whatever it is you need or want. Please know I am thinking of you often. And that you and your family are forever in my prayers. I am blessed to have met you, talked with you and Laughed with you. You have such a beautiful smile. I pray you have a wonderful day at the graduation, and another tomorrow. Peace and Love Bonnie

  29. Lisa says:

    Your website touches my heart. I went through this with my dad. One thing he did for me was to leave behind birthday cards that my mom gave me after he passed on my 16th and 18th birthday. I wish you and your family the best.

  30. ByJane says:

    I echo all who have said: Thank you, Andrea, for leading the way and being such an honest teacher. When my mother died and I sat with her in her last moments, she taught me not to be afraid of death. Now you are teaching me not to be afraid of dying. That is a gift beyond words. I will remember you to the end of my time–and that, my dear, is immortality.

  31. Doris Tritt says:

    Oh Andrea you are blessed God has given you another day. I can not believe you children have gotten so grown up. God will hold them close when He calls you Home. You are strong and you are not afraid. God is with you. Sometimes I wonder why someone else and not me. What makes God take someone young and sometimes not till they are old.

    I know we have not been in touch for a long time, but I have often thought of you before I found out you were sick. I often prayed for you.

    My heart fills with sadness for your children and husband and friends but it is filled with a bittersweet joy for you as you will soon be HOME. Doris

  32. Laurie says:

    Andrea,
    I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your story. I feel so blessed to have gotten to “know” you through this blog. You are truly an inspirational woman. I only hope that I can handle the difficulties in my life with as much grace and peace as you. May God be with you and your family in these difficult times. I will keep all of you in my prayers.
    Laurie

  33. Your courage is amazing…something I aspire to…should the need arise. That’s the most miserable aspect of our cancer…the unforseen speed at which it changes our lives. Because of you, I am more afraid. But also because of you, I am less afraid. May God always be with you, Andrea.

    With love,
    Sandi

  34. Dina Leah says:

    We surround you with our love…..We hold you in our hearts…..We give thanks for the beauty which is you…You cannot imagine how many hearts you have touched….G-d Bless You and your beautiful family. I send you calm deep breath. I send you heartfelt Blessings and Light.
    Dina Leah
    Ventura Calif

  35. deb says:

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers day and night. Thanks so much for sharing your story with the world you truely are an inspiration as a mom and a person and you have changed me deeply and I am grateful

    love and prayers always

  36. Robin Phoenixville, PA says:

    Andrea, what a beautiful person you are to be able to just be so happy and able to live in the current moment celebrating your children’s accomplishments. They will never forget the wonderful gift of love and support that you gave to them. Your openess and honesty on your blog just amazes me and touches me to the very core of my soul. You obviously have a major impact on a large number of people and that is because you are on amazing woman. I wish you peace and the comfort of crack 🙂

    Once again though I don’t know you my offer to help with anything your family may need now or in the future stands.
    Sincerely Robin

  37. leah says:

    I love you, i wish i was able to see the boys graduate today, i’m also so happy to hear about bailey getting into penn charter. i always say it, you are the best mother in the world! really, i really mean that.
    ~leah

  38. whymommy says:

    I am so proud of you and what you and your kids have accomplished. I can hear the peace in your voice, and that is wonderful.

    Peace and restful sleep to you tonight, Andrea.

  39. jeff says:

    All I can say is “thank you.” You would make one heck of a therapist. As I read this blog I was thinking of a cross between M.Scott Peck, William Glasser, and a heavy dose of that guy from Nazareth. It was good to speak with you on Saturday at the picnic. I only hope that I can parent my kids half as well as you have parented your children. Again, thanks for letting us in. We will be waiting for you in S.Philly. Congratulations to the kids on all of their achievements. I know you are one proud momma.

  40. Aja Beech says:

    As I read through all these comments I just can’t help but repeat what is fundamental to all of them:

    YOU HAVE MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!!

    It can’t be said enough.

  41. imstell says:

    You rock the Parent Dept! I’m lucky to get B to sit and read at night. What better legacy to leave the world than a half dozen intelligent, well-rounded, and empathetic little people.

    Surely the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” will be spoken to you.

  42. Sara says:

    As a dedicated reader of your blog, I have to agree with Scarlet. The world is indeed a better place because of you. And will be a better place because of the legacy you have left to your children. You are an unbelievably, incredible woman. I keep you and your family in my thoughts and my heart.

  43. Karen says:

    When I first started reading your blog I thought that it would be about dying. But it’s been about living…in love and faith. In addition to being a wonderful wife and mom, you are a great teacher. Thank you for allowing this stranger to journey with you and your family. I continue to pray for you.

  44. Dina says:

    Sending love your way. The kids are all so amazing.

  45. Nat says:

    Thank you for this. (And your kids are amazing because of you…)

  46. Sheena says:

    Peace, comfort and love. Lots of love. I have become a better person from knowing you. My life has been enriched. I adore your husband, children, friends, ex-husband, pets– basically, everyone who has come in contact with you is a cooler person for knowing you. I will carry you with me forever. I will love your family forever. I will love you forever.

  47. Jeanie says:

    My mom keept nagging me to check out your blog.She worked for DR. Ford. FOR a long time I resisted. I didn’ want to be sad, my brother had cancer. I couldn’t sleep tonight so I decided to check it out. All I can say is that I am in awe of you. You have inspired me to be a better person, mother to my 5 beautiful children, to be a stronger woman. It has inspired me to not let the little things get to me as much. The world is a better place for having had you in it. My God hold you in his hands, as we will forever hold you in our hearts.

  48. Deb says:

    46, and now 47 comments or rather messages of love from people that know you well and love you, and people that never met you and love you, too. That is amazing to me. At the risk of repeating the obvious…..you really are an incredible woman, Andrea. I sure wish I could have met you in person. I would be so proud to call you my friend.
    Deb in AZ

  49. cheryl says:

    my prayers are faltering and imperfect

    but i pray tonight you know you are held in the hand of love that will never let you go

  50. sara says:

    I love you.

  51. Leo, Sarah, Bella & Gigi Eisenstein says:

    Andrea,
    Thank you so much!!!!! I think of you everyday as I run around chasing my tail trying to keep up with my two beautiful girls and think I am over whelmed and can’t figure out how I am going to do it all – you have always amazed me and made me smile – thank you. Lots of love to you and all of your family……XOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

  52. Morgan says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading these comments as much as your words. How valuable to have opened a forum for everyone to say the good things to you now. And to have it all recorded for your family, friends (& fans) to reflect on for years to come. There is a legacy here; for many different folks and for many different reasons.
    We are all thankful and blessed. Thank you for allowing us all to share the positive energy. It’s powerful. Like you.
    Well played.

  53. Sarah says:

    Andrea we only met a few times I worked at POHA for a short while, you told me about your blog. I”ve gone on occasionally to see how you are doing, I’ve had you on my mind alot because I’ve been keeping up with your blog.
    I think you are an incredible woman.You have great strength, that many of us will never have. Iam very glad that I can say that I knew you.
    I will burn a night light that will remind me that you showed us thru all the darkness with a little light we all will find our way home. God bless you and your children and husband. Please tell your mom that she is in my prayers for only one mother to another will know the heavy heart that you carry with a child sick with cancer.
    XO

  54. Meg says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts as you continue on your journey.

    Cancer got the better of my father in 1982, when he was 42 and my sister and I were 14 and 10. I did not know much then of what was in his head as he confronted the ultimate challenge, but reading your thoughts, I suspect I may have a glimpse into his reality.

    Godspeed to you, and blessings to you and your family.

  55. And don’t forget… we’re going to take care of Jesse too. 🙂

    You’re in my thoughts… thanks for sending Jesse to us.

    — Chris