Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Business As Usual


My philosophy of not using up good luck on smooth sailing through scan day worked again yesterday (I'm starting to re-think this a little, given the magnitude of the unpleasantness of our afternoon.  We had a continual string of bad luck from the drive to Houston and beyond, which included sorry weather, construction, and so many delays once we got to the hospital that we didn't even get to see Dr. Russell before she left for the day).  When she called this morning with nothing but positive news about Erin's scans, I wasn't surprised.  The bone scan was normal, and the CT scan was stable or perhaps even improved.  Erin did have some gunky stuff in her lungs (evidence that she caught a bad cold last week when we visited The Germiest Place in the World).  We have signed up for another couple of rounds of oral etoposide and will scan again in late July (so we can get that done without having to miss school).

Thanks for checking in with us, for holding us up while we waited for scan results, and for celebrating with us over the good news.  I'm going to take Erin to the pediatrician tomorrow and hopefully he will prescribe a Z-Pak (antibiotics) to take care of her lung gunk.  Otherwise, it's business as usual.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Erin Reports on Disney


We made it back to the Microplex last night in time to hit the sack in preparation for an early call this morning.  Davis graduated at 9:00 (in the A.M.), so the seat savers had to start saving seats by 8:00.  I can't possibly be old enough to have a college-bound high school graduate, but all the folks sitting around me looked pretty ancient cheering their high school seniors across the stage.   We made a date with Davis to do this again in four years, with built-in incentives for early completion (remember, in the college tuition world TIME IS MONEY).  Davis had a great attitude about the whole thing.  He wasn't too sentimental or morose over leaving buddies behind.  He took it as intended, as a commencement.  I think we will all follow suit and start our lives anew this morning.

I read in USA Today yesterday that more people choose Disney World, Orlando for their vacation destination than anywhere else in the country.  We, along with about one million other folks per day, can attest to that.  On the trip home, I told Erin that I would turn the website over to her, so she could tell you about our week at Disney.  Here's her story in her own words in purple (with my smarmy comments in their usual color and font):

Being up at 4:00 is hard enough, but when you have to be up at 4:00 to drive to the airport by 5:00 and your jet takes off at 6:00, you're kinda tired.  Well...that is what we did.  I got the window seat on the flight to Houston.  Nico got it on the flight to Orlando.  We arrived smoothly, although we had a little trouble finding the bus (you'd think that wouldn't be too difficult, seeing how big they are, but somehow, if you are looking for a bus with 20,000 of your closest friends the buses tend to get lost in the shuffle).  Check in was fine.  By then we were starving (not an overstatement), so we ate some flat bread pizza and took a look at our villa.  After that it was "parks here we come."  

We went to Animal Kingdom first.  We went to Dinoland while mother got the golden ticket situation under control (this is where I presented the doctor's note which turned into a Guest Assist Pass for us to flash at rides, etc. so we could avoid lines as much as possible.  This ragged piece of paper is my one and only sourvenir from the trip, because it reminds me of how much more fun everything is if your patience isn't continuously tested by how long you are willing to wait to have said fun).  We saw a life-sized model of the world's most complete t-rex.  It was a girl, but I don't remember her name.  Mom found us after that, and we went on a spinning roller coster for kids called the Time Machine.  Then we started walking to one of the Animal Kingdom lands, looking for something interesting.  We found, after a few walks around and a few rides, the best ride (in my opinion) Mount Everest.  You go backwards on this and down really fast. 

Those were the two hits for Animal Kingdom (Time Machine and Mount Everest).  We did a lot more, but it is too much to put down and fit.  We went to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.  The line was long, so we sat at the bar (guess whose idea this was?).  I had cocoanut shrimp which was pretty good.  We went home, and I was the first to bed.

Well, we slept pretty good that night conisdering that Nico hogged the covers, and I nearly pushed him off the bed in my sleep.  We woke up, had a bit of cereal and toast, and got ready to go to the Magic Kingdom.  We got there and went straight to the Haunted Mansion.  I had ridden this at Disneyland and thought we should start with one that we knew was fun.  After that we learned that many of the rides we were looking forward to (Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain were closed for the moment), so we went on other rides.  I think that Nico's favorite spot was Tomorrowland.  He like the race cars and Space Mountain.  You can drive your own race car on a track and you can feel what it's like.  I wasn't really big enough to push the gas and steer without being uncomfortable, but I loved Space Mountain as much as Nico did.  It's a ride that has many turns and not too many downs.  Its all inside and mostly dark.  We tried to end the day with one final ride on Space Mountain, but it shut down while we were in line.  That made us late to the parade and we didn't get very good seats.  Mom and dad had choice seats but we couldn't get to them.  We went home, and again I was first to bed.

We slept in a little bit on Wednesday because we were going to a water park and it didn't open so early.  We got our bathing suits on and headed out.  We went into the wave pool as soon as we got there and that was our first big mistake.  Mom had one rule at the water park:  we had to stick together.  Davis, Nico, and I went out into the water while mom got situated.  Nico was braver and pressing forward, I was lagging a little.  We broke the only rule.  Nico got hit by the wave and lost his footing and had to be rescued by a lifeguard.  He was more careful after that, especially because they closed down the wave maker for about twenty minutes after it happened.  We went on some slides next:  three curvy ones and three that went straight down four stories.  After that we ate our picnic, then did the tube rides.  Davis had enough and took off for a nap.  We rode the water roller coaster and the slides again before heading back to our villa.

We took a little rest and went to Epcot for the evening.  We entered by the big golf ball.  We looked at some of the inventions and games, but kept walking towards our dinner restaurant.  Mom and I got sidetracked down the butterfly exhibit, but made it to the Chinese Restuarant in time.  After the Chinese restaurant where I had soup and sesame chicken, we went to Norway, rode the Viking ride, and watched the show.  We wondered around some more and stopped for a longer stay in Japan where we made masks.  We caught up with Davis and dad in time for the big fireworks show.  By squeezing in between some people's legs we were able to see a magnificent fireworks presentation.  We went home and zonked out.

The next day was our last day in the parks.  We went back to the Magic Kingdom and rode every ride there.  We didn't watch ANY SHOWS.  While we were riding It's A Small World, Nico and I turned into fourth graders.  We celebrated afterwards with ice cream (for me and mom) and a popsicle (for Nico).  We rode Space Mountain three more times, and mom even rode it twice.  We went home and zonked out. 

Friday we had to get up early to have our suitcases ready.  It took all day to get home.

Well, that pretty much covers it.  Except the part that Walter and Davis take a slow start to the day everyday, work out in the spa and fitness center, stroll across the canal to Downtown Disney for a civilized lunch, and join us later for the evening activities.  It didn't bother me a bit.  I had my coffee and chocolate chip cookie every morning.  That's the good life.  It's a perfect vacation where everyone gets to do what they want.  The amazing thing about this vacation is the generosity that begat it.  I do not know who treated us to this getwaway, which is great.  It means that I can look in each person's face at church and believe that it could be that person who loved us enough to give us this treat.  You would be amazed at how different it feels when you assume the very best about every single person you meet.

Tuesday we will get back to the grind.  Davis has wrangled himself two pretty decent part time jobs (one working at a forestry experiment, the other in a pathology lab at the med school).  Summer school starts for me bright and early Tuesday morning, and of course Walter faces a hip-high mound of paper work as soon as he darkens the door of his office.   As soon as class is over on Tuesday, I'll grab Erin and make a run to Houston for Erin's quarterly scans and a clinic appointment.  I will post results when I hear them, but with the Memorial Day holiday, Tuesday is likely to be swamped down.  We're hoping for stable or improved.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Full Speed Ahead


The count down has begun.  In six days, seventeen hours we will leave for the airport and head out on big adventure.  We'll leave the drudgery behind.  We won't think about summer school which rears its ugly head a mere week later.  We'll chuck the chores and can the commitments.  We won't do wash for a week.  Yep.  That's the way it's going to be, if. . .

  • if Davis can work out the details of exempting finals (apparently missed finals count as absences that affect his exemption from the finals that he will be exempt from but missing?)
  • if Erin can shake the virus that hit last week (keeping her home from school on Monday and Tuesday and setting off a flaming ear infection by Thursday afternoon.  Can you say high dose antibiotics?)
  • if the dogs pose no more unexpected health challenges (what kind of sick-humored vet ordains that even though you live on a lake, you must keep your two lab-mix dogs dry, ALL THE TIME.  Talk about a Herculean task.  I think I'd rather clean the Augean stalls.)
  • if I can get enough clothes clean and dry, given that I no longer have a functioning dryer
  • if I can get my summer school course material in a presentable form
Oh well, no telling what delinquency I'd have my nose in if I didn't have something to keep me busy.  You know what they say about idle hands (although, I think I might like to try the devil's workshop just once).

The last week has flown by.  Softball season wrapped up (at least for Erin who will miss rainout make-ups next week).  Davis knocked off three AP tests and feels like they all went very well.  I plowed through my stacks of finals and got grades turned in without too much sweat.  Walter continued to attend meetings at a heady clip.  Add in the care and maintenance of a toddler and someone just released from a hospital stay, and you just about have par for the course at our house.

Seriously, Erin enjoyed nursing Aunt Kat (if watching movies and working sudoku puzzles really constitute nursing) and thought having a little sister in the house was the grandest.  Kat got stronger under her capable care and got back home on Saturday in time to be pampered for Mother's Day.  It rained again this year for Mother's Day here, which canceled my soccer (bummer), but let us all move at a more leisurely pace.  The children's choir sang at worship on Sunday morning, but I didn't use good judgment in choosing my seat and could only catch glimpses of my precious daughter.  Davis put the icing on the cake by highlighting bunches of my favorite songs during Beyond Guitar.  Who needs an ipod when the local deejay plays just what you want?

Remember to think of us on May 30 when we return to Houston for scans (CT and bone scan).  I am not nearly as panicked as I was headed into scans three months ago, probably because Erin is continuing a known treatment rather than switching things around.  Nevertheless, I am going to cross my fingers and push my thumbs for clear or stable scans, and we ask you to do the same. 

I wish Erin hadn't taken sick last week, but no one promises that cancer children get to forego normal childhood illnesses.  She is feeling better now, still sniffly and not completely up to par, but on the road to recovery.  I know it won't hold her back from enjoying Disney to the fullest.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Happy Cinco de Mayo


Happy Cinco de Mayo.  For the first time since Erin was diagnosed in 2002, we are home on the fifth of May!  And what fine kettle of fish have the Buengers gotten themselves into lately?  Well, even when left to their own devices, they have not produced trouble to any great extent.  Relay for Life had an early ending last Friday because of the incoming thunder and lightning storm, leaving Erin with only 21 (five and a quarter miles) laps under her belt.  Her school’s team raised over $6000 (obviously, can recycling wasn’t the only fundraiser.  I heard that a couple of teachers raised $400 with a rousing evening of chicken-poop bingo.  For you city slickers, this is a game of chance where intrepid betters attempt to predict where a hen contained in a raised wire cage will drop her next load, so to speak.  As the nation’s interest in Texas Hold ‘Em wanes, look for Texas Chicken-Poop Bingo to show up on ESPN2.  The concepts of waiting for The River and staying in for the Flop will take on whole new meaning.)    

Clinic on Monday went well.  I hadn’t realized when I set up the appointment that BISD had scheduled a teachers’ work day for Monday.  Since nobody but Walter had class, we practiced for summer vacation.  For me, this meant having a warm chocolate chip cookie with my morning coffee.  For Erin, it meant a trip to the local pool before heading to Houston.  For Davis, it meant he could go to work (oops, that doesn’t sound like so much fun).  Erin’s counts were strong, and her doctor gave her the okay for another round of etoposide with the hopes that this easy-to-handle drug will keep Erin’s neuroblastoma dormant (indolent, lackadaisical, inactive, quiescent, etc.) for a long, long time.  So I guess our revised mantra is 

Shrink, Shrink, Shrink
Die, Die, Die
Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

(Definitely not as blood curdling or satisfying to shout as the original)

Word must have gotten out that Walter liked committee meetings and needed more of them.  Last week, the church nominating committee tapped him (and several other poor souls who didn’t hide quickly enough) for the Pastor Nominating Committee.  Seriously, choosing a new pastor is very important, and we feel grateful that Erin’s health is good enough for Walter to feel comfortable taking on such a big commitment and that we can, in a small way, return something back to the church community that has lifted us up so many times during our journey.  

Wednesday brought my sister Kat and my niece Emma back to town.  Kat had sudden onset pneumonia last weekend, and we plan on taking good care of her and spoiling Emma until she recuperates.  Erin gets her wish to have a baby sister the easy way (no nine-month delay).  Davis adds another listener to his radio audience.  Walter has an excuse for buying that 12-pack of Michelob on sale at Albertson’s.  And me?  I just get my baby sister to torment.  Remember, I’m the big sister, and there is nothing she can do to change that.

Some third graders I know (code-named Erin and Nico) have begun to get excited about the upcoming foray into the Magical Kingdom.  Little do they know that Erin’s doctor has performed the ultimate magic before we have even left town.  She provided us with a letter, explaining to the folks at Disney that Erin really needed to avoid the germiest parts of the park.  I understand this means that we will soon become the ultimate line breakers, moving to the front of the line without waiting our turn.  Aack!  What does this teach our children about fairness and equity?  Maybe the same thing that being targeted by cancer in the first place teaches them.  Not everything is fair and equitable.

What’s coming up?  Willie is scheduled to lose his manhood next Thursday and will, no doubt, need pampering.  Davis’s intramural basketball team remains undefeated and is on a collision course with the other unbeaten team.  He pulled down twelve rebounds and scored two points this morning.  A little unbalanced, don’t you think?  I’ll remind him at dinner tonight that he needs to brush up on the defensive end of the court.  That ought to go over well.  Erin will return to clinic the May 30, the Monday after our Disney trip, for a CT scan and bone scan, plus a consult with the doctor.  Until then, we will wind down the school year.  I’m going to practice this evening, by sitting on the dock and watching the snapping turtles glide by.