Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rose Island

While in the Bahamas, we took a catamaran snorkeling tour- a half day trip to snorkel off the coast of the wild and uninhabited Rose Island.  We could choose our adventure: Either be dropped off on the island to explore or stay on the boat to snorkel the reef.  Larissa wanted to check out the island.  Mark and Natalie wanted to snorkel. So, Larissa and myself along with a couple from Europe and a girl from Asia got off the boat...

Flying Cloud Catamaran

Waving goodbye

 Larissa and I walked along the beach, our bare feet in the sand, collecting seashells.  We snorkeled off the shore, visiting interesting fish and  finding more sea shells. Back on the island, we built a Junk Castle, using things we found along the beach.  Before we knew it- it was time to go. We left with a bag of sand and shells.
A window to the world...
A door to paradise...

Mark and Natalie took turns jumping off the boat and snorkeling.
Here are a few of the fish they met.

Beautiful, peaceful family day!

Vacation 2013

Months ago, as we started planning our family vacation, we listed all the places we dreamed of going.  We looked at our budget.  We researched flights and hotels.... We noticed each of us kept talking about how much fun we had last year.... so, we decided to go back to the Bahamas.  This time, we decided to take only Natalie and Larissa, so we could spend some time doing things and relaxing with them.  We looked at the calendar, counting out the chemo dates to pick the best time.   I talked to my sister, Amy, about watching Olivia for the week...  A month after booking the tickets, we learned that my cancer was back and we made plans to start the new chemo, NK-102. 

Olivia was overjoyed to be spending a week with "My Amy" and her cousins, Coral, Phoenix and Terran.  The week before we left, we started packing and Olivia would pack a new bag every day and ask many times if this was the day she was going to "my Amy's" house?  August 26th came quickly.  With Olivia safely in 'her' Amy's care, we headed to the Bahamas.

Bucket list: Limo ride.  Check!

The Atlantis resort in the evening.
Spend most days floating together in tubes.
Snorkeling and swimming.

Wish you were here...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Remembering August 29, 2009. Four years ago today...

I still remember every small thing about that August morning in 2009. 

I struggled to put on my jeans and shoes for work.  I left our house 15 minutes early, so I could stop and pick up a treat for work.  I kissed my kids and my hubby goodbye... one last time... before my world turned upside down. 

I drove down 35W toward Minneapolis and the Mat Kearney song, "Closer to Love" started playing:

"She got the call today,
 one out of the gray
 and when the smoke cleared
 it took her breath away..."

My cell phone rang.  I glanced at the screen, but did not recognize the number coming through at 0748 on a Saturday morning.  Didn't know this was the phone call that would put months and months of doctor visits and pain med prescriptions and the scrutinizing of everything from my lifting techniques to the tightness of my pants- all to rest.  This phone call held the explanation of my months of back pain.  I remember the doctor on the phone telling me he was on-call and the results of the MRI I had on Friday ended up on his desk and they were right in front of him.  He asked me if I was driving?  He asked me to pull over. He waited.  He told me he had no answers for me, but my MRI showed tumors- some very large- in every single bone on my MRI.  He had read my last clinic note, where the doctor suggested to me I was seeking pain medication and he would not give me any more.  His summary note of that visit must have said the same thing, because this doctor said he was very, very concerned that I was in a lot of pain and needed pain medication...

Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  Most people look at that diagnosis as a death sentence.  Life itself is a death sentence, if you think about it.  The way I saw it, I could stop and resist or I could choose to view cancer as a teacher and keep living... with cancer.  Once the radiation worked to shrink the tumors- pressing into my spinal cord- the pain lessened and I felt better.

I feel so much better today than I did on that day in August, 4 years ago.

Through fear and pain and acceptance and hope, cancer taught me about life. Cancer showed me what really matters.  It showed me who I am and what I am made of.  Cancer also gave me many gifts...

the most precious gift was Olivia Joy.

Cancer showed me the meaning of community and friendship and family.  Cancer humbled me as people reached out to me and my family and touched us with hopeful thoughts and healing prayers, meals, giftcards, money, support,...   and our friend, Becky, hosted a wonderful benefit for me.  I am grateful for every moment of my life, for all the joy I have been given.  Cancer is a firm, blunt, brutal, hard teacher, but cancer is a wise teacher.

I may not know how or when death will come for me- none of us do- but I choose to live my life.... without an expiration date. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


It is never easy to plan a vacation for a family of five.  Summer makes it somewhat easier to plan for the kids between soccer and camps, but when Mom has cancer a vacation has to be scheduled around chemo and labs and trying to just figure out when I will feel ok.

From my Bucket List (in my head) I wanted to take my kids to the ocean and see them play in the sand and water.  We planned a trip to Nassau, Bahamas.  Here are some of our photos from our trip in the Summer of 2012.

Early morning flight

Bahamas 2012

My little fishes

My family ( matching haircuts)

This week we are back on vacation again in Nassau, Bahamas.
So we could spend some fun time with Natalie and Larissa,
Olivia is spending time with Aunt Amy
and Amore is at Grandma and Grandpa's house.
I finished my 5th round of NKTR-102 on August 12, 2013.
I will be getting a PET/CT scan when I return.
Your thoughts and prayers will be greatly appreciated!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bucket Lists

"Do you have a Bucket List?" 

I am asked this question a lot.  I believe everyone has a list of things they want to do or see or accomplish in the world.  Most of these lists- like mine- are in our heads, populating our hopes and dreams, our "somedays".  Maybe people ask me this question because they feel- like I have felt- that many of my dreams may never come true... my someday may never come...

When I was first diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, Natalie was 9 and Larissa was 4.  It was hard for me to think of all the things I would miss in their lives and all they would miss by not having a mom here for them.  We fool ourselves by thinking tomorrow is a guarantee.  Fear and worry about such things makes waste of today.

So, (drumroll, please) off the top of my head, here are my Bucket Lists broken into two....

Sarah's Bucket List
  1. Grow old with Mark
  2. Watch our children grow up
  3. Know our grandchildren
  4. Meet Ellen and thank her for her dancing inspiration during my chemos
  5. Have an Ice cream truck to drive through neighborhoods on hot days
  6. Get a long, long massage
  7. Try paddle boarding
  8. Ride in a limo
  9. Try Kayaking
  10. Take a helicopter ride
  11. Snowmobiling
  12. Own our dream home
  13. Have custom made shoes for my hard-to-shoe feet
  14. Love Lock in Paris
  15. Swim with manatees
  16. Go to Iceland
  17. Fly First Class
  18. Decorate my home
  19. See a taping of Saturday Night Live

My Mom Bucket List
  1. See Olivia start Kindergarten
  2. See Larissa go to middle school
  3. See Natalie go to high school
  4. See all girls go to college
  5. Play in the ocean with our girls
  6. Go to Disney World
  7. Visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites
  8. Go on an African Safari with a camera
  9. See the Grand Canyon
  10. Go to the Smithsonian
  11. Go to Paris in the Spring
  12. See a Broadway show
  13. Go to Hawaii
  14. Ride the London eye
  15. Go to St Peter Square
  16. See the pyramids
  17. See the Hollywood sign
  18. See a Taylor Swift Concert
  19. See a Twins Game
  20. Go on a Disney cruise
  21. See my daughters go to Prom
  22. See my daughters get married 
  23.  ..........

"Do you have a Bucket List?" 

Now, I can say, "Yes, I have two."

It always strikes me as funny when people ask me about life and death as if they are standing a safe distance from both.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, death is coming for each and every one of us, but Life is now!  All we ever have is now!

I guess, the beauty of a Bucket List is that it's yours.  You get to write it.  You get to cross things off it.  You get to keep adding to it. You get to dream and plan and take yourself to places you have never been and make them all a part of you.  You get to open yourself to life and choose to live.  We are alive today- feel your aliveness and longing and dreams.  Take a risk.  Put yourself out there.  This is your chance. Choose to Live!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Larissa Ashley is 9 years old!

On September 4, 2004, my sweet Larissa was born. She was greeted into this world by her Dad, Grandma, Aunt Amy, and Aunt Ashley. The night before I went into labor we picked out her middle name- Ashley- after my sister.  When Larissa was born we gave Ashley the honor of cutting the cord.

When a girl has a birthday the first week of school, it's like the whole world is preoccupied and it's hard to have a friend party. This year she kept asking for a friend party, so we started to plan. We talked about how many friends to have over, what the theme should be and the best date.....

Ta-da!  We planned a Slip-n-Slide Beach-Theme Party.

Birthday Girl Invitation.

Party Snack Table!

Birthday Shark!

Cue the "Jaws" Theme Music.

Flip Flops.

Little Bears in Floaties.




Happy Birthday, Larissa Ashley!!!