We have had the most wonderful Christmas ever...enjoying a healthy family at Christmas-time is something I will never again take for granted. I, yes, the president of the procrastination club that I will start next week, actually finished everything a few days early and just enjoyed being with my family these last few days. If we had a camera in working order I would post some pictures, but we are currently living life without a camera (GASP).

I love everything about Christmas. I love the shopping, the togetherness, the celebration of Christ, the traditions, I am crazy about Christmas. Every year seems to add a new tradition, and it does get crazy, but nothing melts my heart more than this from my 14 year old daughter. "I LOVE Christmas, not even because I get stuff, I just love the 'feeling' I get when the season starts and we start our Christmas traditions." This is the first year she gets that Christmas "feeling", I guess the feeling of home...that's what it feels like for me. I always remember Christmas being such a happy, special time growing up and I want my kids to have that same feeling when they are grown. So that made me really happy. Tonight all my kids said this was the best Christmas ever. I hope they will say that every year.

I do want to share one of my highlights this season, because it really put life into perspective for me. Some of my cancer-mom friends and I went to the hospital to give a little gift bag to the families staying in-patient at the hospital on the cancer floor. When we got there, we were going to just drop by the gifts to those we knew there and say hi, then leave the rest with the nurses to give out. One of the mom's suggested we just poke our heads in the rooms and leave it ourselves (with the nurses permission, of course...). It's always hard because there are times at the hospital you just want your privacy, and there are times you are desperate for a visitor. So we tried to read the families as best we could. I left there so humbled, and it brought me back to that period of our lives. As we went to the rooms and learned about each family, an overwhelming sense of love for those families consumed all of us. One woman in particular who I will probably never seen again, but that I will not ever forget, was staying here from Idaho. She reluctantly let us in, and we talked a little at first and the more we spoke the more she opened up. Her 12 year old daughter had been battling a disease for 4 years (it was not cancer, but she was on the cancer floor because she had just undergone a bone marrow transplant). She was so sweet, and she talked to us about desperately needing a support system but that she couldn't afford the internet to get on any type of group. She just needed so badly to let out her emotions and frustrations to someone who understood. After we spoke for a few minutes we said our goodbye's. As I turned to follow out my friends she grabbed my arm, and quietly asked if she could give me a hug. We embraced, and she began to cry. She cried in my arms for a long time, and I felt something in her hug. It was the weight of the world, and it was on her shoulders. I muttered out the only words I could find, that she was thought about this holiday by people who cared about her and her family. We hugged again and said goodbye, but I couldn't possibly describe the connect we felt from one person who needed a shoulder to cry on to another who had one to give. I remember needing that but always being too embarrassed to ask for it. I was amazed that she was willing to ask a complete stranger to be that for her. She was lovely. That would be enough to make my Christmas, but wait.....there's more.....As we were leaving one of my friends came up and said "the woman from the room we were just in came out and gave me this and asked that we use it to continue this type of thing for others going through this." It was her, the woman who couldn't even afford internet, and she had given us an envelope with $80 in it. That she could wrap her brain around giving to help someone else at that time in her life was incredible.

We met so many new people that night, from a mom whose daughter had just been diagnosed two weeks ago, and also needed a hug (which she got from my lovely friends) to a mom with a new baby whose 2 year old son had just relapsed the week before after already going through chemo last year. We saw some kids and mom's we know and love. None of us wanted to leave, it weighed so heavily on our hearts, yet lifted them at the same time. I came home feeling so sad, yet so very grateful. I remember during Brinley's treatment how badly I wanted people to know what a blessing it was to have a healthy family. It reminded me that I have that, and I thank them for doing that for me. And I think of them so much, and I cry for them and I pray for them. I am a quiet gal, and don't always say or do the right things like I wish I did, but I know so many people struggling this year and I hope they know that they are in my heart, even if I am not perfect at expressing it.

I hope this season brought you joy and peace. It was a wonderful year for us. Merry Christmas.

Has it really been this long since I have updated? We did not fall off the planet, but have been crazy busy with life, it's moving along so quickly! First off, I need to do a lemonade stand update....we ended up exceeding our goal!! There are still a couple donations that need to go through, but we are so happy with those amazing people who pulled through at the end to help us not only meet but exceed our goal. It is so touching to cross paths with such amazing, wonderful people.

One of those people, a new friend who lives literally ACROSS the country and whom I have never met has decided to do a fundraiser to help in a couple of different ways. I would love, love, love for this to be a great success and I am very excited about it. She is a Scentsy distributor (is that the right word? Oh, I don't know) and is going to call her fundraiser "Buddies for Brinley and Friends". Here's what it entails: if you go to her site at
www.meltingmoments.scentsy.us, you can
you can purchase a scentsy "buddy". The stuffed animals purchases will then be sent to me to deliver to the cancer kids at our hospital. NO WAIT, there's more...all her proceeds from the buddies will also be donated to one of our faves, HopeKids. HopeKids is an organization that provides ongoing activities, events, and support to children and their families dealing with a life-threatening illness. And well, we love them. So it's win-win. Donate a bear to a child with cancer, part of the money goes to help families dealing with a child with a life-threatening illness. I know, right?! So let's get this clear, because sometimes there is still something "in it" for the person doing the fundraiser, such as "you help me sell my product, and I will donate some of my proceeds to your cause". No, not this one. All of the bears, and all of her proceeds are being donated. Just wanted to be sure it is understood how great this is. I love people like this, I just love them. So what's in it for Cheryl? That warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with helping children who need it. Is there anything better than that? Nope, sure isn't.

If you have any questions or want to purchase a buddy, you can also contact her at mrsbess@yahoo.com. You can also purchase a buddy or make a donation through her paypal account at bess4420@yahoo.com also.

I am very excited about this, and so is Brinley! She loves her cancer friends so much.

I must post pictures soon, everyone is changing so much it is unbelievable. Brinley is doing wonderful. She is in Kindergarten and loving just being a normal kid. And we are loving it too.

It has been a week since Sweet Brinley's Grand Stand, and I have not written about it. I don't have pictures yet, but would like to write about the experience and I will post pictures as soon as I have them.

Before I get into the report, I want to say that I am going to be brutally honest. Part of this journey with our Lemonade Stand includes disappointments. It wouldn't be the same without them, and our successes are so much sweeter because of them. So to leave that out would be like coloring a picture with only one color. And I can't pretend this year was not difficult.

I would like to start with our disappointments this year, that way we can end on a good note :)
Things were just harder. We worked harder, we made improvements, we tried new things and there was a lot more involved with our stand this year. All things that would get us to our goal.
Except we didn't make our goal. I was 99% certain we would do our $10,000 goal this year. We received a few sponsorships and we had 6 stands raising money to help us, both things we did not have last year. Those things together totaled over $5,000 of our goal. See how this would make me feel confident, since we were only $2800 short last year? Anyhow, after tallying things up we realized we are about $700 short of our goal, although all the funds are not showing yet, so that is just an estimate. I can't tell you how disappointed I was. We made a little less at the event, and had fewer online donations.

This event took everything out of me, physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am not sure how it happened, and I am still trying to figure it out. All I know is I have only felt this type of overall exhaustion one other time in my life - during Brinley's treatment. Our entire committee felt the same way, exhausted. I realized that we will not be able to continue without making some changes, because we couldn't do that to our family. After a full week, I am still not quite recovered. We talked about how we can do things differently as a committee and I am feeling very confident that with the necessary changes we will be able to continue this year after year.

There is something in the disappointment that I just can't seem to describe to people. Something that causes an ache in my heart when I think about it. I will do my best to describe it but I am not sure how successful this will be. Somewhere within me is a passion that is completely and utterly all consuming. It is a different kind of passion than what I feel for my family and loved ones, or for the Gospel. This kind of passion has never existed in my life before. It's a feeling of helplessness, like you are screaming and people aren't listening. Now before you start feeling defensive like I literally mean "nobody" is listening, please realize that there ARE people listening. Just not enough people to satisfy that "passion" that is inside of me. I think about Brinley and all she went through. Then I look at Skyler, who came to our Lemonade Stand, with so much stolen from him because of cancer, yet so blessed to still be alive. Then I look at Kaidan, who also came to our stand, in a wheelchair because of surgery she just had on both ankles to try and fix the constant pain she is in from after-affects of the chemo. I think about Jacob, who should be in 9th grade like Taylor, hanging out with his friends, but instead is in the hospital because he just had a bone marrow transplant. I think about Daniel, and Anika, and Tanner, and Nick who aren't with us any more. And then I can't breathe, and I don't understand why everyone I talk to doesn't care about this. I don't understand what more I need to do, what more I need to say, because to me it is so OBVIOUS how badly these kids need us, and it is so OBVIOUS what a difference we could make if everyone who heard about these kids would help somehow. But they DON'T! They don't and that "feeling" inside of me grows and grows, and then it's in my throat and my eyes burn and I feel angry and discouraged. It is so hard to have a drive like that for something and feel like you are swimming against the current, but you are swimming so hard because you want it so badly, but the current is the current, and people are people. They will stand in your way, and not listen, and not care, and make you want to throw your hands up in exhaustion and frustration because you are wasting your breath. Or are you?

As I was crying (literally) to my close friend a few days after the event she said this to me. "But Kristin, I am aware now. And my sister is aware. And my friends are aware. And my parents are aware." And I realize that there are people listening. There are people doing something. It may be 1 in 10 people I talk to, but GOD BLESS THOSE PEOPLE. Instead of focusing on the people who don't listen, I should focus on those who have been listening.

Which brings us to the successes of our event. We raised $9,300!!!! That is huge!! How can I sit there and focus on the $700 we didn't raise when we raised $9,300! Robert and Catherine Pedersen were our presenting sponsors, and opened up their home to us and listened to our message. And really heard what we had to say and immediately wanted to help us! Six people/families took on the task of holding their own stands and they were crAZY successful! A few of my dear friends were unable to hold their stands, but I know where their heart was, and I consider each of them as having held a stand anyway. I am so proud to have friends and family willing to do something like this. I will never be able to show them my heart, and how they fit into it, but every person who helped us with this event fits in there somehow. Those who donated, or showed up at the event, or donated money or supplies or items to sell, or helped out during the chaos of setting up (chaos is an understatement), or volunteered, or brought their kids or grandkids, or helped in any other way. They went into that place in my heart that is reserved only for those people who care about this. I have friends and family who are dear to me, and fit into special places, but this place is somewhere different. This is the place where Brinley's pain hides, and the sorrow I feel for those kids suffering or lost goes. It is a place that is reserved only for this. I don't know how else to describe it, but there is no other place in my heart like it. It is tucked away, protected from all other parts, and it is very special to me.

Another success: awareness. This year was miles better than last year as far as getting attention for our cause. We were able to be on Good Things Utah, our event made the 5pm and 10pm news, and we were in the West Jordan Journal and the Salt Lake Tribune, with a HUGE picture in the paper. Half of this battle is awareness, because awareness=funds=research=cures. Several of my cancer mom friends were in news stories, or newspaper articles and it made me so happy to see the media giving this some attention. We even spread it to other states with our Las Vegas and Maryland stands!!

After our event, I read the blog of our dear friend Skyler. His mom had written about our event, and if you know anything about Skyler, he has been to hell and back. He has been on death's door, and survived. He is truly a miracle and we love him. Every time I see him my heart breaks. It rejoices that he is still here, but breaks for what cancer has stolen from him. And as I read her blog, I knew that if we did not succeed in anything else, reading her blog and watching him go down that slide and take something back from that beast was all the success I needed. You can read about it HERE.

Last but not least, we learned something from this. We learned that we are not perfect, we make mistakes, we offend people accidentally, we hit walls, we fail, we succeed, we get frustrated, we cry, we fall down. Then we get back up, brush ourselves off, and keep swimming against the current. Because there are kids on the other side who need us to swim.

There are so many thank-you's to offer. Our amazing committee, who have been dedicated to this from the beginning. David who is right there with me all the time. I am so blessed to do this together with you. Alissa, Craig, Nancy, and Melanie, you make my heart happy and I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you. Mom and Dad, Matt and Jen, Ali, the Creer Family, Lori and Rob and my awesome cousins, the Nawrocki family, Alissa and Craig, Nancy and posse, thank you for taking on a stand of your own this year. You amaze me. So many people who helped in so many ways. Thank you. This was a success. It really, really was.

One more plug for tomorrow....

Join your voice with ours in the fight against childhood cancer! Come to our Alex's Lemonade Stand Grand Stand tomorrow at Veteran's Memorial Park in West Jordan from 12-6. The event will include a bounce slide, rock wall, carnival games, music, food, and FREE lemonade!! All activities are free, and hot dogs will be available for purchase. Help us raise awareness for these little brave fighters!

We got to go on Good Things Utah this morning to talk about it. Here is the clip:

REMEMBER if you can't make it you can donate online at www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/71351

Hope to see you there!

I wish I had more time to write, but I am in over my head planning our Grand Stand this year, and just have to get this information out. IF you are unable to attend our Alex's Lemonade Stand Grand Stand this year, there are many other opportunities to attend an Alex's Lemonade Stand, thanks to our several stand hosts! This is something we added this year to our stand and have had so many amazing people step up to the plate. It will do so much to help us reach our goal this year. I want you to know about all the stands around town and out of town that you can also attend. Be sure to notice the dates, several of them are the week before ours.

Hosted by my dear friend Susanne Creer and her sweet daughter Abby! (Okay their whole family really).
Location: Windmill/Thayer
Date: Sept 10th
Time: 10:00-3:00

Hosted by my wonderful parents and just as wonderful friend Ali Thompson!
Location: Albertson's
Date: Sept 17th
Time TBD


Hosted by my Aunt Lori and Uncle Rob all the way across the country (wow, amazing right?). Well, yes they pretty much are.
Location: Edgewood Nutrition
Date: Sept 10
Time: 11:00-3:00

Hosted by Angela and Tige, Taylor's step mom and brother. Yep, that's right, my ex's wife. Read it again, it does not say my ex-wife. Gotta love that right? Thanks Angie!!
Location: TBA
Date: Sept 17th
Time: TBA


Hosted by Kristi Gulczynski, another cancer momma (a new cancer mom) with just as much gusto and passion as...a cancer mom. And a big thank you to Lori for allowing us to have them at her WACKY tournament!
Location: Two softball locations, TBA
Date: Sept 10
Time: ALL DAY!

Hosted by Mystee Sudbury, another fellow cancer mom and a pretty amazing lady, I hope to be just like her someday!
Location: TBA

Hosted by our very own committee members Alissa and Craig, Aunt Nancy and her amazing posse that we ADORE. Wow, they do it all! Actually this is three different stands, each entrance. There is no escape.
Location: Downtown SLC Smith's Marketplace
Date: Sept 1oth
Time: most of the day

Hosted by Alisa Ross, a veteran cancer mom who constantly works her tail off for the cause.
Location: TBA
Date: Sept 17th
Time: TBA

Hosted by the Hill family, our long-time friends who we LOVE so much.
Location: Saratoga Springs
Date: Sept 17th
Time: 10-1 or so (they have to close up shop to come down to our Grand Stand!)

There are a couple more possibilities, so stay tuned!!

I hope you can make it to one of these stands. If you have a specific one you'd like to go to and need more info (addresses, etc.) post a comment and I'll get you the info.

Now, don't forget you can still donate online if you won't be able to come. www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/71351

And just to throw this out there, we are desperate for something electronic at our raffle (which is going to be AWESOME) so if anyone has any connections to an electronics store or has an IPOD touch sitting unopened in a corner somewhere you'd like to donate, let me know!!

Let's spread some awareness - someday people will know what September is.

It is September again. Today is Brinley's diagnosis anniversary. Three years ago today we were told our daughter has cancer. During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Except I didn't know it was, because there is never any gold anywhere. I won't start down that path though, it may not turn out pretty if I do. Our Brinley is doing so well. She is getting better and better, looking healthier and happier month after month. It's so hard to believe where we sat three years ago. I remember begging time to be our friend, so that we could just pass that trial, and praying that we would learn from it. What a blessing it has been to learn from our experiences. Now let's not ever go down that road again.

August was a very emotional, difficult, wonderful, stressful month. The emotional part, our sweet friend Daniel passed away. Cancer took his life at 7 years old. Much too young to leave this world. May I just tell you about him? He made the world a better place. When you were with him you wanted to be better. You knew you couldn't complain, because he didn't, and he had every reason in the world to complain. He was so very special, in a way I could never explain or describe. Special in a way that you wonder why he is even in this world, he was too good for it. Then you realize he is here to teach us. To receive a body, and teach us how to live. I had the opportunity to speak at his funeral about the way he has touched people. I just couldn't do him justice. I tried so hard, but while preparing I realized our vocabulary is very lacking, there aren't words beautiful enough to share. It reminded me of the story of Christ coming to the America's and they weren't able to write his prayer because it was too beautiful, too sacred, and there weren't words for it. That is how I feel about Daniel. Special doesn't cut it. Wonderful, nope. Amazing, still not good enough. That's why I feel so privileged to have known him. I don't need a word I suppose, because I got to be with him enough to experience it myself. The morning he passed away we were able to go visit him and give him a kiss (he was quite the ladies man and was used to kisses...) and he was surrounded by love. So very sad, and so beautifully peaceful. His legacy, to "Love Each Other" was shown in that room, and it was a tribute to what he taught us, to love each other. He will be missed in this world, but I only imagine those rejoicing to receive him in heaven. They are lucky.
Sweet, sweet Daniel, we will miss you. Please save a hug for us. Your hugs were so special. And you are free now, from cancer, forever and ever. You won. Thank you for touching us the way you did. Our hearts are changed forever. We went to the movie theater today where we saw Pooh and you wanted to sit by "Brinley baby" and got candy stuck in your teeth. Brinley and Jade remembered how fun that was. Brinley did your Cars pinata at her birthday party and we were pretty sure you were laughing with each swing, watching us try to break that thing open! They will always remember you and how privileged we were to know you. And I wish we had more time to know you better.

With Daniel's passing we are more motivated than ever to beat this beast. Which leads me to the stressful part of the month - the upcoming Lemonade Stand! Oh, this year we are getting bigger and better (or at least we hope...) We have reached our goal of 10 stands in different locations (12 actually!) helping us get to our $10,000 goal. We have stands all over the place, Salt Lake area, Las Vegas, Reno, Montana, Maryland. I will give more details this week because many of them are happening the 10th, and if you are close to one and can't make our *Grand Stand* (that's really what it's called, I didn't name it that, although it will be grand..) you could stop by one of the other stands. A HUGE thank you to those of you who have taken this on. It is touching to have people so willing to help this cause, and it makes September one of my favorite months because we all come together for these kids who need us. We have some very special people in our lives.

If you can't make it to our stand this year, please consider making a donation, every single dollar helps, and gets us closer to a cure. You can donate at http://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/71351. It would be a wonderful "diagnosis anniversary" gift (hint-hint).

Please do something this month to spread awareness. Make gold ribbons and pass them out. Write a grocery store and ask them to do something to spread awareness for childhood cancer. Wear a ribbon and give someone the chance to ask you about it. Hold your own lemonade stand with Alex's Lemonade Stand. Eat at Chili's where part of the proceeds will be donated to St. Jude's this month. I don't care what it is, just do something in honor of these kids.

I was watching Rapunzel with the kids and the part in the bar where they all sing about their dreams came on. I started wondering what I would sing about (am I really admitting that?) and I realized my dream (second to finding a cure) is for September to be covered in gold the way October is covered in pink. No joke, it was like a daydream from Mr. Krueger's Christmas, I pictured walking into a store where there were gold balloons, products with gold ribbons, Alex's Lemonade Stands in the front of the store. That's the way September should be. It would honor these warriors who fight a battle inside their little bodies. A battle that nobody can fight for them. They are only children, fighting so hard to become adults. SO LET'S HELP THEM BECOME ADULTS!! Help them have that life that we all treasure, a family of their own, children, grandchildren. That's my dream.

Please don't tune me out this month, because I am about to get annoying. Facebook friends, beware. Don't do it...don't hide me....

This morning I was writing a request letter to a business to request a sponsorship for our Alex's Lemonade Stand coming up next month. I was writing about Brinley, her story, and I was sitting directly across from my kitchen window. As I was telling her story, I could see her outside playing and was overcome with a desire to tell them more than was appropriate. There was so much I wanted to say, to write, and so I decided I would add it here instead. Here is what I would have liked to add...

"At this very moment I am looking at her play outside. She is smiling. Her hair is long and curled. She has a flower crown around her head because she is the princess in the game her and her sister Jade are playing. She is swinging on the swing set and facing me but she cannot see me watching her. When she smiles her cheeks puff out and her eyes squint. She has a high dimple on one of her cheeks. I love her smile. She looks like she could be in a movie. Everything seems in slow motion. The tears well up in my eyes, I am not quite sure why. Partly because I remember her bald little head just trying to feel good by swinging on that same swing set. Partly because the future will always be unsure, I will always wonder if the cancer will come back. Partly because her happiness is so beautiful to me. Partly because of where she has been, and where she is now. Mainly because she is my child, and my love for my children is so uncontrollable it makes me cry. Uncontrollable to the point I would die for any one of them in a heartbeat, without a second thought.

I wonder for a moment what it would be like if the cancer had won. I imagine her disappearing in the swing, the joy I was experiencing at that moment disappearing because we had lost her, and could no longer experience these "mortal" joys with her. I wonder if you will feel this with me as you decide whether or not to donate or become a sponsor. It felt so hollow, so empty. Jade outside playing alone, missing her sister, crying for her in the night. I wondered how any family could possibly move on. I am overwhelmed with immense gratitude that she is still here, swinging on the swing, and desperate sorrow for anyone who does not share the same outcome as us. And I wonder how in the world I can give you a picture of this moment. I only wish I could send it in this letter somehow so you could feel it when you read these words, how desperately I would like to give that to you. I beg you to help us raise this money, help fund this research that is so unfairly underfunded. I beg you to care about this. I beg you."

That's what I wanted to write.

My how time flies...our Alex's Lemonade Grand Stand is fast approaching! Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking....Kristin, you just asked us all for something, rememberrrrrr? The CureSearch Waaaaaalk??? I know, I know, I really did ask you to join our team, begged maybe, if I remember correctly. I couldn't help it. It was the first walk, I was so dang excited about it, I thought I could get away with asking for a couple of things right in a row and then laying low until next year again. Plus the walk was amazing, and if you came I really don't think you regret it. PLUS, I was very clear about not asking for donations for the walk (yes there was a $10 registration fee, but that's where it stopped, right? Remember?) How does that sit? Okay, got that out of the way, I can see that thought drifting from your mind. So...

If you are an old-timer with this blog, you will remember from last year Sweet Brinley's Grand Stand. If you are new, here is a rundown. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. One day, long, long ago (way back in Cancer Land, 2009), I was rocking my chemo-sick child during the month of September. I had an awakening that I will never forget. You can read about it here. We have been determined to fight back and raise awareness from that moment on. We had our first Alex's Lemonade Stand the next month, Sweet Brinley's stand, in honor of Brinley. Alex's Lemonade Stand is one of our very favorite organizations that raises funds for pediatric cancer research. It was started by a little girl, Alexandra Scott, a 4 year old who was fighting neuroblastoma and wanted to do something to help find a cure, so she decided to hold a lemonade stand in her front yard. By the time she passed away in 2004, at the age of 8 years old, she and her family had raised over $1 million dollars. Her parents continued the organization that bears her name, and to this day they have raised over $40 million dollars.

Last year we decided to host our first Grand Stand during September (Childhood Cancer Awareness Month), with a goal of 10,000 going towards life-saving research for pediatric cancer. We ended up with $7,312, great for our first year. This year we want to meet that goal of 10,000 and are asking for your help. Want to be involved yet? GREAT, here are the ways you can help:

  • Hold an Alex's Lemonade Stand in your neighborhood under our Grand Stand. I would provide cups and lemonade, signs, posters, etc. You could hold it the day of our stand (September 17th) or the week before. It could be at a local store, in your neighborhood, whatever works for you. You would finish up by coming to the party in the afternoon where we will all meet together at the central stand location. We are trying to get at least 10 families/volunteers to participate in this and will give more details if you think you are interested. You can e-mail me at kristinltorres@gmail.com. We would love to spread our Grand Stand all over the place this year if we can, the more people recognize Alex's Lemonade Stand the better.
  • Volunteer at the stand. Just give us the hours you can be there and we will give you a job. It could be anything from selling things, running the bounce house, serving lemonade, blowing up balloons, easy stuff like that.
  • Make a cash donation. You can donate online at http://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/71351. Honestly, amounts are not important. Something as simple as $5 shows you care. Our first year we had an elderly man write a check for $1. It was something none of us will ever forget. I donated $1 at the grocery store the other day for a fundraiser and guess what? They didn't spit in my face! They didn't say "is that all?" They didn't laugh, or ask me if I was poor, or tell me to keep my stinkin' dollar. They thanked me! With great big smiles!
  • Donate a raffle item. Our raffle was a huge success last year, and really fun!! So we would love to make it bigger this year. If you would like to contribute something to it we would be so grateful! There will also be drawings for gift cards, so any donations to restaurants or shopping would be wonderful.
  • Show up with your family. Show your kids that we are here in this world to help other people, even if it doesn't directly affect us. I'm sure they won't mind the free bounce house, carnival games, face painting, dancing, prizes, food (okay the food's not free..but the lemonade is!)
  • We are also looking for a food vendor that would be able to serve food on-site and donate the proceeds. Just thought I'd throw that out there too :)
The details:

When: September 17, 2011

Where: Veteran's Memorial Park
1985 West 7800 South
West Jordan, UT 84084

Mark your calendars and we hope to see you there. Your support means the world to us. Truly.

Our inaugural CureSearch Walk in Salt Lake City was a HUGE success. I mean HUGE!! When we started committee meetings we set our goal at $50,000 (sounded almost out of reach) and 30 teams. Our team goal was 50 members and $500 (we weren't really fundraising since we have the Alex's Lemonade Stand coming up). Our team ended up with 66 members and $775! To those of you who joined our team, virtual or present, THANK YOU. Words will never express our gratitude. It was hot, yes. It was a few hours, yes. What you did, that small act (or not so small act) of showing up, or signing up from afar, showed not only us but cancer kids and families in our state that you care about them. You care about their pain, their suffering, their accomplishments, and their losses. Here is our report: Salt Lake City raised over $72,000, had over 40 teams, and 1400 walkers! I was so proud of my state. So very proud. It was an amazing day.

Here is Team Brinley minus a few, we should have taken a shot before the walk.

Brinley's best bud Grizzbee was there, of course! When she saw him she ran up to him and gave him a giant bear hug, no pun intended. We got to hang out with him a lot of the day. We love Grizzbee!!

David stayed up until 2am the night before making this shirt. It was totally worth it, I loved it.
This is Brinley saying hello to her friend Skyler.

Before the walk, they had an Opening Ceremony. They honored those who have lost their battle by a single white balloon released by each person representing a child/loved one lost to cancer. It was very touching and I couldn't stop the tears for these lost lives. Nick's mother was there, so soon after his passing, to represent him and remind me of why we fight.

Then they introduced our cancer fighters/survivors and gave them a metal. Brinley got to say her name in the microphone, to which she was asked how old she was. "Four and a half" was her response. She was then asked "when will you be five?" With all the confidence in the world, knowing she had the right answer, she said "on my birthday." We had a good laugh.

Here they are. The reasons we walk. How do I begin to tell you what these kids mean to me. They are our friends, we know many of them, but whether we know them or not, we are connected to each one of them in a way that is beyond my capacity to describe.

Our kids started out the walk for us, we walked about 1.5 miles, a very casual walk. There were so many people there walking. It was quite the sight.

This was our walk committee. Each one of us on a different road, but each one of us also intertwined in the world of childhood cancer. After the walk, we had a little "group hug" and I looked these ladies in the eyes and was overwhelmed with a sense of love and appreciation for each one of them. What an amazing blessing it is to know what is in their hearts without having to ask them, or have it described to me, because it was in my heart also. Salt Lake City did us proud. Thank you for caring.

Although the walk was a huge success, I have found myself in a difficult place. The night before the walk, one of my friends and neighbor sent me a text that her son's brain cancer had relapsed again, for the last time. There is no more the doctors can pull out of their sleeve for him. Many of us walked for him too. He was in my heart and mind, and has been ever since. They are going to Disneyland to make some memories before his symptoms set in and he is unable to enjoy things. This has weighted so heavy on my heart. Daniel is so special. He will soon have a baby brother, and he probably will not be able to meet him, not is this world at least. We brought him some gifts from our cancer mom's group, and he just kept saying "I'm so loved" as he opened each gift. He is right.

This is a time where I don't think my heart can be in this section of the world any longer. There is a place you feel stuck sometimes, a place somewhere between running away and fighting harder. The pain can be so debilitating, yet keep you going at the same time. I speak of my pain, but I can only imagine the pain in their hearts, knowing he will soon be gone from their loving arms. Now that is pain.

Some friends are having a bake sale for them to cover family expenses. If you would like to help them, please stop by. It would be nice if we could cushion a little of their burden this way.

Friday, July 15 3:00 - 8:00pm
LDS Church 7000 South 2700 West, West Jordan, UT

Again, thank you for reading. I know I have slowed down with writing, but we are still here. Brinley is doing wonderful and we are grateful for every day that our family is healthy and happy.

Are you ready for this? CureSearch, one of my faves for childhood cancer, is bringing a walk to Salt Lake. Yes, that's right! A walk for childhood cancer, right here in SLC!! Okay, stop jumping wildly, if you don't calm down you won't hear everything I have to say. Are you settled? Good.

There are two things per year that I will beg, plead, grovel for. Donations/support for our annual Alex's Lemonade Stand, and participation in this walk. While it is a fundraising walk, I am going strictly for team members. The reason for this is I will soon be asking for donations to our Lemonade Stand, and I don't want this to take away from it, and I don't want all of you to roll your eyes when you see me coming. So what do I want? I want you to come walk with us. Simple as that. Come walk with us.

$10 for adults to register, free for kids. Please bring the whole family, it will be a very fun event for the kids!!

When we first formed "Team Brinley" we were going to try and recruit 20 people. Then a couple things happened. This young man, Tanner, lost his battle to cancer. A few days later I received word that one of the young men on our CureSearch committee, Nick, was put on Hospice. He passed away today. Please read about them both, and you will understand why 20 people on our team is not enough. I want this walk to be big. I want to show these amazing, young, warriors that our community cares about them. I wondered why anyone available would not be at this walk.....so step one is to change our goal to 50.

The frustration comes in at step 2. So I announce this walk in my aerobics class over the microphone. There are about 100 women with children/grandchildren. How many people would you say would approach me for a flyer to show interest in a family walk? 50 maybe? Twenty five? One out of every four? NO, try 6. Six people!! For the love!! One of the conversations went like this:

Woman from class (we'll call her Jane): What time is the walk going to be?

Me: It starts at 9:00am.

Jane: Oh. (Hands back flyer). I'm just afraid by 9 it will be scorching hot.

Pause. Now really, what should I say here? I have a few options. I could say any of the following:

#1 - You have obviously never rocked your 2 year old, sick from chemo, wondering if she would live or die, put on gloves to change her diaper because you can't touch the poison you intentionally injected into her body, said goodbye as your husband rushed her to the hospital with 104 fever and septic and wondered if that would be the last time you ever saw her, or prayed with all your might that you could suck the disease out of her and put it in you. Because if you had, 85 degree weather would not be stopping you from a walk that wants to put an end to this crap.

Option #2 - TOO HOT?? I'm from Vegas honey, we put on jackets in 85 degree weather!

Option #3 - Yes, you are right. It will probably be too hot. You better not come.

Option #4 - Could you at least keep the flyer and pretend to check your schedule and then make up an excuse. That would have gone over better. Maybe try that next time.

Anyone care to vote on which one I should have said? I'm leaning towards #1.

To keep this lighthearted so you aren't afraid to tell me no on this one, I will now give a list of legitimate and illegitimate excuses.


1. It is too hot. Please, oh please, don't tell me that these kids are not important enough to participate in a walk that might be a little warm. I beg you. It hurts my heart to know that. I love these children. If that is the case lie to me (please see legitimate excuses for a good one.)

2. I like to sleep in on Saturdays.

3. I don't think I can do the actual walking. **There will be a shorter walk for those who cannot walk the 5K

4. I don't have a babysitter. **It is for the whole family!

5. I'm afraid it will be too sad. **There will be a small ceremony in the beginning, a balloon release, a moment of silence for those who have lost their battle, and an introduction of survivors. Then we will party it up after the walk!! It will not be a sad event! We want you to come back every year!

6. I don't even live in your state. **You can be a virtual walker on our team still!! I know it won't be the same, but it is still a way to support our team and CureSearch if you desperately want to be here but can't.

Acceptable excuses: (If you are still not going to make it because one of the unacceptable excuses, please choose one of the following excuses to tell me)

1. I am already participating in a race/event that day, I have paid the fees and am in training!

2. I have a family reunion.

3. My child has a sports game (or other activity). **I have missed important things for my children's stuff too, they come first.

4. I have an injury (this one is somewhere in the middle, because you can actually sign up to be a virtual walker).

5. I don't really like you much. Fair enough. That would hurt less that the too hot one.

6. We will be out of town.

7. It isn't in the budget, and we plan to support/donate to/show up at the Lemonade Stand in September. We just can't do both. **Coming from us who have barely had our heads above water financially for the last 3 years, we understand.

So we're clear then.

If there is an excuse you have not on this list, you will have to use your judgement.

If that didn't persuade you, please watch this. It will do the job. It is a video of our Utah cancer kids, kids that our family knows and loves. And so I can attest, they are real, and they are facing a dreadful disease that wants to take them from us.

Moving on....since surely I have successfully persuaded most of you to join Team Brinley, I shall now provide the link. I know there will be an insane response here, so please be patient if we freeze up the whole site. Keep trying, you will get through :) An optimist I am.

So David took Brinley and Jade to Las Vegas for our niece, Alexis's baptism. Taylor went to soccer so Mylee and I took advantage of our time together by getting a hamburger and going to the car wash (which actually scares her to death, but it's easier to clean out the car with less bodies in it. It had to be done.) Let's just say it had been a while. In the 30 minutes I spent there, I learned a few things, and had time to create a blog post in my head since there was only one little 2 year old voice to fill my head with chatter, instead of the usual 4.

I learned the following things:

1. The vacuum will pick up whole pretzels, M&M's, wrappers, and spare change.

2. It will NOT pick up socks, candy stuck to the carpet, markers, and children. Well, socks it will actually pick up, but then the vacuum will clog, stop working, and you will have to move stations quickly and hope no one sees you. And then remind yourself to throw away the mismatched sock later when you find it.

3. If I don't see the mess, it really is still there. I speak of the back of the van, yes. Haven't been back there in a while. Thought the van was "decent". Spent a lot of time back there today. Discovered a lot. See #'s 4, 5, & 6.

4. My adorable children know how to improvise. If there is no paper, something else can be found to color on. The back consoles and cubbies, for example. Tic-tac-toe with X's only, X's always the winner of course, the word "Brinley" written in a pre-schooler's handwriting, several pictures and a little scribbling. It will require a trip to buy a magic eraser at Target to get it off. And I won't be the one doing the scrubbing. But I may take a picture before it comes off. Secretly. Not to be revealed until much, much later in life.

5. The back cubby has been used as a discard bucket for unwanted, chewed up gum for some time now. Better than the carpet. Still not okay. Gross. The culprit will be discovered when they return from Las Vegas. Thankfully it was discovered before summer hit.

6. The little nooks where the seats attach to the floor are the perfect size for crayons. I think I found an entire box today.

7. The thing that is the most fun to vacuum is large piles of small crumbs. And items that "thump" when they get picked up.

8. I had a wee taddy bit of envy come into my mind as I watched the younger couple next to me with their very nice Mercedes, detailing the tires and doing a "quick clean", that probably happened once a week faithfully. And there I was, butt in the air, hair in my face, trying to reach the vacuum to the deepest darkest corners of my mini-van, the most difficult of vehicles to maneuver in. Then I looked at Mylee, and thought about the kids who weren't with me, and who had left fingerprints all over the windows to remind me of them, and gum in the cubbies (still not okay), and writing in the back (also still not okay), and realized I was the lucky one. I left with a smile and a clean van. Yes, van.

Somehow I can hear my parents laughing loudly while reading this, and not because of my witty sense of humor. :)

Has it really been over a month since I've posted!! This will be strictly an update, with another post soon to come...

I will just go through the family, how about that?

Mylee celebrated her second birthday a couple months ago. I couldn't help but compare her to Brinley, who was diagnosed a week after her second birthday. It's so hard to believe she was so very young. It made me realize that Brinley "grew up" in treatment for cancer. All the things Mylee can do now; run, jump, play, just be a normal 2 year old, Brinley missed out on. I won't lie, it makes me a little sad.
Mylee has captured all of our hearts with her big brown eyes, curly hair, and adorable personality. She can, however, throw a mean tantrum and knows how to hold her own. I guess you have to to be the youngest.

Brinley is really doing great. We went through some tough times right after treatment with her, mainly in the aggressive department, but it's looking like things are simmering down. I don't know what it was all about, but thankfully she seems like a normal child now. We have been meeting with the psychologist at clinic and he has been very helpful in understanding some things about Brinley. I've noticed she a little on the immature side, and her friends tend to want to play with Jade more than Brinley. They get very easily (usually understandably) frustrated with her. The psychologist said that chemo can slow your maturity level, and many times at this age they see 4 year olds acting like two year olds, lashing out with temper tantrums, hurting and hitting without thinking, etc. He hit the nail on the head. That is exactly how she is acting. Anyhow, the good news is that she should grow out of it quickly. She is getting ready for Kindergarten and can't wait to be a big girl like Jade! Her iron is low, so we are giving her iron supplements to try and get her red blood count up a little. The best news of all, she is really, really happy and healthy. And we are loving it.

Jade has started a karate class that she loves. She recently earned her yellow belt. She had to take a break though, because she broke her collarbone! She was climbing up the side of the bunk bed (probably one of the things pediatricians would outlaw if they could, along with trampolines) and fell right on her shoulder. So she is in a brace for 6 weeks. I'll put the next bit of news in her part because it really is because of her that we.......GOT A DOG! That might be a whoop-ta-doo for some people, but if you know me well at all, you know that I am not a dog person. The last dog we had was terrible, and I had sworn off dogs until at least all of the kids were in school. Jade, well, she is a dog lover. She has talked non-stop about getting a dog for at least a year now. So the opportunity arose to "dog sit" to see if we could handle a dog in the house, and I very reluctantly agreed. Roxy (a Yorkie) won me over right away, not sure if it was the lack of barking, the lack of shedding, the fact that she can sit in my lap, or that she is house trained. Okay, all of that had to happen. She has been perfect so far, and we were able to keep her. You should have seen Jade scream when we told them. It was priceless.

Taylor is really thriving right now. She is so happy and tells me all the time. A far cry from when I was 13, but okay. Great! If I may brag....she is doing great in piano, never argues about practicing, loves going to church and mutual, has a testimony of Jesus Christ, recently got accepted to the National Honor Society for 9th grade (and had applied without us even knowing about it), is still enjoying soccer, even in a more difficult season than usual, has wonderful, good, supportive friends and is completely obsessed with music. She is just happy. Sometimes she comes home from school and says "mom I'm just so happy." I am so happy for her. She is starting to come out of her shell (she can be painfully shy) and it is wonderful to experience. So this is what watching your children turn into adults is like, it seems to be happening right before my eyes. She will be gone in just 4 short years. It is hard to believe.

I really have much more to say, but I am tired and just wanted to get a basic update out there. I will get more on here soon. I was getting some pressure to write something. Sheesh! It's only been, well, over a month. Okay, now you know we are all alive.

We are back from our trip to Washington DC with CureSearch to advocate for childhood cancer. IT.WAS.AMAZING! I went with my friend and fellow cancer mom, Mystee. I'm so glad she came with me!! I couldn't possibly find the words to describe the experience, but I will do my best.


Wednesday afternoon we met for some training on the issues we were bringing to our representatives and on how to bring it to them. The first speaker was the President of CureSearch, John Lehr. He gave a basic intro of our speakers.

Next we heard from NBC Correspondent Chuck Todd. He talked to us a little about the issues and how to talk to our senators and congressmen.

Then we got to hear from the new president of the COG (Children's Oncology Group, a group of about 5000 pediatric oncologists that have bound together to share research. The are the worlds largest cooperative children's cancer research entity. Most pediatric oncologists in the US are part of the COG). Oh, he was incredible. He talked about what to say to convince them to fund pediatric cancer research (or rather NOT CUT the budget for the NCI, National Cancer Institute). I took notes because everything he said was noteworthy. Here are a few excerpts:

"Tell them before congress started funding NCI 1 in 10 children survived childhood cancer. The government got involved, and started funding research, and now they have a 3 in 4 chance of survival. We have this survival rate because people in these offices said 'we are going to invest! These are our children and we are going to invest!' And then ask them, do you have the courage to invest in our children?"

"We are curing our children with drugs from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. We have only improved our cure rates by giving more, not by discovering more. We push them to the brink. Most of them will experience toxicity at some point. This is unacceptable in the adult cancer world, why is it acceptable for children? Curing is not enough. They deserve a lifetime of health. They need new drugs that aren't as toxic. We have the tools for this, but we need the funding."

"How will history look back on this congress? By cutting back, our children will suffer."

I wish I had brought a tape recorder. He was really a great speaker.

Next we heard from Nancy Goodman, founder of Kids V Cancer. She was introducing the Creating Hope Act, one of the acts we are asking our representatives to cosponsor. It is basically an incentive for drug companies to create pediatric cancer drugs. Right now 60% of new drugs for adult cancers come from the private sector. Guess how many new drugs come from the private sector for pediatric cancer? Zero. There is no profit to be made because there aren't as many patients. If there is no profit, there is no incentive for drug companies to manufacture new drugs. We have only had one new drug for pediatric cancer since the beginning discoveries of chemotherapy. ONE!! Even that drug was in the 80's. So yeah, they need an incentive, and this act gives them that. It will give them a "golden ticket" if they manufacture and get FDA approval on a pediatric cancer drug, which they can sell (worth hundreds of millions of dollars) to a drug company that wants to get in the "fast pass" line for FDA approval on another drug. Pretty clever if you ask me.

We were also asking for a cosponsor on a survivorship act to deal with the issues of long term side effects kids deal with long after they beat cancer.

We then received some training from Soapbox Advocacy Training. He was great. He taught us how to share personal stories, and always get back to what we are asking for. He taught us how to talk effectively and get them to listen. It was very valuable training and worth every penny they paid for them, whatever that was! He had us cracking up laughing and learning at the same time. Very well done.

Later that evening we heard from a young man (can't find his name anywhere) who was diagnosed with cancer just after he had signed on to a college with a baseball scholarship. His dream was to become a pro-baseball player. His backup plan, dream #2, was to be a doctor. He never got to play pro baseball. He finished school, although it wasn't to be a doctor. He brought his chemo to class with him, pushed play on his tape recorder, and somehow went through his treatments and college at the same time. But being a doctor was out of the question, chemo and radiation does a lot to your body and mind. So he isn't the hero he had planned to be. No, he's a better one. He has a new dream. With the crushing of both of his dreams emerged a new one. A dream that no child would ever have to suffer from cancer again. Now that, my friends, is a dream. Why are our heroes baseball stars anyway? I wanted a picture with him the way you want a picture with someone famous. He's a hero.

DAY 2:

The shuttle bus took us down to Capitol Hill for our rally. We heard from our champion representatives who are leading the fight in congress for pediatric cancer. Both great speakers and men I admire very much. Congressmen Michael McCaul from Texas and Chris Van Hollen from Maryland. One Republican, one Democrat, united for this cause. Because do we really see party lines when it comes to the children of our country?

Next came the best part of the weekend. Nine year old Jack Rolle got up in front of all of us, alone on the stand, and talked about his experience with a brain tumor. We saw cancer from the eyes of a child, the fear, the pain, the suffering, the sickness, in his own words. There was not a dry eye in the room. And he was given an immediate standing ovation for his courage and bravery. That is who we are fighting for. The child who hears "you have cancer" and knows that means you might die. The child who goes in for brain surgery and is afraid because his mother can't come back with him. We are fighting for him, for all of them.

Next we were off to meetingS with members. Their offices were incredibly busy with all that is going on right now, much more than last year, but we met with staff from Senator Hatch's office (LOVED her), Congressmen Chaffetz' office and Senator Mike Lee, who we were able to meet and talk with briefly.

Mystee had put together books with stories of 30 Utah kids who have battled or are battling cancer. Some survivors, some angels, and some fighters. We left a book with each of them, hoping they would take the time to look through and read some of them. We know it's an uphill battle, but if we don't ask, nobody will. And that would be a shame. So we'll keep asking until these kids get what they need. We both felt really good about how things went, and hopefully we will make some progress.

When it was over, we were exhausted and crashed at like 9. Except then we giggled and talked until 1am in our beds. It really was nice to be able to relax a little once it was all over.

So there you have it, another great trip to Washington DC!

Two posts in one today! First off, we had the most amazing experience fall into our laps! Jade started a karate class a few months ago, and one day the owner starts announcing that Jade's instructor, Madi, a high school senior, is doing a fundraiser for St. Bladrick's, an organization that raises funds for childhood cancer in a very unique way. You set a goal, raise money, and then shave.your.head. When they announced she was doing this particular fundraiser I was really excited because I know this organization to be one of the "good ones" for pediatric cancer. Unfortunately David and I weren't in a place to make a donation, but the kids all had allowance money they wanted to donate. So Brinley went to Madi and told her she had cancer and they gave her their allowance money. It was very sweet. One thing led to another, and the next thing you know we are on the news. Here is the link:


A high school senior! Shaving her head for kids with cancer. And she didn't even know one. Those are the kinds of people we need more of! What do I even say other than "wow." Amazing. She looks really awesome bald too. I do have to say she looks pretty cool in her black karate uniform with her head shaved. I wouldn't mess with her, that's for sure!

Next on the agenda: Washington DC. If you were following the blog last year you might remember me going to DC with CureSearch as the Utah Team Leader to lobby congress for funding for childhood cancer research. I'm going again. Tomorrow. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I will be meeting with our state representatives to tell our story, and the story of many other Utah children faced with cancer. Some are batting, some have won, and some have lost. All have suffered. And all need a voice.

Each of us in the childhood cancer community have a place. For some it is to tell a story. For some it is to support families. For some it is to be a voice. For some it is to move on, and that is okay too. I believe this is my place. To open my mouth and not close it until we have what we need. A promise of life to the most innocent of beings effected by cancer. How I wish I could do it all, but speaking out for these kids in the hopes of finding a cure is the direction I feel I am headed. I just need the strength to push through opposition and discouragement, because I know it will accompany me.

Speaking of accompanying me, this year my fellow cancer mom (Kaidan's mom) and friend Mystee is coming with me. She has put together the stories of almost 30 of our friends' whose children are facing or have faced this disease. She made a book for each of our representatives of the kids in their very own state affected by cancer. I pray that the right words will come to us as we represent those who can't be there to tell their stories.

I'll report as soon as I can. There will be Training Wednesday, rally Thursday morning and then meetings Thursday afternoon. Wish us luck!

In the beginning of this cancer journey, I promised myself and the Lord that this would not be in vain. That whatever the outcome of this, I would learn something. It was the only thing that kept me going sometimes, knowing that I was learning. Here is my list of thing I've learned the last two and a half years:

1. There is very little in this life we have control over. Our attitude is one of them. So are our choices.

2. In an ideal world, we would be able to help everyone, all the time. In the real world, we will go through phases, sometimes we can help 10 people, sometimes we can help one, and sometimes we can only help ourselves/our families. Each of those phases will come and go, and we need to recognize which phase we are in. Service within your own family is still service.

3. When you are crawling to bed on your hands and knees, and don't know how you will get up the next morning, stay there a moment longer and ask God to help you. He will.

4. Never be jealous of someone else's good fortune during your trials. You will have your season of good, and it will feel wonderful and you will want others to be happy for you, no matter where they are in their lives. Embrace others good seasons and be truly happy for them and look for the day when yours will come.

5. God does not abandon his children.

6. If you need to cry, then cry. Cry with your family, cry into your pillow, cry in your closet, cry behind the door. Then pick yourself up, and soldier through.

7. Learn to dance in the rain. It might be a long storm.

8. Not one breath in this life is guaranteed. Be grateful for each one.

9. We all know about heroes: policemen, firemen, servicemen, etc. I learned about a new kind of hero. The neighbor who brings you dinner when you are too exhausted to feed your family, or takes out your trash when you are too overwhelmed to remember. The nurse who makes an extra effort to make your child comfortable, or sits next to you to talk in the dark when she interrupts you crying in the night. The doctor who thinks about your child after they leave the hospital. The mother who lost her child to cancer, yet finds a way to console a mom who is complaining about treatments for her living daughter. These are the unsung heroes, and are just as important as those we honor publicly.

10. We need each other. I need other people to care about childhood cancer. A multiple sclerosis patient needs me to care about MS. A grieving mother or father needs us to care about suicide prevention. We are here together, and just because something doesn't affect us directly does not mean it isn't our problem.

11. Some things cannot be learned by any other means than our trials. So sometimes the answer to "WHY?" is "because this is the only way".

12. Suffering is called suffering for a reason. It is supposed to hurt. It is suffering. But how beautiful, then, is it when you feel bursts of joy through that suffering? Now THAT is what you are looking for, and THAT is what you can be grateful for.

13. A true friend is someone who is still your friend when it is hardest to be your friend. They know your weaknesses and love you anyway. They are among the greatest treasures on this earth, because they are hard to find.

14. Cancer can take life. But it cannot take love. It can't touch love, that is why it hurts so much when it takes life.

15. You can keep going long after you think you can't.

16. The only person on this earth we are competing with is ourselves. We should try every day to be better than we were yesterday. Not better than our neighbor, but better than ourselves. What would the world be like if we lived by that principle and stopped comparing ourselves to each other?

So yes, I learned some things. Still didn't like all the pain, still can hardly think back on it without getting a shortness of breath, but I learned some things, and for that I am grateful.

The party was so much fun. We all had a wonderful time. If you missed it here is the video we showed during the party. I'll post more on it later!!


Date: Saturday, February 5

Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Location: LDS Church Building (Stake Center)

2666 West 7000 South

West jordan, ut 84084

Brinley is done with treatment! Please come join us as we celebrate no more chemo!!

Dress is casual and light refreshments will be served.

In lieu of gifts we will be accepting donations to HopeKids, an organization that provides hope to families of children with life-threatening illnesses here in Utah. No donation is expected. We felt this would be the best way to pay it forward since Brinley has already been blessed with many gifts throughout this journey.

Hope to see you there!

I will never, ever be the same mother I used to be. I am coming to terms with this, because I can't see this ever going away. Every virus, every leg ache, I will be wondering. Is it back? Has it found it's way back into her body? I can't get rid of it. I am hoping it will subside with time, the anxiety, but it will never be gone. Since I last posted, Brinley has had another ear infection. She is waking up with headaches at least 3 times a week. She has complained of ankles and hips. She woke up one night crying in pain because her legs were hurting. And instead of rubbing them and saying to David she must have growing pains like we did when Taylor would wake up with leg pain, I am sleeping with one eye open watching her fall back asleep, as if the cancer cells will glow in the dark and make themselves known to me. Instead of my first thought being "I wonder if she is having sinus issues", my mind immediately shouts "I wonder if she has relapsed in her spinal fluid." Sometimes I want to turn to that side of me and say "would you please shut up and let me handle this logically!"

So as not to lead you in the wrong direction, the logical side of me tells me the cancer is not back. And the logical side is the usual me. Things are great. Brinley is feeling "decent" considering she just had over two years of chemo. She plays all the time, is happy most of the time and enjoying feeling like a normal kid again. All the things she is dealing with are so very explainable. Her body needs some time to recover. Headaches can be from the ear infections. Leg pain from growing. An ankle can hurt if you bump it and bruise it for goodness sakes! I am a very logical girl, and can certainly explain these things away. We had her clinic visit today, and counts looked great. Her oncologist wants us to see if she can kick all this gunk that's hit her before we start looking into anything else, and I agree 100%. I am certainly not in there hysterically demanding her bone marrow be checked, my logical side has control most of the time.

However, I am not talking about the logical side. I'm talking about the side that says "you think this is over? Oh, you have no idea what is in store for you still. So stop all your celebrating and put on your helmets, because you are going to want to be prepared when the boulder hanging over your head is cut loose." And that side of me is afraid. That side of me puts a knot in my stomach for every ache and pain Brinley complains about. Sometimes I look at her and just worry. If her eyes don't look right. If she looks pale. I just keep it inside, because I know it isn't logical. Chances are good for this staying away. And so most of the time I pretend I don't think about it, because the great thing is nobody has to know what my insides look like. But I know I will never be the same. In five years, in ten years, if Brinley breaks a bone like people sometimes do, I will be right back in this place of worry. Is it back? I may not say it 10 times a day like I do now, but this isn't going away. I recently ran into a cancer mom I met 6 months ago whose son is doing well and in remission. We talked about how great it is to be done, how happy life is without chemo. And then she said, "Do you ever wonder, are we really done?" I knew immediately that she got it, something that will only be understood by cancer parents. She understood the fear that no matter how much we want it to be over, it will never really be over. The battle against cancer will continue forever in our minds. I wish it were different, but there it is. Cancer forever changes us.

We've celebrated Brinley's off-treatment with our little family ( a few times) now it's time to celebrate with everyone else!! We finally set a date for Brinley's off-treatment party and will be posting more about it as time goes on, but for now here's what you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Feb. 5

Place: Church building by my house (will give address later)

Time: 6-8

Who's invited: ANYONE who wants to celebrate with us!! We will NOT be doing individual invitations because this is not a private party and someone would for sure get left out. So if you are wondering "should I come? Am I invited?" ask yourself this: Am I excited Brinley is done with cancer and would I like to celebrate that? Then YES, YES, YES!! If you are a friend or family member, you are invited. If you read this blog and have supported us through comments and prayers, you are invited. Come and introduce yourself if we don't know you.

Like I said, more details to come. Just wanted you to get it on your calendars! Please, oh please join us as we celebrate sweet Brinley beating cancer!

I wanted to get the activities up first, then get the mushy sappy part up separately. Ready for part 2? The holidays always make me feel reflective, so I have a hundred posts swimming around in my head. I'll have to get them out little by little. A few things I want to share:

This adorable young lady, Brooklyn, is the daughter of one of the women in my aerobics class. Her mom came up to me last week and said her daughter has been reading back on the blog and wanted to meet Brinley. We arranged for them to meet, and Brinley was very excited. When they met she had hand-made several hair bows and written her a personal letter. She is 13 years old. At 13 years old, I did NOT have that kind of compassion. She reminded me of everything that is good in the world. As I saw her compassion for a little girl she didn't know who had gone through some hard stuff, I realized that I don't know how smart she is. I don't know how athletic she is. I don't know what her GPA is or how well she reads or does math. If she represents the future of humanity, I don't care about any of that stuff. I know we will be in good hands because compassion is what makes us strong. All that other stuff is just.....stuff. It comes after compassion for each other. Thank you Brooklyn for showing me what is good and right and wonderful in the future generation.

Another thing that has happened....we cut the "chemo curls". Brinley has not even had a trim (besides bangs) since her hair started growing back in. She had these adorable ringlets, but only at the very end of her hair. As much as I loved them, they were getting straggly, and it was time to say goodbye to them. I had to make an event out of it, because I will miss those chemo curls. She didn't have them before cancer. There is still a little curl left though, I was happy about that. And it looks much healthier!

And then...we celebrated a new year. For us, it was different than the normal celebration of a new year. We have been handed a new life. A second chance to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. We've seen the ugly, now we get to see the lovely part of life. And some kind of magical thing has happened. Things look better. I guess something about staring at the ugly for so long makes the beautiful more noticable. I think that is what Heavenly Father intended when he gave us this life. To experience agony that would help us see and appreciate true joy. I am thankful for that. And I wouldn't take any of this back if I could. To take it back would be to go back to who I was before this. I would have to give so much of who I am now back to take away this trial. Watching your child suffer is agonizing, but if I were given the choice, I wouldn't change it. These things make us who we are. I gained a piece of myself during this, one more piece in my journey. And many more to come I'm sure. And so did Brinley. She will always know she endured this. She will always know what she went through. It will be a piece of her, but not all of her. I won't give cancer that satisfaction. She beat it, and she will move on from it. She will move on, and it will not define her, but it will be a piece of her.

This year starts in a happy place for us. I am well aware of those around me who are starting this year in a difficult place. I have several friends in and out of the cancer community who are staring a very grueling year in the face. My heart aches for you because I know what that feels like. For two years in a row my New Years Resolution looked like this:

To survive the year.

I actually wrote that on paper. I knew if I put anything else on that list I would fail. And at the end of each of those years, I looked at my resolution and smiled. Because there I was, alive. This year, I made different resolutions. However, I will not work one bit harder to achieve them than I did on that resolution to survive the year. I am just in a different place, and my hard work can be directed elsewhere. Some years, we need to just survive.

January 1, 2011 I woke up and ran 4 miles, the longest I have ever run in my life. Pathetic for most people, yes. Awesome for a hating-on-running-my-whole-life-ME!!! Ah, I do believe I forgot to mention I met my weight loss goal of 24 pounds when Brinley finished treatment. I have since lost 5 more (Christmas treats KILL ME) and am within 10 lbs of my overall goal.

I hope no matter where you are 2011 will bring you some good. There is always good to be found. And for us, BRING ON 2011!!!