Buttons and Patches

Yesterday was a good/hard day. First the hard….

Side effects suck.

Yes, I am lucky that I am still alive.

Yes, I am lucky that I am still able to function.

But side effects still suck, especially when there is no end in sight.

Now my fingertips are acting up. I believe it’s neuropathy in its beginning stages. I drank a ton of water yesterday and took a two hour detox bath last night. Rob came to check on me and I said how hard it is because I’m praying for this drug to work, and to work for a long time, while knowing that the longer I’m on it, the worse the side effects may become.

And if it doesn’t work, then it’s on to IV chemo and there isn’t much left for me after that.

But if you look at me, I look fine.

Like your average middle aged mom carrying an extra forty pounds or so with a short haircut. The medicine has put me into menopause and the weight is an added bonus. But thank you, body. You may be bigger than I like or feel comfortable in, but I’m still here for hugs and snuggles, so I’ll take it. The hair is growing and is coming back more full. What a difference a year makes. I’m hopeful that by next summer it will touch my shoulders and I’ll still be here and still have hair. I’m still working, able to get around. No one would know.

I have today and tomorrow on this cycle to keep taking chemo, then I’m off for a week. I’ll be detoxing hard to try and get it all out of me.

I’m getting a lot done in my classroom, and am starting to feel better about that. I’m grateful for everyone who donated to my Donors Choose project. The Bill and Melinda Gates project did a fifty percent match for every donation yesterday. I had planned on buying all of the things myself…about $650 worth of centers. But then I remembered donors choose and set up the grant. I got an email the next day and read about the Gates and knew they would help out a lot. Rob came through at the end and donated the last bit needed once we figured out how much the Gates would donate. The kids will love the STEM activities and I’ve got so many great centers coming.

I am now wishing the Gates would find metavivor and fund them fully.

Quinn called last night and said he had great news for us. We thought he got a hammock, but instead he surprised us. He said he is going to church every day up there, and gets to pray. When the week is over, he gets a patch. He and his buddies are going together. Maybe that’s what churches need. A patch program. You learned about Noah? You get an ark patch. Moses? Two tablets. Adam and Eve? An apple patch. Joseph? A technicolor coat. Jesus? The cross. Kids love earning prizes. Maybe that would be a way to get families to go back to church.

It made me feel better to know that while he is away, he feels close to us when he is praying.

Having a bad day? Pray.

Having a good day? Pray.

Missing your family? Pray.

Today Madison has work and Morgan has camp. It’s another overcast morning, so I’ll do another day in my classroom. I spent about an hour with Morgan ripping up paper cards for my new phonics program. Now I have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to laminate them. I’ll pull out my September copies and start planning out my Open House Packet, and change the math and phonics pages. It’s early this year, so whatever I can do now… will help me later.

I heard from the liaison for the Mederi Movie. They’ve chosen September 14 and 15 to fly here to film me. They will want some footage of me with kids, so I might put out an SOS to some former families to meet me on that Sunday do a shot of me reading a book or something somewhere local . I’ll keep you posted.

I had an amazing session in the morning with Danielle at the Peaceful Scorpion. My feet felt like the walking on glass feeling and by the time she was done I was better. I got a package in the mail from Leila’s mom, Terry. Leila planned out her whole “Final Fiesta” and left instructions on her phone in her final days. What a gift she left everyone with passages and songs she loved, and with a special touch of buttons with kindness and inspirational sayings. Her mom saved me one of each button, and mailed them along with the Mass card and program. Leila’s mom and Alycia’s mom showed such grace and strength in the final days and after. Now I know where my friends got it from. Mothers are not supposed to bury their children. I’ll never understand that part of life. Even Mother Mary had bury her son, Jesus. She knows their pain.

Another dear friend of mine is also showing such strength and grace through a hard time as she is loving her mother through hospice care. All those who know her are holding her constantly in our hearts. She has faith, as does her mother. Peace and love is being sent to them every second of every moment.

Everyone has a story right now.

Health, family strife, marriage, children.

Some people feel alone and angry and resentful. Why me?

But others share their stories and hearts and struggles so others know they aren’t alone, and others are with them, even from far away, even if we never met.

That’s what Alycia and Leila, and now Leila’s mom have done.

We may not be able to take the pain, but we can share the space. Sit and breathe and acknowledge the hard times and let others know they are not alone.

That patch would be a heart in my church patch program.

Stay in the moment today and breathe, and forget about any past hurts or future worries.

Stay still and pray.

Today may we all heal and feel each other. Pray for our friends and family, and pray for strangers. Pray for those who have said goodbye to their children, and those saying goodbye to their mother. Pray for your blessings, and if you can’t think of any, look outside. There are clouds and blue sky and birds. Some days, that’s enough.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



Cardboard Boats, a Wedding, and my Scout

Today we send off Quinn to whole week of Boy Scout camp at camp yawgoog in Rhode Island. We packed up all of his gear last night and just snuggled on the couch.

He is welcome to excited, and anxious too. He has been away for a week through camp Kesem, but he had his sisters with him. This time he is by himself… at ten years old.

It’s going to be a long week for me.

Yesterday was a busy day.

I went and watched the cardboard boat races and madison raced with her friends. I love her group of friends. They are all driven and kind and funny and quirky. It took her a while to find her tribe, but they were worth the wait.

I also ran into my oncology nurse, Jean, who was my vein whisperer all summer long last year. I had just spoken about her the night before to a friend who asked for advice for a loved one who was struggling. It was good to hug her, and she was happy to see I look good still. I was able to hug my friend who is like a sister whose mom is hospice care. Sometimes you just need to see someone to know they are ok. I’ve been sending her and her mom whom I’ve grown to love prayers all week long, as her mom begins her transition back to spirit form and goes home to Jesus.

Then I went to a wedding of a former student. I have watched her grow, went to her high school graduation, and have seen her become someone who I am so proud of. I love her husband too, and can tell him that in Polish. I sat with a woman who I worked with in Roanoke, and we looked around and saw so many faces of students we loved, all grown up. I cried watching the ceremony, and it was in the church I was married in eighteen years ago. I prayed for the couple to have a long life full of happiness, health and laughter. I then prayed and prayed for me.

I cried as I left, as I had to respond no to the reception due to my eye issue and exhaustion. I knew it would be too much for me, but man, I would have loved to go. Stupid cancer. I keep praying I’ll be here for my own children’s weddings. I watched the grandparents walk down the aisle and asked Jesus to give me the years and health to be here for my own grandchildren’s weddings. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?

I then went to shop for some last minute things for Quinn, and then went home. I actually made dinner, then packed up Quinn.

I kept thanking God over and over for my healing and health and having xeloda work and taking all the cancer away. I’m working hard on the mindset part lately…. manifesting and praying and acting as if it’s all gone.

Today I send a piece of heart off to Rhode Island. My dad took him for a haircut, and he looks like a big boy with his huge backpack. I’m going to miss him every second he is gone.

May this week be healing for me, fun and safe for Quinn, and wonderful for us all.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



Sprites, Fairies and Unicorns.

I’ve been told that maybe I should take some time off from work to focus on me.

That won’t work.

I was alone a lot this week at home and was miserable. I went into school to have a meeting and felt happy. I spent the whole morning with my four year old niece and it was magical.

I’m meant to be with those who believe in fairies and unicorns and can make magic wands out of sticks.

We walked to the beach and made stone towers. I told her I loved her more than butterflies. She told me she loved me more than Hershey kisses. We walked by some woods and called for all the fairies and unicorns to come out. We laid on the floor and played with a dollhouse my poppa had made by hand, and I found a teeny tiny holy bible he had placed in the house.

I was happy, and rob is lucky, because if we could, I would have wanted to have another baby after yesterday.


Then I drove to the eye specialist in Southampton. I was nervous, as the president was in town, but there was no traffic at all. I went by myself, which I usually don’t do as I’ve gotten white coat syndrome and feel anxious whenever I have to give my medical history. It’s especially hard when the first thing people do when hear stage four is gasp and then say they are so sorry. I am quick to say no. It’s okay. I’m ok.

Then they see I am and believe it.

It was an hour of drops and lasers and bright lights and paper strips under my eyelids, and by the time we were done I could barely see. my pupils took up my whole eyeball.

Then I had to drive home. I couldnt read signs and had to drive slow, but it’s Southampton, and you get a ticket for going over 20 mph there anyway.

My dad got Morgan and Quinn from the Mattituck Yacht Club. They gave my kids scholarships to learn to sail this year, and it’s been such a blessing. I am so grateful for the memories my kids have been given

We decided to run up near the mall to get Quinn some last minute supplies for Boy Scout camp. We had dinner then walked through the mall. I called a friend who has a loved one struggling with chemo and gave some advice. It was also my one year port placement anniversary, and robs cousin also had her port placed yesterday, so now we are twinsies.

My friend candy went to our friend Lisa’s memorial service up in Cortland. She hugged Lisa’s family for me and told them all about what she meant to me this past year.

The great thing about Facebook is it helps us all keep in touch. But the bad thing is that because we keep in touch this way, we aren’t sharing real life space with those we love. We’ve got to do that more. Lisa’s wall has tributes and beautiful things said about her. People wishing they had known the cancer came back and could have seen her one last time.

As morbid as this sounds, we are all dying. So don’t wait until everyone is dead to love them.

We spend so much time looking down on our phones at other peoples lives, we forget to look up and be a part of other people’s lives.

Today my dad is taking Quinn to his barber. Quinn is nervous because it’s not Raquel, but my dad wants to do this so he is going to go with grandpa. Memories.

Madison is going to be in the town cardboard boat race with her friends. Their boat is the music one for those going. Memories.

I’m going to a wedding. My very first First grade class over twenty something years ago, I had this girl. I love every single one of my kids forever, and today she is getting married. I’m only going to the church. I was invited to the reception but by nine o’clock clock I’m done, especially with this eye issue. I’m going to see this little girl that I taught to read marry a boy she met and has loved for years. What a gift as a teacher to be able to see our kids grow up.

I saw a chart yesterday about the length of life after diagnosis and percentage of chance to live longer. Ever year you survive, your chance to live five more years increases. My chance now is 39%, but in November it will jump to 45%. I was metastatic before I was diagnosed though and just didn’t know it. So I will claim the 45% and round up to 50%.

I spent the morning looking for unicorns with my niece. I’m the unicorn though. The rare breed no one gets to see but hears about, and then sees them frolicking about in sunflower fields. 100% is my goal, friends.

Today may the sun shine on my Natasha as she marries her love, Rob. May they have years and years of happiness, health, love,polka dances, and laughter.

May Maddie paddle fast and stay afloat.

May I continue to heal and be the unicorn.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



You Will Be Found, Evan Hanson…

I was so nervous for yesterday.

I took the chemo, lotioned up my with feet extra extra lotion, took some Imodium, Chinese herbs, packed my pills and herbs and water bottles, and off we went.

I emotionally was worried because I had just spoken to my friend who is in so much pain about an accident. I also discovered that my friend had passed from stage four cancer the day before, and we are all in shock because she never let us know it had advanced to that stage. She had trouble breathing in June, they discovered the brain and liver Mets, she was in a coma for a month, then comfort care, then she was gone.

That freaking fast.

That’s the thing. You may look good on the outside. Then suddenly, it all falls apart quickly.

So going to see a broadway show about teen suicide was not exactly my first choice. Frozen, anyone?

We took the train in and then walked to the theatre.

Then I was blown away.

Yes, there was a lot of curse words and I was chaperoning a Girl Scout Troop. But they have heard worse at school.

It’s about a boy who feels invisible, Evan…and another boy who had mental health issues and was a bully, Connor. Connor stole a letter Evan wrote to himself, and then Connor killed himself. Connors family mistakenly believes Evan was a best friend to their son, and Evan ends up going along and making up stories that help the family heal. There’s more to the story, but you would have to see it for yourself.

I was doing great, enjoying the unbelievable songs… and then?

Evans mom sings a song, and at the end, she sings over and over how mommy will always be there for him. The woman in front of me was sobbing. The whole theatre was sobbing. I couldnt even look over at Morgan. Another on friend passed me a tissue and held my hand. They knew.

I’ve gotten good at being present in the moment, so as soon as the song ended, I took a deep breath and stayed in the present.

The show ended, all the parents hugged their kids, the kids thought their moms and dads were weird, and I hugged the woman who was in front of me because she just needed a hug.

We went to Ellen’s stardust diner and it was a great lighthearted much needed meal with waiters and waitresses singing.

We practically ran to penn station and caught the earlier train home, and I was back by 9:30.

Rob had taken Quinn to get his Boy Scout gear for his big camp week, and they had a “Bro day”.

Madison stayed home all day to work on her summer homework. I practically begged her to come with us, but she said she knew what the show was about and didn’t want to see it.

I knew why once I saw it.

Madison is like Evan in so many ways.

I get so angry with the pressures on these kids.

Take the AP class!

Go to the community college class in eleventh grade!

You’ve got to get ahead!!

Be involved! Do sports! Music! Clubs!

Get a job!

Add on social media.

Add on parents who work all the time.

And we wonder why people are so disconnected and angry and feel invisible in plain sight.

Yet no one teaches them how much they matter.

How to breathe.

How to be kind.

How what other people think of you doesn’t matter.

How sticking your tongues out in pictures isn’t nearly as pretty as a smile.

And we wonder why we have had two mass shootings in two days.

It’s mental health, people.

Screw AP classes. Screw College classes.

Screw social media. Screw being on the best sports teams.

Check… on… your… kids.

If they can handle it, great.

If not, great. Find what they can handle and feel successful at and cheer them on as they go down that path.

I’d rather have a happy mediocre kid than a stressed out high achiever any day of the week.

Being invisible is a horrible feeling. As a stage four diagnosed person, I’m invisible to many groups. We are scary to early stagers because they don’t want to be us. So they ignore the pink elephant in the room. We are invisible to advocacy groups because they focus on prevention, and stage four people die so quickly they figure we are a lost cause.

Lost and invisible.

It gives you empathy for teens who feel the same way.

We need to help the lost, the broken, the weird, the stressed, the anxious.

There is a song in the play that hits it all.

“Have you ever felt like nobody was there?

Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?

Have you ever felt like you could disappear?

Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away

Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay

‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand

You can reach, reach out your hand

And oh, someone will coming running

And I know, they’ll take you home

Even when the dark comes crashing through

When you need a friend to carry you

And when you’re broken on the ground

You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in

‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again

Lift your head and look around

You will be found”

We need more people to look around and reach out their hands.

Find the lonely. The broken hearted.

Play hide and seek and hug and love.

Teach your kids to be nice.

Popularity doesn’t matter in the long run.

Being kind gets you further.

Today, may we all find each other.

May we all go running to the ones who reach out their hands.

Let the sun come stream in.

Be found.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



Staying Vertical and Stealing Home

Yesterday was a day of calls and texts and knocks on my door that brought many emotions.

The first was a phone call about an accident. People I love were witness to it and heartbroken, in shock, and disbelief. I carried them in my heart all day.

Then the UPS man knocked on my door and left a large box full of crayons and glue sticks for my classroom. The kindness of others knows no bounds.

Then my phone rang, and it was the Mederi Center. Erin told me that after the director interviewed everyone… I’ve been the one chosen as the main story to film. There will be one other woman, but they felt my story would be the main one. The film crew will fly here in either September or October. They know I refuse to take off any days from school other than for hospital visits, and even those days I only take an hour or two, so they plan on filming during a weekend. They will take one whole day to set up and film and interview me in my house, then the next day they will follow me around on a typical day. I hope they can keep up.

They want to film me teaching, as they are all amazed I’m still going strong, so now I have to see if I can even use the classroom on a Sunday, see if I can have students come and be filmed hearing a story or something, and pray that apple and pumpkin traffic isn’t too bad. “Meet Keri, a local who is sitting in an hour of traffic to get to her school which is five minutes away on a good day.” I’m anxious, nervous, and hopeful that by sharing my story, others will see that almost three years after being told I could only have weeks, months, maybe a year or two…

I am still here.

Then I went to Madison’s talent show. I am always shocked to hear her stories and her loving her job because she always said she hated kids but man….she lights up when talking about her job as a counselor. She actually is in charge of former students of mine. She loves kids now, and even dances. As I watched the show, I got a text that took my breath away.

My friend Candy texted me that our friend Lisa died. I went to SUNY Cortland and lived on the second floor of Shea. Candy, Lisa, Laura, Jen, Cashia, Tiffny, Paige, Alison, Caroline…we were a crew. Lisa was funny and loving, and made me laugh. We would watch “Stealing Home” with Jodi foster and mark harmon on rainy days over and over. She once wrote a poem, “Ode to an Asshole” about a boy and hung it up on her dorm door for all to see. She was fierce, funny and loving. We stayed connected and when I was diagnosed she was one of the first people who reached out. She explained everything to me, as she had been through her own bout of stage three breast cancer. Candy also was one of the first people I saw the night I was told I had cancer and told me to take pictures and document every single day, because it will all become a blur.

So all of this posting and blogging?

Thank Candy.

Last summer when I was told there may be a chance I was oligometastatic and would start IV chemo the very next day, lisa was there for me every moment. We spent over an hour that night with her helping me breathe and her giving me every single trick. “Eat like you are about to go downtown to Woody’s. Soak that shit up.”

“Everyone else will be sleeping. Not you. Drink water the whole time like it’s your job and pee that shit out.”

“Get frozen peas and blueberries and put them in ziploc bags and then over your hands with socks. You’ll look like an ass, but you’ll save your hands and feet.”

“You can do this “.

Rob knows what she meant to me, as when I first went last summer for my very first IV chemo, I had just run to target to get socks,

Ziploc bags, a cooler, popsicles. We were at the deli getting my very first turkey sandwich in over a year, I was crying and barely breathing, rob knew that lisa kept sending me messages, telling me to get some sucking candy for when they first pushed the medicine, and I had to run across the street to my school to get hard candy from the my main office. My principals and secretaries were all there and we all hugged and cried and took a selfie like candy said and they gave me a crapload of sucking candy.

Lisa got me through last summer.

We are all still in shock. All of my dorm friends are a little bit lost today.

The world is a little bit less bright.

It was a day.

I also kept checking on my friend from the morning. She is in shock too.

This is where we do the work.

Our lives are like a long horizontal line. There’s the saying of the “dash”. On your gravestone they have the date you were born and the date you die. But the dash in the middle of the two dates is where all the stories of the good stuff is.

I’ve been telling people that we are time travelers. Our mind has the magic.

We can travel back in time to our past memories and feel anxious or regret.

We can flash forward to what we think might happen before it does, and feel worry.

We flow back and forth along this horizontal line all the time.

The trick is to stay vertical.

Be where you are, who you are with, at that moment.

Be still.

I got the text about Lisa at the moment Madison was about to do her dance. I made myself be still and stay mentally there, taking video of Maddie while she did her dance. I was able to stay as present as I could until rob came home.

Then I went on the back deck with him and got my cry out.

Alycia, Leila, Lisa.

I’m so tired of all of my friends dying.

Is this what people in old age homes deal with? Because man…I feel empathy with the ninety year old people. Watching friends die all around you knowing your time could be soon as well.

Stage four needs more.

This is why I agreed to be filmed this fall for this movie. This isn’t easy, sharing my life and treatment and emotions. It’s raw and hurts and makes you vulnerable. People can be loving and send love, and others leave and hurt you to the core.

But it also makes you brave, and knowing you can help at least one person… like Lisa helped me, and it makes it bearable. Just last night robs cousin’s wife was sending me her chemo plan and on the same day my friend Lisa died…

I gave a family member the same tips I was given one year ago.

Today I’m headed into NYC to see “Dear Evan Hanson” with Morgan’s Girl Scout troop. It’s going to be a long day of train rides, walking, watching the show, and dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. But I’ll be surrounded by other moms, watching our girls who have grown up together make a memory day.

The type of day that the time traveling mind can go back to when hard days come.

I’ll put extra cream under my socks, drink water, and pack my chemo and herbs and pills and water.

Life is for living.

Stay vertical today, friends.

And may Alycia and Leila meet Lisa, and the three of them be near all who love and miss them.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



I love you, Lisa Sheridan Crane.

Always and always.

See that’s all I want to do Billy-Boy. I want to leap of this pier and fly high in the air with hang with the wind and drift through the clouds, and at night, with the Moon full and the sea wild, I meet my lover high on a cliff and we’d swoop down into the ocean and swim all the way touch the bottom up through the darkwater and break the surface. Then we’d fly to Jamaica for Piña Coladas… God, I wish I could do that.”~Stealing home

Crayola and Elmer’s and Ticonderoga, oh my!

I’m up and envisioning the port working, tumor markers dropping to non existent levels, and all other organ counts being fantastic.

Quinn and his cousin are up too with some new fortnight episode. I took away video games and technology for a week, and Quinn was a happier and more calm kid. This morning is a special event, so he can make this memory. If only he got up this easy on school days.

The kids had a great day, super busy with friends while I just sat and supervised.

Did some more yoga last night and it was beautiful.

Read some things on Facebook and realized it looks like I and other teachers will be spending a lot of our own money to make sure all kids in our classes have Ticonderoga pencils and Elmer’s glue sticks. It happens every summer, and the posts begin about school supply lists.

Yes, after working and teaching for over twenty four years, we need that many pencils and glues and those brands are the best. Crayola crayons work way better than the rose art.

The animosity towards children and teachers is surprising, but not.

We are in a room together for a whole year. I don’t care where you come from, if you are in my room, you are my responsibility. If your parents don’t have the funds to send in basic supplies, there is no way I’m going to have you go without.

This country has an immigration issue. However, the children have absolutely no say in where their parents take them. I will never, ever, ever, make a child feel less than others because of anything in their life. I couldn’t imagine the journey these young kids have had to endure. I’ve heard stories of their lives before coming here, and my stomach dropped imagining the events that led them to come. I thanked God I was born here.

Taxes are high, yes.

Overcrowding is an issue, yes.

Scandals and drama are ongoing, yes.

Children with language needs are flooding in, yes.

Go out and vote.

Go to Board of Ed meetings.

Volunteer and get to know these children. They are just as amazing as yours.

Teachers and children spend all day together writing with pencils, making crafts with glue sticks, and coloring with crayons. The kids don’t care what language another kid speaks, as long as they are nice, they share their crayons and glue sticks in a heartbeat. We teach the kids that “sharing is caring”.

Teachers also ask for a yearlong supply because everything is on sale in July and August. And yes, pre-sharpened pencils are lifesavers. You think it’s a pain to sharpen thirty pencils in the summer? Try sharpening pencils all day long for twenty something kids. Even the pre-sharpened pencil eventually wears down and needs sharpening.

Parents can’t wait for school to start, I see posts about kids not listening at home, summer camps are expensive. Parents rejoice when school starts.

Teachers meanwhile are scouring dollar stores for deals, buying up supplies for those who don’t have any, going into classrooms to set up while on vacation so the kids come in and have all they need and an environment that’s safe.

I’m not looking for debate here. I’ve seen enough. I cant believe that on the morning of a stage four cancer hospital visit where my last visit had a tumor marker higher than one of my specialists has ever seen…I’m more upset about comments I’ve read about teachers and children.

And so I breathe.

I send more love to my good cells, and to the children who have endured more hardship in their few years than many have in their whole lives. Confidentiality is key, but I’ve heard stories that have stayed with me for years. Jesus said let the children come to me.

If he was here, he would turn twigs into presharpened Ticonderoga pencils.

I wish all of these families had countries that were safe and they could stay with their families and live in their homelands. Guess what? They all do too. People leave where they live because of safety and opportunity. I read an article yesterday where families who have lived in the east end are moving down south because they can’t afford it up here anymore. Imagine if North Carolina residents treated those moving there with the same side eyes? People go where they can get a better life. Of course, they wish they could stay where they were born. We all do. But of my child was in danger of being kidnapped or raped or killed, you bet I would leave with the clothes on my back. (And yes, that’s a true story.)

I get the frustration. I buy supplies for my own three kids, and then for kids in my classroom who come without. I’m also spending a ton of money of cancer treatments. If anyone has a right to say, “I’m done”, it would be me.

But what we give, we receive.

Today may my port work and my blood flow like a peaceful river out of the tube that sticks out from my chest. May my tumor markers drop drastically and hope rise.

And May those who have, open their hearts to the children.

In Jesus’s name, amen.