Salem

Today we become a family of four again.

Morgan was nominated by her teacher this past year to attend a STEM Academy. It’s housed in different universities across the country, and this week it’s based out of St Johns University. She is going to work on four different lab sites with a mission to Mars as a focus. In robotics she will design a robot to go across the terrain of Mars. In medical she will learn how to do surgery and other medical procedures. In forensics she will learn how to test items. And in structure and engineering she will design buildings for the planet. There will be a NASA astronaut there as well, and she will be sleeping in the dorms until Friday. Morgan is super excited and wants to be an architect like her dad.

I guess that’s why we cherished our time yesterday even more, as it was the only day the five of us would be together a full twenty four hours in a three week period. And cherish our time together we did.

Salem is an amazing place to visit. Again, we walked along cobblestone streets by the water and thought what an opportunity our town of Riverhead is missing. We went back in time and visited several museums with re-enactments of witch trials.

It truly was something to see and hear about. For those who don’t know, it was a time when young girls were seen and not heard. Then, some girls began acting peculiar, a slave was blamed for telling stories, and then people began to get accused of being witches.

In trials, people would make up evidence and say they were being attacked by spirits. People were hung, crushed to death, imprisoned . If you were accused, you had to pay for your own jail cell, and the town would take possession of your land.

Anyone was fair game, and if someone didn’t like you, they could make up a story and then that was it. It finally stopped when the governors wife was accused of being a witch. One of the first young girls who started it all admitted she made it all up. The damage had already been done and lives were lost.

Rob and I talked to the kids about mass hysteria and mob mentality, and always telling the truth. Some people live and tell lies about others to this day to hurt them, and get away with it. I’m just glad we don’t have public hangings or stoning, as I am 100% positive I would be hung. I’m vocal, stand up for others, and despise those who lie, especially about my or my actions and words. I have also been attacked by some who claim that some of my healing modalities are the devils work.

When I was little I was fascinated by the witch trials. I’m so glad I live in this day and age. Well behaved women rarely make history.

But… we still have a long way to go.

We also did an escape room as a family, and Quinn was besides himself with excitement. Maddie and Morgan were funny and stayed back at times when we were afraid of jump scares. We solved the room with ten minutes to spare, and the man said he never had anyone solve it as fast as we did, without needed extra clues at the end. It was a blast, and I was glad Quinn got to experience it.

We decided to stay in Salem and leave this morning instead of getting home late and then driving Morgan to her STEM week. I’m so glad we stayed in this old in right off of the Main Street in Salem. The walls of the hallway have birds and butterflies on them.

We walked about twelve miles yesterday back and forth from museum to museum and shop to shop. There were many Harry Potter themed shops, and one in particular was amazing. The woman who ran a wand shop was named Rose, and man… she was amazing. She spoke to the kids about every type of wand the wand maker had carved, the wood he used, the shapes and their meanings, and how to use them. We’ve never been to universal in Orlando, but i bet you wouldn’t get the same care you get from Rose. Amazing.

There were tons of crystal shops, sage, herbs, spell books, witches costumes, t shirts, psychic workers in windows. We walked by the water and saw the oldest candy store in America.

What a day.

I’m up now preparing to say goodbye to Morgan today. Rob and I are so lucky with our kids. Madison let them all wear her navy shorts and green platoon shirts from the academy, and for once my kids all matched. They couldn’t stop hugging each other and holding hands.

I kept thinking how when i grew up we were called “Six Wix” for the six Wicklunds. I’ve dubbed us the “Fantastic Five”, because it feels fantastic when the five of us are together. It’s going to be along week again until I get my girl.

Madison continued to tell us stories about her Master Chief and her experiences with him. If you know her in real life, you’ve got to ask her about some of the stories. It’s hysterical. She also had an alligator mascot for the two weeks, and bought an alligator head to carry around to remind her of her chief and platoon. “Big Joe” was in quite a few family photos with us.

Today may we have safe travels. May Morgan begin a beautiful experience full of learning and new friends. May my cells continue to heal and the lotion work on the feet and hands to stop whatever is starting. And may I be with my fantastic five for decades to come.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Our Honor Cadet

What a day.

We got up, at breakfast, started chemo cycle two, then took Morgan and Quinn on a memory tour. Rob drove them all around where he went to college. He showed them his house he rented, the bakery he loves so much where you can get a huge bag of Portuguese rolls and three big pastries for $5, and then we went to his campus.

Roger Williams University is beautiful, and he showed us his dorms and the studio where he started to learn architecture. We went to the library and wouldn’t you know, his published thesis is still there. He did a whole book on downtown Riverhead. It’s beautiful. He has a visitors center, every shop downtown has a storefront facing the river, and sketches of the buildings. It’s amazing, and sad that the town still can’t get out of its own way to revitalize downtown. They just canceled a Friday night concert series, and one woman is trying to do a go fund me to get it going. It’s always the volunteers who walk the walk. They should look at robs thesis and get it going. Walking around Newport and Salem makes me sad that we have such amazing opportunity in Riverhead and all I see are huge buildings going up for “artists” yet cancel events for artists. We’ve got the riverfront. Let’s make Riverhead a destination spot like Newport.

Then we went to the naval academy. It was hot!! Thank God my dad had umbrellas, and we sat under the shade. A friend of Madison’s who went to the camp last year was there, and she said she had gotten some texts from Madison’s CO that she was one of the top cadets and was crushing every task. She said Maddie blew away every other cadet with running and sit ups and push-ups, and did amazing with sailing. Then Madison’s Riverhead NJROTC Captain walked over and he couldn’t contain his excitement. He said every single teacher knew who Maddie was and she stood out from everyone. It was nice to have my mom and dad hear him and see his pure glee. He is an amazing man.

People bash Riverhead High all the time. Those people aren’t taking advantage of all it has to offer. We offer free music lessons through our music department. Amazing musical and theatric productions. College level courses. Madisons coach for track is one of the most dedicated coaches I’ve ever met, and focus on making everyone better, not just faster. The NJROTC program is outstanding. The things it teaches these kids and doors it opens is an experience I can’t believe more parents don’t push their kids to take. It all starts in kindergarten, and if you put in the effort then, you reap the rewards later. Take my word for it.

Then the ceremony began, and the cadets took my breath away. These high school students looked like true soldiers, precise, serious and strong. We saw Maddie right away at the end of her platoon. There were speeches, and then they announced awards.

Madison had been upset when she heard she was in the green platoon, as the blue platoon had a streak of five years in a row winning top platoon. I told madison on the drive up that’s why she was put in the green, because she would push them to the top.

It was announced her green platoon won top platoon, and we all cheered. She had a former Marine corps drill instructor who loves to have the cadets “eat salad”, which means do push ups. It was remarked in the speeches that the green platoon was fierce and strong. She did four mile runs, did PT at four in the morning, and told us she is the strongest she has ever been.

Then they announced awards for physical training, sailing, academics, inspection, orienteering, attitude. Madison’s name wasn’t called once. We were wondering if her captain had said she did so great to make us feel better because he knew we had been so worried.

Then, they announced the top cadet from each platoon, and Madison’s name was announced. They said she had the top score in every every area. I was so proud my heart almost burst out of my chest. Seeing her stride purposefully across the big naval field and be congratulated by every officer in charge was a moment I’ll always remember.

Then they did the big march around the field, did their cheer, and were dismissed.

That’s when all the parents stormed the field for hugs. I saw boys and girls run to their moms and dads for hugs as we made our way to madison and it was a sight to see all the reunions on the field. Morgan and Quinn ran to Maddie first and she was so happy. Hugging her was amazing. We met the marine corps drill instructor and instead of kicking his ass like I dreamed of all week long after Madison’s texts of him breaking her down, I shook his hand and thanked him. Madison told me she is so glad she went, and she feels her social skills and confidence have grown tremendously. The Marine Corps Drill Instructor had a huge part in that.

We took lots of pictures then went to lunch. Madison had us all cracking up at the stories from her two weeks of sailing, living in the navy Barack’s, and her instructor. Rob and I said he sounded like the Full Metal Jacket guy, and Maddie said the actual cadets in the academy couldn’t believe what he was having her platoon do. They rose up to his challenge every time. Madison said he made everyone cry, the boys and the girls, she cried three times, but in the end she loved him. He put them on a diet plan and she ate more vegetables than she did in her whole life. When she was on leave last Saturday, they gave the cadets each $25. She spent it on a hat for him for his birthday, and in the last night arranged for every cadet to sign a shirt and a hat for him, as well as the cadet aides and the cadet moms. She told us how she sailed boats, and her terminology blew me away. She said they all slept with their dorm room doors open and they all had to do an hour night watch each night. Her marine corps instructor was extremely protective and yelled at any other platoon that tried to mess with them. His language was salty to say the least, and hearing Madison say some of his terms cracked us up.

We told her she passed all of her AP exams and even got a five on her AP world History. She was excited and happy to know how well she did.

Madison told us she has been asked to go back next year as a Cadet Aide. It’s a highly respected nomination and Madison’s commanding officer was there this year. I’m hoping camp Kesem is a different week, because madison would hate to have to choose.

We got back a different girl than we dropped off…stronger, confident, funny, and feeling more social. She doesn’t have Snapchat, and said that’s how everyone plans on staying in touch. I told her she could get it if she wanted, but she said no. She gave everyone her cell and feels that’s enough. As we walked out of graduation, Madison for hugs from a lot of the cadets, boys and girls, and each one told us how amazing she is.

As we walked through Newport, she was stopped several times by young and old and thanked for her service. She said she didn’t know how to respond so just smiled and said thank you.

I’m so proud of her.

We drove up to Salem and on our way I was thanking God for this life. Then Madison said, “Look, a rainbow!”

Thank you, God.

We ate a late dinner, Quinn swam in the pool, and we went to bed. Madison and Quinn slept together, Morgan has a makeshift cot, and rob and I are in a tiny bed. We felt so full and blessed to have us all together again, of only

For a day.

Tomorrow Morgan gets dropped off for a weeklong STEM Academy at St Johns University that her teachers nominated her for this year. She is just as bright and driven as Madison.

Today we will soak in being together as a family. We will visit witch and pirate museums and hold hands and just be together. I said to rob that soon Madison will be going away to college, and family trips will be hard. We need to do all we can to make sure we make memories now. We may not have the money anymore for big trips, but “daycations” should become a priority.

Today I am thankful that I didnt have side effects other than extreme fatigue, that my

Mom and dad were able to see our girl walk across that field for her honor cadet award, and that we are all together again.

May I continue to have these blessings for many decades to come.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Gratitude, Grace and Grit

I didn’t want to go to the mail this week. Leila’s family said she left something to be mailed to me. Getting whatever she left for me would make it real.

I got it today, opened it and just cried and cried. Her mother wrote me a beautiful note about how Leila cared for me and my well being, that she never gave up hope even at the end, and she always believed research would come up with a breakthrough that would keep her here for fifty more years. Her mom mentioned how devastated Leila would be when another stage four friend would pass away and knew I must feel the same, but that Leila would want me to continue to have hope.

Devastated is an appropriate word for this one.

Her mom’s heart is broken, but is leaning on Leila to stay strong. She signed it off with gratitude, grace and grit.

Like mother, like daughter.

Leila sent me a shirt that made me laugh and cry, and tells the story of another woman who helped others.

There is also a necklace with a key that has one word on it. “Fearless”.

Leila was crafty and made her own stationary. The shirt was wrapped in sparkly tissue paper and a saying..”To my dear friend”. I cried just looking at it.

The shirt said “Badass… never give up mamacita” and her mom Terry put on a post it note that she never did.

Neither will I , my sweet sister friend.

Neither will I .

I love you, Leila ForsytheAlvarez . I will continue in this arena for you, for Alycia Ronnenberg whose passing you helped me through, for me, for our children, and for all the other women who came before us and will come after us….and hopefully have the gratitude, grace and grit you taught me.

Fearless and full of hope and love for you… always.

Xoxo

Keri

#stagefourneedsmore #faithoverfearheal @metavivor @metuporg

I’m attaching a link for a gofundme for her son milo. Leila was a force raising awareness for children with Downs Syndrome, and one of her final requests was for little Milo to have an education fund established for special education services he would need.

http://www.gofundme.com/for-mijo-milo

This Post is Everything

I’m not going to write my own post today. I’ve had a hard, emotional week for many reasons, some I’ve written about and some I havent.

I’m grateful for my Husband. We promised each other to love each other “No matter what”. And we continue to love and breathe and hold each other…

No matter what.

This morning in one of my groups, it was written that another giant in the arena I have found myself thrown into has died. I’ve lost count of the death posts this week, especially after my Leila.

The other admins of this one group wrote this status today. It’s better than any words I could have written. Every word spoke to my heart.

I could have written this for my Leila and my Alycia.

Any of us in this arena could have.

I’m not sharing the names of those who wrote this, as it was in a private cancer group. But man… I love these women for putting into words what is in my heart.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we say

a earthly temporary farewell to one of our admins here and a truly beautiful soul. I’ve had to take a moment before writing this and processing it.

These are always double sided moments – full of sadness for having to say goodbye but also of deep gratitude for having been able to call such a kind human – friend.

“D” was always a light and voice of faith, hope and encouragement here in this space – in all the groups she entered – and in her life. A gentle, yet strong spirit that was – and will continue to be a pillar of strength in my life and memory – and for all those that knew her.

“D” was wildly generous with her time and knowledge. She was kind and considerate how she mentored and shared her knowledge and supported others as they figured out their own unique way through this maze called cancer and life.

She walked through her life and this healing journey with grace, wisdom, courage and hope. Always, always, always, hope.

It’s a crazy digital connected world we live in today. We can find true friendships and interact daily with someone – and yet never have met In person because of FB groups. We can share some of the hardest moments we may walk through in this life – the shadow and swamp days – the tears and hard days of this journey and yet also some of the beautiful days where we brainstorm, share each other’s lives and high five with good news and life moments that we learn – matter the most.

If you and told me three years ago I’d have some of my best friends be hundreds of miles away In different states and never meet them – I wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s exactly what has happened. As many of you also know and experience. It’s a gift – no doubt. But also a challenge. But then isn’t that all of life’s “good stuff”?

We hold space with and for each other here. We hold sacred space for healing that – IS – absolutely possible, while also walking together as a tribe through the spaces that scare us and eventually also transform us.

There are no words that soothe the loss when when someone leaves this earth too early. It never gets easier and always takes time to mend the human heart. Not that it ever fully does mend. Though I know and personally believe in something bigger than this life – it’s always still hard and I have to collect my breathe.

I had someone say to me the other day – “isn’t it hard to have friends in the cancer world”. And I had to stop and think about it a moment. The truth is – we didn’t ask to be in this tribe. No one raised their hand and intentionally said “pick me – pick me”. And the truth is – there are days that are a struggle – and yet there are days that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. We join this tribe and somehow we are all knit together by something in common – yet still very unique. We belong to a tapestry of stories and have to face similar things and make hard decisions and process some of life’s deep topics that we’d all prefer probably NOT to process until we are 100. And maybe not even then. But here we are. Connected by something we cannot touch – but somehow feel. Even though we may all pick up different narratives of the story and process it differently. We all seem to grow and change in different areas. But there is something that fundamentally connects us and somehow makes the journey lighter – by just being here together. In here we can find others that understand the path and all it’s chaos – when those around us really can’t. We help each other remember the bigger picture and the hope and help each other back-up away from the cliff and swamp moments and realign, refocus, and stand back up when we fall down. There is always a hand to help pull us up. There is Always someone that can say – I get it – I can’t fix it – but I am here too. We remind each other we can do this and will sit with you awhile and remind us we also must stand back up, dust off and keep walking. Keep exploring. Keep living. Keep healing.

This is life’s sacred work. It has moments of terror and moments of utter supernatural peace – if we just keep walking. It’s a birthing process and it’s laborious – it’s painful, it’s exhausting some days and yet it is also full of moments of clarity and moments of connection and moments of calling that would not have happened in any other life experience. But we are among amazing souls that journey with us. “D” was one of those. She walked, she stumbled, she focused, she stopped and helped someone that was struggling along the way.

She modeled the example – even on the uncertain days – of how –

We learn to LIVE anyway.

We HOPE anyway.

We LOVE anyway.

We find PEACE anyway.

We fall – we stand up.

We feel fear and we learn to continually release it – and we don’t let it steal not ONE more moment of any more days.

This IS the work. And I tell you – it takes grit and reservoirs of courage and badass raw bravery. And – we do it. “D” did it. And gratefully – we can do it together on the heavy and tired days – and the good!

We know in this tribe we will walk through some loss. But life is always full of loss if we are living and loving and sharing ourselves. Isn’t it ? Cancer – or no cancer. The longer you live – the more you will love and therefore also feel the hurt of saying a temporary farewell.

So yes – in this tribe –

We will walk through some land mines and uncertainty and some struggle and some dark nights of the soul as we figure out our paths and our way through the maze of healing – In what ever form and path that takes. There are gut wrenching days – like today and hard decisions. Days that cause me to pause and release some of the sadness down each cheek through grateful and saddened tears that say “until we laugh again my friend” – to someone I loved. I haven’t found an “easy” button to walk through any of it – but I have gained (and continue to work on) the skill of knowing gratitude always shifts the shadows. Always. Gratitude for knowing, loving, laughing, remembering, and honoring the sacred space of friendship and human connection. I believe this is our human purpose actually. So if I truly lived – then I will also feel the pain of saying goodbye. Which means I risked love – which means I shared my heart. Which means I lived well. And that is enough for me.

So – today I (we) will shed some human tears. I (we) can/will send our friend our love – because I know she will feel that. I will honor her by living my fullest life. I will honor her life and all that she did to embrace LIVING.

I will focus on hope because that is where our strength is. That is what “D” lived in her spirit.

I will support another human that’s walking on this journey – because there is power and healing in walking together.

I will remember to love more. See more. Be present more. I will have more gratitude sprinkled through this one life we’ve each been given. I will gently tell fear “thank you for showing up – but you don’t get to take this day or anything in it. NOT TODAY”. I will consciously remember – no matter how messy, no matter how steep the trail feels some days – We are not alone. We are NEVER alone. We have “D” and many, many, many more beautiful women that have walked and walk with us – and many others to continue walking with us. We have each other. We have our selves. We have choice. We have love. And LOVE heals – I tell you – it does.

In honor of “D” – I will smile more. Hug longer. Feel deeper and risk love. And I will continue on. One step at a time. I will not define my life by the label of cancer – because NONE of us are cancer or even the cancer journey. We are mothers and daughters and sisters and friends. We are human beings and have walked through all that comes with that. “D” didn’t lose a battle – she stood up in the midst of stormy winds and wild waters. She stood against uncertainty and found faith and hope and scattered it where ever she went. She stood – Day after day. She stood. In courage and grace and she LIVED.

So often when we have someone leave us – we question and look for the why, for the – ‘what we could do different’ and wonder and try to explain it all. We try to outrun the fear. But we have to remember that we are all on our own paths. We each have our own story and find our own way. We have our own purpose and our own whispers of the soul. We have to hold faith. We have to explore and uncover our own music. We have to do our own inner work because when one heals – it affects the whole.

I also want to say – that when someone leaves this earth too soon because of the body struggling with any illness – they did NOT fail, they were NOT lost. They did not lose. To summarize ones life as a “lost battle” – diminishes the years of living that existed. It dilutes the magic of the soul that walked through the years that they were given here – How ever many years they had written in their story. And it makes my heart heavy to hear someone say they “lost their battle with ……” anything actually. It may just be me – but no matter how I exit this life or at what age – I know personally I want to be remembered as someone that truly and authentically lived the years and the days I was here. That I was and am a spirit and energy that visited this space and lived and shared and loved. That I failed and learned, I fell and stood back up. That I screwed up and made amends. I listened. I tasted. I touched and I experienced. That I cried and I laughed my ass off. That I took pictures and shared my heart. That I dug into the dark places that scared me and faced them and allowed them to change me. That I felt pain because I felt and allowed love. That I felt peace because I felt and allowed fear and sat with uncertainty. That I felt hope because I looked for it – intentionally. That I woke up each day knowing that This life was perfectly imperfect. That I said sorry when I hurt someone. That I let shit go. That I tried to own my shadows – AND my light. That I held babies and lovers and friends and family and that I truly saw life’s sacred moments and that they changed my soul. That I wrested with shadows and eventually walked through them and transformed them to light. That I walked this earth – and do walk this earth – with the help of Spirit and tried to pay attention. That I was a baby, a child, a teenager, a woman. That I was many, many, many things while playing here in earth. That I held many titles – and touched many lives but none of it was who I was at my core essence – because we are all bigger than we could ever imagine. That I was once upon a time – diagnosed with what this life calls cancer – but I am and NEVER was cancer. And that I absolutely do NOT want my life summarized or titled with anything to do with cancer. Cancer is a process and a storyline. No different than any of the other storylines and chapters in my life’s story. So many things in this life are just a “process” – But never shall I be lost to or defined by a process or event. Because I am NOT a process or an event or a story – and never will be. I am so much bigger. We all are.

We all are were born.

We all will leave this life. Hopefully – with lots of wrinkles and worn out. But the truth is – No one is guaranteed tomorrow and we never have been. I know this. We in this tribe know this as we’ve had “go there” – and we have had to have that internal conversation as part of this journey on some level. Life has always been full of uncertainty. That didn’t change before a diagnoses or after – it’s always been there, we just didn’t need to really wrestle with it. That uncertainty is the root of a lot of fear. Or has been for me. And though I’ve not mastered sitting with uncertainty myself and practice that every day – what I do know and what I always go back to in the hard moments – is “what DO I have control over amongst the mess? What is true and what do I absolutely know” – And I remind myself – I can control what I DO today, what I think, and THIS MOMENT and how is see it. I can be here right now – that’s it. I can breathe in and out. I can plant possibilities and can water it instead of fear. I can love. I can be grateful. That’s what matters. And it absolutely changes the moment – which changes everything.

This is where my spirit goes when I have to process saying goodbye to someone in this physical world. It’s where I go on testing days and when fear creeps in and nudges all the inner gremlins. I remember all of what I have. I remember gratitude. I remember the WHY – in why I am here. I see the courage in another’s journey as they showed up and faced something hard and held hope and faith – anyway. And I add their picture to my memory and to a special folder (literally) – to remember to LIVE deeper. I remember that life is life – it’s Messy and unpredictable and yet we still get to choose how we walk through it. We choose what we focus on and what we see and the energy we leave behind. And “D” – the one thing she protected and voiced and echoed most often was that she purposely focused on hope. Which changed her days and how she interacted through them. And THAT is the journey. That is courage in the raw form. That is success and triumph and completion.

Sweet “D” –

We love you.

We honor you – your courage and your life. All of it. All the magnificence of the whole journey.

Thank you for your love – kindness, example, and grace. Thank you for offering friendship and heart to so many. We will miss you in this physical world – but are grateful you are free.”

Free❤️

Xoxo

Keri

Life is a Verb

You have to make a lot of choices and decisions when you’ve had constant bad scans and cancer keeps growing is spreading.

Which treatment to choose… how to tell your kids… which events to go to…how to fit in exercise… what to eat.

It can cause you to just curl up and stop. You press pause, go inward, not move, barely breathe.

But it’s important to decide that you have to LIVE while trying to save your life.

Not just breathing and eating and keeping your heart beating.

But proactive living that makes life a verb.

Saving my life is a priority, but so is LIVING.

Last year on July 4th we stayed home and didn’t see fireworks. The kids were bored, I was sad because I started IV chemo and my hair started to fall out, and I had serious social media envy of everyone else’s day. I swore that if I made it to the next Fourth of July, it would be a great one.

Turns out it was, just not how I envisioned.

Madison was sailing in Newport with the Naval Academy, and Morgan and Quinn were at camp Kesem. I received a picture and a report on how Maddie is doing, and I felt better.

Morgan and Quinn’s counselor let me know they were ok after the empowerment ceremony, and looking through the pictures posted this morning, they definitely had a memorable fourth.

Rob and I went for an early morning walk, then he worked all day, so I decide to head to the Giving Room. I met an old sorority sister and we shared a juice at the bar.

I feel like ebenezer scrooge, as I keep getting visits by people from my past, except I have better hair and don’t need coal thrown in a fire because my hot flashes keep me warm enough, thank you very much. We laughed at old times and then I ran to a restaurant to hug my “Kerri and Keri”. In ten minutes we got caught up and laughed, then I went to my moms. I sat with my parents and enjoyed just being with them. I walked over to my old beach house and got to hug everyone I grew up with. I had a feeling all of the families would be out, and they were. The vicaris, the Mone boys, the giordano’s, the Milsoms. These people were my summer families, and it felt great to see them all, and their children all hanging out with each other doing the same things we did.

I went home and swam a bit with rob, ate dinner, took my last chemo pills for this cycle and then headed back to the beach. We saw Chinese lanterns being sent off to the sky for a woman who passed recently, lots of fireworks, and laughed a lot.

We listened to music and played name that song. We realized we had great music growing up. I missed my kids but had Laurie’s daughter hanging out with me teaching me tricks for my phone. She is just like Morgan, and it made me feel better. My dad even came over and we laughed.

It was a perfect night. I wanted to be surrounded by people who I love and love me back.

That’s what heals you.

Even if it doesn’t heal the cancer, it heals the heart and soul. Find your tribe, and stay with them. Stay away from those who don’t make you feel like your life is precious to them.

Because I’m telling you… it is.

Every damn second.

I saw my sister in full police officer action yesterday. A three year old girl drowned at the local beach, and Jill was running point and coordinating the rescue effort. Friends posted on social media that they saw eight or nine cops book down the beach to get this little girl, and one Facebook post said that every kid on the beach saw heroes in real life. I knew from Jill’s face it was serious, and anytime there is a child involved, the officers always have a more heightened awareness, especially if they have children of their own. The little girl will be ok, and for a day or so, everyone who was there and witnessed the rescue will hold onto life a little tighter.

But then the inevitable will happen and they will begin to take it for granted.

Not me.

Every day I’m faced with drowning or swimming. Some days I struggle to breathe underwater, some days I float and rest, and some days I swim.

Life is a verb for me.

It’s a noun, too, as it’s a precious gift I’ve been given.

But it’s also a verb, an action.

A series of actions that make a story.

A story that will continue for years to come.

My support groups have had several members pass away in the past two days. One was the administrator for the Xeloda support group page. Stage four needs more research and funding… now.

So today, remember that life is for living. Be around people who value your life and your heart and your spirit. Be with your tribe.

Even if you just float on your back and look at the sky.

And if you find yourself alone, know that I’m here with you, floating and breathing and swimming to shore. Hold on. We’ll make it together.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Independence Day and Pilgrims

Independence Day.

It’s a day when we celebrate the birth of our country, and when we broke free of tyranny.

It’s also the day I take my last chemo pill for cycle one of capecetibine. Then I have one week off. We’ve decided I’m going to detox hard next week. In the last three days I’ve read articles on how people are dying from this chemo because the liver is missing the DPD protein needed and it’s such a toxic drug. So that’s another test I’m going to ask be added to my hospital visit next week. The drug is called 5FU, and some cancer patients in my groups say it’s stands for either 5 f*ck you or 5 feet under.

Comforting, right?

This hasn’t been an easy week for a few reasons. Obviously not having my kids with me is hard, especially on a holiday when you watch fireworks and have family gatherings. Knowing they are at cancer support camp makes it harder. Once I saw the candle ceremony picture, I was done for the night.

I only woke up to one picture today, Morgan in which I think she ate ice cream trying to catch a bubble on her tongue.

There’s none of Quinn after the ceremony, or at all, and the mind goes to the vision of him crying off to the side because he was sad after the ceremony. He had anxiety about this night, and I told him he could choose to share or not, and whatever he said was fine. I told them both that you don’t correct how the other one speaks, even if they say they are mad at me for getting cancer or that they do t like when mom is tired or snappy at times. Their stories and feelings are their own.

Then I remember my Alycia reminding me to tell my mind to stop being such a bully, so I switched to a vision of Quinn running around with his new friend “God of Thunder” and doing fortnight dances.

My best friend from high school surprised me yesterday with a visit, and I needed it. I haven’t seen her since my head shaving ceremony last summer. She brought me a rosary from Israel and a stone from the Sea of Galilee from her sister Denise, and christine just got back from Europe and brought me a blue stone from Stonehenge. I took her to see my sister and then Paula at the Giving Room.

Christine felt the energy there like I do and it was so nice to have two best friends from different times of my life in the same space.

Paula and christine splinted my thumb, as I hurt my hand and it was all bruised. We laughed as we used a straw as a splint but it worked. My phone also had somehow broke, and black started to ooze across the top of the screen.

It’s been a week.

Anything that can go wrong has been going wrong, with even new wrong things added in for fun.

This is the only place I complain and get everything out. So if I’ve been unfollowed, or if you’re not on Facebook, you truly would have no idea what rob and I and the kids are going through. And even if you’re reading this right now…

you still have no idea.

We make this look easy.

We are both still working full time, and now with me with the summer off, (but still working trying to figure out two new programs I have to teach in September), rob is working even longer hours, and then bringing the work home. We are raising three children, and in today’s society, it’s even more challenging to raise three children with no social media, and keeping Christ in their hearts. They don’t walk around talking about Jesus… they simply shine with His love.

I’m figuring out a new protocol and ordering new supplements. One month is about $1,800. Add that to $600 a month for Chinese herbs, and that equals me looking for free and cheap summer ideas for Morgan and Quinn when they come home from camp Kesem.

This is hard.

For anyone who knows a family or has a friend with stage four cancer, here’s some advice.

Know that it doesn’t ever get easier.

We just get better at breathing through it.

Know that all the support and outcry that comes with the diagnosis fades away, but the cancer doesn’t. I’m blessed because I have people who continue to show up and support us. I dint think anyone knows what a simple heart emoji on a status means. I try to hit the “love” button on other people’s statuses because I know what that means to me. Some say Facebook is stupid. I say get off it then. I’m staying because it helps me. Everyone else can take their judgment and go.

Not everyone has support, and not everyone knows how to be kind to people with terminal illness. You read about it all the time in support groups. Family members and friends who disappear or don’t have empathy for the ones in the arena. Same drama, same stories, but you’re changed. You are changed and trying to save your life and dealing with side effects now for extra fun. Eventually you remove yourself when you’ve had enough. Perhaps cancer gives you practice with being strong so that you finally carry it over to other parts of your life.

Some people take advantage. When this first happened, I found out that someone had a local store have a fundraiser in my name, and never told me. Months later I went to the store for the first time and the owner said, “Oh! You’re the woman I had the fundraiser for!” It was embarrassing to tell her I had not been told, and also had not received any money. (I eventually found out who had gone and done this, told the person I had found out what happened, and months later got a gas card dropped off).

You would think a terminal diagnosis would bring people closer, but in many cases it tears relationships apart and people fade away. There are people that are spoken of in the support groups called “funeral chasers”, when those who faded away show up at funerals and cry and say how devastated they are the person died, when they were never there in life when it mattered.

So to those of you in our life who continue to support my family and treat us with loving kindness, thank you. The longer we are on this road, the more we appreciate it. Someone recently said they feel the word “journey” isn’t right.

“Pilgrimage” feels better.

Journey sounds mystical and magical, and sometimes this path I’m on feels that way.

But pilgrimage feels more appropriate. I think of the pilgrims who suffered and showed bravery for freedom. Because of those brave people, we have America.

Home of the free, land of the brave.

I’m trying to best every day to be brave and end up free of cancer, so I guess I feel a kinship to pilgrims.

So today, as we celebrate freedom, I’ll miss my kids deeply. I’ll think of Madison with the other NJRITC cadets doing drills and PT and taking classes. I’ll think of Morgan and Quinn and pray they slept well after last night. I’ll pray they all get to see fireworks and sparklers, then I’ll take my last chemo pills and think of the pilgrims and patriots and pray for freedom of a different kind.

Freedom from cancer, and many more independence days to come.

May it be so.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Talking to Jesus during Camp Drop Offs

I talked to Jesus all day yesterday.

It started in the morning as I started to get out of bed. It had been a sleepless night, as Quinn and Morgan are both apprehensive about the sharing night at Camp Kesem. Last year Madison spoke for all three about what its been like with a mom who has stage four cancer, and there was crying. It didn’t hit them until Saturday night that Maddie wouldn’t be there with them. I told them they could share or not share, they could both share together or alone, and whatever they say is fine. It’s their time to get it out with kids who “get it”, and understand, and will sit with you and hold you in sacred space, even if you cry. And on Wednesday night I’ll be thinking of them and sending them extra love.

Quinn almost didn’t get in the car when it was time to leave the house. He kept tearing up and whispering he didn’t want to go, and holding onto me. This is where my years of teaching kindergarten helped, as I knew as soon as we got there, the counselors would help him… I just had to get him there.

We picked up another NJROTC cadet from Madison’s unit and having another girl on the at that he didn’t know helped a bit, as he kept it together and put on a brave face. We got him Dunkin Donuts and my dad called at the perfect time and made everyone laugh by offering to sing the Marines Battle Hymn. Quinn flipped the switch when Grandpa hung up the phone, and I knew he would be ok.

We pulled up and the college kids from Stony Brook University were there, waving as we pulled up. It was different this year, as they know counselors and what to expect. Madison was sad she is missing it, but was so glad she could see her favorite counselors from last year. She got hugs and some of them said they stalked her a little when following her track team so they knew she was ok during the year. They set policies in place so you follow privacy. No one used their own names and there is no contact allowed outside of camp except through camp email. I’m going to send the counselors a link to my blog so they can keep an eye on the kids and have an easier time doing so. At drop off I saw a whole bunch of other moms I know, and everyone just gets it. Others may see us dropping off our kids for a free week of camp, but it’s not free. We’ve paid a high price with this diagnosis, and wish our kids never got the ticket to go. But if we are thrown in this cancer arena, then we are so thankful for organizations like Camp Kesem that helps our children feel not so alone.

Quinn saw his friend from last year, “God of Thunder”, and felt relieved. The counselors all remembered him and I felt so happy seeing them all hug my “Raptor”. Morgan was Lunastella last year and decided to change her name to Beast…until the night before, when she changed it to Pegasus. I’m happy she changed it and she is going to fly at camp. She saw an old friend from last year as well as the kids went off and had fun. We quick took a family picture, gave out hugs and kisses, and then left. I talked to Jesus again to keep my kids and all the campers and counselors safe, and fill them with peace and love. I prayed for all the families with cancer for healing.

When i got into the car I was grateful we had another cadet with us so I didnt burst into tears. We drove up to Newport as Madison and her friend studied the chain of command of the different branches of the military and we practiced singing military songs. I took my Chinese herbs and chemo and supplements on the way. It was a nice quick ride and we got to the base in four hours.

We pulled up to Ripley Hall, I took a quick picture of the girls, and then their Commander met them.

Captain is an amazing man, and the girls breathed a little easier seeing him. He walked us up to the dorm, the girls gave their names, and the woman said, “Ok mom, say goodbye.” I didnt expect that quick of a drop off, so I took a deep breath, hugged her quick and kissed her, gave her friend a “Mom hug” for her family, and that was that.

Then I cried.

I talked to Jesus to keep her and the cadets safe for the two weeks, and thanked Him for those who serve our country to keep us all safe.

Rob took me to Newport and we walked around. I found a cute store with things that reminded me of the Giving Room.

Then we went for a light lunch at The Moorhouse.

As we sat, a big storm rolled in and it got windy and poured. By the time we finished lunch, it was over. Apparently Long Island also had strong storms too and I saw some pretty scary pictures.

We got in the car and drove through where rob went to college. He always told me about his college days and he lit up as he told me again about them. He was especially happy about a bakery that is still there, where he used to get $0.25 cupcakes. He said that one day in college his friend Pete said that there was a girl out there waiting for him, she would become his wife, and she didn’t even know it. I’m so glad that girl is me. I thanked Jesus for this man who has helped me raise three extraordinary humans, and has been by my side every step of this journey.

We got to providence around 7:00 pm, I laid down for a half hour, went to dinner in the hotel, prayed over the pills, and then went to bed. It had been a day.

Today we will get up, look around providence a little, then head home.

I’ve already talked to Jesus this morning to keep my kids safe, for safe travels for rob and I , and for healing.

May it all be so.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri