What will You Do with your One Wild and Precious Life?

I’m going to be off the grid for the next three days.

This will be my last post for a while.

My boy is home from scout camp and he is a stronger boy for it.

Something I’ve been working on is the grief I’ve felt every second of every day over this diagnosis.

It’s like you have this shelf, and a big huge tome has taken up all the space and it’s all you see all…day…long.

But as I’ve lived longer than I’ve been told I would by two world renowned cancer hospitals….

The big cancer grief tome has gotten smaller, and I’ve been writing my own stories.

Making room for joy and hope.

Every day I get to choose my story.

The poem by Mary Oliver comes to mind…

Today, what will you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Today, I breathe in the air and soak up the sun and put my feet in the water and thank God for this wild and precious life.

“Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean–

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

Today, live your best life.

It’s the only one we get.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

God Bless the Scouts

God bless the Boy Scouts.

Yesterday I was full of awe and grateful for this organization.

We didn’t plan at all on going up to Camp Yawgoog, as rob had some work to do and it was my second day off from chemo which could be rough. But Quinn called and said all the parents were coming up for the ceremony and he wanted us there.

That’s all we need to hear, that he needed us, and we were there.

As we entered the gates, it was like we went back in time. All of the building were made of logs. There were trees everywhere, and a beautiful lake. In the main area there were three different places of worship, a synagogue, a Presbyterian and a catholic worship cabin. There was a little museum that had all of the history and then there was a trading post for the kids to buy snacks and gear. Apparently kazoos are a big hit, and kids also learned how to make a kazoo from an ice tea can.

We had to walk through a tiny woodsy path full of boulders to get to Quinn’s campsite. As soon as we got there, we heard his voice.

Sweetest sound all week.

He hugged us and showed us his little tent, and then took us on a tour. He obviously soaked it all up, as he only let two of us up at a time on the observation station, and at 12:00 when a bell started ringing, he stood still, told rob to take off his hat, and was in silent prayer reflection for all twelve bells. He said it’s for all the scouts who have died, and it’s rung every day. I looked around and everywhere boys were still with hats off.

Quinn had a job yesterday to be waiter of the day for his table, so we got to see him in action. He had to get all of the utensils and set the table before the rest of the “herd” came in. A young man came flying by with his trumpet from Quinn’s troop and then we heard revelry. There is an MC and all the boys have to chant loudly to get in. The forest reverberated with their cheers. They cheered all through lunch, and it was so amazing to see these young men and their spirit. When they finished, Quinn had to take everyone’s plates and clean the table, set the benches and sweep. Another troop of boys put on a skit then danced. I have never ever seen so many young men be so free.

I mean , totally free.

Laughing, being silly, dancing.

Walking freely through the woods, jumping from rock to rock, swimming in a lake.

It was amazing.

Quinn and a boy from sailing even entered a regatta and won third place this past week for their troop.

We need to get kids back outside, off of technology, and go back to free roaming. The wilderness must be explored.

Then the boys from Quinn’s troop got into formation, and walked to where the brick dedication was going to be.

Let me tell you, it was the saddest yet most beautiful moment I’ve witnessed in a long time. Before Quinn joined the troop last year, they had gone on a hike. A drunk driver plowed into some of the boys. I knew two personally from my district. One little boy was killed.

Andrew McMorris.

He was a seventh grader, was starting aviation lessons, and loved scouting. He has an older sister and two amazing parents. Rob looked at his mom and they both hugged as they realized they went to high school together. His parents said that they saw Quinn and he reminded them of their Andrew, and i said I always thought so as well whenever i saw Andrews picture.

That is what made the ceremony so hard.

I looked at Quinn at that could have been him on that hike. The drunk driver is still awaiting trial, and some of the boys have to testify in September. They don’t have closure, and looking at the young faces of boys who are missing a part of their troop breaks my heart. His parents and sister are extremely strong, and it was an honor to be in their light yesterday.

Andrews dad actually camped all week with the troop. It was so nice to talk to him and other Scout leaders about how great Quinn did, and he actually earned six merit badges, got one that is needed for Eagle, and even will get a church patch.

Quinn took us to the church where he took his first Holy Communion. Part of me was sad I missed it, but when I saw the building…

It didn’t matter.

We had to walk through a wooded path to get to an open air wooden structure with simple benches and wood carvings of Jesus and Mary and a cross. Jesus was a carpenter, and I felt His presence there. Quinn wasn’t in a suit or surrounded by family, but he was in a scout uniform and with Jesus in the woods.

That’s enough for me.

Plus, Quinn said, “I only ate the body. I didn’t drink the blood”. So I’ll get to see his first time with that in four years.

I will.

See, I stayed and prayed alone in that wooded church to Jesus to give me the long life to see Quinn grow up and watch his children become scouts. I’m praying Jesus’s plans are the same as mine.

It rained for about an hour while we were there and everyone just hung out in tents. It was nice to speak to other Scout masters and hear all of the amazing things they do all year. Madison was envious of the whole thing, and Quinn’s troop has some moms that spoke to her about an adventure troop, which is separate from the scouts but has girls and boys. I like that, as I think its good for the boys to be alone, just like Morgan’s girls scouts. The kids feel more free to be silly, but there is also this adventure group for anyone else.

We stayed for dinner, and I spoke to Andrews mom about hyperbaric chambers and acupuncture, as she works in a great sounding healing place. Oxygen hyperbaric chambers are something we’ve looked into but didn’t know a good place to start. We may have found our answer in the middle of the woods.

We ate dinner, then Quinn said it was ok for us to go. We had thought we had a long drive around, but took a chance at arrived at the ferry at 7:25. We got the 7:30 ferry on standby and had less of a drive. We got home just before 10:00. It was a day.

I also got updates from Jake about Morgan, and it looks like she is having a similar experience in Maine like Quinn did in Rhode Island. I head up to Maine early in the morning tomorrow to catch an early ferry and then spend a day or two at their cabins. Then it’s the hospital on Thursday , which is Quinn’s birthday. My parents will have the kids sleep over Wednesday night so Quinn is surrounded by love on his birthday morning when he wakes up, as i have early hospital labs and appointments.

It was a whirlwind two days, and i wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Quinn will hopefully go to camp yawgoog for years to come, and now I know and have a visual of this sacred and wonderful place. If you have children, consider the scouts. Boy or girl. Be a leader. The moms and dads I met yesterday in Quinn’s troop are amazing and caring. They have taught these kids life skills, survival skills, and were there for them as they all mourned their friend.

God bless the scouts.

There is a foundation for Andrew, the Andrew McMorris foundation. They are raising money and have special events planned. There is one this fall where they will finish the hike Andrew never got to finish. I hope there is a big turnout, and everyone can see the strength of this family, and support the scouts who have had to grow up too quickly.

May healing continue for his family.

May God bless the scouts as they travel back home today, and bless them everyday.

May my request to live a long life be granted.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

“Framily”

I didnt expect to wake up in Connecticut today.

I dropped Morgan off to volunteer for her last day at vacation bible school, ran into school and got a few things to work on at home, got Morgan again, and then packed her up.

My brother in law Jake came and got her to bring her to his summer cabin up in Maine. It’s just Jake with his mom, three little girls and au pair, and as they drive away I laughed at all the estrogen he has surrounded himself with this weekend. He’s a brave man. I’ll be heading up there on Monday for three days with my dad, sister, Quinn and nephew Hunter.

My family has been so supportive through this all. So many women in support groups talk about how family fades away and hurts you while you’re essentially dying a slow death.

It hurts more than the cancer sometimes seeing how family can treat someone with stage four cancer. I pray for those who cannot or won’t show caring, empathy or love.

That’s when you count your blessings with “framily”. I used to hate that word. Someone I used to know used that word and it was like nails on chalkboard.

Now I’ve got so many wonderful people who have stepped up and in that they are like family, and the sting from the word is gone.

I had a whole bunch of “framily” surrounding me yesterday. I always think I am a little crazy whenever I decide to host a party. I really am not someone who throws parties with ease. Add on being the first day of my week off from chemo with two weeks of painful fingertips, feet, eye issues, a new growth on my leg that may or may not be the beginning of skin cancer, and it was a bit crazy to throw a party with no idea how many people would show up.

My work family is amazing, and everyone showed up with food and beverages. I had run into my friend Tony who owns a deli earlier on in the week, and he loves my assistant principal as well. He told me he wanted to drop food for everyone and he gave us off three amazing three foot long heroes from his deli and managed to get a goodbye hug from Vanessa. That’s how much she is loved.

We all laughed and ate and talked about the coming year. When you work with children every day and share these children through the years, it binds you together. You become a family. I’m so glad I have all of these people in my life.

It was a great send off for a great lady who is a great loss for this district. West Islip has no idea what a knowledgeable, caring, empathetic, hard working, classy lady they are getting. Not many administrators remember they were teachers first, and she was a teacher always, remembering what it was like in the classroom, and supporting us any way she could. She will be missed.

Everyone pitched in and helped clean up, and by 7:00 or so the last guests left. Rob and I had checked the ferry schedule for today and it was sold out, which meant we would have to drive five hours around each way to visit Quinn today at the Andrew McMorris dedication and family day. That’s a lot for me so we decided at the last minute to book a 9:00 ferry and a Howard Johnson’s hotel Room. We quick packed up our bags and hot the road. It’s about an hour to the ferry, and the ride on the boat is about an hour and twenty minutes. I packed school work and started learning names of my new batch of kinders. The boat docked and we got to the hotel at 11:00.

What a day.

Being diagnosed with stage four cancer makes you appreciative of every moment and the people who step up and stay. I was surrounded by “framily” yesterday, and my family as well. My dad picked up Maddie from work and managed to sneak in some hugs and kisses from people at my party. Rob and I are so blessed.

My parents now have our wonder dog Kasha, my sister’s husband has our Morgan, and we are with Madison heading up to Camp Yawgoog to visit Quinn. Today will be a sad day as the camp is honoring a young boy who was killed by a drunk driver last fall. A boy just like Quinn. It will make us all hug our Scouts a little tighter when we see them today.

Life is precious.

Friends who step in when family steps out become “framily.” I no longer hate that word, because I’m too busy loving the people who have stepped into this crazy, messy, hard life of mine.

May everyone be surrounded by good, loving, kind people who love you through all the hard times, and show up….(and help clean up any mess).

May I continue to heal and be here for years and years to come.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

“Mom, I Ate the Body…”

“Mom, I ate the body”.

That’s a sentence I didn’t expect from Boy Scout camp.

You see, the night before Quinn proudly told us he was going to go to church every day and get an extra badge. He said it was like a Catholic Lutheran church.

Yesterday he called rob and I while we were at lunch with Morgan and those were the first words he said

Morgan was appalled. “But he hasn’t had confirmation yet!!!!”

Quinn was concerned he took a wafer and hadn’t had the two years of class yet. Rob and I explained that some Catholics get communion at second grade, but our Lutheran church does communion and confirmation at eight grade.

I told Quinn it was ok.

The fact that he knew it was Jesus made it ok.

That Jesus probably thjnks it is ridiculous to have all of these rules and years of classes before children can have communion.

That he is forgiven anyway.

Always.

Although a little pang of sadness hit me when I realized I missed his first partaking in communion, what a memory he will have.

He called again last night and sounded tired. He laid down on his bed to talk to us and I told him we were snuggling him in our mind. He still loves that we tuck him in and he snuggles us by wrapping his arms around our necks and pretends to go to sleep.

I hope he never stops, and I am here for years and years to keep getting those precious hugs.

We sent him a picture of us and of the dog to make him feel our love. Even the dog laid by our feet when she heard his voice on speaker.

Today is party prep day for me.

I’ll drop off Morgan at bible camp, stop by my classroom to drop off some things I ordered so they are out of my living room, run to Costco to get some things for tomorrow, then clean the house. Today is also my last day of cycle three of chemo, and it has really built up this time. But I’m blessed that I’m able to do all I need and crash at around 5:00, right when I get a meal from Sarah. The meal train has been a godsend, and although so hard to accept, it is so appreciated. I don’t know who gave to the fund, but it in a way that’s ok, because it’s embarrassing for me to accept help but also nice to look at everyone and think they helped. So thank you to everyone. It’s been an easier summer for us all.

I haven’t been able to go walking this week at all and miss it. But I’m giving my body the rest it needs, and the work in the classroom has been enough exercise. The film crew asked if my oncologist would be interested in being in the movie. She replied she doesnt do movies but can suggest some actresses to play her.

I love my doctor.

Today I am holding Quinn close to my heart as he hits the midway point of the week. I’m praying for peace for my friend and her mom,

and healing for every cell in my body.

May it be so.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

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.

Xoxo

Keri

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.

Xoxo

Keri

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.

Magic.

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.

Xoxo

Keri