Hospital Day Four

I wake up with a tired and grateful heart.

A very tired and exhausted heart.

A heart that really wants to go home, was told I would probably be going home, then later night told may not go home for a few more days.

So I’m praying really hard that labs are good, rash is acceptable, and whoever is on rounds today says that I can get one more good IV push this morning of steroids and then can go home to begin an oral taper.

Yesterday was a mixed bag of news.

I started the day with another round of several oncology residents and interns and the head coming to see me. There was a hot discussion about how supplements could have caused this reaction, and I kept saying nooooooo, because number one, I havent been taking them for a few weeks because of the issues of swallowing, and number two, Donnie is brilliant and they all know what I’m doing. The doctor was adamant he wanted the list of supplements which meant more emails back and forth. As he walked out I hear him telling the young doctors how you can’t trust patients at times to be honest about what they are taking.

Which means that a whole new generation of doctors need to be re-educated when they finish medical school.

Which meant that when two of the young doctors came back to me last night I made sure to re-educate them.

I know that some of my best teachers have been my students. The same can be true in the medical field. Some of the doctors best teachers can be their patients if they have an open mind.

Unfortunately, after educating them, they said their doctor said I may not be allowed to leave until Sunday or Monday.

My doctor had come by at lunch at saw no reason to hold me past today. I looked better, I’ll rest better and eat better at home, and I’ve already weaned myself off pain meds. My lymphocytes took a big hit yesterday, which is not good as a cancer patient. I need those to fight cancer, and steroids are releasing them from where they are needed and into the bloodstream. So steroids are great short term but not great long term, and I’m a big picture long term kind of girl lately. We even agreed to do a 20 mg dose of chemo in two weeks with Benadryl push and no steroids, to see if we can try this dance again and not affect my micro biome.

The dermatologist came soon after my oncologist and was excited. Why? Because there is some super scary skin issue which can be a life threatening disease, called Stephen Johnson syndrome, which apparently they all thought was a possibility. Hence the biopsy. It was a core biopsy, which meant it went several layers down into my thigh. The good news is the rash was only on the top layer and on the upper part of the second layer. Which ruled out the SJS and pretty much verified it was a doxil reaction to too much chemo at one time.

The nice thing was the doctor told me how impressed he was by my ability to go toe to toe with doctors and speak the language. He said he recognized immediately I knew my stuff. We now have a mutual admiration society. He also spoke to us about Morgan and her alopecia which seems to be stress related. We will be watching her closely after this episode, as her hair has started to grow back and we pray it doesn’t fall out after this stress of the last month. It’s nice to have another doctor in our toolbox.

I was definitely on a high after my doctor and the dermatologist. I took some laps around the hospital wing.

My brother Scott came in the morning with my mom and we had some laughs. I now have more hair than him again and we compared.

My mom stayed all day, rob was by for a few hours mid day to make sure he was able to meet with doctors, my dad was driving really the kids around, scott and dad met Quinn off the bus, rob got Quinn to tennis and to his camp out this weekend, and my dad brought the girls to the hospital to see me and grab mom. It was good to see the girls and we had some good mom talk. I’m always amazed how petty some girls who can seem like friends can be. I’m glad I was able to be here to talk through a life lesson.

They all left and I was alone, and a little thrown off that the two doctors had just burst my bubble that I may not go home today.

That’s when my neighbors stopped by.

I had their son in first grade twenty two years ago. We moved onto their block years later, and the wife runs a bible study group on Facebook that I start my day with.

I knew God sent them to me at the right moment. We stood and held hands and prayed, she read psalm 91 and sang to me, and we hugged. It was what I needed at that moment.

God always provides.

Rob then came and stayed until 11:30.

I dont know what today will bring me.

I’m praying it brings me home.

I’m grateful I have access to good care, kind nurses, and a family that has been here for me and rob. We could not have been able to do this without their love and support. Rob and my family and kids have a texting thread and we all have been in constant contact. My kids have been so supported by all of them. So I’m thankful for cell phones too.

It was my niece brennan’s birthday yesterday and even though they are all states away now, they all texted and have been showing how much they love us.

I’ve had so much support through my blog and Facebook and instagram as well. I had a new friend stop by yesterday and my mom and scott saw a glimpse of why I share so much. We fill our own cups when we help others fill their own.

I’m praying for my roommate today. She had a very long day of tests and is scared, and prays out loud all night and day. I’ve been talking to her through the curtain as she is alone all day. 83 years old. God bless Joyce.

I’m praying for my friend Karen. Hip replacement is no joke. We were texting again at 1:00 am. I’m praying for sleep, pain relief, and the first of many strong steps towards a pain free and beautiful, peaceful life.

I’m praying for rob and my kids and my parents and siblings. I may look good in pictures, but in real life this has been scary. This has not been easy. This has been a little too real about what a terminal illness is. This has been hard physically and mentally and emotionally on us all. We have our tribe and are grateful for everyone.

I’m praying that whoever is on rounds agrees with my oncologist and the dermatologist and agrees to let me go home to continue to heal.

And I’m praying for healing.

Complete and total healing to last for years and years and decades.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Hospital Day Three

I was admitted into the hospital Wednesday. I was too out of it to update the blog, but I’m on the upswing now, so here it goes.

I wake up with a grateful heart.

Yes, I am still covered all over in what my friend Karen and I were joking about at 1:00 am …my dragon scales. You should see my Khaleesi GIF. It’s an appropriate name for them, as I feel like I’ve walked through yet another fire. Your skin is your biggest organ and we take advantage of it.

“Love the skin you’re in.”

So true, people.

Get up today and moisturize or something.

Yesterday started off stressful, as at one point I had the attending oncologist, his four attendings, and as I am explaining my history another doctor walked in. I knew he was my guy right away, because I was in the middle of making sure they all knew that I may be a kindergarten teacher, but I have a doctorate degree from Save my Ass, University. The new

Guy listened to me for a minute and got that look in his eye of “She knows her stuff.”

The other men cleared out pretty quickly when he showed up so I knew he was a big deal.

Apparently, he is the dermatological specialist. He explained he read my chart and based on what he read, he booked over because he was afraid I had the fatal kind of reaction happening. The fact that he walked in on me speaking and reviewing medical jargon toe to toe with five doctors, even with marble mouth, relaxed him greatly.

I’ve lost all shame elements, and he took pictures of my body all over. Maybe they’ll make a dragon scale calendar and I’ll be their girl of the month… meet Keri, Miss November.

Then he explained he wanted to do a biopsy to make sure it’s simply the type of reaction he is thinking, and to see if it is a deep reaction or just skin. This would entail getting a core sample of my thigh. As my dad always says, “knowledge is power”, so I agreed.

Speaking of my dad, the six time cancer survivor, former marine, and retired police officer… keep him in your prayers. I think this is harder than he lets on. He had a hard time staying for the port access, the morphine injections, and walked out when they did the biopsy yesterday. Don’t let anyone fool you…

My mom is the marine.

They did the biopsy right there on my hospital bed and she held my hand the whole time. Poor Rob was rushing to the hospital after dealing with the kids and drop offs and trying to get things from his office. He ended up coming right after we finished, and mom, dad and Rob and I all had a discussion with the doctor/specialist/surgeon. Results will be in today.

The rest of the day was a flurry of emails between Erin, Donnie’s secretary, and my team at Stony Brook. I’m refusing heparin injections and making sure I get up and walk to prevent blood clots.

We had a huge relief when my oncologist stopped by after her long day. We are not stopping the doxil. We are adjusting our sails a bit.

I’m canceling the chemo for next week and pushing it off a week. We may push it another week if needed, but I already know in my heart

I will be fine by then. We are going with metronomic dosing. Lower doses at a more frequent schedule. So instead of one one big dose once a month, we will do a small dose once every two weeks, or maybe even three. Donnie is pleased with the tumor markers and also noticed a jump in lymphocytes which is good. The spike in oesinophils is probably due to an allergic reaction. We asked when I could go home and it will probably be tomorrow or Sunday. She wants to keep getting fluids and the steroid IV push into me. I’ve been wearing myself off the pain medicine as well.

Don’t get me wrong, morphine and oxicodine are good things. They’ve been life savers and necessary to even have fabric touch my

Skin. My doctor last night said I looked

Worse than a week ago… and last night was after a day in the hospital already. I guess bloated and dragon scales won’t win me the calendar girl contest.

She shook her head that I was even teaching Wednesday morning. I had a new student coming and wanted to be there. She just laughed and shook her head like I was crazy. I said i would probably be back to work Monday.

Teachers are crazy, but kindergarten teachers are a special kind of crazy.

It was another long night. Vitals every four hours, my Roommate’s phone going off in the middle of the night. I used my Headphones and listened to Christmas music all night long. It helped.

“Joy to the World”.

I’m up now, and going to attempt to clean myself up a bit before slathering the lotion all over my scales again.

The thigh hurts where they took the biopsy, so I may need some pain management there as well.

I think my brother Scott is on “Keri duty” today and will bring my mom here. My dad is the kids Uber driver today. Rob is going to come from mid morning until about 3. Jill went over last night to help out with the kids. Morgan got hit in the face in gym and had to have her braces looked at after school, and Quinn had to pack for his big Boy Scout camping weekend. I dont know what we would do without my family. They have been here for us every step of the way.

I also had God step in a few times yesterday. My friend Melissa, a swim mom and one of the most amazing and passionate teachers I’ve ever met, sent me a selfie. She was with carol Masin. Carol was my building reading teacher when I was hired at Roanoke, and left every day with a suitcase of plans. She was a dynamo, and part of what will always be called my “Roanoke Family”. She retired, and school districts now hire her as a trainer. If I ran our district, she would be my first call, followed by Pat Bloss, math trainer extraordinaire..

These two women, both who I admire and love, met for the first time and sent me a selfie.

I looked at it all day long.

God sent us Stephen too. Rob has been dealing with this and so strong. He doesn’t have a big open Facebook. He has a few close friends, and one came yesterday. Stephen is actually one of the people who helped rob and I meet. Digger O’Dells is “our place”. It’s where he asked me to be his girlfriend by quoting New Edition. “If it isn’t love, why do I feel this way?”

How could I have ever said no to that?

We laughed when I joked that here I am, not wearing pants, or a bra, and had on a hot blond wig. Years ago that would have been called a wild Friday night. I think rob needed to see him more than me.

He isn’t a hugger or emotional , but please, send him love. He is a good man.

The best.

Please pray for my dear friend Karen, who is recovering from hip surgery. Texting at 1:00 and laughing with her was a blessing during a long night.

Please pray for my roommate Joyce. She is an elderly woman who speaks out loud to Jesus all night long and is cries and is scared. I just prayed again with her, and pulled a nurse aside that perhaps a clergy visit would calm her down. Listen, anyone can pray with anyone, but she knows her bible verses and names and numbers, and it’s time for a professional.

Please pray for Quinn’s troop as they camp this weekend. I miss my kids. I won’t see him now until Sunday.

Please pray for all of these amazing and overworked nurses who are so kind. 19 North is now added to my nurse squad.

Please pray for good biopsy results, healing, and along life ahead.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Better Healed than Unbroken

I made it through the day yesterday.

My whole body hurts to touch a bit, and opening snacks is a bit hard but I’m managing.

I’m excited about the next two months as it’s when everything starts to come together in kindergarten and their confidence grows.

I still can’t believe this is happening.

It’s so hard to not play the “What would I be like now if this hadn’t happened?”

What kind of wife would I be?

Mom?

Friend?

Teacher?

Christian?

Stranger?

I read something yesterday about how we can become better people healed than when we were unbroken.

I like that thought.

That’s what I’m going for in both ways.

Healed and better.

I look around and see others who don’t even recognize how lucky their lives are and the blessings they have. Can you touch something and not wince in pain? Can you swallow water and not want to cry? Can you go through an hour and not think about dying this year?

If so… you are blessed beyond your own knowing. Be happy and grateful . That doesn’t seem to be the way lately.

I see people, adults, name calling and writing about others, and we wonder why we have children who bully.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Remember…

The children are watching.

Today, let’s all be better people. Raise others up who need a hand. Give a second chance, or a third, or a fourth. If we can’t ever come back from mistakes, we all lose as a society. People will stop trying. Accept apologies. And of one isn’t given, live your own life anyway.

Keep your eyes on your own life and how to make it better for those around you.

And if the people around you aren’t who you want to be like… I saw a quote

yesterday.

“You can’t change the people around you..

But you can change the people around you.”

Be a blessing.

Pray for healing.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Back to Work to be a Blessing

I’m up and going to try to head to work today.

Perhaps hitting the ground running isn’t the best way to come back to kindergarten, but instead slowly easing into the routines again.

Review, play, sing, dance and breathe.

I’ve been getting a little better the past two days, and expect by Friday I’ll be as strong as I was when this all started.

That’s the plan anyway.

Yesterday was a relief in so many ways. I once again didn’t realize how much the water was boiling until I hopped out of it, so to speak. I’ve always felt church should be warm, welcoming, and never stressful. Seeing Morgan visibly relax in front of my eyes was amazing. No stress about test grades, no memory work expected, just presence, a sermon summary and welcome arms. Come and learn and love the Lord. Even Quinn, who is notoriously tough to win over, said he was so happy. Maddie was upset that she had to do two hard years to get her confirmation after realizing how different it could have been for her.

The sermon yesterday was about how God gives you what you need, even if you don’t know you need it. That’s what He did here. I never ever would have left without that letter.

He knew.

In the sermon the three wise men were discussed. They were called the Magi. Almost like magicians. They were probably astrologers and great thinkers more than Kings, and their names weren’t even mentioned until the 600’s. The star they followed could have been a special star, a “God Star” meant for them to follow. The gifts they have were traveling gifts, gifts that a young couple to take with them as they fled a ruler who wanted to kill all young boys.

It’s amazing if you think about it.

They didn’t have internet, or GPS, but they found Jesus by a star in the sky and ancient texts they had read. They followed and everything happened as it was supposed to happen.

Everything is as it should be, which is sometimes so hard.

Why did this chemo overload happen?

I don’t know.

Maybe it destroyed every single cancer cell at once. That’s what I am praying for now.

Maybe it happened at this moment in time because I had the time off from work.

Maybe it happened to me because I have Donnies creams which have helped and can show others how helpful they are.

I don’t know.

All I know is that I am grateful.

Grateful for a church community that welcomed my family.

Grateful for my mom and Aunt and cousins who had our backs when we were put in a horrible situation during a hard time in our lives.

Grateful for this body, which after having been flooded with chemicals for three years, and bombed two weeks ago, continues to get me through the day.

Grateful we salvaged vacation by finding a new place to treat ourselves.

I’ve looked inward at my blessings…. I mean, even when I head to the bathroom I thank my kidneys for still working.

That’s what everyone should do more.

People are unhappy so they look to tear down others. Judge others. Pass condemnation. Gossip.

Instead, how about we give thanks for what we are given. Our own blessings. Think of how we can bless others with our words and actions.

Perhaps you will be used today by God to BE the light. Perhaps you will say or do the exact things someone needs to hear or see, something that will suddenly make everything make sense in their own world.

What kind of messenger are you?

Will you bring words of anger or hate?

Will you bring glad tidings of joy?

Today may we all have a peaceful day of blessings and healing.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

God Came Through in Little Ways

I highly recommend to never ever ever have a chemo overdose.

I felt like I was dying yesterday.

It was actually worse than the day before, so I am grateful that I had gone into the hospital and gotten fluids and labs and a plan and answers and ordered the creams and lotions.

God came through once again and everything that I needed came.

My dad was the kids Uber driver. He went and got me a nutritious smoothie order from Paula so I can keep up my energy.

Quinn was picked up by a mom friend and had a great day of bowling and laughs.

The cream we had overnighted came at 11:00 in the morning so I had all day to lather it on.

My mom came and sat with me and I slept with my head on her lap on and off.

Our family Christmas gift that was on backorder finally came, two weeks earlier than planned, so the kids have something fun to do now the last two days of break.

I binge watched “Virgin River” on Netflix and it kept my mind off of the pain all day.

I managed to eat and drink.

I can swallow without crying.

I played with a new wig I was gifted.

Mentally however… talk about the tightrope.

I tried not to think about how this is how it will be at the end.

My friend Vanessa said that maybe this huge dose knocked all the cancer out at once. Having my doctor call early in the morning to say how great the labs are made it more tolerable.

It’s the chemo, not the cancer.

Rob is literally the best man I’ve ever known.

He helped me as I had to gingerly rub lotion all over my body and hands while swishing and trying to swallow mouthwash while I was simultaneously crying at how bald I am and have this rash everywhere and can’t move my fingers.

He kept reminding me it’s temporary.

He kept telling me he loves me.

He kept reminding me of the labs.

The lotion smells horrible and he reminded me of the lavender sheet spray.

I told him I’m afraid this is how it will be at the end, and he said it won’t be like this forever.

It was a hard day.

If you can wake up today and just go and do what you want, please realize how lucky you are.

Then go be kind to everyone, because apparently this world needs kindness. Pray for Australia, pray for our troops, pray for your local town, pray for people who are ready to throw stones at others while carrying their own sandbags of sins.

Yesterday was a day where i felt like i was a hospice type patient.

I’m about to get up and start moving today.

Today will be better, as I see the steroids have started to lessen the rash on my arms.

We may go to St Isidores tonight for a 6 pm Polish Christmas carol concert if I am up to it.

Tomorrow we will try to get Morgan to the new church that has agreed to allow her to finish confirmation classes AND accept me. Thank you, Jesus, for kind people and family members.

I’ll make the judgement call tomorrow about going to work Monday.

I tend to bounce back quickly, and as long as I can walk and talk, I’ll be there.

I’ve got two days to see.

Please continue to pray for a full recovery from this… from the chemo and the cancer.

I keep thinking if this has made me such a hot mess on the outside, it must be destroying the cancer on the inside. Plus I’ve got the chinese herbs, donnies protocol which i can begin again once I can swallow, I’ve done some major forgiveness and soul work the past two weeks, and I’ve got Jesus by my side.

Im all good.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Walking the Tightrope to Healing

I’ve been walking a mental tightrope the past two weeks, teetering between “This is it” and “This is my year.”

Teetering between wishing I had a crystal ball so I could know if the end was coming and reading the Bible and holding faith in His plans for me.

Teetering between looking on Facebook private groups for tips and seeing more women going into hospice and husbands posting their wives have died, and also finding Hope stories.

Teetering between seeing people post how chemotherapy is what kills people and then praying this chemotherapy prolongs my life.

Teetering between facts on pages about it is what it is and listening to podcasts from Dr Joe Dispenza on how thought can change reality.

It’s been a long two weeks off and a fast two weeks off.

I am so glad that once again God’s timing was perfect. How?

Well, if there was ever a time to find out that a 20% increase in chemo would make you feel like you’re dying, it’s during a rare full two week break where you have time to rest and devise plans with your team to never have this happen again.

As much as I didnt want to go into the hospital yesterday, it was the best thing to do. I tend to put on a brave face and pretend it’s not as bad as it is.

Apparently I am like the knight in Monty Pythons Search for the Holy Grail movie who keeps having limbs chopped off and continued to say, “It’s just a flesh wound! Keep coming, you bastard!”

I was in bad shape.

My oncologist knew the second she walked in and went right to work. She noticed the steroid puff all over my body, especially my face. The rash is covering most of my body now, and I’ve been terrified of scarring. She said it shouldn’t, but may cause pigmentation issues. I have to stay away from all heat. This chemo rises to the surface when around heat. No hot showers, no baths, and even though I bought gloves to wash dishes, it’s still heat with hot water. For a girl who hates the cold… I’ll be on ice.

Rob and I thought mouth sores/ulcers would be white. Nope. Apparently the red all over my mouth and tongue and throat are sores. All the way down the throat as well, which is why I cant eat or drink. The soup I thought was helping isn’t…. because it’s warm. So smoothies and cold foods.

In winter.

My feet are also in bad shape, but Donnie and Mederi is overnighting me the special cream for the feet as well as a different one for the rash all over the body.

We asked if I should have some fluids pushed and it was a no brainer. The nurses got right to work, and I had the foresight to ask to keep the tube in my chest after they took blood before my appointment as I had a feeling I would have IV fluids pumped in. They also gave me morphine, to take the edge off of the pain.

I felt and looked like a cancer patient, like in the movies. It’s not good for ones emotional and mental health when that happens, so the morphine helped take the edge off of that a bit as well as the pain management.

I also wasn’t shy about pulling down my pants for all the nurses, even the male nurse, so they could see how I pretty much got every single side effect you can get from this chemo all at once. I had about a 20% higher dose than last time as we were going to try to push this to just once a month. The new plan is to lower the dose and go to every three weeks instead. Donnie always likes metronomic dosing anyway.

I’ve found out I can swallow the magic mouthwash even though it says just swish and spit. I’ll get it down the throat this way and clear up the sores there.

Donnie also has suggested cucumbers and melon, as well as his magic herbal powder to mix with coconut water and Manuka honey.

I’m up now and wired a bit, probably from coming off the morphine.

I’ve got three days to pull it together.

I’ll do it.

The steroid taper will finish by Sunday and my doctor said it will clear this all up. I’ll be all set for work by then.

I’ve got two weeks before next infusion.

We’ve got a plan.

I texted my siblings to keep them updated, and as I sent it, my brother rob sent me a picture of a sign he was standing in front of. The Joshua 1:9 saying, which i have on my necklace he gave me.

Signs.

Be strong and courageous, do not fear, for the lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As I walked the tightrope yesterday, rob kept me on the line. My nurses kept me on the line as well and are amazing. Turns out another one of them is cousins with a teacher friend I work with, and the teacher had just sent me a picture of my sacred prayer spot in saint patricks cathedral literally ten minutes before I saw her cousin.

And of course my Jean, whose granddaughter I had several years ago in first grade. Crying in front of nurses who make you feel safe is a blessing, and God put them all there for me last night.

I also discussed my chinese herbalist, Donnie yance and Mederi, my blog, Annie Apleseed, radical remission, and how my fairy godfather rick Shapiro always reminds me to sticks to the plan, as he wrote the book “Hope Never Dies” and knows many amazing thrivers and doctors. Wouldn’t you know as I left the hospital I got a message from rick?

My kids haven’t had an easy vacation watching me struggle through this. Please pray for them.

And for rob.

And my parents. It’s not easy for any of them.

Thank you for all of your prayers. It’s always darkest before the dawn, right?

The good news is I’ve got some hair growing back.

One tumor marker jumped up… but another two dropped, and my liver function is even better than two weeks ago, and my labs all look good.

May it all continue to work.

It’s the chemo, not the cancer.

It’s the chemo, not the cancer.

I’ve got a lot more living to do, for many more years to come.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

2020 BE the Light

Every New Years Day we go to the beach and pick a rock. We each write one word on the rock, our word for the year that we will try to live by. My word this year took all year to come up with. Let me explain.

I felt like I was dying as 2019 came to a close.

I wasn’t up to writing a year end review, as I felt my life was closer to ending than I hoped. Rashes, throat tight and in panic mouth issues, hands and feet peeling and in pain, feeling like every step i took I was walking on glass, worrying how I would be able to work through this treatment….

But then the ball dropped, the year changed, and today…

I woke up.

That’s half the battle right there.

2019 was hard… hard as it seemed for many.

I had great dreams to hit remission against all odds again this past year.

Instead?

The cancer exploded all over the bones, into the spine and the hips, as well innumerable lesions all over the liver.

I had to have a liver biopsy.

In September I ended up in the hospital emergency room, gasping for breath, saying all the things to rob you say when you think you are dying, with my dad, my friend Mary Maki, my brother rob, and my brother in law Jake all coming to be with us while the rest of my family was with my mom who had just had a procedure and was stuck at home, unable to be with her daughter who was afraid she was dying that day.

I lost friends… lifelines… sisters in this cancer arena.

Lisa, who was one of the first friends to be firm with on me how I’m going to do this, because she did it, and had all of these tips. She went quiet on Facebook for a while, as some do. We didn’t know her cancer had come back, so when I got the text she was gone from my friend candy, I was in shock. I had to watch the summer camp talent show with Maddie and hold in my grief until I got to the car. Mourning her was easier, and harder, because I had lived with her. I shared friends and space with her. I mourned with others.

Leila, who had this spark of light every time we wrote to each other. She had told me it was getting to where she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror, but we were waiting on a new drug to be approved for her. She had been on my mind while we were dropping off madison at leadership camp, so I checked on her and saw she passed the day before. I cried all the way home. Her mom started to send me gifts Leila left for me, and letters. She has Leila’s phone and continues to follow my life, and her aunt follows me as well. Leila’s people are my people too, and I love them. I wear her key around my neck every day.

Alycia also left this world. Her mom alayne showed such grace and dignity and kept us all informed. She asked us to write to Alycia and read her all of our love letters. We had hoped to meet at the annie Appleseed conference but she was too ill to come. While at the conference, I received a text from her that she couldn’t wait to see me and hug me there, then another saying she couldn’t come. Even in her twilight moments, when time and space were unclear to her, she still thought of me and the hug we never got to share. I was chaperoning a trip in NYC when Paula texted me that Alycia had passed. The group I was chaperoning came with me to saint patricks cathedral and waited as I took my three minutes to pray and cry in my special spot, and one of the young men gave me a hug as I came out. I got hope for our future from his hug and humanity.

I’m still losing friends in this arena all the time. It’s like I’ve been placed at this shore by the sea of grief, and sometimes the waves crash over me and threaten to pull me in, and other times I’m able to sit and look at the calm flat water, and see the beauty in having loved and known them.

2019 was hard, people.

But it was also beautiful.

I became a yoga teacher and was certified. I took class and learned from beautiful souls, and was surrounded by beautiful souls. I did it with one of my best friends and learned from one of my best friends. I breathed.

I was able to watch my children continue to grow. I think the thing I am most proud of in my life is them. My hope is that when I leave this earth, my heart and spirit stays with them and they continue to be the lights of kindness and goodness that they have shown to be.

Madison learned to drive a car, performed in a play “A Chorus Line”, and will be in “Les Miserables” this spring. She was the top cadet of her platoon at leadership academy, and it seems as if every week we are getting letters from colleges about her running or academics, inviting her to visit and represent riverhead at different camps.

Morgan’s hair is growing back, which shows she is doing well. She also worked on a play, but behind the scenes. She has gotten a best friend, and I love seeing her giggle with her. She also grew about a foot this year, and is changing into a young lady. She may be even more driven than Maddie academically. She knows what she likes and wants and does it. Morgan found herself this year.

Quinn continues to be a love bug. He made the transition to the new school beautifully. He also has started to work hard in school to follow his sisters lead. I struggle with the amount of time he is on video games, but he has a headset where he talks to other friends, so in a way it’s a play date and they are all working together to accomplish tasks, without me having to clean my house. This year he found a new family in Troop 161, and the men and women who lead the troop are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. He will be an Eagle Scout some day. Scouting has given him confidence he needed. He also continues to play tennis and love golf.

I’m continued to blessed with a strong marriage and an amazing husband. Rob keeps me moving forward with hope. He does it all, and has become an even better father and husband through it all. We are a team. I know how lucky I am. When we got married, we had a saying, “No matter what”. We’ve stuck to that saying, and no matter what happens, we love each other harder through it.

I left my church this year. I miss so many faces there. Every Sunday I think of my friends who hugged me and prayed for me. It was the easiest and hardest decision I’ve ever made. But my faith is not based on a church. It’s based on a man. Jesus. I went to the church we were married in last week and the priest spoke of how the church is the well of water from which we drink each week, which helps us fill our heart and spirit to go forth and live like Jesus.

That’s how I know my word for 2020 is the right word.

Evangelical.

That word has been hijacked and people think of crazies when they see that. Megachurches with rich leaders, crazy people who judge others.

That’s not what it is supposed to be.

It’s supposed to be that you go out and be the light.

Not look for the light.

Not tell others about the light.

Not tell others how they are wrong and won’t get to see the light.

But BE the light.

Others see the light and step into it.

We live in a world of judgement. Everyone judges everyone and has an opinion and whips up a frenzy. It reminds me of when the adulteress was going to be stoned, and Jesus walked up to them and asked who among the stone throwers was without sin? Let that person cast the first stone.

They all dropped their stones and walked away.

How many of you are holding stones? Ready to pounce and throw and sneer and throw side eye?

Drop your stone and hold out your hand.

Your life will be better for it.

I’ve been blessed with people praying for me for years now. Do you know what it feels like to know strangers are whispering your name in churches around the world as they light candles? It’s beautiful.

Being filled with faith doesn’t mean you are tied to a church. It means you are tied to a man, a man who came to us as a baby, walked among us, showed love to the unloveable. He didn’t come for the perfect people. He came for the sinners, the same people some churches refuse to serve communion. He came for you.

He came for me.

It’s written by one of his disciples that if he would have catalogued all of the miracles Jesus performed, there wouldn’t be enough libraries to hold all of the books filled with the stories. If a man could perform all of that back then, I have to believe He is possible to perform them still.

So goodbye 2019. You were hard, full of pain and sorrow, disappointment and devastating losses. But you also were full of laughter and love and prayer and friends and family and forgiveness.

I’m not naive to think 2020 will be perfect all of the time.

I simple pray it brings more of the good.

May 2020 bring more healing than pain, more faith than fear, more life than death, more forgiveness than judgement, more hugs than pointing fingers, more love than anger, and more time for us all.

Evangelical.

That’s the word of the year.

Inside the word is the word “angel.”

Be like an angel of God, and be the light of the world.

God knows we need more light.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri