Family, Friends & Fun

We are at the end of Day 57 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer, and it was another great day for her.  She spent a very busy day with family and friends, which is always a fun time.  Due to the cumulative effect of her chemo treatments, Megan still fatigues easily, but that didn’t stop her from thoroughly enjoying her day.

After yesterday’s Bulls game, Megan’s friends Paityn Smith and Raegan Murphy both stayed overnight with her.  However, they had to wake up by 8:00 a.m. because we had plans to be on the road today by 8:45 a.m.  So, Megan’s friends left at about 8:15 a.m. so we could get ready to head down to Bloomington.

Central A&M School District is where Megan’s Grandpa Bugg used to teach.  He taught at the junior high and also coached girls basketball.  Also, Megan’s cousins attend that school district as well.  Their high school made it to the championship game of the IHSA class 1A girls state basketball tournament.  Since the game is played at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University, Grandpa and Grandma Bugg, Uncle Matt, Aunt Amy Lynn and the cousins, and Uncle Todd and Aunt Keely all met us for breakfast this morning.  Unfortunately, Mackenzie couldn’t join us because she had musical rehearsal today, and the show is two short weeks (she is a busy girl!!!).  We had a great time seeing everyone this morning!!!  Here are some pictures from breakfast.

The Entire Crew
The Entire Crew
Grandpa Bugg
Grandpa Bugg
Grandma Bugg
Grandma Bugg
Uncle Todd & Aunt Keely
Uncle Todd & Aunt Keely
Uncle Matt, Aunt Amy Lynn, Zack, Jack, Nick & Carsyn
Uncle Matt, Aunt Amy Lynn, Zack, Jack, Nick & Carsyn

Also, we were very excited to hear that the Lady Raiders from Central A&M won their game today and are the state champions!!!  They defeated Hardin Calhoun 51-41.  The girls from the team took time out of their busy schedules to organize this picture showing their support for “Team Megan”.  It’s pretty exciting to have the support of the state champions!!!  Thanks girls…and congratulations!!!

AandmraidersAfter spending some time with family, we went shopping in Bloomington for a little while, but Megan quickly started to get tired.  The Coaler wrestling team was in the IHSA dual team wrestling championship today, and that just happened to be in Bloomington as well.  Since Megan was worn out, Deb dropped me off in time for our 2:00 p.m. semi-final match and she took Megan back home to rest.

Our wrestlers lost their semi-final match, but came back and won their next match to take home the third place trophy.  I was so proud of Coach Master and his squad.  Coaler Pride was certainly on display today!!!  Here is a picture of our boys with their new hardware.  I’m looking forward to the celebration to honor them, which will be at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday at the high school.

20150228_201011Although I was very excited to watch our wrestlers today, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Mackenzie off to her Winter Ball at CCHS.  I always like to be there for the pictures and to give her a hug goodbye, but I couldn’t be in two places at once today.  However, I did have Deb send me some pictures.  I’m a little biased, but I think she looked pretty gorgeous 🙂

20150228_172416-120150228_17263920150228_173601I didn’t get home from the wrestling match until about 10:00 p.m.  However, I found out that Megan went over to her friend Paityn Smith’s house to hang out for a few hours tonight.  When Megan could go to school, she and Paityn would hang out before school and during lunch.  I know Megan really misses seeing her every day, so to see her the past two days was really enjoyable for her.  Thanks Paityn!!!

“Team Megan” continues to amaze us with their undying love and support of Megan.  Today, Megan received a few things that she thought were pretty awesome.  Many of you have seen the pictures of Megan and her giant teddy bears.  Well, today she received a huge box and when she opened it, there was a giant stuffed lady bug.  As you can see by the picture, Megan really enjoyed that.

20150228_084517-1Yesterday, Megan received a huge package from the Illinois State University Athletic Department.  She also received an email from the ISU softball team, which contained a video of the players saying hello to Megan and this picture.  Megan thought this was so nice of them.  Thanks ladies…and we hope you have a great season!!!

ISU Softball Pic-1The support that Megan has received from our neighboring school districts has been nothing short of incredible.  She has received gift bags, gift certificates, cards, letters, signed volleyballs and many other things far too numerous to mention in this post.  However, she always loves to see the different pictures from the school districts who all continue to show their support for “Team Megan”.  One of our good friends, Janine Michalak, is a teacher in the Channahon School District.  Here is a picture they sent, and notice they are sporting their own “Team Megan” shirts.  This was so nice of them.

channahonIt’s almost 11:00 p.m. and Megan has now been asleep for about 45 minutes.  Also, dad is relieved because Kenzie just got home from the dance and going out to eat (I’m a worrier!!!)

Megan had another terrific day.  Other than being tired, she felt good and was able to spend some more quality time with family and friends.  We only have one more day until Megan has to go back to the hospital to start Round #4 of her chemo treatments.  We plan to thoroughly enjoy another day before Megan steps into the ring to beat down cancer again.  Remember…

Cancer messed with the wrong diva this time!!!

On to Day 58…

Making Memories with the Chicago Bulls

20150227_201757-1Day 56 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer was one to remember.  I am very late with tonight’s post, because Megan and our family had a very big day, and we just got home.  Thanks to the extreme kindness and generosity of Ken and Kristi Sandeno and Todd and Richelle Sandeno, we were all able to sit in a private suite for tonight’s Chicago Bulls game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.  It was certainly a night that Megan and our family will never forget.

Megan woke up at about 7:00 a.m. this morning and she felt good.  She ate a good breakfast and then settled in for the morning.  She tried to rest today, because she knew she had a big day ahead of her.  I came home from work to eat lunch with her, and right after that, she laid down and took about an hour nap.

Megan was so  excited to go to the Bulls game tonight.  Thanks to the Sandenos, both Megan and Mackenzie were able to invite some friends to go with them to tonight’s game.  What made it even more exciting was that the Sandenos also sent us to the game in their private bus.  Because they have done so much for us, Megan wanted to invite the Emerson family to go with us.  Megan then invited her friends Paityn Smith and Raegan Murphy.  Mackenzie invited two of her friends she played basketball with, Kenady Clayburn and Maddie Halliday.  So all 12 of us piled into the bus at 3:30 p.m. and headed to the United Center.  Here is a picture of all the girls on the bus.

20150227_160450Here is another picture on the bus where Megan and Makenna are showing off their dance moves.  It’s so nice to see Megan having so much fun!!!

20150227_163553We had an absolutely fantastic time at the game!  The Sandenos had arranged it so our family could be courtside during warm-ups.  We saw Taj Gibson, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic…and Megan’s most favorite player, Joakim Noah.  Here are some pictures of us at courtside.  That’s Niko Mirotic posing with the girls.  In the picture where Kenzie is pointing behind her, she is pointing out Doug McDermott.  All three of the ladies in my family thought he was the best looking Bull 🙂

20150227_17435320150227_17423320150227_17494020150227_17544420150227_181225Here are a few pictures of all of us in the private box at the game.

20150227_20123420150227_19120720150227_20211820150227_205457Of course, one of the highlights for the girls was when the dessert cart stopped by our suite.  I think the adults all enjoyed that as well.

20150227_203253Probably the most excited I saw the girls all night was when Benny the Bull made a visit to our suite.  Benny presented a special signed shirt to Megan and took lots of pictures with the girls.  It was so much fun!!!

20150227_202443-120150227_20232720150227_202623

20150227_202601We had such a fantastic day.  I don’t know how we could ever thank the Sandenos enough for making such wonderful memories for Megan.  It was so kind and generous of them.  We are also very thankful to the Chicago Bulls organization for taking such good care of all of us.  Day 56 was truly a day Megan and our family will forever cherish.

Now that Megan is feeling better, I told you we were going to enjoy every day until she has to go back for Round #4 on Monday.

Let’s see what Day 57 brings…

She’s Back!!!

Day 55 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer is nearing an end.  On Monday, February 16, Megan checked into the hospital for Round #3 of her chemo treatment, and she got out of the hospital on Thursday, February 19.  It has taken until today to finally be able to announce…SHE’S BACK!!!  Megan had a full day today, and although she needed a 90 minute nap in the middle of the day, she felt good all day long.

Megan feel asleep at 7:45 p.m. last night because she was just exhausted.  Mackenzie started her behind the wheel portion of 20150226_075228driver’s education today at 6:30 a.m., so she was up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready (she never slows down!!!)  Megan heard the noise, so she got up then as well.  I thought she might fall back to sleep, but at about 6:30 a.m. she told me she wanted to go to IHOP for breakfast.  Since we had an appointment this morning at Central DuPage Hospital, stopping for breakfast fit into our schedule.  Plus, we were just happy that she wanted to eat.  Although the roads were pretty snow covered this morning, we still were able to make it to breakfast at the IHOP in Morris.  Here is a picture of Megan with her banana nutella crepes and a side of hash browns. We had a great time.

After breakfast, we made the long, slow trek up to Central DuPage Hospital.  Because of the weather, the trip took awhile, but it was fun talking with Megan the entire way there.  When we arrived, I was anxious to see what her weight would be, because on Monday she only weighed 94 pounds, which meant she was down six pounds.  I am happy to report that she is back to 97 pounds and we still have three full days to get her back to 100 pounds.  Now that she is feeling better, that shouldn’t be a problem, which is a huge relief.  She starts her next chemo round on Monday, and if she started the cycle weighing less than she should, it could have been the start of a vicious cycle for her.

20150226_100541After they got her vitals, we went to our room so they could access her port to check her blood counts.  Here is a picture of Megan patiently waiting for the results of her blood test.  I’m sure you noticed in the previous picture, but Megan is sporting her always popular cupcake beanie that was given to her by Kasey Harvey, who is also fighting the same cancer as Megan.  Everyone in our family proudly supports #teamkaseyharvey!!!

As we were waiting for the blood count results, Megan got a nice surprise.  One of the therapy 20150226_101443-1dogs stopped in to see her.  As readers of this blog know, Megan loves animals, so she was so excited to see this King Arthur  Spaniel.  Here are a couple pictures of Megan enjoying her new friend.

20150226_101512After the therapy dog left, Dr. Salvi came in and reported that although her white blood cell count was low, he was confident it would come back in time for Monday’s treatment cycle.  Although Megan isn’t looking forward to going through Round #4 of chemo treatments, she knows that if she can stay on schedule, she will finish the entire treatment protocol as scheduled.  If her blood counts are too low for them to give her the chemo treatments, her entire treatment schedule gets pushed back.  So we were very happy that her counts should be okay come Monday.

After Dr. Salvi examined her, the hospital social worker stopped in to see Megan.  They kicked me out and spent about 30 minutes together.  Megan really enjoys talking with her, and it is so nice the hospital offers that service to her.

As we were pulling out of the hospital parking lot, Megan wanted to make another stop at the Vanilla Sugar Bakery for cupcakes (Still highly recommended!!!).  Then she requested Chipotle for lunch, which made her dad happy!  Megan had some chicken tacos and we were finally ready to head for home.

When we got home, Megan felt fine, but she was tired.  She laid down on the couch and settled in for about a 90 minute nap.  When she woke up at about 5:00 p.m., she said she felt great.  She ate some awesome soup that was given to us by one of Megan’s favorite people…the secretary at her middle school, Vicky Ryan.  When I told Megan that Mrs. Ryan had made soup for her, Megan said, “I love her.  She’s so nice.”  Thanks Mrs. Ryan!!!

Tonight, our high school hosted the championship game of the girls basketball Sectional tournament.  Joliet Catholic was playing Rich South, and I told Megan it would be a great game.  I was really happy when Megan said she wanted to go to the game with me.  She also slipped out of the game a couple time to go watch Mackenzie at musical rehearsal.  Here is a picture of her hanging out with Abby Washburn and Makenna Emerson at the game.  She had a great time!!!

20150226_20313020150226_173850“Team Megan” continues to show amazing support for Megan.  Today, she received a very thoughtful gift from the Olivet Nazarene University softball team.  It was so nice of the players to lift her spirits like that.  Here is Megan showing off her new scarf and a “Team Megan” softball they gave her.

Megan also received two pictures from schools within the Troy School District.  The first picture is from the faculty at Hofer Elementary School.  Our neighbor, Kristen Copes, is the principal there, so we all appreciated her organizing this picture for Megan.

hoferelemschoolThe second picture is from Craughwell Elementary School, which is also in the Troy School District.  Three of Deb’s former classmates at Joliet West High School work there and organized this awesome picture.  Thanks to Sharon Fox, Trudie Howard, and Kathy Barker and everyone at Craughwell for supporting “Team Megan”.

Team Megan (1)Day 55 has been a tremendous day for Megan.  She is back with a vengeance and ready to have a great next three days.  Our family plans on making the most of her good days, so get ready for the many beautiful moments to come this weekend.

We are looking forward to Day 56…

There is Something Good in Every Day

I apologize for the late post tonight, but I just got home from a school board meeting, so I am running a little behind.  Today marks Day 54 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  Yesterday, Megan really started to turn the corner towards feeling better, so we were hoping for more of the same today.

Megan didn’t fall asleep until about 10:45 p.m. last night and this morning she was already up and watching her tv at 7 a.m.  That isn’t a lot of sleep for someone recovering from a chemo cycle, so I was a little worried about her stamina today.  However, the morning started out great.  She requested donuts this morning, so I headed out to K&W Bakery to get Kenzie a breakfast sandwich (she loves them there!) and to get Megan her requested donuts.  She specifically wanted a raspberry filled donut and a vanilla long john.  I told you that she gets specific tastes and when she does, she wants what she wants!  She ended up eating both donuts, so that was a good sign.  After that, I took Kenzie to school I headed to work.

Deb and I both were able to come home for lunch today, and Megan ate well again.  She had some Italian beef and some breadsticks.  She also enjoyed a red velvet cupcake that she got when we stopped at a gourmet bakery close to Central DuPage Hospital called the “Vanilla Sugar Bakery.”  Today was the first time she felt well enough to enjoy it, and she wasn’t disappointed.  If you are ever in that area, you should check it out!

After lunch, Megan was pretty tired.  Remember when I said she didn’t get enough sleep last night?  Well, that caught up with her today.  She tried to rest, but Megan has always had trouble sleeping in the middle of the day.  As a result, she was not able to take a nap, which she desperately needed.

Mrs. Larson came at 3:45 p.m. for Megan’s tutoring session.  Even Mrs. Larson noticed that Megan seemed extra tired today, so I think they took it kind of easy during their session.  Megan said they did a little math and a few other things.  Mrs. Larson always looks after Megan, and we are so appreciative to have her in Megan’s life right now.  She is truly a difference maker for her students!

20150225_122511I had to leave at 5:30 p.m. for the school board meeting, but before I left, I did get a good picture of Megan with that crazy kitten, Belushi.  No matter how tired Megan is, that kitten always makes her smile.  The girls are very happy that Aunt Amy has let them watch her two cats.

After I left, Deb and Megan went to Morris to get some groceries and to pick up Madison Emerson.  Other than going to the hospital for treatment on Monday, this was the first time Megan has really felt well enough to get out of the house.  However, when they got home, she was exhausted and didn’t feel good.  She ended up laying down and falling asleep on the couch at 7:45 p.m.

One of the frustrating results of these chemo treatments has been the impact they have had on her stamina.  Prior to her cancer diagnosis, Megan was your typical 13 year old girl.  She was involved in athletics, enjoyed having her friends over to hang out, and liked to stay up late on the weekends.  However, since her treatments, her stamina is just not the same.  She gets winded just climbing the steps to her room.  Most nights, she goes to bed early and sleeps later than usual (except last night!).  In talking with Nurse Kathy, this is a common affect of chemo treatments.  When Megan receives these treatments, her body is working very hard, even when she is resting.  So even though she is not doing much physical activity, her body is still in overdrive as it processes the chemo and fights off the cancer.  When that is coupled with her lack of physical activity, fatigue is a real issue for her.  It’s difficult to watch Megan go from being such a physically active girl to being challenged when walking up one flight of stairs.  However, we have to keep our eye on the prize and realize that this is a necessary evil which will eventually allow her to resume the activities of a “normal” teenager.

Tomorrow, Megan has to go back to Central DuPage Hospital to get her blood counts checked.  As we move into this more intense phase of her treatment, she will have to go twice a week to get her blood checked.  They have to make sure her counts are high enough to start her 4th round of chemo on March 2.  Hopefully, we get good news tomorrow and can turn right back around and come home.  We check in at 10:00 a.m. and if all goes well we should be out of there by 11:00 a.m.  Keep your fingers crossed!!!

I received a couple of pictures that I wanted to share.  The first comes from Nick Dziuban.  He helps coach the Coaler wrestlingdziuban team that just qualified for the IHSA Dual State Tournament by defeating Peotone last night.  Congratulations guys!!!  The wrestling team showed their support of Megan by designing warm up shirts that say “Team Megan” on one side and “Take Down Cancer” on the other side.  They are pretty awesome shirts!!!  Nick and his buddy recently participated in the “Hustle Up the Hancock”, which is a stair climb to the top of the Hancock Building in Chicago.  During his climb, he sported his yellow “Team Megan” shirt to show his support.  Thanks Nick!!!

I also received an email from Megan’s awesome supporter, Linda Miller.  One of the things our family continues to focus on is finding the beautiful moments in each and every day.  On some of the toughest days, such a focus is necessary just to make it through the day.  If you focus on all of the negative things, it will eat you alive.  goodineverydayHowever, if you find the beautiful moments in each day, it allows you to keep fighting for yet another day.  Linda sent me this quote, which I believe sums up how our family is approaching this challenging journey we are taking with Megan.

Megan didn’t have the best day today, but I can look at the picture of her with that crazy kitten, Belushi, and it makes me smile.  That was a beautiful moment, and that’s what I choose to remember from Day 54.

Let’s see what Day 55 brings…

Turning the Corner…Finally!!!

Finally, on Day 53, it looks like Megan is turning the corner and shaking off the effects of her tough third round of chemo.  It’s been an arduous 8 days of treatment and recovery, but if today is a sign of things to come, the rest of the week could be a good one for Megan.

As I reported yesterday, Megan was really struggling with nausea last night and she was extremely restless.  She had to fall asleep at 6:45 p.m. just to get some relief.  Her body must have really needed the rest because she slept through the night and did not wake up until 7:45 a.m.  When she woke up, she immediately asked me to make some oatmeal for her, and she ate the entire bowl.  At about 9:30 a.m., she wanted a sausage and cheese McMuffin from McDonalds, but she only ate about half of it.  However, that was a lot better than the past few mornings.  Things were definitely looking up!

20150224_131724Megan was excited today because Kim Scerine was going to come by for a visit.  She and Megan were going to work on picking out dance recital outfits for Broadway Dance’s upcoming summer recital.  When Megan was younger, she attended Broadway Dance, but when she started getting into volleyball, she decided to hang up her ballet shoes.  However, Megan still loves dance, so she was thrilled that Miss Kim was going to come by and hang out with her.  Kim came over at about 10:30 a.m. and when I came home at 1:00 p.m. to check on Megan, she had talked Kim into buying mexican food from La Cocina for her.  I appreciate Kim getting her to eat some lunch!!!  Kim stayed until about 3:30 p.m., and I know Megan really enjoyed her company.  Here is a picture of both of them.  Thanks Kim!!!

At 3:45 p.m., Megan had a home tutoring session with her awesome teacher, Mrs. Larson.  Megan always looks forward to seeing her, and from all of the laughing, it seems like they have a great time.  When I checked in on them, they were working on some math.  Megan swears that even though she isn’t a math teacher, Mrs. Larson is the best math teacher there is.  Megan always laughs about how nervous Mrs. Larson gets about doing the science experiments.  Today, she sent meIMG_9280 a picture of Megan completing today’s science experiment.  Megan is looking pretty intense!!!  I asked Mrs. Larson if anything blew up, and she said no…so that’s good news!!!

After school, Mackenzie, Makenna Emerson and John Halloran went to Jimmy Johns for some food.  When they came back, Mackenzie had to go to musical rehearsal, but Makenna and John stayed around to visit and play the Wii with Megan.  A little later, Madison Emerson came over as well, because of course, Tuesday night is “Dance Moms” night!!!  As you can see, Megan really enjoyed their company.  We are hopeful that if Megan keeps feeling better, she can start seeing some of her friends again.  One of the toughest things about this journey has been not seeing her friends on a daily basis like she used to when she could attend school.

20150224_193759Tomorrow night, I have a school board study session.  That reminded me that I don’t think I ever posted the “Team Megan” picture they took to show their support for Megan.  They are a great group of people, and I could never thank them enough for the support they have shown me, and our family, during this challenging journey.

schoolboardWe are all breathing a sigh of relief that Megan has finally found some relief from her last chemo cycle.  It is so hard to watch your child lay on the couch in pain and discomfort, and to realize that at that moment, she just cannot enjoy life…and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  To see her finally smiling, laughing and interacting with her friends is such a relief.

It took her a little longer than we had hoped, but after Round #3, Megan has once again gotten up from the canvas, dusted herself off, and showed cancer that she is far too strong to stay down.  As of today, Round #3 officially goes to Megan.

Here’s hoping for an even better Day 54…

Braver, Stronger, Smarter & Loved

Day 52 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer is coming to a close.  Today also marks her 17th day with at least one chemo treatment since December 30, 2014.  The effects of her latest round of chemo are still plaguing her, but things are getting a little better every day.  She is not recovering as fast as her parents would like her too, but we know brighter days are ahead.

Megan slept on the couch again last night, because for some reason, she seems to be more comfortable there right now.  She did have a relatively peaceful night, so we were very hopeful that would correlate to a better day today.  Megan woke up at about 7:15 a.m. and immediately wanted a bowl of cereal.  The cereal of choice today was Quaker Oat Squares as the Lucky Charms have taken a backseat for the past couple weeks.  Chemotherapy does crazy things to the taste buds, so it is interesting how her tastes change dramatically from day to day.

Kenzie left for school at 8:10 a.m. and right after that, Megan and I had to get ready to head to Central DuPage Hospital for her 17th day of chemo treatments.  She is becoming a veteran at preparing for her out-patient chemo treatment of Vincristine.  Right after breakfast, she went upstairs and changed into her sweatpants and a loose fitting shirt.  She knows that the loose fitting shirt makes it easier for the nurse to access the port in her chest.  She also packs a couple of peppermints, because she knows the smell of the alcohol wipes make her nauseous.  After she got ready, we hit the road.

Upon arrival at the hospital clinic, they always check Megan’s height and weight.  We have been worried about her weight because her appetite has not come back yet from the last round of chemo.  It turns out our worries were justified as she has lost six pounds…and Megan doesn’t have six pounds to lose. (By the way, thanks to all of you who have offered to give her a couple of your extra pounds) 🙂  After they took her vitals, we went to the room where the nurse accessed her port, took some blood to test and gave her the Vincristine push.  During chemo treatments, one of the major concerns is that her blood counts will become too low.  If they are too low, not only is she more susceptible to infection, but they will also not give her a chemo treatment until her blood counts recover.  Right now, her platelets are still good, but her white blood cell count is very low.  Dr. Salvi said her count is not lower than they would expect, but it is imperative that her counts recover prior to her next chemo cycle, which starts on March 2.  She is currently taking daily injections of Neupogen, which is supposed to help her white blood cell count recover.  Hopefully, it works so we can stay on schedule with her treatments.

Dr. Salvi was concerned about her weight.  Tomorrow morning, she is going to have to start taking Megestrol again, which is a medication to stimulate her appetite.  Megan won’t be happy about that, because she things that stuff tastes terrible!!!  However, it is another necessary evil because getting her weight back up has to be our top priority right now.  That task is made even more difficult because she is still struggling with some nausea that makes eating seem unappetizing to her.

After Megan’s appointment, she seemed pretty good.  She walked with me from the hospital clinic to the hospital Walgreens, which is a pretty long walk.  When we left, she wanted to stop at Oberweis for some Chocolate/Peanut Butter ice cream.  We also stopped at a cupcake shop she has been wanting to visit.  On the way home, she said she wanted chicken fajitas from La Cocina, so we picked that up on our way home.  She ate quite a bit of the ice cream and one chicken fajita, which was pretty good considering that she hasn’t eaten much of anything for the past seven days.  I was really hopeful that she was turning the corner.

However, at about 2:45 p.m., she started feeling very nauseous again and was really struggling.  She didn’t throw up, but was just very uncomfortable.  That lasted until about 6:45 p.m. when she finally found some relief by falling asleep. As of 9:45 p.m., she is still sleeping, which her body needs.

20150223_170953As always, “Team Megan” came through at just the right time to brighten her day.  At around 5:00 p.m., she was feeling pretty miserable.  That’s right when we got a knock on the door and a huge box full of goodies was delivered.  One of my former students, Kellee Mahaffay, is the volleyball coach at Christ the King middle school in Springfield, IL.  She and her players all pitched in to get Megan a box full of gifts.  The presents ranged from stuffed animals to a “Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots” game.  Megan absolutely loved it, and she really needed that pick-me-up today.  Here is a picture of her laying on the couch as she gets ready to tear into her box of thoughtful gifts.  Thanks so much to Kellee and her players for being so kind and compassionate!!!

Another former Coal City High School Student, Olivia Jakubowski, is now a student at Eastern Illinois University.  She and her sorority sisters at Alpha Sigma Tau got together to take a picture showing their support for “Team Megan”.  They also presented her with her very own sorority paddle.  Check out these pictures.  Thanks to Olivia and all of her sorority sisters!!!

20150223_17105720150223_171123On December 26, 2014, Deb and I knew that Megan had cancer.  We didn’t know what type, but we knew she was seriously ill and had a long battle in front of her.  One of our greatest worries was concern for how Megan would deal with this.  She was always very shy, and we even considered her to be a little emotionally fragile at times.  We knew this would be a huge blow to her, and we hoped we could keep her spirits positive to fight the battle she had ahead of her.  Well…needless to say, we vastly underestimated the toughness, tenacity and spirit Megan possessed.  When we received this picture, it really hit me, because I think it says it all about Megan.

20150223_171150Here’s hoping Megan feels better on Day 53…

David vs. Goliath

We are nearing the end of Day 51 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  This last chemo cycle has really hit her hard as she is having trouble shaking the effects.  However, Megan continues to fight back while drawing strength from the awesome power that is “Team Megan”.

Megan had a bit of a rough night as she was very uncomfortable and had a lot of trouble sleeping.  She can’t seem to rid herself of the nausea that this latest chemo round has caused.  Megan fell asleep with Deb in our bed last night because she just was not feeling well.  At about 2:00 a.m., Megan decided to move back to her own bed.  However, at 2:30 a.m., she called out to us because she was not feeling well.  We gave her some medication, tried rubbing her feet, and used a cold pack on her stomach, but nothing seemed to work.  At about 2:45 p.m., she wanted to move downstairs to the couch to try a different sleeping surface.  However, the act of moving downstairs increased her nausea to the point that she ended up throwing up again.  It was very disappointed to see her experience that yet again, because she did not throw up at all the previous day.  We are very anxious to talk with her medical team tomorrow to see if we can pursue an alternative course of action to relieve her nausea.  We are worried that she is losing so much weight right now and she starts another chemo cycle on March 2.  Right now she is down seven pounds since the start of Round #3.  Hopefully, they can figure something out and she starts to feel better soon.

After she got sick in the middle of the night, she did sleep until about 7:45 a.m.  This morning, she ate a few bites of fruit and some dry cereal, but her appetite is just not there yet.  Throughout the morning, she continued to complain of not feeling well.  When she gets nauseous, it actually starts in her throat instead of her stomach.  When she gets that feeling, she doesn’t want to eat or drink anything because she is scared she will throw up.  It is very frustrating for her…and it is frustrating for her parents to watch.

20150222_152218Mackenzie didn’t have much time to relax after the State Speech Meet because she had club volleyball tryouts today at 1:30 p.m.  Right before Kenzie and Deb left, Megan was really starting to struggle with her discomfort.  Her throat felt dry, but she was scared to drink anything, which is a vicious cycle.  Finally, she sucked on a popsicle for a few minutes and it seemed to help.  She was then due for her nausea medication.  After that, I was able to put a cold cloth on her head and she finally fell asleep for about 2 hours.  As you can see from the picture, at least Sonny the cat was able to keep her company.

Kenzie and Deb got home around 4:00 p.m., and Megan woke up soon after.  She seemed to feel much better after her nap.  She even ate a little spaghetti, which was generously given to us by those who put on the spaghetti dinner this afternoon at the high school.  After that, she even had about half of a chocolate shake from McDonalds.  Makenna Emerson also 20150222_195050came over, and that always makes Megan happy.  Here they are playing Mario Cart on the Wii.  Makenna is looking pretty cool sporting one of Megan’s sleeping masks that she recently received as a gift!!!  Since Makenna was playing blind, I sure hope Megan won that game 🙂

Megan continues to receive amazing support from the various schools and groups who are joining “Team Megan”.  Some of her biggest supporters have been the students from Gardner Elementary School.  Paige Patterson used to live two houses down from us, but her family moved to Gardner.  Paige has been so kind in rallying the students of Gardner Elementary to support “Team Megan”.  Recently, they held a “Team Megan” night for volleyball, and here are a couple of pictures from that even.  Thanks to Paige and all of the students from Gardner Elementary School for their incredible support.

gswteammegangswheadbandsMegan always loves it when she receives a message from “Team Megan” member overseas.  Needless to say, she was very excited to see these pictures courtesy of Sean McGouirk.  Megan is now represented in Great Britain!  Thanks Sean!!!

seansean2As I type this entry, Megan is still doing well.  It is so refreshing to see her smiling and having fun for the first time in a week.  Tomorrow, Megan goes back to Central DuPage Hospital for another out-patient treatment of Vincristine.  Although one of the side effects of this chemo medication is joint and muscle soreness, Megan is yet to experience that.  Hopefully, her good fortune continues with this particular treatment.

While Megan was sleeping this afternoon, I was reminded that today marks the 35th anniversary of Team USA’s incredible Olympic hockey victory over the former Soviet Union.  Many consider that to be one of the greatest upsets of all time.  Team USA played the role of David and took down Goliath, which was the hockey team from the USSR.

Today, as I watched the ESPN special about that game, it made me think of Megan’s battle against the cancer that has inflicted her body.  During her initial diagnosis, her doctors talked to us at length about her odds of beating this disease and making a full recovery, and needless to say, the odds were not in her favor.  According to her doctors, Megan was going to play the role of David while cancer played the mighty Goliath.  However, in seven short weeks, we are convinced that Goliath is completely over-matched by the combination of the Megan’s attitude and the awesome power that is “Team Megan”.  35 years ago, Team USA beat all the odds by defeating the powerful team from the USSR.  We are confident that “Team Megan” is destined to pull the same upset against the powerful disease called cancer.  In 47 weeks, we will be echoing the famous words of Al Michaels from the 1980 Olympics,

“Do you believe in miracles?”

On to Day 52…

Every Kid Deserves a Champion

Today is Day 50 of Megan’s journey towards a full recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  How quickly we got to Day 50 is all dependent upon your point of reference.  I have had multiple people tell me that Day 50 came so quickly, and just think how fast the rest of her recovery will go.  However, to me, this has easily been the longest 50 days of my life.  That being said, Deb and I are thankful that the first 50 days are behind us.  We understand that she still has 47 weeks before she is fully recovered, but to think that far ahead is overwhelming.  Instead, we still take things day by day and treasure the beautiful moments from each and every day.  Today was no exception as we made more amazing memories for our family.

This morning was a big morning for both Mackenzie and Megan.  Mackenzie was competing in the IHSA State Speech Meet, but I will get back to that momentarily.  It was also a very big day for Megan because today would be the first time since before Christmas that both her mom and dad would be away from her for an extended length of time.  To get to Kenzie’s performances, we had to leave at 7:30 a.m. and depending on whether or not she made finals, we could have been home as late as 10:00 p.m.  Under normal conditions, Megan is not worried about staying with someone else when we are gone.  However, when you are not feeling well, you want your parents…and the majority of the time, Megan is not feeling well.  As a result, she was a little anxious that both of us had to leave her today.  However, her anxiety didn’t last long.

Aunt Tammi came to the rescue again!!!  Tammi got to our house at 7:30 a.m. and stayed with Megan until we got back.  Megan was sleeping when Tammi arrived, but as soon as she saw her, you could see her worry disappear.  We are so thankful to have Aunt Tammi as a part of Megan’s life.  She is a gift that just keeps on giving!!!

Deb and I arrived in plenty of time to see Kenzi’s Oratorical Declamation (Dec) performance.  Today was the second round, so she had already performed it once yesterday.  She once again gave a flawless performance.  After she was done, I think she knew she did the very best she could and it was now in the hands of the judges.  After her Dec, she and Kevin Soto had to give their Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA) performance, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park.  They have won a lot of tournaments this year, but Deb and I thought this last performance was their absolute best.  Once again, it was all in the hands of the judges now.

After a long wait, at about 1:40 p.m., the finalists were announced.  Unfortunately, Kenzie did not break finals in either event.  However, because there is no class system for speech, she is competing against every single school in the state…regardless of school size.  That means she was one of the top 20 in the state in each of her events.  She was very disappointed she didn’t20150214_182641 make finals, because she absolutely hates to lose.  However, once she reflects on this weekend, she will realize what an amazing accomplishment it was to qualify for State in two events as a sophomore.  She now has the motivation she needs to get back and try and again next year.  We are so proud of her!!!  Since you have to have your phone off during the performances, I failed to get any pictures of Kenzie, but here is one from earlier in the speech season.

When we got home, Tammie was taking great care of Megan and Kortni was over to give Megan her daily injection.  I know Megan had a great time with Tammie, but both Deb and I were very happy to get back home to her.  Megan still isn’t feeling that great, so she stays up in her room most of the time, but at least all four of us are home.  It doesn’t get any better than that!!!

I have some very cool “Team Megan” pictures to share with you today.  In fact, there were so many of them that I will have to spread them out over the next two posts.  As always, these pictures always make Megan feel special.

The first picture actually came from the State Speech Meet today.  The kind students from Morris High School took this picture to show their support for Megan.  They also all chipped in and bought her a State Speech sweatshirt and beanie…and right now she gets a lot of use out of the beanies!!!  Thanks to the Morris Redskins Speech Team for their kindness and compassion.

received_10203547379073333At yesterday’s boys basketball game between Coal City and Reed-Custer, the Coaler sophomore team donned special warm-up shirts to support “Team Megan”.  They even incorporated the Lucky Charms theme.  Megan thought this was so nice of them.  Thanks to all of them for their kind support!!!

coalersophs

coalersophs2Finally, Megan received a very special recognition recently from Illinois State Representative John Anthony.  I have met Representative Anthony on numerous occasions, and what has always impressed me about him is that I seldom see him without his kids.  He is a father first, and I have deeply respected that about him.  I recently discovered that he recognized Megan on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives and event got many of the House members to pose for a picture supporting “Team Megan”.  I thought this was so classy of him, and it really brought a smile to Megan’s face.  Representative Anthony is in the middle of the front row in the picture.  Please be sure to check out this touching video.

rep anthonyDay 50 was filled with new memories and milestones for our family.  As I have said before, Megan’s Journey has caused me to treasure these moments more than ever before.  I have always loved my two girls more than anything in this world.  However, there were times that life got in the way and, at times, it caused me to take some things for granted.  However, I now realize that every single moment we get with our children has to be cherished and remembered.

In Kenzie’s Dec performance, she gives a speech made famous by Rita Pierson called, “Every Kid Needs Champion.”  “Team Megan” continues to be Megan’s champion as you carry her along this challenging journey towards victory.

On to Day 51…

The Challenges vs. The Beautiful Moments

We are nearing the conclusion of Day 49 of Megan’s recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  I’m happy to report that Megan has felt continually better as the day has progressed.  She has not thrown up since 5:00 p.m. last night, so hopefully she has put that nastiness behind her for this round.

Megan was up last night from about 3:00-4:30 a.m. because she was really not feeling well.  Deb went in to rub her feet and lay with her until she finally fell back to sleep.  Because she was up so much at night, Megan did not wake up this morning until about 9:00 a.m.  However, I could immediately tell that she was feeling better.  Her color was better, and she was much more talkative.  I also knew she felt better because she immediately wanted to open the cards, letters and gifts that had been sent over the past couple of days by her “Team Megan” supporters.  “Team Megan” once again put a gleam in her eye and brought out that infectious Megan smile.

20150220_193834One of Megan’s biggest supporters throughout her journey has been Linda Miller.  Linda is a cancer survivor, and she always seems to know just what to say to Megan, and our family, to make us feel better.  In fact, just tonight we received a card and letter from her and Deb said,

After I read her letters, I always feel like everything will be okay.

The card she sent today was really thoughtful as it played on the whole boxing theme that I have been using as an analogy for Megan’s battle.  We all enjoyed it, so here is a picture of the card…and Megan is kicking some cancer butt!!! 🙂  Linda…thanks for everything you have done for Megan and our family!!!

Megan received some very thoughtful gifts today, including a care package from Manhattan20150220_105204 Junior High.  They even included a Manhattan Demons shirt, which Megan showed off in this picture.  Thanks to all of the students and staff who put this together for her.

Deb has been a teacher at Reed-Custer High School for 28 years, and she has loved every minute of her job.  She is one of those teachers who dreads the summer because she can’t see her students everyday.  I started my career in education at Reed-Custer in 1989 before becoming an administrator at Wilmington High School in 1995.  In 2000, I moved to Coal City School District and have been there ever since.  The reason I bring up our school districts is because all three of these districts continue to be so supportive of Megan and our family.  Their unending support and compassion continues to humble us both.  Today, Megan received a beautiful charm bracelet from Deb’s colleagues at Reed-Custer.  Here is a picture.

20150220_114730Megan also received a very nice gift from the wrestlers at Minooka Junior High.  They sent her some cool socks and some gift cards for her to go shopping with when she feels better.  The socks they gave20150220_102500 her were the same ones the wrestlers wore in her honor at a wrestling meet earlier in the year.  It was so nice of them to do this for her.  Her is a picture of Megan posing with the socks and the gift cards.

Finally, the 8th grade students at Mazon-Verona-Kinsman sent her a care package that Megan just loved.  The care package included homemade cards by the students, a sweatshirt from “Pink”(which is one of Megan’s favorite stores), and an incredible blanket.  The blanket was obviously made special for Megan, and she absolutely loved it.  Here is a picture of her with her new blanket, courtesy of the 8th graders at MVK.

20150220_105826After the big card and gift opening party, Deb and I had to get ready to go to Peoria to watch Mackenzie compete in the IHSA State Speech Meet.  Kortni Emerson graciously agreed to sit with Megan while we were gone…plus, remember…Kortni is the only one that Megan will allow to give her a shot.  Megan had to get her first in-home shot of her new medication today, but with Kortni giving it, it was a piece of cake for her.

Kenzie and the rest of the state-bound speech students left for Peoria at about 9:30 a.m. this morning.  Kenzie first performed her Dramatic Duet with Kevin Soto in the 3:30 p.m. session.  She then was the first performer in Oratorical Declamation at the 4:30 p.m. session.  Her parents both thought she was awesome in both…but once again…we might just be a bit biased 🙂   However, even her coaches thought both performances went well.  She performs in both again tomorrow morning, and then finals are posted around 1:00 p.m.  No matter what happens at State, we are so proud of her accomplishments.

Right after her 4:30 p.m. performance, Deb and I headed for home so we could get back to Megan.  However, when we got home, she was happy as could be because Madison Emerson was over hanging out with her.  In fact, Megan just asked us to give her an apple with some peanut butter, so that’s a great sign!!!

The drive home from Peoria was one of the first times Deb and I had been in a car together in quite some time.  Between Megan’s treatment schedule, Kenzie’s schedule, and our work, we just don’t get much time to talk.  The drive gave us both a chance to reflect on the past 49 days.  Although this has easily been the most challenging time of our lives, it was interesting that we didn’t spend much time talking about those challenges.  Instead, we both focused on the amazing support Megan and our family has received from “Team Megan”.  We talked about how Megan’s Journey has inspired so many people.  We discussed how this journey has made us realize that by nature, people are kind-hearted and generous.  In short…instead of talking about the many challenges of this journey, we focused on the beautiful moments that this journey has uncovered for Megan and our family.

Throughout the next 47 weeks of this journey, Megan and our family will be faced with many more difficult challenges.  However, with “Team Megan” behind us all, we are confident that the challenges will be lost in the shadows cast by the beautiful moments.

Believe it or not…tomorrow is Day 50…

Round 3: Staggered, but Still Standing Strong

Day 48 of Megan’s recovery from stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cancer is coming to a close.  Although better than yesterday, it’s been yet another trying day for Megan.  After four days of intense nausea, she is about at the end of her rope.  However, as she always does, she will find a way to fight through it until the heroic side of chemo shows itself.

I stayed with Megan at the hospital last night, and she had a pretty restful sleep.  Due to the IV fluids, she still had to get up three times to use the bathroom, which interrupts her sleep.  She also has a nurse check her vitals every couple hours.  In reality, there is no such thing as a good night’s sleep at a hospital.

Megan woke up for good at about 7:45 a.m.  She had some ice chips, but still didn’t feel like she could eat because of the nausea.  Although it was better than yesterday, the nausea is still there and doesn’t want to let go.  Dr. Salvi came in at about 9:30 a.m. and said that as long as she was not throwing up, she could go home.  Megan was a little nervous about getting sick, so we all decided she would go home at 11:30 a.m….or so we thought.

At about 11:15 a.m., Kathy (Nurse Practitioner) came in to let us know that Dr. Salvi wanted to add another medication to the already extensive repertoire that Megan is already taking.  Currently, Megan is taking three different nausea medications: Kytril, Zofran, and Ativan.  She also takes an antibiotic on the weekends called Bactrim.  After her chemo cycles, she also takes a medication to increase her appetite called Megestrol.  Now the doctor has added another medication called Neupogen, which is supposed to increase the productivity of white blood cells in her bone marrow.  However, unlike her other medications, which are oral, this one has to be injected.  Kathy showed me how to do it, but you can bet we will be calling on our next door neighbor, Kortni Emerson, who just happens to be a nurse.  As soon as Nurse Kathy showed me how to do it, Megan said that Kortni would be doing that.  I don’t think she trusts my shaky hands. 🙂

Obviously, I wasn’t happy that Megan would have to endure yet more discomfort by receiving an injection for seven days, but Megan seemed to take it in stride.  In fact, when Kathy gave her the first injection today, Megan didn’t even wince…and I was hurting just watching!!!  After the injection, Kathy told Megan that she is the bravest girl she has ever seen.  I think many on “Team Megan” would agree with that assessment.

We were supposed to leave at 11:30 a.m., but it took forever for the hospital transport to show up.  After 40 minutes, Megan’s favorite floor nurse, Mariel, took matters into her own hands.  She got a wheelchair and took Megan down to the car herself.  Mariel really looks after Megan, and Megan adores her.  However, when we got downstairs, the valet could not find our car keys.  After another 15 minutes, Mariel took Megan back upstairs to her room so she could lay down.  Finally, at about 1:45 p.m., the car showed up and we were able to get out of there and head for home.  During all of the waiting, Megan was getting frustrated and said,

“Dad…I just want to go home and get into my bed.”

At about 2:45 p.m., we finally reached our destination and her comfy bed.

On the way home, we stopped at the high school to pick up her sister.  Kenzie was anxious to see Megan, and since she had musical rehearsal after school, she would not have seen Megan until about 7:00 p.m.  Also, Kenzie helps me get Megan settled back into her room.  I know Megan was really excited to see her big sister.  I was also happy Kenzie got to spend some time with her, because tomorrow morning, Kenzie leaves for the IHSA State Speech Meet where she is competing in both Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA) and Oratorical Declamation (Dec).  She will be gone until Saturday evening.  We are so proud that she not only made it to state, but that she is also double-entered.  By the way, in a previous post, I mentioned that someone told me Kenzie was the first sophomore from CCHS to be double-entered at state.  I owe an apology to my good friend, and recent CCHS graduate, Zack Landers, who not only was double-entered as a sophomore, but also as a freshman!!!  Sorry Zack!!! 🙂

After school, Makenna Emerson came over to see her, but Megan was still not feeling very well, so she wasn’t much company.  However, Megan always manages to get a foot rub out of Makenna.  At about 6:00 p.m., Megan started feeling really sick, and unfortunately, she threw up again.  After that, she was still struggling, so at about 8:30 p.m. she just decided to go to sleep.  It’s about 9:30 p.m. as I type this and she is still sleeping, so hopefully she will find some relief by sleeping through the night.

In the four days since Megan has been home, “Team Megan” came through again with an abundance of cards, letters and gifts.  However, Megan just didn’t feel well enough to tear into them today.  I’m sure she will really enjoy them tomorrow, because “Team Megan” never fails to lift her spirits just when she is most in need.

Megan did not feel up to any pictures today, but I do have a couple of “Team Megan” pictures to share.  The first is from Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Middle School.  They also sent Megan a huge gift box that she hasn’t opened yet.  Thanks to all the Mavericks from MVK for supporting Megan.

MVKMegan also received such a nice email and picture from Bree Wilkey, who is a student at Neuqua Valley High School.  Bree read about Megan’s story and wanted NVHS to show its support for “Team Megan”.  She talked to her principal and got various club and sport team members to pose for this picture.  That was so nice of their high school to do this for someone they have never met.  Thanks Bree!!!

nequa valleymrs kayeIn previous blogs, you have heard me mention that one of Megan’s favorite teachers ever was her second grade teacher, Mrs. Kaye.  Here is a throwback picture of Megan and Mrs. Kaye from second grade…and I think the picture to the right of them is supposed to be Mrs. Kaye 🙂  I can’t wait to show this picture to Megan in the morning because I know it will make her smile.  Thanks Mrs. Kaye!!!

Round #3 is officially over.  Although Megan will feel the affects of fighting this round for the next few days, she is still standing strong.  She has a week and a half to recover before she goes back in the ring on March 2 to fight Round #4.  As always, we are going to spend the next couple of days helping her recover, and then we plan on thoroughly enjoying the next week with her at home.

After three rounds, the score stands

Team Megan–3

Cancer–0

Cancer keeps coming back for more, but it is still no match for the overwhelming strength and power of “Team Megan”.  Sooner or later, cancer is going to have to give up the fight.

Here comes Day 49…