Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy 6th Birthday, Christina Lucia!!!

My sweet little, well not so little, girl is 6 today.  Hooray!!  I LOVE this age, so happy and inquisitive and yet beginning to become a bit more independent.  This year has seen Lucy conquering so many of her fears, she has really been an inspiration to me.  It has also seen Bruce and I struggling to find the middle ground between helping her find her footing and being her best self and pushing her too far, too fast for her comfort level.  Her first momentous leap was at swim lessons this summer.  We signed her up for 5 weeks of daily lessons at the pond near the house on the Cape.  The first day was wretched with lots of tears and her practically having to be torn off me by the instructors to get her into the water.  The second day was only a bit better and only then because I bribed her with ice cream to get into the water (yeah, I occasionally bribe my kids, got to do what you got to do. ;0) The third day she made it into the water with the safety of her brother's presence and minimal tears.  As rough as the start was, by the end of the summer she was swimming like a little fish, had moved up into the next level of lessons and had bonded with the instructors.  At least once a week this school year she has brought up how excited she is for her lessons to start again and how she can't wait to become a better swimmer.  Ahhhh, sweet sweet victory for our girl.   She also faced down her big fears of starting kindergarten with hardly a whimper and has been THRIVING at school.  She has made tons of friends, learned to read and write sentences and has become a creative and talented crafter.  She got in touch with a bit of a competitive side on the soccer field and impressed us with her determination to stay near the ball despite being jostled about quite a bit.  I can't talk about her year without mentioning the incredible friendship that she shares with her brother.  I think standing up to him has given her so much confidence to face some of the other challenges in life and has served to gain her brother's respect and undying loyalty to her.  They chose to spend most of their free time together and have an amazing bond.  It is so fulfilling to witness.  She is filled with light and love and joy and laughter and strength, so much that some times her only mode to get from one place to another is by bouncing...our very own Tigger.  And, as a bonus, she's pretty darn cute too.  Wow, we are lucky to be her parents. 

Birthday Interview

Age? 6

Grade? Kindergarten

Your teachers this year? Ms. Jaclyn, Ms. Tracy

What activities/sports/clubs were you involved in this year? soccer, swimming lessons

What pets do you have? Lottie, Zed and Omar and foster puppies Sochi and Curly Sue

What do you want to be when you grow up? A Zookeeper

Where is 1 place you really want to go? Disney World (We have avoided this for sooooo long, I'm actually shocked she just said that!!  Who fed her the Kool-Aid when we weren't looking????)

What is your favorite………….

o   Subject in school? P.E. or Music

o   Meal? Macaroni and cheese

o   Fruit?Strawberries

o   Vegetable? Pea Pods

o   Dessert? Cupcakes

o   Candy? Big Suckers

o   Drink? Lemonade

o   Animal? Lion

o   Thing to do inside? Play on Kindle

o   Thing to do outside? Play on my swing set

o   Kind of music? ??

o   Song? "All I want is You" by Barry Louis Polisar

o   Place we visited this year? St. Pete's Beach

o   Chore around the house? Nothing

o   Thing to do with Mama? Cuddle
o   Thing to do with Papa? Play Zelfs

o   Thing to do with Griffin? Play Minecraft

o   T.V. show? Total Drama Island

o   Movie? Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

o   Toy? Kindle

o   Book? Whatever After by Sarah Mlyowski

o   Day of the week? Saturday

o   Holiday? Christmas

o   Season? Summer

o   Piece of clothing?none

o   Sound? "That sound the fox makes, you know"

o   Word? Yes

o   Smell?   Markers (UMMMMMMMM?!?!  WTH?!)

o   Color? yellow

You can look at Lucy's other interviews here, here, here.and here.  Bruce's post about her birth is here and mine is here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Good news brings relief to worried minds

Hey there.  This unusually cold winter has seen the Gast family hibernating.  Between Bruce's health concerns, various weather events and a general feeling of gloominess we have all been laying low.  But now, it's almost SPRING baby and we are kicking it off with great news!
 We went to see Bruce's oncologist today and found out that his test results have come back CLEAN!  No sign of cancer!  WOOT WOOT!!!  His blood work was totally normal (who knew being normal would feel so special) and his x-rays showed no new tumors.  There is still a small cause for concern that the shell of the tumor itself has not shrunk but they are sure that there are no cancer cells alive there.  The radiation will still work for several more months and may continue to shrink it, as well as the vertebrae repairing themselves and forcing what is left of the tumor out.  All in all, we couldn't have gotten better news and the Dr. feels like Bruce is showing every sign of remaining cancer free.  Unfortunately, the effects of the radiation treatments are still affecting Bruce on a daily basis, but he was cleared by the Dr. today to increase his activity level.  Now it will be his time to use nutrition and exercise to bring his body back to optimum health.  We will be seeing a new neurosurgeon next week who will advise us on what kinds of activities are safe for Bruce to do in order to protect the unstable part of the vertebrae. 
  These last 6 months have been a really really hard time for us.  Bearing witness to my husbands journey through this scary disease and painful treatment has been life altering.  In some ways I feel as if my perspective on virtually EVERYTHING has changed and in other ways I feel like I'm just more "me" than I was before cancer touched my life.  I wish I had better words to describe this experience, but it's still so fresh and I still have so much to process.  I do know this, Bruce and I grew closer than ever to get through this trial.  We have faced it as a team and our partnership is vital and strong. 
Thank you for all the love and support that has been shared with us over the past six months.  That energy helped us during so many low moments.
Sending BIG LOVE and hopes for a gorgeous spring out to you all!
May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you live with ease.

Peace, Christi

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

It's almost over.

Hi there!  Long time, no write, eh? The last month has seen us busy enjoying soccer games, social events, fall activities and of course, not at all enjoyable, Bruce's radiation treatments.   While we have kept up the fun stuff to keep the kids' lives as normal as possible, I've got to tell you, it's been a tough journey.  The radiation treatments have been really really hard on Bruce's body.  Of course, there is exhaustion, a pretty normal response for a body fighting such a tough battle.  The skin on his neck is bright red (looks like a bad sunburn) and his beard and hair on his neck has stopped growing.   He has been struggling with eating for a few weeks, telling me that everything tastes like it is wrapped in tinfoil, and although I keep pushing the Ensure on him, he has lost 10 pounds in the last month.  But the worst has just started.  Yesterday he started to develop an infection in his mouth that is a result of the treatments.  He is having a hard time swallowing AT ALL and his tongue is so swollen it is effecting his ability to breathe normally.  He spoke to the Dr. this morning.  Really the only way to get rid of the infection is to stop the treatments, but with only 4 left, that's not going to happen.  He can lesson the symptoms by gargling salt water often and sipping water continuously.  Basically he/we have to grit our teeth, square our shoulders and soldier ahead until next Tuesday when the treatments will end and the healing will begin.   Bruce is super worn out and frustrated with this process and pain. 

I don't know if it's "right" to share my feelings about all of this or if it even matters, but 10 years from now, when I read back on this time, I think I'll appreciate the reminder of how this all effected me.  This is tough, my friends, really really tough.  It's killing me to watch Bruce struggle and suffer.  I have been living in a near constant state of HIGHLY STRESSED, alternating between feeling like I'm not doing enough for him and wondering what more I could possibly do and keeping my game face firmly in place. I have cooked dozens of meals that sounded good but did not taste good to Bruce, bought tons of treats to try to tempt him into getting some calories in, tried to pick up as much of the slack at home as possible so he could rest and worked overtime making sure the kids' needs were met and that their life is as normal as possible.  I have been taking care of myself, getting good sleep, drinking lots of water, going to the gym 5 days a week, fitting journaling or meditation sessions in often, making time to spend with my friends,  but the stress has still been manifesting in physical ways.  A couple of weeks ago I had to go to the Dr. where I was diagnosed with acute vertigo and had to start taking Dramamine, which I believe is just a physical manifestation of my head space at the moment.  I also am having major lockjaw type issues every evening which I know is another manifestation of stress.  I know we are going to get through this, I know we are going to have new insight into how special this life is and I know that Bruce's is going to come out of this experience healthy.   Our family is going to be stronger than ever.  
We are so blessed with an incredible tight group of friends here in Madisonville who have walked along this path with us, helping in such tangible physical ways along with enormous emotional strength and we are so very very thankful for them.  We are thankful for the team at the cancer center who are doing such a wonderful job helping us along this journey.  We are so grateful for the support and love and prayers and energy that our family and friends have been continually sending us.   I am going to ask that you keep it up. The next week will probably be one of the most demanding weeks so far and while I know we are up for the challenge, your love and thoughts and prayers will only increase our strength. 
Until the next update,
  May you be healthy,
  May you be safe,
  May you be happy,
  May you live with ease.
Big Love dear ones!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moving right along.

We've had more great news this week!!!  The bone marrow scan and urine analysis have come back clean, meaning there doesn't seem to be cancer anywhere else in Bruce's body and it has not progressed into Stage 2.  Whhhhhhhoooooooohooooooooo!  This is such a HUGE relief!!  There are still cancer cells showing up in the latest blood work but Dr. K attributes this to the still present tumor and feels sure that after the radiation treatment is finished this will also come back clean. 
Bruce is starting to feel the side effects of the radiation treatment.  He is definitely more tired and battles waves of exhaustion.  He is dealing with periodic dry mouth but using a special gel and mouthwash along with lots of water to treat it.  He is starting to get a sore throat but it usually goes away by midday.  The most dramatic side effect so far is the changing of his taste buds.  Anything even slightly spicy(mild chili) or herby (rosemary bread) is pretty intolerable for him at this point.  Everything he eats has a metallic taste to it now.  He is still eating the amounts needed to get his calorie and protein goals met but it is becoming more difficult and he has lost a pound in the last week.  I have been cooking up a storm, anything that sounds good to him, hoping to find something that he will enjoy eating.  It feels good to have something to do that might make him feel better. 
We are going to have a nice weekend, attending soccer games and spending some time with friends.  I hope you all enjoy yours!!!
  Until next week....
May you be happy,
 May you be healthy,
   May you be safe,
     May you live with ease.
Big Love, Friends!

And because I like are a few of Uncle Bruce in action this summer. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

A weekend to remember.

We had an incredible weekend camping at Big Ridge State Park in TN.  The weather was absolutely perfect, mid 70's during the day, low 50's at night...really we couldn't have asked for better!  We chose this park, frankly, because a month ago when we tried to make reservations the Smokey Mtn. National Park was totally booked up.  We wanted to be somewhere in that general area and Big Ridge seemed like a kid friendly place.  Now we are sooooo happy we had not reserved a spot at a national park. 

There were so many great moments but I'll just give you the highlights.  We camped with our dear friend Devin which was such a treat.  She is such a sweet and fun loving person and having her with us enhanced the experience.   She arrived a day before us and left a day before us and there was lots of "I wonder what Devin is doing now??" from Lucy after she had left. 

When I told Lucy that Devin was a forester and knew the names of most of the trees, Lucy got a great idea to bring a book and some glue with her.  On one of our hikes we collected leaves and she glued them into her book.  Devin helped her spell all the names as she carefully labeled each one.  Soooo stinking cute! 
The most magical moment for all of us was spotting a bald eagle soaring above our heads.  Awesomely, Bruce had his binos on him and we were able to get a good look.  That's when we realized that the eagle was a parent and had an eaglet following.  It seemed as if the parent was teaching the baby how to catch the wind as they made wide sweeping circles upward.  Absolutely breathtaking!! 
We did lots of hiking and the trails at Big Ridge were wonderfully maintained and there were a lot of options for kid friendly lengths. The water views, leaf color and moderately rolling terrain made for such enjoyable walking.   We had the dogs with us too and were astonished that we did not spot any great!! 
On Friday night, Devin and I took Griffin on a ranger led "Ghost Hike".  We walked 1 1/2 miles over the course of 2 1/2 hours, stopping often to listen to ghost stories.  It was such a cool program!  The stories Ranger Sarah told us were all historically based legends that had been told and retold in that area for many years.  It was just the right mix of history and spooky (including a visit to a real old-timey cemetery, complete with collapsing gravesites).  I had never done a proper hike in the dark and I loved the different perspective it offered.  I was so mindful of each step and all the noises surrounding me in the woods.  Very very cool. 

On Saturday night, a dozen or so old timers gathered at a campsite a ways down from ours and had a full on bluegrass jam session.  Although, we wished we were closer, we enjoyed every minute of the faint music that has filled those southern Appalachian hollers for many many years. 
It was a weekend we will all remember.  The kids are already talking about when the next camping trip is...Griffin is hoping it's his birthday weekend. 
Hope you all had a beautiful fall weekend too!  We are back to normal schedules with 4 soccer games this week.  Bruce starts his radiation treatments back up today.  He is starting to feel really worn out from them, but feels like overall his body is holding up well.  We don't have any more big plans until Thanksgiving and I am going to encourage Bruce to take it as easy as possible until the treatments are over. 
Big Love to you, until next time. xoxo