Lauren Elizabeth Hacker's Journal
Simple Joys and the Scent of Strawberries
Written Mar 5, 2014 10:00amToday is Lauren's March visit to Oncology. She already had her blood drawn last week, so this appointment should be pretty simple. She had some visual changes and had to get glasses. This could be a result of the chemotherapy or it could just be her eyes. She is having reoccurring headaches and can't seem to get rid of them, so she is going to see a neurologist. This is probably from the chemo, but the doctors are not worried that it is any sign of the cancer coming back. Before last week's appointment, I was kind of a mess. I kept thinking it was something awful. I didn't tell anyone I was worried, but I walked around sick to my stomach all the time. Then I found out Phil was feeling the same way. We try not to worry each other. I think Lauren was worried too. But, she does better at focusing on some fun. I think she was simply tired of having a bad headache. She had a headache for about 3 weeks and barely gets relief with pain reliever. She can't get in to a neurologist until the end of April, so we wait. The good news is that her last visit, her growth curve was not a curve at all; it was a straigth line going up. She is starting to grow again! Her short, curly hair could not be cuter. She picked out some very stylish glasses. She has this Audrey Hepburn fascination. She made the connection that Taylor Swift's style mimicked Audrey Hepburn. I think this ties into her fascination with Paris!
Speaking of Paris......Lo's Make A Wish trip was approved. We went and got our passports last week. Lo did a computer presentation for her lovely "Wish Granters" and told them about all the interesting things to do in Paris. They loved it, but since it involved international travel, they had to present it to a special board. A couple of weeks ago, her trip was approved. So, Phil, Jonathan, Lauren, and I will be going to Paris this summer. Once our passports get here, they will let us know the dates. We are all very excited. Lauren has been using her artistic talents and drawing Eiffel Towers! I will have to download one of the pictures. They are really good. Last night as a school homework assignment, she wrote a personification poem about Paris. She has done so much research thatt she had no problem giving beautiful descriptions to the various landmarks of this incredible city. She had to do two poems. She could choose something she loved and/or hated. She chose Paris and her lawnmower. Both are things she loves. Lauren thinks getting to mow our yard on the riding lawn mower is the most fun ever. She is wishing winter in Omaha would end very soon so that she can get it out for the season. She spent way too long on her assignment because she was having a lot of fun making Paris and her lawnmower come alive. It was such a great night! Jonathan was busy doing Chemistry and actually taught me something! (that was my college major) He was so enthusiastic to do his homework, Phil and I thought that the planets must have been aligned for our family last night. Jonathan had to give up his invisalign and go for the metal braces because of non-compliance, so he bargained with Phil. "If I do homework for an hour straight, will you get Lauren and me a Shamrock Shake?" Ok, that was the best deal ever. Giddy up! I wil get a Shamrock Shake for them for homework any day of the week! The cold helped his aching jaw and his aching pride. Hard lessons. So, Jonathan will have some great metal smiles in Paris this summer! Hopefully, he will get the most of his French class at Prep this semester and help me brush up on my francais as well....bien sur, Je parle francais! Mais, pas tres bien!
We are finally starting to gel again as a family. I am sure that seems strange since it has been such a long time since we got out of the hospital. But, the strain that something like that takes on a family is immeasureable. We were all tired. I think Lauren is finally able to handle going to a full week of school without physically falling apart. She is starting to get in a groove of doing homework again. Many nights, she just couldn't complete it all and needed to go to bed. Her teachers have been patient and encouraging. Her friends have been loving and supportive. This is all pretty timely since I am probably going to have to go back to work in the fall.....say a prayer for me!
Today is Ash Wednesday. I saw the cutest post of a little girl that was 3 getting her hair cut off for kids with cancer. Oh, she was adorable. I am so impressed that her parents are already teaching their child compassion, service, and sacrifice. What an angel. It brought back some memories of the hospital and Lauren losing her hair. I shed a few tears. It felt good because I started remembering how I was so worried about Lauren losing her hair. But, I also remembered how she suprised me by handling it all with such grace. It was no big deal to her. I started remembering her in her little pink hat and her sweet smile and all the fun we had in the hospital. So, I decided I am going to try to focus on the fun, the love, and the many dear people that loved us through last year. I am gonig to try for Lent to give up grief and focus each day on the beautiful memories I have of last year. There are a lot. I started wondering if I had 40, but I am sure I have more. This time last year, Taylor Swift came to visit Lauren. That was an incredible day! But, today, what I remembered most was Lauren's love of the scent of strawberries. She had a deep cut on her nose between her eyes. It happeend as a result of having to wear the oxygen mask in intensive care and since she had no immune system, her skin broke down. It was really sore. So, the gave her a scratch n sniff band aid with a strawberry on it. It was right between her eyes. She had the sweetest grin on her face. I remember I looked at her and started crying. She had just fuzz for hair and this gash on her nose. She hadn't eaten for days and was so weak and pale. She was starting to lose her color and was looking gray. But, she had this sparkle in her eyes. She thought that was the coolest idea ever-wear a strawberry scented bandaid on your face and you could smell strawberried all the time! That is my Lolo! If all of us could be more like that and find simple joys in our toughest of days, the world would be a happier place! A bientot!
Lolo's Snow Day
Written Feb 10, 2014 8:38amFor those of you that don't live in Omaha, last week was a snow day! Lauren was able to enjoy her own kind of snow day at home this year. The Omaha World Herald, specifically reporter Erin Grace, wanted to follow up Lauren's "Lolo's Angels" article from last year and interviewed Lo last Wednesday. Erin's article appeared on the front page of the Omaha World Herald last week. It is a lovely article written by a very talented reporter. It captures Lo's spirit vividly. Here is the link....please share!
My friend Oliver
Written Feb 4, 2014 11:25amToday the snow is coming down and it is actually peaceful and beautiful. Lauren is upstairs in bed. She has a low-grade fever. She has been lethargic for the last two days and her illness hasn't really escalated to anything, but I can't help worry. This is the first time she has been down and out sick since she got out of the hospital, I think. Sometimes time plays tricks on me lately. At least I am not hearing voices, yet. But, I thought I just had indigestion until I realized that actually I am sick to my stomach because I am worried. So many memories. This is exactly how her leukemia started last year. This is the anniversary of her big snow day with the Lolo's Angels in the Snow. I talked to my friend, Jenni,yesterday and she gets it. Of course, she would. She has lived the same nightmare that our family lived. I called her because I had to talk to her about how these people keep coming into my life that have such a profound affect on me since Lauren left the hospital. Did I have these experiences before and was too busy to pay attention? I was going to keep this story to myself and decided that it happened for a reason. I need to pay attention. What was interesting is that Jenny had the same reaction to these things as I did. She writes about her experiences in her blog, "Genuflected." I love reading it. We are leading parallel lives in many respects. We both are feeling humbled by these experiences and sometimes uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable because I keep sharing this personal journey and it is pretty revealing. I also speak about things that I feel I need to say, but wonder why I should be speaking about anything. I mean, I am fumbling through life, but feel the need to tell what I know. It seems arrogant to want to share any wisdom when I know so few of the answers. But, I have to share this story. It is the same message that I have received from the very beginning......SLOW DOWN....smell the roses, kiss your children, bring cookies to your neighbor....speak your truth and tell people you love them. I guess there is no profound wisdom in that. Those messages are heard all the time. But, do we really listen? We do for a moment. Lauren's story stopped people in their tracks......then they got crazy busy again. Well, here is another person that made me stop in my tracks:
This summer I decided I needed some time and space by myself after we got out of the hospital. So, a couple days a week I would go swim laps and lay in the sun all by myself. Sometimes I would run an errand, but the point was I needed to be alone. One day I was at Field Club and planned to swim laps and then go on an errand. I was in swimming laps when the cutest little boy paddled over to me with his floaties and said hi. He had gone past the 4 feet and the rope wasn't up. He started talking to me and asked me what I was doing. He showed me his little guy figures and had dropped his "yellow guy." I dove down and got it for him and he smiled. I continued to swim. When I got back to the side he asked me what I was doing again. I talked to him for a while and swam another lap. This went on for a bit. His mom came over and said hi and told him to leave me alone. I told her I just had a couple more laps to swim and then I had told my new friend I would play with him for a while. I had decided my laps weren't all that important and my errand might be able to wait. I was captivated by this little smile. I was also touched because he asked me if I would be his friend. That was a pretty good offer. His mom smiled and said she had followed Lauren's story and had prayed for us. I had recognized her, but didn't really know her well. I told her that her son was adorable, but didn't talk to her long. She went back and sat on her lounge chair. I started thinking about how I responded to things now and wanted to tell her that I felt lucky to play with her son in the pool. I was thinking that maybe I wasn't stopping and being with my own children as much as I had vowed to do when I was in the hospital. I wanted to introduce myself to my new friend's mom and tell her to take the time to swim with her little guy. You just never know when life will change. But, thought that would come across the wrong way.Then, I thought....quit overthinking everything and just swim with the little guy. My new little friend told me his name was Oliver. I told him that had always been one of my favorite names. That small interaction filled me up so much, I beamed for the rest of the day. It made me so happy, I told a close friend about it and told Phil later that day about my new friend Oliver. A few days ago, Oliver was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is having surgery today at 230. His mom doesn't know me that well. But, today, all I can do is think of her. I have been cleaning my house and crying. Last night I took Jonathan to MOMPROM...or he took me. I remember thinking that the world went on last year while Lauren and I were stuck in that hospital. Last night I kept thinking, I am dancing with my son while Oliver's mom is struggling to breathe. Thinking about her today makes me remember the terror that I felt last year. I don't want to relive that anxiety. Today, many of us will go pray at SMM at 230 for Oliver and his family. It makes a difference. Please take the time to come and pray with us. Or, if you don't live in Omaha, please pray for the Fangman family. I remember a friend telling me, she didn't want to put all her grief on me. She was terrified for Lauren and was suffering for her and me. I had complete strangers come up to me and start crying because they felt so overwhelmed by emotion over Lauren's story. Writing on CaringBridge was uncomfortable at times. I don't think I know what I am talking about half the time. So, I just say how I feel. There isn't a right or wrong in that. That brought people to prayer for my sweet girl and it made a difference in her outcome. I was so touched by my experience with this little boy, so I hope his story brings people to pray for him. Please pray for Oliver Fangman today. He is my friend.
What helped me not go to the dark side and worry about Lauren's outcome was imagining her in the future. I imagined her in her high school uniform, as a bride, as a mom. So, what made me smile last night, was thinking of little Oliver at MomProm with his Mom in the future. That little kid has a spark. Maybe even Father Tillman will still be at Prep ready to bust a move with Oliver. He had a lot to offer last night as he kept up with Thomas Doran on the dance floor (Father Tilllman). I had such a wonderful time with my son. He treated me so well and made me laugh. We are so lucky to be raising kids in this community where sons actually dress up and take their moms to a prom and have a good time. This is the community where my friend, Oliver, lives. I hope the Fangmans feel that love today. I hope Lo gets over her sniffles and is ready to go back to school.....or go make snow angels for the other kids at Children's tomorrow???? I just can't help wonder why did Oliver and I cross paths this summer? Maybe it was for me to stop and pay attention. Like Lauren, he is special. He is going to be ok. I know his family's life will never be the same, ours isn't. But, I hope they feel the love and find the grace they need.