Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chemo Round 5- Dancing towards the Finish!

Fortunately, there is not too much to write about this round. I say fortunately because she kicked cancers butt this round. Actually she danced right through it, STOMPED it to the ground- all while wearing her ballet slippers. It is best to get a picture of what treatment this time was like by seeing the images of our little warrior. 

All while attatched to her IV pole, she managed to twirl, leap and pose her way through treatment. 
En Pointe with a pressure cuff! 

Watching her dancing is so inspiring to me. I am not a dancer myself but this dear child of mine just has a flow and grace to her movements that just seem to come from her soul. Please don't think I'm being over-dramatic or boastful ( I am certainly a proud mama!)- it's just something that has to be seen to believed. It comes from her soul. Her facial expression while she dances is one of such calm and confidence. Like her painting abilities, her dancing is something, I believe it is a God-given talent! I appreciate that she has this passion to get her through, what should be, a challenging time! Round 5 didn't stand a chance against this Dainty Dancing Warrior! 

Besides dancing, she asked me to draw a grasshopper for her to paint- inspired by the one we saw on our car as we loaded up to go to the hospital. 
I also started drawing an image I hope to paint for her myself.... Stay tuned for these two finished works of art! 
More window art of course- this time a happy caterpillar! 

Being a good patient :)

Overall, round 5 was the easiest yet. Ania came through like a champ and is excited that she only has to do this one more time! Four weeks from now, she will have her final treatment and she can finally begin her cancer-free life! 

Upon Arriving home at 9:00pm Wednesday, she gets a huge welcome homehug from her brother! 

God Bless,


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wildflowers & Horses

This was one of my most favorite works that Ania has done thus far! It felt very inspired from the beginning. Ania asked to paint a horse- specifically a blonde horse actually! While I was drawing the horse, the song "Wild Horses" came on the radio and I took it as a sign this pretty horse should be in a field of wildflowers :)
Ania was excited to see that I had added some cone flowers to the field of flowers- it's one her favorite flowers :)

She went to work straight away on the blue sky..
In love with this pose :) so determined an focused!

She came back to the flowers and greens another day- however it was a very productive day with many different colors and once again, her interpretation of depth just amazes me! 

Another determined pose :)

The background had been finished for a few days and she knew she wanted a blonde horse but I think she wanted to wait to paint the horse until after we got a chance to see some real horses. She got that chance this week- including an opportunity to ride horseback for the first time at a farm in Indiana with friends! 

After our trip, refreshed and inspired, she finished Wildflower Horse today. She worked very hard at mixing the right blonde color ( At least 4 different tubes of paint colors went into that shade!). I showed her how to darken the shade of blonde so we could create the three-dimensional look of the horse. We looked at a photograph of a horse to look at the muscle and bone structure to capture that dimention.

Her work is just getting so good. The landscape ("GiGi's Mountains") she did prior and this one are my new favorites and I don't think I can let the originals go as easily as she can ( and I may not!). The conversions we've had while creating these two specific works hold so much sentimental value to me! Ania, the true artist, always asks who we will be giving the paintings too. She knows art should be shared and does not get as attatched as most would. Her gift has just grown so much in the last nine months that she's been painting! It really is unbelievable and if I didn't see her do this right before my own eyes, I would have a hard time believing a little girl held this much talent with a paintbrush- oh and not to mention, a girl with one eye!!!

It has to be a God given talent!

This painting is now available as a print in her Etsy shop :) Find it here:

God Bless,


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Through Sickness and Health

At the tender age of twenty-three, we said "I do", eight years ago today.

When we said " through sickness and health" I guess I only thought of it in terms of my health or his- never imagined it would be our child to first test that part of our wedding vows. 

Although it has been challenging at times to not want to isolate, I can not imagine enduring such a life trial without my life partner. Our life and marriage remain blessed with love and strength in the midst of something that could cause damage. Through sickness and health, I truly love this man who continues to work hard to provide for his family during this health crisis. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to get up, face the working world challenges in such a productive way all while his daughter is fighting cancer. It must be nearly impossible at times. But he is strong...

I hope he knows how much he is appreciated. Through sickness and health, good times and bad, I am STILL in love with this man. Sometimes I forget to tell him... Life is busy now and with two young kids, sometimes the life and love is sucked out of me by the time he gets home from work..... It's something I vow to continue to work on in our marriage. And - I really appreciate that even if I am still in my pajamas and the house is a mess, he STILL tells me I'm beautiful! Oh - and he cooks dinner most nights too.... I'm a lucky woman! 

There will soon be life beyond cancer, and I wouldn't want to face it with anyone else. 
Love you Michael! ❤️

God Bless,


Friday, July 18, 2014

A Masterpiece

 This week Ania had her prosthetic eye completed by ocularist Roland Scott. In our opinion, his work is a masterpiece. Ania's new left eye is simply magnificent and is as beautiful as many works of art hanging in the Chicago Art Institute.

 Here she is gathering inspiration at that very place the day her eye was finally finished:

On Wednesday, we went in at 9:00am so he could do some iris color matching. 

At 10:00 he sent us away so he could finish. We had a few hours to mosey around Michigan Avenue so we hit up all the great sights. 
 Millenium Park
Stopping to smell the park garden flowers...

And a mommy/daughter lunchtime selfie!

After lunch, Ania and I took a chance to spend some quality time at the Art Institute of Chicago....

"He's a painter like me!" Says Ania

Dancing around priceless works! 
We had lots of discussion about the paintings. We played a game of "what do you see and what do you think about this one?" 
This was her favorite of the day:
"Mother and Child"- Picasso
She looked at this one for quite awhile commenting how the baby reminded her of her little brother. 

My favorite - because there is history here:
"Lucie Berard ( Child in White)"- Renoir

On the left, is Ania almost exactly one year ago. This painting reminded me of Ania right away last year as she made her first visit to the museum. This was Before the knowledge of cancer. Carefree. 
Of course I had to revisit it. And of course I almost cried. The little girl "Lucie" is of course timeless, unchanged. And my Ania. A different appearance and so much has happened to her since the last time we saw it..... I can't wait to revisit "Lucie" next year and see that transformation again...

We returned for the eye fitting around 1:30pm. 
Waiting as ocularist made a final size adjustment... 
The result- including a special pink butterfly on the top to help Ania identify the topside of her special eye :) 

Check out this match! 

We are so pleased with the final result and time that Roland Scott put into making Ania's very special eye/work of art. Ania thinks it's pretty cool too and has been working on taking it out and putting it in all by herself in the last few weeks! She is really remarkable :) 
It's nice to finally close this one chapter of this cancer journey. Her eye has been restored- like a priceless masterpiece! 

God Bless,


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nurturing Kellen Too

There is a part of this cancer journey that I hold specifically dear and it really has little to do with Ania actually. My dear sweet son Kellen, now 19 months old has been a part of this cancer saga too-soon it will be more than half of his short lifetime's worth of time. He has really only known of life with his sister Ania WITH cancer as he was an infant when she was diagnosed. He has been passed around and "babysat" by so many wonderful people when I've been away with Ania at doctors appointments and hospital stays. Through it all, he has shown himself as a very easy going little boy who goes with the flow and easily charms his watchers :) He is an incredible gift to our family and the fact that he adapts as well as he does to lots of time away from mommy and daddy is such a blessing. Although, I have felt some guilt with all the days and nights I've been away from him, there is one bond that we still hold and am ever greatful for. 

I had some reservations sharing this on this blog as I understand breastfeeding can be somewhat of a hot button topic and this is a blog about Ania's cancer journey, however it has been an important piece to this journey that means a great deal to me personally as his mother. See, at 19 months old, Kellen is still a breastfed child. I know there are also some reservations out there about extended breastfeeding, however it is something that personally works for our family and in no way do I expect all people to share my feelings about it- and that is ok with me.
Sweet Ania nursed until the age of 3 and I fully intended to follow Kellen's lead as well and nurse him as long as he wanted. It's not come without it's challenges, but we've made it work. When Ania was diagnosed last year and he was just 10 months old, at the time I thought, we may wean earlier than planned since I will be away so much- and I was sad about that- for him and for me. I wanted to afford him the same choice and pace I allowed Ania with breastfeeding and I wasn't sure it would happen. 

After her diagnosis, I would pump ( I hate to pump and give huge props to exclusive pumpers!) while I was away to maintain a supply. Right around 11 months Kellen started refusing a bottle so if mama was away, he would just not have any mama milk. I built up a little stash of milk I pumped anyways while I was in the hospital and would freeze it. I ended up with a decent amount by the Spring- enough to actually donate it to another mom with a baby in need of donor milk. I often think of that mother and child and wonder how big that baby is now today and feel happy to have contributed :) 

There have been times where I thought, this must be the end. Sometimes while Ania is in the hospital for a few days I will make a point to come home and just spend some one on one time with Kellen for a few hours. He is always happy to see me of course! In the first few months, he would eagerly nurse right away. Now, he would rather play when I come visit with him. That's pretty normal almost 2 year old behavior I suppose- too busy to eat- it's time to play! I follow his lead and only nurse when he asks now but I must admit I've been sad a few times because when it's time to go back to the hospital and he has just not been interested in "milky" time I just start thinking, "oh well- my little boy is growing up and moving on" and feel proud we'd made it as far as we have. Then when it's time for Ania to return home following those long treatments, it's as if he sees Ania walk in the door and says, "YAY! "Yaya" (as he calls Ania) is home! That means Mommy is home and here to stay too! Give me the milkies!" That's when he won't leave me alone for a few days and I know he's not done yet! Haha! 
He makes his presence known ;) 

Somehow, through all of this, it brings me great peace to sit down with Kellen and be able to provide for him in this manner. It has kept the bond stong between us in the midst of our sometimes chaotic lives. It allows me to sit quietly with him and reflect on how motherhood has made me  into a person I am truly proud of. I am of course honored to be mother to both Ania & Kellen but specifically proud I have been able to nurture my children still as equally as possible right now- even in the midst of cancer. For Ania, at this time in her life it's nurturing her by just being with her while she endures her treatments and encouraging her creative spirit to soar through art and dance. For Kellen, at 19 months old, he is still a not-quite-baby-but-not-quite-big-boy in need of his mothers milk and I'm honored that I've been able to do that for him as long as we have- especially considering the circumstances. I really believe he remains so easy going because he is confident his mommy will return at some point and nurture him in this way that is so special to him right now. 

Besides me, "Mother Nature" nurtures this guy too ;) 

God Bless,


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Carolina Dreamin'

Ania has said that once her cancer is gone, she really wants to go camping. We have never been camping before but somehow she knows all about it. She already has her list of packing supplies ready in her mind- ask her what to bring and she says need a tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, & binoculars! So, the first thing we are planning on doing once her chemotherapy treatments are finished, is take a family vacation to South Carolina. Her GiGi & Godparents live in near the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina and that is where we will go camping early this fall. She of course will also enjoy seeing her dear GiGi, whom she has not seen in over a year! 

A few weeks ago, Ania told me she wanted to paint mountains. The inspiration came totally out of the blue so when she asks me to draw something without me offering the suggestion, I typically drop whatever I'm doing and try to draw up what she is yearning to paint. 
Following her lead, I drew up a mountain range with a field of flowers and of course a butterfly had to sneak into those flowers! 
She has been working on this one slowly over the last few weeks with chemo and birthday celebrations keeping us busy. It's given us much time to discuss colors and even talk about color layering and dimention (really! She talks like a art student who's been studying for years I swear!)
Over the weeks she would do a little at a time, layering colors as she went. 
Working alongside her little brother ( his attention span is much shorter but still he enjoys it haha!)

Layer by Layer... 
The trees and greens...

To the shades of blue of the Blue Ridge Mountains.....
While she was painting the mountains we talked about depth and how things that are further away have different colors because light shines differently on different parts of the mountains. At one point while she was painting, she asked me how she learned to paint so well. I laughed and said, "Well you have practiced a lot but you have also been given a special gift! It is a natural talent! 
She laughed and said simply, "Yep! I paint very well!" Confidence in her skills! 

The flowers were a fun color mixture she made up of pink, purple and periwinkle. She really enjoyed the color she created for them! 

And then the lovely butterfly-

When this cancer journey is done, this is where we will go. A journey to the Carolina mountains for a little camping and reconnection to family and nature. She knows there is more to her life than cancer. There is a vast world that she knows is out there and will get to explore. Yes she has been given a gift of artistic ability, but I know she's also been given the gift of appreciating life a little more because of the challenges she has already faced. She has given me the gift of that too! 

Soon, Dainty Warrior, we will start a new journey, outside of this cancer and onto healing. We will start by camping on a mountain, and only go higher from there!

Gigi's Mountains :) 

God Bless,