Sunday, September 28, 2014

Traveling Recovery Road

We had our long awaited trip to South Carolina this past week.  It marked the end of cancer for Ania. We had told her all though her treatments that we would go to South Carolina and go camping when she was "all better." This was a trip we all waited eagerly for during this past year. Yes she will still have check ups and exams but the worst part is finally over. She is on her way down Recovery Road.

Our car was packed up with all sorts of camping goodies and we began the 14 hour drive. Both Ania and her brother did very well! Minimum stops, minimum complaining (hard task for a nearly 2 year old & 4 year old!). 
Run around at a rest stop

We spent the first few days at her GiGis house. They were low key,  quiet days filled with drawing, making cookies and naps! I think she was finally able to relax from this tumultuous year. Each day she would tell us it was time for a nap and then snuggle herself up in GiGi's bedroom and sleep for 2-3 hours at a time in the middle of the day. She has not napped like that in over a year.  Her little body just knew what she needed.
Family time at GiGi's house

On Tuesday we were able to go visit a family friends farm. Goats, chickens, pigs, donkeys & sheep- oh my! 

Wednesday was also a great day as we took a family hike to Isaqueena Falls. This place holds special meaning as Mike and I traveled there almost 15 years ago and were actually engaged there 9 years ago. Someday I can't wait to tell the kids the story of how it happened but I am happy to share the place with them in the meantime ;) 

At one point on our hike, Ania looked up at me with the biggest smile and said " Mommy, I'm all better now!"  Hearing her realization just made me so happy for her! She is thriving and enjoying life to the fullest again!

We were able to walk into a cave - a long tunnel actually - Stumphouse tunnel. It was pitch black & damp but Ania had no fear as we walked into it. She kept saying she was brave as she held my hand and looked for bats and bear footprints through the deep tunnel. It was very echoey and I told Ania to yell "I beat cancer!" Which she did and it was a beautiful moment as it echoed through the very dark place! 

The pinnacle of of the trip was the camping adventure that Ania has been asking to go on all through treatment. We stayed 2 nights at Paris Mountain. She was able to be reunited her long time friend Lily who moved away to Atlanta earlier this year. She was also able to meet a little boy named Evan who beat retinoblastoma! His parents were a great support for me in the early days of diagnosis so it was wonderful to meet them in person- and over a campfire and s'mores- can't beat that!!
Warrior s'mores :) 

Ania is MADE for camping :) she did very well and slept like a rock in her tent! We will try to get in another local camping trip this fall before the weather gets too cold.
Goodnight little camper!

A butterfly take-off!! 

We finished our trip with a beautiful drive through the Great Smokey Mountains. The air was fresh and crisp. The sign of a new era for our family. We are all on a road to recovery. The after effects of cancer are sometimes painful and raw but we are ready to refocus on health and well-being. There will be reminders of our cancer journey all through our lives I'm sure but we are through the worst of the mountain climb and have come to a beautiful jumping off point!

God Bless,


Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Milestone Day

The first day of school. It's an exciting day for most kids. The anticipation of the new year, teachers and friends is wonderful! Especially when it's Pre-Kindergarden and it's really the first time EVER for a little one to do a full day 8am-3pm. AND especially when that child has just finished fighting for her life the past year. The first day of school is momentous. It's a milestone we have been so looking forward to- like the carrot on the end of a long string of cancer treatments!
Ania woke up bright and early ready to go! She traded in her flowy rainbow butterfly wings for the day for a butterfly backpack- not to worry, it had wings too! 

I had to pick her up early from her first day for a doctor appointment. She was pretty bummed to leave so early. She cried. I told her the next day she would be able to stay to the end the next day. She then told me, she had a new boyfriend named Liam and that she would just drive herself to school next time....... They grow up so fast don't they?!

For her second day, she picked out what she called a "fancy" dress. She also asked to borrow my lipstick (I said no)! We are in trouble!! Watch out Liam- her daddy may be protective! ;)

She really seems to like her full day class- she cried again when I picked her up the second day- she did not want to leave! 

I can't tell you how happy it makes us to see her in school - especially at a place she feels so comfortable at! Considering  all that she has been through this past year, the normalcy is refreshing and she is amazingly confident! We are so very proud of our girl!

 God Bless,


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Final Round

On Tuesday, when Ania woke up, she told me she wanted to work on a painting of an angel. I reminded her we were going to the hospital for a few days for her final chemotherapy treatment. You would expect her to pout or be upset right? Nope! Her reply? "Ok, well bring my paints so I can work on it there- oh and bring all the wings that I like to give to other kids at the hospital." 
She is a true creative spirit and has a giving heart. 
We arrive and in Ania spirit, she flys through the halls. Her blood counts were finally where they needed to be so we were admitted. 
She put on her game face/mask and let the nurses and doctors assess her up and down and prepare her for her final treatments. 

About 3 hours after her first round of medicines, things get tough. Like clockwork, she starts to meltdown and become inconsolable. It's part of the process and it's incredibly painful to watch. There is nothing we can do but watch. Even trying to comfort her by caressing her back or face seems to irritate her. She cries to go home and says she is not brave. Even though we've watched her go through chemotherapy 10 times at this point, seeing this side of her does not get any easier. 
Luckily this side of her doesn't happen for long and ends with her falling asleep for a long nap- typically a few hours until she wakes. Unfortunately when she wakes, the nausea and vomiting takes it's turn. We repeated the staggered schedule of Zofran & Reglan to keep the sickness to a minimum. This time she was sick a few times until around 2:00am. 

She woke around 7:00am the next morning. She was back to herself thankfully. She asked to put on her ballet slippers and leotard and do a performance for her nurse, Mimi & I. 
She is such a performer... Before every dance I must "present" her by saying "Presenting ballerina Ania" and she enters her "stage" like a seasoned primaballerina :) 

We also painted our nails gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness 

Her final bag of chemotherapy drugs were started at 2:00pm. We were never so excited to see that green bag- the FINAL GREEN BAG of medicine. 

She responded with no complications to the final bag. A few hours later, the staff of Lutheran General hosted a party to celebrate completing treatment- it was "camping" themed since that is what has been what Ania has wanted to do all summer long. Several family members and friends were able to join in on the camping party as well! 
Her window drawing of a camp scene drawn earlier in the day
Telling campfire stories :)

She was so excited for this mock camping- imagine what her real camping trip in South Carolina that's coming up in a few short weeks is going to be like!! 

She did it. Ania is a Survivor and is Free to Fly!!!  This is what Freedom looks like!

We are going to enjoy the next few weeks as much as possible and hope she has no ill side effects from her last chemotherapy round. There will still be regular appointments, blood labs and neupogen shots in her future. She's not entirely done with cancer yet but through the worst of it!   She will have routine MRIs and exams under anesthesia over the next few years to be sure she is clear. She will have surgery to remove her chemotherapy port in a few months. Again, we are through the worse so hopefully all that comes is a peice of cake for Ania. 

"Her Dainty Warrior Wings" by Erica Moriarty

Ania has flown through her cancer. The 10 rounds of chemo and the loss of her eye is all behind her now. She will fly onto a bright future and has most definetly left an impact on those she has met along the way. She has hopefully left behind a path of light and hope for children and adults who must also travel down the path of cancer.

Thanks for following and we look forward to good times ahead! 

God Bless,


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Growing Up Gold

September marks the month for Childhood Cancer Awareness. Social media will be hopefully "going gold" with images that bring to light the epidemic that is childhood cancer.

At this time last year, I'll admit, I might have not paid any attention to an "awareness campaign" about childhood cancer. Then in October 2013 my child became one of these statistics. My child. My child who loved to dance & play in her garden had her life changed forever with a strange glare in her left eye that turned out to be cancer - retinoblastoma. It can happen to YOUR CHILD- in a blink of an eye- no pun intended- your child could be like mine. 

My aunt died at the age of 7 nearly 50 years ago due to leukemia. Ania's cousin Josiah passed away last February from DIPG (brain cancer). We have been connected to many other warrior children because of Ania's diagnosis and everyday it just breaks my heart to see the daily struggles they face. Sometimes it is too much and it is just easier to look away. Then I see Ania's face-  Ania will be one of the lucky ones- she will get to survive. I cannot turn away. We do not know if there will be lasting effects of chemotherapy or all the challenges she may face having a prosthetic eye but we try not to think of it or let the fear hold us back. As a survivor, Ania WILL have a voice on the issue. She WILL be a face of childhood cancer. She will continue to shine, dance, paint, GROW UP like the GOLDEN sunflowers in our garden. We will continue to share her story throughout her life in honor of the kids who may not have that chance.  

Please keep Ania and all the other children who face cancer in your thoughts. If you find it in your hearts to donate to a cause, please do so! For the month of September, any of the artwork purchased in Ania's Dainty Warrior Etsy Shop will have a portion of the proceeds sent to St Baldricks Foundation ( or another children's cancer fund of your choice if specified when ordering). The remaining proceeds will go to helping Ania continue to "Grow Up Gold" and spread her joy and spirit of perserverence to other children by sending wings like she wears and artwork she creates as they fight. 


God Bless and thank you for your support! Go Gold- September and beyond!
In loving memory of Nancy & Josiah