Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lunch for Life Giving Tree - Isabella has a Tree!! =)

Here is the link to Isabella's Tree - Giving Tree

This year, Lunch for Life is getting into the holiday spirit! Thanks to the efforts of CNCF and an anonymous donor, your giving will translate not only into desperately needed research dollars, but also into gifts that will brighten the lives of these children. And one child will receive an all-expenses paid dream vacation to Walt Disney World, with the help of some incredibly generous donors .

Here’s how it works: Each child has his or her own virtual giving tree, and your donations will decorate those trees with ornaments and (ultimately) presents. Every donation has three effects: 1) the tree of your choice receives 1 ornament for every $5 you donate; 2) every donation generates a Giving Code which can get you bonus ornaments when your friends type it in; and 3) each ornament placed on a child’s tree creates one entry for that child into our Disney World giveaway. For example, if I donate $15 to a specific child’s tree, then that places 3 ornaments on his or her tree, creates 3 contest entries for that child, and generates a Giving Code for me to pass along. When a tree is full (500 ornaments), those ornaments transform into a present underneath that tree, and the decoration process begins all over again. For each present, the family can elect to receive one of several donated prizes for the child (including board games, stuffed animals, a gift card to Toys R Us, or even the ability to turn multiple presents into a portable DVD player or other bigger gift).

The Giving Code allows you to earn bonus ornaments for a tree by passing on the code to your friends. They will be able to donate their money in honor of any child they wish, but by entering your Giving Code, your chosen tree will receive a bonus ornament for each ornament they donate. For example, when I donated $15 in the earlier example, I received a Giving Code of 123456. I emailed that to several friends with the encouragement to donate to a child’s giving tree, and told them to enter my code so I’ll get bonus donation credit. One of my friends gives $10 toward a different child’s tree, which buys 2 ornaments for that tree, but because he entered my code while making his donation, it places 2 more ornaments for free on the tree I chose. He’ll then get his own code that benefits his chosen tree, which he can pass onto his friends, and so on. This way, for every friend or family member you get to donate, you’re giving that much more in prizes and contest entries to your chosen child. Talk about happy holidays!

Finally, on December 25th, we will hold a virtual drawing, where each child has a chance to win the trip to Disney World. For each $5 donated in that child’s name by midnight Pacific time on December 24th, he or she will receive 1 entry in this drawing. For example, if $5000 total was donated in a child’s name, then that child would have 1000 entries in the contest. Each entry is assigned a unique number, and the computer will randomly select one of those numbers at Noon Eastern time on December 25th. We will post the winning number to the website immediately following the drawing, and the child associated with the winning entry will receive a free, all expenses paid trip to Disney World, including airfare, lodging, tickets to the theme park and shows, special front row and backstage passes, and many, many other perks!

Remember, now your lunch money can help save these children’s lives by funding scientific research on Neuroblastoma, while also bringing smiles to their faces with their own virtual trees and real presents. Please help make these holidays special for these wonderful children in need.

Disclaimer: Because we live in a litigious society, some rules and conditions apply. For purposes of the presents and the contest, credit will be given only for those cash, credit card, or PayPal donations processed before midnight Pacific time on December 24, 2006. In the case of personal checks, the funds must clear to the official CNCF-designated Lunch for Life bank account prior to the December 24th deadline in order to be credited toward the creation of ornaments/presents or contest entries. This means you should get donations in early to make sure they count for contest purposes. For a list of full contest rules, click here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Memory lane....

I finally found the picture I was talking about in a previous post. This picture was taken the day we found out Isabella had cancer. It's like you can see it on her face.....

Bella receiving blood during treatment. This was right before Christmas of 2004. Her red blood counts were low so we spent they day getting blood. You never realize how important it is to donate blood until someone you love needs it.

Bella in June of 2005 shortly after her tumor was removed.

Bella with her aunt's wig on in July of 2005.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hope for Neurblastoma Treatment

A team of St. Jude researchers has shown in laboratory studies that a drug called interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is a potentially effective and practical way to sensitize cells of neuroblastoma tumors to chemotherapy. The finding suggests that it is worthwhile to continue these studies with the aim of eventually doing clinical trials with children. Neuroblastoma is a cancer of infants and young children in which cells resemble very primitive developing nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus.

IFN-gamma was already known to cause cancer cells to undergo apoptosis (cell suicide) by stimulating them to make a molecule called caspase-8, according to Jill Lahti, PhD, associate member of Genetics & Tumor Cell Biology. However, Lahti's team took that understanding further by showing that INF—gamma appears to be effective in doses appropriate for use in children. Caspase-8 triggers apoptosis in response to chemotherapy drugs that attack those cells. A report on this work appears in the October issue of Biochemica Biophysica Acta—Molecular Cell Research.

The St. Jude team exposed a series of different cultures of neuroblastoma cells to IFN-gamma for five-minutes. The single dose treatment triggered caspase-8 production in all cells that previously were not producing this molecule; and in three out of six neuroblastoma cultures that were already producing high quantities of caspase-8. The increase in caspase-8 occurred within 16 hours and lasted for up to nine days. And most importantly, the treatment made the cells almost three times more sensitive to the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin.
The investigators also used a technique called gene microarray analysis to identify genes that were affected by INF-gamma.

"Altered activity of these genes might further sensitize neuroblastoma cells to chemotherapy drugs," Lahti said. "So we plan to study them to see if we can further improve treatments for neuroblastoma."

Other St. Jude authors include co-first authors Tanya Tekautz (formerly of St. Jude Hematology-Oncology, now at Cleveland Clinic) and Kejin Zhu (Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology), who contributed equally to this work, Jose Grenet and Vincent Kidd (Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology), and Deepak Kaushal (formerly of St. Jude's Hartwell Center, now at Tulane University).

November 2006

****This article is from the St. Judes website, here is the direct link to the story : Hope for NB

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving weekend

YUM! Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberries and rolls. We need to fatten this child up! hehehe

Little Charrito playing with his toys. Our daycare provider gave him this early Christmas present.

Isabella and Grandpa singing Karaoke.

Isabella singing a solo.

Isabella watching a movie with some headphones on since she couldn't hear her movie to well with the guys watching the football game. Looking cute in her little corner eating flamming hot cheetos with lime.

Little Charrito enjoying a nap in his swing.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed their time with their families. I didn't brave the stores on Friday, I wasn't planning on doing my Christmas shopping until this coming up weekend.

29 days until Christmas!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!




Monday, November 20, 2006

National Tree

Located for the entire month of December in the Old Post Office Pavilion, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW, the 25 foot tree glitters with thousands of gold ribbons, each bearing the name of a child who has, or has had cancer.

Please honor our cancer children by supporting this year's Awareness Tree Event. Order your ribbon and have it added with your child's name to the National Tree.

To purchase Holiday Tree Ribbons, click: Purchase 2006 Ribbons.
To search the Holiday Tree Ribbons, click: Search 2006 or Search 2005.

Lighting Ceremony Saturday, Dec. 9th at 6:30 PM EST

a picture from the 2005 event. All of the gold you see on the tree are ribbons of children who had or have cancer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

some cute pictures from Isabella's first year.....

A picture to share.....

I would like to thank David for taking the time to post what he felt when we were going through that first week. It's nice to hear how he felt, because I can just assume he felt a certain way and I could be completely wrong. Who knows, maybe I'll find out I don't know him as well as I think I do. =)

Well, I wanted to share this picture of Isabella that we took shortly after getting home from the hospital. It was one of our first attemps at giving her a shower with her broviac in. She was no longer allowed to take baths becuase the line could get infected and that line was right next to her heart and we did not want to take any chances. The nurse at the hospital gave us a few pointers in trying to cover it up with Saran Wrap or a plastic garbage bag. Trust me we tried everything and I was sooooooo perinoid about getting it wet. Now that I look back, I don't know how we ever got her clean! hehehe

I remember that David and I were working our schedules around her chemo treatments. I started working 4 days a week for 10 hour days, so I could have one day off during the week, but not have to worry about not getting paid for that time. This picture was taken one day that David was home with Isabella. I remember him sending me this picture at work and I was thinking he did a good job covering it up. =)

excuse the nudity..... ;-)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My First Contribution

Well I don't usually contribute to the blog but I thought I'd give it a shot today.

I'll try to add to what Michelle has already posted regarding to Isabella's illness. I don't remember details as much as Michelle does. I do remember the way I felt though.

Before Isabella was diagnosed I remember reading a story about a parent who was dealing with a terminaly ill daughter. The parent stated that she would try to disconnect herself emotionaly from the child as a way of dealing with her eventual loss. I remember asking Michelle how someone could do such a thing. I came to the conclusion that the parent was cold hearted and didn't love the child to begin with.....Yup, you're right I was full of it. Fast forward to the week of Isabella's initial surgery. I was driving home to grab some clothes for Michelle and I. As I'm staring at the road trying to somehow figure away to solve the pickle we're in I notice myself doing the exact same thing I thought I'd never do if placed in a situation like this. I was trying to figure out a way to disconnect myself from our daughter. I caught myself but in doing so I had to ask myself which direction I wanted to head in. On one hand I could disconnect myself from Isabella and see IF that would help in the event of her premature death. On the other I could enjoy every moment I had with her and try to maker her life the best I possibly could. It wasn't a hard desision to make once I considered it. I remember talking to Michelle about it and she had told me that she had felt the same. It was nice to be able to talk to her about that. I think people tend to keep stuff like that inside fearing that they might come accross as cold hearted.

I remember Dr. Abella coming by the room and talking to us a bit about Isabella's cancer. He didn't know for sure what it was but he was pretty convinced that it was Neuroblastoma. First thing I thought was brain cancer. I asked him if that meant that she had a tumor in her brain as well and he said no, that the cancer originated in the adrenal gland which is located in her abdomen. I was like, damn then why don't you call it Adrenalblastoma or blastoma that originates in your adrenal gland which by the way is located in your abdomen cancer. Why do you have to scare like that for? False advertising at it's worst man!

So we're standing there trying to soak up all of Dr. Abella's information but he might as well be talking German cause we had no idea what he was saying. The guy sounded smart as hell though so I had to give him the old "I got you" nod. You know that fake nod you give someone when you have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

I think we all wanted to ask him the same question but none of us had the guts to do it. Finally Bonnie my sweethearted mother in law asks, "so what are her chances?"...."BINGO" I say to myself. Finally someone has the huevos to ask! I cringed as the doctor answered the question. "50/50 worst case scenario and 75% best case". I emediately thought of Shaquille O'Neil's free throw shooting percentage when he said that. Don't ask me why I just did. Now granted I'm not a Lakers fan but I remembered all the times when he'd sink those ever so important free throws late in the game to help win games during their 3 year championship run and I remember saying to myself, "you know 50/50 isn't that bad". Now this is the type of retardedness that can only be achieved if one is placed in such a stressfull situation.

Well I believe a week went by and we got the results to all of Isabella's tests. The tumor had not spread, it wasn't in her bones, (it wasn't in her brain) the tumor would react favorably to chemo. Other than having a tumor the size of Shaq's foot in her belly things looked good. I got to say that the few times I saw her smile that week really made me want to not give up. She really helped us cope with her situation more than anything. As time went by she smiled more and more and there were times where we almost forgot that she was sick.

I got to go for now. This was fun. Maybe I'll do it again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 11th and 12th

As the days went by in the hospital, it got easier as the news of it all began to sink in. Isabella had cancer, it is called Neuroblastoma and she will begin chemo to fight it. Believe me, when we first heard the word Neuroblastoma from our doctor, we were like Neuro....What?!?! We had no idea what to expect in the coming weeks, but we had to face it with hopes that everything would turn out okay.

One thing that really blew us away with gratitude was my co-worker La Trisha and my boss Brad coming to visit us in the hospital one day with a basket full of stuffed animals and cash donations from people at my work. This brought me to tears because I had just started working there in August of 2004 and Isabella was diagnosed as you all know now, at the beginning of November. So I wasn't even working there for 3 months and I hardly knew anyone there. For them to think of us at this difficult time in our life, we didn't know how to show them our gratitude. I also remember a bunch of my co-workers wanted to donate there time off to me since I didn't have any and wasn't eligible for FMLA yet. Unfortunately due to corporate policy, they were unable to because I hadn't been there for a year yet. But I appreciated their thoughts.

Its funny writing about this experience again, I don't remember a lot things off the top of my head. But the moment I start writing, other things start coming back to me. It sure was a difficult week, but we also made some really good friends in the process and got to know some smart and loving doctors who care a great deal about their patients.

Okay, now about our last day in the hospital. They were finally sending us home that Friday, November 12, 2006. As I stated about her surgery day, a broviac was now placed in her chest and we were going home with this. David and I both were extremely nervous about taking care of this new part of Isabella. They showed us how to flush the lines with saline, and we had to do that every day to make sure blood did not clot in the lines. The nurses also showed us how to remove the dressing that was covering the entry point in her chest, this dressing had to be changed once a week and the environment had to be completely sterile. David and I were okay with flushing the lines out every day, but it was torture having to take off the dressing because we knew how much it hurt Isabella. So we decided to have a home nurse come once a week to take care of that one. Also so Isabella wouldn't hate us for causing her pain every time we had to change it. =) I know she wouldn't really hate us.

Well, that's the end of our first week and our lives have changed completely. Cancer is now a part of our daily lives and even though it sucks at times, we always try to make the best of it. For Isabella's sake.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

November 10th 2004 - the day after surgery

Sorry for taking so long to finish this story....

Well, the next day David and I woke up to a morning of not knowing much more than the day before. Neither one of us got much sleep that night. I know I was nervous the whole time listening to Isabella's heart monitor. If I remember correctly, she was still heavily sedated that night so she didn't move around much.

Isabella had the surgery the day before, but she was still scheduled for more tests. She needed to have a nuclear scan that would show if the cancer had spread to any other places in her little body. The doctors needed to perform all these test so they could map out her treatment schedule. If they gave her high doses of chemo but she didn't need it, it would cause more harm than good, or on the other end, if they didn't give her enough treatment. I remember sitting there with David while Isabella was getting her scan done and we told each other that we didn't know how much more bad news we could take. So we prayed that the news from the scan was good.

Well, we did get what we prayed for. Finally some good news. Her tumor did NOT spread!! =) It was only the one tumor and it had what they call good biology. Meaning that her tumor most likely didn't have the ability to spread. At this point we started to hear a lot of things we didn't understand at first. Like MycN Non-Amplified and Favorable Shimada. I have included a hyperlink to a website containing a ton of information regarding Neuroblastoma. We were truly blessed with the best case scenario. We just found out our daughter had cancer two days ago and we thought we were going to loose her, but then come to find out the doctors have a plan to beat it and beat it we will!!! =)

It sucks to be a Cardnials fan......But thank goodness we are Charger Fans!! =)

San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (21) breaks a tackle by Cincinnati Bengals safety Madieu Williams, left, on his way to a two-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006, in Cincinnati. Tomlinson rushed for four touchdowns and 104 yards in the Chargers 49-41 win. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

OMG!!! Okay, so this morning we get up late and go to Wal-Mart about 15 minutes before 11. Well, we were getting our things and didn't end up getting home until about 11:45. The first thing David does is turn on the TV to see that it was 14 - 0 Bengals. Not even 5 minutes later they scored again and the Bengals were up 21 - 0. We thought that was it, the Chargers have lost this one. But as loyal fans as we are, we stuck it out and watched the whole game. We are soooooo glad we did! That game was literaly a nail bitter down to the last minute. I can't believe the Chargers pulled that win out of their ass! I just hope they can win next week @ DENVER.......

Friday, November 10, 2006

2 on 2 - The LeBrons

We love to watch these LeBron commercials. Hope you guys enjoy them as well! =)

Surgery Day - November 9th 2004

Sorry I didn't get the chance to post this yesterday. =)

So to pick up where we left off, we have been admitted to the hospital and are awaiting the dreaded surgery.

Monday night she was declared "NPO" which means she couldn't have anything to eat or drink after a certain time so that there wouldn't be any complications during her surgery. Hopefully someone out there knows what NPO stands for, because all I ever hear is "Nothing by mouth" which doesn't correlate to NPO. =)

As I sit here and type this, more memories start coming back. I remember she was scheduled for surgery around a certain time, I'm thinking it was to be around 10 AM or NOON, but then we go word that it was delayed an hour or so. Now remember, Isabella was about 18 months at this time and she wasn't being allowed to eat or drink anything. Try telling a 18 month old child that they can't have anything to eat when they are starving since they haven't eaten since they went to bed last night. Needless to say, she wasn't a happy camper. I remember begging the RN to just let her have a tad bit of oatmeal or something like that since her surgery was delayed. He finally agreed and then of course, Murphy's law..... as soon as she had something to eat, 10 minutes later we got the word that she was to head upstairs for surgery. I felt really bad at that moment, because I didn't know what would happen now that she had something in her stomach.
All of us went upstairs to the second floor of Banner Desert hospital to go to pre-op. By everyone I mean, David's mom and step-dad, David's sister Carla and brother Eric, and my step-mother. Only David and I were allowed in the pre-op area to get Isabella ready for surgery. The nurses explained everything that would be going on with her and asked us if we had any questions. We waited for the surgeon to come by and he went over everything again and then they carried our little girl away. We walked back to the waiting area where our family was waiting for us. I being the emotional person that I am, cried from the moment she was out of site. I didn't want her to see me cry, because then she would think there was something wrong. If I remember correctly they said the surgery would take a couple hours. So there we all were, sitting in the waiting area scared because we knew nothing. We did not know what type of cancer she had yet, if it had spread to other places, we didn't even know if Isabella was going to beat it. But we had to believe that what ever the news, we were going to fight. Just two days prior, we had no clue this is where we would all be today.

We all anxiously waited for the surgeon to come out and tell us Isabella made it through the surgery fine. Finally we saw Dr. Janik come through the doors and he explain what happened during the surgery and what he saw. I still remember one of us asking how big the tumor was, and he said it was the size of a large grapefruit. All of us just stared at each other wondering how a tumor that size could be inside of her. He went on to explain that they took a piece of the tumor out that were going to biopsy and they did the bone aspiration on the back side of her hips to test the bone marrow. He also placed what is called a broviac in her chest that will be used to administer chemo treatments as well as draw blood from. The line was placed in a vein right next to her heart so that when medications were administered, they would travel through the blood faster than if it was with an IV in the arm. This broviac line was permanent as well, we had to learn how to clean it every day after we were released from the hospital.

Dr. Janik gave us the okay to head back to recovery to see her. The moment I saw her, I just broke down. Seeing her with so many tubes and the monitors was more than I expected and could handle. I couldn't stay for very long looking at her like that, so I headed back to the waiting area. When she was okay to leave recovery, she was back in her room. Which like I said on my previous post, was our home away from home for the entire week.

That night David and I shacked up in the room that could barely fit us. I don't think I got much sleep listening to the heart monitor beat every second. Every time the alarm went off I shot up and went to check on her.

Until next time.... =) i will post the next days' event after I let Isabella watch Superman right now.... ahhh, how lucky we are to have her here wanting to watch a movie with me.........

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2 Years ago......November 8th 2004

It was 2 years ago to the day that we found out our little girl had cancer. Here is a little background as to how we came to this day.........

Around mid October our daycare provider mentioned to us that she felt a lump in Isabella's lower abdomen while she was changing her diaper. She had told us that she laid down all of her other kids to see if she felt the same thing, but she didn't. We called her doctor's office to make an appointment, now we had just moved to Phoenix in mid-July so she had never even been to this office yet. The appointment was for like a week later. The RN checks her out and is not sure as to what to tell us so she brings in the doc to feel Isabella's lump. She immediately says that she needs to be scheduled for an ultrasound. We make that appointment and it is done within the next couple of days. We go in for her ultrasound and the tech looks around and again is not sure so he brings in the doc. She looks at the pictures and tells us we need a CT scan. At this point we know it's not something good. We are both in extreme denial and don't want to think what we knew it was. So then Isabella gets scheduled for her CT scan and it is scheduled for a Friday afternoon. She had to be put under anesthesia and we were then introduced to the wonderful ladies at the Pediatric Outpatient Treatment Center (POTC as we call it) at Banner Desert Hospital. The scan was completed and we were told that we wouldn't hear anything until Monday since it was a Friday afternoon.

Waiting through that whole weekend killed us. In our gut, we knew what it was, but we weren't ready to admit it yet. I cried and cried all weekend long. I constantly asked God why he would do such a thing to us. At this point in time we didn't know what it was but we still felt like we were going to loose her. David was my rock, as corny as it sounds. I still remember sitting on the couch one night and crying into his chest. He just sat there and held me and told me not to worry when I know he wanted to cry too.

That Monday, I can still remember it pretty well. It was mid-morning when my phone rang and it was Isabella's pediatrician. Now since we had just moved to Phoenix, and Isabella saw her actual pediatrician for like a minute's time frame, I knew it couldn't be good to have the doctor calling me. She told me that it was a tumor and for me to tell my work that I wasn't going to be there the rest of the week. She said we would have a lot of decisions to be making in the next couple of days and shouldn't be worrying about work. She told me to head home right away and pick up Isabella and head to the hospital because she was being admitted and she was scheduled for surgery tomorrow.

When I hung up the phone I immediately started to cry. My "cubie" rubbed me on the back and told me she was sorry. I know there is not much people can say when someone finds out their 18 month old daughter has cancer. I appreciated every ounce of support I received from her and everyone I worked with. I called David to tell him the news, but if I remember correctly the doctor had already called him. He was on his way home. He worked about a block from our apartment at the time, so he just walked since we only have one car. It just so happened that his sister, Carla came to visit for a week and she was at our apartment with Isabella. Before that day, Monday, November 8th 2004, we hadn't mentioned to anyone in our families about what was going on. Carla didn't know about the ultrasound, the CT scan, nothing. She had just decided to stay with us for a week to spend time with us. Little did she know that the week she was there would be the week we needed her the most. We didn't tell anyone, because we didn't want them to worry if it turned out to be nothing.

When David got home he had to break the news to Carla. I still remember getting home and seeing that her eyes were red from crying. Heck, so were mine from the drive home. There is a picture of Isabella lying on the floor that David took prior to me getting there and the look on her face says everything. She looked so sad in that picture, it was like somehow she knew what was going on. That picture might be on David's computer, so I'll see if I can post it here if I can find it. We got some things together and headed to the hospital.

We got to the hospital and got her checked in. A short while later we were showed to our room, which was our home away from home for the next week. That day we met a whole slew of doctors, some of whom we have come to know and love very well. One of the first was Dr. Abella. At first he seemed very straight to the point and I remember not really understanding a word he was saying. This turned me off about him at first. But now I know that he is just a really really smart man who talks in doctor terms so David and I had to learn how to break him down to our level of understanding. =) We met another doctor, MR. Dr. Janik. He would be our little Isabella's surgeon. He was a little bit more personable, but still a VERY VERY smart man. Dr. Janik told us that they would be doing a biopsy of her tumor to see if it was malignant or benign. They would also be doing a bone aspiration to test the bone marrow for the cancer cells. They also told us about a port called a broviac that would be placed in her chest so that she wouldn't have to poked all the time. At this point I was at the breaking point of information from people I didn't know and sure as heck didn't understand. =) After all of the information sunk in a little we started making phone calls. These were the hardest calls we've ever had to make.

David called his mom to tell her the news. To put it lightly, she is a very emotional person. I know she was in tears the moment David told her. As soon as she found out she waited for her son, David's brother, Eric to get home. He was going to school at the time in Palm Desert and he had plans to go somewhere with his friends that week. But as soon as he found out, he, David's mom and their step-dad all hopped in the car and drove the 4 hours to Phoenix. I then called my mom who was shocked by the news and couldn't believe what she was hearing. She reassured me that everything would be okay. I also called my step-mother and my step-sister who were also in tears and didn't want to believe that this was happening. My father had just passed away in July and now we felt like we were going to loose Isabella. There were a ton of emotions going through me at this point in time. My step-mother hopped on the first flight out of Reno and headed down to Phoenix. At the time she worked the night shift, so she got off from work around 1 or 2 AM and then got on a flight a couple of hours later and flew down to Phoenix, not sleeping for more than 24 hours. I can't express how much we appreciate what she did for us.

Well, that was day one! I'll go into day two on my next post. =)

Isabella had an appointment today. They are re-testing her urine to see if it's in normal range, since last time it was a tad high. But things you eat can make the levels high, so it's good that they re-test to be sure. The doctor said everything else looks good. He might decide to do a doppler test on her right foot just to make sure she gets good blood flow. Her right foot is noticably cooler than her left since the surgery to remove her tumor. I will get into that at a later time. =)

Hope everyone enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I will write about day 2 tomorrow.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Beautiful Pictures

You can click on the link above to see beautiful pictures of a girl who had Neuroblastoma. Her eyes remind me of Isabella.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I just read somewhere that today is Sandwich Day. So in honor of Sandwich day, we all need to go out and have a Subway sandwich. Or whatever company you prefer! Be it Subway, Quiznos or any other joint! =)

I am borrowing the info below from a fellow blogger and I thought this was funny.

Why did the chicken cross the road? answers below...

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on "THIS" side of the road before it goes after the problem on the "OTHER SIDE" of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his "CURRENT" problems before adding "NEW" problems.

OPRAH: Well I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

ANDERSON COOPER/CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am for it now, and will remain against it.

JUDGE JUDY: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: That chicken crossed the road because he wanted to steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.

DR SEUSS : Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's why they call it the "other side". Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side." That chicken should not be free to cross the road. It's as plain and simple as that!

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together - in peace.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2006, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet explorer is an integral part of eChicken. The Platform is much more stable and will never cra..#@&&^( C ....... reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken!

GHANDI: If a chicken would like to cross the road, then he should. And we should all be happy that he made this decision and not judge him for it.

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

And since it's sandwich day, lets go ahead and make that a chicken sandwich! hehehe

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dia de los Muertos

The title of today's post is "The Day of the Dead" for those who don't know spanish. =)

Here is some info regarding today's holiday....

Her face is unforgettable and she goes by many names: La Catrina, la Flaca, la Huesuda, la Pelona--Fancy Lady, Skinny, Bony, Baldy. A fixture in Mexican society, she's not some trendy fashion model, but La Muerte--Death.

Renowned writer Octavio Paz observes that, undaunted by death, the Mexican has no qualms about getting up close and personal with death, noting that he "...chases after it, mocks it, courts it, hugs it, sleeps with it; it is his favorite plaything and his most lasting love."

November 1, All Saints Day, and November 2, All Souls Day are marked throughout Mexico by a plethora of intriguing customs that vary widely according to the ethnic roots of each region. Common to all, however, are colorful adornments and lively reunions at family burial plots, the preparation of special foods, offerings laid out for the departed on commemorative altars and religious rites that are likely to include noisy fireworks.

In most localities November 1 is set aside for remembrance of deceased infants and children, often referred to as angelitos (little angels). Those who have died as adults are honored November 2.

From mid-October through the first week of November, markets and shops all over Mexico are replete with the special accouterments for the Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). These include all manner of skeletons and other macabre toys; intricate tissue paper cut-outs called papel picado; elaborate wreaths and crosses decorated with paper or silk flowers; candles and votive lights; and fresh seasonal flowers, particularly cempazuchiles (marigolds) and barro de obispo (cockscomb). Among the edible goodies offered are skulls, coffins and the like made from sugar, chocolate or amaranth seeds and special baked goods, notably sugary sweet rolls called pan de muerto that come in various sizes invariably topped with bits of dough shaped like bones and, in some regions, unadorned dark breads molded into humanoid figures called animas (souls). All of these goods are destined for the buyer's ofrenda de muertos (offering to the dead).

At home members of the family might use the purchases to elaborate an altar in honor of deceased relatives, decorating it with papel picado, candles, flowers, photographs of the departed, candy skulls inscribed with the name of the deceased, and a selection of his or her favorite foods and beverages. The latter often include bottles of beer or tequila, cups of atole (corn gruel) or coffee, and fresh water, as well as platters of rice, beans, chicken or meat in mole sauce, candied pumpkin or sweet potatoes and the aforementioned breads.

The spirits of the dead are expected to pay a holiday visit home and should be provided with an enticing repast and adequate sustenance for the journey. Frequently a wash basin and clean hand towel are provided so that visiting souls can freshen up before the feast. The offering may also include a pack of cigarettes for the after-dinner enjoyment of former smokers, or a selection of toys and extra sweets for deceased children.

In setting up the altar, a designated area of the home is cleared of its normal furnishings. The arrangement often consists of a table and several overturned wooden crates placed in tiers and covered with clean linens. The offerings are then laid out in an artistic and fairly symmetrical fashion. The smell of burning copal (incense) and the light of numerous candles are intended to help the departed find their way.

Meanwhile, at the family burial plot in the local cemetery, relatives spruce up each gravesite. In rural villages this may entail cutting down weeds that have sprouted up during the rainy season, as well as giving tombs a fresh coat of paint after making any needed structural repairs. The graves are then decorated according to local custom. The tomb may be simply adorned by a cross formed of marigold petals or elaborately embellished with colorful coronas (wreaths) and fresh or artificial floral arrangements. In many areas children's graves are festooned with brightly colored paper streamers or other festive adornments.

On November 2 family members gather at the cemetery for gravesite reunions more festive than somber. Some bring along picnic baskets, bottles of tequila for toasting the departed or even a mariachi band to lead a heartfelt sing-along. Local merchants set up provisional stands outside the cemetery gates to sell food and drinks. The booming reports of pyrontechnic rockets may announce the commencement of an open-air memorial mass, the ocassion's most solemn interlude.

While death is a topic largely avoided in the USA, the remembrance of deceased ancestors and loved ones is traditional among diverse cultures around the globe, often marked by lighting candles or lamps and laying out offerings of food and drink. Such celebrations can be traced back as far as the glory days of ancient Egypt when departed souls were honored during the great festival of Osiris.

In Mexico the Day of the Dead is a holiday that tends to be a subject of fascination for visitors from abroad. With its rare mix of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic rituals, it is also a perfect illustration of the synthesis of pre-Hispanic and Spanish cultures that has come to define the country and its people.

Death held a significant place in the pantheons and rituals of Mexico's ancient civilizations. Among the Aztecs, for example, it was considered a blessing to die in childbirth, battle or human sacrifice, for these assured the victim a desirable destination in the afterlife. The success of the Spaniard's spiritual conquest in Mexico is due in part to their willingness to incorporate certain pre-Hispanic customs into Christian practices.

Not surprisingly, as Mexican society has modernized, long-held customs have begun to fall by the wayside, particularly among urbanites. But the rapid encroachment of U.S. culture, intensified since the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement, seems to have spurred many citizens to actively pursue the preservation of Mexican traditions. While each October the country's supermarket shelves are now crammed with plastic pumpkins, witches' hats and rubber masks, government and private institutions have recently increased promotion of commemorative altars displayed in museums, educational centers and other public venues.
Most Mexico guidebooks make special mention of Day of the Dead customs, focusing on the celebrated all-night candlelight vigils in cemeteries at Janitzio Island and Mixquic, to the extent that either may draw nearly as many awed observers as celebrants.

Mixquic, once a farming island of the Aztec empire, is now a district of Mexico City that has retained something of a rural village ambiance and its ancient indigenous roots. The area takes on a busy and festive air in the final days of October as merchants set up street stands to hawk their wares for the Day of the Dead. In the cemetery, all family burial plots are elaborately embellished with an array of earthly delights in the hope of luring departed spirits. At 2 p.m. November 1, relatives gather at each tomb to mourn the loss of loved ones with la llorada--the weeping. Later, when dark would normally envelop the graveyard, the glow of thousands of votive candles illuminates the way for the departed. At Midnight they are called home with the mournful tolling of bells. Then each soul is lovingly remembered with recitations of the Rosary.

Day of the Dead festivities in villages throughout the state of Michoacan have a distinctive flavor reflecting the culture of the area's Purepecha Indians. Having successfully resisted conquest in the pre-Hispanic era, this ethnic group remained immune to outside influences until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. As in other parts of Mexico, floral tributes, regional repast and candlelight vigils in each local cemetery are integral to the November 1 and 2 celebrations, but among the Purepechas (or Tarascans, as the Spanish named them) these activities are relegated to women and children. Meanwhile, the male population commemorates the season with other rituals related to the fall harvest. Throngs of visitors annually trek to the Island of Janitzio to witness the graveyard vigil there, although equally colorful celebrations may be observed more serenely in most other Michoacan villages.

These Day of the Dead rituals are echoed in cities and villages throughout Mexico. As each locality offers distinctive traditions and a unique flavor bound to fascinate the curious traveler, a visit to any Mexican cemetery would be a worthwhile addition to the itinerary of anyone touring the country this time of year.

Copyright 1995 by Dale Palfrey.