Sunday, May 5, 2013


Well, here we are a week later! This was the polar opposite of last week. Zack was able to work with Frank on Monday in Asheville. The very city all of his treatments / care have been given. He said it was strange to go there and not have to be at the Cancer Center.  Knowing that Tuesday would be the last full day of chemotherapy, he actually was glad to be working and keep his mind off of the next day. 

Tuesday was the chemo (as I refer it) that causes his hair to stay gone (or to loose it). The history of this particular combination has been known to make him very sick. He is more tired and nauseous for several days following treatment. He is in a fairly decent mood considering, but I still tread very lightly about "trying" to make him feel better. He hates this, it sucks!! enough said!! His appointment is 8:30 am and knowing that he will be sleeping most of the day, I have scheduled my next  platelets donation at 9:30 am. They had called from the Red Cross last week and said there was a desperate need for platelets so why not? I actually was told that I could donate every other week, but could only donate a maximum amount of 24 weeks a year. 

As we pull into the center, I am reminded of an incident that I failed to share last week. We had pulled next to a man on a beautiful, fully loaded motorcycle. Even though I sold my bike ( I dropped it one too many times in my driveway) I still have a passion for them, unfortunately, so does Zack (Frank was a rider most of his adult life). We walked around the car to check out the bike as the man was getting all of his gear on. He mentioned that he had just dropped some gift cards and was headed up the mountain for a long ride home. I asked which floor he went to and he said the second. I asked if he was with "Emily's Kids" ( He smiled and said "I AM Emily's Dad!!!" I ran up to him and asked if I could hug him. He was so surprised and said "Of course you can!" He looked at Zack and asked why we were there. Zack told him about his fight against Ewings Sarcoma (the very same thing that took his daughters life in 2009, only five months after graduating high school.) She, together with her father started the foundation to help families when they are away from home. What they do is have fund raisers, motorcycle rides, music, food and since the organization is 100% volunteers, all of the proceeds go to the families. He had actually just dropped off over $2,000 in gift cards which he purchased at Walmart, Subway, Atlanta Bread Company. We have been recipients of several of these cards during our times in Hospital. He was quick to say that he didn't NEED to know who was benefiting from this, but it was great to meet a family that has received this. He told about his daughter and how excited she was to start this foundation and he will continue as long as people are willing to help, and they are! I told him how there were times when I would go to the store because Zack just didn't want to eat Hospital food and his gift cards enabled me to buy everything Zack would want. He was thrilled and as we headed upstairs, we were able to both give him a great big Thank You hug!!!

Back to Tuesday. Zack got settled in, had his labs drawn and before I was even ready to head out, we were advised that his counts were high enough for him to get chemo. I gave him a big hug and was on my way, leaving him in the best possible care. I arrived in time for my appointment and within ten minutes was in the chair having a rather large needle placed into my vein. Again, they were able to do everything from the right arm which left my other arm free. One lesson I learned from this time..... wear a warm jacket, when you start to feel uncomfortable.. ASK for help!!! The blood pressure cuff was too tight and I developed a cramp in my arm, not a good feeling when you are not supposed to move, they also had to put two heated blankets on me as I couldn't stop shivering! It turns out the saline solution was cold and going through my blood. I will be honest it's not sitting in the park, surrounded by beautiful music and flowers, but if you remember what you are doing it for, you will be smiling the whole time. The staff, as before was awesome, always attentive and interested in our journey. When everything was done (about two hours) a woman approached me. She is the lead recruiter for platelet donations and wanted to know if I could come and speak to a group about the meaning of donating. She said they have donors that come on a regular basis, but no one ever shares their feeling about what it means to receive the platelets. She commented that I was so excited and talked about recruiting people through Facebook, Email and my blog, that I should be their "spokesperson."  The next day I would speak is the day before Zack's graduation. I'm not sure where I will be emotionally and I  explained that I am more than willing to do so. but he comes first, so I will get back to her on the date.

Once I left there, I stopped and grabbed lunch for Zack. I had been invited by our dear friends (of over 40 years) to have lunch together. Zack was doing well and told me to go and say hi from him. We met at a cute little natural foods restaurant around the corner from the center. I had no idea it was there and was excited to try something different. Louis and Celia are both published authors and Celia had just finished her latest book. Of course, I asked to purchase an autographed copy, she had stated that she would have loved to give me one, but has other people to account to. I wouldn't dream of accepting one as a gift, you appreciate things more. Most of lunch was filled with Zack, our journey and how we are all doing. Once we finished, I was asked to follow them to their car. Louis had something for me. He presented me with a painting my father did back in 1972 when we lived in Spain.  He told me how Dad  (Robert George Kensinger), who at this point had won two medals (Gold and Bronze) and title of "Commandeur" (which means master of painting) out of several hundred International Artists from the Queen of Belgium. This is not one of his "typical" paintings. He usually painted Trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) which you can barely tell is a painting. What makes this gift so special are the memories it bring back to me. We lived in Nerja, Spain a small fishing village (at the time) under Generalissimo Franco's dictatorship. I was ten when we moved there and twelve when this painting was created. It is of a small village , Frigiliana, up in the mountains behind our village. I have many memories of Dad, Rhonda and I hiking up those mountains, most of the time with the goats, and exploring. Dad would teach us about eating the flowers from the cacti and we would explore a ghost town not too far away. With Zack's treatments and his graduation up ahead, I have been thinking about Dad a lot and how he would have reacted to all of this. Being raised a Christian Scientist (not the same as Scientology) he would have looked at me and putting his hand on my head, would say "He is the perfect child of God and created in his image and likeness." Dad was always calming like that. To see and receive this precious gift, reminds me of him yet again! Louis had collected several of Dad paintings and I think this was the last he owned. He simply stated that he wanted to make sure it was in good hands.

When we finished I went back to the Cancer Center. Zack was still in the middle of his treatment and relaxing in the recliner. He was watching one of his shows and the next thing I realize, I was sound asleep on the couch snoring rather loudly. Melanie came in, Zack's nurse for the day, and put a heated blanket over me and a pillow under my head. Zack was making fun of my snoring and said soon he would have to move into another room. I can't believe he was in such good spirits. I had found a knot on his back a couple of days earlier and though it didn't look threatening I wasn't going to take any chances. I had told Julia, another amazing nurse, about the knot and the fact Zack didn't want me to mention it. She figured out a way to see it without mentioning my name, but I told her if he ever asks if I told them, to be honest and tell him I did mention it to them and just didn't want to embarrass him. It is a tight rope at times, but one I will walk every time! He told me "oh by the way, the nurse and doctor looked at my back and said it looks okay, so you can stop worrying!! He never did ask if I told them, but with that grin on his face, we both knew that I had. One day when he is a parent (of course I keep telling him this) he will understand!!

We wrapped up the treatment about 5:30 pm. Zack was hungry, so we invited Rhonda and Peter to dinner. We had a great time together and I was so surprised that Zack was feeling well enough to eat. By the time we turned the corner from our house about two hours later, he looked at me and said "Ugh... here it is!" He was nauseous and just wanted to go to bed. Unfortunately he had to drink the stuff that smells like a camels behind (okay, I've never really actually smelled a camel behind, but I could guess, but then again that's really insulting to the camel)  He paced and paced until he finally took a big gulp while holding his nose and took a sip of water to wash the rest down. SUCCESS!! Exhausted from the day, he crawled into bed, where he stayed the rest of the night.  The next day he was to go and get his neulasta shot and had a good friend (Biscuit) go with him (Zack is Gravy when they are together). On his way out of town, he went by the school and picked up his cap and gown. It's never easy to get the kid to smile in pictures, but it sure does make a Mama proud to see him in this!!

Frank and I worked both Wednesday and Thursday. We were both pleased to hear that Zack didn't have to return to the Center until Monday, when he goes for labs. Once Zack returned from Asheville, he went home and both friends just chilled out the rest of the afternoon until his friend had to go into work. Zack stayed in bed the rest of Wednesday and all of Thursday feeling worse each day. He would wake up and move to the couch for a change in scenery. Friday morning he woke up and was feeling better, though still a bit tired. I was going in to work on Moms jewelry booth and he wanted to come and have lunch with me. Since Mom decided not to sell her chair that was in the booth, Zack offered to pick it up and take it to his Meme. We had a nice lunch and it warmed my heart to see him feeling better. He said he was getting tired, but was tired of staying in bed. He would go and deliver the chair and return home to rest. Biscuit went with him again, so it made it more fun, plus he had backup. He was excited when he got home, as Mom had given him her recliner to "dispose of", he has always wanted one in his room and now he has one! When he got home, his friends arrived one by one. Next thing we knew there was a room filled with laughter. Frank and I just looked at each other and smiled. "It's good to hear them all laughing!" The boys then moved outside to the patio area and continued for a couple more hours. Zack came into the house and announced that he had "kicked them all out" and is going to bed. Worried that something had happened, I asked what that meant, he simply said "Mom, I told them I was tired, they told me to go to bed and they will see me later!"" They all know my routine by now and are cool with it!" Whew... I can breathe again!

Saturday was another soggy day. It has been raining here since Wednesday, non stop and getting old very quickly! Zack announces that his cousin Darrick is coming over to spend the night. We haven't seen much of Darrick as he is going to school full time (high school and college courses at the same time) and then works almost full time. He is a great kid and a pleasure to have around. Zack tells me that we are ALL going to the movies to see Iron Man 3! He knows this is something I have wanted to see and if he sits in the far back and wears his mask, he will be okay. What a great time we had too! He and Darrick sat in the very back and Frank and I up front. It was like date night!! Something we haven't done much at all in quite a long time. It was all so "normal" and fun!!! I'm still smiling thinking about it.

Sunday was literally a day of rest for us all. Darrick stayed until about 3 pm and they just chilled watching movies. I played my computer games and rested the entire day. To me, a couple of loads of laundry is not work so that doesn't count. Zack had "allowed" me to take his picture in cap and gown, so I could include it in some of the invitations. He is never one to smile in his pics and he didn't disappoint today either. I think he does it just to bug me,  as soon as I turn the camera down, he starts to laugh!! The brat!!!

He goes tomorrow with Frank for labs to determine if he needs blood or platelets. This coming Tuesday will mark the final chemo treatment. This is not one that makes him as sick, so he will be able to start healing again afterwards. He will have a couple of weeks to build up his strength and counts before graduation  which is May 31st.  The significance of that date will be with me forever!! It is the day last year we met with the surgeon to remove the tumor. Just the night before I had discovered the growth on his leg and here we are a year later, knowing everything that we do about something we never thought would be a part of our lives. How many lives have been touched this year!!! Too many to count, but each one a blessing to us!!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful post. Glad you got to see Ironman 3. So glad that this part of your lives is almost over. God has and still is blessing you.