Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ready To Move On After Cancer Scare - Brevard NC - Transylvania TImes (Local Newspaper)

Prelude from Sabrina: How bittersweet! Who wouldn't LOVE to see their child's name in the paper for his or her accomplishments. Well, he made it for one of life's biggest accomplishments I can think of, overcoming cancer!! Here is an article and photo that appeared in today's local paper. Please keep in mind that the camera adds 100 lbs!!! (Smile)

Ready To Move On After Cancer Scare - Brevard NC - Transylvania TImes (Local Newspaper)

To Brevard High School seniors, May 31, 2013, will forever be a special day as they walk across the stage with their classmates, receive their diplomas and embark on the next chapter in their lives.
However, for 17-year-old Zack Fisher, May 31 is the culmination of a battle that began exactly one year ago and tested the resolve of himself along with his entire family.
While most other seniors spent the past year finalizing plans for college, struggling to complete senior projects and enjoying their final days at BHS, Zack’s life was an endless series of hospital visits, blood tests and chemotherapy sessions as he fought against Ewing’s sarcoma, a very rare strain of bone cancer.
Zack is the son of Frank Fisher and Sabrina Kensinger. Apart from his size – 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighing just over 300 pounds – Zack is a typical teenager who enjoys hanging out with friends, has a passion for working on cars and trucks and, by his own admission, is known to be a bit of a risk-taker.
“I’ll do pretty much anything once, and if I don’t kill myself doing it, then I’ll probably do it again,” Zack said.
“He’s pretty much been trouble since the day he was born,” Kensinger said of the couple’s only child.
While Zack certainly lives his life to the fullest, all that changed on May 31, 2012, when Kensinger, going off what can only be considered as mother’s intuition, discovered a lump on the back of her son’s leg.
With the family at home and settling down for the night, Kensinger said she was in her bed reading when a premonition led her to go check on her son.
“My friends always tease me about being a witchy woman, but something just told me go and say goodnight to him,” Kensinger said.
When she entered his room, Zack was laying face down on his bed resting. It was then that Kensinger noticed the lump on his leg, something Zack said he had noticed but simply thought nothing of.
After going to Urgent Care the next day, physicians told them they weren’t sure what the growth was, but they were sure it needed to be removed surgically.
Once the surgery had taken place, a local pathologist thought the growth might be a cancerous tumor and sent the results to Cleveland, Ohio, for confirmation testing.
It was three weeks later when the family got the devastating diagnosis of Ewing’s sarcoma. For Zack’s parents, the news hit with the force of a sledgehammer.
“I was just absolutely numb,” Kensinger said. “I remember Zack basically had to guide me around for those first couple of days after the diagnosis.”
Zack’s father summed up his emotions in just one word: terrified.
“I’ve been scared before but that was by far the strongest emotion I’ve ever had,” Fisher said. “I just kept thinking, ‘This isn’t happening.’”
Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare disease, afflicting less than five out of every million teenagers between 15 and 19 years old. It has no known cause, though it is prone to strike males more than females.
While his parents were understandably in shock, Zack said his main emotion was anger.
“I was really just mad, most of all because it was finally my senior year,” he said.
Once the diagnosis was confirmed, Zack began chemotherapy sessions shortly thereafter. The sessions were done in Asheville, under the care of a doctor who previously worked at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, a leading children’s cancer research center, for 17 years.
Zack underwent chemotherapy for three weeks of each month. Two weeks were outpa-tient treatments, but one week required him to stay in the hospital. Throughout the ordeal, Zack maintained a matter-of-fact attitude and said the only thing on his mind was going through treatment and moving on.
“I really just wanted to get it over with. Every time I went in for treatment I just couldn’t wait to leave,” he said.
Kensinger said her son’s willpower was something most nurses said they rarely see among young cancer patients, but those who know him well said they wouldn’t have expected him to respond in any other way.
“We’ve always taught him not to let things get to him, so his resolve wasn’t that surprising,” said Fisher. “We always said, ‘There’s always an end somewhere. It may be hard to get to, but there’s always an end.’”
Even with a defiant attitude, the chemotherapy took a toll on Zack and he would experience bouts of nausea and sickness following some of the treatments.
For his parents, the process of watching their son go through such pain was the worst part of the ordeal.
“The hardest part was watching my son deteriorate physically,” Fisher said. “Watching his hair fall out, watching the shadows appear under his eyes and never go away, watching the way he lost out on some of his dreams.”
However, in typical fashion, Zack maintained his resolve, as if he simply made up his mind that defeat was never an option.
“I remember there were a few times when I would fall apart and Zack would just hug me and say, ‘Mom, it’s going to be OK,’” Kensinger said.
Despite the long hospital stays and exhausting rounds of chemo, Zack said he was mostly sad that he didn’t get to have the normal experiences of a high school senior.
He completed the necessary coursework to graduate through homeschooling, though he jokingly admitted there was “a lot of procrastination” involved in the process.
Zack recently completed his final round of chemotherapy earlier this month and test results indicate he is now 100 percent cancer-free.
“We were actually on our way from the doctor’s in Asheville when the nurse called us and said, ‘(The tests) aren’t only clear, they’re crystal clear,’” Kensinger said.
Ewing’s sarcoma is known to be an aggressive form of cancer and in many cases it returns even after a period of remission, so Zack will continue to be tested and scanned every three to six months to ensure it does not return.
Zack said he feels fine physically and if it were not for the hair loss and a scar on his left chest from a port being inserted so doctors could administer the chemo drugs intravenously, there would be no indications he ever had cancer at all.
Zack plans to attend Blue Ridge Community College and eventually would like to go to the Nashville Auto-Diesel College to work toward becoming a mechanic.
His family says the past year has been a roller coaster of emotions, one that has given them a new perspective on life.
“I’ve learned that life is very fleeting,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to take every little bit and enjoy what you can because you never know when you won’t have that any more.”
Kensinger said she wanted to use her family’s experience to help others and also bring awareness to the need for blood platelet donations, something that undoubtedly played a major role in saving her son’s life.
“There’s a lot of local blood drives but to donate blood platelets you have to go to the Red Cross in Asheville and there’s a real shortage of supply,” she said.
Fisher said his son’s graduation would be bittersweet for him as he’s watched him overcome so many obstacles in the past year and now move on to start life on his own.
“It’s going to be a little sad to see him graduate,” Fisher said, “because it means that he’s now a man. I’ve taught him all that I can and now it’s his turn to apply it in his life but he really has a great example in himself after all he’s been through and all that he’s overcome.”
If life was a script, there could perhaps be no better ending to this chapter in Zack’s journey than coming full circle this Friday, from one year ago and facing the biggest challenge of his life to walking the stage, graduating high school and celebrating a victory greater than most will ever know.
Never wavering, never complaining and never asking why, Zack said he’s ready to turn the page and return to a sense of normalcy, daredevil spirit and all.
“Me and my friends, we say it all the time, ‘We’re idiots.’ We do crazy things and sometimes one of us ends up getting hurt. I’ll probably cut down on that just a bit, but other than that I plan on going on like everything is normal,” Zack said. 
By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer

Monday, May 27, 2013

and the winner is....UPDATED.... EVEN MORE!!!

ZACHARIAH ISAIAH KENSINGER FISHER!!! Who as of Tuesday, May 22, 2013, 6 pm was declared crystal clear of cancer!! Following a few days of extensive testing, there are no signs of cancer anywhere in his body. I will not use the word remission, and if previously explained, my apologies. I can't say it enough. Remission to me gives this permission to return and WE DO NOT!!!

We had already received the all clear from the MRI and bone scan, however. as I'm still learning, five tests can show and all clear and BOOM!!! One scan can show a problem. A new and very dear friend's husband is battling his fifth time with Ewings Sarcoma, he just got the all clear on his scans and then an MRI showed several small tumors, so "you" never know.

OKAY..... My internet crashed right in the middle of writing and nothing was saved so.... three times is a charm, thus this delay (it just got repaired with a new internet box!! YAY)

Tuesday was all too familiar for us. We started the morning out with an EKG and Electrocardiogram.  It was actually quite humorous. With Zack still being "underage" we go to the Pediatric Unit. The nurse who is all of 5" 1" has Zack stand on the scale, no problem, she then looks him up and down and looks at the stadiometer ( yes I looked that up!), she says "okay, make it easy on me, how tall are you really?" Zack responds with a grin, 6'5"." "Oh my...." We are let down the hall and around a corner to a dark room with a children's size table where his feet hang over about two feet. Without even thinking another nurse walks in, says hello and turns the DVD player on with a cartoon. Zack and I look at each other and start to laugh. The technician arrives and completes both tests. Already anxious and knowing that she really can't tell me until the Doctor reviews everything, I ask if everything looks okay, she assures me she doesn't see anything that "jumps out" at her. 

Our next appointment is for the CT and PET scans. Zack hasn't been able to eat since midnight, so he is now the anxious one, only because he is so hungry. We arrive at the lower level of the Cancer Center where they insert an IV into his arm for the contrast part of the tests. I found myself entering the elevator to the second floor. This is "home" to me. I know the people, the couches are comfortable and the sun shines in through the big windows. I walk into the great room and Carol looks at me, then at her appointment book. She is confused, but I immediately tell her that Zack is downstairs for the scans and I needed to be home while he was having that done. She knew what I meant and told me to make myself comfortable. It was a slow day for them, so only a few parents came in with their children, all looking pale without hair, but in great moods, eager to run to the art section and start to paint with the social worker who had been eagerly awaiting their arrival.  I had asked Carol if she could just tell Karen, our social worker and now friend, that I was there, I wasn't in need of anything, I just wanted to give her a hug and say hi! She came out and we ended up talking for over an hour. We talked a little about Zack's treatment ending and what to expect, but mostly we just talked about life and how the past year has changed us all for the better.

I shared that I'm just now feeling like I can breath, but it's still not over for me. I keep looking at the three month "mark" and his port being removed. I talk about how far we have come, spiritually and emotionally. We joke about my joining Weight Watchers and I tell her so many people are offering excuses because of the past year, when the truth is... I have been heavy for a very long time. But, finally I want to get healthy and feel better in every way, so.....  Right about the time we finish our conversations Zack texts me and tells me he is at the car. He doesn't want to come upstairs and who can blame him. To me it is a sanctuary where the people cared for him so well, to him, it is where the people stuck him with needles, and kept telling him "you must return for blood and platelets", one of his least favorite things to do. Karen and I hug goodbye and Zack and I are on our way to eat. By this time is is 4 pm and he is starving!  Rhonda and Peter join us for a nice relaxing dinner and bringing something home for Frank, we are home by 7 pm. On the way home, Zack tells me that he has decided to join the local Rescue Squad. Garret is a member and tells him that they really need more young people and he thinks Zack would be great. Zack doesn't want to be a fireman, but to help people in some capacity. Of course we are thrilled, that's what you hope your child will do, help others, though I do think a big part of it is carrying the radio and "maybe" getting to drive faster? Whatever the reason he is moving forward.

Frank has been sitting on the front porch when we arrive home. It was still very light outside and  all of a sudden I hear a "man scream". I don't know how to describe it, but he got my attention. A raccoon had come onto the porch, was eating out of the  bird feeder and looked right at Frank as if to tell him "this is MY porch." Unfortunately, our neighbors had advised us that there could be a rabid one in the area, so we had to trap it. 

Wednesday and Thursday, Zack was anywhere and everywhere. It is as if he is making up for lost time and every now and then we have to reel him back in so he doesn't get overly tired.  He went to Blue Ridge Community College to sign up for Fall classes (Automotive) and was told where to apply and to return to meet with an administrator on the following Tuesday. He is nervous and yet eager to move on with his life. In the evenings he has a bonfire to go to at a friends house. He has been hanging out with new and old friends and having a great time, still trying to push coming later and later, but home at whatever time we give him. 

Wednesday evening, we met with Make a Wish. Two very nice ladies came to the house and filled out tons of paperwork. Zack was already prepared with a list of items he wanted done to his truck, two tone paint job, new stereo, wheels, etc..... The women were very impressed that he had it all prepared and he said "are you kidding, I'm so excited I can't stand it!" We aren't sure what (if anything) they can do, but we were advised they can make it look nicer, but not make any engine repairs.  His backup wish (they require that in the event the first wish can't be done) is to have his tuition paid at Nashville Auto Diesel School, in Tennessee. His plans are to go there after his two years here in Brevard. 

Frank left on Thursday for a much needed and planned "Guys fishing trip."  He left shortly after work and by the time I was done with work, Zack had already texted me and said he was at yet another bonfire with friends. That night I told him he could stay out until midnight, but he ended up returning at 11:30 very tired. He is smart enough to know when he needs his rest and tonight was just that night.  Hearing that Frank had arrived safely at his destination, three hours away (sorry I forget the name) and Zack tucked safe in his bed, I finally was able to go to sleep. 

Friday I had a scheduled physical  (part of my taking care of myself) and later in the day drove to Asheville to the Red Cross to donate promised platelets. On my way to Asheville I called my dear friend Sue and we met for a quick lunch. We had such a nice time catching up on everything and being able to be spontaneous is a new "high" for me. I never could do this when I had my panic attacks (and Sue remembers that well), so ever little impromptu visit is a blessing.  I didn't feel like going all the way to Asheville again, I was tired and wanted to sit home and nest some more, but there is a drive in me to help that is stronger than ever. When I think about how many units of blood and platelets Zack needed, what if there wasn't a supply. Someone out there made the trip and took the three hours out of their day to donate, who am I not to do so as well. Zack kept in touch and was home most of the day resting. He was feeling well, but since being out late a couple of days already this week, decided to stay home and chill. We had an invitation from Shawn and Floyd (sister and brother in law) to come to their house for dinner. I teased and said it was a "pity" dinner, since Frank was gone. Zack agreed to meet me there, since I was coming from another direction. He shows up with Drake, who we explained was more than welcome, but it taught Zack to always ask first when going to someone else' house (just in case they didn't have enough food). This angered Zack as he is very protective of his friends, but once we explained the why's (I thought we taught him that years ago!! Yikes!!!) he understood. He later told me that he is so used to us feeding whomever he brings home, he thought is was okay. I told him, home is different and left it at that. We still had a great visit, it was nice to sit and catch up with them as well.  We seem to be able to finally take some time to see our family and friends again. 

It took a couple of days for "us" to trap the raccoon and with Frank out of town Zack took charge. I have never been one to like doing anything like this, so it was a new experience for me, but Zack had talked with his friends who handle this kind of situation and he took care of everything in a humane way. He saw me on the porch crying and came up to console me. The raccoon's are not so bold to come on our porch, this has never happened and not to be frightened away is not good at all.  We have too many little children and animals running loose. 

Saturday, Zack was going to hang out with his friends, so I went to pick up Mom and go to the local Main Street Show "Garden Jubilee". We went out for lunch, then to Steinmart to see my "sister" who used to be Moms manager, then off to walk on Main and see all the cool garden plants, instruments and gadgets. Luckily,  we both left without anything, but a good time. I received a call from my brother, Bobby, late in the evening and he shared that he drove several blocks away from the house. He is working so hard to overcome his agoraphobia and as he was sharing his experience with me (he hasn't gone further than one block in over a year), I started to cry with happiness! We are all ready for positive changes and eager for them to come. 

It is now Sunday, I am excited to stay home, nest a little more and just chill. I get a text from Sue who offers to take me and two other friends to see Reba McEntire in Cherokee. (about an hour and a half away). She has an extra ticket from a friend that couldn't' go.  Another opportunity for me to be spontaneous! Of course, I check and make sure Zack has somewhere to go as I will be late when returning home. He wants to stay at Drakes and said "get out, go have fun!!" The concert was wonderful! I felt so spoiled, being driven there, having a great dinner at Harrah's Casino and the seats were ground level where you could see her every expression. I still was constantly thinking about Zack, how he loves Reba, should I get a t-shirt or CD, is he okay, then there is Frank, is he okay, having fun? I get a text from Frank during dinner simply saying "done with fishing, having dinner now!" I text him back saying "having dinner with Sue at Harrahs and getting ready to see Reba." He later tells me he had no idea where I was, how I got there and who Reba was, but decided he would find out once he returned home. He never knows what he is going to get with me, and that makes life interesting to say the least. Zack texts me with an answer to my question, can I please have a cd? So, once the show was finished, I see the young star who opened for Reba and asked for an autographed photo for Zack (she is gorgeous and you never know, could be famous one day). I tell her (like I do everyone I meet) of Zacks journey of survival, she gives me a great big hug and tells me to share that with him. She signed the photo, "Zack, Congratulations!"

It is now Monday. Memorial Day. Zack is still at Drakes and since we opened the office for half a day, I am out the door by 6:30 am. To say I am a flake this morning is an understatement. I have been running around since Friday and not sure whether I'm coming or going. I thrive on routine and this weekend was anything but! I am anxious and talk to Nancy who helps to ground me again. She remembers all too well the feelings I am going through. "You have been in fight or flight mode and now it's time to tell yourself to stop and breathe." How many times have I been told that and "forget." Nancy shows me a breathing technique for when I do feel anxious and for the rest of the afternoon I am practicing. It has worked beautifully. Once again, I feel grounded and being Taurus I really need to stay that way.  I am home by 1 pm, and my amazing computer repair man came out to repair our internet, (another reason I've stopped breathing properly!) It turns out both of my internet boxes were fried during the last storm, so he replaces two with one and voila! we are again online! Zack is home doing his chores, not very happily I might add, but he does them anyway. By 3 pm Frank is home and my family is once again under one roof. Everyone had a great weekend. Frank shows pictures of his catches, the waterfalls they climbed and after eating dinner falls sound asleep on the couch exhausted!  I tease him and say "YOU went on vacation and YOUR tired?" It never stops!! Women and Men and their differences, but it does make for an interesting life at times! Zack is now on his computer filling out forms to bring in to the college tomorrow. Life IS moving on and it is great!!!!

PS. My bff Nancy lost her Aunt today and will miss her terribly. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts!! She has been an amazing support for many years and I would love to send some loving energy her way.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Crystal Clear" far

I spoke with my "aunt" Lee the other day and find that as I'm speaking, I realize the personal changes I have gone through in this past year.  I knew this week was going to be a "heavy" week, full of tests to determine if the Ewings is still gone. I won't use the word remission. To me that gives "it" permission to return and we do not! I have become more of an observer (which is something I am still working on through counseling). I feel as if I have been inside a glass bubble looking at the world outside, everyone is talking, but all I hear are muffled sounds. I am slowly "coming back" as my mother refers to me, as if I've been gone on a long journey and returning. She is spot on! I find myself relaxing more as Zack can do more and continues on with his life.

Tuesday, Zack was scheduled for labs. I have been in this room a thousand times and never really notices the train table Zack was sitting on. I remember the "clock" room, but all of a sudden we are sitting there and I begin to laugh! Of course, he looks at me like I've lost my mind, but he simply smiles and lets me have my moment of crazy. We are told soon that his counts are great!! We are then given a whole new schedule regarding the tests. For some reason there has been more confusion at the front office. Luckily I didn't go completely crazy on everyone, as I found out later that Lena, who had gone to visit her mother, ended up losing her unexpectedly while there. My heart was so sad for her, I can't and don't even want to imagine what that would be like. You might as well wrap me up and throw me out!! We got our appointments all lined up and within an hour were on our way home. 

My senses have been pretty sharp lately. If that doesn't make sense, just like in the very beginning of this journey when "something.. I call my Angel...told me to go back in to say goodnight to Zack (after already having done so before) and discovering the tumor. That sense has been very sharp of late. I knew, when we left the Cancer Center that "something" was going to happen and I needed to be aware! As we were driving out of town, traffic got backed up at a railroad track, I stopped a few yards away from the tracks when all of a sudden the train is there and a woman in a van was stuck right on the tracks! The arm (that was supposed to go down first to stop traffic) suddenly started to come down on her car. It caught onto her luggage rack and she couldn't back up. I motion for the man in back of me to back up more, so that I could give her even more room. She was stuck and the train was coming fast! I jumped out of the car, ran over to the arm, pulled it up as she backed her car to safety, I then discovered that another car in the other lane would be stuck with the arm on his car, so he moved until everyone was clear. I'm not sure if they would have been cleared by the train or not, but I wasn't going to take a chance. A few feet after we moved again, we were missed when a car ran the light and nearly hit us and two other cars. Stopping at the light, Zack looks over at me and says "Mom, you need me to drive?" It hit me, what all just happened. I have been so in survival mode, that I did all of that and didn't even realize what I was doing. I told him I was fine, but to keep his eyes open!

Wednesday was Senior "skip day". His friends joked with him that he "skipped" the entire year! But Zack wanted to be a part of it all. He told us all, "I haven't been able to do shit for school this year, I am going to hang out with my friends that skipped school and have a good time!" They all ended up going to Connestee Falls lake Atagahi and had a great time. Zack did return with a slight sunburn, but promised he wore sunscreen. It was nice to see him with a big smile on his face.

It is now Thursday and we are scheduled for MRI and Bone Scans. We arrive at the Cancer Center where they access Zack's port for the days scans. Once we are at the Hospital, Zack becomes angry. He THEN tells me that he wanted to have the MRI at the Reuter Center, where their machines are bigger and less closed in. I tell him that THIS is why he must communicate with me. I can't fix a problem if I don't know what he is feeling. He immediately reassures me and says he just hates these tests. "I have only had one MRI in my life and they had to drug me to do it, so you are a lot tougher than your Mama". He make some comment like "DUH" and we were again laughing. A very nice male technician came in and was all set to insert the iv, when Zack lifted his shirt and showed he was already "plugged in" and ready to go. I sat out in the hall for about an hour, when he phoned and asked for his clothes. Excited I thought we were all done. He looks at me and reminds me there are still bone scans and we must return in three hours. Since he hadn't eaten since midnight, we went and grabbed lunch. He tells me that he is feeling kind of tired and must drink a lot as they just injected him with radioactive dye. Something every mother wants to hear!! NOT!!! I push my thoughts to the side. I won't make it if I really think about everything he has had put in his system. I can't think about that!! 

When we finish lunch, we still have two hours so I take him to one of my favorite places in Asheville, The Tobacco Barn. It is an old tobacco barn filled with booths of Antiques, Art and Furniture. If nothing else, it's like a museum and art gallery mixed in with a lot of dust from the old building. We stroll through one aisle at a time. Zack is in a great mood, the MRI wasn't as rough as he thought it would be and it was done fairly quickly. He picks up a spiral candleholder and ask what it is. (you really couldn't' tell), then a plainer, he shows me how that works, he is fascinated with the new, old and recycled items. He forgets he was raised in an Antique Shop. He is looking for an octopus. He is obsessed with them and the symbology doesn't go unnoticed. I think I mentioned in a previous blog, how some octopi can regrow limbs once the fall off. He thinks of his body as an octopus, it heals itself. What a great image to keep!! I firmly believe that is how he has been able to bounce back each time, he is thinking like a healthy person and why shouldn't he!! He finds a couple of things he would LOVE to have, but alas, no room and too much money. After previewing most of the contents of the store, it is time to head back for the bone scan. 

We again arrive at the Hospital. I jokingly ask if he wants to run upstairs and say Hi to the nursing staff. He looks are me and says "Ah.... NO!!" Too early I guess. I just want them all to see how healthy he looks, but that's MY thing, being a Mom and all!! It's strange to see peoples expressions when Zack walks into a room. They look up at this big guy and all of a sudden their eyes are sad. There is an older couple in the corner and when they saw Zack, they immediately looked at me and managed a smile. When he was gone for his scan, the woman asked about him. I shared our journey and assured them he was doing great!! "So good to here, prayers are with you!" I thanked them. I hadn't realized how tired I was until I sat in the oversized chair with my feet up and fell asleep snoring up a storm. The television was so loud in the waiting area that no one heard me, or at least they were all polite enough to tell me they didn't. By 3:30 pm we were done for the day. I had decided to go back to work, where Jessica was covering for the day and close out everything. Zack desperately wanted and needed an adjustment, so we headed straight back home. After I dropped him off to pick up his truck to meet me at the office, I get a call from Angie at the Cancer Center. She said "Sabrina, the scans came back and not only are they clear, they are CRYSTAL CLEAR!!!" I am elated!!! I immediately call Frank and Mom to tell them the good news! We passed the first set of tests!! The MRI was of the area where the tumor had been, CRYSTAL CLEAR! I then meet Zack at the office and tell him the great news. I am standing with Nancy and Jessica as he looks at me and says "Ya, I knew that!!!" "Did Angie call you?", "No?! I just know Mom!!!" He is right, it is his body and he has become quite familiar with his own health this year. Once he is adjusted he heads out to his friends house. It isn't until later that I find out he hadn't even told them the news. They asked me and when I shared the news with Drake a day later, his eyes teared up a bit, "that's great news Mama!!" 

Friday I was scheduled to donate platelets again. They have called me stating there was an extreme shortage. I had decided though, on Thursday, that I was just too tired of driving to Asheville and next week we would again be returning for the second set of scans. Echocardiogram, PET and CT scans are set for Tuesday and I have an appointment with my OB on Friday, so I postponed until then. Friday, was Senior Awards Day at the High School. All of the Seniors wore their caps and gowns and entering into the Auditorium in a procession, they all walked past all of the other classmates . Zack was able to participate and I so wanted to go and hide in a corner just witness it all myself, but it was for students only and Zack threatened to make my life miserable if I even attempted to show up.  He knew he wasn't getting an award, but said that he wanted to be a part of the celebration. A couple of his friends were upset with the school and said he should have at least been recognized for having graduated in spite of everything he has gone through. Zack, being just like his Dad said "I don't care about that stuff, I know what I did, besides, I didn't want to have to get up from where I was sitting, I was in the middle of a bunch of other people and when you're as big as me, you don't move that easily!" He came home with his yearbook and said "darn, I only made it in the senior picture". When I asked why that bothered him (already knowing the answer) he said "because it is proof I wasn't there and shows on paper what all I missed out on." I noticed there were no signatures or notes from his classmates. He said "the people I am friends with, are still my friends and I don't want a book full of phony crap Mom!" Typical Zack, once he made that statement, he was again out the door to hang out with his friends. 

Zack and Austin
This entire week, he has been going to a new friend (whom he met through mutual friends). This "kid" Tyler lives a couple of miles from our house, his parents have a lot of land and Zack and his friends go there to go 4 wheeling and sit around a bonfire. Each night, Zack has called or texted and asked if he could be just a little later. By the time he reached 11:30, we said last time!! Don't ask again!! Don't push it right now!! You still need to rest and heal. He is having such a good time and feeling so free, not having to go so often now, that he too is trying to find his way. 

painted cabinets and new hardware
In my usual fashion, I took on repainting the kitchen cabinets and a few of the outer walls. Frank was the one that finally said I needed to take it easy today, after having painted all day yesterday and this morning. The results are wonderful though, and our house is becoming bright and new! I guess you could say I'm again nesting! I forgot to take before pics of the kitchen, but you get the idea. Before the cabinets were a pale, dirty looking yellow, now.... Voila!!! 

painted two walls, and re caulked counter top

Tomorrow we pay homage to Frank's Aunt Jane who turned 70 this week. It will be nice to see the family and share in a little family reunion. Tuesday is just a couple of days away and once those scans are finished, Zack will move on with plans to register for Blue Ridge Community College automotive classes. Graduation is nearing as well, all I know is this particular mother is going to need an entire box of kleenex!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Final Chemotherapy!!!!

It is again Sunday, Mothers Day!! Another week has passed with less ups and downs, but we are still reminded, the journey is not yet over. Monday morning I call the Cancer Center for Zack's appointment time and they "forgot" he was supposed to come in. I said "well, we are coming in tomorrow for his last chemo, can you just do the labs then?" "Oh yes, sure, wait he is supposed to come tomorrow?"... "HELLO???" I'm not sure what was going on, but this is not the most comforting reaction. Are they so ready to get rid of us already?  I inform both Frank and Zack they can take the day "off" from the center and go ahead in to work. 

Tuesday Zack and I aren't scheduled until the afternoon, so he runs some errands, helps out some friends and I run around the house cleaning, doing laundry and getting the house in order. It's nice to be home and have some time to get stuff done and not rush. We are usually heading out so early in the morning, that I'm left to catch up on "chores"  in the evenings. Zack tells me that "Biscuit" wants to ride with us, so the three of us load up (literally) in Zack's truck. I barely fit in the back seat, sitting sideways ( I offered to do so), with two guys, both well over 6 feet tall in the front seats. The boys are making fun of people, checking out pretty girls, much the same as with his other friends of the same age. They are all young men, with lots of testosterone and full of themselves. I couldn't tell you what exactly they were saying, all I can remember is we didn't stop laughing from the moment we got in the truck to the moment we arrived at the Cancer Center.  Luckily, most of his friends tell me I'm "cool", which pretty much means I swear, am a smart ass, let them talk about anything they like and just hang out as if one of the guys! 

Zack with Angie
As we enter the building, I'm telling everyone (the security guard , the store clerk, the woman at the front desk of the main lobby) "This is his last day of chemo!!"  and everyone starts to come out and congratulate Zack.  Everyone knows everyone there. They see the same faces come and go daily and we are greeted each time with a smile and hello. There are a couple of teary eyes, as Angie tells us how much she is going to miss us. Mind you they all tell us how they don't want us there for "this" reason, but love having Zack around. Angie gives his last dose of chemo, which today consists of a "push". It's  a vile with the fluids and after his port is accessed, Angie, pushes the fluids into his port and while doing so announces "FINAL ONE!!!" Each one of the Nurses and Doctors come into the room to see us, sharing their favorite story about their time with Zack. One mentions how Zack and Donald were in the room dancing around and laughing. Another shares how another young patient would look at Zack and say "that football player is here!"  Walking down the hall, compared to the other kids, he IS a GIANT!! .Angie asks if she was the first to give him chemo, so I quickly research all of my pictures and share that Melanie first did chemo, Angie was first to access his port, first to give him his platelets and she also taught him how to give himself the shots, he thankfully no longer must have.    She is satisfied with that answer, AND all of the pictures to prove it! Dr. B ("the chihuahua" as she likes to call herself, because she will bark until "her" kids are taken care of) enters the room and tells us that we will now have all of the scans scheduled in the next couple of weeks. We then must come in once a month to have his port accessed and flushed (cleaned out).  The scans consist of MRI's both with and without contrast dye,  PET Scan, CT scan , X-rays and also full set of tests from the cardiologist ensuring that his heart is in good shape. As they have explained to us, due to the location of the port and the chemotherapy there is a risk of damage to the heart, but if Zack's energy is any indication, we are sure all will come out great! 

On our way home, we drop Biscuit off at his house and Zack takes me shopping for my Birthday and Mother's Day presents. Of course, we go to Lowes, where I pick out three very pretty plants for the front porch. His budget was $50.00 and I keep it at $40.00. I am excited ,as this year, I know I will have the energy and will be home to care for the plants. It's the simple things, like planting flowers, having hanging baskets, none of that was even on my mind or in my heart last year, and now... that's all I want to do. Plant and nurture my flower boxes and  home. What a wonderful place to be both mentally and spiritually. Zack was feeling tired and went to watch shows in his room.

Wednesday Zack stayed at home, finished a couple of chores and rested. Thursday he worked with Frank for the entire day. Frank said he did a great job and was surprised at him lasting that long. By Thursday evening, Zack was confused and asked "why, if everyone else is congratulating me on the end of my treatment, haven't I heard from any of my friends?"  I tried to explain that "he can't just look at this one time or a few times they haven't called. They have been there the entire time. They probably don't realize how big a deal this is, and hopefully they will never have to fully understand what you have been through. " My thoughts didn't seem to help very much, but I know in time, he will be back with his friends having a great time.

For the first time in a long time, we didn't have to return to the Center for the rest of the week, so this gave him the opportunity to reach out to his friends and hang out with them.  Luckily he gets over his frustration pretty quickly and was out the door with a "see ya later guys!" Friday he had plans to hang out with a group of guys, work on his four wheeler and just do random stuff. I had already planned on taking Mom out for Mother's Day (a few days early).

Like mother.......
Like daughter
I pick up Mom, but not until after receiving five phone calls along the 18 mile drive to Hendersonville. Each time, it is another appointment being scheduled with regards to Zack's tests. Each time, I stop, pull over, grab my I-pad (a gift from Rhonda, sister, neither of which I can live with out!) and start checking off dates and marking down appointments. EKG on Friday? Sure, MRI, CT scans, no food or drink after midnight, Thursday, 8 am? Okay.. oh wait, you need to access port first at Cancer Center, oh, okay so we come there first, then go to Hospital, gotcha!! As I'm making one of these appointments, the "Bumble Bee" pulls up next to me. "Mom, you okay?" He sees that I'm on the phone, I give him a thumbs up and he waits for me to finish. "I was making your appointments for the scans", all of sudden his facial expression changes to a pout, Okay Mom.... I blow him a kiss, tell him I love him, Donald comes around to my side, leans in and gives me a big hug and they are off!  I arrive at Moms, we hop in the car and are on our way to our favorite spot. Biltmore Estate. My gift to Mom (and myself) was an annual membership, which includes discounts on everything inside the Estate Walls , entrance into the house and grounds and use of their bike path, etc....  It's not far from home and has in the past been a way to "escape" the real world. For a day, you can go and see how the truly rich lived and pretend you are a Vanderbilt. Wait, not everyone does that? Oops!!!
We had a wonderful lunch at The Bistro, which included five different cheeses with crusty bread and honey ( my idea of heaven). We then went down to the plant shop, where I was able to get several ideas for plantings. We spent the entire day, window shopping, of course we came home with a couple of treasures, like a stained glass (looks like) bird bath, plants for my "new" idea of turning my non functioning water fountain into a planter, and a couple of odds and ends. Grocery shopping was soon to follow as well as another trip to Lowes for more plants and paint for my weekend project. By the time we returned home it was close to 9 pm and both mother and daughter having had a great day together, were exhausted! Zack having reached out to his friends, had gone to spend the night at Drake's house which was the perfect end of the day. He was with his friends having a good time, Frank was home enjoying some quiet and I again have more memories to store away of my time with Mom.

It is now Saturday, usually Franks day to fish, but today, he is staying home to work around the house. He tells me that he and Matt and his brother Mitch are all going fishing on Mothers Day, "because you're not my mother". Well!!! I am actually pleased, as that is when I am going to paint several walls in the house and work better when not surrounded with testosterone telling me the "correct" way to do it. I take full advantage of the beautiful sunny day and plant  my flower boxes. Then I plant my new creation, while Frank and Donald hang up the brackets for my new hanging baskets.The porch and patio are taking shape while Frank continues to clean up, blowing leaves from the roof and gutters, washing off the skylights and finally cleaning off the seating areas. If you haven't figured it out by now, I like things in "order", that's when I'm my happiest, though I am learning to relax a bit more than in previous years.  It's so nice to have all these beautiful plants and flowers around the brighten up the place, and for me to have the time to care for them once again. Donald had a date, so Zack went up to hang out with his friends. Frank surprised me by cooking a nice steak dinner and we spent the rest of the evening just chilling and watching TV.

We are back to Sunday, Mothers Day. Frank has gone fishing for the day and Zack is still sound asleep in his bed. I start to remove paintings, mirrors, etc.. from the walls and fireplace mantle. I start painting one wall, then get a brilliant idea! "why not install a chair rail! that will brighten it up even more and protect the wall". Zack comes out, eyes half shut and wishes me a Happy Mothers Day. I can barely keep my excitement contained when he looks at me and says "okay... what's the idea and how does it involve me!" I tell him and he is just fine taking me to the store in his truck. I measure and re measure, write down everything and by the time he is ready I have everything figured out. We go to the store, he drops me off and goes to another store to buy some shorts. We both finish at the same time and are back home within the hour. Zack dropped me off and went up to Chris' house to swim. He kept asking if it was okay to leave and I reminded him, though it may sound corny, every day he is healthy and happy is Mothers Day for me. He makes them all special and one day here or there with a "title" isn't going to matter to me.

While working on this project I realized, when we first moved into the house I wanted warm and cozy, thus the red, now all I want is open and airy. Maybe my inner being is "lightening up". It took me all day to finish with a short lunch break, but I was so excited at the transformation and when Zack and Frank came in and saw it, they too were blown away. I did have to get Frank to help with the chair rail. I didn't really trust myself to cut the paneling at the right length or straight. He also LOVES it when I need his help, most of the time I wing it, but I wanted this to be perfect, so pride be damned!  Zack had come home long enough to change his clothes and was back out the door to Chris' house. I was so excited that he was out having fun, Frank fell asleep on the couch "fishing is hard work," he would remind me later, so I ordered a pizza for him and sub for me. He woke up around 9 pm, about the time I was crashing and the house was finished. I have this thing about putting everything back right away, like "instant makeover". Maybe I DO watch too much HGTV!! As I lay in bed, I can't stop smiling. Everyone had a wonderful weekend and though we have a week of tests in front of us, I can't help but think the results will be great and we have a whole Spring and Summer ahead of us.

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!!