And another year gone

This year just went by so very fast, I can hardly believe it. Perhaps it is a sign that I'm getting old :-). I can't actually remember if we made any new years resolutions at the start of this year. Last year this time we were... that's right stuck in hospital and Bianca and I waited for 2009 watching the fireworks from our hospital window. So this year certainly ended quite a bit different. Right now Bianca is challenging her dad on a bull racing game on the Wii trying to knock down some scarecrows and jumping over obstacles. It is quite entertaining hearing her laugh each time she beats her dad. She truly is nothing more than a typical 6 year old (just the way we like it).

Did we make new years resolutions? I don't know. Possibly not. One thing I do know is that we achieved a lot - we lived life and we've made many good memories this year. Bianca started year 1 at school, Caitlyn turned 2 and suddenly she wasn't a baby anymore, but a little girl knowing what she wants. Then Bianca turned 6 and she had the best time ever sharing the day with her friends. This year was the year of losing teeth and tooth fairy visits. And most importantly Bianca finished her cancer treatment. Planting her tree will always be one of the most special and significant memories that we made this year. It is something I hope that in years to come will be a reminder to Bianca of the strength and courage she has shown, of how she stood tall despite dealing with cancer. And recently I received a job offer - I'm truly blessed to work for somebody who was willing to give me a chance, to look beyond the challenges we have dealt with and to look at the skills I am able to offer. It was a chance to step back into "normal" even though it felt a bit scary to step outside the world that became my comfort zone.

This past year is truly a year that we feel blessed and we look back with gratitude.

What are we hoping for for 2010? We are hoping for an uneventful year. A year where we are able to just settle back into our new normal. A year where we can find our feet again and get back on track with our goals that we wanted to set for ourselves in 2007. We are hoping that 2010 will bring happiness, fun, love and laughter for others and that the year won't be as hard as it was for some this past year.

And now as 2010 is just a bit more than 1 hour away, I wish you all the very best as you step into the start of a new year and the start of a new decade! Thank you for sticking by us, thank you for following our journey, for sharing our ups and downs. We really appreciate all the support. See you all next year :-).


Our Christmas Celebrations

I hope you all had a wonderful magical Christmas. Our celebrations started on Thursday afternoon when I left for work. I needed to drop something off at my boss' home on the way to our house and Bianca wanted to take a small little something for their dog. Bianca loves dogs and if she could have a puppy today it would be a dream come true, but unfortunately it will take a while longer before she could have her own puppy as our rental agreement is very clear - NO PETS! So anyway, giving a present to my boss' dog was an exciting moment for her. She gave Charlie a dog-friendly chewy christmas cracker and a rope toy. On the way home she kept saying "he liked my present".

We opted for a quiet celebration at home. We bought a Wii as a family present. We never buy anything big really because we simply hate spending money on things we don't need (big luxury things I mean) and we hate the concept of debt so there is no way we'll buy things like furniture or electronic equipment if we can't afford it. We are always looking for things to do as a family together and thought that a Wii console would be perfect. Much cheaper than going to the movies in the long run and something that all of us can enjoy (well Caitlyn not quite yet as she's a bit too small to realise what it is about, but Bianca simply loves playing with us).

So Thursday night we had a light supper and then brought out the family present. I never really realised just how compeitive Bianca really was until she played a game against her dad. But she had lots of fun and if it wasn't for bedtime she would have kept going I'm sure.

The girls left cookies and milk for Santa and then it was bedtime.

Bianca asked if she could sleep behind the couch to wait for Santa and we convinced her that her bed would be much more comfortable and that if she heard him in the night she could come downstairs to say hello. Santa didn't have to worry though because within 30 minutes she was fast asleep.

The next morning around 6am Caitlyn came into our room and whispered to see if we were awake, we convinced her to lie next to us for just a little bit and then she got up went to their room and said "Wake up Banca Leigh White, it's Christmas". (She used to call Bianca "Bakey" and now it is "Banca Leigh White").

And then the excitement began when they noticed that Santa left them what they asked for - roller blades for Bianca and a pink scooter for Caitlyn and a few other goodies om their stockings.

This year we got Caitlyn to help hand out presents and she had a great time recognising the different names on the parcels.

Bianca was also very excited to realise she was part of a Secret Santa. Recently I was contacted by somebody who asked if they could make Bianca their Secret Santa and so she's been getting some gifts and cards. Thank you! It really made her day! She loves getting things in the mail that are addressed to her. The gifts and cards were perfect!

Later in the afternoon the girls and Terence went for a swim in our complex pool and they had a great time!

And then just to remind us that we are still walking the leukemia journey...

Last night Bianca complained her port area was sore and again this morning so Terence and Bianca set off for Starship where they spent the next 8.5 hours getting her checked-out by the registrar, waiting, x-ray, waiting some more and finally they could come home with the instruction to give paracetamol every 4 hours if needed and they will set another appointment for Tuesday or Wednesday to review. They are not concerned and there wasn't anything to worry about on the x-ray and they suspect that perhaps she may have bruised herself internally a bit playing Wii Sword fighting with her dad or something. So I see a quiet few days for Bianca until we've seen the doctor again.

Spot the difference...

December 2008 Bianca had very thin hair. She still got steroids every month and just a few days later she landed up in hospital with low counts and a viral infection.

December 2009 Bianca has much more hair. She looks good just like any other 6 year old, there's no more evidence of steroids in her system and I would even say that for most of it her eating has returned to normal.

And Caitlyn? Our little girl has grown up so much...

December 2008:

December 2009:


Ticking another month off our list

On Monday Terence and Bianca went to hospital for their monthly hospital visit. It was going to be tomorrow, but they are quite busy so they asked if we could go in yesterday. They saw a doctor they didn't see before and must say we can't help wondering why this particular doctor even decided to work with kids. This particular doctor didn't interact with Bianca or anything, so we are pretty happy that this doctor is not our usual doctor. So apart from making Terence and Bianca wait a whole 20 minutes after the people just before them left after their appointment, the visit was remarkably quick. For the first time in I don't know how very long Bianca did not have to get an IVIG. It's been a monthly routine for her for a very very long time and suddenly they saw the doctor, got a quick port flush and off they went. Unreal! Bianca's counts all look good so we are very pleased to tick yet another month off. Whilst the first year off treatment is always the riskiest part after treatment ended, it is great to see each month go by and realising it is one month further away from end of treatment date. Next visit will be 25th January.

Bianca is all set for Camp Quality in January and she is so excited. Tonight she got to meet her companion who is lovely and I think the two of them will get along really well. They will have to dress up as some or the other super-hero so we'll have to come up with some ideas of something to make. They try to encourage the kids to make something which is good so as parents we won't have to end up spending hundreds of dollars just to get a fancy costume.

The next few days will be magical and special filled with excitement as the girls count down the days till Friday morning. It will be a time where I will be grateful that we have come this far, that we remained standing, that we remained strong. I've always said I don't regret the journey we walked - we learned so much and got to know so many people along the way. Whilst the cancer journey will always be part of us, it does feel like we have managed to slot into this post-chemo life - it's weird though because I expected it to be much harder to find our new normal. But here we are.

And then this time is also a time where I feel so sad for others who will have a real difficult time during this time. I think of Kyah's family, Christopher's family, and so many others and I so wish the outcome could have been different. And then little Elijah and his family - he has just gone through the whole Bone Marrow Transplant process and is currently in hospital with an infection. They are stuck in Ronald McDonald house far from their home, family and friends now at Christmas and there is a real risk that Elijah might very well still be in hospital on Christmas day with his infection. They've had a pretty tough time too and I simply can't wait for the day that they can go home. Know that you all are in our hearts and in our prayers all of the time!

During this time I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a very very happy New Year. May all your dreams come true!


Mixed emotions

What a day! A mixed-emotion day I guess and at the same time a very busy day.

Firstly today is our wedding anniversary - today 10 years ago we got married. We didn't know 10 years ago that we'd have 2 beautiful little girls, we didn't know we'd be living in New Zealand, we didn't know that we'd have a child with cancer. But here we are, 10 years on and still going strong. I got spoilt with lots and lots of chocolate (perfect for my sweet tooth) and then a big bunch of red roses delivered to my work. I feel quite special.

Then just before I left work I got a call from holiday care that Bianca jammed her finger in the door and can we please come and get her. Got there and she sat one side, face red from crying with an ice pack on her hand being very very brave. So off we went to the medical centre to get it checked out and together we all decided to get an x-ray done just to see if it was just swelling or actually broken. So Caitlyn and I came home and Terence and Bianca set off for Starship for an x-ray. Thankfully turned out not to be broken, just sore. This is so not how we wanted our weekend to start.

You know I thought today, cancer is bad. It is hard, it is challenging, it is difficult. But one thing it never did was to take away Bianca's spirit, her smile, the person she is, her determination or her dignity. She never let it. She stood tall and she has always made the most of now and the most of her life and the opportunities that came knocking. Sure she had to be more flexible than other kids her age, sure she had to sacrifice some things in the process, but she never got "lost" in the process. My grandmother has alzheimers. I saw her in 2007 and noticed how forgetful she was. I noticed how she wasn't the same person that we have always known. She used to know exactly what she wanted out of life. She was a very strong woman and didn't take nonsense. We didn't know in 2007 that she had alzheimers, but we suspected. There were many subtle signs and then much later (I can't remember when, maybe a year ago) a doctor finally formally diagnosed her and the family convinced her to move to a place where she could have the care she needed, but still have her own place. And now? Suddenly she has been moved to a ward, she doesn't have her own furniture anymore and she is just going really downhill so fast. I think alzheimers is a horrible horrible disease. It is taking away her personality, her spirit, her memory, her independence and her dignity. I feel so incredibly sad for her that this is what she has to deal with. It is heartbreaking. 10 years ago when we got married, she was the one who walked me into the church. And today? Today she is so very different than the person she was then. We didn't know 10 years ago that this is where she would find herself... Just shows, we definitely don't know what our road will look like going forward, we can only live for the moment, because who knows where we will find ourselfs tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or next decade? We hope for the best, but we can never predict. I so wish things were different for my grandmother!


Christmas sneaking up on us so very fast

I realised with a shock yesterday how very close Christmas is. Even though I knew it was getting closer the speed of it is taking me by surprise (perhaps I'm getting old). Thankfully we are mostly ready and we don't have to brave the shops too often.

I'm so looking forward to Christmas.

Firstly Caitlyn is totally into it this year. She can hardly wait to open her presents. And secondly this year we won't have to try and work around a chemo / steroid schedule like last year. Last year we celebrated Christmas earlier because we knew Bianca would be on steroids and that she wouldn't enjoy Christmas as much when she also has to deal with Dex. The first day of steroids for that month (23rd December 2008) was pretty fully on and she just wasn't feel all that happy, then on the 27th of December 2008 she was admitted to hospital with some or the other viral infection. So this year seems just so very different.

And then in closing I just want to say a big big congratulations to my blogging buddy Sharon and her hubby. They became parents this past weekend to a beautiful little girl Ava Grace. You will never know just how very happy I am for you!



We are so impressed with Bianca, this morning she spelled the word sceptre correctly. I mean "what!?" What 6 year old can spell this type of word? I most certainly couldn't spell words like this when I was 6.

I can't believe that Bianca is so nearly done with Year 1. It feels just like yesterday that she started school as a little 5 year old in Year zero. In fact this term finishes on Wednesday and that means Christmas is really just around the corner. Thankfully I think, our Christmas shopping is pretty much done. The crowds at the shopping mall are just crazy right now. The girls are so excited and can hardly wait though. We're not planning much, and will probably just have a quite Christmas at home.

This coming weekend we might take a trip to the Bay of Plenty. We've never been there and it might be nice to go see what it looks like. I heard the beaches are really nice (alhtough the beaches here are nice too). So we'll see closer to the time what the weather might be like.

And other than that, just not much news at the moment. Just anxiously waiting to get updates from my blogging buddy Sharon as they are about to embark on their adoption journey. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts that all will go well.


Some people...

Ooh, it seems I have stepped on some toes and offended a certain anonymous person when I wrote about Polly and her baby-advice. And so typical - you feel so strongly about this that you come onto my blog to argue your point and to tell the other commenters off for their comments, but you don't even have the decency to leave your name (now that's not very respectful is it?). It is true, I don't have knowledge of this particular philosophy that you harp on about. What I did say was that Polly mentioned certain things that I (in my experience the past 6 years) do not agree with. She made comment in that article that kids should never be restrained in a high chair - really? So how do you propose a small baby and even an older baby who might fall off a proper chair and hurt themselves should join in with the family meal? Would you rather they fall off the chair, bump their head or would you rather they run around when they are supposed to eat and choke on the food that is in their mouth? Well, I would rather my child be in a high chair, be safe, learn that you are not supposed to run around with food in your mouth and learn that as a family it is important to eat together. As I explained, I have actually had to run after Bianca when she was very small still (she started walking at 10 months) and she didn't like sitting still ever. And I have had to try and feed her as she was moving around - it doesn't work, trust me. So by the way, neither of my kids are in a high chair anymore just in case you thought they were.

Yes, I agree that one should show your kids respect, but when they are very little and wake up in the middle of the night there is no time to sit and take forever discussing what you need to do and then to wait for their response. You have not ever heard Bianca when she woke up as a tiny little baby wanting her bottle and wanting it NOW. She wasn't up for discussion or negotiation. Simple as that. And quite honestly she had a need and I met it, and that was important.

I have always shown my kids respect. However, the article pretty much expressed how only the child and the child's needs are important. Well, I think that a child forms part of a family unit and therefore needs to learn to also work well with the other members of the family and they also need to learn to respect the other people around them, just as the rest of us need to respect the child. And so when it comes down to i.e. restraining them in a high chair at meal times or not, well, I see absolutely no problem with doing that. At least my kids learned that when we sit down to meals, all of us matter and all of us deserve respect.

And of course I totally disagree with Polly's viewpoint that one should never praise things that are supposed to come naturally - why should I ignore Caitlyn's efforts with i.e. her toilet training? It deserves praise. It deserves recognition. Success with that gives her a sense of achievement and I think that is very important too.

Whoever you are, my children are well-behaved, they are confident, they are happy, they laugh a lot, they play a lot, but they also know acceptable behaviour at home and about. My kids have great manners and I have had strangers comment on that because it just comes naturally for them. The other day Caitlyn chose to help put some dishes from the dishwasher away and I thanked her and my 2 year old then said "you're welcome Mommy". It wasn't a prompt from my side, it was because we do this with our kids all the time, we lead by example. Just as we expect them to say thank you and please, they expect us to say the same to them.

I never criticised this philosphy - I commented on Polly's comments in the article and how she doesn't seem to have kids of her own and yet, seems to want to tell parents what to do. Parents with actual day to day in the home experience.

I'm sorry if I offended you by not agreeing with Polly (who obviously seems to be your idol or hero or something) - perhaps the two of you should get together at some point. I bet you would have lots to talk about.

I however, know that I am doing a great job with my kids, even if you might not feel the same.

Now just for the record, I'm tired of people like this anonymous person coming onto my blog leaving these kind of comments without even having the decency or respect to leave their name, so I have changed the way you are able to leave comments, you will now have to be registered with a Google Account. This blog is and was and always will be based on our opinion whether you agree with it or not. It is a blog, not a discussion forum. As I said before to the other "anonymous" if you don't like what I write, you don't have to visit my blog.


And so this is Christmas...

Oh my! I have been so busy, the days are just flying. I haven't even had 5 minutes in my day where I wondered what I will do next, it is just busy, busy, busy. But I'd much rather have that than being all bored. It is interesting being back at work after being home for so long. Still trying to get used to my new routine and find the best way to manage my time between responsibilities at home and at work, but I'm getting there. And of course with it being December means we just have so much happening. Terence actually started a Google calendar for us and it is looking pretty full (which makes me tired just thinking about that).

Last weekend we had the Child Cancer Foundation Christmas Party. It is always good to catch up with the other parents and the kids had such a great time playing. Terence is on the committee so he knows quite a few people too which was great for him to catch up with them too. It was a fairly simple concept, but really effective.

The kids had a blast on the jumping castle.

Caitlyn played soccer with the girl on stilts (yeah, that was quite interesting to watch).

And then it was time to meet Santa.
Tonight we put up the Christmas tree. The kids could hardly wait. And this year Caitlyn was totally into it hanging decorations and deciding what she wanted to put where. I actually had to go out and buy some more decorations because for some reason this year we have less decorations than last year. Perhaps they fell victim to the same monster that runs away with socks - you know - you put two socks in the wash and only one comes back...

We thought we'd give Caitlyn a turn this year to put the star at the top, but she wasn't too keen and so Bianca had an opportunity.

I must say I'm quite pleased that our local mall has been playing some Christmas songs. There is just something magical about songs like "So this is Christmas" (which has always been one of my favourites), Last Christmas and Mistletoe and Wine. Okay, okay I know I'm terribly old fashioned, but these songs bring back so many memories. And I know it irritates Terence no end when I start playing all these Christmas songs (over and over), but I think once a year he can grin and bear it :-).


Crazy hair Day

Firstly I must say thank you to C, J and Z for their donation to the Funrazor event. Thank you so very much. With your help I'm now sitting at $690.

The day started with a Crazy Hair theme - Bianca had a Crazy Hair day at school and initially she was disappointed that we couldn't find coloured hair spray, but we came up with another idea:

When she saw it she was quite pleased and ended up receiving a certificate for one of the girls with the craziest hair. Of course when Caitlyn saw what I was doing with Bianca's hair she wanted ponytails too...

Of course one exciting thing about the Crazy hair day is that Bianca's hair was actually long enough to put into that style. Last year this time her hair was still so thin, but just look at her now!

So then this afternoon was the Funrazor event. After we got Bianca from school we quickly rushed home so I could wash out the hair gel so that she could have a normal hairstyle for the photos in the afternoon. And then it was the big moment...

We took this before-shot. Bianca was wearing all her courage beads and somebody actually came up to us asking us about Bianca's beads. It was so cool to be able to share.

Having a bit of an interview:

Bianca didn't shave all my hair like last year, I would've liked it if she did, but I think they were a bit worried it would take too long, but anyway, she still managed to do a little bit and it was cool that she was part of it!

As I was busy getting my hair shaved a lady turned to Terence who watching saying "I bet her husband is going to kill her when she gets home" and Terence replied "no, I'm fine with it".

Bianca then helped to shave Terence's head:

Terence was so lucky - he got his hair shaved by somebody famous - Shaun Edwards-Brown who plays Ben on Shortland Street.

I managed to get a photo taken with Ben (and of course this is me with my new hair-do). Whoo-hoo I actually got to meet somebody famous, that is so cool!

And I met Linda, one of my Facebook friends at the event. She came with the intention just to watch, but I convinced her that it would be a great idea to get her hair shaved too:

Thank you Linda, you are great!!!


The big day is so close...

Tomorrow is the big day! The day where Bianca will again (just like last year) shave my hair. If you are around, please come past. I plan to be there around 4pm and Bianca will be there proudly wearing her courage beads. It will be happening at the Westfield Albany, 219 Don McKinnon Drive at 4pm. I'm not 100% sure where at the shopping center it will happen, but suspect that probably if it is not raining it will be in the outside area by the restaurants (just outside the movies). Either way, I'm sure you'll be able to spot the crowd. A big thank you to Nelly and Paul for their donations - I really appreciate it. I am now sitting at $655. It is not too late if you still want to donate, please visit my fundraise site here. It will still be active for a little while after the event is finished.

So here goes, wish me luck...


Why should I deny Bianca's right to be a child?

Dear Anonymous living in Avon, Ohio, United States (IP address - isn't it funny how you come onto my blog and criticise me but don't even have the guts to put your name. You said "Bianca is too old to believe in the tooth fairy and santa. she needs to be told that they are not real." - well here is my response to you:

First of all - Bianca is 6. She is a little girl. She isn't grown up (even though in some respects cancer made her grow up quicker) and honestly kids her age should still be able to use their imaginations like believing in the tooth fairy and in Santa.

Secondly - she knows the meaning of Christmas. She knows why we celebrate it, but why should we take away "Santa" from her? I have fond memories growing up as a child waking up to find he visited in the night. And I like that she is sharing in this as well. And really kids only start losing their teeth when they are around 5 or 6 years old.

She is a child, a little girl - do you honestly believe that the only things she should be exposed to should be the harsh realities of living in a grown-up world? Well she had more than 2 years of that - dealing with a life-threatening situation, dealing with cancer and treatments and hair loss and much more than many other kids her age (or even adults for that matter) will ever have to deal with. If you don't believe me, go read here. If you had to go through what she did, would you be able to do it with a smile on your face, with the grace that she showed and her excitement for life? Don't you think that after all she's been through she deserves to have a chance just to be a child? Don't you think that kids should be kids just for a little while before they have to step into a world that is often cruel and harsh with little room to escape? Does it honestly matter if for just a little while she believes in the magic of Santa and fairies and reads books about things that aren't all that real, but make for good stories? Tell me? Do you ever read fiction or watch a movie? Well, those aren't exactly real or necessarily based on real life you know.

You must be a very sad individual to want to deny a child a world of imagination and to deny the fact that even though she is 6 years old, she is but a little girl who is growing up so fast that before we know it, she would no longer be a child. I'm sorry if it doesn't suit you, but I like to keep my girls kids for as long as possible because they will have their whole lives ahead of them to be all grown up and deal with reality.

If you don't agree with what I write on my blog, then please feel free to stop visiting.


Busy days

I'm a bit behind in updating and I'm sorry. Things are busy around here, but I'm not complaining because it beats the time when all we ever did was sit around at the hospital waiting for things to happen.

So here is an update:

For a while now Bianca's one tooth has been quite wiggly. And on Friday she had a bit of a mishap, she fell at school and out popped the tooth. At first she was quite upset that she fell, but she left the health room smiling when Mrs Stewart reminded her the tooth fairy would pay her a visit.

Not long to go now - in 4 days time Bianca will be shaving off my hair. Thank you so much to my mom for sponsoring me. My mom has always been so involved in our journey even though she is living so far away from us, she has always supported my participation with Funrazor, she sends weekly emails and so much more. I'm now sitting at $575. If you haven't sponsored me yet, please consider contributing. Every single cent will make a huge difference. And please please spread the word. You can visit my fundraising site here: http://www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/Lea/.

Yesterday (Saturday) we watched Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs and both kids had the best time ever. Of course their favourite part is getting the snacks for the movie, but watcing the movie is great too. This one was a 3D movie and we were curious to see how Caitlyn managed with the special glasses. She did okay for most of the movie and looked so cute.

This morning Bianca and Caitlyn each received a very special video email message from Santa. It was so cute seeing their faces as he knew their ages and names and they could see their photo in his book and he knew what they wanted. It is the cutest thing watching them watch it. Bianca sat there saying "I knew he is real" (of course some of the kids in her class are starting to question I guess and talking about it). Then when we went to the shopping centre today they got to meet Santa and they sat on his lap and we managed to get a photo done. Terence will be looking to scan our original photo that we bought so we can have more than one. I just love this magical time where kids' faces light up at the thought of Christmas and Santa and lots of surprises. Here is a photo I took of the photo they took.

And so far work is going well. I'm still enjoying it. I am responsible for the admin part of things, but have helped out at some of the events and that is so cool. Here is a photo I took when we went to watch a bit of the Sovereign Harbour Crossing the other day. This is a 2.8km swim. We didn't stay too long because Caitlyn became bored pretty quickly, so unfortunately we couldn't watch for very long.

We also do the Beach Series which is every Tuesday on Takapuna Beach and you can either do a 5km run, a swim, paddle, and so on. There is even a 2.5km run for kids.