Journal Entry

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Your eyes are as blue as the deep blue sea.
Your my friend as you will always be.
Whenever you're near my heart goes thud.
For you are as pretty as a red rose bud.
- Christine Shayna Thomas

Christi wrote the above poem for her new teacher. She had me write it in the card that she made and then she asked, "Are her eyes blue?" When I said, "No, they're brown." She said, "Oh!" and laughed. (Sorry, Miss Stiffler!) I knew Kristin wouldn't mind and she didn't!

Although I spent time working in the classroom on Tuesday, I was far from being ready. With about 24 hours to finish preparing the kindergarten room prior to the parent meeting and open house, I felt a huge wave of panic. Therefore, due to my great desparation, I telephoned my best friend and asked if she'd come to school and help me. As always - Becky to the rescue!! I was at school working by 6:30 AM Wednesday and soon after arrived Becky with her cleaning supplies and friendship. She is sooooooooooooooo awesome!! It was the most time I'd spent with her over the course of the entire year; it was great! Her sweet husband, Gary, and the boys arrived and took us to lunch. I just walked into Fatheads Restaurant and smelled that fabulous smell.......Ahhhhhhhh!! With that wonderful aroma, I knew I was back in town!! YES!! After lunch, we got back to work cleaning, organizing and preparing for the new little kindergarten kiddos. I left for home and for a quick shower before returning, less than two hours later, to meet all of the darling little students and their wonderful parents. Becky volunteers a lot in our school and we always say she's a great nurse; however, without a doubt she should have been a teacher - she's a natural!! And of course - she saved me! THANKS, Becky!! I never would have made it without you!

One of my former cheerleaders and former jr. high helpers (now a Heidelberg Cheerleader and a college student studying to be a teacher) helped supervise the kindergarten students and then took care of Shayla on the playground when Shayne arrived to go to Christi's Open House Wednesday evening. (Thanks, Sara!) While Shayne thought it was a bit hard to attend the Open House, I thought it was downright fabulous!!!! To watch Christi holding hands with her friends and to see that they remembered her and were so happy to see her nearly brought tears to my eyes. She has the sweetest little kids in her class. It was so wonderful! She's been so blessed! I thought we definitely made the right decision after watching her with the friends she was just starting to make when she had to leave last year after just nine days of school. And I received so many fabulous hugs and warm welcomes from many mothers of my former students and cheerleaders. It was just great. I told myself not to cry and I remained strong throughout the evening. Words cannot express how tremendous it was to catch up with everyone. My colleagues told me the kindness things and really made me feel good welcoming me back - even if not for the entire year. I know we have a terribly long road ahead, but I'm really going to enjoy this special time back at school doing what I love and being surrounded by the special people at our school and in our community!

When Christi went to give the little gift basket with the card and poem she wrote to her teacher, she became shy. (Christi - shy?!!!! Where is my kid?) She had been reciting the poem to Shayne and I, but she just couldn't do it for her beautiful teacher. Miss Stiffler was so sweet. She also helped show Christi what to do to prepare her little desk. And she actually seemed pleased that Christi gave her a bag of individual art projects that she prepared for each of her classmates in labeled, individual bags with cut apart pieces. The school friends just need to glue together the pieces she cut apart for them to build the animals. (Only Christi) Hopefully, Miss Stiffler will just sort of forget about it and Christi will too. She really worked hard on it, but I can't imagine what the other students would think about receiving an art project to do from a fellow classmate What a hoot!

Early the next morning, we drove to Children's Hospital in Columbus to get Christi's blood counts checked. It was so wild to go back there. What a beautiful place filled with beautiful, caring staff members. Oh, how I wish she would have had a nice childhood cancer and we could have just been there for a little check up instead of still fighting this beast. Nothing had changed in the eight months we were gone. It was nice to see everyone and to catch up with all we ran into. Christi's blood counts were down a bit, but she didn't need any transfusions. We went to the playground and then to spend the remainder of the day with our dear friends at COSI. Jenn and Traci presented us with a beautiful scrapbook that they made of our "Make a Wish Trip". I couldn't have received a more thoughtful and more appreciated gift. I'm so far behind with photo albums, etc. - having done NOTHING since Christi's diagnosis nearly a year ago. This was really appreciated and will be treasured forever. I was able to explore and inquire about my kindergarten field trip to COSI and gather some great ideas of what I plan to incorporate into the classroom to best prepare us for our upcoming field trip due to a grant I wrote and received from a foundation in Cleveland. It was extended a year after I wrote them and explained the "Christi Situation" last fall.

Traci and Jenn made Christi and Shayla the most hysterical video of themselves in their costumes in ADVENTURE at COSI so the girls watched that, followed by countless Veggie Tales, all the way on our drive to Cincinnati. We spent the next three days with my sister and her family. It had been a year since we had stayed at their beautiful home and we all four enjoyed our visit tremendously. Tina and Gil have the sweetest three kids around. I'm so proud to call them my nieces and nephew.

Christi spent the next night at my Mom and Joe's. She had purchased a cookbook at the Scholastic Store in NYC with the hopes of cooking from it with Grandma Nonee and Great Aunt Marty. Mom had prepared all of the supplies and Christi had a ball. Christi also received an extremely generous gift from some sweet ladies in Upper Sandusky. They purchased her a doll - An American Girls doll. (Her favorite - Felicity.) God's people are amazing! We've been so blessed! Thank you, ladies! That was unbelievable! Christi first fell in love with Felicity when she was four and I read the series to her. Not long after that, we found the audio tapes at the library. Many nights before bed she insisted on listening to an entire tape before going to sleep - even though she had to get up early for preschool. This doll is gorgeous.

Yesterday, Shayne drove to Upper Sandusky to pick up Christi and to drop off Shayla at my dear Mother's place. Christi again had a morning appointment with the wonderful Dr. Mandy at Children's in Columbus and I had my teachers work day. All went well. Our thanks to Dr. Mandy for writing the chemo orders for Christi to receive her chemo at home. There's still a lot to work out, but Shayne's on it and I know he'll have it all arranged very soon somehow. He's the best! He's relentless!!

Attending the teachers work day yesterday was fabulous!! I've missed the great folks from my district. Upon my arrival, I soon heard one of the terrific cafeteria worker's sweet laughter so I had to go back and say hello and check in with them. Seneca East is the greatest school district!! It was a long year without the fabulous tiger family! At our association meeting I went up to say a quick thank you to my teacher friends and found myself choked up by tears soon after I started. They were very understanding as I tried to get my final words out, but I never really did. I was trying to say, "Christi wanted to go back to school with her great teachers and friends and I too wanted to go back to school with the greatest teachers who are my greatest friends." however, I don't even know what I really mumbled at the end. I'm typically not one without words in front of a microphone, but my emotions overcame me like never before. Regardless, I hope they know how special their support has been due to the union, their staffs, families, community, etc. The comfort of knowing people care really goes a long way and we are most grateful. I left the kindergarten room after 5:30 PM last night and I think I'm now all ready to start off the school year Wednesday morning. (Of course a teachers job is never done so I'll work again today while Christi is in class - just down the hall from my room. My first day is Wednesday.)

Last night Grandma Nee Nee spent the night so she could wish Christi well as she went off to school. This morning, Christi is dressed in a purple dress (Her teacher's favorite color.) and she is carrying a bouquet of purple flowers (not from the florist this year, but from the front yard instead due to $$$) to give to her teacher this morning. Days ago six year old Christi calculated the hours remaining until the start of school and FINALLY it is that time. Christi is beaming!! (And so is Mommy!) This is fabulous because it feels normal! Nearly a year ago, Christi was diagnosed and I doubted this ever would have happened. This must be what it feels like to have your child actually make it into remission. Truly our hope and prayer is that next year we will really get to do this and get to stay the entire year and every year after that. My thanks to you all!

In His love,

PS: Eric has lots of new pictures on the web site if you're interested. Buttercup's kitten has continued to be a hit here in our home so of course she's on the site too.

Christi's Joke: Patient, "Doctor Doctor, no one ever listens to me" Doctor, "Next!"

What's Next?
This afternoon we will spend time with Shayne's Dad who is in town. It'll be great to catch up with him. Tonight Shayne will take Shayla to my Mom and Joe's (Christi and I have school tomorrow) and then he will arrive in NYC in the wee hours of the night. When we left on the day of the power outage, we had no idea we would not be coming back. Actually, I think this is better because I do not know if I could ever bring myself to say good bye to all of those fabulous, fabulous, fabulous New Yorkers who so richly touched our lives. We will never ever forget all of their kindness, hospitality and generosity and we hope that Christi's disease will soon be decreased enough (or gone!) allowing us to go right back to NYC for more antibodies. How could I ever say good-bye to all of the tremendous volunteers, the fabulous Ronald folks and the most wonderful nurses not to mention all of the parents who have become my dearest and closest friends knowing EXACTLY how I'm feeling each day filled with fear, stress and uncertainty?! I don't think I could. I called Anne Marie - Christi's teacher and Shayla's friend's Mom called me so I could tell her that we won't be back for a long time. THAT was hard enough. I hope Shayne can handle it. He's going to pack up all of our belongings, clean the room, tend to numerous items at the hospital and the house and then he is planning to drive home Thursday night. Isn't he Super Dad?!! Without a doubt!

Since I won't be able to say good-bye to the fabulous New Yorkers who have given so much of themselves to us, I just want to say thanks to some of them we'll never forget and who will always be in our hearts.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. Author unknown (to me!)

To Christi's Primary Nurse since Day One: Beautiful Gail! Thanks for always going above and beyond in all that you do for all of your patients. Your skills and talents, professionalism, compassion and knowledge about pediatric care is outstanding. Your incredible patience in dealing with Christi (and all of her manipulation tactics trying to get out of having to get an IV or whatever) is absolutely tremendous. She loves you so much, just like we do. I'll never forget some of her funny comments to you such as, "Mom, they have young looking nurses here. Do they all use that toothpaste advertised on TV?" and "Gail, you look like your 13! Are you really old enough to be my nurse?" Thanks, Gail!! Please stay in New York; we hope - God willing, to be back for antibodies and to have you and your talented colleagues perform their magic with your incredible nursing talents and calm compassion with children. Thanks, Gail!! We'll miss you dearly!!

To Rick, Riva and Steve: What can I say? When faced with the stark reality of having to rapidly relocate to New York City, you immediately put me and my family at ease with your kindness and generosity - even when dealing with a difficult situation yourself. In countless ways, your constant help has been a tremendous blessing!! You provided us with such comfort that we knew from day one if we needed help, you'd come to our rescue (and you did - remember that dreaded chicken pox ordeal?! Oh my!) Your financial assistance with the long term parking of our van was the utmost of caring and selflessness Thank you! It was like God opened up His heavens and dropped angels off to help us. You are angels on earth and have helped us more than you could ever know! We will never be able to repay you, but we will forever be grateful. You are the sweetest, most compassionate and generous people around. THANK YOU!!!

To Nitza and Carolyn, our friends at the Met: You have brought us much sunshine! From the moment we first attended your "Start with Art" class with Shayla, while Christi was at the hospital with my friend Becky, we knew you two were a class act - the finest of people!! Your kindness, compassion, generosity and ability to relate to Shayla through tragic losses of siblings yourselves is remarkable and goes unmatched. Thank you for continually sharing your wisdom and friendship with us. You are brilliant, beautiful and downright amazing!! We've been so blessed! Thank you! And I thank you in advance for the volunteer work you will perform for the Ronald Kids through your outreach program coming to Ronald this fall. THANKS!

To the Marks: Shayla sure knows how to pick great friends. Thank you for continually opening your apartment to Shayla (and to all of us) and for your many phone calls and many play dates. You are the finest example of parents - always putting your child first. I only wish our paths would have crossed sooner. Your daughter is without a doubt the smartest little girl I've EVER come into contact with - not to mention the most dramatic and so precious and darling!! I'm sure that such an academically precocious little girl will continue to have you hopping your entire lives!! Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy every single minute with her! Thanks for all!! Happy Hopping!! We love you!

To all of the fabulous volunteers, the parents and the staff members we've all fallen in love with at the hospital, at Shayla's preschool and at Ronald: You MUST come to Ohio so we can roll out the red carpet for YOU for a change! You are always welcome here!! Thank you for giving us the best possible experience in New York and for putting others above yourselves over and over. You are of the finest caliber! We've learned more from you than you will ever know. New York rocks and we've been so blessed to have been able to enjoy the tremendous city and it's tremendous people in our eight months there. While we wish Christi would have had a better response in treatment, we never would have crossed paths with you fine individuals had that be the case. God's great blessings to you all! Please keep in touch! We hope to make it back to get Christi into a NED status. Thank you!

The Thomas Team