About Us

Our family of 6 (dad Adam, mom Sherry, big sister Abby and little brothers Isaac and Brady -- who was born on December 14, 2010) joined the ranks of pediatric cancer fighters when our 4-year old son Logan was diagnosed with a dangerous and highly malignant form of brain cancer in mid-August 2010. Logan's cancer journey began abruptly on Sunday, August 15, when his right eye suddenly turned inward during dinner. Twenty-four hours later, we were checking into Children's Hospital Oakland and finding out that life sometimes takes you places you'd never, ever imagine yourself going.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Inhale, Exhale

A friend who recently lost a child messaged me out of the blue yesterday. I'd been worried about her and was thankful that she reached out, but her question was like an arrow to my heart:

How do you learn to breathe again?

I cried while I typed a response. I cried because I was sad for her and because I know exactly where she is in the process and how she probably feels like she will never be happy again and can't imagine living with the pox of such a deep, dark, pervasive brand of pain and because there are no easy solutions and there is no fast forward button that lets you speed through the gut-wrenching parts. I remember screaming in the darkness and punching my pillow so hard that the stuffing came out and then doubling over in so much pain that I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to get up and face the world again. I remember what those first few months are like, after the shock wears off and reality becomes stark and cold and unforgiving and far too real.

And I also cried because I wish I didn't have sage words to share with her. I wish that I didn't understand and couldn't relate and could sit with my fingers hovering over the keyboard, unable to formulate sentences that might bring an ounce of comfort or hope.

But I do understand and I do know the pain. And though I don't want to be in this position, I'm blessed if I can use this experience --this knowledge I so desperately wish I didn't have-- to bring even a moment of peace or a sense of hope for the future to someone who's suffering. Because though my life is far from perfect, I'm still here. And I'm still trying. And anyone can do what I'm doing because I, like everyone else on the planet, am merely mortal.

So my friend --you know who you are and I'm giving you every bit of the privacy you deserve-- know that I'm praying for you and willing you as much strength and fortitude as I can. And as for breathing? Inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. I know you can do it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

On Love and Easter

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday and couldn't stop thinking about it. The message was a simple one:

"How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great."

I'll be totally honest about something: it can be hard and frustrating and painful to love broken people. It's hard to care for someone who exudes negativity. It's challenging to deliberately pursue a person who pushes others away in the name of survival. It's painful to know that even when you do all you can to love a broken person, that person could still reject you.

And it breaks my heart and embarrasses me to write all of that because I've most definitely been the person who's excruciatingly hard to love. I've done the rejecting and the pushing away and the negativity. And I've wound up mostly alone, which, ironically, was the last thing I wanted. It's easy to wind up alone when you're broken, because sometimes it simply takes too much energy, too much heartache, too much everything to love someone who's hurting. I know that. I've been that difficult, difficult person.

But as the meme suggests --and as the message of Easter teaches-- love is always worth the risk.

So show up. Be present. Listen. Pray. And love, even when it's the last thing you want to do, and even when you think the recipient doesn't notice or care about what you're doing. (And if you're the one who's hurting, try really hard to let yourself be loved. I know that's far easier said than done.) What I remind myself when it feels like I'm spinning my wheels to no avail is that He sees all. And if He could die for ME, the least I can do is sacrifice a little of myself for someone else.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

On 40

I turn 40 in four days.

I've been trying to figure out how I feel about it for a while now, which is funny because I'm not really one who's ever cared much about age. My friends range in age from twentysomething to fiftysomething, and age means absolutely nothing within the context of those relationships. So the rational part of me says "it's just a number. It's really no different than any other birthday and besides, most of your friends are already 40-plus so get over it. Boo yah, 40. Woohoo."

But... 40. It's hard to fully wrap my brain around that number.

Don't misunderstand me: my thirties have been hard. Actually, hard isn't a powerful enough word. A more appropriate one would be "torturous." I began the decade on bed rest with Isaac after suffering a potentially disastrous subchorionic bleed. (So you don't have to look it up, that means that a small corner of the placenta tore, which resulted in gushing blood and, eventually, a very large blood clot that could have killed him. Fortunately, of course, that did not happen, but I spent months agonizing over the possibility that it could.) After he was finally born, we had a calm expanse of months before I got pregnant with Brady at 32, and then 20 weeks later, well, you know what happened then. My life, my outlook, my everything was forever changed when I found out Logan could very well die.

Then there were the endless trips to and from the hospital, the loneliness, the exhaustion that goes along with having three very young children at home by myself and the ongoing fear that God would not respond the way I desperately wanted Him to respond to the biggest prayer I'd ever prayed.

And then, when I was 34, horror became my reality as my innocent, sweet, long-suffering little boy drifted from my arms and into God's on that rain-soaked February morning. At first I was numb, but then the sadness, the anger, the fury besieged my heart in a way I didn't see coming. It broke me into more pieces that I could ever count and I couldn't fathom ever feeling like myself ever again. And I wasn't sure I wanted to.

Fortunately, very slowly and with no small of resistance from me (because, well, anger), God knit the pieces back together again. I think sometimes those pieces were re-fused in different places, because when I think of my heart, I don't see it as a smooth piece of fabric, rather as a patchwork quilt comprised of numerous kinds of material and many converging threads of varying color and strength. Although it's been re-constructed with care, it has weak spots, and if those spots are pulled or pushed too aggressively, I can feel the stitches tear away all over again.

So given that history, you'd think I'd be eager to leave my thirties far behind me in the rearview mirror. But I'm not. The thing is, Logan won't exist in my forties. He won't be there to help blow out the candles or to tease me about my advancing age. Of course, none of that is new: he's been gone for nearly six years and his absence is a painful daily reality. And my birthdays are among the most acutely painful of those days.

But in my mind, when 39 melts into 40 on Thursday afternoon, I'll be leaving him behind. And I don't know what to do with that. I know that I can't stop aging; I'll turn 40 and then, God willing, 41 and 42 and 43. Time will keep passing and the wrinkles will keep forming and I'll keep missing him.

And no matter how fervent my prayers become, he'll keep not being here and I'll keep having to cope with the reality that one of my biggest fans is absent.

But you know something? I bet he'd want me to celebrate anyway. He'd want me to dance and talk and eat cake and smile. So though I so wish that he could be part of my forties memory bank in a tangible way, I know that he cannot. And I pray that though he won't be here for number 40, he'll be dancing with me anyway, in whatever way he can, and that though I won't be able to touch him with my fingertips, I'll feel him within my heart.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

At lunch

I recognized her almost immediately: the peach fuzz hair, the paper mask, and the slightly too-puffy cheeks. She sat at a table across from a boy and a woman and next to a man and another boy. Her family. Her plate of food was virtually untouched; her mother urged her to take a bite with a gentle but vaguely pleading you have to eat something but she didn't. She just wanted to run her fingers through her brother's hair. I watched her. I watched her brothers. I couldn't see her father's face because his back was to me, but I watched her mother. I tried to search her eyes without letting her see me. I saw the tiredness and the sadness and the frustration and also the glimmer of hope. I tried to send a message straight from my mind to hers, but of course, it doesn't work that way.

Our food came. Everyone else dug in but I just looked down at mine, suddenly disintereted in the sandwich that had seemed so appealing before I saw her. More than once, I felt my eyes fill with tears and more than once, Adam asked if I was okay. I didn't really respond and I think he knew that I wasn't because he saw her, too. I was watching him the moment he saw the hair and the mask and the too-full plate and I saw his expression change. He and I, we're alike in that way. In the way that our expression changes when we see certain things.

After a minute or two, I realized Abby was looking at me, her eyes wide with concern and confusion. She saw her, I think, but somehow it didn't register. I patted her hand and I told her I was fine, though I think she knew I was lying. I ate my food and picked at my fries. And I watched the girl and her family; how her brother sat patiently as she smiled and skimmed her fingers through his shock of light brown hair. How they all pressed her to eat and how she held up her placemat to show off her crayon-aided handiwork.

They got up to go and I felt a sense of panic. A sense of urgency. I stood up as they passed by and spoke to the mother.

I've been where you are. I pray everything will go perfectly for you from here on out. God bless you, I said.

She looked startled. One of your kids had cancer? she probed. Then her gaze shifted to focus on the table behind me, where most of my family sat, still eating and talking and being together. She was looking for a survivor.

I knew I had to tell her and my heart lurched in my chest. I hate being the one who scares people; the one who represents the worst case scenario coming to pass. Yes, I replied. Then, rather than looking away as I so often do, I caught her gaze again. But he didn't make it. But you... for you, I'm praying for a very different outcome.

She stopped and just looked at me. And hugged me. And thanked me. And said she was so very sorry for my loss.

And then she was gone. And I sat down to once again pick at my fries while the others finished their meals.

It never goes away. Peach fuzz hair and a mask and a puffy face still take my breath away and make my heart race and I suspect they always will. They represent trauma and my body just... reacts. The cracks in my heart split open and bleed all over again. But if I can make a connection, offer up a word of hope, be a voice who understands in the midst of so many who simply don't --can't--, I'll take on the task.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Anti-Graduations

Five years ago, Logan's little class graduated from preschool. Of course, he wasn't there with them because he'd died a few months earlier, but I went anyway. I remember sitting on a rickety bench outside the back door of the classroom, sobbing uncontrollably because he wasn't there and because I didn't have a little graduate to celebrate. I was so envious of the other proud parents and grandparents who, one by one, passed me by as they entered for the ceremony. One stopped to offer up a lingering hug. A few others sent pitying looks in my direction. Some seemed to pretend that I wasn't there at all, and truth be told, I felt like I didn't belong; like I was sullying their happy occasion with my presence. I never could muster the wherewithall to go inside, so eventually, as the little graduates collected their little diplomas, I slipped silenty away. It's not an easy day to remember and it's a memory that I tend to stuff when my heart summons it from the cobwebs of my mind.

But tonight I'm letting myself remember, because Friday will mark another milestone that's not happening: the completion of elementary school. It seems weird to think about him moving on to middle school since he never even got the chance to begin kindergarten. It breaks me to realize that though I will keenly feel his absence, almost none of his would've-been classmates will know a thing about him. They won't know how funny he was or how he danced or how he was obsessed with all-things automotive or how his big sister was his best friend in the world. I can say "well, it's their loss" but the reality is that it's my loss. It's our loss. No one else knows what they missed.

So I'll stay far away from that ceremony on Friday. I'll look away when I see the giggling girls in their dresses and the boys looking uncomfortable in their quasi-formal mom-made-me-wear-this-stuff finery. I won't cry where anyone can see me. That day will be hard. But like I got through the littlest graduation ceremony, I'll get through this one, too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What it's like

"I can't even imagine."

"I don't think I'd be able to get up in the morning."

"I don't know how you do it."

"You're so much stronger than me."

I've heard a lot of things since Logan died, including the remarks listed above. I usually just smile and nod and shrug. What else am I supposed to do? They are, after all, perfectly acceptable responses to a difficult situation. But here's what I'd say if I felt free --truly, really, fully free-- to be honest.

No, you can't imagine. And you don't want to because it's horrific. And you know it's horrific. And since the human heart --and mind-- protect you from horror, you actually --physically-- cannot imagine it. And that's okay, because I don't want that for you.

Yes, you would, because you'd have to. Because you have other kids and a husband who need care. Because you can't quit life when something horrible happens to you. So yeah, you'd get up. And some days, you'd smile and genuinely feel happy. Other days, you'd smile and fake it even when you were falling apart inside. And after enough time passed, your friends wouldn't even be able to tell when you're really smiling and when you're merely eking, slogging through the day, your sights set on a good, cathartic cry by yourself at home. But yeah, you'd do it. Because it's what you'd have to do.

Me neither. But I'm pretty sure Jesus has a lot to do with it. I am not strong enough to withstand it on my own. I am not a superhero. It's okay if you think I am, but I promise you that I'm just a regular woman with regular temptations and loves and victories and failures.

Not really. It just looks like it because I keep getting up and I keep taking the other kids to school and smiling, even on the days when my heart is breaking all over again. If you were me, you'd do the same.

So yeah. I don't like oversimplification any more than the next perfectionist, but in a nutshell, that's what it's like.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Five Years in Heaven

Five years ago today, we had to say good-bye to Logan. I held his battered body in my arms and sang to him as he quietly slipped into eternity. It was, succinctly put, a brutally unfair conclusion to a brutally unfair journey. It was the stuff of nightmares and it broke my heart. It broke Adam's heart. It broke Abby's heart. It damaged us in ways that my then 34-year old, shell-shocked self couldn't even attempt to imagine and it shook my faith to a breaking point that I didn't realize existed.

But we are survivors.

We're still breathing. We're still walking. Some days, it feels like we're all strangers living in the same home, speaking different languages and yanking one another to and fro in our attempts to cope with this change that no one wanted, but we're still together. We're still trying to love one another as best we can, and we're still trying to figure out how to blend heartache and happiness in a way that honors Logan and still allows us to feel the warmth of the sun's rays on our faces. It's hard. It's painful. There are ups and downs and highs and lows that I can't even come close to describing. But we try. And we're getting there.

Ironically, I think that in many ways, I'm a better person for all of the struggles. I've learned that it's okay to cry in front of my friends and that the ones who matter won't judge me or walk away. I've also learned that those who choose to leave aren't bad people; they're just struggling with their own insecurities. I've learned that a broken heart can't render me useless; only bitterness can do that. I've learned that I can yell at God until I can't breathe and He still won't turn His back on me. I've learned that though we don't always get what we pray for, God will provide what we need to not just survive, but to thrive. I've learned that He loves me so much that he sends people to me to stand in the gap when I don't have the strength, energy, or desire to do it for myself. I've learned that I can see Him moving all around me if I don't forget to look, and that although human life is hard, we're given relationships that help us to grow and mature. I've learned that it's okay to be vulnerable and that my fragility isn't a weakness but a strength that I can use to help others. And I've learned that I'm never going to learn it all, and that's okay.

I miss him every single day and I mourn the future he didn't get to have, but I'm so thankful that he was here.

I love you, Logan.