Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What goes up

I have been cured, and I'm crediting the pie. Listen, they always told us fruit was loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Surely that counts if you eat it mixed with cinnamon and splenda, right?

Okay, I'll give some of the credit to the prescriptions--and to my wonderful doctor. He is one of those great docs who cares just as much about what I'm thinking as what's going on with my body. If your physician isn't like that, go find one that is. Life is too short to fear the man or woman who holds your health in his/her hands.

Sahara's health is on the droopy side this week. To condense things into a neat package, she stopped one of her meds last week (as the doctors ordered) and coming off of it has been rough on her system. She's having difficulty doing some things that seemed easy and painless last week. And naturally, that's scary and frustrating. Having been on the same medication myself, I know it is not easy to adjust to a change in dosage. But in time, things usually even out.

Anyway, if you're reading this tonight, send some healing energy in her direction, or send a prayer skyward. Tumor kicks should be a routine matter for all of us, but go ahead and double up on those this week. On Thursday, Sahara and her parents head down south to Houston for a visit with Dr. Wolff and some testing.

I've got a special request: if you want to buy a cookbook and you're not a local resident, please do so through the link on the Hope for Hoops page. I know some of you have contacted Gramma Dooley, who is indeed selling them around town. But for those of you who live too far down the road, please use the link Sheryl Henley has set up.

Oh, one more thing. There's a new Aldridge family member. Lulu is black, white, wiggly, and all of 10 weeks old. She's got that border collie look, for now. Amy says she's sticking to Sahara "like glue." If you're sending vibes, would you mind blessing the pup with the ability to pee outdoors, just a wee bit faster? Gosh, thanks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pie oh my


The wonderful thing about not hosting Thanksgiving: you don't have to deal with the leftovers.

The bad thing: you don't HAVE any leftovers.

I have been thinking about my mother's stuffing all week. Nothing compares. I haven't had Thanksgiving with my side of the family since before we were married, and while I've learned new tastes and traditions, it is HER dinner I yearn for each year as I sit down at the table. Sometimes the simplest things are the absolute best.

I did manage to bake this year, in between fighting the bug that has returned to torture my chest yet again. I am trying to cure it with pie. I won't go into the whole tale here, but if you are in the mood, it's on my own little blog, Fat Lady Sings. And to answer the follow-up question, no, you really can't tell it's Splenda.

For those of you who don't give two toots about pie, there's an update on the Hope for Hoops page regarding the Rick show. For those of you with Gold Tickets, heads up. The reception will now take place after the show. Doors open at 6:30, show starts at 7:30.

And now to Amy:

Hello everyone!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We stayed home, just the three of us, and had a perfectly lovely day together. It was one of those days when everything just fell into place and was completely stress-free. Our friend Bill deep fried our turkey (which just HAS to be the best way on earth to prepare it....YUM), I baked a small ham, sweet potato casserole, corn, dressing, mashed potatoes, Parker House rolls...our family loves our carbs...LOL. I made a pumpkin pie for Sahara, a chocolate pie for me, and cheated on Shannon's pecan pie (got it at Wille's Bakery...they are incredible!). We watched movies and football and ate all day long. We are truly blessed and have so much to be thankful for.

Sahara had the last dose of chemo for this cycle on Monday. She's now off of it until December 18. This week she's also been weaned off of the prednisone, which is kinda tough. I had gotten used to her being so wired while she was on it, but now she's more subdued, and isn't quite as perky today. The roller coaster ride continues. Her PT and OT are going really well, and they are really giving her some good workouts. She looks forward to her sessions each week.

Just two weeks until the Rick show!!! She's looking SO forward to it and it is going to be a great time! Rick and his crew are absolutely the best.

I've been promising a "Best of Cape" list for all of you wonderful out-of-towners, so here goes:

Best restaurants:
O'Charley's (Sahara's official restaurant...try their Loaded Potato Soup, and if you want it Sahara-style, have them strain out the potatoes, which makes it "Cheese Soup"...lol...their Zesty Orange Chicken, Caramel Pie...oh yeahhhh!)
Texas Roadhouse (great salads & steaks)
Pagliai's Pizza on Broadway (wood fired and absolutely incredible...best sauce on the planet)
El Torero on Broadway (best Mexican food around - ask for Antonio)
Blimpie's on Broadway (great subs)
Cracker Barrel (always, always good)
My Daddy's Cheesecake (has a cafe and all kinds of treats...try the Key Lime Cheesecake!!!)

Best shopping:
Kohl's (who doesn't love Kohl's, I ask you)
Barnes & Noble (brand new at our mall)
West Park Mall (it's small, but there are some good stores: Macy's, Old Navy, Steve & Barry's, JC Penney, American Eagle, etc.)
Downtown Cape (kitschy shops, antiques, cool cafes)

Best place to find Rick stuff:
P-Mac Music on William Street (the official welcoming store for Rick, and Sahara's official CD store...ask for Eric or Paul) - check out their banner in front of the store!

Best hotels:
(okay, we're not a big city, but these should be nice)
Drury Lodge (offering a special to Rick fans)
Drury Suites
Holiday Inn Express (just opened this summer and is close to everything)

Cool places:
Downtown riverfront....right on the Mississippi River, great views, really beautiful
Trail of Tears State Park (where the Native Americans came across the river...there's an interpretive center that is very moving)
Old St. Vincent's Church downtown (if you enjoy history and architecture, you must see it)

There are several wineries in the area, and I will get their info and post their websites asap. If there's anything else I can come up with, I'll post those things as well. I hope this is helpful!

It's great to have a few days off to relax and recharge. I hope that everyone who reads this is enjoying some time with family and friends. I think I need more chocolate pie. :)

With love,

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We've got spirit yes we do

Hello everyone, and happy weekend to you! Sahara has had a great week! She sailed through chemo again without getting sick, hallelujah! She even felt like going to school for a couple of hours on Tuesday. That was the highlight of her week, without a doubt. For days and days, she had been trying to get all of her school supplies (the ones we bought in JUNE) organized and ready to go. It was a very positive "first day" for her, and she loves her school. Thanks to her wonderful teachers and friends for showing her the ropes!

She also began homebound classes this week. Reality says that she can't go to school full-time, which is such a drag for her, but she has really enjoyed what she's been working on at home with her teacher, Mrs. Goode. It's so great to see her looking forward to class time. :)

Physical and occupational therapy has been going extremely well. Her balance has improved quite a bit this week, and she is getting some great exercise in the gym. She has always been such an active girl and I know she is glad to be moving again. And as of today, her OT says that she appears to have full range of motion in her right eye - this is incredible news! The left one still has limited side-to-side movement, but they are doing eye therapy to see if they can get it back to full strength. Eye therapy - who knew? We continue to learn more and more.

Lady Redhawks basketball officially began this week, and it's about time! We are all very disappointed that Coach BJ is not with the team any longer, but we will keep on supporting the players and coaches that remain. We're looking forward to the day when Sahara has enough strength and confidence to be a ball girl once more. For now, she's an enthusiastic spectator!

It's been a very positive week and we are so blessed. Thanks to everyone for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers...I have no doubt that it's working. There's a church nearby that has the greatest words on its marquee, and it makes me feel good each time I drive by:

Time changes
Weather changes
Jesus is the same

Hope everyone will find something fun to do this weekend!

With love,

Monday, November 13, 2006

Please don't squeeze the charmin(g)

I'm cranky. Could be that in the space of oh, three days, the rain did a number on the maple tree in front of my window, and it's now stark raving naked. We've lived in our house for six years, and in all that time, we've never really known what color the maple turns in autumn because just as it's starting to go, we get a mini-monsoon and whoosh, the leaves are stripped off and end up brown and crackly in the yard.

Well, they are yellow: a sunny span of orangey-egg yolk yellow with hints of good Wisconsin butter. Or so they were, before the rain stole the one-week show. But I guess I should count my blessings. Shouldn't we all?

So anyway, I've been thinking a lot about Sahara and all the shows she'll attend over the next month or so. And, of course, about all the people who are pulling strings, cajoling bosses, cashing in airline miles, and eating ramen noodles so the price of a ticket isn't so terrible, especially in December when the holidays are fast approaching. And it leaves me in awe.

But it leaves me scared, too. People, I know your intentions are good. Truly. But I'd like to ask you to remember that this is a 12-year old girl, and in all reality, many of you are strangers. Being 12 can be tricky enough. Being 12 when you are busy kicking a tumor's ass is trickier still. When you are 12 it is not always easy to tell others, especially adults, to take a step back.

Pray for her, admire her, adore her, love her spirit. Give her a high five. Cheer as she approaches. (Get down on your knees and bow to Amy, of course...) Just remember, she's a kid. Say hello. Introduce yourself, tell her where you're from, and keep it light.

If you are someone already in Sahara's world--one of her friends or family members from Cape or the surrounding areas, you'll have a better sense of what Sahara is comfortable with. But if you are a friend from the blog, the Rickworld, or another site, then please join me in treating her like you'd like a stranger to treat your daughter or kid sister.

Friday, I left work early to go home and get Sahara ready for physical therapy. We decided to run by her school for a minute and get her ID made - she's wanting to attend some classes as she can, so we want to have things in order. Everyone at CJHS is absolutely wonderful, so helpful and accommodating. Her principal, Mr. Meredith, was leading us down the hallway toward the library when...the bell rang. WHOOSH! Hundreds of kids in the hall, and I could hear them - is that Sahara? It's Sahara! We ducked into the nurse's office to stay out of the way, and before we knew it, there were tons of kids AND teachers right outside the door, pouring into the office. LOL. It was GREAT! Then a bunch of them shouted, "we love you, Sahara!" Have I mentioned how much I love these kids??? After the mayhem calmed down, we finally made it to the library to get her ID card made. We had a really great visit to the school. :)

We then crossed town to her PT appointment. Her therapist's name is Steve, and we all hit it off very well. He ran her through some tests to see where he needs to start, and he has decided to focus on balance first and foremost. She has good strength, despite all she has been through. It was a very good session. Got our appointments for next week and were on our way.

Saturday started off with a bang - a 9 am showing of Grease at the Town Plaza! I was amazed at how many people showed up on such a blustery, cold morning! We had so much fun, and we get to do it again tonight with a whole new group of people! Extra special thanks and eternal gratitude to Jane and Charlie Hirsch for organizing these fun events (you guys ROCK and we love you!), and to the Town Plaza theatre for hosting the movie for us. It was really special for me, because 25 years ago when Grease first came out, I went to that very theatre to see it. It was the first time I'd ever seen a movie twice in one summer - I was totally crazy for it. I remember buying the soundtrack album immediately afterward...and the rest is history. LOL.

The Sunday night Grease show was a blast. We were picked up by Danny Essner from the River City Rodders, in his candy apple red and white 1955 Chevy Bel Air. (Thanks, Danny!!!) Sahara and her dear friend Madison were SO excited! Shannon was a big chicken and stayed home for more football while we girls went out to party. When we got to the theatre, there were more classic cars out front to greet us, and it was SO cool. Got to see a lot of friends at the show, which was such fun. Gramma Dooley and Jennifer Hecht sat with us, and we had a great time! Danny gave us a ride home in the Chevy afterward, and I have some hilarious photos of Sahara in the driver's seat. I have a ton of photos I need to upload, and I will try to post some to the blog very soon.

Less than a month until the Rick show! We are so thrilled and honored by how many people are coming from all over the country to attend. Our town will do its collective best to show you a great time when you get here. I'm going to get to work on a list of things to do and good places to eat, and I'll post it as soon as I can.

By the time you read this, Sahara will have had another dose of chemo. Hoping for another smooth ride like we had last week. We have been so blessed by how well she is tolerating the new meds. She is so strong and so determined, and continues to inspire me every day.

With love,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I've got chills, they're multiplyin'

It hit 71 in the city today. I don't know about you, but I think I like this global warming stuff. Mid-November, and I have the windows open. Not so terrible, is it?

Lots of email traffic this week and I'll take some time to update the HELP/HOPE page this weekend. We've got more info on the dance performance, a cookbook, and Blimpies is getting in on the act, too.

Hello, everyone!

We began the next step in our journey on Monday, with Sahara receiving her first outpatient chemo at St. Francis. She sailed through it with no problems at all. Stacey, our new nurse, really knows her stuff and has such a great personality. She's a Rick fan too...another mark in her favor! LOL.

Last night was the time I had really been dreading. She took her first dose of CCNU, a very powerful chemo drug that is often used to fight brain tumors. It is one of the few drugs that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. It is also wicked, a very potent drug that lasts for six weeks in her system, and can have some particularly nasty side effects. Dr. Sides (our doc here in Cape) gave us all sorts of warnings about how sick she could get after taking it. After I gave Sahara the capsules, I was prepared for the worst. I put the trash can right beside her and slept beside her on the couch.

She slept the entire night, woke up fine this morning, and asked for eggs and toast for breakfast. LOL.

I am SO relieved - the first dose is done and she's tolerating it! This drug can cause white blood cell and platelet counts to crash between 4 and 6 weeks from now, so we have to keep a close watch on her counts. Let's just all hope and pray that she stays WELL the day of the Rick show, because if she had to miss that on top of everything else, I think she will spontaneously combust with frustration.

Speaking of that frustration, she wants so badly to go back to school. The paperwork has been submitted to get her started on homebound instruction. She will also be able to go to some classes at school as she feels like it. Sahara is bored out of her mind and misses her friends! With luck, next week she'll get to do some things.

I want to thank blogger Michael Manning for pulling off yet another seemingly impossible act for Sahara - he's chartered a bus to bring fans to the concert from Cincinnati! This is incredible! We are going to have such a fantastic crowd at this show!!!

Well, time to get back to family business. Laundry stops for no woman. LOL.

Much love,

Monday, November 06, 2006

The big drip

Hello, everyone!

The past week is a blur, filled with what used to be our normal lives, on top of all the stuff that should NOT be part of them. Sahara is feeling better, and has been able to venture out of the house a couple of times. Her white blood cell count is rising, so that is a relief. Tomorrow we start the next leg of our journey, with outpatient chemo at St. Francis. She tolerated this chemo pretty well while we were in Houston, so we hope that will remain the case as she starts it all over again.

Sahara even got to enjoy a bit of Halloween, visiting her cousins on Halloween night, doing a bit of trick or treating at the Osage Center, and stopping by our dear friends, the Tegels. She was so glad to do something besides stay in the house! We were all wiped out from the trip back from Houston, but in typical Sahara fashion, she was determined to have some fun. We dressed her in some scrubs, a mask and a beanie, and she was Doctor Sahara for the evening. LOL.

I understand that tickets to the Rick show are selling really well, and we are looking forward to seeing many of you there! We are going to have such a great time.

I can't believe how fast time is flying by...Thanksgiving is right around the corner...yikes! And this coming weekend is our "Grease" extravaganza! We can't wait to see everyone and sing at the top of our lungs to those cool, cheesy songs. We just have to convince Shannon to go too...I have embarrassed him more than once by singing those songs. LOLOL.

Extra special thanks going out tonight to some wonderful people: Allycen Farnsworth, Amy Shelin Primorac, Renata Hearn, and Paul Belfi...you guys ROCK. Be sure to listen to Rick Radio for some special stuff coming up!!!

And as always, a continual, ongoing thanks to each and every one of you for your thoughts, prayers, gifts...you are all so special and we are grateful for all of you. :)

Here's hoping that you all have a great week, and that Sahara handles being back on chemo again in her strong, steady way.

With love,

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Button, button, who's got the button

Big cheers to Susan Fortune, who sold buttons for Sahara and just sent a check for $750 to the Hope for Hoops Fund. Little things add up--and make a huge difference! Thanks, Susan!

This morning I updated the Help for Hoops/Hope for Hoops page. There's more info on Cinema for Sahara next weekend (Tell me more, tell me more), and a few of the benefits have been completed, so they're gone.

Of course, if you've finished your event and would like to share results here, drop me an email and I'll notify the troops.

Thanks, everyone. You matter.