Monday, April 30, 2007

Angels among us

Another day...another front page story for Sahara...who isn't bald in the photo. That's Shannon. Whew!

This weekend, a band of angels descended on the Aldridge household! Oh, they were cleverly disguised as volunteers from Make-A-Wish, but I know better. :) Every time I think this family can't be any more blessed, something even more wonderful happens.

Our family room was transformed into an amazing living space for Sahara, with a beautiful daybed, a new sofa, a flat screen tv, new window treatments, gorgeous accessories...even a mini-fridge!

I think the sweetest part of her wish was the dinette table, which has "The Aldridge Family" carved into the tiles. And the paint...unbelievable. You have to see the photos to truly appreciate all the work they did...and you can do that at if you haven't done so already! The paper sent another photographer today to shoot the "final" photos. They couldn't do that last night...because our poor volunteers worked until the horrid hour of 4 am. Wow. I think all of the photos will be up on the website on Monday.

They came back this morning to do the unveiling for Sahara. She lit up and smiled the biggest smiles I've seen in quite some time. To top it all off, she was served chocolate cake to celebrate. She hadn't had cake in a loooong time, so it tasted extra good. :)

We spent the day taking it all in, sometimes just looking around the room and shaking our heads at how pretty it is now. Sahara says it's her West Coast dream room. It really does have a kind of California vibe to it. It's bright, cheery and full of love, just like her.

We can never fully express our gratitude to Make-A-Wish for fulfilling Sahara's dream of a room makeover. Vickie Hoernig from Perryville - you were involved from the start, and you did such an outstanding job...God bless you! Julie Breshears from Make-A-Wish headquarters in Springfield - we are so glad you came to Cape. It was such a pleasure to meet you - the organization is made even better because of you! Bethany and Mike Earley, our design and construction team - you truly do need your own TV show, because you certainly created a miracle in our basement! To John Forbes and the crew from Best Buy - thank you for going above and beyond in order to get things finished. To Mike Cutright and our other fantastic volunteers, please know that your hard work and hours spent at our home will never be forgotten. To all the vendors who donated materials, furniture and everything that came together so beautifully, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Bethany is also going to design the bathroom for Sahara!! That will be our project now and we are looking forward to making it accessible just as soon as we can.

As I type this at 1:30 am, Sahara is sleeping soundly in her new daybed. She looks so comfortable and I know she is snoozing very well tonight. And I know that by 8 am in the morning, she'll be watching Animal Planet on that cool new TV. Her world is bigger and brighter now thanks to the generosity and love of so many people.

We are, again, so richly blessed.

With love,

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Front page news

There she is again, making the front page of the Southeast Missourian.

To all the furniture lifters, the straight stripe painters, the wish-granters, the volunteers, donors, and designers, to everyone who gave up even 15 minutes this weekend to help, thank you--and welcome to Sahara's fan club.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ride 'em, cowgirl

Good morning, Sahara fans! It's Friday and even when you love your job, that's a wonderful thing. My leg is almost completely better--it's amazing to see how fast the human body can repair itself. The worst of it? Pulling off the bandage or adhesive tape. OW!

Those cardinals must really love my trees because they've brought their friends over to serenade me. It's 7 in the morning and there are 6 of them just flitting around. Three males, three females. It's lovely. And speaking of lovely, don't you just love this photo of Sahara visiting some equine friends a summer or two back?

Sahara has been in fairly good spirits this week and hasn't had any headaches lately, or at least none she has told me about. Sometimes she can hide how she feels and it is so frustrating! Her electrolyte levels are looking good and she seems to be doing well on lower dosages of her medicines. It's all a matter of body chemistry and it can be hard to regulate. Thank God she is such a tough and resilient girl.

Horseback lessons start on Tuesday at Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship, and she seems to be looking forward to that - woo hooo! It is so wonderful that we have such a facility in our area. They have nearly 40 students enrolled for weekly lessons. The students are of all ages and abilities. The riding should really strengthen her legs and abdominal muscles, and she'll have some fun, too.

The Make-a-Wish people will arrive tomorrow night to begin working on the basement, and we are all excited about the big makeover. What a wonderful blessing...and it will make Sahara's living space absolutely awesome! The next few days should be very cool and I'll try to post some before and after pictures soon.

Have a great weekend!

With love,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Out (and about)

So we've been quiet for a few days. Let's see...

Sahara's new ramp is complete, and she's now able to enjoy a little sunshine whenever she feels like it.

According to a very reliable source, her hair has grown back and it's lush and thick. So obviously, she got Amy's hair gene, not Shannon's. Thank goodness.

I had a little work done on my leg yesterday (ouch) so sitting at the computer is a wee bit painful. I'm fine and it's fine, but if y'all don't mind, I may be quiet for a couple of days. Nothing to worry about.

Everyone is hanging in there. The trees here are in full bloom, and I've got a gorgeous male cardinal snacking in my window box. What's pretty in your world?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A few good men (or, the one with the gummy bears)

Hello everyone,

Once in a while I just get overwhelmed with how much love surrounds our family. I don't know what we would do without the special people in our lives. I'm feeling sentimental and want to acknowledge some wonderful guys. Everybody knows that Sahara has the best dad in the world, but there are some others I want to mention today!

My brother-in-law, John Bruenderman, has been there for me basically since the day I was born. He and my sister Sandy have always treated me as if I was their own. Johnny is such a great man, mild mannered and calm, with the patience of at least two saints. Sahara and he have such a tight bond - I think she wrapped him around her finger the first moment he saw her. Johnny's the kind of guy who can build or fix just about anything, and God knows he has done that for us about a million times. This past weekend he did so again. He built a ramp for the door that leads into our garage, so we can get Sahara to the car without having to take her out of the wheelchair. (Our house has too many steps!) Thank you, Johnny, for once again coming to our rescue. You are amazing and we love you so much!

My nephew, Darrin Bruenderman (son of my sister and the above-mentioned awesome brother-in-law), is 13 months younger than me. We were together so much when we were growing up that many people thought we were brother and sister. Most of the time Darrin told his friends I was his cousin, because saying I was his aunt just sounded silly. Plus, I would've slugged him for calling me Aunt Amy. LOL. We have always been close, but even moreso since Sahara got sick. He's logged as many hours as I have scouring the internet and looking for answers, trying to find the miracle we need. He was with me the day I made contact with MD Anderson and got things rolling towards Houston. He researched the Burzynski Clinic too, and we had a lot of discussions about it before Shannon and I made it our Plan B. Darrin and his wife Jill are simply some of the best people on the planet, and we love them and their five kiddos dearly. Today is Darrin's birthday, and a milestone one at that. :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Darrin! I love ya!

The third man I want to mention is Frank Ellis. There's a situation going on in Cape right now that has really saddened our family. Mr. Ellis is the principal at Central Middle School, and the school board has decided not to renew his contract for next year. I want to get on my soap box for a moment, because I know a lot of people in Cape will read this blog. Our family's personal experience with Mr. Ellis began in 1999, when Sahara began Kindergarten at Alma Schrader Elementary School. He was such a great principal...always there at every school event, keeping a close eye on "his kids", earning the love and respect of the students. Always accessible, always easy to talk to and always willing to listen. He was a strong disciplinarian, and boy, did he ever make an impression on Sahara when she got busted for swiping gummy bears out of a jar on her Kindergarten teacher's desk when no one was in the room. Ahem. (Hey, she thought they were free!!! LOL.) Sahara absolutely adores Mr. Ellis. She basically became the principal's pet, which is downright embarrassing. Sometimes he had to shoo her away and make her go play with her friends during recess...she enjoyed spending her time chatting with him and following him around the school grounds. We were so pleased when Mr. Ellis became principal of the Middle School, and Sahara was thrilled. He has worked hard to make the Middle School something to be proud of - and the two years that Sahara spent there, for 5th and 6th grade, were two of the BEST years of her life so far. She and her friends all love Mr. Ellis - he is such a great guy and always had the ability to get on the students' level. He has become a dear friend of our family, and he and his sweet wife were there with us in that tiny hospital room last July when Sahara began her journey. We love you, Mr. Ellis, and we will always be in your corner.

We may have a lot to deal with these days, but wow, we are blessed.

With love,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

So apparently a lot of us have sore arms from holding up umbrellas for the last few days. Some of my colleagues spent hours bailing water, so I'll consider myself lucky--a dinky little tree branch fell, some of my daffodils look like they were smacked, and my clothes from Sunday are still wet and may be that way forever. But otherwise, nothing!

However, my trees have been appreciative. My apple tree has the tiniest little bud nubs this morning, and my red maple is covered in itty bitty leaves. And all that salty residue on the cars? Long gone.

In just about everything, there are blessings if we know where to look. Although I'm struggling to figure that out for that community in Virginia. Sometimes tragic goes beyond words. There is nothing we can say that's right. I consoled myself watching photos of parents finding their kids, healthy and whole. Perhaps they were estranged, I thought. Perhaps this made them realize that all the other stuff didn't matter. But then I came back to reality. So today, add those families to your prayers for Sahara.

Hello everyone,

Sahara had been SO looking forward to going to the Grizzlies/Nuggets game on Saturday night! Unfortunately, it was just too soon after her illness to try to make any kind of trip. She simply wasn't up to it. Shannon and Dan went and had a wonderful time. He really needed to get away and enjoy something fun, and they really had a blast. Thank you to our generous ticket benefactor!

She and I slept a lot over the cold, rainy weekend. Her medicine dosage has been decreased a bit since the episode earlier in the month, and I'm only doing IV bag changes twice a day instead of the normal three. This is good news, because we don't have to get up as much! I think we're still catching up on lost sleep from three months back. LOL.

Make-A-Wish is coming soon! I'm getting really curious now...I've been told a few things that are going to be happening. I'm going to take before and after photos and post them to the blog, because I think it's going to be an amazing transformation!

Extra special thanks to the amazing Karen W. for saving the day on Saturday, and on your day off, even. Can I post your little prayer to the blog? We kept saying it all day. LOL.

Not much else going on, which is not necessarily a bad thing where this household is concerned. LOL. Have a good week and I'll check in again soon!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Priceless jewels

A super quickie: if you want one of the last remaining Sahara bracelets (orange and white swirl, reading Hope for Hoops) you just need to click the link on the right side of the page that reads Benefits for Sahara.

You'll see Gramma Dooley's block on the left. Get 'em before they're gone!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Throwing fruit

Greetings from the middle of the night... we're all back home now. The Easter bunny was very good to me--how about you? Turns out he knows about sugar free chocolate...and about really cool French bistro cookbooks. I had fun showing my chicken-fingers-only niece and godchild the pictures and swooning over some of the recipes and descriptions, in French. Let's hope she suddenly feels the urge for pommes de terre and poulet aux citron avec legumes. Oui oui!

The Milwaukee lunch is just a month away and there are a number of fun things in store for Sahara fans. It has now unofficially been dubbed the Potty Party, as well as the Sahara Shower. And the latter is on the right track. The money raised by that group will be earmarked for turning Sahara's nearby powder room into an accessible full bath so that it's easy for her to freshen up. We all know how amazing a good shower can feel when we're achy, so let's step up and get this one taken care of.

Want to help? You don't have to come to Milwaukee. Just leave a message with your email address in the comments section and I'll have someone give you the full scoop.

Speaking of full scoops, it's time to let the cats out of the bag:

Hello everyone,

After a harrowing couple of weeks, it looks like we are back on track. Sahara had some pretty serious electrolyte issues as well as an as-yet unidentified viral infection that really put her down for the count for a while. Her treatment causes her sodium level to increase, and potassium level to decrease. We manage this by watching her diet and giving her potassium supplements. Sometimes, though, the levels get weird, and boy, do they throw her system off balance. We had to spend a few days in a luxurious pediatrics suite at St. Francis Medical Center. :) If it wasn't for being sick, it would be the best place to stay in town! A million thanks to our angels there: Karen, Roberta, Michelle, Melissa, Teresa, Lisa, Jane and Andrea, Becky and of course Dr. DeCoursey. We love you all!!! And Sahara says you have the best orange jello in the whole wide world. :)

As I mentioned last week, the tumor has actually shrunk by just a tiny bit...about a millimeter. The monster hasn't grown since she started the treatment, which is nothing short of miraculous. We have our tough times, but Sahara continues to beat the odds. Many children are not so lucky, and we truly thank God every day for our blessings.

I am totally bummed out by last weekend's vicious cold snap, which has wiped out all of the fruit that is grown in our area. The peaches, the strawberries, the grapes at the wineries...all frozen. This is terrible! My heart goes out to the farmers, and I'm selfishly sad that we won't have much at the Farmer's Market this year!

The wonderful folks at Make-a-Wish will be coming in this month to deck out our family room, and Sahara is so excited. It'll be interesting to see what she actually wished for, as I only know bits and pieces. I made myself scarce while she spoke with the volunteer. LOL. The poor lady's head was probably swimming by the time she got done listening to Sahara chatter about her wish!

Unbelievable...there are only 100 cookbooks remaining! If anyone wants one, Shannon will have them until they are gone. We are so honored by the interest that has been shown, and so grateful for the money that has been raised for Sahara's Slam Dunk Cancer Fund. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of the wonderful people I work with at Southeast Missouri State University and the vendors who donated the supplies to produce the books. Our deepest thanks to everyone who was a part of this amazing project, and to everyone who has purchased a book!

P-Mac Music here in Cape Girardeau is planning a cool Sahara promotion - stay tuned for more information! It's the coolest store in town and it's about to get even cooler. :)

It's almost the weekend, so I'll wish everybody a good one. Get out and have some fun with your kids! And if you don't have any kids, borrow some from a friend or relative!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hippity hoppity

Today it's all about the no matter where you are in life or the world, ask and believe. Spring is a time for renewal, new growth, and a fresh perspective on the life we've created for ourselves.

As awful as these last nine months have been for Amy, Shannon and Sahara, they have been filled with miraculous moments and gifts for so many of us--and even them. When she moved to Cape a few years ago, Amy raved about what a wonderful, upbeat community she'd found, and how happy she was to be raising her daughter there. While I'm sure Shannon liked it too, I don't think it really hit him until Sahara's tumor arrived and his entire community and church came together bearing unconditional love, support, and fellowship.

They always were blessed to live there--but now they know in their hearts just how good people can be. So here's to the people of Cape and Jackson and all the surrounding towns: if you've ever wished there was just one more thing you could do for the Aldridge family, know that you are giving them the greatest gift already--your prayers, comfort, and support.

As for those of us who inhabit the rest of the world, wouldn't you all agree that we also are blessed by being part of the story, no matter how large or small? No matter where we are, we can hope, we can cheer, we can pray. We can tell Sahara's story to anyone who will listen. Let's just remember to talk about the good times, too. About this vibrant and funny girl who once popped her head over a fence to meet a new neighbor (just like a happy gopher) and announced "I'm Sahara!" and dispensed giggles like she carried a giant laughter-shaped Pez.

That's the tale we should tell, especially today, when miracles seem far more than possible. Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007


If the Easter bunny is visiting your house this weekend, I hope he brings you all your favorite jellybeans. And if you are dutifully eating your matzohs and wishing you hadn't finished off all that gefilte fish, here's to a Happy Passover, too.

I'm spending Easter with my family in Ohio; a first since I got married in 1996--and even before then, I think it had been a while since my parents had moved down south for a few years. I think it will be nice--especially seeing the kids in all their finery. Earlier this week, a friend invited me to her new home for a Seder with her family and that was wonderful--the food was delicious and the conversation was yummy, too! (Okay, so I didn't eat the gefilte fish. Oy.)

Amy sent me a quick update last night from the docs in Houston. Still good news, but they must be those "the glass is half empty" people. Harumph! Perhaps they've been eating too many black jellybeans.

The official MRI report from Houston today is a bit different, as I expected. They take into account the entire dimension of the tumor, not just individual "sides" as measurement. While it's true that the tumor lost some volume on one of the sides, overall it has shrunk by only about a millimeter. They are still calling it stable, which is also great news and nothing to sneeze at. I thank God for this!

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and if you ignore the bitter cold temperatures, Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The tumor goes to Jenny Craig

It may not be Kirstie Alley, but it's shrinking.

That's the official report from the MRI. The tumor, who I alternately call Wally or Lester, is not liking the antineoplastons much, and has now lost 1/2 a centimeter. It has also changed shape. And this is, of course, good news.

I'll have the full scoop soon enough. For now, let's all go to bed and dream about that tumor just vacating the premises entirely. It's all within the realm of possibility.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cross your fingers and your toes

Just a quickie for Sahara's adoring masses. The Aldridge clan is doing okay, with the exception of Lulu, who injured a toenail over the weekend in her quest to attack the yard. Sahara's still doing the "coming off Decadron" thing, which means she's sleepy and not in her usual sunny Sahara mood.

Tomorrow is the latest round of tests to see just what the tumor has been up to. I'm hoping that it has been cowering in the corner like a wimp, shrinking and crying for its mommy. Like everyone here, I am praying it will just pack its smelly bags and go.

Off to work. I'll keep you posted. You keep Sahara, Amy, and Shannon lifted up.