Courage for Kennedy – Journal


June 28, 2006

Loved Disneyland! Thank you so much Make A Wish!

Category: Family,Gratitude – Melenie 9:41 pm

While we are totally exhausted and need a vacation from our vacation, we had the most amazing time in Southern California! Many, many thanks to Make A Wish, Sheraton-Anaheim, Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Alaska Airlines, Oregon Limo Service, Super Shuttle, Medieval Times and everyone else who made this possible for Kennedy. Her wish to meet the Disney Princesses definitely came true!

Things started out bumpy and some weird stuff happened but we just kept our smiles and laughed. Our limo was late because of crazy directions, our flight was delayed, I thought I broke my finger the 2nd day at Disney park, Keith lost his wallet (but it was recovered with everything in it), there was confusion about Kennedy’s dinner, there was a communication error between the staff at Knotts, the beach was a big disappointment, and we almost didn’t have a ride from the airport home…and through it all, we did what the Duval’s always do…we kept our spirits high, had a good laugh and enjoyed all the wonderful things that were going right!

Disneyland absolutely exceeded our expectations! It was fabulous! I felt just like a little kid and even gushed to Mickey Mouse that I had waited 33 years to finally hug him and have my picture taken! Everyone was wonderful and even when there was a mix up at Ariel’s Grotto, things were cleared up and we were taken care of. The park was immaculately clean and the staff was exceptional. We had the most amazing time. We saw the parade twice and the fireworks 4 times and each time it was as awesome as the first night. Kennedy loved the time she had with Sleeping Beauty (a private meet and greet in City Hall) and was in awe of all the characters. The kids got tons of autographs and I took over 800 pictures! It’s true!!! Kennedy’s favorite ride was the Haunted Mansion and the Dumbo ride. Austin’s was definitely Splash Mountain! He even talked Grandma in to riding it and later that evening I rode with him. I was scared to death! I just knew that I was going to fly out of the log! We never had to wait in line more than 5 minutes and were treated fabulously. The stores are amazing and expensive but we knew what souvenirs we wanted ahead of time so we stayed very close to our budget. All the characters were great and I was thrilled to have my picture taken with the evil queen from Snow White at the Villan’s Lair. I could gush and gush and would still not be able to do Disney any justice so as soon as I figure out the pictures (this week for sure) I will let them speak for themselves.

Knott’s Berry Farm was fun but after spending 2 days at Disney it was hard to really enjoy it. The kids loved Camp Snoopy and the best part was we were able to have a private meet and greet with Snoopy himself! Kennedy was even part of a musical show and got to dance and be spun on “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” We have lots of those pics too. Now, if all that wasn’t enough…we also had dinner at Medieval Times! WOW! That was just incredible and I highly recommend to everyone if you are in a city that has Medieval Times…you absolutely HAVE to go! It was 2 hours of the best food (and the kids loved that you ate with your hands!) and the entertainment was just awesome. We will definitely do that again regardless of price as it was worth every penny.

We spent Saturday at the beach. Let me just say that we are spoiled here in Oregon! I will never again take the Oregon coast for granted and let me just personally thank all the tree huggers out there who fight to keep our beaches so beautiful. We asked the hotel about where we could find a “quaint” coastal town to spend the day and they sent us to Laguna beach…if that is quaint, please do not take me to a popular hot spot! It was huge and crowded! We drove up the coast in hopes of finding a smaller, quieter town and ended up paying $10 to spend an hour or so at Huntington beach. Apparently most of the coast in California is privately owned or owned by the Parks Dept. who charge $10 for a day use pass! The beach was cloudy, cool and more crowded than Pacific City in 70 degree weather and perfect surfing. It was crowded and not even close to as clean as the Oregon beach. Now, before I offend anyone in California, please understand that this was my first experience on a coast other than Oregon and Washington. I’m sure many Californian’s LOVE their beach and would be quick to defend it…I would love to give them the opportunity to visit the Oregon coast and our many small coastal communities and see how peaceful the beach can be on a cool, misty afternoon with absolutely not another soul to see for miles. Our communities here are friendly, inexpensive, quiet and feel as if very little has changed in the last 50 years. I will now understand the treasure we have here.

The weather was incredible in California but I’m sure many of you Oregonians were enjoying the sun and warmth here too. We had the best time and extended our stay by 2 days. We spent Sunday in the Disney park taking in everything and revisiting the rides we loved. Grammie and Papa left around 5 pm to rest in their hotel but we just wanted to drink it all up and we didn’t leave until about 11:30pm. None of us wanted the time there to end. But, we were so glad to be headed home on Sunday. Kennedy was exhausted and slept from the moment the plane taxied down the runway until we arrived at our gate in Portland. I have to say that we truly live here in God’s country. Oregon is so beautiful and green and was such a welcome sight, especially from above. We had a whirlwind trip but are so glad to be in our own beds and back to a routine.

Ok, I would love to tell you the stories…about the Bug’s Life show, Grizzly River Run, almost breaking my finger, meeting Sleeping Beauty, etc…but I am exhausted.

Who knew last year that life could be so good now?

Faith-Hope-Courage,
Mel

June 14, 2006

No news is good news and other ramblings from a very busy family!

Category: Family,Gratitude,Treatment – Melenie 10:40 pm

I know, I know…I said I would be better and while I have been very busy, it is really no excuse to keep you all at the edge of your seat chewing your fingernails! I will give you a rundown of the lowdown with some details but because of the time, it won’t be as detailed as the majority of my posts 🙂

First let me say, that it is ALL GOOD news this round! Where should I start? I know…the top 10 things we have done this month!

1) Kennedy has been named an honored child for the annual Candlelighter’s Ride for a Child event! Less than 10 children are honored a year and Kennedy is excited to be one of them. Kennedy has 3 riders who raise awareness and funds for Candlelighters by sharing her story. We felt very privledged to meet with them on Sunday afternoon and all of us are excited to follow them as they train and fundraise through the summer. They will be riding in September with Cycle Oregon but will be busy over the next few months preparing for the event. We will celebrate with them at a banquet in October. If you would like more information or would be interested in donating to Kennedy’s team to support Candlelighters, please visit their website at www.4kidswithcancer.org.

2) Austin has taken up a new sport…rodeo! It’s true! He has actually rode bareback and bulls (okay, steer in his case)! His first rodeo was the 1st weekend in June and while he didn’t make it the full 6 seconds, he was VERY proud and ready to do it again. He had a few strained muscles in his neck but we bought a neck roll which will hopefully prevent that! I will be posting pictures soon! He also finished up baseball and was one of only two kids to hit a homerun this year. One of his teammate’s grandfather gave Austin a $5 gift certificate at Dairy Queen! What a surprise!

3) Kennedy officially started maintenance chemotherapy on her 1 year anniversary, May 9th! A process that normally takes 7-9 months took us exactly 12 but we know that we have done everything possible to kick cancer’s butt! May 9th was certainly a day to rejoice and praise God for all that He has given us!

4) Kennedy has new insurance! You read that right! After 6 months of fighting with PPC (by the way, if you have them for an insurance provider…run the other way as fast as you can!) we contacted our state and US reps, the BBB of North Carolina, the governor of Oregon, the Oregon Dept. of Consumer Affairs and many others, with their help we were able to get Kennedy insurance through the Oregon Medical Insurance Pool and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We have a $500/deduct and an out of pocket of $1100/year. Fantastic! We were also advised that due to our extinuating circumstances we had the right to ask for retroactive enrollment back to December 2005. They are expected to deny the first time but we will continue to appeal. My only prayer is that Kennedy’s providers (not her oncology office!) can hold off sending our bills (now around 500K) to collection as we walk out this process. Some have been very demanding and we have used Kennedy’s fund to pay them with the hopes that we will get the money back when this is worked out. It is true that we have to pay separate premiums of $207/month in addition to what we pay for the rest of us to have coverage through PPC but we are able to use the money in her fund to cover this expense and keep her insured. We are thrilled to get her back in to PT and OT rehab as she needs it very much.

5) We MOVED! If you haven’t heard, we bought a house and property with my parents! We will be adding a second house this summer so everyone will have the space and privacy needed. We just love it and plan to get a horse soon for the kids with the hopes that they will continue their love of rodeo by adding more events! I have always wanted a horse so this fulfills many life long dreams for me to…hmmm…maybe mom should take up some event, huh? The property is absolutely beautiful and our house is just perfect for us. God’s timing is perfect! The price was much lower than what we had been looking at and the payments came in at just where we needed for everyone’s budget and amazingly…4 adults were able to agree!

6) Kennedy’s Make A Wish trip is almost here! She has been cleared for travel and things have come together. We leave next week for the trip of a lifetime. We will be spoiled completely by MAW and have absolutely nothing to pay for except our two extra nights and even then the hotel gave us an absurdly good deal…especially because it is peak season! Check back soon for pictures! We also had an incredible MAW Bon Voyage party. Many thanks to Joy and Wendy (her wish granters) for the pink balloons, pizza, strawberry pink cake and goodies wrapped in (what else?) pink paper! Thanks to Amy and Chuck (Kennedy’s Chemo pal) for coming and remember that Austin is SUPER too!

7) Kennedy is doing AWESOME in maintenance! Her counts are staying steady and exactly where they should be. Even her liver is functioning at or near the normal range (with meds of course) and is showing signs of healing! That is an answer to prayer! She is doing so well, that we are waiting 4 weeks before we have to return to the clinic! I’m not sure what we will do with ourselves!

8) Things are becoming “normal” again. No longer is cancer in our face 24/7, always staring at us…mocking us…we are not constantly thinking about it. We are filling our time up with the things we love and want to do and doing less of what we have to do. Who knew that even in treatment things could feel “normal” and the old routine could come back? It feels so good to be just a family again and not a “cancer” family all the time.

9) Kennedy is growing hair!!!! She has eyelashes and eyebrows coming in! Her head is fuzzy and soft instead of shiny and smooth! Dr. McGann told us that in a month we will hardly believe she was bald! She can’t wait!! It is very blond again (much to her delight) and we are just at the edge of our seats to see if it will be curly (her dad, brother, aunties, both papas, nana and many other relatives have curly or wavy hair) or straight like it was before (and like grammie and mama’s). She has big plans for her new hair and will be anxious to show it off!

10) Finally, we were able to attend the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade!!!! The weather was perfect (a big surprise for those who have attended in the past) and even though Kennedy was covered in sunscreen…mom forgot and was slightly burnt.

It has been a fantastic month! Prayers? Definitely for all of the children still fighting cancer, those who have earned their angel wings and those still dealing with the effects of treatment. Prayer for Kennedy as she is making a new transition and working things out emotionally…prayer for us for wisdom and strength over the next few weeks while we find our new place. Prayer for our upcoming trip and prayer for upcoming fundraising.

You are all so incredibly wonderful and we know that we could never do any of this without His amazing strength and never ending grace and your continuous, loving support…it really does take a village.

Happiness is a form of courage. ~Holbrook Jackson

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ~Frederick Keonig

Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion. ~Author Unknown

Oh, many congratulations to Lyndsee and Jeffrey on their upcoming wedding! You guys are so wonderful and we have been blessed by having you care for our family.

Hope-Faith-Courage,
Mel