3 Years…

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It feels like it’s been at least three years since I’ve had the time to sit and write, and while it hasn’t been quite that long since a post, it has been that long since the last time Izzy received a spinal tap to receive chemo to her spinal fluid.

On October 28, it will be 3 years since Izzy finished treatment all together. I don’t know how to explain the feeling that comes over me when I think of how different our lives are now. Izzy will be 7 in November and is a healthy happy 1st grader. She loves learning, dance class, being with her family and friends, and will do anything to make those around her smile. I’m thankful every day that I’m getting the opportunity to watch her grow into the wonderful person she is becoming. I know there’s a real chance that we could have been robbed of the time we have now. We know too many families that have lost the right to watch their own child grow up.

With September being childhood cancer awareness month and the month we lost our dear friend, Melissa, I’ve been looking back more at photos of our journey. Through it all, Izzy had a smile on her face about 90% of the time, and she continues to live her life with the same attitude. Always positive. Always Brave.

 

 

 

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Cavity? We’ve got this!

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Today Izzy got to go to one of my least favorite places to be the patient at! The dentist! Fortunately she is a million times braver than I am. Friday she went in for a routine cleaning and check up and found out she had her first cavity. I was so sad at first, but I quickly realized something that changed my perspective completely. We were doing “normal” kid things, and facing something that almost all kids face. There was a part of me that felt a little angry, because chemo could be to blame for her teeth not being as strong as possible. I didn’t floss her teeth regularly, because I was concerned about platelet counts and infections. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s just a cavity! Now, three days later it’s been filled and it’s done! Izzy, in her usual brave fashion, thought it was no big deal. Have you ever seen someone giggle while getting a filling? I just did! When it was all done she got some tokens, picked a couple prizes, and said “That was fun. Are my teeth all pretty now?”

I really have a lot to learn from this little girl. izzydentist

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Awards Night

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This year Izzy had the privilege of being one of the honored heroes for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society along with her friends Madyson and Kyanna who are also survivors of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It was a great opportunity for us to share our story and help to inspire teams for the Light the Night walk that took place on November 9th, 2013, to raise money for research. Last week LLS held an awards night at Ducky’s in Tampa to celebrate the teams who raised the most. Izzy, Madyson, and Kyanna each received an award and medal for being honored heroes. It was wonderful seeing people who were so inspired and worked so hard to reach and exceed their goals, and we always enjoy getting to visit with the friends we’ve made along this journey. Thank you LLS for another wonderful and memorable evening, and thank you to everyone who raised funds to find a cure this year! Image

Somewhere over the Rainbow!

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Izzy beat Leukemia! I don’t know how, but here we are. On October 28th, 2013 Izzy received her very last dose of chemo! It was an exciting and somewhat surreal moment. She knew it meant no more pills, but I knew it meant that my hero had just spent 2 and a half years fighting my worst nightmare, and she won. I can’t even count the number of needle sticks, chemo infusions, spinal taps, pills swallowed, and various other tests and tortures she had to endure, but she overcame it all. As if this wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, two weeks later she turned 4! This would be here first birthday since her 1st birthday without cancer, so we knew we had to celebrate big! She picked a rainbow theme for her party (which was absolutely perfect), and we celebrated her turning 4 and completing treatment for Leukemia at the park surrounded by love and happiness. 

Our next milestone came on January 8th, 2014. It was time to get de-ported! We packed up a bag and headed into All Children’s Hospital for what I hope was the last time I ever have to watch them take my child back for surgery. After waiting nervously for what seemed like forever, but was realistically about 30 minutes, the surgeon came out to let me know everything had gone smoothly and as soon as Izzy woke up from anesthesia I would be able to see her.

Of course, for all of you who know Izzy, I’m sure you can guess that our toughest battle once we got home was convincing her to relax! With the help of Mario on the Wii U, which she is REALLY good at now, she did get some rest and is doing wonderful! 

Her fight may be over, but our journey certainly isn’t! Cancer is still affecting and taking precious children every day. We have met so many amazing little fighters through this, and I am more determined than ever to spread the awareness and let people know how desperately needed the funds for research are. We have had many opportunities in the past to be a face for awareness and next month Izzy will get yet another opportunity! She was asked to be one of this year’s models in Fashion Funds the Cure put on by the Pediatric Cancer Foundation! On February 22nd, she will take the stage, and she couldn’t be more excited! She loves being the center of attention, so I knew this would be a perfect fit for her! In preparation for the show a couple of weeks ago, we were invited to join some of the other models for a day of pampering. We were picked up in a Mercedes by a volunteer from the Junior League of Tampa and brought to Neiman Marcus at International Plaza, where we had our nails and make-up done, and Izzy also had her hair curled and got to pick out her outfit for the big show! It was such a fun morning, and Izzy loved getting to be in the spotlight and enjoy being the girly girl that she is! 

Here is the media coverage from the day of pampering:

  • Bay News 9

http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/content/news/articles/bn9/2014/1/19/tampa_cancer_girls_p.html

  • Channel 10

http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/article/353351/8/Kids-battling-cancer-pampered-for-a-day

  • Fox 13 (The video makes it sound like Izzy is Jaylin, but it’s still cute!)

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/24494963/2014/01/19/day-of-pampering-for-cancer-patients

 

For anyone who would like to purchase tickets or learn more about Fashion Funds the Cure or the Pediatric Cancer Foundation:

http://fastercure.org/special-events/fashion-funds-the-cure/

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Binky, Hello Bangs!

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We’ve had another action packed weekend in the Dean house! 

 Friday we were invited to a Light the Night Walk kick off party. We had the opportunity to talk to people who were leading teams at this year’s walk and share our stories them. For all of you who haven’t already heard the exciting news, Izzy along with her good friends, Madyson and Kyanna, were chosen to be this years Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Honored Heroes! I’m so excited that we have this opportunity to help spread awareness and raise money for cancer research. If you’d like to join or donate to our team click here: http://pages.lightthenight.org/sun/Pinellas13/SistersByLeuekemia

You can also visit the Honored Heroes page to read about the girls:

http://www.lightthenight.org/sun/localchapter/Heroes

 

Yesterday also wound up being a big day. Izzy tried out an acro class at her dance studio and really seemed to like it. I think it’s just what she needs. If she’s going to insist on flipping and tumbling all over the house, she should at least know how to do it correctly so she doesn’t get hurt! 

 After class we stopped into to visit some of Derreck’s family at their salon, and Izzy in her sassy little voice says “Ugh, my hair is in my face. I need a haircut.” After a bit of hesitation on my end, I agreed to letting her have her very first haircut ever!! A few minutes and snips later she had some bangs. She looked so grown up sitting in the chair. As soon as Jamie finished, Izzy said “Ok I’m going to let it grow and then you can cut it again.” This little girl cracks me up!! Afterwards we went to go visit the grandparents and great grandparents, so they greats could me Alexandra. Derreck’s mom had been telling them about how protective Izzy is of Alexandra, so of course they had to test it out for themselves. They tried asking if Alex could stay with them and offered to trade to the dog for the baby. Izzy not only refused, but got quite angry when great grandpa kept asking and with her arms crossed, in a stern voice said “That’s MY baby. She has to go to MY house.”  I love how much she loves her sister. I hope she feels the same way when she has to share her toys! 😉

Some more exciting news for yesterday: It was Madyson’s last chemo pill!!! WOO HOO!! I am so happy for her and her whole family! GO MADY!!!

Today is the day where Izzy will finally say good bye to something that has been a sore subject for me for quite a while. Izzy will be getting rid of her binkies for good. We had weaned her off of them before treatment, but when she was diagnosed and asked for her binky I couldn’t say know. Since then I have been struggling with that decision. I didn’t want to take it away because it gave her comfort with everything she was going through, but I knew if she had it too long it could cause problems with her teeth. We had been telling her for quite some time that she  had to get rid of it before she started school, and now the time is here. We got her some balloons to send her binkies away to the “Binky Fairy” and told her the binky fairy would bring her some big girl presents in place of them. She’s been asking for a pet fish for a while, so we decided it would the perfect thing for a big girl, because she’ll have the responsibility of feeding it. I can’t wait to see her reaction to her surprise, and I really hope the transition goes smoothly! Hopefully between her new fish and school starting on Tuesday, she’ll be too distracted to care!

Taking a Pause

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106_6785Once again I have gone far too long without updating, and if I don’t do it now, it will take a post the size of a novel to catch up! My last post was in February, so let’s start with March!

March was another fun filled and BUSY month for Miss Izzy! She was invited to USF’s Dance Marathon again this year, which is an event put on by the students of the University of South Florida to raise money for All Children’s Hospital. Once again we got the opportunity to share Izzy’s story to help raise awareness and Izzy had a blast being the center of attention. She danced her little booty off!

She had a fantastic Easter complete with 3 egg hunts and lots of fun, and also got to enjoy a Tampa Bay Lightning game thanks to The Children’s Cancer Center and the Yerrid Foundation. We also celebrated my godson Nathan’s 1st birthday, and somehow fit in another trip to Disney.

Just in case you thought that was all the excitement we could fit into one month, it’s not! Izzy had the honor of being asked, along with 2 of her close friends in this fight, to be in the Calendar for a Cause for the Children’s Cancer Center. Izzy, Madyson, and Kyanna, were all photographed together and seperately at the beach for the calendar, and now I get to stare at her beautiful face for the entire month of August 2013! (It may be August for a really long time in our house. 😉 )

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Another exciting highlight for the month was the Cattle Baron’s Ball. Dr Kelly, Izzy’s oncologist asked her to be her guest of honor, while she spoke at this event to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Dr Kelly shared Izzy’s story, we had a wonderful time, and the event raised over 1 million dollars in one night!!!

Next it was time to go on Izzy’s Dream trip. Kim from The Children’s Dream Fund met us at Chic-fil-A for her dream presentation with a princess cake that said “Dreams come true” and a bag full of goodies to help her enjoy her trip. They sent the three of us to Give Kids the World for the most amazing week we could possibly dream up. To read more about Izzy’s dream trip click here:

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The pace did not slow down even a bit a April. We kicked the month off by riding on the SS Nautilus float in the Chasco Parade with 1Voice and the Krewe of the Nautilus. Izzy had a blast throwing beads with many members of our cancer family.

The day after we got home my godmother, Aunt Priscilla (or Cinderella, as Izzy likes to call her) flew in from New York just in time to celebrate my baby shower the next day. Adam threw us a wonderful shower and my amazing friends came out to have some baby fun and celebrate the upcoming arrival of our newest addition. While my aunt was down she also treated Izzy to her first spa pedicure and in case we weren’t Disney’d out,.. yes, we took another trip to Disney. My aunt hadn’t been there in decades, and we still had tickets to use up, so off we went!

We kept the fun rolling going into May. The Children’s Cancer Center was able to invite 5 girls to a very special Princess Party at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Izzy was fortunate enough to be picked and had a fantastic time! Queen for a day came out to get the girls “princessed up”. Each girl received a dress, shoes, tiaras, and lots of other goodies. They had their hair and makeup done, Belle read them a story, and they all enjoyed a lunch fit for a princess. Izzy felt like a little movie star with all the cameras following her around as she got her royal treatment. Each girl was also given tickets for them and their family to see the Disney on Ice show a couple of days later. We got Izzy all dressed up again and headed back to the Forum for the show. She had a blast. We can’t thank the Children’s Cancer Center enough for her amazing princess day and the great time we had at Disney on Ice.

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The day of the princess party didn’t stop there though. After Izzy was done getting pampered, it was time to start getting ready for the Calendar for a Cause release party later that evening. Not only did she have the honor of being in the calendar, but she also got to perform a dance number on stage with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders and some of the other kids from the CCC. In her usual Izzy style she seemed completely unfocused in practices the weeks before, but did great when the time came to perform for the crowd. My little girl certainly loves to dance, especially if she has an audience! We had a great evening and got to take home a copy of the calendar and a huge framed version of the photo they used in the calendar, which is now hanging proudly in our living room!106_7712

We ended May with the Hollywood Hullabaloo, another great event put on by the Children’s Cancer Center. We all met at the center to get our hair and make up done and then we were taken by limo over to the Wyndham Westshore to dance the night away with the other families from the CCC. We had such a great time hopping in the photo booths and cha cha sliding.

tapBefore I knew it, it was June!! I had been looking forward to June for the past nine months! It meant it was almost time to meet our second daughter. I was very ready for her to come, but I kept telling her not until after my favorite time of the year! Dance recital time!! Izzy was of course very excited for recital too. Sell’s Broadway Dance Studio did another amazing job this year. I got to watch my little ballerina dance in the Mary Poppins ballet and then tap away to the Good Ship Lollipop. I’m so lucky that she has Chris, Shanna, and all the incredibly talented dancers at Sell’s to guide her, since she loves dancing so much.ballet2

As my due date approached, I had lots and lots of false labor (which I had none of with Izzy) so I was getting quite impatient. I was also having some issues with my blood pressure, so I was at the doctors or hospital just about every other day for a non stress test to make sure little Alexandra was doing alright in there. We had decided that if she didn’t come on her own by June 21st, we would go ahead with a scheduled c-section. Sure enough she decided it was too comfy to come out, and on June 21st at 4:04pm Alexandra Gina Dean finally made her arrival weighing 6 lbs 13.5 oz (just like Izzy) and measuring 18 inches long. Izzy was very excited to meet her little sister, and couldn’t wait to hold her. She’s been a great big sister so far and extremely helpful.

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July started off with Izzy having a spinal tap with intra-thecal chemo, but as always she did wonderful and was excited to introduce everyone at All Children’s to her new sister. That night my mom came down from Alabama to come meet Alex and spend the week with us, and the next day we met up with some of our cancer family at the beach to celebrate the 4th of July. Unfortunately, our day was cut short. Izzy had been sitting in the same chair for over 20 minutes, while her friends ran around, so I knew something was up. When I asked if she was ok, she said she was really cold, Since the rest of us were dripping with sweat, I knew she had to be running a fever. Fortunately, Andrea had her super mom kit with her so we were able to check her temp, and put some Emla cream on her port. Everyone helped us get packed up and we headed to All Children’s. They almost admitted her because of how lethargic she was, but she perked up after some pizza, so it was a round of antibiotics and home to our own beds! Woo hoo!

The rest of July brought some much needed down time which consisted of lots of sleep deprived nights and beach days with some of our favorite families!

August did start out with some devastating news for us. A member of our cancer family who has already fought cancer 4 times, found out that she is going to have to fight for a 5th time. This is a brave young lady who no matter what she has been given is always smiling and full of hope. She is truly an inspiration, and I’d really appreciate if you could all send Melissa your prayers, thoughts, love, and hope. While she in no way deserves this, I know if anyone can beat this, it’s her. We love you Melissa and your whole family.

Snowmen and Survivors!

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I’m sorry my updates on Izzy are so few and far between these days. Fortunately in our case no news really is good news. She’s been doing wonderful on maintenance and our lives have really calmed down as far as cancer is concerned. She’s still doing her oral chemo everyday, with clinic visits for Vincristine monthly, and spinal taps every three months, but it’s become quite routine at this point. 

She did, unfortunately, catch the flu and rhinovirus a few days before Christmas which dropped her ANC to 350. (The lowest it’s been since we’ve started maintenance.) Because of this, her oral chemo was held until her counts reached at least 500. It only took our little super girl a week to get back up there though, and she was able to continue as normal. If her counts drop below 500 again, she’ll have to wait until they reach 750 and then start at half the dose she was on, but we’ll cross that bridge IF we get there.

We started the new year off with a bang and took Izzy to Disney for her very first trip to The Magic Kingdom. Of course, she absolutely loved it! A month later, she is still talking about it and can’t wait to go back! Her favorites were the Dumbo ride and the Under the Sea ride, and she LOVED seeing the characters. Shortly after coming home, she came up to me and said “Mommy, Mickey is really sad. He misses me. Let’s go to Disney and see him.” 

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At the end of January, we received some more exciting news! We got accepted into Camp Sunshine in Maine! Izzy, her godfather, and I (since daddy can’t get off of work.) are headed to Maine for 5 days to enjoy the snow with other families in the oncology world! I’m so excited to see Izzy’s reaction to real snow! I am sure she will be a snowman building machine. The best part is some of the families that we’ve become close friends with are going at the same time as us. I’m sure it will be a memorable experience, and I promise to return with lots of pictures!

One last piece of exciting news for anyone who hasn’t already heard: Izzy is going to be a bug sister! Her little sis is scheduled to arrive June 28th. With Izzy finishing chemo only 4 months later, 2013 is certainly shaping up to be an amazing year.

Thank you all for your continued love and support!