Monday, December 15, 2014


So today is the one year anniversary of my seizure and brain tumor diagnosis.  
Wow... what a year it has been for our family.

I don't want to get too emotional but the one year marker is kind of a big deal.  To think that one year ago today, our lives were flipped upside down.  Things still haven't really settled down for us.  I feel different every day, some days I feel great, other days I have no energy, no patience and feel like junk.  Jamie is still nervous a lot.  Just yesterday as Owen was in his room trying to fall asleep he ended up knocking over a nutcracker in his room.  I was sorting laundry in our room and Jamie heard a thud and jumped off the couch sprinting down the hall thinking something had happened to me.  It was only Owen's nutcracker but just to give you and idea of how we are still on edge all the time.  

I think the hardest part of the last year for me has been dealing with the fact that I don't have 100% of my energy.  I always feel like I could be doing more with Owen and Jacob, that I could be more supportive to Jamie.  I feel like this past year has been so much about me that Jamie has been on an island all by himself although he tells me that is not the case.  It's just very hard to feel like you aren't able to give your family 100%.  

Every year for Christmas I make Owen a photo book with all the photos from the past year.  He opens it on Christmas Eve and that is what we look through before he goes to bed that night.  I always wait until the last second and end up making the entire book in the few days before the cut off for Christmas delivery.  This year I told Jamie I just wanted to do it after New Year's because I was too tired.  Jamie said that was fine but gently pushed me to just sit down and get them done for Christmas.  He entertained the boys so I could spend almost two full days completing the books.  This year and last year it ended up being TWO books, both 100 pages long!  I am so grateful for Jamie encouraging me to do it.  Looking at all the photos from the last year made me realize that although I wasn't at 100% I was still a good mom and an okay wife.  Looking through the photos, you wouldn't even know everything that I was going through.  It kind of knocked down my negative thoughts of not being a good enough mom or wife and I could see in the photos that everyone was happy and having fun.  Kind of made it seem like we just had a normal year.  

Then I sat down to gather photos to include in this blog and it was a very quick reminder of just how much crap we went through.  It was hard looking back at some of the photos, I reread some of my first blog posts and it almost made me sick. 

Thinking of how scared Jamie and my family must have been as I was taken back for brain surgery.  I have never asked Jamie what that was like for him, I don't even think I would want to hear how scary that was for him. 

Prepped for surgery. 

 To think we went through last Christmas waiting for the results of my biopsy, not knowing if this was stage 4 brain cancer and I had months to live or if it was totally benign.  
Not being able to drive for 3 months because of my seizure.  Not being able to lift Jacob for 12 weeks because of my brain surgery.  I reread my blog about how terrified I was to walk into the Cancer Center for the first time. 

Going through 6 weeks of daily radiation

Looking back at how swollen my face was from all the steriods!  I gained over 30lbs!

Don't miss this moon face.  :) 

Oh the hair loss!!! 

Good Lord, what an awful photo! 

Last day of radiation!!!

Ringing the bell after my last session.

Leaving with my creepy mask.

Celebration lunch at The Harbor House after my final radiation in March.

Then I started with my chemo.  Some months were good, some were much harder.  I will be starting my 9th round any day now.  Just waiting to recover from my terrible cold.  It's just crazy to look back on everything that has happened over the last year.  On top of that, I have done my best to stay on top of everything for Owen.  We still went ahead with the week long hospital stay to see if he would be a candidate for brain surgery for HIS seizures.  He started kindergarten this year which meant getting his IEP in place at the new school, getting to know an entire new team of therapists,trying to stay on top of what was working for him at school and what wasn't.  Realizing that kindergarten was going to be much harder for him than we anticipated and working with his team to figure out ways to adapt things for him.  Fighting our insurance to cover his new taller leg braces.  Ugh, the time I spent on the phone with our insurance company this year... yuck! 

But even though there was so much going on..... there was still so many great things about this last year.  I look back through my photos and see so many great times and I am reminded of all the great people in my life.  I would have never made it through this year without all the love and support that I received.

Lindsey R.  
The amazing woman who stalked me down on Facebook so that she could help me have a good wig experience.  I have no doubt in my mind that Lindsey came into my life for a reason and she has been such a great support for me over the last year. 
Not only has Lindsey always been there for me as a shoulder to cry on (through Facebook messenger) but more than anything she has inspired me to be a better person.  I have never met anyone like her.  She lives her life to help others.  She sees someone in need and she ACTS on it.  She is the most passionate person I know, she had an idea of setting up some sort of non-profit to help provide wigs to people in need.  Within a day she had a company name, logo, fundraiser set up and she was off and running.  So many people have great ideas but just don't act on them.  Not Lindsey, every single day she puts her heart into helping others.  I know everyone that knows her would say the same thing.  She's amazing.
See how happy I am with my fancy wig!

Owen's Therapists

We were SO beyond blessed to work with the most amazing women for 2 full years while Owen was in 4K.  Emily, Pat and Cathy will forever have a very special place in my heart.  I adored them LONG before my health issues but what they did for us after my diagnosis was above and beyond.  When Owen started school again after my hospital stay and MINE, it was NOT easy.  He was scared to leave me, he still wasn't himself physically or emotionally.  As a mother it breaks your heart to see your child struggle.  Emily, Pat and Cathy did everything they could to help not only Owen but me as well.  Emily showed up early so that she could help Owen ease into school in a room with just the two of them.  They would send me text updates letting me know he was okay.  They offered me endless words of encouragement.  Pat visited Owen while he was in the hospital, they created sticker charts for him for a long  day of procedures to help him not be so scared.  Emily actually went with him for a long scary procedure where they put half of Owen's brain to sleep to see if he was able to speak using only the right side of his brain.  To see Emily walk back into the room with him, she was dressed in head to toe surgical clothing and with a team of about 15 doctors.  To know that Owen had a familiar face in the room with him is something we could never thank Emily enough for.  

I had the honor of photographing Emily's wedding this past summer.  I was having the best time, getting to know Pat and Cathy's husbands, meeting Emily's AMAZING family... it was a great day.  Then during the reception it came time for the Jake (the groom to dance with his mom) I was on the dance floor snapping photos of them when all of a sudden I became overcome with emotion.  I was suddenly wondering if I would ever have the chance to dance with Owen and Jacob at their weddings.  I was literally sobbing behind my camera praying no one noticed.  When the dance was over I walked over behind the DJ and pretended to be digging through my camera bag but really I was just wiping my tears and trying to compose myself.  I finally pulled myself together and got back out on the dance floor to keep taking photos.  Well not even 5 minutes later the DJ played Timber, Emily ran up to me, grabbed my camera out of my hands, set it on the table and pulled me onto the dance floor and me, Emily, Pat and Cathy all danced and sang the song at the top of our lungs.  That 3 minutes of dancing and singing was one of the highlights of my year.  Being able to sing and dance with the women that had been there for me when I needed it most.

My Family
A huge thanks to my family and Jamie's family.  I know this has been a long year for them too.  I know they wish I would call and actually talk more.  I have tended to shut people out over the last year and both families have been very patient and understanding.  They would patiently wait for blog updates to see what I was feeling or thinking.  They were always a phone call away if we wanted to talk or if we needed help with anything at all.  They helped keep the year as easy for us as possible.  I know a lot them wish they could do more but their love and support has meant the world to us over the past year.  

Friends and Family
A huge thank you to all of you that have sent cards, texts, emails etc with words of encouragement.  I can't tell you how much it has meant to have such an army making this journey with me.  I have never felt alone.  It seemed like anytime I would have a bad day I would get a text or an email at just the right moment.  Just last week I was starting to get kind of depressed about my photography.  I wasn't able to fit in all the people who had contacted me for photos this fall.  Some of the families I have worked with for numerous years and I just didn't have the energy and had to say no.  I was so sad, I LOVE what I do.  I LOVE photographing families and giving them photos they will cherish for years.  I was really contemplating if I should continue with it next year.  As much as I love it, do I have the energy to continue it?  Then the next day I received this email from a client that I photographed a full year ago. 
Hi Alison,

I've wanted to send this message so many times over the last year and am finally getting to it just as you approach the one-year mark of an event that changed your life forever.

Just weeks before, our family had the great opportunity of meeting you and working with you as you captured the best pictures of us. We were thrilled to touch base with you (through a mutual friend - Heather T.) and grab one of your "mini sessions" - what a steal!! It was so cold (the day after Thanksgiving 2013), but you were so cute, so funny, and our kids responded to you so wonderfully. One year later, my daughter still remembers you saying, "Oh Yeah" over and over. Both kids thought you sounded just like Vector from Despicable Me. And they're right . . . you did!! So funny.

We became FB friends so that you could share our photos and I've been so thankful for that. Alison, I talk about you more than I talk about my actual friends. As I watched your story unfold on FB, I told all my coworkers. I told the band that I sing in at church. I told our prayer chain at church. I told all of my family. Anyone that commented on our beautiful Christmas card last year (and people still talk about it!) - I told them your story too.

Now I could have stopped watching your story online, but I didn't - I couldn't. I see the photos of my family in my home and at the office every single day! I always love looking at them. And a split second after I admire my family, I think of you, Alison. How awesome is that!?! I think of you every single day - for a whole year - every single day. I don't think of my sister (who is my best friend and amazing) that often!

Every day I get to remember you and the gift you left with our family. In 20 minutes, outside in the freezing cold, you captured the very best thing in my life - my husband and my kids - my family!! You've done this for so many families and I have to imagine, the same thing happens to each of them. They admire their family for just a moment and then imagine, for a second, the woman behind the lens that froze time for them.

I have been praying for you and your family for all of this past year (almost year). I've loved watching your children grow over FB and hearing about their accomplishments. I've felt privileged to read your story. I love the way you lift up your husband Jamie, yet maintain privacy for him. And I am not the only silent prayer warrior you have out there, I know that!! Because of what you do, many people see their photos and then see you!

Anyway, that's it. That's what I've wanted to say for so long. I won't stop seeing you everyday as I glance at my family settled by that beautiful red train car. And I think that's pretty cool!!

All my love and continued prayers as you prepare your heart and home for Christmas.

It was like a sign that I needed to get out of my funk. 

This is the kind of encouragement I have received over the last year from family, friends, strangers... I mean how fortunate can I be?

And my biggest thank you goes to.... JAMIE

Oh what in the world would I do without Jamie?  He has been my rock each and every day.  From the moment he caught me on December, 15th 2013 as I was falling to the floor with a grand mal seizure to last night when I was crying about my hair.... he has been there for me.  This man works non-stop to keep up with work, cooks 90% of our meals, does 90% of the grocery shopping, will drop off and pick up the boys at school if I am sick or need to rest.  When I am exhausted he will give the boys baths and put them to bed.  He worries about me non-stop.  Yells at me if I don't answer my phone because he gets so nervous when I am home alone. He lets me cry when I need to, he knows when I need space and when I need a hug.  He does it all and never complains, never says he's tired or that HE needs a break.  Over the last year, I have had girls nights, massages, pedicures, days of rest.  Jamie very rarely gets a break and you would never know.  He is such an amazing man and I am so proud that Owen and Jacob get to see the example he is setting for them each and every day.  I have no doubt that they will both grow up to be compassionate and selfless men.  They will be helpful husbands who know how to cook, do laundry, love their wife and would do anything for them because that is exactly what Jamie is teaching them.  

Last night Jamie and I were sitting on the couch and trying to remember the night of my seizure and my hospital stay.  I have very little memory of any of it.  Jamie filled me in on some of the details.  He told me how when he laid me on the wood floor in our bedroom while I was seizing so he could grab his phone and call 911 he thought I was dying.  He had to leave me in our room to quickly open the door and turn on the outside light for the paramedics.  He glanced at me before he left the room and didn't think I was breathing.  When the paramedics arrived I started to come to but I couldn't talk and was looking at Jamie like I had no idea who he was.  Jamie was terrified that I had a stroke and major brain damage.  As they took me away in the ambulance he had no idea if I was going to speak, if I would know who he was.... SO terrible.  Then we talked about the hospital stay and my surgery and how crazy it all was.  How we had to spend Christmas last year trying to stay positive as we waited for the biopsy results.  Then we were just kind of quiet for a few minutes and I started laughing.  Jamie asked why I was laughing and I said "wow, what a year... and let's not forget that I was robbed at gunpoint in May".  That is NOT a laughing matter at all but REALLY.... what in the hell?!  With all the shit that we had going on in 2014.... did I really need that too?  I mean, if I was writing a book people would think I was making that up!   

And my final thank you goes to everyone at the Cancer Center.  From Maggie in Small Stones who is so sweet, to Dr. Connelly who is kicking butt with her chemo regime, the entire radiation team including Dr. Siker, everyone who draws my blood each week, all the people that have done my MRIs.  Literally every single person I have dealt with over there has been positive and amazing.  I never wanted to step foot in that Cancer Center but I can tell you that it's actually a really nice place to be.   

So I have officially known about a twinkie sized tumor in my head for 365 days.  2014 wasn't the best year of my life so I am ready to (as the boys say) "give it the boot".  

Bring on 2015.  
Bring on my last four rounds of chemo.  
Bring on more stable MRIs.
Bring back my energy.
Bring on fast hair growth.
Bring on a busy year of photography.
Bring on a year of fun with the three amazing guys in my life. 

If you made it through this FOREVER long post, thanks!

Thanks again for all the love and support!  



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