Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Spirit of Giving and Receiving

The spirit of giving.

Ari of She's a Fighter turned 3!
In our home we do not tell our kids that Santa is a physical person but rather that he was a real person and embodies the spirit of giving. We use the story of St. Nicholas to teach our girls that giving is always rewarding and inspires others to do the same.

Sometimes things are given to us. This week we had an amazing and unexpected gift from a group of Mothers of Multiples. It came at a time when we were really struggling emotionally and physically from life just beating us down. Poor Daddy threw out his back and was in and out of the hospital and different doctors offices for meds and tests. He was missing work that he would not get paid to miss because it was a new job with no vacation saved up. I took that precious gift and placed it in our home safe for the end of the pay period when we run up short paying bills. That night I slept soundly knowing our needs would be met.

We also had Gracie's Make a Wish ceremony this week. I cannot think of any gift that would brighten her day more than getting to dream and wish BIG. She had so much fun talking about her favorite
things. Her three wishes were to, 1. Be Princess Sophia for a day (from Sophia the First) She said that meant going to a castle and having a tea party. 2. Seeing Cinderella's castle at Disney World. 3. To swim with Mickey Mouse and the gang on a Disney Cruise. So now we wait for the Make a Wish board to meet and pick which wishes they can grant. Typically they give the parents two options. We
will keep you posted!

Giving to others. This is something I really push in our home. We are constantly raising money for other fighters we know or sending them little cheer up gifts. Even if it is just sending the Chemo Mama some Starbucks funds, we know a little goes a long way! Each holiday season I have the girls individually give something to someone that is outside of our regular gift exchange circle. This year they have been helping me make and find special presents for the other four girls in She's a Fighter.

Celebrating 3 more months off chemo
Through out the last two years of giving to cancer friends we have occasionally been met with some resistance from others. Why are you helping that family? Aren't they wealthy? Now that is sad. Giving is not about NEED it is about LOVE. When we give to these other chemo and cancer families we are not asking for a W2 or passing judgment on what they chose to spend the money on. If they need food or gas and the money helps with those needs that is fine. If they money pays for Breakfast with the Characters to make a chemo princess smile that is wonderful. If it buys a pretty dress that brings a smile to the face of a child that constantly struggles with pain that is fantastic. If we only gave to those who are physically poor we would miss an amazing opportunity to reach out to those who are emotionally bankrupt. If you take anything away from this post I hope it is this, we accept gifts in LOVE and we give gifts in LOVE, no strings attached.

Now I hope that inspires you to give to others as well! This time of year Children's Hospitals are always in need of new and unopened toys for kids that are there on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For the last two years we were inpatient and were given a new gift. It actually made me cry both years because I saw Emma smile wide at the sight of a huge box of toys where she got to pick one. If you are local to us we are taking gifts from us and teddy bears collected from our local Trader Joes to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford when we go see our Neuro Surgeon on Dec. 22nd. We can take anything you gather along with us. If you are not local I encourage you to find your own neighborhood Children's Hospital and drop off a toy or two, I promise that toy will get love!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Healthy Family Quest

Self care. I cannot tell you how many times loved ones have told me to "take care of myself so I can take care of the girls". Easier said than done! It is a slippery slope, the kids were up all night then awake at 4am. You stare at the half eaten toaster waffle and think, "sure, why not just have that for breakfast?". The kids are running circles around you, no time for lunch so you skip it. Baby is teething and refuses to nap so snack comes and goes with nothing of value in your tummy. At 3:00 you feel like you were run over by a truck so you reach for the coffee. Dinner is spent shoveling whatever you can into your mouth so you can get the monsters into bed. Life with three toddlers. I know it well.

Life is hard enough with three kids and then you lump in depression, severe medical issues, body conditions like PCOS and hypo glycemia and you know what you have? An overweight, unhappy Mommy Monster!

For about a year now Daddy and I have noticed that our Gracie is never full. She will eat and eat and eat until she throws up. At her last MRI we found a reason for this behavior, her hypothalamus is greatly enlarged. Combine Mommy Monster with the fact that one of my children will struggle with healthy portions and weight gain from something she cannot control and you need an overhaul. I needed to lead by example in healthy eating, proper portions, and exercise. If she grew up seeing me do it and it was all she remembered maybe she could avoid a life of weight struggles.
We went into Emma's next MRI and Daddy threw his back out, he was literally crawling to the car for me to take him to the ER. They told him he was over weight and had a herniated disk. Enough was enough. So I joined Beachbody.

Why? So many reasons. In your 20s you can "fake it to make it" with your weight and eating habits. Then 30 hits, three kids are born, and the game changes. Life doesn't stop when you have three girls in 20 months, it was hectic. Then the word no one wants to hear, CANCER. My baby had cancer. Suddenly the world spins with doctor appointments, MRI tests, drugs, surgeries, and many tears. Two years later Gracie was diagnosed with brain tumors as well. After this I couldn't handle my emotions on my own and went on antidepressants. The irony in antidepressants? You feel better emotionally but they cause you to gain weight in all the wrong areas leaving you depressed about your body. A little weight gain never bothered me before, I could just run it off. But now in my 30s, depressed, chasing three toddlers through a hospital I was unhappy about my body. It had betrayed me. First it couldn't handle the stress of cancer and now it gets fat. Body hate. I needed an outlet so I started running, pretending I was running from the cancer, the
needles, the medical debt. I loved it but I hit a wall at the 5k mark. My body would just collapse. I knew I needed to cross train and make food work for me, not against me if I wanted to get to my goal of a marathon. So I started Shakeology and joined a 21 Day Fix. After only one week I ran a 10 mile race and after two weeks I had lost 3.5" and was back in my skinny jeans. But the best part is I had energy, my crazy coffee cravings lessened, and I was happy. For the first time in two years since Emma's diagnosis I was happy.

If you want to follow along in my family's journey to being healthy you can follow me on Instagram (anyaheidenberg) or my webpage, I am only going to post on our blog and Facebook page ever so often so we do not annoy any of you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


The day started and ended with tears.

I stood in the kitchen, back to the entry clutching my coffee that was catching tear after tear. My husband was lying in bed unable to move from a herniated disk and I was waiting for the doctor offices to open at Stanford. The MRI on Friday seemed light years away. The last few days had been a blur of doctor visits.

Low point.

My friends call me SuperMom because I do it all. Alone. No family near by to lend a helping hand or do a grocery run. Just me and a husband who normally works long hours but is now out of commission and a dear friend who helps way more than she should. Amber comes when she can but 99% of the time I do these appts alone with at least two of our three children. The thing is, I do not feel like SuperMom. I feel like an empty shell of the human I used to be. At times I gain some of who I am back. In down times of meds or when Daddy has a holiday off. As I ran the 10 mile Serena SF run across the Golden Gate Bridge two weeks ago I saw a glimpse of her. The woman I want to be. The woman that aggravates an old ballet injury in her hip on the second mile climbing up what can only be described as a "baby mountain" but says, "I will finish what I started." Then she crosses the finish line.

The day started in tears with me wondering who I am and if I can handle all of this mess. After a few hours my calls were returned. Clear scans...stable...made the right choice. "I am sorry, what? Can you repeat that?" Then the Oncologist said something that will ring in my head forever, "You are stable. You made the right choice to pull her off of Vinblastine." Tears.

The day ended in tears but this time happy tears. I was right. I had been right all along. She was stable now. I could breathe.

This is not the end. Emma will still be monitored every three months for the foreseeable future. There may be more meds and there most definitely will be more surgeries (next one in three months on her blind eye) but for now we are free. Free to enjoy the holidays with no meds. Free to train for my marathon and go to Disneyland and be a normal family. Freedom means so much.

This week was rough. It taught me some valuable lessons. First, that I am capable of pushing beyond my limit. Second, that some people will never come to help no matter how bad things get. I need to
let that go if I want any type of relationship with them. Third, being a single mom SUCKS. Hats off to Amber who does it alone (but not for much longer! Congrats on the engagement!)

What is next for us? Well Daddy is off work for a week with no pay. Awesome, right? I am trying to host shows and sell things to make up the difference so I can still pay bills AND get Christmas presents. If anyone wants to order Matilda Jane for the blanket promo please do through us so my girls can get some goodies for Christmas! I will be starting a new home business this week as well to try to make some income from home. I know what you are thinking, "Does she have the time for that?" No, no I do not but do I have a choice? No. I am going to just do something for income I am already doing anyway so I will be a Beachbody Coach. If anyone is interested please contact me for info, if I can do it with all my craziness you can too! Last, and the most fun, we will be throwing Emma another No More Chemo party but this time she has requested Anna and Elsa themed. We will only have a couple friends over and all handmade since we are low on funds but I am Pinteresting away with Emma to come up with something fun!

Before I sign off a HUGE thank you for all your prayers and thoughtful messages of concern during this time. It means so much. I know you do not see this side of it but it usually makes me tear up and smile that someone cares so much. We love all of you and are so thankful you are on this journey with us!