Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

I have tried to give myself some time to cool down before I write about our Christmas misfortune. It was just unbelievable how it happened and I am still sort of in shock to be quite honest. I was preparing food for our Christmas Eve get together with family for much of the afternoon. Ally fell asleep in the chair watching a movie. This is a little unusual for her, but I still wasn't too alarmed. Actually, at 2 pm I talked to my Grandma Josie in Pennsylvania and told her we had made it. She would be home for Christmas. I had tried so hard to take every precaution to keep my girl healthy and protect her, and we had made it. Or so I thought.

When she woke up from this little nap, I thought she felt a little warm. I check her forehead every few hours. Always. So, I grabbed the thermometer, still not really worrying much but just making sure. 102. Exactly. I started shaking. I remember I kept saying No No No over and over again. I waited 10 minutes. 101.9. Jerad came home from some shopping and he took it. 101.9. We knew in our hearts we had to page the Dr. We knew she would have to go in. We knew she would miss Christmas Eve, but we really thought her counts would be high enough that they would treat her and send her home.

Evan and Carly and I went to spend Christmas Eve with my family. I tried to put on a happy face and just keep going. I was holding back a lot of tears though. We went to a nice church service and then went to my Dad's for appetizers and a couple of family gift exchanges. Jerad and Ally had a McDonald's dinner and sat in the ER. Waiting for her blood results to come back. I knew things were not good when Jerad told me her ANC was only 140...below the magic 200 level that mandates admittance. But we kept hoping. It was Christmas, after all. The ER doc called Dr B at home and asked what he should do. And at that point, whether it was Christmas or not, he had to do what was best for Ally's health. It was too risky to send her home with that low ANC.

Jerad called to tell me the news. I knew before he even said one word. The tone in his voice said so much. Ally was crying. My laid back Ally girl, who never lets much get to her, was crying. This rippled through right to me...I was on my knees back in my parents bedroom, sobbing, but knew I had to pull it together for the sake of my other two kids. After all, it was Christmas. I took them home...with a very long night ahead of me...and started getting everything together. My friend Suzanne came over late that night, as only a true friend could, and stayed with my kids while they slept. I packed up bags of stuff for Jerad and Ally...and got a tree together to take to my Ally's hospital room. Suzanne stayed and helped me get gifts out and did all my dishes from the frantic scene earlier in the day.

For me, that was the worst part. Driving to the hospital at 11pm on Christmas Eve, with it raining on my windshield, with a tree and a few presents in the back of the car. Knowing that all the other children were snug in their beds with sugarplums dancing, yada yada. I was just furious. Angry. Mad. How could this happen to my family and how could our luck for the year get any worse. It can always get worse. And not to be Ms. Negative, but we have come to realize that we do INDEED have bad luck.

So at midnight, I finished putting up the tree in room 417 at the hospital. I kissed half of my family goodbye. Worked out some details, and went back home. And started doing all the Christmasey stuff at home all by myself. The stockings, the gifts....I always feel so bad for people that are alone on Christmas Eve. And now I was one of them. I went to bed alone somewhere in the middle of the night, and woke up at 7 to shower and pack everything in the car...I let the kids open just a few items from the ones he left unopened...and then I packed up almost everything but the kitchen sink into the car. I knew we wouldn't be able to eat much (nothing open) so I am packing food, presents, I even packed my coffee maker. Just trying to make it homey.

Santa also made a visit to Dayton Children's. He went from room to room and brought Ally the gift that she most wanted this year: Mindflex. It is a crazy game that uses your brain waves to move a little ball around an obstacle course. But he delivered it right to her hospital bed. I love Santa.

We pulled several wagonfuls of stuff up and had our Christmas in the lounge on the Hemoc floor under the Christmas tree that they had set up there. For Synergy's Christmas gift this year, we had just decided to donate the funds so that the lounge/kitchen on that floor could be remodeled. Quite ironic that it was now the scene of our Christmas. They reserved it for us for the whole day. We opened about half of our presents....because Santa had left us that note that he WOULD be coming back when Ally came home from the hospital. I never knew Santa could be so understanding. The best part of the day was that lots of people came to visit us there. My group of friends that I call my family of 13 came (Wingers and Boohers). Jerad's sister and her family drove all the way from Junction City (2 hours) just to get a visit in. My sister also came down. And a few of our hospital family just stopped in that day too (even though they weren't there). I even met a family there who now has a survivor and that brought me some hope.

So we didn't have the best start to our day. We didn't much have a Christmas dinner. We were in a bit of chaos all day. And we didn't have any snow (RAIN!), darnit. But we did have a day filled with a lot of love. We have never gotten to see our friends on Christmas, but this year we did. We rarely see the Colombinis on Christmas, but this year we did. And those things were a huge blessing. Ally was feeling well enough to enjoy the celebration that we had...and that was better than the whole week prior.

My sister and I were contemplating as to why everything happened the way it did. All of this, and it was our first year without our Mom. Which in itself, is about the worst feeling possible. So we are wondering if this happened, so that we wouldn't focus on our sadness caused by her not being with us. The craziness of the day did not allow much room for the sadness of life without our mom to creep in.

Ally was released from the hospital on the morning of the 26th. She spent 42 hours in the hospital. Of course, that was the most important 42 hours of the whole year if you are an eight year old girl. (or if you are the parent to that child) We did have Christmas...we set out cookies for Santa on the night of the 26th. He ate them! He came back and filled the stockings again! He left a few more presents for three kids who deserved a little bit extra this year. And all was merry and bright and I even got a few pictures...and maybe someday we will forget this whole thing happened. Oh, wait, probably not.

And we had a wonderful evening up at my Dad's house celebrating Christmas again. We cooked up some lobster (never done that before) and tried to celebrate as best we could. And we got the gift that makes my sister and I so so happy. It snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed. My Mom loved the snow so much and always instilled it in my sister and I. And we kept running to the windows like little kids to look out. And we kept saying...Mom is sending the snow for us. On this day...our Christmas. And it turned out to be a white Christmas afterall. And maybe that is the reason for our Christmas delay.

The bottom line is this: it doesn't matter where you are or what day it is but who you are with. And the weather. The weather also matters. Just ask my sister.

Here are some pictures, not the greatest picture taker in the middle of chaos.

Carly got a Hello Kitty Gumball Machine, which is all she really needed. And some Hello Kitty bedding for her big girl bed. And a Hello Kitty umbrella and a Hello Kitty purse. You get the idea. Evan LOVED these vintage Star Wars toys. I have never seen him so happy. Good old-fashioned, no technology toys. Love it.
Ally got some special new nail stuff...trying it out on Aunt Melissa.

Several new hats for Ally...

Carly (or Ally) could try out her new bike in the hospital corridors...
My LOVELY LOVELY family of 13 (okay 12, Caulin was missing)
Christmas on the 27th...good times.

At Pa's house...

And the glory of snow. The beauty of the snow helped it all....


  1. Eek! Not a great pic of me, per usual. But anyway, loved my nails by Ally and I got quite a few compliments on them...

    I have to HAVE to think that everything went the way it did for a reason. Just when we were beginning to question why our angel allowed that to happen on Christmas Eve, I think we got our answer by our make-up white Christmas yesterday, with everyone feeling better. The line, 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade' --that is true and what we all need to learn to do--and we did.

  2. Terri Barnett ShumakerDecember 29, 2009 at 7:04 AM

    I agree with Melissa instead of letting all this ruin your Christmas you guys made the best of it and it turned out wonderful, not as you had planned no but wonderful.
    Here's wishing that 2010 has more wonderful things in store for you all.

  3. It was so nice to meet you on Christmas Day. For us, visiting the hospital on Christmas brought us around full circle. Two years ago it was hard to imagine that we would ever get used to a new normal and that our very sick little girl would be well again. And she is, very well. Cancer teaches us to take stock and appreciate and never take for granted. We will continue to follow you on your journey, Barnett family. God bless you with health and peace in the new year!

    The Mangual Family
    Juan, Emily, Mary, Natalie, Julia, John, and Kate

  4. We have been waiting to read this. Amanda wanted to see Ally so bad but she was greatful she got to go home..In the end it sounds like your Christmas was wonderful and it snowed.. Maybe you are right, your Mom is looking down on you and your family and this is the way things were supposed to be this year and it did SNOW..I am glad it turned out so well and the pics are great, we love looking at them.
    Amanda does not go in until Monday, the 4th in almost home. She tried to go Thursday to be w/ Ally but Dr. French will not be there so we are waiting, we do get another week off chemo so Happy New Year to us... YES. Hope all goes well.

    Much Love, The O'dells

  5. Janel,
    The smiles on the faces tell the story. We all know that there is usually crazyness around and during the holidays, but sounds like overload. Looking back you probaly wonder, how did we get through all of this. You are blessed to have the family and friends you do. God is watching over all of you. 2010, may the year bring health and happiness.
    Hugs to all of you.
    P.S. Tell Carly Hello Kitty is still one of my favorites, and now that I know it's her's too. . . . . . . . :)

  6. Awesome photo of the family of 13!

  7. Sweet Janel, just catching up after a crazy week. You have been in my thoughts and prayers so much, especially on Christmas Eve and Day. I can't believe it all happened the way it did. I'm so sorry, but also glad that it did bring some special comforts and events too, I mean how many other children did Santa visit twice?! Love to you all and prayers that this year will be merrier and brighter.

  8. Your mom allowed you to be surrounded by friends and loved ones on a day that would have been a major struggle without her. I would never have wished for this to happen, but if it allowed you to all be together and ended the way it did, then there had to be a reason. The lemons you were given ended up making some awfully sweet lemonade . . . topped off with sparkly snow.


  9. There was a reason for the delay in Christmas, probably one we will never know for sure or understand why, but there was a reason. Christmas in the hospital sucks, but it does bring together folks you don't often get to see, I know that for a fact. The year we were in St. E's with John, his best fishing buddy brought his wife and twin boys to see us on Christmas day. It was awesome, that year we celebrated Christmas in January--who knows why?? Santa is wonderful and takes care of the children. Here is hoping that there are many brighter days ahead. Stay strong, you are doing great.