Monday, November 16, 2015

Giving Back

     The months of September, October and this first half of November were very busy for our family!  We took part in several childhood cancer awareness events, celebrated both of my son's birthdays (they both were born in October!) and my husband's birthday (early Novemeber), had two weekend trips out of town, and so much more.  Beyond the extra fun, there was also still the minutia of daily life with 5 children!  During all of this, Hazel has just been doing remarkably well!  Since her last set of scans, where her doctor finally felt comfortable to say she is NED, she has been enjoying the life of a very normal and enthusiastic 4 year old.  She absolutely LOVES school, dance class, craft time, helping me cook in the kitchen and taking part in her responsibilities in our family.  

     Another thing that has kept me busy is a project that our family has been working on, and I am thrilled to share it with all of you! Something that has remained constant for our family since Hazel's diagnosis, has been the desire to give back to the community who rallied around us for all of those months and to the many organizations who lovingly and effectively bring the much needed funds and awareness to Childhood Cancer.

     So we have launched a new website called "Hope With Hazel"! We hope to bring much needed awareness and support for the children who have fought/are currently fighting cancer, and to the childhood cancer community through fundraising events, awareness campaigns and by providing others with the tools and resources to do the same.  We aim to come along side other local and national non-profit organizations to aide them in their efforts toward the same goal. 

     When you visit our new website, you will see that our very first fundraiser has begun! This season we are raising money for The Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation.  To do this, we are selling these Childhood Cancer Candy Cane Ornaments.  For every ornament sold, we will also give one to a child to is inpatient at Children's Hospital Los Angeles at Christmas time. Currently our goal is 120 ornaments, and we have 90 left in stock (as of 11/14/15). We will be distributing these on a first come, first serve basis, so don't delay!  If we get a larger response and exceed our goal, our hope is to make more, and we will donate an ornament, for every ornament purchased, to a Pediatric Oncology Nurse!

     For more information, visit, click on the "EVENTS" page and find out how you can make a donation!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

     We have so many opportunities to share with you in how you can help bring awareness for Childhood Cancer this month!  First, please feel free to use any of the following photos to post on all of your social media sites.  We need to turn the world gold!

     In addition to changing your social media sites to show your support, there are many other things you can do to help the cause.  Spread the word about the cause and share facts about childhood cancer on your social media sites; make a donation to a childhood cancer (I have a list in the tab above) charity or children's hospital; search for any petitions to sign relating to childhood cancer; write to Congressional representatives urging them to join the Childhood Cancer Caucus and sponsor any legislation for the cause, or write to your state and local representatives about proclaiming September "Childhood Cancer Awareness Month" and to "Go Gold"; get your own children involved by hosting a fundraiser such as a bake sale, coin drive, lemonade stand or garage sale; partner with local school to hold "Go Gold" Spirit Days in conjunction with a fundraiser; and so much more!

 Nautica Malibu Triathlon

     The Nautica Malibu Triathlon, benefiting Children's Hospital Los Angles will happen the weekend of September 19 & 20.  You can participate in one of two ways: 1)Register for the event (There will also be a Nautica Kids Run and Tot Trot, so kids are welcome to!) at Nautica Malibu Triathlon and 2) You can donate to our dear friends the Andrade Family, who have formed the very first corporate team representing, and consisting of, the very families this triathlon aims to support called Sophia's Buddies. You have 18 days left to donate!

Blood Drives

Hope for Hazel Blood Drive
To celebrate Hazel being 1 year off treatment, and to kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month our family is hosting a blood drive at CBS Studios in Studio City, CA.  Come see a working TV/movie studio and celebrate, all while saving lives at the same time!

Host Your Own Blood Drive

Did you know that one blood donation can save up to 3 children?!  Hazel had over 70 different blood transfusions, each one she relied on to literally keep her alive.  So call your local Children's Hospital and organize a blood drive in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

Shope Gold For A Cure
Search #shopgoldforacure on Instagram and find a plethora or Instagram, Etsy and other online shops who are donating most, if not all, of their proceeds to childhood cancer, and get some gold swag while you are at it!


Pablove Foundation- Check out this AWESOME LIST that The Pablove Foundation created to guide you in how you can help during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and what challenges they offer

Maxlove Project- The MaxLove Project is a nonprofit organization helping SuperKids thrive against the odds with integrative medicine and 100% LOVE") is hosting their annual #HonestLovesMax event.

For each use of the hashtag #HonestLovesMax in the month of September The Honest Company ( will donate $1 (goal $30,000) to MaxLove Project for innovative quality of life care projects, including the development of an empowering book for SuperKids.

Twitter – Use #HonestLovesMax hashtag, RTs count.

Sample Tweet:

"It's Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and @Honest is giving to @maxloveproject! Every tweet with #HonestLovesMax = $1 so RETWEET!"

Facebook and Instagram -- use the app located at as of Thurs, 9/3

#Just Keep Dancing- Ellen DeGeneres from The Ellen DeGeneres Show has requested that we follow her in creating dancing videos to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. She was inspired by Braylon Beam who dances to help him with his battle with brain cancer. Ellen is asking that we post our videos with the hashtag ‪#‎JustKeepDancing‬ and ask others to join in and make this the new Ice Bucket Challenge and donate to childhood cancer research.

Empire Go Gold & World Go Gold Campains- #EmpireGoGold #WolrdGoGold Recently there has been a movement across the nation for landmarks and well known buildings to "light up" gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Unfortunately, the Empire State Building has refused time and time again, even after lighting up for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The US Open and in a bid for the Democratic National Convention.  This campaign's goal is to not only have the Empire State Building turn gold, but also the whole world! Head on over to the Facebook page to see how you can help turn the world gold!

Monday, August 31, 2015


      Our family has had two years of very unusual summers. Summer of 2013 was filled with heartache, treatments, and many separations for our family. Summer of 2014 our little Hazelnut was just wrapping up treatment, and we also had a brand new baby.  Although filled with much more joy than the previous year, we were still overwhelmed by having to adjust to another new phase of life.  We also were still struggling to navigate those first few months after treatment. Months filled with joy, sadness, fear, anxiety and so much more. 

     So as we approached Summer of 2015, I definitely wanted to make up for lost time!  Therefore, I packed our summer full of activities and experiences that not only Hazel, but the whole family missed out on the past two years (which clearly explains my absence from the blog).  Instead of telling you all about it, I will let the pictures speak for themselves; but before I do, let me just update you on how Hazel has been doing.


Her hair has grown out to a normal length, and we have even been braiding it!

She has gained her weight back, and I see her toddler belly again!

Her leg that was once extremely weak, is the same strength as her other leg!

She dances, sings and plays like a healthy little girl!

It appears as though cancer never touched our beautiful daughter…

     That being said, cancer is a stubborn beast, and it still touches our family each and every day.  We see it in Hazel's, and our whole family's level of PTSD.  We see it in the many children we know and follow around the world.  We see it on the scar that stretches across our daughter's belly.  We saw it this summer when Hazel had to have two suspicious moles removed, with one coming back with "abnormal cells" (cells that could later in life turn into cancer, so we went back to remove more and receive clear margins).  We saw it when I had to have an ultrasound of my right breast due to an abnormal mass (praise God it turned out to be nothing).  We see it at each doctor visit, scan, blood draw and check up.  We see this beast each and every single day.  So continue to pray for us as we live a life that will never be free of cancer, but also to be reminded that we have an AWESOME GOD who carried us through our journey and works all things together for His glory.

     Now onto the pictures!

     The following pictures were taken at my brother's wedding, where all of my children got to participate!  Hazel was one of the flower girls!

     Hazel's little sister Zoey celebrated her first birthday!  On a side note: If you do not remember, Zoey has had some issues at the base of her spine and has undergone numerous tests since October 2014.  I am please to report, that all tests continue to come back clear of issues and we will just continue to monitor her with yearly scans with a Neurosurgeon (I know, I know….more scans! Ugh! But at least she is healthy!)

     Last, but certainly not least, Hazel reached a milestone that, for many months, we feared she would not reach: She began Preschool last Tuesday!!

Sign has been blurred for safety

     As if this day wasn't exciting enough, Hazel lost her very first tooth the same day!!

     Thank you all for your patience with my missing posts this summer, and for your continues support.  Be on the look out for a post in the next few days for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, our family has some great things planned!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Results Are In...

     Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for keeping our little Hazelnut and our family in your thoughts and prayers this weekend.  We just got home from our appointment, and the results are in:

     For those of you who may not be aware, Hazel has not been officially cancer free this past year.  Fifteen months ago, the doctors first declared her NED (No Evidence of Disease).  They saw a spot on her kidney light up on the MIBG scan (the one specifically done for Neuroblastoma), but deemed it normal kidney uptake.  At each subsequent scan, they would still see this spot, so they began to suspect this was not normal, but actually residual disease.  So with the help of a new machine, she was rescanned and it was, in fact, determined to be residual disease.  So over this last year, we have continued to watch this spot very closely, and have prayed for it to disappear so we could claim Hazel cancer free.  Her scans three months ago showed that the spot actually got smaller, but it was still lighting up, ever so slightly on the MIBG portion of the scan.  Today, the spot remained the same size, but there was ZERO UPTAKE ON THE MIBG!!!!  

     So clinically, she cannot be declared NED, but in my heart I truly believe GOD HAS HEALED HER!  

Psalms 18:6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.

     Of course, we will continue to be nervous and frightened that this beast might return, and will probably be for the rest of our daughter's life.  But I am reminded, that as I wait, I get to do so while resting in God's arms, and that even if the worst was to happen, we have a hope beyond this world.

Psalms 33:20-22 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

     Now that Hazel had reached her 1-Year-Post Treatment mark, and we are entering year 2, she will continue on the same schedule of scans every three months, for another full year. In year 3, she will then move to scans every four months.  Then in year 4, she will again move to scans every six months.  When she finally reaches year 5, and if she is still cancer-free, she can be declared in remission and then will only have to have scans once a year until her doctors deem it no longer necessary.  She still has a long road ahead, and we will always ask for and appreciate your prayers!  However, in the meantime, we will celebrate each day as a gift from God!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

1 Year Post Treatment Scans

     I had a completely different post planned for today where I would update you on how our little Hazelnut has been doing, but I will save that for tomorrow because instead I would like to take a moment to ask for your thoughts and prayers once again.  As many of you may have seen on Hazel's Facebook page, our very sweet little friend Bailey, who we met through CHLA and has been fighting Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, received the most heartbreaking news yesterday that her cancer is continuing to spread throughout her body despite the aggressive treatments she has been undergoing and was sent home on hospice care to live her remaining days with her family.  My heart is literally in pieces and I BEG for your prayers and support for the Haney family.  First, pray for a MIRACLE!!  However, if God chooses to bring her home to a place of ZERO suffering, please pray that Bailey's journey from this life to the next be one that is pain-free and peaceful; that her mother, father and 3.5 year old brother will be given a peace that surpasses all understanding and that they can hold onto one another as they cling to His promises during this time.

     This news is especially difficult for me to process for a thousand different reasons, but probably the most pressing and burdensome issue is that this news comes on the eve of Hazel's 1-year post treatment scans.  We are heading down to the hospital today for the radioactive iodine injection, she will be scanned tomorrow morning, and then we meet with her oncologist Monday morning for results.  

     We have seen so many of our friends with the same disease relapse, and many take their last breaths here on earth, so my heart is heavy and fearful as we face these next few days.  I am thankful for God's healing of my daughter, and now more than ever ask Him for His continued healing.  

     Please also pray for the condition of the hearts and souls of all parents of children fighting this terrible and, many times, insidious disease.  Those still in treatment much watch as their child battles for their life, not only against Cancer but against the side effects of many outdated and toxic treatments. Those with children like Hazel, who have fought and won, live everyday with an overwhelming sense of relief and thankfulness, that is also coupled with survivorship guilt, anger that others are suffering and extreme fear that your child may suffer again. And of course those who have or are currently about to face the loss of their child. Their hearts are ripped in ways that most people cannot even fathom. 

Childhood Cancer is not rare.

It does not discriminate.

It's is not fair.

It is ruthless.

It needs our awareness and support.

It needs a cure!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2 Years Later...

     Today, April 21st, marks exactly two years since we were told the absolute devastating news that our little Hazelnut had Stage 3 High Risk Neuroblastoma, and only a few days prior, on April 19th 2013, we had just discovered the tumor growing inside of her little body.  It is difficult to put into words the feelings I have on these days, but I looked back at my post from the 1 year mark, and I really liked what it said, so I would like to echo it again here.  It went as follows (with a few minor changes):

    On April 19th, two years ago, Hazel and I spent the morning in a pediatrician's office, desperate for answers.  Hazel had been complaining of pain, had not been eating or drinking for several days, had spiked a relentless fever, had vomited and was falling asleep every few minutes.  God kept moving in me to trust my "Mommy Instincts" and not allow this matter to rest.  I remember, with tear-filled eyes, expressing to the doctor that I thought this may be cancer.  To this day, I don't know why that thought even entered my mind, given our complete lack of experience in the world of cancer; but in my heart of hearts, that was my deepest fear for my little girl who had just turned two years old.
A few weeks before diagnosis
     As Hazel lied there so lethargically, the Dr. observed terrible dehydration, an increased heart rate, and a tender and enlarged abdomen.  She believed it may have been something with the appendix and/or liver and wanted us to go over to the ER right away.  I tried calling Aaron about 15 times to tell him what was going on, but it wasn't until we were admitted that he got my messages and rushed from work to meet us.  I was absolutely terrified.  Once in the ER in Simi Valley, Hazel received IV fluids, and they did blood work and an Ultrasound of her abdomen.  
Laying on the gurney in the ER
She was so tired...

     When the radiologist and physician's assistant discussed the results, they informed us that there was a solid mass, the size of a lime (we found out later that it was in fact much, much bigger than a lime, and more the size of a melon) growing inside her abdomen, but could not tell us anything else about it.  Aaron and I were extremely overwhelmed and begged God for the tumor to be benign.  I remember my body went into shock and everything became such a blur.  Then they called Children's Hospital, reserved our space and prepared us for transport.  We waited on that gurney for about four agonizing hours.  At this point, Hazel's fever was finally down and was much more hydrated, so the ambulance ride was actually great! She was constantly singing songs, waving to Daddy (who was following behind us in the car), and talking to the EMT's, who she referred to as Doctors :)  Leave it to a two-year-old precious little girl to take away the mental torment.  
     Once in the ER at Children's Hospital, it was another waiting game.  We arrived sometime around 7pm, which is when we met several nurses and doctors.  They told us they were going to review the scans to determine if they agree with the results or if they should run their own Ultrasound as well.  More blood was drawn, and more IV fluids were given.  Our family all traveled down to the hospital to be by our side, cry with and support us.  Hours later, the Doctors came in to inform us that they agreed with the results:  There is a mass inside her abdomen and there are two things they are most concerned about; a Wilm's tumor, or a Neuroblastoma.  They said we would be admitted upstairs to the oncology unit for more tests, specifically a CT scan. This was almost 1:00 in the morning.  It took several scans, tests, and a biopsy for it to be confirmed that Hazel was diagnosed with Stage 3, High-Risk Neuroblastoma.   
     At the time, having this all happen over the course of a single day seemed tremendously unfair.  However, in hindsight and with several years of experience under my belt, I realize we were unbelievably blessed by our Father to have it happen in this way.  Most families struggle for weeks or months to find a diagnosis, and by the time the Neuroblastoma is discovered, it has already spread throughout the body and is diagnosed at Stage 4.  I wholeheartedly believe that because God lead me to find answers, we were able to find her cancer soon enough that it did not spread and we could receive a Stage 3 diagnosis.  Had we waited even just a week more, it could have been a very different story.  I now know the kind of aggressive beast that Neuroblastoma is, so I am tremendously thankful we caught it when we did.  
This one verse kept coming up in those first few days, so I wrote it on the white board in Hazel's hospital room, and we were all clinging to it as we awaited the test results that would determine if her cancer had spread to her bone and bone marrow.  
     In the weeks following, we found out more than we would have ever wanted to about the world of childhood cancer and specifically about the monster we have to come to know as Neuroblastoma.  Hazel braved each test, treatment and hospital stay with a courage beyond belief.  We feared for our daughter's life and for the pain and suffering she would have to endure; but she remained a child, adapting to her surroundings, and finding to joy in every day.  We have relied on the support of our family and friends, more than we would have ever imagined would be possible and without them, these past years would have made it far too difficult for our little family to survive each day.  I don't think I can ever express fully the depth of our gratitude.  We have lost many friends along this journey, but we have gained many more new friends (other cancer families, the amazing nurses and doctors at CHLA and many supporters) who are now a part of our extended family, and I could never imagine our life without them.

Here are are few more pictures for those first few days in the hospital:

     Now here we are, two years later, and quite frankly, this date has snuck up on me.  Hazel has been feeling tremendously well and has, mostly, been behaving much like a normal 4 year old, without even a hint of her difficult history.  We have been out of the hospital for 10 months now and with that, her cancer has not been repeatedly tearing our family apart, so it was easy for me to not be in the same mind space that I was in last year when remembering this date.  In fact, without this constant threat, much of the two years of her treatment has blended together and even become foggy in my mind.  We have been able to rest in the peace that our Father has given us and have reconnected together as a "normal" family.  Our time together does not revolve around treatment, side effects, medications, germ eradication, but instead has been revolving around new life in our youngest daughter, play dates, family outings, homework, home cooked meals and all of the day to day things many take for granted.

     Most of me is extremely thankful for being in this place, but another part of me contains these other feelings.  Feelings of guilt for forgetting things, for not being there for the other families fighting, for even slightly losing the amazing perspective on life that the journey gives you when you are neck-high in it; feelings of sadness that I am losing some memories to time, and that we are no longer around the family we created with the nurses, doctors, medical staff and other families at CHLA; and especially feelings of fear that I may grow complacent, that I will unintentionally and gradually remove myself from this world because it is the easier thing to do and, most of all fear that this beast will come back to harm my daughter and my family once again!  Those feelings of fear are the ones that haunt us the most, and of course rear their ugly heads the most every three months at scan time.  So we still pray and we pray and we pray that these same days that we had two years ago, will never again be repeated!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Scan Results

     For those of you who may not have been aware, our little Hazelnut's scans got rescheduled to this past Thursday.  These particular scans were extremely nerve-wracking for our family because we were paying attention to a spot that her doctor referred to "residual disease".  If there was any growth at all, then Hazel would have to begin some sort of treatment once again.  So our hopes and prayers were that this spot would either completely disappear or remain stable.

     Her doctor called me yesterday evening with the results.  He said that the scan revealed that the spot was still there, but it actually looked a bit fainter this time!!!!!!!!!!!!  He said this may have just been the way the scan picked it up and maybe next time it may look back to what it was before, but the point is that is has remained completely stable!!  This means that this residual disease is more than likely not active, but we will always have to keep an extremely close eye on it.

     Although we are overjoyed with this news, her doctor was very clear in saying that he cannot declare her NED or cancer-free, so unfortunately we can no longer claim that for our daughter.  But for our purposes, I will celebrate the fact that our little Hazelnut has been 11 months with stable and not active residual disease and I will take that as a victory!  Our God has held her in His hands through her whole journey, and today is no different.  So I will continue to rest in the fact that HE HAS GOT THIS!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is Surgery Necessary?

  Oh my, I cannot believe I forgot to update you all after our meeting with the surgeon!  I am so sorry!  Our meeting with Dr. Bliss (Hazel's surgeon) went well, and he concluded that we should NOT proceed with surgery of any kind at this moment.  He did not, however, make this decision lightly.  With Neuroblastoma, any spot on a scan is something that needs to be taken very seriously, so of course our inclination is to get in there to see what it is and possibly take it out.  But before doing that, the risks must be weighed.  So, Dr. Bliss met with a large group of surgeons and showed them her scans.  As a team they determined surgery to be far too risky for several reasons.  

     First, she would almost definitely lose her kidney if surgery was performed, and unless we are absolutely certain that this spot is cancerous and life-threatening (thus making losing the kidney imperative), then it is not worth it at this point in time.  

     Second, they all agreed with Hazel's oncologist and medical team that since this spot has remained unchanged for at least 9 months, it becomes less likely that this is active disease.  

     Lastly, Dr. Bliss informed us that this spot is completely involved with Hazel's Inferior Vena Cava.  This is a very large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower half of the body back up to the heart (see picture below).  If this vein is damaged, it is very likely that a person will not survive due to too much blood loss, and that is not something Dr. Bliss, nor we, want for Hazel.

     So, for now, we continue to wait.  Her next scan is scheduled for March 25th, which we will pray for it not only to be unchanged, but for it to be clear!  My hopes are high because each day Hazel seems to be getting stronger, healthier and happier!

     On an unrelated note, our family has made the decision to close Hazel's PO Box.  We thank you all for the wonderful cards, letters and gifts sent to her; we will cherish them always.  If you would like to continue to show your support, please consider sending cards to other children still in treatment, or donate to one of the many childhood cancer organizations I have listed on the blog!