Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Service Project: Art Activity Kits for a Children's Hospital

Service always involves teamwork, and literally dozens of people contributed to this project. This post is dedicated to all of them.

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By throwing a three-hour henna party I needed to provide some kind of entertainment for my guests. Playing "Pin the Wig on the Cancer Patient" and "Chemo Side Effect Charades" seemed inappropriate, and watching the film adaptation of Wit (I love you Emma Thompson!) would have generated too many tears for a celebration.

Thus the idea of a service project was born. After some researching and brainstorming, a plan emerged to donate art activity kits to the UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento.

Below is a slightly modified version of the letter I included when the kits were donated.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Before I explain what can be found in each art activity bag, I would like to explain how supplies were acquired, mostly to give credit to everyone who contributed.
I requested donations from over a dozen local businesses near me. Any donation—no matter how small—would be appreciated. Most informed me to contact corporate headquarters; a few, however, took my letter and pursued the matter themselves.
The first to respond was my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. A few months ago they sponsored a fundraiser for the UCD Children’s Hospital and they were happy to help out again. They donated a large gift bag of supplies.
Another to respond was Raley’s/Bel Air. They provided a gift card, which turned into a grocery bag’s worth of supplies.
All of the rest of the supplies come from the employees and managers of Save Mart Supermarkets. When I spoke to the manager in charge of community service at my local Save Mart, he was inspired by the cause to donate to the children’s hospital. He reached out to his employees and asked if they would be willing to contribute. They did! When I went to pick up supplies he grabbed a shopping cart and said, “Let’s go shopping!” Four filled grocery bags later, I was speechless. A few days later he called me again and said he had more supplies. He contacted a few other managers in the area (including his district manager) and they were also eager to contribute. Wow and wow! This time an entire shopping cart was filled with countless bags! The donations from Save Mart did not come from corporate headquarters, but rather from the generous employees and managers who all wanted to help out.
My friends and relatives assembled the kits during a little shindig I hosted. A few of these guests also contributed art supplies.
Each bag contains a combination of the following:
  o   Coloring book, activity book, or sketchpad
  o   Set of coloring utensils: crayons, markers, pencils, and/or watercolors
  o   One or two: highlighter, pen, pencil, and/or glitter glue stick
A few of the bags also contain:
  o   foam shapes, mini art activity (e.g. painting a ceramic train or plastic “stained glass," stickers, mini sketch pads, and/or book of Sudoku puzzles, crosswords, or word searches
The larger grocery bags contain construction paper, printer paper, leftover supplies, and items that seemed best supervised or distributed by an adult (e.g. beads, glue sticks, scissors, window markers).
I hope the supplies help out and bring a little bit of sunshine to the kids. =)
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The children's hospital was immensely grateful for the donation! The art therapist mentioned that they go through supplies very quickly. My mom, sister, and I were offered a tour of one of the units. The kids were super sweet! Several of them were in the playroom engaged in art activities. One girl showed us her cupcake wrapper flower and a boy had colorful tissue paper "stained glass" hanging from his IV pole. 

For all those who donated and helped assemble art kits, we can assure you the kids will benefit from your kindness. =)

UPDATE: Staples also donated a gift card, which became gel pens and coloring pencils.

We assembled approx. fifty mini-bags and had
four large grocery bags of other art supplies.

With Hannah, the UCD Child Life Art Therapist.


Thank you to Walmart and Raley's/Bel Air for their donations!

A HUGE THANKS to the employees and managers of Save Mart Supermarkets!

Thank you to my henna guests for organizing the art activity kits, and to my sister for hosting the party at her house.

Extra thanks to my mom for driving me around to pick up donations and grub for the party.

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If you haven't already, check out my "Donate to Others" page at the top of this blog to continue the tradition of giving.

My Fifth Chemo Costume: A Tarantino Tribute

Prior to leaving to my fifth chemo infusion, in near tears and while embracing my sister Christine I aksed her, "Wanna skip out and get massages instead?"

I hit a psychological block this time around. The weeks after my fourth chemo treatment were rough. Nausea lasted longer than usual. Days passed with a lot more sleeping, napping, and aching. Which is expected. Fatigue is another major side effect of chemo. The added aches are a side effect from a drug I inject myself with every two weeks to keep my white blood cell count up. Not only did I have to increase my anti-nausea meds, I also had to go one step stronger for my pain meds. A double dose of extra strength acetaminophen no longer met my needs.

On Tuesday, in preparation for Thursday's chemo, I had my routine blood tests to make sure my blood counts are decent. Two small vials. Should be no big deal. Except my stomach was churning. Maybe it was because I had a very busy morning (oncologist appointment, delivering art activity kits, costume hunting), or because I had a leftover fast food sandwich for lunch, or because for the past week I have been dreading my fifth chemo. After I left the clinic I, uh, well...highlight at your own risk: fast food became upsy-daisy food. I upchucked while I was driving home. Luckily I caught most of the regurgitated contents in a bath towel I keep in my car. And I hadn't even had chemo yet!!!

I am allowed a space of apprehension. I am allowed to cry. I am allowed to say, "I don't want to do this anymore." I could quit if I wanted to, call my oncologist and cancel all future appointments. That is an option.

However, like one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite movies, no matter how bad a situation may get, I will not quit.

Here's to you, Kiddo!

Wiggle your big toe.

Hard part's over. Now let's get these other chemos cycling.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Henna Party: A Chemo Hair Loss Celebration

You are cordially invited to a

Chemo Hair Loss Celebration and Henna Party!

Date: Saturday, July 12, 2014

Henna body art is temporary (1–3 weeks) and has long-standing tradition in various cultures around the world. One recent trend is helping cancer patients cope with hair loss.

As you know, chemotherapy has left Amanda balder than an eagle
Nope. Still not bald bald yet. My stubborn hairs insist on growing.
So I visited a barber before the celebration and got the shortest hair cut of my life.

She would love to celebrate this new experience by getting a henna crown and she wants you to join her!

Scroll to end of post for final henna crown pictures.

No, no, no, you don’t have to shave your hair and get a crown. Unless you want to.

Amanda would love to have a small gathering with the women in her life, including family and friends. She has contacted a local henna artist who can provide the body art, which can be painted on the hands, feet, or anywhere else of your choosing. 
Best party moment: against all odds, my mom got henna art!
Musical brilliance!
Christine sporting her fine floral art
Chelsea's delightful design
Carrie's spiffy hearts
Stephanie's dazzling dreamcatcher
Judi's fun-tastic flowers
Michelle's double dose of henna
Jennifer's dainty anklet

Marina, our exceptionally talented and dedicated henna artist.
Four straight hours of henna painting!
She also gave us an amazingly generous deal.
Click here to learn more about her work:

Even if you don’t want henna, please come and celebrate anyway!

And Amanda will think of some activities to do while people wait for henna. Most likely service oriented*.

This is only a fraction of the guests who came.
We were so busy celebrating we forgot to take more photos.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

*P.S. A separate post about the service project is now available!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Recent Conversation with a Little Old Lady

Too funny / facepalm-worthy not to share.

The Set-up: Since shaving my hair, I feel perfectly confident venturing into public without a hat. (Eyeshadow and eyeliner, however, are a must.) This preferred method of dress has garnered quite a few head turns, second glances, and occasional stares wherever I go.

The Setting: Monday morning at the local grocery store with my mom. I feel nauseous from walking around and seeing all the food food food. Blech. I sit down at a table near the coffee kiosk. Mm! Coffee... Must have! I stand in line behind a little old lady and wait to order a frappuccino. The old lady glances at me, puts something in her cart, then turns around and strides up to me.

The following is a quick reconstruction of our conversation. If this truncated version makes either myself or the little old lady sound short or rude, I promise both of us were polite and cordial to each other. =)

Old Lady: I hope you don't think I'm rude for asking, by why have you shaved your hair?

Me: Well, I have cancer.

(I go on, blah blah blah, talking about cancer, explaining how not all my hair fell out so I shaved it...)

Old Lady: Oh good! I'm just glad to hear you haven't become one of those Hindus!

Me (*mental facepalm*): I don't see anything wrong with that if that's where I found my peace...

(I don't think she heard me. She had hearing aids and frequently had to ask me to speak louder when I talked about my hair loss.)

Old Lady: Do the cancer treatments make you sick?

Me: Truthfully, I can barely stand right now.

Old Lady: I know of a doctor in Texas who has a cure for cancer.

(She then gives me his name, several times.)

Old Lady: Look him up. I'm telling you, a cure. for. cancer. 

Me: Thank you for the info! I actually already have a doctor, and she and I get along great! I also feel blessed because I have one of the most curable kinds of cancer.

Old Lady (delighted): Good!

Me: Would you like to read my blog?

Old Lady: That's all right. You take care now!

Me: You too!

The entire conversation cracked me up.

I should have told her about my participation in the Festival of Colors at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Utah last year:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Fourth Chemo Costume: Behind the Scenes

I want my Renaissance Faire post to retain its charm and joviality, which is why I am creating this as a separate post. 

I want my readers to know how excited I was to create that post and to dress up and be silly with my mom and sister. Constructing the Ren Faire was a lot of fun. Huzzahs all around!

However, I also want to reveal behind the scenes and after-the-fact. I know I make it look like it's all fun and games, when in reality there is always a cost. 

After the Ren Faire:

Off with the constraining corset and farewell headache-inducing headband.

So far this is the most nauseous I have felt during and after a chemo treatment. Prior to each infusion, my nurses give me three types of anti-nausea meds via IV. This is the first time I had to resort to back-up anti-nasuea meds as well, both while I was still getting chemo and during the following weekend.

The pink bucket was there just in get the idea. Haven't used it yet.

Was the Ren Faire worth it? Ab-so-lute-ly!

Will I go to such efforts again? Probably not. At least not for a while.

Don't worry. I have plenty of costumes planned for my future treatments. However, I will have to tone the photo sessions and story lines down a notch, or ten. It's exhausting going up to eleven all the time. =)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Fourth Chemo Costume: Renaissance Faire

Welcome to Ye Olde 
Renaissance Faire!

Come enjoy the ...





—Historical Inaccuracies—