So, the idea behind this blog is to give Michelle’s friends, as well as Playdate’s readers, an opportunity to follow her progress as she battles breast cancer. Some posts will be written by Michelle, while others will be written by me (Sara Bristol, the coordinator of Playdate) and some posts may be written by other folks who are close to Michelle or have expertise with cancer, etc. That’s one of the advantages of blogs, I suppose. They’re an open forum, a work in progress. So, we’ll just start writing and posting and see where this takes us.
First, I want to get you caught up on what’s been going on in Michelle’s life this past week. She started chemotherapy on Monday, Sept. 21 at her doctor’s office here in Yakima. Chemotherapy is a process of treating disease with chemicals that kill cells (both good an bad). Chemo, as it’s commonly called, is effective in fighting cancer because it kills cells that divide quickly (one of the key properties of cancer cells). However, there are plenty of “good” cells that also divide quickly and are harmed in the process, such as hair follicles and cells in the digestive tract. So that’s why chemotherapy patients eventually lose their hair and become sick from the treatments.
However, the sickness and hair loss typically doesn’t happen right away. Michelle’s doctors have told her she’ll start to experience more of these nasty side effects as the chemo drugs begin to build up in her system, probably after her second or third treatment.
So, let’s back up a minute: Michelle had her first treatment last Monday. It was a five-hour process that basically involved her staying in one place while the drugs were delivered intravenously. She’ll receive treatments every three weeks. (I’m not sure how many treatments she’s expecting to receive, so we’ll have to answer that question later.)
Michelle’s mother Diana was able to come from Port Angeles for the week to support her and help with the kids. Michelle was tired last week, but she was able to work out (at a slower pace) and do some yoga, which was helping her feel more “normal.” (She typically works out at least four times a week.)
I got to see Michelle in Bellevue for a few minutes on Friday. I happened to be in town visiting a friend; she was there for an appointment at Anton’s Hair Company. Rather than wait for her hair to fall out, Michelle decided to keep it. She had a custom wig made from her own hair.
It was a bold move: Michelle watched in the mirror as Anton shaved her head completely bald. She had a feeling of “detatched acceptance,” Michelle told me later. Just one of many tough decisions she’s had to make — and this fight’s just getting started.
— Sara Bristol
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Oct/Nov 2009 issue of Playdate Magazine featuring three Yakima-area moms who had been diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40. While the other two mothers are in remission, Michelle Berthon’s battle with cancer is ongoing. This blog is designed to keep you updated on her story. To start, please meet Michelle:
Michelle Berthon, diagnosed at 39
Just this summer, the last week of June, Michelle and husband Todd celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary with a cruise to Alaska.
“It was the best vacation we’ve ever had,” Michelle says, enthusiastically ticking off a list off the couple’s adventures: Rock climbing, sea kayaking, riding a zip line.
Aboard the ship, Michelle also performed a breast self-exam, a precautionary task she’d been through roughly once a month for years. This time, she felt a lump.
“I was not nervous or worried,” recalls Michelle, who’d had two benign fibroadenomas removed in the past. Still, the stay-at-home mom to Alex, 5, and Madeleine, 3, arranged for a mammogram as soon as she got back to Yakima.
So, it caught Michelle by surprise when she learned in July that she had a Stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in her right breast. The tumor was fast-growing, but Michelle found it early, before it had spread into her lymph nodes or other tissues.
Nine days after her diagnosis, and just three weeks after she found the lump, Michelle had surgery to remove the tumor. A month later, she had a second surgery so doctors could make sure they’d removed all of the cancerous cells; test results indicated the surgeries were a success.
Dreading the sickness and hair loss caused by the cancer-fighting drugs, Michelle began chemotherapy in mid-September. She remains confident that early detection, aggressive treatment and prayers of support will help her win this battle.
“I have no doubt I’ll make it to the five-year mark,” Michelle says. “I’ve never had any doubt.”
– Sara Bristol
September 22, 2009 by Robin Beckett
As far as excuses go, this one’s probably right up there with the dog eating your homework: “Sorry, Boss, I’m going to be late…. actually, this might take awhile. You see, I’m stuck in lockdown at my daughter’s daycare. I think somebody’s trying to rob the bank across the street. I’m not really sure when I’ll be able to get out of here. I’ll call you later.”
The day started for me like they usually do: I dropped my first-grader off at his school, then headed up Summitview to KinderCare, the child care center that’s been watching my kids for the past 2 1/2 years.
The center is more than 30 blocks from my house, in the wrong direction from work, but I like it there. Why? Well, I love Ms. Veronica’s contagious laughter and chatting with Ms. Judy in the office. I like that my 4-year-old can write all her letters and recite the days of the week. But here’s what I’m really paying for: Safety.
I like the keypad lock at the front door and the six-foot fence around the playground. I like that administrators and parents are able to look into all the classrooms from the hall to make sure everything’s OK. And, I like the way the staff handled the emergency lockdown on Monday.
On my drive up Summitview, I had a little warning that things were shaping up strangely. Just as I was approaching the school, I had to pull over three times in one block for police vehicles with their lights flashing. While I was pretty sure they didn’t weren’t trying to surround ME, there was a brief moment where I was pulled over in front of Banner Bank (scene of the crime) and I was in fact surrounded my multiple police cars (and saw more lights coming my way). I ducked out of their way and pulled into the daycare parking lot, telling my daughter that we needed to hurry inside.
At the same time I was pulling into the lot, a teacher was parking a KinderCare bus after dropping elementary kids off at school. She saw what was shaping up on the street and hollered at another teacher whose class was playing outside that everybody needed to get in the building. The teachers immediately notified the center’s assistant director Judy Epperheimer, who was in charge of the building at that time, and she put the school in lockdown mode. Everybody — including three moms who were dropping off kids — would have to stay inside the building, away from the windows.
The staff was absolutely professional — calm and collected. Some of the older kids (including my Annie) thought “it’s silly to have moms at school,” but they didn’t have a clue about the cops and would-be robber who were outside. Center staff hung makeshift curtains over the windows to prevent the kids from seeing anything that might be going on outside. (I was curious and peeked out the windows, but there wasn’t much to see. Ultimately, that’s a good thing when you’re surrounded by dozens of children, I suppose.)
“It’s the first time in 23 years I’ve ever had an officer with a rifle come to the door,” Ms. Judy told me. It was the first time in her lengthy tenure that she’d ever needed to put the school’s emergency plan into use, thank goodness. But you’d never know it. Throughout the morning, she calmly handled an endless stream of calls: Parents and grandparents wanting to make sure their kids were safe. Parents and staff who weren’t able to get to the center because of police barricades.
Mostly, though, there was just business as usual: Reading books, practicing numbers, playing with dough and puppets and blocks. We used walking feet and listening ears and tried not to burp during lunch.
Ms. Judy offered the parents donuts and coffee. While munching my maple bar in the staff room, I noticed an official KinderCare calendar, published by the Portland-based parent company, Knowledge Learning Corporation. Each day has a different “to do” task for the centers. Somebody had checked off each day’s task as they’d been completed. Monday’s reminder, coincidentally: Update emergency plan. Check!
Nearly three hours after we arrived to drop off our kids, the three stranded moms got word that we could leave. We left. And we left our kids there…. because the center was doing exactly what we were paying them to do: Keeping our kids safe.
A million thanks, ladies!
Looking forward to some “Fair-N-Dipity” at this year’s Central Washington State Fair? The theme, a play on the word serendipity, will focus on “discovering desirable and valuable things unexpectedly at the fair.”
Here, you can discover desirable and valuable things before you ever go to the fair. I’m talking about a deal, friends.
First off, admission for kids ages 5 and younger is always free. Regular admission is $12 for adults, $7 for youth (ages 6-12) and $9 for seniors (65+). Carnival wristbands are $25 Tuesday-Friday and $30 Saturday-Monday.
So, let’s assume you have two adults and two kids, ages 4 and 6. Regular admission plus two wristbands would be $33 plus $50/$60 (depending on what day you go) = $83/$93.
We can do better than that.
First, you can buy discounted carnival wristband vouchers ($22) until 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 at the State Fair Park box office, Banner Banks, Wray’s, Fiesta Foods, Big R and most Yakima AM/PMs. Cash only, except the fair box office, which will accept credit cards.
Advance purchase will save you $3-$8 off the cost of each wristband. That’s enough to buy a corn dog!
Adjusted cost for my example family: $77/$77. If they visit the fair on a weekend, they’ve just saved $16.
Bet we can still do better. Here’s some info about the fair’s promo days that offer a price break on admission/carnival rides:
Friday, Sept. 25 — KIMA TV “Dollar Day”
Deal: $1 Gate Admission (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and $6 parking all day.
Example family: $3 admission + $44 advance purchase wristbands = $47 total ($36 savings). Awesome deal! Without buying wristbands in advance, the total is $53 — still a sweet deal.
Monday, Sept. 28 — Franz Bread Day
Deal: Bring an empty bag of Franz bread with a blue sticker on it, pay $25 for admission and a wristband. One sticker per person is required. Note: This is the only pay-one-price promo day this year. Also, Yakima School District kids will get out of school early, so this is a fairly practical day to go.
Example family (updated 9/24 and 9/26): For the adults, purchase two admissions/wristbands for $50 + $7 youth admission = $57 total ($36 savings). Give the wristbands to the kids. Note: Today, our example family pays a little more with advance purchase wristbands: two wristbands at $22 each + $33 admission = $77 total. But that’s still a $16 savings off the full price (wristbands are $30 today).
Wednesday, Sept. 30 — Pepsi Kids Day
Deal: All kids ages 12 & younger get free admission all day when they bring an empty 12-oz Pepsi can or other Pepsi product can (Mountain Dew, Mug Root Beer, 7-Up, Squirt, Dr. Pepper). Enter through Blue Gate or Gold Gate. One can per youth. Kids must be accompanied by an adult.
Example family: $24 admission for two adults + $44 advance purchase wristbands for kids = $66 total ($17 savings). Without buying wristbands in advance, the total is $74 ($9 savings). And, this deal improves if you have more kids ages 6-12.
Sunday, Oct. 4 — Sonic Family Day
Deal: Pay $25 and receive gate admission for two adults and three youth. No coupon required; just ask for the Sonic Family Day special. (Remember: Kids 5 and younger are always free.)
Example family: $25 admission + $44 for two advance purchase wristbands = $69 total ($34 savings). With wristbands purchased at the carnival = $85 ($8 savings). However, this deal definitely improves when you have more than one child age 6-12.
Also, here’s the entertainment lineup and fair hours each day, in case that helps you decide when to go.
- Friday, Sept. 25: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Jamie Lee Thurston. American Sprint Car Series NW Region.
- Saturday, Sept. 26: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Phil Vassar. American Sprint Car Series NW Region.
- Sunday, Sept. 27: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Juice Newton. Latino Festival: Yolanda Del Rio, Con Mariachi, El Chichicuilote and more.
- Monday, Sept. 28: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Guitar Hero. Red Hot Ride Horsemanship Challenge.
- Tuesday, Sept. 29: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Billy Ray Cyrus.
- Wednesday, Sept. 30: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Boys II Men.
- Thursday, Oct. 1: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. REO Speedwagon.
- Friday, Oct. 2: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Curtis Salgado. Pro-West Finals Rodeo.
- Saturday, Oct. 3: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Little River Band. Pro-West Finals Rodeo.
- Sunday, Oct. 4: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Laura Flores and Sergio Goyri. Demolition Derby.
September 18, 2009 by Robin Beckett
We’ve just wrapped up production on the next issue of Playdate and I have to say, with all due respect to our previous issues (because I love them all), this one is our cutest cover ever. Our cover kids are Seri and Jett Nugent, who we discovered when their mother Timi submitted this photo to our Gotcha photo contest a couple months ago:
This isn’t the same photo that will be on the cover, but we do love those tights, so we asked Seri to wear them for our photo shoot, which she did. Yay!
Look for Playdate at your favorite stand next Friday, Sept. 25. This issue includes a round up of fall harvest festivals and upcoming children’s theater productions as well as a chat with three Yakima-area moms who’ve had breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
September 12, 2009 by Robin Beckett
Thar be somethin’ me loved about pirates long before Johnny Depp’s swaggering Cap’n Jack sealed the deal. They’re “bad boys” with frilly costumes, wanderlust and treasure. What’s not to like, right? I mean, if you can just look beyond all the pillaging and the plundering, pirates are inherently likable characters. At least most kids seem to think so.
Pirates inspire the imagination. They’re a great thematic backdrop for story books, birthday parties, Halloween costumes and all sorts of other childhood mayhem. Check out this amazing ship-themed bed I found at Chasing Fireflies, a Seattle catalog company.
If I had tons of treasure (like, oh, $1,900 + s/h + sales tax), I just might buy this for my little scoundrels. Unfortunately, my coffers won’t even cover the $98 costume. Oh well. They say “talk is cheap” and this Saturday — Sept. 19 — is (quite officially) Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I can probably afford some of that. Actually, it’s pretty easy to steal a few bon mots from the official Talk Like a Pirate Day Web site.
Personally, I’m trying to figure out how to trick talk my husband into driving us down to the Portland Pirate Festival this weekend. (We can drop anchor at Grandma’s house and save a few POE … pieces of eight, that is. I just picked up a few bits of pirate chat lingo here.)
I’ve never gone to the festival before, but it looks like they’ve got lots of fun activities for the kiddos such as Scupper Monkey Island, a play area with several thematic inflatables, free balloons and temporary tattoos, jugglers and puppet shows.
There’s also lots of music, a blacksmith demonstration, grub/grog and, aye!, cannon fire. We actually have a little experience with cannon fire from last year’s Tall Ships Festival in Victoria, B.C. There were lots of amazing ships in port including a replica of Columbus’ Niña and The Lady Washington, our state’s “official ship” that starred as the Interceptor in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Anyway, I’ll write more about that trip another time, but my point is that there were a few pirate-y activities going on and it was lots of fun. We had the opportunity to go for a sail during one of the festival’s cannon battles and the kids thought that was a hoot. That festival should be returning to Victoria in 2011.
Anyhoo… If you’d like some pirate fun closer to home, you might try marauding your basement or a local appliance store to find a few cardboard boxes to build a super-cool cardboard pirate ship. Mr. McGroovy’s page has detailed plans and lots of pictures for inspiration. I haven’t made the pirate ship yet, but I have used McGroovy’s plans to build a cardboard castle and a semi truck (Optimus Prime, Transformer fans). Here’s what I learned about cardboard construction: Making the structure is simple. Painting it is … entirely optional.