Monday, May 30, 2011

Ask and You Shall Receive

Our quilt group made these quilts for my mom and sister - the pink is for Missi - entitled "Melissa's Home."  The blue is for mom - entitled - "Vicki's Valor".  Would you believe I kept this a secret for a month?  I did.  Really really!

People have been so kind to our family - someone in the highway department came by and grated down our driveway - the Boy Scouts adopted Missi's lawn for the summer.  Many kind ladies have helped me launder the kids' clothes and brought hot dishes over so we'd have one less thing to think about.  Someone even gave us a gift certificate for an oil change - just when Mark and Missi's van needed an oil change.

It seems that I've had secret wishes - "Dear God - I wish I could get the Peterson Kids' picture taken for Mothers' Day" and out of the blue, Mandy Cardinal,  a photographer asks me if she can help Missi's Mother's Day brighter.  

And so now, I'm asking "Dear God - let there be a perfect bone marrow match for my sister."

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Missi's Hope Boat - Hope Springs Eternal

A friend of ours had a boat in her yard.  One day she asked Missi what her favorite flowers were.  She planted a garden - in her boat.  I love this.  I can't wait to get better pictures of this. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blueberry Story

Our Superintendent sent this to us this afternoon.


A Businessman Learns a Lesson

by Jamie Robert Vollmer

"If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I

wouldn't be in business very long!" I stood before an auditorium filled

with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute.. My

speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of in-service.

Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could

cut the hostility with a knife.

I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public

schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous

in the middle 1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the

"Best Ice Cream in America." I was convinced of two things.

First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting

and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step

with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society."

Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted

change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and

shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly.

They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero

defects! TQM! Continuous improvement! In retrospect, the speech was

perfectly balanced equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite,

pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school

English teacher who had been waiting to unload. She began quietly, "We

are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, Ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.

"Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll.

I never saw the next line coming. "Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning

forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing

on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries

arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead

meat, but I wasn't going to lie. "I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our

blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional,

abused, frightened confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take

them all: GT, ADHD, ADD, SLD, EI, MMR, OHI, TBI, DD, Autistic, junior

rheumatoid arthritis, English as their second language, etc.

We take them all! Everyone!

And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's a school!"

In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides,

custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah!

Blueberries! Blueberries!"

And so began my long transformation.

Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a

school is not a business.

Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they

are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue

stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate,

competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a

post-industrial society.

But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with

the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the

surrounding community.

For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the

attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and

therefore, education means more than changing our schools, it means

changing America

A Perfect Match

Currently, Missi's Marrow doctor is searching the country for her perfect match.  Neither Nathan nor I are a perfect match.  They will continue to look at our marow to see if they can match enough markers to do a translpant with our marrow - but a perfect match would be better.

You can register your marrow at

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moving In

Missi was released from the hospital!  Hooray!  Oh Hooray!  Mom and Dad drove Nathan down to Rochester so Nathan could be her caregiver. For the next few weeks, Missi will have doctors appointments checking out her blood counts - the doctors are being tight-lipped if this means for a bone marrow transplant soon - or if it means she will start consolidation chemotherapy after the next bone marrow biopsy on May 31st.

I talked to Missi several times throughout the day, and I could tell she was so excited.  She was breaking out of her prison and going to the Hope Lodge - one block away!!!

I'm so happy for her.

The last time I talked to Missi Sue she told me about the teenage girl who was moving in to the same exact hospital room Missi had..

"Do you get a bigger room, now?"  She asked Missi.

"No - I'm in remission - I'm going to the Hope Lodge."

These two face the same exact Leukemia - In fact this is the same Leukemia portrayed in My Sister's Keeper.  This fact came up in the conversation.

Missi looked at the girl and told her "Listen! That movie exaggerates this disease.  Kids have great outcomes - You're going to be just fine.  I'm you - four weeks from now."

I'm sure those parents were scared beyond belief thinking about their daughter having the same disease portrayed in the blockbuster hit.

Missi always has hated that movie.  Why not give people hope? 

I think about that young woman sitting in Missi's room - away from her friends and family like Missi- and I'm so proud of her for being such a fighter.

The Lucky Ones

Last Wednesday, I drove to the Altru Cancer Center in Grand Forks to be tested to see if my bone marrow matches up with Missi Sue's.  This is the first time I had been to the facility - it's beautiful! 

The ladies at the front asked me who I was testing for and when I said "Melissa Peterson."  They both smiled.  "Ohhh...  we're rooting for her!!" 

"Me too!"  I smiled.  "My brother came yesterday with my mom- Vicki Guillemette..?" 

"Vicki is your mom!!!'


"She had us laughing all day - oh lucky you to have Vicki and Missi"

I laughed..

I noticed a beautiful quilt on a grand piano - a wife of a cancer patient made it - There's a drawing; I hope  mom remembered to sign herself up.  On the main reception desk, there's a bowl of hats and scarves - free for the taking.

"Do you accept hand made donations?"

"Those are the favorites."

I got a little excited.  I love to crochet and have the perfect pattern.

My blood was collected, and they sent me along my way.  I felt humbled by these ladies making this their life's work.  I thanked them for being so compassionate with me and my family...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cancer Clusters

I had always thought Acute Myeloid Leukemia was a rare cancer, and according to any literature available on the internet it is.  Within ten miles, I personally know three people who have or had AML.  On Tuesday, I called the Luekemia and Lymphoma Society and asked them if they could send some information that I could have available for Missi's benefit next week.  They were very helpful.

I also explained to them about my concern that I personally know three people with AML, a cancer mostly predominate in old men who had handled benzene. 

Libby, the patient services, agreed with me that it was quite odd that there would be three people within ten miles with the same disease.  I mentioned that there was another woman in the area who had Acute Lymphlastic Syndrome.  Then, she told me about cancer clusters.  Cancer clusters are small areas  that tend to get the same type of cancer.

"Have you ever heard of Grand Forks?"  She asked.  "There's a larger percentage of kids with leukemia there.  The health department couldn't come to any conclusions, but they are still keeping a watchful eye."

"That is where my sister was diagnosed."

I asked her if there was any more news of cytrabine, the drug used for patients with AML.  I hadn't been keeping up like I should.

There is still a shortage.  The University of Minnesota has been rationing the drugs to patients, but Mayo is not yet.  She told me of a mom packing her daughter up to go to Canada, so her daughter would have a better chance for the drug. 

I can't imagine what it is like to fight for the chance to fight for your life.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Day of Caring

Last Friday, our school had their annual Day of Caring.  People sign up for help around their yards and the kids, grade 7 through 12,  head out with window wash, rakes, and whatever it takes to spiffy up the community.  We go to parks, shut-ins, senior centers, or cemeteries.  We take buses to the communities all over the county and invade with giggles and and squeegees!

I was at a beautiful cemetery in Brooks with a handful of kids.  The kids were able and willing.  I learned more about some of my students then I ever thought.  I knew instantly whom I'd give a job recommendation.  I was amazed at their work ethic. 

I also had to giggle at the kids who were like me at that age, who just thought that by being there and holding a rake they were amazing.  Ha!  I was so silly.  I cut them a little slack in my head and directed them over to a pile of leaves.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Having the Answers

When I told the girls that their grandma had colon cancer, the first question Allison had for me was if it was the same as Grandma Ann's.  Grandma Ann is a friend of Allison's grandma who has Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  "No no Allison - Grandma Vick's cancer isn't as fierce as Grandma Ann's.  Grandma Vick will got to Grand Forks for her chemo.  She'll probably get a bit sick but not as much as Grandma Ann."

Four days later, Missi had a doctor's appointment.  Missi had told me she thought she had MDS or Leukemia. When she had called that Tuesday, she told me her instincts were right.  She would be going in for a bone marrow biopsy to have the exact accurate diagnosis.  She found it was Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Allison asked me if it was like Grandma Ann's cancer. 

I sighed "Yes."  We both cried.

Since then, it's been hard answering questions.  We don't know any definite answers.  We didn't know when Missi would lose her hair.  We don't know when Missi will come home or when we will go and see her.  We don't know when Missi will have her bone marrow transplant or who will be her match.  Kids like answers.  They want to know what is coming ahead.  We all need to learn to live one day at a time.

It's really had to not know the answers and still reassure Missi's children as well as my own.

Last night, Ethan (Missi's oldest) asked me why his mom just couldn't have her treatment in Grand Forks.  Why did his mom have to be so far away?

I actually had an answer for this.  I told him about how there was a shortage of the drug used to treat his mom's cancer, and Mayo was the best and closest place for his mom to get her treatment.  Rochester is eight hours away.  It is a long drive for any child. 

Mom will go in for her consult on Monday.  She'll be starting the next phase of her journey.  The kids wonder if their grandma will lose her hair like their mom/aunt did.  I don't have the answer to that question either.

Not knowing is a hard lesson to learn.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Yesterday morning, Missi told me that she was going to ask the nurses to shave her hair.  She sounded very brave.

"It's so itchy."

I think she truly believed it would stay.   I remembered a song that came out a few years ago about a young girl who had leukemia.

When we were teens, Missi would chase me around the room asking me what color I thought her hair was.  Uhhh... I never had patience.for that.  I guess that's why we are sisters - we have to spread the caring around so it's all covered!

Maybe now, my not caring will help her, too.  I'll crochet her a pretty cap to go along with her pretty eyes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Protector

Missi was always so bossy.  When I was first born, she called me "the baby."  Well, for cryin' out-loud - I wasn't a baby!

When I was five, my grandma's dog bit my cheek.  Most of what I remember is only a secondary memory of what Missi told me about that scary night.  She reminded me of the dog crying in confusion - and how we had ordered pizza delivery - She also remembered that we fed the dog "lots of candy" beforehand.  I hadn't remembered those things until she told me about it.  Missi would have been seven when that happened.  Both of us were very afraid of dogs after that.  I got over it when we finally got a dog out at the farm - but Missi is still afraid of dogs - I'm sure it's because she remembers what my cheek looked like after the dog tore it up.

I also remember the first time I drove on ice.  Of course, we ended up in the ditch.  One guy offered us a ride, and I almost got in his car.  "Ummmm No."  I thought she was paranoid.  I didn't even think about the fact that he was going away from Thief River rather toward.  Missi and I waited until a lady from town saw us - we knew her personally - we could trust her.

One summer we got swimmer's itch.  We were at Lake of the Woods and didn't have running water - we thought the mosquitoes were bad - so we kept on swimming...... Oh we were so itchy. That's when we found out about something called aloe vera.

Well lucky, she's pretty bossy with this cancer.  And she's bossying it out of her bloodstream.  Wednesday, she'll get another biopsy to see if that intensive therapy did its job.