Monday, June 26, 2017

Iceland Day 1 - Reykjavik to Westfjords

The first day in Iceland was a long but majestic day.

Our flight from Utah was a red eye flight and who doesn't love a red eye flight? Fortunately we got a full forty minutes of sleep. Plus we had enough time to build this rocking horse.

Our first day was a TON of driving.

It was mostly dirt roads that followed the water around fjords. The roads would go up and over the mountains then drop back down into the next fjord.

Luckily the views were amazing and we did a couple magical hikes along the way. The first was a huge waterfall called Glymur. The get to the best views of the waterfall you had to ford a river like on Oregon Trail game in the early 90's.

Nin was down to party and hopped right in.

Side note: I can't pronounce, understand, read, or even imagine what any Icelandic words sound like. It's crazy! This is what every word sounds like to me.

We drove way north on a dirt road that followed the coast up and down the Westfjords with a gas station hot dog lunch pit stop.

We took a detour to this beautiful waterfall. Waterfalls are call _______foss. They will henceforth be referred to as "fosses" because the names are ridiculous and don't make any sense in my mind.

Nin, Alex, and I nailed every photo by keeping our eyes open.

We arrived at our AirBNB which was an hour and a half from the nearest town in it's own valley on the coast. It looks like something straight out of a Windows 95 screensaver but way better quality. It's like real life IMAX.  If you look closely you can see our AirBNB right on the coast.

We arrived around 11:30pm. A bunch of people were at this church so naturally we thought it was a cult and we were going to get murdered that night. Logical. Turns out it was a reunion of the people that went to the school there when they were little, many years ago. They came back that next night for music and dancing.

The sun was still shining bright when we arrived which messes with your brain. We came to Iceland this week because Wednesday was the longest day of the year. In Iceland they call it the midnight sun because the sun never actually sets. It turns to dusk/twilight them right back to day an hour later. Yay for sleep masks.

I originally planned to dedicate a post to each day but we've been partying too hard to keep up.  It's already Day 4 and I'm just posting this so who knows what will happen!

Nin's doing great overall. She's been tired but hasn't missed out on any of the activities. She's a champ! We've already listened to a solid 16 hours of Harry Potter. Nin's slept through about 12 1/2 of those hours.  Raging internationally is hard.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Girl, you trippin'!

If you know us, you know that we are shakers and movers.  Before the "Great Cancer Uprising of 2017" we already had our entire summer planned with vacations almost every single weekend.  These trips included: Disneyland for Penny's first time, Moab, Vegas with Nin's high school girlfriends, Uintas, St George, Great Basin, Flaming Gorge, Bear Lake 3x, and the mothership of our summer adventures ICELAND. 

Between all of my work flights and our personal flights, 14 in total, we were able to get 12 of them fully refunded or credited back to our accounts without issue. The two flights we couldn't get refunds for were, of course, the most expensive tickets we'd purchased to Iceland. With everything else going on, missing a trip of a lifetime AND having to eat a couple thousand dollars just stung something awful.

I spent almost six weeks trying to find a solution.  I didn't have the heart to tell Nicole.  She just assumed I'd cancelled the tickets and gotten a refund.  It made me feel sick to my stomach that they wouldn't refund our money, let us transfer the tickets to someone else, or even let us give them away. Zero options. Even more frustrating was had we just paid the extra $27 per ticket for medical specific flight insurance, we could have gotten full refunds.  Even then, you'd think the airline would have a heart and give us a reasonable option for a young, attractive cancer patient.

I thought all was lost and our hearts would be extra broken for those 8 days of adventure we were going to miss. Then something magical happened. The stars aligned. The ducks got in a row. The britches were no longer in a twist. 

We were sitting in Bear Lake a couple weekends ago and Nin said, "I wish we hadn't cancelled those tickets, I feel like I'd be healthy enough to go to Iceland."  When I told her that I'd been unable to get refunds, she cried tears of joy.  A lot still needed to fall into place to make the trip happen but this was the first good news about a trip since the diagnosis.  Every other news was "We're sorry, you can't go. Because, you know, cancer."

I immediately got on the phone and called our Dr to see if she thought it was a good idea. We had to wait until Monday before we heard back.  It was an anxious couple days waiting for the call. The response was an astounding, "Yes, if she is feeling this well she absolutely should go."  This was just 10 days before the trip.

Nin did so well with her first dose of chemo and the trip (originally) just happened to line up perfectly in between chemo doses 2 and 3. Unfortunately Nin's white blood cell count was too low for her to get her second dose of chemo. They had to move it back a few days. Had they not moved it, Iceland would have been about eight days after her infusion. Now it will only be about four.  If everything goes like last time, she'll be pretty tired during the first two days in Iceland but fortunately those days are basically all driving.  Like 7 hours each day driving.  Good thing it'll probably look like this.

So we're going to Iceland. We didn't tell many people because we wanted to make it a surprise.  You're probably asking yourself, "Who is it a surprise for?"  Good question.  We have no idea.  We just never do anything like this because we're over sharers, which we're not ashamed of.  I guess it's just a surprise for our friends we are going with that still thought we couldn't go.  We also didn't want to tell many people because we felt like something would happen where we couldn't go and we didn't want to amp ourselves up too much until we were actually in Iceland being awesome.

On a somewhat related note, while in Bear Lake last week we were determining "house mottos" for each of us. We concluded that my house motto is "Sharing is Caring".  The puppies explain it perfectly.

We're super excited to get out of dodge for a few days and enjoy God's beautiful and majestic creations in Iceland. Prepare yourself for an overload of Instagram and maybe blog posts if we have service and/or energy.  Sorry not sorry. 

Bald is Beautiful

So...this happened last night:

Emotions were as true and raw as ever and I'll glad our friends were there to document it. While they probably won't be our favorite feelings to relive, soon they will become memories we look back on fondly.

Nin was going to buzz her head on Saturday while we were in the Uintas but decided to wait it out unto her hair starting coming out in bigger clumps. Needless to say, we got a little greedy and tried to hold off until Wednesday so Nin could have our friend, and photographer extraordinaire, Ciara Richardson document the experience. By the time Wednesday rollout around, Nin looked like she had one big dreadlock. So much hair had already fallen out but it was held in place by her other still rooted hairs. If we had waited even another day I'm sure it all would have fallen out as one full real-hair wig.

Surprising nobody, Nin looks beautiful with a buzzed head. She can pull off all the hair styles with ease. Even the hair styles without hair.

The hardest thing for Nin is the visual reminder that she has cancer. Up until this point she's had some side effects like exhaustion and nausea, but very people looking in from the outside would even know she was sick. Especially with how well she has handled the side effects.  At least she looks stunning so when she gets that visual reminder it's a beautiful one!


We'd like to give a big shoutout to two of Nin's biggest supporters, my dad Mark (right) and step-dad Barry (left). In a true display of solidarity, they preemptively shaved their heads in support for her. What's even more impressive is that they did it over a decade before she did and they will keep it up for the rest of their lives. That it true commitment. Thank you both for your continued support! #Solidarity

Monday, June 19, 2017

Down to Party

Sorry for the lack of updates. We've been too busy partying our hearts out to put words into paragraphs on the interwebs. But now we're back and ferocious as ever. I even started that last sentence with "but" even though I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to. We ain't care!

The last blog update was on Day 6 post-chemo. At that time Nin was doing great. She's still doing great but she used to be doing great too.  If that sentence doesn't make sense to you, enjoy this clip from one of my favorite comedians Mitch Hedberg.  We don't condone drug use but we do condone comedy use.

She only got better after Day 6.  She almost had her normal amount of energy back. This is especially impressive because a couple days after the Dr's said, "Nicole's immune system is now compromised so do your best to keep her from getting sick."  My, Penny's, and Jude's bodies wanted to do all they could to protect Nin so they all immediately got colds.  Good work team.  Luckily she didn't get it. #Blessed

We've been making the best of the situation and trying to get out as much as possible. We've been lucky enough to go on a few evening and weekend getaways. One day it was especially warm (94°) so we decided to go to the pool in the afternoon. Nin told Penny to go grab her swimsuit so she could get her dressed. Penny was gone in her room longer than usual but came back having dressed herself.  She didn't get the memo that we weren't going to a Brazilian beach.

She said, "Mommy, my bum part hurts."

The next evening we went to dinner at Taggarts to celebrate Nin's parent's 38th anniversary. The restaurant had two Peacocks and Penny couldn't get enough of them or the views of the river.

We spent last weekend at the Brinkerhoff's condo in Bear Lake. We lounged on the beach, played games on the grass, rode bikes to Le Beau's for their famous raspberry shakes, and played board games. It was the best of times and it was the best of times.

On the way home we thought we'd take the scenic back road home which was all dirt. We forgot that the mountains up there still have snow in June.  Kollin did what he's best known for and got stuck. I'd actually say he's best known for being DTP "Down To Party", which often leads him to the thing he's second best known for, getting stuck.

These two pictures of them getting pulled out are my favorite. Steph HATES getting stuck.  It literally made her throw up when they were stuck in mud for over an hour in Southern Utah. Her face in the first picture clearly demonstrates her true feelings regarding their vehicle adventures. Her face in the last picture is the kind of emotion I imagine Land Rover would want to convey in their catalogs. Besides the part about them being pulled out of a snowdrift by a huge truck, obvi. Great range Steph.

We went in for Nin's second chemo dose on Wednesday. Each week before she receives her chemo infusions they draw her blood and run tests to make sure her body is strong enough to be given the chemo poisons drugs. Unfortunately this time her white blood cell count was too low for treatment. So they sent her home and rescheduled her chemo appointment for the following Monday (today).  She had to go in every day until Sunday to get a Neupogen shot. Yay!

This is the same shot she got after chemo last time that helps boost her white blood cell count. She's been getting mild bone pain this time but hopefully it won't become a reoccurring issue.

Nin was pretty bummed about the treatment delay but we were able to take advantage of the extra time she'd be feeling okay. We went swimming at her grandparents pool, to dinner and a movie with friends, and a quick overnight trip to our friend's cabin in the Uintas. This is how you know Penny had a good time.  Dirt, smiles, and sour patch kids FTW!

We swam at the pool with Penny's two cousins. Nicole, her sister, and cousins are all pretty close in age and were best friends growing up. Now they have little girls that are almost the exact same age difference. It's tender.

Overall, Nin's been doing very well. We don't expect chemo to always be this smooth sailing, but a girl can dream!  We've been very blessed these first few weeks with minor side effects and the opportunity to get out and live a little.

Lots of people have asked about her hair.  Her hair hasn't started coming out in clumps yet but she's definitely started "shedding her winter coat".

Nin planned on buzzing it this Saturday at the cabin but decided to wait until it starts coming out in clumps, which may or may not happen.  Some people's hair thins but doesn't completely fall out. We figure if anybody can pull that off it's Nin with her thick lions mane hair.  We'll probably know by the next post if her hair made it or not.

[Insert dramatic cliffhanger audio]