We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving...

                  Today,  I am thankful for the memories...

                     The laughter, the tears.  Holding hands and holding each other.  The travels and traverses.  The beaches we walked on and the stars that caught our attention.

                     Her eyes, the way they sparkled when she looked at me.  Her passion and enthusiasm.  The way she believed in me.

                     Thank you Kimberly.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Hi Everyone...it has already been 5 weeks since Kim went into St. Joseph's for gall bladder surgery and was found to have lung and liver cancer...! I feel as though we walking through a thick haze and time has come to a slow grind. We sure have made some progress over the last few days, since Kim was released from the hospital after a one month stay there (did I ever mention that Kim actually enjoyed the food there? Her surgeon, Dr. Atkinson, once turned to me and said 'you know, she doesn't have to eat that...you can bring her food from the outside...I wouldn't eat that'). Kim's oxygen flow, which had been as high as 5 liters while she was in ICU, is now down to 1 1/2 liters! She still gets exhausted and cannot walk on her own, but seems stronger and happier everyday.

Big day tomorrow, as Kim will have her PT scan in the a.m. - not sure how long it takes to get the results, but we will know what she is up against.

Today, I grabbed Tonio and Autumn (who stayed after school with her teacher, Mrs. Rudzena, and completely finished her book report that is due Wednesday!! Thanks Mrs. Rudzena!!) and we went down to In & Out Burger (Jodi and Kyle, you will be pleased to know they opened a new one on the east side of Tucson!). The kids love the burgers and I was showing them, how on the bottom of their cups, it says 'John 3:16'...one of my favorites...today, I noticed on the burger wrappers, was a Revelations verse #...I tore it off to check what it said, but alas, lost it in transit.

 Thank you all for following along with Kim's progress. And thanks for the ongoing support, love and powerful prayers! Through Him, all things are possible!!

    Here's the blog where I will do a couple of posts, as we hear things... conca5.blogspot.com - it's a little rough right now, my first attempt and thank you Jen Corbelli, our good friend all the way up there in Iowa, who gave me guidance on setting this up. I hope this helps all of you that want to continue to follow along as Kim takes her stand - she has been amazing through all of this! The blog can not do justice her positive attitude and how she continues to touch the lives of others, even in her time of need! If I've left anybody out, please pass on the blog address (if I've included anybody by accident...sorry!).

Thanks for the inspiration,
                        Love, Dave"

             Today, last year, marked the launch of Kimmy's Blog!!  With the help of Jen Corbelli and Ami Bunch, Kim and I worked on its creation together...Kim giggling the whole time, somehow flattered that I would go to the 'trouble' of building a blog for her and to keep those who needed to know how she was doing informed.  The time we worked on it, our heads together, Kim dictating feelings, expectations, symptoms, etc, were close knit times.  It is small irony that her blog has become cathartic for me...and yet, an important vehicle for me to be able to share all of the wonderful memories that Kim and I shared, and that I now cherish.

              If you were to have asked Kim what her five favorite places in Tucson were, I would bet that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum would be one of the top two positions.  I know I've written about our visits there.  There were so many, having been members since 1994.  And you could break it down into segments of memories; Before Marriage.  Married.  Married with one child.  Married with two children.  Married with three children.  And, I suppose, Visiting the Desert Museum with friends/family.
           Today, I was honored to accompany Tonio's class field trip there, as I had for Cody and Autumn when they were in third grade (despite the now famous 'ice cream incident', of which I was playfully reminded over the last few weeks).    Here is our group...

            Lupe was also going, so her group and my group of children walked the grounds together, enthusiastically led by Antonio, making his 470billionth visit in his short 8 year life, he knows that place like a Sonic cheeseburger!  Right away, he led us to the cave, pictured above, (Kim and I used to call it the 'Cave of Wonders' after the Disney Aladdin movie).  He knew all of the little back tunnels, crawl spaces and features (like the giant bat ear exhibit) and showed our group each one.  And I would turn and tell Lupe a Kim story, as we passed different places - and, it seems, I could have easily told one at nearly every exhibit along the way and some for between exhibits, as well!

Monsi and Tonio work to free a fossil from this block of something really hard...

                               Lupe marveled over the beauty of the wooden bridge that transitions from roughly the wolf/owl exhibits and leads you to a desert path to javelina and coyotes.  I told her, that last October, I had taken Kim's picture with my Dad and Stepmom...KIm thought that bridge was incredible, too, and liked to take pictures from it.

                       I wanted to show Lupe this beautiful plant (obscured in this photo by this beautiful woman!), the Crimson Star Addenium - Kim's all time favorite plant/flower.  It had been just west of the art gallery entrance since we moved here in 1994...and just not there today...

                    We had a great time with the kids, who all loved seeing the animals and being outdoors on another stunning day here in Tucson.

bambini up, we came home to try to conquer another of Kim's famous recipes...Pumpkin Roll! 

                         The bambini worked together to mix all of the ingredients.  Here, they are coating the cake with the cream cheese filling.

Ready to roll!  There were pretty excited...this was actually their second attempt.  They helped make and bake one cake for the roll, and, while it was on the counter cooling, the nefarious Bella, decided she should 'taste test' it!!  So, we made a second one.

                                   The kids were excited to help bake.  Especially their favorite Thanksgiving food.  I told them how their Mama cooked a full out banquet, pretty much by herself, every year since 1993, except for two years...last year being one of them...They felt good about the way the pumpkin roll came out and Tonio did not want to wait until Thursday to try his baked goods out!

                                  In the end they waited...

                                  And then, due to lack of stairs, Cody and I set off with Bella on a run through the desert...


Monday, November 21, 2011

Sometimes, it's the oxygen that haunts me....

"Whew, busy weekend here at the Conca household. Kim keeps improving, slowly, each day. We've been able to knock her oxygen intake down to 2 liters (and unplugged it once, just for fun). Saturday, we kept Kim entertained with movies and worked on helping her be able to regain some independence. She can now do her hair after I help her shower, as we have placed a chair in the bathroom - sounds like such a small thing, but it gives Kim a sense of accomplishment. She continues to have a good appetite and loved the ham, focaccia bread and turtle pie that my sister, Laur and her family sent out to us. It is amazing how fast the time goes, as we go from breakfast, shower, into lunch, nap, into dinner, meds in between, a nice shot of Lovenox to the stomach and off to bed!

Today, Kim felt even stronger...we were able to venture outside, despite it being perhaps the coldest day of fall, so far, at around 67 degrees and blustery. It was her first walk outside since being admitted to St. Joseph's on Oct. 19th. She cried tears of joy, once again, relishing every moment of her time outdoors, the smells, the trees, beautiful mountains and the brilliant blue sky. Of course, she took a long nap following the walk. Dinner was delivered by Sarah Stoner, who was Cody's first grade teacher - a dish the kids could not wait to try...Dorito casserole! It was tasty indeed. Later, our friends Rose, Vito and their son Joe and wife Deanna stopped by with a pantry load of pasta, canned tomato products, olive oil, several types of vinegar, eggplant, peppers, all sorts of biscotti and, to the bambini's delight...a whole case of lupini beans!! The kids LOVE these beans - hard to describe them if you've never had them, but they are a great snack.

Kim is working hard to get off of the oxygen. Tonio has become her little coach. Tonight, as he kissed her goodnight, Tonio picked up Kim's flowmeter and asked what her personal best was so far. Kim told him '750'...Tonio told her 'take a deep breath and you can hit 1000'. Kim explained that she had a long day and was too tired, Tonio persisted and Kim did it! A personal best. Tonio had her repeat it and promised to help her with it again tomorrow. These little guys are such blessings, and when we hit a tough moment in our day, it seems one of them will do something that puts a smile back on our face.

Quiet weekend for the kids...we started our day this morning, by going to church at St. Rita. Our friend, Suzanne Roelike, who works there, had the 9 a.m. Mass dedicated to Kim and was very nice. Jim came along with us and Grammie stayed home with Kim. Jim treated us to breakfast burritos at Nico's, perhaps the best breakfast burritos available and the kids weren't hungry again until dinner! Our neighbors, Tom and Amy took Cody out for some ice cream...Autumn spent the weekend working on her science fair project; 'are dogs color blind?'...Bella is not very interested in partaking in her project, but she is working diligently to get Bella on board. Autumn is also working on a book report, which kept her busy. Tonio loved watching movies with Mama and fell asleep watching the Eagles game with me tonight, which was kind of a nail biter, so I can't believe he didn’t wait up for the final result! Andrea and the girls checked in for a visit today, making Kim smile...  Again, the kids are happy Mama is home and enjoy making her salads, bringing her icy drinks, pillows, etc. The kids also played a great deal of Yahtzee with Grammie and Grandpa Jim...who noticed that the boys often take a few extra rolls, which really helps increase the number of Yahtzee's that they get!

Time is still moving very strangely for us, as we are still in the early stages of this journey, as Kim likes to call it. I find that now, we do have an extra hour or two during the day to just relax, but the rest is packed with taking care of Kim's needs and the bambini's. We keep focused on the day's victories and take each moment at a time. Tomorrow, it gets busy, as Kim gets her power port reactivated and we hope to learn the results of her blood test that will tell us how her kidneys are holding up. Tuesday, an early start with the 6:45 a.m. PT scan - to mark the areas/organs affected by cancer for Dr. Taetle to create his road map and course of action. This test will take several hours and Kim will need to lay flat for an extended period of time...something she has not been able to do since 10/19, so it will be a challenge for her. Later in the afternoon, she has an appointment with her personal physician, Dr. Struthers.

Well, almost time for Kim's pain medication - I just want to say thank you again for all of the positive thoughts and prayers - we're getting there!


          Oxygen...we kind of take it for granted, don't we?  I think, in the back of my mind, I felt that if we could just get Kim off of oxygen, everything would be allright...I kept thinking "What the hell?  Why can't she catch her breath?  Why is she still on oxygen?"  Perhaps a small part of me suspecting the worst, but not wanting to believe...wanting to have faith. 
          And, I wrote to you that this was the 'early stages' of Kimba's journey...except I was wrong.  It was late and I just didn't see it.  Or know it.  I still thought I had this.  I still thought that I had some sort of control, that I could do this.  Maybe not cure Kim directly, but help her back to health.
          Rereading this now, I see the irony in my statement 'personal care' physician...who turned out to be anything but.  Perhaps our doctors, these days, in an effort to outrun insurance costs, overbook patients, preventing them from any real personal care.  In any case, we were blessed that Mario's sister worked in Dr. Struther's office and helped us get in and out of the office much quicker and smoother.
          But, dear reader, the one constant, throughout this whole journey, was you.  And your prayers, well wishes and support...without it...what would we be?
          Rincon Vista PTA:
"Hi Lorraine,
Kim and I just wanted to say thank you for having the PTA donate $100 towards our kid's lunches! That was so generous of you and we really appreciate your help during this challenging time for our family. Kim is improving a little each day. Today, we were able to get her outside to walk for the first time since she was admitted to St. Joseph's back on 10/19. Thanks again for your support! Dave"
          Our neighbor, Amy, had a lot to do with this and was so focused on getting school support for our family.
          From Patti, then the attendance clerk at Cottonwood (mom of Casey Rudzena, Autumn's teacher!);
"Hi Patti, great photo - how did you guys do? Kim had a good day again today - we were able to walk outside - her first time walking outside since being admitted to St. Joe's back on 10/19!! Thanks again for the visit and everything Friday! Dave"
               FIRST walk outside!!!  In over a MONTH!!!  I can't even begin to describe what I feel when I think about that...
              To my sister Laur and her family:
"Hi Laur, Jas and kids,
Thanks so much for the big tub 'o food! I've never seen such a thing! This huge, styrofoam, container arrived and I couldn't imagine what it was. Inside, a beautiful ham, foccacia bread and a pie!! We ate mightily last night and still had some left over for today! Thanks so much, that was so thoughtful of you guys. Also, thanks for all of the prayers, even Jason's parents have been in touch with inspiring words. We appreciate it! Love, Dave"
          And now we send our positive thoughts and prayers to her family, as Jason's mother, Barb, is on her own journey and battle against cancer.  Barb sent us many prayers and well wishes...
         Check this out from Fred Fagliano, fellow Knights of Columbus brother who worked tirelessly for our family:
"Wow, tell Anthony thank you so much! Hope he did well today and had a fun, safe time. You sure have helped span the country with prayer for Kim, Fred. We sure appreciate it! God bless, Dave"

Dave, it sounds like Kim is doing better and she has a huge week coming and then Chemo a week from Monday again. The power of prayer is amazing. My middle son Anthony is racing in the Tour De Tucson today (60 miles) He has been practicing and doing the full 100+ for conditioning for a few weeks now. Although he does not consider himself an elite rider we consider him one and he told us he is dedicating his tour ride to Kim. That was pretty special when he told me that. We are all dialed in to Kim and with prayers coming from NY to Kansas City to Tucson I know we have the landscape covered. God Bless Kim and all of the Conca clan. we love you guys!!!!!

Vivat Jesus,
Fred and his extended family"
       To Vito and his family...Viro's, our safe haven in this storm...
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop out and see us. It was so nice to see you and Rose and such a surprise to have Joe and Deanna come over too! Those two are such a nice couple, we love to see them.
Jim and I worked to rearrange the small closet that we call a pantry to be able to store all of that food you brought to us!!! It so nice, because none of it will spoil and it will last us a long time! Of course, the kids ate a jar of lupini beans right away and really like the Baresi brand. Kim was so excited you brought rubarb pie, her favorite and had a nice big slice - in fact, we polished off both pies!! That was incredibly generous of you guys, as always, and such a help to us right now. We cannot thank you enough.
Like I said, it was great to see you guys - you all really brightened Kim's day!
Take care,
            We lived on what he put in our pantry in the weeks after Kimmy passed away...
            And the Corbelli family...Jen and Kim once cooked an Italian feast together for the entire Cottonwood teacher/staff team!!
"Thanks so much Jen - you're family has inspired ours, too, and we so appreciate the positive words and all of your prayers! Thanks for the blog link, I'll get working on it and let you know if I need help! Take care, Dave

Hello Dave, Kim & Kiddos,
Please forgive my delay in this email as I've been trying, hoping, and praying to say the words I wish to convey. First and far most, I can not begin to express my joy in the fact that Kim is home now. Home is where the heart is and also where we feel most comfortable. Miles between us has nothing to do with prayers as I hope they have all reached you daily. You are truly an amazing couple, family and friends to many. You have always inspired me to be a better person with the love and happiness that your family emits. I have held you in my heart and in my prayers and will keep you all there always. We often ask...or maybe speaking from myself, WHY? Only HE has the answers. To make us stronger, wiser, more loving? You have already answered that. You're family is strong. You're wise in your guidance and your love is overwhelming. So, how do we overcome? Simply...family and more prayers. Family is a root that runs deep and can never be broken. Prayers are miracles waiting to happen. I write this in hopes that you know, how much we carry you close to our hearts. Speaking for myself, I have held off in writing in the simple fact that words can't express what great expectations I have for all of you. Know that I have prayed, asked my family to pray ( my grandma & mom seem to have a direct lineSmiley emoticon ) and yet prayed some more.
So with that being said, I will leave the link that should be helpful to start a blog. If for any reason you questions or ANYTHING at all...you know where to find me. The blog steps are pretty simple to follow. If you wish to be a bit creative in the process, I'd love to help.
With that being said, Goodnight Conca Family & God Bless!
 Love, Jen"
                   Jen helped a lot with getting Kimmy's blog up and running!!
                  These were the thank you's I was sending out last year this time...
                    ....And I am still thankful for all of the help we received while Kimmy was sick...
                  Tonight, we started prepping for Thanksgiving...the bambini told me "we hafta have Mama's pumpkin roll...and cranberry sauce!!".  I've never made a pumpkin roll.  But I'm about to try.  We did make her cranberry sauce tonight.  And the bambini proclaimed that it was perfect!
                  1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
                  1 cup of sugar
                  1 cup of water
                  1 can of mandarin oranges
                  Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add the bag of cranberries.  Reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temp.  Add in oranges and refrigerate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sundays...a lot less scary...

I've come to realize, over the last year, that Sunday's, for me, had become the day that I feared the most...it had been the best of days, yet, went terribly wrong, deep into the night.  I had become fidgety, restless, distracted...and sleep?  Well, I didn't want to think about sleeping...I wanted to avoid the dreams, reliving that night, nearly a year ago...
...and here, on this Sunday, we had two more weeks to go...had we known...Well, I do believe we made the most of our time together, but still.
    However, my Southwest Family has made Sunday's a day that my family looks forward to again.  Beginning with church together, Viro's and then a day for the bambini to relax and play together.

Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2010 23:01:38 -0700

Well, it was another pretty good day for Kim! Now that the drain is gone, having been threaded through her rib cage, she had a pain free day (thanks for the prayers on this one)!! She has been assigned a nurse to stop by twice a week to check her vital signs and ask questions to see if any new symptoms are cropping up. His name is Jim, and, as Kim and I like to associate her medical team with people we know, actors, etc, we both said 'Steve Buscemi', as soon as Jim left. He looks like he could be Steve's cousin and sounds a lot like him, too. Buscemi just might be one of the most underrated actors of our time and we like his films, so it was a fun visit. Jim said Kim's vitals looked good, her heart rate is still accelerated, but her breathing has improved, so we cranked her oxygen machine down from 3 liters to 2!

Now, it is going to get busy for Kim! Nothing scheduled for the weekend, but, Monday morning, she will have her power port re-accessed. Tuesday morning, her PT scan has been scheduled. This will give Dr. Taetle a 'roadmap', so to speak of where the cancer has infected Kim's body. I guess this is where we need a lot of praying - we pray for good news from this test. The test will take several hours. Later that day, Kim will have an appointment with Dr. Struthers, her personal physician, last seen when Antonio was born back in 2003.

Kim has truly enjoyed being home. We just got done watching a bunch of old Columbo episodes. He always figured out how the bad guy did it. I love how he would face the murderer, without fear and explain how they had committed the crime. She really loves that show. It is more of a challenge here, as we second guess possible symptoms, but are quick to call for consultation. Without the Dr's, nurses, techs, cooks and cleaning crew, it is a fast paced day here (I need a stunt double!). But, as you can imagine, Kim is an amazing patient and has gotten back into helping the kids with homework, watching movies with them (Autumn and Kim watched 'Letters to Juliet' together tonight - thanks Andrea!) and spending time with her mom and Jim.

Ah, and the bambini's had another amazing day. Tonio and Autumn stayed after again and their teachers, Mrs. Schrantz and Mrs. Rudzena, helped them with homework (teachers that are willing to stay late on a Friday? We are blessed with hardworking leadership in this district!). The brought the kids home, along with Mrs. Rudzena's mom, Patti, and presented Kim with a beautiful charm bracelet, with charms to keep her strong, that the teachers at Cottonwood put together for her. She also received an autographed copy of Jane Seymour's 'Among Angels', from the store manager, Andy, of a Barnes & Noble up in Scottsdale. She had a nice time, but, due to the oxygen and her lung complications, she is pretty tired tonight. Cody had a good day in school, getting some extra help from Mrs. Paton, his science teacher and scoring a 100% on his test today. We all ate dinner together (Autumn leads us in prayer, she is so sweet), thanks to Melissa for the delicious enchiladas and tamales! It was the first time Carole and Jim had ever had them. I remember, shortly after we moved here, Kim and I went to Casa Molina for our first mexican meal. We ordered the tamales and I bit into mine, without unwrapping it. When the waitress stopped by to see how things were going, I told her 'how do you eat these things, they are so tough?'...she didn't even laugh at me as she explained that you had to unwrap the corn husk cover first... The kids played a rousing game of Yahtzee with their grandparents and then a little Guitar Hero, which I found that I am not so talented at. Tonio is quite the singer.

Kim seems to improve a little each day. Again, having her home has been wonderful and, we feel, re-energizing, as we focus on getting her strong enough to kick the oxygen and be able to walk on her own again! So many people approach me during my day and tell me that they have added Kim to their prayers, their prayer groups, their church's prayer list, etc. etc. I have noticed, that every time someone tells me that, something good happens for Kim. Thank you all.

Cast all your burdens to the Lord, and He will sustain you...always
Psalm 55:22
God Bless,

      Here's the thing.  In Mass this morning, with Andrea, Lupe and Manny, the Homily was all about how we do not know when our time will come "we do not know the hour or the day"...and we don't.  Over dinner tonight (I made marinara, meatballs, angel hair, etc for Andrea, David, Lexy, Breanna and the bambini), Andrea and I talked about how Kim may have known she had little time left, but did not want to get too deep into it.  She would tell us 'that is not important right now', so that we might enjoy the moment.  Andrea recalled how she seemed to have a bigger picture type of view, too - not just enjoying friends and family, but somehow focusing on EVERYTHING, like the sun, the birds, the mountains, the clouds, etc, etc.
         Talking to Angie tonight, she fondly remembered how when she walked into the room, Kim would hit her with a cheery "Hi Angie, how was your day?" and still cherishes a shower thanks to Kimmy.
        At Viro's, we focused on the big picture, as Kim did, we did that.  Today was an incredible day.  The type of day that makes us truly appreciate living in Arizona. 75 degrees and sunny...blue skies. And Vito and family visited with us, making us feel appreciated.  The bambini feasted.  One of Vito's newer team members, Tiffany, made her second ever cappuccino for me and her first ever white chocolate latte for Andrea....and they came out good.  The cannoli cake was amazing...but, it was the company that makes Viro's such a nice way to start our week!
           I do not know what tomorrow will bring...but I truly enjoyed today, and appreciated all of the sharing, caring moments...church, breakfast with family...the bambini playing...cooking  dinner for family (there is no such thing as lunch on Sunday's after Viro's!)...watching the Eagles win (remember, Dec 12th 2010, Kim and I watched them beat the Cowboys together) with Autumn wearing her Desean Jackson jersey...
           I will not fear the night tonight...and for that, I am thankful...