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I should start by saying we have now raised $43,291, including the checks I mailed today (which won’t likely show up on individual shavee pages for a few weeks).  Which means that we are a mere $1,709 away from my original and very ambitious $45,000 goal. Which also means that if every one of the 75 shavees raised just $23 more, we would reach that goal. Twenty-three dollars!  Let’s do this, people.

More pictures and more stories: We had a lot of school teams this year, which is exactly what I want this event to become and what I hope drives our numbers up even higher in the future. Fernway School in Shaker, home to two preschool buddies of Braedan and Austin, fielded a team of ten kids and one dad and is poised to grow by leaps and bounds next year.

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There were also five kindergarten students from Gesu who shaved, many of them for the second time.

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And then there was the Heights High team (of course, one of my favorites), the Buzz Buddies. This one was spearheaded by a girl, a 17-year-old senior who shaved her head clean bald. I have to admit, these are the ones that get me the most, because it’s something I would never have been brave enough to do as a 17-year-old girl. I was gusty (still am), but not that gutsy (still aren’t). So I watched in awe as Katy raised significant sums of money and rounded up five of her (male) friends to join her and then hopped into that chair without a second thought.

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And of course, there was a Team Roxboro, another personal favorite. This one was captained by our sweet friend Charlie who, as a first grader, has raised more than $2000 in his two years shaving, and was joined this year by his uncle.

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And there was the hard-to-beat Team Fairfax, with fourteen students and one mom (who cut and donated). I think it’s safe to say that it’s cooler to be bald in that building this week than not. And I can pretty much guarantee that their academic performance has improved now that they can see the board. Just look at this shaggy-haired bunch of ragamuffins:

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I have still more to post tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out this photo gallery.

I had my own hero moment on Sunday afternoon, an all-this-work-over-the-past-few-months-planning-organizing-scheduling-emailing-promoting-reminding-pleading-prodding-begging-nagging has been worth it kind of moment, when we got into the car to go home and Braedan said, “Thanks, mom. You do great things.”

I’ve finally uploaded all of Dallas’ pictures to a Kodak Gallery, found here. I have more to add from both Mark’s and my dad’s cameras. The cool thing about these public galleries is that you can all add your photos to the one album and then we’ll have a huge array of images to look at and choose from to represent that very special day.

Also, I finally received a link to the piece on Fox News. There are actually two, one from last Sunday and another from this past Friday that has our event intermingled with the A.J. Rocco’s and U.S. events. (U.S., by the way, has passed us by, having raised a total of $46,365 with 65 heads shaved. Oh well, it was all in honor of Austin and it all goes to the best place.  But … next year!). The clip of our event (the second one down) is sort of silly because the cameraman picked the worst possible moment to interview me, right between introducing people and while Breadan was shaving (which I completely missed).  But I’m pretty sure I had done a fine job, explaining St. Baldrick’s and the value of raising money and awareness and so on, when he asked me how this all makes me feel. How does it make me feel?  Well, you can see my jumbled response! I was trying to say something about Leah, because she had just finished shaving and the shock and awe and emotion of that moment was still fresh in my mind. But I got sidetracked and first mentioned Kristi and finally ended up looking over my shoulder to catch a quick glimpse of Braedan and whatever I said after that is laying on the cutting room floor.

Oh well, I guess they captured true emotion.

Speaking of true emotion, Saturday was another really special day. Just really … special.  These past five years of being involved with St. Baldrick’s has made St Patrick’s Day into a pretty significant holiday for our family.  And this year, with the boys being the national face of the head-shaving campaign, that significance has only grown.

We headed downtown into an extremely crowded and party-like atmosphere in the mid-afternoon. AJ Rocco’s was as crowded as ever, if not more so. We pushed out way through to the back where we gathered with family and friends and climbed onto a bench so we could watch the festivities from on high.

Finally, it was our turn and we pushed and shoved and squeezed our way to the stage in the corner. Mark and Kirk and Jay were all shaving together, with special permission granted to Braedan and Austin to help with Mark’s shearing. I love this photo below as the MC announced that it was us on the huge poster on the wall:

And then they began.  Braedan, naturally, hopped up and grabbed those buzzers and happily started shaving Daddy. Austin, naturally, hung back in my arms until watching his big brother have all the fun made him jealous enough to brave the crowds and he too scooted into Daddy’s lap and took his turn. Once they got started, there was no stopping them.

I have moments, every once in a while, when the enormity of all we’ve been through hits me like a ton of bricks.  All the years of fear and worry, of calling the hospital “home” and of waiting through eight and ten hour surgeries, of poking and sticking my poor boy’s battle-scarred body, of never knowing what fresh horror the next day might hold. And it came crashing down around me, right then as I felt so overwhelmingly relieved to watch my two healthy children shave their father’s head, so incredibly honored to have them represent this very special event the whole world over.

Now, some of you may say, “That’s great, let the feelings come, don’t hold back.” But really, standing in a crowded bar on a holiday in the middle of downtown Cleveland is neither the time nor the place to really break down. So I shed a few tears and choked the rest back and took a lot of pictures and cheered them on, so full of pride and amazement at how we’d come through, so grateful for all the love and support we felt and still feel around us.

And then it was over. They were done and stood up to show off their nicely shaped domes. Then it was more beers and sending the kids home with their aunt and take-out so we could spend the rest of the evening celebrating.

There was one other moment worth mentioning though. As you might imagine, bringing your kids into any downtown bar on St Patrick’s Day in Cleveland is risky business. And while A.J.Rocco’s has given our city a huge gift by hosting this event over the past ten years, it is, nonetheless overcrowded with post-Parade partiers.  Most of the people were there specifically for St. Baldrick’s, but some had undoubtedly wandered in off the streets.  And while mine were not the only kids there, they were among just a handful. So, as we were waiting our turn, tucked away in a corner, this one woman walked by a few times and shot some very dirty looks in our direction. Later, as Mark was watching one of our nurses shave her head, with Austin perched on his shoulders, this woman leaned in to say, “He shouldn’t be here.”

Oooh, man, I wish she’d said it to me because I’ve been fantasizing about what I’d have said back ever since Mark told me. But my husband, Mr Cool and Collected, just calmly replied, “You’re gonna regret saying that in about ten minutes.” She clearly had no idea what was going on there that day.

Because of every one of the hundreds of people squashed into that narrow little bar, Austin deserved to be there most of all.

I apologize in advance if this one is disturbing for you, but I feel it’s a necessary part of our full story. On Austin’s birthday last week, Mark and I took a moment to look through the photo album that contained images from his first birthday, and to reflect for a minute on just how far we’ve come. As we flipped through a few months’ worth of photos, I realized that those of you who started reading after I launched this blog, but never read the CarePage, missed out on some of the most serious days — and most disturbing images — of his and our lives.

So, here they are, in all their gory (“L” purposefully omitted).

This first one was taken the morning of August 1, 2007, our third day in the hospital. You can see that his belly is a bit distended, but not alarmingly so. This was the last moment his skin was unmarked by scars, as he was preparing to go into his surgical biopsy which left him with two inch-long incisions on either side of his abdomen and a Broviac line in his chest:

Sleeping post-surgery with his mama. It was now confirmed that he did indeed have cancer:

And with Caryl. You can almost see one of the scars under his hand:

And with his Gram. Poor sad baby, he held on to that juice box for dear life:

But after eleven days, we went home and he started to get back to normal. The Broviac line under his shirt is what causes all that lumpiness:

Still smiling:

Still playing:


And then things began to change. When he was supposed to be getting better, he instead got worse. Over Labor Day weekend, right after a blast of three chemo drugs, his belly just kept growing. Growing and growing, bigger every day. I literally tied a piece of ribbon around it and measured it on Saturday. It was one centimeter bigger on Sunday. And another on Monday. And by Tuesday, we were back in the hospital:

The next day we learned the truth: the tumor, which at diagnosis was 7 by 7 by 14 centimeters, was now 10 by 15 by 21.

And yet he still tried to smile:

But it wasn’t easy:

And then there are these next ones. Taken on Friday, September 7, 2007, two weeks before Austin’s first birthday and mere minutes before we brought him to the pre-op room for a six-hour surgery that would remove his right kidney and a five-and-a-half pound tumor:

I know, I know. I was there. I saw these images with my own eyes. In my own child. So believe me, I know how bad they are:

And hours and hours later, he was returned to us, nearly six pounds lighter:

And so he was lighter and, we hoped, healthier:

But it was six days before we knew why it had grown so horrifically and a full ten days before he was allowed to eat again. Ten days with no milk, no food, no water, except for the few ice chips I sneaked him one day (which he promptly threw up):

He was a mere shell of the boy I once knew:

Those were the worst days for me. Of my life, I think. But he still managed to smile:

Finally, we got to go home, for five days, where we celebrated his first birthday:

And when those five days were up, we were right back in the hospital, getting ready for another surgery. But this time, Austin’s belly was fat from all that cake:

I know these are sad and I know they’re shocking. But I’m okay with looking at them. In a way, I think it’s good: we should never forget. But that was then.

And this is now:

And we are the luckiest.

I don’t intend to make anyone jealous (I too am looking at my window at another winter wonderland), but here are some more pictures from our trip.

Enjoying the pool (nice view, eh?)

And the beach

The littlest Dietrichs

One happy boy

This old school merry-go-round gave me the opportunity to
explain the words “litigious society” to Braedan when he asked
why we don’t have any closer to home!

Sweet boys

Braedan in the bird cage

Proof of how much the kids have grown in two years: they actually survived the pony riding (and even asked for more)!

I guess I’m having fun too

Increasing evidence that we need to carry a real camera with us and stop relying solely on our blurry phones . . .

Really, how hard would that be?

Til next time . . .

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