Jul 8, 2007

What's New with Us?

Announcing Team Superman

During those many long months of struggling to get even one step ahead of Matthew's brain tumor, we could only dream of a time when we, as a family, might have an opportunity to strike back against this dreaded disease. Well, we feel that time has come...

We are excited to announce that we are organizing Team Superman (for the significance of this name, check out our 2/2/06 posting) to participate in the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation "Stride for Life 5K Walk/Run" on Sunday, September 30, in Reston, Virginia.

All proceeds raised by Team Superman will be used to fund a study on germ cell tumors of the central nervous system (Matthew's diagnosis). Research is seriously needed to fight this rare disease. One of the more horrific aspects of our ordeal was that, after Matthew failed his initial chemo protocol, there were no data to guide his treatment. Our goal is to raise sufficient funds to support one good study that will advance understanding of treatment options.

We will be sending out more info by email and mail in the next few weeks on how you can support Team Superman with your participation and/or donations. We would love to include everyone who reads our blog and might be interested in participating. If there's a chance I might not have your email and home address, please send this information to
jbanksresearch@comcast.net so that I can keep you in the loop.

Thank you in advance for supporting us in this effort!!!


... and a Long-Overdue Update

It's been a long while since I posted a family update. Now that we're back home and in a mostly normal routine, it's hard for me to know what and how much to post. (My thinking goes like this: If our lives are more or less similar to everyone else's lives at this point, why would anyone want to read about us?) Nevertheless, I run across a fair number of people who say to me (wistfully? reproachfully?): "You're not writing the blog anymore, and I miss it," and this gives me the encouragement to post this brief update of what's been happening in our lives over the past few months.

Family Trip to Utah

We had an awesome spring break trip to Utah for five days of skiing, followed by five days of touring the national parks.

For Matthew it was a sweet return to the sport he loves so much and a relief to find he had lost none of his skill or balance. Danny turned into a real skier on this trip, leaving me behind after the first day and heading off with Matthew & Jon for tougher trails. For the second half of the trip, we drove across much of Utah and hiked the gorgeous scenery of Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks. It was quite spectacular.

Matthew's Trip to Russia

Matthew had an amazing time in Moscow. He stayed with a most welcoming host family, met some fantastic people, saw many sights and took a ton of photos. His dominant impressions were 1) that Muscovites don't generally smile in public, and 2) that life in Moscow is very different from life back home. His best story involves how he and the host son, Daniel, talked their way into a disco, (despite not being old enough), using math skills to impress the bouncer into thinking they were college students. It's a lot more colorful the way Matthew tells it.

Race for Hope

The first weekend in May, our family, along with several friends, participated in the Brain Tumor Society Race for Hope 5K to support brain tumor research. This amazing event attracted more than 6,000 participants and raised over $1 million. At the check-in area we had the unexpected pleasure of running into both Matthew's neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins and our consulting neuro-oncologist from Children's National Medical Center. As the race started, it was uplifting to see Matthew among the large group of yellow-shirted survivors surging down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol building, as well as sobering to see how many lives are affected by this devastating disease.

School Year Round-Up

Well, without mincing words, the 10th grade school year was extremely tough: Matthew spent every ounce of energy and nearly every second of free time doing homework just to keep up with the workload - and he was still going to have to attend summer school this summer and next if he was going to graduate on time with his class.

On the sidelines, Jon & I were becoming more & more convinced that something "had to give." After getting loads of valuable input from friends and professionals (and friends who are professionals!), we sat down with school personnel and came up with a proposal to extend Matthew's high school term by one semester beyond 12th grade. The proposed plan permits Matthew to remain with his class while taking a reduced schedule over the next 2 1/2 years, have breathing room over the summer, and postpone SATs/college planning for another year. We are all pleased to have arrived at this option and hope that it will make our lives considerably less stressful!

Summer Plans

Summer has gotten off to an excellent start. Matthew is concentrating on fulfilling his high school community service requirement. He attended two weeks of community service camp downtown and is now working two afternoons a week as a youth counselor at The Children's Inn, with children who are receiving treatment at the NIH. He is also practicing with the swim team, working out with a trainer, playing guitar, and catching up with friends. He turned 16 last month, but so far has not pushed too hard on the driving front!

Danny (who has sprung up like a weed and is now practically my height) has been attending a very active day camp for the past three weeks (one week left to go), where they swim twice a day, play all kinds of sports (soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, etc.), go kayaking and horseback riding, do drama and art, and come home pleasantly exhausted.

In mid-July, both boys will head off to different sleepaway camps and Jon & I will fly up to Maine for a week of biking, kayaking, and hiking. Later in the summer, when the boys come home from camp, we hope to spend a week on Cape Cod visiting Jon's mom.

Hope you are having a good summer. We'll be in touch!

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