In Memory of Andrea- Faith, Trust, and Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

andrea kenney templeMany of us met Andrea at an LFS conference in Boston a few years ago. She and her mother Kim are well known within our Li-Fraumeni Syndrome support community. They are also known as having a particularly rough journey, even for mutants. Shortly after that conference, Andrea travelled between multiple hospitals, in search of a diagnosis for what would be her 4th cancer. When her AML relapsed, Andrea aware of the odds, faced treatment and death with the same grace and faith she approached life. When the time came Andrea “crossed the veil peacefully and joyfully” on May 11, 2016 at the age of 28.

Andrea could take the toughest tough situation and make it better, whether it was brightening someone’s day with an cake decorated entirely with oreos, sharing contest winnings with a fellow contestant or just spending time cheering someone on. When diagnosed with her 4th cancer, the same type of leukemia that eventually took her family members, she began to blog about it. She showed us step by step how to take lemons and turn them into Pink Lemonade Cupcakes.

Andrea found the good and meaning in the tough times while remaining realistic. When the good times were easy and present or when they were elusive, she held fast to her faith and trust in her Lord. She was a positive, loving,  gracious, adventurous woman and friend. Yet among all of her relationships, the most important were family. Each day was a gift to help serve others and she fulfilled this role faithfully as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. We thought the best way to honor Andrea is with her own words, words that show her strength, her insight and the generous, faithful person she was.

36877_624829616214_4026294_n

FAITH

Anyone who met Andrea, knew how important her faith was to her and that it carried her family through some seriously trying times. She had faith in her lord, she had faith in what was to be and faith that her purpose here was to help others. She did this daily. She often praised her husband for his faith in her and them as a team. Together they became foster parents.

The Lord is giving me this trial to show that He loves me and is control and will protect and spare me, if I but trust in Him. I want to clarify that I don’t think I am more or less faithful than any of my other family members by saying this. I know that the Lord will never take you before it’s your time to go. He will not take you because you lack faith or because you have misbehaved. I say this because it’s been a testament to me that my work on Earth is not done. Perhaps there are more children who need us to provide a safe home and loving arms for them that only we can provide… whatever the reason, I trust that Heavenly Father will help to guide me as I let Him and together we will get it done 🙂 I love being an instrument in His hands. I LOVE SERVICE.

 

TRUST

Andrea trusted her faith and that there was a plan to the suffering. It didn’t make the suffering easier, but she trusted that in time she would understand. One of the foundations of marriage is trust. She often remarked at how wonderful her husband Brian was, to take her on knowing what they were up against. She was in treatment and times were uncertain, yet at times like these Andrea had faith and trust that there was a plan. Her plan included marriage and children. The path was not always direct, but when you trust in the destination, she knew the means weren’t as important. As she and Brian got ready for marriage, friends entered them in a contest to help with the wedding expenses. The competition was steep, but Andrea immediately befriended the other contestants, sharing stories and wedding plans. When she and Brian won the contest, Andrea gave a portion of her prize to another contestant, so that she too could have the dress of her dreams for her wedding.

andrea kenney wedding

Through this bout with leukemia, I’ve come to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Heavenly Father loves me. He knows me. Personally. He is in the very minutes of my life. He cares about every seemingly trivial thing. Everything He allows me to go through is for my good. Everything I go through, I wouldn’t have to go through if there was no point. There is a plan. Sometimes I get glimpses of it. 99% of the time I just have to trust.Although I’ve hit this wall, I’m starting to climb it. Christ is there for me every step of the way. 

PINK LEMONADE CUPCAKES

andrea kenney plc2

When you live with LFS, it’s so easy to question. It’s easy to feel alone, that even those closest to you don’t even understand. When you’re always getting sick, whether it be cancer or illnesses due to your weakened immune system, it’s easy to start feeling like this is your life. It’s easy to feel like there is no relief in sight. No real relief, at least. You have periods of time when you get a “break”, but even during those ‘breaks” you begin to feel like you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every headache, you think “Is it a tumor?” 

Andrea knew that life was a gift and found happiness in helping others. She showed others how to give, how to love and inspired everyone who was fortunate to know her. During one particularly grueling hospitalization she missed many events, including a young friend’s birthday. He loves her homemade bread and she had promised to make him a batch, so as soon as she was discharged and home, she hugged her littles and set about making bread to take to her little friend just days after being in the hospital.

Service helps a lot. I love love love service. It takes my mind off of me and my problems and turns it outward. And it never has to be anything huge, just a smile here and there, meeting new people, complimenting a nurse on her scrubs, ets…. But honestly, just complimenting someone and seeing their face light up, helps to brighten my day. 

andrea kenney plc

Andrea’s Celebration of Life was truly a celebration, she would not want to be the cause of sadness. In honor of her love for baking and at Andrea’s request to have her favorite dishes at her memorial, her mother Kim asked if a few friends might want to assist in baking pink lemonade cupcakes for the service. The offers poured in, each one offering help and sweetness in this time of sadness. Friends from around the world also baked cupcakes in her honor and in that way Andrea continues to give even after death. Because out of the bitter lemon of this loss, she gave us the recipe to carry on and make pink lemonade cupcakes.

Recipe for Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 mins Total Time: 35 mins Serves: 18, Yield: 18 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
12 teaspoons pink colored crystal sugar (make by adding red food coloring to sugar)
1 (18 1/4 ounce) package white cake mix
water (amount based on cake mix instructions)
3/4 cup thawed frozen pink lemonade concentrate (undiluted)
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven 350°F.
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners and Spray each with vegetable pan spray; sprinkle 1 teaspoon colored sugar into each cupcake-space in the pan.
Add water to pink lemonade mix to total amount of water called for on cake mix package directions.
Follow cake mix package directions to prepare cake, adding grated lemon peel.
Portion into prepared cupcake pan with liners using spring release ice cream scoop, if you have.
Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack; remove and cool completely before decorating.
© 2016 Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved. http://www.food.com/307473
Pink Lemonade Buttercream Frosting
For the buttercream:
1 ½ sticks or 12 ounces butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, low fat, at room temperature
1/2 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 boxes(1 pound each) powdered sugar, sifted
2 drops red food coloring, if desired
Pink Lemonade Buttercream Frosting Directions
In a large bowl, with electric beater on high, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Reduce speed to low and beat in powdered sugar alternately with lemonade and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Beat in the grated zest and food coloring until well combined and light pink in color.
~ This recipe makes a generous portion of icing, probably more than you need for these 18 cupcakes. Unused buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container; let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.

Andrea’s Post about LFS- Let’s Be Real


Brian Ries- No Matter the Odds, Keep Fighting

Brian Ries
Brian Ries- No Matter the Odds, Keep Fighting.

About a month ago, I reached out to the support group to see if anyone was willing to share their story of childhood cancer with us here. Brian replied right away and sent me several photos from his first battle with cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma when he was 9 years old. He also included a few recent pictures and I was immediately struck by how much his son looks like him. We chatted by messages back and forth about this, about his new diagnosis, treatment and how many unknowns there were with cancer. But as a child, he was told he wouldn’t survive and yet he did. He knew from then on that anything is possible. Brian joined our support group only a few short months ago, but in that time became a beacon of hope and spirit. His positive attitude was contagious and much appreciated in a group plagued by cancers.

BrianRies and wife

Brian and his wife, submitted by Brian.

I knew the prognosis for this recent cancer Brian faced wasn’t good because he told me. Brian was not one to even consider the odds and he is a fighter. Every person’s experience with cancer is different. As a survivor of childhood cancer, Brian knew what that battle was about. He knew the enemy. He faced it armed with a positive attitude and a fighting spirit. To win is not to necessarily beat cancer- but to fight cancer on your terms. Brian did that. When his sister Brandy posted to let us know that Brian passed, it profoundly affected the group. He may not have been in the group for long, but he made an impact. He showed us that positive attitude makes a difference and his positive presence will be missed. Brian beat the odds many times and yet he was still taken too soon. Here is what Brian had to say about Living with LFS.

Brian Ries and family copy

A young Brian, his parents and sister Brandy

From a recent study we found out that my family has a mutation. My genes included. I myself have had Rhabdomyosarcoma, Basal cell cancer, vestibular schwannoma and now Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma. Not bad for someone just turned 37. Let’s get the history out of the way. At 9, Rhabdomyosarcoma, was deemed terminal, glad to prove them wrong. 3 years ago basal cell minor skin cancer, no big deal. 2 years ago vestibular schwannoma brain tumor. Wasn’t the worst or the best to have. Completing my circle now with a rare, deadly lymphoma… Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma with characteristics of Leukemia. The add on with the leukemia is because it is more aggressive than normal and acting as leukemia at the same time. Though, didn’t let cancer win in past, sure the heck planning to not let it win this time. At minimum, I’ll give it a fight it won’t forget! After participating in a study, found I have gene issue too. Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Answers a lot of questions there. Stems from my fathers side, he died from Glioblastoma in 2001 and on his side, tons of cancers. Though for just turning 37, I’ve piled up a heck of a list just myself. Pleasure to meet you all and look forward to cheering and encouraging as people take on their battle with cancer. No matter to odds, keep on fighting!

Brian ries and dad

A young Brian and his dad

Sometimes you just need to log in and say “Cancer, be prepared for the fight of the century!”. Remember, no matter the odds or statistics, those are just numbers. Every fight is different, keep up the good spirits while fighting! I’m a firm believer that attitude helps!

Brian ries treatment

Getting treatment

My current cancer situation has gone pretty crazy. Month ago was hospitalized for over a week, was actually told only had couple days to live. Been in hospital another week, hoping to be released Friday. They’ve determined my problem is I have 2 types of rare cancer this time, which is why they had a lot of trouble treating, because it is actually two. Both rare nasty types, T-Cell Prolymphocytic Leukemia (T-PLL) and Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma (PTCL). New game plan is 2 types of chemo, one for each cancer. Just wanted to remind people that no matter what they think, keep fighting. Not going to deny, this is my first cancer/tumor battle since my brain tumor (I’ve had technically 4 cancers now and a brain tumor) but the thing to never do, never give up. Though I have good inspiration from a person I met online that had the T-PLL and is currently getting ready for stem cell transplant.

Technology today allowing us to share stories and life experiences, especially with people with alike situations (our lovely mutation). Enjoy this day and age and utilize others to help you keep fighting when needed. Technology is great and since my brain tumor, I can see huge difference in how its helped me. With today’s technology, nobody is ever alone and even rare things, can find people to help you through. It’s great! For those fighting, keep up the good work! Best wishes to all mutants (and regular people too) . – Brian Ries

Brian Ries kids

Our condolences go out to Brian’s family and friends at this time. He will be remembered. If you would like to send a message to Brian’s family or follow along with updates of how they are doing, there is a page dedicated to him on Facebook- Help Brian Ries:
Help Brian Ries Facebook Page