Friday, August 18, 2017

Summertime fun!

As the summer holidays draw to a close I realize I have been remiss in updating the blog for some time. A good sign! Isabella had another MRI at the end of July and all continues to be stable. We move forward for another three months. Another MRI is scheduled in early November.

Meanwhile we have had an action packed summer - featuring a lot of water. Isabella enjoyed a two week sailing course in Italy. She loves being on the water. She had a blast, made lots of friends and is already planning her return next summer. Before and after the sailing camp she was royally treated to a very special vacanze romane with the nonni. I think Gianna took Isabella to every corner of Rome by bus or on foot, experiencing the art and food of Rome at it's best. Isabella feels she really knows the city and I know how special it was by the enthusiasm she told me about the Caravaggio's she saw or the details of the different churches. Then there were the evenings out and the musical evening at Parco della Musica. Bravi nonni! Isabella also enjoyed some fun evenings out with Gregorio's friends and their children, including Mamma Mia in Italian! And the goodies - wearable and edible that she returned home with were received very enthusiastically!

Back in DC Mati joined a summer swim league. She enjoys being in the water - she trained most days during the week and swam in competitions most week-ends. Gregorio and I loved watching and cheering our "dolphin" on. It was a lot of fun, even if the locations were in the back of beyond, up to an hour away from home - and we needed to be there by 7am or earlier! Mati did very well and enjoyed the team camaraderie that a summer swim team provides. She is now looking forward to getting back to winter training but already planning on joining the summer league again next year. When she wasn't swimming (or sleeping or eating - she does a lot of both) she took a culinary camp  - cooking some impressive dishes.

After a month apart - we had an idea of what the future will be like - the girls were desperate to see each other!

As I write this, we are wrapping up our family summer vacation - seaside on the US Atlantic. We began with a very relaxing week at the beach in Lewes, Delaware. We stayed in a lovely little beach cottage, opposite the ice cream store and enjoyed morning runs or bike rides into the state park and relaxed by the shore later in the day. We sampled local craft beer and had some retail therapy when it rained. We then crossed the Delaware Bay and spent a week in Cape May, New Jersey, a delightful seaside town, with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants and quaint victorian architecture. Fun and lively but tasteful. It was a very pleasant discovery. Despite some wet days (providing time for Monopoly and lots of reading), the sunset cruise around the island watching many dolphins was magical, the seafood and local produce everywhere were delicious. We had some great food - cooked at home and  sampled at delightful restaurants and a local farm. We found some great beaches and had endless fun in the waves or flying the kite. A pure simple quality family vacation.

We are returning to DC refreshed and ready for the "new year". The English cousins will arrive the afternoon we get back. School starts again next week and so I will probably add another update this week.

Despite all the terrible events that continue to happen around the world, we hope you are all well!



Lots of love,

Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde xxx

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring in DC

Short version: last week's MRI revealed that all is still stable, three months without treatment. Great news, we move on for another three months. Tune back in, in early August for another medical update.

Longer version: of course we have been keeping busy since we last updated you. We had a fabulous week skiing in Steamboat Springs Colorado in February. Nine days on the slopes was amazing, a real treat even if old bodies couldn't keep up. Gregorio and I are dreaming about retirement and how we can insure extended periods of time in the mountains... We had all weathers with the last two days of powder being pure magic, if a little chilly - 1F at the summit or -18C in some people's language!

In April Gregorio celebrated a half century!

I nonni joined us from Rome on a musical tour of Tennessee. The graphic designer in my office had turned the itinerary, planned by yours truly, into a rockstar magazine which Gregorio loved. See photo. We began in Memphis with a memorable gospel church service, quasi rock concert on Palm Sunday ("put your palms together for Palm Sunday") followed by a Love me Tender tour at Gracelands, to singing the blues on Beale Street. We learnt about the birthplace of rock n roll with studio tours and several great music museums and a tour of the Gibson guitar factory. We had tunes ringing in our ears or were constantly tapping our feet. In between we cruised down the mighty Mississippi on a paddle steamer, drove around in 1950's cars visiting Elvis haunts, saw the duck march at the Peabody hotel, climbed a pyramid, visited the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated and dined on delicious BBQ food and hot fried chicken. Then onwards to Nashville for the final few days, the home of country music - where there was music oozing out of every bar and museum in town. The songwriter's round at the Bluebird Cafe on Gregorio's actual birthday was particularly special. We had quite the best spare ribs we have ever tasted and the most original and indulgent donuts (bacon flavored?!). We even had a surprise visit to a small artisanal pasta factory that Gregorio has been following on instagram! It was certainly a memorable week. Back in DC we had an Easter birthday lunch to round out the celebrations with friends and family.

Oh but wait that was not all the birthday celebrations. He was 50 after all! Just last week-end Gregorio enjoyed one of our gifts - a drive in a Ferrari - all 5 minutes, but still he said it was pretty cool! Later this spring he is going to take an one hour flying lesson.

While the grandparents were here, we have been busy enjoying the sites of DC, including the hot ticket in town  - the Yayoi Kusama Infinity mirrors exhibition at the Hirshhorn. After several attempts we were lucky to get tickets, apparently most Mondays there were about 57,000 trying to sign up for for the 6,000 tickets that were released each week! A fascinating fascination with polka dots.

This past week-end we had the largest team ever for the annual Race for Hope. A cool start but it turned out to be a glorious afternoon and we had nearly 60 friends back in the garden for a celebratory BBQ. Isabella was reluctant to join the Survivor's tribute at the start of the race but Mati offered to join her. The team were surprised when we hadn't seen Bella stride by but they were delayed and suddenly made a dash appearance on their own at the end. Rather entertaining. Isabella ran her best time ever and was very happy. It is always a very emotional and moving event, so inspiring to see the survivors and as a family we draw great comfort from the support that our friends and family give us. Two friends flew in especially for the event, one from Italy and another from Belgium. The latter was a total surprise (that I still can't believe I hadn't cottoned on to) we were all truly touched that they wanted to join us for this special annual tradition.



The grandparents have returned to Rome and our home is a little empty! Meanwhile the school year continues at a fast pace with exams looming. Isabella is taking her maths IGCSE this year and both are getting ready for their piano exams. We shall be looking forward to slowing down in the summer. The plans are still coming together but we have booked Isabella's ticket to Italy (on her own) to see the nonni and take a two week sailing camp.

Lots of love to you all,
Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Mati. xxx

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Year - NO treatment!

Last week-end's MRI shows that the tumor is stable. It is smaller than it was when we started treatment last February. We have decided to stop treatment. Isabella is happy and positively beaming at the news. After a three week break over Christmas and New Year, she was rid of the darn side effects that had been building up and now she can enjoy the freedom from the treatment.

Next MRI will be in three months to monitor the tumor.

Till then we are free of medical visits. YEAH! We discussed treatment options if/when the tumor regrows. We will cross that bridge when it happens.

Brace yourself world for the event that really is happening in DC tomorrow...

Lots of love,
Emma & co xxx

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Look back and looking ahead to 2017!

It has been some months since we last updated this blog. The good news, as many of you have concluded, is that Isabella is doing well and we have been busy with many other things.

Flower girls this summer

I am writing this while sitting at the hospital for Isabella's monthly check-up. After a VERY long day we have concluded that Isabella's body needs a break from the current medication, 3 out of the past 4 years she has been on this medication, the toxicity is undoubtedly building in her body. We are able to take a three week break on this trial, she will then be due for her next MRI and we will assess whether she should continue with a reduced dose (and hopefully limit some of the side affects)  or stop the medication altogether. Stopping sounds pretty good but the unknown does cause apprehension as we don't know exactly what the treatment options are, should the tumor regrow. We will cross that bridge when we get there. In the meantime a Christmas break without having to remember to take the pills twice a day on a completely empty stomach or worry about the latest possible side effect will be a relief all round.

Ahhh, collapse on the sofa with a good cup of tea.

Time for Tea
Atop Rocciamelone
Looking back at the past six months - we had good summer that included a stop in London to catch up with friends and family. Cultural highlights included an evening at The Globe, getting lost in the maze at Hampton Court and afternoon tea at Kensington Palace. We then had two very relaxing weeks in the Italian Alps with i nonni and also a visit from the English nephews. We visited our favourite haunts, hiked our preferred trails and got our fix of gelato and other Italian goodies. The highlight was Mati conquering Rocciamelone at 3538 m with Gregorio and a couple of friends. Thanks to modern technology -  photos and messages were instantly beamed down to the valley and I think the whole of Susa, from the hair dresser to the post office knew about the granddaughter who had climbed the mountain and then written a very special message to the Madonna di Rocciamelone praying for the other granddaughter. An emotional day.

L'ultimo gelato all'aeroporto di Torino
Sightseeing in London
No matter the age, all want to climb up there!
We returned to DC at the end of August and dove right back into school and I think we are only now catching our breathe as we wind down for the Christmas holidays. Matilde traveled with the school to Florida for a week in November to participate in an inter school sports competition. She talked a lot about the swimming and archery in which she represented her school but I think Disney World and her first ever roller coast ride also left a big impression! Gregorio traveled to Turkey, his last work mission there, now that he has moved to covering warmer climes in the Caribbean. The girls and I took a whirlwind trip to New York to see an old friend - it was the perfect autumn Sunday in the Big Apple. I had two great work trips this autumn - a wonderfully luxurious whirlwind tour to
one of many in Italy!
with cousins in the Alps
Moscow and St Petersburg. I knew it would have changed since my last visit in 1988 but I could not have imagined by how much. The grey Soviet era is firmly in the dim and distant past. The beauty, opulence and great food were truly memorable. Sadly I don't see us sending American travelers to Russia soon. This trip was followed by 10 days in Oxford and London - a quintessentially English experience to feed my annual nostalgic needs. I managed some annual rituals with bonfire night, Remembrance day, stocking up on tea and treats from Fortnums and clothes shopping on the King's Road (thanks to the great exchange rate!) to name just a few non work related things I squeezed in.
Back to School Sept 2016

The girls are growing up and becoming very independent. They are both happy and working hard at school. Isabella has started her IGCSEs and will be taking a couple next summer - under four years and she will be flying the nest! Hard to believe. Swimming is Mati's life - practicing four times a week and then swim meets on many week-ends. The bathroom is filled with wet swimming costumes and towels everywhere! Meanwhile Bella continues to sing with the Children's Chorus of Washington. Last week's Christmas concert was beautiful, the new director has breathed some new energy into their repertoire.
Oyster festival in Maryland

2016 has been quite a year around the world. I was in London the night of the US election. The result was a surprise and shock for many of us. It was the second time this year, I have felt let down by 'my' country. I am at home in England and America though I have no voting rights in either. The US presidential election and the Brexit vote came after very contentious campaigns and left me, first with a major identity crisis (I have since filed my papers to become an Italian citizen) and the second, apprehensive of what the future will bring.

Kid's table at Thanksgiving
economic students...a few years later
As a dear English friend's father wrote recently, while the future remains uncertain, there will always be friendship. And this year we have certainly relished the friends we have. We were visited by the Italian friend who first introduced Gregorio and I - some 22 years ago - he certainly looked the same, not sure about Gregorio and I! We reconnected with a number of friends in London after several years to celebrate my birthday this summer and we were visited by other dear friends who previously lived in DC. This week we have sadly said goodbye (for now?) to some friends heading back to live in Europe. We've had plenty of fun times with friends to be thankful for this year. Thanksgiving at the Impavido household has become a tradition with our dearest DC friends, they are practically family - a big one at that, there were 32 of us sitting down to turkey and trimmings in November. For Christmas we will be at an equally warm gathering of close DC friends. Preceded, as always, by Gregorio's traditional Christmas Eve fish meal - Mati is not particularly fond of fish but she believes the menu is sacred and cannot be changed!
cena nel cortile!
The "usual" English walk in Virginia

We are looking forward to a relaxing Christmas break and ready for new adventures in 2017. We wish you all a magical time with your family and friends and the brightest and healthiest of New Years.

Lots of love,

Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde. x

PS can you ever have enough Emmas in your life?!?
Bonfire night - Up, Down & Sideways!
in NYC

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shrinkage!

Nearly six months back on the treatment and we have confirmed shrinkage.  Need I say more?!

Yesterday's MRI shows approx 20% reduction so the tedium of taking the pills twice a day on an empty stomach ( four of us have synchronized alarms on more devices than you can imagine to avoid missing even one dose) and the annoying side effects to Isabella's skin are worth it. This is great news. We will leave soon on holiday and will depart in a very good mood.

Girls are having a good summer. Sleepovers, shopping and plenty of sports ( swimming and rowing in pretty oppressive DC heat)  are keeping them entertained. We've had some fun outings and also attending a beautiful wedding a couple of weeks ago where the girls were flower girls. We are looking forward to catching up with family and friends in Europe soon.

Some photos from some recent activities in DC.

Next MRI end of October.

Lots of love
The Impavidos xxx


Monday, May 16, 2016

All Stable

First MRI since we restarted treatment shows that the trial drug is continuing to have effect. The official word is that the tumor is stable, and shows no growth since the February MRI. Looking at the figures it might even have shrunk slightly. But they need to see a more significant decrease to officially declare shrinkage. However, stable is VERY good we are much relieved and move forward for another three months.

This means we can now finally start to think about our summer plans. We are still constrained by medical appointments and school holidays but we are very grateful that the treatment is continuing to have a positive effect. Isabella is one of the first to go back on this treatment.

Meanwhile in other news: it is still pouring with rain here and feels more like March than the typical May weather for DC. We did have a lovely sunny day yesterday, though very cold for the 5 K color run that Gregorio and the girls did. I waited at the finish with a cappuccino in hand and everyone's sweatshirts!

We are gearing up towards the end of school with lots of annual events, with choral concerts, sports day, exams, birthdays and more.

Next MRI end of July.

Lots of love,
Emma & Gregorio xxx

Monday, May 2, 2016

Race for Hope 2016


Most of the Team at the start of the race.
Well it poured with rain but this did not dampen spirits. We had an amazing turn out, nearly 60 in Team Impavido. Thank you to all who joined us, along with thousands of other runners and walkers. Isabella strode proudly in the survivor's tribute (see video below - though I am not sure this will work!) and we all ran or walked in record speed





It was a memorable day. Here are some fun photos of the team!

Team Impavido at the end
We abandoned the celebratory lunch in the garden - even the English think twice about 60 in the garden in the rain....so we moved to a large pizzeria in Bethesda and took over a private room. A fun and relaxing way to celebrate with dear friends. We are very grateful for their immense support and when the rain stopped all kids (and one or two adults) even went outside and played rugby - an annual tradition for two members of the team.

The donations just keep on rolling in, we are nearly at $4,500 raised by Team Impavido for 2016. Vice President Biden spoke at yesterday's event, though we missed him. His support  for this cause and over $2 million raised so far by Race for Hope 2016 will surely move us closer to better treatments and a cure. Here's hoping.

Many thanks to all who supported near and far.

Lots of love,
Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde xxx



Sheltering in CVS before the start


Great outfit! Did it keep you dry?



Last but not least!


5k ladies - give me a game of tennis over running any day!