In April, 2010, when Andrew was 2 1/2, a tumor was discovered behind his eye. The tumor was removed, but it was found to be an aggressive cancer. He endured seven months of chemo and six weeks radiation. In December of 2010, the day after his last treatment, he was rushed to the ER with an almost fatal bacterial infection. He survived.

He is now seven-years-old!! I don't visit here much, because during the ordeal, this is where I dumped everything--my rage, my fear, my sadness, my ugly, my hope, my everything. But I want all of you who supported and prayed for us to hear his updates. You helped me survive, and I am deeply thankful. Every once in awhile, I will check in to let you know how he's doing. Please continue to pray that cancer will never return to his body. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"I want Jingle Bells!!!"

Every December 24th,
we attend a Christmas Eve service at our church.  
I love it.  
 I love the Christmas carols,
 and the lights,
and getting dressed up,
and seeing everyone in their black and red Christmas attire. 
 I love the "cold" weather and the atmosphere of love and kindness. 
 The "fruit of the spirit" are almost tangible.

In previous years, we used a babysitter,
or my parents watched the boys for the evening service. 
 But last year we decided to brave it,
 and take the whole family. 

John and I found seats near the back (for three reasons).  
I found a few programs for the boys to color,
dug through my purse and found a few pens,
and held my breath. 

It started out okay. 
The music was loud (hooray!).
The singing was loud (yay!).
We breathed a little sigh of relief
and sang along to a boisterous "Joy To The World!" 
But then came "Oh Come All Ye Faithful".... 
a slower moving, more emotionally-focused song. 
 Not exactly Andrew's cup of tea. 

That is where the trouble began.  

Andrew did not like "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" 
and he quickly made his displeasure known. 
He started yelling out requests:
"Jingle Bells!!!  Jingle Bells!!!
Jingle Bells!!! Jingle Bells!!!"
during the softly sung,
 "Venite Adoremus, Venite Adoremus, Dominum."  

 We tried denial for a few more verses;
we tried shushing;
we even tried muffling,
but to no avail. 
 He just kept getting louder,
and louder, 
"I want JINGLE BELLS!!!"

So I took him outside.

There, in my brand new Christmas outfit,
I followed him all over the church grounds
as he climbed and jumped off every cement structure in his view.  
I found a parent of another ejected two-year-old.
We talked
while we waited for our "lucky" spouses to emerge from the service. 

It was one of those times in life
when you don't realize how sweet it is until the moment is gone. 
It was just Andrew and me
(which was, at the time, a rare one-on-one opportunity).  
But I don't remember appreciating it.  
I remember longing to go back into the church and sing, and sit. 
I remember resenting that I had been the parent nominated to leave the service,
and griping in my mind about having to follow an active two-year-old
around the church parking lot. 
"Don't I do enough of this every day?"
 I grumbled to myself.

I wish it were possible to always enjoy every moment.
To treat each day with awe and wonder.
To appreciate the gifts I have.
And always find the joy.

I didn't see it as a sweet time for Mama and Andrew.
I missed it.

 I keep envisioning this December 24th. 
If all goes well this week, 
it will be Andrew's first time back to church since the tumor was discovered.
I can't wait to sit in the pew with him
and see things through his eyes.
I can't wait
to see what he does.
If he yells out "Jingle Bells!!" 
I might raise him above my head
and join him
and laugh
and cry.

Or we might leave again.
And this time,
I will enjoy the moment
in the chilled air,
adoring him
as he grabs my hand
and climbs cement blocks
and races through the prayer garden,
happy and playful.

Lucky me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day #2 "Celebration:" Sepsis and the ICU

Sunday, the day after my "amazing day" post, was a terrifying day. 

I woke myself up early (about 4 a.m.)
 with a dream that shocked my eyes open. 
My family and I were riding in my Dad's motor boat on a lake. 
Suddenly, we came to a HUGE wave. 
The boat tipped up, to an angle greater than 90 degrees,
 and flipped upside down on top of us. 
My panicked thought before I woke up, was,
 "ANDREW!" He can't swim!
 I must rescue Andrew."

Later that night I was in the ICU, fearing he might die.

Sunday started out nice enough. 
 We went to church, ate some lunch,
 and John and I went to Cardinals/Broncos game with some friends. 
We had free seats
(why else would anyone go to THAT game?).
 I was looking forward to some relaxing adult time.

We made it through the first half. 
Then, thankfully, I checked my phone. 
 It was SO LOUD in the stadium that I did not hear my phone ring. 
Four times. 
 It was the babysitter, getting more and more panicked. 
 Andrew was at home shaking, with a fever of 102.5.

We immediately left the game, raced home, put Andrew in the car,
and raced to the hospital. 
When we first got there (around 6 p.m.), he actually seemed okay. 
His fever was lower, his blood pressure was normal.   

 However, around 8: 45, things quickly turned. 
 His blood pressure started going down. 
His heart was racing. 
His breathing was labored. 
His fever climbed to 103.7.

We later discovered he had sepsis.
Bacteria from his gut had leaked into his blood stream.
 I have feared this from the beginning of treatment.
The possibility of sepsis is the reason we have rushed to the ER every time his temperature gets over 101.
(The chemo destroys his white blood cells
and makes him both susceptible to infections,
and unable to fight them off.)

Around 9:30 p.m., we were moved to the ICU.  
His blood pressure continued to drop for several hours.
 I lay next to him in his hospital bed,
holding an oxygen mask over his nose,
moving it frequently to keep up with his roving head. 
Whenever I relaxed, or dozed off, even for a short period,
his oxygen absorption reading went down
and an alarm would sound. 

Every 15 minutes a machine would automatically take his blood pressure. 
A sound would signal the cuff's activation,
and with each processing beep, I would hold my breath and pray. 
For a very long time, until 4 am, his blood pressure seemed on a downward trend.
  Lower and lower. 
 "Scary" does not begin to define it.

Around 4 am, after ten hours of fluids and antibiotics,
his blood pressure stabilized,
his fever was gone,
and all of the other "vitals" were back to normal. 
Thankfully, the antibiotics were doing the trick. 

Thankfully, right now he is sitting here next to me at the hospital, 
decorating a  gingerbread house and frosting a cookie. 

He will continue to get antibiotics for 14 days.
Through Christmas.
But thankfully, the doctors have worked it out
so that after one more day (or two) in the hospital,
I will be able to give him the medicine at home.

Just when I tried to relax.
It almost seems like punishment for relaxing and celebrating.
I let my guard down.

Saturday night
for the first time since April 17
(the day we discovered the tumor)
I dared to pray
"Dear God,
I am cautiously giving Andrew to you again.
Your arms are bigger.
You love him more.
Your arms reach places that I cannot.
I put him in your protection."

And then this happened.

I don't know what to think about prayer anymore.

But then again,
Andrew is smiling.
Chemo is done.
Antibiotics can be given at home.
Christmas is coming.
I am thankful.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An amazing day.

I woke up about three times,
every night,
all week long,
checking Andrew's tubes
and changing his soaking diaper
(from the constant fluids being pumped into him). 
So I'm tired. 
But I have to tell you about my day :)!!

This morning, 
the first thing I heard was Andrew yelling at our six-pound dog
(with an over-active tongue): 
don't lick my beautiful Mommy!" 
Andrew (and his pump) and Ruby had been dumped into bed by my husband. 
He was done dealing with all three boys downstairs,
and didn't find it fair that I was still sleeping. 
After hearing those sweet words,
I didn't mind the "wake-up" call.

About half an hour later, the alarm on Andrew's pump went off:
  Reservoir Volume: 0.0.  Empty!
The last round of chemo:  DONE!!!

We (my husband) took some pictures of the tube removal process.
  But I wasn't wearing make-up,
they were blurry,
and really,
does anyone want to see the removal of a needle...
probably not. 

Andrew's first act of freedom
was to put an ornament on the Advent calendar
my Grandma made for me when I was a child. 
You have to be fluent in counting to use it,
because some of the felt numbers have fallen off. 
I think Andrew may have picked out day #21,
but no one stopped him.

(try not to notice the mismatched jammies, 'kay?)

We got dressed, and headed to our favorite bakery. 
 Can you believe Andrew had another cupcake?  
When all of these celebrations are over, I think he may go through withdrawals.

Then we headed off to the park with our non-cupcake baked goods. 
Our church was having a little breakfast get together,
so we brought along some sparkling grape juice
(I thought it was apple cider, but nope),
some Christmas cookies and muffins. 
We drank the juice out of plastic cups and toasted Andrew,
and hoped for a better 2011. 
Not exactly champagne, but it was nice. 
The boys played on the playground with their friends
and had to be dragged away from the fun.

My husband never does anything half-heartedly. 
Next on our agenda,
was a full-day of field trip activities
so that Aaron could earn more "belt-loops" for his boyscout uniform.
I have yet to see any of these "loops", but we spent the day earning them: 
picking up cigarette butts,
getting a tour of the nearest bank,
going to the post office...
Which reminded me
that it had been a while since I had been to the good ol' P.O...

 the plan was for me to check my P.O. box
and then give Aaron "a tour" of the rest of the building
(we are nerds, what can I say).
John would stay in the car with the other two boys.
But when I got to my P.O box,
it was full of keys!
10 of them!
to 10 bigger lockers!!
I should have gone outside, summoned John for reinforcements,
 and then opened all the lockers.
But it was too exciting. 
And I am too impulsive. 
Aaron and I opened locker after locker
and had a huge pile of boxes sitting in the middle of the P.O aisle. 
Then I realized that our car was kinda far away
and we couldn't just leave the packages in the post office
and come back for more...
 so I tried to pile seven of them in my arms and two in Aaron's. 
I was about ready to balance the last one on my head,
but then a kind man
(or perhaps just an incredulous one),
seeing our blissful "distress,"
offered to help. 
He carried several of them to the car with us.  
I think he probably muttered
"nutty lady"
under his breath,
or at least in his mind,
the whole way to our car.
But I didn't care.
I was too busy giggling. :)

Aaron never got a tour of the post office.  
But I think we may have created a "forever" memory.

Here are picture of the boxes.  Thank you all so much, what a fun surprise! :)
(try not to notice the cheerios, 'kay?)

After our field trips,
we headed to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner with my parents, brother and aunt. 
Andrew growled at the Cheetahs,
and warned other children: 
 "Get back to your seats before you are eaten!!" 
He was serious.

 (I have no idea what Sammy is doing.
Perhaps praying that his food would arrive soon? 
It took about an hour.)

Then we drove home. 
And opened all of the packages.
Thank you all!!  So sweet. 
Stay tuned for the next "Hats" edition.
I have lots of pictures to take!!

Champagne is still waiting. 
Maybe tomorrow.
I think we gotta drag this celebration out for awhile.

It was an amazing day.
Chemo is DONE!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three more days.

Well, chemo was a go! 
Tomorrow is day number three of five. 
Still holding my breath.

 I am trying to remember the lesson I learned my freshman year in college: 
"Don't wait to celebrate." 
Instead of choosing a fun elective for my one month "interim" class,
 I chose the required course, to get it out of the way.

 The next year, I switched schools.

No "fun elective" for me.

I missed out on Europe.
I got a classroom discussion on moral development instead.

So Saturday, after I take the tubes out,
we are celebrating. 
We are cheering. 
We are crying (well, at least I am).

And then we will brace ourselves for the first of many scans.

Right now, it just all feels surreal.
I don't really feel anything.
I think I'm waiting for Saturday to see what comes bursting out.

All week I've been looking through photos, 
putting together a digital photo album to document these last seven months.
(A huge, massive deal which will probably include several volumes when I'm done)
It has been taking up a lot of my time and emotions.

While I was searching, I found some pictures of Christmas past.


Andrew, 3 mos.


                                   The boys                             


Thank you all for the support over the last seven months.

Three more days.

The champagne is waiting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hats: a somewhat wintery edition

Time for more hats!! 
 I save each card, each picture, and all of your kind notes.
  They mean so much. 
I will keep them forever.

Now to begin.
Andrew has received a few winter hats along the way. 
They were too warm to wear when they initially arrived. 
However, the time has come.

We have also received many new ballcaps from various places.
Thank you!

"Mr. Froggy" has become popular headwear in the neighborhood.
(John's friend made him.)

Alberta, Canada sent this along with a ballcap back in October.
It has been cold lately, so he can finally wear it. :)

When we were in Houston, back in July,
Mississippi sent us a winter cap in addition to a ballcap.
Have you been to Houston in July?
The thought of putting it on his head made me sweat.
We had to save this one.
It's perfect now :)

Alaska!!  Cold enough to be in the "winter edition,"
even as a ballcap.

San Miguel Allende, Mexico

not so wintery...


Another one from Australia.

 and London, England
(a bonus from Alaska. Her friend just returned from England and brought this back for Andrew.)

Thank you all for the sweet hats and extra goodies that accompany them!!

We are grateful.