Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The "I's" Have It

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks, the words induction and infusion have been part of many conversations with doctors and nurses, as well as friends and family.  We have learned in great detail how they apply to Paige's treatment, but I have come to realize they also apply to this whole journey.  Further contemplation led me to add one more "i-word" to my list, as you will read below.

Induction: The beginning of something.
   * Medical Application:  The first 29 - 36 days of treatment.  Basically, it's a time of initiation, introducing the body to various medications & procedures it will endure throughout the treatment process.  In Paige's case, it involves 56 doses of a steroid to shrink the mass in her chest (16 cm upon discovery), daily anti-nausea & stomach-calming meds, 36 doses of an antibiotic to ward off pneumonia (baaaad word in our house) and flu-like symptoms, weekly chemotherapy, 3 bone marrow aspirations, and 3 spinal taps--WHEW!  I'm sure I'm forgetting something even with that long list!!
   * Personal Application:  The battle is just beginning.  We are 2 1/2 weeks in on a process that is projected to take 2 1/2 years to complete.  They say the first few months are the toughest, so we consider them our induction--caring for Paige as she recovers from various procedures and adapts to her 'new normal,' adjusting schedules, reworking budgets…the list goes on.  We continue to stand firm in the faith we are not fighting this battle on our own.  God has already begun to surround us with soldiers who will stand with us, lifting Paige and our family in prayer and some helping in ways we never could have imagined.  He is telling an amazing story through our daughter!
   * For you equipped me with strength for the battle...  Psalm 18:39 *

Infusion:  The addition of something that is needed or helpful.
   * Medical Application:  Scheduled clinic days begin with blood draws to determine whether counts are high enough to administer chemotherapy or if infusions of red blood cells or platelets are needed first.  These infusions boost counts to help the body better accept the treatment.  So far, Paige's counts have been great and have not called for infusions.  We have been told this will change as chemo drugs attack not only the cancer cells but healthy blood cells as well.  If and when counts deem infusions necessary, we will gladly accept the help they'll provide our daughter.
   * Personal Application:  Prayer, prayer, and MORE PRAYER!  This is very much needed, appreciated, and so very helpful!   I can honestly say we see and feel the power of prayer in action every day--it brings peace in place of fear and patience during times of conflict.  We are helping a 13-year-old girl dealing with all of this--so yes, patience is very important! We will gladly accept daily infusions of prayer!
* And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.  
Matthew 21:22

Intentional:  A definite decision to do something.
   * Medical Application:  Paige's doctors had a plan in mind from the moment they saw her first chest X-ray.  They knew what they were dealing with--the biopsy and subsequent bone marrow tests confirmed it.  It was a "classic" diagnosis, something they viewed as a very good thing.  They knew what needed to be done, and Paige's 'road map' of treatment began less than 12 hours after her initial diagnosis.
   * Personal Application:  Almost immediately after being told we were dealing with cancer, Boyce and I made the decision to give it all to God.  We made the decision to place complete faith in the healing power of Our Heavenly Father.  He continues to provide a peace that surpasses frustrations, doubts, and fear.  While we join hands to stand together in this fight, He has Paige--and our whole family--in His hands.
* For I will restore health to you…  Jeremiah 30:17 *
* I have said these things…that in me you may have peace…  John 16:33 *

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Standing Firm in the Faith

Two weeks.  One leukemia diagnosis.  Three chemotherapy treatments.  Two bone marrow aspirations.  Two lumbar punctures (spinal taps) with added chemotherapy. That's quite a bit for anyone to go through, much less a 13-year-old girl.

On the ride home from a very long clinic/procedure day, Boyce and I talked with a degree of amazement at the fact that it had only been two weeks since our lives were forever changed.  It has been an absolute whirlwind of a time, yet as fast as things are moving, we can slow down enough to see the mighty work God is doing in our family.

Determination.  Endurance.  Strength.  These traits are not simply words--they are part of my everyday life as related to family, career, running--the list goes on.  However, since this journey began, God has found ways to 'repurpose' these traits and give them even more significance.

A Family Determined to Fight the Battle
Determination.  Perseverance.  I liken it to stubbornness--at least where my family is concerned!  We are determined to stand firm in the faith that God will deliver Paige through this battle with leukemia.  We will persevere through the tough times because we know the outcome will be glorious.
…In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

Endurance.  The ability to do something difficult for a long time.  I exhibit endurance in running events, and I can set my focus on a project for school or work and not stop until it's complete--but that's nothing compared to what I see in my daughter as she takes on cancer.  Even on a night she's not feeling her best, she refuses to dwell on it.  Knowing this is going to be a long battle, she simply sets her focus on resting up for what the next day will bring and moves forward.
…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  Romans 5:3-4

Strength.  Resilience.  Spirit.  I could list every synonym and still not find enough words to describe the incredible strength Paige is showing during this time.  To say she inspires me is an understatement--the girl simply amazes and astounds me!  She takes in everything the doctors and nurses tell her and follows through with everything they ask of her.  In just two weeks, she has really bonded with some of her oncology doctors--have you ever had a doctor bring you ice cream?  :)
Fear not, for I am with you…I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Two weeks ago our lives changed forever--and for the better.  We put our daughter and her diagnosis completely in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  Because of this great step of faith, He gave us an even greater sense of peace.  God will bring Paige through this battle even stronger and more amazing than she already is!

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Angels All Around

He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.  Psalm 91:11

God just keeps blessing this family beyond our wildest dreams.  Every day we experience more and more of His grace--and we don't even have to seek it out.  It's right here--behind, beside, and ahead of us.  Grace is all around: a gift we didn't deserve, yet given to us out of love.

This evening, grace came in the form of some real-life angels.

I've mentioned before that running is my thing.  My husband is a bowler--it's his thing.  When the local bowling community heard about Paige's diagnosis, they immediately began fundraising efforts.  Bracelet sales and ticket drawings have been quite successful.  Tonight, we received word that a bowling ball raffle brought in over $700 to help Paige in her fight against leukemia!  Lots of angels at work here, but two get special mention:
  • Rather than keep it for himself, a friend had donated a brand new ball for this event. 
  • Another friend did a great job of promoting this raffle--so great that it generated more money than expected! 

Tonight's other brush with grace came by way of our school community, whose members have wrapped their collective arms around our family.  T-shirt sales and a 5K run are in the works, and these are activities initiated by Paige's classmates!  In this instance, we were nominated--by a teacher from a neighboring school--for a grant from a local foundation whose mission is to help families affected by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Board members of this foundation visited us this evening bearing two gifts:
  • A locket with angel wings - given to Paige by a member's daughter
  • A check for $1500 to assist us with mounting medical expenses
Talk about a jaw-dropping moment!  We are so thankful to have been selected for this honor and are truly humbled by the support of an entire community.  This gift will help Paige's fight against leukemia and add another experience to this amazing story!

Every day of this journey we feel God's grace in the form of peace and strength.  In one incredible evening, God sent grace in the form of angels bearing remarkable gifts.  We are grateful, thankful, and INSANELY BLESSED!!

Though the road ahead is a long one, we are excited about the day we will be given a chance to pay it forward and bless others as they have blessed us.  In the meantime, please continue to pray for our daughter's healing.  Prayer works, my friends!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God Takes Care of His Kids

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

I usually end each post with scripture, but it seemed to go better on the front end this time around.  God takes care of His kids.  Period.  He is the ultimate parent, the "Abba Father."  The further in we get on this journey, the more I experience His amazing grace.

I've spoken several times about the true peace I have with Paige's diagnosis, prognosis, and the magnificent testimony that is to come.  A longtime friend recently commented that I seem calmer now than she's ever seen me--EVER.  If you were around me much before this, you'd know that speaks volumes!  I found a quote by an unknown author that I thought was pretty fitting: Calmness is the way we show that we are trusting in God.  No further explanation needed!

Hospital stays.  Medications.  X-rays.  Scans.  Biopsies.  Chemotherapy treatments.  Radiation.  The list goes on…and on…and on.  And this is just the beginning--it could easily overwhelm someone lacking in the peace and hope that comes from a real relationship with Jesus Christ.  I will not be shaken; my faith will not falter.  God will take care of MY kid--because she is one of HIS kids.


Our family continues to be astounded at the outpouring of PRAYER, support, and encouragement as we set out on this journey to help our daughter battle leukemia.  Friends near and far have inquired about sending cards, words of encouragement, gift cards, etc.  Didn't I just say that God takes care of His kids?!? :)  We wanted to share  the following information:
  1. To manage donations, we now have an account set up at Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union.  It is called the Paige Lejeune Benefit Fund.  This credit union is part of the Shared Branching Network, meaning that donations to the fund can be made at participating credit unions around the country.
  2. My uncle set up a P.O. Box where people can send cards, words of encouragement, gift cards for iTunes/grocery store/gas, etc.  The envelope itself has to be addressed to him--as he's the "keeper of the box," and Paige can't go up there with an ID to get the mail--but everything is going to my girl.  Send to: Craig Yates   P.O. Box 131783   Houston, TX  77219

Running to Get the Prize

I'm a runner.  It's my thing.  It's how I balance parenting, work, school, and everything else that comes my way.  There's something so peaceful about getting outside and taking in the beauty that is all around me.  It's the 'me time' I cherish the most.

I used to rely on a playlist of upbeat tunes for motivation.  However, over the last year or so, I've spent my running time in prayer.  I thanked God for the blessings He bestowed on my life--family, health, friends, and countless other things.  I prayed to God asking him to guide and protect our family as we took this walk with Him.  I made a covenant with God that I would go where He chose to lead me--where He chose to lead our family.

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to my usual running route--I rarely veer from it.  I know the exact distance and exactly how long it should take me to complete it.  Things were kind of the same with our life--we had set some specific goals and knew exactly what we needed to accomplish them.  Turns out, God had other plans in mind.  Our path may have changed, but God has not.  He was, is, and will always be right here--guiding our way.  Be sure of this: I am with you always…  Matthew 28:20

Our family is now on a different path, running a different race.  It may be new to us, but it's one God had planned all along.  We're going to run it as a family and give all the glory to God when we cross that finish line!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize…we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Monday, January 20, 2014

A New Normal

It's now been two days since our family was reunited.  Laundry is caught up--for now.  Jeremy's homework is done, and he will return to school tomorrow.  Boyce and I will be taking care of documentation for my leave of absence and Paige's home-bound schooling.  What comes next?  Finding our family's 'new normal.'

Paige and I have talked about this at length over the last several days.  How would she feel each day?  Would she be able to eat real food?  Be around other people?  Gone are the days--for a while, at least--of any real schedule.  We're working around medication doses, PICC line flushing, and Paige's energy (and sickie-feeling) level.  There is still plenty to be done and plenty we can do--we just have to be patient and flexible as we work it all out.

Bottom line: Our family is pretty great at working together--and our teamwork will only get better as we fight this battle with Paige.  I have a feeling our 'new normal' won't be new very long.  

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up…  James 5:15

A Plan Revealed…A Little at a Time

Wow--talk about a verse that speaks to you.  A friend shared this verse with me today, and it absolutely meshes with our experiences over the last eleven days.  I've shared before about how God has been working all around us in ways He didn't reveal until this time in our lives.  People we know--whether by acquaintance or close friendship…places we work and play…God was moving all of these 'puzzle pieces' so they would fit together in a way to reveal part of His plan and ultimately bring Him glory.

We are less than two weeks in on this battle, yet I am absolutely certain this is going to have a bigger impact than we realize.  God is using my amazingly beautiful daughter for something incredible--stay tuned!

Jesus replied, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will."  John 13:7

No Place Like Home

After nine very long days in the hospital, it was TIME TO GO HOME! Paige battled some severe spinal headaches the last couple of days there (gotta love lumbar punctures).  However, she ended up well enough to head home thanks to a combination of caffeinated drinks, lots of IV fluids, and a pint of ice cream courtesy of her doctor. :)  

We packed up the car with waaay more than we took up there--goodie baskets, blankets, and stuffed animals would accompany us on the trip.  Though Mom and Dad were ready to roll, Paige asked us to make a stop for lunch on the way.  Brown Bag Deli--How could we say no?  She chowed down on her first outside-the-hospital meal in over a week and was out like a light the rest of the way home.   

Balloons and a banner adorned the house when we arrived home--thanks to a fabulous friend of mine and former teacher of Paige's.  Forget the fact she had just had a baby--she wanted to welcome Paige home in style.  How great are our friends?!?

Not only was it a homecoming celebration for Paige, it also reunited our family of four.  Younger brother Jeremy had been very well cared for (read - SPOILED) while staying with Grandma, but…prayer time and being able t0 tuck both kiddos in that night left this mom insanely, INCREDIBLY happy. God is good!

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places…in undisturbed places of rest.  Isaiah 32:18

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Friends Become Family

Our family continues to be completely amazed at the amount of support and encouragement we have received and the power of PRAYER we have absolutely felt!  From day one in the hospital, we received calls, emails, and texts from people wondering how they could help.  Basically on auto-pilot for several days, we had no idea how to respond other than to ask people to pray without ceasing for Paige's healing.

Little did we know our friends had other plans in mind…within just a few days, we heard about various bracelet and t-shirt sales, a 5K run being organized, photography fundraisers…and the list continues to grow.  People we considered friends immediately wrapped their collective arms around us and took our crew of 4 in as their family.

How blessed we are to be surrounded by all of these angels God gave us for this specific time in our lives.  They mean more to our family than we could ever express in words, and we love them all.

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…  1 Timothy 6:18

Giving it to God

You'd think that receiving the kind of news we got last Friday would still have us shaking in our boots.  Will she be okay?  What will we do?  Can we make it on one income for a while?  For as long as I can remember, I've heard people talk about "giving it to God"--and He would take care of the details.  As a recovering control freak, it was always very hard for me to do.  I felt like I could give most of it to God, but I never let go 100%.  Until now.

Sitting in the hospital chapel--totally broken--I completely let go and gave it to God.  This was not something I could fix.  Not something I could make better.  No matter what I did, said, or thought--I was not in control.  He had to take it--He wanted to take it.  And He did.

Peace came over me--a peace like I have never known before.  Paige would be okay. We will do everything needed to support her through this process.  We can make it.  God will deliver her and supply our needs--it's that simple.  Ten days in, and the peace is still there.  Figuring out our 'new normal,' and the peace is still there.  Talking about chemo and imminent hair loss, and the peace is still there.  My faith will not be shaken.  God is my peace.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

Friday, January 17, 2014

I Can Do All Things...

Strong. Determined. Just Plain Tough. Paige has always been independent and mature beyond her years--sometimes a little more than this mom was ready to handle.  I have always known God gave me an amazing kid, but from the initial diagnosis to now seven days in, she has displayed a strength unlike anything I could have imagined.  Time for another blood draw? Okay. More meds--maybe with side effects? Bring it.  Going to lose hair? It will grow back.

As parents, we want to protect our kiddos from the bad stuff.  What I'm accepting more and more through this whole thing is that I am not in control.  God is in control.  He gives Paige the strength to push through sudden feelings of nausea and headaches.  He gives her the determination to fight and win this battle.  He will keep revealing amazing parts of His plan for her life and give her an incredible testimony that is going to be 'her story.' 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

The Lord Goes Before Us...

Unbelievable. Incredible. Mind-Boggling. These words run through my mind about a million times a day when I think about the people, places, and things God has positioned all around us for this time in our lives.
  • 'Something' kept us from walking out the door of the ER that night after a 6-hour wait.
  • The steroids given to Paige for her initial pneumonia diagnosis were 'by chance' the same ones the hospital doctors began administering ASAP.
  • A former co-worker of my husband's is a 30-year survivor of the exact same illness.  He 'just happens' to live in our neighborhood.
  • His wife is 'coincidentally' a nurse manager on the exact floor Paige has received stellar oncology-related treatment.
  • The son of my mom's childhood friend fought and won a similar battle with childhood cancer and is ready to share/support as needed.
  • One of my co-workers displayed awesome, inspiring strength as her mother battled cancer and her husband battled kidney disease simultaneously.
  • We are about to become a one-income family for a while…and though it will be tight, I have seen God provide for another household in our family with just one income--in ways that anyone else might have never believed.
Chance. Fate. Coincidence. No way.  The sense of peace I have with everything about this situation--from diagnosis to prognosis to what lies ahead--comes not from the belief in sheer chance but by absolute faith that our God is awesome, and He has laid out in a plan for our lives that won't end in anything but awesomeness.

It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you…will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Diagnosis & Prognosis

Paige was so very ill when the onslaught of tests began that doctors decided against lengthy procedures that would require general anesthesia--her body would not have been able to handle it.   A biopsy after the original CT scan determined the mass taking over her chest was cancer.  Due to the fact it was so closely tied to the lymph nodes--Diagnosis: Lymphoma.

Discussions with the oncology doctors revealed that Paige would need to immediately begin a regimen to fight the cancerous cells that were taking over parts of her body.  This would include steroids to shrink the mass in her chest as well as chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells.  It was explained this would be a long, tough battle--but it was one she would win.  Prognosis: The cancer is treatable.

Paige's first round of chemotherapy came less than 24 hours after we walked in the doors for pneumonia treatment.  It still just blows my mind--but we were clearly there for a reason, and that was to get our daughter on a path to recovery as soon as possible.  Paige took the chemo well and had no major side effects.  Her strength is just mind-boggling---gotta be that PEACE thing again.

Bone marrow and spinal fluid tests were necessary to determine whether cancer cells were hiding elsewhere in Paige's body.  These tests typically would have been conducted along with the biopsy, but doctors waited until the procedures were safe for Paige's fragile respiratory condition.  Sooo…three days later, the percentage of cancer cells in the bone marrow hit a sort of "magic number" that no longer classified her cancer as Lymphoma--it was now Diagnosis: Leukemia.

Thankfully, we were not surprised, as the doctors had prepared us for possible outcomes.  The course of treatment was similar to Lymphoma but included more lumbar punctures, bone marrow aspirations, and radiation down the road.  Prognosis: This cancer is just as treatable.

 In four days' time, Paige went from pneumonia to lymphoma to leukemia.  How we managed to stay standing is no mystery.  God was, is, and will always be there. Stay tuned, folks…the story is just unfolding.  He has put all of these puzzle pieces into position, and we are only beginning to see how everything fits together.

Be strong and courageous…He will not leave you or forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6

Our World is Rocked

January 10, 2014.  That date that will go down in our family history as one of the most challenging, gut-wrenching days of our lives.  Paige had been battling respiratory issues so serious that simply breathing was a huge feat.  Doctor visits, days of no sleep, and a pneumonia diagnosis found us in the ER, where we spent six hours waiting to be seen.  Frustrated, exhausted, and on the verge of walking out the door, we were finally called back for her examination.  Because it was thought to be pneumonia, a chest x-ray was ordered.  And then…the hammer dropped.

Within an hour, doctors from just about every department in the hospital descended upon us--anesthesiology, surgery, cardio, oncology…you name it, they were in our room.  Still not seeing the bigger picture, we listened to everything they said and didn't really grasp what they weren't saying.  Paige was taken for a CT scan and then immediately to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where doctors spoke of the need for a biopsy on her lymph nodes.  I prayed with her, kissed her on the forehead, and told the surgeons to take care of my baby girl.  And then…the words came.

"We are 99.99% sure this is cancer."  My knees buckled, and the tears came down.  How could this happen?  We were here to get some medication for pneumonia--not a cancer diagnosis.  The chest x-ray had revealed a mediastinal mass that was basically the size of my daughter's rib cage.  THIS was the cause for breathing distress.  THIS was the thing that was zapping my daughter's energy. THIS was CANCER?  

There was no reason to hear any more at that point.  We needed to process what had just happened.  The hospital chaplain prayed with us, and we made a beeline for the hospital chapel--where we talked and prayed through tears for a long time.  And then…indescribable PEACE.

God is bigger than any disease, any fear, and any struggles we may face.  Paige is in for the fight of her life, but God is going to deliver her through this!

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Romans 12:12