Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Holiday Blessing

Easter Sunday is a time of celebration.  After paying the ultimate price for our sin, Jesus rose from the dead in three days' time.  He is our Redeemer.  Our Savior.  Our Hope.

As a child, I loved Easter.  Not only did it mean my grandma would take me to find a pretty new dress, it meant dyeing (and then hunting) eggs and a visit from the Easter Bunny.  However, before any egg hunting commenced or chocolate bunnies lost their ears, we went to church to celebrate Jesus' resurrection.  Hymns and sermons delivered messages of God's love, the gift of hope we have in Christ, and promises of His abundant mercies and faithfulness.  

When Paige and Jeremy came along, the traditions continued.  The kiddos would wake to discover small treasures delivered by their long-eared bunny friend.  Most of the time, they could talk us into "just a small piece" of candy before we dressed in our Easter outfits and headed to church.  This was followed by a lunch spread at their grandma's house that included ham, homemade mashed potatoes, and various fruit and vegetable dishes.  Once everyone was nice and full, it was time to get busy hunting eggs.  

This year would be different.  With Paige's next phase of treatment delayed by an unplanned hospital stay, it appeared that she and I would be spending Easter in the hospital for a chemotherapy treatment.  Trying to prepare for our family to be separated again--on a holiday, no less--was quite the emotional challenge.  Thursday's clinic visit brought the news that she did not make counts to start that day, so we were sent home to rest, recover, and try again the following week.  

What a blessing this turned out to be!  Because Paige had gone a little over a week with no chemo, her energy and spirits were in great supply.  She helped decorate the traditional Easter Bunny cake and even felt like egg hunting with her brother and cousin!  Due to low infection fighting abilities, she was unable to attend church with her brother and me--but make no mistake.  This girl knows she is living proof of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  The smiles, laughter, and contagious joy coming from her today combined to create an incredible blessing!

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Incredible Courage

...Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.   Joshua 1:9

Over the course of three months, I have watched my daughter transform from a teenage girl with typical teenage concerns to a young woman battling illness with grace and maturity far beyond her thirteen years.  I have been by her side through lumbar punctures, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy treatments.  I have held her hand and comforted her through nausea, fever, and even fear and anxiety that accompanied three ER visits.  Through it all, I have discovered she is quite possibly the most courageous person I have ever known.

Today was no exception.  Three months of intense chemotherapy have taken their toll on my daughter's beautiful hair.  Because it would be a while before it would grow back, Paige has been adamant about keeping as much as she could for as long as she could.  She came to the conclusion this week that it was time to let the last few strands go.  She was ready to move forward.

We called upon a trusted friend to help us in this endeavor--there was nobody else Paige would let near her head. :)  Missy made sure Paige was comfortable--in case she was experiencing any sensitivity on her scalp--and got to work.  A few minutes--and lots of tears--later, it was done.  That last bit of what we called "chemo hair" was gone, and Paige's head was now as soft and fuzzy as the day she was born.

I held her hand the whole time, trying to reassure her she is still totally and completely beautiful.  That this is temporary.  That her hair will one day return.  And then I was silent--which is probably what she needed the most at that point.  Just a few weeks ago, she 'warned' me that once the hair was gone, she would need to cry and be upset for a bit, so I am giving her that time.  She's more than earned it.

My daughter's beauty is not defined by the clothes she wears or the hairs on her head.  It comes from within--and her heart, strength, and courage shine through as a glorious testimony to God's amazing grace.

Your beauty should not come from outward should be that of your inner self...   
1 Peter 3: 3-4

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Our Journey Continues - ER Visits & Hospital Admits

Three months since diagnosis and beginning treatment.  Three smooth administrations of a particular drug that gives her major anxiety due to its risk of allergic reaction.  Three months of constant prayer and praise--remember, there is always a reason to be thankful. :)  Three great reports--cancer cells gone from marrow, cancer cells not present in spinal fluid, and mass on chest gone! God is so good!

Thankfully, Paige's body tolerated the first two phases of treatment with no significant side effects--'just' the occasional nausea, loss of appetite, and imminent hair loss.  While these things are no doubt difficult for a 13-year-old girl, they really are among the minor effects of chemotherapy--so we'll deal with 'em. 

For about two months, the only trips we made to TCH were for weekly clinic visits and chemo.  Then another three came to be: Three visits to the emergency room.  Over the course of a month, we were initiated into the world of ER visits for oncology patients.

Visit #1: Slight temperature after a particularly long day of chemotherapy.  While fever is a side effect of several of the medications, it is also something that is never taken lightly for kiddos with central lines--too much risk for infection.  They drew a ton o'blood for cultures and immediately started antibiotics.  After a few hours of monitoring, we were cleared to go home.

Visit #2: Nosebleeds that wouldn't ease up.  They put a slight damper on her weekend retreat with other teen oncology patients.  A visit to the ER led to the discovery her platelets were basically at zero.  Platelets allow the blood to clot, which explained the nosebleed issues.  Transfusions of platelets and red blood cells made for a long visit, but we made it home about 14 hours later.

Visit #3:  Another slight temperature after chemotherapy.  This time around, however, there was an added complication.  After being slammed with chemo for 12 weeks, Paige's body lacked the ability to fight infection.  This trip found us experiencing a new protocol--in the trauma room.  Doctors and nurses seemed to descend on Paige in the blink of an eye.  Though the procedures were similar to our first visit, simply being in the trauma room caused such anxiety for her that her heart rate stayed elevated until we were moved to a regular ER room. 

Paige's infection fighting cells (hereby referred to as ANC) had dropped to zero, which called for automatic hospital admission.  She would receive a red blood cell transfusion and stay on two preventive antibiotics until blood cultures were analyzed over a 48-hour period.  The doctors were great about updating us on the cultures, which by the way, never grew anything!  God gets all the glory on that one!

**We're now on Day 5 of this hospitalization, and the nagging low-grade temperature has finally subsided.  Paige's blood counts have risen and held steady, the one exception being the pesky ANC count that is holding up her release.  After five days of being in close quarters--just the two of us--we are ready to break out of here.  Being separated from her dad and brother is tough, but we all understand the reasoning behind our extended stay.  It is crucial to make sure everything is 'normal' before sending her home.  We are extremely thankful for the doctors, nurses, and other staff God has placed all around her.  They are doing a fabulous job caring for our girl!


When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.   Psalm 56:3

Over the last three months, we have learned more and more about what it means to place complete trust in God's plan for our lives.  Fear and anxiety are replaced with prayer and peace.  There are times this journey is both physically and emotionally draining, but it is never spiritually draining.  Instead, it is an incredible testament to God's power, mercy, and grace! 

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.   1 Peter 5:7