Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - A Look Back Before Moving Forward

Hey there, 2014.  I know you're on your way out and everything, but I'd like to take a few moments to look back at the year that changed our lives forever.  It won't take too long, I promise.  There are parts I can't think about for too long, times I'd just as soon forget--though I know I never will.  Trust me, 2014, I'm as ready for you to get outta here as you are.  I just wanted to show you that you didn't get the best of this family.  Someone bigger and tougher has had our backs all along.


January.  Talk about starting the year off with a bang.  Paige's leukemia diagnosis rocked our family to the core.  Brought us to our knees like nothing we'd ever known.  Totally broken, I completely let go and turned the whole thing over to God.  He could control what I couldn't--and He did.  He gave me a peace that has sustained me from Day One.
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you...  Psalm 55:22

February.  The reality of cancer hit hard.  Multiple chemotherapy treatments and procedures caused Paige's body to become significantly weaker--to the point of her knees buckling and sending her to the floor one day.  Her hair thinned more and more each day, devastating to a teenage girl.  Yet in the midst of all this reality stuff, Paige's attitude remained unchanged.  This, she told me, was "just life right now."  God was always right there to give Paige (and the rest of us) strength in difficult times.  He still is.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.   Philippians 4:13

March.  We rejoiced in the news that Paige's bone marrow, blood, and spinal fluid showed zero signs of cancer cells!  The giant mass on her chest--the monstrosity that set everything in motion--was also GONE!  Ten weeks into a journey of continuous prayer and unwavering faith--and Paige was officially in remission.  God was healing our girl.
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.   
Matthew 21:22 

April.  Three months of intense chemo finally took their toll on Paige's once long and beautiful hair.  She decided it was time to let go the last strands of what she now referred to as her "old man biker hair."  The strength and courage she exhibited in that moment left me teary-eyed and speechless, but not surprised.  By that point, she'd realized God was always with her--whether it was through chemo or getting the rest of her hair shaved off.  We, on the other hand, realized this girl can rock the bald look!
...Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.   Joshua 1:9

May.  We witnessed one of the scariest moments since the start of this journey.  A week after her first hospital stay for high-dose chemo, Paige experienced stroke-like symptoms--legs and feet that felt heavy, an arm unable to move, and speech so slurred it was difficult to make out anything she was saying.  A battery of tests, including an EKG, CT scan, and MRI, ruled out a stroke.  It turned out to be an extreme reaction from the previous week's chemo combination that called for an admission to the hospital for rescue medications and monitoring.  She rebounded quickly enough to go home just a couple of days later.  Those were some scary days, but God was in control the whole time.  He held Paige in His hands while holding the rest of us up.
So do not fear, for I am with you...I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10

June.  Due to some necessary adjustments in her treatment plan, it was a really good month for Paige.  Her body was tolerating the medications, she had sufficient time to rest and recover in between treatments, and she was able to be a kid.  For a girl who basically had to grow up overnight, this was a really big deal.  Hanging out with her friend.  Taking in a movie.  Fishing and swimming with the family.  It did wonders for her spirit, giving her a glimpse at great times to come.  She needed it.  We all did.
For I will restore health to you...   Jeremiah 30:17

July.  We discovered another downside in Paige's treatment regimen.  Steroid therapy did a number on her bones, weakening them to the point where a seemingly painless slip resulted in a fracture in her right fibula.  This girl was in pain day and night until we were able to get a medication schedule that would give her some relief.  A walking boot--which she later 'Paige-ified' with plenty of bling--gave her much-needed stability to get up and around again.  I remained faithful in prayer, continuing to ask God to restore Paige's health, and thanked Him every day for the healing we were seeing.  As the days went by, I learned more and more what it meant to pray without ceasing.
Pray without ceasing...   1 Thessalonians 5:17

August.  This month brought Paige's birthday and the start of school--both done a little differently this year.  A bone density scan bright and early on the morning of her birthday combined with intense chemo a few days before meant a subdued day at home.  In remission, cancer-free.  Pretty great birthday gift.  Her first day of school a week or so later also went without the usual hoopla, as she was still receiving homebound instruction.  Bloodwork and a transfusion took the place of first-day photos, though rest assured--when she does return to school, this mom will be taking all the pictures Paige will allow!  Thankful for the hope given to us through Jesus, I can wait patiently for photo ops to come.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.   Psalm 130:5

September.  Hospital admissions were the mainstay of this month.  Fevers and low ANC counts kept us at TCH more than we liked--yet I couldn't be more thankful that those were the only things keeping us there.  During one of our stays, Paige was in good enough shape to participate in a ribbon-tying ceremony commemorating Childhood Cancer Month.  She was also beyond excited to meet Dr. Jennifer Arnold--so excited she couldn't do much more than smile!  We finished out the month with the first of Paige's high-dose chemo 'make-up' administrations.  Like she had done so many times before, Paige faced it with strength and bravery that is just plain inspiring.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.   Romans 12:12

October.  Our family was due for some fun.  Paige was in between hospital stays for chemo when The Sunshine Kids Foundation and former Houston Astro (and future Hall of Famer) Craig Biggio hosted their annual baseball party.  It was a day full of fun, complete with batting practice, a catered lunch, and even a swag bag--but the coolest part by far was seeing Paige's favorite baseball player ever visiting with (and joking around with) the families.  This special time--another glimpse at fun times to come--was just what she needed to carry her into the next round of treatments.
A joyful heart is good medicine...   Proverbs 17:22

November.  We crossed another bridge this month when Paige officially began the maintenance phase, which will last just under two years.  The medications during this time will work together to rid Paige's body of any tiny, hard-to-detect leukemia cells that may be lingering, waiting to cause trouble further down the road.  The journey is far from over, but we've hit a significant milestone.  It's time to press on toward that finish line!
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   
Romans 8:25

December.  God has met our needs in so many ways this year.  Physical needs have been met through the day-by-day restoration of Paige's health, most recently with the completion of her radiation treatments.  Emotional needs have been met through peace and calm assurance only He can provide.  Financial needs have been met time and time again.  In the meantime, God, who is always faithful, continues His work in our lives.  Our trust, our hope, our everything--is in Him.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:19


Well, 2014...there you have it.  It's been quite the year, but you didn't get the best of us.  We are still standing.  Standing on faith and hopeful for the future that God has planned for us.  Feel free to get on outta here now.  

Can't Put a Price on This Gift

Christmas and my birthday fall at the end of December.  Talk about saving the best for last!  We celebrate the birth of our Savior and exchange gifts with those we love.  Boyce and the kiddos always put real thought into selecting gifts for me, which just touches my heart.  My favorite gift this year, however, didn't come from a store.  It wasn't even placed under the tree--though that would have been a sight!  My most treasured gift of 2014 is having my daughter here with me.

I've been somewhat of a mess this month.  Maybe it's the fact that she's no longer getting the harsh levels of chemo that, while slamming her body, still kept the cancer away.  Maybe it's the fact that she will be heading back to school next month--which I keep telling myself is a good thing, though we will still have many precautions in place as she continues treatment.  Maybe, just maybe--it's the fact that this time last year Paige was getting sick, so sick that just a couple of weeks later we found ourselves facing a giant we never could have imagined.  Regardless of the cause, it was time for a solution.  I needed to stop worrying about things beyond my control and get my focus back to where it belonged--on God and His amazing grace.

Our family always attends a Christmas Eve candlelight service at church.  The last couple of years, because of Boyce's crazy retail schedule over the holidays, it's just been the kids and me.  This year, though, all four of us were there--which I know was not a coincidence.  We needed that time--to worship, to celebrate, and to give thanks together.  It was the best Christmas Eve yet!

Christmas Day was just as wonderful.  Thanks to some special people who wanted to bless the socks off of our family, Paige and Jeremy had presents under the tree, around the tree--basically all over the living room.  It was just awesome watching them open their gifts, excited about the things they'd received.  At one point Paige was sitting there, looking around at everything.  I asked her if she was okay (something I do way too much, I know), thinking maybe she wasn't feeling well.  "I'm okay, Mom," she said.  "This is all just a little overwhelming--that people would do all this for us."  Overwhelming, indeed.

It's overwhelming sometimes to think about how far Paige has come.  How she has handled everything her body and mind have been through.  How she has grown in strength and faith.   I couldn't be more amazed at this girl.  Having her home and seeing the healing in her are the best gifts I could have received this year--or any year, for that matter!

Every good and perfect gift is from above...   
James 1:17

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

God Meets Our Needs Again & Again

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you...   Psalm 55:22

A couple of days before Paige was diagnosed--when she was really, really sick--I dropped everything at work to stay home and take care of her.  It'll only be a couple of days, we thought.  She'll be back to herself in no time.  Little did we know that over eleven months later I would still be home with her.  Of course, there was nowhere else to be--caring for this precious girl through phase upon phase of intense chemotherapy was the top priority.  Outside our little bubble, though, life went on.  Our income was immediately cut in half, but bills were not--they would soon take on a life of their own.  Instinct said it was time to crumble in worry and fear, but God said it was time to stand on faith and trust Him.  We placed our daughter in His mighty hands, yet over the course of this journey, God has shown us time and again that He is holding on to us as well.    

It's more than a little mind-boggling to pause and reflect on just how many times--and in how many ways--God has met our needs this year.  In fact, He continues to do so.  He meets our family's physical needs through the process of healing our girl--and in keeping the rest of us healthy.  He meets our emotional needs by providing peace and calm assurance through the many storms we have encountered along the way.  Storms that could have knocked us to our knees, yet here we stand.  He meets our financial needs by sustaining us through months when money was quite honestly the last thing on our minds.  In fact, our kiddos now have a nice stack of gifts under the tree--all thanks to some amazing people placed on our path at just the right time.  After the year they've experienced, it makes my heart incredibly joyful to know Paige and Jeremy will have a wonderful Christmas morning.

You gain a whole new perspective when your life is turned upside-down, but I've come to really treasure this new point of view.  I try my hardest to live out the verse God spoke to me over eleven months ago--to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and always faithful in prayer.  In the meantime, God, who is always faithful, continues His work in our lives.  Our trust, our hope, our everything--is in Him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Radiation Rewind

December.  It's the most wonderful time of the year, right?  Had this been a 'normal' December, I would have been pulling out the cute holiday t-shirts for school, scheduling a quick family photo session for the perfect Christmas picture, and coming up with all kinds of activities and outings for my kiddos to keep us occupied over the break.  By now you can guess that this December has been anything but normal.

December 1 - 5:  First week of cranial radiation treatments.  Paige had gone through the simulation a few weeks earlier, so she knew what to expect.  However, the newest leg of this journey had us all a bit on edge.  Of course, Paige was amazing--as usual.  On the very first day, she checked herself in and didn't look back when the technicians came to get her.  I think she was on a mission to get it over and done--I was actually glad she didn't turn around that first day, as this momma had some very watery eyes.  Watery, teary--take your pick. 

Thankfully, radiation is a relatively quick procedure.  It actually took longer to get her into position than it did to administer it.  In fact, Paige estimated the total radiation time at just over 20 seconds.  These short appointments were very different from those long clinic and chemo days earlier in her treatment.  More than anything, this stuff wore Paige out.  She was more fatigued than I'd seen her in quite some time, and she experienced headaches (this was to her brain, after all) that we were able to get under control.  The two-day break of the weekend gave Paige a chance to really, truly rest and let her body prepare itself for the following week.

December 8 - 10:  The last few days of treatments were basically a repeat of the previous week.  Fatigue and headaches continued, but these side effects were still manageable.  We had a countdown going, and it was pretty incredible seeing Paige come out and ring the bell after her eighth--and final--radiation treatment!  What an awesome way to wrap up this leg of the journey!

December 16: Still feeling the effects.  It's now been almost a week since Paige has received radiation.  While the headaches have subsided, the fatigue continues.  Her doctors said this could last a little while, but we've learned to be patient through this process.  We take it one day at a time.  One victory at a time.

It does look like radiation is going to take Paige's hair.  Most kiddos get this treatment at the end of the last phase, when they're still pretty bald.  Delays and make-up doses of chemo gave her hair the chance to start the growing process.  In fact, my girl had a nice little covering of hair working for a while--and then it hit.  That weird feeling on her scalp she refers to as her hair 'jumping ship.'  Again.  To say she is upset about this turn of events is an understatement.  The first time around devastated Paige--her long, beautiful hair came out little by little, day after day, until it was all gone.  The second time she had the littlest bit of peach fuzz until a series of very intense chemo treatments took it away.  This time was different.  She was getting more comfortable, more confident.  While it's not something Paige wanted to experience a third time around, I've gotta say she rocks the look--and she knows it!  Besides, that hair will come back before too long.

Come to think of it, this really is the most wonderful time of the year.  My girl knocked out radiation treatments before Christmas, she's getting healthier and stronger every day, and she is here.  Can't ask for anything more than that.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.   Romans 5:3-4