Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful Beyond Measure

Thanksgiving 2014.  Our family gathered together to enjoy a fabulous meal.  Paige had just begun the maintenance phase in treatment, and we were giving thanks for the abundant blessings we had received over the course of a very long year.  My beautiful girl was getting stronger and healthier with each passing day--and well on her way to a clean bill of health.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2015.  It has now been almost three months since her relapse, and Paige just completed a very rough 6-day block of chemotherapy.  She has battled severe headaches that called for IV pain relievers.  Nausea requiring a delicate balance of three medications.  Mouth sores that make swallowing, chewing--even talking--painful.  It doesn't stop there.  We are now on alert as her counts go down, a necessary part of the whole process.  Our family will still gather together, but Paige and I will join them via FaceTime rather than face-to-face.  She and I will still enjoy some home-cooked holiday yumminess--just a little later in the day than the rest of our family.  Yes, Turkey Day this year is quite a different scene, but still we give thanks.

From Paige's initial diagnosis to her recent relapse, this journey continues to teach me what it means to be truly, wholly thankful.   Not for just one day.  Not for just one month.  I'm talking every single day.  I am thankful.

Thankful for God's love, mercy, and abundant grace.  He is my rock, my fortress, my refuge.

Thankful for a top-notch medical team that works diligently to provide the best care possible--not just for my daughter, but for all the kiddos here.  They do a pretty incredible job caring for the parents, too!

Thankful for an amazing family that continues to grow in strength and faith.  They take care of each other as well as the 'extras' so I can focus on Paige.

Thankful for friends we have made along this journey, families whose precious children are fighting similar battles.  We cheer for them, pray for them, and have all kinds of love for them.

Thankful for my daughter and her fighting spirit.  Paige is ready to annihilate this cancer mess once and for all.  She knows we have a rough road ahead and continues to press on with everything she has.

Thankful for time together.  At home or in a hospital room--it doesn't matter where.  Playing a game or watching television in silence because her mouth hurts so badly--it doesn't matter what.  All that matters is that we are together.  For that I am thankful.

Before the busy holiday season kicks into full swing, take some time to give thanks for the blessings in your life.  Give thanks during the good times.  Give thanks during the not-so-good times.  In all things give thanks.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet?  Anyone who's ever taken a car trip has heard--or spoken--those words.  We're all about getting to the destination.  At least, that's been my mindset lately.  First round of chemo after relapse--Are we in remission yet?  Second round--I know we're closer, but are we in remission now?  Are we there yet?!?  Think back to those car trips.  Each "No, not yet" reply gets more and more frustrating.  You just want to get there--wherever there may be.

For our family these days, there is remission.  There is getting to transplant.  There is cell engraftment.  There is passing the all-important 100-day mark.  As you might guess, we have many stops along the way as we travel toward the ultimate destination--Paige being healthy again.

We aren't there yet.  Paige's bone marrow biopsy last week still showed a slight percentage of leukemia blasts.  It was less than 1%, but the team wants it basically undetectable before transplant.  They felt the best course of action was to hit those last pesky cells with some hard chemo.  Over the course of 6 days, Paige will receive 5 drugs (some multiple times) that by themselves are rough.  She is getting them in one big block.  Needless to say, our girl is feeling pretty crummy and has spent much of the last 24 hours in bed--and we are only on Day 2.  We usually spend our inpatient days on schoolwork, games, crafts, and visiting with other friends on our floor.  We aren't there yet.

Once the block is finished, Paige's counts will bottom out yet again.  We will stay here through count recovery, which could very well mean we won't return home before transplant.  Our family is still trying to process the fact we are going to be separated longer than we anticipated, but we are keeping that end destination in our sights.  We are aiming for many more holidays together, so we will get through this season the best we can.

No, we aren't there yet--but we are on our way.  There are sunny days, and there are cloudy days.  There are stops we plan, and there are those we don't.  The journey is tough, but we stay strong in faith as we travel this road God has laid out for us.  He has a plan for Paige, a plan for our family.  We just have to wait---because we're not there yet.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.   Lamentations 3:25

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Construction Zone

Is it just me, or does it seem like there are construction signs everywhere?  Take a short drive--you'll see what I mean.  They notify us of impending improvements and warn us of dangerous conditions.  It almost makes me laugh to think how closely that resembles daily life for us these days.  Those orange and yellow signs are around every corner.

Body Under Construction.  Over the next several months, Paige's body will undergo major renovations.  Once admitted for transplant in early December, she will face several days of conditioning that will involve more high-dose chemo as well as full-body radiation.  White blood cells, platelets--basically everything in her immune system--will be wiped out to clear space for the stem cells of the donor marrow.  After the infusion of cells, better known as transplant, we wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Once the marrow engrafts, Paige will have a brand new immune system.  We will have to take all kinds of precautions to keep her healthy and safe while her body adjusts to this 'extreme makeover.'

Home Improvements.  We are blessed to live within relatively short driving distance to the medical center, which means that Paige will be able to spend time recovering at home after she is discharged.  Our house is not ancient by any means--we moved in when Paige was a toddler.  That said, there were a few things that needed some attention given our delicate situation.  Paige and her baby immune system will be highly sensitive to the smallest of things, so we have to make sure everything is just right for her return home sometime in January.  Thanks to the kindness of friends and family, these issues were taken care of in plenty of time.

Reinforcing the Foundation.  Our faith and trust in God has given this family a solid foundation.  The work He is doing in Paige--in all of us, for that matter---has strengthened us in ways we never could have imagined.  We may struggle with the 'whys' and wrestle with fears over the unknown, but those things will not overtake us.  We will not be shaken.  I keep going back to something from our pastor's message last Sunday:
"If it's good, blessed be the name of the Lord.
If it's not so good, blessed be the name of the Lord--
Because in the end, God wins."

God is at work here.  As we prepare for this time of 'reconstruction,' He is here.  Providing the hardhats and safety equipment.  Giving us strength and unexplainable peace.  He is here, and we are incredibly thankful.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.   
Jeremiah 17:7