What’s in a name?

When we picked out names for our children, I never really gave much thought to what each name meant.  Chuck and I picked out names we liked and that was that.  Each child has a bit of family heritage in their name, but I didn’t learn until after the fact, that we should be mindful when choosing a name because they might actually live up to what it means.  Not mentioning any names here. ;-)

It's always fun getting a ride from dad!

It’s always fun getting a ride from dad!

While I know what all their names mean since I included that in each child’s baby book, I hadn’t really given much thought to what any of them meant for quite some time.  However, at our first Friday school co-op meeting of the school year, all that changed when I was reminded during a Chapel lesson what the name Andrew means.  As our co-op coordinator was sharing what different names mean, she shared that Andrew means “strong, manly, brave”.  Then she looked at Andy and said to him that he sure has lived up to the meaning of his name.  It was at that moment that I realized how his name really does fit him.  Before he was even conceived, I knew we’d name him Andrew if we were blessed with another son.  I love that his name fits him so well, tho I wish that the brave part was because he scales to the top of trees while he’s outside playing or that he’s a little dare devil when he’s riding his bike.  And while he is brave to do many things, he’s also forced to be brave while fighting for his precious life.

With the engineer of the Chehalis Train.

With the engineer of the Chehalis Train.

Summer has gone by in a snap.  We had many fun times, but honestly not as many as I had hoped for.  Yes, we camped, but not nearly enough.  Yes, we went to the beach to play in the sand, but not nearly enough.  Yes, we ate ice cream and roasted smores, but here again, it wasn’t nearly enough.  I adore summer.  Summer equals long, carefree days with nothing too pressing on your plate.  I am coming to sense that I just need the “life season” of summer to stay and maybe that is why I’m trying so hard to cling to summer.  With all that we’ve gone through with Andy, I want to hang onto that summer feeling through the whole year.  I have no reason to think we’re not through the worst of things, but I still yearn for summer to stay.

Oh how the boys love trains!

Oh how the boys love trains!

While most everything about summer was wonderful, one part was not.  On August 25, we lost our beloved dog of 12 years, Pepper.  She had been on the downhill for quite some time, but how she died wasn’t how I really anticipated it to happen.  The Lord is so good because of how he orchestrated her death.  I know He knew we couldn’t handle it any other way.  While she had been declining in her health and having trouble in many aspects, she really seemed happy still, so we had no reason to think that she was actually going to just die.  It was really a “here today, gone tomorrow” type of death.  She had wanted out in the middle of the night (typical for her) and the next morning we found her dead under the front porch, her very favorite place outside.  While it was very difficult for the kids to see their beloved Pepper dead, it was also a relief that she died at home and we didn’t have to make the decision of when to have her put to sleep.  We were so blessed to be able to bury her in our backyard where the kids can go visit her gravesite whenever they want to.  She loved her home and I know it is most healing for our family to be able to keep her here.  Losing a pet is so hard and we still miss her so very much.

Andy with Pepper on his birthday.  Hard to tell from the picture, but she was very ill that day. :(

Andy with Pepper on his birthday. Hard to tell from the picture, but she was very ill that day. :(

Andy’s had three appointments since I last updated.  They were all very uneventful and we’re so thankful he continues to respond so well to his treatment.

Visiting a fun toy store in Bend, Oregon.

Visiting a fun toy store in Bend, Oregon.

His first appointment was on August 5.  That day he had a spinal tap with Methotrexate and a push of Vincristine in his port.  He weighed in at 82 lbs and had an ANC of 1310.  His doctor was very pleased with all his labs and how he’s tracking with his progress.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

His second appointment was on September 2 where he had a push of Vincristine in his port and his typical labs ran.  Again, all looked perfect and it was pretty short and sweet.  He weighed 83.5 lbs and had an ANC of 1230.

Andy and his oncologist with his new Dum Dums beach towel thanks to all the wrappers he saved up.

Andy and his oncologist with his new Dum Dums beach towel thanks to all the wrappers he saved.

His most recent appointment was on September 30.  This was another appointment with just Vincristine in his port and labs.  His ANC was down to 820 this time, but still well within normal for him on treatment and he weighed 83 lbs.

Oh how I love those sweet little hands.

Oh how I love those sweet little hands.

All his medicines have remained the same these past three appointments.  Just because I like to keep track of it, his steroid pulse is 50 mg/day of Prednisone, he then takes 10 tabs of Methotrexate each Tuesday, 2.5 tabs of 6MP four days per week and 2 tabs the other three days per week, and his Septra antibiotic twice daily for three days each week.

May you always feel small when you stand beside the ocean.

May you always feel small when you are beside the ocean.

We continue to be so very thankful to our gracious God who is walking with our family through this valley.  We’re so blessed to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel off in the distance and pray for smooth and easy days ahead.  As always, we covet your prayers for Andy’s protection from long-term side effects from his medicines and also for complete healing of his precious body.

“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” ~ Proverbs 20:24

 

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Who has only one year of chemo left???

This guy!!!

A little fun on the lake!

A little fun on the lake!

Today marks one year left of treatment.  So excited for July 12, 2015 – let the countdown begin!  I think this calls for a big long chain strung through the house so we can rip off each link and watch the days get closer and closer.

A day out with trains in Bend, Oregon.

A day out with trains in Bend, Oregon.

This will just be a quickie update because we’re all too busy enjoying summer for the mama to sit around the computer and type.  Andy had his most recent oncology visit this past Tuesday, July 8th, and all looked perfect.  His appointment was with the new oncologist and we loved him.  All his labs looked wonderful and his ANC was right on track at 910.  It was a nice pitstop appointment.  He’s even packing on those pounds and is now up to 83.3!  He goes on the 23rd of July for a follow-up MRI on his hip and will hopefully be released from his crutches that afternoon.  He’s a toughie and we’re so proud of how he just takes everything in stride.

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Our two digit miget!

Lastly, thank you for all the birthday wishes for Andy.  He had a wonderful day surrounded by family and friends who love him dearly.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” ~ Jeremiah 17:7

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Happy 10th Birthday Andy

How can my *baby* be turning double digits today?  It’s pure craziness if you ask me, yet I’m so thankful that he’s turning another year older.  Another birthday as a cancer survivor, all praise to the Lord!

Today he’s celebrating by going out to lunch with his grandparents at Popeye’s Chicken and then he’ll hobble around on his “sympathy sticks” (aka crutches) to a few toy stores in search of his perfect gift from Grammie & Papa.  While he’s away shopping, I’m going to create birthday magic at home to get ready for tonight’s party.

Here’s to 10 wonderful years Andy, and many, many more to come. We love you sweet boy!

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“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ~ Ephesians 2:10

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Another hiccup

So back at the end of May, we had a fun play date at the park with some dear friends.  Well some child with weakened bones got the bright idea to jump off the swing while it was still in motion.  Usually that isn’t a big deal to me.  Kids are kids and especially boys are boys; life is full of rough and tumble and I’m really okay with that.  At first I didn’t know he actually jumped off the swing, so when he suddenly he started limping over the weekend it was a little alarming to me thinking he might have some underlying bone problem from his chemo.  Bone problems are a very real thing with long term steroids use.  The issue is called avascular necrosis (AVN for short) and basically the bone is starved of blood and dies.  You can ultimately have bones collapsing and it’s really not good.  Thankfully mid week it occurred to me we had visited the park recently, so I asked him if he did anything crazy that I wasn’t aware of.  It was cute and like a “light bulb” moment for him – he shared that he did actually jump off the swing and landed funny giving lots of impact to that leg and almost falling, but he was proud he caught himself and didn’t actually fall down.  You know, you wouldn’t want to jump off a swing and fall on your bum at nine – that’s pretty embarrassing.  I figured his daredevil stunt just pulled a muscle and it would get better.

After reading a biography about Milton Hershey, Andy made his own giant Hershey bar!

After reading a biography about Milton Hershey, Andy made his own giant Hershey bar!

Finally after a week of it hurting, we went to the oncologist for a once over and to get an x-ray.  He had been limping around really good and complaining that it really hurt to walk on it.  The x-ray didn’t show anything and so his oncologist too figured it was a pulled muscle.  He wanted Andy to rest and ice it over the weekend and said if it wasn’t better by Tuesday at his regular chemo appointment, that he’d probably schedule a MRI to further evaluate.  Monday came and he was definitely not any better, so I called to see about scheduling the MRI for Tuesday so we didn’t have to drive to Portland twice during the week.  Thankfully they had a noon opening for the MRI on Tuesday – such an answer to prayer.

Strike a pose - sometimes it takes  strange positioning to get blood return on his port.  This time it didn't work and he had to get it unclotted with some TPA.

Strike a pose – sometimes it takes strange positioning to get blood return on his port. This time it didn’t work and he had to get it unclotted with some TPA.

By the time we had his appointment with the oncologist on Tuesday afternoon, the results were in that he had a stress fracture in his right hip.  Oh joy!  They got him some crutches and was told to use them for the next three week and once he could walk without limping he was good to go.  During the drive home, however, the plan of action changed course and there was a message that the orthopedist wanted to see him the next day for further evaluation.  I called to confirm that this was necessary and Andy’s nurse said yes, that they had viewed his MRI and were considering casting it and/or a wheelchair.  This was not the news I wanted to hear, but kept it from Andy because I didn’t want to get him worked up for nothing.  I can’t imagine that challenge of having a full leg and hip cast – oh the horror of just trying to go to the bathroom, let along get around, bathe, etc.

Nice crutches! :(

Nice crutches! :(

So it was back to Portland we went yesterday.  If you’re counting, that is three trips in less than a week, but it I didn’t actually share the fact that daddy took the boys down Saturday for something they’ve had planned for a while and then Sunday we had another engagement in Portland that was important to go to as well.  So actually that is five trips in six days – yikes!  Thankfully the appointment with the orthopedist went very well and after examining him, she concluded that since he wasn’t in any pain while using the crutches and was doing such a good job following directions and staying off it, she thought a cast was overkill.  Her office really wanted to make sure that he would cooperate and make sure not to bear weight on it, so it would heal and to avoid a full break.  A full break would require a surgery to fasten the bones back together, which I can only imagine would be a terrible thing to have to endure.  Her recommendation is crutches for at least six weeks and to follow up with her then and see how the fracture is healing.  She said x-ray, but since the x-ray didn’t show, I’m wondering if he’ll actually have to have a repeat MRI.

Stopping at Toys R Us was a little consolation prize for all the junk he had endured over the past week.

Stopping at Toys R Us was a little consolation prize for all the junk he had endured over the past week.

I’m so thankful Andy is handling this so well.  He’s a bit annoyed with the crutches, but is honestly being so cheerful about it.  Chuck and I have both braced ourselves and the other kids that since he’s on steroids through Saturday, it might be a bit ugly this week.  Our mantra of nothing new on steroid week isn’t working out very well right now.  I think the Lord is giving him a lot of grace right now and I’m thankful for his cheerfulness toward this situation.  We’re thankful it’s not worse and that we did have the MRI when we did to prevent further injury to the area.  We were also very thankful to see that overall his bones look wonderful and show no signs of AVN.  Both his hip ball and socket joints look beautiful, which is a very typical spot for AVN to develop.  It was also encouraging that the orthopedist didn’t think his bone loss was horrible.  She said yes his bones are more weakened and brittle than they should be, but we know that will happen with the medicines he’s on.  She said to continue supplementing the calcium and vitamin D each day and rest assured that they will strength once his therapy is over.  She also assured us that the bone will have no problem remodeling itself from this injury while on the chemo medicines, but it could take a little longer than usual because of the weakened state.  Overall, we were comforted by her outlook on the situation and the fact that she was very reassuring that once cancer treatment is finished, he’ll be good as new.

Playing in the dirt - there is nothing better to Andy!

Playing in the dirt – there is nothing better to Andy!

On the chemo front, all went well.  It seems like either chemo or another issue (fever, hip fracture, etc.) takes center stage at the appointment, so chemo was just kind of in the background this time.  He weigh 80.2 lbs. which was awesome and is 4’9.5” tall!  His ANC was a touch high this time at 1550, but there was no concern with it at this point.  Since he gained a little more weight, his 6MP dose went up 1/2 tab/week, so now he’s taking 24 mg prednisone twice a day for five days at the beginning of the cycle, 2 tabs of 6MP 3 days/week, 2.5 tabs of 6MP 4 days/week, 9.5 tabs of methotrexate once per week, and his usual Septra dose of 2 tabs/day three days/week.  Overall it was a good appointment on the chemo end of things and we’re so thankful for that.  Lord willing, we’ll have no other hiccups before we return on July 8th.

Check out this car!

Check out this car!

On a brighter note, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom here.  Back in February when we attended the Roadster Show through the CCA, we made a connection with the Columbia River Camaro Club.  They were the club that donated the wagon that Andy picked out.  Right before Memorial Day weekend, I got an email they were having a car cruise and would be coming right through our town.  They wanted to know if we’d like to come have a private showing of the cars.  We jumped on the opportunity and were honestly blown away by what unfolded.  Chuck & I were expecting a dozen or so cars to come, but there ended up being about 40 cars in the cruise.  It was so neat, but overwhelming in the same breath because they all came to meet Andy.  It was fun to see all the shiny cars and meet some really nice people.  I think it was a nice opportunity for the members to see the child they touched through the wagon they donated.

Yep, looks like a "Bad Idea" for sure!

Yep, looks like a “Bad Idea” for sure!

Lastly, cue the drumroll – today marks 13 months left of chemo!!!  It’s so wonderful to watch the countdown begin.  I’m sure Andy is rather counting down his days on crutches, and I am too, but I’m really most excited to get to the end of his cancer treatment journey and begin our countdown to hearing the words “cured”!  We’d appreciate prayer that his leg heals up nicely and quickly.  That his attitude would remain positive and that he can endure the frustration and difficulty of this type of injury with a smile on his face.

“I will praise the Lord at all times.  I will constantly speak his praises.” ~ Psalm 34:1
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Success!

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Andy

 

Will

Will

 

Jack

Jack

 

All three boys getting shaved!

All three boys getting shaved!

 

Daddy-O

Daddy-O

 

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

The pictures tell it all, the day was a total success!  In total, over $90,000 was raised today - woo hoo!

 ”This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” ~ Psalm 118:24

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Too much hair!

Daddy & his boys on the eve of St. Baldricks 2014

Daddy & his boys on the eve of St. Baldricks 2014

Tomorrow’s the big day!  All the boys are ready and I’m excited because they are long overdue for haircuts.  The weather looks to be sunny and mid-70′s, perfect for such a wonderful event.  Thank you to the generous families who are supporting us in our fundraising efforts; St. Baldricks is really a wonderful charity and we appreciate your generosity so very much!

Look at all that hair!

Look at all that hair!

FYI, it’s not too late to join us.  You can make a donation, join our team, and learn more about St. Baldricks right on our team page ~ Team Andy for St. Baldricks 2014

Stay tuned for the after pictures!

“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” ~ Luke 12:7

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Going Bald

All lathered up and ready for a close shave.

All lathered up and ready for a close shave.

When I look back at photos of Andy bald, it seems like eons ago. He’d been in treatment for nearly 8 months when we finally succumbed to the fact that it was time to shave off what little was left. He hung onto his hair far longer than anyone ever anticipated (even his doctors). It was a bitter sweet day for me, but he finally wanted it shaved off. This was Thanksgiving morning 2012.

A matched set!

A matched set!

Immediately after Andy’s head was shaved, daddy shaved his head too.  And it sayed this way until Andy’s hair started growing in.

Fast forward to today, what do you get when you have four boys who are long overdue for a haircut??? Four boys standing up to childhood cancer!

Every year, thousands of people world-wide shave their heads in an effort to raise money for childhood cancer research. In the US, only 4% of federal funding goes toward pediatric cancer research, the rest of the funding comes from other non-government sources. Enter The St. Baldrick’s Foundation – an amazing organization that plays a critical role in funding this research (you can learn more about this organization by following the link below).

Our family would appreciate you joining us in helping raise funds to help find a cure for children just like our Andy. A donation in any amount is so beneficial, so please know even a small donation is helpful. If you’re local and want to join our “team” and shave your head, we’d love to have you! The event is at Oaks Park in Portland on Saturday, May 31. All the information about how to sign up is on our team page.

Please know it’s really hard for us to soliciting donations, however we feel strongly in the mission of The St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Without ongoing research, Andy’s outcome could be drastically different. Thank you for considering this worthy cause.

Here is the link to our team page ~ http://www.stbaldricks.org/teams/mypage/94794/2014

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” ~ Matthew 10:30

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A long overdue update

You know the old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun,” well it’s totally true! I’m way overdue writing an update on Andy, but decided I would just push it off until his next appointment, which was this past Tuesday.

Celebrating two years cancer-free at Burgerville!

Celebrating two years cancer-free at Burgerville!

All is going very well and I think it really helps that it’s been rather sunny in the Pacific Northwest, which is always a mood booster after such a rainy winter.  Andy has been staying well, praise God, and so we’ve just been enjoying normal everyday activity.

All the boys ready to go swimming with their cousins.

All the boys ready to go swimming with their cousins.

We’ve been doing a lot of celebrating lately.  It’s the beginning of the “birthday season” at our house.  Andy’s two brothers both had birthdays within a few weeks of each other.  We also had an enjoyable time celebrating Easter and Mother’s Day with our extended family.  There was a quick jaunt up north for Cousin Alex’s birthday party a few weeks ago.  But by far, the best celebration to me was celebrating two years cancer-free for Andy on April 13!  Since the day we found out he was cancer-free was the day our friends hosted a fundraiser at Burgerville, we’ve found it fitting to revisit Burgerville the past two years on the anniversary.  I guess it’s a new family tradition.

Swimming!

Swimming!

Thanks to the CCA (Children’s Cancer Association), we also got to go see the play The Giver in Portland and attend an art class put on by Vine Gogh a few weeks ago.  We also visited the Portland Aquarium using the tickets Andy won last year at the National Cancer Survivor’s Day celebration.  Then to top it off, we even snuck in our first “beach day” yesterday after school.  It was only down to the local river, but the weather was amazing and a perfect day to play in the sand.

Downtown Portland at the theatre were we watched *The Giver* play.

Downtown Portland at the theatre were we watched *The Giver* play.

Andy has had two appointments since I last updated.  The first was on Tuesday, April 15, and it was more of a pit stop appointment since he only received IV chemo.  At that appointment his labs looked great, tho one of his liver enzymes was riding a bit high again.  Thankfully it is no where near what it was back at the beginning of the year.  He weighed in at 78 lbs and had an ANC of 1420.  Overall, a really great appointment.  His medications stayed the same for the month (9.5 Methotrexate tabs per week, 15 6MP tabs per week, 6 Septra tabs per week, and 46 mg of Prednisone per day for 5 days).

Art class - nice apron dad!

Art class – nice apron dad!

The appointment he had this week was on Tuesday, May 13, and was a longer one because he had to be sedated for a back poke of Methotrexate plus he got his regular Vincristine via IV.  The sedation and back poke went well, which is always something both Chuck and I get a little uneasy about.  I know the doctors are competent and they do this every day, but as parents, having your child sedated never is easy.  I was so excited thinking he only had four back pokes left after this appointment, but yesterday when I was looking at the calendar, I realized I miscounted and he still has five left.  At his appointment, he weighed in at 79.5 lbs, had an ANC of 1180, and labs looked great except that one liver enzyme is still a bit high.  His provider said it’s barely high in their eyes so no worries.  Because of a small weight and height increase, his medication dosing went up.  He’s now taking 9.5 Methotrexate tabs per week, 15.5 6MP tabs per week, 6 Septra tabs per week, and 48 mg of Prednisone per day for 5 days.

At the Portland Aquarium

At the Portland Aquarium

Unfortunately, today the monthly steroid mess is here.  This poor boy is such a disaster each month.  I just dread going to the hospital because I know he’s going to be an emotional wreck for nearly a week.  But as my mama always told me, “and this too shall pass.”  I know it will, but sobbing over having to fill in a multiplication table for part of your math worksheet is just the pits for everyone all around.

Fun in the sun - first day at the beach in 2014!

Fun in the sun – first day at the beach in 2014!

Thank you for continuing to pray for Andy.  He’s doing so well and it just fills my heart with so much joy.  We continue to praise the Lord each day for his mercy and goodness toward our family and especially Andy.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 136:1

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Celebrating LIFE

Today is one of those strange days for me.  It’s Andy’s *two years since he started chemo* anniversary.  It’s really kind of a weird anniversary to celebrate, but to me, it’s a day I want to celebrate because it’s the marked starting point of him beating the beast.

My little water baby!

My little water baby celebrating two years with his LEGOs in the tub!

I’m so thankful to be two years out, tho there are still things that bring me to tears and all the emotions come flooding back.  The whole thing is still often too close to the surface for me and I can vividly jump back into time and recall events with so much detail.  All the uncertainty of what was to come.  The poisonous medicines he’d need to save his life.  The stumbling blocks he has faced along the way.  Today I celebrate his precious LIFE and praise the Lord for his mercy on Andy.

Andy & mom happy to have the first day of chemo all finished  - way to go Andy!

Andy & mom happy to have the first day of chemo all finished – way to go Andy!

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33b

 

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Two years ago, time stopped

Two years ago today, time as I knew it stopped.  It’s just weird to come full circle to the day yet again.  I’m sure the events of March 23, 2012, will always be burned in my mind.  I remember it so well, even down to what clothes I wore.  I guess it’s similar to how little kids can remember bits and pieces from their childhood; things that were deemed traumatic.  I remember the deep fear I felt not knowing what lay ahead.

The last page in Andy's Calendar Notebook...the day before our word was turned upside down.

The last page in Andy’s Calendar Notebook…the day before our word was turned upside down.

I’m so thankful for where we are today.  Thankful for Andy being in remission.  Thankful he’s more than half way to the finish line.  Thankful for modern medicine and amazing doctors.  Thankful for God’s promises to carry us through this valley.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

 

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