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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More Sickies

As time goes on, it seems that Andy’s five day steroid pulses at the beginning of each cycle make him more and more grouchy. This month he’s been a bear and it’s only day three today. He is upset and has cried so much of the afternoon. Everything seems to bother him from the way his brother looks at him to what someone says to him. I’m not sure if his lack of sunshine and outdoor time is part of it or it’s just typical that the longer you’re on a medicine, even when you have a break, your body remembers and things are magnified.

Future Race Car Driver?

Future Race Car Driver?

I questioned his doctor about the importance of the steroids at his last appointment this past Tuesday, March 18, and he assured me they are a critical part of his treatment plan. It’s hard to believe that a medication so widely used for such a multitude of ailments is that important to treating cancer. Nonetheless we will continue giving it to him, tho I hate how it steals my usually joyful child.

Andy loves signs!

Andy loves signs!

His appointment this month was not what I was expecting. His cough started getting worse Sunday evening, not sure if it’s a new one or the same one, and by Tuesday morning he was running a fever again. I called to report the information and was asked to bring him in as soon as we could so he could be started on IV antibiotics. You could tell he just wasn’t feeling himself because he wasn’t full of jokes or smiles as usual and just laid on the exam table and drifted in and out of sleep. After his doctor took a listen to him, he decided to have a chest x-ray done to rule out pneumonia.

At the Roadster Show!

At the Roadster Show!

The chest x-ray came back that there was no pneumonia, however his doctor looked at it and saw a spot that concerned him that could possibly be the start of pneumonia, so he decided to give him a round of at-home antibiotics just in case. Also noted in the report was that he has marked osteopenia or bone loss. This was noted in another x-ray quite some time ago, but his oncologist wanted us to double his calcium and vitamin D consumption to try to ward off more loss. He won’t be able to actually do any bone building until he’s off treatment, but hopefully this increase will help him hold steady with what he has and not lose much more. The steroids suck the calcium from his bones plus his daily blood thinner injection is a culprit as well. It’s a big double whammy at this point.

Andy loves his new wagon - thank you CRCC!

Andy loves his new wagon – thank you CRCC!

Besides the fever and sickness, the chemo part of his appointment was uneventful. He seemed to checkout well, tho I don’t think he got the usual once over like he usually does since we didn’t come in at our correct time slot and his doctor was too busy being concerned about his fever. His labs looked good except for his immunity/ANC was extremely elevated at 3720. This is likely from his underlying illness and is much too high under normal circumstances. If history repeats itself, I suspect it has already plummeted now that we’re a few days out. His oncologist wasn’t concerned since his ANC at his last monthly chemo was right on track. He was down to 75.2 lbs, but still hovering in the same range. And praise the Lord, both his liver function test results were now in the normal range!

Andy & John (the master painter who painted *Bauska & Sons*

Andy & John (the master painter who painted *Bauska & Sons*

Besides the nearly month long battle with sickies, Andy did sneak in some fun. We were invited by the CCA (Children’s Cancer Association) to attend the Portland Roadster show where Andy would be able to take home his very own custom painted and personalized wagon. I didn’t really know what to expect at the event, but it ended up being a very special time for our family and I’m always very touched by the generosity people pour out. Andy way able to pick out the wagon he wanted from a selection of wagons that were already painted and pinstriped, then he got to decide where he wanted the personalization to be placed. He decided to have “Bauska & Sons” painted on the side of the wagon since that is what dad has painted on his dump truck.

Nice ride Andy!

Nice ride Andy!

Andy’s wagon was donated by the Columbia River Camaro Club. We were able to meet one of their members, Woody, who came to the show to take pictures to share with the club who picked the wagon they donated. He was very sweet and I was able to share Andy’s story with him. I’m sad to say that somehow I didn’t get a picture of Andy and Woody together (by the way, Andy loved that his name was Woody because it reminded him of Toy Story and he loves that movie – nothing gets past that boy!). It was very touching to hear how the CRCC gives back to the local community and the members sound like a really neat group of people. I did however manage to get a picture of the gentleman who painted the “Bauska & Sons” on the wagon. He has quite a talent and came all way from British Columbia to donate his painting skills to the cause. It was just a really neat venue and amazing how lives get intertwined through such events.

Beautiful work - thank you John!

Beautiful work – thank you John!

In spite of his grumpiness, Andy seems to be rebounding fine from his latest fever and cough/cold. Our family would appreciate prayer that he could get well and stay well. Also prayer for his immunity numbers to be in the right range when he goes back for his next chemo appointment. I know that this time was an exception and I’m not worried per say about how high his ANC was on Tuesday, but it’s just reassuring when his numbers are where they are supposed to be. I just want it to be good when we take him back next time since his liver is now tolerating the medicines without stress and I would hate to see his medicine have to get bumped up again. Thank you for continuing to pray for my Andy.

“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” ~ Psalm 116:2

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Fever-Free!

Working on science schoolwork with brother - notice his Kleenex pile and red nose!

Working on science schoolwork with brother – notice his Kleenex pile and red nose!

Well the little stinker is back to his old self, tho he has a red nose from all the Kleenex he’s used over the past several days.  His fever broke early yesterday morning (Wednesday) and he’s been fever-free since!  Thank you for praying for him to stay out of the hosptial.  Day visits are fine and expected, it’s the overnighters we want to avoid!

“The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.” ~ Psalm 41:3

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Little Stinker

Andy getting ready to trick Dr G with his mustard bottle contraption - it worked like a charm!

All ready to trick Dr. G with his mustard bottle contraption – it worked like a charm!  Since he’s sick, this is a picture from his appt two weeks ago.

Andy has been causing some grief in our house this week. First, he caught the cold I had last week. I always do my best to try not to pass stuff along to the kids and usually I’m the lucky recipient of whatever is ailing them, but this time I was apparently in the giving mood and Andy was the lucky child.

Early Sunday morning, Andy woke me up that he was coughing and had a cold. He was feeling pretty crummy and was a bit wheezy. We kept him home from church that day and had him rest.

Yesterday, he decided to run a fever. Apparently he’s missing all his favorite nurses at the hospital and wanted to go for a visit. He knows the drill, a fever over 101 equals a visit for IV antibiotics and possible hospital admission depending on what his ANC number is. So away we went to the hospital with daddy and a trunk full of overnight supplies. Thankfully his ANC was high (actually too high for him under normal circumstances, but as to be expected when he’s fighting something – it was over 3000). They took a blood culture and administered IV antibiotics that are good for 24 hours and sent us home after a once over by his oncologist.

Well today, he decided to play the same game, so back we went to the hospital shortly after noon for round two of IV antibiotics. His nurse case manager warned me his ANC would be down today and it could have plummeted a lot since his body is fighting off some illness. Boy was he right, it was down to 1150! Thankfully tho, still too high to be admitted, so they took another blood culture to check for an infection, sucked some snot from his nose to test, gave him a bolus of IV fluids after his antibiotics, and sent us on our merry way.

Please join me in praying that he can keep the fevers away, otherwise it looks like we’ll be staying inpatient a few days at Camp Randall. Overall he’s feeling pretty well and is just coughing a lot and has a runny nose. His energy level is dragging a bit, but nothing more than is usual for a cold. He hasn’t really eaten much today, so hopefully he’ll be feeling better tomorrow and that will pick up too. Oh and he topped the scale at 79.4 lbs yesterday – a new record for him!

“My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!” ~ Psalm 57:7

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SNOW much fun!

I’m slow in updating because has been a whirl wind the past few weeks. We were blessed with a few snow days a couple of weeks ago, which by Pacific Northwest standards was a good dumping (other parts of the world would laugh at us).  Of course, all three boys spent a lot of time playing outside in it and since they don’t have any real snow clothes, the dryer spent a good time running getting things dried and ready for the next go round. Maybe I need to put Grammie on the garage sale hunt for snow pants so we’re prepared for next time. As it is, we left the sleds at Grammie’s house and the boys ruined four garbage can lids trying to sled on them. Apparently you can’t just buy replacement lids – who knew? That was a spendy mistake – oops!

The boys play outside - this is hardly any snow compared to what we got!

The boys play outside – this is hardly any snow compared to what we got!

Then “the cousins” came down for a few days to play while they had winter break. I’ll be darned if we were all having too much fun that I forgot to even take one single picture of all the boys playing together – very bad mommy/auntie!!!  But I can assure, fun was had by all and there was even a sleepover!

Oh the joys of playing in the mud - Andy's favorite pasttime for sure!  That boy can dig for hours on end.

Oh the joys of playing in the mud – Andy’s favorite pastime for sure! That boy can dig for hours on end.

Then to top things off, we had the most amazing field trip thanks to the local Children’s Cancer Association. Our family was able to go on a tour of the Air Traffic Control Tower at the Portland International Airport. It was nothing like I expected it to be and so incredibly fun and interesting. Our entire family had such an enjoyable time and learned so much. It was such a wonderful opportunity and the first time we’ve ever been able to participate in anything with the CCA besides having their Music RX program visit Andy’s bedside while he was inpatient at the hospital. They are a wonderful organization and strive to bring JOY to all the families they serve.

Inside the Air Traffic Control Tower - 23 floors above ground!

Inside the Air Traffic Control Tower – 23 floors above ground!

Andy had his most recent appointment last Tuesday, February 18. Everything went perfectly and I’m so happy to share his labs looked wonderful, which is always something that preoccupies me beforehand. His liver function tests indicate his liver is tolerating the medicines much better. The lab results showed one test is now in the normal range and the other was just slightly elevated. This news was such an answer to prayer and we are so thankful his liver is finally recovering as well as tolerating his medication dosing. His ANC was 780 and he weighed 77.4 lbs.

Outside the tower.

Outside the tower.

At this appointment, he had a back poke (aka spinal tap) with Methotrexate, then got a squirt of Vincristine in his port. Thankfully we’re now through his five days of steroids. I can definitely tell when he’s got them in his system because he’s a bit more testy than usual, plus he wants salt *ALL* the time. But the worst is behind us for another three weeks and I’m thankful he tolerates them as well as he does. Plus it could be worse, he could have Dexamethasone and I know firsthand that medicine makes him a mess and makes Prednisone look like a walk in the park!

Andy the Astronaut!

Andy the Astronaut!

Now for really fabulous news, check – one more back poke off the list, which means I can finally count on one hand how many more back pokes Andy has! I am so excited because five just doesn’t really seem like that many. Granted it’s going to take nearly a year and a half to accomplish it, but I love to find the silver lining in yucky things. Those sedations can do a parent in and are always very nerve-wracking for daddy and me.

If I knew you were coming, I'd baked a cake...Andy decorates his first cake!

If I knew you were coming, I’d baked a cake…Andy decorates his first cake by himself!

Thank you for continuing to lift Andy up in prayer – your prayers are working! I continue to pray each day for Andy’s complete healing and that Andy will be a shining testimony for the Lord’s wonderful mercy and protection.

“Come and show me your mercy, as you do for all who love your name.” ~ Psalm 119:132

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Another one bites the dust

Yay, Andy’s monthly chemo appointment went off without a hitch last Tuesday, January 21. His ANC looked great and was 1180, however his liver function was still running high. Looking back at the lab results, the numbers have come down drastically from when they were checked on January 7, so he’s definitely trending in the right direction. Praying they continue to go down and get back to the normal range by his next appointment. Otherwise his weight was prefect at 76 lbs and the rest of the appointment was very uneventful. He got his usual squirt of Vincristine in his port and we’re to carry on with his at-home medicines at the same dosage they have been since his November appointment (6MP is 2 tabs five days each week and 2.5 tabs two days each week, Methotrexate 9.5 tabs per week, and his usual Septra three days each week, and then the monthly steroids for five days).

Will & Andy *In their Christmas Jammies*!

Will & Andy *In their Christmas Jammies*!

Last Wednesday, the 22nd, we had a pretty exciting day around our house. First, all four kiddos had dental cleanings (no cavities – yay!), then Andy and his middle brother, Will, skipped across the street to the orthodontist and both got their braces on! They were both pretty excited, but now there is a bit of grumbling about how they aren’t actually as neat as they had anticipated. Imagine that! None the less, we’re on the road to everyone having straight teeth. Andy’s braces are actually only on his top six teeth and are considered a “phase one” treatment to fix his cross bite. It’s possible he’ll have the full meal deal later on, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed this will be enough for him. I’m amazed at how much they have moved already. The tooth that was stuck behind has come right up front where it belongs in only a few short days. He did have to have a little pity party for himself the other day tho wondering “why everything happens to me – I get cancer and have to have braces”. I’m not sure when I’m going to learn NOT to do anything drastic on steroid week – remember the pill swallowing troubles when he got his palate separator? Apparently I wasn’t thinking when I scheduled the appointment. Thankfully he finished his steroids last night and the “woe is me” attitude seems to have passed.

Brothers in Braces!

Brothers in Braces!

Not much else exciting around here, thankfully! Just counting down the days until the warm and sunny weather arrives.  We’re all ready to trade our coats and socks in for sandals, camping, and some BBQ’ed burgers.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.” ~ 1 Peter 1:6

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Sweet Joy

Oh sweet JOY, today our prayers were answered as Andy’s ANC level was down to 1022! We are so thankful for this news and continue to praise God for his care of Andy.

Andy loves his new bike!

Andy loves his new bike!

All his numbers looked wonderful with the exception of his liver function. That number is still elevated and a bit higher than is was two weeks ago. His oncologist said that 20 times above the normal limit is cause for concern and at that point the are required to act by decreasing medicine. His level was only about a third of the way to that, so still very well within the “safe” range, but above what is considered normal is definitely hard on his little body. His nurse looked at his labs while he was on the phone with me today and said that it appeared that number jumps up when he gets an increase in his at-home medicines.  Those medicines were increased again November 26, so this is most likely the culprit.  They have always gone back down to the normal range over time, but we now ask for prayer for his liver function numbers to decrease back to normal. We all only have one liver and it’s really important that it stays healthy.  Thank you for continuing to pray for our Andyroo!

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 28:6-7

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Prayer Request

Please keep Andy in your prayers as his blood will be checked in the morning (Tuesday the 7th) to check his ANC/immunity level. We ask that you specifically pray that his ANC level is between 750 – 1500 (per his treatment protocol). Chuck & I are praying that his daily at-home medicines don’t need to be bumped up and that his ANC has come down in the last two weeks on it’s own at his current medicine dosage. I will update tomorrow night when I know the results. Thank you for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. We know the Lord has this, but find comfort in knowing others are lifting him up in prayer as well.

He melts his mama’s heart!

“We put our hope in the Lord, He is our help and our shield.” ~ Psalm 33:20

 

 

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Merry Christmas

How have we already come full circle to Christmas? In a way it feels like just yesterday that Andy finally graduated to the maintenance part of his protocol (it happened last year on Christmas Eve), yet it feels like we’ve been at this fight forever. We are so grateful and feel so blessed that Andy is doing well.

New Christmas PJ's!

New Christmas PJ’s!

Unfortunately, we get regular reminders that life isn’t so lucky for all children (or adults) with cancer. I had my breath taken away at the annual Candlelighter’s Christmas party right after Thanksgiving. We went last year, which was the first time Andy finally walked by himself after he had hurt his back and had not walked for weeks, this year I expected nothing but joy, however that quickly changed when a family of three asked if they could join us at our table. Naturally I assumed that their little daughter was the reason they were there and during causal conversation I asked what her diagnosis was. The mom looked at me with teary eyes and told me they were a bereaved family as their son passed away in the spring. Of course, hearing this brought me to tears, but even worse, their son was on the maintenance part of his treatment for T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (the exact same cancer our dear Andy has). She shared that everything was going along well for him, but then his counts became low and just weren’t rebounded. His doctor did a bone marrow biopsy and found the cancer was back. Just like that, their world was turned upside down. Hearing this made it extremely difficult to enjoy the rest of the party. The mom told me that they decided they would go to all the events they would have taken their son to because if they didn’t, it would just get harder and harder and soon they wouldn’t want to do anything.

Christmas with the cousins!

Christmas with the cousins!

It is always difficult to hear of a family losing a child, but to hear the child had the exact same illness your very own child has is gut wrenching. Someone recently reminded me how great the odds are for leukemia treatment. And while I do agree they are great “odds”, that is all they are, “odds”. Odds don’t care about the child or the family. Odds just say that 90-95 out of 100 children will recover from A.L.L., but when it’s your child, it’s either all or nothing. There isn’t a 90-95% child walking around on this earth. I don’t want to walk the road of the family from the Christmas party. That road can’t be anything put painful and difficult. I pray daily for those families who have lost a loved one to the vicious beast of cancer. I pray for a cure to cancer, that it’s a thing of the past, just like polio and mumps.

Gingerbread Train complete!

Gingerbread Train complete!

On a brighter note, our family made many enjoyable memories since my last update. We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with both sides of our family, complete with cousins and all (cousins are a big deal around here!). Besides the usual school studies, the kids enjoyed decorating the annual Gingerbread Train, tho sister got ripped off because I miscounted when I cut the pieces, so she frosted Gingerbread men instead of making a train car. We made our annual trek to find the perfect Christmas tree which Andy even did the honors of chopping it down. As an added bonus, we had some super cold weather here that yielded us a frozen water pipe and produced a little dusting of snow that made home look a bit like a winter wonderland. It’s really hard for me to believe that 2013 is already coming to a close; time waits for no one.

Letters to Santa at Macy's - they donated $2 million to Make-A-Wish this year!

Mailing letters to Santa at Macy’s – they donated $2 million to Make-A-Wish this year!

Andy’s appointment at the hospital on November 26th went very well. He had a backpoke with Methotrexate and Vincristine in his port. He weighed in at almost 74 lbs. and had an ANC of 1890. His ANC was on the high side, but since his chemo medicines were held for low counts and had just been restarted, there was no concern. His provider said that is normal because his body was rebounded from not having the medicine in his system.

Andy cut down our Christmas tree this year!

Andy cut down our Christmas tree this year!

Andy’s appointment today (on Christmas Eve) proved to be another uneventful one, tho his ANC is still riding too high. He will go get labs drawn in two weeks on the 7th of January to see if things are trending down before they increase any medicines. He does have a bit of a drippy nose, but not a full blown cold, and also has a small cough which could be causing his ANC to be out of whack. It’s just a reminder that I need to continue to put my trust in the Lord and seek him every day regardless of if it’s sunshine or rain. I know I get a bit into the groove of Andy being fine and things feeling like they are pretty much back to normal for us, when in reality he still is very fragile medically speaking. Otherwise his appointment was what we expected, with a squirt of Vincristine in his port and then he took his Methotrexate orally tonight like he does every Tuesday since he didn’t get a back poke today. His weight was up a bit to 76 lbs. and his ANC was 2060.

A new train car from Grandma and Papa Tom - yippee!!!!

A new train car from Grandma and Papa Tom – yippee!!!!

We want to thank our faithful prayer warriors that continue to pray regularly for Andy. Our family counts it a true blessing to have others rallying on Andy’s behalf. We know the fight isn’t over yet and continue to pray that the Lord protects his body from the cancer returning, that the side effects of the medicines are minimal, and that our family can be a shining testimony for our merciful Lord. Our most current prayer need is that Andy’s ANC would start to trend down and, our ultimate prayer request is, that it would be in the appropriate range when it’s checked in January so he doesn’t have to have medicine dosing increased. Please also pray for Chuck and me; that any nerves will be calm (Daddy may look tough, but he’s a pretty soft guy when it comes to all this cancer stuff). We wish you a Merry Christmas and blessed 2014! May 2014 be a year filled with JOY and good health!

Andy from a year ago today.

Andy from a year ago today.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” ~ Galatians 4:4-5

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