Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Wild Week

As you can tell by the number of posts, we were quite busy last week. Knowing that this week could be just as busy or more, I humbled myself to knowing that I needed help. I called on my sister-in-law, Jessica to fill in the gap as she graciously agreed to take Hunter and Holly. We planned to take them to Ohio right after morning worship. That idea was brought to a halt when we arrived home from church to find sick dogs. I'll spare the details here, but needless to say, they had to be dealt with and our jaunt to Ohio was off. We began the week with Mom's doctor's appointment early Monday morning. We learned that she had a UTI and the doctor postponed the chemo until next week. They were also going to look more into her pain in her esophagus. We took her to the hospital Wednesday morning to have a procedure done to determine if it is an infection, or a result of the radiation. If it is a result of an infection, it can be treated and she continue the radiation again. We're still waiting to hear the results and she will come home later today. To add to the week, Haley and Bekah will be in the CEC production of Narnia on Friday. They are practicing hard each night this week. What may be a little harder is fighting the traffic where the play will take place. Tonight will be the real test - roads are closed due to the Pegasus Parade! But wait - that's not all! We got a call on Tuesday that Tim's brother, Mark, was sent to the hospital with a very high fever, bad headache, chills, and chest pain. I'm sure you've been watching the news as we have and immediately think "swine flu." The original diagnosis is pneumonia, but they have yet to say it's NOT swine flu. He is being treated with IV antibiotics and remains in the hospital. I now see why God didn't allow for Hunter and Holly to go to Ohio this week. Jessica is having a hard enough time, she didn't need our two children in the chaos as well. Sometimes I wish God would give us His eyes to see the things it takes us longer to see. I'll close by adding that my dear cousin, Emily, is back in the hospital. Boy, all this sure makes us look forward to the time that there will be no more suffering and no more pain. Until then, we're praising Him in the storm.

Haley's 16th Birthday Party

About 6 months ago I began thinking of Haley's Sweet 16 birthday party. The girls would all dress up and it would be a fancy, girly, extravaganza. As I began discussing these thoughts with her, I realized that my plans were not her plans. She had more thoughts of it being casual and heading to the go-carts. Well - it's her party and if driving is what she wants, then that's what we decided to do. She invited Alex, April, Hannah, Katie, Kayla, Sarah, and Sophie - all 16 or almost there, to share in the fun. Add a little bit of putt-putt golf, pizza, and chocolate cake and we came up with the perfect evening for Haley to remember. They drove a little to fast for me to capture any "driving" pictures, but here's a few others to share. I will also take this time to comment about how blessed we are with Haley's friends. They are such a great group of girls and we love them dearly.

Prom 2009

It just so happens that prom fell right into birthday weekend for Haley. Her "guest" was Sophie, but they all attended as a group of friends. The evening began with dinner at the Olive Garden. Haley, Sophie, Jill, Sarah, Katie, Emily, Brandon, and Dalton feasted with us as well as Mr. & Mrs. Wilson, and Mr. & Mrs. McNeil. We then helped to escort them over to Wildwood Country Club where they danced to an English garden theme. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to attend a well planned out and supervised prom, that is not characteristic of typical high school mayhem. Ms. Cretella, the Wilsons, and the prom committee did a fantastic job creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Driving 101

As I mentioned earlier, Haley drove us to Wendy's for lunch. After her guests left tonight it was time for more driving lessons. Tim got her into his truck and they did a little stick shift practice. I must say, she did better than her mom! I looked to make sure that our neighbors across the street were gone before she backed out of the driveway. Thankfully she didn't end up in their yard like I did when I was 16. When Tim got her back home I took her back out in the Suburban. We even got on Bardstown Rd. to get to the car wash. She drove it through there and she and Bekah vacuumed it out when it was done. Nothing like teaching them from the beginning to take care of their vehicle!

Haley's Sweet 16

This evening we were able to have a little celebration with some special friends. Haley is so special that she had guests come in to share her special day from all over the world. Mr. Craig was there from the Middle East. Of course Mrs. Cindy and Sarah are always honored guests at our home. Mr. Rob represented his family (including the other Sarah who Haley wanted here) from Florida. The evening was complete with chocolate cake and a few gifts. Tim and I gave her a purity ring (another post) and her first string of pearls that she'll wear to prom tomorrow. Mix these special events in with the beautiful day we had and we have a very happy 16 year old.

Let the Gray Hair Grow!

It's so hard to believe that our baby is old enough to drive! We gathered all the needed items and headed out to the department of motor vehicles. She took her test with flying colors - 90%! After she had the piece of plastic in her hands we stopped to pose for the picture above then she drove to Tim's office, which is the next parking lot over. She gave Tim a call and asked to take him to lunch. She then drove us all to Wendy's and back to the Reserve center. While we have some learning to do, she will be a great driver.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Decisions, Decisions!

Before I get too far into this, I do want to let you know that my mom, Maggie, and Emily are all home from the hospital and are recovering at home. I'm sorry I didn't get this posted earlier.

As we are preparing for this upcoming move, there are a plethora of decisions that need to be made. Should we keep something or thow it out? Alexandria, Woodbridge, or Stafford? Older home or newer? While some of these are time consuming in the thought process, they're all minor compared to some bigger decisions that need to be made.

One such decision is the one that is faced by my mom. She has to make the decision of whether to continue with treatment for her cancer or stop it. While things started off well, she is at the point that the radiation is significantly altering her lifestyle. Eating and drinking has been a struggle to her and causes much pain. There is nothing more frustrating than to see her in pain and not be able to do anything about it. We did go to see the radiology doctor today and received a couple of new meds. Hopefully they will help. No one has been able to tell us based on past experience how long they think this treatment will extend her life. While we realize that only God knows the number of our days, estimates in this area would prove helpful. The doctors did say that barring a traffic accident or something similar, this cancer is what would ultimately take her life. Our thoughts are, does the cost in side effects outweigh the promise of a longer life. Something that makes you say, "hmmm." This isn't a matter of what color cabinets are in the kitchen, but a real life and death decision. I have promised my mom that I will support her decision either way. While the thought of losing her is devastating, seeing her suffer is even worse. We do believe that God could use His power to supernaturally heal her. However, we have surrendered to the fact that He is soverign and will do what He wants to accomplish His purposes and bring glory to Himself.

I had an important decision to make once. That was the decision to make Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I was only 7 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I knew that way back Adam and Eve had disobeyed and caused havoc for all the world. With disobedience, there was punishment - eternal death. As a 7 year old, punishment was easy to understand. Then I learned that Jesus, a man who walked the Earth, God's Son took the punishment for MY disobedience by His death on the cross. Not only that, but he came back to life three days later! I'm sure most everyone believes that. The Bible even says that the devil does. Not only did I decide to believe that He is my Savior from an eternity in hell, but I chose to make Him my Lord. I want Him to help me make other decisions and direct my life. So far, He's done a pretty good job. The mistakes come when I have my say and not Him.

My mom has made that decision as well. Jesus is her Savior and Lord. When cancer does take over her earthly body, her soul will be in Heaven - forever. Now that's a way to live in a Mansion!

So I have some questions for our readers. What would you do if you were in her situation? Would you continue treatment? Is it wrong not to? I will add, that this isn't like some of the "curable" (5-10+ years survival rate) cancers. They say half of lung cancer patients die within a year. We want to do the right thing for everyone involved. Proverbs 15:22 says, "Without counsel, plans go awry. But in the multitude of counselors they are established." Also - have you made the decision to make Jesus your Savior and Lord? If not, and it's a decision you want to make, give us a call sometime.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No one is coming home today

We were able to get a good amount of school done this morning before the girls had to be at class. Hunter, Holly, and I then headed out to the hospital. Mom was doing better. They were able to remove the drain from her arm and she was eating better too. However, despite all of that, they kept her one more night so that she could get a quart of blood. Her counts were a little low.
Maggie remains in the hospital in Ohio. Evidently there was a complication from her first surgery, so they had to do a second procedure today. They're keeping her overnight as well.
We said goodbye to some special neighbors today. Sloan, Jen, Dylan, and Lucy have left for South Carolina. They are fantastic neighbors and will be greatly missed. Technology is wonderful as I feel like our friendship will continue via the Internet although it's not the same as taking the dogs for a walk and running into each other.

Happy Easter!

The day before Easter all was going well. Mom and I went out and got a Honey Baked Ham and other ingredients to make a great meal. While it wore her out a little, she rested while I put some of the side dishes together. In the late afternoon she was complaining that her hand hurt. This has been an ongoing problem since January, so I asked her if she'd like some pain medicine. She declined so I went on and took Hunter to a birthday party. When I returned, she was in extreme pain. Her fingers were tingling and turning blue, so I left Tim with burgers on the grill and ran her down to the ER. They were able to take her right back to a bed and had her some morphine within 30 minutes. I'm very thankful for the efficiency of the ER at University. They ran some tests and decided at 3:00 am that they would admit her. The pain medicine wasn't working as well as before, so it was off and on pain. I got home and back in bed at 4:30 am and convinced Tim that we go to the 10:45 service.

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday morning with the sun shining brightly. The kids were dressed in their best and we were off to a wonderful Resurrection Sunday with one of the most awesome congregations of Believers. What a beautiful service it was. When we got out, however, we got a call from Mom saying that they were going to take her to surgery at 2:30. We hurried home, changed clothes, and were able to meet Tim's dad at the hospital before they took her down. Sure enough, there was a blood clot that was restricting flow to her left arm. The surgeon was able to remove it and get her on the road to recovery. During this time, though, we discovered another problem. Acid reflux caused from the radiation is making it difficult for her to eat. Even water is difficult to go down. Maurice, Mom's nurse who found a pain medication that worked for her hand, went to work on this issue too. He's a great nurse! We're hoping that Mom can be released today (Tuesday). There's something to be said about recovering at home.

Some other updates: Tim's grandma, Margaret, got to come home from the nursing home yesterday (Monday). She's well on her road to recovery. My cousin, Emily, is recovering from her surgery last week and hopes to go home on Friday. They are watching her liver and spleen for swelling. Tim's other grandma, Maggie, went to the hospital on Monday to have a pacemaker put in. They're hoping she can come home today.

So, the question is asked, "Can we still celebrate Easter with all this mess?" The answer is, "ABSOLUTELY!!!" The reason being is Easter is not about fancy clothes, ham dinners, bunnies, chicks, and egg hunts. While all of those are fun, having them taken away doesn't ruin Easter. Jesus, who took the punishment for our sin, is still risen from the grave and has victory over death! He's still alive! Having loved ones in the hospital doesn't change that. It even makes them being in the hospital more peaceful. All of us face death whether we're old, young, healthy, or have some kind of medical problem. Because of Easter and what Jesus did, it's the promise of eternal life in Heaven. We know that for those who claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord, this is not the end. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! Are you celebrating Easter too?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Concerns

I'm sorry that I didn't update yesterday, our last day of round 1. Things went really well yet again. She's still eating well and even gained a pound. To us, that's celebration. I was a little worried today as she came of one of the biggest anti-sickness medicines, but she was going strong. We're trusting that the next days will bring the same. We know that all of this good news is the presence of the Lord through the prayers of our family and friends. If you would, we'd like to ask you to join us in praying for my sweet tweenage cousin, Emily. She is not getting any better and they are going to take her into surgery tonight or early tomorrow. I'll keep everyone updated on her as well. Grandma is still in the nursing home waiting to be well enough to go home. Again, thank you so much for all your prayers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Second Day Done!

Our second day went as well as the first. A big thanks to Steve & Lisa for schooling Hunter & Holly and taking them to the park. Mom was able to eat a nice dinner when Tim brought her home. Thanks so much for your prayers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The First Day is Done!

After getting the kids started in school this morning and outlining their lessons we headed out to what became a busy day. We tried to go to radiation early before the chemo treatment, but they told us to come back when we were done. As we got upstairs, we were greeted with a prescription for the anti-sickness medicine. I was given directions to the nearest Walgreens and ran. Over an hour later I returned with the prized drug and they then got her started. It must do its job, because so far she feels good. She ate lunch while we were there, then came home and ate a good dinner. The kids and Tim did a great job of preparing it and getting it on the table as we walked in the door. She's now eating an Easter favorite - Brach's jelly beans. We got more good news today! Hunter and Holly have been accepted in the Classical Conversations tutorial in Virginia. We're still waiting to hear about Haley and Bekah. Hunter got into the last 5th grade spot. We are really happy about this as we see God's provision. He cares for our every need.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

So How Do The Puzzle Pieces Fit Together?

That's a great question! Honestly, we don't have that answer - yet. We take a look back at where we've been in the last 6 months. After releasing Tim's mom to the arms of the Lord, we learn of an upcoming move. We thought things were moving forward with that and that it would take place in late spring / early summer. We then learn that all PCS moves were on a case by case basis. Then Mom's illness pops up. Not only that, but Tim's 89 year old grandmother was also in the hospital with pneumonia and is slowly now recovering in the rehab section of a nursing home. We ask that you continue to pray that God will heal and strenghten her. Also at the same time, LeAnn's cousin, Angi was with her daughter Emily at children's hospital having a second of 3 digestive system surgery. She has since had complications with that and could use your prayers as well. Our first thought was that God allowed this delay for us to support Mom through her cancer treatment. We sat the kids down the other night and told them that there is a possiblity that it may be late summer or as late as the first of 2010 before we move. Then the next day, Tim received his orders. He will report June 17. We now have the house painted (thanks, Colin) and new carpet is laid. We've got to get rid of a lot of junk and we'll have the house ready to put on the market. We've set a goal of May 1. School? Well, it happens here and there. Haley and Bekah are doing a great job keeping up with their work at CEC. I think the younger two and I are going to finish by doing one subject at a time. They can get a lot of reading done in a waiting room. While we don't know HOW it's all going to come together, we know that God has a plan. This isn't a surprise to Him, He's known it all along. We trust that He will keep Mom strong through the treatment. We're trusting for healing for Grandma and Emily. He will sell our house in the EXACT timing - the market is nothing for Him. He will provide for our every need. While we only see a bunch of colorful pieces with oddly shaped sides, God sees the whole picture on the outside of the box. In His timing He will put each of the pieces together one by one to make something beautiful.

The Next Step of the Journey

Tomorrow morning (Monday, April 6) we will begin the first of four cycles of chemotherapy. They are giving her Cisplatin and Etoposide. She will go Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, have two complete week off, then start over again beginning April 27. This will go on for 4 cycles. They are giving her some other meds to offset the sickness that comes with it. There is one medicine that the pharmacy is out of though and they are trying very hard to get it in on time. Please pray that this will happen. Also, please pray that she is strong enough to tackle the chemo. We are trying to keep a positive attitude and are lining everyone up to get on board and help us fight. Since we're already fighting the reflux, we're not getting started on the right foot. God is good, God is Soverign. We are trusting His hand as we walk along the way. We are so thankful to all of those who have offered to help in so many different ways. We love you and appreciate you. While this has certainly not been easy emotionally or physically, some words to a familiar hymn come to mind:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know Who holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Bringing You Up To Date

Some of our readers may know the latest that is going on in our family, but for those just tuning in, I will do my best to bring you up to date. My goal is to find more computer time to keep this current.

The first weekend in March: My (LeAnn) mom (Sherrie) was tired all of the time and started running a fever. We didn't think much of it as the kids all had something similar. We thought she caught it from them.

March 16/17: After not getting out of bed all week and eating nearly nothing, I gave her the choice of me taking her to the hospital or calling an ambulance. She let me take her to the hospital. We arrived at the ER at 2:30pm, she was finally seen at 11:30pm. They started running several tests. I decided around 4:00am that they were going to keep her, so I left at daylight and went home to get a couple hours of rest. I was back out there at noon and stayed until they admitted her at 3:45pm. There was obviously a mass in her chest area and were suspecting pneumonia, blood clots, and/or cancer.

March 18: She had several blood tests, X-rays, CT scan, and other things that I don't know about. They then decided to take a scope down into her lungs and do a biopsy.

March 19: We were told that she had lung cancer. They still suspected the pneumonia and blood clots so they were treating her with antibiotics and blood thinner.

March 21: She was finally released from the hospital and referred to the Brown Cancer Center at University of Louisville hospital.

March 23: We met with the radiation oncologists and get her ready to start radiation.

March 25: We start daily radiation for a course of 7 weeks.

March 27: They do a PET scan.

March 30: They do another MRI, this time of the brain.

April 1: We meet with the whole team of doctors that will be treating her cancer. They tell us that she has a mixture of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. It is not possible to do surgery as it encompasses the entire chest wall and blocks a major airway. It is a very aggressive cancer, and she's probably only had it a month or two. The good news is, this type of cancer is generally responsive to chemotherapy and it has not spread to any organs, bones, or the brain (stage IIIb). While they wouldn't give us a prognosis, the doctors did seem somewhat hopeful.

April 3: Mom goes in to have a port placed. This will supposedly make receiving chemo a lot easier. Aside from the tape on the dressing bothering her, she's come through this quite well. I ask her ahead of the chemo what she would like to have to eat. Her request was steak. Of course, the family didn't complain. We had steak, baked potatoes, french fries, and pasta salad. Yum! She did begin to get some acid reflux Sunday afternoon.