Monthly Archives: April 2015

Answers In Time

The call came early this morning.  Chase’s brain and spine look wonderful, except for the area that’s being watched in the initial tumor bed…

The bad news is that the small, cyst-like areas have grown again.

The good news is that the growths have maintained their cyst-like quality and at this time, the consensus is that they pose no threat and are consistent with damage, or “effects”, from Chase’s radiation days.

This is great news, but at the same time, it’s hard to hear on some level because we find ourselves in a state of distrust, not towards our doctors, but rather, towards an aggressive, malignant disease.  We find ourselves asking how, short of a pathology report, how can they be sure this isn’t ATRT laying dormant and waiting to explode into tumor?

For now, the full answers unfold with time alone, and so, we find ourselves deeply, purposefully thankful for a stable report, another scan reprieve of three or four months, and no known cancer in this moment.

Thank you for all your encouragement, love and prayers this week.

-MbM-

Chase during sedation, pre-MRI yesterday morning

Chase during sedation, pre-MRI yesterday morning

Are You Married?

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The sedation doctor bent over the bed to peer into Chase’s mouth and while he complied with an open mouth, the doctor made conversation: “So, are you married?  Do you have a job?”, to which Chase giggled and exclaimed “Ew, gross, no!” to the first, and “Yes, my job is to make my bed and clean my room.” to the second – and oh, how I wish I had that work promise in writing.

No MRI news to date, and none expected at the moment, but a great answer to prayer in this moment is that Chase did very well under sedation and that the procedure itself went well.

It will take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for the full effect of the sedation drugs to wear off and in the meantime, somewhat sedated Chase is making things interesting.  He’s unsteady on his feet and when I tell him to turn left and he slowly and deliberately responds: “No Mom, I’m going to turn left.”  :)

He was so proud of himself for doing well with the scan as well as the needle in his arm for labs and IV fluids.  We are so thankful for the good day even as we continue to wait under the shadow of unknown results.

Thank you again for walking this road with us…

Moment by moment.

 

 

Of Bravery, and Baseballs, and Laying “In The Tube”…

Standing in front of two doors…

On the edge of a cliff…

Holding life with open hands… all these metaphors and so many more come to mind (and have come to life on these pages) as I consider another MRI in the morning.

By my very rough count, Chase has lay in “the tube” and been scanned over 20 times, and on the one hand, preparing for the experience feels almost as routine as running to the store for milk, and on the other… well, really, really not routine.

Chase stayed home from church today in order to protect him from any germs that might interfere with sedation tomorrow and for a minute, we sat in the sun on the back porch with the blooming trees all around us and I asked him what to write and what he’d want to say.  He shrugged and said “I don’t need to say anything.  You can say it, Mom.  Just write about cancer and my baseball and the MRI – that I would be brave and not be afraid.”  So there it is… Please pray for Chase to be brave and not be afraid as he goes in tomorrow.

Despite all the experience, tomorrow will still be a first.  At the suggestion of his doctors, to reduce stress and the hours spent with no food or water, we are going to attempt an MRI at an outpatient facility (his first full scan not done in the hospital), using sedation instead of general anesthesia.  Our hope and prayer is that his little body will take to the new medicines well and that he’ll be able to fall into a deep sleep and stay there for upwards of two hours.  We were told that there are only a small percentage of children who don’t take well to the procedure and need to be transferred back to the main hospital for future scans, but as ATRT parents, we eat “small percentage” for breakfast every morning, so it really didn’t come across quite as comforting as we know the nurse meant it to be.  Also, it’s Chase… :)

So, as always, we go forward …

Moment by moment.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

"Make a wish, Darcy, please make a wish!!"

“Make a wish, Darcy, please make a wish!!”

Nine

Somehow, it’s been nine years since the long night when her heart rate kept dropping and intervention seemed so close. 
It’s been nine years since that last minute before 7:00 and she finally entered the world so swiftly that the doctor never made it across the room and the nurse caught her before she fell. 
It’s been nine years since I first saw my Darcy Charis, my grace-child, and it’s been nine years of blessing. 
Great is His faithfulness.

-MbM-

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Keep Running

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Our dear friend John teaches Chase’s class at our church and is an amazing runner. He stopped by to see us and gift Chase with the first medal from his first marathon many years ago and this coming Monday, as Chase lays in the MRI machine, John will be on the ground in Boston, running the 2015 marathon. We are so proud of him and are so humbled that he does this in honor of Chase.

“There’s a cloud of witnesses, the ones who’ve run this race, and even louder than my fears they’re crying; ‘Warrior, lift your face, and keep running, keep runnin’, don’t lose hope, don’t you give up now, don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way to just keep reaching, keep fighting, the pain does not compare to the reward that will be yours, that waits in store for those who just keep running.” A Pilgrim’s Progress, Matt Papa

 

The State of Chase: A Little March Madness

As many of you know, after months of every six-week-scans, Chase was granted a three month reprieve which will be up in a few short weeks.  March has been an amazing, breath-taking month and we’ve been honored to be a part of several St. Baldrick’s and Lurie events already this year.

"Take a survivor picture of me, Mom!"

“Take a survivor picture of me, Mom!”

One of our favorite events has been visiting schools in our district for shave events.  Watching children donate their hair for other children takes my breath away.  There is no guile, just love and caring with the greatest commitment.  The first school we visited, Chase had determined to say something but in the face of the entire student body, staff, and parents, he decided to stay quiet.  I can’t blame him – I was a little terrified too.  However, last week, at our final event for March, he opted to speak and in a gym full of children, staff, and parents, he found words about St. Baldrick’s being a special thing…and then, simply, this tiny 5-year-old with a microphone in his hands voiced the best words: “Thank you.

Talking about St. Baldrick's at Madison Elementary

Talking about St. Baldrick’s at Madison Elementary

In some ways, March has really been a month about hair.  We’ve had the shaving events including Aidan’s shaving, and for the first time, Chase spoke about not having his.  It was “crazy hair night” in the kid’s church programs and while Aid’s full, thick hair easily stood on end with a little gel and styling, when Chase asked for the same style, he expected the same look, and instead, he looked a little like Baby Jack-Jack from the Incredibles – with a single tuft of hair off the crown of his head.  We all thought he looked awesome.  We all thought he knew.  It wasn’t until that night, as he looked in the mirror, that he fully voiced and realized his difference in this area.  “I want my hair to look like Aidan’s!  It doesn’t work! [he smacked his head with the palm of his hand] It’s just my same, stupid baseball. Don’t talk to me about it right now. I’m very angry.”  This was the first time Bob and I have ever heard Chase voice discontent with his differences.  It was both heartbreaking and impactful for us as moments like this one reiterate that we made huge medical decisions which will never stop greatly effecting his daily life.  

It was during these same weeks that I received an email from Chase’s school about hair.  Kids in his class were beginning to ask more questions about Chase and why he didn’t have hair like them, so, last week, we went into the school with a program designed to educate and answer questions and the woman read a story about a boy named Billy, and she brought a bald doll on whom all the children practiced cleaning central lines, and then Chase got up and showed his class some pictures – pictures you all know by heart – of Dr. Lulla and surgery days and hospital days, and he explained each one in his own way and the kids sat and listened.  And then, because they’re five and they’re wonderful, they fixated on Chase getting to do special things in the hospital and when we reminded them that hospitals try and make it special because Chase couldn’t do “normal” things like swim and be outside when he was having chemo, it reminded them how much they all like to swim and be outside and though it turned out a little like nailing jello to a wall, it was precious and real because Chase stood up in front of them and talked about a part of who he was and is.  

Chase and Chelsea -from Welness House- work with a chemo doll and Chemo Duck to talk to Chase's class about cancer life.

Chase and Chelsea -from Welness House- work with a chemo doll and Chemo Duck to talk to Chase’s class about cancer life.

Courtesy of Lurie Children’s and LaSalle Bank, March also brought another first for Chase: a Chicago Bulls game.  I wish you all could have been there the minute he stepped into the crowd on the edge of the box and took in the fullness as a visiting choir sang the national anthem, sound and song echoing off the rafters as the lights glowed around.  He’s learned how to wear a hat to cover his ears which greatly decreases his over-stimulation and helps him enjoy large, loud moments and his eyes were huge and awe-filled as he turned and screamed “This is awesome!”.

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It was also during this time that Chase lost a cancer friend.  They only met a handful of times, but Rusty and his family have always gone before us and encouraged us so.  And that losing season brought up lots of questions for him again.  One afternoon, the day before Rusty passed, Chase “composed” a message to him on the computer and then we sat on the couch and talked and he asked if he was going to die soon too because he has cancer and chemo and talks to Dr. Lulla like Rusty.  Some day, I will write about this conversation, but today, I can’t.  There were lots of tears that day – for us, for Rusty, for this broken world – but there was also joy in talking through this not being the end.  To be able to speak about these things was bittersweet and we count ourselves beyond blessed to have known Rusty and been encouraged by his story.

Early morning checking in on Rusty via Facebook

Early morning checking in on Rusty via Facebook

Finally, this March time has been an up and down time with some anxiety as Chase has had some health issues that we’ve been monitoring.  He’s complained of headaches and frequent stomach aches, failed his eye exam, and then, started tripping and falling quite a bit.  It became apparent within a few days that he had an issue with his ear, and while that has now cleared up and he seems more steady most of the time, we continue to watch his sleep patterns, appetite, and speech, as he hasn’t been himself at times – to the point of effecting his school schedule.  All of these symptoms can be normal, or they can be very not normal.  Which is both comforting and deeply terrifying because we never know when he can’t remember his birthday if it’s because he’s five or because he has cancer.  We know that the MRI is soon and that if it’s a cancer concern, his symptoms will become more apparent.  And so, as always, we wait…one part scoffing at how silly and over-concerned we feel, and one part with the silent “what if?” question. 

But for today, in this moment, he’s fine.  In fact, I recently found him hiding under the desk in the living room with  his father’s electric razor trying to give himself an even more bald head.  So, we close this crazy month and look forward to more Spring and the weekend celebration that life is ours and death has no hold, and we take each breathing day…

…moment by moment.