Tag Archives: cancer

The Story of 2014

Once there was a family of six: a handsome father, a redhead mother, a sole princess girl, and three little wrestling and running boys.

The handsome father, he worked in two places – one a large company, the other a church.  In both places, he worked with numbers… lots and lots of numbers.  In the free moments, you would find him completing a half marathon, quiet with a book, or very lately, working in his new garage.

The redhead mother spent the days holding the pieces together… pieces of laundry and food and school and sometimes, yes sometimes, even silence.

The sole princess girl, just a second ago a babe in arms, was suddenly eight and tall, and already a fast runner.  She was never so happy as when she was running… just like her father.

The oldest of the wrestling boys was five, nearly six, and started wearing glasses to see, which made him look wise.  He began the school journey and stretched his legs at running to try and beat his sister, and if he could, would choose to be buried under a gigantic mound of Legos forever.

The middle boy, with his lightning scar and white head, also began his school journey, but with special help and the fulfillment of his special wish… to ride a bus.  He continued, at every turn, to live up to his name and found his way through life in a never-stopping, never-settling way.

The baby boy, a baby no more, stood nearly as tall as the middle boy, with wide shoulders and stance that spoke of having older brothers and being ready and willing to throw the first punch.  And yet, he would sit quietly with a book for the longest time and everywhere he went, he looked for horses.

This family of six were wanderers.  They left their tiny space when the word “cancer” was first spoken and lived with grandparents for help as two years came and went.  They decided to sell their tiny space and pray for more room close to everything held dear, and the tiny space almost sold three times and they prayed for wisdom to know… and then the tiny space, their first little home, sold and they were led to the perfect little blue house near everything held dear and so, wanderers no more, they moved and settled in the early Fall as the leaves began to change.

And in the first hours of owning the little blue house, the call came that something was growing again under the lightning scar in the white head… and the family stopped and prayed for moment-by-moment grace to find the joy in the every day as they waited six weeks and checked again, and then six more and again.

And by the time this story rests in your hands, another check will have come and gone and a course of action will stand in front of the family.  But they put aside the fear and in grace, choose faith and yes, even joy for their family and their boy, and the root of it is found in this season and in another little boy, born thousands of years earlier.  This stable-born boy would grow to be the Savior and Lord and, bloodied arms stretched wide, would triumph over sin forever and ever, and make a way for death to have no victory or sting, and in this boy-turned-forever-King, there was and is hope and joy, and in this the family of six, in their little blue house, rests secure.  They hope and pray the same for you.

[This is the text of the Ewoldt Family Christmas letter that was mailed in early December, 2014 – Thank you for walking this year with us…moment by moment.]

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12.12.14

“Mom? Are you awake?”  The quiet voice came into the dark room from the silhouette of a fuzzy head in the hall light.  “Mom?  It’s me.  I just came to tell you it’s my birthday.  I’m five today and I’m going to open presents and…and…what am I going to do today?”

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Some days, he might need to be reminded of what you do on a birthday as the scars present their challenges, but he didn’t need help remembering that he’s here and he’s five.  And neither do I.

December 12, 2012

December 12, 2012

As I watch him open presents and I frost his cake, I find myself wanting to savor every second lest I never have graduations, weddings, and all those things that come with living long years.

Yet, as the fuzzy head tucked under my chin  and the downy quilt early in the dark morning hours, I could hear his smile in the shadows and that colors the canvas of the day.  The smile sounds spoke to my heart again: Chase chooses joy.  Always joy.

December 12, 2013

December 12, 2013

“Mom?” His voice across the breakfast table; “why are you crying, Mom?  I didn’t die of the cancer.  I’m five!”  And I wonder in my heart how such an old soul can be only five years young.  Always joy.

“Let’s just start this fight, and then we’ll get him through radiation, and then we’ll hopefully get him to age three, and then four, and then five…”  The doctor’s words always remind on this twelfth day of the last month.  Five.  The highest number listed in that year-by-year hope around the first conference table and diagnosis.

Today, my, precious, stubborn, tenacious, beat-the-odds, stare-it-down, never-say-die, don’t-mess, you-and-what-army Chase turns five with great joy.

We never thought we’d be here ever… and now we’re here.

God is good.

~MbM~

December 12, 2014

December 12, 2014

 

 

Today

Today, I walked into a huge medical facility bay and stared down a gigantic white truck structure.  The MRI.   

Today, I watched my loving husband carry my darling son up into the structure as he spoke calmly and quietly, and Chase, red-faced and teary, clung to him and cried that he couldn’t…just couldn’t…do this right now.

Today, I stood in the bay as only one parent could go inside with Chase, and my heart ripped just a tiny bit at the sound of his screams and then it was silent but for the pounding of the machine.  And I would learn later that though he screamed in the room, the minute the scan started, he became peaceful and still and stayed still for the whole test.

Today, as I held my breath and prayed for Chase in the sound of the machine, a man came up and introduced himself – the husband of a beloved proton radiation nurse who had cared for Chase nearly two years prior – what a small, beautiful world it is some days.

Today, I watched Chun, the camera man (because yes, we have a camera crew here with us now – so much more on that some day soon) peer around the corner of the machine and flash me the “thumbs up” – Chase was okay and he was done.  He did it!

Today, Chase descended out of the gigantic white structure, held his arms out to me and shouted “Mom!  You came back to me!  I did it and I was SO brave!!”

Today, we – Bob, Chase, the camera crew, a friend from the hospital, and me – we all waited in quiet anticipation to talk to the neurosurgeon.

Today, we all stood in the small exam room to hear that the growths, though changed and grown a little more, are considered stable.

Today, we talked of movies, and keeping up with small children and their energy as Chase went through the paces of touching his nose and myriad of other normal things that may not always come easily to him and Dr. Alden knows this and watches out for him.

Today, we heard that we get to wait to look again until January and enjoy our holidays and that we don’t need to think about biopsies or treatments right now.

Today, we heard that January is most certainly a necessity and that at least one of the growing places on the MRI is still a concern.

Today, we talked about nobody having all the answers and how frustrating it is when we ask and the doctors long to reassure with decades of concrete research and can’t.

Today, we were reminded that if we see any, absolutely any changes in Chase, we need to report them immediately.

Today, we chafed against the wait again and found our spirits wanting.

Today, we were given the day, and we’ll take it…

…moment by moment.

“We were made to run through fields of forever, singing songs to our Savior and King.
So let us remember this life we’re living is just the beginning of this glorious unfolding.
We will watch and see and we will be amazed if we just keep on believing the story is so far from over and hold on to every promise God has made to us…
We’ll see the glorious unfolding.”

Steven Curtis Chapman

Waiting for the neurosurgeon and mildly questioning Dad's ability to assemble a Transformer...

Waiting for the neurosurgeon and mildly questioning Dad’s ability to assemble a Transformer…

The Second Year

Tuesday, July 31, 2012…

Two Years… Two whole years since the early morning panic gave way to a living nightmare on the day Chase was diagnosed.

What struck me most as I looked through the pictures and memories is that life can feel complicated now, and yet, as I look back over the last year and see such crazy hard times, I realize that I’m apt to forget what it looked like in the shadow of whatever the here and now happens to hold.  I can tend to see Chase’s deficits and struggles and not realize how healthy and robust he is now compared to the emaciated waif that was.   The truth is that much has changed.  The truth is also that there are many uncertainties ahead.  The truth is that God’s goodness and faithfulness to us have never and will never change.  And Chase is still living and breathing with us two whole years later.

We’ve spent many days listening to Rend Collective’s newest album.  Our family’s favorite song is “My Lighthouse” and I truly can’t think of better words to sum the year…the two years…or, the lifetime:

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise, 
You will carry me safe to shore 
Safe to shore

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storm

Even if we know nothing of what lies before us (and we don’t), we can look back and see the joy in so many ways.

Trusting He will lead us through the storm… moment by moment.

**Look back with us and find joy…**

Running for Gus…

One of the things that our family loves to do is promote the work of Chase’s hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.  The treatment that Chase had there saved his life, and the doctors, nurses and staff of the hospital are the top in the world.

Because of this, we try to help the hospital in any way that we can.  This year, that includes dusting off my running shoes, training for several weeks using the aptly-named “Couch to 5K” app, and running in the Run for Gus, an annual fun run along the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.

The run was started by the family of Gus Evangelides, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 1995, just three months shy of his second birthday.  Today, his family, and dozens of other families from Lurie, run to help raise money to fund brain cancer research at the hospital.  Over the years that the Run for Gus has been going on, it’s raised millions of dollars to fund brain cancer research at Lurie.

This run has been a tremendous opportunity for our family to give back a little to Lurie Children’s.  Brain cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among children, and fatal for almost half of the kids diagnosed, but there is painfully little research being funded to help stop it.

With some exciting new developments in cancer research on the horizon (see here and here), Lurie researchers could be just a short time away from making significant discoveries toward finding life-saving treatments for kids like Chase.

I hope that some of you might be able to join us in the run on July 24 (even to cheer us on), or help me raise money for the hospital by donating toward my run.  You can do either by visiting my personal page at the Run for Gus website: http://foundation.luriechildrens.org/goto/ewoldt2014

I hope you’ll join me in supporting this worthy organization!

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To Channel The Fight…Again

Spring EEG prep

Spring EEG prep

April 11, 2014

We sat in the room for almost two hours and dialogued on how the brain works.  Chase fell asleep in my arms as Bob and I sat with the epilepsy specialist, discussing the EEG results and asking our questions.  The human brain is an amazing place; full of energy and a fragile balance that the slightest thing can disrupt at any time.  Marvelous and scary.

Despite Chase’s anti-seizure medication having some issues, after two hours of discourse and answered questions, we were counseled to stay the course.  We were told that Chase’s brain was still too close to it’s trauma and needed to be protected from itself.  Because Chase’s behavior was stable, we were to stay the course, increase his vitamins and call in three weeks to follow up.

[We were also re-briefed and updated on monitoring for any sort of seizure and the actions we should take if we ever observe anything.  This included a seizure crash kit of sorts that travels with Chase at all times…just in case.]


May 2, 2014

Three weeks came and went and even with the extra vitamins, the aggression issue didn’t seem to improve at all, so, despite the continued need for neuro protection, the specialists conferred and decided to try reducing the anti-seizure medication.  It’s only the tiniest bit (literally only a half of a milligram on one of the two daily doses), but over the last four weeks, we’ve seen a little improvement!

We’ve had some really encouraging, productive conversations with his teams of doctors and are feeling heard on this issue, however, there’s still much left to understand.  Nobody knows for certain if what we’re seeing are the effects of medication, or radiation, or tumor, or being forced into an adult life at age two.  The one thing we know is that whether we’re in a hospital room with specialists or in our home, with our family, working through a difficult moment; pursuing answers will be a marathon; not a sprint, and only time will prove…

We would so appreciate your continued prayer for wisdom and discernment as we continue to approach who Chase is and how to best care for him in all his facets of this special life.

Moment by moment.

Hear me, O God, when I cry; listen to my prayer. You are the One I will call when pushed to the edge, when my heart is faint. Shoulder me to the rock above me. For You are my protection, an impenetrable fortress from my enemies. Let me live in Your sanctuary forever; let me find safety in the shadow of Your wings.  Psalm 61:1-4 (The Voice)

Taking a moment...

Taking a moment…

On The Unknown Road

The cold snapped in the air as the sun shone distant and too bright through the windshield of the car as we traveled along the road.  Chase’s first day of therapies.  A new building, new people, new things to be learned…the start of a new chapter.  And with the new, came the old and familiar: the fear of the unknown and the question – what lies ahead?  Always that question.

Chase’s high voice pierced the questions gripping my mind like my hands holding the steering wheel.  photo 2 (1)“Mommy? Where are we?  This is not the road to my hospital.”  For this is how Chase tells direction.  There is the road that leads to his hospital and then there is every other road ever made.  I answered and assured him that this road was a good road and that it was the way to his new therapy – therapy that would help him grow strong.

Silence followed for a brief second as he processed what he’d heard.  Then; “But Mom, are we late?”

“No, Chase.  We aren’t late.  We are right on time.”

Another moment of silence, then his voice again, this time with anger, “But Mom, this isn’t the road and we’re late!”

Steeling myself for the familiar exercise of reasoning with the irrational; I responded: “Chase, this is the road and we are not late.”  I received nothing but an angry growl and the reiteration that I was in error.

How many times would I need to speak truth to him before he heard?  

Finally, this; “Chase, do you trust me?  I know this road and I can see the clock. I know where we’re going and I know that we’re not late.  You don’t know this road, but I do.  I’ve driven on it before and I know where it goes.  Chase, you’ll just have to trust me.”

The petulant retort; “Mom, I can’t trust you because I cannot see the road and I cannot see the clock.  You can; but I cannot.”  

Suddenly, his voice was mine….mine to my Creator who speaks truth to me and calms the questions and fears at every turn.  He tells me that even though I don’t know the road, He does.  He knows where it goes and what’s along the way.  He knows the timing of it and how it will take me to places that will be hard but will make me stronger.  And I sit, petulant child that I am, and question trusting Him because I don’t know what He knows and somehow, in my small heart and mind, that makes Him seem less good and my fears seem more justified.

In that moment, that silly short moment of driving across the city, in the child voice from the back seat, I was reminded how good He is to me and that I don’t have to know what lies ahead to trust and follow.

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

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Open Hands

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The shadow has descended again and I’ve found myself unable to write because of it.  Three whole months have passed like the snap of a finger and once again, we stand in front of the two doors: the next MRI is in less than 48 hours.

Technically, the shadow of relapse is always with us, but we feel it ever so strongly the week before the MRI.  I wasn’t going to write because I’ve had no words -only fears and fighting fears- and I’ve wanted to be silent in my thoughts and prayers until after the results are known.  However, today, I was reminded to open my hands.  To relinquish again the dread of the unknown to the One who knows.

So, tonight, I finally sit and write.  I still fear much and fight the fear, but today, I opened by hands – a thing I haven’t done in too long.  I needed this reminder that Chase is not ours to keep.  In fact, none of our precious littles are.  They are our entrusted treasures and we are their stewards.  We’ve gathered them around us in front of the two doors and we wait… with open hands.

Moment by moment. 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.  Psalm 24:1 [NIV]

Abundant In Power

One year ago tonight, I sat on the side of our home church sanctuary, watching Darcy and Aidan finish their Awana year.  In my arms lay a limp and sometimes whimpering Chase.  It was the tenth day since his last chemo cycle and his counts were obviously plummeting; but masked, attached to his IV, too weak to stand and in strong discomfort, he refused to leave until he’d heard Darcy and Aidan’s names read for their awards.

When Darcy’s name was called at long last (as Aidan’s had been called several minutes earlier), he sighed, fussed, and begged to go home – his little body starting to burn with fever.  Within an hour, we’d be one our way to the hospital and late this night a year ago, he’d be admitted for many days to fight infection and the chemo toll.

I’ve been thinking of those year ago moments with him in my arms all day today.  And now, one year later, THIS…

Great is our Lord and abundant in power. Psalm 147:5

Abundant indeed that he who should have no memory can stand and speak, having memorized these words.  I stand in awe

Moment by moment.

 

To Channel The Fight: Follow Up

The brothers eat gummies and pick late night movies to help keep Chase awake

The brothers eat gummies and pick late night movies to help keep Chase awake

Yesterday’s EEG -a test we were told would take 4-6 hours- lasted a full 8 hours.

This face. For an easily over-stimulated child, the wet/cold electrodes all over his head were very difficult at first.

This face. For an easily over-stimulated child, the wet/cold electrodes all over his head were very difficult at first.

For Chase, who was being video-monitored (in addition to the electrodes covering his head), this meant about a 2 foot range of motion on the bed…for 8 full hours.

Chase.  Being still.  For 8 hours.  Ha.

Sleeping peacefully. An answer to prayer as sleep is an important component of the test.

Sleeping peacefully. An answer to prayer as sleep is an important component of the test.

Actually, he did incredibly well considering the circumstances.  It was a grueling day for him and he managed it with a great attitude.

There are few things that a lollipop and coloring time won't make better...even a head full of electrodes. :)

There are few things that a lollipop and coloring time won’t make better…even a head full of electrodes. :)

We haven’t done this test since the initial days of his diagnosis – haven’t kept him up late into the night since two days before we found out he had a tumor and I was amazed how going through the ritual again brought back the memories of those sleep deprived, scared hours when we first felt the dread of some unknown thing being very wrong with our little boy.  And then the memories passed and we had a great sense of peace and even joy in the middle of the long night and day.

We hope to hear some results within the week and will be able to discuss a plan of action with the epilepsy specialist in early April.  Thank you for your prayers.

Moment by moment.