Thursday, November 28, 2013

So much to be thankful for!

On this special Thanksgiving day, 
as we pray for healing, prosperity, and God’s mighty hand to ease our suffering, one of our favorite songs by Laura Story comes to mind:

“Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops,
What if your healing comes through tears,
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near.
What if our greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a 'greater thirst' this world can't satisfy.
What if trials of this life:  the rain, the storms, the hardest nights,
Are Your mercies in disguise.”

We believe all of that.  That's why it's so easy to be thankful today. 
This was right after Caleb got out of the hospital, after being diagnosed with leukemia.  I am so thankful for this child.
Every November, our family comes up with a “What we’re thankful for” list.  Caleb’s list is obviously A LOT different than usual.  Of course, it’s usually a private list, but this year, I felt it was worthy of sharing.   

What Caleb is Thankful For:  His Top 10 List got stretched to a “baker’s dozen” this year.
1.  God and Jesus 
2.  My family and friends (he individually named EVERYONE... this took a while.)  :)
3.  My nanny Nicole
This was an adventurous outing with Nicole this week.  No chemo the past two weeks, means he felt like playing for the first time in months. 
 4.  My doctor
Very loving Oncologist Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer
          5.  My homeschool teacher, Mrs. McDonald & my teacher at school, Mrs. Elrod, who sends me cards from her and my friends 
Caleb got to be in Mrs. Elrod's class just a few weeks, before he got sick
      6.  I didn’t lose all of my hair & now Maggie looks like me.  (So far, miraculously, Cal has only lost about half of his hair & his once VERY fluffy dog is now sporting a crew cut 
Maggie's new look
      7.  Chicken (So much for turkey)
      8.  The Candlelighters (Childhood Cancer Family Alliance) for sending me to cancer camp & to the Texans Tunnel to high-five the players 
Caleb & Zach loved seeing the Houston Texans players, coaches, and owner up close & personal
        9.  Charlie Brown movies 
      10.  My ipad.
      11.  Google, so I can see what blood cells & platelets look like under a microscope  (wow)
      12.  Cards, crafts, & fun treasures from people to cheer me up
      13.  The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

     We're thankful Caleb got the break from chemotherapy, so that he was able to come up with his list with lots of giggles & stories about why he chose them.  We hope you find blessings in learning from this Kindergartner, who has turned into a little man overnight. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blessings in Disguise

Record-timing at Texas Children's Hospital today... out in 4 hours.  Whawhooo!  :)  That's because Caleb's blood counts are still way too low to begin his next strong regimen of chemotherapy.  At any other time, we might be concerned his treatment plan has to be postponed for several weeks, however... it just happens to be THANKSGIVING this week.  That means, we are going to rejoice in having our energetic little Kindergartner back!  Our Cal still has a spring in his step... he's running & playing & even arguing again with his brother (believe it or not, that's music to our ears!)   :)
I had a feeling it was going to be a good day, when it started with a surprise visit from a volunteer & dancing Leonardo the Lion.
Fun, soft lion that can really bust some moves!  :)
"Child Life" came in to assist with Caleb's procedure, to access the port in his chest.  His specialist was so loving, kind and distracting, that NO TEARS were shed today. 
Praise God for a relaxed day, just chillin' with his pal, Courage...
Unfortunately, Caleb's tonsils are swollen, so we're waiting for the tests to come back to let us know if he has an infection.  We pray for a clean bill of health.  So far, it's looking very positive that we're going to have a fantastic start to the holidays! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Angels Among Us...

If there was ever an angel on Earth, she comes in the form of Tammy McDonald. 
As many of you know, she was Zach’s Kindergarten teacher and retired last year for mission work in Haiti to enrich lives and help build schools there.  When she found out about our strife with Caleb, she came to the rescue. 

When Caleb was first diagnosed with leukemia, he insisted there was no way we could keep him out of Kindergarten.  He didn’t care that his doctor told him he would risk his life by going to school, because his immune system would be so compromised.  He told us he’d find a way to get to Kindergarten.  In fact, he told us, he would walk to get there (his school is miles from home.)  Yes, Caleb is a very strong-willed child.   :)  

Mrs. McDonald dedicated this year to make Caleb’s life more complete.  It is working.  She is challenging him, she is exciting him to learn, and he loves Home-School Kindergarten. 
Of course, big brother can’t wait to get home and get him some Mrs. McDonald TLC. 
We just want everyone to know that after taking one whole week off of chemo… we’re getting some amazing glimpses of our “Cal Boy”.  His sense of humor is re-emerging… he’s laughing more… he even DANCED for us last night.  His appetite is back.  He ate everything on his plate at dinner tonight (it's usually only a bite or two.)  Wow, was this EVER a gift right before Thanksgiving.  In the midst of the deepest, darkest days of our lives, we still find so many things to be thankful for.  Most of all, YOU… who continue to be our prayer warriors and support us on the hard days and celebrate with us on the good ones.  

Caleb (or we, since it affects all of us) will begin a new strong chemo regimen on Monday.  Until then – we plan to enjoy every second!   For now, thank God for ANSWERED prayers.    

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It All Makes Sense...

Caleb survived "Treatment Monday".  His blood count levels were abnormally low this week, so doctors had to postpone his chemotherapy for an entire week, because they want his body to be stronger.  Now we understand why he wasn't able to enjoy his special zoo outing.  A painful procedure brought many tears for mother and child, but a few good things also happened!

First off, incredible volunteers at the hospital let Caleb paint a fun cow picture for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
This project helped keep Caleb's mind occupied & his hands busy in between treatments.
Hip hip hooray!  Caleb got to "breathe in" his medication for the first time.  The dosage will last 30 days.  Now how is that for advanced medicine?
Caleb first took a breathing treatment to open up his lungs, and prep them for breathing in his medications.

It took about 30 minutes for him to inhale the actual medication.  They filled his mask with bubble gum flavor, so that made it much more tolerable. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

So Much for Smilin'?!

We were so excited when Caleb's Oncologist gave him the "green light" to go see the amazing Houston Zoo Lights!  He didn't know where we were going - and we couldn't wait for him to see it. 
In 3,2,1... the magical lights burst to life, to the tune of angelic young voices from a local school choir.
How fortunate to have a warm night in November & an outdoor event Caleb could attend!  Unfortunately, chemo side effects were at their toughest.  Sometimes it's hard to appreciate these drugs that make him feel so terrible.  We know they're responsible for saving his life, but witnessing how they affect him is heartbreaking.

Big brother Zach and Daddy pulled every antic to garner a smile.  Nothing worked. 

Caleb has always adored trains.  This huge display piqued his interest, but the only track he wanted was one that led straight to his bed.
So many of our family and friends have asked for specific prayer requests.  Lately, Caleb is just weak and extremely agitated.  We are praying for him to find peace.  Wanting him to feel "good" is probably unreasonable at this point, but just to feel "comfortable" would be great.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just Being a Kid!

For the first time in months, Caleb felt like going to the park today.  We found one where no one else was playing, to avoid all of those winter germs.  What a joy it was to play Cookie Monster again & chase him all over the place.  It was surprising how quickly I could catch him, as it used to be more of a challenge, but just so nice to see him up & moving for once.

It was MORE than joyous to hear Caleb giggle.  He's taking so many types of chemo, he just doesn't feel like laughing anymore.
Cal also got to go to a radio appearance I made this morn.  Only a handful of DJ's were in the entire skyscraper, so that was a "safe place" for him and served as a fun outing, as well! 
Cal waited patiently for his chance at the mic :)

Caleb's hat says "Life is Good".  Today, it definitely is.  I realize now how much I used to take for granted those little smiles & the prevalent laughter in our home.  It just came naturally before cancer.  We have to work harder to make him smile these days, but we know that prayers are the main reason we get days like today. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Purple Songs Can Fly....

and they do... all over the universe.  Big brother Zachary got to go to the hospital with Caleb today, and what a difference it made.  Zachary got to write & compose his very own song.  He even made up the melody in this fantastic studio called "Purple Songs Can Fly" at Texas Children's Hospital.
WHY PURPLE????  Purple can activate a child's creativity and imagination.  Purple is associated with everything from Courage, Confidence, Protection, Dignity, & Strength, to Creativity, Understanding, Healing, Spirituality, & Empathy.
Z gets ready to record his song
He did an incredible job, and named his song, "My Brother Caleb Ryan".  The songs are put onto a CD and flown all over the country on United Flights & even with astronauts - plus rock stars take them out on tour.  The young stars from Tx Children's have even performed at Carnegie Hall in New York.  How ironic that my boys have been listening to the CD's from cancer patients & their siblings their entire lives, because as a medical reporter, I've covered multiple health stories & featured the young songwriters.  It was overwhelming to be there for a different reason today and more meaningful than I ever imagined. 
Amazing Founder, Anita Kruse, who helps inspire the children.  She helps them choose a beat, teaches them to hum a melody, then she's the accompanying pianist.  She's one of the most talented women I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Just to give you a "taste" of Zach's song... here's the chorus he wrote:
"You're as courageous as a lion, more brave than a bear,
My brother Caleb Ryan, I hope you know I care, I care."

Zachary records his song
It was a real distraction from medical care for Caleb today.  He has a smile on his face - plus NO SPINAL TAP TODAY.  That was huge!  :) 
Zach presents Cal his new CD.  Talk about brotherly love!
Ahhhh, what a difference a day makes.  Caleb's fantastic doctor not only listened to his "pill drama", but made a dramatic change in his treatment plan.  He will get to "inhale" his drugs for a while, and get a break from swallowing all of those pills.  That means at least 50 pills a month LESS now - which is a big life-changer for him.  He has a bounce back in his step... just thinking about the break. Thanks for your continued prayers.  We're uplifted & doing better now.  Hugs to you all. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This is NOT a science experiment...

... but it sure feels like one!  Have you ever seen what happens when you put Mentos Mints in a bottle of Diet Coke?  It's a crazy, fun explosion that the boys & I used to do all the time.  :) 
Unfortunately, a similar phenomena is now happening when Caleb takes his chemo pills.  The second they hit his stomach, they land feet away.  This has been happening for 2 weeks now.  Luckily, we're able to reshape the pills and keep trying, but sometimes this process takes up to two hours for him to complete the arduous task.  We'd love your prayers to help him with this horrifying problem.  He's so scared to take them now, he gets incredibly anxious beforehand, as you can only imagine! 

He's also going on Day 6 of strep throat and doesn't feel any better than he did on Day 1.  We just ask that you also please pray for him to heal quickly of this sickness, so that he can better deal with everything else.  Thanks so much & God bless. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Worse than we expected...

Caleb ended up with a blazing fever last night, which means an immediate trip to the hospital.  It turned out to be strep throat.  A healthy child either fights off strep on their own or with a dose of antibiotics.  It's much more complicated when chemo is involved.  HOWEVER, this is where God comes in.  Caleb's "fighting cells" spiked very high & unexpectedly this week.  That means his body can help fight this off much better than would ever be medically expected.  He still had to spend the night in the hospital and get four very painful needle sticks, and we hope the pain ends there for a while.  The Chaplain from Caleb's school called & prayed with our family last night & reminded Caleb that his name means faithful, bold, & brave.  He told him he was named that for a reason and explained how Caleb was so faithful to God, as mentioned in the Bible.  It was a perfect prayer that sustained Cal & seemed to give him super strength, as he endured a miserable night without sleep and a multitude of x-rays and tests all night and morning long.

Thank you to all of our prayer warriors.  YOU ARE BEING HEARD & ANSWERED.  We're still scared about Caleb's current illness, but you're our heroes for helping make a difference.  God is obviously listening.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Prayers, please?

Caleb needs you!  As some of you know, Big bro Zach brought home a "bug".  While he conquered it quickly, little bro Cal is suffering from it.  For weeks, we've kept him home to spare him from germs, while his white blood cells are down 'n out from chemo.  Unfortunately, being trapped inside with germs makes it impossible to avoid.  We're monitoring his low-grade fever & hoping and praying to stay out of the hospital.  He hasn't eaten a meal in days, so keeping him hydrated is a constant concern.  Let the prayer warriors begin...  Thanks and big hugs.  

Just Another Manic Monday...

The spinal tap was much tougher this go-around.  After so many repeated procedures, Caleb finally became resistant to his sedation medication.  That means he appeared to be in pain and had to be held down, to help protect his precious spine.  It was haunting.  His loving doctor & nurse helped a lot though through their reassuring hugs & soft, kind words.  Luckily, another medication wipes out his memory, so only Mom has to remember.  He was incredibly agitated into wee hours of the night.  Please pray for his peace and continued healing.
Finally, Cal "crashes" AFTER the procedure & long, hard day at the hospital.  He likes to wake up & see his lil' friends watching over him.  Most importantly, I remind him... GOD is watching over him and all of us.  In his words, "God please make my cancer go away forever."