Monday, March 31, 2014

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down...

.... including a lil' man!  We were hoping Caleb would make it to the ball fields within the next few months.  We never imagined it would happen over the weekend! 

He woke up Saturday morning & asked if his team was playing.  The next thing you know, we're in the stands & praying for him to safely make it through the game.  He got to put on his Orioles uniform.  WOW.  We still can't believe it.

Let's play ball.

Caleb has barely made it out of the house the past six months, yet he managed to make three points for his team!  Yes, I was the crazy mom in the stands cheering him on, laughing & crying... all at the same time!  We just know the ONLY reason he was out there, on this picture-perfect day... where he's supposed to be... just being a kid... is because of the uplifting prayers from our family, friends, colleagues, and even special prayer warriors we've never met.  Thank you soooo much for that! 

We raced to him after the game and asked him what he thought about it, and he said with the biggest smile you've ever seen, "LEGS SO TIRED!  Where's the hand sanitizer?"  I squeezed his little body so tight, while he insisted we race to the car to get him clean... (This from a child who used to resemble "Linus" from Charlie Brown, with a trail of dirt behind him & carefree about germs)   :)   He's learned a lot about his own care, & we're very proud of him for that!
It really was surreal watching him play. So fun to do something "normal".
Caleb has been able to keep a great sense of humor through it all!  My darling college friend from BU sent a box full of wigs to let the crazy times roll... and they have!  THANKS FOR THE LAUGHS, SHAWNIE!!! 
Wooly caveman.

Chemo at home has gone fairly well.  We learned how to administer it ourselves through the port in his chest. Nurse David (AKA Cal's daddy) takes it very seriously!
It has been hard for Caleb to understand why he has to get chemo at home everyday - he thinks that should be reserved only for the hospital.
 Clinic started out all smiles today, with a visit from a furry friend.
This is the last time Caleb will receive this type of chemo in the hospital, (he's happy we're starting to hit "lasts"), but we'll  administer it at home the rest of the week. 
The smiles disappeared immediately AFTER chemo though, and it was very difficult to get Cal to the car.  He was nauseous and felt weak.  
Cancer does stink - but side effects from chemo are much easier when sleeping.   Caleb's shirt is a gift from a wonderful organization called "Made With Love and Care".

All-in-all, I'd say the past week has been much easier than we anticipated.  Caleb coped by asking us to remain "very quiet".  He didn't want the TV on, no radio playing in the car, and he preferred us to whisper.  For some reason, as long as it was super quiet, he could cope. We were happy to meet his requests.  That was a first - but we never know what to expect each week.

As for specific prayer requests, we are praying for Caleb to remain strong.  His levels are incredibly low, and again, he's at an extremely high risk for infections.  His brother has had a fever & virus, so we're doing our very best to keep them separated.  It's hard because they want to be together.  Caleb asked for my cell phone, so that he can call Zach on our home phone - to find out what he's doing in the other room.  Pretty cute!  He wants to be doing the exact same thing as his big bro, so it's great that he feels well enough to even think about that!

For all of you who have cried with us on the hard days and rejoiced with us on the good ones, this is what I have to say to you, from Ruth 2:12:
"May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done."

So many of you have done so very much for our family.  There's not a day that goes by that you're not also in our prayers.  Our prayers are ones of thankfulness.  God bless. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Lil' Texas Tornado...

Just blowing us away!  We can't believe Caleb's progress, so we're going to nickname him the Comeback Kid!  It MUST be because of your prayers!

Caleb came down with a respiratory infection on Friday that immediately turned into a severe seal-like/barking cough.  We were in contact with the hospital & had our bags packed, in anticipation of a hospital stay.  However, each time his fever rose, it would soon break, and he got to heal at home!  We shared a long, comfy weekend in bed, playing Legos & table ping-pong. 

Instead of Where's Waldo?  It's Where's Caleb?  When it gets really quiet in the house, we know it's time to go cover him up and "tuck him in".  Just like when he was a baby, I miss him when he's napping.

 Caleb naps in the oddest places, as he tends to just "drop in place" when he's tired... including the kitchen floor, while I'm cooking all of his seafood!  

This means our floors have to remain "squeaky clean".

Unfortunately, Cal's illness cost him a very unique opportunity to throw the first pitch to open his Little League's season.  It was such an honor for him to be asked, & he was sad to miss it, along with his new team's first t-ball game.  He hasn't had the strength YET to make a practice, but we can't wait to post a picture of him wearing his Oriole's uniform!  We just know it will happen sometime this season (he already has his doctor's stamp of approval.)  

David got to be there for his spinal tap.

 Caleb's treatments took TWELVE hours at Texas Children's Hospital today!  Doctors sure have figured out how to fight leukemia!  He received four different types of chemotherapy... three new ones.  Two were given by IV, one type is a pill he'll take each day for the next few weeks. The other was injected into his spine during his spinal tap.  (That went incredibly well by the way!  Whew!  As difficult as those procedures have been, it has to be prayer that spared us drama!  Of course, we appreciate the amazing skills of his doc, as well!)  Caleb received four hours of IV fluids to flush his little kidneys, so that he won't suffer long-term damage from the drugs' powerful punch.

Now a home health nurse will help us administer chemo almost EVERY day (into the port in his chest) for the next two weeks. 

I try my best to keep fear at bay, but admit I was overwhelmed driving to the hospital today... mostly because of the unknown of what to expect from side effects over the next few weeks.  My darling sis-in-law lovingly reminded me to put all of my fears in God's hands.  Thanks Donna!  It worked.

It's hard to stay on the "outside" of his bed"... while nurses prep him for his procedure.

My dear friend, Mary Jo, lit the candle in the middle & prayed with us through Cal's chemo...

Caleb really looked deeply into this photo and seemed to take it "very seriously" that this was glowing in a nearby chapel for him.
Plus Zach's class sent us this special message of encouragement (Thanks Ms Munoz, sweet students, & Heather - videographer/editor extraordinaire!) (You'll need to copy & paste into your browser to view the vid.)

The boy's school also held a parental prayer meeting last week, & I understand it was very powerful. David was able to take off work to be there, but Zach took David to their daily chapel, & he unknowingly missed the meeting in another part of the building.  (He thought he was the only parent to show up.)  A big thanks to everyone who took time out of their day for Caleb and our family.
Please know we were there in spirit, and we appreciate you so much.  Believe me, your prayers were answered today, as everything went so smoothly.

I didn't last long hugging him through bars on his bed... it was a pleasant day of snuggles.

We just got home, and Cal is in his own bed now.  He has a splitting headache and is too nauseous to take anything for his head or for his upset stomach.  He hasn't had a bite to eat or a sip to drink all day.  Hopefully he'll make up for that tomorrow!  Time to go administer one of the most important treatments of the day:  TLC.
 We're at peace because of you all, and soon the worst should be behind us. Thank you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Luck ‘o the Irish

Caleb loves St. Patty’s Day!  Can you tell?  

Decked out, head to toe, in green.
Caleb had a fun time dressing up for St. Patrick's Day a little early (yesterday) at his grandparent’s home in Granbury.  Sure didn’t think he’d feel up to it today, in fact – we thought he’d be under anesthesia most of the day, but he got a reprieve, so-to-speak.  Turns out, Caleb’s blood levels are way too low to start his next and harshest chemo regimen, so we’ll try again next Monday.  He’s incredibly vulnerable right now, so we’ll be more vigilant than ever to keep him free from germs.  He was happy to get home at a decent hour from the hospital today! To be honest, we all breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we now have another week to prepare for the worst to come.
Caleb had a simple Spring Break last week, which he says turned out to be “his favoritist ever”… we’re still working on adjectives.  :)  We slept a lot (he takes 3-4 hour naps), played tons of board games & card games, and laughed a lot.  NO electronics the first 7-days, that was a real joy! 

Cal had fun playing with his lil' cousin, Westin.  No work needed for this vehicle.

We're still surprised it was one of his favorite Spring Breaks, considering he was too weak to do much - what a great attitude.  It's an important reminder to us that quality time is what's most important in life.   

A few funny steroids stories to share.  He simply will not eat anything cold – everything has to be warm.  He can’t stand his ole favorite standby - potato chips - because now they taste like “electrical cords” (what in the world do THEY taste like?)  Everything has to have seafood in it… shrimp, crab legs, and lobster.  He wants 100 shrimp a day and a couple of pounds of crab legs (no exaggeration). 

This was just an appetizer (seriously)
It’s crazy, because David and I never even dreamed of eating seafood like that until MUCH later in life!  It has been a lot of fun witnessing this, but we’re quite sure he’s going to swim away any moment and turn into a little lobster.  Ha ha.   His eating habits really are entertaining.  We adore kissing his sweet new chipmunk cheeks.  We know he’s going to need the reserves, as his next round of chemo will wipe out his appetite for an entire month.

A few VERY special things happened over Spring Break, worthy of sharing!  It started with a Gold Medal that Caleb won for his "3D Crazy Cows" he painted at Texas Children's Hospital. 
Cal points it out!
They honored him by inviting him to ride in the Grand Entry parade at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. 
Some fun, crazy cows.


Cal-boy's Oncologist gave him “the all clear” to go!  His big brother rode with him, and they both thought that was really cool.

Our little cowboys before their fun ride.
Cal's levels were too low to go to the actual rodeo or visit the livestock area, but he still had a nice time.  We could feel his disappointment that he had to walk away from a fun time like that, but he never said a word.  He just kept his little head held high.  It's really remarkable.  We know it's your prayers that keep him so strong. 

Then, Caleb’s “Nana” surprised him with family members he’s never gotten to meet before.  His second cousin is someone very special from Woodson, Texas who has been sending him letters from the 6th grade class she teaches.  Everyone in her entire school made a prayer chain for Caleb, & he just couldn’t believe it! 
We’re trying to find the perfect place to hang this in our home.
  Her students have also been making bracelets since his diagnosis and selling them for $5. 
Thanks Rhonda for this special moment and for sharing your students with our fam.
They’ve worked so hard, and the students have even donated money and are going to donate it to Texas Children’s Hospital at the end of school.  It touches us that others will benefit from Cal's situation, and that definitely makes it easier to take.  

What a special keepsake with more than a hundred personal messages.
Two of my colleagues also shaved their heads this past weekend in Caleb’s name for St. Baldrick’s and raised $5,000 for childhood cancer research!
Raymond Ramirez & David Canada showing off their fresh new looks.
So PROUD of them for their sacrifice!  Some of our dearest friends surprised us by driving all the way across town to witness "The Big Shave", in our absence, and let us watch it LIVE via Skype. 
I was actually talking to Christine (far left) on the phone, when they snapped this photo.
Sure felt good, knowing they were there.  Caleb wasn’t feeling well and slept through it, but he sure had fun looking at pictures later. 
Also, my colleague & two of the precious students, who shaved their heads from Caleb’s school, joined their fearless leader, Corey Waters, on our morning show today on FOX 26, to talk about their experience being “bald” the past week & how doing something for others has enriched their lives.  They say it was their offering from God.  It doesn't get any more special than that. 
They all agree with Caleb – their heads are COLD!  Glad it’s finally starting to warm up in Houston!   They are some of the bravest boys I’ve ever known.
We are overwhelmed with the kindness of others.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping lift Caleb up.  Our lives almost feel “normal” because of all of your prayers and support!  A lot of people are getting pinched for not wearing green today.  We feel like we need to pinch ourselves because it often feels like we’re dreaming – we can’t believe how blessed we are because of you all.  We hope to bless your lives some day, as you have blessed ours.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who Needs Hair?!

As expected, it's been the toughest week yet for Caleb.  He has suffered from significant leg & lower spine pain.  In his words, "This is the worst pain I have ever felt in my whole entire life ever."  All 6 years of it!  Caleb's doctor ordered an x-ray, just to make sure everything's OK, and it is!  The pain is just a mean side-effect from chemo.  The great thing about children is their resilience.  Caleb will be curled up in a ball with the heating pad one minute, then laughing and playing chase with his big bro the next.  Plus - with a break from chemo this week, he's feeling much better!  Even "Big Red" chemo can't completely stop this kiddo in his tracks.

All it took was three rounds of "Big Red" to take all of Caleb's hair though.  That has been tough and I'll spare you details, but he didn't want to shave it, so our family had to witness the loss of every single strand.  Caleb wanted to sleep in a hat every night and no matter how many times we reminded him that "bald is beautiful" or re-explained unconditional love from his family, friends, and of course God - nothing seemed to change this strong-willed child's mind that he was taking his cap off in the tub or bed.

THEN something magical happened. 
Here we go...

Looking great after!

15 boys from Caleb and Zach's school shaved their heads, to make Caleb feel like he's not alone!  I'm sure they knew it would touch his life, but I don't think anyone could ever imagine the huge impact this would have on him.... all at the loving hands of Corey Waters, while our darling friend, Heather Mize, shot the video... hope you can see it (though you may have to copy & paste the link):  

There are no words that can describe our gratitude to the boys and their parents who allowed their sons to do this.  They enriched Caleb's life in a touching, selfless, Godly way. 
"Thank you" seems too weak to say, for this giving act.  We are so thankful for these boys & for their leader and example, Mr. Waters. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. 
Going... going...

Gone.  Look at all of that hair.  What a great sport.  We know that had to be hard to do.
Two of my colleagues from Fox 26 are also shaving their heads next weekend for St. Baldrick's in Caleb's name, & to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research.  Thank you Raymond Ramirez & David Canada.  Raymond has actually been growing his hair out since Caleb's diagnosis in September, in anticipation of the event.  It will help make a beautiful wig for someone in need.  I know everyone, who is going bald for Caleb, will have to deal with looking different for a while, but what a wonderful thing to do for not only Cal, but for thousands of other innocent children.  I know they'll all be rewarded in life for this act of kindness.  Here are links to my colleague's efforts:

Caleb is shy of the camera right now, but I want to share with you how far he's come since these special boys & men helped out.  Caleb usually draws smiley faces with funny crazy hair.  Look at the note he made for me yesterday:

Caleb's "self portrait" is missing the spiked hair he usually draws, but look at that BIG smile.  He's a happy, well-adjusted boy, and he's going to be alright!  He slept without his cap the last few days and hasn't even put one on ALL day today.  Progress feels so good!

We're learning important life's lessons, like hair really is over-rated.  Bald IS beautiful.  I adore kissing the top of Caleb's soft scalp now.  Hair doesn't have to define us.  Caleb is figuring this out.  While tucking him in last night, in the still and silent darkness he said, "Cancer is making me be a real strong boy, right Mommy?"  Oh yes, it is my child, and I can't wait to see what type of man you're going to turn out to be, because of it!