Monday, June 30, 2014

Marvelous Maintenance

It has begun!  Caleb has officially completed all of his weekly IV chemotherapy.  Now he begins what is called the Maintenance Phase for the next three years.  After much research, physician consultations, expert opinions, and meaningful prayer, we selected Caleb's new regimen.  Now we must remain faithful that out of five different options, this is the best for Caleb.

It's a bit on the experimental side, yet it is considered to be safe and effective for Caleb, and most importantly - cure his cancer!!!  The big deal about this treatment - it's expected to help children in middle school & teenagers who are diagnosed with leukemia in the future.  They often suffer terribly from life-long side effects.  Caleb will hopefully help pave the way for doctors to decide if changing "standard care" can help their quality of life. 
Cal did well during his spinal tap today.

It was nice for him to have our whole fam with him for his ten-hour hospital stay.

After sedation, we could not get Caleb to wake up for other treatments, but loving medical workers figured out creative ways to help our own little sleeping beauty.
A nauseous tummy kept Caleb at the clinic after-hours.
Looking toward the future, Caleb will now go to clinic every other week.  He'll take chemo pills every single day for the next three years, then he'll get IV chemo, take steroids, & get spinal taps every 3 months. 

Getting every other week off from clinic visits is a huge blessing!  It will help him resume normalcy, & it will also help keep his blood counts higher, leading to a stronger immune system.  It's finally time to start taking him back to public places.  We can't wait to take him to church!  David & I have been tag-teaming in the parking lot (one home babysitting Cal) and going to separate services, but we're ready to go as a family again.

Today was tough reality, following our family vacation that we just got home from last night.  Caleb was a strong lil' warrior, who couldn't be stopped!  
He hiked up the steepest hills he could find...
He laughed...

 He zip-lined through the Palo Duro Canyon, like the courageous champ he is.
He rode crazy banana bikes...

It was marvelous to witness.  I don't think any of us thought about cancer for days.  It is the longest life has felt normal, since his diagnosis almost ten months ago.

Caleb left a message for you, in the dirt of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo...
That is... after leaving fun, LEGAL graffiti behind.

Then he came home to find a HUGE surprise from his "Auntie Caroline" & "Uncle Gary"... his very own water slide.  Didn't even take time to put on a swimsuit, he was so excited.
Caleb has truly taught us about perseverance.  When his legs get weak, he just sits down (no matter where he is).  He won't allow you to feel sorry for him or get a sorrowful look in your eyes.  He hops up the second he can go on again.  He never complains about anything, even as he battles nausea at this very moment.  I have learned so much from this little boy.  Even though it's been a terribly hard year for us all, I feel like we will be stronger forever.   It's interesting to realize all of the important lessons we've learned from a Kindergartner.
It was incredibly quiet in the car on the way home tonight.  When I stopped at a traffic light & turned around, I saw why.

Cancer is exhausting on the entire family.  Caleb has taught us to make the best of it.  We can just picture Jesus, leaving his footsteps in the sand & carrying not only Caleb, but his mom, dad, & brother, every step of the way the past year.  With you by our sides, we did it!  We feel like the worst is over.  It's OVER!!!!   Hallelujah and AMEN.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Go Take a Hike!

Caleb is beyond ready for his cancer to TAKE A HIKE.  He’s agitated and frustrated and just wants to be a kid again.  It’s almost like he knows he’s in the home stretch. After 9 months of treatment, it’s like being in the 9th inning… bases are loaded… but he just can’t get to home base.  

He’s ready to go into public NOW.  He wants to be able to ride his bike more without having to stop to rest along the way. 
The great thing about Cal though - he's all smiles when he is on that bicycle.  So funny in his little military bike helmet, topped with artillery.  ha ha.

Caleb is ready to go into the wilderness & enjoy a real hike, that doesn’t include riding on his Mom’s back most of the way.  "You’re getting close, little man, just hold on a little longer", we encourage him.  It seems tougher now that his big brother is out of school, & he sees every day how much energy he's "supposed to have".  He's doing relatively well though, just suffering from a case of cabin fever and “tired legs”.  We’re really working those little muscles and trying to help build his strength back up.

That means fun visits and hiking in area parks, to work on his endurance.  Since his cancer can't take a hike just yet, we're enjoying the great outdoors this summer & enjoying what hiking we can. 

 The boys love Armand Bayou Nature Center in Pasadena.  Fun baby alligators, raccoons, squirrels, & exotic birds to look for!  We even got feet away from a deer, a rare find on a hot summer afternoon.
We also enjoyed a family hike this week at Brazos Bend State Park.  It's breathtaking to watch the sunset & witness hundreds of fireflies lighting up the sky.  Caleb wants to catch them all and keep them forever.  (If only it was that easy.)
 We have done our very best to keep electronics at bay this summer.  
That means a lot more reading and fun games.
Caleb enjoyed Father’s Day with his sweet Daddy
The boys also got to see their Granddad, "Daddy Don".
  They’ll get to see their other grandparents next weekend and are excited about that! It will be good for family to see the great surprise that Caleb’s hair is finally starting to grow back.  

Look at that sweet peach fuzz.  He’s wearing his hat less these days.  It’s so very soft, like velvet.

I adore kissing the top of that little head.  We’re happy his hair is coming back now, so that it will have time to get thicker before school starts.  He’s incredibly self-conscious about it.  It may come and go over the next three years of chemo, but we’re celebrating this milestone, for sure.  It will just add another element of normalcy for him.  Thanks for your continued prayers.  We have one more week to decide which road to lead Caleb down for his next three years of treatment.   We feel confident in our decision at this point. 

Just a quick note of “housekeeping”.  Google changed their blogs a few months ago, and we have never been able to recover the mode of it sending e-mail updates to everyone.  This is a huge inconvenience that no one can seem to figure out on this particular blog.  All of the settings are in place to send out e-mails, informing you that we’ve updated the blog, but they’re not going out to anyone.  If you have an idea about how to fix this, we sure would appreciate it.  When Caleb’s next phase of chemo starts, there probably won’t be as many updates, so it will be super convenient for this option to be available.  THANK YOU & God bless.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Blessed Beyond Belief

Caleb is sailing through his final big phase of chemotherapy!  He took the largest dose yet of "one of the big boy chemos" on Monday.  

We fully expected it to knock him off his little feet.  Here's how he reacted to it:  he got home from the hospital and ran to the yard to play:  soccer, baseball, basketball, then rode his bike and experimented with his new birthday marshmallow shooter and water & dart guns.  Going STRONG for 3 hours.  Unbelievable!

It was a special day at the hospital, and that may have helped!  Double-takes at Texas Children's, as dozens of Houston Police officers filed into the Oncology Department.  They're all pedaling for a cure and raising funds for leukemia and lymphoma.  Caleb had a very special visitor!  

Officer Ed Hinojosa is pedaling in Caleb's honor, ALL THE WAY TO Washington State!
   Please pray for the officers to have a safe & successful journey, in their cross-country relay.  They leave next Tuesday.  One of our precious reporters at Fox 26 covered the story.  You can watch it, by clicking on this link:

Caleb wrapped up t-ball last week with a party with his teammates.  He ended up playing more games, than missing this season, which was a welcomed surprise! 
One of Cal's coaches was kind enough to call him "MVP" of his team at the final get-together.
 More great news!  Our prayers paid-off for Caleb's birthday party and FIRST REUNION with his Pre-School & Kindergarten friends since September!  
We held his party at Camp Allen, a beautiful Christian Camp in Navasota.
I don't think Caleb thought about cancer ONCE the entire weekend!
Caleb loves his little buddies!  :) 
We found out Caleb's quite the Marksman!
Caleb's blood counts were SHOCKINGLY high (close to normal) - the best since treatment began, so he was allowed to be INDOORS with them, without concerns.  It was surreal, to say the absolute least.  Life seemed so normal, witnessing him playing and laughing with other children.  All this, after he'd been sequestered for 9 months!  I think he also did so well during this past treatment, because his party was such a huge "rush" for him. 
Caleb's Oncologist allowed him to ride on this 30 foot high pendulum swing! 
Making up for lost time!

Sock Volleyball at the evening Glow-in-the-dark Party

So fun to see Pre-school friends again.  Lots of laughter!

 Thanks to my best friends for helping "ROCK" the party! 
Thanks Christine, Kat, Rosemarie, Shawnie, Caroline, Diana, & Yamile!
Turn out the lights though, the party is over!  David & I have a huge decision to make in the next three weeks.  Caleb will begin what's called his Maintenance Phase in July.  This is when his life will begin to resume some normalcy.  We were surprised to find out that we are in charge of deciding which route to take, as there are multiple treatment options, basically using different dosages of the same medications.  We're told all the plans are expected to have the same cure rate, it's just some are considered much less toxic than the standard care.  Please, please, please, did I mention please, pray for us to make the right decision.  This is something we need to be comfortable with and never, ever second-guess our decision. 

Proverbs 11:14    "With no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors, there is safety."

John 5:30   "I can do nothing on my own."

Proverbs 3:6    "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths."
 Thanks & God Bless! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Birthday Boy

Thank you for praying for our boy!   We really feel that Caleb had an incredible birthday last week, because our amazing Lord is listening & looking over him.   
Saying "cheese" with Daddy & Zachary.  Cal got a quick reprieve from chemo side effects, & it was such a welcomed blessing.  He's worn out now, but what a weekend it was.
We cherished a quiet celebration with just our little family of four.  We wanted to savor the special occasion, by sweeping him away from reality.   It was a successful get-away, too!

Before Caleb's cancer diagnosis, we could never figure out why his legs were "too tired" to ride a bicycle.  It finally made sense when we found out it was leukemia making him feel that way.  He learned how to ride his bike on Friday!  We are still so excited about it!   
We kept him on soft dirt and grass, to make sure he wouldn't suffer a serious injury, but he was so thrilled about it.  He rode until he couldn't ride anymore, and is now resting a lot to make up for it.  He says it was well worth it!
Our "neighbor" was a funny alligator, who came to visit us all throughout the weekend.

The boys named him Spiker.  :)
 We surprised Caleb with a horse-drawn carriage ride to breakfast.  He loved it!
We even found a little island to enjoy our picnic lunch.  So serene.
 The birthday celebration will continue this weekend, but this time a reunion with friends.  Caleb is gathering his strength for another round of fun.  This will be the first time to be with all of his buddies in almost a year.  We are so excited for him, we can hardly stand it!  

Caleb did get to see a lot of his buddies for a moment at Kindergarten graduation.  His school is so special!  Since Caleb couldn't go indoors and risk infection, the school came outside to him!  

Very special to have Mrs. Elrod (left), who provided the school plans, along with Mrs. McDonald (right), who taught Caleb all of the material, together at the graduation.  We adore these lovely ladies!
It was a special ceremony and "Graduation for one" for Caleb.  He was pretty overwhelmed by it and got mad at himself for breaking into a few tears on the stage (unusual for this stoic child.)  Since he physically didn't get to go to school, we are so proud of the leaders and teachers, who planned this for him, so that he feels like he has "closure" and really accomplished something through his at-home studies.  God bless all of the special people in our lives. 

This entire week is a celebration of life, along with hopes and dreams for a "new norm" soon, that will take Caleb away from his extreme isolation.   
Cancer has softened this "tough boy's" heart.  He gives so many hugs and kisses now.
  I know he appreciates you all very much.  We read him all of your special comments through this blog, so thank you for everything.  You are a part of this "Celebration Week", because we know Caleb wouldn't be where he is today, without your love and prayers.