Thursday, February 22, 2018

So Many Kindnesses ...

This post is the ninth in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.



February 22, 2008

The next few days were a blur.  We had so many visitors it was difficult to even have time to eat.  I remember that one day I didn't even have the opportunity to take a shower because of the steady stream of people coming through her room.  Many of the folks who appeared at Hannah's hospital room door we hadn't seen in months, or even years ... but there they were to encourage us and pray with us.  One dear lady arrived with a key to her home in Little Rock that we were free to use whenever we needed to get away from the hospital. 

There were other people who did not come to the hospital, but instead served our family by caring for those staying at our home in Magnet Cove.  People took the time to visit Bethany and help her feel less lonely in our absence, to prepare meals for our parents who were staying there with her, and even to take care of our dog when no one was home for extended periods of time.  Others sent notes, wrote emails, made phone calls, mailed gift cards, sent flowers or balloons ... the list goes on and on.

And then there were the hundreds (which swelled into thousands) of people who prayed for Hannah and for our family from the moment they heard of her diagnosis.  Oh, how those prayers buoyed us up on the heavy days!

These incredible kindnesses were both humbling and overwhelming.  I know I did not adequately thank all of these wonderful folks for their selfless generosity to our family at the time.  And I hope that ten years later is not too late.  If you were one of those people, I want you to know that your kindness, however big or small, was a huge part of what kept us afloat both during those early days of shock and awe, and even over the year that was to follow.  Thank you.

So many people were interested in following Hannah's story, I began trying to think of a way we could keep people informed of the developments.  There was no way we could communicate individually with everyone who was asking about her, and we wanted to avoid the "telephone game" scenario where facts can so easily get distorted as they are passed along from person to person.  We considered a CaringBridge site, but Hannah, always a private person, did not want one.  In early 2008, Facebook was a thing, but not nearly what it is now, so that wasn't really a consideration either.  So I settled on email as our primary mode of communication with those who wanted to follow her progress and pray for us.  That decision started a year-long series of nearly daily emails which would eventually reach literally around the world.

This is the email I sent ten years ago today at 11:14 pm ...

Tonight, I’m writing from home. I’ve come to spend some time with Bethany, and to get a good night’s rest at home. Brad is staying at the hospital with Hannah.

We met with the surgeon for the first time about 2:00 this afternoon. We still don’t know for sure when the surgery will be, but it should be Monday or Tuesday. We’ll get the word out when we have a definite date and time. He told us basically the same thing the resident had told us. They will go in through the lower part of the back of her skull (not needing to cut off much hair, which Hannah is excited about!) and remove a piece of the tumor and examine it. If they determine it will be treatable with radiation, they will close the incision and end the surgery. If it is not treatable with radiation alone, they will go ahead and remove the entire tumor. He did tell us that in looking at the MRI and CT scans, it appears to be the second kind, and will probably require complete removal. She will have to spend at least 24 hours in ICU, then will remain hospitalized for 5 to 7 days following surgery. He said the tumor is in a delicate area, and not very easy to get to, but he has a lot of experience with this type of tumor in this location. His name is Dr. A…please lift him up in your prayers.

Hannah is feeling great and is still amazingly strong and enjoying all of her visits and phone calls. The outpouring of love and support for our family has just been wonderful. Thank you to all who have called, visited, emailed, sent cards, brought or sent gifts…it has meant so much to our family. I wish we could personally answer every email we have received, but there have just been too many! Please know that we are reading every one and gaining strength from them. Please continue to pray for God to be glorified in this situation. Also, please remember Bethany in your prayers…she has mono and really feels terrible (worse than Hannah does right now, actually). Her spleen is enlarged, and she needs to rest, which is difficult with all that is going on right now. Her grandparents are taking good care of her, and she was able to come to the hospital today to see Hannah, which I think helped her a little bit. Please pray for her quick recovery. By the way, we also found out today that Hannah tested positive for mono, but she has no symptoms, and the surgeon does not seem to think it will be a problem.

God is good, all the time!
Jill

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Admitted to Children's Hospital

This post is the eighth in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


February 21, 2008

After a restless night, it was time to load up and head to Arkansas Children's Hospital.  I packed a suitcase for myself and for Hannah, which was difficult as we had no idea how long we would be there.  Brad drove us the 50 miles to Little Rock ... and I'm sure we must have discussed what was ahead of us, but I honestly don't remember anything from that drive.

We arrived at the hospital, and after some confusion at the admissions desk, we ended up at the Neuroscience Clinic on the third floor.  As we walked into that area, I remember feeling as if I were watching someone else go through all these motions ... that this couldn't be our family walking into a neuroscience clinic ... no way was this our reality.  But it was our family that was escorted into a room to wait for a visit from a doctor.

We had only been in there a few minutes when a smiling face appeared at the door.  It was our friend Tim, who had driven up to spend the morning with us.  Words cannot express how much it helped to see a familiar face in such an incredibly foreign place.  His presence was something solid to cling to ... a link to reality in this surreal situation.  He hung out with us all morning, helping the time pass more gently.  He knew when to talk and when to be quiet, and faded into the background when hospital staff came in to speak with us.  But his presence was an anchor throughout that topsy-turvy morning, and it was a great gift.

The chief resident finally came by, accompanied by three med students, one of whom was a former student of Brad's.  He explained to us that Hannah would be admitted, and would remain in the hospital until after the surgery, which would be the following Monday or Tuesday.  He ordered an MRI of her spine to be done that afternoon to be sure the tumor had not "seeded."  I heard him say those words, but my mind could not process them, so I simply dismissed them as not being applicable to us.

When they took her down for her MRI, they moved us to the fourth floor and put us in a tiny little holding room, where our parents were brought when they arrived.  There was an emotional time of reunion as we hugged and cried.  They stayed with us for awhile, then headed to our home where they would help care for Bethany for the next several days while Hannah was in the hospital.

We were stuck in that holding room for quite some time.  It seems that the floors were being waxed in the room where we were ultimately going to be placed.  It was hard for me to process that people were actually doing mundane things like waxing floors when our daughter had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I mean, didn't they know?!

We were finally allowed to go to our patient room (with nice shiny floors) where we waited for Hannah to be brought up from her MRI.  The chief resident accompanied her as she was rolled in.  He shared with us that the MRI showed that the tumor had not seeded (of course not ... I had already dismissed that possibility!).   He explained that the location of the tumor on her pineal gland blocked the flow of cerebrospinal fluid when she was lying down ... which is why her headaches and nausea were so much worse in the mornings.

He talked with us a little bit about what to expect with the surgery.  They would begin with a less invasive procedure in which they would open up her skull, remove some cells from the tumor and test them to see if they were a type that responds well to radiation.  If that were the case, they would close her up, and just treat her with radiation.  If the cells were some other type, they would need to do a full craniotomy and remove the entire tumor.

He prescribed doses of steroids to be administered which would decrease the swelling in her brain and relieve her headaches.  He also ordered an emergency shunt kit to be kept on the table beside her bed at all times, "just in case."  More words for me to dismiss.  We weren't going to need that.  Hannah was going to be fine.

Two of Hannah's uncles arrived that evening and hung out with us.  Hannah adored her uncles and enjoyed their company.  The steroids were already making her feel better, and we were grateful for that.  Brad went home to get some sleep and to spend time with Bethany, and Hannah and I settled in for our first night in the hospital. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MRI - Part Two

This post is the seventh in a year-long series and the second half of a post from earlier today ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


February 20, 2008

Tommy entered the room and pulled that third chair up to where we were sitting, so Hannah and I were basically knee-to-knee with him.  He gently explained to both of us that the MRI revealed a tumor in the pineal region of Hannah's brain.  Hannah and I were both pretty tearful, but his words had a calming effect.  He asked if we would like to see it, and we must have assented, because we soon found ourselves in the technician's booth staring at a ghostly image of the invader in Hannah's brain.  The tears returned.  Even our friendly technician was crying by this point.

We moved back out into the waiting room and sat back down in our three chairs.  Tommy explained that this tumor would require immediate intervention and we should plan to go to Arkansas Children's Hospital that night.  Or, since Hannah was not in any acute distress, we could go home and head to Children's in the morning.  Either way, he would call ahead so they would be prepared to receive us when we got there.  For me, there was no question ... We would go home.  Somehow I had to share this news with Brad and Bethany and give our family time to process it.

As we sat in our little circle, Tommy took our hands and prayed with us.  He placed Hannah into God's hands and prayed for the wisdom of those who would be treating her.  I don't remember anything else he prayed, but I do remember the feeling of peace that flowed over us in that moment.  He gathered up all the MRI films into a big envelope and walked us out of the hospital through a back exit so we wouldn't have to walk through the public areas in our emotional state.

We stood outside our car for a few minutes and Hannah asked Tommy if they were going to have to shave her head.  He replied that they might, and said, "but it is what it is."  For some reason, those words were oddly comforting ... a confirmation that this whole thing was out of our control.  Tommy offered to drive us home, but I assured him I was capable of driving and would be fine.

I remember very little of what Hannah and I discussed on the 20-minute drive home.  I do know that, as any typical teenager would be, she was concerned about how her friends would react.  She said that she didn't want anyone to know, and I assured her we'd protect her privacy.

As we got closer to home, I knew I needed to call Brad and let him know what was going on.  He was at his job as a high school principal, and it was about time for the buses to run.  I got him on the phone and told him I needed him to come home.  That was all I could get out before my throat closed off, and I hung up.

He arrived at home just a few minutes before Hannah and I did, and waited for us in the garage.  He had no idea what was going on ... in fact, he thought maybe this had something to do with Bethany.  We were awaiting her ultrasound report from the day before ... He certainly wasn't expecting MRI results so soon.

We pulled into the garage, and stepped out of the car.  Hannah spoke first ... "Daddy, I've got a brain tumor."  We held each other and cried for awhile together while I filled him in on some of what Tommy had said.  Then it was time to go into the house and break the news to Bethany, who had been home alone sick all day.  More tears ensued.  Once we pulled ourselves together a bit, we had a prayer time as a family, placing Hannah in God's hands, acknowledging that we had no idea what was ahead of us, but affirming our trust in Him.  The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) began to make itself known.

The rest of the evening was a blur of phone calls and visitors.  Brad made the hardest calls (because I couldn't even talk), which were to our parents, informing them of what was going on.  He also called our neighbor, a retired pastor who had become our girls' adopted grandpa.  Bro. Gerald came down the hill from his home and prayed with us, sharing a scripture with us which became our theme verse throughout the next year ... "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).

Hannah had told me she didn't want anyone to know ... and I don't know how it happened, but suddenly everybody knew.  We lived in a small community, and word travels fast.  This was a Wednesday evening, and somehow Hannah's name appeared on every local church's prayer list.  About 10:00 that evening, a group of her friends and their mothers appeared at our door with a basket full of gifts, including a soft purple blanket which they had all signed.  That blanket would go with her into surgery a few days later.

Our phones rang incessantly, and one of those calls was the ultrasound report on Bethany.  With the results of her bloodwork, and the enlargement of her spleen and liver, her diagnosis was changed from pneumonia to mononucleosis.  That certainly explained the fatigue and malaise she'd been experiencing.

Another call was from Tommy, saying he had made arrangements for us to check in through the ER at Children's Hospital first thing the next morning.  Things were getting real ... even though the feeling of disbelief that this was actually happening to our family was also very real.

In the midst of the chaos of that evening, Hannah remained calm.  I remember her saying at one point, "Now I'll have a story."  I was in awe of the strength that God was clearly giving her.  When she went to bed that night, she posted this on her Facebook page ...

"I will praise Him in the storm! I'm going to children's hospital in the morning..."

And I sent the first of what would become a year's worth of emails, this one just to our close family and friends ...

"After several days of strange symptoms and doctor visits, we found out today that our 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, has a brain tumor. We are headed to Arkansas Children’s Hospital first thing in the morning for a biopsy. God’s hand has already been involved…the ophthalmologist that we were sent to yesterday is a great Christian guy who sang in our wedding 20 years ago, so he has been taking good care of us. We also found out today that our 12-year-old daughter, Bethany, has mono, not pneumonia, as she was originally diagnosed. So…please keep all of us in your prayers. Both my parents and Brad’s parents are coming to LR tomorrow, and are going to help us out with Bethany for as long as needed, so that need has been met, too. We are looking forward to seeing God working through this situation!"

MRI - Part One

This post is the sixth in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.

Photo credit: Muffet on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

February 20, 2018

On the morning of the MRI appointment, Hannah woke up feeling great. For the first time in nearly a week, she didn't have a headache. Her vision was clear, and her pupils were normal. I clearly remember the feeling of relief that flooded over me. Whatever this was, it was over! I could literally feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. In fact, I was so sure Hannah's "sickness" had resolved itself, I considering canceling the MRI. After all, the co-pay was sure to be expensive ... and I was going to have to leave Bethany home alone for a few hours. But as I recalled the heavy anxiety of the previous week, I decided to keep the appointment. It would be worth the trouble and expense just for the peace of mind that everything was fine.

I made sure Bethany was comfortable in the recliner with the Disney Channel on TV, a blanket, and plenty of snacks. I assured her we would be back in a couple of hours, and then Hannah and I headed to the same hospital where Bethany had gotten her ultrasound the day before. We located and checked into the MRI suite, where we were greeted by a friendly technician. She explained a little bit about what to expect and started an IV in Hannah's arm for the contrast which would be administered about halfway through the procedure. She had Hannah lie down on the narrow sliding table and fastened her down with straps. It was somewhat disconcerting to watch her place a strap over Hannah's forehead, immobilizing her head. I spoke a few words of encouragement to Hannah, then stepped out into the waiting room as the technician entered her little booth and shut the door.

Settling into my uncomfortable plastic chair, I listened as the eerie jackhammer-like sounds of the MRI began to drift into the waiting room. I picked up a magazine from the basket beside my chair, but had difficulty focusing on the pages. I clearly remember a fleeting thought running through my head that our lives could be changing forever on that day, in that moment. Quickly shaking it off, I reminded myself that Hannah felt fine this morning ... all of this was just to confirm that she really was okay.

Lost in my thoughts, I was startled when the door to the technician's booth opened, and she leaned out of it. In her hand, she held two tickets. She held them out in my direction and said, "Here are a couple of tickets for a free meal in the cafeteria. When this is done, I'd like for you and Hannah to have lunch here." I didn't know how to respond for a moment ... Why would we want to do that? I declined the tickets, telling her that I had a sick child at home and did not want to stay any longer than necessary. She said she understood and disappeared back into her booth.

Now I was concerned. I couldn't imagine why this lady wanted us to stay and have lunch at the hospital. Unless ... But no, I dismissed that thought. Hannah was fine. The MRI was going to prove it.

The clanging of the MRI finally ended, and the technician opened the heavy door separating us from the magnetic tube where Hannah was. She released her from her straps, and Hannah sat up, both of us glad it was over. As she stood and we prepared to leave, the technician pushed those same two tickets in my direction and much more insistently urged us to go have a free lunch in the hospital cafeteria. She said something about needing to make sure all the films turned out okay before we left, so if we would go have lunch and then swing back by the MRI suite before leaving the hospital, that would be great. That way, if any of the films had to be re-done, we could take care of that before we left.

Okaaaay ... this didn't seem right ... but what did I know? Maybe an MRI was like an x-ray, where the doctor tells you not to get dressed until they make sure they got good pictures of your insides. I reluctantly took the tickets, and Hannah and I headed to the cafeteria to have lunch.

I have no memory what we ate or even what we talked about ... probably whatever she was missing at school that morning or what had happened on the last episode of American Idol. I do remember her asking me why that lady didn't want us to leave, and me assuring her that it was just routine.

We finished our lunch and headed back to the MRI suite. When we walked in, I immediately noticed that two of the waiting room chairs had been pulled close together. The waiting area only had three chairs, and they had been spaced far apart when we arrived that morning ... in fact, we had laughingly waved to each other from across the room as we sat down. The technician seated us in those two chairs right next to each other and told us that Tommy, our ophthalmologist was on his way over to talk to us. Then she disappeared into her booth.

My heart dropped like a stone. There was no denying it anymore. Hannah was not fine. She began to ask me questions about what was going on, and I had no answers for her.

A few minutes later the technician popped back out of her booth and asked me to step in there with her. Tommy was on the phone, and wanted to talk with me. I gave Hannah's hand a squeeze and stepped into the booth. The technician closed the door and handed me the phone. Tommy told me he was on his way. The MRI showed "something" and it would need "further treatment." Somehow, I had the presence of mind to ask him if Hannah needed to be included in our conversation when he arrived, or if this was something we needed to discuss without her present. He said I knew Hannah best, and that it was up to me. Yes, I did know Hannah ... and I knew she would have a lot of questions. I told him to be prepared to talk with both of us when he arrived.

When I hung up the phone, I couldn't seem to get enough air. As I steeled myself to step out of that booth to face Hannah, the technician put her hand on my arm and said, "You don't have to go out there yet ... Take a minute." Her kindness nearly undid me. The tears came then and she hugged me. I didn't stay in there long, though. I needed to get back to my daughter.

Hannah knew the moment she saw my face that something was up. I sat down beside her and told her what Tommy had said. We held each other and cried a little bit, then pulled ourselves together and waited for Tommy to arrive. I remember pulling a magazine out of the basket beside the chair to help pass the time, and it was a ladies' magazine from 1987! We flipped through it, laughing at the big hair and outdated clothes. So incredibly surreal. 

It felt like hours, but it was only about ten minutes before Tommy arrived.

To be continued ...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Doctor Visits and Referrals

This post is part of a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences in the last year of our 17-year-old daughter's life on earth, which spanned from February of 2008 to February of 2009. Many of you who read this blog followed our journey through the emails I wrote over the course of that year. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.



February 19, 2008

So we had two kids with two very different health problems to take to the doctor at the same time.   I was working as an independent contractor speech pathologist at that time, so if I missed work, I didn't get paid.  Their appointments were in the morning, so we decided that Brad would use half a sick day and bring them to doctor, then I would come home at lunch and spend the rest of the day with them so he could go on to work.

I went to work that morning, but I honestly don't remember anything I did while I was there.  I'm sure I saw my students, but my therapy couldn't have been very effective.  My mind was on my girls and what in the world was going on with them.  How could both of them have such weird health issues at the same time?

Finally I got my hours completed and headed home.  Brad and the girls arrived about the same time I did, and while they ate lunch, we talked.

They had done a new set of chest x-rays on Bethany to check the status of her pneumonia, but her lungs looked good.  The doctor suspected that her ongoing malaise and fatigue may be due to mononucleosis, so he had referred her to our local hospital for an ultrasound of her liver and spleen.  He had scheduled an appointment for this to be done that afternoon.

OK ... I could deal with mono.  I'd had mono in college.  It wasn't fun, but it wasn't so bad.  What about Hannah?

He described how the advanced practice nurse had done a thorough examination of Hannah, and everything seemed to be fine.  When she checked her pupil reactions, however, Hannah's pupils did not respond to the light.  Normally, pupils will constrict when a light is shined into them, but Hannah's did not.  They remained enlarged.  The APRN asked the doctor to come in and check her pupils, with the same results.

Because of these issues with her eyes, the doctor wrote a referral for Hannah to see an ophthalmologist, and made the appointment for that afternoon.  I was still taking all this in, when Brad handed me the written referral, and I saw the name of the ophthalmologist.  That name!  Could that be our friend Tommy from college ... the guy who had sung in our wedding over 20 years ago?   That's how he spelled his last name.  Was he a doctor now?  I guess we would find out!

So now we had two kids with two very different health problems going to two different doctors at the same time.  It was time to divide and conquer.  It was decided that I would take Bethany for her ultrasound and Brad would take Hannah to the ophthalmologist.  Hannah's doctor didn't seem to be terribly concerned at this point, and Bethany actually seemed to be far sicker than she was.

Bethany's appointment was uneventful.  The ultrasound was completed and we were told we'd probably get the results the next day.  I took her home and anxiously waited for Brad and Hannah to arrive.

When they got home, I grilled Brad for details.  The ophthalmologist was indeed our old friend Tommy, and they spent a good bit of their appointment getting re-acquainted.  Tommy examined her, and was able to get her pupils to constrict with the use of some eye drops.  He told Brad that the antihistamines we'd been giving her could possibly have caused the pupil dilation, but he added, "If it were my daughter, I'd want her to have an MRI."

An MRI was scheduled for the next morning.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Seeing Double

This post is part of a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences in the last year of our 17-year-old daughter's life on earth, which spanned from February of 2008 to February of 2009. Many of you who read this blog followed our journey through the emails I wrote over the course of that year. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


February 18, 2008

Hannah had remained headache-y through the weekend, but the morning nausea had subsided.  She was back in school, and things seemed to be normalizing somewhat with her.   My main concern now was for our younger daughter, Bethany.  She had been diagnosed with pneumonia a few days before Hannah's headaches started, and she just didn't seem to be improving.  She was scheduled to return to the doctor the next day for some more tests.

At that time, I was working part-time as a speech-language pathologist for a local school district, and I also saw a few students privately.  After finishing up with one of my private students, I checked my phone and saw that I had missed a call from Hannah's high school.  The voice mail was from the school secretary, who told me that Hannah wasn't feeling well, and that I needed to call the office.  My heart sank as I dialed ... I had been so hopeful that she was getting better!

Our girls attended a very small school district, where their dad was the high school principal.  When I called the office, it only took a few minutes for them to get Hannah to the phone.  She told me that her head was hurting and she was "seeing double."  The alarm bells started going off in my head, and I told her to sit tight ... I'd be there in a few minutes, and we'd go straight to the doctor's office.  She assured me, though, that she was already feeling better ... everything was fine now ... it wasn't a big deal ... and she wanted to stay at school.  I reluctantly agreed and hung up the phone.

I was hosting a baby shower for some teachers after school that day, so I spent the rest of that afternoon running around town doing errands and preparing for that event.  As people began to arrive at the shower, I pasted on a smile and went through the motions required of me ... all the while counting the minutes until it ended and I could go home and see how Hannah was doing.  The feeling of foreboding I had while standing in the pharmacy section of Walmart was back, and it was so, so heavy.

The baby shower finally came to an end, the clean-up was completed, and I headed home.  I was so anxious to talk with Hannah and see what had really been going on at school today.   As she shared with me the issues she'd had with double vision at school, I noticed that she looked a little "off".  As we continued to talk, I realized what was bothering me about her appearance ... the pupils of her eyes were extremely dilated.

The realization took my breath away.  Not wanting to alarm her, I finished our conversation without saying anything about her eyes, then pulled my husband Brad aside and asked him if he saw it too.  He spoke with her for a few minutes and confirmed what I had seen.  We decided that we would call the doctor first thing in the morning and see if we could get her in at the same time we brought Bethany in. 

I felt a little better that we were finally doing something ... but sleep did not come easily that night.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Migraines?

This blog post is part of a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to re-live our family's experiences in the last year of our daughter Hannah's life on earth, which spanned from February of 2008 to February of 2009. Many of you who read this blog followed our journey through the emails I wrote over the course of that year. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.

I have a vivid memory of standing in the pharmacy section at Walmart studying the dizzying array of colorful boxes on the shelves. Tylenol, Excedrin, Advil, Motrin … How could I know which one was the most effective?   I needed something that would help alleviate Hannah’s headaches.

She was back in school now, but really wasn't feeling much better.  She’d been waking up with severe head pain and and an upset stomach for the past few days. The headache would subside somewhat throughout the day, but never fully go away.  We had thought maybe the morning headaches and nausea were the result of sinus drainage overnight, so we were giving her antihistamines, but they didn't seem to be helping.  Maybe we were dealing with migraines. 

Standing there in the pharmacy section, my thoughts were also on our 12-year-old daughter, Bethany.  A few days before Hannah started waking up with these monstrous headaches, Bethany had been diagnosed with pneumonia.  Listless and fatigued, she didn't seem to be getting any better either.

As I perused the choices on the shelves, people bustling around me, time seemed to stand still for a moment as a deep fear gripped my heart … What if these headaches were more than just migraines?  I had a deeply disturbing feeling that something much more serious was going on.

But I had a busy Saturday ahead of me … Time to make a decision and get on my way!  Surely a name-brand medication would be better than the generic version.  I grabbed a bottle of Excedrin Migraine, paid for my purchase, and left the store.  But the feeling of foreboding stayed with me.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Missing School



This blog post is part of a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our experiences in the last year of Hannah's life on earth, which spanned from February of 2008 to February of 2009. Many of you who read this blog followed our journey through the emails I wrote over the course of that year. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.

Hannah always loved school.  From the very beginning, she excelled academically, and she took great pride in that.  Maybe a little too much pride!

Before she even started school, she knew where she wanted to go to college ... Ouachita Baptist University, the alma mater of her mom and dad, of course!  As a preschooler, she practiced writing her name until she could do it with perfection ... very proud of the fact that her name was a palindrome.  In elementary school, she was driven to accumulate more Accelerated Reader points than any other kid in her grade ... and she did.  When she was in junior high, she would start off the year telling me which academic awards she was going to receive in the assembly at the end of the year ... and then went on to do just that.  By the time she started senior high, she had a goal ... to be valedictorian of her class ... and she was heading that way with a 4.0 GPA through the second semester of her sophomore year.

So when she woke up the day after Valentine's Day 2008, once again with a severe headache and nausea, and asked to stay home from school for the second day in a row, I knew she wasn't playing around.  The girl didn't take missing school lightly.