Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Spudnuts by the Dozen

This post is #181 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 20, 2009

You may recall that on Hannah's last day at Children's Hospital before we moved to hospice, some dear friends brought us a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Hannah ate a couple bites of one, but let us know with her limited communication skills that it wasn't as good as a spudnut.  Now, if you're wondering what in the world a "spudnut" is, let me fill you in. In El Dorado, Arkansas, there is a little hole in the wall called the Spudnut Shoppe, where they make the most delicious doughnuts in the world. I am told that they are made with potato flour ... thus the name. If you are willing to stand in a long line outside the Spudnut Shoppe, you can experience the extraordinarily sweet sensation of a hot spudnut melting in your mouth. We lived in El Dorado for several years, and on many Saturday mornings the girls and I would hungrily await Brad's arrival home with several hot spotnuts in a grease-stained little white bag. 

Anyway, in my email update that evening, I mentioned Hannah's comment, mostly for the benefit of all our friends from El Dorado who share our love for the spudnut. The very next day, not long after we arrived at the hospice center, a man showed up at there with four dozen spudnuts!  This gentleman wasn't even from El Dorado, and we had never even actually met him before.  He was from Fort Smith, and had driven from there to El Dorado and then to Little Rock to bring Hannah these spudnuts in response to that email.  And that's not all ... over the next few days, we received three dozen more spudnuts ... one box even arriving in the mail. I think every nurse at the hospice center, every visitor, and every family member got to sample a spudnut at some point during the eight days we were there. We had a lot of fun with those spudnuts, and were completely blown away by people's kindness in providing them for our family.

Hannah was still having some bleeding episodes off and on, even with the regular platelet infusions she was receiving.  We spent some time visiting with the doctor privately that day and he explained that because Hannah had received so many platelets from so many different donors since October, her body had probably built up an immunity to them and wasn't even processing them anymore.  This was sobering news, of course, but he agreed to continue the platelet infusions and added in some Vitamin K shots in hopes that would help with clotting.

My email from ten years ago today ...

Today marks one year since the day we found out that Hannah had a brain tumor. In some ways, it seems like far less than a year, and in some ways it seems like much, much longer. While it's been an incredibly difficult year, it has been a year full of blessings too. It was also one year ago today that we bowed down together as a family and determined that we would trust God in this situation and that we would give Him the glory no matter what the outcome. Our faith in God and our bond as a family have been strengthened throughout this year.

Hannah has had another pretty good day. She was wakeful and restless through much of the night and day, but has rested a little bit better this evening. She continues to be pain-free. She has had three nosebleeds today, and the doctor is concerned that she may have built up an immunity to the platelets because she has received so many in the past few months. We will continue with the platelet transfusions every other day, but he is not sure how effective they will be. They can also do Vitamin K shots, which should help somewhat with clotting.

We have had lots of visitors over the last few days...and would you believe...we've received seven boxes of spudnuts from El Dorado! We've had a lot of fun with that. We've got all of the staff here hooked on spudnuts now! We will be welcoming visitors for one more day...tomorrow...and after that, please call and check with us before you come. Hannah is really not strong enough to enjoy visitors. It has been so wonderful to see everyone, but we also feel it is important for Brad and I to really be able to focus on our girls during this time. We appreciate your understanding in this area.

Again, thank you for the emails, the cards, the gifts, the meals, the offers of help, and most of all, your prayers during this time. We have heard that Hannah is going to receive a very special surprise phone call tomorrow...we will share the details of that with you after it happens.

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"Either Way, Hannah Wins"

This post is #180 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 19, 2009

I'm not gonna lie ... When we got to the hospice center and found out there was no wifi, I may have freaked out just a little. The emails and messages we received daily from so many wonderful people had become such a part of our lifeline it was hard to imagine being cut off from them.  And writing my daily emails was actually playing a role in keeping me sane.  Leaving Hannah's side to go to Starbucks for wifi access was just not going to work.

What a wonderful blessing it was to receive an AirCard from some friends!  It was a great comfort to once again be connected to the world outside of hospice.

A hospice center can be a pretty depressing place for a kid to hang out.  Bethany was staying with us round the clock, and though she never complained, we knew it was not a very fun place for her to be.  In an effort to make her stay more tolerable, a dear friend of mine took it upon herself to drive her daughter an hour each way to the hospice center every evening after school and on weekends as well.  What a blessing it was for us to know that Bethany had the opportunity to spend time daily with her best friend and get a break from the difficult reality.

We can never adequately express how much these gifts (and so many others) meant to us.

My email from ten years ago today ...

Just wanted to touch base and let everyone know that we now have internet access, thanks to a wireless USB device that God provided for us through some wonderful people. What a blessing it has been to be able to communicate with everyone again...the emails we send and receive have really become such a huge part of our lives. We just got through reading all of our email from the last day or so, and we are overwhelmed and amazed at what God is up to simply as a result of what is happening in our's very humbling. To know that our precious child has touched so many lives is such a comfort!

Hannah has had a pretty good day today. She has slept almost all day long, but she woke up long enough to eat half of an orange this morning, and then to eat some fettuccine for supper. She has talked very little today, except for a little while just after eating supper, when she actively participated in a conversation about American Idol. Those of you who know Hannah know that she is a huge fan of that TV show, although she has really not been able to follow it this season. While we were talking about this year's contestants, she didn't have much to say, but when the conversation turned to previous years' contestants, she jumped right in. It was really nice to see a glimpse of "our" Hannah for a little while this evening. She did have a little bit of bleeding from her mouth again today, so they gave her two units of platelets, and she has been fine ever since.

We've been able to have some wonderful time with family over the last couple of days. The hospice center is wonderful and has been so accommodating to our rather large extended family. Because they are not full right now, they have graciously provided us two rooms, so Brad and Bethany are both able to stay here with Hannah and me. There is a very inexpensive meal program for families, so all our needs here are provided for. Again, we do welcome visitors, but wish to limit visitors to family only after 5:30 p.m., so we can have some private time in the evenings.

Again, we are so thankful that she is not in any pain. Our oncologist was so surprised that she did not have pain, because after looking at the scans, he said she really should be having severe headaches and nausea. She has had none of that, and what a blessing that is. We have so many things to be thankful for, but we are most thankful that Hannah's future is assured. Whether she is healed here on earth (which, at best, would only be a temporary healing...all earthly healings are temporary), or whether she is healed in Heaven (which would be a permanent healing), she is going to be just fine. As Bethany says, "Either way, Hannah wins." And that's why we can say that God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"  I John 5:4-5

Monday, February 18, 2019

Our Hardest Move

This post is #179 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 18, 2009

Brad and I moved a lot during the early years of our marriage ... College, graduate school, first job, second job, etc.  Even after the girls were born, we continued to move frequently.  Moving is always stressful, yet there's usually excitement involved too ... a new house, new neighborhood, new friends.  We were used to moving and all that came along with it.  But today we faced an entirely different kind of move ... Moving Hannah from Arkansas Children's Hospital to a hospice center across town.

We gently explained to Hannah that we were going to be moving from Children's Hospital to another place which would be more like a home than a hospital ... a place where we would all be more comfortable.  She nodded her head in understanding.

Next we had to say goodbye to the doctors and nurses in the Hem-Onc clinic and on the gold floor.  They had cared for our entire family with such kindness for a full year.  Every one of them had worked so hard with such high hopes for Hannah's survival, and I know that our departure was just as painful for them as it was for us.

Then we waited for what seemed like a long time ... but we still weren't ready when the ambulance attendants appeared in the room with a rolling gurney. They deftly lifted her onto it and strapped her down.  She looked so small and fragile on that gurney with the downy soft, baby fuzz just beginning to grow back on her head.  She was awake, but her eyes were closed.  The rolling trip seemed to take us up and down every hallway of the hospital.  Our family trailed along behind, lugging all of our belongings, and trying not to meet the sympathetic eyes of the people we passed in the halls. I felt sure everyone knew where we were going.  We were clearly leaving, and one look at Hannah would have told them we were not coming back.

When we were still up in the room, we had asked the attendants if Bethany and I could both ride with Hannah, and they had told us only one of us could accompany her in the ambulance ... policy, you know. Bethany really, really wanted to ride with her, and we had decided we would let her do it, so she could have the memory of that final ride with her sister. My heart was breaking, though ... I couldn't imagine not sitting beside Hannah on that ride.

After they loaded Hannah up, one of the ambulance guys leaned out and said to me, "Do you still want to ride with us?" He didn't have to ask me twice ... I jumped right in! Bethany sat in the front with the driver, and I sat in the back on a little ledge near Hannah's feet.  I was so thankful for their compassion in breaking their policy just this one time!  Brad and several of our extended family members would follow in their own vehicles.

We drove through the city of Little Rock in no hurry, no lights flashing or siren blaring ... an eerily quiet ambulance, surrounded by cars full of people going on with their daily routines.  I could see them through the windows, and I was amazed at how normal their lives all seemed to be. The ambulance guy was so kind ... he made some effort at conversation, and I tried, but I really was not capable at holding up my end.

He finally gave up on the small talk and started filling out some paperwork.  He asked me for some basic information, including Hannah's social security number.  I knew her number as well as I knew my own, but at that moment, I could not for the life of me remember what it was.  I hemmed and hawed around for a little while, and then we were both shocked when we heard Hannah's voice reciting her social security number.  I didn't even think she was awake, much less aware of our conversation or capable of stating her social security number.  It was just like her to know something like that, and to answer for me when I was stumped!

We finally arrived at the hospice center, and they rolled her in and transferred her from the gurney to her new bed there. Once we got her settled in and sleeping, we left her with family members and went to the hospice office and did all the necessary paperwork. I remember feeling as though I were watching someone else responding to questions and signing her name.

The center had about twenty rooms, and only about five were in use at the time, so they very graciously allowed our family to have the use of two rooms. Hannah and I stayed in one room together, and Brad and Bethany had a room right next door. They also put us at the end of a wing, where there was a very nice, large sun room ... a perfect place for our extended family to gather. We basically had that whole wing to ourselves. It couldn't have been a better set up for us.

The day we moved to the hospice center was one of the most excruciating days of the entire year for all of us. When they put Hannah on that gurney and started rolling her out of the very familiar setting of Arkansas Children's Hospital's gold floor, it felt as though whatever little bit of control we might have had in the situation was finally completely gone. The process of giving Hannah up had begun. The weight of that as we rode in the ambulance made it difficult for me to even sit upright. And as we entered the hospice center doors for the first time, the sense of finality was overwhelming ... knowing that on the day we walked out that doors, we would be leaving without Hannah.

Yet, even in the midst of the devastating emotions of that day, God gave us peace. I don't know how. I can't even begin to explain it.  Looking back at it today, I really don't know how we survived it ... the only possible explanation is that God carried us through it. There were so many people praying for us, and I really believe that is what kept us going.

Then there was the knowledge that when Hannah did leave that place, her next destination was Heaven. There would be no more ambulance rides, chemo treatments, platelet infusions, or radiation sessions. And what could be sweeter than that?

The email below was actually sent on the morning of the following day, February 19, 2009:

Sorry for the lack of updates over the last 24 hours....the hospice center is a wonderful place, but it does not have any internet access available for families. I had to travel to a nearby Starbucks to do this update. We have not even taken the time yet to read all of the emails that have come in since yesterday, but we are looking forward to doing so. We believe we have the internet situation worked out, and should have access at the center soon, but I wanted to go ahead and send something out this morning.

The transport yesterday from Children's Hospital to the hospice center was thankfully uneventful. I was really nervous about how Hannah would handle the stress of the situation, but she did fine. As a matter of fact, the ambulance attendant asked me her social security number, and while I was hemming and hawing around trying to remember it, she told him what it was! I didn't even know she was awake or aware of our conversation. It was emotionally difficult to leave Children's Hospital...we have lots of memories there, and have truly come to love the people there, but it has been a good move for us. Our setting is much more home-like and comfortable, and we basically have a wing to ourselves in the hospice center. She continues to rest comfortably, and is in no pain or distress of any kind.

We do welcome any visitors who would like to come, but have decided as a family that we would like to cut off visits by 5:30 p.m., in order to allow us some private family time each evening. We really appreciate your understanding in this matter. We continue to rest in God's peace and in the comfort of your love and prayers.

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Doughnuts and Decisions

This post is #178 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 17, 2009

This day began with Hannah nibbling a Krispy Kreme doughnut and ended with us watching her every breath. 

We were able to meet privately with Hannah's primary oncologist while family members kept her company.   This is the doctor to whom we were introduced on the day we received Hannah's biopsy report ... the first person to utter the words "glioblastoma multiforme" ... and the one who had been with us every step of this journey.  He loved Hannah, and his heart was broken by what was happening to her.

He reviewed the MRI results with us in detail that morning.  He didn't show us the actual scans ... but we didn't need to see the scans to know they were bad.  The cancer had returned with a cruel vengeance.  He used the word "disturbing" as he described its progression throughout every part of her brain.  He explained that the chemotherapy treatments had probably bought us some time with her, but they were clearly no longer effective.

We asked him how long he believed we would have with her.  Of course, he couldn't know for sure, but he indicated that at most, we might have a few weeks.  He also gently explained that because of the location of the tumors on her brainstem, her death would probably occur fairly suddenly ... that when the tumors grew large enough, her brainstem would just stop telling her body to breathe.  He believed when that happened, she would simply stop breathing; that there would be no struggle, no pain, just a peaceful homegoing.

That was a great comfort to us.  After what had happened at our home the day before, we desperately wanted her earthly departure to be peaceful.

He recommended that we begin hospice care immediately, and we knew it was time.  All we had to do was make the decision whether to have hospice services come to our home, or to spend the last days of Hannah's life in a hospice facility.  Our choice was to go to a hospice center in Little Rock.

Several factors played a role in that decision.

  • It was very important to us to protect Hannah's privacy and dignity.  We had been blessed with so many wonderful visitors who encouraged us and supported us during this year of battling cancer ... but Hannah had always been a private person, and we knew she would not want people to be seeing her in her present condition.  There were a few exceptions ... family and very close friends ... but not many.  We knew it would be easier to control the flow of visitors at a facility.
  • We wanted to protect our time together as a family.  We did not know how much longer Hannah would be with us ... and we were fiercely protective of that time.  Staying at a center fifty miles from home would limit distractions and allow us to spend as much time together as possible.
  • We felt like this was the best decision for our daughter Bethany.  We wanted our home to be a "safe" place for her ... untainted by memories of her sister's death there.  
  • Most importantly, we wanted Hannah's platelet infusions to continue.  This is not typically a service provided under hospice care, and would not have been available to us in our home.  The bleeding episode home the day before had been a vivid illustration of how important those platelets were.  We had accepted that unless God intervened in a miraculous way, Hannah would be leaving for Heaven soon ... but we did not want her to bleed to death.
After discussing all of this with Hannah's oncologist, he accompanied us to her room and spent a few moments speaking with her.  He sat down on her bed and through tears he gently explained that he had done everything he could for her and there were no more treatments to try.  It was clear that she understood what he was saying, and she thanked him and said, "It's okay."  He patted her hand, got up, and Brad walked with him to the door.  As they stepped into the hallway together, a nurse called for his attention.  He responded, "I need a minute," and walked into his office.  We were touched by the depth of his emotion.

The hospice center did not initially want to provide the platelet transfusions, but the nurses and social workers worked behind the scenes to make it happen, which was a great relief.  We settled in for our final night at Arkansas Children's Hospital.  I remember how we stayed up for a long time and just watched her breathe as she slept.  After what her doctor said about the tumor compressing her brainstem, we couldn't help but wonder which breath might be her last. 

My email from ten years ago today ...

Just a quick update this afternoon....Hannah had a pretty good night last night. She was very restless all afternoon and early evening, but about 9:00 they gave her something to help her settle down and sleep. She slept pretty well after that, but had some periods of wakefulness where she would talk to us. It's difficult to understand some of what she says, but she is still working to communicate. This morning, she sat up and ate part of a Krispy Kreme doughnut (while communicating to us that it was not as good as a Spudnut ... you El Dorado readers will appreciate that!) She has slept peacefully all afternoon, but did wake up long enough to eat an orange.

Our regular oncologist came by and visited with us today. He said that the MRI indicated that the original tumor has returned, bigger than ever, all of the other existing spots are bigger, and there are new spots. He actually used the word "disturbing" to describe the progression of the disease. He did say that he believes the chemotherapy had some effect...basically, that it would be even worse if we had not done that...and that the chemo probably gave us some additional time. He came into the room and shared the results with Hannah and told her that we were out of medical options. She accepted the news gracefully and without fear.

It looks like we are going to spend another night here at Children's. We should be moving to a hospice facility here in Little Rock tomorrow morning. We have decided not to do a home hospice program due to the fact that Hannah has a continuing need for platelets to keep her from having any more severe bleeding episodes, and she cannot get those in a home setting. There is a hospice in Little Rock that is willing to provide platelet infusions, and our social worker is working out the details for us to go there. It sounds like an excellent facility. We have lots of family here with us, keeping us company. Hannah recognizes everyone and does her best to visit as she is able.

We are so thankful that Hannah is in no pain or distress, and is resting very comfortably and peacefully. We believe that the arms of Jesus are open wide to receive her when she is ready to go, and that provides an unimaginable peace. We have received so many wonderful emails over the past few days, and although we cannot respond to all of them, please know that every one is being read, treasured, and saved. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful prayer warriors lifting us before the throne. Thank you.

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Devastating Day

This post is #177 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 16, 2009

**WARNING** - This post is fairly graphic and could be upsetting to some.  You may wish to skip the portion I've written and just read the email from this date if you think it may bother you.

Hannah was on a pretty strong dose of steroids, which had to be administered every eight hours around the clock.  It had become part of my routine to set my alarm, get up during the night, go to Hannah's room, and help her take her medication.  I would flip on her closet light, which gave us just enough light to do what we needed to do without making it too bright in there.  At 2:30 in the morning on this date ten years ago, I went into Hannah's room and gave her her meds, which she took without incident.  I went back to bed, but was still lying awake thinking about the MRI scheduled for that afternoon when I heard her softly calling me.  I went back down the hall to her room, thinking she probably needed to go to the bathroom.

I entered her room and flipped on the closet light.  There was an odd, coppery smell in her room.  As I leaned over her bed to see what she needed, I placed my hand gently on her pillow ... and immediately withdrew it.  There was something wet, warm, and sticky on her pillowcase.  I assumed she had gotten sick, and I pulled the closet door open a little wider to allow more light into the room.  I still couldn't see what was on her black pillowcase, but then I looked at my hand ... and it was red.

I almost screamed, but I managed to choke it back.  I didn't want to frighten Hannah or awaken Bethany.  Instead, I just calmly but urgently said, "Brad" ... "Brad" ... "Brad" ... at increasingly louder levels until he woke up and came into her room.  By this time, I had turned on the overhead light and helped Hannah sit up in bed, and the scene was pretty disturbing.  She had been bleeding heavily from her mouth and nose and blood was all over her face, her hair, her shirt, and her white and black comforter.

Our first thought was to call an ambulance, but we lived in a pretty rural area, and realized that by the time an ambulance got to our house we could be halfway to Children's.  We knew we would be driving past a good-sized hospital in Benton on our way to Little Rock, so if we needed to stop there on the way, we could.  We also didn't want to panic Hannah or terrify Bethany, who was still asleep, by having an ambulance pull up our driveway with lights and sirens blaring.  We made a quick decision not to wake Bethany; we did not want her to see her sister in this condition.  Instead, we left her sleeping in her bed and called a neighbor to come stay at the house so she wouldn't be alone when she woke up.

Hannah was remarkably calm; much calmer than we were.  She really didn't even seem to be aware that there was a problem.  She had been sleeping in a t-shirt, which was now full of bloodstains, and as I cleaned her face and neck and helped her get dressed to leave for the hospital, I pulled a clean shirt out of her drawer for her to wear.  Nope, she didn't want to put on a different shirt, and no amount of explaining why she really needed a clean shirt would convince her to change her mind.  So I decided not to fight that battle and we slipped some pants and shoes on her and off we went.

The early hour meant there were few other cars on the road and I'm pretty sure Brad broke every traffic law as he drove.  The bleeding slowed and had nearly stopped by the time we reached the ER at Children's.  We certainly drew everyone's attention when we entered the doors with Hannah sitting in her wheelchair in a heavily bloodstained shirt.  They got us processed quickly and admitted her.  Her blood work revealed very low platelets, which is what led to this bleeding episode.

Surprisingly, her doctors decided to go ahead with the MRI, even with all of this going on.  Always a good sport, she agreed to give it a try.  Brad and I got on either side of her and assisted her in walking from her wheelchair to the MRI table, and then helped her back to her wheelchair when it was complete.  That simple detail stands out in my memory because it was the last time she ever walked.  She had to be lifted from the wheelchair to her hospital bed when we got back to her room after that MRI.

The MRI results were reviewed with us that afternoon and they were devastating, but not unexpected.  We would soon be faced with decisions we never thought we'd have to make on behalf of our teenage daughter.  But for that night, we just settled into the familiarity of the hospital and tried to get some rest.

My email from a decade ago ...

I'm sure most of you know that we were scheduled to be at Children's this morning for an MRI; however, the day has not turned out exactly as planned. I went into Hannah's room at 2:30 this morning as I always do to give her her steroids and she was fine, but then she called me back in about 3:00. When I went in, I discovered that she was bleeding heavily from her mouth and nose, and had been for awhile. We considered calling an ambulance, but then it started to slow a little, so we threw on some clothes and loaded her up. We called a neighbor to come over and stay with Bethany while she slept...we didn't want to wake her up because it was not a pretty scene. Bethany is here with us now, thanks to her Uncle Wes, who brought her to Little Rock later this morning.

We got to Children's about 4:30 and got into the ER. Fortunately, it was not very busy at that time of the morning. They did bloodwork right away, and her platelets were quite low. Platelets are the clotting mechanism in your blood so when your platelets are low, you bleed freely. We were still able to do the MRI (just the brain, not the spine) although she had to have some breaks. We are now up in the Hematology/Oncology clinic getting our second unit of platelets. She is still having some bleeding, but hopefully the platelets will help with that. She is stable right now and resting fairly comfortably, although her blood pressure is staying pretty high.

We were able to visit with an oncologist this afternoon about the MRI results (not our regular oncologist, but one we've seen frequently). She shared with us that the results indicated that the cancer has spread to various points throughout her brain, and there is hydrocephalus (swelling) present. The hydrocephalus is particularly dangerous, because it can cause the brain to compress down into the brainstem, which is the area that controls blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. We will stay here overnight tonight, and tomorrow we will have to make some decisions regarding hospice care. Please pray that we will have the wisdom to make the right decisions for Hannah and for our family. The doctor told us that without miraculous intervention, her time on earth could be very short.

Of course, we are deeply saddened by this news, but at the same time, we are filled with the peace that only God can give. He has been faithful to us through every step of this almost year-long journey, and we know He will be faithful to see us through.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Red Roses On Repeat

This post is #176 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 14, 2009

Valentine's Day.  Exactly one year had passed since Hannah had shown the first symptoms of the brain tumor which was now slowly taking her life.  It had been a roller-coaster year full of MRIs, needle sticks, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, hair loss, platelet infusions, and hospital stays.  We had watched our daughter go from a vibrant, healthy 16-year-old with high academic aspirations to a weak, nearly-blind 17-year-old with the mind of a little old lady with Alzheimer's.   But in spite of the physical and mental changes cancer had wrought, it had not stolen her sweet spirit.

From the time the girls were little, Brad established a tradition of getting them roses on Valentine's Day.  They always looked forward to receiving this special gift from their Dad. 

This particular year, Hannah got a lot of enjoyment out of her roses. She had very little short-term memory by this time, so every time she saw the roses, it was as if she had just received them.  She said again and again, "Oh, Daddy ... they're so pretty. Thank you!"  This was especially significant because she was talking very little at this point.  Sure did make her Dad feel good. 

I remember that day as a sweet, peaceful day spent together as a family, enjoying our time together and gently chuckling at Hannah's exclamations.  She was scheduled for an MRI that Monday, but there was no "scanxiety" this time.  We knew what it would show, and while we didn't like it and our hearts were broken, God had given us a peace about the future. 

I am grateful for that peace-filled day ... because within 48 hours that sense of peace would be severely shaken. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Our Valentine Princess

This post is #175 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 13, 2008

It was Friday, and time for the junior high Valentine dance, and even though Bethany had been out of school since Tuesday, she had made plans to attend.  Since Brad was available to be home with Hannah, I was able to spend the day with her.  We already had her dress, and I enjoyed taking her to get her hair and make-up done that afternoon at my regular salon.  She had plans to ride to the dance with a group of friends, so I figured once we got her all beautiful, she would head out for the evening and I would see her when she got home.

That afternoon, we received a phone call from one of her teachers letting us know that Bethany had been voted as the Valentine Dance princess by her fellow students.  It would be a surprise for Bethany that evening, so she didn't want us to tell her ... She just wanted me to know about it so I could come to the dance and see her crowned if I wanted to.  Of course I wanted to!  We let her leave for the dance with her friends without giving away the surprise, then I drove to the gym so I could be there for the coronation.

Bethany looked beautiful, and I was so glad I was able to be there for her big moment. But oh, what a surreal experience it was!  I had hardly been out of the house at all (other than to Children's Hospital and back) for several weeks, and suddenly I was in a crowded room full of strobe lights and loud music.  I felt awkward and self-conscious, and almost as if I was watching the entire scene unfold before someone else.  And I found myself face-to-face with all these wonderful, concerned people who wanted to know how Hannah was doing.  I struggled mightily to formulate an honest answer to that question when her condition was so fragile.  And how strange it was to see one daughter at a dance so vibrant and alive, while the other daughter was at home just a shell of her former self.  The swirl of emotion that night was indescribable.

Yet I was grateful to have that opportunity to celebrate Bethany and to experience that island of normalcy in the midst of a very choppy sea.  I was so proud of her and the grace with which she was handling all that was going on in her young life.