Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Trip "Home" and A Couple of Prayer Requests

This past weekend we had the opportunity to return to a church that still feels like "home" to us, Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado. We lived in El Dorado for 4 1/2 years, from 1999 to 2003, and we have some wonderful memories of our time there. We made some of our best friends there, who remain dear friends to this day. Our girls were 4 and 8 when we first moved there...here's a picture of them during our time there:
The most important thing that happened in our girls' lives while we lived there is that they both made the decision to receive Christ as their Savior. Here's a picture of Hannah being baptized:

We are so thankful for these decisions...that's how we can know that Hannah is walking with Jesus in Heaven right now, and that someday, we and Bethany will join her!

I wanted to mention a couple of people who are in need of prayer...both of these are young adults who have been battling cancer for many years now. One is Lauren Crook, who I've mentioned in some of my emails. She is really struggling with some issues related to multiple sclerosis, which she now has as a result of her cancer treatments. She is in need of MRI scans, but is unable to stay still enough, due to her MS. Her scans have been rescheduled for July 17th, and we are praying for clear scans and relief of her bothersome symptoms.

The other prayer request is for a young man, Jamie Morris. He has been a patient at St. Jude for 13 years, and has had osteosarcoma nine times. He has had a recurrence, and is currently receiving his seventh series of chemotherapy treatments. He is receiving some new, experimental chemo drugs...we are praying that the chemo will be effective against his cancer, and that the side effects will be minimal.

Both Lauren and Jamie and their families were a great encouragement to us during Hannah's battle with cancer, and we are praying that God's perfect will would be done in their lives! Thank you for joining us!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time passes...

Today marks four months since Hannah left our earthly home for Heaven. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday, and then in other ways, it feels like it's been forever since we've seen her face. We've had Mother's Day, Father's Day, Bethany's birthday, and a family vacation without her now. We miss her constantly, and I suppose that will always be the case. But, God has been faithful to provide comfort. II Corinthians 5:1 is a wonderful reminder: "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands."

Last night, we watched an hour-long special on Farrah Fawcett and her battle with cancer. Now, I know nothing about Farrah's spiritual condition, but I was struck by the apparent emptiness in the interviews I heard with both her and Ryan O'Neal. It just all seemed very sad. Contrast this with the words of my friend Becky's dad, who entered the hospital yesterday with serious health problems: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Either way I will be okay!” Thank You, Lord, for the hope we have in you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don't Waste Your Cancer

I found this list early in Hannah's battle with cancer, and was recently reminded of it again. I think it's so good, I wanted to share it here:

"John Piper writes about life after his diagnosis of prostate cancer. The list below and the full article (found at desiringGod.org) suggest purpose for any Christian in the midst of cancer. It is a time not for defeat and despair but rather it is a powerful experience to reflect on our purposes in life. This means that Christians are to seek to glorify God even when circumstances are most difficult.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

5. You will waste your cancer if you think that "beating" cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your relationships with manifest affection.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ."

I actually think there are a lot of words that could be substituted for the word "cancer"...These ten points could apply to many storms we face in life.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Tribute to Godly Fathers

The Persenaire/Sullivan family has been blessed with some wonderful godly fathers. Here are my girls' great-grandfathers, who were all wonderful Christian men:
John Persenaire

Arthur Kapteyn

Thomas Sullivan

Berne Stahl

John Persenaire was the only great-grandfather that the girls were ever able to meet (although Hannah has met them all now!) Bethany calls him Grandpa Mousie, because he loved to entertain kids by making a "mouse" out his handkerchief. He would get kids to come and "pet the mousie", which would then leap out of his hand with a quick movement of his fingers. He is now in Heaven with Hannah.
The girls have also been blessed with wonderful grandfathers:Charles Sullivan, and

Tom Persenaire.
Both grandpas are a huge part of the girls' lives, and have been wonderful godly influences. Their spiritual leadership in our homes growing up was a great model for Brad and me. All of their children have grown up to serve the Lord, and their legacy will continue for years to come.

The most important man in my girls' life is their dad.
Brad has been an amazing husband and father to our girls. He's always been a very involved dad...changing diapers, coaching sports teams, "being there" at all their activities. As Hannah's health deteriorated, he took a leave of absence from his job so that he could spend as much time as possible with her. He's a fun dad...always ready to shoot some hoops or play catch with Bethany...and a patient dad...always willing to watch Bethany practice her newest cheer or help her with her homework. Most of all, he's the spiritual leader of our home, and has been our rock through the difficult times of the past year. Bethany and I are so blessed and thankful to have him!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Family Game Night

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to play games together. And our favorite game to play is Mexican Train Dominoes (aka "Chicken Foot Dominoes"). We played it many, many times as a family of four...with the girls laughing and teasing each other the whole time. I don't know why, but it seemed like Hannah always lost...no matter what game we played...but she always enjoyed playing. After she left us for Heaven, I could not imagine us ever playing Dominoes without her. But, tonight, we got out the dominoes and we played, just the three of us. And it was fun! We had a good time, laughing and remembering fun times as we played.

It is so encouraging to know that God still has much joy in store for us. Although our hearts are often heavy, and tears still flow readily and often unexpectedly, His presence is always with us, and His comfort is real.

"You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but You will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth." Psalm 71:20

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Saying Good-Bye...

Today we went to the Little Rock Aiport and said good-bye to my brother Steve, his wife, Laura, and their two precious girls, Julia and Katie Joy. They are missionaries in Indonesia, where Steve is a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship. They came home on a six-month furlough in December, and were with us through some of the most difficult days of Hannah's illness and homegoing. They are not scheduled to return to the U.S. for 3 1/2 years, so it was hard to say good-bye...we will really miss them! It will take them about 48 hours of traveling to actually arrive at their home in Indonesia...not easy with two little girls...so prayers for their safe journey would be appreciated. If you would like to read more about their work in Indonesia, check out their blog at www.borneoflyer.com.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Getting Started...

For some time, I've felt God prompting me to do something with Hannah's story. Several people have contacted me requesting copies of all the emails sent out during Hannah's illness, and I have finally decided that a blog may be the best way to make them available for people to read. When Hannah first got sick, she and I discussed the possibility of creating a blog as a way to keep people updated and aware of her situation, but she was a very private person, and just didn't want that kind of attention. So instead, we did email updates, and these emails became a journal of her entire journey through brain cancer and into the arms of Jesus. I have posted all of these emails in chronological order on this blog, and I pray that God will use them in whatever way He sees fit. I continue to be amazed and humbled by how He has used Hannah's story to touch lives!

Hannah's Story...

In February of 2008, our 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, began having some very unusual symptoms, including severe headaches and nausea in the mornings, dilated pupils, and double vision. An MRI revealed a tumor in the pineal region of her brain, which was surgically removed on February 25th. A biopsy of the tumor indicated that it was a glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. She began a six-week series of radiation treatments to her brain and an oral chemotherapy regimen. For several months, all went well...she completed her sophomore year with honors, enjoyed a fun summer, and began her junior year in the fall. MRIs were done every two months, with an "all clear" each time.
In September, she began having symptoms which were eerily similar to what she had experienced in February. An MRI was done, and revealed that the cancer had returned in the form of multiple tumors in her brainstem and spine. We began a new treatment regimen....20 radiation treatments to her brain and spinal cord and two IV chemotherapy drugs. The radiation was quite effective in shrinking the tumors; however, it took such a toll on her body that she was unable to begin the chemotherapy as scheduled due to extremely low blood counts. She was finally able to begin chemo the week before Christmas, but by the first of January, she began to have difficulty walking and her vision began to diminish. An MRI revealed that, in spite of the chemotherapy, the cancer had returned in the original site. The area could not be re-radiated, and surgery was not an option because the cancer was so extensive. We entered hospice care in mid February, and on February 26, 2009, she stepped into the arms of Jesus.
There's more to Hannah's story....The night before her brain surgery, she shared a story with us that she had never told us before. Several months before she got sick, she attended a Disciple Now weekend youth retreat at our church. A special speaker had been brought in for the weekend, and he talked to the students about how God uses storms in our lives to mature our faith, and to allow others to see Him through us. When Hannah went to bed that night, she realized that she had never experienced a real storm in her life, and she prayed that God would give her a storm so that she could be a testimony to others and bring glory to Him. While we don't believe that God inflicted brain cancer upon her in answer to this prayer, we do believe that He was preparing her for what was to come in her life. She faced her storm with courage, grace, and an unwavering faith...never questioning God's purpose or His love for her. In January of 2008, before she was diagnosed with cancer in February, she posted this status on her Facebook account: "Hannah Sullivan thinks this world has nothing for me...I will follow Him." And that she did...she followed Him faithfully right into Heaven.
If you would like to read more of Hannah's story, the following posts are an email "journal" of her year-long battle with cancer and her victorious homegoing. Her prayer was that her life would be a testimony to others...so if you find yourself walking closer to the Lord after reading her story, or if are not a Christian, but find yourself considering the claims of Christ maybe for the first time...you are an answer to her prayer.
If you are experiencing a similar storm in your life, or if you are wondering how to have the kind of peace that Hannah had, we would love to hear from you. Just send us an email at thesullivan4@gmail.com and we will get right back to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to travel this journey with us!
Jill, Brad, and Bethany

The Beginning of the Storm (2.20.08)

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!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 2.21.08 9:09 p.m.

I’m writing this from Hannah’s room (#4728) at Children’s Hospital. We’ve had a long, but good, day. Not much has happened today…she has had an MRI of her spine, a CT scan, and some blood work. The MRI of her spine showed no problems. We have not met with the surgeon yet, but have spoken with a resident, who told us that they will probably do surgery on Monday or Tuesday. The tumor is on her pineal gland and is obstructing the flow of cerebral spinal fluid through the brain, causing her symptoms. They will begin with a less invasive procedure through the skull, remove some cells from the tumor, and test it to determine the cell type. Some cell types are especially responsive to radiation. If it is that type, they will probably just close her up and do radiation. If it is some other type, they will have to do a more invasive procedure and remove it. In the meantime, they are keeping us in the hospital just so they can keep an eye on her. The really good news is that she feels great. She is taking steroids, which is reducing the swelling on her brain, and relieving her symptoms. Her faith is strong, and she has been given a real peace about the whole thing. She has really amazed us. We probably won’t have much news to share over the next few days, but we’ll try to send emails in the evenings to keep everyone posted. Brad has gone home tonight to spend some time with Bethany, and will be returning in the morning. We have been so blessed by all the phone calls, visits, and emails.

Thank you so much…and please continue to pray.
In His Peace, Jill

Hannah Update 2.22.08 11:14 p.m.

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. Adada…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!

Hannah Update 2.24.08 10:09 a.m.

We’ve just been told that our surgery will be in the morning, probably about 7:30. Following surgery, Hannah will be in ICU for about 24 hours. So…we are going to limit her visitors to just family starting tomorrow, probably through Wednesday. We will let everyone know as soon as she is feeling well enough to have visitors again after surgery. In the meantime, she is still feeling great, and visitors are welcome this afternoon (Sunday). We will probably try to get to sleep early tonight, so she’ll be well rested for tomorrow.

Thank you again for all your thoughts and prayers…please continue. Tomorrow will be especially difficult for Bethany, so please pray for her also. I’ll post another update tonight.

God is good, all the time!

Hannah Update 2.24.08 (Night Before Surgery)

Well, it’s the night before surgery, and it’s starting to feel more like it’s really going to happen. For those of you who haven’t been getting the updates, let me fill you in on what we’re expecting for tomorrow. Surgery is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. They will be going in through the back of Hannah’s skull (hopefully shaving off a minimal amount of hair), and removing a small piece of the tumor. They will look at it right then to determine the cell type. If it is a cell type that is sensitive to radiation, they will end the surgery right then and treat it with radiation over the next several weeks. If it is not that type, they will remove the entire tumor. She will have to be in a seated position during the surgery, which apparently creates a few more potential complications that she will have to be monitored for. The surgery should last 3-5 hours, and we will probably spend one night in ICU. She will probably be in the hospital for 5-7 days after that.
They have told us that she probably will not be up to visitors for a few days after surgery, so we will let you know when she is ready for company again. We are so thankful for all of our friends and family who have supported us through these days leading up to surgery…your calls, emails, visits, gifts, etc., have really helped the time pass as we’ve been waiting.

Please pray that God will continue to give Hannah the peace she’s had this week, and take away any fears that she may have. We have placed her in His hands.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 2.25.08 7:17 p.m. (Surgery Report)

Tonight I’m writing for Hannah’s bedside in ICU. We are praising God for a successful surgery! They removed the entire tumor without causing any further swelling or even requiring a shunt to drain off excess fluid. They were also able to remove the ventilator right away. They woke her up immediately after the surgery, and she was able to talk with the doctors and respond to simple commands. Right now, she is in pain from the incision, and her throat hurts from when they put in the ventilator tube, they are about to increase her pain meds, so that should help. She really hasn’t been able to rest yet, because of her discomfort. We should receive a pathology report on the tumor within two weeks. They will do a new MRI tomorrow, and if the results are good, they will move us back to a regular room at that time. We will continue to limit visitors to immediate family until she feels better.

We also have another praise…for the first time in a long time, we could see an improvement in Bethany’s energy level today. She’s going to spend the night with Brad at the home of a friend in Little Rock tonight, so they will be close by. I believe we may finally be seeing the light at the end of this mono tunnel.

Once again, I want to thank everyone for all of your support. Please know that we are reading all of your emails, even if we haven’t had an opportunity to respond to all of them. I plan to print out every email we’ve been sent after we get home, so Hannah can read them all. Words can never adequately express our gratefulness for the love all of you have shown our family.

God is good, all the time!
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 2.26.08 2:38 p.m.

Well, last night was a long night. Hannah has slept very little (probably only 1½ hours) since getting out of surgery about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. She just can’t seem to relax and sleep. We are scheduled for an MRI sometime this afternoon (I’ve learned that hospitals operate on their own time schedule, so we have no idea what time), after which we will hopefully be able to return to a regular room. We do not have a private room in the ICU; we’re kind of in an “overflow” area, which means no privacy and LOTS of noise. Please pray for a relief from pain and the ability to rest. I’m especially concerned about how she’ll do during the MRI today…she will have to lay right on her incision, which is bound to be painful, and she’ll have to stay that way, perfectly still, for probably an hour. The good news is that even though this has been a difficult night and day, her vital signs, etc., have been very good, and her doctors are pleased with her progress. She ran fever during the night, but today that is gone, and we are extremely thankful for that. That caused a bit of concern during the night. Bethany is also steadily improving, and for that, we are very grateful!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 2.26.08 8:28 p.m.

We are back in a regular room tonight, after our MRI this afternoon. The surgeon was very pleased with the results of the MRI, and we were able to look at the new films beside the old ones done in Hot Springs. The tumor is completely gone. The surgeon is confident that they got it all. When the pathology report comes back, we’ll know then if any further treatment will be needed.

Hannah has finally gotten some rest this afternoon, and is sleeping (Praise the Lord!) right now. She has not yet been able to get up or to eat or drink anything. They have finally, tonight, allowed a muscle relaxer in her IV. We’ve learned that following neurosurgery, they are not able to give any type of sedative, because the doctors have to make sure the patient is able to talk, respond, etc.

We have been placed in a semi-private room, so we now have a roommate, a 3 year old girl named Kenya, who also needs your prayers. She has had two tumors removed already, and will be having a brain tumor removed on Monday. It is possible that we could be moved to a private room eventually, and that would be an answer to prayer. We have a much smaller space now than what we were used to in the days prior to surgery. Hannah is definitely not yet up to visitors, and once visitors come back (which we are looking forward to!) we will probably need to limit the length of visits to about five minutes, to keep from wearing her out too much. We’ll know better how she’s doing in a couple of days.

Thank you again for all you have done for our family…we can never, ever thank you enough!

God is good, all the time!

Hannah Update 2.27.08 3:30 p.m.

While Hannah is sleeping, I thought I’d give a quick update. She had a much better night last night, and got some good, beneficial rest. They’ve gotten her up out of bed a couple of times today, which is good. She pretty much falls right back to sleep when she gets back in bed. She has been a little bit sick to her stomach, which we’ve been told is to be expected after brain surgery. A few specific prayer requests…at some point soon, they will have to replace the dressing on the back of her head, which I’m afraid will be very painful for her. She has a vertical incision on the back of her head that appears to be 5-6 inches long. As you know, she has a lot of hair (still does…Praise God!), and the doctor was very generous with the tape over the incision. I’m just not sure how they’re going to get all that tape out of her hair. (By the way, she tolerated the MRI yesterday very well, and it was much shorter than we expected…only about 25 minutes. Thanks for praying about that!) Another prayer request…we would love to be back in a private room. We have enjoyed Kendra’s sweet family, but with two patients and their families in one room, the noise and commotion is doubled, making it difficult to really rest (more for us than for Hannah, actually.) So, please pray for a private room.

One more prayer request—Bethany seems to have taken a small step backward today. The dark circles are back under her eyes. We’re sending her back home to Magnet Cove with her grandparents early today, so she can get some more rest, too.

This may be our only update today…we’re going to try to get to bed as early as possible tonight. Thank you for everything, prayer warriors!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 2.27.08 9:41 p.m.

Thanks for praying…we have just moved into a private room.
God is good, all the time.

Hannah Update 2.28.08

We’ve had a good day of answered prayers and gradual progress. What a blessing to be moved into a private room last night….two babies came in to the neuro floor, and they decided to put them in a room together, so they needed our room. We did not complain! This room (#4727) has two chair beds in it, so Brad was able to stay, allowing me to sleep much better. Hannah has eaten a little bit of solid food today, and was able to take a short walk (with assistance) down the hall, and sit in a chair for a few minutes. She pretty much spends the rest of her time sleeping. We are scheduled for a physical therapy consult in the morning to see if they can help her get her neck loosened back up. So progress is slow, but steady. She is still not up to receiving visitors, so we’re going to continue to limit visitors to immediate family for now.

We will probably be coming home over the weekend, but it may not be until Monday or Tuesday. It just depends how she does. We’re in no hurry…we want her to be well when we come home. The doctor also told us that she will probably be out of school for 3-4 weeks after returning home, so we think she’ll be returning after spring break. Again, it all depends on how she does.

Tomorrow morning they will be removing the dressing from her head. Again, please pray that this goes well, and that it is not too painful for her. The P.T. appointment may be tough too, and I think she’s a little nervous about it.

Bethany seems to be doing better today. We hope she can return to school on Monday.

We are very humbled by the outpouring of love and support our family has received. You have been a blessing to us!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 2.29.08

Another great day of answered prayer! A resident came by about an hour ago and removed Hannah’s dressing. The most painful part was removing the tape from the back of her neck, which took a couple of minutes, then he just ripped the rest of it off, like ripping off a band-aid. So, even though it was rather painful, it was over quickly. That is now behind us, and her incision seems to be healing really well. We had two meetings with the physical therapist today, who gave us some exercises to do to help loosen up those muscles in her neck. She also took a pretty long walk down the hallway. She didn’t particularly enjoy the physical therapy sessions, but I think it really helped Brad and I see how we can best help her get better. She was also able to eat a little more today—a chicken strip at lunch, and half of a grilled cheese sandwich for supper. She still doesn’t really feel up to receiving visitors, so we are going to continue to limit company for now.

I’m going to pass along a new prayer request tonight…we are awaiting the results of the pathology report on the tumor. The surgeon said it would be 1-2 weeks before we heard anything. The results of this report will determine whether any further treatment will be needed after Hannah is completely recovered from surgery. We are praying that removal of the tumor will be all that is needed.

Bethany continues to improve and seemed much more her old self today. We are very thankful that she is finally feeling better!

Thank you again for all your support…it means more than we can say!

God is good, all the time!
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.1.08 (Morning)

We’ve had a good night, and a great morning so far. Hannah had a whole blueberry muffin for breakfast so they’ve taken her off her IV fluids, which will make it easier for her to get around and walk like they want her to. A new prayer request this morning….Brad went home to Magnet Cove yesterday evening with an upset stomach, and this morning he is running fever. He’s going to stay away from us today, because we sure don’t want to get whatever he’s got. Please pray that he recovers quickly, and that no one else in the family gets this virus.


Hannah Update 3.1.08 (Evening)

Just a quick update tonight…we’ve had a really good day, and they have told us that we may go home tomorrow. We will find out for sure in the morning. Brad is feeling better tonight, and so far, none of the rest of us have fallen ill. So, we have lots of praises tonight, and are looking forward to a good night’s sleep!

We have received so many emails from so many different people, it has been impossible to respond personally to all of them. And, I know that not all of our emails are coming through to this yahoo mail account, so it may be that we don’t get to read your email until we get home. Please know that every single email has been read, or will be read when we get home, and I am planning to print out every one to include in a scrapbook for Hannah. So thank you, thank you for all of your support!

God is good, all the time!

Hannah Update 3.2.08

What a wonderful blessing to be home this evening! Just being home has helped Hannah (and all of us) so much! Brad’s parents and his sister and brother-in-law had the house ready for our homecoming, including balloons and welcome signs for Hannah. They even did a “While You Were Out” to Hannah’s bedroom while we were gone. They fixed a good lunch for us before heading home. It’s great to be back to just our family again—no nurses, no doctors, no IV’s, etc.
Brad has completely recovered from his little bug, but is planning to stay home from work for a few days to make sure Hannah and I are all settled in. Bethany is also well enough to go back to school tomorrow, so things are well on their way to getting back to normal.

We will go back to LR later this week for removal of Hannah’s stitches, and hopefully will find out then what, if any, further treatment is needed. She is really looking forward to getting those stitches out, because then she will be able to wash her hair. We are ready for visitors again, although Hannah is a little self-conscious about her appearance since she hasn’t been able to wash her hair for so long.

As a temporary side effect of the surgery, Hannah has lost the ability to look up with her eyes. For example, in the hospital, she was unable to look up at the wall-mounted TV while she was sitting in a chair. She was able to lift her eyes immediately after the surgery, so the surgeon says he knows she is still able to do it, but the swelling at the site of the surgery has caused her to lose that ability. This is apparently a common side effect of surgery in this area of the brain, but is almost always temporary.

We can never say enough how thankful we are for your support and your prayers. God has really revealed His love for us through you.

God is good, all the time.
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.3.08

We’ve had a wonderful day of being home and enjoying our family today. We are scheduled to return to Children’s Hospital at 10:15 tomorrow morning for suture removal and to meet with the surgeon. We are hoping to receive the pathology report tomorrow, which will let us know what, if any, further treatment will be necessary. We are praying for a good report, and that the surgery has fully taken care of the problem. However, if further treatment is needed, we know that God will be faithful to carry us through that, too.

Thank you again for all your prayers…God has really used all of you to bless our family.

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.4.08 (Cancer Diagnosis)

We went back to Arkansas Children’s Hospital today, and Hannah got her stitches out, which was, thankfully a painless process for her. We were able to meet with her surgeon, who shared with us the results of the pathology report.

The results were not what we would have chosen. The surgeon shared the news with us, and then we met with an oncologist who explained what is ahead. The tumor was a glioblastoma, which is an aggressive type of tumor. Now before you all go looking that up on the internet, the oncologist assured us that most of what we might read on the ‘net does not apply in Hannah’s case. It is extremely rare for this type of tumor to occur in the pineal region of the brain, and unusual in someone her age. The prognosis for adults with this type of tumor is not good; however, children, the prognosis is quite good with treatment. He assured us that the tumor itself is completely gone….this additional treatment is to prevent recurrence. The treatment will involve a combination of radiation and medication. Beginning in about two weeks, after her incision is completely healed, she will begin daily radiation treatments for a period of six weeks. We are praying that the side effects of the radiation and medication will be minimal.

The oncologist also shared with us that our surgeon, Dr. Adada, is one of the few surgeons in the nation who actually removes pineal tumors. Most of the time, they are not removed, and are treated with radiation and medication. The oncologist told us that we are very fortunate (we say blessed)that Hannah’s has been removed, because that puts us in a much more favorable position, medically speaking. We know that God has had His hand on the situation and has been directing the doctors from the beginning.

Hannah has a positive outlook and said today that she is ready to get on with it. We continue to see God’s peace flowing over and through our family. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

God is good, all the time!
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.5.08

No new news today…we hope to find out about our first radiation appointment tomorrow. Hannah is feeling better every day. She’s even beginning to ask for school work to do! She was able to wash her hair today and was pleased to find that her incision is completely covered by her hair.

Thank you again for all your prayers…please continue as we enter a new phase in our journey.

God is good, all the time!
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.6.08

Hannah has had another good day today. Some of her teachers came to see her today and brought her some school work, so she can begin getting caught up. We are blessed to be a part of a wonderful school district. Hannah is feeling better and better every day…you would never know she had major surgery less than two weeks ago.

We will be going to UAMS on Monday afternoon for our first appointment with the radiologist. We are not sure what all will take place during this appointment, but we know that the treatments will begin about a week after that. Hannah is hoping to start back to school on Tuesday.

We may not give another update until after our appointment on Monday. Right now, thankfully, there is just not much to tell! We are so thankful for her continued recovery and her unwavering faith and confidence. Please continue to uphold us in your prayers as we want to honor God throughout this experience.

Thank you again for everything.

God is good, all the time!
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.10.08

Today we went for our first appointment with the radiologist at UAMS CARTI. They did a new CT scan and made a “mask” that Hannah will wear every day as she has her radiation treatments. She will have her first treatment this Thursday afternoon at 2:30, and then will have a treatment every week day for the next six weeks. Of course, they took us through the complete list of all possible side effects. She will probably begin the Temodar medication next week, after she’s had a couple of radiation treatments.

Hannah has been feeling very well, and we even all went to church together (for the first time in a long time) yesterday morning. However, she did have a little bit of a headache yesterday afternoon, and then had another headache today, with some nausea. This, of course, has us somewhat concerned, and tomorrow they will be checking her new CT scan from today with one done while we were at Children’s to make sure there is not any new swelling occurring. I spoke with a neurologist at Children’s late this afternoon who said these symptoms could be a result of weaning off the steroids she’s been on. She may also have just gotten carsick on the way home from Little Rock today. She has really been looking forward to starting back to school tomorrow and getting back to a sense of normalcy, and we pray that she will be able to do that.

Bethany also has been feeling great, and went to school all week, with a day off on Friday for snow. However, yesterday afternoon she developed a case of pink eye. So…she stayed home from school today, and we got her some eye drops, which hopefully will clear it up soon.

Some specific prayer requests:

· Please pray that Hannah’s headaches and nausea will subside, and that the new CT scan does not show any additional swelling in her brain. If there is new swelling, we may have to return to the hospital.

· Please pray that the radiation treatments will go well, and that the side effects will be minimal, particularly when it comes to hair loss.

· Please pray that Hannah will be able to return to school tomorrow, and that she will be able to get caught up on all her work.

· Please pray that Bethany will recover quickly from pink eye, and that none of the rest of us will catch it from her!

Thank you so much for everything…we will keep you posted on how we are doing!

God is good…all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.11.08

We had a bit of a rough start to our day today, but things are looking up this evening. Hannah did not feel very well this morning when she woke up, and decided not to go to school, but then began feeling better. I decided to go in to work for the first time since last month, but had not been there very long when she called saying she was sick. I came home and called Children’s Hospital, describing her symptoms, and they asked me to bring her to the hospital. By the time we got there, they had had an opportunity to look at the CT scan we had done yesterday, and were able to tell us that there was no additional swelling in the brain; but that, in fact, the swelling was going down as it should. They believe the nausea is due to the discontinuation of the steroid medication she was taking, and it should resolve itself. They did give her a prescription for some anti-nausea medication, which has really helped her this evening. She really feels that she will be able to go to school tomorrow.

Bethany started running a fever with her pink eye last night, and was still running fever today, so while I took Hannah to Children’s, Brad took Bethany to her doctor in Hot Springs. They gave her an antibiotic shot (which she was not too happy about) and her eye is already looking much better. So, hopefully, she will also be back at school tomorrow.

We are very thankful for the good report we received in Little Rock today. Please continue to pray that Hannah’s nausea will resolve itself soon, and that Bethany will completely recover from her illness, and that our first radiation treatment on Thursday will go well.

God is good…all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.12.08

Just a quick update tonight…Hannah was able to return to school today for the first time since she became sick about a month ago, and she had a great day! She felt really good all day (she is taking an anti-nausea medication) and spent her evening catching up on school work and watching American Idol. I think she really enjoyed feeling back to normal.

Bethany’s pink eye is just about cleared up, but it seems that this infection has brought back some of her fatigue from mono. We brought her home from school early and she spent the evening lying on the couch, hopefully regaining some of her energy.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and encouraging cards, emails and phone calls. We appreciate each and every one! We are trusting God for a good first radiation treatment for Hannah tomorrow.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.13.08

Well, Hannah had her first radiation treatment at UAMS CARTI this afternoon, and it went really well. They will be shooting the radiation from seven different angles during each treatment. On Friday mornings, they open the office really early and close at noon, so Hannah is going to have her treatment at 6:30 tomorrow morning, so she can get back in time for school. Most days her appointments will be at 3:20 in the afternoon, which will allow her to miss a minimum amount of school time. We are very thankful for that. She has been working hard on her school work, and is already completely caught up in two of her classes!

On Monday, we have an appointment at 11:00 with the oncologist at Children’s and she will be starting the Temodar drug. Again, we are praying that the side effects from this treatment will be minimal.

Bethany is feeling somewhat better today, and made it through a full day of school. It’s just going to take some time for her to build her stamina back up.

We continue to feel the peace that only God can give throughout this situation…Thank you so much for keeping us before His throne!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.17.08

Hannah had two appointments in Little Rock today, one for her third radiation treatment at CARTI, and one with an oncologist at Children’s Hospital. The oncologist filled us in on the details of the chemotherapy treatment. Hannah will take a pill called Temodar every day for six weeks, while she’s undergoing the radiation treatments. After that, she will have a month off from all treatments, then she will take a higher strength of Temodar for five days out of each month for approximately the next ten months. She will begin taking the pills tomorrow evening. They really do not expect significant side effects from this treatment. The most common side effect is for blood counts to drop, and she will have to return to Children’s Hospital weekly so this can be monitored closely.

Bethany also returned to the doctor today. She will be having another ultrasound of her liver and spleen this week to check her progress in recovering from mono, and she had some new bloodwork done today. She is still running a low grade fever and not feeling well.
Please continue to pray for Hannah as she begins to take the chemotherapy drug. She did have a little spell of nausea this afternoon, possibly related to the radiation treatment this morning. We are thankful that, so far, for the most part, she has been feeling really well. Also, please remember Bethany in your prayers as she is still struggling to feel better.

Thank you so much for your faithfulness in praying for our family. We have really felt God’s presence and His peace over the last few weeks (hard to believe it’s been three weeks today since Hannah’s surgery)! He truly is good…all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.21.08

Just a quick update tonight, since I haven’t updated in a few days. Hannah had her seventh radiation treatment today, and so far those are going well. She has been having quite a bit of queasiness (even with her anti-nausea medication, possibly from the chemo drugs she started taking two days ago. Please pray that this queasiness will subside, since she has forty more consecutive days of taking these drugs.

Bethany’s energy level has been somewhat better the last few days, but she is continuing to run a low grade fever and has been having abdominal pain. She had a CT scan today, which told us that her spleen is back to normal, and that she does not have appendicitis. We will be watching her closely this weekend to see how she does. We are thankful that we will be on spring break this week, so all four of us will have a much-needed break from school and work.

Another praise report tonight…Brad’s dad went to the hospital today for a new heart cath, which he had done about five years ago. When they got in there, they found that one of his major arteries had an 80% blockage, so they put in a stent and he is spending the night in the hospital tonight. The doctor told him that it was very good that they caught it now and got it taken care of! Brad was able to visit with him after the surgery, and he is already feeling better!
Thank you so much for all your prayers and encouragement! God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 3.22.08

Just wanted to share a praise tonight…Hannah had a good night’s sleep last night (probably the best she’s had since before she went into the hospital) and she has not had any nausea at all today! Thank you so much for your prayers!

Hope everyone has a blessed Easter Sunday….We are looking forward to worshiping the One who rose again tomorrow! He is good all the time!

Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.25.08

Today marks one month since Hannah’s brain tumor was removed, and things are going very well. Yesterday we met with the oncologist, who is very pleased with her progress, and today we met with the radiologist, who told us that the radiation treatments are also going well. Hannah has had a little bit of nausea, on and off, and some mild fatigue. She has completed nine radiation treatments, and has had eight doses of chemotherapy. She has not lost any hair, and so far has not had any skin irritation from the radiation. We are so thankful for all of these blessings, and for your continued prayers and encouragement.
God is good, all the time.
Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 3.31.08

There haven’t been many updates lately, because, thankfully, there has been little to report. We saw Hannah’s oncologist again today, as we do every Monday, and he is really pleased with how well she is doing. Every Monday they will be taking blood, to make sure that her blood counts stay up while she is undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Please pray that her blood counts will remain where they should be, because if they drop, we may have to stop the treatments for awhile in order to let her counts build back up before resuming. We would sure like to get these treatments behind us as soon as we can. Hannah continues to have some queasiness and even occasional dizziness, but so far nothing too bad as far as side effects from the treatments.

Bethany is still struggling with low grade fever, abdominal discomfort, and fatigue. She is having some new irritation in her eyes, possibly a recurrence of pink eye. Our primary care physician in Hot Springs has referred us to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and we have an appointment there at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Please pray that we can get to the bottom of whatever is making her feel so rotten. I will send out an update if we find out anything for certain tomorrow.
Thank you again for all of your prayers, encouragement, and support. We continue to receive daily reminders (cards, emails, gifts, phone calls, etc.) of God’s love through all of you. It means more to us than we can say.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad Sullivan

Hannah Update 4.1.08

This actually will be more of a Bethany Sullivan update than a Hannah Sullivan update. She had her appointment this morning at the Infectious Diseases clinic at Children’s Hospital. It was a bit frustrating at first, because they had lost her file, and had no record of her having an appointment today. By the time they got all of that straightened out, it was nearly two hours before we finally saw the doctor. The doctor did a thorough exam, and took copious notes about all of the symptoms she has had over the last two months. She told us that the blood tests which had been done previously had been negative for the two main causes of mono symptoms, Epstein-Barr virus and Cytomegalovirus. She told us that there are two other viral infections which can cause mono symptoms, but they are not very common and difficult to test for. She discussed with us a variety of other illnesses which can cause fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, etc. (there are LOTS of them!) and drew quite a bit of blood to be sent off for testing. She said the results will come in over the next week to two weeks, and she will keep us posted on the results as she receives them. She was pleased to hear that Bethany’s energy level has definitely improved over the last week or two, and that she is in school and keeping up with her schoolwork.

Hannah has had a good day today, with very little nausea or dizziness. Tomorrow will mark the halfway point of her radiation therapy! She continues to have a wonderful attitude about everything, for which we are very thankful.

Thanks again for all your prayers! God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 4.7.08

Hannah had her 18th radiation treatment today and her weekly appointment with her oncologist at Children’s Hospital. As you know, her blood is drawn every Monday, and they check to make sure her blood counts are within normal limits. If they were to drop to a certain level, we would have to discontinue treatments for a short time while waiting for them to rebound. These verses are always a little nerve-wracking, because Hannah is what the nurses call a “hard stick”. It usually takes two or three nurses to come and stick her two or three times before they can find a good vein. Thankfully, today she had a nurse that was successful on the first try. The oncologist came in and visited with us for a few minutes and explained that it is usually at this point in the treatment that he sees blood counts begin to drop, then went to check the results of her blood work. When he returned, he jokingly told us that Hannah’s counts are so good, she could donate blood! Her white cell count was a little low, but he explained that that is to be expected when undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. So, we are praising God for this good report!

Hannah is still going to school every day, and keeping up with all of her school work. She is tired in the evenings, but for the most part feels good. She is beginning to experience some hair loss from the radiation, and this is difficult for her. She dreads washing her hair, because that’s when she is able to see the most loss. To look at her, you still can’t tell that she’s lost any, because she has such thick, curly hair. Hopefully, it will just thin somewhat, and that will be all. Please pray that she will be able to deal with the emotional aspect of possibly losing a significant amount of hair.

We are still awaiting test results for Bethany. She continues to run a low grade fever (99.7 tonight) and has abdominal pain from time to time. However, her energy level has definitely improved, and she is clearly feeling better overall.

Thank you so much for all of your continued prayers and kindnesses. We truly feel God’s love through all of you!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 4.8.08

Just a quick update tonight…we finally heard from the nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where Bethany had her blood work done last week. Everything she was tested for turned out to be negative…which is good news! They had told us that if that happened, it was probably an indication that her illness was viral in nature and would just eventually run its course. She has also really been feeling better this week, which of course, makes us feel better, too. We are thankful to know that she does not seem to have anything serious.

Hannah and I took some time off of school and work today to attend a special program at the cancer center at St. Joseph hospital here in Hot Springs. It is a program designed for women who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. A lady came and talked to the group about wigs, make-up, etc. She’s had a lot of experience with women undergoing radiation treatments, and she looked at Hannah’s hair and told us that she didn’t feel she would lose much more than she already has. This was very reassuring to hear, of course! When we went for her radiologist appointment this afternoon, her technician also felt that she probably wouldn’t lose much more. By wearing her hair in a ponytail, she is able to cover up the thin spots really well. So we are thankful for a good day, and we are reminded that God is good…all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 4.15.08

Hannah had her weekly blood draw done yesterday at Children’s Hospital…and thankfully, only one “stick” was needed this time. The nurse called today with the results. All of her counts are still really good. As a matter of fact, the nurse said that Hannah was just “sailing through” all of this. She has eight radiation treatments to go, and fifteen more doses of chemotherapy. Her hair is continuing to thin somewhat, but she is able to fix her hair so that it is really not noticeable to anyone but herself. It appears that the biggest issue she will be facing of the next week and a half of radiation is fatigue. The treatments are really beginning to wear her out . She is still going to school every day, but often falls asleep in the car on the way home from radiation in the afternoons. Please pray that she will have the energy to continue going to school and keeping up wither schoolwork.

Your prayers, emails, cards, and phone calls continue to lift us up and carry us through. We are so thankful for you, our dear friends and family! God has really used you to bless our family, and to remind us that God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hannah Update 4.21.08

Today was our weekly blood work day in Little Rock. Once again, thankfully, they were able to draw her blood easily…we’ve found a good nurse, Melinda, who seems to know just how to find Hannah’s elusive veins. The doctor was still very pleased with how well Hannah is doing overall, but her platelet count had dropped pretty dramatically from where it was last week. So…she will not be able to take her Temodar (chemo drug) for the next seven days. They will draw blood again on Thursday to make sure that her platelet count is improving. The good news is that she will be able to continue her radiation treatments since she is so close to being finished (four more days!) There was a lot of discussion between the doctors as to whether she could continue the radiation, and we were relieved when they concluded that she could continue. She is really beginning to experience some of the side effects of the radiation treatments (fatigue, nausea, dizziness) and we really don’t want that to have to be prolonged. I think she’s actually a little bit relieved to have a break from the Temodar, though!

Here are some specific prayer requests:
· Fatigue and queasiness have kept Hannah home from school last Friday and today. This week (tomorrow & Wednesday) she has to take her end-of-course Geometry examination. This test is given over two days, for about 3 hours each day. Please pray that she will feel well enough to get through these next two days of testing, and that she will be able to concentrate and do her best on the test.
· Please pray that her platelet counts will improve, and that she’ll be able to continue the Temodar soon (she only has nine more doses that she has to take in this round of treatment).
· Please pray that the radiation and chemotherapy treatments are effectively destroying any possible cancer cells that could be remaining.

Ephesians 3:20-21a – “Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, to Him be the glory…”

God IS good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 4.22.08

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”—Psalm 10:17.

Just a quick update this evening…After a bit of a rocky start this morning, Hannah was able to go to school and take the first half of her end-of-course geometry exam. She felt good most of the day, and really believes she did well on the test. She will take the second half tomorrow. After receiving her radiation treatment this afternoon, she only has three more to go! Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement…It means more to all of us than we can ever say!


Hannah Update 4.24.08

Hannah had another blood draw today to check her platelet level. Our favorite nurse was not there…so she had to be “stuck” twice and they were still not able to get a vein! They finally did a finger prick and got enough blood drop by drop to get a platelet count. We were a little bit disappointed to find that her count had actually dropped slightly since Monday. It took so long to get Hannah’s blood that we were late to her radiation appointment by the time they got the results back, so we basically had to run out the door as soon as we heard them, and did not have an opportunity to talk to the doctor. Apparently, the doctor was not overly concerned by the drop, since she let us leave and did not feel it was necessary to come out and talk to us. We will go back on Monday for our regular weekly appointment. In the meantime, Hannah is off her chemotherapy drug, which I think she is enjoying.

We are so thankful for several things:
--Hannah has felt better today than she has all week...very little nausea this morning!
--She made it through both days of her geometry exam and feels that she did well.
--Tomorrow will be her last radiation treatment (at 6:30 a.m.!)
--She has been able to remain in school throughout her treatments.
--Although her hair has thinned a great deal, she still has her hair!
--God has provided His peace to Hannah and to all of our family throughout the last two months.
--We are thankful for all the friends, family, and even strangers who have been lifting us up in prayer.
--We are thankful that God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 4.25.08

We have many blessings to share with you today, our dear prayer warriors! Today marks two months since the surgery to remove Hannah’s brain tumor, and God has been so good to us!
This was Hannah’s last day of radiation…and we just found out that it is also her last day of chemotherapy, at least for another month! As you know from the updates, her platelet count has really dropped over the last week. She had new bloodwork done yesterday, but we weren’t able to stay long enough to visit with the doctor because we had to hurry to our radiation appointment. So this morning I called the clinic to talk with the nurse and find out the details about the platelet situation. She told me that Hannah’s platelets are at 31,000, and they don’t even consider giving platelets until they drop to less than 21,000 (Normal is 150,000 – 400,000.) Then she told me that the doctor has decided that she can discontinue her chemo drug for now (she only had nine days left out of 42). He believes she has had enough of it for now, and that after her MRI on May 19th, her platelets should have rebounded enough to begin the 5-day-per-month chemo drug. This will be the same drug she’s been taking, just a slightly higher dose. She will take this drug five days per month for ten months. And…yet another blessing…she can begin getting her weekly bloodwork done in Hot Springs, instead of going to the oncology clinic at Children’s every Monday. That means (Lord willing!) we won’t have to make another trip to Little Rock until May 19th!

So, at least for the next few weeks, Hannah will be treatment-free, and we look forward to her regaining her energy and strength. She has truly amazed us with her positive attitude and her quiet faith through the last two months. Your prayers and encouragement have been a big part of that.

“…Suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts…” Romans 5:3-5 NIV

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 5.6.08

There have been few “Hannah” updates lately, because thankfully, there has been very little to report! She had her weekly bloodwork done in Hot Springs yesterday afternoon (one stick!) and we received the results today. Her platelets have risen to 40,000; still far below the normal range of 150,000-400,000; but we are finally on an upward trend! She has been feeling much better since finishing her radiation treatments a little over a week ago. Her energy is slowly returning…not nearly as many naps in the recliner after school. Her appetite has been a little slower in returning…food still just doesn’t taste very good to her. The next big date on our calendar is May 19th. She will have an MRI that day, and we will find out a little more about the rest of her treatment plan.

Many of you have asked about how Bethany is doing, and I’m happy to report that she appears to be pretty much back to normal. She still has an occasional day when she feels tired and worn down, but those days are becoming fewer and farther between. We are so thankful that we are down to the remaining 2 ½ weeks of school…I think we will all really enjoy having some time off!
We are so blessed to know so many people who love the Lord and who love our family. Your prayers have really lifted us up and carried us through the last couple of months! God is truly good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 5.12.08

Well, it’s Monday, so that means bloodwork for Hannah. But first, let me back up and fill you in on the last few days. Hannah has been running a low grade fever since last Tuesday, and has been experiencing a great deal of fatigue over the last few days. She even missed three days of school last week, more than she missed the whole time she was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Today’s bloodwork showed an increase in her platelet count (up to 60,000 from 40,000 last week), which is great, but there was a rather significant drop in her hemoglobin count. The oncology nurse explained that this is probably the cause of the symptoms she’s been having, and Hannah now has an appointment to have a blood transfusion at Children’s Hospital at 9:00 tomorrow morning. She said that she believes this will make Hannah feel much better.

We are so thankful that we have an answer to the symptoms Hannah has been having and that it is something relatively easy to “fix”. We are also so thankful for all of our friends and family who faithfully lift us up in prayer before the Great Physician. And we are so thankful that we serve a God who is good, all the time!


Hannah Update 5.13.08

We are rejoicing tonight that after receiving two units of blood today, Hannah is feeling much better! We arrived at the hospital at 9:00 this morning, she began receiving the blood about 11:45, and we left the hospital at 4:30. On the drive up this morning, Hannah was very quiet and listless; on the way home, she was laughing and talking…and hungry for the first time in a while! What an amazing difference! Please join us in praying that this transfusion will give her blood the boost it’s been needing and that her counts will continue to improve from this point on. Your prayers have certainly carried us through on a day by day basis…Thank you!
God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 5.18.08

Just a quick update and prayer request tonight…

Hannah has felt good this week, ever since her transfusion on Tuesday. Her energy level has been much better and her appetite has really improved. She has obviously been feeling much more like herself than she has since all of this began back in February. Tomorrow morning she is scheduled for an MRI, which will be the first she’s had since the day after surgery. Please join us in praying that results will confirm that the tumor is completely gone and that the radiation and chemotherapy has done its job in keeping it from coming back. After the MRI, we will be meeting with the oncologist to hear more about her future course of treatment.

Thank you so much for your prayers…we are still so humbled and overwhelmed by the emails, cards, phone calls, and gifts our family has received during this season of our lives. God has truly been faithful through the storm, and He is good, all the time!

Brad & Jill

Hannah Update 5.19.08

We just arrived back home after a long, but good, day at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. We are praising God for a good MRI report! The doctor said there was no sign of the tumor returning or of any other problems. She was very pleased with what she saw.

We did have a little bit of a scare with Hannah’s blood counts. They put in an IV when they did the MRI because they had to use a contrast dye for that procedure. They first tried to put it in her arm, but that vein quickly blew, and they ended up putting it in the back of her hand. They left it in so that it could be used for the blood draw which we knew would be coming later on. Well, when they tried to draw blood through that IV later on, it was really a struggle. It took forever, and they had to keep flushing the IV with saline to get it to work right. Anyway, when the doctor came in with the results of the bloodwork, she told us to get ready for a platelet infusion, because her platelet count had dropped from 60,000 last week to 9,000 today! After we explained to her about the problems they had had getting the blood drawn, she decided that maybe it was a bad sample, so she ordered another one. By this time, the IV had been removed, so they stuck Hannah two more times (unsuccessfully) in an attempt to get a vein, and finally did a finger stick and got enough blood drop-by-drop to do another platelet count. Thankfully, this time it was at 62,000, so no transfusion of platelets was necessary!

They also gave Hannah a breathing treatment while we were there today. This also caught us a bit off guard, because she has not had any respiratory problems at all. They explained to us that when a person’s blood counts are low, they are at especially high risk for a particular kind of pneumonia, and this was an antibiotic treatment to ward off any possible infection. She will have this type of treatment once a month for the duration of her chemotherapy program.

Today we found out a little bit more about the future of Hannah’s treatment program. Once her platelet count gets high enough (a minimum of 75,000) she will start back on her chemo drug, and she will take it for five consecutive days, then have 28 days off, then five days on, 28 days off, etc. At least, that is the plan. The doctor explained that if her counts drop again, she’ll have to have more than 28 days off in between treatments. She will have to have ten of these five-day chemo treatments, so she said we could figure on about a year’s worth of treatments ahead. When she took the chemo drug before, it was at a strength of 160 mg per day…now it will be at a strength of 340 mg per day. She assured us that it should not cause hair loss or too many other side effects, other than problems with blood counts, so Hannah’s blood will be monitored closely.
Even though Hannah has a lot ahead of her, we feel that we reached a major milestone today by having a clean MRI report. Once again, we are so thankful to God for carrying us to this point, and know that He will complete the good work He has started in Hannah. And we are so thankful to all of you who read these email updates, for being so faithful to uphold us in prayer before Him.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 5.28.08

Just a brief update tonight…Hannah had her bloodwork done yesterday, and her platelet count was up to 111,000, which was a great improvement over the 62,000 she had last week. So, that means she gets to start her chemo drug back tonight. She will take the drug for five days, then have 28 days off. This pattern will continue for ten cycles. This is a much higher dose of chemo than she took initially, so please join us in praying that the side effects will be minimal. The biggest side effect of this drug is depressed blood counts, as we’ve already seen. Please pray that her blood counts will stay up, and that she will be able to avoid any infections over the next several months.

Again, thank you so much for your continued faithfulness in prayer for Hannah and for our family. God is truly good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 5.31.08

I have some specific prayer requests to share with you tonight. As of today, Hannah has taken three days of her first five-day chemotherapy treatment. The first day, she was slightly queasy…yesterday, she was a little more queasy…and this morning, she was very nauseated and very sick. She’s feeling a little better this evening, but at bedtime tonight, she’ll have to take another dose (actually five pills) that she knows will make her sick tomorrow. That’s a very difficult thing to do. Then tomorrow night, she’ll have to do it again. And she’s got nine more rounds of this treatment to go! Please pray for her strength as she takes this medication, and for relief from the nausea. Also, please pray that she will not become discouraged as she faces the months ahead.

Thank you again for your prayers…and for the many encouraging emails you send. We are not able to personally answer all of them every time, but please be assured that we are reading all of them, and God is using them to strengthen us and Hannah. He truly is good all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 6.2.08

Hannah has finished her first five-day round of chemotherapy…praise the Lord! Thankfully, she has not been as nauseated today, which we hope is a sign that her body will eventually adjust to this higher dosage of chemo. She also had her blood drawn today, and all of her counts are good…not quite normal, but good enough for now. We’ve been told to watch for a possible drop in her counts over the next week or two.

Once again, your prayers have helped us through a difficult few days. We are looking forward to the next 28 days, in which Hannah will be treatment-free, before starting her next five-day round of chemo. God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 6.9.08

Hannah had her weekly bloodwork done today in Hot Springs, and we are praising God for near normal results! All counts were slightly low, but are closer to normal than they’ve been in a long time (with the exception of her white blood count, which was just a little bit lower than it was last week). She has also been feeling much better over the last several days since completing her first round of the higher-dose chemotherapy drug. So much better, in fact, that she and Bethany left this morning to spend a few days with her grandparents and four of her cousins in Van Buren, Arkansas. This is something they do every summer, and we were afraid that she wouldn’t be able to go this summer. We are so thankful that she is feeling well enough and that her counts have held strong enough for her to be able to do something “normal” for a few days!
Again, we are so thankful for your prayers and encouragement! God’s people have been so good to our family throughout the last few months…we can never thank you enough!
God is good all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 6.16.08

Time for our weekly update…Hannah had her bloodwork done today, as she does every Monday, and her counts overall were pretty good. Her platelets have really dropped off, from 138,000 last week to 47,000 this week, but I think that is to be expected following chemotherapy. They won’t give her platelets unless they drop below 21,000…but they also won’t let her start her next chemo treatment until they get up to at least 75,000. The best news is that she has really been feeling good over the last couple of weeks. She had a great time with her grandparents and cousins last week, and was able to do lots of fun things, like horseback riding and kayaking. We are so thankful that she felt good and was able to enjoy herself the whole time.

Thank you so much for every prayer you bring to the Great Physician on our behalf. You will never know the impact these prayers have on our daily lives. God is truly good all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 6.23.08

This morning Hannah had her monthly appointment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and all went well. Our first step, of course, was the blood draw, and fortunately, our favorite nurse was there, and she was able to draw Hannah’s blood with only one stick. Then, after quite a bit of waiting, we got to see the oncologist. He was very pleased with Hannah’s progress, and he shared the results of the bloodwork with us. All of Hannah’s counts have gone up (her red blood count is in the average range for the first time in a long time!), except for her platelets, which have dropped even lower than they were last week (down to 32,000 from 47,000). She was supposed to start back on the oral chemo drug today, but they will not start it back until her platelets are at least 75,000. He said that it is not unusual for the platelets to drop way down following these early rounds of chemo; and said that over time, as her body adjusts, it shouldn’t be as much of a problem. So…we will be postponing her next round of chemo for at least another week. While Hannah is happy about the temporary reprieve, we hate to get too far off schedule with her treatments, although the doctor didn’t seem to think it was a very big deal. The good news is that Hannah is feeling really good right now. Having low platelets apparently does not affect how you feel; it just causes you to bruise and/or bleed easily because platelets have to do with the clotting process. The doctor also gave us a prescription for a different anti-nausea drug, so hopefully when she does start back on the chemo drug, it won’t make her feel quite so bad.

We are so grateful for the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc., that God has put into our lives who have really helped us along this road over the past four months. And we are so thankful for all of you who read these emails…many of whom we don’t even know…who pray for our family regularly. Your prayers and encouragement have truly made a difference in our lives. You have truly been a blessing to our family!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 7.1.08

Time for our weekly update! Hannah had bloodwork yesterday morning in Hot Springs and the results were mixed. Her platelet count was up slightly, which is good, but her other counts (red/white blood cells, iron level) had all dropped somewhat. I talked to the oncology nurse at Children’s Hospital this morning, though, and she didn’t seem to be concerned. Apparently, this is to be expected. So, we will be postponing the chemo for at least another week, probably two.

The good news is that Hannah is feeling really good, and is looking forward to at least another week of being treatment-free! When we saw the doctor at Children’s last week, he told us that they will decrease the amount of Temodar in this next round of chemo from 340 to 300 milligrams, since the last round was so hard on her counts. He also prescribed a different anti-nausea medication that he believes will help her not feel so sick when she does have to take the Temodar again.

Hannah’s current treatment plan calls for her to have an MRI every two months, and her next one is scheduled for July 21st at Children’s Hospital. MRIs always make us a little bit apprehensive, so it will be nice to get that behind us. In the meantime, we are thankful that Hannah is having a relaxing, enjoyable summer, and is feeling so well.

Thank you again for all of your prayers…your love and concern for our family has just been amazing! God truly is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 7.15.08

Hannah had her weekly bloodwork done a day late this week, because we spent the day yesterday celebrating the life and homegoing of Brad’s grandmother. Frankie Mae Stahl Owens was a precious, godly lady whose life was an example to the whole family and to all those around her. She will be greatly missed, but we are all rejoicing that she is now in Heaven, where she most wanted to be!

Hannah’s counts have all risen somewhat this week, including her platelets, which are now at 87,000. That means she will start her next five-day round of her chemo drug tonight. The doctor has decreased her milligrams from 340 to 300, in hopes that it won’t take her platelets quite so long to recover from this dose. They have also prescribed a different anti-nausea drug, which we are hoping will be more effective in keeping her nausea under control. Starting a new round of this treatment is kind of bittersweet…we hate for Hannah to have to go through it when she’s been feeling so good lately, but at the same time, it is good to get back on track with her treatments again, because it will just bring her closer to getting finished! She will have eight more rounds to go after this one is completed.

Next Monday (July 21st), we will go to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for her bloodwork, her antibiotic breathing treatment, and an MRI. This will be a very full day, and Hannah may still be feeling a little sickly from having just finished her chemo medication a couple of days before. Then on Tuesday night, we will be meeting with a volunteer from the Make-A-Wish foundation, which Hannah is really looking forward to!

Please be in prayer that this round of chemo will cause less nausea than the last one, and that our appointment on Monday will go well, with a good MRI report. Your prayers have meant so much to us over the last four months, and we continually thank God for all of you!

God is good, all the time!

Hannah Update 7.21.08

Well, we had a good visit at Children’s Hospital today. We first went to the oncology clinic, where an IV was inserted (to be used for the MRI contrast later) without too much difficulty. They drew Hannah’s blood and all of her counts have improved…some even within the normal range! She had her antibiotic breathing treatment, and then we went down to the MRI suite. About 45 minutes later, we were sitting with her oncologist looking at today’s scan compared with her original scan from February 20th. How awesome to see that wonderful, clear MRI picture right beside the MRI picture with the tumor! The oncologist said that today’s scan looked really good to him, but the radiologist will have to read it and we should get the final results tomorrow. We are again very thankful for what God has done!

We are also thankful that this round of chemotherapy has been easier on Hannah than the last one. She took her last dose on Saturday night, and is already feeling pretty much back to normal today. Her nausea was much better controlled by the new drug, and other than some off and on queasiness and fatigue, the five days went by much more quickly than last time! Thank you for praying! She will have eight more rounds of chemo to go, with the next one to start in 23 days. This timetable could change, though, and probably will, based on her platelet counts. It’s nice to know that she will have at least 23 days without any side effects from treatments!

Your prayers have truly made a difference in our lives….God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 8.4.08

This will once again be a short update, because, thankfully, there’s not much to say. Hannah had her weekly bloodwork today, and her counts have dropped slightly, as expected at this point in her chemo cycle. They are probably a little higher than they were last month at this point in the cycle, so that is good. She also went to see her ophthalmologist today, at the recommendation of her oncologist. As a result of her surgery, she has some remaining double vision and some difficulty with her upward eye gaze. Neither of these problems is too bothersome…she is able to read without difficulty, and the upward eye gaze is only a problem when she is in a seated position and has to look up at someone standing beside her. She is able to look up, but it requires some extra effort. We’ve been told that these problems may yet resolve themselves, and our visit to the ophthalmologist was just so he could get a baseline indication of where she is right now. Next Monday, we will go to Children’s for our monthly appointment.

I would like to mention one more young man who is in need of prayer right now…Seth Penny, 21 years old, dove off a pontoon boat earlier this week and broke his neck. He underwent surgery today in Hot Springs, and his prognosis is uncertain at this point. He does have some movement in his arms, and has had some feeling in his toes. He will be facing extensive rehabilitation over the next several months. His parents, Fred and Mary Penny, are friends of ours here in Magnet Cove.

Psalm 73:28….But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God; that I may declare all Your works. God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 8.11.08

We had our monthly visit to Children’s Hospital today for routine bloodwork and Hannah’s antibiotic breathing treatment. Hannah’s blood counts were really good…almost all counts were in the normal range, except for white blood cells and platelets, which, of course, is to be expected. Her platelet count was exactly the same as it was last week (72,000), which was really good, because we really had expected it to drop lower this week. She was scheduled to start back on her chemo medicine (Temodar) this week, but her platelets have to be at 75,000 in order to start. So…we are glad she will get to enjoy her final week of summer, but it means that she will probably have to start the Temodar next week, which is the first week of school. At the same time, she will be glad to get yet another round of treatment completed…after that, she’ll only have seven more to go.

We are so thankful that Hannah has felt really good for the majority of the summer, and we’ve been able to enjoy time with family and friends over the last few weeks. We are also glad to be getting another school year underway, and to be getting closer every day to the completion of her treatments. God has truly been gracious to us, and we are so very thankful.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 8.18.08

After a great first day of school, we went to our doctor’s office at Hot Springs and got Hannah’s bloodwork done. Her platelets were at 102, which is well above the magic number of 75. So…she will be starting her chemo drug tomorrow night, and will take it for five consecutive days. That way, she’ll only have to be in school for three days while taking it, and the last two days will be over the weekend. She’s been feeling so good lately, it’s hard to make her start back on the Temodar, but it will get her that much closer to finishing these treatments. Please pray that she will not feel too bad while taking it, and that it won’t interfere with school too much. This week should give us a good idea of how the school year is going to go.

Your prayers for our family have meant so much to us over the last few months….God has truly used all of you to bless our family! He is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 8.25.08

Today marks six months since Hannah had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from her brain. In some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday, and in some ways, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. Since that date, Hannah has undergone six weeks of daily radiation and chemotherapy, three additional 5-day rounds of chemotherapy, three MRIs, monthly visits to the oncology clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and weekly blood draws. There is no doubt that our entire family has been changed forever from this experience. We have all had our faith strengthened and have been amazed at the outpouring of love, support, and prayer we have received from our friends, family, and total strangers. It is incredible to me how many people read these emails and pray for our family…many people we don’t even know. We can never, ever thank you enough for what you’ve meant to our family.

Hannah started her junior year of high school this past week, taking her chemo medication on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We are so thankful to report that the side effects were much less problematic for her this time. Her nausea was much better controlled by medication, and her only real problem was fatigue. She was able to go to school without much difficulty (only needing to leave early one day), and was able to use the weekend to rest up. It’s so encouraging to know that the chemo should not interfere too much with school, because she has seven more months of these 5-day rounds to go. It looks like our biggest concern will be with her immune system, which will be compromised as long as she is on the chemo. We’ll just have to try to minimize her exposure to illnesses and bugs that will be going around this fall and winter.

We went today for her weekly bloodwork, and all of her counts, though a little below normal, were good. She is still a little bit tired from this past week, but overall is feeling great. She will enjoy the next three weeks she has off before beginning chemo again around September 15th. Again, thank you so much for your prayers and support!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 9.2.08

We are so thankful to have very little to report this week…Hannah’s bloodwork today was very good, with most counts near normal, and a platelet level of 120,000. Next Monday we will go to Children’s Hospital for our monthly visit, and on September 29th, Hannah will have another MRI. Her school year has gotten off to a very good start, and she has been feeling fine. She does tire fairly easily, and sometimes sleeps for an hour or so after school, but for the most part has been able to go about her daily activities without slowing down. We were even able to take a trip to Mountain Home over the holiday weekend to spend time with family, and squeezed in a shopping trip to Branson while we were there! God has truly blessed our family, and we are so grateful! Thank you so much for your continued prayers!

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 9.8.08

Hannah had her routine monthly visit to Arkansas Children’s Hospital this morning, and it went really well. As usual, the doctors and nurses were amazed at how healthy Hannah looks and feels as she goes through this experience with cancer. And it’s true! She looks (and feels!) like any typical, happy, healthy sixteen year old girl. Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!
Her blood counts were all pretty good today, although her platelet count has dropped, as expected at this point in the chemotherapy cycle. If we follow the pattern of the last few cycles, though, it should be high enough by next week for her to start her chemo medication again, on schedule this time! We’ll find out for sure next Monday. Our next hurdle, after that, will be her next MRI, which is scheduled for September 29th. We are already praying for a clear scan, with no sign of tumor regrowth.

Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 9.15.08

Good news…Hannah’s counts were high enough today for her to start her fourth round of chemo this week! This is the first time she has actually been on schedule to take it when she’s supposed to (should be a 5 day on/23 day off schedule). We’ve always had to wait for her platelets to get high enough for her to start back, but they were right on target today. So, she will take her first dose Tuesday evening and continue through Saturday evening. That means she will probably have some nausea and fatigue Wednesday through Sunday of this week. Last month was not too bad, though, so we are hopeful that this month will be even better! Please pray that the side effects will be minimal, and won’t interfere with school too much. After this week, she’ll have just six more rounds to go!

Your prayers mean so much to us….more than we can ever say! Thank you for being so faithful to pray for our family.

God is good, all the time!
Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 9.22.08

Hannah finished her fourth round of chemo this week, but it's been complicated by a bout with the stomach virus. Her first two days of chemo went pretty well, just some fatigue, and then things went bad. She woke up about 2:00 Friday morning really sick. She felt really bad all day Friday and Saturday, but seemed much better yesterday (Sunday). She went to school this morning, but then had to come home because she was really feeling sick again. We are not even going to get our weekly bloodwork today, because I think the drive to the doctor's office would be awfully hard on her. I've been in contact with Children's Hospital, and the nurse there told me they've seen several kids who have had the stomach virus for four days...which is how many days Hannah has been sick now. Thankfully, she was able to keep down her Temodar (and she's finished with that now) and has been able to eat and drink at least a little bit over the last few days. Our main concern at this point is dehydration, so please join us in praying that her stomach will settle, and that she'll be as good as new soon!

Thank you so much for your prayers...they continue to carry us day by day!

"Praise be to...the God of all comfort...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." I Cor. 1:3-4 NIV

God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

Hannah Update 9.23.08

Well, Hannah woke up sick again this morning, so we are heading to Children's Hospital tomorrow to see her doctor there. She was supposed to have an MRI on September 29th, but the doctor has re-scheduled it for tomorrow afternoon. He wants to be sure the continued nausea is not related to any changes going on in her brain. We still feel reasonably certain that the nausea is due to a stomach virus, but it will be good to get it checked out. Please join us in praying for clear MRI scans tomorrow!

Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

God is good, all the time! Thank you for your prayers!
Jill & Brad