Wednesday, January 16, 2019

So Much Love

This post is #162 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 16, 2009

We were loved so well during Hannah's year-long cancer journey.  My "summary" email from the day before prompted a virtual flood of emails filled with prayers, well wishes, encouraging words, and above all ... love.  Even now, ten years later, I don't have the words to express how much the emails, cards, letters, gifts, phone calls, texts, etc., meant to our family as we walked through the fire.  I still have them today ... and I am still so thankful.

My email from a decade ago ...

What an amazing response we received to our email from yesterday! It is so wonderful to know that Hannah is being lifted before the Father’s throne by so many…What a blessing and comfort! There literally is not time to adequately respond to all of your emails, but we want you all to know how much we appreciate them. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m keeping all of the emails we receive…I’m actually cutting and pasting each one into a Word document…and, as of yesterday, that document is 203 pages long. And those are only the emails we’ve received since September! I have another binder already completely filled with emails received from February through September. We’re collecting cards, too…we’ve filled two baskets, and we just started a third one yesterday. All we can say is, “Thank you!”

We are at Children’s for another platelet infusion today, and we will return for her third chemo treatment next week…normally we come on Mondays, but due to the holiday, our next appointment will be Tuesday. Brad’s sister and brother-in-law and their brand new baby are coming to visit us from Texas this weekend, and Hannah is looking forward to meeting her new cousin, Faith, for the first time. Again, we thank you for your prayers and support…we know that God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Telephone Game

This post is #161 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 15, 2009

Do you remember playing the Telephone Game when you were a kid?  It was best played with a large group of kids sitting in a circle.  The first kid would think of a sentence (the longer the better) and whisper it into the ear of the kid sitting next to him.  Then that kid would whisper it to the next one, and so on around the circle.  The last kid would then say out loud the sentence that was whispered into his or her ear.  It was inevitably quite different than the original sentence which started the game. 

That's what started to happen in our community and the communities surrounding it as Hannah's illness progressed.  We began to hear rumors that the word on the streets was that Hannah's death was "imminent" or that the doctors had given her "two weeks to live."  Neither of these things were true, at least as far as we knew, and we felt we needed to address these rumors before they went any further. 

By this time, my emails were going out to hundreds of people directly.  I was sending to so many people, I had to send my emails in three separate batches.  A large number of the people who received them directly forwarded them to others ... so thousands of people were receiving our updates on Hannah.  What a blessing it was to know that so many people were loving and praying for our family!  We received countless emails in reply, and I still have all of those emails printed out and in binders. 

My email from ten years ago today was our attempt to catch everyone up on our story and dispel the rumors going around while acknowledging that Hannah could be nearing the end of her earthly life ...

This really isn't going to be a "Hannah Sullivan update" as much as it's going to be "Hannah Sullivan summary". We've had some things on our hearts that we really wanted to take some time to share with you...

Many of you who receive these email updates joined our journey in the middle, and some of you only very recently, so we wanted to take a little time to review the events of the last eleven months. In February of 2008, Hannah began having some very unusual symptoms, including severe headaches and nausea in the mornings, double vision, and dilated pupils. We took her to our regular doctor, who referred us to an ophthalmologist, who referred us to a local hospital for an MRI. The MRI was done on February 20th, and indicated the presence of a tumor in the pineal region of Hannah's brain. We entered Arkansas Children's Hospital the next day, and on February 25th, surgery was done, the tumor was successfully removed, and sent off for a biopsy. She remained in the hospital for about six days following the surgery. When we returned about a week later for suture removal and to find out the results of the biopsy, we were told that the tumor was a Grade IV glioblastoma multiforme, a particularly aggressive type of cancer. We met with our oncologist that day, and he told us that this type of tumor was extremely rare in a girl Hannah's age (she was 16 at the time), but because she was so young and healthy, he felt that she had a 60-80% possibility of a cure. Hannah began a 6-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, about a week earlier than was scheduled, and the results were not good. On September 25th, all four of us went to meet with Hannah’s oncologist, and he explained to us that her cancer had returned, in the form of multiple tumors in her brain and spine. He outlined a new treatment regimen which we were to begin immediately, but told us with tears in his eyes that even with treatment, her chance of cure was less than 5%. On the way home, we decided as a family that we would only share that 5% number with immediate family and a few very close friends and then disregard it, because we don't believe that our God is a God of percentages. Hannah began a series of 20 radiation treatments to her brain and spinal cord, and was to begin a new IV chemotherapy regimen within a month after completing radiation. The radiation was quite effective in shrinking the tumors; however, it took such a toll on her body that we were unable to begin the chemotherapy as scheduled due to extremely low blood counts. She was finally able to start the chemotherapy treatments the week before Christmas, and she is scheduled to receive a total of four (one every two weeks) to be completed on February 2nd. At that time, a scan will be done to determine the effectiveness of the chemotherapy and to help determine what her treatment plan will be from that point. We feel that she is in very good medical hands at Children's Hospital, as this is the same chemotherapy protocol that she would be receiving if we were at St. Jude's or Duke.

We've had a bit of a setback just over the last couple of weeks, in the form of worsened double vision (she's had some double vision ever since the surgery) and a greater feeling of being off balance, which has made reading impossible and walking somewhat difficult. An MRI done on January 4th showed a return of cancer cells in the area of the original tumor. This area cannot be re-radiated, and another surgery is not possible. We are proceeding with the chemotherapy treatment plan, which our oncologist acknowledges will need intervention from God to be effective. Hannah's mind is as clear as ever, her wit is sharp, and her faith is strong. She continually tells us not to worry about her...that she is going to be "just fine."

We share all of this with you now for a couple of reasons...one is that we have heard through various sources that some misinformation has arisen in our local community and some of the surrounding communities. It has been said that Hannah's death is "imminent" or that she's been given only "two weeks to live". We certainly understand how this type of misunderstanding can occur...we've all played the "Telephone" game and know how a story can easily and innocently become confused. Please know that we are not angry or upset by this...we just want to make sure the information is corrected. Our doctor has never given us the impression that death is imminent; nor has he given us any kind of time frame such as this. If that type of news is ever given to us, we will pass it along as we feel is appropriate.

The second, and far more important reason we share all of this (including the 5% number) with you right now, is to let you know that we are continuing to pray boldly for Hannah's complete healing, as we know so many of you are. The more bleak Hannah's medical situation appears to be, the more glory God can receive by providing a miraculous healing. He is an amazing God, and we know, without a doubt, that He is able to heal her, no matter what the medical doctors may say. At the same time, we do understand that in His sovereignty, He may choose to heal her by taking her to heaven. And when viewed from an eternal perspective, we know that her future is secure. Our job, as those who love her, is to boldly pray for her healing, and to be ready to accept her Father's will for her life. How great our rejoicing will be if He chooses for her to remain on this earth for many more years...and what an amazing testimony she will have! Far more difficult will be the "sacrifice of praise" we will give if He takes her home sooner than we would choose (I think I finally truly understand that phrase). In the meantime, we will live one day at a time, enjoying every moment we have with our family, and remembering that God is good, all the time.

Jill & Brad

"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You." Psalm 39:7

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name." Hebrews 13:15

Monday, January 14, 2019

Platelets and Pasta

This post is #160 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 14, 2009

Platelet infusions had become a routine part of our every-other-day life by this time.  A normal platelet level is between 150,000 and 400,000.  Over the last few months, Hannah's platelets had fluctuated from a low of 3,000 to a high of around 60,000 ... nowhere near where they needed to be.  Low platelets combined with the chemo drugs she was taking could result in uncontrolled bleeding, thus the ongoing infusions.

Hannah's appetite was good at this point, probably stimulated by the steroids, and she still enjoyed going out to eat.  With her poor vision and motor skills, it was a bit of a challenge getting her in and out of restaurants ... but if she wanted to go, we took her.  On this particular day, it was Macaroni Grill, and she enjoyed her favorite dish -- Penne Rustica. 

My email from ten years ago today ...

We're at Children's Hospital and they have just started Hannah's platelet infusion. She was at 51,000 today, which is pretty good, but we need to make sure they stay up. Her PICC line worked without any problem today, which was a relief! Hannah's symptoms have not worsened, for which we are thankful, and she is not having any pain or discomfort at all. She has requested lunch at Macaroni Grill today, so we will be heading there as soon as we're done here. God is so good to us, all the time!

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Jill and Brad

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Heavy Burden for Small Shoulders

This post is #159 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 12, 2009

At this point, I rarely went anywhere other than back and forth to Children's Hospital every other day.  I was no longer working, I was unable to attend church, and even my trips to Walmart were rare.  As Hannah's motor skills and vision began to decline, Brad began to accompany us more and more often on our trips to Little Rock to assist with transporting her.

While we were consumed with Hannah's care and hospital visits, 13-year-old Bethany was still participating in life.  She was going to school, playing basketball, cheerleading, and attending youth group.  As such, she became the face of our family in the community ... and the one who had to field all the well-meaning questions about her sister's condition.  What a heavy burden that was for her!  Those questions were difficult enough for us as adults to answer, much less a child at her tender age.  The doctors had not yet told us that Hannah was dying ... there still seemed to be some hope that the chemo drugs would be effective ... but even Bethany could see that unless God miraculously intervened, that would be the outcome.  So when you are repeatedly asked how your big sister is doing, and your own young heart is breaking at her deteriorating condition ... how do you respond?

One day we pulled Bethany out of school and had her accompany us to one of Hannah's appointments.  While she was gone, the school counselor (at our request) called an assembly of all Bethany's classmates and teachers and requested that they stop asking her how Hannah was doing.  That seemed to help, at least while she was in the school setting.

Such a heavy burden for such small shoulders.  

My email from a decade ago today ...

It's Monday, so we are at Children's for our regular clinic day. They had a little bit of trouble getting her bloodwork done today...her PICC line would not give a blood return, so they had to stick her to draw blood. Thankfully, they got a good vein on the first try. We just got the results back, and her platelets have dropped to 31,000, so she will be getting platelets today. Hopefully, her PICC line won't give us any trouble during the infusion...I'm not sure what we do if it doesn't.

Hannah seems to have stabilized right now, as far as her vision and her balance are concerned, and we are thankful for this. We used the wheelchair for the first time today, just to come in to the hospital and get to the clinic, and it was really helpful. Hannah seems to be adjusting to the situation really well. 

We would ask that you pray for Bethany, though...it's been difficult for her to see Hannah going through these changes over the last couple of weeks. And because she's in school and out in the community every day, she continually fields questions from well-meaning people who are concerned about Hannah and our family. Sometimes this can be difficult for her. So please keep her in your prayers, as well as Hannah. We hope to bring her with us to Children's next Monday, when Hannah gets her next dose of chemotherapy, just so she can feel a little more involved in her treatment.

We have received so many wonderful emails, phone calls, cards, gifts, etc., over the past couple of weeks. I wish we could respond to every one personally, but there are just too many. Please know that we are keeping every single email and card and we treasure each one. Thank you for keeping us reminded that God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Manna for Each Day

This post is #158 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 10, 2009

When I was a little girl, sitting in my Sunday School class in the basement of First Baptist Church of Phillips, Wisconsin, I learned all about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years, and how God gave them manna to eat. Our teacher described manna as little wafers that tasted like honey. I remember wishing I could taste manna, because I knew I would like it. Anything that tasted like honey had to be good. I remember thinking the Israelites were really lucky because they got to eat that stuff every day. Little did I know that someday I would be eating manna every day myself.

Let me explain.

When Hannah's brain tumor was found, my mind was flooded with "What Ifs". What if it's cancer? What if she's never the same after brain surgery? What if she dies during surgery? Then, once she had survived the surgery with basically no after-effects, and we found out it was cancer, a whole new set of "What Ifs" took over. What if she loses her hair? What if the chemo makes her really sick? What if her brain is damaged from the radiation? What if she doesn't survive this?

If you had asked me at the beginning of this journey if I could handle...

shaving my daughter's head for her...

watching her gradually lose her vision...

pushing her in a wheelchair when she could no longer walk on her own...

hearing a doctor tell us she had a less than 5% chance of survival...

listening to her struggle to communicate because she could no longer find the words...

feeding her when she could no longer feed herself...

holding her hand as took her last breath...

...I would have said, "No way. There is no way I could ever, EVER do any of those things! I am not strong enough to do all of that." And I would have been right ... There is no way I could have done any of those things on my own. But God gave me manna in the form of His strength every day.

Do you remember how God told Moses to instruct the Israelites regarding the manna? They were only to gather enough for each day. Did you catch that? Only enough for each day! Some of them tried to save themselves a little work and gathered some extra for the next day. Do you remember what happened to that manna? According to the ESV, "it bred worms and stank." (Exodus 16:20)

In the same way, God gave our family manna for each day .... just enough for each day. We couldn't look ahead into the future and worry about "What Ifs". We just had to trust God for our manna each day. If we did try to look too far ahead and let the worries and what ifs take over ... well, it just got wormy and stank!

The other thing the Israelites had to do was go out and gather the manna (Exodus 16:16). It didn't just fall into baskets for them ... they had to go out and get it. In the same way, I think we have to seek God's strength, and then be willing to receive it when He gives it. There were plenty of times when it would have been easier just to curl up into a fetal position and be angry about, or at least question God's plan for our family. We had to be willing to open our hands and receive God's gift of manna.

Finally, the manna was sweet like honey (Exodus 16:31). When I look back on it now, there were many moments of sweetness during Hannah's illness. Even though the journey itself was excruciatingly difficult, there are some sweet, precious memories that we wouldn't have otherwise, if not for her storm. Just the awareness of and appreciation of "good days" is a priceless gift.

Ten years ago today we were in need of manna as we acquired a handicapped tag for our car and made arrangements for a wheelchair.  My email from that day ...

We're at Children's waiting for platelets ... she's at 55,000 today, which is good, because she hasn't had an infusion since Monday. That means that these platelets were all made by her body. They still want to give her some, since we're heading into the weekend.

We have not yet seen any improvement in her vision or balance since starting the steroids. If anything, her balance may be worse ... we had to walk into the hospital today arm in arm to make sure she didn't fall. We talked to our specialty nurse today about getting a wheelchair, and she said she will have one delivered to our house, probably over the weekend. We've also gotten a handicapped tag to hang from the mirror in the car. She is somewhat frustrated by her limitations, but is still in good spirits. I think it's harder on us than her. She's still sleeping quite a bit, but her appetite has improved with the steroids.

A wonderful friend shared a passage from 2 Kings 19 this week and I wanted to share it with you...

Assyria was bullying King Hezekiah. The Assyrians were boasting of the power of their armies and how all the other kingdoms had fallen to them...no other gods had been able to stop the mighty Assyrians. But the prophet Isaiah sent these words of God to Hezekiah just as a reminder that He was in charge and not those who lived in the world:

"Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard ..." 2 Kings 19:6

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Monday, January 7, 2019

Wheel of Fortune

This post is #157 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.



January 7, 2009

Hannah's original tumor site (and the same area where cancer cells were now regrowing) was in the pineal region of her brain.  The primary job of the pineal gland is to produce melatonin, a hormone that modulates sleep.  That gland had taken quite a hit of radiation ... twice ... and it seemed to have gone into overdrive.  As Hannah's vision and balance issues increased, so did her need for sleep.  She began to sleep more and more during the day.  It wasn't really because she was fatigued; she just couldn't stay awake.  Her doctor told us that it could be the opposite ... that the damage to the pineal gland could cause her not be able to sleep!  Even though I wished she was awake more, I was thankful that she had the ability to peacefully sleep.

In addition to the ongoing double vision, her pupils were now constantly dilated due to intracranial pressure.  This made it impossible to read or do anything that required close-up vision, such as text on her phone or look at social media.  She was able to see the television fairly well, so when she was awake, we generally passed the time watching TV.  The one time of day she always seemed to be awake was early evening when Wheel of Fortune came on.  We would watch it as a family, and even though she could barely see the screen, and might have even dozed off for a second or two while the contestants were spinning the wheel, she could beat every one of us when it came to solving the puzzles!  Her mind was still as sharp as ever.

As her cancer progressed over the next few weeks and her cognitive skills did begin to deteriorate, she might not know what time of day it was or remember that she had just eaten five minutes earlier ... but she could still solve those Wheel of Fortune puzzles!  Still makes me smile today.

My email from ten years ago ...

Just a quick update...we're at Children's Hospital again today at the Hematology/Oncology Clinic for bloodwork. We had been told that Hannah would get platelets today since she didn't get them yesterday, but her platelet level was 63,000 today, so they have told us that she will not need an infusion after all. We will return on Friday for more bloodwork and a platelet infusion if needed. We have received several emails since yesterday from people who have asked about donating blood or platelets for Hannah. Children's Hospital does discourage people from donating for specific patients for a variety of reasons...mostly because there are so many people who need blood or blood products. We certainly do encourage you to donate, however!  Apparently, donations tend to drop off around the holidays, and that may explain the shortage of blood products lately.

Hannah continues to have vision and balance problems. She is not able to see well enough to read with her double vision, and she has balance problems when walking. The location of the tumor also makes her want to sleep a lot, so she takes several naps each day. We are hopeful that with the steroids and the chemo treatments, these problems will resolve themselves over time. Please pray for strength for her as she deals with these frustrations. She is just as sharp as ever cognitively, and we are so thankful for that.

God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Reeling

This post is #156 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 6, 2009

The remainder of that brief hospital stay passed in a blur.  The sudden roller-coaster plunge of the last couple of days had taken a toll on us.  The news that the "very faint stuff" seen in the area of the original tumor on Hannah's MRI from just three weeks ago was now "regrowth of cancer cells" had left us reeling ... especially after being told that everything was stable.  The sudden introduction of an additional chemotherapy drug with an entirely new slew of side effects was also a bit much to take in.  And then there were the concerns about administering either of these chemo drugs with her difficulty in maintaining adequate platelet levels, but the risks of not giving the drugs outweighed the potential risks of giving them. 

At this point, we just wanted to go home and huddle together as a family.

Before they would release us, though, Hannah's doctor wanted her to have a platelet infusion.  They sent over to the blood bank for the platelets ... and there were none available.  While we waited, they contacted numerous other locations around Little Rock where platelets might be found to no avail.  Apparently there were no platelets in all of central Arkansas.  At last they allowed us to go home with instructions to return the next day for an infusion.  What a relief to finally get home where we could begin to process the events of the last few days!

My email from a decade ago ... 

We should be heading home from Children's momentarily. Hannah had a good night, with no side effects at all from the chemotherapy she received yesterday. We are so thankful for that! One of the drugs can cause some rather unpleasant gastrointestinal problems, and she had no sign of that at all. 

They wanted to do a platelet infusion before we left, but there are no platelets available in all of Little Rock right now, so instead we will return tomorrow for an infusion. Then we will come back again on Friday for another one. Right now, we are just looking forward to spending the night at home! Thank you again for all your prayers ... God is good, all the time!

Jill and Brad

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Body Blow

This post is #155 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 5, 2009

After the long day of sitting around the ER and the stress of waiting for MRI results, we were happy to finally be admitted to a room where Hannah could at least stretch out and get comfortable in a real bed.  We were so relieved by the good MRI report we'd received from the resident and the thought that maybe a few doses of steroids could resolve her vision and balance issues, we didn't even mind staying in the hospital overnight. 

We woke up that morning with a renewed hope that maybe ... just maybe ... the treatments were working.  Maybe all the increased issues we'd been seeing weren't actually signs she was leaving us, but just side effects of the chemo.  After all, her MRI was good!

Then came the body blow. 

Hannah's oncologist came into our room and gently explained that the emergency room resident had not read the MRI correctly. 

My email ...

We are still here at Children's Hospital and our oncologist just came by to see us. He shared with us that the information we were given about the MRI yesterday in the ER was not exactly correct. Apparently, there is some regrowth of cancer cells in the site of the original tumor, and that is the cause of the symptoms Hannah is having. That area cannot be re-radiated and another surgery is not an option, so we will be continuing with the chemotherapy as planned. 

He was somewhat concerned that the MRI results did not indicate that the chemo has had any effect yet as far as cutting off the blood supply to the tumors, but he acknowledged that he's never scanned anyone after only one treatment of  this particular drug. It may take multiple treatments for there to be any effect. He is also going to add in another chemotherapy drug to her treatment plan (Irinotecan), even though her platelet counts are still not as high as he would like for them to be. She is getting platelets right now, and will be getting the chemo drugs also this afternoon. 

We will spend the night again tonight, and should be coming home tomorrow. She does seem to be feeling better due to the steroids, but she has been sleeping almost around the clock, which the doctor explained is due to the location of the tumor.

As you can imagine, this news has come as quite a blow, but we are comforted by the knowledge that God is in control. We have placed Hannah in His hands, and we know that He loves her even more than we do. Please pray along with us that this chemo treatment today will begin the process of obliterating these cancer cells, and that Hannah's symptoms will begin to decrease. We know that even in the midst of a storm, God is good all the time.

Jill and Brad

Friday, January 4, 2019

Emergency Room Visit

This post is #154 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.

Photo credit: Stephen Downes on Foter.com / CC BY-NC
January 4, 2009

We were truly thankful for the time Hannah was able to enjoy with our extended family over the Christmas season, because once the holidays were over and everyone had headed home, her health unexpectedly began to decline.  Double vision had been an ongoing issue since she was first diagnosed, but it suddenly worsened and she struggled to get her eyes to focus together.  A feeling of being "off balance" was also part of her normal daily life, but virtually overnight she began having to lean on the wall for support as she walked down the hall.  With this troubling and sudden increase in symptoms, I called the oncologist on call at Children's Hospital (it was a Sunday morning) and we were told to bring her right in for an MRI.  Once we got there, I sent out a quick email  ...

We are at Children's Hospital this morning, waiting for an MRI. Over the last couple of days, Hannah has had increased double vision, difficulty focusing her eyes together, and a greater feeling of being off balance. She's unable to walk down the hallway without staggering. So, I called the on-call oncologist this morning, and she had us come to the ER at Children's...we have to go through the ER since it's Sunday. Please pray for a good scan, and that these symptoms will diminish. I don't know if we will get results today, but we will keep everyone posted as events unfold.

God is good, all the time!

Jill

Oh, that was a long day.  No emergency room is known for its comfort, and the one at Children's was no exception.  Hannah's vision and balance issues seemed to be magnified as she perched on the edge of the small examination table.  Fatigue was also weighing heavily on her and she attempted to lie down and sleep on that little table as the hours passed.  At some point during the day we left the ER for the MRI suite, and returned to the same little room when it was complete.  Then we waited some more for someone to come in and bring us the results.  For Brad and I, this was an incredibly heavy day.  Even as we prayed for good news, we knew that was probably not what we were going to get.  What other explanation could there be for this sudden increase in symptoms than new tumor growth?  Of course, we could not share these concerns with Hannah, or even discuss them with each other, since she was sitting right there.

Then there was a knock on the door, and the resident doctor came in to share the MRI results.  With unspeakable relief, I sent the following email at 5:00 that afternoon ...

"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow..."

We just heard from the resident doctor who is here on duty in the ER. The MRI showed no dramatic changes from the one done a few weeks ago! She said that the tumors on the brain stem were slightly more bright than they were on the last MRI, but there were no new lesions or any major changes that had taken place. She said there was no real clear indication of increased intracranial pressure, but that the tumors are in a location that could cause that, and they believe that the symptoms Hannah is having are due to slightly increased pressure in her brain. 

So...they are going to admit us and keep us overnight, starting her on a fairly high dose of steroids in an attempt to decrease this pressure. They also just want to observe her to make sure there are no increased symptoms. Basically, as she explained it, it's kind of a good news/bad news situation...the good news being that her MRI is relatively stable with no obvious indication of any new problems, and the bad news being that they don't know exactly why she's having these symptoms, but they have a plan to bring them under control. So we are breathing a sigh of relief tonight, and praising God for answered prayers again!

Tomorrow we will have our regularly scheduled clinic appointment, and we will be able to discuss all of this with our regular oncologist. As far as we know she will still receive her chemo treatment tomorrow.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers for us today....we have really felt them throughout this rather difficult day. God truly is good all the time, and we are so thankful for His people!

Jill and Brad

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Platelets with Julia

This post is #153 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.


January 2, 2009

Following Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law came to spend a few days with us.  This was a very special treat because they are career missionaries, and years can pass between their visits. They were able to accompany us to one of our Children's Hospital platelet infusions, and that's where this picture was taken.  It's one of my favorite photos from that entire year.  Hannah's cousin Julia had never really been exposed to much television, and she was completely engrossed with Dora the Explorer on the room TV.  The yellow strip on Hannah's shirt is her hospital  bracelet which was supposed to be worn around her wrist.  We were there so often, she rarely put them on her wrist anymore ... she would just stick the adhesive end to her shirt.  No need to cut it off at the end of the appointment!

This is also one of the last photos of her before things really began to unravel.

My email from ten years ago today ...

We're here at Children's Hospital getting platelets again today. Thankfully, her platelet level was at 66,000 today, which is a good improvement over where she's been for the past few weeks. She will continue getting them three times a week, though, until she reaches 100,000 and stays there. She did not get her chemo on Wednesday of this week like we thought she would...they decided to wait until Monday, which is her normal clinic day. We are thankful that we've gotten to spend lots of time with family and friends throughout the Christmas season, and that Hannah has felt well most of the time. Fatigue continues to be her biggest hurdle, but her spirits are good, and she has really been able to enjoy our time with family and friends.

It's kind of nice to have 2008 in our rear-view mirror, and we are anxious to see where the Lord will lead in 2009. The biggest blessing of 2008 has been all of you, our faithful prayer warriors, who have been so wonderful to keep us lifted up before the throne. Thank you!

God is good, all the time!