John

July 19, 2017

Have you ever sat praying with your child, and he or she prays for something, and you think to yourself, “Oooo, that’s not gonna happen”?

It happens occasionally at our house, but it’s usually not too big of a deal.  Theo has prayed for a German Shepherd a million times, and I’ll just say, “Oh bud, there’s really no room for a German Shepherd at our house.”

Well, on this particular night, I sat driving the car while Theo prayed from the back seat.  As I listened to his prayer request, I thought, “Oh Lord, can you please make that happen for him?”  Let me rewind.

Friday July 7th was a scheduled chemo day.  Leading up to Friday, Theo had consistently complained of a headache, every day, several times a day.  Theo never complains.  Goodness, he was bowling the day he was diagnosed with Leukemia in first place.  So after six consecutive days of complaining all day of a headache, and with no signs of sickness in our house in any of the others, I, along with my business management degree, concluded that Theo had a brain tumor.  They have always said that the instance of brain cancer in boys with Leukemia is significantly higher than girls.  So much so, that they treat boys with Leukemia an entire year longer than girls with Leukemia.  I was worried.

With my parents in charge at our house and Scott off from school for the day, the three of us drove to Theo’s chemo appointment.  Scott and I had prayed fervently the night before that our doctor would take our concern to heart and help us figure out what was causing Theo’s headaches.  I love our team at CHOP and they did indeed take us seriously, from the intake nurse all the way up to the head oncologist.  Theo’s counts were sky high and he passed a neurological exam, so that was encouraging.  They also explained to us that a brain tumor was not a concern, (oops), but instead the concern would be Leukemia in Theo’s brain.  The only way to know that for sure would be a spinal tap, and they were open to scheduling a spinal tap ahead of time if the headaches continued.  We were to wait out the weekend and call on Monday if he still had a headache.  Scott and I felt satisfied with their conclusion and were content waiting through the weekend to see if Theo felt any better.  And it was nice to know that my tumor theory was a little off track.

Chemo went smoothly, we headed back home, and Theo and I fell asleep on the couch.  Theo woke up around 3pm with a temperature of 102.7.  We knew that meant he had to be hospitalized within an hour in case of an infection.  We knew we couldn’t make it to the city in under an hour, so we agreed that I would take Theo to our local hospital. I even called CHOP to tell them what was going on, and they said to go and have the local ER call them for instructions.

Now before I go on, we love our local hospital.  I have given birth there many times and my father had heart surgery there just a few years ago.  They are wonderful people and brilliant professionals.  However, I can now honestly say, it is not a cancer hospital.

Theo and I enter into the ER.  They asked me if anything weird was going on, and I replied Theo had chemo earlier that morning and he’d been having headaches all week, but our CHOP team was aware of that.  That’s when things went downhill.  First we were sent for a cat scan.  Then we found ourselves waiting in the hallway for a chest x-ray.  I called Scott and whispered into my phone, “I think we’re on the wrong track here.  I don’t know what to do.  He needs a blood culture and antibiotics immediately.  They haven’t even accessed his port.  What should I do?”  It was a tough spot, because I had just been reminded in the morning that my business management degree didn’t help much in the cancer world, and yet the downtown nurse had prepped me with what I should expect from the ER and this wasn’t it.  I was racking my brain; Do I humble myself?  Do I speak up?  Can someone please help our son?

Once we returned to our triage room our nurse explained that they couldn’t access Theo’s port.  They didn’t even have a port kit in the building.  They wanted to do two arm sticks, but they couldn’t answer how they would take a blood culture from his port line.  Theo started crying.  The nurse left the room.  I whispered to Theo, “I’m going to get you out of here buddy, I’ll take you to CHOP.”  With my best combination of humility and assertion I said to the doctor, “I’d like to leave and I’d like to take him to CHOP.”  It actually worked.  They called CHOP, they cleared us to travel, and we left.

It was now 6:45pm.  It had been four hours since we discovered Theo’s fever.  There was no gas in the car, neither of us had had dinner, my cell was on low battery, we still didn’t know why Theo had such a high fever, and I was discouraged.  So, I put my big girl pants on, I filled the gas tank, got us milkshakes at McDonalds, bought a phone charger from Staples, and headed down Route 3.  At the very least, it was a beautiful summer night.

I turned to Theo in the back seat and I said, “Let’s pray buddy.”

He prayed, “Dear God, please help me to get a boy nurse to do my port.  Amen.”

Ooo.  A boy?  Nurse? In the ER?  Who has experience with ports?  “Amen,” I choked.

I can’t even type this without tearing up, honestly.  It was now 8pm, we were in our triage room of CHOP’s downtown ER, we’re the only people there, and this young, healthy man bounced into our room.  He pulled down his shirt collar exposing a scar and said, “Hey buddy, guess what this is?  It’s my scar, from my port.”

I will never forget that moment.  John was indeed a boy, a nurse, and a cancer survivor who boasted he used to access his own port.

Needless to say, our night went really well from that point on.  It was so well worth the grief of the previous five hours.  John took great care of Theo.  Oh, and, John found 3 bull eyes on Theo’s back.  Remember the headaches?  Theo tested positive for Lymes.  A small bump in the road, but so much better than a brain tumor.

It’s those speechless moments that carry us along the long roads in life.  May the Lord grant you your own speechless moments and the strength to keep on going in between.

And, if you think of him, will you please pray that Theo heals from Lymes?

Matthew 18

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

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Trending Downward

November 29, 2015

As a parent, you never want to hear that your kid is trending downward. Academics, sports, therapy, and especially during a battle against cancer, it’s just not a phrase you want to hear.  That’s how our November is coming to a close, but I’ll back up a little.

A Night Away
We started November with a chemo day and it went well. The following day Scott and I left for an overnight trip to Cape May, alone, together. This might seem normal to you, but it was anything but normal for us. We have been married for 16 years and our tradition is to go away for one night a year. This is probably a result of our simple family budget, but also a very genuine sense of contentment. We don’t really long to be away from our kids that often. I guess year #16 will go in the history books as a year of luxury, because this would be our second night away this year. We had a blast.

MorningWalk2

Our House
For about a week this month we were contemplating the sale of our house. Forget cancer and pregnancy and working three jobs and homeschooling, I was sure we could pack up our house and move in the midst of it all. We love our current house and really believe it was custom built for us. The only detail we can’t seem to settle on is bedrooms. Right now we have 4 girls sharing one bedroom and it’s getting crowded. We tried moving the older two girls down to the basement last year but it wasn’t the right solution.

Last weekend my dad found an old farmhouse right down the road from us with many bedrooms and many bathrooms. Our kindhearted and trusted real estate agent (message me for his info) humored us with a walk thru on Thanksgiving Eve. We knew right away it was too much for us to handle. And our kids were not impressed. We came home and each one said, “Mom we love our house, that other house was awful.”

I think as a parent you always want to give your kids the best. Sometimes we doubt ourselves and wonder if we’re doing them wrong. It was really the best Thanksgiving present to me to hear our kids say they were content where we are.

Black Friday
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in our perfect-for-us home with both sets of grandparents. Our Black Friday was then another chemo day. The timing was great because Scott was off from school and he always loves the chance to take Theo to CHOP. I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to stay home on CHOP days. I know it’s good for Scott and good for Theo, but I feel like I’m literally handing Scott my heart at the front door.

Since the kids and I didn’t have any plans, we drove up to KOP and surprised Theo at the end of his appointment. He didn’t look happy to see us, check out the pic, but instead climbed into my lap and hid his face. He’s pretty self-conscious of his CHOP life, and I think he missed me just as much as I missed him.

10inChemo2

That’s where the ‘downward trending’ talk began. Scott was texting me updates earlier so by the time I had filled up my gas tank at WaWa I knew Theo’s hemoglobin was low. I could feel my eyes stinging with tears as I raced up the turnpike. November had felt so normal I had almost forgotten what it was like to ride the cancer roller coaster. Once the ten of us settled in around Theo’s la-z-boy chair, our lead doctor came to say hi.  All of his numbers were low, she said, and they didn’t see many baby blood cells indicating a low fresh production supply. I would have liked to blame it on the lambasted chemo, but she suspects it is something else.

They are preparing to give Theo a blood transfusion as early as Tuesday of this week. They will also begin blood work tests to determine if there’s an underlying problem that’s hindering his blood cell production. Our friends and family are braced to help back home on Tuesday and Wednesday, so hopefully by the end of the week we’ll know more.  Will you please pray for Theo?  Please also pray that we will clearly see the warning signs if he needs a transfusion sooner than Tuesday.

Christmas Eve
Can I share one more thing? Theo’s next appointment is a spinal tap on Christmas Eve. I’m sad about that. My intellect tells me there are many families who spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, and many families who will spend Christmas week in the hospital, and relatively speaking our circumstances are much easier. But there’s a spoiled brat inside of me who didn’t want to spend Black Friday at CHOP, and who especially doesn’t want to spend Christmas Eve at CHOP, watching her son under sedation and separated from the rest of the family. I’m stuck in spoiled brat mode and I’m feeling sorry for all of us.

Will you please pray for me, for Theo, for our family? I hope that somehow we can be a blessing to someone at CHOP on Christmas Eve. What a great time to be around other people who are hurting. I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity because of a self-centered heart.

Thank you kindly

Matthew 16:24 – 27
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

A Good Day

October 2, 2015

This morning went really well. The kids were excited to spend the day with their friends and Theo was excited about a special day out with Mom. I was especially thankful for his outlook as we packed his snacks and prepared for the morning commute. I had been increasingly heavyhearted as the week went on and Theo’s cheerfulness was a blessing. I’ve never told him what a spinal tap is, he’s never asked, but it’s a word in his vocabulary. He relates it with taking a nap in a procedure room, extra special snacks, and cartoons on the couch when we get home. For now that’s good enough for me.

Theo’s 3 blood components, red, white and platelets, were all in an acceptable range. His ANC is still running low, which again means he isn’t able to fight his own battles. They discussed lowering his chemo dose but concluded that they would keep it as prescribed. They explained it’s better to have him low but kill the cancer now then to go easy on him and have the cancer reappear in the future. How could I argue?

I am thankful for God’s grace, your prayers, great friends and modern medical technology. Together they made a day like today go smoothly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38EVco7eba0

I Peter 1:3 – 7
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Settling In (with Spots)

SettlingInwSpots

September 25, 2015

Theo is doing really well. The beginning of the school year always brings a whirlwind pace for our family and Theo is keeping in step just fine. Kiana is playing soccer with our local public school, Amaya has joined Kiana at the performing and fine arts school (and she loves it), Tai, Lu and Tray are enjoying Science & Art Club and piano lessons and Theo, Tim and Cali are learning their ABC’s. I’m just holding on to my dry erase markers trying to keep up with the family calendar.

After his splinter infection last month Theo developed an allergy to the amoxicillin and was covered in hives. Thankfully they let him stop the treatment early and his hand is all healed up. Theo also gained more than a full kilogram of weight placing him back at his June weight and putting our minds at ease. I would contribute that to three weeks off of the home meds. You could just tell that he was feeling really good being off his meds.

There are two things we would ask you to pray for this month. First, Theo has again developed red spots on his face and ears. It looks like a cross between the amoxicillin hive and acne. Will you please pray the spots heal? The doctor said it’s most likely from one of his home meds but they aren’t willing to tweak anything to relieve the spots. Theo will be on this treatment plan until 2018 and I hate the thought of him having spots for that long of a time.

Secondly, Friday October 2nd is Theo’s next spinal tap. Please pray the sleepy medicine is effective, that Theo is comfortable and at peace, that his spinal fluid tests negative for cancerous blasts and that we will continue to be an encouragement and a light to the KOP staff.

Many blessings

Psalm 103
1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Good Thorn

TheoThorn

August 17, 2015

I have been meaning to write and tell you about Theo’s last appointment. Honestly it’s been nice to take a break from blogging about ‘my son with cancer’, if you know what I mean. Also truth be told I was discouraged after the last appointment, maybe even crushed. It turns out Theo lost weight over the month of July. The doctors decided to give him two more weeks of grace, so we came home determined to help him add more calories to his diet.

In addition to counting calories we have been busy enjoying our summer. In a matter of three weeks we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, Tai’s birthday, Kiana’s birthday, my birthday and Scott’s Angel Day. We also left town for the first time since Theo’s diagnosis and had an incredibly memorable family vacation.

This past weekend was our next unexpected twist. Friday we spent the day cleaning out the garage and by bedtime Theo came to show me a thorn stuck in the palm of his left hand. I tried to get it out with tweezers but I just couldn’t get it. I knew better than to stick him with a pin, we have strick guidelines to avoid infection at any cost, so I applied a topical cream and a band aide and tucked him in for the night.

We woke up Saturday morning at 7am and Theo’s hand was a purple bubble with a red circle around it. Scott and I knew even before we called that it would mean a trip to the hospital for IV antibiotics.  What we didn’t realize then was the more serious problems this thorn would help to expose.

By the time I got to CHOP Theo had a red streak moving past his wrist and up his arm. The ER staff was great and knew to be very careful with an “onco patient”. After starting the IV and antibiotics the doctor asked me to step into the hall. Theo hates that so I stood at the door and this is how it went…

Dr. : I’m sorry Mrs. Pollock but Theo’s counts are very low. His hemoglobin is 6.7 so he’ll need to be transfused right away. His platelets are only 26 which might make removing the splinter a little tricky.

Me: Aw, poor guy, that stinks. I’m sorry, I forget, did you tell me his ANC?

Dr. : He doesn’t have an ANC. Or, his ANC is zero. They can’t find any white cells.

Me: Oh…Well…Huh…Ok…Thank you…Huh…Hmm…Darn

The Oncology Department knew we were coming and they had tasked the Emergency Department with starting antibiotics and removing the splinter. Theo did awesome and even watched the scalpel and tweezers. By the time the doctor was done Theo’s room was ready so we went upstairs and got settled in.

The staff on 3 South are amazing, I can’t say it enough. The resident met with me almost right away. I said to her, “He’s a zero,” still in shock. She assured me that many of the kids on the floor were low just like Theo and I was really comforted by her comparison (does that make me an awful person?). Theo and I snuggled in bed and we felt strangely safe and at home. Over time Theo and I have talked about the “old hospital” and have made a list of things we like to do there, just in case a surprise like this popped up. And so, it was time to look at our list…

Less than twenty-four hours had passed and the resident returned to our room. She literally said Theo looks too good to be in the hospital. They were happy with the retraction of his red streak, his ANC had re-appeared at a 78, he didn’t have a fever, his hemoglobin was up to an 8 thanks to the boost and we were cleared to go home.

They have suspended all home chemo for this week and we won’t be leaving the house any time soon, but it’s good to be home. Theo will remain on antibiotics for 10 days and we have an appointment this Friday to follow up. Our goal is to find the right balance of meds for Theo that kills the cancer cells but gives him a little fight left to work with. As a mom I’m wondering if we’re pounding him a little too hard. That’s my first question for Friday…

You know I can’t end this without referencing Jesus’ crown of thorns. To Him be all glory for taking away our sins and giving us new life in Him.

Happy Monday

Excerpts from the book of Matthew

28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.

31Then they led him away to crucify him.

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed,
“Surely he was the Son of God!”

Our Last Phase

Lily
July 10, 2015

Theo’s last phase of chemotherapy is called Maintenance. The wonderful thing about this phase is that it only requires us to go to CHOP once a month for IV chemo and every three months for a spinal tap. This phase will last until January 2, 2018.

Theo kicked off Day 1 of Maintenance this morning with a spinal tap and Vincristine. Tonight we will begin a home regimen of antibiotics, steroids and Methotrexate. Friends have told us that this last phase is much easier and we are beyond excited to have made it this far.

The doctor did express concern today over Theo’s weight. He is down 3 pounds compared to June. As a mom I could tell you all the reasons that a slight weight loss seems reasonable, but the fact is Theo needs to gain weight and he has one month to prove himself. Many of the patients we have met have a NG tube that runs from their nose to their stomach. It is our prayer that Theo would be able to avoid this completely. Will you please pray with us that Theo eats and gains weight? Our next visit is August 7 for a weight check and chemo.

Until then, I am excited to say we can stay home for the next 28 days…

Happy Summer

Matthew 6:25-28
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A Toast

015

July 3, 2015

Theo has now completed all 5 Phases of his intensive chemotherapy treatment plan!

So when you sit down for dinner tonight, raise your glass with us in honor of God’s work in Theo.

Cheers

Jeremiah 9:23-24

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.