Monday, December 21, 2009

Continuing on our Journey-Both Joys and Difficulties

It has been some time since I have posted a blog. For so many reasons I have not sat down to write this blog, but felt pulled so many times about sharing both our pain and joys since my last post. However, time has slipped by and here I am finally posting a blog update about our journey.

Mike and I have many moments of both happiness, appreciation of our blessings, but also much pain and sadness. This journey is one that is unpredictable. There are moments when you feel that the journey has become routine and we are coping well, but then a slight negative change causes us to have quick sense of hopelessness. I am soon reminded of God's love and protection that He has provided for our family since our journey began on February 11th. There have been many occasions throughout this journey where many of our family members have become ill, and our son never received any of these illnesses that would have caused him to be hospitalized. In particular, I became ill with the swine flu just after having my daughter. I became overly concerned for both my son and new daughter as they are both extremely high risk. The week I just gave birth to our daughter we were all separated as a family. My daughter Simone was with her daddy at his parents, Gabriel was with my parents at our house, and I was by myself with my new daughter. The week for me became a test of faith that I will never forget. I just shared with my husband that for many weeks prior to this difficult week I remember feeling/hearing the Holy Spirit tell me this exact phrase over and over for weeks "get into the word for there will be more to come." I did not want to believe I would have to go through more tests and pain. I ignored this calling and often times found myself too busy with my kids, feeling tired with hospital visits and being pregnant to read my bible and pray consistently. It was that week when I was sitting at the table alone at my parents I realized that this was the event that I was warned about. I was in constant emotional anxiety and pain that I could not focus enough to read my bible. Satan tempted me and caused much fear that week. I remember going to the basement at my parents house to play on the internet to distract myself, and the first thing that pops up on the computer was the two month old baby that died of swine flu. The very illness that both Mike and I feared for our son and new daughter. Satan's ability to stir fear happens in many ways and that week I was subjected to much fear that it prevented me from focusing on what is the truth only found in God's Word. God does not want us to fear. Fear is of Satan and of this world. God has shown us through this journey his protection over Gabriel and now our new daughter. Every time Gabriel's immune system has bottomed out our case manager has told us that she is close to 100% sure that Gabriel will be admitted to hospital with a fever. This is often the pattern they see at the hospital when children's immune system is suppressed. Every time I was told that by our case manager I prayed. Gabriel has never had a fever throughout this entire journey as a result of a low immune system. This occurrence is only a result of God's protection and answering of all our prayers and your prayers for our family. That week it reinforced the importance of gaining strength, trust and peace through constant devotion to reading the Word and prayer. It is when we let aspects of this world become more prominent that we open a hole for Satan to gain access to our mind. Satan infiltrates our mind so quickly with negative thoughts and fears we begin to lose focus on God's promises that are received when we have our salvation through Jesus Christ.

Prayers went out to God for continued protection during that week. God answered our prayers. "Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not double in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:22-24)." The only people in our family who did not get sick were the two people we were concerned about the most-Yasmine and Gabriel. Thank you God for your continued protection. Mike also did not get sick as the antibodies were working from the vaccination for him. Thank goodness as Mike and I know God's healing and protection can come in the form of medication. I became sick a day before I had my daughter with a cough and the symptoms increased after I gave birth. I remembering starting to feel ill with a fever and chills after my daughter was born. My weakened immune system during my pregnancy caused me to get this flu while out in the community.

I wish Gabriel was never diagnosed with leukemia, but one day I know Gabriel will be healed and will have a glorious testimony to share. We continue to see God's hands over our family and we thank Him everyday. We also want to thank you all for your continued devotion to praying for our family. My words cannot express how much we appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement.

Update on Treatment for Gabriel

Gabriel is close to being finished intensive chemo. If you remember from the beginning when I posted one of my first blogs I explained that Gabriel was diagnosed with a trans located leukemic chromosome, which resulted in Gabriel being on high-risk chemo protocol. This intensive chemo treatment is one year compared to children diagnosed with standard risk of only six months of chemo. Gabriel is completing the final phase, which is an intensive phase of chemo. He has had to undergo this particular phase twice during the year. Gabriel is coping very well in spite of all the he has undergone in 2009. His life is very different than most little boys, but we continue to remind him this is not forever. In addition, there are some medications that cause disruption in his personality, which is hard for his mommy and daddy to watch. He become sad and angers quickly. Once this medication is completed I soon see my sensitive, loving and smart little boy once again. It is difficult to see such changes in your children, but we continue to remind ourselves that this process is what kills the cancer cells. We have one more month left until we begin maintenance. The process for maintenance involves chemo everyday at home and visits to the hospital once a month. This phase will last two years, which is a long time. However, we are only at the hospital once a month and Gabriel's immune system during maintenance will not as compromised. Gabriel will be able to go to school and begin to enjoy life as much as he can. His life right now will always have hospital visits and more concerns for us than other parents would have for their children. We have become accustomed to this "new normal." We cope through God's strength and remembering that this to shall last only for a season and God will be gloried when all is said and done. We are looking forward to what the new year will bring for our family.

Most Important Blessing of 2009-Our Baby Girl

We were overjoyed with the birth of our new baby girl Yasmine Mia on November 1st-her daddy's birthday. She was one week late, which was rather surprising after many nights of trying to figure out whether my false labour was going to turn to real labour. We also took a trip to the hospital at 36 weeks as I was contracting every 5 minutes and my contractions lasting about 48 seconds, but soon found these contractions teetering off. Oh, the frustration! I experienced much of these false contractions for weeks, until I was soon annoyed and took things in to my own hands. I heard of stimulating oxytocin by using a breast pump to get contractions started. I decided I was going to try this measure. It took two pumps and my water broke. The contractions were tough, but I had a great support team to help me through so that I could meet my goal of natural childbirth. It was exactly 3.5 hours later that Yasmine was born. This was an adventure that will always be remembered. We are so excited about Yasmine as she has made 2009 a joyful year to remember, rather than a year of only focusing on our son's diagnosis.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year in 2010. Thank you once again for checking in to see how we are doing at the Smith household. We look forward to being able to see everyone that we have not seen just prior to Gabriel's diagnosis.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday Gabriel!

Today, September 1, 2009 is very much a contrast from September 1, 2008. Last year we spent celebrating our son's birthday as any "normal" family would celebrate. This year my beautiful and courageous son spent his fourth birthday at the hospital for 12 hours receiving treatment. However, he continued to be our son who is full of laughter and spirit in spite of the day. He encourages so many people who get to know our little boy. His curious questions and his ability to find ways to cope inspire me everyday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY OUR AMAZING SON GABRIEL!!!!!!

Treatment Phase

During the month of August and September we continue to visit the hospital either weekly or three times a week for chemotherapy. Gabriel is currently on the "Augmented Delayed Intensification" phase of treatment. The first part of this phase involved five various chemo medications through IV, oral and a lumber puncture. The the second half of this phase is more difficult as Gabriel will receive IV and oral medications. In addition, he will receive 12 leg injections back to back. This is the most difficult part of treatment for Gabriel and inevitably for myself. When my baby boy is hurting I am hurting. I have come along very quickly to show strength on the outside even if I don't feel that way during the time my son is in pain. My strength comes from God as I know he continues to protect Gabriel during treatment. However, we all have emotions that dictate our external responses to situations. Appropriate externalization of emotions is important. I, of course, as a social worker believe 100% that externalization of emotions through verbal and physical communication is an important process that both children and adults must do in order to be mentally and physically healthy. As a result, Gabriel and I enjoy discussing our different feelings about the hospital visits after treatment and reading books expressing feelings so that Gabriel knows it is okay to be scared, sad, mad, anxious, frustrated, etc... We often agree that we don't like our visits, but know they are necessary. As I hug my little boy during painful procedures we have repeated the same saying since the onset of diagnosis. We repeat "it will be all done again." Gabriel likes to be reminded that the pain is short and that there is an end. One day we will finally be able to say together "it will be all done...forever." This is the day that God's healing will be revealed. Gabriel is healed today. I have no doubt (Mark 11:22-24) about that! It is doubt and disbelief in our hearts that causes fear and worry. I won't doubt the truth of the Word. God does not lie. I know that our journey involves chemotherapy and have I to trust God's direction over this process. I cannot worry about the side effects or future repercussions because our son is in God's protective hands. We will continue to pray this over him his entire life into old age. I am so thankful to God for bringing us thus far with limited reactions and only one fever.

Thank you to everyone who called to wish Gabriel a happy birthday! I was overcome with tears to all those who wanted to bring a smile to Gabriel's face. We appreciate your amazing support during this time and for being patient with our family if we don't get back to you right away. We also want to thank everyone for being so vigilant at informing us if you or your children are sick and becoming proactive with washing your hands.

Upcoming Months

The next few months will probably we spent at home away from crowds based on the uncertainty about the swine flu and other infections. However, we will not live in a bubble and live in fear. We will take precautions without limiting our family too much. We will have a new little one soon, so our time will be spent getting to know our third blessing from God. This will be a rewarding part of 2009 and looking forward to our new baby. I have almost completed my Christmas shopping in preparation for my busy life with three young and busy children. It was actually lots of fun shopping this time of year. I had not busy line-ups or crowds. I feel very organized. I may continue this for years to come. The other exciting part of our life is that I have started homeschooling Gabriel. I spent all summer researching for the best junior kindergarten curriculum for my son. Gabriel would have started junior kindergarten this year, but based on the intense chemo he is receiving it would have been too difficult. Gabriel is so eager to learn that I wanted to encourage this instead of waiting until next year. He keeps asking me to read the calendar, the clock and wants to read books so badly. I will find him sitting with his sister pretending to know how to read a story to her. It has to be the cutest thing to see your two children sitting together wanting to read a book. I love it! I can't help but smile and feel so blessed when I look at them.

Questions about Swine Flu for the Smith Family

Many people have asked about the swine flu vaccination and what it means for our family. Therefore, I wanted to provide everyone with some information. Gabriel is not able to get the vaccination as it would not do anything for him at this time. I was never a proponent of the flu vaccination based on concerns about repercussions to our bodies with all of the immunizations we have received and do receive. However, when you have a child that was diagnosed with cancer you face a different set of questions. We have become more concerned about Gabriel being around those who are not immunized because our son does not have immunity to fight serious diseases that are control through immunizations. The chemo he has received has depleted his immune system from fighting the diseases he was immunized as a baby and toddler. We have asked what the procedures will be for children diagnosed with cancer and the response from the Oncologists is the following: "Anyone you want your child to be around must have received the flu shot and swine flu shot in order to protect these children." I know there are many people out there who do not believe in receiving such vaccinations and I can appreciate this at a different level. My goal is to protect my son and other children, which means I have to throw out my past concerns and realize that there was a whole other aspect that I missed prior to Gabriel's diagnosis. This missed aspect was the concern for families who have immunosuppresant children. There are many "behind the scene" decisions, routines and procedures that occur for families with children receiving chemo that often go unrecognized. For example, my daughter was just recently at the stage of receiving her 18 month needles, which included a chicken pox vaccination. Gabriel was given this vaccination and now has no immunity to chicken pox. Chicken pox is life threatening to all kids with Leukemia on treatment. If we were not going through this with Gabriel we may have decided not to have Simone vaccinated for chicken pox and do what so many generations have done by receiving immunity through exposure. Sadly, we had other details to consider that most "normal" families tend not to consider. We immunized Simone to protect Gabriel. I never thought I would ever have to immunize my one child to protect another. This was the hardest decision for me because it concerned two of my children, not just one. It stirs the debate "to immunize or not to immunize" that is presently on the rise. I have come to realize during our journey that society as a whole must be a part of this debate when considering whether you immunize your own children.

We do hope to see our family and friends over the next few months. We wish you all good wishes and health.

Thank you for spending time reading my blog. I hope I was able to update you all without overwhelming you. I always have so much to say, and try to do this with limited words when I can. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and looking forward to the new school year. Remember to see the blessings in your life everyday and to always be positive. Glorify God always in all that you do!

The Smith Family
(Mike, Tina, Gabriel, Simone and soon baby number three)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Our Journey Update and Fantastic Blessings

I have realized that I have not posted a blog in over one month, and I know many people wonder how we are doing. I continue to lean on God's strength at all times. I continue to have faith in God's word concerning healing for my son. "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up (James 5:15). By Jesus stripes my son is healed and that is what I am reminded each day that I feel my faith being tested. I know that God will use this situation to glorify Him and I have to trust that each day I am at the hospital.

Chemotherapy Procedures

Gabriel is presently on interim maintenance, but with his previous reaction our commitment at the hospital has increased. We are at the hospital three days a week for a period of two weeks at a time. We get a little more than a week break, which means we are only at the hospital once during that time. However, this will change as we enter a new chemo phase for Gabriel and will last for two months. The next phase of treatment will be quite intensive with many chemo medications both orally, intrathecal and iv. The preparation for this phase included an ultrasound and baseline reading of his heart as one particular drugs poses a risk to his heart (rare risk). It is times like this that our fears can surface, but I know that fear is not of the Lord and only used by Satan to defeat our faith in God's word. We appreciate your continued prayers.

Many people ask how Gabriel is doing and I am thankful that he is coping well. His age protects him from fully understanding the severity of his disease, but I am glad for this. I cannot imagine Gabriel carrying the same mental health struggles that adults have to carry when confronted with being diagnosed with cancer. Gabriel has moments where he is angry before and after painful procedures, which is to be expected. Overall, he plays like a little boy should, asks questions like a little boy should and loves to be with his friends and family. He is a energetic, high-spirited, incredible little boy whom I am so proud of. He inspires me. I love hearing him in the back of the car singing his Sunday School songs. He misses so much attending Sunday school and asks when he can go back. We always tell him one day things will be different and he can go back.

The process tends to be more difficult for parents with young children coping through chemo. I have to endure holding my child when he is in pain and feeling so helpless that I can't take it away. Mike and I have to endure the thoughts that creep in each day that create fears of the future. I know that this journey has reinforced for me that if I don't seek God consistently through this journey and forever I can become mentally fractured and allow Satan's control to work in our family. I am thankful that God is in control and that I feel his presence each day as I certainly could not do this journey without him leading the way.

Relay for Life

I want to send a thank you to everyone for your support for our team in the Relay for Life in Tillsonburg. We had an incredible time and was empowering for Mike and I to be part of this great cause. As parents we often feel helpless. The Relay for Life was a great opportunity for us to do something proactive that allowed us to feel a sense of control by contributing to wonderful cause that seeks to change similar circumstances for families. Thank you so much for you help.
I want to thank my team for your commitment and raising pledges. We could not have done this without you. Thank you to everyone who pledged our team and/or the individuals on our team. You have contributed to a worthy cause and many families will come to know the benefits of this cause.

Smith Family Fun

During this phase we had many opportunities to enjoy various outings as a result of Gabriel's neutrophils being high. We have spent time camping at Port Burwell Provincial Park, visiting Point Pelee on two occasions for a day trip, trip to Niagara falls for three days, hikes, picnics in the park, visiting my parents in Wiarton, and spending time Mike's siblings from Alberta and seeing our family and friends. It has been an enjoyable time for us these past two months and has assisted with distracting us from the realities of our family life at this time.

Simone is growing so fast. She is our fearless, comedic little girl who brings us all to laughter everyday. She is trying to run more often and is saying many new words each day. I see a confident and assertive little girl who knows what she likes and dislikes and communicates this very well. We are so proud of her. She shows much concern for her brother and loves to give him hugs and kisses. Gabriel and Simone are inseparable. Gabriel does not like to go to the hospital without her. I must say that my favorite time with my children is our cuddle time. Both of my children love cuddle time with mommy. I am trying to figure out how to fit my three children on my lap, and will be determined to find a way. I am so thankful for each of my children and when I look at them I see God's amazing power.

Our new baby is ready to come on October 28th, and we are getting excited about our new addition. We were recently told in an ultrasound that they are 98% sure that we are having another girl. Exciting news for our family that will soon become five. The name search has begun, but a difficult task for Mike and I. We tend to choose names that are not on the top 100 names of the past few years. I have only made it through three letters of the alphabet and not much agreeable success. Stay tuned upon the delivery of our baby for the chosen name. :)

Thank you once again for choosing to spend your time with us by reading my blog. We appreciate this commitment as I know that life can be busy for everyone.

God Bless you all!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Difficult Times

I have wanted to post a blog earlier, but our journey has hit a few bumps in the road. It has been a tiresome two weeks for us, but we have survived yet another. I am thankful that Gabriel is young and cannot understand the dimensions of cancer. However, as an adult and his mother I know too much about this disease that causes us more pain than our own child. He is a little boy with high spirits, lots of energy and so much love. Cancer is too complex for his mind to comprehend and we are glad. You would not even know that battle that goes on inside his little body when you look at him. It is still often difficult for Mike and I as we speak to doctors and visit the hospital each week. We wish we had the ability to be like a child where no worries intrude our thoughts. My human side always has a way to inflict pain, misery and worry. I realize that the more this occurs I have not spent enough time in prayer and reading my scriptures. I know Satan is always ready to insert a negative thought in hopes to defeat my faith.

Our journey these past two weeks has involved admittance as an inpatient twice within two weeks. Each inpatient stay lasted for 3-4 days.

The Discovery

The first inpatient admittance occurred as a result of an anaphylactic reaction to a chemo medicine. Gabriel's reaction occurred 4 hours after his injection, which shocked most of the outpatient staff. I was resting inside after a long day at the hospital for a routine day of chemo. Mike took our children outside to play. I went to visit them out the deck and announce to Mike that their bedtime was approaching. Gabriel came walking up our back steps and I caught out of my peripheral welts on his head. My stomach felt sick at this time as I feared what this meant. However, I did not want to overreact. As Gabriel was coming back to see me I asked Mike immediately if he got hit in the head. Gabriel did not get hurt. As Gabriel neared I realized that they were not typical welts, but a reaction. I concluded further when I noticed his eyes were bloodshot. I quickly grabbed him and checked his belly for spots. Gabriel had the beginnings stages of hives. I quickly yelled for Mike that we have to go now. Gabriel was given his required dose of Benadryl to decrease his reaction until we were in Emerg. The scariest part for Mike and I was when Gabriel spoke his voice began to sound hoarse, which meant his throat was beginning to swell. We were thankful that the Benadryl took affect quickly and he responded well to this medicine. We were immediately admitted to hospital as inpatients so the team of doctors could monitor him for further response to this chemo medicine. This was our first experience in the ward with four other families. This stay meant limited sleep as nurses, heart monitors and much more interrupted our sleep. We were discharged days later and did not assume we would be back in hospital only one week later. We are thankful for the immediate response by the team of doctors and nurses.

Second Admittance

The second inpatient stay within one week resulted from Gabriel becoming febrile. A common routine is to check Gabriel for a temperature prior to putting him down for the night. He was fine at bedtime. In addition, I always check on my children just prior to going to sleep myself and throughout the night when I wake for a bathroom break or just to check on them. It was about 1 a.m in the morning and it was during routine check that I felt Gabriel's forehead with my cheek. I discovered he felt warm, but needed to check his temperature accurately. It read 37.5, but needed to wait one hour to read again to be sure. I woke Mike to tell him about Gabriel feeling warm and that we should check again in one hour. We set our alarm. When the alarm went off, Mike went to check and came back reporting a temperature of 37.6. This temperature for most children is fine, but for Gabriel it is an alert that we may have to go to emergency. Mike was uncertain about whether to trust this temperature, so I came to check. At that time, our thermometer was bouncing from 37.6 to 38.3, which is a huge difference for kids with Leukemia. We immediately called the Pediatric Oncologist on-call that evening. The immediate decision was to proceed to the emergency department early in the morning, which of course was now Thursday. I made the most difficult decision in that moment for any mom. The hardest part for me is to be the best mom to all of my children, in spite of the circumstances that I have been confronted with. It would be easy to give lots of attention to Gabriel for obvious reasons, but our journey will last many years and I cannot imagine missing out on my other children's life. I needed to stay with Simone as I get quite upset every time I leave her behind. It would not be fair to her if she was left behind by her parents every time we left for the hospital. I chose to not work full-time because I want to raise my children, not for someone else to do. I decided that Gabriel would of course be fine with just his dad, and that sometimes he would need to have only his dad and not me. Mike is a great father and I felt totally confident in Mike's ability to help Gabriel. I did not realize that as the night progressed how difficult this decision would become. It was the worse evening for me throughout all of this treatment.

I stayed home for Simone, not for myself as I did not expect to get any sleep after they left. Once at the hospital, Gabriel called me crying on the phone every 15 minutes. The worse feeling in my life was that I could not hug my own child while he was scared and crying. He kept repeating over and over "mommy, please come." I tried to talk to him, but he is only 3.5 years old and all he needed was me to give him hugs and tell him everything was going to be okay. Over the next two hours the calls got worse and worse as they began to take blood from his arm and his port. I try not to remember these calls, but they will haunt me for so long as I remember the pain in his voice and was not there to hold him. I know I stayed with my daughter for the right reasons, but at 5 a.m. I made the decision to briefly wake her to get read for our leave for the hospital. Simone quickly fell back to sleep and I was glad to be on the way to the hospital. Simone is such an amazing child that nothing seems to cause her any difficulties. Her disruption in sleep did not damper her spirits, but was soon off to sleep for the car ride to the hospital. At the hospital, she was thrilled to looked at the pictures of the animals on the wall and to lay beside her brother to watch cartoons, crawl on the bed or just chat in her own words. Gabriel was so happy to see both of us. I was happy to have not waited until our agreed time to leave. I know God has blessed us with amazing children, and our third child will be such a continued blessing that will complete our family. We were at the hospital until Saturday afternoon, which we were glad to be home. We were able to stay in a private room at the hospital as Gabriel was neutropenic and could not be around other people. He has been fighting a cold and cough at home. It was not so bad when his immune system was high, but his neutrophils began to plummet. As a result, his body was not capable of fighting this infection on its own. We are thankful for the hospitals stringent protocol for children with cancer, even though it is a difficult place to stay. We see so many young babies, children and teenagers fighting many diseases, which can debilitate your mind if you allow yourself to ponder such atrocities. I let sadness impede my thoughts for a few hours when I became tired of seeing a young baby continuously being left by himself. This baby does not have anyone staying with him and does not even get frequent visits from family or friends. I was told the parents visit infrequently. I asked if I could visit with him and the nurses indicated "of course." I was overtaken with sadness, and did not know what to do. I prayed for guidance. It seems so unfair for a child to be left with the continued change of nurses trying to complete their rounds. A child receives security through his or her attachment through parents or permanent caregiver, and this child appears to not have attachment figures, especially during a difficult battle with a disease. PLEASE PRAY FOR DANIEL.

We are back home and looking forward to some earned family time together. We are not sure what this will entail, but we are happy to be together outside of hospital grounds. Please continue to pray for strength, perseverance and healing. We continue to thank God for the strength he provides as we could be dealing with this journey very differently.

Future Changes

As a result of Gabriel's reaction to his chemo medicine we are now expected to be visiting the hospital more often. Gabriel has to receive another form of chemo, but this involves three needles a week over a two week period each month. I am thankful that the outpatient clinic (PMDU) in London as the staff is so gracious and helpful with both my children. The staff make is so easy for parents to bring their other children as I could not leave Simone behind this often.

Thank you for checking in on how we are doing!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Humbled by your Gift

I cannot express in words how humbled and grateful I am for everyone rallying together to create a beautiful quilt. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to my lovely and great friend Melissa for a beautiful and thoughtful idea and the work to organize and complete this quilt. You are a wonderful person whom I am so thankful I met 3.5 years ago.

I look at this quilt everyday and it brings me to tears knowing how wonderful you all are to have devoted your time to do this for Gabriel. When Gabriel is older, he will truly appreciate the love and support you all have provided to our family. Thank you so much. I love you all!

I have posted the final product for all to view. Please check this beautiful quilt out! Thank you once again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

In Honour of Gabriel's Journey-Sponsor our Team for the Tillsonburg Relay for Life

Hi Everyone,

It is very hard to watch your own child have good days, bad days and very bad days with his fight with cancer. This journey has made me feel as though I have don't have a lot of control. As a result, I wanted to find a way for me to feel as though I was helping towards the fight for a cure for cancer. Therefore, the best way that I could do this was to contribute a team for the Tillsonburg Relay for Life. I want to know that I am helping other moms and dad's who have children who are traveling a similar journey. I am hoping that all those who log on to my blog would pledge a participant or our team.

You can do this online at our own personal Relay for Life website by selecting pledge a participant or pledge a team at the following link: http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=3393&pg=entry

Thanks for supporting a wonderful cause.

Smith Family Pictures Online

I just wanted to let everyone know that visits our blog that you can access our online photo album of our family at http://mikeandtina.myphotoalbum.com

I have finally been able to receive high speed Internet out in the village of Mt. Elgin, so I can now upload pictures. I know I enjoy seeing pictures online of my family and friends, so I thought it would be a nice way to visit our family since we don't always get to see you all.

The album was started after Gabriel was born and has continued through the years. Thanks for taking the time to think of us during this time and checking out our blog and online album.

Love always,

The Smith Clan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Phase Update as of April 21st, 2009

On Tuesday, April 21st, we went to the hospital for blood counts to determine whether Gabriel was able to commence the following phase of treatment. We did not know what to expect with his blood counts as we were told previously that it would probably take longer for his counts to rise. This information comes from people who have years of observing and treating various ages of children ranging from babies to teens. Expert knowledge can cause us to sometimes lead us to forget that God is more powerful than those experts that specialize in cancer treatment for children. We discovered this truth when our Oncologist was delightfully surprised that his numbers increased quicker than suspected. In addition, they rose higher than the commencement of the first phase of treatment, which also delightfully shocked our Oncologist. We thank God for these blessings during difficult times. It is these blessings that increase our faith when we choose to glorify God rather than simply base such fantastic news on coincidence. Thank you Jesus!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:6-9 (NIV)

The following day we started the next phase with our 12 hour day. A typical day for our family at the hospital is helping Gabriel cope through his port access and then seeking ways to be entertained most of the day while we wait. Gabriel had three different types of chemo medications through his IV, but the long day entails making sure he is fully hydrated through IV fluids to protect his organs from the harsh chemo.

After we were done at the hospital we were excited about going out for dinner as a family to Applebees. Simone was with Grandma Bender for the day, but daddy picked her up after her nap so we could spend the rest of the hospital stay together. It was so wonderful to go out for dinner to appreciate one another in a different way. You begin to appreciate the small details in life when you go through such atrocities. After dinner we enjoyed a stroll in the mall and shopped at H & M, which was so exciting for our beautiful children. They could not control themselves and were dancing everywhere. It was quite hilarious to watch and brought many smiles. We had an enjoyable time as a family and look forward to more of our brief entertainment opportunities while Gabriel's neutrophils are high. We also don't have to go back to the hospital for two weeks, which is very exciting for the Smith family.

Thank you once again for checking in to see how we are doing. We do look forward to seeing you when time allows. Again, please don't hesitate to drop a line and we will try our best to get back to you. Please know that your calls and/or e-mails do help to know you are thinking of us at this time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Sun Does Shine and We Are Thankful

I want to start this blog by thanking our Heavenly Father for answering our prayers each week. Every Tuesday our case manager was 99.9% sure that we would be back in the hospital with a fever as his neutrophils were so low. This was a consistent message each time from most people in the hospital. However, each time I prayed for that weekend to come with protection over Gabriel. God answered our prayers every weekend and we surpassed this month without any fevers. In addition, God answered our prayers to protect Gabriel from reactions to medications. Gabriel has been responding without any reactions to his medications through all pathways (intravenous, oral and intrathecal). He is coping as well as a 3.5 year old can with so many procedures. The nurses at the hospital call him curious George as he is mommy and daddy's inquisitive little boy. Perhaps, he will grow up to be in the medical field. We pray he does whatever will bring him joy.

I want to take a moment of your time to share something that has been on my heart. I know there are many readers logging in to read my blog from many walks of life. There are believers, unbelievers and those who believe God exists, but have so many questions. I want to take this opportunity to share what has been on my heart and what God has reinforced for me though this difficult time. This piece is for those who wonder why I am thankful for God's strength, peace and answering our prayers as you may be wondering why Gabriel would even get Leukemia. In addition, there may be people reading my blog who may find blame in God for the pain and suffering in this world and wonder why He does not just heal Gabriel right now if "He is so powerful." I hope that what I share will help to answer few of your questions and encourage you to seek God for His truth and peace in your life.

We must recognize the source for all that is considered destructive, painful, deceitful and anything that would cause you to not want to seek a life of truth and peace, which is salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour. You may feel this is silly or even see it as embarrassing to believe in something a human mind is deceived to believe is only fictitious. The source that instills all that is painful and reinforce disbelief are from Satan. I am very aware that many people believe that Satan is fictitious and portrayed as such in the media. However, the bible describes Satan as the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). The first verse I ever memorized as a little girl was Ephesians 6:13 and tells of being equipped with the whole armour of God (truth, faith, salvation, and spirit all found in knowing the bible). At one time in my life I would have thought this was silly to believe, but I have seen much in my life that can only be described as the works of the devil. I have posted Ephesian 6:10-17 at the bottom of this blog for you to reference as means to understand Satan's role in this world. I share this as the bible tells us the truth and God does not lie. Our world sees much suffering and pain because it is a fallen world since the very day Adam sold out to the devil. The devil continues to dominate this world and will continue until the return of Jesus Christ. I know that on this earth we all may be faced with trials that cause us pain in our lives. I can say that I have seen both sides to life as a person who suffered without God and now as a person who has suffering, but does not suffer as I have peace, truth and knowledge of the bible. There is a difference and would never choose life without God. For those who know my past this will make sense. I am not saying that this journey is easy and that I that pain in me is nonexistent. I do have pain and emotional days, but the difference is that I seek God's truth in His Word when I feel pain and He reminds me of his truth to continue being as faithful as Abraham. My flesh can be weak, but my spirit must be strong to do this journey. If you want to see God at work and his truth, read the works of Jesus in the bible (John 14:9,10). In addition, Jesus contrasted His works with the works of the devil in John 10:10. The confusion of this world would be erased if we read and listened to the Word of God. The one thing I keep learning over and over is that I will never be able to understand spiritual problems with my human mind. Impossible!! Therefore, you may be struggling with my blog with the same difficulty I once had. All I would encourage you to do is find a bible and begin to read. I hope this explains why God has not caused Gabriel to have leukemia. God is the one that is delivering us from the evil that Satan has brought forth. God will be give me strength to see this through. We don't understand all facets of this journey, but I do trust that God will deliver Gabriel and cure him. There have been revelations from God to my family members revealing Gabriel being healed from cancer. I trust God's promises and know Gabriel will be cured. He will grow to be a man with an amazing testimony. He is a brilliant little boy who inspires me everyday. I will continue to post blogs that share the honest side of pain as our flesh still experiences those emotions and I want to continue to be honest with all those who read my blog, but my faith will NEVER waiver. It is God who gives me strength for my entire family. I know that this part of my blog may have made some of you uncomfortable, but this through discomfort and conviction it will hopefully lead us to seek God's truth. My life is a testimony to that. Thanks for reading this piece of my blog and continuing to tune in. The next part is a summary of our month and things to look forward to in the upcoming months.

The Next Phase

We are approaching the next phase of the intensified consolidation. This phase occurs over eight weeks. Currently, we have to wait until his counts are high enough to start this next phase. The Smith family has been making plans for entertainment outside of the boundaries of our property as Gabriel won't be neutropenic soon. We have plans for the zoo, eating in a restaurant, and who knows what else. During that brief one or two weeks we plan on getting in as much fun outside the house as we can. Gabriel won't have to receive weekly spinal taps anymore, but will continue with chemotherapy. This past month has been quite draining as the kids go stir crazy staying only at the house. We have been so limited with what we can do as Gabriel has maintained a 0.4 and 0.2 neutrophil count, which is very low. We have to prevent infections and taking him places puts him at an increased risk. We can't control environments that we don't know about. When the weather is nice the kids have enjoyed playing outside.

Our family is looking forward to summer events and Gabriel keeps asking about our camping adventures for this summer. He loves to camp as we all do in our family. We plan on camping at Port Burwell a few times this year, attending Camp Trillium, a week with the Smith side at a cottage, enrolling (if all goes well both the Smith and Bender family) as a team in the Tillsonburg Relay for Life, our Bender side camp out with the entire family and some day trips when Gabriel's not neutropenic. Gabriel cannot stop talking about camping with his cousins. He often shares that he misses all of his cousins. He is quite a remarkable little boy and loves to name all of his cousins. So cute! Simone is growing so quickly and becoming a remarkable little girl. She continues to make us laugh as she has quite sense of humour. She, too, is very inquisitive. She has been trying to say a lot of words and loves hanging out with her brother. Gabriel is not so fond of this all the time, but tries to put up with her as all siblings can. Reminds me of my brothers growing up!! Simone tends to be fearless and tries unsafe climbing more than I would like. She is my adorable and smart little girl. We love to have mommy and daughter time together. I am looking forward to a day and evening away in Stratford with my best friend Kyra this weekend. We are going to the spa, orchestra and dinner. I am looking forward to having time away to recuperate and have some girl time. I must say that this will be only the second time away since my both my children have been born. I have a difficult time leaving my kids and I know that Mike gets a little worried about caring for the kids when I am away. He is a great father and could not be more thankful for him.

Thanks for checking in on the Smith family!


Scripture

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Ephesians 6:10-17

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Honest Struggle

I just put my children to sleep for their nap. I was hoping to do something for myself, but once again, I am drawn to everything that keeps me reminded of the fight that Gabriel and our family faces everyday. I feel quite tearful today as I am reminded that life is so different. I just want to be with my children all the time, without the extra pressures of my lawn, housework, laundry, meal planning, bills, etc... We all of have to face these responsibilities each day, but for me they have become a burden and a hassle. I wish that all these particular areas could be put on hold, so that I could be with my children without these jobs in the back of my mind adding extra pressure. I wish everyday that I could go back to life where these were the only burdens I faced. Even though these familiar life tasks continue to remain they do have a new sense of meaning. These tasks may continue to be a part of life, but I am now reminded of how insignificant they have become compared to the journey that we are currently walking.

I had the blessed opportunity to read a parts of blog from an individual following our blog who shares the the pain of a child suffering with leukemia. One of the statements that was shared in this individual's blog was the following statement that I have often heard too. "God does not give you anymore than you can handle." We know that the intent of this statement has well intentions, but I would like to quote this individual's blog statement as I could not write it any better. "What it means to me is that God has "blessed" us with this trial because He knows we're strong, stalwart individuals whom He has especially chosen to prove to the world that we can take whatever comes our way. " As well, I am including another blog taken from this post by a Pastor's wife who stuggled with a daughter's heart problem since birth. Please read this post at http://inthemidstofit.blogspot.com/2006/07/too-much-to-bear-by-myself.html
I, too, share the very same thoughts posted in both of these blogs. This journey is too much for me to bear, I have no control, I have no choices, and I hate every trip to the hospital. I hate this journey. I have been teaching Gabriel not repeat the word hate even if others say it as the meaning relays something so strong. Today, this is the only word that defines how much I truly feel about this journey. I have no choice as I would do anything for my children. When I was pregnant with Gabriel I had a belly casting done so I could remember those precious moments of the miracle that God has given me to carry and give birth to each of my children. Upon the casting I placed this popular quote by Maureen Hawkins "Before you were conceived I wanted you, Before you were born I loved you, Before you were here an hour I would die for you. This is the miracle of life." This quote remains in me and will for my entire life. I can't bear this pain because of the love only a mother can feel for their child. For one of the many reasons I lean upon our Heavenly Father so that He will bear this for me. I am not strong enough to do this journey on my own. Therefore, this statement above is reflected incorrectly because if it wasn't too much to handle then why would I even bother giving my pain, my worry, my fears over over to God. I want this journey to never have started so I could have the normalcy of life. I don't want to have to worry about my son's neutrophils and I don't even want to know what a neutrophil is. I want to be able to take my son to a busy movie theatre and to any place we want to take him. However, we can't! This is my new life and I have no choice. I cannot and will not do this journey on my own. I have needed God for many things in my life, but I cannot bear this at all without God directing my path and my thoughts. "I am weak, but he is strong." Please continue to pray for strength in me as I cope and deal with this journey. Thank you for being a part of this emotional and faith building journey I am taking.

Thank you Aunt Bertha for reminding me about the song "Safe in the Arms of Jesus."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

17 Hours in Two Days

We spent our first 12 hour day at the hospital on Tuesday for intensive chemotherapy. It was a long day, but we made it though. However, I was scheduled to return to the hospital the following day for Gabriel's blood transfusion. This procedure takes four hours and then there is preparation time that is not included in this time. Gabriel was somewhat angry yesterday as a result of having to be at the hospital so much. It is so difficult for him to understand these long days when most of the time he is feeling well. He is doing much better now that he is at home, but sadly, he will have to contend with a homecare coming a few days this week and four days next week to place chemo just under is skin by needle. The whole process is quite overwhelming at times. This journey has difficult days and good days. I have prayed for at least one normal day since diagnosis, but I have come to realize that normal will be very different for us until he is cured.

Tuesday's procedures involved a chemo drug called cyclophosphamide through his IV. This drug is particularly serious as it requires two hours of IV fluid prior and 6 hours of IV fluid after to ensure he is protected. In addition, Gabriel had his first dose of a drug called Cytarabine inserted into his IV, but thereafter, this drug is given as a needle in his leg at home. Gabriel also had a spinal tap where another chemotherapy drug called Intrathecal Methotrexate was inserted to prevent leukemic cells from spreading into his central nervous system. Gabriel continues with one chemo drug at home called Mercaptopurine and the medications to suppress nausea from the chemo drugs. I keep a chart at home to make sure I am properly administering all medications .

Thank you once again for following our blog. I will be updating this blog at this time once or twice a month or when any particular news arises. Please don't hesitate to e-mail or call. All the best to you all.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Smith Family News!

I wanted to take this opportunity to share some good news for our family. I have debated telling everyone early, but as time is progressing our news is becoming apparent as I seem to be showing too early for my liking and the eyes I see in public appear to question. The Smith family will be welcoming our third precious baby into the world on October 26th, 2009. This came to our family as a shock and to me feeling overwhelmed, at first.

Our story: Mike and I have discussed having a third child, but without a clear answer as to whether this was right for us. I have prayed often seeking an answer to this question, but was never clear about God's plan. A few weeks prior to Gabriel's diagnosis we made the decision that we were happy with just having our two children. However, there I was always hesitant and uncomfortable with this decision. Upon Gabriel's diagnosis and as inpatients at the hospital I spoke to Mike and stated that I certainly could not have a third child for so many reasons. In particular, Gabriel diagnosis has produced fear that I am trying to ask God to take from me. The fear was so pronounced in me that I could not imagine another one of my children facing the chance of this diagnosis and the fear that my expectations that I place on me as a mother would not be achieved with the demands that our future would face. I share this with you all as a testimony to what God can do in our lives to show that He is in control and that I need to always rely and trust in Him. God chose a different path for the Smith family. We, surprisingly, discovered I was pregnant in the hospital during our second week. Many emotions rushed in as described above, but I am now realizing that we always continued to want our third baby. We are preparing for the extra demands that a newborn may place upon us, but we are ecstatic that we will be having our third blessing from God. You may be wondering if I feel overwhelmed still? Sometimes, but mostly I am having faith that God has equipped me and will continue to equip me with whatever I need to be the best wife and mother. I can only continue to trust in our Heavenly Father as He "shall not leave me or forsake me."

Please pray for my continued health and for our unborn baby. In addition, I am wondering if everyone can pray for marital strength as this is certainly a difficult time for Mike and I. It is testing every strength we have as a couple and sometimes we feel we are not doing this well together as a couple. Thank you once again for reading my blog as I know I have shared a lot of myself with you all over these last few weeks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Clarification of Gabriel Contracting Infections

I wanted to post two blogs today to update everyone on Gabriel's progress and procedures, but to add an additional blog discussing visits. The second most difficult process that Mike and I have to face all the time outside of leukemia treatment is including and excluding visits from family and friends. We would love to visit with everyone and hope that over time we can see you all. We miss our family and friends a lot, and we appreciate any phone calls and/or e-mails that you send. We apologize if we do not respond immediately or even within a few weeks, but please know you phone calls help to know that you are thinking of us at this time and that we are not forgotten over the duration of treatment. Our faith in God and your support and care is what helps us cope during difficult days, even when it is a brief message on our voice mail or even an e-mail.

Our Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric-Oncologist's recommendations for family and friends visiting:
  1. If you or any of your family members have been sick you or your family members should not come in to contact with our family. Once you and your family member are three days free of symptoms, then you are welcome to visit. This particular recommendation is dealing with colds and flues.
  2. However, if you or your child are in contact with more severe illnesses a required time of two weeks free of symptoms is required. Please always check with you GP to determine whether you are contagious.
Reasons for this Visiting Policy:
  1. Regular colds and flues can cause Gabriel to be really sick at various times throughout chemotherapy. This infection could involve hospitalization even up to one month. It is unpredictable and you may not always know you are sick until a few days later. However, this is the chance we will take when we choose to visit with you. We do advise you that if you have visited and you become sick a few days later to contact us immediately to inform us.
  2. In addition, chemotherapy must come to a halt upon an infection, which sets his therapy back a lot further and less chance of fighting his leukemia when he is not receiving chemo. Once the infection has been treated and Gabriel's blood counts are substantial then chemotherapy will occur once again.
  3. Infections for Gabriel, depending on how severe, can mean life or death.
Final Note:
Mike and I will continue to weigh out the pros and cons for everything in Gabriel's life as to whether things will benefit him more than cause him damage. We can only decrease the results of damage when we know there is a clear case of infections. Please know that we can't and won't be able to prevent all infections as we still will be leading a normal life. Mike will be going to work, and we will continue to visit stores, etc. Furthermore, we intend to visit our family and friends who may not always know you are infected until after our visit. We intend to not live in a bubble as much as we can achieve as this will prevent further mental and developmental issues for Gabriel. I am quite aware of the symbiotic relationship that exists between our physical and mental well-being, and try to debate the risks between these two areas of humanity every time we choose to be involved in an activity. There will always be a chance for infections as this is the world we live in. Therefore, we can only control and decrease Gabriel's risk through the apparent signs and symptoms of infections as pertaining to the above policy for visits.

We have come to realize this will cause some frustration as plans may change within a matter of minutes and also it can be painful for children if they were looking forward to playing with Gabriel. We know it is hard for children to comprehend such quick changes. I know as a Social Worker, communication in their language is important to assist in decreasing "some" hurt feelings. If at any time, you would like me to speak to your children to explain the circumstances, I would be pleased to assist where I can. We want to see you more than you know and we want Gabriel to play like a child should, but sometimes the risk is too great. Mike and I truly apologize for any future inconvenience this may cause even if it is just a simple cold. We will always reschedule for a future date and will look forward to the time we get to spend with you.

Okay, I know this was quite formal compared to my previous blogs. We love you all!

Day 29 of Induction

Today, we officially ended induction with the completion of a spinal tap and bone marrow for this round. These procedures were to confirm that remission has continued, which is less than 5% leukemic cells. Gabriel continues to be in remission with having less than 3% leukemic cells. The lab does not send results as to whether there is less than the previous bone marrow as there is some discrepancies between some of the leukemic cells and regular cells based on the small difference. This is excellent news and we are once again relieved and thanking God. We will proceed back to the hospital on Friday to have blood counts done as Gabriel's hemoglobin had dropped (normal to occur when on chemo), but they need to be at a certain level prior to commencing with "intensified consolidation" chemotherapy. However, we will be on alert for lethargic behaviour indicating his hemoglobin has dropped significantly that requires an immediate blood transfusion. We pray his hemoglobin count will not decrease any further so a blood transfusion is not required. The less time at the hospital leads to a better mental health for the Smith family. The next process of chemotherapy involves a change and pattern of oral and intravenous medications. In addition, Gabriel will require a needle that injects medication under the skin four times a week (not sure if this is for the entire month) and a weekly spinal tap for one month. A nurse will come into our home to administer the needle under his skin in his leg. This next process seems more difficult, but time will tell as we still need to have this new time-line discussed. Thank you once again for keeping us in your prayers and thoughts. We wish all of you well and hope that you are able to enjoy your precious time with your own family.

Monday, March 9, 2009

First Trip back to the Emergency Department after Diagnosis

On Saturday, we noticed that Gabriel's abdomen bruise that started this journey with Leukemia began to turn an odd bright red colour. On Sunday evening, as I was bathing Gabriel I discovered that his bruise had increased in size and colour. I contacted the on-call Paediatric Oncologist to determine whether this change was a concern. The doctor indicated she could not assess over the phone and with the peculiar change we were to go to the hospital immediately. Gabriel being in the first stage of chemo called induction makes everything more urgent. We were nervous as we all jumped in the car as to what this would mean for our family. Once at the hospital, we were moved into isolation through the back doors to prevent a walk through of where everyone who is sick waits "somewhat"patiently to be seen. A whole different life attending the emergency department when you have a child with Leukemia. We felt horrible knowing there were so many families waiting for a doctor to see their sick child. The nurses indicated that this night seemed to be exceptionally busy. There were 25 people in the waiting room and all the beds were already full. We are blessed to be in Canada with our health care system, but there still needs to be some improvement when families cannot get a bed in emergency or even on the floors when they are admitted.

Many different people came in to see Gabriel. It gets frustrating because Gabriel has to be checked by so many new faces who tend to all do the same thing over and over. The seventh floor paediatric unit came down to emergency department to access Gabriel's port-a-cathe. The nurses in the emergency department are not trained to do this procedure. They took blood for three different tests to determine the problem. The wait began to drag on after his blood work was completed and I began to get concerned. I approached the nurse at the front desk to inquire as to why the wait for the results was taking 1.5 hours. She stated she would call to find out. After the phone call, she stated they had to double check the results as there was something they were not certain about. Hearing such words does not put your mind at ease, but quite the opposite. I was not expecting this news. I, shockingly, walked back to our isolation room to report this news to Mike. We were both troubled. Mike went to seek further information as he was confused. At this time, I began reciting Psalms 138:8 over Gabriel as I awaited the results. This passage says "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me; thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands. The first set of news began to come back. We were happily shocked to hear the following. Gabriel's blood count numbers are as follows: white blood cells 3.3 (normal is between 5-10), hemoglobin is 122 (normal), Platelets 225 (excellent and has increased from 158 to 225 in a matter of two days and his Neutrophils are at 2.2. He is no longer considered neutropenic and can fight infections. These numbers will go up and down throughout chemo, but it is a good sign for us at this stage. Thank you heavenly father for your loving hands upon our family. We sat there a little longer waiting for the final test that would determine whether we would be inpatients once again that evening. I continued to recite this passage and soon thereafter the doctor came back with our news. She reported "EVERYTHING IS FINE, YOU CAN GO HOME." Mike and I were so happy. Every trip to the emergency for us will be one that will be filled with anxiety, but at the same time with hope and peace that our Father in heaven is taking care of us. We are not sure what they were double checking and the concern, but we were just so ecstatic to know everything was fine. Today, I have to take Gabriel to the outpatient for the on-call doctor from last night to look at his bruise as she still thinks it is somewhat strange. I am just thankful for the results last night. Our journey continues...

Monday, March 2, 2009

So Many Emotions-Pain, Fear, Sadness, Happy, Inspired

Today, I struggle with this blog as so many emotions and thoughts come to the forefront. I have shared a vulnerable emotional side in this blog for the following reasons: to help and inspire others whom may face similar circumstances, show the power that God can have over our lives if we commit to Him, to provide you all with consistent information and to assist with writing a journal to release my own thoughts and emotions. However, I know that unless you are a parent who has suffered watching your own child with cancer it will be hard to empathize this pain. We truly comprehend the lack of not being able to empathize as we were once those parents with a healthy child. I, was the parent, who watched the advertisements for Toronto Sick Kids and would remark to myself "I can't imagine what those parents must be going through." In the past, this statement could never depict the immense amount of pain it would be to watch your own child, who you conceived, go through the procedures that "no"child should ever have to go through. I know our prognosis is so much better and we are receiving positive reports as this is the piece I happily and without hesitation share with you all. However, this is just a debriefing and not the full story as I hesitate to share the exact journey we have and will take for the next 3.5 to 4 years of the "Smith Family's life". Today, I need to share those missing pieces that I have left out of my blog. It is the pain and misery that strikes us every time our son is forced under general anaesthetic for a spinal tap that he will receive once a week for three months, to watch them subject him to chemicals every week that have so many risk factors and repercussions such as heart problems, induced secondary leukemia, heart problems and the list goes on. The unbearable pain when I had to listen to him scream "mommy" as I was forced to leave him as I walked down the long hall because I was not permitted in the room to watch him fall asleep for surgery. We had to and will continue to cope with listening to him scream as they take blood every week to check his blood count. Even though he has a port it is not used for small blood counts. This is just a few of the aspects we will face over the next few years. As you can briefly read it is this process that makes this journey so difficult. Simone, our amazing daughter, has picked up at an early age something has changed significantly in Gabriel. In one week, she has transformed into a person that Gabriel needs so much in his life. She makes him laugh. Her personality that God has given her inspires us to laugh and enjoy the small moments in life. God has given her an amazing personality that cheers all of us during the most depressing of days. One day she will know what a true gift she is to her mommy, daddy, and Gabriel.

Mike and I want to express our appreciation for the best wishes and praise for the prognosis thus far. Please also remember the journey we will be taking every week to diminish the cancer cells forever. Therefore, prayer and a listening ear are the most powerful gifts you can provide.

Today, we were informed of the protocol for Gabriel's next 3.5 to 4 years. It is great that he is a fast responder, but based on the diagnosis of the trans located leukemic chromosome his treatment will still be intensive. This means an introduction of more drugs, more frequently and weekly spinal taps where chemo is inserted. Mike and I understand the purpose of this treatment, but it does not beget the pain that produces in Mike and I.

Praise God for the following:
making him a fast-responder
that he has ALL and not AML
that he has not had cancer in his central nervous system
that he is three at time of diagnosis as this increases cure rate
that he has less than 3% cancer cells left in his body as of today
that his blood counts are changing to positive counts (his hemoglobin is at a wonderful 131, his neutrophils have increased slightly and he is beginning to make his own platelets)
Thank you heavenly Father!!!!!

Prayer Request
Please continue to pray for Mike, myself, Gabriel and Simone for strength, peace, and trust in the Lord's will. In addition, we ask for Prayer for protection over Gabriel as he does not face the risk factors known and unknown to chemotherapy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Five Years to Cure-Disney World Here we Come

Mike and I had a long night and day of worry about the results of today. This roller coaster ride that Mike and I are confronted with continues to take us on the journey through hills and valleys within the world of leukemia. Today, we announce and praise God that today we proceed up a hill, rather than down another valley. Our son is in "remission." The bone marrow results indicated that Gabriel has less than 3% leukemic cancer cells left in his body. In order to be considered a "fast-responder" a child must have less than 5% leukemic cells left after only two weeks of treatment. This was cause for celebration for Mike and I. After hearing the news we embraced with a renewed sense of what our future will entail. We even laughed curiously as we realized that even though our son will still be fighting cancer, we have found joy in a time that some individuals would still feel a sense of misery. We thank God for the peace and strength that He has been providing us these past two weeks and would not have come this far without striving to place God first in our lives. The protocol for chemotherapy will be somewhat different prior to commencement of treatment based on the trans located leukemia chromosomes, but the cure rate is still significantly high and more importantly we trust God's will in our journey. (Note: I know you may have thought that when I was speaking of chromosomes I meant chromosomes received by parents. This is not the chromosomes I am speaking of. It is Leukemic chromosomes that I was speaking of in a previous blog and it is these chromosomes where they found one that was trans located, which will result in a little more extensive chemo for Gabriel. This is the power and importance of research. We should all support research when we can because it improves our physical and mental health).

Five years from today (February 27th, 2014), Mike and I will be taking our children to Walt Disney World in celebration of Gabriel being defined as "cured" from Cancer. We believe that one day we will see this to fruition by the power of God.

We continue to thank you for checking in to read how our family is doing at this time. We appreciate so much your kind words you have provided after some of the blogs I have wrote. I also want to thank my dear friends Elisa and Katrina for surprising my children with beautiful gifts at our door. I love seeing them smile. Thank you for doing this for us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

From Inpatient to Outpatient

As of yesterday we were discharged from being an inpatient. We are now home living in Mt. Elgin until we hear the results of this coming Friday's surgery. We hope that we can remain as outpatients attending the hospital only for chemotherapy days. Life at home is very different now that we are on constant alert for signs of a fever, vomiting, rash, dehydration, etc... Sadly, these are all considered symptoms that every child will go through, but for our son means to the hospital for an overnight or more to prevent further difficulties. Mike and I have realized life won't be the same for years, but we are willing to give up whatever it takes to get our son healthy once again. The pediatric team is not concerned about his numbers from blood tests being low (white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin and neutrophils) as they prefer children being in their own homes away from environments where there is more of a chance of picking up infections. We have the relief of knowing there is staff on-call 24 hours a day to assist us. Gabriel's chemotherapy regiment is both oral and IV. Parents become the primary medical staff for their children since the process is so intensive and involves both home and in-clinic for chemo.

My life has changed immensely as I have come to realize that my daily routines such as day trips to town for children's programs, to stores with the kids, Sunday school teacher and seeing clients for counselling has all changed so that I can take care of my son's needs 100%. I have "happily" and without "hesitation" made the decision to take a leave of absence from everything until we know that Gabriel will be okay. I do this without hesitation because my family is the most important aspect of my life. I do acknowledge that I will have days where I will miss my other roles such as Social Worker and Sunday school teacher, but I will find ways to take care of myself without feeling resentful. God has given me great strength from past trials and tribulations to help me proceed on this journey. I have felt God's presence in the past and know he still carries me through this journey too.

Mike is coping the best that he can with all the changes. He realizes that during the day his routine remains the same. However, the difference will be his constant worry he has of how we are doing. He also realizes that in his clients won't care if he is having a difficult day as business continues inspite of life's turmoil. Mike will have to adjust to being committed to his clients and not developing a sense of apathy towards his clients. For families suffering with serious illnesses it takes a sense of diligence not to compare your difficulties to what others are suffering. We each deal with life's journeys very differently. Mike struggles with defending clients who have committed crimes when he knows his own son is coping with cancer. As a Social Worker, I remind him of the systemic reasons that his clients are in the situations they are in. His client's may have not dealt with suffering in their past well (parental illness, childhood illness, abuse, etc...) and resulted in destructive coping mechanisms. We forget that people who commit crimes are suffering from much devastation in their past. I am so proud of Mike for working for people who are oppressed. Jesus calls us to go into the world to help those who are oppressed to see a renewed life in Him. Mike is a great lawyer and is doing a great practice for those who suffer. I know I will have to remind him of this when he struggles to attend to his clients, but he is a great man who tries to do only the best for everyone. I am proud to be his wife.

A final note:
Gabriel is considered neutropenic (can't fight infections), so visits will be limited or not at all. Therefore, please know as much as we would like to see everyone we apologize that we cannot at this time for the protection of Gabriel. However, as long as you and your children have not been sick Mike and I are glad to see you without Gabriel. We hope that we can open our doors for a few visits once his neutrophils have increased. Our words cannot express the gratitude Mike and I feel for the thoughtful calls, e-mails, gifts and cards that you all have provided. Please know that this helps us more than you will ever know.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cherished Visit Today

Gabriel's face was full of gleeful expressions as his cousins came to visit him in the hospital. Mike and I were happy we made the decision to invite his cousins rather than deterring them any longer based on his inability to fight infections. His happiness is the most important and we needed to see his brilliant smile light up the room. They played cars, which Uncle Todd and Noah captivated him for a while. Madelyn, Cassidy, Mackenzie and Noah made Gabriel some wonderful drawings for his "bedroom" (Gabriel's term for his room in the hospital). His room has been decorated as a replica to his own bedroom at home. He has his planet comforter, pillow sham and a poster of the planets. We have been decorating his walls with many cheerful pictures of his friends and family. We describe our accommodations as our "bachelor pad" made for our family. It is not home, but we are happy that we are able to be together as a family. You realize when confronted with such turmoil that all that really matters to me is having my husband and my two children with me. Nothing else truly matters! Today was a good day and we thank Uncle Todd, Aunt Tina and Madelyn, Cassidy, Mackenzie and Noah for making our son smile and laugh. Most importantly, we thank you for giving him the opportunity to be a child and play as he only should at this stage in his life. We love you all!

Gabriel wants to thank Matthew too for the balloons and his webkinz. He was so gracious to talk on the phone today with Gabriel. They are too cute together! Thanks Jen for dropping the balloons off for Gabriel. Skinner family, you are very dear to us! I would like to express our thanks to Ben and Tina for coming to see us at the hospital to be supportive. Thank you to Mark for coming by to see my husband as he certainly needs a chance to escape reality of the hospital environment. Sorry, you missed him.

Until next time...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A New Day

I wanted to express my thankfulness and support to everyone who takes time to read my blogs and sometimes lengthy blogs. Please know I will never give up hope for my son. I know the Lord is on our side, which means that hope always remains. We will have times where we will go through difficult days, but we will always remember that the Lord is in control whether we truly understand the journey that we are taking. Thank you to Carolyn for visiting and making our day so delightful. We really appreciated the time you spent with our children so Mike and I could escape reality by watching a movie together. We also want to thank Trevor for making our son laugh. We cherished his smiles and laughter that he had while you were here.

My faith in Jesus Christ is the most important aspect in my life and would not know how to make it through this without my faith. Therefore, I wanted to share with everyone and as a reminder to myself the journey that David in the bible took during many difficult days. He remained righteous and praised God always. David's journey was difficult, but I need to remember and be encouraged that God is faithful by looking at the life of David. Please continue to read...

God deserves my praise for the things he has done thus far. I need to be thankful for the following:
1. My son has ALL, not AML
2. White blood cell at diagnoses was less than 50...this is good.
3. Age of diagnosis
4. General overall health
5. Did not spread into the spinal fluid
6. His numbers are being lowered.
7. There has been a reduction of leukemic cells from 100% to now 30%
8. The advances in technology have come so far even since the 90's that discovering genetic chromosome make-up can continue to lead to a cure even when a chromosome is considered trans located.

Please continue to read...(Yes, it is long, but very worth the read). I have cut and pasted this from a website I found as a great reminder of the Lord's power and faithfulness to his will.

How to know the will of God

in difficult times

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation, and desperately needed God's counsel to get you out. Or maybe you just need direction from God on a particular issue. Then stay with me as we look at David's life in the old testament and learn how to find out God's will for our lives situations.

David's life had numerous ups and downs. At one time in his life he was constantly fleeing from King Saul who wanted to kill him.

David eventually came to live at Ziklag.There he became the leader of his own little community. However it so happened, when David and his men were away, that the Amalekites came to Ziklag, destroyed the whole place, burning it with fire and took away all the men's wives and children.

It was a time of great distress and bewilderment for David and all the other people. The men were so angry they even considered stoning David to death.

We read this story in 1 Samuel 30:1-8. We will use this story as our main text for this study

"David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.

4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David's two wives had been captured -- Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.

But David found strength in the LORD his God. 7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David enquired of the LORD," Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I over take them?" "Pursue them," he answered. "You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue." 1 Samuel 30:1-8 (NIV)

We can learn at least three important things from the above story on how to receive counsel from God in times of need


1.Don't lose heart


When the storms of life strike it is very easy to get discouraged. "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" is normally our first question. There is nothing wrong with questioning what has happened to us; even more when we are in God's will.

David was where he was because of God. It all started with him slaying Goliath. He had good reason to question God.

David was deeply hurt by what had happened. He wept till he had no strength left (1 Samuel 30:4). He must have felt disappointed and even angry with God. Why had God allowed this to happen? Even his own men were now against him

David's first response to the situation was to weep. It was that bad. Nevertheless David knew he had to keep his heart right if he was to hear from God. He did not understand why God had allowed this to happen but he still trusted the Lord. David went on to strengthen himself in the Lord.

He renewed his faith. David reminded himself that God is good and faithful. He dismissed discouragement. He refused to loose heart. He put all offence and bitterness towards God out of the way. This was the key to David's success. We need to do the same when faced with similar situations.

If we are to hear God speak to us we need to make sure we are not annoyed with him. Do you know it is possible to be offended with God ? ( Matt 11:6).


2.Keep your heart clean


Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it [spring] the issues of life.Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

Keeping our hearts with diligence means being careful not to let negative seeds (of hurt, doubt and unbelief) get sown into our hearts. You might not understand God but you can still trust Him with all your heart.

When trouble or hardships strike they normally move us in one of three directions

1. Discourage us temporarily
2. Push us away from God
3. Draw us close to God

Its our hearts that determine which direction we go.

Temporary discouragement is common to all of us as believers. Discouragement only becomes a problem when we allow it to turn into hurt and bitterness towards God or other people.

The men in David's company became "bitter in spirit". (verses 6). Naturally speaking you could not blame them. After all they had just lost their sons and daughters. This was a disaster they could not explain.

The men wanted to stone David. Their actions were a reflection of their hearts. Disappointments and hurt can easily turn into bitterness towards God. Bitterness in the heart is very dangerous. (Hebrews 12:15).

It makes it even harder for us to hear from God If you are so annoyed with God that you stop coming to church, neglect praying and keep pondering over everything God has not done, you are very unlikely to hear God. Some people even go as far as saying I am not going to pray again until God speaks to me.

A more subtle form of bitterness or hurt towards God makes us withdraw from Him inwardly but not outwardly. We remain Christians but have consciously given up any real hope that He will heed our voice. We stop putting any determined effort into seeking His face. We become weary in our hearts.

We need to keep our hearts with all diligence against this happening. David was in the same situation as these men but his heart took him in the opposite direction - closer to God.

David was no doubt discouraged initially, but must have quickly realised that he had no other option apart from getting closer to God.

Drawing close to God in time of hardship is not always easy. We get an insight into how David did it in Psalm 103.

We need to reassure ourselves of the goodness and faithfulness of God before we will be able to hear from him and get counsel for the way out. First work on your heart before looking to God for guidance. This is what David did (verse 6)


3.Hearing from God


We should be aware that there is no use asking God for His counsel if we have already made up our mind on what we want to do. Notice what David did.

He asked the Lord about something that seemed obvious. "shall I pursue this raiding party?" (verse 8) This seemed the obvious thing to do. David, despite the pressure of an angry mob of men, took the time and patience to seek God's face.

We need to lay down our own ambitions and agenda at the cross before we can expect God to give us His counsel. Don't go to God with a plan you want Him to rubber stamp. Be honest. Are you ready to do His will.?

In learning how to find out God's will lets take a few hints from one of David's Psalms

[Of David.] Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O 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.
6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)

1. You need to make an effort in getting your innermost being to praise the Lord.Get your heart right with God. Forgive God if you have to. Don't blame your self either. Don't let the past affect your present.

Nor is there any wisdom in going to God with a long list of things He has not done. You will only get more discouraged. You need to put all these things aside and tell your soul and inmost being to praise the Lord.


2. Forget not His benefits. The Lord is good. Never forget that. Keep a record of all the things He has spoken to you in the past. Its also essential that you keep a list of answered prayers. Get a note book to keep these in.

Come to God with a list of things you want Him to do. Remind yourself of His goodness. Remember His promises to you, especially the personal ones


3. God forgives sins. Never think that God is not speaking to you because of your sin. Peter denied Jesus three times (and that was after being warned by Jesus beforehand), he repented and Jesus forgave him. Jesus is still the same today.

He still forgives today (1John 2:1-2) Do not live under condemnation. God is a God of compassion. Remember Jonah.


4. God redeems us. Even where we have got ourselves into trouble because of our own stupid actions He can still turn it around. (Romans 8:28). Simply because you can't think of a way out does not mean God can't. Expect God to redeem you. More importantly, count on Him to lead you.


5. God loves to satisfy our desires.Read Luke 11:5-13 and Luke 18 : 1-8.You will see what Jesus had to teach on asking. When we ask the Lord for guidance He will guide us.

You can study more about David by reading 1 Samuel 16 to 1 King 2. David is also mentioned in Amos 6:5, Matt 1:1,Matt 22:43-45, Acts 13:22 , Heb. 11:32.