Friday, February 27, 2009
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
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
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
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.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Anyway, here goes with explaining why this day is so bad. Gabriel had his bone marrow and spinal tap today to determine the percentage of leukemia cells left in his bone marrow. He was close to 100% upon admittance to the hospital. As of today, he is now at 30% (this is not the bad news), but the factor that was in limbo until today was the genetics of his chromosomes. This process was determined by sending samples to Toronto to determine whether the process of chemotherapy would be more complex depending on the mutation of his chromosomes. The results were that there was a mutation in his chromosomes, which has reduced his cure rate to 80% and not 95%. It also means for stringent chemotherapy into the second month. In addition, we are still waiting to determine one more possibility within this chromosome mutation. The question to be answered over this next week is whether Gabriel is a "fast-responder" or a "slow-responder" to Leukemia treatment? If he is a "fast-responder" then treatment stays the same, but the induction stage to cause remission will be two months of comprehensive treatment. However, if he is a "slow-responder" then Simone, Mike and I will be tested to see if we are a match for Gabriel. The treatment becomes even more extensive and the cure rate is then reduced to only 50%. I never would have imagined our life could get any worse at this time. I am praying that he is a "fast-responder" to treatment, so we don't have to worry about further treatment beyond chemotherapy. However, we also know that elements in treatment can change. An interesting aspect of our discussion with the doctor today occurred when I indicated that we saved Simone's stem cells from her cord blood. She looked astonished at this declaration and seemed more hopeful. She inquired as to why we thought to save Simone's stem cells. I stated that we thought we should do this just in case one of our children needed help one day. Upon saying this I realized that I never thought this day may be fast approaching and we may be confronted with this as an option. For a long time we felt guilty that we never saved Gabriel's. We did not know much about stem cells 3.5 years ago and Ontario did not have private banks to hold stem cells. When Simone was born this option was available and Mike and I did not hesitate. We are glad we made this choice if it will save our beautiful son's life. In addition, our doctor stated that they would never have used Gabriel's stem cells as they are uncertain about the onset of Leukemia cells. There is some research being developed after babies are born when they do the heal pokes to gather blood samples. If we had only known???
Mike and I are asking everyone to fervently pray for healing for Gabriel and strength and peace for Mike and I during this time. We love you all!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Gabriel's day tomorrow (Friday, Feb 20) involves another surgery to determine whether chemotherapy has"killed" some or all of the cancer cells and to insert more chemo into his central nervous system (spine). Gabriel continues on his chemo everyday and the Doctor's are pleased with the outcome thus far. We are reminded everyday that his counts won't be within the normal range until his body starts building his numbers without artificial assistance. This thought can be difficult. We try to not focus on this aspect of our journey. We look for every moment where our son is smiling and laughing, even on those days it only lasts for an hour or even for just a few minutes. We were reminded today that Gabriel will lose his hair and his face will become quite round from the chemo medications. Mike and I were saddened by the fact that he won't look like our little boy. We are sad because the only thing at this point that has remained is his physical appearance. However, in a few months we will be reminded of his cancer every time we look at him. The nurses indicated this was the most difficult stage for parents because they realize everyday life is very different for their child and for their family. Mike and I are strong, but sometimes we have many moments where we are weak and wish we could wake up from this nightmare. God is making us strong each day and we do feel a sense of peace even during this time of unpredictability. We may have times of weakness, but we are strong in faith and reassured that God is gracious and loving. I can only trust and pray that He will take care of our son each and every day.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
We are trying to cope with Gabriel's cancer, but can be difficult as our son's beautiful personality is in hibernation at this time. He is angry, sad, frustrated and barely smiles. This breaks my heart every time I see him. He smiles occasionally! We also realize that life is very different for us. We are also seeking God for direction in our life concerning our family. We are told that we will have to be on constant alert for fevers upon our return to Mt. Elgin. We have to be within one hour radius of London as we have to get him to the hospital quickly if a fever occurs. We are struggling with this potential as a result of where we are currently living. Please pray for direction in our lives. We are very thankful for want God has done for Gabriel. We thank Him for the progress that Gabriel is making. Thank you so much for your prayers.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Gabriel dwells in the secret place of the most High and shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him I will trust.
Surely he shall deliver Gabriel from the snare or the fowler and from the noisome pestilence.
God will cover Gabriel with his feathers and under His wings shalt Gabriel trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid for the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at Gabriel's side and ten thousand at Gabriel's right hand but it will not come nigh Gabriel.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord which is my refuge, even the most High thy habitation
There shall no evil befall Gabriel neither shall any plague come nigh Gabriel's dwelling.
For He shall give his angels charge over Gabriel to keep Gabriel in all thy ways.
They shall bear Gabriel up in their hands, lest Gabriel dash his foot against a stone.
Gabriel shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt Gabriel trample under feet.
Because you hath set your love upon me therefore will I deliver Gabriel: I will set Gabriel on high because you hath known my name
You shall call upon me and I will answer you: I will be with Gabriel in trouble; I will deliver Gabriel and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy Gabriel and shew Gabriel my salvation.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Our biggest struggle until now in this journey is the continuous blood work that he has to get done. Three times a day and sometimes more. We suffer as he screams, but as of today he now has a port. He no longer has to be poked or be touched by a poker as our son describes it. It was difficult to watch my baby go into surgery while he screamed for me, but I knew the benefits of this surgery were so important. We were lucky to be able to sit with Gabriel when he went to sleep for his spinal tap and bone marrow surgery and were there upon recover. It was just like we never left. However, his port was done in the OR, which we could not be a part of. This was so difficult for me. I wish we could have done the same as we did with his previous surgery.
Gabriel's platelet count is quite low and blood level was low. As a result, he has received two platelet transfusions and one blood transfusion. This brought great relief when we saw the energy and life it brought for Gabriel. He is beginning to feel a little better, but in some pain from his surgery. Gabriel has also been on chemotherapy for two days now!
Tuesday, February 10th
Gabriel proceeded to his Montessori School that he goes to once a week. I picked him up at 4 p.m. and he seemed really tired and did not want to leave my side. I went out for a few hours that evening and Mike was with Gabriel. Mike took Gabriel to our local library and indicated he was not interested. Very unlike Gabriel. When I got home as I usually do when I am home after my children are in bed I go to check on them. I kissed my son on his forehead and discovered he was warm. I went to the kitchen and noticed that Mike had the tool box out that we keep our medicines in looking for the thermometer. He was unable to locate this tool. I checked my baby boy and discovered that he had a temperature. Of course, as any mom does I gave him some Tylenol.
Wednesday, February 11th-My Worse Fear becomes a Reality
I woke up just like any other day and was about to dress Gabriel. I gasped when I saw a large bruise on his abdomen and became quickly angry. I called Mike to ask if there was anything that happened while I was gone the evening before. Mike indicated Gabriel was acting strange. He curled up on the floor in the kitchen wanting to go to sleep. He was in bed at 7:15 p.m. Nothing happened. I began to get angrier as I thought something horrible happened at his school and was not told. I quickly called his teacher. She told me that Gabriel bumped into a table, but did not appear to be upset about this occurrence. After my phone call, I began to get quite nervous and knew something was very wrong. I called our family doctor immediately to get an appointment. At that time he was scheduled to see the doctor at 12:45 p.m., but soon after this call Gabriel spiked a fever. I called back again and asked to come sooner as I was concerned that this was something serious. We left immediately at this time. Our doctor came in to see Gabriel and I and looked him over. Our doctor looked at me and said "these are not trauma bruises." I immediately became scared even though I did not know at that time what that meant. The doctor let me know what the worse case scenario was. The words leukemia rolled off his tongue so quickly that it caught me by surprise. He advised me that blood work has to be completed immediately and we were at the hospital in a matter of minutes. The blood work came back within an hour. Mike was home by that time because prior to going to the doctor's office I knew I needed him. Our doctor called us immediately and indicated that Gabriel's blood work is suggesting leukemia. I, of course, kept denying up until this phone call that this could be a possibility. Even on the car ride to the Children's Hospital we were denying this possibility. How could our little boy have cancer?? 1 out of 15,000 kids get leukemia and how it be our little boy. Yes, it was quickly confirmed by another set of tests. Our son, our baby boy, was diagnosed the same day that I discovered bruises with Acute leukemia. We were devastated and shocked. I could not help, but cry. I realized composure needed to happen as I looked at my little boy's eyes of fear as he saw his mommy crying and when he said "mommy, I want you to be happy." Since that day, I will never let him see the pain that this causes me. I will be strong for him. The only thing left to determine was the type of Leukemia. We were still uncertain about his future and this would only be determine after a spinal tap and bone marrow surgery. This day was a whirlwind and never could have imagined two weeks ago or even one week ago that our life would be turned upside down.
Thank you Todd for making our son laugh during this difficult time as this is what makes us strong when we feel weak. Thank you Tina for listening, watching Simone and being such an an amazing sister-in-law. Thank you Carolyn for being here to listen, to take care of our essentials that Mike and I can't do right now, for being here for our kids and also being an amazing sister-in-law. We could not have made it this far without your help and support. Thank you to mom and dad Smith/grandma and grandpa for being here no matter the time. We have appreciated all of your help. Thank you to mom and dad Bender/grandma and grandpa for your encouraging words over the phone. I know you feel far away, but your thoughts and prayers have been the most important to us.
To our friends,
We have appreciated so much knowing that you are thinking of us, praying for us and when you have come to visit us. Your visits help us escape the reality of our situation so we can come to be strong for Gabriel. Your friendships means so much to us. Thank you and we love you all!
Thank you to everyone who have provided help with groceries, gift certificates and toys for our kids. It helps knowing we are not alone when we have people around us during this time. All of your items have been extremely helpful, especially when it has made it difficult to leave the hospital.
Mike and Tina