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.


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)