Monday, August 10, 2015

This is for Jess

Since returning to Albuquerque we try to have as many family adventures as possible...and our official family definition of an adventure is something that's "a little bit exciting and a little bit scary".

One of our favorite activities is hiking in the Sandia foothills.  The other day we were out hiking and came across a scary scene.

I've wanted to see a rattlesnake in the wild since I started hiking the Sandias in 2011.  How lucky I was to have my whole family with me when we came across this mammoth snake in the middle of a meal!  The downside is that it puts you between a rock and a hard place: here you are with this amazing snake that you've always wanted to "play with" in the wild, however, you've got your two young boys watching your every move, and actions speak louder than words.

So you have to compromise.

"Emmett, that's a dangerous snake.  If you ever come across a snake like this, stay far, far away from it.  Whatever you do, never, EVER do this, and never do this, and never try this."

After a few minutes you realize your four-year-old is getting confused by your contradictory behavior.  So you decide to send him further up the trail with your wife while you stay behind to make sure the "snake doesn't follow you".

Alright, enough of my parenting advice for one post.

I would post a second video but it might be a little incriminating.  Suffice it to say that the snake's rattle does work...which allows me to rest easy knowing that other hikers will receive an acoustic warning if they get too close to this deadly beast ;)

Unfortunately, in the process of making that discovery I may have painted a target on myself for this particular rattlesnake...the hiker with the large backpack, white hat, and cheesy grin.

Clayton was all laughs and giggles the entire time.

Emmett, not so much.  I believe he wound up sleeping in our bed that night.  So I got what was coming to me...from Emmett, at least.  The rattlesnake may get his chance another day.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A dream came true for me today

I've always wanted to be that stranger.

I was in the airport this morning waiting to board a plane to Kansas City for a business trip.  As I was waiting, I happened to glance over toward the gate where people were lining up to board the plane, and what did I see?  Someone wearing a blue T-shirt with the words 'Joy, Hope, Strength' next to a family with a little boy also wearing a Make-A-Wish T-shirt.  Clearly there was a ill child on his way to Florida for a Disney adventure.

A year ago it was us, with Emmett, standing in line at that very same gate waiting to board the plane to Florida for Emmett's Make-A-Wish trip.  It all came back so quickly -- the Make-A-Wish send-off team, the counter attendants that gave Emmett a grab bag with a toy Southwest Airlines plane that made SO MUCH noise, pilots who were excited to sit us in the cockpit and take pictures...and the joy of a week making memories in Florida during a time that was otherwise fraught with uncertainty.

I still remember vividly the day we returned home from that trip.  We were collecting our luggage from the baggage carousel when an elderly gentleman, obviously aware of Emmett's apparent condition, stopped to talk to us briefly.  And then he bent down to exchange a kind word with Emmett, and in so doing, wrapped Emmett's hand around a $20 bill and told him to go bowling.
These experiences were always so touching and strengthening to Katy and me.  And so exciting for Emmett!
And today I got to be that stranger!  Finally!  Katy will tell you how I've longed for this personally reach out to a family with a sick child, in the moment, as others strengthened us.  It brought sweet tears.
I told the boy to take his family out for ice cream with the money...but then remembered afterwards that where he's going, the ice cream is free.  And you can have it for breakfast.  Luckily he looked like a boy with a healthy appetite for toys -- I'm sure he'll find something to spend it on ;)
Ice Cream Palace at Give Kids the World
How thankful I am for all those who have blessed our lives since Emmett's diagnosis.  And how grateful I am for the opportunity to do the same for others who are in need of God's love.
I can't say if it's sweeter to be on the giving or receiving end -- both touch the soul very deeply.  And it's wonderful. 

May we all experience the joy of being that stranger.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

     Usually Micah is more inclined to write the more thoughtful posts and I just like to post pictures and such, but today while watching General Conference, I was really touched by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's simple but beautiful talk on our Savior and how Easter is the most Sacred Day of the year.  Although most of my thoughts I like to keep close to my heart, I felt I would be ungrateful for our Savior's magnificent gift if I did not share something today.

     This past January/February while we were stuck in Boston because of appointments and weather, I read this chapter over and over (because let's be honest, it's short) but mostly because I loved this simple and true verse:  "But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ."  (Mosiah 16:8)  I love the phrase the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ because it put into words my feelings towards Emmett's life since he was diagnosed.  I never have really felt anger towards his diagnosis, nor that it was a punishment from God.  I just felt that it was life happening to us like it does to everyone and that if we lost him, I couldn't imagine how much I would miss him, but that death really isn't an end and because of Easter Sunday, I have no doubt it would just be separation for a time. I don't pretend to know what it is like to actually lose a child-I know that thinking about it is absolutely an entirely different thing than actually experiencing it.  But between that small verse and Elder Holland's talk today, I realized how grateful I am for today, for our Savior's triumph over death because my knowledge of that is what has kept the last few years from being such a heavy weight on my chest or a depressing chapter of life.  I've always felt that as his mother, I of all people should have had anxiety and depression through this all and I haven't...and I have felt guilty because of that.  Elder Holland's talk today painted such a beautiful and simple picture of what Jesus Christ has done for us and put into words my feelings of hope and made me feel grateful for this blessing of hope instead of guilt.  Happy Easter to everyone today!

Here are my Easter Joys!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Good News

Since the last post we have remained in Boston as Emmett underwent further testing ordered by the oncology team (PET/CT, repeat MRI, and lumbar puncture).  Oncology finally sat down with us on Friday after considering all the results and consulting with the neurosurgery team.  The subject of concern is a spot on his spine that has historically been identified as a "tethered spinal cord".  In previous scans the spot has measured 2 mm.  On his 1/28 MRI the spot measured 6 mm and enhanced with contrast.  This raised the possibility of tumor recurrence and warranted further investigations.

You can imagine our hearts skipped a beat with this news.  The emotions that come with a potential cancer recurrence are overwhelming.  We appreciate all those who remembered Emmett and our family in their prayers and fasting on 2/1.

On 2/2 Emmett had a repeat MRI on the spot in question.  This was a diffusion MRI with FIESTA imaging to determine if the cell structure in this area looks like cancer.   The results came back that it didn't look cancerous.  Also, this scan measured the spot at 4 mm down from 6 mm the previous week.  This difference is close to being within the measurement resolution of the scanner.  When comparing this spot to Emmett's October MRI, the oncologist could not tell a difference.  These are all very encouraging signs.

Emmett's PET/CT came back negative as well.  This means that the glucose uptake in this area was within the normal range.

Then Emmett's lumbar puncture to look for cancer cells in his spinal fluid also came back negative.

Finally, the neurosurgery team (Dr. Goumnerova) weighed in and said that she would not consider biopsying this spot (and likely couldn't), and that after reviewing the scans she didn't understand what all the fuss was about.  As anxious as we always are to hear from Dr. G, we were very excited to hear this feedback.

So oncology cleared us to return to New Mexico on the condition that we come back for a repeat MRI in two months instead of the normal three. Yay!!!  We couldn't be more excited and will be on our way to Albuquerque as soon as the blizzard lets up.

We continue to count the miracles we see and will add this to the list.  We are strengthened by the sustaining power of faith as we walk the path God has placed before us and express sincere gratitude for all who continue to pray for us.  May God bless you all.

Golly this winter is treacherous!

Good thing Aunt Carrie made us awesome hats to keep warm!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Plea for Prayers

Emmett had a routine follow up MRI yesterday at Boston Children's Hospital.  The doctors noted a spot that is both bigger and brighter than on previous scans.  This is the same spot that Emmett's doctors have been describing as a "tethered spinal cord" since Emmett's last spinal surgery in 2012 and it has always been discussed as a location of post surgical change and not a spot of potential tumor activity.  But in April they noted a slight change from previous scans, but the repeated scan in June showed no change.  Everything was also clear in October 2014.  But yesterday's scan shows an increase in size in one dimension.

It's impossible to tell exactly what it may be at this point.  Could be recurrent tumor, could be post surgical change/scar tissue...but why no significant change in size until now?  Given how fast Emmett's initial tumor grew, it would be surprising to see something as slow growing as this.

The spot is located on the front of his spinal cord which makes it very difficult to get at surgically for biopsy.  Emmett's neurosurgeon is out of the country currently and was not available for consultation yesterday.  Hopefully we'll hear from her next week.

In the meantime, the oncology team has requested some additional imaging studies as they try to learn more about this spot.  A PET scan is scheduled for tomorrow, and another MRI is scheduled for Tuesday.  The PET shows how actively cells pick up glucose and gives an indication of whether an area is growing or not.  Because Emmett's only previous PET was taken at a time when there was no tumor activity, we do not know if Emmett's tumor shows up hot on a PET scan when the cells are active (the previous scan showed everything was cold).

We're doing our best to move forward with faith in the face of uncertainty.  We take comfort in the many prayers and blessings that have been offered for Emmett and are strengthened by the many miracles we have seen thus far in his treatment. 

We would appreciate your faith and prayers as we progress through the coming days and weeks.  We will be praying that Emmett's doctors will be sensitive to God's Spirit in determining what this spot represents and if it needs further treatment....and what the next steps should be.  And that the God's Spirit will sustain our family as we walk the path He has placed before us.

We welcome all to join us in this prayer.

Emmett waking up to snow in Boston!

The Lion shoveling and playing in snow!

Warming up afterwards.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our hearts are full to the point of bursting today.

Two years ago our family was at the brink of devastation.  Our only child was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer and his prognosis was dismal.  In addition, because of the potential genetic nature of his cancer, our doctors had told us we might not want to have more children if we were carriers.

After experiencing the incomparable joy that children bring into a family, the thought of losing what might be our only child was absolutely crushing.  The early December day when our doctors told us there was nothing more they could do for our child was the darkest of my life.  The holidays that year, overcast with fear and grief, were anything but 'merry' or 'happy'.

Thankfully, we believe in faith, prayer, priesthood power, love, miracles, and mercy.

I don't pretend to understand God's will.  I cannot explain why one child is allowed to stay and another taken.  It breaks my heart to think of those children we know who have lost their battles with cancer and those who are still fighting for life.  But all I know is that on a Thanksgiving Day when we may have been doing our best to celebrate the holiday with no children, today we've spent with two beautiful children who we can hug, cuddle, wrestle, kiss, and love.  And it's absolutely the best thing in the world.  Words are inadequate to express my feelings.  Every day together is a miracle to be treasured and cherished, and we have been blessed with so many.  And there's a prospect of more.  Today represents nothing less than our biggest dream come true.

How grateful, humbled, and thankful beyond expression I am to a Father who has allowed our first son to stay, and who has blessed us with another, Clayton Sean.  And how thankful I am to all those who have joined us in fasting and prayer to importune the Lord on behalf of our family.

And so...with the most energy and vigor I can possibly write words that do not express the least part which I feel, let me declare that this IS truly a Happy Thanksgiving!  Evening the happiest!  And we look forward to celebrating the Merriest Christmas and Happiest New Year of our lives in the coming month.  We hope the same is true for you.

Hug your loved ones and tell them how much you love them today, and everyday.  And thank the God of heaven for each blessing you receive.

God bless you.  And Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stephen's Run 2014

Unless the new baby decides to surprise us that day, we'll be at Stephen's Run/Walk this year.  This 5k is in memory of Stephen Peterson, a sweet boy from a neighboring church congregation who passed away of the same cancer that Emmett was diagnosed with.  In the season of Thanksgiving, what a wonderful opportunity to give thanks for all the children who have touched our lives, past and present.  This is a low key activity--bring the kids and the strollers!  There is no registration fee, but donations will be accepted to benefit Make-A-Wish of New Mexico (which recently granted Emmett's wish--more on that in another post). May God bless the Peterson family and all others who have lost children.