July 31, 2006

All Things Green

Since April of 2005 this blog has given regular updates on Jack and his health. Jack has finished chemo and regular treatments with future follow-ups on a regular basis. So where does this leave Updates On Jack? I will be posting any and all updates, but as our journey never stays the same, neither will this blog. One thing remains the same ... We have the joy of the risen Christ.

New name, new color. Green is one of my favorite colors right now, but I am not sure I like a green, green, green blog. In my limited computer ability I have limited choices as to background color. I am waiting for one of my close friends to figure out how to add a creative decorating touch to their blogs, then maybe they will tell me. I wish there was a book, Blogging for Dummies, I would buy it.

In my previous post about The Coffee Group the website is now finished up. Thanks to Phil who designed the "perky" website and Stephen who is our creative design genius. It all looks great. Praise God for your gifts and abilities.


July 29, 2006

The Sound of Silence

Saturday morning....the sound of silence. All the kid's went to grandma's house last night for a sleepover. Last night was Rob's and my first alone night of the whole summer. Between being out of town, and family in town, my Nana's illness and the Lord calling her home, and helping remodel my grandparents house, this has been one busy summer.
Our night consisted of eating the leftovers of a chicken casserole, catching up on our bible studies, then 2 episodes of the Gilmore Girls, it was glorious. When Rob came home from work yesterday, he was giddy with excitement about our possibilities for last night, movies or home, movies or home, we decided on home.
I am an outsider to the conversations that happen with my coffee group on the Gilmore Girls...Loralei, Rory, Suki, these are all names that have no meaning to me...Luke, Max, Dean...those too. Several years have passed and I have just accepted the fact that I would never be in on the Gilmore Girls conversations. We do not have the channel that it shows on. I had alot of stuff to do in my house this week and a movie in the background would be helpful, so I borrowed the complete season 1 from my friend Donna. Her last words were, "You will be hooked when you get done with these." She also has every other season that is in print on dvd that I can borrow, so I am definately in like flint if I do "get hooked". I think that it is safe to say that I will be borrowing season 2 very shortly, I am 2/3 of the way through the first season and it is a fun show to watch. Rob likes it because the dialogue is full of fun words, they don't ever have a quick yes or no answer, it is bantering at it's best.
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Speaking of bantering, check out this new website, it is still slightly under construction, but you will get the gist of it.

  • The Coffee Group
  • A sub-group of our coffee group felt a call to join forces and develop a speaking ministry for ladies retreats and such. We will be at the ACU Lectures in September. Several friends are helping us through prayer, along with encouragement, and editing, design, web design, and our husbands are our greatest cheerleaders.
    There are some who have spoken in front of others before, some who have not, this is a leap of faith for all of us. God just continues to pull us from where we are comfy and cozy, and moves us to a new and unfamiliar places. Speaking for myself I have learned that God moves, and it is best to follow.
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    We have just about 2 weeks left before school starts back. We are going to enjoy every moment of it. Rob and the boys go to Arlington tonight with a group of Father/kids from church to see the Rangers play. Pray for a safe trip and for the drivers to stay awake and alert!!!
    Blessings,
    Tammy

    July 23, 2006

    Camp

    Sunday night. Jack and Sophie are starting ACU's Kid Quest Day Camp tomorrow morning, bright and early. They will be at camp from 8:30-4:30 each day this week. They are very excited, and I know they will have a wonderful time.

    My oldest son Derek went to his first sleepover camp last week. It also was at ACU, his was called Learning to Lead. He had a great time, stayed up late, was in charge of brushing his own teeth, taking showers, cleaning up...all without mom giving directions for such tasks to be completed. When I asked him if he showered every day, he laughed and said, no. Several days went by before he and his roomate thought that showers were in order. I do believe he stayed clean for the most part, if you can count swimming each day in the pool, after all there is chlorine bleach in the water. That is what I am telling myself anyway.
    When I arrived to pick him up, he and his roomy showed me how they could move the mattresses from one bunk to another, making a bridge, then from the second bunk to the table top. They were able to walk across the entire dorm room without ever putting foot on ground. I would say that they were a part of controlled mayhem last week. I wondered after all the shinanagans I heard about and witnessed if there was any redeeming qualities that he took away from this week at camp. When Rob asked him about the camp name, Learning to Lead, what did he learn to lead. Derek's reply was, I don't know. I was happy that Derek was able to spread his wings, he got out of the nest, blessed with independance, and counted it a wonderful week, he is only 9 years old after all, what did I expect?
    Did I mention that I sent self-addressed, stamped envelopes, one for home and one for grandma's house, and after 6 days away from home, both envelopes and stationary were in the very place he put them for safe keeping before he left. He didn't call home once, I understand that calling home is not encouraged by the camp, but it is allowed, I will tell you that I encouraged it. I asked him to please call me, let me know how he was doing, just to say a quick hello,... no phone calls. So I am in a Derek withdrawal state when I pick him up. I just want to squeeze his cheeks and hug him and jump for joy that my sweet boy has come back home after a long week away.
    Back to the redeeming qualities he took away from camp.
    Today at church Derek was sitting next to me. When the singing started, Derek sang. This is huge. I elbowed Rob and nodded in Derek's direction, and said, he's singing. Rob smiled. The next song, more singing, this continues, stand for the next song, he stands, the preacher tells us to get out our Bibles and turn to Romans 8 where we are studying, Derek does it!
    One week ago, Derek had to be lovingly nudged to stand during the standing songs, I have encouraged him to sing before with no return on my appeal. The only time he has pulled his Bible out in church was to play tic tac toe on the blank pages in the back.
    During every song we sang today, I couldn't keep the tears from streaming out of my eyes. When Derek asked me if I was o.k. I told him that hearing his voice sing to the Lord, made me so happy, I was crying tears of joy. Then as we were sitting there, he stretched his arm around me and comforted me.
    This day was very special to me, witnessing Derek worship blessed me immensely.
    Redeeming qualities at church camp, definately.
    Cost for Church Camp - $$$$
    Mom's emotional Derek withdrawals - $ Overabundance
    The seeds that were planted and gained maturity - Priceless
    Thank you Lord for my sweet hearted Derek. Thank you for his energy and tireless motivation. May You take those and draw Him closer to you every day. May he bless others and be blessed.
    In Jesus Name, Amen

    July 20, 2006

    Getting Back To Normal

    We went into the chemo center to have Jack's port flushed for the first time. Once a month until the port is removed we will visit Nurse Sara and she will keep his port usable by flushing it out, and also drawing some of Jack's blood to make sure that he is recovering on schedule from the chemo treatments. His ANC counts were at 1580. About the same as last week when we were at Dallas Children's. Nurse Sara said that normal is around the 5000 ANC range, they will creep back up I am sure. Dr. Bowers told us that it takes about 6 months for his immune system to be back in line like it should. Until then we will keep him on his antibiotic 3 days a week as he has been for the last year.
    The process is quick, we were in and out in about half an hour. Jack was glad to see a couple of his chemo buddies. I was glad to see our chemo friends and all the nurses.
    Jack has had a busy week, he and Sophie have finished up swim lessons, which they both loved. We are looking forward to the last weeks of summer to be a bit more low key than the first half. I think we are all hoping for more pool time that is for sure.
    Jack's hair is looking great and he is looking healthy. He is starting to eat with a better appetite than he has had in months. I can see several changes in him since he finished chemo up 4 weeks ago.
    Jack and Sophie are going to a summer day camp next week, and they are so excited. Several of their friends will be there at the same time.
    Thank you for your prayers.

    July 15, 2006

    AGAPE





    Here are some fun pictures of my Nana when she was in her late teens maybe early 20's. She was on the homecoming court at ACC (now ACU) in 1939. She was a beautiful woman, and was till the day she died. My cousin David did an extra-ordinary job of officiating the service. The service was quite informal, it was a tribute to the life of a woman of great faith, and I for one was inspired by the way my Nana lived her life.
    David set the eulogy up as "The things he learned from Nana." I am quoting that loosely because I am sure he said it a bit differently but that was the gist of it.
    She was a woman of faith, Christ was her best friend, and it was through Christ that she lived and grew in fellowship with Him, until her last breath.
    David talked about how my Nana loved family. Family was very simple to my Nana, the family squabbles that seem important to others, meant nothing to my Nana, she overlooked peoples faults and saw them for what they could be, not necessarily for what we were at the time (that is huge). As someone who had alot of work to be done on my life, when I moved to Abilene, I never once felt like it was impossible to be transformed by the blood of Christ, I was able to see myself through my Nana's eyes, on several occassions. She was all of our cheerleaders.
    David talked about his first football game, he was in the 4th grade, playing pop warner, and after the first play was over he was standing. My Nana called him over and said in her sweet southern voice, "Baby, when the play is over don't be standing, jump on the pile if you have too, don't worry I will wash your uniform, just get in the game." David said that was great advice on the football field, and I am sure he never was left standing at the end of the play after that, but greater advice for life. Get in the game.
    There was more said, but those two have convicted me.
    I am so lucky to have had a strong woman as my role model in my adult years. She never waivered in character, and she always had a smile for anyone and everyone who would look her way.

    I am studying the Fruit of the Spirit right now for Bible Class. It is Beth Moore's study, Living Beyond Yourself. Her studies have always shown the Bible in a way that I can apply to my life, this study is rocking my world.

    We studied Love a couple of weeks ago, and the true meaning of Agape. That was the kind of Love my Nana practiced. She turned the other cheek, she prayed for people who didn't always make things easy for others, she covered over others sins. She did not expose peoples faults, and no matter what someone had done or said to you, she would welcome them in for a meal, and as part of the family. These traits might be seen as weakness to some, the world would say the opposite wouldn't it? Many Christians say the opposite, or maybe a couple of faults exposed, or snide remarks behind their back might just serve them right after all...I am not pointing fingers I am speaking to myself. We are working the devils snare for him when we don't forgive, and when let bitterness and evil, take charge of our character. The sad thing is that we don't realize that we are sabotaging our own hearts when we do the devils work for him. He is so sneaky that he pulls us in with one misplaced action by someone else, and we then let him into our heart to be darkness.

    This is something I am praying that God will help me with. In my nature I am a bit critical, I might give someone a couple of chances to show me kindness, or make the right choice, but after a bit, I just decide that it is not worth the pain, or the inconvenience, and my prayers move on to someone else, my energies are focused in a different direction, many would say good ridden's, Jesus would continue to love, when it didn't make sense to love anymore, (aren't we glad of that...and grateful...and overjoyed), why do we think that He expects less of us. With prayer and devotion to seeking His ways, we can be more like Him. Don't settle to be used by the devil, see yourself through Jesus' eyes, rise up to higher ground, bless others with your words, find yourself being forgiving and kind as a second nature. I am praying for that, and my Nana was a good role model.

    July 11, 2006

    REJOICE



    ...then the ship which sailed through the earthly sea's, made it's way into the distance, at the same moment we looked and said, I can't see the ship any more, it is gone, there was a huge celebration and joyous singing, they shout there she is! I can see her coming, she has arrived, let us rejoice as one of our own has come Home.
    I know the Lord has welcomed one who has welcomed many throughout her life, a friend to all.
    I love you sweet Nana.

    I seem to be physically drained. On the way to Dallas yesterday Rob called and told me that my Nana had just passed on to be with the Lord. When I had said goodbye to her the night before we left, I couldn't help but kiss her, and kiss her, on the forehead, on the cheek, on the chin, on the lips, on the arm, on the forehead again, I just couldn't take my eyes off of her. I knew that there was a good chance she would be called Home before I made it back to Abilene, and saying goodbye was very hard. She hadn't eaten for several days and was on pain medication to keep her from suffering. Her words had for the most part stopped a couple of days ago, when she was awake she might whisper a small word. I would look into her eyes that were not filled with stubborness or strength like they had been before, but every moment in her eyes the words, I love you, were pouring forth. I would tell her I loved her, and she would say it back, as well as she could, whispering, but with such sincerity, I just wanted to hold on tight and not let go. I rejoice for she has gone on from this world, to a place where there is no suffering and tears, but those of us who must find our way in this world without her, we will miss her greatly.

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    We are back in Abilene! Thank the good Lord. Elaine, Rob's mom, took off work and she and the kids and I made the trek to Dallas. The trip only lasted about 28 hours but seemed like a week, it was definately a comedy of errors. For the first time in over a year the Ronald McDonald House was full up when we needed them, so we stayed in a hotel not too far from the hospital. We are glad to be home - safe and with very good news.

    Dr. Bowers told us today that there had been no change in the size of the residual tumor inside the brain stem. He also said that what they are seeing could very well be scar tissue, there is no way to find that out unless a surgical biopsy is done, and that is not done, so what we are left with is, no future treatments, but continued MRI's for 3 months for the first year, then after that I am sure they taper them off a bit, through the following 4 years. Jack can have his mediport removed at anytime, he would like it to be taken out sooner than later, but on the doctors recommendation, we will leave it in for 6 months to make sure there is no change during that time. He will have a port flush every month for 6 months, then if all goes well he will be port free.
    Physical rehab will stay the same and he will continue to work those areas that were lessened by the tumor and chemo.
    The doctor said that there is a less than 50% chance that the tumor will return, and if it does then it would be resected with surgery, and future treatments would be given. I know I wrote that the tumor if allowed to grow back could be resistant, and Dr. Bowers said that is true with several cancers, but not as much with the pilocytic astrocytoma that Jack had (notice the past tense). So we are celebrating the good news.
    I praise you Father for Your continued mercy and peace that has been apparent in our lives over the last year. I praise the Mighty King, the Beginning and Ending, Alpha and Omega.

    July 07, 2006

    A Love Letter Lived Out

    Jack had a blood draw yesterday and his counts are still low at 780 ANC. I am sure that next week this time they will have recovered to a healthy amount. We were lucky that during his homebound time last week that we had family in town and we all just hung out together at grandma's house. It made the week go by pretty quick, and it was barely noticeable that Jack was on quarantine as I call it.
    This weekend VBS starts at church. We are going to send Jack and have him wear his mask to keep the germs away from his nose and mouth. His counts are definately on the rise and it should be safe for him to participate.
    Jack and I will be heading out for Dallas Children's on Monday morning. He has his MRI scheduled at 3pm then Tuesday morning he has his oncology visit with Dr. Bowers. Rob thought he was going to be able to go and we would make it a family affair with all the kids, but someone else scheduled their vacation for next week at his work, so he can't go after all :(
    Jack is already making plans for the trip, Grapevine Mills Mall, possibly a movie.... I am thinking a nice quiet night at the Ronald McDonald House sounds pretty good to me, and cheap too!
    My Nana has been back in the hospital for 2 weeks today. One of the reasons I have been laxed in updating the blog is that all the grandchildren are working on a home extreme makeover for her and my grandpa to come home to. My grandpa stays at the hospital with her and she doesn't let him leave her side, so we knew we would be safe to attempt this makeover without any chance of them knowing what was going on. This is a big secret, mums the word. As they don't have a computer, I am quite safe posting about our little surprise. So if you happen to live in Abilene and know my grandparents or send them a card, don't tell them, o.k.
    There has been elbow grease involved, and in the beginning I even called in some very wonderful recruits to get their house packed up in a 36 hour period, before the new carpet was laid (thanks again!), but all of the hard work has been worth it.
    I have found treasures. I found my dad's early elementary scrapbook, with simple drawings and wonderful writings by him. Both my mom and dad have gone on to be with the Lord, and so treasures like this seem extra special. My grandfather is notorious for not throwing anything away, it was a depression era thing I hear, but all his stuff that when we were packing up I wondered why he kept over the years, has made quite the museum wall as it is put on display. Maybe the grandest treasure of all were the letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in 1940 before they were married, but very in love. The most beautiful and pure words were written to let my Nana know just how special she was to him.
    As I was reading the words that were written the pictures in my mind were of him tending to her needs in the hospital. All the words written 66 years ago still hold true today, she is his heartbeat, whenever she is in pain, his heart hurts, whenever she is uncomfortable, he is uncomfortable. Whatever she needs he searches to fulfill her. Their bodies are growing old, they are both 86 years old, but their hearts have never beat stronger for each other. It touched my heart beyond words and still brings tears to my eyes to read a love note that could be read 66 years later and every word was still true today. What a blessing to be a part of their family.
    When my Gran looks at my Nana it is like he is writing another love note to her with every glance.
    Just so this doesn't get too sappy, they also have a side of them that keeps humor and teasing alive. My Nana's first name is Rama, and when my Gran is worn out, and he has been tending, tending, and tending, she will call out his name and you will hear, from him, "yes, trauma", she pretends she doesn't hear the twist on her name, I have never seen her acknowledge it, she just continues on. They are a wonderful example of two lives becoming one.
    My Nana is not feeling well, and her kidneys are kaput, she is a diabetic, has parkinsons, and a pacemaker. She is definately struggling. Please keep her peace and comfort in your prayers.
    I will post Tuesday when we get home from Dallas to let you know how the MRI turns out.
    Blessings, Tammy