For Her…

   About 1,340 children are expected to die from cancer in 2012… About 12,060 children will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012…

   Wait… Let’s try this again…

About 1,000 + 300 + 40  children are expected to die from cancer in 2012.  

   How many people really know this number?  Even more important, how many people are touched by seeing that number?  

 

    Meet Faith

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   Faith was a typical 5 year old girl, who loved to dress up and put on Tinkerbell eyeshadow and pick beautiful flowers for her mommy and daddy.  She had no comprehension of cancer or the terrors that came with it.  Her favorite color was yellow like the sun… her favorite song was Jesus Loves Me and her favorite thing to do was dance and play with her brother and sisters.  She giggled endlessly and loved playing jokes.  She loved princesses and ballerinas.  Faith only got sick on an average of once a year, even during flu season.  Strong, healthy, vibrant and beautiful.

   November… Thanksgiving Day, while playing with her siblings and cousins, Faith fell on a rock pile and scraped her back, leaving a bruise just like any other fall. A few days later, she was fine and her scrape was healing fine.

   December… While preparing for our first Christmas in our new house, Faith seemed to be a little less excited than usual, complaining of feeling tired.  One night, while eating dinner, Faith complained that her tummy was hurting and started projectile vomiting.  While she was getting sick she started crying and grabbing her back.  The bruise on her back was still there, but there seemed to be no other sign of anything wrong with her back from the outside.  A call was made to the bone specialist but they couldn’t get Faith in until the 28th, 3 days after Christmas. The following morning, Faith seemed totally fine and said her back didn’t hurt any longer.

   A week later, the whole family got the flu except Faith.

   Christmas Eve… While celebrating Christmas with her grandparents 100 miles away, Faith complained of not feeling well and asked to lay down. While resting, she began vomiting and the flu was evident. Faith was very pale and we decided to travel back home where we would be closer to the doctor. 

   Christmas Day, Faith still felt sick but was holding down food and fluids. She never spiked a fever, and managed to open her gifts with interest.  By that evening, she was complaining of back ache but her tummy was feeling better.  

   The day after Christmas, Faith felt a lot better and only had mild back pain and only when she bent over. She stayed in bed for the next 2 days to prevent any damage to her back.  

   December 28th, while at the bone specialist, the x-rays showed absolutely no sign of injury. Ribs were in tact, spine was in tact, and there was no sign of new bleeding.  The most concerning part was that fact that Faith was getting more pale by the day.  While the doctor ran his fingers up her neck, he found a lump on the left side and recommended that her pediatrician see her immediately.  She was rushed to her pediatrician who just happened to travel the world, helping countries who are less fortunate medically, to diagnose rare diseases.  He checked her over for about 10 minutes and ordered lab work to be done promptly.

   December 29th, 7:00 am… Faith is sleeping peacefully for the first time in days and wakes up with a sleepy sigh and sweet smile for her mommy.  She says she is feeling “okay”… The phone rings…

   I answer the phone to the doctor, a little confused that he is calling before the office even opens.  “Angie, I need to talk to you about Faith’s lab work,” he says gently. “I need you to listen real closely.”  I stopped pulling cereal boxes out of the cupboard. “You have my full attention,” I reply, fear creeping into my chest.  I knew it.  I just knew she had something wrong with her back.  What I couldn’t figure out is what in the world that had to do with her lab work. “Angie, after looking at Faith’s lab work, I believe she has something called leukemia…” I felt my legs giving out.

   Rewind… September, earlier that year… I sat watching a St. Jude’s fundraiser on television, tissue in hand.  A young boy, bald and pale, yet absolutely adorable, talks in a little voice about how much he misses his sister and daddy and how he just wants to be able to get better and go home… As tears roll down my cheeks, I thank God that I am not enduring what those mommies are enduring and swear that I would never be able to watch my child go through such terror.

   “Angie… Angie, I need to know you are hearing what I’m telling you. Angie… do you understand what I am saying?”  … I keep answering, “Yes, yes.” but he just keeps saying my name.  “Angie, I think you are in shock right now and I need you to only concentrate on answering me.”  I realize that my mind is saying yes, but my voice just won’t cooperate.  I take a breath and I don’t even recognize my own voice anymore.  “I understand.”  That’s it. That’s all that comes out. “There is already a bed ready for Faith at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.  They are expecting you by early afternoon.  You need to leave within three hours if possible. It’s critical to get her there as soon as possible.” 

   We packed light and called our friend and youth pastor and my mom and asked them to meet us at the church.  Several church staff members, my mom and sister, my husband, me and our kids all came together to ask God for something we didn’t even know if we had a right to ask… understanding.

 

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   Upon arriving at the hospital, we were flooded with strange smells, nurses, doctors, technicians & fellow doctors (doctors in transition to the floor).  We were overwhelmed by the confidence of the physicians and their thorough testing. Our family of 6, unwilling to separate, found a way to sleep all of us in one room.  I slept with Faith in her hospital bed, Vince slept in the recliner and the other three kids slept linked together on the couch.  I say slept and by that, I mean, in between beeping machines, flashing lights, nurses coming in and out, blood pressure cuffs resetting, and families whispering the nurses enter the rooms beside us.  Our lives felt like a slow moving horror movie.

   January 2, 2007… the test results have come in.  The team of doctors come in and their faces are unreadable. Calm, considerate, compassionate, and burdened, they walk into the room and quietly take a seat. Over the last few days, these people have not only earned our trust by being completely honest with us, but they have also become our only lifeline here on earth and we know it.  As soon as the words ‘cancer’ and ‘leukemia’ left the doctors mouths, we were flooded with paperwork, facts, statistics and plans for treatment.  One thing that our doctor told us that gave me great comfort, was that not only were they very familiar with the type of leukemia that Faith had, but that over the last 10 years, the survival rate had drastically gotten better due to research and modern technology.

   I didn’t know it then, but that little bit of hope would change my life and how I gave back in the years ahead.

   Treatment meant many things for our entire family. Separation, fear, strength, hope, growth, friends, knowledge, patience, FAITH, research, support, love, frustration, education, exhaustion, loneliness, and courage are just some of those things.

FAITH

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  At the hospital and while staying at the Ronald McDonald House, Faith would often fall asleep during prayer so peacefully that we just knew God was comforting her every time we prayed. As a mother, I can’t even explain how this picture still to this day floods my heart with so many conflicting emotions. The memories of her being this sick are still really vivid in my mind. 

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Our first trip home, Faith had a few good days.  We tried to capture them as much as possible. She slept a lot, vomited daily, and cried occasionally.  We tried to keep her as comfortable as possible all the time but the steroids made it difficult for her to get comfortable.  Between the chemo and the medication to keep the chemo from killing her, she was a roller coaster of emotion and her immune system was usually at zero. Often, we had to quarantine our home for months at a time and no one was allowed to visit and trips to town were very rare. The smell of most foods would throw her into a projectile vomiting.  We had to completely adjust our diets and cooking methods.

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Some days were significantly better than others.  This picture is Faith’s first trip into town, non medical related.  She was so excited that she even struck a pose for me!  We constantly saw glimpses of the vibrant, beautiful girl that we knew so well and our hope was high.  We had no reason to believe she couldn’t be one of the survivors we had heard about.

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As time went by, Faith had breaks in treatment that allowed her to have visitors.  (These were usually times that the treatment was subtle to allow her immune system to recuperate so she could be hit again) It was bittersweet because it was such a blessing to see her color return and her spunk to be up, but knowing in the back of your mind, it wasn’t over… but even more, just being grateful that it was atleast life.

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Friends came, bearing gifts, including the bicyclists from Candlelighters For Children With Cancer who rode with Cycle Oregon 2007 and sent postcards to Faith at their stopping points to remind her they were riding for her.  We love this organization.  They are wonderful!  Melissa, the first Candlelighters staff that we met continued to support Faith by coming to every one of her doctors appointments for the first 3 years of her outpatient treatment.

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Sometimes treatment even allowed us to attend awareness fundraisers where Faith was always willing to talk about what she was going through. Her smile is what carried me most days.

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Finally, the doctors cleared Faith to go to Disneyland.  She was so excited that she called everyone herself to tell them. Her Aunt Kristie gave her a Mickey Mouse hat that sat on a shelf until this special day of clearance! Faith had to take chemo even during her trip to Disneyland.  They wouldn’t allow us to take her pill crusher on the plane and when we got there, we couldn’t find one anywhere. She chewed her pills with ice cream.  Not even chemo was going to stop this wish from happening!

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There were good days…

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Crazy tired days…

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But they were days…

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They were life…

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She spent her very last day of treatment admitted in the hospital…

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But we still celebrated life…

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It’s all that mattered…  

   So when treatment ended, people assumed that everything ended, but really, it isn’t over.  We were fortunate to parent a survivor, but there are SO MANY side effects of treatment. Faith may never be able to have children… She is more likely to get a secondary cancer… She has to have continued doctor visits for the rest of her life.

 

HERE COMES THE BIG PICTURE… 

   We have a chance..

Image To help…

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ImageTo make a difference…

ImageIn the lives of these children…

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ImageTo bring giggles…

ImageSmiles…

ImageSeasons…

ImageMemories…

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Support is easier than you think!

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Whether you are a sibling…

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A parent…

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It doesn’t matter how you are effected…

         Maybe you are an aunt or uncle… grandma or grandpa…

                 Heck, maybe you are a neighbor….

Or maybe…

You just have a heart…

That is big enough to give in an area you can’t relate to, but you really feel led to reach out.

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Whatever reason you have… if for no other reason, FOR HER!

 

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month… won’t YOU help spread the word?

 

Love,

Her Mom ❤

 

If you would like to reach out and don’t know where, please consider this worthy recipients that we have not only benefited from but support and have seen where the money goes!

Candlelighters For Children With Cancer http://www.4kidswithcancer.org

Caring Bridge http://www.caringbridge.org

Shane’s Walk http://www.shaneswalk.weebly.com

 

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