Category

Trials

Side Effects

By | Daily Life, Round 2, Trials, Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Ashtyn was very tearful today.  She is not only struggling with having to be in the hospital for an unknown amount of time but she also is dealing with side effects from the chemotherapy drugs being given.

She started four of the five chemotherapy drugs she’ll be taking for the next two weeks.  Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells by interfering with the cancer cell’s growth cycle.  The first drug she has taken is called Mitoxantrone.  It is a blue liquid that commonly causes low blood counts 1 to 3 weeks after treatment, blue/green color urine, skin rash, nausea, mouth sores, fatigue, and a list of other things.  She takes medicine every two hours that helps her not be nauseated, though the side effects from the nausea medications make her very tired.  To help with the possibility of mouth sores I try to encourage her to brush her teeth and/or use mouth wash every time she goes to the bathroom.  Her skin is dry and peeling from her last round of chemo, so lotion is applied heavily every day.

She took a chemo drug called Asparaginase for the first time this evening.  The side effects include allergic reaction, difficulty breathing, and headaches.  I was out of the hospital when she received the medication.  She texted me while it was being infused into her central line.  “This chemo is making me feel really weird.  My heart feels weird and I’m really grumpy and tired and I just feel different.  I miss you.”

Twice a day for the next two weeks she takes Dexamethasone, a steroid that increases the effectiveness of the other chemotherapy drugs.  Dexamethasone causes mood swings, irritability, and nightmares.  For Ashtyn the medication has intensified her normal feelings.  When she is tired, she is extremely tired.  When she gets understandably irritated and sad, the medicine makes her feelings more intense.

Vincristine is another drug she took that didn’t seem to show any side effects.  Tomorrow she’ll receive the fifth chemo drug called Methotrexate where they will put her asleep with anesthesia and inject the chemo into her cerebrospinal fluid through a lumbar puncture in-between the lower vertebrae.

How was her day with all that is going on?  She was tired and emotional.  Last night (Saturday) she fell asleep around 9:00 pm.  Other than a few bathroom runs and time to take pills, she slept in until noon.  She stayed awake for only a couple of hours.  Consistent with the side effects of Dexamethasone, Ashtyn became very emotional, “I’m handling chemo fine.  Why can’t I go home and recover there?  I miss everything more than ever.  I want to go home.  They said I could go home in four to six days.”  I tried to calm her, “Ashtyn, remember, in your heart you knew you’d have to stay longer.”  Ashtyn cried, “But I can’t handle two weeks anymore.”  I did the best I could to validate her feelings.  I knew she will go home when it is safe for her to but she needed to cry.  So I let her cry. I laid beside her not trying to fix the problem and not trying to talk her into feeling better.  I just held her with her head on my chest as she cried herself to sleep.

Three hours later Ashtyn was still sleeping.  Her dad, Jason, came up to spend some time with her.  Before leaving the hospital I stood outside Ashtyn’s room for about five minutes talking to her nurse about the plans for the evening.  Once Jason arrived, I headed out the doors and he went into Ashtyn’s room.  As I was driving away I got a phone call informing me that when Jason went into the room, she was walking around in a panic.  I talked to her on the phone and she explained her nightmare.  “I had a dream that a doctor I have never seen came into my room.  I was feeling good and doing OK so I asked if I can go home.  He said he would talk to me about it when you went to get a drink.  After you left the room he kept repeating in a mean voice with a scrunched up face, ‘You will never go home. You will never go home.  You will never go home.’ I was freaking out walking around the room half asleep.  He kept saying it until dad woke me up.”

The rest of the evening went fine.  When I got back to the hospital she cried because she didn’t get the tech that she wanted.  I gave her a bath and she cried feeling like she can’t be dramatic or mean without being judged.  (I made it clear to her that if she is mad, be mad.  If she feels emotional and dramatic, be that way.  If she is sad, cry.)  Before going to bed she cried, “I want to see Chandler’s last hockey game.  I want to support Ethan with his swimming and soccer games, and I can’t.  My friends text me and they want help with school drama, and I can’t help them.  I’m in the hospital!  I want to go home.  When can we go home?”

I laid in bed with her and by 1 am she fell asleep.  Tonight I will sleep with her.  She sleeps better when I am right beside her.  That way when she wakes she can quickly fall back asleep knowing I am right there.

The first round of chemo affected her physical body in so many ways including vomiting, mucositis, fevers, severe rash, and oxygen needs.  The second round of chemo seems to be affecting her emotionally.   It makes my heart heavy, however words of others again lift us up and remind us that everything will work out.

A note Ashtyn got on her bed tonight from a caring staff member:  “You’ve been given this challenge in life for a reason.  There is a point, a purpose, to all of this.  If nothing else, to inspire me.  Your mom, dad, friends, and all of us here at the hospital are proud of you and admire your courage with your difficult circumstances.  I’m proud to call you my friend.”   

Home Away from Home

By | Daily Life, Round 2, Trials, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I didn’t necessarily rush to the hospital this morning.  At noon Ashtyn and I walked into the hospital, took the elevators straight up to the 4th floor, washed our hands at the entrance of the immunocompromised unit, and was greeted at the door by our nurse.  Ashtyn was quietly upset she was assigned to a different room than where she was previously.  We walked into our empty, new room and saw the words “Welcome Back!” written on the white board.

Ashtyn And Suz Back In The Hospital

Ashtyn And Suz Back In The Hospital

As soon as I had the chance, I quickly transformed the hospital room into Ashtyn’s room.  A picture of a beach with two palm trees and a hammock with the word “relax” was taped to the wall.  Two other beach pictures were hung, one with the word “dream” and the other with the word “breathe.”  To finish the wall decorations three different pictures of Christ with children were put up.  I then placed a few stuffed animals on the light fixtures, put together her new electric blue chair, replaced the hospital blanket on her bed with three of her favorite blankets, and put her pillows in pillowcases from home.  On one end of the windowsill her DVD’s were stacked next to a few activities she may want to do.  On the other side of the windowsill her Powerade, Capri Sun, and grape soda were placed by the candy and chips she picked out.  Lastly, my bed was made with blankets from home.  Ashtyn might have been disappointed to not get the room she originally wanted, however her new room is bigger and more able to fit her needs.

Ashtyn’s day was busy.  She had an EKG to check for a normal heart rhythm.  A heart  ultrasound was done to make sure her heart had not been affected by the previous chemo.  I am grateful her heart looked normal.  Afterwards, IV fluid and chemotherapy were started.  The doctor apologized for telling us yesterday that she would only be in the hospital four days, when in fact she will be in the hospital “until her white blood cell count recovers.”  I informed the doctor to not worry about telling us the wrong information.  Ashtyn and I were never planning on being in the hospital for only four days.  We had a hunch it would be longer.  I was surprised though to hear that they wouldn’t let her go home until her white blood cells recover.  I shared my opinion that her WBC’s aren’t going to recover for a while and, as long as she is stable, it would be nice if she can occasionally go home for a few days.  On Sunday she was allowed to go home without any WBC recovery.  I am grateful that Ashtyn received the tender mercy of going home for four days.  It was a much needed mental and emotional break for her.  Immediately upon arriving at the hospital today she is again not allowed to leave the floor and walk outside, even with a mask.  The doctors don’t even want her to leave her room.  And to think that hours previously she was able to experience some freedom.  I am grateful that even though Ashtyn has not had the ability to fight illnesses for a few months, she has never had an infection.  What a miracle to be able to focus on fighting cancer without worrying about other illnesses.  No words can express how I feel other than complete awe at the tender mercies and seeing God’s hand in our daily life.

Depression does try to seep into my heart.  I have been able to quickly push out feelings of despair by relying on support from new friends I’ve met, old friends who I know are standing beside me, and the love of family.  When I found out that Ashtyn had not responded to the previous chemotherapy treatment and needed to go back to the hospital I contacted a new friend, heard from old friends, and had family immediately there for me.  It was remarkable.  There are those who wonder how I can stay positive and optimistic.  How can I not when I have so many people rallying around us?  How can I not be positive and optimistic when I know God is right in the middle of this trial and is in charge.  I trust Him completely.  I trust my support group.  What more can I ask for?  There is no room for negativity when I am full of faith in God and full of love from friends and family.  I have not lost one ounce of faith.  Your fasting and prayers have not gone unheard by God.  He heard those prayers, blessed Ashtyn, and I know He will continue to do so.

Heading Back

By | Daily Life, Round 2, Trials, Uncategorized | 18 Comments
Hanging At Home

Hanging At Home

From the moment I heard that Ashtyn had cancer, I never believed the path would be easy.  I understood her journey would be a roller-coaster.  I knew I needed to cherish the happy times.  During difficult times I knew I needed to have hope that good times would come again.  This week was a good week.  Two nights ago I said to Ashtyn, “I’m happy. Are you happy?”  She replied, “I am happy because I choose to be and because I am at home.”  Isn’t that true?  First, we have to choose to be happy.  Second, we have to be grateful for what we do have.

At one time or another, life is hard for everyone.  It can be difficult to find joy during the rough times.  However, it can also be difficult to find joy during the good times, because we are just anticipating the next difficult time.  I suppose that is the definition of pessimism.  The problem with being pessimist is that it clouds our ability to see the blessings we have.  Ashtyn is learning to find joy in the journey.  During rough and disappointing times she can hopefully be grateful for what she does have and remember good memories.

Ashtyn has had a few really good days and has felt more happy with each day.  She left the hospital Sunday and has really enjoyed her time at home.  She wasn’t allowed to leave the house but didn’t seem to mind.  Every day she became more and more social.  Tonight she had a couple friends over and hung out with people all day.

On Tuesday, two days ago, I took Ashtyn to the hospital to get a bone marrow aspirate. It was the second time she has had that procedure.  Using a drug called propofol, Ashtyn was put to sleep.  While asleep the oncologist inserted a needle into the bone marrow in her back and withdrew a sample of the fluid portion.  The bone marrow aspirate shows how many and what kind of blood cells are in the bone marrow.  The procedure gives information needed to determine how well Ashtyn responded to chemo and what the next best course is for her.  She was nervous before the procedure but afterwards said, “I want to do that again.”  Apparently she is an expert now and propofol made her feel loopy and funny.  She liked it.

Tonight I got a phone call informing me of the results of Ashtyn’s blood work she had drawn  today from a home health nurse.  Her complete blood count showed that her white blood cells had not come up much and her absolute neutrophil count was 100.  Not much improvement since finishing chemo February 14th.  An hour later I got a phone call from an oncologist.  I could tell right away from the tone in her voice that the news was not good.  She explained that Ashtyn’s bone marrow still is 85% leukemia cells.  The A.M.L. chemotherapy treatment she went through for 30 days was not the right treatment for her even though it is the typical treatment to start with.  Her leukemia cells continue to look different than any cancer cells the doctors have ever seen.  They are neither A.M.L. or A.L.L. but continue to be undifferentiated leukemia.  The doctors now want to try the A.L.L chemotherapy protocol.  Normally kids can do A.L.L treatment at home but because Ashtyn is already immunocompromised she has to do the chemo in the hospital for at least four days because of her increased risk of infection.  The A.L.L is a 28 day course of chemo that has less side effects such as mucositis.  Side effects are more steroid based such as moodiness and hunger.  Of course the risk of infection is always present.  The doctor informed me that Ashtyn needs to be back at the hospital tomorrow morning.  They will start the new treatment protocol.  In two weeks Ashtyn will receive another bone marrow aspirate to determine how she responds.  If the cancer cells continue to be near 85% of her bone marrow cells, the treatment will be stopped and she will then be put on an intense chemo protocol used for “difficult relapse cancer cells.”  If she shows improvement with the A.L.L treatment, they will finish the 28 day course and again check the bone marrow aspirate.  The goal is to get rid of all her cancer cells (remission) and give her a bone marrow transplant.  Why a bone marrow transplant once the cancer is gone?  Bone marrow transplants are more successful after remission.  In her case, a transplant is needed because the probability of cancer coming back (relapse) after remission is high.

I hung up the phone with the doctor at 6:30 p.m. and cried.  I wasn’t surprised at the news.  I have always known Ashtyn’s body was going to kick cancer the hard way.  I always knew she was going to give the doctors a run for their money.  But it still broke my heart.  To think she still had so much cancer after a month of suffering was disappointing. To know that after 39 days in the hospital and only four days home, Ashtyn had to head back to the hospital.  Ashtyn had a friend over so I chose not to tell her at that time.  I wanted her to enjoy her friend.  I wanted her to enjoy her night.

After packing up clothes, hospital entertainment, and belongings to decorate her room, I finally told Ashtyn at 2 a.m. that she needed to go back to the hospital tomorrow.  “What?” She said.  “But I just barely got used to being home.”  She cried for a moment and then sure enough thought of her blessings.  “Well, it’s a small room so we can spend more time together. And I will be able to eat a lot since the medicine will make me hungry.  And it won’t be as bad as last time.  I can handle 1 1/2 weeks in the hospital if I can come home for a longer period of time.”  That’s awesome!  The doctors said she’ll have to be in the hospital at least four days.  Four days?  We will plan for 1 1/2 weeks and be pleasantly surprised if it is earlier.

Ashtyn: “I am grateful that friends from school visited me this week.  I am grateful my cousin Mckenzie came over yesterday.  I am grateful I am eating with no problem.  I am grateful that I got to relax tonight and watch Amazing Race with you.  I am grateful for the time I spent home.  I am grateful to do the A.L.L treatment because it will be easier on me.  I am grateful for being able to spend time with my family.  I am grateful we get to be in the same room at the hospital.  I am grateful I will still have an appetite.”

Patience will Pay Off

By | Daily Life, Prayers, Trials, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Saturday and Sunday many people prayed and fasted for Ashtyn.  We prayed for her specific needs that her rash would go away, her throat would feel better, and her total white blood cell count (WBC) and absolute neutraphil count (ANC) would go up.

Sunday night Ashtyn wanted me to sleep in her bed with her.  “It makes me know you are by me and makes me less scared.  I’ve just had too much of this and I’m anxious to get home.”  Because our schedule is backwards right now, we finally fell asleep at 5:30 a.m.  By 8 am the hospital woke up, medical staff started coming into her room to do what they needed to do, and her IV pumps seemed to alarm regularly.  In addition, Ashtyn wanted me to rub her back and arms constantly to help with the itchy rash so she could sleep better.  By 10 am I was exhausted and frustrated.  With irritation I wondered, “after all the prayers and fasting, Ashtyn’s WBC count is still 200?  Her ANC is still zero?  She had a couple of nose bleeds and needs another platelet transfusion?  Her rash still looks awful and it’s now itchy? Her throat still hurts and ‘swallowing a pill feels like swallowing a big piece of steak without chewing it’?  Her legs are weaker when she walks?  There is still no sign of going home?”

How easy it was to have negativity seep in.  After 32 days I was ready for Ashtyn to feel better.  She had been faithful and deserved to go home.  With how tired I was and the situation that was before me, I could see how easy it could be to become bitter at God and lose faith.  Then a scripture came to my mind.

3 Nephi 14:9-11  “What man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

I love Ashtyn but God loves her more.  I want Ashtyn happy, but God’s desire for her to be happy is more.  I knew I was exhausted so with that thought I went back to sleep and slept off and on until 3 pm.

When I woke up Monday afternoon I felt much better.  All negative or bitter feelings were gone.  The word that came to my mind was “patience.”  I’ve never realized how much patience is connected to faith.  Be patient.  I can do that.  However Ashtyn was still struggling.  She was more tearful throughout the day than she ever has been.  Tearful for fear of the hospital.  Tearful because of her frustration with her body.  Tearful feeling that it wasn’t fair.  She was so sick of being in the hospital.

Again Monday night we didn’t fall asleep until around 3 am.  Our sleep is never solid but today I woke up for good at 2 pm.  Ashtyn woke up at 4 pm.  I know!!!  Our schedule is so messed up!  But we had a great positive day.  Nothing has changed.  Her WBC’s are still low.  Her ANC is still zero.  Her rash still doesn’t look good.   Her throat and mouth still hurt.  However we feel good.  She told me she is feeling more patient today.  I am not kidding!  Isn’t that amazing?  Yesterday we were both tempted to get angry that our prayers and fasting weren’t answered immediately.  We both were tempted to get bitter at God wondering why He would want her to suffer another day.  We both could have lost faith and given up.  But we didn’t.  Instead we allowed ourselves to be a bit disappointed yesterday but with faith knew God would answer everyone’s fasting and prayers and provide miracles when the time is right.

“Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father.  Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His.  We can grow in faith only if we are willing to wait patiently for God’s purposes and patterns to unfold in our lives, on His timetable.” Neal A. Maxwell

“Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the “process of time.” Neal A. Maxwell

A few weeks ago Ashtyn’s health was declining and she was almost admitted to the PICU a second time.  We asked for everyone to pray and fast that her health would improve.  After the prayers and fasting, I saw an immediate improvement.  Within a day she went from not talking to talking.  Not opening her eyes to opening her eyes, as I explained in the post, “This Kind Can Come Forth by Nothing, But by Prayer and Fasting.”  This past Sunday, after fasting and prayers, and even with your continual prayers thereafter, Ashtyn has not noticeably improved.  At first frustration was felt.  However, now I am so grateful for the lesson that Ashtyn and I are learning about patience.  I know she will need to use the skill of patience during this entire cancer process.  The first petition for fasting and prayers a few weeks ago brought an immediate miracle.  This second petition I have no doubt will bring another miracle in the timing that is right for Ashtyn.  I am excited that we get to watch as God’s plan unfolds and recognize with awe how merciful He really is in blessing us in His timing, not ours.

“Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising.” Neal A. Maxwell

Ashtyn’s Army, during this cancer battle I know your prayers are heard and will always be answered.  Sometimes the answer will be “yes.”  Sometimes the answer will be “no.”  Other times the answer will be “yes, but not right now.”  Whether the prayers are answered quickly or slowly, it matters not to me.  I know prayers will be answered according to what is best for Ashtyn.

Ashtyn and I are excited for her white blood cells to go up.  We are anxious to get home.  We will continue on with patience, being grateful for the blessings we do have.  I am grateful to be able to spend time with Ashtyn.  I am grateful I get to hold her in my arms.  I am grateful for her returned hugs.  I am grateful to be able to feel the Spirit in her room daily.  She is truly a delight to be with.

Ashtyn:  “I’m grateful that I am a little bit more sleepy and might be able to sleep better tonight.  I am grateful that you don’t have to work and can be here with me.  I am grateful for hats.  I am grateful that Chandler is my bone marrow transplant donor.  I am grateful for my siblings, dad, and extended family.  I am grateful for the time I get to be home.  I am grateful for everyone that is supporting me.  I am grateful for God because he can help me be more positive.”

Patience makes faith stronger.  We now have a new word to add to the way we are going to face this cancer trial.  We will face it with faith, trust, hope, optimism, and now patience.

From Ashtyn

By | Daily Life, Looking Up, Spiritual, Trials, Triumphs, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Beautiful AshtynI was Ashtyn’s scribe tonight as she shared some of her thoughts:

I don’t think Ethan and I, or Morgan and I, or Chandler and I, are going to fight much anymore.  We are closer now even though we aren’t together.  I feel it in my heart.  I can feel them with me.  I’m glad it’s me doing this instead of them.  It breaks my heart to think of them having to go through this.  I hope that none of my family members have to come here.  I don’t care if it’s an adult or kid, nobody deserves to be here.  It is the hardest thing ever.  I hate this place so bad.  It’s not fair.  If I saw family members here I would feel sad and it would break my heart.  I couldn’t stand it if Ethan had to go through this.  He wouldn’t be able to handle it.  I would hate to see Morgan have to go through it too.  She wouldn’t be able to handle it either.  Chandler would be able to handle it better than Morgan and Ethan, but wouldn’t handle it very well.  I am able to handle it because I know more about what leukemia is.  I know a little bit more of the routine here.  Before this, if you asked me if I could handle cancer, I would say “no.”  I couldn’t imagine it.  But now I know I am strong.  I know that I’m worthy of feeling the Spirit and feeling God.  He is the reason I can do this.  I think after I am done with this disease, things wont be so scary anymore.  Before this I couldn’t do shots. It would scare me to do doctor’s check ups.  But now shots are nothing compared to this.  A shot or a check up would be like the smallest thing compared to what I am going through here.

It’s scary here.  It is scary knowing you are in the hospital getting all this medicine and all the IV stuff.  It is scary having doctors concerned about you and talking about scary stuff.  They talk about a bunch of medicine.  They talk about the worst things that can happen.  The scale of things that can happen to me or my body is pretty big.  There are a lot of bad things that can happen.  I’m not talking death and stuff.  Bad things like infections that I can’t fight off, or fevers, or being here a long time.  The physical therapists tell me about what can happen if I don’t walk so it makes me want to walk everyday.  It scares me to walk because I might fall.  My muscles are so weak and aren’t working properly.  It’s hard to walk even a couple of steps to the bathroom.  I need to sit down a lot.  I can’t really move my legs very well.  When I walk in the halls with physical therapy I have to wear a mask that irritates my face that has a rash on it.  I don’t like when nurses and doctors talk about NG tubes.  It’s scary because if I don’t eat enough I will have to get one.  I really want my white blood cells to go up so I can eat and drink.  I really hope I get as big of an appetite as I can.

It’s hard to have the energy to play games.  Basically all day I watch TV, movies, and lay in bed.  I am trying to do all I can so I can take as little medicine as possible.  I don’t take pain medicine anymore for my mouth and throat.  I don’t like being hooked up to stuff.  After showers it feels good to not be hooked up to the IV pole with stuff going into me.  Laying in bed is not that comfortable.  I have to change sides a lot because it hurts my rash if I lay on one side for a long time.  The hardest part about being here is being away from family and knowing that I am in a hospital.  But what gets me through it the most is knowing that I will go home and that God will never leave my side.

It’s scary looking at myself in the mirror without hair on my shoulders.  Thinking about being outside and not having the wind blow my hair or having to pull my hair back kind of scares me.  Sometimes it makes me feel ashamed that I have to be here.  Shaving my head was one of the hardest things.  It made me feel awful.

Once there is hair on my head again, the disease is gone, and I don’t have to worry about cancer,  I will be a better person, sister, and friend.  If anyone goes through a hard trial, I sort of have more experience.  Whether someone is in the hospital or just having a bad day, I know most feelings now.  I know how it feels to suffer awful pain.  I know how it is to be mad about yourself.  I know how it is to be mad at God.  I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and turn away in shame.  I know what it feels like to be trapped, not able to go anywhere.  I know what it feels like to be weak.  I even know how it is to question if there is a God, if the church is true, and if the scriptures are true.  I remember being so sick and yelling at God for not helping me.  I’m kind of mad about being mad at Him because if He wasn’t here, and if I didn’t know about the gospel, I would… I just can’t imagine what it would be like.

I know there is a God and only one true God.  I love Him.  He comforts me everyday.  When I got chemo I couldn’t feel Him but I know He was and is there.  I am so grateful that I know the gospel is true.  I am grateful that I can be worthy to feel the Holy Ghost.  Now I have 100% more faith in Him.  I had a bad trial last year when my parents got divorced.  I thought that would be the worst possible thing that would happen in my life.  I thought I had so much faith and now compared to then, I have more faith than I have ever had.  I feel Him with me.  When I can’t feel Him, I hate it.  I just have to know that He is there, He loves me, and I will be OK if I have faith in Him.

How is this trial going to change me?  I think I will feel better about myself.  I’m going to be stronger.  I will be able to help people with trials and I will be able to give them advice.  I will be a better missionary.  I will have more faith and more love in my heart.  I will have a stronger testimony in the gospel and in Jesus.  I’m glad that someone knows exactly what I am going through.  Every pain and sorrow that I feel, Jesus Christ has felt it.  I am glad that I have someone to talk to because He understands everything.

What was I like before this trial?  I hated my hair.  I hated how it was thick and I had to straighten it everyday.  I should have been more grateful to even have hair.  Before this experience I felt like I was a wimp.  I couldn’t do sports very well.  I couldn’t get shots without freaking out.  I couldn’t stand the thought of needles.  I worried about the smallest things that really don’t matter anymore.  I didn’t have faith in myself.  I didn’t think I could do what everyone else did.  I thought I was bad at everything.  I thought I stunk at running.  I didn’t run the fastest, even though I wasn’t the worst.  I didn’t have faith when we were doing PE.  I didn’t think I could kick the ball far in kickball.  In my brain I would say “no” before I even tried anything.  I didn’t think I could talk to boys or new people.  I didn’t have much faith before tests and thought I would fail.  I thought I was ugly.  I thought I didn’t have cute clothes or cute shoes.  But now that I think about it, I had more confidence than I realized.  Looking back, I did talk to boys.  I remember conversations I had with them.  I remember talking to new people and even made a really good friend that was new this year.  I didn’t realize how many friends I had or how many people cared about me.  I always thought someone was making fun of me behind my back or talking about me.  I thought I was hated.  Now I realize I was worrying about stupid things that really don’t matter.  Once you are in the hospital and going through this, you realize what you had that you never recognized.  I think I never had confidence.  I never believed in myself the way I should have.  I didn’t think I could do anything right.  I didn’t have faith in myself.

After this I think I will have a completely different point of view in life.  I won’t care so much about how I look or how my hair will be.  I won’t try to impress people by being someone I’m not.  I will still care about friends and who I come in contact with.  I will have more faith in myself and know that I can do anything.  At school I will know that a lot of people care.  In PE I will probably be able to do anything that everyone else is doing.  I won’t say “no” before I try.  I won’t be so insecure.  If I do something wrong, it won’t be as big of a deal.  I will just know that I am beautiful.  I will know that I am strong.  I won’t doubt God again.  I will be able to trust Him more.  And I’ll probably not want as much junk food as I did before because now it all sounds gross. Ha Ha.

My mom told me today that when I was really sick (I can’t remember being so sick), I told her that my great grandma Holt, who passed away in November, visited me a couple times. In the post my mom wrote that I said “my great Grandma told me that everything is going to be okay.  She told me to have faith.  She told me to focus on today, hope for a better tomorrow, and know that God has my back.  She told me that I am strong.  She told me not to listen to what people are saying in my room because no one knows what my body can do like I do.”  Thinking that my great Grandma said those things gives me a little bit more determination to go home.  It is kind of like a boost to my spirit.  I believe angels are here guarding me and protecting me.  I can feel it.  I know dead family members have been with me.  They have protected me and helped me get through another day.  I know everyone’s fasts and prayers have helped me.  I probably sometimes don’t know how the prayers have helped me but I know somehow they have.

My rash hasn’t really improved yet but it hasn’t gotten worse.  I still can’t eat or drink much. My legs feel weak. My arms are itchy.  I know everyone prays for me and fasted for me Sunday.  I know the fast will help me soon.  I haven’t lost my faith by me not getting better right away.  I know eventually I will get better in God’s time.  Thank you for your support and for the fasting and prayers for me.  I know each person is helping me.  Each prayer has helped me be able to be stronger.

Perspective

By | Daily Life, Looking Up, Trials, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Ashtyn and I have different perspectives of time. We have been in the hospital for 27 days and it has gone by very fast for me. There is not a moment of boredom where I can kick up my feet and wonder what I should do with my time. There is always something to do. When Ashtyn was really sick her needs were the same whether it was day or night. I slept when the opportunity presented itself. We never had more than a couple of hours of sleep without an interruption of one kind or another. Days and nights were intermingled with sleep and activities. After so many nights of interrupted sleep and days of constant physical or mental tasks, I am tired. Very tired. I think I could curl up in bed and sleep for a couple of days, begging that no one interrupts my sleep.

Ashtyn shared her perspective of time today, “I’ve been in the hospital a long time. It seriously seems like a year. Every day goes by slow.”

Facing cancer means that you face physical and emotional challenges. The week Ashtyn was diagnosed with cancer, she felt and had to deal with emotions she had never had to conquer before. From my post “God’s Orchestra” on February 5th, I wrote: “Today was a day that she grieved. Grieved for losing the life she once knew. It was a day of sorrow for not being able to go home. It was a day of stress with all the medications, vital signs, medical talk, and being attached to an IV pole. It was a day of depression, not wanting to socialize. It was a day of frustration with not having control of anything.”

The two weeks following she became very sick from chemo. She had physical pain that she hadn’t faced before. She remembers the pain and not being able to speak or swallow. From the post “Relying on What I Know” I wrote, “Ashtyn is sick. Very sick. She can hardly talk. Can hardly open her eyes. Can hardly walk. Can hardly sleep comfortably. She can’t eat. Can’t drink. Can’t laugh. Can’t cry… Today the doctors informed me that she has the worst case of mucositis, the worst side effects from medications, and the worst complications from chemo.”

Now that Ashtyn is feeling physically better with each day, she has to again deal with more emotional struggles. Her temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate are normal which gives her more of an ability to focus on the ramifications of cancer. Now that she isn’t on oxygen, throwing up, coughing up mucous, or having continual medical staff around her, she has the strength to contemplate every moment she is in a hospital bed. Now that her eyes are wide open and she isn’t sleeping all day, Ashtyn has the time to long for the life she once knew.

Last night I talked to her about shaving her head. The only hair remaining was a thin layer that seemed to be holding on for dear life. Obviously she needed to shave all her hair so when it grows back it will do so evenly. This week seemed to be the week to do it. I validated her feelings by letting her know that it was going to be very difficult. I suggested that instead of just having me and her dad there, that she invite a few family members to be by her side to support her in this milestone. At 9 pm we gathered together in her room. I got special permission to have more than two people at the bedside. She had her two uncles Jared and Casey, her two aunts Alisa and Kristi, her dad, and me there to get her through it. Though she had agreed with the plan several hours previously, she sat on the couch curled up in a ball, “I don’t want to do it.” She was holding on to the small amount of hair she had, not wanting to let it go. What would she be letting go of if she let go of the remainder of her hair? Maybe the last bit of hope that she wouldn’t actually have to be bald. Maybe the last amount of hope that she doesn’t really have cancer but instead has a bad case of mono. Maybe it is holding on to the last thing that makes her who she is, when everything else has been taken away. Whatever the reason, she didn’t want to do it. There are a lot of things she hasn’t wanted to do in the hospital but she has always faced the challenges calmly without kicking and screaming, and does what she has to do.

Ashtyn didn’t want anyone to shave their heads to support her. It wasn’t a need she had. I don’t think she wanted to look at others bald since that wasn’t normal to her and she didn’t want to be reminded of her own baldness. To help Ashtyn get used to the electric razor, her uncle Jared sat on a stool for her to practice on. She used a number 7 hair clipper to trim the back of his head. After several swipes she didn’t want to do anymore. Her uncle Casey finished trimming the back of Jared’s head to even it out. After Ashtyn was able to handle the razor and watch Casey’s shaving skills, she was as ready as she was ever going to be. She sat on the stool and bravely allowed Casey to shave her head. She didn’t fuss, complain, or cry. She just took it. Afterwards she laid on the couch with a blanket, closed her eyes like she was asleep, and didn’t say a word. Jared sang a song with his guitar about her old and new hair. She did quietly laugh a couple times. When the song was done, her support team gave her kisses and left. We sat in bed and laughed a few times while watching Modern Family. At 2:30 am we fell asleep together in her hospital bed without ever speaking a word about what had happened that night.

Today she is struggling emotionally. She knows she needs to be happy at times. She knows she needs to be optimistic and find joy in her journey. She knows the importance of not forgetting who she is. She is a happy, funny, beautiful, smiling angel. She knows not to lose that light within herself. But not today. Today is a day to feel emotions that are real and understandable. “I am bummed just like anyone else would be.” Today she doesn’t want visitors. She wants to be left alone. She doesn’t want to talk. She doesn’t want to be talked to. I can tell that she is going through something she feels she has to do alone. Is she feeling anger, depression, sorrow, remorse, irritation, or discontent? Probably. However, I can’t ask her about it. It is my role to sit quietly in the corner, giving her space and time to feel what she needs to feel. But as she faces her emotions quietly within herself, I know she doesn’t feel alone. She does know there are hundreds of people that care. She does know there are hundreds of people that pray for her and support her. Ashtyn may need to sit in her hospital bed, by herself, in silence. She may feel she needs to be left alone without reading your encouraging words, or seeing people around her bed, or feeling the hugs of others. She may want to have time alone to go through the realization and depression of cancer and losing her hair and everything else she has lost when cancer came into her life. But as she faces her emotions “alone” for now, she knows she is not truly alone at all.

So here we sit in silence. I don’t know what she is thinking about or what is going on in her heart. Whatever she is going through, I know she’ll figure out for herself how to face the future. I believe she will face it exactly how she’s been doing it so far, with faith, optimism, and courage. She will rediscover her strength and abilities. She will recognize her inner and outward beauty. She will continue to lean on her Army for support, love, and prayers. She will press forward with hope and faith, remembering “Don’t give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” Elder Jeffery R. Holland

She Chose This

By | Daily Life, Miracle, Spiritual, Trials, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Ashtyn and I are spending our 25th night in the hospital.  She is no longer being kept awake by nausea, vomiting, coughing, mucous, diarrhea, bloody noses, restroom runs every two hours, shortness of breath with fluid in her lungs, or an extremely swollen mouth.  She isn’t suffering from a high temperature, high heart rate, or high respiratory rate.  For this we are grateful.  For this my heart rejoices.

Tonight Ashtyn was being kept awake because of sadness.  Sorrow that she can’t go home.  Sad for losing her hair.  Worn out from the pain.  I don’t know what it feels like.  I don’t know what it feels like to not be able to leave the hospital.  I don’t know what it feels like to lose my hair.  I don’t know what it feels like to not be able to eat or drink.  I don’t know what it feels like to not be able to get out of bed and walk around on my own.  I don’t know what it feels like to be stuck to an IV pole with medications constantly going into my system.  I don’t know what it feels like to not be able to shower and go to the restroom in privacy.  I don’t know what it feels like to have strangers coming into my room all the time asking, “How are you?” when clearly I am not OK.   I don’t know what it feels like to have visitors come, only to have them leave and know that I can’t leave with them.  I don’t know what it feels like to have constant pain in my mouth and throat, even though I should be happy they are healing.  I don’t know what it feels like to have leg pain and not feel like rejoicing that it’s a sign the bone marrow is starting to make cells.  I don’t know what it feels like to not want to think about life outside the hospital and what I am missing out on.  I don’t know what it feels like to not allow myself to think of what used to make me happy because those things would only make me sad.  I don’t know what it feels like to have no control over anything other than what side of my body I sleep on, what finger the oxygen monitor goes on, and what TV station or music is playing.

Ashtyn Sleeping WIth Picture Of Jesus

Ashtyn Sleeping WIth Picture Of Jesus

Tonight Ashtyn finally fell asleep at 4:30 am listening to Pandora’s LDS Hymns and looking at a picture of Christ loving children.

When I see the physical and emotional pain Ashtyn is going through, I feel sad and have shed tears with and for her.  However, if I had the ability to take this cancer away from her, I wouldn’t. You heard me right.  I would not take this cancer from her.  Why would I rob her of this life changing experience?

Ashtyn chose this before coming to earth.  She knew the pain she would experience.  She also knew the blessings that would be hers from going through it.  Lives would be changed.  Her life would be changed.  Every moment of her trial will be worth it.  She will never want to give back what she gains and what she learns.  It will be precious to her.  So as a mother, why would I ever take that away from her?  I am happy for her that she is the kind of girl that God has trusted to go through this with faith, strength, and dignity.  God has every confidence in her that she will get through this trial.  I do too.

Getting Back to “Normal”

By | Daily Life, Inspirational, Looking Up, Trials, Triumphs, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The doctors came to Ashtyn’s room this morning, as they always do, to discuss the plan of the day.  What are the concerns?  How is her status?  What changes need to be made? Everyone was pleased with how well she is doing and noticed her huge improvement.  No changes were made.  Stay the course.

For eleven days the oncologists have cultured all possible blood, urine, stool, nasal, throat, and anything else they could test to determine why she got so sick.  The infectious disease department was involved to make sure she was being covered by every antibiotic, anti viral, and anti fungal medication possible.  Surgery attendings were involved monitoring her appendix.  ENT was included to rule out fungus in her sinuses.  Integrated medicine was there to provide pressure point and massage therapy.  She had physical and occupational therapy working on strength.  Dermatology took a look at her scalp for a questionable mole and will be looking at the rash she has all over her torso tomorrow.  I wish I could write a list of all the viral, bacterial, or fungal infections they have tested for.  I don’t have the list and most of them are words I’m not familiar with anyway.  Every single test has come back negative for any sign of infection. Remarkable. But not surprising.

February 13th I posted “Nowhere I’d Rather Be.”  It was the night before the doctors started doing blood work to test for infections.  In the post I wrote: The Stake President gave her a blessing.  The blessing started out sounding generic to what she was in need of… Soon though the blessing didn’t seem generic to me anymore.  His voice changed and with power he said,  “I command these infections and illnesses to leave your body.”…Of course she still has cancer.  That wasn’t what he commanded to leave.  I believe she did have an infection of some sort, and whatever infection she had was healed using the power of God.”

That blessing has come to be a tremendous help for Ashtyn.  Her body has had such a severe reaction to the chemo.  Even her healthcare team commented that her body was hit abnormally hard.  What a blessing it has been to be infection free, so her body could conserve energy to handle the effects of chemo without having to fight and deal with a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. “In a priesthood blessing a servant of the Lord exercises the priesthood, as moved upon by the Holy Ghost, to call upon the powers of heaven for the benefit of the person being blessed.” Dallin H. Oaks

Today was a great day, by my standards.  Ashtyn is on the road to getting back to “normal.”  For over a week all she did was lay in a quiet, dark room and keep everyone busy with all that she was going through.  Today she was awake and alert for a few hours at a time.  Her naps were calm and restful.  By the end of the day her temperatures ranged from 98.7 to 100.5.  Her nausea was gone which meant there was no throwing up.  We played two games of UNO with occupational therapy while we listened to music.  She was able to talk a lot more and I was able to understand what she was saying.  When walking to the restroom and back she no longer was shaky and unsteady on her feet.  Ashtyn had energy to be a little irritated.  She doesn’t like that her mouth and throat hurt.  All she wants to do is be able to swallow her spit and a cup of cold water without excruciating pain.  Ashtyn voiced her opinions today when things weren’t where she thought they should be or when she wanted something.  When told to do things she didn’t want to do, she resisted  more.  Her irritation is a good sign to me. The outward fight is in her.  Today she didn’t do anything abnormal.  She did make me scared one time.  When getting a red blood cell transfusion, her heart rate went down to around 70.  A normal heart rate is generally 60-100 for a child her age.  Her heart rate had been high for days so when it dropped to normal I got nervous.  Her heart rate dropping to 70 just meant that her heart wasn’t having to work as hard as previously.  One thing has remained the same.  Ashtyn wants to go home.  She is on the road to getting there and I am so proud of her.

It’s very inspiring watching Ashtyn overcome hurdles.  I know she will be faced with one after another.  Rest will always follow, whether for a short moment or an extended period of time.  We will then be faced with another hurdle to learn from.  One thing we will always keep in mind, “Truly, things always work out!  Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.” Gordon B. Hinckley

This Kind Can Come Forth By Nothing, But By Prayer and Fasting

By | Daily Life, Miracle, Prayers, Trials, Triumphs, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

My last post was written two nights ago.  Ashtyn’s health had been getting progressively worse with each day.  By Tuesday night she was on the verge of having high risk surgery to remove her appendix.  Diarrhea and vomiting seemed to be occurring every couple of hours.  She had lower lobe pneumonia with an increased respiratory rate and oxygen needs.  The color of her extremities didn’t look good.  Even though she was only getting a small amount of pain medication, she seemed more out of it than she should have been.  Ashtyn wasn’t able to talk well, open her eyes well, sleep well, or walk well.  She had even fallen one time because she got out of bed before I could get to her.  I was very nervous and wasn’t alone with my concerns.  The healthcare team watched her like a hawk.  She kept me and her nurse running constantly.  By 7:30 pm I was so concerned about her declining health.  I told the doctors I thought she needed to be move to the pediatric ICU.  PICU?  That’s the last place I normally would want her to go.  It’s a germ nightmare for a neutropenic patient with no ability to fight infection.  It’s also extremely uncomfortable sleeping in a chair when I have been spoiled by my couch-bed.  But I didn’t know what else to do as I observed the direction she was going.  The doctors considered PICU briefly but held on the idea.  I knew if she went downhill any further she would be moved and monitored in the PICU.  It then hit me what I had to do, call upon Ashtyn’s Army for prayers.  Enough was enough.  We needed to get her better.  I texted my family who suggested we fast.  Who would be willing to fast on a Wednesday and Thursday?  I had no choice but to ask because I knew Ashtyn couldn’t wait until Sunday.  She needed to start getting better right away.  I sent a Facebook message that read: “Because of how sick Ashtyn is I am asking anyone who is interested to fast for Ashtyn starting this afternoon or evening and ending Thursday.  She has pneumonia in her lower left lung that we don’t want to get worse.  She has appendicitis that we don’t want to get further inflamed.  We don’t want her to get an infection.  Mostly we want her to make white blood cells so her body can recover fully and then she will feel better.”

There was an immediate response.  Some started their fast right away.  Others’ prayers became more specific and fervent.

Tuesday night I laid beside her until 6:30 am.  She didn’t want me to leave her side. I described the night in my “Relying on What I Know” post: “She sleeps, goes to the restroom, suctions her mouth, sleeps, throws up, suctions her mouth, sleeps, coughs up mucus, throws up, sleeps, goes to the restroom, and on it goes.

After over a week of her getting worse she began to stabilize Wednesday.  I am not saying she got better.  I am saying she stopped getting worse.  With the start of fasting and prayers it seemed as if her decline had halted.  She did become more alert throughout Wednesday and for the first time in over a week she didn’t scare me one time all day.  She simply hovered in calm stability.  24 hours after asking for prayers and fasting, Ashtyn moved from being “stable” to slowly improving.  Wednesday night was restful.  She didn’t throw up all night.  Her trips to the restroom were minimal.  She was completely alert.  I had 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  On Thursday morning the first thing she did was get on her phone and with a great amount of effort and concentration she posted to Facebook  “Please fast and pray for me tomorrow.  I have so much mucus in my mouth that it hurts to eat or drink and I am SO thirsty. Thank you so much.” (I don’t think she realized it was already Thursday morning because she went right back to sleep after the Facebook status was posted.)  She clearly has faith.  She clearly has hope in her Army.

It is now early Friday morning.  All the 24 hour fasts, from those who did so, are over.  There have been 48 hours of prayers petitioning for God’s help with her immediate and specific need to get better.  I will tell you, your prayers and fasting have changed her course.  All concerns have dissipated.  She went from heading to the pediatric ICU to sitting up in bed alert and talking during the day.  At night instead of throwing up and getting up and down, she now sleeps restfully.  Ashtyn was heading downhill and now she is on the road to recovering from this round of chemo.

For 10 days Ashtyn’s temperatures have remained above 101 F after taking Tylenol and climbed to over 103 F before the next Tylenol dose was due.  Today? Her high temperatures were near 101 and decreased to 99.5 with Tylenol!  Amazing!

Ashtyn has not had the TV on for over a week.  Today the TV was on all day.  She started the day watching Soul Surfer.  Then she watched The Incredibles, Lion King, Princess and the Frog, and the Disney Channel.  Ashtyn fell asleep during each movie but it doesn’t matter, she had the desire to watch TV rather than lay in bed in silence.

She was awake a lot more today and talked quite a bit.  Her throat and mouth are still very painful when she talks or swallows.  However when she does talk her words are clear and lucid.  Today I didn’t have to keep the lights off and remind everyone to be quiet.  She was fine with noise and the stimulation’s of the day.  Her legs are steady when she walks and she is less shaky as time progresses.  (I do continue to stay behind her with my arms around her back as she walks to the restroom just to be safe.)  Today I was so excited when she asked to open a few presents.  She hasn’t had it in her to open any presents or cards since Valentine’s Day, which even then she was only able to open a few.  After I showered and got ready for the day she said, “Mom I like your shirt.”  That’s my girl!  Since becoming a preteen she is my fashion consultant because I am horrible at knowing what looks good and she has a really good eye for it.

For the past week I haven’t had very many visitors come because she has been so sick and time consuming.  Today I felt perfectly happy and comfortable having visitors.  Ashtyn had a nasal scope today to test for a sinus fungal infection.  She was completely calm and didn’t move at all when they stuck the camera down her nose.  (The test came back negative.)  Another miracle is she didn’t throw up or have diarrhea one time today.  Prior to today she had occurrences at least every two hours.  After many restless nights of sleep, Ashtyn is sleeping peacefully and didn’t need me to sleep near her.

I know it was because of fasting and prayer that Ashtyn triumphed over this most recent hurdle. That I am sure of.  Mark 9:29 “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”  Thank you so much for all your thoughts, prayers, fasting, and positive energy.  I have been told by different people of different religions that they are praying and sending good vibes for Ashtyn.  Whether it is a prayer from a Mormon, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, or positive energy from a Buddhist, it matters not to me or the God in whom I believe.  He answers prayers and listens to all of his children.