Ashtyn’s white blood cell count and absolute neutrophil count have not changed or improved from the time she started chemotherapy 32 days ago. That is what we have been praying for. But guess what? It’s OK. Ashtyn is doing good. Really good.
Today her face is perfect. Both the swelling and the rash are completely gone. Today she brushed her teeth and her mouth is free of sores. Her throat is feeling so much better. She ate a tamale and started taking all her medications in pill form rather than IV. Her rash is looking like it is healing. Her heart rate and oxygenation haven’t had to be monitored constantly in awhile. She hasn’t needed oxygen in days. I don’t remember the last time she threw up.
Not only is Ashtyn progressing physically, she is also progressing emotionally and socially. When Ashtyn was first diagnosed with cancer she didn’t understand the ramifications it would have on her life. She then got sick and was unable to process the reality of cancer. Once she started recovering from being so sick, she had the ability to begin processing. She was able to start coming to grips with the impact cancer was having on her life. The reality of her new life was starting to set in. She had to start accepting that everything had changed. Her appearance, daily activities, physical abilities, interactions, and even where she sleeps. In fact, her entire view of life had changed. Ashtyn needed time to transition into her new life. She needed alone time to grasp going from one life to another. There were emotions and thoughts that she needed to figure out for herself. She needed space to absorb all that had happened, all that was happening, and all that will continue to happen. This process of acceptance and realization will be continual and changing. However, she is now beginning to have the ability to include people more fully in her journey.
Today I saw the happy, funny, spunky, and social Ashtyn. She spent time talking to her aunt Wendy. What Ashtyn got out of the conversation the most was, “I need to start letting people back into my life.” In the past the thought of her siblings broke her heart because she missed them so much. She never wanted to talk to them because it would make her miss them more. For the first time since being in the hospital, she talked to Chandler (13), Morgan (10), and Ethan (6) on the phone. She had a huge smile on her face. “Ethan, when I get home I’ll play with you OK ….. Yes, you can lay in my bed with me.”
Ashtyn walked around the unit tonight and was more social than ever before. Instead of acting like walking the halls was a chore, she found enjoyment. When leaving the room she headed to the front desk to see her favorite tech. She liked walking past nurses she had now come to recognize. We looked out the window across the Salt Lake valley and enjoyed looking at the night view. We could see the Salt Lake Temple in the distance and reminisced about the two times she was able to go. Walking back to her room she looked ahead to the future without fear and dread and said, “when I come back I want my room to be in the same pod (hall) that it is now. It’s the fun pod and it’s kind of more secluded.” We talked about how we need to shop for new room decorations for when she comes back.
I recognized today that patience really is paying off. Ashtyn’s body needed some more time to recover and get prepared for going home. She received two units of blood today, her body is gaining more endurance as the days go on, and she is recovering. However, even more importantly, Ashtyn is emotionally and socially preparing to go home. She is gaining confidence to be able to walk out the hospital doors without shame and to hold her bald head high, being proud of what she has accomplished. She is finding herself and the joy that socializing brings to her. She has always been a people person, the more around her the merrier. She is finding that to be true again.
Ashtyn: “Today I am grateful for temples, tender mercies – little blessings throughout the day like being able to walk and drink, President Thomas S. Monson and his talks I get to listen to, Temple square-it’s beautiful and I want to go there when I get out of the hospital, and Tum-E Yummies juice.
Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire.”
We have been in the hospital for 36 days. This experience has been far from a waste of time.