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Ashtyns Army

Life Is Good

By | Daily Life, Inspirational, Looking Up, Spiritual, Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Wednesday night was awful.  Ashtyn went to bed around midnight.  I turned the lights off close to 2:30 am, and at 4:30 am Ashtyn woke up and the only thing she could whisper was, “Mom, lay with me.” Sometimes she likes me to lay in her bed and other times she doesn’t   I asked her, as I often do, how much pain she was in on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no pain, 10 being the worst pain imaginable.  She softly said, “10”.  Ashtyn didn’t speak the rest of the night.  I am so grateful she knew what to say that gave me the insight into what she needed.  She needed me to lay in bed and help get her pain under control.  Throughout the night she had a low dose of morphine continuously going through her central line.  In addition to that dose she was allowed to press a button every 10 minutes that gave her extra amounts of morphine.  Ideally she is suppose to push the button on her own when she feels her pain getting worse.  Last night her pain was so intense she couldn’t even push the morphine button.  From 4:30 am until 9:30 am I laid beside her pushing her morphine button every 10 minutes.  I don’t think her pain level ever got below an “8” but at least pushing the button helped.  By 10 am the doctors came to her room and finally increased her maintenance morphine from 0.3 mg/hour to 1.0 mg/hour.  They also increased the amount of morphine from 0.5 mg to 1.0 mg every time she pushes the button.  On top of that they gave her an extra 4 mg dose initially just to get her pain under control.  With peace knowing she was feeling better, I fell asleep and slept until 1 pm.  Ashtyn slept until 3:30 pm.

When I woke up I felt emotionless, burnt out, and numb.  I felt nothing.  I was just existing in a small room by myself with nothing to feel.  A nurse informed me that while I was sleeping a friend had brought her therapy dog to see Ashtyn and another friend had stopped by to say hi.  Miraculously messages and texts started coming from Ashtyn’s Army.  My cousin and his wife from the DC area sent me an email voucher for a 2 hour house cleaning service.  My sister Alisa called to tell me she was going to stop by soon and bring me lunch.  Ashtyn received a bag of gifts from Jason’s work.  Jeni dropped by a box of valentines from Ashtyn’s elementary school.  Two separate youth church leaders brought Valentine’s cards.  Messages of encouragement continued to come from the blog and Facebook.

Are you kidding me?  Have we forgotten how good this world is?  Have we been fooled to think there is no compassion and love left?  Has the negativity of our times clouded our eyes making it difficult to see all the positives?  Does bad seem to dominate good?  I don’t believe for one second that the power of good isn’t running rampant around the world.

With Ashtyn’s Army, how could I not immediately feel full?  How could Ashtyn not completely feel loved?  The power of Ashtyn’s Army is strong.  Some day soon I will write a post on the miracles Ashtyn’s Army has brought into my family’s and Ashtyn’s life.  It’s incredible.

I am so proud of Ashtyn today.  She struggled with such pain from mucositis and never cowered away.  In all her misery she allowed me to help her with a shower.  Even though she threw up in a blue plastic bag while in the shower, she pressed forward.  Ashtyn brushed her hair and teeth and did her oral care with mouth wash.  She forced herself to swallow two pills morning and night that aren’t available in IV form.  Can you imagine swallowing anything let alone pills with a completely raw throat?  Under the direction of the nurse, Ashtyn let me do her sterile dressing change for her central line and she even helped me take off the sticky tape of her old dressing.

Today her temperature ranged from 101.6 to 104.4 degrees.  In the last couple of days the nurses have drawn blood to test if Ashtyn has an infection.  I am not surprised that her blood cultures have not grown any bacteria.  For now the thought is her temperature is a natural response to the chemo and mucositis.  Referring back to my post “Nowhere I’d Rather Be” I shared,  “ I believe she did have an infection of some sort, and whatever infection she had was healed using the power of God.”  I still believe had she not received a blessing from her Stake President on Tuesday night, her blood cultures would have come back positive for an infection.  But for now, she is well.

At 5 pm I was feeling good.  Jason had come up after work to be with Ashtyn and the love and support from Ashtyn’s Army surrounded us.  The doctor came into the room with a smile on her face and said, “I have news about the lab work.  Chandler has been matched and is able to be the bone marrow transplant donor for Ashtyn.”  What an amazing moment that was for us.  I immediately called Chandler.  He reacted like a boy receiving an Xbox for Christmas.  God is so kind.  Referring to my post “I Could Not Have Planned It Better Myself” I wrote,  “From the moment I felt a bone marrow transplant was likely, I have always thought it would be Chandler who would be the donor.”  In that same post I wrote of the dream Ashtyn’s 10 year old sister Morgan had, “…They compared my tube with Ashtyn’s.  It was not a match.  They compared Ethan’s tube with Ashtyn’s.  It was not a match.  Then they compared yours (Chandler) with Ashtyn’s and it was a match.”

There are many different explanations that can be said about our previous feelings and comments.  It can be said to be a coincidence, a lucky guess, or intuition. To me it doesn’t really matter what others call it.  For me I call it revelation.  “Revelation is communication from God to His children.  This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals and families.  According to our faithfulness, we can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions.”  Morgan had a dream.  I had a quiet spiritual prompting.  Cool!!!

I started the day feeling empty with no emotions and ended the day full of joy.  I love my life.  Yep. I LOVE MY LIFE.  Even living in the hospital, watching my daughter suffer in pain, not knowing what each day will bring other than a lack of sleep and constant medical procedures.  I am away from Chandler, Morgan, and Ethan whom I adore.  I no longer live the life of carpooling, gym, tending my nieces, friends, family time, and being at home.  I am grateful for the life that God has handed to me.  We have a Heavenly Father who cares and has a plan for us. We have a Savior who understands completely and lightens our burdens.  I have four remarkable, special children.  I have friends, family, and Ashtyn’s Army that are raising me up everyday.  Life is good.

In Her Own Words

By | Daily Life, Inspirational, Trials, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Ashtyn Susan PoulsenFROM ASHTYN:
I was at school and didn’t feel well.  I felt like collapsing so I called my mom to pick me up.  She came in and I told her I needed to go to the doctor.  We went to the Holladay Instacare.  I was really scared because I have always hated getting poked with shots.  They poked me five times trying to get some blood to get answers.  Finally they told us to go to Primary Children’s Hospital.  I was flipping out and crying.  When I went home to get my stuff, I was really scared to see doctors, get more pokes, and I didn’t want to spend the night.  Who wouldn’t be scared of the hospital?  Seriously!  My Grandpa Poulsen gave me a blessing.  I do not remember any words but it gave me more comfort than what I had.

After the blessing we went straight to the car and headed off with our stuff.  My mom drove her car.  I went in my dad’s car, just me and him.  We talked.  He said that whatever happens was meant to happen.  That gave me even more comfort so I was calm and peaceful.  When I got to the hospital they gave me one poke to get more blood.  They told me that it could be mono or leukemia or aplastic anemia.  That took all of my comfort away and I was crying and hoping that I wouldn’t have leukemia.  The doctors kept talking about leukemia and that made me even more frustrated.  Then they told us to spend the night.  I thought I would only spend one night and go home in the morning.

A few days later when I found out I had leukemia I cried.  I was scared to be in the hospital longer and I didn’t know what to do.  I felt lost and couldn’t feel the Spirit.  But after a few days I realized that leukemia is not as scary as you think it is.  The word is scarier than what it really is.  I knew that I would be better soon and that God would give me strength to do whatever I had to do to get better.  Not that it’s not scary but it’s not as scary as I thought it would be.

I learned that I will lose my hair.  They need to give me medicine so I can get better and the medicine will take my hair.  I am willing to give God my hair and He will give me strength for whatever they do around here.

My bone marrow procedure was the first time I had a procedure with falling asleep.  I was scared but at the end it really wasn’t anything.  Now that I know what kind of things they do here I am prepared for more procedures and I am prepared for anything….except the NG tube.  Before my CT scans I had to have an NG tube to give me liquid needed for my CT scan.  It was one of the worst… actually it was the worst thing I have had to do here so far.  Now they tell me to have 1500 calories a day.  If I don’t do a very good job at eating the calories, I will have to have another NG tube.  I am trying my very best and forcing food down me.  Even though its hard eating, I think it’s worth not having the tube.  The tube is awful!  Today I felt so full and nauseated.  I threw up around 5pm.  Throwing up is still better than having an NG tube.  I will not give up because I know that I can prove these doctors wrong.  After I threw up, I let my stomach settle for about an hour and then I had some KFC macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes.  I didn’t throw up again tonight.

I hate this place. A lot.  I am so annoyed when doctors come in my room.  I hate when the doctors come in, sit down, and talk to me.  It seems like their mouths never stop moving and it annoys me.  I sometimes feel stuffy because my room is so small.  I feel I need to breath a little.  I hate being closed in.  I just want to go outside and take a breather.  That sounds nice, just to go outside.  I hate the fact I am a patient.  I don’t like getting so much medicine.  I do not like some freaky nurses.  I hate when hospital people come in and ask me personal stuff and they never seem to leave.  It’s just not cool.  I don’t like being hooked up to an IV pole.  I hate eating so much.  It seems like I am always eating or my mom is always nagging me to eat.  I don’t like throwing up but sometimes in the end it feels better.  I hate the idea of all of this hospital crap.  I hate all the medical words.  I hate how I am woken up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.   I hate being away from home and family.

I like visitors and all the cards that people write me.  I like the stuffed animals and presents.  I like to be able to sit in bed all day… well maybe not.  I like that I’m not needing to do any school right now.  I like the thought that I will go home soon…. I mean eventually.  I know that everyday I am here, I am another day closer to being done with this sickness.  Everyday I am here is a day closer to being able to go home.  I haven’t been bored because of all the presents and stuff people have given me.  I know a lot of people are supporting me, loving me, and praying for me.  It gives me more hope and makes me want to fight harder because I can’t let down the Army.  Thank you for all the support and love that you send me.  I am glad to have such wonderful people beside me.  That’s amazing how strangers are reading about me and are concerned about me.  It’s awesome to have friends to lean on and know they’ve got my back.  I love when my family comes to visit.  I love their support and love for me.  As much as I love my siblings, I try not to think much about them.  It makes me so sad to think about them and makes me miss them more.  My mom and dad are always there for me.  My mom is always here in the hospital with me and my dad tries to be here as much as he possibly can with his work schedule.

Sometimes I feel sad.  Sometimes I feel scared.  Sometimes I feel energetic and fired up to do this.  Other days I feel hopeless.  But at the end of the day, I feel ready for whatever’s going to come to me next.

I know that God gives me strength every day and He helps me in everything I do.  He understands what I am going through.  I know angels are surrounding me and protecting me.  I can just feel it.  I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me.  I know something good is going to come out of this.  I know everyone’s prayers are helping me.  Prayers work.

The Power of Fasting and Prayer

By | Daily Life, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Today was fast Sunday, the first Sunday of the month.  Across the country I know that there were family, friends, and strangers fasting and praying for Ashtyn.  What effects would that have on the day? And how will it change her future?

I woke up at 8:30 to see my mom walking Ashtyn to the bathroom.  My mom didn’t sleep well last night and felt to come up in the morning.  All day yesterday I was hoping to find time to take a shower. It didn’t happen.  With my mom there I took advantage of the moment and raced to the shower.  What a good way to start the day.  I was also pleased that Ashtyn got the nurse she did.  From the moment the nurse walked into the door I sensed she was a doer.  Good.  I needed someone who had fire in them to get the job done.  What was the job? To get a CT scan and get closer to a diagnosis.

As the morning went on, Ashtyn felt worse and worse.  She became more and more nauseated.  Her headache pounded harder and harder.  Her anxiety grew and grew.  The sight of food made her sick.  Drinking carnation instant breakfast caused her to gag.  Noise was intolerable. Light was too much. Talking to her was out of the question.  Touch was not allowed.  The Elders came to give us the Sacrament.  I kept asking for them to come back until they weren’t able to come back again.  The hospital’s L.D.S branch primary leaders came.  I explained that Ashtyn truly loves church but wouldn’t be able to hear a lesson today.  Her Young Women’s leader and a Laurel came by.  Again, I had to turn them away.  My brother Jared came.  I told him to sit by her but not to talk.  Jared’s brother in law, James, was told the same thing when he had come earlier.

In the midst of her misery there was a crucial CT scan with contrast that needed to be done.  She had to have 800 ml of contrast into her stomach for her to have the CT scan.  How on earth was she going to be able to keep 800 ml of fluid in her stomach when she hadn’t eaten well since Tuesday?  Yesterday she threw up her lime sherbet and Gatorade   Ashtyn knew there would be no way she’d be able to drink that much fluid.  A nasogastric tube needed to be placed into her nose and down into her stomach. What normally could be a fairly non traumatic, quick procedure with lots of breathing and swallowing, turned into a screaming, holding her breath event.  She hated every second of it, but the struggle was not over.  Once the NG tube was secured it was time to start infusing the fluid into her stomach over 1 ½ hours.  Ashtyn was in misery and the only thing I could do was sit quietly at her bedside and plead fervently with the Lord that she would not throw up the contrast.  No contrast in the stomach, no CT scan.  Medications were given to decrease her nausea and anxiety.  In my deepest plea my friend Erin Smith, who has fought A.L.L with her son, came to the bedside.  She knew not to talk but just sat on the couch and rubbed my back as I held Ashtyn’s hand and continued to pray.  Soon Ashtyn fell asleep.  Thank you Heavenly Father for all your tender mercies. I had a moment to whisper with Erin and exchange tears.

At 3 pm it was time to wheelchair Ashtyn to the CT scan room. With hardly any strength or emotion, a mask was placed over her mouth and we headed down. She was placed on the table and the CT scan was done without difficulty.  She did it.  With the strength of God, she did it.

Ashtyn getting CT Scan

Ashtyn getting CT Scan

Once Ashtyn was back in bed the only people in the room were Jason and I.  Her emotions came.

With tenderness and sorrow she said, “I haven’t felt the Spirit.  I don’t feel Him and that He is helping me.”

I turned to the back of my scriptures to D&C 121 and read to her Joseph Smith’s plea when he was suffering greatly as a prisoner for months in Liberty Jail. “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye… O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are… stretch forth thine hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered.”

“Ashtyn, Joseph Smith was in a short dungeon for 4 months with very little light, cold weather, hunger, sickness, and filthy conditions.  He probably didn’t feel God was near because he was in too much physical and emotional pain. You are having similar feelings as he did.  With all you are going through physically and emotionally, it’s difficult to feel God near.  Ash, I know God is here. He has never left and has watched over you every single moment.  I feel it because I’m not suffering like you are.  Remember when we first got to the hospital, your mind was so scared but your heart felt peace? That quiet, calmness is the Spirit. So close your eyes, don’t think about your pain, or the hospital, or your worries, and listen to your heart and see if you can feel that peace while I pray. And so I prayed and by the end of the prayer she was near sleeping.  I laid next to her in bed and cuddled her left side while Jason was close holding her right hand.  Jason put Pandora on and this was the first song it played.  We laid together listening to the song and cried.

Jason and Ashtyn

Jason and Ashtyn

When the song was over I don’t remember grabbing my phone and getting on Facebook, but I did. I must have. Because I started reading:

My, dear, Suzanne —
I occasionally write poetry. As I have been fasting today for Patty and Ashtyn – this one came to me. I asked God’s hand to guide me as I wrote it…and I assure you that He truly did. It was His hand guiding me – it wasn’t me.
Please give Ashtyn my love and share it with her. You are in my prayers constantly and I am here to help in ANY way.
Love,
Caren

Hardly able to maintain my composure, I read out loud to Ashtyn:

For Ashtyn
From Caren Whatcott
2/3/13
When you think of Ashtyn – what do you think of?
Spiritual, happy, adorable, kind, caring – but mostly love.
But now a new word needs to begin to describe her –
BRAVE – for the next weeks or months will be a blur.
What a battle she has on the road ahead,
She needs to know that many a tear will be shed.
She is truly one of God’s most chosen one’s –
Of all His daughters and sons,
Ashtyn, this trial you are about to bear,
Will require from your family and you a lot of prayer.
But always, always remember that the One that came before,
In a very special garden on a very special night, has already bore.
Whatever the destination this path takes you,
Remember that He will get you through.
Through this journey, He will never fail,
Neither will the angels through the veil.
At times, for you, the veil will be very thin,
With all of the angels, friends and kin –
Part of Ashtyn’s Army they become –
So please don’t shrink back from them.
Embrace the tender spirits you will feel all around –
If you quietly concentrate and listen you may hear the sound –
Of God’s tender mercies whisper in your ear –
Ashtyn, I am always with you, my dear.

I am as certain as Caren is that God guided her hand in writing that poem.  There is no way Caren on her own would have known the things she wrote.  Her poem was filled with impressions that I have felt in the last several days.  Caren was an instrument in God’s hand in writing perfect truths pertaining to Ashtyn and showing her that God is near.

Jason, Ashtyn, and I experienced one hour of spiritual healing.  It was a tender and touching moment without one interruption.  The moment naturally ended and the room was busy again with visitors and staff. But something was different.  Astonishingly different.  Ashtyn was talking to visitors with joy and energy.  Where was the pain she had for 2 days? Gone.  What about the nausea? Gone. Anxiety? Gone.  Depression? Gone. She was walking around, texting, facebooking, and talking on the phone.  And she was hungry!  So was I.  After 5 days of no appetite for either of us, we both ate dinner.  She was ready and wanting to socialize.  Two of her friends, Caroline and Kaitlyn, came up to visit.  She walked to the 4th floor lobby with her mask on and enjoyed an hour with her friends.

Ashtyn with her friends

Ashtyn with her friends

She then had her Aunt Trisha and Aunt Brittany come up for movie night until 12:30 a.m. and still had energy afterwards.  I have not seen her better since being in the hospital.  My spiritual, happy, adorable, kind, caring, loving, and BRAVE girl was shining through.

WHAT ABOUT THE DIAGNOSIS?  The CT scan came back negative for any cancer elsewhere in the body other than the bone marrow. The diagnosis is “undifferentiated leukemia” or “poorly differentiated leukemia” because her cancer cells are not any specific type.  It is a high risk leukemia.  The doctors will organize a treatment specific to Ashtyn and likely work towards a bone marrow transplant.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you to those who fasted.  Today would not have ended so well without the power, strength, and blessings that were poured down from heaven due to your prayers.  Your prayers and the blessings from them are literally surrounding us, and we feel it. We are ready to fight this with earthly angels like you and the angels in heaven.