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.
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.
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.
Hardly able to maintain my composure, I read out loud to Ashtyn:
From Caren Whatcott
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.
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.