Thursday, July 11th, Ashtyn woke up knowing she was going home. In days past she hadn’t felt well enough to be in a hurry to go home. However, by Wednesday she was climbing the walls and didn’t want to be in the hospital another moment. She woke up at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, “I can’t stand being here any longer. Can we go?” Pleased with her spunk, energy, and fight to go home I reminded her, “Ashtyn, you have been here 33 days, you can handle four more hours.”
Throughout the morning she watched Disney movies to pass the time while I received discharge teaching from hospital staff, loaded my car with our belongings, and gathered her twelve medication prescriptions from the pharmacy. At 12:30 p.m. Ashtyn’s dad (Jason), Chandler, Morgan, and Ethan arrived at the hospital bringing Olive Garden lunch for the staff. You can’t celebrate a special occasion without food, in my opinion.
After lunch everything was in order for Ashtyn to go home. In the hall of the cancer floor there is a bell with a plaque that reads, “Ring this bell, three times real well, it’s toll to clearly say, ‘my treatments done, this course is run, now I am on my way.’” It is tradition that a cancer patient rings the bell for two occasions. One occasion is when a patient is cancer free and completed their last chemotherapy/radiation treatment. The other occasion is when a patient completed their bone marrow transplant and is discharged from the hospital to further recover at home. On the way out the door Ashtyn rang the bell in front of staff and family members for all to congratulate her with clapping, cheers, and hugs. She beat cancer! Ashtyn fought back the tears, happy she was going home but knowing she would miss all the people that took care of her. Ashtyn is done with chemotherapy, radiation, and cancer. Now recovery begins.
We arrived home at 2:30 p.m. and all of our belongings were dumped in the front room as if we had just got home from a long vacation. You can imagine what it’s like to come home after 5 1/2 months. The task of getting everything back in order is grand. It may take a month or two to get organized, but we’ll get there. After all the change, growth, and things we’ve learned, my little family is ready to start a new beginning. A new beginning is appropriate. Not only does Ashtyn have new blood and cells, she has new strength and perspective. All my children have a new outlook on life and a new confidence about them. The idea of a new beginning is exciting for all of us and we look forward to the future.
At 6:00 p.m. I took Chandler to his hockey game. At 8:15 p.m. I got a phone call from Jason informing me that Ashtyn just had a seizure. She had been watching TV, the screen began to move quickly, her vision became blurring and progressed to where she couldn’t see. She then lost consciousness and her body twitched and jerked, appearing like a grand mal seizure. After 30 seconds she regained consciousness, threw up, and appeared normal. The doctor was called and we were instructed to bring Ashtyn back to the hospital. Ashtyn was given a priesthood blessing. I packed up our things, which hadn’t been fully unpacked from getting home six hours prior, and headed back to the hospital. As we drove I didn’t hear one complaint from Ashtyn. She didn’t shed one tear or make one negative comment. We just drove with peace in our hearts. Once we arrived at the hospital, I gathered our belongings and started walking from the parking lot towards the front doors. As she held onto my arm I asked, “Are you ok? Are you going to be able to walk all the way inside?” Her strength and endurance is lacking, however she said, “Mom, God’s with me. I can make it.” After 20 feet I noticed a man walking towards the entrance. I called to him asking if he would run inside and grab us a wheelchair. Ashtyn sat on the curb and rested while a wheelchair was brought to her. Once in her hospital bed I noticed, “You are in such a good mood. You aren’t upset at all to be back in the hospital? Why?” She quickly responded, “Mom, God’s got my back. He just needs to teach me one more thing.”
The night was uneventful. A CT scan was done of her brain that showed everything was normal. She has had so many CT scans that it has become a humdrum event. In the morning she had an MRI. She has never had an MRI. It is so remarkable how comfortable she is with anything medical. Five months ago the word “cancer” freaked her out. Now nothing seems to phase her. She faces head on whatever comes her way with courage, faith, and trust. The MRI came back normal. The only explanation for the seizure was that it was a drug withdrawal. Ashtyn had been on a medication called Ativan, for nausea, since February. For a day or two prior to going home, she stopped taking it. They instructed us to put her back on a scheduled dose of Ativan and wean it over several weeks. After 33 days in the hospital, 6 hours home, and 18 hours back in the hospital, we were ready to go home again.
Before leaving the hospital I asked, “So what was the one thing that God wanted to teach you?” She said, “Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan. You just need to go with it and have trust.”
Ashtyn has learned so much and has grown tremendously. My entire family has. Now that we are starting a new beginning, we are excited to see what new experiences we’ll have. Cancer will forever be close to our hearts and we will never truly leave it behind. Though Ashtyn has triumphed over cancer, this is not the end. She has a long recovery ahead that will need your continued thoughts and prayers. Isn’t that how life is? We always need each others’ support for one thing or another. Because of all the support we received and miracles that came about through Ashtyn’s Army, the need to give back is strong in our hearts. Just as Ashtyn was not able to conquer cancer without the Army, we can’t give back without the Army. Ashtyn’s Army changed our life for good. We want to give back and change other’s lives for good. The next blog post will share with you our ideas on how we will keep our bond with Ashtyn’s Army and continue changing lives together.