Friday, August 7, 2015

Last Days of Summer!

God is so good!  Caleb has had an amazing summer, with very few side-effects from chemo, & absolutely no secondary infections or illnesses.  What a beautiful blessing! 

Cal's big brother is not a fan of needles, but Zach still insists on being right by his little bro to support him!  There really is something to the saying of "brotherly love".
Precious babysitter, Nicole, is always by our sides through thick 'n thin, too!  We started praying to find the perfect caretaker for our children BEFORE Zach was born.  Our prayers were heard when Nicole came into our lives eleven years ago.

 Caleb and Zach got to spend a week with their "Auntie Donna" and family last month.  

Water sports helped them enjoy the great outdoors in the steamy North Texas heat!
They had a BLAST with their cousins!
Caleb recently had a great check-up and was given the "all clear" to head off to Camp Periwinkle with Texas Children's Hospital. (Periwinkle because that's the color of one of the main childhood chemotherapies.  Only cancer patients and their siblings are there.)
It's a "no communication policy" with parents at camp for an entire week - so I spend every spare moment on their website, looking for a glimpse of the boys at camp! (Mommy stalker, ha ha)

Looks like Caleb loved making homemade pasta!
One of my former colleagues taught golf lessons at camp, & we're so happy to see him taking good care of Caleb!
Of course rockets intrigue all little boys!!! 

We got this note in the mail from Caleb tonight, and it was such a beautiful sight for us.  How wonderful & such a relief to know that he's doing well and having so much fun.  
 Another special experience from Texas Children's Hospital:  Caleb & Zach made national news because of a video they were in, along with many precious patients from TCH.   

It was fun to see them on programs, like The View & Today Show!  They got a million views on our FOX26 website alone.  It's a beautiful video about how tough children are & really take their life back from illness. Here's the link:
It wasn't as fun as being part of a viral video, but they got to "pretend" to be reporters after a remote newscast in Galveston.
Caleb continues to be drawn to lions, as his theme of a "courageous lion" still remains important to him throughout cancer treatment.  He loved a close-up look of them at the circus.
Caleb reminds me of this kitty looking in the mirror.  The love and prayers from family & friends makes him feel strong, just like a lion! 
As these bright, beautiful balloons helped kick-off the start of camp, we hope Caleb sails through second grade a healthy little boy.  One more week of summer until his classes begin. 
We hope you enjoy the rest of summer.  Please know we are blessed by your "cares and prayers".

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Real Blast!

  Hope your 4th of July "exploded" in red, white, and blue!
  Caleb LOVES sparklers!  It was great to be out of the city limits at a family party, so we could enjoy our own fireworks this year. 

We enjoyed the huge family reunion at my Aunt Nancy's home in Bowie, Texas.  Caleb feels so loved by all of these wonderful people, who’ve helped him get through the past few years of treatment, that it just empowered him.  It was truly beautiful.
He swam and played with his cousins from sunrise to sunset, and an “outsider” would NEVER be able to tell he’s a cancer patient!  He was filled with so much energy and happiness, it was a sight to see. He got to meet Pastor Howard Walker, who has been one of his biggest supporters.  We are so thankful for that.

Caleb’s appointment at Texas Children’s went really well yesterday.  

We got some fantastic news!  Cal's treatments won’t last quite as long as we expected, because he had few setbacks during that first crucial year.  In mid-December of 2016, he’ll be free of daily chemo.  We are ecstatic!!!!   He’s now well over halfway through his treatments.  What a wonderful blessing.

The Houston Police Department just got back from their 2,200 mile trek to New York City to ride and raise money to find a cure for Leukemia. 
Officer Ed Hinojosa, who rode again this year in honor of Caleb, is the officer carrying the US flag.
Caleb can't believe the team was able to ride so far with him in mind.  That means so much to our family.  We are relieved that they made it safely!
 Caleb really enjoyed our family vacation this summer!

We LOVED the fact that Caleb wants to change the name of the Garden of the Gods to Garden of God.  He did not find it appropriate at all to mention more than one - and we got in "trouble" every time we accidentally called it "the wrong name". 
We got to have a miserably cold snowball fight, with 12 foot snow drifts in Colorado.  A frozen June!  Brrrr. 

Caleb loved the geysers in Yellowstone so much.  He's already asking when we can go back.
Fresh, mountain air did us all a world of good in Wyoming & Montana!
Hiking was a challenge for Caleb, but with me helping push him up the mountains, he did a great job.  He also challenged himself as much as he could, as always.
Caleb worked really hard to achieve his "Junior Ranger" status, and is quite proud of his title.  :) 

Caleb & Zach even participated in a calf scramble in Cody, Wyoming.  That was fun, yet a little scary, to watch!  He chased those calves with the best of them.
We have been blessed to spend time with loved ones this summer, including David's very loving Aunt Vernie.

The boys also enjoyed visiting my Aunt Barbara in Santa Fe.

Cal even snuck in a "photo-bomb".  :)
Caleb's hair is growing back!  He even got to get his first hair cut in a long time to even out the new growth! You can tell he's a little nervous about them "taking too much"!  With only five weeks left of his summer break, the timing couldn't be more perfect for a full head of hair!
 As we recall wonderful times spent with family, we realize that we always feel them in our hearts, even when we don't get to see some of them very often.  Family is a circle of love and strength.  With every union and every birth, the circle grows.  Every joy shared adds even more love.  Every crisis we face makes that circle stronger.  No matter how low the valley or impossibly high the mountain may appear, family is forever.  That's an amazing feeling.  It takes a village to get through cancer, and we sure are proud and thankful for ours:  family and friends, God bless you all. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer Blues

Rough day at the cancer center, Monday! 
It's such a relief that Zachary is out of school to help keep our spirits up!  He is so strong and our rock when we're hurting.
David (Daddy) hugs always make things better!
Complications during Cal's spinal tap also meant a harder recovery.  It took a day for him to get over his upset stomach after the ordeal, and finally - my eyes are no longer puffy from crying.  Most days we get by just fine, but then we hit that roadblock that hurts and scares us so much. Makes us appreciate our little man more than we already do! Chemo injected into his spine and IV chemo have wiped him out.  Daily chemo by mouth compounds his weakness.  Steroids this week are building his strength though! 

We have just been heartsick all week over the loss of one of the strongest cancer fighters we've met.  This is precious little Kyssi and her AMAZING mother!  She says Kyssi won her battle against cancer this week, because she is now in Heaven and out of pain and in the arms of Jesus. 
Kyssi taught Caleb how to position his body when nurses access his port-a-cath for chemo, so that it doesn't hurt.  She helped him so much with that knowledge.  Every time he does it from now on, I know Kyssi will know how much pain she spared him by helping out.  What a precious, precious, precious angel.  It's hard to believe she's gone from this Earth.  She was truly fuller than life itself. 
 Chemotherapy has been brutal during the Texas heat for Caleb.  While he usually has a stomach of steel and can ride the craziest rides without a worry and never gets motion sickness, it has been brutal on his stomach. 
Yes, that's him, upside down!  Don't worry - he didn't let it stop him!  He pushed himself through it.  Kyssi would be proud that he refuses to let chemo slow him down. 
Caleb's baseball team sailed through the Play-offs and ended up in the Championship Game!!! Proud of those lil' Dodgers!
It was pretty scary during the final game though - the high humidity and heat were too powerful for our little slugger.  His body overheated.  He was horrified to have to lie down in the middle of the game and be iced down.  His medications come with warnings about the sun, and it caught up with him this time.  He didn't want to have to miss a moment of the game. 

On a much happier note - Caleb wrapped-up the school year with honors!  His chemo has been known to cause learning disabilities, but that just hasn't been the case for Cal, and we are so thrilled about that!!!  Definitely answered prayers!
Zach & Caleb were both honored for scoring so high on their standardized testing!  Caleb was also happy to win the 1st Grade Spelling Bee and tie for 2nd place in a Math Contest!
Caleb also graduated from being a Tiger Cub Scout and is now a BIG BEAR!  He's really excited about next year and all of the fun scouting events to come.  

Other BIG NEWS... Caleb turned 8 on May 29th!!!!   

Forget acting like a cancer patient - he wanted a "rough and tumble" birthday party!  It started it off with a wild game of flag football... (I was hoping that's a non-contact sport.  Ha! ha!  No such luck.)  :-) 
He enjoyed a competitive game of laser tag at his party too!
He wrapped it up by walking the rafters - through a tough obstacle course about 20 feet in the air.  Gotta love those safety ropes!
Caleb is enjoying a peaceful summer and lots of extra time with "the Maggers"! 

We're so proud of Caleb - on his own - he decided to stay away from his iPad as much as possible.  He asked us to enroll him in a reading contest at our local library!  WOW, be still my heart.  :-) 

He won a trophy & certificates today for reading 20 books last week!
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  We can do that because of our amazing network of supporters!  
My wonderful cousin, Gerri, sent us a care package so amazing, it's worth sharing!
Gerri knows how much being "courageous like a lion" means to Caleb - so she made us this DVD cover & a video that has POSITIVE photos from the past two years of Caleb's treatment.  It reminds us about how many great things have happened because of Cal's diagnosis!  She put it over the soundtrack "It Takes Courage to Stand Strong".  What a powerful tune.  Here's a link to the song:

She also sent Caleb this super cool cap that says "Chemo:  All the cool kids are doing it!"  The shirt she sent Zach says, "I Stand Alongside My Brother To Win the Battle".  LOVE THAT.  It's so true, too!  

David's cousin, Joe, surprised us with this photo - of him wearing a special "Caleb's Courage" bracelet, in front of a fierce lion he found while traveling to Philadelphia.  Cal LOVES this!  :)
We are so very appreciative of our family and friends who have continued to keep us in their thoughts & prayers all this time.  We realize that most cancer treatment ends for patients within six months.  Thanks for being in it with us for the long haul.  We know four years is a LONG TIME, but YOU make a world of difference.

In honor of our little friend, Kyssi: 
2 Timothy 4:7 
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

We will keep the faith forever.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Flickers of Hope

We had a health scare with Caleb that led to a trip to the Emergency Room!
You can see the pain in David’s eyes, but Cal put on a brave smile, even though he felt terrible.

We were on a fun Camp-Out with his Pack of Cub Scouts and looking forward to sparking a fire.  Instead, Caleb spiked a fever.  It was a tough hour and a half race to the hospital.   

It turned out to be Paraflu (a virus that’s different from THE flu.) 
Luckily, Caleb’s blood levels were high enough that he got to be released and not admitted to the hospital!  He was so happy to go home.
Prayers are definitely still needed though!  Chemo patients often suffer a big drop in their levels about 4-6 weeks after they are diagnosed with Paraflu.  We pray this doesn’t happen and that he doesn’t become severely neutropenic (low levels), which would make him more susceptible to infections.  His doctors will closely monitor him, and they are not going to increase his chemo right now, as they had planned to do.

My parents will agree - there aren’t enough words to say how thankful we are for our friends at Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance.  When the goin’ gets tough, they really get us goin’ in the right direction! 

They do an amazing job of never letting Caleb be a candle in the wind.  They help keep him uplifted and shining brightly. 

They honored him as a Light of Courage.
 Former New York City Mayor & cancer survivor Rudy Giuliani offered encouraging words of hope  to Caleb.
He truly felt so special that day!
While tucking Caleb in to bed later that night, I told Caleb how very proud I was of him for being brave and for handling his treatments so well that he was honored as a light of courage to others.  He quietly giggled, “The award made me feel like I’m real special, Mommy.”  Oh you are, my sweet child.  You are my hero.  It was so beautiful to hear those words coming out of his little mouth. 

The Candlelighters also honored Caleb at their golf tournament last week. 

He got to help make some big announcements!

He also REALLY enjoyed meeting former Astros’ great Brandon Backe!
 Backe was so encouraging and kind to Caleb & Zachary!  

He even gave them a stack of games he won in a raffle.  How fun!
Caleb had a BLAST at my 15th annual golf tournament yesterday, that benefits the incredible group, Children at Risk.  For the first time in 20 months, I had to miss Caleb's appointment at Texas Children's Hospital.  I was able to pull it off with the help of Nicole, Caleb's loving babysitter he's had his entire life.  That, and a conference call to his medical workers, worked out well. 

I was so happy when Nicole showed up at the course with the boys!
Caleb even had enough energy, after his hospital visit, to enjoy his annual tradition with my boss, the GM of FOX26, D’Artagnan Bebel, with water gun fights!

It was a fun day with family, dear friends, and successful fundraising.

We usually have the kids rake the sand traps -but just this once -  let Caleb leave his HAPPY smiley face message behind.  :) 

Caleb is wrapping up his baseball season with the Dodgers.  
He loves his team and is very excited to be heading into the play-offs next week.

His end-of-the-year party was on the field of the Minor League team, the Sugar Land Skeeters. He loved being so close to the big players!

Caleb is far right in this photo.  We were VERY proud of him for taking his hat off during the National Anthem.  When he got a similar experience last year, he just couldn't get up the nerve to do it.  Way to go, Cal!

It’s hard to believe there are only eight days of school left.  We are thrilled that Caleb excelled in the first grade!  Thanks to his loving teachers and administrators, he thrived this year.  We are praying for continued success in all he does and of course, continued good health.

A wonderful man, whom I've always looked up to, my Uncle Frank Harris, just passed away.  It was very hard to "say good-bye" last week, although I know he is another angel in Heaven watching over us.  I will always miss him.  He was a beautiful human being and such a Godly man.  

Luke 11:33-35
"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness."