Sunday, April 3, 2016

He is Risen

Caleb enjoyed an amazing Easter!  Celebrating Christ's comeback seemed to be a turning point for Caleb.  It feels like Caleb is beginning to rise again.

It was a beautiful & unseasonably warm winter in Houston, but it has honestly felt cold & dreary for Caleb.  It's hard to describe, so I've remained silent on his blog, because I haven't known what to say.  I'll keep that part brief.  After three years of daily chemotherapy, it was like Cal hit a brick wall.  He's old enough to realize that he has to struggle to keep up with his friends.  That's a tough realization for someone as competitive as Caleb.  

This is what many nights "looked like" when we brought out the chemo.  He became rebellious about taking it & struggled with his diagnosis. 
It's almost like he pushed himself so hard during the day to do well at school, that he was "just done" everyday when he got home.  

Organizations, like the Sunshine Kids Foundation, understand the reality of cancer and how tough it can be on kids.  They have worked hard to bring sunshine into Caleb's life. 

They invited him to enjoy "Dinner on the Dirt" with all of the major monster truck drivers.  He loved it!
Caleb, Zach, and their buddy Jake had a great time! 
The Sunshine Kids also invited Cal & Zach to a special Houston Texans Training Camp.  They got kicking and throwing lessons & were in awe of how much fun player Christian Covington is!
Baseball is in full swing, pun intended.  :-)  What a way to kick-off the season!  Caleb's Little League invited him to throw the first pitch, and they honored him for his courage to continue to play, even when he doesn't feel like it.  
David is his coach for the Cubs.  The games are the highlight of every week!
Caleb loves going to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo every year.  It's always a VERY long walk back to the car each time.  This year, we had some much needed help!  Zachary has gotten so strong, that he gave us a break & helped carry Caleb to the car.  It's quite the group effort.
Only 1/4 of a way there... but Caleb thinks it's more fun on big bro's back!
Some positive news in the advancement of medicine!  Texas Children's is now offering sedation for spinal taps under the power of "laughing gas".  We're told it doesn't work for every patient, but it was MUCH EASIER for Caleb!  He didn't get sick, as usual, and recovered much faster.  This is such a relief for our family for future procedures!!!
We've worked hard to get Caleb back on track.  Besides some alternative therapy, we took a long Spring Break and gave him undivided attention.  He helped plan the trip, and we poured every ounce of our positive energy into him, and added so much love & laughter.  It all seemed to really help.
His favorite was drilling a hole in the ice at a lake in Minnesota.  Thank goodness our fishing guides brought along this tent - b/c the wind chill was in the teens!  Thanks to my Aunt Nancy for tips about where to go - she used to live there!
Our ice fishing was prosperous!  We reached our limit in just a few minutes and had to just enjoy "catch & release" after that.  I cooked fresh fish for Caleb for days.  He loved it!
Snow tubing brought a lot of giggles, and that was magic to our ears!

We even got to go hiking.  His big bro pulled through again, when our backs got too tired to carry those little "chemo legs".

For some reason, Caleb has been obsessed with Mount Rushmore since Pre-K!  You can see how happy he was to finally see it for himself!

While we were away, my two AMAZING colleagues, Raymond Ramirez and David Canada shaved their heads AGAIN in Cal's honor.  Together, they raised about $6,000 for St. Baldrick's.  

Caleb and I got to "Facetime" and witness the action LIVE, which was very special! 
That's a lot of hair!  Thanks guys - for making a difference in others lives, through Caleb!
We all came back with renewed hope and with a spring in our step! 
Caleb had a great check-up and his "counts" are right where they need to be!
Caleb often lies on the couch at my little gym and watches Zach and I work out.  Even though he had on flip-flops last week, he kicked them off and "boxed" with Zachary.  It was an amazing sight to see!
I can't even describe how much this photo means!  Caleb - doing the carrying - this time!  WOW.  He was able to carry his little buddy, Angeli, all over the place.  Things are undoubtedly getting better. 
We just got back from a family wedding that was even more uplifting for Caleb!  He got to meet two amazing young ladies, who have been raising money in his honor for years! 

Caleb couldn't believe he could finally see some of the precious youngsters who have written so many special notes to him.  They are students of David's cousin, Rhonda, in Woodson, Tx.  Please keep Baylee in your prayers (on the left).  She is often in the fight for her life because of Type 1 Diabetes.  What a precious child to help Caleb, when she has to endure so much herself.
It was an amazing wedding at a ranch - in the wide open, beautiful outdoors, with so many fun games - who could ask for more?  It added even more sunshine to our lives.  Thanks Bri & Tommy! 
God is definitely answering our prayers and giving us so much hope.  Tomorrow is going to be a brighter day.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  Much love from our family to yours!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Just Be Held

We hope you had a very Merry Christmas!!!  We sure wish cancer treatments & side-effects could stop during the holidays, but it just doesn't work that way.  "Just be held".  That's what Caleb has needed the past few weeks.  His family, too.  He has done his best to try to enjoy & cherish time with family throughout the holidays, even though most of the time, he wanted to be alone in a quiet room... often asking to just be held. 

It has been an interesting month for Cal, with a lot of ups and downs since Thanksgiving. He caught a virus that made his blood levels plummet.  They've been so low, he had to miss school & stay home & away from crowds the past month.

Even walking up the stairs at home caused him to be short of breath, because of low red blood cells.  Luckily, a blood transfusion helped give him a boost & some added strength.   

A friend of our darling cousin, Gerri, made this wonderful & comforting "Caleb's Courage" quilt, which has been an important reminder to him.  It helps empower him & reminds him to be courageous on the hard days.  Thanks, Lesa!
Driving home from the hospital after that transfusion & all-day hospital stay was tough.  It brought back too many memories of leaving the medical center, as the sun goes down over Houston & the Christmas lights flicker to life.  It reminded me of the rough beginnings of Caleb's treatments and how vulnerable he still is.  As I fought back tears and Caleb was in and out of consciousness, one of his favorite songs came on & he began belting out the tune.  Soon, my tears, along with Zachary's, turned into smiles.  As the band, Casting Crowns sang, "Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place.  I'm on the throne, stop holding on, and just be held".  Driving home, I held tight to the wheel, but I stopped holding on to my own understanding about why Caleb has to endure so much.  I just sat and felt the arms of Jesus around me.  It felt safe & secure.  Zach said he felt the same way.

Because of Caleb's low levels, he had to revert back to weekly appointments & blood draws.  Luckily, Texas Children's does everything it can to distract kids during the holidays!    

We had a wonderful visitor, who really brought out the boys' creativity.  He's a local college student and writer, who helped them come up with a fascinating story.  It was amazing how he lead them in the right direction to bring about the most beautiful and funny story - with life lessons along the way!
"The Great Fishy Adventure" is about their pet turtle & leopard gecko.
The art department at the hospital also encouraged Zachary to learn a new form of art, which he really enjoyed!

Caleb also got to visit his precious friend, Arda, in the hospital.  
Arda was actually strong enough to get disconnected from his IV pole & walk to the cafeteria with us! Thank you for your continued prayers for this little cancer fighter.  We are still lifting up this beautiful family!  Since the boys often get lonely while their friends are at school, they communicate through FaceTime and play games online together.  I think that's powerful camaraderie.
Luckily, right before Cal became home-bound, he got to participate in a "Reader's Theater" at his school about the Christmas Story, and he was really excited to serve as the Narrator.   

We are so happy he got to experience that, as he was disappointed to miss his Christmas Program at school, as well as all of the Christmas parties.  It's such a magical time of year to miss out on and we can tell that his "cabin fever" is running high. 
Caleb also got to enjoy playing in snow, that we created for our Scout's Christmas party! 
He had so much fun throwing snow balls and sliding on the ice.  We miss hearing him giggle & are relieved that his laugh is starting to make a come-back!!!
Another special moment - even though he felt bad & we had to carry him to the car - he got to go to the Houston Texans game and get an "up close and personal look" at all of the Texans players again!   
Those are some fun & BIG "high-fives"!  
He even got to be there with his Oncologist from Texas Children's Hospital. It was really exciting for him!  Caleb loves football and watches intensely!  The experience is all thanks to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance and Texans' player, Kareem Jackson.  His sister battled leukemia, so he reaches out to young leukemia patients.  What a great guy!
As you can imagine, being home-bound means catching up on a lot of schoolwork! 

Luckily our saving grace, Mrs. Tammy McDonald, came back to the rescue!  It makes it so much more fun for him to do a large amount of school work with her, and she really helped keep him up-to-speed, so that he will be ready to start the new year. 
Our Christmas cards were a bit different this year.  When we were getting family portraits taken, Zachary grabbed his shoes on the way out the door - not realizing they no longer fit!  As if that wasn't a big enough mess, Caleb overheats a lot because of his medications, so we had to put ice packs under his sweater. 

He also had to take a lot of "water breaks" to stay hydrated.  We didn't realize our photographer was snapping a few of those funny shots, along the way! 
When we got the pictures back - there were some we were proud of - but our favorite ones turned out to be the unexpected candid shots.
While they were meant for our humor only, we realized - they were so transparent - they were a more true picture of our everyday lives!  Balancing cancer, along with everything else going on in our lives, makes it always feel like we're a beat behind.   
This tells the "true story" of the drama we went through that day, with Zachary limping around the Arboretum, & we just burst out laughing, when we saw them.  Zach encouraged me to make "silly cards" this year, and I agreed.
It also reminded me a lot of social media, where it often looks like everyone's life is perfect.  We all put our "best foot forward", right?  

The perfect example is the front of our Christmas card. Everyone is all lined up - neatly in a row - and happily smiling. 
Then you open the card - to find old shoes that don't fit & a crazy looking family.  That's us.  That's REALLY who we are. 
Nothing ever seems "just right" when you have a sick child.  More days, than not this month, we haven't felt much better than a tired shoe.  We can either feel sorry about that or we can rely on God & our faith & make the best out of every miserable situation. That's what we strive so hard to do. 

Laugh - be silly - be so very thankful for the good in our lives - & there is a lot of good - and look forward to healthier days. 

On a super happy note - Santa & Mrs. Claus came to visit us at the house!   

They gave lots of TLC to the boys.  (Thanks so much to Cathy Pellegrino for helping bring this dream to life!)
Santa also gave happy greetings, to our dear friend & huge Caleb supporter, Christine, for her birthday. 

As we wrap-up 2015, we can't believe Caleb only has ONE MORE YEAR of treatments!  To help build his strength, doctors took Caleb off of all chemotherapy for 8 days.  Caleb called it a "Christmas miracle"!!!  He's back to daily chemo now - but half the typical dose, this week.  

 Caleb got some very special reminders for Christmas to stay courageous throughout his battle.  

Thanks to my parents for wonderful symbols of courage.
As the year comes to an end, we hope you'll remember to just stop "and be held" when you need it most.  "When you're on your knees and answers seem so far away, stop holding on and just be held.  Just be held".  Hopefully we can share something that helps us - that will also bless your life, if and when you need it.  

When you need to "loosen your tie" and could use a helping hand, please remember that God is always there.
Thank you for blessing our family by being in this long cancer fight with us.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our God is an Awesome God!

He reigns from Heaven above!  With wisdom, power, and love, our God is an awesome God.  Before I share absolute proof of that in Caleb's life, I'll fill you in on the past week. 

Caleb underwent a spinal tap last Monday. 
We were highly disappointed to find out Caleb's higher dosage of chemo the past few months is still not enough.  Now he's up to 120% on his dosage, of other children his size, to try to fight his leukemia better.  The side effects have been brutal & just as bad as anything he's been through.  It wiped out his legs & the pain has been so severe, he couldn't sleep.  I stayed up with him off & on all night for the past week to massage his little legs, apply heat, and offer understanding hugs.  His "chemo mouth" has been so bad, he hasn't been able to eat without whimpering.  His "Magic Mouthwash" wasn't even strong enough to help.  It's never a good time to have a hard time eating, but Thanksgiving made the problem seem even worse. 

Here's where God comes in.  We stayed silent about how sick Caleb had been for 6 days, except to family.  It's the season to be happy, and we didn't want to burden others.  Then, we started prayer chains, and it was like a miracle before our eyes.  

Caleb went from snuggling under a blanket in our laps all day yesterday to laughing & getting up & playing with his little cousins, & eating his first meal without complaining.  I've never seen a quicker turn-around. 
He only woke up once last night for a few minutes in pain, versus all night long.  My eyes are filled with tears as I picture God listening to all of those requests for Caleb, and then lovingly granting him our wish.  Thank you.  What a gift and blessing.

Caleb has also been on a higher dose of steroids than he has ever been on.  Since it makes him so hungry, my mom gave us the best gift ever - two ice chests full of his favorite foods - all labeled with love.   

He adores her cooking & worked through his mouth pain, to eat every last bite.  Thank you, Mom, for allowing me to provide love and care for Caleb when he needed me the most, versus cooking night & day to keep up with his steroid cravings. 

On another happy note, Caleb got to play baseball in Minute Maid Park with Hall of Fame Star Craig Biggio.   

It was a huge moment in life for Biggio to pitch to our little baseball player.
Caleb's team had a winning season & made it to the play-offs!

He loved it when dear friends came to cheer him on!  Thanks Kip, Christine, & Angeli for going to his games!

Caleb & big bro Zach both had orthopedic injuries only one week apart, and that was dramatic to balance.  Caleb tripped & fell at a Halloween party. 

The great news - after a quick trip to the E.R., we found out Cal only sprained his wrist.
Zach wasn't so lucky.  He fractured a bone in his foot playing football with friends.  It made their Halloween costumes look even more interesting!
Everyone on Caleb's baseball team has been supportive of his condition, especially Tayten!
He has been collecting soda can pop-tops to donate to Texas Children's Ronald McDonald House.  The Ronald McDonald Rooms at TCH are such a blessing for our family.  They're a safe haven to get a "breather", gather support from other patients' families & get a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Thanks to Tayten for doing this in honor of Caleb!
 David's cousin, Rhonda, has still been working hard at her school, Woodson Elementary, to teach kids about cancer through Caleb's condition, & the importance of raising funds for research.  They recently made another big donation to TCH in Caleb's name.  We are so proud of them for their dedication and hard work to raise those funds!
 Caleb's Courage Team was a big one at Light the Night... more than 50 people strong!  We were the 10th Biggest fundraising team out of 254 teams! Thanks to everyone who made this possible!

Caleb's teacher and a few of Zach's former teachers joined us to help raise funds to find a cure for leukemia.  It was an incredible partnership and meant a lot to both boys!
Some of my colleagues joined us - thanks Greg & Michelle! 
The boys got to hang out with some Houston Texans football players, including David Quessenberry, who recently battled cancer and had some wise words to share with Caleb. 
Thoughtful friends from school also joined us - thanks Mize's! 
It was powerful to have my parents there with us every step of the way!

I was on stage Emcee'ing the event, and had to choke back tears, as I watched Caleb and his daddy walking down the tunnel with their white lights, in honor of fighting cancer.  It was very upsetting for Caleb to look out at the yellow lights and realize how many people had passed away from leukemia or blood cancer. 
May God richly bless those hurting because of their losses from this disease, be with all of those fighting it, and with all of those red lights - the supporters - who help us all get through it. 
 My amazing sorority sisters even organized a team to walk in Caleb's honor in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area!!!  They've truly been the sisters, I never genetically had, all of these years.

Our specific prayer for Caleb is that he continues to handle the high dose of chemo well and that his levels get in a "safe zone". Thank you for caring about Caleb.  We would love for you to also pray for Caleb's friend & fellow leukemia fighter, Arda.  

 Arda is in the hospital right now, fighting liver disease from his chemotherapy.  He and his family really need us to lift their entire family up.  We are all in this together.  Their tough time is our tough time. Our hearts ache for them.  
Ephesians 3:20

God bless you all.