Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pictures From the Past Few Days

I finally found a cable to upload some of the pics from my digital camera.  Everything is going well, no appointments until Monday so we have a weekend to explore - tomorrow we'll go to the Bass Pro Shop and we're hoping to get to Galveston on Saturday.  In the meantime, here are a few pics from the past few days.  Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

MRI Done and a Treat

Today Cash's MRI was scheduled at 10:00 and we arrived at MD at 9:15 for the check-in. Cash again would be sedated so he didn't have anything to eat or drink when he woke up - we were expecting to be done by 11:00, however, the MRI didn't start until 12:00. I'm continually amazed at how tough and resilient Cash is - he didn't fuss or cry even though I knew he was hungry...

The MRI went well and Cash woke up and ate his standard post-anesthesia fare of 10 ounces of milk, McDonalds fries and chicken nuggets. I think this will become quite a routine as we go through this process.

We left and went to visit our new friend Carol - she works for the Houston Texans and invited us there for a tour. We got the MVP treatment and walked through the entire complex (Reliant Stadium), visiting the war room, draft room, locker room, media room, field, and everything else there was to see. She introduced us to nearly everyone we walked past, including coaches, players, and many of the people who work in the administrative offices. Cash did very well and received many gifts from the folks we met.

Right before we left for Houston, our good friend Corey (Hage Creative) took pictures of Cash. You can see from the second picture in his face that he is a fighter...:-)

Wendi told me that she's starting to have contractions so the time is nearing - when she was pregnant with Cash she had contractions for nearly a week so we'll see how long it takes.  I'm so thankful there is a wonderful support team for her in Seattle.  My support system here, Jeremy, must have seen how much help I need, he extended his stay in Houston until Sunday.  For that I am extremely thankful - he's great with Cash and cleans the house after we go to sleep, carries all of our stuff to the hospital, and everything else you can think of...

I'll post pics of the Texans visit as soon as I can find the digital camera's around here somewhere.  Until then thank you for your prayers and continued support!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Everybody Loves Cash and We're In the Right Place

I realize the title of the blog sounds like tv episodes but read on...

Today we had our first appointment with Cash's oncologist and he had a ct scan at the proton center. The poor guy wasn't able to eat b/c of anesthesia and didn't take his first bite of food until 5 pm, nearly 24 hours after he last ate...but he did very well all day considering and even though he was crabby, the nurses and doctors love him. He'd cry a bit and then pop out and start talking, saying 'bye' when they would leave.

The meeting with the oncologist was very promising - the Dr has been laser focused on pediatric brain tumors for over 30 years and referred to his ideas sometimes as 'radical', which is what we need. We also received Cash's 6-week radiation schedule which I was nervous about because if he was scheduled every day at 12, for example, he wouldn't be able eat or drink anything each day until 1 or so. Thankfully all of his appointments are before 8:30 so basically each day we will wake up and go straight to treatment and be done by 9:30/10:00.

Tomorrow's an MRI at 10 and afterwards we're touring the Houston Texans stadium (thanks Carol N you are awesome). Unfortunately Jeremy leaves early Thursday morning, we are going to miss him, he's been great with Cash and has taken excellent care of us this week. I'm thankful there will be family and friends here almost the entire time I'm here, it helps tremendously.

I know after our meetings today that we are definitely in the right place for this stage of treatment - MD Anderson does cancer and there are many many people working together to ensure Cash gets the absolute best treatment. Thank God for opening the doors for us to be here and thank you for your support and prayers!

Monday, April 26, 2010

First Full Day

Today we registered at the Proton Center and had our first meeting with Dr. Mahajan and her team. Everyone was great and we Jeremy and I know we are at the right place, and what a large place it is...the medical center is like a small city and there are at least 6 MD Anderson locations in the loop.

Cash has a CT Scan tomorrow, MRI Wednesday, and a trial run through the proton machine on Thursday. Each procedure requires anesthesia so he can't eat or drink anything 6 hours before which makes it tough on the little guy, but he's strong and continues to amaze me.

We were visited and blessed today by two or our new Houston families, the Middlebrook's and the Nelson's. Even though we are a long ways from home, we already feel like the people we've met make this 'home-like' and God continues to put wonderful people in our path.

So far so good - the apartment wasn't ready at 8 when we arrived (Cash was up at 5 Seattle time) so we drove around getting knowledge of the main streets, etc. The weather is way different than Seattle - today hit 90 and it's supposed to be hot for a while.

Cash will officially start proton treatment next week - the proton center is something to behold and after talking with many people today, we are confident it is going to make hay with Cash's tumor, to use a farming metaphor. We are thankful to God for His provisions and I'm so glad there are Christians all around the world, and especially here in Houston.

Thank you for your support and continue to pray for Cash and Wendi, due very very soon...:)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Few More Cuts

Tomorrow afternoon Cash, Jeremy, and I are flying to Houston - Cash and I will be down there for approximately 7-8 weeks and while I'm terribly sad to leave, I know it is a critical part of Cash's treatment.  I don't think it will sink in how long we'll be gone until a few days from now and it will be really difficult when Wendi goes into labor.  I did set the Mac's up with iChat so we'll be able to talk and hopefully we can set the laptops up when she goes into labor, it would be a long-distance delivery of sorts I guess.

Today was a great day with lots of family and friends stopping by to say hi and pray for us.  Josh's two sons stepped up to the Cuts for Cash Barber Seat today and let me cut their hair.  They did great and I'm proud of them for doing it for Cash:

I already have at least 5 or 6 contacts of people in Houston that have offered to help out in any way they can.  I'll certainly be blogging about these families and individuals when we're down there - they don't even know us but I'm certain we'll make lasting friendships while we're down there.  I'm already looking forward to when Wendi, Jack Jr., and son #3 can join us in Houston - they should get clearance to fly after the newborn is 3 weeks old or so, which puts them there in about 5 or 6 weeks.

Here are things that you can be praying for over the next few days and weeks:
1. Safe travel for us and all who will be coming back and forth (Jeremy, my mom and dad, Wendi's dad, etc.),
2. Safe and healthy delivery of our 3rd son (he already has a name but I'm holding it close until he's born),
3. That God is with the doctors and staff at MD Anderson and uses them to help Cash during his radiation treatments,
4. That Cash's tumor shrinks with radiation and he regains some of his movement to his right side,
5. Continue to pray for healing in a miraculous way and ultimately that God's glory shines through this journey.

Thank you as always for your prayers and support and have a blessed Sabbath!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We're In - Houston is a Go

Today we received confirmation that MD Anderson will take Cash for proton beam radiation!  The second day of Cash's diagnosis on Feb. 9 we were told about MD Anderson through Darrin P, whose brother works there and since then God has been laying the foundation for us to get in so while the past few days were difficult waiting to see if they would take us, the doors were opened.

Jeremy, Cash, and I will fly down this Sunday and starting on Monday we have multiple appointments to prepare Cash for the treatment.  It will start with a consult on Monday, MRI on Wednesday, and a 'trial-run' so-to-speak on the proton beam machine.  I was busy today setting all of the arrangements for the 6-8 week stay in Houston and once again, people's generosity has been overwhelming - our flight was taken care of and everything is falling into place.

The radiation treatments will be a total of 6 weeks, Monday through Friday.  Each day Cash will have to be knocked out by the anesthesiologists so he will be absolutely still during the treatments.  The apartment we're staying at is in the medical center and there's a shuttle that can take us back and forth.  I am taking all my 'technology' so I'll still be blogging and keeping in contact with Zion and our family.

Speaking of Zion, today I was talking with my director about getting signed memorabilia for the silent auction and he mentioned that his brother works with the Huskies and knows Jake soon as he finished saying that, his brother and Jake walk in the door (I'm not kidding) and we talked at length about Cash and they are committed to delivering some 'Husky' memorabilia for the auction.  It was almost unbelievable how perfect God's timing is and to prove it here's a picture of Jake and I:

I just mentioned it above, but everyone's generosity is incredible - This Saturday at Pacific Growers (9131 Markworth Rd, Blaine), they are donating 20% of their sales to the Caring for Cash fund and while I won't make it to the silent auction, news of it keeps spreading...Here's a picture Jodi just sent me at the Lynden Starbucks:

I write so often of how we are in God's hands and I truly believe that He is orchestrating something amazing that will bring Him all of the Glory.  Thank you to everyone who continues to pray and support our family through this 'season' - Please pray for Wendi as I believe it's settling in that Cash and I will be gone for a while - I am praying God keeps her close to Him and gives her the strength she needs to have our next blessing while I'm fighting 2500 miles away for our miracle blessing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Better Day Than Yesterday Part 2

The Tumor Board met today to discuss Cash's latest MRI so we met with our oncologist, Dr. Leary, after their meeting.  After Monday's meeting we weren't very excited to hear the news but we went with an open mind, trusting that our plans to MD Anderson for radiation would be in alignment with the Tumor Board's recommendation...

Thankfully, the meeting contained better news than Monday's meeting - They actually believe that the increase in tumor size may be attributed to some of the bad cells dying off, creating a sort of scar tissue, causing the tumor to be enlarged.  It may not necessarily mean the tumor is actually growing, which we're choosing to believe at the moment.

Dr. Leary also agreed that radiation therapy is needed and after radiation we would continue the last 3 cycles of chemo (referred to as 'consolidation' - giving the good stem cells collected back).  She actually spoke to the radiation oncologist at MD Anderson and they were busy making plans to see Cash as early as next week!

I'm waiting to hear back from MD Anderson on the date they want to meet with Cash and I so right now I'm busy making tentative plans (flight, place to stay, etc.) to fly down on Saturday or Sunday.  My brother, Jeremy, is going to fly down there with us as many of you know, Wendi will be unable to go at the moment (she's 38 weeks pregnant!).

I never in a million years thought I wouldn't be here for the birth of one of our children but we both know right now I have to take care of Cash and she has to take care of this new little guy coming soon.  God is continuing to give us strength and I'm confident all will work out - a few weeks after the baby is born, Wendi will fly down with Jack Jr and the new addition and stay with us for the duration of treatment.

The emotions of this week can only be described as 'roller-coaster-like' - Sadness engulfed us Monday yet after today's news we're eager to keep fighting.  All the while, Cash is doing great - learning new words, laughing, and getting into trouble with Jack Jr.  One day at a time becomes a continually spoken term and we continue to trust and pray that God's will be done.

Thank you for your support and prayers and a big thanks to the 'fundraising committee' - the event on May 21 will be amazing - I'm just sorry we won't be there in person...

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Day Like the First

Today we were cautiously optimistic going into Cash's MRI. He hasn't been digressing since chemo started and we were seeing positive improvements in a few of his symptoms.

Unfortunately the results of the MRI were not positive - the tumor has increased in size. I don't have the MRI pics but we saw a side by side from the first MRI until now and it's approximately 5mm larger. They are concerned it could start inhibiting the fluid in the brain - the tumor board meets Wednesday to look at it in more detail but I believe they will suggest stopping chemo and starting radiation.

I immediately got on the phone and we're trying to make preparations to get to MD Anderson in Houston, TX so we can start proton beam therapy. I trust the Lord will continue to open the doors for us so I can take Cash there very soon.

We were thankful my mom and dad, brothers and their wives came down for support and I even convinced my youngest brother, Josh, to cut his hair (it didn't take much). Here are before and after pics - he officially joined the 'Cuts for Cash' club:

The only way I can compare the emotions of being told his tumor is growing is similar to the first day we found out he had a tumor (and I thought we'd not have to re-live that ever).  But, with all of those emotions (fear, sadness, anxiety, etc), both Wendi and I still are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, and Faith (Galations 5:22-23). 

I can't explain except that the Holy Spirit gives us those attributes, especially in trying times and I thought of Job this evening, who, " all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." (Job 1: 22).  We continue to lean on God and trust that His will is done in Cash's life.  While we desperately love Cash, God loves him much more than I can ever imagine - Cash is in His hands and those are amazingly powerful and loving hands. 

We continue to pray for healing and that God's will is done - Thank you for your support and prayers, we need them now more than ever.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fever, Platelets, and Hope

The past few days have been met with mixed emotions and events.  Cash developed a cold and had a low to mid-grade fever on Tuesday and Wednesday.  He was very irritated and could only sleep 15-20 minutes at a stretch before waking up - On Wednesday night his fever peaked at 100.7, which is .3 degrees under an immediate trip to the emergency room and a hospital stay for 3 days.  We were so thankful it didn't rise that evening and it went away on Wednesday afternoon.

I took him in for labs Thursday and even though he had platelets and blood on Monday, he needed more platelets.  That definitely helped his as he had a great day today, which you will see shortly in a few videos below.  Aunt Laura (and Olivia) helped keep him busy the past few days and he spent a majority of the day crawling around, looking for trouble.

Tonight Wendi and I noticed something that was remarkable - maybe we stare at Cash all of the time but tonight his eyes were looking to the left.  That may not mean much if you are a new visitor to the blog, but the #1 indicator to the doctors that something was wrong back in February was his inability to look left.  Look at these two videos (keep in mind he's very tired but watch his eyes):

Here's another one:

It may seem like a small gesture, but it is a small victory nonetheless.  We're hoping and believing the chemo is doing its job, stopping the tumor from growing and potentially helping it shrink.  We'll find out exactly what is happening inside his head on Monday when we have the MRI (@12:30).  I will post more as soon as we find out the results of that MRI.  In the meantime, we're making plans to take Cash down to MD Anderson for Proton Beam Therapy (radiation) - God has opened the doors for us through a former LC Grad and we're continuing to trust Him and walk with Him.

The last video is Cash laughing at his brother - he almost loses his breath he laughs so hard...

Over the past few months I have noticed something changing in me which I shared with Wendi tonight: I love my children more now than I did before Cash got sick and take time to enjoy the little moments - I can only imagine, based on the love I have of my kids, how much more God loves us (His kids). His love is amazing and I'm thankful to have just a small part of that love for my babies.

Thank you for your support and keep praying!!!!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Platelets and Blood

As the dr's predicted, Cash's counts would be low coming out of this past weekend.  Sure enough, today when Wendi brought him in for labs, he needed blood and platelets (and his ANC's are zero again).  So I met her at the hospital at 12:30 and they did platelets first and then a blood transfusion.  My cell phone, Wendi's cell, and my laptop all lost batteries and of course I forgot power adapters (note to self...) - but the iPad remained strong through multiple episodes of Dora, Diego, and Mater (from Cars).  Keeping Cash entertained that long is a chore and I managed to make multiple toys for him to play with with the hospital supplies - you'd be amazed at what you can create with tape and tongue depressors.

We finally got home around 7:00 this evening - it was a long day for both Wendi and Cash, but Cash is feeling better and is sleeping soundly at the moment (and no throwing up today, phew).

We're so thankful Brenda has been here - she took great care of Jack Jr. today, they even made a cake, of which Jack only ate the frosting...Brenda leaves Wednesday and I know Jack Jr. will miss her because she's been his 'new best friend' since last week - so far she hasn't committed to another two weeks but I'm still trying...:-)

Next appointment is Thursday and the big MRI is next Monday.  I was reminded today by one of Zion's teachers that, "...he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5).  By His stripes we are healed and I have claimed Cash can be healed, if God so wills it.

Thank you for your continued prayers and have a blessed week!!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good Counts and New Pics

It has been a week of up-and-downs.  A tremendous blessing came our way this week from California - one of our old friends from Lynden, Brenda (or Auntie B as Jack Jr. calls her) flew in to help us out for two weeks.  She has been a Godsend and like when my mom and Auntie Geri come to help, she cleans, cooks, takes care of Jack Jr., and anything and everything else to help out.  We are going to miss her dearly when she leaves, although I'm trying to convince her to stay...

Cash had serious nausea challenges on Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday this week.  Trying to get on top of his nausea was difficult but we managed on Wednesday to figure it out by giving him a combo of anti-nausea meds every 3 hours.  I thought today he was nearly done with the nausea so I shifted to every 6 hours but that was a mistake - he threw up twice in a very short period of time, right before we ate chicken enchiladas and during...I think Brenda lost her appetite for the wonderful dinner she made (sorry Brenda!).

In preparing for the meeting with Dr. Carson, I was able to get MRI scans of Cash's tumor and felt like I could now share a few images of what it looks like inside his brain stem.  Below is a scan - I put an arrow to the gray area that is the tumor (it's the darker gray circle-like section).  Keep in mind that it is not one 'mass' so-to-speak, the good cells are intertwined with the cancerous cells - that is what makes this particular tumor difficult to fight, it cannot be operated on in any safe way...

On another note...all of this talk of 'shaving heads' resonated with Jack Jr.  I came home from work and he managed to get a hold of Wendi's shaver (for legs) and thought he'd give himself that 'straight edge' look (note the lack of hair down the middle):
It was hard to get mad, I just told him that only daddy's give haircuts...

After a rough few days with Cash not feeling well, he bounced back on Wednesday and had a pretty good rest-of-the-week.  His counts are good although we expect them to plummet sometime this weekend, which means next week will be infusions of blood and platelets.  He and Jack played a lot the past few days and here they are under Jack's 'house' playing with the Leapster:

There have been a lot of ups and downs this week but we continue to trust in the Lord to give us the strength we all need to keep fighting.  This week, more than ever, I have been reminded that we are not in control and that God is a God of grace and mercy.

Thank you to those who are going to the benefit, we are going to try and bring Cash by just for a moment that evening, depending on how he's feeling.  Thank you all for your continued support and please continue to pray for Cash and his friends with cancer: Coleson B, Christopher H, Aiden A, and Jaimeson J - all who continue to fight this with their families.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Brief Meeting

Today I had the opportunity to briefly meet with Dr. Ben Carson. There were hundreds of people at the event and many more standing in the back. He looked through the paperwork I brought on Cash and I showed him about 12 scans that I copied from the MRI DVD. He acknowledged how rare the PNET is in the brain stem but did say that sometimes the chemotherapy can shrink the tumor enough to make it operable. At that moment he was being summoned to speak so I asked him, "What do I do if that happens?" and he replied, "Call me." You can be certain I will if that were to happen...

He did, however, affirm the track we're on (chemotherapy and radiation) and so we will just continue to fight and I am thankful I had an opportunity to meet him and talk with him, however brief it was. Cash has a blood draw and we're meeting with Dr. Leary tomorrow so we I'll start talking about proton therapy in either Houston or Boston.

Cash is definitely sicker now after this round of chemo than he was the prior two sessions.  We're struggling to keep any food in him and he's more tired.  Hopefully the nausea only lasts a few more days and his weight stays up.

On another note, there are many wonderful family and friends putting on a benefit evening for Cash. We are so thankful that so many have a desire to help and are overwhelmed with people's generosity. Here is a flyer for the event if any are interested:
 I realize more than ever that the title of the blog, A Cash of Hope, is very appropriate - we are drawing heavily on the 'Cache' right now and continue to pray we stay Hopeful throughout this journey.  God is in control and while I write it and say it frequently, I know that is fact.

Thank you as always for your support and prayer!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Almost Done - Round 3

We started round 3 yesterday and either we're getting used to it or time is moving quicker because tomorrow we should be ready to go home.  Cash has done about the same with this round, except he threw up quite a bit yesterday (but none today thankfully).  We did find out that this almost our last scheduled stay, only two more days at the start of round 4 and the rest is outpatient which we're very glad for.  During rounds 4-6 they will give him chemo for two days, then we skip a day, and the third day is where they give him back his stem cells collected.

Aunt Laura and Travis came today and played with Cash.  Here's a picture of Laura and Cash coloring:
I had a bit of free time and went to the Apple store, which is always dangerous...Cash asked me for an iPad to watch movies on a bigger screen so I had to comply :-):
He loves the iPad and I'm certain Jack Jr. will be thumbing through movies and games on his own in no time.

We met another family today with a little baby (diagnosed at 2 weeks) with a very rare form of Sarcoma - I would ask you to join us in praying for Aiden A., he has a long fight ahead of him as well.  Being today is Easter, I am reminded that He is indeed risen and has taken our sins with Him to the cross.  I am thankful and know that God has a plan for our children (and us of course) and He is good and with Him nothing is impossible.

Have a blessed Easter and thank you for your prayers and support!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pics of the Bic

So I finally managed to not just cut my hair short, but have it professionally shaved by a barber.  Many thanks to Stalin at Paul Gray's Barber Lounge for not cutting me with the straight razor...:-)  Cash still has hair and it even looks like it's growing, but as of today, mine is shorter than his.  'We are tweens' as Jack Jr.'s favorite book character, Skippy Jon Jones says...

Thanks for your prayers and support - we are blessed!

A Good Week and an Opportunity

This week has been great - we had a lab appointment on Sunday and everything looked so good they didn't need to see us until tomorrow's admit appointment.  We are trying to re-build/strengthen Cash's muscles so we encourage him to stand as much as possible and he's starting to climb the stairs again.  We hope to start round 3 on Saturday and after this next round they will do the first MRI to see whether or not the tumor is still growing.  We believe the tumor isn't growing, at least we haven't seen any of Cash's symptoms worsen and are still trusting in a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, last week Wendi was doing research on the world's top doctors in regards to pediatric neurosurgery and tumors and came across the name of Dr. Ben Carson.  She asked if I have heard of him and I ecstatically indicated that I've met him!  He is a strong supporter of Zion and has spoken at two of our prior breakfasts...Well to make a long story short, I was able to speak to two extraordinary people who know him personally and am going to get a chance to meet with him next week!

I'm going to bring him Cash's documentation and MRI from before chemo and talk about next steps for radiation (proton vs photon) and opportunities for the future.  Dr. Carson is one of the world's leading experts on pediatric tumors and neurosurgery and to be able to speak with him will be amazing. 

God is so good and has once again demonstrated He is in control and puts people in our paths and lays foundations well before we are even aware as to why it's happening - I will definitely update everyone next week after I meet with Dr. Carson.  In the meantime, please keep praying that God's will is done in Cash's (and our) lives.  We serve an awesome God!