Everything is the same. Everything is different

Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake my head it spins.
Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me me in.
Dumbed down and numbed by time and age.
Your dreams they catch the world the cage.
The highway sets the traveler’s stage
All the exits look the same.

To be honest, I never got on the Avett Brothers train. I don’t NOT like them. Just never sought them out. So I have no idea what this song is supposed to be about. But as I was listening to a Prime Station, the above song came on. And some of the words struck a chord. 

I wonder if Jesus sees the shape we are in down here? 

When we got invited to St. Jude we were filled with a renewed hope. And then Friday happened. Judah had a MRI and the news was not what we were expecting. His new tumor is continuing to grow. It has taken up the entire 4th ventricle. The original mass from 5 years ago is also growing. Chemo isn’t working. The neuro oncologist didn’t know if surgery would be an option. Surgery? Biopsy? Radiation? Inhibitors? All were mentioned. 

An appointment with a pediatric neuro surgeon was made. He told us that surgery wasn’t an option. That Judah’s tumor is diffusing and that makes differentiating between healthy brain tissue and excising tumor tissue impossible. He did say he wanted to do a biopsy. That a biopsy would allow St. Jude to sequence his tumor, look for markers and find a more targeted treatment. But what does no surgery mean? It means our options for treatment just got smaller. And the truth is, we never wanted Judah to have to go through surgery again because of how incredibly hard and heart wrenching it was to watch him relearn shaping and speaking his words, taking steps, concentrating on getting basic things down that no kid should have to do twice. But we would do surgery again if it meant he had to option to fight for ‘himself’ back.

 

Radiation oncology consult was yesterday. We went into that meeting feeling so vulnerable and frightened. Lack of factual information can do that to a person. What we had always heard was that because of where Judah’s tumor is (brain stem), radiation would be the last choice. That it was dangerous. That it could cause cognitive deficits. Physical deficits. New cancer later in life. 

I wish I could say that all our fears were assuaged. They were not. If anything, the hypotheticals made sitting in this awful waiting cycle worse. Because now we know, if the biopsy comes back 1 way, those hypotheticals all of a sudden become reality. We are doing our best to set all the information we learned aside. Store it away with all the other information we have learned over the last 10 days. It will still be there when we need it.

Today we were admitted to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Judah will have a CT scan and MRI for precision measuring to prepare for his biopsy surgery tomorrow. While we are here, the Tumor Board at St. Jude is happening. All of their best and brightest minds will be together to review Judah’s case to try to come up with the best course of action to stop Judah’s tumor from growing more. 

The biopsy will happen tomorrow and is scheduled for 7:30 AM. We have been told that this is will not be traumatizing for him. That the surgery will take ~2 hours and that if all goes well, Judah will be off the vent and in his normal room right away. He will have normal recovery from anesthesia; groggy, grumpy, sore throat, and that his head will hurt. But it already hurts more than it should. The surgeon said he should wake up talking and walking etc. And that is such a relief to all of us! Before the biopsy, we decided it would be a good idea to cut Judah’s much loved long hair. Surgeons are not barbers. We know this from last time! Judah was very unhappy about having to have his hair cut off but we gave him the coolest hair cut we could think of, considering her had to have the whole back of his head shaved!

The biopsy results will take about a week. And Judah will be in the hospital for the same amount of time. We spend that time trying to be present and also distract ourselves. Food. Conversations. Movies. Switch playing. Snuggles. Kids being kids.

But we are going into this biopsy already wounded. We aren’t in the best shape…dumbed down and numbed. All the options in front us feel like bad ones. We covet prayers. Over the last 6 months, it has become immensely difficult to find words, any words, to pray. We cannot keep asking for God to show us He cares. Asking Him if He sees our suffering. Asking Him to give us a glimpse of His goodness. Because we’ve been begging. We believe that God is providing for us through our family and community. Moving their hearts to love us. Meals. Finances. Encouragement. And it has been more than we could ever say thank you for. Then we wake at 3AM to Judah screaming in pain. And we go to another Dr and they tell us more and more bad news. And then our 3 year old asks his big brother if he is better yet. Our 5 year old asks when we get to go home so she can see her friends and go to Kindergarten. It is all we can do to keep moving forward. We do our best. Smile and squeeze all our kids and say yes as often as is possible. And then hide when the wracking sobs come. The moment passes. We breathe. Matthew looks at me. There is an understanding and “here-ness” shared between us and we collect ourselves and start over. And I think it’s that “here-ness” that I miss from God. I used to feel His presence so keenly. I could feel his heart for me. For Judah. And could see His love for us in the little everyday things. Even when things were bad with Judah (or anything else), He was with me. But that’s gone. In it’s place is a wretched, broken, emptiness. A constant reminder of just how small and alone we are on this Earth. And I want so badly to keep believing that He isn’t finished with this story. That I can trust Him with my heart. With our son, his future, his life. It feels like too far to go. And it’s not because God hasn’t miraculously healed Judah, though that’s what we long for. It is because we feel abandoned and isolated from our Maker. And we don’t know why?

Where is the God who tells us he loves us and has plans for us? The Good Father, our creator. The mountain mover. The raiser of Lazarus. The silencer of storms. The healer of many. 

I don’t know. I wish I did.

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Port Surgery, Post Surgery, and Discharged! What a day!

Judah has been taken back to surgery for his port placement. He was pretty upset when they wheeled him off. Prayers for comfort for Judah and steady handed Drs!

Judah is out of surgery and everything went as planned. He now has his port in place for chemo.
Please pray he bounces back from anesthesia quickly and his recovery continues to make steady progress. We are also hoping to get discharged soon and hope the feeding tube comes out.

Also join us in prayer for a definite plan for his OT/PT/Speech. Right now we don’t know where we are going or how those appts will look. We also need a plan for chemo if we get to come back to Knoxville for his therapy. Pray for clear direction.

We are officially discharged from the hospital!!!
We will be coming back tomorrow for baseline testing and then Wednesday is our first Chemo treatment but after that we get to come home to Knoxville!
We have been working hard for a week to figure out where we could do Judah’s pt/ot/speech and after giving up on Knoxville, I woke this morning and felt the urge to call East Tennessee Children’s Rehabilitation Center and just tell them our story in hopes they would change their minds about speech (it was wait listed for 6 months). They listened and then said that our oncologist could call and talk to them and of they felt Judah’s case was immediate enough they would move him to the top of the list.
So at 10am this morning I told our Case Manager, who told our oncologist, who agreed Andrew some calls and then after hrs of back and forth we got the word that they had agreed to take him!
So now we get to come home and do pt/ot/speech and Chemo in Knoxville! We are so grateful that we will be home, surrounded by our community, friends, support system. Thank you for your prayers. Keep them up. We have a long road and it is really just beginning. God is directing our path and we are finding that though this isn’t the rd we would choose, our sweet Jesus will not abandon us and will continue to go before us and behind us.

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Port Surgery tomorrow

Judah’s had a good couple of days.

As I sit here typing this, he’s snuggled in his hospital bed playing. That’s a big deal because he used to do that every night when we’d put him to bed but hasn’t since the surgery. We’d put him in bed around 8:30 and he’d lay there reciting the dialog or humming the theme music to his favorite movies or acting out fighting scenes from his Next Avengers cartoon until usually 9:30 or 10 (we’d only have to tell him to be quiet 3 or 4 times before he’d hush). He’s not quite back to his chatty self at the moment but he’s over there swinging and punching his way through some imaginary fight scene.

Judah got to spend yesterday afternoon and most of this morning with Papa Doc and Mumzy and got to spend this afternoon with Mimi and Papaw. A friend from our church who’s been through chemo before came and visited and showed Judah her port so he wouldn’t be scared of tomorrow’s surgery.

Most importantly, Judah has spent the last two days eating! He’s had three full meals a day for two days now and has eaten almost all of them. The docs still insist on giving him tube feedings at night but I feel like he’s getting the calories he needs now during normal eating. There is a chance he’ll get to go home tomorrow after his port surgery so we’re praying for a quick recovery so everyone will feel comfortable sending him home! The first chemo treatment will be on Wednesday so we won’t have time to head all the way back to Knoxville but at least he’ll be out of the hospital.

We also hope to get a few more details ironed out about his physical/occupational/speech therapy tomorrow so prayers for God’s guidance in that area are also appreciated.

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judah eats more food

Judah had a good night and woke this morning hungry. He ate 3 pieces of bacon, 2 strawberries, 1 container of blueberry yogurt, and 3/4 a carton of milk! Off to a good start! Keep praying he continues to improve and the tube comes out!

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real food and we get out of the PICU!

Judah got to try some yogurt for the first time since the surgery! Swallow study this afternoon will tell us if he can go back to eating regular food.

Judah passed his swallow study so he gets Chic-Fil-A for dinner tonight! We got to drive him around the hospital in a wagon with no wires and no nurses and he got a couple of stuffed animals from the gift shop. His speech is getting better his strength is growing and he’s in a better mood. Thank you for your continued prayers and praise Jesus for a happy and healing little boy!

What a day this has been! Judah wakes talking, plays hard, eats yogurt, passes his swallow study, gets out of the PICU for a wagon ride, and then comes back to his room for some Chic-Fil-A only to be told he will be moving to the floor soon!!! Praise Jesus for such a wonderful, hope restoring day.
Thank you for being a praying people.
He is now comfortably resting!

http://youtu.be/HKGV2TTXU8o

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Still here…

Still in the PICU.

Judah had a couple of naps today and during each of them he had a “desat”. That’s med-speak for his blood losing it’s oxygen saturation level. I put it in quotes (and yes I’m a little bitter) because I don’t actually believe either of the occasions were a real loss of oxygen in the blood but false positives inherent to the way this is measured. I made my case to the docs but out of an abundance of caution they took him off the list to move to a normal hospital room and decided to keep him in the PICU. We’ll pester them again tomorrow.

Otherwise he had a fantastic day today. He said a bunch of words today – honey, piglet, owl, brave, stuck, rabbit, bubby, my sister and parasaurolophus. None of them are perfect but the speech therapist says that his lips seem to be functioning well but his tongue’s not all there yet. He was super active, fighting dinosaurs with me (matthew), kicking his feet, sitting up on his own and batting both arms at a balloon. The PT/OT people had him up walking though not really holding his own weight up and he actually interacted willingly with them.

The next 6 days are likely to be frustrating and hectic. Judah’s oncologist wants to start chemo as soon as possible. While his tumor is the lowest grade and slow growing, it’s location means that any growth could have potential long term complications. So chemo starts Wednesday. Monday morning he’ll have his port put in (yes, another surgery with anesthesia), Tuesday he’ll have a bevy of tests to get some baselines before he starts chemo. Wednesday he gets the first treatment, followed every Wednesday for 10 weeks, then a two week break, then 4 weeks on and 1 off for a year.

Our problem is therapy. We had hoped they would be able to work something out were he could get pretty intensive outpatient therapy at Vandy but it’s not going to be ideal. For one they don’t have speech therapy so we’d have to find some place else for that. Second they would be wedging him in wherever there are openings in whomever’s schedule had an opening so there would be no routine or chance for a therapist to build report with him. It would be a different therapist at a different time every day for weeks and probably only an hour a day. There are other therapy centers that offer all three types, O/P/S, but they don’t take insurance and while their rates are lower than places that do take insurance we’d still be paying a ton out of pocket for the amount of therapy he needs.

Judah’s becoming more like his old self everyday but still needs lots of prayer. Prayer for continued healing, prayer for him to have patience for the dozens of people poking and prodding him and making him do stuff all day, prayer for a working therapy plan (and a way to pay for it), prayer for yet another surgery, prayer that chemo has few if any side effects and that it is effective in stopping the tumor permanently, prayer to get out of the PICU, prayer to get out of the hospital, prayer that Wendi and I have patience with the docs, nurses, bureaucracy and insurance companies and prayers for a long road ahead.

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sleepy and sore

Last night was a long night. Judah has been having a lot of breakthrough pain and its keeping him awake and grouchy. It would make me the same way. He trying so hard to be brave and we are very proud of him.
He was approved to move to the hem/oc side of the floor yesterday but there weren’t any beds and as of this morning, there still aren’t any. We are so ready to get all these wires off and have more freedom.

Prayers are needed for:
-Pain management
-Moving to the hem/oc floor
-Continued healing of swallowing mechanism (we are hoping he can pass a swallow study before discharge so he doesn’t have to go home with a feeding tube)
-Continued healing of connection between what he knows and what he can say
-Healing of speech
-Bravery and strength during PT/OT

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shaved heads on cute round heads

Well the surgery went great!  Judah is on his way up from recovery now and will probably be in the PICU through the night.  Cross your fingers that all goes well and we can move to the floor tomorrow!

And on another note, Matthew went to a barber shop and got his head shaved today to match Judah.  He walked into the barber and asked him to shave his head and the barber said, “why would you do that?” So Matthew politely told him that his son was having brain surgery and his head would be shaved when he got out so he was going to match it. The barber, who felt terrible, said, “open mouth insert foot.” HAHA!

He looks so different but his head is actually really well shaped for a bald head, :)Judah thinks Daddy’s head has a funny feeling!

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visits and progress

Judah has been working so very hard today. He sat up in bed, smiled and laughed while watching Brave, squished play-doh, sort of finger painted (he hates to have dirty hands), and then made Daddy and me feel like the funniest people in the world laughing and smiling while sitting in the rocking chair all by himself. The thing I noticed that was different about today vs yesterday is that when he was done working, he didn’t freak out. He didn’t flail and yell, he whined and then we put him in his bed and after some questions to figure out what he wanted, took a rest. Our Great God is providing comfort to our sweet frustrated little boy!
We had a ton of out of town visitors and Judah responded well to all of them. Thank you for making the drive to love on us and our boy.

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smiles and giggles make hearts full

And our God, merciful and playful has returned Judah his laugh. He is hearing our prayers and answering for His glory and our joy!
We put one of his favorite movies on and he started smiling. Then a few minutes later, laughing. Just now he sat off the bed and folded himself in half then laid back down. He’s thoroughly enjoying himself!!!

After a wonderful 3 hrs with smiling and laughing and even some words Judah crashed into an angry depression. We think he may have exhausted himself but after 2 hrs of only grunting and flailing we backed off and let him be. It is so hard to see him make such progress one minute, and then the next, backslide. He was again frustrated and cried in anger.
We prayed for Jehovah Jireh to provide patience and comfort to Judah and to us and then prayed our same prayer for supernatural healing of his vocal chords, swallowing system, tongue, mouth, and that connection between what he knows and how to say it. Please continue to pray with us and for us.
We are so grateful for the glimpse at our little boy and thank God for it. We want more!!!!

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