July 3rd and remembering

What comes to mind when you think 4th of July? Traditions? Places? People? Fireworks? BBQ? For us, that question is simple. It is the holiday weekend when everything we knew about anything changed. The weekend all the fun plans went out the window. The race we had planned to run as a family. The sibling time staying up late movie-watching. The lake time with Dad. The yard games. The food Mom would prepare for us. The weekend we learned who our people were. Who our God was. It was the weekend we learned that Judah had a brain tumor. 

Tuesday, sitting on the porch at my parents home, looking at the lake, my older sister said, “5 yrs ago today”. That’s all she said. We all knew what she was referring to. Because for us, the 4th of July holiday is a harsh reminder that we are not in control and cancer is indiscriminate.

Judah got 2 fevers around the 4th weekend. He is getting chemo today. Needless to say, we didn’t need a reminder that Judah is battling brain cancer. And yet, Judah was present throughout our 3 days at my folks. He played the Ninentdo Switch with his cousins, teaching them to play his favorite game (Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle) and learning to play theirs (Fortnite). He watched Little Einstein’s (Pat Pat😂) with his Emmett and Stella. He came out for the fireworks, which he has never really done, and loved every second of the booms and lights. 

As I watched on, in awe of this kid who has sensitivity to loud sounds and has an acute memory for negative experiences, and thanked God for him. For the warrior He made Judah from the beginning. For the memory, now burned into my memory,  of my husband guarding and helping Judah assist him with fireworks. For my 4 oldest nephews who have never stopped stepping into the akward spaces with Judah to join him, encourage him, and accept him. For siblings who sit in the muck with us and play cards, cracking jokes, and lifting our collective spirits. For parents who help with it all without a smidge of martyrdom or jealousy.  For the sunshine and water and great books. For our 2 beautiful younger kids who are navigating Judah’s cancer better than I ever imagined while unknowingly wrapping up my wounded guilty-mom-heart with their smiles and requests for stories and snuggles. 

I have floundered the last 3 weeks. I have battled shame and disgust. I’ve been both bound up and emotional. I have been manic about tasks until I am no longer able to function and all the things fall to the wayside. My people love me anyway. But as I spin, my thoughts latch to the idea that I can wrest control from this cancer. And when I have enforced my control on all the moveable pieces in my world, making us all miserable, Judah still wakes in the middle of the night sick. His drs still don’t have answers. Matthew and I still have no peace or deep sleep. Because the idea of control is a lie. There is no control. There is only being confident in God’s faithfulness. And then moving, carrying all the swirling doubts if necessary, in the direction of the of the One who fights for us and goes before us. Every ‘yes’ and every step is progress.

The song giving me life this week is Oxygen by Stephany Gretzinger. A bit of it goes:

          Sometimes my very best

           Is only my weakest yes

          You see strength in every

           movement.

           Baby steps and short breaths

           Anything is progress

           You sustain my every moment

~Wendi

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Chemo 4 done and side effects ramp up

I’ll start with the most important news first: Judah’s tumor hasn’t grown since we started chemo!

The radiologist hasn’t actually read it yet but we looked at with the dr and you can see it hasn’t grown! We also saw, and the dr confirmed, that there is less contrast (lighting up) so that means the chemo is killing those growing cancer cells. We are so elated! We won’t know if it’s shrunk until we see the radiologist’s report but we feel confident that this MRI is good news!

He has already had his labs and anti nausea meds. Everything looked pretty good. The dr said it looked, by his labs, that he is fighting “a little something” by the slight elevations but nothing to be worried about.

We did have to have a talk about his weight. He had lost weight…again. Dr pulled up Judah’s growth chart, which I always dread because he hasn’t been on a growth chart since he was 4, and showed us that Judah is in the 0.02% for his age. That means if you picked 1,000 kids randomly, he would be the smallest and thinnest of all those kids. And the kicker is, that he has now lost so much that he is technically considered “failing to thrive”. This wasn’t shocking to us because we have been fighting his weight loss and lack of appetite for 5 yrs. But the failure to thrive was heart wrenching. The dr was quick to tell us that we have done nothing wrong. That gaining weight is hard for a lot of kids with cancer. But also said that we can’t do nothing now. So in the next couple of weeks Judah will probably be getting a feeding tube (NG Tube). For those of you who are medical people, he can’t get a G Tube because the chemo makes it too hard for his body to heal. They can’t do surgery unless he goes off chemo for 4-6 wks. And we aren’t doing that right now.  Judah is very sad. He doesn’t want  to be “Judah with cancer”. He wants to be “just Judah”. And the NG Tube will be on his face. And people will see it. You can hide a G Tube under your shirt. It’s a bummer. But it’s also necessary at this point. Judah is an amazing kid. He sweet and gets “it” like most kids can’t. He understands he has to have the NG Tube. And he will get to a better place because that is just who God made him to be. Brave and introspective and sweet and trusting. Join us in praying for his heart. And that his little friends can see past the weird tube and treat him like “just Judah”!

He finished his chemo in great time and we went down the street to McDougal’s Chicken, before we headed back to Bam’s for the night. We planned ahead of time to stay over night in case judah was sick and boy am I glad we did. About an hour after he finished chemo he started getting sick. We had to rush to the bathroom several times before we even got back to Bam’s. Unfortunately, Judah was sick the rest of the day and into the night. He hasn’t been actively sick today but he also hasn’t eaten much.

Thank you for celebrating with us and praying with us. We are grateful for our community!

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Third chemo all done

We got to ETCH at 9:30am and I realized, to my dismay, that I forgot to put Judah’s EMLA cream on. So though the nurses were on top of it, ready to access him and start his fluids, we had to wait 30 mins for the cram to numb his port  so it wouldn’t hurt. I now have a reminder on my phone😉
Once the cream did it’s magic, his awesome nurse accessed him, drew labs, and started his fluids. I got out Judah’s school work but before we could get started Child Life came by to tell us some Tennessee Athletes were in the game room doing Beads of Courage bracelets, Judah jumped at the chance to not do his work, and he loves crafts!
The athletes were so nice and Judah loved having them help him make a bracelet for himself and his sister!
Thank you Tennessee Athletics for organizing a fun distraction for the kids!
When he finished, we headed back to his room where Judah proceeded to eat 4 bags of goldfish and 2 bags of Cheetos while waiting for his labs to come back. He loves him so salty cracker snacks!
Around 11 his labs came back great and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because his fluids had just finished too!
Dr Spiller order his chemo and Judah and I started his school work, trying to finish his math and spelling…which he was not happy about. It took quite a while and a FaceTime call from Daddy to get him to do it. But that seemed to work!
Judah’s first chemo just finished at 12:30. We’ll wait for the flush and then hopefully start the next one!
Now he’s done with his school work though, we can get down to real business, battling each other in Pokken Tournament DX! This time I’m the one thankful for the distraction cause I have lots of work I should be doing…😂
So far he hasn’t had any side effects. Keep the prayers coming because they are helping!
We made great time once they started the chemo and we are headed home at 2:30! Judah did great and was a warrior, as usual💓
He is feeling mean though. I would be too though, so I get it! But it’s hard when he being so very hateful.

We will continue to ask Jesus to comfort our boy. Continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to be slow to anger and abounding in love. Like He is!

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second chemo here we go

Judah’s 2nd chemo is today. Matthew left for another Atlanta meeting at 5AM but thankfully I had some people come together to help me with Camilla Kate and Emmett.
We got to clinic at 9:45 and had check-in and labs quickly. All his labs were noraml except he is still a bit dehydrated. Hopefully the orange Gatorade Daddy got him will help him drink more often.
Chemo didn’t arrive until 1. It’s now almost 2 so we are about 1/2 way through the first bag. Each bag takes 1.5 hrs. It’s gonna be a LONG day. The nurses brought Judah lunch around noon. Me on the other hand, well let’s just say I’m really looking forward to the dinner from Two Rivers Church Worship Team tonight.
So far, the chemo is going well. We’ll probably be here until 5 though.
Prayers for patience and stamina!

2nd Chemo is finally done! Going home at 4:30 so my guess was very close! Today was a long long day, but Judah was in much better spirits.  He got going quickly on homeschool work and enjoyed the very cool entertainment options at ETCH.  Please join us in continuing to pray that Judah would not struggle with side effects from his treatment and that the chemo would be destroy his cancer!

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first chemo in the books

There is a heaviness that sits over a chemo clinic. I had forgotten that tight chested, woozy-headed, rapid-heart beat feeling that comes with seeing, not only your own child but a room full of really sick kids, doing one of the hardest things we can do as humans — fighting for the right to live. That feeling is pretty wretched. Seeing and being helpless.

Judah was a warrior today. It began with labs at 9am. After everything came back normal, we picked a spot and settled in for a long morning. He ate and drank everything we could throw at him and ask for more! He was very tired but refused to sleep…he’s very stubborn😏 The only real frustratation came when his feet and hands began cramping. But with flexing, moving, and water it passed.

After 3 hrs of chemo, he got flushed and deaccessed and we were free!
He’s still fighting sleep but I think the car ride home will over power him 😂

We will do labs etc next week and then chemo in 2 wks. For now, we ask for prayers that he can go to school, enjoy it, get the work done, and feel ‘normal’ with his friends. Thanks all!

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chemo side effects and neuropathy stinks

Hello all!
We’ve been going hard for the last 2 wks and I’ve not been updating very well. I’m sorry for that.
The last 2 wks Judah has been receiving a partial chemo treatment. It is totally normal and part of this first 10 wk run. He had 4 wks of both drugs and these last 2 wks have been only 1 drug, vinchristine. This week he will go back to both drugs for 4 more wks.
Honestly, these 2 wks on vinchristine have felt like a break from chemo because the nausea, vomiting, and irritability have been pretty much absent (barring a few instances). The only thing we really notice was his balance was really off. I mean REALLy off. He has fallen a lot so he is covered from head to toe in bruises.
So today at PT Julie did her normal feet/leg stretching and did a test to see if he could feel her touching toes/arch/heels and he could on some and couldn’t on some. In watching him walk, climb, etc she said she thinks it could be neuropathy/foot drop. It could also be that his muscles are still redeveloping. Or it could be that where his tumor is located, in the brainstem, it could be causing balance issues too. So we aren’t sure.
One of the most common side effects of vinchristine is neuropathy. We didn’t put 2 and 2 together that the off balance could be neuropathy. We thought neuropathy was painful…we are new to this. The one good thing is this mess is that he isn’t experiencing any pain with the neuropathy!
Before we started chemo, Dr. Espenshade said that if the neuropathy got bad and foot drop was a more common side effect we would have to switch regiments. We don’t know what that looks like. We don’t know of this foot drop is the beginning of a “more common” or just a side effect. We don’t know if its something to be concerned about or just part of the chemo deal. So we will talk to oncology and PT and watch and see what the next step is to get him in a better, safer walking place while killing this cancer!

http://youtu.be/pTA3VJzX1uE

http://youtu.be/HyzE0-TdInc

Please be in prayer for:
-Clear direction with chemo regiment and side effects
-Explanation of neuropathy/foot drop and whether it will be permanent
-If permanent, what does that look like for Judah
-Continued no pain with neuropathy and little to no side effects as we go back to both drugs this wk
-Better balance for Judah in everyday activities like walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs, and riding Stridor bike
-MRI (9/18) shows no growth and/or shrinkage of the tumor

Thank you all!
Resting between His shoulders-
The Thacker Family

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No news…is not good for me and chemo day

Last night was thankfully uneventful. He slept great and his breathing was regular. We go to chemo this morning and we will see what Dr Spiller says. This may be related to his mental coordination that his neuro surgeon told us about.
If I didn’t explain it earlier, it’s where his brain isn’t capable of managing/controlling 2 things at once (ie: managing anger and breathing normally). So when he gets overly angry, his brain can’t both control his mood/physical lashing out and tell him to keep breathing, so he passes out. This is not supposed to be permanent. The surgeon said that any of the symptoms he is experiencing can possibly be blamed on his surgery/tumor and we won’t know what until he is at least 6 months post surgery.
We obviously would rather this to be a symptom of surgery and are praying that the passing out was the mental coordination and not the tumor growing or shunt malfunction.
Thank you for the kind words and prayers.

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chemo side effects make keeping a full tummy hard

Well we had made it 4 wks without any day of side effects but today he came home tired and then before bed threw up. It only lasted about 5 minutes but in throw up time that’s like an hr! He recovered fast and is now eating saltines and drinking water. Pray for a calm tummy and restful sleep.

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second chemo and nausea sucks

Yesterday was Judah’s 2nd chemo. He got sick, like before, about 20 minutes in and stayed sick for around 30 minutes. He didn’t throw up though so that’s a plus. He was pretty worn out after.
Today he had his PT/OT evaluations. He got scared at first, thinking it was a “hospital” but soon had a blast playing with his new buddies Julie and Katie. He wasn’t shy at all and they got to really see his strengths and weaknesses. Like Ashley, his Speech Therapist, they agree he needs breath support and torso strengthening but he also needs fine and gross motor skills. So he will have speech 1 day a week, pt and ot will both be 2 days a week. Thankfully they were able to avoid Wednesdays and Thursdays so he will have chemo day and day after to just rest.
Next week will be very busy as he will have his first pt Monday then we head straight to Nashville for his neuro ck where they will also remove his stitches. Then his first ot is Tuesday evening. Wednesday is chemo and Friday is ot/pt again. Pray for strength and endurance for the crazy week, a calm and peaceful spirit as we go back to Vanderbilt (as Judah seems to have anxiety about hospitals now) and patience for both Judah and me as we get more accustomed to our new normal.

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Judah’s first chemo

Judah’s first chemo is this morning. Please pray that is all goes smoothly, that he has little side effects. Pray that he isn’t scared.
He will have blood draws at 7:45 then meeting with the dr at 8:00 then chemo from 9-11.
Thanks for the prayer support! Love you all.

Judah got a little sick in the middle of the treatment but was ok by the end. They gave him zofran for nausea and we will continue that every 8hrs for the next 48 hrs. Thankfully, his immune system will not be compromised until next wks treatment but we are having to learn a lot about germs, infection, and how to protect our little family. If one of us gets sick after next week, we will have to go stay somewhere else. Gotta keep the germs away as much as possible. Investing in hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, haha!

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