The wait

Some nights I go to bed with a gut feeling that something is going to be off in the night. Falling asleep becomes a trial and when, inevitably, the bad thing happens, I’ve had less sleep than I should have had. Matthew and I team up, doing what we each do best. We spend the early, early morning hours comforting and treating Judah, all 3 of us really longing for sleep. And then the bad passes and the 2 littles wake, and our “morning” starts. We spend the day trying to keep upright, all the while, dreading the repetitive nature of our new normal.

We are beyond tired. Beyond frustrated. Beyond sad. 

We are in Nashville to try an find some answers. Judah has an appointment with the infectious disease Dr here at Vanderbilt. And he is getting a spinal tap to look for possible causes of the fevers. Judah has gotten 4 fever/headache episodes in 4 days. This morning, his fever was 104.6. This is exactly why we are wanting the spinal tap. But get this, the anesthesia Dr doesn’t want to do anesthesia on him because he had a fever in the last 24 hrs…even though the spinal tap is being done BECAUSE of the chronic fevers. It feels so ridiculous. Dr. Esbenshade wants it done and has plead his case to the anesthesia Dr. 

We will see.

For now, we do what we have become really good at. We wait. Wait for Drs plans, for blood and urine tests to come back, for  the ok for the spinal tap, for any new clues, for the middle of the night and the next fever, for relief for Judah.

Much love and gratitude from the Thacker Family

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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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Nothing pretty to see here.

Since the last post, Judah has been to the ER 2x’s and had fevers 4x’s. 2x’s we chose not to take him.

This morning, at 5am, when Judah came in with a headache and fever, Matthew and I discussed going or not going. We said, this is nothing new. And the ER would do nothing new. But we want an MRI or CT of his head while he has a fever. So we decided to go. I called the on-call oncologist and went through the same story I always tell. Because it’s always the same. I listened to his story (we just need to check his counts and make sure he’s safe) and tried not to interrupt him because I know this speech. It’s also always the same. When he told me we needed to take Judah to the ER, I asked him if he would order a CT or an MRI.

Dr: On Saturday. No probably not. If he is admitted, maybe.

Me: I know it’s super inconvenient that Judah always gets sick on the weekends and holidays. But he’s had these fevers and headaches for 2yrs and no one has done anything but blood work. If that’s all they are going to do, why should we go?

Dr: (say it with me) We need to make sure Judah is safe.

So Matthew is at the ER with Judah as I write this.  And they are doing blood work.

I cannot speak for Matthew. I can say, for myself, I’m losing my faith. I feel it slipping. My hope trading for cynicism. I don’t believe in Judah’s Drs but I have said before that God can work through anyone. But He’s not. Judah is sick and he keeps getting sick and NO ONE WILL HELP HIM! Unless there is a Dr, like Phil Noe, the guy who found Judah’s tumor almost 6 yrs ago, that WANTS to figure this out, do different testing, while he’s running the fever, they won’t figure it out. They will keep pretending like they are keeping him safe when really they are playing it safe. Everyone thinks it’s the tumor. And they won’t look anywhere else. And maybe it is the tumor. Maybe it isn’t. But we won’t know if they won’t look at his head while he’s running a fever!

We are sad. We are angry. We are utterly exhausted. It sure would be nice if the Creator of the world, would give us just a little leg up. Until then, we are trying to figure out where to take Judah next. To find someone interested in the Judah puzzle.

~Wendi

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This week is almost over!

The last 8 days have been hardly easy.

Judah had surgery last wednesday and continue to be in serious pain until Tuesday, when he seemed to turn the corner. I think the healing and recovery was lengthened because he got chemo two days after surgery . It was 1 drug short of a complete regimen, but it still knocked him down pretty low.

With surgery and chemo recovery happening, we honestly could have “left” the training and learning how to use the g-tube. Needless to say, this house got little to no sleep.

But we are getting the hang of it. Judah’s taking in more feeds and Matthew and I are feeling more confident hooking him up, flushing, and clamping him!

He has color again. He has a bit of energy. He has a smile. And he is back to loudly narrating his game play. This weeks obsession, Mario + Rabbids Kindgom Battle. He’s been asking for it since he got his Switch from the Amazing Currans! I was hesitant to buy it for him because, honestly, it looked like he would get bored of it. It’s not a typical video game. Boy was I wrong. He LOVES it!

Current prayer needs:

1) that the dr at Vandy will call us with ideas on chemo

2) that the chemo can continue and be effect at killing the cancer not just stopping growth

We would love prayers for this weekend (really EVERY WEEKEND)

1) that Judah will stay fever free

2) that he will continue to feel better and better

3) that there will be NO reason to call the on-call Dr or go to the ER

~Wendi

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Uncommon

 

 

 

Almost 5 years ago, Matthew and I brought Judah to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital for an MRI. The drs wre looking for what is called a chiari malformation. But they found a brain tumor.

Today, Judah went to surgery to place a peg line and the endoscope revealed acute erosive esophagitis.

It hasn’t escaped me that this discovery is eerily similar to the discovery of his tumor 5 years ago. While Matthew and I desperately searched for a Dr who could to figure out what was causing all of Judah’s problems, a puzzle-loving Nurse Practioner decided to look in an uncommon place. And in looking for the uncommon, discovered the answers. The common answer to Judah’s weight/nutrition problem was to put in an ng-tube. But we were lucky enough to have an oncologist who had our back and heard our concerns. We wouldn’t have discovered his esophagitis if we had agreed to the ng-tube. Uncommon.

I’m not sure why things have never been ‘straight forward’ with Judah. I am learning to trust the holy spirit, and my momma gut, over the ‘common’ list drs give us though.

Because in all honesty, Judah has never fallen into the common category! When he was 2 and could see, say, and pick out all his letters in any order he wasn’t common. When he was solving puzzle for 5-8 yr olds at 3 he wasn’t common. When he was pronoucing 9 syllable dinosaur names at 4 he wasn’t common. So when he started having medical issues and none of his symptoms fit in any box, we shouldn’t have been surprised. His sleep apnea was central not obstructive. During his brainstem tumor resection his 9 and 12 nerves (tongue movement a and swallowing) were irritated and never recovered, uncommon. Once he started chemo, he had an allergic reaction and though it was working well at stopping the growth, he had to switch to a chemo with a massive pill regimen. At 5, he had no trouble swallowing capsules without water. I know adults who cannot do that. And then he stopped growing. Through all that, he never complained. Was compliant and sweet.

Fast forward almost 5 years to these mysterious headaches and fevers, which still haven’t been solved and never respond to medication. Failure to thrive at almost 10 years old. Severe diarrhea with the chemo, which is listed as a possible but uncommon side effect. And now acute erosive esophagitis, which the chemo ‘can” cause, but our oncologist has never seen in all her years giving this regimen. And through his pain, Judah continues to say he’s good. Not because he’s a liar but because he doesn’t want to worry anyone. He doesn’t want to put anyone out. He sweet and compliant, still. A silent warrior.

So here is the question that’s been floating around in my head all day: if the kid who has been through and is going through all that can be kind, selfless, brave (at least more than most in the same situation) why can’t I find a bit of that for others? Why, if Judah can think about how others may respond to his pain BEFORE he will even admit he has any, can’t I think about how my words will effect others before I open my mouth? The take away for me is this, I don’t know why Judah is so good at ‘being’ but I do know that I want to be more like him. Quick to hear, slow to speak. Maybe we can all take a cue from him and be a little more uncommon?

For now, the lights are out in this hospital room. I have prayed over my son and hope with all the steadfastness I can muster, that Jesus will continue to go before us and protect us.

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Judah is still very sick

After Judah’s last chemo, he never really bounced back. He hasn’t been ill the whole time but has been tired and had very little appetite. Then Sunday he became incredibly lethargic. He was white as a sheet with huge blue bags under his eyes. He ate 2 pieces of bacon all day long and drank about the same. He did not move from the couch/floor.
Matthew and I had been out of town and returned today to find him looking the way I described above. It was shocking. So shocking. Today we have spent the day getting fluids in him. He has eaten a bit more but everything runs straight through him. And he feels wretched.

This is so much worse than he was the first time we did chemo. And we have a long, long way to go. We want more than anything for him to be better and know that the chemo is killing the cancer. But it feels like it’s killing him too. And that is almost too much for a momma and daddy (and grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, friends) to stomach. We are watching him with tears in our eyes. Doing the best and knowing the best is not even close to helping.

We will be taking him to see his Dr tomorrow morning and fully anticipate him being admitted to ETCH. Please pray for him and us. Pray that tonight is uneventful and that we get a solid plan for helping Judah with his diarrhea and nausea so he can start to get a little more energy. Pray that we get a feeding tube put in soon and that it helps. Pray for his spirits. He is so sad and tired. And so are we.
Thank you friends.

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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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Sleep, chemo side effects, and Jesus

I am a heavy sleeper. I love sleep and people who know me will tell you that I really do need 9-10 hrs of sleep a night to be my joyful self. So I go to bed early. Like at 9pm. I know! But I have learned that if I want to get all the sleeps, I have to forgo the TV and all that stuff and get into bed. I have even gone back to reading ‘dead tree’ books, as my husband affectionately calls them, to minimize the chances of falling into the endlessness of internet only to find that I’ve scrolled my way to midnight and kick myself because what had I actually read/seen that as worth losing precious shut eye?

All that to say, once I’m asleep, there isn’t much that wakes me. One of my children crying is one thing I ALWAYS hear no matter how asleep I am (fellow mommas nodding, right?) Another is the Holy Spirit. And that’s about it. Last night I was out cold, and had been for a few hrs, when I woke up for no apparent reason. When I say woke up, I mean wide awake! I looked at the time, after midnight, and then looked around the room. Nothing. Looked out into the hall and saw the bathroom light was on. And I said a quick thank you prayer because I knew then that one of my kids was sick. It wasn’t the fact that the light was on, cause my kids get up to pee in the middle of the night too. It was that I had been asleep and woke up for no apparent reason to find the bathroom light on. I knew this was a gentle nudging from Jesus.

I walked into the bathroom and found Judah a mess. He looked awful and told me he felt equally so. I asked him what was wrong and he said “my belly really hurt like I needed to poop but I was too late. And I feel like I’m gonna throw up”.  I told him is was totally fine and I would clean it all up. And I looked in his face and saw how embarrassed he was. So I got down next to him and said, “Hey Bug. I’m sorry this happened. Don’t feel bad about it ok? It’s so easy to fix this mess and it is 100% not your fault. This is the chemo rearing it’s ugly head.”

I prayed over him and for him, got him cleaned up and back in bed, and then set to cleaning up the hall and bathroom. While I cleaned I felt a crushing sadness. A feeling of helplessness. Weakness. How do we get Judah through this? What will it even look like to get him through this? And then there was the black hole…the what if’s taking over. I wish I could tell you I prayed or got my bible and read or even sang a worship song to myself. But I did none of those things. I scrubbed the floors and bathroom and cleaned myself up and crawled back in bed. I chose to ignore my feelings in hopes that they would go away if I just went to sleep. I slept horribly. I woke the next morning ‘tight’ inside. I knew I needed Jesus but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to Him. So Jesus crossed lines to get to me.

My phone pinged. A simple text message popped up on my phone. “I’m praying for you right now.” That’s all it said. But it’s all it needed to say. Cause in that moment I felt God’s love for me. And that made it possible for the walls to come down and me to see Jesus.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit wakes us up in the middle of the night. Sometimes He urges us to send a note, a text, to make a call. Sometimes He brings a friend to mind. My advice is to heed that prompting. Jesus may be using you to pull someone out of the the back hole of despair.

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going home soon!

Judah’s fever has come down to 99 after Tylenol, fluids and 1 round of antibiotics.

All the tests and blood look negative/normal. Blood culture takes longer but they’ll call with any updates.

They are going to give him another round of antibiotics and then we get to go home.
If he gets another fever in the next 24hrs I have to bring him back.
We are exhausted. We both cannot wait to go home and sleep…thanks for the prayers.

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103.4 fever means ER…ugh

Judah woke at 2AM with a headache and a 103.4 fever. Matthew is in Atlanta. I knew we had to go to the ER but also knew I couldn’t take all 3 kids with me. I called Matthew and he said he’d get Emilie to come over to stay with the littles. I called the oncology on-call Dr who said you gotta take him to the ER. Which I knew but was hoping to hear differently. I got Judah dressed and put him in the car.

Once at the ER, we were taken right back. Perks of being on Chemo is you don’t ever wait on the ER 😏. To dangerous for his immune system.

They’ve now accessed his port, drawn blood, done a strep and flu test. Now we are waiting.

Prayers friends. Matthew is frantic that he is not here. I’m not so hot myself and I am here. I thought we had a lot longer before all this started.

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