Orange and White Game and fun with friends!

The Thacker’s got to take 2 of our favorite families with us to the sky box for the University of Tennessee Football Team’s Orange and White Game. I was nervous about how Judah would feel after chemo, knowing it would be a long day. But he did great!

It didn’t hurt that his favorite 2 people were with him. Both so thoughtful and sensitive to what he needs. He truly is so blessed to have these 2 amazing kiddos as his bffs! Listening to Berkley (whose parents are Bama/Auburn fans) cheer “Go Orange Team! Go White Team!” was a highlight for sure. That and seeing Berkley and Maddie in Tennessee orange of course! Lucas and Felicity fit right in with Berkley and Maddie. Lucas stuck right by Judah’s side, which I find to be one of the most endearing and Spirit filled actions. That kid is special!


We ate great food, the kids had about 3 ice creams each and a bunch of popcorn, and we adults had a great time just being together in a great venue. Neyland Stadium is fantastic!

Also, I totally geeked out when I saw Grant Williams in the main area. I was so thrilled that he was such a kind guy. he signed Judah’s popcorn box and took a picture with him! He didn’t have to do that but I am so grateful he did! Go Vols!

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Judah becomes a grumpy teenager

by: Cara McMillin

Today Judah woke up as a grumpy teenager.  He was quick with sharp toned one word answers, mean to his parents and siblings, and generally emotional.  By lunchtime they hadn’t done any school work and his mood had not improved.  Then this happened:   *Cricket is Camilla Kate

Judah to Cricket: You are as useless as purple Pokémons!”

Cricket: No I’m not! I’m bright and useful! (While crying)

Judah: Who cares what you think.

Wendi: Ummm I’m not sure how useless purple Pokémons are but Cricket is right, she is bright and useful and you will not put people down to make yourself feel better. Your tongue is powerful. It has the power to heal and break. What is Proverbs 12:18?

Judah: (insert grumpy teenage voice) “Thoughtless words cut like swords, but the tongue of a wise person brings healing.”

Wendi: So I want you to think of 2 adjectives that describe your sister and heal her.

Judah: (pause for 10 mins) Funny and playful, maybe.

Wendi: Great. Go tell her that. And on the way think of a Pokémon that is funny and playful and tell her that she is like that!

Judah: Cricket you are funny and playful. Not useless. Like a Pink Pokémon not a purple one. (Now he’s crying).

The truth is in him and it will win out in the end.  As of now no school work has been done and he is asleep.  On the plus side Wendi is taking the chance to spend some sweet one on one time with Camilla Kate and a new phrase has been born, “You really purple Pokémoned that one!”

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After 5 great yrs, Judah’s tumor has started growing again…

At Judah’s MRI in February there was a new area of enhancement (an area where the contrast agent glows on an MRI) around his tumor. At the time, the doctor said it was an unlikely, but possible sign of growth starting up again and that we should scan again in 3 months but watch him closely for new symptoms. About 3 weeks ago, Judah woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and a fever. We gave him tylenol and put him back to bed. He seemed perfectly fine the next day so we didn’t worry about it much. Then, for the next two weeks, every 48-72 hours the headache and fever would return. By about the 3rd headache, we were calling doctors trying to figure out what was going on. The oncologist said the cyclic nature of the fevers didn’t jive with the location of his tumor, so he thought it was some kind of infection. The neurologist said that without other symptoms, such as lethargy or vomiting, it was unlikely that it was a shunt infection or malfunction. The headaches continued, as did the frustrating conversations with doctors who didn’t think it was a problem and didn’t want to do anything about it. Finally, on Monday of last week we took him to our pediatrician who thought it best to run some blood tests. The normal infection and virus tests were all negative, but Judah’s white blood cell count was more than 3 times what a normal healthy persons would be. “Maybe his cancer team will listen to us now” we thought, but it still took 3 more phone calls and a strongly worded email before they agreed to move up his MRI.

We drove to Nashville Wednesday night, had the MRI on Thursday morning, then back to the oncologist on Friday. We prayed a confusing prayer that begged on the one hand for the MRI to show no growth, but on the other for *something* to show us what’s going on so we could stop it. We got the latter. Judah’s tumor has begun to grow again. Thankfully the mass that is intrinsic to this brain stem (i.e. inside the good brain tissue) seems to be stable, but a small new mass has begun on the outside edge of the old tumor. It grew from a tiny line of enhancement to a 1.3cm diameter mass in two months’ time. I shudder to think how big it might have been had we waited the whole extra month until his scheduled scan. The doctor doesn’t think that surgery is necessary at the moment, but we go back to Nashville on Monday for them to put his portacath back in, thenTuesday morning to start his second round of year-long chemotherapy. We’ll be using a different therapy this time, the theory being that the previous regiment, though effective, failed to fully kill the cancer so perhaps a different type will. There are pros and cons to the new regiment. It’s supposed to be less destructive to his blood counts, so less chance of serious infection and hopefully he won’t catch every cold he comes within a mile of. He only has to have therapy every two weeks instead of weekly, but the infusions take longer so Judah will be in the clinic for 2 to 3 hours every time. This therapy restricts the growth of blood vessels so it’s possible the tumor will actually shrink somewhat while on this therapy, but that same restriction carries an increased risk of things like internal bleeding and bowel perforation. I sincerely hope none of you ever have to read the patient education literature that comes with these drugs. It causes the mind a unique kind of distress when the doctors are saying we need to give your child this medicine to save his life but the warning labels list at least 40 different ways the medicine itself could kill him.

Jesus encouraged us to pray for specifics. So we’d ask you to specifically pray that this chemo regiment is immediately effective in stopping the tumor growth and relieving Judah’s headaches. We’d ask that you pray that the side effects from the chemo are few and mild in nature. That on his follow up scan in 6 weeks it is really obvious that the growth has ceased and possibly even that the tumor has shrunk. That Judah is able to withstand physically, emotionally, and spiritually this grueling year of pain and frustrations. That Wendi and I are able to withstand the same. That this chemo regiment is definitively and permanently effective for stopping Judah’s tumor from growing. And specifically for Wendi and I, I’d ask that you pray for a strengthening in faith, hope, and desire for God. I know, intellectually, that ‘why’ is never the right question for God. He won’t answer it, and even if He did, I know I couldn’t understand it. But that doesn’t stop the voice from my heart from asking why. Knowing it’s misdirected doesn’t stop the resentment that rises up when I’m lying awake with fear and anxiety. So we need God’s good to show powerfully through the cracks in the evil that veils this world. And finally I’d ask that you pray for all those who are committed to pray for Judah, including Wendi and I, to maintain that commitment. The passion for everything fades over time, especially when things seem good, and this thing is going to need some long term, committed prayer to overcome.

Our sincere thanks to all of you for your years of love and continued support of our family.

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Judah’s Home!

We packed up and left Nashville this morning about 10:30 and now we’re home! Judah’s curled up on the couch playing with the iPad and seems to be doing great. He hasn’t experienced any nausea yet from the chemo but I’m sure there will be more of that with more treatments. For now we’re all happy and comfy back in our own home.
Want to say thank you to all the wonderful people who came and cleaned our house, mowed our lawn, stocked our fridge, and the hundred other little things y’all have done to love on us! We appreciate you so much!
And an extra special thanks to Josh, Brandi and the Kellett boys for feeding and sheltering us for a whole month. We couldn’t have survived without you!
Thanks to all the prayer warriors out there. Keep praying for Judah. We’ve got a year left of his chemo treatment and there are sure to be some hard times.

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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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CT/Shunt/Therapy plans

For the last few days, they have had Judah’s Intra Cranial Pressure (ICP) drain clamped to see if he can naturally drain/absorb it. We all thought he was because his ICP’s were reading so low and he was doing so well. At 4 am they took Judah down for a CT to ck on swelling and drainage of his spinal fluid from the brain in hopes of taking the ICP drain out. However, they found that I stead of draining it was actually just forcing its way out of the surgery wound into the area between the skin and skull. So he wasn’t managing his fluid. His fluid had just found an easier way out of the brain.
So tomorrow morning, if all goes well scheduling wise, they will put in a permanent shunt that will drain fluid from the brain to his belly internally. The surgery should only take an 1-2hrs and is minimal in risk. The Dr said it shouldn’t set him back any but instead give him the freedom to move around more and dive into PT/OT for quicker recovery.
We were at first sad about the prospect of another surgery but agreed that we need to move past this drainage issue and onto the talking/walking/treating the rest of the tumor issue. This affords us that.
We would appreciate continued prayers for Judah, surgery, recovery, us, and just being separated as a family. We miss Judah and Camilla Kate together.

Judah is going to need very intensive physical/occupational/speech therapy to fully recover and the logistics of that are complicated. Most of the Drs here think he needs inpatient therapy for 3-5 weeks but there is no inpatient therapy center in all of Tennessee that takes kids his age, the closest is Atlanta. One of the Drs thinks he can work something out here at Vanderbilt to get Judah outpatient therapy but in an intensive way – say 3 or more hours a day 6 days a week.
Being able to do therapy here would be much better for us as a family so we’re asking for specific prayers for God to open doors and make the therapy choices very clear and easy.
Thanks for all the encouraging words and prayers!

The surgery to put the shunt in will be tomorrow morning at 7:30am. Should be about an hour and a half and he’ll be intubated again but the tube will come out when the surgery is over. The process used to route the shunt to his belly will be pretty painful for Judah when he wakes up and he’ll have a total of 5 or 6 incisions (including the ones he already has) and every incision is an infection risk. So please pray for a flawless surgery, minimal pain and no infections!

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