and this is hope

There is a difference between pleasure and blessedness. Paul experienced imprisonment, pain, sacrifice, and suffering to their very limits, yet through it all he was blessed.

Dearest tested and tried believer, it is your mission to walk onto the stage of this world in order to reveal to all of heaven and earth that the music of life lies not in your circumstances or external things but in your own soul.

~Streams in the Desert, excerpts

This morning I woke feeling a sense of instability. Equal parts joy, weariness, and expectancy. Judah is low sick. And we got amazing news. If this cancer fight has taught me anything, it’s the beauty of balance. Balancing possibility and expectation. Faith and fear. Hope and suffering. Seeking and resting. And that necessary balance is impossible without Jesus. 

Sunday Judah got a fever accompanied by a hateful cough and we had to take a trip to the Medicine Room at St. Jude. They agreed that he was wheezing a bit but felt comfortable sending us home after fluids and a prescription for a humidifier, rest, and lots of water.  By Tuesday, the cold that sent me to bed for 3 days, feeling worse than I remember ever feeling, had taken up residence in my son’s chest.  It almost delayed an exciting procedure where an ENT inflated Judah’s vocal cord to give him more support and strength. That, along with Botox injections into some of his salvitory glands to reduce secretions, hope to put an end to Judah’s micro aspirations and chronic cough. But through God’s great grace, the Nurse Practitioner and CNA saw my vulnerability and decided to go against protocol and give Judah 24hrs to sound better. And God parted the congestion, like He did for the Israelites with the Red Sea, just long enough for Judah to safely have his procedure. The congestion crashed back down on him, complete with wheezing and sinus headache. And even though Judah was sick, I praised God’s name because He blessed us.

For the last 3 weeks, I’ve woken with a different praise and worship song in my head, embedded and on repeat. Thursday I woke, dreading our long day at the hospital. I was also feeling a sadness because the day before I had finished a 40 day prayer plan that had become part of my day-to-day. It was integral in me finding my way back to the heart of Jesus. And the song Old for New by Bethel Music kept circling in my head, pushing the dread and sadness aside.

V1
What was torn you mend again
You redesign the tatter thread by thread
You take the broken and destroyed
You rebuild, You make whole
Chorus
Joy begins to rise
Hope begins to light the dark
Our God exchanges old for new
Dawn has conquered the night
Death has lost to life
V2
And now we are exchanging old for new
You turn flame into a fire
In you we walk in the impossible
We take Your love into the world
We let our light shine, we let it burn
Bridge
There’s nothing that Your love won’t do
There’s not a mountain with can’t move
There’s power in the blood
There’s power in the cross

I did as I always do, give in to the gift of a song for my day, and claim it.

And then when we got to Judah’s Neuro Oncology appointment and found out the genetic testing results were back.

For those who haven’t been following our journey, St. Jude sent a sample of Judah’s tumor to a lab to be genetic tested, broken down, to look for clues to a possible treatment option. Because in the last 9 months Judah’s tumor has shifted from a low grade Pilocytic Astrocytoma to High Grade Diffuse Intrinsic Midline Glioma, it’s terminal. Radiation has a lot of side effects and his tumor is chemo resistant. The genetic testing was our last ditch effort to find SOMETHING.

And it wasn’t until the Drs said the results were back that I realized I had hung my hope on what they were about to say. And they were smiling.

The test showed that Judah had 4 relevant gene mutations:
K27M
P53
NF-1
NF-1 (variant)

We already knew about the K27M mutation. It’s the murderer. The one no one knows how to stop. The P53 mutation is common in cancer and isn’t targetable. And then 2 variations of the NF-1 gene mutation. This is one the drs seemed excited about. 

They explained that the NF-1 gene is like a controller for cell division. It’s job is to make sure that cell division stays balanced by turning on and off. When it mutates, it never turns off.

My eyes began to blur. 

They continued. The NF-1 mutation is typically a “driver” in tumor growth. But it’s rarely found in High Grade tumors. It’s more often found in Low Grade tumors. So its possible that this mutation is what made Judah’s tumor shift from Low Grade to High Grade.

Now I’m holding my breath

Drs again. And we think we can use MEK Inhibitors to counteract the NF-1 mutation. 

WHAT?!? (Internal dialogue: KIND OF BURIED THE LEAD! Are they saying they have a cure?)

Drs explain. This is ALL speculative. We do think MEK Inhibitors work to counteract the NF-1 mutation, but we do not know if the NF-1 mutation is what’s causing Judah’s tumor growth. And we won’t know until the growth halting effects of radiation wear off. In 3 months to a year we will either see tumor growth or we won’t. And there is literally NO clinical data to look to. Judah is 1 of 3 kids reported to have a shifted tumor kind with the presence of the K27M gene mutation in both tumor types. And the other 2 don’t have the NF-1 mutation, as far as we know. This is NEW territory for us. But when you brought Judah to St. Jude, we wanted to be able to give you guys hope. And this is hope!

So basically we are all stumbling around in the dark together but St.Jude and Jesus have resources like flashlights! I’ll take it. And praise God for His victory over my doubt.

Prayer is a funny thing. I’ve spent the last 8 weeks praying for healing. Praying for more time. Praying for acceptance. For daily joy. For closeness. I have been specific and general. And over time, my prayers have widened. I still pray for the same things but I have learned to pray God’s word. To pray to have his eyes and ears so I can see His hands and hear His encouragements. To pray that His will be done and mean it. To believe that God’s love for me is greater than my unbelief. His peace is greater than my fear. His strength, my only chance for strength. His word, truth. 

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world. [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33 AMP

This verse thrown around a lot when people are suffering. I’ll be honest, when I see it, I usually roll my eyes. But today when it popped up in my quiet time, I wept. Because God can overcome our cynicism. 2 months ago, when a praise and worship song came on about God being a mountain mover, or how great His love is for us, or worse, how they’ll praise Him even though everything is falling apart, I would roll my eyes and change the station. I would say, what trials have these super famous worship bands been through? When did they have to choose to praise God as their heart broke in half? It Is Well my foot. They don’t know.  

But now, I let loose my hands, close my eyes, and praise Him with the words inspired by God’s nature and goodness. Because recently I had an epiphany. It  doesn’t matter if the writer or singer or friend has been broken and spilled out. What matters is that I believe the Holy Spirit inspires, moves and works in the lives of God’s people for His glory. I must give Him glory in the big and small. For the things I asked for and the things I didn’t.

We praise God that He is showing us His works in this new treatment option for Judah. We praise Him that our hope is stronger than our strife. We praise Him that He fights for our hearts. And if there comes a time when we can no longer see Him working, we will remember His truth, that he is still working.

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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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