Posts Tagged ‘joy’

We are now one step closer to the new normal.

Chet and Gabriel headed down to Oakland on Monday to start the first of seven (I believe) nelarabine treatments.  As I believe I previously mentioned, nelarabine is a drug that they have found specifically targets the subtype of leukemia Gabriel has.

The first night went smoothly.  Gabriel tolerated the treatment very well, and well, we just feel incredibly blessed.

For Chet, the week has been a bit of a blur.  As he said on Tuesday, it’s like Groundhog Day, but he’s not Bill Murry waking up to Sonny & Cher every morning.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s treatments went well too.  We are so blessed that Gabriel has tolerated the medicines as well as he has.

Gabriel initially kept himself busy drawing pictures and playing with playdough.

But, then Gabriel felt comfortable going to the play room and he’s been spending a lot of time there.  He painted a poster that the staff loved so much that it is going to be framed and hung in “5 South.”  They snatched it away before Chet could get a picture of it.  So, once it’s framed and hung, we’ll take a picture of it to share.

This time around, Gabriel is in a shared room.  That could have been not so good, but Gabriel’s roommate is a young man who apparently is delightful!

Isn’t he adorable!  He’s receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer too, but a different type of cancer than Gabriel.

So the days have been spent playing Lego’s Star Wars on the PS2, playing in the play room, showing off the pocket knife to other kids in the play room (would you expect anything else from Gabriel?) and just having a good time charming all the staff at Children’s Oakland.  Gabriel has even had a couple of the nurses that we had during his original stay in 5 South.

But, probably one of the most special moments came when Gabriel was able to give a gift to Dr. Annie.  A little background – Dr. Annie was the first doctor we saw when we arrived at Children’s in Oakland on December 23rd.  We were in the E.R. and in came this doctor.  She was very sweet.  Little did we know the true depth of her heart and her absolutely awesome bedside manner right away.  Later we learned that she was a Fellow with the Onocology group at Children’s and her rotation with in-patients would be over on December 31st.  We were bummed.  Afterall, it was Dr. Annie who taught Gabriel the “Fish Face.”

And it was Dr. Annie who really was the first person to crack Gabriel’s shell during that crucial first day at the hospital.  She was a compassionate and amazing person. And, we have it on good sources that the impact Gabe had on her was similar.

After we left Children’s at the beginning of January, Gabriel wanted to get Dr. Annie a special gift.  That was one of the people we were shopping for at the mineral store on that special shopping day out.  Today, Gabriel was able to see Dr. Annie and give her his gift.

On December 22, when we were told Gabriel had leukemia, the world was crashing down around us.  I couldn’t see the next day or even two or three days after.  All I thought on that day was that I was very likely going to loose my child.  Oh, I knew the survival rates for leukemia were good, but it was heart wrenching and crushing to get that kind of news.

But, through the whole process, God has held Gabriel, Chet and my hearts.  We can sit and try to figure out the “why” and the “whats.”  But, we will never know “what” caused his cancer and we’ll never know “why” he was afflicted.  And to try to figure out those questions is an exercise in futility.

However, many things have been made very clear to me and Chet.  What we have learned is that there is a bigger purpose behind his diagnosis.  We have had the opportunity to meet the most amazing people, and it all started with Dr. Annie.  We would have never had these experiences, relationships, and opportunities had this never happened to us.  And quite frankly, I don’t think I would want to miss out on these relationships and opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy journey.  It is filled with heartache.  But, we have already been so blessed with new relationships, perspectives and opportunities, all of with we would have never had if this hadn’t happened.  And Gabriel is able to touch the hearts and souls of many more people because of this.

Gabriel has a reputation that precedes him.  He is known as the “little cowboy.”

Gabriel puts on his duds and heads to the doctors.  He truly is a little cowboy.  And, his personality just fits and brings people from all around to meet him.  But, why not, his smile and laugh is truly contagious!

I mean, I know I’m his mother, but dang, he’s stinking ADORABLE. And fun, I just love his personality.

Today was somewhat bitter sweet for me.  I really miss my boys.  They’ll be home tomorrow, and that will be glorious to have them home even if it’s just for the weekend.

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Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells and form an essential part of the immune system.  You see, as I understand it, we have two arms of our immune system, an innate immune system and an adaptive immune system.  There’s a lot of technical mumbo jumbo about the functions of the different immune systems, but in the “idiot’s guide” terms I can understand, the neutrophils and your innate immune system is what give you the first line of defense against all things new and old and the adaptive immune system is your immune systems memory bank and and provides the arsenal for things that you’ve dealt with before.

Does your head hurt?  Mine does sometimes when I try to wrap my brain about these things.

Anyway, I’ve talked in the past about Gabriel’s immune system and his ANC (absolute neutrophil count) levels and how those impact what he can do.  The ANC is a mathematical calculation looking at his innate immune systems ability to combat infection.

Gabriel’s ANC levels tell us whether he has the ability to fight infection and to what extent.  Basically, it’s our litmus test on what activities we can reasonably let him do.

Yesterday, Gabriel went back down to Oakland Children’s Hospital for another physical examination and his final bone marrow aspiration for the induction phase of his treatment.  He also had a lumbar puncture and intrathecial chemotherapy treatment.  During Gabriel’s physical exam, Chet was informed that Gabe’s ANC count from Monday was over 2000.  That was awesome news for us, it meant that Gabriel’s immune system was rebounding very well (he was still under 250 when we left Oakland two weeks prior) even after his last chemotherapy treatment.

When Chet told me this, I was just so happy.  I knew it meant that Gabriel would be able to do more things around the house.  It also meant that the physicians were comfortable giving Gabriel the all clear to go horseback riding, spend some time working in the yard and garden, and to do whittling.  Things we’ve been having to say “no” to lately.

After Gabe’s procedures, Chet was given the results from yesterday’s blood tests (he gets blood tests twice a week right now) and his ANC level was over 4000.  That’s just awesome and absolutely the power of answered prayers.

With and ANC count of over 4000, we don’t have to be confined home.  Gabriel was able to walk around and leave the hospital without wearing a mask.  It just is awesome to not feel as though you’re walking on egg shells with him afraid you might be carrying an errant germ that is sticking around somewhere.

In celebration, we’re going to head to the mineral store tomorrow.  Gabriel has a couple special purchases he would like to make.  With the news, I’m just so filled with joy and amazement at how well his body has tolerated the treatment so far.  He’s just been so blessed by the caring thoughts and prayers of everyone.  Thank you so much, we truly appreciate your support and love.

Unfortunately, Chet didn’t take too many pictures, so I don’t really have any to share (the three he has are on his phone and well, I didn’t get them transferred).  But, with such awesome news as this, who needs pictures?

Next week we head back to Oakland for a consultation with the Radiation Oncologist and Gabriel will begin his next round of treatment – the consolidation phase.  We’ll find out next week which treatment plan he gets randomized to.  It will either be an overnight admission or a five-day admission.

However, in the meantime we’ve got fun plans including horseback riding (hopefully), mineral shopping, movie watching and snowshoeing.  What a great weekend to look forward to.

We have been blessed with such an amazing kid who providing many opportunities to learn new things.  Don’t believe me?  You now know a whole lot more about neutrophils than you did before this all happened, don’t ‘cha.

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