Diagnosis Day – 2 years later

Two years ago today.

Our hearts were broken yet strengthened.
Our souls were crushed yet soothed.

We were grateful for answers.
Grateful for a plan for our son.

Hurt. Crumbling. I felt like I lost all feeling in my limbs.
I didn’t eat all day.
A sister in law brought us Arby’s
I still don’t like going there anymore.

I assume I pumped milk for Meg – but I don’t remember.

I have regrets about that day. Not getting to the hospital sooner. Not being there to be told.
I was told on the phone that Simon had cancer. They weren’t sure what kind but it was bad.

I arrived at the hospital after many people.
I was told not to drive as I couldn’t feel my arms.

Simon had no clue. He just knew he had a new truck with a trailer and horses. Tons of new hot wheels. Could order any food he wanted.

He just wanted that needle out of his hand and to go home.

We were scared to go home.
We had only heard stories of mostly leukemia where you start treatment immediately.
But they sent us home that day to return in about two weeks to start treatment.

We didn’t announce to anyone except family and very close friends and our work places.
We weren’t ready for the barrage of questions and concerns.

So we went home and cuddled closer.
Holding each other as one was stronger when the other was weaker.

We are not celebrating today but just commemorating the day our lives changed forever.

We are so grateful of the miracle Simon is.
Our Heavenly Father has blessed us, held us, and lives us so much.

#warriorsimon #diagnosisday #childhoodcancerawareness #alwayshugginggeorgie

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Make a Wish

I’m working from home today.
I’ll leave in 5 minutes to pick up Simon from school.
Meg is still napping (2 hours now?  Weird…).

And I got a call.

We knew our wish had been granted but we didn’t know when we would go on Simon’s Make a Wish trip.

But we have dates now! And flight times!
I can’t wait to go tell Simon on the walk home from school. 🙂

Currently (will catch up later)

I haven’t been writing as much about our warrior since we finished treatment.
I have been trying to focus on our “new life” and how to cope.

Currently Simon is in kindergarten and loves it.
He is freaky amazing at math (like his 9 year old niece taught him his 2x’s tables last week and he learned it like it was nothing).
He’s working on learning to read and really wants to learn.

However he is struggling physically.
All the months of being in bed, especially the 2nd stem cell transplant, left him very weak on his right side. Particularly his right leg.
He can’t run. He thinks he can but his 2 year old sister is much fast than him (and me as well but she’s just Meg).

We’ve had some amazing things happen since June- Simon went in the ocean his first time (but only for a second as he didn’t like it), played in the sand, went camping and got his first stitches from an accident (tripped over a rock and hit a rock), got a new bike and LOVES it though it’s hard for him to ride.

He started physical therapy and has improved in the strength of his ankles they were very loose and bent the wrong way. We’re still working on that right leg and he’s very determined to get stronger.

My heart just aches though sometimes. There was a fun run at school last week and I knew I needed to be there. So I took the day off, put Meg in the double stroller, and followed from a distance.
Then I heard him. Crying, yelling- wait for me!
My heart broke.
I ran up to him, put him in the stroller, and told him we’d catch up. We took a short cut and made it to the finish line. He ran through the finish line and was so excited.
But then he was anxious and down for the rest of the day.
I don’t blame him. They should have had someone running with him, pulling up the back. Good thing I was there as he needed his mom for comfort.

He gets tired easily but keeps trying to do everything.
He’s really into Legos lately and building his own things.

His great-grandma died a few months ago and he built her grave out of legos… a bit morbid but he did a good job! 🙂

We have scans and tests coming up next week and the following two weeks.
I just pray they all come back clean.

Round 5 of Immunotherapy and End of Treatment

We went into round 5 knowing it’s one of the “easier” ones to do since they don’t add the IL-2 infusion.

Simon did great- in fact it was the first time he didn’t need oxygen overnight for immunotherapy!

We made sure to take extra pictures with people, do all the crafts and playroom things we could do.

One day Irish said Simon could pick any prize he wanted.
Amongst all the Hot Wheels (which he loves) was a nail polish kit.
He chose it! Then he proceeded to paint my nails and Irish’s and we said it was in honor of our friend Courtney who was in TN on a trial. 🙂

I swear we’ve played every game they have in the unit for X Box 360 that is appropriate for Simon. Yet every day he would ask to go see if there were games he hadn’t played. We never found a new one but he loved just getting out.

Every day he asked for a slushy. They don’t allow the slushy machine in the unit because you would have to clean it SO often to get rid of anything that could contaminate it. But he had some great nurses who would go down to the surgical unit and get him one 🙂 And always the wish for an orange one but they all taste good.

On his last day he had his line removed in surgery. Normally they can pull them out but he’d had his for a year and they were worried about his body having grown around it. Surgery went great!
We got to keep the “clamps” from the line since the rest had chemo through it.

Then at 3pm that day all of our family (and some friends) came to the unit and Simon rang the end of treatment bell! He was so excited and so full of energy despite having been under anesthesia that day.

We had chocolate Dunford Donuts for a treat of course. The boy loves them!
Then we went home, unloaded a bit, and went to Black Bear Diner for a celebratory dinner.
And we had the best waitress who happens to be a family friend/neighbor.

So many posters, gifts, big smiles that day.
It took us longer to get there than we thought but WE MADE IT!

Time Between Course 4 and 5

Withdrawal from the meds for round 4 was a bit better. It didn’t seem to last as long and he got his appetite and energy back fast.

So we made good use of the energy!

We went to our first rodeo and Simon loved it! This was courtesy of the Mascot Miracle Foundation.

The next week we went to the Hogle Zoo after hours courtesy of the Mascot Miracle Foundation again. That was amazing! The dinner was provided by the local Chick-fil-A’s which was fun because we have friends that own and manage a couple of the locations. So we got to catch up with them.
Then the animals were much more alert due to it being cooler (75 degrees!). One of the lioness’s even saw Meg and ran over to her and wanted to “play.”

We’ve done some bike rides, played t-ball, soccer, gone to our family ranch, played on playgrounds, walked to the kindergarten doors a few times so he knows where it is, and just trying to fill our time with fun.

We made chocolate chip cookies, an ultimate fort, and Simon has learned to love board games. When he won LIFE and became a millionaire he told me “don’t worry mama, you can visit me in my lobby.”

We

are currently on day 3 of 5 for immunotherapy/anitbody (ch 14.18) for round 5.
That means we are two days away from our last day inpatient (prayerfully/hopefully) ever again!

Simon had his central line (double lumen/hickman) placed on June 28th, 2017 when he had his resection (tumor removal) surgery. He is having it removed June 15th, 2018. Almost one year of having a central line (he had a single port before).

Because of the time the line has been in his body they are worried about the line coming out smoothly. Normally this is done in their room but their concern is that he has never had problems- so it could have fibrous material attached to it. So just in case they are going to remove it in the OR. We had scheduled his “ringing the bell” at 3pm but may have to move that depending on when the surgery is.

But Simon is SO excited to get his line out.
When he says his prayers at night he usually says a quick one.
But the other night he said he was thankful to get his line out so he can go swimming, take baths, and go to the beach in a few weeks 🙂 Silly boy.

Currently we are sitting in his room playing classic Sonic the Hedgehog Games. I will try to film him cause he gets so into the games with chatting during it and sound effects.

I

t’s been a fun week taking pictures with nurses, saying goodbye to some people, and being able to go out and about with no restrictions. It’s also been relatively “quiet” in the unit meaning not many rooms are full. I love looking at the board and seeing it less than half full!

Meg came up yesterday and we took her to get her labs done- they still look fantastic. Her medicine is doing exactly what it needs to and you would never know she has anything wrong with her.

Life

feels pretty…. good right now. It’s weird to say that. We will never have our normal back again but we really appreciate all the amazing blessings, miracles, and friends and family that we never could have before.

Final IL-2 Infusion, start of Round 4

Early last week I had finally had enough of waiting- waiting for Simon’s eyes to go back to normal, waiting and doing nothing treatment-wise.

So I nagged the team and we decided to start round 4.

I hooked up Simon’s pump this past Monday (May 7th) and we started the IL-2.

The IL-2 basically helps the antibody (ch14.18) be stronger to help the body attack the neuroblastoma cells. Because it increases his white blood cells he gets more achy. A tired, flu-like, achiness.

We’re on day 3 and he seems to be doing okay. Definitely a bit more tired but not enough to slow him down during the day.

He has discovered a LOVE for board games over the last week. It’s been fun playing Life, Dinosaur World (a game my grandparents gave me when I was about 8 that you create a new dinosaur species), and others with him. In Life he won and was a millionaire. He told me “Don’t worry Mama, you can visit me in my lobby.”

We have been trying to do some more fun things before we are inpatient again.

We went to the zoo a couple weeks ago (somehow in Utah, in April, it was 86 degrees!).

This weekend we are going away for a few days to a local resort. It’s supposed to be colder, around 50 degrees, but we plan on just hanging out, not doing every day stuff, playing board games, and maybe do a bit of summer clothes shopping. Simon has grown SO tall that a lot of his shirts fit around his skinny body but show his tummy.
Same with Meg except she isn’t skinny- 95th percentile for her weight. My chunker 🙂

So things are going in the right direction for now.
We are finishing the immunotherapy because we would rather say we did all the treatment that to finish early and relapse happening then blame ourselves.

But relapse WILL NOT happen.
Simon has too much to do.
He’s too stubborn, too sassy- to allow it.

Waiting

As we watch and wait for Simon’s eyes to go back to normal we struggle.

Although his energy is higher, he’s sleeping great, eating better, and looks healthy…. We are in survival mode.

He had his first haircut this past week in over a year and a half

As both kids sleep well we’re getting more sleep.

So why are we so tired?

We’re in survival mode.

The wait is hard.

Knowing your child is getting NO medicine to prevent this beast from coming back.

Knowing if you continue treatment his eyes could stay that way, you know what’s ahead in those final two treatments….

We’re not done with this fight.

Even when treatment options are exhausted we will still wonder if. If it came back.

People keep saying we must be relieved that he’s almost done. There’s no relief except to know that medicinal measures are done. No more torture like that.

But the what – ifs make us tired.

Every pain he has makes us jump.

We wonder when survival mode will end.

We just don’t know if it ever will.

March, Round 3 Immunotherapy

Round 3 of immunotherapy was such a breeze in comparison to the others.

We didn’t have the IL-2 included which made for a less cranky kid. 🙂

He got to go to the playroom every day (and was quite upset when other kids were playing the Wii U :)). We got to wander the hospital a bit which meant demands for fun snacks, toys from the gift shop, and hanging out in the Ronald McDonald House.

It was a nice change to see him happier and more talkative.

Unfortunately what that meant was he was a bit more hyper.
He would be up until 2 or 3 am just talking, playing, watching movies.
I ended up just telling him to entertain himself so I could sleep. 🙂

This round was Caleb’s spring break at the U.
Unfortunate timing as we didn’t get to do anything fun but it was nice for me to have him come stay a night and give me a break.

 

The next week, amongst Simon’s withdrawal from Morphine which is very loose bowels, Meg got a stomach bug.  after day 5 of her throwing up and loose bowels I took her into the ER.  I knew she would need fluids so it was faster to do the ER than a pediatrician visit.  Poor girl hated it.


But she feels a lot better know and is eating anything she can find!

Which does include mud, tree bark, etc.  Oh Meg, 17 months old. 🙂

The Friday before Easter Caleb and I escaped to the Anniversary Inn for a night.
It was relaxing, fun, and a silly room. The breakfast is so good!

We did an Easter Egg hunt with the Williams side on Saturday then the Fullmer side on Sunday.

We didn’t give the kids any candy in their baskets. They just don’t eat it! So they both got a swimming suit, some outdoor toys, and a couple small toys. Nothing extravagant but simple.

Simon was able to go to our family ranch yesterday. He still has a hard time going outside and gets overwhelmed but he said he said the baby cows from the back porch (we have around 80 on the property right now- so fun!).

So the rest of this first week of April will be spent trying to have some fun but Caleb and I both are back in the full swing of work and school.

Next Monday we have an appointment with the bone marrow team to go over how he’s doing and what our next steps will be.

Change and then Some

With this issue Simon was having with some of the medicine we really had to pray and think hard about what to do.

Do we try to eliminate something from his treatment plan because of side effects?
Or do we keep going on it for that small chance it could prevent relapse?

In researching more about the drug and the clinical trials that were done we discovered:
1. the original trial was a very small number of participants. So small in fact that the small percentage of the kids doing better on it was not enough to have really approved it for administration.

2. the drug was added to the neuroblastoma protocol in the 1990’s. During that time the only other treatments were chemotherapy and radiation. They have since added stem cell transplants and antibody therapy.

3. with the additional therapies added no research has been done on how well this drug works in addition to these. Yet 20 years later it’s still included

4. I spoke with what is considered the #1 neuroblastoma doctor in the country, if not the world, on the phone. He said when considering to take any treatment away they really research what is in the best interest of the child’s health…. EXCEPT with this drug because they don’t see a marked difference. So if someone doesn’t want to do it they say ok and carry on.

So today we met with a specific member of the bone marrow team that I requested. I trust him and he really listens to us.
He listened to my thoughts and agreed with my concerns.
But he hadn’t heard that people were questioning the data.
He went out for a minute to speak with one of the main oncologists.
Came back out and said that the team did agree– Simon’s side effects weren’t worth it for a drug that hasn’t been tested in so long. So he is off it!

That means that his original last day of treatment (besides end of treatment tests/scans) of July 7th is now May 26th! Which is kinda scary to be done sooner… But we know Simon has done great, will continue to do great, and has many things left to do in this life!

We are so grateful for the promptings, prayers, and fasting to come to this decision.
We’ve really felt blessed to have opportunities in this country to seek other opinions, find people who want the best for you, and to have a long Heavenly Father looking out for us.

 

We are back inpatient on the 19th for round 3/5 for antibody/immunotherapy.

 

 

Month 2 of Immunotherapy

February was our 2nd month of immunotherapy.

We started the IL-2 infusion at home and the next week did it again with the CH 14.18.
It was awful.
He had so much morphine in him to keep the pain away.
He didn’t want to do anything or eat anything.

And like almost all of our inpatient stays- it snowed,

He lost a lot of weight but developed a new love for Kinder Eggs which there are TONS at Smith’s and Walmart right now. The toys are actually pretty good. Downside? He won’t eat the chocolate. He says it tastes amazing but he’s never tried it. Silly guy.

Upon coming home we knew a bit what to expect this time.
-tons of loose bowels
-nausea
-a while to get eating again
-panic attacks in his sleep.

And just when we got that all under control he started the Accutane again.
Mood swings galore. Anger, sadness, lethargy, sleepy, etc.
He would get about a 2 hour spell in the afternoon with energy and then crash emotionally and physically.

It is so hard to remember sometimes that he’s just 5 years old.
He doesn’t know why his emotions are suddenly out of control.
So we do a lot more cuddling, hugging, and talking things out.
And we find the movies that calm him down. Mostly the Spy Kids movies.

He will even tell you now that he is a spy kid but no one can know 🙂

The accutane is hard on the liver and kidneys.
So we have him on another medication to keep that under control.
it also REALLY dries out your skin/lips

However we noticed on March 4th that his eyes were super dilated, not reacting to light.
He was complaining of severe stomach/back pain.
His legs hurt and he wouldn’t walk.
He became more lethargic and wasn’t even getting upset anymore.

I contacted the on-call bone marrow team and they said it was expected but to get his labs done the next day.

So I took Si and Meg in for their labs (thank you to my mom for helping as Meg has a tendency to be social with everyone and also run away).
Meg’s labs looked great.
Simon had elevated liver counts (bilirubin was still okay).

Clinic called- don’t worry, continue on the way you are.

Which makes me feel like we did at diagnosis again- not being listened to and mommy gut is saying otherwise.

There is a hospital in New York City that is known to be one of the top Neuroblastoma hospitals in the world and I had the doctor’s direct office number.

I left 2 messages for them to call me back.

to be continued…..

(dressing change last night.  He HATES it)