Cancer can steal a lot of things..... But not this!!!

Reflecting back on some of the feelings from our journey…

I remember the day we found out about Atticus’s Tumor so vividly! When I think about that day I often get a sick feeling in my stomach, sometimes I feel as if I cant breath for a minute! Its so crazy how certain things will trigger that awful sick feeling again. I will never forget that feeling! I know I'm not alone and that several other parents and families have felt the same feelings I have felt! Some days I wish so bad that I didn’t know what it feels like to be told my child has cancer! Some days I wake up wondering if it was all a dream and then quickly realizing its our life! The dark cloud of Cancer doesn’t just go away after treatment or resection of the tumor. It lives on, and day after day I’m reminded of it! Some days are better than others and with time I’m told it gets easier!  I don’t want to wish my days away, hoping that it will go away someday or that I wont have to worry constantly if the cancers back! That’s not the life I want to live! That’s not the life Atticus wants us to live either! There is more to life than worrying about cancer day in and day out! We will not let cancer rule our lives!  Cancer will not steal our joy, our hope, or our life's dreams! It will only encourage us to live life more fully and reach for all our dreams! We will continue to press forward with unwavering faith and hope!

When Cancer treatment is over you have so many mixed feelings and emotions as a parent and I’m sure as a patient as well! We were so happy and overjoyed that Atticus had completed and conquered a major 8 hour brain surgery and now Chemo treatment!! We were beyond grateful for him to not be infused with the toxic drugs that made him profusely sick and vomit his guts out! His little body overcame so much, between so many infections, transfusions, lab draws, dressing changes, surgeries, x-rays, CT scans, MRI’s and the major scare of Pneumatosis and Typhlitis! Atticus was and is a true hero! 

But then the fear sets in! Your done with treatment and now we are not actively doing something to kill the cancer cells!! You wonder, did the chemo kill all the cancer cells, Will the cancer come back, Will the scans be clear??? The thought of leaving the hospital permanently and not going back until the next scans and check-ups made me so uneasy! Your life has been ruled and dictated by the hospital for so long, it was our safe haven! The thought of leaving Seattle Children's Hospital and walking out those hospital doors was absolutely terrifying!

Leaving the Cancer floor for the last time!  Feels so so good.

Oh how we had longed for this day, to be able to go home and be a normal family! I sometimes found myself wishing for our old life back! The life we had as a family before cancer! It was in that moment of coming home that I realized this is our new normal! I needed to learn how to deal with this new normal of Cancer forever being such a huge part of our lives!  Coming home was very emotional and hard at times but it has also been better than I could have ever imagined!  Finally seeing Atticus run, giggle, play and be a naughty 2 year old has brought us all happiness beyond our imagination!

Leaving the Hospital after his LAST treatment!!

Even though I HATE cancer, (and i dont hate many things) it sure has taught me and our family some of the best lessons in life! We have all grown so much and we are so much stronger and nothing can break the special bond between us!  I learned how to truly love with all my heart! I thought I knew and understood what faith and hope was, I learned really quickly what faith really is and how to trust completely in the Lord! Sending your baby into the O.R. for extensive brain surgery not knowing if you would ever see him again was a faith and trust builder for sure! I learned more about peace in those quiet hallowed halls of the hospital while holding my sweet boy in my arms. I've never felt so close to heaven as I did during this time! I learned the importance of hope, charity and service! Atticus has taught me more in the last 8 months than most learn in a lifetime! And yet he continues to teach me and remind us all each day of what life’s about! He has such a happy soul, it is truly inspiring. Cancer stole a lot from us, but we won’t let it rule our lives! Life can still be happy and we can and will find joy, happiness and hope in each day! Cancer has made us all reach higher to pursue all our dreams and to never hold back in fear!  I am grateful for this life we have been given and I will make each day count! This life was made to be cherished! 

Atticus is happy to be home!

Thanks for all your support!

Happy Hollidays!!!

Hey Army,  1/11/17

I know that it has been a while since the last post.  I would like to apologize for that, but I hope that as this blog unfolds you might see some of the reasons that we have missed the last few weeks of posts.

First off Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years!

Merry Christmas from Atticus

Can you believe that it is 2017 already!?!?!?  It seems so surreal that we are here already and even more so that our crazy little family has lived here in Seattle for close to 5 months!  It was pretty funny this morning as Emmie and I sat down and reflected that we have been here in Seattle much much longer then we ever lived in Pullman, where technically our house still awaits our long over due return.  Some of you may recall, but for the rest of us we only lived in Pullman for 3 measly weeks when we found out about our son's tumor, and have been in Seattle ever since.

Well, wow, I don't really know where to start on the month of December....... I guess surgery.  Surgery went fantastic in spite of our worries, and our little warrior recovered fantastic as he seems to do.  He really is quite resilient in that way, we feel that we have been so blessed.  We were in the Hospital throughout that weekend, and over his birthday, and were subsequently discharged on Monday.  Chemo was set to start on that Thursday for our first of 3 cycles of what they have termed "consolidation".

I feel that a little bit of background info may help shed some light for all of you that aren't living this each day as it may be a bit confusing. Our treatment comprises of 6 cycles, and two phases.  We have finished the first entire phase, and now have entered the last phase...... consolidation.  This phase was developed primarily by the chief oncologist here at Seattle Children's in leu of using radiation. As a general practice radiation is avoided in young infants and toddlers if at all possible.  Radiation is, however, very effective at destroying any left over ruminants of cancer left in tissue, as well as those cells that may be floating around from surgery.  So, this consolidation protocol was developed to address that issue.

Giving Dad kisses

Really it makes sense if you think about it.  The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor, well at least what parts you can see.  After all the hallmark defining principle of cancer is that it ignores cellular boundaries and invades other tissues.  So typically when a surgeon plans his approach it involves "margins" or in other words to take enough surrounding tissue around the tumor to catch all of the invasive parts of the cancer.  As you can imagine the brain does not afford much wiggle room to have sufficient margins.  And thus consolidation was born.

Our protocol consists of two different chemotherapy agents given over two days.  The main one is called thiotepa, and let me tell you it's a beast!  Most of the ones we have used up to this point have been excreted through the urine, and so we have had to be on a lot of fluid and diuretics to help make sure that there is no damage to the kindness or bladder.  Thiotepa in contrast, is excreted through the skin.  So... On comes the baths!  And boy did it keep us busy.  We had to bathe him 4 times each of those 2 days and for 36 hours after.  Each bath time we had to change his cloths and bedding.  Then once each day all of the dressings for his central line, and for his feeing tube.  Those of you here that have been through a central line dressing can appreciate the task of doing this each day on a toddler.

Oh the baths!!

Once we cleared the 36 hour mark, we had a day of rest before we did the stem cell transplant and his nulasta shot.  Atticus of course handled it like a champ!  He was however, quite nauseated and was throwing up pretty often.  We had him on 4 different anti-emetics (vomiting) medication to try and help, but to no avail.  But as a side note, if anyone needs a professional throw up catcher,  I think I could help! Haha. I have become quite good at catching that throw up while holding his feeding tube in even in a sleeping stupor at 3 in the morning.  There is nothing worse than having a a vomiting toddler, that you then have to put a feeding tube back in!  It is no fun!  But, we made it through and left on Monday evening after we finished everything with his stem cell transplant.   In between cycles 1 and 2 we had our stem cell aphesis or collection, and this is what that was for.  He now gets a form of auto-transplant (getting something back from him self) of his white cells.  With how aggressive this phase is, it is quite likely that his numbers would never recover if we didn't have these cells to give him.  We are so grateful for modern medicine!!!

But, we made it through and by the end of the three days of having to do this we were pros!  The following few day after the stem cell transplant Atticus was pretty nauseated, much more then usual after chemo.  I was a bit concerned about him getting dehydrated and he was looking quite pale.  I called on Wednesday and they said it is still most likely from the chemo and if he is still just as bad in the morning to call.  So Thursday morning came and sure enough he was still throwing up in spite of all the medication we were giving him.  They had us come in and they ended up admitting us to help him get rehydrated and get on top of his anti-emetics since there is no point to continue giving him medication that he will just throw up! Haha. In the hospital we can at least give it to him IV so that should help.... The plan was to spend a few days and hopefully get out Saturday (Christmas Eve) so that we could all be together as a family.

We actually had a GREAT holiday planned!!! Emmie's whole family planned to come for Christmas and I was able to find a big house that we all went in on to stay under the same house.  We were very excited!!!  We had just a great plan, get loaded up, he can get his blood, and platelets while we were there, and we would be out for Christmas!!!

The other kiddos had great fun with the cousins!!!

Oh how our plans changed, and what a difference 24 little hours make.  By Friday morning Atticus had spiked a fever, and was so so very sick.  In fact, he didn't even wake up at all Friday or Saturday.  We were started on some antibiotics when his fever spiked early Friday morning, and by Friday afternoon he was so sick the doctors ordered an abdominal X-ray.  Well turns out, he had pneumatosis (gas found within the intestinal wall) and typhlitis (inflammation of the cecum).  Pneumatosis is especially concerning as the gas is created as a by product of bacteria that has penetrated the intestinal wall and can, if left unchecked, end in a ruptured bowel.  Which is NOT a good thing and can lead to many other complications.

We actually ended up hitting 105!!! We had towels and such trying to cool him off.

We hated seeing him so sick, and not able to wake up!

Usually your immune system will keep the bacteria that is normally found in your system in check.  However, this last chemo cycle was so rough that there were no "guards" left at the gate and the bacteria was able to make it though.  First order of business was to stop all food and liquid to the gut, and cut off the supply of food, and other such things to the infection.  We had to replace the normal feeding tube with a replogle tube, which is very similar but a bit bigger and more stiff then the other one, and it allowed us to hook him up to a suction system to pull everything out of his stomach.  And OH WOW... the stuff that came out.  It was this thick, dark green crap  that I just felt sooo bad there was in there in the first place.  And all of the sudden it totally made sense why he was so nauseated!!!

This was just a little bit of what came out of his stomach!!! it was gross.

So, a long story short we spend 2 entire weeks in the hospital recovering.  He was put on complete gut rest and was put on a TPR (total parental nutrition) diet which is given completely through IV.  After a week of that we spent the next week regaining his strength and trying to get him eating again.  It was quite the process.  We had a few really scary nights filled with extremely low blood pressures and high heart rates, as well as and entire 48+ hours that he didn't even wake up.  Luckily he was able to pull through and two weeks from when we were admitted we were finally able to get out of the hospital!

Atticus loves doing little coloring projects, and going to song time!

As soon as we made it home we had our own little belated Christmas for Atticus and he was finally able to open his presents.  I would like to say thank you so much for everyone that helped us this Christmas by way of presents, prayers, thoughts, and phone calls.  All of your support has been so heartfelt and we have benefited from it so much this holiday season in spite of our trials.  Christmas was so special to spend with family, and we were still able to share it with our little gold warrior.

There will be some big changes coming to Atticus's treatment protocol in the coming weeks, and we will keep you updated when they are more concrete.  The primary reasons are because of how hard this last cycle was on him, and the possibility of him having Li-Fraumeni's among  other things.  We will touch on those in the next post as we should be hearing back from the genetic testing any day now.

Thanks for all you support

Just when you think you have things figured out......

Hey Army, 

Well, it has been quite the crazy week.  Emmie and I were anxious as it was for the MRI scheduled on Tuesday as part of our preadmit visit for chemo cycle 4 on Wednesday.  As you have probably gathered from previous posts, CPC (choroid plexus carcinoma) is a pretty aggressive cancer.  So needless to say Emmie and I had "scanxiety" in full effect.

He likes coloring while we wait to go back

My wife's sister was soooo kind and drove out to be with us during the scan, and to take our kiddos for the week so that Emmie and I could both be with Atticus during his chemo treatment.  Sure enough Tuesday morning came and we found ourselves sitting in the radiology waiting room asking each other how we ended up here.  I find myself more ad more lately reflecting on the choices, decisions, paths, and turns that lead my little family down this path.  It's oddly amusing to look back just a few short months ago and recall, all too vividly, how I felt that everything was decided, and working out just how we had planned.  I guess I would say to my past self, "  The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it."

Boy isn't this true.  I am not saying this to complain, or self-defeat, it is just a fact.  It seems often in life that once you feel that you have it all figured out that something comes along to test the foundation as it were.  It seems that our foundation was in need of some repair.  Emmie and I have spent many days and nights full of tears, frustration, anger, resentment, and fear.  But, above all weakness, we have found that neither myself or Emmie could have done this on our own.  The path we find our little family on is a tricky one and traversing it all the way to the end doesn't guarantee all of your troops will be present.  We have seen first hand how easy it is to fall off, and the results are devastating to a family.  It is so easy to let that anger, and frustration to turn onto those that are close to you.    We have out of necessity learned that our strength needs to be firmly planted both in each other and buoyed by the Lord.

We handed our little warrior off to the anesthesiologists once again and sat and waited.  After what felt like a lifetime our little guy was returned to us, and to him at least he was only gone for a moment.  Our wonderful nurse practitioner poked her head in and said, "Hey I just walked by radiology, and first there is no evidence of any tumor growth at all!!"  We, of course, were elated and relieved.  It felt like the biggest weight was lifted off our shoulders.  But then we realized that she said, first off.......  It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop,  she said that there appeared to be a "trapped ventricle" and our neurosurgery team was looking at it and we would meet with them later.

What did this mean??  Well, as it turns out as Atticus's brain healed after the initial resection there was a portion more towards the front that got walled off by scar tissue.  One way to look at this would be to think about a lake with multiple inlets but only one outlet.  If you were to dam up one of the streams that fed into the lake over time it would continue to swell and swell with nowhere for the incoming water to go.  The lake would receive minimal impact as this was only a small feeder stream, but to the areas surrounding the stream it could potentially have a big effect.  This is very similar to damming off a section of the ventricle.  The cells that reside in the isolated part will continue to produce fluid, and with nowhere to drain, it swells, and the body produces a cyst.  

Elsewhere in the body, we would probably just pop it, let it drain and forget about it.  In the brain, it isn't quite that simple.  In growing and swelling there are a lot of things that can be damaged, much like the vegetation, and life surrounding that little stream.  But in this case vegetation is represented, by motor function, speech, balance, higher learning and all the life sustaining things that your brain does each day without you even knowing about it.  This, of course, needed to be addressed.  At this point, the cyst wasn't big enough to cause any serious, or permanent side effects, so the question wasn't if the intervention needed to take place, but that of when.  

Chemotherapy is a very thin line to walk on, we want to give enough medications to disrupt and destroy cancer-causing cells, but not enough to cause irrebuttable damage to the normal function of the body.  The gap between these two effects is typically termed the "therapeutic index."  Think about it as the distance between two points, the further the two points, let's say..... Seattle to Pullman, the safer the drug, and less of a chance of undesired side effects.  But if those points were to be from 145th street to 150th street.  You can see how that window isn't very big.  Atticus currently was in this little window where he had recovered from the last round of Chemo enough to start the next round, but in starting the next round that gap would close and then doing other things like surgery would be much riskier.  

So the decision was made to postpone our next chemo cycle in lieu of this window.  So the next question was how to fix it.  They decided to have us wait and they would present it at the tumor board meeting on Wednesday.  So we meet with the chief surgeon on Wednesday afternoon and we concluded that we would open a portion of his original incision up and then endoscopically fenestrate (cut holes in) the cyst to try and help it communicate with the rest of the ventricle so it can drain.  Then they put in a catheter in that would come out to his skull just under the skin so that if it formed again they could tap into this reservoir and drain it without us having to go to surgery.  So we were set for surgery on Friday.

It is important to keep your mind occupied during surgery!  We resorted to cards. 

While it is true that this surgery is very different then the last big surgery we went into, our nerves couldn't tell the difference.  It was hard to send Atticus back into surgery when he was doing so well. We felt that we had finally got on top of all the side effects of chemo, and he was acting like a normal terrible two years old should.  Telling us NO, getting into everything, throwing fits, and Emmie and I love every single one of them! In fact, he has got quite a sassy attitude on him, he cracks us up.  

Inevitably Friday came, and we came to check in for our procedure.  We were able to meet with our surgeon prior to him heading for anesthesia.  She reassured us as the chief surgeon did that this surgery is nowhere near the risk, or technical nature as the one we have already gone through, but, it's still brain surgery.  We handed our little boy off yet again around 12:30 for his MRI after which he would head straight to surgery, followed by a post surgery MRI to confirm placement.  The next 5 hours seem to just slither along and a snail's pace.  Emmie and I did the best we could to pass the time without worrying and found ourselves in the gift shop buying a deck of cards and commenced to play Jin, BS, and other such games to pass the time.

It was so sad to see this again.... we felt so bad for our little guy! 

If you look close, you can see a little line that goes from the middle of his brain to that base of that little bump on his head.  That is the catheter they put in, so they could access the trapped ventricle if they had to.  

Finally, we were able to hold Atticus again, it's always an emotional reunion to have him back safe in our arms! We snuggled him in recovery and then we were brought up to our room around 6:30 PM. Caleb and I were also exhausted from the day and the worrying about surgery! We ordered in pizza and were able to get our little boy snuggled in for the night! Atticus had a good nights rest, which we were so grateful for!

So we are off to recovery to get rested and ready for the next chemotherapy session to start next week!!!

we had to celebrate his birthday in the hospital.

He didn't seem to mind his birthday in the hospital. 

We even had a fellow cancer friend come to visit.

Thanks for all of you support.

This was Emmie's present she got me for my birthday! I love this drawing!

Time to catch up!!

Hey Army,

Well, first off I would like to apologize that we haven't posted anything in quite a while.  We have just been so caught up with living life here in Seattle with our little family writing a blog post as half way been forgotten.  I promise we have not forgotten about our army and all the thoughts and prayers on our behalf.  Nevertheless, there is quite a bit to catch you all up on.  So, without further ado, these are the highlights.

Some pics back when Atticus had his hair! :-(

As you may all recall, Atticus needs to have an audiology (hearing) test before each round of chemotherapy.  Besides causing nausea and the blood numbers to drop, the Cisplatin that he had to take for the first 3 cycles of chemotherapy is ototoxic (causing hearing loss).  The first test that we did to start everything off was somewhat inconclusive.  It did show a little bit of hearing loss, but Emmie and I weren't too convinced that it was correct as Atticus was a bit uncooperative for the test.  But, it gave us a baseline nonetheless.  After the first round of chemotherapy, we had our second hearing test and it went much better than the initial one.  Emmie and I were thrilled.  The second round of chemo was pretty rough on a few different levels which also encompassed his hearing we found out later.

Atticus at his most recent hearing test. 

His third hearing test was quite a different story.  Emmie and I were devastated when we heard the news.  After all that has already happened, the surgery, the partial vision loss, and all the side effects we have already seen, here we go just adding on another.  Luckily, the current hearing loss has only affected the higher tones very few of which dip down into the areas of speech.  So at this point, we don't have to look into anything like hearing aides.  The only problem is that the full extent of the hearing loss won't be found for about a year.  What it does mean right now is that we had to change our third cycle of chemo a bit.  After consulting with our oncologists they decided to cut the cisplatin that caused the hearing loss had to be cut in half.  This should stop any further damage and then we will just have to play the waiting game to see the extent of the damage.  For now, he is unable to hear anything above 8,000 Hz, and our hope is that it will not get any worse over the coming months.  Even so, it is very likely in the coming months that we will have to start looking into some hearing aids.

Thanks giving was great! We even got served by a Seattle Seahawk!

Was able to keep up the Thanksgiving tradition of going to a movie.

Always so sad when Family has to leave.

The next big thing is that we finally got our genetic testing results back on the tumor tissue.  After the surgery, we sat down with our oncology team and had a pretty lengthy conversation on what to expect in the coming months, and about some of the options in the treatment protocol.  One such option was whether we wanted to have genetic testing done on the tumor.  When they test the tumor they will sequence somewhere around 150 or so different genes known that cancers typically overcome in formation of various cancers.  Having an idea of which genes a given cancer has mutated or silenced can, at times, give insight into how a tumor might have formed, and give valuable knowledge for possible treatment options, or future preventable medicine a patient may need to take.

Unfortunately, ours was a bit of both.  Our tumor came back with a mutation in a gene called TP53.  Without "geeking out" I will do the best I can to portray what this might surmount to.  TP53 is, among many things, a tumor suppressor.  Its primary job is to ensure that the cell is behaving and replicating as it should, and when the cell acts out it's much like a conductor of the orchestra.  The conductor is seated in just the right spot and has the power to stop the song at any point the orchestra starts to drift.  He may call the strings to attention to fix a certain part.  Once fixed the whole orchestra resumes and the song can continue.

Much like the conductor, TP53 does not like the cell act out, or just copy away without regard to fidelity.  If you think about how many times our ENTIRE genome is copied each day it is phenomenal that every person walking around us each day doesn't have cancer!!! But that is a topic for a different discussion.  Needless to say, when there are problems within the cell TP53 knows it and can do one of many things.
   1. If there is a problem in the copying of DNA, it may call to attention DNA repair proteins to fix the problem
   2.  It can stop the growth cycle, much like the conductor stopping the orchestra, to allow other things to find and fix the problem
   3.  If all else fails it can initiate something termed "apoptosis" or cell death.

At times a cell is damaged beyond repair, and to save the host, or us in this case, it is better to let a cell die than to risk the alternative.  Often times the alternative is tumor growth.  The exact type of tumor is dependent on where this cell lives, and it's function.  It may be a liver cell, Hepatocellular carcinoma, it may be a white blood cell, Leukemia, and so on and so on.  Now, I understand that I am simplifying the formation of cancer a bit, but suffice it to say that TP53 plays a major role in cancer suppression.  An inactive, or mutated TP53 gene can allow cells to replicate and proliferate unmonitored, resulting in cancer.

Atticus Army drawing! We LOVE IT

It should be no surprise then to find that close to 50% of all cancers are found to have a mutation in this gene!  At this point you may, and should, be asking your self. "well gee, if this is so common why are you telling me all of this stuff?"  Very astute question!

The real question is where did the mutation come from.  It starts to beg the question did the chicken come first or the egg???  Or in other words did Atticus's tumor mutate the gene......... or was the gene mutated and allowed the tumor to grow.   The former (and subsequently the desired result) would be a very unfortunate sequence of events that led to this horrible childhood illness.  The latter could be a foreshadowing of what might be, and subsequently called Li-Fraumeni syndrome, or an inhibited ability to keep tumors from forming.

While Li-Fraumeni syndrome is rare, it is the very thing we are currently testing for.   Because Atticus's tumor did show this mutation it is not clear which came first (the chicken or the egg).  So we will do some further testing to see if this mutation is found systemically (in is the whole body), or just in the tumor.  We, of course, are hoping and praying for it to just be found in the tumor. We will keep you updated!

I love this little backpack!

Playing Dr. during clinic.  He loves playing with these animals, but he makes sure they are always back on his backpack.

On a brighter note.  We have been so very blessed with such amazing friends from our community back home in Pullman Wa.  They have been working tirelessly and have put together a very special Christmas breakfast to support our little Atticus with his fight against brain cancer.  They have planned it to take place on his 2nd Birthday December 10th.  It is a quite odd thing for Emmie and I.  While we will be forever appreciative of all the love, prayers, and service we have received we quite often don't feel worthy of it.  That being said, this birthday for Atticus is quite special as without the all of the wonderful medical providers we have had the joy of being served by, this is a birthday that we may have never seen.

If you happen to be in Pullman, please share and join in with them in celebrating and supporting.  This is an activity of hope, thankfulness, and joy in this wonderful season.  We can't express how thoughtful, and meaningful this for our little family, especially in this holiday season.  Sometimes in life, you need to accept help when offered, and our family and friends there just seem to know what we need during this hard time.  So.... to all of those that have offered to serve, and have donated their time and talents, and to those that attend.  Thank you from our family.  I wish I could be there to give each and every one of you a big hug.

Click North Pole Breakfast for Atticus's Army for more information.

Am I strong enough to endure this?

Hey Army

Well, this last week has been pretty crazy.  As many of you know, we were admitted on Sunday night for a fever.  Luckily we were able to get in quickly and subsequently were released on Wednesday evening.  YEY!!!  It is always amazing to me how quickly Atticus responds to the medications when we can get him in quickly.  Also, we had been hoping and praying that we would be able to get out of the hospital before Friday, as we had some family pictures of which Emmie and I were really excited to do. 

Once we had finished our servitude for this round of chemo (it seems that we will be doing this whole fever thing is going to happen each time) Emmie set out to find some outfits for our pictures now that we knew we were going to be able to do them.  This is oddly enough a difficult task when you live out of a suitcase and don't have all of your clothes.  So Emmie worked her magic of course and came up with some great options for picture cloth and only had to buy a few items. 

About a week ago we had this amazing photographer Alison Lalor Photography contact us through Emmie's Instagram account.  She said that she had found us on the search page under accounts you might like and then messaged us and she said that she would like to offer her services as a photographer for no cost if we would like to have some pictures taken.  After meeting up with her on picture day she said that she always reads about the hard times that people are going through and struggles and always wishes there was a way she could help.  "This time enough was enough, I am going to do something!" she said to herself.

I think that this is such a great way to offer help.  Having been a photographer myself I know the time and effort that goes into producing a great picture.  There isn't just the photo shoot, you have all of the post sorting (often after doing a family shoot you have 300-500 shots to go through) and editing as well.  It was quite coincidental timing as Emmie and I have been trying to decide how we were going to get our family pictures done.  So to say the least we were VERY grateful for her reaching out to us.  After hearing the story and how we came to meet, I have reflected back on our journey these last few months and have seen that we have been blessed by many  people's talents that they have shared.  From the homemade blankets that we have been given here at the hospital (which Atticus loves), the knitted hats given to our children at the Ronald McDonald house, up to our most recent family pictures. 

You can find a lot of scriptures and stories about sharing talents.  One of the most well known would be the parable of the servants that each received various talents and were told to cultivate and grow them.  This, however, was not the one that came to my mind.  There was a man by the name of Marvin J. Ashton that spoke on this same principle of talents.  He said

“One of the great tragedies of life, it seems to me, is when a person classifies himself as someone who has no talents or gifts. When, in disgust or discouragement, we allow ourselves to reach depressive levels of despair because of our demeaning self-appraisal, it is a sad day for us and a sad day in the eyes of God. For us to conclude that we have no gifts when we judge ourselves by stature, intelligence, grade-point average, wealth, power, position, or external appearance is not only unfair but unreasonable. …
“God has given each of us one or more special talents. … It is up to each of us to search for and build upon the gifts which God has given. We must remember that each of us is made in the image of God, that there are no unimportant persons. Everyone matters to God and to his fellowmen. …
“We must remember that to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. It is our right and responsibility to accept our gifts and to share them”
 I cannot think of a better way to offer help to someone, or in our case our family, in need than to share that which you have been blessed with.  While Emmie and I will forever appreciate the beautiful pictures that were a result of our photo shoot, We will cherish the sharing of her talent in our time of need far longer. 

We were able to find some free time to take the other two kiddos out to do some fun things!!

Our family pictures couldn't have come at a better time.  Atticus, understandably, was very fussy during family pictures but we made it, though.  Late Friday night, or I guess early Saturday morning (3 AM) our fever app woke us up.  I grabbed my phone and looked at it and sure enough, Atticus had a fever again!!!  It made it up to 102.3!!  I called the "on call oncologist" and no surprises here, I was on my way back into the hospital.  AAAAAHHHHH!!!  I think I can handle one fever episode and subsequent ER and hospital stay per chemotherapy cycle.  But TWO?!?!?!?!?  I don't know about this. 

Atticus LOVES flirting with the nurses.  They have all been so great with him

Let me just say this can get real old real fast!  We had all this fun stuff planned for the weekend before we start our next round of chemo next week.  My Mom came to help us so we had a lot of activities we were going to do while Atticus was out of the hospital.  And of course, we now are spending it in the hospital.  

There have been many times throughout this journey that Emmie and I just sit back and look at each other and say..... "What are we doing here?"  Which is often followed by, " I don't know how I am going to make it through this,  I don't know if I am strong enough to make it through one more day of this."  I feel that we do a pretty good job at being optimistic, and looking for the uplifting and positive aspects of this trial.  But honestly, at times it does feel that we just aren't cut out for this.  Although the specific aspects aren't important, we find it is the same things that we tend to struggle and get frustrated with. 

I served an LDS mission in eastern Canada (a story for another time perhaps).  Suffice it to say, there were many times that I felt equally as weak and inadequate with no apparent way to overcome the struggle at the time.  It's funny how certain things that had such an impact on your life or viewpoint  get lost along the road in this life, and yet somehow they find their way back. 

Well, this is one of those things.  It comes from a church magazine that was published during my mission....

“Sometimes, in spite of all we do to ‘make weak things become strong,’ the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, does not take away our weakness. 
The Apostle Paul struggled throughout his life with ‘a thorn in the flesh,’ which he said served to humble him ‘lest [he] should be exalted above measure’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times Paul asked the Lord to take away his weakness, and three times the Lord declined to do so. The Lord then explained that His grace was sufficient for Paul and that, in fact, His strength was actually ‘made perfect in weakness.’ Then Paul wrote, ‘Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ …
“Like Paul, we can find positive meaning in weaknesses that are not taken away. Surely nothing is quite as humbling as having a weakness that we cannot overcome but must continue to struggle with throughout our life. Such a weakness teaches us, in a very personal way, that after all we can do we must rely on the grace of Christ to make up the difference.
“As we humbly submit our will to the Lord’s, we find that our weaknesses can indeed become sources of strength if we put our trust in Him.”

I am so thankful for these moments of recollection that helps to calm my troubled soul.  It seems that the Lord does hear us and in His own time and way help us along our journey.  I hope that I may continue to look for the positive in my weaknesses and not forget to rely on Him to get me through. 
Thanks for all of your support and kind words.   
Here's out Halloween sneek peek!!!