Where did Ben go?
Peak-a-boo! There he is!!
After a good nights rest, a big family breakfast and lots of strong coffee (my brother-in-law makes it that way) we were feeling recharged from our busy Fourth of July festivities. I’m also happy to report that everyone escaped without any fireworks related injuries!!
We spent the next few days playing at Opi and Omi’s house in Greenwood. Much to his delight, Ben discovered these wonderful trucks, trailers and tractors the moment we stepped foot out of the car! He spent hours outside playing with them. At one point he began placing them side by side in a row right before he began heaving them into a big pile. I found the side by side thing interesting. It was the first time I’d seen him do that with his toys. I wonder if it is just a toddler thing OR did he give me a little glimpse into his personality? Maybe we’ll just have to wait and see!! There are certainly a few other family members (I will not mention any names…you know who you are!!) that I remember doing this same thing and it seems to be a “unique” trait they have carried with them into adulthood.
This is the same highchair I used when I was a wee babe. I started digging through some of my old photos with the hopes of finding one of me in the chair to post next to Ben’s pic, but my searching efforts were to no avail. So this is a request to my parents and/or other family members…if you have said picture could you please e-mail or snail mail it to me. Thanks!!
Ben never passes up an opportunity to wrestle!! Seriously, anytime he sees someone laying down he believes it is an open invitation to pounce on them! So after a little wrastlin’ with Opi, Ben turned on the charm and smooched on Laci and snuggled with Omi!
Opi and Omi had a spraying fountain froggie pool for Ben and Laci to cool off in. Clearly, Ben enjoyed playing with this ball in the pool. Apparently, he thinks Laci’s head is a good place to bounce it. Oh, just wait until Laci can hold her own one day…I have no doubt she’ll get him back!
While we were there we got to spend time with one of my best gal pals, Sonya, and her adorable girls, Laynee and Raegan. (Of course I didn’t have a single shot where they were all looking at the camera!!) We had lots of fun going out for pizza (okay, well that part was a little chaotic with four kiddos), chatting and even watching a movie!
One night after dinner, Dad and I were driving around checking out some pretty neighborhoods in the area when we drove by these amazing deer! I don’t think I have ever seen so many together not to mention in someone’s front yard. Apparently this is quite common in this particular neighborhood!!
One afternoon Dad took Ben for a ride on the lawn mower to keep him occupied while Candice and I made lunch. It worked marvelously and in no time we were sitting down to lunch. Afterwards we were busy getting the car packed up to head back to Fayetteville so once again Dad and Ben headed out to the lawn mower. When I went to check on them this is what I saw…
Jake returned Friday evening and we spent the rest of our trip at Tim and Candice’s house. From the moment he walked in the door (even before he saw the dogs), Ben was calling out, “Max, Max, Max.” It was so cute how he remembered sweet Max!
Here’s something we could have used around here about a month ago when Ben fell three (yes, THREE) times in two days leaving two large bruises and one small cut on his head. The not so fun part about learning to walk and being a very curious boy! The perfect fit don’t you think!?!
In addition to making a “whew” sound while waving his hand across the sky, Ben now says “plane!” He had a whole lot of fun watching planes pull up to the gate while playing with his beloved blue truck!
Thanks so much to our family for a “party” of a week! Speaking of parties…Happy Birthday to my nephew Landon that turned 10 on July 15th and Happy Anniversary x 2 to my Dad and Linda and Mom and Bill that both celebrated anniversaries this month! A party month indeed!
On the morning of July 3rd, Jake, Ben and I headed out bright and early to the airport. With Jake’s busy work schedule it isn’t too often that we all get to travel back to Arkansas together for a visit. However, with the 4th of July holiday approaching plus Jake’s need to make a business trip to Remington’s Little Rock office, this was the perfect opportunity to travel together.
The flight started off just right when we learned that we had an empty seat in our row. Ben was thrilled to have his own space…and so were we! For those of you that have traveled with toddlers you know what a blessing that was! We managed to keep our busybody busy by reading books, eating snacks, mingling with the neighbors behind us (they didn’t seem to mind too much that Ben had his face smushed between the seats staring at them) and taking a stroll up and down the aisle.
Once we arrived in NWA we stopped by the pharmacy where Tim and Candice both just happened to be working that day. Ben had lots of fun exploring the place…he wanted to go back behind the pharmacy counter so very badly. There was also this little old lady there that was very interested in Ben. She asked me his name…I told her Ben…she replied, “Charlie, that’s a cute name!” Charlie, Ben…whatever…she was having such a good time talking to him it didn’t matter what his name was!
We were able to spend some quality time with Ben’s grandma and grandpa that weekend before they left for the week for treatment at CTCA.
The last time we came to visit they bought him some really cool trucks that light up and make sounds. Turns out…Ben’s not the only one that really enjoys playing with them!
That evening we made our way out to Jill and David’s house. They hosted the Fourth of July festivities at their place this year. They were wonderful hosts!! At about 8:30 that night, Jill, Kayla and I ventured out to Wal-Mart to pick up a few “necessities” for our holiday festivities the next day.
Crazy ladies on aisle five. Check. Essential party tiaras. Check.
We were suffering from sheer exhaustion and needless to say we were quite delirious by the time we returned home roughly three hours later. As we walked through the back door sporting our fancy $1 tiaras David asked quizzically, “What did you do?!?” I think we’ve been banned from any future late night outings to Wal-Mart (at least until our husbands forget about the whole incident)!
A little rain was NOT going to ruin our big day (although the giant bolts of lightening and booming thunder were a bit scary at times). Thankfully it subsided before long and we were ready to celebrate. Party! Party! Party! Party! (I’ll digress for a second…Ben and I checked out a book the other week at the library about an elephant and a pig that go to a party. Throughout the book it repeats…Party! Party! Party! Party! So now anytime I think of a party/celebration I can’t help but think…Party! Party! Party! Party!) Anywho, we had the guys cooking outside while the ladies worked on many delectable dishes inside. Then we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the day with family!
And to end the evening (to a very spectacular day), Jake and Tim put on quite the fireworks display. Here’s the grand finale…”Love on Fire”! (Ben was sleeping in a bedroom on the side of the house where we were shooting off fireworks…amazingly enough, he slept through the entire thing!) Enjoy the show!
We were very excited to have Ben’s Uncle Matt and Aunt Amanda (Jake’s brother and sister) come and visit us in Florida at the end of June! Matt lives in San Francisco, CA and Amanda lives in Olympia, WA so it is always a special treat to see them, AND that they both came to visit at the same time was extra special!! This was Ben’s first time to meet his Uncle Matt (he was working overseas when Ben was born)!! Here are the highlights from our time together:
Ben loved hanging out with his Uncle Matt. As a special surprise Ben learned to say “Matt” right before he came to visit!
One morning we went to a birthday party in the neighborhood for Ben’s little friend, Olivia. I’m pretty sure this was Matt’s first time to attend a birthday party where the majority of the attendees averaged about two years of age! It was a water themed party with all kinds of kiddie pools, sprinklers and a slip n’ slide. Thank goodness for all of the water to help cool us off…it was hot! In this pic Ben had just finished polishing off a cupcake with blue icing!!
Amanda and Nichole along with Baby Cameron drove over from Daytona that afternoon to spend the rest of the day with us. Here we are watching the kids play in Ben’s room. Ben and Cameron were super cute together! She’s giving him a big smooch in that last pic!
During our plumbing fiasco, the super nice woman that took my initial semi-frantic call started inquiring about our last name…specifically she wanted to know if it was German. When I replied with a “yes” she stated that we “just had” to try out this authentic German restaurant named Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe. So that evening we decided to try it out and sure enough…it was delicious…schnitzel, sausage, sauerkraut and more! What fun we had trying out a sampling of many things from the menu!
Next stop, the ice cream shop!
Uncle Matt reading “Ten Apples Up On Top” to Ben before bedtime.
The next day was Father’s Day!
It was also a very special day because Baby Cameron was baptized at Ryan and Nichole’s church in Daytona. We were honored to share the day with them!!
The day before she left, Aunt Amanda joined us at the library for story time! Matt and Amanda, Thank you for coming to visit us!! We miss you lots already!
Jake, Ben and I returned home this week after a trip back to Arkansas from July 3-13. We planned the trip before my mom knew about her chemo treatment dates so we didn’t get to spend as much time with her as expected, but fortunately for us we did get to spend some time with her the weekend before and after she returned home from CTCA.
Thank you all so much for your continued prayers for my mom and specifically for her first round of chemo treatment. So far she has tolerated the treatment very well with no nausea! What a blessing! We are truly thankful!
Here’s an e-mail update along with a few pictures sent out by my step-dad the day after they returned home from treatment.
E-mail update dated 7/12/09:
Dear Family & Friends,
We just got back from CTCA late yesterday afternoon. It was a busy week…filled with lots of oncology appointments, questions, prayers, tears, and a high-dose chemo treatment. As most of you know, Judy had originally planned on receiving only palliative care for her pancreatic cancer since it is inoperable. But, now after a number of consults and encouragement from CTCA staff she has decided to give both chemo and radiation a try. The staff made it quite clear that she can discontinue her treatments at any time if she so chooses. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that with the latest advances in equipment and techniques there at the Cancer Treatment Center, side effects are kept to a minimum. Not only have we heard that stated by the doctors, nurses, and technicians, but we have also heard those same encouraging comments coming from past and present patients. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to extend Judy’s life through healing.
Right now, we are scheduled to do preliminary PET and CT scans for radiation on July 27th. That one day at the hospital also includes making a vacuum-fitted mold for Judy… to insure the accuracy of the radiation beams. Then, on August 2nd we’ll drive back up to CTCA again to begin two months of treatment. It will begin with a surgical placement of a Port-a Cath just under the right collar bone. That will allow IV access for chemo infusions and prevent damage to the peripheral veins in the arms. We will be living there for that period of time as Judy will be receiving daily radiation, Monday through Friday, for eight weeks and concurrent IV chemotherapy, once a week, for 6 weeks. She will be treated on an outpatient basis.
Please pray that there will be no side effects, and that the good hand of God will heal my lovely wife through whatever means He chooses. We bless each of you for your continued earnest prayers.
Our love and prayers to you,
Addendum e-mail update dated 7/13/09:
Déjà Voux Family & Friends,
Last night after I had emailed the latest update I was pondering “everything” that had taken place in the last couple of months. Sometimes when things happen so quickly, we forget the most important things…or rather, people. I’m adding this addendum for that reason. In addition to all of you we love and express our deepest appreciation, I must also add Connie, my younger and only sibling, who has been a faithful prayer warrior for Judy and me from day one. She has spent time ministering to us both times we’ve been in Zion, traveling in from DeKalb, Il. It is quite a sacrifice for her to make the trip since she has pulmonary fibrosis and is on oxygen nearly 24/7. Thanks, Sis…we love you!
Also, I thought I’d add a few pics (of the many taken) for those who live quite a distance away or for those who have not seen Judy for awhile. Once again, we send our love and blessings to each of you!
1 – Judy at the XNA airport contemplating our first visit to CTCA.
2 – Our trip from O’Hare to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America via stretch limo, compliments of CTCA.
3 – Outside the Cancer Treatment Center in Zion, Il.
4 – Judy and Connie…enjoying an early breakfast at the motel. As you can see, Judy is quite jaundiced (yellow).
5 – Judy and Dr. Vashi, her gastroenterologist, discussing medications and treatment on our first visit to CTCA. This was taken before Dr. Vashi placed the biliary stent to relieve her jaundice and its symptoms.
6 – One of the RN’s starting an IV prior to the ERCP and stent placement.
7 – Judy and Dr. A., her oncologist, after discussing treatment options and talking about his relationship with Jesus. This was taken on our second visit to CTCA. It’s obvious by Judy’s skin color that Dr. Vashi did an excellent job of placing a temporary plastic stent.
8 – Judy is being comforted by Tammy, a Radiation Oncology nurse who had just explained the risks and benefits of radiation treatments.
9 – Judy is actually eating supper during her first chemo treatment last Thursday. Outside of extreme fatigue on Sunday after our arrival home, she has not experienced any other side effects from the treatment. That’s a real answer to prayer since it was 5X the dose she will be receiving in Aug/Sept.
In His hands,
My mom is starting her first round of chemotherapy treatment today. She and my step-dad arrived back at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) this past Sunday (July 5th), and after repeating some lab work to evaluate her current bilirubin levels (among other things) it was determined that she is now a candidate for chemo. My mom sounded very “up” on the phone this afternoon when we spoke. She said that she is at peace with her decision to begin both chemo and radiation therapy (as many of you know, this was not an easy decision). The chemo treatment will begin at 5 pm (CST) today. Please pray!! Pray that my mom (and step-dad) would be encouraged as this treatment begins, that she would tolerate the treatment very well and that she would be healed…completely healed!
What’s happening next? My mom and step-dad are scheduled to return home this Saturday (July 11th). On July 27th they will return to CTCA where my mom will have a CT and PET Scan performed. The results from these tests will be used in establishing the proper radiation therapy treatment for her. She will then spend eight weeks beginning on August 3rd undergoing chemo and radiation therapy.
Below, I’ve included two e-mail updates sent out by my step-dad over the past month. I thought it would be helpful in bringing you all up to speed.
E-mail update dated 6/30/09:
Dear Family and Friends,
The Lord continues to sustain us each day with His amazing and transforming grace. One of His greatest gifts to us is each of you. What a blessing you’ve been to us on our journey. We can’t express how much your prayers and your quiet behind-the-scenes kindnesses have meant to Judy and me.
Since last writing we have been to the Midwest Regional Medical Center in Zion, Illinois…where the Cancer Treatment Centers of America is located. Without a doubt, we had an action packed week. But, we have nothing but positive comments regarding our experience there. Not a moment was wasted. Their holistic approach to cancer treatment was quite impressive. We had consults with our nurse navigator (who served as our liaison), a nutritionist, mind and body therapist, a naturopath, and our team internist and gastroenterologist. Besides having a bone scan, PET scan, and a CT of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, Judy also had numerous blood tests the first three days. Because of a blocked biliary duct and aberrant lab values, Judy had a procedure under managed anesthesia care called an “ERCP with stent placement” on day four. Day five was a well-needed day of recuperation back in the motel room before our flight home the next day. Since then, we’ve been regrouping and running up to the VA for follow-up lab work.
Cutting through all the medical jargon, Judy’s pancreatic tumor is now 4 x 4 centimeters. When first discovered, it was 3 x 3 centimeters. She is still a bit jaundiced (yellow), although her lab values look considerably better after the stent(a small tubular drain) was placed. Unfortunately, the tumor presently involves more vascular structures. Judy is now taking pancreatic enzymes to help withdigestion, but is still dealing with the frequent lower GI distress. She has a reasonably good appetite, but is still losing weight…nearly 40 pounds now. On the bright side, however, her pain is pretty well controlled and she tolerates “I love you” hugs very well. 🙂
We are planning on a return trip to CTCA this coming Sunday. I believe we’ll be there for a week, but that’s somewhat up-in-the-air right now. Chemotherapy is probably next. Judy really doesn’t want radiation, and is quite frankly, reluctant to begin chemo. But, we’ll see what the game plan is after we consult with the oncologist on Monday. Then, Judy can make her determination regarding future treatment based on all the +’s and -‘s.
On a final note, let me share a quick praise. God blessed our lives by allowing us to meet a really neat couple from Oklahoma City…John and Debbie. We met them on our trip from O’Hare to the motel. John was there for treatment of kidney cancer. Throughout the week we had the opportunity to compare notes and pray for one another. Wednesday we found out, after all his testing, that John did not have kidney cancer. Hallelujah! We thank you Lord for your mercy and grace on this wonderful couple!!!
Again, we bless each of you for your continued prayers for Judy.
With love and deepest appreciation…
E-mail update dated 6/06/09:
Dear Family and Friends,
We send our deepest thanks once again for your continued prayers and loving interventions. I’ll do my best to fill you in on the most significant happenings since about a month ago. To begin with, the nerve block that was done on May 7th up in St. Louis was essentially ineffective. However, about three weeks ago Judy met with a pain management specialist associated with the oncology group here at the VA. She started Judy on Prednisone in hopes of helping with visceral pain. Actually, it has offered several benefits. Not only has it helped decrease the pain and reduce the narcotic intake, but it has also kept Judy from being so somnolent from the opiates. In addition, it has stimulated her appetite. That has been a real plus since Judy has lost 30 pounds as of last weigh-in. Now she is actually wanting to eat. So, her weight has been stable for the past week or so. Thank you Lord!
Generally speaking, Judy is up-and-around every day and has more of those beautiful smiles on her face. The things that keep her closest to home, at present, are occasional severe abdominal pain and frequent lower GI distress with all the imaginable symptoms.
Just about a week ago, out of curiosity, Judy contacted the The Cancer Treatment Centers of America. To abbreviate a lengthy story, we are scheduled to fly to the one in Chicago (actually, Zion, Illinois) on Father’s Day. We will be staying there for a week. The testing and treatment regimen is completely personalized and holistic. There will be a personal team of health care professionals assigned to Judy. Already, through follow-up phone interviews, it appears that a primary focus will be nutrition. We are both so thankful for this find.
At the same time we were considering the Chicago trip, God provided us with an incredibly large anonymous gift through our church (New Heights Church). We were totally humbled and nearly speechless after opening the envelope Brian handed us. We pray that this person(s) generosity be multiplied back to them. Of course, that is our prayer for all of you who have been so generous with your prayers, cards, visits, meals, and other acts of love toward us. Richest blessings to you!
With love and appreciation,
Bill & Judy