Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008!

I wanted to do a post before Bree’s next round of chemotherapy...Our Christmas was wonderful. We spent Christmas Eve with my family and enjoyed a nice dinner and exchanged presents. Then Christmas morning was so relaxing. We had a great breakfast then opened presents with the kids. That afternoon we had Christmas dinner with Justin’s family. I couldn’t help but just feel completely GRATEFUL for a wonderful husband and our beautiful children. (Sorry for the lack of editing, my children don't normally have such red eyes!)
Just being TOGETHER enjoying the laughter, the excitement and love was the best part for me this year. I really didn’t want anything else than to be together. I love this time we have so that everyone can celebrate the birth of our Savior. This year has been especially important and everything has been put into proper perspective. The LOVE we share as a family is what is most important. Our children are little for such a short time and I’m just excited to be a part of their lives. (Sorry to sound so sappy, I really am just thankful for my little family and wanted to share!)
Here are a few highlights of Christmas and the past week:
Bree loved her first Christmas. She loved watching her brothers open their gifts and enjoyed her wrapping paper and boxes more than her actual toys.

Gunner loved opening presents this year…he didn’t care what he got, he just wanted to keep opening the presents!

Caleb loved playing around in the wrapping paper and loved his mini piano. This kiddo loves music! He’s also just thrilled his sister is home and that he can smooch on her again!

• Bree was successful in pulling her NG tube out a few times. I’ve put it back in and am slowly getting over my fear and anxiety of having to deal with this tube.
The look on her face in this picture is priceless. I’m sure she was so proud of herself that she got the tube out and probably felt so much better…it didn’t last long. I had to put it back in her an hour later. Poor baby! The good thing is, the supplemental feedings are working. She went to the doctor today and has gained a little over a pound in the 10 days that she’s had it. So, we are very happy that she’s gaining some weight!

Another highlight this past week was going to the zoo! We went outside! Can you believe it!? We all went to the zoo with my Mom and Justin’s sister and bro in law and their kids. It was great to spend some time outdoors instead of hiding inside from germs and sickness! All the kids loved seeing the animals and spending time with cousins!

As of today, Bree's scheduled for her 4th round of chemo on Friday. It should be another 3 day treatment. Thanks again for all the continued prayers, fasting and sweet thoughts and sentiments for our Breezy. We hope everyone has a wonderful new year and we look forward to this time next year when Bree is cancer free!! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Round 3

Merry Christmas! It has been so long since we have last posted. We have been so busy with everything we just haven’t had time. I will post more of my feelings and thoughts later but for now we know many have wanted to know how Bree is so hear it goes.

We were scheduled to go in for Bree’s 3rd round of chemo on Friday the 12th but they didn’t have room in the pediatric oncology wing so we had to wait until Saturday. Her treatment lasted Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Usually when Bree gets her chemo she does pretty well and usually gets sick a few days later but this time she seemed very nauseous and agitated. The doctors kept us an extra day because they wanted to make sure Bree was feeling better. She just wasn’t her cute happy self. So we went home on Tuesday. It was great to be home and we were excited to get ready for Christmas. Our stay at home was short…like a day and a half short. Thursday afternoon Bree spiked a fever so off to the hospital we went. Usually when she gets fevers the nurses can get it back down pretty quickly but this time her fever took a while to go away. The doctors were also concerned because her heart rate was way too high. This was scary for me. She was miserable and exhausted for most of the afternoon and night but thankfully her fever and heart rate came back down. The bacterial infection was very aggressive, usually it takes a few days to know if there was in infection in her system but they knew within hours because of how fast the bacterial culture grew. The doctors told us that had had we not came in right away that she could have gone into septic shock….scary. While in the hospital they decided that Bree needed to have a feeding tube because she was not gaining enough weight. They had mentioned this to us last week so we have been trying so hard to get her to eat solids or formula from the bottle but Bree has become very suspicious of people bringing food to her mouth from all of the medicine that she has been taking so she will only nurse and she just isn’t getting enough calories. Usually a woman doesn’t want to be called a cow but I wish I could produce milk like one☺. So on Saturday they placed a feeding tube into her nose, down her throat and right into her tummy. I still can nurse her but for 12-16 hours a day she will be hooked up to a machine that pumps a mixture of formula and breast milk into her body. I will post more about this later but the good thing is the tube will help Bree get stronger and help her fight off future infections. But I definitely have mixed feelings about the tube and am obsessed with getting her to eat solids so she can get rid of it but she still won’t. In times past Bree got infections when her Neutrophil counts dropped but this time they never dropped…yea! Since they never dropped and the infection was under control we got to come home on Monday afternoon. This was a blessing because the time we spent down there this time was harder than normal. So now we are back at home and loving it. It is so nice to be home and Bree loves having her brothers around to laugh at her and her Dad there to dote on her. The best part is it looks like we will all be together for Christmas..that truly was THE ONLY THING I wanted for Christmas! So, Christmas came early in the Cook household. Merry Christmas everyone!
(I’ll post pictures of this last round in our next post!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A taste of normal...

We've had tickets to the Polar Express in Williams, Az for almost a year. I’ve been so excited to go and take our kids so when we first found out about Bree's cancer I thought it wouldn't be possible to leave the valley for fear that Bree might get sick and we'd have to take her to the hospital. However, the doctors cleared her to go for a quick overnight trip (3 hours away) and we did it! We packed up our little family and headed to Flagstaff for lots of cold fun on Monday!

We bought the boys some cute jammies with matching robes so they were all ready to get on the train and head to the North Pole.We had the best seats on the whole train…the caboose! We heard the caboose was the least crowed place so we were able to change our seats and sit there. There weren’t many people there and we were the first to see Santa! My boys loved eating the cookies and having hot cocoa on the train. It was fun to see how cute the train was decorated and the “elves” did a great job running the show! I love Gunner's face here. This was moments before Santa entered the train.
The boys met Santa and received their Christmas bells. Caleb loved shaking his bell and making his own music.  
Gunner was so excited to meet Santa, he could hardly contain himself!

We went with my parents and siblings and had a great time. We came home the next day and literally were gone about 24 hours. Bree had lots of fun and enjoyed her first experience on a train. We hope to make it a tradition every year. We’ll celebrate next year when Breezy is cancer-FREE! It was also good to feel a bit normal for the time being.

Bree is feeling good this week and her counts good. She obviously has a sweet tooth! We continue to pray for this cancer to leave her body and ask for a miracle every day. Please continue to pray for her especially this weekend when she receives her 3rd round of chemo. Our thanks to all!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A wrench in the plans...

For those that keep up with Bree’s journey, my apologies for not keeping this more updated. The past 5 days she has been in the hospital; so I was unable to update like I would have hoped. This time she had a bacterial infection. Let me back up and get everything up to date.
We (Bree & I) spent a nice day at home for Thanksgiving. Justin took the boys to celebrate with his family and I stayed home with Bree because we anticipated her counts being low so we didn’t want to take her anywhere since she would be more susceptible to sickness & infections. Justin did bring me a plate of food so I did enjoy a yummy meal! Thanks babe! I actually came down with a nasty cold that lasted Wednesday and Thursday so it was nice to stay home and have some down time to recover.

Then, Friday night Bree spiked a fever… again. I told Justin that I think Heavenly Father helped me to heal from my cold just in time to send Bree back to the hospital and have the strength to take care of her. Certainly an answer to prayer right there.

I took her in to the hospital that night. Her fever started around 9pm so we decided to go in right then rather than wait it out because her fever would’ve just continued to climb. So we set up camp at the hospital. The nurses took her blood sample and we discovered on Saturday morning that she had a bacterial infection in her broviac iv line. It turned out that there were 3 different bacteria’s infecting her line. 2 of which were caused from her own bacterias on her skin (staph & strep) and another was some random rare bacteria (pantoea something). However, she has been treated with antibiotics during our lovely stay at the hospital and is continuing getting the meds here at home. The docs tell us that the reason her line got infected was probably because her white counts dropped so low and her body had no way of fighting off these bacterias.
This is me giving her the home antibiotic (cephapime).Check out the syringe. It's the same size as my hand!
Right now she is doing well. Her blood counts are on the way up and she has been resting so much better at home. I wish we could do all of this at home. She just sleeps and feels better when she’s in her house. She is able to laugh at her brothers, play with her Daddy and just get the rest she needs.

So, her next round of chemo is a week from today, December 12th. It will be 3 drugs over 3 days again. This round is the same as the first cycle. Justin and I have a running joke that I should just leave a bag at the hospital, as I will be there with Bree every other week. My good friend Stephanie told me we should be getting some kind of points for living in the hospital so much! I agree...I wish I could use all these "points" to go on another cruise!

We have felt so loved and both Justin and I have felt strengthened by the many many prayers around the world for our little Bree. Many people have asked us “what can we do?” I’m asking now if you will specifically pray for our little girl to make it through these rounds of chemo, one at a time. Her little body is just that…little. These treatments are very tough on her even though all her smiles make it look so easy. It’s hard for me as her Mom to watch her be weighed and have the scales start to slowly go down. I don’t like having her cry because she may feel sick or having to hold her down to give her medicine or shots. Truthfully it is agonizing and exhausting. But, I do know that I have never felt stronger in all my life than during this time. That is because of all the righteous prayers coming from all of you. Our Heavenly Father certainly answers the prayers of the righteous. Thank you again for taking the time to read these posts, pray for Bree and love our family. We will continue to try to keep this up to date as possible in the weeks ahead. Love to all!

Here's a few of the latest and greatest pictures...
A special visitor came to the hospital on Saturday night. The boys loved it!

Gunner and his good pal Santa!
Breezy had her first oreo cookie in the hospital. She doesnt like baby food too much so I caved and gave her a peppermint oreo. She loved every bite!
I am in LOVE with this picture...and the two cuties in it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Round 2

Here's an update of Breezy's most recent chemo treatment. We took her in on Friday night (after waiting all day for them to call us in to the hospital...ugh!) and she started her pre-drugs at 8pm. (Pre-drugs are to help her with any nausea or adverse reactions she may feel during the chemotherapy) Then she was able to start the chemo at 9:30pm. She received 3 drugs over about 3 hours...they were Carboplatin, Cyclophosphamide & Doxorubicin. We were told that this round would be really intense because of all the drugs given at one time. Bree did really well while the chemo entered her body yet had a hard time going to sleep that night. I think she's had it with hospital beds. :) We stayed in the hospital through Saturday afternoon then got to go home. Yea! They sent us home with Neupogen shots that I have been giving her in her thighs. Yes, I have to give her a shot a day! ☹ Neupogen will help her body build its own neutrophils (immune fighting cells). It's hard for me to give a shot to my baby, and I really hate doing it, but if it will help her stay healthy and out of the hospital, I'll do it! For now she is doing pretty well. She's vomitted about 5 or 6 times but it hasn’t been as much as the last treatment so our goal this time around is to keep her hydrated, happy and healthy. Ironically after she vomits, she still smiles and laughs. What a little angel she is! That's easy Breezy! We honestly believe she has done so well this time because of the prayers from so many people. We do recognize our Heavenly Father's hand in helping her & believe He will carry her through these chemo treatments. My good friend told me the angels are with these little ones blessing them and protecting them during these trials and I certainly believe it because she has been such a strong little fighter!

Lately, there have been so many people that have told me that we are being so strong and so positive through all of this. Sometimes it’s hard to say that things are tough because we WANT to be strong, even if we aren’t feeling that way at the moment. I personally am a happy person by nature and I try to look at things in a POSITIVE light. However, there have been times when I’ve cried uncontrollably or didn’t know if I would feel sane in the morning because I’d been up with a sick and fussy baby all hours of the night. I’ve felt those emotions of jealousy or envy when I look around at other babies and wonder “why MY baby?” But just when I think I’m at my worst, I have felt the comfort of my Savior. He has been there with us, picked us up and carried us through the difficult and scary times. And HE will continue to bring us comfort during those times. I have to cling to this faith because FAITH is what we have to show in order for our baby to be blessed. I guess I am sharing this to get it off my chest a little (writing always makes me feel better) and let others know that we are real down to earth people.

On a sad note, today marked the first day that I could noticeably see signs of hair loss. My poor baby’s head is slowly going bald. The back of her head is already bald (most babies are already due to sleeping on their backs) but today I tried to get some dried bananas out of her hair and took a clump of hair out instead! ☹ So sad! The docs tells us we should be expecting more hair loss in the next weeks to come so we will just have to fashion up her little head with lots of pretty bows and hats!

Last but never least, I wanted everyone out there to know that I have the BEST husband! He’s been so supportive, so helpful with our boys and so genuinely worried about me. He helps out so much at home that now he knows the boys schedules better than me! I just wanted to publicly tell him how much I love him! (Sorry to be so gushy babe, but I just cant help it. You’re too cute!)

As for our boys, they’ve been doing well. Caleb is absolutely LOVING school. His teacher tells me that he has lots of friends, likes doing his work, is ready to give anyone a HUGE hug and will always flash his million dollar smile!
Gunner finished his soccer league last Saturday and enjoyed playing with so many of his friends. He loves his preschool teacher and all his friends. I’ll post some pictures of the boys activities soon. For now, Breezy is rightfully stealing the show. ☺

Sunday, November 16, 2008


It feels like such a long time since I last posted! To catch up, we came home from the hosptial on Tuesday afternoon and have been enjoying being home!! It truly is so nice to stay at home, sleep in my own bed, see my sweet hubby and kids first thing in the morning and eat normal food again! All the things I took for granted! Granted, Tuesday marked my 4th day at home in over 3 weeks. As for Breezy, she is doing well. It turned out she just had a fever due to dehydration and all her counts dropping faster than we thought. She didnt have any bacterial infections anywhere so that was a relief. We had to stay in the hospital for several days until her counts came back up, which they did on Tuesday! Yea! We also took her back in to the doctor on Friday to see if her absolute neutrophil count (ANC) had continued to climb. She was 2770...this was great news! However, her hemoglobin was too low at 7.5. (It should be between 8-12 for a cancer patient, normal people are 12-15). Come to think of it, she was kind-of pale. So, Friday Bree received her 2nd blood transfusion. (Her first one was in the hosptial after her abdominal surgery). We made a day of it, just us girls! Can you feel the sarcasm?! Yea, it wasn't fun. We spent all day at the hospital waiting for the blood to be ready and once it was, the infusion took 3 hours to actually enter into her body. The good thing was we did have a 2 hour break to leave so we did go buy a nice La-Z-boy rocking chair for her nursery since we'll be spending quite a bit of time trying to get her to sleep after the chemo treatments. So, I can't say the day was all THAT bad. :) But, I have to say, once she received the blood, she did start feeling so much better! So, thank you to the mystery person out there who gave blood for my daughter! I really realize the importance of donating! (So, there's my plug about donating blood!- Do it if you can!)

And so at present, she is doing great this week. Her personality is back now and I can tell she is feeling more like herself because she is very vocal again (babbling a lot) and has started to roll over again (she hasn't done this in 3 weeks due to her incision in her tummy and feeling nauseated). So, we are planning on enjoying her this week, keeping her healthy and preparing for her next chemo treatment on Friday. Then, we will start the cycle all over again...only this time our goal is to stay out of the hospital! (Not that I dont love the nurses and doctors, I just love them more when I don't have to see them as much!)

Here are a few pictures of our sweet girl:Her eyes may look a little shocking, but it's actually good news. The docs have a theory that the cancer is moving out of her orbital (eye) bones and this is what has caused the bleeding around her eyes. Despite it all, she is still smiling! That's our Breezy!

Here she is awaiting her blood transfusion. She got to watch movies (Baby Einstein) and play with lots of toys. It's still hard to believe she's sick when she always smiles at the camera. What can I say, she loves photo opps!:)

Lastly, I wanted to thank a dear friend of mine, Summer Driggs for putting together the nicest thing our family has ever received. We learned that Summer was putting together a care package for us a few days after we learned of Bree's cancer. She had posted our story on her digital scrapbook blog and developed a kit entitled "gratitude." She normally puts her kits out for free (yes, free - she is SOO great!) and this time gave people the opportunity to donate to our care package. Well, Thursday Summer and her sweet sister Jaime brought over bags and bags of toys, books, gifts, home decor, gift cards, movies, clothes for our boys, essentials for the hospital, diapers, and more. You name it, she brought it. It was amazing. I truly felt overwhelmed at the generosity and goodness of Summer and so many people. Summer also put together a notebook of the people who donated and their comments they left on her blog. I can hardly express how much it touched my heart by this kind act of love. For so many people to be praying for Bree, no wonder we've had so many of our prayers answered. It truly was a humbling experience and we greatly appreciate all those that gave. It increased our own testimonies of charity and service. Thank you Summer (and Cory) for being great friends!
Here we are with our girls. Summer's daughter Claire and Bree are only 9 days apart. Claire is a sweet heart and has also had several battles of her own. She recently had brain surgery to remove a lesion on her brain that were causing seizures. She is doing well now but still being followed closely by her doctors. These girls are strong and their trials right now will help them be friends for life!
Here's Breezy modeling her new bling. She received a beautiful princess necklace and was having fun doing poses with it. :) Thank you to whomever made this necklace for her!
These are just a few of the things Summer brought over from the "care package." The picture doesnt show even a fraction of what Summer brought over and I wanted to take more pictures but Bree was done posing. The variety and thoughtfulness of the gifts took our breath away but what filled our home with joy and warmth wasn’t so much the gifts but the fact that so many kind and Christlike people rallied behind us to support our little girl. Each gift, donation, and thought represents a faithful person praying for Bree. That means so much to us, especially since so many are complete strangers. We are strengthened and comforted knowing that people all over the county and even in different parts of the world are concerned for our family. One day when Bree is older it will be so fun to show her how many people knew her and prayed for her. We don’t feel like our words are enough to show how grateful we feel. They only way to show our gratitude will be to serve our fellow man as well. Out of this trial we truly have seen the goodness of God shown thru other people. We will always remember this! Love you all!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Another long update...

I wrote the following on Thursday night and didnt get to post it until now...long post...beware!

Today was the first day that we could actually spend time in our house! I feel like I have been away for months! It was great to be able to stay home! Even though we've actually been home since Monday afternoon, we've been going back and forth to the hospital for continued tests with the doctors. So, it feels great to stay at home and feel as normal as we can for the time being.

In an effort to continue the updates, here goes...

The past few days have been a rush. I'm still somewhat lacking in the sleep department so hopefully this all makes sense. On Tuesday we took Bree back to the hospital to meet with her doctor, do blood work (measure where her white blood cells (WBC) are) and get some nuclear medicine (dye) injected into blood stream. Confused? Me too. Basically, what this dye does is stick to any cancer cells throughout her body. She is then put under a huge camera-like scanner that will basically make the cancer glow. This test is called an MIBG scan, in other words, a glorified organ & bone scan. We feel we are getting to know our way around the hospital pretty well now. :)

Wednesday we went back in for the MIBG. Bree wasnt allowed to nurse for 5 hours prior to the test...which made for a very unhappy baby. She was put to sleep with local anesthetic and the test lasted 2 hours. They took multiple images of her body and we should know the outcome sometime tomorrow, if not next week. The doctors dont anticipate the cancer being anywhere else in her body and this won't change the stage she is in (stage IV, intermediate), it will just basically establish a baseline for us to measure how much the cancer has shrunk after 3 more chemotherapy treatments.

As of now, she is scheduled to do another chemo treatment on November 21st. Please keep her in your prayers especially this day. There are several drugs given on one day and this will be very hard on her. The chemo drugs are scary with all the possible side effects.

It still is hard for me to fathom the fact we are going through this. Still, when I start telling someone about it, I have a hard time saying the words "cancer" and "my baby daughter" in the same sentence. We are still taking it one day at a time. I've already seen how strong and brave Bree is. She truly has a strong spirit and I know she'll get through this. We have great faith in our Heavenly Father and I know that He will carry her through this.

As for the boys, they are doing well. They've had lots of sickness this week but are doing well for the most part. We truly are so thankful to all those who have helped our little family...all the acts of kindness have truly touched our hearts and humbled us greatly. Thanks to you all for the constant prayers, meals dropped off, babysitting our boys, nice notes, flowers, and just checking in with us. Love you all!!

Here's a few pics from Halloween. We were able to get out of the hospital for a few hours to trick or treat with them. It was GREAT!
The boys had lots of fun getting tons of candy. Caleb was exhausted but it was so great just to be with them!

And the latest update...

Thursday night (Friday morning) Bree spiked a fever of 101.5. (This may not sound high, but for any cancer patient, it’s bad news). Anytime she gets a fever this high we are to immediately call the doctor and head to the hospital. So that’s what we did. Before we left, we said a prayer and asked that her fever would drop and that she would be all right. I arrived at the hospital by 2am and she was admitted right away. She started receiving antibiotics immediately in case there was a bacterial infection in her broviac IV line. The nurse then did a blood sample and did labs to see where her blood counts were. She also took her temp again and our prayers were answered. Her temp was totally normal. Even though it was normal, we still had to stay to make sure her labs were in check. So, we tried to settle in for the night but didn’t get much sleep.

The next morning we discovered that Bree was neutropenic. This basically means that her white blood cell level (absolute neutrophil count – ANC) dropped below 500. You and I normally have an ANC of 5000 or more. Hers was 42. The doctors suspected this would happen, just not so soon. Typically, patients receiving chemotherapy will drop 7-10 days after a treatment but she dropped earlier. Since her decline happened so soon, she was given a growth hormone stimulating factor (neucopene) to stimulate her white blood cells to grow new cells (neutrophils) that would bring her back up. It’s most likely we will be here a few more days. The docs want to be on the safe side and wait until her counts climb and she stays fever free.

On Friday the results from the MIBG scan came back. Unfortunately and to the surprise of the doctors they found that the cancer had spread into the long bones of her arms & legs, shoulder bones and pelvis. It didn’t show up in the bone scan but the MIBG scan is more sensitive and was able find it. This doesn’t change the treatment or the prognosis but nonetheless it wasn’t the news we wanted. The doctors tell us with the current chemo treatment, it should kill the cancer in the bones as well as kill the tumor in her abdomen.

This morning Bree woke up thinking it was still Halloween because she looks like a football player :-). The bruises under her eyes have grown bigger and look like they may turn into “raccoon eyes” which is how it looks on a bone scan (the bruising goes all around her eyes). The doctors don’t seem to be worried about it. It’s just part of the ups and downs. Despite all of this Bree has been very content. She is laughing and smiling more and doesn’t seem as nauseated. Her personality has been a breath of fresh air for us. Her sweet temperament brings a smile to our face as we deal with this disease.

So we had a few set backs this week. But we also realize that is part of the deal. If it were all easy then it wouldn’t be a trial of faith. If everything always went as planned then there wouldn’t be room for any miracles. Sorry if these posts seem rushed, we just don’t have a lot of time these days and want to people to know what’s going on. Thanks again for your continued thoughts and prayers for our Breezy. Love, Kari & Justin

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good to be home...

I think last week was the longest week of my entire life. I have never had so many emotions go through me in such a short period of time. I still remember a week ago at this very time, physically shaking from the reality that my darling little girl had cancer. It is so shocking how life can change in an instant and how truly precious our children are.

First, I want to say how deeply touched we were by all the comments left and for all the prayers and thoughts of those we know and those we don't for our little Bree. Thank you for loving and caring for our family. My heart is so full and we have truly felt the love of all of you, thank you so much. It is comforting to know there are so many people that are routing for our daughter as much as we will be during this awful trial.

With that being said... we came home from the hospital!! Yea!! Bree did very well with her first round of chemotherapy. She did get nauseated, and was pretty irritable at times, but overall did great. She is a fighter! We won't see many effects until a few days from now when her blood counts will begin to drop. We have had a crash course in cellular biology. I've learned more about white blood cells, neutrophils, and hemoglobin than I ever wanted to know. We feel so blessed to have such great doctors that know exactly what they're doing and will be with us every step of the way.

Here's a few pictures of Bree's first chemo treatment:
Our nurse Robyn & Breezy! The chemo drug is hooked up to her IV line and pumped into her bloodstream over a few hours. In a nutshell, the cancer tumor eats up the chemo drug and the tumor slowly dies as her good tissues are hurt and rebuild themselves. More kari-cancer-101 lessons to come!

Our little munchikin happy and spoiled with lots of toys, the way it should be!She was so pleasant during the chemo. It wasn't until a few days after that it started to cause her some upset stomach. Now that we are home, she is feeling and resting so much better.

Sweet moments with her grandparents (G&G Cook and Papa Smith)
Here's Minnie Mouse and Tinkerbell (cousin Corinne) - BFF's always!
Here's our beautiful black and blue baby girl!Thank goodness for these black eyes...if they never would have shown up, we would have had no idea this cancer was growing inside her.

Again, we love you all and thank you for your thoughts and prayers in her behalf. Please continue to keep her in your prayers as this will be a long and tretcherous journey. I think Neal A. Maxwell said it best when he said "Patient endurance permits us to cling to our faith in the Lord and in His timing when we are being tossed about by the surf of circumstance. Even when a seeming undertow grasps us, somehow in the tumbling we are being carried forward, though battered and bruised."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pray for Bree

First, we want to thank all of you for your prayers and concerns. This has been a very busy week and we know people have wanted to know what is going on. I think we have shed as many tears hearing about all of those who love our baby Bree as we have from the shocking and devastating news about her diagnosis. We will do our best to give you a recap of what has gone on this week. In our attempt to explain all of this we will probably set medical journals back a few decades :) as we have tried to absorb a lot of info that we really don’t understand yet. This is a long post so if you plan on reading it, get comfortable.

A few weeks ago we noticed little bruises under each of Bree’s eyes. We thought maybe our boys had gotten too rough with her. The bruises went away but then came back so on Monday we decided to take her to our pediatrician. Our pediatrician checked out Bree, made a few calls and sent us to the ER that night (thank you Dr. Carroll!). The ER doctor was very impressed that the pediatrician would be able to pick up on enough symptoms to send us to the ER since she was in perfect health. The ER doctor felt that her Kidney was enlarged and thought it could be a Wilmes Tumor, which means they basically would remove the kidney and thus taking care of the problem. Our hearts sank as the CAT scan results showed that it was neuroblastoma cancer. Neuroblastoma is a cancerous tumor that begins in the nerve tissue and that will then metastasize throughout the body. The CAT scan found the tumor around her kidney, some lymph nodes, bone marrow and her spine. They admitted us to the pediatric oncology department Monday night. Tuesday morning they did a two hour surgery that included a biopsy of the tumor, a bone marrow biopsy and a Broviac IV placement (a permanent IV inserted in her chest for at least the next six months). The surgeon also found that the tumor had grown around her pancreas and some nodes into the liver that had not shown up on the CAT scan. Later that day we were informed that even though we found out early about her diagnosis that she was already at Stage 4 of 4 and that due to the large size and location of the tumor that they would not be able to operate but that it would have to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

On Wednesday they did a bone scan and found that the cancer had also spread into the orbital bone around her eyes which is why the bruising occurred under her eyes. On Wednesday they also showed us multiple images of the tumor. It was awful to see how this monster was living and growing inside of her. We couldn’t believe that despite the size of this tumor how happy and healthy Bree has been. If you know Bree she truly is the easiest, happiest, sweetest baby you will ever see. I know all parents feel the same way about their babies but I dare you to prove me wrong :). Even in the hospital she has been such a trooper.

Nationwide about 650 infants a year get this type of cancer. There are many different categories but an easy one for us to remember is if the cancer is in the low, intermediate or high risk category. Low risk wasn’t an option for us since it had already spread to other parts of her body so we hoped for the cancer to be in the intermediate risk range. This would give us an idea of survival rates and how aggressively they would have to apply chemo. We have been hoping and praying that she would be in the intermediate range. We know that many of you specifically prayed and fasted for that very purpose. We were told that we would find out if it was high risk or intermediate risk on Friday.

We were so very touched when we heard that our ward and our previous ward were going to fast for our sweet girl on Thursday. We were reduced to tears upon learning that our stake and so many others would be doing the same. We have heard that people all over the world are praying for our Bree, that people of various faiths and languages have been petitioning the Lord on our behalf. At times we have wept as much out of appreciation for your love and support as we have over this terrible disease. On Thursday we finally received news that raised our spirits. From the bone marrow biopsy the doctors believe that the cancer would fall into the intermediate range and they decided to treat the cancer that way. This was fabulous news since the high risk category was so awful. It was Bree’s first victory in this new journey. Thursday we felt very encouraged and sometimes almost forgot about the reality of her condition. Bree still has cancer. She still has to be on Chemo for at least 8 cycles over the next 6 months, the side effects of chemo are extremely scary and we can only hope and pray that it will work but I suppose that this will be our new way of life…celebrating even the smallest of victories when we can.

We know that it is not a coincidence that we received an answer to our very specific prayer a day earlier than planned which happened to be the very day that so many people were fasting and praying for us. We are so grateful to our Heavenly Father for giving us this blessing and for your help in obtaining it.

There still are more tests that they will be doing to better understand the extent of the cancer and tumors but in a nutshell we now have a plan to start treating this cancer. Bree will be starting chemo today (friday). We would love for your continued prayers that she will be healthy through this process, that she won’t suffer any significant side effects and that the treatment will work.

In this past week we have experienced a range of emotions from anger, fear, shock, sorrow, comfort, hope and peace. Our boys are doing well and have been kept busy by wonderful family and friends. We know that many of you are hurting too as you love Bree and don’t like seeing her have to go through this. We pray for you as you have prayed for us. We know that Bree is in the hands of the Lord and that he is precious to her. We also are aware that other families are going through their own trials and we hope they too are being loved and supported as we have been. Thank you for your concern for our family. We feel fortunate to have so many people behind us as we start this new path. We are sustained at this time with our faith in God and your kindness towards our little family. We will do our best to update our blog on her progress, post some sweet pictures of her and keep everyone updated on any new developments.

We love you all!
Love, Justin and Kari
Here are a few pictures of the journey thus far:
This was before her surgery (biopsy).
Before her bone scan
Getting ready for bed with Mommy
Being sweet with Daddy
Happy on Halloween even in the hospital!