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...

...today 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."