Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Six Month Mark

One of Josh's fun nurses came by for a visit

Today marks six months since we received Josh’s preliminary cancer diagnoses.
-Six months since we sat in Dr. Matt Turner’s office as he expressed concern over Josh’s extremely low blood counts.
-Six months since we raced to the emergency room in BSA.
- Six months since the words, “possible cancer and Josh", were uttered together in the same sentence.
-Six months since our lives were completely turned upside down and inside out.
On the other hand;
-Six moths of seeing life through different eyes
-Six months of seeing our Lord much more clearly
-Six months of being far more thankful and grateful for each day we are given.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Familiar Shadows

Monday morning Joshua woke up feeling like something was wrong. I took his temp throughout the morning and it read as normal. He had lab work done on Sunday and nothing alarming had shown up. His counts were low but not low enough to need a transfusion. He had already commented on Sunday that he was getting, “that feeling again”. He was talking about the feeling he usually gets before he begins to fever.

Monday afternoon, I ran out to do an errand and he texted me, “I am not feeling good, feeling really bad”. Sarah was with him and called to say his temp was up to 100.2. I jumped in the car and headed home. When I arrived home, Josh was, once again, curled up in a fetal position on his futon, under a pile of blankets, shivering. I called his BSA Dr who instructed us to get him right in.

Sarah and I began our, “quickly get Josh to the hospital”, drill. We have learned, by this time, to remain packed. Sarah called Brian to tell him what was happening. I threw a few additional things in suitcases for Brian and I, and she packed all of Josh’s “necessities”, his computer, phone, chargers and hats. We quickly loaded up the car.

Josh was already unable to walk on his own so we had to wait until Brian got home and we loaded him in the car. The road to Amarillo always seems longer than usual as we race to BSA. I monitored his temp along the way. It was quickly elevating and reached 104.6. Even though it was high, Brian and I knew we had been here before and knew The Lord had seen us through it.

When we reached BSA, Josh was too week to walk so we loaded him into a wheel chair and got him to the second floor where they had a room, on the main pediatric floor, already prepared for him. They immediately got fluids going in him and hooked him up to monitors. Brain and I felt relieved to know he was getting the care he needed. We begin to relax in the familiar setting with the friendly staff that had become like family.

Then things seemed to quickly worsen, his blood pressure began to drop as his heart rate accelerated. At 2 am, they moved him to the ICU so he could be more closely monitored. The Dr said he was already beginning to go into shock. They were concerned, once again of him becoming septic and for additional strain being place on his, already compromised, heart.

All of the old fears and memories flooded back. I feared that we could have come so far only to loose him. I had to remind myself of all that the Lord had brought us through and that I knew we could trust Him with our son’s life. Once again, I was overcome His unexplainable peace.

The next day, they were able to get his system regulated through medication and he began to quickly improve. They moved him back out to the main floor and we began to talk about getting him home.

Yesterday, the Dr said we would probably get to go home today. He was just waiting for one more result to come from the lab. Brian had a meeting last night he wanted to be at so he headed home with the plan to come back the next day and bring us home.

After he left, the results came back from the lab. The bacteria had continued to grow even though they had hit him hard with antibiotics. The thought of going home soon began to diminish.

Josh fevered through the night and into the early morning. They took more blood samples for more tests. We met with the Dr who explained that they would need use additional antibiotics in hopes of wiping out the bacteria. They are also preparing to transfuse him with platelets again later today.

So here we are, just waiting out the storm, knowing that, as always, our Lord has a plan. Josh, for the most part is in a pretty good mood. He has a fairly steady line of visitors that mask up and check in on him. We would all rather be home but we know we are where the Lord has us for now. We know He has a reason, even if it is merely to remind us that He walks the valleys with us.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two Homecomings

Some of the amazing BSA staff!

Yesterday Josh completed his last round of chemo! It was almost a little surreal. I woke up yesterday morning, in our room at the Ronald Mc Donald House, which had begun to feel much like a second home to us, with a feeling of excitement laced with a little anxiety.

Sarah and I got packed up to head over to the hospital. As we said our goodbyes to the staff at the RM House, I felt a sadness. The staff had become like family to us. They had followed Josh’s progress and were so excited for all of us that he was done with treatment…yet saying goodbye was hard. We will always be so grateful for our dear friends at the RM House and for all that they do to support families who are in crisis.

When we got to BSA, the staff from the Pediatrics floor was preparing for an “End of Chemo” celebration for Josh. Again, it was bittersweet. The amazing staff had walked us through some of the most difficult days of our lives. Many of them had played a part in saving Josh’s life, on several occasions. It was hard to say goodbye to them as well. They had all shown us such kindness and compassion. Josh, for the first time ever, was really in no hurry to leave.

Once we finally got packed up and headed home, my head swam with the emotions of the past six months. We had not seen any of this coming. Our lives were so much different than they were six months ago. I knew we could still potentially have some tough days ahead, but I began to look forward to Josh being healthy again and all the possibilities that might entail.

We arrived home to find a wonderful welcoming committee on our front porch. Even now, as I think back on that sight, tears come to my eyes. We have been so cared for by our friends and neighbors. We are blessed way more than we deserve.

Then, yesterday evening, we received sad news. Our dear friend, and father of Tiffany Carothers, Randy Gwaltney, went home to be with the Lord. Randy and his family waged a valiant, and courageous battle against cancer. He was great man; he lived a life that honored his Lord. He dearly loved his wife, his children and his grandchildren and was loved by them. He was highly esteemed by his co-workers, his church and his community. While he now has a new and healthy body in Heaven, he will be greatly missed here on earth.

So while Josh came home to Dalhart, Randy went home to be with his Heavenly Father. I am unsure as to why things go the way that they do, but I am sure the One who directs our path. Our heart breaks for Randy’s family for their tremendous loss.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Two of Josh's favorite nurses, Sherrel from Coon Mem. Hosp and Lori from BSA

This morning I awoke with many conflicting emotions racing through my mind. We have eagerly anticipated this last round of chemo. It marks a potential end to a long and wearying journey. So much has happened in what feels like the longest six months of our lives.

This last round of chemo has been unusual in that it is in two parts. Last week we checked Josh into BSA, the day after Christmas, for the first three days of chemo. Then, they sent us home for four days of rest for Josh. Today he will return for the final three days of chemo.

He has felt very good the last couple of days. We are seeing signs of the, “Old Josh”, the “Pre-cancer”, Josh. He has been full of life, even, at times ornery. He is ready to get past this part of his life, to close this chapter and get on to the next. We are even beginning to tentatively plan an, “End of Chemo/18th Birthday” party for him.

Yet, before we jump too far ahead, we must get through these last three days of chemo and all that entails. He will, once again, loose his hair that has just begun to come in. His energy will disappear along with the nearly constant mischievous look in his eyes. The, “yucky feeling”, will return along with the threat of fever and infection. The ever-present fear of the past dark valleys will wake us with a jolt in the early morning hours.

As we enter this final faze, we know we do not enter alone. Even if we must enter the dark valley, we know that others will faithfully walk it with us. We are so aware that this has not been just, “Josh’s journey”, or even, “the Walton’s journey”. We know that it has been a journey that our dear friends and family, our church and our community have walked as well.  Our existing friendships have grown deeper and we have made some new friends along the way. Our eyes have been opened to things and people we have not known before.

While we are anxious to, “get on with our lives”, we never want to go back to where we were. Our knowledge and understanding of our Heavenly Father has grown richer than we ever thought possible. We have also found a preciousness to life we did not know existed prior to this journey. We want never to take this life we have been given for granted. Each day is a gift granted to us by our Creator. We feel an urgency to live each day to it’s fullest for we are not guaranteed another.