Monday, January 8, 2018

Merry Belated Christmas

We pray that you and your family had the Merriest of Christmases!  We have spent this Christmas contemplating "what if God never chose to put on human skin and come to this earth as a baby 2,000 years ago?"  It would have changed EVERYTHING!  How would we endure suffering with peace and hope if Jesus was never born to live the perfect life we could never live and die the death we deserve to die?  Jesus' birth IS the ultimate gift!  I pray we never lose the awe of this truth!

For so many reasons, this Christmas has been one we will never forget...  It is a time for us to reflect on HOW much our lives have changed in just a years time.  A year ago, we knew Andrew had tummy pain that we were working hard to find a solution to, assuming it was a more common cause for tummy pain in a child (food allergies, acid reflux, IBS, etc).  We never dreamed we would hear the "c" word just two months later.  Also, in the midst of a new cancer diagnosis, Grace's heart would require another emergent open heart surgery.  This year has tested our faith like never before and forced us to answer deep questions and with more than our words (that's the easy part), but with our hearts, minds, and ultimately our daily living.  "Is God enough (no matter what happens to us, even if that means losing a child)?" "What do I do with hope when everything around me says there is no hope for my hearts desire to be accomplished (my son to beat cancer)?" "Do I trust God to make a way where there is no way?"  We all know how we are suppose to answer these questions, but when you have to live that answer out, it requires a whole other level of faith and dying to our self.

This Christmas God reminded us once again that He has the details figured out before we even know there is a problem.  You see, we had to have our shower redone a year and a half ago because there was a leak, which caused mold to grow in the walls.  This was an unexpected cost at the time, but we knew it was necessary.  Everything looked great until I noticed the drywall along the pony wall near our shower was soft.  Eeeek!  We had it looked at and repaired, until one day I noticed mold coming through the paint on that same wall.  Long story short, we learned the shower wasn't replaced properly and now we had mold worse than when we started.  We had to get a new person to redo the shower that had just been replaced (meaning we got to pay for our shower to be fixed twice) and at the same time we found out David's car needed $1,000 worth of repairs.  While these unexpected expenditures were frustrating, especially at this time of the year (Christmas), just before these expenditures reared their head, I had a sweet friend from the big kids school ask if I would be ok if she did Christmas for our family (with the help of our absolutely, positively, amazing community.... and even a new community that I didn't even know existed) all because the Lord had put it on her heart.  In addition to the amazing Christmas blessing from our friends and community, we were also blessed with some wonderful gifts for the whole family from Candlelighters (an organization providing emotional, physical, and financial support to families of children with cancer).  We can't say enough words of thanks to everyone who was willing to give on our behalf!  Our family was overwhelmed with everyone's generosity!  Only God could have known how desperately we could use these blessings.  Still brings me to tears every time I think about it, look at, or use the gifts we were given.

Let's pretend this is our Christmas Card :-).  Once again we didn't get Christmas cards out this year, but please know that each Christmas card we received has not gone to waste.  We take one family/card and pray for that family for a whole week.  Please know if you sent us a card, we are committed to praying over y'all. 

We got to spend Christmas Eve with Lu Lu and the kids' Besties (Mrs. Kathy and Mr. Alan).  Check out these cool shirts our super talented friend, Jenny James, made for them.  In case you can't see it, it has a drawing of "Scar Neck the Encourager," which is Mr. Alan, and "Scar Belly the Brave," which is Andrew.  

**Quick bit of information, Kristi had started this blog post right after Christmas and then our life got really busy and it doesn't look like we will have a break anytime soon; therefore, I (David) am taking over and will give you a quick snapshot for the rest of this post.

On December 30th, we had the opportunity to run in the Snowdrop Foundation Ultra 55 Hour Race & Relay.  We have run in marathons, half marathons, spartan races, etc, but none of those come anywhere close to how amazing the Snowdrop Ultra 55 hour was for us and our team.  Our good friends, who are part owners of some amazing restaurants in Sugar Land (Japaneiro's, Jupiter, Guru Burgers, and Kilo), sponsored us to form two teams, Andrew's Army and Andrew's Army, Jr (which was mostly a kids team).  Kristi will be able to better express how amazing this race was, but in my own words I can say that I have never walked away from a half marathon or marathon and thought, "I can't wait to run that race again," however, with the Snowdrop Ultra 55 I actually can't wait to run it again next year.  The willingness of so many people to run at all hours of day and night for 55 hours straight, all to support childhood cancer, was inspiring and heartwarming.  Thank you to everyone who supported us and ran with us! This is Kristi...  David did a great job, but there are SO many amazing moments and details I have to share with y'all later about this race ;-)!  It was truly AMAZING, so stay tuned!!!

The whole crew!

Andrew's Army Jr. team (the kids were lucky to have some rockstar adults to help them out)!

Andrew's Army team!

My people!

These 3 girls combined put in about 85 miles!

So proud of my running side kick for logging 30 miles in 55 hours!

Our favorite shift of all was running from 2- 3:30 am!  Every time we passed Bubba's pictures (he had two, since he had two teams) we would give him a high five!

These awesome running shirts were also created by the amazing Jenny James!

This dude ran 20 miles in the middle of the night on New Years Eve/New Years Day!
So proud of him!!!

These two kicked off the race!

Grace getting to participate a bit too!  The crosses in the back of the picture are a representation of the number of children that would lose their life to cancer in the 55 hours we were running.

Later this week, we are headed to Orlando for the 3v3 soccer championships.  Abigail and four of her teammates (and great friends) qualified for this tournament over the Summer when they won the regional tournament.  While there, the kids are thrilled to also head to Universal and Disney.  Andrew has been praying at night for Abigail's team to do well and that he'll remember the reason we are going to Florida and to not be too eager to get to the parks after Abigail's team is done playing their games each day.  Good job, buddy!  Oh yeah, Grace has woken up every day since Christmas asking if we are going to Disney today.

Then, we get home from Orlando on the 16th and Andrew has scans on the 17th and 18th, followed by his 3rd round of PRRT on the 19th.  So far, Andrew's pain has been much better.  He is still on tons of pain meds, but he is not having the breakthrough pain he used to have all the time, praise God!  Let's pray his pain continues to subside, and even more, that this hopefully means the tumors are shrinking, there is no progression, and we get the green light to move forward with the 3rd round of PRRT!

THANK YOU faithful prayer warriors!!!

#butGod #fightlikeaross #hopeon

Saturday, December 9, 2017

All kinds of updates

Like a riveting movie, the suspense of the Ross Family shenanigans mounts...

There are way too many details to capture in one blog post, so here are the highlights (for anyone not on Facebook, I apologize, these updates are long overdue and I'm so sorry)...

-Andrew continued his "wingman" duties for Triumph Over Kids Cancer Foundation at the Big Easy Fundraiser.  We continue to be so grateful for those who stand in the gap for children with pediatric cancer.  Thomas Morstead, the punter for the Saints, and Andy Sacks, an Academy Award winning director, hosted the hugely successful (and super fun) fundraiser.  Check out Andrew's speech....  SO PROUD OF THIS GUY!!!

-Andrew turned 9 years old on Nov. 26th.  We celebrated his birthday in true Harry Potter fashion with the cousins a few days before his actual birthday, since he was going to spend his actual birthday in Dallas at one of Abby's soccer tournaments.  While that might sound sort of unfair or a buzzkill in many ways, if you knew the amazing girls and families that make up Abby's soccer team, you would know that he couldn't have been surrounded by more love.  Abby's team surprised Andrew with a birthday cake and gifts.  We have only been a part of this soccer team for one season, which is hard to believe it's been such a short time because they truly feel like family (added bonus.... the girls on the team are crazy talented ;-).

Birthday fun with the cousins!

Celebrating with Abby's soccer team!

Much bonding over being brothers of sisters playing a lot of soccer.  Love the friendship these two have forged!

Jaz, one of Abby's sweet teammates!

Birthday morning in the hotel room!

-The day after Andrew's birthday he went in for a day of scans in preparation for his second round of PRRT.  PRAISE THE LORD the scans showed the tumors are stable.  Remember our huge prayer was that there wouldn't be any progression (because then we wouldn't have been able to continue treatment which would have been devastating), so stability is certainly praiseworthy news.  The next day Andrew received his second round of PRRT and went to stay at my in-laws in The Woodlands since he can't be around Grace and Abby for 6 days after treatment and he is suppose to stay a meter away from us during that time too.  It is never easy being apart, however, by God's grace this time was easier than the last time, for a couple of reasons.  My mother in love came to stay with the girls and I while David and Andrew were gone, which allowed me to pour into Abby in ways she really needs (especially during that time) without having to keep up with meals, laundry, dishes, and taking care of Grace, which was much of our focus during the first round of PRRT.  Also, we did a good job of staying super busy, which is also a great distraction.  The time went faster and more smoothly for Andrew and David too since they knew what to expect, the generous gifts Andrew got for his birthday kept him busy and the highlight and new tradition of PRRT time, the boys went camping.  Andrew had a blast getting to do a lot of things that would make his mommy way too nervous, so it's best done during daddy day care time.... things like playing with matches, an axe throwing competition (trying to make it stick in a tree), etc. 

Andrew becoming a super hero... becoming radioactive!

He totally rocked his 5 hour infusion! 

Why not camp while radioactive?!?!...  brilliant idea that David had!

-This time around, the aftermath of PRRT has been different, in that the first week after treatment he had some very intense pain and throwing up (one morning he said it was the worse pain he's ever had); however, the past 5ish days he hasn't had any breakthrough pain... at all (that's not normal), so we are overflowing with gratitude about that and praying the relief in pain is not temporary and lasts more than a couple days like last round. Andrew had to get the terrible awful shot in his butt on Monday (he will have to do this very painful shot every month for the rest of his life... unless God says otherwise) and he was so brave.  I also got to watch him be the Andrew I know and adore so much as he encouraged other kids at the infusion center as he waited (forever) to get his shot.  This little boy in particular Andrew showed him what a great friend looks like as he played games with him, reminded him that he is brave and courageous and has a God that loves him.

-Grace took the COGAT test this past week, which still blows our minds that she was able to take a test 3 hours a day for 4 days straight (she will have to take this test in Kinder, so I guess it was good practice).  Apparently, I agreed to it in her ARD meeting... you know the meeting that took place while Andrew was have an endoscopy/biopsy.  They took Andrew back, I rushed to Grace's meeting and rushed back to get there before he woke up.  Clearly, my mind was elsewhere during that quick ARD meeting, but I'm grateful that Grace rocked the test and was so proud of herself for being such a big girl and "taking a test just like Bubba and Sissy," verses it causing her to hate all things school.  Some other funny Graceisms...  she LOVES Santa, but wants to get no where near him.  She wakes up before us most every morning and meets us in the hallway fully dressed, shoes and everything.  She has got skills when it comes to putting an outfit together that matches (and she doesn't just take the shirt and bottoms at the top of the pile), in fact she does better than David in that department.  Her favorite sayings are "oh my word."  If she dresses up as someone or something, she loves to take off the costume and say "it's me," as if she really had us fooled.  She says "thank you majesty" anytime she thanks us for something.  She recently said in her silly voice "don't be a chuckle nuts" (cue the entire family fall out laughing).  Moral of the story is, there is never a dull moment with this kid around and seeing life through her eyes heightens any experience by a million.

See Grace and I in the right hand corner of the pic?  That is as close to Santa as she would get!

While David and Andrew were away, Grace had a cardiology appointment...  thumbs up for rocking her echo!

And a thumbs up for a great report!  Thank you Jesus!

We found a petting zoo at a Christmas event in Rosenberg.  Grace made Abby touch all the animals she was scared of touching, but she agreed that she would touch this goat with Abby so I could take a picture.   

It's officially Christmas time!  Grace is giving the dancing snowmen a good daily workout!

"It's me, Gracie!"  In case you thought that was an elf next to Santa!

She should really be her own emoji!

-Abby continues to be my "goose".  She's my wing girl.  I love hanging out with her because she is so sweet, funny, helpful, wise, and thoughtful.  She continues to LOVE soccer (her team finished the season undefeated), just started her basketball season, has some pretty amazing friends, loves school, and is all around a great kid with a huge heart.

Abby in her happy place... lovin' on kiddos with an extra chromosome!

Abby went to school late the morning Andrew had PRRT because she wanted to spend time with him before they had to be separated for 6 days.  He woke up in awful tummy pain, so she just snuggled him through it.

-How about this for the finale...  you all know that our normal over the past 6 years is best explained by the term varying degrees of crazy, well Tuesday's middle of the night shenanigans was one for the record book.  It is a contender for the top two or three scariest events of my life, in fact it may even be #1.  At about 1 am, only about an hour after we went to bed, David jumped out of bed and laid on the floor clutching his legs with a tone of voice that I have never heard from him before.  I could tell it was a pain like nothing else he has experienced (and you know he has had all sorts of injuries from tearing his ACL, compartment syndrome, broken hand, etc from playing soccer, to other injuries that come from flipping off of walls, jumping onto mailboxes, etc).  I tried to help him massage the pain, and it subsided, until a couple seconds later when he said "oh no! I can feel it coming back"... he was in agony again and that same sequence happened again.  He got up and limped as quickly as possibly to the bathroom because he said he felt like he was going to throw up from the pain.  He was only in the bathroom for a few seconds then I heard noises (banging on the wall) that I knew was him falling.  I ran into the bathroom to find him on the floor looking pale, sweaty, very disoriented, and sort of shaky.  I helped him up and said "lets get dressed I'm going to take you to the hospital just to be safe"...  at first he said no he was fine, but I convinced him to get dressed just in case we changed our minds.  He agreed and went into the closet where he once again passed out.  He didn't lose consciousness, but was again very disoriented and couldn't get up despite multiple attempts.  I helped him up again and called 911 because I really felt like maybe he was having a stroke or something because his speech seemed a little slurred too.  Plus, I couldn't leave the kids at home to take him to the hospital immediately.  My parents arrived at the same time the ambulance did, so we went to the ER.  After lab work, a CT, and ultrasound, they couldn't find the cause except to say that his GFR (the way his kidneys were working) was a bit compromised, so they said he could be dehydrated which perpetuated a severe muscle spasm in his hip/leg and the passing out could have been caused by the pain.  All I could think of during that awful experience is that I need my teammate to be ok.  Our life is so hard that I can't imagine not having my teammate to lead us through the wilderness.  Of course, God is my ultimate provider, sustainer, and rock, but I'm certain that He very purposefully gave me David as an earthly world class teammate knowing how desperately we would need a solid team that has our eyes fixed on Him.  We are so grateful that David feels back to his normal self, so much so that he played soccer tonight.  We are praying we never ever have to experience anything like that again.  If nothing else, it made me love and appreciate my man even more (if that's even possible).  

***GIANT HUG FROM GOD ALERT-  After a practically pain free week and David starting to feel like himself again after the horribly scary episode a couple nights before, this is what we woke up to on Friday morning...

Will you please pray that we continue to see a huge improvement in Andrew's pain, that it would be a direct correlation to ALL of the tumors shrinking, and that there would be no new tumors whatsoever?  Please also pray that David (and the rest of our family) remain healthy.  THANK YOU ANDREW'S ARMY!!!  Thank you for being our people!  We love and appreciate you so much!