Today felt like a huge milestone. We had our final check up before our next round of chemo and everything looked great. Esther has completed the first of six rounds of the first part of her chemotherapy.
I am a box checker and it felt great to check a box. In many ways I remember back and am blown away that Esther was diagnosed less than a month ago. She only started chemo 3 weeks ago, it feels like a year. However, when I walked away from the hospital today I was encouraged. I wanted to find someone to high five and shout, "We made it!"
Although there is a lot ahead, but just making it through the last month feels like I've survived a hurricane. I honestly feel like it's a miracle to be alive. One of the first passages someone ever shared with me after I gave my life to Christ in 1999 is Isaiah 43: 1-4
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
A friend whose child is going through treatment described to me feeling like waves just pounding her against a rock, but she doesn't drown. Somehow she is still holding as the water pulls back from the rock. I totally understand what she's saying.
We're only surviving those waves because God created us, redeemed us, called us by name. I belong to Christ, I am his. He will be with me when the current is violent, when the fire is more than I can bear. He is My God. He gave Christ in exchange for me. I am precious to Him and He loves me. He loves Esther. He loves Rourke, Lydia, Frannie & Zinnia. He has created all of us and His love is limitless.
I can say that I walked out of Children's Hospital today encouraged only because of God's grace. Everything seemed to go wrong, my tied up with a bow, easy cancer journey did not play out the way I wanted. I've never felt so out of control or paralyzed. It is not because we are so amazing we can shake the water out of our hair and rub the salt from our eyes when the wave shrinks away, it's because God has promised that we won't drown, we won't be burned. This is His grace in our lives.
Esther's day in the clinic was full of sweet treats. The hospital does a program called "Beads of Courage." Each bead represents a different peg on their journey, hospital stays, surgery, tests, chemo days, fevers, neutropenia, losing her hair. As she laid on the bed and strung her beads it was such a visual for me that we survived all of that. It's already a necklace, a journey, far to long for a little girl. But as she finished stringing the beads and I tied it up, I realized, we made it through all of this. All of it. The beads were far more therapeutic for me than her.
She also received a bag the Oncology staff called "Gabby's Bag." It is a HUGE backpack that was stuffed full of toys and activities that are perfect for hospital stays. The program is called Bags of Fun. It was started by a 6 year old cancer patient who wanted to give something to kids like here. The bags are all age appropriate and gender themed. Gabby lost her battle with cancer but has left a sweet legacy for children like her. Esther's bag has lacing dolls, block puzzles, little mouse figures, a bubble maker, a book to paint, a DVD and portable DVD player, blocks and more. I was speechless by the perfect items in the bag and when Dr. Amy told us about Gabby I had to sit down.
I heard another story a few months ago about a girl who used her Make A Wish money to create "Joy Jars." She wanted to give something to kids in the hospital who were sick like her, something to bring them joy. She stuffed each jar during her final months of life and they were delivered to children in several hospitals in the US.
Oh that we would be so generous! So many of you have delivered us backpacks and joy jars. Thank you for being hands and feet to hold us up, to bear our burdens when the waves are strong and the fire is too hot to bear. Such a grace, such a gift.
Rourke, Lydia, Frannie & Zinnia spent the day with Aunt Lexi and Connor. They had such a fun time together. I think I want to make them their own Bags of Fun, make them their own necklaces. They've handled this struggle so courageously, they're enduring hardship too.
The plan for next week is to begin treatment at 7:30am each day. She'll have 5 days of chemo and about two weeks to recover. During that third week before she begins her next round of chemo she'll have her stem cells extracted. This is still so unbelievable to me, that we can extract someone's own stem cells and use them to rescue their body out of trauma. God designed this and knows us far more intricately, we are only at the tip of his understanding.