On June 1, 2010 our two year old, "Little Air Bear," was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Type M7. After enduring 146 days at Primary Children's Hospital, Erin is now in remission and living a full life at home with our family. Her strong will and constant happy smile is an inspiration to us all. Through our difficult circumstances we found great strength and peace in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for checking in on us.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Changes of Cancer

Two friends brought together by Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Erin and Rachel - THEN
November 2010

Erin and Rachel - NOW
April 2011

Yesterday during some quiet moments in the day I found myself browsing through our old videos and photos of the kids.  It amazes me how much they have grown up.  We waited for a long time to get kids from Heaven and then they decided that they all needed to come together in a whirlwind 34 months.  Those earlier years when I had 3 babies is finally over.  Now we have three little kids.  It's so much fun on so many new levels.  They can all talk and put on their own shoes, we haven't seen a diaper in this house for months now, and everyone sleeps through the night. 

The last year has been a big blur for all of us.  I happened upon some photos of Erin a month before we found out she had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (May 2010).  You can see in her face, skin color, and bruising that she was really sick.

She is such a different looking person now.
I cannot believe how much she has changed.
Sometimes I look at her and I still see that little blonde fragile toddler, and it startles me to see this rambunctious energetic brown haired fireball girl.

Yesterday Erin had her last day of preschool.  Cecily wanted to be in the picture with Erin.  I cannot believe we just finished preschool.  It seems like it has all gone so fast.  It was such a blessing having Erin attend preschool.  It gave her some wonderful social interactions that she had missed while isolated in the hospital.

And here are the kiddos at an Easter Celebration at the Country Club.

This morning I gave Erin her first little haircut.  Well, it was more of a mini trim - I only trimmed off 1/2 inch in the back.  The hair at the base of her neck was starting to look so scraggly, like a boy haircut that is too grown out.  So I trimmed it up a bit.  Wow!  Can you believe I just gave my once bald little girl a haircut.  That is something to celebrate!

Tags: "Acute Myeloid Leukemia"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Remission: A Release From Anxiety and Pain

I will never forget the moment I found out that Erin had leukemia.  John and I were on and off the phone with our Pediatrician, my parents came to comfort us and mourn with us.  Time stood still.  All the while, Erin was sleeping peacefully in her toddler bed while John and I were in the next room weeping and praying.  We were scared, we felt vulnerable and beaten down.

A short while later, we slowly, very silently, entered Erin's bedroom.  Upon opening the door I could feel a special calming spirit in her room.  I am sure there were angels round about.  I have often wondered what Erin was dreaming about at that time.  Was she somehow being prepared for what was to come?  My father and my husband gave Erin a Priesthood blessing.  I stood there and stared at my perfect sleeping little girl.  She was 20 days away from turning 2 years old.  She slept so quietly, so beautifully.  I looked at her and wondered about the cancer swimming in her blood - taking away her precious life right before my eyes. 

I speak of these sacred first moments in our trial only to compare with something even more dreadful than cancer.  Cancer is subtle, it can overtake anyone's body.  It affects the rich, the poor, the famous, the weak, the beautiful, the ordinary, the short, the tall, the strong, the young, the old.  While someone is battling cancer, even if they are a stranger, we are drawn to help them, we cry with them, and we endlessly serve them.  The community bands together to help them overcome the cancer that is manically trying to overtake their body and kill it.

Sin is like cancer.  Its beginnings are subtle.  It starts with one small wrong doing.  Eventually, if it is not remedied, it can overcome someones senses, erase their judgement, the consequences of their choices can lead to their loss of freedom, and even their will to survive.  Nephi, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, wrote, "I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.  And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins." (2 Nephi 4:18-19)  Nephi's father, Lehi, once counseled his family to "shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe."

Erin's cancer felt like chains.  We were chained to a hospital room.  Erin was literally chained to several IV pumps.  Our family was split, unable to be together.  Our hearts ached and groaned; we were often heavy with sadness.  When Erin was home between stays, we were bound to endless medications and a new lifestyle.  We were bound to hospital bills and worry about Erin's heath and future.  Our once free schedule became so erratic that we had little time for normal everyday pleasures.  We were completely weighed down and worn out by the effects of cancer.  There are over 30 children right now stuck in the cancer ward at Primary Children's Medical Center  - they are bound to their treatments unable to run in the grass hunting for Easter eggs.

To eradicate the cancer from Erin's body she received harsh strong hazardous chemicals that entered her body through a tube placed directly into her heart.  It wasn't easy for her.  She was extremely ill, the chemotherapy killed her bad cells and it killed some of her good cells too.  She lost her hair, she lost weight, she had serious infections, she threw up.  Her bone marrow, a staple for life that creates blood, was brought to the brink of death multiple times.  She had to suffer serious pain and sickness to be healthy again.  We knew that the chemotherapy would help her body be healed  It was a tough way to be released from the chains of cancer .

We too must be released from the chains of sin.  We need to have a change, from within the deepest parts of our hearts.  The change can hurt, it can be extremely difficult and sometimes lonely.  How I wish we could reach out to those struggling with sin in the same way an entire community reaches out to a person fighting cancer.

One of the most relieving and comforting words we heard after all of this was over was that Erin was in remission from her leukemia.  My friend Lizzie, whose infant son Andrew also has AML, spoke of how hearing that her son was in remission brought her "a release from anxiety and pain".

It is the word remission that is most important, especially at this Easter time when my thoughts are drawn close to my Savior.  "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." (2 Nephi 25:26) 

Upon finding out Erin had cancer we immediately sought out the source to heal her.  We would never have sat around thinking, "I'm too busy today, I have far greater things to do".  We should daily be actively seeking the one true source to receive a remission of our sins, our Savior.  Jesus Christ, a separate being from His Heavenly Father, who came to earth to fulfill the beautiful plan of salvation and offer Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf.

"The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell;
I have beheld his glory,
and I am encircled about eternally
in the arms of his love." 
(2 Nephi 1:15)

Friday, April 22, 2011

4 Month Clinic

Four months from finishing chemo and Erin's still living free from her Acute Myeloid Leukemia!  That's something to be very happy about.  Dr. Verma, our Oncologist, told us that the first 18 months after the Induction Phase of Chemotherapy is the time when a child is most likely to relapse.  Erin finished Induction the first of July 2010, which means that her 18 month window of potential relapse ends in December 2011.  December just cannot come soon enough!  After that 18 month window, it is still possible that she could relapse within 5 years, but the chance becomes very minimal.  After 5 years she is considered CURED!

Our family went to the hospital together and we had to laugh so hard when we got there and our 4 year old son was getting out of the car and said, "where are my shoes?"  I said, "I don't know.  Did you put them on before we left?"  Ha ha.  Of course he didn't.  That didn't stop us though, "Mr. Shoeless" enjoyed his time in the Forever Young Zone with his older sister.  The Forever Young Zone is a beautiful, most wonderful place at Primary Children's Hospital.  It is located on the 3rd floor and many many many wonderful people volunteer there.  The room is packed with FUN.  Crafts, computers, toys, a kitchen set, music things, more toys, and books.  Did I mention toys?  It's the greatest place for our kids to be entertained while we attend to Erin.  The staff there know us and our kids by name since we spent to much time living in the hospital.  It was a pleasure to finally introduce them to Erin!

Speaking of Erin, she is amazing.  We danced down the hallway to the lab to have her blood drawn.  She never gets scared or complains about having it done.  I look up to her courage and bravery so much.  She knows what must be done and she just does it.  She was poked in the top of her hand for her blood draw and I barely had to hold her.  She never even tries to pull her hand back.  Now, how many 2 year olds can do that?!

 In the elevator going up to Clinic.
She got that little stuffed elephant for being so brave in the lab.

I think her little fauxhawk is pretty awesome too!

John and I had a little extra time between her lab draw and her clinic appointment so we went to visit Tanner (and his Mom) in ICS.  He just completed his 5th round of chemotherapy and hopefully will be having his bone marrow transplant soon.  There is a huge fundraiser for him on Monday in Cache Valley, so if you're interested in coming to a fantastic party and dinner CLICK HERE.

Erin and John decorated an Easter Egg while waiting for the clinic appointment.

We got Erin's CBC (Complete Blood Count) results and everything looks good.  Phew!  We can breath for another month.  We really don't expect Erin to relapse, it's just that with a 50% relapse rate we are always nervous.  Always.  We do our best to forget about it. 

The Clinic was SO BUSY.  We were in our clinic room for 2 HOURS.  You know that if it is a busy day then there are a lot of sick kids there, I don't get upset about having to wait because I am thankful that my little girl is healthy.  I feel so badly for all the other parents there who have really sick kids.  Dr. Fluchel, our Primary Oncologist, said that he had seen so many sick kids that day.  When I say sick kids - I mean life threatening illness.  A lot of them had to admitted into ICS to get IVs and medications.

Dr. Fluchel told me that on Friday night he covered for another Oncologist for 5 hours.  Within that time frame he had FOUR FAMILIES COME IN that he had to diagnosis with Leukemia.  One of those families had a child whom he diagnosed with Erin's type of Leukemia,  AML.  I almost started crying when he told me that.  I feel so badly for those who are just finding out that their sweet innocent child has cancer.  I feel badly for that AML child who just started what we have finished.  I know how their parents are feeling and I wish I could meet them and tell them that they can do this, that they are strong enough to overcome.  I wish I could tell them that at first it may seem like the world has ended and that this life may appear so bitter and hard, but I want to tell them that there are so many blessing and miracles that they will see - if they can just keep their hearts open to see them.  During our 7 1/2 months in ICS I saw a miracle or blessing everyday. I truly believe our trials can become blessings.

During our 2 hour wait to see our Oncologists Erin spent most of the time playing with princesses.  One neat thing about the Hematology/Oncology Clinic is that they have awesome toys.  So many people from all over have given so generously to the Clinic.  We appreciate it so much.  Erin always picks to play with this princess set.

She also got some root beer, an otter pop, and chocolate pudding.  We did the otter pop instead of the traditional Popsile (for those of you wondering about her usual Popsicle).

Labs from 4 Month Clinic
White Blood Count 5.3 (normal 6.0 -17.0)
Hematocrit 41.8 (normal 43.0-40.0)
Platelets 215 (normal 150-400)
ANC 2700 (normal 1500-8500)

Previous Labs from 3 Month Clinic
White Blood Count 4.8
Hematocrit 41.9
Platelets 208
ANC 2300

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pictures Of A Two Year Old Cancer Survivor!

Erin's Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML Type M7) has changed a lot about our lives.  I am still in awe that we went through so much - it almost seems unreal - like a dream.  Erin's 4 month appointment is scheduled for Thursday and of course I'm anxious to just get the results of her blood work and then live another month of a normal life - cancer free.

I am continually amazed at how much Erin has changed in appearance in this last year.  She went from a very sick blonde toddler, to a strong bald beauty, to an energetic brown haired little girl.  I have been scouring my house for a little envelope I have that contains a lock of Erin's blonde hair from the day that I cut off her pigtails and shaved her head.  But, I have obviously put is somewhere "safe" and as all of us mothers know about putting things in "safe" places - I'll probably randomly find it in a few years if I have any luck.

I love the many looks of Erin's hair as it's been growing in.
I thought I'd take a picture of her everyday this week.
So on to the pictures . . .

The stylish tub look
(you can also see the scar where her
broviac central line "tube-ees" were)

The wet look.
the flower is attached to her hair
not a headband!
Of course, it didn't stay there long.

The I'm Too Wild For My Hair Look.

The Fluffy Fro-Head Look
It never looked like this before cancer.

The Everyday Messy Princess Look.
After 4 months, I finally pulled this princess dress out of her drawer and let her wear it.  She wore it so much in the hospital that I just couldn't see her in it at home.  It reminded me of lots of long worrisome days spent in the hospital.  She is taller now and it fits her better.  She has worn it everyday since, and has been sleeping in it too.

And this lovely sideways shot (that blog spot won't let me change)
of her as she looks most of the time.
I think it's funny this outfit still fits her.
She wore it last July HERE

Tags: "Acute Myeloid Leukemia"

Rally for Tanner

Rally for Tanner
Monday, April 25th
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Logan Recreation Center

Cache Valley Friends, bring your family to support Tanner’s family at a “tailgate” dinner catered by the Coppermill Restaurant and fabulous benefit fundraiser and pep rally for Tanner Smith, Logan High mascot, Grizzwald, from 2007-2010.

to read about the fundraiser and purchase tickets.

Tanner is the son of Kristi and Robert Smith (Coppermill’s “Chef Bob”). At age 16, Tanner was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and received treatments which put the cancer in remission. Tanner was able to return to Logan High where he continued as Grizzwald the mascot for his junior and senior years. Less than a year after high school graduation, Tanner received the heartbreaking news of a new cancer, AML leukemia, caused by a chemotherapy drug he received for his earlier treatments. Tanner is now 19 and is in the fight of his life—for his life.  Since November, Tanner had endured several rounds of intense chemotherapy and he is still struggling to get his AML in remission.  A bone marrow transplant was scheduled for early April, but has been postponed until his cancer gets in remission.  Please consider coming to support Tanner and his family.