Wind in our hair and screams of delight but also unpredictable turns and unknown outcomes. We are a family of six; Dave, Susie, Nate, Jake, Sam, and Bella.
God has been faithful in our marriage and through the birth and blessings of our boys.
God has been faithful during our adoption journey and united Bella with us in May of 2008. We were privileged to visit with Bella's birth mother; therefore, Bella's family in Guatemala will always be dear to our hearts.
On October 16, 2008, Bella was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. We are now battling the disease with 2 years and 3 months of treatment. We believe God will continue to be faithful!
Our family is committed to living life to the fullest...even on the hard days. Thank you for checking in and journeying with us!
2 Weeks....that's all we have left for "Delayed Intensification" and were back to round 2 (60 days) of "Interim Maintenance" and then on too "Maintenance"! Wow, cant even believe that its been almost 6 months since diagnosis. We are constantly being asked with very sullen faces "how are you? How is it going"? I know people are truly concerned and care and honestly, they probably cant even imagine being in the same position as we are, but are answer is always...GREAT! Were really doing great, sure, Bella has had some dark days, not all the treatments are easy, but we have not had any admittance in to the hospital since last December and that is rare. We are living in the constant glory of God's living Word and promises and this little girl is HEALED! Around the middle of June, Bella will start about 16 months of "Maintenance" treatments which means we should only be at the clinic once a month rather than twice a week. :) We will also be changing her "broviach" to a port which is under the skin so that she can be in water. This will create just a slight poke for her when receiving treatments or having blood draws, but it far out weights the benefits of enjoying cottage life with her cousins. Can you imagine trying to keep an almost 2 year old out of the sand and beach all summer when its 10 feet from your back door? Not me, and I have no interest in doing it. Bella's mood is great when she has the 4 days off of the intervenious chemo I admit in to her port, but on the "on day's" she is rather moody and nauitious and struggles to keep anything in. She has had absolutly no effects from the oral chemo she is currently taking. Thursday she starts back up on the intervenious chemo for 4 days.
We did a few crafts with Bella this past week, playdough and stamping. I have not seen my stamps or stamp pads in about 7 years now, so it was wonderful to get out that old investment and watch Bella and the boys have fun with them. Bella absolutely loves playdough....I think she enjoys carrying the containers around just as much as she enjoys the playdough.
Spring Break starts Friday this week, we will be home as we cant travel at this time with Bella's treatment. Believing God for great Michigan weather! My Sammy had his spider dance at school today and the other two boys have the "Variety Show" at school on Thursday. Nate plays electric guitar and my Jake drums. Get this, they are playing "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns n Roses! They have a small band but no singer, I have volunteered my great vocals, but it was a resounding No! Bummer, I just no I can screetch with the best of them. I will be posting both videos this week, I am so proud of my boys.
It turns out Bella did have the stomach flu as I have been spending quality time with our bathroom today. Fortunately, Bella is doing much better, just really wore out and no appetite. For 2 weeks I nursed 4 children and a husband, now they are nursing me. My sweet husband stayed home this morning to care for Bella and called my good friend Sue to get the boys from school. Stomach bug and all, I am still blessed. :) Tomorrow is Bella's all day drip chemo. It was postponed last week as her counts were too low. Back to getting some rest.
Bella has been "under the weather" the last few days. Were not sure if its the stomach flu or a "toxicity" reaction from the chemo. It's hard to say as her symptoms are the same for both. We have not been able to keep anything in her system, it just comes right back out one end or the other. Fortunately, her spirits are good, she looks good, just a little extra tired and snugly. As I type, I hear her screaming at her brothers because she is trying to come up the stairs to me and they wont let her. So as you can read, she still has her spunk. :)
I just love these chubby little fingers, and she sure loves McDonald's Nuggets.
Yup, were Irish! Well at least the boys and I, Dave and Bella are adopted into the Irish Heritage. It was the most beautiful St. Patrick's Day I ever remember, 72 degrees, sunny and blue skies! Bella and I had a McDonald's picnic on the front porch, we all went on a bike ride and we ended the day with green "Guatemalan Corn Cake". Last year I spent an entire day cooking Irish food and nobody liked it, green cake is much easier.
Tomorrow starts round 2 of "Dealyed Intensification", not only does Bella get a spinal tap, but an all day chemo drip...it will be a long day and I am going prepared with things for both of us to do. Also, to clarify things and not confuse any one, "Delayed Intensification lasts 4 weeks", it is the last round of the intense chemo, but we still have 1 year and 8 months of treatment after this. I think I may have confused some of you when I said only 3 more treatments left. However, its my understanding that come the middle of June, our life can resume more "normalcy" as the hard part will be behind us. Yet again, we just give Praise to God for being faithful to His Word, Bella has done remarkably well, quit honestly, after the first two months, the worst part has been the steroids.
I am trying to figure out how to shorten some of my video clips so that I can post them. I have a really cute one yesterday of Bella laughing so hard at her brothers jumping on the tramp. Stinking cute!
First and foremost, YES, I am ok! Yet I admit, it was a little hard on me this morning when I got her out of bed.
Bella continued to loose hair after her hair cut, I was constantly having to change her sheets and the hair was still getting in her food and eyes. So Saturday evening, Dave and I both decided it was time for it all to go. Believe it or not, I used a personal hair clipper to remove it, that's how little their was. The majority of her remaining hair outlined her face and it just made her look sickly and she's NOT! A funny little side note on these photos, Bella loves to look at the digital camera after we take photos. When we ask her "who is this" pointing to her, she always say's "Baba" (Bella), today we asked her and she looked at it for a second and then said "Baby". She didn't even know it was herself.
We had a beautiful weekend, clear blue sunny skies and high 50's low sixties....I do believe Spring has sprung.
Dana, It was a complete privilege to talk with you again today. Your wisdom and words encourage me and strengthen my spirit. You are truly a gift to all who know you.
Thanks everyone for checking in, Bella only has 3 more intense chemo treatments left, praising God for his continued blessings in His Word.
Our sweet baby girl. This has been a little bit rougher week with chemo and steroids, but overall, she has done amazingly well, were home and NOT in the hospital and I am not expecting to go back! That's my confession and I am sticking to it.
Bella was not feeling well today and just wanted to be rocked, this is tonight after an hour long cry in my arms in the rocking chair. I would not have traded this moment for anything in the world, in fact, she fell asleep with in 10 minutes after rocking her to sleep and I continued to rock her for an hour. As I looked down at her sweet little face and bald head, all I could see was my baby. The same baby I held at 3 weeks of age. I knew her hair loss would be difficult, and the first day it started to fall, it was, but now, I find joy in seeing my baby again, of touching her perfectly smooth little head and I rejoice in the fact that this time I will be given the privilege of watching all that beautiful shiny black hair grow in the months to come. I missed that her first 8 months. I knew with all my heart that God would replace the time lost, I just had no idea that it would be so perfectly wonderful. Isn't that crazy? Who would ever have thought that chemo side effects would have joy. Yet He promised there was joy in all things...I love looking for those moments every day.
Tubby after hair cute....as you can see, she was totally happy about it.
MY BABY!!!! This is a good side effect of chemo....she looks just like she did at 4 months old. I knew Sunday that this day was coming as her hair started to fall out pretty heavily...but by late this morning, I was putting a hat on her head just trying to keep it in till we got to my girl friend Belinda. Hair was every where, its all over our house, and believe it or not, after my big cry on Sunday, I was glad to see it go. It just got too messy and Bella was really miserable, she could not even eat with out hair all over her tray, hands and mouth. She looks adorable and we are honestly all good with this. Not how I wanted her first hair cut to be, but she had her hair 5 months longer than she was suppose too. Belinda said not to shave it off as she may keep some peach fuzz. So we will see, either way, she looks great and we LOVE seeing those big beautiful eye's popping out.
After dinner tonight, I gave Bella a tub and put her in to her much to big Dora jammies that were her cousins, she loves to put them on. After that, she wanted to hand me all of her hats, so I kept putting them on her head. She walked around with 4 hats on her head for an hour and half, too funny. She looked like the Cat in the Hat.
Walking by faith and not by sight. The more you do this, the easier it gets and before you know it, its habit! God's way is soooooo much easier, so grateful for His LIVING WORD!
Thanks for checking in and all your love and support. I want all of you fellow bloggers to know that I check your blogs weekly, I just dont get the opportunity to post enough, but I am working on it.
Hope...."Confident, Expectancy". Genuine Hope is not wishful thinking, but a firm assurance about things that are unseen and still in the future. (Romans 8:24-25; Heb 11:1-7-Jack Hayford)
"My hope is you Lord, show me the way, guide me in truth, in all my days". (Psl:39:7) In other words, "My confidence is you Lord, my expectation is you!". I just recently decided to look up the definition of hope. Most of us(including myself at one time) run around using the word hope as "wishful", wishful that we can "storm" heaven for God to answer our prayer . I was clearly relieved when the Holy Spirit revealed the true definition of HOPE to me. In any obstacle, circumstance or attack, I can rely on the biblical truth that "my hope is Him", I can stand in His confidence and expectation that "He is able will perform His word".
So with that said....we are blessed, every day is an adventure, regardless of the circumstance. Bella is such a trooper, the chemo she takes in large doses these next two months really effects her nerves. Our doctors are somewhat puzzled by this as most children do not respond to the "Vincristine" as she does, but we worked that out the first couple months of treatment and this time started her Narontin (a medication for children with seizures) early. This medication helps to protect her nerves. She is having quit bit of "diarrhea", but nothing alarming. She is also back on steroids, but not the high doses as the first two months. She desires lots of snuggling and attention right now, books are her favorite thing to do. She is content to just sit on our laps, not as active these days. She is not fond of the shaking and I cant say I blame her, its hard to watch her shake so uncontrollably all day, but she still remains happy and cute as ever. By this time tomorrow, it looks like she may have a new hair "doo", so check back soon.
These pictures were taken last Thursday when we had our first 62 degree day this Spring. It was a little piece of heaven and Bella loves to be outside. Our boys and the neighbor kids were trying to play a game of basketball, the Princess wanted to participate. Thinking she's going to need a little more height.
I do not like to post with out pics, that is one of the biggest reasons I do not post more often. I know I enjoy seeing pics on all of your blogs, so I assume you are looking for the same thing. However, I do want to keep you informed on Bella's progress as I know you care and your friendship and prayers mean so very much to us.
Bella's most recent chemo treatment was last Thursday, her next chemo is scheduled for Friday afternoon. She continues to baffle the Doctors with all her hair, she thinned out a tiny bit more last week, but it's still hanging in there and I am dolling her up every day with piggy's and bows. Overall, she is happy and eating REALLY well. Of course, she only eats about 5 foods, of which only 2 are really healthy for her. McDonalds chicken nuggets are her favorite! We make at least one daily trip to McDonalds for a 4 piece chicken nugget, the last 2 days, I have been there twice! Her other 4 favorites are deli turkey rolled up, pizza, apricots and eggs, that's it. Unfortunately, she has had a few effects from the chemo, not to worry, its only circumstance, a side effect of the chemo and she only has 6 weeks left of this chemo and were done and back to bone marrow aspirations! She has been nautious and making her wonderful gagging sounds again, she also has diarehia and it burns her little bottom pretty bad. I change her diaper as soon as I realize its there, but it still get's her pretty good. Bella's Oncologist invented a prescription diaper creme that the hospital calls "Magic Butt Cream", and it truly is, clears things up really quickly for her. Next week she gets a break from chemo before starting up again. Her counts are expected to drop so we will be laying low at home and allowing her little body to recooperate. We do our part in keeping Bella safe from earthly attacks to her immune system, but we take great comfort in knowing that we have done our best and the rest is in God's care and His promise is restoration, protection and healing.
The boys are great, busy in basketball, music and school. We are all starting to count the weeks till Memorial Weekend when we "open the cottage". I am on my 5th week of training for the 5k and I really am starting to get in to this. I actually find my self thinking through out the day when I will get to run, I can see why this gets a little addicting. I can now run 3 miles with only 4 minutes of walking breaks and this is only because the "trainer" tells me too. I am not burning out, so I want to stick with what I have been told to do. Courtney and Jen, you too keep me going, it can do 25k's and marathons, I can certainly handle 3.2 miles. I have also started back at Real Estate, slowly but surely.
I will update this weekend with pics and a video of Bella laughing, its so cute, she laugh's non stop at her boys.
We have been so blessed with emails and calls of people who want to help us through this time of treatment for our daughter. Per suggestion of our social worker and friend, we are posting here what we feel will be most beneficial to our family at this time. Although the help is easy to give, its hard to receive, but we have been told by medical professionals an social workers that we will need it. Your love and support mean so very much to us, thank you.
1. Prayer, please see "Pray with Us" 2. Meals 3. Car Pooling from school 4. Continued emails and blog posts with encouraging words. (This means more to us than you can possibly know.) 5. Loving on our boys, this will be a time of sacrifice for them. 6. Child Care 7. GIVE BLOOD! Where ever you live, please give blood in honor of Bella. Save a life!
We want to personally recognize and thank all of you who have graciously helped us in one way or another. Whether its through meals, house cleaning, driving, errands, donations, gifts, etc. We so appreciate you and recognize the blessing from God in all of you. Every moment of every day we are privileged to see the face of Jesus in all of you. From our home to yours, thank you and "May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand." Please note, your emails and posts are greatly appreciated and needed just as much as any monetary blessing, please continue to do so as they lift us up daily.
The Stanley Family (Gretchen and Gillibean) Candy and Kya Blue Michelle and Abby Riggs Deb Vangorder All God's Children International http://www.allgodschildren.org/ Kentwood Community Church Kitty and Larry Jerard The VanderZwaag Family The Angerbauer Family The Infante Family Annie Bulthuis The Edwards Family The Ambrose Family The Claeys Family The Fabro Family The DeMarchis Family Peter Harmon Joe and Erin Harmon Mary and Dejan Vukic Keith and Daphne Edwards Susie Harmon Betty Harmon Courtney and Stella Sue Marvin Beth Hartlien Pam Sult Keller Williams Realty Grand Rapids KW Cares Grand Rapids Sue and Rob Harkema and Family Jenifer and Brian VanZanten and Family Action Chemical of Grand Rapids Celebration Entertainment-Brad Eley Trish Borgdorf-http://www.vangels.com/ John and Michelle Lawrence Larry and Kitty Girard Stacy and Bella Gail and Johanna Pam and Rick Foster Amy, Fred and Grace Nagel John and Tiffny Harmon Tom and Sandra Harmon Nancy and Don Harmon Ray and Linda Ferrick Helen Devos Childrens Hospital Dr. Deanna Mitchell Dr. Ron Hoffman Jenifer Gerwig and Family Jane and David Lautenbach Greg and Shannon Ferrick Karen and Chad Janney Cheri, Donnie and Malaena Harris
Our Home Address
Many of you have asked for our home address, please email me at email@example.com if you would like this information. Again, we appreciate all the support and prayers. It has meant more to us than we are even able to put in to words.
Our Praise from Psalm 103
With all my heart, we Praise the Lord, And with all that we are, we Praise His Holy Name. With all our heart, we Praise the Lord, and we will never forget how kind he has been. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, He provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle. For all who are mistreated, the Lord brings justice. You oh Lord are merciful, kind and patient, your love never fails. How Great is our God! You are kind to all who worship you, You keep your promises to those who faithfully obey you All of you who serve and obey God, come and Praise your Lord! With all our hearts, We PRAISE the Lord!