10…9…8… I didn’t get to witness the Orion spacecraft countdown, but I’m sure it was exciting because they pretty much all are. At the end, you know something big is going to happen. 7….6…. Six, that is where Delaney is at right now on her own countdown. We just got the word last week, God willing and if all goes well, she is down to only six more months of treatment! Her official last day of treatment will be May 5th, 2015 talk about a good reason for a fiesta!
As for her part, Delaney has been doing great. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving and she was as spunky as ever. We put the bird in the oven and then went out and played some family 3 on 3 football. Even her non-tomboy sisters got out there and played. When they tired of that, we switched to soccer and played that until the bird was gobbling for us to eat it. We went inside, gave thanks, stuffed ourselves, played games, watched football, took a nap, stuffed ourselves again, and then played more games. It was the perfect day!
The fun continued all weekend. A very nice parent at Delaney’s school who owns 3 Ring Photography offered to shoot some family photos for us. We happened to all get the case of the giggles so it turned out to be a very silly fun-filled hour. We also managed to sneak in a movie and an art exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens before having to send Delaney’s oldest sister back to college on Sunday morning.
That afternoon, a fellow leukemia survivor invited Delaney and our family to come take a tour of the Denver Fire Department’s station 27. Russell and his wife Katie were at the Leukemia & Lymphoma’s Light the Night Walk and heard that Delaney wanted to be a firefighter. It turned out, Russell is an older, male version of Delaney.
Not only does he have his own battle with leukemia, but he is a firefighter who loves legos! Russell, and all of the firefighters on duty that day, made Delaney an honorary firefighter. Along with her sisters, Delaney got to go up
(and I mean wayyyyyy up) in the bucket on top of the firetruck.
We got to hang out in the firehouse and eat lunch with the entire firehouse. Delaney got to try out all the cool gadgets, put on the uniform, and even fire the hose. She was in heaven!
After the weekend highs, Monday came along and brought her chemo treatment and steroids with it. It was another rough week. She was home sick all week and still wasn’t really feeling well as of last night. She did rally on Friday for the Make A Wish event at Children’s Hospital where the kids get to pick out gifts for their loved ones from Santa’s workshop. It basically took it all out of her by the end so she didn’t get to meet the Denver Bronco cheerleaders were there, but a couple of them were nice enough to send her a personalized message.
While we excitedly start the countdown, that is pretty much our routine right now. We hope to have three good weeks of non-steroid happy and healthy Delaney (even though she is still taking her oral chemo daily), and then one week when she gets more chemo injected into her port and has to take steroids for the week. She goes from a feisty energetic kid for three weeks to getting her little bummie kicked for a week. But… the week is almost over, and she only has six more months to go!!!
Delaney just got to have four days of non-stop fun. Family flew in from California and Missouri to help celebrate her being the honored hero for the Light the Night Walk and everyone stayed for a fun-filled weekend (just a quick note on the walk, we got an updated number that there were over 5000 people and that it took over 15 minutes just for everyone to get through the starting line— So Awesome!).
Because we don’t see the family all the time, we took the opportunity to celebrate all four October birthdays. Delaney and her cousin Brody are technically five days apart, but they have so much fun and are so goofy when they are together, that they may as well have been separated at birth. We had a joint party for them at a place where opposing teams shoot each other with Nerf guns while trying to hide behind cardboard obstacles. Because they are just soft darts, you can’t really get hurt so everyone from her five year old cousin to her 60 something grandparents played and had a blast. That night we conveniently forgot our bedtimes and stayed up late playing a couple of Delaney’s favorite games: Catchphrase and Scattergories. It was one of those nights where our stomachs literally started hurting from laughing so much. Great times!
And now… unfortunately, back to reality. Her oldest sister is back at college and everyone else is back in California. As I write this, Delaney is sleeping, but it won’t be long until her Mom has to go wake her up so she can eat something before tomorrow’s procedure. Once again, she’ll be put under so they give her chemo in her spine, more chemo in the port in her chest, and start her on the next steroid cycle. And just like that… the fun is over. That’s okay though, as we realize that we are very blessed.
God willing, Delaney will be done with her treatment in another eight months. As a current fighter, Delaney got to carry the white “Survivor” lantern at the Light the Night Walk. As supporters, we got to carry red lanterns. But there were also gold lanterns. Too many gold lanterns to be exact. Gold lanterns were carried by those in memory for the loss of a loved one. We have friends that were carrying gold lanterns who lost their baby to the exact same kind of leukemia that Delaney has. We have another friend who shows up for treatment and literally prays that she is well enough to receive chemo. Sometimes she is, but oftentimes they have to send her home without treatment because her body wouldn’t be able to handle it. So as much as I absolutely hate that our daughter has to go through this, we realize that in the big scheme of things, we are very blessed and we are very grateful.
My heart overflows with joy. I’m going to be honest and just let you know that whatever I write here cannot do tonight justice. We just got back from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. And… IT WAS AMAZING!
We arrived at the beautiful Wash Park early. If you aren’t in Denver, I should probably tell you that three days ago we had a fierce hail storm and it has rained cats and dogs the past two nights. In perfect contrast, tonight was a beautiful Fall night that was just cool enough to let you know that Summer is officially over. It was perfect and made me once again grateful to be living in beautiful Colorado.
We decided to grab some food before everything really got going. As we finished eating, more and more friends and supporters kept showing up. The crazy part is that we probably only saw half the people that made it to show their support. Between brief greetings and thank you’s, somehow it was already 6:45 which was the time we were to go to the stage. We got a brief line-up for the night, and then it was on!
The speakers included one of the top cancer doctors who shared some of the exciting advancements that are being made in medicine today. The message was clear: When we say, “Someday we’ll find a cure,” someday is today.
Before we knew it, the crowd was directed to watch the large screen where a video was to be shown. The video began with a shot of my wife, Delaney, and I saying, “Cancer Can Kiss My Stache!” and then being silly. Delaney’s story was told beautifully and was weaved in with another woman’s story and the advancements being made as a result of the supporters of the Leukemia and Society. When the video was over, we were called up on stage where they told the crowd of probably more than 2500 that Delaney wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up. Then they presented her with a firefighter helmet complete with a mustache on it. Delaney was in heaven.
The top fundraisers were recognized and then we literally proceeded to light the night. Almost everyone in the crowd had a lantern that was either gold, red, or white and they were all turned off. Starting with gold in honor of people who were walking in memory of somebody who lost their battle with a blood cancer, then all the folks who were carrying a red lantern to designate their support of somebody affected by a blood cancer, lit their lantern. Then Delaney was called up to lead the lighting of the white lanterns which designated the survivors. It was really cute as Delaney did the countdown with the morning anchor from channel 9 news, Corey Rose. (I know the video isn’t the best quality, but it kind of shows the magnitude of tonight’s event as you can see just how many people are lighting their gold, red and white lanterns.)
After leading the countdown, we rushed from the stage to the golf cart that was decorated in Bronco’s colors. They did another countdown to begin the walk, and we rode off to lead the crowds. Due to my phone dying, my favorite photo will have to remain a mental snapshot. It was of us being one one side of the lake and looking all the way across to the other side and seeing thousands of people showing their support while lighting up a trail that stretched over a mile all the way to the other side of the lake. Simply awesome!
Thank you again to all that donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and to all of you amazing folks that showed up to walk with us tonight. We love you!!!
Life is good for Delaney and I am smiling just because I get to say that. Last Saturday she got to join her soccer team and even got to play goalie. She did great, but Mom and Dad probably lost a year of life for every ball that was kicked in her direction. More importantly, she had fun and the other parents and coaches were so gracious with their kind words afterwards that it made me realize how much I have missed her soccer games.
On Tuesday night, Delaney, her Mom, and one of her sisters got to go to her first concert. They saw Katy Perry and had a blast. Mom was worried that Delaney wouldn’t be able to stay up for the show, but the combination of her taking a nap after school and her pure exhilaration got her through to the very last song. Speaking of songs, I know it isn’t Katy Perry, but this video of Delaney singing Sara Bareille’s Brave is too good to be wasted. She made it with two of her sisters (and some goofy dude that will remain unnamed) about a year ago when another of our cancer friends (Joshua of #BeBrave) was creating a video compilation of kids who were fighting cancer singing and dancing to the song. Enjoy!
Speaking of friends, I’ve got to at least introduce you to a sweet little girl we met at the Paul Newman camp last month. Now is probably as good as time as any to remind you that not only am I not a doctor, I am a borderline idiot. With that said, I believe little Natalie’s brain tumor is affecting half of her body to the point of paralysis. That didn’t stop the five year old little cutie from scaling the 40 foot climbing wall with no problem. Then, as she and her twin brother and father were standing on the top of a plank waiting to zipline, the volunteer asked the three of them who was going to go first. Little Natalie quickly stepped forward and announced, “I am!” And then like the fearless little warrior she is, she went for it.
Well last Friday Natalie had a scan that nobody of any age should have to get. Her parents were prepared to get one of two results: the cancer has spread from her brain to her spine (which would definitely not be good news) OR that the tumor came back for the third time (which they were informed meant that treatment wasn’t working for Natalie). I forgot to mention Natalie’s parents are very faithful people and her Mom was so bold to request that people pray for a miracle for their little angel. Apparently God is still in the healing business because this week they got the results that showed no evidence of disease. Little Natalie is cancer free!
As for Delaney, today is her big day as the honored hero for tonight’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night walk. Her big sister at college, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins all flew in to help her celebrate. We have been floored by the generosity so many people have already shown to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you are anywhere near Denver, we would love for you to come join us at Wash Park tonight. The festivities begin at 5:30 and the walk begins at 7:30. If you can’t make it out tonight, but are so moved to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can use this link: http://pages.lightthenight.org/rm/DenverL14/dstafford. THANK YOU!!!
We are coming off of a fantastic weekend! Delaney had the opportunity to go to The Round Up River Ranch Camp for a weekend and even got to bring her family. It is a Paul Newman Camp that combined with funding by the John Wayne Cancer Foundation offers a completely free family weekend for kids with cancer. Technically it only lasted a little over 40 hours, but it was packed with fun activities and laughter.
We got our cabin assignment upon arrival on Friday, and then went to dinner and a campfire for some songs, skits, and some smores. Afterwards, we went back to our cabin but instead of going to bed, the kids hung out with some very cool counselors and played games, told jokes, and were challenged with brain teasers. While they were having their fun, the adults got to have time to meet each other and enjoy some fellowship while playing some decades trivia. We finished up the fun and then hit the hay because we knew Saturday was going to be a full day.
Having some fun with one of the cool volunteers, Kevin.
We started our day off by instilling some fear and trembling into the fishies of the camp’s stocked lake. The fish were right to be scared, just not of us. We got some food in us and then decided to hit the climbing wall and zip lining. I had been zip lining before and was trying to play it cool. Even having done it before, the familiar butterflies in the stomache returned before stepping off a perfectly good platform that was probably 40 feet up. If I was nervous, Delaney was terrified… but she did it! She also got to ride a horse, do some painting, boating (including getting a very big laugh as her dad managed to flip the canoe when he got on it), and even won a buck off dad when her arrow was closest to the target in archery (nothing like the teaching the kids gambling at a young age… don’t judge me).
As fun as all the activities were, the real joy came from the people. We met so many nice people. From the volunteers that donated their time to serve the campers, to the other families that got to cut loose and not only enjoy their time with their family but also got to bond with other families facing similar struggles, but the kids themselves were what made it so great.
Sure there were bald kids, kids on crutches and in wheelchairs, and a whole lot of medications, but this weekend they weren’t a bunch of kids with cancer, they just got to be kids. They played kickball, soccer, hula hoops, dodge ball, building blocks, croquet, got to go to the carnival that the staff and volunteers put on, danced after every meal, and just laughed and laughed through it all as they created memories that will last a lifetime.
After her fun weekend, Delaney got right back in the swing of things. She got more chemo today and goes back Wednesday for the doctor to check out how her fractured ankle is doing. Because I’ve been doing such a poor job of updating lately, I don’t know that I mentioned that she currently has her 2nd ankle fracture this year. Unfortunately, this is just part of the fun that comes with steroids. The doctors were worried about necrosis of her bones caused by the steroids, but they think she’ll be fine. Hopefully she gets some good news on Wednesday, because soccer season has officially begun!
As Summer is winding down, it makes me wonder where the time has gone and it also makes me realize that I haven’t posted a Delaney update in a while. She has had quite the Summer. Last Summer she was too sick to go anywhere or do anything. So when me and her sisters were going to spend a week at the beach with Grammy, Grandpa, and lots of cousins, Delaney got to stay at home with Mom because her ANC level was too low for travel. Well this Summer, she has definitely made up for it.
From her Make-A-Wish trip, to camping near the Great Sand Dunes, to getting to go Southern California for her cousins wedding (where she got to show off her moves on the floor), to playing on a softball team for the very first time, or just hanging out with her buddies, she has been out going and doing. Of course it hasn’t been all fun, but for the most part when she is feeling well enough (which fortunately is most of the time now), she has been out enjoying life.
Of course, her treatments continue. At her chemo visit a month ago, they decided to up her doses across the board. There wasn’t anything wrong or not working, but as she grows her body needs more medicine. You would think that by now we would be accustomed to this but for some reason this seemed to hit me in the pit of my stomach. It was just the thought of more chemo in her port, more chemo in her spine, and the toughest part for Delaney, more steroids. Her little body seemed to do okay with the increased chemo. Her emotions from the steroids on the other hand…
Unfortunately, she just went back this past Friday for more more chemo and more steroids which means when she starts school tomorrow, she is right in the middle of a steroid cycle. The big 2nd grade. Delaney was in kindergarten when this whole (non) Adventure started and now she is about to delve into the school year where she officially becomes smarter than her old man. The great news is that the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter because if all goes as planned, the end of the the school year is also the end of her treatment. That’s right, in May of 2015, Delaney should be done with treatment and can officially say, “Cancer Can Kiss my Stache!”
Delaney (making a silly face) at the Cancer Can Kiss My Stache booth hosted by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.