Classroom Celebration (of Courage)

Don’t worry, I’m not going to keep you updated on Delaney for the rest of her life.  However, last week there a celebration that was too darn cool to not share.  We got invited to her school where they were going to celebrate her being done with her treatment.  We decided to keep it a secret from Delaney and by the time we arrived they had all four 2nd grade classes out in their quad.  We immediately noticed two things: 1. A giant sign that read, “Congratulations Delaney”  (and of course “I heart Mustaches”) and 2. about 80 little munchkins that had used sharpies to stache themselves.
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Her 2nd grade teacher let the kids know that Delaney has been on quite the journey the past three years, and that a lot of them have been on that journey with her since kindergarten.  She pointed out to the students that they all got to learn about courage this year because one of the students displayed it all year long.  “Who was that student, class?” she asked, “DELANEY!!!” they all yelled. And then, with all the kids sitting on the carpet, she read them all a book titled, “Courage.”
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When she was done, Delaney’s kindergarten teacher came up and spoke to the kids.  She told them just like she had taught them reading, writing, and their math, Delaney had taught them perseverance, inspiration, and courage. Then Delaney’s first grade teacher came up and read her a card that had both her and Delaney’s mom tearing up.
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Then they asked us if we wanted to say anything.  We thanked the kids for always being there for Delaney and for being such good friends to her.  I let them know that throughout their lives they would have opportunities to stand up for people that couldn’t stand up for themselves and that their parents, teachers, and all of us would be proud if they continued to do what is right.

Then everyone marched outside where each classroom had helium filled biodegradable orange balloons.  As the balloons flew up into the sky it represented Delaney’s cancer flying away.  Then, my favorite part of the whole day happened.  Without any prompting, the kids broke into an impromptu chant of, “Let’s go Delaney, let’s go!”

Such amazing, courageous kids at an incredible school with loving teachers and staff that have been so good to Delaney and our family.  Blessed indeed.
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Full circle and… DONE!

PORT REMOVAL DAY… YAYYYY! It was a different campus of Children’s Hospital, but I can vividly remember the day she got her port placed in her. Two things stick out in my memory: a woman in the waiting room who could tell what we were there for coming up to me while Delaney was in surgery to let me know that her son was getting his port removed and that we would make it. I was congratulating her on her son and she kept stressing, “No, WE made it!” and pointed at herself and her husband. She then warned me that the stress that comes with our daughter’s diagnosis can wreak havoc on a marriage if you let it. Well today, I am glad to tell you that WE also made it!
The other thing that stands out about that day is that it was basically the day “Cancer can kiss my stache!” was born. Going into surgery to get her port placed they spent a good deal of time making sure she wouldn’t be too scared. When they were all done calming her already calm nerves they asked, “Okay Delaney, do you have any questions?” “Yes,” she said, “when I wake up, can I have a mustache?”
Any guesses what she requested today?
Here is the today’s version and the original:
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Or pre-op now and then:

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As for Delaney, she was up to her silly antics. After they advised her she could breathe through her mouth if the gas from the gas mask smells bad, she asked, “where do I breathe out of if my dad’s jokes are bad?” Love that little goofball!
She is now out of surgery and doing great. Her medical nerd… I mean nurse mother on the other hand is sad because they wouldn’t let her keep the port as memento.
I know I have said it a million times but I could say it a million more, THANK YOU for all the love, prayers, and support for our precious Delaney and our family over the past couple of years.
While looking for the original stache pic, I came across these past pics that I thought I would share again here. I figure nobody that reads this blog will mind a walk down Delaney’s memory lane.

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Conversations, emotions, and winding it all down

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“It seems like just yesterday, when you called us to see if we could take Mackenzie for you.”  I was having a conversation with a good friend last night and he was referencing the day that my wife and I will never forget.  It was when we first got that call instructing us to immediately head to the Children’s Hospital where they where awaiting our arrival in the emergency room.  They continued by informing us that they thought our youngest daughter Delaney had leukemia.  As our hearts sunk, we needed to find someone to take care of our other kids.  We had no idea how long we would be in the hospital with Delaney, we just knew we needed to be with her.   It seems like just yesterday, but it was actually about 800 “yesterdays” ago.

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After over two years of treatment, this past Friday was Delaney’s very last IV chemo.  WOOHOO!!!  My wife brought a card to say thank and a cake as we were ready to partayyy.  Even as we were pulling up to the hospital, we got the call to schedule the surgery to remove the port from her chest.  It is official, Delaney is definitely winding down her (non) adventures with cancer.

Before we went to her appointment, I called my wife to check in on her.  “I’m an emotional mess!” she admitted.  We are beyond thrilled for her to be done.  But, I guess if we are honest, we are also nervous and even a little fearful. For the past two years, she has had an entire medical team watching out for her.  What if something happens to her after Tuesday?  When and what do we need to worry about after this?  I have no idea, but I can’t help but be reminded that “Do not fear” appears 365 times in the Bible… one for every day of the year.

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“Do you know our kids have prayed for Delaney every single night for the past two years?”   I heard this again last night.  We’ve heard different forms of this, my son or daughter, my mom, our family, or I have prayed for your daughter….  We appreciate every single prayer said for her and for us.  I hope someday Delaney will understand how many people she had praying for her.  So many of them, we have never even met and probably never will this side of Heaven.   Thank you.  By the way, at that same function (and by “function” I mean watch the fight and play some poker party) a guy was wearing a “Cancer Can Kiss my Stache!” shirt.  I don’t know if he even knows who Delaney is or her story, but I love it.  Same for all those folks that have been wearing a rubber bracelet with the same message for the past two years, thank you.  I know I’ve said it before, but we can’t even begin to thank so, SO many people for their kindness shown to our daughter and to us.

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At Friday’s appointment, we met with her doctor and he filled us in what it would look like from here.  One of the things he wanted to make us aware of is how long it will take her immune system to fully recover.  It sounds like we can expect about six months for her immune system to be back to 100%.  She will continue to take one of her antibiotic pills for the next three months to help with that.  On that note, he wanted to see if there was anything that could be done about her persistent cough so he ordered a CT scan of her sinuses. That was one more affirmation that she is almost done as we get to wait a week for the results of the scan.

Anyway, some folks have asked what happens from here.   Along with getting her last IV chemo on Friday, she  also started her last five days of oral chemo and steroids.  On May 5th, mere hours away, she’ll get to take her very last oral chemo and finish her steroids (I’ve got to be honest, we are not going to miss the steroids one bit)!  After that, she’ll go back in once a month to see her doctor and to get labs drawn.  After 12 months of that, assuming all is still good, she’ll go to every other month.  Then every three months, and so on.  Eventually she’ll only have to go once a year, and that will pretty much be for life.  Within the next couple of years, we will go to something called the Hope Clinic where they will further educate us on, and watch for, the long term side effects of her treatment.

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Tonight, my wife was brushing Delaney’s hair and they were being silly together.  Delaney even allowed her to pull her hair back in a ponytail, and she observed that her hair was now almost as long as when she was first diagnosed.  “Don’t cry mommy,” Delaney told her.

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As for Delaney, she is doing amazing even during this steroid week.  She followed up Friday’s chemo by playing in her soccer game Saturday and Sunday.  As excited as we are for her to take her very last chemo on Tuesday and get her port out on Thursday, she is probably even more excited to perform a hip hop routine with one of her best friends in her school’s talent show on Wednesday.  After all, she is just a (very cool) kid!

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All sorts of goodness!

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!!!