Conversations, emotions, and winding it all down

*****

“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.

******

wpid-20150501_135653.jpg

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.

*****

“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.

wpid-20150502_201219.jpg

*****

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.

*****

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.

wpid-20150501_140050.jpg

*****

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!

wpid-20150501_135500.jpg

Advertisements

The Night has definitely been Lit!

wpid-20141002_190849.jpg
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!!!

Faith restored!

     Have you ever had one of those weeks?  You know the ones where your job could be going better, your relationships could be stronger, and you’re angry at God and just about everyone else because you’re just down in the dumps?  Well, I was having one of those weeks a couple of weeks ago.  By the time Friday evening rolled around, I just wanted to put on some cozy PJ’s, curl up in a the fetal position, and cry for my Mommy.  Okay, not really, but as work was piling up and I was already exhausted, I wasn’t really looking forward to the Spring Carnival at our kids’ school.  The only reason that I was going was because Delaney was beyond excited to go and the only way my week could get any worse was if I let my daughter down in something that she was really looking forward to. 

      As we entered the Spring Carnival, I couldn’t but notice all the usual fun stuff: bounce houses, dunk tank, games, girl dressed as a cookie holding a sign that has my daughter’s name and pictures of mustaches on it.  Wait… what was that?  The elementary school had already blessed us last year with the stache station.  Maybe there was a mistake?  A couple of steps later I realized that it wasn’t a mistake as there was the culprit: there stood young Jackson (aka The. Sweetest Kid. EVER.), “Hi Mr. Stafford!”  He was selling cookies and donating all proceeds to help support Delaney.  Really it was more than just Jackson as there were probably about five different kids and just as many adults.  What I found out was that Jackson took it upon himself to approach the PTO of the elementary school he no longer attends and ask their permission.  Not only did they give him permission, they rallied behind the idea and about 5-6 different families joined Jackson’s family in baking cookies to be sold.  Somehow this was all kept a surprise from us until the carnival… maybe things really weren’t that bad afterall. 

      Not even 24 hours later, I got a message on Delaney’s Facebook page from a woman that I don’t know if I have ever even met.  Her daughter and friend wanted to do something for Delaney.  They went and bought all the supplies for a lemonade stand and set it up all on their own, and then spent almost the entire day selling lemonade.  These sweet kids just took it upon themselves to do whatever they could to help.  How awesome is that???  Keep in mind that it has been over a year since Delaney was diagnosed.  With video games these days are today’s kids supposed to have attention spans that last a few seconds (who am I kidding… Squirrel!)? Young Jackson, his sister Lauren, Maizie, and Ally are restoring my faith in humanity. 

      As for Delaney, she is doing great!  She is still getting her monthly infusion of blood products and it seems to be working for her.  We actually had a rarity last week where two of her sisters were home sick with a cold and “sick” Delaney was feeling so well that she couldn’t wait to get to school.  Assuming her counts are good on Thursday, she’ll be getting more chemo in her port this Friday.

      Lastly,  we found out that Delaney was chosen as the Honored Hero for the Denver area Light the Night Campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  If you have never heard or done one of these, they are a ton of fun.  Come join us on October 2nd as we walk around Wash Park in an almost festival type setting with everyone getting a light to carry around with them to symbolize the hope of putting an end to leukemia and lymphoma.    If you want to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or want more information on the event, please see the link below:

http://pages.lightthenight.org/rm/DenverL14/cancercankissmystache#home