A Week of Rest

Rest can take many forms: sleep, relaxation, entertainment, activities, being with people, or even being alone.

Jasmine spent this whole last week at home enjoying rest in many ways before returning to the hospital this morning (Tuesday) to be admitted for chemo round 3. She was home for a full six days, with only one trip to the hospital yesterday for a dose of chemo into the spine (preventative measure) and a bone marrow biopsy in her hip.

Fresh air at the dog walk.

She rested this week by sleeping in her own bed and eating her own food. She rested by being out of isolation in the hospital and being with people she loves. She rested by doing some “normal” activities like rollerblading and shooting a basketball with Eli.

She rested by feeling good and laughing and eating a Mexican dinner cooked by Auntie Neen (Anita) who is visiting again. She rested by dreaming of waterpark family vacations post treatment. She rested by going to church and seeing her church family after 10 weeks of being away.

Most of all, Jasmine rested by being home. She said yesterday, “Sometimes home is the place you want to be more than anything.” We are thanking God for this blessing of time at home. And also that God has made His home in Jasmine’s heart so no matter where she is, God will be with her.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

Last night we had a prayer and worship time to lift up this family we love so much. It was spiritual rest – the perfect way to end this week. Jas stayed home with Eli and Brad, while the rest of the local family and people from the army gathered together.

Our friend Stephanie facilitated the evening and encouraged us to pray boldly. She reminded us that we are invited to “ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” (The Message, Matthew 7:7).

There were some bold prayers! And I want to encourage any of you reading this to continue with asking God for big and bold things. God is able, will we ask?

Beautiful, strong women.

Although Jas was admitted to the hospital today, she is allowed to go home to sleep tonight, and chemo will start tomorrow. After meeting with the oncologist today, the plan moving forward is to do three more rounds of chemo. So a total of five rounds.

Some things to pray for:

  1. Praying against any fear or dread because they know what they will face going through it for a third time.
  2. Praying for thoughts to be taken captive and made obedient to Christ, that they will dwell on His truth.
  3. Praying for lots of sleep and rest for Jasmine and Christine especially.
  4. Praying against the family getting sick so they can be with Jas and care for her.
  5. Praying for God’s presence to be tangible.
  6. Praying for the chemo side effects and no infection this time around.

Thank you for praying, friends!

Even Though

Yesterday my kids ate ice cream outside, my eldest in her bathing suit. That might sound absurd since we live in Canada and there are still technically two days of winter left before spring, but we have been longing for summer so we jumped at the opportunity to be outside.

We have had a seemingly endless winter. Since the first blizzard in early October, we’ve put up with frigid weather, though the past two months have been the worst. It had been well below zero for two months straight, with no reprieve from the harsh conditions. The air was so dry and cold that it made our noses sting and our skin flake off. Kids were going antsy from being cooped up inside for so long. People were dreary from the monotony of freezing weather and dull grey skies.  

However, it wasn’t the weather that was the hardest for me to endure – it was the wintery conditions of my own heart these past couple months. While the icy wind howled outside freezing everything in its path, the pain and emotions I faced began hardening my heart as well.

Smiling through suffering

From the moment I heard the news about Jasmine, I felt the pain. My heart didn’t just hurt for her, but for everyone who would be broken and impacted by this. After awhile, the emotions became exhausting and I just didn’t want to feel them anymore. It’s easier to ignore the emotional reality and focus on other distractions than it is to sit in the mess.

Christine put it well when she called it emotionally tired. I have felt that way, too. It’s scary to acknowledge how we are feeling because what if we feel like this forever? What if we are wrong to feel this way?

When the second round of chemo went smoothly, I started to relax and come alive again. We had hope, and things were going as well as they could. Then Jas got the bacterial infection in her central line a week ago, and I didn’t want to go there again – to the dark place of fear, sadness and feeling numb.

But to fully live, we need to fully feel. We can’t selectively numb our emotions; when we numb the bad, we numb the good too.

I’m not sure that a winter season is completely avoidable in our lives. It seems to be our human condition to want to run away from pain. But there is one thing I am certain of: though winter can be long, it doesn’t last forever.  

I am thankful for this burst of summer (as my kids are referring to it) even though it is still technically winter. And even though summer is still a long way off, God has gifted us this time of glorious sun in the midst of a hard season.

I think the harsher the winter, the more desperate we are for summer. And the colder the conditions, the warmer the sun will feel. In the shelter of a backyard, with no wind and direct sunlight, a 14 C (57 F) day can feel like the middle of summer. The deeper the pain we feel, the greater the height of life and joy we will also experience.

In psalm 23:4-5 it says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

In the midst of the dark valleys, in the midst of being surrounded, in the midst of suffering, God is still with us. And when He is with us, we can rest, we can have joy, and we can just BE without fear or worry.

Officially discharged after round 2!!!!!!!!

Unlike the permafrost of this past winter, my heart has not been permanently frozen. Thankfully, God has been gracious to meet me in the middle and offer me many opportunities to process the emotions and the new reality with Him.

He gives complete rest when we are tired, He brings encouragement when hope is hiding, and He gives security when our foundation is rocked.

Today I am thankful that Jasmine is doing SO well that they have officially discharged her after round 2! Yesterday her blood levels were fairly stable, she had colour in her cheeks, the fever and rash were gone and her cough was better. Her counts were rising.

Today, her levels improved so much that they sent her home to rest before starting round 3. This time, her bone marrow started recovering on Day 21, which is ten days earlier than it did the first round. A nurse will be coming to Jasmine’s home daily to administer IV antibiotics.

Jas will receive a bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture this Friday. Chemo round 3 will most likely begin next Tuesday, March 26th.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

When Burdens are Heavy

“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

The past two days have been hard in many ways. For Jasmine, she has felt incredibly sick. Last night her fever got up to 40.3C (104.5F) so they gave her Tylenol and took more blood cultures. They have been giving her Maxeran through IV for nausea. She didn’t eat anything for two days and was only drinking small amounts.

This morning Jas was pale and her hemoglobin was low so they gave her an infusion of platelets and RBC’s. She has been continually nauseous so they’ve been giving her anti-nausea meds around the clock.

By this evening, Jasmine’s colour was better, she was eating a little bit and her fever was coming down. The oncologist also said that infection is very common and most AML kids get a serious infection every round so Jas has been a super star so far!

It has been identified that the infection is not in her blood, but in both lumens of her central line. Jasmine is getting two antibiotics for the infection and the medical staff are monitoring her well and taking care of her.

It is heartbreaking watching Jas go through this, and as a parent myself, I ache at the thought of what Christine and Brad are going through. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that never seems to stop. It’s emotionally exhausting. When a friend asked if there was ANYTHING we could do to help ease this burden, I had to respond that there is nothing we can physically do to help.  

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

When someone we love is in pain, overwhelmed, heartbroken, beaten down, heavy or exhausted, we long to help. We long to help ease the burden they are carrying, to lift the weight off their shoulders, to make it all okay. Sitting and watching helplessly is almost torture. And yet there are instances, like this one, where we have no way to physically help, but it doesn’t mean we are out of options: We can come to the throne of grace on our knees and pray to our God who is always present, unconditionally loving, and faithful to never abandon us.

This is a fight. It’s a fight for Jasmine to be healthy, to overcome this infection and to beat cancer. It’s a fight for Christine and Brad to show up morning after morning, present and hopeful even though they are exhausted in many ways. It’s a fight for this family to stay unified despite the toll on all of them. It’s a fight to choose faith over fear continuously.

As the army who loves and supports the Adams’, we have the opportunity to continue fighting alongside them. So let’s gear up because the battle is still raging.

If our only option to help is to pray, then let us pray with everything we’ve got because this battle is taking its toll on everyone, in many ways.

  1. Pray that the whole family would be able to process pain with an awareness of God’s presence.
  2. Pray for strength and grace in Christine and Brad’s marriage – that God would protect their unity and grow their relationship through this.
  3. Pray that Eli would recognize God’s faithfulness and provision, and that seeds of trust would be deeply planted.
  4. Pray for rest in God’s presence and a renewed spirit day after day.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; the will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

The Battle Continues

Jasmine is one week into her recovery, and so far she has been doing really well and there hasn’t been much to report. However, being in recovery also means her immune system is low, she is susceptible to infection, and her body can’t fight for her.

Yesterday evening (Tuesday), at 5:30pm, Christine sent a message from the hospital that Jas wasn’t feeling well. Her HR (heart rate) was elevated, she had a headache and her temperature was also going up. So they didn’t go on a pass home, but instead stayed at the hospital.

By 7:00pm, Jasmine had spiked a fever of 38.9C (102F), HR still elevated and she was feeling terrible so they took blood cultures. By 8:30pm her fever was coming down with Tylenol and Jasmine was able to fall asleep.

This morning Christine sent a message that Jasmine’s blood cultures came back positive. She has a bacterial infection in her blood. They started her on vancomycin until they know exactly what kind of bacterial infection she has.

She reacted to the vancomycin so now she’s getting Benadryl for that and they are infusing the vancomycin slower. Her temp is 40.1C (104F) so she just got more Tylenol. She’s been awake since 2am and her HR is still elevated.

Eli, Jas and their dog Zelda during a visit home this week.

We are asking Jasmine’s army to pray:

-Asking the Lord to send the bacterial infection out of Jasmine’s body by His power.

-Asking God to guard Christine and family with His peace, to capture every thought of fear, and to be Lord over her mind and heart as she waits.

-Asking God to renew the strength of Jasmine’s current caregivers, Christine and Brad, Connie and Gerry. Also to give them health so they can continue to be with Jas.

Here is some encouragement from Psalm 27, written by King David, who faced many trials including being hunted and chased in an attempt to take his life.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.

I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking him in his temple. For he will conceal me in his shelter in the day of adversity; he will hide me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Then my head will be high above my enemies around me; I will offer sacrifices in his tent with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord. Lord, hear my voice when I call; be gracious to me and answer me. My heart says this about you: “Seek his face.” Lord, I will seek your face.

Do not hide your face from me; do not turn your servant away in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or abandon me, God of my salvation.

I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm ‭27:1-9, 13-14‬ ‭

We are also hosting a worship and prayer night for the family on Monday, March 25th. If you are local, we would love for you to join us, and if you are farther away, we invite you to still join us in prayer where you are.

Recovery Phase, Round 2

Here is the latest update from Connie, who has been spending a lot of time with Jas at the hospital:

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Today is officially the first day of the recovery phase of the second round of chemo. This means the chemo treatments for Round 2 are done! The second round was eight days instead of 10, which was a wonderful little surprise for all of us, especially Jasmine.

She tolerated the second round extremely well. The nausea was completely controlled and there was no skin rash or mouth sores at all.

In the recovery phase, she is getting blood products to build up her blood, which the chemo destroys. But she seems to be doing very very well. She has been able to do four-hour passes home most days. That means she can be at home for a little over two hours when you include the travel time, and the family can be together for awhile most days.

Jasmine and Gram enjoy doing puzzles together in the hospital.

Jasmine is even able to do some school work during the chemo phase because she feels good enough and she’s keeping up with her math and social here at the hospital with the teacher who visits twice a week.

God is beyond good!!! His presence throughout this journey has been so evident.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10

Jasmine loves the pudding Gram made for her.

The Middle is the Hardest

The middle is often the hardest place to be.

It’s not like the start of something, when energy levels are high, hope is bright and we are geared up and ready to fight.

It’s also not like the end, when the finish line is in sight and we know rest is around the corner so we give it all we’ve got with a final surge of strength.

Round 2 of chemo started today. I can only begin to imagine what is going on in the mind of a 13 year-old girl about to face another month of chemo and recovery, but this time knowing what she will face and how hard it will be. The shock and newness has worn off, as reality sets in that this is the new normal.

We had a family dinner Sunday night with the Adams family, Gram and Papa Taillon, Granny Adams, and my family. This was the first time we had all gathered in Connie’s kitchen, our previous regular rendezvous, since LBL (Life Before Leukemia), as Connie calls it. You can read more from Connie’s personal blog here.

There was some familiarity to the get-together. We were the first ones to arrive, with our two little girls bursting in the door to find Gram and Papa for a hug. Connie had dinner cooking on the stove and a salad being chopped and dressed on the island. We pulled up a chair and snacked on veggies while we waited for the others to arrive. Jasmine came next, as per usual, carrying a tray of vegan mint chocolate chip cupcakes for dessert that she made from scratch! (This girl is seriously amazing.)

Cousins relaxing after dinner.

Granny and the rest of the Adams clan trickled in shortly thereafter. We hugged and chatted and laughed. Eli shared about his basketball team and their bronze medal game coming up. Brad made his usual Brad-jokes, and Lisa entertained us with stories from Louisiana.

Then we all gathered around the island to say grace before the meal. Gerry thanked God for this time together with family and he also asked God to heal Jasmine completely. Back to reality – Jasmine still has leukemia. I had forgotten for a moment.

There has been so much good since Jasmine’s diagnosis, so many answered prayers and millions of things to be thankful for. Jasmine is courageous and brave and hopeful. She has an amazing attitude towards all of this and every day there is a smile on her face. But let us not forget that this is still hard.

It is still hard to be away from home and be isolated from the world. It is still hard to willingly take medication that makes you very sick, among other horrific side effects. It is still hard to choose joy over misery and faith over fear.

I do not say these things to discourage, but to encourage us to continue praying. This is still the middle. There are still a minimum of three rounds of chemo, with no finish line in sight yet. She needs us.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Ready to move back into the hospital for Round 2.

So we pray, and we forge ahead putting one foot in front of the other, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

Praise Report:
Bone Marrow results from the biopsy: Less than 0.1% cancer cells present. Round 2 will be the same as round 1. This is what we were praying for!!!

Continue Praying:
1. There to be no dread or fear about this process for Round 2
2. God’s presence will be tangible and they will know God is with them.
3. Joy in the midst of suffering

“The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Weekend at Home

Here’s the update from yesterday (FRIDAY) from Christine:

Friday: Bone marrow Biopsy went well. We will know the results by Monday. We hope to see less that 0.1% cancer cells in her bone marrow. If that is the result, it means her body has responded well to the chemotherapy and this next round of chemotherapy will be exactly the same in terms of chemo drugs and duration.  If, her bone marrow biopsy shows more cancer cells than that, then this next round will look different. 

On Friday Jasmine also got a lumbar puncture to check for cancer cells in her spinal fluid. She got ONE dose of chemotherapy in her spinal fluid (this is customary even if cancer cells are not present). Jasmine was quite tired after the procedures and very nauseated that night from the chemo. 

Enjoying being home and opening more gifts!

Complications: Jasmine has a IV line that goes into her heart (called a central line or Broviac), and when we got to the outpatient oncology  unit at ACH yesterday, we discovered that her line was blocked (she has 2 lumens, both blocked). It is through this Broviac that she receives ALL her medications and whenever they need to get blood, they draw it off her line.

Because both lumens were blocked, Jasmine had to get poked with a needle three times (once for bloodwork, and twice to insert an IV in her hand for the general anesthetic for her two procedures). After many hours and with the use of a medication called TPA, one of her lumens was unblocked but the other lumen remains blocked.

It was decided that they would leave the TPA medicine in her blocked lumen for 24 hours and a nurse will come to our house today (Saturday) to see if it has been effective in unblocking it. If it remains blocked, she might need to have a completely new central line inserted before Tuesday. 

Prayer requests:
1) TPA will be effective in unblocking her Central Line lumen. 

2) Jasmine will feel well enough to enjoy a couple of days at home

3) The Lord will refresh their souls

Psalm 23:1-4 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

**** Thrilled to report that only 5 hours after I posted this, Christine messaged that Jasmine’s central line is now working!!! Praise God!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On! (Day 30 Since Chemo)

In the last week (since Day 23 – February 13th), we have been waiting on Jasmine’s bone marrow levels to rise before they can begin Round 2 of chemo.

This past week was pretty quiet. On Friday night Jasmine spiked a fever and had a bad headache, and she was started on antibiotics right away. There was some fear that this would push back Round 2 of chemo and also keep Jasmine in isolation.

Jasmine made a wood burn design on the side of her new hamster cage. A fun project while home on a 4-hour pass!

On Saturday morning Christine met with the nurses and doctors. Jasmine did not have to be on isolation, and she was monitored over several hours to see if the fever would return. She only ended up having one fever that Friday night and has had no fevers since! This will delay treatment, but fevers are expected and the doctors were surprised it took her this long to develop one.

As of today (February 20th), Wednesday, there is much to CELEBRATE!

This is the update from Christine: “ALL counts are up on their own (bone marrow is recovering naturally) Yay!!! They are letting us go on an overnight pass.

Thursday: Come into the hospital at 9am for bloodwork and if all counts continue to rise, they will DISCHARGE us till Tuesday.

Friday: Come into hospital for bone marrow biopsy (then go home once it’s done).

Saturday, Sunday, Monday: At home.

Tuesday February 26th: Admitted back into hospital to start next round of chemotherapy.”

Moving out! (Till Tuesday, hopefully!)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

Prayer requests:

  1. Bone marrow continues to recover (RBC, platelets and WBC continue to rise)
  2. Jasmine remains healthy and free from infection
  3. Bone marrow biopsy procedure goes well and there is no sign of cancer cells
  4. Rest and rejuvenation over the next couple of days
  5. Strength and courage as we enter Round 2!

Prayer is making a huge difference on this journey. Thank you and do not stop!

PS. Next Tuesday, February 26th, will be WEAR ORANGE DAY for Jasmine’s first day of the new chemo cycle. Post photos wearing orange in the Facebook group Jasmine’s Army!

Love You Can Feel

I pushed open the door at Manachaban Middle School, my kids in tow, and immediately noticed the signs on the walls. There were construction paper posters in various sizes and colours made by students, with arrows pointing to the silent auction, with details on why they were doing this, and even some that said encouraging words.

Warrior. Fighter. Doing this for Jasmine.

The fundraiser goal was $5000. (My kids waiting on the bench in front of the poster.)

I was quickly greeted by a teacher who said, “Are you Jasmine’s aunt?” The yes was barely out of my mouth when she was wrapping me up in a hug.

We had arrived for the end of their silent auction, raising money for Jasmine and her family. I had just walked in the door and already something was welling up inside of me, but I suppressed it for the time being.

Another staff member, who I had met before, came over and hugged me, asking how we were doing. “We are doing well!” I said, overenthusiastically. At the entryway to the gymnasium, they were selling buttons for $2 that said Warriors for Jasmine, and I pulled out my wallet wanting to purchase some.

“Oh no, for family these are free,” I was told. The welling inside of me continued to build.

My kids and I pinned our buttons, slowly making our way around the gym lined with tables completely covered in auction items that people in the school and community of Cochrane had donated. There were well over 100 items, and as I saw the various amounts people were bidding, I was stunned. A basket of Lego was going for $500, and a stuffed teddy bear for $15. Big or small, every item was making an impact.

It felt like I was in a fog, and the welling up was growing and the stuffing down became increasingly more difficult.

Jasmine’s Garden painting

People started pouring into the gym as the clock ticked down the final minutes, there to make one last bid or collect their items won. I talked with a mom and her daughter (a student) who had the highest bid on the gorgeous painting Jasmine’s Garden, and once again I couldn’t believe the generosity.

Talking with them, I could tangibly feel the emotion inside: the care and compassion bubbling at the surface about to spill out at any moment. These people cared SO MUCH and were willing to sacrifice financially to help.

I didn’t know what to do with myself at that moment. The auction came to an end and the welling up inside of me came pouring out in the form of hot tears.

I couldn’t determine what I was feeling. It was gratitude and happiness, but with more overwhelming depth mixed in and a little bit of sad. But it was confirmed when another staff member embraced me: It was love.

What else could compel people to do things like this – to donate, to give, to support, to come alongside, to encourage, to embrace?

This was the kind of love you can feel.

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

The silent auction brought in $9,289! They smashed their $5000 goal, and two staff members shaved their heads. Combined with a couple other fundraisers over the past two weeks, the school has raised an astounding $15,000 for Jasmine and her family. In the words of Christine, “It’s mind blowing, how generous people are!”

God uses ordinary people to show extraordinary love – the kind you can feel. God’s love for people is so extraordinary that He was willing to sacrifice everything to love us.

”This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

God gives us the gift of showing us His love through people who sacrifice and give their lives away for other people. It’s real-life people willing to show up in whatever way they can that makes a big impact.

It’s people like all of you, Jasmine’s Army, sacrificing in big and small ways that loves this family in tangible ways.

Thank you.

Manachaban Warriors Fundraiser

Video sent from our friends the Parra’s from the school.

Manachaban Middle School, where Jasmine and Eli attend, is in the middle of a massive silent auction fundraiser for our warrior princess. And how fitting that the students are called Manachaban Warriors.

The auction began Wednesday evening and will end Friday at noon, with a goal of raising $5000.00. All proceeds will go directly to Jasmine and her family!

It seems that the greater the need, the greater the response. We have seen this since the moment we found out Jasmine’s original blood test results were abnormal. An army rose up in support: an army of warriors fighting together.

Not only does this response bring physical relief through financial support, it also brings hope.

“We have this hope as an anchor to the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

Hope anchors the soul. Hope keeps us steady when the storms and circumstances rage and dip. And oftentimes, God uses people -a whole army even, to pour His hope through.