Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Post From Pete: Heroes

It was 4 years ago today - February 24th, 2009 - that a radiologist at MUSC informed us that there was a tumor the size of a ping pong ball in the back of our 7-year-old's brain.  Since today is the 4th anniversary of that event, I feel like the time is right to say a few things to a few people that I've wanted to say for a long time.

I actually started composing this message 3 years ago, but completing it has taken a lot longer than I expected.  It's been slow mainly because every time I think about that day, and every time I think about the people and the places and the events you see listed below, I start crying.  And that's only notable because I'm not usually a crier, not an emotionally driven guy at all.  But when you receive the news that your 7-year-old has a brain tumor, and that the tumor will have to be removed tomorrow, and that you'll have to submit your boy to 18 months of radiation and chemotherapy, crying is what you do.  And even though some time has passed since that day, it still makes me sad to think about it.

Fortunately for us, once the news broke about Forester's brain tumor, we were immediately surrounded by a marvelous collection of saints and servants who flooded our home and our family and our whole lives with countless expressions of God's grace and lovingkindness.  These good people were never properly thanked or acknowledged for all they did (and still do) for us, so here goes.  Take a look at what these incredible people did for us...

Charleston Baptist Church (West Ashley) - This is an amazing church.  When Forester's brain tumor appeared, the people of Charleston Baptist Church reached out to us and gave and gave and gave to us as if we were their own.  Matt Kinard and the Upward Basketball community, a garage sale to raise $ for our medical bills, meals from CBC members that we'd never even met before, and so on, and so on.  Amazing.  Amazing generosity.  Amazing people at this church.

Chris & Staci McLain - Bringing us meals, baby-sitting Micah, praying for Forester and anointing him with oil the day of his brain surgery, a fabulous 3 day respite in Puerto Rico...  This is just the beginning of the list.  In the past 4 years I've had a number of serious illnesses, including Myocarditis, Pneumonia, several bouts of Bronchitis, and a debilitating pinched nerve in my neck.  Chris McLain has tended to me and taken care of me so thoroughly and so selflessly that I feel like I owe him everything.  Occasionally I regret the fact that I didn't pursue medicine as a career and a calling, because I wish I could do for others what Chris McLain has done for me.

Chris Harle - This came as a surprise to me, but when you find yourself suddenly in a situation like this, it's impossible to overstate the value of a good pharmacist.  This guy constantly looked out for us and always went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we had all the meds we needed for Forester's care.  If you live in the West Ashley area of Charleston, you should get to know this guy.  I'm convinced that Chris Harle is an angel in disguise masquerading as a pharmacist at BI-LO.

Damon Gibbs - At 0600 on the day of Forester's brain surgery there was a knock on the hospital room door, and when I opened it there stood Damon Lavelle Gibbs.  He had driven all night from Lexington, KY, just to be there with us.  Can you believe that?  I think that's called extravagant love, and I wish I was as good at it as Damon is.

Dr. Buddy Jenrette (MUSC) - A positive and encouraging voice at a time when it was desperately needed.

Dr. Jay Traynham (Plantation Pediatrics) - On the day of Forester's brain surgery, Jay Traynham sat with us in the waiting room at MUSC the whole day just to make sure we understood the updates we were receiving from the surgical team.

Dr. Mary Kral (MUSC) - A true advocate for Forester and a source of invaluable feedback as we continue to wrestle with Forester's learning deficits and special education needs.  Dr. Kral has been a Godsend.

Dr. Steven Glazier (MUSC) - Steven Glazier is the pediatric neurosurgeon who removed the brain tumor.  Can you imagine the awesome and terrifying responsibility of performing brain surgery on an 7-year-old?  This man does it every day.

Dr. Todd Vasko (Plantation Pediatrics) - On February 23rd, 2009, Todd Vasko was the guy who had the foresight to order the CT Scan that 5 minutes later revealed the brain tumor.  Thank God (literally) for Todd's instincts and experience.

Glenn Hubbard - Out of nowhere former Atlanta Braves second baseman and first base coach Glenn Hubbard appeared and helped us create memories at Turner Field in Atlanta that Forester will never forget.  I wish everybody could get to know Glenn Hubbard, because knowing him has made me a better person.
Jean Slater & the Sisters of Alpha Phi (Northwestern University, Class of 1967) - These ladies, my mom's college sorority sisters, sent a steady stream of packages and gifts to all 3 of our kids for a full year.  Incredible.

John & Lauren Fortney - Lauren watched Micah countless times while we were preoccupied at MUSC.  Countless times.  And thanks to John we had (and still have) immediate access to information about Forester's case.  John the Apostle wrote: "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John."  For the rest of my life, every time I read these words I will think of John Fortney and wish that I could be more like him.

John & Molly Meekins - John & Molly organized a motorcycle ride fundraiser ("Ride For Forester") to raise $ for Forester's care.  Completely kind and charitable.  I love these people.

Kelly Dent & Michelle Cooper (MUSC Peds Hemoc) - These two nurses on the 6th floor of Rutledge Tower at MUSC cared for Forester tenderly and brilliantly for 18 months.  There will forever be a bond between Forester and Michelle Cooper.  She is an angel, the kind that come down directly from Heaven and change your life forever.

Kevin & Julie Giordano - Where do I begin?  The fact is, for 6 years we lived next door to a family of superheroes.  For years I thought I understood the concept of giving and servanthood, and then we moved in next door to Kevin & Julie.  It took 1 day for me to realize that when it comes to giving and serving and putting others first, I am just an imposter compared to these two beautiful people.

Kevin & Sheri Gerald - Kevin was the first person to call me and say, "Let's go for a ride together.  Talk to me, dude."  He is one of the most sincere, others-oriented people I've ever met.

Kristin Pirolli (Charleston Pediatric Rehabilitation) - A diamond in the rough.  Forester loves Kristin and wishes he could still spend time with her every week.  He will never forget her.

Nic Porter - Nic organized a running event ("Run Forester Run") on Seabrook Island to raise $ for Forester's care.  Thank you, Nic.  You have been so kind to us.

Our Parents - Simply put, you can't make it through events like this without the help and support of your parents.  Our parents brought us through it, and we love them.

Phil & Colleen Weston (Charleston Christian School) - Colleen was utterly selfless in helping us get Forester back on track at school.  Tutoring Forester in our home was uncharted territory for Colleen, but she handled it with grace and confidence.  As for Phil, how can you not love this man?  We sure do.

Rick & Amy Sargent - Rick brought meals for me and games for Forester to the hospital, and he was ever-present during the first few weeks after the news broke.

St. Andrew's Church (Mount Pleasant) - Dwight Huthwaite, Kristy Barry and the St. Andrew's worship team showered us with kindness and support and care, and they have continued to do so for the past 4 years.

The Nurses of MUSC Children's Hospital (Floor 7B) - You don't have too spend much time on the 7th floor of MUSC Children's Hospital before you realize that the real agents of grace and mercy and healing in the hospital setting are the nurses.

Todd & Karen Bitzer - I'll never forget going to the mailbox and finding an envelope with a check in it from Todd & Karen.  That check arrived at just the right time and kept us afloat.  We love the Bitzers and thank God for their friendship and generosity towards us.

All these people are our heroes.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hi, my name is Mom.

I feel like I'm due for a blog post but thankfully I don't have any drama or changes to report regarding Forester. In fact, in the last month we've moved to a new part of town, the kids have started in a new school and everyone is doing fabulously. Praise God for that!

I thought I might share about my current challenge, and wonder if any of you mommies out there could relate.  I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a wife and mother.  I used to play with baby dolls constantly, I started babysitting at 13 in my church nursery and didn't stop taking care of other peoples kids until I became pregnant with Forester. I've always loved children and couldn't wait to be a mom! And this job that I love has exceeded my expectations. But it has also come with some things that I didn't expect.  Being responsible for shaping and raising God-loving respectable people is a lot different than being a nanny.  As my babies are getting older I have found things have become more difficult for me. As the baby and toddler years are more physically challenging, the elementary and beyond is more mentally challenging. *insert stab about my mental state here*  And though I continue to love my job it's hard a crap as every parent will tell you. I expected that. What I didn't expect was to feel like I was losing myself along the way.  Parenthood is all consuming.  It never stops. You don't get to get off the ride for a while and get back on.  In some ways this is great - it's a fun and rewarding ride. But, can any other mom out there relate to the feeling that mommy-hood just swallowed you whole and the old you is still in there somewhere but...where? I think I miss myself!  I believe I'm a better me because I am a mom. But, I know I need to find a balance in there somewhere because I've been told that "before I know it, they'll be grown and out the door". If I've lost myself completely to mommy hood then I'm just setting myself up for a mid life crisis.  But here's the challenge:  how do we mommies make time to continue to nurture ourselves in the midst of the busiest most demanding time in our lives? And maybe the bigger challenge is how do with do this without feeling guilty for putting ourselves on the priority list?
Today I don't have answers. Anyone else asking these questions?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Growth Hormone Shots

Just a quick update to let you know we have in fact started growth hormone shots on a daily basis and Forester is doing really well with them. He has mentioned that he wishes he wouldn't have to do this for the next 10 years but when it comes time to do the actual shot he doesn't complain. Forester and I tend to butt heads a lot and he can be the source of much frustration for me. But, when I think of how well he handles all this medical stuff I am in awe of him and truly blessed by God that he is so cooperative. Thank you, Lord!
 In other big news we have moved! We put our house on the market at the beginning of June and had a contract within 2 weeks!  We have closed on that house and close on our new house in just a couple of days. So, by this weekend we will be living across town and be Mt. Pleasant residents. We spend a lot of time in Mt. Pleasant already because it's where our church is so we're looking forward to being closer but the main motivation for our move is to get our children in the best public schools possible. The schools in Mt. Pleasant are excellent and given Forester's special needs we want to provide the best of the best for our kids.  We are pleased and thankful to God that we were able to sell our house and find a new one before the school year starts.  It's been a little crazy but God has provided for us every step of the way! We would appreciate your prayers as the boys will once again be starting at a new school in just a couple of weeks and Slade will be starting preschool for the first time.
Thank you as always for caring about our family, praying for us and especially your prayers for our Forester.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scan Results

The scan is CLEAR!!!  Woo-hoo!!  Thank you so much for your prayers. I had a wonderful peace today and was confident we would see a clear scan today. What an answer to prayer that is! We go to brain tumor clinic on Friday and hopefully we will hear about the growth hormone shots then.

At all times God is good,


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Please Pray

I'm asking for some prayers today. Forester has another MRI this coming Monday, June 4th. If this scan is clear then Forester will finally move to only having to have a scan every 6 months instead of scans every 3 months. In the past the thought of only getting to check in on his brain every 6 months brought me great anxiety but now it will be a huge and joyous milestone in his journey. If all is clear then he will also begin daily growth hormone shots which he desperately needs. His growth hormone level is extremely low and the side effects of this are more than just not growing. So, although these little shots will not be fun we are hoping they start very soon after his scan.

I am also asking that you would pray for me. I have been pretty forthcoming in past posts about how the loss of Forester's hearing really caught me off guard. He has adjusted to the hearing loss just fine and honestly we hardly notice a difference. This is a huge praise and thank you so much for your prayers for him. But, for me it seems that I haven't really recovered from that blow. The best way I know how to describe it is trust. Earning someone's trust if you don't already have it takes time. It's earned. I think with each MRI I gradually began to trust that Forester will be okay and is going to continue to be okay. Well, I fear I have lost that trust after the surprise hearing loss episode. I'm not sure how to get it back. I guess it only comes with time. So, I have more anxiety about this scan, about Forester's future and medical issues than I used to. I feel like I'm back to "waiting for the other shoe to drop".  I guess time may be the only thing that gets me back to a healthy place but I know that our God is not bound by time and he can surely calm my fears and provide peace. 
So as you pray for our sweet son and a clear brain scan will you also pray that God will heal my heart and provide his peace - especially on Monday.

Thank you,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MRI scan is CLEAR

Thank you so much for your constant prayers for us and especially yesterday. Forester was calm and easy going as usual. We had to wait as always and I had Slade in tow but she did a great job being patient. (that's a testimony to answered prayers right there.) After 3 years of this 3 month routine I don't tend to get nervous or anxious too often anymore. But, yesterday morning I woke up really nervous and felt like I could burst into tears at any moment. I'm sure it's because of all that has happened in the last month, including a really weird short headache Forester had one day after an ear procedure where he said "oh my gosh, I think my brain tumor just came back!"

 Um, Yeah.

After we arrived at the hospital, all of my anxieties melted away and I felt at peace the whole time we were there and for the rest of the day. If you know me personally you know this is the power of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit! By evening we received a call from our "inside guy" saying the scan looked perfect. YAHOO!!! For you reading at home I'm sure it seems like "same ole same ole" every 3 months, but for us there are no words to describe how it feels to hear those words even if we're expecting them. So thank you for your prayers for Forester and thank you for praying for me as I really needed it today. Prayer works!!! :-)

Deepest thanks,

Monday, February 27, 2012

MRI Today

It's that time again. 3 months has past and Forester has an MRI this morning at 11. It will be his standard brain scan plus a few additional images to see if a tumor (unrelated to his cancer) or other growth could be on his auditory nerve and causing the hearing loss. This is extremely rare and finding something wouldn't change his outcome. His scan will take longer, though. Will you please pray for Forester today and that we will once again get beautiful results of a perfect scan? I always get scanxiety so I guess I  could use some prayers, too.

Thank you,

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cataracts: Not Just for the "Mature" Eyes

Last Wednesday Forester had his eyes checked by his Ophthalmologist to see about that cataract. Well, it turns out it's not just one cataract but two.  He has them in both eyes but they are the same type (PSC) and equal in growth. To better understand what a cataract is, the doctor explained it to me like this: Our lens are made up of many thin layers. One layer in Forester's lens is "frosted". Think of frosted glass. Right now it's so mild that they aren't visible to Forester and doesn't affect his vision. These cataracts could continue to grow & cloud his vision or it could stay just like it is for his entire lifetime and not interfere. There is no way to know as each patient is unique. We are going to pray for the latter! But, if the cataracts do worsen then a simple surgery would be performed on both of his eyes to replace his lens with artificial ones. This would restore his vision completely. I realized as I shared this good news with friends that our good news would be another parents' devastating news. Surgery on both eyes? But, a surgery that can totally reverse a problem is very good news to us! We live in a different world than most around us, I guess. But, I'm also reminded that there are parents all over the world who have lost a child today. To cancer, or disease, premature birth, starvation or a horrible accident. They would love to have a small problem like deafness in one ear and cataracts on the eyes.  I bet in the course of my day today I passed by someone who is living their life around the hole where their child used to be. This is not lost on me. Not ever. And though I may have moments where I'm sad, above all I know we are blessed and I am thankful. Thankful for good news and so very thankful to have Forester here.

" I will praise the LORD at all times.  I will constantly speak his praises."
Psalm 34:1 (NLT)