Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thank you for the Blessings

Thank You for the Blessings

I will start by saying that words will never express my awe and amazement of how truly good people are.  At any given time, we can jump online, or flip on the television, grab a newspaper, whatever and hear a ton of depressing stories of this fallen world.  I simply avoid most of it because of that very reason.  It comes as no surprise that Jesus hasn't come back to this earth yet.  All of you are still winning souls for His Kingdom and there is more hope for this world than I ever thought.  God bless you all for your constant love, support, thoughtfulness, prayers, tears, sharing of stories, two words, your blessings.

Those of you that know me well know that my character is to take on everything that comes my way, without complaining, and give everything I have to handle business.  It is hard for me to ask for help and not because I am prideful, but I simply react to what comes my way and never shy away from a challenge.  Challenges motivate me.  When Bri was going through tough times with pain before the diagnosis, I asked for people to pray.  I prayed. HARD, more so than ever in my life.  Praying for healing and wisdom.  At times, I felt like I was placing a burden on others simply asking for prayer.  I started to realize that was not the case.  So many people were praying for my wife, laying hands on her, sending her words of encouragement, scriptures, and so on.  Then came her diagnosis and inside I kind of fell apart, but for a short time.  I didn't know what to do, other than take it as it came and pray, and pray and pray more.  Our church family showed our family a level of support that was really an example of Jesus.  I love you guys!  Suddenly, we had to rely on others to help us through things that were beyond my capability of taking on.  For example, for our 11th anniversary, the Poveda's took care of our girls for an hour and a half while we went to dinner.  We were in a hurry to get our girls!  We talked about them and even sent a text to ask how they were!  Our girls were never away from the presence of a parent.  There were times during Bri's first week in the hospital that we had no choice but to allow those close to us to help.  God gives strength!  As time passed, we developed a routine where our girls were able to spend time with grandma, or Nama, and great-grandma, Nanny, while I spent weekends with Bri in the hospital.  During the first 4 weeks of Bri being hospitalized, the elementary school our daughters go to made meals for our family.  I was amazed and humbled by the love and support from a group of teachers who hadn't known us long, but felt the desire to help.  Thank you! Then came the part where I had to go back to work and Anzley had to be take care of.  A wonderful family from church offered their assistance and she has kind of become part of their family.  Smiths, we love you!

Brooke, who is simply put, one of the most awesome people on this earth, worked with a friend to put this blog site together.  Almost immediately, many of you were donating to help with medical bills.  Bri started receiving what I called, "fan mail!"  No kidding when I say the packages and cards started to arrive in large quantities.  I would store them up and deliver them on the weekends.  You all put a huge smile on her face everytime.  Some brought tears of joy.  Others brought laughter, while others kept her focus on God and helped to pass the time.  Pretty sure she developed my sweet-tooth, as well!  Thank you all for loving on Bri and keeping her encouraged!

None of this has been easy for our family, but you all have stepped up and delivered blessings that will continue to bless us and generations to come.  I am a visionary and I have made a vow to share this experience at every opportunity.  Whether you prayed, donated financially, sent gifts, thought about us, told someone about our family, any which way, I promise you this: you will be a blessing to more and more people as the years pass.  I have big dreams for using this experience to further the Kingdom of God.  

There have been auctions, races put together, a car wash, a benefit dinner.  I can't even begin to understand the power of God and how He brings all of this together through all of you and many of you whom I have never met.  Some are strangers who heard about Bri through friends and relatives.  Tammy added up the financial proceeds that have come from the donation link on the blogsite, including the auction.  Over $10,000.  That is hard for me to wrap my mind around!  I want you all to know these funds have been a blessing beyond measure.  Not only have they covered medical expenses.  They have covered travel expenses for family members to spend time with Bri.  They have covered lost wages for family members who have had to miss work to be with Bri, which, in turn, helps make ends meet for other family members.  Once all the dust settles and we evaluate everything as a whole, I imagine there will be proceeds remaining.  My visionary side has the desire to start a foundation in Bri's name.  It may be small at the beginning, but God willing, it will grow.  I have no idea how to begin or where to go to start, but that won't get in the way.  

Again, nothing I can say or type can truly express the gratitude I feel for all of you.  I appreciate everything all of you have done, are doing, your prayers, thoughts, well-wishes, outpouring of love, your goodness, your blessings.  I have never experienced anything quite like this and I am forever grateful.  On behalf of myself, our precious daughters and our Angel in Heaven, Bri, thank you all so very much!  God bless you all, abundantly!

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, (I Thessalonians 1:2, 3 NKJV)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Brianne Elise

I'm sure you all know that Bri passed away on Friday, June 7th.  We weren't expecting it or anywhere near prepared for it.  We all felt sure that she would receive treatment, be cured and we'd all go on.  I guess God had other plans for her.

As her mother, I had the honor of knowing her the longest.  She was my first born so while I was pregnant with her each thing I experienced during that pregnancy was thrilling!  I can still remember when I felt her kick for the first time.  She was a real kicker too, once she was born I already knew she was going to be a go-getter because she was so active in utero.  I can't put into words what I felt like at the age of 19 to be handed my brand, new baby girl.  The feelings that swept over me were so intense.  I looked at that little stranger and I knew that I would die for her, I would kill for her if I had to.  I would do everything in my power to protect and love her.

She had a fun personality from day one.  Never fussy or whiney but always giggling, joking and running around doing somersaults.  She was a skinny little girl with crazy blonde curls that I could not contain.  She loved to wrestle with her Uncle Lance, they were two of a kind.  When her baby sister Brooke came along she was an instant super star!  Baby Brooke though her big sister was the most hilarious person EVER!  Brianne could really make Brooke giggle and it was so much fun to watch those two.  When Spencer was born Brianne was 9 years old and her maternal instincts kicked in immediately.  She was such a good little mama to him.  She was so good with him, a natural.  She loved her Nanny and Papo and I'm sure Papo was the once to welcome her Home.

I enjoyed every stage of Bri's life.  Well except for the sneaking out of the house when she was in high school part.  :-)  She had wonderful friends and I love you all and thank you for loving Bri and our family.  I remember when she went to her first Prom or Spree in high school I was so excited to go out shopping together and find the perfect dress.  She shot me down though and said she was just going to borrow one of her friends.  She was thrifty even back then!  Brianne was always a social butterfly and on the go.  Everyone seemed to enjoy being around her.  She had a lot of fun playing sports in school and I love cheering her on from the stands.  I did get in trouble after a basketball game because she heard me say, "way to go honey!" Apparently I shouldn't have called her honey in front of the whole school during a high school basketball game.  :-)

When Bri had Kambrya, watching her was like watching a mother of 5 kids.  She was such a natural, so calm, never frazzled.  She was so good with her babies.  She enjoyed her babies too!  They were like a little wart attached to her hip until they were each about 18 months old or so.  They didn't want anyone but mommy.  Bri always put Ted and the girls first.  She was a wonderful wife, mother and homemaker.  And she loved to cook!

I'm sad that the little girls won't have her around to teach them about being women.  I can't get over the fact that they do not have a mommy anymore.  I don't know how they will do it but knowing Ted and how well he's done these last months when he's been Mister Mom, he'll make it work.  He's been putting hair in ponytails and polishing little fingernails and toenails.  He has been amazing.

Brianne Elise, I know you've heard me say this for as long as you can remember but I am now and have always been so glad that God picked me to be your mom.  I don't know how I'll get through this so you will have to help me, okay?  I've loved you since before you were born and I'll always love you.  I will be so glad to see your sparkling blue eyes, your crazy blonde curls and your beautiful laugh.  I know you're joining the choir up there because you've loved to sing before you could even talk.  (Hopefully you'll get the lyrics right, remember if you all sing "Stop In The Name of Love" it is LOVE, not "Stop In The Neighborhood".)

I promise that I will love your daughters and I'll be there for them and I'll tell them stories about their mom and keep your memory alive in them.  No one will ever take your place in their hearts.  I wish you didn't have to go.  How could it have been "your time?"

I can't wait to see you again...


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Everything is bigger in Texas

..... and judging by the size of this friggin hospital... they ain't kiddin!
     So... here's the first update from Houston, TX. What an adventure we've already been on! Bri was flown by air ambulance here to MD Anderson Cancer Center and I drove from Long Beach. (Major shout out to Hilary for letting me crash at her place all late and making breakfast for me... and Joyce and Tim McNeely for letting me crash for two nights at their house here in Houston while I waited for Bri to get here and treating a complete stranger like family!) Bri had been in a ton of pain when she left Denver, so they had given her not only strong pain meds, but also anti-anxiety meds to help relax her since she was flying, leaving her family, etc. So, needless to say, she was pretty loopy and out of it by the time she got here. This medical center campus is HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!!! Like... whatever you're imagining when I say that... it's even bigger than that! It's seriously like a city in itself. So, when I was leaving to come meet her at the hospital, I went to two of the wrong MD Anderson hospitals before getting to the right one where she was. Their process is just to take them into Emergency and check her out and everything... and then we wait for a bed to become available.
By the time I got to Bri, it was about 8:00PM on Thursday and when I walked around the curtain in her room in Emergency, her eyes got huge and she yelled, "OH I FOUND YOU!!!!" hahaha I went to give her a hug and she told me that she had been looking all over for me... I told her I'D been looking all over for HER and she said.. "We must have just missed each other!" hahaha Then she yelled out to the nurses standing in the hall "I FOUND MY SISTER!" hahaha. She was so loopy. She said/did some pretty funny things. At one point she started praying out loud and was thanking God that we could all be here and she prayed that we'd "all" have a really good time. Then she said, "And I pray for Mike..." and I said.. who's Mike? And she pointed to the corner of her room where nobody was standing and said, "Isn't that guy's name Mike?" I just said... oh, that guy.. yeah... that's definitely Mike. Didn't see him standing there. hahaha She had also told mom that "Brooke and I are gonna have fun in Houston. Probably TOO MUCH fun!" and then said that she missed flag football. She's silly.
     Anyway, so we had a really long 24 hours. They did test after test after test on the poor thing. Blood draws, ct scans, xrays, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, on and on and on. All while we waited and waited and waited in the tiny room in Emergency to get a room. Nobody was telling us what was going on, so we weren't sleeping. We were thinking it would just be a matter of a couple hours, but finally at about 7AM and we hadn't really slept and they FINALLY told us that it wouldn't be until someone discharges which could be early afternoon, we decided to try to sleep. But anyone who has stayed in a hospital, especially in an ER, knows that it's way too noisy and busy for any of that. We finally got into a room around 8PM Friday evening. And just like everything else.. the room is HUUUUGE!!! It's like a studio apartment and the bathroom is massive! We have a pretty sweet view of the Houston skyline!
     In the past few days Bri has been in a ton of pain. The leukemia cells in her marrow grow so big and get all bunched up in there and cause a lot of bone pain. Her left knee was really hurting, but the doctors believed it was just referred pain and it was coming from her pelvis. They did all kinds of scans and xrays to check it out. She could barely move her leg when she had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom or anything. It took a really long time because she had to move SUPER slowly because it hurt so bad. It's so crazy because when I was in Denver to visit her just a couple weeks ago, she was up and around doing whatever, walking everywhere and doing everything on her own. Now I had to sit and watch her in so much pain and it was a completely different person. It was also over the weekend and they weren't going to be able to start anything until the week started, so the weekend was just waiting and trying to control her pain. She also got a bone marrow biopsy done on Saturday.
     So while in the Emergency Center, a nurse had mentioned something about being outpatient for her treatment. I told him, no.. we were going to be inpatient. He said that hardly anyone is inpatient and they do their treatments as outpatient. Bri has been inpatient for about 14 weeks altogether now. So, we just assumed this would be the same and nobody had warned us or told us differently. So, I talked to Ted and mom and Ted immediately got on the phone and started making calls. Not too long after that, we got a visit from the Nurse Practitioner who confirmed that the only reason she'd be inpatient is if there were complications. A chemo cycle is 28 days and she'll be inpatient for the first week while they're giving her chemo, and then she'll be discharged and just come in a few times a week for blood draws and chemo. So, we were completely blindsided with that because... WHERE THE CRAP DO WE STAY!?! We weren't prepared mentally, let alone financially for this. A social worker came and gave me a list of accommodations and I started looking into things and there are wait lists 3 months long for most places, or they're like $60/day or more! Not only that, but then we have to buy food, pay for gas to and from here and parking is expensive. So, needless to say, that's added a little stress to the situation. But, we know God is in control and he will supply all our need.
     So Monday, the doctors came in and said that we would be starting chemo the next day. (I like how I say "we" as if I'm getting it too! haha) I guess Bri had been a part of a study in Denver for this past round and the doctor here said that patients either received chemo and antibodies, or they received just chemo. Bri was one that received just chemo... so this time, they're giving her chemo and antibodies. (It's a good thing). The doctor said they've had really great success with this drug they're giving her, so that's good. When they came in this morning, the doctor sort of tried to explain what antibodies were and in my small, half asleep brain... this is what I understood... and it's probably completely off.... but here goes....  The antibody is injected and they attach themselves to the Leukemia cells and pretend like they're just chillin and sayin what's up, getting all friendly and stuff... The leukemia cells end up drawing them in... like all.. hey, wanna come inside and have some coffee or something? But little do they know... the antibodies aren't friendly little visitors there for tea and crumpets. Once they've been drawn into the leukemia cell... they KILL em! muhahaha suckas!!! (That's how it all played out in my tiny, yet imaginative brain anyway). So, yeah. Apparently with that and the chemo, the chances are better that they'll get rid of all of them and we can go back to Denver and she can get her transplant and we can all get back to our somewhat normal lives. The doctor said she would like to do two cycles of this to make sure they get everything and she doesn't come out of remission again, but we'll see at the end of this cycle how things are looking and all of that. So, as of right now... we're kinda just planning on being here for a couple months. That way, if it's just a month... WOOHOO!! Rather than planning on a month and then getting discouraged if we stay. Her doctor also said that they definitely want to avoid what happened last time which was letting too much time pass while she's untreated. They were waiting for her liver counts to come back to normal levels, but in that time she came out of remission. So, the doctor said, if something was happening like that again, she would immediately start her on another cycle just so she's not left untreated before getting the transplant. Soooo.. that's the update so far. She started her first doses of chemo tonight. They're actually going in right now while my beautiful, tired sister sleeps. :o)
      Yesterday they gave her a steroid for the pain. We didn't even know she had gotten it, but in the early evening, she woke up from a nap. Without even thinking, she moved her leg. She looked at me with big eyes and was like.. I can move my leg!! She then swung her legs over out of the bed and just kinda stood up! I was like.. what the heck!? She hadn't been able to walk to the bathroom, but she walked right over there! It was crazy!!! She wasn't in pain and she could walk without help! So, today she's barely had pain medicine. I think just in the morning and then tonight! It's insane! So, we went on an adventure and I took her on a tour of the giant hospital. We went to the indoor park they have, the aquarium inside, the gift shop, we went and did laundry, went to the cafeteria and they have Chick-fil-a and we got some of that for dinner. Then we went up to the 24th floor to the observatory where it's all windows and you can look out over all of Houston... it's really cool! We had dinner up there and laughed and joked and had a great time! We had a blast! She was being so goofy and acting like a total dork. It was so awesome to see her happy and doing well! She's such a rockstar. I can't say it enough! She's amazeballs. We were gone for about 2 hours and we figured the nurse was probably thinkin we'd blown this popsicle stand... so I took her back to her room. Joyce and Tim came to visit again and Bri has been sleeping since. So praise God for such a good day! I know there are gonna be some tougher days ahead, so I cherish the good days we have for sure!
     I was thinking the other day... there is NO WAY she could have come out here alone! NO WAY! I am so incredibly grateful and happy that I can be out here with her. I sometimes just look at her while she's sleeping (like a total creeper) and think... I friggin love my sister SOOOOO much!!!! I can't even handle it!!!! I just want to squeeze her til her little bald head pops off!!! And then at the same time, it breaks my heart because I hate watching her go through this and it's still so crazy to think.... my sister has cancer.... SERIOUSLY!? Is this real!? I know everything happens for a reason and God is in control, but I still wonder... why?! Giving up is not an option though. She has way too much to live for and too many people could benefit from her testimony! Plus, those little girls need her. Shoot, we all need her! She's a fighter, and stronger than I ever imagined. She's just been rolling with the punches and trying her best to keep a smile on her face. She is such an inspiration, not only to me, but I know to many others. I'm really proud that God chose me to be her little sister!
     Anyway.. I'll try to keep this updated more often so they don't end up being really long like this... although I know you all thoroughly enjoy reading my posts. hahaha jk. It's just been kinda crazy lately, but I'll try to be better at updating more often. :o) I'll elaborate on this more another time, but I was asked to be on an online radio show to tell Bri's story and to help raise some funds for all of these unexpected expenses... and while talking to Dr. Kurt on the phone before the show, he was like... Go into detail and talk about what's going on and say as much as possible about it and I was like.. shoot! No problem!!! Have ya met me?! I can talk! Then when it was time to be on the show, they had gone too long and he had to do it really quickly so he was like... really quickly tell us a little about what's going on... I was stumped cause I was like.. I don't tell ANY story quickly! Shoot!!! hahahaha but I'll be back on next week to talk about it, but I'll keep y'all updated on that. 

This is the verse I keep reminding myself of at this point in time while I'm frantically looking for a place to stay and the financial aspect...

Philippians 4:19 - But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Simple as that!

I'm off to bed. I love you fabulous people and thanks for loving us! You guys are awesome!