..... 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!