Monday, March 28, 2011

Heroes! Heroes EVERYWHERE!

Whew. What a whirlwind. We are still trying to calm our nerves from the most INTENSE hockey game we have ever witnessed between University of Denver and our beloved Western Michigan Broncos during the NCAA tournament in Green Bay. In double-overtime the University of Denver snuck one in, but we cannot be more proud of the season those Broncos have had. We are still so grateful for the way the team has embraced our family this year, and as the media got ahold of the story, it is wonderful to see the world smile in their direction, as well. We will savor every game next season, too. We promise. LOVE YOU, BOYS! Be proud of what you have accomplished. There is no other team with hearts as giving and selfless as yours. Of that I am certain.

More happened in the last three days than in three months, I think. Mattawan High School held a blood drive for Michigan Blood (where Gideon's transfusion blood comes from) on Friday, and we were able to visit the drive itself. The gym was full of volunteers and donors! Full. They were playing NEMO in the waiting area, there were FISH CUPCAKES in Gideon's honor, goldfish cracker snacks, and even NEMO coloring pages for students to color for my boys. THANK YOU, all of the volunteers and donors. Every person has saved someone's life. We are passionate about this cause!

We received more BLOOD DONATING fishies from the Otsego VFW and Davenport University who also sponsored a drive for our Gideon. Fish are rapidly swimming into our mailbox every single day, and we have not stopped celebrating!

If you missed donating blood at one of the other drives and would still like to do so, there are two more coming soon!
- Thursday, April 7 from 1 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.
-Click HERE to schedule your appointment. Sponsor code is PFMC.

- Friday, April 8 from 11:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. in WMU PARKVIEW CAMPUS ROOM C-126
Please click here for more information!

Before we left for Green Bay, Gideon and I stopped by a DANCE MARATHON at Forest Hills Northern High School. I have a past with Dance Marathon as I was the Special Promotions Chair the first year it was held at Hope College, and then I was the Assistant Director the second year. All of the money raised goes to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Having had experience as a "Dream Team" member and now as a mommy of a child with cancer, I was asked to speak. Unfortunately, I think the emotions of the past few days overwhelmed me and I started to sob onstage. I was holding Gideon, and the sweet honey kept kissing away my tears. The part that got me (even though I have told this story without crying a few hundred times) was when I said that never had I imagined I would see "this side" while I was involved with Dance Marathon in college. I never really processed that until then... It seemed so unbelievable that this could happen to MY family. Yet, here we are and the way people have embraced us, helped us, and the MIRACULOUS way Gideon is responding to his treatment has been the most heart-awakening experience of my life. Forest Hills Northern reached their goal of $40,000! Wow. Congratulations, students! Also, THANK YOU for Gideon's birthday cake and song. I think he would have stayed the entire 24 hours had I let him!

Finally, it was Gideon's 4th birthday on Sunday. He loved spending time in the hotel and then Gideon got to be the "King of the Day" as we travelled home from Green Bay. He wanted to see where the "G's" play (Green Bay Packers) which we did, and then he wanted to "Eat lunch in a Skyscraper" which we did in Milwaukee. We will celebrate his birthday tomorrow, and the boy is ecstatic about it.

I am ecstatic that Gideon's last scary bug that threatened to keep us home this weekend went away. We had no hospital visit drama at all! He only has a seal-like cough left, and even that is leaving him... Could all of this positivity add vitamin C to his cells to battle all of the blah? I think so. That, and the fact that Gideon has an army of HEROES and angels-on-earth walking with him through this battle.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NCAA and Birthday Wishes...

This coming weekend the Broncos will play in the NCAA tournament. Also this weekend, Gideon turns four! There is so much wishing and hoping going on in our house. I have complete faith that not only are the Western Broncos capable of defeating Denver on Saturday, but I also feel like they are going to be the Cinderella story that will swoon the nation. Heaven knows how they have swooned us and given us so much love throughout this hockey season. There is not one team in all of collegiate hockey with a heart as loving and as giving as that of the Western Broncos. To thank them for all they have done for us, I put this together:

Thank you, guys! We will forever hold your kindnesses in our hearts. Our family has not missed one game this year. If WMU played away, we watched it online. If Gideon's numbers were down or he was sick, Brody and Tom would go. We wouldn't miss this Green Bay opportunity for the world!

So, we are wishing for some wins, and Gideon is wishing for a pet fish for his birthday. Tom is not a fan of this idea. I realize they die, but Meijer is open 24 hours! And, even if Bubbles (fictitious name...I'm not sure what Gideon will name him) doesn't make it, I plan on taking the easiest way out and buying another fish in the dead of the night. I'll say something like, "How WEIRD! Bubbles is BLUE now!" Ha. Really though, it's a fish in a bowl and the boy is GOOD FISH CRAZY these days. Don't tell, but I'm buying the fish.


Friday, March 18, 2011

I Just Wanna Celebrate...

1. The blood drive yesterday was nothing short of miraculous. Seventy five people came through those doors ready to donate. THANK YOU, everyone! I cannot wait to post all of my pictures. Until then, I must post at least one. Bob, one of the donors, really opened my eyes. This blood drive marked his one hundred fifty second time he donated blood. He has donated 19 gallons of blood in all. Why is he so devoted to this? He lost his own little girl, Joanne, to leukemia when she was four years old in 1955. I am amazed by how far we have come in treating this disease, and I look forward to the day when this disease is archaic and obsolete. Until then, it is people like Bob who really stoke the fire in my soul to keep moving forward in donating blood, time, and money on behalf of childhood cancer. Those moms and dads out there who have lost a child, but CONTINUE to remain in the trenches of the war on pediatric cancer have taken the place of superstars and famous personalities in the media for me. They live with a constant sense of loss, yet they keep fighting. Since they wage forward in the battle, they are continually reminded of that grief of loss, but they won't give up. Thank you, parent warriors out there (like Bob). I am in awe of you all! Even when Gideon beats this disease, I promise to remain alongside you!

(Auntie Marianne, Gideon, Grandma and Bob)

2. Right at this moment, BRODY IS RIDING THE ZAMBONI AT THE JOE LOUIS ARENA!!!! His good deed came back and double-blessed him. I am teary just in typing this. Our friends at Lawson contacted Red Wings personnel, and apparently many of YOU, the blog-readers, emailed them as well. So, I was called today by a Red Wings management person and was asked if Brody would like to ride the Zamboni at the play-offs! THANK YOU, everyone, for loving on our boy. He will never forget this moment and as he grows older and becomes more and more obsessed with hockey, he will own this story in his heart.

Yes, I wanted to celebrate those two monumental things today. Gideon is my steroid monster (which is why we aren't at the Joe Louis Arena, too), but he's still very easy to love. I called him "Honey Bunny" and the temper flare from that was enough to chase the Easter Bunny away for good. In fact, I'm pretty sure our garden will be bunny-free since his screams echoed around the block, at least. Still, it was kind of cute the way I had to assure him that yes, I realize he is a human being. Also, he demanded that I play "We Belong" by Pat Benatar over and over and over again tonight. He wanted it as his ONLY song for his lullaby. I am thankful that modern technology invented a "repeat" button for just such demands. In other 'roid news, I have now purchased my third bucket of grilled chicken (which I must still skin before he'll sink his teeth into it. And, Gideon says I am "THE SLOWEST SKIN PEELER IN THE WOWLD!" Yes, that's "wowld" and not "world.") If I look at all of these things from the outside and process how silly they are, it makes life MUCH easier. I have also learned that laughing during one of his tantrums is not a good idea, either. I started laughing, and then Gideon, who always laughs when I laugh, started laughing through the screams so that it was an insane concoction of rage-giggles. Never have I observed that. I think the giggles fed the anger, though. So, I have since learned to hide my laughter. So you all know: Gideon is not any kind of furry creature. Please recognize that.

Still, in all of this madness, Gideon is a deep thinker when he's on those meds. I think it's because he can't slow down the wheels in his mind. During the blood drive, he asked to go upstairs of Hope Reformed's sanctuary with me. As we sat in there, we listened to the silence and stared at the sun spilling through the stained glass. It was a very pretty peace. Then, out of the blue, Gideon asked me, "Mommy, why are there bad people? Why is there a devil? Why do bad things happen to people not naughty?" His brow was furrowed in worry and almost anger. Wow. I was not expecting that. To see those pure blue eyes and the stained glass framing his fuzzy head was too much for me... Plus the fact that there were over fifteen people in the "waiting area" to give blood in this precious boy's honor. I wondered if my heart could handle it. This was a time when I had to ask God to take over the words while I simply moved my mouth. We had such an in-depth conversation about that, in that peace-filled room that allowed the sun to light up speckles of dust like miniature angels flying around us. By the end, he had more knowledge and understanding in those eyes than worry and anger. He said to me, "God always wins and beats the bad. Even if I don't see it, I will see it someday." Yes, Gideon. Yes, yes, yes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


THANK you for the willingness to be a hero in donating blood. For many of you, it will be the first time. I remember the first time I gave blood at a high school drive, and the feeling of goodwill saturated my heart. I remember staring at that bag of blood and wondering whose veins it would fill: someone who suffered blood loss in a crash? Someone who had a blood disorder? I also remember that I never pictured the recipient as a three-year-old. I always envisioned an adult in the ER. Now the picture I put with the act is someone completely different, someone so pure and loving and grateful for that blood. Someone's baby will benefit from what you are doing. Someone's life WILL be saved. This is all because of the time you took out of your day to anonymously spread life to someone you don't even know. Maybe you'll feel lightheaded afterwards, but the warmth that will wrap your heart in loving the world will trump that. I promise. So... THANK YOU.

- Thursday, March 17
- Click here to schedule your appointment. SPONSOR code is HRC.
- PLEASE NOTE: Making an appointment will help to make things run smoother and more efficiently. Also, there will not be as long of a wait for you.
- There will be "fish" already there for you to decorate for Gideon

- Thursday, April 7 from 1 p.m. - 6:45 p.m.
Click here to schedule your appointment. The sponsor code is PFMC.
- There will be "fish" there for you to send to Gideon, as well :)!

I'll never forget after Gideon received one transfusion, he said, "Ahhhh... THAT feels better!" I can't imagine what it would feel like for the body to be so very thirsty for this life-sustaining fluid. Please know the difference you are making, you blood donating HERO. We love you.

Speaking of love, Gideon received his spinal chemo and Vincristine this morning. We are praying he stays in good health as his ANC level has dropped quite a bit. Tom is sick, so I am sanitizing all I can and Tom is trying to stay away from Gideon as much as he can. Please pray for Tom to heal completely, for these ANC levels to go back up, for the steroids to be nice (please), and for the bugs to die. Was that brutal? It's true, though. I want those bugs GONE.
True story: I sing this Van Morrison song to Gideon when he has to get blood. I changed the words, though. Please, blood donors, sing along and sing it to YOU! THE HERO!

I can hear his heartbeat from a thousand miles
Yeah, the heavens open every time he smiles
And when I come to him that's where I belong
Yeah I'm running to him like a river's song

She gives you blood, blood, blood, blood, saving BLOOD!
He gives you blood, blood, blood, blood, saving BLOOD!

He's got a fine pint of blood, when Gideon's feeling low down
And when it comes to him when the numbers goes down
Take away our trouble, take away our grief
Take away our heartache, in the night like a thief


Yeah, I need him in the daytime
Yeah, I need her in the night
Yeah, I want to throw my arms around him
Kiss him, hug her, kiss him, hug her tight!

And he's sick and feels so far away
Donor gives him some sweet blood, brighten up our day!
Yes, it makes him righteous! Yes, it makes him whole!
Yes, it makes him mellow down into his soul!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Bringing it to the Joe!

Gideon's fever has ceased. His demeanor is back to normal, and he is eating as if he is on steroids already (yikes). His little eyes are sparkling again, and I could just stare at that bling forever. Thank you for holding him in your thoughts and prayers.

My heart leapt out of my body and mingled with heaven tonight (and broke at the same time), all because of Brody. Again. I'm still trying to grasp the five-year-old love he kicks out with more intensity than a sandblaster of hearts. It has been his dream to ride a Zamboni since he picked up a hockey obsession (around two years old). In fact, a sweet little story is that every night before he goes to bed, he asks for a "dream." Tom or I then have to tell him a story in which he is the protagonist. Right before we reach the climax, we say, "Keep dreaming..." and the boy refuses to open his eyes because he cannot wait to finish the story cooking in his head. On many occasions, he asks to have a "Zamboni dream" and he wheels around a turbo-boosted Zamboni as a hockey superhero (at least in my version). There is the backstory. He has never had the opportunity to do it (ride a Zamboni...plenty of opportunities to dream, though), and then tonight happened: his chance.

Tonight was the determining game to find out who would be advancing to the CCHA Semifinals: Western Michigan or Ferris State. As soon as Brody walked in, he was asked if he would like to ride the Zamboni. Those old-fashioned cartoons with the zigzags and the fireworks popping out of an expanding heart is the only way to describe his elation.

As we made our way to where the Zambonis are parked, Gideon said, "I WISH I COULD RIDE ON ONE!!!" and his little lip trembled. I explained that when he was a little older, he could do it. Then, Brody stepped in and set my heartcoaster in motion. He said, "He can go in my place." I tried to stop him. I knew how much this meant to Brody. I wanted to cry for him. I wanted to shake him and yell, "NO! THAT'S NOT FAIR!" Instead, he began pealing off his jersey to give to Gideon to wear on the ride. No. This was not going to happen. I was in love with his actions and at the same time heartbroken for my oldest. This was the analogy I've been using to describe Brody since cancer wreaked havoc on our family coming true: "He gladly takes the backseat." Only this time he wasn't even in the car, or Zamboni, in this case. Tom was so proud of Brody, and I can't blame him. Much to my dismay and equal parts jubilation, Brody insisted he go through with the offer. So, I was ecstatic for Gideon's chance to ride, but so crushed for my big guy. So crushed.

Gideon riding the Zamboni!

He couldn't stop smiling!

Brody watching from the sidelines... Does this just break my heart because I'm the mom? :(

Thankfully, The BRONCOS WON in overtime! It was an amazing game, and Brody never once brought up his missed Zamboni opportunity. I thought for sure once he processed it, he would cry or something. But he didn't. He was just thrilled with the win. Western's next stop is the Joe Louis Arena!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Today's Update...

THANK YOU, friends. Thank you to all of you who still reach out and support me (and us) even when I (we) can't give much attention in return these days. I cannot fathom how I managed to scrounge up so many true, true friends who give and give and give and don't expect anything back. I am blessed beyond belief to have so many of you fill me up so often. My heart is bursting with all of your love, I promise.

The knot in my stomach about Gideon's chemo today was a mommy hunch, I think. Gideon woke up at 3:30 this morning vomiting. It wasn't a chemo vomit, it was a sick-sick vomit. Isn't it weird that there are different classes of vomit now? Am I grossing you out? Moving along... He had a fever of 101.2 at that point. I knew we were going in to the hospital this morning anyway, so I felt a lot of relief there. Once he woke up, his fever went down to 100.2 and once we were at the hospital, he was still registering with a low-grade fever. It was decided to hold off on the spinal chemo. Phew. Relief. Weight lifted. Instead, Gideon received antibiotics via IV to battle this bug. The good part: Gideon's numbers were high enough that we didn't need to be checked into the hospital overnight for monitoring. If his fever returns, we will just go back for another IV antibiotic. In the meantime, it has been cuddle and story-reading quiet time. He is still napping!

Please continue to pray that the bug works out of him and the sickness is short-lived. We are slated to return to the hospital for spinal chemo on Tuesday, and THEN the steroids will begin again.

I have to say... One of my favorite moments of the day was when Gideon sang while he slept. He was singing, "Don't worry, baby! Everything will be allllriiiiight!" in a hushed sleep-filled airiness that just wrapped me up. I was thankful for that. It felt like a Holy moment to me. Really. It felt like God was singing to me through my baby's voice. It is true that I sing that to Gideon quite often, but it was the moment that just revived this heart. I'm thankful. I know everything will be allllriiiiiiight.

(P.S. I need to THANK a blog-reading person I just met for sending me this link. I read about Kourage while Gideon was being pumped full of antibiotics and the happy tears were welcomed in that moment. I ordered Kourage. It was an impulse buy I am PROUD of. THANK YOU, Christy!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spinal Methotrexate in the morning

Yes, bright and early we'll be heading to the hospital for a dosage of Spinal Methotrexate. PLEASE let the music therapist be there. Please, please, please! There is something about waking up from anesthesia for my little Gideon. He wants to leap off the bed or wrestle or he's super agitated. I am not looking forward to this. If the music therapist isn't in, I will sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" a million times. It's worth it since it protects me from getting head-bashed by my fuzzy-noggined one. Gideon, however, is beyond thrilled with the idea of this medicine. I told him he is getting sleepy medicine tomorrow and he said, "YAY! I need to go to bed QUICK!" I'm thinking he said this to hurry the morning. I just want the night to feel slow...twenty hours of sleep slow. Rest-drenched and deep sleep slow.

Tomorrow also begins steroids.

I put that sentence in its own paragraph.

That one, too.

Let's just disconnect everything since the wiring in my heart is a little kinked and knotted right now. I'm wondering if his body is up for all of this. I can't wrap my mind around the idea of my boy who has been vomiting and hardly wanting to eat or drink a thing can get all of this poison on top of it. I want him to heal, first. Why is that not possible? Oh, yeah. Freaking cancer. Do I sound as pathetic as I feel? This is one of those the-tears-are-gonna-spill nights. I'm fighting them. Everything will be okay.

On top of this horrendous weight of not liking this present situation, I read this article. Kim Hill defeated childhood leukemia, but she passed away too early at 44 because of the relapse and other issues. This is a reminder as to WHY WE NEED A CURE. We need it so that Gideon's (and other children like him) quality of life will be nothing short of excellent and normal once they reach remission. This is why pediatric cancer needs more funding. This is why I am practically begging you to donate to CureSearch here in Gideon's honor. Gideon will make it out of this. He will beat this cancer. We believe it. But if there could be no parents who have to take their baby in for spinal chemotherapy since a CURE was found, I am passionate about it. Childhood cancer needs to be looked back on as The Black Plague. It needs to be seen as a disease of the past. Every dollar is appreciated and needed. THANK YOU to those of you who have donated already.

Do you see why I get obsessed with worthwhile causes? Does it make sense? CureSearch and donating blood are two things that are actually proactive. They are legitimately helping NOW when I feel so helpless living in this new reality.

And when I feel wordless, I go to other people's words:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together, there is something you must always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.” - Christopher Robin (Thank you, Nicole)

"God has not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love." - Annie Johnson Flint (Thank you, Derek)

"May the sun bring you new energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life." - Apache blessing (Thank you, Johnny)

"Your bubbly self IS still in there. Like a hotdog wrapped in deepfried bready substance on a stick, it's in there. Yes, I've compared you to a corndog. Nom nom nom." - Jenny Diederich (Thank you, Jenny)

"I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet." - Indian Proverb (Thank you, card I haven't sent since if I sent it, it would seem like I was calling the recipient a complainer... So, I kept it for me.)

ANnnNNnNNNNd now. This is my dad-daughter song. While munching on a powdered donut on a chilly U.P. morning, dad would break out the Willie Nelson. I always made him blast this one and would perform my "routine" for the family. Do I still know the dance? Why, yes. I do.

And now I feel better. A little. Thanks, Willie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We Love Ryan! (We all do!)

A fever monster has been lurking in this house. I am doing all I can to trap it and demolish it, but he's one sneaky guy. I make it out to sound all cartoonish, but really, it freaks me out and there is nothing pixelated about it. Brody had it, Tom had it, I had it....and? Last night Gideon threw-up (everywhere) profusely, but no fever. He doesn't want to eat, and I am doing all I can to make the boy think that water is the best liquid on the planet. It is, after all. He is on a juice kick. Tonight I told him that his dolphins (chemo meds) need more water in his body so that they can swim faster to slay the sharks (cancer). He bought it and drank it. The boy loves flavor, and I can't blame him!

So, besides being fused to a Lysol can, there's not much more I can do besides ask everyone to pray. I'm praying this bug leaves our house without wanting to make its home in Gideon. As you know, a fever is not a favorable situation for a boy with cancer. The happy-go-lucky girl of my past may not return, but that's okay (although I miss her sometimes). This is our new normal, as our Nurse Michelle would say.

In positive news: WE LOVE UNCLE RYAN! Ryan Harrell is one of Tom's best friends. He and Abby have three amazing little boys, and they are skiing partners and lifelong friends to our boys. Basically, if anything happens to Tom and to myself, our will states that our kids are to be given over to this family. So now you know how amazingly incredible they are to us.

To illustrate how loving this family truly is, Ryan is racing in The Kalamazoo Marathon in GIDEON'S HONOR! All of the money pledged from this site will be donated to our favorite charity: CureSearch! Every penny will go towards researching pediatric cancer. I hope if you find it in your heart to donate, you do so there. We will be at the finish line, Ryan!

Uncle Ryan, BABY Gideon and Tom

I had to share this soothing treat...for the ears and for the eyes. Mmmmm... I could stare at it nonstop until I fall asleep. Speaking of, nigh-night!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Fabulous Weekend

Even though Gideon has had a constant succession of cold after cold after cold, he is still one smiley booger-producing factory. On top of these smiles, there are the ones generated from more awe-inspiring people. We were contacted by so many people following Channel WWMT's report. There are blood drives going on where filling out a fish is as much of the protocol as sipping some orange juice afterwards. I feel like that report opened our family up to meeting so many good-hearted people. This weekend was a tiptoe through an overwhelming host of angels on earth.

On Saturday, we met up with a family of race car drivers, the Long family, who were touched by the report and wanted to give Gideon and Brody racing gifts. We were given a signed racing suit, signed racing pictures, racing toys, much! We were awed when we stepped into the private room they booked for this meeting and the gifts were out on display. As you all know, Gideon loves his race cars. As my family members can attest, he will only play with race cars with "numbers on the side." Brody and Gideon were speechless, and that was a first.

The most tear-jerking moment of this meeting is when we were told that they were going to run a race in Gideon's honor. His face is even going to be on the hood of Jan's car! The part that I can't contain is the fact that all of the money raised at this event will be donated to CureSearch which is a PEDIATRIC Cancer research group. I didn't know until Gideon was diagnosed, but only a fraction of all money donated to cancer research is dedicated to researching for pediatric cancer. I used to think, Well, one breakthrough for one kind of cancer is a breakthrough for all cancer. The truth is: there needs to be less toxic treatment for these itty-bitty bodies. That's a long-winded way to say I AM SO VERY EXCITED that this race team is not only raising awareness for childhood cancer, but raising money for it! BLESS YOU ALL! I will be sure to post more details as they come available so that we can all fill those stands. Another incredible fact: THIS RACE WILL BE A YEARLY EVENT!!! Woah.

Brody's last hockey game of the season was today. As you have read, the boy has been a hero through this all. So, I invited as many people as I could to cheer for Brody. A whole group of Western Bronco players came and not only cheered him on, but helped adjust his helmet and give him drinks from his water bottle. That was a touching moment for this momma. Brody wore the number 14 in Ian Slater's honor! We absolutely love these guys (and Chelsea, too!). Brody scored three goals. I have to say, he is kind of shy in front of everyone and doesn't say much (although he gets pretty macho on the ice), but when we got home he said, "Mom! There were SIGNS everywhere with my name on them! And when I scored, the whole stadium was so LOUD! That was the best feeling of my life." His eyes were one twinkling laser light show, let me tell you! He will never forget this day. THANK YOU, fans. You made my big Brody feel bigger than LIFE! We love you!