Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My passion

I will let you in on a little secret about me if you don't know me already. I am passionate about a few things. You will probably hear me talk about each of those in time, but today I will tell you that my biggest passion of all is caring for orphans. I have loved children since the time I was practically still a child myself. And once I started really realizing that there are children out there--real flesh and blood kids like our friends' kids. Like our own kids--with no parents, living in institutions or with foster families that don't really care for them like true parents, well, that thought pretty much consumes me. Puppies need homes, yes. Yes, we should recycle, save the earth, yadda yadda, name the cause. But in my opinion there is just nothing sadder than the thought of a child with no parents.

So, if you are anything like me, and feel the need to DO SOMETHING about helping a child find his family, there are so many things we can do!

One of those things is helping a family who wants to adopt raise the funds they need, which is typically a pretty astronomical amount, especially in international adoptions. I know a family who is getting ready to adopt their second child from China--a precious angel they are naming Elaina. They are having a fundraiser on July 6, and it's the kind I like because it involves buying some really cute things a generous friend donated from her Etsy shop that do not cost a lot of money! If lots of us order on that one day, it will really help them! Please take a look at this link and it will give you more details. http://http//

Thank you! And please spread the word since my blog is brand new. : )

Here at our house we had one awesome day. Sarah seriously smiled and laughed all day long. It doesn't take anything when she is in a mood like she was in today. Every single thing is funny. She is such a hoot! She also ate like a horse. Gotta love that appetite stimulant she's on! Ben had a great day too. He loves having so much time with Mom and Dad pretty much to himself. And we love having time to spend with him one on one too. So thankful for this beautiful day! Tomorrow camp will be done, but the boys will be staying up at camp with Grandma and Grandpa for a few more days while Sarah's blood cell counts are way down. Please pray with us that she does not have to end up in the hospital with an infection this week. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flashbacks done for are today's thoughts:

So, as I sit typing this, we are done with round two of chemo--two out of four! So we are already halfway done with the chemo part of Sarah's treatment! To quote the nurses, Sarah is flying through her chemo. : ) So far, so good, and we are very, very thankful! Her blood cell counts will start dropping probably on Friday, and they will be down for about a week. I don't look forward to that week, but as I've been saying since day one of all of this, we will just take it one day at a time.

God continues to bless us and overwhelm us with His goodness. It's summer, it's beautiful, we have amazingly awesome kids, and we are just soaking it all in every day. : ) Summer is just the best, isn't it?? Okay, so are spring and fall. NOT winter. But at least it's pretty. While we were home for the week before Sarah's second round of chemo, our family had so much fun--we celebrated Scott and Cassandra's birthdays (totally on the fly and it was probably one of the most fun birthday parties ever,) we all went to Josh and Ben's softball games and there is nothing better than watching 6 year olds play softball. (Okay, maybe watching 4 and 5 year olds is pretty great too.) And we all went and saw Toy Story 3! LOVED IT! This week Jacob and Josh are at Camp, and Cassandra is counseling, and I am loving spending time with Ben and Sarah. Tonight we went to the park. Picture a perfect summer evening, watching Ben (6) climbing and jumping and yelling, "Watch me!" All the while Sarah is sitting on my lap as we're swinging, and she keeps saying, "Fun park! Fun park!" Does it get any better than that?

Blessings to you, everyone! Cherish every minute!!

June 18 facebook post:

Finally I have some time to give you a little update. It's late, but I get to SLEEP IN tomorrow in my own comfy bed. : )

I will start by saying, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for praying!! Also, thank you to so many who have brought meals, sent cards, brought gifts, or are just willing to help. We are so grateful to you.

So, in case anyone didn't notice my last few statuses, we were able to finally come home today after 2 weeks and 3 days. Hearing Sarah's diagnosis of cancer was by far the darkest day we've ever encountered, but things only got brighter from there. Every test has come back with good results, chemo is working amazingly well, she tolerated the chemo well, and today they did a procedure called a stem cell harvest where they took stem cells from her bone marrow to transplant back into her later when she will likely need them. That went better than planned too. The only bit of a scary time was when she got a fever after her chemo treatment, but it turned out it was just from an ear infection that cleared up in a day with antibiotics. God is so good!! And it seems to be even better than that. When we first talked with Sarah's oncologist in charge of her care, she told us basically that we shouldn't get our hopes up about saving her eyesight in her good eye. She only gave us a 60% chance of survival for Sarah and saving eyesight was something they would try to do, but of course the focus would be on saving her life. Well, as time went by we could see how much that tumor in her blind eye was shrinking. I asked one of the oncologists on the team if they were as encouraged by the progress as we were. She said definitely, yes. The tumor board met and discussed Sarah's case, and they are very encouraged, and they are optimistic about saving her eyesight!

Many people ask how we are doing, and most assume that we are pretty sad about all of this. Well, I can honestly say that we were at first. We were given some heartbreaking news, and not a very good prognosis. That 60% survival rate the doctor gave us was the chance she thought Sarah would have, even if the cancer was not in the brain, spinal fluid or bone marrow! I'm not sure why that was the number she came up with, but there it was. So, we were left thinking, "Okay, that's what you think, but GOD can do anything, and He doesn't care about statistics!" We chose to trust God day by day. And as we put our trust in Him, our devastation started melting away bit by bit. The atmosphere on that children's oncology floor is optimistic and hopeful. Most people you see have smiles on their faces. It's a feeling of whipping cancer, not succombing to it. And as we have seen good news upon good news, we are not devasted at all anymore. I don't feel like crying anymore. I feel really happy at how well things are going, and so happy about how God is working in and through this. It also really helps that for the most part Sarah's discomfort is very minimal. If she was hurting a lot, that would be very hard on us, of course.

We are not naive about what could happen. But we completely trust God. We believe He will heal our Sarah. Whatever happens, we will trust Him! So, we are home for a week! Sarah has an appointment on Monday with the specialist to do a complete eye exam under sedation. I can't wait to hear what he has to say. Then on Friday we go back for round 2 of chemo, but this time we will only have to stay in the hospital for two nights. We will be home for the "count recovery" time, when her blood cell counts are low, and climbing back up. We will appreciate your prayers especially during that time. I have more to say about this and that, but I will save it for next time. We love and appreciate you all so much for taking the time to care about us! You are wonderful examples of God's love!!

Musings from my journal--June 11

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you. 1 Thess. 5:18

I am thankful that God has granted us the gift of being Sarah's parents. She is a priceless treasure.

I am thankful for technology, for the many families and doctors and researchers who have walked this road over the years, learning the roadmap of what to do and where to go next. It's not an exact science, but the rates of cancer survival are so much higher than they used to be.

I am thankful that we live so close to a high quality children's hospital.

I am thankful for the excellent, caring doctors and nurses here and the child-life team that works hard to make these kids happy.

I am thankful that the food here is pretty good!

I am thankful for so many people who give to cancer research. I am thankful for prayers and support of so many friends, family, and strangers.

I am thankful that God never leaves us. We don't have to understand why these things happen. He has promised in His Word that we will have trials--even "good" people who love Him. He has told us that His ways are higher than our ways. We never have to worry--not even for a second--while we are here on this earth. Instead, we have the privilege of being able to relax in complete trust and enjoy the gift of peace that comes along with it.

I am so thankful for my sweet Savior who loves each of us so infinitely, and who is holding us in His hands all the way.

I posted this on June 6:

I thought I would let you all know that after two nights of chemo, Sarah is doing great! She has had NO ill effects from the chemo, and the dr. said this would be the time she would be feeling neauseous. (I am not talking about low blood counts. It is almost inevitable that that will happen. It just hasn't happened yet.) She is eating well, and smiling and laughing like normal, as long as she has her wonderful pain meds. Her pain is from the tumor pushing in her eye, so when it starts shrinking, that pain should start going away.

God is seriously working already. We can feel Him holding us up, and Sarah is feeling so well, that it really makes it easier. We are having so much fun with our little sweetheart. Although, spending almost entire days with a toddler is tiring, we are so thankful for this time we can spend with her alone without having to clean, cook, do school or tend to the boys. (But I do miss my boys!! Can't wait to see them!!) So, please do not stop praying! God is hearing and answering!! love, Holly

On Friday June 4, 2010...I posted this on facebook:

This morning Sarah had a spinal tap, bone marrow test, and a broviac put in her chest which goes into a vein so that she won't have to have pokes when she gets chemo and such. They did two tests on her spinal fluid and two on the bone marrow, but we only have the results of one of each. Both of them are good!! Praise the Lord! We are very anxious to get those next test results. Sarah is starting chemo tonight. I am pretty nervous about this mainly because if anyone knows me, they know I am a germ freak much of the time as it is. Now I am afraid I will be even more panicky about them! Praying for peace in all of this. The drs. say that most small children do really well with the chemo. They say that most don't have much trouble with nausea and vomiting, and feel well enough to play. They are so positive and helpful here. She will be having cycles of chemo every few weeks on and off for about 6 least that is the plan for now. Hopefully we will be done by Christmas! Since Sarah's situation is different with the cancer being in her eyes, they want to try to save her good eye, and also not give her the types of chemo that affect hearing, in case she has to lose both eyes. They are also trying to avoid giving her radiation since it has more of a chance of upping her chance of recurrence of cancer later. So, these are all things to pray about. All in all, God is being very good to us. Sarah is comfortable and happy most of the time, and we are having so much time just enjoying her-- Something that is sometimes hard to find time for in our busy lives at home. The boys are enjoying their vacation at Grandma and Grandpa's. : ) We are blown away by the prayers and support that you are all surrounding us with. Thank you so much! We will know more what kind of specific help we might need when we get home in about two weeks. The nurses all treat Sarah like the little princess she is here. She gets watches and bracelets to wear, and those fun name-tags that clip to the nurses' uniforms--if Sarah wants to wear one of those, she gets it. : ) There are Little Tykes cars and wagons to ride around the halls in, and Sarah's favorite is the "stroller ride." (Don't tell her it's a wheel chair.) ; ) The play room is fun too. Tonight, Sarah's dinner was sloppy joe, fries, and cherry pie. She ate a few fries, and about half of her sloppy joe meat (not the bread though), and told Daddy she was done. Then I came in with my dinner I had purchased downstairs in the cafeteria. I had a huge helping of broccoli, carrots and cauiflower. When Sarah saw it she got all happy and yelled, "vegetables!" and ate almost all of them. That's my girl. Scarf down those cancer fighters! So, God is getting us through this one day at a time. Thank you all for your prayers!!!!

Sarah's diagnosis

Before I go into the story about Sarah's diagnosis of cancer, I will give you a little background information about our precious girl.

We traveled to Henan Province in China to adopt Sarah, then 21 months old, in October of last year. She was considered a "special needs" baby because she had been born with a condition called microphthalmia (small, blind eye.) In fact, when we originally got her information, she was listed as actually missing an eye, but as soon as we got her we could see that she did indeed have an eye. It was just small and obviously very underdeveloped. We found it interesting that even though we didn't "choose" Sarah, we just chose which special needs we would be willing to accept, she happened to have one we never even considered she would have, and it is the same rare birth defect my hubby's brother has. Anyway...our adoption story is about as perfect as any could be. First of all, we received our "referral," meaning Sarah's file to consider, on my hubby, Scott's birthday. We actually got to meet her on MY birthday, and the day we had submitted our paperwork saying we wanted to be on the list to accept a special needs child was January 4, 2008. Sarah's birthday! Looking back on all of that, it still gives me chills to think that God was so intentional about the whole thing. He wanted us to be so absolutely sure that this baby girl was meant to be ours. Sarah came to us with no problems, and started smiling right away. She has been a joy since the day we laid eyes on her, with virtually no bonding issues or any other problems other than the typical toddler types of things. But even then she is the easiest toddler I've had so far! She had a normal eye exam in December that showed normal eyesight in her good eye, and in January we started the process of her wearing conformers (hard plastic lenses that got her small eyelid and socket tissues ready for her artificial eye.) All of that went fine, and in May she got her new eye. The problem was I didn't think it looked like it fit right, and as days went by, we and others in the family started thinking something really wasn't right with it. Thinking there might be an infection or some kind of swelling behind there, we took that eye out. Sure enough we started realizing that that tiny eye she had was growing larger. When I called the ophthalmologist about it, they said not to worry about it unless it showed signs of infection. The Friday before Memorial Day, she seemed to be more irritable than usual, and we were definitely knowing that that eye did not look right. The pediatrician sent us to the ophthalmologist on call that day, and he said he had no idea what was going on with it, and ordered a CT scan for her when we got back from the weekend. That Tuesday, June 1, she had that scan and an exam by an ocular oncologist (eye cancer specialist) which both confirmed the bad news--that our precious treasure was a very sick little girl. The doctor seemed very hopeless about the whole thing, and was almost positive the cancer was already in her brain judging by how large the tumor in her small eye was. He told us later that he didn't even sleep that night, he was so upset by how bad it seemed. Here is what I posted on facebook on June 2, as soon as we knew anything:

So, here's what we know so far. Sarah has retinoblastoma in both eyes. This type of cancer is a genetic disease, and she was most likely born with it. In fact, we have found that she did not likely have microphthalmia (congenital small, blind eye), but she was probably born with a normal eye that had this cancer in it once before, and it perforated, leaving the remains of the eye which is what she had when she arrived at the orphanage. We are sure the orphanage and doctors in China had no idea she had cancer at all. Now, fast forward two years, and the cancer is rearing its ugly head again. The tumor is pretty large in that one eye, and there is cancer in the other one as well. There was fear that there could be a third tumor in the brain, but after the MRI this morning, we found there is none there. Praise the Lord! On Friday she will have a spinal tap and bone marrow test to see whether the cancer cells are also in the spinal fluid and bone marrow. Please pray with us that those tests will be negative! At this time they are not planning surgery, but are starting with chemotherapy, probably early next week. We don't know yet how serious they think this could be, but some of the doctors sound pretty worried. Some of them sound optimistic. We know God. We had a rough night of shock and processing all this new information. I spent the night at the hospital praying and thinking. What I concluded is that God knew this would happen. He placed Sarah in our family when she did not have one any more. It was all Him, and we are so thankful. Adopting Sarah and having her as our daughter has been one of the greatest blessings we have ever known, and I am so happy that we are her parents as she faces this dark time in her life. We know that God loves her so much that He wanted her to have a family. And He loves us so much that He allowed us to have her. And if He loves us all so much, then He will work His perfect will in our lives. It is so good to know the Lord, friends. The peace He gives just couldn't come from this world. I hope you know Him too. Please continue to pray for us and our princess. Poor baby just doesn't know what to make of all these doctors and machines and pokes. She doesn't even like to get her temperature taken. She's sleeping a lot, though, so that's helping. We love you and we will keep you updated!

Monday, June 28, 2010


After thinking about it for quite some time, I have decided to start a family blog! Thank you for joining me here!

I decided to name our blog "Living the Abundant Life" because to me John 10:10 pretty much sums it up. It says "...I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Jesus came for one give us LIFE! Eternal life in heaven for sure, but also, LIFE on this earth! So often I have sat basking in His goodness, just drinking in everything He has to offer us. And it's soooo much better than anything the world tries to shove at us. I have said to myself so many times, "This abundant Life sure is good! It's everything He promises it to be." That doesn't mean that we do not experience sorrow, hard times, and the effects of sin all around us, but it does mean that He has conquered the world and all of those things, and we do not have to wallow around in despair and defeat! It is my hope to share some of what flows out of my heart on a regular basis, and hopefully be an encouragement to you--anyone who might happen upon my humble little blog. : )

The reason I decided to start this blog right now is because our 2 year old daughter, Sarah, adopted from China in October of last year (on my birthday) : ) was diagnosed with cancer on June 1. Her specific type of cancer is called Retinoblastoma, and she has tumors in both her eyes. Instead of starting a Care Page for her, I decided to post all about our journey here, and then continue this blog even after our journey with cancer is over. I have been posting on fb already, so I will transfer those posts over here to catch anyone up who wasn't following over there.

I have no idea how to "do" a blog, so bear with me for a while until I figure this whole thing out!

Thank you so much for caring about us and our Sarah, and for following along. We appreciate it!