|SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1997|
Much of the month of November was spent in the hospital. The first week, we visited the clinic three different times. The first of those times was the day the lady came and read the "Jester" book. We were there all day because Ashley had to get blood and platelets. The following Sunday morning (November 9), I went to Bible Class (I teach the High School class at church) while Susan stayed home with Ashley. At this point, Ashley was still extremely weak and not eating. We were still feeding her TPN through her IV. After Bible Class, I came home and stayed with Ashley so that Susan could go to church. While I was home with Ashley, her nose started bleeding. We couldn't get it to stop. After about an hour-and-a-half with no success stopping the bleeding, we called the hospital. They told us to bring her in, so we did. She ended up staying two nights, and coming home on Tuesday.
On Thursday of that same week Ashley had a clinic visit for blood counts. When we got the results back from her blood test, her platelet count and hemoglobin count were both low, so they put her in a patient room and gave her 2 units of blood and one unit of platelets (each unit of blood takes about 3-4 hours, platelets about 30 minutes). We were given the option to go ahead and be admitted overnight (since the infusion would take so long), or go home late that night when the infusion was completed. Ashley had made up her mind from the start that she was going to go home when her blood and platelets were finished. She was not going to stay in the hospital any longer than was absolutely necessary. Because of some delays, the infusion took a little longer than expected. We got home at 3:45 the next morning.
The next day (Friday), Ashley started vomiting. It got worse and worse, so at midnight we ended up back at the hospital again. She was admitted. This was November 14. Her next round of chemo was scheduled to start the following Monday. The vomiting continued, off and on, for about three days. Her blood counts were also still low, so chemo was postponed until her condition improved. The decision was made to go ahead and do the gastrostomy tube (G-tube) surgery as soon as her blood counts were adequate. The surgery was performed on Friday, November 21, at about 10:30 AM.
The G-tube is a rubber-like tube, about 1/4-inch in diameter, that is inserted surgically through the skin, through the lining of the stomach, and is anchored inside the stomach. We hook Ashley up at night, and slowly pump formula directly into her stomach through the G-tube while she is asleep.
Ashley's chemo was started on Sunday the 23rd (two days after her G-tube surgery), and continued for three days. Ashley was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, November 26, the day before Thanksgiving. She had been in the hospital almost two full weeks.
When we arrived home from the hospital that Wednesday, we loaded up the car and headed for Pflugerville, to spend Thanksgiving with Susan's Mom. After just a few days of G-tube feeding, we were already beginning to notice a difference in Ashley. She was gaining weight, she was getting her strength back, and she was starting to be in a good mood most of the time! (That was a nice improvement!!)
Susan's Mom lives in a brand new mobile home, located on acreage outside of Pflugerville (just north of Austin), where Susan's sister and her husband raise show-hogs and are about to begin building a house. Susan's Mom bought a golf cart when she moved out to the country, to get around between her house and the hog barn. The grandkids get a big kick out of riding around in the golf cart, and that is what Justin spent most of his time doing at Thanksgiving! Ashley did a lot of Christmas shopping with Susan and Mammaw on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
When Saturday came and it was time to head home, Ashley cried. She didn't want to come home. She was having such a good time that she just wanted to stay at Mammaw's house!
Monday, December 1
December has been an extremely busy month already! Ashley was back in the hospital the first week of December. She had a clinic appointment on Monday for blood work. Some of her counts were low, so she had to have blood and platelets. Another all-day event. We left the hospital that evening and went out to eat and to the movies. We ate at one of our favorite local Mexican food restaurants, and Ashley even ate some chips and hot sauce, and a few bites of Susan's chicken quesadillas! This was basically the first time she had eaten anything in about two or three months! After supper we saw the new animated movie "Anastasia". It was a thoroughly enjoyable family evening!
Tuesday-Thursday, December 2-4
The next day, Tuesday, was a day we had been looking forward to for some time. A couple of our teens at church attend Dallas Christian School. One of the classes at DC has been praying for Ashley regularly. Several weeks ago, the teacher of that class, Keith Honey, called me to let me know that his class had been praying for Ashley, and they wanted to meet her and take her to do something fun. After a few discussions, we decided to spend a morning at Celebration Station. Tuesday was the day! We even took Justin out of school so that he could spend this very special day with us.
That morning, Ashley woke up with a fever, but she was feeling OK. We made the decision to go ahead and go to Celebration Station, keep a close eye on her, and check with the hospital afterwards if her fever had not improved. Ashley and Justin both had an absolute blast! Celebration Station gave her some gifts, and the Dallas Christian group gave her a gift and treated our family to pizza and game tokens. We spent two very enjoyable hours there. Afterwards, it was time for the Dallas Christian students to return to school. We took pictures and said goodbyes, and then we checked Ashley's temperature. It had not gone down, so we decided to just drive on over to the hospital.
We arrived at Children's, and Ashley was admitted because of her fever. She stayed in the hospital for two nights, and came home on Thursday. That night, Susan took the kids and went to the movies, this time to see Disney's new movie "Flubber". They really enjoyed the movie.
Friday, December 5
Friday, we went back to Children's to see Buddy the dog, star of Disney's recent movie "Air Bud". That evening we went to see the play "The Gift of the Magi", performed by the Waxahachie High School Drama Department. One of our teens from church was in the play. Afterward, we went to one of our local stores selling Christmas trees, picked out a tree, and brought it home.
Saturday, December 6
Saturday was the Dallas Christmas Parade, in which Ashley appeared riding with Buddy the basketball-playing dog. After the parade, we attended an exclusive party at Planet Hollywood for the parade kids and their families.
Sunday, December 7
After a busy weekend, Sunday, was a milestone of sorts. It was the first time in a LONG time that Ashley was able to go to church both Sunday morning and evening. We had a devotional for the youth group at a member's house after the evening worship service, and Ashley went to that as well!
Monday, December 8
Ashley had a clinic visit on Monday. Her platelets were low, so she had to stay for a short while to be infused with platelets. We left the hospital and drove back home with just enough time to get cleaned up, hop back in the car, and drive back to north Dallas to the Brentwood Country Club. Children's was having their annual Holiday Celebration for the patients. It was a grand party! There was face painting, clowns making balloon animals, many costumed characters milling around visiting with the kids, and Santa and Mrs. Claus taking pictures with the kids and giving out presents. We all had a wonderful time.
Tuesday, December 9
Tuesday evening, Susan took the kids and went back to Children's to see the "Lighting of the Tree". Each year, Children's brings in a HUGE Christmas tree and puts it right outside the main entrance to the hospital. Elaborate decorations are put up, on and around the tree, and an official tree-lighting ceremony is held. At the ceremony, one of the patients "flips the switch" to turn on the Christmas lights. Several of the Dallas Cowboys were on hand, as well as Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars hockey team and other celebrities. Susan said it was a really neat ceremony.
Thursday, December 11
Thursday of last week was a very special night as well. The PTO at Ashley and Justin's school has been planning and promoting a Spaghetti Supper for some time, with the proceeds going to our family to help with expenses. The supper was Thursday night of last week. Lots of people from the community showed up, and over $1,800 was raised in one night! We were deeply touched by this tremendous show of love and support. People have been so good to us throughout this entire ordeal. I never cease to be amazed at the goodness in people's hearts. God is truly blessing our lives in many, many ways!
Friday, December 12
On Friday afternoon, some of the teenagers from church came over to decorate the outside of our house for Christmas. It didn't take them very long to string lights along the roof. They did a marvelous job!
Saturday, December 13
Saturday evening, we were treated to an incredible experience. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas, along with numerous other organizations, sponsored the 10th annual "Holiday High Lights Tour". We drove to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth (Ross Perot's airport), mid-afternoon. Ashley was one of about a thousand kids (my estimate) who were there with their families.
At 5:30, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived by special helicopter to kick off the festivities. The party was staged in a huge airplane hangar. There was lots of food, a small petting zoo, Santa and Mrs. Claus, face painting, and continuous entertainment. Everyone was given a "flight number" upon arrival. When a family's flight number was called, they were escorted out of the hangar and into either a small private plane, a somewhat larger show plane, or a helicopter. When our number was called, we were loaded aboard a helicopter and flown over Fort Worth and Arlington to see the Christmas lights from the air. It was absolutely awesome!
Ashley and Justin were enthralled by the experience (as were Susan and I!). It was a beautiful, clear, cold night. We could literally see for miles in all directions. The Christmas lights were beautiful. It was just altogether an incredible evening!
Week of Sunday, December 14
This week has been somewhat less hectic. Ashley had clinic visits on Monday and Thursday. They were uneventful, except for having to get blood and platelets on Thursday. It didn't take as long as some of the previous infusion days, because she just had to have one unit of blood, and we got an early start.
Tuesday, December 16
Ashley's stardom has now spread from TV appearances to radio as well. Mark Davis is a local radio personality at WBAP 820 AM in Dallas, hosting a daily call-in talk show. He is widely listened to, and has an excellent show.
Back in the spring, when we were driving to Dallas every day for six weeks for Ashley's radiation treatments, I listened to the Mark Davis show every day during the drive. Ashley heard the show every day as well since she was stuck in the van with me and I controlled the radio. Over the course of those six weeks, Ashley became quite a Mark Davis fan herself. A couple of weeks ago, Ashley asked me, just out of the blue, if I would e-mail Mr. Davis and ask him to send her an autographed picture.
Well, this past week, WBAP has been broadcasting live every day from the Irving Mall, in conjunction with their Santa's Heroes project. Through Santa's Heroes, WBAP has been collecting donated new toys and auctioning off numerous items to raise money. The toys and money will be used to help make Christmas a little bit more special for kids who are stuck in the hospital at Christmastime -- at Children's Medical Center in Dallas (Ashley's hospital), and Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth.
I decided to take advantage of the opportunity, since Mark Davis would be at Irving Mall broadcasting live, to do better than just e-mail him requesting an autographed picture. I decided I would take Ashley to meet him in person. So Tuesday morning we loaded into the mini van and headed for Irving, about 45 minutes away. The Mark Davis Show was on the air as we embarked on our journey. Once on the road, I called the show from my mobile phone and was put on the air. I thanked Mark and WBAP for what they are doing for the kids with the Santa's Heroes project. I told him about Ashley, that she is a big fan of his and wanted to meet him, and that we were heading to Irving Mall to see him. He said it would be an honor to meet her, and for me to tell her that he expected a big hug when she arrived. We continued on our trek with eager anticipation.
We arrived at Irving Mall with about 15 minutes remaining of the Mark Davis show for that day. When we walked up to the WBAP broadcast booth, Mark had just gone to a commercial break. He saw Ashley, waved and said hi, and asked her to come on up. He was sitting at a long table up on some risers in the middle of the mall. I helped Ashley up the steps, and Mark put her in a chair next to him and put a headset on her (this was all after the obligatory hug, of course!). Mark visited with Ashley briefly during the break, then came back on the air and said, "This is Mark Davis, with the Mark and Ashley show!" He then introduced Ashley to his listening audience and asked her several questions about her cancer, her plans for Christmas, and stuff like that. It was so cool! Ashley didn't seem to be a bit nervous, and sounded really sweet. I am hoping that I can get a recorded copy of that segment of the show, since I didn't get to actually hear it on the radio.
During the next commercial break, Mark very graciously autographed pictures for Ashley and me, and said once again what an honor it was to meet us. He is such an incredibly genuine person, and it was a real thrill for both of us to meet him in person, and for Ashley to make a "guest appearance" on his show.
Thanks again, Mark, for giving Ashley a special moment to remember and cherish!
Yesterday, Ashley was the guest of honor at a fifth-grade class party in the neighboring town of Maypearl. One of the elementary school teachers over there had contacted me several times to let me know that her class has been thinking about Ashley for some time. They invited us to come to their class Christmas party. Susan took Ashley, and the kids were really excited to meet her. They made some neat craft projects during the party, and Ashley got to make one and bring it home. They also presented Ashley with some money, just for her, that a couple of different classes had collected. Ashley had a wonderful time.
We plan to spend Christmas in Georgetown, Texas, with my Mom and my four brothers and their families (19 people in one house!). Ashley will go back to clinic this Monday and probably get blood and platelets to "tank her up" for the holidays. We anticipate that her blood counts will be bottomed out on Monday, and will be making their climb back up on Tuesday and the days following. If this happens she should be in good shape for an enjoyable holiday, playing with her cousins.
ASHLEY IS DOING GREAT!
As you can see, we have been very busy, and will continue to be very busy for the next several weeks before things begin to slow down a bit. The neat thing about all this is that Ashley has been feeling really good and has been able to participate in all of these activities over the last few weeks. Once we got the G-tube in place and were able to start feeding her regularly through it, we were able to get her nutritional intake turned back around. That has made all the difference in the world. She has also started eating again on her own. I think another big factor in her rapid improvement recently, has been the simple fact that she has had so many fun things to look forward to. Whatever the reasons are, we are abundantly thankful that Ashley is feeling good and enjoying life once again!
Justin is scheduled to go in for day surgery on Monday, December 29, to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. This is something we have been planning for awhile, and the time has arrived to get it done. Justin is excited because he has been told that, when you have your tonsils out, you get to eat all the ice cream you want! Please pray that his surgery will go well, and that he will recover quickly.
Also, for any of you who are so inclined, Susan and I would like to request "get well" cards for Justin the week of his surgery. He has had to take a back seat to Ashley over the past almost-year, and it really gets to him at times. Don't get me wrong. Justin isn't going to grow up to be an axe-murderer or anything because of the trauma of attention deprivation resulting from a sibling's serious illness. It's not nearly that dramatic! He just gets frustrated sometimes because Ashley seems to be getting all the attention. (In reality, she's not getting ALL the attention, but certainly gets more than usual, and more than he does). I think some special attention when he is "sick" might help him a lot.
THE THREE AMIGOS
Jonathan is still doing well, and is still adorable!
I spoke with Baby Rachel's mom, Cecilia, by phone recently. Rachel seems to be doing remarkably well following her bone marrow transplant.
Michelle has been moved out of ICU (finally) and back to the sixth floor!!! Praise God!!! She made a brief trip back down to ICU last week, but it wasn't really anything serious according to her Dad. I mentioned some time back about a medical fund that has been set up for Michelle. With Michelle's lifetime medical insurance benefit depleted, John and Kim are facing some uncertain times financially. If you can help in any way, little or big, or if you know of anyone else (individual or business) who might be able to donate a little or a lot to help Michelle, donations may be sent to:
As always, thank you for your continued prayers, love, and support for our family. May each of you be blessed abundantly during this special holiday season. Merry Christmas, and a wonderfully Happy and Prosperous 1998!! God bless you all.