DAY +2

10 15 2014 14:24 … an other moment in time that I will never forget. The day’s details etched in my brain as it is the day that Abbigail received her stem cell transplant.

I still can not believe it at times. after so many days, months and years of battling beasts far larger than most could imagine, after experiencing pain no child should endure and after so much hope and faith was lost, she received the most anticlimactic but exciting 15 minute infusion! Yup, that’s it; 15 minutes is all it was, after months of preparations with chemos, surgeries conditioning treatments and hospital stays, 15 minutes could have changed her life forever…not to mention saved her life from the trauma of conditioning.

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Day ZERO itself was an exciting concept for me. I was full of hope, and Abbigail had no understanding of why it was so momentous to me, the nurses and her Transplant doctor. The nurses and I scurried all morning to prepare Abbigail, our belongings and our room. Abbigail’s counts had dropped significantly over night, she went from 7.1 to 0.6, needless to say, she slept through her morning, giving her body some much needed rest while everything around her was about to change. Once she was “sterilized” and our things were too, we moved to our new home; an isolation room prepared for transplant patients that are at a significant risk of life threatening complications due to immunosuppression. she technically had no ability to fight anything in addition to possessing several additional risk factors for complications. This is her bubble, or as her and I now refer to it as, her new Princess tower, like her favourite Princess Rapunzel, being protected from the dangers lurking just outside the door. She has quickly adapted to the changes quite surprisingly actually. She can not leave the room, nor can she have visitors, she can no longer eat foods prepared by anyone but me at the moment or the special meal train for bacteria free diets here, which includes no more take out, fast food or snacks from the cafeteria. She also has to be cautious with any fresh food.

Mentally Abbigail is doing amazing, far beyond our expectations at this point! Physically though, Abbigail is causing a lot of distress to our physicians, specialists, nurses and me!

Day zero, post transplant hour, Abbigail began to show signs of adverse reaction to the preservative used to store her stem cells. Her blood pressure rising and her heart rate plummeting, she kept the Fellow, nurses and me on our toes all night long. Extreme caution was taken, safety measures put in place, boluses, and medication changes and high alert watch until her heart rate and blood pressure started to come within “acceptable” range. By midday on Day +1 we saw improvement however because we still weren’t sure if the danger was gone, we kept her attached to all of the machines for further monitoring and lucky we did because it wasn’t long before her vitals began plummeting the other direction. Despite her alarming vitals, she was otherwise in a great mood considering and she even tolerated some clouning around with A LaBoo the hospital clown and some painting with a Camp Ooch volunteer. She tired easily though and after speaking to the dietician and doctors we had Abbigail begin IV feeding to allow her body to gain some strength to fight! She was attached to more lines, now 6 IVs hanging from her small body, and given lipids and essential nutrients to compensate for her lack of eating. Once she fell asleep, her heart rate steadily rising and her blood pressure continued dropping alarmingly low, and so she was again on high alert, vitals every 10 minutes, no sleep and people coming in and out of her room the entire night.

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I remember just giving birth to my kids, didn’t matter if it was William, my first born or Madden, our third baby, I distinctly remember not sleeping that first night they were born because I was watching their chest rise and fall as they breath because I was fearful they would stop breathing in their sleep. I think all moms can relate. Most would also agree that although the worry never goes away, you find yourself at some point not checking as much as we realise they are ok. Well last night I watched, I felt and prayed her cheat would continue to rise and fall again and again and again. This morning we called the intensive care unit team to assess abbigail and be sure we are doing everything we can for her right now to keep her safe. Our fear is that these alarming heart rate and blood pressure changes could be caused by an infection and so we’ve put her on 5 aggressive antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals to be profalactic with any possible infection.

She’s currently trying to rest as I type, she is uncomfortable with all of the wires, feeding tube, monitors and electrodes attached to her body and skin and we’ve had to start her on a form of morphine to alleviate some pain associate with mucusitis; which is the breaking down of cells within her GI tract causing painful sores to develop from top to bottom.

I am praying for a comfortable night for my sweet girl, I am holding onto faith that the next moments will be easier than the last. I hope that her team of doctors, and their are many now, can locate the source of possible infection and give us answers and a course of action quickly. She is at the mercy of far too many variables right now and although she remains stable this hour, I’ve seen how quickly things change when these kids, these babies are so weak.

Thank you to everyone once again for your kind words of support and encouragement, for your prayers and for the many donations that have come in this week. These all make the burdens that much easier to bare. Thank you for sharing her updates and YouCaring page.

If you wish to help directly too, you can click on Abbigail’s {Fundraising} page here for details on the many ways you can help or contribute!

DAY -5

There are days I have to tell myself “get through the next five minutes, you can make it through five minutes,” and I did! I have been making it through years of our daughter’s cancer and OMS relapses and treatments…five minutes at a time.

Last night Abbigail and I said farewell to some families we have met and bonded with while staying at the Ronald McDonald House here in Toronto as we walked over to the hospital for her admission. We also had to kiss our family goodbye. Matthew, Nana and our two boys came for a visit this week and it was so great to be together again after two long weeks. As grateful as I am that we had those days with family, last night was quiet, lonely and sad without the commotion, noise and laughter of Abbigail playing with her brothers. Last night was also an anxious night as I sat staring at my girl as she slept peacefully beside me. Today is DAY -5 and that marks the beginning of conditioning treatments preceding the actual transplant of her stem cells.

Abbigail has a way of always making the best of every situation, her innocence hasn’t been completely robbed if her. Her heart is so big and beautiful, it shows on her face as she proudly makes her own thanksgiving apple pie in one of the children’s lounges today. I faithfully pray that these moments of pure joy and innocence continue to shine through the difficult times that lay ahead.

As I type, Abbigail sleeps through the first poisonous dose of chemotherapy, part of her pre-transplant conditioning. When she wakes up, she will likely be sick, miserable and I will have to tell her that an other fight has begun.

Up until now, despite being here for over two weeks now, she hasn’t had to remember the chemos, the pains, the nausea and vommitting. She has enjoyed making new friends and having tea parties with the occasional surgery, ultrasound and poke or procedure. She will quickly and sadly be reminded of her reality when she awakes, possibly ill and they forcibly insert an NG tube, hoping not to induce further throwing up. At that moment I will have made it through the last five minutes and I will move on to the next five…perhaps with a little less energy but never any less love or faith.

Tomorrow will be DAY -4; she will receive more chemo and it should be an uneventful day with only one chemo treatment. Sunday however promises to be difficult as she receives a very powerful immunosuppressant, much like chemo but somehow not as poisonous.

Pray for an other five minutes…that Abbigail too can get through them.

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Walls, Frustrations & Fears

We are so blessed; so thankful for all of your support, prayers, kind words and generosity!!!

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/relief-for-abbigail-s-brave-journey-through-cancer-oms/211166/update/222890

This part of our journey is proving harder emotionally and financially than I could have ever imagined…it’s only the beginning.

Barely even a week has gone by here in Toronto and already Abbigail has been through so much…too much. Upon admission, her UTI was discovered to be resistant to her current antibiotics, a change was made to her meds but that didn’t change the fact that her OMS was already running rampage in her body and to her brain. She was experiencing coordination and balance challenges as well as ataxia. These symptoms were somewhat alleviated as the days passed on IV antibiotics and Abbigail was able to play with her new friend and fellow transplant buddy! On top of her OMS, Abbigail’s CVL (implanted line for IV) was not working and had to be x-rayed before fate decided she required a new line and it was pulled out during a fall on our routine morning walk through the halls.

On top of these issues, we were told we were being discharged to Ronald McDonald with oral antibiotics until her UTI is dealt with. Sounds great right!?! Not really. This means that Abbigail has just “forfeited” her transplant spot at SickKids, the very place where the one and only phisician who accepted Abbigail’s case practices. For Abbigail this could be life altering. We have not only uprooted and made huge changes to our family’s life, but Abbigail has no more options. This is experimental however it is all we’ve got and Matthew and I pushed through and fought long and hard to find someone who would help us! Now we may lose this opportunity right now. This is a tough thing to swallow after all that she has been through and all that she will face if she does not get this chance.

I am trying to enjoy this time alone with Abbigail, make her happy and do things she loves while we can but we both miss Matthew and the boys and our family and I have a hard time not running scenarios through my mind constantly as we walk past all of the cancer hospitals, research bulletins and buildings downtown.
Today we had special visitors from home; her oncologist and interlink nurse paid us a visit at Ronald McDonald. This visit may have been short but it meant the world to me and Abbigail enjoyed the familiar faces! Thank you ❤️

We have some appointments scheduled this week and hope to hear from her doctor tomorrow regarding surgery, but in the meantime we will keep our blessings in sight and focus on them.

Please help me pray. Please help me beg! Our baby girl needs this and she needs this now.

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This is only the beginning

How did the hours turn to days? How did our vibrant little girl get so lost…so quickly. Her moments of joy are becoming shorter and fewer. Her smiles not so radiant and her laughter just a little quieter. She utters only groans and whimpers of pains, exhaustion and discomfort.

We started this path towards her miracle on August 19th with 4 days of some pretty awful and intense chemotherapy to prepare her body for stem cell collection. That cycle of treatment took only a few days to start the feared attack on her cells, healthy or not. We saw her hair quickly fall out within a matter of days, she became neutropenic, febrile and consumed with numerous bacterial and viral infections and she lost a few of her beautiful pounds. We spent more than half of the last month hospitalized, in isolation, far from home and away from the boys. This is only the beginning…

Last week after being discharged from SickKids and CHEO, we travelled back and forth daily for several preparatory appointments and procedures to ensure that Abbigail’s organs, body and system are well enough to withstand the next steps towards that miracle on this journey. After an exhausting week, dozens of pokes, blood draws, nurse injections, scans, office visits and more, Abbigail and family celebrated birthdays and spent some amazing quality time just being together.

Tomorrow there are several critical appointments to be had, one will be surgery to remove her port and replace it with a central venous line which will be used during chemo, transplant and post treatments. This type of line will be a huge change for Abbigail and likely a source of discomfort, frustration and even pain in the coming weeks as she adjusts. She must endure so much…

So the journey continues, with hopes of better days, or fewer difficult ones. Abbigail is stubborn and let’s very little control her. Tomorrow she will awake from surgery and I will hold her and remind her of her beauty, strength and the bright pink body she will then have (sterile cleaner dye) in hopes of catching my breath and maybe even seeing a glimpse of our firecracker’s spirit and that contagious smile before the days turn into months.

That moment…

I packed two lunches this morning, zipped up two school bags and excitedly but emotionally photographed you and your big brother under the tree, as I did with him each year. I saw you proudly standing at the end of the driveway with your big brother; waiting for the bus, with a pink lunchbox in hand and a smile so radiant it lit the early morning dew. I anxiously stood outside your classroom, proud you were sitting quietly, attentively and participating as every other child was, all the while still partly saddened you didn’t call out for me. I drove away in tears as I noticed it had been hours I was stationed at your classroom door, and I thought of the years that past too quickly and how far you have come, and how hard you have fought to get to this day…this very moment. The day was long. I stood waiting for the bus to bring my babies home for an hour outside in the rain and wind…but I didn’t feel cold and I wasn’t wet. Finally the bus pulled up to our driveway, after what I felt was at the slowest of speeds possible, and I saw your pride and your excitement as you ran up the driveway; ponytails flailing in the wind and boots splashing in each puddle. You were happy. You were a typical 4 year old who was excited to be a part of something and accepted. Once the excitement settled slightly and you both sat down for dinner, it seemed as though your father and I couldn’t keep up to the stories both you and your brother had to share about your first day of school. You competed for airtime, both rambling about your classmates, rhyming off names and games played at recess. At that moment, we were so happy, so proud and nothing could have brought us down.

Then I woke up. On the couch, 11 at night and the TV playing some infomercial about a new anti-aging remedy. Then I realized we weren’t going to feel those joys, see those smiles or hear those stories. I wasn’t going to be that mom in my dreams.

Instead, I remembered I had to retake your temperature because you were warm and started to show signs of a fever at 9pm when I administered your nightly injection as you slept. Then there I was, trying so desperately to cling on, capture and remember each facial expression, feeling and joy that I had in that dream as I drove to the ER in the middle of the cold, damp night. That dream has been put down, left to the side and may begin to fade now as it comes to a screeching halt, crashing into our reality again. The reality that a fever tonight means that you will be examined and poked several times and for several hours before laying your head to rest as a patient on the oncology ward, because you are neutropenic; you have 0.0 fighter cells left in your immune system, opening the gates wide for bacteria, viruses and fungus to settle in your blood and take every dream you, me or your dad ever could have imagined for you. The fight didn’t end yet.

It is now almost 24 hrs after I awoke from that dream. I am sitting at your bedside, in an isolation room at the end of a brightly decorated but oh so dark hallway in the hospital, watching you lay lethargically, bruised from the overnight battle between neutropenic veins and the need for urgent antibiotics to avoid septic shock, and I see a glimpse of that girl, all dressed in pink with her princess school gear. A glimpse is all it is though, because now you are awake, unable to sit up because you are too week from the poisonous chemos given to save your life, unbalanced, uncoordinated, ataxic rendering you unable to walk, just as the first day we found ourselves in this room. You scream for “dew” which I know means juice and I am reminded that you won’t be sharing school yard stories tonight at the table because you lost your speech 2.5 years ago, before getting a chance to even learn your ABCs and we are in the hospital, far from family and even further from that dream than we were before I fell asleep.

Abbigail will be spending the next few days in the hospital, hooked up and trapped in to protect her fragile body from the many dangers that are outside these walls. Our flight is still booked for Monday, with the faith that our miracle is still within our reach. So now I lay holding my firecracker, praying that her body will begin to produce her own fighter cells and that she may become strong enough to board that plane to Toronto and begin the journey towards healing.

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