Courage for Kennedy – Journal


November 10, 2006

Category: Family,Fundraisers,General,Gratitude,Treatment – Melenie – 1:43 pm

Boy, as usual there is so much to talk about! Let me start with the fundraisers…we had such a great time at the Spaghetti Feed and raised over $1700 to help cover Kennedy’s expenses! There were some wonderful items to bid on and we also gave away a DVD player and boombox with remote. Everyone had a blast and we greatly appreciated those who spent the evening with us.

The Holiday Shopping Extravaganza was also a success although we are still waiting for the final count. As with most bazaars, it really picked up late in the day. It was wonderful to visit with everyone and Kennedy has so much fun just playing with the other kids. I will have more info regarding funds raised soon.

This will be all for the fundraisers for this year but we plan to start up again in February with a Pizza Day at Papa’s Pizza. Check back for more fun events coming up…

Kennedy is doing well. She just had a lumbar puncture last week and it must be clear of leukemia because no called to tell us otherwise 🙂 Her counts were high for someone on chemo, so they raised her meds to 100% and we are going back next week. We’ll see how things are…everyone is surprised that her bone marrow seems to be recovering so quickly and efficiently. Not necessarily a good sign for a leukemia patient. I mean, you want it to be able to produce healthy cells, but when they are getting chemo and their bone marrow is trotting along as if nothing is going on, that can be concerning. We’ll see…perhaps she’ll have to take a higher than recommended dose. After all, Kennedy has yet to do anything by the book 🙂

We finished up her testing with Dr. Hoeveler, the neuropsychologist, and even without the final report, she was able to confirm that the changes we have seen in Kennedy are really there. She has very slow processing speed, short term memory loss and attention deficit issues. Many tests would not be tolerated by Kennedy and so she spent time testing more specific areas that she recognized were a problem. I also had the opportunity to attend a conference at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland and it appears that with intrathecal chemo (which Kennedy is still getting and got a lot of over the course of a year) and total cranial radiation, there is damage to the white matter portion of her brain. The grey area is where all of the thinking goes on and the white area is where the pathways are. So, she knows what she wants, needs to do, etc. but making that happen is the hard part. That explains a lot of things actually! While they can not restore the “super highways” that have pot holes, weak pilings, cracks and sometimes missing pieces all together, they can be bypassed. She has a connection with music in regards to memory and we have discovered several programs that can teach children new (more concious) ways of doing things we all take for granted (i.e. getting messages out to body parts to work, tapping in to memory, redirecting, etc.) We are waiting for the final report and researching ideas. We are very fortunate that the mover and shaker in the world of neuropsychology and the man at the forefront of damage in oncology kids is here in Portland. Please pray for clear direction in what would be best for Kennedy. All of this has given me much needed in sight in to teaching Kennedy (i.e. homeschooling) and I have already seen improvement by using a different approach. While I want it to not be overwhelming or frustrating for Kennedy, I also know that if my expectations are too low that is all she will be willing to achieve. As you can imagine, much of this is heartbreaking as she is such an intellegent child, she just can’t get that out. To go back and see where she was prior to treatment to now is difficult (she was signing fluently by 18 months, taught herself to ride a bike before she was 2, and doing basic phonics and math before she was 4). Now, I know what you all are thinking (and I have already heard it) that I should be so grateful she is here and I absolutely am, but it doesn’t mean that I am rejoicing about her struggles. She is very intellegent, now we just have to find out how she can express that.

Kennedy also continues to make progress in physical therapy. She is making steady progress and we see improvement in areas such as walking, balance and coordination. While she still has a lot of work ahead, she can run and jump and dance. I was talking to a friend the other day and it occured to me that less than a year ago, Kennedy could barely sit unsupported and could crawl only a few feet. Even 6 months ago her walk was stiff legged and was really her rocking back and forth, so she has made tremendous progress!

We had her occupational therapy evaluation and finally (we have been waiting a year in December) it looks like Kennedy will be receiving services. Some results were what we expected and some were pleasantly shocking! In her visual-motor integration (copying shapes) she scored at 5 years 6 months…not bad! For visual perception (finding shapes and designs that are exactly the same from ones that are similar) she scored at 8 years! That was fantastic! When it came to motor coordination, such as tracing and staying in the lines while writing, she scored as a 4 year old. This was using skills such as fine motor control. This made me upset, not at Kennedy, but because 6 months ago she was only a year behind but because of insurance problems (we HATE Primary PhysiciansCare) and the fact that Emanuel has far more kids needing OT than therapists, Kennedy has fallen further behind in this area and now will have to work much harder to catch up. After much prayer, we have decided to take her to Tualatin to Meridian Park for OT so she can receive services sooner (within the next couple of weeks) than sit on the waiting list at Emanuel for God knows how long and possibly not get services before her evaluation has expired. So, more commuting…that is our life! Of course, there is much more in the report (decreased upper body strength, difficulty completing gross motor coordination tasks, loss of balance, difficulty with motor control, difficulty learning new motor tasks, required extra time to process directions and instructions, etc.) as you can see, most felt rather defeating, we are thrilled that she will be able to FINALLY get the help she needs. The therapist also sent home many fun ideas to get started on that will help Kennedy. It’s tough to read the report because while we noticed that she struggled, now we know how much.

So, she is doing well with school though and making steady progress. She is not satisfied to learn her social studies and science so I have modified her brother’s stuff so they can be studying the same thing. With repetition, she seems to be able to comprehend and retain at least half the information we give her. We also have a friend who teaches at Austin’s old school who we’re working out details with for her to work with Kennedy. The neuropsych doctor said Kennedy definitely qualifies for special education and I am thankful she is not in school because with her intellegence, it could be very defeating when she realized what that meant. Instead, it means I can get help with homeschooling from the district (I can get help anyway, but specific to Kenne’s needs). Now, I know that families with children who are in special education classes may very well be upset by my comments, but I am accountable for making the best choices for Kennedy and at this time, I don’t think public school special education is the best choice for her.

Now, Austin is also doing well and helps his sister with school. He is such a sponge and even when I spend 4 or more hours a day with them (him especially) he still wants more! He is almost done with soccer and is interested in learning how to snowboard, so with safety points at Keith’s work, we are able to get him a board and bindings. He already has the clothes he needs and a helmet so he will probably use his rodeo earnings to buy his boots. You know, I was worried about his socialization but with homeschool friends, soccer and other actitivites, he is more social now than before! Kennedy gets plenty of socialization too from ballet, friends, and activities and because she has no idea what school would be like, loves being home and playing with kids of all ages. Amazingly, they get along very well for the amount of time they spend together and the fact that we live so far out in the country.

Keith and I are just trucking along. Keith and the kids have had a nasty round with 2 colds already this year but seem to be on the mend. He just keeps working (although hates working out in the pouring rain) and getting things done here. He would love to have some dry days to finish the fence and put the barn up. Makes it hard to set posts in concrete when it is so dang wet outside. He did get 25 trees downed though and that cleaned up. I think he just loved playing on the equipment! I spend all my time taking care of the above for the kids. It seems we are never home. I’m hoping to work out something so I can finish school (I only need 7 classes to graduate) but I don’t see me going back in the next few months. I just don’t have 15 hours to spend away from home. It’s not even the homework that worries me, it is the time away. We’re also in the process of organizing a non-profit. With the help of my family and friend, Rhonda, we are planning to meet needs that are just being missed in our area. So that is exciting and I can’t wait to be able to help other families like us.

With the holidays upon us, I am dealing with a wide range of emotions. This time last year, Kennedy had finished her “planned” hospital stays and things appeared to be moving in the right direction. Sure, we still had some nasty treatment coming up (including radiation) but overall, we thought we had conqured the worst of it. But then Christmas came and all the complications we had including Kennedy with one hand in Jesus’s. I am so excited for Christmas (it feels like we missed it last year) but am also very apprehensive. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty anyway, but this just adds fuel to my fire. Because Kennedy is doing so good (including her counts just skyrocketing) I’m terrified that we are on the brink of disaster. I know that to those families who have not walked this it seems very silly and that I should be happy she is doing so well, but I can’t help but be cautiously optomistic. I know that her chances of relapse are much higher than that of the average ALL kid (40% as opposed to 15% or less), and I know that we have done everything shy of a bone marrow transplant, but when it is your child it is either she is 100% cured or 0%. You can’t cure her 60%. I hope and pray that I am wrong on this one. But I can’t help but plan for if she does. And what is the plan? It depends on which doctor you talk to. What is my plan? I would like to go to St. Jude’s if we decided to start treatment over again-especially with her liver not functioning normally. Now, my plan is not to go to transplant (she has a higher than normal chance of developing VOD again which would be fatal), but if that is the best thing, we would either go to Minneapolis or Duke. Why am I telling you all of this when she is doing so well? Because I can’t help but worry about it everyday. We have known several kids who relapsed recently and what happend with Gage really shook us up. And with the holidays fast approaching and the fact that Kennedy can’t seem to follow the plan 🙂 I just need to work through my mind the worst possible case scenario. Crazy, I know and torturing too.

Ok, enough about me…Kennedy’s hair is growing back and falling out so most of the time she has this great faux hawk thing going on with patches of missing hair. Lovely, I know 🙂 She does not seem to be bothered by it, which is great, but I have resigned myself to the idea that her hair will not be normal until she is completely off chemo next fall.

And because I am so emotional lately anyway, please use the links here to find out about the Harvest of Hope and the Nutcracker production.

Continue to pray for us and so many other families…

Hope-Faith-Courage-Love,
Mel

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