Wordless Wednesday – Thanksgiving

Today’s post is mostly wordless by me…following you will find another survivor’s story, this one by Heather Von St. James. We are all given so much, and sometimes we don’t realize the “village” we have, until we need it.

And please, don’t forget to click on the blue angel in the right-hand corner! We need more angels and more gift suggestions! Let’s make this a season of giving!

The Strength of My Village

When a mother announces her pregnancy, a village surrounds her. Family, friends, co-workers and even strangers offer support and advice. This happened to me in 2005. On August 5, my husband and I welcomed our daughter Lilly into our family. Our village surrounded us in the hospital with well wishes as they met our daughter. In the months and years to come, I would realize how much I needed their support.

As the partial owner of three successful salons, I supervised 20 employees at one location and worked behind the chair until the day Lily was born. After a few weeks at home with my baby, I regretfully returned to work. Unenthusiastically, I accepted a location switch and a lighter workload. I really only wanted to be home with my child!

Motherhood brings health changes such as weight fluctuation, lack of energy and tiredness, but I soon began to experience severe symptoms. After losing an average of six pounds a week, I consulted my doctor. Blood work and a chest x-ray revealed fluid build-up around my left lung. The doctor prescribed more tests. On November 21, 2005, my medical team discovered the source of my unusual symptoms. In the lining of my lung, I had cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. Caused by asbestos exposure I had experienced as a child, the diagnosis came just three and a half months after precious Lily was born.

The doctors gave me 15 months to live, and my thoughts flew to my husband and child. I wanted to do whatever it took to save my life. My husband and I decided to pursue drastic treatment. On February 2, I underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy in Boston. Specialists removed cancer-laden organs and tissue and administered heated chemo to remove all the cancer. I spent 18 days in the hospital recovering from surgery. Two months of additional recovery prepared my body for chemotherapy then radiation. I survived the horrid medical treatments with help of my village.

My parents took Lily to live with them in South Dakota where my childhood friends and people from my church surrounded my parents who both worked full-time. They babysat Lily and made meals. Halfway across the country, my baby learned to roll over and eat solid food. So we could watch her grow, my mom emailed pictures of Lily that my husband printed out. In black and white, I watched my little girl grow and change. I fought for my life because of my daughter.

Five years later, I rejoice that I can stay home to care for my child. As we embrace life, Lily has learned to give to others in need. She befriends everyone she meets and really thrives because of the family, friends, and strangers who surround us. Because of the cancer diagnosis, I remain thankful for my many blessings. With the bad comes good, and my family appreciates every moment thanks to our village who so generously supported us then and continues to support us now.


Mesothelioma: www.mesothelioma.com
Diagnosis: http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/diagnosis/
Heather Von St. James: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/

Special Request

We are home…and George’s stubborn streak has ended. He is finally drinking on his own, without being forced.

One nurse thought that if she just stayed by his side and constantly forced him to drink, he would eventually give in once he realized she wasn’t going anywhere. She had me leave for a bit. When I came back, she said, “North Dakota stubborn is different from South Dakota stubborn. I gave in before he did.” Yeah, I’m gonna have my hands full…but that’s a good thing.

Remember the little boy I asked you to pray for? Today is a very important day. He NEEDS to breathe on his own. Please, please say a prayer for him and his family.

That’s all for now.

Oh, and the pilot from the crash? He’s gonna be OK. You see…prayers do get answered!

Bringing in the Big Dogs

Dr. T told me to try every trick in the book to get George to drink…and I truly believe I have. We have:

  • bought wall stickers, placing one Buzz Lightyear for every drink he takes (sorry hospital decorating committee…George is taking over!)
  • bought new books
  • bought four new sippy cups
  • brought in our Pastor, Grandma W., Uncle J. and other visitors
  • bribed with food
  • bribed with rewards
  • offered free college tuition
  • freezees, sherbet, every frozen concoction available in low-protein
  • etc., etc.

Where did it get us? A maximum of 2 ounces in one whole day. (And that was yesterday, thanks to Grandma W!)

So today, my mom and dad returned from a trip to see family in Wisconsin. They came down after loading up a cooler full of George’s favorites from their house. Which included: Hug fruit barrel juices, his sippy cup from their house, freezees from their house, pudding, etc. They brought a cooler with straws, spoons, you name it. (Apparently a hospital may not have such utensils??? Ha!) 🙂

Well, it worked pretty well, because George drank two ounces while they were here…he had only had one ounce all day! So, they doubled his drinking total! Woohoo! (I know, I’m easily pleased, eh?)

As I type, he is laying in the chair…with his sippy cup!

It all starts with baby steps!


We might get out of here before he turns 18! I was afraid they were going to make us switch units soon! 🙂

Thank you so very much for the continued prayers and support. I make light of it now, but we were in a pretty serious situation. I’m so grateful to have friends and neighbors like you to share with our joys and tribulations! We are so blessed!

P.S. And little Brayton has had some promising reports himself! How exciting! The power of God is so amazing!

Monday morning update

Well, I’d love to say that we are at home, enjoying a great morning…but that’s not quite the case. Sunday morning at 11:30, I noticed that George’s thumb was purple. Ipushed the nurse call button, and we quickly discovered that his IV had quit working, pushing all the fluid into his hand.

Apparently, your hand isn't supposed to look like this. That silly George, always trying to be trendy.


Once the nurse had his IV pulled out, we were on a time crunch. George needed to start drinking on his own, stat…or else they would have to start another IV. And with his history with IV starts, he didn’t have a whole lot of places left to poke.

Well, long story short, the determination and bull-headedness of a 2-year-old won out. At 8 or so last night we started another IV…this time in the crook of his elbow. This means that his arm is immobilized with armboards and taped. Oh my, the fun we are having.

While all this was going on, I learned last evening that a little boy from our town was flown to another hospital with bacterial meningitis. So, as you are saying a little prayer for George to start drinking, can you life Brayton and his family in prayer as well? Thank you, so very much.

Here’s hoping my next post is from the comfort of home!

Power of prayer

Today is Sunday. And I have a story to share. If you are not of the “religious” type, please don’t be offended by my writing. The events were just so moving, that I need to share.

On Friday evening, when we were preparing George to be admitted again…I was starting to doubt myself. We went into this surgery, knowing that there were risks, but knowing that George’s health would benefit if we could get through the difficult spots.

When the doctor came in and started talking about the effects of starvation and his body’s response to the week’s activities, I was second-guessing myself. I was concerned about my son and what our decisions may have done. I was in a bit of a dark place.

I texted my Prairie Mama friends, Sarah and Katie. I wanted them to know what was going on, and asked for their prayers. And they quickly replied. They were saying prayers for George, and they would have those around them do the same.

After having slept for 22 out of 24 hours, George woke up shortly after. He started playing a bit and ate a whole freezee. It was an answer to a prayer, and the answer was loud and clear.

It was the only thing he had that evening, but it was good enough for me. It was a sign from God that, although we were going through some trials and tribulations, we were where we needed to be. We were being cared for and prayed for and, with time, all would be well.

Since then, I have realized that prayers are not just coming from North Dakota, or our family. Prayers have been pouring in from around cyber-space. Our family has just grown exponentially. And I would like to thank you.

I know that George is destined for great things. And he has a great start…bringing us all together.

A brighter morning...we are so blessed!


My prayer for today: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for all of the blessings you have bestowed upon us today. Please watch over my son, as he takes on today’s challenges and accomplishes great things. Help him feel comfort and love throughout the day, give him the strength to overcome his fear of drinking and take away the pain that stands in his way. Wrap my son in Your arms, and let Your love wash over him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Home Away from Home

Well, George has had a bad week. Yesterday (Friday) we came in for IV fluids. Unfortunately, George was making his Mama nervous. He kept falling asleep. By noon, he had taken three naps, and by the time we were in Aberdeen getting fluids, he was on nap number seven.

Now, I know that after the week he’s had (tonsils and adenoids out, tubes in ears, staying in the hospital for three days, etc.), he deserved some rest…but for a 2-year-old, well, we were dwelling in a dangerous area.

George’s OTC has “episodes,” which are periods of seizures, brain swelling, high ammonia levels, etc. These are medical emergencies and need to be treated with IV therapy ASAP. In fact, I carry a letter from Mayo and a letter from his pediatrician, instructing any ER we may end up visiting that if George comes in with fever, lethargy, or other unexplainable symptoms, he needs to be treated immediately. No waiting for triage, no waiting for doctors orders, blood draw and IV first, questions second.

So, my question when we came in Friday afternoon was, “Is his lethargy caused from regular post-op blahs? Or are we dealing with something else?” Doc couldn’t answer that, so we drew some blood. And quickly received our answer. George was dehydrated.

Now, I received a thorough grilling from our pediatrician. You see, he was behind in information. He knew that George had surgery on Tuesday, but he didn’t realize that he wasn’t taking anything orally and had only been released the night before with the saline-lock in his hand, with orders to come back each day for fluids until he was drinking 20-30 ounces per day. So we had gone a little over 12 hours without fluid, and George’s stats weren’t good.

The doc explained it to me like this: George’s body thought it was starving. So, it started the process of breaking down it’s own tissue to get enough protein, etc. that it needed. He called it acidosis.

So, we are back in the hospital. We have learned a valuable lesson. George can’t go very long without fluids. He dehydrates in RECORD time…and I mean fast! And although he was producing tears, had a runny nose, moist mouth (all signs that he’s hydrated enough), the blood work showed a way different story.

And now we know.

It is Sunday…and I will give thanks to God for allowing us to have the technology and the means to be able to figure these things out, and correct the deficiencies that are there. I will thank Him for the wisdom of the doctors, the compassion of the nurses and the love and care of all our friends and family. I will thank Him for mother’s intuition.

But most of all, I will thank Him for George.

Thankful Thursday: Nurses

Today I have a special message of thankfulness to give, and this one is to our nurses.

With our frequent flier miles at the hospital, we get a chance to meet and test out most of the nurses here on the pediatric ward. I know a majority of them…mostly by first name.

But today, this blog post is about them. I am thankful for them everyday…especially this week.

I am thankful for:

  • Not making me feel like a bad mother for wanting to not be in the room when medicine is given. When a little kid’s throat is sore, taking medicine is a form of medieval torture, no matter how necessary it is. I can be the bad guy when I have to be, but appreciate the breaks occasionally.
  • Talking to me like a mother, not a child or a doctor. When the doctor says, “We’ll talk about going home once he starts drinking.” And the nurse letting me know that with 2-year-olds, we could be here a bit.
  • Letting me know what’s normal. The above mentioned issue of not drinking? Guess what? Completely normal.
  • Taking care of one of my most prized possessions. That includes: reading his history, understanding my concerns prior to coming in the room and going above and beyond to do what is right for George.

No matter how you look at it, all of the nurses here are pretty much amazing. And one day, when George is big and strong and a no longer eligible for the pediatric ward, I hope to come back and personally thank each one of you, for your crucial part in our journey.

But for now, a simple “Thank you” will have to do.

What gets George through a hospital stay? His puppy, his blankie and his tractor magazines!