You will all be pleased to hear that Joshua did GREAT after his surgery yesterday.He is a little sore at the spot of the tiny incisions, but the neurosurgeon had to replace only the valve and not the entire shunt, meaning that they did not have to re-incise the site on his abdomen.He was alert and awake from the moment we got to see him after surgery throughout the day.
After they placed a new feeding tube (no biggie), Joshua was finally able to come off of the ventilator!He is still hoarse, but when that vent came out, he immediately began talking about strawberry milkshakes, pancakes and syrup, sausage pizza, and how much he enjoyed riding Thomas the Train at Tweetsie Railroad with Pa and his cousin, Tori!
Our goals for today are to get him a little more mobile.I know he’s going to be sore, but please pray that he will find strength and motivation to “exercise” a little.This can really help all of those functions that we take for granted like coughing secretions and using the bathroom… things that he needs to catch up on a little right now.
Nourishment is taken care of through the tube currently, which is fine since we know he’s getting it.He will need strength to resume chemo and radiation tomorrow and Friday, with another break following on Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks to your praying without ceasing, we continue to be able to keep our eye on the goal. This last little episode with shunt—replacement is a good example of how though God’s ways are not always what we expect, they are always the best.We tell Joshua everyday how many people are loving him, believing in God’s power, and hoping he’ll get better…SOON.
Quick Addition from Travis: Joshua just finished getting off the Physical Therapy tricycle and, as you can imagine, it was difficult for him but I also believe very beneficial. We will continue to work on his exercise and strength even though they say it will be tough to see improvements during his radiation; however, we believe anything is possible and will continue to pray for those improvements. He's resting now and doing great - radiation and chemo start back tomorrow along w/ Chance, so please keep both boys in your prayers. Also, I ask that you keep Brian and Desirae in your prayers tonight and ask that God gives them strength tomorrow during Chance's radiation. Taking your child to radiation is not easy and the first time was by far the most difficult for me.
Thanks and God Bless,
Laura and Travis
January 30, 2007 In Surgery Now
We will try to post again tonight. We had an eventful day yesterday and were obviously unable to give an update. So sorry-- we are so grateful for many of you checking our updates frequently and truly want to keep you in the know.
So, while Joshua's heartrate temporarily improved, it did not increase to the point where we would have liked, so after his radiation therapy yesterday, he had another CT scan which revealed that his ventricles are larger than they should be, which means that the shunt that was surgically placed a few weeks ago is not getting the job done. When we first learned of this, we were obviously less than thrilled, but as always, God has given us the peace and strength to face waiting on another surgery.
Among encouraging factors right now: 1. Joshua continues to be very responsive. Even though he can't talk through the ventilator, he communicates with us very proficiently. We know that everything in that little head is still working! 2. Once the shunt is repaired, his heart rate should get back to normal, which means that the docs will be much more inclined to remove him from the ventilator. 3. The need for this surgery may actually mean that the radiation is working as we hoped, because the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) becomes thickened by the dead cells that are flushing out of the body (this may be why the shunt malfunctioned).
From here, radiation and chemo will resume on Thursday. While it was very emotional for me just like his radiation treatments are, Joshua's first dose of chemo actually went very well. He seems to be itchy, but pretty content still. As always, pray for his strength. We are amazed by how tough our little cowboy really is, and must choose to focus on "David" and not the "Goliath" of our current circumstances. We are going to press on, and WE WILL receive some good news soon!!
Love in Christ,
Laura & Travis
January 28, 2007 Still Standing Strong!
It is true that we have been in a dark place for the last couple of days, and we are certainly not currently in the clear, but I have to share with you that Joshua (oddly enough) seems so much more content and in less pain than he has been for the past couple of weeks.
You see, after the first surgery we kept waiting for some major signs of improvement.These said improvements never really came because it turned out there was an extraordinarily painful amount of fluid on his brain.That is what the shunt surgery was supposed to fix.Again, the neurosurgeon told us that there was a certain amount of adjustment that the brain had to do even once pressure was at a more appropriate level, but we still did not see the kind of major improvement that was supposed to result.Finally, as you all know, it got to the point where we were lucky to see one smile per day, or to get him to interact even the smallest amount.
What I have observed since yesterday is that what little he is able to interact with us, he seems so much more comfortable doing—even with a breathing tube.This may sound pitiful to you, but I tell you very sincerely that his eyes look better, and he just seems more content than he did before. He even nodded his little fist at us today when we taught him that this is the sign language for "yes."
Our concern now is his heart rate. Unfortunately, Joshua's heart rate has steadily dropped today. The resident is in his room as we speak, so we hope to receive word about it soon. It has been an encouraging couple of days, and we are just not ready to face bad news. Thanks for your prayers. We love you all.
Laura & Travis Cantrell
January 27, 2007 Peaceful Rest
I know there are many of you that have been waiting on an update and I'm thankful to say that we are able to see some praises today following a difficult last day and a half. Joshua has been resting peacefully since we checked into the PICU here at Duke - the staff here is truly great. He was on heavy sedation yesterday but they began cutting back last night and took him completely off of his sedation medication in the middle of the night. They still have him on morphine to keep him relaxed and not experiencing any pain and it's been doing it's job because he has been very restful all day.
Radiation went well today and we still pray that it is doing the job and each session heals more of this disease. Another praise for today is that we have seen signs of understanding and consciousness from Joshua. He has opened his eyes several times answered questions by shaking his head yes or no. Just recently he answered questions for Melissa (which will lead to our other praises) and even raised his hand to receive a sticker from her. Laura and I also exercised his legs and feet by moving them around and when he was ready for that to be over, he tightened his legs and I knew he was finished. Another praise is that they have been giving him pedialite and pediasure throughout the day through a feeding tube that goes down his nose. He's been able to keep everything down, which is definitely a praise because we all know that he needs all the nutrients that he can get. Therefore, we would like to thank all those who have said special prayers for the past couple of days and most importantly thank God for listening to those prayers and answering them.
The final praise that I would like to share is that of family and friends. I'm currently surrounding by both and have been all day and it is just a joyful and happy atmosphere, which has not only been therapy for Laura, Joshua, and I but I believe it has been great therapy for some of those same family and friends. As I mentioned, Melissa and her roomate, Kelly, flew in late last night and are here, my uncle and his family came, Jason & Carrie have been here, Mom, Dad, Joel, Saundra, Heidi & Jason, Adam & Erin, and a longtime friend of ours Que have all been by today (Uncle/Coach Wes also just walked in). As always, it is amazing to see the grace of God shinning through family and friends. We have also been updated about events going on back home and, as always, I am speechless and a simple thanks will never be enough for what you are all doing for us as a community. We are continually thankful that we live in the community. We are also so blessed to have so many friends throughout the country, benefits of being in the Air Force. We have special friends in many places, which include: Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, California, Kansas, Utah, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Kentucky, and more ......
Many people have written and said that our family has been strong and some have said inspirational because of the way we are handling this situation but I can honestly say that our strength comes from our community and these special friends spread throughout the country. We continue to be amazed by your strength, your inspiration, and most of all, your faith in God that continue to motivate and carry us through this time. Thank you for your continued support, it truly makes a different.
With much love,
Travis, Laura, Joshua, & AJ
January 26, 2007 Staying in the PICU
Let me start of by saying that Joshua is stable and resting right now. We got moved into the PICU last night because of Joshua's state and they say we'll be here for the next couple of weeks until his breathing stabilizes and he gains enough strength to breathe and swallow on his own. Joshua received a large dose of Steroid last night, which really seemed to work well for him. He was beginning to return to some normality, when I say normal of course I mean normal for the past couple of weeks. However, he would not talk and was still very tired. They decided this morning that the only way they could continue on with his radiation treatment would be to put a breathing tube down his throat, so they could take that possibility of his breathing becoming too irregular out of the equation. As a parent and father there have been many feelings and sights that I wish no parent or father would ever have to go through. For me and I think Laura too, seeing a machine help your son breathe is one of those sights. However, we know that this is a necessity and will only help Joshua because it will prevent him from getting an infection in his throat and many other things that I'm not qualified to remember.
The breathing tube will also enable Joshua to keep getting his radiation treatments, which we found out today are more important than ever. Dr. G met with us this morning and showed us the MRI. It is very obvious, even to me, why Joshua has been feeling bad because the tumor has begun to spread throughout his head. This is obviously not great news but we are going to keep fighting this sickness and get rid of it. We pray that the radiation will do that. We will most likely be in the hospital during the 6-week treatment, so the Dr's can keep a close eye on Joshua but this does not change our goal or our plan. Joshua's treatment will have to be more aggressive now, but Dr. G. exlplains that we are not going to treat to "manage"-- our goal is to treat to cure the cancer and get it out of our sweet boy's body. He will have his second dose of radiation today and then also receive treatment on Sat and Sun. I know you all will but please continue to pray that these treatments will stop the spread and begin eliminating this from his body.
Note from Laura: Needless to say, we are brokenhearted that Joshua will not be able to go home this weekend. However, the first verse I opened my Bible to this morning was in Jeremiah about "your children will be able to return to the land of their home." (Sorry to paraphrase, but I have left my Bible in the PICU and it is difficult to get in and out of there... will provide exact chapter and verse later.)
As Brian said, we can't thank you enough and we will continue to thank you all each time we see, talk, or write to you. Thanks for everything.
Travis & Laura
January 25, 2007 Not Coming Home
Unfortunately we are not able to report great news tonight. We are currently sitting in the Emergency Room waiting to be transfered to the PICU. Joshua has not responded as well as we would have liked to the the radiation treatment and MRI screening today, obviously it would be difficult on any person, child or adult, to be sedated twice in one day. Joshua, woke up from the MRI and has not responded like himself - he actually has responded very little. We called our Dr. and he wanted us to come to the ER to be admitted. It seems that the results of that MRI were not as good as we had hoped. Dr. G. is going to meet with us to discuss the results first thing in the morning. Let's pray that his news is not too negative. We do know that we will not be able to bring Joshua back to VA for right now and that his treatment might change slightly. Again, we won't know exactly what those changes are going to be until tomorrow or later.
Joshua is stable right now and resting but he's just doesn't seem comfortable w/ his breathing like he usually does. Laura and I have been praying together that God will bring Joshua comfort and also touch him w/ his healing hands. I know that most of you are much better at saying and requesting what type of prayer should be said at times like these, so I don't have a specific prayer request tonight. I just thank you for keeping Joshua in your thoughts and prayers and we know without a doubt that God is listening.
As always thanks and we love you all.
January 25, 2007 Prayer Request
I just wanted to send a quick note and ask for a prayer request for Joshua. As you may know, Joshua began his radiation treatment today - he's actually in the process right now. My prayer request is that his treatment will be successful but I also want to ask for prayers that his treatment will have little to no side effects. I'll be honest, I've been praying for no side effects even though each doctor you talk to tells you that there will be side effects. The short term are ones you are probably all familiar with-- basically some of the same symptoms that he's had already like nausea and vomitting. The long term ones are the ones that weigh the heaviest on our hearts-- cognitive and hormonal effects included. I know Laura and I haven't talked about that much but the doctors say it is an "unavoidable" outcome of this treatment. They say the only way to avoid such things are to not do the radiation and that is just not an option. Even though they say certain side effects are most likely to occur, I'd like to pray that they won't. That will be my prayer for both Joshua and Chance - that this treatment does its job and helps cure them but that it will also not have any negative side effects. Like I said, this may be a greedy prayer request but when it comes to these situations I think it is alright to be greedy in your prayer request. As Mr. Peak's story told us last night, "Aim High!".
Laura has also just pointed out to me Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." That is exactly what we are going to do during this time and know that this healing process is in God's hands.
In addition to those thoughts and prayers we also ask that you continue to pray for his appetitte and spirit to keep healing because we have seeen the outcome of those prayers the past couple of days. We pray that this will continue to strenghten his body and legs and motivate him and also give him the courage to get back on his feet again.
Thanks so much for continued prayer.
Travis & Laura
January 24, 2007 Your prayers worked!
Would you believe that the nasty combination of food last night actually stayed down?! We are so thankful, and of course, have to attribute it to the prayer that we have received. (Goodness knows there is no scientific explanation for this one!)
Joshua's appetite continued to be good today, and he seemed to have a fairly settled tummy all day. Thank you so much for your messages to Joshua to eat.
Another praise for today is that Joshua talked a lot more than he has. I asked Joshua if he might want to go to church on Sunday, and he replied, "No, I don't sound good enough yet." I assured him that the good folks at Slate Mt. Presbyterian Church and at Floyd Presbyterian do not care, and that he sounds just fine anyway. I asked him if he remembered the Doxology (his favorite hymn) and he finished each line of that song with me. Hallelujah!
Tomorrow will be a long one for us and the Harmans. We plan to meet up at Duke sometime between Joshua's very first radiation treatment at 8:00 AM and his MRI at 1:00 PM-- both procedures that will require separate anesthesia. If possible, because your prayers have counted for so much this far, we ask that you pray for both boys' strength to get through tomorrow, and also that the updated MRI's done on Joshua tomorrow would show very little tumor. The results will affect what dosage of radiation he will receive from this point on. Thanks and God bless. Laura
January 23, 2007 The Day of No Hospitals!
Today we had no appointments and were able to hang out at Aunt Brenda's. Hallelujah! Joshua's Mimi (Gayle) and Granddaddy (Alan) brought his brother, A.J., to Raleigh yesterday, and we have decided to try to keep him with us from now on. A.J. really raises Joshua's spirits. They give each other high fives, and A.J. is probably the only person who treats Joshua exactly the same as he did a month ago--something the rest of us try to do, but it's hard.
Joshua got a bit of an appetite for his Ma's sweet rice around noon, but unfortunately did not hold it down. After another rest he exercised with Mimi and Mommy along with some of his kid movement songs. This seemed to work up another appetite, which spurred him to ask for biscuits and gravy, fish sticks, baked beans, and ice cream. I know-- gross. We were very hesitant, but gave him a little of everything he asked for VERY SLOWLY. I started not to, but then I thought of all of your wonderful prayers and well-wishes, which we have been sharing with Joshua. And I thought to myself, we can't deny him food when he's finally asking for it. It's been an hour and twenty minutes... So far so good.
Thanks again for your help and God bless.
January 22, 2007 We have a plan
We write to you sitting in an apheresis laboratory. Joshua is resting peacefully while hooked up to what appears to be a high-tech washing machine that is spinning his blood around and around, separating the cells. It sounds scary, but is actually pretty neat! I asked the technician, "Who thinks this stuff up?" and was surprised to receive a legitimite reply. She says that engineers with family members are usually the ones who design these contraptions that help cure the rest of us too. Interesting.
Radiation is officially scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM on Thursday, 1/25. We have decided to stay here in Raleigh until then, but expect to come home for our first "break" in over three weeks after Joshua's treatment on Friday. Dr. G. reports that we should expect symptoms (nausea, weakness, etc.) to get temporarily worse until we have a few treatments under our belt. I am hopeful that a weekend of Floyd will do wonders for his body and spirit. They have some pretty cool toys here that do extraordinary things to save lives, but the exhaust-filled air here in Durham is NOT the therapeutic Blue Ridge Mountain air in Floyd County. We look forward to returning on occasion for renewal of health for all of us.
One praise for today was that we saw Joshua smile this morning while he was eating some breakfast both are great signs that we hope to see more of today and the next few days. Unfortunately he did get sick to his stomach when we arrived at the hospital, so continued prayer for his stomach to settle and his spirit to rise are always appreciated.
Thanks so much,
January 21, 2007 Apheresis Beginning
Joshua successfully completed his last round of G-CSF (the stem cell producing hormone) at 7:00 this evening. His blood counts look good, and nothing else was heard of a blood culture scare we had on Friday evening when they told us that there was a possibility of infection in one of his pheresis lines. If the line had been infected (or should become so), it is an ordeal because if an antibiotic does not take care of it, the line would have to be surgically replaced. And trust me-- the last thing we really want is another surgery!!
We're on for apheresis at 8:45 in the morning, though. Hopefully enough stem cells will be harvested to be available for "rescue" after chemotherapy. It is such an intricate process and everything really has to fall into place just so, but we are thankful for the technology and means to get results, so we are enduring what we must to achieve that.
Joshua's aversion to eating is not getting better. He had lost a pound today. He did eat two Chicken Nuggets last night after he saw Chance's, who also had a Happy Meal (thanks, Chance). Perhaps if we could arrange for Joshua to watch Chance eating more frequently he would do better! Hopefully his appetite will increase. Joshua also did a round of "Simon Says" today, which was good. No smiles today, but we are truly trying. I have told so many people that it is no coincidence that the very first line in 1 Corinthians 13 is "Love is patient." It truly is that and so much more. We continue to rely on scripture to give us wisdom-- we are finding out that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Your kind words and thoughts reinforce that. Thanks will never be enough. Until tomorrow...
January 19, 2007 Friday was good!
Kudos to our good friend, Jill Quesenberry, for allowing us to borrow her brand new computer to make this update since we spent very little time at the hospital today (thank goodness!). Joshua had a good day-- we even saw two or three smiles today, so as always, our prayers are heard and answered little bits at a time. We took Joshua to visit friends in the Women's Basketball Dept. at NC State today just to give him a change of scenery. Before today, he had not been anywhere besides a hospital or home in three weeks! He ate pretty well and practiced walking three or four times, which is good. The thing is, the medications that he has to take to prevent nausea, swelling, etc. really work against his mood, so I think that what he does is actually very good given the circumstances.
Later today we returned to the hospital to get his injection, which we refer to as his "Vitamin G." We found out when we arrived, however, that a blood culture done on Joshua's central line had showed that there was possibly some bacteria in one of the ports. :( We are hoping and praying that it's a fluke. If anything shows up after today, when they gave him antibiotics, they could have to redo the line (surgically) and therefore postpone apheresis.
Thus, we proceed one day at a time, but all in all, it was a good day-- Joshua smiled.
January 18, 2007 Progress Update
Things are happening so fast, Travis and Laura's time is very limited. They send everyone their heartfelt gratitude for all of the support, well wishes for Joshua, especially the prayers and also send their apologies for not updating as often. They appreciate all the concern and are trying their best to keep everyone updated on Joshua's progess. They have really received a blessing from eveyone's well wishes. Every single one has sent a little piece of faith and strength their way.
All of the procedures performed on Tuesday, January 16 were a success. Joshua had his central line put in and was even able to go to Travis' aunt, Brenda's home in Raleigh that afternoon. Grandaddy Alan (Now Bald Grandaddy---way to show your support Grandaddy!), was able to come and spend some time with Travis, Laura and Joshua. Joshua had a pretty healthy appetite that day and seemed to really enjoy his time with his grandparents. On Wednesday, January 17, a home nurse came by and taught Travis and Laura how to flush the central line to keep it clean. They were also able to check on Chance during his surgery on Wednesday. They were glad to have the ability to be there for Brian and Desirae during that time.
Today, Thursday, January 18, Joshua seemed to enjoy seeing the site of that white stuff on the ground, which is pretty uncommon here. God knew these two country boys needed a little taste of the mountains! They made it to the hospital safely and were able to see the Harman's again. Joshua and Chance were excited to see one another today; Chance even gave Joshua a wave. Joshua also went through radiation stimulation today. This is a process to fit him for a mask to wear during radiation treatment. The machine was also lined up to fit his body, so whenever radiation does begin, all of these necessities will be taken care of and they can just begin treatment.
Joshua also underwent a short physical today to make sure his central line was working properly. Unfortunately, he got a little sick, but everything checked out fine. Tonight, Joshua had his first G-CSF injection treatment. He is scheduled to get one Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. The nurses say a little achiness in his bones and a slight headache may be possible, so just pray Joshua will overcome those possibilities!
As of now, on Monday, January 22, the collection of the stem cells, apheresis process, is scheduled to begin. Then, as early as Tuesday the 23rd, or as late as Monday, the 29th, radiation is set to begin. As mentioned earlier, plans change from day to day, so these plans may very likely be changed.
Travis and Laura ask that you say a special prayer for a "little bit of normalcy" over the next few days and weeks as we begin another hill in our journey. We 're looking forward to seeing more of that adorable little smile (with that dimple!) along with a healthy appetite from Joshua. Our hearts would be encouraged to see some of the old Joshua characteristics shine through, so please help us pray that we can find a way to lift his spirits and help him be as happy as possible throughout these treatments.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for everything EVERYONE is doing for both families. We can feel the love and prayers and ask that you continue to prayer for both Chance and Joshua. This is another small battle that we are going to win!!!!
Love to all,
Travis, Laura, Joshua and AJ
January 13, 2007 Progress Update
Thank you all for your well wishes and continued support throughout this week. Joshua's surgery for the placement of the shunt went fine. We have already noticed a decrease amount of swelling in the back of his head, therefore the fluid has already decreased tremendously. Joshua says his head is not hurting as bad, which we are so very thankful for. The Doctors believe that the few times he complains of pain now are due to "normal" recovery pain from his surgeries.
He had a pretty good day today. He ate some and even had some physical therapy. We are still working with him on his walking; it is a slow process, but Joshua is a strong boy and has made much progress.
Please understand plans change for us day to day, sometimes hour to hour, so tomorrow these plans may have changed. As of now, Joshua is scheduled to stay in the hospital until Tuesday, January 16. On Tuesday, several procedures are scheduled. A central line will be put in so his medicine and shots can go through this and he will not have to be stuck over and over again. A spinal tap is also scheduled along with removal of bone marrow. These test will hopefully show where exactly the cancer is and what it is doing. The doctors do believe the cancer is in his spine, but does not change anything. He will still be treated with radiation and chemotherapy.
On Monday, January 22 we are scheduled to start the G-CSF injections, which are shots through the central line to build Joshua's stem cell count and make his body produce more. This will then lead us into the apheresis process, which is about a 4 hour process that takes some blood from Joshua and separates his stem cells from that blood. The blood will then be returned to his body and the stem cells will be frozen and saved for when he completes a cycle of Chemo. During the apheresis process, Joshua can watch TV, read, or do anything that he wants while he is lying down.
Thank you all again for your prayers and support. Please continue to say a prayer for each of these boys as they start their treatment. One of our concerns for Joshua at this time is that he stays as positive and motivated as possible. It's not always easy to motivate children his age because it is such a confusing and frustrating time. However, we are still trying many different ways to keep his spirits up. Please pray that we can find the right mix of incentives to keep him motivated and as happy as possible while he faces these procedures and treatment.
We Love you all,
Travis and Laura
January 11, 2007
We continue to ask for your prayers. We arrived at Duke on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 and it is great. After another CT Scan, we discovered there is fluid on Joshua's brain, so on Thursday morning, a shunt will be put in. After recovery from this surgical procedure, we will begin the pheresis process. This is a process that Joshua's stem cells will be taken out of his blood and kept at a very precise temperature until after chemotherapy is completed. Then, they will be put back into his body to help with the recovery and blood cell count. We are uncertain how long this process will take, so are unsure when our treatment will exactly begin.
As of now, we are scheduled to begin radiation sometime before Jan 29th. Joshua will undergo 6 weeks of radiation followed by 6 weeks of recovery at home and complete the treatment with chemo.
Plans could change anytime. We are just taking every new obstacle as it arises and plans change day to day, sometimes hour to hour. We ask that you just continue to pray for our entire family as this is just the beginning of a very long journey. We will try to keep you updated when possible. Thanks again for all of your support and prayers. Our family is so grateful for everything.
I really enjoy looking at the pictures of Joshua and Chance every now and then.They are both as physically beautiful as they ever were before, but their experiences have made them [understandably] guarded and more timid around some folks.What they have gone through already in their few short years, my whole family put together has never seen the likes of.Nevertheless, we look forward to the time when they can be more carefree, and I thought that many of you, who have never met my son or who haven’t been with him in awhile, would appreciate a couple of anecdotes that might help you get to know the “real” Joshua.
Joshua has (naturally) been brought up in gymnasiums—from Air Force Bases when his dad played for the AF and Military teams to the Air Force Academy, where his dad was stationed last year, to good old FCHS where the girls are carrying on without us in an undefeated season so far.His first phrase was “Shoot da ball!” and he has never been shy about barking orders at players alongside his dad and granddad in practices, camps and games!His little voice can be heard loud and clear even in large crowds as he encourages the team, “Let’s GO, GIRLS!!”I hope the team continues to hear his cheers even in his absence.
As he is a “man’s man,” and as many of you know, Joshua loves things to do with cowboys.When he spoke yesterday of his trip to Tweetsie RR (the highlight of his young life, I think), I was reminded of something that happened that day.As amusement park trips do not allow for naptimes, we were concerned that Joshua would get tired and crabby by the end of the day.He didn’t.He was a real trooper, cooperated, listened—all those things that we encourage our children to do, right?We were so proud of him that Travis and I did something we don’t normally do:we offered to buy him a prize for his behavior at the gift shop on his way out.I thought maybe he’d choose a head dress or a cowboy vest… Nope.Much to my chagrin, he chose the one thing I had planned to keep off-limits to my little boys: a toy pistol and holster!I couldn’t easily go back on my word, so the gun became his and he wore the holster everywhere along with his belt with the big buckle.I think he even asked to wear it to church one day!!
Speaking of church though, Joshua dearly loves going to church.His Ma and aunties bought him a suit, which has been seen in several congregations in Floyd during the Spring.He loved to put the little Velcro tie on even on non-church days, and would pretend that he was going to “work.”
Finally, one of my most precious memories of Joshua is just weeks ago at SlateMountainChurch’s Christmas program.Joshua beat his little drum alongside his Pa, who played the guitar and sang Joshua’s favorite Christmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy.”At the conclusion of the song, he was to lay his drum at the foot of the manger as a tribute to the Baby Jesus.He did, and from backstage I beamed.What I did not find out until later is that after he did so, he whispered to his Pa (so as not to disturb the hushed audience), “Pa, I think you’re supposed to put your guitar at the manger for Baby Jesus.”
If any of you have special memories of Joshua, I love to be reminded, and I hope you have enjoyed these from his very proud Mom, Laura.
January 23, 2007 Note from Laura
It is amazing how much concentrated learning can take place under extreme circumstances.For example, one month ago I could not have identified any of the medical lingo that is now part of my daily discourse.I also could not have anticipated the supreme lessons that I have learned about the three biggies from 1 Corinthians 13 that I have known all my life: faith, hope, and love.
I have always believed in Christ and “practiced” my faith by praying and attending church, etc., but it was not until I became Joshua’s mommy that I got a deeper sense of my place in the big scheme of things.This is when I feel I developed a more personal relationship with God and Christ.It could be said that it was only when I found out that I was having a child that I stopped being one.But I think that it was more the fact that I felt (and continue to feel) so incredibly honored to be the mother of this child who I just knew was literally sent straight from heaven into my arms.
Faith is not a challenge for me in the sense that I know someone truly sovereign must be responsible for the beauty and good I observe happening in this life.In my life I have often wondered what circumstances would cause one to “blame” God.I admit that I have been sheltered.I also admit that on December 29th, following my son’s craniotomy, I asked God for the first time in my life, “Why would you let this happen?” It just did not make sense.
Yet through this roller-coaster of a journey that is barely even three weeks young, we catch glimpses and signs that it will be okay.These are the words I uttered to the few whom I gathered the courage to speak with at the prayer vigil generously put together by caring folks in our community.They probably thought I was a kook.Really, I am just humbled by the outpouring of love from people and from the God whose grace has allowed me to get out of bed and face life during this crisis.Just humbled…
We know what this situation entails.The Bible tells us that wisdom is essential, and I do not feel that it is wise to ignore the unpleasant reality of what our son is going through.Still, I feel that our prayers have been answered so far.We are asking for little bits at a time, and we are receiving that.During each of our first several days at Duke, I met at least one “miracle story” per day—Khalita, now my age, who was not expected to live beyond 6 months because of a rare blood disorder; Lori, whose physical beauty and grace could never have revealed that she has suffered with cystic fibrosis all her life, and brushed with death at age 19 before receiving a double lung transplant.Finally, on the day that Joshua was admitted for another unexpected surgery, we met Nathan, the young and spirited child who has suffered through months of the same treatment that Joshua now faces. These people are, in the words of another friend of mine, "...true soldiers who have a strength that most adults will ever know." These people are God's gift of hope to me during this time.
I have had weak moments, yes.I can also earnestly testify that not once have I faced such a moment that some perfectly appropriate scripture or sign did not literally fall in my lap.Once, as I sat on a bench outside of the pediatric wing after a conversation with the neuro-oncologist, gazing into space, a cleaning lady meandered by pushing a cart.At my eye-level, I caught glimpse of a sticky label on the side of that cart that read, “Be patient.God understands.” I looked for every cleaning cart I could after that, wondering if it is customary at DUMC to decorate carts with inspirational labels. It's not. :)
Desirae Harman and I have shared many such "signs" that have come to us at just the right times. She reminds me constantly that God never promised that our journey of parenthood would be easy. Before this experience, what came to my mind when I heard things of this nature was perhaps a mischevious prank or two; maybe the teenage years (when I caused my own parents the most grief). But you know, this situation was never what I expected.
Even so, i
t is true that God does not place anything in our laps that we cannot handle, and I can promise you that His grace has fallen upon us in the form of a community of Christians from Floyd County all across the United States. What comforts my heart is the thought that maybe all of the wonderful people who are praying for my child are praying also for Chance Harman, Isaac Nelson, our other close toddler friend who was diagnosed with leukemia before Christmas, and of course, their very own dear children, spouses, and families. It comforts me to know that Joshua and Chance have initiated a whole lot of love expressed in various forms-- all of which have served a great purpose in our lives and, I hope, in the lives of others too.
Take some time to look at that verse in 1 Corinthians. This wonderful scripture that was read at many of our weddings and other joyous occasions points out more than just the euphoria of love in this life. There are tough aspects of it too; but with the understanding and guidance that God offers, we can rejoice even in times of sorrow that love will get us through. For now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is [was, and always will be]... love.
January 20, 2007 Thoughts from Travis
Where to begin? First of all, Laura and I continue to be overwhelmed w/ the amount of support that we have been given. I would like to say that it doesn't suprise me because we both know how special our friends, family, and community are but we never could have imagined that the support would be like it is. Proof and point is the fact that Jason Dalton just brought us a laptop, which was anonomously donated, that has wireless connections. Also, I'm typing on a website that many people work extremely hard on each day that provides us w/ so much joy to read all of well wishes and also allows us to update our friends and family. Again, I can't say it enough -- thank you so much for all of your support; whether you helped set this webite up, donated us this computer, sent well wishes to Joshua and us, sent cards, helped organize an event, or most importantly have kept Joshua in your thoughts and prayers, we sincerely say thank you and we love you all.
Love is a word that gets used a lot more now in my family (and it was used a lot before); I'm sure I have caught some of my friends off gaurd w/ that phrase in the past weeks but there is no other explanation for the support that both the Harmans and we have received other than the fact that there is more love in this world than most people give credit for. Therefore, our friends should probably get used to hearing us say that word.
Anyway, I'm sure most of you are interested in hearing how Joshua is doing. I'll let Laura write is update later tonight but I'll just let you know that he has had a pretty good day. He has slept more today than he did yesterday, so he hasn't gotten outside any but Laura is getting ready to take him for a walk outside if he's up to it. His Pa and Nana (Joel and Saundra, Laura's parents) came today and brought his brother, AJ, to see us. That, of course, is always good therapy for him even though he doesn't always visibly show his enthusiasm. His Pa was able to get a pretty good smile from him before he laid down, so we are thankful for that.
As for Laura and I - I believe we are doing the best we can. We really lean on each other and the support from all of you and that is getting us through this time. Since Joshua just woke up, I'm going to go help get him ready to go outside. Again, thanks so much and I look forward to being able to update you all on a regular basis.
With much Love,
p.s. I didn't get Laura to proofread for me, so just ignore the grammatical and spelling mistakes