Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Red Candy Dish

The red candy dish...full of love, full of selflessness, full of compassion, full of caring...full of life.  The red candy dish sat on Auntie Gemma's coffee table full of candy; candy to be enjoyed by all.  My kids would enjoy their piece of candy during our visits to Auntie's house.  They would always ask for more candy and I would always reply "no".  Auntie would throw her hand in the air and say, "Aww, let 'em have another", and so they did.  Auntie died the day that Emilie and I arrived in Tennessee.  We did not tell Emilie as we did not want to upset her so far from home.  Strangely, Emilie talked alot about Auntie while in Tennessee.  After her NK cell infusion, Emilie had to have six injections every other day for two weeks.  While waiting for the nurse to arrive with Emilie's second shot, Emilie talked about how Auntie endured daily insulin shots because she was a diabetic and at that point, she decided that if Auntie could give herself an injection everyday without complaining, she could do it too.  Emilie then remembered the red candy dish that Auntie had and said that she so loved getting candy every time we went to Auntie's house.   I squashed my emotions as we sat quietly.  Emilie then said "Auntie was not a selfish person because she always had candy for kids even though she couldn't eat any of it herself because she had diabetes.  By the way, how is Auntie doing?".  Before I could answer, the nurse arrived and gave Emilie her shot to which she responded, "that wasn't so bad at all". 
Auntie Gemma...full of love, full of selflessness, full of compassion, full of caring...full of life. Photobucket

Joy To The World

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13
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Friday, December 17, 2010

*S*O*S*


Tomorrow is the day we depart this place.  This place where we have been the recipients of such love and selfless giving.  This place where we have heard stories of success and stories of sadness.  This place where we have seen smiles breaking through the sadness. 

SOS...I spotted this sign on a building in Memphis today as we took our last cruise through the city.  I Googled it and found this:  SOS = Service Over Self. (Read their story HERE )  Service over self?  Service over self!  So, this is what we have been witnessing in this place.  Not from the SOS Organization, but from the many volunteers who serve at St. Jude and at the Ronald McDonald House.  I can not adequately express how wonderfully we have been served here.  Perhaps one day I can get the words out.  The servers here aren't concerned about your skin color, your financial status, your marital status, your religious beliefs or your specific story...they just flat out care and serve selflessly to fill a need.  We have heard many stories here. 

The grandma with her nine year old grandson at a follow up visit for liver cancer.   The boy's dad is not interested in being a dad and the mom has to work.  Grandma is in charge.  Grandpa just died and was the little boy's "papa".  Twenty years earlier, Grandma was with her son at St. Jude while he battled the same liver cancer as her grandson.  Grandson smiles and talks about bass fishing, grandma endures.

The toothless dad making frozen meals in the RMH kitchen for his daughter.  They eat silently in the dining area and will be spending Christmas at RMH. Where is mom? 

The 18 year old girl who loves softball and soccer.  Chemo side effects led to blood clots in her heart resulting in open heart surgery.  Steroid side effects which led to hip erosion; she now sports a new hip.  A hip replacement that is usually seen in the elderly.

A cute two year old RMH neighbor whose face is swollen from steroids.  His parents can not be older than 25.

A man-boy who has lived at RMH on and off for the last three years with his mom.  He is wheelchair bound due to extreme pain in his legs.  His mom cares for him and is half his size.

A sweet toddler, waving at every passer-by, with only one eye.  His mom obviously hacked off at the world.  Grandma is helping as best as she can.

Stories.  We all have them.  Share.
Our story in this place is not just a story of cancer treatment, but a story of seeing and experiencing deeply.  We are deeply grateful for all things...the good, the bad and the ugly.  In being grateful, we have experienced much joy!

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.  Job 8:21
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunny and 21F

Still in TN...one more injection and then a few days of monitoring.  The injections are to keep Emilie's newly acquired NK cells alive and fighting.  Go NK Cells!
We are hoping to be home before Christmas.  We had an early (8:30am) appointment this morning and the temperature was 21F. Sunny and freezing.  Nice!
 Photo courtesy of JcPenny photographer.  Not the best photo, but I am grateful that Emilie and I are both in it! 
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Super Sonic Saturday!

It's a super Sonic Saturday here in Memphis!  A little grocery shopping, a little schoolwork, a little crafting and a little Sonic sweet tea cut in half.  Maybe 44 ounces shouldn't be considered "little".  It's okay, the cup was half filled with "perfectly engineered ice".  Great day!
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Whassup Paul Sr??

After our many appointments at St. Jude, Emilie and I stumbled upon a St. Jude shindig.  We entered the pavilion, tried to navigate through the crowd and then we decided to leave because there were just too many people.  On the stage we saw important looking folks speaking about who knows what.  Well, we stayed a bit longer and they introduced Paul Sr. from OCC.  I quickly took a few shots and then Emilie and I left with a giggle.  Paul Sr.....really? 
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just A Glimpse....

...of God's love.  I could write a book about God's love shown through the people of Tennessee.  I am amazed daily at the love and kindness that folks have shown to us from the medical staff here at St. Jude to the strangers who decorated the RMH for Christmas.  Amazing!  I/we have never been on the receiving end of such love and selfless giving. 
So, what's this Santa have to do with God's love?  A few days after arriving at the RMH, Emilie and I learned that there would be a sale of past RMH Christmas decor.  Having not much to do and not wanting to pass up a sale, we checked it out.  There wasn't a whole lot of good stuff, but we did bring a small tree and a Grinch back to our room to add a little "Christmas" to Room #7. Emilie and I chatted with a RMH volunteer who told us that she had a daughter named Emily, a granddaugther that had ALL and a son who lived in the Bay Area.  She was also kind enough to fill us in on some of the good local restaurants.  The above Santa was standing on a table with some other stuff.  I showed him to Emilie and told her that he reminded me of a Santa that my parents displayed every Christmas on the fireplace hearth.  I shared with her my love of that Santa and how I would just sit and look at him when I was a kid. He was a gift that my parents received when I was 10 months old.  Every year, Santa would stand on the hearth and every year I would sit and look at him.  My mom displayed Santa every year, but after my dad passed away, Santa seemed to stay in his box during Christmas. We left the Christmas decor sale and went back to Room #7.  Later that day, Emilie and I went for a little walk and checked our mail.  We had a note in our mailbox that there was a package waiting for us at the front desk.  We were both so excited thinking that perhaps Nana had sent us a care package of some sort.  The  volunteer at the desk, searched and searched for a package for Room #7 but came up empty handed.  She then spoke with the other volunteer about the package that could not be found.  Together they searched and searched and finally found the "package".  The "package" was  not a package at all, but rather the Santa that I was admiring at the Christmas decor sale.  Immediately tears flowed from my eyes as I held the Santa.  Emilie, being the funny kid that she is, started to giggle at me and ask me "why in the world are you crying over a silly Santa".  I told her that it wasn't the Santa, but it was a message of love from God that showed up as a small act of kindness from a volunteer.
Our new fat man in a red suit is holding a big sign that reads
***God loves you....ALOT***
Can you see it?Photobucket

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All Systems "GO", We Have NK Cell Infusion 1717 Hours CST


Today was the big day!  Emilie had her NK cell infusion at 5:17p.m. today.  The tech arrived with the NK cells in a small cooler ready to go.  We asked him a few questions regarding the harvest and processing.  The harvest was plentiful:  285,000,000 cells were harvested which is 4 times more than what they expect to harvest.  The tech was very excited to have processed such a large amount of healthy NK cells. The processing took approximately 10 hours. The actual infusion was 10mL over three minutes.  Emilie was on the monitor for two hours post infusion in the event of a reaction.  Thankfully, she did really well and did not react to the cells. The first image above is the infusion showing the actual syringe with NK cells.  The second image is our NK team: "NK Master" Carleton, Nurse Miranda and Nurse Wanda.  The last image is post NK cell infusion recovery.

We are so grateful that God gave our doctors and researchers wonderfully creative and smart minds and that He gave us this opportunity to further eliminate any remaining cancers cells.

We have very happy hearts today and are singing this song.

My favorite Veggie Tales song, The Thankfulness Song"

I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!

For our home on the ground,
For His love that's all around,
That's why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
Thats an easy way to start!

For the love that He shares
'Cause He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks every day!
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Go NK Cells, Go!

Tomorrow is the 7th day of December.
Tomorrow is exactly 6 months from the date of Emilie's diagnosis (7th of June).
Tomorrow is the most important part of our St. Jude treatment.

Today, I had the NK (natural killer) cell collection process which turned out to be a piece of cake; a four hour piece of cake.  The procedure filtered every ounce of my blood and my NK cells were "harvested".   The cells will be processed tonight and tomorrow morning with Emilie's infusion being tomorrow afternoon.  The infusion is actually about 5-10mL of cells that will be pushed through her line in about three minutes.  Pretty easy!

My NK cell understanding is this...Emilie's NK cells did not see her cancer cells as "enemies", so they were allowed to grow crazy in her body.  My NK cells are just different enough to see her cancer cells as "enemies".  So, if there are any cancer cells that survived the chemo attack, my NK cells will seek and destroy them.  Go NK cells go!

We are very grateful that this treatment was available and that we had a parental match.  God is so good!
Please pray that 1.) the NK cells will identify, attack and kill any leftover cancer cells and that 2.) Emilie will not have any adverse reactions to the infusion.
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Friday, December 3, 2010

This Is Why We Call Him "Uncle"


This is my cousin Nick or as my kids call him, "Uncle" Nick.  Nick recently shaved his head in support of Emilie.  He took these shots of himself and posted them on Facebook.  I just had to document his images and his words here.  He is crazy fun and we all love him!  Thanks for keeping us laughing Nick!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Little Monkey Business

Emilie and I visited the Memphis Zoo this last weekend and had a blast.  The monkeys were the most fun to watch.  This monkey came up to the window to see us and I am guessing it was a "she" because she was so darn friendly and cute.  She knocked on the window to get Emilie's attention (missed that shot) and then she sat and gazed at Emilie.  Emilie then put her hand to the glass and the monkey did the same.  So sweet!  When I had Emilie turn to me, the monkey knocked on the window again to get Emilie's attention back.  Emilie just loved this interaction and I loved seeing it.  Thanks nice Memphis monkey!
Erickson boys, you are going to love this.  This monkey was a little bid odd, but seemingly pretty smart.  It was by luck that I got these shots.  This monkey obviously stepped in something (my guess...poop), stopped to look at it and then smelled it.  Yucko! Here is where the monkey put her smart hat on....she found some gift basket filler to wipe it off with. Very funny; Emilie and I got a huge laugh out of this monkey!
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mosquitos and Fried Okra

This morning we were told that the chemo and subsequent NK therapy was on hold due to Emilie testing positive for the West Nile Virus.   West Nile Virus?   How crazy is that?  We see one mosquito a month in Scotts Valley.  What we learned was that WNV can cause havoc, very serious havoc, in patients with compromised immune systems.  The NK therapy uses immune suppression to ready the body to accept the NK cells; Emilie's counts are looking great now, but the chemo would drop her counts quickly.  Eric and I were very upset that this therapy would not be an option for Emilie. As I sat here, a little irritated with visits from infectious disease docs, nuerologists and oncologists, I reminded myself that God is in charge even in the midst of total chaos and confusion.  I entrusted Emilie and her medical treatment to God.  Still irritated and a little angry, I thought through the logistics of packing our belongings here at the hospital and at the RMH, returning a rental car not at the airport, hitching a ride to the airport and then managing my Supergirl through the airport, through (annoying) security and on the airplane by myself.  Questions from Eric that I couldn't answer were irritating me too.  I couldn't wait until the attending oncologist came through the door so that I could give him Eric's phone number so that he could answer all his questions.  Six hours after the WNV news, the doc did walk through the door with the news that Emilie's WNV results were recorded in error and that, in fact, she was tested negative for the WNV.  Tears of happiness flowed and I was so full of gratitude that God was still really in control and that Emilie would still have the opportunity to have the NK treatment.  Both Emilie and I have more testing, but are so close to the end.  Emilie started her chemo today and did great with her first dose.  She still has a great appetite...that's where the fried okra comes in.  Dinner for Miss Emilie tonight consisted of a huge hot dog, chocolate shake, a push up and fried okra.    So y'all, I leave you with this scripture, which I posted as a self-reminder but if it works for you...RIGHT ON!  (Please no grammatical judgement from all our wonderful readers in education.)
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

We L O V E Ronald McDonald And His House In Memphis

We arrived in TN last Monday and it has been a crazy week of tests, appts, tests, appts, tests and appts.  The first three days here were super busy, but the last few days have been pretty relaxing.  We will be going inpatient tomorrow for a week and then back to the Ronald McDonald House where we have been staying since our arrival.  Lots of words are flowing through my head, but I'll let these photos do the talking. 
These girls spent some time chatting with us.  They were with a church from KY that served lunch to the families of RMH.  Very sweet and kind girls.  The girl on the left talked to Emilie about cancer and chemo and told her that she understood because her dad had cancer.  She told Emilie that she would pray for her.  Such a composed and mature girl, especially at the age of 13 and without a dad.
The following shots were taken by Emilie around RMH.  I love her perspective!  This swing shot is my favorite.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

As I was sitting in my office attempting to come up with a title for this post, I heard the Erickson kids singing "Celebrate Good Times, Come On!".  Perfect title!  Many of you know we have a sign in our kitchen reading "celebrate" and that is exactly what we did last night.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with our "crazy train" family!  The Borelli boys did a great job with the bird, pumpkin pies and almond brittle.  We even turned out the lights and opened the slider to enjoy the rain, thunder and lightening.  There's a reason we call ourselves the "crazy train".  Emilie's oncologist emailed yesterday to let us know that her cerebrospinal fluid was free from disease and that her bone marrow aspirate showed "recovering cells, all normal and expected cell types, no disease".  Such great news and a perfect reason to celebrate!  We are grateful for our family and friends who have made our journey thus far very easy and are ultimately grateful to God for giving us the strength and the courage to face each day.  I will leave you with the best photo I got today while trying to get a good Christmas card shot of the KIDS.
Where oh where could those Erickson boys be?Photobucket

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rockin' the Dockers

Love this!  The guy "rockin' his Dockers" is so Eric, right down to the dorky cell phone holder and goatee!


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Friday, November 19, 2010

We Are...

That's right, Emilie and I will be flying to Memphis on Monday in search of Elvis!  Elvis? Really?  Maybe, but we are primarily in search of some great natural killer cells to attack any remaining stubborn cancer cells in Emilie.  We will be gone for a month, but only inpatient for a week.  We would so appreciate prayer for travel safety, no adverse effects from chemo (Emilie will have some mild chemo prior to NK cell transfusion) and most importantly that my NK cells will not do harm to Emilie but rather will attack and kill any remaining cancer cells.  Photobucket

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Farmer McNugget and The Interview

I am happy to introduce to you....Farmer McNugget.  Nicolas was Farmer McNugget in his Thanksgiving play at school and he was a super cute farmer.  The whole family, including Nana, was able to make his performance and he was so happy to see everyone in the crowd.  Nicolas was standing next to a little boy during his performance and he told me that he helps him in class from time to time.  I asked him why he helps him and he simply answered "he needs help".  No judgement, no criticism, no nothing!  Just simply "he needs help".  What a lesson I learned today from Nicolas:  don't complain, don't question, don't judge...just help!  Thank you God for using Farmer McNugget to show me how to love and serve selflessly!
Emilie was happy to be back at school for Nicolas' performance.  She was able to see her classmates, Mr. Ward and teachers from previous years.  She was so perky after visiting school.  She is looking forward to returning in January.  Today was Emilie's big interview with  Mrs. Siemsen.  Mrs. Siemsen asked Emilie about her cancer, how it has changed her, and how was life in a wheelchair.  Emilie answered that she is not afraid of anything now, that her faith has grown and that being in a wheelchair is not much different that not being in a wheelchair.  Emilie continues to amaze me with her positive, non-complaining attitude.  God has really given her a great attitude through this journey and I am so proud of her perseverence and courage.
Go Emilie Go!
(Yucky shots in low light with high ISO....Santa, if you are listening, a new camera, lens, etc. would be greatly appreciated.)Photobucket