Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Surviving

Just wanted to post an update to let you know that we will not hear the results from Elena's survivor clinic tests for about another week.

What we did hear at Elena's doctor appointment was overwhelming.
While the survivor team at Aflac were wonderful, kind, knowledgeable, and compassionate, it was not easy to sit there while they went over page after page of information. Seeing in print what your child has been through is hard.

There were six pages outlining Elena's medical history, treatments, surgeries, procedures, complications, and diagnoses. After going over those pages, we went through the next five pages listing the fourteen different chemotherapy drugs Elena has received, the possible late effects associated with each drug, what tests will be used to monitor these and for how long. There was also all of the information on radiation to go over. So much information, so many possibilities, so many years Elena will have to be monitored. We left so overwhelmed. We also left feeling a little sad and empty.

We were already aware of possible late term effects and we knew the list was long. We had seen the information before in each consent form we had to sign...heart damage, lung damage, decreased lung function, kidney damage, liver damage, eye problems, hearing problems, fertility problems, thyroid issues, growth issues, psychological issues, bone damage, joint damage, nerve damage and secondary cancers. It all kind of puts a damper on any celebratory mood.

Days after this meeting with the doctors, we are still trying to process the news we heard. One thing we have learned is that surviving means once again surrendering.

Surrendering to God. Just like we surrendered Elena to Him when she was first diagnosed with cancer and again when she relapsed, we have struggled to surrender ourselves to Him. Over the past five years, we have had to surrender our plans, dreams, hopes, thoughts, fears, anger, sorrow, and bitterness to Him over and over again. Only in doing so, could we experience joy.  Surviving alone does not bring great joy. It takes surrendering to find that.

In Him,
The Tates

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." Psalm 143:8
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 
 
"Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today

Today, Elena has reached yet another milestone.
Today is her first SURVIVOR clinic appointment! Praise God!
 
While we are so very grateful and happy to have reached this milestone, we are also faced with the ugly truth that at the same time, late term effects from treatment are always a possibility for Elena.

We already know that Elena's treatments have already affected her brain and bones. We are praying that today only brings good news of great health and continued recovery for Elena!

Today Elena will have a pulmonary function test, echocardiogram, EKG, chest x-ray, and a bone density scan. She will also have blood work done and be seen by an endocrinologist and a survivorship doctor.

It's been quite a journey to get to this point. We finally feel like we are moving past simply living in survivor mode to just living.

Thank you always for your prayers and your presence in our lives!
We will send out an update with today's results when we get them.

In Him,
The Tates

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope  in the Lord." Psalm 31:24

Saturday, June 7, 2014

May Madness

WOW! Is it really June?!?

We can not believe how quickly this school year came to an end!

Our May included many, many great things. Just a warning that this is a really long post. Almost each event listed below could have been its own post!

Here's a recap of our May:

Liv had state CRCT testing in five subjects - she passed in all areas!

We celebrated Elena's 15th birthday! 15!! Can't beleive that this summer she will be getting her Driving permit!! Elena wanted a small party this year. She and three friends went bowling then back to our house to change and get ready to go out to dinner. We all went to Macaroni Grill but the kids sat at one table and we sat at another. It was great fun!

We shared our story on stage at Gwinnett County's Relay for Life event.

We celebrated Mother's day. For the first time in more than twenty years, Christy was able to spend Mother's Day with her mom! What a blessing! We are so very thankful for the moms in our lives. How they care for us, love us, pray for us, guide us, encourage us and give us more than we could ever thank them for!!

We went to Liv's Awards Night at school. She received certificates for the Merit Roll (all As and Bs) and Outstanding Student in Study Skills. We are SO proud of how hard she has worked this year! She had a great year in sixth grade!

We attended Elena's Theatre Banquet at school. She took the Intro to Theatre class this year. At the end of this year, she had to audition if she wanted to continue to in the school's theatre program. She auditioned for the Children's Theatre class and made it! Can't wait to see what shows they will put on next year!

We attended Liv's end of year chorus concert and went to see an Atlanta Braves baseball game where her chorus sang the National Anthem.

The girls had their dance recital. They performed three dances. It is wonderful to see their confidence on stage and watch them dance!

Both girls successfully survived finals! Like Liv, Elena made all As and Bs this year.

This month, we also enjoyed overnight visits from Christy's aunt and uncle, Christy's parents, and Mark's brother Patrick, Angie and Stephen.

Elena had her 3 month visit at the Aflac Cancer Center with Dr. Lew. Once again, her counts were great! Praise God! We can't beleive that Elena is just two months shy of the two year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant!! That milestone will officially make her a survivor in the medical world! In July, she will have her first appointment at the survivor clinic at the Aflac Cancer Center. There, she will see a doctor who specializes in survivorship and late term effects of treatment. She will also continue to be seen by Dr. Lew every four to six months. At her appointment last week, they both said they are not ready to stop seeing each other!!

We attended high school and college graduation parties.

Liv began piano lessons!

Our neighborhood swim team honored the three leukemia survivors who live in our subdivision by holding their Third Annual Orange Out - Morningview Swims for CURE. Once again, they raised awareness about childhood cancer all while raising money for CURE Childhood Cancer. It is a great event and we were happy to be asked to participate again.

As you can see May was jampacked with many fun events! We had great fun celebrating the accomplishments of our girls and thank God daily that He has brought us to this point in our lives!

 

The final thing we want to share is something Elena wrote.
As part of her final in her Language Arts class, she had to write a speech. She had to write about how she has grown this year or about something she learned this year, her freshman year. Then, she had to connect it to a theme or lesson from a piece of literature they had read in class. With Elena's permission, here is what she wrote as she prepared her speech. In her own words, she summed it all up so well!

While in the hospital I experienced wanting to escape reality many times. I know I might talk about my cancer a lot, but it is basically my life. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Right then our life stopped. I had to go through many obstacles and treatments, like clinic visits for blood tests and check-ups, for chemo and blood and platelet tranfusions, hospital visits if anything weird or wrong as going on and also for tests. We went through a terrible and hard time. I was poked and prodded, woken up many times during the night, spend days in the hospital and received chemo almost every week. I felt really bad.

After 29 months of this, we thought we were all done and that it was over. But, soon we found out some bad news. I had relapsed with leukemia. Because what the doctors did the first time didn't work, they had to use a different approach.

I had a bone marrow transplant on July 25, 2012. I was in the hospital for 66 days. The whole time I wasn't allowed to see my sister or even leave my 15x15 room unless I was walking laps for PT. I would have to walk around the small nurses' station. That was the only time I could leave my room. As you would probably think, that was really hard and horrible. Also, while in my hospital room, I hated all the poking and prodding, the hustle and bustle of the doctors and nurses coming and going, and all the medicine and beeping machines.

Often I would wish I could escape the real world and what was going on in it. Escaping reality can be a good thing. At one point during my transplant days, I just couldn't take it any more. So, I decided to escape reality, forget and not pay attention to what was going on around me. To do that and to try to distract myself, I would watch my favorite movies, do crafts, listen to Pandora, make playlists on itunes, and play games. Also, when I did leave my room to do my laps I had an awesome nurse named Amy who would not ony do my laps with me, but also made them super fun. Instead of just plain old walking, we would act like super models, walk like tigers, be cheerleaders, rock stars, karate experts, and many other things. So many of my other nurses would talk to me and do things with me too.

Because of my experiences, I relate most to Odysseus and his crew because when they were on the island of the Lotus Eaters they ate the Lotus flowers. This controlled their minds and made them never want to leave or do anything. They didn't pay attention to what was going on around them. They were escaping reality. This is just like when I was in the hospital and would do crafts and watch movies to distract me from what was going on around me. They were my Lotus flowers.

Even though escaping reality can be a good thing in certain situations, it can also hurt your life in other ways. My cancer has affected my brain in different ways and that effects my school work. It's harder for me to process stuff from my brain to paper. It takes me longer to do work and tests. Having to learn to do work in different ways and being different than other students makes me feel different and that makes me mad. I don't like it. I don't like being different. I sometimes wish I could escape reality rather than have such a hard and stressful time at school. The only problem with that is that if I don't care about my school work or my future, I won't have good grades and that would lead to perhaps not going to college which could lead to no job or a bad job and life. So I can not escape reality school, just like Odysseus and his crew couldn't stay on the Lous Eaters Island and had to snap out of the fantasy world and come back to reality to continue their journey.

Even though I can't escape reality at school or in my life, I have definitely matured through my freshman year. I learned from my problems, my teachers and my friends to always try to stay positive, to work to overcome my problems and to never slack on my work. Also, many teachers and friends pushed me to keep going and they would always help me with my problems. They treated me like a normal person. I learned throughout my freshman year that even though I've gone through many hard situations, never give up, never doubt yourself in your work and don't escape reality, unless it is helpful. Through good friends and teachers you trust you can make it. Your friends believe in you and push and encourage you. Your teachers make you believe in yourself and make you stronger.

We still can't really believe that we made it to another summer. But just like Elena just said....because of you, our family and friends, we made it. God gave us each of you! With God's strength and presence in our lives, you have encouraged us, prayed for us, and loved us through it all! Thank you!

We'll post May pictures soon!

In Him,
The Tates

"Look to the Lord and His strength, Seek His face always." Psalm 105:4



 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What We Have Been Up To

Are we already three months into 2014!?!

Time seems to be going by so quickly! Not quite sure how that happens when sometimes the weeks and even the days seem to drag on and last forever! 


Our weeks are still pretty hard as we try to keep up with schoolwork and homework. Sometimes all it feels like we do is work on incomplete schoolwork, do homework, work on a project, work on completing study guides, and study for tests. We all definitely live for Friday nights! Those nights are still our pizza and a movie night! No homework, just us relaxing.


So, since tonight was actually a light homework night, we thought we'd take a moment to share what we have been up to. Here's a recap month by month.


JANUARY

January began with going back to school after a glorious Christmas Break with family and friends. January also brought the birth of Carter Hankinson. Cori and Phil welcomed their second son into the world on January 10th. We went to visit them on the 19th. The girls love holding newborns as much as Mark and I do! 

We celebrated Liv's birthday on the 15th. She is a beautiful, smart, witty 12 year old with a great sense of fashion! Between Christmas and her birthday, she got two pairs of boots and a pair of shoes. She also planned a fabulous hot chocolate bar for her birthday party!


We also attended several events during our church's annual Missions Conference. It is always an amazing weekend learning more about what the missionaries and non-profit organizations we support are doing and learning about new ways we can serve others.


The end of January brought us two snow days! We love snow days more than we love Friday nights! 


On the last day of January, Elena received more of her re-immunizations. We go back for more at the end of April. 


FEBRUARY

On February 1st, Liv's school chorus sang at the Gwinnett Gladiators hockey game. It was great fun!

The girls went to the Winter Jam concert at the Georgia Dome with their youth group and we had a much needed date night!

Then February 11th - 14th brought four more snow days!! We had the best snowcation filled with sledding, snowman making, talking walks in the snow, watching movies, reading and napping! 


On the 26th, Elena had her regularly scheduled three month check up at Aflac with Dr. Lew. We LOVE him! He is the best doctor! He knows Elena so well and how to handle all things with her. Elena's counts were perfect according to him. He is so happy with her progress and we will go back to see him at the end of May. We also saw an endocrinologist for the first time. At this point, the doctor is going to simply monitor Elena's hormone levels for another six months before we have to make any decisions regarding possible hormone replacement treatments for Elena.


MARCH

Last month, brought Elena's induction into the Beta Club at school. It's mission is to promote academic achievement, character, service and leadership. Elena has already participated in two service events and is enjoying meeting new friends.

We are also on the hunt for a piano teacher for Liv. She decided that she would like to take lessons. 


Both girls are still taking dance classes and are learning the routines for their May recital.


Life is definitely feeling more and more normal and more settled. Each day, we feel like we are able to breath a little more easily. 


Next week brings our Spring Break. We are ready for a week of no school and no homework. It will bring us some much needed rest and relaxing. We are looking forward to fun filled days and nights replacing stressful, tiring ones. At least for a week. Then, we will be ready to tackle the final six weeks of the school year and all of the state tests and finals that come with it.


Thank you for continuing to pray for us and for being a part of this journey with us!!


In Him,

The Tates

"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom." 
Psalm 145:3

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's Eve!

 


We can't believe that another year is coming to an end.

2013 can be described in many ways. At times, it was hard, difficult, lonely, and filled with long, never ending days. At other times, it was happy, joy filled, and peaceful.

Looking back:
We rang in 2013 at home together. In April, Elena was able to return to school and church. Elena reached the one year anniversary of her bone marrow transplant. Liv graduated from fifth grade. Elena graduated from eighth grade. We spent a wonderful summer together doing all the things we couldn't do last summer. We went on a trip of a lifetime - Elena's Make A Wish trip to Hawaii. This fall, we slowly adjusted to new schools, new grades, and new schedules.

One thing we have come to realize is that every year is filled with joy and pain. What we are learning is how to continue to see God's faithfulness and blessings in both, how to see joy in each new day, how to appreciate the little things, how to let go, and how to breathe.  

No matter what challenges we continue to face, we are thankful for our many blessings.
We know that God is faithful and promises to carry us through the hard times. We are thankful for your presence in our lives, for continuing to ask how we are doing and how our girls are. Thank you for faithfully praying for our family. Your presence and prayers continue to encourage us daily.

We wish you a healthy and blessed 2014. We pray this new year will be a wonderful one!
As we move into a new year, we hope to use this blog to document many new joys and happy memories that we can look back on in the years to come. 

In Him,
The Tates

"Trust in Him at all times, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."
Psalm 62:8


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cooley's Fundraiser for CURE TODAY

Are you wondering what’s for 
lunch today or dinner tonight?!

Have Cooley’s Pizza and help support 
CURE Childhood Cancer

CURE Fundraiser at Cooley’s Pizza
TODAY- Tuesday, October 29th 
All Day
In Honor of Elena Tate and Abby Boone

25% will go to CURE Childhood Cancer

You can order online at http://cooleyspizza.com
or call:

Suwanee Location   
1120 Peachtree Ind. Blvd.
770-904-6463      

THANK YOU Andy and Courtney Cooley!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank You!!

The girls from the 2011 CURE Initiative photo shoot - before Elena relapsed in 2012

Thanks to our generous family and friends, we have met our goal of raising $2000 this month for CURE Childhood Cancer's research initiatives! Thank you for making a difference is the lives of children as CURE works to find better treatments for childhood cancer and most importantly to find a cure!

Thank you for loving us through the good and the bad! 
Thank you for joining us in the fight!




 Here's another picture from the 2011 CURE Initiative photo shoot.

Just because September is coming to an end, doesn't mean you still can't donate.
The girls' elementary school (& where Christy works) is have a Hat Day this Friday, September 27th, where students can donate $1 and wear a hat to school. All proceeds will be donated to CURE.



CURE's September Initiative: CURE's "Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time" continues all month. Click here for more information or to donate:


In Him,
The Tates

"For I know the plans I have for you." declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11