Tomorrow I will hold Justin’s hands and play his favorite song and rub his back while they place an IV and inject chemotherapy drugs into his little veins for the last time (barring relapse).
The drug he will be given causes heart inflammation, so he will, subsequently, take another round of steroids for the last time.
Justin’s body is tired, out of shape and swollen with extra weight due to the effects of steroids and chemo-mouth-induced salt cravings.
He does not remember what a “normal” life is like, and, now, he is expected to live one.
But, we will take it one step at a time, and we will get there. Justin is a survivor. The rest can be slowly fixed. He is here. He is a survivor.
I have never been so grateful.
I have not been a perfect cancer mom. I have made mistakes and I have failed. I am tired, burnt out, down twenty pounds and still vomiting a good amount of my daily food intake. But I am still getting up. I am still doing the best I can. And I think maybe that’s enough. Maybe it’s enough that I am still standing by his side.
God gave us a 9 lb. 13 oz. baby Justin on August 26, 2010. He was strong, funny, smart and loved to play with his Little Tykes t-ball set.
And then he left us for a while. He was here, physically, but too traumatized by pain and strung out on toxic drugs to be recognized.
Now God is giving him back to us. Scarred and changed, but the light has returned to his blue eyes and he is able to be funny again. Really funny, actually. He makes me laugh every day. And he knows things that other kids don’t know. He understands things about people and life and God that are well beyond his years.
May we never, ever get over this miracle. To God alone be all the glory and praise.
Stick around for pictures of Justin’s last chemo coming soon!
Why do people say “I know it like the back of my hand”? Do some people sit around staring at their hands? Not sure I even know what my hands look like, really.
Justin is having his usual ups and downs this chemo cycle. He has marked the twenty-fifth of March as “last cemo” on our over-loaded family calendar. Didn’t have the heart to correct his spelling. Who cares how to spell that word anyway.
Thank you for continued support and prayer.
I am physically here taking care of Justin’s many needs, driving Michael to baseball practice, helping Nicky with his homework.
But my mind has wandered off to a deserted island. And it won’t be spelling “help” in seashells on the beach because it doesn’t want to be found.
Justin’s end of treatment celebration will be…
Saturday, April 27th in the pavilion and playground of James G. Atkinson Memorial Park at 138 Bethel Mill Rd., Sewell, NJ.
Come anytime from 1-4pm for snacks, fun and a big game of kickball at Justin’s request. Yes, even I will play!
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me. Psalm 13:6
March 25, 2019.
Justin will receive his last infusion of chemotherapy on this day.
We are planning an open house-type celebration at a local park this Spring. More details on this to come…
We are coming up on a MAJOR hurdle but this is not, in fact, the finish line. As of the end of March, Justin will no longer receive treatment, but he will still be seen in clinic every month for a physical exam and CBC. The following year, fifth and final, we will make the trip to clinic once every other month. Medical exams, heart monitoring and needle sticks will still very much be a part of his life until Justin is declared completely cancer-free.
Justin must remain in remission for a total of five years to be considered cured.
We are staying ever-positive and hopeful, but, of course, without the regular infusions of cancer-suppressing drugs, concern over relapse becomes far greater.
I am elated and I am terrified. Our hope is in the Lord.
Tomorrow. Justin’s last spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture. He has had twenty-seven.
Tomorrow. For the last time, we will drug him with Ativan for his copious needle anxiety, refuse him food (because he has to fast), support him while they place an IV, then sit close to his face while they prep and sedate him. A large needle will then be injected into his spine, withdrawing fluid and inserting methotrexate (a highly toxic drug, but one which, thankfully, kills cancer cells) directly into his central nervous system. His little spine and developing brain. He will be conscious. He will feel the pain of the needle. But, too loopy to cry out, a single, large tear will run down his face. Then, mercifully, Justin will fall asleep for a bit, only to wake up to his favorite foods.
That last part isn’t so bad.
Tomorrow. For the last time, we will schedule another round of chemo. Tomorrow, we will have a date ready to announce for his last treatment!
If Justin does not relapse, that is. He will not be considered cured until March 2021. But we have to believe he will make it. We have to believe he will survive.
Tonight, Justin and I talked about what we think a “superhero” actually looks like. And we agree on this. A hero isn’t the strongest or the smartest or the fastest. A hero is one who gets knocked down and KEEPS GETTING UP.
We talked about how God has allowed and helped Justin to keep getting up.
We are endlessly grateful.
Thank you for continued prayer and support. Don’t miss the exciting series finale coming soon!
Been thinking a lot about this lately. Not really sure why, but it prompted me to resurrect this fictional story I wrote a few years ago. Thinking about how Jesus was able to forgive, even those who put him on a cross, moves my heart attitude to a really good, grateful place. Maybe it will for you, too. Please keep in mind this is historical fiction, a mere creation from my mind based on true events. But. I believe it is possible that events similar to this one may have actually occurred…
The Roman Soldier’s Wife (March 31, 2015)
It was evening when my husband came through the door. His face was not contorted with vexation, as was his usual greeting, but set in a weary, bewildered expression. His tunic and leather lappets were spattered considerably with blood.
I knew as much to quickly hush the children and hustle them into the back room. I kissed them good night and told them to lie very still.
Hurriedly, I began to prepare a meal for my husband. Wearing only a loincloth, he was sitting with his head in his hands. My eye caught sight of bloody clothes on the floor as I brought the wine and food.
I stood beside him ready to serve. He drank the wine but did not eat. He grunted at me, and I poured more wine. He gulped it quickly and, again, motioned for more. Staggering a bit, he disappeared into the other room. I did not move until I heard him breathing loudly. Then I cleaned up his untouched meal and shuddered as I got to work on the bloody clothes.
As I scrubbed vigorously, blood ran from the wool tunic over my fingers and down into the pail of water. I was no stranger to what my husband did as a soldier and I knew very well of what he was capable at home. I thought about what I had heard earlier that day while I was out in the court washing clothes with the other women. The Jews wanted to kill a man who claimed he was the Son of God, but Pontius Pilate said he couldn’t find any fault in him.
My thoughts were interrupted as my husband called out. I jumped and my heart was momentarily gripped in fear. I dreaded going to him but I knew it was better than him looking for me. When I reached the room, he was asleep, drenched in sweat, his face twisted in anguish. I waited. He called out again. His words were unintelligible, but he seemed to be calling for help.
I returned to my work and my thoughts. Could this be the blood of the Jewish man who claimed to be the Son of God? Had my husband assisted in putting him to death? I listened to him call out in his sleep again and wondered what it was that tormented him. My friends, in the court, today had also said that Pontius Pilate offered Barabbas, a murderer, and the Jewish man, Jesus, to the mercy of the crowd; one would be released and the other crucified. The Jews had chosen Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified!
I was sitting on the floor by the window as I worked. The moon illuminated crimson stains on my husband’s leather lappets. Dipping a rag into the pail of water, I tried to wipe them clean. I had seen men hanging from crosses along the road and, always, I shielded my eyes. I felt a tug in my heart for this man, Jesus, who suffered the horrible fate of the cross and, it seemed to me, all very unfair. Tears ran down my face as I pondered it all.
I suddenly wished I had met this Jesus whose blood was, perhaps, on my fingers, now splashed on my tunic and still on my husband’s lappets. Not managing to get anything clean, I sat idle among the bloodstained clothes, crying softly, face turned toward the moonlight.
Lost in thought, I hadn’t noticed the figure looming over me. He took a step forward. Startled, I retreated into the corner and pulled my legs against my chest. I waited for the insults to come but there was only silence. I dared to look up. My husband’s eyes were wild, but not with rage and fury. He appeared like something I had never seen before. On his massive, muscular frame, that had struck fear in the heart of many, was the face of a helpless child.
Falling to his knees, my husband gently touched the bloody lappets that were lying abandoned on the floor. Then he looked into my eyes and spoke. He said that he had, indeed, participated in crucifying a man called Jesus. He spoke of the beating, scourging, mocking. His voice broke when he told of how they spat upon him. He said that through it all, Jesus never opened his mouth in defense or retribution.
His voice faltered again when he spoke of Jesus calling out to his Father, asking Him to forgive the very ones who had nailed him to a cross. Weighted by grief and laden with regret, my husband’s words seemed to pelt me like a rainstorm made of lead droplets.
My husband went on to say that all night he had dreamed of Jesus. He saw the blood, the nails, and the pain-filled, sad eyes of Jesus. He saw Jesus helpless and dying on the cross. But, still, in the dream, it was he who needed help and felt the need to call out for it repeatedly.
I listened in amazement. This hardened, cruel man, who, on more than one occasion, laughed as he recounted the torture of another at his own hands, was exposing emotions I didn’t think existed. This same man, who considered me a slave rather than his wife, was speaking to me as an equal and making eye contact for the very first time.
Something had changed. Something impossible now seemed not entirely too far from my grasp. Could there be life outside of constant fear and suffering? Was it possible for me to be truly loved? Could I forgive my husband? Again, I felt a tug in my heart towards this Jesus, a man I had never seen nor met.
My husband moved toward me and I, instinctively, shrank backward. Understanding the movement, he buried his face in my hair and, folding his huge body against the wall, he began to weep. Over and over, he repeated, me paenitet. Me paenitet. Me paenitet.
I felt waves of joyous shock emanating through me at this apparent softening occurring in my husband’s heart. Then my mind suddenly returned to the afternoon. While the other women and I were in the court doing wash as the children played, the sky had unexpectedly become very dark and the ground shook violently. Grabbing our children by their hands, we had left the wash and ran inside, terrified.
A thought that seemed to enter my mind instead of being formed by it made my heart seize then push hard against bone and flesh.
I put my arms around my husband’s trembling body. A sudden peace replaced the pounding in my heart as I understood truth. Just as dawn was approaching and first light streaming in, I lifted my husband’s face to mine and looked into his tear-filled eyes. I said one thing before we drifted off to sleep, together, on the floor as the sun was rising.
“Truly, Jesus was the Son of God.”
Please give! (Graphic by Joe Baber, fierce childhood cancer advocate)
Blood transfusions saved Justin’s life several times. So get your chocolates, roses and cards then give blood!