Leukemia ~Colorado Springs Cancer Photographer

Carter is our oldest son (and only son, actually), a sweet 5 1/2 year old boy. A few weeks ago, we noticed that Carter was getting tired really easily and was starting to look pale (which is really saying something since his complexion is normally already very Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost like). He was also complaining of stomach aches and random pains in different parts of his body. His doctor thought that they might be Abdominal Migraines(we hadn't ever heard of them either) and started him on some medication. The medication (at least we thought it was the meds) were making him even MORE tired. It was ridiculous. His teacher talked to me about how he was always so sluggish, he was falling asleep at his friends houses (SO unlike him), he couldn't wait for bed time, he wouldn't join in on my dance parties with the kids... things like that. His doctor asked to see him immediately, gave him an exam (a quite thorough one) and ordered some tests. During the exam he was asking us some very random questions ("Has he been waking up in the middle of the night?" Ummm... a little bit which IS strange for him. "Have his lips been fuller than normal?" Actually, yes. I had even commented to Bryan about that.) The doctor, who we just adore, assured us it was more than likely anemia and nothing more. While examining Carter he had spent WAY too long feeling around his arm pits. Of course the first thing we think is "lumps". I asked him why he was lingering there and he said he felt some VERY small masses. They were small and kinda squishy so they were more than likely nothing. He said if he wasn't looking for them specifically he wouldn't even have felt them. But he did have some reason for concern so he ordered tons of tests. We, of course, worried of the worst case scenario. After a lot of time waiting (it was only 6 or so hours but that's a LONG time when you're scared) we had to take Carter to get MORE blood drawn. By this point it was 4 in the afternoon and we were very worried we would have to wait through the weekend to find out what was going on since the pediatrician closed at 5. We were worried it was something serious... you know, like mono or pneumonia. (If only!!) Dr Kim (the ped) called a little after 5:00 and said he should know within the hour what the results were but that they had crossed off bone cancer and liver problems. That's good, but scary they were looking at things so serious. He had given the lab his cell phone number and had my number in his phone. About 6:30 the doctor texted me and said the lab was rechecking something but he should know within the next 30 minutes or so. I, once again, started to cry. Why on earth would they need to recheck normal lab results. Obviously something wasn't right. He finally called me a VERY long hour later (while Bryan was at Costco of course) with the news. He was 98% sure. He was SO sweet while talking to me. (What a HORRIBLE call to give!) He had been on the phone with the oncologist (whom he kept calling the hematologist- she's both- I think as to not further scare me) and with the hospitals all over Colorado Springs trying to find a bed. He sent us immediately to the closest one with an open bed and told us to cancel our trip to California next week.  He then asked me if I was religious and prayed with me over the phone. It made me love that doctor that much more. (He had BIG shoes to fill after my super awesome doctor in AZ.) The fact that he didn't care if it was breaking doctor rules was so great to me.  He just wanted to comfort a crying mother who had just received some very heartbreaking news.

After being a human pin-cushion over the next 24 hours, Carter was officially diagnosed with leukemia, specifically pre-B cell Acute Lymphoniblastic Leukemia. (A.L.L.) Of all the kinds of cancers, this is the "best" one. We were obviously devastated, as all of the worst-case scenarios flooded our minds. It was the beginning of a very scary journey. Thanks to some wonderful doctors and nurses, our minds were put a little at ease as they informed us that of all the types of leukemias, Carter has the most treatable and curable form. They taught us that leukemia, unlike solid cancers, is cancer of the blood. That means it is everywhere almost immediately (they think he's only had it two weeks or so), which makes early diagnosing and treatment very important. Carter's bone marrow, which usually makes all of his blood cells, was malfunctioning and only creating a type of white blood cell, B-cell, at a very rapid rate. So rapid in fact, that those types of cells took over the blood producing marrow and Carter was unable to produce oxygen carrying red blood cells, platelets that help with clotting, infection fighting white blood cells, etc. After a few platelet and blood transfusions, (and a formal diagnosing) Carter was taken to surgery where he was given a spinal tap, had a bone marrow biopsy (NOT transplant) from his little hip, and had a port placed in the left upper part of his chest, that will remain there for easy chemo treatments for the next few (2-3) years. This is the point we are at now. (It is SO strange to think that a little over 48 hours ago our lives were 100% different. 48 hours ago I couldn't even spell leukemia.-- although I bet Bryan could. He's quite the smarty pants.) The chemotherapy should begin to work immediately, and in the next week most of the cancer cells should be dead or dying. However, because leukemia goes wherever there is blood, which is just about every square millimeter of your body, it is very difficult to get rid of it completely without lengthy chemo treatments. So, the next 6 months will be a very intensive chemo regimen (during which Carter will lose his hair- hat time!!) followed by 2-3 years of maintenance chemotherapy. He will start losing his hair in a few weeks and be pretty darn miserable for the next 6 months. (And we hear we will too with the steroids they will be giving him. Turns him into a major crank, I guess.) But, obviously this will all be worth it to have our healthy little boy back. It's strange to think that when he finally gets this port out of his body he will be preparing to be baptized... that seems SO far away. Carter has been a real trooper. Aside from a few rough hours after surgery, he's been in good spirits and has been soaking up all the cute nurses and TONS of attention he's getting. He has borrowed a DS, watched movies on the iPad, watched Star Wars with Daddy late at night, gotten shakes, cookies, treats (as well as healthy food), and played countless games with Mom or Dad- one of which is always with him. This has obviously not been a fun experience for him, and will only get worse before it gets better, but he has had a pretty good attitude through it all, at least for a 5 year old with cancer. :) We are so blessed to have in our family. We know that this will be a learning experience for us all, and that we will grow closer as a family and closer to our Savior and Father in Heaven through this. We are absolutely amazed and blown away by the amount of support, prayers, thoughts, and fasting we have received the past two days. Our inboxes are literally busting at the seams. Our prayers are FULL of things to be thankful for. We are SO grateful my girls and Bryan and I are healthy. We are so grateful Carter is getting the help he needs. We are SO grateful for those kind souls that donate blood and platelets. We are so thankful for modern medicine. If this was 40 years ago there would have been NO hope. We are so grateful for perfect strangers that are praying and fasting for a little 5 year old boy they have never and more than likely will never meet. We are grateful for facebook! The word spread so fast through facebook which allowed so many more people to keep our little fighter in their prayers. We have definitely asked the question "Why?" through this. But not with anger. We wonder why the Lord has given us this challenge. What are we suppose to learn here?  How are we suppose to grow in order to learn what the Lord wants us to learn.  One thing we know for sure is that the Lord will NOT give us something we cannot handle.  We are going to kick the crap out of this cancer!  A few weeks ago I was listening to an old friend tell me about her 5 year old nephew with cancer.  I said to her, "I don't know how your brother and sister-in-law do it. That would literally kill me... watching my 5 year old suffer through cancer." (should have knocked on wood, I guess.) But, with the Lord's help, all is possible.

Things I never thought I would say that have come out of my mouth over the last 48 hours: ~I hope it's just pneumonia. ~My son has cancer? ~I'm so glad it's just Leukemia. ~This could be SO much worse. ~Let's dye Carter's hair blue!! It's gunna fall out anyways.  (**He wants green**) ~MAKE A WISH!?!? We get to apply for that? AWESOME! ~Do you think if we took Carter to Disneyland while he's still bald that they'll let us cut in front of everyone on all the lines? We should really look into that. ~"Hey Bryan, did you ever think we would spend our 8 year anniversary in the hospital room of our little boy with Cancer?" His response "Yep. I've been imagining this day since I was a little boy." (goofball) ~Man, having a kid with cancer really helps me take off those last few pounds. (Lost 3 already.) ~Our child WILL be a cancer survivor. Thank you everyone, once again, for the countless prayers. We can say without a shadow of a doubt, the prayers are the reason we are getting by. Our testimonies have only grown (not as fast as the cancer, but pretty darn fast!) and our Savior is near by. This is one of those times that He is carrying us, and we truly appreciate it. Our Father in Heaven loves our Carter as much as we do... and we will never ever doubt that. Hug your babies a little longer today; life changes quickly.

This little guy got some new legos because he was brave when he got his blood drawn