This girl. There truly aren’t words to express how much I love her. She is a light to her family. She is a rock. She is soft spoken and kind. She is silly and so so so sweet. She is mature and wise beyond her years. My heart just melts for her and with each passing day I love her more.

She was there for Carter when he was diagnosed (they were only 5 and 6 years old!) and went through all of his cancer treatment by his side. She even dyed a lock of that beautiful hair green when he dyed his before he lost it all. They use to play for hours together… and still do sometimes. I adore every little bit of her. (And I wouldn’t be sad if she and Carter got married… don’t tell them I’m scheming to find a way! ;))

The End of the Road

There are not words to express my love and admiration for this little man.  He is courageous, sweet, brave, smart, silly, funny, and an amazing brother and son.  Not a day goes by that Bryan and I don't thank our Father in Heaven for allowing this sweet boy to continue living here on earth with us.  We would be lost without him.  This Friday will mark the last day of his long, LONG, LOOOOONG fight against Leukemia.  I remember blogging about this every step of the way when he first got sick.  I would use my blog as a form of therapy.  I could get stuff off my chest.  I remember blogging that he would nearly be 9 when he would be done with his treatment.  And now here we are… he's almost done with his treatment… almost done with cancer… almost done with third grade… and almost 9.  Carter, you have touched so many lives throughout the last 3 years, two months, and 5 days.  It has been a rewarding journey in so many ways but one I pray you will never have to relive.  

8 year old boy in blue sweater smiles in snow

sweet smile from a cancer fighting boy in the snow


The Teen, the Tween, and the Puppy {Colorado Springs Teen Photographer}

black forest boy leaning on trees and squatting Newfoundland dog with great rim lighting

gymnast poses in sunlight and balance beam

I had a lot of fun shooting these guys.  Their mom is amazing.  She's one of my sweet, sweet friends.  She'll never be able to get rid of me, the poor thing!  She was Carter's Kindergarten teacher when he was diagnosed with Leukemia.  She was one of the very first people who knew he was sick.  She noticed things that maybe a normal teacher wouldn't have.

She has taught my middle child as well and we can't wait until it's Preslee's turn!  Her kids were so sweet and put up with my turning, shifting, adjusting during the entire shoot!



Miss Morgan~ Colorado Springs Senior Photographer

I just randomly stumbled upon Morgan and it look me all of 2 seconds to become a huge fan of hers!  You know how you can just meet someone and tell that they have been raised well?  Morgan's one of those.  Her mom (along with her ADORABLE southern accent) was so sweet as well.  Morgan suffered through the freezing weather on our shoot with a smile on her face the entire time!  And, as if she's not already a total superstar, she wants to be a Pediatric Oncologist and works with childhood cancer patients during the summer!  That, obviously, is something near and dear to my heart.

Two Whole Years~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

leukemia boy colorado springs I'm back!  I know... can you even believe it?  It's been a LONG time coming but my new website and blog are up and going without a million bugs and WITH my old blogs.  I can't believe how hard it was to get everything back to how I wanted it.  (That's a whole other story I won't go into right now...)

Anyways, it's great timing because today is Carter's TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!  I canNOT believe that it's been TWO entire years since  I got this horrific phone call.  It all seems like a dream now.  It seems like it happened yesterday and like it happened a lifetime ago at the same time.  Our lives have changed so drastically.  It's been two entire years since I have gone to sleep NOT worrying about my son's health.  It's been two entire years since Bryan and I have NOT talked about childhood cancer.  It's been two entire years since we haven't had daily concern about how this is affecting our daughters.  It's been two entire years since we took our little, tiny seemingly healthy boy into the hospital thinking about how on earth we were going to explain to him that he had cancer... and wondering how much detail to give him, not sure if he would grow up to tell people about his experience.

I can say, without a shadow of a doubt that our family is stronger because of what we have been through.  We rely heavily on each other (we rely even on the girls, believe it or not).  We rely more heavily on faith.  Without our knowledge of eternal families and angels and prayer, I think I'd be much more of a wreck than I currently am.

There are still days (frequently) that I cry because of what Carter is going through.  I don't know that it will ever get "easy".  Most of the time we are use to what we are going through.  Sometimes, we are even grateful.  And always we are at peace with it.

In the past year Carter has been hospitalized three times.  (One time we were on vacation in Utah!!)  He has had countless shots, tons of X-Rays, several Priesthood blessings (including one from President Uchtdorf!!), had his chemo held more than I like to think about, had numerous G.I. issues, had a bit of a rough summer, and has struggled through Maintenance, when most children thrive.

But, all that being said, he is doing great.  His attitude is amazing.  He deals with his lot with maturity and peace.  He loves going to chemo and never complains about taking his nightly oral chemo.  We are all use to his steroid cheeks and the ever changing side-affects.  We thank our Father in Heaven every day for our health, including Carter's, because as I have said a million times before, it could be SO much worse.  He WILL beat this.  Next May I will write a post that is titled "Carter is Officially Cancer Free!!" and I CANNOT wait for that day to come!  He's such a fighter and God truly chose wisely when he gave him this trial.

Seems only appropriate that he got to spend the day down at the clinic getting his big monthly dose of chemo today, on his two year mark.  We took the kids to breakfast to celebrate and tonight we will have spaghetti and donuts, as he has requested.  :)

ALL getting accessed colorado springs colorado springs blood draw colorado springs leukemia boy playing xbox little boy in hospital colorado springs sterile colorado springs


Our Boy ~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

Carter is one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.  When I think about how lucky we are to call him his parents I just nearly pee my pants!  He's so brave.  He has gone through more in the last 17 months than I have been through my entire life.  He truly takes things like a man.  I VERY rarely see him get frustrated or down about his lot in life.  He's optimistic.  He's brilliant.  He's so darn cute without those front teeth.  He knows he's not s physically able as his friends to do things but tries to keep things in perspective. ("I know someday I will be able to ride my bike and play sports.")

Sometimes I watch what he goes through and I cry with him or for him.  Watching him struggle breaks my heart.  Not being able to take it away from him breaks it even more.  He is mature beyond his years (I'm sure I will need to be reminded of this when he's a crazy teenager) and an absolute joy to have him around.  I can't image our lives any other way than the way they are now.


Those steroid cheeks are a way of life for him.  They will eventually (in over two years) go back to normal.  When I see pictures of him like this it doesn't even look like him.  But his smile is still Carter's smile and his eyes still twinkle like they always have.

This is my Glimpses 52 Image for the week for Chic Critique  Forum.

Exploring~ Pikes Peak Children Photographer

It seems like every time my parents come up it's because something major has happened  (and I don't mean that in a good way). They don't get to come up "just because" all that often and when they do it's only for a few days.  I prefer their visits to be a week long... or longer.  :)  This time was close: 5 days.  Hey!  We'll take it! We spent Memorial Day up in the mountains exploring and getting some beautiful fresh air.  I think spending the day in the mountains with Bryan and my kids (and any other family that may be in town) is probably my most favorite thing to do.  It always feels like we are completely alone... like we have an entire world to discover.  This day was no exception.

This is my Glimpses 52 Chic Critique submission for the week... just barely squeaked it in!

Denver Butterfly Pavilion~ Denver Nature Photographer

Yesterday we took the kids to the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver.  It was really cool!  We had heard from a lot of people that it was worth going to and they were right!  The kids loved it.   They had more than just butterflies as you can see above.  They have a tarantula named Rosie that you can hold if you are one of the courageous folk.  I'm not.  :)  Then, if you are REALLY psychotic, you can even hold a huge roach.  SERIOUSLY!?!?  I wonder how many people actually do that.  I'd rather get a root canal.  Not kidding.

There were some beautiful butterflies that fluttered all around you (kind of alarming at times).  The kids were in complete awe.  (These butterfly pictures haven't been edited at all.  And I have tons more... just posting only a few since you probably don't care all that much.)

After we saw all the animals we went on the "Nature Walk" outside.  It was about 1/3 of a mile and had some cool birds as well as TONS of groundhogs!  I've never seen a groundhog before but these guys had a MAZE of tunnels they would pop out of. They were so cute!  (Although I'm glad they aren't doing that to my front yard.)  There were adult ones as well as baby ones.


This is my Chic Critique Forum Glimpses 52 submission for the week.

Karate Kid~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

A few months ago we put Carter into Kenpo Karate.  He's be interested in Karate (what little boy isn't) forever!  We opted for things like soccer and basketball to encourage all different kinds of sports.  Since he's been sick and has little to no energy, we thought karate would be a good way to strengthen his leg muscles and get him into some sort of sport.  He's really loving it and it's offered at our community center by a 3rd degree black belt. His teacher's name is Miss Natalie and she's great with Carter and the other little boy in the class.  We practice during the week and after a few months of lessons and practicing he was ready to test for his yellow belt.

He did great and got his yellow belt.  Addilyn has also decided that karate would be much more fun than dance and has opted to quit dance and start karate next month once she turns 5.  I'm excited for her.  Here's hoping that she'll get good enough to fight all those boys off in a few ( like 25) years!

The most rewarding thing for me is to see him getting stronger.  He's still MUCH weaker than the other kid in his class (who is a year younger than him) but most of his weakness is in his legs, and karate is a lot of leg work.  So, any improvement is great.  He's doing so amazing, and, as always, we are so stinking proud of him!

This is my Glimpses 52 Project picture for Chic Critique this week.

Mondays and an Expodisc~ Colorado Springs Photographer

A while back I invested in something called an Expodisc.  I had heard great things about it and it was relatively inexpensive (as far as photography investments go).  I tried to get use to it, got a little overwhelmed and confused, and ultimately, gave up. Didn't your mom (or someone who knew what they were talking about) ever tell you to NEVER give up?  Well, recently while on Chic Critique Forum, (this is my Glimpses 52 image for the week) someone was talking about their Expodisc.  It put a little bur under my saddle so I'm trying to get the hang of it again.  Potentially, it could save me tons of time!  IF (fat "if") I get use to it and use it all the time my white balance would always be spot on and I wouldn't have to change it in Photoshop.

So, here's my experimenting tonight:

This picture is just having my white balance on Auto (AWB).  If you look at the things that are suppose to be white, it's clear to see that the color is completely off.  (For example, the word "Shield" is white in real life.)

Side note:  We are NOT giving Carter the drug "meth".  He takes a medication called Methotrexate... but occasionally, joking around, we say he's a meth head.  :)

At that point I tried to use the Expodisc.  I had the exposure correct for the meds (or whatever the subject may be), held the Expodisc up against the lens of my camera, and took a picture.  It was mostly black.  I went into my camera settings, changed the white balance to "Custom" and set the custom white balance on that picture that I had just taken that was mostly black.  Then I snapped another picture of the meds.  This is what I got.

Ummm... a swing and a miss.  Wow.  I would say this picture's just a LITTLE green.  :)  Next attempt was to put the Expodisc back on and take another picture (leaving the exposure the same) of the light source.  In this case, that was the Tungsten pendent lights above the meds.  This is what my picture WITH the Expodisc looked like.

This is SUPER green.  I'm sure it's because I had just totally screwed up my custom white balance a second before.  I then set this picture above as my new Custom White Balance setting, and tried once again to take a picture of the meds.  This is what I got.

It's perfect!  This image is straight off the camera.  Nothing has been done to it.  I feel like I can handle the Expodisc indoors... now to conquer handling it in back lit shade lighting...  :)

Next, about the pictures.  Carter is on tons of meds.  (Duh.)  Monday nights are his big night.  He has 2-3 different kinds of medications depending on the Monday night we are dealing with.  He has at least 8 pills (upwards of 10 on occasion).  If he's awake he takes them fine.  If he's sleeping?  Well, that's a different story.  He is SOOOOOOOO  (SO!) hard to wake up.  It takes us several minutes to wake him up.  Often times it involves removing any and all covers, turning on his light, using loud voices, splashing him with water, sitting him up... you name it, we've tried it.  Once we have him sitting we reach for the meds and turn around to find him snuggled up again on his pillow.  So, next time we hold his arm while reaching for the meds and water.  He will take a sip of water and lay back down, assuming he has taken his pills.  We finally recorded it (because he absolutely does NOT believe us in the morning when we tell him how silly he was being) so he could see himself.  He laughed the entire way through it.

He's seriously such a trooper... especially after weeks like this past one.  It was one of the hardest we have had and it's not letting up a whole lot.  He's finally making it through an entire day of school today (an hour and a half to go!).  Something he hasn't done for over a week.  Poor guy.  Two years and one month to go... but who's counting.

Love Notes~ Colorado Springs Photographer

What mama in the world doesn't love a little Love Note from their little ones?  (I see no one has raised her hand...)  Moms love notes.  They love ones that are just scribbles when our babies are just wee ones.  We love ones that are full of misspellings when they are learning to write.  Even though I'm not there yet, I'm sure I'll love ones when they are off at college and missions.  And, while I have quite some time before this one, I'm sure I'll love ones when they are married and parents themselves stating that I WAS right all those years ago when they thought I was a complete buffoon.  :) This love note is special.  It's written on the back of a note pad.  You know when you use all the paper and there's just that piece of  cardboard on the back of it that you just chuck?  Except this one isn't garbage.  Carter wrote us this note and set it on our bathroom counter about a week before he was diagnosed.  As bad as it is to admit, I wasn't planning on keeping it.  I hadn't gotten around to throwing it away when we were faced with our son maybe not living a full, long, healthy life.  At that moment, that little piece of garbage became one of my most prized possessions.  It's been on my mirror since then and every day it makes me smile and thank our Lord for letting us fight this fight.  

Side note: the note above that is a VERY sweet card from my bestest friend.  She's amazing and has had a rough go the past few months.  I heart her and I'll keep her note forever and ever along with Carter's.

Chic Critique Forum Glimpses 52 picture for the week.

A Year In~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

One Year.  It's been an entire year since we took our sweet little tired 5 year old to the hospital.  An entire year since we were told by a doctor, who we would grow very close to very quickly, that we would get use to our "new normal".  An entire year since we had to call family and close friends and tell them of the battle we had ahead.  An entire year since I spent hour after hour sobbing and searching for faith, relying on everything I had been taught since a baby.  An entire year since we had to explain to Carter that a good part of his childhood would be filled with hospital visits, pokes in the port (oh- had to explain to him what that was-- after it was explained to us), pokes in the arm, pokes in the finger.  An entire year since I started giving myself internal pep talks, reminding myself that I CAN do this and I'll do it with a smile on my face, dang it!  (At least in public. :))  An entire year since we were faced with the realization that we would have to FIGHT to keep our son alive. And what a year it has been!!!  I would like to say that the biggest thing we have learned over the course of the last 365 day (or is is 366 days since it's leap year?) are facts about Leukemia.  Don't get me wrong; I've learned more about Leukemia than I EVER thought I would know.  But we have also learned so so SO much more.

~We have learned how to lean on each other.

~We have learned to rely on God and exercise our faith.

~We have learned that it's ok to be served (this was a hard one for me... I think all us mommies want to be Super-Moms).

~We've learned that we can drive to the hospital with our eyes closed (don't worry... we don't do it... just sayin' we could if we wanted to).

~We have learned how to unaccess his port at home.

~We have learned how to give him chemotheropy through his port on more than one occasion.

~We have been to the ER 4 times.... or is it 5?  We have taken advantage of having a radiologist as a neighbor in order to get discharged from the hospital faster.  (Don't look at me like that!  You would too if you were a frequent flier over there.  And he doesn't mind!)  *** Tangent Coming*** The most recent time into the ER is right now.  Carter woke up with  fever of 104 so off we went.  (It was Bryan's turn.  I took the girls to church.)  Don't worry, they are on their way home right now. They think it was just a random virus that in a normal person would have passed without even being noticed.

~Carter has been poked (this is a guess on the low end) at LEAST 75 times between the port, arm, and finger.  (Usually arm or port.)  (Bryan thinks it's closer to 100.)

~We have learned that we are loved by so many people.  We have people follow his story that don't know him or us all that well.  We are prayed for by people everywhere.  Nothing warms my heart like hearing my friends tell me that their little ones pray for Carter.  So sweet!

~We have learned that PRAYERS ARE HEARD!  They are answered.  We have a very loving Father in Heaven that is healing our son.  I am not taking credit away from science.  For the first time in my life I actually APPRECIATE science. (I stand corrected to my 16 year old self who hated science more than words.)  But, at the end of the day, God decides.  The ball is in HIS court.  If he wants our baby to live, he will (and he WILL!).  If it's his time to go home (it's NOT!) then that's what is going to happen at the end of all this.

We have grown closer to close friends, gained an entire new circle of friends at the Pediatric Oncology Clinic, and cried more than one time to our moms.  (Ok, I've done the crying... to both moms... :))  We have grown to love Dr. Cook and Dr. Reaves so very much for the interest that have taken in this journey we are taking as a family and the unconditional love they have shown Carter... and the patience they have shown me. :)  Our family is closer than it was a year ago.  Our marriage is stronger than it was a year ago (and it was already pretty awesome, all thanks to Bryan).  We hug our babies tighter.  We tease Carter about how we are going to poke his port.  We tease Addilyn about how we should shave her head like  Carter's (was) so they look more alike.  We have planned our super awesome Make-A-Wish trip (first week of this December!!!).  We have witnessed the merciful hand of God.  We think it's funny that our two year old knows that "Cawter at chemo."  We are the proud owners of a DS (SWORE I'd never let my kids have one) that Carter can only play at chemo.

In short (who am I kidding?  This post is anything but short) it has been quite a year.  And we have survived it!  That in itself is something to be proud of.  We are use to our new life.  We enjoy our time together.  We have adjusted and are loving our lives.  We thank our Father in Heaven daily for the health that we have and for how well Carter is handling this.  We are thankful that THIS is our trial and not something else.  There are so many things that could have happened that I don't think I could have survived.  (Although I don't think I would have said we could have survived this.)

We love our life!  We love our battle and we love our Savior, Father in Heaven, and guardian angels (oh yes, they DO exist!!) for helping us face this day after day.  Carter is the toughest little guy around. He tougher than any football player in the world in my book!

Side Note:  I had big plans to take some pictures of Carter today playing Legos and being a "normal" little boy... but plans changed.  So, we have pictures of him passed out on my bed because as he declared to Bryan on the way home from the hospital, "Dad, I'm gunna find the first soft thing I come to when I get inside and take a nap!"

This is my Glimpses 52 Project for this week for Chic Critique Forum.

Our Own Miracle~ Colorado Springs Cancer Photographer

**Note: this is long. Deal with it. My blog. My miracle. I can be long-winded if I want. :)**

You always hear about those amazing miracles that happen to people. You read about them. People share experiences in church. But this week was OUR turn. We've had a rough year. Usually, it's fine. But let's be honest. No one wants their little boy to be diagnosed with cancer. And when that horrific thing DOES happen, you think "Surely the dear Lord wouldn't give us any more trials. Surely THIS is all we can handle and still actually function."

Well, this week our world turned up-side-down all over again.  A few weeks ago I was chatting with Carter's oncologist, Dr. Reaves, about his very uncooperative liver.  She suggested we test him for Hepatitis C.  She followed this suggestion with, "I'm SURE he doesn't have it. But let's just cross it off the list."  I agreed, giving it no more than a fleeting thought.

Fast forward a week, she called me to let me know about his current liver counts and then told me his Hep C test came back in the "Gray Zone".  That means that is wasn't negative.... wasn't necessarily positive, but it wasn't negative.  She said we would retest him when he came back in in a few days, reassuring me that it was merely a mistake.  After all, he doesn't shoot up (we keep the drug use to chemo drugs :)), he's not having sex (that we are aware of :)), I was pretty darn sure I don't have it so he couldn't have been born with it, and the chances of him getting it from a blood transfusion are anywhere between 1 in 2 million to 1 in 10 million.  So, surely it was a mistake. 

Fast forward again to Monday night, February 13th.  We were dropping Valentine's off to my kid's best friends (Chelsea and her kids).  They wanted to play for a minute so we went in.  While we were there (I'm so glad I was with her and not alone since Bryan was working), Dr. Reaves called me with some VERY unexpected news. "His Hepatitis C test came back positive. I am so sorry."  We asked if there could be ANY mistake?  Could it be a false positive?  No.  He had (basically) 2 positive tests.  One non-negative and one positive. There was no mistake. Then it got even worse.  Dr. Reaves continued, "If he DID get this from a transfusion, we need to be safe and test him for HIV."  Raise your hand if your 6 year old has been tested for HIV... no one?  So we're alone on that one?

We were STUNNED.  How could this have happened?  Who dropped the ball here?  What kind of irresponsible _____ (fill in any nasty word you want there) would donate DIRTY blood?  Who is responsible for RUINING my child's life?  Cancer goes away.  Hep C? That doesn't.  Immediately, Bryan did as much research as he could. I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  Then I cried some more.
Bryan and I were both a little mad.  What kind of God would do this to our little boy who has already been to hell and back in the last 11 months?  Why would God give us this trial on top of what we are already dealing with?  Why would He give CARTER this trial?  Would Carter give it to his wife?  His children?  Would he even be alive long enough for that to happen?  What would take him?  Liver cancer? Liver disease?  And how long until that happened?  And all of this because someone was irresponsible.
The anger went away.  Quickly.  The sadness did not.  I cried all Monday night.  I woke up and laid in bed and cried more on Tuesday morning.  I wanted answers.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  And not just any prayers.  We prayed for a straight up miracle.  We didn't ask for a miracle with the cancer.  I knew before they told me for sure that it was cancer that he had cancer and that we would have to see it through to the end.  I knew cancer was our battle to fight.  I told Bryan that we couldn't be angry with God if we wanted him to heal our son.  Bryan had given Carter a blessing on Monday night.  It was a good one.
By Tuesday evening we had some statistics that were more reassuring.  We felt peace.  Not because of the stats but because we knew everything would be ok.  We weren't sure what "ok" meant.  We just knew things would work out the way they were suppose to.  We asked our siblings, parents, Bishop, and Relief Society President to join us in a fast on Wednesday.   We asked them to fast for a miracle.
We know God loves us.  We have NEVER doubted that.  We know he hears our prayers.  We know he is there.  But we also know that things are on HIS terms.  If it is not meant for our little boy to be healed, then he won't.  And we were also ok with that.  We were ok with however this was going to work out.   We had no choice, once again, but to put our son's life in the hands of our loving Father in Heaven.
Before anyone knew (even our siblings) the Bishop had texted Bryan. He said he had been thinking of our family and wanted to check in. We knew that was the Lord's way of telling us that He was there; that he was hearing our desperate prayers.  The Bishop was in tune and listening to the spirit and I am SO grateful that he listened and texted Bryan.  That attention and little prompting was something we needed to know that He was there for us.
Wednesday was long.  We waited patiently for test results for Bryan and myself.  (We went with Carter to get tested on Tuesday evening. We wanted to make sure Bryan and I didn't have it- therefore giving it to Carter- and Carter's test was being sent to Mayo Clinic to see how concentrated the virus was in his body. It's called a Viral Load test.)
We continued to feel peaceful and informed those who absolutely had to know... his teacher, the school nurse... people like that. The list was limited. We didn't know what kind of beast we were dealing with quite yet so we wanted to keep things quiet until we did.
We had a lot of answers from the Internet. By this point we knew that the chances of him passing it to his wife were less than 1%.  Even if she DID get it, the chances of their children getting it at birth were less than 5%.  Even if they ended up with it, the chances of their little bodies fighting it off by the time they were 2 was very good.  We also knew that the chance of him getting liver disease and then a liver transplant were only about 25%. We knew that his chances of it morphing into liver cancer in about 20 years were only about 4%. All of this was very encouraging.
However, we also knew that only about 15% of normal, HEALTHY people are able to fight if off with or without the use of chemotherapy.  Yep.  Treatment for HepatitisC is 48 weeks of intense chemo.  And it's super nasty stuff. Interferon. It's for sure going to make him sick and often times they wait until the kids are teens to even treat it because of how sick it makes them.  Because of his cancer, Carter's chances of fighting it off were about 0%.  His immune system is pretty much nonexistent.  Wasn't going to happen.  Not while he was getting treated for his cancer, anyway.  We also knew that he more than likely wouldn't be able to start the treatment until after his cancer is completely gone.  We would be taking weekly trips to Denver.  He gets a daily pill and interferon through an IV each week.  (Hopefully they just leave his port in and use that?)
Thursday Bryan and I went in to see Dr. Reaves. We had a million questions. When would treatment start?  When would we find out what strain of Hep C it was?  What were the chances of his body just fighting this off by itself? Why hasn't the chemotherapy, which had killed nearly everything in his body-including him- killed the hepatitis?  Could we be compensated?  We don't want the money right now, but what if his family needs it?  What if he can't get medical insurance?  And who in their right mind will give him life insurance?  And how on earth is his wife suppose to pay for a funeral?  For those reasons, we wanted money. 
Dr. Reaves didn't have a ton of answers. (We knew she wouldn't. She was referring us to a pediatrichepatologist in Denver.)  She DID, however, have mine and Bryan's test results back.  Negative.  Carter for sure got hepatitis from a blood transfusion.  Unreal.  She was hoping that by early next week we would have Carter's test results in and we could move forward with how to get him the help he needed.  She also knew at that point that his HIV test was negative.  Phew.  
My parents flew up Wednesday night to help us get through this.  We were sitting around trying to get our mind off things late Thursday night (10:15) when my phone rang.  It was Dr. Reaves.  She had his test results (much earlier than she thought she would).  I put her on speaker because I knew that Bryan would have different questions than I would.  To our complete astonishment, they were NEGATIVE. There was NO sign of active hepatitis C virus in his body.  It was a miracle. It was the sheer grace of God.  We were, once again, completely stunned and speechless.
His immune-deficient, sick, suffering little body had miraculously fought off this hepatitis C.  This should NOT have happened.  Carter has been in the most intense part of his chemotherapy.  This disease should have thrived in his body.  Dr. Reaves is as stunned as we are. She has no scientific explanation.  She has a million questions.  She wants to run more tests and see if he has the antibodies for it. (Antibodies are the leftovers... kind of like the immunity for it.  He would only have that if he had Hep C at some point. This could for sure be what flagged the tests in the first place.)
To say we feel blessed is the biggest understatement ever.  Calling Bryan's parents and telling them... calling my sweet Grandma and telling her the whole story... telling our siblings that their fasting and prayers had been answered.  Telling sweet Carter that his liver was going to be ok... it was all so rewarding.  After a year of so many lows and a few highs, having news like this to share is so wonderful.  I wanted to call CNN and tell them!
We know the angels around us went to bat for us.  We know they pleaded our case to our Father in Heaven.  I know one of those angels was my grandpa.  I had an out loud conversation through my tear-stained eyes on Tuesday morning begging him to go ask Heavenly Father face to face to heal my little boy; to not make him suffer more than he already has.  I know he did that.  I know he, along with Bryan's grandfathers went and talked some sense into God. :) (Although, I'm sure the sense was already there... :))
We celebrated! We celebrated our child NOT having Hepatitis C.  We celebrated him NOT having HIV.  We celebrated him ONLY having cancer.  What a wonderful, miraculous thing!  Our Father in Heaven loves us.  He knows us.  He DOES hear our prayers.  And he DOES answer them... sometimes He even answers them the way you want them answered.  We are so grateful to have our little boy with us still and to have him only have ONE disease.  YAY!

This is my weekly Chic Critique Forum Glimpses 52 picture, by the way. 

Seriously?!~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

We have ran full speed to meeting our medical deductible.  And I mean, SPRINTING towards it.  Carter managed to fall off our kitchen table bench on Saturday, breaking his ulna at his elbow.  Yep.  Broken elbow.  As my brother so rightly put it, "It's about time he has a normal little boy experiance."  Yup.  Agreed.

When Carter takes his monthly steroids his bones weaken.  The steroids make his bone marrow release all of their white bood cells into the blood stream so they kinda start over empty creating new ones.  (I'm not a doctor- shocked, right?- but if I understand it correctly, that's what happens.)  Hence the weak bones.  The pediatric orthopedic sergeon said it certainly isn't out of the question for Carter to break another bone before he's done with treatment.  Awesome.  Just what a parent wants to hear.

The good news is he only has the cast on for three weeks.

The even better news?  IT GLOWS IN THE DARK!  True story.  Carter couldn't decide between the green (which nearly glows all on it's own) and the glow in the dark.  So, the tech suggested he do green with a glow int he dark candy cane stripe.  JACKPOT!  So, on our way we were sent with the coolest cast around.  And, in case you're wondering on weather or not it really does glow, the answer is YES.  Quite well, in fact.  Like, I hope it doesn't keep him up at night.  But, he's a happy camper and headed to school with three different colored sharpies in hand for all his friends and teachers to sign it.

Because this has taken up a nice chunk of my week, I decided to make this my Glimpses 52 project for the week on Chic Critique Forum.  Next week, I am vowing to NO Carter in my Glimpses project.  He's getting the boot.  That kid just needs to stay out of trouble long enough for me to take pictures of his sisters!


Pokes~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

As I mentioned last week, I'm starting to do the Glimpses 52 project on the Chic Critique Forum.  Just any ol' "glimpse" from my daily life.  These pictures are a very real, and now normal, part of my daily life.  I have taken pictures of Carter at the clinic before.  But I don't know why I haven't taken more.  This will be a part of his life that he will never, EVER forget.  Something that will be a big part of him forever.  So, I need to start taking more pictures of it!  After all, May 16, 2014 will be here before we know it and we will have a cancer-free household!  ;)

10 Months Ago~Colorado Springs Cancer Photographer

10 months ago today our world was rocked.  Like, seriously rocked.  Like, changed forever.  Like, faith had to take over completely so that we wouldn't go crazy... or cry myself to death. We got that call.... you know.... THAT call.  The one you never want to get.  The one you hope will start with, "Good news!  It's really nothing at all!"  Or even, "It's pneumonia.  I'm sorry."  Not the one that starts with, "I've been trying to come up with a plan for Carter before I called you."  And not one that continues, "Get him out of bed and take him to the hospital.  He needs blood.  Lots of it.  And platelets... lots of them."

BUT.... we have made it this far!  We have made it to Maintenance, which, honestly has been harder than we thought it would be.  It's been an adjustment... the whole adventure has been.  And while I would trade all the silver linings and a future Make-a-Wish trip for a normal, healthy little 6 year old who can run around with his friends, that's not our lot.

Our lot right now is this.  Cancer.  And that's okay.  There are still days for me that are hard.  But there are a lot of days that are wonderful.  Where cancer is just a part of our lives and we don't give it a second thought.

There are things that I never thought I would hear my 6 year old son say... "Hey Mom.  Since my counts are good can I go play at Dylan's?"...  "What?!?  My liver counts are that high?  Oh man!"...  "I know, Mom.  Don't.  Touch.  Anything."  (Every time we take him anywhere I say that to him.)...  "Mom, when I turn 9 and my cancer is gone can we go to Chuck E. Cheese's?"...  "No, Addilyn, you won't get cancer, too.  I promise."...  "It's ok, Mom.  I don't mind playing alone at recess.  I played with my friends until they started running.  Then I got tired and couldn't keep up."  (That one is especially hard for me.)... "My name is Carter and I have A.L.L. Leukemia."  (Correctly it's just A.L.L. as the last "L" stands for Leukemia... I think it's so cute when he says that, though.)

I am sure to thank the Lord each and every day for his doctors and that they are saving his life.  I also thank the Lord for him reacting well to the medications-- meaning the cancer IS going away... although the side affects are less than ideal.  I thank the Lord for allowing us the opportunity to save him; giving us that chance and not just taking him from us.  I thank the Lord for the friends and family that have taken such good care of us, who have prayed for us, cooked for us, listened to us, called us, texted us, emailed us, sent us sweet cards or gifts for the kids.  We have SO much to be grateful for.  And I hope I never act otherwise!!!

Ever since Carter was diagnosed and his hair started falling out I have been growing out my hair.  Those of you who know me know that my hair is long.  Always has been.  Always will be until I'm too old to pull it off.  While I love my son, I'm not about to shave my head.  (Vain?  Perhaps.)  But I wanted it to get long enough to be able to chop it off and donate it.  I don't color it a whole lot so I'm a good candidate.  (Don't worry, we pulled up the hair that has been colored and only donated the bottom portion.)  It's really easy to donate your hair.  Just chop off 10 inches (that's the hardest part, FOR SURE!), fill out a form, and stick it in the mail.  Anyways, my sister lopped it off for me and actually made it look cute.  It doesn't look as cute when I do it... in fact it's kind of like I have a big poof ball on my head but that's ok.  At least I don't have cancer, right? :)  Plus, it's a super cute little pony.  :)

I thought it would be funny to take a family picture like this.  Usually Carter has to be the one wearing the mask... but not this time!  Everyone else had to wear one and he got to be mask-less.  (More of my family pictures to come.)

Regrowth and Maintenance~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

In two and a half years we will have a cancer-free son! He started maintenance this past month.  We have an official "cure" day. May 16, 2014.  A meer month before he turns 9.  I can't wait for that day.  SERIOUS celebrating will be going' on up in her'! I know it's a long, long, LONG ways away still but at least there's a date.  We're so proud of Carter for being so strong, brave, and positive throughout all of this.  We could not have been blessed with a more perfect son.  By Christmas he'll have a short little buzz cut! It's already looking great. When you rub his hair (which is as soft as a newborn's) you can feel little spikes of new hairs coming up.  I can't tell if he looks like a cancer patient anymore because to me he has a TON of hair.  But then, I think if I saw him like this 9 months ago would I have been horrified?

He was diagnosed with Leukemia 9 months ago today and now he's into his final cycle of chemo. What to expect for the next 2 1/2 years is this:

--> 5 days of steroids a month (3 pills in the morning and two pills at night). They cause insomnia for about a week. Sucks.

--> 1 prevacid each morning (helps with stomach acid which is caused all of the other meds)

--> Mercaptopurine nightly (a type of chemotherapy in pill form taken at least two hours after dinner with only water... I have to set my alarm every night. So annoying. Because it's chemo you can't touch it with your fingers... yet I willingly have my son swallow it. Weekends he has two pills at night. This one makes him kind of sick. I don't like it.)

--> Methotrexate (another oral chemo-- again, can't touch it) every Monday (with a few exceptions). 6 1/2 pills at night.

--> Each chemo visit will consist of Vincristine through his port.

--> Each chemo visit will also consist of an hour long dose of Pentamidine (an antibiotic to preventpneumonia... which could kill him).

--> Every three months he has a spinal tap where they give him Methotrexate into his spine and test the spinal fluids for cancer.  (These are the Mondays where he won't take his Methotrexate at home.)  We are very excited that he will be getting them so less often.

There is a chance that some of these will be switched up a bit if he doesn't react well to them.  For example, the Mercaptipurine caused serious elevated liver counts last time he took it.  He had to take it for a month last time and by the end of the month one of his liver counts was 875 and in a normal person it's 25.  Left that high for too long there will be permanent liver damage.  If he does that again this time around they will have to change it up with another drug.  The one that they would use would probably be one that causes serious hair loss and nausea.  (Although last time he took it he didn't get real sick... but went VERY VERY bald.)  Only time will tell though.  Just because he reacted a certain way last time he took a specific drug doesn't mean that he'll react that same way this time around.  (Annoying, right?)

I have mixed feelings about his hair coming back in.  Him being bald is a very visual reminder that he has cancer.  Now that his hair is coming back in I feel like people won't be as careful but he'll still be as sick... you know?  But, it's fun to watch his hair come back in.  It's pretty light.  I think it'll be a dirty blond.  Much lighter than before.  But there's still time for a curve ball with his hair color.

Miss Debbie~ Breckenridge Cancer Photographer

This woman is a fighter, to say the least.  She has been battling cancer for NINE years.  NINE!  She's had breast, liver, brain, and... shoot... one more... dang!  I'll remember... give me a few minutes.  While we were on our respite week up in Breckenridge  the head Domus Pacis woman asked me to do a photo shoot of Debbie.  Debbie was visiting her sweet sister, Barb, for the week and they were put up in what I can only imagine was a wonderful space to enjoy a week long, much needed vacation.  The entire shoot I just imagined going through this with my sister.... watching her suffer the way I'm sure Debbie has.... and wow.  What an overwhelming thought.  She was nothing but positive and a complete pleasure to be around.  Her wig looked SO awesome that when I answered the door I couldn't tell which one was wearing the wig.  She was beautiful inside and out and I will be forever grateful for being able to document this trying time in her life.  I wish her a long life of recovery and HAIR!


I think she is laughing here because I asked her which of her 3 sisters is her favorite.


And of course I still can't remember the 4th... I'm so lame.  But, she's amazing.  And anyone lucky enough to know her has been blessed!

Day 29~ Colorado Springs Children Photographer

We are entering a rough patch.  There's no getting around it.  We are ready for it.  I just kinda want it here so it will be over, you know?  There are all kinds of drugs he has been getting the past month.  He has been getting Vincristine (side affects he's gotten from it: dry hands), Methotrexate through a his spine (HATE it when he gets spinals... just scares me... and he gets them all the time!) (side affects he's gotten: little bit of a sore back), Dexamethasone (side affects he's gotten from this: crazy hungry, weak muscles- specifically legs, chubby cheeks, slight insomnia, a little moody), Pegasperaginase, Doxorubicin (side affects he's gotten from this: very rosey cheeks), Pentamidine, and Melatonin (counteracts the insomnia). This week when he finished his steroids (the Dexamethasone) he got horrible pains and cramping in his arms, lower back, and especially his legs.  After a little private "Meet the Teacher", Carter and I headed to pick up the girls at Chealsea's.  On the way out of the school I could tell he was in pain but he wouldn't let me carry him.  By the time we got to Chelsea's he was in the back seat whimpering because his body hurt.  By the time we were on our way home (with Chelsea's daughter/Carter's best friend, Taeler) he was outright screaming in agonizing pain.  I have never heard him like that.  And for him to do it in front of Taeler... I knew it was bad.  We headed straight to the Oncology clinic for me to pick up a prescription for a narcotic... apparently you can't really call those in?  An HOUR later (takes 25 minutes to drive down to the clinic) I finally got him some meds and got in out of pain.  It was torture.  For Carter.  For me.  For Taeler.  (My girls didn't seem to mind it.  :)) When Chelsea came to get Taeler she got in the car and sobbed.  It was hard for her to watch Carter in pain.  She's such a little sweetheart and those two love each other dearly.  (What?... No.... Me?... Planning the wedding already?... Where on earth would you get that idea...? I have no idea what you're talking about...)  And as for me?  I cried the entire way to the Doctor's office, while I was talking to the Dr (who gave me a very sweet hug), and then 1/2 way home.  I really think the worst part about this "adventure" is watching him when he's in pain.  I HATE IT!  What parent doesn't?  Who likes to watch their kid have the stupid flu, let alone a REALLY bad flu that could kill them and last for nearly 3 and a half years?  Here we are, 4 days later and he's still kind of limping around from the cramping and still having to take Ibuprofen at least once a day.  One thing I really, honestly, do think about is that our Savior DOES know our pain.  He knows Carter's pain and my pain.  It DOES bring me comfort.  And hopefully it brings him comfort.

Coming up we have a whole new slew of medications.  (He was suppose to start all of this today but he SO miserably failed his counts yesterday that they are pushing it off until Tuesday, if not longer.)  Most of which I am NOT looking forward to.  AT.  ALL.  Nearly all of them cause vomiting, hair loss, nausea, all that fun stuff that you think of when you think of cancer treatment side affects.  The good news is that for the next little bit (at least the next month) there are no steroids, Vincristine, Doxorubicin, or Pegasperiginase.  The new meds he has are Cyclophosphamide, Thioguanine (or called 6TG), Cytarabine, and another spinal tap with intrathecal Methotrexate.  (I have honestly lost count with how many spinal taps this kid has had.)

The Cytarabine he will be receiving through his port four days in a row, then a break, and then 4 days in a row.  We will head into the clinic for him to get accessed (meaning they access his port with a needle through which they can give him meds).  They will leave him accessed, then send us home with 3 days worth of Cytarabine.  We will give it to him at home through his port in an IV bag.  Then we will head back into the clinic (or hospital if it's over the weekend) for them to de-access him.  Bryan said he will just do it from home and I know I'm just wimpy but I prefer the nurse or doctor just do it.

The Thioguanine comes in pill form.  He will get it nightly for two weeks.  He gets two pills a night on the week nights and one pill on Saturdays and Sundays.  He was taking the "fraternal twin" of this a few months ago.  It wasn't my fave.  Because it's chemotherapy, we cannot touch the pills.  We have to dump them into a little pill holder thingy.  (That's the technical term .  :))  You know those things you get when you buy liquid meds for your kids?... those little measuring things.  Anyways, then Carter has to put them right in his mouth and take them with water.  It has to be water... nothing else.  It has to be at least two hours after he last ate.  And he can't eat for another two hours.  So, right before bed (sometimes we had to wake him up with the previous med like this) he takes this.  With the 6MP (the last med similar to this he took- the fraternal twin) when he had to take the double dose (for that one it was on the weekends) they made him sick.  He would only puke once in the morning and then he would feel much better. But that drug also did NOT agree with his liver.  He liver counts were THROUGH THE ROOF!  So, this Thioguanine should be interesting.  I'm hoping that last time it was just the combination of the meds he was taking and not just the 6MP causing the liver freak outs.

So, along we go... this is the part I have been dreading for a while and I'm glad it's here.  He's such a tough little guy that so rarely complains and I KNOW he can handle this.  What would life be without a little puking, anyways?  :)

Preslee Pie~ Breckenridge Children Photographer

Last week we were lucky enough to head up to the mountains for a week off.  It was nothing short of amazing!  One of the silver linings of our situation is having wonderful people wanting to do wonderful things for us.  A group called Domus Pacis Family Respite GAVE us a week in Breckenridge with all kinds of amenities provided for our family.  (I'm sure they're accepting donations... :))  We partied hard... cancer style.  :)  We did every outdoor activity we could find, road the gondola up the mountain FOUR times.  The kids could NOT get enough of it.  It was truly wonderful.  It is also a photographer's dream come true!  I went and did mini shoots with each kid, in a different location, on a different day.  I also did some pictures of my parents together (they came which was so awesome), and pictures of a beautiful warrior fighting her own nine year battle.  Pictures to come on all that. Our baby turned two while we were there.  She's been two in spirit for quite some time.  :)  She's our little pistol.  Our TRUE red-head.  She's got spunk, fight, and a touch of an attitude.  She knows what she wants and she WILL get it, dang it!  We couldn't love her more!