Friday, March 30, 2012

Family Vacation

Well, after all that has transpired over the last 8 weeks, I think our family is ready for a vacation!

Thanks to friends who have helped in a variety of ways, we are surprising the kids tomorrow morning and taking them to Disney World!  We can't wait.  Susie and I have always wanted to do this trip with the kids, but we kept putting it off.  No more putting it off.  Tomorrow we will enjoy a week in Disney and we are so excited.  Thanks to each one who has helped us get there.  If we are not too exhausted, we will try to post some pictures from the trip. 

The last 2 weeks we have experienced a new level of normal.  Only 1 doctors visit, and Baby Annie is doing well.  Our friend, Wendi and her son Owen, came to spend time with us, and that was great.  We celebrated Susie's birthday, which was a lot of fun.  I made a list of things I needed to do before we take off and I was able to finish each one.  This was the first time I've made a list since Susie's surgery.  For those of you that know me, you know how rare this is.  Susie saw the Hunger Games with friends, and then she took me to see it last night.  Susie volunteered at Sy's school and they both loved it.  We have started a few projects around the house as well.  We have confirmed a "family assistant" for the summer.  This is a huge blessing and it was confirmed this evening.  I gave the boys haircuts.  Charlie had hand-foot-mouth.  I went to the dentist.  We've argued a few times and have made up!  Susie is exercising again at they Y daily.  I even joined her once in the deep end of the pool - another rarity!  We went out on a few dates.  Life has been normal, and it feels great.

As we continue to trust the Lord with next steps and the 'areas of concern' in Susie's brain, we continue to rest in Him and enjoy the moments He has for us.  Our prayer is that Susie would be able to make it to 36 weeks (late June) before delivering Anna.  Between now and then, we pray God would allow us to enjoy each of these normal moments as a family. 

Thanks for continuing to pray for us, encourage us and support us.  We'll never truly be able to express our thanks for every note, act of service, encouraging word, monetary donation or prayer.  We have been blessed by the Lord in so many ways, and every time we receive one of those things, it's a vivid reminder of His faithfulness to us through each of you. 

We pray that God would meet each of you right where you are and you would sense His love for you in real and tangible ways. 

The bags are packed and now it's time for bed. 



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A mother's prayer for Susie's birthday

Today, March 20th, is Susie's birthday.  This post was written by Susie's mom, Kathy.  

Thirty-three years ago I was pregnant and overdue with my first baby.  I was so excited, but also anxious of how my life was about to change forever.  I had two consistent prayers during my first pregnancy.  My first prayer was, “Please Lord, let this baby be a girl.”  Now before my boys get upset, let me explain!  I was scared to have a boy because I thought they were all a little wild and crazy, so I would always add, “Lord if it is a boy, please let him be sweet.”  I am happy to say that God did bless us with three very sweet boys!  But on March 20, 1979 God first blessed us with a beautiful baby girl.
My second prayer during my pregnancy was , “and Lord, please make her a blessing to others.” As a young mother I didn’t even really know what all I meant by that, but I so fervently wanted my little girl to be a blessing to others as she grew up.  I soon began to realize if God was going to answer that prayer, I would have to give her up at times to let God use her in ways He intended.  I had prepared myself during her growing up days that someday,  that would most likely include marriage.  Sure enough, one day Ben came along and won her heart.  But what a blessing it was for us to give her to such a godly young man who we knew without a doubt loved our baby girl and would always take care of her.  Life was good, Susie and I though miles apart stayed close and grew even closer as she herself became a mother. The daily phones calls turned into multiple calls a day. I was so blessed that the prayer I had prayed, for my daughter to be a blessing to others, turns out she was the biggest blessing to me! Soon though, came the day that I always knew in my heart was going to come once Ben and Susie were serving God together as man and wife.  “Mom, I think God wants Ben and me to go to India.” A lot of fears, a lot of tears, but God in His faithfulness grew my faith and trust in Him as I released my daughter to Him.  I knew God had plans to use Susie as a blessing to people in India.  What a privilege to spend two weeks with her in India and witness first hand the blessing she was to the people around her.  She embraced her life in India and the people God put into her life.  Oh, but what a happy day it was though when she came home to the same time zone!  Back to talking whenever we wanted.  Life was good!  She and Ben settled back into their life in Ohio.  Their family grew from the three of them to the five of them.  What a blessing to be a part of their journey.
Shortly before Christmas Susie shared the wonderful news that there would be another baby Thomas! What greater way was there for God to answer my prayer that she be a blessing to others, than for her to be a blessing to four little ones!  In the meantime we were talking through the possibilities of her “episodes” as she waited for doctor appointments.  But nothing prepares a mother for a call from her daughter saying she has a lesion (tumor) on her brain and the doctor wants her to go straight to the hospital.  Your life is forever changed,  because you know your baby girl’s life is forever changed.  You know you will not be able to fix this for her and no matter how much you want to take this from her and bear it yourself, you can’t.  God has chosen her for this journey.  You can only pray and watch in amazement as she responds with much faith, grace, and hope, and continues to be a blessing to those around her.  In the quietness of your own heart you wrestle with God. This is not how you want her to be a blessing to others.  But even as you wrestle with God you know with all your heart that she is in His hands and just as you prayed 33 years ago for her to be a blessing to others, you are most thankful for the blessing she is to you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

This video of Ben & Susie was filmed today at the Athletes in Action Spring Meetings this past week.

A Surprise & A Plan

So many doctors appointments this week! One of them brought us a fun little surprise - our baby boy is actually a baby girl! We were thrilled with a boy and we're excited about a girl. Talya is thrilled and keeps doing a victory cheer as if she won a big game. Most importantly, Baby Annie (named after her Amachi Anna) is looking perfectly healthy and on target growth-wise.

We can't wait to meet her, which we might be doing sooner than we thought.

After meeting with several doctors in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, we finally feel peace about a treatment plan. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us along those lines. The doctors have pretty much all reached a consensus that my tumor, while certainly a serious situation and needing treatment, is not an emergency. I had a great resection (that's grey's anatomy talk for tumor-removal-surgery), and while there are almost certainly dangerous cells leftover in my brain, my MRIs continue to show stability. Also, the pathology of the tumor showed some scary characteristics, but not the MOST scary ones - which offers everyone hope that it is not overly aggressive, and therefore if we wait on treatment for a few months, it is reasonable to believe that my health will not be put at great risk.

Of course there are no guarantees with any of this. So please pray that the tumor cells will either:  1) be taken care of by the chemo wafers already in my brain or 2) die on their own or 3) God would wipe them out or 4) Decide to lay dormant until I'm like 85 years old and have been to my grandkids' weddings. (That was not even close to proper grammar. Let's blame my poor writing on the tumor, hmm?)

I will be having many MRIs every several weeks to monitor the situation, and if things progress, we will have to adjust our plan accordingly, but for now, we've decided to try to wait on radiation until we can get this baby safely out of my body (i.e., the radiation zone). 

So, the plan: MRIs every several weeks (about 4). As long as they look good, we just live life and grow this baby girl. Then, once we get to 32 weeks, we can deliver the baby. If, at 32 weeks, there is still absolutely no change on the MRI, we might try to push it to 36 weeks. Then, we have the baby. Then, about a week later, we start radiation and oral chemotherapy. The baby will probably be in the NICU for several weeks (especially if she's born at 32 weeks). While I'm sad about that, the timing wouldn't be horrible, as the biggest side effect of the treatment is fatigue. So, it would probably be okay that during those weeks, we'd have middle-of-the-night state-of-the-art nursing care.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying. I will say that a week ago, we were not even close to being able to make a decision. If anything, I was leaning completely the other way. It was a specific answer to prayer (by us and many of you) that so many doctors ended up actually agreeing and giving us some wise consensus to move forward on. We do so, knowing that nothing can guarantee the outcome, so we continue to trust God and ask Him to be our Healer and sustainer. 

Oh, and on a totally unrelated side-note, but since I'm writing, I'll just ramble for a bit. We took the kids to see the Secret World of Arietty this weekend. I love the cheap theater because you can splurge on the big bucket of popcorn! I just wanted to share with all the parents out there that we really liked it. Here's why: the two main characters were a boy and a girl, so it was good for both genders. The girl was NOT a princess and did not have the figure of a super-model. She was just a brave little girl. There was nothing scary or evil or "bad guys," but there were challenges, and Arietty showed a lot of bravery. Arietty's dad was her primary hero and protector and while the boy did step in to help later in the movie, it was not romantic in nature at all. Themes were bravery, friendship, and I think obeying and trusting your parents. Talya & Simon were both able to articulate after the movie what Arietty did right (help her mother, do chores without asking) and what she did wrong and why it was wrong (disobey her parents when they were trying to keep her safe). There's my glowing review. And it's rated G, which is nearly impossible to find in kids' movies these days. And it was cute. And it wasn't annoying (can someone say smurfs or chipmunks?).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A full week

This week has been full.  We saw so many of our friends and colleagues with Athletes in Action at a conference that was held at our headquarters in Xenia.  It was a joy and blessing to be with so many from our staff family.  Thanks to each of you for the encouraging words, hugs and shows of support and love.  It was a true blessing for us.

This week has also been full of doctor's appointments - neuro-oncologists in Indianapolis, a radiation oncologist in Dayton, and our beloved OB tomorrow.  Through it all God continues to give us wisdom and peace as we seek a treatment plan.  We've been encouraged by what we've been learning and are feeling better and better about the options for treatment that are before us.  Thanks for praying for us about this.

This week also marks one of the favorite weekends of the year in the Thomas home - the start of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships.  I must admit, Susie tends to get more excited about the brackets than I do.  It's great to see some "normal" things return to our life. 

Today marks Susie hitting 21 weeks in the pregnancy.  We thank God for each week she progresses. 

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement.  Susie and I have been so touched by all of you who have reached out to us - the ones we know and the ones we have yet to meet.  Thank you. 



P.S.  Susie and I had the chance to share with our staff a few days ago at Athletes in Action.  We hope to post the video soon. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Update with zero information (from Susie)

Sorry, I got nothin' for you in terms of info or news. We're still wading through opinions and second opinions and seeking a third opinion. Prayers for wisdom are still appreciated.

I am basically feeling pretty good. Well, pretty pregnant. Way more pregnant than I'd like to be feeling at nearly 20 weeks. This is when I'm supposed to be feeling awesome and cute and I feel chubby and achy and stiff and PREGO! Thank you to the steroids they have me on to keep swelling down in my brain.

But holla for 20 weeks! Half-way there!

I know a lot of people want to know how the kiddos are doing. Pretty great. They've had some awesome babysitting. They know about the tumor and about the baby and are sensitive to my limitations, but we have not talked cancer with them, so they are pretty unaware of the scarier portions of this whole ordeal.

My wonderful friend Adrianne is here this week, keeping me and the kids company. Ben is looking forward to getting out of the house. He's been my nurse and personal assistant, and full-time stay-at-home-dad. I know, it's a dream job.

You guys are awesome with all of your prayers and generosity. Seriously. I feel spoiled. I might have suggested on facebook that I'd like some girl scout cookies. I might have 30 boxes in my pantry. 25 of them came from my brothers. And the meals are delicious. And the gift cards! So fun. You are helping us soak up some special moments with each other, with friends, and with our kids. McDonalds dates with the kids have some big pay-offs!

Alrighty, I'm off to shower. Basically the steroids have made me an eating, sweating machine. It's pretty awesome. But Adrianne's got the kids so I can shower (by myself!) whenever I want this week!

xoxo. Thanks for the love! I know I stink at responding to individual messages, but I appreciate every one.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

End of the week update

Thanks for your many prayers for us over this last week.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with doctors appointments, and different opinions on what the treatment plan should be.  Here were a few highlights/lowpoints from the week:

  • Our OB team is awesome!  We feel very confident no matter when this baby comes that Susie and the baby are in great hands with our OB team.
  • We met with a doctor who has successfully treated pregnant women with brain tumors before!  This was incredible.  We have looked all over the country without any success, and just 40 miles from our home we find a doctor with experience in this very unique field.
  • We waited over 2 hours on Wednesday to see another doctor - that was not fun.
  • Of the two options of treatment that have been laid out before us, we feel better about both of them.  The various doctors have been able to talk us through the risks to Susie and the baby and we feel good about either plan. 
  • The downside to feeling good about both plans is that we still need some more information before being able to make a final decision.  
  • We are waiting for an MRI next week and a consult with 2 more doctors on our team before making a decision.   
  • We were exhausted by Tuesday and beyond exhausted by Wednesday of this week.
  • Susie and me and the kids have enjoyed a very normal pace over the last few days.
  • Susie has been cleared to drive and exercise, under my supervision (that should go well!)
  • Susie has been able to cook breakfast a few times this week and dinner once.  It was great.  
  • God continues to be ever-present and filling us with His peace during this very hard time.  
  • We are looking forward to a very normal weekend.  
Thanks again for your concern - your prayers, cards, texts, e-mails, financial gifts, other gifts, acts of service, etc have been amazing.  May God truly bless each of you for the ways you have and continue to bless us.

In Him,

Ben & Susie