Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grant's Pre-Thanksgiving post (sorry it's late!)

Give thanks to the Lord,
For he is good.
Give thanks to the Lord,
His love endures forever.

Over the past week, we've been having a tough time dealing with all of the painful memories from last year. Every day reminds us of the events that happened a year ago, the week before Thanksgiving. But this morning we woke up grateful. Tammy and I are grateful to be sleeping next to each other in our own bed. We're excited about going down to Fresno to be with family. Tammy spent a good chunk of yesterday cooking up a storm.
What are we grateful for?
We're grateful for God for helping Natalie get better. She had her 6th checkup and she is still in remission. Dr. Clay, her oncologist, said that 6 months is a big deal and he was happy that we made it.
We're grateful to be together as a family. Yes, the kids fight more than we like, but they fought a bit in the hospital, too. The point is, we are home together.
We're grateful for our family:
Mom and dad, thank you for coming as soon as we needed you and listening when I needed you to.
Troy, thank you for praying.
Ma, thank you for watching Sean and spending nights in the hospital. I know it was hard for you.
Ba, thank you for letting ma help us. We know it is a big sacrifice.
Tracy, thank you for giving us a whole month. You helped us through a tough spot. Sei, Cameron, and Ava, thank you for letting your wife and mom go.
Dinny and Jason, thank you for spending your vacation on us. We needed all the help we could get.
Scott, thank you for coming and for the Cinnabons.
John, thank you for staying with Ma and playing with Sean. We worried constantly about Natalie and frequently about Sean. We didn't want him to be neglected and bounced around from people to people and place to place. Keeping him home with family relieved a great
Natalie, thank you for being a trooper. You made the best of a terrible situation and you kept your spirit throughout the whole ordeal.
Sean, thank you for praying every night for Natalie. Thank you for vehemently reassuring your mom that Natalie is going to be all right.
Tammy, thank you for thinking of me even when there were so many other people and things to think about. You made me feel important.

Medical staff:
Dr. Clay, thank you for being sincere, honest, and optimistic.
Robin, thank you for the 2 minutes. If I had to pick my most positive healthcare experience ever, that would be it. We needed to know that someone would give us 2 minutes.
Dr. Matthay, thank you for your sense of humor.
Dr. Bannerjee, thank you for standing firm. We really wanted to go home, but you were right.
Amber, thank you for taking the initiative and cutting Natalie's hair. It hurt, but it needed to be done.
Felix, thank you for the candy.
Tatiana, thank you for the expert blood draws.
Nancy, thank you for always taking your time. You help us feel relaxed.
Dr. Smith, thank you for your youthful vigor and cheer.
Yolanda, thank you for all the elephant journeys, and especially for not being easily hurt. You'll make a great pediatrician.
Christine, thank you for teaching Natalie and Tammy to bead and for telling
us all the good restaurants around UCSF.

Weizhu and Patty, thank you for teaching Natalie the recorder.
Zach and Becky, thank you for coming and playing Pokemon sushi with us.
Elbert, Stella, Jonathan, and Elliot, thank you, thank you, thank you for letting us share your house and washing machine and kitchen. A huge piece of home.
Ray, thank you for coming.
Sam, thank you for aggressively listening.
DJ, thank you for helping us coordinate and clean our place.
Geno and Maritza, thank you for talking to us as a couple.
John and Michelle, you understood what it means to be in the hospital. Hospital socks were an extra special touch.
Scott, thank you for talking it out and giving me perspective about our suffering.
Margo, thank you for the CD and study. The CD can still make us cry.
Thank you for everyone who prayed for us, brought us meals, cleaned or decorated our house.
Juan, I still have your Pyrex dish. Thank you for being patient with us!
Gregory Gardens, thank you for the 100 rolls of tape, wonderful letters, and especially the origami crane mobile Natalie has it hanging in her room and we look at it every night.
Miss Danna, thank you for the special trips.
Lisa, thank you for watching out for us at school.
Terry and Art, thank you for the camera!
Mitel, thank you for the DS and games.
Thank you for all of you who donated blood.

There are so many other people we are grateful for and we apologize for not personally thanking everyone. We've thought about way more people than we have entered above, but we need to go to sleep so we can stay healthy.

Update Finally!

For all our friends and family who may be wondering how we are doing, we apologize for taking so long to post an update since the last one we posted in September. Life just has a way of occupying all of our time and we forget that we have this blog to communicate with all of you.

We are doing well and Natalie's counts looked great on her last monthly UCSF visit in early November. That was the 6 month after treatment visit and her doctor said that it is really a milestone visit since it's been a full 6 months since she was released. She has also been in remission for almost a year. (Grant's note: Natalie's leukemia wasn't showing up after her first round of chemo, which was almost12 months ago. We wanted to go home, but the medical protocol is to complete the entire 5 rounds of chemo. You don't stop when it looks good, you keep hitting it so you're sure you get it all.)

Natalie's visits at UCSF will now be every other month for the next six months. After that, it becomes every 4 months. Yeah!! We took her to a fancy restaurant that night (The Duck Club in Lafayette) to celebrate. Natalie loves going to fancy restaurants because they make her feel special and she gets to dress up almost like a princess.

We also had our big Make-A-Wish trip to Disneyland in early October! We sent the link with pictures of that amazing trip to some of you, but if we miss anybody who would love to see the pictures, please let us know and we'll send the link to you. We had a wonderful time and Natalie's big smile in the pictures really sums up the trip. She had the time of her life. When she was in the makeover chair of the Bibbodi Bobbidi Boutique getting her princes makeover, I (Tammy) started tearing up just thinking about how far Natalie has come from her hospital days. She's so energetic and strong now that I forget that there were a lot of days she spent in the hospital listless and in pain. I have forgotten that she once was so skinny and malnourished that the hospital staff had to weigh her every day to make sure her weight did not drop too dangerously low. When I think of those days, there is a mixture of sadness and joy. The sadness comes because it's still very painful for us to remember our Natalie being so sick. The joy comes from the gratitude we feel for having our family back together again.

Grant's note: My high point of the trip was seeing Sean get picked for the Jedi Training Camp at Disneyland. Sean and I went when Tammy and Natalie were at the BBB (Bibbodi Bobbidi Boutique), but Sean didn't get picked to go up on stage. He sorta lost interest, so we walked out. Our friends told us that kids wearing Star Wars gear or holding up signs usually got called up on stage, so the next day, I went to work. I cut up Sean's Lego X-Wing box and folded it in half. The top still showed the X-Wing and on the bottom I wrote in big bold letters: The FORCE is with me! We got there early and sat in the front. I carefully pulled out the sign and got ready. Meanwhile, Tammy talked to one of the ushers and told them we were on a Make A Wish trip, but the ushers said the lead actor made the choices, so they couldn't promise anything. I held up the sign and prayed. When the lead actor started making his choices, Sean was the very first pick! I was super happy. Sean has suffered, too, and it is easy to forget him, but that was his show. He deserved it!

We almost have a normal life again, but not quite. With the intensive treatment Natalie got, her body is more sensitive than the average child to the environment around her. She's been having bad allergies, which she had around this time last year too. Her pediatrician referred us to a specialist since Natalie's health history is more complicated than a normal pediatric patient. The intersting thing is that the specialist turned out to be the same guy Grant goes to for his allergies. Natalie thought that was pretty funny that she shares the same doctor with her papa.

We also had to take Natalie and Sean out of school for the month of October until Natalie got her H1N1 vaccine. There were a couple of cases of the H1N1 virus at her school. After patiently calling around, we finally got her the vaccine right before Halloween. We were happy about that since she got to go trick-or-treating as Minnie Mouse! (Grant's note: Wow, I owe you pix from there, too.)