Cancer Treatment: Dogwood Blossoms and Bowel Obstructions

We are sorry to have left you all hanging after our urgent cry for prayer. Our first few days here were nothing short of grueling, and Internet challenges and a problem with WordPress have made it almost impossible to get this blog post done. I finally connected with a support person at WordPress late tonight, and she helped me work out the bugs. So, finally . . . here you go. Lots of photos.

I am going to back up to the beginning and try to synopsize our first week here as simply as possible.

We managed to leave home pretty close to our planned goal time on Friday, April 8, and the trip here was mostly calm and uneventful except for a little rain.

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Lined up and ready to leave town

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This was my view all day as I followed Scott from Cincinnati to Knoxville. The foliage in TN is breathtaking right now.

We arrived safely at The Sanctuary on Friday evening, April 8. We worked hard and fast to unpack just enough stuff to get everyone into bed for the night.

On Saturday, our teens and pre-teens spent hours unpacking and trying to settle everyone in while Scott and I headed into town to do some major grocery shopping. Somehow, just having a big bowl of fresh fruit here that evening made me feel like we were making progress in getting settled.

Nathan, who is trying not to get impatient, has spent most of his time sitting as he waits for his leg to heal. Thanks to those who have asked about him and prayed for him. The healing is much (MUCH!) slower than we were told to expect, but we are definitely seeing signs that make us hopeful that the surgery seems to have taken care of the original problem. So we are all trying to just keep waiting for the healing to take place — and the swelling to subside and for his incisions to stop oozing blood. It’s happening; just not very fast.

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Kitchen crew

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So much unpacking

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Nathan resting his leg and babysitting Erin’s dog, Teddy

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The “littles” spent the day coloring and confined to this room

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Beginning to feel a bit more like home

On Sunday, we continued working on the unpacking and problem-solving as we tried to get all of us and our gear in place in a functional way. But we did manage to put together a yummy pot-roast Sunday dinner.

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Packed away some of the dishes that were already here and turned this into a school cabinet and storage for the kids’ water bottles and cath timers

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Our first home-cooked meal at The Sanctuary

Monday morning, Scott and I left around 7:00 a.m. for his first treatment, followed by a new-patient/family orientation. On our way down the mountain that morning, I spotted a very isolated bunch of dogwood blossoms right in the middle of the woods along the side of the road. I had forgotten how “every where” dogwoods are in the south at this time of the year. I mentioned to Scott that I’d really like to stop on the way back home later in the day and cut those blossoms for the house.

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We arrived on time for Scott’s first appointment. After his required final pre-treatment CT scan, we were led to the back so he could prepare for his first actual proton beam therapy treatment (PBT). We were told that our assigned treatment area will be the Dogwood Treatment Area and that this will remain the same throughout the course of his treatment. Although I can’t explain it, this struck as as somehow poignant after our dogwood blossom encounter on the way in, and we were even more determined to find that little bunch of blossoms and cut them to take with us when we headed home.

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Our first glimpse of the gantry where Scott’s PBT will be done each day brought back memories of Logan’s Run for me. (Anyone else ever see that movie?).

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As they got Scott onto the table and began adjusting everything to be sure the beam would hit exactly the right spot (there are always many, many checks and double- and triple-checks to assure this), I was suddenly caught a little off guard by an avalanche of emotions. It has mostly just become pretty routine now, but that first treatment was a slap of reality. We think that the frenzied activity required to get us all here kept the two of us from ever fully processing everything before that moment. Or maybe it would’ve happened no matter what. Who knows? But here we are, proton beaming away, and Scott has completed his first week now.

Getting Set Up for First Treatment

My husband who has always taken care of everyone, being taken care of

After an interesting and informative meeting with staff members and other new families (Scott loved the Q&A session with the lead physicist, as he explained more about the science behind PBT), we headed back home in the evening. On the way, we did actually find my special bouquet of dogwood blossoms, and Scott parked the van beside a pasture full of cows and hiked back up the street to cut them for me. And they did look beautiful on our table. We will be on the lookout for more of these before their short season ends.

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Scott, armed with a tiny pocket knife, off to cut my dogwood blossoms

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Mission accomplished

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Beautiful on our table

During the night, Scott struggled with some fairly significant bladder issues. We had been told to expect these to start about half-way through the treatment, and for them to last one to two months after the last treatment. So to begin having problems after only one treatment was concerning and disheartening. I had planned to stay at the house and focus on school with the kids on Tuesday while Scott went for his treatment alone, but in light of this new development, we called his doctor and made arrangements for both of us to meet with him that morning.

After giving out school assignments early that morning to all of the kids who are able to work pretty independently, the two of us headed back into town. His doctor wasn’t too alarmed, although he wasn’t really able to explain why this had happened so soon. He doubled one of the medications he has Scott taking, and that did help things a lot for a few days. (Now, at the end of the first week, those side-effects are worsening again, so we will discuss this with the doctor again at our regular Wednesday talk-to-your-doctor appointment this week.)

Unfortunately, while we were sitting in the waiting room that day, we got a text from the kids telling us that Caelyn was getting very sick and beginning to show signs of another bowel obstruction. (Seriously?!? Could this really happen again?!?) 

I’ll condense this next part of the story and just say that we ended up at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Emergency Room not once, but twice, over the next two days. After many hours there on Monday, Caelyn’s blockage resolved on its own, just as it did back in October, and we got home very late that night. Tired, but so very thankful that she had not been admitted.

The next day, Wednesday, we noticed some significant swelling in Lilyan’s ankle. Because of lack of sensation, breaks can be serious for children wth paralysis and can lead to severe bone infections. We knew we had to have an X-ray done to make sure she hadn’t broken it in any way. We were thrilled when the X-ray showed no signs of fracture or infection. Its assumed that it’s some type of soft tissue damage, and we were told to take her back to the house and treat her with ice and extra protection for her ankle, which we are still doing. If the swelling persists, we will have to follow up with our orthopedic doctor when we get home after Scott’s treatments are completed.

While we initially panicked a bit at the thought of having to take our kids to an unfamiliar, and much smaller hospital, the staff at East Tennessee was excellent and treated us with so much kindness. The doctor who treated Caelyn even texted us the next day to check on her. We are so thankful for the way we were cared for during those first few tumultuous days here.

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Children’s Hospital in Knoxville

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Caelyn feeling much better after hours in the ER; Meghan tagged along in case we ended up needing her to stay overnight with Caelyn that night. So glad that wasn’t necessary.

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Lilyan’s ER adventure netted her a bundle of gifts and stickers from the X-ray techs who fell in love with her.

On Wednesday  morning (before Lilyan’s trip to the ER), Scott and I both went into town again so we could talk to his doctor during the regular weekly meeting with him. Each time we have been to the center, we have been impressed with the incredible team approach, and the care and concern that is shown to all of the patients and their families.

Finally, finally, finally on Thursday and Friday, we were able to have fairly normal days here at The Sanctuary (except for a broken washing machine and the only bathtub in the house that suddenly stopped draining water — both of which have been taken care of now.) We got a lot of school done and had wonderful home-cooked meals. These are two of  the things I’ve asked God for specifically during our time here.

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Kathryn, fun school while working on fine motor skills

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Tomato, cucumber, and basil salad as part of our Thursday dinner

I know that many of you have worried that we would be bored and have offered to come and visit; some of you even offering to stay in the area for awhile to help us. But what we need most of all is lots of solitude so that we can catch up on the kids’ schooling that has fallen behind over the past few months of preparing for this temporary move, and so that we can shower our children with an abundance of undivided and focused attention. They have been in great need of that for many weeks, and we continue to ask God to make these things possible for us. It was so great to get some tastes of these things during those two days.

On Saturday, we had a quiet and beautiful morning here with the kids, and Kathryn and I took a long walk and picked wildflowers.

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Out for a walk with my Kathryn-girl

Also during that morning, Shannen, who will be ten in July, came and told us she needed to talk a bit. We had already been through countless “counseling sessions” with her and some of the other kids because of some lying, disobedience, and bad attitudes, and the thought of another demanding encounter made us feel like climbing back in bed. These behaviors always tend to get worse during periods of high stress, so they haven’t been a surprise to us, but still exhausting. Incredibly, Shannen’s need to talk to us was something amazing. Our conversation with her ended in her bowing her head and saying, tearfully and in her own words, the following prayer: “God, I really want to be a Christian. Please help me become one of your children so I can be part of your family now. I don’t want to do wrong things anymore even though I know I can’t be perfect like Jesus was perfect, but please forgive me for my sins and help me to do right things now.”

Shannen

Sweet Shannen, now a daughter of the King

There was much rejoicing at The Sanctuary that day as one more little Rosenow experienced her second adoption. As Shannen skittered from our bedroom, glowing like an angel, Scott and I hung behind and spent a few emotional moments reminiscing about the long hard battle to get Shannen out of Guatemala. The death of our little Lauren that resulted in Shannen being brought to us still sparks much pain in our hearts, but the beauty of the whole picture was not lost on us in that moment. It’s amazing to stand at a point on the path of life and turn to look way back down that path. God’s workings and fingerprints are often so much more visible from that vantage point.

That brings us to Sunday (today). We still don’t quite have our feet all the way under us, so we didn’t manage to get the family to a church today. But we did a very special family service here at the house, looking out over the lake and the blue sky and the six deer who wandered across the property. Then we had a wonderful Sunday dinner together and ended the day with a little bit of swimming in the pool. Late in the day, a visitor dropped by just to make sure we didn’t forget that we are in the woods and surrounded by lots of critters — even legless ones.

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The back side of the house, as seen when looking up from the lake

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Some pool time

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Our afternoon visitor

That’s pretty much it from our little home away from home. Now that we have the blog working again, we’ll try to update a little more regularly. As always, thank you for the love, support, prayers, and financial gifts that got us here. We are so grateful.

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The Sanctuary

 

 

 

One thought on “Cancer Treatment: Dogwood Blossoms and Bowel Obstructions

  1. Kathy and Scott, continuing to pray you through your journey. Rejoicing with you in all the ways God is working and taking care of your family, and praying the unexpected challenges will be few. Came across this verse again this morning that I love:

    We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You. 2 Chron. 20:12

    May God continue to reveal Himself in mighty ways to you daily! Much love to you both. ❤️

    Like

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