Monday, November 28, 2011

Blood Donations in Case's Name

We have had a lot of friends and family who do not live in the North Texas area express an interest in donating blood for Case. Case receives his blood through Carter BloodCare, which is located just in North Texas. We called Carter to see if they had a partnership with a national blood bank so that credit could be given to Case, but a program like this doesn't exist.

But we decided that there is still a way to help. Even though you can't donate blood specifically into Case's "credit bank" if you are outside of North Texas, we still want you to donate blood. Please go to your local blood bank and donate! Case receives blood from wonderful strangers, and we want our family and friends to be that "wonderful stranger" for a baby like Case in your area. It would truly mean so much to us if you do this.

So here is our request:

1. Locate your local blood bank by visiting America's Blood Centers and make an appointment

2. While you are donating, tell those around you about our sweet Baby Case and why you are there

3. Post a comment here so that we know of your awesomeness and Case will give you "credit!"

Giving blood saves lives, and Case is one of those lucky lives saved!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blood Donations

It looks like Case's hemoglobin (or red blood cells) are always going to be pretty low during treatment, as he has already received three blood transfusions. So we anticipate future transfusions for the little guy. If you aren't queasy about donating blood and want to do something to help, you can donate blood in his name. For each blood donation in his name, he will receive a "credit" to use for all of his future transfusions, which will ease the financial cost a bit.

If interested, go to Carter BloodCare to find the nearest location or call 1-800-DONATE-4. When you go in please tell them that you are wanting to donate to "Case Beckham, Sponsorship Number 051423."

Case says Thank You!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Be of Good Cheer

As one can imagine, there are days when it is hard to keep my spirits up. For the most part, I try to live each day as just another day. But there are times when it is just too hard to not let the gravity of the situation and sheer fear creep in to my mind.

My hardest day was the day after we first came home from the hospital. I had been at the hospital with Case for two full weeks and then all of a sudden we were nurses, no doctors, no hustle and bustle. And I think I just had more time to be afraid. We didn't know at that time that he was MYC-N negative and I was just so scared that things wouldn't turn out well.

Again, as one can imagine, it's hard to function and take care of my family when I let that fear take over. It wasn't too long until I was reminded that our Heavenly Father is truly aware of us in a day to day function and wants to help us. Xavier and Graydon were at church, Case was asleep, and I was by myself thumbing through the magazine our church puts out, The Ensign, I turned right to an article called "Be of Good Cheer: Choosing Happiness." Sounds, from the title, like it was meant for me in that moment, and it truly was.

Here is Case, choosing to be Happy!

I shouldn't be surprised, since it happens all the time, that the Lord puts things in our pathway that we need. Read a paragraph from the article:

The Lord clearly promises, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). When we acknowledge that we each face difficulties, that the Savior overcame the world, that He has lifted and strengthened and given vision to each of us in very personal ways, we will realize that we are never alone. We will feel a peace within even though the crisis without still rages. We will be filled with hope and even cheer. ...Amid all our mortal gloom and doom, Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Come, let us rejoice.

When reading that I could totally relate. Hard things are never taken out of our lives, we just have the option of making them easier to handle. So when I think of having Case's situation made easier for me to cope with, I respond with, "Please!!" I have truly experienced a peace that did not originate from myself. That fear that I felt the first weekend home has been eased through prayer and blessings. I do have things to be cheerful about! Case's cancer is treatable! Case is MYC-N negative! Case is home with us and happy! We have good insurance! We have the biggest and most loving support system made up of family, friends, and strangers! We have great doctors and nurses who love Case!

I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for Case and a reason for all of this yuckiness. But I also know that as his mother Heavenly Father is planning on me having a vision to see this thing through, and He'll help me, thank heavens! So each day I try to BE OF GOOD CHEER. It doesn't always happen, but I try!

2nd Round of Chemo

I know I'm really late in posting this, but Case has done really well with the second round of chemotherapy. He hasn't thrown up...hooray! He has had little urps and burps with little spit-ups, but definitely not the vomiting that he had last time. He has remained happy, kept up his appetite, and is almost sleeping through the night. So we are quite pleased! We have seen lots of smiles like the one below:

His hair has stopped falling out, for now. Apparently it will go through the cycles along with the chemotherapy. The hairs that have fallen out already are the really long ones, or the ones that were in an active cycle of growing. You know when you pull a hair out and there is a little white ball on the end? Well, his hair didn't have that anymore...there was nothing holding it in! So what's left is a short fuzzy layer everywhere! It's cute.

So I learned some things from this round. We went in to the clinic at 1:00 pm on Tuesday for them to check his blood counts, since he can't do chemo without his counts coming back up. So by the time we got over to the hospital, it was about 4:00. Then his urine needs to be super clear, which really needs some IV hydration first. Then he can start his chemo. There are three drugs, and it takes about 3 hours. Then he has two hours of super-hydration through the IV. Then he needed a blood infusion, which takes 3 hours and they check him every 20 minutes. So we weren't left alone at night until about 3:00 am!! So next time I'm making our clinic appointment in the morning so that hopefully we can sleep at night!

So thanks to everyone for your well-wishes for Case's treatment. We are very happy that he's doing so well! He even has gained half a pound since his first treatment. Our next treatment starts on Monday, Dec 5th and will be three days. Hopefully we can get out on the third day and not have to stay a fourth night.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Love & Hate

Tomorrow we go into the hospital for Round 2 of Chemotherapy. I decided I have a strong love/hate relationship with chemotherapy. Love, because it is shrinking my child's tumor and killing the cancer cells. Hate, because it is killing a lot of other things in his body.

Chemotherapy attacks and destroys any rapidly dividing or regenerating cells. Those would include the cancer cells, but also the lining of the mouth, taste buds, hair cells, lining of the stomach, tear ducts, and bone marrow. I'm sure that there are more to add to the list. That is why hair falls out, tastes and cravings change, nausea and throwing up occurs, and why patients get anemic and have no immune system.

Last Thursday Xavier found one of Case's hair on his shirt. Xavier sadly said, "Oh no, not yet!" I thought it was certainly too early for that and that it was a coincidence. Then later, when nursing him, I found the crook of my arm covered in hair. So I ran my fingers through his hair and came away with about 10 hairs in my fingers! So since then he has steadily been losing his hair.

It breaks my heart. I was dreading this and it kind of slapped me in the face. I wasn't ready for it. He's definitely not bald yet, but he has lost most of the long hairs on top. I know people always think that he didn't have that much to lose, but it doesn't matter...he's my baby and he's losing his hair! He actually had quite a bit, but his hair is the same color as his skin and you just can't see it unless you're upclose.

So along with the good comes the bad. But along with the bad comes the good. We're just taking it as it comes, because that's all we can do! I definitely have my really hard days, but there are also really good days. So here's to another round of shrinking that darned tumor! Cheers...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Many of you have said that I could never post enough smiley pictures of Case, so here's one that had me laughing out loud for about 5 minutes! The last two days have been the happiest for Case for, honestly, the last two months. I attribute it to getting great naps (on a routine!), eating a lot more (nursing and eating solids!), probably a release of pressure from the tumor, and just being happy to be alive. It has been pure joy for Xavier and I! Perma-smiles all the way around. Too bad we have to start chemo next week and get all yucky again.

This picture was from yesterday. We were on our way home from clinic and I gave him a cookie to eat (homemade oatmeal cookie...nothing really unhealthy). He has been all about snacking lately and loves to just suck on food. So when we get home I open the door to find the above. He was so happy...just giggling with chocolate and crumbs all over him!

Blood Infusion & Neulasta Blast

So last Thursday night Case started to get really grumpy. He woke up every two hours and continued his grumpiness into Friday morning. The doctors and nurses are always drilling into us to call if anything is amiss, so I called and we went in. His red blood cells were low, so they decided to give him a blood infusion.

The doctors also think that he had a reaction to a shot he gets after chemo, Neulasta. This shot is given 24 hours after chemo, and it helps the bone marrow and blood recover more quickly after treatments since they get attacked by the chemo. It has a delayed effect of one week. Since Case's bone marrow was squeaky clean and healthy already, the Neulasta kind of made it go crazy and over-produced white blood cells (he went from 1,000 WBC on Thursday to 38,800 WBC on Friday twenty-four hours later!) This can make people's bones ache. So that's why he was up all night and grumpy...his bones hurt all over! How sad! It makes my heart hurt for him, especially since he can't tell me anything!

Once we got to the clinic and then on to the hospital he really perked up! It must have been the crowds of smiling faces surrounding him!

So we got to do a 4-hour preview of the hospital in the Plano location. The nurses were in love with Case, and who wouldn't be? He was all smiles and proved to be quite a flirt! Every ten minutes another nurse would pop in, "I heard we just got a cute baby in!"

While I loved the Dallas location, I know we'll love the Plano location too. It's newer, and has huge floor to ceiling, wall to wall windows overlooking pastures with horses. And it's so nice being a 15-minute drive from home. So Case went home stuffed with red blood cells, pinker lips, and a preview into our future stays. We go in a week from today for round two of chemo.

My sister in law, Kendra, made his adorable custom hospital shirt! She took a onesie and cut the bottom off, made it open in the front with snaps, and added a pocket for his port. It worked beautifully! Thank you Kendra! The gowns at the hospital were way too big.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How it All Began...

I can only imagine that most of you are wondering how we went from a normal family to having our baby in the hospital with cancer. So here is how it went:

We have had a crazy year, which started with us selling our home, moving into a rental house, and building a new home. We moved into our new home on September 10th. One week later we left for a two-week adventure to visit Washington, D.C., West Virginia, NYC, and Boston. The trip was a little ill-timed, but had been planned way in advance.

Toward the end of the trip Case started to get fussy. Understandably, we blamed it on the stresses of traveling and not being at home. We got home late October 1st (Saturday). The next day Case literally slept all day. I woke him up at 11:00 to nurse and he went right back to sleep. I woke him a few hours later to feed again, and he threw up (on me). I jumped in the shower with him and he fell asleep in the shower. So I'm thinking, "what is wrong with my baby?" The next day Graydon came down with a fever, the typical 24-hour kid bug. So I blamed Case's sleepiness and fever on the same thing.

On October 4th (Tuesday) Case had his 9-month check-up. I mentioned the full day of sleepiness and fever and our doctor wasn't too concerned. He thought the same thing: little kid virus. That day he got a flu shot. The next few days he continued to be really fussy. This time I blamed it all on the shot. My kids are always grumpy and feverish after shots.

Then on October 7th (Friday) he cut a tooth. The poor kid had a raggedy piece of skin hanging from where the tooth came I again blamed his crankiness on this horrendous teething occurrence.

Then on October 10th (Monday) he caught a cold. He lost his voice, had a runny nose, and a cough. The poor kid couldn't catch a break! The cold lasted a week.

So with all of these things one right after another, it was easy to blame all of his symptoms on his back-to-back sicknesses. For those two weeks he stopped sleeping through the night, and his naps were either really short (45 minutes) or really long (4-5 hours). He had always had a voracious appetite before, and now he only wanted to nurse. My super happy, easy-go-lucky kid was suddenly a super grumpy baby. His diapers started to dry up too, and then when he would have a wet diaper, his urine was really dark. He just wanted to be held all the time with his sweet head resting on my shoulder.

I was worried about him, but I couldn't pin my finger on one thing, especially with everything he had been through. So I tried not to worry too much and waited for things to pass. But then another symptom popped up that I couldn't ignore. On October 12th (Wednesday) I noticed that the corner of his eyes looked a bit yellow; just like a baby with jaundice. The next day Xavier noticed it too. My mom suggested that something might be wrong with his liver, since yellowing of eyes and skin can be a common symptom. Also, the next night at 1:30 am he woke up because he had vomited. He didn't have a flu bug and hadn't just was just a random vomit that seemed very out of place.

So I made an appointment to see our doctor again on October 14th (Friday). Since I called that morning I couldn't get in to see our pediatrician, so I saw the nurse practitioner, who was brand-new. I told her all of the symptoms, including the yellow eyes. She checked him all out, palpated his tummy, looked at his eyes (made no comment), and ran a CBC screen on his blood. She called later to say that his white blood cells were not elevated, so there was no infection, and he did not have anemia. So we were to just watch him and ride it out.

I had been praying that if something was really wrong with my baby, I would know that we needed to get help. I tried to get that help on the 14th, and it obviously didn't get us anywhere. The nagging feeling that something was really wrong just didn't go away. That whole weekend I fretted about him. It made it more serious to me when Xavier was clearly worried too. Our baby just wasn't himself.

On October 16th (Sunday), we visited with some friends and neighbors, who clearly could see that Case was not himself. The yellow eyes were apparent and his change in personality could not be denied. I knew that we weren't just over-reactive parents. I decided that I would call the next morning to a doctor who had recently left our pediatrician's practice to get a second opinion. At the worst, I thought Case had some liver dysfunction that would need medication to correct it.

The next morning, October 17th (Monday), I called Dr. Kim Smith on the way to drop Graydon off at pre-school. I got an appointment with her that day at 10:30. So I went home to get a couple of hours of work in...just like any regular day. I woke Case up from his nap and ran out the door. Little did I know that everything in our world would come crashing down!

First, I must say that I know that Dr. Smith was an answer to our prayers. She was observant and listened to everything I had to say. After explaining everything that had been going on, she felt his tummy and checked out his yellowing. She calmly told me that she was very concerned for our baby. She told me that his liver felt twice the normal size. She took Case in her arms and told me to call Xavier and have him meet me immediately at Children's Hospital (the campus in Plano) to have blood tests and a scan.

That is when the panic started to rise in me. I burst into tears and told X to leave work right away and to meet me at the hospital. I am thinking somewhere along the lines of Hepatitis A (from exposure from our long trip) or, again, some sort of liver dysfunction. Something is definitely wrong with my baby and I cried all the way to the hospital.

We get there and my parents and sister meet us there. We go into the ER and get Case hooked up to an IV. His blood tests come back relatively normal, so we moved on to an ultrasound of his belly. Xavier and I were with him during the ultrasound and I had such a sick feeling. I couldn't bear to look at the screen. The ER doctor came in a bit later to tell us that there was a "mass" in Case's abdomen that looked like it was coming from the liver.

"Okay, I'm freaking out internally, but calm on the outside," I think. "Liver dysfunction...just what I thought. 'Mass' definitely means benign to me." Then the sweet ER doctor looked at us and said, "I've called the oncologist at the Dallas Campus and I'm going to have you transferred down there."

I'm just trying to register all of these words and I remain calm. Then I look at my mom and she has silently started to cry. All of a sudden I'm on high alert and I think, "wait, she just said 'oncologist.' That's a cancer doctor. Why did she say that?" I asked her point-blank..."do you think my baby has cancer?" By now we're all crying and the ER doctor starts crying herself and says that she can't be sure, but it looks like it might be.

Confusion, shock, bewilderment, and agony all rip through me! The unknown is now the enemy, and I talk myself into believing that my baby has a tumor, and that the biopsy will show that it is benign. We wait for a transport team to take us down to Dallas in an ambulance. My darling baby has now been going for about 6 hours without a nap and they don't want me to feed him, just in case he goes in for tests that night and needs to be sedated.

Two paramedics strap Case to a gurney, and the ride in the ambulance was a long one. I switch back and forth between silently crying next to the ambulance driver and convincing myself we are just having a quick surgery to remove a benign tumor. When we get to the hospital I follow the transport team through a maze of corridors. When we walk through the doors of a unit and I pass the big sign that reads "Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders" I am partially in denial and partially gripped by horrible agony.

I keep thinking, "this morning I was just dropping off Graydon at preschool like a normal mom and now I'm in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Medical Center? This isn't happening!" It is every parent's worst nightmare.

So there you have it...this is how it all began. Fortunately, through the next twelve days of being in the hospital we learned that there is hope and that faith is real. We have come to accept this new life, as denial would only be detrimental to our family. We have already learned valuable lessons from these past three weeks, and know that there are many more to come.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Official Diagnosis

With all of the pathology and scan results, we have a final verdict:

Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in the Abdomen

There are NO neuroblastoma cells in his bone marrow, bones, liver, or soft tissue... Hooray! These are all areas that neuroblastoma spreads to, and Case has specific tests and scans for each of these areas.

It is Stage 4 because, aside from the large tumor in his abdomen, there is a tiny little tumor deep in his chest in between his spine and lung (though it does not go into either of these areas). The Stage 4 classification over Stage 3 doesn't devastate us because he receives the same treatment either way. Dr. Pass felt like it isn't a true metastasized tumor, but a secondary piece from the original (or something like that).

So we are looking at 8 cycles of chemo, approximately 3 weeks each. There you have it.

Clinic Visit #1

Look at the smiles below! Case is loving being at home! With each day he is perking up more and more. His appetite has increased (not back to where it was before this started). He is sitting and playing with his toys. And the best thing so far...this morning he laughed! It caught me off guard when I realized I hadn't heard him laugh in over two weeks. What a sad thing for a little baby! But he thought me trying to give him a "high-five" this morning was hilarious. He also thinks that the word "billirubin" is hilarious...if only he knew the irony in it.

The picture below is as close as we got to any Halloween activity. We put on the bear outfit just long enough to snap a picture. On Halloween we had our first clinic visit, which was also our first visit to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorder (CCBD) at the Children's Legacy campus in Plano. We decided that we love our new doctor, Dr. Appell, and everyone else in the office.

Case's white blood cells (WBC) are extremely low. We knew this would be the case, as that is what happens with chemo, but his are REALLY low. For example, when your number hits 0.5 or lower, you are considered "neutropenic," or very susceptible to infection. Your body basically does not have the ability to fight off even a cold. Last Friday Case's number was 4.56. On Monday he was 0.1!! Zero point one! Some people on chemo don't even reach the neutropenic level of 0.5, let alone 0.1!!

So Dr. Appell just forewarned us that Case will get sick in between cycles. It's just inevitable; even if he lived in a bubble. So we are still sanitizing ourselves and the entire house every other second, but we know it will eventually happen. Unfortunately, due to his age, that means hospitalization. So don't be surprised when that happens! We are being careful though. Since Monday Case has not even stood at an open door, let alone venture outside.

But...the most important things are 1) That he's MYC-N Negative!!!! and 2) That he's HAPPY!

Everyone, we can't thank you all enough for all of your prayers! I know that Heavenly Father has been inundated with prayers concerning Case and we love it! Thank you for your specific prayers concerning the MYC-N gene. We know that this was an answer to thousands of prayers. Now we just need this boy to remain stable in his weight (not lose anymore), remain infection-free, and withstand the chemo and let it do its job!

Thank you for every one's outpouring of love. It is definitely felt!