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Andrew and MelissaUpdates Archive

    February 27, 2004    
February 21, 2004   February 13, 2004   February 11, 2004
February 9, 2004   January 27, 2004   January 24, 2004
December 23, 2003   November 10, 2003   October 23, 2003
October 1, 2003   September 15, 2003   September 8, 2003
August 28, 2003   August 21, 2003   August 20, 2003
August 13, 2003   August 11, 2003   August 6, 2003
July 30, 2003   July 29, 2003   July 14, 2003
June 30, 2003   June 10, 2003   June 4, 2003
May 14, 2003   March 5, 2003   April 27, 2003
April 19, 2003   April 15, 2003   April 13, 2003
April 7, 2003   April 1, 2003   March 18, 2003
March 14, 2003   March 8, 2003   March 6, 2003
March 3, 2003   March 1, 2003   February 26, 2003
February 22, 2003   February 20, 2003   February 17, 2003
February 13, 2003   February 12, 2003   February 11, 2003
February 9, 2003   February 4, 2003   February 2, 2003
January 30, 2003   January 27, 2003   January 25, 2003
January 21, 2003   January 19, 2003   January 18, 2003
January 17, 2003   January 16, 2003   January 14, 2003
January 10, 2003   January 8, 2003   January 7, 2003
January 6, 2003   January 2, 2003   December 30, 2002
December 24, 2002   December 21, 2002   December 19, 2002
December 16, 2002   December 14, 2002   December 11, 2002
December 10, 2002   December 8, 2002   December 5, 2002
November 30, 2002   November 22, 2002   November 21, 2002
November 18, 2002   November 13, 2002   November 11, 2002
November 7, 2002   November 6, 2002   November 3, 2002
October 29, 2002   October 24, 2002   October 17, 2002
October 12, 2002   October 7, 2002   October 3, 2002
October 1, 2002   September 29, 2002   September 24, 2002
September 23,2002   September 17, 2002   September 12, 2002
September 7, 2002   September 5, 2002   September 4, 2002
September 2, 2002   September 1, 2002   August 27, 2002
August 24, 2002   August 23, 2002   August 22, 2002
August 21, 2002   August 18, 2002   July 23, 2002
July 6, 2002   June 28, 2002   June 19, 2002
June 7, 2002   June 3, 2002   May 31, 2002
May 28, 2002   May 22, 2002   May 11, 2002
May 7, 2002   May 3, 2002   May 1, 2002
April 30, 2002 April 28, 2002   April 24, 2002

February 27, 2004

It has been a very difficult time. Andrew's tumors are growing very fast; he has stopped eating; and he is on IV morphine at doses that would knock over a horse. His red blood cell levels are so low that he should be delirious, yet he is lucid and interactive and, at times, even funny. While his body is wasting away and does not have much time left, his spirit is indomitable and he retains his loving, caring outlook through it all. The doctors expect that he will not make it through the weekend, but little of his disease has gone as predicted.

We struggle as we watch his body fade, but are so encouraged by Andrew's bonding with us through all this. He touches everyone with whom he comes in contact with love. It is an amazing thing to watch.

I continue to struggle with 'why'. Many have asked me why God has chosen not to heal Andrew with all our earnest prayer. The engineer inside me struggles to fix anything broken - any question unanswered; so I have spent a lot of time considering this. I do not pretend to speak for God or imply that I have THE right answer, but I have some insight into this after all this thought. God made each of us for a purpose. As we live our lives we touch and minister to each other as part of our purpose. While I cannot presume to speak for God's purpose for Andrew's life, I have seen Andrew and his story touch hundreds, perhaps thousands - beyond anything most of us get a chance to do in our much longer lives. Andrew has taught so many about childlike faith and unconditional love through trial and hardship. I know my life has been deeply changed and I expect the same is true for many of you. My sincere prayer is that all of us grow to be more Christ-like in our lives through sharing Andrew's life.

Please carry our family in prayer through the next few days. They will be very hard! When Andrew leaves us he will be much better off - free, at peace, and in a much better place - but we who remain behind will mourn our loss.

May God fill you with peace, love, and joy!

February 21, 2004

Andrew spent last night in the hospital to get blood - red cells and platelets. His heart cannot handle sudden increases in fluid volume, so the doctors give him the cells slowly and in intervals so his system can cope with the change. His body appears to be unable to generate red cells or platelets anymore which indicates the tumors have taken over his bone marrow almost completely. He is still eating an occasional chicken nugget, although they are few and far between. His energy level is low and he has very few good moments. We spend much of our time balancing his pain medication and rubbing his legs to keep him comfortable.

Melissa's mom was here for a few days and my parents came for a few days to help us with the load, but now we are "circling the wagons" of our family. We want to spend time as a nuclear family, to draw strength from each other, and to talk through our worries, fears, and the future. We appreciate the calls and visits we have had, but as we go forward we need to be close, quiet, and undisturbed.

Today marks my 43rd birthday. I find myself thinking all day that I'd trade them all and all I have left to let Andrew have them. Through all this he remains a loving and caring little boy. He is still a giving and tender soul through all the pain and it often feels totally unfair. Melissa and I talked about that today. Nothing about this or most of life is fair - and yet God grants us grace and mercy when we quite clearly don't deserve it - any of us. I can't explain why a little boy has to die; but I know that Andrew will have touched more lives for good in his short life than most of will in our full lifetimes.

We ask for your prayers and support through this tremendously difficult time. Each day is a challenge to keep Andrew comfortable, keep his spirits up, and keep our spirits up. We covet your prayer support to carry us through this time.

Listed in this document are hotel and transportation information. If and when Andrew's funeral comes we won't have the time or energy to help with logistics or host anyone at our house, so we send this information out now in preparation for that time. Also, we ask that you not send flowers either to our home or to the funeral, but instead contribute to the medical expense/memorial fund we have set up.

Thank you for your love and prayers! God bless!

February 13, 2004

The fund-raiser for Andrew on Tuesday night was incredible, overwhelming, and many other adjectives! The community supported us beyond our wildest dreams. The link below can give you a bit more information from the paper on it.

http://www.journalnet.com/articles/2004/02/11/news/local/news01.txt

At one point the line of people inside was all the way around the store and half way around again. The drive-thru line came from two directions and both were a half-mile long. They sold 2,536 orders of chicken nuggets (for you counting out there, that's 12,680 nuggets.) It was an amazing night!

Andrew lasted about an hour, but between the overwhelming crowd of people (all who wanted to say hello) and getting the hiccups (which frustrated him), he needed to leave after a little over an hour. For those of you in town who went, thank you very much. For those of you who donated, either there or since, thank you very much! We have been so overwhelmed by the generosity of people to our family. It is just amazing.

Andrew's condition remains about the same. He needs regular doses of Methadone and Hydrocodone to function. But when we have his doses set right he is able to play and talk. Because our schedule changes and his activity level changes, we still are challenged to keep his medication level steady and at the right level. When he is in pain he just wants someone to hold him and watch videos. By early evening, regardless of how he has done during the day, he is tired and goes to bed early. He typically wants someone to cuddle with him when he goes to bed - he is afraid to be alone. He is the caring gentle boy he has always been and still prays for others and not himself. He is an excellent example of what I should be; what I want to be.

Please keep us in your prayers. The days are tiring for all of us and the need for patience, wisdom, and hope grows each day. We pray for a miracle and prepare for the inevitable. We all will pass on to another place at some point; it appears that Andrew is getting a head start on eternity.

February 11, 2004

I have had a couple people point out that I should provide an address to send funds to. Please do not read this as a solicitation, just information (it makes me feel a bit guilty to even bring up money, since God has continued to provide so well, but many people are asking.) You can send funds directly to the bank or our church at the addresses below:

Andrew Nelson Fund
c/o Citizens Community Bank
280 S. Arthur
Pocatello, ID 83204

or

Andrew Nelson Fund
c/o Grace Lutheran Church
1350 Baldy Avenue
Pocatello, ID 83201

We have struggled with giving this fund a name since it is not specifically a memorial fund, nor a expense fund - hence the rather uncreative name. But, as I have said in previous messages, we will use the funds for expenses where necessary and, if Andrew dies, use the remainder for some sort of memorial.

Again, please feel no obligation. This e-mail list and web site are for prayer support and information, not financial support. God has and continues to provide finances beyond anything I could have ever hoped or dreamed.

May God grant you an extra measure of His peace today and every day!

February 9, 2004

It has been a difficult and eventful week at our house. Andrew's condition has degraded a bit and we have been struggling to find the balance between not enough pain medication and having him unable to move due to pain in his legs and too much medication and putting him to sleep. He continues to be the caring, patient little boy he has demonstrated throughout even in this time of frustration and pain.

His friend, Joe, organized a half birthday celebration this week since he had promised Andrew he would come to Andrew's fifth birthday party. Andrew had cake a presents and Joe and Kathy came and John, Lana, Adam, and Levi came to celebrate as well. He didn't feel too good, but the presents, in particular, brought a smile. We have had a reporter and photographer from the local paper with us during part of the week. What started out to be a small article ended up being a three page spread covering Andrew and our family and friends very well. It is in the Sunday Idaho State Journal. Here is a link to the story: http://www.journalnet.com/articles/2004/02/08/news/local/news01.txt

Andrew's Grandma Becker is here and that has made Andrew happier too. Grandpa Becker is staying in a nursing home for a few days while Grandma visits. He is a bit sad and lonely without her, but he wanted Andrew to see her too. Grandpa is continuing his battle - primarily with the stroke effects. His cancer is not growing very quickly, but he has had pain and is battling the effects of the mini-strokes he had which have reduced his mobility and his ability to communicate.

Joe is doing a bit better after his surgery and made special efforts to support Andrew. We appreciate his love and dedication to Andrew and our family. Andrew continues to pray for him every night.

The girls and Melissa and I are coping. Kelsey and I went to the Daddy-Daughter Dance at school last night. She had a blast (and I had a good time too.) The girls are attending regular counseling which has allowed them some place to get some relief. We have engaged Hospice which is helping all of us cope. We also have had the support of some very special doctors and nurses that have gone way beyond the call of duty to help us and Andrew.

We pray every day that Andrew will have peace and be pain-free through his remaining days. Please continue to hold us up in these difficult days.

We thank you for all of your support!

God bless you in all you do!

January 27, 2004

Today we learned that Andrew's tumors are growing again - in spite of the chemotherapy. This was a probable outcome - it is rare that a chemotherapy drug will continue to be effective as the body (and, in this case, the
cancer) adapts and can keep growing. There are no more medical solutions. Andrew is coming home tonight with Melissa from Salt Lake and we will begin the process of caring for him to minimize his discomfort through his final days.

We ask for your prayers. We do not give up hope for a miracle, but after 22 months of fighting, I believe God has chosen to take Andrew home. If this is the case, it is for Andrew's best, but it makes me sad beyond anything I've ever experienced. Please pray for Andrew's peace through a miracle of healing or through God calling him to heaven with as little discomfort as possible.

We don't have any idea how long this could take (we know that Andrew's friend, Jackson, only survived three weeks after they stopped treatment). We covet your prayers and your understanding if we don't answer the phone or are a little detached as we focus on the time we have left with our precious Andrew.

January 24, 2004

I apologize for the time that has passed since the last e-mail. When Andrew is doing well, it is hard to write - it admits that there is still something abnormal or different about him.

Christmas was a magical time! Andrew had a fantastic time and received lots of presents. He, like so many children his age, wanted to play with the last toy he opened rather than open the next package. Last year at Christmas he was on a respirator and we sang "Silent Night" around his ICU bed. This year Melissa and I cried when we sang "Silent Night" at our Christmas Eve service. It was such a blessing!

Andrew has been doing extremely well until this week. He is going to school two days a week and can't wait to go the next time. However, this week has been a major trial. Tuesday he started having stomach pain. We eventually figured out he had a blocked bowel and after two days of laxatives and suppositories, he finally got relief. But that then caused him to be dehydrated. We ended up in the hospital to get him IV fluids to help him feel better. These fluids loaded his heart, causing it to work harder and increase his pulse and he needed to stay overnight for observation until his system got back in balance. He is still having stomach pain and a bit of fever, so he might have a bug he is fighting. He isn't felling too well today.

In addition to all these "little" issues, the doctors here in Pocatello feel that his tumor may be getting bigger. Tuesday Melissa and Andrew will go to Salt Lake City to have tests and scans to see where we are. We knew up front that there was little chance that chemotherapy, if it worked at all, would eventually become ineffective as his system adjusts to it. The list of things left to do is growing much shorter.

Throughout these last five months, that we really didn't expect to have, have been filled with joy in Andrew's life and ours. But at the same time, we knew that, short of a miracle, we were only borrowing time. That knowledge has torn me in two - not wanting to hope for a cure or a miracle; not wanting to get too excited about successes and happy times because it could change so quickly; wanting and praying for a miracle and, at the same time, not daring to believe that a miracle could come.

Our family needs your prayers desperately in the coming days. We have sincerely appreciated your love and support and prayer over the last years! We need prayer for Andrew to be healed or, at least if healing is not in God's will, that he be spared the pain. Melissa and I deeply need prayer for wisdom, faith, hope, courage, and patience as the medical issues get more complex. Our girls also need prayer to be at peace and able to live a somewhat normal life through what is to come. You might note that I am expecting that we are taking a turn for the worse. I ask that you pray that things continue to be peaceful and good, but I am trying to brace and prepare for the worst in case it does come.

We ask for your prayers for Melissa's dad, David, as he continues to deal with the after effects of the strokes and his cancer. He seems to be doing okay and he and Mom are getting home care to improve the quality of both of their lives, but it is still a challenging life. Also we'd appreciate your prayers for Joe. He is fighting his cancer and has needed surgery. He and his Mom, Kathy, and his brother, Dave have come to visit and Andrew is always so excited to see him! Andrew prays for Joe every night.

God has been and continues to be gracious to us and we have so much to be thankful for - friends and family that care and are always there to help us out. For financial health in the face of all of the medical bills (the stack of Andrew's bills and reports is now over 14 inches tall) and God has provided funds in several ways to cover this and then some. And for a job, colleagues, and a company that have been so supportive and flexible in dealing with our situation. We are blessed! Thank you all so much for your care and concern!

December 23, 2003

It has been quite some time since I have written - probably because writing this reminds me that there is something unusual about our family. But it is time to get you all caught up on the our family.

Last year at this time Andrew was in Intensive care with little chance of survival. We were doing nearly round-the clock vigil over him. Man y prayers and tears flowed at this time last year. This year many tears and prayers flow again - this time prayers of thanks and tears of joy! Andrew is doing pretty well. He has been weaned off all of the blood pressure medication and only takes medicine to keep his heart function up and prevent pneumonia. Latest tests show that his cancer is about the same - not growing or shrinking. His hair is coming in thin and light so he's not completely bald anymore. He has started going to school regularly and he is really enjoying it! His class put on a little Christmas program and he was so cute singing the songs and trying to do the motions. It was a great joy for us to see him being so normal!

Brittney and Kelsey are doing great as well. Both have been getting the best grades they could get. Brittney is enjoying third grade and taking piano and singing in the Tavaci singing group. Kelsey is loving first grade, learning to read quickly, learning piano, and singing in Tavaci, too. They are so caring and understanding when their brother needs a break and have been helpful with all the thing that we have needed to do.

Melissa has been busy getting ready for Christmas and taking care of the family. She has had a very busy season taking care of Andrew's medical and really celebrating this Christmas season to make up for last year.

I have been buried (far too buried) in work and papers and patent filings this year. I probably bit off far more than I should have, but things are winding down. The next few days should allow me to clean up the last details and close out the year. Now I need to spend some time trying to find balance to my life - I have push work down the priority list.

Melissa's mom and dad visited us at Thanksgiving. We had such a joyful time - a deep time of thanks - remembering that neither was supposed to be here by this time this year. Our lives have become for day to day, and a lot more thankful.

Melissa and Andrew saw Joe the last time they were in Salt Lake. He is still battling cancer and the treatments. He and Kathy need your prayers.

I wish I could express my feelings right now. I want to hope for the best for Andrew; I want to believe that a miracle will come; I want to celebrate this season and start planning the coming year. But God's plan is different. He wants Andrew to be with us, but He has not chosen to cure him - at least not yet. The pressures of work and the season and the stresses of Andrew's illness and the flu that all of us have had have made me more stressed than I than I've ever felt. More than anything this year I pray for peace - peace from the stress and the illness and work and then uncertainty of our world.

We seek your prayers in this season - prayers of thanks for how well Andrew's doing; prayers for healing for Joe, Melissa's dad, and for Andrew; prayers for peace for Melissa, the girls, and me; and prayers for our sad world that misses the real gift of Christmas - Jesus Christ came to earth to save us from the evil, sadness, and turmoil that this world has become. May your Christmas be one of peace, joy, and love.

Merry Christmas!

November 10, 2003

Tuesday Melissa and Andrew went to Salt Lake City to see the doctors for his cancer and his heart function. The tumor appears from the scans to be a bit bigger in part and smaller in other parts. We think that the doctors had not planned on Andrew to make it this far so this is fantastic news! We will keep on with the chemotherapy just as we are now - doing it ourselves and at home and trying to give Andrew as normal a life at home as possible. His heart condition was a bit poorer than last time, but the cardiologist felt that this wasn't a big problem. She increased the drug used to improve the heart function and is taking him off his blood pressure medications. So, even though we aren't looking at a perfect result, we feel like we are making progress in this area as well. Dropping the BP meds should improve his energy some and that will be interesting. He gained almost five pounds since last time and looks very healthy, so he may be like a normal toddler (read running out-of-control) with even more energy. He eats more than his sisters now and just seems so normal at times that it is actually possible to forget he's sick.

Today at church he sat with our good friends (and his God-parents), John and Lana and their boys. When offering time came, he ran around half-a-dozen pews to come and get offering money from us and ran back so he would be ready to put his money in the offering plate. He just exudes love and compassion and energy - it is such an amazing thing to watch and learn from.

Lately we have been reminded that trials and temptation are ways God can use us to mature and grow in character. We have grown so much from dealing with Andrew's illness and from the support our church and friends have given us. Last year at this time, Andrew was recovering from his second bone marrow transplant. At the beginning of December he was moved to Intensive Care where he was on a ventilator for most of December and early January. Today, if you overlook his bald head, one would be hard pressed to identify him as any different from most kids his age. What a gift! And what a reminder that we have SO MUCH to be thankful for!

In two weeks we celebrate Thanksgiving. The stores would have us look past it to Christmas. As we reflect on our lives, let us all hold firmly in our minds the things we have to be thankful for. In our family, we will share Thanksgiving with two people we were told would not be here by now, Andrew and Melissa's dad. We came very close to losing our nephew, Jacob. My grandparents have gone through all kinds of medical issues and still, at 97 and 95, they continue to keep the nursing home staff and my parents hopping to keep up with them. God has been gracious and merciful to us and we give thanks. I ask you to take some time in these coming days to reflect on all your blessings and give thanks to a gracious and merciful God who owes us none of this, and yet pours it on over and over again.

We ask for your deepest prayers for Joe, who is in the hospital with intense stomach pain. Wednesday they did surgery to remove an obstruction and he is doing better. He made some progress with the size of his tumors, but these complications are very hard and he and his mom, Kathy, deeply need God's touch in their lives right now. We also ask for your prayers for Andrew to continue to heal - for his tumor to grow smaller and vanish. Please pray for Dad to improve. He and Mom are coming for Thanksgiving. Our house is not well suited for him with his reduced mobility (we have a house that is a stair climbers dream.) Please pray that their stay will be a time of great thankfulness and joy. Please pray for our girls as they deal with school and wild interruptions in their schedules and the stress of Andrew's illness and knowing that they could lose three grandparents and a brother very quickly, should God choose.

We are thankful especially for you, our extended family of prayer supporters. We are constantly encouraged by your support and love. We could not have come through so much without your support and the mercy and grace God has shown us. In this Thanksgiving season, we will be giving thanks for you!

October 23, 2003

I know that some of you probably thought we had fallen off the end of the earth since it has been so long since I have written. We came close, but I'll get to that later.

Andrew has had a few ups and downs. He is still generally a happy, caring boy and likes to watch videos and snuggle with his Mommy. He has been less active over these last weeks and we suspect that the side effects of the chemotherapy are causing some of that. The principal side effect is diarrhea and that has weakened him and made it hard for him to keep his weight up, but he maintains a positive outlook in spite of this. His blood counts are doing pretty well and his eating has its ups and downs as well. The urine test from three weeks ago came back with the two indicators even further apart. For counts that should track each other, this is indeed a puzzlement to the doctors. He had another test Monday along with a few other tests. We don't have many results, but what we have has been favorable.

So I guess what all of that says is that he is surprising the doctors in that he continues to do pretty well, but we really don't know if he is getting better or not. We are thankful for every day we have with him!!! He is an example to me daily of Christ's love - he is going through so many challenges and yet he constantly is thinking of others. He prays for Joe every night and his prayers are all prayers of thanks. He says "Thank you God to make Joe feel better. Thank you for making him smile. Thank you for helping us sleep good tonight..." What an example of Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Andrew is always thanking God for answers even while he is asking for them. His faith is inspiring; his love is deeply touching; and his focus on other people in the midst of his trials is challenging. Andrew is a normal four-year-old in most ways (temper tantrums, selfishness, demanding at times), but in these ways he has challenged me to grow up.

Last weekend some very nice friends let us use their cabin near Bear Lake (in SE Idaho.) It was quiet and peaceful, with no phones (except the cell phones we brought), no e-mail, and some real quality time as a family. We really needed the escape and it was an incredible blessing. Their cabin looks down on the lake and the beauty of the region is awe-inspiring. Starry nights without the city lights drowning out the stars; sunshine and clean air and natural beauty surrounding us - it was such s great reminder of the splendor of God's creations. Sunday morning we decided to drive down to the beach (the cabin is a ways up the hillside and there is no direct beach access.) We drove around for a while before we found a beach that was not private and closed. We found the State park on the north end open and drove down to the beach itself. The lake is way down due to the years of draught in our area and it is a couple hundred yards from the access ramp to the water. So I drove the mini-van a ways out on the sand (like many others had done in the past.) I looked at Melissa as we were going and said "I wonder where the sand starts to get soft." Right then the wheels started to bog down. Melissa laughed and replied " About right there." We were stuck!

Being a somewhat typical man, I jumped out to look over the situation. I found a long 2x4 and told Melissa to get in the driver's seat and I dug out the sand under one of the wheels and stuck the 2x4 under it. Then, in my best impression of the Incredible Hulk, I pushed while Melissa put the van in reverse. Well most of you probably have guessed that I got sweaty and sandy, but the van didn't move. Fortunately, the one moment of lucid thought I had reminded me to lift with my arms and legs and not my back. Well, while I'll was trying to figure out how to get the van out of the sand, Melissa remembered our AAA membership and the cell phone and called for help. Thank the Lord that she had a clearer head than I. It took them 90 minutes for the tow truck to get there, so the girls collected shells while I flagged other drivers coming down to the beach not to drive as far as we had. It only took about five minutes to get out once the truck arrived. In the end, I was dirty and got myself a great set of sore muscles and we all have an adventure to laugh about.

We ask for your continued prayers for Andrew. We have gathered from indirect references from our various doctors that they didn't really expect Andrew to survive this long. We thank you for your prayer support which has carried him (and us) this far. We praise God that He has given us Andrew and given us so much more time than we could have ever expected. We need your prayers for his healing and for his comfort. We ask that you would pray for relief from the side effects of the chemotherapy.

We also ask for your prayers for Melissa's dad, David. He had to be hospitalized two weekends ago from effects of a medication he received. The doctors have also found that the cancer has returned to his head. He is needing a lot of care. Please pray especially for Melissa's mom, Glenys, as she takes care of dad and organizes the support care that they need for him. Please pray for all of Melissa's family as they deal with these two dear family members' battles.

We saw Joe and Kathy today and got good news that Joe's tumors have gotten a bit smaller. We are not throwing any parties yet, but this is fantastic news. Joe and Kathy need your continued prayers for his recovery.

Lastly, I want to ask that you hold up Melissa in prayer particularly. She faces the loss of a child and a parent while maintaining the life of a parent for two active girls and keeping her juvenile-delinquent husband in order. And she does it with a grace and positive outlook that never ceases to amaze me. Thank God that I don't have to face this without her.

May God bless you and keep you; may He shine on you and be gracious to you; may he look upon you with favor and give you His perfect peace.

Just a piece of good news to pass along - Andrew's urine test came back with both indicators down! The last two tests have had one value go down and the other up. These indicators are supposed to be proportional to the amount of tumor in his body. Having both go down is great news! Thank the Lord! Please remember to thank the Lord for this in your prayers as well!

May God's blessings fill your life!

October 1, 2003

It has been an extremely busy time for me at work and the usual bustle at home which makes the days slip by quickly. I can't believe it has been 16 days since my last update!

Andrew went two weeks before needing another blood transfusion. Friday he needed red cells and Sunday he needed platelets. He has been happy and playing and has had little side effect from the chemotherapy. We have done everything at home except the blood work, with the help from some nurses, friends, and on our own. Andrew's appetite continues to improve and has ebbs and flows during the day depending on what else is happening - just like most normal children. When there's something exciting going on, he's not hungry. When things are boring, he's hungry.

Yesterday he had another urine sample taken and we'll find out later this week if we continue to make progress, are staying even, or losing ground to the cancer. So much of our life has become routine in handling treatment and working around Andrew's support that, at times, I forget that I should relish this time - it may be fleeting.

My company had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) last week and is now traded on the NASDAQ. It was a momentous time for AMI and it people. The excitement of that and several changes in my responsibilities have kept me running (and working late into the night - fortunately on my laptop, at home) trying to stay ahead of things. This week is the most intense and then things should retreat back to just a simple, frenetic pace. ;-)

The girls are handling school well and have piano lessons and a singing group to keep them busy outside of school. Melissa is happy being able to have a few friends over now and then for coffee and treats (she's all about having treats!). So, I'd say that in general our life is quite happy and peaceful and God has blessed us in this time. In the back of our minds we carry the fear of what might come next but try to focus on the joy of today.

Sunday at church we sang one of my favorite songs whose meaning came alive in a new way now - Faithful One by Brian Doerkson. I'll try to run the words by you from memory (please forgive any lapses):

"Faithful One, so unchanging,
Ageless One, you're my Rock of Peace.
Lord of All, I depend on You.
I cry out to You, again and again.
I cry out to You, again and again.
You are my Rock in times of trouble.
You lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm,
You're love is the anchor.
My hope is in You alone."

God has blessed our family richly and in these times of trial and, at times, hopelessness, we have clung to His love as our anchor. He has and continues to carry our burdens (when we allow Him to) and loves us directly and through you and your love and concern.

Please pray for a miracle in Andrew and that he continue to have times of great joy. Please hold our family up for peace and for us to continue to cling to our Anchor. Please pray for our friend Joe as the treatments don't seem to be having much effect on his disease, but have all the side effects.

And may the Rock of Peace be your anchor in your storms of life.

September 15, 2003

We have had a very good week with Andrew. His appetite continues to improve (although he hasn't gained any weight yet) and his energy level has also improved so he is playing a bit more and walking and climbing stairs. He has not needed a blood transfusion all week. His blood counts are getting better on their own which is a very encouraging sign. He still is quite shy and even crabby in big groups or when lots of people come up to us, so it isn't easy to show his improvement. The urine test that was taken to determine if the tumor is growing or shrinking came back with a very puzzling response - one measure much higher and the other much lower. Again Andrew is confusing the doctors. Our Oncologist is looking into what this might mean and told us the secondary signs (like appetite and blood counts) suggest that the tumor is shrinking or, at least, not growing.

We are thankful, but are careful to remind ourselves that the odds of a single chemotherapy curing the cancer are very long. We are not ruling out miracles, but we can't live on the emotional rollercoaster, so we just take each thing as it comes with as little excitement either way as possible. We still pray and ask you to pray for a miracle for Andrew.

The rest of the family seems to be doing okay. We take each day one at a time and deal with each high and low point as they come. We have been so blessed by the support I have had from work and the support and prayers of our friends at church! God has truly taken care of us through this difficult journey! Some days I think how much easier it would have been to have lost Andrew suddenly instead of fighting and wondering and waiting for the outcome. But all these days with him have been a treasure. He is so sweet and gentle and loving that I can't imagine life without him.

He has started to make jokes now. He is still bald as a billiard ball, but a couple days ago he said that we needed to deal with his "messy 'do." His smile is infectious and he cares about others. When we're out to eat, he asks us how our food is. When we look tired or sad, he tries to comfort us. He is just a blessing to have as our child. Imagining the future is a very hard thing...

Thank you for your love and support! Please continue to hold us up in prayer. At times it may feel inadequate, but it has kept us together when times have been rough and continues to fill us with a peace the doesn't fit the turmoil we are in.

September 8, 2003

I apologize for how long it has been since the last journal. When I wrote last Andrew was experiencing significant leg pain, he was unable to produce any measurable platelets which required that he get transfusions every couple of days, and he was lethargic and only wanting to be held - not active at all.

This week has been one of measurable progress. We are reluctant to take hope from this progress for fear of the letdown on the other end, but his progress is cause for cheer - it is making his life much more enjoyable! The leg pain was well managed by the prescription the doctors gave us, but within a couple of days he no longer needed any pain medication as the pain dissipated. His appetite was limited to Melissa's baked beans and Wendy's chicken nuggets. He has added pancakes, grapes, cheese, and chocolate pudding to his menu and is eating much more normally again. That has improved his strength and his energy and he is playing a bit again and talking a LOT! Today Andrew received more platelets, but it had been five days since the last transfusion and his count was actually up today from Friday. We did the transfusion because his level was fairly low and the platelets had been prepared for him and would expire tonight. It is quite a cause for celebration that he is able to produce platelets as it MAY indicate that the cancer is being reversed in his bone marrow. We take great caution in this because we are trying not to get our hope too high, but all the signs this week have been positive. Please pray for Andrew to be healed - either by miracle or medicine.

We thank you for your abundant prayers, encouraging e-mails, hugs, and support. We feel quite blessed that so many people care for us and pray for us in this time of trial. I believe God is honoring our prayer by helping Andrew feel better, regardless of the final outcome. We still pray for a miracle and for the strength to trust God and His sovereign plan.

Andrew's cousin Jacob is home with a big question mark shaped scar and a very thankful family that he seems on the road to full recovery. He was perhaps less than a half hour from death and the doctors remarked at how surprised they were at his incredible recovery. We give thanks to God who answered our prayers over Jacob in a big way!

Joe has visited us a few times in the last couple of weeks. He continues on a new drug regime and we pray that his cancer would respond completely and that he would be healed. Joe and Kathy have really become a valued part of our family and Andrew loves Joe so much - he's like a big brother and Santa Claus all rolled into one for Andrew and he looks forward to seeing Joe any time they come.

Melissa and I struggle with our deep desire for Andrew to be healed and our just as deep desire that he not suffer any more. We have started preparing for the possibility of a funeral and hope that our preparations are not needed. Perhaps it is a way to plan something (a deep need for both of us) when planning is not an option for us much right now. We feel frustrated, powerless, hopeful, and appreciative. There is such a mix of feelings that they are hard and tiring to sort out. We appreciate deeply your prayers and support - thank you just doesn't cover it, but THANK YOU!!!

We still need much prayer for peace and strength for Melissa and I and our family.

Andrew is feeling better, but he does have one unusual problem right now - he is getting mobbed when we go out in public. There are so many people that want to see how he is doing that he doesn't get much personal space when we are out. He has gone to preschool a couple of times and he has a hard time sharing space with other kids. He has spent so much time in isolation that he doesn't have much tolerance to other kids getting into his personal space. He doesn't have too much problem with sharing toys, but to have someone close to him besides mom or dad does seem to be a problem. Please understand that if you see Andrew and he seems crabby or sad or tired, it is just his way of coping with more attention than he can handle.

Many have offered to give blood for Andrew. We have looked into it since I am the same type as Andrew, but the staff has told us that such a specific transfusion is more expensive than using the supply already available. However, any of you that can donate blood, regardless of type, will help Andrew or hundreds of others like him that need blood to save their lives. It is truly the gift of life. In the same way, those of us who know the Lord have a vital Spirit of life that we need to give to others to save their lives.

August 28, 2003

It has been a very hard day. Last night Andrew began to complain of leg pain. He has had some pain in his legs on and off for a couple of weeks, but we have seen muscle cramps with those complaints (his electrolytes have been off.) But this time the pain is due to the disease invading his bones. This was the first symptom we saw when he was diagnosed and indicates continuing progression of the cancer even with chemotherapy. Andrew was not able to sleep much last night spending much of the night crying and screaming. He even said at one point "Leg stop hurting." We have better pain medication tonight and at the moment he is resting peacefully. We are committed to keep him at home as much as possible - his chemotherapy is taking place here and as much of his treatment as possible will be here. He will probably need regular blood transfusions and our pediatrician has set up a program at the local hospital to minimize the impact on time away from home for that.

This rather sudden change has reminded us of where this is going - we are feeling more sad and weep over Andrew's pain. We understand that medicine has no real chance and, short of a miracle, Andrew is not going to live much longer. That is very hard to say or write. We have prayed diligently for a different outcome, but God's plan is different. I would be lying if I said I am comfortable with that - I am angry and hurt. But I am only angry because I will miss Andrew - I rejoice that Andrew will be free of the pain and suffering that this world has offered and will join the "great crowd of witnesses" cheering us on someday soon.

That brings me to something that has crossed my mind and, most likely, most of your minds - why has God chosen this result when so many of us have prayed for Andrew? I certainly don't claim to know the mind of God, nor can I explain the mysteries of His plan; but I believe that good can and has come out of this difficult situation. We have grown closer to God crying out to Him over Andrew. Andrew has taught many of us a new level of courage and perspective over our trials - so many of the things that bring us down are so minor by comparison to the challenges Andrew has faced. Andrew has taught me to love others and care about them regardless of my situation. I encourage you to continue to reach out to God in your trials and hold each other up. Your prayers have helped our family immensely - we could not have coped with all of this pain and stress without God's hand holding us in response to your prayers.

We are hoping that tomorrow Andrew's friend Joe can come for a visit. He is back in Salt Lake City after the treatment in San Antonio did not help. They are trying new and different ways to attack his disease and his outlook is better than Andrew's. Joe continues to be a big support to Andrew and a witness to the people around him. Please continue to pray for Joe - he needs God's healing to carry him through his treatment and drive the tumors out of his body.

Please pray for our family as we cope with this situation - for Melissa and I to have peace and to make wise decisions; for the girls to be able to cope with such a tragedy so close to them; for Andrew to be able to enjoy this time and not have pain; for the rest of our family to have peace.

May God bless you and fill you to overflowing with His love,

August 21, 2003

Today Andrew is getting platelets and preparing for surgery tomorrow to get his port put in. It will make all the chemotherapy and blood work much easier. This morning we went to the zoo and this afternoon, while Andrew and I are at the clinic, Melissa, Kelsey, and Brittney went with "Aunt Kathy" (Joe's mom - both of whom we have adopted into our family) to the Grand Hotel for "High Tea" - a very elegant tea party - to celebrate Kelsey's birthday. Tonight we'll go out for dinner for her birthday and have presents and then when we get back to Pocatello we'll have a party for her.

Andrew continues to lose weight and is easily fatigued. He understands that his cancer is back and that he will probably die - he occasionally cries about this and has told us that he doesn't want to die. Today he cried and said "I'm sad cause my cancer is back." He is now also showing symptoms of pain from the tumor growing in his bones. It is so hard during these times. But he continues to amaze me with his courage and his love for others in spite of all of this.

While in Florida we stayed at a place called "Give Kids the World". It is a wonderful place with 96 villas for families to stay in, a cafeteria, a pool and water playground, an ice cream parlor (open all day), an arcade, a theater with two showings of movies every night, a mini-putt golf course, a chapel, and a lot of beautiful gardens. They brought the Disney characters, Barney, and Shamu to the grounds for the kids to meet, get autographs, and get pictures. It was a great place for kids who aren't very mobile to have a magical experience. Everything at "Give Kids the World" is free for the families - all the ice cream you can eat included. they also supplied free tickets for Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Disney World. This is a place that truly runs on donations and volunteers. They cover everything. Don't ask Melissa or I about it unless you have a lot of time - we can not say enough good things about what they do!!!

We had a great day at Universal - riding the Suess themed rides and visiting Jurassic Park. Melissa and I rode one of the Double Dragon roller coasters. We had three wonderful days at the Disney Parks. At Animal Kingdom we were selected to be the host family for the day, got special seating for the "Festival of the Lion King", and had a memorable time in the "It's Tough to be a Bug" show. At MGM we ate at "Pizza Planet", saw "Muppets TV", and a show at "Playhouse Disney". At the Magic Kingdom we had a great time riding rides - Andrew's favorite was "Buzz Lightyear" (a ride/video game hybrid) - and the girls favorite was the "Space Mountain" roller coaster.

At SeaWorld we were able to see the Shamu show and left just before everyone got soaked! Andrew got very special treatment and got to meet the dolphins and feed them in a very hands on place. They took our family to the training area and blocked everyone else out. Andrew loved getting to pet the dolphins.

The best part was being able to go right to the front of the lines in all the parks for rides and autographs. My most memorable moment was when they asked us to stay after the Playhouse Disney show and Andrew got to meet the Bear (in the Big Blue House) personally. He got a hug and we have pictures of them together and with the whole family. For Andrew, the times with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Mike and Sully from Monsters, Inc., and many, many other characters were so special. He was looking forward to meeting them and wasn't disappointed!!!

We are glad we did not take our trip to Minnesota - Andrew has declined a great deal and needs immediate attention to stop this decline. We ask for your fervent prayers as he battles this and all the discomfort and discouragement. He was not old enough to understand the first time, but now he knows what is coming and he is sad and scared.

Updates on others - Jacob is doing much better and will be coming home on a train with his mom and dad. It was a close call and very scary for Matt and Detra, but all are doing better. They continue to need prayers as Jacob recovers and they travel home.

My friend who has lost her hearing has a new lease on the challenge as the doctors have found that her old implant is probably not working and are trying to get her a new one.

My Grandmother has been relocated to a Memory unit as her condition worsens with Alzheimer's disease or something similar. We are relieved that the doctors see the symptoms as she has exhibited some very erratic behavior and we were concerned that she could make some bad decisions if it was left up to her. So this situation is better although no one likes putting someone in such a facility.

Melissa's dad is still fighting with the effects of the cancer treatment and his strokes, but they are planning a trip to Hawaii next week to vacation a bit. We are glad they are feeling so adventurous and a little concerned about the challenges for mom with such a trip. But maybe we are being over-protective parents.

I'm sure I have forgotten something, but there are a lot of blessings in this list. There are a lot of challenges as well. Andrew's surgery is tomorrow morning. Please pray that he would be okay. He is running a bit of a fever tonight and we are worried that he may not be fit for surgery tomorrow or have an infection. He needs so much prayer over this time and so do we. The reality is hitting home and we are very tired and discouraged and even a bit afraid. Please hold us up tonight and tomorrow.

August 20, 2003

We had a great week in Florida last week! There is a lot to cover, but not much time to cover it tonight. I will fill in a few of the details when more time is available.

We had to cancel our trip to Minnesota. We were sad, but Andrew had a tough time with the heat and humidity in Florida and showed some signs of poor blood counts, so we decided it was better for him not to take the trip. We spent a good portion of today in the clinic in Primary Children's talking about further options. The day before we left for FL we had blood tests, urine tests, and red and platelet transfusions. His counts today were back to the levels before we left on the trip - a rather steep decline in seven days. His urine test showed that the oral chemotherapy had little to no effect at slowing the tumor growth. So we decided today to have a port (an access to his blood stream that we can use for blood draws and chemotherapy) put in and to change to IV chemotherapy. Tomorrow he will get platelets and Friday he will have surgery to put in the port. He will start chemotherapy next week and we are hoping to get everything arranged so we can do it at home.

There is so much to tell, but will save it for tomorrow. Please pray for Andrew and our family as we go through the next couple of difficult days. Tomorrow (8/21) is Kelsey's birthday. Please pray that we can make it a memorable day for her in spite of all the distractions with Andrew's treatment.

We need God's hand on us as we move forward - there are so many decisions and the nagging thought that this is all for naught.

May God keep you in the palm of His loving hand.

August 13, 2003

Today was a very long day! We drove to Salt Lake City and went to the Oncology clinic. Andrew had blood drawn and a urine test, but before the results came back we decided to give him a transfusion. He had platelets and red cells and we saw an immediate improvement in his energy and disposition. His Cardiologist also checked him and his heart function continues to be good, so we are dropping one of the heart medications (hopefully the one that makes him so very lethargic and sleepy and grumpy.)

Tomorrow, very early, we leave for Disney World. Please pray that we have a safe trip and Andrew has a wonderful time! And please continue to hold him up in prayer for a miracle and for peace within our family.

An update on Jacob, his surgery went well and he is recovering. The doctors told his parents that the timing of his operation was very close - a little later and the outcome could have been much worse. Please thank the Lord for His mercy on Jacob and continue to pray for his recovery.

August 11, 2003

We have experienced the "best of times and the worst of times" in the last few days. If you will indulge me, I'd like to start with the bad news first - it needs so much prayer.

Tonight we learned that our four-year-old nephew, Jacob, was hit in the temple by a swivel chair which caused bleeding into the brain cavity. He has had emergency surgery and is in Intensive Care tonight. The situation was life-threatening as an artery was broken causing a lot of fluid build up around the brain. Please pray for Jacob's complete recovery!!! Please also pray for Melissa's brother, Matthew, and his wife, Detra, as they cope with Jacob's injury and the trauma of a sick child!

We also learned this week that a friend had a bike accident and damaged his spinal cord - prognosis is uncertain. He and his family need a great deal of prayer.

Brittney and Melissa went to the funeral of her friend. It was hard but Brittney wanted to go to support the family. We're so proud of her! Today she wrote a note to her friend's family to let them know how she felt about their daughter - it was so sweet! Please pray for that family as they mourn their daughter/sister.

Melissa's dad is also struggling with the treatments and challenges of his cancer and the damage from the strokes he had from it. Please pray for him and for her mom as they deal with his illness and all the medical issues of their grandchildren. This is a huge burden for them.

I'd also like to ask for your prayers for a friend who has lost her hearing. She is a music teacher and has been battling this hearing loss for quite a while. In fact she taught music last year while severely hearing impaired - quite a remarkable feat! She is losing ground and it is an enormous burden on her. For those of us that can hear, we cannot imagine how isolating the loss of hearing can be. She needs your prayers that God will reveal to her His direction in her life from here on and that He will make His presence very real in her life right now as she struggles with feelings of isolation and loss.

So much pain and trial has come along in our lives, the lives of our family, and our friends. We ask for your support in this challenging time.

Now to some good news - Andrew drove a train on Wednesday! The local media were there and the local railroad gave Andrew an engineer's hat, safety sunglasses, ear plugs, and gloves to drive with and a teddy bear with an engineer's hat and a toy train. Then he got on a real freight train (over 6000 feet long) and get to learn how it ran and got to blow the whistle at every crossing on the whole 30 mile trip! While on the train he was quiet and a bit overwhelmed. Afterward he talked the whole way home about how much fun he had! He was smiling from ear to ear. He still talks about it. The local media covered it on all three TV stations and the front page of the paper. The railroad was so generous and deserved a lot more good press then they got.

Then Thursday night we camped out (in the backyard) with his buddy Joe and Joe's mom, Cathy. We had cookout and smores and had a blast! The ladies slept in one tent, Joe and Andrew in another, and I slept outside on the porch swing (there wasn't any room left in the tents.) We had a wonderful night!

Today some friends took us out boating at a local reservoir. They pulled us on a inner tube and we had a picnic and had a great time! Andrew stayed in the boat, but said he wanted to go again when we were cleaning up to go home. The girls had fun on the tubes and laughing at Melissa and I when we fell off the tube. I got up on water skis on my second try - the first time water skiing since I was 16 (26 years ago). It was a good day and everyone will sleep well tonight.

Andrew has requested Melissa make a pot of beans three times this week. His appetite hasn't been as good as we like, but he is still eating - particularly beans. He has had several good days this week. He likes being at home and insists on sleeping with us. We don't know how long he will continue to feel good but he is doing very well right now. The media said he had 4 to 15 weeks to live - we don't know where they got that figure, but it is baseless. We just don't know. God may heal him through the next chemotherapy or miracle, may take him tomorrow, or he may do well for a long time. We live each day as completely as possible and don't worry about tomorrow.

Please remember Andrew in prayer and ask God for a hedge of protection around our family and friends. We need a respite from all the bad news and issues. We are surprisingly at peace in all of this chaos and we know it is God's gentle hand on us due to your prayer support.

August 6, 2003

What a week! We have fought with the horrid feelings of frustration, loss, anger, and despair. We have begun to deal with things like what treatments we should do with Andrew and what we will not do - what activities we/he want to do and how we can fit them in. And we have had some incredible family time together.

Saturday we went to Bear Lake with good friends. We had a great time on the beach until a storm came up and we had to pick up and leave. Andrew didn't play much because his heart meds made him a bit sluggish. But he still talked about the lake and the beach and having pizza dinner together.

Sunday we went to Lagoon - an amusement park in Utah. The girls found out how much they loved the rides - especially the roller coasters. Andrew discovered the bumper cars and rode them over and over again. His smile was ear to ear! He talked about the bumper cars all the way home and is still talking about that trip!

We have been giving Andrew his oral chemotherapy for a week. He has not shown any negative effects from it. The stuff tastes horrible (based on his reaction), but he seems to be tolerating it otherwise. His energy level isn't very high, but the day at Lagoon showed that he can have a lot of fun and play hard.

The "Make a Wish" people were able to move up Andrew's Disney World visit to next week. We leave Pocatello Tuesday for Salt Lake and fly to Florida on Wednesday for a week. Then we are going to Minnesota to visit family for a week.

Andrew is also getting to ride/drive a train today at the Pocatello rail yard. He is very excited!

We ask for your prayers for Andrew and our family. Pray that Andrew would be healed and/or spared the pain. We pray for a miracle and we prepare for the worst. We need your prayers of support for us to have wisdom in all the incredibly difficult decisions we face and courage and hope as we face each day.

Please pray especially in the next few days for Brittney. Last night a classmate of hers died in an accident. Brittney has had a terrible day with that news and still coping with the realities of our family situation.

We are dealing with so many challenges, but rest in the promise: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." - John 14:27

May the peace of God fill your hearts and ours in the challenging days ahead.

July 30, 2003

I am writing this to many people who have not heard of Andrew's struggle to let you all know our situation today. We have just returned from the hospital. Andrew's cancer is back in the original location and has already spread to his bone marrow. Last month there was no sign of it, so it has spread very quickly again. All of the options remaining have, at best, a five percent chance of cure. We have chosen to do whatever we can to make his remaining days as happy and fun as possible. We will not submit him to any of the intense and debilitating treatments. He has some oral chemotherapy that we can administer while we try to move his "Make-a-Wish" trip to Disney World up to as soon as possible.

Andrew and our family need your prayers - for a miracle and for strength and for joy in his remaining time. Either God will work a miracle or He is calling Andrew home. Either way there is little we can do ourselves to change that outcome. We rely on Him for our support in the interim.

We have Andrew on oral chemotherapy for the short term and then we will likely put him on some stronger chemotherapy drugs to reduce the tumors and keep him comfortable. After a time these chemicals will lose their effectiveness, but we hope to give Andrew as much life as possible until that occurs. We'll stay tonight in Salt Lake City and return to Pocatello tomorrow.

Please pray for Andrew and our family as we learn to cope with this very difficult situation. A lot of tears have fallen and a lot will in the next months. Thank you for your special support during this time!

July 29, 2003

We found out today that the tests Andrew had last week came back positive - the cancer has recurred. We leave tonight for Salt Lake City and first thing tomorrow they will re-test to confirm the findings. There are no words that describe how we feel. We ask for your prayers as we once again face the prospect of losing our son, We ask that you would pray for a miracle and God's intervention on Andrew's behalf and that you pray for strength for our family as we face a very uncertain future.

July 14, 2003

Andrew continues to do well although he has had a small increase in his blood pressure medicine to keep that down where it belongs. He continues to be active and healthy and is eating more than his sisters now - a miraculous answer to prayer! Please continue to pray that Andrew's heart will be as healthy physically as it is emotionally and spiritually -- I've never seen a four-year-old that cares as much about others as Andrew. I have so far to go compared to his example!

Melissa's brother and his family and her Mom and Dad came to visit over the holidays. It was wonderful to see Dad and Mom again. Dad made enormous progress in their time with us! It was wonderful to be part of that! Please pray that Dad would emerge from the challenges that the strokes have inflicted on his body. By the time they left he was speaking more plainly and laughing more (mostly at us and the way we run around like the proverbial chicken!)

Most importantly, I ask for your prayers for Andrew's friend Joe. Monday, July 14th is Joe's 21st birthday. He continues to be receiving experimental treatment, but this week he and his family are in Las Vegas to celebrate his birthday in style. If the experimental therapy is not successful, there is no earthly hope. If it works there is still a lot of challenges ahead for him. Please take Monday, July 14th as a special day to remember Joe and to pray for his healing. If you have opportunity to fast and pray, please do so. If not, please remember this special young man in your prayers. If you get this after his birthday, don't worry - God will honor your prayers whenever you offer them.

Lastly, please remember my grandparents in prayer. My grandmother has had her hip replaced and is recovering in Albert Lea (their home) in a nursing home. My grandfather is back in their assisted care apartment. Both are not Christians for various reasons - most have to do with horrible experiences in their youth. Please pray for their spiritual health - they are dear to me and my family and we have tried to gently reach them with God's love, but now in their twilight years, we pray that they will soften to God's call.

Dear friends, you have held us up in so many ways - from gifts to encouraging words to the incredible prayer support you have given. We deeply appreciate all your efforts on our behalf. We have so little to give in return, but thanks and prayers for you. We hold you up in prayer as we can and would be glad to pray for your specific needs if you send them to me. God has used you to minister to our needs - please continue to yield to His call to be His hands and feet and you will touch the entire planet with His love.

June 30, 2003

Well after being in Belgium for a couple weeks I was able to spend four nights at home before leaving again. Tonight I am in Boise, Idaho preparing to present a couple of papers at a conference tomorrow. I'll head home tomorrow night so this is a short trip.

Andrew was very glad to see me when I get home Wednesday (almost as glad as I was to see him!) He is doing wonderfully!! He is eating well now - pretty much back to his appetite prior to this while ordeal. Praise the Lord! He has gained a little weight and seems to be gaining ground on every front. He remains on heart medication and has regular checkups to review weight and blood count, monthly urine tests to monitor for the marker associated with neuroblastoma to keep close watch for recurrence, and a scan every three months - again to insure no recurrence. The doctors are being very thorough.

Andrew is still in therapy - physical, occupational, and speech. He's made excellent progress in each. I've also noticed no significant effect from his hearing loss (the doctors told us that the high frequency loss he experienced should have minimal effect on day to day living.) That loss may be making it a bit harder for him to hear the difference in making an 's' sound with his tongue or just his teeth which is the principal speech issue that remains. All in all we are so thankful for his incredible recovery. He is a very polite, obedient, and happy boy - perhaps a bit too good for a typical four-year-old, but we are so proud of him and what he is accomplishing!!

The girls are visiting Grandma and Grandpa Becker in Portland and will be coming back for the 4th of July celebration. Grandpa is doing okay - his cancer seems in control, but the effects of the strokes have diminished his ability to get around which is frustrating for him. We are thankful for each day we have with him as well. God made him a very special man and he is a reminder (just like Andrew) of what one can overcome with God's help and the love and care of others.

My parents have successfully moved into their new place and are getting settled. This week was a bit too eventful as they took my grandparents for a little trip and on the way home my grandmother fell and broke her hip. Please pray for my grandma and grandpa. They are not Christians though my family has shared with them again and again. Perhaps in this new challenge the Spirit can reach through the stubbornness and pride to touch their hearts. Grandma turns 97 in July and Grandpa just turned 94 so they've been around and seen a lot of change in our world.

We ask for your continued prayers for Andrew. As well as he is doing, we can only take one day at a time. His cancer could return at any moment and we continue to live with a certain feeling like we should be looking over our shoulder. Even saying how well he is doing brings a certain fear that by saying that his condition might change. Please pray that we can return to a bit more normal life, that our girls and family will have a safe trip to Pocatello this week, that my Grandma's surgery for hip replacement will go well and that she and Grandpa will soften their hearts to the Lord. One last request is that God provide wisdom for me to bring balance to my home, work, and church life.

June 10, 2003

It has been a busy time in the Nelson household. Today is Andrew's 4th birthday. We celebrated over the last couple of days. Friday night Andrew was the ring bearer in the wedding of Dana and Zach. Dana was our nanny when Melissa taught as a long term substitute almost two years ago. Zach lived in our basement for a few months around that time as well. Andrew did a good job and looked cute in his tuxedo. When he got up on the platform he looked so cute that Melissa was crying. He saw that and came down to make her feel better. He ended up sitting with us for the rest of the ceremony. All the people and the hustle and bustle of rehearsal and getting him into the tux made him tired.

Saturday we went to Heber City, UT with our good friends the Gribas family to see Thomas the Train. Andrew had a great time - we rode on the train and took his picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt and with Thomas. We stopped at some friends' house in Heber while we were there. Their nephew, Uriel, was in Bone Marrow at the same time as Andrew. Greg, the uncle, is the executive chef at Chenez, a fine French restaurant in Park City that I have mentioned previously. It was so good to see them and Uriel is doing very well.

We stopped in Salt Lake City for dinner and then drove home. Andrew was exhausted with all the activity.

Sunday we celebrated his birthday with presents and a Bob the Builder party. He got a mini-tramp and a bicycle to help with his physical therapy and recovery, but he was most excited to get more trains and tracks for his train table.

Today I am on a plane to Belgium (actually the one I am on right now is on its way to Atlanta, the next one goes to Belgium.) I'll be there for a couple of weeks for work at our Belgian plant. It is the first time since March, when Andrew and Melissa came home, that we'll be apart. The last business trip I was on was the week he was diagnosed with cancer, so I have a little trepidation over this trip.

Andrew has managed to stay above his threshold weight and so we have avoided putting a tube back in him. He still needs the desire and ability to eat more to start gaining weight. He is off all medication except for those required to maintain his heart function. The indications are that his heart function is remaining good on the medication but he needs to have a long stable period before we can consider reduction or elimination of those. They come twice a day and make him very sleepy so we schedule around them. In most all other ways he (and we) have returned to normal life - thank the Lord.

Please hold us up in prayer while we are apart - for Melissa to be able to keep up with the kids, for Andrew to improve his eating, to work on his therapy, and to continue to be cancer-free; and for me to have a safe and productive trip.

June 4, 2003

Today was a busy day at the Nelson household. Kelsey graduated from Kindergarten tonight (with cap and gown and processional music - suitable pomp and circumstance) and Andrew had his NJ tube removed. Outside of wearing a mask in public he now looks like a typical 3 year old! Tonight the principal of the school noted that Andrew was there to watch his sister graduate (as he was introducing me as Chairman of our church to speak to the parents.) Andrew got quite a round of applause which got me all choked up right as I was to speak. It was touching to see all those people clapping for Andrew.

Since I last wrote we have been gradually weaning Andrew's medications. He is off almost all of his stomach medications and will be completely off in a few days. He will still have heart medications for some time to come, but our medicine-giving workload will be about half of what it once was. With the removal of his NJ tube he has to take his medicine orally which is a challenge, but we are making progress. The reason the tube was pulled is that Andrew has had a sinus infection in the nostril the tube was in and the antibiotics were slow in having any impact. When the tube came out it was stiff and worn, so it was probably overdue. Now there is a lot of pressure to get Andrew's eating level up because we can't supplement him without this tube. Recently, he has been reluctant to eat much so we will have to keep encouraging him and careful monitor his weight to make sure he doesn't lose any more. Please pray that his appetite would return to sufficient levels to sustain him so we don't have to put another tube in and that his sinus infection will now clear up. He doesn't have a very strong immune system so fighting infections will be more difficult for some time.

Saturday was another big day for Andrew - we went to the pool and he got to play in the water and ride (with me) on an inner tube around the Lazy River and had a great time! Each thing that we do that allows him to get back to a more normal life is such a triumph and joy! I don't think I've ever really appreciated all the little things as much as I do now - seeing another chance at life through Andrew's eyes.

Next weekend we will celebrate Andrew's 4th birthday (his actual birthday is June 9th, but we'll celebrate on the 7th and 8th.). He is going to get to ride on Thomas the Train on the 7th near Salt Lake City and he is so excited about that! We'll celebrate on the weekend because on June 9th I leave for 16 days to visit our company plant in Belgium. I get the opportunity to work there while Andrew's birthday, Melissa's birthday, and Father's Day roll right on by. (One might sense a bit of bitterness in that last sentence - if you do, don't worry, it's not really all that bad and it is a much better time than being there in May would have been.)

Yesterday a representative from Idaho Power came to do a video interview. Their company has an employee charity fund which gave us a very generous gift last winter when Andrew was in Intensive Care. That gift was invaluable to supply our needs for gas and food with all the traveling. They did a video interview to let the employees know where their money went and how much impact it had on our lives. In today's world this is such a rare thing - a company donating money without regard to publicity and self-aggrandizement. We appreciated their gift so much, but it was even more touching that Idaho Power didn't try to garner some sort of commercial benefit from it. We appreciated the opportunity to thank these generous people by video.

Sunday we have been asked to be on the Primary Children's Medical Center Telethon to help them raise money for the hospital. We will be interviewed on camera to talk about our experiences there and to encourage others to donate to the hospital. This is another great opportunity for us to repay all the love and care we have received and to share the grace and mercy that God has shown us.

School is out this week for us and we'll begin the summer. Andrew is going to take swimming lessons (as will his sisters) and continue with his PT, OT, and Speech Therapy. With school out the nurse that is working with Andrew will probably reduce her time and focus more on therapy homework which will also move us back toward more normalcy.

"To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see." - Hebrews 11:1 (Good News Bible)

We have learned a great deal from our trials with Andrew, but one stands out - our faith has been strengthened by obvious, visible reinforcement of God's love and grace to us through others and not just those who are here in Pocatello with us, but also those of you across the country and around the world who have prayer so fervently for Andrew and our family. It requires much less faith to see God's hand in things when human beings are actively being His hands and feet. Thanks to each of you for your part in ministering to us. Your love and support shows God's hand in very tangible ways.

Please remember to offer thanks to God for His grace and mercy to our family. Compared to many others, our lives have returned to great happiness and joy and God has blessed us with our beautiful boy winning his battle. Please pray for God's continued healing in Andrew and for wisdom and guidance for Melissa and me as we work with the doctors and nurses to return Andrew to a normal life (school in the fall?, how much therapy?, and many other decisions). Please also remember Melissa as she gets to be both mother and father for 16 days in June.

May 14, 2003

Today was a rollercoaster of emotions - from incredible frustrations to greatest joy. Here's the play-by-play, starting with last night:

Last night Melissa and I (and a few of our friends) went to a concert with Michael W. Smith, Max Lucado, and Third Day. The concert was awesome - music with a message and tremendous worship time! We left Andrew with a friend (who also happens to be a nurse) while we were at the concert. He had a blast with their children. By the time the concert was over and we picked up Andrew and we drove around the city to get to Melissa's aunt and uncle's house it was midnight.

We had an appointment at 8:30 in the Oncology clinic for a physical prior to having his central lines removed. (The central lines are tubes that are inserted through the skin and into his main return vein into the heart. They are used to take blood samples, give IV medications, chemotherapy, etc. Removing it required opening up his skin, disconnecting the tubes, and stitching up the vein and the skin - all in a few minutes work for a surgeon. Sort of intimidating for the rest of us humans...) We got up early, got there on time, and the nurses and doctors sort of stared at us blankly - wondering what we were there for. We explained what we were told and by the time we got everyone on the same page, we were late for surgery. They decided to have us come back later to discuss questions, problems, etc.

We went to surgery and had to wait until another patient was done since we were late. They took him in, put him to sleep and removed his lines and he was awake again in a little over 15 minutes. He had 30 or so minutes of recovery before we could leave which made us late for his echocardiogram. That's where things got a little tense. We sat a long time while others went in ahead of us. Melissa had a few choice words for the staff after watching this for 90 minutes and they got us in shortly after that. The test took 5 minutes and showed Andrew's heart is functioning at normal levels. He only achieves this because he is on the medications, but it is encouraging as he has improved each month. He needs to go further (beyond normal) before the medications for his heart would be changed.

Then we went back to the Oncology clinic and spent another couple hours going over our questions and getting answers.

After that we did a little visiting with the staff on the Oncology floor and the Intensive Care unit. They were amazed at Andrew's progress and very gratified to see him doing so well. He walked around lifting up his shirt to show everyone that he had his lines removed. I think that he was a shot in the arm for them - a success in the midst of all that they deal with.

So we had our share of hurry-up-and-wait, but the day was a rousing success! We praise God for Andrew's successful surgery, for his excellent heart function, and for the plan to reduce his stomach medications that we took home with us today. He will be tapering off the stomach meds and, once his chest heals from the surgery, he will be able to go swimming and have a more normal child's life. It was a very joyful day!

We thank you for your continued support! God has been so very good to us. Today I really appreciated how much mercy and grace we had been shown in Andrew's case. As we visited the Oncology floor, I was reminded of all the families that have lost their children while we have been there. I don't know why we were blessed, but Andrew certainly ministered to a lot of people today with his joy!

We ask for your prayer for his continued recovery. He is still on a lot of medication, has heart issues, speech and motor skill therapy, and some significant catching up to do in several areas. We as a family are feeling stretched. Melissa feels better after dropping her medication, but the end-of-school rush is on and we're constantly on the go and that keeps her stress level up. The girls are doing very well, but they need a summer of fun and adventure to separate them for the harsh reality of this year. I am challenged at work (and am slated to visit our Belgian facility in June) while having a few too many other irons in the fire, so I need to slow down and find peace as well. Please hold these up in prayer and, especially now, thank the Lord for His love, mercy, and grace on our family.

As Andrew slowly moves back to a more normal life, I expect that these updates will space further and further apart. With less changing, the need to send out an update diminishes. Please let me know if you would like to be removed from the list or if you have any suggestions. I will keep you all apprised of any significant updates.

May God bless you and keep you in His love,

May 5, 2003

Andrew has had a great week - PTL. He has been eating every day, although his diet choices wouldn't be our first choices - peanuts, cheese, chocolate covered pretzels, chicken nuggets, PBJ sandwiches, etc. He has his mind made up on what he will eat and that's the menu. He is being much more active and playful. God has certainly answered our prayers in his recovery - he is happy, playful, hungry, and improving his coordination, endurance, and strength.

Tomorrow Andrew and our family will be in the Pocatello paper. They came to our house before Easter to interview and take pictures. We aren't sure exactly what the article will say, but the ads for the article in yesterday and today's paper are entitled "Inspirational Andrew". Whatever it says, we certainly believe that Andrew's recovery has been noteworthy.

Tonight the girls were in a play at school. Each year the Missoula Children's Theatre does a production at Grace Lutheran School. It is a whirlwind affair - auditions on Monday, rehearsals afternoon and evening all week, and two performances on Saturday. This year they did "Treasure Island" (well, okay, their version of that story) and the girls were seagulls - no speaking, but they got to dress up, dance, and sing. They had a great time and did a great job. The whole show was fun. Andrew watched the whole thing with fascination.

It has been an intensely busy week and we have more coming up. Andrew's next checkup is on the 13th and they have now scheduled him to have the minor surgery to get his central lines out. We are looking forward to that - it will reduce a lot of maintenance we have to do.

Melissa is still trying to adjust to her medication - it makes her feel a lot more fatigued than normal (and those of you who know her know that she is usually a dynamo, so this is slowing her down a bit.) We're hoping she can acclimate in a short time or maybe change to some other med. Please pray for her.

Prayer requests: For Andrew's continued improvement and for him to stay cancer free; for the girls that they would feel a bit more balance in our attention; for Melissa to feel better and to get her strength back; and for our family to have health, strength, and peace.

The article from today's Idaho State Journal on Andrew and our family is now on their web site. It can be found at: http://www.journalnet.com

April 27, 2003

Andrew has made some progress. He ate a piece of pizza tonight and has been having less nausea from the feeds and from putting anything in his stomach. He still gets "full" very quickly, but pizza seems to stimulate interest in trying to eat. He has also had some cheese and some juice and has begun drinking water more regularly. Other things are improving as well - he is more talkative, more active, and even happy when hooked up to the feeds. Tonight we were watching a "Veggie Tales" sing-along video while he started his tube feeding and he was sitting on the couch, dancing to the music and singing along. That was a true blessing to see! It is still exhausting to keep up with his schedule, but we are getting more used to it and having the nurse visit has reduced Melissa's load and allowed her to take more part in the girls' lives.

The doctors are talking about removing Andrew's central line in May when we go back for a check up. That would make some things easier. Andrew is starting to understand that eating will help him get what he wants - getting rid of the feeding tube, getting to go on a trip (more on that later), and starting school. That may be helping us with the food battle as well. Having him doing better is also helping Melissa feel better.

Melissa is still getting used to her medication. She has had a couple of minor episodes but she is still ramping up on the medication. She feels more tired and stretched even on the medication, but it seems to be calming her a bit. Coming back into a family life after being apart for so long and having such good support for so long has stretched both of us, but we are finding balance and settling back in. I think that some of Melissa's stress is having her house organized differently than she wanted it (we've had three different house managers while she was gone) and she didn't have the time or energy to get it back to her way. Until it is organized her way, she carries a lot of stress. We have made a lot of progress toward that end this weekend (and we have the sore muscles to prove it) ;-)

We have met with people from Make-a-Wish and they want to send our family on a trip. Andrew has chosen DisneyWorld and we are waiting to schedule the trip until he requires less medication and support. He is excited to see Mickey Mouse and play!

We have been to church the last two Sundays. Last Sunday I led worship for the first time in some time at our contemporary service. Leading worship - just being immersed in worship - does incredible things for my soul. Much of the depression, stress, and feelings of inadequacy faded away in that very special time. Like David in his days of running and hiding, I was reminded that praising God in all circumstances brings the peace that passes all understanding. While my life continues to be stressful, I have returned to the time with my music that finds peace.

More remarkably last Sunday was that Andrew's buddy Joe came to visit with his mother for the weekend and Andrew and Joe sat together during the service. Joe's tumors have begun growing again and Primary Children's has run out of things that they can do. They are seeking alternative help for Joe now. After the service, our pastor prayer over Joe and Andrew - a very touching Easter moment we'll never forget. Kathy (Joe's mom), Melissa, Joe, Andrew, and I gathered around Pastor while he prayed for these two special young men and one could not help but sense the presence of the Lord in that time. We ask you to pray for Joe. He turns 21 in July and is struggling a great deal with hope to carry on his fight. He is a kind and generous young man who has buddied up with Andrew even though they have little in common. He and Andrew are pictured at the web site together in their Superman clothes. Joe bought Andrew the Superman pajamas because he felt Andrew was his hero and a "superman" for all he had been through. The thoughts of where we will be next Easter bring tears like rain.

Easter was very special at our house - with friends coming over and bringing lots of great food and fun. I, however, was not a very good host. All the excitement caught up to me at the end of the Easter meal and I went and slept for four hours through six kids playing and eleven adults playing games together. It helped to really rest and I guess I needed it.

"Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. " 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message Paraphrase)"

These words stand as a challenge to me (to us) today. Learning to "put up with anything" and to "look for the best" and to not "look back" are hard lessons. Through this trial and all the support you have given us, we are learning these lessons. Please pray for continued healing in Andrew and Melissa and Melissa's dad (who seems to be getting better each day). And pray for the rest of our family as we grow and learn and struggle with the demands of our world.

April 19, 2003

We have had an eventful week - with both good news and bad news. I'll start the bad news. While Melissa and Andrew were in Salt Lake they stayed with Melissa's Uncle Alvin and Aunt Lauretta - wonderful people that have helped us a lot by just being there when we needed someone in Salt Lake. Wednesday morning when Melissa got up she felt a bit light-headed. Alvin thought she might feel better if he made her some breakfast. Well when Melissa walked to the kitchen she felt worse and then had what we can only describe as a mild seizure - her hands and arms cramped up, she lost feeling in her mouth and feet and felt faint. She could understand what was going on around her but couldn't communicate. Alvin called 911 and Melissa get four emergency vehicles and 9 firemen at her beck and call - perhaps a little extreme for getting attention. Anyway the paramedic felt that she had hyperventilated from stress - imagine that. She went to the see our family doctor today and he basically concurred. He prescribed some anti-anxiety medication for her and told her he was surprised that it has taken this long for her to need medical support (he follows this list so he knows what we are going through). He has been a God-send to our family. Melissa's uncle drove her home Wednesday evening.

Another piece of bad news before we get to the good stuff. We had a phone call this week that another precious child we know from Primary's has died from his cancer - a six-year-old from Rexburg. The toll on the families we have known is so overwhelming. Melissa is going to the funeral on Monday. We have lost so many friends through this year.

Andrew test results are in - no tumor on his scan and no indicators in his urine test!!!! He is still cancer-free!! We praise the Lord for His continued touch on Andrew in this. Andrew still is not eating and that remains a concern. In most ways this time at home has been the most stressful time of the entire treatment. Melissa and I were talking about that Wednesday night when she got home after her fun-filled day. Andrew needs medication almost every hour of the waking day. He needs to get feeds which cause anything from mild discomfort to screaming pain and those occupy the evening from six until midnight. Almost every night Andrew wakes up and wants to come in our bed because he is scared to be by himself. He is a restless sleeper through this time and kicks and rolls when he is with us making our sleep pretty restless. So we are getting about half of the sleep we need, dealing with the stress of his pain, and the constant medication schedule. In the hospital the nurses gave the medications and would take care of him if we needed some space. We don't really have that option often now. The nurse is helping. She stayed last evening with Andrew while the rest of us got out. It was a good break, but even she remarked at how much stress Andrew is experiencing and creating. We definitely need to start seeing some relief on the food front. If he would eat it, he would get the calories he needs in less volume and therefore less pain. He could get the fluid he needs by drinking water instead of adding it to the feeds spreading out the time that things are going into his stomach and making less intensity for him. We could keep him hooked up longer and run a little less volume, but that is torture for him since he is so restricted being hooked up to the feeding pump and it doesn't seem to matter how little or much is running, he still experiences discomfort at the least.

We are thankful to be home and thankful that Andrew is making progress - little by little - and we are tremendously thankful for all the support we are continuing to get. We desperately need your prayers for relief from the overwhelming challenges to our emotional and physical energy through this. Andrew's being able to eat is not the cure-all, but it is close. That is the key prayer request we all have right now - that he would want and be able to eat. that his body would settle down and accept food without pain or nausea. He is afraid of food and we are asking for help with dealing with this aversion from the doctors, but no answers are there yet.

This season of Easter is a time of great joy! We celebrate freedom from an eternity of torture like Andrew is experiencing at times right now. We ask for your prayers and for you to celebrate as well. There are so many blessings - at the moment they are harder for us to see, but I ask that you see them in your lives and thank God for his grace and mercy.

May the Risen Lord and Savior bring peace and joy into your lives today!

April 15, 2003

Just a quick note to let you know that Andrew's heart tests went very well today - function was at nearly normal levels with the medications he is on. They will keep him on the same medications for at least another month and see if he sustains this performance. This does not mean his heart has healed, just that the medications are keeping him at good levels. That leaves the possibility of weaning him for later.

The examination of his knee looks like a bruise - no sprain or break. Tomorrow they will do the MIBG scan (today they gave him the dye) and that will tell if there is any cancer in his system. Please pray for a good outcome there. He will also see the Gastrointestinologist. Please pray that they can see some approach for getting him to eat.

April 13, 2003

Time at home seems to go by so fast and little has changed with Andrew. Each day goes by quickly with all the medications and support Andrew needs. Fortunately God and the Katie Beckett Medicaid Fund have provided a support nurse who will start on Monday helping with Andrew's treatments and his home therapy almost every day. The nurse came earlier this week to meet Andrew and to talk to Melissa about what she would do. After that meeting we understood that we needed clear direction from the doctors and therapists to give this nurse a clear set of tasks while she is here (so we're not turning her into a baby-sitter). Melissa has spent a good portion of the rest of the week working on compiling that information.

Andrew shows very slight improvement - mostly less time complaining about pain in his stomach. Although he has begun complaining about his knee hurting which could just be a bump from his playing. But it has given Melissa and I a big feeling of deja vu - last year his first complaint was of joint pain. He ate a piece of pizza today, but in general he is not at all interested in eating. Another good thing is that he has stopped losing weight with the calories we are providing. His weight is much better for him to get around and play. He is being much more active and beginning to get back into the play he loved before all this started.

Today is the one year anniversary of his final diagnosis. We sat in a conference room this night last year and listened as the doctor told us that it was without doubt neuroblastoma, that Andrew's odds were about one in three, and what the treatment plan would be. We cried, but most of the tears were already drained from all the bad news we had faced in getting to that point - learning about the tumor, facing the unknown, struggling to get our affairs in order to go. This week last year was a horrible memory of hospital time here; seeing the tumor in an x-ray and a local pediatrician we had just met giving us the awful news; driving the next day to SLC to meet with the oncologists there to get things rolling; and going into one of those Immuno-compromised hospital rooms for the first time and feeling scared and alone and hopeless against what was hitting us. It was hardly a week to celebrate and yet it is a week we will remember forever.

Tuesday Melissa and Andrew go back to Salt Lake for a checkup, an MIBG scan, an Echocardiogram, and appointments with Gastrointestinology and Cardiology. This is a crucial visit to see that the tumor has not returned and to determine what is next for his cancer follow up treatment; his heart follow up treatment, and his stomach issues. A key decision which will be incredibly difficult will be whether he should start retinolic acid treatment. It is used to reduce the change of cancer recurrence, but is very hard on the heart. The balance between fighting recurrence and exacerbating the heart problem is a difficult tightrope to walk.

These weeks are so difficult and so stressful. We need God's peace and mercy with us through this - dealing with the memories and the past, as well as facing the future and its fears - while trying to stay in the present one day at a time. We ask for your prayers for all of us as we hold our breath at what these doctor visits will hold. We also ask for prayer for Andrew's body to start sending hunger signals. We are seeing that when he eats he is better able to tolerate it without feeling nauseous. Now we need the desire to come back.

Tonight I am sitting in a bedroom cluttered with toys (no not the kids' room - our room.) Melissa has been sorting through all of the toys and gifts that Andrew received while in the hospital and while at home. The sacks we had them all in filled the floor in our bedroom (no small feat for those of you who know that our bedroom is quite large.) We have been blessed by all the generous gifts to Andrew and the girls and to us. We are sorting through to decide what Andrew gets to keep and what we can donate back to Primary Children's Hospital for the sick kids that need them more than we do. We thank you all for the generous gifts you have provided us. We have received some financial gifts to help with support labor from family and friends that are generous beyond all dreams. We cannot thank you all enough - there are no words that express it well enough. We are blessed to have family and friends that care about us so much!!!

We thank God for each of you! You have carried us through deep waters and continue to carry us today.

April 7, 2003

Andrew has been home two and a half weeks. He has lost quite a bit of weight which is good and bad - good in that he looks more like himself (instead of kind of swelled up) and he is more active and energetic; bad in that the reason he is losing weight is that we cannot not get him to eat and feeding him formula through his NJ tube is very uncomfortable for him and , as a result, for us. At times I feel like I am torturing him, just to provide nutrition. When he is not on the feeds he is generally happier and playing more each day. He loves being home and going for rides and playing on the computer (wonder where he got that from?) and just being a little boy again. When we ask him to eat, he gets sad or he feels like his tummy hurts. Today was better than the last few days in that he tried to eat some sandwich and did drink a significant amount of water. We are trying to hold onto the little successes, but we are feeling overwhelmed with his care since it is so continuous and because we can't see any end in site.

Tonight I am not going to venture into analogy or talk about all the other events in our lives - I just want to focus on a little boy that wants to be normal, but has to battle for every single step. Andrew has been so patient and well-behaved. Even when he is in extreme pain, he is trying to be good. Last night I laid down next to him, trying to comfort him through some very painful stomach spasms. As we lay there, he reached over and gave me one of his two special blankets that he treasures for me to sleep with - taking care of me when I was trying to comfort him. He is a remarkable child that needs a little supernatural help. Please pray for him, He needs to get relief from the pain of eating and getting formula for nutrition. He needs to get excited about food and drink to get through the discomfort that he faces. He needs to develop his motor skills and speech to recover the ground he has lost. He truly needs a gift from God to work in his life and bring him along the path to normalcy.

We have been blessed with so many good friends and a caring family. Melissa's Aunt Wilma has been caring for us - making dinners, cleaning up, taking care of the girls, being chauffeur, and a good listening ear. Her help has been invaluable as we try to work through this and we thank God for her and the rest of our special family!

We covet your prayers; thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

April 1, 2003

Andrew has continued to enjoy his stay at home. He loves playing inside and outside and has made a lot of progress in his activity level. He has lost some weight which is helping him get around better and feel better. He is still having serious nausea attacks when he eats more than just a little bit and when we have to provide him formula through his tube. Progress in the food area is very slow and very frustrating. We have set up Occupational Therapy and two Speech Therapy sessions scheduled each week to help him catch up a bit on these areas. The Physical Therapy has been an issue as there is only one Pediatric PT available right now and she is overbooked. (The other is on maternity leave.) Oh the joys of a small town!

We need your prayers to get Andrew through the challenges with food. Progress, if any, has been slow and it is the area that causes him the greatest discomfort. It also occupies almost all of our evening time - he starts tube feeds at six and they run through twelve and he fights nausea the majority of that waking time. When he gets to sleep, he is usually fine, but getting to sleep when fighting nausea is not easy. This is taxing on him and us.

We have also been blessed by the fact that the "Katie Beckett" Fund of Idaho Health and Welfare has agreed to provide nursing support for some of the day. This will provide Melissa a much needed break and give us assistance in his home therapy work. The wonderful ladies we tried to hire to clean our house to relieve Melissa of that chore have told us firmly that they will not accept payment - that it is a gift of God through them. We had to have this sort of support with all the care Andrew is taking and this a such an amazing blessing!! God has provided at every step - in spite of - rather than because of our faith or lack thereof. The times we have felt the most defeated or overwhelmed have been the times we have been the most blessed.

Through all of this we have seen God's people display the best of what they can offer. Gifts, support, prayers, and encouragement continue to pour in and overwhelm us with love. I wish all of you could experience the support we are experiencing, but I don't wish the circumstance on any of you (or my worst enemy for that matter.)

We continue to hear from people at Primary Children's Hospital. The news has been good and bad - relapses and improvements, ups and downs - cancer has truly taken a severe toll on these families and I can't even imagine how the doctors and nurses can cope with it. Please remember these courageous people in your prayers.

Tonight while sitting with Andrew through one of his nausea spells I was thinking about how just one part of his body can so severely effect the entire body. The one piece's pain is felt by the whole. As I have mentioned before, the rest of the body supports and cares for that part until it can return to health. But the thing that struck me tonight is how much one part's pain can damage and debilitate the whole body. There is no one that can stand alone in the Body of Christ. We hurt the Body by trying to do that as we hurt ourselves. Our experience has taught us the value of our local and global church body. We were active and supportive of others prior to Andrew's illness, but now we truly understand that value. We are seeing what it means to be truly Christian - to live like Jesus Christ and love like Him. We have been loved in a very Christ-like way. "Thank you" cannot begin to express out gratitude!

We love you and may the peace of God reign in and through your lives.

March 27, 2003

We have had two excellent days! Adjustments to Andrew's feeding schedule have given him better sleep (and therefore, I get better sleep) and a better disposition during the day. The best news is that he has begun eating small quantities - yogurt, chips, ice cream, and apple juice. While he has a long way to go to get to fully supporting his nutritional needs that way, he has made great strides - getting close to half his caloric needs. And he is able to eat without the nausea issues that we started out with. His tube feeds and the addition of more food in his stomach little by little is stretching his stomach to a place where he has less pain when ingesting food and drink. That, coupled with better sleep, is making him quite happy and active. The extra energy is helping him regain some of his motor skills and improving his speech. Overall, we couldn't ask for more - consistent, steady improvement and getting his personality back! Thanks be to God!

Today he was dancing with the demo music on our Clavinova piano and we went for rides where he was spotting McDonalds and trains (two of his favorites) and chatting away. He is much more willing to try challenging things and is very interactive. Such a joy after so much was so overwhelming for him coming home (and for us.)

We still need your prayers - Andrew's blood pressure is still a bit high, even on medications. It is believed that the stresses from the nausea and discomfort are contributing, but the needs to improve in this regard. He has lost a little weight which has made him feel better and his being more active from this should also help his heart and blood pressure - but a little supernatural assistance can't hurt. Melissa and I need prayer for energy and strength and the girls need prayer for peace and finding their place in this difficult time.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that very special people of God known as Grace Lutheran Church. People have done so much for us - from our close friends to casual acquaintances - that we are overwhelmed with generosity. From providing meals, to thoughtful phone calls and cards, to encouraging words, and, of course, diligent prayer. Thank God for this family of God that has ministered to us so deeply.

When Pastor Huesmann was called to our church, he laid some foundational priorities - worship, the Word, and prayer. Andrew's condition mobilized numerous prayer efforts in our church and it has been amazing to see the growth in our people in our prayer lives - not only in Andrew's behalf, but in every avenue of our church. While I would have picked another catalyst than Andrew's illness, I am thankful that God has brought about a greater good from it.

I will try to compile some new pictures of Andrew and our family for the web site and provide Kevin with updates to the information there so that it is more up to date. Then you will all be able to see Andrew with his new darker hair (he used to be strawberry blond) and how much he has grown. I'll let you know when I have made progress on that.

And may the God of peace fill your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

March 23, 2003

We have been a family for several days again and it has had its high points and low points. It has been marvelous to be together again and the girls and Andrew have played together and he has had so much fun being back in his own environment. The girls have been fabulous at involving him, playing with him, and getting to do different activities. He has seen several therapists to work on his recuperation - occupational therapist, physical therapist, and speech therapist. It has become apparent that he has lost a year of development through this - more or less operating as a two and a half year old rather than a three and a half year old. This is discouraging, but not unexpected. The hardest part is that he is very, very sensitive to anything put in his stomach or through his tube and he responds as if he is in severe pain or nausea. What we have discovered is that while there are sensitivities to these things, at least some of it is his mind telling him that eating or anything in his tube will hurt or make him sick. Every night he gets his formula through his tube and the feeling makes him uncomfortable regardless of the rate we put it in. Again, Melissa is the one that figured out that his responses were regardless of rate and we could run him at full rate (we were trying to ramp him up but he kept crying with anything.) He still cries and is occasionally nauseous, but we can supply him with his formula and don't have to supplement him with IV feeding. I have been up most of every night with him (since Melissa needs to rest at night with all the stresses of the days with him) and find that I am not quite as good without sleep as I once was.

Today we got him to take a few bites of yogurt and to drink a little bit more. The steps are slow and painful, but they are getting us closer to healing. But each step is a full challenge and sometimes very painful. It is sapping a lot of energy from both Melissa and me, and we are looking for ways to reduce the stress by being more organized, by systematizing our lives, and looking into what insurance will pay for home support.

Tonight as I was sitting with Andrew as he was screaming through the beginning of his feeding and trying to fall asleep, I was thinking about how horrible I am contributing to so much pain and, of course, soothing my guilt by reminding myself that he needs this food to help him grow and get better. He is growing and healing because of something that is painful. We too grow through pain - it isn't fun, but we learn and we become more mature through these painful experiences in our lives. I have done a lot of growing through Andrew's pain. I suffer like a knife has been jabbed into me when he screams and cries out through something as beneficial as feeding and I get mad at God through Andrew's lost innocence of childhood, but I grow and learn with each step. I have discovered that the pain Andrew is enduring is for his own good - without that pain he would die from malnutrition. Soon his body will learn again to cope with food and he won't have to suffer to take nourishment, but in the meantime the pain is for his own good. There are times like we are experiencing now where we fight the pain, but it is for our own good. We can't see it, but it is for our own best interests.

We need prayer as our life as a family starts again. There are tremendous time requirements added to an already active family schedule for Andrew's care - six therapy visits a week, doctor visits and medication schedules. The girls need our help with school and their extra-curricular activities. We need time for our own stress-busters and rest. Andrew's recovery will probably be the most stressful part of this experience for us and we need and covet your prayers through this time. Andrew need prayer that he will regain the desire and the tolerance for eating. That is the most important item of all. Many of his medications and all the night support are a result of the fact that he cannot eat to support himself. He needs prayer for recovery and growth in his motor skills and speech, for energy and stamina, and for peace through the challenges. Melissa and I need real supernatural help to support us through all the support tasks and energy-draining parenting that must take place to help Andrew cope with his pain. And all of us need patience, hope, and peace as we fight to improve, grow, and cope each day - one at a time - through Andrew's healing.

Thanks for your support, love and prayers. May the God of peace fill you with His perfect peace in this peace-starved world.

March 18, 2003

Well, weather permitting, Andrew is coming home tomorrow! His echocardiogram today is the same - no improvement nor decay. This is probably an indicator that it will not get much better and that he will need medication for the long term. He continues to have trouble with eating and nausea, but it is hoped that the change of environment will help him overcome that. He has had sore feet as well - getting used to walking with the extra weight might explain it, but we're not really sure. However, in spite of all this, he is getting a bit more active and chatty and showing more energy. So, while we celebrate his return and his recovery, we still need a great deal of prayer for these next steps.

The girls are on spring break and stayed in SLC with Melissa and Andrew making for a houseful down there while I am at home and it is too quiet. Tomorrow will be such a wonderful thing - everyone back together in our house!! Melissa will be glad to have the help - she is very tired from the pace of taking care of the girls and Andrew with all the care that Andrew needs. Please carry Melissa in prayer through this time - she is going to severely stretched trying to keep up with the day care that Andrew needs and keeping up with the girls' school and activities. I can only help in the evenings and our evenings will be about just maintaining for a while. She needs prayer for some relief from this stress and some hope of improvement in Andrew that reduces the load.

Our family will be tested even more as we get to live in the same place again. The daily grind and the additional load of helping Andrew recover will stretch us all. We need your prayers, support, and understanding as we try to get a grip on our life as a family again.

We give thanks for all Andrew has come through and look ahead with some fear. Andrew will never be a normal toddler again, but we wish to try to bring normalcy to his life as much as possible. We face a lot of challenge and it has been easy to forget that we have overcome so much already. Please pray for us to keep the hope of God and of all that we have conquered foremost in our minds as we walk in faith forward with our family together again.

Tonight, with the pressures (and some frustrations) of work and the challenges of rebuilding our lives, I admit that I feel like Jonah in the whale - everywhere I look there seems to be darkness and no way out. Strangely, at this point of a major milestone, I feel more defeated than ever. I think that Melissa is feeling the same sorts of feelings. I don't know if it is because we did not envision the complications and all the challenges of aftercare that we now face or if it is the end of winter blues or what is creating this burden. Perhaps it is another form of spiritual attack. Whatever it is, we need your support more than ever right now. Please hold us up to God for healing for all (particularly Andrew), energy to return, peace to come, hope to follow, and joy to spring through again. Good Friday will mark the one year anniversary of Andrew's first symptoms. We need to celebrate Easter as a new beginning for our family and your prayers can carry us there.

Thank to you and to God for all of the support you provide us and for His unbounding grace!

March 14, 2003

Well, after a ribbing about slacking off in my writing now that Andrew is out of the hospital, I thought it might be a good night to catch everyone up on Andrew's progress.

Andrew has had good and bad days over the last five days out of the hospital. We had an appointment with both the Oncology and Bone Marrow doctors and in that appointment he was transferred back to Oncology care - another significant milestone. Andrew has had some changes in his medicines and tubes in an effort to make it easier for us to care for him and to move us along to the goal of getting him off of all IV treatments - nutrition and everything else - so his central line can be removed. That is a surgical procedure and very important because his risk of infection falls significantly with that removed. That is not scheduled since he must be able to support his nutritional needs through eating and formula before he can have that removed.

Andrew is playing and pushing himself to get back to his normal. We are having to push the food since he has no thoughts of eating. We don't force him to eat; just keep reminding him that food is available and ask him to try different things. His progress in the food area is slow.

Tonight he and his big buddy Joe were going to watch a movie together - he was so excited! We also took him to a matinee showing of Jungle Book 2 on Monday - counting us there were 6 people in the theater so not much risk. He loved that although he was so tired that he fell asleep part way through. He still had fun. So life is slowly returning to more normal things.

Melissa is very busy trying to keep up with all his treatments and one night this week he didn't sleep due to pain and nausea, so both of them were very tired. She needs a great deal of prayer for patience, wisdom, and energy through this phase of getting Andrew acclimated to the world. If all goes well, we are hoping to get Andrew back to Pocatello on Tuesday after his appointments that day. That is a very big "IF" and both Melissa and I are concerned that all the ducks are in a row before we venture back to family life. She will have a LOT to manage with Andrew's requirements and the girls schedule. But we believe that home will help Andrew a lot in his recovery and the doctor agrees.

One piece of exciting news for us is that the doctors gave us the okay to take Andrew with us to church once we get home! That is a wonderful thought - being with our church family who has sacrificed for us and supported us and prayed for us so diligently. The down-side is that we will have to keep Andrew away from other people as much as possible, so we will not be able to socialize with our friends and church family as much as we would like to minimize the risk to his very weak immune system. He will have to wear a mask and we will need to sit away from the center of the crowd, but to again be a part of our local church family is a very exciting thought!

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30

These words have been both a comfort and a confusion to me. I am encouraged that Jesus invites us in these verses to lay our burdens down. But it has been perplexing me that we are supposed to put on a yoke - another burden. Recently I heard an explanation that bring new light to these words. When a new ox was trained to pull a plow he was paired with an experienced ox. The yoke was put on both, but the lines were pulled tight on the experienced ox and the new ox carried little of the load while he was learning. In our lives, if we allow Christ to join us, we carry the burdens of our lives as a team. Putting on Christ's yoke provides us a relief from life's load because He is tethered tighter and carries the bulk of the load. Without Him, we carry it all. I have always wanted to be the self-made man - independent and capable of doing it all myself. I have learned the need to share my load with Christ and my fellow Christians through Andrew's illness. I hope that all of you can learn this through our experience instead of having to learn it a harder way. That is my prayer for you.

Please pray that Andrew's appetite and interest in food would return. Pray also for him to get stronger and his legs and feet get used to the greater weight he has to carry since he has grown so much since he last was very active. Also pray for endurance and persistence for him to work through the challenges of getting better. And pray for him to have patience to accept the things he will not be allowed to do for the remainder of this year (no digging in the dirt, no playing in playgrounds, etc. to keep him away from infection risks).

Pray for Melissa and I to have the endurance, patience, and wisdom to parent three kids who need a lot of love in the next few months as we reassemble our family. And pray for the girls to find ways they can be part of Andrew's support and can find their value while getting less attention.

Lastly, and most importantly, please remember to thank God for the work He has done and continues to do and will do in Andrew and our family through this ordeal.

"The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace." - Numbers 6:24-26

March 8, 2003

We are all here in the Ronald McDonald Apartments!! Yesterday Andrew was released from the hospital with a big party thrown by the nurses on the Oncology floor. He received presents from staff and even a special quilt from a new friend at the insurance company!! He has a battalion of medications to take right now - some for controlling nausea and acid production in his stomach until he can eat better and most relating to controlling his heart condition and blood pressure. Today thus far he has turned up his nose at pancakes and had a few bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Walking and even standing are tiring for him but he has a big smile playing with his trains and his sisters. He had a good night last night only waking up once to have a diaper change. We are so happy and thankful to be out of the hospital and together as a family even if only in the apartment.

We have a lot of medications and support to give Andrew and life will be extremely busy when we all get back to Pocatello. Starting at 7:00pm he has a continual stream of care until 11:00 so our evenings will be difficult for a while and we probably won't be able to jump to the phone like we were able to in the past. Days are scheduled around drop off and pick up of the girls from school and activities for when Melissa gets to Pocatello so the day will be a busy blur as well. We have been told that Andrew will be able to go to church with us, but will need to wear a mask and stay away from contact with many people since he is still immunocompromised. That will be very hard for us, but we will be thankful to be with our church family again. Right now it looks like Melissa and Andrew will stay in SLC until 3/18 and drive back to Pocatello that afternoon. He has several appointments between now and then and it will give us time to absorb his schedule and medications before picking up the Pocatello routines as well.

In many ways being home will be more challenging for us than the hospital, but we are so thankful to be a family again and to get Andrew in an environment where playing and moving and eating is normal to encourage those behaviors. For those living in Pocatello, please understand that our schedule and restrictions for Andrew's health will limit our socialization time and visits, but that will improve and we appreciate your help in that regard.

"I will sing of your mercy that brings me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy!" - Jars of Clay This song has become popular in Christian radio recently and has spoken volumes to me. I have had a pretty quiet, pain-free life up to Andrew's illness and, in so many ways, joy has not had the depth it has now because I have not had the levels of sorrow I have had through Andrew's illness. The depth of joy and gratitude I am experiencing goes beyond any I have ever felt before. We thank all of your for your support, love, and prayers.

We continue to need your prayers for Andrew's recovery. The next big step for him will be learning and wanting to eat enough to sustain himself. When that happens he can get his central line removed, his nasal-gatric tube removed and can drop a few medications which will make caring for him much, much easier. Please pray for consistent, daily progress in his eating. He needs to re-establish his motor skills and his stamina. He has grown quite a bit through the last four months without much walking or exercise and needs to get back to being a toddler.

Please pray for our family - we have become used to a very nonstandard lifestyle and we need to adjust to being a family unit again with an extra load of work and support for Andrew. This will push our patience levels and our stamina and endurance. Please also pray that we can easily resolve the insurance complications as well. The less distractions we can have, the easier this transition will be.

And remember to thank God for His healing of Andrew and his love and support for us through all of this. We thank you and God for your love and support.

March 6, 2003

I think that it is no coincidence that on this day when so many of you took special time out to pray for Andrew and our family that Andrew had a great day and we received word that he will be released from the hospital on Friday!!! Our pastor terms such incidents as "Godincidence" rather than coincidence and I believe that term aptly describes the news.

Andrew felt great today and when he woke up he told Melissa, "The sun is up. It's time to play." Melissa got the apartment ready (it needed to be cleaned to a higher level for Andrew's reduced immunity) and was doing grocery shopping (probably more macaroni and cheese and cheese and bread for cheese sandwiches - I think the menu will be singular for a while) to get ready for Friday.

I can't tell you how much your support has meant to us! The e-mails I have received have brought me to tears over the goodness of God and God's people. The support - hugs and encouragement - that we have gotten are priceless.

Tonight, as I sat in church prior to our Ash Wednesday service I thought a great deal about the gifts and sacrifices that you have made on our account - notes, e-mails, cards, prayer time, etc. They are precious gifts. And yet they don't compare to the gift and the sacrifice that was made for every one of us. We can approach God, the creator of the universe, with our problems, joys, and sorrows because Jesus paid the ultimate price. Prior to that sacrifice, God's people has to offer animal sacrifices through a priest for their sins. That horrible Friday, 2003 years ago, the curtain that kept us from God and required us to go through a priest to be forgiven was shredded. The world changed forever. Whatever happens from here forward in our life with Andrew, we know that the time on earth is a small piece. We will have eternity with Andrew and that time is assured to have no tears, sorrow, or pain. We continue to relish our time with him here, but we rest in the assurance that we don't need to depend on it.

You have been so faithful in your support of us through this ordeal. Tonight, I would ask something quite different. Instead of praying for Andrew and our family in the next day or so, please pray for each other and especially for those that have supported us but do not believe in that eternal promise. I cannot begin to understand how I would feel through this trial if I thought that Andrew only had this life to live. That hopelessness is unnecessary. So in your prayer time, when you would usually remember Andrew and our family, please pray for our unsaved friends - that in this Lenten season they would understand the sacrifice and the victory of Easter!!!

May God fill you with His Spirit to overflowing,

March 3, 2003

"Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!" - Psalm 150

You might gather from the passage above that things have changed and you would be right. Yesterday Melissa and one of Andrew's nurses scoured Andrew's medication list trying to see what had changed in the last few days because since Friday he has had near constant nausea, insomnia, and, at times, vertigo. Interestingly, they discovered that on Thursday the doctors started him on a drug called Remron (spelling?). When they looked up that drug in the pharmaceutical reference they discovered that 1% of patients studied had vertigo, nausea, and insomnia. A remarkable coincidence? So Melissa refused to allow them to administer that drug last night. Andrew slept like a baby - only waking a couple of times and those times he was still quite calm instead of nauseous. This morning he awoke feeling great and has eaten three times today!!!!! His choices for food are a bit single-minded - Cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, and a strawberry - all three times, but it is fantastic news.

The doctor is not pleased with Melissa, but can't argue much with success. He remarked that he was the doctor and Melissa responded that she was the parent and she had to be up with Andrew all night the last few nights when he was vomiting nearly constantly. He was not happy, but unwilling to sit up through the night with Andrew. I imagine his fit will pass quickly with the relief that Andrew is doing better.

There are a few things that still need to be lined up but with this huge breakthrough we are talking seriously about Andrew getting out of the hospital for the first time since Oct. 28.

There is a lot of uncertainty over the mechanics and support for Andrew after the hospital so we still need prayer, but tonight and tomorrow and over the Ash Wednesday prayer times, please thank the Lord for the insights and healing He has provided. The change in Andrew by stopping that drug was profound and praise and thanks are the order of the day!!!

We are not past it all yet - please don't let my joy fool you into believing the ordeal is over, but if today is an indicator, Andrew will be able to get back to the demands of being a toddler soon. We have treatments for heart failure, monitoring the remaining kidney carefully, many drugs to administer, multiple doctor visits, insurance issues to resolve, and all sorts of things we don't know about yet. But we'll come back to that reality soon enough - today is a day of celebration with praise and thanks to God who has been close to Andrew and our family throughout this ordeal. We have seen Him in you - your care, your support, your gifts, your messages (e-mails, cards, letters), your hugs, your tears, and your listening ears. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!!!

Father, we thank you for your hand in healing Andrew and in providing insights to give him relief. We thank you that You cry with every tear and You celebrate with our every victory. We do not understand the why of Andrew's illness and we look to the future with uncertainty, but we stop now to thank You for all Your blessings and for Your touch in Andrew's life. We continue to pray that Andrew can go back to a normal life and that through his life You will be praised. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

March 1, 2003

Depending on whether your an optimist or a pessimist, Andrew's condition can fit your view. For the pessimists, he has continued pain and nausea and has had a very hard time sleeping right now. We really don't know why. If you ask 10 people about why, you can get between 12 and 15 opinions about what's going on. For the optimists, Andrew has had more energy, has been up walking, and playing. Today he walked several times and, after we brought his train table and trains up to the hospital, he spent every minute he could sit up at the train table playing. Oh yeah, and this week he actually took a few bites of yogurt! His first food in months!!! So while it has been very hard to watch him fight pain and nausea, when he can get past them he is doing very well.

This has been a hard week for me with a lot of stress at work. I got a few extra hours to get things done with the girls off to Sun Valley with Jutta and that helped me get a bit more caught up. But the pace is taking its toll. So fortunately this weekend we were given some tickets to a show and we had some time to visit the restaurant of the uncle of one of the kids we know from Bone Marrow. This restaurant is in Park City and would be considered fine dining. He was very generous and we had a fantastic meal. These little stress relievers are a God-send - both figuratively and literally.

As I have mentioned before, our weakness continues and God continues to use it for His glory. At times I cannot even imagine what it was like to think I was strong. But God has touched many people and Melissa's ministry at the hospital is phenomenal. There are very few people - staff or patients - that she doesn't know and touch. I keep hearing from people that "I met your wife" and when the two of us walk down the halls, she is constantly stopping to talk to one person or another and getting involved in how they are doing. What an amazing thing!

We appreciate your continued prayers, love, and support. We have an exceptional group of supporters in you and we can't do this without your support. Please continue your prayers for Andrew's healing. He makes so much progress, but the pain and nausea are morale killers. He (and we) need your support through this. It is possible that we could get out of the hospital soon - maybe even this week. So, as Joe said in his postscript to my last e-mail, we are coming to an important crossroads and your prayers are pivotal to Andrew's healing. Please hold us up for energy, strength, sensitivity, and peace.

Below you will find another note of clarification from Joe. Thank all of you that have signed up! And if you are still interested, Joe can create more prayer slots.

May God bless you and keep you!

February 26, 2003

It has been a difficult day for Melissa today. Andrew is trying to do everything anyone is asking of him and fighting intense pain and acting very frustrated. The doctors are guessing that some of the issue is withdrawal from the methadone, but we can't be sure. Melissa feels quite sad because Andrew is not having any happy times right now. We are unsure what to believe. If it is withdrawal, he should start seeing some improvement from this soon. But for the moment we fight and wait and cry with him. His stomach is getting better able to handle small quantities of formula and Melissa is coaching the progress of that along so that we can improve his ability to handle food without pushing too hard. He is being converted to a 12 hour type schedule that would be manageable for us to handle outside the hospital, but there are several days of work to get there. Andrew needs your prayers - that the pain and withdrawals would subside and that his calm, happy disposition would start to break through. We miss him.

As you can see, this has gone outside the experiences of all of the medical staff and they are guessing. It appears that Melissa's guesses are probably the most accurate and they are ceding to her direction. Please pray for incredible discernment for her in this VERY challenging task.

The girls have gone to Hailey with Grandma Jutta (see how quickly we acquire family) for a four day weekend. I am home alone trying desperately to use all this quiet to catch up on a lot of work and chores that need to get done. I have deadlines for work that require some intense writing and analysis and the constant distractions make that much more difficult so the quiet here is a blessing. The girls will have fun in the snow and beauty of Sun Valley! Please pray for them to have some healing there. They are becoming more emotional; fighting more than normal; and feeling the loss of a Mommy rather intensely. This weekend should be just the ticket for them to decompress.

Kevin Davis, the generous web designer that has hosted Andrew's web site, tells me that the Update page has gotten too big to open reasonably so he has archived some of the older messages. Thanks Kevin for all of your help and giving your expert services for this cause! I guess I get a little long-winded at times to fill up all that space - thank you for your indulgence in my messages.

Phi 1:6 - "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Have you ever seen someone work with clay to throw a pot? I remember learning how to do that in High School art class (don't get the wrong idea - it was a required class and I stunk and still stink at anything artistic). First you take the clay and slam it on the table and knead it and slam it and, occasionally, cut it to make sure there are no bubbles in it until it is soft and workable for turning on the potter's wheel. Now imagine that you are that clay. I expect that our family is going through our preparation to go from that lump of clay to the beautiful pot He will make us on the "day of Christ Jesus." This good work that God is working in us doesn't feel very good, but it has given us insight into the feelings of others that are facing trials that life is throwing at them. Both Melissa and I feel strongly that we could be a continued ministry to the children and their families that face the trials of hospitalization and illness. We don't know what God has in mind for us, but we continue to take each day one at a time until Andrew is well and our call becomes more apparent.

Tonight I ask simply that, on top of the things I have mentioned above, you pray for peace in Andrew and our family. We need His love and care and to be infused with that peace which passes all understanding.

Attached below is a special request from my cousin, Joe Anderson. I ask that you prayerfully consider what he requests and if you feel led, to take part. Andrew will benefit from your love and prayers.

May God bless you this and every day with His abundant love and blessing as he continues to do for us.

February 22, 2003

Today Andrew continued to experience stomach pain. But after bouts of nausea he usually feels pretty good - talking, laughing, and playing. And even when he is having his stomach pain, he still wants to get up and walk to various places - the model train, the fountain, to play Nintendo, etc. His desire to get up and walk is great news and will help all of the other issues he faces by making him stronger, getting his gut to work right, and exercising his body and heart gently. It is still very hard for him and for those that care for him to deal with the crying and, sometimes, screaming to deal with the pain.

The girls have been being cared for by Jutta Berndt - our church's former pastor's wife (they are Kelsey's godparents as well). She came with us this weekend to Salt Lake so that Melissa and I could have some time together. We got out to dinner and actually slept in the same bed for two nights in a row - I can't remember how long it has been since that happened. It was a wonderful gift.

The season of Lent is fast approaching. Andrew started showing pain symptoms on Good Friday of last year. A friend told me she had a dream that Andrew would be at church for Easter. It is a hope that we can all cling to - a rebirthed life to celebrate our spiritual salvation and rebirth; how apropos. Most everyone involved in Andrew's case thinks that the very best thing for him now is to get out of that hospital and back home and we couldn't agree more.

Lent also reminds us of how little we deserve anything from God. We fall so short of the mark and yet are given grace and mercy over and over. God provides us with all we need and so much more and all we have to do is ask. We (including all of you) have asked for mercy for Andrew over and over. I know that God has and is hearing these prayers and that Andrew is being restored in God's good time. The extended and complicated recovery has put all of us (but particularly me) our of our comfort zone. As long as he followed the medical science path we could point to that as his healing. With so many complications and so many doctors saying that they don't understand what's wrong and don't know how best to help, we have had to turn to God for comfort and for healing. One does not grow without challenge and, sometimes, pain. As we grow up physically and emotionally, we see this again and again. And yet, we somehow expect that spiritually we can grow up without pain and constantly ask God to help us grow and without sacrifice or pain. Perhaps that is immature and unrealistic. My spiritual life and emotional life have grown in bounds through this and particularly when we faced the unknown and had to lean on faith for our hope and not medical science. (By the way, for the record, I no longer consider medicine the science I used to. The practitioners of medicine of any sort are intelligent scientists that practice the art of dealing with sick people and applying much more social art than science on most
occasions.)

Prayer requests - for Andrew, healing, pain relief, the desire to eat, and continued desire to walk/exercise; for Melissa, patience in dealing with Andrew's pain and the doctors, strength, endurance, and wisdom; for the girls, peace and the ability to continue to enjoy their life and school without Andrew's condition making them stressed or sad; for Melissa's mom and dad, relief and energy and peace with each day that passes; for my brother and sister in law, to have peace in their loss; for the remainder of our family, the discernment to know how to help and support us; and for me, peace, wisdom, and strength as I cope with work and family stresses.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, be in your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

February 20, 2003

Melissa and the girls came back from Portland yesterday and the girls and I came home last night. They had a good time in Portland. Dad is not as active as he was before, but they still had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa and all the travel went well.

Andrew had a tough night last night. He seems to be healing from the surgery, but he has a LOT of pain, even through a lot of pain medication. He has been accumulating a lot of crud in his mouth and throat when he sleeps that gives him a rather disconcerting cough. Last night the cough kept both he and Melissa awake. The crud is not accumulating in his lungs, but it is uncomfortable and coughing after abdominal surgery can be quite painful. He needs your prayers for finding some sort of pain relief. He is more active and has more energy, but spends much of his time crying or whining about his "owie". It is quite taxing for Melissa to have to be with him through that as well.

As for Andrew's prognosis, theoretically he could be able to leave the hospital soon if his pain could be controlled and he could begin eating. Surgery has put his eating out until the 25th of February to allow his gut to heal. Please pray that everything will heal properly and that he can begin to take food without nausea or pain. He really needs to get out of that place to get his moral back up.

Please also pray that Melissa and I could get an extra measure of energy and hope. Last night another child died in Oncology - another family that we knew. And we learned over the weekend that another girl in Bone Marrow is not going to make it. We are feeling acutely the loss of treasured children from families we have grown to know and care for. While it is a place of healing, there is a lot of sadness and sorrow too.

Please remember my brother, Brad, and his wife, Leslie - they learned that they lost the baby she was carrying. This was to be their second child and we were all so excited for them. This is a very hard time for them.

Last year at this time, Melissa and I were in Hawaii celebrating with Melissa's family her parents 40th anniversary, our ten year anniversary (early), and my birthday, blissfully unaware of what the coming year would bring in all of our lives. We are fortunate that we celebrated all of that then. Amazing how our lives can change so quickly - food for thought. Tonight I am sad over the pain my little boy is enduring and the torture that Melissa is dealing with (I know it quite well after the last five days I was with him). I yearn for relief and imagine us all back at home rebuilding normality together. But that dream is just out of reach right now which makes it all the harder. I know in my heart that for all the challenges of our lives right now, we are still blessed beyond anything we deserve. We are loved and cared for by friends and family and have material comforts more than we need. We have people we have never met praying for us and sending gifts and encouragement. The list of blessings goes on and on. Please pray for us to dwell in God and on His blessings - it will do more for our morale and courage than any other thing.

God has promised that He will never subject us to more than we can handle. We can cling to that promise. We thank you so much for all your support and prayer and endurance to ride this thing out for so long!

February 17, 2003

It is now 5 days since surgery. I have been with Andrew now since Thursday night so that Melissa and the girls could go to Portland to see the family. Andrew has had many very good moments and many bad moments. He has intense pain in his abdomen. Of course now it is difficult to distinguish if that is due to his prior problem or just post-operative pain. He has a six inch vertical incision running through his belly button, so it wouldn't be the slightest bit surprising if it were due to the surgery. More news from the surgery - the pathology report indicates that the diverticula that was removed from Andrew's colon had acid producing pores in it. This is quite abnormal and would have been a source of pain. The report also indicates that all the scar tissue that was removed had no cancer cells in it. Some of the tissue removed from the small intestine had the surgeon concerned that it might be cancerous, but we are all relieved that is not the case.

Andrew and I took a walk today. He was in a wheelchair for most of it since his legs are very weak, but he was able to take several steps and throw pennies into the fountain. He was able to get down on a mat and play several times in the last few days as well, so his strength and desire to get well are both improving. He says quite regularly that he misses Mommy, but we are doing okay together as a couple of guys. He has tremendous pain at times, but he keeps his caring, quiet personality in between these sessions and chats and plays like nothing had happened. Occasionally he comment "It's been a tough day!", but never feels sorry for himself. I'll go on record right now - I could never be that brave or content with what he is going through.

Melissa and the girls report that they are having a great time in Portland. Now only Andrew misses them, but we're glad that they are getting a good break. Tuesday they fly back to SLC and I take the girls back to Pocatello and our routine starts over again.

As I watch Andrew cope with his spells of pain I feel helpless and, in some sort of parental way, experience that pain as well. Can you imagine the pain our Savior went through on the cross for us? Or the pain the Father experienced watching that horrid spectacle and then to have to turn His back on His only Son. My burden is easy in comparison. I wish I could take Andrew's pain away or bear it myself, but I can't. The Father could have taken the pain away, but we would have been left for dead by that act. So He allowed His only Son to be tortured and killed so that we could be forgiven of all we do. It makes me feel somewhat inadequate in my feeble response.

Prayer requests: Please pray for Andrew's complete healing - we could be on the home stretch now and we need God's help to finish this up. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and nurses as they try to help him get better. It is difficult to know what to do next, but there is a general feeling that from a heart, kidney, and bone marrow standpoint, he is ready to go home. From a surgical, pain management, medication, and eating standpoint, he has a way to go. But if we can heal him up, get him to eat, reduce or eliminate his pain, and reduce his medication regime to something manageable for Melissa and me, then he could be on his way to Pocatello. We have been up and down on this rollercoaster and don't want to get our hopes too high, but please pray that the signs of relief and progress will become more obvious and Andrew will feel much better every day.

Please also pray for strength and hope for Melissa and me. We thank all of you that have sent support - it has helped greatly. It has been a tough couple of weeks, but this time of vacation for Melissa and the girls and rest for me with Andrew has improved us both.

May God work powerfully in and through you and through this situation in the coming days!

February 13, 2003

Tonight Andrew is out of Intensive Care and back up on the Oncology/Bone Marrow Floor. Melissa was able to help the doctors find a compromise of medications that have him sleeping comfortably tonight. Last night was not as good in that regard. Melissa was very sick this morning but was able to get some rest by staying at the apartment while Joe's mom, Kathy went up to the hospital to stay with Andrew. It is amazing how much like family the other patients' families become after while.

It is amazing how God can work encouragement in our lives! I found myself encouraged by the strangest of sources this evening - my own words. Throughout the day I have been letting the feelings of fatigue and the tyranny of the urgent bring me down and take my focus off of the relief that God offers through prayer and laying our burdens on Him. But several conversations and e-mails kept nudging something at the edge of my memory - some words of comfort that were just out of reach. Finally tonight, after rehashing the day and re-reading some of the encouraging e-mails that many of you have sent, the words came to me. They are the words to the song I wrote for Andrew's baptism. Rather than explain, I'll let you read them:

Our little baby boy; welcome to our world;
We love you more with every passing day.
Jesus knows you well; He was there while you were formed;
And He loves you more than words could ever say.

Jesus loves you; Jesus loves you.
He's watching over you and he's watching over me.
Jesus loves you; Jesus loves you.
He gave His own life to set us free.

May your life be filled with love; joy and blessing from above,
Like this day you join His great big family.
But there'll be days, I know; when you're feeling so alone,
Then remember this, these words will set you free.

Jesus loves you; Jesus loves you.
He's watching over you and he's watching over me.
Jesus loves you; Jesus loves you.
He gave His own life to set us free.

May God remind you each day how much He loves you!

February 12, 2003

It has been a long day - lots of waiting and other challenges. Andrew did not get into surgery until 2:30 (rather than the 10:30 originally scheduled.) The night before was very long for Andrew and Melissa as Andrew was in pain and crying much of the night - keeping both of them awake. The surgeon removed the appendix and, with much difficulty, the dead kidney. He also found and removed an inflamed diverticula (a small pocket that forms in the wall of the large intestine under pressure.) He also mentioned that the process of removing the kidney scraped his small intestine, so that will need a couple of weeks to heal. Overall the surgery was successful in that we have removed potential infection locations and a problem spot on the intestine. The surgeon and the ICU attending physician differ in the impact of the removal of the diverticula. The Intensivist believes that could be a significant source for the pain Andrew has experienced. The surgeon does not want us to get our hopes up. Either way, Andrew will have pain for the next couple weeks from the surgery. We pray that this procedure eliminates the long term pain problem. We do know that there was no sign of tumor in any of the regions the surgeon reviewed! That is an answer to our continued prayer.

So tonight everyone is tired and relieved and we continue to pray that Andrew is on his way to recovery. I wish I could tell you that the problem was found and everything will be okay now, but we just don't know. Please continue to pray for Andrew to stay cancer free and that he would now have relief from the pain problems and be on his way to recovery.

The stress and the long night has given Melissa a cold so she dealing with that and trying to take care of Andrew. Please pray that she would get immediate relief from that to avoid infecting Andrew and so that she can fly comfortably on Friday to Portland with the girls. Also pray that they will have a great visit with dad. He is looking forward to it and the girls are very excited too.

Our family needs your support more than ever. The long hospitalization since Andrew's second transplant has put a tremendous strain on all of us - fatigue, being more emotional, feeling less hope, etc. We need to be together for a while, but that is just not a good possibility right now. We need Andrew to feel better and get away from his medical problems for a while. We need to have our lives filled with God's peace, joy, and hope now that we are nearly empty. We are truly at the weakest point any of us have been at and perhaps now God's strength will come through us even better. Please pray that through all of this we would reflect God's love and care for others in spite of how we feel.

February 11, 2003

Surgery eve day. Tomorrow (Tuesday) Andrew will have surgery to explore the source of his intense abdominal pain. It is scheduled for 10:30 MST and the surgeon expected it to last about four hours. While inside he will remove the dead kidney if it is possible without significant damage and may remove the appendix as well - trying to remove sources for infection where that is possible and doesn't risk further damage. He will also look for recurrence of cancer, but there is no reason to expect he will find anything based on all the tests to dare. The surgeon has been reluctant, but everyone agrees that it is a requirement since nothing else has revealed any source for the pain.

Sunday marked Andrew's 100th day since Bone Marrow Transplant - 100 days cancer free! We had a party with the Gribas family and the Elliott family and had a little church and a little music and a lot of food (as one would expect knowing Melissa.) Andrew was able to come and open presents and eat a couple of chips before he got too tired to sit up anymore. He lasted about 45 minutes and had big smiles for a major portion of the time. It was priceless!

Andrew has continued to have abdominal pain, but thus far it has not stressed his heart as it did in the past. He has been weaned from the heart medicine, but has stayed in Intensive Care because we knew we were headed back there after surgery tomorrow. It made it easier to have a bed space when he needs it tomorrow.

We deeply need your prayers for tomorrow. While I will be at work, I expect it will be difficult to concentrate. Melissa will be in the waiting room trying to distract herself while she waits and our whole family will be waiting anxiously to see if they can resolve the problems. We would appreciate any prayer time you can dedicate to Andrew and our family tomorrow. Only God can guarantee success and we need His blessing on this important time in Andrew's life. Thank you for your prayers through this.

"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

Paul, the author of these verses, was a remarkable fellow. He went through more trials than most of us could imagine. Yet he found reason to celebrate dealing with challenge. I cannot go that far (I mean, hey - I can't even handle hangnails), but I can say that I have learned about tribulation, perseverance, character, and hope. I still have faith and hope that Andrew will come through this and be a remarkable young man someday. This is my prayer tonight and throughout tomorrow - that Andrew would be healed and have the chance to be a witness to all of the power of God through one special life. Please join us in praying for Andrew and thanking God for the work He will do through him.

May God work powerfully in your lives!

February 9, 2003

Andrew is still in ICU and will remain here so they can carefully observe him for the next few days. Today all of the doctors involved in his case from the different disciplines - ICU, Bone Marrow, Cardiology, Infectious Disease, Gastro-Intestinology, and Surgery - met to discuss what to do and how to proceed with Andrew. The consensus was to do a few more tests and to go through with the surgery on Tuesday. The purpose of the surgery is to look for issues that couldn't be seen via the scans, review and possibly remove the dead kidney, and review the condition of his appendix. The idea is to eliminate potential sources of pain and infection. It will not be quite as major as his tumor removing surgery, but it is still serious.

Right now his heart function is a little better than half of normal and relatively stable. He is still having stomach pain, but is able to be fed fully through formula in his tube so we don't have to supply anything via IV. Generally, he appears to be doing a little better, but until the pain is relieved, he still is at risk of having another crisis.

In the last few days I have been reading a book about dealing with crises in our lives. The author has spent a lot of time referencing the Psalms of David. Most of us are quick to remember the kid that defeated Goliath and his kingdom. We're less inclined to remember that he spent years being chased by King Saul who was trying to kill him out of jealousy. After he had been king for some time two of his sons, at separate times tried to kill him and take his kingdom. For all of his glory and splendor, he had a lot of trials in his life. What we see in reading David's Psalms, is that he continued to praise the Lord even in his worst times. His response to attack and trial was to cry out to God for justice and praise God for the peace and relief that he knew he would receive.

I don't know about you, but that's not my natural response to trials. And yet the night that we learned of Melissa's dad's illness, I had rehearsal for our band. Since the information was private within our family that night, I couldn't say anything about it. So I just went through rehearsal singing and praising the Lord in spite of my heavy heart. I can speak from this experience that God will bring you peace when you turn to Him and praise Him in spite of how you feel.

I don't know why Andrew and our family has to go through this. But we have grown and learned so much through it that I can say that good is being found in this trial. With all my heart, I wish Andrew did not have to go through it. But our family has grown through it. Thank you for your support and love and help in all of this.

Please pray for Andrew to recover from all the complications and to remain in remission. I ask that you take time to especially pray that his surgery and tests will reveal clearly what is wrong and that the doctors can fix it. His surgery is Tuesday - please set aside some time to pray for these things on Tuesday and for him and the surgeon to have complete success. We have come to know his surgeon fairly well in these intermediate months. He is a Godly man that prays over each of his patients before operating. Pray that God truly guides him and protects Andrew through the procedure.

We ask for prayer for the rest of our family. This ordeal has begun to tire all of us out. We need an extra measure of strength, endurance, and peace to make it through the next little while. And when you are praying for us, please thank the Lord for all of His blessings to our family and the work He has done in Andrew so far.

February 4, 2003

Tonight Andrew got back off the respirator! He has been doing better since he got back on the heart medicine and had a chance to rest. They could have removed the tube yesterday, but waited until today so Andrew could have a Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy (scopes of his stomach and colon.) The scopes showed no issues with the colon end and that his gastritis is worse in his stomach. They took biopsies in his stomach to see if they can narrow the sources. These scopes require him to be sedated and having him on the respirator lowered the risks of complications. He is very glad to have the tube out and his first words this time were, "Hi, Mommy!"

He will probably be in ICU for a few more days because he needs heart meds, but there is such a squeeze for beds in ICU that he might get sent back to BMT early anyway to make space.

Melissa and I are doing pretty well - tired, but quite happy that Andrew is doing much better. We talked to the surgeon today as well. We vented a bit about what could be causing Andrew's abdominal pain. He agreed to do exploratory surgery next week if we cannot narrow down the cause before then. So progress is being made if much more slowly than we would like.

Prayer requests: Please pray that the doctors can pinpoint and relieve Andrew's pain issues and that he remains in remission. Also pray for safe travels back and forth between Pocatello and SLC. Thanks for your continued support and prayers!

February 2, 2003

It has been a very difficult day - around the world with the shuttle tragedy and for Andrew. Andrew has been having more stomach pain the last few days. Last night he was not able to get any relief from his pain and he and I were up all night. This morning he had a lot of discomfort and his blood pressure and pulse were quite high. So they did another Echocardiogram to make sure his heart was okay with all the distress. The results were very poor and so the cardiologist required that Andrew be sent back down to ICU to get the drugs he needs to restore heart function. When we got down to ICU he was still having with blood pressure and pulse and his breathing was getting more and more labored. By early evening they had to put him on a respirator to support him. Melissa and I stayed with him during the intubation (which they don't normally let parents do) and saw just what he went through. It was frightening, but made it more clear how badly he needed the respirator.

Tonight he is resting more peacefully and his blood pressure, pulse, and other indicators are much better. His levels on the respirator are relatively low and that leaves us with a better feeling that this will not be as long or as severe as the last time. If that is true, then we shouldn't be on the respirator as long. Again, we go one day at a time. Unless Andrew gets much better tomorrow, I'll probably stay in SLC for a few days to be close by while things are so serious.

Tonight, after 36 or so hours without sleep and with all the challenges of the day, I'm kind of numb. I don't even know what to ask you to pray for. Clearly, we need prayer for healing and for protection for Andrew.

We are tired and need to rest and recover from the trauma of the day. We need prayer for rest and strength.

My parents came down today - they were going to take care of the girls and Andrew so Melissa and I could go to a hotel for a break from all this. We had to cancel the reservation, but having everyone here made it a little easier with all the events of the day. The girls had a cancer siblings event today - they went bowling with other siblings of cancer patients. They had fun and were able to get away from some of this. The girls and the rest of the family need prayer for peace and strength to deal with yet another bump in the road.

January 30, 2003

Last night I wanted to send an update, but just couldn't fit in the time. I wanted to say that with a change in his feeding formula he was again making progress. Unfortunately, things have again turned for the worse. Andrew has acquired some sort of infection, probably bacterial, and it has raised his temperature, blood pressure, and pulse to very high levels. They have started him on antibiotics and, based on the reaction, they are having an effect. His blood pressure and temperature went up each time they administered a dose. The mechanism is that as bacteria die they emit toxins which the body reacts to by trying to fight them off with temperature. (those of you in the medical profession, forgive my ignorance if I'm off base.) At any rate, he is again very sick. They wanted to send him to ICU again, because he is that sick, but there are NO BEDS AVAILABLE. Primary Children's hospital has 22 ICU beds and they are all full of kids that are sicker than Andrew. That just floors me and makes me sad for all those sick kids and their families.

Andrew needs your earnest prayers. He is so close to getting past this that we can see the finish line and every time we grow close, he lapses into another complication. I beg you to spend a little more time asking God for complete healing for Andrew. If you feel led to fast as part of this prayer, thank you! I truly believe that such sacrifice is honored by the Father. If not, your continued prayer on Andrew's behalf is so very much appreciated!

We learned this week that another of our friends is likely in relapse. His name is Joe and he is 20. He is fighting a different kind of cancer, but has had one Bone Marrow transplant. They did a scan a couple of days ago and found the residual tumor, which they were unable to remove during surgery, has grown - even through the radical chemotherapy he had during his transplant. There is a lot of discussion of what can be done to help him, but no firm direction that I know of. He mom and Melissa have become very close and Joe really admires Andrew. He has visited often, told Andrew that he is his hero, and bought Andrew some Superman pajamas to tell Andrew he thinks Andrew is like Superman, fighting through all his complications. We mourn over the tragic news of Joe, but there is still hope for him, so please remember him in your prayers as well.

This battle is now really taking its toll on Melissa and me. Melissa is feeling the pain of all the trials Andrew is facing and the pain of so many of her friends there fighting losing battles. It is discouraging. Yet there are not words I can muster up to say how proud of her I am. Before this, she hated hospitals, needles, and the like. Now she lives there and daily ministers to other families, the doctors, nurses, and other staff. She cooks for them, talks with them, and cares about them and they know it and appreciate it. I can imagine no greater ministry than her ministry to all these hurting people.

I am feeling my hope fade. With each passing complication, it is harder to deal with Andrew's pain and suffering. And yet, remarkably, I sense no failing in my faith - rather I am strengthened that God is there and cares for Andrew and for all of us. I can only explain this as growth in me and your prayer support covering me in this time. I ask that you pray for me to be able to continue this race to its completion with hope, faith, and strength through it all. My parents have a plaque on their wall that details the extraction of my name - Mark, Mighty Warrior. I do not feel mighty, nor much of a warrior. I ask that you pray that I can live up to that through the remainder of Andrew's battle - helping Andrew, Melissa, my girls, and the rest of my family stay the course. There is a spiritual battle here that I need your prayers in - to rest in Christ and stand firm in Him.

Thank you so much for your prayers. We are blessed beyond belief to have such supportive friends, a powerful and caring church that carries us every day, and such an army of supporters - via e-mail, web site, and word of mouth. Thank you all and may God bless you as you fight your daily battles.

January 27, 2003

Very little has changed with Andrew since yesterday, but I thought I'd pass on a couple of items. His Cardiologist is very encouraged by Andrew's response to the changes in medication. They will do another Echocardiogram this week to see what his system is doing directly, but there are other indications that he is better on these medications. His stomach is still causing him pain and some nausea which continues to be a concern for all. The doctors and nurses are all aiming for him to be released from the hospital in 10 days or so, but we are skeptical with all the thing that he needs to have for support.

I was looking over my recent e-mail and noticed the KLOVE Power verses I received. See if you see a common thread:

1/16/2003
I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. --Psalm 120:1, New International Version

1/20/2003
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. --2 Corinthians 4:17, New International Version

1/22/2003
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. --Philippians 4:5-6, New International Version

1/25/2003
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." --John 16:33, New International Version

Perhaps, God has a message for me in these. I am encouraged that such comfort is available from scripture and we continue to receive it from our friends and family as well.

Please uphold Andrew in prayer - for continued healing of his heart, stomach, and restoration of his energy. For Andrew and the rest of our family, we ask for health, peace, and protection from further attack by circumstance or spirit. Also, please offer thanks for the blessings and grace that we have received through this. Whenever I get too caught up in my own despair I am reminded by seeing and hearing of the other families in here that have lost their children or who are much less fortunate to have such loving and caring support. I (with your help) need to continually thank the Lord for my blessed circumstance.

Last week I got a fortune cookie at the local Chinese food place. It said. "Adversity is a test for a strong man." I have learned that it is best a test for a weak man who is well supported by friends, family, and a caring God who is shown strong through it. Being "strong" in this would have burned us out a long time ago.

January 25, 2003

Andrew has made some progress in the last few days. On Monday he will be transferred from the Bone Marrow Team to Cardiology (no change in rooms, just medical supervision.) His problems remaining are primarily with his heart function, which, while improved are still sub-normal. He is back up in the Bone Marrow Transplant pod and will stay there until discharge unless something surprising comes up (but then, that was the plan two months ago and several surprises have come up since then.) One thing seems to be more certain, Andrew's heart function problems are most likely the result of chemotherapy and not the pneumonia. If it was the pneumonia, it should not have popped back up as a problem again now that the pneumonia is gone. Low heart function could also be connected with his stomach issues as when the heart is struggling to deliver blood, the GI system is usually shortchanged (which is why you shouldn't eat and then swim as your mothers probably have told you.)

He is now seeing Cardiologists twice a day and they have prescribed several drugs to try and help his function. The one that they started on (that required him to be in ICU) is now discontinued and others are filling in. His function is now a bit better than half of normal, so he still has progress to make. This is delicate balance as well, as we found out last night when his blood pressure dropped suddenly and they needed to give him extra fluids to get him to recover. His kidney function was affected too as contaminants were building up in his system, but now that his heart function has improved, so has his kidney function. With one kidney, this is a closely watched item.

Melissa and I have had a rough time this week with the heart issues, the trip to ICU and back, and the length of this time in the hospital. Andrew has now been in since the last week in October (85 days since his transplant on Nov. 1st.) There is a glimmer of hope that he will be able to get out, but we are not holding our breaths since so much has gone wrong this visit. We continue one day at a time and try to remain hopeful every day.

through the generosity of several people at AMI, Melissa and the girls have plane tickets (frequent flyer miles) to Portland for Valentine's Day. It makes all of us happy that they can spend some time with Mom and Dad Becker. We are so thankful for such thoughtful friends!!!

We continue to ask for your prayer over us - for renewed health and strength for Andrew, for strength, courage, and renewed hope for Melissa and me, and for peace and calm for our families. Also we ask that you pray for spiritual protection in this - we are very aware of the effects of these e-mails and Melissa's ministry in the hospital and have felt constant resistance to our faith and hope. We claim no special talents or strength, just the willingness for God to carry us and use us in whatever way He can. But we continue to need your prayer to hold us up and maintain our witness.

January 21, 2003

Well, it started off as a good day (especially for me as I had a major success at work), but we are quite discouraged as evening comes. This morning Andrew was sitting up and playing and generally improving in most ways. We have been noticing that his weight has been increasing steadily the last few days. This afternoon they did another Echocardiagram to determine the state of his heart. While in ICU it had weakened and he has been on support medication since then. Over the last two weeks they have been weaning that medicine and today's test was to see how his heart is doing. The results were very poor - about 14% efficiency rather than the 55-60% for normal children. The result is that they need to start him up on a heart medication that requires around-the-clock supervision and Andrew is being moved back down to ICU to have that coverage.

To put it mildly, we are discouraged. Andrew has been doing so well that we thought we had left the whole episode in ICU behind. While he will not be on a respirator, ICU is still a hard place for him and for us. He will still be getting physical and occupational therapy and they now have added speech therapy to assist him in learning to eat and drink again. He will just be in ICU instead of the Oncology floor. He will start up on the heart medications immediately and the process from there is not clear at this point.

While this is troubling news, we are still doing what we were doing before - waiting. There is a lot of waiting and wondering involved in this process. During the waiting and the wondering comes fear and worry as one's mind wanders back into the past or worries about what is to come. We are making a concerted effort to not live in the past and try to re-think past decisions or live in the future and wonder what will happen. If we cannot live in today, we will not be able to cope with Andrew's illness. I am sure that you must feel like you are on a roller-coaster with us. I apologize for the rough road. But the good in it is that we continue to grow in fellowship and maturity. I admire the many of you who are experiencing all of this with us. You don't have to, but you choose to support us through the ups and downs - and experience them in your own lives as a result. Thank you for your support! We could not manage this challenge without you.

Prayer requests: First and most, please pray for Andrew - that his heart will recover, that the cancer stays in remission, and that his spirits will lift. He has been sad and his gradual improvement in mobility and energy have improved his mood, but this setback might effect that. Melissa is telling him that he is going for a ride and getting a new room. We are spinning as positively as possible to him. Please pray for Melissa's family - Melissa's dad is having a very hard time - doesn't fell like eating, has no energy, and constantly feels sick. He desires peace. This is what was expected, but earlier than we had hoped. Please pray for his peace and the peace of the whole family - particularly Melissa and her mom, who are in the center of the care for these two sick people. Also pray for Brittney and Kelsey as they face the waiting and wondering over Andrew and worry about Grandpa. They are such good girls and strong, but one wonder's how much they hide of their worry and concern. We talk, but it is hard to talk about and understand for them.

Lastly, in this seemingly dark time, please pray that God would once again shine His light into our souls and carry us through the trial. We need His love, His peace, and His joy to keep on. May God fill you with these things as well!

January 19, 2003

Well the verdict is in - gastritis (hopefully I spelled it right) and no recurrence of the cancer. This is a tremendous relief because now we know what needs to be treated. Essentially he needs antacid (actually a stronger one than he has been getting) and a different pain reliever that focuses on the stomach. After a couple of days they may be able to back off on the other pain relief medications. He is doing better - sitting up and talking (and giving mom and dad orders) and playing with various toys. He needs to build up his strength; he can only do things in short spurts right now. Overall, I have to say that I was overwhelmed at how much better he is today than when I left last week.

We are constantly in awe of your support! You continue to bombard us with love - visits, calls, cards, letters, presents, meals.... It is gratifying and we feel so thankful and so unworthy. I can't find the words to explain. Your love reminds us of how much our Heavenly Father loves and cares for us - through all of His people here on earth. We have learned so much about the Body of Christ through this trial. People we have never met sending us presents, praying for us, and encouraging us. As in the human body, when one member is stricken, the rest hurts with it and supports it. You have carried us through a very traumatic time in our lives. "Thank You" doesn't begin to express our gratitude.

I wish I had words of wisdom to give back today. I am so overwhelmed by Andrew's smile and laughter today - it has been so long since I have heard him laugh - that I cannot keep thoughts straight or hold tears back. Perhaps the wisest thing I can say is to ask you to give many prayers of thanks to our God for the relief and Andrew's progress. So often I ask, ask, ask and forget to be thankful (like the nine lepers that Jesus healed that did not come back). I have asked you to pray for us continually and as we are now seeing improvement, I ask that you join us in thanking God for His mercy and grace to Andrew and our family.

We have found ourselves thinking about when we might get out of the hospital. It is a strange thought for us after so much time. We are trying to restrain ourselves from getting too far ahead of the healing process, but a nice feeling to be talking about getting out.

January 18, 2003

We haven't learned much today, but what we have learned was good news - the spots that lit up in Andrew's MIBG scan are not cancer. That is ruled out by the location which seems to be in his stomach, which, in itself is good news because it may explain the nausea and stomach pain. The frustration today was in seeing the Gastrointestinologist (there a mouthful). That doctor did not show up until after Melissa had to leave to go with some friends that came for a visit. Even if she had been there, it wouldn't have made much difference since they decided that they would wait until Monday to do a scope of his stomach since he had just taken contrast for the CT scan. So....we wait to find out what it is and how it will be treated.

Fortunately, Andrew has felt gradually better the last two days - getting up and playing with toys on a table and sitting up much more and interacting with people a lot better. He has had less stomach pain - less frequent and less often. Tonight he has been sleeping since I got here, so I may have a long night if he wakes up ready to play around midnight. All in all, I'd love to lose sleep over that!

Thank you so much for your prayers! They have helped Andrew and carried us. We continue to ask for your prayer support over Andrew and our family. This weekend the girls needed to stay in Pocatello because Brittney has a fever. Please pray for the girls - it is very hard for them to be away from their mom. And remember Melissa's dad - today was his birthday and we give thanks for him and all the time we have had with him over these precious years.

January 17, 2003

I know all of you have been waiting with baited breath for the test results today. Well, so are we. Here's what happened and what we know. They did the CT scan and the MIBG scan. After Melissa and Andrew went back to his room they got a call saying that the MIBG scan was unclear and needed to be repeated. I won't go into all the logistics, but they did go back through a second scan, but by the time it was complete the Radiologist that is qualified to read such an unusual scan had left for the day. So we will wait until tomorrow when all of the doctors can sit down together and review the results. The CT looked normal, so nothing there.

What is significant is that there is something to see on the MIBG. The technician did tell Melissa that it looks unusual, but didn't know what it meant. Andrew's surgery has repositioned his internal organs and the one kidney is dead, so the results will look different. So we need to wait until tomorrow.

January 16, 2003

Not much has changed in Andrew's situation over the last few days. Tomorrow (1/16) Andrew will undergo a CT scan and an MIBG scan. The CT is to try and find the reason(s) for Andrew's intense stomach pain. He has had several CT scans in the past and they have not revealed anything. It is hoped that this time they can find something. The MIBG is a very special test - a special form of radioactive iodine is used that attaches itself to neuroblastoma cells. This test will help the doctors see if there are any cancer cells growing in Andrew. As you can probably guess, tomorrow is a very important day for Andrew and our family. As you read this, I ask that you pray for Andrew - that the cancer has not recurred and that the doctors finally find something that explains his nausea and pain so they can treat it.

These last few days have been a difficult time for Melissa and me. The celebration of Andrew's recovery from pneumonia left us vulnerable to the letdown of finding Andrew had not had any healing of the abdominal issues that kept him in the hospital so long that he acquired the pneumonia. Both of us have felt frustration, perhaps a little anger, and great sadness over Andrew's continued suffering. Andrew says that he is sad because his tummy hurts. Hearing that makes us cry - what parent does not weep over their child's pain. While he is making progress in his lungs and in being able to do physical activity, the constant battle with pain is demoralizing. We need your prayers to endure and for Andrew to get relief in whatever way God chooses - miracle or medicine.

While we don't understand why Andrew is going through this, it is comforting to know that God does care for us - that He is weeping over Andrew right now as well. But He weeps over every lost one and celebrates whenever someone accepts the eternal gift He offers. It is demoralizing to deal with the hardships Andrew is experiencing, but this life is short no matter who we are. The next life is eternal and our suffering will be a memory when we reach it.

While there is a lot that we could ask you to pray for, I would ask you to simply pray for Andrew to get quick relief from this pain and not have any cancer recurrence. Everything else will fall into place and peace will be much easier to find if these two things are answered.

January 14, 2002

I wish I could tell you that Andrew's miraculous recovery was continuing, but he is not continuing on that pace. Still he is better by baby steps each day. As they have begun weaning the pain killers his abdominal pain has returned. It is hard to believe that we'd be thankful to be back in the same situation we were in before ICU, but we are. Today Andrew has had a lot of pain, but he has also spent more time sitting up and stood a couple of times. He has so much recovering to do that it will take some time.

What's left? He needs to build up his strength; learn to walk and eat all over again; stay away from any other infections; heal the damage in his heart that came with the pneumonia; and avoid any recurrence of the cancer. He still has a lot of odds to overcome. Yet we look at where we have come from and think that he has already beaten the worst odds. Please pray for relief from pain, that the doctors would understand the issue and address it, and that he would not recur.

Melissa's dad needs prayer as well. He has had a couple of bad days and has been quite uncomfortable. Please pray for peace and comfort for him in this challenging time.

I have been thinking lately about all the people we have been talking to and ministering to since this trial has come our way. I doubt I can bring myself to ever say that I'm grateful for this situation, but I am thankful that God has drawn so close to us through this and has allowed us to care for and minister to. I, particularly, am quite fond of "live and let live" and yet I am finding so many people that care and need caring for when I step out of my little world and reach out to them. I guess I still have a lot of growing up to do, but I have learned that I'm really here to serve others in some form or another. Whether it is doing everything I can to make AMIS successful for the people that make their living there or in reaching out to others by listening, talking, or even writing e-mails and instant messages, I can serve and uplift others. That is a strange concept for me - anyone else out there like that? But God continually is telling me I have that responsibility to support, serve, and love others; I guess it's time to start listening.

More prayer requests: Please pray for Melissa and I this week - we have little time together for communicating and caring for each other. It is hard to be separated from your best friend constantly. We need a little more intimacy than the telephone can offer. Another lesson from this for me is to never again take our marriage and friendship for granted. It is a fragile treasure that needs time invested. Please also pray for our girls. They have been quite resilient in this, but they are beginning to feel the time away from Mommy a bit more each week.

Lastly, as I have asked many times before, please give thanks for the many blessings God has given us (and you). Is it possible to be too thankful?

January 10, 2003

It has been an eventful week! Today Andrew was able to leave Intensive Care and move back up to the cancer treatment pod. He has a lot of road ahead of him in the recovery process, but we are so grateful for his recovery from the pneumonia. What's ahead, you ask? He needs to be weaned off of blood pressure and heart medications; weaned off of the pain killers and relaxants they needed to keep him calm while on the respirator; learn to eat and be able to tolerate eating without nausea; exercise his muscles and lungs which are quite atrophied; and build up his strength. He has all the demands of a toddler and about the strength level of a newborn, so we have a way to go.

Just to review, a month ago Andrew was having intense abdominal pain, couldn't hold down any feeds, was unable to support himself breathing, and had an inflamed gall bladder and colon. Today his gall bladder is clear and no longer a candidate for surgery, he is able to be entirely fed on tube feeds (although he still has a little nausea), and he is breathing on his own. He has been near death more than once through this period. We give thanks to a loving God that has brought us through such a difficult period. Many of you might ask why a loving God would allow all this. I wish I could give a satisfying answer. What I do know is this: we are all fallen sinners and only worthy of the pain and death that our sin requires from a holy God. But He chose to grant us mercy by not giving us what we deserve and grace by giving us great gifts we do not deserve because of the sacrifice of His Son. To many of you this might seem like a pat answer - it used to seem that way to me. But I have learned through this pain, that while I ask for relief, nothing I can do deserves that relief - there are no deeds, no penance, no prayers that I can do. I can only receive grace, give thanks, and try to show my gratitude through serving others.

On a lighter note, we have two television stars in our family now. Andrew and Melissa were on the Salt Lake City news in a story about Primary Children's Medical Center which was selected as one of the top ten children's hospitals in the country. They interviewed Melissa and filmed Andrew to show the scale of area that the hospital covers and the unique care available there. It is strange to see Melissa on TV, but she did a great job! And so far, it hasn't gone to her head. (Just joking!)

I have returned to work after a month off. It has been an adjustment. There is so much that needs to be done, but I am glad to be back. People at work have been so supportive and gracious. They have donated further time off to me to be able to support Andrew! "Thank you!" doesn't begin express how we feel over all the support we have received from AMI - from the CEO on throughout the company. We are so blessed to be at AMI.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for Andrew to continue his recovery - all the items listed above. Pray for Melissa to have the strength and wisdom to support Andrew and his recovery. Please pray for me to be able to balance my work and home life - to get it all done and maintain quality of work and of life. Please pray for Brittney and Kelsey that they would feel appreciated, loved, and get all the support that they need when most of our focus is on Andrew. Also that they be comfortable with not being able to see Andrew now until he gets out of the hospital because the Bone Marrow protocol does not allow siblings to visit during Respiratory Virus season. Please continue to pray for Melissa's dad as he continues to cope with his terminal condition - that he will be able to do all the things he wants to do and have complete closure. Also remember my parents as they fill in as surrogate parents.

January 8, 2003

This morning they removed Andrew's ventilator and tube!! He is able to talk (very quietly) and his first word was "Mommy", which thrilled Melissa. He is blowing bubbles (to give his lungs exercise and clear gunk) and sitting up and playing in other ways! He talked to me on the phone and those were some of the most precious words I have ever heard! Welcome, wonderful news!!

Another point we learned last night which adds to the celebration, the Bone Marrow Transplant Group has never had a patient survive if they needed to be put on the oscillating ventilator. Andrew is the first. I would attribute this to God's grace and our prayers (lest you think that your prayers are not enough to get miracles!)

Celebrate with us today! And thank the Lord for His grace to Andrew and our family!

January 7, 2003

A brief update to share excellent news - today Andrew was able to sit up, cuddle with Melissa, and play with the Occupational Therapist! They also did another echocardiagram of his heart. The last time this was done was on New Year's Eve when his heart rate and blood pressure were so high. At that time the efficiency of his left ventricle was only 17% which is very low. Today it has returned to about 55% which is considered within the normal range! He has made so much progress in these last few days and that is relieving.

We thank you for your prayers and support! Please continue to remember Andrew as we target getting off of the ventilator this week. As I mentioned in my previous note, that will mark a tremendous milestone! Also remember to say a word of thanks for God's work in Andrew and in our family in these days.

January 6, 2003

Andrew has had four good days in a row now. The miracles of change (whether you attribute them to God or modern medicine or both) are remarkable. His lungs are clearing and his breathing is much easier and more effective although he remains on the respirator. The gall bladder that we were assured had stones and sludge in it and would need to come out after he was out of danger is now clear and clean and not an issue. He is receiving about half of his nutritional needs through a tube into his stomach which he was unable to tolerate before the pneumonia. He has made so many strides and when I think of the patience and courage it has taken for him to be quiet & still so as not to dislodge the ventilator tube or IV tubes connected to him - unable to talk with that tube down his throat - it is an amazing thing to me. God has given him a spirit of peace, patience, and love that I wish I could learn.

He is doing much better but has so much to go. The doctors have informed us today that he needs to get off the respirator this week or he will need to have a tracheotomy to move the tube out of his mouth and throat to protect his vocal cords and other parts of his throat. Cutting him open another way is a frightening and discouraging thought to us. We ask your prayers that Andrew would indeed tolerate the rapid changes in ventilation required to wean him off in the next few days.

I have returned to Pocatello (the girls came back New Year's Day with
friends) and my dad has safely returned from his trip to Minnesota. Tomorrow we return to what we have called routine, Melissa with Andrew in SLC, my parents here taking care of the girls, and I will return to work. After almost a month of leave, it is a bit unnerving to see where we are with the projects I was working on and how I will adjust to schedules and meetings again. I will be glad for the distraction to some extent and for the opportunity to give back to the company who has supported me so incredibly. I'm also looking forward to getting back into a role where I have some (minimal) control.

I was listening to a favorite song of mine in the car on the way back from SLC. It is entitled "Power of Your Love" by Geoff Bullock. For copyright reasons I cannot share the whole thing, but the words of the chorus have always struck me:

"Hold me close, let Your love surround me;
Bring me near, draw me to Your side.
And as I wait, I'll rise up like the eagle;
And I will soar with You, Your Spirit leads me on, in the power of Your love."

Many times before I have felt sad or alone or depressed and these words have expressed my need for a "Daddy" to hold me and comfort me, but never as much as I have felt in these last few weeks. These words express so beautifully the power of God's love for us and His desire to hold us when we are sad, in despair, and afraid. I have felt the potential loss of my only son many times through this. He has nearly died on more than one occasion and these times have drawn me much closer to God. For others we talk to, (especially Melissa has talked to being as social as she is) they have turned from God in their ordeals. I cannot imagine the despair they feel with nowhere to go, no one to share their burden, and no hope of a life to come.

Several of you have shared that you wish you could do more for us; that you feel frustrated because there is little to do but pray for Andrew and for our family. We have clung to God and He to us in a way that can only be described as supernatural - beyond anything we could do ourselves. There has been many opportunities to be angry and bitter at God (and I have cried to Him, argued with Him, yelled at Him, and pleaded with him through this) but we have not turned away. Please understand that this dedication is not
our own power and we do not wish credit for it. We owe it to you - our
loving family and friends, who have prayed unceasingly for us and who write e-mails, cards, letters, and have given us gifts beyond anything we deserve
- that we have remained strong and grown stronger in our faith. In the times of despair you have been God's hands and feet and have comforted us and cared for us. When we needed financial support, you gave it to us without our even asking. When I needed to work to escape, you helped me focus on that and relieve the stress and worry. When we have needed a listening ear, you have been there with phone calls and coffee breaks. When we are all called to judgement, God will point to these "little" things and say "you did this for the least of my brothers - you did it for me." Please do not consider words of support and earnest prayer as inadequate gifts to us - they are priceless gems. It is my prayer that you will be built up in your faith through the time you spend in prayer and through the relationship that will increase with the Creator and Savior of the universe.

We need your prayers for Andrew, for David Becker, and for all of our family as we continue in this ordeal. Please pray for health and strength for Andrew and for the rest of us that support him - particularly for Melissa. We have been together for the last month and my leaving to go back to work puts her back by herself to deal with all of Andrew's medical treatment. She has been a rock - steady and strong through the wide swings of emotion and health in Andrew. She needs your prayer and support to continue. Please pray for her mom as she copes with Dad's illness. There are so many things you could pray for, but most I ask that you pray that God would provide peace and strength through this.

May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you and sustain you today and each day!

January 2, 2003

It has been a few days since I last wrote and we have had extreme ups and downs over that time. Melissa has become fond of saying that we need to stay level and not get too excited with the ups and not too depressed with the downs, but, as you'll see, it has been a rollercoaster for us.

Melissa's parents have returned to Portland after a wonderful visit! It was so emotional seeing Andrew hugging his grandparents and having some special family time together. Andrew seemed to really enjoy having them visit and was sad to see them go. The last night the hospital gave Melissa and I Utah Jazz basketball tickets. We were pretty close to the roof and the players looked kind of small but it was wonderful to get out with just the two of us.

Then on New Year's Eve Andrew had a terrible day. His pulse and blood pressure and temperature skyrocketed and no one could put a finger on it. (For you engineers out there considering a career in medicine - don't - there is little about medicine that can be called an exact science and it could drive you crazy. For you dentists and doctors out there - my hat is off to you dealing with the mysteries of the human body. It is a marvelous machine that is quite unrepeatable from person to person and even day to day, but then you knew that...) The doctors added some medicines to reduce his blood pressure and added antibiotics to attack, as they put it, "odd bugs" that he might have acquired. He went nearly all day with these problems until about 10:30 when they all started down at once. We still don't know the cause and his blood pressure is still a bit of a problem, but he is much better.

Since that time Andrew has been feeling better and is much more interactive. The tube in his mouth prevents talking, but he makes his wishes known through pointing and other signs. He must be getting some better because he is getting more demanding. He even "showed one of his doctors the door" more or less literally when he pointed to the door and kept pointing until the doctor left. Even the doctor laughed at that.

I have experienced Andrew's highs and low with him. I sobbed and pleaded with God as I drove back from the apartment to the hospital on New Year's Eve. I have felt much relief and comfort over Andrew's better days yesterday and today. The doctors and nurses will be changing more things today and the creates a feeling of dread. Melissa, when she reads this, will probably say that I am allowing myself to be too influenced by the ups and downs and need to remain more level. The logical personality in me is in full agreement. The emotional side says, "Hey! This is hard and I want to feel joy and sadness as I experience it." Normally Mark's logical side wins - but not the last few days.

I've been reading a book that talks about our purpose in life. I won't give away the ending, but one point it has made to me in these last few days is that we need to be honest in our weakness. Allowing others to only see our strengths may bring us admiration, but exposing our weakness brings community. We have and are learning the deep value of community. We are focused "self-sufficients" by nature and we have learned that relying on others for support is uncomfortable for us, but deeply necessary. I hope that as you read this you can learn this lesson without the trials we have needed to learn it. We are a body in Christ. As much as we each want to be individuals, we cannot survive that way any more than any one part of the body can survive without the rest.

We appreciate you and all your support! You teach us to ask for help and support us and carry us through this storm daily. We wish for us and for you a blessed and happy New Year. We ask that you continue to pray for Andrew's healing; Dad's peace, energy; and joy; and for wisdom, strength, and peace for Melissa and me and the rest of our family.

December 30, 2002

When last I wrote (four days ago now), Andrew was doing remarkably well and the doctors and nurses were very optimistic about getting him off the respirator. Christmas morning he had a major decline that we believe was due to a combination of things, but he had to have his support increased and has had new challenges. His heart and lungs are both being challenged by fluid levels in and around them. However, as they use drugs to dry him out, it raises his pulse and distresses his heart. The term that the doctors use is heart failure, but it overdramatizes the issue - his heart is in distress from this combination of things and is not working comfortably, but he has not had a heart attack or anything like that. He continues to be in critical condition, but is actually making progress in all areas. Hopefully, the doctors can manipulate the right set of conditions to get him off of the respirator soon, but it is a very delicate balance.

They have taken him off of some of the sedation and he is now having awake times and sleep times. He hasn't panicked over the respirator yet (which I'm sure I would have if I was on it) but is accepting of his situation and making the best of it. He is able to point and nod and communicates in this way with us - including a few well placed hugs and smiles for us.

We have had a very busy few days which has kept me off the computer. I drove back to Pocatello for a day with my parents and the girls. We had some business to attend to and I needed to get our finances in order after being gone for almost three weeks. We stayed overnight and then I brought my dad and the girls back. Mom is staying in Pocatello while Dad flew to Minnesota to take care of their end-of-the-year affairs and to look in on my grandparents. Melissa's parents and Aunt flew in yesterday and today the two bald boys (Dad Becker and Andrew) got to spend some time together. It was beautiful to see them together and there was a few tears and a lot of joy in their time together. Andrew had big hugs for Grandma and Grandpa and smiles too (more than I've gotten - maybe I'm falling down Andrew's list ;-).

This week will be busy with friends and family visiting and then we will go back to a more normal routine (if anything about this can be called normal.) I have been off of work for the last almost three weeks through the good graces of my bosses and the company, but I need to get back to work - to get things done there and earn my keep as well as to preserve my sanity - I'm finding that I need to be planning something all the time or I get withdrawals. I can't plan anything around Andrew's illness so I need to get to work just to plan something somewhere.

I want to thank our church family and our friends at AMI again for their generosity this Christmas. It is hard to imagine how we could be so fortunate to have such incredible caring friends! We are so very blessed!

Please pray for Andrew to get well enough to get off the respirator. It is a scary place for him and for us and that would be such an amazing step for all of us at this point. It will not happen overnight except by a miracle of God, but we would be quite content for him to show steady improvement and just wean off of it this time. Please pray for Melissa's dad as he is here putting closure to many relationships - pray for comfort and strength for him and his family. I have known David Becker for about eleven years and he is a treasure in my life - so you can imagine the treasure he is to those that have known him for all his years. Please pray especially for Mom as she supports him and has to cope with all the trials that have come to their family - Andrew, Dad, Patsey, and others I won't mention. Melissa also needs intense prayer as two very important people in her life are so sick. She is strong - possibly the strongest person I've ever known - but she needs great support in this time. And please thank the Lord for us for the many blessings He continues to provide us - most especially you, our treasured family and friends.

May God bless you and keep you His the protective palm of His hand.

December 24, 2002

'In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."' - Luke 2:8-14

This is a season of great joy and we celebrate with you the birth of our Savior! We have reason to celebrate for Andrew today as well. He has made significant progress over the last two days. They continue to wean him off the respirator and he has had many more waking moments as well. He is able to communicate by pointing and has smiled and waved at people. He is still weak and stiff, but his progress has been very good. We had hoped for him to be off the ventilator for Christmas, but that would be pushing it. We are thankful for all his progress.

Yesterday they also did a CT scan of his head, chest, and abdomen for a variety of reasons. In his head they were looking to see if they time he had with low heart rate - to make sure he had no brain damage and they found none. In his chest they were looking to see the extent and shape/structure of the build-up in his lungs. It has shrunk and is basically contained to his right lung at this time. The Infectious Disease doctor was satisfied enough with the image that he has chosen not to get a biopsy of Andrew's lung or a bronchoscopy to determine what the infection is. That reduces the risk of infection from the procedure to determine what the original infection is. In his abdomen they were looking to see if there were any signs of recurrence of the tumor and to examine the gall bladder and other organs to see if there was any change in any other measures. In summary, while not perfect, the news was very good from the CT scan, Andrew is getting better and has not suffered any irreversible effects from this extended stay in ICU.

This Christmas has taught me much more about the spirit of giving and friendship than any other. As I have mentioned in past notes, I am very much an introvert and a "do-it-myself" kind-of-guy. The gifts, presents, and support we have received during Andrew's ordeal and, especially, in these last two weeks of ICU, have overwhelmed me and taught me the deep value of friendship. Our friends from Grace Lutheran Church and my friends from AMI have overwhelmed us with generosity. The gifts are deeply appreciated, but the thoughts and notes were deeply touching and have brought each of to tears of joy over the love we have received. Thank you soooooooooooooooo much!

Prayer Requests: For Andrew's complete healing; for Dad to have the time and energy to fulfill his last wishes; for Patsey's arm to heal fully and for Mike and Patsey to get back safely; for our family to have a peaceful and joyful Christmas; for spiritual protection for our entire family; and please offer a prayer of thanks on our behalf for the incredible love and care we have been given by our friends and God's people across the country.

One last request, this Christmas take time to remember the greatest gift of all - life eternal through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. We have life and hope through this very special gift and the effect it has on those who have accepted it.

May God bless you in this special season! Merry Christmas from all of our family!

December 21, 2002

The last day has brought a mix of news - mostly good. Andrew is off of the paralytic drug and able to move, open his eyes, and hold our hands. He is still quite sedated so he isn't very interactive and sleeps most of the time. He is tolerating being off of the paralytic without fighting the respirator and they have been able to take some baby steps toward weaning him off of that. If all goes well, he could be off it in time for Christmas, but we aren't holding our breaths since he hasn't gone according to plan very often.

The bad news is that now he has a fever. It seems quite odd since he is still on lots of antibiotics, but may have acquired a virus. It is probably a cold or some such thing, but the timing isn't great. He has a runny nose along with the fluid they're still trying to get out of his lungs. Now that he is no longer paralyzed, he can cough it out himself, which is much more effective. All in all, we have a lot of things to overcome, but he is making excellent progress. Thank the Lord!

Dad Becker has finished his treatments and he and mom are hoping to fly to Salt Lake to visit us after Christmas if his health and energy allow. We look forward to seeing them then. My parents are driving down from Pocatello today to spend Christmas with us. We still pray that Andrew will be well enough to get out of the ICU so we can have Christmas with him in his room.

In four days we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Our world has changed the focus of Christmas so much, but this year it has come back to us in a powerful way. Andrew's illness reminds us that we are only visiting this planet and some day we will all die. But that first Christmas day, God gave us a gift beyond all measure, a Savior - a way to heaven for eternity. Our life on earth is but a fleeting moment compared to that eternity of celebration, joy, and love with perfect bodies and no more sadness. Compared to that gift, the pretty wrapping paper and spending more money than we can afford on material gifts for each other just doesn't mean very much. It is my earnest prayer that we all can celebrate Christmas this year with thankfulness for this great gift and everyday share it through the love we give to each other.

Prayer requests: For Andrew to get off the respirator and out of ICU in time to celebrate Christmas. For our family to stay healthy and have peace in this trial. That we be spared further complications and attacks in our friends and family. That Dad Becker would be healed or at least stay well enough and have enough energy to accomplish everything he wants to before he is called home. And that Patsey's arm will heal completely

December 19, 2002

Andrew has been taken off the oscillating respirator today and put on a more conventional respirator! This is a major milestone toward getting him out of ICU and back into the Bone Marrow Unit. He is far from out of danger, but this is a major step toward his recovery. Next he needs to clear his lungs of the remaining gunk and begin breathing without support. He has had some scary moments since coming off the oscillator with the gunk coming loose and blocking airways, so even with the good there is still lots of stress. Coping in ICU is more one hour at a time than one day at a time, but Andrew is still fighting to recover. It is my dream/prayer that Andrew can recover enough to be conscious and able to open presents on Christmas. Nothing would make our Christmas better than for it to be with everyone involved.

Melissa's dad has completed his radiation treatments and now is recovering from the side effects. He continues to need prayer for the energy he needs to accomplish the things he wants to do with his remaining time.

Patsey's arm appears to be healing okay. Even with a broken arm she and Mike have been a big help to Melissa and I. Matt has gone back to Portland, but his time here was appreciated. Dealing with ICU is much more difficult than the Bone Marrow Floor and the family help has been invaluable.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all your support and prayers. When we have felt defeated, you have called us, visited us, sent us e-mail, and cards and letters. We are constantly amazed at how long and how much you have supported us through this trial. There have been other families we have met here that have told us our support will go away. Actually our support has grown and grown. What more can one ask for than true friends and caring family.

I love to listen to KLOVE radio station whenever I get the chance and they have an e-mail service that sends out their daily "Power Verse." I have taken great comfort from the one that came yesterday:

TODAY'S POWER VERSE - 12/18/2002

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. --Isaiah 60:20, New International Version

We hope and pray for the day that our sorrows will end and we will all meet the Lord face to face. Until then we pray that our sorrow with Andrew will end soon and he will return to the happy, healthy boy he once was.

Our prayer requests are simple, that Andrew may be healed completely in the long term and that he will be off the respirator and able to celebrate Christmas with the rest of us for the short term. That is the prayer request the rest of us have as well!

December 16, 2002

Last night Andrew had a very eventful night. His blood pressure started to fall late in the evening. The nurses were able to get quite a bit of stuff out of his lungs which helped his breathing, but did not significantly improve his pressure. Later they gave him extra fluid to improve his pressure, but that did not help much either. After an x-ray, they found that his lung had developed a leak and he had a bubble outside of his lung pushing the lung in and keeping him from getting enough air. They had to insert a tube between the lung and the ribs to drain the air. After completing that he was able to breath better and his blood gas levels improved a great deal. Because of all the complications, I was up with him all night. Today Melissa is staying with him. He is still having trouble stabilizing his blood pressure today. The doctors are still trying to understand the root causes for his blood pressure changes.

Melissa's brothers both came to support us; Matt flew in from Portland and Mike and his wife, Patsey, flew in from Mason City, Iowa. They came yesterday. Melissa and the girls came down from Pocatello yesterday as well. The girls saw Andrew yesterday for the first time since he went to ICU. We asked the Social Worker to prepare them for what they were going to see and they did very well - not intimidated at all by all the machines, tubes, and Andrew's condition. I'm glad they were able to come and talk to him. Even though he is sedated and paralyzed so he won't fight the respirator, there is significant evidence that he is able to absorb some of what is going on around him. So having the girls there talking to him probably made him feel a bit better.

Melissa's dad is having his next to last radiation treatment today. The radiation is beginning to make him sick and sapping his energy. He and Mom need prayer to get through this rough time. Radiation treatment can be very debilitating (as we have seen with some of the kids in the hospital here) and Dad will need prayer for strength and for his body to cope better with the radiation and for the doctors to find exactly the right treatment for dad's situation.

And, the saga continues... Matt, Mike, and Patsey took the girls skating today to give them something to do. Unfortunately, Patsey fell and broke her wrist. Please pray for Patsey's complete recovery from a rather nasty break.

It seems like everyone connected with us is under attack in some form or another. Our family needs prayers for protection, health, peace, and healing through out. The Bible talks about how "Satan prowls like a lion, seeking whom he may devour" and, at the risk of over-spiritualizing, I'm beginning to think that our family is under significant spiritual attack. With all the illness, challenges, and "misfortunes", we are having a very hard time. We desperately need your prayers for protection, whether I am being paranoid or not.

Last night Matt played Twister with the girls. They had a great time. Matt commented this afternoon that Twister game is a good analogy for our day - lots of contortions and not much movement.

Prayer Requests: As I have said, we need a general prayer for our whole family for protection, peace, healing, and continued health going forward. Andrew needs healing, clarity for the doctors to find and resolve his issues, and that he will not have any recurrence. Melissa and I need strength, energy, wisdom, and peace. Please pray for Melissa's mom and dad - healing, wisdom, and peace.

May God bless you in this blessed Christmas season.

December 14, 2002

Andrew has had many ups and downs over the last two days. He has not made significant improvement and has kept the nurses very busy with changes. Since the main goal right now is to get him to be stable so his body can heal, it has been frustrating. On the other hand, he has been needing less medication to stay near normal. He has been getting outstanding care. It is very hard to watch him with multiple tubes connected to him for one thing or another and the very unnatural sounds and sights of the respirator supporting him. The boredom of two days ago would be welcome, but he is not getting worse.

Melissa is in Pocatello for the girls' Christmas programs. Brittney's program was last night and she had many lines so she was very excited. She did well and Melissa was very proud of her performance. Today Kelsey has her program with her TaVaci singing group - a performance choir for kids. She has a special song with a couple of others singing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" and she, too, is very excited about her program. Then tomorrow Melissa and the girls will come back to Salt Lake. Melissa's brothers will be visiting as well so we will be well supported by family.

It has been very hard preparing for Christmas under these circumstances; in many ways it doesn't seem like Christmas. There's no snow here and not very cold, so it doesn't seem like the right season. There has been little time for gift preparation and decorating which are a big part of our house at Christmas time. And having Andrew in the hospital is so very sad in a season that is supposed to be joyful. A little over a week ago we were sad because it seemed like he just couldn't get over his stomach problems and was stuck in the Bone Marrow unit. What we wouldn't give for that to be our only problem right now.

But as I think about Christmas this year I am seeing things differently that ever before. I am thoroughly amazed at my wife's ability, in spite of all of Andrew's treatments and hospital time, to get presents ordered and wrapped and distributed. Adding all the doctors and nurses to our already big gift list didn't faze her and she has done so well at letting our loved ones know we care through her tireless efforts to get presents. I've never comprehended the vast amount of energy she expends preparing for Christmas until this year.

The other thing I see is how precious the gift of Christmas really is and how painful a sacrifice it was. God sent His one and only Son to be in our world, to live with all the temptations and pain we all experience, and then watched that only Son die for our sins to save us and allow us to be with Him for eternity. As I watch Andrew struggle, I can't imagine the love that took. And I am comforted that no matter what happens through Andrew's illness, one day he will be in heaven and free of the struggle because of that original Christmas gift.. I continue to pray fervently that day will be a long time from now.

Many thanks for your prayers! I pray for you to have a blessed and joyful Christmas.

May God bless you and keep you in His incredible love!

December 11, 2002

As I write this Andrew has been on a ventilator for over 24 hours. In that time we have experienced laughter and tears, joy and frustration. Andrew is a bit better. He has maintained his blood oxygen levels and blood pressure with reduced support. They have removed his blood pressure medications and he is able to maintain that on his own. At one point he was receiving fluids or medicine from 12 different pumps. that has been reduced a bit and continues to improve. We were told that we should expect progress to be incremental rather than sudden and to have one step back for every two steps forward. As I see it today, he has taken three steps forward and no steps back. But, to extend the analogy, he has a long road to walk to get out of ICU.

Our pastor drove down yesterday and stayed with us until late this morning. Melissa and I were able to get a bit of sleep; mainly because we were so tired that we couldn't avoid it. Andrew is having outstanding care by incredible people. They are treating him and us at the same time and we are well cared for.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4

There is no way I can see any of this as joy at this time - my human side just doesn't get that and I won't pretend. But I can say two things: 1) we are growing in our faith and gaining in our endurance, and 2) we are unable to do this on our own. Your outpouring of e-mails and concerns (and even some fast visits from a few who chose to drive three hours spend a few minutes and drive back) are overwhelming. We cannot thank you enough. God is stretching us in ways we were convinced 10 months ago were absolutely impossible. We are blessed to have so much support from family and friends and, even many, many who did not know us at all.

Our friends, we know it is frustrating for you to have to deal with this from a far with little to do but pray for us. But consider what you do by that prayer - you solicit the help of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe on our behalf. Who else could we turn to in this time. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." James 5:16b We remember that verse each day as we remember all of you who support and pray for us. But let me ask one very special favor - I have no right to and please feel no obligation - but I ask that you take time to fast one meal and pray for Andrew. The whole verse says: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." - James 5:16 We need to be right with God and take time to give a little to Him before we should expect an answer. We are not deserving of this sacrifice from you, but if you would, it would mean more than any other gift you could give - money, toys, meals, etc. They mean nothing compared calling on the awesome power of the Lord to heal and restore Andrew. Thank you for considering this and please don't feel any obligation to fast unless you are comfortable with it. Your prayers are appreciated in all forms.

Lastly, I have thought a lot over night about what would happen if Andrew does not make it. I see my life as empty and having a void... for a time. We would recover and begin again. But only due to the love of God, our family, and friends!!!! We can never thank you enough for everything you have done for us and continue to do for us. Those of you who know me well know that I am reluctant to ask for help. I have always been self-reliant to a fault. God is teaching me much about this through Andrew's illness. I will probably be still reluctant to ask, but you have all taught me the meaning of TRUE love - sacrificing, supportive through trial, and always there. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

December 10, 2002

Andrew is in critical condition and on a respirator after he was unable to sustain his own breathing. The last couple of days he has shown some signs that the pneumonia was improving, but he has been panting like a racer for too many days and he just got too tired. While they were putting a tube in for the respirator his pulse dropped from about 180 to 40 and he had to have compressions until they could get the ventilator running. It has been a terrifying morning for us here. We are reluctant to leave his room even for food. At the moment he is on sedation and a paralyzer so that the ventilator can breathe for him and he can use his energy for other things like healing.

We need your prayers and support more than ever in this moment. The doctors still don't know the root cause of his abdominal issues and this pneumonia further complicates his recovery. Your prayers for the doctors, nurses, social workers, our family, and Andrew would be most appreciated.

Melissa and I appreciate all your prayers and support so much! We are both most comfortable when we are in control. Clearly this is not one of those times and the sense of life out-of-control and out of our hands leaves us feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and inadequate. Many of you have commented to us that you feel frustrated that all you can do is pray and sit by and watch. Please rest assured that your support, thoughts, and prayers help us in ways far beyond your imagining. We rely on the only One who can meet Andrew's needs right now for the support and healing.

December 8, 2002

It has been a rough three days for Andrew. When I last wrote, the doctors thought they were on track to get improvement and they well may be, but Andrew contract a complication in the meantime - pneumonia. He is having a great deal of respiratory distress - high pulse and rapid breathing. He has been on high oxygen rates and has been very carefully monitored these three days. We have been preparing for the worst - that he would get so tired that he could not longer sustain his pulse and breathing on his own and would need a ventilator and would have to move to ICU. It has been quite scary. After two days of aggressive antibiotic treatments he seems to be improving - his chest sounds more clear and he is willing to take a few sips of water and he is having less stomach spasms. They have also done more CT scans and x-rays to examine his whole system again. Most everything looks normal outside of some pockets of fluid and the pneumonia. They will be looking at the lower GI system in the morning (Monday) to see if there is any issues down there.

It has been a very scary couple of days for Melissa and I - we have both stayed with Andrew at the hospital as much as possible. We are feeling overwhelmed with all the treatments, drugs, and deciding what's right and wrong for Andrew's treatment where there are choices. It is tiring, frightening, and something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Melissa's dad is about the same. He had another small stroke-like episode and the doctors wanted to put him in the hospital. He emphatically said no - it is a noisy, scary place and he can't much rest there. He is much more comfortable at home. They have done some radiation treatments and we are hoping that they will relieve the symptoms. We continue to ask God for a miracle in Dad, but are proud of both mom and dad and their acceptance of the situation and desire to do the things that are important to them as soon as possible. They continue to be examples to us all of courage in the face of adversity and having their priorities well centered.

We ask for your prayers for Andrew and Dad - for healing, peace, and relief from their discomforts. We need your prayers to hold Melissa and I up - there is not much sleep nor relaxation in this situation and we need energy and peace from God to cope with this. Your e-mails, letters, cards, calls, and presents are huge blessings to us. We deeply appreciate all your support!

Mom and Dad do too, but they have asked that only family call them - others should e-mail or mail them their support - so that the focus can be on family for them. Please do not hesitate to send either one of us e-mail, etc. They are welcome support. Please understand that Melissa has limited mail space so please don't send big attachments to her and understand if you get a bounced mail once in a while as on the days she runs out of time to check her mail can fill up the in-box. It definitely doesn't mean she doesn't want to hear from you.

Prayer Requests: For Andrew - healing from pneumonia, all of his complications, and his cancer. For David (Dad) - healing and/or relief from his symptoms and time to do all he wants to do. For Mom - peace and clarity of thought in supporting Dad. For our girls - that Brittney would get over her cold and that Kelsey would stay well and that both would have peace over all the things they have to cope with in their lives. Also that they would enjoy their Christmas programs. For my parents - wisdom and energy as they raise the girls and take care of my grandparents' logistical needs via long distance. For Melissa - energy, wisdom, and strength to face each challenge as it comes along and to support Andrew. And for me - energy, wisdom, strength, and safety with all my concerns for Andrew, all the driving, and supporting Melissa, the girls, parents, and work. For us all - God's peace and thanksgiving for His love and many blessings.

May God bless you richly and touch your heart with His love.

December 5, 2002

The last few days have been very difficult. In my last message I told you that Andrew was much better. He had two great days and was beginning to take feeds. Since then he has experienced more and more nausea each day. Yesterday the doctors stopped both his IV feeds and tube feeds thinking that they were causing the problem, but it did not help. Finally tonight a gastrointestinal specialist examined Andrew and reviewed all the gastroscopy information and biopsies. He and the Bone Marrow Specialist discussed Andrew's case at length with Melissa. When all was said and done, he (the specialist) believes that Andrew has a rare form of Graft vs. Host Disease. Basically that is when the host's immune system attacks the transplanted cells. Since Andrew is his own donor, that typically does not happen. But the biopsies of his stomach showed results typical of someone with Graft vs. Host and his symptoms are not unusual for someone with that. It is quite rare that anyone has this reaction when they are their own donor, but they have begun treating him for it tonight with steroids to suppress his immune response until he can heal. The next few days will show us whether this is the right diagnosis and he'll start to improve.

The news on Melissa's dad is dreadful. He has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer which started in his lungs and has spread to his brain. His prognosis is not good. We are devastated. Mom and Dad are taking it very well, probably better than the rest of us. Please pray for Dad, that he would be healed miraculously if that is God's will, but especially that he would have peace and minimal pain and symptoms. The doctors have started him on radiation treatments to reduce his symptoms. Please pray that the radiation will not cause him any discomfort either. We also ask for your prayers for the entire Becker/Nelson family as we cope with this.

This year has been a roller-coaster for us. From the thrill of joining Melissa's parents for their 40th anniversary with all the family in Hawaii, to this time of deep sorrow, with all the ups and downs of Andrew's treatments. We are facing the most challenging time in our lives and have learned the value of family and friends and God's love for us. We have seen so many times when we didn't think we could handle any more and God has given us strength to endure. We have seen miracles in Andrew's treatment and set-backs. We grieved the loss of Jackson with the Smith's and rejoice with them with their new baby.

A wise man once said that you don't really know who your friends are until you are in real trouble (okay, my paraphrase). We have so many real friends that continue to carry us every day. My friends at work and the company itself have been invaluable in maintaining my sanity and Melissa's friends have called, written, driven to Salt Lake to visit, and sent presents just to buoy her spirits. Our church has carried us in every conceivable way and our family has gone the extra mile time and time again to make us feel loved and cover our needs. It is strange, but I keep thinking how blessed we are! How thankful I am that we have you in this time of deep need in our lives.

We ask for your continued prayers. I know that at times that must feel somehow inadequate to you, but your prayers have carried us and helped us beyond anything this world can explain. We thank you for your love, support, and prayers. You are a gift to us.

May God hold you in the palm of His loving hands today and each day!

November 30, 2002

The last two days were an absolutely amazing answer to prayer! Three days ago the doctors were suspicious of a possible infection in his stomach with the thin lining. They started him on antibiotic that day and he has been himself for the last two days - playing, talking, smiling, and laughing. He has been interacting with everyone and just generally acting like he feels much better. We have a ways to go - learning to eat again, getting his stomach to tolerate enough volume so he supply his needs through eating, getting up and walking around to build his stamina, etc. - but there is a lot to be happy about and thankful for these days!! The next steps are to tube feed him to help his stomach get used to food and to stretch so we can start feeding him solids. He'll also need to stretch his legs a lot more to get his body functioning properly as well. There is good reason to be optimistic that these steps will not be as bad as the last few have been.

These last days I have thought a lot about the impact of a few cells. Those few cells that were missing that line his stomach made him susceptible to attack from his own digestive juices and to infection. It demonstrates quite clearly that there are no insignificant cells in the body. Just as true is the thought that each of us is crucial in the Body of Christ - there are no insignificant or unimportant members in that Body. Many of us have had the time when we feel like we can sit back and let others serve while we take a break in service to the Body. But that "time off" causes the load to shift to others and can cause pain to the rest of the Body. The other side of this analogy is when one member of the Body is hurt and needs support, such as our family is experiencing, the rest of the Body feels it and steps in to take care of that member. We have learned so much about the love and support of the Body of Christ through this experience, that it is impossible to put it all into words. There are no words or actions that can begin to repay your support, but it is my hope that somehow we can help you and support you in your times of need. I also hope that in some small way these e-mails will bring you insight into yourselves and your walk with the Lord.

As we go forward, we ask your prayers for Andrew's complete recovery and for continued steady improvement. We also ask for wisdom for Melissa and me as we try to be good parents to all our children. The girls are feeling a bit neglected and we need to find ways to make them feel for appreciated and loved. We all need a bit of relief from the tension of this situation. Thanksgiving was a wonderful time with my parents and our family together. We look forward to more of that.

Please continue to pray for Melissa's dad, David. He was able to come home for a few days over this holiday and we are praying the doctors can determine what is wrong with him early next week. Please also pray for Melissa's mom, Glenys, as she is dealing with dad, doctors, worries for both dad and Andrew, and keeping herself together. Please also hold up my parents in prayer as they take care of the girls and try to fill in for us.

Lastly, in this season of thanks and praise to God for His blessings, please thank the Lord on our behalf for all of His blessings to us through this whole experience. We are all growing and stretching in many ways and we appreciate all the gifts the Father has given us in our home, job, school, friends, and family. No words can begin to thank God for all of you, but we try every day.

November 22, 2002

We learned last night that Melissa's dad, David, is in the hospital after having another stroke-like episode. Today the doctors will do a scan to look the vessels in his head to determine the cause. This is a very serious procedure and David and, Melissa's mom, Glenys, and the entire family need prayer.

Andrew is gong to have a gastroscopy today to see if there are ulcers in his stomach that might account for the persistent pain. The doctors and nurses are at a complete loss to explain what he is going through. Please pray for Andrew's procedure today. If they find nothing with that, they will schedule another CT scan. Poor Andrew is going through an incredible amount of poking and prodding and enduring a lot of pain. Please pray the God will reveal the problem to the doctors so he can get relief and be healed or that God would work a miracle in this situation.

The Lord has promised never to give us more than we can handle. It is hard to imagine how much Melissa can handle, facing these two separate challenges at the same time. I feel near the breaking point and Melissa must be there as well. Please hold our entire family up today as so much is happening and so much help is needed. Please remember us as the girls and I travel to Salt Lake City this afternoon as well.

With all these challenges it is easy to get overwhelmed, but I want to focus right now on the great God we have that has given us so much. I cannot count all the blessings our family has received, but I want to just talk about two: David Becker and Andrew Nelson, our two sick boys.

David was not supposed to survive after a very serious injury during the Korean war (at Heartbreak Ridge, for you who remember such war trivia.) Even after a year's recovery and leaving the hospital, his family was told not to expect a long life. In fact, he has outlived the rest of his siblings. Though in near constant pain he is a constant source of joy and celebration of life to those of us so fortunate to know him. I count Dad as a friend and hero and wish I could have half the courage and live half the life of praise and thanks to God that he does. I know that his friends and family feel the same way.

Andrew was a surprise to Melissa and I. That is quite a statement considering we plan everything and, in support of that statement, we had all three children on their due dates. How many people can say that. Though not planned, Andrew has been a blessing in our family, bringing joy and happiness to us constantly. Even in this illness he has kept a very positive outlook - "Jesus will make me better!" He has endured more than I ever could and continues to fight to live his life as normally as he can. He has brought a lot of happiness to us and rallied our school and church around him through all this illness. I cannot imagine my life without him - he teaches me something every time I am with him (and they say that parents do the teaching.)

Please carry our two blessings in prayer today. Paul tells us to "pray unceasingly." Today I intend to do just that. If you can find a way to talk with God all day today, please do - regardless of what you are doing, carry on a chat with our friend, the maker of the universe, and occasionally ask Him to heal and give peace to David and Andrew.

November 21, 2002

Andrew has had a very rough day today. The screaming and pain spells are back (most likely due to changes in his medication and are very likely psychological and unconscious.) It is terrible for him when he is awake and very hard on Melissa and his nurses. I ask for extra prayer tonight and tomorrow that God would provide Andrew with relief and healing - whether the source be emotional, physical, or spiritual, that God would drive out the pain from Andrew's mind and give him peace. I am confident in the prayers of God's family and we really need His help in this matter. The doctors are frankly at a loss...

There are so many other things that need prayer in all our lives, but I implore you tonight to give an extra prayer for relief for Andrew in these next few days.

Thank you for your prayers for me. My cold seems to have dissipated and I am feeling much better.

November 18, 2002

It has been six days since I wrote you last - time slips past quickly. Andrew has made some progress - getting a bit more active, playing more, most all of the sores in his mouth and throat are gone. He still has stomach pain and nausea as the remnants of the chemotherapy still bother him. He is still puffy and had to have more medication to help him flush the water out of his system today. The last few days he has had some trembling and sweats which are probably withdrawal symptoms from the pain medication as they are tapering him off. Those symptoms have now subsided, but they will be more gradual with further reductions. Today they also started giving him tube feeds to try to start his stomach running and stretch if out again. That has contributed to the nausea, but is important to get him released.

Over the weekend I came down with a cold. That's the first illness for either Melissa or me since Andrew was diagnosed. We're thankful that we have stayed so healthy through all this. Please pray for continued good health in our family through this and for quick recovery for me.

As we gone through Andrew's illness, I have constantly thought about what good could come from this. Today I read a great meditation from Luis Palau that addresses this and the question "Is there hope?". Rather than paraphrase it, I will include a clip:

You and I ponder that same question when a particular problem or tragedy strikes us. Who, after all, is totally free in this life from the crushing pain of losing a loved one, or the frustration of unemployment, or the anguish of a fragmented home, or any of a hundred other problems?

We feel trapped and submerged by the weight of our circumstances and wonder, "Is there hope? Is there really any hope of overcoming this problem?"

We often remember Romans 8:28 in such times: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Vance Havner commented, "Paul did not say, 'We understand how all things work together for good'; he said, 'We know that they do.'" That promise is a solid anchor when the storms of life beat heavily against us.

The apostle Paul had claimed that very promise many times before he ever penned his famous letter to the Romans. As one of God's pilgrims passing through this world, he knew what it was to suffer hardship, persecution, indifference, betrayal, loneliness, stonings, beatings, shipwreck, nakedness, destitution, sleeplessness, and immense pressure.

What kept Paul from going under? I believe it was his utter confidence in the God who promises to sustain us no matter what. At the end of his life he could say, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). What had Paul entrusted to God? His very life!

I wish I could say it that well! I don't know the future for our family - there are many possible outcomes. But I am confident that we can handle what comes through the incredible support of our family and friends and through God's love.

Please pray for continued progress for Andrew and for health, strength, and peace for our family. Please also express thanks to the Lord for all His blessings to us through this. We have been overwhelmed by your support. There are hundreds of postcards that brighten our day from all over the country including whole churches that have sent a package of individually written postcards. People that we have never met that have sent us encouragement and gifts. Unbelievable! Overwhelming! Truly a manifestation of God's love through His people on earth. We appreciate this so much!

May God bless you with His boundless grace!

November 13, 2002

Today Andrew's blood counts recovered to good levels indicating that the transplant worked and the worst of the side effects should subside. He is feeling better and much more interactive, but has a long way to go. The treatments to eliminate all the water his body has stored are working and he has lost over a kilogram of weight so far and needs to lose about that much more to be safe. As his pain and weight have reduced he has been better able to breath, but is still on oxygen. Today they started the process of reducing the drug doses he is receiving for pain and delirium. That will take several days to reduce and must be done slowly to cover the remaining pain sources. The chemotherapy causes a problem called mucusitis that is basically the creating sores on all his mucus membranes - mouth, throat, nose, stomach, and intestines. These are still very sore and will require some time to heal. But the worst is past and we are relieved.

Melissa is doing very well and has held up under very stressful conditions - watching Andrew suffer and doing everything one can do to alleviate that pain is just heart-wrenching. We are so glad to be past this stage!!

So now Andrew needs to start getting active, learn to eat all over again, get off the more serious drugs, and build up his strength and immunity so he can get out of the hospital. That will be challenging. He has not really eaten for two months and has received nutrition through a tube or an IV but now he needs to re-learn how to eat and re-acquire the desire to eat. There is so much we take for granted that he has to deal with (I wish I could shut off my desire/habit for eating for long enough to lose a bit of weight, but he needs to get his turned on.)

The postcards are beginning to line the walls and it is wonderful to hear from so many places and so many people. Your encouragement is so valuable to us. Tonight I heard a speaker talk about how much "the afflicted" need affirmation - that it's needed for their survival and growth. Your affirmation has supported us, helped us through a very rough time, and has grown our faith immensely. We are so blessed and grateful for your e-mails, cards, letters, gifts, and support!!! We cannot thank you enough! If you have received some measure of comfort or growth or other benefit from these e-mails, I am glad. They are small compensation for all your energies toward us.

The future is a place of uncertainty for us, but we are trying to face it with confidence and optimism. Andrew has come through the most painful and stressful part of the treatment and now we begin the follow up stage, where preventative measures and careful monitoring determine if the treatment was/is effective. Because neuroblastoma is very persistent, we will carry a nagging concern around for the rest of Andrew's life if it will recur. Tonight I ask for your prayers for Andrew's continued and complete healing and for peace about the future. The Bible tells us what happens at the end of time - we know how the story ends. But we selfishly want to keep Andrew around for as long as we can. His sweet caring disposition is a treasure we want to keep and to share.

Many have asked and I have been negligent in updating you on David - Melissa's dad. The doctors here started him on a new medication (for him) that has eliminated all of the episodes. We were quite nervous for the three days following his last doctor's visit as he has minor versions of these episodes. the doctors believe that he had some blood flow constriction due to plaque build-up and gave him a med to keep the blood flowing smoothly through his veins. He is doing very well and back to his cheery self. He is a model and inspiration in our family as, in spite of many limitations connected with his disabilities and some pain, he has always been focused on others and has a cheerful heart. I certainly have a lot to learn about that and he has been a good role model for us through this.

Please continue to hold our family and especially Andrew up in prayer as there is so much more to deal with before we are through. But also thank the Lord for all the answers to prayer He has delivered in this situation and the many, many blessings He has given our family. We have a lot to be grateful for and high on my list is faithful friends and family that have been with us through this rough time.

Thank you and may God bless you!

November 11, 2002

I had to leave back to Pocatello today. When I left Andrew had just finished receiving platelets (third day of transfusions in a row - platelets, red cells, and platelets) and was receiving a drug to flush his system of all the water he has stored. He has increased in weight by 3 kilograms (about 6.6 pounds) since he started this transplant and it is probably all water. He looks puffy and is having a hard time breathing right now because of all the water in his system. It was hoped that today they could purge a big portion of that water. When I talked to Melissa on the phone she said they were still waiting for the dam to burst. Each time they have given him this in the past he fills a couple of diapers in short order. This time it is taking longer.

He has started making his own blood cells and could engraft any day now which is the next big step. Then we need to get his system back in balance, get him to start eating again, and build up his strength before he can get out of the hospital. So there is probably another couple of weeks before they can go to the apartment.

Melissa and Andrew need your prayers to get through these times. It is tiring for both to deal with all of the challenges in his treatment. Andrew really needs relief from the fluid in his tissues and a peaceful night's sleep. Please also pray for Melissa's parents as they complete their trip home (they made it halfway today.) Thank the Lord for safe travel for my parents as they arrived today. Please also pray for our girls as they adjust to a new system and different grandparents in the house as well as keeping up with school and missing their brother and Mommy.

Lastly, please remember the doctors and nurses that work day-in and day-out with all these very sick kids and their families. There is so much pain and emotion and they live life in the middle of crisis for all of the people they work with. They have been wonderful to us and have been so much more than caretakers - they are becoming friends! They need spiritual support (whether they think so or not.)

Oh yeah, thanks so much for all the postcards! We are getting great cards and appreciate the notes. There are cards from places far and near and all are treasured. We're still putting them up and as Andrew gets better we'll start talking about all of them.

November 7, 2002

Today has been a bit better for Andrew. He is back to having intermittent nausea and relief. Changes in his medications are the best guess as to why he is better. Other doctors have visited and all have come to the same conclusion - we don't know why he is feeling like this, but he will get better as soon as his body starts regenerating its own blood cells. Many things from rare physical to psychological have been reviewed since yesterday, but no real understanding has come to the surface.

Andrew is feeling a little better. Instead of constant crying and screaming, he is occasionally nauseous and experiences relief and can relax in between. He is quite tired and a bit anti-social, but much better than I would be if I felt that lousy!!!

Your prayers and support have been invaluable through this. Melissa and I have coped much better than should be expected under these circumstances. We have been constantly told that we need a break or that they can't understand how we can cope with his trauma. I can only attribute it to the mercy and grace and supply from the Lord. In John Jesus said "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) These words have meant a lot to me in these last few days. I have been reminded that my troubles are small compared to Andrew's and that our family problems are small compared to many others. We were told 2000 years ago that we will have troubles, but they have already been conquered. That thought helps me maintain perspective - this isn't going to last forever and my problems are small by comparison to others. My troubles have been and will be overcome. How can I respond to such a promise? I am learning to give thanks and try to reach out to the others around me that need that same reassurance.

The children and their families on either side of our room have so much more challenge than we do. On one side is a 13 year-old girls whose mother has to work to pay the bills and so this young lady has to face all of her treatments alone. On the other side is a young man whose mother doesn't have a job and is his sole support. they don't know how they will pay for this nor where they will stay when they are released from the hospital and need to stay close by for follow up treatment. Insurance and family and friends and an understanding employer have made our situation such a breeze compared to these people. How blessed we truly are!!!!

Please pray for continued relief for Andrew and for his bone marrow to start regenerating. Pray also for God to use us in whatever way we can to minister to the staff and patients around us. We have received so much relief from you and so many blessings from God that we both feel like we need to give back in some way. Please also remember our girls who are growing up without us at times and our parents who have the responsibility to take care of them and fill the void we are leaving at times.

Thank you and thank God for all the blessings we have received in our lives. May God shower you with His richest blessings in your lives!

November 6, 2002

I want to thank the many of you who have called concerned about Andrew's condition. He is in near constant pain and we still have no assignable cause. Many tests and treatments are under the bridge already but little change. Last night they did find a medication that gives him enough peace to sleep It wore off in about 8 hours, but he had about seven hours of real rest for the first time in six days. They have treated him for medication reactions, gas, constipation, and have done x-rays, ultrasound, and other scans and as yet have no explanation. The doctors and nurses here are just as frustrated and emotional about this as we are and are trying very hard to get to the root of the situation. Today we will bring in a line of specialists to check for any other possibilities they can think of. It is very sad and frustrating to listen to Andrew cry - he sounds much like a newborn baby - waa, waa, waa - and holding him makes it worse. He is coherent enough to answer questions between spasms, but there is little break in his discomfort.

Melissa had a great night of sleep last night at the apartment and seems a little more calm today. I had many things to do last night for work so I stayed up while Andrew was quiet and slept next to him when he needed comfort. All in all I feel pretty good - just sad for my son and wishing I could take the pain away.

We need your prayers for a breakthrough somewhere in this. It is not life-threatening and there are many worse things that could be happening, but it still enormously stressful for Andrew, us, and the people treating him. Please also remember our parents as Melissa's folks head back to Portland and mine come to Pocatello. Pray for journey mercies and safe travel. Melissa's parents have been an outstanding support for us through this time and we so appreciate everything they have done. I'm sure we've stressed them out taking care of two girls and an me when they have already raised their family. I'm confident a few jewels were added to their crowns through this. Pray for my parents to fall into the routine and to be able to cope with the busy life ahead of them.

We remember through all of this how blessed we are. We have received many postcards and they keep coming. They have been a wonderful distraction in the quiet times and it is astonishing how many of you we don't know and you still care enough to send us these cards. Thank you so much! Words cannot express the love we feel when people we haven't met express so much support, love, and concern. As you progress through this day, please take a moment to thank God for the many, many blessings he has given my family through you.

God's love to you all!

November 3, 2002

Friday was Andrew's transplant and the girls and I went to Salt Lake to be with them and celebrate! The first thing we noticed was how puffy Andrew's face was. He had problems from the chemotherapy the day before that required that they give him extensive fluids to keep his blood pressure up. He gained a little over a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) in one day. That's about 10% of his body weight.

His transplant went well and Melissa made enough food to feed the entire floor (cooking is definitely a gift of hers, but she can get carried away at times!) to celebrate Andrew's latest Bone Marrow Birthday. Andrew's blood counts remain quite good but he has had significant pain and other symptoms in his stomach that puzzle and concern the doctors. They are trying a number of things to give him relief, but last night he and I were up pretty much from 12:30am on. He would wake up screaming and even morphine was giving little relief. After while he would calm down and fall back to sleep. He would sleep for 20-30 minutes and go through the same thing again. Needless to say we were both pretty tired this morning. The doctors have made progress on the pain front by using morphine in continuous flow, but Andrew still is having problems. It could be gas, or a blocked bowel, or nausea (although he isn't getting sick most of the times), or it could be a reaction to something else he is getting. It is quite difficult to be with him (and worse to be him) through all the screaming and crying. Both Andrew and Melissa need significant prayer over this to get them through the next few days.

All the while I was cuddling with Andrew through the pain and screaming and crying, I kept thinking about how unfair it all is. That this innocent child should suffer so much. But I was reminded that one who was truly innocent suffered much more for us and took our place. In Andrew's pain, both of us longed to be still and hear God's still, small voice speaking to us. Andrew said later when he was feeling better and we were playing, "I've had a tough day!" Understatement!!! But he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He let's us know when it hurts and when he feels good. And he makes the most of the time he feels good. I wish I could learn to do that - I like feeling sorry for myself after I'm hurt. Self-pity feels good sometimes. But I'm missing out on the good times - taking that time to whine.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea..." (Psalm 46:1,2) The Psalm goes on to cite the power and care of God and finishes with, "'Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!' The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. "Psalm 46:10,11 It is my goal from all of this to remember that God is my refuge and He will take care of everything. Then I can drop the whining and get on with life. I hope you can, too.

Please remember our family in prayer this week; for Andrew and Melissa as they deal with all the side effects of the chemotherapy; for Kelsey and Brittney as they deal with their sick brother, mom and dad being apart, and school; for me as I try to give a fair effort to work, church, family, and drive back and forth to Salt Lake; for Melissa's parents as they tie up their stay in Pocatello and have to drive back to Portland; and for my parents as they drive out and pick up parenting. Please also give thanks to the Lord for our friends and family that continue to carry us through this. We continue to be so blessed with support in so many ways! It is incredible!

We love you and thank you for your continued support! Thanks to those that have or are sending postcards - Andrew's wall is already getting decorated!

May God bless you and keep you in His perfect peace!

October 29, 2002

Yesterday Melissa and Andrew returned to Salt Lake and today they had scans to see how the area around his lung was progressing. They did not aspirate that area last week because they really needed to know where it was coming from and if his body could heal itself. The scans today showed improvement but not full healing. That solidified that decision made last week that Andrew will not receive Total Body Irradiation. That is a mixed blessing. On the negative side, we don't know how effective his treatment will be because this program has not been done this way before. There may be an increased chance that the cancer is not eliminated because we can't use the whole medical arsenal on it. On the other hand, there are a lot less side effects to deal with - he will have less likelihood of lung and heart damage, sterility, and other potential cancers coming from the irradiation. He may also have a shorter isolation time after his transplant - the 100 days MAY be shortened.

Tonight I have two special requests: 1) to help distract Andrew and Melissa from the treatment, please send Andrew a postcard from wherever you live - a picture postcard the typifies your home. It will serve as a distraction and maybe we can teach and learn a little geography at the same time. The address will be at the bottom of the e-mail. 2) Please put very special effort into praying for Andrew's complete recovery and the total elimination of his cancer during these crucial next two weeks or so. This is the last major treatment and if something slips through now his odds are not good. We ask that anytime you think about him that you slip in an extra prayer for his healing.

Last week was wonderful having him home and for us to attend our home church. Grace has been an outstanding support for our family. Our experience has shown so much how important a church fellowship is - we could not have carried the huge load without our church family and our blood family that have carried us, encouraged us, and prayed for us every step of the way. In the scriptures we are told that we are one body and when one part hurts, the whole body experiences pain. We have been treated like a VERY special part of the body - cared for, supported, prayed for, and carried through everything. We have been so blessed. Thank you to all our special family at Grace!!!

And to our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins that have sent messages of encouragement, money, e-mails of support, baby-sat, and in every other way supported us, thank you!!! We know how much effort it takes to support someone via long distance and we sincerely appreciate everything all of you have done.

Lastly tonight I ask that you pray for Melissa and me. We are getting tired, frightened, and lonely. I miss Melissa dearly and being apart has certainly shown me how much our ten years together has knit us into "one flesh." Being apart means being alone - even with friends and family surrounding us. I know Melissa feels the same way and the telephone doesn't substitute for being together. We need your prayers to help us cope with and have peace with our separation. Being without Melissa (even not being able to fight with her) is like missing my right arm - I'm not whole. Dealing with the fear of losing Andrew is even harder apart. Only through God's mercy and grace can we make it and we need your prayers for this.

May God, in His infinite wisdom, grant you grace, peace, and love and meet your every need!

October 24, 2002

Melissa and Andrew came home last night!!! We are quite happy to be a full family again even though it is temporary. The doctors have decided to proceed with the next stage of treatment next week. They have decided to eliminate the radiation portion of his next transplant to reduce the risk. This was a very difficult decision. The radiation and chemotherapy of the second transplant are key players in improving the survival rate, but the concern over the condition of Andrew's lungs and the fluid were overwhelming. Andrew was allowed to come home since they needed to wait to see if his body could absorb the fluid on its own and his counts are excellent. He and Melissa are loving being home. Melissa is getting a chance to see all of her friends and Andrew is getting to see his and romp around the house. He is getting a lot of exercise and is slowly beginning to get interested in food. So it is therapeutic.

Today brought another scare as Melissa's dad, David, has had some small stroke-like episodes. After two visits to the Emergency Room, the doctors feel that he was having some pre-stroke symptoms due to narrowing of the artery with plaque. They have given him some medication to reduce the risk, but it was mom's alert action in giving him aspirin and getting him in to the hospital that really reduced his risk at a vulnerable time.

So we are getting more than our share of medicine at the Nelson house this week with dad's issues and Andrew's medication and feedings.

Tonight as I was snuggling with Andrew as he fell asleep I was reminded of how secure it is to be in our father's arms when we are scared or uncertain. I cannot imagine how traumatic this would be if we were not able to fall in our Heavenly Father's arms through all this. I have experienced joy and pain in such magnified form watching Andrew experience the good and the bad of his treatments and his disease. That has led to laughter and tears and deeper need to rely on God for peace. The security in my Father's arms has helped me cope with the roller-coaster ride of Andrew's treatment.

We thank you all so much for your help and for the overwhelming response to the news that they were coming home. Please continue to pray for Andrew's healing, both the lungs and his cancer. We are in completely uncharted territory with his treatment and the doctors need wisdom and we need God's miraculous touch to achieve his complete healing. Please also pray for energy and clarity of mind for Melissa and I as we support Andrew and our family through this ordeal.

October 17, 2002

It has been a very busy few days for us since the last update. Andrew is now out of the hospital and having a great time at the apartment - playing computer games, playing with his trains, playing basketball, and otherwise just enjoying a bit more freedom. However there are still significant issues. His nausea has improved but the doctors wanted to be sure there were no issues with his digestive tract, so they did a gastroscopy (put a tube with a video camera down his throat to see what's going on.) They found no issues. The procedure required removing his NG tube and after replacing it they did an x-ray to make sure it was in the right place. That x-ray showed that the fluid build up around his lung is back and bigger then previously. It has effected his breathing as well and he requires oxygen at night for sleeping. Friday morning they will do an echogram to look at his heart and lungs and another CT scan to look at the lungs, chest and abdomen to see where the fluid is coming from. They will also drain the fluid during the CT scan. This must be resolved before we can continue with his bone marrow treatment.

The insurance issue is resolved, but not quite as we would have liked. Generally we are still covered and there are no issues. The resolution is not as we would have chosen but doesn't negatively effect us so it is a good result. I'm thankful to God that I have a good employer that has expended tremendous effort with the insurers on our behalf to keep us from worrying about it. There are a lot of employers (including my previous one) that would not have expended much effort on our behalf.

It has been a very busy week for me and I will be glad for some sitting time soon. Please continue to pray for Andrew's recovery, specifically on Friday morning (10/18) that his tests would go well and the doctors will find and can fix the issues with the fluid. Please pray for energy for our whole family - for Melissa as she tends Andrew day and night; for me as I hold down a greater than full time job right now and travel back a forth; for the girls who are tired from school and travel and the changes in our lives (including missing Mommy); and for Grandma and Grandpa Becker who have been keeping us together at home all week.

In my complete fatigue tonight I am reminded that my strength is inadequate and "His strength is sufficient." Please pray for me to rely on God for everything and not lean on my strength and understanding. The consequence would be much frustration or despair, neither of which we can afford.

Thanks to all who have sent cards, called, or e-mailed Melissa. Please do not be offended if she doesn't not reply to all as your care through these have been wonderful and overwhelming. We appreciate it so much!!

May God grant His perfect peace and blessings to each and every one of you!

October 12, 2002

Well the diagnosis is in and Melissa and I were right, the intravenous nutrition was causing the nausea Andrew has been fighting for the last 10 days or so. While that wasn't the only issue when we brought him back in, it was the last issue to be resolved before he could get some escape from the hospital. We pointed out our perceptions to the doctors regarding the IV nutrition, but there were always other things that were "more likely" which they had to test first. Finally we asked that he not receive the IV nutrition for one night to verify if that was the issue or not and he had no nausea. He has been taken off the IV feeding as a result and now the challenge is to get him to eat and put enough Pediasure into him (through an NG tube into his stomach) to maintain his weight and keep his strength up. Without the nausea he is a transformed boy with lots of energy and very interactive!

Please continue to support Andrew with your prayers. We still live in some fear over recurrence of the cancer and the challenges of the next bone marrow transplant. We also need significant prayer over the insurance issue - that it can be resolved and that we don't lose any sleep over it in the meantime. Our family also needs prayer for energy and health. We are all stretched with the traveling each weekend and living apart and we must stay healthy to minimize the risks to Andrew.

I regularly meet parents in the halls and elevators at Primary Children's Medical Center that remind me that my situation is not all that bad. There are those that face a lifetime of caring for a child that will never be able to care for themselves. Others are dealing with the intense trauma of a sudden illness or accident changing their child's outlook permanently. Still others that have infants struggling to survive. You get the drift. This is an amazing place to count your blessings! When your life seems unfair or tough (and who doesn't feel that way sometimes), come and spend a weekday in the lobby of this place and see how truly blessed you are! We feel fortunate every day when we see how much the Lord has provided for us - a great supportive employer; an unbelievable church; and fantastic family and friends who have and are supporting us at every step and are always asking what they can do. Can anyone be more blessed than that?

A couple of quick highlights to share as well. A member of our church grew two huge pumpkins and brought them into the church. One was signed by all the Sunday School children and teachers and is known as "Andrew's Prayer Pumpkin". It is sitting in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit for all to see as a witness to the care and concern of church for Andrew. Another amazing highlight is that Grace Lutheran School has collected roughly 30 pounds of pop can tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House charity. They turn those tabs through recycling into funds to support the Ronald McDonald Houses and Long-Stay Apartments such as we have used here in Salt Lake. People here are amazed at how heavy those little tabs can be and how many those kids could collect so quickly. (Of course, one wonders about all the pop and other assorted canned drinks that were consumed in the collection of those tabs. Perhaps there will be a follow up run on the dental offices of Pocatello after all that consumption.)

Andrew is doing much better and we thank the Lord for that and for you! May God grant His richest blessings and peace on you each day!

October 7, 2002

A lot has happened but we don't really know exactly what's going on. I have been waiting for some solid answers but we still don't have any, so here goes...

Andrew got out of the hospital last week and did well the first day. The second day he spiked a fever and nausea started again. The doctors hospitalized him to determine if he had an infection in his lines again. There is no sign of infection in his blood or his lines which is great news. An x-ray and a CT scan showed a pool of fluid next to his dead kidney and another next to his left lung. Saturday the doctors drained these fluid pockets and the fluid showed no sign of infection. Since that procedure he has had fantastic afternoons and evenings and no fevers. He has played and walked around the building and felt great. However nights and especially mornings have been filled with nausea and it logical conclusion. Melissa and I have spent some long nights caring for him, but the excitement during the day is recharging. The doctors are as puzzled as we are. They have now taken Andrew off of the antibiotics because there isn't any obvious sign of infection and are hoping that his nausea is from this particular antibiotic.

The girls have the first three days of the week off from school, so we're all down here. But last night Brittney had a fever so now she has to stay away from Andrew. We just wait to see what is causing the problem. His blood counts have improved without further transfusions which is a fantastic indication that his transplant was successful. Another high point was yesterday morning when about 100 bikers came to the hospital. As Andrew and I were going to the window to see all the bikes, several came down the hallway with a cart filled with toys. They gave Andrew a set of trucks which has seen a lot of use already. They brought a smile to Andrew's face and he brought a smile to those tough guys and gals' faces. Later when he and I took a walk we saw several more bikers around the place and they all talked with him and gave him high fives and Andrew just felt great "playing" with them. A lot of kids and their families got to see the soft side of this tough bunch. It was neat!

So we have good news with the bad. Sometimes I wonder why all this is happening. I know that only through God's grace and mercy do we have life as good as we do. We all deserve eternal punishment, but God has shown us grace through Jesus to forgive our sins and mercy to give us more than we could ever ask for in blessings in our lives and eternal life. I can't answer why a little boy has to be so sick, but Andrew doesn't feel picked on. I heard a great analogy on a Promise Keepers tape from Pastor Huesmann. The speaker compared us to a shirt. Before God gets inside of us he needs to iron us. He never uses a setting higher than we can handle, but a little pressure and heat helps turn us into something He is proud to live in. We are being ironed, but we try to remember daily that He will never use a higher "heat setting" than we can handle.

One more thing - we have set up a computer for Melissa here in Salt Lake. You can reach her at melissanelson@cableone.net

Please pray for Andrew to heal and have a few days of fun at the apartment before the next transplant treatment. Pray also for the doctors to understand and treat what is currently battling. Pray for the rest of us to maintain our peace under God's "ironing." Thank you for your prayers and support! We never cease to thank God for each and every one of you (though no longer by name as the list keeps growing.) You are an inspiration in our lives.

October 3, 2002

Well I thought I'd use a little free lunch time to get everyone caught up on Andrew. He came down with a fever and nausea yesterday and had to be hospitalized. He doesn't feel too well but, at least so far, there doesn't seem to be any infection in his blood or any other more serious issue. Basically, it appears to be a flu bug, but we cannot take any chances, so the doctors are checking all the possibilities. Andrew's discouraged, tired, and a little cranky, but that's not unusual given the circumstances.

On the insurance front, the issue that caused problems on Monday was quickly resolved when AMI's Human Resource people got involved. The bigger problem still exists but is being handled behind the scenes and it is not causing Melissa or I any concerns. We truly appreciate AMI's support in the matter - it gives us relief to focus on what matters.

On the home front, as any homeowner knows, little things come up. In the midst of Andrew's illness, sometimes little things feel like big things. Yesterday we turned on the heat for the first time, but the furnace didn't work. We called the repair man and, when he came, it only took him a few moments to discover the problem - the exhaust pipe was clogged with rocks. Apparently, a certain young man named Andrew was putting rocks in the pipe when he was playing outside this summer. At least it was minor and gave us a laugh.

We ask for your continued prayer for Andrew and his recovery. Please also pray for Melissa as she is dealing with the daily stress of taking care of a sick child. We also need prayer for our relationship, which is only accomplished by long distance and weekend trips now-a-days. Please pray for our daughters who have had to cope with less attention from Mom and Dad. They aren't doing too bad since Grandma and Grandpa spoil them occasionally, but I know they'd like our family life to get back to normal. Please remember to thank God for all the support we are getting from people taking care of the lawn, to meals being brought, to extra prayer times, etc. The blessing to us is unbelievable!

October 1, 2002

Andrew was released from the hospital today! He and Melissa are in the apartment tonight and he had a great afternoon exploring his new surroundings and playing with his trains. The goal in the next two or so weeks is to get him used to eating again and build up his strength. Melissa needs prayer in particular at this time as she is alone with him, can't take him anywhere, and has to take care of much of his nursing.

Another issue that has added stress is an insurance issue. I don't want to get into it here, but there are some insurance complications that have made Andrew's discharge more complicated than it should have been. We need prayer that this can be resolved immediately to take the stress our of the situation. This is a high priority prayer item tonight and tomorrow.

We appreciate all the support e-mail and our prayers! They have made an incredible difference in our lives. We continue to learn to live day-to-day and appreciate life as it comes. Today Brittney's class went to Craters of the Moon and I went along. God's nature is so incredible. I saw tiny little white flowers in the middle of this barren landscape. Not long ago I would have been thinking about what I was missing at work or something else and have missed the beauty around me. I'm learning that busy-ness is not healthy for me and that I need to live in the moment and appreciate the life and the days that God has given. When I think about the possibility that God may call Andrew home, I want to get every moment I can with him. But at the same time I've realized that we can each be called home at any time - what did I get out of today?

Please remember Andrew and Melissa in prayer and, if you have time, give then a call (801-530-0385 - apartment 315) or send them a note at:

Melissa or Andrew Nelson
Apartment 315
c/o Ronald McDonald Apartments
130 S. 800 E.
Salt Lake City, UT 84102

September 29, 2002

Andrew has had several good days in a row. Today he officially reached engraftment, which means his body is producing its own blood cells and he has produced enough neutrophil cells to be able to fight infections minimally. He needs to be able to eat something before they will let him out and they will want to wait until a weekday so if he has any complications at the apartment, there will be someone immediately available to see. At this point it is quite likely to be Monday.

Andrew has been riding on his ridable train and playing with his Thomas trains and playing baseball in the play area of the Bone Marrow unit, so it is obvious that he feels much better. His smile is back and he is playing peek-a-boo at bedtime and just obviously feels very good. Melissa managed to create a good laugh for everyone (except perhaps the security people) when she used the microwave in the Bone Marrow kitchen unit to make caramel corn. The results were mostly smoke and alarms and not caramel corn. They had to put masks on the three patients in the unit and take them into the outer hall while security dealt with the smoky kitchen. The nurses put tape labels on their foreheads that said, "I didn't do it" and "Me either" and made one for Melissa that said, "I did."

We are dealing with the loss of our friend Jackson. We know Andrew does not really understand, but he did say that Jackson is with Jesus now and he seems quite comfortable with that. Melissa talked with Lori and Ryan and they are doing very well. They are leaving town for a few days to get away from the rush of people who want to offer condolences, etc. They are at peace and focused on their baby, Jacob.

I really appreciate all the positive feedback I have received about these updates. They are as much therapy for me as they are informative for you. God has worked powerfully in me through this and I can only share a shadow of that with you. But I sincerely want to reinforce with you that your prayers have worked POWERFULLY in our lives. Andrew has done so well under very adverse circumstances and that is a testament to his belief he will get better and your prayer support. But more obvious than his progress has been the effects your prayers and support have had on Melissa and me. We have had a great sense of peace and calm about Andrew. There hasn't been any sense of despair or hopelessness that would be so natural in our circumstance. Many others in the pods we stay in at the hospital have commented to us that we seem so upbeat and happy and never seem to be down. They are wrong - we often are down - but never for long and it isn't any positive spin we're putting on life or some other positive thinking approach. We just have felt cared for, loved, and at peace - taking one day at a time. No small feat for two people who plan everything that we can. (We even had all three kids on their due dates.)

So rest assured that your prayers have great effect. As James says "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:15b) And as I write that, I am convicted by the thought that I should be praying more and spending more time in communion with the Lord. With all the power evidenced in our lives right now, why wouldn't I be connecting to it all the time? Food for thought - how about you?

Please continue in your prayers for Andrew's recovery. He will be at the apartment a short time before he must come back for the second round that includes radiation and chemotherapy. He really needs to build his strength during those few days by eating, resting, and building his stamina. Please pray for Melissa, as she is his primary care-giver, that she stay well and have strength to hold up to the demands. Please pray for me that I would have patience, wisdom, and a peaceful spirit with all the demands that I have as father, engineer, chairman, musician, and friend. Work is requiring a lot of energy but in a very positive way for me. Your prayers that I keep balance in that versus the needs of my family and my body would be deeply appreciated. Please pray for grandparents and the girls as they try to have normal lives in abnormal circumstances. Pray for my parents who have been moving my grandparents to an assisted care center and cleaning their condominium - they all need lots of energy to get through that.

Thank you all! You are a huge blessing to us and a phenomenal demonstration of what can be done when the body of Christ unites behind a common cause. May God bless you richly!

September 24, 2002

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want..." --Psalm 23. I memorized that Psalm for Confirmation; I have heard it spoken of, preached on; and read several articles on it. Tonight I need it's comfort. We learned tonight that Jackson Smith lost his battle with Neuroblastoma yesterday. His family is distraught and they desperately need our prayer. Lori just had their baby last weekend (early by her scheduled due date), so Jackson was able to see his baby brother before he passed away. Perhaps the early delivery was Divine intervention.

This has hit our family quite hard. Early in this process the Smith's were our hope - seeing Jackson feeling better and getting through all the challenges gave us hope. We grieve with them. Yet tonight we remember that the hope we cling to is not in our earthly life but in our life to come. We live in faith that Andrew is in God's hands and God will see us through whatever His timing for Andrew.

We ask for your prayers for the Smith's and, very selfishly ask for you an extra measure of prayer for us as we deal with Jackson's death and re-face the realities of our own situation. I also ask you for an extra measure of prayer for wisdom and peace for me tomorrow (Wednesday) as I face some rather unpleasant tasks that are unrelated to Andrew's situation.

God has promised us that He would never try us beyond our abilities to cope. I now understand that much differently than in the past. I could not face the challenges life has thrown at us without God's help. With each new challenge, with each test, with each valley, He has provided more and more strength to carry on. Tonight I rehearsed with Scott and Lana for our band, Prism, who told me the story about a man who wanted to trade his cross for another. When he was given that opportunity, he entered a room with a wide assortment. As he looked around he saw a very small cross in the corner. He took it up only to find it was his own. As we pass through this rough spot, I have come to be more and more thankful for the incredible way God has blessed us. I feel little weight in my cross, because it is already borne for me by one who is practiced and loves us so much that he carried one that did not belong to him.

As you continue to pray for us, I ask you to take time to thank God that your cross has already been taken up.

September 23, 2002

The girls and I visited Salt Lake this weekend to be with Melissa and Andrew. He looks and often feels pretty terrible, but the doctors assure us that this is normal with this treatment. He is now in day 5 past transplant. He has sores in his mouth and throat and still has nausea. His chest has had some serious rash that was due to one of the disinfectants we use to change his dressings each day and that rash turned into sores with taking off the bandages each day. Since ceasing that disinfectant his chest is getting better, but with no white cells and getting transfusions of red cells and platelets, the sores are slow to heal. So he is itchy and has a sore mouth and sometimes an upset stomach. Yet he was able to get up and play with his trains while we were there this weekend (I brought his special train table that Grandpa built and his Thomas trains) and play with his sisters and he is smiling more often. All in all he is in a lot better spirits than I would be in his place.

He has certainly been inspirational to me recently. He has told about seeing Jesus in his room and tells the nurses that Jesus will make him better. He points to his scar and says that that's where they took out his cancer. He sees the world so wonderfully! It reminds me often that we are to have the faith of a child. I was reminded in one of the e-mail lists I receive of this verse: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." --Hebrews 11:1 We cannot see Andrew's future, but yet we can have faith in God of that unseen future for us and for Andrew. Andrew is certain, with his child-like faith, that he will get better. I hope and pray for this and that my faith will grow to the size of Andrew's.

Andrew's engraftment should be about 8-10 days from now, but that time is very hard to predict. That event marks a measurable increase in his blood counts and indicates his bone marrow has been restored. It may be a few more days after that until he can leave the hospital to go to the apartment. Then he will have a week or so there before the second BMT treatment. The second one consists of three days of radiation and three days of chemotherapy and then the second transplant. That second transplant marks day zero of his 100 days of isolation in Salt Lake. About three to four weeks in the hospital and the reminder in the apartment. So, all told, this process will take us into about mid-February or so. This is the long haul.

Things to pray for: that this treatment set will be completely successful and Andrew will get well; that Melissa will be able to maintain under the strain of taking care of Andrew and sleeping at the hospital; that our family can maintain our joy through this; that Grandma and Grandpa can have the energy to raise two active girls (both sets of grandparents); that the glitches in the insurance systems can be worked out (long story - God is providing, but I like to worry); and that through all this God can be glorified. We have had many opportunities to witness and care for others through this, please pray that our lives will reflect God's grace to others. Please also pray for stamina for our family and for me with all that must be done. Work has been very busy and the other details of life still need tending, so pray that I have the wisdom to deal well with these.

Please also remember to pray for our friends, the Smith's, in Idaho Falls. They just had their baby and their Jackson continues to need blood and other treatments in the hospital while the cancer is attacking his body. Their only hope is a full-fledged miracle. They are comforted, at least, that Jackson was able to see the baby. He dearly wanted to see his little brother and now he has. Their battle is discouraging and they need the comfort only God can provide.

Again, please remember to thank God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us. We never cease to be amazed at how many people are praying for us, caring for us, carrying us. It is truly a miracle of God that we are so cared for. God has provided an employer (AMI Semiconductor) that has been understanding of our situation, provided extra donated time off for me (thanks to many generous colleagues that donated their time off to me), and who has been our advocate when we have needed that! He has provided a church family (and school family) that have been nothing short of incredible in their ongoing support in every way! Tonight, in the middle of a school program, the principal stopped to pray for Andrew. Now that's something you don't see to often in a school! And we couldn't ask for a more wonderful family that supports and encourages and drops everything to be there for us! If that is not God's marvelous blessing, I can't imagine what is.

Words cannot express our gratitude to you, our faithful supporters. May God shine on and in you as you serve him!

September 17, 2002

Today, September 17, is Andrew's second birthday (well actually third, birth, baptism, and now transplant.) The staff threw a big party and brought him several presents: a t-shirt that says he is a bone marrow recipient and the back says he is a donor (not many of those shirts around), a trophy for his transplant, a washable marker and crayon set, and a beautiful quilt (that's just from the staff.) Melissa, in her usual way, had tons of food and everyone loved that! Andrew was not really into the party. He had anti-nausea and anti-allergic medicine to buffer any reactions to the bone marrow transfusion (the preservative is actually the potential problem.) The transplant (actually transfusion) took about 30 minutes and he is now resting.

It is such a remarkable thing. The chemotherapy we have received for five days is potent enough to kill him by destroying his bone marrow. This simple transfusion saves his life by restoring healthy bone marrow cells to his body. That is such a miracle! And what an analogy to our spiritual lives! We are all being killed by the cancer of sin in our lives. But a transfusion of the Holy Spirit gives us life - eternal life! What a remarkable thing that we have been blessed with!

Andrew will remain in the Bone Marrow Unit for a few weeks. It takes about two weeks for engraftment, the stage where the infused cells have taken hold in his bone cavities and begin producing cells themselves. Then when they are producing enough, he will get to go to the apartment for a while. Then we start over again. By the time this is done Andrew will have four birthdays!

Thank you for your prayers! Please continue to pray that God will heal Andrew completely. Pray for our family - the stresses of living apart could be an issue. Again, most importantly, remember to offer praise and thanks to God for the miracles he has worked in our lives so far.

September 12, 2002

Andrew and Melissa made it safely to Salt Lake yesterday and are settling in to the hospital for an extended stay. Andrew's chemotherapy started yesterday and the doses are making him quite nauseous. The anti-nausea medicines available are either too weak or give him terrible mood swings. So we are not able to effectively deal with his nausea. This is a point for prayer.

The doctors did lower the dose of one of his chemotherapy drugs by 50% in response to his kidney damage. This is more due to the fact that his body will filter out the drug at about 50% of the efficiency that it would with two. So, in effect, he is getting the same dose, it requires less for the same effect since it stays in his body longer.

Last night our church had a service to remember the tragedy of last year. Pastor Huesmann focused on Romans 12:12 - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." I have heard this verse many, many times before, but this time, with all our family is going through, it has much deeper meaning. I have learned very well over the last nine months or so that people need prayer. Now more than ever our family needs to pray and for you to carry us in prayer. While you may feel like you are not doing much by praying, the effects on our lives have been staggering. Thank you so much! We ask for your continued prayer for Andrew to be healed and to not be so sick from the treatment. And we ask that you pray for us to have wisdom in the use of our time and my vacation time. My depression has been checked by the persistence of our family doctor and the right medicine. Now work has made increased (and for me, very exciting) demands on my time. I, now more than ever, need to have wisdom to balance my time to support my family and exert appropriate effort and time toward work.

May God grant you blessings and His perfect peace! Through your prayers, He continues to give us this peace each day.

September 7, 2002

We have one very happy boy! Today the surgeons put in a new central line and sent him home. Everyone is home for the first time since August 19th. It was a long stay with lots of challenges and emotions, but that is past and we are happily moving on.

Andrew is slowly getting his legs under him. His activity levels in the hospital were understandably restricted with all the complications, but tonight he and I played "chase" around the house and his laugh and his energy were infectious! We are on night supplemental feedings and antibiotics to get his system all geared up for bone marrow transplant.

Melissa and I had a conference with the bone marrow specialist in preparation for the procedure which starts Wednesday. He will have five days of high dose chemotherapy, a day of rest, and then his first transplant. This is the time for us to focus on and not get ahead of ourselves. The doctor discussed in detail the risks, procedures, and restrictions during this stay. One interesting thing we learned is that Andrew has Chicken Pox immunity. We have not given him the shot and weren't aware that he had been exposed or had them, but his immune system tells all and he has the antibodies. While I think of it, there is a possibility that he will come out with all, some, or none of his previous immunities. The stem cells that have been preserved have these antibodies, but it is quite variable from case to case as to how many will be retained in the bone marrow grafting. Whatever he loses can be replaced by shots since he hasn't really had much but his immunizations up to now (oh, and of course, the Chicken Pox!)

The scans to review his kidney function indicate a tiny amount of activity in his left kidney and full function in his right. The rates indicate that he is handling about half of a typical three year old's kidney capability - right in line with what was expected. The doctor told us that we can function normally with about the equivalent of half a kidney, so Andrew still has margin. The chemotherapy doses during bone marrow may be modified since his body will take a bit longer to eliminate them with lower kidney function and his kidney function will be closely monitored. It is expected that no further issues will come from the kidney complication except that Andrew will probably be restricted from contact sports in the future.

Your prayers, thoughts, encouragement, and gifts have been very appreciated! We have been blessed way beyond our comprehension with you friends and family!. Please continue to pray for Andrew as this critical time comes in treatment. If we get all the cancer cells during the bone marrow treatment, he has a good chance for a normal life. The doctor was positive about Andrew's outlook since his tumor was so very responsive to chemotherapy.

Prayer Requests: Please pray that Andrew will have a re-charging time at home! Pray that as bone marrow transplant starts, he will be as comfortable as possible, that he will not get any infections, and that the chemotherapy will be thorough in removing all the cancer cells from his body. Please pray for Melissa as she moves to Salt Lake for extended hospital stays and apartment life. Pray for Mark with work during the week and weekends in Salt Lake. Pray for the girls as they will go down on some weekends and not on others and as they attend school. And pray for Melissa's parents, David and Glenys Becker, as they try to parent our girls and deal with us grumpy parents. And a special request to pray for Mark's parents as they move Mark's grandparents into an assisted care center. And always remember to pray with thanksgiving for the answers God has and will give in this time!

September 5, 2002

This has been a very difficult day. Most of the news is good. Andrew will get a new central line tomorrow unless something significant changes. His latest blood cultures show no bacteria, so we believe that the line they removed was the source of the infection. Andrew is eating better, playing more, and less lethargic - all wonderful signs. We are now expecting to be released on Saturday morning. I am going down tomorrow to trade with Melissa. She will come home tomorrow and begin preparations for moving to the apartment. Andrew and I will come home on Saturday. Andrew and Melissa will return to Salt Lake next week to start Bone Marrow Transplant, but we get a few days as a family this way.

What has made the day so difficult is that we learned today that Jackson, a little boy that is just a couple months different in age than Andrew and about three months ahead of Andrew in the same treatment, has had a recurrence of his neuroblastoma. He finished the last of the follow up treatments two weeks ago and they found out Friday that he has growths all over his body. The doctors have sent them home to Idaho Falls, where they will use chemotherapy to control the pain until he dies. Please remember Lori and Ryan Smith and Jackson in prayer. Lori is expecting their second child in three weeks. It is so devastating for them to have gone through all the treatment and find out that he will not get better.

This has certainly shaken us as well. We are reminded that there are no guarantees (in any life for that matter) that the odds are still not good. That said, we place Andrew in God's hands and trust that His perfect will be done. Andrew has already touched so many lives and continues to do so. We certainly pray for his complete recovery and full life. We ask that you pray for us as we deal with the news of Jackson and his family, whom we have grown close to through this. We ask that you continue to uphold Andrew and his healing in prayer. Most especially, we ask that you take a little more time each day to be thankful for life and all the blessings you have. More than anything else we've learned in this ordeal, we have learned not to take life for granted.

September 4, 2002

The last few days have been confusing and difficult to describe, but here goes...

The results of the weekend tests confirmed that the infection that Andrew contracted was in his central lines and they had to be removed. Yesterday the lines were removed in surgery and while he was sedated they adjusted the feeding tube that had been causing nausea. Today they did a test to determine the function of the remaining kidney. Melissa has been pushing for criteria for Andrew's release from the hospital. One is having him eating again. After she spent some time discussing that with Andrew he decided today would be a good day to start eating. He had yogurt, Wendy's chicken nuggets (the hospital's are not acceptable to his refined palette), and a grilled cheese sandwich. This is a wonderful start! He also felt good enough to talk to me on the phone tonight which is a great sign that his depressed mood is passing.

If all goes well, he will be well enough to get another line put in on Friday and then could be released for a couple of days before going back to start the bone marrow process. We are hoping we can negotiate a little time at home to play with sisters and his toys before going back.

The bone marrow procedure and timing is complex and I'll begin to fill it in over the next few updates. In its simplest form, what will happen is that he will get six days of radical chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. The levels will be high enough that the bone marrow will also be destroyed. Then a day of rest and then the first transplant day when he will get a transfusion of the stem cells that were harvested on 7/4. After that we wait until engraftment occurs - when the stem cells graft in the bone cavities and form bone marrow and start generating blood cells on their own. That is typically two weeks. When his counts are good enough he will get out of the hospital to the apartment for a short time. Then the cycle starts over - this time with total body irradiation for three days and chemotherapy for three days, a day of rest and then the second and final transplant. Again we wait for engraftment and his counts to recover. Then he and Melissa move to the apartment for the remainder of 100 days from the second transplant day. The biggest risk in all this is infection as they are effectively rebuilding his immune system and he will not have any immunity. The two transplants allow higher doses of varying attacks to increase the probability of destroying all cancer cells. The risk of recurrence is the worst risk, since it is most often fatal.

We have been stretched, frustrated, fatigued, and discouraged this last two weeks since surgery. Your support, words of encouragement, love, and prayers have been invaluable. This time has taught us much about God's ability to carry us when we are weak. There is still a lot of challenge ahead. Andrew has demonstrated a resilience that is nothing short of remarkable! We continue to need your prayers for his healing and the road yet ahead.

September 2, 2002

Andrew had a great afternoon. As the antibiotics have taken effect he has felt better and he & I played together and laughed. The girls and I hd to come home tonight. Melissa said that tonight he spiked a fever again. The cultures from yesterday confirm a bacterial infection in his blood. They took cultures today. If today's cultures come back positive, the surgeons will have to take out his central line - more surgery. If not, then he will continue with antibiotics until the infection has passed. More waiting...

Please continue praying...

September 1, 2002

Andrew has had a couple of setbacks in the last two days. We are concerned that his body has not dealt well with the problem kidney. Late last week we expected him to get out on Saturday. Then, after a reaction from the supplemental nutrition they are providing it was decided he would get out on Sunday. This morning he woke up with a fever and will be here a couple of more days. While it is quite likely to be an ear infection, they have to be sure he does not have an infection in his central lines (which would be much more serious.) We will have to wait two days until the blood cultures come back to be certain. It is discouraging for all involved. Tomorrow we will try to push out the start of BMT to get some family time before that starts.

We moved into the apartment this weekend. Melissa and Andrew will have a very nice place to stay when they are not in the hospital and we'll be able to see them every weekend. The apartment is supplied by the Ronald McDonald program and we have been told by our insurance that they will cover the remaining cost of the apartment under their transplant provisions. A small, two-bedroom apartment suddenly seems so wonderful in this situation and again, the Lord has provided. The address and phone number are:

Melissa Nelson
Apartment 315
c/o Ronald McDonald Apartments
130 S. 800 E.
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Phone #: 801-530-0385 - Apartment 315 (the announcement after you dial says "316", but it goes to the right place.)

We're not sure yet when Andrew will get out. Tomorrow makes 14 days after surgery. We just have to take one day at a time. Please pray for Andrew's recovery and for the doctors to have great wisdom in how to proceed. Pray that Andrew's sunny disposition will come back as well - this time in the hospital has given him a serious case of depression and he wants to be happy.

Please also pray for Melissa and me as we try to cope with life apart and find some sort of relationship via long distance (that won't be easy after ten years of marriage.) Pray also for the girls who miss their brother and feel a little like second class with so much focus on Andrew. Pray for our parents as they have the challenging task of keeping house for us in this chaotic situation.


August 27, 2002

The news today was not too good. The difficulties Andrew has been having in his recovery are due to the left kidney dying. At least now we know the cause. We have been given two options - surgery to remove the kidney or wait until his body adjusts to the kidney being dead and turns it into scar tissue. The second seems quite preferable and this will delay his recovery some, but is much less invasive than the alternative. It is nice to know why he has had difficulty recovering.

Please pray for Andrew that he will not see any more complications and that he will begin to heal quickly and restore his mood and energy. Pray for Melissa who is bearing the load alone with Andrew in Salt Lake right now. Pray for our family as the realities of chemotherapy and his battle hit home with us.

I wanted to share two more things with those of you who are supporting us so fervently. First, Melissa and I have heard from so many about how strong we are. We are not strong. Early in this process it was obvious to both of us that we weren't going to be able to handle this. We have turned the whole situation over to God. In our weakness He is making us (all of us) strong. Your prayers and God's hands are sustaining our family and without both we could not be make it.

For those of you that might be worried about the effects of Andrew's kidney dying, God has blessed us each with two. The other one is working marvelously and as long as it is not overstressed his prognosis related to the kidneys is good. I wanted to set your minds at ease that the loss of this kidney is not life-threatening.

August 24, 2002

AM Update:

Andrew is dong very well tonight. His system is working again and he was able to drink tonight. All the tubes are removed (except for his lines) and he is starting on clear liquids and will add solids as his system allows. Tonight I saw a smile and much more interactive which is a major improvement! This morning I asked Andrew what it would take to make him happy. He replied, "Don't wanna be HAPPY!" He just wanted to be miserable in peace. But tonight he is feeling much better. We'll have to wait to see how the remainder of his recovery takes, but probably Monday or Tuesday he'll come home. Then he and Melissa will move to an apartment on Labor Day weekend (with help of course) to start BMT on 9/3.

Please continue to hold up Andrew in prayer. Neuroblastoma is a very difficult disease to beat. The doctor has told us that even if we rid Andrew of all the detectable tumor cells right now, recurrence is a possibility. That is why Andrew's best odds are in trying to completely annihilate all the cancer cells aggressively and take every option to destroy them. Several have asked us about the double transplant therapy. The doctor gave me a paper written by doctors from Primary's, Harvard, and several other prestigious institutions regarding the double transplant procedure. In summary, it shows that the increased treatment helps more aggressively attack the rogue cells without significantly increasing risk or side effects. It is pioneering work - published just recently - based on three years of study and there is much more follow up and discussion in the field. We have to grasp at the best possible chance for Andrew and that's what the doctors are offering. Dr. Wagner told us this is exactly what he would do with his son if he had to treat him for this disease.

Thanks for much for your prayers! We could not have held ourselves together without the Lord's help and your prayers and support!

PM Update

There is good news and bad news today...

The good news is that the pathology report came back and all the tissue removed was scar tissue! The Lord answered our prayers that the tumors would be gone from the chemotherapy! While this does not change his prognosis or his treatment going forward, it is a remarkable answer to prayer!

The bad news is that Andrew is not making much progress toward eating or getting out of bed. He has also had a fever which is concerning given the number of days since surgery. The doctors are changing his pain management medications and doing some cultures to see if he has an infection, if the kidney is a problem, or if the medications are making him depressed or lethargic. He does seem interested in eating right up to the point where the food shows up and then he can't make himself eat. He also doesn't show interest in going home - a pretty clear sign that he doesn't feel well.

Please pray for his recovery and that he will feel better soon! Also pray that the doctors and schedulers have wisdom over if he should start his Bone Marrow Transplant procedure next week or if this complication should delay it. Also, please remember to thank the Lord for His hand in the elimination of Andrew's tumors.

August 23, 2002

Andrew was able to move to a private room on the Oncology floor today. His urine is running almost clear and he is more willing to move around on his own to get comfortable (while before he was afraid to move because of the pain.) He is VERY clingy to us and wants one of us cuddling him or laying next to him all the time. His insecurity is understandable and everything else shows him making good progress. We hope to find out about the tissue removed (scar or tumor) tomorrow.

Both Melissa and I had a better night of sleep and in general everything is looking better. Changes are slower in coming but they have been positive. We'll keep you informed.

Please continue in prayer for Andrew and for the rest of our family. The girls start school on Monday and Melissa really wanted to be there. There are a lot of things going on that we want to be part of that the delay in starting surgery is now interfering with.

May God grant you His blessings and remember "How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us; that we should be called the sons and daughters of God." Through everything God has held us up and He will keep you too.

August 22, 2002

Last night Andrew started out with tubes and lines attached everywhere. Tonight he has only a couple and is doing very well considering the incredible amount of surgery. He is off the respirator and was much more responsive by this evening. It has been a long, slow day with him waking up every time he moved due to the pain jolting him awake. Then he'd cry and go back to sleep. After adjustments to his pain medication he did better but moving him every couple hours to keep from getting bed sores was difficult for him. His urine has some blood in it which could be good or bad - it is very hard to tell. Most likely it is good - the discolored kidney could have had some minor clots that are breaking down and passing. It is quite hard to tell but he is passing a lot of fluid which is a great sign.

He will stay in PICU tonight - mainly because the Oncology floor is full and we couldn't move him up there. They expect to have space tomorrow. We will like that much better since it will be a private room and nurses we all know.

It was a tough day for Andrew but he has been very good about it. He wants to be held but we can't move him that much and he has accepted that. It has to be so rough for him to feel so bad and not be able to have Mommy hold him.

Please continue to keep his recovery in prayer. While it seemed like little progress today, the reality is that he is doing quite well and has really been pretty peaceful through a lot of potentially painful stuff. God has given the mercy and grace we need to step through this as long as we take it one day at a time.

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August 21, 2002

It has been a very long day! The surgery was in a very delicate region. What we learned later tonight was that though the CT scan showed only one small tumor or scar tissue, it did not show several much smaller clusters all around his abdomen. It required Dr. Scaife, Andrew's surgeon, to strip each vessel and artery and all the other healthy tissue in the area to insure all of the potentially cancerous material was removed. One can imagine that this is quite involved and time consuming.

About 4:00 Dr. Wagner, our oncologist, came out of surgery and told us that everything was going well but there were places that were going to be very difficult to remove very small pieces of tumor or scar tissue without damaging the intestine and adding more complications to the surgery. He felt that the remaining material would be slight and would be addressed completely by the bone marrow transplant chemotherapy treatments. He reminded us that removing all the cancerous cells by surgery, no matter how much healthy tissue one takes, is still impossible. That is why the bone marrow treatments are so critical to completely eradicate the remaining cancer cells.

It took until about 6:15 for Dr. Scaife to emerge from surgery. After Dr. Wagner had left the Operating Room, Dr. Scaife was able to find a way to remove the tissue they had been concerned about and had originally decided to leave. This is what took so much longer. Dr. Scaife believes that he removed everything possible. He also thought that much of the tissue was scar tissue, but we'll have the pathology report about Friday to tell us that answer for certain. If it is all scar tissue, it would truly be an answer to prayer, but would not change the process going forward.

Dr. Scaife also listed a number of potential complications from such major surgery. Most are unlikely and relatively minor. One problem that is more potentially serious was that one of Andrew's kidney's was discolored toward the end of the surgery. Without going into as graphic detail as he did, most everything in Andrew's abdomen needed to be displaced in order to strip all the cancer and scar tissue out. The displacement may have kinked the blood supply to this kidney or there may have been more serious damage. He did use a Doppler system (and you thought radar was only for speeding and weather) to trace his blood flow through this kidney. The Doppler indicates that the blood flow is normal and in recovery tonight Andrew was producing plenty of urine, so it may be okay. It will be a point of concern for a while to see what happens.

Andrew is in Intensive Care tonight and is being monitored closely. We'll know more as time goes by and will keep you informed as best we can.

Thank you all for your prayers! I apologize if my description is too detailed or graphic. Please continue to hold little Andrew up in prayer over these next few days for full recovery and full function of his kidney and other systems. Pray also for Melissa and me as we recover from a long and rather emotional day. Pray for the rest of our family who feel a little far away and detached from such a traumatic situation.

Thank you! Your thoughts and prayers mean so much to us!

August 18, 2002

It was an interesting three days in Salt Lake City. We left Tuesday night to be at Primary Children's Medical Center for pre-surgery tests, parental training for the bone marrow phase, and for surgery on Friday to remove Andrew's remaining tumor. As the days progressed there was good news and bad news...

First the bad news, Andrew has lost some hearing at the highest frequencies - 6000Hz and above. It should not be a significant issue as long as he does not lose more since his hearing at the frequencies of speech is quite normal. It could be a bit of a problem, but mild at worst as long as there is no further effect. This is a known potential side effect and so far seems to have no impact on his day to day function. The second piece of bad news is that, through a scheduling mistake (which we will not go into here) Andrew's surgery was not scheduled on Friday as we had been told but actually was scheduled for next Tuesday. There was a lot of frustration, particularly on Melissa's and my part, but we are past that now and just have to adjust to surgery being next week.

Enough about the bad, the good news is wonderful! The CT scan and bone scans of Andrew were done on Thursday. When the CT scan was being done the doctor actually asked Melissa if Andrew had already had surgery and where his tumors were originally. The final results comparing the original scan work done in April when Andrew was first diagnosed and now show that his tumor has shrunk from about the size of a baseball to a little less than a centimeter - about like the end of a pen. There was discussion about if surgery was necessary, but it was decided that we should have the remainder removed and determine if it is tumor or scar tissue and to insure there is as little as possible left before transplant. The initial tumor wrapped around the major artery and vessel running from the heart to the lower body as well as intestines and other vital tissue. Now it is isolated and fairly safe for removal. The surgery is still major, but the risk of damage during removal is vastly lower than it would have been originally. God has seen fit to give Andrew remarkable healing from the chemotherapy and this is such wonderful news! It is possible that what is left may not even be cancer but just scar tissue. We still need to have bone marrow transplant as we must make absolutely certain there are no cancer cells left in his body to regenerate. But the healing has been incredible - one might say miraculous! ;-)

Many thanks to all of you who have diligently held us up in your thoughts and prayers!! And special thanks to those that have helped in so many ways like lawn care and taking the girls out for special days! This support has meant so much to our family through this difficult time.

We ask for continued prayer for this situation. Please pray for a safe surgery for Andrew. We learned Thursday that Andrew's surgeon prays over each patient before surgery and we are thankful for such a caring, spiritual man involved in Andrew's case. Please pray for a fast and complete recovery. We are scheduled to start bone marrow transplant on Sept. 3. This will be the most difficult part of this whole process because Andrew will be more sick while he is in the hospital and he and Melissa will be living in Salt Lake City from that point until the beginning of February for his treatment and isolated recovery. Please pray for Melissa, as isolation to her is like jail time - she needs the social interaction. Pray for the girls and I as we live with Melissa's parents for two months and them Mark's parents for two months here in Pocatello so they can take care of the girls while I am at work. Pray for our parents as they have to cope with being parents of small children again. Please pray for Mark's 94 and 96 year old grandparents in Minnesota that will not have Mark's parents nearby during those two months to help out with things. And, most importantly, please remember to thank the Lord for all the healing He has and will do!

God's richest blessings on you and yours!

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July 23, 2002

It has been another long spell between updates. We were originally scheduled for Andrew's last chemotherapy on July 10th. However at that time his platelet count was not good enough, so he was delayed until the 15th. Then on the 15th his white count was not sufficient and we were delayed until Friday, the 19th. Friday morning we were told that there were no available beds and that we would be delayed again. Fortunately, later that day a bed became available and Melissa and Andrew were able to run to Salt Lake City for his last treatment.

The treatment went well and the nurses threw a little party for him to celebrate his last chemotherapy. When they came home Sunday night Andrew told me that he had a "birthday party". He is feeling pretty good but had a fever yesterday which was a concern and Brittney came down with strep throat so they have had to be separated. Today there are no fevers, but there is still plenty of concerns to keep track of until everyone is back to normal.

The chemotherapy stage is complete and, as you have heard before, Andrew's bone marrow is clear and we have the stem cells we need for the bone marrow transplant stage down the line. The next step is surgery to remove what remains of the tumors in his abdomen. These are the original site for the cancer and must be removed. The chemotherapy helps shrink the tumors to a place where they can more easily be removed. We certainly pray for a miracle that the tumors are gone from the chemotherapy, but that is unlikely. The procedure will be a day of scans - CT scans and MIBG scans - to map out exactly what is left of these tumors. Then the surgeons devise their strategy for the removal. Neuroblastoma can be quite difficult to remove from surrounding tissue, so this surgery can be quite extensive and exhausting. In some cases it has required two 8 hour surgical sessions. Please pray with us that in Andrew's case, surgery will be simple or unnecessary. God has done miraculous things in his system already and we pray that He will continue to bless Andrew through this.

After the surgery comes the Bone Marrow Transplants. These steps are to make absolutely sure there are no more cancer cells left in his body. The highest risk for Andrew's long term health is recurrence, since recurrent neuroblastoma nearly always fatal. The surgery and the two BMT sessions are all about doing everything possible to make sure there is no recurrence.

Please pray for our family. We have thus far escaped the flu viruses and other illnesses that have gone around, but we need prayer that Andrew will not get strep throat and the rest of us won't get it either. Mark needs prayer for dealing with depression which has begun recently. Please pray for Brittney to get well and for both the girls as they deal with the changes this has brought about in our daily lives. Pray especially for Melissa as she is Andrew's main care giver and as she has had to be the anchor for the family who seems to be getting sick all around her. And, lastly, pray for Andrew's complete recovery and that he can maintain his gentle loving spirit through all of this!

We thank God for you, your support, and your prayers! May God give you His peace as you travel His path for you this day!

July 6, 2002

When we left last week for Salt Lake City we were under the impression that they would be harvesting Andrew's bone marrow and his stem cells. We were mistaken. The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) procedure only requires stems cells today (although in the past they did harvest bone marrow as well.)

We had to wait for Andrew's blood cell counts to recover from the last chemotherapy. Each day, starting last Friday, we went to the hospital to have a blood test to determine his counts. Weekend coverage was quite an adventure as the five minute process took over an hour each day waiting for the appropriate staff to come to draw blood from his lines. While we could be trained to draw blood from his central line as parents, only specially trained personnel can to this in the hospital. Needless to say, given our rather driven personalities, this was a severe exercise in patience for Melissa and I.

Quite in line with everything else that has occurred in this process, Andrew's counts came up just in time to have harvesting on the 4th of July. So the hospital had to call in personnel on the holiday to do the process. The method is quite interesting (at least to an engineer!) They hook up Andrew's central lines to a machine that draws out his blood, centrifuges it into layers - the heavy red cells on the outside, the stem cells and white cells in the next layer, and the plasma in the inside. Then the machine draws off the stem cell layer (and gets a little of the red cells and plasma at the same time) and then returns the remainder back to his body. The requirement is to draw off about 10 million stem cells per kilogram of his body weight. For many people this process takes a couple of four hour sessions. We had planned to stay in Salt Lake for Friday because it is typical that a second day is required. They called us on Thursday night to tell us that they had harvested about 12.8 million cells per kilogram of his weight and that we would not need to come back. So the process was a huge success! When he goes through BMT and the chemotherapy and radiation damage or kill his bone marrow, they simply transfuse his stem cells back into him, just like a standard blood transfusion. These cells then migrate to his bone cavities and begin regenerating blood cells and bone marrow. God's miraculous creation - the human body never ceases to amaze!!!

We quickly decided that since we didn't need to go back that we'd rather sleep in our own beds and packed up in a hurry to go home. We got back into Pocatello just in time to see the fireworks celebration right out our bedroom window! Thankfully we had a successful and safe trip (even though we spent a few more days than we had originally hoped on the trip.)

We have also had a couple of other very good pieces of news in the last week. We were approved for "Katie Beckett" funding from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. It is a fund to supplement insurance for disabled children - which Andrew qualifies for due to the long term nature of his illness. This will help a great deal with the items that insurance doesn't cover and the deductibles. We have been astonished at the costs involved in this, but our insurance has been very good and many of you gracious people have helped incredibly with generous gifts to help us with our costs. This money, the gift certificates to various restaurants, the phone cards, etc. have been an invaluable aid in this process! Thank you so much and thank the Lord for His bountiful support for us in this!

We also visited the Ronald McDonald apartments while we were down there. These apartments were constructed (actually refurbished) specifically for people in our situation that need to remain in Salt Lake City for extended periods for treatment and isolation. When Andrew comes out of BMT he will need to live in isolation and be near the hospital. These apartments are available at a significant discount to us and insurance and the Katie Beckett fund can be of assistance in paying for this requirement. We are planning on a two bedroom so the girls and I can visit on the weekends while Melissa and Andrew will be there all the time. There are a few logistics to settle to get into them, but this looks like an answer to prayer on a safe, clean, isolated place to stay. Melissa's Uncle Alvin and Aunt Lauretta Rust have been incredible hosts and have given generously of their home and resources, but four months of keeping their sizable family from visiting is unreasonable. The medical requirements for Andrew are also a significant issue for most houses as well. The saddest part of this time is that we cannot really have guests and Mark and the girls need to be quite healthy to visit. It will be real isolation while his body recovers from the trauma that BMT puts on it.

So, in all this, one can see the hand of God is truly providing. We have been so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that have stuck with us through all of this. Several other parents we have talked to have felt abandoned by their friends and family. We can honestly say that we have felt wrapped in your embrace from the beginning and never have felt alone in any of this. Your love and care, thoughtfulness, and constant interest have kept us through the despair, the challenges, and the triumphs. Praise God for each of you and for us abundant love to us!

Please continue to pray for Andrew's recovery and for safe travel for Melissa's parents and our daughters as they come to Pocatello this weekend. Please remember our family in prayer for peace, patience, and wisdom through each step. Remember the many other families that are experiencing the pain of finding their children have cancer as well. We have seen so many new families coming up to the hospital during our stays. We see the same pain and despair that we felt only three months ago. We have reached out to those that would allow us near, but that hospital ward is a place of intensity - pain, sadness, triumph - everything in full intensity! These people need to find the love of God in their situations as well.

June 28, 2002

It has been seven days since Andrew came back from his last chemotherapy. We have been waiting on pins and needles for the results of the detailed scan of his bone marrow. It needed to be totally clean before we could start harvesting his bone marrow for the transplant down the road. Yesterday the results came back and his marrow is totally clean! This is indeed an answer to prayer as we can proceed with harvesting and prepare for the next steps.

Last Friday, the day that Andrew and Melissa came back from Salt Lake City, was also the day for the Relay for Life in Pocatello. The Relay for Life is a fund-raiser for cancer research. The band Mark plays in, Prism, was asked to perform for the event back in March. We had agreed that we wanted to help, but the concert took on a whole new meaning after Andrew's diagnosis. The band played for 2+ hours while people did various things like walk around the track (the actual fund-raising), shopping at a special store of relay items, resting, or just listening to us. We had fun and aside from feeling like we would get blown to Kansas (there's no place like home, Dorothy) it was a good concert.

Melissa, Mark and Andrew leave today for Salt Lake City for the harvesting process. We will be down there almost a week, while they take blood samples every day to determine the exact two or three days to harvest both his bone marrow and stem cells from his blood. The whole process is out-patient so we will be staying with Melissa's aunt and uncle again. They have been outstanding hosts each time we go down and their contribution to this process has been incalculable.

Please pray for Andrew during this week as he will have to tolerate a lot of poking and prodding and will have to be sedated for the bone marrow draws. Also pray that he can avoid getting sick or an infection as we have to be out of our controlled home environment at the low point in his blood count cycle (when he is most susceptible to illness.) Please pray also for peace for our family. Pray for our girls who are having a tremendous time with Grandma and Grandpa, their best friend Shanley in Vancouver and her family, and other family and friends that are taking care of them on their vacation in Portland. And finally, please lift up a prayer of thanks for all the wonderful people (which includes you if you are reading this) who are holding us up every day in their thoughts and prayers. Without your incredible support, we would have folded a long time ago. Thanks be to God and our Lord, Jesus Christ for His mercy and grace to us in this time of trial and may the peace of God go with you all!

June, 19, 2002

Many days have passed since we updated you last. Perhaps because the days have gone so well, they have gone by so quickly. Andrew has felt good throughout this entire cycle between chemotherapy sessions. He has had a runny nose and a small cough, but no infections and no complications. His crash into the bannister resulted in 5 stitches, but he has had them removed and looks a little tougher for the incident. He has been playing actively inside and out. He needs sunscreen, a hat, and a mask to play outside, but he has become used to them and plays with his wagon (pulling his toys around the block or getting someone to pull him around the block), on the swings, or with his balls. Except for the bald head and the protective outfit, he seems like any other toddler playing.

Melissa and Andrew left for Salt Lake City today. He will have another bone marrow sample taken tomorrow morning and then will be admitted for his fourth chemotherapy session. We are expecting his marrow to be completely clean, but it must be totally clean to take his transplant samples for later. So this test will confirm that he is ready for that transplant draw to be done. If everything is as it should be, he will need to go down to Salt Lake again in another week or so. They want to be able to take bone marrow draws and stem cell draws as his body is naturally recovering from this chemotherapy session. Cells taken in the regenerative phase will be much more effective for him when he receives them during his bone marrow transplant treatments.

Melissa's parents have taken the girls for a few weeks to Oregon and with Melissa & Andrew in Salt Lake, I have a few quiet days to myself. We will have some time when they get back with just the three of us which will also be nice. So much of our life has changed to work around Andrew's treatments that it is nice to have some unscheduled time.

Please pray for this week to go well, that his marrow is completely clean, and that Melissa will have some rest while she is there with him. Please also pray that the girls will behave for Grandma and Grandpa and will have too much fun to be homesick. Pray for Andrew's continued excellent progress and for peace for our family in this trial. Most of all, offer up a thanks to God for the many saints that are upholding us in prayer. Our life has changed radically through this experience and we are certain that we could not have come through all we have without God holding us in His unfailing, loving hands. Thank you for holding us up in prayer (and sometimes literally.)

May God grant you His grace, mercy, and peace!

June 7, 2002

Andrew came home Monday from his third chemotherapy treatment. As we have said, it was a time of wonderful news in so many ways. Since coming home he has been quite active - so active, in fact, that he crashed into the bannister; split open his forehead at his eyebrow; and needed five stitches. He looks a little like a boxer after a fight. At least his medical problems this week are more typical of a toddler!

Sunday marks Andrew's third birthday. We celebrated with both sets of grandparents and some special friends last night. Thomas the Tank Engine, was in attendance on the birthday cake and several of the presents. Andrew had a wonderful time! It is so gratifying to see him smiling and playing and just generally acting like a healthy, happy three-year-old!

Today Andrew will be getting a red blood cell transfusion as his counts are down from the last chemotherapy. We are praying that we don't have any infections or other emergencies in this down cycle like we have had in each of the two previous ones (ear infection and the serious bout with constipation.)

We thank you again for your interest, prayers, and incredible support! We have a long road ahead, two more chemotherapy treatments, surgery, two bone marrow transplants, and a long time of isolation in transplant recovery. We will most likely spend our holidays in an apartment in Salt Lake City and be apart as a family during most of the fall. While these are bleak things to look forward to, we also look forward to having Andrew with us for a long time to come! We rest in God's love and have come to realize that is evidenced to us daily through your love and support! You are God's tools in our lives and a daily source of encouragement and peace. We cannot thank you enough for that!

June 3, 2002

Praise the Lord!! The news today is even better than yesterday. Today the two further test results came in. A urine test that is an indicator of the extent of neuroblastoma in his system measured 18 today (where normal is 0 to 12) and it was 145 in April. This is major progress. The other test that came back today was the MIBG test which is a radioactive scan. The markers only attach to neuroblastoma cells. Today's results indicate that the is no longer any bone involvement and only appears in the abdomen in the initial tumors. We know from the CT scan last visit that those tumors have shrunk significantly.

God has truly blessed Andrew with significant healing already. We have so far to go, but the news this week has done much to give us encouragement as we go forward. We'll continue to keep you as informed as possible.

Thank you for your continued prayer and support! All our love and appreciation!

May 31, 2002

Andrew and Melissa went to Primary Children's Medical Center Wednesday for some tests and to start Andrew's scheduled chemotherapy - session three of five. We have the results back on his bone marrow - it is very nearly clean!! Further testing on the marrow will continue to quantify exactly what is left but the doctor sees this as a major victory! Remember that the initial testing of Andrew's bone marrow showed 70% cancer cells from one side and 90% cancer cell on the other side. He has gone from this incredibly high level of involvement to effectively zero in two treatments. This is truly an answer to prayer and we thank all of you who have invested so much time and energy into praying for Andrew!!!

The girls and I will join Melissa and Andrew and Melissa's good friend, Beth, in Salt Lake later today. There is a Cancer Siblings Group for the girls on Saturday and we will meet with a counselor as a family on Monday. So much has happened to us in the last 8 weeks and we can hardly believe how fast that time has gone. We know we could not have made the effort this far without the support, love, and prayers of our precious family and friends. "Thank you" cannot begin to express what we feel. We thank God daily for you and for His love and peace as we deal with this.

There is much more to deal with in the coming months and we truly need your continued prayer and support to make it through this. Please continue to hold Andrew and our family in prayer. May God truly bless you in all you do!

May 28, 2002

Andrew has been home since Wednesday night and the last two days have been wonderful! He has been playing both inside and out and has been eating quite a bit (although probably not enough to gain his weight back yet.) He is in good spirits and loving to be back in his own room!

May 22, 2002

Last Wednesday Andrew started complaining that “My tummy hurts.” Thursday, that got worse and he started having a fever so we took him to the local hospital for a CT scan. While the scan did not indicate any abdominal infection, his temperature continued to rise and we couldn’t really find an obvious cause for his pain. Finally, Saturday morning they inserted a tube down his nose and into his stomach and aspirated about 60cc of air (part of the source of the pain) and it was decided that he needed to be moved to Salt Lake City Primary Children’s Hospital for treatment. Andrew and Mark rode down in an ambulance. After further tests and another CT scan, the doctors finally decided that constipation was the most likely source of the problem (the fever made everyone believe that there was something more serious.) After a day of treating him with “Go Lightly”, a form of laxative used to clean people out, his system started moving and the pain level dropped quite a bit. It took two more days to get his system in enough equilibrium for him to come home (which was today.) He is feeling much better, but we are all tired and worn out from what amounted to a serious case of constipation. But, as I have said before, when his blood counts are low, even mundane items become very serious.

So we have been quite busy and really unable to send out a note until today. For that, we apologize. We know so many are following Andrew’s case regularly and we want to keep you up to date and part of his progress. A few notes of encouragement – Andrew’s blood counts were quite low through Monday, but in two days they have shot back up to very good levels! Most importantly, the CT scans showed his tumors are getting smaller. There were no percentages, just two very concise notes in the report stating that the tumors have significantly reduced from the initial scans done in April. Praise the Lord that the treatments are having an effect!

Please continue to pray that his marrow will be clean next week when he returns for his next treatment and that his tumors will continue to recede. The treatment plan is for the chemotherapy to reduce the tumors to a level where surgery can remove the rest. I’m sure the surgeons will not feel cheated if the tumors are gone by that time, but we still simply pray that the effects of the chemotherapy make the operation simple and as complete as possible.

Our family support has been wonderful! Mark’s parents have been here and keeping the girls on as regular a schedule as possible. Please pray for our whole family as we struggle to maintain rest and seek for peace in all of this.

May God protect you and bless you in all you do!

May 11, 2002

Andrew came home from his second chemotherapy today. His spirits are high and, while he wouldn’t eat at the hospital, he is eating everything in sight now that he’s home. We are thankful for his upbeat attitude and the effect home has on his disposition.

We have learned more about what is to come and the next steps are very important. The next time we go to Primary Children’s he will have bone marrow taken to store for his transplants later on in his treatment. If the bone marrow is not clear of cancer it will complicate matters greatly. His first samples prior to chemotherapy had between 70 and 90% cancerous cells. It will need to completely clean in three more weeks. Please remember this in prayer – it is the next crucial point in his treatment.

We want to thank you all for all your support, prayers, and concern. We wish we could thank you all personally, but since that isn’t possible, please accept our thanks via these e-mails. We deeply appreciate all your love and support.

May God hold you all in the loving palm of His hand.

May 7, 2002

Andrew and Melissa are driving to Salt Lake City tomorrow (5/8) for his next chemotherapy session. The last few days have been quite good and we are relishing them because, as we talk to others that have/are going through this, we are learning that there are a lot of rough days ahead.

Andrew is generally walking and talking and eating as he did before all this started. His smile is back and he even hops out of bed to play when he is supposed to be going to sleep, just like old times! He even ventured outside this weekend to play – he wears his train engineer’s hat and a surgical mask, but he is accepting that. It is a blessing to see him play and laugh and just act so normal. His bald head and the yeast infection from his antibiotics (now complete from the ear infection) remind us still that he is far from well, but every little blessing is cherished.

We so much appreciate all your support! We have heard from friends (old and new) and family from around the country and around the world. We have been told that Andrew and our family are on many, many prayer lists. This is the best kind of comfort as we don’t really know what we need, but God is supplying our needs and listening to each of your prayers. We have felt His love and peace through much of this and we know your continued support holds us up when we feel we can’t handle any more.

We love hearing from you. I apologize that we cannot answer each e-mail personally, but do feel free to write us as time permits. I am attempting to keep the web site up as much as possible without abusing the kind support of the web host (Kevin Davis and Youth for Him) that built and provides it to us. Time is the biggest limitation right now. We have a round the clock job keeping up with Andrew’s needs and maintaining our own. So updates will come as I can find time – please understand.

May 3, 2002

Andrew’s blood counts today were good with the exception of platelets. Tonight he went in for a transfusion of platelets to supplement his system. Another complication that showed up yesterday was a yeast infection caused by the use of the antibiotics for his ear infection. It seems that with every advance there is another set back, but we are learning that is the nature of fighting the disease.

Andrew is in generally good spirits when the complications aren’t bothering. He loves playing with his trains, watching videos, and doing his Thomas floor puzzle. He is eating much better and his old personality shines through most of the time. He is still the kind, caring little boy we love so much.

Please continue to pray for our family. There is a lot of time and stress involved in caring for Andrew, with little time for anything else – playing with the girls or doing anything as parents or even alone time. We need the strength of God and the peace of His Spirit to get us through a long road of treatment.

Most importantly, we thank you so much for your love and concern!! We could not face this without the incredible support you are providing us. The road for all of us is long in this process and the updates may stretch out as times as we deal with Andrew’s condition to the exclusion of all else, but we sense your prayers and thoughts with us!

May God pour out His blessings on you!

May 1, 2002

Praise the Lord and pass the peanut butter!

Andrew got to come home today! His blood counts were much better and his ear infection is under control so the doctors let him come home. He will continue on antibiotics and some ear drops to ease the pain (on top of six other drugs we have to give him for his chemotherapy recovery) so he is still getting a lot of nursing, just at home.

He is so happy to be home that he played most of the day and had three meals from the time he got home around noon until he went to bed (including the aforementioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich). He was a very tired and happy boy tonight and there are a LOT of smiles on the faces of parents, grandparents, and sisters.

Thank you all for your prayers and we ask that you don’t let up. This small excursion to the hospital for four days over an ear infection has made the concept of what we have ahead of us much clearer. He is going to be VERY sensitive to infection and is going to have to deal with a lot of pain in the coming months as he get more chemotherapy, surgery, and eventually, bone marrow transplant (and all that entails.) We now fully comprehend that we and he cannot face this without the loving hand of God carrying us all the way. Please keep Andrew and our family in all your prayers, even if only to ask for healing and peace.

We cannot thank you all enough for your support, offers of help, and prayers. May God bless you!

April 30, 2002

Andrew continues to be in Bannock Hospital. His blood counts have begun to improve and his ear is looking more like it has an infection now that he has some white blood cells to fight back. We continue to be unsure if that is all that is wrong. He refuses to eat hospital food (some may call that good taste, but it is a cause for concern eventually) and he is now loosing his hair. Tonight he made up a game of pulling a little bunch of hair and making baskets with it in the garbage can. It seems kind of morbid to me, but he thought it was fun!

We wait with the doctors for his counts to go up to safe levels and he could be released with antibiotics if the ear infection continues beyond that time. He talks a lot about going home to eat, so maybe his refusal is more about good taste than about lack of appetite.

Thank you for the time you have taken to visit Andrew’s playground. We know that you care a lot to take this time and we ask that you continue to uphold the whole family (Grandmas, Grandpas, Great-Grandma, Great-Grandpa, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, etc.) in prayer as we go forward. We are learning that no matter how bad we thought this was going to be, it has the potential to be worse. We now know more than ever before, that only God has the strength we need to make it through. Please pray for protection from harm & evil and for peace in the turmoil we are experiencing. And most important, that God would put his hand on Andrew, who, through all he’s been through, still is the caring, loving little boy he was before.

May God bless you all!

April 28, 2002

Andrew has had a very rough couple of days. Friday’s blood count showed his white cells improving (but a long way from where he needs to be to fight infection), but his platelet count had dropped to dangerously low levels. So Friday afternoon he received a platelet transfusion. Friday night he showed a small fever, which for him would be dangerous, so we visited the doctor’s office at 9:00pm. By the time we got there his temp had dropped to normal. We went back home and overnight his temperature went up to 102. So this morning we took him to the hospital in Pocatello where he’ll stay receiving antibiotics until the fever is gone.

This has been a very discouraging day for us. He seemed to be doing extremely well after his transfusion, watching a movie with the family and eating dinner and popcorn and ice cream. His condition can and does change very fast and it is making for a huge emotional roller coaster for all of us. Tonight Melissa will stay with him in the hospital.

Mom and Dad Becker have been wonderful – from doing laundry; to playing with the girls; to staying with Andrew; more than I can name! We are finding this to be an enormous task and don’t know how we’ll do it with two adults – with four it has been difficult.

We desperately need God’s intervention to protect Andrew and for peace in all of us. Thank you and bless you for all your support!

April 24, 2002

After spending April 11-18 at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City being diagnosed and having his first chemotherapy treatment Andrew came home. His initial symptoms were pain in his hips which rendered him unable or unwilling to walk. A local pediatrician felt a mass in his abdomen and after several tests Andrew was diagnosed with neuroblastoma - a rare form of cancer originating from nerve clusters. It had already spread to his bones and bone marrow by the time it was detected. This is quite common in neuroblastoma because there are no obvious symptoms in most individuals until it spreads to other systems. Chemotherapy took away his appetite, so when we arrived home on Thursday, April 18 the transformation in his disposition was nearly miraculous. He got down a started walking around to play with his toys and ate a very good meal.

The days since have been up and down and last night we needed our home healthcare provider to set up an IV to keep his hydration level. His blood counts are very low and he has almost no resistance to disease at this point. We expect to see those numbers improve with the medications he is receiving. Today his disposition is improved with the IV and a good night of rest.

We need prayer for him to want to eat, drink, and take his medicine to improve his strength. We also need prayer that the chemotherapy will break up the tumors and that he will be completely healed through all the treatments the doctors have planned. Our family needs prayer as we try to learn how to live with his condition (hand-washing and disease control) and take on the full time+ job of his care for the coming 15-18 months of treatment.

Thank you so much for your concern!