I created this blog when my sweet little girl, Kristen, was diagnosed with cancer, for the third time. After fighting for almost 3 years Kristen was called home to that same God who gave her life. I've contemplated on many occasions rather I should quit this blog or not. Each time I am inspired that I should not. One of my favorite quotes comes from Neal A. Maxwell- "Those who "plow in hope" not only understand the law of the harvest but they also understand what growing seasons are all about. True, those with genuine hope may see their proximate circumstances shaken like a kaleidoscope at times, yet with the "Eye of faith" they still see divine design." Kristen blessed lives and continues to do so. Her light continues to shine. As for me, I continue to "plow in hope" knowing well that Kristen is mine for eternity. Families can be together forever! This I know. Our family continues to live and to love and this is our story...

Monday, November 30, 2009

more spinal taps on tap

Kristen is due for another spinal tap today and another on Thursday.  At this moment she is still sleeping.  I am trying not to bother her as her procedure isn't scheduled until 12:30, that means nothing to eat or drink so the longer she sleeps the better. She will need more platelets before we head downstairs. It sure seems like her platelets are having a hard time holding. This will be her 5th transfusion in 18 days. 18 days? We've only been her 18 days? Seems like much longer.

 The Festival of Trees  is being held this week. It is a fundraiser for the hospital. There will be two trees honoring Kristen.  Kristen's sisters have decorated a tree and donated it to the festival.  My sister works at a school and the kids there have also made a tree and are going to be dedicating it to Kristen. If you plan on going be sure to look for the trees.  I will be going Wednesday and will for sure post pictures.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quiet Sunday

Quiet is good. As I sit here with a little too much time on my hands I found this video called "Childhood Cancer Poem"  It is fitting for today as the words of the poem touch my heart and
I am sure it will yours. Enjoy

I dreamt of your hair like ripened corn,
I saw your eyes of wonderful blue,
a smile so sweet, a heart so true,
a daughter I wanted, a proud father for you,
all that I wanted and my wish did come true,

To bath you or feed you was never a chore,
to read you a story, never a bore,
to walk with you, talk with you,
these things we would do,
my love and protection I gave gladly to you
I give them now and forever more,

I've watched you grow, learn wrong from right
watched as you slept on many a night,
these are not a duty but a true fathers' right,
born under the sign that has threatened your life,
these past months have been pain, sorrow and strife,
but right here beside you is where I have been,
that is what being a father really should mean,

To stand by you through thick or through thin,
to keep open my heart to shelter you in,
no matter how difficult, painful or bad,
stressful, depressing or sad,
things always seem brighter when you call me Dad,

I've watched as you battled, suffered and fought,
and screamed with frustration for I could do naught,
to ease you, help you or even take it away,
I sat there helpless day after day
with strength and with courage you found the answer,
to defeat this cruel enemy, this insipid thing called Cancer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

More of the same...



Kristen and her older sister Katy

Her older Brother Rick and his wife Lisa

Hoping for a quiet day. Kristen needs blood and platelets, however, the docs decided to wait until tomorrow. She really wants to go home.  She knows Christmas comes after Thanksgiving and she keeps asking "When's Christmas?" Usually this day is spent shopping and decorating for Christmas.  I guess I'll get to it some other time.  Kristen loves to help decorate the tree so I really don't know if I can do it without her.  We'll have to see.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What are you thankful for...

I could really be bummed today, spending Thanksgiving in the hospital with a sick little girl. But I choose not to. It seems the bitter chill of adversity has been chasing me for some time; however, I am quick to realize that I am surrounded by goodness and that I am being cheered on from every side. I may not be feasting on Thanksgiving, but I will take time to give thanks.

I am grateful for the pleasures that encircle me;
Anti-nausea drugs
Chemo-therapy (as much as I hate the side effects, it is a hope for yet another remission)
Well trained doctors and nurses who truly care and who have become our friends
A private room with a window and a roll out bed
A healthy body and mind which enables me to take care of another
Responsible kind caring children who also know how to prepare a Thanksgiving feast
A husband who is selfless
A mother who calls each morning
Family and friends who check in on a daily basis just waiting to offer help in any way they can
Kind words from a stranger

On this Thanksgiving I could be full of negative emotions that bind hearts; anger, resentment, bitterness. Instead I choose to fill my soul with love, faith and thanksgiving.


Some Pre-Thanksgiving fun?




Some fun and then some not so fun. Kristen had a lumbar punture (spinal tap) this morning. A sample of spinal fluid is removed and chemo drugs are injected into her spinal fluid.  Her back will be sore today and more likely than not she will experience head aches, nausea and all the other crap that comes with chemo.  She had another transfusion of platelets Monday and again this morning.  Monday night her eyes began to turn red and become very itchy and irritated, another side effect of the chemo.  Yesterday morning she could not even open her eyes until noon. We sat in our room with blinds shut, lights and tv off for most of the day as the light caused her more pain. It wasn't fun. After several rounds of eyedrops her eyes look a little better this morning.  I noticed that she now has a runny nose. 
Not a good thing considering her white blood count is 0. 

We are trying to make the best of this Thanksgiving holiday.  We love our nurses, so we thought we would find them something for Thanksgiving.  What could be better than a Sees Chocolate turkey?  Kristen is excited to pass out a chocolate turkey to anyone who comes her way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

You Go Girl!



Kristen got a package yesterday from our cute friend Zoey and her mom, Heather.  Zoey was diagnosed last year, about a month after Kristen, with AML.  Heather has been an inspiration to many of us.  She started a project called The Heart Blanket Project.  Kristen is one of the latest recipients of a darling blanket. Notice the cute blue and yellow blanket in the picture.
With the blanket comes a letter explaining the project. 
The last paragraph of the letter reads;

"May this blanket wrap you in comfort, envelope you in love, and warm your soul so that you may endure your own journey with perserverance and courage,
knowing that you are in the hearts of those
who love you and those who made this blanket especially for you!"

We feel special to receive such a gift!.
Thank You Heather and Zoey!

As you know I have had much anxiety about Kristen's upcoming Bone Marrow Transplant as the doctors have warned us that is is risky for children with down syndrome. I have tried desperately to locate a family of a child with down syndrome that has had a transplant. Thanks to another special blogging friend I have been in touch with 2 such families. My fear is lighter and my hope is brighter. Claire is a sweet 14 year old girl who had the priveledge of donating bone marrow to her cute little sister, Julia. Julia also has down syndrome and had leukemia. The transplant went well and the family believes that it is quite possibly a cure. 
Claire sent Kristen the following message: 

Kristen, I cannot believe how amazing you are!!! you are such strong girl! keep up the good work and fight like a girl! tell that cancer who's boss!
YOU GO GIRL!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Adjusting to our new home

Induction chemotherapy
For most patients, the standard first phase of AML treatment is induction chemotherapy. The goal of induction chemotherapy is to bring the disease into remission. Remission is when the patient's blood counts return to normal and bone marrow samples show no sign of disease (less than 5% of cells are leukemia cells). Induction chemotherapy is very intense. It usually lasts one week, followed by three or more weeks for the patient to recover from the treatment. During chemotherapy and the following couple of weeks the patients blood cell counts will be dangerously low, antibiotics and blood product transfusions are used to help protect against complications. In rare cases where the leukemia has spread to the brain or spinal cord chemotherapy may be given in the spine as well. Once Kristen's counts have recovered we will go home for about 10 days and then return for phase 2. There will be for sure one and maybe two more phases for Kristen and at that time they hope to have her in a full remission and then go forward with the bone marrow transplant.  (This is for many that have asked about the plan for Kristen)

 Kristen tolerated the chemo very well with few side effects.  Is that any surprise considering her resilient, brave and courageous soul? Once again Kristen has amazed us! Over the next few weeks she will  be getting a lumbar puncture or two, hence the leukemia in her spinal fluid.

Kristen is in pretty good spirits.  She is adjusting to her new home.  The only time she really complains is when she doesn't feel well.  I'm on the search for some construction paper and glue so we can make a turkey for her door.  If you see a pic you'll know I was successful. Yes, we will be spending Thanksgiving here in the hospital.  It's ok as I'll have more time to reflect on the many things I am thankful for and what is truly important in life. Kristen loves the cards and letters she is receiving.  She insists on opening each one herself and smiles as I read it to her. Thank You!





Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Waiting for that train to roll in...

The past two days Kristen has been quite comfortable, as comfortable as one might be who is stuck in the hospital.  Aside from some mouth sores and no blood counts, she has been feeling ok.  She has been teasing me and laughing which is a complete turn around from  a few days ago when all she did was lay here and moan.  That being said, I do realize that it's just a matter of hours and a train will roll past and flatten her to the ground.  That train has a name...High dose, Intense chemotherapy. I was thinking I could really vent here this morning because thats what I do here.  My 15 year old son has been home very sick for two weeks, first strep and then flu.  He has no mother to make him soup.  My mother has also been very sick, bronchitis or pneumonia, I can't take care of her or even drop food off at her house, and don't forget that just a month ago my dad died. We all miss him, especially now.  Kristen has a picture of him and my mom and she keeps it on her tray and looks at it many times a day.  And now I probably just made my mom cry. My husband is a builder and because there are some amazing deals for first time home buyers, he is building a house for someone and it has to be done and closed on by the last day in November.  So he is pretty much working 12 hour days and comes home to a missing wife and daughter and no dinner. He then makes the 30 minute ride to the hospital to see us and returns home close to midnight. I can no longer see my grandchildren as they too have been sick. My daughter Kamie is trying to be a mom to Ryan, a housekeeper, do the grocery shopping, work full time and go to school full time.  Kim is going to school full time 100 miles away and her heart aches to be here with Kristen. Really things aren't that bad.  Katy, my daughter dropped off some homemade chilli to my mom yesterday, and she also drove Ryan throught the drive through at Mcdonalds.  My sister and brother are taking care of my mom. There is plenty of food in the house for Richard when he gets home from work. It is just that I want to be doing all of those things.  I am mad that I can't help anyone. I want to be the one doing those things instead of the one asking for help  I do realize that I am just where I need to be. Did I mention that I hate cancer. Now that I have had my pity party I think I will run downstairs and grab a coke that's probably what I should have done in the first place.  I better hurry as we have a "ticket to ride."


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hope


Yesterday Kristen finished up 3 days of high dose, intense chemotherapy.  Now we wait for a couple of days and do it all over again.  There was talk that we could go home for a couple of days but since Kristen has had a fever and the fact that she already has no white count we are staying for the duration.  By the looks of things we might bust out of here 2 weeks before Christmas.  We will  be home for about 2 weeks then come back and start round 2.  It already feels like we have been here for months, in fact it feels like we never left.  As I walk the halls of our unit I run into some of our previous nurses, they stop dead in their tracks and just says, "What are you doing here?" Everyone has been very kind and feels terrible that Kristen is back. It is kind of strange here in the cancer unit.  The doors to the rooms remain shut, and the blinds are pulled.  Behind each door is a warrior fighting a battle.  A battle no child should ever have to fight, but fight they do. We as parents of these special children walk the halls with somber faces trying to make sense out of all of this.  But it doesn't make sense. It's not fair.  We are in the mist of a horrible storm that is raging within our hearts. We are looking for a sign that there might be better days ahead.  A clearing in the storm.  That clearing comes in the form of hope. For me hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfull His promises to me. It is believing and expecting that something will occur. When you have hope you work through trials and difficutlies with the confidence and assurance that
all things will work together for your good.
Hope helps conquer discouragement.
Each day I continue to Hope for Another Miracle.

Thanks to all of you that have sent Kristen a card or note.  She loves opening the cards.  She gets bored sitting her day after day and the cards give her something to look forward to.
Keep them coming! 
Special thanks to her sweet grandma who has put a card in the mail almost every day!
Julie-She especially loved the card you sent that plays music. 
She keeps opening and shutting it.
The picture is of Kristen and her BFF, Audrey.  She came to visit Kristen and definately cheered her up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dilemma of sorts

Kristen had another shoddy day.  She plain doesn't feel good. She spends most of the day moaning with discomfort.  I finally talked the doc into letting her have some tylenol.  It helped for a few hours. They do not want her to have tylenol because it could cover up a fever, but she can have oxycodone.  Oxy is too strong and knocks her out and makes her sick to her stomach.  Kris broke out in a rash today on her arms and legs, also more fevers.  Bring on the benedryl.  Here's the dilemma for the day...Kristen's body has seen so much chemo in the past years that is is somewhat difficult to find drugs that the docs believe will kill the leukemia and put her in remission.  Some of the drugs she can't have because they have a lifetime limit as they damage your heart, and you guessed it..she has reached her limit.  Other chemo drugs she is either allergic to or had a reaction to.  There is a drug call L-asparaginase that has been on her chart as an allergy since the mid 1990's. No one really remembers what kind of reaction she had so she is currently being pre-treated with hydrocortisone and benadryl as she is receiving a shot of L-asparaginase at 9 in the morning.  They are making sure the docs will be here "Just in case"   Not looking forward to tomorrow. 


Kim drove up from school for a weekend visit. Kristen was happy to see her!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

a quick update

A quick update on Kristen...She spiked a fever tonight which means blood cultures and antibiotics.  She was feeling really awful all day today. The chemo drug ARA-C that she is receiving is famous for causing fevers, however, because her infection fighting cells are gone the docs can take no chances, so she is being treated as though she has an infection.  Her blood pressure was 80/37, so she is also receiving extra fluids to try to get it up.
 

We really really really HATE cancer.


Less than 24 hours into round one and we are once again reminded how much we really hate this.  The puking has begun, eyedrops every 3 hours and bathroom every 2 hours and now it is time for another dose of chemo. It always amazes me when the nurses come in to give chemo they are wearing a protective gown, rubber gloves and safety glasses but yet the stuff they are protecting themselves from is going right into Kristen's bloodstream. Doesn't seem fair.  I call chemo a necessary evil. We are putting some more anti-nausia meds on board so hopefully that will help.  Kristen is already worn down as you can see in her pic.  appetite gone. energy gone. infection fighting cells gone.
I have to remember that Kristen has proven 3 times already that she is stronger than cancer.
Please continue to pray for our little angel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ready or Not...

Kristen is doing well tonight.  She seems to be slowing down a bit, I suspect the leukemia is catching up to her.  Kristen needs platelets before she can have the surgery.  In the morning we will first go to the oncology clinic for labs and platelets and then to surgery to have the central line placed.  After recovery she will be admitted to the floor.  I suspect that chemo will begin shortly thereafter. 
I have been amazed by the outpouring of kind words and prayers that have been offered in her behalf.  Thank You!  Many have asked what they can do to help Kristen.  Kristen LOVES to get mail.  I thought it would be a great idea for anyone that would like to cheer her up to send her a card or a note. 

Kristen Kirton
P.O. Box 87
Draper, Utah 84020-0087

We decided to have a quick  family picture taken before Kristen's hair falls out. 

Rich and I are in the middle, My youngest son, Ryan is on the far left, Rick, my oldest son is next to him with his wife in front and their two children, my dauaghter Kamie  is next to me with Kristen in fromt of me, my youngest daughter Kim is next to Rich, then my son in law and my oldest daughter Katy at the end with their 3 children in front. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hoping for Another Miracle

For the past few days I have been hoping that Wednesday would never get here. and now it is staring me in the face.  I have been busy trying to get things done. I went shopping and bought Kristen new pajamas a robe and some really cute froggy slippers.  Earlier today I told Kristen the news...that she was very sick AGAIN and that we needed to go to the hospital to get some medicine.  I told her that we were going to sleep there and the first thing she said was a great BIG "I don't want to!"  She then continued to tell me that she did not want a central line.  I showed her the bruise on her arm and said that if we had the central line she wouldn't have to get poked and have an IV.  She was mad at me for the rest of the day.  Whenever someone would walk into the room she would say, "I'm mad at mom, she's mean."  Finally after several hours she warmed up and I think she likes me again...until Wednesday when I begin to pack our suitcases.

The Festival of Trees is an event that is held here in Salt Lake City to raise money for Primary Children's Hospital. Anyone can donate a decorated tree.  Several months ago  my daughter, Kamie, decided she was going to donate a tree to honor Kristen.  She had to register her tree and choose a name.  She chose to name her tree "Another Miracle." She chose this name because Kristen was once again cancer free after battling cancer her third time.  Friday when we got the confirmation that Kristen had indeed relapsed Kamie decided to rename Kristen's tree.  She said she was going to add "Hoping for" to the name.  The tree will now be called
 "Hoping for Another Miracle" 
That is just we are doing.  Hoping for another miracle.  I know that we once again have an insurmountable obstacle in front of us.  The road is dark and it is long. However, we have been blessed with this bright beautiful light.  Her name is Kristen and I know she will once again light the way for us. It is her magical light that gives us hope. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

it's not good


I have sat down at this keyboard several times in the past few hours, each time the tears start up again and I have to walk away. It is hard to find the words.   Kristen had a bone marrow biopsy and also a spinal tap this morning.  If you look closely at her pic you can see the bruise from the IV.  It was confirmed that Kristen is indeed full of Leukemia cells.  It is in her blood, in her bone marrow and also in her spinal fluid.  Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) has returned without warning.  I highly recommend that you all grab your children and hold them a little  tighter than you usually would as there is a monster on the loose.  This monster does not discriminate...he takes the old, the young, the bold and the brave.  He rips the hearts from mothers and fathers as they stand helplessly by.  But because Kristen is beautiful, corageous, and brave, we at the Kirton household will once again stand arm in arm and put on the armor and we will fight back with every ounce of our souls and we will
NOT stop fighting. 

We were told today that the only way  Kristen stood a chance at a cure would be to have a bone marrow transplant. She would first need to reach a full remission which would take 2 to 3 rounds of Chemo...which translates to 3-4 months in the hospital. and then several more months for the transplant. Oh and by the way since this is a reoccurance her chances of reaching a remission just went down significantly, 25%  of AML relapses don't ever reach a remission, and because she has
down syndrome a bone marrow transplant is extremely risky. 
So there you have it...it's not good.
I have yet to tell Kristen of her plight...that next Wednesday we will once again be checking into the Hospital for a VERY extended stay.
Please Say a little prayer for her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kristen needs your Prayers

I hoped this day would never come. As a cancer mom the fear that you might hear the R word NEVER leaves your mind.  This time I am talking about the word RELAPSE. I hate hate hate that word.  You would think 3 times is enough one time is enough... better yet no child should EVER have to deal with cancer.  It looks like we are are about to hit it for the 4th time.  I seriously can't believe i just said that.  One month ago Kristen finally had some good blood counts.  Going into today for a routine blood test seemed just that...routine, but as the results came in several hours later it was anything but routine.  Kristen has been feeling GREAT.    Really there has been no outward appearance of the MONSTER that has once again taken a hold of her body.  As I type this I can hardly see the keyboard through the tears, but I believe in the power of prayer and I have met many friends here and tonight Kristen needs prayers.  The doctor called this afternoon with the results...yeah the doctor that was the first sign that something was up.  I think his words went something like this..."I am calling with the results of Kristen's blood test, the lab called and they found blasts in her blood, so we will need to do a bone marrow biopsy in the morning to confirm it."  In my heart it's already confirmed, I mean blasts in her blood is hard to mistake for something else.  I have no Idea what the plan will be or even what we are dealing with I just know that my little angel needs your prayers, so please Say a Little Prayer for Her. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Some Halloween FUN!

Last Halloween Kristen and I were in the hospital just starting round 2 of chemo.  She had a spinal tap in the morning and she wore her Hannah Montana wig down to the RTU (rapid treatment unit).  She was in good spirits, but because her ANC was below 500 she could not participate in any of the activities that the hospital had.  We spent the day in our room receiving chemo.  This Halloween was much better!  Kristen is healthy! She wanted to be Sleeping Beauty, so we found her another wig and a princess dress.  Her grandma has a Halloween party every year so we got lots of pictures of cousins, aunts and uncles.  I went for an easy costume "Octomom" .  It was a fun day. 
Sleeping Beauty
Octomom
My 5 Grandkids...Aren't they cute
Kristen's little brother Ryan
Aunt Becky and Aunt Carrie
Cousins
Hailey and Kim
Grandma and Grandpa dressed as Grandma and Grandpa!
Aunt Vickie