Saying Goodbye to Cancer

Yesterday marked three years ago that Adelaine was diagnosed with cancer. That day in 2006 was a dreadful day that Doug and I will never forget. I think this is a good time to share some of the darkest secret of our hearts – especially mine as a mother….

Have you ever prayed that your child would die?

I have. We have, Doug and I have cried out to our Holy God that He would just take Adelaine and end all her suffering.

The first time we prayed that prayer was the on July 1st, 2006. We knew that she was very sick, but had no idea until the Oncologist came in, closed the door and bluntly and boldly told us that our daughter had Leukemia, cancer of the white blood cells in her bone marrow. There were no words of encouragement, no comfort just the facts.

After that blow, doctors flooded our room, pushed Doug and I aside and began poking and prodding our little girl with needles while she cried out the best she could, yet really too weak to put up much of a fight. In the quiet corner of that room, Doug sat in a chair and I knelt down in front of him. With tears in our eyes we knew, we both know that our little girl, the girl that had been with us for 2 years, 3 months and 3 days was surely going to die. The pain and sorrow that we both felt was indescribable. We held hands and began a very intimate conversation. I knew how I was feeling and had to ask where his sad, broken heart rested.

We both felt the same way, like our child suddenly became a science experiment of sort. Was she now a Guinea pig that they were going to torture with tests and procedures and treatments until her body finally gave out? Even in the first few hours of her diagnosis we began to feel and see that this could be the reality for her. This was even before they began the ungodly act of extracting bone marrow from her spine while she was still fully awake. Extracting the bone marrow was merely an introduction to the pain and suffering that was to follow. (Did any of you see the final episode of “24” with Jack Bower this season? When they held up that unbelievably large needle and stuck it into his spine, I had a flash back of our daughter having the same procedure done). Only here is how it happened for her…

Doug and I chose to carry her back to the special room (the room designated for such a torture). They held her down and forced an elephant sized needle into her spine. If she moved she would likely be paralyzed. They did try to give her something for pain, but it simply had zero effect on her. They couldn’t put her to sleep because her blood levels were so low that she likely would have never woken up. So there she lay helplessly pinned down screaming in pain while they tortured her trying to get the needle in just right. After they finally got the needle deep enough into her spine to reach the bone marrow, the impossible task of extracting it began. The doctor had to pump and pull. I recall watching the doctor’s body shake as she exerted all her muscle strength into the task. She pushed and pulled the syringe over and over again as Adelaine screamed and begged and pleaded for mercy. Adelaine’s bone marrow was so clogged up with Leukemia cells that it just wouldn’t come out. I called out for them to stop. At first I thought it would end quickly, but it did not. Doug told me to let them just finished that they were almost done. I held Adelaine’s hand and looked into her eyes and promised her that they would NEVER do this to her again. I looked at the doctor and told her the same. I still live with the guilt for allowing such a thing to happen to her. Would that doctor have allowed a procedure like that for her own daughter?

Many times after, Adelaine had that procedure done. More times that I can count. But one thing is for sure. She was NEVER awake and tortured for the event as she was that day. However the extent of that pain continued for her much of the time in many different ways, especially during the first year of her cancer treatment. There was the blood infection, which almost claimed her life. The yeast infection that had her airways down her throat so clogged it was as if she was breathing through a straw. Mouth sores that were so bad she could hardly swallow. Her blood counts were so poor that she didn’t have the energy to sit up, fevers so high that her toxic chemo laced urine in her diaper nearly burned her skin, nausea so bad that she carried a hospital bed pan with her wherever she went. This is just a list off the top. It goes on and on. Our daughter suffered, she suffered more than I could have ever imagined any child possibly could. Sadly, I’ve met many children who have suffered worse, much worse.

Her suffering always took me back to that prayer that Doug and I prayed. I learned so much about myself through all that. It was very confusing for me to pray that God would take her home. Did we really want her to just die? No way. After loosing a brother, I witnessed first hand the pain that my parents and I suffered from loosing a family member, but still I prayed that prayer. I love each of my children, my family more than any love I could ever feel here on earth, but still I prayed it. As her mother and father we just wanted her suffering to end.

We prayed that God would heal her. We believe that He did heal her. On the sixth day of treatment, July 7th, the doctors pulled more bone marrow. Adelaine’s marrow came back crystal clear. No leukemia cells were found – praise God! Was this divine healing that we all prayed for due to God just reaching down and touching her, which I felt as she sat in my lap on July 2nd (our 7th wedding anniversary) as many of us prayed over her, or was she healed by the one round of chemo she had received? I guess we will never really know that answer and it doesn’t really matter. All that mattered was that she WAS healed by God. How God did it, that’s for Him to know. Still the fact remained that she was still to endure 2 years and 3 months of chemotherapy. (That is the protocol and quite honestly the law). So from that point on all her sickness was caused by the chemotherapy treatments. These treatments were in pill and injection form and were daily, (if her blood counts did not drop too low, in which case the chemo was held for a time as to continue with it would quite possibly have killed her). The side effects of chemo can be unbearable at times. The Doctors’ goal is to keep a person on the brink of death without actually killing them. It is very scary to think about and any child that does survive not just the cancer but the treatments is nothing short of a miracle.

I spent many, many hours by Adelaine’s bedside as she suffered tremendously. Adelaine would cry for me to hold her, but as I picked her up she would cry because it hurt so much. The muscles in her body were so sore that she couldn’t bear to be touched, much less cuddled. So I just sat by her bedside with her. I sang songs to her. I prayed outloud for her where she could hear my prayers of peace and comfort. I watched the clock and I wondered…

The boys were at school, Doug was at work so it was just the two of us- me and Adelaine. What I witnessed and what I felt during those hours were unspeakable. I would look up at the clock. One minute felt like hours as I wondered how she would ever make it through this, as we still had many more months to come. Then out of desperation I would cry out in my heart for God just to make this all stop. Adelaine, of course, never heard those prayers. Some may judge, especially those who are unsaved, they may think that I didn’t love my child enough if I could pray such a prayer. But I know differently. I know what I was willing to give up for her to have peace. I knew that I would never feel her breath on my cheek again, that I would never again get lost in those beautiful blue eyes, that I would never run my fingers through her blond hair again, that I would never hear her laugh again, that I would never have her friends over for spend-the-night parties, or meet her first boy friend, or see Bowen and her walk out the door together with their dates to the Prom, or see her dance her first dances with her husband and her Daddy after she says, “I do”. I would never walk down the beach with her again, or see the wind blow her hair, never have the joy of witnessing her reach her goals. So why did I pray that prayer so many times? I prayed it because I loved her, more than I love myself. It was the most unselfish prayer I think I could have ever prayed.

I new only God himself could protect her from all the pain and suffering caused by Leukemia and chemotherapy. It was during those prayers that I was on my knees, helpless, helpless to help my little girl. Mother’s are supposed to make it all better, but I could not. My heart had pain so deep, to watch my child suffer was really more than I could bear. To think of those times frightens and paralyzes me still today. To think of possibly walking down that road again is, well, just unthinkable.

September 5th will be one year off treatment! Almost an entire year has gone by already. The 2 ½ years of treatment went by extremely slowly as many times we took it day by day or minute by minute. The past 10 months have just flown by, though! So here is the truth about life after cancer, from one mother’s perspective at least…

I choose not to think about the “what if’s” too much. For every minute that I spent worrying about cancer it is a minute of joy stolen away. We prayed that God would heal her and He did. I choose to clam that healing everyday, and our whole family thanks God daily for it. We have many things to be thankful for. For one, Adelaine does not remember any of her suffering. She has no recollection of what she went through and remembers very little of her hospital stays. Therefore, she has no fear of cancer. She knows she had it and beat it, she knows she was very sick from it, but she doesn’t recall ever actually being really sick. That truly is a blessing. She is outgoing, bright and truly unscathed by any of it. Another blessing is her health…

Many people I know and talk with about life after chemotherapy are still dealing with the nightmare of chemo aftermath. It has so many permanent negative effects on the body. It can cause neuropathy so severely that some are left using wheelchairs. It can cause learning disabilities mild to severe, and it can disrupt fine motor skills (just to name a few). More seriously, chemotherapy can cause problems with any or all major organs including the heart and liver, and can also cause secondary cancers. So for many people they are not just struggling with what was lost (health) but also with how things are so different today because of these chemotherapy drugs and how their lives will never resemble “normalcy” again.

Adelaine absolutely shows no signs of any of these negative effects from taking all those harmful drugs. Why is that? The more we talk to people who are living with their survivors the more we see what a miracle it is. Honestly we believe that God has protected her little body just as we prayed for. But also we honestly believe that the powerhouse of nutrition that we packed into her little body also played a major role.

Once she started drinking the MonaVie we noticed immediate changes. That is when her health started improving so much that we were no longer felt as though we were spiraling in a never-ending cycle of pain and suffering. God used His creation of antioxidants and nutrients to help protect and preserve her body during such duress. We had one oncologist tell us to absolutely not give it to her and another oncologist who gave it away in his office. For all the stories of children I know who are suffering the aftermath of chemotherapy, none of those children took MonaVie. Adelaine still takes it today and she will likely take it the remainder of her life! I believe with all my heart that God brought our friend Fred, (who introduced us to MonaVie) into our home during the most desperate time of Adelaine’s suffering to help ease it and make it bearable and get us through those treatments. After she starting taking the MonaVie I never prayed for God to take her again – I never had to. It’s amazing to see what God made and put here for us so that our bodies can get what we need to heal and be healthy.

Now that the nightmare is over we’ve had to adjust to a new “normal”. Daily life is great. Our family is happy and healthy and we love that God has also completed our family with Anika. Honestly though there are struggles from fear. About every 3 months Adelaine gets sick. It always turns out to be just a cold or a virus, but I have a very difficult time coping. My mind begins to wonder – I just can’t help it. Last time she was sick was the worst scare we’ve had so far. Everything about the onset of that particular illness pointed to cancer. Her legs were achy, her glands were swollen behind her ears and in her groin and she had a fever. This all mirrored her symptoms when she first presented with Leukemia. It was only a virus, nothing more.

Our “new life” means that cancer will always be in the back of our minds. Once you walk down that road there is no turning back. From that point on things are different. No longer is a sniffle just a sniffle. We always wonder if that sniffle is an underlying symptom of something more serious – cancer. Two days ago, I was flossing Adelaine’s teeth and her gum began to bleed. My blood ran cold and I immediately thought, “Leukemia”. If she complains about any part of her body hurting I immediately think, “Leukemia”. Is this normal? Yes I suppose it is. When I take her to the doctor no one assures me of anything anymore. They always look as scared as I do when she’s sick. This is in no way comforting!!!!

So how am I learning to cope with this new way of life? I am learning to trust God more and more. Not that I didn’t before, but I am realizing that the things that I can not control I must give over to God. This is much easier said than done. I am so thankful that God chose not to take my daughter. She has a great life and is able to live it to the fullest – Praise God!!! BUT, in my mind I still recall her suffering and think to myself, “I never would have chosen for her to endure so much suffering. I guess God knew she could do it even though I wasn’t so sure. It was a scary, dark, miserable road, but we made it, she made it! Adelaine has a big scar across her chest from the Mediport. (The Plastic Surgeon wasn’t able to make it go away as we had hoped). I have a big scar across my heart. My child had to suffer just to be alive today.

I wish I had all the answers and had a way to end this post summing it all up just beautifully with all the corners tucked in neatly, but I simply do not and I can not. I still have so much to learn and so much growing to do. As long as I am here (this side of Heaven) I know that I can not embrace all of what God wants me to know about Him. If so, I know there would be no worries or fears. All I can do now is pray for wisdom, grace and my undeserving favor of God.

As time goes on I hope I am better able to cope with my fears when Adelaine does get sick. To fall to pieces every time she has an ailment is no way to live. My hope for her, my prayer for her is that she lives a healthy life, free of cancer and that she dies an old woman warm in her bed! I hope she enjoys life and continues to touch people’s lives. I did pray during those dark hours that God would take her to end her suffering. That was me giving her back to God saying, “I cannot make her pain go away.” “I know you can do a much better job as her parent than I”. I trusted God. I knew that in Heaven Adelaine would be so happy and healthy and loved. I knew that in Heaven she would think of me, but not feel sad because she missed me. I knew that she would never have to feel that pain again.

I asked God to take her home and end her suffering. He did end her suffering in His own time. I am very thankful that He decided it was best for her to remain here with us. Every day with her is such a gift. She enjoys life and is so happy here as a member of our family. I look forward to watching her grow up and grow old. I hope that I can learn and draw from Adelaine’s courage, strength and perseverance. I hope we all can.


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Happy Anniversary

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary.

One of the things I am doing is fixing the website.

When I switched over the pictures didnt make it. I have them all backed up and am transferring them into the appropriate posts today.

Here is one of the favorites.

Jesus and Adelaine

Jesus and Adelaine

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July 1, 2009 7:15p.m. I just realized what today is.

Today is July 1, 2009.

July 1, 2006 10:33a.m. was the time Adelaine diagnosed with ALL.

We several hours past, 3 years on that date.

We did not even think about it until 7:15 p.m. the day of (well dad did’nt anyways)

Miss Barb is having dinner with us.

She is the one that woke me up that morning to tell me to go to the hospital that morning.

Miss Barb is a Great Friend.

Tomorrow is our 10 Year Annivesary.

Our Anniversary really hasn’t ment the same thing for the last couple years.

Tomorrow it will be special once again.

Thank You for being our frends.

Physical or Cyber.

You all are special to us all.

You pray for Us.

We pray for You.

God blesses us all.

Each in many different ways.

Have a Wonderful, Patriotic 4th of July!

-The Powells

written by dug

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This is Late…

Last year Angela and the kids went to Camp Sunshine. Their trip was sponsored by the local Tropical Smoothie. It turns out they do a national Flip Flop day the first day of summer which was June 21.

On that day smoothies are free for anyone wearing flip flops. Also, they had a donation site set up for the month of June. That is past now as well.

I know the economy has many people strapped, but if you have a Tropical Smoothie near you and you are going for ice cream or a snack of some kind consider Tropical Smoothie as they generously donate to a more than worthy cause which also supports us.

We are scheduled to go to Camp Sunshine again this summer and the kids are already talking about it.

Click Here to find the nearest Tropical Smoothie near you. If you are local, here are the Tampa Bay Area Stores:

1201 4th St. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

6800 Gulfport Blvd. S. Suite 215
St. Petersburg, FL 33707

2137 66th Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33710

150 Fountain Parkway North Suite B
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

10720 Park Blvd.
Seminole, FL 33772

1695 Roosevelt Blvd
Clearwater, FL 33761

9556 Linebaugh Ave.
Tampa, FL 33626

11011 Causeway Blvd.
Brandon, FL 33511

15213 N Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33618

1900 Main Street, Suite 102
Sarasota, FL 34236

Email us and maybe we can meet at Tropical Smoothie sometime and support such a wonderful company together.

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Anika & Adelaine January 2009

Adelaine & Anika June 2009

Part of our new “Adoption Day tradition” will be to watch Anika’s video with her each year. After we finished the foster classes, but before we met Anika we waited for that special call, the call that never seemed to come. It felt like forever between the time we graduated from class and the time we met her (which was really only 2 ½ months). The wait was difficult I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t fast like all the other stories we’d heard. I began to question if we were supposed to get a child with special needs. Some of our friends kept suggesting it so I began thinking. Sure we made it through cancer, but we didn’t have any choice but to battle that beast. There was so much pain and heart-ache involved with having a sick child, why in the world would we choose to do that again. But then I thought maybe if it were something less severe, maybe we could do that!

Then we found out about Anika. She was just about to turn 4, we knew she was extremely overweight. I’m not sure if I should share exactly what her weight was, so I’ll just let you figure it out… Anyway, we found out about Anika through Kat Evers. So, instead of them calling us with a child, we called them! (Realizing that the things in my life aren’t usually straight forward, I’ve come to expect and even embrace the unexpected). Instead of being placed by the foster division, Anika was placed through the adoption division (because she was already available for adoption). After Anika stayed in our home for a week, I called the foster division to let them know about Anika and our desire to permanently place her in our home.

Then it happened…

The person in charge of the foster care placement did her research on the child in question (Anika) and called me back. Her exact words were, “WHY DO YOU WANT HER?” (You have to remember that Anika had already spent six days in our home.) All I could think was, “Oh no, what have they not told me about her, what were they hiding. Then I asked, “What do you mean?” She replied, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH SHE WEIGHS? “IF YOU WAIT A LITTLE LONGER WE CAN GET YOU…”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This lady, who was in charge of placing these poor, unfortunate, neglected children into homes was telling me that because she was overweight that I didn’t want her. I was stunned I didn’t even know what to say. I had met this child. She had the disposition of an angel, she was as smart as any child I’d ever met. She was sweet, she was kind, and yes she was overweight. What kind of reason is that for not wanting her? We have mastered health and nutrition. If it weren’t for Adelaine’s cancer, we wouldn’t have had a clue about how to help Anika loose all that weight. But now, now we live for health and wellness!!!!! I really felt that we could do this.

So what exactly were we up against? At that point it didn’t matter. I had fallen in love. I knew that we were supposed to care for her, and that she needed us. It had been a while since the state had taken her to the doctor. In fact her weight had increased by 23 pounds since her last visit!

I made her an appointment with the doctor as soon as I could. Luckily, her lab work came back normal, but she was considered Morbidly Obese and her blood pressure was slightly elevated. She was at a high risk of developing any or all of the following: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, triglycerides, orthopedic problems, asthma and sleep apnea. Her BMI was at 30 ¼. (By the time we were able to make an appointment, she had already lost 7 pounds).

Basically she hadn’t developed anything yet but her weight was like a ticking time bomb. One doctor told me that it wasn’t likely that she would be able to loose the weight. More likely she would have to “grow” into it. She would probably always have a weight problem and be at a high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. What did she need to loose? Exactly ½ of her body weight- that’s 51 1/2 pounds! Yes it was like she was caring around a whole extra person. Even with all that extra weight I saw a very beautiful person. She was beautiful through and through. I knew weI could help her get healthy again.

Shortly after our doctors visit I shared the news with a good friend, Rachel, Rachel’s reply was, “With you, that weight won’t last”. It’s amazing what an encouraging word at the right time can do! Most people were encouraging. There were only about 4 people who were not. There’s nothing like having someone turn their nose up at you, or make a rude comment. It can either discourage or further motivate. No matter what, critical people will always be out their, it is a choice to ignore the negativity and continue on.

Luckily Anika had her height to help her carry the extra weight. At 4’1” she has the height of a 7 year old! So even though she weighed so much , it was more like a 7 year old weighing that much verses a 4 year old. Still it was a lot of extra weight to carry around. How far has she come? She has lost 43 pounds! She weighs 60 pounds and only has 7 pounds left to loose!

She looks and feels like a whole new person! When we first went to the park, she would just sit there. She didn’t run or climb, she didn’t even have the energy to play. Now she plays Freeze Tag and Chase with all the other children! She can even climb to the top of the Monkey Bars!

How did she loose it? We make exercise a part of daily life. We ride bikes, swim, go for walks, and even run and the children take Tae Kwon Do (we took some time off but start back this Thursday). While Adelaine and the boys were at school, Anika and I were working on getting healthy. We did light to moderate daily exercise and adhered to a special diet. We had a doctor oversee Anika’s progress. I knew in my heart she could do it, I just didn’t want to do it too fast. Can a person go from eating all junk food to all healthy food without their body completely freaking out? Apparently yes!

Anika remembers all those bad-for-you tasty treats she used to eat and still speaks fondly of them. She has since learned that although those foods taste really great, they make our bodies very unhealthy. Those foods are “sometimes” foods that we only eat occasionally. She was so young that she had no idea that she was even overweight. We were careful how we approached the topic. We only told her that she needed to get her body healthy. She eats mainly fresh organic fruits and vegetables, organic cereal (with Almond milk) and yogurt, usually no starches (pasta, bread, rice, or white potatoes) no sugar, and no meat. That plus exercise is how she lost it, pretty simple really!!!

So how did she gain all that weight in the first place? She basically stayed inside and watched television and ate – all day, every day. No seriously she ate all day long. She was being cared for by her great-grandparents who wanted to spoil her. I guess grand parents and great-grandparents are for spoiling children, not raising them! Anika requested bacon, eggs, sausage and pancakes for breakfast every single morning and that’s what she got. She ate candy everyday and drank chocolate milk (from a bottle). Plus a gallon of milk every day to every other day- that’s a lot of milk. She speaks fondly of Honey Buns, Ice Cream, and Marshmallow Cake (whatever that is) and especially Nanny’s Home Made Apple Pie. Her lunches were like a Thanksgiving feast, pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, the works and desert, every single day. Anika is such a slow eater, I imagine that she must have grazed all day long. None of which was her fault, but that’s how it happened.

Now she understands making healthy choices. She loves salad. Her taste for food has really changed. She loves to munch on raw carrots and broccoli. I was afraid that she would be sneaking into the kitchen trying to take food, but it wasn’t like that at all. She is so young that she just eats what we give her and that’s that. We buy no junk food, so there is no junk food. One day when she first came to us she sat on the sofa while I was in the room cleaning up. She must have talked about ice-cream for about 20 minutes. How cold it is, how good it tastes what flavors she likes, on and on and on. I just listened and agreed about how yummy it is. Then she finally stopped and was quiet for a minute and said, “Ice cream is not a healthy choice, is it?” It was at that moment that I knew she got it, she truly understood what we were teaching her. It all clicked. Now she worries that Nanny doesn’t make healthy choices. Anika is so smart and teachable! She truly wants to have a healthy body! Her body transformation has been incredible.

When she first came to us, she didn’t really have any clothes, mostly just old stained t-shirts. In fact, they didn’t even make clothes in her size. I had to buy crop pants from the ladies department for her to wear. It was so sad that this little girl couldn’t even wear little girl clothes. No pretty panties with lace or flowers, no little girlie princess shirts, nothing. I couldn’t even find shoes that would fit. I was able to wedge and cram her foot into a pair of Crocs. It wasn’t until much later that she could even squeeze into a pair of flip flops, then finally a pair of Easter shoes.

Also, when she first came to us, she was still in diapers. I believe that being so overweight she had little muscle control. Plus she has a mild bladder infection. After she finished the antibiotics, she was quick to learn and only had a few accidents. I explained that I was not in the business of cleaning up pants from a four year old and what ever clothes she had on when she didn’t make it to the potty, were going into the trash – and I did just that. She did not appreciate having to say good-bye to her Sponge Bob underwear. (I was secretly happy to see them go). She wet the bed a few times but it’s been about 6 weeks since her last accident so I think it’s safe to say she’s completely potty trained now!

No car seat either! She just wouldn’t fit, not even in a booster seat. Now she and Adelaine sit safely side by side in their booster seats, in our new minivan, Georgette! (Doug drives Pearl now). Could I even pick her up? Not a chance. How sad was that I couldn’t even hold my child. In fact the first time I picked her up I surprised us both. We were in the driveway and Anika decided to through a colossal fit. She threw herself on the ground and began to kick and scream. (Yes this perfect angel does have a temper after all). With her height and her weight when she did decide to throw one, it is magnified, like a fit on steroids. I picked her up, carried her through the house and plopped her down in her room and closed the door. She screamed and whaled I’m sure the neighbors thought someone was being murdered! After it was all over she came and said, “You picked me up. I didn’t know you could pick me up!” I guess she was as surprised as I was!

She now looks in the mirror and admires herself. She loves wearing all her new clothes that look so girly and pretty. I was the first person to take her out shopping and she loved it. She says, “Remember when just you and me went shopping and you bought me all those new clothes, can we do that again?” Seeing her loose all that weight has been an amazing transformation and we are so proud of her. After she looses 7 more pounds she will be completely done. We are celebrating with a cheeseburger and apple pie party, and she gets to get her ears pierced!!! She is so excited and we are so proud!

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