One More Step...

 What would YOU do if you were a young woman with beautiful long hair but you knew it would all be falling out? Well, the advise from many, including wig makers and her doctor, was to get it cut short. It makes perfect sense to me, it already will be traumatic to lose her hair in handfuls. But to lose extremely long hair in handfuls would be much more traumatic to experience. Short hair will fit into a cap more easily to be caught in the night rather than to allow it to just fall out all over her bed. A lady working at Seattle Children's had a cute pixie cut and Craig asked her where she had it done. She was so kind and gave us a printout from the website and the name of the lady who does it. It is a friend of hers so she promised to send her a text letting her know we'd be coming soon. Well, last night, my husband called via FaceTime on our phones and I got to watch as the pony tail was cut! Then the connection was lost so I didn't get to see the rest until she was all done. She did a fantastic job and, of course, Anna is GORGEOUS!!!!! But did we expect anything else? Really?

The Big Open House

 Last weekend, our family enjoyed going to the open house introducing the new building at Seattle Children't Hospital. They had all kinds of fun for the children and tours of the new building. The younger children brought their dolls in for the teddy bear clinic. They each got their own bag filled with supplies and got to use the "real" tools that doctors use.

 After the teddy bear clinic, we all stood in line for a free helmet fitting and give away. Each of our children got a free helmet! Our children got a little lesson in economics from Daddy about the cost of helmets and only having to stand in line for 1 hour to get them. They figured that at just five dollars an hour it would take them approximately 55 hours of working to pay for eleven helmets at $25.00 each. They decided standing for one hour was not so bad! As you can see, Selah was super happy to get her pink "hat" (as she calls it!)

 Once finished with the helmet fitting, we headed over to the new building for a tour of the new cancer wing. The building is called "Building Hope" and is beautiful! The new rooms are very spacious and are getting ready for the very first patients. The building officially opens around the 25 of April- about two weeks into Anna's transplant. So, Anna will be the very first patient to use the room she is given! Very exciting! Below, you see the children gathered around Daddy. We are all in one of the new lounge areas for the families. Here he is explaining to our children that this will be where Anna will be spending a whole lot of time. The next photo, we are praying for Anna to be healed and for our testimony to be one that glorifies the Lord in all of this. It was all very sobering, but we know Anna will be in good hands.

 We ended the day going to one of the favorite spots for special date nights, Fondi pizzeria. Most of our children had never been and so we thought this would be extra special....and it was. We enjoyed the fabulous salad, flat bread with fresh mozzarella, and pizza...many pizzas actually! It was a perfect end to a great day! Kind of our last "hoorah" before everything began.

 And now it has. We are feeling the tension of being apart from one another, but we know this is what we have to do for now. I am home with the little people for the weekend, the older boys (minus Daniel) are at Boyscout camp and Naomi has taken my place in Seattle. Anna and Daniel must be extra cautious right now. It would be okay for Daniel to be home, if everyone is healthy, but Selah has a little cough so he must stay away. They will not be in church the next couple of weeks as we had hoped, but they will get to live stream the services. The days have been long and busy. I am weary, Craig is weary, Anna and Daniel are weary. Tomorrow holds just a few appointments and then there is a break until Monday. Anna will be admitted on April 2 to start her chemo. April 11 is still scheduled for her day of rest and it is Nathanael's 13th birthday. We asked Dr. Woolfrey if it would be okay to have all of our children (as long as they are healthy) come for a little party. She said her only requirement is that we give her a piece of the cake! And then, on the 12th, Daniel goes in for his bone marrow aspiration and Anna will have it put in her line. This is day 0. The 13th is day one and the count begins until day 100. By this time, hopefully her body will have adapted to the new marrow, and the marrow will have adapted to Anna's body. Then we will get to go home to Bremerton and the care of Dr. Irwin in Tacoma. But this does NOT mean that life will be back to normal. In fact, life won't be "normal" for about a year. Anna will not be allowed to be around large groups of people until life is considered normal....after the first year if all goes well. Next week holds more appointments and classes, but only until Thursday, then Anna should get a nice rest for five days before her hospital stay.

I am exhausted. The "all day" sickness is starting to really hit hard, it had been not so bad and I was so hopeful that it wouldn't get any worse...but I digress. I am thrilled to get this time in my own bed with all of my little ones surrounding me! This will be a very special weekend for us all! I have missed them. And now I miss my sweet husband, Anna, Daniel, and Naomi. We are definitely still looking for a house, this WILL take a miracle! Every lead has been a no go thus far. But, we are still trusting! My sweet Anna read Psalm 61 & 62 last night when she was feeling overwhelmed. She encouraged me to read them today. I did. And now, my friends, I encourage each of you to read them, may they be an encouragement to you when you are feeling overwhelmed at life's circumstances! May the Lord bless thee and keep thee and make His face to shine upon thee!

Our First Day

I've never posted from my phone before, but I'll give it a whirl and see how it goes....

Bright and early we woke this morning to head on over to Seattle. After loading the Suburban, we hopped onto the ferry, a bit tired but in awe of the beautiful sun rise. The 7:20 ferry was the latest we could get and make it on time, so we had an hour after crossing until we needed to be at SCCA. We stopped off at (could you guess?) Starbucks! We enjoyed this time together then headed over for the appointments. After checking in, I took Daniel for his blood draws on the 1st floor while Craig took Anna up to the 6th floor for her 1st appointment. Today was more orientation and physicals for both Daniel and Anna. Daniel and I were able to stop for a quick lunch at their little Bistro, and Craig grabbed something for Anna to take with her to her next appointment. The last appointment of the day was Daniel's so Anna and I sat in the waiting room. The view is so beautiful. I filled out paperwork and Anna kicked back and took a nap. I dozed off a bit as well- I must have been exhausted because I HATE sleeping in front of people!!! But the surroundings are quiet and we were facing the windows over looking the lake and everyone there is in the same boat so I wasn't embarrassed. ;-) When we were finally done for the day, we came to the Ronald McDonald house to get checked into our new apartment. Everyone here is so nice! Anna and Daniel were both given handmade quilts of their choosing. Volunteers come out most nights to the common area and cook a big dinner for everyone. We enjoyed the meal and were so humbled and overwhelmed with emotions at the generosity of others! I choked up while I was thanking one of the servers as she asked me, with a tender look in her eyes, if we were new. We met a family who will be going home after tomorrow and saw many many more we know we will get to meet in the days and weeks ahead. It hasn't completely sunken in yet that this is really happening. But it is and there are little people all over the place here with sweet little bald heads and I am brought to tears looking on. Half of the children here are under age 6!!! All these precious babies and their families to minister to! God give us strength to be the ministers of grace that you intend!!!

Missing my babies at home sooo much already! This apartment won't feel like home because my family is not all here. I know this is just a season, but please pray for grace for this mama!!

The Day Has Arrived!

Well, today is the day! I write this as it is now past midnight, so technically it is Tuesday, March 19. Sleep has yet to take me up in the bliss of total unconsciousness as I have been packing and thinking upon the happenings of this week yet to come. The stress of leaving behind most of my children is nagging at me while the blessing of knowing they will all be well taken care of eases the burden just a bit. We have the blessing of an apartment through the Ronald McDonald Housing starting tomorrow. This really is a help although we are still praying for a miracle in finding a place for all of us. My mind is already feeling full as we prepare to head on over for the many scans, tests, and classes. I pray that I will be able to retain something. Add pregnancy brain on top of that, and I'm glad I have my hubby there to help me out! God is good. We are trusting Him to get us through this day, week, month, season. We are thankful for all of the blessings along the way, both big and small. This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it....

5, 4, 3, 2, 1..........

Tuesday, March 19.......just four days from now. The countdown is on. We head on over to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to begin Anna's intake. She will undergo many scans and tests of her entire body to make sure she is as healthy as can be for chemo and transplant. Daniel will also have tests and a complete physical to make sure he is as healthy as can be to give his bone marrow. Craig and I, along with Daniel and Anna, will sit through classes instructing us on all that will be taking place. Anna will need to be in Seattle everyday now for the next four months. She MIGHT get the next two weekends "off" and get to be home, but we will find out more on that as the days arrive. Her prep will take place until the first week of April, in which she will begin the first form of chemotherapy. After about four days of the first chemo, she will begin the intense, high-dose chemo for another four days and on April 11 (Nathanael's 13th birthday) she will get a day of rest. At this point in time, it looks as if the actual transplant day will be April 12, and this marks day 1 of 100 in Seattle. This will also be the day that Daniel will go in for (day) surgery at Seattle Children's, they will then take the fresh bone marrow and inject it into Anna's Hickman line. It will take around three weeks for Anna's body to start making it's own bone marrow from Daniel's. The shortest time it could take is two weeks. Once this has been accomplished, Anna will be released from the hospital and into our care and that of S.C.C.A.. She will be seen at (Fred Hutch) every day at least once a day for the rest of the 100 days.

We are gearing up for a very intense season in our lives. Currently, the search is still on for a house to rent over in that area. The trouble with the housing facilities such as the Ronald McDonald House, etc., is that our family is too large for the space and fire codes. They do have an apartment available to us for after the transplant which is the longest part of our stay, they are working diligently to accommodate us. Some rent hurdles to get past are rental agreements and cost. Some places that looked like a possibility require a one year minimum. We do trust that the Lord will direct us and provide for us!

Many have asked us how Anna is doing. Physically, she is weary. She has much bone pain, nausea, and light-headedness. She tires very easily and has some difficulty enjoying simple pleasures. Emotionally, Anna is handling things well but getting a bit nervous. She has good moments and unsettled moments. We laugh, we cry, we laugh and cry. Spiritually, Anna is doing amazing! She is trusting in the sovereign hand of God. Anna knows where her eternity will be spent one day and desires to use this trial to share the joy of the Lord as well as the wonderful gospel with all she meets.

I am amazed as well as blessed as I watch my little girl endure such a traumatic trial with grace and peace. The joy that fills her overflows even in the toughest of moments. I say moments because that's how we live life right now, moment by moment. There is much unknown in our future, this is a road we have never travelled and it's scary. And yet, we hold tight to our Father's loving, guiding hand as we follow, trusting. I think about my little ones as they hold tight to our hands, following with complete trust that we will only allow what's best for them. And yet we fail them everyday. If they can trust so completely, parents who are imperfect, how much more can we trust our Perfect, Heavenly Father who NEVER fails us?! This is the peace that passes ALL understanding! When the fears arise, and the tears come forth, we have a faithful and loving Comforter who is ALWAYS there! We pray that we can share this truth with many in the days ahead! Many without hope, without peace, without joy and we have the answer!

 We know God has a purpose in this and that He will get our entire family through, closer to Him than ever! Thank you all for your constant love and prayers!

Fasten Your Seat Belts, As We Prepare For Takeoff!

Anna-Renee Ruth Houston

The ball is rolling and it's momentum is a bit faster than we had expected! So here is a recap:
Last week Anna came to me and said, "Mom, I think it's time." Her side effects were getting unbearable again. Craig called and left a message for Dr. Irwin on Friday. Monday, he called to let us know that he had made the call to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and he expected to hear back from them by Tuesday. He said he would call us when he heard anything and that he would see us on Wednesday. Tuesday, every time the phone rang, we all jumped to get it. Dr. I never called. Wednesday, we set out for Anna's appointment stopping off to get a frozen yogurt treat. With Craig being in California for the week we decided to try Face Time through Anna's worked and Craig got to be a part of the appointment. Dr. Irwin asked all of the usual questions and then shared with us what S.C.C.A. had said. It seems they had an open slot on the 18 th! They didn't say a month so logic told us that that meant THIS month!!! S.C.C.A. had tried to get a hold of Craig, too, so he would make the call back after the appointment. Apparently they weren't available by the time he did get to make the call so he expected to hear from them yesterday (Thursday). After her appointment, Dr. Irwin scheduled an appointment for the 20th, just in case, but said he doubted that he'd see her again until after transplant. The goodbyes were a bit somber yet hopeful. The nurses all said their goodbyes and made Anna promise she'd let them all know how she is doing. This is truly a family of families when you see them just about every week for six months. After Thursday's call we have confirmation that Anna has her appointment set for Tuesday, March 19. That is 11 days from now!! It's hard to explain just how you can be anxious and yet at perfect peace all at the same time, but that's exactly where I am at right now. 

So what does this all mean? What all will be happening and when? Well, we expect a packet of instructions to come in from Seattle soon. But what we do know now, is that first of all, Anna must not hug people anymore! (You all at church know what I mean!) She must wear a mask now and, as Dr. Irwin put it, "Where you were careful before, it's time to become paranoid." This is VITAL! Anna will spend two full days of intense scans of her body as they look at every organ and search every nook and cranny of her body for any signs of hidden pockets of infection, and they will insert a pic line in her chest from which they will draw blood from as well as put in the bone marrow etc.. Any infection found will delay transplant. Anna will then receive 3-5 days worth of extremely high dose chemotherapy. After all of this, she will be injected with her new bone marrow. It will take weeks for her body to start producing this marrow in her bones and she will be monitored closely. Once released from hospital care, she will live with us close by the hospital and S.C.C. A.. She will still need to be seen daily. This process will take around 100 days. (adding on the preliminary stuff will make it more than 100 days).

We are standing on our Rock for strength!

We are currently scrambling to get things in order here at home as we also look for a place in Seattle. Craig has possibly found a couple of rental houses, but to be able to pay for them is another story. We trust that God will guide and direct us and that He will make this possible!  We desire to have as much time together as possible in the, that's soon. Our time with Anna is precious. Our hearts are filled with fear of what could be, but also of hope with what God can do! I don't know if this makes any sense to you all, but that's the sum of it just the same. We know and trust that God's ways are higher than our ways and that He will do His perfect will. We covet your prayers and seek your understanding in these last few days of "normal" family time. Thank you.

Houston's Stick Together!


A week ago Wednesday Anna had her check up with her oncologist. The doc said they had done three types of tests on her blood. The first two showed normal blood counts for which we praise the Lord! The third one is a more extensive test that did reveal cancer cells still. They hadn't given the numbers on it and he was going to check on the details. At this point, he decided to try another pain medication just to see if it would help Anna with her pain. He also said that he is comfortable with waiting until late spring or going forward with transplant- whichever Anna chooses. Anna has been taking this new medicine for almost a week now with no improvement. In fact, since her appointment, Anna's bone pain and other side effects have been progressively getting worse again. We have been discussing our options and praying for direction. The other day Anna said, "Mom, I think it's time." I knew then that we just needed to make the call. Today, my husband called the office and left a message for Dr.'s time to move forward with transplant. This is a weighty decision, but one that is necessary. We don't want Anna to get worn down any more than she already has before having chemo and transplant. The nurse called us back to make sure everything was alright and then assured us that they would call Seattle on Monday.......