Friday, January 1, 2010

Treatment Complete!

It is strange that sometimes in life those things that seem most simple turn out to be the most difficult. Over the course of the past year as I looked forward to the day when Anya's treatment would end I always anticipated that it would be the easiest post to make on this blog. It turns out that it has been one of the most daunting. As a result it's now been several months since our last update here. It is difficult to explain why this is. All I can say is that I have been unable to find the right words to express our thoughts and feelings about what has happened in the past three months. I doubt that even now I can say what ought to be said in light of all that God has brought us through since Anya's diagnosis. But alas, a new year is upon us and I can only tell my wife, "Yeah, I'll post on the blog..." so many times. So, forgive me if I lack the words to describe what these events have meant to us, but at least I can bring everyone up to date on what has transpired since our last post.
Anya's last scheduled treatment at the clinic was in the end of October and what should have been a fairly routine appointment turned into an incredibly difficult morning as her port did not cooperate and the nurse had to draw blood from the back of her hand. Anya was terrified and cried loudly and pathetically throughout the blood draw. I held her and broke down inwardly. It seemed that my fears were materializing before my eyes...Anya's post-treatment monthly blood draws could prove more traumatic to her than the monthly treatments she had recieved via the port. I was unable to hold back tears when I strapped her in the carseat on the way home and she asked me why the pokes were harder than her treatment. I wept with her and couldn't find the words that would encourage either of us. Inside I cried out to God.

Our next trip to the clinic was a few days later for the removal of Anya's port. The procedure went very well and we returned home, taking the rest of the day to let her rest and recuperate after her surgery. But again we had experienced her fear at the prospect of being poked. We continued to pray and hope that over time she would adjust to the monthly blood draws.

We prepped Anya mentally and emotionally as much as possible before her first follow-up appointment. But with the experience of her most recent poke fresh in my memory I had little hope that this appointment would be better. But by God's grace and Anya's courage it ended up being wonderful! As I reported to Anna when we got home Anya did not even cry during the blood draw...and as Anya added, "I didn't even make a sad face!" Her counts were great and her physcial exam showed her to be in excellent health. Tears of sadness from the month before transformed to tears of joy as I thanked God for relieving Anya's fears and pain.

Words cannot express the joy, the relief, and the gratitude in our hearts to the Lord for His healing of Anya, our appreciation to the medical staff that have been loving instruments in His hands, and our love for all of you who have supported us throughout this chapter of our lives. As Anya's treatment has come to a close it is all a little surreal to look back on.

We celebrated the end of Anya's treatment with two "port-removal parties", one here in Kansas City with our church family, and one in Indianapolis with Anna's extended family. While in Indiana Anna brought out a photobook she had made that showed Anya in the various stages of treatment. I was overwhelmed by her frailty in the beginning, the drastic effects of the steroids, the physcial toll that everything took on her. It seemed like snapshots from a different life; a distant, strange life that we no longer lived. In the world we live in today Anya is so healthy, so happy, so full of LIFE...

Anya recently went back in to the clinic for her latest scheduled monthly follow-up appointment. Another blood draw, with no crying (not even a bad face!) and another excellent physical exam. Anya is now on only one medicine, a preventative antibiotic given to post-treatment patients to ward off opportunistic pneumonia that likes to strike at this point in the process. Through it all Anya continues to be one of the healthiest ones in the family.

She will continue to have monthly appointments for blood draws and physical exams for a while, and will eventually be transitioned from the hospital clinic to a "late-effects" clinic where she will have occasional appointments to watch for any future complications caused by the cancer. We continue to pray and hope for a healthy future for Anya, with no "late effects".

Life goes on here in the Steinmetz house, and thankfully relatively little of it is focused on Anya's health condition. Samantha is rolling over and trying desparately to sit up, Isaiah is putting multiple words together...a big victory in his efforts to overcome speech delays, and Anya and Esther continue to amaze and entertain with the things they say and the unique view they have of life. My wife remains the solid, steady, amazing woman that God knew our family needed to make it through the past three years. For my part I'm continuing to seek God for healing, for hope, and for wholeness, facing a deep pain and brokeness that requires His gentle, patient care.

We may make one final post on this blog to officially sign off and share our parting thoughts. For now, know that we have been forever blessed and touched by your love and we feel privileged to have shared this journey with you.