Clear Scans!

John faced the past two days with a casualness and calm that I am in total envy of. We rejoice with the news that his scans are all good once again. Dr. Raawas informed us that following COG (Children’s Oncology Group) recommendations, that John will next be seen in 6 months for scans and a physical. After that it will just by bi-yearly urine tests that test for cancer markers. He reassured us that if we ever have concerns that we can bring John in, they can do urine tests, Children’s is there for us. It was hugs all around as we left today…and a few tears.

While talking to my parents this evening they asked me, based on my last post, if going into scans this time was extra difficult. I told them no, those feelings are there every single time as we head into scans.(These feelings seem pretty mutual among the other cancer parents I know as well.) I just put it out there for everyone to see this time.  I worry when I do put “it” all out there because I don’t want to upset anyone, but those feelings are my reality.

Our plan had been to get through scans and hit the road for Madison to visit Michael, watch him play a little lacrosse, to celebrate good news. Well….when we got home on Thursday from Children’s John had pink cheeks, a runny nose and a cough. Not so perfect timing with scans. We decided we would not leave on Friday like we originally planned, but to wait and see how John was this morning. He seemed much better and he did have an exam that day, but no throat culture as his throat looked ok.  We now were planning on leaving Saturday morning. Around 7 tonight John came up to me and told me he had a headache. He never has a headache so I decided we better run in for a strep test. We had to go to Woodbury and he tested positive right away. There is a much longer version of this story here, but the doctor and I were not seeing eye to eye on what kind of medicine……and too bad for him I hadn’t eaten a thing since 11AM and I had found my “voice” for advocating for my son a long time ago. When we finally left and we were walking out John told me that he didn’t think the doctor liked me. My response, “Ya, well….you don’t mess with John Gegen’s mother and if this isn’t the right prescription when I get to the pharmacy, we’re calling and getting the one I asked for.” It wasn’t the correct one. I went home with what I had requested, with what has worked for John the past two times after first having to go through 10 days of a drug that didn’t work for him.

So we are not going to Madison. John was heartbroken and angry. I was/am bummed and while part of me wants to just pack up and go anyway, I know that’s not the right thing to do. While it is disappointing, I know we have so much about today to be thankful for and we will plan a different weekend for our visit.

This week has been exhausting and I can’t wait to climb into bed! Thank you again for all your support, prayers and kind words. Team John has always Rocked!

The Gegens will keep on keeping on…taking one day at a time….and try to look forward with hope and not in our past at our fears (Wish me luck with the last one! 😉 )

With my heart full of GRATITUDE…Love, Hope and Blessings,


End of Treatment Scans this Thursday and Friday

dont worryWow! Here we are. It’s already been 12 weeks since John’s last scans ( It is absolutely crazy how quickly 12 weeks fly by!) and the somewhat of a finish line is in sight. For the past 1, 281 days of John’s life, of our lives as parents, we have endured the brutal roller coaster of scans EVERY 12 weeks. No matter how much I tell myself to “buck up”, get a grip, to breathe or remind myself how much we have to be thankful for …it never gets any easier. Never and I believe this is true for all families that have been through the hell of cancer. Why? Because we know that our lives can be turned upside down in an instant. Because we’ve lived that nightmare and we silently beg and plead for cancer to stay away.

They cycle of scans and the events that accompany the 12 weeks seem to remain pretty consistent in our home. We leave the most recent set of scans with great results on a high. Yay! We can breathe a little easier. We go about our lives as normal as they have ever been. Weeks fly by and now it is closer to scan week (UGH!). Without fail, John will complain that his leg hurts and while I am cool as a cucumber on the outside, (“Remember….you skated a lot tonight or jumped on the trampoline or I saw you sitting on your knees while playing Xbox…”) In my mind it’s pure panic, (“Is it cancer? it’s not cancer. He looks great. Sure he looks great, but he had leg pain at diagnosis. Just calm down. Don’t make a big deal about it to John and then he’ll stop saying his leg hurts. What are we going to do if…”, over and over.

This time we had some added excitement with the teeniest of bruises to his eyelid. (Other Neuroblastoma parents know where this line of thought is going.) Bruises around the eye are a sign of relapse in the brain. I had that kid closing his eye so often so I could examine that speck, I’m surprised it’s not permanently locked at a half blink. When I finally couldn’t stand the voice in my head saying, “Is it? Has he relapsed? Are we going to be going to New York for treatment?”, I told my husband my fears. I believe his response was, “What the hell are you talking about?” Ahh….the voice of reason, not that I didn’t have him all jacked up too and he was now also participating in the several times a day eyelid inspection of our irritated 9 year old son. The speck….all gone. it was a bruise and I probably took yet another year off of my husband’s life expectancy with my irrational thoughts.

And…last week John woke with a stomach ache and had diarrhea. The flu right? Not in my mind…,”He had stomach problems when he was diagnosed, weeks leading up to his diagnosis, didn’t he throw up in Dad’s car at the church in Green Leafton?…” (And yes… it is all one rambling thought.) Then a few days later Jeffrey gets the flu and (I’m so sorry I am admitting this Jeffrey and I love you tons.) and the ticker tape of pathetic thoughts is in full force, “Good Jeffrey has the flu, so that means John did have the flu, which means he hasn’t relapsed, he just has the flu, we’re all good here.” Seriously? Yes, cancer has driven me to a place where I find relief and comfort in one son’s illness as it gives me peace of mind for my other son. How backwards is that?!

My mind….it is EXHAUSTING! Every normal childhood complaint, in my mind, is a road back to the hell of childhood cancer. These thoughts can make the most rational person crazy and at times….batshit crazy. Now that is some real crazy.

Guess what week this is? Bingo! Scan week…and a big one at that. Tomorrow (Thursday) John will have a CT scan, an injection for Friday’s MIBG scan and a hearing test. Friday is MIBG scan and an END OF DFMO TREATMENT exam with Dr. Raawas!! If all goes well (Rational Shelly feels it will) scans will officially move to every 6 months (that’s the some what of a finish lie part. Done with DFMO, but never really done as he will continue to receive scans and be under the watchful eye of Children’s).

So tonight I can’t sleep, my head is pounding and I’m not looking forward to the donut scan (CT scan…John says it looks like a donut). I know from past experience that even though I will have given him Ativan for anxiety and Zofran for nausea,as soon as they start pushing the contrast in he is going to become very upset, extremely anxious, his stomach will hurt and he will throw up. He knows this is going to happen and yet walks in willingly every time. I wish my mind had the courage and composure of John Joseph.

Even with all the crazy mind games I play with myself, I know now clearer than ever, how grateful we are to have had the opportunity to have John on the DFMO trial…to give our child a fighting chance to live the life he deserves….to give us hope for the future. Jon and I are are so thankful to all the nonprofits groups like Beat NB and Because of Ezra, that have helped to fun research by the NMTRC (DFMO trial). Research that is dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer.

For the first time since April 6, 2012 John will be off of treatment. No daily medicines. No monthly doctor appointments with labs and urine tests. Just living the life of a 9 year old boy. The thought of it is both exciting and terrifying. Crazy stuff…

Love, Hope, and Blessings,