Lauren Elizabeth Hacker's Journal
Throttle Back...Way Back
Written Dec 16, 2013 11:26amI guess I need to watch what I pray for. I did want Lauren to catch a break. But, I am thinking the prayers got lost in translation. Lauren was so excited to get the call to be on her volleyball team. So after a very restful Thanksgiving, she went to practice. She was excited about her new team. She LOVED her coach and her teammates. I told her to work really hard and make sure she went for every ball. Well, she did. At the end of practice, she was going for a ball that was coming in deep. She shuffled backwards and tripped. She caught herself with both arms. A friend of ours dropped her off after practice because I was having people over that night. But, I got sidetracked because I met a new mom at volleyball and was having fun getting acquainted. I was having my MOMS group over for an ornament exchange and was excited to have some people over to our finally finished house. I lingered at Lauren's practiced and visted because I was so joyful that our life was getting back to normal: our house was done, I was starting to socialize and entertain again, Lo was thrilled about being back on her Elite team. I just couldn't believe we were starting to get a taste of what seemed like our old life. So, after chatting too long, I rushed home and arranged for another family to bring Lauren home.
I had dinner on the table and we were waiting for Lauren to get dropped off so that we could eat quick and then put the finishing touches on the house for my friends to come. Lauren walked in and sat down with a huff. She was teary-eyed. I asked her how practice went and she needed help getting her coat off. She said her arms really hurt. I had her plate ready and she tried to eat and then broke down crying. She said she had fallen at the end of practice and her arms really hurt. I looked at her right arm and the thumb area was purple and swollen. I had Phil look at it and we were worried. She couldn't really eat her food. Phil said he would run her to the Emergency Room at Children's. My friends were coming and we stopped getting everything ready for my guests and just took care of Lauren.
When my friends came they helped me put the food together and we waited to hear from Phil. We had some wine and cookies and visited. I was hoping for a sprain or just some bruising, but felt in my gut it was probably worse than that. I got a text from Phil. "Doctor thinks it is broken." "We are fine." I told my friends and we said a prayer together for Lauren. They knew I wanted to be with her. I really wanted to host my friends, but was so comfortable with all of them, I asked if they would stay and enjoy each other, while I ran off to the hospital. I felt so glad that they felt comfortable enough at my house to stay. When I walked into the ER, one of the Physician's Assistants that I knew from my earlier days at Children's was just coming in with the x-rays. He said, "Well, they both are broken." I thought Phil or the PA was pranking me. I looked at Lauren and she nodded. I told them I didn't think it was very funny. I knew the one arm looked like something was wrong, but no one had mentioned the other arm. I soon realized it was no joke. Lauren had broken the radius of both arms. He had the radiologist look at the x-ray to make sure it wasn't an issue with Lauren's cancer. He said it was just bad luck and how she landed. Her x-ray actually showed a lot of healing for her bones, but an obvious area that showed her bones had stopped growing for a long time. He thought it would be best to put her in hard splints rather than cast both of them so that we could bathe her. He said if it continues to heal with the splints, we could forgo the casts, but could change to casts if it isn't healing well. I was dumbfounded. Lauren made a quick determination about how she was going to handle it. "I am not going to be sad about this, it will make me feel worse and it already hurts really bad." So wise, she is. So brave. I tried to have the same determination, but have fallen short.
She was in a lot of pain that night and couldn't get comfortable sleeping. She had to take some strong pain meds in the middle of the night. She slept in the next morning and went to school later because she was bored. Since then she has missed a lot of mornings. After sleeping all night, her arms ache. But, then she is ready to go. She is frustrated by the end of the day because she isn't independent and needs help all day long. I think she is tired of feeling that way. She wants to do school. By the end of the day she is totally wiped out and feels very achy. Christmas break could not come sooner. She has realized there is no ice skating, no skiing, and no volleyball. That reality is settling in. She is achy from not being able to move. But, she is determined to not be sad about it. She is trying to find other things to do. She even sat in her bed and tried to draw on Saturday.
December 12th was the one year anniversary of Lauren's diagnosis. We had a celebration dinner and had some friends over. I was so lousy at putting on a dinner. I was very self-conscious about it. The things I used to be good at have flown out the window. I think I was used to having certain skills and realize the stress of the year has made my brain a bit boggled. But, I let go of that and focused on the fact that I had some brain energy to worry about such a silly thing. I guess that is progress. Even a child with two broken arms is a normal kid problem. It isn't life threatening. Maybe when I was praying to God for Lauren to have a break, he answered that prayer by slowing us down completely. Even our celebration dinner was scaled way back. We had a few friends and not a large scale celebration. It was kind of quiet really. We had a "Our Lady of Guadalupe" cake because it was the feast day, but I didn't say anything at dinner because Lauren didn't want the date commemorated that way. It was low key. Well, except our little friend Cooper and Jonathan doing ninja moves. Christmas is going to be all about resting. I was afraid to make big plans and head to Hawaii and Illinois to see family. I think it will be good to really rest and get settled in our house. But, a little aloha by the beach would have been pretty restful too.
I am giving a talk about "Hope" on Thursday at St. Robert's to raise money for cancer. I am sitting here brainstorming about what I am really going to talk about. I didn't start the talk last week because I wasn't feeling it. I have to admit that it took my breath away for a while that Lauren really had to endure two broken arms. Then, last week as the year anniversary of her diagnosis came, the memories of walking into that hospital and the overwhelming fear, anxiety, confusion, and sometimes despair that hit us all smack in the face came back. I had a really hard week last week. So did Lauren...so did Jonathan...for different reasons. I didn't sleep well and the reality of our year last year came back. We are barely getting back on our feet. I was so frustrated with myself that I wasn't feeling the joy of the season and feeling thankful about all our blessings. But, I realized how hard I am on myself. I see where Lauren gets her fierce determination. I was like that for most of my life. All of the hard military moves, a couple of wars, and loss; I was determined not to be sad about it. It does sometimes make you feel worse. But, not feeling it is not healthy. It has to come out. What I was feeling last week was grief. It was grieving the loss of our lives as we knew it. Last year when we walked into that hospital, our lives changed on a dime. Change can be gradual and it can be subtle. This was not that. This was gut-wrenching, life and death change. So, last week, I cried it out and processed it. Tears would flow after mass, in the car, in the middle of the night. I was about sick of it. Why was I crying so much? But, it has to come out. And, after it does, like the end of a cold winter, comes spring and the beginnings of hope. Our life did change forever. But, we got another chance as a family. We are different now and struggling in some ways. But, after we let go of what was and figure it out, we will be stronger. We just aren't there yet. But, I do have hope that we are starting to find our way. We needed to stop and smell the roses. Maybe God knew that we just wouldn't do that on our own.
In the meantime.....What do you call the girl with two broken arms....Lauren Elizabeth Hacker....or Lolo for short....Just don't try to help her with anything unless she asks. I have watched everyone try to cheer her up by saying, "Oh, look what you have been through, you will be fine." That was my instinct too. But, I think it makes her get attention for being tougher than she should have to be. It is ok to say to her, "Wow, Lolo, that stinks. I am sorry that you are in a lot of pain." "I can't wait for you to be better." "Or, I love you!" I guess we need to stop rewarding her for being so tough. I don't want her to have to always live up to that. She has had too much for any kid to handle. I think we need to tell her it is normal for us to be weak and admit it hurts like hell.
Oh darn, it is Phil's bday today. We skipped it last year. It is 2:30 on his bday...no presents, no cake....I guess we better bust a move and make him feel special....and not just old. :)
Written Nov 25, 2013 10:21amLauren's 6 month check up was awesome! Her heart efficiency has improved and her blood counts were normal. She is truly a miracle! She is a testament to the power of prayer. We are so thankful for her health.
Lauren received a call from Elite and was offered a position on the regional club team. She was the alternate and when another little girl moved to a new team, they had a spot for her. She knows she will have to work extra hard to keep up, but she is glad to have the opportunity to play. We are thankful for this opportunity for her.
Our remodeling project is coming to a close. Joe is in charge of our project, under Craig Tuttle. It has been a pleasure having him here, as it was to have Bobby working here last year. All of the guys that have come into our house have worked hard and have been kind to our family. This is our dream home. Even though it has taken a year and a half to get to this point, it has not been too big of a deal in the whole scheme of things. After living at the hospital for 6 months and living in construction since then, I will say I am looking forward to hanging out all by myself in my pajamas with a fire going and a cup of coffee next week. It seems like an indulgence, but I am not going to feel guilty about it one bit. I need some solitude and I need some privacy. The kids are also so excited to have their rooms back. They are moving all the furniture into the rooms today. By the time the kids get home, they should be in their bedrooms. Now we just need to get hardware and some fixtures and we are done. Hallelujah! I am so thankful for our home!
Last Friday we went to the Creighton volleyball game to cheer our favorite team on. Lolo was recognized by the team and her story was told to the crowd. Her bravery and her faith stood out as the announcer spoke of why she was chosen as CU's Superhero! She was able to run out with the team and help them warm up. She sat on the bench with the team and was all smiles the whole time. A group of little friends and their parents joined us for some pizza and some fun in the stands and we had a great time. Lizzy, Katie, and Kelly were incredible. We were so proud of them. Coach Booth was so generous with Lauren and gave her a Creighton jersey. We are very thankful for our new friends!
For Thanksgiving, we have planned to just have the four of us. I am making a feast! I can't wait to cook all of our favorites. We love our family and we will miss them this year. But, we need to have a quiet, relaxing holiday with just the four of us in our home. We will be thinking of all our loved ones and we are thankful for our family. We are looking forward to our dinner and hanging out watching football games and movies. The rest of the holiday we will decorate for Christmas and put our house together. We are thankful to have some peace!
Lauren just saw the Hunger Games movie this weekend. She said it was the best movie she has ever seen. She is having a really good 6th grade year. Her grades are fine and she is enjoying all her classmates. They are such wonderful kids. She doesn't think much about last year. She is totally focused on the present. She is a good reminder to me of how to be, except for her sassy mouth, which we are working on. But, even though it wears me out on most days, I am somewhat thankful for that sassy little mouth.
Jonathan is adjusting to high school really well. He has a sassy mouth too. But, he is making progress all the time. He doesn't want to hang with us much, which is normal. When Lauren was at the movies this weekend, we forced him to go have some prime rib with us. He was a pill, but by dessert had given in a little. His plan was to make the night miserable so we would quit forcing him to be with us, but are on to him. We don't have much time left with him before he heads off to college and out into the world. We missed the heck out of him last year when we were occupied with Lauren's health. He is stuck with us. We will keep dragging him off the couch or whatever he is doing to be with us. He will give in. He needs us, he just doesn't want to admit it. He is playing tennis a few times a week and is on Prep's lacrosse team. He stills hangs out with the same kids and loves his high school. He teases me about being a religious nut and still is relentless about teasing Lauren. I am thankful that he is happy.
Please continue to keep Lauren in your prayers. We just heard of another little girl that has had her cancer return after only 130 days of remission. Our prayers go out to all the families that have children with cancer. May the odds be always in their favor.
We are so thankful that she is in remission.
Written Nov 10, 2013 10:47amWe are approaching Lolo's 6th month appointment. This means she is 6 months out from her last round of chemotherapy. This will be a big appointment. But, I am not worried, strange as it may seem. She is getting stronger everyday. We are starting to have normal days and normal kid problems. She will have more extensive testing this time to make sure. The big one is to check her heart and see if it is starting to recover and make sure there is not increased damage. She will go in on November 13th. Please, keep her in your prayers. Please pray that she stays in remission and that her heart continues to heal and recover.
In the meantime, she hasn't skipped any beats, so to speak. She is adjusting very well to school. I have had a "hands off" approach to her as far as school is concerned. For those of you who know me, you may realize that is a huge change in me. But, I needed to see where she was academically. She needed to have some room to breathe without pressure to do her work, rest, and be with friends. Now, that we see where she is on her own, we need to fill in the gaps slightly. I have also given her more space from me, which is hard for me sometimes. But, I was right up in her grill on the time in the hospital. I had to be. She needs some time to be alone and some time to be with her people. I just watch from a distance and then hang with her when she wants me. We went on a walk yesterday together. She did my 3 mile route that I like to take. We talked and took pictures, stretched a little up at Memorial Park, and stopped into the church to pray for a minute. It was one of the best mornings I have had in a long time. It was sunny and the fall colors were so vibrant. She took some beautiful pictures of St. Margaret Mary's. I could see her being a photographer some day. I told her how much fun I had when we were walking home. She laughed and said it was kind of "boring" for her. I still think she enjoyed it.
Lauren is fighting hard to just move past last year. She doesn't think about the hospital much. She loves her iPad and has Taylor Swift songs on all day. She is so happy with her friends and her teachers this year. She is back to teaching Sunday school and loves being with the little kids. She is hoping she can gain enough confidence to babysit in the future. We don't have family around that has little kids to practice on, so I am looking for some willing volunteers. In other words, she is a typical 11 year old. But, in many ways she isn't. She finished a very fun season of school volleyball. For winter, she wanted to try out for the competitive Elite volleyball team. This is our local club volleyball program. She was strong and ready last year before she went into the hospital. She is still 11 and doesn't see that she isn't quite as strong as she used to be. I think she will be, but it takes time. She hadn't felt well the week before. Sometimes when she is over tired, she misses the morning at school and sleeps. Last Friday, she slept until 2:00 and didn't go to school. But, she wasn't sick. She was just tired. I used to never allow my kids to be late and rarely were they allowed to stay home from school. Big change-school isn't our priority lately. It is still up there. It has to take a backseat sometimes. On Sunday, she tried out for her Elite team. It was a grueling 3 hour tryout. At the end, the girls sat on the floor and numbers were called to pick the girls that made it. Lauren worked so hard and had very good volleyball skills. She could do what was required, but she lacked some strength, confidence, and aggressiveness. It was not fun watching her try out. She had some great serves and accurate, phenomenal passes. She spiked well. But, I could just tell, she lacked stamina. For the three hours of her tryouts, my mind was racing. Is she really ready for this? What if she gets her heart broken? What if I can't tell that the leukemia is coming back? Will they give her a break and know that her strength is returning? I looked around and all the parents watching tryouts seemed stressed. I realized my stress was different. It wasn't comfortable. At then end, I just wanted Lauren to be able to make the team and be with her volleyball friends. But, that isn't what happened. All of Lauren's school friends made the team. Lauren had even inspired a couple of school friends that didn't play club volleyball last year to try this year. They all made the team and she did not. She sat on the floor for the next 20 minutes while they jumped up and down and signed their contracts. Other little girls from other schools that did not make it started crying. Lauren did not have any emotion on her face. She sat there stoically and then packed up her stuff when the coaches ended it. They made the other kids wait to make sure all the ones offered positions accepted the positions. We did not talk going home. I didn't know how to comfort her. I wanted to fix it. I felt sick to my stomach. How could she endure anymore pain? How could she be separated from her peers again and not feel so isolated? How could she stop feeling different?
That eveing we didn't talk about it. She had ice cream with a family friend and played with a baby, which made her smile. She was so quiet. I kept worrying all of this was going to break her spirit. After all she had been through I was worried that she was fragile. But, what I realized was that I was fragile. She was hurt, very hurt. But, we both learned some big lessons that we needed to from that hurt. When she curled up with me that night, she told me that she had been in a lot of pain, but didn't want to tell me because she was afraid that I wouldn't let her try out. She had to go to the doctor the next morning and get checked. She had bone pain because her hips (where she had all the aspirations done) were sore from healing. She is also starting to grow and her body is busy building back muscle that was lost. Some days she is like an arthritic old woman. But, she doesn't let people see that. We also talked about how one tryout was not going to determine if she could play volleyball. She wanted to be with her friends so much and enjoy winter volleyball. She wanted that club volleyball jersey. So, we decided she could still hang with her friends, in other ways, and we would figure out a way to earn that club jersey. I also wanted her to know she was so much more than just volleyball. She said that she just doesn't want to be different anymore. I told her that she was going to have to accept that she was different. She is going to have to work harder than other kids right now. She is going to be sore. She has to pay more attention to her health than other kids her age. But, she is also very special. I was overwhelmed with emotion because I wanted the suffering to stop. In the back of my my mind I was worried that she couldn't take it anymore. But, I needed to face reality. We can't protect our children from suffering. We can't fix it. We need to teach them how to persevere. We need to honor their pain, but give them confidence that they will get through it. We need to comfort them and teach them how to comfort themselves through it. Lauren is going to suffer more in her life. I fear what kind of suffering might be in her future. I will always be there by her side to comfort her, if she needs it. But, I can't bring that emotion to each little disappointment that she faces. What I learned is she gets through each of these bumps along the way with grace.
The next morning after tryouts, she had to get her blood drawn at the hospital. It didn't go well. I had planned a fun day at Vala's Pumpkin Patch for her with a couple of friends. She got a little sick from the blood draw since it had to be repeated. I thought it would affect her day. But, not a chance. Her friends showed up at the hospital right after her blood draw. She wiped the tears off her face and was ready to go. She sang Taylor Swift songs all the way out there. I admit, I had tears as I was driving. I cried because I was so happy to look in the rear view mirror and see her smiling and singing. I cried because she had already forgotten how bad she had felt the day before. I cried because I was hoping my inability to handle this better wasn't going to affect her. She is different. Thank God! She so naturally celebrates life each and every day. When saw me looking at her in the rear view mirror, she smiled.