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Sicily’s Story

Heaven is a happier  place!
^Angel^ Sicily Evelyn Zeka has arrived.
April 15, 2005 - March 21, 2010
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWdHq5UDXbo&feature=related



     Sicily Evelyn Zeka, our vibrant, precious  4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bi-lateral Wilm's tumor, cancer of both kidneys, on Aug. 22, 2008, at the age of three.
     This all began when I took Sicily to a new pediatrician for a preschool physical in July 2008, after just moving to Broken Arrow, OK from Wellington, KS. The doctor found a mass on Sicily's right side as she performed a routine abdominal exam. It concerned her enough to send us for an x-ray and blood work, both of which were inconclusive. It was decided to treat Sicily for just being full of "poop." We went back again in two weeks but the doctor thought the mass was shrinking or moving and still assumed it to be a bowel situation. She decided to schedule Sicily for an appointment with a GI doctor, but wanted to do a barium enema first. I asked for an ultrasound, but was told the enema was the next step (the ultrasound would have helped to diagnose the actual situation). The tech who performed the enema flat out said this was nothing to do with Sicily's bowels. After six weeks of our doctor not being very pro-active, we were finally scheduled a CT scan...which delivered the worst and most unbearable news I thought my ears could ever hear. Our daughter has cancer of the kidneys. Not just one kidney, but both. Bi-lateral Wilm's tumor. We decided to seek treatment in Oklahoma City with a doctor who spent fourteen years at St. Jude's in solid tumors. Sicily is also being cared for by a wonderful team of doctors here in the Tulsa area so we can stay close to home whenever possible. *Update March 2009 - Found a new pediatrician.
     Sicily underwent ten weeks of pre-operative chemo to try and shrink the tumors before surgery. She had surgery on November 19, 2008 to remove both tumors.  The surgeons removed 1/2 of the right kidney and 1/3 of the left kidney. Tests performed on the tumors showed her right kidney contained diffuse anaplasia (unfavorable histology) which indicated it should be removed as soon as possible. On November 30th, they removed her entire remaining right kidney as well as removed part of her small bowel due to an interseseption and some of her peritoneum that had covered the pylorus valve in her stomach, which were complications her little body did to itself trying to recover from the first surgery. She spent a total of twenty-two consecutive days in the hospital on the surgery recovery floor and the PICU. The doctors are fairly confident she can function near normal with 2/3 of the left kidney; at least until her teenage years, when her body begins to possibly grow rapidly. Because of the diffuse anaplasia, Sicily underwent 11 radiation treatments and will be on a 6-months protocol of chemotherapy. Every third week of chemo will require a 3-to-5 day hospital stay to receive treatment. She has done remarkably well with her chemo and we hope this will continue!
    Sicily has completed her chemo treatment on Regimen i on June 6th.  First OT (off treatment) scans scheduled for Tuesday, July 7th.  Pray for NED (No Evidence of Disease)! 
First OT scans in July produced a NED!!!
Next scans - Friday, October 9, 2009
Recurrance to right kidney bed on 10/12/09.
     On October 28, 2009, Sicily had her fourth surgery and the new tumor growth was removed.  She is not cancer free as a small amount was left on the vena cava as it was not possible to surgically remove it.  Pathology came back anaplastic Wilm's, again.  We will soon be making plans for her treatment and continue to ask for prayers for her and her family!
     Feb. 25, 2010 Sicily's cancer has metastisized to liver, lungs and intestines.
     March 21, 2010 Sicily passed away in her mommy's arms.

Please help us support pediatric cancer research by making a donation to the Pablove Foundation www.pablove.org  Under special notes write, "In Honor of Sicily Zeka."  Thank you!

Latest Journal Update

To find a rainbow...

“To find a rainbow,

You must weather a storm.”

 

      Oh how I’ve missed sitting down and expelling every little thought, emotion and perception that fills my mind, heart and soul!  I miss this so much!  Being able to unload and share all the struggles, heartbreaks, joys and accomplishments our family experienced was such an important and meaningful part of an incredible period in my life.  I’ve been suppressing an insatiable desire for so long to sit down and spill the endless ramble that has continued to build up inside of me.  It’s hard to know where to even begin, so I will just dive in…emotions first!

     Life is wonderful.  Life is hard. Life is what it is…it’s as beautiful as you decide to make it and let it be!

     I feel like my current emotions are best described as a person walking a tight rope. I carefully place one foot in front of the other as I make my way across a narrow strand of wire high up in the sky. I’m shaky at times…my balance is not the greatest!  When the wind is still and my confidence is unshakeable,  I’m fantastic…footloose and fancy free! But it seems like anytime I experience a shift in life’s daily activities, whether it’s positive or negative in nature, I became more wobbly and unstable.  The security I crave of maintaining an emotional balance always seems to be just out of my reach. 

     The speed of life has been one of which I can barely keep up with, but it’s a ride I find thrilling and exciting and I’m blessed to be on it!  

     It is hard to believe it’s been over six years now since Sicily’s cancer diagnosis. I can close my eyes and almost regurgitate the feelings that were produced that day…feelings of panic, desperation, confusion, dread and the overwhelming fear of the unknown.  Our little girl had cancer.  What do we do…how do we handle this?  And the worst fear of all, what if she can’t beat this and we lose her? How does life go on?

     I truly believe that in these past four years since Sicily’s passing, I have accepted and understood her purpose in my life and the lives of those who allowed her to touch them.  I consciously make the decision on a daily basis to accept God’s will.  I make an effort to carry peace in my heart and hold tightly to the grace God so generously shares with me, whenever I ask Him for it…and even when I forget to!  Have I perfected this ability?  Absolutely not!  Despite all this conscious effort, something always seemed to be missing…there was a void I couldn’t quite define or explain. It wasn’t just the natural vacancy of Sicily’s physical presence, but something I couldn’t put my finger on…until last Easter.

     The week before this past Easter was naturally a time of reflection and tender emotions.  Sicily would’ve celebrated her ninth birthday on April 15th.  Her funeral was right before Holy week in 2010.  I photographed our other three children for the first time without their little sister on that Easter Sunday.  They held a pair of white feathery angel wings to represent her heavenly presence despite her physical absence. That time of year is always going to be an understood difficult time for us. There is no getting around it, and that’s okay.  

     The movie, “Heaven Is For Real” had just been released in theaters days before Sicily’s birthday.  I had anxiously read the book as soon as it was published late in 2010.  Many, like myself, who have lost a loved one, are constantly looking for and seeking reassurance in the existence of the afterlife…the promise of eternity in paradise…the proof that Heaven is really real!  We desperately want confirmation that our loved one is where we hope and pray for them to be…that they are above the heavenly stars watching over us…that though we can’t tangibly see them, they are with us and always will be. How can we achieve this belief without some kind of proof?  Proof is all around us.  It’s everywhere.  The key to the proof is having eyes that see.  Not the same eyes that see the words you are reading in this message, but the eyes of the soul that see beyond what is blatant.  It’s in the way the clouds form into the shape of wings in the sky…the incredible scheme of colors a rainbow boasts after a storm…the way the sun sparkles and twinkles as it dances across the rippling waters of a lake. That is enough proof for me that heaven must exist! If this beauty prevails on earth, what must heaven be like?  Proof is sometimes sent through the vessel of innocent children, as it was told in the story of one little boy.  I already felt like I had my own proof when Miss Judi Ann shared her story with me (see August 4, 2011 entry) about Sicily’s angelic visit.

     This past Easter Sunday I decided we needed to go see the movie, “Heaven Is For Real” as a family.  Again, I had already read the book and knew what to expect, but just wanted to see it played out by actors on a big screen.  I like the idea that others believe in the reality of heaven as I do. I did cry, of course, but mainly because at one point in the movie it shows a little bald girl sitting in a hospital bed.  Flashbacks overwhelmed my mind and all I could do was sit there and think of Sicily.  Much like when Patrick and I recently watched the movie “Patch Adams” for the first time. There, again, was a little girl with a beautiful bald head shown laying in a hospital bed… images that are not foreign to us because we have far too many of our own that are awakened and replayed from time to time.

      The movie, itself, on Easter Sunday, was not what made such an impact on me and was so life altering, but it was the days after when I felt myself slipping into the familiar pit of sadness, likely triggered by the avalanche of emotions from the previous week.  I just felt overwhelmed with anguish.  So I did what has become part of my daily life…I talked to God.  My daily prayers are usually full of requests for others, as they should be, but my conversations with God are, well, what can I say…they’re self centered! That day, the Tuesday following Easter, in my conversation with God, I cried to Him about how much I missed my little girl.  I shed tears as I told him how I would do anything if only I could have her back, even if for a brief moment, just to hug her again and tell her over and over how much I love her…to the point where she tells me I’m “annoying her!”  To my surprise, in the greatest fantasy of my mind, God said, “I will give precious Sicily back to you, but there is one condition… only one.”  In my dream of dreams my heart races and I excitedly agree to God that I will do anything, absolutely anything He asks of me, just to have one brief encounter with my beloved daughter.  God’s condition, simple as it may sound, was that I have to give up the person I’ve become as a result of Sicily’s cancer battle and her death, and I have to go back to being the person I was before this tragedy.  “What’s to give up,” I thought.  My heart and my mind are overjoyed. “That’s it?  That’s all we have to do?”  They are ecstatic about the thought of being reunited with Sicily!  Who could blame them?  But my soul, the very center of my spirituality, calmly and graciously turns God down.  “No, I’m very sorry, but we cannot accept that condition.  You see, because of Sicily’s death, Kerry has discovered what life is genuinely about.  She appreciates now how God employs all of life’s experiences for the good of those who follow Him...especially the heart-rendering and unexplainable trials and tragedies that tend to leave us without any kind of understanding. She has learned to let peace and unconditional love reside in her heart. True unconditional love…love with no conditions what so ever!  She practices unequivocal acceptance of God’s Will in her mind…and her soul has discovered and embraced His amazing infinite Grace. Without Sicily’s death, Kerry might not have had the opportunity to discover these priceless treasures!  Sicily’s life and death were the spiritual catalyst Kerry so desperately needed!”

     I was temporarily struck by a mother’s guilt for the answer that so quickly resonated in my soul…turning down the opportunity to see Sicily again.  But I understood the bigger picture here!  I finally had my spiritual epiphany…something I have long desired and searched for!  That elusive void in my mind seemed to finally dissipate.  That annoying and baffling feeling of deficiency in my heart was no longer a heavy burden.  The personal spiritual strength I have found and am now experiencing is so hard to translate into mere words, but it’s all because of what God has provided through Sicily’s life and death!  Not that I ever asked the question of God, “Why,” which is totally okay and a natural human reaction…but for some reason, I’ve always felt the answer was, “Because…I Am God!  Be patient and watch what I can do with this!” 

     I still miss my little girl with every sunrise and sunset…every breath I inhale and exhale…and every beat of my thriving heart! Tears will always find a way to fill my eyes; I hope they never completely evaporate!  I continue to have days when I look up at the sky towards the heavens and wonder how I can explain to others how I am able to live life without Sicily.  The answer is simple…and complicated.  Simple, because God’s Grace is with me at all times.  Complicated only because I am human and sometimes that which is not seen is hard to grasp and comprehend.  I feel that I am a better human being because of her brief existence!  God became clearly visible to me, through her!  His Amazing Grace can do anything!!! 

May His Grace and Peace be with you all…no matter what!

 

“I believe that tears can heal…

That memories can comfort…

That love lives on forever.”

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Comments

17 Comments

Anonymous Anonymous
By anonymous
I never had a chance to meet your darling daughter but she sounds amazing. The smile on her face shows the strength that she endured during every moment. I have heard much about her and every story was told with a smile. Every memory that they shared made me feel as if I was there being able to just look and admire such an amazing human being. The story of Sicily has given me strength. We are put on this earth for a reason and your beautiful daughter changed lives, she is an angel in heaven but in my eyes she is still a warrior. She is a fighter because she looks to you guys in admiration, you gave your all when she needed you the most and for that she admires you deeply. I admire your strength as well, your daughter may have been going through the physical pain, but you encountered emotional pain and it shows how strong you and your family are. You have taken all that has happened and have made a difference. Not just in my life but in the life's of many others. There are children everywhere looking at your daughter and feeling inspired. There are mothers and parents looking at you and seeing you fight and will, giving them the push to do all they can! There are families looking at your very own family and having a smile on their faces because you guys are amazing! You never gave up, still to this day you continue to blog and help those all around from different areas. You are a hero and you deserve so much credit for what you do. You are a great mother and raised amazing children. You still fight for others everywhere because you have heart! I admire you so much! There are moments i am sure when it gets hard, but I am here to tell you that you are an inspiration. I am here to thank you because you allowed me to appreciate so many things in this world that i may have taken for granted. I wish i could have met you because you truly are a special woman and you deserve hearing it. Your story was beautiful and incredibly touching. It gives me hope for life, it gives me even more drive and strength. Your a role model to many woman out there, you are a role model to myself. i have experienced death and it is very difficult, I have wanted to give up, I have wanted to just stop but the moment I heard of your daughter and all she went through, I pushed myself appreciating everything around me. Your daughter is an angel in heaven looking down, smiling so big! playing doctor because she wants to help all those other children that are in need of help. She is inspiring and i admire her! If i ever have a daughter I would want her to have the spirit of yours, I am moved and my heart has been touched. Thank you for continuing the journey with other families. You are an extraordinary woman and I hope your family sees that. You have done a great job in raising and maintaining your family! Changes in the world are happening and they are happening because of people like you. I think you deserve so much credit. So i am here to let you know that i appreciate it all. God bless you and your family. You guys are remarkable in many ways. Continue the journey of life because it is filled with so much, and if I could tell your daughter one thing it would be thank you, thank you for being her, because she has inspired me. Thank you again! Remember god and the angels are watching over you, and you and your family are in my prayers no matter what has happened.
cathy kreisel
By cathy kreisel
Praying for all of the others out there to be able to see and feel the grace of God as your mind and heart have been opened too. May God continue to bless you and you and your family.
Claudia Martinez
By Claudia Martínez
I can see your pretty sparkly eyes full of life and courage while reading this. The ones that have cried thousands of rivers but the ones that lift souls and make other people days way happier.
You are such an amazing testimony of God's love dear Kerri, and you literally have an angel for yourself that took you, holding hands, to the deepest level of sacrifice and faith. Just beautiful.
I love you!
wayne flaska
By wayne ivan flaska
I first met Sicily (and you) about 1year after your CaringBridge journey begin. I still have your last post in my inbox and continue to visit CaringBridge after your sabatical to re-read stuff to help me (and i really need to visit the site everyday). July 2013 began my Chemotherapy journey and I continue to recuperate from that difficult year. WHY why can God cure me but not........the thousands of children? SICILY pray for me, and bring all the angels into my life. If ever someone needed saving -----me. For the devil says who do you think your foolin?
Joyce Blauer
By Joyce Blauer
That was beautiful, Kerry! Thank you for taking the time to write and the time to share. When we go to the cemetery we always visit Sicily. Continued thoughts and prayers for you, Patrick, and your family.
Robin Norris
By Robin Norris
Beautifully said! For a mother of four little ones your words are always so touching and inspiring! Wow, God truly is using your situation and what you've been through in so many different ways. Thanks for sharing! God Bless!
Cheryl Imel
By Cheryl Imel
Amazing insight written in the most flowing and free description. When I think of your gift of writing I don't ever think of just you but I think of you and Sicily together...your connection with thought and words reveal your soul's connection with Sicily's soul and God. Thank you always for sharing!!! Your thoughts reminded me of three things that inspire me so much...2 Corinthians 4:18 "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." A quote "The bible says that right now we only know "in part" and after we're gone we'll know "in full. That makes more sense because it means our understanding will always have gaps and gaps are good because they leave room for God to fill in the spaces." -Bob Goff from book "Love Does" and my most very favorite sermon by John Piper that talks about the Glory of God in the sight of eternity...every second counts for him and nothing is wasted. http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/do-not-lose-heart
You just summed all that up...but I wanted to share because it is so cool when our insight matches with deep insight others have had...it is so real!!! Hugs to you for being so honest and open to God's plan for you!!! Beautiful!!
emily zeka
By
I read this with tears running down my face, very touching Kerry. Our family thinks of Sicily often, we miss her so much! It felt good to read this and hear from you! Thank you for sharing. Lots of prayers to you & your family.
Traci Hawks
By Traci
Kerry,
You have such a gift for describing unexplainable emotions in ways we all can understand. It's so good to read your words again. I'm so thankful you've found a degree of peace. As always, I'm praying for you all.
Glenda Jackson
By G.A.G.
Thank you dear friend. Always remember that God loves you very much and so do I.