About this blog

Caiden Hammond was a normal, healthy little 16 month old boy. Active and brown as a berry from playing in the summer sun with his 3 older siblings, no one knew a tumor was developing in his little brain. On September 16 about 12 am mommy heard strange noises on the baby monitor. She rushed to his side to find him having a seizure. His body rigid…his eyes unresponsive… his mouth foaming. He was rushed to Memorial Hospital and the seizure was stabilized and a CT scan performed. Due to an “irregularity” on the CT scan, he was airlifted to Hershey Medical Center Children’s Hospital. There, they performed an MRI scan, and the parents finally learned the devastating news of Caiden’s tumor. Emergency surgery was scheduled on September 17 to remove the plum sized tumor, that with cysts and liquid, consumed a peach sized area of Caiden’s brain. Remarkably, Caiden only lost some muscle function on his right side. His speech centers and intelligence remained intact, and a subsequent MRI showed that the entire tumor was removed.


For the next several days, the family then waited for the news, that filtered in dribs and drabs. It was definitely cancer. Was it a PNET tumor as the surgeon conjectured? Or something rarer and more dangerous? The physical and occupational therapists came. The oncologist came. The neurosurgeon came. But the answer they needed was still in a lab being analyzed.


At last the news came. The tumor was a particularly nasty malignancy known as atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor or AT-RT. The statistics don’t look good for Caiden, but he has some wonderful things going in his favor. He is strong and healthy in his body, and they were able to get all the tumor out with the surgery. It works against him that he is under 3 years old. Physicians fear using Radiation Therapy because it destroys cognitive ability in one so young, but fear not using Radiation because the tumor will metastasize without it.


Caiden goes back to the hospital October 4th to have a spinal tap (to check his spinal fluid) and to test his bone marrow for cancer. He will have his access (a tube that is like a semi- permanent iv) put in his chest. Then he starts chemo on October 5, his mommy’s birthday. He will stay at the hospital during chemo and until his blood count is up. Head Start II will be the treatment protocol. It will include chemo for 4 months, stem cell therapy for 2 months, and proton therapy at 6 months. We hope this is the correct choice for Caiden. He will undergo regular MRI's to check for new tumors and if one would come up this could all change. Up until now, every aspect of Caiden’s treatment has been in the care of God through the many prayers of the faithful. Please continue to keep Caiden in all your prayers.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Baby steps

June 16th Caidens NG tube (feeding tube) was really bothering him so I made the choice to remove it for a day or two to allow healing. Today is the 5th day without a feeding tube! I am feeding him through his mouth with a 5 or 10 ml syringe. I take some all organic food (fruit mainly for now) and his supplements, blend them until creamy and feed him 1 ml at a time. Its very time consuming but HE IS EATING, BY MOUTH WAHOO... LITTLE VICTORIES.

I am still struggling daily with a fear, pain, and hopelessness that consumes me. I don't think I will ever recover from this one. Too many hits I guess. My only fulfillment comes from the little victories and knowing today he is with me and nothing can take that away. I wish I could cry and scream, perhaps then some of the pain could leave, but I am holding everything together I can't fall apart. Everyone says he looks so good... but my baby has 42 stitches in his bald little head, scalpel incisions on both sides of his neck and 3 on his chest. Life is too hard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Disheartening

Eleven weeks ago we came home from transplant marking the end of our inpatient stay at the hospital. However we are still "inpatient" at home. Caiden ANC hovers around 1000 which is still slightly neutropenic. His immune globulin was around 300 prior to a transfusion of IVIG on Thursday. A healthy persons ANC is between 1800-7000 and a normal immune globulin is 1100-2100. All this means we can't really leave the house or have visitor without extreme caution.

Yesterday Angelina had her kindergarten placement meeting and when the teacher asked her back to the room I told her I would have to come in and clean prior to Angelina's assessment. So I went in the library with my Lysol, Clorox wipes and hands sanitizer and cleaned the table, pencils, chair and counting toys. I felt like a nut case. I explained to the teacher the situation and she was very understanding but still...

Caiden is currently on antibiotics for congestion that the doctors feared could become strep or pneumonia because of his compromised immune system. He is still on chemo and will start a biological agent derived from vitamin A on Monday. They say it can cause irritability, headaches, rash and extreme sensitivity to the sun. I am continuing his all natural homemade formula and supplement program and am hoping it will start helping boost his immune system and prevent some of the discomfort.

Everyone asks how he is doing and I always say the same thing, "as well as he can be" what else can I say. Really, the fact is the only time we will know how he is REALLY doing is the day of the MRI, which is scheduled for June 29th. I pray every night as I kiss and rub his head that the tumor isn't right below. Being the mother of a baby with cancer is like living everyday being tortured. Tortured by the memories of the past, tortured by the current pain and discomfort of your baby and tortured by what is to come in the future.

May 18th another AT/RT cancer warrior lost her battle. She was diagnosed one month before Caiden. We love you Madison. I pray for her mommy Amy that she can survive the pain. My heart has not stopped hurting since I received the news.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making changes...saving Caiden!

I've joined the preservative free, no artificial hormone all organic lifestyle. Caiden has been on hospital recommended formula for months and has continued vomiting daily despite several formula changes. May 5th I started making my own formula (all natural of course) and he hasn't thrown up at all! He even has been eating by mouth a little more! I really believe there is something to all this, I've been reading about cancer cures and prevention and there is a ton of information on how the RIGHT foods can prevent and cure cancer.

CHECK THIS OUT

By Dr. Jerry Lee Hoover N.D.
Cancer is a uniquely western problem. One out of three Americans die of cancer, it used to be one out of four.

WHY? FAULTY DIET IS A MAJOR CAUSE
In 1979 a special report was issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, citing more than 2,000 scientific studies from around the world, and compiled with the advice of more than 2,000 doctors, nutritionist and biochemists, who concluded that the normal American diet is dangerous. Of the 2.1 million Americans who died that year, the report said that 1.5 million died from diseases associated with diet. The report stressed that most people should reduce the consumption of fat, especially saturated fats, such as from eggs, butter, or untrimmed red meats. (1)

Researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia did a careful follow up on 200 persons who underwent a "spontaneous remission of cancer". They found that 87% of those persons had switched diets, usually to a vegetarian diet.

Recently a link between excessive meat eating and cancer has been explained by Dr. Williard J. Visek a research scientist at Cornell University. The problem, according to Dr. Visek, is ammonia the carcinogenic by-product of meat digestion.

Although cancer is increasing at an alarming rate and it can be prevented, by keeping our body’s immune system up. Much poisoning of the body has been caused by the use of improper foods, such as meat, dairy products, white sugar, white flour, white rice, along with the use of liquor, tobacco, coffee, soda and all other denatured foods. Good wholesome food builds good blood, where as unwholesome foods builds a poor quality of blood. Cancer will not develop where there is a pure blood stream and the body’s immune system is functioning at its optimum.

For years the National Cancer Institute held fast to the principal that diet had nothing to do with cancer. Recent overwhelming evidence has forced them to change their mind. They now even recommend that one consume certain fruits and vegetables in order to prevent cancer. “Fruits, such as oranges and bananas, and leafy green and yellow vegetables, including carrots and broccoli, all contain cancer preventing vitamins and fiber, and should be a part of everyone’s daily diet”, says the National Cancer Institute.

To prevent and cure cancer we must keep our body’s immune system high. This is done by following eight simple rules that I will briefly cover here. Lots of fresh air, using lots of pure water, eating lots of wholesome natural foods, getting sufficient rest, moderate daily exercise, getting outside in the sun everyday, being temperate in all we eat and do and having faith in God.

Every one of us has cancer cells within us. Cancer has to be treated by building the body’s immune system then the body’s white blood cells, etc. will attack and destroy the cancer from within. Cancer cells are weaker than normal cells and will not get out of control if our immune system is high.


HOW DO WE FIGHT CANCER
There is no one drug, herb, or treatment that will kill cancer. Cancer has to be treated by building the body’s immune system. Listed here are some natural ways to help build the immune system.

ELIMINATE SUGAR AND JUNK FOODS
Eating white sugar will paralyze and hinder your white blood cells from fighting off an infection. Eating 25 teaspoons of sugar will paralyze 92% of your white blood cells for approximately five hours. The average American eats over 42 teaspoons of sugar per day. For example: A banana split has 24 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 oz coke has approx. 8-10 teaspoons, a piece of white bread 2 teaspoons. It must be remembered that sugar or empty calories and junk foods interfere with the working of the body’s immune system.

ELIMINATE HIGH FAT DIET
Diets high in refined fats have long been associated with increased cancer risk. Breast cancer is more frequent in women on diets high in both saturated fats, (whole milk), and in animal fat. (2) A low fat diet not only prevents breast cancer but increases the survival of women who already have breast cancer. (3)

EAT A TOTALLY RAW DIET
This is or will be the hardest single thing to follow, but it is very important. Only raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and sprouted grains are what you will be eating until your cancer is in remission. Nothing cooked, no cooked beans, bread, potatoes, etc. Sounds tough, but let me tell you this is much easier then taking chemotherapy and having your hair fall out, vomiting, being weak, etc. And , of course chemotherapy will not build up your immune system. Instead it will tear it down. Raw food is live food and possesses the highest nutritive value. It is full of vitamins, mineral, enzymes, phytochemicals, etc. Cooked food is dead food, plant any seed and it will grow. Cook the seed and then plant it and it will not grow, because it’s life principle has been destroyed. Place cancer cells in a cooked media and they will proliferate. Now place the cancer cells in a raw matter and they will disappear! This astounding fact is known to the Cancer society, but the public was never informed.

OR THIS

by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

War Against Good Nutrition

While the "war against cancer" is being fought with the wet noodle of chemotherapy, we are observing a significant increase in some cancers, such as malignant melanoma, multiple myeloma, and prostate cancer. Our population is heavier and as cancer-prone as ever. While we are pouring billions of dollars into drug companies and cancer centers, millions of people continue to die from what should be a preventable disease.

Almost nothing has been done to teach people about the power of nutritional excellence to protect against cancer. In fact, the media regularly reports that nutrition does not affect cancer. For example, a recent New York Times (G. Kolata, September 27,2005,"Science Times") article reported that diet had only a "hypothetical" relationship with cancer. This ludicrous pronouncement was based on studies that showed that perimenopausal women who eat less fat still have high cancer rates. The Times evidently does not understand that modestly reducing fat and eating more chicken and pasta is not an anti-cancer program.

We are losing the war on cancer, and our government policies are actually worsening the problem. With all of the recent advances in science pointing to phytonutrient deficiency as the major cause of cancer, our efforts should focus on prevention; educating the public about proper diet and nutrition. Millions of lives can be saved. We also can eliminate the tragic consequences and family trauma of living with cancer---diagnoses, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapies, suffering, and premature death, which come from the cancer and very often from the treatment.

Avoiding Cancer
Your body is a self-repairing and self-healing machine. Human cells have all the features necessary to protect themselves from chemical damage to their DNA that eventually results in carcinogenic changes. A cancer cell is essentially a normal cell whose DNA has been damaged to the point that it can no longer control its replication. The process that is creating our modern epidemic of cancer is twofold. One aspect involves the exposure of our cells to damaging stresses such as chemical carcinogens, radon, acrylamides, and high levels of saturated and trans fats and animal protein. At the same time, we have a woefully insufficient dietary intake of plant-derived nutrients, which renders our cells incapable of functioning to their fullest potential for repair and maintenance.

Our cells have built-in, powerful mechanisms to remove or destroy toxic substances, inhibit DNA damage, repair broken DNA cross-links, and remove cells that are injured or abnormal before they become cancerous. In recent years, the term phytochemicals has been used to refer to the thousands of newly-discovered nutrients supplied by plants that---in addition to vitamins and minerals---are necessary for maximal immune system protection and for the promotion of cellular detoxification and repair.

Most of our knowledge about what constitutes the optimal cancer prevention diet comes from both human population (epidemiological) studies and animal studies. Populations that have a high intake of natural, unrefined plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans always have a low incidence of cancer, proportional to the intake of these phytochemcal-rich plant foods.

Even though other factors such as chemicals, pollution, and smoking play a role in cancer etiology, the scientific literature still illustrates that a better diet offers dramatic protection even against nondietary cancer promoters. For example, the Fiji Islands (where smoking rates are high) still has a dramatically lower incidence of lung cancer than Hawaii (where smoking rates are lower). This protection against lung cancer even in heavily smoking Fiji Islanders was shown to be the result of the high intake of green vegetables in Fiji.4

Examining data from numerous epidemiological studies, the World Cancer Research Fund concluded that the evidence that fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of oral, esophageal, lung, stomach, colon, pancreatic, bladder, and breast cancer was convincing. No single substance in a plant-based diet accounts for this relationship; rather, it is the synergistic effect of multiple phytochemical compounds (which number in the thousands).

The National Cancer Institute recommends eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. However, scientific studies suggest that more is better and that much, much more is much, much better at reducing cancer risk. It is a national disgrace that very few Americans follow this very minimal recommendation to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Cruciferous Vegetables
While fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients, the consumption of vegetables is more helpful in reducing cancer because they contain much higher amounts of cancer-protective compounds-- especially green vegetables. Among these green vegetables, the cruciferous family has demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects. Isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are perhaps the best studied, have been shown to provide protection against environmental carcinogen exposure by inducing detoxification pathways, thereby neutralizing potential carcinogens.

These vegetables also contain indole-3- carbinol (I3C). Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing estrogen activity. Important recent studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables and the compounds they contain can do the following:


halt the growth of breast cancer cells;5
dramatically reduce the risk of colon cancer;6
prevent the replication of prostate cancer cells and induce death of cancerous cells;7
inhibit the progression of lung cancer.8


What makes these studies even more fascinating is the discovery of the gene/diet interaction, which has shown that high intake of greens and cruciferous vegetables provides the food factors necessary to interact with--and prevent-- genetic defects from creating disease. This gene/diet interaction activates a battery of many genes, initiating DNA repair and other protection mechanisms.

These cellular repair and detoxification mechanisms are most powerfully induced by eating a mixture of both raw and cooked cruciferous plant foods. Some of the compounds are water soluble and heat stable, and absorption is increased when cooked, for example, in a soup. Other critical ITCs are heat sensitive and are better transmitted in the raw form.

Carotenoids & Polyphenols
Population studies show an association between high dietary intake of carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables and reduced risk of prostate, breast, and head and neck cancers. A high dietary intake of fruits and vegetables provides a spectrum of carotenoids, including alphacarotene, gamma-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, and lycopene.

Vegetable juices (carrot, tomato, spinach, and other greens) represent a particularly potent form of carotenoids. Scientists have demonstrated that drinking carrot juice significantly reduces free radical damage to genes. Tomato juice and cooked tomatoes rich in lycopene and other potent antioxidants help reduce the oxidation of the "bad" LDL cholesterol and also have been shown to dramatically help protect against cancer. Carotenoid-rich extracts of carrots and tomatoes have been shown to substantially inhibit the early stages of liver cancer in animals.

Fruits also contain various key phytochemicals. For example, resveratrol, found in grapes, has been reported to exert a variety of anticancer effects. Studies have demonstrated that resveratrol causes growth inhibition of human colon and breast cancer cells. Ellagic acid, found in strawberries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, is another polyphenol that has demonstrated anticarcinogenic potential in animal studies.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blood infection

Wow what a stressful week! First I want to share some great news; the nurse had misinformed me on the diagnosis that I had shared with every one of the dreaded Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The results were still inconclusive when she shared that diagnosis (although I didn’t know that). The two bacteria have some similar traits so that is what the doctors were suspecting and sharing with everyone at rounds. It turns out that it is a much nicer bacterium called Klebsiella which is commonly found in the mouth and gut. However it did make it to his bloodstream which caused him to become very ill with Klebsiella Sepsis. We are now back home with an oral antibiotic and Caiden is recovering nicely. Thanks to everyone for your prayers, they worked! All our love!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The New Normal

We’ve been home 5 weeks now and I am starting to become accustomed to the new normal. Life is hard, just as hard as I expected. Caiden needs almost 24 hour care, with many med’s, nightly chemo, transplant requirements/restrictions and tube feeds. Having a newborn is easier in comparison, but Alaura, Shay and Lina are very helpful most of the time. Caiden still eats nothing by mouth but will drink a little sometimes through a straw or a sippy cup. He has had a change of heart about baths and cries incessantly every time someone is taking a bath or shower. He still has his Broviac so no baths for him just yet. I do wrap him in a hefty bag and let him play with Lina from the dry side of the tub and that almost works (no fooling him). The children and I take turns chasing Chubby (Caiden) around untangling him from his feeding tube and/or attempting to entertain a toddler attached to an IV pole. It is really quit comical! It’s funny because we are running around like maniacs but everyone’s happy to do it because we are all together. We are mainly home or car bound and don’t go to public places for fear of a germ that could harm Chub. I fear I am developing a phobia. I’m afraid, terrified really of someone bringing an illness in and sending him back to the hospital. So I never ask for help although I could really use it. Its ok because when I’m busier I’m happier. It’s when everything is quiet and I close my eyes… I see that night in the hospital or I’ll see my fears being realized. Yes, busy is much better for me. My updates won’t be very often for now because Lord knows I barely have time to think much less write... but assume no news is good news. Thank you for being with us. Hopefully only recovery is in front of us now.

Hugs

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Words can't describe

Words... how do you put into words the pain of a child laying in bed with blisters throughout his mouth, throat, stomach and spiking fevers? How do you write the way you feel when words can't even describe it? Oh it hurt to even try.

Saturday morning the mucositis finally hit and hit hard. He immediately was placed on a morphine drip. He hurt so badly I couldn't put him down long enough to use the bathroom. His little hands would grab me in desperation and he would scream in pain if I even tried to repositioned myself in bed.

My poor baby also has blisters all over his left ear from the thiotepa, hopefully they don't come up anywhere else. God, did I not bathe him well enough??? Why?

Today we increased he's morphine considerably and it seems to help. I am still holding him but he is sleeping comfortably in my arms. When he is sick like this I feel like I could break down at any time but I know if he can fight through the pain then so can I.

I have been struggling a lot over the last few weeks with the end of Chemo looming. I was having a hard time understanding this newly founded stress and sadness, until I read this from another cancer warrior mom, Tomika Gamble. Here is what she wrote:

"September 14, 2010 was the beginning of the last round of chemotherapy for my son Isaiah. Isaiah was diagnosed with pleuropulmonary blastoma, Type 3 in January 2010. The entire process of finding out one random day, after many healthy days, that your child has a life-threatening illness, and going through round after round of chemotherapy, along with rounds of radiation therapy, is draining to say the least.

I was newly pregnant when my son was diagnosed, and no one understood, but it seemed as if throughout the entire process I was holding my breath. I would count down the rounds of chemo, anxiously waiting for the twelfth and final round. Little did I know that the completion of chemotherapy would be a difficult time for me.

When round twelve of chemotherapy was complete, I suddenly felt all the pain and stress that I had been hiding from my son for the entire year hit my body all at once. I ached from head to toe. I had hidden the pain because I could not let it affect my son who was battling nor the son who was growing inside of me. So after chemo I was able to breathe, momentarily.

Then suddenly it hit me, “What if it comes back?” “What if he has to keep going to the hospital and getting more ouchies?” I found myself being afraid to breathe again. Every day that passes I look at my son and thank God for how far he has come. I pray multiple times daily for his health. I pray that he will grow into a wonderful healthy young man. I pray that he will never have to endure the pain of cancer again.

The entire time my son was being treated, I could rest assured that we were fighting the cancer. Once treatment stopped it frightened me because it felt as if we were no longer fighting. Each day I find myself thinking about the “what if’s”. My son has come so far since last January and the thought of him having to go through anymore pain scares me. I just want him to be able to just be a kid.

In mid-January we were scheduled to visit with our son’s oncologist to discuss the results of his follow-up cat scan. I was worried. You see, my son has to get post chemotherapy check-up scans every three months. The first month and a half were care free and simply wonderful, because we were able to live. We celebrated his 4th birthday, we went to Disney World, we spent Christmas at home as a family, we simply had a great time. Then as we got closer to month three, I began to stress a little. My son got his scans, and then we had an appointment with the doctor in order to receive the results. Quite frankly I was scared out of my mind. I am now realizing that this is the life of a mother of a child who is battling cancer. Every day is battle, either a physical one or a mental one. That day was a mental one for me. I found myself succumbing to the “what if’s”.

Fortunately, today at this exact moment, I am no longer an emotional wreck. Today, I am okay because his scans came back with great results. So today, we will carry on and live. We will live, laugh, and love until we get closer to the next scan, when I know I will once again stress. I will stress because that is what I do as a mother.

The terrible thing about cancer is that it changes your life completely. I think differently now. I worry more, but I also love more. Cancer has broken me, but it has also made me stronger and better. I no longer sweat the small things, and I do my best to live each day as if it’s our last. Today I will read my Bible, and I will be positive. The best advice that I can give is for you to do the same! Make today a good one!"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Transplant Two

Here we are again with transplant number two. We are through the baths every six hours, thank goodness. Tuesday he will get his stem cells back and then its just a waiting game until his counts recover enough to go home.

I believe we have come to a final decision on radiation. After much research by Caidens Doctor and myself we have decided not to radiate Caiden because of the high risk of brain damage due to the location of the tumor bed and risk for radiation related cancer in the future. We hope this is the best choice for Caiden, I can't describe how afraid I am and I can only hope I don't live to regret this decision.

Soon we will be ending this phase of treatment and will embark on the new challenge of rebuilding our life incorporating out-patient chemo and the daily challenges of four children, one with extensive medical needs. I am so afraid, how will I accomplish all of this?

Life is forever changed for my children and I. :(