Loss and Gain

When I woke up this morning I did not plan to be writing a blog post. Although I had been anticipating this day – and feeling many emotions regarding it, I did not think I had anything to say. What do you say on the anniversary of a loss? It is certainly not the type of anniversary to “celebrate”. If anything, it is just a reminder of what happened a year ago today. We lost Grant. My dear, sweet, feisty nephew. It was awful. It was painful. He was only four. Reliving the memories of that day isn’t exactly something I want to do. And I am not even going to begin to pretend like I know what it’s like to lose my child and how the last year has been for June and Michael. Or any other parents that have lost their little one.

This morning I was pulling laundry out of the dryer to fold, and pulled out a shirt I have seen many, many times. The words on it read, “If Grant can do cancer, you can do this.” I immediately got very emotional. Grant may not be here physically, but he is still so very much a part of how I live my life. His journey has taught me – and should show all of us – to view things differently.

Grant

Perspective. If anything, I have gained an entirely different perspective on life from little Grant. His may have been far too short, but it left a large impact. Make the most of each day. Make the most of each relationship. It also gave me a new perspective on loss. On pain and suffering. On understanding a little better how to not just sympathize, but empathize with others. I may not always know the right words to say, but my heart has been opened more and feels deeper because of Grant.

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Family. The day Grant passed away, we found out we were pregnant with Ruby. Very bittersweet, but Grant taught me to see my children and family differently. To cherish every moment. To spend more quality time together as a family. To love my husband more deeply. You never know when things can change or when you may no longer have them. Life passes too quickly. Cherish relationships and cherish family. Over this last year, it has be so hard to look at Jude and not think of Grant. He is two, the same age Grant was when he was diagnosed. They also have so many similar personality traits and interests – I swear they are kindred spirits! I would have loved to see them grow up together. Jude even just started pointing using his middle finger – the same thing Grant always did that made us laugh. These things that make me think of Grant remind me to hug a little tighter, read more bedtime stories together, get on the floor and play more, and make the most of the present. Not just with my kids, but to soak up more time with James too. Life is just far too short.

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^ Grant and Baby Jude  ^

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Strength. Again, if Grant can do cancer, you can do this. I still remember walking down the halls in the cancer wing of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and just losing it when I passed room after room and bed after bed holding the tiniest of bodies. Little children, babies even, in pain and fighting for their lives. Grant is my hero.

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But, for me, when I think of Grant’s journey and what it has taught me about strength. I think of mostly of June – and in no way am I overlooking Michael, but as a mother and female, that is who I relate to. When I think about today, as sad as it is for me already – I think about a mother’s love. About a mother’s pain and suffering when it comes to her children. And my heart aches for June and what those two+ years in the hospital were like and what this last year without her baby has been like. I have indeed been blessed by her strength and her faith. No doubt there are many dark moments behind closed doors, but I am in awe of how she has handled everything and I hope she knows how inspiring she has been to me and I am sure to many others. She is a rock. She reminds me that if she can do the last difficult four years of heartache, I can do whatever cards life deals me as well.

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Faith & Hope. Lastly, Grant’s journey strengthened my faith. My faith in people that reach out, love, serve, and support in times of need. And my faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. That because of Him, families can be together again. We will see Grant again. I know that. That hope makes the current burden of physical loss easier to bear.

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So today, when I didn’t think I had anything to say, I am grateful I came across that shirt in the laundry. I am grateful that it made me reflect on the many things gained out of a painful and still ever present loss. I am grateful for the happy memories – for his smile and cute little voice. That so much about Jude reminds of Grant in ways that make me smile. I am grateful that, in hard times, Grant has given me more hope and strength to know that – I can do this.

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Many hugs and prayers for peace going out to family today – And to those who are in the cancer battle or dealing with loss. xoxo

Past posts from Grant’s diagnosis and journey: Grace For Grant and Life During Chemo

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Grace for Grant | Life During Chemo

Time is an interesting thing. It never changes, yet this summer I feel like it’s sped up and slowed down both at the same time. Didn’t school just get out and suddenly August is right around the corner?! I’m sure I don’t stand alone when I admit that I have multiple to-do lists from the past months and have yet to accomplish the majority of it as planned or even at all. It can be frustrating. As I am learning over and over again though, life does not stick to your plan. And honestly, what a relief! Looking back, I’m glad that everything in my life has not gone as I had planned because if it had – I would not be where I am right now. And I know I am exactly where I should be right now. When it comes to time and life, there is a plan – but it’s not mine. Today I am feeling especially grateful to know that God, who is the author and creator of life, steps in and adjusts my priorities as He sees fit. He has a plan far greater than any of ours and when it takes over, just wait because you will never be disappointed in the end.

So what am I getting at? I have a lot going on in my head these days. As I sat down to gather my thoughts on the last couple of weeks, it hit me – – has it really been only a month since this “cancer” word came into our lives so personally?? And at the same time – – Wow, it’s only been a month. Back in June I would have thought I’d be complete tunnel vision right now and journaling strictly about pregnancy, my fat ankles & all of my worries about becoming a first time mom in only a couple of weeks. But life happens, and I am glad that this last month’s events have realigned my priorities and perspective to better prepare me for whatever lie ahead in my soon-to-be life as a mother. Unexpected bumps in the road often do that.

We were blessed as a family to be able to have ALL of the Gossling’s together on the 4th of July (See prior 4th of July post). Grant, June and Michael had spent two long weeks in the hospital and finally made it home the night of July 3rd. In just two weeks, Grant had undergone more surgeries and painful tests than any child his age should have to endure. Though answers were found and he was also able to begin the road to recovery and started round one of chemotherapy. Seeing little Grant after that first chemo cycle broke my heart. He was just that – little. He looked drained and tired. It was another eye-opener of the reality of the road ahead when Grant had to be admitted back into the hospital the very next day because of a fever. His blood counts were too low, so the next four days were spent at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

As soon as Grant made it back home, it was decided that a final family picture before his hair fell out was a must. The morning of the photos, Grant’s hair had already started the process. If I touched his head, it would come off on my hand. Our little guy was not in the best of moods for family pictures – which he has every right to be cranky! – but I’m satisfied with the morning’s captures. I prefer photos that speak truth instead of overly forced. There were frowns as well as smiles & it’s good to remember both.

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^Little Sydney. Uncle James is always giving kisses (which she secretly LOVES!)^

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

^…and a Big Sis Grant Cheeser!^

 Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

^Stick fights with little James were fun for a while. Grant tries to still monkey around the best he can^

Grace for Grant

grace for Grant

^He even bonked Mommy on the head!^

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^When tears come, Spidey and Mommy to the rescue^ (James & I laugh at the picture on the left because it requires a double take)

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^Grant really wasn’t thrilled with the picture taking that morning. Thank heavens for dum-dums though! The right shows his efforts at a cheeser for me^

Right after family pictures, Brenda arrived. She has been cutting Grant’s hair for a while, but this time was much more emotional. The reality is that everybody relates cancer with a bald head. At least I do. Seeing little 2 year old Grant already so frail and now lose his hair brought tears to my eyes. For me, it was another humbling moment of “this is really happening.”

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

^Brenda put on a superhero cape to make him more brave^

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

I’ve tried to put myself in June and Michael’s shoes. Accepting that your child has cancer is one thing, but with that comes the extended hospital stays, sleepless nights, managing three other children, trying to be there for them & help them understand, keeping up with work and your home, and trying to maintain a state of normalcy and find peace in the situation. It’s no wonder the phrase “One step at a time. One prayer at a time.” has become their motto.

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

I am grateful to be a part of this journey – To be a part of such a close-knit and faithful family. I feel that little Grant’s illness has brought us even closer together and closer to God… Not only our family, but friends and strangers as well. I am a firm believer that God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He knows us and watches over us  – – – Though it is usually through other people that he meets our needs and answers our prayers. The support and love shown to June, Michael, Grant & the entire family from people nation wide are a perfect example of this. It is a reminder to me that a huge part of this life is about reaching out, blessing & uplifting those around us.

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Uncle James decided to go under the shears for Grant as well. He doesn’t exactly have the prettiest of heads without hair, but that’s ok. Hairless is in his future, and so we first had to do a tribute to Grandpa Goose…

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

…Like father, like son…

Grace for Grant

^Here’s our remake of the infamous Geezer Cheeser!^

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Only four more of these three week chemo cycles left (trying to stay positive) with round two starting this coming Monday. One step at a time though. After these chemotherapy cycles there’s more chemo and a lengthy & rough stem cell transplant coming. I cannot fathom what it takes for Michael and June to keep their calm when spending so many days and nights in those small hospital rooms. This is a long road, and I admire them for dealing with the situation so well.

The family has been blessed to be able to remain at home since July 9th… so we’re going on a full week now! Grant’s head has lost much more of the few stubbly hairs left. His blood counts have risen and that brings more joy to these days at home. There will be many ups and downs in the future though. Come Monday, the chemo starts again and there will be less smiles from our little Monkey.

Going back to time and plans… Cancer was definitely not in the plan for this summer. Or ever really. Though I will accept it because it has already been an incredible growing experience for me. Hardships mold and shape us into better people even though we may not see the results for a while. This battle isn’t even directly mine, yet my eyes have been opened to a more eternal perspective of God’s plan, to the vitality of faith in my daily life, and the blessings of cultivating a desire to selflessly serve and sacrifice on behalf of others. I’m about to have a baby – technically any day now! –  and I’d say that having this fresh on my mind couldn’t be a better way to prepare for parenthood.

There was a time in my late teen years that the following verse took on a profound and very personal meaning for me…

Joshua 1:9  – –    Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. 

I had a psychologist explain to me that the word “dismayed” meant allowing all of the negative “what if’s” to creep in. It is dwelling on the worst, the glass half empty instead of half full. I have learned that where there is faith, there cannot be fear. Where there is faith, there is peace and comfort.

In the past month I’ve seen tremendous strength, great courage, and unwavering faith that God is present in this fight against cancer. I’ve seen more unity, more prayer, more encouragement, and more smiles than you’d think would accompany such a heavy burden. I’m not saying it’s been easy. I look at Michael and June and see complete exhaustion sometimes. The sadness and frustration exist. They’re expected. But as the quote goes and rings even more true as time passes, “The future is as bright as our faith.”

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

xoxo

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Gossling Family 4th of July

I love the 4th of July! As far as holidays go, it is ranked up at the top right after Christmas in my book. Why? Well, Happy Birthday, America! Duh! I am blessed to live in such a country that has so many freedoms and opportunities. I am grateful to those who came before me, who suffered and fought to make my current lifestyle possible. Our Constitution is indeed inspired and…We the People should be proud to be Americans! I know I am.

On the 4th there is no gift giving or exchanging. Awesome! There is summer weather, parades, festive gatherings, pie, watermelon, meat fresh off the grill, pool parties, picnics, friends, family, fun, and FIREWORKS! What is not to love? Especially when everything is decked out in red, white, & blue?!

This year, the fourth crept up on us because life happens & it has been one busy summer. We were terribly blessed though to spend the day with the entire Gossling family together. Weather was perfect – seriously, the Georgia humidity did not take over! – food was delicious, James and Uncle Adam drove up to the Carolinas for fireworks the day before, and the day’s company was more than ideal. …Our biggest blessing was that little Grant, Michael & June finally made it home from the hospital the night before (after Grant’s first round of chemotherapy). Getting to see them outside of the hospital and all together as a family made for a perfect Fourth.

James and I started the day by waking up in time to catch the “neighborhood” Tractor Parade. We’d never seen it before and weren’t quite sure what to expect, so we met over on the road in front of Michael’s property at 8:30am. I had been playing Neil Diamond’s “America” on repeat all morning up until this point – which James LOVED. Haha! This is my 4th of July jam!

Gossling Farms

 

4th of July

Anyway… Michael, little James, and Grant joined us out front waiting on the parade. We saw it pass up the street on the corner, but not turn our way. Turns out that we wouldn’t see the parade pass for about another 45 minutes and that we were the LAST house on the route. By the time it made it our way – there were only 2 vehicles left in the parade! We will be better prepared for next year. At least the boys enjoyed burning sparklers while waiting & the girls showed up in their pj’s in time to collect the candy thrown during the 15 second drive-by parade.

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4th of July

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4th of July

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Philip and Shellie’s house for the family get-together. The evening was laid back and very enjoyable.

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4th of July

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^boy cousins.^

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4th of July

^James, me, & our 36 week baby belly!^

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4th of July

^Uncle Michael lifting up Sam to catch the parachute poppers^

Seeing how much Grant’s physical appearance had changed after only “two weeks” of having cancer in his life was eye opening. His little body was so frail and his face had thinned out so much. Chemo is no joke. We were happy to see some smiles throughout the evening though – especially during the fireworks.

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4th of July

4th of July

The kids had a blast with the sparklers, fountains, smoke bombs, & other goodies!

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4th of July

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4th of July

4th of July

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^He always has ideas up his sleeve & sure enough, Grandpa Goose got his minions to dance around the strobe fireworks with him^

4th of July

4th of July

It was a Happy 4th of July.

Let freedom ring! And Happy Birthday, ‘Merica!

xoxo

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Grace for Grant

About a week ago, James and I were babysitting our nieces and nephews that live next door. The kids LOVE their Uncle James…especially the boys, who spend the majority of their time jumping on, rolling and wrestling with him. I’m always amused by little Baby Grant – who is 2 and a half – and will literally climb up and wrap his legs around James’ neck and come out unscathed when he’s tossed off onto the couch! It supports why his parents and family call him “monkey.” 🙂  The night was filled with giggles and endless energy and, of course, no one got to sleep until way past their bedtime.

A few days later, Father’s Day, the Gossling clan came over to celebrate the day together. The kids played and ran around, Grant included; though it was noticed that Grant would whine and say “ouch” whenever he was picked up. It seemed that maybe he had fallen and hurt a rib, his arm, or maybe his lymph nodes were a little swollen because he had been under the weather the day or so before.

June took Grant to the doctor for an x-ray to see what was wrong on Wednesday. The x-ray led to blood tests – which confirmed that Grant’s platelet count was entirely too low. The doctors informed June and Michael that this was an immediate concern for cancer and they needed to have him sent to the hospital right away for further testing.

Grace for Grant

I am astounded and humbled by how quickly a person’s life can change. And, in this case, it is far more than one person’s that has been changed forever.

Grace for Grant

Since the first doctor visit just this last Wednesday, the doctors have found a large mass on little Grant’s adrenal glands and another abnormality on the bone in his arm. At his age, Grant is now only the third case of high risk, stage 4 neuroblastoma admitted to the Aflac Cancer wing at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta this year.

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Our hearts have been broken and constantly poured out in prayer since we’ve received the news. To try and put myself in June and Michael’s shoes is incomprehensible; though they say that the tremendous reaching out from hundreds in just the last couple of days has been a blessing to help lift the burden they now carry.

Grant was supposed to go into surgery for a biopsy this last Friday, but it was postponed until Monday due to a delay in him receiving blood in time. What a blessing that has been because it allowed a break from all of the testing and poking – to just breath… and better soak in all that has happened in such a short period of time. James and I were able to spend our afternoon with Grant, June, and Michael yesterday at the hospital.

I wasn’t sure how I would handle our visit. Walking through the wing to get to Grant’s room had me tearing up as I saw little babies in hospital gowns being pulled around in red wagons in the halls to some puppies that had been brought to cheer them up. Being able to see June and Michael finally since the news was calming and reassuring for me. For being in a more difficult place than I can imagine, they are both so faithful. Though they shared how heart wrenching it was each time they had to hold down their screaming baby for him to be “poked” or sedated for testing – they also spoke very positively and gratefully – – regarding the path that was paved leading up to this event, how they had been prepared, about how God has a plan, and about the flood of support, love, and prayers being offered up on their behalf. Visitors, comments, and love coming from family, friends, and strangers are keeping them strong in this rough time.

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

It really is incredible how little Grant is bringing people together and how good hearted the world is. You can read more details about it and Grant’s story with the daily little miracles/updates on his facebook page: Grace for Grant – it is kept up by his parents, Michael and June.

Grace for Grant

It was hard to see Grant in so much pain. He would cry as soon as June got up from his side in bed. He didn’t want anyone to touch him.

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

His body is weak and sore – they have a “Fall Risk” band around his ankle because even walking is not easy or even possible at this point.

Grace for Grant

I was impressed at how well he did when the nurse came in to check on him and give him more pain medications. He only fussed when they lifted his arm to take his temperature.

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^^ even Spidey got his temperature taken ^^

 

Though the majority of the afternoon Grant was in pain and fussy – He allowed his favorite Uncle James to touch him and was able to get some smiles out of him, if only for a brief minute or two! These photos warm my heart…

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

 

 

Grant will go into surgery tomorrow. They will do a biopsy to confirm whether the stage 4 mass in his abdomen is mature or still immature and prone to rapid spreading. We are hoping it’s mature (which means it won’t be spreading quickly). If the tumor is a solid mass and easily removed, they’ll go ahead and take it out during surgery – but they said not to count on it. Though we already know Grant is high risk – these upcoming tests and biopsy will confirm exactly where all the cancer has spread and what types of treatments will be needed. Soon we will have more answers. Which also means that soon Michael and June will explain to their other three children (9, 7, and 4 years old) Grant’s situation. Up until now, they visit and know that Grant is “sick” but do not know the extent of it. They wanted to wait until more was confirmed. Using the “cancer” word will be hard because their beloved family dog currently has cancer and the kids all know that any day now he may be gone. When it rains – it pours …but God is always there.

Grace for Grant

^^ “hello?!?!” on the foot phone ^^

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Grace for Grant

Neuroblastoma has no known cause – but starts in the nerves (usually around the adrenal glands) and can spread to the bones, skin, liver, etc. It is not very common – but occurs most often in young children/babies.

Prayers and thoughts are needed and appreciated.

For updates: GRACE for GRANT

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x’s & o’s

 

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