Tag Archives: Anna Marie Maxwell's Cancer Journey

Anna Marie’s Latest Update From Home

Anna Marie shares her thoughts on being back at home. Love, Sarah

What an almost unbelievable feeling it was to actually hear I would get my last chemo and be coming home! A huge thank you to my parents for packing my suitcases for me the night before leaving for the airport at 4 AM. I should have packed sooner… but typical “me” fashion, I didn’t think it would take very long (those who know me well are probably laughing right now). Reality is, I had a LOT of stuff to fit in my suitcases (I didn’t realize I had accumulated more while out there!) and I am thankful that my mom is a very gifted packer; because if left to me, I think I would have ended up leaving a lot behind. They went so above and beyond to make my time out there as special and relaxing as possible, under the circumstances, and I’m very grateful to them for making the chemo out there possible.

It was overwhelming to get close to home and see Gigi and almost the entire Maxwell family assembled with welcome signs and balloons. Two new Maxwells joined our ranks while I was gone, and it was special to see Jesse’s wife, Anna, and John and Chelsy’s little Elliot amongst the welcoming crew! Cheers and laughter mingled with happy tears. It was SO good to see everyone again, and I felt so loved with the effort they all put into my welcome.

The children were bursting with stories and things to show me. Even Elizabeth took my hand and led me through the house showing me the little award signs Aunt Mary made for each of the children (Elizabeth’s says #1 snuggler 🙂 ). It’s sweet how much more Elizabeth is talking, and it’s neat to see ways the older four have all grown. They’re becoming great helpers, too! I’ve loved the snuggles, story times, singing times, etc. Of course, all the children were anxious to lavish their loving attention on Simon Peter, whose life for the last three+ months has been in a home of four adults. He has adjusted well and seems to enjoy all the little people pals. One of his favorite things to do is lie on the floor and kick his feet – and it is pretty cute when his siblings decide to join him. 🙂

To be very transparent, the first few days at home were more emotion-laden for me than I imagined they would be. I was disappointed to find myself crying so often. I think somehow coming home, all the emotions of the last twelve months hit me, combined with the fact that I’m on some hormone therapy and my energy and blood levels were probably at an all-time low. Once I realized what was happening and I started “focusing on my thoughts, not my feelings” (as encouraged in the Quieting A Noisy Soul Bible study I’ve been doing), things started getting better. I’m sure it also helped that I got rested up, too. Physical and spiritual well-being definitely go hand-in-hand in many ways. But God’s grace is sufficient for each need if I humbly accept it!

We met with the medical oncologist in Kansas City on Tuesday. We liked him in person as much as we did on our phone consult. He was supportive of our general approach so far; to the point of saying it’s exactly what he would have recommended (surgery followed by chemo). Right now we are waiting to hear from the financial coordinator at the hospital’s cancer center who is working on my care plan before we can schedule treatments. The plan is to start treatment in the next week or two. Currently the plan is that the treatments will primarily be the newly-announced subcutaneous injections that I should be able to do myself.

It was interesting to hear that the oncologist thinks my blood counts will stay in the lower range while I’m on the anti-HER2 therapy (through April). There’s another oral HER2 blocker I’ll probably be on for another year (so through April 2022) and I don’t know what effects that will have. But it definitely seems like I’ll be somewhat immune-compromised for the foreseeable future, which complicates trying to figure out what our socialization looks like. It seems like we have a lot of decisions and things like that kind of in the air right now, so we appreciate prayer for wisdom.

The cancer center our oncologist works at is associated with the hospital where Simon Peter was born, so it was neat to end up right near the same exit we came out six months ago with our little baby! What a journey this has been… from that exit, to New York, to Washington, and back again. God has been holding us up in every place, and I know He will continue to hold us up wherever else this journey leads us.

Love,
Anna Marie

“The eternal God is thy refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms…”
Deuteronomy 33:27

Anna Marie’s Homecoming

This afternoon, we welcomed our Anna Marie and Simon Peter home after 14 long weeks! Mary planned a surprise welcome home event which most of the family was able to gather for.

Excitement builds!
The group ready
Here she comes!

Tears were shed as Anna Marie and crew pulled into the driveway. We’re so very grateful for her safe arrival home. The flights went great, Simon Peter did superb, and Anna Marie didn’t have nosebleeds.

Nathan and Melanie’s crew brought balloons (and they made the sign Tina and Abby held), and Elissa’s crew wore pink ribbons in honor of Anna Marie’s journey. Mary made the sign on the garage with Ruthie and Lydia Sunday.

Anna Marie’s state is very fragile, so we kept our distance and didn’t hug her, even though it would have been wonderful.

Rice Krispy treats!

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness,
and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:15

Anna Marie Coming Home Tomorrow!

Y’all, really good news from Anna Marie this afternoon! Love, Sarah

It’s official: We are flying home tomorrow! Praising the Lord!

After a bit of a roller coaster with blood levels, and a meeting with our oncologist, I am getting my final treatment here at the cancer center. It worked out to actually be better to fly immediately after chemo rather than Friday after my blood levels have a chance to drop further from treatment; so tomorrow morning, my parents are taking my sister Sarah, Simon Peter, and me to the airport early tomorrow morning for our 6:30 flight and we should be reunited with everyone by early afternoon! I’m so excited and grateful, not just to be heading home, but that this phase of treatment is concluded.

My immune system is definitely low, and I’ve still been dealing with nosebleeds. So prayer requests would be for health protection and no nosebleeds during travel!

Thank you so much for all of the amazing prayer support!

With joy,
Anna Marie 

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,
and thy faithfulness every night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

Anna Marie Update: Delayed Trip Home

Anna Marie shares her update which is a twist no one wanted, but we trust the Lord! Love, Sarah

Anna Marie and Simon Peter

Well, we faced another delay yesterday. My platelets (the blood cells responsible for clotting) dropped significantly this past week to the point that it was safest to hold off on one of the chemo medications (the one that particularly impacts those blood cells). My oncologist said that typically those blood levels would climb back up fairly quickly after not getting that drug this week, and so he would anticipate my levels being good enough next week to get that final dose and then able to fly home on Friday, the 24th. Though disappointed with the extra week, I can’t say I was really surprised because I’ve been getting nosebleeds randomly this week, and my parents have especially been noticing my energy levels are lower, too.

Because I was able to get all my other chemo today, he said it was up to us if we wanted to just skip the last dose of that one and fly home this Friday as previously planned. However, as we were working through the decision, the oncologist estimated that it comprised about 5%-10% of the efficacy of the treatment. While he said that is somewhat low, it still seemed significant enough to us that we felt it would be best to get it. A whole lot of time and effort, by a whole lot of people, has gone into making this treatment not just “an option,” but helping it be as successful as it can be. We don’t want to negatively impact the results or, later on, wonder about that last dose. Many who are here at the clinic are getting 16 or 24-week treatment courses, so with me getting only 12 weeks, we want it to be complete.

So once again, we find ourselves with more opportunities to trust God through changing circumstances. The sermon on Sunday at my family’s church was from 2 John, on the topic of evaluating the treasure and joy of your heart. “What brings you joy tells you what you have been living for.”

Since hearing that, the song “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” has been ringing in my mind. Written in a time of trial and turmoil by one who was acquainted with suffering, the words have tremendous depth of truth and are perfect for helping “talk my spirit” into a place of rest and joy in Christ; for those who love the Father still have peace within, whatever storms may gather—in any age.

Jesus, priceless treasure,
Fount of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me:
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Yearning, Lord, for thee?
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb!
I will suffer naught to hide thee,
Naught I ask beside thee.

In thine arms I rest me;
Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Ev’ry heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great pow’r guards ev’ry hour;
Earth and all its depths adore him,
Silent bow before him.

Hence with earthly treasure!
Thou art all my pleasure,
Jesus, all my choice.
Hence, thou empty glory!
Naught to me thy story,
Told with tempting voice.
Pain or loss or shame or cross
Shall not from my Saviour move me,
Since he deigns to love me.

Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate’er I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure.

Johann Franck, 1655; Tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1863

And again, we are so thankful for all our family’s support since this is one more week further from getting to a more normal routine. My sister will be flying home with Simon Peter and me when we come home, and staying for about a week. She’s been with us for four out of six months of Peter’s life, so I am guessing he will appreciate her familiar face as he transitions back to life as a sixth born instead of an only child. 😉 We don’t know what the future looks like beyond that but are so grateful for our huge support network through this time—my family, Christopher’s family, neighbors, friends, and our worldwide prayer support. We love and are grateful for all of you!
 
Love,
Anna Marie

“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth,
as we have received a commandment from the Father.” 2 John 4

Anna Marie Update: Getting Close

Below you’ll find another update from Anna Marie. Watch for a post tomorrow on a behind-the-scenes look on home life while she’s been gone. Love, Sarah

Anna Marie and Simon Peter

Hello All!

I got my second-to-last chemo yesterday and am really in countdown now! Just one more chemo on Tuesday and then fly home next Friday!!!

My blood levels are declining but with the booster shots and good nutrition, it looks like I should be ok to get the final chemo next week. It’s somewhat a cumulative effect; the two weeks off around my hospital stay gave my blood a chance to recover somewhat but numbers have been going down steadily since resuming chemo. Practically speaking, this means I’m more tired and easily fatigued, and more nauseated. I’m also more prone to nosebleeds with my platelets being so low. Not that long ago the children and I learned about white and red blood cells and platelets, so it is neat to have a real-world application for the newly-acquired knowledge.

Christopher and I had a really good remote consultation with an oncologist in Kansas City on Monday. He was very attentive, listening to and understanding my journey to date and our needs looking to the future. We liked him, and he was willing to provide my ongoing anti-HER2 therapy. In addition, he is familiar with the newly approved HER2-blocker subcutaneous injections and thought it likely that I can do those at home. It was an encouraging meeting and it is a blessing to now have a plan in place for when I get home.

Yesterday presented a good test-run to implement keeping a quiet heart in the face of concern. Of course, throughout chemo, a number of lab tests are being run each week. The results of one cancer marker test came back Tuesday and were showing an elevated number. Turns out that marker was in the “low” range when chemo started and has been checked a few times since then. It has been steadily climbing but wasn’t really something we noticed until yesterday when it was officially in the “elevated”/out of range column. While I know it’s very possible that my cancer can recur and that these treatments are not the end of my cancer journey, I was still surprised and concerned at the thought that I might have cancer growing or metastasizing right now. It was quite an opportunity to practice taking thoughts captive and remind myself of the truths I’ve been studying in the Quieting a Noisy Soul Bible study by Jim Berg. God is always good, always in control of all things, will always give me the grace I need, will always love me personally, etc. I often can’t sleep much the night of chemo anyway, so Tuesday night was a good time to meditate on Scriptures about that and hymns that directed my thoughts to those truths. At the end of the blog post, I’ll share one of the hymns that really blessed me.

My Seattle oncologist was unavailable to talk with me while I was at the clinic about that lab result, but Christopher and I had a Zoom appointment with him yesterday. He said right away that it’s common for that number to go up during chemo if it has started low, as mine had, and that it almost always goes down and normalizes once treatment is over. He’s not concerned about it at all and would be very surprised if my cancer would recur while on chemo. Even though I know God will give us the grace to deal with whatever comes next, I was so thankful to hear that metastatic cancer doesn’t seem to be likely for right now.

As far as the lump in my wrist, the antibiotic doesn’t seem to be making much difference. They had some other ideas on what might help and we are working through those now.

I will be getting a baseline MRI of my brain this morning. While my type of cancer, caught at this stage, has a somewhat low recurrence rate, it does have a higher likelihood of metastasizing to the brain than other cancers, and our oncologist thought an MRI would be prudent.

So, a few ups and downs in this update! But I’m thankful that we can rest in the joy of Who our Savior is as we find out the greatness of His loving heart!

Jesus, I am resting, resting
in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee,
and thy beauty fills my soul,
for by thy transforming power,
thou hast made me whole.

O how great thy lovingkindness,
vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous thy goodness
lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in thee, Beloved,
know what wealth of grace is thine,
know thy certainty of promise
and have made it mine.

Simply trusting thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold thee as thou art,
and thy love, so pure, so changeless,
satisfies my heart;
satisfies its deepest longings,
meets, supplies its ev’ry need,
compasseth me round with blessings:
thine is love indeed.

Ever lift thy face upon me
as I work and wait for thee;
resting ‘neath thy smile, Lord Jesus,
earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
sunshine of my Father’s face,
keep me ever trusting, resting,
fill me with thy grace.
          Jean Sophia Pigott, 1876

Thank you for praying!

Love,
Anna Marie

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

Anna Marie Update: Countdown: Ten Done, Two More To Go!

Good afternoon, everyone! We have another update from Anna Marie. Love, Sarah

The countdown is on! I completed Chemo #10 yesterday, which means I only have two more to go! Lord willing, Simon Peter and I will be flying home July 17th. I am so grateful for everyone enabling this to happen.

While the side effects from the chemo haven’t been debilitating (well, other than that week in the hospital 🙂 ), my energy and stamina are much lower than usual and the first few days after chemo I generally don’t feel especially well. Despite that, this has truly been a time of rest and spiritual refreshing, and I have cherished having such special time with Simon Peter. 

I am looking forward to transitioning back into life as a mommy surrounded by my husband and children! I’ll have some treatments that will continue for another 40 weeks, but those don’t have the same side effects that the current chemotherapy regime has. We are working through how to go about that, whether getting it intravenously with a local oncologist or with a newly FDA-approved subcutaneous injection I could do myself. We are praying that the Lord will bring together all the details for that.

Currently, I have what appears to be a small infection developing in an old IV site near my left wrist. Hopefully the antibiotics I’m beginning today will resolve it. I’ll also be getting a baseline MRI of my brain soon. While my type of cancer, caught at this stage, has a somewhat low recurrence rate, it does have a higher likelihood of metastasizing to the brain than other cancers—and our oncologist thought an MRI would be prudent.

The scenery in this corner of the country is so beautiful and I’m grateful to be surrounded by this demonstration of God’s power and love. My parents, sister, Simon Peter, and I have recently enjoyed a couple of day trips. Looking at the waterfall, mountains, and the Puget Sound brought to mind a long-time family-favorite hymn:

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at his command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, that filled the earth with food,
He formed the creatures with His Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that man can be, Thou, God art present there.
    Isaac Watts, 1715

The last line of this hymn has been so meaningful through this season: No matter where we are or what is happening, we are surrounded by God’s presence. “And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” (Exodus 33:14) What security we have in Him!

Love,
Anna Marie

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).