Tag Archives: Anna Marie Maxwell's Cancer Journey

Milestones: Happy First Birthday, Simon Peter!

Anna Marie reflects back on the events of last year and wrote a post to share what is on her heart. —Sarah

Our family after Simon Peter was born and the children got to meet him

As Simon Peter’s brothers and sisters excitedly prepare to celebrate his first birthday, my mind has been traveling back to a year ago and all the events surrounding his birth. I find rushes of emotion catching me by surprise as we begin to pass these one-year milestones. But the overwhelming emotion (often through tears) is one of gratitude because God has shown us over and over again that He is good and He is faithful; that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I don’t really think I’m crying for the loss of normal last trimester, normal birth, normal nursing, normal routine and life with a baby. Because God gave us infinitely more than “normal.” He gave us Himself. What we knew in our heads a year ago as we entered a “Red Sea place” in our lives, God has proven in our experience as He showed His goodness and faithfulness leading us each step forward.

Also thinking back to the birth, there are some special memories and tidbits that I don’t think I shared before. As many of you know, Christopher and I have enjoyed working together on our babies’ names for months leading up to their birth. But because of everything else going on during my pregnancy with Simon Peter, we ended up finalizing decisions on his name and verse while waiting for my Pitocin to kick in at the hospital—which made for special memories of writing names and definitions and verses on the whiteboard in the delivery room. 🙂 Simon means “he hears” or “God has heard;” and Peter means “a rock.” The meaning of his name to us is two-fold. First, it is a reminder to us that God hears us and is our Rock as we go through this trial. And second, our prayer for Simon Peter is that he will have a close relationship with Christ, hearing Him and seeking Him; and that he will be firmly planted on the Rock and unmovable in his resolve to follow Him.

That tied in perfectly with Psalm 18:2 which we chose as his verse. Shortly after we settled on that, I received a couple of texts and emails from different friends and family who sent that very verse to encourage me! I love when God puts things like that together—another reminder to me of His care for each detail of our lives!

I think we mentioned before that the birth team was such a blessing to us. My day shift nurse was great, and then the night shift nurse went above and beyond helping me to be as comfortable as possible through transition and delivery. Christopher and I were really blessed by her servant spirit. To my surprise, a few weeks ago when I went for my targeted cancer therapy shot at the hospital, my nurse at the cancer center for the day was that same delivery nurse! She just switched to working at the cancer center and it was a happy little reunion when we recognized each other. Since she’s a believer, it was special to reminisce together (and share with other nurses) about the little ways we saw God work in Peter’s birth.

Simon Peter is such a delight to our family. His sweet, laid back personality has blended perfectly with the unusual circumstances and events of the past year. It’s been amazing to see how God has taken care of him for things I was most concerned about for him physically and emotionally. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of a few mamas both here and in Washington who provided milk for him to receive that incredible nutrition for the first six months of his life and he has definitely thrived! 

Simon Peter has been my little buddy through this whole journey. From the time I first noticed the tumor a couple weeks after finding out he was on the way, it was precious knowing that he was growing and gaining strength for whatever lay ahead, and that God would give him the grace needed as well as us. He was my traveling companion to Washington and kept me in my role as mommy while I was away from everyone else at my parents’ home for those few months of chemo. During that time, despite being a sixth born, he was an only child in a household of four adults! He got to visit mountains and seashores, and loved staring up at the tall evergreens on our daily walks.

He adjusted well getting back to life in the Midwest with five doting older siblings. He loves interacting with everyone and is becoming quite the little explorer as he “army crawls” all over the house. As I mentioned earlier, all his brothers and sisters are thoroughly excited about his upcoming birthday, and even though he has no idea what they are excited about he gets fired up with their enthusiasm.

After Simon Peter and I got home from Washington, the children were so happy to see him!

Thank you all for your investment as you prayed for him and us through this journey! We are so thankful for you!

Love,
Anna Marie

The three boys: Joshua, Simon Peter, and Daniel

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength,
in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Psalm 18:2

Merry Christmas and an Update from Anna Marie and Family

Merry Christmas the night-before Christmas Eve! Here’s a sweet update from Anna Marie including a video. Love, Sarah

Dear Friends,

What a year this has been! I think back to last Christmas and all the unknowns we were facing. As you know, things developed rather rapidly shortly after that Christmas. We have definitely faced some “deep waters” around the labor induction, surgery, chemo – primarily from the standpoint of facing very difficult decisions at times when we didn’t feel like we had all of the information we would have liked to make that decision.

Through it all you have faithfully encouraged and prayed for us each step of the way. Thank you! I can’t even describe to you how we have felt held up by God along this journey.

I believe God has used these circumstances to teach me more about my need for utter dependence on Him. But, oh! I still have so much more to learn, and still struggle with day-to-day opportunities to do so. But God is faithful and I’m thankful that He promises to never leave or forsake, that He will continue the work He began until the day of Christ!

Life is continuing here in the weekly treatment routine (HER2 blocker & supportive therapies). I’ve definitely felt more energy over the last few weeks and have loved all the Christmas activities we’ve been able to do as a family.

One Christmas activity we love is going to the doors of local friends to wish them a Merry Christmas, sharing a few verses,  a Christmas song, and a plate of shortbread cookies. While we would love to also stop by your house, we had to settle for another way to greet you. So we recorded a two-minute video that you can see by viewing it below or clicking this link.

Singing Christmas songs is one of my favorite parts of this season, and I enjoy learning some of the less common ones in addition to the traditional, familiar carols. Here are a few verses of a 1600’s German hymn by Paul Gerhardt that friends taught me years ago. I love the picture of absolute dependence upon and rest in Christ, and the awe it captures in speaking of the Creator humbling Himself to take on the form of the created.

O Jesus Christ,
Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord,
Doth lie the Word
Made flesh for us; herein Thy grace forth shineth.

He whom the sea
And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou, God’s own Son,
With us art one,
Dost join us and our children in our weakness.

Thy light and grace
Our guilt efface,
Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.
Immanuel,
Thy birth doth quell
The pow’r of hell and Satan’s bold deceiving.

Thou Christian heart,
Whoe’er thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God’s own Child,
In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee!

The world may hold
Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast
Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure.

May we truly keep Christ as our True Treasure this Christmas season and hold Him fast in the New Year – knowing that He will hold us fast, as well!

Merry Christmas!

Anna Marie

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call
his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21

 

Anna Marie’s September Update

Happy Monday, y’all! Today Anna Marie’s sharing an update on how they’re doing. —Sarah

Hello Everyone,

Autumn is arriving here in Leavenworth! I love waking to the cool morning air, the golden brown leaves fluttering to the ground and sprinkling the deck and yard with nature’s confetti. In addition to family life at home—school, work, yard work, etc.— we have enjoyed some family adventures like going on little hikes at nearby Weston, having a picnic dinner at a site where Abraham Lincoln gave a speech (I love how we can bring our history studies to life like that!), and special games Christopher thinks up to play in the backyard with the children. Also, he and Joshua have done fall lawn rejuvenation for a few years now, and just spent a couple Saturdays doing that. Folks enjoy having this great father/son team work in their yard, and I love how Christopher includes Joshua in their little business!

While we are enjoying the beautiful weather here, though, our hearts go out to all those affected by the wildfires out west. My family (in Washington) is safe, and we are grateful for the rain that cleared the hazardous air conditions that were keeping them inside.

The change of seasons reminds me of the life seasons we are going through. As much as I sometimes wish I could go back to a previous season, this is the season God has us in right now. I want so much to not only be content in it, but to embrace and cherish it for the opportunities of spiritual growth and relationship-building in concentrated family time. Each season has its own beauty and ways of glorifying God if we will humbly accept it. That’s not to say it’s always easy, and I have definitely had emotional ups and downs along the way. I think reaching the point of admitting “I can’t do this” is right where God wants me—not continuing that train of thought in despair, but realization of my need for constant reliance on Him.

The children have been remembering last September when we were treating head lice. While that was certainly not a “season” I would have chosen, it’s cute to hear them talking about it and to realize what special memories we all have of that time. I know we will cherish many special memories of the season of life God has given us right now and I want to be content and thankful. I’m so blessed to have this time surrounded by my sweet little family!

I met a precious young mom at one of my treatment facilities and we quickly became friends, keeping in contact via text. I was grieved when I received a text recently from her husband letting me know she passed away; while I know it is glory for her, our hearts ache for her husband and three young children left behind. Goodbyes are a sad reality of gaining many sweet friends in cancer treatment; but I’m so thankful for the opportunity I have had to get to know these brothers and sisters in Christ and am grateful that He crosses our paths to encourage each other in Him! And I’m again reminded to cherish these days with my family because, cancer or not, none of us knows how much longer we have on earth. May we be faithful with every moment!

I’m continuing the Thursday afternoon treatments of targeted therapy every three weeks and Vitamin C IV’s weekly. A sweet neighbor of ours has been bringing dinner for us on my treatment day which is such a blessing as I usually get home right at dinner time; and we are thankful for Christopher’s flexibility in work hours since we aren’t having anyone over to help with childcare these days due to caution with exposure to any illness. Speaking of which…

We asked my oncologist about my immune system and his thoughts on social interactions. He said it’s not just about blood counts, but also how far out from chemo I am. For 3-6 months following chemo, he said my immune system will be compromised because my body will still be working to recover. So, for now, we are keeping on what we’ve been doing: being cautious, avoiding unnecessary shopping or being indoors with others, and grateful for the lovely weather to visit outside at a distance!

Since I generally prefer staying at home anyway, it’s not too great a hardship right now. 🙂 Mom Maxwell is doing most of our grocery shopping for us, which is a blessing, and she has helped us remotely in other practical ways like ironing clothes and cooking/freezing meat so it’s ready to add to soups, beans, etc. Abigail and others have blessed us with freezer meals, too. And I’m blessed by Christopher and the children’s willingness to help out and enable me to get more rest these days.

Thank you all again for your ongoing support and encouragement! I hope you are enjoying your beginning of fall and cozier days with your families!

Love,
Anna Marie

“For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.” Psalm 18:31-32

 

Anna Marie’s Update: Settling In and Treatment Continues

It’s been about a month since the last update update, so here’s what’s going on. Love, Sarah

Hello All,

It’s so good to be back home, settling into a combination of new and old routines. Since my immune system is still compromised, we are currently keeping physical distance from anyone outside our immediate family. This is very different from how our lives have been over the past few months with so much willing help from our supportive family! My sister was with me and Simon Peter since March… here for a month prior to flying back to Washington with us in mid-April, helped so much with Simon Peter’s care while there, and flew home with us and stayed for a week helping us re-acclimate, and babysitting while we had some oncology appointments in Kansas City. And obviously, Grandma Maxwell, Anna, and Mary were here for hours each day while I was gone… so it’s definitely different now. Distanced outdoor visits and walks have provided nice opportunities for chatting—and Facetime is available for other times (and states)!

Christopher’s flexibility in work hours is a blessing, and I’m grateful for his willingness to help out with the children so I can get extra rest. We were excited to start our new school year last week and are settling into a good routine. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow with all of them! I love doing school with them again (I find that I really enjoy elementary school in my 30’s. Any other moms relate? 😉 ) That’s certainly not to say it’s always easy, but I’m reminded again that God’s grace IS sufficient. Maybe it’s easier to remember and rest in that when peacefully quarantined in a hospital room than it is when the noise and needs of six little people are whirling around me, but my need is exactly the same and so is His grace!

There were a few delays with getting my anti-HER2 therapy going at the local hospital, but everything came into place, and I got my first subcutaneous injection there a week ago Friday. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with the nurses. From here on out (until at least April) I will be going to Kansas City for treatments on Thursday afternoons. Some weeks it will just be for Vitamin C at the naturopathic oncology clinic; other weeks I’ll also be going to the hospital for treatments. After meeting with my naturopathic oncologist and going over recent lab work, we also will be looking into dental work and chelation (detoxing my system of heavy metals) in the next few months.

It was nice to see my blood counts starting to come back up in last week’s lab draw. We were also glad that my circulating tumor cell count (CTC) showed “none detected” a couple weeks ago. While that’s not a guarantee I’m “free and clear,” it is definitely nice to have that number at zero.

Thank you all for praying and supporting us through this journey!

Love,
Anna Marie

Anna Marie Maxwell

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my
strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore
will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”
(2 Corinthians 12:9
).

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