Tag Archives: Anna Marie Maxwell's Cancer Journey

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

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