Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reeve Christina Ristau

The Ristau Sisters: Leah, Chloe and Reeve

Reeve Christina Ristau
Born 8-29-06
6lbs, 9oz.

Leah and Chloe are excited to announce the birth of their baby sister, Reeve. Chris and I enjoyed a happy occasion at the hospital for a change and we are doing well and are enjoying being home today. I went to the hospital on Tuesday morning to be induced and after things got started at 10:30 AM, I got my epidural at 12:30 and Reeve was born at 2:06 PM. She has a lot of dark hair much like the girls, but also has her own look to her. The girls were very excited to come to the hospital and meet her on Tuesday night. They also visited again on Wednesday morning and came again for supper that night. Things went quite smoothly and it is still amazing to us that we have another child and are home already. With everything that went on with Leah, this pregnancy did not receive a lot of attention even though we were/are excited about our newest addition. The girls have been looking forward to this for quite a while now and I have two great helpers.

The quotes of the day occurred at the hospital yesterday. After being there for five minutes yesterday Leah looked at me and said, "You know, your tummy is still fat, Tina." Then five minutes later when I took Chloe to the bathroom she looks at me and asks, "Do you have another baby in your tummy?" Oh, well. By Baby #3 I have low expectations for my appearance immediately after having a baby. The only thing I will say is that I am fully prepared and looking forward to the day I can hit the treadmill again.

We have said many prayers of thanksgiving for an uneventful birth and a beautiful new baby. We also continue to pray for Leah's health to continue as we celebrate many happy occasions in our family and are enjoying some sense of normalcy. While our days here are seeming hectic as we try to adjust to our new routine, we continue to be grateful for all the people who keep us in their prayers and faithfully check our blog to keep updated on our family and Leah's health.

Monday, August 28, 2006

August 28, 2006

Leah the school girl with sister Chloe

Leah has survived and enjoyed her first week of school. I thought she might be nervous/scared her first day, but she told me later that she was just excited. She seems to be getting along fine and has a lot to report at home as well about what goes on during the day. Considering the fact that she has gone from no schedule--or a very loose one during the summer- for bedtime and getting up, she is doing a good job of waking up in the morning, getting dressed, eating breakfast and getting out the door so Mom is not late to school. Chloe is also doing a great job of adusting back to full-time daycare. There have not been any tears yet when we drop her off, either. Both girls are very excited to see the other one by the end of the day--for a few minutes. They love playing at home together and have plenty of time to still get a few good fights in during the evening hours. While I cannot say that I was excited to get back to school, I have appreciated how wonderful it has felt to be back in a routine (even if it is busy) and work at something I enjoy. I will admit that both Chris and I still check blogsites each and every day and cancer is still a very real part of our daily lives. We have heard from others that it will take time for this to stop being so all-consuming. We pray we reach that point and that Leah is healed and that our lives can move forward-and while we will never have the lives we once did, that we can find some positives from this experience and ways to help others.

Other highlights of the past week include Denver Days. (This probably does not rank up there for Chris or myself but it does for the girls). We were able to watch the parade on Saturday, walk down to the midway that evening and attend Praise in the Park on Sunday. On Friday night we missed the fireworks which was a bummer to the girls. We ended up having a family movie night and watched Arthur's Missing Pal. Leah and Chloe laid out blankets and pillows and requested popcorn with M&Ms (I think Roshaun turned Leah onto this). We turned out the lights and all watched the movie together. Somehow this movie kept the girls on the edge of their seats because they were just sure Pal was going to have something bad happen to him. I think I dozed off somewhere in the middle.

Our next Iowa City appointment is on September 29. This seems so far away right now. It is the longest we have gone without a trip there and while that should seem great, it is also a bit worrisome. Iowa City is a safety net of sorts and while they are watching and monitoring things daily or weekly it feels a lot more comfortable and a lot more like we are in charge of what is going on than when we have 5 weeks in between visits. However, it is plenty of time for everyone to keep praying for a very low AFP and good, clear scan results. Dr. Rahdi has mentioned that if this CT is clear we will talk about removing Leah's port after that visit. We continue to rely on everyone's prayers and are so grateful that so many people continue to remember Leah each and every day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Birthday Party

Leah and her cake

James and Stephanie (Polka Dot) from Iowa City came up to help us celebrate!

Leah had a great birthday party! We spent Sunday going to Hy-Vee and trying to prepare for the day. We attempted nap time but Leah was too keyed up to actually sleep. Chris took James golfing in the morning. His arrival was the first Leah knew he was coming. At first she had to act shy, but once he came back from golfing she cuddled right up to him. He got to see her bunk beds, photo album, toys-the whole tour. Stephanie, one of Leah's nurses, also drove up and had the same tour. Leah enjoyed her party and all of her guests--and gifts! She plowed right through unwrapping them so quickly, though, that it was hard for anyone else to know who she got what from. Later today I will have to sit down and look at it all again. Last night was a late night-and today is the first day of school. James and Steph stayed for a bit after everyone else left last night and we talked about different memories of Iowa City. We did not enjoy our time there, but despite that, we did make some good friends, and even can laugh about some of the things that we went through during our stays. (Of course we would like to never stay there again and just have the memories!) If we think back to a year ago and Leah's fourth birthday, we certainly never envisioned all the events of this past year. It is hard to remember how easy life was back then and how we never gave a thought to IF we would celebrate birthday number five. It has certainly taught us to appreciate each and every day, and we continue to pray for there to be many, many more birthdays for Leah.

Since it is our first morning of trying out a school routine, I must go get the girls up. I doubt this is well accepted by either of them. Please keep Leah in your prayers for continued good health, low AFP numbers, and for a wonderful, normal school year.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

August 17, 2006

The Happy Birthday Girl--5 years old!

I finally got one picture on the blog, so we won't press our luck today.

This morning we left at 7:15 AM for Iowa City--and drove in pouring rain almost the whole way. Chloe stayed at daycare and Chris worked, so it was just Leah and me.

We did not get there early for our appointment, but ended up waiting, which we don't usually do. Tom was Leah's nurse and accessed her port. Then we saw Anubah, one of Leah's favorites from staying on the floor who is now a second year resident. She looked Leah over and then came back later with Dr. Rahdi. Leah has grown another half an inch--making her 38 inches tall (she was 37 inches when treatment ended in June). She is 31 pounds, so has lost a little weight, but everyone thinks she looks great. Her hemoglobin is up to 12.3 which would explain the energy she continues to have. Leah had another chest X-ray which I found out she will have at every visit. Just another way to monitor if anything would be in her lungs since they only scan her once every three months. Leah is getting good at X-rays-a long way from her tears in December. She lets them snap their pictures then looks at them with the techs after they are done. Those looked good as well. The AFP is never done very quickly so we had to eat lunch while waiting for the results. Much as I want to know, I also don't want to know. So, even though Leah really wanted to visit James on the 7th floor, I made her stop by the clinic to find out our lab results. Tom looked them up for us....the AFP is 2.6, just up a little from last time, but still normal. Dr. Rahdi came to discuss them with me and told me that Nita, the nurse that he works with made the comment, "Her mother should be pleased with those results." To which Dr. Rahdi replied, "You don't know her mother!"Of course all I could see was that the number had risen, but we have been told numerous times there is a range of normal (0-9) and obviously the number cannot be lower every single time. Other factors, like growth affect the AFP, so Dr. Rahdi is not concerned and told me not to worry. I'm sure he knows I will worry, and will do a lot of praying, but 2.6 is still a very good number.

After finding out lab results we headed off to see James. Leah was very cuddly to him and just wanted to sit on his lap. She still does not know he is coming to her birthday party. We had an echocardiogram scheduled for 1:30 that we went to next-Leah did an awesome job! Her first echo. did not go so well, so the last two were under sedation during CT scans. Today, though, we were in and out of there in 20 minutes. This is to monitor damage to her heart from chemotherapy. I asked how often this test will be administered and it is only every 2-5 years, so I think we won't be doing that again for a while, even though it went smoothly.

We had to stop back in the clinic before leaving and when Tom asked Leah for a hug she ran right up and sat in his lap. This is such a far cry from her behavior when all of this started. Much as I wish we never had this experience or that Leah would be so familiar with all things medical, it is still a good feeling to know that she cares about the people that have helped to take care of her and feels safe with them.

I had one brief discussion with Dr. Rahdi that I told Chris was maybe the nicest thing he has said so far to us. Somehow we were on the topic of recurrence/relapse and I told him I did not want to know at the same time he told me he was not going to discuss that with me. He reminded me that Leah had a high risk disease, but people have survived high risk diseases and at this point we have no reason to believe that her cancer is ever coming back. So we will just take it one day at a time and if it would ever come back we will worry about that then and treat it at that point. Ok, so maybe that is not the most uplifting conversation, but it is honest, and at least not a prediction of doom.

After coming home Chris and I took the girls to the circus here in Denver. While Chris and I were not that entertained, the girls were. Leah has really developed more of a "no fear" attitude and rode the horses and camel. Chloe rode the horse, and would have been on the camel in a heartbeat if we had let her. Now we are trying to relax a bit before bed. Tomorrow we are having a new vanity put in our bathroom so I should attempt to pick up a bit.

Our next appointment will be at the end of September. I am glad we are not going back before then but that seems so far away right now. All we have until then is to get her port flushed once at Covenant so it does not clot off. It will be a nice 5 weeks to get back into the school groove and a normal routine. Please continue to send your prayers for a very low AFP in September and Leah's complete healing on earth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

August 16, 2006

Leah's birthday was yesterday....I meant to post pictures, but our computer is not cooperating today. We had a good and busy day. As soon as I mentioned the word "present" to her she was up and out of bed and down the stairs. So, she managed to open all of her gifts that were arranged inside and then I mentioned there was something outside waiting for her. Chris had stayed up to put together a trike for her- one just like Chloe's. Even though she has a bike that she rides she still likes to ride with Chloe and this should eliminate the big fights over who gets the one trike. It was fun to see the surprise on her face when she saw both trikes lined up and realized there was one for her. During the morning we went to daycare to bring treats for the kids and did some playing outside. We also managed to get to the drug store and get some photographs ordered. The people there sang to Leah for her big day.

We did take a nap because we went to Chuck E. Cheese for supper and then goofy golfing. Leah was quite hyper for Chuck E. Cheese. We have not been there in so long and she loved it. Chloe also enjoyed it-especially the Teletubbies ride. Goofy golfing was a new experience for the girls-both thought it was fun, even though 9 holes would have been sufficient. We were so tired when we got home that both girls said we could skip reading before bedtime--that rarely happens!

Today we slept in a bit later and then had lunch at Olive Garden with my co-op from last year at Irving. After coming home we went up to the school so we could meet Leah's new teachers at Discoveries. I cannot believe we start school on Monday! Leah is ready to be a normal kid again---and we pray every day that this will happen for her.

Tonight we have swimming lessons, and then early tomorrow we head to Iowa City. It will be a long day because we have an appointment with Dr. Rahdi at 9 and then an echocardiogram at 1:30. So, a lot of waiting around. Please, please pray for a very low AFP number. It has been good to be busy this week even though this trip is always in the back of our minds.

Leah's birthday was a great celebration for us. From the day of diagnosis we were never sure we would get to see Birthday #5. It is hard to remember how easy and worry-free our lives were last year at this time. Now we cannot take a single day for granted. We continue to pray that Leah has many, many more birthdays that we can celebrate with her and that we can put the seven months of treatment behind us eventually.

Please continue to hold Leah in your thoughts and prayers- that she may have a happy and healthy and NORMAL five year old year--and that we may receive good news in Iowa City tomorrow at her check-up.

I will post some birthday pictures soon as well!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

August 9, 2006

Leah is showing off her fingernails after our trip to Jiva Salon yesterday. Both of us had massages as well--they felt great! In case you cannot tell, there are gems on each fingernail with purple glitter polish.

Our days of summer vacation are quickly ending. School begins on the 21st for us. Leah will start Discoveries, an all day preschool program in Denver, and I will go back to Irving as the media specialist. The routine will be good for us, and we have started trying to get back in the swing of things by doing bedtime a bit earlier and using an alarm clock in the morning to wake up. The first day Chris was unaware of this new plan, so the Dora alarm clock (the kind with 2 big bells on the outside) was quite stunning to him as well. Unfortunately, even though it is loud, the girls take quite a while to even acknowledge it at all.

Leah's birthday is still coming up and she is counting down. We are hoping that for our big party on the 20th a few nurses and James will be coming from Iowa City. That will be a big suprise for Leah and it will be fun to see her reaction to this.

Today I went back to school briefly and Leah and Chloe both went to daycare-the first time they both could do this together since last December. The same crew was there, and I think Leah enjoyed the time of playing with her friends and seeing Karen. Her other thrill of the day was that I had new book order forms for her to look through. She is a good shopper and found a lot of new books that she "needs." We have made a good start of reading Charlotte's Web as well--she is sure Wilbur will not be killed because the farmer loves him (yeah, right).

We go back to Iowa City on August 17th for blood work --- an AFP reading. So, keep praying for really low numbers......we really like 2.1. She will also have an echocardiogram that day to watch for heart damage. She seems to feel great here at home and has been full of energy. We have done a lot of bike riding, trike riding, and have even been to the park a few times and done some hard playing there. We continue to be thankful for the thoughts and prayers of so many and hope you will continue to remember Leah each and every day as we continue on this journey. (P.S. thank you to the prayer circle in Pennsylvania for your prayers and the medal of courage--something Leah has a lot of!--we hope you continue to pray for her and her good health to continue).

Our next post should be about a BIG 5 YEAR OLD LEAH! We will probably bore you with some pictures as well. I know I promised I would not continue to post them, but Leah informed me that "people can see how cute I am!"

Another quick comment....Leah is quite interested in reading, so the other day she was looking at an old People magazine with the headline "I'm Gay!" She looks at it and asks me, "why does it say, 'I'm Gray?' " Thank goodness she cannot read everything with great accuracy yet!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My two girls! The shirts say "Mommy's Shopping Buddy" which I guess they both are. We had a good time at Target yesterday picking those out along with new black gauchos. Quite the fashion statement they made today.

We don't have much to report here--no news is good news. We do have a blood draw at Covenant on Thursday and Leah is enjoying being off her medicines. I have been scrapbooking-and catching up a bit with it, although I will never ben totally caught up. I even started doing the book blog again for the Des Moines Register (I am having some problems editing it right now), which feels good to be taking part in some normal activities. The girls are best friends one minute and worst enemies the next. Yesterday I made them both sit in time out for hitting each other and Leah almost went into hysterics because I made them miss their flight to Montana. I told her several times that in making things up you can change the flight time to whenever you want, but she did not buy that at all. We are going to start practicing going to bed at a normal time and getting up in the mornings because school will be a rude awakening. We have not had to rush around the house and get to daycare/school since November.

We have 14 days left til Leah's birthday, so today we ordered her cake from Hy-Vee. She chose Dora, of course. Chris happens to be off on her birthday so we will go to Chuck E. Cheese on the 15th (she has been wanting to go there for months, but we have avoided it because of germs), and then our family party on the 20th.

This update is probably short and boring-but that is the best kind! Please keep sending your prayers for Leah's complete healing here on earth.