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honoring LIFE!!

A public memorial service will be held to honor the life of Grayson Paul Everaard on Friday, May 18, 2012 at 10:00AM at The Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang, OK. The service will be followed by a private graveside service. If you are unable to attend but still want to be a part you can watch the memorial live online by simply following the link at www.thebridgeag.org. The family has suggested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the completion of “Grayson’s House” being built in memory of their son at the new Assembly of God Youth Camp Grounds in Sparks, OK. These donations can be made through the Pray4Gray website at www.pray4gray.com or can be made at www.okag.org.

Grayson Everaard, age 4, went to Heaven on Sunday, May 13, 2012 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born December 4, 2007 in Ponca City, OK to Doug and Jill Everaard. Grayson loved life and lived it to the fullest. He liked collecting bugs and butterflies and playing with his dinosaurs and dragons. But Grayson’s true love was to play with and hang out with his “Hero” his older brother, Seth. Gray is survived by his parents, Doug and Jill, and his brother, Seth, of the home in Mustang, OK. He is also survived by his grandparents, Ralph and Joan Fogle and Ron and Carol Everaard, great grandfather Paul Oldham, uncle Pete Fogle and uncle and aunt Kent and Rachel Everaard. Extended family include Tom and Carol Lampert, Ann Callender, Ron and Roxanne Oldham, numerous cousins and close friends. (The Oklahoman)

Grayson Paul Everaard December 4, 2007 – May 13, 2012

into your hands

Heavy hearts and tear stained cheeks bring us here tonight. Late this evening, Gray went to be with the Lord. Our physical bodies are tired and grieving but our faith reminds us that Gray is now pain free, full of energy and beginning eternity in heaven.

While we walk the next few days we ask for privacy. We love reading your thoughts and prayers but if you would please leave them as comments on this post or simply email them through this website it would be greatly appreciated. As Gray’s funeral service is planned we hope to post a more intimate entry in honor of our son, his life and the countless lives he has touched. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers. Your constant support has been much appreciated and will continue to lift us up in the coming days.

no words

“You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.” James 4:14 (MSG)

There are so many lessons that we learn along the journey of life. We read self help books, we cling to well thought out quotes, we seek counsel from mentors and we listen to that one song over and over that always gets us through a difficult time. Lessons come in many forms. Some present themselves through humor or sudden, but welcome, circumstances. Others, however, blindside us. They aren’t lessons we choose to learn and most often are lessons we avoid learning as long as humanly possible. Through Grayson’s fight against cancer we have faced countless lessons, both as individuals and as a family. None of the lessons we’ve faced have been welcome but all have brought us to today.

Last week, Gray underwent another round of scans after completing the last few months of chemo. His scans took place on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the waiting began. Emotions ran high and all we could do was bunker down as a family and present our fears to the Lord. Gray’s doctor finally called us with results on Thursday afternoon and to say they were devastating is an understatement. There are no words to explain the emotions of April 12, 2012. It’s a day that has changed our lives forever. Gray’s doctor apologized for the news she was about to deliver and then went on to tell us that Gray’s cancer not only HADN’T responded to this round of chemo, but had in fact grown and spread. Gray’s original tumor has grown and is now wrapped around his kidney. The doctor also explained that Gray’s cancer has spread and there are nodules in both lungs. Tumors have also begun to wrap around Gray’s ribs. There was nothing left to do on Thursday but cry and cry some more. The doctor assured us that she would do as much research as possible and would meet with us on Monday to go over our options. We were in shock.

Over the next three days we watched Gray’s health deteriorate at a suddenly rapid rate. He began complaining of abdominal pain, joint pain and spiked a fever to above 104. His fever jumps up and down but has never gone away. In a matter of days, Gray was refusing to walk and asked to be carried around the house. When he did walk he was doubled over in pain. He also began throwing up a few times each day. We felt helpless. Finally, Monday came and we went to meet with Gray’s doctor with heavy hearts but high hopes. As the meeting unfolded, it became very clear that there weren’t going to be any viable options to save our son. The doctor explained that there were a couple of trials we could enter Gray in, all out of state, but none of them were drugs that would fight Gray’s advanced cancer. The trials available would simply prolong his little life by a matter of weeks and the quality of those weeks would be made almost unbearable by drug side effects, hospital visits and alot of travel. Our only other option was simply to stop treatment. After MUCH prayer and conversation with our family we have opted to stop treatment. Hospice is being called into our home to make Gray as comfortable as possible. The thought of our baby living out the last weeks of his life as a guinea pig in a drug trial just wasn’t something we could face. We want the time he has left to be as pain free, as happy and as memorable as possible. Each time we drive to the hospital for a check-up or simply to fill a prescription we are comforted that our decision is the right one as Gray literally freaks out in the back seat. He hates the hospital. His memories of the hospital all involve pain and to force him through even more of that seemed like pouring salt in an already open and growing wound.

Gray hasn’t been given much time and considering the fast pace at which new symptoms are occurring we feel that his time may be even shorter than the doctors expect. We asked Gray’s doctor about his new symptoms such as his joint pain and walking doubled over. She explained that they are most certain that Gray’s cancer is also back in his bones but at this point don’t find it necessary to do another scan just to find out. With no treatment options available more scans don’t serve any purpose. Gray is most likely walking doubled over because of the tumors around his ribs. The doctor said that the tumors put pressure on his ribs and so bending forward helps relieve some of that pressure, especially while Gray walks. It’s still hard to believe that all of this is going on in our little boys body. He’s still so perfect on the outside. His ten little toes, ten long fingers, bright blue eyes and infectious grin…but on the inside his body is failing him. He just can’t fight anymore. He shouldn’t have to. Hospice is coming over on Monday to meet our family and go over what the upcoming weeks will hold. We are very anxious and upset but know that each day is a mountain that we have to climb. We don’t climb for ourselves, we climb for Gray.

We do covet your continued prayers for Gray and our family. During this time we are going to do our best to make Gray’s remaining time with us the best possible. We want to make memories, take alot of pictures and spend as much time together as we possibly can. Please also pray for our oldest son, Seth. At twelve years old, he understands what is happening but is still such a kid himself that it’s very rough on him too. When we as grown-ups can’t even understand the will of God, how is it that a child can understand? As we watch Gray and take care of his needs we try to remember that with as much as we love him and wish he could be with us forever that God has had a special plan on our baby from the beginning and while that plan may not be exactly what we were hoping for we still have to trust in our God and know that HIS will is perfect. We are still hoping for a miracle but at the same time have been given a great and unexplainable peace about Gray receiving his ultimate healing in heaven with the Lord. It’s not going to be easy though. Our hearts are literally breaking piece by piece, one moment at a time.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

my heart lies open

The past two months have gone by in both slow motion and at lightning speed at the same time. Gray has endured all but one week of chemo. His final round was supposed to start this week but unfortunately he is neutropenic, meaning his blood counts are too low to withstand the chemo treatment, and so his last round has been postponed. As of now, he will begin his final week of chemo over spring break. Throughout this form of chemo, Gray has thankfully been home nearly the entire time! He hasn’t been admitted to the hospital and he hasn’t gotten nearly as sick as he did with his previous chemo treatments. He DID lose his hair but instead of going completely bald his hair has mostly fallen out in patches. We shaved his head in the beginning but lately have let his hair grow where it wants, when it wants. Instead of his hair falling completely out this time, something a bit more strange has happened. The hair that Gray does have has begun growing in very course and in what appears to be very tight curls. It feels very rough to the touch. It is quite different from Gray’s normal, baby soft hair but hair is hair and we’ll take what we can get!

As Gray gets closer to his last week of chemo, on this current treatment plan, we are excited AND very nervous. Obviously, it’s never easy to see your baby endure chemotherapy and so for that reason we are ready for it to be over. Our nerves are always there, though, lurking in our minds. We wrestle through sleepless nights and do our best to pray through our fear. As soon as Gray finishes his last round of chemo he will go through a battery of tests, once again, to determine if the chemo is doing its job in battling Gray’s cancer. That’s where our nerves set in. Soon, very soon, we will know where we stand in Gray’s battle against this very aggressive and very horrible cancer. We are preparing our hearts by throwing our son at the feet of the Lord and pleading for his life. We know God has a plan and we simply pray every single day that THAT plan, HIS plan, will be THE plan for Gray’s life. We know that no matter what Gray is in God’s hands and we would not rather him be in the hands of anyone else. It may not always be well with our circumstances, but we pray it is well with our souls.

Since we last updated you on Gray’s progress and treatment we have simply enjoyed life as a family. We have had down time, while at the same time life has moved forward and work is as busy as ever. Right now we are preparing for Fine Arts at the end of the month and then youth camp quickly follows at the beginning of the summer. As the ministry continues so does Gray’s treatment and the reality of that treatment comes to us in many forms every day. We see the physical effects of Gray’s illness and treatment in his little bald head, the feeding tube protruding from his belly and the many side effects that come with fighting cancer. We most definitely see it in our daily routine. Everything we do is scheduled around Gray’s feedings, treatments and doctor’s appointments. And we also see the reality of cancer in our mailbox. Over the last eighteen months we have relied on insurance, friends, family, our wonderful job, this website, donations and fundraisers to help pay for Gray’s non-stop treatment. In a long list of adjectives that could be used to describe anyone’s journey and fight against cancer EXPENSIVE is definitely one of them. The bills are never ending and on top of the medical expenses there are endless expenses that simply add up when you are living this life. It’s not fair but as I’m sure any one of you would do, when it comes to your child, you will shell out any amount of money if it gives you the tiniest sliver of hope that your son will recover from this horrible disease.

As we update you today and share our heart with all who have followed Gray’s story and prayed with us each and every day from the beginning, we lay our hearts open wider before you now then we ever have before. Many of you have encouraged us over these many months by offering your love and support and you have also offered your assistance in any way needed if it ever came to that point. Well, that moment is now. We know that all families struggle and, especially now, times are tough but with mounting medical bills and the prospect of most likely having to travel in the near future to pursue further and more aggressive treatments for Gray we are simply asking that if anyone is able to they purchase some Gray gear or simply make a one time donation through Pray4Gray. By buying a Gray t-shirt or wristband you will not only be directly helping pay Gray’s medical bills but you will also be helping us spread the word about Gray’s story and all the prayer he needs and deserves right now. If you would prefer, though, monetary donations are always welcome. It is beyond humbling to practically stand before you tonight and ask for this kind of help but like we said earlier, if it means any extra hope for our little man we will put aside our pride and do it! We know we’re not in this alone.

Thank you to each and every one of you who have been there with us through this battle. We wish the battle was closer to an end but unfortunately we can’t even say that it’s reached its peak. Anyone and everyone who has ever said a prayer for Gray, sent him a gift, wrote us a note, made a donation to his cause or simply said a word of encouragement to us we can’t thank you enough! You have held us up in this battle whether you know it or not and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for each and every person who has played a role in our lives and in the life of our son Gray. We love you all more then you’ll ever know.

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Hello everyone. My name is Erika Knight and I spoke to you in the last update on Pray4Gray. I write for the Pray4Gray website and today’s update was particularly difficult to write. As you can imagine, it has never been easy to write updates on little Gray. I am often in tears as I relive, through my words, what Gray and his family are going through. It can so often be a burden but it is one that I am honored to carry. It’s the least I can do. This update was emotional in an entirely different way. So often I am writing about Gray being sick or undergoing a grueling surgery and that is beyond difficult but this update was difficult because so much of my strength is tied into the strength of my fearless leaders, Doug and Jill. They were my youth pastors growing up and over the years have become very close friends and quite honestly, my heroes. To hear the voice of such a strong spiritual man tell you that they need help and then have to translate that into words is something I never imagined myself doing but I’m willing to do whatever I can. I’m willing to walk the extra mile. Tonight, I’m asking each of you to walk that extra mile with me. If you can, PLEASE give to Pray4Gray. I know personally how much it would help this family and how much their burden would lighten allowing them to focus on their son, their family and what needs to be done to get Gray well. Whether you choose to give by purchasing Gray Gear or whether you choose to make a monetary donation it truly doesn’t matter. Simply do what you can. If you are unable to give financially then please PRAY!! We are not asking that everyone give but we are asking that everyone do something. And that something includes prayer. Tonight, we have put most of our Gray Gear on SALE!! Pray4Gray t-shirts are now on sale for $10, wristbands are $3 and we have put our remaining Praise4Gray tees from our worship night last summer on sale for $5. Don’t forget that 100%…THAT’S 100%…of what you give through Gray Gear purchases goes DIRECTLY to the Everaard family and of course whatever cash donations come in go directly to them as well. Through Pray4Gray we have done our best to work hard in helping this family and tonight is no different. It’s so easy to fall into day to day life and become complacent in our prayers for Gray but this is a PLEA for you to remember all that Gray has endured and make a move! We need you! Thank you in advance for the many purchases, donations and PRAYERS that I know are coming Gray’s way in the days to come.

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” Matthew 21:21

live, love, GRAY

There’s a song called “Savior Please” by an artist named Josh Wilson that has really  made an impression on me over the last sixteen months. The lyrics are powerful and yet the music behind them is calm and soothing. The words of the song are simple but I think you, like me, will be able to draw courage and strength from them in YOUR time of need and will probably see, as you read them, why this song has meant so much to me as I’ve watched little Grayson battle stage 4 cancer. “Savoir Please” goes like this:

Savoir, please take my hand / I work so hard, I live so fast / This life begins and then it ends / And I do the best that I can, but I don’t know how long I’ll last

I try to be so tough but I’m just not strong enough / I can’t do this alone, God I need you to hold onto me / I try to be good enough but I’m nothing without your love / Savior, please keep saving me

Savior, please help me stand / I fall so hard, I fade so fast / Will you begin right where I end / And be the God of all I am because You’re all I have

Music has always been motivating to me through any circumstance of life. Music brings back memories of both good times and bad. Music is powerful. My name is Erika Knight. I grew up in Doug and Jill’s youth group and have worked with them, in ministry, for many years alongside my husband. When Gray was first diagnosed with cancer we started Pray4Gray.com as an outlet for Doug and Jill, as a way to spread word of Gray’s story, in hopes of accumulating as many prayers as we possibly could on Gray’s behalf and also to raise funds to help with Gray’s medical costs. Pray4Gray has become bigger then we could have ever imagined and while we are proud that our little seedling of an idea has turned into something so great we are also humbled by your response to Gray, the Everaard family and all that YOU have given in time, money and intercessory prayer for this incredible family. Often times, many of the posts you read on this website have been written by me. I pull from my time with the Everaard’s, from the conversations I have with Jill and from the medical facts they give me updating Gray’s treatment plan and simply put the feelings of the Everaard family into paragraph form for the public to read. They may be my words but they are the true feelings of a mother fighting alongside her son battling cancer. More recently, Jill has written several posts in her own words! I have loved having her hand on the Pray4Gray website.

The last update posted to this site was to inform everyone that Gray’s full body scan had revealed a spot that concerned his doctors. Gray was scheduled to undergo a surgery and biopsy to find out what they were dealing with. The doctors informed Doug and Jill that while this could mean the return of Gray’s cancer that outcome would be highly unlikely and they were quite sure that this “spot” was nothing more then calcified tumor or benign growth. Gray was admitted to the hospital to recover from his surgery while the family awaited the results of the biopsy. Almost a week after Gray’s surgery one of Grayson’s regular doctors visited him in his hospital room as a part of his regular morning rounds. During his visit, Jill asked about Gray’s biopsy results. According to Jill, as soon as she asked the question she could tell by the look on the doctor’s face that the news wasn’t good. She hoped for the best, but the doctor’s change in demeanor told her she should be prepared for the worst. That day, now only a couple of weeks ago, changed the lives of Gray and his family more then they ever thought possible. They are truly living any families worst nightmare.

As the doctor’s sat with Doug and Jill and explained what they found during Gray’s biopsy and what laid ahead for his treatment, it was hard for the family to keep alive any hope they had gained over the last year. Gray’s original diagnosis of cancer was shattering, but Gray responded so well to treatment from the very beginning. The treatment was never easy but Gray was making progress and that made the day-to-day worth it. There isn’t any combination of fancy words or sentences that can make this better and, honestly, I can’t figure out the best way to deliver the results of Gray’s biopsy so I’m just going to say it…Gray’s cancer has returned. Gray has been diagnosed, yet again, with stage 4 neuroblasoma. He has relapsed. The doctor’s said that for neuroblastoma to return so quickly after treatment (and after being in remission) is very rare. The days that followed this devastating news were full of tears, fear, anxiety and many decisions for Gray’s parents.

After such a rough month, the Everaard’s have decided to keep many of the details regarding Gray’s relapse private. They want to do all they can to protect, not only Gray, but also their oldest son, Seth, from as much of the reality of this diagnosis as they can. After much prayer, Doug and Jill have decided it is best for Gray and their family to do as much treatment locally as they can. Currently, Gray has begun a new chemo protocol wherein he will receive 4 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks. Each round of chemo lasts 5 days. During each week of treatment, Gray only has to visit the hospital for the first day of chemo and he receives that as an outpatient treatment in the clinic through his port. Then for the next four days Gray’s parents are able to keep Gray at home and administer his remaining treatment themselves. This form of chemo is actually oral, but instead of attempting to force Gray to swallow it, Jill has actually been taught how to pull the chemo capsules apart, mix the contents with apple juice and administer the drugs through Gray’s g-tube in his stomach. Gray’s current chemo protocol will be completed in April when Gray will again undergo another round of tests and scans to see if his cancer is responding to this new treatment. If his cancer IS responding favorably then this current concoction of chemo will be continued but if the cancer is NOT responding, the Everaard’s will then discuss further treatment options with Gray’s doctors, all of which would take them out of state for more advanced treatments.

Unfortunately, specifically with neuroblastoma, when a child relapses and the cancer returns it is much MUCH harder to get the cancer back into remission then it was the first time. The odds for a second journey into remission are not good. Gray has completed his first week of chemo. The treatment wasn’t easy. Gray has regressed back into the little boy of a year ago who looked and acted very sick. He is pale, very VERY thin and lethargic. Gray’s continued treatment has also effected his mood, which is to be expected. He is cranky and Doug and Jill often feel he is simply “done” being poked, medicated and, obviously, Gray is done being in pain.

I am writing this site update for Doug and Jill because they are simply too overwhelmed to do so for themselves. They are tired. They are fighting for their faith. They are battling cancer as a family and cherishing each moment together. If there’s one  lesson Gray has taught not only his family and close friends during this time but an important lesson he has taught all of us, it’s that you have to live life to the fullest each and every day! He may be tired and sick but Gray is still full of life and he reminds us every minute of every day that life isn’t about quantity but instead it’s about quality. PLEASE continue to pray for Gray. The Everaard’s trust in a healing and worthy God is the one and only thing keeping them afloat during this time and they know, despite such a heartbreaking setback, that God is STILL bigger then Gray’s cancer and he can STILL heal their baby! All of your support, thoughts and prayers and greatly appreciated. We will continue to keep you updated on any major developments in Gray’s health and throughout any decisions made about his treatment. We all thank you not only for your support but also for your consideration during this time.

“All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God.” Psalm 38:9-10, 15

declares the Lord…

I wish there were some way I could avoid sending this update, but we really need prayer and we have held off as long as possible to get past the holidays and celebrations.  As you may know, Gray finished his cancer treatment on Dec. 5th and we were so excited to start making plans for 2012!  As part of his treatment completion, Gray underwent a battery of tests to confirm that he was in remission.  We got the results of his bone marrow biopsy first and were ecstatic to hear that everything was normal!  We then waited for Gray’s CT scan, bone scan and MIBG scan results believing that, at this point, the rest of the scan results were  just formality because cancer usually shows up in the marrow first.  Unfortunately, though, on December 22nd, Gray’s oncologist called with the scan results and the news was difficult.  The site of Gray’s original tumor, in his abdomen, had a spot that had grown and had also “lit up” from the dye they injected during the scan.  These two results caused concern in Gray’s doctor and so they immediately scheduled Gray for surgery on December 29th. We received the date for Gray’s surgery just before Christmas and so we did our best to enjoy our holiday and stay strong for our boys, but I think it goes without saying that what was to come was definitely present in our minds throughout the week. It was an emotional time for us.  At this time, we have elected to shield Seth from the possibility that Gray’s cancer has returned until we have absolute results, however, Seth DOES know Gray had surgery as part of his treatment.

There are a few different scenarios the doctors are looking at. They’ve told us this could be the return of Gray’s Neuroblastoma, although they have done their best to reassure us by letting us know that this would be extremely rare. It could also be a ganglioneroma, which is a tumor that is usually benign but can spread and become cancerous over time. Or, this could simply be remnants of calcified tumor which bares no cause for alarm.  Gray came through his surgery like a trooper, however they had to go in deep and his recovery has been difficult.  We thought we were just going to be admitted for one night but as of yet we have not been able to go home. We have been in the hospital for five days and counting.  Gray has recently spiked a fever, as high as 104, and the doctors are having a hard time locating the source of the fever.  He has been poked close to 20 times in the past couple of weeks and because he had his port taken out due to infection all meds most go through IV’s.  He has also developed blisters in his mouth and the doctor’s think he may have a virus.  They started Gray on 2 different precautionary antibiotics today and now we just continue to wait, praying his fever goes away.  We are also waiting on the biopsy results from last week’s surgery, which may not come in until Thursday because of the holidays.  I know God’s hand is on Gray and our entire family, but this continues to be a difficult time for us.  Just before Gray had his tests, in December, we were given the news that Doug’s mom’s breast cancer has come back and metastasized to her liver.  She will be starting oral chemo soon.  Our family needs prayer for strength and peace.  Our belief is that God is in complete control, however weariness can be a great adversary!  We love you and appreciate beyond words your prayers and support!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher then the earth, so are my ways higher then your ways and my thoughts then your thoughts. As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It WILL NOT return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11

hope rising

Thankfully, Gray came through his series of hospital visits and terrible infections last month and made a full recovery! We were definitely exhausted and fearful after what seemed like so many set-backs and unwelcome surprises involving Gray’s health. But, thank you Lord, Gray was able to finish his antibiotics despite his allergic reactions to them and the medicine did what is was supposed to do and cleared Gray’s frail body of all infection!

We have been home now for over a month finishing out Gray’s cancer medicines and giving him extra nutrients through his feeding tube. He has been doing really well! In fact, we recently celebrated his 4th birthday amongst family and friends! It’s amazing how celebratory birthdays truly are when you aren’t sure if you’ll make it to the next one. Gray was in a great mood for his party! He loved having everyone sing happy birthday to him and even did a little dance as he blew out his candles! He received tons of new dinosaur and dragon toys! His favorites! Just a couple of days after Gray’s party (and ON his real birthday…) Gray had to go back into the hospital for his first round of tests to determine if his cancer is in remission. This first set of tests was on his bone marrow. It is an outpatient procedure but extremely painful. Unfortunately, too, Gray already had his port taken out (which we were so excited about at the time!) but now for his last round of tests that means Gray has to be poked many more times then he would have had to if he still had in his port. Oh well. It took just over a week for us to receive the results of Gray’s bone marrow biopsy but we couldn’t be more excited to announce that it came back CANCER FREE!!!! The week of waiting for the results was long and, at times, draining but that one phone call telling us the results made up for all the energy we lost in the wait! Gray still has a battery of tests in the next couple of weeks to check EVERYTHING and make sure there is no cancer anywhere in his body but we are hopeful that the results will be the same! We can’t wait to hear the words “GRAY IS CANCER FREE!! HE’S IN REMISSION!! YOU CAN GO HOME!!” Wow!! It’s hard to even imagine what that will be like!!

We are so very eager to be done with Gray’s cancer treatment. He’s ready too. As we approach the end of this very long journey, please continue to pray for Gray and his health. Please pray that all of his upcoming tests will produce the same cancer-free results. We also ask for your prayers for our family as we do our best to resume a “normal” life. We will forever be the parents and big brother of a boy who beat stage 4 cancer and we will forever carry that testimony and that scar, if you will, with us but we want to reenter our lives as ministers and servants, and simply as a family, as best we can. We are anxious to put Gray into Pre-K this fall and almost as anxious to send him back to the nursery at church. It’s scary to release your baby boy back into the “wild” after keeping such a tight leash on him for so long. It’s also difficult not to feel like the rest of the world has kept moving while our lives were on pause for over a year. We literally had to drop everything, EVERYTHING!, and focus on getting our son well. In the mean time, our friends and family, co-workers and acquaintances continued moving forward and living their own lives. We would never have asked them to do anything other then that but it seems strange to now place ourselves back into that life. Where do we fit? Please simply pray that the transition is smooth and that the Lord directs our steps. We will post again in the coming weeks as Gray undergoes his remaining tests and as we receive the results. Thank you for your continued support and all of your prayers. They mean more to us then you will ever know.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

this valley is deep…

SIGH!! Looks like we’re going to be able to post “Gray is home!” yet again…Last night, Gray developed a rash on most of his upper body including his face, neck, stomach and back. We called his doctor and they told us to give him benadryl and keep our eye on him through the night. This morning, when his rash wasn’t any better, the doctors told us that they want to admit Gray for the rest of his antibiotic treatments. He is having an allergic reaction to his meds but with only a few days left to overcome his multiple infections the doctors are hoping they can monitor him closely while finishing his antibiotics. So back to the hospital we go. We’re devastated. Will this ever end? We are afraid, at this point, to get excited about anything because each new day brings a change in Gray’s condition…and unfortunately it’s usually not for the better. We’re not sure yet how long Gray will stay in the hospital. We will keep you posted. Your prayers for Gray to endure the remaining days of antibiotic treatments are appreciated and, if you would, please remember our family in prayer as well. We can’t seem to get off this chaotic roller coaster. Our emotions included. We are weary.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

giving thanks

GRAY IS HOME!!!! We didn’t think we would have to give that update ever again after finishing Gray’s scheduled treatments but we’re just as excited to say it this time as we have been any time throughout the last year!!!! Gray did have to spend Halloween in the hospital again this year. He dressed up as a rooster and did some trick-or-treating though! It was kind of sad to think back and realize that Gray has only been well and at home for one Halloween in his life. Poor guy. We’re convinced that he’s going to think Halloween is a hospital tradition only! Ha! Here’s hoping, though, that he’ll have many healthy years ahead to trick-or-treat a real neighborhood and attend a fall festival! After Gray had his new PICC line placed in his arm on Monday, we were so happy when the doctors confirmed that we could actually go home on Tuesday! We weren’t getting our hopes up about that. God gets the glory, though, because the antibiotics Gray was put on after doctors found his fourth infection really attacked all the bacteria in Gray’s body and began working almost immediately! Once we got home, the home health care nurses came over to teach us how to continue giving Gray’s antibiotics to him through his PICC line twice each day. Each treatment takes an hour. It’s no fun but it’s CERTAINLY better then being admitted. It’s never easy to give your baby a cocktail of drugs every single day and hold him down to receive shots but simply being  in our home and together as a family when we wake up every morning and go to bed each night is comforting. Home is safe and family is a blessing. We’ve never felt that more then we do now. Gray will continue his at home treatment for about another month. His antibiotic treatments are scheduled to last a couple of weeks and then we will continue his at home cancer medications for a couple weeks after that. Then, in December, Gray will undergo a battery of tests to confirm that his cancer is fully in remission and that he is, praise the Lord, HEALTHY!!!! We are nervous for that day and excited for it all at the same time. It’s scary, it’s joyous, it’s hopeful and it’s nerve racking. For now, we are continuing our lives one day at a time. We are looking forward to Thanksgiving as a family and we’ve never had more to be thankful for then we do this year. God is faithful. Our family is strong. Our friends are loyal. YOU are appreciated! We truly can’t thank each of you enough for your support this year and your continued support as we do our best to finish this race strong. The finish line is in sight. It’s right around the corner. We feel tired, we’re holding our sides in pain and barely putting one foot in front of the other as we run the last stretch of this long road but we’re going to make it! We’re going to cross that line and we’re going to lift our hands over our heads in victory. Sure, we’ll probably collapse with exhaustion and need extensive rest to fully recuperate but it’s such a blessing to actually come to the end of this race with our entire family together, healthy and happy!

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12

one GIANT LEAP back…

As you are all well aware, Gray finished his last scheduled proton therapy treatment almost two weeks ago. We enjoyed (greatly enjoyed!!) one and a half days at home and then suddenly Gray began running a fever. By the standards of Gray’s health over the past year, his fever wasn’t really all that high but it was a fever nonetheless. Sunday evening, we called Gray’s doctors and they recommended that we bring him in. When we arrived in the Emergency Room, the nurses immediately took blood from Gray for testing. They knew Gray had to have some form of an infection but just weren’t sure what infection to treat. While they waited for Gray’s cultures to come back and identify the specific bacteria that had attacked Gray’s system, they chose an antibiotic at random and began giving it to Gray. They weren’t sure what they were dealing with yet but they knew they needed to treat it right away. As we sat in the ER, waiting for whatever was coming next, Gray began shaking violently. As his parents, we both thought Gray was having a seizure but the nurses assured us that Gray was only reacting to his high fever and suffering from chills. The shaking was very intense, though, and lasted for about 20 minutes. It was very scary. Soon, we were told that Gray would be admitted. We weren’t told how long it would last or even why we were being admitted but we were moved to a room right away. Gray’s cultures eventually showed that he had three different bacteria infecting his little body. All three bacteria are ones usually picked up during hospital stays so it’s no surprise that Gray has caught them. Having spent nearly the past year in a hospital bed, the doctors and nurses were actually surprised that Gray hadn’t contracted an infection much earlier. While we’re happy that Gray didn’t catch such a serious infection any earlier in his treatment, it’s really no consolation watching him go through it now. When we first found out about the three bacteria infecting Gray’s body, the doctors thought that they would treat him with antibiotics and then release us about five days later. Unfortunately, the antibiotics didn’t seem to be helping and instead of going home on the fifth day Gray was scheduled for an emergency surgery. We learned that with so much infection inside Gray’s body that his port had now become potentially harmful to him. When someone has a foreign object under their skin, bacteria tend to colonize around it and make curing the infection much more difficult. So, Saturday morning, Gray went into surgery and doctors removed Gray’s port. As we asked the many questions running through our minds, no one seemed to be able to give us a straight answer. It was growing increasingly frustrating to not really know what was going on in your son’s body. Finally, after Gray’s surgery we were informed that a group of infectious disease doctors were looking at Gray’s medical records and would hopefully be able to give us the answers we so desperately wanted very soon. Thankfully, the answer came…but to say it was comforting is simply not true. Finally, our physicians assistant came into Gray’s room and sat down with us to go over everything they had learned and where we would go from here. While some of the  news was good, some of it was devastating to say the least. The P.A. explained that when we initially brought Gray into the ER days earlier and he was given that “anonymous” antibiotic to treat an unknown infection, it actually caused those violent “shakes” we witnessed. Now, the P.A. explained that his shaking wasn’t actually a result of his high fever but was instead a convulsion, caused by the chosen antibiotic, attacking one of the specific bacteria in Gray’s body. Then the P.A. used a phrase that you don’t often hear in the medical community…the P.A. looked at us and said “It was an act of God!” Whoa! When you hear a doctor attributing a medical success story to God, or even a “miracle”, you know that God was protecting your baby boy and your family that night. You see, when the ER nurses “randomly chose” that antibiotic given to Gray they “accidentally” chose the ONE AND ONLY antibiotic that would attack the very rare bacteria that had invaded Gray’s system! Our stomach’s literally dropped. There’s no other reason for that to happen other then God’s hand to have been directing the nurses that night. We wanted to cry at what may have happened and we wanted to jump up and down in worship to our God, our protector and healer, all at the same time. The physician’s assistant went on to explain that had that one specific antibiotic not been chosen that Sunday night, Gray may have suffered great consequences…including the possibility of him no longer being with us. We can’t allow ourselves to dwell on that fact for too long. We simply rely on the truth that we DID in fact take Gray into the emergency room and we DID in fact place our baby boy in the hands of our God and in the end God took care of us and allowed us to keep our little man with us, here. Honestly, it’s very hard to even type this out. God has very big plans for Gray!

Now, we’re still  in the hospital a week after Gray was first admitted, and over the last week we have learned that Gray has contracted yet another bacteria. He now has a total of four bacteria infecting his body. The infectious disease doctors have recommended that Gray remain admitted for another 7-10 days while they treat the most dangerous bacteria and make sure that they are responded to the antibiotics that have been prescribed.  Right now, Gray is receiving a cocktail of different antibiotics and it’s taking its toll. Gray is cranky and often doesn’t feel well. When he does feel good, though, he feels VERY good and we see the Grayson we all know and love coming through! This morning, Gray went back into surgery to have a new PICC line placed in his arm. When we are released, home health will visit us and teach us how to administer Gray’s antibiotics through his PICC line. We are hoping that that comes sooner then later. The nurses actually came in today and told us that they’re already seeing signs that Gray’s multiple infections are responding to the antibiotics AND they have found a new antibiotic that might treat more then one of Gray’s infections at a time. If all works out, we may actually get to go home as early as tomorrow…but, at this point, we’re not getting our hopes up. This past week has been a roller coaster of emotion and we’ve gotten a change in diagnosis and treatment plan daily, if not more often then that. PLEASE PRAY for simply EVERYTHING!! We desperately want to go home. We NEED to go home. Please pray that Gray will continue to respond to all of his antibiotics and that the many bacteria attacking his little body will fade. Also, please pray for all of our emotional and physical states. Being in the hospital when it’s scheduled is one thing but having to return for an undetermined amount of time at random is an entirely different experience. The waiting, the worrying, the questions…it’s tiring and emotionally draining. We will continue to keep you posted on Gray’s progress fighting this current set back. Gray is so brave and such a trooper.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

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