I’ve wanted to write this post for several weeks now, primarily to get the word out about some incredible people who worked “Behind-the Scenes” and who have had a MAJOR impact on us. Most of these stories are from the first moments and days of our journey, but some happened as recently as last week.
Before I dive into the stories, Lizzy is doing GREAT!! She has shown virtually no side effects from the chemo (Thank You God!) and has just been an absolute trooper on treatment days. She still gets very anxious when it’s time for the nurse to access her port, but once that is over, she relaxes and calms down. We are so grateful for your prayers – please keep them coming!!
The danger in writing a post like this is that someone will be left out and not mentioned. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. Especially given the fact that I’m getting older and the memory banks just aren’t what they used to be! So please know that if I don’t mention you by name, it’s not intentional – I’m just forgetful and I ask for your grace and forgiveness. Everyone reading this post deserves an intentional and specific THANK YOU for all you have contributed, so THANK YOU.
With all that said, here are some stories that need to be told:
(side note – after writing this and reading/reviewing it with Lori, we both were brought to tears just re-living each of these moments. Our hearts have been touched in so many ways by so many people – we are truly blessed!!)
Dr. Van Horne – you had the unfortunate task of telling us that Lizzy had a mass on her kidney. You delivered that news with the utmost compassion and empathy and even though we didn’t want to hear that kind of news, if we had to hear it, I would want to hear it from someone just like you. And you also calmly walked us through our options (stay or go) and gave us advice. You are awesome!
Dr. Jim Frazier – when Dr. Van Horne told us Lizzy had a tumor then told us we had to decide whether to admit Lizzy to Colorado Children’s or fly home and try to get everything set up at home, you were the first person I called. I could barely get the words out through my sobs and trying to catch my breath, but you calmly asked the right questions to clarify the situation then quickly gave me your opinion on what we should do. I will never forget that moment. You have continued to provide support and encouragment and I will forever be in gratitude to you!
Colson, Collier & Michaela – once we decided to stay in Colorado, we needed to get the 3 of you back home to Louisville. From the urgent care exam room, we called and said “you’ve got to pack everything up (at the hotel), get yourselves an Uber ride to the airport, print your own boarding passes and fly home”. That was an incredible ask, but you all rose to the occasion and did everything flawlessly. You all are incredible young adults and we are so proud of you all!
Connor & Caitlin – after we called Colson, Collier & Michaela, you were next. We called and said “we need you to go buy a car seat, get to the hotel and pick up Treas, and let her stay with you until we can figure out what’s going to happen with Lizzy”. Just like your siblings, you rose to the occasion and did everything flawlessly. So very very very proud of you all!
Nurse Adam/7th Floor Staff – when we decided to stay in Colorado and have Lizzy admitted to the hospital, Dr. Van Horne made all of the arrangements and told us that “Adam” would be waiting for us on the unit. Sure enough, when we went to the 7th floor and walked through the double doors, Nurse Adam was waiting for us. He took us to Lizzy’s room and listened to our story as he began to get Lizzy “checked in” on the hospital computer system. Throughout our stay, Adam checked in on us, even when he wasn’t assigned to Lizzy. Truly an amazing guy who is very gifted and talented as a nurse. In fact, all of the nurses and staff on the 7th floor were just incredible. All of them were full of compassion and ALWAYS listened to us and answered all of our questions. You all were all great (and almost all of you are named Jen)!
Someone – with all of the craziness of deciding to have Lizzy admitted to the hospital in Colorado, and getting 3 young adults to the airport to fly home, and getting Treas taken care of, we didn’t get to check out of our hotel in Arvada. We ended up keeping one room an extra night, but when I finally made my way back to the hotel to collect our luggage and belongings, the extra night’s stay had been paid for. To this day we don’t know who paid for that night, so if it was you – Thank You!! We so appreciate it.
Enterprise Car Rental (Aaron Webb) – The day after Lizzy was admitted, I had to go to Enterprise to return the Suburban we had rented for the week for Kayli’s wedding. I told the rep (Aaron Webb) that I needed to downsize to a smaller car, but wasn’t sure how long I would need this new rental. Aaron asked if something was wrong with the Suburban, and when I told him the story of why we were staying in Denver for an extended period, he said “wait here just a moment while I prepare the paperwork”. When Aaron came back out he said “Mr. Brooks, this next week’s car rental is on us. We’re sorry for your situation and hope this makes things a little easier for you all”. Wow. Just Wow! Thank you Aaron for being so caring and taking the initiative to do what you did, and Thank You Enterprise for being a company that allows your employees to have the autonomy to take action when they feel it is necessary.
Southwest Airlines/Social Worker at Colorado Children’s – when it was finally time to bring our little girl home, we had to figure out how to get her there. When we flew out to Colorado, we had flown out of the Cincy airport, but our original tickets were non-refundable, non-changeable, so 4 of the return flight tickets were just money lost. And because of Lizzy’s surgery, we didn’t want to fly back to Cincy and then have her sit in a car seat for the 1.5 hour drive home – we really wanted to fly straight to Louisville. That’s when the Social Worker at Colorado Children’s stepped in. When she heard our situation, she said “let me see what I can do”. A short time later, she came back with 4 airline tickets for a nonstop flight from Denver to Louisville, donated by Southwest Airlines. Again – Wow. Just Wow!! Southwest, you’ve got a loyal customer for life!!
Pharmacy Tech at Colorado CVS – due to our extended stay in Colorado, Lori was about to run out of her prescription med. She arranged (so she thought) to have her prescription called in to a local CVS, but when I went to pick it up, the pharmacy tech said it wasn’t time for the script to be renewed so the doctor had not called it in. I left the store frustrated and not knowing what to do. As I started walking down the sidewalk, the tech came out of the store and said “I think there is another option for getting your wife’s prescription filled”. I went back into the store, and the tech tried to run the script through their computer but it wouldn’t go through. She then called the insurance company and explained the situation and was able to convince the insurance company to give us a 30 day supply, which she then quickly filled. I wish I had the name of the Pharmacy Tech, but I don’t. But it is the CVS storefront pharmacy right next to Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora, so if you are ever near there, please go in and tell them we said Thank You!
Ms. Rhonda (Hancock) – Once we determined that we were going to fly back to Louisville, we had the slightly tricky issue of the fact that our van was parked in a pay lot next to the Cincinnati/Northern KY airport. On the day of Lizzy’s surgery, Rhonda (who works in Early Childhood at our church where Lori and I volunteer) called to let us know people from the church were praying for us. She then asked if there was anything we needed. I didn’t really know what to say, but just sort of mentioned that I was going to put a message out to see if anyone would be willing to go get our van and bring it back to Louisville. Rhonda immediately said “I’ll take care of it. We used to live in Cincinnati for several years and our daughter still lives there so it will give my husband and I a reason to go visit her.” And that’s exactly what happened. She made arrangements to get the spare key from our son, she and her husband drove to the pay parking lot, paid the parking fee and one of them drove our van home. That’s being the hands and feet of Jesus! Thank you so much!
Bill Glass/Ramez Mikdashi/Straightaway Health Careers – a couple of days after Lizzy’s surgery, we were sitting in her hospital room (I’m sure we were watching Disney Jr because that’s ALL we watched for 7 days) when there was a knock at the door. We were used to dozens of people knocking and entering all throughout the day, but this time the knock came but the door didn’t open. So, I walked over to the door and opened it, and there was Bill, all 6’5” of him, standing in the doorway, smiling. Bill is one of my colleagues at Straightaway and he flew from North Carolina to “just come check on you all and see what you needed”. Amazing! Unbelievable! Another of my colleagues, Ramez, coordinated to get us a hotel room directly across the street from the hospital so we would have a place to go and shower and hang out if we wanted, and Straightaway completely paid for that. Bill also took care of shipping all of the stuffed animals Lizzy had received back to our home (there was no way they were all going to fit in our luggage!), and he also connected us to many prayer warriors all throughout North Carolina.
Ted’s Montana Grill – my colleagues at Straightaway also arranged for us to have a special Thanksgiving Day meal while we were in the hospital. Ramez contacted Ted’s Montana Grill to place the order, and when he told them our story, the restaurant manager refused to take any payment for the meal and said it would be their gift to us. The meal was personally delivered by the chef to the hospital and it was delicious!
Ms. Sheri/Ms. Tami – while we were in the hospital, Lizzy wanted to make sure 2 people knew what was going – Ms. Sheri at church and Ms. Tami at preschool. Ms. Sheri was able to FaceTime with Lizzy while she was in the hospital bed and Ms. Tami called and spoke with Lizzy. Thank you both so much!
Michelle Maxim/Jane/Angie/Shaun/Rose – Michelle is our neighbor and sent a gift to Lizzy while she was in the hospital as well as brought her son over to play with Lizzy and Treas after we got home. And Jane/Angie/Shaun/Rose (aka “The Mom’s Group”) sent a Princess Party Pack to Lizzy at the hospital. Both acts of kindness meant so much to Lizzy!
Kayli & Nathan – the newlyweds! Your wedding was perfect and we are (still) so happy for you all. We hated having to tell you about Lizzy while you were on your honeymoon, but we knew you would see things on social media about what was going on, so we decided to tell you ourselves (at least partially). When you came back from your honeymoon, you immediately came to the hospital and got the full story. Thank you both so much for your love and support and for sharing your wedding cake with us at the hospital!
Ken Lukhard – my former boss and current friend and mentor. As always, you were a sounding board and listening ear when I needed it the most. After the first chemo treatment, I was pretty distraught with the full impact of what was going on finally starting to set in. You patiently listened as I cried my eyes out and told you about my fears and insecurities. You listened and were just there for me. Thank You doesn’t even come close to being adequate.
Scotty Keeton – he and his wife, Kim, are long time friends from when Lori and I were first married. After hearing the news about Lizzy, Scotty texted me every day while Lizzy was in the hospital, encouraging me and sharing Bible verses with me. I really appreciated that.
Kim & Rob Hundley/Doug Ford – during our “extended stay” in Colorado, all of our trees in our yard at home decided it was time to decorate our lawn with their leaves. And we always have lots of leaf decorations. Kim and Rob took it upon themselves to come to the house and rake/bag all of our leaves. Something like 30 bags of leaves! And then they made arrangements for their friend, Doug Ford, to come and pick up all of the bags and haul them away. Awesome!
Jane Parker/Angie Lewis/Andrew Chesemore/Zach Lewis/Haley Williams/Colson/Collier/Michaela – traditionally in our home, the day after Thanksgiving is when all of the Christmas decorations go up. Well, we were 1,000 miles from home and Lizzy was having surgery the day after Thanksgiving, so the decorations didn’t go up. Or so we thought. This wonderful group of friends and family figured out how to get all of the decorations out of storage, bring them to the house, and put them all up. When we finally got home and walked in the house, the Christmas tree was there, all decorated, along with all of the other house decorations. Truly an incredibly special moment to stand there and take it all in! There was also a stack of gift cards waiting for us on our kitchen table. Most of the gift cards were donated anonymously, so all we can do is say Thank You – if you were one of the donors, please know we greatly appreciate it!
Steve & Tammy Young – what an incredible family! When I mentioned that I wanted to start a blog site to keep everyone updated on Lizzy, the truth is, I had no idea how to go about trying to set something like that up. Steve to the rescue! He texted me and said if I wanted any help setting it up to just let him know because he had set one up to chronicle their daughter Havyn’s journey. I confessed to him that I didn’t have a clue what to do and he said he would take care of it – we just needed to think of a name for the site. Once I gave him the name, it was literally about 30 minutes later when he texted and said “Ok, the site is up and running”. The site you are on right now was all put together by Steve – all of the pictures, the various links, everything. The only thing I’ve done is write these posts – Steve did everything else. Wow! And Tammy has been a great sounding board and resource for Lori. Their daughter has been having chemo treatments for quite some time and Tammy has been so patient to answer all of Lori’s questions and give her tips and suggestions. Wonderful, beautiful, giving people – thank you both!
Angie Lewis/Marci Edlin– these two ladies set up meal trains for us (that are still going strong). To be perfectly honest, when I first saw that meal trains were set up, I thought “that’s for people who are sick or can’t get out of bed – why did they set that up for us?” Boy was I wrong. It has been a real life saver. Chemo days are really long days, and the other days are crazy as well, especially with trying to get Lizzy’s weight up, so the meals have absolutely been something we needed. Thank you Angie and Marci for organizing it, and thank you to the dozens and dozens of people who have signed up and delivered (or will deliver) meals – it is so much appreciated!
Debbie & Dennis Stephens – when we finally got back home, Christmas season was upon us but we weren’t ready! Debbie is Treas’s Sunday School teacher at church, and she and her husband, Dennis (cool name by the way) came by the house soon after we returned home. Dennis was carrying a big sack filled with we didn’t know what. Turns out, every year, they pick a family and buy gifts for each individual in the family for the 12 Days of Christmas. Sure enough, when we opened the bag, there were 12 gifts for Lizzy, 12 for Treas, 12 for Lori and 12 for me – amazing! They didn’t realize Collier and Colson still lived at home, so a couple days later, there was another bag filled with 12 gifts for Collier and 12 for Colson. It was absolutely the highlight of December for the girls – waking up each morning and running into the family room to see what gift awaited them that day!
Jonathan and Krystal – my boss and my friend. You all have been so great – calling us and saying “we’re stopping by with dinner – what do you want?”, and bringing your kiddos over so our girls could have a much needed playtime, to giving me the flexibility to not worry about work for several weeks, to going with us to our Christmas event at church, you all have been so very generous and loving – because that’s who you are! We miss you all!
Grandma/Grandpa and Grandmother – picking up Treas from preschool on chemo days, randomly stopping by with food, and just being our parents, we are so grateful for your love and support. We love you!
Danny Castleman & family – Danny is an elder at our church and he reached out to me to let me know they were praying for us. He also let me know that his son had a Wilm’s tumor some 15 years ago and is now a strong, healthy young man. We were able to meet Danny’s son and talk to him, and Danny’s wife, Tammy, was a tremendous blessing to Lori – sharing their journey and answering Lori’s questions. What a comfort!
Mike Fahrbach/Southeast Church Family – Mike reached out to us and let us know that there were lots and lots of our church family who were praying for us. That’s what has, and continues, to sustain us!
Ms. Recktenwald – once we returned home, Ms. Recktenwald stopped by and brought all of Lizzy’s school work from pre-school. That really made Lizzy feel special and helps to continue to keep her connected to her preschool (Watkins Preschool – the best in Louisville!).
Dr. Courtenay – Lizzy’s primary care physician in Louisville. She was on vacation when all of this happened, but she made it a point to call Lori while we were in Colorado and offer any assistance. Truly remarkable.
Dr. Beth Stucker – a long-time friend and former colleague, Beth gave us some very solid advice and counsel when we needed it. Her counsel helped solidify a crucial decision we had to make and we are forever grateful.
Love Where U Are Group – we are part of a small group through our church and they have continued to be a great source of support. In addition to the meal train, they also put together “clinic day bags” for both girls with all kinds of crafts and activities to help keep the girls occupied during the long days of clinic visits.
Ms. Ahyauna and Colleagues – Ms. Ahyauna is our social worker as part of our foster care journey. When she heard about Lizzy, she and her colleagues went out and bought the 4 of us travel bags and nice, warm blankets and stuffed animals for the girls. How incredibly sweet and generous!
As I said in the beginning, I’m 100% sure I’ve left out someone (or several someone’s) – please forgive me. Every little thing, every prayer, every note or text or email, or act of kindness has been noticed and appreciated. Our journey continues and there will be many more Thank You’s in the days and weeks ahead, so please know we appreciate all of you more than we could possibly express – we love you all!