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AUSTIN'S MIRACLE FUND
Austin's Story and Pictures

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Below is a link to Austin's Miracle Fund's photo album.  You may click on that link to see the photos.  Austin's story is below - it tells of his life - briefly, from before his diagnosis through the most current prognosis.

Click here to enter AMF's Photo Album.

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Abigail Austin Fall 2002

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Austin before Diagnosis
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3 years Old - August 2000

In Remission since August 2001
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Austin - Thanksgiving 2002



Austin, born to Gary and Thresa Firth on September 26, 1997, in Houston, Texas, was right from the beginning a very obstinate child. His mom and doctor couldn't coax him in to turning in order to have a normal delivery. He was delivered c-section because he was breach. He definitely started life doing what he wanted when he wanted. The majority of the time you could ask Austin to do something and he would - but if he didn't want to - look out! He could really stand his ground. Expressing his feelings was never a problem for Austin. He always let us know when he was happy or angry. And boy, could he ever let you know! He is very loving - he loves to hold his face against yours or hold your hand.

He has always been, and still is, a very intelligent child. He learned his abc's and 123's early. He knows his colors, letters and numbers. He can sing any song he hears almost from the first time around. He loves music and he loves dancing (even though right now he needs a little help). Larry Boy from VeggieTales is one of his very favorite songs. Barney and Blue's Clues are his favorite videos.

He has always been a very healthy little boy except for a few ear infections. Then in approximately September 2000 he began having headaches and throwing up. After a lot of tests the doctors finally did a CAT scan and discovered a tumor. An MRI showed that it was cancer and that it coated the brain and went into the spine as well. He has had several operations, lost and gained weight (he now weighs 45 pounds). He had radiation and is now undergoing chemotherapy and will be until the end of May. He lost his muscle control and was unable to walk, talk, sit, etc. He now can sit, talk and walks only with heavy assistance. WE PRAISE GOD FOR EVERY DAY WE SEE AN IMPROVEMENT IN HIM.

April 17, 2001: Austin is in PICU at Texas Children's Hospital because his lungs began having problems after a germ got in his central line right after chemotherapy. He is on an oscillator and we are expecting that in the next few days he will be on a ventilator (which is an improvement from the oscillator). Please pray for a quick healing of his lungs. The doctors have agreed to re-evaluate his chemotherapy - it may be doing more harm than good.

April 18, 2001: - his white blood cell counts are going up - good but can cause problems. It is causing inflammation in the lungs. The next 2 - 3 days are very critical. The doctors told Mom this morning that this can go either way. Please pray for him.

April 24, 2001:  Austin is doing much better. He is making great improvements although he is still in icu at Texas Children's Hospital. Please continue to pray that his lungs heal and heal quickly.

April 26, 2001:  Another germ/infection has attacked Austin's lungs. His lower left lung is covered in this bacteria. The doctors are giving him all the antibiotics they can - they are also putting him back on all of his pressure meds such as blood pressure and medicine to regulate his heart (there is nothing wrong with his heart - it just can't function properly if his lungs aren't functioning properly). His oscillator was at 21 last night but now is back up to 27. The next 24 - 48 hours are critical. Please continue to pray. Thank you.

May 10, 2001:  Austin is out of ICU and in a regular room. He should be home some time next week. God is sooo good! Austin is doing so well. He is currently undergoing the necessary testing to see where the cancer itself stands. The last tests showed that he was clean. PRAISE GOD! We believe God will continue the work he has started in Austin's life.

May 18, 2001:  Austin came home from the hospital on Wednesday night. He is on oxygen and a 24 hour feed. We need to continue to pray for healing in his lungs and digestive system. Praise God that he is home and doing so well. Thank you for your support and your prayers.

May 29, 2001:  Austin's spinal tap came back clean (no cancer cells in the spinal fluid) and his MRI scan looks the best to date, but there is one little spot that
is lighting up on the scan that no one (the doctors) are quite sure what it is and since his disease was so progressed (spread throughout his brain and spine) that the consensus is we should lean toward the fact that it is mostly disease (versus a cluster of blood vessels or scar tissue). So now the following is presented to his father and I what our next step will be....the doctors reassure us that whatever we decide will be the right decision. Our choices are as follows: 1) continue current chemo therapy and the risk will be very high that he will die from this therapy, 2) change to a different chemo plan that will be less harsh and can be administered on an outpatient basis over the next 6 months or 3) discontinue all therapies
and let him begin his rehabilitation process. Austin has a rare form of medulloblastoma, a large cell variant of this nasty disease. This cancer is a newly listed cancer (within the last year) and so the research is many years behind other childhood brain cancers. They do know that this particular cancer and especially his variant, is very aggressive and has a history of returning even after initial response to all therapy treatments. If this cancer returns it has never been successful in curing again; if it returns it is terminal. The way our oncologist presented our choices to us was which outcome could we live with; using the strongest therapy and most likely him dying from it; changing therapies and still having a risk of harsh side effects because Austin appears to respond very sensitively to chemo or discontinuing everything now and risking the cancer coming back and knowing there would be nothing else we could do at that point. His father and I have decided that we cannot risk his dying from the current chemo therapy neither can we risk the cancer coming back without us at least knowing we tried with something else, so we will begin the new chemo therapy in a couple of weeks. One of the drugs is Vincristine and causes muscle weakness, so his rehabilitation (regaining his strength to walk again) will be hindered by the drug. But we are praying that God will override that and Austin will get a chance to get out of his wheelchair. His white cell counts will still drop but hopefully not as low as before and that will mean fewer hospital stays and more opportunity to interact socially and allow Mommy to go back to work, at least part-time. As most of you know, he suffered major injury to his lungs last month. The last few days we are noticing his strength increasing and are able to take him off his oxygen for short periods of time. He is currently not eating by mouth and cannot tolerate large volumes of anything on his stomach at any one time; this is supposed to change with time. We need him to get off the TPN (liquid nutrition given IV form) because it can damage his liver after lengthy usage. He currently takes TPN 12 hrs a day and has tube feedings (through his g-tube in his stomach) 24 hrs a day. He does ask to drink water but throws it up most times and he has no interest in food of any sort, not even McDonald's French fries! The doctor says he most likely suffering from a form of therapy induced anexoria....this too should pass. His eyebrows and eyelashes are coming in thick and dark....will probably fall out again when we start the chemo. His spirits are usually good in the morning...he loves to sing and to dance...just wiggles his little body to the Blue's Clue's and Barney songs. His favorite hand games are 'itsy bitsy spider', 'patty-cake' and 'the B-I-B-L-E' song. He loves to kiss and hug and to watch race cars with Daddy. He sometimes talks about going roller-skating again when he can walk. He can say his abc's and count to 11, name most of his colors and shapes.....doing pretty good for a 3 1/2 yod who has spent the last 8 months in a hospital. Well, that's where we are...I will write again in a few months to say how he's doing. His Aunt Michelle will keep you updated on the steps along the way. Thank you for your prayers and your support....God is obviously in control and we trust our son and our future to Him.

July 2001:  Austin has started his new chemotherapy and is doing well so far. His hair and eyebrows are coming in thick and dark. He is very happy all the time. He loves to play with Weston (his cousin). Austin is doing very well.

September 3, 2001:  Austin's MRI in August showed that the cancer had returned. It was new growth. He is undergoing a new chemotherapy. He will have another MRI to see if it is helping. He is still very strong. He still likes to play. He does not feel well more often now.

September 17, 2001: His latest MRI scan has shown no change from the scans at the end of July and mid-August....this means the disease is stable (not acting progressively) for now. One of the factors that is making the battle hard for a cure is that the disease is primarily in the outer membranes of the brain. That means it is in the outer area of the brain not within the brain tissues itself. If it was in the tissues, inside the brain itself, drugs would reach it more easily through the blood vessels and would possibly have more effect on killing the cancer. There are no further treatments that can offer a hope for a cure; the Irinotecan chemotherapy that we tried in August was an 'investigative' drug and at best was hoped to 'slow' down the disease. Austin is very sensitive to chemo; he gets very sick whether it is a very strong drug or very mild drug. So, we are not going to continue any
further chemotherapies. We want Austin to continue to get as physically strong as he can; we want him to have the opportunity to live as much of a 4 year-old-boys life as he physically can. Even though we have given him to God a million times this past year, he is truly in God's hands now......man has nothing more to offer against this horrible disease, at least nothing that won't make his life miserable to just to keep him on this earth a little longer. I want to give Austin a life...not a miserable extension of a feeble life. My prayer now is the same as it has always been....God perform a miracle in Austin's body and if it is not your will for that, don't let him suffer. Let him be happy and enjoy life as much as he can now. God has the power...God has the ability....God has the Grace and He has the mercy...but it is now that we pray 'Not my will but Your will be done"...as hard as that is to pray I mean it from my heart. Pray for God's will and mercy and strength for all of us. Thanks for all your love and support....it has always been felt and greatly appreciated. We love you all.

October 2001: - Austin is feeling better. He is stronger and getting stronger every day. He is crawling some, scooting and playing very well. He is beginning to hold long conversations again. Eating is beginning to be a favorite past time once again - he is eating and drinking more now than he has in several months.

November 2001: - Yesterday was of good report! Austin's latest MRI (11/7) shows improvement with some enhancement (lighting up) but definite improvement from last MRI (end of July). Neither I nor the doctor has actually seen the scan, but this is the written report from the radiologist, so I don't know exactly how much is still "lighting up" but probably not much said the doctor. According to the doctor, the radiotherapy (radiation) is still having positive effects on the disease. Yeah God!!!! Austin is also eating well enough that his TPN (the iv nutrition we gave every night for 12 hrs) has been stopped! Yeah GOD!!! AND our follow-up visits to the Cancer Clinic are reduced to once a month......YEAH GOD!!!!!!! AANNNDDDD when we go back to the clinic on December 13th, we can discuss removing his central line and g-tube! YEAH GOD!!!!!!!!! His next MRI will be in 3 months. The physical therapists were concerned that he might have some bone weakness that was causing him pain because of how resistant he is to bearing weight through his hip area (like when trying to stand or kneel) but the doctor, the nurse practioner and their physical therapist, all confirmed they do not believe that is the case, that his hip flexors are probably real tight and Austin is just going to have to work real hard during his therapy sessions. Go Austin, you can do it! He may be aspirating on thinner liquids (breathing some in while he drinks) because his swallow is still weak, but we are adding a thickening powder to his drinks to help prevent that and the more he eats, the stronger his swallow will become. We will be going to a wheel chair clinic the first part of December to get him a customized chair that will support him better and help Mommy by not having to stoop over while pushing him! As soon as I get some babysitting arrangements settled, Austin will start going to pre-school through the special education department of the public schools a couple of afternoons a week. This interaction should be very helpful in bringing him back up to speed in his development level. He was very busy doing other things during his third year of life, and now its time to catch him up. I don't believe we are at this stage yet, but when his scans start showing completely clear of enhancements or light ups, we can begin the one-year countdown to his victory over this horrible thing. I am praying that on his next MRI, there are no 'light ups'. God's Word tells us to think on things that are pure, lovely, and of good report......I think this meets that criteria. Thank you Jesus for this good report. And we thank you for the continuing work that you are doing in Austin.

December 2001: I met with Austin's doctors yesterday for his monthly checkup and had scheduled to review his actual scan that was taken in November. I am glad to report that HIS SCAN IS CLEAN OF DISEASE (CANCER)!! Praise God! If you remember, the MRI he had the end of July showed nodules in the cerebellum and was presumed to be the cancer coming back. If you also remember, the doctor told us there was a 1% chance that it could be residual effects that they are just learning about as a result of the new type of radiation therapy Austin received (called "peakcock"). Well, guess what the radiologist report said? "Nodules seen on earlier reports are now faint and are results of radiation therapy" (that's almost verbatim). I was so excited I forgot to ask how long do we have these clean looking scans before they label him as in 'remission', so I will find that out soon. Austin's g-tube/mickey-button broke off this week.....which is fine; we didn't need it anymore and on Monday, 12/17 his central line will be removed. He is very slowly beginning to do exercises in physical therapy where he will bear weight on his feet/legs for just a few minutes. Those few minutes will turn into longer periods and before you know it he will be trying to walk. If you knew Austin last year at this time, he could not even support himself in a sitting position. He had no personality and almost no physical/emotional expression. He was undergoing his radiation treatment and the cancer had literally exploded throughout the brain. I have pictures of him propped up against the couch on Christmas morning trying to involve him in gift opening as much as possible, but he just couldn't. I can't wait for Christmas morning this year! He is just going to rip the paper right off I'm sure!! And I'm almost more excited thinking of where he will be NEXT Christmas! Well, I can only say that my God is an awesome God and I hope that if you did not believe in Him before that you can a least now attest to His mighty healing powers. I know in reality that we still are not through yet, but we have already overcome so many impossibilities that I can only believe that Austin will one day run and play and speak and learn like a normal little boy. I hope you have a very merry Christmas - remember why we celebrate; I know He will remember you.

February 2002: Well, we had our quarterly MRI and it is still Clean! Praise God! His next scan will be the end of April/first of May. He is almost daily making rapid improvement. He can now stand up off the couch and he will walk short distances while you hold his hands....he can do it one handed but really prefers to walk with someone holding both his hands. We got his hot new wheelchair this last week...it is really nice because it fits him and supports him so much better than the rental we had. We probably won't use it much except for long distances but it is very nice to have. He should be getting a walker in the next few weeks which will help him build his strength and balance to begin walking on his own. His speech is slowly coming around, I would say it's about 50/50 of what you can understand from him. One of the best improvements is his comprehension. He is now beginning to identify and label objects....he will ask specifically for a toy or a food...or to yell at his sister; he just loves to call out ABIGAIL! His appetite is normal for a 4 yod....some days he eats all day, other days he just grazes. He will start going to special ed preschool by the end of February....I think he is going to do so awesome in a classroom environment. Well, there's not much more to report....he is just a walking miracle and I give all the glory to God....Austin's miracle is a result of all your prayers across the nation and even the seas...thank you and please don't stop....I feel he will have a complete recovery, but its not all over yet....many battles have been won, but the war on his cancer is not yet finished and that means you mighty prayer warriors still have a job to do.
 
March 2002:  Hi all!  Several of you have asked for an update of Austin, so I am sending out this report.  EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!  Austin began special ed preschool February 15th and he just absolutely loves it!  He gets to ride a school bus every afternoon and that is one of his biggest highlights of the day.  His teacher is always sending home glowing reports saying how well he participates in class and how much he loves to play outside.  If you want to see Austin move fast, just tell him its time to go play outside!  Or if he sees his three-wheel bike in the garage he starts screaming my bike, my bike and if you have ever had to control a 40 lb kid trying to get down out of your arms when youre not ready for him to do that, its quite a challenge!  This boy is quite strong when there's something he wants!  Speaking of strength, he is getting stronger almost daily.  When he walks with you he is getting steadier and if he has his walker he can move out pretty fast.  The walker's wheels only move forward and so if he needs to turn, Austin has to pick up the walker and turn it in the direction he wants to go; he is getting better at this and his Aunt Michelle is thankful because he tends to veer to the left and heads right for her brand new walls!  Look out Austin!

He had his monthly check-up with his oncologist this past week and it was decided that we only need to come in each quarter to go over the results of his quarterly MRI!  No more blood work and no more monthly visits!  One less thing we have to do.  All the staff at the Cancer Clinic are just amazed every time we come in he is just doing so well.  One thing we are doing right now is working with Austin's pediatrician to remove severely impacted ear wax in BOTH of his ears.  We have already had 5 visits over the past 3 weeks where we either flush the ears or try manual removal and we are very slowly chipping away at these plugs.  He gets antibiotic ear drops twice a day to help soften the plugs as well as keep the ears from getting infected; the ear tissue is very sensitive and is getting inflamed from us probing in his ears so much, so just pray when we go back this Friday that we are able to remove either all or a large chunk. (I know, were talking about ear wax, but thats what's going on!)  I know that for at least a year when various doctors have given him a check-up all of them have commented that they could not see his ear drum because of too much wax, and when I asked isn't this a concern, I was told this was typical for children who have received radiation.  When he was enrolled in school he was given a standard hearing test and failed it in the right ear and almost completely in the left all because of the buildup that's how we discovered how severe it was.  So who knows how well hes been able to hear during this time and how much it will positively affect him once we get it all removed.

 Well, that's all for now.  His next MRI is the end of April and we will send out another update then.  He is doing so awesome and I thank God each and every day for the miraculous things he has already done and the things He is continuing to do in and for Austin.  I truly believe his mind and his body will one day be fully restored.  TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY!

March 2002:  I know I just sent an update a few days ago, but this is how fast he is progressing!  Austin has begun walking on his own!  Just like a toddler
learning to walk, he is wobbly and walks short distances, but he knows what
he can do and the world is opening up to him like a flower.  He will be running by this summer!  I told his sister to look out - her brother is back and he is going to be the pest little brothers are supposed to be!  She's just sooo excited!

If you remember, last year this month, Austin was in ICU for over 4 weeks on
an oscillator with everyday counting if were to live or die.  Easter is about new life and Austin is living proof that God gives us that life literally.  I just give God all the praise and glory and want to shout it from the rooftops what all he has done for us.

May 2002:  Austin had his latest MRI this past Monday and when we went to the doctor yesterday he started the exam with "I just want to say this up front" (my heart starts to race a little at this point) "his report is Good!"  "Did you have anything you want to talk about?  No, then well see you in another 3 months!"  That was best $20 I spent this week!  I didn't really expect to hear anything other than a Good Report, but you know that little voice that whispers things to you kept me a little on edge until we heard those spectacular words.Good Report. 

The visit started well as Austin WALKED into the clinic for the first time ever.he was on center stage as nurses were calling doctors to come see..of course, Austin being the stubborn goat that he can be, immediately plopped himself on the floor and refused to budge when he realized everyone was watching him!  But later in the visit his buddy Aaron took Austin for a walk up and down the hallways so everyone could witness his new found skill.  When we go back for our next check-up in 3 months I'm sure he'll be able to run right out the door trying to go home!

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers and support..I know that God is the one who has and is still performing this great walking/talking miracle, but it's your continued prayers that keep the spiritual battle on the winning side.I don't even know who all of you are, but the Great Physician does and hears your every word.

August 8, 2002:

Well, I gave praise 2 weeks before his actual MRI that it would still be clean and everyone would marvel at how far Austin has come and that was all confirmed this past Tuesday STILL NO SIGN OF CANCER!!!!!!  I pray over Austin and thank God each and every day for the glorious miracle He has performed in Austin and I praise Him for the TOTAL RESTORATION that He is continuing in little Austin.  Only God knows the total outreach this experience has made and I don't even try to understand it, because all that is important is that we trust Him and believe in Him and He will do the rest.  Austin is walking very well these days and he will be able to get on the bus for school next week without the assistance of his wheelchair!  I fully believe that by the time Austin is scheduled to enter Kindergarten, he will be able to mainstream into a regular classroom.  I'm sure he will still need to receive speech therapy but that is so nominal in the grand scheme of things.  His speech and thought process are growing in leaps and bounds.  He will begin wearing ankle braces to help strengthen his stance but that should only be for a short while.

 His MRI did indicate a possible collapsed vertebrae in the center of his back and x-rays were taken to confirm the exact condition.  Austin does not appear to experience any pain in his back and did not respond negatively to the physical exam on Tuesday..God can fuse or build up that vertebrae, after all, he has the recipe for the composition of those bones being as he is the Creator of that little body!

God is an awesome God and I will never cease to wonder at all the things he does for us things we don't know we need are provided and things we think we need are thoughtfully considered and responded to on an as need basis.  I am so glad he is steering the boat and not I.'.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I feel the end is in sight and God will receive enormous praise for this miraculous journey he has led us all through

December 2002:

Austin had his quarterly MRI of the brain and spine on Sat, Dec 7 and the doctor told us that the scan is stable no change she is still disease free!!  We are now into our second year of remission!!  The possible collapsed vertebrae that was seen on the last scan turned out to possibly have been a slight fracture that was encased with fluid at the time of the last MRI, but when he was examined by an orthopedist, he said that it had most likely healed itself by now and unless something shows up on any future MRIs there was nothing to worry about.  We also had a follow-up visit recently with his pulmonary doctor regarding any possible lung damage from the severe lung disorder he suffered in May 2001 and because of his age all that can be confirmed right now is that he is saturating alright for his current level of exertion, in other words when he is resting his oxygen level is 97-98, it drops down to 86-87 when he is walking but very quickly returns when he stops.  Austin tends to hold his breath a lot when concentrating, from pain, etc, so the drop could have something to do with that plus the fact it just shows how much effort it is for him to just walk right now.he is still a very weak little boy, BUT he doesn't let that slow him down and all his activity only makes him stronger.  In a few years when he is able to fully cooperate, they will perform tests to see just exactly how much of his lung(s) is he using or able to use.

 All the doctors and nurses at cancer clinic can't believe how well he is looking and how tall he is getting.  You should have seen him in all his glory with 12-15 women surrounding him and just making a fuss over him - he was eating it up!  I hear the same comment over and over that it's just a miracle he's here and my reply is always the same yes, he's our walking miracle.God has really been good to us because we all know that it is literally by the grace of God that Austin is not only still with us but improving constantly in recovering his physical strength and returning to his age appropriate development level.  For those who may not be up on all his accomplishments here a few:  mom is so excited that he has begun potty training it will be soooo wonderful to get out of those pull-ups, he assists in brushing his teeth, he can dress himself with minimal assistance (that is of course as long as he wants to do it!), he eats rather well with fork and spoon and can drink from a regular cup.  His most recent love is to dance.  Anytime music with any kind of beat comes on, he stops what he's doing and starts dancing or clapping and moving to the music. It's so cute!  I would say that he ranges from 18mos to 31/2 yod skill levels.  He is talking in more and more sentences and can follow 2-3 step commands most of the time.  His speech still needs a lot of work and in fact we have an audiogram next week for his hearing.  He failed the school's hearing test and would not cooperate very well for the one at the doctor's office, but there is a possibility that he will need a hearing aid and that might help him more with his speech.  But if that is the only war wound he is left with, thats all right!!  And he still loves to laugh. If he hears someone laughing he starts laughing with them.  He has such a great laugh too!

 Well, I could write on and on as any proud mother could, but I am going to close giving God ALL THE GLORY AND THE PRAISE for what he has already done in and for Austin as well as the total restoration that He is completing in Austin's mind and body.  I praise Him for the strengthening of his muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons.  I praise Him for the restoration of all faculties of his brain. That he will not only be restored to a level that is appropriate for his age, but that there will be no disabilities or anything that will hinder his ability to learn, think and reason or to run, jump and play.  And that his loving spirit will continue to shine through and through for all to see and share.

 I know the reports are further apart these days, but that's the best news of all.  Isn't it great that there aren't any negative changes or developments taking place for me to share with you and request for prayer?  That's the greatest news of all..

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.  I hope 2003 is your best year of all.I KNOW its going to be ours!!!

 Thresa

 P.S.   There is one prayer request - praye that favor will be granted on an appeal we have with the health insurance company, CIGNA, to extend the normal plan benefits to cover all of Austin's therapies.  Austin maxed out his first medical policy (hit $920,000 in insurance payout earlier this year) and so we had to switch from our PPO plan to our HMO plan..oh, what a great concept this is! :(The plan benefits for physical, occupational and speech therapy is actually the same for both plans 60 continuous days per calendar year.  Austin has 6 sessions total per week and is being recommended for at least another 12 months of aggressive therapy; 60-days just don't cut it!  Without any insurance coverage, his therapy would be $800 per week..that equates to my ENTIRE years salary. Even if insurance agrees to extend benefits, just paying the co-pay will equate to $500 month or $6000 year; that is still a nice chunk of money, but one that is so much more feasible than the $800 a week and Austin is worth it!

 I have appealed the insurance's first denial of extension of benefits (they denied even knowing that their PPO side had decided it was in the best interest of the policy to continue benefit coverage vs. the additional costs that would be incurred due to regression in Austin's recovery and medical complications that would arise from that regression) and in my appeal I included letters from each of his therapists, his oncologist, his pediatrician, my employer and myself explaining the need to continue and the consequences that will result if he is unable to receive this medically necessary therapeutic care.  Our insurance advocate is a bull dog and I know she is fighting with everything she has trying to persuade them.  We are still waiting for an answer so in your prayers ask for favor that these benefits will be extended so that Austin can continue to receive this care and if favor is not granted there, to provide another avenue to fund his care, like a charity grant or something that would assist with the expense.  And the answer needs to come now as we used our 60-days the first week of December, so the rest is uncovered unless something changes.  We'll have another 60-days beginning Jan 1, but then the rest of the year remains!!!  SO PRAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next MRI is in March 2003

March 2003:

Austin had an MRI on Friday, March 7 and it is still CLEAN!!!!!! His next scan will be mid-June.  The doctor said when we reach our 2 year remission anniversary (November), we will go to scans every 6 months.  After 2 years of remission the percentage of reoccurrence of the disease drops dramatically and of course the closer we get to and pass the magic 5 year mark, the better.  God's healing powers are evident.  I have met several medulloblastoma children recently who have had reoccurrence or never had it go away at all and it just brings to home how much of a miracle Austin is.  And Austin has survived some pretty extreme conditions, even when compared to those who are still battling it have been through.I continually thank my God for the remarkable things He has done in and through Austin and even myself and I praise Him now for the TOTAL RESTORATION that He is going to complete in Austin.  He will run, jump and play like other boys his age.  He will be able to comprehend, create, reason and process logically as any boy his age should.  His speech will improve as well as his hearing.  And his center of gravity and balance will be strong and solid.

Yesterday was just an awesome report day.  After we returned from the cancer clinic with that good report, there was a message from one of the charity foundations asking where to send the check to pay for Austin's hearing aids. Just the right amount to cover the $4600 costs of the exact hearing aid recommended for his hearing loss!  That leaves us with around $200 for fitting fees, but hey, who's complaining!

Austin still falls quite a bit and fell one time too many on his face this weekend and knocked one of his lower front baby teeth loose and then out.  The Dentist said no damage done, it must have already been beginning to get loose and that his permanent tooth should be in in about 6 months he just knocked it out a few months early another good report.  So, Austin has lost his first tooth!  My baby's growing up.

I also have located a new therapy facility that is willing to discount their rates up to 43% -- that will be $85/hour -- for each of his therapy disciplines (physical, occupational and speech) AND they offer in-house daycare services for their employees children and will let Austin attend for the few hours a day needed between school and therapy sessions until I can pick him up after work.  Annnddd the facility is just 5 minutes from our home!  I also visited his new elementary school recently and it is fantastic.  Abigail is looking forward to us being able to be home earlier each evening.  God is just so awesome -- Everything that I was worried/stressed out about (how to handle Austin's expenses, new schools, new therapists, new babysitter(s)) is just falling into place (the aid has not come through yet to cover his therapy, but it will).  I was just talking to a friend this morning on how easy it is to say I trust God for the answer and even mean it in your heart, but controlling yourself not to start panicking and wanting to fix it before He has an opportunity to give you not just what you need, but MORE and BETTER than what you need is tough to do.  He is a good and loving God all things are possible for those who believe in Him.  Thank you for all you've done Lord and all that you're going to do.

Well, thats my GOOD REPORT!  I will send another update after the next scan or with any other major happening.  Thank you for all your support throughout these past 2 years..it is appreciated more than you can ever know.

Austin's Ever-So-Thankful-Mom

 

June 2003:

Hi all!

Here is Austin's latest report:   His MRI scan on June 18th is still clean..no signs of cancer anywhere!!  God is still an awesome God!!!  Austin is doing fabulous. Since we started getting him in the pool in late May, it is remarkable the rate his strength is increasing..and with his strength increasing, his balance is improving and he falls down less!  It still doesn't take much for him to get knocked over, but he is able to catch himself better which prevents fewer injuries.  He is also potty-trained.whooohooo!!! No more pull-ups!  What will I do with the money?!  Hmmm..guess it will have to go to those stinkin' hospital bills!  ugh!

 On the day before his MRI, Austin had his first vision exam and the optometrist identified (amazingly since Austin was not very cooperative!) that his left eye has a very dense cataract and is basically useless as far as Austin being able to see out of it.  His right eye is far-sighted, which is typical for his age, but she prescribed glasses for him anyway to protect that eye from being overstrained.  And it just so happened (amazing how God works) that Austins MRI was the very next day.  I asked that a note be given to the radiologist to please study the area of the eyes in search of a cataract, so the tech ran an entire eye orbital series so the doctors would have everything they needed to make an accurate diagnosis (another miracle!  There were no orders on file for that test, just my personal request to make a note for the radiologist interpreting the scan!).  We had an appointment today (July 9) with an eye surgeon whose specialty is the retina and he confirmed the cataract and also identified the start of one in Austin's right eye.  This doctor is also suspecting possible retina damage since it is the general consensus that the cataract(s) is radiation induced, which often causes retina damage.  He won't know this until the cataract is removed.  I won't go into details, but there was insurance red tape again that led me to this doctor; even though he is not a pediatric specialist, he has one on his staff that will consult with him during the surgery and throughout Austin's treatment to ensure that everything is cared for expertly.  There is also possible nerve damage since the cataract has been there obviously for a while and that means that once the left eye heals from the actual surgery, we will have to patch the good eye (the right) to force the brain to use the weak eye (the left).  This will not be a short process. It will probably last a year or two and Austin is not going to like it because he won't be able to see that well at first.  Also, because he is so young, the surgeon does not recommend putting in an artificial lens, he recommends Austin wear a contact lens until he gets to late teenage years and is no longer growing.  Adding the artificial lens now could lead to more problems in the future that we don't currently have.  This is a lifestyle change the doctor told me not a cut-n-go procedure;  I will have to put in a contact lens each day for Austin and I'm sure he will just be absolutely thrilled at the idea of me sticking my finger in his eye everyday!!!!  But, I'm sure he will adapt as he has to the hearing aids and glasses.

 I pray each day thanking God for the wondrous miracles He has already performed in Austin and then I thank Him for the future and the total restoration of every detail of Austin's physical and mental make-up.God's answers are not usually the way we would do it if we were given a choice..and right now I certainly can't see how this new journey we are about to begin could be a part of a restoration process, but maybe because of the radiation there is damage we do not yet know of and that the only way to restore his vision is by replacing and retraining portions of his eyes.  It will be one of those circumstances where it will be worse first in order for it to be better and I don't relish the thought of more things to do, but I know God has given me the strength and the ability to get to where we are today..a place where we shouldn't even be, so I know He will provide what I need for this new adventure.  Austin is a real trooper; his new therapists have frequently said that he is a hard worker and he has already captured their hearts as he does anyone that he is around for very long.  He is truly a very special little boy and God's hand is truly on his life..so who am I to say what is the right way and what is the wrong way..I'm here to hold his hand and get him to all the places he needs to be and God always lines it up so we end up where we need to be, even if momma is fretting all along the way!!!

Well, that is all for now.  He will have another scan around October and then we will probably stretch the scans out to every 6 months instead of every 3 months.  Can you believe that in November he will begin his 3rd year of remission?  He has actually been in remission more than twice as long as he battled the cancer..sometimes, it stills seems like yesterday we were living in the hospital but when I start recounting dates and facts to new doctors, it amazes me how much time has gone by!  All I can say is, THANK YOU FATHER!!  PRAISE YOU FOR YOUR MIGHTY WORK!!  AND MAY I BE A GOOD STEWARD OF THIS GIFT OF LIFE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME FOR MY SON......YOU ARE MY ABBA FATHER!

Austin's Mom,

Thresa Engallina

October 2003

Here is Austin's latest report:   His MRI scan on October 8th is still clean..no signs of cancer anywhere!!  God is still an awesome God!!!  Austin is doing fabulous. His speech/vocabulary and sentence structure is really beginning to make progress.  We go next week to get his contact lens for his left eye (cataract was removed on 9/5/03).  I am anxious to see how his learning improves once he has good vision out of BOTH eyes.  I think it will also stop a lot of his accidents that he has as well.  God answered my prayer for the contact lens fight I was sure I would have with Austin because his first lens will be one that he wears for 3 months without us ever having to touch it!  Praise the Lord now hopefully Austin will be so used to wearing that so that when we have to change to a different type a monthly one, he wont fight us putting it in!

Since we are beginning OUR THIRD YEAR OF REMISSION, Austin will only need to have a MRI twice a year with a follow-up visit with his oncologist no more blood work is needed..the doctor is still just amazed at how far he has come!!  So now we have traded the frequent cancer clinic visits for frequent eye doctor(s) visits that is fine with me!  The closer we get to that magical 5-year mark the happier I am (that should be either 2005 or 2006)!!!

Well, not much more to say (isnt that just great!). His teachers and his school are just wonderful and Austin is beginning to bloom.  His therapy is all progressing in the right direction..everything is GOOD!

Austins Mom,

Thresa Engallina

Austin's Story and Pictures