Sunday, August 30, 2009

The next couple of weeks

This past week has been wonderful to have McKenna at home. I think that 7 days worth of antibiotics she received in the hospital helped to really give her immune system a boost. We were thrilled that her ANC was above 5,000 on Friday. It was great to have a couple of outings. She has had friends over visiting this weekend. We are so grateful for such an outpouring of love and support.
Several people have asked me what is coming up next with McKenna's treatment, so I thought I'd post it. This Thursday will be the last dose of Prednisone for awhile. (This is the medicine that she takes at home every day.) She will take it during the course of her treatment, but only for 5 days at a time here and there. She is glad to be getting off of it. Friday will be a very long day at the clinic. She is having her 2nd bone marrow aspiration and another spinal tap. They will be looking at the bone marrow to determine what percentage of the leukemia cells they have killed in this first phase of treatment. (They expect 95%) We should receive the results the following Tuesday or Wednesday. After receiving the results, her doctors will meet with us to give us her "road map" of treatment for the next 2 months.
We have met other kids in the hospital with the same type of leukemia as McKenna who are a little farther along in their treatment. It has been nice to find out about what changes have occurred, and when they occurred. This next phase of chemo seems to be a bit more challenging. We are thinking we are a couple off weeks away from her hair coming out and her losing her wonderful appetite. We are hoping and praying that the side-effects won't be too bad, but know that her upbeat personality and amazing attitude will help her to endure whatever challenge well.
Much love to you all!!!


Happy news! On Friday, at one of my clinic appointments, where I got more chemo and had blood drawn, I found out that my ANC (absolute neutrophil count) had gone up to 5,000. They told me that for a few days, until the chemo knocks it down to zero again, I would be able to go out of my "bubble" and have fun.

So on Friday night, to celebrate, we went to Rudy's BBQ for dinner. It was so much fun, that after, we headed on over to my aunt and uncle's house (Mike and Amy). We brought stuff for banana splits, and chowed down. Then, things started getting crazy. My dad and uncle thought that it would be fun to shave their heads for me. So literally, they got the "shaver", went in the backyard, and shaved their heads. It was so hilarious:) It's going to take some time getting used to a bald dad and uncle.

Then, Saturday morning was a busy time. My dad and uncle have been working on this SEAL competition. They had to swim 11 laps (back and forth), do as many pull-up, sit-ups, and push-ups as they could do in 2 mintues each, and then they had to run 1.5 miles. Their team won! They talk about it all the time now. Also, my brother Jacob had his Broncos football scrimmage and they won too! Hip hip hooray. All during this, I had visits from friends. Sister Tamayo, Pamela, and Valeria came and brought me my all time favorite "lemon water." Cne and Kristen also came to visit. It was a fun time. Then, my family and I went to Beck's Prime where I had the best bacon cheeseburger ever. It is actually rated the 9th best burger in Texas. It was really good. When we came home, we just chilled and had fun. We rented 13 Going On 30, super cute movie! I had a blast for those days and am sad that I have a "bubble" again.

Me before the side effects of prednizone got to me.
My brother loving his pink wristband! :)

My mom is so excited to almost finish crocheting her first hat for me.

The finished product.

Me learning how to crochet.

My pink wristbands! (Kenna kicks Cancer)
Face masks (avacodos & honey)

Preparing our natural beauty products.

My hand-knitted coin purse.

Making French bread.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Hobbies...

Since I've been home a lot, I have been trying to think of different things to learn how to do. I have been doing a lot of cooking, knitting, crocheting, and pamper "parties."

On Monday, I learned how to make french bread, (which my Grandma Becky taught me how to do.) It got a little messy, but it was really fun.

I also learned how to knit a coin purse. It was really cool to learn how to make that. My future knitting projects will include a sunglasses case, a scarf, and a normal purse.

On Tuesday night, my grandparents (Beckstead) moved some of their stuff into their new apartment. They stayed the night, so in the morning, I made them blueberry streusel coffee cake for breakfast. Everyone said it was really yummy so if you want to try out the recipe, here it is:


Ginger Beckstead

1 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. sugar
2t. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
4 T
1/2 stick butter
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. blueberries

Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter with sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture alternately with milk. Fold in blueberries. Put in a Pam sprayed baking dish. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. I double and triple this recipe using a rectangular cake pan for as many as triple. It can also be used to make muffins but I like the cake better because it is easier. I use frozen blueberries usually.

Streusel Nut Topping:

2 T. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans

Soften butter and stir in other ingredients.

At night, my friend Lauren came over with her mom, Amysue, and they brought over these wristbands that says: Kenna kicks Cancer (in pink!) I am passing them out to anyone who wants one, so if you want one, then let me know.

After they left, we got a little creative and made our own natural beauty products. We made face exfoliaters, (out of yogurt, honey, and sugar) face masks, (of avacodoes and honey) and even wore cucumbers on our eyes. It was pretty fun:)

Today, in the morning, my aunt, Amy came over. It was really fun. She did my hair and my makeup. Then, when my mom and grandma came back from getting the crochet stuff, we had a picnik outside in the backyard. Really fun. When we came back inside, I learned how to crochet. Right now, I am working on a hat that I can wear whenever I loose my hair. It is super cute. My mom and grandma have already finished one. We're making them in white, black, gray, green, pink, brown, blue, and any other cute colors. We are also getting cute bows and flower pins to stick in the hats. We got the idea when we were in the hospital and we saw the cutest little girl who was always wearing a "flapper hat" (as they are called.) So, we decided we would try to make them and it worked! I am doing really good right now, and will be going to the clinic tomorrow to get chemotherapy again. I will try to keep you posted.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Here are some more pictures of Saturday night's gno. (girls night out, a bit of a stretch since McKenna was actually in the hospital). We had a great time though. We laughed alot and they say laughter is the best mecidine.

Here are the pictures I was finally able to post them. I actually wrote the previous blog, but did it on Jen's computer under her email so it came up under her name. Here goes!
While in the hospital there were several guests that came by to visit, not the least of which were the clown family. They were so cute. McKenna and her cousin Whitney were made honorary clowns and were actually engaged to one of the clowns. (so silly) The people who volunteer to brighten these children's day are amazing.

One of Kenna's doctors, Dr. Lindsay, came in to her roon with a clown nose and a silly hat on. He actually met the real Patch Adams and is evidently trying his form of healing. He is a really nice guy and his ultimate goal is to be a Pediatritian in Boise with his father who already practices there. The Doctors at Texas Childrens are really amazing people we are so lucky that they are McKenna's doctors. I am going to try to download pictures. Last time I tried I could not pull up the pictures I wanted to post on Jasons computer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23, 2009

We got home from the hospital this afternoon. We are so thrilled to be back!

We had a fun evening last night. McKenna really enjoyed helping set out dinner for the other families on the cancer floor. While we were in the family lounge we were able to meet several families and talk to them about their experiences. There are a lot of great people in the world. I'm really glad McKenna has met some other kids so it won't be such a drag when she has to go back.

After dinner, we had a sleepover at the hospital with her Aunt Amy, Grandma Becky, cousin Whitney, and sister Lauren. It was a lot of fun.

So far, she has taken this recent round of chemo very well. She is feeling good and wants me to do a cooking class with her as part of her schooling. (It's the least I can do, right?) Tonight she learned how to make chicken pot pie. Tomorrow she is getting up early to make muffins and eggs for breakfast. Hmm, 7:00am comes early.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22, 2009

McKenna is still in the hospital, but with any luck will be able to come home tomorrow. We're keeping our fingers crossed! You can visit her at our home when she is back. She would love that. (Her ANC has gone up a bit!)
We are seeing more of the effects of the Prednisone Kenna is taking. She wanted me to mention another of the effects it has on her...her appearance! You have probably noticed that when people start chemotherapy their faces start rounding out quite a bit. (As well as other parts.)That is due to the fact that Prednisone makes you retain A LOT of water. In the past couple of days that has become more noticable. She only has to be on the Prednisone for 2 more weeks, at this high dose, so she is relieved that she won't have this lovely look permanently. I have been impressed with her good humor about this. She has made me laugh so hard with some of her comments. (I'll have to ask permission if I can repeat some of them!)
As we mentioned before, McKenna has been noticing others and how we can make things easier for other families while they are in the hospital. She suggested bringing in a dinner, as many of the families eat the same things day in and day out. We finally got ourselves organized and are taking down dinner to leave in the "Family Lounge" so others (and Kenna) can have a break from Ramen noodles, oatmeal, and Chef Boyardee. She wants to put together something like this on a regular basis when she is out of the hospital. It is amazing how serving others can lighten your own load.
She has also met some other teens with A.L.L. in the hospital this week. As we know we will be back from time to time, these friendships will be one thing to soften the blow of returning to the hospital. These kids are really amazing!
We are so grateful for all the support and kind words we have received from you. It has been such a blessing to have my parents here to help us juggle life and try to keep things as normal as possible for our other children. We feel so blessed. There are many tough days ahead, but we know that we will be stronger, kinder, and better because of this experience. Love you all!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21 2009

Mckenna is doing quite well. I stayed at the hospital with her Wednesday night and we had a good time. She is upbeat and bubbily as usual. The doctor came in yesterday and asked her how she was doing and she said good. So he asked me how she was doing and I said I thought she was doing pretty well. He said that they also thought from their standpoint that she is doing well. It was good to hear.

One of the hard parts of all of this is having her so far away from the house. It is about a 40 - 45 minute drive to Texas Childrens from here. Coordinating school, spending time with the other children, getting homework done, and all of the meriad of things that need to be done is a challenge. Because of all of this, last night Kenna ended up spending a couple of hours in the hospital alone. True to her character and sunny disposition she went to the Family Lounge and met a new friend, a ten year old girl who is also in the hospital for leukemia. She was so excited and bubbily to tell us all about it. This girl is 5 weeks into her diagnosis and so could tell McKenna a little bit about what he future holds.

Even though she is in the hospital and going through some pretty tough stuff herself she is looking for ways to help others. There is a family room which has a little kitchen and a little lounge where many of the families eat most of their meals. This room is stocked with a few food items, but Mckenna thought the families must be getting sick of eating ramen, Chef Boyardee etc. She called and asked her mom if she could bring up a dinner to share with the other families. We are working on that.

Mckenna's cousin Whitney flew in last night and is staying with her at the hospital right now they are having a great time.

McKenna is receiving several different antibiotics right now and will have her chemotherapy treatment today. It looks like she'll be in the hospital for about 4 - 5 more days.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Word of the Day and Homeschool

Word of the Day: Neutrophil - the white blood cell that fights infection.

I had never used the word neutrophil before McKenna was diagnosed with cancer. It is now a word that we are very familiar with, and are concerned about every day. McKenna gets blood taken quite often. When they take her blood there are 3 things in particular that they are checking. Her hemoglobin count, her platelet count, and her absolute neutrophil count (ANC). A normal person's ANC can be anywhere between 1800 and 8000. When McKenna left the hospital after her first round of chemo it was 40. After the second round it was 0. When her ANC is extremely low, she is at a high risk for infection. We will see it rise and fall throughout her treatment.

McKenna was planning on attending KLEB Intermediate school this year. While she is receiving chemo the doctors don't want her attending school until her ANC is up quite a bit. Many of you may know that I was going to homeschool Lauren this year with the help of my mother-in-law, Ginger. When we received Kenna's diagnosis I knew that was going to be very difficult. When Ginger came to the hospital I asked her what I was going to do about Lauren's schooling. She said, "I'm moving here and I will homeschool her." She will actually be homeschooling Lauren and McKenna. This will allow McKenna to prepare to enter high school next year, and take honors classes while there. We are SO grateful for this sacrifice. It is such a relief to know that will be taken care of, and taken care of so well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 17, 2009

Kenna's fever is down today and she is feeling better. She said that one good thing about being in the hospital is that the nausea medicine they give her intravenously helps more than the pills. They are monitoring her closely and we will know more soon.

August 18, 2009

Kenna is still in the hospital and we learned today that she will probably be there for 10 days. The first couple of months of treatments are very intense and they want to keep a real good watch on how she is doing making sure that they are killing the cancer cells successfully. Jason and Lauren stayed at the hospital with her last night and Jen and Jake are planning on staying there tonight. There are alot of fun things for teens to do at the hospital and Kenna is talking advantage of some of them. There are books, movies, video games to name a few. Kenna says her room is pretty. We appreciate all of the love and prayers. Thank You!

Back in the Hospital

On Sunday afternoon Kenna wasn't feeling as "good" as she had been. By Sunday evening she started running a fever. The doctors are very serious about having the cancer kids come in immediately to the hospital if they run a fever of 101 degrees. When their white blood cells are so low they are unable to fight the simplest infections. Because McKenna has what is called a porta-cath implanted in her side to access her vein easily for chemotherapy, they always check to make sure there is no bacterial infection there. (Among many other things.) Since her throat was very sore when we came in they think that it is probably related to that.

McKenna will probably be in the hospital for 7 - 10 days. I was disappointed when we found that out. I almost felt guilty that I hadn't kept her "sterile enough" to not have to return to the hospital so soon. The doctors assured us that it is very common for kids to spend a lot of time in the hospital during these intense stages of chemotherapy. They would rather have them in the hospital where they can monitor their blood, fever, etc. and still continue with the chemo.

She got all decked out today. Showered, did her hair, put on make-up. She looks gorgeous. Jacob and I are at the hospital today with her. We will challenge her to a Scrabble tournament later today. (She killed me yesterday.) Thank you all for your love and support!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 16th 2009

We've got pictures of Mckenna's cute new haircut to show you. Unfortunately Mckenna has a fever and has had to return to the hospital. We are waiting for word, but are pretty sure she'll have to stay for antibiotics. We love you Kenna.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kenna's New Haircut

Mckennas first haircut was not exactly what she wanted so her Mom called her stylist who came to the house and did a recut. It is so cute! It is a shorter a-line and looks darling on her. She will look smashing for the family photo tomorrow.

One of the side affects of chemotherapy is nausea. Kenna is experiencing some of this and it is quite annoying since she is so hungry all of the time.

Tonight we all played a fun new game together called Say Anything. It was great to laugh together and just have fun.

Friday, August 14, 2009


One of McKenna's medicines is a steroid and gives her a huge appetite. Right after her spinal tap Jen gave her a foot long turkey sandwich with chips from Subway. Then on the way home she was hungry so they stopped at Taco Cabana and she ate two bean and cheese tacos and a large personal quesadilla with a diet coke.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


One of the side-effects of the prednisone McKenna is taking is creating an insatiable appetite. McKenna has always enjoyed a good meal, but it has been really fun watching her get excited about food. On our way home from the hospital she started getting excited seeing all the restaurants and thinking of what she wanted to eat next. She even wrote her "Food Wish List" in a journal she is keeping. She does have to watch her sugar intake as her blood sugar level is a bit high. (Another side-effect of prednisone.)
Tomorrow we will go to the Cancer Clinic at Texas Children's Hospital for the first time. She will get another dose of chemo meds. She is feeling quite good. Just starting to feel a bit nauseated during the day. Hopefully she'll feel good over the weekend.
It has been hard being so careful with who comes over. I know there are so many people that want to come and see her, but we have to be ultra cautious about germ exposure. She has no immune system right now. We have Purell laying all over the house. Hooray for Purell!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


There are three different counts that are important to understand.
1. Hemoglobin
The hemoglobin is important because it carries oxygen to the body. a normal count is between 12 and 16. Kenna's count was 8.1 a count below 8 means a transfusion is needed.
2. Platelets
Platelets are important in the clotting of blood. A normal count is 150-450. McKenna's count was 76.
3. ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count)
This tells how many of a specific kind of white blood cells are present. They are needed to fight infection. This count really tells how much resistance a person has to infection. A normal count is above 1500-8000 cells per microliter. Less than 500 is considered neutropenic meaning there is a high risk of infection. McKenna had a count of 40. They said it is likely to go even lower.


McKenna finally came home today, August 12.

Grandma Becky arrived from Utah just a few moments before McKenna.

Everyone is so excited to see her.

Maddie checks out all her stuff from the hospital.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


We thought we were going to take McKenna home today. Because her blood sugar level is too high they wanted to keep her one more day. Tonight it has dropped quite a bit so chances are good that we will leave tomorrow. They gave her another blood transfusion today to "top her off" because her blood count is low. We are getting ready to become germaphobes. I'll be buying Purell in bulk and lots of Clorox wipes.

Monday, August 10, 2009


On the 16th floor of the hospital there is a beauty shop where they give free haircuts. McKenna decided that, since she was going to lose her hair anyway, she would try out some different styles. She looked through the magazines and found a picture of what she wanted. We all went down to witness the transformation. Everyone loved it. She looks older. Then Aunt Amy came over and put curls in for a different look. Quite glamorous! I'm sure all the bald patients wonder why she is there with all that beautiful blonde hair.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Kenna was introduced to her IV holder first thing upon entering the hospital. They told her it would be her constant companion. It would go with her everywhere she went. They suggested her giving it a name. Someone suggested calling it Ivan since it was an IV. Kenna decided she would rather name him Alvin. So Alvin has become like a pesky guy that just follows her around everywhere she goes and no matter what you do you just can't get rid of him. She wants someone else to push him along and she tries to act like he isn't even there but he is persistant.

His most obnoxious habit is making rude noises. Sometimes he enjoys making ambulance siren noises and just keeps doing it no matter how much you tell him to stop. It just seems like he does it every minute. Hopefully Kenna will be better at discouraging other guys that she has been at avoiding Alvin!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Today was spent waiting for the doctors to discuss the road map or plan for McKenna's treatment. Finally in the afternoon they came to have the discussion. They didn't find Leukemia cells in the spinal fluid. YEAH! That means it has not spread to other parts of her body.

She was scheduled to get her first round of medicines tonight. That afternoon the nurse came in to look for an appropriate vein to start a new IV. A new IV has to be started for the two medicines they would be putting in tonight. She kept saying how dainty and small her blood veins were and that she couldn't find anywhere to start one. She gave up and decided to call someone who was a better "stick." We waited and later that night the nurse informed us that they hadn't gotten the permission slip signed for this medication when they had signed all the papers. It had been misplaced. She told us we wouldn't be able to start the medicine till the next day since there were not two doctors to sign off during the night. Jen looked through her papers and finally the nurse found the signed permission. I think the nurse may have been dreading trying to start the IV and so thought she could delay it till after her shift. So later they came in to start the IV. This was an ordeal. They tried three times. McKenna was so brave as they dug around in her arm. They never could find a good vein.

So early the next morning they sent in someone from transport that does this all the time and even for babies. He used a sonogram to help him find the vein and finally got one. So it was actually August 8 when she finally had these two medications.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


They scheduled to do the spinal tap today. There are two purposes for entering the spinal cavity. By checking the fluids there they can tell if the cancerous cells have spread to the central nervous system and possibly to other organs of the body. Then, no matter what the case may be, they inject a medicine that will kill the cancerous cells in the spinal fluids. She had to be somewhat conscious for this procedure.

The child life specialist was such a help. She explained the procedure in detail and even had a book that showed Kenna pictures of each aspect of the procedure. Then she helped her relax by looking at an "I Spy" book. McKenna only found 3 items in 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Mid July

Kenna had a fever and lack of energy for several days. She was scheduled for a Volleyball camp at BYU and was worried that she was coming down with something and might not get to go. Then she started feeling better and they thought she could go.

July 12

So on July 12th she flew to Utah and Grandma Becky picked her up. She stayed the night there and the next morning drove up to Provo.

July 13

Before the camp started they had a preliminary check on all the girls. When they took Kenna’s temperature she had 102 degrees so they debated whether to let her participate. After resting on the side for a while she told them she felt better and they let her start playing. She played volleyball and participated in all the activities all week with lots of gusto.

End of July

The next week Kenna had a great time with Grandma Becky and felt pretty good all week.

Sunday, July 26

McKenna complained of pain in her writs so bad she couldn’t even use them.

Monday, July 27

She still had joint pain but still went roller skating.

Wednesday, July 29

Jen took McKenna to Jacob’s orthopedic doctor appointment. He said it isn’t uncommon after having flue-like symptoms to see a reaction of sore joints. He thought it might be arthritis and ordered some blood work to see what it showed.

Thursday, July 30

Jen took McKenna in for the blood work. By this time McKenna was limping she had so much pain in her ankles. She had no energy. Still that night she wanted to go to the Tomayo’s pool and swim.

Friday, July 31

The results were not in from her blood work yet.

Saturday, August 1

McKenna was miserable. She ran a fever and was in pain. That night Jason had tickets to an outdoor concert and she went. She stood a while but ended up laying on a blanket and looking very pale. They left early. Jason thought about talking to Jen about the kind of makeup base McKenna was using. He thought it was way to light and was making her look really pale. He didn’t realize it wasn’t makeup making her pale.

Sunday, August 2

McKenna went to church for all three hours, limping and pale. The home teachers came over that night and teased her about how pale she was. Maybe the vampire thing was going overboard.

Monday, August 3

Jen took her in and got to see the pediatrician, Dr. Pope. He called and got the information from the blood work taken by the orthopedic doctor. The tests showed a low white blood count.

Tuesday, August 4

Jen called Dr. Pope to tell him McKenna had a fever and he called down to Texas Children’s Hospital and got her a bed on the ninth floor with the Leukemia patients. That day she had her first blood transfusion. It was to strengthen her to get her ready for the bone marrow extraction. They also started her on antibiotics to fight the infection. Jen stayed with her all night.

Wednesday. August 5

When I walked in about noon on Wednesday I was shocked at how pale and almost yellowish McKenna looked. She looked so vulnerable laying there on her hospital bed. McKenna had the blood marrow taken that afternoon. They put her to sleep during the procedure. The last thing she said before blacking out was, “I think I’ll sing a song.” That afternoon the doctors confirmed their suspicions that they found 85% to 90% of the cells were leukemia cells in her bone marrow.