Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What to do when someone you love loses everything too

Friday my bay sister Sarah got married. It was a beautiful ceremony.  It was perfect!  We will never forget it.  It was a Celebration of what the purpose of the true Godly union of marriage is all about.  What a special time for our family.

It was also a celebration for our family in another way-- A celebration of the body of Christ coming together, in so many indescribable ways, for one special day.  You see, 9 days before the wedding, my parents home burned to the ground, along with every preparation for the wedding.

Last Tuesday I was working on a couple of projects for the wedding, in my own home.  My phone rang and I answered "Hi mom!" I was a little surprised, because it was a little after 4 pm and my mom usually didn't get off of work until 4:30.  She sounded frantic.

"Rachel, I just got off the phone with your dad.  I'm racing home.  The house is on fire!"  I said, "NO". and the breathe in my chest was gone. I couldn't breathe.  My mother said, "Just pray honey.  Pray for a miracle".  I told her to call me when she got there and told her to drive safe.  Then I prayed. I marched around my house praying outloud and pleading with God.  NO! NOT AGAIN to my family!  Not that house.  All the wedding things, everything my parents had worked for in their life.  I prayed the fire would be put out before it reached the main part of the house. I prayed my dad was safe. I prayed Sarah's wedding dress could be saved. I prayed my mom would be safe getting there. I prayed for the fire fighters (volunteer fire department in the rural Ozark Mountains).  I prayed and pleaded outloud.  I called Tony and he came home.

About 25 minutes after my first call with my mother, she called back.  I answered.  She said, "It's all gone honey.  Your dad is safe, but everything is gone.  The whole house is enfulfed and I can see through it to the barn. There is nothing left. We have lost everything. " I started sobbing and even then,  she said it would be okay. She told me not to come to Arkansas, but just to pray.

We hung up.  I collapsed and cried.  I couldn't believe it.  How could this happen?

What I didn't know then...  After calling 911, my dad ran back into the house several times to try and get things.  He got his guns and Sarah's wedding dress.  He emptied the kitchen trashcan and took photos off of the walls and filled it up as much as he could.  He was going to go back in and it was smoky so he decided it was too risky.  I am SO GLAD he didn't go back in the house.  His life was spared. 

It puts things into perspective again.  I felt like my scars and scabs were ripped off and bleeding again.  I was devastated for them, for us, for my siblings and my children. I was also thankful.  I was in shock too.  It's strange the series of emotions that can hit you in just a few moments. 

The next week was filled with chaos pretty much.  I started working frantically to try and recreate anything I could for the wedding.  I made phone calls, sent emails and texts, and facebook messages.  We borrowed things and bought things and thrifted items that we would need.  Three of my Aunts showed up to help with anything that they could.  People we knew and people we didn't know, rallied around us and provided meals, and money, and items from photo frames and vases, to plates, glasses and place cards.  We worked hard, made memories we will never forget, and the wedding was absolutely perfect.

What do I do now?  I know my parents were distracted and are now grieving.  They are still dealing with the investigation of the cause of the fire, and insurance people.  What a headache.  I know (sadly, from experience) that they are going to need help for at least a  year.  Each new change of the weather will be heart ache for them.  Holidays are going to be really rough.  My parents home was the center of holiday gatherings for our family.  This year, and probably many to come, will be different. 

Their house was more than just walls.  It was home.  It was the home I grew up in.  I remember the day we moved in, in December 1989.  It was a cold day.  We moved from California and I remember wondering "what in the world is this place?"  It was a place my family could always go to and feel loved and comforted.  After our fire (august 2012) it was a place we could go to and feel stable, the place that never changed-- Nonnie and Papa's house.  It was home for my kids.  It was security.  My family is grieving another loss.

The main thing is that we are all so thankful my dad didn't die in that fire.  He really could have.  And, honestly... if my mother had been home she may have too.  She probably would have tried to save everything she could.  So, I'm thankful both of my parents are safe.  I'm thankful that my parents taught us what to value in life.  I'm thankful that this world is not our home, we are just here temporarily. 

So, what do you do when someone you love loses everything too?  Count your blessings, be positive, and pray.  I may not know exactly what my parents need or what they are feeling, but I remember the pain I felt.  I know God has a plan and purpose to everything.  I know he is our healer and provider and comforter.  I urge you to focus your effort and purpose on things that are eternal--things that matter.  Everything will burn eventually, but no one can take our relationship with the Lord away.  Tell people about HIS goodness and focus your life on things above. 

For those of you who want to help, there is a gofund account set up.  Please pray for my parents- Jon and Diane Alen.  Please continue to pray for them in a month, in six months, in a year.  The pain will still be healing. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Normal Platelets and Prayer Requests

I had an appointment today and my platelets were 228k, which is normal! PRAISE THE LORD!

People ask how I am doing.  As long as my platelets are normal, I can consider myself doing very well.

The last couple days have been rough for me.  My body's reaction to the high dose of steroids has not been wonderful.  The side effects have not been fun.  My lymph nodes have been swollen and very sore.  My digestive system is just jacked up, to say the least.  I have been tired, and trying to rest when Hazel does.  Each day gets a little bit better.  My doctor told me today to expect better things every day.  We are praying the side effects will fade quickly and my healing will continue. 

I have been advised to quite nursing Hazel.  My hormones have been imbalanced and breastfeeding doesn't help with that.  She was royally ticked off at me yesterday.  She did not want to take a bottle.  It has been pretty emotional on me as well.  I know it's something I need to do for my health and I am okay with that.  I had quite a bit of milk in the freezer, but we have now started on formula.  Boy, that stuff is expensive!  She is eating table food a lot now and is 9 months old, so we will only need to do formula for a couple months before she turns one.  Please pray that she transitions well with formula.  Prayers for her to sleep through the night would be great too.  Seriously.

I go back on the 21st to meet with my Hematologist and talk about a plan for maintenance.  As long as I don't have anymore dips in platelet counts, it should be an easy, short process.

- that my platelet counts stay in the normal range
- that my body will start feeling "normal" again, and the side effects from the drugs will wear off soon.
- that Hazel will adjust well to bottle feeding, and sleep better at night.
- for finances, that God will provide above and beyond for all of these medical costs

Thank you so much for the prayers.
Thank you for the meals!
Thank you for notes, texts, and calls of encouragement!

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Full Day Back at Home

Yesterday I was greeted with these precious signs and washi-tape hearts on the door when I got home.  

Tony took care of Hazel through the night last night and let me rest.  What a great night of rest in my own bed at home!  

My mom and Grammy made the family breakfast this morning then headed to Mississippi to get Grammy back to her house.  I am so thankful for them and how much help they were here!  Grammy pretty much folded laundry 24/7! Between getting behind at Christmas, to returning with a weeks load of dirty laundry from our trip, we were quite behind.  We still have missing socks. Where do all the socks go? 

Hazel bonded quite a bit with my mom (aka: Nonnie) while I was in the hospital and even started calling her nonnom.  It is so sweet! 

It was sad to see them go, but I was full of gratitude as I watched them drive away.

I am so thankful that I am alive, on the uphill climb of healing, and safe inside my home again.

When they left, my brother Nathan and his new Fiancè Holly came over to help.  Boy, was it nice to have them here to wrangle the kids, help us sort through Baby proofing toys, and take down Christmas lights outside.  We even fit in a tutu dress up princess playtime while Nathan shot nerf guns with Tobin and Tony put away laundry. Keeping the kids entertained is a full time job, so it really helped having them here for a few hours! 

I took my (hopefully) last giant dose of high octane drugs today.
 I go Tuesday to get my labs checked and meet with my Hemotologist Oncologist.  There will be many appointments in the next months to make sure my body is responding to treatment and my platelets don't decrease.  This steroid regimen is different than my last treatment and quite experimental.  It's only been done on 7 people so far.  We have high hopes it will do the trick! 

The side effects from the drugs have taken a toll on me today.  My body aches, heart races, and I am shaky, yet at the same time I am weak and tired.  Since the steroids ramp up, I am having trouble actually sleeping.  It's quite a weird feeling to be tired and weak but not get to sleep.  I have quite a bit of swelling which they expect to go down pretty quickly, so I am hoping for that!  The steroids also make me an eating black hole.  It has been an interesting day.  Please pray that my body will allow me to rest well tonight.

I didn't really write much about breastfeeding, but I was able to pump in the hospital and my milk tested safe for Hazel which was such a blessing and answer to prayer!  The drugs I am on now have dropped my supply quite s bit, so I am praying my milk increases.  She is eating quite a bit of food and tolerating bottles wonderfully.  All of this is an answer to prayer as well. You can continue to pray for these things. 

Sweet friends brought dinner last night and tonight which has been such a blessing!  Hazel enjoyed French fries tonight with her new 6 teeth!  
There has been a meal train set up and posted on my facebook page hat our amazing church family has set up.

Thank you for all the amazing prayers and support.  You can continue praying for the requests on the previous post.  I'll let you know when specific prayers have been answered, or new ones are needed. 

Please know that you have witnessed another modern day miracle from our Lord!  I cannot believe I get the privilege of letting the lord use my body as a living testament and miracle from him! What an amazing honor.  

I'll update tomorrow! ~Rachel

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I'm busting outta here early!

My Hemotologist came in and said my platelets are now 136,000!  She was amazed and said she was thrilled that my body responded so fast and said I was in the "early response group" for this experimental therapy.  She said I was out of the high risk for bleeding and I could go home today!  

What does all of this mean?  

Well, this battle is far from over.  My 4th, and hopefully last, day of drugs is tomorrow.  They will send me home with a bunch of pills to take tomorrow.  I will continue to come into the oncology office and have labs checked.  The hope is that my counts will continue to rise and stay in the normal healthy range without further treatment.  My doctor told me there is 30% chance that they may have to do the 4 day treatment again, so we are praying that doesn't have to happen.  

As long as my counts stay out of high risk levels and I don't developer complications, I stay out of the hospital.

Things to pray for:

- Today the roads are slick and Icy. Please pray for safe travels for us as we drive home.

- Pray that my platelets continue to rise to normal level (between 150,000. & 400,000.  

- I do have a genetic risk for blood clots so we don't want my platelets higher than normal, as that would give us the opposite problem.

- Pray for a full recovery for my body. This year my one word to focus on is health, so I will be doing everything in my physical power to get as healthy and strong as I can.

-Please pray that once I get home, Hazel will continue to breastfeed, and my supply will keep up with her demand. My doctor agrees this is the best thing for both of us. 

-Please pray that he Lord will provide for us financially through all of this. There will be many expenses throughout this process and we are trusting in his full provision!

THANK YOU SO MUCHH for your continued prayers for our family.  Please know you have been part of another miracle for the Cobb family. We are rejoicing today and accepting healing in our fathers hands. 

Thank you for everyone who has visited me, sent food and gifts, called and texted, watched our children, and brought meals to my family while I have been away, and everything else too! We could not get through this without all of your support.  

Here is to a happy, healthy 2015! 

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