Hello 2013!

As I have watched the year in review lately on all of the news stations, and I have (again) seen all of the bad/sad events during 2012, as well as reflecting on everything our family and many others close to us have been through, I am so ready to move on to a new year!

Charles Dickens wrote: "There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast."  The outpouring of kindness and generosity from family, friends, community members, and complete strangers in the midst of the last nine months of turbulence has surely proven to be a counterweight keeping us balanced. We could not have made it through 2012 without the help and support of so many of you. From providing tons of bribes and treats for Becca and Lily, to supplying help in the care of Lily and our home, to donating time or money so that Ethan could take a leave from his job to care for Becca, to lending an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on as we struggled, to offering up daily prayers for Becca and our family, to delivering goodies to the hospital so that the monotony of hospital life (and food!) could be broken, to all of the sweet notes and cards sent to let us know that we were not alone, and to the other large and small things I'm neglecting to mention.  In addition, we are so thankful for the talented nurses and doctors who have so capably cared for Becca, the other professional hospital staff who have provided various therapies and entertainment, individuals who have given of themselves (some of them conquering huge fears) to donate blood or platelets, those who have registered as bone marrow donors with bethematch.org, the individuals and families who have donated money to further pediatric cancer research, and especially the epitome of goodness and self sacrifice... the 21-year-old young man who donated some of his bone marrow to save our child's life!  Words cannot ever express our gratitude, but hopefully someday we will be able to try to thank him in person.

Well, anyway, we frequently write in this blog that no news is good news, and that is surely the truth.  I'm happy to not have written for a while.  The Kniskern family's 2012 ended with a trip to Florida so that we could have the summer we didn't experience.  Though the weather wasn't quite as warm as the summers here in Cincy, it was fabulous to be able to swim, go to the beach, and do some things that were not possible this past summer.  On the last night of our vacation, it was finally warm enough for Becca to be able to swim naked in the pool (hee hee!), which was a primary goal for our trip.  Some of the other fun things we did included seeing Winter (the dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale) at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, collecting shells at Honeymoon Island's beach, and building sand castles, jumping waves, chasing the seagulls, and making the girls into mermaids at Clearwater Beach.  We also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Give Kids the World Village to see Becca's star, ride the carousel, play on the life-size Candyland playground, and have ice cream for breakfast.  Becca didn't remember visiting the village for her Make-A-Wish trip three years ago, so it was great for her to be able to see what an amazing place GKTW is.

Becca and I had to head down to Children's yesterday, so that she could have labs drawn, IVIG, and her port flushed.  We arrived a little early for her 7:30am appointment (thanks to many people not working yesterday), and we were out of there by 11:30, so it was a relatively quick trip to the day hospital.  The doctors were quite happy with the way she looks, and her labs were great.  The accessing of her port (sticking a needle into her chest) did not go well at all, and the de-accessing was even more difficult.  Luckily, she will now only need to have monthly visits to the clinic for labs and IVIG, and once May comes, she can have her port removed since they will stop giving her IVIG monthly in April.  The good news is that we will be seeing Dr. Absalon in the hematology/oncology department for our next few visits.  They are "transitioning" us back from the bone marrow transplant unit, so we will only see Dr. Grimley at the milestones (3, 6, 9, 12 months).  This is definitely a good thing, and we look forward to leaving the bone marrow unit far behind!

Becca is dying to go back to school, but unfortunately, the doctors want us to wait until after the cold/flu season has passed.  We would like to begin gradually by having Becca go to school for a couple of hours at a time beginning in late February or early March, so that she can meet her classmates and get accustomed to being in the classroom setting again.  The doctors believe that after spring break would be a good time for her return, and this is actually perfect, since that is where she left off with Kindergarten last year.  She is still working with Mrs. Finn at our house two days a week, and we plan to increase the frequency of her homeschool visits now that January is here.  Becca's stamina and energy level have definitely increased, but she is surely not ready for five days of full-day Kindergarten.

I have included some pics and a video from the past couple of weeks.  Right before we left for the trip, those of you who saw Becca noticed that her top front teeth were both loose and "bucking out," causing a space on both sides (and a rather goofy look).  A couple of days after Christmas, she lost one of the teeth, so now she has buds of both of her top teeth coming through her gums and a scraggly, dangling tooth in the middle.  You'll notice a different smile...    

 Just thought this was a beautiful profile of Becca.  Do you believe all that thick hair?!
 Full of energy at the beach
 Becca's star at GKTW
Before losing the tooth... See what I mean?
 Jumping waves at Clearwater Beach - do you see the joy on Becca's face?
 Before our trip, the day Becca's swim fins and mask arrived (thank you, Amazon Prime!)
 New Year's Eve party at Chez Kniskern, complete with way-too-short dresses from Becca's no more chemo party two years ago
 View of the sunset from our dock
 Becca was proud of her "pumping" on the swings at the Candyland Playground at GKTW
Cincinnati wasn't quite as warm when we returned, but at least we have a new family member

Finally, here's the link to a video of Becca (and a few shots of Lily and our new kitten Peanut) that is guaranteed to make you laugh:

Ethan, Lily, Becca, and I would like to wish you and your families peace, joy, happiness, love, and health in 2013!