Believe it or not... six years!

Six years ago yesterday, Becca was first diagnosed with leukemia (ALL – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia), and a journey we did not want to take began.  I will not go into details about the dichotomy of emotions I felt yesterday, but I do want to let you all know we are in a really good place right now.  Becca is doing great!  She is absolutely LOVING second grade, she is sassy and healthy, and she is dealing with normal 8-year-old girl drama.  Wednesday is her favorite day of the week, because she has library, share, and early release, and Friday is a close second, because of Drama Kids after school. Her Brownie troop will begin meeting soon, too, which is something she is really anticipating. Best of all, Becca is singing constantly, which means she is feeling terrific!

As far as hospital visits, we are now seeing Becca’s oncologist every three months, and we are visiting the BMT team even less frequently.  Her labs looked stellar the last time we had them drawn, and prior to her November appointment, we will have them taken again. 

I would apologize for not posting to the blog in so long, but as I’ve said before, the less I post, the better, because that means Becca is doing well.  

Insert Glee-like music and rapidly talking voice over saying, "So here's what you missed (since May)..." 
Becca, Aunt Mary, cutie Carter, and Lily - Carter's first swim!

Becca running from Virginia Beach waves (she and cousin Ricky did this for about an hour, after Becca told me she did NOT want to go to the beach that day)

Ricky, Rachel, Becca, and Lily taking a break from the hot sun at the rooftop indoor pool

Ward Cousins!

Eight curly candles on a Barbie cake... how much better can it get?!

Dorothy and Elsa
Hilsmier cousins "hung" with us for a couple of days and a night in the UP :)

 A windy canoe ride with Daddy on Lake Michigamme
Sisters on "the rock"

 2-year post-transplant celebration at Becca's favorite UP restaurant

Kniskern (girl) cousins at the beach
  • The summer flew by, but it started with a trip to Virginia Beach with Nana, along with a stop in Charlotte on the way to visit with Uncle Bill, Aunt Mary, and cousin Carter.
  • Becca turned 8 in July, and her first sleepover party was a success!

  • We headed to the Upper Peninsula (UP) for our yearly family trip after the girls spent a week at Camp N'JoyItAll (surprisingly, Lily was the one who was homesick this year at camp)
 Our favorite pic of Becca at Camp N'JoyItAll this summer

Notice the jumprope around Lily's neck?!

First day of 2nd grade and 5th grade

 Almost positive that the laughs were the result of something Becca said...

 Sweet sister love

 LOVE that laugh, and of course, the smiles!

 Our lovely Lily girl

Our beautiful Becca Boo
  • Lily started doing "open gyms" for her Kings Firecrackers jump rope team this summer, and there were two intense weeks when the movie executives and filming crew came in to begin taking some footage for the Firecrackers movie, but that was NOTHING compared to how much the girls are practicing now! Two hours a day Monday through Thursday, they are usually off Friday night, then 3-4 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. I only drive the carpool once a week, and I am amazed at how much they improve from week to week. If you ever have the chance to see the Firecrackers perform, don't miss it! Oh, and Lily turned ten at the beginning of September... hard to believe how fast she is growing up.
  • As you can see above, we had family photos taken out at Nanna B and Poppa's farm with the Kniskern clan, and it was so much fun!
I think that will have to be all for now, because I need to get to bed and get up in five hours. Feeling grateful for all of you who have kept up with our journey the past six years and have continued to pray for our little fighter and the rest of our family...



She's now a 2nd grader!

Hope you can join us!

 Becca's first day of 1st grade
 Becca's last day of 1st grade - think she's a little excited?
Lily's first day of 4th grade
 Lily's last day of 4th grade - notice the jump rope

It's been a while, so here's what has been happening with the Kniskerns since my last real post in January:

  • Looking back at my calendar for January, I'm noticing that we had LOTS of snow days and delays... that must be the reason my students in Loveland are in school until June 10th!  Becca also started cheering for Upward basketball games during that month and got strep for the first time since before her bone marrow transplant.
  • February was a rough month all around.  Becca got sick again, but this time with an ear infection and virus that wouldn't go away until the middle of March, since she had developed some immunity to antibiotics. In the midst of that, my grandfather fell off a stool in mid-February and passed away within two weeks. It was a flurry of activity, with family coming in to visit with Grandpa while he was in the hospital and staying with us then and when they came in for the funeral at the beginning of March.  Though it was an extremely sad period and we are still grieving the loss of an amazing man, the time spent with family was priceless.
  • March brought on a fever and cold for Lily, but she also went to her first Firecrackers (Kings Schools jump rope team) clinic the same week.  Before that clinic, Lily had not really expressed interest in jumping rope (or much ability at all in that area). The girls and I tried to escape the cold of Cincinnati over spring break with my mom by heading to Myrtle Beach.  It wasn't much warmer, but we were able to visit with cousin Chuck and his daughter Ceili in Asheville on the way down, and my brother Rick joined us at the beach for a few days, too.
  • In April, Firecracker fever took over for Lily!  She went to another clinic and decided to try out for the team.  Constant jumping ensued, and she started practicing during open gym time as well as with two different jump rope tutors almost every day. Yeah... we didn't know there was such a thing either! Ethan finished up his first year at UC and did a fine job of officiating his first wedding for some of our friends. Toward the end of the month, Becca had another bout with strep and a sinus infection.  The fever of 104.1 really scared us, and it took a full week for the antibiotics to kick in to get rid of the fever.     
  • May has flown by, mostly due to the Butterfly Walk and the end of the school year.  We had a team of over 60 people and raised more than $2,600 this year for CancerFree KIDS with Becca's Believers.  Check out the video here: http://youtu.be/aTL77DOGF3Y .  Thank you to all of the walkers, runners, and donors... with your help, researchers might be able to soon wipe out childhood cancer. Wouldn't that be great?! Another death on my side of the family (my sweet Uncle Austin) brought some of the family back into town just last weekend to participate in a beautiful celebration of his life.  Again, so sad to lose someone we love, but thankful for the time with family.  The best news of the month is that Lily made it onto the Firecrackers team!!! Check out a video of last year's team performing at halftime of a UC game and UK game: http://www.kingsfirecrackers.com/ Aren't they AMAZING?!  It is going to be a huge commitment, but our family is really excited.  Lily has worked tirelessly to make it on the team (the coach only took three girls out of the 11 that tried out), but now the real work begins.  Practicing two hours a day, six days a week, with the other day being a performance, and travelling almost every weekend from January through March... just WOW!  I can't wait to see her shine; she sure deserves the spotlight for a while!
  • Becca's and Lily's last day of school was today, so we now have a 5th grader and a 2nd grader!  See the pics above. Hard to believe...
  • Our family is looking forward to two separate events coming up in June.  The first is the Be the Match Soccer Marrowthon, which will take place next Friday night, June 6, from 6pm-midnight, at Kings High School. Come join us and get registered to be a bone marrow donor. You could save someone's life, just like our hero Matthew did for Becca! We are excited that Matthew might be able to attend the event. Check out the details on the flyer above. The other event we are looking forward to is a trip to Virginia Beach to visit with the Ward cousins.  We haven't seen them since Christmas, and our family is excited to celebrate the end of the school year by playing on a warm, sunny beach.
  • Becca has a clinic visit with Dr. Absalon next Friday, so please join us in praying for good numbers in her labs and that they are pleased with how she is doing.  
That's all for now.  The next update will most likely be in July, when Becca turns 8 and we head to Michigan.  As I hit "Publish" on this blog, Becca is totally rocking out to "Dude Looks like a Lady" with rock star facial expressions and hand gestures, while playing her air guitar :).  She's been singing all afternoon, too, which means she is feeling great.  Life is good... 


Please join us!

It's that fun time of year again!  
The 8th Annual Butterfly Walk for CancerFree KIDS will take place on Saturday, May 10th, at Cottell Park in Deerfield Township. The funds raised from this walk will go toward pediatric cancer research, and we have again formed a team for seven-year-old Becca.  She was originally diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) in October of 2008, went through a grueling three years of treatment, and then was diagnosed with therapy-related leukemia (AML) in April of 2012.  She again endured intense chemotherapy then received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in July of 2012 and returned to school in April of 2013, just prior to last year's walk.  We are continuing to celebrate her strength, courage, and resilience; Becca cannot wait to lead her Becca's Believers team in the Butterfly Walk this year! 
The walk is only a one-mile walk, and there are lots of fun family events during the day.  The 5K run will continue this year, so if you are "into" the running thing, you can participate.  The Junior Jog will also be taking place, as well as the fun festival that lasts until 2pm.  We're hoping for beautiful weather this year, but even if it's soggy like last year or windy/cold, we'll still have fun and show our support. 
We have registered our family, but we need at least ten people for the team ("Becca's Believers").  Last year, we had almost 90 members and raised over $5,100, which was awesome! Your $30 adult registration fee gets you a t-shirt, bracelet for the day's activities and food, and some other perks.  If you would like to do the 5K, the adult registration is $35, and child (12 years and under) registration is $20.  Youth (ages 3-12) only pay $15 for registration for the walk and fun festival, and children under 2 years are free.  If you cannot attend but would like to donate to our team, we would welcome the support... after all, the faster they find a cure for cancer, the better! 
For more information or to register/donate, go to www.butterflywalk.com or https://runsignup.com/Race/Donate/?raceId=2547&runnerFundraiser=PVOxDfwUEduKTaIV.  Be sure to list "Becca's Believers" as the team and "Trisha Kniskern" as the captain so that your contribution or registration goes towards our team. 
Hope you can join us in walking/running to find a cure for pediatric cancer!


Happy New Year

I can't believe it has been over two months since I last posted! With everyone in our family in school, our lives have just been humming along. So... the million dollar question, "How's Becca doing?!"

The bottom line is that she is doing great.  Becca has been attending first grade and not missing much school at all, she is participating in the DramaKids program after school and has started cheerleading for Upward again, she is making friends, and she is working through some of her fears and frustrations. We have now been moved to every other month appointments in the clinic at Children's, so that means less lab draws, and she did a fabulous job with the December one. In addition, Becca is on NO MEDICATIONS, which I did not think would be possible for a long time, let alone only a year and a half post-transplant. 

Lily has been participating in her school chorus this year, and she is becoming quite the super reader and arts and crafts aficionado. Yes... she has a Pinterest account :). Our family has really enjoyed the fall and early winter, celebrating the change in weather and doing the traditional things we do at this time of year. Last year we were in Florida for Christmas, so it was fabulous to spend time with both sides of the family celebrating the holidays. My brother and his family were in town for Christmas for the first time in over five years, and the cousins had a blast playing together all day (see pics below for a few of the many dress-up themes).

We have had additions to our family this year, too. Back in September, we were so fortunate to be able to meet Becca's life-saving bone marrow donor Matthew, as well as his mother. During the Thanksgiving break, we had the pleasure of getting to know Matthew's father and girlfriend Courtney, and earlier this week, we were able to spend time "on wheels" with Matthew and Courtney while roller skating. These wonderful people are now part of our family, and we have so enjoyed getting to know them. The bond that Becca and Matthew share is hard to describe but clearly visible, and I'm sure it will develop even more over time.

I feel so fortunate to have had this fall and winter time with my family at home, when we were mostly healthy. Lily had a small bout with a cough and fever that almost turned into pneumonia in late October, but other than that, we had been pretty healthy until just before winter break when Becca had a stomach bug and Ethan picked up some type of virus. Becca's lab results were a little wonky, as they were drawn at this time, but the docs had no concerns. Luckily, she waited until the morning after Christmas to wake up with a croupy cough (probably picked up from the tail end of Ethan's virus). If you haven't heard one before, it is one of the most terrifying sounds, especially when you are sound asleep and your child is immunocompromised. You just get a feeling in the pit of your stomach of what is to come (and it's not good). After taking her outside for some cold air and then using the inhaler, she calmed down, and her coughing lessened. The next day, though, Becca woke up and told me that her hips and legs hurt and that she has felt this way before... a long time ago. Talk about feeling it in the pit of my stomach!  I flashed back to five years ago and was panicked for most of the next couple of days until she stopped mentioning the soreness in her legs. She had a fever (never above 99.6), but we had to miss out on a couple of fun events to keep her from getting others sick. Though Becca still has a juicy cough, she is back to full-energy and playing like crazy.

To catch you up, a few pictures from the last couple of months...

Shaw Pumpkin Farm, a yearly tradition 
Halloween Party at TDF 
Heading out to the barn at Nanna B's and Poppa's farm
 Chefs Ricky and Lily
 Teenage texters
Hat girls (Nanna B made hats for all the girls)
Ward grandkids, together at Christmas
 Flapper Becca doing the princess wave
 Lily in her mermaid tail
 Christmas morning bedhead
Prisoner Lily and pirate Ricky 
Great Nana and the girls at Lily's chorus performance at the Lodge
 Great Papa and the girls at the show, too
Great Papa and Great Nana and their favorite oldest granddaughter :)
 Becca and Emma on wheels
Becca and Matthew (don't they look like siblings?!) 
Awwwww... love this one!
Ward cowgirls
 Kniskern girls bundled up and ready to sled
My sledding Becca

Thank you for the continuing prayers for our family... they are what have helped get us through the last five plus years. I'd like to request some prayers and positive thoughts for a few other little ones now. In the past month and a half, I have referred three different families to The Dragonfly Foundation (a WONDERFUL organization that provides comfort and joy to kids and young adults enduring cancer and bone marrow transplants - www.thedragonflyfoundation.org). While I am thankful for this organization and the fact that they will be able to provide some comfort to these new dragonflies and their families, I am so sad that their families are enduring such horrible things. Please send some prayers for healing up for 7-month-old "M" (diagnosed with infantile fibrosarcoma in late November and in the midst of six months of chemotherapy and testing), preschooler "S" (diagnosed with Leukemia in the beginning of December), and eleven-year-old "M" (diagnosed with Leukemia right before Christmas and currently inpatient at CCHMC). My thoughts have been with each of them throughout this holiday season, and I hope you'll join me in praying that the treatments kill the cancer while keeping side effects minimal. 

Many blessings to you and your family, and I hope that 2014 is a year filled with love, happiness, and health!