Sunday, November 13, 2016

Parker wants me to share…

Parker asked me why I haven’t blogged lately.  I told him that now that he is older, it really is his blog and his story and I didn’t want to say things that he may not want shared.  He asked me to please blog and tell everyone what is going on, because he has such a hard time staying awake lately and because it is OUR story…our family’s story.  So here I am, writing, and realizing I have also been avoiding voicing out loud that this life with autoimmune issues has been so very draining on all of us.

I have been going through all kinds of tests due to my own autoimmune issues.  Logan has been flaring for about a month and like me, I think he is trying to avoid more medications.  And Parker seems to conquer one thing, just for another issue (or two or three more) to arise.  Michael and I are realizing we barely have time for much else…we want to work on our house, which has been neglected since this journey has begun.  We want to spend time with friends, but barely have down time.  And the thought of adding holiday decorating to our to-do list is just one more thing to do…and yet, we want to because the result is joy and a reminder that life is precious.

We want to keep celebrating life’s joys, create simple moments with beautiful memories, and keep a focus on what is going right.  And yet, we know, that all of you want to know what is going on with Parker.  And somehow, writing is all down, brings it to the surface.  I realized yesterday, as I spoke to a friend, that I have been trying to smothering it all down inside of me in my efforts to stay as joyful as possible.

I feel like I have lists upon lists…So here it goes…Parker’s “list” of medical needs:

  • Parker’s blood labs have been up and down.  Some are decent and some are yo-yoing. 
  • His uric acid is high.  He sees a new doc, a nephrologist, next week.  This is doc 18. It is possible that this is due to one of his meds, which we have temporarily stopped and will re-run labs this week.  Or his kidneys are somehow being affected by this mean disease.
  • Despite all the things we have tried to do to help his SI joints, they are still bad.  He is having another MRI, at UF Shands, in the near future.
  • He is still thinking about continuing the nerve ablations…this is a tough one because he was awake for the last one and it was horrible, but it did help.
  • We think he has a leg length discrepancy, so a scan-o-gram is ordered.  His bones will be measured and he may need a lift in his shoe.  Let’s see how that goes since we still can’t get his shoe orthotic inserts, post-surgery, approved.
  • He is having blood pressure and temperature issues after showers and doc wants him to go back to cardiologist, which is two hours away.
  • We need to remove his port in the near future because he has grown out of it and it is pulling.
  • He needs to go back to his regular ophthalmologist because his eyes keep getting really red.
  • He has a swollen area on the side of his neck.  So, we have an ultrasound scheduled, since it is near lymph nodes and thyroid.
  • Doc is trying to get a new med and a new biologic approved.
  • We took him to orthodontist and he needs invisaline and botox injections in his jaw.  Cha-ching…  Doc had others come over and feel his jaw joints because he said they were tighter than anyone’s he has ever felt.
  •  We took him to GI doc (actually Michel did…thank you dear God for this man in my life) due to blood in stools and it is likely due to fissures…whew.  Easy solution.
  • He is having some pulmonary issues again, so back to pulmonologist and needs to also schedule another sleep study.
  • And finally, doc is trying to get him in to NIH with a doc doing genetic studies on kids with multiple autoimmune issues.

Needless to say, this is a lot for a kid to process.  He is doing the best he can with the extreme fatigue in his body.  And for all those people who unknowingly ask about school…to make conversation…oh my word…it breaks my heart every time.  He has various answers for this based on who is asking, but there is always a major pause…The medical stuff seems to consume us. We know and he knows he must get his GED finished, but oh my word, sometimes it just feels like it is the least of our worries.  But he will get there one day.  When it happens we will have a party.

So friends and family, please be patient with us.  We know we don’t connect much and our interactions have been minimal.  We wish we had more time to visit, chat, and go out.  But please also know, you are all in our hearts each and every day.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Do You Know What I Want? What I Really Really Want?

I rarely say what I want…I am more about helping and doing for others.  So, yesterday I was debating on if I should dare to really ask all my friends and family what I really “want”.  As I was thinking about if I should, Michael changed the station on the radio and the music blared out “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want…”  I am taking that as a sign.

What I really really want is for the world to know that kids can get arthritis (not like Grandma’s osteoarthritis…you know, the really bad auto inflammatory kind) and I wish there was a public service announcement, so everyone was really aware.  But since there is no PSA…maybe Parker’s PhRma Research and Hope Award video could act as a PSA if everyone got on board and helped it go viral.  He said what many families who are enduring juvenile arthritis want the world to know.  So…what I really really want is for all of you to share with everyone you know this short YouTube video in hopes that it will go viral and JA will finally have a voice. 

With a grateful heart,

Rochelle (Parker’s mom)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Day at the Doctor’s Office, by Parker

So we went to the doctor Tuesday and well it didn't go well. First, I saw the doctor and she told me that there isn't one drug out there that will do what we need it to do for me. She said in order for me to feel better, I need to be on two biologics. The preferred ones being Ilaris and Cosentyx. The main problem now is insurance. One, they won't approve more than one biologic for me even if that makes me better. Two, I'm currently on Simponi and the insurance usually won't switch drugs until I get 2 more doses of Simponi.

This creates even more problems. One being that this drug is taken every other month, meaning it would be 4 months before I can stop taking it. Another problem with this is that the Simponi just straight up doesn't work for me. Also my doctor told the two month span between infusions is tough on many kids. She said she could try to get the insurance to move my dosing to once a month so I can be done sooner, but that’s still 2 months before I would stop taking it. So she is likely going to take me off of it all together since my systemic issues are returning and those issues are more dangerous.

I was also told that my SI joints are doing very bad. She said that even if the nerve ablations work and the SI joints don’t hurt, they are very inflamed. Now normally I don’t care what my joints look like as long as they feel good, but this time is different. My nurse told me that if we don’t treat it soon (meaning switch to a med that WORKS) they could be permanently fused and I would walk hunched over for the rest of my life. I know my doctors are doing the best they can but I can’t help but feel hopeless.

We even talked about the NIH (national institute for health) and my doc is willing to try to get me in.  But she felt that because I am such a rare situation and there aren't many like me with these overlapping conditions that there isn't enough of a sample size to do a study.  That was hard to hear.

My doc told me she prefers to take me off the Simponi and fight to get back on Ilaris. Ilaris is an IL-1 blocker and that is what is needed for my systemic issues with fevers, rashes, and internal organs.  However, I really also need a TNF blocker due to my ankylosing spondylitis, which is inflaming my SI joints and causing my back and neck issues.  I just hate insurance right now and I feel hopeless. And I was finally feeling like I was #strongerthanja.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I Did What I Thought was Impossible with Much Gratitude in My Parker

On May 7th 2016 I did what I thought was impossible. I walked the full mile at this year’s Walk To Cure Arthritis. But it wasn’t just me; it was US! Whether you were at the walk or not all of you were there walking with me in spirit. This year our team raised more money than we ever had before; we raised over $27,000. And I couldn’t of done it without each and every one of you. But there are a couple of special people that helped me do the impossible, and those people know who they are. Through out that walk these people stayed with me walking at “Parker speed”. And it was their and all of you guys’ support that got me through that. Thanks, all of you, for supporting me.

Enjoy Pictures and Video Below...

Video Crossing Finish Line

Time Lapse of Entire Walk with GoPro

Speech I Gave About Belle, the Local Youth Honoree

Have Fun Scrolling through Walk Pics

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Taking a Leap of Faith, One Step at a Time

Parker is working on a blog post to share with everyone about how he “walked the entire walk” and how thankful we are to all of you…but in the meantime, we wanted to share that he is going through some pretty big stuff right now.  Recently his rheumy shared that she believes that he has an additional overlap disease of ankylosing spondylitis.  As we shared previously, his SI joints are complete inflamed and huge on his MRI.  For the last couple of months, his doc has been trying to get a new biologic shot approved (stelara).  Unfortunately, even with an override request it still wasn’t approved.  So, the next step was to get approval for another biologic (simponi).  The bummer is that this med is an infusion which means we will be traveling back again to the infusion room for treatment. 

Parker is really in some considerable pain from the SI joints, and although we tried the nerve stimulator, it didn’t work and had to be removed.  We are going to stay hopeful that the new biologic will be helpful for his SI joints, along with helping his jaw, shoulders, back, hip, neck, knees, ankles and feet.  But we are seriously taking a huge leap of faith with this new step forward.

The biologic that Parker is currently taking targets his systemic JA issues and this included his rashes, fevers, and internal organs.  This switch is pretty scary for us.  His doc has checked his heart and it is good right now, of course that is our biggest concern.  So concerning that Michael spoke up and asked the doc about it.  And instead of saying “what about his pericardia effusion” he asked “what about his periodic confusion”…I wish you all could have seen her face, the hesitation as she tried to comprehend what he said was hilarious (oh what stress can do to one’s communication)…and she replied, “I don’t know what to do about your periodic confusion, but we can check for pericardia effusion and keep a close eye on him.”  I tell you, there are so many moments that Michael makes me laugh, but boy the moment was priceless…we all started laughing.  And oh how we needed to laugh.

So, as we take this new leap of faith, we will be travelling back to the infusion room starting this week.  Please keep our kiddo in your prayers and thoughts.  Much thanks.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Our Strong Kid is WALKING!

We are a little overdue for an update.  There has just been so much going on.  I finally have a brief moment to share.  We have INCREDIBLE news for those of you who have not heard yet.  Parker's right foot is stable and he doesn't need the fusion surgery on that side too.  Everything that the docs at the other hospital had concerns about were related to his previous reconstructive surgery.  The heal concern was where the surgeon had rebuilt his heal structure and the place they thought was disintegrating was where a pin had been removed and left an open space (still healing).  This is a huge relief to all of us and especially Parker.

Our Jiffy Popcorn head going into surgery.
Also, last Wednesday, Parker had the spinal nerve stimulator trial surgery.  The surgery went well.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be helping his pain, so we will continue onward.   The doc will remove it this week.  We know that Parker is completely disappointed, as he had hoped that this would be his ticket to get off narcotics.  But patience has definitely become a virtue he possesses and is applying once again.  We will continue to hunt for a pain solution.

Working hard at PT.
In the meantime, we are revving up for the big walk.  Parker is planning on "walking the walk"...this is huge.  He has worked so hard to get those feet, ankles, and legs working again.  He is going to stand tall as the National Walk Honoree this year!  His focus and determination has been remarkable to witness.  And we cannot wait to see all of you who can join us on May 7th and walk beside our kiddo.  There is still time to sign up for our team:  Click here to link to our walk page

And thank you to all who have donated to our team!  We are blown away by the support and it is heartwarming to see such love surrounding us.

Finally, we are counting down the days until Logan comes home for the summer.  He has completed his first year at UF and we are so very proud of his accomplishment.  His JA was a little mean to him in the beginning and with a little med adjustment and balancing of physical activity, he has been doing great!   We can't wait to have both our boys home for the summer.
Parker left this little bit of HOPE in my garden to surprise me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Right Foot, Left Foot..No Good Feet

We have this kid who never gives up no matter what…Parker’s body doesn’t seem to have the same drive as his spirit does.  All my hopes and prayers are for his continued strength and healing.  For the past three weeks it seems that he has been having more and more increased pain in his back, neck, and jaws.  We have adjusted meds but it is not helping.

Tomorrow we are going up to Shands Hospital.  He has a late set of MRIs for his jaw and SI-joints in his lower back.  Back in November his SI joint MRI revealed huge amounts of swelling.  He had them injected with cortisone and has been taking meds that target this area, but the pain is intensifying.  I can’t remember the last time he hasn’t woken in the middle of the night due to pain.

And back in 2011, he had jaw issues and there were some issues on that MRI but the jaw has been fairly quiet until now.  So his doc is concerned that one of his overlapping conditions might be contributing to these flares since it is not common to have SI involvement in kiddos with systemic JA.  I actually giggle when I hear “not common”…like a nervous laugh…because nothing seems common with Parker.

Today a dear friend shared with me that her heart broke seeing Parker struggle through the family walk kick-off last weekend.  He came in his wheelchair and rested his head on the table as he slept through the entire event. Then, he asked to leave without even lunch nor going through the museum.  She said she always sees Parker smiling but he wasn’t last Saturday…and it so choked me up.  He wants to be present and a part of social interactions but he just cannot seem to maintain. 

He had a friend over this past weekend to play video games (a great pain distraction by the way) and after less than an hour he came out and said he just can’t do it anymore and needed to rest.  It is clear to Michael and I that something is not right and we are so fearful of what the labs and MRI will show.  The doc has said to pack our bags because she will likely need to admit him on Friday. 

The last few rounds of PT have been literally torture for him…and yet he doesn’t give up as tears stream out the corners of his eyes.  The PT checked his right foot (the one that he didn’t have this last surgery on) and he was manipulating it in a way it should not move and then advised me to call the doc because it could mean that the cadaver bone that was put in his foot back in March 2015 may have also been rejected and absorbed into the body because it was feeling like it wasn’t’ there.  It just breaks my heart beyond words at the thought that Parker might have to get his right foot/ankle fused too.  So we asked the doc to also set up an x-ray for tomorrow since we will be at radiology anyway. 

I am literally choking back tears for my kiddo.  I pray for understanding where there is no way I can comprehend what is happening over and over to my sweet kid.  This disease has literally taken his childhood from him and he knows it.  And yet, somehow he carries himself around each day on those horrible feet and ankles sharing his smile with the world and comforting others.

We will continue to fight with all our might for him and for funding for a cure.  We must because it is the one positive thing we can do.  Please know that we so appreciate every text, the sweet cards of encouragement many of you send to Parker, and every single penny donated to his walk team.  There are so many kids that need all of our support.

I will continue to update on Facebook as I can this weekend.  And I will try to update the blog too to keep everyone up to speed.  Just please continue to shower us with prayers, love, hope, and strength.

 And if you want to help, just click on the “want to help” tab at the top of our blog.  Much gratitude and love.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Boggy Creek Boys Spread JOY

It's time to spread a little JOY!  And because of Camp Boggy Creek (one of Paul Newman's Serious Fun Camp,, we said YES to JOY this past weekend.  It was our final Family Retreat Weekend because Parker is 16 and will be aging out.  There is not enough good I can say about the miracle of camp

Of course Parker went out with a bang.  Thanks to these Dads for making his final performance extra special (see video link below). Enjoy the first and final appearance of the Camp Boggy Creek Boys: The Godfather (Michael, Dad), The Enforcer (Brian), The Facilitator (Tony), The Mayor (Parker) and The Heart Throb (Pal Jamar). I laughed so hard my sides hurt. That's one special kind of "YES to JOY". Thank you Camp Boggy staff and volunteers for bringing 20 years of joy to our children.  Watch the video and experience the joy for yourself.

Link to video

Also, here are a few pictures of our fun weekend.

Family Style Meals
Fun in the Gym

Boggy Creek Boys