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Tuesday, March 27, 2007 11:00 AM CDT

Yesterday morning Bennett had his second to last spinal tap. It went very well. We enjoyed the movie "Iron Will" as we waited for them to get ready for his tap, and then again after Bennett woke up and ate his breakfast.

Bennett's counts were great. His ANC was 2440 (anything over 1000 is what we are looking for).

We got home much earlier than we had in the past and as I was talking about the spinal tap and how it was his second to last one with the girls, I suddenly realized that he had not been given his pentamadine infusion! I called his nurse and she was apologetic and said she'd look into what happened. I am thankful that God prompted my memory about the pentamadine. It protects Bennett from the big bad type of pneumonia.

So we are heading back to clinic today to get his pentamadine infusion.

Thank you for your prayers.

In Christ,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007 8:58 PM CST

We are back from Florida. It was a wonderful vacation and so nice to see my dad and his wife down at their condo in West Palm Beach.

Bennett had counts done today, and they were good, as expected and his chemo was restarted. We are easing him back into it this time. He's at half dose and we'll have counts done again on March 19th to see if we can increase it to full dose. We also have a spinal tap scheduled for March 26. His 2nd to last spinal tap! Can you believe it?! At his spinal tap in June he's scheduled to have his port removed.

We had a little glimpse of what days without chemo would be like when we were down in Florida. Usually when he's been off chemo it's because he's been sick. This time, his ANC was just a little too low from the jump back into chemo after pneumonia. So the whole week in Florida he seemed to have more energy, he enjoyed food more, and he seemed just all around happier. It was a blessing. We were praising God for his health!

Today at clinic Dale came along and took pictures. As nurse Sara accessed his port, Bennett made a pained face for the camera - it looks like he's yelping in pain. Sara was alarmed for a second, but then realized that he was putting on a show for the camera. She got a pretty big kick out of that!

That's all for now. Please keep Luigy and Amber in your prayers. They have osteo sarcoma and ewings sarcoma. Amber has had a relapse of ewings sarcoma and Luigy is not responding well to treatment.

We also covet your prayers for our family.

In Christ,

Saturday, February 24, 2007 10:25 PM CST

Bennett had his regular monthly visit yesterday. It feels like we've been down to Children's way too many times this month, and Bennett was exasperated that he had to go yesterday. Once we got there, though, he was his old chipper self. His chemo and pentamadine infusion went well, but his ANC came back low, just over 500. So daily oral chemo is suspended until we get back from Florida. Then we'll go in to have counts checked and hopefully restart. Usually when he's been sick and chemo suspended, it is restarted at half dose and then slowly increased so that his counts don't bottom out. This time his chemo was restarted at 100 percent and proved to be too much for his body. We know the Lord is not wringing His hands over this and we trust Him completely for Bennett's healing, so we will just enjoy this vacation where we don't have to be administering meds every day and not question it. He is on steroids, however. He'll finish on Tuesday, so he'll still be "steroidal" at the beginning of our trip, but hopefully it will wear off quickly.

We are getting a snowstorm finally here in Minnesota. The first one of the year. We welcome the snow since we've barely had any this winter.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

On the Solid Rock of Ages,

Saturday, February 17, 2007 8:22 PM CST

Bennett's counts were good at his clinic visit on Friday (yesterday). His ANC was over 1100 so we started the chemo back up last night. His doctor could still hear a little rattle in his left lung, but was very pleased with how Bennett looked and sounded. We go back again next Friday for IV chemo, pentamadine infusion and counts. We'll also start steroids that day. Then, Lord willing, we will head to Florida for a much needed vacation. Wahoo!
Please pray that Bennett's pneumonia is completely healed and that he remains healthy for our trip.

Thank you!
In Christ, my Lord,

Update Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Today was Bennett's last day of antibiotics. He's doing very well. He went to swimming lessons on Monday. His nurse said there was no reason why he couldn't go. So we took him. But I kept him home from his open gym class on Tuesday. There are just too many kids there for our comfort.

Tonight is the AWANA grand prix. Bennett made his car and we will take him to club to race it tonight. It's a tank painted camouflage colors. Then after the AWANA Grand Prix, we have been blessed by Hope Kids with tickets to the Wild Hockey game, we get to sit in a suite - otherwise we'd never even consider taking him into a crowd like that. Anyway, we get to watch the game from a fully catered suite. We are all very excited.

I have high hopes for Bennett's appointment on Friday. He continues to have bone pain now and then, but that has been true for months, and his counts have always been good with no sign of leukemia cells. His shoulders have been hurting lately along with the tops of his feet. He has complained of foot pain off and on for almost the whole time he's been on treatment. The shoulder pain is new, and makes me a little worried, but we'll have counts on Friday and they'll be able to tell us if anything is out of the oridinary.

Happy Valentines Day from all of us, especially Bennett.

Trusting in the King of kings, and Lord of lords,
Update Friday, Feb 9, 8:49 pm CST

Bennett's fever seemed to break last night around 11. When I checked on him he was soaking wet, but cool as ever. We got him out of his wet clothes and bundled back under the covers. He remained cool all night. I slept next to him again to just keep monitoring him all night. I needed to make sure he didn't get the chills and start shaking uncontrollably; that would warrant a trip to the ER. He slept soundly and has been fever free ever since. Praise the Lord!!! At clinic today he got a chest x-ray. It showed that there is still evidence of pneumonia, so the oral antibiotic was extended for another five days. His ANC was 684. That had taken another nose-dive since Wednesday. Not low enough for us to have to go in, but chemo is still on hold. We go back to clinic to check his counts and his lungs next Friday unless something else comes up. Please pray that the pneumonia clears completely. We started albuterol nebulizer treatments today and we need to keep them up until his cough is completely gone. Then we go back to his pediatrician to re-do the asthma test. The nurse-practitioner today was positive that he has asthma. So we really need to get in and get that checked out so that we can learn how to manage it.

Bennett is in very good spirits today. I can tell that he feels much better, and that his fever is gone. He has so much more energy. Even though he feels better, we are keeping him home from everything of course. Dale and I have been taking turns going to church. Flu season is at its peak right now, so we need to very careful about where we bring him.

I'll update again soon.

In His grip,

Update Thursday, Feb 8, 10:14 pm CST

Bennett spiked another fever today. It eventually got up to about 103 this afternoon, but earlier, around noon, it was 101.5. As soon as Bennett saw the thermometer, he had tears in his eyes at the thought of going to Childrens for the fifth day in a row. He knew I had to call, but was extremely unhappy about it. When I spoke with his nurse, after I told her about the fever I said that we would be very happy to not see her today and that I was comfortable staying home with Bennett and just watching him to make sure that he doesn't get any other symptoms. She was comfortable with that as well. It pretty much sealed the deal when I told her about Bennett's reaction to the fever. We have an appointment tomorrow where we'll get another chest x-ray and counts and probably culture his blood again if he continues to have a fever. I'll update again after that. Please pray the pneumonia is gone. Thanks!

In Christ,
Update Wednesday, Feb 7, 1:50 pm CST

Well we weren't home for too long yesterday evening when Bennett's fever reached 104.5. Since we had had his blood cultured yesterday and gotten the antibiotic, we didn't have to make an ER run in the middle of the night. Praise the Lord for that, but we did have to go to clinic today for another dose of IV antibiotics and cultures and counts. The nurse practitioner said that if Bennett's counts went down we'd discuss whether or not to stay overnight, if they were below 200, there would be no discussion and we'd for sure stay and if they'd gone up, we could go home. Well, they had gone up all right! His ANC was 1179. That was an amazing jump from yesterday, when it was 547. So we are back home after a little visit to our friendly neighborhood hematology/oncology clinic. We'll have to go back tomorrow if fevers continue and we still have our appointment for Friday regardless, to have another chest x-ray to see what the pneumonia is up to.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Bennett is in good spirits. He's taking a nice warm bath right now.
Last night, there was a funny scene at our dinner table. Dale had gone out to get Bennett a treat - a lobster tail from Red Lobster, while I scraped up something for me and Dale - hot dogs! So we sat down to eat, me and Dale with our hot dogs and Bennett with his lobster tail. I really don't think he saw anything ironic or humorous or out of the ordinary about the whole scene. He happily munched his lobster while we happily munched our hot dogs.

Please pray for complete healing. I'll update again soon.

Standing on the Rock of Ages,
Update Tuesday, Feb 6, 2007 5:00 pm CST

We are home from the hospital. Bennett had a low grade fever this morning and his ANC had dropped to 547 so I thought we were in for another night, but the nurse practitioner was comfortable sending us home. We began to pack up and get the discharge papers going. After Bennett had been de-accessed (the needle taken out of his port) the nurse took his temp again and it was 100.9. A very borderline temp for going home, so he had to be reaccessed and given another IV antibiotic. The reaccessing was very hard for Bennett, he sat quietly on the bed with tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. Only minutes before he was going to be heading out the door, and now he was back in bed, waiting for the Emla (numbing cream) to work so that he could be poked again. The nurses tried asking him questions but he was not in the mood to answer them, nor could he because of the humongous lump in his throat, and any answer came out in sharp, short syllables accompanied by tears. To make matters worse, on the first attempt at accessing, the nurse missed his port! So she had to pull out the needle and get another one and another nurse to access him. More devastation on top of an already bad situation. Finally the port was accessed, the IV antibiotic was given and the needle taken out and we were on our way home. Now if his fever spikes tonight, we won't have to go to the ER. He's already covered with antibiotics. But if it spikes tomorrow, he'll have to go in. If no fever or other symptoms come up, we just go back on Friday for another chest x-ray and blood draw to assess counts. Chemo is, of course, on hold until then.

Thank you for your continued prayers for Bennett and our family.

In Christ,

Michelle and I (Dale) were just about to watch the Super Bowl yesterday, but Bennett had been listless most of the day and felt warm, then hot, and by 6:00 his temperature was 104 and climbing. Yikes! Michelle and Bennett were on their way to the Children's Hospital ER before I even got the clinic on the phone, and by the time they got to Children's, the on-call doctor had called the ER with a heads up.

The girls and I prayed for healing and calm, and God delivered quickly.

Bennett was admitted by late evening, and by bedtime, they found X-ray evidence of pneumonia in a small part of a lung. It might've gone undected in a healthy person, or even in Bennett during the a strong part of the monthly chemo cycle. But this was a week after his powerful IV chemo, and his body was pretty wiped out. The high temperature must have been his body rallying everything it could throw at the pneumonia. He's on IV antibiotics now. The girls and I stopped by his room tonight to visit and to bring Michelle something appetizing for supper, and Bennett looked and sounded good.

Michelle and I had a private moment during tonight's visit and admitted to each other that this had been a scare. An eight-year-old Minnesota boy died from pnuemonia just a few days ago (complications from the flu), and the news report was fresh in both our minds.

There have been many scares, but God reveals evidence of His healing hand at every turn. Every time we have a scare, I remember typing "come what may" (and really meaning it) on May 17, 2004, the day Bennett was diagnosed. Sincere but naive. "Come what may" has become significantly more meaningful, as cancer families we share friendship and kinship with encourage and comfort each other along the way. Wonderful as some stories go, others have left us numb with heartbreak and sometimes sick with dread, but there is always hope.

Please continue to lift Bennett and the Ryynanens to the Lord in prayer. And please understand that we are prayerfully and emotionally involved in the journeys of our friends. Please pray for Amber and Eric and Nathan and Luigi, to name a few; some of them are having a rough time.

Thank you friends.

In Christ,

Sunday, January 28, 2007 11:25 AM CST

Bennett had his monthly hem/onc appointment on Friday. His counts were great, ANC just over 1900, and all his other counts looked good. He got his monthly dose of IV chemo and we started his steroids. He's showing signs of steroid side effects- hungry and craving certain foods. This morning he wanted french toast sticks and cinni-minis from Burger King. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they had quit serving breakfast. That was a big bummer. We settled for some cereal and Yo-J.

Dr. Bostrim said that at Bennett's June spinal tap he can get his port taken out. That's more than just a short-stay surgery, but I think we can still go home the same day. I thought we'd have to keep it in until October for his pentamadine infusion, but Dr. Bostrim was confident that we can just quit that in June as well. The end of the 3+ years of treatment is really coming quickly. He has just 2 more spinal taps, March and June. We just continue oral chemo meds until July 19th. And then we are done. We continue to go to clinic once a month for blood counts for another year. But we are tentatively optimistic about treatment coming to an end. And we pray for no relapse. I can't even imagine being done with this. It's been part of our lives for so long that is seems like it should always be. I picture coming to August and looking back and wondering, "What did we just go through?" And I pray that it has made us stronger and brought us deeper in our faith and trust in the Lord.

Keep fighting the good fight, friends, for the Lord our God is with you if you trust in Him.

In Christ, my firm foundation,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 8:47 AM CST

Well, all the sickness going around finally caught up to Bennett. He spiked a fever yesterday evening, before supper, of 102.2. That meant a trip to the ER. He was crushed. He sadly got ready, and so did I. I packed a bag in case his counts were low. His last ANC was 585, well under 1000, so I was quite sure that it would probably be very low. At the ER, his blood was cultured and an IV antibiotic was started. We watched the movie Elf to pass the time. When his counts finally came back, we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were over 1000 (I never found out what they were exactly) so we packed up and came home. Praise the Lord! None of us wanted to a hospital stay in the worst way, and God in His mercy saw to it that we could go back home. Bennett was very happy to hear the news. We will just wait at home to see if his cultures come back positive. If so, then we will have to go back for more IV antibiotics, but I'm pretty sure it's just a cold. We've been keeping him home from most of the things he usually goes to because of all the sickness going around, but something caught up with him anyway.

We have our monthly clinic visit on Friday, so I'll update again after that.

Leaning on the Rock of my salvation,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 2:42 PM CST

Update, Thursday Jan 11, 2007

I took Bennett to clinic today to get his counts checked. It was a fairly short appointment, and we didn't wait around for the counts to come back. We had to get back for piano lessons. The doctor called us when they came in this afternoon. Bennett's counts took a real nose dive with the increase in chemo. His ANC was 585 (remember anything under 1000 is high risk for infection). His doctor has us going back to the chemo level that he was at before his last appointment. He has another appointment in 2 weeks and we'll check his counts again. I am very glad that we had him stay home from his AWANA class this week. We'll reconsider letting him go to gymnastics next Tuesday. His hemoglobin was also a little lower, which doesn't surprise me, he seems a bit more pale than usual and even though he has spurts of energy, he wears out fairly quickly. His platelets were good, so that is a huge "Praise the Lord" because he got a very nasty bruise on Tuesday at gymnastics, that I have been watching and worrying about.

He's downstairs right now practicing piano. It sounds so adorable to hear him plinking away at the keys. He's doing well at it, even though this is only week 2. It's good for him to have to concentrate on something like piano.

He's been very clingy lately, too. He wants me to lay with him until he falls asleep. Last night he crawled into our bed, which he hasn't done in a long time. He doesn't want to be alone and he's very snuggly. I really don't mind because I know that this stage really won't be lasting long - he's already a big 8 year old boy, but it makes me wonder what he's feeling. He doesn't talk about his feelings very much. Maybe boys are like that . . .

Anyway, please keep praying for total healing for Bennett and protection right now from infection. We praise the Lord for His hand in our lives, He has been so faithful through these 2 1/2 years. His faithfulness gives me courage as we look at the last 6 months of treatment and then to the follow-up journey.

Trusting in my Savior,

Bennett had a dentist appointment this morning. It went very well. The last dentist appointment we had was in September and it was very traumatic. We got sent directly to an oral surgeon for some emergency treatment. Today, Bennett's teeth and gums looked like a million bucks. No cavities and no gingivitis.

Bennett has been doing really well since his spinal tap. He seems to have lots of energy and is in very good spirits. We have noticed that food is tasting bad again, however. I'm sure it's the increase in chemo. It was quite a jump. We go to clinic tomorrow to make sure that his counts haven't bottomed out. There are a lot sick kids that we know personally, so we are being careful where we take him. We are keeping him home from some of his events where there are a lot of kids in a small space. He's still going to do gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball clinic. Those are in very large open spaces.

I'll update again tomorrow when we find out how is counts are.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Thursday, December 28, 2006 10:58 AM CST

Bennett had his spinal tap today. It had been scheduled for Jan 2, but based on the insurance it was better to have it done now. And now his last visit for chemo won't be a spinal tap, it will be a clinic visit. Lord willing, he will only have 2 more spinal taps!

His counts were great today. His ANC was 2244. Since it has remained high after his illness in September, his meds were re-escalated beyond what is called for for his height and weight. We go to clinic in 2 weeks to just check counts to make sure the escalation doesn't cause them to bottom out.

We had a wonderful Christmas. Bennett got a gameboy. He took it with him to his appointment today. The appointments are at least 2 hours long, so it's nice to have something to do.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Saturday, December 2, 2006 4:23 PM CST

I couldn't wait for Monday to take Bennett in for his monthly visit. He was sleeping very late the last few days and was very lethargic. He also seemed pale with dark circles under his eyes and he has a persistent cough. So I rescheduled his clinic visit for Wednesday. The good news is his counts were very good. His ANC was over 1700, and all the other numbers looked good. The doctor was concerned about his cough, so she sent us down for a chest x-ray. His lungs were fine, no pneumonia. His cough is persisting, so we will keep an eye on that. His next appointment will be his 2nd to last spinal tap, Lord willing, the first week of January. We will also have another visit with his pediatrician sometime this month to recheck the asthma test.

He started steroids Wednesday, and they are in full force today (Saturday). He's hungry, crabby, and irritable. It seems his sisters can't do anything right, and apparently they threw away his favorite Christmas ornament. (They didn't, but he won't be convinced.) We are trimming our tree today and he goes between being helpful and argumentative in minutes.

As Christmas approaches, we have so much to be thankful for. Scripture commands us to give thanks in all circumstances, so I am giving thanks today for steroids and crabbiness and difficult times. We are trusting completely in Jesus to carry us through this. "Rejoice in the Lord, I will say it again, rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

We pray that whatever you are going through right now, that you will know that the Lord is near, and that you do not need to be anxious about anything. Know that He hears your prayers and He is sovereign. He will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Do you know that without Jesus, you are an enemy of God? So, do you love the Lord, are you surrendered to Him, trusting what Jesus did on the cross, shedding His blood to forgive your sins and reconcile you with the Father, making you no longer His enemy, but His friend? As Christmas approaches, consider that the birth of Christ that we are celebrating led to a cross about 33 years later. It was the reason He came.

May the Lord richly bless you and draw you to Himself.

In Christ, my Lord,

Saturday, November 18, 2006 8:18 AM CST

Bennett is doing well. He had an appointment yesterday with his pediatrician. He hasn't seen him since May 17, 2004. We went in for a physical and to also talk to him about our change in insurance plans. We are taking Dale's work insurance which will require Bennett's pediatrician to be more involved in his treatment because we'll need referals him for some of his treatment.

Bennett had a very fun time with Dr. Paulsen. He talked about him on the way home and when we got home he said that if I was a doctor I'd be no good unless I was Dr. Paulsen because he's so funny. So I guess I'll forget about med school! Bennett told me the hard truth about any Dr. aspirations I might have. I'm not funny enough to pass the Bennett Dr. test.

At the appointment he was tested for asthma. The test did show that there may be some asthma going on, but the doc wants us to come back in 3 to 4 weeks and redo it. In the meantime, we have a nebulizer that we'll be treating him with and a prescription for albuterol.

On another note, our friends from Camp Sunshine, the Ludwinskis, had some very bad news. Their son Erik relasped. He has neuroblastoma. His website is www.caringbridge.org/mn/erikludwinski. Please keep him and their family in your prayers. Erik was a counselor this past time at Camp Sunshine. He is an amazing young man.

Bennett's next appointment is Dec 4. I pushed it back a few days because Bennett would be due for a spinal tap on Christmas Day! They wouldn't actually do it on Christmas Day, but I wanted to get past the entire Christmas season before his spinal tap. Now it will be the first week of January.

Thank you for your prayers.

In Christ,

Thursday, November 2, 2006 7:42 PM CST

Bennett had his clinic visit on Monday of this week. His counts were great. His ANC was 4968, and all his other numbers looked marvelous. He got his pentamadine infusion. That is the longest part of our visits now - it goes in over an hour, but Bennett doesn't mind, he gets to play Playstation in the infusion room.

He also started steroids on Monday, so far it's been a pretty good week. Tomorrow is his last dose. He was apparantly craving chocolate milk tonight. He and his dad went on a date to find some. I think I heard Dale suggesting they try Cabela's to see if they have any. That wouldn't have been the first place I would have thought of to look for chocolate milk, but I'm sure they'll have an adventure no matter what.

Bennett's next scheduled appointment is November 27. We keep praying for complete healing. Lord willing, we only have 9 months left.

Praising my Lord,


Tuesday, October 3, 2006 2:59 PM CDT

Update, Friday, October 13
Bennett's counts were great today. They are probably still falsely elevated from the Prednisone, but his chemo was upped to 100 percent of what it should be for his height and weight. It's still less than what he was taking before he got sick. His chemo had been increased beyond what is called for for his height and weight, but it won't go back up to that until probably his next spinal tap.

He also got his flu shot today. He took that with no problem. We didn't know that he was going to get that shot today, but it didn't even phase him. What a trooper!

We are heading to Camp Sunshine Sunday after Corinne and Jenna finish their Bible Quiz meet.

His next appointment is October 30. I'll update again after that.

In Christ,

Update, Thursday October 5

Bennett had his opthamology appointment today. The opthamologist did a very thorough exam and could not find anything wrong. Praise the Lord! Bennett had a lot of questions this morning about something possibly being wrong with his eyes. I could tell he was a little concerned. He was visibly relieved when the doctor told us that he couldn't find anything wrong. And he was out of the chair and heading out the door before the guy could change his mind!

We go in for another blood draw on the 13th to see if his chemo should be increased to 100BR>
I'll update again at that time.

In Christ,


Bennett had a spinal tap today. During the physical exam before hand, the nurse-practitioner noticed something in his left eye. She looked at it more carefully and mentioned it to me. Bennett got his chemo and his pentamadine infusion started. The doctors and nurses were busy getting ready for his procedure. It took a while because one of the machines that monitors Bennett's heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, and breathing kept beeping even though everything was properly set up. They reset everything several times, tried new cords, then a new machine, but the same thing kept happening. Finally, they got it to work, but it took quite a while. After the spinal tap, the nurse-practitioner gave me a referral to an opthamologist. She said she looked in his eye again while he was asleep and wants a specialist to look at. So we have an opthamology appointment on Thursday. Sometimes steroids can cause problems with eyes. That's all I know right now and I'm kind of anxious for Thursday to get here so we can go find out what is going on with his eye.

Everything else was great. His ANC was over 3000 so they increased his chemo to 75 We go back in 2 weeks to get his counts checked again to see if he ought to go up to 100 He started steroids today, and will take them until Saturday. He also got his IV chemo and spinal chemo. He seems to be doing great after the tap. We need to wear his boots on him for the next 2 weeks to keep his ankles from getting too tight.

That's all for now. I'll update again after his appointment on Thursday.
Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Monday, September 18, 2006 2:16 PM CDT

We had a clinic appointment this morning to check Bennett's counts and then physical therapy to evaluate his strength and weaknesses and see if he needs PT again.

Both visits went very well. Bennett's counts have recovered. We assumed they had because he looks and feels great. His ANC is back up to 1107. Praise the Lord! We will restart his chemo at half doses for the next 2 weeks. He has a spinal tap in 2 weeks on October 3. We'll check his counts again then to see if he should resume normal doses.

His physical therapy evaluation also went well. He has some weaknesses and areas that we need to work on, but overall his physical therapist says he's much stronger than when she discharged him last Spring. She'll call me with the test results, but he won't need PT visits on a regular basis. We'll work on the areas she suggests and then have him re-evaluated in a few months to see if there's anything else we can do to help make his re-entry into non-chemo life go smoother and help him to catch up to his peers more quickly.

I'm feeling very blessed today. Thank you all for your prayers. As I was getting Bennett ready this morning by putting emla on his port I was looking him over very closely. Are those dark lines under his eyes, is his skin a bit pale, does he look tired? My mind seemed to be playing tricks on me. I couldn't decide if he looked good or not. I wonder if I'll ever look at him without wondering about every little thing and looking too closely and seeing things that just aren't there. I wondered a while ago if I would ever see things like dark circles or bruises and not get a pit in my stomach or if waiting for counts would ever happen without the same sick feeling. I have to say, that while there is always a nagging worry in my brain, my stomach hasn't been so sick at every little thing. And waiting for counts today wasn't sick and distressing like it has been in the past. I believe that God has given us the grace we need to get through these past years and His faithfulness to us gives us the faith we need to know that whatever Bennett's counts are, He's got it all under control.

I'll update again in 2 weeks, if not before. By the way, we are going to Camp Sunshine again this October 15-20. We are looking forward to that!

In His grip,

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 9:25 AM CDT

Update: Thursday, September 8, 2006
Bennett had his monthly IV chemo today. He also had an infusion of pentamadine. That goes in over one hour. Last month he had a difficulty taking the pentamadine through a nebulizer, so his doctor switched it to an IV infusion. His counts were still low. His ANC was 45. His white blood cells had recovered somewhat. They were 500 last Friday, and today they were 1500. We just need to wait for his neutrophils to recover. He has another clinic visit in 2 weeks to check his counts. His fever was also back, 100.7 at the clinic. But Bennett has energy and wants to be outside playing.

Thank you for your prayers.

In Christ,

Update: Tuesday evening, September 5
We are back from Michigan. Bennett continued to run a low grade fever all night Sunday night and all day Monday. His fever was gone this morning, but over the weekend he had pain in his mouth, lower right side. Sometimes it seemed like a tooth, other times it seemed like his gums. I took him to the dentist this morning and he was alarmed by Bennett's gums. Bennett has 2 loose baby teeth that were storing bits of food underneath them and causing a serious gum infection. He sent us to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon pulled the 2 baby teeth and we were on our way. Bennett is outside playing with his friends, he seems good as ever. He'll be on antibiotics for a few days to protect him from infections from the tooth pull. Praise God for how smoothly and painlessly it went. Bennett was wincing and yelping at the dentist, so I was worried about how it would go with the oral surgeon. I was so sad for Bennett having to go through yet another miserable procedure. While it wasn't pleasant, it wasn't awful either. The biggest bummer was the drive in the car and how long it took to finally get into the chair to get the teeth yanked.

Thanks for your prayers.

We have another appointment at the clinic on Thursday to see how his counts are and to get his IV chemo. That continues no matter what his counts are. His oral chemo is suspended until his counts recover.

In His grip,

Update: Sunday evening, September 3

Well! The doctors and nurses rallied around Bennett and Michelle at the hospital on Friday morning with a stance that going to Michigan, as originally planned before the fevers hit, was still perfectly reasonable/safe/acceptable, etc. So when I (Dale) got home from work mid-day Friday, Michelle and I and the kids gathered in the kitchen to plan the last-minute details of the trip to Houghton. Bennett and I took off the get the oil changed on the van, and by 3:30, we had the trailer hooked up and the bags packed and were on the road before 5:00. So here we are. I'm borrowing my nephew's (Cody) high-speed internet to make this update from Houghton. We just got back on land after a cruise on my parents' boat, and Bennett has a slight fever (100 F). Please pray with us that Bennett's fever will settle down and then go away and that we won't have to take him to the ER up here. Our plan, all along, has been to head back to MN Monday morn. This has been a nice break; we got to see lots of family, but we might've run a little bit too hard. Please pray us through the rest of this trip. Thank you, friends.

In Christ,

Update: Thursday evening, August 31
Bennett was sprung from the hospital earlier this evening. I had to bargain with the Doctor. She wanted him to stay another night to see if his counts would come up. (His ANC was 18 this morning - anything under 1000 is a high risk of infection.) He'd had a fever Wednesday around 5 pm and she also wanted him to be fever free for 24 hours. I suggested that if Bennett remained fever free until 5 that we'd go home tonight and I'd take him to the clinic tomorrow. She finally agreed to that after calling the clinic to make sure they weren't too busy tomorrow. So we are home. Bennett's not thrilled to be here. He can't play with his friends unless he wears a mask. He doesn't like that so he's not playing with them. Besides, his hospital room had Play Station. He loves that, and tons of games to choose from.

So we are home, after a bit of a scary ordeal. His neck and face were swollen. The ER doc was very concerned, and by her questioning I could see she was thinking relapse. I was instantly sick, but just sat back and prayed and waited for the results. No signs of relapse in the blood chemistry. Praise God for his mercy and grace! He had very low counts however, which warranted a hospital stay. So we spent 2 long days in the hospital, with Bennett feeling pretty good, but being confined to a hospital room. I am glad to be home.

Thank you for all your prayers. Please pray for complete restoration to health.

In Christ alone,

As I (Dale) type this, Bennett’s in the hospital with a virus as the suspected culprit. He had low fevers the last two evenings and bone pain (yikes!) in his arm, so we were a little bit worried about relapse. Last night, his fever hit the bring-him-to-the-ER threshold, and the expectation was that they’d draw blood, push in an antibiotic, and send him home. But Michelle called around midnight to say they were admitting Bennett because his ANC was so low. Normal is in the thousands, and Bennett’s below 100. Low enough that he’d have to wear a mask in public. The information they’re drawing (literally – it’s all bloodwork) seems to suggest some kind of virus, but we don’t know; we just hope and pray that he already bottomed out and will begin to strengthen quickly. His last hospital visit (in Michigan) was a suspected virus, and it set him back pretty far physically.
We’ll have to cancel our Labor Day weekend trip to my parents’ in Michigan.
Maybe I just listen for it, but I notice tiredness in voices. Last evening when Bennett and I were in the basement, Bennett shouted something up the steps for Michelle. No answer. His loudest voice was too soft for Michelle to hear him. Then this morning, Michelle called me at work to tell me the latest lab results, and she sounded extremely tired. She said she’ll try to get a nap, but it’s hard to get any rest at all at the hospital.
Please pray for my boy and my girl (Michelle) to get healing and rest during this interruption in the beautiful summer and fall we’ve been so blessed with so far. Also, that our girls will take this change of plans in stride and that we’ll find a way to inject fun into the Labor Day weekend without leaving home. Thank you!
God bless y’all.
In Christ,

Wednesday, August 9, 2006 10:09 PM CDT

Update: Thursday August 16
The week of steroids was one of the worst on record. Bennett was crabby, beligerent, and just all around miserable to be around. He enjoyed riding his bike, but he got frustrated many times and threw his bike down yelling about how stupid it was and heading into the house to tell me how it was my fault. We ended the week by going up to the Iron Range for my cousin's wedding reception. We camped Friday and Saturday night. It was fun, but also trying because of Bennett's moodiness.

His bike riding has come along very well. He's riding all over the place and being quite daring. He rides all around the yard, down the hill into the back yard and back up to the front again. It's pretty humorous. Yesterday day he saw me coming and ditched the bike, did a somersault type of roll and told me to put my hands up. I did. He shot me anyway. Right through the heart. He's back to normal after the rough week of steriods. Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Breaking news at the Ryynanen house! Bennett learned how to ride a two-wheeler this past Sunday. Wahoo! Praise the Lord. We have prayed for this for quite a while. He learned on Sunday. His legs are just strong enough to keep the bike going fast enough to balance. They weren't strong enough last year to even get going. He's still working out the details of riding and steering around things like parked cars, and he still needs help getting started. But he's pretty proud. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday every time he wanted to ride, I had to be running along side the entire time. And he yell with and intense worried voice for me to catch up if I fell behind. But today he went all the way around the block with out me - - twice!

On Monday he had his monthly clinic visit. His counts were great! His ANC was 2400 and all his other numbers were very good. He started steroids on Monday as well. Is he having any strange craving you ask? Today he had fire grilled shrimp for breakfast. And he's pretty easily irritated. After riding around the block this evening (a ride that did not go well because he couldn't get started on his own and he didn't want me helping him to get started, but I finally helped him against his will and MADE him go around the block - we were both biking and he was crabbing at me all the way around) anyway, when we got back he stormed into the house and said, "Do you know how hard it is to have YOU for a mother?" No, I can't say that I can possibly know what that's like. I think it would be marvelous, but I'm a little biased when it comes to rating my parental abilities. Dale took him for a ride and he was back to his cheerful self by bedtime and wanted to snuggle with me and continue reading "The Long Winter." It's kind of funny to be reading that book during this long hot summer!

Anyway, praise God for his goodness to us. Please continue to pray for complete healing and for God to sustain us through this long journey.

In Christ,

Monday, July 31, 2006 9:50 AM CDT

Bennett had his counts checked last Monday to see how he was responding to the increased chemo. His numbers hadn't changed at all. I don't know what to think about that. But it is so out of my control that I can't even worry about it.

Yesterday, we dropped Corinne, Jenna, and Bennett off at Camp Courage. They are there until Friday. It's the week for cancer patients and their siblings. It looks like a beautiful place. So I am home alone in our big empty house. I was not looking forward to this, but I thought it would be good for all three of them to go to something like this. I am looking forward to being able to spend some quality time with Dale when he gets home from work. In the meantime, I am slowly cleaning the house. It looks like a whirlwind went through here. We were getting them all packed up and it was bit crazy. So if you want to give me a call, I won't have any interruptions or need to get anywhere.

Thanks for you continued prayers. Bennett has one year left, Lord willing, of maintenance chemo. That's 12 more weeks of prednisone, 4 more spinal taps, and 12 more doses of IV chemo, as well as the daily oral chemo and the weekly oral methotrexate. So we continue to pray for complete healing and that we can put his chapter of our life behind us.

In Christ, my Lord,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:37 AM CDT

Well, I had to sign off on Tuesday and thought I'd get right back to finish the update, but I didn't. It's already Thursday.

On Tuesday, the nurse from the clinic called to let us know that Bennett's chemo will be increased. It's the biggest increase he's had. He was already above the amount suggested for his height and weight, but his ANC has been so high for the past several months that his doctor decided to increase it the full 25 percent. We go back in 2 weeks to just get his counts checked to see if his counts have responded to that increase. The goal is to keep his ANC between 700 and 1200. His has been well over 2000 every month. It's only been 3 days of the increased dose and I haven't noticed anything yet. He's eating like crazy on this dose of steoroids, but he's craving egg and cheese sandwiches on english muffins. Thank goodness it's not king crab and lobster tails again.

While we were on vacation, we stayed at my dad's and Bennett got to enjoy cable TV. We found out that Bennett LOVES gameshows. Millionare, family feud, pyramid, and many others. Many times I'd wonder where Bennett was. He had slipped into the house, cozied up on the couch and turned on GSN (Game Show Network). It was quite humorous. One day he told Dale, "The guy on Who Wants to be a Millionare used the 50/50 lifeline and then call a friend and he STILL got it wrong. Isn't that funny." It sure was. It was hilarious to even hear Bennett saying those things. He spent plenty of time swimming and playing and fishing, too. But who knew we had a game show junkie on our hands!

We continue to covet your prayers. The kids are still on schedule to go to Camp Courage on July 30. Please pray that that will happen.

In Christ, my Lord,


We are home from our vacation and Bennett had a spinal tap this morning. That went pretty well, except it took about 5 pokes to get the needle into the port properly. I guess he's gained so much weight that he needs a longer needle. That's good news but a really bummer way to find that out. He now weighs 65 pounds. In February of 2005 he was just under 40. He looks great and feels great and is very active. He has been running and jumping and climbing. It's a huge blessing to see him so active.

Bennetts counts were great again. His ANC was over 2000, and his hemoglobin and platelets were well within the normal range. His nurse will call later today to let us know if his chemo will be increased. He's already at a level above where his height and weight put him, but the nurse from the hem/onc clinic was pretty sure that we would increase it again by about 25 percent.

Saturday, June 10, 2006 9:21 AM CDT

Update: Sunday July 2, 2006
We are on vacation! We left Friday and camped in Wisconsin and then continued on to my dad's house in Michigan. We'll be here for the rest of the week and head back home on Friday. We'll camp along the way again. Please pray for Bennett's health. The last time we were here he ended up in the hospital. It wasn't much fun! We are having a wonderful time this time. Some much needed rest and relaxation.

Thank you friends. Bennett goes in for a spinal tap on Tuesday after we get back. I'll update again after that.

In His Grip,


Bennett had his monthly clinic visit yesterday. It went very well. We had been a little concerned about some bruises on his legs. They were very big and it seemed like they were taking a long time to heal. And Bennett did not know how he got them. We are always concerned about a relapse when things like that happen. But his counts were great. His ANC was 2368. That is a good number. Anything over 1000 is great for a patient on chemo. His platelets were over 300,000. That is totally in the normal range and that is the count that would have been low if his bruises really weren't healing fast enough.

At the clinic there was a girl who was getting here last dose of chemo so the Child life specialist threw a little party. So we got to celebrate with her over pizza and chicken wings.

Bennett's last day of chemo will be in July of 2007. That is 13 months from now. That doesn't seem SO long. We are well over half way.

Bennett and the girls are playing ball this summer. They are doing great and having lots of fun. Sometimes Bennett would rather stay at home because he is having so much fun with his friends, but we have been able to get him to go to all the games so far.

All 3 kids are scheduled to go to Camp Courage in Maple Lake, MN at the end of July. It is the week for cancer kids and their siblings. We are praying that it is a blessed week for all three of them. The girls will be in the same cabin, and Bennett will be with the boys. He told me that if the boys are wild he is going to call me to come get him because he doesn't like wild boys.

Bennett's next scheduled appointment is July 11. It will be a spinal tap. It's also the appointment where they decide whether or not to increase his chemo. They have increased the dose every time for the last 3 or 4 spinal taps. I'm sure if his counts are as good as they were this month that they'll increase it again. That makes finding things that taste good even harder for a little while.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 5:36 PM CDT

Update: Tuesday May 16 12:30 pm
Just a little update about some "excitement" in our family. Yesterday at softball practice Corinne took a line drive right to the head, near her right temple. She seemed OK at first but as the evening wore on she became nauseous, her head began hurting very badly and she began throwing up. I took her to Children's around eleven, she progressively became worse - terrible headache, writhing in pain, more vomiting and worst of all the left side of her face started drooping. I noticed she was talking funny and asked her to try smiling. The left side of her face didn't move at all! I told the nurse and there was quite a bit of scrambling to get her in for a CAT scan. There was actually a line of children needing CAT scans but Corinne got bumped to the front of the line. The CAT scan came back normal and they finally were able to give her some morphine which took the edge off the pain. The weirdness on the left side of her face came and went a couple times. We are not sure what that was. We stayed the night in the Short Stay Unit. By morning the only pain in her head was where the ball had hit. That's going to be tender for a few days. We were discharged from the hospital around 11:30 this morning. We are both quite tired, so we will be napping this afternoon. My mom took the day off to watch Bennett. She actually came over in the middle of the night so that Dale could come to the hospital. I decided he ought to be there because it looked like more than just a bump on the head. The final diagnosis was "concussion." We prayed throughout the night and Corinne called on the name of Jesus herself. We know He was there with us every minute. He gave us supernatural peace. The nurse was surprised at how calm I was. So was I! Anyway, we'll be watching her closely for the next few days. Please keep her in your prayers. And me, too. I don't want her back out on that wicked softball field, so if she wants to continue with ball this summer, I'm going to have to be prayed up.

Thanks friends. Bennett is doing well. He's got a bad case of "king crabitis." He wants some really badly. I'll probably break down and break open the piggy banks so he can have some crab!
Hi friends,

Bennett had his monthly clinic visit yesterday. It went very well. And quite quickly. The respiratory therapists were there to administer his nebulizer, so that went well.

Then nurser Sara came in to draw blood and asked Bennett how he was doing. He said, "If there was any change it would be worse." Sara and I had to think about that for a minute, then I asked Bennett if he meant that things are going so well that if anything changed it would have to be a change for the worse. He said, "Yes, if anything changed it would be worse." What a character.

His chemo went well, as did the blood draw. We just got the counts today b/c the lab was quite slow yesterday. His ANC was just over 3300. That's a great number. His chemo was increased slightly last month, but it hasn't really affected his counts.

He started steroids yesterday, and last night his legs ached and he was wide awake until 1:30 or 2 am. I gave him some Tylenol with codeine for the pain, and Dale "watched" a movie with him in the den. Dale of course fell asleep, but Bennett watched the whole thing, then turned off the TV and snuggled next to his dad for the rest of the night.

Today is day 2 and the hunger has kicked in. I bought a bunch of snacks at the store yesterday, and I'll probably have to go to the store again tomorrow.

Well, it's been a very good month, praise the Lord. We are so thankful for His grace.

Amazed by grace,


Friday, April 28, 2006 7:27 PM CDT

We are home from Camp Sunshine. What a great experience. I don't even know where to begin. There were daycamps for the kids, discussion groups for the parents, family free time, a talent show (Jenna played her flute, and of course Dale & I shared our talent of performing interspecies mating calls (oh, you didn't know that we knew how to do that? You'll have to ask us to perform for you the next time we are together. It's quite moving.)), karaoke night (Dale & I were all over that like white on rice), and lots of time in the water park. We are home, but it feels like we just left. The week absolutely flew by. I think it was good for all of us. The girls each had their own day camps, and Bennett had his. After the first day Bennett said, "Camp Sunshine makes you want to say, 'This is my favorite place.'"

We met parents with children fighting the same disease as Bennett and others fighting other kinds of cancers. We were a very diverse group but that one common thread brought us together. We had a bond immediately. It was wonderful to share with other parents experiencing the exact same thing.

We thank God for the blessing of this week and pray that we can go again in October. And we pray that all of the parents we met will be able to make it back as well.

Bennett was healthy all week, which is an answer to prayer since he had several issues just before we left.

His next clinic appointment is May 8. If we don't update before then, I'll write then to let you know how it goes.

In Christ,


Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:35 AM CDT

Update: Monday, April 24, 2006 from Camp Sunshine

What a vacation, and we haven't even had a full day yet. We haven't touched our van since we pulled in last night. Every family here gets an electric golf cart at check-in time, and that's how we get around. Check out the updated photo page.

We're having a wonderful, restful time, and will fill you in later.

Update: Thursday, April 20, 2006 12:55 pm

Yesterday morning as I was giving Bennett his IV antibiotic, I had to first flush his port with saline. When I had, he said, "Mom, it hurts really bad." I pulled up his shirt and looked. The saline that I had just injected did not go into his port, it "piled up" under his skin. Apparently the needle had come slightly dislodged. We had to deaccess him and call a nurse to come over and reaccess him. His morning antibiotic did not get administered until 11:30 am, so I had to wait up until 11:30 pm to administer his last dose. I got it administered and deaccessed his port. We will pray that he will remain fever free and healthy for our trip to Camp Sunshine in Wisconsin. We leave on Sunday and return on Friday afternoon. Camp Sunshine is for families with children fighting a disease like leukemia. It is a resort that has a 48,000 sq ft indoor water park, and lots of outdoor stuff as well. We'll hopefully take lots of pictures and update the site when we get home. Please pray that our trip is restful and refreshing.

Thanks. Michelle


Today is Bennett's last day of IV antibiotics. Hooray. His port has been accessed for 10 days. He did get a needle change twice so he had 2 little breaks. One of the breaks was yesterday. I took his needle out after his morning dose so that he could play outside with his friends with reckless abandon. You know, climb trees, have a water fight (or as he called it, "hose tag") and just be plain crazy with his friends. It didn't quite go as planned, however. As he was playing outside, the Bennett and the neighbor boys grabbed some boards from the scrap pile. A few had rusty nails sticking out of them. The piled them under the swingset (I'm not quite sure why) but Bennett swung from the bar on the swingset onto one of the boards and a big ol' rusty nail went right through his sandals into his foot.

I called his nurse and left a message. She called right back to let me know we'd have to bring Bennett in. Unfortunatley this happened at 4:30 and the clinic closes at 5:00, so we had to go to the ER. Bennett had to get an his tetanus updated. He was amazing during the shot. Didn't even flinch. We also get to give him more antibiotics to protect the foot from getting infected. We start those tomorrow, after the IV antibiotics are over.

It's been quite an "adventurous" ten days. At the beginning of the IV antibiotics Bennett staged an all out mutiny on being treated for leukemia. He was done. He said he wasn't taking anymore pills or keeping that stupid needle in. He was mad and he wasn't going to take it anymore! He was down right cranky for several days, short tempered and irritable. We let him blow off some steam. His nurse said that it is quite over due for him. He has been so cheerful and easy going and good natured through all of this hard treatment. He is quite back to his old self now. He's very cheerful and snuggly in the morning, and aside from getting irritated at his sisters (and me sometimes) he downright pleasant to be around. We had a marvelous time at the ER. We were there until 10 pm so we had plenty of time to do crafts, watch Herbie Fully-loaded and read from "By the shores of silver lake."

Well he's out of bed now so I've got to go. He's having trouble finding a band-aid that will stick to the bottom of his foot.

Amazed by Grace,

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 3:27 PM CDT

Bennett's nurse called this morning with some good news. The bacteria Bennett's body is fighting is sensitive to another antibiotic that can be given every 12 hours and it only takes 3-5 minutes to push in. I will be able to sleep through the night! Praise the Lord!

I'll update again later. Bennett's port has been accessed since Monday and the needle is feeling uncomfortable, so he is currently taking the dressing off and I need to go help him put on a new one.

Thanks for all you prayers.

In Christ,

Sunday, April 9, 2006 9:27 PM CDT

Update: Wednesday, April 12, 12:30 pm

Michelle got a call today from the Hem/Onc nurse. They found Bennett a better IV med that can be dripped for 15 minutes every 12 hours, instead of for two hours every eight. Much better for Bennett, and much, much better for Michelle. There's a scene in Spider Man where Spidey is holding up a huge wall that's about to crush him and Mary Jane, but Mary Jane keeps chatting and doesn't seem to know about the danger. Finally, Spidey said, "This is getting a little heavy." Michelle is Spider Lady where she says (below), "We are a bit tired." Actually, I (Dale) am not, but Michelle is, because she's been getting up to do the 2:00 two-hour IV and then getting up earlier than normal because Bennett's on steroids this week, which makes him hungry, which wakes him early. Michelle is a wonderful mom and wife, and you'll never hear that (or the evidence) from her. I thank God for her every day.

Update: Monday, April 10, 3:00 pm

Dale and Bennett came home last night around 10:30 or 11:00. Bennett's chest X-ray was normal, so after a dose of IV antibiotics they sent him home. I went back with Bennett this morning for his spinal tap. While we were there the lab called. Bennett's blood culture from last night was growing bacteria. This particular bacteria did not respond to the antibiotic he got last night, so after his IV chemo, his spinal chemo, and his pentamadine nebulizer(protects him from pneumonia) he got another IV antibiotic that needs to get pushed in over 2 hours. And he needs to get it every 8 hours. So we are home again. A home nurse is going to come get us set up to administer the antibiotic this evening. She'll give it to Bennett at 6:00 as well as take some more blood culters. Then I'll administer the antibiotic at 2:00 am, 10 am and 6pm tomorrow. We'll keep this schedule up until the bacteria responds to the antibiotic. Please keep praying. We are a bit tired. We got to bed late and then had to get up early, and it looks like I'll be getting up in the middle of the night for the next few nights.

Thanks for your prayers.

In His grip,

Hi friends. Bennett is currently at the Children's ER. He got a fever and chills today and the on-call doctor (one of our favorites, Dr. Richards) said to take him in for some IV antibiotics. Dale brought him around 5:00 pm, they are still there, but the last I heard was that they were going to administer IV antibiotics and send him home. He's supposed to have a spinal tap in the morning. That has not been canceled yet, but we should find out when the ER doctor calls to report Bennett's blood work and cultures results to Dr. Richards.

Please keep praying. I'll update again as soon as I know anything.

In Christ,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 8:12 AM CST

Update March 29, 2006:
The MRI results were good. A nurse from the clinic called to let us know that Bennett's bones look very normal, so that is a huge praise the Lord!

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Update March 27, 2006:
Bennett has an MRI scheduled for today to get a good look at the bones in his legs. He has been having a lot of pain and had difficulty walking last week, so we have this appointment today to check if his bones have any side effects from the chemo, specifically Avascular Necrosis. His MRI is at 5:00 today, but we probably won't get the results until next week.
We'll keep you posted as soon as we find anything out.

Bennett had his monthly clinic visit yesterday. It went very well. His ANC was back up over 3000. The doctor said that next month at his spinal tap they will probably increase his chemo, which they usually only do with weight and height gain. But they have also been known to increase it if the ANC has consistently been high, which Bennett's has.

Bennett still has a lingering cough, and the doctor also said he sounds a bit asthmatic, so she sent us home with some albuterol to administer a few times a day.

Bennett is in very good spirits and seems to be doing very well. His energy level seems to be almost back, since the pneumonia.

Next week he will start a swimming class down at the Wasi Pool at Abott Northwestern Hospital. His physical therapist is running it. He went to the first session this past fall and it was very beneficial, so we are looking forward to that.

He's also looking forward to playing outside in the new snow we got yesterday. These March snowstorms are fun because it's warm enough to be outside enjoying them.

Thank you for your continued prayers. Dale and I have committed to being the "persistent widow" (see Luke 18:1) on Bennett's behalf. While we do pray specifically for him daily, our church has prayer teams every Sunday, so we will bring him before the Lord every Sunday with the prayer team members at church until his treatment is over and he has been "cured."

Please join us in that cause. Thank you.

In Christ, the Lord,

Monday, February 27, 2006 8:38 PM CST

Update Monday, March 6:
Bennett woke up this morning for the first time since February 23 without a fever. He is very energetic and his cough is much better. It looks as if he's out of the woods with this illness. Jenna is not feeling so well, however. Please pray for a speedy recovery for her.

Thanks for all your prayers. Through all of this time, even though I have not gotten much sleep, I have been sustained by God's grace.

In Christ,

Update Friday Afternoon, Mar 3:
Bennett is home from clinic. He had a chest X-ray that revealed he has pneumonia. He's on an anti-biotic for 5 days as well as a nebulizer treatment for the next 2 weeks. At clinic, the doctor decided that he didn't need another dose of IV antibiotics and sent us home with the five day prescription.

Please continue to pray for healing.


Update Friday, Mar 3:
Bennett's cultures from 2/27 didn't colonize anything, but his fever continues. The fever stayed pretty low-grade since Tuesday, but it spiked last night at 103.2, which is high, which caused the clinic staff to want to see him today. So Michelle and Bennett are on their way to the clinic at Children's. They'll culture more blood and push in another broad-spectrum IV antibiotic to guard against any secondary infections that might be lurking.

Please pray for healing -- this is Day 8 or 9 of fever for Bennett. And please pray for Michelle; she needs rest, too.

Bennett's attitude has been great, considering that he's been unable to play outside for so long. Thank God for that.

Thank you, praying friends!



Update Tuesday, Feb 28:
Bennett's cultures have been negative so far, but his fever spiked last night to 104.2. That's quite high so the on-call nurser-practitioner told us to give him Motrin. We had been told to never give him Motrin, but his platelet count has been well within the normal range so Motrin wouldn't adversely affect him. We went back to the clinic today since he's still been running a temperature. He got another dose of IV antibiotics and if he's still fevery tomorrow they may want us to come back again!

After his dose of Motrin this evening, Bennett was in a very good mood and seemed perfectly normal. He is getting quite discouraged, however, because he hasn't been able to play with his friends for FIVE whole days, and there is NOTHING fun to do at our house. Please pray for healing so he can get back to the important things in life, like playing ninjas with the neighbor boys.


Bennett has been sick since Thursday in the middle of the night. He has been running a low grade fever, and last night it spiked to 102.8. The on-call doctor (who I talked to at 4:15 am) didn't think we needed to go to the ER, but just watch him through the night. In the morning we called his nurse and she wanted us to come in. The doctor checked him over and there were no overt signs of a bacterial infection, but his ANC was 624. (2 weeks ago it was over 3300). Since his ANC was so low, he got a dose of IV antibiotics. His blood is being cultured. If anything grows, he will need to be on IV antibiotics for 10 days. We will find out tomorrow if the cultures show anything. If there are no bacterial growths, we go back to clinic on March 13 (Vicki's and Heather's 30th birthday). Also, because his counts are so low, he's on half-dose chemo, until the 13th when they'll check him again.

Dale's mom and dad stopped in on their way to Iowa. It was nice to have them here today, even though we couldn't do anything "fun" with them. It was just nice to visit. And praise the Lord, we didn't have to stay overnight at the hospital while Grandma and Grandpa are here. They leave tomorrow morning.

Bennett had been running a low grade fever all weekend, but he felt well enough to play, but of course, we couldn't let him. He was pretty upset on Saturday when his friend Jarod came over to play and he had to tell him that he couldn't. Later that morning Jenna tried to distract him by asking him if he'd like to to work on the board game that he's been making. Bennett's attention had already been diverted, however. He held up this month's Reader's Digest and said, "Hang on, there are some secrets my doctor has been keeping from me and I need to find out what they are."

Praise God for Bennett's sense of humor!

Please pray for a speedy recovery from this illness, whatever it is.


In the Potter's hands,

Saturday, February 18, 2006 7:59 AM CST

Bennett had his clinic visit and physical therapy on Thursday the 16th. He is doing well. He still has weaknesses and his run looks a little funny, but his physical therapist, Lynn, said she needed to discharge him because of all the progress he's made, and now he's plateaued for the last few months. He hasn't shown any measurable progress. So we will continue to work at home on all the physical therapy exercises that she has given us and check in with her at the beginning of May. So, that was good news and kind of a bummer. It's good because it means Bennett has come too far to be considered eligible for PT, but it's also means we're more on our own with the therapy. So I need to be diligent about doing his exercises.

His clinic visit went well, too. He seems very healthy and he's grown a bit more. He's now 4 feet 2 inches. His blood counts were quite high. Last month his chemo's were increased across the board, and we expected that his ANC would be lower than it was last month (1750). But it was 3379. While that is a good high number, it makes the nurse practioner wonder if something isn't quite right. The goal is to keep his ANC between 700 and 1500. So, he might be fighting an infection, but he hasn't even had a sniffle, although he could have some sort of infection and no symptoms or he's grown so much that his body need more chemo. She was going to talk to Doctor Bostrim and see what he thinks. We might just let it be and see what his counts are next month. If they are still high, they might consider increasing his chemo again.

I was troubled by their (the nurse practioner's and nurse's) reaction to Bennett's ANC so I called my brother-in-law, Wil, who's in his third year of med school. I just wanted to know more about blood and how it works. I've learned very much already, but I wanted to know why his body would create so many neutrophils (that's the number that was quite high). He was very helpful and just talking to someone who was very knowledgeable about blood helped to calm my brain. He reminded me that Bennett's cancer is a cancer of the lymphocytes, and that number continues to be low. The idea is that the chemo would target those cells and keep them low, which it seems to be doing. And all the other numbers were very good. His hemoglobin was 11.5, which is great, his platelets were 350,000, also great, which means his bone marrow is producing lots of those good healthy cells, it's not being impeded by cancer cells like it was when he was first diagnosed. Both of those numbers were very low back then and he needed a transfusion.

Bennett's color, energy, and sense of well being are all very good. He's looking and feeling great. And, as Wil reminded me, his prognosis for beating this thing is very great!

So, I thank God that he put Wil in my life because God knows how he created me and my need to understand what is going on at the cellular level in Bennett's body. I don't look of my need to know as not trusting God, but more of being curious and interested in how he created us. I just have a need to understand, and He provided someone to fill that need.

Well, I've got to go boil some crab legs for breakfast. Bennett's on steroids and craving seafood again. So long easy cereal meals, welcome back expensive, time consuming seafood.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11:31 AM CST

Update: Tuesday January 31

Bennett had physical therapy on the 19th. He has improved quite a bit. It is very encouraging. Because he improved, however, his physical therapist gave him even harder exercises to do that exposed more weaknesses. It was a very difficult day for Bennett. He doesn't like to see his weaknesses exposed like that and the session ended early because he just couldn't take any more. He was fine by the time we got home, but he didn't want to do ANY PT. We just started the new exercises this week. His attitude is better, but tenuous, when we do the new exercises. It nearly brings him to tears, but when he sees that they get easier the more he does them, he gets motivated.
Our next visit is February 16 for chemo, nebulizer, and physical therapy.

With the increased chemo we are experiencing difficulties with food again. Things aren't tasting right and it's been a challenge to feed him this past week. (Thank goodness Mike 'n Ikes still taste good!) All of his "staples" are tasting funny again, so please pray that we will be able to feed him and find good foods for him to eat again.
Thanks, Michelle


Bennett had his spinal tap, chemo, and nebulizer yesterday morning. Everything went very smoothly in answer to our prayers. His counts were very good. His ANC was 1750 (we like it to be over 1000, and technically 1750 isn't even low, it's just the very low end of normal which is 1700-9000). Because his counts were so good and his weight has increased again, his chemo was increased. Please pray for Bennett to adjust to the increase quickly. With every increase he seems to go through a period where everything tastes funny again. His steroid was increased from 35 mg/day for 5 days per month, to 40 mg/day. The steroid has always been the most problematic drug, so the increase is bothersome to me, but I know it is necessary. Please continue to pray that God will protect Bennett from the effects of all the chemo.

He has physical therapy on Thursday. I am praying that all of our hard work this past month will have paid off and that we will see improvement when his therapist tests him.

Yesterday we went to the Maple Grove Community Center pool to have a play date with his friend Jacob Rossow. Bennett really wanted to be there, but I think the spinal tap had wiped him out and he only lasted about half an hour. He came home for a mellow afternoon. Today is his second day of steroids and he is eating almost non-stop! At least we have gotten him to eat cereal. It's so much cheaper than shrimp and crab legs!

Thanks for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 1:22 PM CST

Bennett had his monthly chemo appointment yesterday. His counts were very good. His ANC was 1596 and his hemoglobin was 11.6. He also had physical therapy. He did much better this month than he did last month. It's still 2 steps forward one step back as he gets his chemo that affects his legs and hands.

Over the past month, Dale and I have been watching Bennett very carefully. Is he too tired? Don't you think he looks pale? Those are awfully dark circles under his eyes. Every time his legs ache, or he sleeps a little longer than usual, or he's looking a little too pale, our minds race ahead to relapses and hospital stays and . . .

We attended the funeral of a young man who died of ALL. It was very difficult for us to look into a possible future outcome for our family. Neither of us slept well that night, but the next morning, as we prayed together, we again surrendered to God's perfect will. The Psalmist says that all the days ordained for me were written before I was even born. If we believe the Bible is true, we need to believe it in it's entirety, not just pick and choose what we like.

So this was a good visit. And we will continue to press on with the physical therapy. I've been taking Bennett to Northwest Athletic Club and using some of their equipment to help with his work outs. He's not exactly thrilled to do his PT, but when he sees the benefit each time his therapist tests his strength, speed, and balance, he's happy that he's cooperated and gotten stronger and faster. Last month he could not do one sit up while laying on the floor. Yesterday he did about 3 in a row for Lynn. He was also a whole second faster in his running. She'd like to see him shave 2 to 3 more seconds off his time. We'll keep working on it and look forward to the progress he'll make this month.

Monday, November 14, 2005 10:40 PM CST

Bennett had his monthly hem/onc appointment today. It went very well. His counts are great: His ANC was 2660 and his hemoglobin was 11. Those are very good numbers.

His physical therapy appointment went pretty well. He's still not back to where he was before he got sick in September when we were in Michigan, so we have another list of exercises to do this month to try to get him back to where he was.

I (Dale) took Bennett to Target yesterday to do some early Christmas shopping, but neither of us was in the mood for shopping (the mood does not hit male Ryynanens until after December 20). But we did find a working X-Box in the electronics aisle. We had to wait a few minutes for a boy named Blake to finish his turn before Bennett got a turn on the X-Box. Blake was about Bennett's age. I watched Blake play "Star Wars Lego Action." Blake's posture, even just playing a video game, looked athletic. His shoulders were big and square, and his forearms and hands were thick, and he didn't seem to have wrists. His neck looked like the neck of a bull moose, and his legs bulged with muscles. Finally, his mom said, "Let's go, Blake." and it was Bennett's turn to play the Star Wars game. I watched Blake run to catch up with his mom -- long strides like a cross country runner. There was nothing special about Blake; he was a normal, healthy, seven-year-old boy. It's just that I hadn't looked closely at a normal, healthy, seven-year-old boy for so long that I'd forgotten how special Bennett is. I've gotten so used to Bennett’s elbows and knees being the thickest parts of his limbs, and I'm used to seeing his fingers bend back so far it looks like it must hurt every time he picks up something heavy. The railing for the stairs from our landing to our living room is dirty. It never got dirty before, but that's because it never got used. Now Bennett uses it every time he comes up the stairs. I'd stopped noticing. But, yesterday when we got home from Target I watched him grab the railing with two hands and pull himself up every step. I asked him if he needed the railing, and he said he didn't. He proved it by walked up the last four steps without using the railing, and it broke my heart to see his stance get wider by a few inches on each step. He staggered up the last step, but he made it without touching the railing. I wonder how many days I would go without complaining if I had to work as hard as Bennett does just to go up steps. He has never complained, and he has been struggling physically for a year and half.

I’m proud of that boy. When I run errands with Bennett, I park the car as far away from businesses as possible. Yesterday, he looked across a big, empty parking lot and asked, “Is this how far away we’re parking?” I said we need the exercise and jumped out before he could point out a hundred parking spots that were closer. His response?

“Let’s run!” We ran together for about a hundred yards, and I noticed, just since the beginning of the summer, how much quieter his footfalls have gotten. Earlier this summer his feet slapped the ground; now they sound normal. And his speed has improved since September. Every time we run together, I remember the day last summer when he fell in the garage twice walking to the van. He skinned both knees badly and let me lift him into the van and waited in his seat, sobbing quietly while I dug the Triple Antibiotic and bandages out of the First Aid kit.

Bennett’s not in Blake’s league yet, but he’s leagues above the Bennett of 2004. And he’s never complained about his physical problems. He’ll complain about food, boredom, work, rules, and many other things. But he just seems to “get it” when it comes to the ravages of chemo therapy and the hard work it’ll take to get back to normal.

Please join us in thanking God for the good news from this afternoon’s chemo, and please pray, as the Lord leads you, through the next two years of Bennett’s chemo and PT.

God has been so faithful -- using circumstances to keep Bennett away from kids who have chicken pox, showing us healthy organic foods that Bennett likes to eat, giving Bennett such an interest in reading and writing to open up his world.

We are blessed with three wonderful kids. I’m so proud of Corinne’s and Jenna’s attitudes during these special-needs brother years.

Please pray for us Ryynanens as we begin another round of chemo and steroids. Please pray for our happy, continuing-to-recover boy.

Thank you, friends!


Tuesday, October 18, 2005 1:55 PM CDT

Bennett had his spinal tap this morning. Everything went quite well. He needed a little more anesthesia than usual (he's growing and quite a bit heavier than last time) so he took a little longer to wake up and when he did he was loopy for a few minutes. It was a little freaky, but by the time he finished his pentamadine nebulizer and his breakfast, he seemed back to normal.

His counts were very good, not as awesome as last time, but still very good. His ANC was 2520, his white blood count was 4200, and his hemoglobin was 10. Even though his hemoglobin is a touch low, he looks great and has lots of energy.

He had his physical therapy class yesterday at the Wasie Pool at Abott-Northwestern hospital. That went very well. He loves that class.

We are praying for wisdom for us and the doctors regarding the steroid part of the regimen. A new study has recently come out in which the patients did not recieve any steroids. I'll be asking his doctor about that study next month when we go to the clinic. I would like for him to not have to take the steroids, if it is still a positive long-term success rate.

We are doing well. School is off to a good start, now that we are a few weeks out from his hospitalizations. Bennett is reading very well for a first grader and his math skills are coming along very nicely. At times, he wants to be doing some of the same kind of school work as his sisters, but then really apppreciates all of his free time when he can do whatever he wants.

Please pray for wisdom for the steroid decision, protection from long term side-effects, and strength for our family for the long haul.

Thank you!

In Christ, my King,


Monday, September 26, 2005 8:58 PM CDT

Update October 14, 2005
Bennett had physical therapy this week. He is doing much better. He gained back a lot of his strength that he lost during his two hospital stays at the beginning of September. We still have our work cut out for us, though. He has a lot of weakness in his calves, his hips, and his abdomen.

He is scheduled for a spinal tap on Tuesday. I'll update again after that to report how his counts are doing.

We have had a wonderful 2 weeks. Last Monday Bennett's ANC was 3100 and he seemed very healthy all week. He started up his chemo again last Monday, as well as Prednisone. The week went very well for being a steroid week. He had his counts checked today. His ANC was 6000. That is slightly falsely elevated due to the Prednisone, but his nurse was sure that he was looking well enough to not have to go back again next Monday to check his counts again. His next appointment with the clinic is October 18. He'll have a spinal tap that day. The great ANC numbers the last 2 weeks were very comforting. It's also nice to not have to go to the clinic again next week.

We will still be driving down there because he will continue his PT class at the Wasie Pool at Abott Northwestern hospital. Today he had so much energy that after the hour long class in the pool, he asked if he could swim some more. Then, after he was dressed and we were on our way back to Children's to get to our car, he ran all the way through the tunnel that connects Children's and Abott. Then we took the stairs up 2 flights of stairs, ran through the sky way, and then finally just walked to the van. He had more energy than he's had in many weeks. It was so nice to see.

We keep praying for total healing in our boy, and for God's hand in our day to day lives. Please join us in that prayer.

In Christ,

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 6:43 PM CDT

Bennett had an appointment this morning to get his counts checked. His numbers are improving, ever so slowly. His ANC was 122. But more telling is how he is acting. He had been pretty low energy, and hadn't even fussed that he couldn't play with his friends. He also continued to run low grade fevers until yesterday morning. By yesterday evening he had been fever free all day and he had lots of energy. He was running and jumping, something he hadn't done for days if not a week or so. By this morning he had remained fever free and woke up full of energy and nearly back to his old self.

His other blood counts continued to improve as well. So it looks like things are going in the right direction. His chemo is still suspended until his ANC recovers to at least 500. We'll get his blood checked again on Monday, and possibly start chemo again.

I have to admit that we have been quite worried. The low grade fevers and the low energy were very worrisome. We kept praying and seeking the Lord's presence. Then we'd look at Bennett's symptoms, and start worrying again. When he has the same syptoms as when he was diagnosed, it is really difficult to not look at the "storm." We are so human, and so faithless. But thankfully, God is faithful, no matter what.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

In Christ,


Saturday, September 10, 2005 4:27 PM CDT

Sunday 9/11 Update: Michelle sent me a text message that I fetched on my cell phone during church. It said, "Bennett and I will meet you at the M.O.A." Thanks for praying for us. Bennett's ANC is still an unwhopping 21, but it and other blood counts are improving, and his fever has stayed away since yesterday. If Michelle and I were more like Bennett and his health care providers, we would be satisfied with the improved vitals and not care any more about what caused the symptoms in the first place. So that's what we'll do! Bennett's home until a Wednesday checkup. Thank you for lifting our boy to the Great Healer.

Bennett's back in the hospital, but whatever's wrong does not seem to be the leukemia coming back; thank God. Michelle went into his room at 4:30 this morning, and he felt hot. His temp was over 102, which is above the "call-the-clinic" threshold. They asked to see Bennett and had him admitted by daylight. I snuggled with Bennett before we got him dressed. He felt SO hot and was quietly crying in the dark about having to go to the hospital again. Michelle called later to report that Bennett's absolute neutrophil count (the "ANC" we've been reporting on for the past year) was zero this morning. I could feel myself gripping the phone when Michelle said, "I asked the Oncology/Hemot nurse practitioner if Bennett's bloodwork makes her and the docs suspicious that Bennett's having a relapse. She said no." My grip relaxed so much that I almost dropped the phone. They think it's whatever was bugging him in Michigan, and it wasn't leukemia then, either. His platelets and white count indicate otherwise, so that's a relief.

But we are concerned. When Bennett's ANC is zero, his body is completely defenseless against any attacking organisms. And seeing the staff at Children's so puzzled is worry fodder for us. And the last time his ANC was zero was during the delayed intensification, and he was so sick then that most of those days are gone forever from his memory.

Also disturbing is that all chemo is suspended until they figure out what's going on. We picture the leukemia rearing its ugly head during this break in the prevention/therapy.

Kind of a neat thing about Children's Hospital: Michelle told the nurse that tomorrow is the Make-A-Wish reunion at Camp Snoopy and that Bennett's been looking forward to it for many weeks. Lunch and free rides all day long. I expected the nurse to say, "Well, THAT'S out." No, she was concerned. She said she’ll see what she can do about making it happen. They seem to understand at Children’s that the joy we manufacture is an important part of the total health package.

And more important yet is prayer. Please join us Ryynanens in praying for calm during this blow-up. Pray for healing in Bennett; answers for the docs, if that’ll help; and for Bennett to come home happy and healthy once again. Thank you from all of us.

In Christ,

P.S. Check out the link at the bottom of this screen. It's a video I captured of how a train looks and sounds from below.

Thursday, September 8, 2005 4:29 PM CDT

Bennett had physical therapy appointment and a visit to the Hem/Onc clinic. Both appointments were very disappointing. His blood counts have not recovered yet. His ANC was 221. That's higher than 100, but he's still at high risk for infection. Chemo is still suspended until his counts recover to over 700. His doctor thinks it was a virus that knocked his counts so low. He'll get his counts checked again on September 19th. We had an appointment scheduled that day already for his monthly chemo, so he'll get his blood checked and if his counts have recovered he'll get his chemo and we'll be back on track.

At physical therapy he had a pretty big setback as well. We had worked hard all month with his exercises, the whole family had gotten into doing them with him. But the hospital stay and the virus made him very weak. Bennett was very frustrated because he couldn't do some of things that he had been doing easily in June, July and August. He'll be in a special PT class for 8 weeks starting September 19. We had signed him up for that class last month just to get him a little stronger doing some fun games and stuff with other kids. That was a good thing because he's been setback to the point where he would need PT weekly again. Hopefully the class will be just what he needs, as well as all the exercises his therapist sent us home with. I hope by the end of the 8 week class he will be able to just have monthly PT.

Today was big bummer. I hope tomorrow is better. Some things change from day to day, but at least God remains constant. He's not wringing His hands over this. He knew this day was going to happen and we trust Him with our lives, even days like today.

Please continue praying.

In Christ,

Friday, September 2, 2005 8:35 PM CDT

Update Saturday, September 3
I took Bennett back to the hospital to have his blood checked this morning. His ANC was still low, about 100, but all of the numbers are going up, so he didn't need another dose of antibiotics and he doesn't need to go back to the hospital unless he gets a fever. Please pray that he remains fever free.
We are going to stay at my dad's tonight and tomorrow to try to salvage a few days of vacation. We'll head home Monday, and probably arrive back at home on Tuesday.

Bennett and I were able to come home this evening. His ANC (absolute neutrophil count) was 100 today and yesterday. That is VERY low. Anything under 1000 puts him at high risk for infection. So all chemo has been suspended. He usually takes oral chemo every day. He won't start again until his counts recover. But Bennett is looking and acting like a very healthy boy. He hasn't had a fever since about 4 pm yesterday afternoon. We do have to go back to the hospital tomorrow morning to get his counts again, and if they are still low, he'll have to get another course of antibiotics to protect him. And if he needs antibiotics tomorrow morning, he'll have to go again Sunday to see if his counts have recovered.

We'll most likely be heading home on Monday. Please pray for our travel home. We'd like to take it slow and stop at a hotel in Madison, WI on Monday night. We had planned on camping, but that's just a bit much for me to consider right now.

After a very unpleasant 12 hour experience in the University of Michigan Medical Center Emergency Room, we were admitted to the U of M Mott's Children's hospital. I know we were at one of the best medical institutions on the planet, but I wanted to be airlifted to Children's in Minneapolis where we know most of the nurses and almost all of the doctors on the oncology floor. I kept in touch with the doctors in Minneapolis and felt much better that they were involved in the decisions regarding Bennett's health. The docs are pretty sure that he was fighting off a virus, which is why his counts plummetted.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. As Dale said Thursday, Bennett and I were very sad, but it didn't last long, your prayers lifted us up and we actually enjoyed our time today.

In Christ,

Thursday, September 1, 2005 11:41 AM CDT

Michelle's dad visited us in Maple Grove last week, then he and Michelle and our kids drove to his home in Lower Michigan to vacation this week, and I'll fly there tomorrow to catch up. Then we'll drive back as a family.

But I just got off the phone with Michelle, and something is wrong with Bennett. He had to get admitted to the University of Michigan hospital. The symptom that got him there was a high fever this morning, but it went down on its own. However, his blood numbers indicate that his body is fighting off something, and they started a broad-spectrum antibiotic. The blood numbers don't point to the leukemia rearing its ugly head (we were praying and breath-holding), but the senior Oncology resident is concerned enough to keep him tonight and maybe tomorrow night. When I called, both Bennett and Michelle were crying -- not out of despair, but out of disappointment that this is how they're spending their vacation. I praise God that Bennett has the energy to WANT to be up and about, but I also pray for complete healing, whatever else is going on. Please join me.


In Christ,

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 11:57 AM CDT

Yikes! It's been almost a month since I last updated this page. In a way that's a good thing. There hasn't been a lot to report.

Bennett had chemo and his nebulizer treatment on Monday. Monday was also his 7th birthday! He had a frog theme party. He felt celebrated and had fun with a few of his friends.

Back to the chemo: it went well. His ANC was 2942. The goal is for the chemo to keep his ANC between 700 and 1500 or 2000 depending on who you ask. His ANC has been consistently over 2000, so every time we come to the end of the 84 day cycle, they've been increasing his dose. I don't know how to feel about that. Is it a good thing that he's been able to make good amounts of hemoglobin and neutrophils? Or would it be better for his counts to remain low so that we know the cells in his bone marrow are being killed off? I don't know. But I know The One who does, and we lay this at His feet and ask for His healing to continue in Bennett.

Bennett's had occasional leg pain. It usually happens at night. Earlier this month, two nights in a row, his legs ached. The second night he was crying out in pain, I gave him a Tylenol 3 and rubbed his legs while we waited for the pain med to kick in. He was crying pretty hard, and well, so was I. I don't know what purpose this pain is playing in his life, but I was also crying out to God for relief from it. It finally came, and he drifted off to sleep, and I snuggled next to him until morning.

Bennett started prednisone on Monday. He's been quite hungry, but not so weird. We've been giving him a dose of his fish oil in the morning as well as evening. It seems to help his mental state while he's on steroids.

We'll be heading to Michigan on Monday and getting home after Labor Day. Please pray for safe travel, and health, both physical and mental, for Bennett.

Thanks so much.

In Christ,


Friday, July 29, 2005 8:13 AM CDT

Bennett had a spinal tap on Tuesday. It went incredibly well, praise the Lord! I got Bennett dressed in his sleep at about 6:15. He woke up enough to sit up and put his arms out for me to carry him to the van. He is a growing boy and I don't know how much longer I will be able to carry him out to the van, so I cherish these sweet little moments when he wraps his arms around my neck and lays his head on my shoulder.

His last spinal tap left him with a spinal tap headache, so this time they used a smaller needle, which takes a little longer but helps to eliminate those headaches. He also got IV chemo and his pentamadine nebulizer. All of those things went well, and now we are on day 4 of steroids. Tomorrow is the last day, we always look forward to his being done with his monthly dose. They still affect him all month, but the effects diminish throughout the month. We have been giving him fish oil in the morning and in the evening to help with some of the effects. It seems to help. He's still hungry, crabby, demanding, and belligerant, but not so weird (in the psychotic sense of the word.)

His blood counts were good, and because of his weight gain and his high ANC, his chemo doses were increased again. The goal for his ANC during these next 2 years is to keep it between 700 and 2000. A good number would be 1200, I was told on Tuesday. Bennetts counts have been over 2000 every time. I don't know if that's good or not. It means his body is still able to produce white blood cells and neutrophils to protect him even with all the chemo drugs. It's something that is completely out of our control, so we will trust God to have his hand in Bennett's blood counts, to keep them where Bennett's body needs them to be.

We continue to pray for complete healing. And for our girls for whom this treatment is getting very long. Two more years sounds like a long time to put up with this huge disruption in their lives. They are sweet as ever, and kind and loving to their brother, but it is wearing on them. If you think of them, please pray that God will give them grace to make it through each day, one day at a time and that they will come out of this stronger and better.

Thank you, friends.

In Christ, my Lord,


Wednesday, July 6, 2005 8:59 PM CDT

Last week Bennett had IV chemo and his blood drawn, as well as a pentamadine nebulizer. The nebulizer replaces the Bactrim to protect him from pneumonia. He had his monthly dose of steroids last week as well. Besides being very hungry and acting a little weird, it went well.

We went to upper Michigan this past weekend for Dale's brother's wedding. It was very nice to see the family and the weather was perfect! We took Bennett's pop-up and parked it in Dale's parent's yard. That was very fun.

Today Bennett had physical therapy. He is coming along very well, improving in every area. His therapist said if he continues to improve we will probably only have to see her for a few more months. We see her once a month now, so our visits to her may be numbered. That is exciting.

Bennett had a ball game tonight. That is where you can really see the improvement. He had a hit down the first base line, the pitcher fielded it and it was a race to first base. Bennett was out, but it was truly a race. Earlier in the season it would have been an easy out, and last summer it would have been the pitcher waiting on the first base line to easily tag him out.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

We continue to trust God for complete healing in Bennett and to carry us through this journey we are on.

In His Grip,


Thursday, June 23, 2005 2:27 PM CDT

Bennett is doing well. He is busy this summer with playing with friends in the neighborhood and with Cub Ball. It's the 1-2 grade league where the coach pitches to the players. He absolutely loves it. He is one of the youngest, least experienced kids on the team, but that hasn't daunted him in the least. He said, "I think I'm the best player on the team." Those self-esteem courses are paying off!

He has lost all interest in learning to ride his bike, which is kind of a bummer. We are borrowing the neighbor's bike because the one I bought him was a little too big to learn on, but he has no desire to learn how. So, maybe next year.

We are going camping this weekend in Bennett's pop-up. He had his bag packed on Tuesday. He's quite excited to get going.

His running is coming along nicely. We go back for more physical therapy on July 6. We have a hematology/oncology visit next Monday when he'll get his monthly IV chemo.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ,


Thursday, June 2, 2005 8:22 PM CDT

Update June 10
We gave Bennett the doses of Bactrim this Monday and Tuesday, and sure enough, he reacted to it. He had been on Prednisone until Sunday, so the reaction was a bit muted, but he still got a rash on his legs and a little on his face. It seems to be under control with a dose of Benadryl once or twice a day. So we can conclude that it was the Bactrim giving him the rash after all, and that it is just taking a very long time for it to all get out of his system.

Last week, when I took Bennett in for his chemo and PT, I was a little worried because he seemed slow and pale to me. He saw his doctor and had his blood drawn and while the samples went to the lab, we went next door for physical therapy. As he exercised and his therapist put him through several heart pounding drills, he looked even more pale. Usually his face gets flush when he exercises, but that day he was looking more and more pale. My stomach churned as I thought about the blood results. "What if the leukemia is back?" I fretted. Of course, as you know from last weeks update, the counts were good. So often I think we have this down, that we are living in a new normal. While that is somewhat true, there is always this part of me anxiously looking at Bennett, looking for signs that he is well, and fixating on anything that might be out of the ordinary for him. I mentioned his pale appearance to his doctor and he shrugged it off as being more about his Scandinavian relations than anything else. I don't know that I'll ever get to the point where a trip to the doctor will feel routine, and there won't be any worry about the unknown, about blood results coming back with bad news. But that's OK. When I find myself worrying, it is a prompt for me to take it the Lord and receive His peace and to seek His presence because no matter what, He is more than able to handle anything that comes our way. I have never had to rely on God for so much for so long. I have relied on Him, but trusted in what I could do quite a lot. I am finding that when I have to rely on God, and not myself, things go a lot smoother.

Bennett had his monthly doctor and physical therapy appointment. They both went very well. His counts looked great, his ANC was artificially elevated because I had given him a dose of prednisone before we went. Prednisone makes his bone marrow kick out neutrophils, thus falsely elevating his Absolute Neutrophil Count. Anyway, his hemoglobin and white blood cell counts looked good.

We saw his doctor, Dr. Bostrim, and he wants us to give Bennett another dose of Bactrim on Monday to make sure that that was the cause of the rash. So that's what we're going to do. We'll keep you posted on the results of this little experiment.

Bennett's PT appointment went very well. His physical therapist was very pleased at the progress he made during the month. We had worked very hard and it showed. His run still looks funny and he's slow but he's getting so much better. She had "threatened" to have him go back to weekly visits if he hadn't improved much, but he looked good enough to let us stay at monthly visits. Praise the Lord. I was not looking forward to going back to weekly trips to the hospital.

We continue to pray and trust God for total healing for our boy. This is a prednisone week, as I mentioned earlier, so please pray for us to peace and calm and patience here.


In Christ, my King,


Tuesday, May 17, 2005 8:46 AM CDT

----- New photos added 5/21/05 -----

Today marks the one year anniversary of Bennett's diagnosis. I remember that day very well. It's indelibly etched in my brain. I remember every detail of going to his pediatrician's office and getting the initial diagnosis. Then going to Children's Hospital, and making my way through unfamiliar corridors, finding the hematology/oncology clinic and being admitted to the 8th floor. I remember every phone call, every conversation with every person we had to break the news to. It's like a slow motion movie in my mind that still doesn't seem real, doesn't seem like it was me. I can see a mother and child walking down the hospital hall, but it's a stranger, someone else. And it seems as though the movie happened several years ago, not just one. In a sense it was someone else, because when cancer strikes your child, you change. You are no longer the same person after you see you child face a life-threatening illness, undergo painful procedures, take medicine that robs him of several months of his life, and sets him back several years physically. You find that you get strength for each day, and when you look at your situation and think you just can't do this one more day, God graciously reaches out His hand and somehow you can. You draw closer to the One who gives you strength and experience Him in ways that others who haven't yet gone through such trials can't. Yes, I am someone else, someone I wasn't on May 16, 2004. And that is a good thing.

Bennett continues to do well. He started cub ball last week on Monday. After practice, and every day since, he's asked when his next practice is. It was last night, and they practiced in the rain. I don't think we could have kept him away from that practice if it had been thundering and lightning. Thankfully, the coaches scheduled another practice for Wednesday, so Bennett doesn't have to wait a whole week to practice with his team. It is so fun to see him playing. His physical skills, like running and throwing, are still quite far behind most of the other kids', but they are definitely improving. We have a thorough physical therapy regimen that we put him through about 5 days a week. He does it mostly without complaining.

Two nights ago, Bennett woke up in the middle of the night and hollered desperately for me. I scrambled out of bed and ran to him. When I asked him what was wrong he said, "Let's snuggle." I said, "OK, Bennett," and snuggled in next to him. He slept peacefully the rest of the night snuggling close to me. It was very sweet!

His rash has not appeared for the last two days. We don't know what it was, but after another couple of rashless days, I will start reintroducing his supplements to see if it reappears. It may have been the bactrim after all. He had been taking it for nearly a year, and it may have just taken that long for it to get out of his system.

We continue to covet your prayers for complete healing, and for strength for our family to make it through this long haul. We are approaching the one year marker for his treatment, which is different than the one year marker for his diagnosis. July 19 will be one year completed of his 3 year treatment plan. He will complete his treatment July 19, 2007.

Standing on the Rock,


Monday, May 2, 2005 6:11 PM CDT

Bennett had spinal chemo this morning during his early morning spinal tap. He also recieved IV chemo and a nebulizer treatment with an antibiotic in it to coat his lungs and protect him from pneumonia.

He was such a honey when I woke him this morning at 6:30. I got him dressed and he asked me to carry him out to the car. He was pretty quiet on the ride to the hospital. When he got there, he said sleepily, "Finally my eyes see clearly. They were really cloudy this morning." I carried him into the hospital and we found our room at the short stay unit. We chose out a movie and settled in to wait for all the doctors and nurses to do what they needed to do. It was very busy at the short stay unit this morning and things took much longer because of the nebulizer treatment.

Bennett's counts were awesome and he has gained some much needed weight. He now weighs 53 pounds! (He had been down to about 40 pounds this winter) His ANC was 3285. The goal is to keep it between 700 and 2000 with the chemo drugs. (We like it to be over 1000, < 1000 means he is at high risk for disease.) So with his counts being so good and his weight increase, the docs decided to increase his daily oral chemo just a bit. So it will be interesting to see how his counts are at the beginning of June.

He continues to get a rash periodically on his legs and arms and sometimes his face. We don't think it is still the bactrim. To rule things out I washed ALL of his clothes in a clear-free detergent today to rule out a laundry soap allergy. If he continues to get hives after that we'll start removing some of his supplements and watching his diet very carefully.

We continue to covet your prayers for our family as we forge ahead on this long road to recovery.

In Christ, my King,


Friday, April 22, 2005 7:58 AM CDT

Bennett has had many weeks of good health and he continues to look healthier and healthier. We did, however, have a little bump in the road this week. Monday afternoon he had a little rash on his feet and arms. It got a little worse by evening and the the on-call doctor suggested a dose of Benadryl. The rash cleared up and seemed to be gone, so at 8:10 am on Tuesday, I updated the doctor, telling her everything was cleared up. By 8:30 am the rash was back with a vengeance covering his legs, flaring up on his arms and it even began popping out on his face. I called the clinic to let them know that we'd be coming in as soon as I could get him into the car. Another dose of Benadryl helped calm the rash quite a bit. The doctors at the clinic were immediately suspicious of the Bactrim that Bennett takes every Monday and Tuesday morning. Thankfully, I hadn't given him his Tuesday morning dose. The Bactrim protects him for a certain kind of pneumonia that is very common in the air we breathe. Normal, healthy bodies can fight it off, but immunosuppressed patients like Bennett are at risk of getting sick from it. They cancelled that drug on Bennett's schedule and will replace it with a once-a-month nebulizer treatment. It will coincide with his IV chemo. Bennett's rash kept coming back Tuesday and Wednesday, but a little less each time, and the Benadryl kept it at bay pretty well. He got a few spots Thursday morning, so I gave him another dose of Benadryl, and hopefully the Bactrim will be completely out of his system now.

Bennett has been incredibly sweet, hugging and snuggling with me and Dale. One night recently, he was having trouble falling asleep, so I was rubbing his back and snuggling with him. As he got dozier and dozier, he put his arms around my neck and snuggled me tighter, and in that dozy, sleepy state, he asked me, "What does it feel like just before you die?" The question ruined the sweet moment for me to say the least. I told him I didn't know, and he fell asleep. I went to my room and told Dale what he had just asked. It was very disturbing to both of us. We prayed and tried to put it out of our minds.

It's amazing how everything can seem to be going so well, and a little innocent question from our sleepy boy can put us into a state of fear. We are so like sheep, calm and quiet one second and then bleating and running scared at the tiniest noise. I am so glad that the Lord is my shepherd. As I go running scared in a dangerous direction, he gently chases after me and brings be back. His rod and His staff truly do comfort me. I am lying in green pastures, being led beside still waters. He has restored my soul. I can rest assured that the next time something scares me and I go running, that the gentle shepherd's staff will guide me back to greener pastures.

A cute one about Bennett: Bennett was invited to the Build a Bear workshop to build a bear and meet Kevin Garnett and John Thomas from the Timberwolves. Kevin and John were helping the kids build bears, but Bennett didn't really want any help. He knew exactly what he wanted and got his bear built all by himself. After his bear was built he was ready to go. I told him that we needed to stay and meet the players. He really didn't want to stay, but I had already signed the photo agreement and it was part of the build a bear deal. He was just off his week of steroids and not feeling very cooperative. So I explained to Bennett that they were very nice to us by letting us build a bear for free, so we needed to be nice to them and let them take his picture. When I put it that way, he agreed. He patiently waited for all the rest of the cancer kids to finish with their bears. Finally the pictures started. Each of the kids were given a #21 Timberwolves jersey with Kevin Garnett's name. When they went up to get their picture taken they could have John Thomas and Kevin Garnett sign their bear or their jersey (some did both). Bennett "let" them sign his bear, who also had a bear sized Timberwolves' jersey. But he did not want them signing his jersey. As he put it, "Who wants writing on a nice jersey?" Indeed, Bennett, who would want that?

Still praising my Savior,


Tuesday, April 5, 2005 8:57 AM CDT

Bennett had chemo and physical therapy yesterday. His chemo went very well, and his counts were great! His ANC (which should be over 1000) was 2436. And his hemoglobin was 12, the best it has been in a very long time. He started steroids yesterday as well, so please pray that he gets through this week with no trouble.

His physical therapy went well, too. His legs did suffer a little set back in March with the 2 weeks to Florida. We played a lot but all the sitting in the van was not good for him, I guess. So we are going to really go hard this month to get him back up to speed. The nice weather will help that a lot. We will be out riding bikes and playing at the park, and practicing playing ball.

His two good friends, Jared from next door, and Tony from across the street, have both learned how to ride a two wheeler. Bennett saw them both riding two wheelers yesterday and instructed me to take the training wheels off of his bike. He was going to ride a two wheeler just like his friends. Well, I took the training wheels off as instructed but the riding lesson DID NOT go well. Bennett takes a very careful and cautious approach to activities. Before he does something new, he asks if he could get hurt doing it. Before I signed him up for summer baseball, he asked if he could get hurt playing ball. He thinks he wants to be a basketball player when he gets older but had to ask if you could break your neck playing basketball before he made that decision. And when the girls were jumping over a cement flower box at a strip mall, he matter of factly informed them that that was a good way to sprain an ankle, as he carefully walked around it. When he rode his bike with training wheels, he took the slow and careful approach there as well. If he felt himself going to fast, he might steer toward a grassy place and jump off the bike. So you can imagine that getting him to ride a two wheeler did not go well, to say the least. He doesn't understand that you need a little speed to stay upright!

When it became obvious to him that he wasn't going to ride a two wheeler, he became very upset. He yelled at his two friends to quit riding in front of him. He came in the house and yelled at me, telling me it was my fault. (It's always the mother's fault, isn't it!) Last night we bought him a scooter to help him learn balance. He rode it around inside the garage last night. This morning when he woke up, he took a quick bath and said "Scooter time." He carefully donned his knee pads, gloves, and helmet and then carefully went scootering up and down the street. The girls took him around the block and gave him a few pointers. He took their advice and is bravely pulling up his kicking foot half seconds at a time to get the feeling of balancing. We are praying that he will master this skill and be able to transfer it to his bike!

Every milestone is such a big, hard deal. It is going to be a while before physical activities come easily to him. His strength is not there, and neither is his stamina and his balance, which takes core strength. We are going to work very hard this month to try to get him to a place where he's not falling way behind the other kids playing baseball.

Please keep him in your prayers. Pray that he will get his strength back and learns how to ride a bike. And pray that God will bring complete healing to him.

Thank you!

In Christ, my Lord,


Wednesday, March 23, 2005 12:36 AM CST

We made it to Florida and back. We took the whole 2 weeks to get there and back, and we needed every minute! (More about that later.)

Bennett did very well. He finished his prednisone on Friday and we left Saturday morning, so he was still feeling the effects of it for the first week we were gone. I packed lots of snacks for the car ride down to Florida. Even so, we still had to stop and buy quite a bit of food along the way. One stop at a Hardees in Georgia went like this:

I pulled up to the drive through order speaker. All three kids wanted chicken strips. The menu said they had 3 piece and 5 piece chicken strips. I figured that one of each should feed all three just fine.

"Welcome to Hardees, may I take your order?"

"Yes, I'd like a 3 piece chicken strip, a 5 piece chicken strip and an order of fries."

"OK. A 3 piece chicken strip and fries, but we don't have spicy chicken."

"That's OK, I don't want spicy chicken, I want a five piece chicken strip."

"Ma'am, we don't have spicy chicken."

"I don't want spicy chicken. I want a 3 piece chicken strip, a five piece chicken strip, and an order of fries."

"We don't have spicy chicken."

Giggles from the back seat.

"I am going to pull up to the window because you obviously can't hear me."

"I can hear you just fine."

"No, you can't because you keep talking about spicy chicken and I never asked for spicy chicken. I want a 3 piece chicken strip, a five piece chicken strip, and an order of fries."

"I keep telling you we don't have spicy chicken."

Now the van is rocking with laughter.

"I want 2 orders of chicken strips. 3 and 5."

"OK. Please pull ahead."

I get to the window to pay, a little embarassed because everyone is laughing SO hard. We get our food: a 2 piece chicken strip, a 3 piece chicken strip and fries.

"I asked for a 3 piece and a 5 piece chicken strip."

"We don't have 3 piece and 5 piece, we only have regular and large."

"I'll take another regular."

I wasn't about to start talking to him about the FACT that the menu outside at the drive through said differently. I just wanted to get back on the road. We laughed about that all the way to West Palm Beach.

The trip was very fun, we spent 8 days in West Palm Beach, enjoying the sights and taking a day trip to the Bahamas one day. While it was relaxing, Bennett's illness was never far from my mind. I was concerned that we would forget to give him his meds, or that he'd get a fever and we'd have to find a hospital in Florida. One night, Bennett fell asleep without his melatonin. He has needed melatonin to fall asleep for quite a while. And without it, he's up until 1 or 2 am. So when he fell asleep without it, I freaked out a little. I slept next to him, making sure he was cool and breathing. The last time he fell asleep that hard and quickly, he didn't wake up for 3 days! The stress of a cancer patient wasn't far from the girls minds either. Twice Bennett's behavior brought them both to tears.

All in all, though, it was worth the trouble and we are home again feeling rejuvenated after a much-needed get-away.

Now, more about the time it took us to get to and from Florida. Before we left, I mapquested a route and found that it was only 13 hours to Nashville, TN, where we would pop up our camper for the first night. When I mapquest things around the cities it is pretty accurate. If the map says it'll take 25 minutes, it usually takes 25 minutes, depending on traffic. So we were on the road by 7 am and I looked forward to setting up camp at around 8 pm in Nashville. Afterall, mapquest said it was only 13 hours. After our first few bathroom and gas stops, I was starting to think it might be closer to 9 pm. But that's not so bad. We'd still get a good night's rest and be refreshed for another 13 hour drive the next day. Somehow we must have gone through a time warp or something because we didn't get there until 12:30, and we didn't get to sleep until after 1 am. So I have come up with a formula for figuring out the discrepancy with the time on mapquest estimates: divde the hours by four, round to the nearest whole number and add to the hours estimate. It worked again the following day with the second half of the trip to West Palm. Map quest estimated 13 hours, it took us 17. I'm sure it's a problem with mapquest, not us!

Most of us, 4/5 to be exact, maintained a good attitude about arriving in the middle of the night, but one of us, the oldest male, was having a bit of trouble and even tried to stop at hotel in Orlando because he couldn't take driving for one more minute. Luckily, that didn't work out and the rest of us got our wish to be at our destination for Monday morning.
Giving praises to my King,


Friday, March 4, 2005 8:23 PM CST

Bennett had chemo on Tuesday of this week. That went well. His blood counts were very good. He started his steroid on Monday, so they were a little bit artificially elevated. His ANC was over 7000! He also had PT and OT. He's doing very well, and will graduate from OT next month, but we have quite a bit of work to do before he can graduate from PT.

Today Bennett took his last dose of steroids for this month. Praise the Lord! It always makes us a little uneasy to have him on steroids. He acts so strange sometimes, and is very high maintenance. He hasn't been as hungry as previous weeks on steroids, but still thinking about food a quite a bit. Shrimp and Lean Chin Sesame Chicken have been his foods of choice for the week. (We actually had to leave our home school co-op on Wednesday to go get some. When he starts obsessing about food, there's nothing to do but give him some.)

He is very focused on the things he wants. Obsessive, actually. For a history project the girls made paper mache sheilds. They turned out very nice. Bennett decided he wanted to make one, too. We started it on Wednesday morning. It takes a long time to make this, but Bennett wanted to do it on the accelerated track. He wanted to start painting it by evening. They are supposed to dry and harden for 3 or 4 days. No problem. Get the same dry results by putting a fan blowing on it at high speed, and you can have those 23 layers of newspaper and paste dry in no time. It was nearly dry by night time, and he agreed to wait until Thursday to paint it. There was one more coat of paper and paste that had to go around the edges Thursday morning. It was almost more than he could bear, waiting for that thing to dry. We put the fan blowing on the top side, and when that was dry, I let him paint it, and dry the bottom side when the paint was dry. Finally! He'd waited SO long to paint his sheild. (The girls waited about 2 weeks.) For the last 3 days, if he wasn't working on his sheild, he was asking me every 15 minutes when he could finish it. And every 15 minutes I'd tell him the same thing, "When it's dry." He'd say, "Oh yeah, right. I just forgot." Yeah, he forgot every 15 minutes. It's like having a completely senile person here sometimes.

He also sneaks the phone off the hook and calls his dad at work to find out when Dale is going to come home. And if it's too long, he'll sneak the phone again and call his dad and remind him that he's waiting for him to come home. Dale will have to tell him the length of time by how many X-men or Justice League episodes he could watch until Dale gets home. Then Bennett will go watch that many episodes and then call his dad again and tell him that he's watched the movies and he's noticed that Dale is still not home. One day, Dale was nearly home so he told Bennett he would be home in the time it takes him to brush his teeth twice. So Bennett hung up the phone and brushed his teeth twice. Dale still wasn't home, so I told him that he brushed them a little too quickly so he went and did it again. I think it's the only time in his life that he brushed his teeth so eagerly, and 4 times in a row! It's actually heart breaking how much he loves being with his dad, but can't because Dale has to work. He waits eagerly for Dale all day long. He has wondered out loud what it would be like if I went to work and Dale stayed home. He thinks it would be pretty awesome. I'm sure it would be. Every day would be another adventure.

I know I promised to get a picture of our igloo on the site. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to take a camera out into the yard and snap a picture. Well, anytime I thought about it, there were no kids playing in it. (It just seemed like there ought to be children in the picture, at least pretending to be playing in it.) And then I'd go and forget all about it. It's really sad how that beautiful igloo never got memorialized in a photo. I'm still not giving up, but with the warm days we've been having, it's a pretty sad sight. Soon it will just be a big mound of snow in our front yard.

Tomorrow we are off to Florida. We are pulling Bennett's pop-up and will hopefully make it to Nashville, TN where we'll pop it up for the first time in a campground. We are all so excited, we probably will hardly be able to sleep. Then we'll try to make it West Palm Beach, Florida. We can be gone for up to two weeks. So we'll see what happens when we get down there.

Please pray that our trip will go well, that God will protect Bennett's health and that He will bring complete healing to our son, with no long term disabilities.

In Christ, my King,


Tuesday, February 22, 2005 10:12 AM CST

Bennett continues to improve. He looks healthier than he has in the last year. He has more energy, plays outside, plays inside, and seems to be back to the boy he was before he got sick. We praise the Lord for that!

His appetite continues to go up and down. Some times he eats several large meals a day, and just seems to not be able to fill up. Of course, when he's on steroids he eats non-stop. Then other days he eats a handful of cereal and says he's full. I just look at the big picture, at what he's eaten in the past week, instead of fixating on the daily picture.

Next week on Tuesday he gets chemo and starts steroids. We covet your prayers for that week. Pray that Bennett will tolerate the steroids and not have any psychotic episodes.


Dale came home from church on Sunday and plowed the driveway. We had about 5 or so inches of snow. He was taking quite a while, but I didn't worry until Jenna asked as she looked out the front window, "Why is dad plowing the yard?"

I went to have a look. Sure enough. The front yard was plowed. I couldn't give Jenna an answer, because I had no idea what her father was doing, plowing the front yard. I hoped none of the neighbors were watching, but I am sure they were. Finally the snowblower stopped and we thought he'd come in so we could take his temperature and put him to bed, for surely he was deliriously sick with something and not thinking straight. But, the door did not open and Dale did not come in.

Jenna continued to watch out the front window as her dad began filling the recycle container with snow and dumping out rectangles shapes on the front yard. "Now what is he doing?" she asked. Jenna is quite concerned about appearances, and her voice was a bit desperate this time. I looked out the window, and a smile crept across my face as I realized what my fourth child was doing. "He's building an igloo," I said. This was very OK with Jenna. We would be the envy of the neighborhood instead of a spectacle, as we sometimes are when her father gets a wild idea.

When Bennett saw what was taking shape in the front yard, he donned his snow clothes and went out to help. As the two of them worked hard on the igloo for the better part of the afternoon, I couldn't help but thank God for the fun loving father he has blessed our children with.

I am sure we will have pictures of the igloo up on the website very soon, so come back and have a look.

Have a blessed day!

In Christ, my Lord,


Friday, February 11, 2005 10:05 AM CST

Bennett finished his course of steroids with no trouble. Praise the Lord! He was quite hungry, and craved fish and shrimp again! He also started eating walnuts. We had a bag of walnuts in their shells from the holidays and he started cracking them open and eating them as if they were candy. When we ran out, he was nearly in tears, and nearly in tears again when he found out that Cub doesn't sell them in the shell after the holidays. I bought some already shelled and he tentatively tried them and let me know that they'll do.


Pardon the interruption. This is Dale. I bought Bennett a C-clamp the last time we were at Rite Hardware, and I showed Bennett how it can crush anything -- even walnuts. It just dawned on me why Bennett was so disappointed when Michelle came home with pre-shelled walnuts. He wanted to crack them open with his C-clamp.

Thank you for your prayers about the supplements. We believe the Lord has led us to the things that Bennett needs. He seems to be doing quite well with them, gaining weight and looking very healthy.

Another praise: We were scheduled to go to the U.P. to ski the first weekend in February, but because of Bennett's steroid schedule, we post-poned the trip and were supposed to go this weekend. This past Monday, Dale's mom called to tell us that Bennett's cousin Whitney has chicken-pox. Bennett would have definitely spent time with Whitney while she was contagious. We thank God for his protection. Since a ski trip to the U.P. looks doubtful, we'll take a day off this coming week and go skiing somewhere locally. We have another trip to Florida with Bennett's pop-up planned for the 2nd two weeks of March. Please pray that we will be able to go on that trip.

Blessing to you all!

In Service to my King,


Thursday, February 3, 2005 8:50 PM CST

Bennett had spinal chemo and IV chemo on Tuesday of this week. For those of you who have been following this saga, you know that spinal taps have been very difficult for Bennett after his July tap turned into chemical meningitis. The next few taps after that I carried him to the car kicking and screaming. Each tap went just fine, but the psychologist told me that it takes at least 6 good ones to undo a bad one. The last tap he had was in November. He was a little sad, but not screaming. The girls came with us that time to help him feel better. This Tuesday, he woke up cheery, joked as we got ready and chatted happily all the way down to the hospital. We chose out a video, "Air Bud," and settled in to wait for all the pre-op stuff to get done. He was very happy and cooperative the entire time. When the time came for the sedative to be administered, he wanted to fall asleep in my lap again. I love that. It is so sweet.

He came through the tap and IV chemo with shining colors. Praise the Lord!

And his counts were great! His ANC (which we like to be over 1000) was just over 3000. All the numbers looked very good. He also had gained 4 pounds. He's looking much healthier to me. He finally has some flesh on his legs and back to that he doesn't look so horribly gaunt. He is also eating very well. He started prednisone on Tuesday as well, which has increased his appetite even more. It is such a blessing to see him eating and enjoying a substantial amount of food.

We are hoping to go on a little ski vacation next weekend, Lord willing. It has been over a year since we have gone anywhere as a family. (Except for the hotel we stayed in for Thanksgiving.) But this will be a true vacation, where we are more than 15 minutes from home for more than one night. We hope to go to Upper Michigan and take advantage of their awesome snow at the Porcupine Mountains. We'll be staying with Dale's parents. It will be nice to see them again.

Please pray:
That there will be no long term effects from the chemo, specifically learning disabilites.
That Bennett will continue to tolerate the prednisone.
That our family will have a fun time together in Upper Michigan.

Thank you, friends!

In Christ, my Lord,


Wednesday, January 26, 2005 5:58 PM CST

We have had a very eventful last few weeks. Last Tuesday morning my niece Abby, was ambulanced to Children's hospital. She had gotten sick on Monday evening and was much worse on Tuesday so my sister, Andrea, took her to urgent care. Urgent care called an ambulance and had her taken to Children's in Minneapolis. So suddenly we were thrust into a week of more unknowns and questions. Abby's Tuesday evening MRI showed some swelling deep in her brain. The doctor's best guess was that it was a virus that attacked her brain, as nothing grew in the blood cultures looking for a bacterial infection. She remained on IV antibiotics until Friday, when she had another MRI that came back completely normal. Many of you were aware of this and were praying. We thank you for your prayers. Abby is back home, completely recovered as if nothing ever happened. Praise the Lord.

Bennett is doing well. His last weekly appointment for OT and PT is this week. Then we go to monthly visits. This coming Tuesday he gets a spinal tap and IV chemo. We will also start steroids again next week. He seems to be doing much better than the last time I wrote. He is eating a little better and he actually looks like he is putting on weight. His legs don't look so horribly skinny and his ribs are so extremely visible. I am sure it is an answer to your prayers for us. Last week was a difficult week for me, with Abby's situation and Bennett being difficult to feed and not looking like he was gaining weight. I let Fear have his way with me for a little while, but thanks to your prayers and Dale's, I fixed my eyes on what is not seen, instead of what I can see. This is such a daily walk of trusting the Lord. At times it might seem like it's tiring, but the reality is it is only tiring when I quit trusting.

Please pray for continued healing in Bennett and continued increase in appetite. Please also pray that this week of steroids coming up will be uneventful, that he won't react adversely to them. And we continue to pray for the Lord to lead us to the best supplements to help Bennett's body get the nutrients it need to heal.

Thank you, friends!

In Christ,



My enemy grabbed me by the throat and carried me into the mist. His grip was strong and I could barely breathe. He was Fear. And as he carried me along, he called on Black Magic, with one hand on my throat he reached into the mist and pulled out an image of my son. It was an image of Starvation and Death, with all his little bones nearly piercing his skin, and hollow, empty eyes. And Fear bid me look at the future. With gasping breaths I hung transfixed looking where he told me, unable to look away. For too long I could do nothing but hold onto his hand around my throat with both of my trembling hands and look where he commanded. A sad soldier was I, unable to think, unable to move, except tremble with Fear. The clanging of my armor woke me from my spellbound stupor and I reached with trembling hands to fix my helmet. Fear was so sure of my inability to resist him, that he cared not what I did with my hands. I reached for my sword and first with flailing, ungainly blows I struck at my enemy. He screamed in pain and tried to tighten his grip but my hands remembered my sword and my blows came more accurately now, deftly cutting him down. He released his grip and fled into the mist. I straightened my armor, fixed my helmet, breastplate, and belt, sheathed my sword, tied my shoes tight and made for the narrow gate. There was my King in whose I army I willingly enlisted, smiling and shining in his kingly robes. “Well done,” He said, “well done.”

Sunday, January 9, 2005 9:28 PM CST

Another week has flown by. Bennett had IV chemo on Thursday at the hem/onc clinic at Childrens. His blood counts were a little low, so his doctor backed off the daily oral chemo slightly. His ANC was 810, it was over 3000 in December. (Under 1000 makes him highly susceptible to illness.) He also had OT and PT. He continues to get stronger and stronger.

Tonight Dale and I had a moment of anxiety. Bennett is on prednisone until tomorrow. Tonight he was walking around and around in the kitchen because he is hungry and he doesn't know what to eat. This was reminiscent of another evening when he walked around and around the kitchen in a psychotic stupor and ended up spending over a week at Children's on the 8th foor. So many things can run through your mind in an instant. Bennett is on prednisone because he can't tolerate the more effective drug, decadron. I thought, "What if he can't tolerate prednisone either?" That heavy dose of steroids each month is the back bone of the treatment protocol for ALL (Bennett's leukemia). What then? Is there another option? It's amazing how fear can stab you in the heart so quickly. There is not even time to pray it away before it hits you. Now its an exercise in obedience to take every thought captive and leave all of these anxieties at the foot of the cross.

Bennett also seems to be getting more difficult to feed. Usually on steroids he is voraciously hungry, but this time he has only had a slight increase in appetite, and even with the increase he is very difficult to feed. We have been giving him whole milk protein shakes, which he loves, but solid food is just not appealing to him.

Please pray that Bennett will eat better, that he will not react adversely to the prednisone, and that there will not be any lasting effects from all of the treatments. And if there are supplements out there that would be beneficial to him, that God would lead us to them.

Thank you friends,

In Christ,


Saturday, January 1, 2005 4:55 PM CST

Happy New Year!

Bennett is doing very well. His strength is coming back, so much that his physical therapist and occupational therapist said that he will be going to once a month visits soon. So we will soon be going to the hospital only once a month instead of twice or three times a week! I feel as though I have a new lease on life.

We had a very merry Christmas and a nice quiet, low-key New Year's Eve. I think I fell asleep before midnight for the first time in several years. But it was a sweet time of togetherness for our family even if we all didn't make it until the stroke of twelve.

We are finally enjoying the "new normal" we had been praying for. We have settled into this new life and are so thankful for how our God has blessed us and upheld us with his righteous right hand.

Blessings to you all!

In Christ alone,


Thursday, December 16, 2004 2:33 PM CST

This is Dale, stopping in at the Family Resource Center at Children's on my way back to work. I met Michelle and Bennett here so I could spend time with Bennett during his speech, occupational, and physical therapy visits while Michelle went to an Evan's Scholar luncheon downtown. Bennett and I had an hour to ourselves to hang out between appointments, and we spent it (where else?) in the cafeteria.

These past several weeks in general and today in particular have been blessing on top of blessing. Bennett's speech therapist, Mira, told me today that Bennett doesn't need to come back; in effect, he's "graduated" from speech therapy. The ceremony was when Bennett and Mira high fived each other to punctuate how far he's come in two months.

We prayed for so much since May, and in great detail, and so many of you have been faithfully praying for Bennett and the rest of us. We thank you with all our hearts. While we won't stop praying for continued healing, we have lots of detailed thanks for pray: Thank You, God the Great Healer, for our praying friends; for Bennett's blood ANC being so high that the oncologist thinks it's almost "too high" (evidence of an immune system stronger than it has to be, which means it can take a hit, which will be delivered in the form of increased chemo); thank You for Bennett's energy and increased hand and leg strength and coordination; thank You for Your effect on Corinne and Jenna when Bennett and Michelle and I needed for them to be nothing less than princesses; thank You for using difficult times to draw our family closer to Yourself and closer to each other, just like we pray every day; thank You for today; and thank You for whatever you have in store for us tomorrow.

We watch everything so closely. Many times this summer and fall, events that triggered trips to the ER were signaled by such subtle changes in Bennett. Last night in the kitchen, I heard Bennett repeating one word over and over while he was waiting for his brown rice to warm up in the microwave. Instantly I was transported back to June, when Bennett had his first psychotic episode and was humming the same note over and over. I searched Michelle's face for worry and saw not a trace. It was nothing; Bennett had just been repeating a word like kids often do. He was fine. Even if I had seen worry in Michelle's face last night (and she in mine), it would have disappeared moments later as Bennett had a normal, healthy bedtime. So that fleeting worry was not needed, just like the worries that lasted many days earlier this summer were not needed. I can't promise myself that I'll never worry again, but for the rest of my life I can find comfort in the fact that days like today and months like November and December are possible after summers like 2004. Thank God for that.

Thanks for stopping by, and thank your for being loving, praying friends.

In Christ,

Thursday, December 16, 2004 2:30 PM CST

This is Dale, stopping in at the Family Resource Center at Children's on my way back to work. I met Michelle and Bennett here so I could spend time with Bennett during his speech therapy and occupational therapy visits and so Michelle could go to an Evan's Scholar luncheon downtown. Bennett and I had an hour to ourselves to hang out between appointments, and we spent it (where else?) in the cafeteria.

These past several weeks in general and today in particular have been blessing on top of blessing. Bennett's speech therapist, Mira, told me today that Bennett doesn't need to come back; in effect, he's "graduated" from speech therapy. The ceremony was when Bennett and Mira high fived each other to punctuate how far he's come in two months.

We prayed for so much since May, and in great detail, and so many of you have been faithfully praying for Bennett and the rest of us. We thank you with all our hearts. While we won't stop praying for continued healing, we have lots of detailed thanks for pray: Thank You, God the Great Healer, for our praying friends; for Bennett's blood ANC being so high that the oncologist thinks it's almost "too high" (evidence of an immune system stronger than it has to be, which means it can take a hit, which will be delivered in the form of increased chemo); thank You for Bennett's energy and increased hand and leg strength and coordination; thank You for Your effect on Corinne and Jenna when Bennett and Michelle and I needed for them to be nothing less than princesses; thank You for using difficult times to draw our family closer to Yourself and closer to each other, just like we pray every day; thank You for today; and thank You for whatever you have in store for us tomorrow.

We watch everything so closely. Many times this summer and fall, events that triggered trips to the ER came with so little warning and were signaled by such subtle changes in Bennett. Last night in the kitchen, I heard Bennett repeating one word over and over while he was waiting for his brown rice to warm up in the microwave. Instantly I was transported back to June 10, when Bennett has his first psychotic episode and was humming the same note over and over. I searched Michelle's face for worry and saw not a trace. It was nothing; Bennett had just been repeating a word like kids often do. He was fine. Even if I had seen worry in Michelle's face last night (and she in mine), it would have disappeared moments later as Bennett had a normal, healthy bedtime. So that fleeting worry was not needed, just like the worries that lasted many days earlier this summer were not needed. I can't promise myself that I'll never worry again, but for the rest of my life I can find comfort in the fact that days like today and months like November and December are possible after summers like 2004. Thank God for that.

Thanks for stopping by, and thank your for being loving, praying friends.

In Christ,

Thursday, December 16, 2004 2:26 PM CST

This is Dale, stopping in at the Family Resource Center at Children's on my way back to work. I met Michelle and Bennett here so I could spend time with Bennett during his speech therapy and occupational therapy visits and so Michelle could go to an Evan's Scholar luncheon downtown. Bennett and I had an hour to ourselves to hang out between appointments, and we spent it (where else?) in the cafeteria.

These past several weeks in general and today in particular have been blessing on top of blessing. Bennett's speech therapist, Mira, told me today that Bennett doesn't need to come back; in effect, he's "graduated" from speech therapy. The ceremony was when Bennett and Mira high fived each other to punctuate how far he's come in two months.

We prayed for so much since May, and in great detail, and so many of you have been faithfully praying for Bennett and the rest of us. We thank you with all our hearts. While we won't stop praying for continued healing, we have lots of detailed thanks for pray: Thank You, God the Great Healer, for our praying friends; for Bennett's blood ANC being so high that the oncologist thinks it's almost "too high" (evidence of an immune system stronger than it has to be, which means it can take a hit, which will be delivered in the form of increased chemo); thank You for Bennett's energy and increased hand and leg strength and coordination; thank You for Your effect on Corinne and Jenna when Bennett and Michelle and I needed for them to be nothing less than princesses; thank You for using difficult times to draw our family closer to Yourself and closer to each other, just like we pray every day; thank You for today; and thank You for whatever you have in store for us tomorrow.

We watch everything so closely. Many times this summer and fall, events that triggered trips to the ER came with so little warning and were signaled by such subtle changes in Bennett. Last night in the kitchen, I heard Bennett repeating one word over and over while he was waiting for his brown rice to warm up in the microwave. Instantly I was transported back to June 10, when Bennett has his first psychotic episode and was humming the same note over and over. I searched Michelle's face for worry and saw not a trace. It was nothing; Bennett had just been repeating a word like kids often do. He was fine. Even if I had seen worry in Michelle's face last night (and she in mine), it would have disappeared moments later as Bennett had a normal, healthy bedtime. So that fleeting worry was not needed, just like the worries that lasted many days earlier this summer were not needed. I can't promise myself that I'll never worry again, but for the rest of my life I can find comfort in the fact that days like today and months like November and December are possible after summers like 2004. Thank God for that.

Thanks for stopping by, and thank your for being loving, praying friends.

In Christ,

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 3:56 PM CST

Bennett started this month's 5-day regimen of steroids yesterday (Tuesday, Dec 7). He's been hungry all month so it will be interesting to see if the steroids increase his hunger to a new high. He is looking great and doing great. His blood counts were very good on Monday at the Hem/Onc clinic. Actually, almost too good. If they continue to be this good the docs will increase his chemo. His ANC (which we want to be over 1000) was over 3000. That is a great number, but throughout the maintenance phase (which lasts until July 19, 2007)they'd like it to be between 700 and 2000. If it is high again in January they'll probably increase his meds in February when the 84 day cycle starts all over again.

He woke up incredibly happy this morning at 7:30. He hollered for his dad and asked if it was time to get up yet. Dale told him it wasn't. He said, "Well, I'm getting up early today, there is so much fun stuff to do." He had a wonderful morning and then asked to go to his friend Guy's house. So we set up that play date and he cheerfully went to Guy's, chatting the whole way there about how excited he was to be going to Guy's house, and how long it's been since he and Guy have played together, and what they were going to do. He packed a lunch, 'cause he was sure he'd get hungry: an apple, graham crackers, a mini box of Cheerios, and a water bottle full of his new favorite drink, Stevia.

God, you are so wonderful. We wouldn't appreciate this day to the same extent if we hadn't had days when he was quiet and barely responsive. Thank you for your incredible care of us. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Happiness is relative. I can think back to times that were indeed happy, but in comparison to the joy I feel today, it was melancholy. When you've been through the fires of trials and tribulations, good times are just sweeter and more meaningful. And you look at things much differently. We have a new perspective.

Jenna is reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and in Prince Caspian, the 4 children are called into Narnia by a magic horn. One of the boys, Edmund, comments, "It's a bit uncomfortable to know that we can be whistled for like that. It's worse than what Father says about living at the mercy of the telephone." His sister Lucy replies, "But we want to be here, don't we, if Aslan wants us?" Aslan is an allegory for Jesus. We’ve learned to say, “We want to be here, if Jesus wants us here.” He has us here for a purpose and we’ll miss it if we are constantly looking to the future or wishing we were somewhere else. I’m not sure all that He has planned for us, but I want to be right where he wants me, mind, body, and soul, so that I don’t miss the lesson I am supposed to learn, and the opportunity to draw close to the Savior in the midst of the fire.

Still praising my Savior, all the day long.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004 4:47 PM CST

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent Wednesday night at the Country Inn and Suites in Plymouth, MN. We swam and hot tubbed 3 times in the 2 pools and 2 hot tubs. It was luxurious. Thursday, after enjoying the wonderful breakfast at the hotel and the pool/hot tub, we came home to drop off our stuff, picked up our camera and went to Elm Creek Park. We took some pictures, played hide-and-seek and freeze tag. Afterwards we had our Thanksgiving dinner at Old Country Buffet. My sister Elizabeth and her family stopped over for a visit in the evening. After they left, we put a fire in the fireplace, popped popcorn and watched The Princess Bride. It was the first time Dale, Bennett and I had seen it. Inconceivable, I know, but true.

Bennett is doing much better. He is getting stronger and stronger. We had PT at the pool yesterday. His physical therapist said that next week will be his last time in the pool. We’ll start having his therapy in the PT gym on dry ground. Next week will be the last week (I hope) that we’ll have to drive down to Children’s twice in a week. After that, most of our appointment should be on Thursdays. That will be a relief.

Bennett’s chemo schedule is as follows: Daily oral chemo, once a week an additional oral chemo (on Tuesdays he gets 2 oral chemos), IV chemo once a month, five days each month he gets steroids, and every 84 days he gets spinal chemo. This is an 84 day cycle that will just keep repeating until July 19, 2007.


Earlier I mentioned that we stayed at the Country Inn and Suites in Plymouth, MN. That was apparently not far enough away. Because of some unfortunate events we find ourselves, again, in the situation where we feel we must move and start over where no one knows us. Let me begin by saying that I do my best to have our family act cultured and refined when we are out in public. But sometimes events in life intersect with us and the results are a devastating mess of humiliation and embarassment that require us to pack and move to another town, county, or even state.

We arrived at Country Inn and Suites on Wednesday afternoon in our stinky van. (That is another story that is not completely related to this story so I will save it for another time.) As I said, we swam and hot tubbed 3 times during this one night stay. I had, however, forgotten to pack our cover-ups so when we were through swimming we used those hotel towels that you often find by hotel pools. You know the ones that are about the size of dish cloths so you need at least 3 to adequately dry off and cover yourself on your way to the room. So each of us used at least 3 towels each time to keep ourselves covered on our way back to our room so that we didn’t freeze during the long trek.

It was these piles of nearly 50 towels that I was pondering when the events started unfolding at an alarming pace. I was trying to figure how we could inconspicuously walk them back down to the towel hamper in the pool area or sneak them into the hotel housecleaing cart that I had noticed in the hallway outside our room. To me, it was quite embarassing to have a pile of towels as high as the bed in our room. I needn’t have worried about being embarassed by a simple pile of towels. No, my family was taking care of that.

As I was musing about the towels, Corinne, Jenna, and Bennett were discussing the eye hole in the door. It was very interesting to them and they wanted to look through it. As it wouldn’t be very exciting to look through the “peep hole” (as they called it) at an empty hallway, Dale offered to stand in the hallway. Little alarm bells were going off in my head that this might not be a great idea, but I was pulled in two directions, and to be honest, still a bit more consumed by the towel trouble. Dale checked the focal length of the eye hole lens, and then went out into the hallway. The kids closed the door and pushed the beautiful arm chair up to it. They took turns standing on it and looking at Dale out in the hallway. Of course Dale didn’t just stand there, he struck a pose to be a bit more entertaining.

Each of the kids took turns looking through the “peep hole” and howling at their dad’s posture out in the hallway. After each child had taken at least 3 turns looking and howling with laughter, I suddenly was sucked into this vortex of classless behavior and began shouting: MY TURN, MY TURN, MY TURN! I flung children off the chair and hopped on to look through the peep hole. There was Dale, standing in the hallway with his head cocked to the side and leaning toward the door. He was acting like “Joe Cool” pointing his finger at the eye hole. Because of how he was leaning toward the door, his head looked disproportionately larger than the rest of his body and so did his finger. I howled with laughter, completely forgetting all decorum. I was jolted out of my reverie when I heard Dale say, “Oh, do you need to get by?”

The cleaning woman had been waiting the whole time to get by Dale, but his back was to her, and because of the noise we were making, he couldn’t hear her either. He said, “You were so quiet,” to displace the humiliation from us to her, but as English was not her first language, I don’t think it budged a bit. The humiliation and embarassment remained square on our shoulders. This poor woman was stuck waiting for a man who, for reasons that probably eluded her and any other rational human being, was leaning toward a door and pointing, while either shouts of laughter or howls of pain were coming through the door, I‘m sure it was difficult to tell which. And the last thing she heard was a woman yelling, MY TURN, not once but three times. We quickly moved the chair and let Dale in. I am sure the letters she wrote home this month included a strange man in the hallway, a strange family, and their piles of towels. We will not be back at that hotel anytime soon.

Have a wonderful day!


Saturday, November 20, 2004 1:43 AM CST

Now that the delayed-intensification phase of Bennett’s treatment is over, we can watch and cling to his improvements. Like Michelle (in her last update), I was fixating too much on Day 56 (the last day of delayed intensification), as if something dramatic would happen that very day. Bennett’s improvements have been very slow but steady. For the past three months, I have struggled watching Bennett stagger up steps and fumble with his shirt buttons as much as he has struggled doing those things. But this past Wednesday, when Bennett and I were walking up the stairs, just when I expected him to slow almost to a stop for the last five steps, he accelerated! I pointed that out to him, that his legs were getting stronger, and he agreed pretty off-handedly. I suppose as little as he complained (which was never) when his strength and coordination were bottoming out in September, I shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s not as excited as I am that his strength is returning. As crabby as Bennett has gotten (super crabby!) at times (definite ripple effect), and as out-of-control some of his moods have made him, he has not once complained about or questioned the fairness of his leukemia or the awful side-effects of the treatment.

Dad has a can.
The can has ham.
Sam is a fat cat.
The fat cat had ham.
Glad Sam!
Sam! Scat!
Sad Sam ran.

What’s so exciting about that? Bennett is reading! The above drama is a snippet of his “A” book. I was working at Graco during the years that Corinne and then Jenna learned to read, and I missed most of the their adorable sounding-out-the-letters (we’re a phonics family) stages. The girls are true bookworms and far beyond the adventures of Sam the fat cat, but learning is still fairly fresh in their minds, and they enjoy listening to Bennett read aloud, and Bennett doesn’t mind the audience. Those two girls, with a little brother who needs more attention than we’re able to give them, and whose schedules revolve around his needs because mine and Michelle’s do, are princesses.

This has been a great week for all of us. Busy as my work has been, I’m blessed to have been around for evenings like this one, where Michelle and Jenna and I listened to Bennett read while Corinne practiced her clarinet. The reading and music lasted only a few minutes, but I’ll remember evenings like this one and cry like a baby when each of our kids moves out for the first time.

Last Saturday, more work got done on this house in one day then ever before, except for when the house was built. Four friends offered to build the wall for our new basement bedroom and replace the mammoth doorwall with a normal door. All I had to do was lean the new door and the materials in the basement, and the guys did the rest – demolition, framing, wiring, and drywall – in about 10 hours. If it was me doing the job, I’d still be snapping chalk lines across the floor. Thanks, guys!

A couple days after the guys did the wall, I hung the door and installed a cheap Target doorknob with a so-called lock. As soon as I finished the job, Bennett came along and asked, “What’s this?” pointing to the “key slot” on the outside knob. I told him it’s a slot for the key. He said, “Looks easy” and twisted it open with his fingernail. Well, that knob is gone. In its place, a Schlage challenges all comers to pick the lock with anything less than a real nail.

In case we don’t add any updates by the 25th, we hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and wish you safe travel.

We would have had a lonely summer and fall without so many of you ministering to us in so many ways. It would have been lonely and scary if not for God’s prompt answers, some with flourishes, to our prayers for Bennett and ourselves and your prayers for all of us. The rest of Bennett’s treatment can still be thought of as a long haul, but God is teaching us not to think about it that way.

Thank you, friends.

In Christ,

Sunday, November 14, 2004 9:20 PM CST

Where does the time go? It seems as though I just sat down to tell you that we would be starting maintenence chemo on Tuesday and suddenly it is Sunday night.

Have you ever waited to be done with something unpleasant (a dreaded exam or a project at work that you didn't want to do, or a meeting that was going to be long and hard, or in our case Intensified chemo) and you had it in your head that after the hard thing, whatever it might be, was over things would be better. Life would go on as it had before, you just had to get through that hard thing. But then when you were done with it, the end didn't hold up its part of the bargain. It broke its promise to you and wasn't easier.

Bennett started maintenance chemo on Tuesday. The dreaded Delayed Intensification was finally over and we were back into the schedule of chemo that he had during August and the first half of September. He did very well during that time. So when we finished intensified chemo and started maintenance, I had very high expectations. He started Tuesday with a spinal tap, IV chemo and a flu shot. He also started an oral chemo that he will get every day for the next 2 1/2 years, as well as the first 5-day course of steroids. He'll take steroids for 5 days each month until the end of treatment. He'll also be getting another oral chemo that he'll take one day per week until he is done with treatment. So right out of the shoot he gets socked with a barage of medicines. And they make him feel icky. And his body is still not recovered from the ravages of the intensified chemo. Of course it's not. Did you really expect it to be? Of course I knew that his legs would still be stick thin and his hands would be weak and his legs would ache and when I sit with his sweet bald head next to mine I'd be able to see every vein through his pale skin. And that it would make me feel so sick to see him looking so fragile. I KNEW ALL OF THOSE THINGS! I just forgot to tell them to myself.

I knew that he had to go right from the frying pan into the fire. That he had to start this phase with steroids. So he is hungry and crabby on top of weak and pathetic looking. The cupboards and refrigerator are full, but "there is nothing to eat that I want!" And what does he want? "I don't know what I want, help me decide." This is a psychological exercise in endurance and patience for me. It's a test to see how long before I run down the street pulling my clothes off and babbling unintelligably until the people in white coats come to take me away.

While it's really not that bad, it is hard on everyone. And I guess I knew it would be, but I just thought it would be a little easier than it's turning out to be. I thought that when this maintenance phase started I would finally be able to start thinking about how I can minister to others. How I wouldn't need to lean on others as much. Do you understand what that means? You who have been helping us are being the hands and feet of Jesus, so I was hoping to not need Jesus as much! How foolish. Haven't I learned a thing? The best place to be has been in a position of total surrender to the Lord. Letting Him be my strength, being in constant communion with Him. So thank you, Jesus, for revealing again to me how much I need to rely on you and how, left to my own devices, I would go off on my own, running in a direction of my own making, instead of being on my knees asking you what the next step should be.

As I mentioned, it is hard on everyone. It has been very difficult for Corinne and Jenna. While they make me so proud with how well they treat Bennett, this is also a very long road for them. Corinne will be 15 and Jenna will be 12 when Bennett is finally done with chemo. That is a startling thing to think about. Much of those impressionable years will be revolving around their brother's cancer treatments. Please keep them in your prayers. And could you do one thing for us, please? When you see them, ask them how they are doing. Ask them what they are up to and what they are hoping to do this winter, and maybe just skip the part about asking them how Bennett is doing, check the website or ask me or Dale instead.

They are very remarkable girls. When I woke Bennett up Tuesday morning for the spinal tap, I already had the van running and had everything ready to go. All I had to do was get his clothes on him and get him out the door. He let me know that he was not going. I got him dressed and as he cried on the steps while I tried to put his shoes on, he said he wasn't going unless the girls came with us. It was 6 am. I went to Corinne's room and quietly asked her if she thought she'd be able to get up and come along to Bennett's spinal tap because he was very sad about it and wanted her to come along to help him feel better. She quickly got out of bed and dressed. I went into the Jenna's room and asked her the same thing. She jumped out of bed and quickly got dressed. We were all out the door and on our way to the hospital in record time. I have never been more proud of the girls. They talked and joked with Bennett all the way to the hospital. He was so happy the whole way there, and the spinal tap went very smoothly. We were all exhausted the rest of the day, but very happy.

Please continue to pray for Bennett's healing and for our family as a whole.

Fully Relying on God,


Saturday, October 30, 2004 6:06 PM CDT

Monday, November 8, 2004 update:

We had PT at the pool this morning and then a blood draw at the clinic. PT went very well. He is still weak and his legs are still very tight, a side effect of the intensified chemo. His hemoglobin was good: 10.4, his platelets were awesome: 509,000 and his ANC was 952. It's supposed to be over 1000 to start the next phase, but since he is not in the study, the doctor said it was definitely close enough to 1000 to go ahead and start. So we are still on for the spinal tap and IV chemo and flu shot tomorrow.

I'll write again soon.

Still clinging to His promises,
Sunday, November 7, 2004 update:

Bennett has been doing well. We go to the hospital Monday for PT at the pool and then to the hem/onc clinic to get his blood counts. We go again on Tuesday to start maintenance chemo. He starts with a spinal tap, IV chemo, and his 2nd flu shot. He'll also start daily oral chemo, steroids and a weekly dose of oral chemo that he'll take one day per week. We had this exact routine during the summer and he did very well with it. We are choosing to keep him home most of the time because it is flu season and we don't want to risk him getting the flu or some other crud that generally goes around all winter. He is generally in good spirits, except when there is "nothing to eat at home." I'll update again next week.


Late Saturday 10/30 Night update:

This is Dale. Bennett got a tell-tale headache late Saturday evening. The tale it was telling was that his hemoglobin had reached the low threshold where the blood wasn't carrying enough oxygen to the brain and that a transfusion was in order. The nurses told us that if Bennett's hemoglobin count got lower than 7, we would know. Sure enough: They drew blood and tested it tonight, and it was 6.4. Nurse Tracy came in wearing fluffy, white bunny ears (by this time it was after midnight and Halloween) and hooked up the IV and began a slow, s-l-o-w drip. She checked Bennett's vitals frequently during the long, l-o-n-g drip. The drip, besides boosting Bennett's hemoglobin, had a sedative effect on both me and Bennett. At 3:30 a.m., Tracy woke me up and asked me if we were ready to go. I was ready to go back to sleep, and I think she would have let us stay until morning. But I wanted Bennett to wake up in his own bed Sunday morning (this was Bennett's shortest hospital stay). He slept through me dressing him, carrying him to the car, driving home, carrying him into the house, undressing him at home, and tucking him in.

Even though Bennett's white blood cell counts are low and practically everything else (as expected), his ANC is an amazing 800. Up that far from 288 Thursday! The numbers might have bottomed out and rebounded some. So Bennett will be able to attend Night in the Light (games and stuff for kids) tomorrow at Church of the Open Door right here in Maple Grove. He loved it last year and has been looking forward to this year's Night in the Light ever since.

Now it's 5:00 Sunday morning, and Bennett (I hope!) and I plan to sleep until the Vikings kick off at noon.

We figured we would have to bring Bennett in for a transfusion and prayed that it would go well. It did. It went really well, and we thank God for yet another happy return home from Children's Hospital. Thank you, praying friends, for standing in the gap for our boy and the rest of us.

Resting in Psalm 91,


It's been another week. We are at day 44 of 56 of delayed intensification. Bennett's appointments went well on Thursday. He had physical therapy, speech, occupational therapy and an appointment at the hematology/oncology clinic.

His physical therapist talked to me after his appointment regarding his strength and tightness in his legs. This delayed intensification has done a real number on him. He is very weak. She wants to start pool therapy, so we will be going to the pool on Mondays for a while to do his PT. She will be better able to work on strengthening exercises in the pool.

Speech is coming along well. He is still difficult to understand sometimes, but the speech therapist is teaching him to speak clearly and slowly and loudly.

After Speech we walked through the tunnel from Children's to Abbott to get him some better night time splints. He was quite worn out and we were pressed for time so I gave him a piggy back ride there and back. He held on tightly and thought it was pretty funny to kiss me on the head the whole way there and back. We stopped for a quick lunch in the Children's hospital cafeteria. Bennett had hard boiled eggs and pickles for lunch. Then back up to the 4th floor for OT.

His OT went well. He's still not interested in drawing or coloring. His fingers are so weak that it's very frustrating for him to try to color. He used to fill page after page with pictures, but it has been months since he's had any desire to do that. We are doing finger strengthening exercises and investing in small motor toys like Legos.

At his clinic appointment we saw his blood counts have taken another tumble: ANC was 288 (needs to be over 1000) his hemoglobin was 7 (when it goes below 7 he will probably need a transfusion) and his platelets were 99,000 (that's not so bad, but he won't be able to start the next phase until that number is over 100,000). All of these numbers were low, which wasn't a surprise, and they most likely haven't bottomed out yet. We go in again on Monday to check his hemoglobin and platelets to see if he needs a transfusion. He most likely will, if not Monday, then soon after that. He has also lost a little more weight. Last week he weighed 44 pounds and Thursday he weighed 43. He started delayed intensification weighing 50 pounds.

After all day at the hospital, we went to our chiropracter appointment with the whole family. The chiropracter found a slight curve in Jenna's spine during a physical exam and decided to X-ray her. Sure enough, she has a slight curve in her spine that we will need to watch closely. Praise God that He had prompted us to take the kids to a chiropracter and that the one we are going to has extra chiropractic training in pediatrics.

We finally got home after 5 pm and I flopped exhaustedly into a chair. What a day! But God is good, all the time. We continue to see His hand sustaining us through every single day. We could choose to let the disappointing news about PT, his struggles with OT, his counts, Jenna's scoliosis, and our car acting up and needing to be in the shop get us down. But we are choosing faith, hope, and JOY! Joy in the little moments at the hospital when Bennett is so funny I nearly double over laughing. (Like when he picked up the bin that he had been throwing bean bags into with the physical therapist, walked it over to her and said, "Trick or treat." I guess you had to be there, but we all burst out laughing.) And joy at the chiropracter when Dale was joking around with the kids while I was getting some muscle therapy. The sound of the 4 of them laughing was music to my ears. To Bennett, the whole day was an adventure. He remained happy and chatty all day. He was truly a joy to be around.

When I was trying to get him to eat the other day he told me that he's really a "lobster, shrimp and crab boy." So I just rushed out and bought him some sea food from our local sea food emporium and filled the freezer for a mere $1500. Not really. (I decided to try that tactic with Dale, so I told him that when it comes to buying clothes I am really a Ralph Lauren and Talbots girl so I am going to need a bigger clothing allowance. I'll let you know how it works out. I've also got my eye on a cute little $350 purse, I'll explain that one to him after I have the clothes to go with it. And then the shoes . . . )

Please continue to pray for protection for Bennett, and for him to eat better. And for stamina, peace, and patience for us. And that we will continue to seek God's face amidst the storm. It seems He's choosing not to calm the storm, but He is calming this child.

Thank you!

In Christ, my King,


Saturday, October 23, 2004 10:56 AM CDT

Bennett had an appointment on Thursday. His counts were much lower: ANC 795 (needs to be over 1000) and his hemoglobin was quite low as well, 7.9. When it gets below 7 we start talking about a transfusion. The IV chemo started again. He got a dose at the clinic and I adminstered it at home yesterday. I'll administer it again today and tomorrow. He's also on oral chemo until Wednesday. Today is day 37 of the 56 day Delayed Intensification phase. Then we start maintenance chemo. We continue to covet your prayers for Bennett and the rest of us. Please pray that he starts to eat better. He's not eating well at all and now the high calorie soy shake that he had been drinking doesn't taste good. Chemo makes things taste bad. Thank you.

I heard a soft knocking at the door last night. I was quite tired and waited to see if the guest would be persistant. The knocking came again, a little louder this time. I pulled myself up to go see who it was. I opened the door and a stooped, gray woman was there. Her name was Despair and she had brought her friend, Self-Pity. I spoke with them on the porch for a few minutes. Despair chatted gloomily about the weather and asked if I had noticed how cloudy it had been lately. Self-Pity piped in sorrowfully, wondering if the wet weather wore on me. Her face pinched as she nodded understandingly when I said that yes, I had noticed, and it was trying on one's spirits for the skies to be so gray all the time. Not one of us three could remember the last sunny day.

Then, Despair asked if they might come in. I said, no, I didn't have time for visitors and started to close the door. But Despair put her foot in the door and demanded to be let in, that she and Self-pity had every right to enter. I leaned against the door to close them out, but there were two of them and only one of me and I was so tired. You see, my son has leukemia and it is very trying, and he's not been sleeping well. And I have a lot of driving to appointments to do and two other children and a husband who need me as well. You can see, can't you, how I would not have much energy to put up a fight, let alone resist these two persistent nags? They soon overpowered me and let themselves in.

They are such bitter nags, they didn't even say thank you. They threw their wraps at me and told me to find a place to put them, if I could, amidst all the clutter. Their tongues went to clucking about the dirty walls and floor and didn't I take pride in my home? I explained how my friend Wendy had vacuumed and her daughter Hailey had swept on Wednesday, but that going in and out on wet Fall days always tracks in more grime. And I was gone all Thursday to appointments with Bennett and Friday was just as consuming. I told them both that they ought to leave, that they weren't welcome, but they were so clever: They began to talk of missed opportunities like women's retreats where refreshing takes place and how could I even think I could make it through the fall and long winter without my retreat? I don't know who told them that I had to miss the retreat this year because Bennett was in the hospital, but how they moaned and bitterly agreed that it was Misfortune and Bad Luck and that I was doomed. With that they overpowered me and I sank with a sigh into the nearest chair. They were right, I agreed sadly. Despair made tea and Self-pity found some licorice and we nursed our poor unfortunate selves. I tried to tell them about my son and how proud I was of him, but they didn't want to talk of anyone but poor me. I told them about how his fingers don't work so well and how he struggles with buttons (it can take several minutes to button just two, but when he does, he looks up with a broad smile of accomplishment). And he does his physical therapy exercises without complaining. I told them about how well he had been doing, until he had a major set back with the hospital stay and the intensified chemo, but he wasn't giving up. He was working hard and staying cheerful. I would turn my head to look at him and speak of all the obstacles he has overcome, but they were not interested. Despair only spoke of long, hard roads and no end in sight, of half-empty cups and what-if's and what then's. Self-Pity wouldn't cease her grating chatter, even if I clapped my hands over my ears. It was no use. I gave in and let them lead the conversation.

Later, after looking through the cupboard, Self-Pity noticed we had no cheese cake and rudely insisted that I go get some. We needed milk as well, so I went out. If I had looked closer I would have notice Self-Pity really didn't need any more cheese cake. She could use about an hour a day on a treadmill. But I didn't look closely and set off on their errand. They decided to come along and sat in the back seat with their tongues wagging, speaking of nothing but doom and gloom and what a miserable wretch I was. Despair was the worst, attacking and accusing: If I was just more disciplined and organized, I could handle things better. Self-pity stood up for me a bit, but Despair called her simple and Self-Pity set to simpering and whining in the back seat. She complained that she hadn't had chocolate in so long that she'd almost forgotten what it tasted like. I knew that was a lie, she had candy wrappers sticking out of her pockets, and I'd seen her eat some Reese's clusters only moments before. How had I ever gotten myself stuck with these two miserable women? I couldn't stand them, but I didn't have the energy to send them away. When we finally got home Self-pity devoured her cheese cake; the pig. Couldn't she see her pants were getting tight? I went to sleep hoping they would just leave.

But in the morning, Despair was still there. The nerve. She had crawled into bed with me. She was sure it wasn't even worth getting out of bed this morning. Dale woke up and suggested we start the day in prayer. Despair screamed, "No, that won't help." But I said, "Yes." When I got out of bed, the front door was open, there was Self-pity on the driveway waving frantically for Despair. Despair had heard our prayers but waited on the stairs to see if she could weasle her way into this day. I told her to get out. I didn't want her around. She spoke of the gloomy day, but I stayed strong. I was buoyed by a Force that she couldn't over power. The last I saw them, Despair and Self-pity were waddling down the street quarreling with each other, looking for someone else to take them in. If you see them, don't let them in. They are worthless ingrates who are nothing but trouble.

Lord Jesus, I choose to seek you because you are worthy to be sought. Thank you that you won't let me sink into the miry pit of despair, but that you have set my feet on a rock and put a new song in my mouth, and I pray that all who hear will fear and trust in you. You are King of kings and Lord of lords and I worship you alone. In your name I pray. AMEN.

Thursday, October 14, 2004 4:13 PM CDT

I know in my last entry I said that Bennett started his second half of intensified chemo on Friday, but we actually started today. The Short Stay Unit was full for Friday so they asked us to move our schedule up one day.

Dale broke the news to Bennett last night. They were joking and laughing in the den just before bed. Finally, Dale told Bennett that he had a spinal tap in the morning. Bennett laughed because he thought Dale was still joking around. Dale had to let him know he was serious. Bennett was very upset. In case you don't remember, Bennett had a spinal tap in July that left him with a back ache and head ache that eventually developed into chemical meningitis and led to a hospital stay. It was really awful. The next spinal tap I had to carry him out of the house kicking and screaming. And the last one, I had to carry him out crying, but not kicking and screaming. This morning when I woke him up at 6:15, he was very sad and crying. After I got him dressed and ready to go, he didn't want to come. I went and told Dale that Bennett was very upset. He leapt out of bed and came to pray with Bennett. After we prayed, Bennett was willing to come along. He still wanted me to carry him to the car, but he was not so sad. Wouldn't it be great to have faith like that. To pray about something and trust so quickly that God is in control and to not worry about it anymore. I lay my worries at Jesus's feet, but so many times I just pick them right back up again a few minutes later. Not Bennett. He was very much at peace the whole way to the hospital and down right chatty as we walked through the skyway and into the short stay unit. Can I just stop for a minute and tell you how very proud of both of my boys I am. Dale, a man of prayer who relies not his own strength and wisdom but on God's, who begins each day in prayer and leads our family with a humble servant's heart and attitude, leaning completely on his Lord and Savior Jesus. And Bennett, a young man who has taken every challenge and faced it bravely. And often thinks of his sisters instead of himself. His last hospital stay he asked to go to the gift shop to get something for Corinne and Jenna because they were always doing things for him. We went and he never even looked at or asked for anything for himself.

While we were waiting for the procedure to begin he wanted to watch a movie. He stood next to the rocking chair while I popped the movie into the VCR. When I turned around he was still standing next the to the rocking chair. I asked him where he'd like to sit and he said, "In the rocking chair on your lap." I sat wtih him on my lap and pressed my cheek into the side of his bald head. It was very quiet at the SSU today (we were the only ones there) as I sat with him and tried to remember every detail about him, how he smelled, how he felt in my lap, how his cute little bald head looked from so close up. When I pressed my cheek against his head, he pressed back and put his arm up around my neck. This moment would never have happened if he didn't have leukemia. This closeness with him that comes out of the suffering is a blessing I would never have imagined. We are singing to the Lord a new song, we have put on garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair. We sing, "Blessed be your name, though there's pain in the offering, though the road is marked with suffering, Blessed by Your name."

Just like last time, he wanted to fall asleep in my arms when the doctor administered the anesthesia. I truly don't mind that at all. It is so precious to me that he wants to be in my lap and snuggling me. This time, when I picked him up and lay him on the table I knew he was going to be fine. I walked to the kitchenette to get something to eat singing a love song to Jesus: "My Jesus, I love thee."

Bennett came through the procedure very well. He also got 2 IV chemos. One required IV fluids for 4 hours. So we sat and watched another movie after he ate his breakfast. For the next 3 days I'll adminsiter IV chemo. Then next Thursday we'll start the same IV chemo for 4 days. His counts will be going pretty low, he'll have to stay home from AWANA and home school co-op for the 2 next weeks, and maybe longer while we wait for his counts to recover. The chemos that he's getting can cause nausea. Please pray for stamina and no nausea over these next few days.

As I write this, Eric Wetter is mowing our lawn. Earlier today Carla and Peter Hausladen came and washed bathrooms and floors and vaccuumed carpets and Linda Pfiefer took our laundry. Meals keep coming. We are so overwhelmed by your love and care, we can't even begin to express our appreciation. Thank you all so much. And thank you for continuing to bring our family before the throne of the Great Physician, the Comforter, Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

In His grip,


Monday, October 11, 2004 10:19 AM CDT

What's coming up: The second half of delayed intensification starts on Friday. Bennett wil get a spinal tap, 2 IV chemos, and a flu shot. He'll be getting IV chemo for four days in a row. I think I can administer it at home so we don't have to go to Children's every day.

We are starting a new week after a very hard week. When we are at the hospital, I seem to lose all concept of time and days. But we are home now and we had a wonderful weekend. My dad was here. He arrived late Tuesday night and came to visit me and Bennett at the hospital on Wednesday morning. Bennett was in the playroom with a physical therapist doing some exercises when my dad walked by headed to Bennett's room. He said, "Hey, there's my grandpa!" His soft, sweet voice was music to my dad's ears. And mine as well. After Bennett has been in an altered mental state it is a gift from God to hear him recognize people and make spontaneous comments like that.

This Saturday, Bennett was doing so well. What a contrast to how he was doing last Saturday. My heart ached seeing him on that hospital bed in the ER. As doctors and nurses scrambled around trying to figure out what was going on, we again tried not to panic. When I arrived at the hospital on Saturday morning with the girls, Dale said they had just gotten back from radiology where Bennett had a CAT scan of his brain. Just hearing those words made me sick to my stomach. We had gone through this before in June and back then I had to make peace with the idea that something may have happened to Bennett's brain and he might never be the same. Bennett pulled through that incident with flying colors and it was a distant memory. Now, we had to go through it all again. The waiting for the scan results, the doctors being unable to tell us what was wrong with Bennett because they just didn't know, and still more waiting. I put my head on Bennett's bed and cried as I prayed. I didn't even know what words to pray, I just wanted to seek God's face. This was so awful. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the end. Did he have an infection that had gotten into his blood stream, and his body had no way of fighting back? Had we gotten to the hospital too late? I just didn't know. "He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Him." I just wanted to see the face of the Lord, to feel his peace, and know that He is in control.

Bennett came through this episode as well as he came through the June one. He was having an adverse reaction to the Decadron and Zyprexa combination. That made him sleep and unable to wake up. We never learned what was causing the fevers, they just went away as quickly as they had come on. Praise the Lord.

I don't know why God has chosen for us to go through this. But I trust that He is in control and that He will give us the grace we need to face whatever comes our way. I know our lives have changed since Bennett's diagnosis and I know we will never be the same. God is doing a work in all of us, and while it is not always pleasant, and sometimes painful, we trust that He is making us more like him.

When my cousin Jeff's and dear friend Stacey's son Kodey died 2 years ago, I wrote this story and sent it to them. As I read it now, it has even more meaning to me than when I wrote it. I hope it speaks to you like it does to me.

The Master's Feast

You are at a really great dinner party. The appetizers were delicious, you couldn't get enough of them. Next came the soup and salad. They were very good, too. The Master of the feast has let everyone know that they will each be getting something different for their main course. As the dinners are being brought out you enjoy the tasty bread and the conversation with some fun people you have met at the feast. You see the other's getting some wonderful looking dinners and excitedly wait for yours. As you look around, some of the dinners look a bit strange and you might even be glad they weren't yours.

At last your meal arrives and is set in front of you. When the silver cover is taken off, you look in horror at what's in front of you. It's some sort of weird, gray meat, maybe liver, but shaped like a banana slug. It doesn't smell good either. The side dishes don't look much better. You can't realy tell what they are. Some kind of brownish rice with something that looks like, well you don't even want to think about it. It's stil to hot to try eating yet anyway. You put on a brave face and smile and look around. People are enjoying their meals and don't even notice what you've got to look at. You sit there stunned. You could just not eat it. You could just push the food around and make it look as though you've eaten, then bunch your napkin up on your plate and just sit there waiting for dessert. You've heard the dessert is wonderful. It'd be nice if you could send it back and ask for something else, but it's been made clear that the meal you've been served is the only one you get. You'd like to trade with someone, but of course you can't do things like that at this dinner party.

Finally, you decide to politely take a bite. You try the side dish first. It's not as bad as it looks but you eat bread and drink some water after every bite. You look at the meat and consider whether you should even try it. You cautiously cut off the tiniest piece. You have your bread and water ready. And your napkin, too. You've decided that you don't really care what everyone thinks if you spit it out right there at the table. You timidly put the tiny morsel in your mouth and begin to chew. The texture is completely different from anything you've ever experienced. It's not completely unlike liver, bit it's kind of like very tember prime rib, too. You are still trying to adjust to the smell, is it making you ill, or is it the look of the food ding that to you. You take another bite, a little bit bigger this time. You can't decide if you like it yet. You now notice that the Master of the feast is looking at you with a smile that warms you from the inside out.

Slowly, you realize you've grown used to the smell and while the look of the food is still unappealing, you are getting used to the the taste. Not that you like it. Something makes you want to keep taking another bite. All at once you understand that it's not the food. It's the look on the Master's face every time you take another bite. He's saying, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." And you don't even hear the others around you eating their fancy food that only gives them indigestion and makes them fat. You are eating and being filled with every bite. And getting closer and closer to a dessert the Master has promised for his faithful servants. A dessert so tasty that it can't be described, only experienced. It is so wonderful, to try to relate it in words woould be impossible, because sweet and melting and light all mean sour, stiff and dense in comparison. While you are looking forward to the dessert, you are also enjoying the meal again. Not like you enjoyed the appetizers. They left you wanting more. This meal, although you wouldn't have ever chosen it for yourself, fills you in places you didn't even know were empty. And as you continue to face what is in front of you, and faithfully accept each challenging bite, you are changing as well. You are becoming more like the Master.

The road is set before us and we have begun this journey and God has promised to always be with us. Never have we felt abandoned. Scared, yes. But not abandoned. What is on your plate? What challenge, disappointment, heartbreak, or illness are you facing. Do you know that you don't have to do it alone? Do you know that all you have to do is ask? Jesus is a gentleman; he won't come in to where He has not been invited. Invite him in to your situation, better yet, invite him into your life. Learn the meaning of these words, repent and trust. It will make all the difference.

Blessed be His Name!


Saturday, October 2, 2004 6:05 PM CDT

Friday (10/7) Afternoon update:
Bennett and I went to the clinic today to get him checked out. Yesterday he was running low grade fevers and his ANC was 81. Today, no fevers and his ANC is a miraculous 655. His doctor was amazed! He was sure that Bennett was going to have to wait a week for his count to recover, but they are obviously on their way up so we start the second half of delayed intensification next Thursday. It will start with a spinal tap and IV chemo, and a flu shot.

Bennett was in very good spirits at the doctors office, laughing and joking with the doctor and the nurse. And he got an extra big kick out of the chair I was sitting in. Everytime I got up and then sat back down, it made a funny noise. Bennett thought that was hilarious. His laughter and animated talk was a little slice of heaven. As we walked out of the hospital I was singing "Blessed be the Name of the Lord." My heart was rejoicing and I couln't not sing. I was sure if I stopped rejoicing the rocks and the stones would cry out.

I am off now to celebrate with Corinne. Today is her 12th birthday. We are taking a couple friends out to eat and bowling and then she'll get her ears pierced.

Thank you for your prayers. Our God is continuing to uphold us with his righteous right hand. And we say "Blessed be His Name."

In Christ alone,


Thursday (10/7) night update:
Bennett and I came home this afternoon. His fevers stayed fairly low, under 101.5, so the doctor let us go. We have to go back to the clinic tomorrow morning. They'll check his counts. If there is anything that concerns them: fevers, low counts, etc. they may tell us that they want us to stay.

Bennett seems quite tired and low energy. But he also seems glad to be home. He is sleeping in his pop-up camper tonight. It's been up since last Wednesday. He slept in it the night he got it, and then all of this weirdness started. We didn't want him to come home to the camper down and put away. So tomorrow we'll shut it down and put it away until we can make a trip somewhere with it.

Please continue to pray for no fevers and his body to produce neutrophils.

Thank you!

In His Grip,


Wednesday (10/6) night update:
Bennett is doing much better today. The doctor stopped his antibiotics. She said that if his fevers stay down, 100 or less, he may be able to come home tomorrow. They stayed low almost all day, then this evening he spiked a 102 temp. So we'll see what they say in the morning. Dale is taking a turn with Bennett tonight. Bennett was very excited to have his dad stay. When he thought Dale should already be there, he asked if we could give him a call and see where he was. Dale thought he'd be there in about 15 minutes. Half an hour later, Bennett was asking to call again. Once Dale finally got into the room, Bennett didn't want him leaving. Bennett is is in great spirits. He's laughing and joking a lot. His Niemela cousins came to visit. He new they were coming and looked forward to it all day. I'm home now trying to get caught up on a few things. One of those being sleep. I'll write more later, when I am more rested and can think straight.

Please pray that Bennett's fevers stay down and that his body starts producing neutrophils. He needs neutrophils to increase his ANC. Today his ANC was 19. It was 0 yesterday, so hopefully it is on it's way back up. We need it to get back over 1000.

Thank you, friends. We can feel your prayers.

In Christ, my Lord,


Tuesday (10/5) night update:

Jenna and I (Dale) visited Bennett in the hospital earlier this evening. He's very happy to be getting guests and to be getting more strength. I watched from across the room while an occupational therapist (Nancy) worked with Bennett; she was checking his coordination and arm and leg strength. It was so cute to see Bennett purse his lips and strain with all his might when Nancy would say, "Don't let me move your arm [or leg] down." She complimented Bennett on how STRONG his muscles are, then told me out of his earshot that he has gotten really weak. But she and the rest of us are SO encouraged by his sharp mental state.

We had an awful scare earlier this evening, but we've been somewhat calmed since: A boil appeared on Bennett's ear and his cheeks glowed red. The boil hung around, and a nurse commented (kind of like the kid in the Emperor's New Clothes), "It looks like a chicken pock." Instant sickness in two adults' stomachs. But Michelle just called, and the doctor is convinced it was an allergic reaction (which would explain the red cheeks). Please join us in praying that Bennett does not have chicken pox. Kids who have leukemia who get chicken pox often get 100 percent covered in blisters, including the insides of their mouths and throats. Many of them die. It's very bad. We're just glad the doctor was alert enough about parents' needs to calm Michelle late tonight instead of waiting until his rounds tomorrow.

Thank you for visiting Bennett's site. Please join us in praying for his continued healing, especially during this next 35 days of delayed intensification.

Thank you!

In Christ,

Tuesday (10/5) afternoon update:

I talked to Michelle during my lunch errands, and Bennett continues to improve. Thank you for praying. He's become his chatty self and insisted on going to the hospital gift shop to buy gifts for Corinne and Jenna. He's off the IV now! He'll stay on IV antibiotics until his fever comes down. When that happens they'll take him off the antibiotics and make sure his fever stays down. It could take a few more days before he can come home. Bennett's ANC (absolute neutrophil count), which is an indicator of his body's ability to ward off infection/sickness is zero (>1000 is desireable, but zero is typical of kids during delayed intensification), so any puff of a germ could make him sick.

Father, Great Healer, You've done it again. Thank You for never allowing me or Michelle or any of our kids to feel alone or abandoned just because we were afraid. Thank you for giving us back our boy and for using so many of Your people to minister to us in the valley. You were right there with us, and I pray we can stay away from there. But even if we can't, You will be there with us. Though we walk throught the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for You are with us. Thank You for that promise. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday Night (10/4) Update

Bennett is better now than he has been since Thursday. Thank you, friends, for praying. And thank You, God, for answered prayers.

Bennett's more alert, initiating conversation, and smiling. His fever is under 102 F, and his pupils are behaving. Physically, he's been beaten down, but we've been steeling ourselves for that. It's his mental state since Friday that we could not have prepared for. Just walking with Bennett from his chair (yes! not the bed!!) to the bathroom was a demonstration of how far he's tumbled physically. He even yelped a couple times, because he "almost fell down" in that 15-foot journey. The mood in Bennett's room tonight was very light and rejuvinating. I can always feel myself tensing up when I park the car and cross over in the crosswalk and ride up in the elevator (memories of June), and I did again tonight. If I had been holding Corinne's hand, she probably would have yelped. But one look at Bennett tonight in his room, and all the tension eased. It was so good to see him sitting up and playing video games. Wendy and Allan Chermak stopped in earlier and got Bennett up to speed on the "Shrek" game and Red Lobster food (and me up to speed on organic chai tea). Thank you two! And thank you, Michelle's friends who spent much of yesterday with Michelle -- Sheila, Wendy, Michelle, & Cheryl. Thank you, Sheila's mom, for giving Michelle a massage. Thank you, Kelli for organizing and providing meals and support from the south and Connie for organizing and providing meals and support from the north.

Thank you, Dave & Denise Anderson and Abby, Kathy, & Lydia, for taking such good care of our girls during the day while Michelle's at the hospital and I'm with my client. (Abby, un rey y una reina cantan.)

The docs want to hang onto Bennett at least through tonight. They don't want to spring him until his temperature stays normal for awhile. Maybe tomorrow.

And now it's off to Bennett's pop-up tent trailer for me and the girls. We've been sleeping there every night. We don't want Bennett to find his camper folded up for the winter when he gets home from the hospital, so we've been "maintaining" it in the driveway. It's been fun. The 17,000 BTU FURNACE helps. Thank you, Make-A-Wish!


Sunday (10/3) evening update:

Corinne and I just got home from the hospital. Bennett is noticeably improved since this morning.

Earlier today, he could not hold his eyes open and didn't care to try, and his temperature was rising steadily. And his pupils were dilated. By the time I left his room this evening, he had no fever and was relaxing in bed with his eyes open (and looking in the same direction! -- Friday they were looking in two different directions). He's responsive and sitting up. And now that I'm home, I just talked to Michelle, and Bennett's pupils are no longer dilated. That's nice to know, because it's something the doctor was puzzled about.

Bennett's still detached and not initiating conversations, but he was like that for many days after his last round of Decadron in June, and it's less jarring this time around. We're just thrilled that he's so improved since this morning. Thank you, everyone who prayed. And thank God for answered prayer.

Along with Bennett having a better day today than yesterday, so did Michelle: Five of her friends spent the afternoon and part of the evening with Michelle. They were on their way home from the women's retreat that Michelle had to miss. There is not much laughter on the Hematology/Oncology 8th floor of Children's Hospital, but there was plenty of it today. I went to the lounge to fetch a hot chocolate for Bennett and was met by howls of laughter when I opened the door. Michelle and her friends were partying in there. Well, not truly partying, but they were howling over a coke can that had frozen and was about to burst. Every seam that could be stretched was stretched. Even the top was bulging, and the concave bottom was convex. Guess you had to be there. Well, I was there, and even I thought they could have treated the Coke can with more dignity.

It was so refreshing to hear laughter from Michelle and her friends. And so you know, they had the lounge to themselves and were not trampling on the nerves of patients or any other families or visitors. I basked in the laughter while I stirred Bennett's hot chocolate and remembered that just 11 hours earlier, Michelle had been crying into each other's ears on the phone.

We'll keep you posted during this fast-paced delayed-intensification stage of Bennett's chemo roadmap.

Sunday morning update:

I just spoke to Michelle. The progress Bennett made yesterday seems to have been brief. All last night he was just like he'd been Friday night, which is an awful zombie-like state between awake and asleep. He still hasn't eaten anything since Thursday, and he can't seem to hold his eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time. Please pray that Bennett will get better today. Whether this behavior is from Zyprexa or Decadron or something else we don't know, and neither do the doctors, but God does. Please pray.

Bennett's back in the hospital today (Saturday 10/2). He had a very good Thursday (9/30) and fell asleep Thursday night like nothing was out of the ordinary. But he could not get more than maybe a third of the way awake all day Friday, and he stayed that way all Friday night, too. Not quite asleep, but far from awake.

He was admitted today and will stay at Children's at least overnight. Bennett and Michelle and I spent most of the day in the ER. The ER doc had a pretty strong suspicion that Bennett was so out of it because of some kind of infection (and he's getting treated with antibiotics in case it is an infection), but the oncologist who admitted Bennett is quite convinced it's a Zyprexa (an anti-psychotic) overdose -- not that they made a mistake writing or dispensing the prescription, it's just that Bennett is super sensitive to anything that gets into his spine and brain, and Decadron and Zyprexa are two drugs that do get in, like they're supposed to. I just talked to Michelle (the girls and I are home now), and she said Bennett enjoyed a whirlpool bath and didn't need help staying upright. I took a bath with Bennett last night, and he was such a zombie he kept tipping over in the tub. I had to hold him up. It was so sad, but also very scary. So he's come a long way since last night. Praise the Lord. Please keep Bennett in your prayers.

In Christ,

Monday, September 27, 2004 10:04 AM CDT

Wednesday, September 29: A quick update.
Bennett ran a fever Monday night so in addition to his chemo on Tuesday he got a dose of IV antibiotics. The most troubling news at the appointment was that his ANC was 0. (ANC = Absolute Neutrophil Count) That is the number that should be over 1000. It indicates how well his body can fight off diseases. So he is at very high risk of developing an infection. Please pray for protection for him and for his neutrophils to come back. We continue the decadron until Monday, October 4. Then there will be no more chemo until his counts recover.

Yesterday was a reminder that, much as Michelle and I mention our “new normal” as if we’re sages of life-threatening illness, Bennett’s the one who’s really struggling. It started with a fun-filled backyard baseball game during the first quarter of the Vikings game. Boys against the girls, and Bennett and I won. I decided to leave the TV off, and we moved our pitching machine to the park, where we could play on a real infield.

Pitching machine? Yes, we were grilling at Melanie and Mike Harrom’s Saturday night, and Bennett had so much fun hitting balls off their boy Nick’s little machine that pops up wiffle balls for batting, Nick let Bennett keep it.

It's been many weeks since I paid much attention to how fast healthy 6-year-olds can run and how agile and energetic they are. Last Wednesday, I went on the nature walk with Bennett’s Sparks class. Each kid needed a “buddy,” so I hung back and watched Bennett from a distance just to see how he was doing. It broke my heart to see him laboring to keep up with the group, but it also made me proud of him to see how determined he was. He never asked the teachers to slow down and refused to fall behind. Sometimes he had to jog. Bennett’s jog is an exercise in getting his legs to keep up to his shoulders. He throws his whole upper body into every step, rolling his shoulders to maintain any momentum he can generate. Even with the PT, his legs are very weak and very stiff. Our nature walk took us to the bottom of a long, steep hill. Then it was time to head back to the church. Without complaining, Bennett turned around and started up the hill.

I used to worry about giving Bennett tough enough challenges and stiff enough competition to make sure he grew up to be a man who could handle tough challenges and stiff competition. But that evening when I saw Bennett starting up the hill, it took self control for me to let him labor his way up the hill. I wanted to pick him up and carry him. I didn't want to watch his steps get smaller and slower and hear his breathing get faster just from walking up an incline.

I caught up and said something like, “Quite a hill, huh, Bennett? Hope it doesn’t wear me out.” Bennett put his hand on my lower back and pushed and said, “See how much easier that makes it?" I am so proud of that boy.

Anyway, back to yesterday and the reminder: We moved our game to the park and started over at zero to zero. The girls clamped down and began to get us out every now and then. Jenna refrained from tagging Bennett at first, because he was just overrunning the bag, but then he headed to second, so Jenna caught up and tagged him. I could see that Bennett was upset about how easily Jenna had caught up to him. He knew that with normal legs he would have made second base. The next time Bennett got up to bat, he was too uptight to have any timing at all, and he hit several foul balls. I could see the tantrum coming and figured it would be good for him to blow off steam, and blow off steam he did. He screamed, “I quit!” and flung the bat and headed for… he didn’t know where. He stood in the grass outside the first-baseline fence and quietly cried away a few days' worth of frustration. I quit, too, figuring it was time to leave with him. Well, there went our game. Jenna, Bennett’s patient sister, was mad (but she truly is patient with Bennett). Once again, Bennett had ruined a fun outing (they often end like our game did). She stormed out the third-baseline fence and let all of us know that she was tired of so many of our fun things getting ruined by Bennett. Michelle calmed me with “a look,” and I wandered over to a park bench to wait for Bennett to calm down. While I waited, I layed down and closed my eyes and idly prayed for God to intervene. After a few minutes I heard shuffling and knew Bennett was coming to my bench. He said, “Hm,” just enough noise to let me know it was him. I opened my eyes, and his face was close to mine – happy as ever. We might as well have been waking up from a nap. He was ready to find something to eat. Later, Michelle explained her look: What Jenna did was perfectly fine and healthy. She was frustrated, and it’s good that she felt safe enough to voice her frustration. My analysis was not as objective as Michelle’s, but I now agree with her conclusion! Thank God for “looks” from mothers/wives. My frustration with Jenna had been about to boil over.

Compared to the last time Bennett was taking this many meds (June), he’s doing better. Along with the intense chemo drugs, he took double the Decadron (the steroid that made him psychotic in June) and then had a week off. Tomorrow begins a week back on the Decadron. The docs ordered an anti-psychotic that Bennett’s taking with the Decadron, and it seems to be doing its job. Emotional and impatient and sometimes irrational as Bennett has been lately, at least he’s been lucid. And we thank God the Great Physician for that.

Bennett’s hair will probably fall out again soon, and he’ll get puffy again. He fell asleep last night with a fever and cried out many times in his sleep throughout the night. I could choose to worry that we’re on the doorstep of another June. But God promises that He will never give us more than we can handle, and we Ryynanens cling to that truth as a spiritual discipline. God has used an impressive string of “coincidences” to cause Hebrews 12:11 to keep popping up in my life. Friends have mentioned it; my brother, John, quoted it in an e-mail; and my built-in-nylon-ribbon Bible bookmark (which I never use – it randomly flops from page to page) just happened to be marking that page yesterday. It goes like this: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This past week, during the extended time I’ve been able to spend with Bennett, I’ve seen the strength (mental toughness, that is) that God has given him. Clumsy as his fingers have gotten, he buttons his Sparky vest by himself. The other day he got it buttoned (three or four minutes, and it’s only two or three buttons) and then began to unbutton the buttons. I offered to help. He said, “No, I can do it. I already did it once, but it's just a little bit crooked.”

Thank you, friends, for visiting Bennett’s site. Please pray us through the remaining 40 days of delayed intensification.

We love you, and we thank God for how He is using so many of you to minister to us during the sub-crises that pop up.

In Christ,

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 9:49 PM CDT

Another week has passed. We finished the first seven days of decadron successfully. Bennett did very well compared to the last time he was on this drug. He was VERY hungry, eating every 15 or 20 minutes, unless we had him distracted by a bike ride or trip to a park or something. The last few nights he was even waking up in the middle of the night for a small meal: a bowl of oatmeal or cereal. He would hungrily devour it and then fall back to sleep. Unfortunately, after I'd wake up enough to make a bowl of oatmeal, I was usually too wide awake to just fall right back to sleep. And then once I did, it felt like moments later Bennett was up again for the day, ready to eat again.

Throughout the week he craved Alaskan King Crab, fish, and shrimp this time. Our friend Hans Leukema (crab fisherman in Alaska) sent us some fresh crab legs. Bennett eagerly devoured the crab until he was full. When he had eaten his fill, Dale and I enjoyed a few legs ourselves. Little did we know that that was a fatal mistake. A short while later, Bennett came back to the kitchen wanting some more of HIS crab legs. We didn't hear the end of that for several days.

He was also quite crabby, irritable and impatient throughout the week. (We'll take that over psychotic any day and twice on Sunday!) He was especially impatient if I said something stupid, which happened quite frequently throughout the week. Like when I would suggest that he get dressed in the morning. The conversation might go like this: "Bennett, time to get dressed." "I KNOW, I KNOW, YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO TELL ME TO GET DRESSED. I KNOW I HAVE TO GET DRESSED. DON'T EVER TELL ME I HAVE TO GET DRESSED WHEN I ALREADY KNOW I HAVE TO GET DRESSED!"
See what I mean. It was not very smart to tell someone to get dressed when he already knew he was supposed to get dressed. I'm sure you can see how irritating it would be to be told to do something that they already knew to do. Then his look would say, "And you've got a college degree? They must have been handing them out on a street corner one day because there is no way you could have graduated and still ask such stupid questions."

Two minutes after an episode like that, Bennett would be happy as ever. Sometimes I think it would be so funny to have this entire thing on video so later we could laugh our pants off at the insanity of all of these situations.

Bennett hasn't lost his sense of humor throughout this week. One day he asked Dale if he could watch something on TV. Dale said, "Sure. You can watch the news." Bennett took out the "Star Wars" tape, looked at it, and said, "Sure enough, it says "The News." And he popped that tape in and watched some of "Star Wars." (There are two things that Bennett is crazy about: Star Wars, and camouflage outerwear and paraphanalia. Oh, and sea food.) Another day, his friend Jared rode up with a Burley hooked to the back of his little bike. Jared informed us that no one can ride in it, "only stuff." Bennett said, "Who's stuff. I don't know anybody named "Stuff."

Can you indulge me for one more story about Bennett? As we wait for elevators at Children's hospitals we guess which elevator will open in a bank of three. On most floors they are 3 different colors: blue,green, and pink. So we'll say, "I think it's going to be the blue/green/pink one." And then wait to see who is correct. Well, on the 2nd floor all of the elevators are pink. Bennett walked up to them, pushed the button, and said, "I think it's going to be the pink one." He would always get a big, infectious smile on his face when he thought he was being funny. They are memories I'll cherish forever.

This past week, on Friday, he also got his PEG chemo which are shots into the legs. The nurses are amazed at how well he sits for those shots. He gets them into both legs simultaneously, one nurse at each leg. Bennett sat perfectly still. He screamed but he didn't move. Before we left, I prayed with Bennett. Then Dale and I prayed again for all of the details. During the shots, one of the syringes broke, spilling about half of it's contents. We thought we'd have to get another syringe and estimate how much was missed. The doctor looked at how much of the chemo the nurse thought he got and decided that it was enough. I thought about Dale's prayer before we left: he had prayed against anything going wrong. I could worry that Bennett didn't get enough of that chemo but we have committed Bennett and his treatment to prayer and trust that God is guiding him through it and upholding him with His righteous right hand. God knew that was going to happen. I believe he is always protecting Bennett and doing what is best for him. So I choose to not worry, but to give thanks in all circumstances. I believe the promises we read in the Bible: "I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come fron? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep your from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121.

Today Bennett got more IV chemo. It made him very sick. He didn't throw up, but he felt very sick. We had given him a dose of anti-nausea medicine but it wasn't enough. They put a patch behind his ear with more anti-nausea medicine on it. It's what people wear on boats so they won't get sea sick. It seemed to help, but he still felt icky off and on throughout the rest of the day.

He gets more of that same chemo again next Tuesday, and he also starts the Decadron again next Tuesday. Will you continue to bring our family, especially Bennett, in prayer to the Great Physician? We know you are interceding for us and we are eternally grateful.

Finally, Corinne has strep throat. Please pray for her healing and protection for Bennett.

In Christ, my King,


Wednesday, September 15, 2004 8:52 AM CDT

Yesterday Bennett began delayed intensification. It's a 56 day phase that includes 8 different chemos and 3 other drugs to help with side effects. He started Decadron yesterday. That is the drug that made him psychotic. He also started an anti-psychotic drug. He'll be on it for 7 days, then off for seven, then back on for seven. Please pray that he does not have any adverse reactions like psychosis to the decadron. He got 2 IV chemos yesterday as well. And he started the day with a spinal tap.

Bennett was sleeping while I got him ready for our trip to the hospital. But once he woke up enough to realize that we were heading to the hospital for his spinal tap, he began crying and insisting he wasn't going. A spinal tap in July left him with a back ache, head ache, and eventually caused chemical menigitis. He had to be admitted to the hospital and spent 4 days there. With that memory of what a spinal tap does to you, he kept insisting he wasn't going. I packed what I needed and started the van. I came back into the house and carried him out crying and screaming. I prayed for peace all the way to the hospital.

He fell asleep on the way to the hospital and was calm when I carried him in. He knew the routine and we settled into our room in the Short Stay Unit. We popped in a movie that Bennett watched while his port was accessed, vitals taken, one IV chemo given, and I signed consent forms.

Finally, the time came for him to be put under. He was sitting on my lap watching his movie. He told the doctor that he wanted to sit on my lap while the drug that makes him fall asleep was administered. It only took a few seconds and my baby was asleep in my arms. The doctor came to lift him on to the hospital bed. I didn't want to let him go. I wanted to just sit there holding him, stroking his head, feeling his cheek next to mine, telling him he was safe and going to be all right. When cancer strikes your child, words like "everything's going to be all right" suddenly are hollow and meaningless. We so want to keep our children safe and make everything turn out right, but that illusion has been snatched away from us. We never were in control, but now we have to admit it. Bennett has to walk a lot of this path alone. Dale and I can carry him up to the door, but we can't go through it for him. I couldn't take this spinal tap and chemo for him. I so badly wanted to take his place, even for just one spinal tap. But of course, I couldn't.

As the doctor took Bennett out of my arms and lay him on the bed, he took another piece of my heart. I had to walk out of the room, leaving Bennett in their care. I carried him to the door, he had to walk through it alone. We know that really he's not alone. Bennett knows Jesus and Jesus has not left his side this entire time. The Bible says that God will charge his angels concerning us. I know that Bennett's angel is on guard the entire time, obeying the commands of the King. I also know that all the days ordained for us were determined before we were even born. It's easy to act like we have an unlimited number of days, but the last time I checked, the mortality rate of humans was still 100%. I want to make the most of each day that I have with Bennett, and Corinne, and Jenna, and Dale. To treat each day like a treasure, a gift, and make the most of it.

Bennett came through the spinal tap just fine. No headache or backache. But he wasn't hungry like he usually is for the breakfast he ordered. When we finally left the hospital, Bennett was a little out of sorts. He was crabby and demanding for most of the day. When we got home, he told me he was hungry but not for anything we have at home. We had gotten into the habit of taking him to the gas station for a treat. (There is a new Holiday just down the street. It has been Bennett's favorite place to go on a date with me.) He had gotten to the point where he thought he could just tell me he's hungry for something from a gas station and I'd hop into the car and take him. Guess what. Doing that did not make him love me and respect me more. He didn't get more and more pleasant to be around with every trip to Holiday. He wasn't becoming a respectful young man who values other people and their time. He was becoming a brat. So yesterday I told him I am done taking him places for food. He needed to eat what we have here at home. He cried, threatened, moped, skipped lunch, said he wasn't going to love me anymore, and was just all around miserable. But by supper time, he was hungry enough to eat some of the mac and cheese and orange that I offered him. And later he asked for a fried egg with toast. We had a fun evening making clay sculptures, reading, and snuggling. He put his arms around me and "kissed me up." His grandma came over for a quick visit, and he said, "Grandma, I have a secret to tell you." He went over to whisper in her ear, and kissed her cheek. He was a very happy boy. I know that children are not happy when they are in control. It's a very scary place for them to be. I was justifying my trips to the store by thinking about all the hard things he has to go through. I'll still remember those hard times and get him a treat now and then. But Bennett's old mom is back, and I think we are all going to be be happier.

We are always thanking our God for you and your kindness to us. We continue to covet your prayers.

In service to my King,


Tuesday, September 7, 2004 5:01 PM CDT

We've had another week of good days. Bennett has been feeling well for the most part. He sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and says that he doesn't feel well. He gets his meds right before bed so that the nausea happens while he's sleeping, but he doesn't always sleep through it.

Last Friday he had to get two shots, one in each leg, because of a chicken pox issue. All 3 of our children were vaccinated but their blood didn't show any immunity to chicken pox. The girls were re-vaccinated on August 31. On Friday, Corinne's arm had a chicken pock near the site of the vaccination. That is normal, but our doctor decided that Bennett needed a shot of some syrum that would protect him from chicken pox for up to month. When I told Bennett he needed to get some medicine that will protect him from chicken pox, he immediately asked if it was a shot. I told him it was. He screamed all the way out to the car, and all the way to Children's hospital. He told me that I was making his throat sore, and that I was making him feel like he had to throw up. I'm sure it was me, not the screaming! The shots went well, he screamed again when they poked him, but not long and within minutes he was fine.

Bennett is very excited about the things coming up in the fall: He starts Sparkies at church on Wednesday nights and our homeschool co-op starts tomorrow. He talks about those things quite a bit. He is scheduled to start delayed intensification on the 14th of this month. I am afraid that the intensified chemo is going to make him too sick to enjoy Sparkies or co-op for a while. He gets a spinal tap on Tuesday and the dreaded 56 day chemo begins.

We covet your prayers. And thank you for all the support. We couldn't do this without you!

In Christ, my King,


Friday, August 27, 2004 1:17 PM CDT

We have been so blessed with a stretch of very good days. Bennett made it through the week of steroids much better than the previous week of this phase. He was hungry, irritable, sometimes irrational, and a little beligerant. But compared to the previous times, it was much better.

It's funny to think about some of the irrational behavior: One day he and I were having a perfectly friendly conversation in the car as we drove home from the hospital. When we arrived home, I noticed he had a folder and a pencil in the car that he had gotten the day before. So I said, '"Bennett, when you come in, bring in your folder and pencil." Well, some kind of switch was tripped when I said those words because he instantly screamed over and over at the top of his lungs, "I AM NOT COMING IN IF I HAVE TO BRING IN THAT FOLDER AND PENCIL." Those kinds of battles are not winnable, so I just said OK and walked into the house. He came in few seconds later, empty handed, and was happy as ever, as if nothing had happened.

His food craving this time centered mainly around shrimp. If you recall, he has previously craved lobster and fish. So it's kind of a seafood theme going on here. He can't crave something cheap like Lays potatoe chips. No, we've got the high end products that he talks and thinks about until we finally break down and go get some. Next time, it'll probably be Russian caviar.

Bennett is very happy and has lots of energy. We had his birthday party this past week at Chuck E. Cheese. He had a lot of fun! He invited several friends and requested a Hawaiian theme. I'd say the party was a success. He turned six and has the tell tale six year old mouth, two front teeth missing. It's very cute.

Bennett also loves to laugh! He likes to listen to comedians like Ken Davis, Dennis Swanburg and Bill Cosby. He also likes to watch America's funniest home videos with Bob Saggat (sp?) and we let him watch some of "The Last Comic Standing" (the child friendly portions) this summer. He knew some of the comics by name and would walk around repeating their jokes. It is such a joy to see him so happy-go-lucky.

Delayed intensification is on the horizon. We are tentatively scheduled to begin on September 14th. I found out today that I will be able to administer some of the IV chemo at home, so we won't have to drive down to Childrens every day for two weeks straight. That's a bit of a relief.

Thank you for your continued prayers. We continue to seek the face of our Lord and He continues to show us his hand, his righteous right hand with which he upholds us. We give Him all the glory!

In Christ,


Monday, August 16, 2004 2:01 AM CDT

Note: See the 8/19/04 update at the end of this Journal entry.

Been over a week again since our last update! I (Dale) think it’s an indication that we're settling into the new normal. But the new normal does have its weirdness: The Bleekers were nice enough to loan us their van while ours is getting its gas tank coated (sprung a leak, and it’s only a 1998!). On the way home from their house Monday night, Bennett suddenly had to throw up. I pulled over, and he leaned out of his door and threw up onto the shoulder, and then he was fine. He chatted the rest of the way home as if nothing weird had happened.

I was hanging the newly-coated gas tank under our van yesterday, and Bennett came out and stood by the van for a long time. I could see his feet. He was waiting for me; something was on his mind. I crawled out and asked him how he was doing, and he said, “Do I get a spinal tap Monday?” He does. I said yes. He didn’t complain or fuss, but he looked so sad. I could’ve cried. I bravely said, “Bennett, you’ve had four spinal taps and can’t even remember one of them. You’ll be asleep.” He bravely said, “I can remember my back hurting every time I wake up from a spinal tap.” He didn’t mention the debilitating headache that came two or three days after his last spinal tap.

Tomorrow is Day 1 of a week of a steroid (Prednizone this time), and the docs started an antipsychotic drug yesterday in inticipation of the psychoses that the Decadron caused. Decadron is stronger than Prednizone, and we’re hoping and praying that the Prednizone plus the antipsychotic will give us a manageable week. The last week of this drug combo (in July) wasn’t so bad. Bennett got a little bit puffy and extremely hungry and had moderate-to-wild mood swings. But nothing psychotic.

If the physical therapist can’t get one of Bennett’s Achilles tendons to stretch and stay loose, she’ll have to put a boot on him for all-night wear. If it helps, she'll crank it harder and then harder until the Achilles tendon becomes comfortably stretched. Bennett stumbles a couple times a day because his toe sticks down too far on account of the one overtight tendon.

In the movie store tonight, Bennett and I ran into Coach Zach from Bennett's T-Ball. While Bennett and the coach chatted in the aisle, I wondered to myself if he had read the Coaches’ Evaluation Form we’d sent in. Michelle and I loved the coaching staff and sent a glowing evaluation. Bennett and I had crushes on the two lady coaches, and Michelle had even worse crushes on the men coaches. I mean they're just THAT good at coaching. Just kidding. But we really liked their emphasis; they were there for the kids. Anyway, for the “What Your Player Liked Least About Practices/Games” question, we wrote down, “That darn ready position.” Bennett said he didn’t like it because the crouching hurt his legs (it's his tendons). Turns out, Zach HAD read our form. Just before we left, he said, “OK, Bennett! High Five! [ -- smack -- ] And now the ready position.” Just as Bennett was opening his mouth to explain that he does't like it, Zach said he was just kidding. So he read it! I thought that was pretty neat, and Bennett got a kick out of that, too.

It was nice in church this morning to see so many friends who say they're praying for us. Lenin, who I met in Peru and is now leading a Latin outreach ministry, saw me walking by with Jenna and Bennett and asked me to bring the kids because they would like to pray for Bennett. And pray they did! The Spanish-speaking pastor-teacher kept his hand on Bennett’s bald head and prayed beautifuly in Spanish. Pretty soon the whole room was crying out to God in Spanish on Bennett's and our behalf. A translator whispered into my ear in English everything the pastor-teacher prayed. Beautiful as it sounded in English, it had to be even more-so in Spanish. It struck me while we stood there and received a roomful of simultaneous prayer in a foreign language that Jenna and Bennett understood; they "got it." They seemed perfectly OK with what was going on. Afterward, we walked around looking for Michelle and Corinne like it was a normal Sunday morning. Thing is, nothing's normal anymore. I mean that in a good way. Thank You, God.

Please keep us lifted in prayer. Please feel free to call any time. Thank you all for caring about us enough to pray for us and for asking us how we're doing and for offering meals and other forms of help.

We love y'all!

In Christ,

Thursday 8/19/04 update:

The spinal tap and blood draw Monday 8/16 went well. Bennett didn't wake up sore, and the numbers (most telling is the ANC, or Absolute Nutrophil Count) were all indicative of a strong, healing boy. So praise God for that! I updated the photo album today with three photos that I took today and yesterday.

Thursday, August 5, 2004 11:28 AM CDT

It's been over a week since we last wrote. The time really flies when Bennett is feeling well and things are good. We have been riding our bikes and going to parks and swimming. Bennett has lots of energy and finally seems to be over the effects of the steroids. He still has some irrational behavior, but so do I, and I'm not any medications. We try to work through his moments of belligerence and frustration by giving him some choices and helping him to choose a way out of the situation he has caused. He usually gets happy in a few minutes, but occassionally, he'll decide he needs to scream and have a tantrum for about half an hour. Like when our friend Kelly was bringing a meal on Monday. Bennett was in his room the entire time crying and yelling because I had cut his oven pancakes in the wrong direction (the wrong axis). But even after that episode, he came out of his room and was happy as ever. He is really very remarkable in that sense. I think these times of tantrum and frustration are his way of letting off some stress caused by the treatment. Sometimes I feel like doing that. Yelling at the top of my lungs: MY SON SHOULDN'T HAVE LEUKEMIA AND HE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO FEEL SO ICKY AND TAKE MEDICINES THAT MAKE HIS LEGS NOT WORK AND HE SHOULDN'T NEED HELP TO GET UP WHEN HE FALLS DOWN AND RIDING HIS BIKE SHOULDN'T BE SUCH A BIG HARD DEAL, HE SHOULDN'T NEED HELP TO GET UP THE DRIVEWAY AND HE SHOULDN'T ACT LIKE A TWO YEAR OLD HAVING TEMPERTANTRUMS AT THE DROP OF A HAT AND FOOD SHOULDN'T TASTE BAD TO A FIVE YEAR OLD. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO FEED A FIVE YEAR OLD WHEN EVERYTHING TASTES BAD?!! IT'S NOT FAIR.

There. That felt good. Now I'm happy and can walk around and act like I'm 35 and I didn't just have a 2 year old kind of temper tantrum. Thanks.

Life really isn't fair is it. I bet each of you could think of somthing in your life that just isn't fair. The problem with us is that we actually think that life should be fair. This is the human condition. Trouble and trials are the norm. It's how we look at them and how we face them that is the true test of character. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." But he goes on to say, "Take heart, for I have overcome the world." Trouble and trials aren't the enemy. They are actually what make us who we are. They are the fire that refines us so that we will be more like Jesus. Can you embrace your struggle and thank God for it? It will draw you closer to Him and you will walk in a nearness to Him that you hadn't known before. That is my prayer for you.

Father, thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. Thank you that you are in control and I'm not. Let my heart say "Amen" to your will. Bennett has Leukemia, Lord. Will you heal Him? We ask you to do it here on earth, but if you choose to heal him in Heaven, help us to say Amen to that as well. We say Blessed be the Name of the Lord! I pray these things in the name of your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Bennett had a blood draw on Monday. His counts were a little low. His ANC was 480 (it should be over 1000) so his daily oral chemo was adjusted a little until the counts go back up. He goes in for spinal and IV chemo on August 16. He also starts steroids that day. That will be day 28 of this 56 day phase. Then we start delayed intensification. A 56 day plan that will include 8 different chemos. It is the worst part of this 3 year treatment. We covet your prayers during that time.

In Christ, my Lord,


Wednesday, July 28, 2004 7:44 PM CDT

Tonight Bennett's t-ball team, the Great White Sharks, took on their most formidable opponent yet. Throughout the season, the team has met with difficult opponents. Their record is 0-0-8. Yes, they have tied every team they have played. Tonight, though we wondered if they would see their first defeat when they played the Parents. The parents took the field and looked threatening indeed. The Sharks lineup was undaunted, however. From the first crack of the bat we saw that the Parents were really no match for this well-oiled, well trained t-ball team. During the first inning, the parent's first baseman, Dale Ryynanen, missed a staggering 35 throws to first. One must wonder at the manager not pulling him and putting in someone else. When he finally did catch one, it would have been a sure out IF HIS FOOT HAD BEEN ON THE BAG. It was almost too painful to watch. Although Ryynanen's performance was riddled with errors, he was not the only one. Not one parent made a clean catch or an accurate throw. An easy out at second turned into extra bases for the Sharks as the parents, one after another, over threw the ball making outfielders shag balls and the error counter's pencil to smoke. At times, it was hard to tell who to credit with the error. The Parent's lack of team work and communication led to the Sharks going through the batting order twice. Finally the Sharks took the field by default because of the "twice through the batting order limit" for the at bat team but not before every single Shark scored twice in the first inning.

If the Parents were pathetic fielding, their hitting was even worse. Every single parent got out. If it wasn't for the generous, "once through the batting order minimum" rule, only 6 parents would have gotten to the plate the entire game! When Dale Ryynanen was at bat, he hit it directly into the glove of his own son, Bennett, who easily chased him down and tagged him out before he reached first base. Ryynanen might have had a chance of reaching first if he had known that you don't have to first run to the dug out and carefully hang up the bat before you run to first. These are the kind of rookie errors that caused the embarassing, lopsided score of 148 to 3.

The highlights of the game included an in the park home run by Bennett Ryynanen. At the crack of the bat, he set off for first base and easily made it home, he had been watching the inept fielding and knew he could easily stretch the single into a home run. His good friend Guy Anderson had a stand up double, and I think out of sheer good sportsmanship, didn't stretch it into an in the park home run. Another time around the bases, Guy slid into third, just barely under the glove of the third baseman, but safe none-the-less.

I was in the stands taking pictures, which we will soon put on the website. Bennett was one big smile the entire game. T-ball has been so great for Bennett. We can almost forget for a few minutes that he is in a battle for his life.

So far, this week Bennett is doing great. He is feeing good. He gets his daily oral chemo at night, and usually is asleep before the nausea sets in. Today is day 9 of the 56 day regimen. The hardest part of this phase is the steroids. He had those days 0-4 and he'll have them again August 16 through 20. They make him hungry and cranky and belligerent, which is much better than psychotic. He takes an antipsychotic a few days before the steroids begin and continues one day after they are finished.

After this phase, we begin "Delayed Intensification." It is a 49 day phase with 8 different chemos. Some stretches of this phase include daily IV chemo and intermittent spinal chemo, which means we'll be going to Children's Hospital every day for a few stretches during this time. We will remind you all when this gets close and we covet your prayers both now and for God to hold Bennett so closely during the next phase to help him to get through it. And that he'll guard this mommy's heart so that it doesn't break watching her baby suffer. Or if it does break, that He'll take the pieces and carfully put them back together himself.

After delayed intensification we begin maintenance chemo. It is a 77 day phase that keeps repeating until July 19, 2007.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are so blessed by the meals and all the help you have given us. Thank you for being Jesus' hands and feet to us.

In Christ, my King,


Sunday, July 25, 2004 2:05 PM CDT

These past few days since Bennett came home from the hospital (7/18) have been a return to our new normal. Bennett has his ups and downs, and his ups are very good; he gets bursts of energy and bursts of hunger. The steroid this time is Prednisone, which is not as strong as Decadron. The Decadron is what caused Bennett’s psychotic episodes in June. Many of the other, nonbothersome side-effects have emerged, as expected, during this week on the steroid: Bennett becomes very focused on very specific foods. Yesterday he NEEDED papaya, so Michelle brought him to Cub Foods, and they came home with a ripe papaya. Bennett ate it as fast as Michelle could cut it up! I was doing something outside, and Bennett came out to fetch me so I could “come in and taste the papaya.”

The downs are manageable, and we thank God for that. The docs prescribed an anti-psychotic drug for Bennett to take with the Prednisone, which kind of evened our boy out. He gets really emotional about the silliest thing, but it usually lasts only a few minutes. Bennett knows it’s not his nature to cry over cold waffles or lost sunglasses, and after he cries or says something beligerant, he’ll come back a few minutes later to tickle someone or say something silly, maybe to show us that he’s OK. He’s been sleeping through the night, but sometimes it takes awhile for him to fall asleep. Two nights ago Michelle and Bennett snuggled in his loft at bedtime. Around midnight I went into Bennett’s room to see how peacefully Bennett was sleeping. Michelle was sound asleep, and Bennett was wide awake! I asked Bennett if he was tired, and he said, “Nope.” So we went into the kitchen to work on his coloring poster. It’s a 20x30 jungle scene taped to the kitchen table, and we’ve been coloring it with markers little by little. Bennett said it’s a good thing he’s young, because it’ll take many years to finish coloring the whole poster.

Bennett has physical therapy once a week, and he enjoys the hour-long sessions. He is quite taken by the friendly, pretty physical therapist named Lynn. I went along with Bennett and Michelle this week and got a kick out of how well she disguises each analysis as a game. She hid a prize under one of five cones at the end of a track and told Bennett he could keep the prize after he completed the track according to her instructions (heel-to-toe, skip, hop, run, giant steps, etc.) and picked the right cone five times. Each time Bennett found the prize, he’d have to cover his eyes while Lynn moved it to a different cone. Lynn knew what to watch for and told us he had been improving, but the Vincristine (a chemo injected into his IV on Monday) set him back a little bit. For some reason, it tightens the muscles and/or connective tissues around the hamstrings and the fronts of the ankles. We need to do stretches with him daily as well as other exercises that Lynn prescribes. He enjoys his PT at home, although, with this setback, he seems a bit discouraged about only being able to hop on one foot 2 times in a row. He was up to five with one foot and four with the other.

And now I’ll turn things over to Michelle.

Today at church, (Michelle writing now) I was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of Bennett having to be on a steroid for a week each month for the next 3 years. As Dale mentioned above, it wasn’t that bad. The lows were temper tantrums and belligerance that were pretty short lived. But those happened several times a day. God granted us grace to handle this week, but as I thought ahead, I thought, I can’t do this for the next 3 years. And I was right. What I was forgetting was that I didn’t even do it this past week. Jesus was right here working in and through me and Dale to get us through the difficult moments. I don’t have the strength to do this. The good news is that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses. And as Dale wrote in an earlier journal, we don’t get strength for tomorrow today. I am not going to get strength for the next August dose of steroids in July. I’ll get that when it happens in August. I can choose to overwhelm myself by fretting about how I am going to deal with this boy next month, or I can choose to live in the present and enjoy the grace God has provided for today. It’s completely my choice, and today I was choosing to fret and worry, “How in the world am I going to do this every month for 3 more years?” As if God’s grace isn’t going to be available to me next month. I need his grace for today, and tomorrow I will need it again, and it never fails and never runs out. My God’s Grace account is never overdrawn. I have never asked for grace and been sent away with an “insufficient funds” message. His grace is sufficient for me!

I’m looking out the window now at an eagle that Corinne set up over our strawberry patch. We have harvested about 3 berries from that patch this summer. They have been eaten by bunnies and crows, so Corinne finally took matters into her own hands and put up a scare crow in the form of an eagle. It definitely seems to be working but it’s a little late to reap any berries for this summer. That’s about par for the course with my gardening skills. I’d love to be a master gardner, but apparently you don’t just decide to be one. It must take some work or studying on the part of the master gardner. Both girls have figured out that I don’t exactly have a green thumb. If any of my plants survive it’s completely in spite of my “care.” They have encouraged me to go talk to our neighbor, Mrs. Anderson. “She knows lots of trick that work with plants, hers actually grow,” said Jenna. What I don’t want to admit to them is that several of my plants have come with directions on how and where to plant them, but I have had “better” ideas. And I’d also probably have to end up admitting to some pretty serious plant neglect at least, and probably abuse. I’d like some advice, but I have gone so far down the ignorant gardner path, that it would take much more pride swallowing than I have room for. So, in short, I am looking into a really nice rock garden. I’ve heard they don’t take as much care.

Back to Dale.

I (Dale now) haven't been paying attention to what Michelle's been writing, but I think it's my turn. Anyway, I took a few minutes out of the last couple days to tranform our defoliated back yard into The Land of Rare Orchids and Delicate-but-Thriving Lady Slippers. It was a lot of work, but it's true what they say: there's no replacement for education and experience. And, of course, you should never be too proud to ask other gardners for advice. I can hardly wait to see Michelle's face when she goes into the back yard and sees that it has become a beautiful conservatory. I'll turn it over to Michelle's care, and I'm sure she'll be really pleased with her doting husband.

Love in Christ,
Dale and Michelle

Monday, July 19, 2004 3:03 PM CDT

Bennett came home from the hospital yesterday. He was feeling great yesterday afternoon and evening. He went for a bike ride and the whole family enjoyed a fire in the back yard, roasting marshmallows.

When he woke up yesterday morning I was very doubtful that we would be released from the hospital because he woke up screaming with pain from his headache, and began having dry heaves. I asked the nurse to get him a dose of morphine. Our doc had given him a standing order for morphine to help deal with the pain from the menigitis headaches. The morphine helped within minutes and Bennett was his happy, chatty, energetic self within the hour. Sheila Hughes had brought some crafts for him on Saturday evening and he asked to do those, so we started making finger puppets. When the doctor came to check him out and look at his lab results from his blood draw, she said that if we were confident enough to take care of him, we could go home. Bennett heard that and was ready to go right away. It took a few hours to get all of the paper work and prescriptions and he was impatient the entire time.

As we were walking out to the car, he said, "Isn't it funny how you think something is going to be scary and then it isn't, it's actually fun." He was scared about going back into the hospital, but he ended up actually having fun. Thank you God.

On Saturday, Bennett and I went down to the 2nd floor where there is a very nice outdoor play area. As I sat out there and tried to enjoy the beautiful day, I started to have a pity party. I looked at my boy and thought about all of the hard things he has had to do this summer and how little he has been able to enjoy his summer. And about all the plans I had for this summer. I was planning on squeezing every minute of fun out of this summer, going to parks and pools and to Michigan and South Dakota and the list went on and on. Here I was, sitting in the hospital, AGAIN, missing out on the fun. I thought, enviously, about all of you who were at the beach or doing something as a family and here our family was split up, AGAIN. I thought about Bennett and how the years from age 5 1/2 to 9 will be spent going back and forth to the hospital, taking icky meds that make him feel icky, or give him illnesses like menigitis. Are your violins playing yet? Are you feeling sorry for me? I was feeling very sorry for myself for a few minutes. Then I started recounting all of the blessings in this journey. First and foremost, my relationship with the King of Kings is deeper and more intimate than it has ever been. I have gotten to know dimensions of the Lord of the whole universe that I didn't even know existed. I have seen His hand as I sought His face. I have experienced His peace that passes all understanding in the face of grim realities. He has plans for us, and His plans always end up being way better than anything we could plan for ourselves. I thought about the character that Bennett will develop because of this suffering and how the fun we are missing this summer can't even compare to the depth of character that he will develop because he is having to do such difficult things at such a young age. God's word says it this way, ". . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured our his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5 I don't feel sorry for myself, or for Bennett. I have compassion for him and what he is going through, but I don't feel sorry for him or for me. And we don't want you to feel sorry for us either. Instead, thank God for the incredible mercy and grace He has given us during this ordeal.

Last night Bennett started a new medication and this morning he woke up crying and out of sorts. We had to get him dressed and to a 10 am doctor appointment. It seemed that we were not going to be able to get out the door in time to get there by noon let alone 10 am. Dale and I went into our room and prayed. God's grace rained down and we were able to get him dressed and fed and out the door. Thank you, God.

Today Bennett starts a phase called interim maintenance. This phase lasts 56 days. 49 days of chemo and then 7 days off before the next phase. It includes a steroid called prednisone that is not quite as strong as decadron. We are praying that he does not have the same kind of reaction to this steroid as he did to the decadron. He got IV chemo today that makes it difficult to walk. It affects the muscles on the front of his legs and feet. He also starts another oral chemo. I have been trying to get it all listed on his calendar to keep it all straight. It is a bit overwhelming.

The good news is that in 3 years, on July 19, 2007 (one month before his 9th birthday) he will have completed his chemo.

Please pray that Bennett's body will respond well to this chemo, that he won't have an adverse reaction to the prednisone. (The steroid is a very important part of the treatment.) Pray that Dale and I will be able to keep all of the meds straight. And that God will give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know him better. (See Ephesians 1:17)

Thank you for all of your prayers and support.

In Christ, my King,


Sunday, July 18, 2004 0:44 AM CDT

Just a quick update on Bennett’s hospitalization: He’s still there. Today Michelle and I and all three kids spent several hours together in Bennett’s room and the game room, but the oncology staff are not ready to spring Bennett until his fever stays down and his blood numbers continue to improve without antibiotics. Nothing grew in the blood cultures. It could be so many things, none of which seem to be very alarming to the doctors. The forehead-ache (as Bennett calls it) suggests that the sickness could be a result of last week’s spinal tap. They had to poke him twice, because the first poke was not placed correctly. Spinal taps sometimes cause headaches and fever. And it could be a form of meningitis – chemical meningitis – that also could’ve been triggered by the spinal tap. They won’t rule out meningitis, but they’re giving him a catch-all, “plain old infection” treatment. While we were there today, Bennett’s forehead started aching again, but not super badly like two nights ago.

The girls and I are home, and I hope Michelle and Bennett are sleeping by now. We built a fire in the backyard fire pit and made S’mores and stayed out until after 11:00, and it was a sweet time of togetherness for this 3/5 of the family. We talked a lot about famous people who had so many things going for them until they quit taking care of themselves the way God calls us to do. It’s interesting that Corinne and Jenna are so fascinated by Elvis Presley. It’s been years since I mentioned him, but they remember everything I ever mentioned about him. When Jenna was 5 and Corinne was 8, I showed them photos of the young, healthy Elvis and then some of his last photos. It must have made quite an impression! Then they recounted endless Beetle Bailey comic strips. I would never have dreamed that Corinne and Jenna would be such big fans of that strip. They laugh about Sarge and Beetle and Zero (and Miss Buxley!) as if they’re the biggest things going on in pop culture right now. It was just a really neat time to let the girls talk about whatever was on their minds. Elvis and Beetle! Kids sure are interesting.

This most recent/current subcrisis would have been so alarming to me two months ago, but God is showing us over and over that He’s in complete control. The only thing he doesn’t (and won’t) control are our thoughts, and sometimes I can’t control my own. But even when I race ahead with my thoughts into the unknown, my Deliverer is standing by. Every cell in the universe answers to Him.

In Christ,

Friday, July 16, 2004 3:21 PM CDT

Bennett had a pretty rough night last night back up on the 8th floor. The ER docs consulted with the Oncology staff upstairs and decided to admit Bennett at least for the night, because they were concerned about his white cell count. It was way, way up, but other numbers in the blood sample calmed any worries about the leukemia being back. It’s an infection somewhere, and they’re still growing the culture and hoping to identify the microscopic culprit and nail it with the best antibiotic.

So I called Michelle at home and said goodnight. Yesterday’s update hasn’t changed much, because they’re still growing the culture.

The rough night was caused by a wicked combination of fever, headache, and Bennett’s seeming inability to take oral meds. They couldn’t push fever reducer meds through the IV; they had to be given orally, but Bennett just could NOT do it. He wasn’t being naughty or stubborn – he just said he couldn’t do it. And he kept rubbing his forehead trying to make it stop hurting. Finally at about 3:00 a.m. I told the nurse he needed morphine, and she agreed and got the order and added it to the IV. Poor Bennett was extremely exhausted, and within ONE minute of the morphine getting into his system he was sound asleep. Within another five minutes, so was I.

For those five minutes it took me to doze off, I tried remembering Pastor Daniel’s sermon from last Sunday – about praying differently than FOR things. Again, God brought to my mind in those last couple minutes of consciousness how clearly we can see His plan when we look backward, and He encouraged me to look forward with the same confidence in His plan. I remembered that there are many accounts in the Bible of God’s people building memorials of God’s just-completed miracles. The Jordan crossing came to mind, and I decided that we Ryynanens are going to finally do something we’ve been talking about for years: We’ll hang a compartmentalized shelf (a shadow box) on the wall and put little symbols of God’s miracles in our lives in the compartments. It’ll be neat to have a story for every item.

Bennett finally woke up at 10:30 or so this morning feeling a little better. Less headache, lower fever, but still no appetite. When I got Bennett dressed, it was just in time to see an animal show that the Minnesota Zoo was putting on in the game room. Michelle and the girls got there in time to catch most of it. There was an owl, tarantula, millipede, hedgehog, possum, and chinchilla. I asked the girls on the way home what they thought of a teen named Tim (a patient) who interrupted the presentation every few seconds with questions and long, detailed comments. The girls and I felt like he had made the zoo peoples’ job very difficult and kind of broke up the show for the rest of us. I told the girls we couldn’t be critical of Tim because we have no idea what he’s hospitalized for or what medications his portable pump was pushing into his IV. For all we know, he might be a shy, quiet, very polite boy who was not himself today. Bennett’s three weeks of psychotic episodes have given me more grace toward other people who seem to have behavioral problems.

I’ll add a postscript to this update after Michelle calls with any new information. We do know by now that Bennett will have to stay at least through tonight. Michelle’s there with him now. Which brings up another praise: There are many kids on that floor who’s moms or dads can’t be there with them overnight. We’re truly blessed to have enough flexibility in our schedules to stay with Bennett ‘round the clock.

Please keep praying for Bennett. He’s so frustrated that he could be playing T-ball one day and hooked up to an IV in bed the next. Please pray that we, especially Bennett, will have the strength and faith to experience our ups and downs with our eyes fixed firmly on God. Comfortable as Bennett is praying, he’s not comfortable praying for himself. I could walk into his hospital room right now and ask him to pray for me because I feel sick (not that I do), and he would offer up a beautiful prayer. Then if I said, “Thank you, Bennett, now lets’ pray for your own healing,” he would ask for me to pray and for him to listen. We’re not pushy about it, but we think it would be good for Bennett to be more prayerfully involved in his own healing.

Thank you, friends.

In Christ,

P.S. This is the postscript I promised -- where I said I'll take the apostrophes out of "mom's or dad's" a couple paragraphs above and give an update after Michelle calls. Michelle left a lilting, uplifting, sing-songy VoiceMail while I was out cutting the grass: "Our chatty Bennett is eating." We key in on those two things -- how chatty he is and whether he's eating. Those two things tell us more than anything else. Praise God.

And now I'm feeling chatty. Two days after the nurse called to end our lowest low on June 16 with tne news that Bennett's leukemia count was down to 0.2 percent in the marrow (we had spent the whole day worrying about new leukemia-like symptoms), I was working in the office and looked out the window to see Bennett and his friend swinging in the back yard. At that moment, I knew I was the happiest I'd ever been in my life. And I knew that I would not have been able to experience the intense joy I was feeling if we had not gone through those weeks of psychoses and newer, more ominous symptoms. I took the step that day in thanking God for the suffering. I'm not at a place yet where I can sincerely thank God for suffering while I'm watching Bennett suffer, but I'm beginning to understand the need. There may be plenty more suffering, but, come what may, there will be more joy. Thank God for making that possible.

Friday, July 16, 2004 9:32 AM CDT

Dale brought Bennett to the ER yesterday evening. He had a fever all Wednesday night and Thursday. After keeping in touch with the hematology/oncology clinic throughout the day, they decided Bennett should be looked at. So Dale brought him to the ER and they decided he should be admitted. He's back up on the 8th floor getting IV antibiotics.

Bennett was very sad that he had to spend the night at the hospital. He was actually very upset that he even had to go last night to the ER. My mommy's heart wanted to just let him stay home and ride it out, but that wouldn't have been prudent. When they gave him the news that he was being admitted, Bennett fought back tears. It did help a lot that his dad was with him. Dale can make almost anything fun.

The girls and I are headed over to the hospital this morning. Hopefully, we'll bring Bennett home today. We have had a long stretch of good days, and we pray for this to be just a little bump in the road. Knowing Bennett's fragile health, I can go right to worrying, but I am choosing to hope in the Lord, to pray for His will to be done, and for my heart to say "Amen" to His will, not mine.

Please pray that we will be able to bring our boy home soon.

I'll update as soon as we know anything else.

In Christ,


Wednesday, July 14, 2004 0:56 AM CDT

Big stand-off yesterday. The White Sharks vs. the Red Dragons. It was Bennett’s first T-ball game; he’s on the Sharks. It was fun to watch him “wait for his pitch” and SWING away and make it to first. The ball actually sits still on a tee that adjusts to the height of each batter’s swing, and the “pitch” is when the Home Plate coach says to swing. He got on base twice and ended up coming in to score each time. In fact, every player on each team got on base twice and twice came in to score each time. A very close finish, too: A tie game! The coaches were great. When a coach shouted, “OK outfield and infield (separated by about 20 feet), ready positions!” all nine kids would face home plate with their hands on their knees. Cute as ever.

Bennett had a nother spinal tap and blood draw yesterday, and his spinal fluid is still clear, and his blood numbers have improved even more. His hemoglobin is better than it’s ever been, and his absolute neutrophil count (ANC -- they like it to be over 1,000) was 2,900! That number is the blood’s way of indicating the body’s ability to fight off infections. So we praise God the Great Healer for this great healing work He’s continuing in our boy’s body.

A change though: Dr. Bostrom (Bennett’s oncologist) decided NO MORE DECADRON. He let us know Monday that he thinks the rest of Bennett’s treatment will be best without the Decadron, which was what had caused all the psychoses through many weeks in June. They’ll go with Prednisone, which is about one tenth as strong as Decadron. The worrier in each of us (me & Michelle) could choose to worry that the Prednisone will not be as effective as Decadron in keeping leukemia away from the brain and spinal column. Michelle and I know that if WE had chosen not to give Bennett any more Decadron it would be because we’re so queasy about its psychotic effects (in Bennett and very few other patients – if you know someone on Decadron, don’t worry; it’s a wonder drug for most people). But Dr. Bostrom is not queasy; he thinks the psychosis is bad enough and the drop in medical aggression insignificant enough to order the change. So order it he did, and with our blessing.

Bennett went to bed tonight feeling a little bit sick and a little bit feverish. But this is the latest he has stayed up with full-dose chemo, so we’re hoping it was just the time of night. Please pray with us that Bennett will be OK on this full dose that he needs.

I’ll put some of Bennetts game pictures on the site tonight, and I’ll put a shot from our girls’ Thursday games later this week.

Thank you friends.

Angela en Perú. Gracias por su rezo dulce para nuestro Bennett. Amamos le y Jose Antonio y Anabelin y Joel. El dios le bendice.

In Christ,

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 11:43 PM CDT

On Tuesday Bennett had a blood draw and spinal chemo. His ANC was still above 1000 (1136) so he's not at high risk for disease. All of his other numbers looked great as well. And so far, all of those extra lab tests have been normal. Praise the Lord for the continued good trend in his blood counts. What's next? We have physical therapy on Thursday, and more spinal chemo on Monday. Monday will be day 21 of this 28 day phase. Because his counts have remained high, he has been put on a full dose of chemo for these last 2 weeks. The next phase, 49 days, called interim maintenance, will begin then if his ANC is at or above 1000. If it's not, we will have to wait until it is, just like with this phase.

Today (Wednesday) we made our annual trip to Valleyfair. It was so much fun! We let Bennett set the pace and just followed him from ride to ride. It was much different being there without the girls, but still very fun. Once, when Dale went off to enjoy a few rides on his own, Bennett asked when we were going to meet up with "Dad and Corinne and Jenna." I asked him where Corinne and Jenna were and he said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot they are in Michigan." We are so used to going to Valleyfair as a family even Bennett "remembered" them being there with us. It just feels like we need to go again with the whole family and do it right.

A lot of things feel like they just aren't right this summer. I keep searching for "normal" but it's not here. Everything is different, and will never be the same. By the time this leukemia treatment is behind us, Bennett will be 9 and we will have found a very different way of living day to day. It was a great day at Valley Fair, but it has left me feeling very mixed up inside. I followed Bennett around most of the day, going on rides with him, watching him on the kiddy rides, just trying to drink in every moment with him. Dale and I took turns going into the IMAX and on a couple rides. It 's just not as fun to go on rides by myself, without the girls. Usually, Dale and I take turns going on the bigger rides with them. They make the Mad Mouse way more fun than the tourists from Italy that I ended up riding with. After 2 rides I found Dale and Bennett and decided that today I was enjoying being with Bennett and quit trying to make this trip seem like those from the past. We let him walk on curbs and take 3 times as long to get from one ride to the next. What was our hurry? I wanted Bennett to remember this day fondly, a day that he had fun with his mom and dad. When he was sitting in the rub-a-dub tug, waiting for the ride to start, I looked intently at this bald child whose cheeks are still puffy, straining to see the boy I remember. Actually, I don't remember what he used to look like; I have to look at pictures, and those seem like someone completely different. I don't remember what that child was like. I am stuck somewhere in a strange middle, trying to remember someone from the past, and getting to know someone here in the present who I am supposed to know, but I don't. Bennett is just very different now. Still a delightful little boy, just different. He laughs differently, a quavering warble, and many times for no apparent reason. He talks gibberish sometimes, "just for fun" he says. But then, sometimes, he's very coherent and even profound. Some of the childish things he used to do are gone, but replaced with different childish things. It's just very different.

Lord, help me and Dale to hear your voice, to feel your presence, especially when we feel like nothing else makes sense. When we are gripped with fear about our boy, help us to seek your face. When the ground under our feet feels like sinking sand, help us to find solid ground. When we feel all mixed up, like little kids, lift up our heads and point us to what is true. Protect us, Lord, from the enemy who wants us to doubt and fret about every little thing. We trust completly in you, and in you we take refuge. Give us rest and renew and strengthen us for the battle that lies ahead. And help us to remember, that the battle is yours, not ours. Thank you for fighting it for us. Thank you for your word and your faithfulness. And thank you for your Son, that by his stripes we are healed. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Thanks for letting us lay our feelings on the line and be real with you on this website. We just don't even know how to pretend that everything is great and we aren't struggling with this time in our lives.

In His Grip,


Now a word about Valleyfair's Power Tower:

Dale and I both went on the Power Tower. On this ride, you are sent straight up an insane 275 foot tall tower, then you hover at the top for 10 grueling seconds before you plummet at 50 miles per hour back toward the earth. Does that sound fun to you? It didn't sound fun to me, either, when I heard first heard about it. But I had heard so many people talk about how fun it is, that I was drawn to it like a bug to one of those bug zapping machines. Sure, it's fun, if you define fun as 4 seconds of sheer terror, thinking you are going to die as your organs all gather for a little reunion up near your throat, then as you slow down and near the ground and you think the ride is over, it zips you up again to give you another dose of free-fall torture. Finally, you slowly settle to the ground where you are supposed to casually get off the ride, gather your things and walk around as if nothing out of the oridinary has happened. When my shoulder harness was released I had to pretend that my legs still worked, and that I didn't want to fall down onto the ground and crawl away, stopping to kiss the sweet terra firma every couple of feet. I tried to calmly gather my things and walk away. My legs were shaking quite badly. "I need something to drink ," I thought so I staggered to a refreshment stand and ordered a diet pepsi. I discovered that my hands were also shaking when I tried to take a sip of my soda and had to chase the cup around with my head because my shaking hands couldn't quite get it to my mouth. I must have been quite a sight, shaking and trembling all over, trying not to spill my $2.75 soda on the ground and walk in a straight line all at the same time. That is too much to ask of someone who has just gotten off the Tower of Death ride. No, it is not fun. Go ahead, try it, and see if it isn't awful. Don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, July 2, 2004 9:56 AM CDT

A run of good days. Bennett's counts have been up and he feels really good and the docs have given us the thumbs up to resume normal activity for a while. I brought Bennett to "Crafty Creations" yesterday at Maple Grove Evangelical Free Church. He got to make 3 crafts. He loves making crafts so this was right up his alley. He wanted me to stay with him, though. I think he feels a bit self -conscious about his baldness around people he doesn't know. Several of the kids were noticing his baldness under his hat and looking at him very curiously. He didn't notice them noticing him, he was too involved in his crafts.

Monday and Wednesday he did T-ball again. He is actually almost able to run. He uses running motions and his speed is comparable to a fast walk. It is so nice to see his motor skills coming back. We are trying to get him strong and limber before the next dose of chemo that causes many of the motor problems; we do physical therapy at home everyday and at the hospital once week.

Next week week we have spinal chemo and blood drawn on Tuesday. Hopefully we will also get the results back from the lab tests that were sent to Mayo and other labs. I am guessing that since Bennett's counts have gone up in the good categories and the bad numbers have gone down, that the results will all just be academic at this point. If his counts have stayed up, which we are expecting they will, we will take him and his friend Guy to Valleyfair on Wednesday. He LOVES Valleyfair! We had told him that he probably wouldn't be able to go this summer, but hopefully we were wrong.

We thank God for this reprieve in the middle of the chemo. The first 28 days were very difficult on all of us. This second 28 days has been much easier. The chemo will intensify a little bit after this phase, with a 49 day phase called interim maintenance. Bennett should still feel pretty good and be able to continue most activity. Then we will enter the "Delayed Intensification" phase which is also 49 days. This is a rotation of 8 different chemos which will probably keep him feeling pretty crummy and tired and nauseaus. So we are living for today, not worrying about tomorrow and thanking God for such wonderful good days.

I sometimes read back through the journal history to see where we have been. It is amazing to see the finger prints of our Creator on this entire time in our lives. We know that he has called us each by name and that as we have gone through deep waters, He has been with us, as we passed through rivers we were not swept away and when we walked through the fire, we were not burned. (see Isaiah 43:1-2) Our ears hear a voice behind us saying, "This is the way, walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21) Our God is faithful and it is in him we boast and in him we put our trust. We don't look to the chemo and the doctors for Bennett's healing. We believe God is using them to heal Bennett, but we give any glory for Bennett's healing to The Great Physcian. He is awesome and worthy. He is the Holy One of Israel, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. It is to him we sing our praise. He has put our feet on a rock and nothing will come to us that is not in his will. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Thank you, Jesus!

And thank you for your continued prayers.

In Christ, My King,


Tuesday, June 29, 2004 2:13 AM CDT

Michelle took Bennett to the clinic for his scheduled blood draw and spinal tap, and she got a hold of me at my client site with the good news: His numbers (ANC is > 1000!) are improved even since last Friday. His hemoglobin is probably better than mine and Michelle’s, and a bunch of other critical numbers are also good. So Praise the Lord!

God has been lavishing us this past 11 days for sure. Bennett has laughed more in the past 11 days than probably the entire year before. His smooth, bald head is a continuation of his face, so when he laughs or smiles, it seems like his whole head is smiling. He’s still taking ony half doses of the chemo, but the docs are happy to see that even after many days’ worth of half doses Bennett’s numbers have improved. If his bloodwork continues to show improvement, they’ll give the full dose. I think the oncologist (Dr. Bostrom) is being very careful about loading up Bennett with multiple drugs, because Dr. Bostrom himself (nationally-renowned) said Bennett’s psychotic episodes (from the Decadron – and more is scheduled farther down the charts) were the worst he’d seen. I guess what was unusual was how long they lasted -- sometimes several hours. Thank God for Michelle; I only spent a few hours with Bennett when he was in rough shape, and it was very heartbreaking. Michelle’s so callous; she can handle it. Just kidding; it broke her heart just as badly as mine, but she cared for him constantly for several days in and out of episodes. One of the nurses remarked to one of the doctors that Bennett is a very remarkable patient, and the doctor said, “He has a very remarkable mom here with him.” That he does. Michelle would never write something like that in an update, and she’ll probably be embarrassed that I put it in. But what the doctor said is very true.

Bennett had T-ball practice today, and I truly had hoped to make it (it’s a long season), but the busiest part of my work day ended up coinciding with his practice. Michelle said he ran the bases. At his first practice, Bennett couldn’t run at all, and if he dropped the ball, he couldn’t pick it up off the ground without falling over. He has a great coach who seems to have a very good sense about when Bennett wants to be stubborn (tough might be a better word – I didn’t mean uncooperative) and when he needs a hand.

More lavishing: Our friend Hans Leukema called from Alaska; he’s fixin’ to set out on another exciting fishing adventure hundreds of miles off shore. Hans told me that he and his charming wife, Wendy, and their Birch Church in Chugiak, AK have all been praying for Bennett. I’ll probably always get a little bit emotional when I learn of yet another group of people we haven’t met who are faithfully praying for our boy.

Yet more lavishing: Our friend, Korey Stoelzing, came over this evening and gave us a much-needed shot in the arm in our stocked food, laundry, and general cleaning. If you’ve ever been with Korey, you just want to hang around and chit chat; she has a gift for interesting conversation. But Michelle and I had to be disciplined and work on the other stuff we’ve been less than vigilant about (such as organizing where our clothes go after they’re clean and folded). I would have liked to help Michelle, but I heroically captured images on a laptop and PhotoShopped them into a user’s manual that I’m making for my customers’ German customers. Kind of a crunch-time day for me. So thank you Korey for helping us out during a deadline crunch. And thanks for the meals and groceries. God bless you. And He will; he is taking note.

During this peak in Bennett’s energy level, the doc suggested we DO STUFF with Bennett. I think we’ll take a trip to Valley Fair next hot day and get soaked on the Thunder Canyon ride. Bennett will probably be too sick soon to do any of that (“delayed intensification” starts soon), so we need to take advantage. Fun and enthusiasm are good for his health.

Check out the last photo: It’s me, Bennett, and my Dad all bald. When Bennett’s hair starts growing back, all three of us will let it grow for five years and see how we look as Bob Segar from his Silver Bullet Band heyday.

Bennett noticed this evening that some of my hair was “stubbles” (like a 5:00 shadow), so he dragged me up into the backroom and sheared away with my electric shaver.

We continue to pray for continued healing in our Boy, and we rejoice that so many of our and your prayers are being answered as quickly as they’re spoken. Thank you for joining us in prayer.

In Christ,

Thursday, June 24, 2004 11:02 PM CDT

Tomorrow is a big day for Bennett: It's a scheduled clinic visit, but with Dr. Bostrom (the oncologist) instead of the nurses. Dr. Bostrom needs to draw blood and check the numbers and make a decision. We can't dilly dally away precious chemo time waiting for the numbers to be right. The one we hear the most about is the Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC), which should be over 1000 by now. But Bennetts is below 400, and they don't know why. It'll be few more days until the obscure tests from different labs around the country get results, but we're praying in the mean time that Bennett's ANC and other important measurements will be improved tomorrow. Michelle mentioned most of it in the last update. This is just a night-before-the-big-day update. We ask for your continued prayer support. We know that whether the numbers from the bloodwork come back tomorrow grave or good, Bennett's in God's hands and that God is not wringing His hands over any of this.

This past eight days has been very good. Bennett has enough energy to keep himself pretty busy -- up and down the steps, in and out of the cars, back and forth between inside and outside -- and his attitude is so sweet. He doesn't have much hair left, and I bought him a very cool-looking floppy-brimmed hat today. He should be bald any day now, which means my hair days are numbered. It'll be cool for Bennett and me to be "the guys" in yet another way. We'll wear our Tilley hats outside all summer. My dad is going to shave his head too. He'll e-mail us a photo, and I'll PhotoShop it into a portrait with me and Bennett, so we'll have three generations of bald Ryynanens in one portrait. I'll put the photo on this site when it's done.

Our girls had their Peabody tests today (math, science, reading comprehension, etc.). They both tested years beyond their ages, which affirms their and Michelle's hard work. Michelle is an awesome teacher, and the girls are hard-working students. I'm very proud of the three ladies in my life. Bennett will officially be in Kindergarten next school year. This past year he dipped his toes in the water and liked it, but his schedule was not as busy as his sisters'.

I used to be a natural scorekeeper and always hardest on myself with the scores I came up with: I've always been grateful for help or offers for help from friends, but I've always made mental notes to somehow repay favors. And I was never comfortable accepting help. But I've given up on keeping score; it would overwhelm me. So many of you have done so much for us and shown us so much love and friendship. I think of the hours -- whole days -- that Shiela Hughes and Wendy Chermak stayed with us in the hospital. The duffel bag they filled with provisions for our stays, even years from now when Corinne or Jenna or Bennett is packing it for a mission trip or college, it'll still be called The Hospital Bag from Wendy and Shiela. What would have gone into our girls' memory as a Very Bad Week, June 6 through 10, they will always remember as their vacation at Eagle Beach Resort, because Dave and Denise Anderson and their girls took Corinne and Jenna on vacation with them for the five days that just happened to be hosptial days for Bennett (the phrase "God's timing" comes to mind), and Michelle and I would have had nothing left for our girls during that time. For supper many days, all we have to do is set the table. God has been providing our daily bread through the delicious meals that you've been dropping off. And desserts! Bennett's not the only one looking puffy 'round here.

Thank you friends. We are so grateful. And thank you for praying for us; please continue to pray for us; we are praying for you all, as well.

(P.S. This is added Friday, 6/25: The bloodwork from this morning's clinic came back much, much better! The ANC and all the other numbers are moving in the right direction. His ANC was 826. The improvement since Tuesday is remarkable. So that's a huge Praise the Lord. We will start the next phase of oral chemo today at a half dose until his counts go a bit higher. Thanks for praying; we're very grateful!)

In Christ,

Tuesday, June 22, 2004 9:13 PM CDT

Today I took Bennett to Children's for his blood draw. We have been enjoying the reprieve from chemo but we are also wanting his blood count numbers to go back up so that we can start the next treatment phase. Last week his ANC was 430. Today it was a disappointing 314. This has the doctors concerned because that number should have been going up, not down. His hemoglobin was also pretty low. Other numbers in this blood draw were way out of the normal range as well. What was supposed to be short trip to hematology/oncology clinic turned into an all day ordeal. We arrived at 8:30 for the blood draw. Then went to physical therapy from 9-10. Then back the clinic to find out that we needed to get more blood drawn and a urine sample. Bennett had just gone to the bathroom before we knew that they wanted a urine sample. So we got a can of rootbeer and started drinking. More than a can and a half and over an hour later, he was able to produce. It was about 2 pm and we were finally able to start heading home.

The nurse-practitioner from the clinic called this afternoon with the results of some of the blood tests. Everything was normal with blood tests that they were able to get back today. Some of the blood samples are being sent to labs at Mayo and other hospitals around the country. There are some tests that only certain labs do because they are rather obscure tests. We won't get those results for several days, even up to a week from now.

There is a 3 week window for his blood levels to go back up so that he can start chemo again. We are beginning week 2 of that window. We go to the doctor again on Friday morning for blood work. Please pray for all the different levels to be where they need to be to start chemo again.

Bennett is still doing well. The child-life specialist at the clinic gave him some large syringes to use for water squirters. As we were leaving today, he was cackling about how when Corinne and Jenna are in the backyard, he is going to surprise them with ice-cold water in his syringes. "They are going to scream!" he said gleefully. I asked if he liked making them scream. "Yeah," he said with a satisfied smile. Oh, our boy is back!

Tomorrow is Jenna's birthday party and right now I am feeling really crummy. Please pray that I will feel well enough to throw a party and make her feel celebrated.

Thanks, friends.

Still giving all glory to the King of kings,


Saturday, June 19, 2004 10:04 AM CDT

Two very good days in a row! Yesterday, Bennett woke up and wanted to go to church for Vacation Bible School. We couldn't let him go into his class because his ANC is below 1000. It is 430. (Your ANC is your absolute nutrophil count and tells how well your body can fight off germs. If his goes below 200, which it has, he has to wear a mask.) We told him to be prepared for people to be very happy to see him and to tell him that they are praying for him. He doesn't like all that kind of attention, but we knew he would be getting it and wanted him to be prepared.

Bennett and I went to the craft room to do a craft in between groups. He also did a coloring sheet that he was able to finish. This is a big deal because at home when he starts coloring something he needs to take several breaks. He has lost a lot of small motor capability in his hands as well as strength (they'll be back). He stuck with it in the craft room, though, until he was done. Then we went out to the snack area. We actually visited the snack area twice. Finally, we went to the drama. He loved it! He talked about the drama a lot on the way home and how his dad was going to get a kick out of it when we went back last night. He also noticed water towers and trucks, and when we were in a traffic jam because of construction he noticed two yellow boats on top of a car in the south bound lanes. My heart was rejoicing. He was getting back to his old self. Then he said, "Mom, I'm excited about going bald. Look, I can pull my hair out and it doesn't even hurt!" He was in the back seat pulling his hair out by the fistful. What a dandy. When he is completely bald, he wants to go with Dale to Great Clips. Dale will say, "I want my hair to look just like Bennett's." Then Bennett will take off his hat to reveal his bald head. I don't know who is more excited about it, Dale or Bennett. It will be a memory that they will both have for the rest of their lives.

Bennett is even more cheery and talkative today. He woke up laughing and has been in just a beautiful mood. Today is Jenna's birthday and he wished her happy birthday and said that he would do her work today. What a honey.

We are going to go to the science museum to see the "Forces of Nature" movie at the Omni. He asked to go so we will take him, but we'll have to escort him in and out quickly to stay out of the crowd.

Bennett is in between chemo treatments. His first 28-day course ended on Wednesday, and the second phase can't start until his ANC is 1000. We will go in on Tuesday to see what his counts are. We will also be doing physical therapy every Tuesday for a while until he regains some strength and mobility and range of motion.

Please pray that his counts will go up and that he will tolerate the second round of chemo better than he did the first round. We are enjoying the good days as much as we can because we know that when the next round starts he may not have much energy and he may feel sick off and on throughout the days.

Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement.

In Christ Alone,


Wednesday, June 16, 2004 9:52 PM CDT

(Michelle added her version at the end of this update from yesterday)

What a roller coaster: Corinne and Jenna went to Valley Fair Monday night with our friend, Brenda Everson, and a bunch of her nieces. They all rode the Wild Thing and the Steel Venom (very scary rides, unless you’re a kid).

What a roller coaster: Bennett’s leukemia count (based on today’s bone marrow) is down to 0.2 percent! Backing up now, last night Bennett said his leg bone was hurting again. He was up every few minutes, too tired to have a conversation, but too anxious to sleep. He said he was afraid, but he couldn’t put into words what was scaring him. His heart was beating at 130 beats per minute, which isn’t exactly red-lining, but this was during one of his brief asleep periods. Last night was our worst night ever. Michelle and I barely slept at all, and Bennett spent much of the night lying on our bed crying and as limp as a noodle, and there was nothing we could do for him. All we could do was cry with him. I felt like I was moments from being frantic, and I prayed frantically, but my imagination had run away by that time, and I was a wreck. We couldn’t bring Bennett food or water, because his bone marrow draw was scheduled for 7:30 this morning, and he had to go under sedation on a 5-hour fast.

The oncology nurse who drew the marrow this morning remarked that it was kind of hard to pull out with the syringe. “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID ON MAY 17 WHEN IT WAS 97 PERCENT LEUKEMIA,” Michelle and I remembered. All we could do was wait for the clinic to call with the marrow results. And pray. We prayed off and on all day, but mine was not the kind of peaceful prayer that calms and soothes. Mine was more like nervous-energy, immature prayer -- "reminders" for God. The more time I spent with Bennett today, the more defeated he looked. But Nurse Vicki called at 5:00 very happy to tell us the wonderful news. Thank You, God! And thank YOU, dear friends, for praying for our boy. Just for fun, God set it up so Vicki called while Matt Bomhoff was here to share in our joy. He and Sonja had made tonight’s delicious supper for us, and Vicki called while Matt and I were praying together in my office. Michelle and I talked to Vicki on two different phones on two different floors, and after Michelle hung up, she raced downstairs to join me and Matt in the office rejoicing. I hadn’t eaten anything all day because I wasn’t hungry, but as soon as I hung up the phone I was famished!

Which brings me to spiritual maturity. I have a long way to go. None of the worrying I tortured myself with today was necessary. I say the words when I pray that I’m putting everything in God’s hands and that I will trust Him with it. But today I was not trusting God. I was obsessing on the call from the clinic. It occurred to me later this evening that the leukemia count in Bennett’s marrow has probably been going down steadily since the last marrow pull, but my worry level went up today. It’s technically possible that Bennett’s leukemia count spiked between scheduled pulls at the clinic and that God Himself lowered it without anyone’s knowledge. And supposing that happens, if I choose to put all my hope in the next phone call from the clinic, I’m not trusting God; instead, I’m trusting only things I can see. Please pray for me to put my faith in things unseen. That’s where God does His best work.

I could still choose to worry about Bennett's brain (please pray for his mind) -- he still has not been his chatty self since Episode 1 on June 1, but I need to remember that he's still under the influence of many powerful drugs. Also, didn't I say something earlier about where our Hope comes from?

I’ll put a couple new pictures in this site’s album now.

Thank you, dear friends.

In Christ,

Yesterday morning as I drove Bennett to have his "Day 28" bone marrow draw, the clouds seemed thicker and the sun was no where to be seen. Bennett sat quietly in the back seat. How I longed for my chatty boy who noticed every funny looking tree and water tower and commented on big trucks and little cars. Any question I asked was answered with one word followed by long silence. "Lord," I said. "Do you know what it is like to watch your son suffer?" "Yes," He whispered. "I do." Tears filled my eyes. "Of course you do." I bet it was a cloudy, dreary day when our Lord suffered. We know that the sun was blocked out when he died on the cross. "I need your peace today, Lord. The waves are up to my neck, I can't see you. Everything looks so menacing. Help me see you, Lord." He reminded me of the verse he gave me in the hospital: I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So wait on the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord. "Ok, Lord, I am waiting. But I need your strength to be strong because mine is gone. I am so tired and scared. Last night there was no rest, only crying, but we knew you were near."

Dale and I prayed often throughout the day. All the signs looked bad, the storm was blowing up. The fevers were on the rise, the bone pain, the heart rate, the "hard pull" during the bone marrow. The sun was being blocked out. It was so hard to take my eyes off of the waves and put them back on Jesus. We would pray, we would seek his face, He would give us peace. Then more waves. Finally, the phone call from the doctor and the clouds broke open. The sun shone through.

I will keep waiting on the Lord. He is so faithful, even when we are so faithless. "You of little faith," he said, as he took our hands and pulled us up out of the waves today. "Why did you doubt?" (See Matthew 14:31)

Turning my eyes on Jesus,


Monday, June 14, 2004 9:09 PM CDT

I couldn't wait another minute. I'm so excited to write this update. It's good news.

I thought I was seeing glimpses of the Bennett we used to know throughout the day, but I tried not to get my hopes up too much. I'd seen glimpses like that before in the past two weeks, but today seemed different. His eyes seemed a tiny bit more wide open than yesterday, and his face is less puffy. My hopes soared at 7:30 when Corinne and Bennett and I were watching World's Funniest Home Videos. A really irritating commercial came on (National American University) with an irritating jingle, and Bennett sang along!

Pretty soon, he wanted Kettle Korn, and I couldn't find any, so he came up to help me dig through the kitchen for it. We found some and popped it and chit chatted. He's still quieter than normal, but TEN times more (actually infinitely more) talkative than he's been since June 1. This is day 6 without the Decadron, and it seems to have taken this long for us to notice any difference. We were happy that Bennett hasn't had any psychotic episodes since he was in the hospital, but our thoughts were dominated by concern for Bennett's mind. Especially since his doctor (one the top ALL docs in the nation) said that Bennett's reaction to the Decadron was the worst he has ever seen, and then the neurologist was concerned about the slowing of brain activity during the episodes and said things like: "There is obviously some kind of stress on his brain." All of these things have been at the back of our minds and we have been wondering about permanent damage. But this evening, Bennett seems to be re-emerging, and Michelle and I are rejoicing and all giddy. Also, his leg has not bothered him today. Dr. Bostrom called to check in today and was glad to hear that Dr. Richards had prescribed codeine last night. Dr. Bostrom told Michelle on the phone that he's confident the leukemia is not coming back; we'll know in two days.

As I write this, Bennett is upstairs in Jenna's top bunk with her, and he and Jenna are making their stuffed animals talk to each other -- no script, just making things up as they go along. Michelle came into the office to tell me about that. I'm happy for Bennett and for me and Michelle, but I'm also so happy for our girls that they're seeing more of the Bennett they've so dearly missed. Corinne and Jenna have been concerned in ways that are hard for them to express.

I'll keep you posted, but I just HAD to write something tonight, since last night was such a bad night for us.

God has a wonderful way of inviting us into mental reviews of everything that's been going since May 17 and showing us that He's been with us all along and will continue to carry us. We know when we look back that His are the only footprints we'll see (deep prints on account of five Ryynanens on board), but I'm just glad yesterday's over with. It might have been my lowest low, and Michelle was pretty down, too.

Thank you for praying us through! Please pray for Bennett to continue on this wonderful trend he began late today.

In Christ,

Sunday, June 13, 2004 10:57 PM CDT

Bennet gives us scares every now and then. Early this evening he said his leg was hurting “down in the bone” (where the marrow is, both Michelle and I thought right away). What started as a dull ache prompting an occasional complaint from Bennett became almost unbearable for him by late evening. I had to hold my hand between his knees to keep him from knocking them together so hard. We talked to the oncologist on call (Dr. Richards – one of our favorites). He said bone pain could “possibly” be indicative of the leukemia coming back but that it’s much more likely caused by yet more steroid withdrawal. He prescribed codeine, and Bennett said it worked. Bennett’s scheduled clinic visit (to draw blood and marrow) is in three days, so we’ll either wait until then or have it Monday instead. We’ll know more soon.

We don’t need scares like tonight’s to remind us of the seriousness of Bennett’s illness or the devastating effect of the treatment. Bennett has not been himself since before his first psychotic episode on June 1. We take comfort in God’s sovereignty and the docs’ advice that most of what we’re seeing are manifestations of the drugs and not the leukemia, but our poor boy is so weak and disengaged. We have to help him up the steps and lift him into the van, and we don’t dare let him walk anywhere out of arm’s reach because another transient effect of the drugs is that it makes it hard for the muscle on top of Bennett’s foot to work. So every now and then, with no warning, he’ll trip and stumble, and his legs are too weak to recover, so he’ll fall if we aren’t there to catch him. His face is too puffy to show any expression, which makes it harder to discern any emotion at all.

The other day in the hospital during another one of his psychotic episodes, he said (eerily calm), “I can’t see anything.” And he insisted he couldn’t see anything (we flicked light switches and waved and held up fingers) for about a minute. The nurse said, “Can you see my hand?” and thrust it toward his eyes, and he blinked and said, “Yeah.” And that was the end of it. He watched TV. Earlier during that hospital visit (during an episode), Bennett looked at Michelle and said, “I’m in heaven.” Michelle asked him who he’s there with, and he said he’s with God and many people. When Michelle told me about that, I wondered if I’d have gotten alarmed (Michelle didn't), thinking he was dying. The next day, he said the same thing to me, but he wouldn’t share anything else. He just smiled. All I could think was that, wherever he was, he looked happy. I felt like any further questions would be intruding. I suppose God can give His people glimpses of heaven any time He wants to. But I was glad when Bennett came back.

I went to a friend’s wedding for most of yesterday afternoon, but I could not get my mind off Bennett the whole day, and when I got home I snuggled with Bennett in my and Michelle’s bed and seemed to have his attention. I took that opportunity to explain to Bennett that I wished I could do more for him, but, because I can’t, I sometimes cry for him and hope he’s not hurting. I was crying while I told him that, and he watched and listened. When I shut up and stared at him, he didn’t say anything, but he smiled. The smile was hard to see with his puffy face, but he looked very happy, and I think he was trying to tell me he’s not hurting anywhere. I needed very badly to see something, and that little visit with Bennett and seeing that brave smile made my day.

Reading what I wrote up to this point makes Bennett seem unable to communicate. That is not the case: When he’s hungry, he communicates that to us right down to “don’t stir in the butter, and let me sprinkle the sugar myself.” It’s his personality that we are praying to see more of and soon.

I ran into a friend at church tonight and met his wife, and they said they’re praying for Bennett and the rest of us. I tried to explain to them that I used to wonder if, when a family was going through a crisis, all the “we’re praying for you” and well wishes just ran together into one big glob of support from a parade of faces soon to be forgotten. They don’t, and I won’t. Every hug and prayer and lawn mowing and every meal and phone call is significant. I truly believe that ten years from now I’ll be able to recall every one of you, what you said and where we were when you hugged me, how tall our grass was when you cut it and what I worked on in the office while I heard you mowing outside my window. And, most of all, how needy we are right now and how God is using you to meet our needs. Thank you all; we love you dearly.

In Christ,

Thursday, June 10, 2004 4:24 PM CDT

Well, we thought we were coming home yesterday, but God had other plans. Wednesday morning Bennett woke up a bit confused and proceeded to go into a very long, violent episode. (Tuesday one of his episodes was a bit violent, but we were able to calm him down. He had pulled off his pull-up (yes, he's wearing pull-ups, he hasn't been coherent enough to use the bathroom) and began thrashing about. We got him calmed down or more accurately, God did as I read scripture to him and he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. )

Tuesday night, as Dale indicated, Bennett seemed to be pretty with it and we were sure we would be going home Wednesday. But Wednesday morning brought a very violent episode. The nurse and I had to restrain him while changing his messy pull-up and then get him unhooked from his IV and monitor. He kept spinning around and around and thrashing about getting the cords and lines wrapped all around him. When he was finally free from the cords and IV lines I picked him up and sat in a rocking chair with my arms wrapped around him to keep him from hurting himself. I softly spoke every single Bible verse I knew into his ear and he very slowly started to calm down. By the time I had exhausted the verses I knew by heart, he had calmed quite a bit, but not completely. He hadn't been making sense and wasn't responding coherently to any direct question, but I asked him anyway if he wanted more Bible and he said yes. So I asked my dad (he walked in just as the episode was starting) to open my Bible to Psalm 121 and hand it to me. I kept reading Psalms to him and he grew more and more calm. When I would stop and ask if he wanted more he always said yes. I don't know where Bennett was, but it seemed like from somewhere, far away, he was being soothed by the word of the Lord that is "living and active and sharper than any two edged sword." I thought about Tuesday, June 1st when we brought Bennett in to the hospital with his first episode. He was catatonic, non-responsive, didn't move his limbs and stared straight ahead. I was sure that my boy was gone and that we had his body left. I thought he had had a stroke and the doctors couldn't tell us that he hadn't. Friends had rushed to the hospital and Dale and I took turns sitting in the waiting room with them. My heart hurt so badly. They would pray and when they read from Psalms and other portions of the Bible my heart felt a balm on it and the pain would ease. I wanted that same calming balm for Bennett. During earlier episodes when he would grow agitated, I would read passages from Psalms, Isaiah, and John chapters 14-17 (mostly red letters), and he would put his head on my shoulder and fall asleep. This time he slowly grew more calm and finally we laid him in his bed. He slept for a few minutes but then woke up and crawled back into my lap on the rocking chair. This wasn't very comfortable so I asked him if he'd like me to lay next to him on the bed. He said yes, climbed into bed and made room for me. I softly sang worship songs and he fell asleep. He would wake up if I left his side, so I pretty much just stayed next to him. He never really came 100% out of this episode. Last night, he started another episode and so I put my hands on his head and prayed for God to intervene. A minute later the oncologist came in, (he was still there, usually the docs are long gone by then) and said he heard this episode and had ordered a "valium type" of drug. Bennett was asleep in minutes of it being administered. My prayer was answered before it was even off my lips. He had several bouts of diarhea and vomitted twice during the night, but he never woke up. We just kept cleaning him up and laying him back in bed.

When he woke up this morning I knew he was much better because he asked me to get him some of his own clothes. He hates those hospital pajamas, but hasn't even noticed that he's been wearing them for the past few days. After a bit of monitoring and blood draws and making sure he is physically ok, we got the green light to come home. Bennett is very with it. He's not 100% back to his normal self in the psychological sense, but he's close. He is very shaky (wobbly as he puts it.) He wanted to go fly his kite first thing, but after struggling to get up the steps, he decided he was too wobbly. So he decided that he'd like to sit at the the table and work on the crafts that many of you have delivered or sent.

We are so thankful to be home! The girls will be back this evening and hopefully they will see a coherent Bennett.

I know God is going to heal Bennett. What I don't know is which side of heaven He will heal him on. I know that Bennett is in His hands, and so are we. What a wonderful place to be. He will give us the grace and strength to handle what each day brings. All I can say is, "Thank you , Jesus, thank you."

One verse that brought me much comfort is Psalm 27:13-14 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

We are waiting on the Lord, and he is piecing my broken spirit back together in His own good time, one piece at time. My strength is gone, and I am in that wonderful place where I am fully relying on God. What a great place to be. I sure wouldn't have chosen to get to this place, but once I am here, I don't want to leave.

Praising my Savior all the day long!


Tuesday, June 8, 2004 11:19 PM CDT

This day ended on a wonderful note: Bennett called home from his room to tell me in person that the doctors are thinking about sending him home. "When?" I asked. Bennett's such an optimist; he said, "Right now." Michelle got on the phone to say maybe some time tomorrow.

Most of this day brought more of the weirdness we had been experiencing for many days. Bennett seemed "OK" when I spoke to Michelle on the phone earlier today, but by the time Michelle's dad and I got to his room, Bennett was very spaced out. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Bennett grabbed my hand and pulled it close to his face (the way people do when they're being tender -- I thought he would press my hand to his cheek). But instead, he started to lick the back of my hand like a little puppy would do. Then he wanted to lick my face! I was thinking, "Some day we'll laugh about this." Michelle was watching (she told me later) and thinking, "We're going to be here for a long time."

Then the neurologist stopped in to say Bennett's EEG had revealed nothing conclusive. Just that the brain activity (he called it "background") slowed during Bennett's episodes. All it really meant was that more data pointed to Decadron as the culprit -- causing Bennett to be increasingly psychotic.

An hour or so later, two of our elders from church stopped by to "pray over [Bennett] and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord," as instructed in James 5. Bennett probably will not remember any of it. The context of the verse is below:

James 5:13-16 -- "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

I can't speak for Michelle, but it has seemed to me at times that the doctors were committed to the standard treatment and that any changes they made would be very minor (like adding a few drops of antibiotic to his drip or hanging a bag of saline on his IV rack from time to time). I was pretty sure Bennett had to remain on the Decadron and remain psychotic for at least another week (supposed to be 28 days, and this is Day 21). For the past few days while I've been thinking this, Dr. Bostrom (the oncologist) has been meeting with the team and building concensus for taking Bennett off steroids.

My thinking changed at about 6:00 tonight when Michelle called. Dr. Bostrom had just left, and Bennett was sharper and more coherent than he'd been for days. Not only are they taking Bennett off the Decadron; they're not replacing that steroid with Prednasol or any other. He said he's satisfied that that part of Bennett's treatment has done its work and is complete. Not cancelled, but complete. He made the distinction very clear to Michelle and assured her that Bennett's prognosis is still good. In fact, they change treatments often. It's just that they don't change the treatment at the first sign of trouble.

So Bennett's not in the standard treatment any more. That settles the decision Michelle and I have been praying about -- whether to enter Bennett into the study (see May 30 journal). He's out of the study. So we praise the Lord for answering that question for us by removing the decision.

Bennett sounded very good on the phone tonight. I have not heard him that lucid since before his very first psychotic episode one week ago.

We thank God for being so real to us during this crisis wrapped in fear inside a worry (a revision of my favorite Winston Churchill quote about the Soviet Union: a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma).

Although this sometimes feels like a crisis, and we're sometimes afraid and worried, we will trust God, come what may.

Please keep praying for Bennett and the rest of us. Thank you. And thank you for visitng Bennett's site.

In Christ,

Monday, June 7, 2004 3:30 AM CDT

Bennett's scheduled for an MRI Monday, and if Michelle notices anything alarming between today and Monday, they won't wait. The doctors and nurses are watching very closely, too. I got home from the hospital around 9:30 this evening and got back to work. I talked to Michelle around 11:00, and she said Bennett was sleeping peacefully with the help of an anti-psychosis drug. When I was there today, Bennett was not the boy we know. He kept sitting up in bed and trying to push aside a curtain that only he can see and asking me to take him out of the inside of it. Again, the normal me would have gone crazy -- probably running to the triage desk for a doctor or nurse to "do something." But Michelle and I stayed calm and gathered up more of the strength that God is providing. There's nothing else we can do right now. Michelle's has a sense that God is putting her back together now. She was feeling very shaken since Bennett's first episode Tuesday. I'm still kind of numb.

We and most of the doctors think it's steroid psychosis, but they want to do a second MRI tomorrow. In the mean time, they're skipping one dose of the steroid, but they can only skip one. In this stage of the chemo, it's a rescue drug, and we need to keep giving it, risks and all. If the MRI is still good, they'll give Bennett more anti-psychosis drugs and hope for an improvement.

I took a break around midnight and sat on the edge of our big, empty bed in this big, empty house and felt despair creeping in. I started to pray and then just sat there and thought. God brought to my mind, in a long, wonderful rush of memories, all the time's He has come through for us.

One memory that made me smile is of a big, kind of scary-looking guy who looked very distressed outside of the Excel Energy Center late one Saturday night after I had finished manning our booth at the Wedding fair (about two years ago). He was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk and throwing up his arms. I told him he looked like he was in some kind of trouble, and he was: He had run out of gas and was already in trouble with his wife and was trying to figure out what to do. I let him use my cell phone so he could call home, but his line was busy at home. He thanked me and walked away. Before he had gotten 50 yards, my phone rang, and it was his wife (she used caller ID). I shouted, "it's your wife," and he ran back and grabbed the phone. He told his wife what was going on (Where's Dale going with this story? Hang on; indulge me awhile.) and handed me my phone. Up to this point, I had told him nothing about myself -- only my name. He told me that he had been praying and that God had just used me to get him out of a big jam. He asked me if I would like him to pray for me. I said I would like him to pray that my wife (I didn't say her name) and I would make the right decision about growing our photography business. We had just finished a too-busy year and didn't want another one like that, yet we did't want to give up the business. He grabbed my hands in his and prayed that I would make good business decisions. And this is how he closed: "...and Lord, I pray that You will guide Dale and Michelle every step of the way." Then he thanked me again and rushed away. I didn't wonder whether I had told him Michelle's name -- I had made it a point not to mention her by name. Neat, huh?

Please keep Bennett lifted up in prayer. We are dying to know what's going on in his brain. Please pray for our Lord to spare Bennett's life and his mind from the ravages of the leukemia and the dangers of the long treatment.

We love reading what you write in our guest book. Your messages on this site and your visits in person and your phone calls and e-mails and meals are why we feel loved and have never, ever, even for a second, felt abandoned or forgotten.

And thank you for indulging me tonight.

In Christ,

Saturday, June 5, 2004 11:08 PM CDT

Bennett came home and then got re-admitted since our last update. I'm home now, catching up on work, and Michelle's back on floor 8 with Bennett for the night.

Bennett had another episode today at about 4:30 p.m. This time Michelle and I stayed much calmer than last time (Tuesday 6/1), and although Bennett was out-of-it like last time, he seemed calm like us and a bit more responsive. It's just that his "responses" didn't make any sense. He told the EMT that Michelle was his wife and that the people who live in our home with us are Larry and Bob (VeggieTale characters).

Last things first: We were just about to leave the ER and come home at about 8:30 tonight, but then Bennett had another episode. The docs said, "That's three" and decided to admit him. He seemed to have recovered from number three before I left the hospital. He and Michelle are resting at the hospital now. Our girls are vacationing at Eagle Beach Resort with our neighbors and dear friends, Dave and Denise Anderson and their girls.

Back to Episode 2: We call them episodes, because the docs don't know what else to call them. It's not quite a seizure, and the only symptoms seem to be that Bennett gets confused and hums and looks around, and he doesn't recognize people he knows. Anyway, we were driving to the ER today, and I got pulled over for speeding. Michelle was on the phone with the ER nurse and told her we're getting pulled over. The ER nurse told Michelle to request an escort to Children's; they wanted to see Bennett in the midst of the episode. But the Maple Grove police officer insisted on calling an ambulance, and Bennett and Michelle rode in the ambulance while I followed behind in the car. I could have gotten us to Children's more quickly, but it was a moot point: Ten or so minutes into the ride, Bennett was emerging already. Then he had that third episode a few hours later, and it only lasted a few minutes.

Bennett's personality does not seem to have changed, but he has not regained his pre-Tuesday energy.

The ER docs and hematology and oncology specialists are talking to each other, and they might hook up Bennett to a video EEG in hopes of capturing data during a future episode. Much as they've dismissed, they're having a hard time narrowing down the remaining possibilities. The two chief suspects seem to be toxicity from one or some of the many drugs or weirdly-timed neurological events that would have occurred even without the leukemia or any of the drugs. After Wednesday's MRI, they dismissed thrombosis.

We feel the power of our own and many friends' prayers. Landy Anderson and Jim Allen stayed and prayed with us at the ER this evening. And many of you have been praying at home. Thank you.

We pray that God will provide the docs with inspiration to shed light on what's going on in Bennett's brain. Please join us, and please pray that God will continue to sustain our family through this crisis and its many "subcrises." I'm not writing this update from the pit of despair, but I feel close enough to look down into it. I thank God giving us Paul's letter to the believers in Philippians 4:12-13: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

In Christ,

Thursday, June 3, 2004 2:39 AM CDT

After such a long string of good news at every turn -- literally everything since Bennett's initial diagnosis -- Michelle and I wondered three or four days ago how we would handle something scary. We found out last night. But in order to not be dramatic, I'll point out first that Bennett seems fine now and is responsive and alert and back to being hungry. He's resting in the hospital tonight.

Yesterday afternoon around 5:30, Bennett quit using words. He began to point around and make noises that were not words. When I pressed him for words, he became extremely agitated and seemed to lose his temper. He calmed down just long enough to mumble, "I don't understand what just happened." That would be his last coherent spoken thought for about five hours. By 6:30, he didn't seem to recognize me or Michelle and was afraid of us. Soon, he became passive and allowed me to lead him around by the hand. If I didn't lead him around, he shuffled back and forth in the kitchen avoiding all eye contact and humming one note over and over.

I tried taking him for a walk to the park. I purposely walked past our path, and he didn't even notice. While I turned us around, Bennett hummed the chorus "Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name." He had no idea what the kite I was carrying was for.

Of course, the doctor on the phone said to bring him to the ER. Special thanks to my parents for being here and letting us leave immediately and caring for our girls. On the way to the ER at Children's, Bennett became completely incoherent, maybe even catatonic. Michelle and I prayed as I drove, and we even managed to sing a few worship songs.

When we lay Bennett on the examining table in the ER, he either stared vacantly ahead or darted his eyes around the room, but he would not respond to questions or touches. He was so gone that Michelle and I felt like we had lost him.

By this time, Landy & Nina Anderson, Joe & Suzie Nordsrom, Lynn Bleeker, Wendy Chermak, and Sheila Hughes were on thir way to join us at the ER, and several others of you were praying for us at home. Sheila had already notified dozens with e-mail and phone calls.

The resident (Dr. Kahana) began a field neurological test (questions, taps, flashlights, etc.) and calmly asked Bennett questions while he worked. Dr. Kahana seemed intent on getting Bennett to focus on the questions. He put his face close to Bennett's and said, "Do you know where we are?" Bennett said, "Hm?" Dr. Kahana said, "Where are we, Bennett?" Bennett said, "Hm hm hm hm hm?" Count the syllables: "At the hospital?" Bennett was emerging. Half and hour later, after a blood test and a CT scan, Bennett sat up and said he had to go pee and insisted on walking, and while we walked to the bathroom, Bennett took my hand and asked for cinnamon toast in a perfectly normal voice.

The gang who showed up to pray with us stuck around until long after midnight, and while either Michelle or I stayed with Bennett, we took turns drifting between Bennett's room and the visiting/waiting area. We ate Wendy's take-out food with our friends and laughed about things and prayed a lot. A month ago, that is not what I would have figured me or Michelle would do while Bennett seemed to be in critical condition (or emerging from it), but I have a clearer understanding now of God’s desire for us to seek Him first in every circumstance. Prayer from our friends has sustained us through yet another crisis. And through every manifestation of Bennett’s leukemia and every side effect of every drug, God has protected Bennett from harm and has protected our whole family from despair.

Bennett was admitted to the oncology/hematology unit -- his old home on floor 8 -- at around 2:00 a.m. This afternoon Bennett had a neurological exam, including an MRI. All of last night's and today's tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary for a patient at Bennett's point in the chemotherapy.

The medical team’s theory for Bennett's episode so far: The leukemia and all the meds can cause thrombosis. In Bennett last night, it could have been a transient thrombosis (clotting or thickening of the blood that happens and then goes away) in some part of his brain, which presents itself as a sort of stroke.

I’m no more willing to dismiss the clinical observations than the power of God in this situation. We have entered Bennett into a treatment program that we believe is the best that modern medicine can offer, and we believe God is using the good people and the body of knowledge at Children’s to heal our boy.

Pure hindsight: When Bennett was shuffling around in the kitchen yesterday, he must have been trying to talk. He never hums. On the way to the park, he was "singing" the Lamb of God song. He was frantic, and he knew where to find help. Smart, sweet boy.

Please continue to lift our family in prayer. Even when things seem to be going well, all of us in this family are in desperate need of God’s strength and wisdom.

Thank you for visiting Bennett’s site.

In Christ,

Sunday, May 30, 2004 10:48 PM CDT

Today was all about recharging for me and Michelle and our three kids. Michelle stayed home this morning with Bennett, and the girls and I went to church. Then Michelle went to tonight's prayer service, then she and the girls had a movie night two doors down the street at our friends' home while Bennett and I hung out. Michelle invited Bennett to the movie night, but he said (incredulous), "No. Dad and I are hanging out."

Michelle and I have been reading and re-reading the Consent Form for the next stages of Bennett's treatment and need to decide by the time Bennett goes back this Wednesday (6/2) whether to consent to entering Bennett into a study of different treatment protocols. None of the drugs are experimental, but oncologists in the USA and Canada are in their fifth year of a several-year study that involves about 2000 leukemia children per year and different intensifications of some of the drugs. We can request the "standard treatment" with its established statistics, or we can consent to the study, which would allow the specialists to randomly enter Bennett into one of four protocols, one of which is the standard treatment. None of the four, so far, has emerged as better or worse than the others, but each of the road maps uses different chemo methods (IV vs. oral) and different "delayed intensification" stages (once vs. twice). It seems like what they're getting at through the study is:

<> Every treatment program involves risks.
<> Standard chemo: Increased risk of relapse?
<> Aggressive chemo: Increased risk of side-effects?

For sure, Bennett benefits right now from parents who consented to studies years ago that established today's standard treatment. I love that docs here and in Canada are committed to improving the treatment, and I love how clearly they present us with the decision of whether to enter the study.

Please pray for us to make the decision that will be best for Bennett.

I've heard in sermons and songs that God gives us strength for the day. If I insist on mentally wandering ahead into July, I'm on my own. As Michelle puts it, "God's not giving us strength for July in May." Matthew 6:34 says is like this: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

The hardest three words I ever typed are "come what may" on May 17 when I first requested prayer for Bennett. Friends' wives and husbands and parents and kids have died, and we know it was not because they lacked faith. Whether our faith is weak or strong, our kids are in God's hands. All we are trying to do is trust God for his "tailor-made grace for everything we face." We first saw those catchy words a few weeks ago in a broadcast e-mail from Pastor Daniel Henderson. I don't usually get very excited about rhymes, but that one is so perfect.

Thank you all for visiting Bennett's site. We are thriving on your support. Thank you, friends; we feel so loved, and we love you back!

In Christ,

Sunday, May 30, 2004 10:48 PM CDT

Today was all about recharging for me and Michelle and our three kids. Michelle stayed home this morning with Bennett, and the girls and I went to church. Then Michelle went to tonight's prayer service, then she and the girls had a movie night two doors down the street at our friends' home while Bennett and I hung out. Michelle invited Bennett to the movie night, but he said (incredulous), "No. Dad and I are hanging out."

Michelle and I have been reading and re-reading the Consent Form for the next stages of Bennett's treatment and need to decide by the time Bennett goes back this Wednesday (6/2) whether to consent to entering Bennett into a study of different treatment protocols. None of the drugs are experimental, but oncologists in the USA and Canada are in their fifth year of a several-year study that involves about 2000 leukemia children per year and different intensifications of some of the drugs. We can request the "standard treatment" with its established statistics, or we can consent to the study, which would allow the specialists to randomly enter Bennett into one of four protocols, one of which is the standard treatment. None of the four, so far, has emerged as better or worse than the others, but each of the road maps uses different chemo methods (IV vs. oral) and different "delayed intensification" stages (once vs. twice). It seems like what they're getting at through the study is:

<> Every treatment program involves risks.
<> Standard chemo: Increased risk of relapse?
<> Aggressive chemo: Increased risk of side-effects?

For sure, Bennett benefits right now from parents who consented to studies years ago that established today's standard treatment. I love that docs here and in Canada are committed to improving the treatment, and I love how clearly they present us with the decision of whether to enter the study.

Please pray for us to make the decision that will be best for Bennett.

I've heard in sermons and songs that God gives us strength for the day. If I insist on mentally wandering ahead into July, I'm on my own. As Michelle puts it, "God's not giving us strength for July in May." Matthew 6:34 says is like this: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

The hardest three words I ever typed are "come what may" on May 17 when I first requested prayer for Bennett. Friends' wives and husbands and parents and kids have died, and we know it was not because they lacked faith. Whether our faith is weak or strong, our kids are in God's hands. All we are trying to do is trust God for his "tailor-made grace for everything we face." We first saw those catchy words a few weeks ago in a broadcast e-mail from Pastor Daniel Henderson. I don't usually get very excited about rhymes, but that one is so perfect.

Thank you all for visiting Bennett's site. We are thriving on your support. Thank you, friends; we feel so loved, and we love you back!

In Christ,

Wednesday, May 26, 2004 2:05 PM CDT

We are still excited about the bone marrow results. 3 percent was more than we could ever ask or imagine. With those kinds of numbers I was expecting Bennett to feel a little more energetic, but today he is very tired and lethargic. I need to keep in mind that this is a 3 year treatment plan and we are only at day 9. There is still quite a battle going on in his body.

His appetite for all kinds food is still quite funny and odd for us to get used to. Yesterday he woke up talking about lobster and how yummy it is until finally, at about one o'clock, I went to Red Lobster and got a couple of lobster tails. He dug in and ate the first few bites with a passion, but soon realized that the steroid he is on was making them taste bad to him. Bummer. When he's finally off the steroid we'll have to try again. Today he woke up talking about Chi Chi's mexican restaurants. He wanted their chips. So when I ran to Cub today I also stopped at Chipotle and got an order of chips. They aren't quite Chi Chi's but they did the trick. He has yet to crave vegetables, and we aren't holding our breath on that one. He is nearly in tears at supper when we make him eat his carrots or peas or whatever. You'd think we were feeding him maggots. He manages to choke them down and then prattles on and on about all the other different foods he wants.

Thanks for your prayers and support. We go in for chemo again next Wednesday. I'll update again after that.

In God's amazing grace,


Wednesday, May 26, 2004 2:05 PM CDT

Great news! Our doctor called with the bone marrow results from this morning: the Leukemia in Bennett's marrow is down to 3%. Praise God!!

Bennett was very brave for his procedure this morning. He just had to have one poke (that he felt) into his port. They gave him the IV chemo and then put some medicine into his port to make him go to sleep. The spinal tap and bone marrow draw took about 10 minutes. When he woke up, he was hungry. He had ordered French toast, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal from the hospital cafeteria. He ate nearly all of it. On the way home, he asked we had any of our "square pancakes" left. (It's an oven baked pancake that I make.) He ate some of that when he got home. That steroid he is on has sure made him very interested in eating, snacking, and planning what he is going to eat and snack on throughout the day.

This afternoon he went on his ride-along with me to the park. He lasted about 10 minutes and then needed to get back home. There is a battle raging inside his body, but he is winning.

Again, thank you for your support and prayers.

Celebrating with the joy of the Lord,


Monday, May 24, 2004 9:55 PM CDT

Well, we have been home for 2 1/2 days. At first I was very overwhelmed at the responsiblity, but through much prayer, we have found a method to keep all of Bennett's meds and therapy straight.

It is nice to have the whole family back together again. Our girls are real troopers and are taking very good care of their brother. They are willing to read to him, play games with him and let him win without complaining.

Bennett tires very easily and gets waves of nausea. Often he just lies down on the floor or asks to snuggle in my lap. Yesterday, he asked to watch Spirit. So I got the movie going and asked him which chair he'd like to sit in. He said, "I think that the one your sitting in is the most comfortable if I am on your lap." So I watched Spirit while my boy snuggled on my lap and sipped from his new Scooby-Doo cup. It was nice. For a few minutes I was able to forget that he has Leukemia. Today he really wanted to go outside, so we put on his mask and went out. He lasted about five minutes, then looked up at the sky and said, "It looks like it's going to rain, we'd better go in."

Our next hurdle is this Wednesday. We go in for another bone marrow draw, spinal chemo, and IV chemo. They will access his port to give the IV chemo and put him to sleep for the other two. We are praying that the bone marrow will be 5% or less leukemia. That is pretty big hopes considering his bone marrow was 97% leukemia last Wednesday. He will continue to get bone marrow draws until it is less than 5% leukemia. The draws are very painful to recover from.

The BLASTs we mentioned Saturday were gone from the blood, but the test Wednesday will be for leukemia cells in the bone marrow. This less than 5% we're praying for is a more critical reflection of how effectively the chemotherapy is working.

We are completely overwhelmed by all of the love and support. We couldn't do this without you!

Thank you!

Resting in His grace,

Saturday, May 22, 2004 1:52 PM CDT

Now HERE is a day we've been waiting for: Bennett's coming home! Michelle and Bennett are waiting in the room for a nurse to drop off a huge box of meds and go over the kind-of-detailed instructions for home care. Jenna's at a friend's birthday party. Corinne and I (Dale) stopped to vacuum and disinfect the car on the way here, and we bought a bunch of hand sanitizer dispensers. Our family is entering the "Neurotic-about-Germs" chapter of our life.

Speaking of huge boxes, we have been packing up the books, toys, cards, and other gifts that so many of you have sent and brought. As the box got more and more full, Bennett realized for the first time how much stuff he's bringing home. He said (a look of pure satisfaction on his face), "This is more than I get for Christmas." He's right. Thank you, friends. Bennett feels celebrated and loved, as do the rest of us Ryynanens. It's overwhelming to read and re-read all the Scripture verses and your encouragement and prayers on this site.

On a clinical note, two more bits of good news: The leukemia cells, called BLASTS, are gone from his blood, and the chromosome news we've been waiting for is good. The first part is easy to understand: There were no more leukemia cells in his blood as of this morning. The second part is more complicated and even more important and has something to do with the bad cells presenting themselves with "bad" or "neutral" or "good" chromosomal structure. We were hoping and praying for neutral or good, and the docs said the results are "good." So whatever that means, PRAISE THE LORD!

The Mask is On:
One of the numbers we'll be watching very closely for the next three years is an indicator of Bennett's body to fight off infection. If it goes below a certain threshold (and it will, often), Bennett has to wear a mask like for sanding drywall. Everywhere, I think. Bennett doesn't mind the mask, and we are happy he does not wear glasses. Those masks direct every bit of moisture from every exhale onto the lenses. That tidbit from one who has sanded drywall with glasses and a mask.

So now it's on up to the room for me, and then home for Bennett. Maintaining this site has been a pleasant exercise for me and Michelle, and we'll provide journal updates and new photos from home.

We have a renewed sense that whatever happens is with God's and only God's final approval and that nothing He approves will be too much for us to handle. We heard in a sermon that God uses people to do His work. The truth of that sermon has become overwhelmingly real to me and Michelle and our three kids. We thank you for making yourselves available for God to do a mighty work through you.

Special thanks to Heather (Michelle's sister) and Wil (Heather's husband) for coming from South Dakota and running our home all week. Our girls kept their routine, and I was able to hang out in Bennett's room at the hospital or work in my office at home.

Let me say this about Michelle: She has been Benett's personal angel and advocate, playing with him, tending to his every need, and never leaving his side day or night.

Please continue to pray for us. The daily routine is changing, and we will be Bennett's primary care givers. A scary thought if we don't leave it all in God's hands. So that's our prayer: that we'll leave Bennett in God's hands where he will be safe.

In Christ,

Prayer Requests:
1. That the leukemia in his bone marrow will be below 5 by day 14.
2. That we will get used to the new routine at home.
3. For our family to find a new normal.

Saturday, May 22, 2004 1:48 PM CDT

Now HERE is a day we've been waiting for: Bennett's coming home! Michelle and Bennett are waiting in the room for a nurse to drop off a huge box of meds and go over the kind-of-detailed instructions for home care. Jenna's at a friend's birthday party. Corinne and I (Dale) stopped to vacuum and disinfect the car on the way here, and we bought a bunch of hand sanitizer dispensers. Our family is entering the "Neurotic-about-Germs" chapter of our life.

Speaking of huge boxes, we have been packing up the books, toys, cards, and other gifts that so many of you have sent and brought. As the box got more and more full, Bennett realized for the first time how much stuff he's bringing home. He said (a look of pure satisfaction on his face), "This is more than I get for Christmas." He's right. Thank you, friends. Bennett feels celebrated and loved, as do the rest of us Ryynanens. It's overwhelming to read and re-read all the Scripture verses and your encouragement and prayers on this site.

On a clinical note, two more bits of good news: The leukemia cells are gone, and the chromosome news we've been waiting for is good. The first part is easy to understand: There were no more leukemia cells wherever and whenever they last checked. The second part is more complicated and even more important and has something to do with the bad cells presenting themselves with "bad" or "neutral" or "good" chromosomal structure. We were hoping and praying for neutral or good, and the docs said the results are "good." So whatever that means, PRAISE THE LORD!

The Mask is On:
One of the numbers we'll be watching very closely for the next three years is an indicator of Bennett's body to fight off infection. If it goes below a certain threshold (and it will, often), Bennett has to wear a mask like for sanding drywall. Everywhere, I think. Bennett doesn't mind the mask, and we are happy he does not wear glasses. Those masks direct every bit of moisture from every exhale onto the lenses. That tidbit from one who has sanded drywall with glasses and a mask.

So now it's on up to the room for me, and then home for Bennett. Maintaining this site has been a pleasant exercise for me and Michelle, and we'll provide journal updates and new photos from home.

We have a renewed sense that whatever happens is with God's and only God's final approval and that nothing He approves will be too much for us to handle. We heard in a sermon that God uses people to do His work. The truth of that sermon has become overwhelmingly real to me and Michelle and and our three kids. We thank you for making yourselves available for God to do a mighty work through you.

Secial thanks to Heather (Michelle's sister) and Wil (Heather's husband) for coming from South Dakota and running our home all week. Our girls' kept their routine, and I was able to hang out in Bennett's room at the hospital or in my office at home staying nearly abreast with my work.

Let me say this about Michelle: She has been Benett's personal angel and advocate, playing with him, tending to his every need, and never leaving his side day or night. She stayed here every day all day and every night except Wednesday night.

Please continue to pray for us. The daily routine is changing, and we will be Bennett's primary care givers. A scary thought if we don't leave it all in God's hands. So that's our prayer: that we'll leave Bennett in God's hands where he will be safe.

In Christ,

Thursday, May 20, 2004 5:24 PM CDT

I am truly overwhelmed by all the emails and encouraging notes and phone calls. My cup is truly overflowing. Thank you all for your love and friendship.

The Stats:

Bennett's Leukemia still looks like the standard b-cell ALL.

When he was admitted, his blood leukemia level was about 30%. It is down to 15%! (Wow those drugs worked fast.)

His bone marrow was 97% Leukemia when he was admitted. The docs are hoping that when they do the bone marrow draw next Wednesday that it will be about 5%. It for sure needs to be 5% by day 21 or we will be looking at a different, more-agressive treatment plan.

His uric acid level is up. This is not bad news, it is kind of expected. As the chemo breaks up the tumors, some of the leukemia cells are ending up in his kidneys as "sludge." He is on another medication to bring that level down. This is the only thing that will prevent us from coming home on Saturday. His uric acid levels need to be below 5%.

He has started a steroid that is going to make him very hungry, cranky, and bloated. He only has to take that for the first 28 days.

He started chemo yesterday, first a spinal dose and then another IV dose through his new port. He was a bit nauseaus from the combination of recovering from anesthesia and the chemo. We don't anticipate a lot of nausea in the future. His next dose of chemo will be on Saturday, 2 injections, one into each thigh.

Now, more about Bennett.

I am so proud of my little boy, I could just burst. He is facing this so bravely, and when we tell him we are going to ask him to do something hard, like swallow icky pills, he puts on a brave face and rises to the occasion. He is very independent here, managing his own IV pole like he has had it for years. He has stolen the hearts of the doctors and nurses and social workers and volunteers.

Yesterday morning he asked me to come snuggle him in his bed, so I did. He put his arms around my neck and asked, "Why are you so beautiful? You look like a real sweetheart." He is not going to need any lessons on how to court a woman.

Yesterday, after his surgery for his port, he was not feeling very good, but today he is back to his old self. He has just a little pain from the incision, but it is not slowing him down.

How’re the mom and dad doing?

On Monday we were not doing very well. As I drove my baby to Children’s Hospital, knowing in my heart that the truth was that he has leukemia, I was completely overcome with fear, but Dale was at home rallying the prayer troops and somehow I made it to the hospital without collapsing into a blubbering heap. Monday night was a very sleepless night, but Tuesday morning and afternoon we were surrounded by friends and family. We were able to cry and grieve, and then stand up and look this in the face and know that we have not been abandoned. We feel a supernatural peace and strength that I know is because of your prayers. Dale and I have never felt closer the Lord than we do now. We are like the paraplegic whose friends put on a mat, climbed a roof, and lowered in front of Jesus. You are all lifting us up, carrying us to the King of Kings, and He has put His hands on us and said, “Take up your mat and walk.” We are only “taking up our mat and walking” because of His grace and strength. If we look at our circumstances we could be overcome with fear, despair, and dread. So we are choosing to look Jesus square in the face and seek Him, to be still and know that He is God.

Prayer Requests

1. That Bennett’s uric acid levels will go down so we can go home on Saturday.
2. For minimal side-effects to the chemo.
3. For to Bennett to be able to express his fears to us, and for us to have the wisdom to know how to respond.
4. For continued peace and strength for all of us.
5. And of course, that God would choose to heal Bennett so that we can watch him grow up to be a godly young man.

Thanks again for all your love and prayers. If I was able to express in words what they mean to me, I would win a Nobel Prize, or at least a Pulizter. My words would would make you cry, laugh, experience peace and joy, and make you feel like skipping down the hall, even if you haven’t skipped since you were playing “Skip to my Lou” in kindergarten.

With all glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,


Thursday, May 20, 2004 0:04 AM CDT

Thank you all again for the amazing outpouring of support in the form of e-mails, offers for help, visits, phone calls, and, most of all, prayer. We could not have functioned as a family through everything that's happened so far without all your prayer for Bennett and the rest of us. God has been very gentle with us ever since we found out Bennett has Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). Almost all the news since Monday has been good.

Further bone marrow tests revealed that, of the (3?) types of ALL, Bennett has B-Cell ALL, which is the most common, most treatable kind of ALL. The chemotherapy for B-Cell ALL presents the fewest risks and the most manageable side effects if only the most common ones occur. The docs are hoping to send Bennett home this Saturday already, and the rest of the three-year treatment, if there are not infections or other complications, will be outpatient. This evening was Bennett's first oral steroid dose. This oral dose is one of the most difficult parts of the therapy for many kids, but after two tries (he threw up within two minutes the first try), he kept his pills down. That was huge. So praise God for answering that specific prayer so beautifully.

The staff at Children's Hospital are wonderful. The doctors and nurses and all the volunteers here make every sick child on their floor feel like their favorite patient. How can an oncology floor be pleasant? Somehow, they've figured out how to do that.

Chipper as Bennett gets at times, there are always more drugs. He often goes from happy, let's-go-for-a-walk chatter to hanging over the vomit pail within minutes. Some of these next several weeks could be very difficult for him: The powerful steroid (forgot the name, but it's 10x more powerful than Prednizone) makes most kids very emotional. And one of the possible side effect of one of the chemo drugs is a learning disability.

Bennett often lapses into long periods of quiet thinking, and he sometimes looks scared. He asked about dying only once. We pray that God will take Bennett's thoughts captive and that Michelle and I will resist the urge to take responsibility for everywhere Bennett goes with his thoughts.

These are things we're praying about; we ask that you join us in praying away these worries.

Please pray also for Corinne and Jenna. Neither girl is saying much about what they're thinking or worrying about, and they resist our efforts to draw them out.

Check out the pictures from earlier today. We'll update them every now and then.

Thank you for taking the time to read what's going on in our lives. We feel very loved because of the response we've gotten from just a few phone calls and e-mails to let you all know about this adventure we began three days ago.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 9:45 AM CDT

Sunday May 16, 2004 Bennett returned from a trip to South Dakota with his grandma and he was not looking very good. His health had been a concern to us for the past 3-4 weeks. He had been running low grade fevers, sleeping too much, eating too little and just not looking well. We thought it might have been due to some abscessed teeth he had taken out on Tuesday, May 11, but he did not improve after they were extracted. I took him to his pediatrician on Monday and, after an exam and blood test, we were sent to the hematology/oncology clinic at Children's. They were suspicious of Leukemian. Further blood test were done and leukemia was confirmed on Monday evening. Bennett was admitted to Children's hospital in Minneapolis that day. Tuesday he had a short surgery to check his spinal fluid and bone marrow. The spinal fluid was clear; no leukemia cells were found. That was very good news. His bone marrow results show that it looks like ALL, a very treatable leukemia. That was great news and we are praying that nothing else shows up to prove otherwise. Today he has a surgery to get a porta-cath through which he will get his chemo treatments. He is also getting a dose of chemo in his spine during this surgery. Bennett is truly amazing. He has won over all of the doctors and nurses with his sweet demeanor and attitude. He is in good spirits, and probably doing much better than me and Dale.

I will write more later when we see how he is doing after his surgery.

Thank you for all your prayers. We can feel the presence of our Lord Jesus holding us up. I know we couldn't get through this without your prayers. You are our Aaron and Hur holding up our arms.

My prayer is that in all things He will be glorified.

In Christ,

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