Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Camp Sol - The Beginning

The other day as I was cleaning out the notepad on my iPad, I ran across my notes from our very first visit to Camp Sol in 2012. It was almost one year after Caleb died when we went for the very first time. I went back through the blog and realized that I never posted these notes. I find it fitting that I found the notes just before we are ready to head to our fourth year of Camp.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

We're finishing up day 3 of our first bereavement camp at Camp Sol in Meridian, TX. It's been a very emotional, yet fun experience. We've gotten to know many new families on a closer level who are at various stages of the bereavement process -- some as short as 4 months, others more than 10 years.

Like us, these people have all lost at least one child and are reaching out to find ways to cope with the loss. It's a group we never wanted to belong to, yet are honored to be part of. We can share things that most people will never really understand. Thanks to some of the "regulars" at camp, we have some ideas of things to expect from Caden as he continues to grow and learn more about what it means to have lost his brother.

We've been reacquainted with several of the staff from our time at Children's, including our wonderful Child Life Specialist, Jennifer, whom Caden absolutely adores now. I got to speak at length with Dr. Winick, who was the oncologist who initially told us about the seriousness of the tumor. And Caleb's music therapist, Lisa, is here as well. She was surprised to find that we still have the CD she made for Caleb during that last week.

Facebook Post: I'm finally able to breathe somewhat normally again. Been a long and emotional day at camp. Got to spend some great time with one of our oncologists from last year. Didn't mean to make her cry, but it still happened when we gave her one of Caleb's BEFORE pictures. Have made a lot of new friends who understand all too well the road we're currently traveling. So comforting to know we are not alone.

I did have a couple little concerns coming to camp this weekend. First, of course, was my health. I'd been at the Urgent Care center twice last week with a severe case of asthmatic bronchitis and wasn't sure I'd even get to come to camp. Caden has also been a bit "off" this weekend. Constantly hungry, yet not really eating anything and complaining off and on that his stomach hurts. Has never run any fever, still playing normally, so we came.

Early Saturday morning around 2:30 a.m., Caden started coughing and then we heard that sound we don't like to hear -- vomiting. Oh, great. NOT! We get him cleaned up & back to bed. I was awake for the rest of the night worrying that we'd be sent home from camp. When Caden got up, he seemed totally fine. I got to thinking that it was just sinus drainage that caused him to vomit.

We had several activities scheduled through the day. Since it was raining, our fishing activity was changed to an indoor stargazing program. Caden fell asleep during it. Not normal for him to fall asleep at 10am. I chalked it up to his waking during the night & not getting enough sleep. He still wasn't eating like normal. During our afternoon craft session, he fell asleep again. Richard woke him up just before dinner to get him to go to the bathroom. Caden got so upset that he threw up again. Then, he wouldn't eat a cheeseburger (his favorite food) for dinner. So, I decided we needed to have him checked out. We had Dr. Winick take a look at him. When we tried to take his temperature under his arm, he started screaming, kicking, fighting & yelling, "It's not going to happen!" You would have thought we were torturing him. Temp was normal, so we gave him some Tylenol and sent him off to play with Dr. Winick's blessing.

We left camp Sunday at lunch & Caden slept the entire way home. We got home, unpacked and started getting ready to go to Life Team. I put Caden in the tub and went to put something in the bedroom. When I walked back in the bathroom he says, "Mommy, I threw up in the tub." Now I'm really starting to freak out. This is 4 days in a row that he's thrown up at least once. It took all I had in me to keep from taking him to the ER, but he still wasn't running any fever. I barely slept that night. I kept going over all the things that could be wrong & how similar the symptoms were to Caleb just prior to diagnosis. I was totally freaking out.

Monday, March 12, 2012
Facebook Post: In need of some prayers this morning -- Caden has been a bit "off" for the past week or so and some of the things I'm seeing are reminding me of early things we saw before Caleb's diagnosis. I'm trying really hard not to freak out, but not succeeding well. I have him scheduled for a 10am doctor appt this morning. Please pray all is well with Caden's health and that I am able to calm down. Thanks!
I called the pediatrician as soon as they opened and explained what was going on. They got us in that morning. As I walked in the office, I was already crying & so scared of what was going on. I told them I couldn't go through all this again.

When they took us back to the room, I was still crying. Caden's acting fine - no fever, nothing. I explained his symptoms & the nurse says, "Let's check him for strep." So we did. When Dr. Paruolo (best pediatrician in the history of ever!) came in, he confirmed that Caden had strep. Strep is easy to handle & a simple antibiotic. I started crying again, but this time it was happy tears. The relief was palpable.
Facebook Post: I never thought I'd ever be happy to say that my child has strep as much as I am right now. Considering all the things running thru my head, strep is a welcome diagnosis. Thanks for the prayers!!!
Well, after I got home, I realized that he probably had strep the entire weekend we were at Camp. So, I got in contact with the folks from Camp Sol and let them know so if any other kids developed strep, they'd know where it came from.

All in all, our first experience with Camp Sol has been a good one. I think next year we may attend the October camp because this one was so very cold and rainy the entire weekend. And, I bet the camp will look wonderful with fall colors starting.

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday, Caleb

On August 20, 2005, I was blessed to witness the birth of a beautiful baby boy. I was privileged to cut his umbilical cord. As the doctor handed him toward his birth mom, she pointed at me and said, "Give him to her. She's his mom, not me." It was the most selfless act I had ever seen. 

Today, we should be celebrating Caleb's 10th birthday. There should be football players running through our home. It should be so loud from the boys playing, that the adults can't even hear themselves think. However, there will be no party today. Instead, Richard, Caden and I will spend the day in reflection.  We'll remember Caleb with stories because that's all we have left. We'll tell funny stories about him. We'll talk about things he liked to do. We'll eat things he liked. We'll play games he liked. We'll release 5 gold balloons (if the weather cooperates) that represent the 5 short years Caleb was with us. We'll laugh and we'll probably even cry as we remember. Caleb is my hero and always will be.

Happy 10th birthday, Caleb! I hope the Angels throw you a party in Heaven. 

#HappyBirthday #CalebIsMyHero #MissedAndLoved #ToInfinityAndBeyond

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A New Beginning (a.k.a. Caden & Football)

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share this for a few days now. It’s a bit of a long story. I’m still not sure how well this will come across, but I’m going to try anyway.

Let me start by saying I had no idea what God had planned for us when I took Caden out to eat lunch on June 29th. While having lunch at Chick-Fil-A, I was approached by a gentleman whose children were in the play area with Caden. He asked if Caden was my son and how old was he. I told him 6 1/2. He asked if Caden played football. I answered, “Not yet.” He then asked if Caden was interested in playing because he was with a league just starting its first year of play. He gave me some information about it then handed me a card with contact information. I liked what we had to say so that evening I talked to Richard about it. We agreed to call the number and find out more information. I called that evening, really liked the information I received from Coach, and we made plans for Caden to attend training camp the next night. Tuesday came, and training camp was cancelled due to rain. We attended camp on Thursday night. Caden LOVED it! He didn’t want it to end and couldn’t wait to go back.

After everything that happened with Caleb, I wasn’t sure I even wanted Caden to play football. There were just so many memories and emotions to sort through. I finally realized that I needed to let go of my fears, worries, and concerns and let God do what He was going to do. So, on July 5th, I posted the following on Facebook:
“The moment I have been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to has finally arrived. Are you ready for some football? I'm not 100% sure I am, but I better get ready soon. Caden is registered to play football, has already had two practices, and he's still excited about it! Let the fun begin.”
Last Tuesday (July 7) while talking with another parent, I found out the kids can pick their own number if it is available. Towards the end of practice, I had a talk with Coach to verify. He confirmed and asked what number Caden wanted so he could write it down on our paperwork. I said I needed to check with Caden to see if he wanted to use his brother’s number in Caleb’s memory. Coach asked me to explain. I told him how Caleb was in his first year of football when he was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. I further explained that his team won the city championship, and we were presented with the team trophy after Caleb died. And during the start of the next season, we were presented with a team jersey to honor him.

Coach said if Caden did want to use Caleb’s number, it would be his and just let him know. He then asked if it would be okay to play a game in Caleb’s memory. I said that would be fine and thanks for considering it. I asked if it would be possible to have one of the September games be the game for Caleb since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I also said the Childhood Cancer Awareness community has been trying for a few years to get the NFL to “Go Gold” in September in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month. He didn’t see a problem with that request.

After practice, I talked to Caden. I told him the decision was totally up to him. It would not hurt my feelings one way or the other. He chose to use Caleb’s number. We let Coach know before we left and thought that was the end of it. I relayed the information to Richard that evening and we were both kinda pleasantly surprised about the situation. Well, that’s when things got interesting…

Late Wednesday night (July 8), I received a text from Coach that said:
“Mr. and Mrs. Huffines, I sincerely apologize for the late text. I wanted to let you know that, after speaking with our board members and coaching staff, we’ve decided to dedicate our season to the memory of your son. We’ve decided to switch our color scheme from purple to gold. That way we’re not only wearing gold in September, but year around. We’re also going to present you guys with a game jersey to add to the collection you have for him. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow at practice. Have a blessed night.”
I didn’t even read the text until Thursday morning and when I did, I shared it with Richard. We were both blown away by such an awesome gesture. It was more than we would have ever thought. Just one game was a privilege. When I talked to Coach about it that evening, he said that it had been really heavy on his heart after we talked, and he really felt that it was something he needed to do. He said the entire Board and coaching staff was totally on board with it.

He asked me how old Caleb would have been for this football season. I told him Caleb would have turned 10 on August 20th. Coach told me which age division Caleb would have been in. He surprised me even more when he said we would receive a team jersey not only for this year, but also for every year Caleb would have played until he aged out of the program at 14. He also said that no one else on that team would be able to wear #89 during that time. (Caden will be able to wear #89 since he is in a different age bracket.) He said the players would also have Caleb’s initials on their jerseys and have the gold cancer ribbon on their pants as an additional way to honor Caleb.

There are several other things we’ve seen and heard that would take up too much time to share. Needless to say, we are so very honored to be a part of such a great organization. We know we have made the right choice in choosing the team we did for Caden. God is so extraordinary. Never would I have imagined this type of situation happening to us. God still shows us how much He loves us and is taking care of us.

Caleb is not forgotten, nor will he ever be.

Caleb's first day of football practice (July 5, 2010).

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Final Note?

For the past three years, we've released balloons to Caleb on the anniversary of his death. Usually, we do it in the evening after Richard has gotten home from work. This year, due to other things already going on in the evening, we decided to release the balloons in the morning, before work and school. Knowing what a difficult time Caden has with releasing the balloons to begin with, I wasn't sure how well he would handle doing so right before school.

It was a bit emotional, but he made it through. He even told us, "I hope school can take my mind off the balloon release."

Now that the release is done, Caden is at school, and Richard has gone to work, I sit here trying to "wax eloquent" when all I really want to do is hide under the covers for the rest of the day. I've been sitting here at my desk for the past two hours trying to figure out what to say. I'm really having a hard time updating the blog today.

Quite honestly, I'm getting tired of trying to keep up with blog. It's become more of a depressing chore lately than anything else. Of course, I guess it's kinda noticeable since my last update was in August 2014 at the beginning of the school year.  I'm not even sure I'm going to keep up with it any longer. At this point in our journey, I'm ready to move on and just keep living my life without feeling the need to update here. It's so much easier to just post a quick status update through FB to my friends and family. I think the blog has served it's purpose.

I may occasionally post something here, but I think I'm pretty much done with it at this point.  I want to thank everyone who has stopped by to read. I hope that, somehow, we have managed to touch your hearts through our struggle. I pray we have been able to draw you closer to God.

Thank you.

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie Angel and Memorial tickers
We still miss Caleb every moment of every day. He is always in our hearts, always in our thoughts, and is loved today, tomorrow, in ALL ways to infinity and beyond.

Angel, Richard & Caden