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Jul 31, 2008

Praise, Requests and Pictures

Very good news today about Abby. She has ZERO Leukemia cells in her bone marrow now, so the chemo is working properly. Her doctors are very optimistic that she will be in remission in 2 weeks. Her liver problems seem to have corrected as well and what we thought were going to be serious complications, appear to be less serious than they suspected. Her doctors are still waiting for results from one liver test, but we are very encouraged by the results that we already have.
Now the purpose of the chemo is to 1) find any Leukemia that is "hiding" elsewhere in her body, 2) keep the Leukemia from coming back (this will take 6 months), and 3) for 2.5 years of treatment (chemo), keep her "Leukemia-free". After decades of medical history, they know this is the optimal treatment time to achieve the 90% cure rate they now have for her type of Leukemia.
That's all great news for the big picture, but... poor Abby had a REALLY tough day after the bone marrow aspiration and chemo. She has been throwing up and going to the bathroom non-stop, and just looks pitiful. Her hair appears to be starting to fall out. She hasn't moved off our lap all day.

So rejoice with us that she seems to be heading towards remission, and pray with us that her little 28lb. body will endure the discomfort and quickly recover.

Would you please pray that:
  • Praise God for the healing that has already taken place
  • For relief from her stomach problems. She has lost 3 pounds this week.
  • That the liver tests would come back negative

    This picture was taken on Wednesday at the clinic. The chemo was making her so sick.

    The rest of the pictures were taken last weekend. Abby usually has a few days were she is feeling better, in between rounds of chemo. She is such a sweet girl, even when she is feeling bad. We are praying that she will have some good days this weekend.

Samrawit has a reunion this weekend. A lot of the older kids from her orphanage will be meeting on Saturday about 9 hours from us. Sami has talked about seeing the girls for months. The plan is for Michelle to take her, if Abby is doing OK. Please pray that Abby will have a good weekend, that things will go smoothly at home and that the reunion will be fun for Samrawit. Please also say a prayer for me (Michelle). It is going to be so hard to leave Abby, but it is important for all of our children to know that we love them and that we are going to take care of them, even in the midst of caring for Abby.

Jul 29, 2008

Samrawit's First Haircut and Prayer Request

No, Sami didn't get her hair cut. She got to help give her first haircut. Sami has been talking a lot about wanting to cut hair when she is older. Brent decided to let her help cut Landis's hair. Sami was thrilled to get to do it.

Landis the guinea pig...

Landis... having the time of his life! Not scared one bit!

Sami and one of her favorite friends at our churches picnic.

Sami calls "T" her glue friend because they stick together.

Samrawit eating her first snow cone.

Sami having fun...

Big brother, Dane, with Landis

Dane and Abby. Abby loves her big brother. We are on day 15 of chemo. Abby's hair is starting to get thinner, but it is still looking good. I am loving every extra day that she still has it. Abby know that after it is out she will get to cut daddy's hair off. Every time Abby looses a hair she tries to talk me into giving her the scissors for Daddy's hair. Today she said that she was going to cut off his chest hair too. LOL.

Abby's favorite guy playing with Sami's hair. "L" goofing
off helped Abby see that some of the changes will be fun.

'L" is going to be a great daddy someday.

Abby has had some tummy troubles tonight and tomorrow is her bone marrow aspiration and chemo. We are hoping to learn why her liver is not functioning as well as they would like. Please pray for her pain, nausea and that her liver will be functioning well enough to get the chemo tomorrow. Please also pray for us and her doctors to make wise decisions concerning her liver.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Morning Instructions From Landis

Our kids wake up in the morning, and they aren't allowed to get out of
their bed until we come and get them. They will play and make "quiet
noise" hoping to get our attention, but they stay in their beds.

This morning, our TWO YEAR OLD, whose communication skills are obviously
increasing exponentially, gave us a big laugh with the most clear and
concise sentence he kept repeating loudly enough for us to hear. It's
the first time he said it, and my wife and I were about to bust a gut
laughing over it.

"I would like someone to come here and get me out of this bed... ... ...
RIGHT NOW... ... ... please."

"I would like someone to come here and get me out of this bed... ... ...
RIGHT NOW... ... ... please."

Perfect enunciation and timing. We thought we were hearing things. He
was so proud of himself.

Yes, he's THAT full of himself!

Jul 26, 2008

Get Up In There Daddy

I (Brent) was playing around with Sami, and in the course of joking around said “you got a bunch of boogers in your nose…”

To which she coolly replied, (now remember, she’s only been speaking English 4 months): “Well then why don’t you just get all up in there, Dad…”

The girl is a laugh a minute… and she knows it.

Abby's Chocolate Blood

The first time Abby got a blood transfusion I (Brent) told her it was
"chocolate pudding". She knew I was joking but has since always referred
to it as "chocolate blood".

She was home this morning from a transfusion and she said to me this
morning, "Daddy, I got a whole bunch of chocolate blood last night".

She's so cute. The first thing she asks when she wakes up every morning,
"Dad-dee, I need to take me pee-uhl." (pill) She hates the nasty
tasting things but she knows they a make her "sick blood well". So every
morning, and before bed she reminds us to give her "pee-uhl" and several
other meds.

We wake up every morning now expecting her hair to have fallen out. Each
day we have it, we enjoy it, and take more pics of her. I cut off about
6 inches last week, so that it wouldn't be quite so traumatic on her.
It sounds kind of silly coming from a grown man, but giving her that
haircut myself (I cut all the boys hair, but only trim the girls and my
wife who go to the stylist for the real stuff)... giving Abby that
haircut was a very special to me, and was something I'll never forget
given the circumstances.

Abby after cutting about half the length off her hair.

Jul 25, 2008

Thanks and Update

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and comments. They encourage and bless us so much. Our family is pretty tired tonight. Abby began bruising again today and her doctor wanted us to bring her back to the hospital. It is pretty normal to need transfusions at this stage of treatment.

They admitted us into a room with lots of space and a tv/vcr that helps the girls pass the time. It is such a blessing to be able to relax while Abby is being treated. She only needed platelets, so we will be able to go home when they are done. We will probably be here six hours total. I know that sounds bad, but we are excited that we will be able to go home.
Samrawit wanted to come with us and the girls had a lot of fun watching movies. I am proud of them for turning something that is pretty boring into a slumber party.
Tomorrow we have our six month postplacement visit for Sami. I can hardly believe that it is only been a short time since she has been home. It is very hard to remember what it was like before she arrived. She is a joy to be with. I love caring for my precious daughter.
Well the platelets are finished and we get to go home! I am very tired, so I am not sure that this is making a lot of sense, but I wanted to update you tonight, so that I could thank everyone for all that you are doing for our family. So many people have reached out to our family and we are more grateful that I can express.
We would appreciate your continued prayers.

Jul 22, 2008

Update on Abby - Day 8 and Hospital Pictures

Abby had her Day 8 treatments today, bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap, chemo. She still has 6% leukemia in her bone marrow. That was disappointing, we were hoping for, and expecting, zero.
It was a bit difficult to hear the Doctor put the best face on it by saying "the bright side is that she is making progress."
She has significant problems with her liver that they are trying to figure out. It is a serious complication. They are bringing a specialist on board to help decide what is wrong, and what to do.
We spent all day yesterday, and most of the day today in the hospital. We aren't getting much sleep, and so our most specific prayer request besides Abby's healing, is for my wife and I to get rest. Today is our wedding anniversary... not our favorite choice of how to celebrate, but at least we were together all day.
Sami goes to the hospital with us every time and helps Abby with every little thing she needs. God obviously brought Sami hear to be part of Abby's life at just the right time.

Abby doing crafts with Sami before procedures.

Sami with a new doll from the clinic folks.

Abby gets to finger paint while getting fresh blood.

Sami passes time while Abby is getting treated.

Abby hams it up with the finger paint; still getting some fresh blood.

Sami gets in on the finger paint action.

Abby is VERY proud of her paint work; she was getting blood for 4 hours. Mom and Dad dozed off next to her bed for a few minutes and Abby went to town with paints.

Jul 20, 2008

Abby's Home

Thank you all so much for praying for our family. Abby was able to go home over the weekend. Praise God. It was wonderful to be together as a family again. Abby's brothers and sister are so happy to have her home. Tomorrow we are going back to the hospital for more tests and chemo, but we are praising God for the time that we had together today.

Tomorrow (Monday) Abby will have another bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap and 3 chemo drugs. We will know tomorrow how she is responding to the medication. I am excited that we will find out how she is responding to the treatment, but my heart is breaking that she will have to go though so much tomorrow.
Daddy cut her hair yesterday. I love how he cut it. Shorter hair will make it look better as it thins and not so scary when it starts to come out. Abby has been very fascinated with the all of the wigs and hair pieces that you can buy at black hair stores. She has watched Sami wear drawstring ponytails and she loves them. We have had so much fun "playing" with Sami's hair. How wonderful that God used our fun to help prepare Abby for what is happening now.

Would you please pray that Abby would be free of pain and nausea and that she wouldn't be scared. Please also continue to also pray for her healing. I can't even imagine saying good-bye to my precious little girl.

Jul 18, 2008

God's Statistics

Yesterday I posted pictures and an update on Abby. Today I wanted to post something that my husband wrote, because it means so much to me. Abby is getting close to going home. Thank you so much for praying for her and for our whole family.

Below is what my husband wrote on on Tuesday.

God's Statistics

Hebrews 13:5-6 ... “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (NKJV)

Our adopted Guatemalan daughter, Abby, was diagnosed with Leukemia 4 days ago. Here are some statistics about kids with Leukemia:

  • 5000 - The number of kids in America who will be diagnosed with Leukemia this year
  • 9x - The factor of children who are 2-4 years old when diagnosed with Leukemia
  • 60% - The percentage of children who get the more curable version of Leukema called A.L.L. (which we found out last night is the kind Abby has)
  • 66% - The percentage of people who completely recover from A.L.L.
  • 90% - The percentage of children ages 2-4 that recover from Leukemia
  • 10% - The percentage of children who relapse, usually within three years
  • 5% - The chance of recovering from a relapse of Leukemia

Those are medical statistics. Let me give you some "God Statistics":

  • 1 - The number of times Jesus gave His life to pay for our sins
  • 0 - The number of times God is not watching over every second of our life and every hair on our head
  • 0% - The chance that God will forsake or forget one of His children
  • 0% - The percentage of children with Leukemia that God does not care about
  • 100% - The percentage of hope that Christians have no matter what the circumstances
  • 100% - The chance that God will hear the prayers of His suffering children
  • 100% - The percentage of times that every single situation works out exactly the way God wants it to
  • 100% - The percentage of people who are blessed when they trust God, thank God, and rejoice in God no matter what the circumstances
  • Infinite - The amount of love, patience, mercy, compassion and attention God has for each and every one of His own.
Medical statistics are very real. By themselves, they can be very difficult, sometimes impossible to confront and accept. As Christians, we have the blessing of filtering all human statistics through "God's statistics". Notice that God's numbers are absolutes... all or none. No guessing, no gray area, no margin of error. It is in those absolutes, that Christians find security. It is in those boundaries and constraints we get comfort. It is the surety of "all" or "never" that we anchor the frail ships of this life.

God never forgets about us.

God always does what is best for us.

God never deceives us.

God always cares.

The absolutes of God's statistics... have you ever considered them? What's going on in your life? Are you anchored to, hoping in, and look towards the "always" and "never" of God's promises?

Jul 15, 2008

Update on Abby and Pictures

Update on Abby:

Abby was diagnosed with Leukemia on July 11th. Monday, the 14th, she had all the bone marrow and spinal fluid examinations.

She has “A.L.L.”, which is the more treatable kind of Leukemia with an 80% cure average. She has a “high risk” version of ALL though, and has to be treated more aggressively because her white blood cells were DOUBLING every day… that is an unusual high risk development that shows the Leukemia to be extremely aggressive.

She’ll receive a lot of chemo and medication for the next month, in and out of the hospital weekly.

After the first month, the doctors will re-evaluate how she is responding and lay out a long term plan for her, but it will likely be six months with lots of treatment, and then 2-3 years of monthly treatment.

Of the 20% of children that are not cured, they relapse in the first three years and have less than a 5% recovery rate from a relapse.

We ask your prayers for:

  • Abby's healing
  • For the nausea and vomiting to subside
  • Rest; we’re only getting a handful of hours a night, and we’re very tired
  • Clarity in making decisions about her treatment, juggling high risk
  • Wisdom to deal with the changes in our life, financial matters and arrangements
  • Strength enough to not let our other children slip through the cracks of our attention and parenting
  • Opportunities to minister to all those around us.

    We covet your prayers and thank you for them in advance.

    Brent & Michelle Riggs

This is Abby before her first chemo Abby rested well after the treatments, but was so tired.

Abby has a crush on a wonderful boy whose family is friends of ours. Abby loves him so much and tells EVERYONE about him. He made her day when he visited her in the hospital.He is an incredible kid.

Thanks again for praying for Abby and our family, and for asking others to pray. Knowing that others are praying for our precious daughter means more to us than we can express. Thank you also for all of your comments and emails. They are read and reread especially during those quiet times when my daughter is asleep.

Jul 13, 2008

Please Pray for Abby

Our three year old daughter, who was adopted from Guatemala, was diagnosed Friday with Leukemia. We are so sad that she is going through this, but also praising God that He chose her to be our daughter and brought her to the United States, where she can receive excellent medical care. This is so hard for us to go through as a family, I can't even imagine the pain that mothers and fathers in poor countries feel when there children are ill or hungry. Today we are praying as much for those other parents, as we are for our daughter.

We would deeply appreciate it if you would pray for our daughter's healing and add her to your prayer lists. Some have asked if they could tell our daughter's story on their blog. We would love it if you would tell her story or and link to our blog. The prayers mean more than we can express.

Below is what my husband wrote to his many thousands of readers on his ministry site,

An Opportunity of Faith

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything
give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Lord has chosen to bless our family with an opportunity for faith, trust,
witness and spiritual growth. The Bible says to give thanks in ALL things,
rejoice in ALL, never stop praying... so my wife and I thank God for however,
whoever and whatever He is going to do in our lives during this trying time.

On Friday July 11, 2008, our 3 year old daughter, Abby, adopted from
Guatemala at six months old, was diagnosed with Leukemia.

The previous Wednesday, she acting a little sluggish, and by Thursday it was
obvious she was getting a “cold”, probably strep or tonsillitis, a common malady
in our brood of seven. Thursday evening we took her to a minor care facility and
she tested positive for strep. That night we also noticed she was getting
petechiae (tiny “blood dots”) on her neck and cheek. My wife is an RN, I’m
fairly medically savvy, and we both knew this was a concern. We decided we would
get her in to our Pediatrician immediately the next day.

By morning, several bruises began to appear on Abby, and we were honest
enough with ourselves to expect that the word “leukemia” was probably going to
be part of our vocabulary in the future. After a day of running tests, When the
Doctor walked in to give us results around 3 p.m., the diagnosis was written all
over her face before the words passed over her lips. By sunset, we were at
Children’s Hospital in OKC, pumping our three year old full of antibiotics,
fresh blood and fluids.

On Monday (I’m writing this Saturday night), Abby will get a bone marrow
aspiration, a biopsy, a spinal tap and her first dose of chemo. The leukemia
type will be determined and a treatment journey laid out. Monday will not be
fun, but should be full of blessing and opportunity to minister.

“How are you doing?” we are repeatedly asked.

We are neither casual nor despondent. As Christians, we have no reason to
despair, nor is this a light burden. Abby could die. Abby could be healed. Abby
could live a long life. Abby could be with us a few years and relapse, which
statistically, is probable death. We pray of course for Abby’s total healing,
and ask you to pray for the same. The end result however, is in the Sovereign
Lord’s gracious hands, and we freely place our daughter in His most capable
care, and accept the future as God’s perfect will.

The "facts" in any
situation are tempered
by the spiritual truths we know as

Intellectually and emotionally, we understand the medical facts of this
cancer, and yet, it is all tempered spiritually. Our faith in God ensures us
with both clarity and finality that all medical statistics and human experience
is subject to the blessed sovereignty of God. It is in that omni-compassion that
we take refuge, find rest, and place our hope. God may miraculously heal. God
may have other plans. No matter, God will see us through and He is most
glorified when His children genuinely place their trust in Him.

We know that God has not blinked. He is not busy somewhere else. No matter
the eventual outcome, we have the hope of eternity which overshadows this vapor
of temporal life, and the anticipation of God’s glory revealed through the
inevitability of His sufficient grace. God’s hand is already clear and evident
in the circumstances.

Consider this…

Out of tens of thousands of kids that we could have adopted from Guatemala,
God providentially orchestrated Abby to be that child. He already knew her
future needs, both spiritually and physically. God arranged for her to have
family and community that have shown her the love of God and begun to teach her
about Jesus, as well the ability to provide life-saving medical treatment.

As for me and my wife, I know that God will have some SPECIFIC purposes for
this trial, meant just for us and our family. I cannot tell you what those are
now, but sometime in the future, I believe they will be clearly revealed.
However, from Scripture, I can tell you some general blessings God has for us
through this hour of difficulty (and it is just as true for YOU too in your
times of trial):

  • Produce patience - Rom. 5:3; James 1:3–4; Heb. 10:36
  • Bring joy - Ps. 30:5; 126:5–6
  • Help us mature - Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
  • Increase righteousness - Heb. 12:11
  • Transform us into the image of Christ - Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12–13; Phil.
    3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7–10
  • Bring glory to God - Ps. 50:15; John 9:1–3; 11:1–4; 21:18–19; Phil. 1:19–20
  • Prove our relationship with God - Heb. 12:5–6
  • Cultivate prayer - Isa. 26:16
  • Be an example to others - 2 Cor. 6:4–5; 1 Thess. 1:6–7
  • Help us to counsel others - Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3–5
  • Be a witness of salvation - Acts 8:1–5; 16:25–34; Phil. 1:12–13; 2 Tim.
    4:6–8, 16–17
  • Make us victorious - 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
  • Drive us to God - 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
  • Prepare us for ministry - 1 Kings 17–18; John 12:24
  • Reveal God’s sovereignty - Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10–12; Gen.
    45:5–8; 50:20

Has God presented you with an opportunity of faith and thanksgiving?
Maybe He has but you haven’t learn to see it that way yet. While increased faith comes in many ways, VERY often it is achieved through trials, hardship, suffering and uncertainty. Do you see it for the blessing that it is? Do you thank God for it?

My wife and I would ask you to pray for Abby, and for our family. While this will be fleeting “news” for friends and family, short of God’s miraculous intervention, it will become “life” for us for the next 2-3 years. That is not a criticism of people or I would have to criticize myself first. It is the natural order and process of life. Life moves on. We don’t forget those who labor or
suffer, but life does in fact, move on. Even as life moves on for all of us, would you put us on your prayer list for the foreseeable future, and make brief mention of us in your supplications to God?

We would specifically ask you to pray for the following:

  • The complete healing of the Leukemia by whatever means, in whatever way, and
    in whatever time frame brings God the most glory… from the miraculous to the
  • Trust and faith in God no matter what happens.
    Patience and strength for the actual procedures and responsibilities that
    lie ahead.
  • Wisdom and provision for what will be a significant financial issue for us.
    Opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the staff and doctors.
  • Please pray for those families and children who do not have the blessing of
    the health care we have in America.

I pray that through this, I personally will have a better understanding of faith, compassion, human nature and God’s nature… so that all in all, I can be a better minister, teacher, husband and father.

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