Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been a terrific 3 months. The girls have been happy and healthy for the most part-only missing a few days from school here and there because of the typical seasonal illnesses. They are both doing well in school and having playdates with friends and getting together with their cousins. And it looks like spring is finally making an appearance. The days are starting to get longer and snow is becoming more of a memory than a daily reminder of the long Wisconsin winter.
Since we have been fortunate enough to get to know Erin (Charlotte’s bone marrow donor) over the last 4 years, we have all been looking forward to the possibility of us getting together around March of this year. We knew we needed a completely special way to celebrate the 5 year post-transplant mark. So we decided to take the girls to California to see her! We recently returned home from a trip to Anaheim that we were able to spend just hanging out with Erin. It was a joyous occasion and one none of us will ever forget. We enjoyed three days in Disneyland as well as a trip to the San Diego Zoo, and a wonderful day partaking in a California style beach party. We were able to meet several members of her family and some of her good friends; all who were as pleasant and kind to us as Erin always has been. She feels just as important to our family now as she was over 5 years ago, and we wouldn’t be the same without her in our lives. We are truly blessed to have such a caring and supportive network of friends and family.
Molly, Katy and Charlotte
Dr Diamond and Charlotte.
Today we visited the American Family Children’s Hospital for Charlotte’s yearly checkup appointment with her oncologist, Dr Diamond. We had Charlotte’s blood drawn and her echocardiogram done last month. Dr Diamond looked over the results today and was not disappointed. It was great to see her again and hear that she thought Charlotte looked healthy and well. We can’t hear that enough. Dr Diamond is very near to our heart and had given us so much to be thankful for. Charlotte’s WBC count was 4.5, Platelets 254k, Hemoglobin 13.3 and 1800 neutrophils.
While we were there, we stopped on the 4th floor to see the nurses. We saw Tony and Angie and Kristen and even got to see Katy again!!! We also saw a mother walking her little bald boy down the hall pushing his IV cart. She was seven months pregnant. Boy did that bring back some emotional memories. We will be thinking of them this holiday season and pray for the best.
I wanted to thank all of you for looking in on us this year. I apologize that the posts have been few and far between. But know that we are still here and doing well, even if I am not posting nearly as often as I once did. Please think about the families this year who will be spending their holidays behind closed doors like those on the 4th floor. And consider making a donation to a worthy charity, and donate blood as often as you can.
Thank you, and have a safe and memorable holiday season.
Here’s another quick update from the Elske family-We are all doing very well. That’s the short of it.
This one is more on the longer side.
Charlotte and Molly are both enjoying school, though they often would rather sleep in on school days and wake up early and ready to go on the weekends. We can’t seem to get them out of that habit. Charlotte is keeping busy at night with her homework and Girl Scouts. And Molly is enjoying herself in gymnastics. She is learning lots of new things and she loves it.
We recently had a family get together with Aunt Sharon and the rest of the Elskes and Ericksons to remember Uncle Dean. It was great to see everyone and talk with them again. It reminded me of how absolutely lucky and blessed Amy and I are to have two happy and healthy little girls. Life is too short to not hug your kids every day. And to not tell your parents that you love them. And life is just too damn short to be mean to people.
I know I’ve posted a few links to these types of videos in the past, but I constantly find more on youtube. And I really think that they’re worth a watch. A lot of time and effort went into producing these videos to raise awareness for hospitals for children and the good things that they do. They all do so much more than just treat an illness or disease. They take care of the families. They build up emotions that may have taken a turn when physical states do the same.
As I’ve said before – With the exception of one crabby EKG technician, every person we ever met who worked at AFCH genuinely seemed like they wanted to be there. They all knew they had a part to play in the healing of children and their families. That can’t be an easy place to work and these folks do it with a smile on their face.
When you watch these videos, remember that every patient has a story like Charlotte’s. Every parent has concerns and doubts and dark thoughts in their heads like Amy and I did. Every sibling is missing their brother or sister like baby Molly did. Every grandparent has cried like ours have. Every Pastor prays like Jim did. Every Doctor wishes they could make a difference to this family like Dr Diamond did. Every nurse, like Tracy, Katy, and countless others, has seen it all before-and will see it again. And everywhere, all around the US, 43 new families are introduced to this nightmare that is childhood cancer every single day. And the real crappy part is that not all of those kids are going to get the chance to grow up.
Of course, you all know that Leukemia is always on our minds, with having lost my Uncle Dean and my Grandpa Elske (Dean’s father), both to AML. So we aren’t terribly happy to know that every 3 minutes, someone in the US is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. And every 10 minutes, someone in the US loses their battle with it.
Terrific progress has been made since the time Grandpa Elske was diagnosed in the early 1970s; but overall AML five-year survival rates are still only 25%. More can still be done and that is why we walk in the Light The Night Walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on October 15 at The Duck Pond at Warner Park in Madison. You can join our team or make a donation by clicking on the link below.
If you can’t make a donation, just come walk with us. It’s a fun night, filled with good people hoping to make a difference in the fight against Leukemia.
If you can’t donate, or walk, that’s ok too. Just hug your kids, and tell your family that you love them.
Thank you all for everything.
First Day of Second Grade!!
Molly is ready for Pre-K!!
What can I say about this date that most of you don’t already know? It was 5 years ago today that Charlotte was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Cancer survival rates are often dependent upon reaching this timeframe. It was 5 years ago that we were told there was a 50% chance that she would be with us today. I’ve often told folks who comment on how the time passes so fast (when children are growing up) that it’s been the longest 5 years of my life. This is one of the moments that Amy and I have been praying to see. And I pray every night for those that I’ve known or come to know throughout these years that didn’t get the chance to celebrate this milestone with their family member.
- We finally got to see a bear!
It’s been another busy and wonderful summer. Charlotte and Molly both had their first day of school this week. We were a week late because we took a family trip to Alaska two weeks ago with all of the Wagenknechts!! That was a totally awesome time. We all loved it and we are ready to go again. I’m actually thinking of moving up there…don’t tell Amy I said that. We visited Denali National Park and saw parts of Anchorage, and Talkeetna. Then we went to Seward and got on a cruise and saw Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. We were even able to participate in a brief “Make a Wish” type walk on the cruise ship. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the health of our families.
Cruising the Hubbard Glacier
I want to thank everyone for checking in on us throughout Charlotte’s journey. Your kind words, donations and emotional support have made this day, a day that once seemed absolutely impossible, a day for us to truly cherish and remember.
Thank you to all and may all of your days be as special to you as this one is to us.
And just like that, it’s been another three months with no posts from me. Needless to say, it’s been a busy spring for our family, as I am sure it has been for all of you. We have been enjoying the weather and the girls have been loving to play outside as much as they can. Let’s see if I can give you rundown of the events over the last couple of months.
Yesterday was Charlotte’s 7th birthday!!! How exciting is that? We have all been looking forward to this day for a very long time. We are so happy that she was able to celebrate with a few friends at our house yesterday with Charlotte’s special science themed b-day party. All of the girls had a great time playing with the experiments we had set up for them. They all got a little dirty and had lots of laughs.
This past Friday night was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year gala. It was such a special event and Austin and Charlotte were honored as the Boy and Girl of the year and together the Man and Woman of the Year candidates raised $198,450 for the LLS!!! NBC 15 anchor John Stofflet emceed the event and he was a pleasure to talk with throughout the night. Amy had a heartwarming speech that left few dry eyes in the house. What a wonderful night to be a part of and we look forward to going next year. We are going to try to have Austin and Charlotte in the Columbus 4th of July parade this summer honoring them as Boy and Girl of the Year. They should get a kick out of that! Come to Columbus and wave to them!!
Last weekend we had a celebration for my Aunt Judy and Uncle Jim for their 60th anniversary! That was a great time at the Clyman Hall and their whole family was there! Charlotte and Molly loved playing with their cousins and second cousins and would have ran around all night had we let them.
The previous weekend the Elske clan headed out to Nebraska for my nephew Drew’s graduation. The girls did great riding in the van for 10 hours and they had a fun time running around Aunt Lynn’s big house!! Unfortunately, our stay was quite brief, so we had to leave just as we were getting used to seeing everyone again.
The last weekend in April, we headed to Schaumburg to meet Erin again! She had been in the Chicago area all week for work and we were able to visit her over the weekend before she had to return to California. We had an awesome time with her. It’s like she has been a part of our family the whole time-the girls just adore her. We shopped at Ikea, had a really cool time at Medieval Times, and spent the entire Sunday walking around an old time homestead and nature preserve, just talking with her and watching the girls run.
Sprinkle in a few birthday parties for cousins here and there, visits with Grandmas and Grandpas, countless school and girl scout events and we’ve got ourselves a busy season.
Here’s hoping you have a safe and happy summer! Thank you for visiting our site!
It was 4 years ago today that Charlotte received her second chance at life because of a stem cell transplant from a complete stranger. Since then, that stranger has become an integral part of our lives. We skype with Erin as often as we can and Charlotte and Molly just adore her. She has been a true blessing to our family and she has touched our lives in a way that few people can truly understand.
I apologize again for being neglectful of the blog recently. With the amount of time we’ve spent indoors this year, I should have a pile of good excuses for the delays in posts but I don’t. It has been a busy and fun, albeit cold winter. We had a happy and fun Christmas holiday and enjoyed getting together with family and friends. The girls got most of what was on their Christmas lists, and I don’t know that our house can hold any more. But both of them have been getting much better at letting some of their older toys go to other homes, so we are slowly working towards organized chaos when it comes to their rooms in the house. Speaking of rooms, Amy and I decided that Molly was getting too big for her toddler bed so we started shopping around for different beds. Before we were finished, we had located beds for both Molly and Charlotte (her bed has been broken for a while now so she needed something as well). The problem was that the beds wouldn’t fit into their rooms very well so different plans had to be made. We ended up completely clearing out Charlotte and Molly’s bedrooms and repainting both of them so they could swap rooms! It was a pretty messy couple of weeks while we had both the family room and living room filled with toys, furniture, clothes, stuffed animals, and beds to assemble (one of them we had to let sit in my truck for a while because we just didn’t have the room!). But both of the girls were very helpful in painting, moving and organizing their new rooms and they both seem to be very happy with where they are now!
Charlotte has been busy this winter participating in cheerleading and Girl Scouts. Lots of weekend days have been taken up with volunteering at cookie booths. Charlotte still has another week of cookie sales yet so if you are interested, let me know! :) Her cheerleading team even got to cheer during halftime for the Varsity boys basketball team a couple of times this year. They all did very well and looked like they had lots of fun out there. Both Charlotte and Molly have been taking basketball lessons on the weekends. Charlotte and her team are now playing games (with very minimal officiating), and she even scored her first two points last week! It’s been a cold winter here so the girl’s time outdoors has been pretty scarce, but they still insisted on playing in the fresh snow when it fell.
Charlotte has also been chosen to be the Girl of the Year for Wisconsin Chapter of The Leukemia &Lymphoma Society. It’s a wonderful honor. But it means even more because she is paired up with Austin Schuetz from Fall River as he is Boy of the Year. They are both such deserving kids and have incredibly inspirational stories. We look forward to the LLS campaign this year and hope CJ and Austin have a great time!!
As for a couple of updates for the rest of the family…
I changed jobs in early February- leaving PDS where I have been for the last 11 years. It was a very tough decision for me to make. PDS has been nothing but wonderful to us throughout this whole journey. I don’t know where we would be without the support and dedication of my manager, Kyle. He was able to keep me focused on my family and was instrumental in organizing the Love for Charlotte benefit shortly after her diagnosis. He is a true friend and we wouldn’t be where we are without the help from wonderful people like him. Thank you Kyle, for all you have done for us.
In January, Grandpa Elske ended up making another couple of visits to the urgent care/hospital because of chest pains and breathing problems. After a few more appointments he was scheduled to undergo quadruple bypass surgery on January 20th. He did well during the surgery and hospital stay and was able to come home on Grandma Elske’s birthday after spending just less than a week there! He has been recovering at home and getting better and stronger every day.
Thank you again for checking in on us.
Charlotte and Dr. Diamond
We hope you all have had a wonderful and safe holiday season so far. Ours has been very busy with school activities (Charlotte and Molly), holiday shopping (Amy) and egg-nog drinking (me)!!
Today Charlotte had her yearly clinic appointment with Dr Diamond at The American Family Children’s Hospital. It’s always a very nerve-racking appointment and Amy and I have been both looking forward to, and dreading this day. We very much want to hear that the doctors and nurses think she looks great and we want to hear them say that she is doing so well. But we don’t like putting Charlotte through the blood draw and we are always terribly anxious to know what those CBC and Echocardiogram results are. So it’s a good thing this day only comes once a year now.
Charlotte, Ashley, and Molly
She was very brave during the blood draw and sat through the echo like a pro! We couldn’t have been more proud of her! Dr. Diamond was impressed with how tall she is getting and how big Molly is getting too! Dr. Diamond said she had no concerns and thought Charlotte looked “perfect”. Her only recommendation is for Charlotte to have her first neuropsych evaluation this summer. Just to help us assess cognitively how she is doing after everything she has gone through in her young life and catch any potential side effects from the nasty chemo she received. Had Charlotte been older at the time of her BMT, she would have had this evaluation then too but since she was only 2yrs old we got to skip it at the time. Dr. Diamond states she doesn’t think anything concerning will be found, but in the event there are concerns with her learning it’s better to know now rather than later. Charlotte’s CBC results came in later in the afternoon and those too looked perfect. Her WBC was 6.0, Hemoglobin 12.4, Platelets 273k and Neutrophils 2560. (did you get those Jason?) We stopped in on P4 and saw some of our favorite nurses and they all mentioned how great Charlotte was looking, and how thankful they were that we remembered to stop in to see them. It was a surreal feeling to now be 4 years out from diagnosis and actually not have all of the staff not recognize us!! Or they would recognize Amy and me, but Charlotte and Molly were complete strangers to them. (Except for Ashley that is….she gave us the warmest greeting!!!) We celebrated by taking a trip to Toys-R-Us when the nurse called us with the Echo results. Those too were perfect. So all in all, it was a pretty damn great day.
Thank you again for checking in on us and we just want to say “Happy Holidays” from all of us to all of you. We hope you all have a blessed and magical Christmas season.