A Father's Journal
Oh Liam why did you have to go
We all love you and miss you so
I really miss you but don't we all
You and your bandana standing bright and tall
"No Pain" (Liam's Song; written by his friend, CJ Wochomurka)
We invite you on a journey to visit and get to know our son Liam, who left this world for eternal salvation on September 14, 2005. I will include excerpts from an electronic journal Brad kept from the outset of his illness, which is in the process of being edited for publication (self possibly). We have a few pictures to share as well, and hope you enjoy.
Liam was born in Nurnberg, Germany on May 11, 1993. Brad was stationed at an Army hospital there and we returned to the states (San Antonio) three weeks later for his next duty assignment. Liam was always proud of the fact that he was born in a foreign country, and couldn't understand for the first few years why he couldn't be referred to as "German". San Antonio was his first real home, and harbors many happy memories for all of us.
We exited the Army in June of 1998 and relocated to our present home in Brentwood, TN. Liam was in the inaugural first grade class at Kenrose Elementary, built just two streets from ours. He made close friends while there, boys and girls, as well as within our neighborhood. Liam enjoyed bicycling to school, swimming, flag football, electronic/computer games, and a pickup game of "wall-ball" or kick-the-can.
July 7, 2004
As most of you have undoubtedly heard by now, our son Liam was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Saturday, July 2. He had been experiencing mild headaches off and on for 3-4 weeks but they had gotten worse the past few days before Michelle and I decided to bring him to the ER... Unfortunately, the tumor is a malignant type... so we will become a St. Jude family.
...in general the plan is as follows: Six weeks of radiation treatment (craniospinal - to both the brain and spinal cord), followed by a 4 week break. Then, 16 weeks of chemotherapy. The radiation sessions are outpatient, with weekend breaks so Liam can come home. The chemotherapy will be mostly inpatient, with fewer weekend opportunities. We will essentially relocate (two of us anyway) to Memphis from August to February, with the above-mentioned weekend returns home.
Liam has accepted his fate with trademark circumspection, and is a true example of courage for Michelle and I. Someone mentioned to us that he is a child of God (as all children), and in that I find reassurance and a measure of comfort. Prayers offered for us from Alaska to Florida keep us strong as well.
Liam enjoys his time at home, as evidenced by his attendance at two birthday parties for friends of his last weekend (one a slumber party). He is holding up very well, all things considered. He is particularly excited about beginning 6th grade; his middle school has provided him with a laptop with a webcam so as to tune in to his class periodically (and vice versa - the class can see what is happening with Liam).
No way around it, radiation is child's play when compared to chemotherapy. Not only are there immediate effects like nausea and hair loss (again!), but there are longer-term issues of endocrine damage and hearing loss to contend with. St. Jude is at the forefront however of limiting these effects, safely reducing dosages of some chemo agents as well as adding "protective" medications in with the initial 5 day chemo run. In addition, the team at St. Jude screens entire body systems routinely to monitor even the slightest need for intervention (for example growth or thyroid hormone).
Lost In Thought...a moment of gravity: He is in his bed and I am in an adjoining room for the night. The room is connected only via a window, but there is a monitor that is on similar to that which connects to the nursing station. I can hear what's going on in his room, but he cannot hear me unless I press down the call button. Around 2 AM or so, I hear him shuffling around in his room trying to use the bedside urinal (not an easy task when you are tethered to 2-3 IV lines coming straight out of your chest). So, I get up and walk down to his room to help him out. We finish his business, and I get him back into bed. I tell him to call me next time and he says he will. I get back in my room and have just lain down when I hear him call out "Dad". Thinking he needs me again, I start to get up. As I stand he finishes "...I love you". My day is made.
Our patients have the cutest S.M.I.L.E
Our patents have the sweetest H.E.A.R.T.
O, we love to see you everyday
But now it's time we get to say
Pack your bags, get out the door
You don't need chemo anymore!
(sung, to the tune of the Oscar Meyer song, by the nurses for Liam in the hour before his discharge from his final round of chemotherapy)
We are again one family, under one roof. Liam is back in school, and back in play. Aubrey is glad to have her mother home. We are thrilled to be together, playing "Clue" on a Friday night. In closing, I reflect back to a Sunday of my youth. During our Communion service, the minister would recite a Bible verse as a section of the congregation would recess back to their respective pews. That day he recited Matthew 11:28, Jesus' invitation to "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". Apropos, wouldn't you say?
About 5-6 weeks ago, we noticed two small "lumps" under his skin on the back of his neck... The tumor removed is felt to be the same type that was removed from his brain 11 months earlier, and about the same size... As before, we do not know what the future holds... Psychologically, this one's tough. We were just putting our lives together again, and only wanting to enjoy the summer we missed in '04. Liam has been through so much, as you all are aware. Yet again, we are appreciative to our prayer and support network as we negotiate this latest turn.
Liam has his line (again) in place...and will undergo chemotherapy yet again, only this time for a much longer duration if his bone marrow allows...he will be able to receive the majority of the chemotherapy at Vanderbilt... We have arranged for the chemo schedule to allow him and me to attend the National Scout Jamboree later this month. Life goes on.
Watching your child endure such trials is unspeakably difficult. It is easy to slip into despair, fighting for every ounce of weight gain (or loss prevention). We rue the fact that he is not able to participate in everyday life events (school picnics, parties) due to his condition. Negative thoughts are always creeping around, fighting to get in our minds.
Liam will unknowingly provide comfort whenever he is able. He and I were playing word association the other day, waiting for another St. Jude appointment. "Aubrey" I would say; "Blond" was his answer. (I was expecting worse). "Pretty": "Mom" (still no. 1 in his book). "Life" I said. His reply: "Stinks". He then chuckled and said, "Oh, I'm joking. It's not so bad.""How so?" I inquired.
"Well, I got family to cheer me up and all."
September 3, 2005
As most of you know by now, we made an emergency trip to Vanderbilt after Liam had seizures on the morning of 8/31. The initial scans (CT and MRI) have indicated return of a tumor in a portion of his brain (above his right ear). After a couple of days of recovery, Liam was released after his confusion cleared up and his seizures were controlled by medication. I have long feared this day. The fear is palpable.
September 14, 2005
"..Fly on fly on
Fly on my friend
Life Without You Stevie Ray Vaughan
Liam's final hours were as peaceful as a summer sprinkle of rain. Our wish was that he be comfortable and not be afraid. It was granted.
Oddly enough, we feel the profoundness of our loss more deeply now than in the immediate time after 9/14/05. Not unusual, we have read, to be insulated from the initial sense of grief while taking care of the requisite business in those first few days and weeks. Now, we are left only with the daily reality of life without our son. We continue to of course realize what we have relayed before, that he is at peace and with Jesus, and that there will be a joyful reunion someday. But "someday" seems a very long time from now.
Liam lives on, and yet another sign of that is the "Hoover Run for Hope", a 5K route that is scheduled for November 19. We continue to anticipate, and train for, the St. Jude run in December. We may have as many as 100 runners on the "Team Liam" for that event. Heroes, every one of them.
The goodness in people continues to manifest itself, almost daily. A St. Jude home being built now for donation via raffle this summer will be done so in Liam's name. Aubrey's softball league will honor her brother's memory with their annual charity event this spring. We continue to receive tribute notations to St. Jude in his memory weekly. It is so very apparent that we are not alone in our sorrow.
Someone asked me not long ago what days in the coming weeks and months do I "dread" in regards to Liam not being here? Tough question, and though his birthday and Mother's Day come to mind, we know that any day may bring a sting. We have found for example Saturdays to be especially hard and particularly empty at times. Yet, each day holds another dear memory to be reflected upon, be it with a smile, or tear, or both.And brings us one day closer.
It is our wish that the Hoover Run for Hope will be an instrument for pediatric cancer awareness and will provide resources for the caretakers and families of St. Jude. It is through the heartfelt generosity of many that both are possible.
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul." - Hebrews 6:19
With continued gratitude and hope,
The Hoover family