The Macs

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today we are weary. All the exhaustion and emotion of this new journey is catching up to us. We are so thankful that even though our bodies and minds are tired we can still look to the Lord for strength to get through another day. His Word has been so living and real to us through all of this. It's like He is speaking directly to us. He is!

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

Cora has improved throughout the day. She was struggling with her breathing and was so tired. The doctor decided to put her on a C-PAP so that she wouldn't have to work so hard to breathe. The also have continued to give her morphene throughout the day. She was finally able to relax and get some sleep. Cora's chemo will end early tomorrow morning (around 5am). Praise the Lord! We are so thankful to be almost over this first little hump. After her chemo ends they will be able to give her calories and protiens through her IV. They decided not to give Cora a feeding tube, but she hasn't been able to eat today. She is sleeping soundly now. We are hoping she gets lots of rest tonight.


-Cora's electrolyte levels have remained stable
-The first round of chemo is almost over!! Yeah!
-Cora rested comfortably this afternoon
-Encouraging visits from Cora's pediatrician and oncologist
-Joel and I got to take naps today

Prayer Requests:

-Cora's electrolyte levels to remain stable the last few hours of chemo
-Cora's breathing would improve
-Cora would get enough nutrients through her IV and be able to eat again soon
-Comfort and rest for Cora
-Rest and renewed strength for Cora's parents and extended family
-Continued reliance on God through this journey

brave little girl

Cora needs your prayers once again today. She did not have a very good night last night, and it seems that she is experiencing a great deal of discomfort because of the chemotherapy. The doctors have put her on an increased amount of oxygen, morphine, and there's a chance that she will be given a feeding tube today because she is not receiving enough calories. Please pray that Cora will show some signs of improvement and that she will be able to be more comfortable. Also, continue to ask that the Lord would grant patience and strength to Joel and Jess as they watch their little girl fight so bravely. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

chemo day two

"Listen to Me, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He and I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you." -Isaiah 46:3-4

We have made it through another day of chemo. Cora is being so brave. She is uncomfortable and we could really see that she didn't feel good this evening. It is so hard to not be able to do much to comfort her. The mama in me wants to snatch her out of her bed and take her home and just hold her. We are praying that her feeling "yucky" means that the chemo is working!

Cora is having to work very hard to breathe and she is getting tired. They put her back on oxygen to help with that. The doctors are also concerned about her getting enough calories. She needs the calories so that she has enough energy to get better. We are trying to feed her more often, but she just doesn't always want to eat. If she doesn't eat enough they may have to give her a feeding tube.

That doesn't sound like great news, but it really was a pretty good day. We are praising God that her electrolyte levels are remaining stable so far. The doctors seem pleased with how she is responding to the chemo. Her chemo will run until very early Sunday morning.

Your prayers continue to overwhelm and humble us. We can't thank you enough for lifting up our precious girl to our Heavenly Father. We know that He loves her even more than we do and is holding her in the palm of His hand.

-Another day of chemo is done
-Cora's electrolyte levels are stable
-An encouraging visit from the mom of a Neuroblastoma SURVIVOR
-Yummy meals that friends have brought to the hospital

Prayer Requests:
-That the chemo is working
-Cora would eat enough to get the calories she needs
-Cora's breathing would continue to improve
-Cora wouldn't be in too much pain
-Joel and I would know how to comfort Cora
-Time to rest

Thursday, January 29, 2009

a new day

Every morning Joel and I wake up with that sick feeling in our stomachs. The reality hits again and we wonder if we have the strength to face another day. It is so good to be reminded that we don't have to go through this alone. We can't. We are clinging to God and resting in the fact that he hears our prayers and is walking right beside us.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

So many prayers are being said. Our sweet little girl is being lifted up to the Lord by people we don't even know. Wow! I was so encouraged by this e-mail I recieved from a friend today:

"The word about your dear Cora is spreading, and so are the prayers. If news spreading were given stages, the prayers being lifted up are WELL PAST stage 4. And the joy is that the God they are praying to is powerful and loving."

Today was a good day. Cora seemed comfortable and rested a lot. We are so thankful. We needed a break from the rollercoaster of emotions we have been experiencing the past week. The swelling in Cora's face has gone down so much and we can see her sweet little eyes again. I love that! Now her mama is just waiting to see a smile again.

Cora is responding well to the chemo so far. Her blood work has been coming back normal. She has had a little trouble with nausea and throwing up, but they are able to give her medicine to help with that.

-So thankful for a "good" day
-Cora is breathing better
-Cora's stomach measured 2 cm less today
-Prayer warriors around the world praying, praying, praying
-Encouraging comments, e-mails, and visits from so many
Prayer Requests:
-Comfort for Cora as she recieves her chemo treatments
-The chemo would "blast" the cancer (as one doctor put it)
-Cora's blood work would continue to come back normal
-Joel and I would continue to rely on God's stength

an update from dad

Hey everyone, this is dad writing to you tonight. (This is my first ever blog post so if I mess up too badly please forgive me.) I am sitting beside Cora's bed, and she is finally sleeping peacfully. It has been a really long couple of days since Jess last updated, so I will try to fill you all in from where she left off.

On tuesday morning we started out the day learning that Cora had to go back into surgery. Her incision, which goes all of the way across her abdoman, was seeping abdominal fluid and therefore needed immediate attention. This was quite a shock to us since the doctors had mentioned on monday that we might be able to go home the next day. The surgery only took about 45 minutes, but Cora was a wreck the rest of the day after coming off of the anesthesia. She also started to have a lot more trouble breathing, and getting comfortable. This was due to the large amount of fluid in her abdominal cavity and lungs. The doctors also think that her liver is enlarging so rapidly that it is contributing to the problems as well. That has made for two very painful days for Cora and her parents. It is soooo hard to watch your little girl be in that much pain and distress. As a result of all of this the pediatrician the surgeons and the oncologist decided that she should start her chemo as soon as possible. So instead of starting next monday like originally planned, we moved back down to ICU around 4:30 pm wednesday to start the first treatment. The chemo will last for around 80 hours and is all administered through the cvc line that was placed in her chest during surgery. The oncologist also warned us of the many risks that go along with this first round of treatment. (That was the point of the day where both parents lost it.) The positive part of this is that if the tumor responds well to the chemo it should start shrinking things in 24-48 hours.

The one highlite of the last two days was my brother flying in from China. He got in late tuesday night. It has been so encouraging to have him around.
This is a picture of Cora taken on tuesday night. I think she is getting a bit tired of all this.
Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying, visiting, and caring for us. We would not be able to make it through all of this with out you. We have also been so overwhelmed by the number of people who are praying for us across the country and around the world. Words can not describe our grattitude. We know that prayer is powerful, and we have felt God's had in all of this. Right now we are holding onto the hope that we serve a powerful God, and that he can heal our daughter.
I Peter 5:10-11
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever Amen.
Here are few things to pray for.
For an excellent team of doctors and nurses

For the thousands of people that are lifting us up in prayer
For a miracle
That God would minister to Cora in way that only He can
That Cora would not be in too much pain and that the chemo would not make her too sick
That the Chemo would go smoothly, and not have any of the dangerous side-effects
That the test results would come back as the more favorable type of cancer
That God would continue to give us the strength that we need to get through this.
That the cancer would start shrinking soon and give Cora some relief

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Asking For Your Prayers

Hey this is James, Joel's brother, just asking you to pray. 

Cora is beginning her first round of chemotherapy right now, and we just wanted to remind you to pray especially hard at this time because the first dose of this treatment is really critical, with a lot of risks involved. Her treatments will last for the next 78 hours, so please remember to pray for her especially in these next few days. 

This is a really difficult time for us all, but it means so much to know that you are lifting us up before our Heavenly Father all over the world. Please continue to ask Him for a miracle.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ups and downs

We started the day feeling pretty optomistic about things and ended the day pretty discouraged. I think that is how this journey is going to be. Lots of ups and downs. We are tired, we cry a lot, and we are still in shock that our happy little Cora is lying in a hospital bed with cancer. All we can do is cry out to the Lord to heal our precious little girl.

We met with the oncologist this morning. He talked to us about Neuroblastoma and what Cora's chemo is going to look like in the future. He doesn't want to start chemo until next week (probably Monday) so that Cora's body has a chance to heal from surgery. We probably will be going home sooner than we thought and then will go to his office for chemo treatments. Although the cancer is a stage 4, he is very optomistic about the treatment even if the tests show that she has the unfavorable kind of cancer. We are still praying for the favorable cancer that responds well to chemo. He also told us that Cora being under 12 months old increases her chances. It was so wonderful to hear some good news! Generally speaking it sounds like we are looking at six to eight coarses of chemo. This all depends on the test results. We will let you know when we know more.

This afternoon was much harder. Cora had such a good morning, but in the afternoon she was faced with lots of tests. Cora had x-rays of her whole body, CT scans of her chest and head, and a bone scan. It was lots of moving around for her and lots of waiting for us. Shortly following the tests the doctor verified that the cancer had moved all over her body. They already had told us that she was a stage four, but it was so hard to hear that they actually saw it in the scans and x-rays. It felt like we were facing reality all over again. We just felt sick. When we got Cora back to her room she seemed so uncomfortable. I think she was worn out from the afternoon and not feeling good at all. She was so sad and that makes her mom and dad SO sad. Cora's tummy is still very swollen. They put her back on an IV to help with that. They don't want her eating for now.

This picture was taken this evening after Cora finally settled down. I think she was covering her eyes to tell everyone to quit picking on her!

Cora has gotten so many sweet stuffed animals. We played with them this morning and put them all in her crib. We are so overwhelmed by the many, many gifts we have recieved. Thank you!

Even today we have continued to be surrounded by so many friends and family. Your visits and calls encourage us so much and make the days go by faster. We are so, so thankful for you all.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." Ephesians 3:20


-Encouraging meeting with the oncologist

-The cancer was found before Cora was 12 months old

-Such loving friends and family

-The multitude of prayer warriors that are praying for Cora, WOW!


-Strength and comfort for Cora as she continues to recover from surgery

-Patience as we wait for the results of the cancer tests (This is hard!)

-Wisdom and understanding as we learn about the chemo treatments and how to take care of Cora when we take her home
-Opportunities to share what God is doing in our lives with the many new people we are meeting

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a new journey

This is not a journey we ever imagined that we would be traveling. Especially not with our precious little girl. But here we are, trying to take it one step at a time.

It is hard to know where to begin. Here is a glimpse into the past few days:

Thursday afternoon we went to an appointment to make sure Cora's ear infections had cleared up. Joel decided to come along because we were frustrated that she kept getting sick. I felt like she just wasn't herself and we had noticed a few things we were concerned about. Cora's stomach seemed very tight, she had gotten two "mystery" black eyes recently, and she wasn't eating very much. Our pediatrician decided to do some blood work and x-ray her abdomen. After lots of waiting he came back into our room with tears in his eyes. He told us that from the x-ray he could tell that Cora's liver was enlarged. He said there is a chance it could be nothing, but in his experience it is usually related to cancer. We left his office in shock and headed straight to Wesley. I don't think Joel and I hardly said a word to each other the whole way to Wichita. We just cried.

We checked Cora into Wesley. She was so tired and hungry, but such a trooper. By this point she started crying every time she saw a nurse. She knew they were going to poke her and she didn't like it! She had a CT scan late that evening. By 11:30 that night we knew that she had a "mass" by her kidney and spots on her liver. They told us that they would go ahead and give her an IV at 6:00 the next morning in case of surgeory. We had to go to bed not knowing much else until we could talk to the specialists the next morning. We didn't sleep much!

Cora got to eat at 5:30am Friday morning and then got her IV at 6:00am. We tried to keep her busy the rest of the morning. The surgeon and oncologist came to talk to us around 9:30am. From the CT scan they could see a tumor next to her kidney and spots on her liver. Cora would need surgery to remove the tumor, take a bone marrow sample, and put a cath in for chemo treatments.

Cora was SO tired. Right before the surgery we pulled her around the hospital in a wagon. Joel and I took Cora back to the "holding room" before surgery around 12:30 that afternoon. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Everything had happened so fast and now we were waiting to hand our sweet little girl off to be cut open. We were so scared.

Waiting for Cora to get out of surgery was the LONGEST four hours of our lives, but she came out great. It was hard to hear the surgeon say that it did look like Neuroblastoma (a form of cancer). They had removed the tumor and some lymphnodes. The cancer was a stage 4 (it had spread all over) and she had over 100 spots on her liver. You can see her incesion across her abdomen in the picture above.

They took Cora back to Pediatric ICU. It is horrible seeing your baby hooked up to so many tubes and in pain. She has been so brave! We keep telling her she has to keep fighting hard.

Sunday morning Cora had another small surgery to put tubes in her ears. Our pediatrician recommended that we do that while we were here at the hospital. Cora's immune system will be compromised whe she starts chemo and he didn't want her dealing with more ear infections on top of the cancer. The surgeons are very happy with how she is recovering from surgery.

Today Cora got all her tubes taken off. Yeah! And she was doing so well they moved her back to the Pediactrics Unit. Her face is still pretty swollen from surgeory, but she peeks out her one little eye to look at us. She is starting to be more responsive which is so nice.

This is our room in Pediatrics and Cora is in her "jail crib" as we call it. Our families have been incredible through all of this. They met us at the hospital on Thursday when we checked in and someone has been with us every minute since. Our moms stayed with Cora during the night while she was still in PICU so that Joel and I could get some sleep. We are so thankful for them!

This afternoon Cora got to start eating again. She was hungry and seems to be keeping the milk down fine.
So now we wait. We know Cora has neroblastoma and will start chemo early this week. We don't know all the results as far as how treatable her cancer is. We don't know what chemo is going to look like for her. We will meet with the pediatric oncologist Monday morning and hopefully have some more answers.
This is SO hard. Joel and I would do anything to make this go away, but we can't. It is out of our control and that is hard when you are used to being able to make things better for your little girl. Even with all the unknowns of this journey we do know that we serve a mighty God and he has little Cora right in his hands. Joel and I can't make it through this on our own, but we know we can with the Lord walking with us each step of the way.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
God's presence has been so evident to us. We have been SO overwhelmed by the love of our friends and family. We have had so many visitors, calls, gifts and prayers. We will never be able to express our gratitude to you all. We keep saying over and over how blessed we are with such a great support system. Thank you!
Praise God For:
-Joel being at the doctor's appointment with me on Thursday when we found out
-The ear infections that brought us to the doctor in the first place
-Our pediatrician who knew the seriousness of an enlarged liver and got us to the hospital so fast
-Incredible doctor's and nurses who have been so helpful and supportive
-How well Cora is recovering from surgeory
-The outpouring of love we have felt from our friends and family
-Our precious Cora who we love so much
Prayer Requests:
-The nurses would be able to stay on top of Cora's pain so that she won't be uncomfortable
-Understanding and wisdom for Joel and I as we are so overwhelmed with all of this new information
-Patience as we have to wait 10-14 days for the full test results to come back
-That Cora's cancer would be very treatable with chemo
-That we would know how to comfort Cora and meet her needs
-That God would give us strength to get through this journey how ever long it might be
We will try to keep you updated as we learn more. We know our baby is covered in your prayers. Thanks for being on this journey with us!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

cora's story

Cora was born on March 5, 2008. We were instantly in love with our baby girl. She was such a joy to us in every way. We loved being a new little family and having this sweet little girl to share our lives with. She meant everything to us.

In late November Cora started having multiple ear infections along with a respiratory infection. We were visiting the pediatrician quite frequently and she seemed to keep getting sick. After trying lots of medication and still noticing that Cora just didn’t seem to be getting better, Joel decided to go to her appointment with me on January 22nd. Besides the ear infections we described a few other things we had noticed and the pediatrician decided to take an x-ray of Cora’s abdomen. About an hour later he came into our room with the news that forever changed our lives. Cora’s liver was very enlarged and he was concerned that it could possibly be the result of some kind of cancer. 

He sent us directly to the hospital in Wichita where we would spend the next 17 days. After checking in, lots of tests, and finally a CT scan we were forced to wait until the morning to learn what the doctors were going to do. In the morning our worst fears were confirmed. Cora had a tumor that needed to be removed immediately--it was most likely from cancer. After a whirlwind of meetings with doctors, surgeons, and the oncologist we were holding our little girl waiting to hand her off to the nurses for surgery. That was the HARDEST thing we have ever had to do. We never dreamed that this would be the last time we would be able to laugh and play with our little girl here on earth. After the surgery Cora was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer. It is still so hard to say that word “cancer”. The doctors and oncologist were very positive about Cora’s chances for recovery. Since she wasn’t yet a year old there was a very good chance that chemotherapy and possibly other treatments would be effective. The next few weeks were a roller coaster. It was HORRIBLE watching Cora lie helplessly in that hospital bed and not be able to do anything to help her. The plan for Cora’s treatment and when we would be able to go home seemed to change every day. We were forced to fall to our knees before the Father and trust Him with our little girl. That was the only thing we could do. 

Cora had four surgeries and completed the first round of chemotherapy while we were in the hospital. She was hooked up to so many different monitors and medicines we couldn’t even hold her. Eventually she was put on a respirator and then an oscillator because of her oxygen levels. While she wasn’t progressively getting better we held onto the hopeful words of her doctors. We were shocked that awful Sunday morning when we were awoken by my mom who was staying in Cora’s room. We were sleeping in the parent's room down the hall and had just left Cora two hours earlier. The doctor told us that Cora’s little lungs were failing and there just wasn’t anything else they could do. We watched so shocked and helplessly as our little girl slipped away, now safe in the arms of Jesus.

Cora went to be with Jesus on February 8th, 2009. She was 11 months old.

Our world has been rocked to the core. Never in our lives did we imagine that we would have to go back to our house alone, without Cora. Never did we imagine that our time with Cora would be so short. Never in our lives have we clung to Jesus so tightly. And His love and grace to us has been truly indescribable. This is the most horrible thing that we have ever been through, yet we have seen God working in our lives and the lives around us in a mighty way.

We started this blog when Cora was born to post pictures of her for friends and family to see as she grew. While we were in the hospital we used it as a tool to share what was happening with Cora and how people could pray for our family. It was amazing to see how many people stormed the gates of heaven on Cora’s behalf. We literally had thousands of people praying for us all over the country. It was incredible and humbling. The outpouring of love in our community and around the world we have felt since Cora went to heaven has been equally amazing. We decided to start a fund for a playground at our church for a memorial in Cora’s honor. Through our blog and a website called Etsy, over 50,000 dollars was raised for what is now known as Cora’s Playground. It is such an awesome remembering stone for our family. A reminder of God’s love and faithfulness to us.

While our hearts hurt so deeply every single day, we continue to rely on the HOPE that we have in our Lord. We miss our sweet Cora desperately. We know we can’t continue on this road in our own strength. We continue to seek the Lord and take things day-by-day. 

Thanks for joining us in our journey!

Monday, January 12, 2009


Ear infection number three.  My baby is sick AGAIN.  She is so sad.  We had a rough weekend.  Especially the nights.  She would wake up screaming and just want you to stand and hold her (not sit and hold her).  Today has been much better.  I am praying that this is the last ear infection so that happy Cora can come back!

On top of the ear infections, Cora is also getting her two top teeth.  Poor baby.  Soon she will have some new pearly whites to add to this toothy grin.

We have been giving Cora LONG baths in the evenings.  They always make her happy.  I know she is too big for the sink, but our bathtub is "sick" too.  You can only turn the cold water on.  Fixing that is on the to-do list.  Cora doesn't seem to mind.  She loves when daddy gives her baths and sprays her with the sprayer.  One night I was giving her a bath and she kept reaching for the sprayer and saying da-da.  It was so cute.  It was like she was saying come-on mom, dad's baths are way more fun!

I love this picture.  I can just hear her:  Go away mom.  Can't you see I am busy taking a bath.

And this is a picture of the laundry I let pile up over Christmas.  When I went to do my first load I found out that our washing machine is "sick" too.  Actually, it is probably a goner.  We think the motor is dead.  So sad.  The funny thing is that our washing machine is only four years old and our dryer (which was given to us) is ancient and still plugging away.  I hauled all of this laundry over to my mom's house.  She was kind enough to help me get it all done.  Thanks mom!

Hopefully this is the end of the "sickness" at our house!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

not the baby anymore

Cora is getting so big.  Like a little girl, not a baby anymore.  Especially with all these new babies around.  Cora and I have a new friend at our house on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I am watching my good friend Julie's little boy twice a week.  Cora giggles at Ori and likes to pat him.  I'm sure he loves it!  

Ori is such a sweet, laid back little guy.  I was a little nervous about watching two "babies", but it went really well.  I was exhausted tonight though.  How do people take care of twins??

And another little baby.  This is Lily Mae.  We visited her in the hospital tonight.  I was so excited that Joel and Kendall had a little girl.  They needed another girl in their house!  Ollie is pretty proud of his new little sister too.  Congratulations Smiths!

Now, everyone needs to stop having these little babies.  I want my baby girl to still be the "baby".  Joel would disagree.  He likes the older stages better.  She is growing up too fast for me!