Side Effects

Getting ready for Christmas dinner
Getting ready for Christmas dinner 

Highlight: Joseph’s neutrophils are low again and he is at risk of infection.

Highlight: Joseph is doing well at home, though he is experiencing some side effects from his treatment.

Highlight: Joseph has been chosen for a treatment protocol for the last 2.5 years of his treatment that could result in fewer long term side effects.


These past two weeks have been good ones for Joseph, including a wonderful Christmas here at home. Joseph has had a good appetite this past week and enjoyed his Christmas dinner and treats. In the picture Joseph is helping prepare the brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner. One of the “side effects” of all that Joseph has been through the past couple of months is a sense of gratitude among us at just being together and at home for Christmas. We have had a much less “packed” Christmas season and have had more time with each other, even if that means it is in care giving.

Last week Joseph was settling well at night but this week he has been very unsettled. We are not sure what has caused it (could be a side effect of chemo) but he is is often up several times during the night, more so than Ezra the new baby. Fortunately there are no serious problems, just being unsettled and needing support and comfort. However, this can take hours each night.

Another side effect from the chemo that Joseph has experienced is more stumbling and falling. The drugs weaken the muscles and fine balance so at times he can be trundling happily along playing and just tumble over. While he is picking up a few bruises on his knees, he is not being slowed down a bit. Each time he just picks himself up and keeps going. We have been told that some children go off their feet completely during this frist six months of treatment. We are grateful to hear that after these first months of more intense treatment Joseph should regain full strength and balance.

On Friday I took Joseph in for another round of outpatient treatment and his blood work indicated that his neutrophils had dropped by more than 50% in the past week and he is now back down to the level where he is at great risk of infection. The drop is a side effect of his oral chemo he takes each night. This week he will taken off that drug to allow his body to recover a bit.

This week, Joseph will have 5 days of oral steroid treatment. Joseph will receive a dose in the morning and the evening at home. Steroids have many possible side effects and two that Joseph will have is a great increase in appetite and a much lower threshold for frustration and irritation.

It may start to sound like we are dealing with lots of side effects from Joseph’s treatment, but we are very well aware that we are dealing with very strong drugs working on a deadly illness which a generation ago killed everyone who was diagnosed with it. So in that context, the side effects seem quite reasonable.

However, there are some side effects that can build up over the three years of treatment that can have life long impact on Joseph’s well-being. Now that the UK has a treatment process that is generally very successful against leukemia, studies are being done to see if the treatment can be altered to reduce long-term side effects. Some of these are learning difficulties, bone growth problems, heart, lung, liver, kidney, reproductive and skin issues that can arise due to treatment. Because of research done in the past ten years, the doctors have been able to determine that Joseph has a form of Leukemia that should be treatable with less intense treatment than the standard protocol. He has been offered and we have accepted a trial treatment that could greatly reduce his long-term side effects. The part of his treatment effected by this trial starts this summer and will continue until the end of his three years of treatment.

Until this summer, Joseph will be receiving the standard treatment protocol and that will be very challenging at times. But again, we feel blessed that Joseph has the opportunity to receive such good quality care and doubly blessed to have so many who have expressed a desire to pray for him. We feel that prayer has been absolutely at the core of his good progress and his protection from so many possible infections.

As I was watching our children enjoying their Christmas gifts, the Jesus’ birthday cake, and having their grandparents over for Christmas dinner, I was reminded of another side effect that the Bible warns us about in Deuteronomy 6:10-12. It is an odd side effect of God’s blessings – that of a cold, self-sufficient heart that forgets about God. It is a very strange thing that one of the most dangerous things God can do for us is to bless us, as it gives us an opportunity to focus on the blessing or the good thing, rather than the One who gave us the good thing.

It was wonderful to have my beautiful wife beside me, my four boys at my feet, Joseph doing well, and all sitting by a warm fire. What a lovely Christmas – but all of that is just a “good thing”. Christmas is really all about Jesus, who came into this shattered world as a baby, to live for us and die in our place. He came because He is our ONLY hope of rescue from sin, death and eternal punishment. Immortal God, became a man, lived among us and loved us enough to pay all that we owned, even when we ignored, mocked or even desired to kill Him.

Without Christmas we would have nothing but a short painful life full of sorrow and distress followed by endless hopelessness and regret. How could such an amazing gift be overshadowed by our toys, food and Christmas lights?

His gift of life and rescue from sin is there for you, as close as a whisper inside your heart. Ask Him, He promised, and He will give it to you freely, forever.

Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  John 6: 35- 40 

4 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. Blessed Father again all we have is praise and glory to give you for being our Mighty and Ever loving and giving God! Bless you Father for the tremendous sacrifice you have given us in Jesus. Thank you for your absolute love and grace shown to us on the cross by Jesus that we might receive grace upon grace. Not due to our worthiness but because your Son Jesus took all our sin and dysfunction, all our diseases and the punishment we deserved that we might instead be called children of God. How glorious you are! Thank you for your grace shown to Joseph! Such a wee boy and yet so blessed that you are the Keeper of his care. I continue to believe that your Kingdom comes in his little body and life and family because of Jesus! Father it is your good pleasure to give us the Kingdom of heaven and have those benefits now in Jesus. Bless you and praise you! Thank you that Jesus keeps the door to heaven ajar that Joseph and his family might receive grace upon grace and it is so in and through Jesus. Thank you for your protection for Joseph and bountiful good care! Glory to you now and forever!

  2. Happy birthday Joseph you have been through so much and have been so brave. Our little daughters Amelia 6 and Isabella 5 continue to pray and ask lots if questions about you every day. May God continue to bless and protect you and your family in 2014.

    The Deys, Toronto

  3. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you all and we trust 2014 will be a spiritually ‘prosperous’ one as you walk hand in hand each day with our blessed Saviour.

  4. Very challenged by this reminder of of how God’s blessings can be dangerous because of the sin in our heart. My son also has leukaemia. In fact my wife saw Joseph today at clinic today.

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