I know so many of you are following along and I wanted to provide you as much detail regarding Artem’s medical condition as possible, but felt it was important to have as many details as possible before sharing any specifics. So after visiting Children’s Hospital (The Jimmy Everest Cancer Center) today, we know much more about Artem’s health.
Last Friday we received the diagnosis from our Orthopedic Oncologist (and their pathologist) that Artem has Eosinophilic Granuloma (Bone Tumor) and not the Giant Cell Tumor diagnosed in Russia. Today we had X-rays taken of his entire skeletal structure in search of more tumor locations. He also had another CBC (blood work) taken as well as urine samples. The pediatric oncologist was trying to determine if his EG was present on other places and, as possible with some children, present in other organs of the body. After all the images and tests were taken, we met this afternoon with the Doctor. It really was one of those moments when it’s hard to explain the anticipation you have listening to every word the doctor has to say. He commented that Artem looks so healthy, he actually seemed surprised when he met him. Then he said that he had read the medical summary that we had from the orphanage. That explained his shock. Their medical report seemed very gloomy regarding Artem’s overall health. We explained the differences in diagnosis techniques and practice in Russia and the reasoning we had to employ Dr Davies from UW just to assist in evaluating Russian medical records. He shared with us that his pathologist also agreed that Artem has an Eosinophilic Granuloma. The doctor then covered the lab results and checked Artem himself for signs of multi-system disease. He liked everything he saw. No signs of multi-system disease. We then had to wait for the radiologist reports. After about 20-30 more minutes the doctor returned and I knew he was pleased, but with caution. He shared with us that Artem didn’t have any additional tumor sites within his torso, skull, or extremities, but their was an indistinguishable abnormality in his right pelvis near the hip. It didn’t seem consistent with an EG tumor, but also couldn’t be ruled out. Both radiologists and the doctor agreed that it could be intestinal gas affecting the image, but we would have to wait a while for another image to be sure. So, we are scheduled to come back in a month to have that location imaged again. So for now, the prognosis is as good as we could have hoped for. He most likely has only this single lesion of EG, which has a very good prognosis. We do of course, have to wait and see what comes from the imaging of his pelvis in a month, but the doctor seemed pretty optimistic that we probably wouldn’t be headed back to the cancer center. We are very grateful that is probably the case. In two weeks we return to the orthopedic oncologist to determine the treatment for his leg. There are a few options they may take, but none are all that difficult or problematic. We are even hopeful that he may be out of his cast by then since the X-rays are showing good bone growth/healing.
We have spent three weeks knowing that Artem has a tumor and not knowing the extent of any disease or additional damage. That’s a long time to not know the health of your child. On top of that, we haven’t had much sleep and had very little time to ourselves. I would say that today provided some relief, but I also think that we are still in a bit of shock from the entire life change that this adoption has involved. Today’s answers still haven’t completely sunk in. I do sense that both Krista and I are starting to look more towards the future than just the moment, and that is probably a good sign.
The boys are continuing to adjust to one another and our new family. I had a great time yesterday getting them to play together for the first time. Each of them seems tired from the transition and stress created by such an enormous life change, but they also are showing signs of adjusting. Artem is learning more english words and beginning to communicate so much more with us by just pointing. He seems content going to bed at night and the crying has subsided. Valera still is probably struggling more at this point. We think he’s fighting allergies, so he isn’t sleeping well to begin with, but he also wants to be held more frequently than before. Overall, we are confident that these two boys will adjust and really enjoy one another.
We are very grateful for today’s outcome and look forward to meeting with each of our doctors over the coming month. I think today is the first time I think I can allow myself to believe that Artem’s health will have a very positive outcome and I am truly grateful for so many of the people that have prayed for him and our family.
Something Krista and I have been talking about the past two days is that people continually say that we are good people for what we are doing. I think it’s very important that you hear what I’m about to communicate. We are not good people. We are like everyone else. We have problems. We are selfish. We are self-centered. We are prideful. We make rash and poor decisions. If there is anything good in us, it is not from ourselves. It is from God. He has radically changed and shaped our lives. We don’t wish to take any credit for any of the good that comes from our lives. We know that the day we appear before Him in the afterlife, we won’t be able to point to our adoptions and love of these two orphans to claim that we are good. We will simply say we are grateful for Jesus and what He has done. We do appreciate that many of you have recognized what is happening in our lives. It is special. It is unique. It is completely the work of God and not us.
Thank you for your love and prayers. Please continue to pray for our sons and family. We are extremely grateful for your care.
Sometimes it’s easy to look a family and think that all is so well with them. The reality is that life can be difficult… in fact down right impossible at times. Come to think of it, I think we have a disease in the human condition called pride. We want all those around us to think we are doing so well and have perfect lives. I think many of us are infected with this disease. It’s truly ridiculous when you consider the fact that each of us face difficulties in every area of life… our health, our finances, our family, our friends, our neighbors, our workplace, our community, our nation, our world… need I say more? Then why the facade?
I ask these questions because we are less than a week into having our new son home from Russia and life hasn’t been easy… and I’ve felt a need to just be honest. Maybe I’m too tired to put up a front that says life is great. It’s actually very difficult. Maybe it’s because I sense that what is going on in and around us is so much bigger than us that I would be making a mistake to try to take credit or discount the challenges. I mean if God is to demonstrate his power and authority in our lives, what challenge is that if we live perfect lives with no difficulties? Right?
Well, I’m sure many of you read this blog to hear about our adoption and I don’t want to refrain from thanking you and giving you some very specific updates in the midst of my desire to communicate from my heart, so here goes:
We were able to visit both the pediatrician and orthopedic disease specialist this week. Artem got a new cast that is so much easier for him to get around on. After both of these appointments, we had to wait for test results. The great news is that they were able to use the pathology slides we were given in Russia. So we expected to hear yesterday or today regarding what kind of tumor that he has in his leg.
Each day that Artem has been in our home he has shown improvement in so many ways. He seems to be sleeping well (much better than Krista and I) and eating quite a bit. He has begun to bond with Krista and always wants to be where she is. He seems leery of strangers that have visited us in the house… which is a very healthy sign. He smiles a ton and loves the sound of his own voice… even at very high volumes… He truly seems pretty happy. He’s not quite sure how to interact with Valera and I think sees his older brother as a threat to the new found attention he’s getting from Mom, but we think those are just learned behaviors from the orphanage that he will outgrow. He usually eats about 5-6 bananas a day and at least three serving of yogurt, but only has passing interest in most other foods. He is throwing less screaming fits as we baby proof the house more and don’t have to constantly tell him no, but we also think that’s because he is certainly becoming comfortable with our surroundings. He has spend a ton of time sitting or laying on top of Krista which is great for healing and overcoming some of the detachment disorders common for orphans. He also has picked up on quite a few baby sign language signs and uses them frequently to communicate, which has been very helpful.
Older bother, Valera, has had some difficulties but is also doing well with the transition. Krista and I have tried very hard to give him specific attention, but there are times when that is difficult. Both trips he took to mothers day out this week his teacher commented that his behavior was great. We are so very proud of him. God gave this child one of the best personalities and demeanors I’ve ever witnessed and I am grateful for how well he is doing. That’s not to say he hasn’t had difficulties, but nothing out of the ordinary when the youngest child has to face the transition of being the youngest anymore. He is still the same sweet child that so many of you have come to know and love.
I would also be tremendously remiss if I didn’t thank so many of you for purchasing us gifts for Artem. He has already made great use of so many of those presents. It was truly awesome to come home with such short notice and have our home filled with things he needed. Thank you so very much.
So, all in all, we are pleased with his progress. I know, what you are thinking… so what’s the difficulty? Sounds like things are going well.
During our visits to the doctors this week, it was revealed that Artem most likely has an EG tumor in his right tibia. We don’t have the final pathology back yet, but honestly we were told that’s the best diagnosis he could receive based on the location and type of tumor that is present. Unfortunately at his age, even a benign EG tumor is extremely dangerous (their medical terms: extremely aggressive). We did receive a call last night that the orthopedic specialist is handing our care over to a bone tumor cancer specialist at Children’s hospital because of the expected diagnosis. They are trying to get us in to see Dr William (Bill) Meyers who was formerly the head of the medical practice at St. Jude’s focused on tumor research and treatment. We are waiting for calls today to determine what steps are required next and how quickly we will be able to have him further evaluated.
So while we continue to fall in love with Artem, I sense we are bracing ourselves that life is going to be filled with doctors appointments and uncertain outcomes. I know this is a lot to share, but I also know that Krista and I simply don’t have the energy to pretend that life is perfect. We are very pleased with Artem’s progress in our home, but it’s difficult for our minds to not continually focus on the health condition that he faces.
So as I prayed this morning, I sensed that God was asking me to do several things. My hope is that knowing none of you live perfect lives either, they will benefit you as well…
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12 ESV)
We should have joy in the hope that comes from God. No medical diagnosis or challenge in our lives is too difficult for God to overcome. Be patient in tribulation… for me these two are intertwined. As I shared with Krista last night, being patient to me means living in the moment not anxious for the next. God has given Artem to us so that we might love him as God does and enjoy him. Yes his condition is uncertain, but truthfully so is ours. So I should not worry, but have patience and hope.
Be constant in prayer. I ask that You join me in this one. Not just for my family, but for your own. Pray that God would extend His mercy and grace upon You today. Be transformed by the power of His love that it might motivate you to share it with others.
Lastly, don’t pretend that everything is okay when we all know it’s not. It just takes away from our ability to care and love for one another and discounts what God can do to make your life better.
Thank you so much for your care, support, prayers, and love…
After day one, I’m not sure what either of us expected day two to be like. I actually spent quite a bit of time in the middle of the night praying (jetlag always seems to produce plenty of prayer time in the wee hours of the night) that our family would quickly rebound from the trip and that Artyom would begin to benefit from this transition.
I thought I heard him wake up at 6:30am again, but noticed his eyes were still shut, so I was careful not to stir him. Krista and I got up and ready for the day. We each kept checking on him every 15 minutes or so. He just was sleeping so hard that he didn’t even roll over from 6:30 to 10am when Krista had to wake him for his first doctors appt. All that sleep seemed to have a huge difference on his demeanor. He was so much happier today and really didn’t have any melt downs. A few very minor temper tantrums, but no melt downs. We were very encouraged. That should probably read, “Krista was extremely encouraged” since she is the one that spends all day with him. Big brother (Valera) got to hang out with Papa & Grandma and go to speech class, so overall day two was a smashing success compared to day one. We aren’t going to count that each day will be better than the last, but we will take progress at this point.
So while we were preparing for the week of doctors appts for Artyom, I needed to confirm his coverage on my medical insurance. During the process I read the official adoption and birth certificates and their translations. I noticed that his Russian name had been translated as Artem, not Artyom as we had been informed. I doubled checked and noticed it was also Artem on his passport. Krista was actually excited. We both feel that Artem will be easier for English speakers to pronounce than Artyom. Although it’s still a very unique name, it won’t be as confusing to read. So, I’d like to take this moment to recognize our son, Artem James Marisov Lusey, and take full credit for announcing him previously with a misspelled name… :-/.
We also have already booked an appt for tomorrow for the oncologist to see Artem. I will keep everyone posted here on what we learn about his tumor and any other diagnosis.
Please keep him in your prayers. He still needs so much healing both emotionally and physically.
Day one at our house with two boys began at 6:30am. Probably because of jetlag, but none the less we were interested to see how Artyom would enjoy his new surroundings. We learned he loves bananas (six, in fact just on day one) and musical toys. When he is happy he loves to march around singing and dancing. Unfortunately, day one was filled with quite a few melt downs. Atryom seemed very irritable and we even had to keep Valera at a distance from him. I spent much of the day beginning to secure the downstairs from a very quick, strong, and inquisitive toddler. Krista spent every minute just hanging out with him because he obviously can’t be left alone for even a few seconds at this stage. By the time evening came around Artyom had too much of a melt down to even eat dinner, so since we figured he had enough calories for the day… remember the six bananas… it was time for bed at 6:15pm.
That evening we realized that this transition was going to be tough. Tough enough I could already see the stress in Krista’s eyes. It was 8pm and she and I were just sitting down together for the first time that day just to eat something for dinner. That’s when she said, “my life as just changed for good”. I’m sure I understood what she was saying, but I’d like to point out the literal meaning.
Our lives have changed.
And it is for good.
We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,
but it is going to be good.
We arrived home Saturday night around 7pm. Unfortunately, not without incident. As the flights continued it became more and more evident that Artyom was not only refusing to be belted in his seat, he seemed terrified of the seatbelt strap. We are beginning to think some sort of restraint was used in medical treatments at the children’s hospital in Tomsk. By the time we boarded our last flight, we hadn’t slept in about 21 hours and Artyom had a complete melt down. Krista had to physically restrain him to keep him in his seat and belt. They were both in tears by the time we got in the air. As soon as she let him out of his seat and held him he was asleep within minutes. I decided to tell her not to restrain him on the descent into OKC. The flight attendant was polite and even compassionately emotional about our situation, but as expected, she reported to the captain who had us escorted by the police upon arrival. Really seemed like par for the course of the difficult trip we had, but Krista and I just couldn’t force a child that already been through so much to be traumatized anymore. Thankfully both the police and captain were nice enough to let us go after we explained our journey.
Arriving home was great. Our friends had purchased items from our Amazon gift list and many had already arrived. The house was decorated to celebrate our arrival home. It’s always great to get home after a long trip and it certainly lowered our overall stress level, but that’s when I realized that it wasn’t going to lower Artyom’s stress level… at least for now.
Artyom spent nearly three weeks in a hospital and then was moved to an isolation room in his orphanage then complete strangers (that would be us) swept him up and kept him in two different hotels, flew 7500 miles to arrive at our home in less than 72 hours. I can’t think of anyway to make a 2 yr old’s stress level any higher.
We just keep reminding ourselves that it’s for his good and getting him to the States for quick and excellent medical care is more important than time to adjust to us in Siberia (like Valera did). So we are home and we are grateful. We are grateful for your support and prayers.
There is no place like home,
It’s really hard to believe that we just left Russia. According the inflight computer, we are just 9 hours from touching down in Houston. I say ONLY because we are getting used to 11+ hour flights. I just noticed we have a 50mph tailwind headed westward. Must be God blowing us home, because for those of you that haven’t crossed the Atlantic (this is my 37th time) I don’t recall tailwinds headed against the jetstream… Ever.
Moscow was a whirlwind. Two nights, less than 48 hours. I have to admit I like American hotels so much better than the local inns in Siberia. Krista was craving American food badly enough to order a $25 hamburger (see picture). Although we have yet to really figure out how to get Artyom to sleep well, we did manage to get him to sleep at an early hour both times and everyone is as well rested as possible for the trek home. While we won’t go into all the details regarding our process in Moscow to get Artyom’s visa from the US Embassy, I will say that it took less than 24 hours which allowed us to fly out today and not have to spend the weekend there. We are very grateful and realize that Someone has been looking out for us this entire week.
So, only 10 days after learning that Artyom has a tumor we are on a flight to the US. We certainly haven’t had much time to bond with him as we did with Valera, but it’s for the right reasons. We know that he’s struggling because he has no idea who we are or what we are doing with him. Looking back at the past 10 days it would be hard to communicate how many hurdles have been crossed to make this trip home today possible. Quite frankly I can think of more than a handful of times I would have told you it wasn’t possible. But the more I try to take a step back and gain some better perspective of the bigger picture of what’s happening in our lives, I realize we are on a journey set before us by God. That’s when I realize no detail is too small for Him to care about or obstacle too large for Him to overcome.
Looking forward to being home…
We are on the plane from Tomsk to Moscow. In so many ways it’s seems hard to believe that this day has come. We may have just said goodbye for good to a town that has had such a profound impact on our family. It was a strange feeling walking out on the tarmac to board the plane with two little boys in tow. I had Valera waive goodbye to Tomsk when we got to the top of the stairs if he was some sort of dignitary saying goodbye giving his fairwell to the native citizens. Over the past four trips and 7 weeks weeks we have spent in this town we will always be able to remember so much about the boys’ homeland. But it’s not the town that I will miss, it’s Katya and Victor. These two people have done so much to help form our new family. Katya cancelled her vacation with her husband this past week as we extended our trip to be able to bring Artyom home. Victor worked around the clock on translating our documents, watching Valera during our 5 hours of court all while working a regular job, finishing his university degree, and translating and driving us around. Krista and I have grown very fond of this mother/son adoption team and are somewhat sad we probably just said our final goodbyes.
Their friendship isn’t the only reason this trip seems strange. It’s probably because we didn’t expect to be a family of six so soon. It’s really been less than 48 hours since the official decree was issued. While we are certainly capable of being parents again, becoming parents is something people usually have some time to prepare towards a date. But what caused this to seem more crazy was that not until 6pm last night did we even have Artyom’s passport and only 5am this morning did we have the decree translated for the US Embassy. It was a very quick goodbye at the orphanage last night and then a fury of packing and making travel arrangements.
Last night was our first night of having both boys. It was a little crazy… Okay, a lot crazy. We really had no idea how to get Artyom to sleep so he screamed and cried for a couple hours until he finally had to just rock himself to sleep. It was very sad to watch. Krista, in my opinion, won the mother of the year award. I’m so impressed with her patience with Artyom considering how tired and worn out we already are. It’s obvious that we have a lot of adjusting to do. We’ve been so focused on Artyom’s tumor I think I forgot the extent of care and patience that will be required to attend to the other issues he will have from his 2 years of being an orphan. I’m not afraid to admit at times that this task seems very challenging, but God’s assurance that we were supposed to do this to honor Him and care for this boy, combined with Krista’s incredible attitude are all that I need to know that life is very good.
So we will be in Moscow in a few hours and rush around hopeful to compete our documents by tomorrow night. If so, we could be in the US on Saturday. We are trying not to get our hopes up since this has been such a challenging trip already, but I can really see the look in Valera’s eyes that he knows his home is in Edmond, not Russia.
It feels very good to be headed in the right direction today. We are hopeful to be home soon. We are hopeful to begin getting the treatment for Artyom that he desperately needs.
We are also very grateful for so many of your prayers, emails, Facebook messages, FaceTime calls, and text messages. They have made a world of difference for Krista and I.
Please keep praying for Artyom’s health and our safe return home.
I just wanted to take a blog post and dedicate it to our new son… That’s right, as of April 17th, 2012 we are parents again. We are the proud parents of Artyom James Marisov Lusey, born Jan 1st, 2010. He has a great smile that he’s never shy to flash and he loves the sound of his own voice. He clearly knows who we are and even knows Valera by name. You would never know this little boy has a tumor except for the little plaster cast on his lower right leg. He seems extremely happy and inquisitive. He seems to be perfectly happy hanging out with us unless he wants to get up and walk around, which we aren’t supposed to let him do because of his leg.
We feel humbled that God put us on this journey and chose Artyom for our family. We know there are some tough days ahead, but we are confident in the God that knitted our family together and this will all work out for His glory and Artyom’s benefit.
Thank you again for participating in our journey by reading our blog, sending us notes of encouragement, and praying for God’s provision, protection, and healing.
I’m sitting in our hotel room just one hour after our 4 1/2 hour court session this afternoon. Although I’m quite emotional (so is Krista) I sense a calmness after the storm has passed. An hour ago the judge ruled in favor of our petition… All of it. Including the waiver of the 30 day waiting period. That means we are Artyom’s parents. We will have it in writing at 10am in the morning. We can pick him up from the Baby House anytime after that. It really seemed like insurmountable odds that our petition would be granted in its entirety… Maybe that’s because no one believes that the 30 day waiting period has EVER been waived for and adoption in Russia.
So our minds are just reeling with the reality that we just became parents again. Or maybe that we don’t even have plane tickets to get home. Or maybe that we don’t have any clothing with us for Artyom.
Regardless it brought us to tears during court when we least expected… When the prosecutor made her statement she supported our petition in its entirety even though she grilled the two medical witnesses. Krista and I just couldn’t believe what we were hearing. I felt Katya’s hand pat my shoulder from behind and I knew she was as emotional as we were.
I’m not sure we really fully understand the depths of the odds that were just overcome. Not only are we the only family to have the waiting period waived, we are also the first Americans to adopt from this region in nearly two years. Katya said that our successful adoption of Valera and decree today to adopt Artyom is historic and will open the door for more American families to adopt from Tomsk. Krista and I are humbled to believe that our perseverance will impact the lives of even more orphans. Praise God, because He deserves the credit, not us.
Well, I wish I could say everything today was positive, but listening to the in depth testimonies of the head doctor and the oncologist only reminded me of the seriousness of Artyom’s medical condition. It is urgent and potentionally life threatening.
So our request for your prayers continue. Please thank God that He answered your prayers in the courtroom today, but the real miracles await the various tests and treatments required for Artyom’s tumor.
We are so grateful for your prayers and love,
Valera saying his Easter prayer
That’s right, today is Easter in Siberia. Most of the churches are orthodox in this part of the country. The only evidence we have seen of the holiday is the presence of these special pastry/breads in the grocery stores over the past few days. So this morning we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in a foreign place and a foreign way. We have lived in a hotel for more than a week and God willing we won’t be home for at least 9 more days.
On Friday we had our 3rd pre-court session. Overall all it went well enough that the judge set our court date for Monday at 1:30-4:30pm. (1:30am CDT in Oklahoma). The session did have at least 3 moments that were potentially problematic. First, the social worker didn’t have her paperwork completed because she didn’t believe that we were wanting to adopt a child with questions regarding his medical diagnosis. We aren’t sure what she had been paying attention to during our previous two sessions, none the less, we confirmed that was our intent. She is also going to observe us at the orphanage tomorrow morning with Artyom to confirm that we are in fact bonding with him and he is accepting of us. Secondly, the judge wants the three doctors to appear in court to testify to Artyom’s medical condition and answer questions from himself and the prosecutor. One of the doctors has already declined due to the fact her patient load is too high. The judge insisted she be present, but we know she isn’t coming. He indicated that if she didn’t show, he would send an official invite for Tuesday (insert me thinking about having 5 court hearings for this adoption… :(. Lastly, the prosecutor has already indicated she is not in favor of this adoption and wants additional tests run in Tomsk (which isn’t possible) before this case is heard. The judge did seem to overrule her and set the court date anyways. She warned our representative to not advise us that there would be a favorable judgment as she left the court room on Friday. I’m almost getting to the point that opposition to this adoption is something that I should just expect, but it is disappointing that so many seem so indifferent about the welfare of the child that all these proceedings are about.
Saturday we were able to visit Artyom back in his orphanage. His leg was casted to protect him from further injury and he has been placed in an isolation room. We played with him for about an hour. He really seems to remember us, but the cast and his inability to walk on it is going to be very difficult to manage. If we are granted the adoption and ability to take him home, it will be a very tough journey with two little boys, considering one doesn’t understand he isn’t able to walk on his right leg. The journey would also span over the weekend in Moscow because of the time it takes to clear the paperwork at the US embassy.
This morning we are going to visit him again and then will spend the rest of the day in the hotel room. It’s really hard to go anywhere or do anything because of the language barrier. Our translator has the day off so we are just trying to rest and assure Valera that one day we will actually go back home.
So on this Easter morning, I ask that you would pray for Artyom. I ask that you pray that we would have a favorable day in court tomorrow. I ask that you pray that God would care for Artyom during this difficult time.
We really look forward to returning home, but only as a complete family.
We are grateful for your love and prayers,