Thursday, November 24, 2022

5 Year Cancer-versary

Five years ago on this date - November 24th 2017 (Black Friday, ironically) - Caroline was diagnosed with Stage IV, High-Risk Neuroblastoma in one of the “holding” rooms on the Radiology floor at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Our lives changed forever when we heard our pediatrician emotionally explain that Caroline had a massive, cancerous tumor in her midsection.  As we look back 5 years later, we thought we’d share our individual feelings about how our journey through this disease has impacted us. 


Mark: It’s been a rough 5 years for our family in so many ways. I think we’ve shared much of this over the journey, so no reason for me to re-hash it all today. On this Thanksgiving, and 5 year anniversary of her diagnosis, I’d like to focus on what we do have: we have each other, we still have our daughter and we have hope that our future will be long and bright, and much less exhausting in the years to come. I am thankful for the Vanderbilt medical team that has helped us beat this once, and is now helping Caroline beat it again after her April relapse. I’m thankful for research groups like Beat Childhood Cancer, for continuing to fight for these amazing warriors. I’m thankful for our extended family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, prayer warriors, and community of many, that have lifted us up over the last 5 years.  I’m thankful for Margaret’s ability to process all the care and treatment requirements on a daily basis.  I’m very proud of how Andrew has handled all of this to date. He has seen much more than any kid his age should.  And my rock star, Caroline - the treatment for pediatric cancers are very outdated and extremely harsh. I really have no idea how she has survived all this and maintained such an amazing attitude and outlook…on the other hand, I have never doubted her. She’s my hero! 


Margaret: My heart shattered on 11/24/17, when we were informed that Caroline had Stage IV cancer. My heart was obliterated on 4/8/22, when my biggest fear of her cancer coming back became a reality. I am broken in an irreparable way, yet stronger for it. Being a “cancer mom” is the penultimate life of dichotomies. It’s paralyzing to constantly feel two things at once: overwhelming sadness coupled with overwhelming relief that Caroline is alive; perpetual fear of her dying, but also survivor’s guilt knowing so many kids who have passed; breaking down, but also being strong beyond belief; wanting to be with both of my kids, but having to choose…a steady stream of anxiety, exhaustion, frustration and disconnection, yet a calmness about not being in control, and closeness to Mark that is rock-solid. Most of what we see and hear Caroline go through…the questions she and Andrew need answered…realities that need to be explained…so much innocence lost, and for so long now. It’s all just too much: too scary, too gross, too heartbreaking, and definitely too much to share on the blog. As we hit the 5 year milestone, it’s hard to believe Caroline has lived with cancer longer than she hasn’t, yet she remains the brightest of lights, and the reason I keep going. 


Andrew: “after 5 years, cancer life feels normal…things that didn’t feel normal in the beginning, feel regular now. When she got cancer again, things that might have seemed like a big deal before, aren’t really that big of a deal because we already went through this. It doesn’t feel good to be the brother of someone that has cancer because my mom is gone all the time and I don’t get to see my sister. Also, it’s not good that I can’t go to the hospital this time around because of COVID rules - it makes me feel really sad. I always have my dad, but I don’t always have my mom. Stuff always gets canceled - like we were supposed to go to Florida for Thanksgiving, but then Caroline got a virus. I understand why things get canceled though, and it’s ok. I don’t feel scared that she’s going to die because I know that Vanderbilt is going to save her life. When I found out she relapsed, I thought it was just going to be the same kind of stuff as last time, and it basically is the same, other than the fact that I can’t go to the hospital this time. When Caroline gets gifts, or gets to do cool stuff without me, I feel left out, but mostly I feel fine. That’s all.”


Caroline: “hey guys, it’s Caroline here. I just wanted to tell you thank you for all the prayers and to my Vanderbilt people for giving me encouragement to get through this in one piece. It’s been rough the past few weeks, but I’ve powered through thanks to everybody out there. I was sad when I relapsed, and it was really hard for me to tell everyone - I just wanted to be a normal kid and it’s really sad. I’m really thankful for my family, friends and my dog, Hank.”


Wishing you and yours a truly blessed Thanksgiving!
The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf


11/24/22 through the years (2017-2022)...

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Unexpected Inpatient / Hockey Fights Cancer

After an unusually rough cycle, Caroline had an even harder time recovering at home and ended up being re-admitted inpatient.  Her lab work showed she was fighting off a strong intestinal virus, in addition to her chemo side effects.  After a few days of fluids, anti-medics and supportive care, she was feeling much better and able to come home. 

Luckily she was feeling well enough to participate in the Nashville Predators' "Hockey Fights Cancer" night on Saturday.  Caroline got to high-five the players as they came out of the locker room, wave rally towels on the band stage to hype the crowd with Scott Hamilton, sit in the 365 Foundation Suite, and ride on the Zamboni when they cleared the ice before the game - she absolutely loved it!  It's always such an honor to be asked to represent the hospital that has worked so hard to save her life...enjoy the pics!

Unexpected hospital stay...





So special to share the experience with the Hughes family!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Rough Cycle 9 - Complete

After a really rough week inpatient, Caroline was discharged yesterday.  She's still struggling with nausea and stomach issues at home, and spent most of the day today resting in bed, and on the couch watching football.  We're hopeful she feels well enough to go back to school this week...

Her next appointment is on Friday (11/18) for a wellness check, followed by progress scans the week after Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the continued support!
The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Cycle 9 Admission

After getting bumped for treatment 3 weeks in a row, Caroline finally "made counts" yesterday, and was able to be admitted for Cycle 9.  One of her chemotherapies has been reduced by 25% to (hopefully) aid in an easier recovery post-treatment.  However, she's had a really rough start already - intense nausea is the biggest challenge - but her team is doing their best to get her some relief.  If this ends up being a “typical” cycle, we anticipate being inpatient through Saturday.

Please continue to pray for Caroline, specifically for overall comfort and alleviation of her nausea.

We’re so grateful for all the support!
Team Lantz
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Getting an EKG before adding more anti-nausea meds to the regimen...

Monday, October 31, 2022

"Gnome" Place Like Home for Halloween!


Unfortunately, Caroline didn't make counts again today. She was more than happy to get bumped - now she can celebrate Halloween, Book Character Day at school, and a field trip this Friday.

Although it's not entirely unusual for her to struggle with recovery in-between cycles (especially after so many), we are at a point where her treatment going forward will most likely need to be adjusted. After consulting with Caroline's team, one of her chemotherapies (Temodar) will be dose-reduced by 25%. This is probably the drug that is hitting her too hard.

We will go back to clinic again on Monday (11/7) for lab work, and she will either be admitted for Cycle 9 of treatment if her counts are high enough, or if they aren't high enough, she will undergo a bone marrow biopsy to see if there is anything else more alarming going on ~ stay tuned next week...

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf
Clinic Costume #2 - Twinning Gnomes - Dad and C.

Clinic Costume #1 - "Jason" getting vitals.

"Junie B. Jones" heading off to school!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Admission Delays

For the second week in a row, Caroline’s admission has been delayed because her lab work isn’t meeting the minimum blood count levels for her double chemotherapy and antibody treatment. She didn’t mind too much last week, but today she left feeling sad because getting bumped out another week means she may miss celebrating Halloween at home, if her counts are high enough to be admitted. We went through this back in 2018 — she got bumped a few weeks in a row for low counts. Most likely, her bone marrow cells are just too beat up from treatment, and struggling to recover. Other than that news today, Caroline has been feeling well and is her normal, energetic self.

It’s hard to continuously re-arrange weekly plans when this stuff happens, but we forge ahead knowing things can always be worse…

Thank You for the continued thoughts and prayers!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Monday, October 3, 2022

Cycle 8 Complete

Caroline was discharged from Cycle 8 on Saturday, and has been doing well recovering at home (especially considering how rough the side effects hit her this round). Although Childhood Cancer Awareness month has come to an end, we appreciate your continued support and prayers during this arduous and emotional journey!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf
   


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

200 Nights / Cycle 8

Last night, Caroline spent her 200th night at Vanderbilt since she was initially diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in November 2017. It’s exhausting to think about how much time we’ve spent here….and in turn, split our family in half. It goes without saying that we are beyond grateful she is alive and still able to battle, but we also are very broken watching her endure this awful treatment, especially at such a young age and for so many years.

She started cycle 8 of treatment for her relapse Monday, and the first 2 days where very rough with side effects. Nausea lead to 2 really bad episodes of vomiting where she lost her NG tube. It had to be replaced both times, which is never a fun process for her to go through (or us to watch). However, her spirits were much better today…she even spent some time with her favorite hospital staff visitors and gave them all a few laughs with her sassy personality!

We hope that the rest of the week is more like today rather than earlier in the week, and that she can get out on schedule (Saturday).

Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

PS: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month ends Sept 30th, so there’s just a few days left to order the candles from In Love There's Light! Click here to support childhood cancer research!

Monday, September 12, 2022

Cycle 7 Update

Caroline was discharged yesterday after being inpatient all week for Cycle 7.  Although she experienced all of the typical side effects, the cycle overall was "uneventful."  We're always grateful for the thoughts and prayers!


Home in time for Ravens' Kick-off!




Friday, September 2, 2022

Scan Updates

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and there's no better way to kick it off than by sharing some good news about Caroline beating cancer...again!

After a very long day of testing that included blood work, CT scan, PET scan, Bone Marrow Biopsy and a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic team for her broken finger, we finally have all the results:
  • Broken Finger: Healing well
  • Blood Work: Mostly in normal range
  • CT Scan: No Evidence of Disease
  • PET Scan: No Evidence of Disease 
  • Bone Marrow: No Evidence of Disease 
So, as of now, there are no visible signs of Neuroblastoma cells present in Caroline’s body!  We will celebrate for a few days, but get back to continuing the fight on Tuesday, for Cycle 7 of her inpatient treatment.

Caroline's Oncology team recommends up to 11 additional cycles of treatment (17 cycle total) to reduce the chance of reoccurrence and/or missed microscopic disease identified on the scans.  It's not fun, it’s hard to manage, and it's beyond hard to watch.  The treatment wreaks havoc on her body, and the risk of secondary cancers increases with each chemotherapy treatment, but the odds of relapse are generally much higher than these other concerns, so we are all in agreement to continue to keep it rolling.

We were honored to partner with the following organizations/people in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Please help us continue to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research this month by supporting any/all of the following: 

Caroline created a signature scent

Focusing on much-needed sibling support for pediatric cancer families...and if you're local, please support their annual Pumpkin Patch next month!

Saving children's lives daily

There is still a national blood shortage - please donate if you're able!

If you're local, here are two other ways to support: 

**local pick-up @ NSC Team Store only** 
Caroline created a scarf for NSC's 2022 "Kick Childhood...if you want to see the video of her creating the scarf and being interviewed, click here.

Mini-sessions with our favorite local photographer (we will donate the proceeds to the Beat Childhood Cancer Foundation)

We have so much appreciation for all those in the battle with us: her huge Vanderbilt team, the Beat Childhood Cancer team, our friends, family, neighbors, Caroline’s school, the Nashville Predators, the Nashville Sounds, the Nashville Soccer Club, co-workers of past and present, and so many others we don't even know.  Thank you for your steadfast support and generosity throughout the (almost) five year journey!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Home from Cycle 6

Caroline was discharged to come home from Cycle 6 today. The side effects of the medicine hit her very hard this week - nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and pain. It is beyond words to describe the awful feeling of watching endure this treatment...and in a post COVID-19 world, only parents/guardians are permitted in patient rooms. Not being able to have visitors makes for a very lonely week...and being separated from Andrew is another kind of awful. We're so grateful that her body is responding positively to treatment, and we know it could always be worse, but it's daunting to think we aren't even halfway through this relapse treatment.  One day at a time...

Much appreciation for the amazing staff at Vanderbilt...they are so kind and caring to our daughter, and entire family!

Thank you all for your continued generosity, prayers and support; it means more than you know.

Sending love,

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Wiped and resting at home after a really hard week.

Caroline was one of the patients selected to interview Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman this week, during their visit to the hospital's "Seacrest Studio."


Monday, August 15, 2022

Cycle 6 Underway

Caroline was admitted today for Cycle 6 of treatment to fight her relapsed Neuroblastoma; some side effects have already hit hard. Long, rough first day for all…

Thank you for your prayers and support - much appreciated!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Monday, August 8, 2022

Cycle 6 Delayed

Caroline didn’t meet the minimum bloodwork requirements when we went to clinic this morning to get admitted for her next round of chemo/antibody...her body is just pretty beat up from the past 5 rounds of treatment.  We will try again next Monday.

Thanks for the continued prayers and support!

The Lantz Family 
#carolinestrong
#ftgf





Monday, July 25, 2022

Home from Cycle 5 / 1st Day of 3rd Grade!

Caroline was discharged from Vanderbilt yesterday morning. Other than her broken finger, she had a relatively uneventful week of treatment. She has a follow-up appointment with her orthopedic surgeon at Vanderbilt on Tuesday, as well as her usual Friday appoint at the oncology clinic for labs and a check-up. 

She rested up at home on Sunday to get her energy back for Monday so she could finally join her classmates, who started last week (she is in a year-round school, and is now officially in 3rd grade!).

We appreciate all the UberEats gift cards, tasty homemade treats, meals, gifts and all around generous support from our friends and family 💛.  Although we are BEYOND grateful for her most recent scan results, this is a very mentally and physically draining experience.  Our whole family is exhausted, and there is still such a long road ahead...but the kindness, love, prayers and support from Caroline’s army is sustaining us.

As always, we are so grateful for her care team at Vanderbilt; they are unwavering in their attentiveness and love towards Caroline, and make this very difficult time as pleasant as can be.

Just a reminder that there is still a national blood shortage - please donate if you can (click here to register in your area)...we're thankful to all our friends and family that have recently shared pictures of themselves giving in Caroline’s honor!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Ways to help:
Meal Train
Purchase #carolinestrong T-Shirts
Contribute to Medical Expenses via GoFundMe
Family Meals via UberEats (email to margaretlantz@gmail.com)

Homeward bound!

Recovering at home...

Ready for 3rd Grade just 24 hours after getting home!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Scan/Biopsy Results...Cycle 5

All the results are now in from Caroline's scans and biopsy last week:

  1. CT Scan: No evidence of lesions previously seen
  2. PET Scan - No evidence of lesions previously seen
  3. Bone Marrow Biopsy - No evidence of Neuroblastoma cells 
  4. Blood Work - All in normal range as of 7/19/22
This is all good news, and so far the treatment seems to be working. There is always the possibility for microscopic disease that doesn't show up on these scans, so Caroline will continue the repetitive treatment cycles/scans as long as her body continues to tolerate it, and we continue to get positive results (in theory, 17 cycles total).

Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes...we still have long road still ahead, but are encouraged by todays news!

Caroline was able to start her Cycle 5 chemotherapy/antibody this morning, and we are hoping to be finished early Sunday morning. 

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Monday, July 18, 2022

Tough, unexpected Start to Cycle 5

Caroline was scheduled to begin her 5th treatment cycle for relapsed Neuroblastoma this morning, but was unfortunately sidelined for the day due to an unexpected injury in the parking lot at Vanderbilt. As we were unpacking the car for our week-long stay, Caroline somehow closed her pinky finger in the car door.  We were able to get the bleeding stopped while in clinic, but her care team ordered x-rays once we were admitted, which revealed a small fracture in her bone.  She ended up needing "bedside surgery" with local anesthetic to completely remove, repair and replace her cracked finger nail.  She'll be in a splint for a bit, and will also be treated with antibiotics this week to prevent any infection.

Her chemotherapy is now scheduled to start tomorrow (7/18), so hopefully she will be able to come home by Sunday afternoon.

Caroline is uncomfortable, in a bit of pain and bummed about her splint restrictions, so please pray for quick healing and a relatively uneventful rest of this week.

Additionally, we are still waiting on some final reports from her scans/biopsy last week, so once we have all that information we will post everything related to her scans on this blog.

In the meantime, thank you for all the continued support!

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf



All stitched and wrapped...rough day!

X-Ray when she was admitted.

Prepping for "bedside surgery"

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Cycle 4 Update

Cycle 4 is complete and Caroline is settling in at home. Although she receives the same chemotherapies and antibody each time, all four cycles have been a little different with regard to side effects. During this cycle, Caroline really, really struggled with nausea. We’re so grateful to have an amazing medical team to care for her and adjust things as-needed. Thank you to everyone for continuing to pray for us!

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy 4th of July! 

The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Adios Cycle 4!

Getting a new NG tube inserted (often comes out when C throws up)

Weighing in on Rounds with her team

Thanks, Michelle - the patriotic decorations were a hit!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Cycle 4 Underway

Caroline was admitted today for Cycle 4 of her treatment plan for relapsed Neuroblastoma. She will receive 2 different chemotherapies (Temodar and Irinotecan), and 1 Antibody Immunotherapy (Dinutuximab), as well as a laundry list of medications to combat the intense side effects.

When Caroline is inpatient, the week typically gets progressively harder for her (and us), due to compounding side effects of the treatment. Our hope is for an uneventful cycle so we can stay on track to be discharged this Saturday.

We are very grateful to all our prayer warriors and helpers that have assisted with meals, purchased t-shirts, gift cards, etc. We feel very blessed and fortunate to have such wonderful neighbors, friends and family all around the country.

Lastly, we wanted to say a very special “thank you” and “we miss you already” to one of our faves: Dr. Saara! Dr. Saara moved to Chicago last week to start a new chapter in her pediatric oncology and immunology career with the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. Words cannot adequately express how much she’s meant to our family and Caroline’s journey over the past 5 years. We will miss you SK!

Thanks for everything!
The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Ready for a week in the hospital!

We love you, Saara!

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Cycle 3 Inpatient Stay - Complete

Today, Caroline completed the inpatient portion for Cycle 3 of her treatment plan for relapsed high-risk Neuroblastoma. She had a very rough week emotionally - lots of processing the diagnosis, its long treatment plan, and overall scariness of it all...otherwise, the side effects during her stay were the usual fevers, nausea, diarrhea, and pain.

Like the previous two cycles, Caroline will get Leukine shots each day (for a week) to boost her immune system while she recovers at home.  Her next clinic/labs appointment will be on Friday (6/17),  and her next scheduled inpatient admission for Cycle 4 will begin June 27th, assuming all goes as planned.

BIG shout out to our amazing Thales Academy family for the end of year celebration / fundraiser for Caroline yesterday. Nisha, Rachel, Mill Creek Brewing, and all that made it happen and attended - many thanks!

Please keep the prayers coming!

~The Lantz Family
#carolinestrong
#ftgf

Ways to help:


Cycle 3 Inpatient Stay = COMPLETE!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Starting Cycle 3


Caroline made her ANC count requirement this morning and was admitted inpatient at Vanderbilt for Cycle 3 of her treatment for relapsed High-Risk Neuroblastoma. Today she will receive 2 chemotherapies along with various other drugs for side affects.

Tuesday through Saturday, she will receive both chemos + an antibody immunotherapy drug which will be accompanied by a 24-7 Dilaudid drip for pain management.  We are hoping that she gets through this week with minimal side affects and hopefully can get home late Saturday. 

Thank you for all the prayers and support!

The Lantz Family

#carolinestrong
#ftgf


#mood upon arrival

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Progress Scans - Results

Caroline just concluded 2 long days of testing at Vanderbilt: labs/blood tests, audiology testing, a PET scan, a CT scan, and a bone marrow biopsy.

We are relieved to report that the results are all positive. She had 4 main areas of concern on the original scans in early April.  After 2 cycles of treatment, 3 of the spots are now essentially gone, and the 4th tumor shrunk by about 60%.  Additionally, her bone marrow biopsy detected no active Neuroblastoma cells.  Caroline will continue the same protocol for up to 15 more cycles: 2 types of chemo and antibody while inpatient for a week, followed by 2 weeks at home to recover/clinic check-in appointments...2 down, 15 to go!  It's still a very long road ahead, but we are celebrating the small wins and will continue to fight alongside her. 

Assuming Caroline's "counts" (ANC #) meets the minimum requirement to receive treatment, she will be admitted on Monday (6/6) for her 3rd round of treatment; if her counts aren't high enough, she will wait a week and be admitted on the following Monday/when counts recover.  We will post an update on the blog.

We are thankful for all the meals, prayers and support from friends, family and friends of friends...and a HUGE shoutout to the medical team at Vanderbilt for helping us work through this once again.

The Lantz Family 
#ftgf
#carolinestrong


In the sedation room ready for her bone marrow biopsy.

Audiology testing.

CT Scan in progress.

Reaction after finding out the cycles are working!

Super special visit from Uncle Paulie!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Home from Cycle 2

Caroline completed Cycle 2 of her chemo-antibody therapy, and was discharged on Saturday. She’s home resting and recovering from the harsh side effects of treatment. Unless she needs to sooner, her next clinic appointment is on Friday (5/27). She has progress scans and a bone marrow biopsy on 6/1 and 6/2. We will update the blog after we get the results from her scans. Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

The Lantz Family
#ftgf
#carolinestrong

How she spent most of the time inpatient.

Heading home...too weak to walk.

Rashes from the antibody leaving her system.

One shot per day for 7 days post-inpatient treatment.

Recovering on the couch with her BFF, Hank.