Mommy Monday (on Tuesday..roll with me here)

Normally my Mommy Monday interviews are past tense.. meaning I interview Mothers that have already gone through hardship.. have already processed it.. maybe healed a bit (time is a comforting balm).  This week our interview is current.. the pain still real... questions still unanswered. If you have an extra minute or two today, leave a note of encouragement for this family that does so much for so many others.  If you would like to snail-mail a card or letter you can find all the info needed at (getting mail is awesome!). Let's give this family some Tres Birds love:)

Patti Gokee is wife to Jeff, mother to Ben (11) and Cooper (8). The Gokee's came into our lives when we were a bit lonely and displaced after our move to Arizona in 09. Our families instantly clicked. They are good peeps, Strehle kind of peeps, we are blessed to call them friends.

A few months ago Jeff tweeted about praying for Cooper who was having some blood work done.. it seemed like no big deal. (well as much as you can tell these types of things via Twitter!) Next thing I know he is asking for prayer about a diagnoses of Leukemia... cancer..really? Um.. that must have been a bit out of left field. Talk to me a bit about why you even brought him to the Dr.. was he even sick? 
Cooper had fallen off our bathroom sink pretty badly and was complaining of leg and side pain.  He is not normally a complainer and it just felt unusual for him to be complaining of this much pain.  He is our risk taker and tough-man.  So of course I thought maybe he had fractured a bone.  After the second day of screaming that it hurt so bad, I drove him to the Chandler ER in the middle of the night.  Jeff thought I was crazy, as I have never taken our kids to the ER or even thought of it in the middle of the night.  I just wanted to know if he fractured his leg.  After a long night there, his x-rays turned out normal and they sent me home without having the results back from the blood tests.   They didn’t seem important at the time, we had gone in for a broken bone.  A week later the blood tests show up at our pediatricians’ office, they read ACUTE LEUKEMIA…WHATTT??? We thought they were idiots and had made a mistake.  Our doctor thought they were crazy too, but kept insisting to see Cooper.  I was still in broken leg mode and said he was fine.  Very long story short we had multiple blood tests done.  Some were questionable and some were fine.  The last one we did for the pediatrician was on a Friday morning, then that night she sent us to PHX Children’s to have them do another one in the ER.  We knew then this was serious, especially when she told us she had called and spoke to Dr. Etzel the head of Oncology at Children's.  Ahhh, I dropped my pencil and lost my breathe for a moment…we knew his name very well, he is the Dr. of our friend's daughter.. a daughter with cancer. He had blasts in his last few blood tests and they seemed to be increasing.  Blasts are signs of Leukemia.  His last blood test Friday morning showed 6% blasts.  After spending 6 hours in PHX Childrens ER his tests came back negative and 0 blasts!  We rejoiced and counted it a miracle, as they were there before and now gone! 6 days later we went back to PHX Children’s for a follow up.  They did one more blood test to prove he was fine. 2 hours later we received the news that they only checked 70 cells and he had 11% blasts in them.  We had already left the hospital, they told us to turn around and that they had a room for waiting for him.  Yes, it hit us like a TON of bricks.  I couldn’t react because Cooper was in the car with us.

So basically one day your trucking along all normal like (what IS normally anyways??) next you are in the middle of something no one would ever wish for. How do you even begin to process that?

I don’t know if I did process it, right away anyways…
I was trying to remain calm and listen to the doctors explain what he had, I really don’t know if I heard everything.  I was too busy trying to shelter the news from Coop, until I could find a way to explain it to him.

What does a normal week for a Leukemia patient look like?

 I would love to know that too. :) They really won’t give us too much info because it keeps changing- treatment wise.  We did receive a schedule for the last month, for which I was ecstatic!  Now, I don’t have that.  It keeps changing, and they don’t want us to plan anything.  That is hard.  We are not planners by nature, but it would be nice to see a few weeks out.  Normally, we should have chemo once a week in the clinic.  3 or 4 different kinds, we have been having lumbar punctures (spinal taps) to check and make sure it has not progressed into his spine, and then he gets a shot of chemo into his back.  We give chemo pills at home, and now shots too.  They change from week to week.  Nothing is consistent. 

Even though all these scary words were being tossed around, his original prognosis was very positive. Has that changed? 

Leukemia A.L.L is what they say is a “good” cancer to get as a kid if you get one.  As horrible as that sounds.  It is a 3 year battle, but has a great success rate.  Cooper still has that, but they have now found a new weird chromosome that took us from standard (low risk) to severely high risk.   That was a tough moment.  Everything changed…again.  We lost some of those precious percentages that we loved, and our treatment dramatically changed into much more intense.  We still have great percentage rates, just not what we had before. God is so good, he has brought some pretty amazing people into your lives.. from an incredible website that was up and running in days to close dear friends that have been such an amazing support.. tell me a little bit about your peeps. Yes, our friend Jay made an incredible website for us, we are so thankful for his friendship and CRAZY talent!  We have trusted friends who watched Ben for us while we were in the hospital-such a priceless gift!  Cooper has an amazing teacher that jumped right in and researched how to explain and lead her class in this time.  We have many friends who sent cards and gifts and even meals.  We also have some special friends who took family photo’s for us on last minute notice, before he lost his hair and started feeling really sick.  We are so thankful for the people God has put in our life, and there are so many more that I didn’t mention. 

Cooper is not your only son, how has this affected Ben? Poor guy, I can't hardly stand how hard it must be for him to watch his little brother be sick. 
Big brother Ben, what can I say…God knew Cooper would need the perfect brother to support him in this time.  God had already been preparing him as he was learning how to support another friend going through cancer.  Little did we know, in these moments he was being prepared to care for his best friend and brother.
It has been hard on him, we won’t lie.  School was an absolute nightmare for him the first 4 weeks.  He had a classmate who died of Leukemia last September.  It still is very fresh for him and his classmates.  He is 11, and to support his privacy I will leave it here.  It has been rough, and we are thankful to friends who have loved on him. 

 So going forward, what does Cooper's care look like? 

I honestly don’t know….we have an idea, but that is it.  Chemo at home and clinic.  Lumbar punctures in the hospital and shots and pills at home.  It is a little overwhelming when I sit and think about it because I don’t know.  We do know in the next 6 weeks we should start in-patient care.  It will be one week in patient one out, for 8 weeks.  NOT looking forward to that. 

Ok, tough question...God's sovereignty ... Did you have a moment of anger? Doubt? Disbelief? I could hardly blame you. If God is in control, then why do bad things happen? How do you answer that question deep down, how to you resolve to believe God knows all.. good and bad? 

Wow, Amber...don’t hold back :) Moment of anger, doubt, disbelief …huh, I have racked my brain I can remember anger.  It was the day after we got home from the hospital.  I heard of the little boy who took Cooper’s room at the hospital.  This was my moment of anger, this was my moment of questioning…I yelled and screamed, swore and maybe even threw something…oh dear, and right in front of my kids.  I was MAD! We had been church hunting, and had attended this one church in Chandler for 4 or 5 weeks.  It seemed at the time to be the best fit for our family and I believe God was telling us you have found your home church, but I am a skeptic and needed more time and evidence that this place was authentic.  Little did I know that Cooper had made a friend in his second grade Sunday School class.  His name was Caleb, and it was Caleb who took his spot in the hospital, same room, same bed!  WHAT THE HELL?????  WHAT IS GOING ON????? I was MAD, but I didn’t question God’s deity, just what the heck are you doing?! 2 pastors boys, same church, same class, same age, and Leukemia. I begged God to tell/show us why.  We also have good friends whose daughter has a brain tumor.  We have been praying diligently for the last 3 years for her totally healing.  We were not strangers to the world of cancer, but it definitely felt like another kick in the stomach! I never questioned who God is or where He was.  I felt such amazing strength during those first couple of weeks, and such peace.  This was definitely a moment of questioning His doings. I DO NOT doubt the goodness of God.  Although I would never pick this for my child or family, I know He has a plan.  I know it is good because He is GOOD!  Do I like it…NO, would I chose it NO!  But thankful I am not God.  But really, who do I think I am, if God does know ALL and IS good then I need to trust His plan even though it stinks for us to walk through.  I don’t like it, but if I ask why my kid, then I have to look at all the other kids and ask why too.  When you meet other sick kids, this question isn’t so hard to answer.  They are all precious and never deserved this.  It is sin in our world, and for me to question God why my kid, just seems a little selfish.  Why all these kids!  I believe He is good because He has been preparing us for this.  Through friends and circumstances each one of us was a little more prepared.  Now, I know no one is prepared to hear your child has cancer, but he so graciously had us see into this world before we knew. 

How has this changed your perspective? Are you seeing the world through different lenses? 

I am living a little more “free-er” ha, ha not even a word.  I am taking things a little lighter and seeing moments more precious and intentional.  I feel an urgency to live life in today.  None of us are promised tomorrow, and although our prognosis is good, all it takes is a little infection or fever (while his counts are low) to change our numbers.  But, really that’s all it takes for any of us, driving to work or the store, sudden aneurism we weren’t prepared for…ect.  I have a friend that explained it to me last year as “we are all terminal.”  When you watch your child be pumped full of poison with a liquid that the nurses and doctors protect themselves from, that fact just hits closer to home. 

Fun Question..Think back to a day recently when the all the world seemed right, a moment when you looked around and thought about how good life was.. tell me about it. 

This is still very fresh for me. I am sorry to say, there isn’t one, and although that made me sad for a minute, I realized there are many good moments of where I can see God’s hand moving.  Nothing is “normal” anymore, and although we desperately want it to be, we can see God’s hand more clear these days.  He is good and has provided us with great doctor’s and medical staff.  We are truly growing to love them, and know we got the good ones   He has given us amazing friends and people who have come along side us to help us carry the burden.  Including a new friendship with Caleb’s family.  He’s has given us a new and caring church, and provided the PERFECT teacher for Cooper this year.  He has provided friends who have walked this road before us to help guide us through the crazy days.  His timing was perfect every step of the way.  From where Ben stayed and even in the days we were diagnosed.  It all came together with work schedules and cancelled trips.  As we look back, He has been here, He has been walking with us, and has provided glimpses of himself along the way.  It is a new world, one I wouldn’t have chosen, but it is a time that we can see His hand moving SO clearly, and we beg he would grab others through our struggles and Cooper’s fight.

Please keep Cooper in your prayers.  You can keep up to date with the Gokee's at


Mrs. Fox said…
Thanks for blogging about such an incredible family. We love them dearly :)

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