Waiting

Hey Y’all.

I haven’t written in what seems like forever. We have been busy, but I also encountered a problem with my blog site. I am hoping everything is all ironed out now.

I have several things to share with you all.

First, Louis is now TWO years old. (His birthday was August 4th.) Meaning, if you have been reading this blog since it’s conception, you have been thinking about and praying for our family for almost 2.5 years. Wow. That’s a long time. Thank you.

He is two and is a full on toddler now. Singing along to songs, grabbing our hands to go and see a flower or bird. He is learning at such a fast pace, I can hardly keep up. He is starting a Mother’s Day Out program at a local church on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We call it “school” and he seems to be really excited about it.  He really loves all cars, playing out side, and being with our families.

Louis is such a loving child. We feel that he is a little man of peace, and we continue to speak that truth to him daily.

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Second, we are now an approved, waiting family. This means that we have done all the work that comes at the front end of adoption, to allow us to be approved. The process so far has taken about 8 months, if you are wondering what an adoption time frame can look like. Now, at any moment, a prospective birth parent can view our “look book” and choose us! AT ANY MOMENT.

Yes, this means that we could get a call today to drive to the hospital and bring our baby home. We could get a call that a mom who is 7 months pregnant wants to meet us. We could have to hop on a plane and fly out of state. There are so many ways that adoption can happen, we just have to be patient and see what is in store for us.

The true waiting has just begun for us, as our official approval date was August 3rd, the day before Louis’ birthday.  As of right now we are excited and full of anticipation.   Adoption is a long journey; full of hurry-up and wait. It’s not an easy way to bring a baby home. But, we don’t have any experience bringing a baby home in an easy way. So, we are ready.

 

Grace and Peace.

Gaby

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Karaoke 

When you are living in a hospital fighting for your life you tend to think deep, meaningful thoughts. You think about what it means to be alive and you think about death. It was inevitable that I would think about it; it was all around me. 

In the movies, when someone is on their death-bed, surrounded by their loved ones, most of the time they say something to the effect of, “I am satisfied with my life, it was good, and I can go in peace.”  Well, as I layed in that hospital bed for months on end, I knew that if this moment came for me, there would be some things that I would regret. I knew that there were things that I wanted to do and see. 

I will tell you the short list:

  1. Have a family (blessed to have one, and it’s growing through adoption)
  2. Travel to Italy (one day…)
  3. KARAOKE  (3-8-17: accomplished) 

This week surrounded by friends and strangers, I finally sang karaoke. It was a dream come true. It was a Make-A-Wish for grown ups moment that I will remember for ever.  Joseph and I sang/laughed “Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers.  I couldn’t hear myself or stop laughing. I danced the whole time because it just felt right. I could see the crowd of friends who gathered around in support of this moment. I felt so accomplished as I handed the microphone back to the grumpy dj, heart racing a mile a minute. I did it. It was so scary and thrilling all at the same time. 

One of the reasons why this was a successful evening was the group of people that gathered together for it. They were all pumping me up for my big moment and they all celebrated with me when it was over. Thank you all. It really meant the world to me! 


So, why am I telling you about this? Why does this matter? I think you probably have a dream that you are afraid of.  There is something you want to do but you think you can’t accomplish it. And I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You totally can. 

Make a plan. Find a person, or a group of people to cheer you on. Run that 5k, or marathon. Read all 7 Harry Potter books. Travel to all 50 states. Build that orphanage in Ghana. 

I think we have hopes and dreams for a reason; God gives us glimpses of what could be. He gives us these desires with the passion and abilities to make them happen. 

I am so happy that I am alive and well. I am so happy that I sang that Dolly song in a smoky and crowded bar full of misfits, strangers, and friends. 
I wouldn’t want anyone to have cancer, ever. But I’m so thankful for all the things I have learned through it and because of it. That’s why I want to share these random thoughts with you all, to give a little more meaning to what was a scary time. You know the old saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, I plan on making lemonade for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget how close I was to a different outcome. My family is blessed beyond measure and we give all the Glory to God. 
With a Grateful Heart,

Gaby 

We Are Adopting

Friends, family, and community we have some very exciting news to share. We are ADOPTING. This is something that has been on our hearts for a long time, and the occasion has come to scream it from the rooftops (or computer screens.) We wanted to share this with you all today, Valentine’s Day, because only TWO years ago today we announced our pregnancy with Louis. Today, Gaby’s belly is not growing, but our hearts are filling everyday for this child.

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We recently told someone that we were planning to adopt, and they told us that we seemed to be the type of people that would adopt. We really took that comment to heart; we are the adopting type. We know adoption is not for everyone, but everyone is called to help those in need in some way.

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Maybe you are the adopting type too! We hope that as you sit down for your Valentine’s Dinner at the Outback Steakhouse you and your honey will talk about adoption or foster care for the first or tenth time. Maybe tonight is a springboard for how your family can take part in caring for someone in need.

Adoption was placed on both of our hearts before we were married. In 2008 we both went on the same mission trip to work in a children’s home in Guatemala. Isn’t that amazing? We were just friends back then but we were able to work together with a team from our college to aid children in need. The Lord was so good to allow us to share that experience. Once we were married and started dreaming of what a family would look like for us, we thought we would have two biological children, and then adopt. Little did we know the plans that were in store for us.

If you are new to this blog and our family, we encourage you to scroll back to the beginning. It is written for all of digital eternity, our story of hope and grace. In early 2015 Gaby was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia while pregnant with Louis. She started chemotherapy treatments at 16 weeks pregnant in order to save her life. No one could tell us if the chemo would affect Louis, but we had to believe he would be shielded from all negative effects. The only way we found out about the cancer was from routine pregnancy blood work. It is undeniable that Louis is a true miracle and saved Gaby’s life. As far as we know and as we continue to trust, Louis is a perfect 18-month-old toddler. Gaby is in remission, with her two-year remission-anniversary coming up on April 7th.

All that to say, adoption has always been a part of our plan, however we are trusting that this is the right time to start [what could be] a very long journey.  We know many of you have questions, and through the coming months we hope to answer them all. We do not know the status of our fertility, but we know the capacity of our family. We have the room in our home and heart to love and care for another precious child.

Gaby’s doctors have encouraged us to wait at least five years to try to conceive again. It could be unsafe for her body to go through all that pregnancy entails after having so much chemotherapy treatment.   We always tell them, and now we are telling you, we do not want to try again. When Louis was born, one of the first things Gaby thought was, “I do not ever want to do that again.” And, she hasn’t changed her mind. That pregnancy was one of the most difficult things imaginable; it ended with our beautiful son and we are forever thankful. However, we are steadfast in our belief that we will continue to build our family through adoption.

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We believe there is a woman out there who will carry our baby. She will be brave and strong. She will choose to be life giving to Louis’ little brother or sister. We pray for her daily, and for the possibility of meeting, knowing, and loving her. The Lord knows her name.

Adoption is anything but easy. The paperwork seems endless. The waiting period will seem to take a lifetime. But, we have already been on such a journey we know we have the stamina and determination to do this. We have been prepared for this moment, for such a time as this.

We would like to ask you to join us in prayer. Pray for our family as we navigate the adoption world. Pray for our hearts, as we grow through this process. Pray for our future baby’s birth parents. They already have a special place in our hearts and we cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned. We know He has a work to do in all of us.

We are pursuing a domestic adoption through Bethany Christian Services . It is a national agency that we have known several families to use. They have a local office here in Knoxville and we have already had a wonderful experience with them.

Currently we are in the paperwork stage, some call it being paper pregnant. We hope to be finished with all the paperwork and home studies by the end of April. And we pray to be an official “waiting family” in May. That would mean that we could be bringing home a baby in May. We understand that the average wait time is a year, so we could be waiting until 2018 to be placed with a baby.

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We covet your prayers and encouragement (again) so this blog is going to be brought back to life in a big way. We plan on writing about this experience as we learn and grow; keeping you all updated as we move through the process. Navigating adoption as a cancer survivor has its own unique challenges, and we are going to be transparent as possible.

The cost of adoption through Bethany is about $24,000. We are saving as much as we can, but we also have lots of ideas for fundraising. Significant amounts of money are due at two different times. Once, at the end of the home study process and then again at the time of being placed with our baby. The first big payment of $9,000 will be due in April. We have created a You Caring account to have a place where people can give, as they feel led. We are asking that you prayerfully consider supporting us with the monetary portion of this adoption. Our goal is to raise $20,000. That is the number the Lord has put on our hearts, and we believe it can be done.

Happy Valentine’s Day Y'all. 

May you feel encouraged as you move through your day. 

Know that you are so loved and appreciated.

 

Grace and Peace,

Gaby, Joseph, and Louis Laurent

Tabula Rasa

When I was in intermediate school I remember our P.E. teacher, Mr. Pell, instructing us on physical activity. Specifically, learning exercises to participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. This was my introduction to sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, jump rope, etc. I never excelled at any of this, but I know it was the base of my physical fitness; I built my life’s muscle off of what I learned in that gymnasium.

When I was in middle school I made the soccer team. I was more of a bench warmer and a joke maker than an actual player. And I liked that. I went on to make the cheerleading squad in eighth grade. Go Wildcats. We had this awesome and young coach that taught us how to do a Marine-style ab workout and I really felt good about my body image and health. Then in high school I played soccer (barely), swam (like a rock), and played golf (aka I rode the golf cart with Coach Webster and ate snacks from the club house). I was always active but never athletic (put that on a bumper sticker).  And I stand by that. My parents let me choose the level of intensity that I devoted to sports, and I think it helped me with all of my decision-making skills.

In college I had the availability to go to a gym just a few steps away from my dorm room. I worked out an average amount, never a gym rat, but I went enough to read all the magazines on the shelf. I played indoor soccer with the best group of friends; those are some of my favorite memories. But I would say the peak of my athletic ability came when one of my dear friends (her name rhymes with Vannah Haughn) asked me to play ultimate frisbee on the quad. What a collegiate thing to do! I ran up and down the quad in my bare feet chasing my friends around as they caught the frisbee. I was running more than I ever had, playing three times a week. I was in the best shape of my life and having a blast. Throughout college, and after, I always made dates with friends to go on walk/run/talks. I fondly remember running with RG and trying to make it all the way up the widow-maker. My Boiling Springs people know that hill and how it simply gets longer the further you go.

I tell you my history with sports and working out for a reason. It’s not to brag about how cool I was in college, or how athletic I was. Obviously I was no athlete. I am telling you this to explain that there was never a time in my life that I was sedentary. I have always had physical activity be a part of my being.

Those muscles that I spent 26 years building, they disappeared. Literally. I lost them all. Complete atrophy. Cancer stole my muscles. They say that a healthy person looses about 30% of their muscle mass after being inactive for two weeks.   Lets count back to see how many weeks I was inactive. Seven months. That’s 28 weeks. In those 28 weeks I: grew a baby, labored, delivered, nursed, pumped, chemoed, anti-bioticed, bone-marrow biopsied, and was separated from my family. I walked when I felt like it, but sometimes walking to the bathroom was the most I could muster. That is a lot y’all. It’s hard for me to sit and write that without tearing up. Ok I am tearing up.

Post-chemo, it was most apparent to me that my body had changed when I climbed down stairs. My legs shook and I had to hold onto railings for dear life. I knew my body was a total mess. But at the end of my treatments I was so happy. I jumped into motherhood with cups of coffee and yoga pants. I was so happy to be alive, to have my son, and be back in my home. Joseph went back to work. My mother-in-law helped with Louis so I could get our house in order. I fell into a typical mom routine and I thrived off of that. Grocery shopping, nap times, and play dates. We are on the move.  When Louis sees the stroller, he says, “go-go!”

We just joined a local gym, and I attended my first workout class.  Read: where the story gets real. It was a palliates, yoga, and cardio combo class. I was really excited about it; I had my yoga mat with me, and Louis was in the childcare area. The teacher started up and I immediately knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t help but think, “I chase a toddler around all day.”  Even though I had confidence going into this class, I knew it would be one of those moments for me that I would not forget.  I learned quickly that those 26 years of muscles that had been wiped clean had not suddenly reappeared. It was the opposite. I have gone into a negative amount of muscle mass. I have -840% muscle mass. During this class my body shook, just like when I climbed down stairs almost two years ago. Some people would have rolled up their mat and left promptly, but I knew I had to stick it out. I had a roller coaster of emotions during this hour class.

This is a recounting of my thoughts during this class:

  • Do I have cancer again?
  • Is absolute lack of strength a sign of leukemia?
  • I had cancer.
  • Cancer stole my body; chewed me up and spit me out.
  • I am so weak.
  • I should be stronger by now!
  • Does carrying a 25-pound toddler around mean nothing?
  • My heart feels weak.
  • The chemo must have ruined my arteries.
  • I need to just lie down.
  • I need to leave.
  • Louis probably needs me.
  • Is he sad without me?
  • Maybe I will keep going.
  • OK, I will keep moving, just slower and at a pace I can handle.
  • I have to start somewhere.
  • Where does strength come from?
  • I could have left already, so I should just try.
  • I am trying.
  • I am crying.
  • I am strong.
  • Louis needs me to be strong, but I need me to be strong too.
  • God, where does strength come from? Isn’t there a verse about that?
  • I have to choose this, make it a part of my life.
  • I will be back.
  • My muscles won’t return overnight.
  • 26 years is a LONG time.
  • I will be strong again.
  • Cancer does not win.
  • Love wins.

 

So, here’s to a new year. A new me. I have a “tabula rasa” for a body, a blank slate. I am encouraged and excited to build back what was destroyed. Will I be out running 5K’s and doing pull-ups? Not tomorrow. But, I will be strong again. I will do it for Louis, for Luci, and for myself.

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Psalm 121

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?

No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

With love and tennis shoes.

Gaby

 

 

 

 

Dear Rickie Fowler

Dear Rickie Fowler,

I have wanted to reach out to you for a while now, but it is hard to find the right moment to sit down and write out the kinds of things that I want you to know. You are an accomplished person, a PGA Tour and USA Olympic golfer. That would impress anyone. The time, sacrifice, and dedication it takes to make it that far doing any certain thing is something worth applauding. But that’s not what impresses me about you, and that’s not what I hope people glean from reading this.

You don’t know me, not at all. And that’s ok. But you do know my friend Luci. You see, Luci and I went through leukemia treatment together, literally sharing a wall, nurses, and doctors. We are the same age, grew up in the same area, and even knew each other before we had these ridiculous diagnoses.

When a person is told they have cancer, they have to make a choice. They can either choose to crumble or choose to fight. They can choose to regret the things never done or appreciate every moment. Choose despair or choose joy.

On August 18th at the Wyndham Championship you took time out of what must have been a busy, intense day, and you brought joy to Luci. Saying thank you for meeting her and talking with her doesn’t seem to really do it justice. She deserved something great, after fighting so hard to beat the devil that is leukemia. She has a beautiful family and a husband whose love for her could move mountains. I know she was happy. But meeting you was her Paris, her Rome. It was her advance copy of a Gillian Flynn novel. You, kind sir, were an all inclusive trip to Harry Potter World. There is not a Make-A-Wish organization for adults, but somehow her husband worked some magic and both of you made her wish come true.

Not only did you meet Luci, you accepted a bracelet from her and wore it while you played. And you kept wearing it. I couldn’t believe it. Every time I looked you up, you were wearing that orange bracelet and it brought tears to my eyes. And she loved that you wore it. That small act, which you may not have thought twice about, brought more joy to her than you will ever know. I know you wore that bracelet just for her. There was no money or free car attached to it. It was the act of a true gentleman. It was a minuscule detail for the rest of the world, but for Luci, it was everything. We lost Luci on August 31st, she was finally free of the pain and suffering that cancer and chemotherapy brings. My son gained an angel and I tell him about her constantly. After her passing, you continued to wear the bracelet, and that is absolutely one of the nicest things I have ever seen. And in some way it helped ease my grief for her loss. Rickie, you are Luci and Travis’ favorite athlete, and now you are mine too.  I hope you win all the cups, medals, and titles because you deserve it.

 

I just wanted to say thank you. And I wish you all the best.

Gaby Laurent

 

 

 

So why did I write this? Why does this matter? Maybe Rickie Fowler will read this, maybe not. But it is the week of Thanksgiving and I needed to thank Rickie, for giving a beautiful soul a piece of joy.

To the person reading this letter from one stranger to another, what small thing can you do to bring someone else joy? In a tumultuous world, you have the power to make someone’s day better and brighter. You can make a difference in your circle of influence, no matter how large or tiny it may seem. All that matters is that you choose joy and then try to pass it on. As Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.”

 

 

 

Louis’ First Birthday 

Can you believe it?  Louis is one. Seems like yesterday I was dragging my tired body around the NICU trying to hold and feed him as much as possible, before I had to get back to Wake for more chemo.  Things have changed for us, we live a much more normal life now.  These days are filled with looking for parks with baby swings and grocery shopping. 

Louis is our perfect miracle baby.  We look at him in amazement and praise the Lord for His plan for all of us.  If you are wondering what he is like, he is a very serious child.  Keeps a straight face when he is experiencing something for the first time.  Once he warms up he is full of giggles.  He loves to be read to and play with books.  He is great eater and car rider. He loves to touch people’s faces and honk noses! To us, every little thing he does is adorable, but I’m guessing that’s how every parent feels. 

I just wanted to update you all, those who were praying so diligently for us all last year.  Your prayers were heard and we thank you again! 

In other news, I am headed to Wake Forest on Monday to (dun, dun, dun) have my port removed! This is a huge step for me in my cancer journey.  It represents several things for me, one being that this chapter of my life is coming to an end.  The days of getting my port flushed are over.  Some people say they have chip on their shoulder, well I’ve had a device permanently placed on my chest reminding me of so much over the past year and a half. So many emotions,  negative and positive. This literal chip-in-my-chest has felt heavy at times. It’s brought much pain, suffering, cleansing, and saving.  It’s been a place for Louis to bump his head and for me to touch and remember how far I’ve come.  Having my port removed also means I’m still in remission and my doctors feel it’s safe to take it out… That we believe this cancer is not going to come back. Take that leukemia! 
I’m nervous about the procedure.  It was my 3 year anniversary with Joseph (how romantic?). When I had it placed, I remember laying on the table clutching my belly full of Louis.  Crying about my circumstances and how I wished things would have been different. It was both of us there on the table.  We were in it together. I remember they asked me what music I wanted to hear and “Don’t Stop Beliveing” by Journey came on.  Even though it was an encouraging song, I didn’t want my previous good memory of that song (lip-syncing with camp friends) to be tarnished, so they changed the station to Dave Mathews Band, and that helped calm me a bit.  I remember a nurse wiping my tears away as I couldn’t move a muscle.  Being completely at the mercy and control of a room full of doctors and nurses while full of emotions, hormones, and a baby was extremely difficult.  There were moments were I couldn’t stop shaking from the fear and sadness all wrapped up into a sweet little package of ugly cries.  

But this time it’s going to be so different.  Louis will be playing in my parents’ living room, I’ll be in and out of the hospital in a few hours, and I’ll come home. I’ll get to hold my baby and tell him all about my trip to the doctor. I’ll tell him they helped me, and made me all better.  I’ll get a new scar, but this time It won’t be reopened. 

  
With a full heart and a one year old,

Gaby 

A Blog on a Blog

One day I was walking and wearing Louis in a JC Penny store out West in Knoxville.  I only came in that store because we were with my mother in law, and she needed to find a dress.  I was walking around, talking to Lou when suddenly a woman came up to me and asked, “Did you have cancer?”  I was shocked, both by the fact that I actually did have cancer and the fact that a stranger would ask me about it.  I answered, “Yes.”  I was confused, did I look like a cancer patient?  I thought I had gotten to a point where I looked pretty normal.  Then she asked if I had a blog, I am guessing to confirm my identity.  Once again I said yes and then she explained who she was.  She had been following our story, a friend of a friend.  She couldn’t remember my name, only the baby’s but she knew that would have been even more awkward to use first.  Can you imagine a stranger approaching you and knowing your child’s name?  Don’t worry, we all laugh at this funny and awkward way we met now!  She went on to tell me about her daughter Danielle and her blog, The Front Porch.  How she had wanted to contact me, to interview me for her blog, but wanted to wait for the right time.  Well, the time came in a JC Penny.  I told her to get us in contact.  A few weeks later Danielle and her mom came over for pancakes and we had such a sweet time, reminiscing over our meeting and just talking about life.

I wrote about our story over on her blog, and I wanted to let you all know about it!  You can click on the link here: the front porch

Life has been moving quickly over here, we have a crawling baby with SEVEN teeth.  He is almost 10 months old, loves to say, “dada” and wave to us as we come and go.  He brings joy to every person he meets, especially those he decides to give a smile to.  He is my perfect miracle and I am so enjoying watching him grow.

 

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With Love and Louis,

Gaby