Thank You!
Several people went out of their way to provide help and support
during Joseph's year of treatment. Although
we have thanked many of them individually, we would
like to devote this page to honoring the kindnesses, large and small,
that showed us we were not alone during
that long, hard time, but surrounded by love and care.

Aunt Pam sent amazing goodie boxes every 3 weeks or so throughout Joseph's entire year of treatment!  She went out and found special treats and toys and stickers and good things to munch on, boxed them up with a cheerful, newsy letter and hauled them off to the post office covered in funny notes and more stickers!  Showing great wisdom, she always made sure to include goodies for both  boys.  When these delightful boxes would appear on the front porch, someone would bring them to the hospital or, if Joseph were home, I'd sneak them into the closet to slip into a bag for the next hospital trip.  Joseph, bored, hooked up to an IV and feeling yucky, would light up and shine when I'd pull out an "Aunt Pam and Uncle Dennis" box.  Ripping it open, exploring the contents, showing them off to the nurses, playing with new toys and nibbling new treats would keep him distracted and cheerful for long stretches of time.
Aunt Pam with Nate and Joseph, New Year's 1998

Who came all the way from Kansas City to hold our hands and help interpret medical gibberish in those first scary, other-worldly days?  Who has the guts to face surgical dressings and chest tubes without flinching?  Who took the time to make piles of video tapes of Cartoon Network to give a little boy something to do during long, miserable days in a hospital bed?  Aunt Mary Alice, of course.  She was our connection to sanity through constant email and phone conversations.  She provided lots of love and hopefulness to all of us every single day.  She and Uncle Gary came up several times to help when Joseph was in the hospital, to give Nate some special attention and to cheer everybody up.  They organized a carry-in Thanksgiving dinner at our house, so even though we couldn't travel, we could see everybody and not have to do much meal preparation.  And they splurged and spent a week down in Florida with us for the big "No More Chemo" celebration--yippee!
Aunt Mary Alice with Leah and Hannah, Summer 1997

"Auntie Barbara" came up from Chicago to Madison when she could to help us juggle home life during Joseph's hospitalizations, making it possible for David to go to work and for both boys to get the attention and grown-up time they needed.  She brought gifts and cards and good cheer, and at the end of Joseph's treatment she and Uncle Larry joined with Grandma and Grandpa Woods to send the 4 of us to Florida to make wonderful memories at Disney World for Joseph's amazing "No More Chemo" celebration!  If you see her, give her a hug.

When Joseph was first diagnosed, I was sitting on the couch and I asked Mary Alice in desperation, "what will l do with Nate when Joseph has to be in the hospital all these times?  Where will he go?"  My dear friend Mary Prior sitting across from me smiled calmly and said "He'll live with us."  And she really meant it.  ("Wow, you're lucky to have a friend like her!" Mary Alice said to me later.  I already knew that.)  Nate spent a lot of nights and weekends out at the Prior house while Joseph needed both Mama and Daddy to be in the hospital with him at night, or when Daddy had to go to work.  Their home was his home, where he could laugh and play and forget, or be crabby and worried if he needed to be, because he was in a safe and loving place.   While I was in the hospital rubbing Joseph's knees and back to help him fall asleep, Mary was at home rubbing Nate's back and helping him fall asleep.  I don't know if it takes a whole village to raise a child, but it did take a very good family from the village of Deerfield to help raise ours for a long year.
Mary and Chuck Prior, Ryan, Zach and Emma

Chris Shelton is a wonderful mom, a fabulous teacher and a faithful friend.  We knew her well from Nate's happy year in her kindergarten class, so when Dr. Sondel convinced us that Joseph should go to school, we asked if he could be in Chris' class.  She came to our house a few weeks before school started to say hi to Joseph and learn what she'd need to know about his treatments, his hickman line, how he'd be feeling in her class, any special needs he'd have.  She let him talk to the class about his illness on the first day to get everyone comfortable right away, and she let us circulate a letter to parents to inform them, too.  She went to great lengths to help Joseph integrate back into the class after his many absences, and her enthusiasm and warmth made him feel so happy and at home at school that he managed to be in her class a little over 50% of the year, which was amazing. He couldn't wait to go back to school!  When he had to be in the hospital, she would take the time to pack up a funny old suitcase of hers with lots of books and activities the other kids would be doing while he was gone, and send it along with us.   Teachers do the most important work in our society, and Chris is the best you'll ever meet.
 Chris Shelton with Joseph