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“…he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength…” (1 Cor 10:13)

Dear Family and friends,

I guess I could just call 2019 a year of firsts.  It has been a lot to manage, but we ended the year in a good place and are really feeling great as we enter 2020.  Here are a list of interesting firsts from the year:

First time in double-digit children.  Barbara arrived on the scene and bumped us up into that rarest of groups. 

First sibling godparents, too

Calling it like I see it, this one was pretty grumpy for the first couple months.  She came on strong at the end of the year, and her smile and joy at being surrounded by all this crazy action has really helped to get us through some of the other firsts.  She was right there with George for most of his hospitalization, and she spread sunshine to her brother, her mom, and the whole hospital staff. 

Barbara was a good sport through many not-particularly-gentle hugs from George

As with every child, we had no idea how much we needed her.

4 months old already!

First hospitalization of a child

This time last year, we had no idea we would have this little guy in the hospital for 5 weeks

Not exactly our first – Frankie spent a night in the hospital a few years ago,

First broken bone in the Tierney home was 2017, and it was a fractured skull.

but George’s 5-week hospitalization (which Kendra has covered in detail on her blog/FB/IG), spent in two different hospitals, in the ER, the ICU, pediatric ward, in-patient rehab…it was a new level.  It felt like the first time we really meant it with a hospitalization. 

It was a big deal, but it also had beautiful moments, one of which I wrote about here

We had to adjust our entire lives so that a parent or grandparent could stay with George all the time. I stayed with him 9 or 10 of the 14 nights in the first hospital.  Kendra stayed with him 19 or 20 full days & nights of the 23 days in the second hospital.  Both Kendra’s parents and mine contributed an incredible amount of assistance (driving, watching/teaching/raising the other kids, staying with George some nights, and being all-around beautiful models of patient self-sacrifice for all of us).  We had prayers pouring in from all over the world.  We had hot dinners show up at our house, delivered by friends, every night for 5 weeks.  We packed up the food and brought our family to the hospital almost every night to have a family dinner with George. 

We had three of the kids’ birthday celebrations, not to mention the Marine Corps Birthday, in the hospital cafeteria.

My period of night-time work catch-up went away for 5 weeks.  I started writing this post the night I finally caught up on the email backlog (still some projects to finish).  Kids’ homework?  College applications?  The school play?  Christmas shopping?  I honestly don’t really know how it all got done.  Some of it didn’t, but a meaningful amount did.  St. Josemaria Escriva was fond of saying, “When you bring order into your life your time will multiply, and then you will be able to give God more glory, by working more in his service.”  I very much believe this is true, and it’s a big reason why I often daydream about having more order (yes, meant to say it like that).  It doesn’t feel as though we had more order during that period.  But I think God just gave us a mulligan and multiplied our time for us.  Why am I ever surprised at things like this?  Regardless, I have a distinct sense of owing a debt of prayer and thanksgiving.

First brain radiation.  This is one of those that should be the disproof for the saying “there’s a first time for everything.”  Plenty of people don’t every have this one happen, right?  Well, as I’ve said somewhereI was picked for this team.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at getting the full training camp experience.  With what they can accomplish with stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS / Gamma Knife / CyberKnife), it truly is just an amazing time to be alive.  Given that I’m at a stage when I can rely on this highly targeted radiation to address brain tumors, I also will tend to have new tumors pop up.  This happened in November when they observed a new one in an MRI.  I went in for another SRS session in early December.

First, they showed me the CT scan of my head they conducted to get ready to radiate my brain.

I’m not 100% sure, but what I think was going on is that the little robot in the lower left did an Etch-a-Sketch
drawing over the image of my skull to tell them where to zap with the radiation (“up front on the left, guys”). 
The robot also did some graffiti-style scribbling on my image, but foolishly passed on the opportunity to draw a mustache.
Anyone remember my saying that I thought I saw a joystick in the radiation control booth?
This time I got a photo of it there on the right.  Combined with my scribble skull in the upper left,
I was once again feeling confident going in.  I jest – as I said in that earlier post, it’s the operator who wields the tool.

The session went fine, and they’ll do an MRI in March to see how it worked.

First side effect in my series of Cancer 2.0 treatments.  Team, this is going to come off as mysterious, but I’m not actually going to get into details on this at the moment.  I had a brief surge in some side effects that required me to go on an additional medication to manage them, and I seem to be fine now.  We’ve had to make some adjustments as a family, but so far, so good.  It seems to be a general rule that when you take a medication to manage side effects, you get other side effects you then have to manage.  This seems okay, too, but my medication is one that can be hard on the liver, so we are hoping that doesn’t become a problem.  I’ll take general prayers for side effects, and keep you posted. 

First college applicant.  We can hardly believe we’re probably just a few months away from launching our oldest into the world.  He’s such a superb servant to our family that it’s daunting to think of losing him when there will continue to be uncertainty about my health.  But God needs him for this next chapter, and we can’t wait to see what the next phase in his adventure will be.

First whole-family Halloween theme.  It’s hard to believe, given how much Kendra likes themes, cleverness, references to minor characters in classic movies, and coordinating many outfits, but this is the first year we did a family theme for Halloween: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Every one of us is a character from the movie.
Fun fact: That chest “tattoo” ended up surviving a lot of George’s hospitalization.

I continue to be grateful for you and all your prayers, my wonderful family and friends, and every blessing that last year brought.  Every moment was a gift in some way, hard though it may have been to accept it with a smile in the moment.  We ended 2019 better in so many ways as a family, that I have to conclude that we needed it to be just the way it was.  So thanks be to God for 2019 and for all the new firsts that will surprise, delight, and challenge us in 2020.

With fortitude and prayers for you,