Friday, February 19, 2010

Ollie's in the Newspaper!

Friday, February 19, 2010 - This was the story they did for the Waterloo - Cedar Falls Courier here in town. "Oliver's Story"

WATERLOO - When Ed and Stacy Palmer learned their son Oliver had an inoperable brain tumor, they were focused on getting him treatment.

Doctors said the 8-year-old Edison Elementary School student needed six weeks of radiation treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to stop the tumor from growing and extend his life for another nine months to a year. But that wasn't his parents' only concern.

They also had to think about their other children: 7-year-old Eden, 2-year-old Jaren and 2-month-old Phineas. The baby was born just weeks before Oliver was diagnosed Dec. 23, 2009.

"We wanted it to be as normal as possible," said Stacy, a stay-at-home mom.

That's why Ed and Oliver made the trek to Iowa City every weekday from Dec. 31 to Feb. 11 while Stacy stayed at home with the younger children. Oliver has been off school since winter break, and Ed took unpaid leave from his second-shift supervisory job at John Deere Engine Works. By returning home every day, the family could maintain some of the normalcy.

Despite their efforts, that has been difficult. Oliver's diagnosis "altered everything; it affected everything," Ed said. They have struggled with giving adequate time and attention to all of their children.

Friends have helped by delivering meals and baby-sitting or doing special activities with the children.

Friends also have organized fundraising efforts to help with costs for food, gas, medical bills and other living expenses, including a benefit set for Saturday.

"People have been amazing," Stacy said. The response from the community "kind of restored my faith in people."

Oliver's health concerns began shortly after Phineas was born. Ed, who had taken leave from work following the birth, noticed Oliver tucking his head down and looking up through his eyebrows one day. Oliver told him he was seeing double.

They took him to the doctor, who ordered an MRI. Results showed the tumor, which was diagnosed as pontine glioma.

"It's a very aggressive rare form of brain cancer, and there's only 150 to 200 cases a year" in the U.S., Stacy said. "It started with the double vision and then rapidly after that he would trip and fall a lot."

Oliver also began having trouble swallowing. Doctors put him on a steroid to help the problem.

Oliver said he was scared to start the radiation treatment "because it was my first time." After that, he found the 10-minute treatments "relaxing."

Oliver's hair also began falling out because of the radiation.

"I think it's been the hardest part for him," Ed said. "He's never without a hat now."

The radiation treatments have stopped the tumor's growth, a period doctors call the "honeymoon phase." After six to nine months, the growth is expected to begin again. There is no other effective treatment for tumor.

"It's very rapid after that," Ed said.

For now, things are as normal as they can be. Oliver is expected to return to school Monday. And Ed is back on the day shift he used to work at John Deere before becoming a supervisor.

The switch in shifts "allows me to just spend time with Oliver now," Ed said.

It's hard for Ed and Stacy not to think about the inevitable end for Oliver after the tumor begins growing again, but that's not their focus now.

"I refuse to mourn for him now," Ed said. "I want to capitalize on what we have now."

Lou Henry Elementary Dinner & Movie Night

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - Lou Henry Elementary Movie Night

My mom works at Lou Henry Elementary here in town and for their movie night the Student Ambassadors had refreshments available for the movie and asked for a donation to help Oliver. I am AMAZED at the kindness and thoughtfulness of others. It makes me want to be a better person. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's soooooo true. I want other people to feel the way that I've felt, the gratitude that I've been able to feel towards people who have helped us out. I don't know half the people who donated, they just did, and they didn't need to be thanked for it. But, I want to say THANK YOU!!!! Thank you to all the students who helped, the teachers and people who made and brought the food and for all the people who came and donated! It really means a lot to know that so many people care about Ollie!

Sign made by the kids at Lou Henry Elementary.

The kids helping with food and drinks.

Jayden Jolley, a friend from church and student ambassador who helped out.

Oliver, Uncle Chad and Grandma Young

Jaren AKA: Barf Vader

Other staff members and friends that helped out. :O)

Oliver and Alison
(This little girl wanted to help Oliver so she made baked goods to sell during a teacher meeting held at her church and raised $150! She never had even met Oliver. So sweet!

One of my mom's co-workers made this especially for Oliver. :O)

Mom, Mr. Ortman - Principal at Lou Henry, Me
He has gone above and beyond with helping Oliver and my mom! The staff at that school is AMAZING! I can't thank them enough!

Some of the kids and their families that came out for the family movie night!

My mom shaved her head with Oliver and then got his name carved into her newly sprouting hair! It's interesting to see that the letters "L-I-V-E" are the only letters that could fit in the frame. What we are all praying for............ the fact that he will LIVE through this.

Penny Wars

Several of the schools in the Waterloo Community School District participated in the Penny Wars to earn "P.O.P. money" ("Pennies for Oliver Palmer"). The schools have gone above and beyond to help us out, especially Edison (where Oliver attends school) and Lou Henry (where my mom teaches). One elementary school had a donation from only one little girl who brought $16. How sweet is she!?! THANK YOU to ALL of the schools that helped us out by donating pennies in this penny drive!!!

Valentine's Party & Candlelight Dinner

February 11, 2010 - Mr. Galloway's 3rd Grade Valentine's Party - Edison Elementary

Today was Oliver's final radiation treatment down in Iowa City and we rescheduled his appointment for earlier in the morning so we could get back to Waterloo in time for his class Valentine's Day party at school. We hadn't told his teacher that we were coming so the class was surprised when we all came walking in! I've always loved helping out with my kids class parties and this year was no different!

The kids handing out their valentines.

Helping Ollie deliver his valentines to his classmates.

Oliver chatting with Takoda, one of his best friends.

Oliver and Grandma Young (my mom)

Ollie and all of his valentine goodies!

February 14, 2010 - Family Valentine's Day Dinner

Every Valentine's Day, starting when Oliver was 2 years old, we have a family Valentine's Dinner by candlelight! We started this tradition because we hated fighting the crowds in the restaurants. I came up with the idea of having a fancy dinner at our own house with the people we love the most, our own little family. Eden was almost 1 and 1/2 and Oliver was nearly 3 years old. We make fettucini alfredo or spaghetti, have garlic bread or breadsticks, salad and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. We even drink sparkling cider out of fancy wine glasses. The kids help decorate the table with linens, flower petals and candles. We also added some soft instrumental music in the background as well! We've loved this tradition ever since. The kids look forward to it every year!!!

The gang's all here!

Grandma & Uncle Chad

Stacy and Ed

Oliver - age 8

Eden - age 7

Jaren - age 2 1/2

Ollie being a goof! He was making us all laugh doing some hilarious 'Pistachio Disguisey' quotes from the movie, "The Master of Disguise" starring Dana Carvey! I'll have to find the video and post it!


Eden and Ollie

Finn was hanging out in his swing next to the table. I didn't realize that he wasn't in any pictures. Oooooops! We love you, too, Finny!!! Hope you all had a HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY and took the time to tell your family and friends how much you love them!!!

Oliver's Last Treatment

Thursday, February 11, 2010 - Today was Oliver's final radiation treatment down in Iowa City. In about a month he will have a follow up MRI to see if the tumor has shrunk at all.

This is how I spent many visits down in Iowa City... watching the guys on their iPods. After we found out about Oliver's condition, Ed went out and bought an iPod touch for Oliver to play with during the long car rides and in the waiting rooms. VERY good Christmas gift I must say!

Oliver with his mask and bite block.

Ollie all finished! He never had to be put under sedation once! He did so great!!!

Oliver with his certificate of completion.

Oliver and one of his gifts from the MRI techs and nurses.

Oliver with some of his favorite nurses/techs...

Dolly and Oliver

Oliver getting Mike back after he surprised him with silly string!!!!

Oliver and Mike

The aftermath... I'm glad I didn't have to clean that up!

Stacy, Oliver, Ed

Oliver flinging a gummy bug at the wall... ewwww....

He did such a good job throughout all of his treatments! The staff down at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were all FANTASTIC!!! So many people asked why we would travel for 3 hours a day for a 10 minute treatment and it's because they were all so great and did so much for the kids!!!

Iowa Children's Museum & Petland


PETLAND - Land of overpriced puppies...