Clear again

Blake had his 6-month scans over the holidays. He was scanned on the Monday before Christmas. Our friend (and doctor) Mike recommended that we request a report. So instead of waiting to the see the oncologist to get the results, Blake was able to get the report just 3 days later. Thankfully the report had a bold line that clearly stated "No metastatic activity"! So we were blessed to celebrate Christmas with good news.

After Christmas there was blood work and an oncologist appointment. But the appointment got canceled. There was a missed phone call. Blake went back to school. And wrong number in the system. And finally (about a week ago) a phone call with official good news. 

The next scans are scheduled for July. We are 3.5 years clear. Blake is loving his current semester at school. We are so grateful.

Summer scans

Blake had his 6-month scans the first week of June. He saw his orthopedist and a new oncologist. No more pediatric oncology for him. So we met Dr. Ma. Seems like a great guy. We got good news from all scans around June 7th and got to enjoy Victoria's graduation shortly thereafter.

Then around June 15th, Blake's orthopedist called and requested an extra scan. He said there was a concern in the radiologist's report that he did not have in time for Blake's appointment. He requested an MRI of Blake's left knee right away.

This was clearly concerning, but I'll keep the story short. Due to various vacation plans it took a full 6 weeks to get the scan and the results. Turns out there was nothing to be concerned about. Blake's knee has some special kind of scarring from the chemo, steroids, lack of motion, etc... Fortunately, there should be no effects from the this condition. It was definitely a bit of a grey cloud in the back of our minds this summer. So it feels great to be able relax and celebrate. Six month scans are scheduled for December.

Cal Arts will resume in mid-September and Blake will return on the 8th. He's excited to go back and his fall schedule looks fantastic. He's been busy with various fun projects. I've put one below. You can always see more of his work at www.pointblake.com. Thanks so much for you support and prayers. 

6 more

The week after New Year's Blake saw his oncologist and his orthopedic surgeon. They both had great news! All scans are clear and the blood work was super. The x-ray showed continued grafting and there is new bridging between the cadaver bone and Blake's bone. He has NO orthopedic restrictions anymore!

We are still on a 6-month scan schedule. So after year one at Cal Arts is completed, we will do this again.

Over break we had a fun day sledding in Oak Glen (thank you Stampers for the great hillside!). Blake is back at school and his second semester is underway. 

It begins

On Saturday Blake drove to Cal Arts with Jennifer and I followed in a van full of Blake's belongings. We arrived at 9:30 am to a very helpful bunch of greeters who checked Blake in and loaned us a dolly. Within a few hours, his room was loaded up, drawers full of clothes, desk set up, sheets on the bed, bookcases all full. A run to Target and a local grocery store and everything was set up.

Blake's roommate is a jazz bass player named Giancarlo. He is a very nice young man and he and Blake went out for dinner on their first night there.

There is a full week of various orientation activities scheduled. His course work includes History of Animation (required full year course) and Animation Workshop. His dorm is right next to the building where Experimental Animation majors have individual working spaces. Almost all classes on campus are in one large building directly across from the dorm--Disney's vision was to have all the different types of artists interacting in one big building together. On the ground floor of the main building is Room A113

This is clearly a very exciting and emotional transition. Your prayers are appreciated. Our house feels a bit too empty. Prayers for Blake are appreciated as he gets used to independence and figures out how to do this whole thing called college.

Another 6

Blake had 6 month scans last week and once again he is all clear! This good news is getting repetitive, but it sure doesn't get old. He won't be scanned again until he's home from his first semester at Cal Arts.

Blake's been going to physical therapy again and is working on eliminating his limp and running. He's gone on a couple of 1 mile runs and he alternates between running and walking. His stamina continues to improve.

We have some fun trips planned this summer including an Alaskan cruise to celebrate my parents 50th anniversary and our annual trek to Michigan.

God is good and we rejoice!

Speeding up

Good news all around!

Blake's strength continues to improve. His orthopedic is pleased and agreed that a few more physical therapy sessions will help eliminate the last of his limp.

In February we found a nice, used Scion xB for Blake. It's just the style he likes and it has lots of cargo room for big art projects.

And given that Blake was just accepted into Cal Arts, it appears that those art projects will be arriving soon! In September he will begin his studies in Experimental Animation at Cal Arts in Valencia. This school was started by Walt Disney and has had a few students you may have heard of: John Lasseter & Tim Burton, to name just a couple. It is one of the top animation schools in the country and with only 35 students per major, Blake is obviously thrilled. The Experimental Animation major is simply a perfect fit for his love of origami and stop-motion.

Prayers for wisdom and guidance as we make this big transition are much appreciated!

Blake with his Scion xB!

Blake with his Scion xB!

Blake made an origami man holding a mini-copy of his acceptance letter. Not your typical method of celebrating college acceptance.

Blake made an origami man holding a mini-copy of his acceptance letter. Not your typical method of celebrating college acceptance.

Go!

Six month scans were this week. We got great news again; all clear! This marks 18 months of living cancer free. God is so good.

Blake's cane is pretty much forgotten as his strength continues to improve. He played an hour of dodgeball at winter camp recently, so we are definitely encouraged.

After a year of hard work, Blake completed a stop-motion origami short film. He scripted, made original origami designs, story-boarded, built a 30" scale model and then a 15' diameter set filling our garage. Take a look!

Ready, set...

November (and December 1) have been filled with good news to be thankful for!

Blake has pretty much stopped using his cane.

Dr. Zuckerman, his orthopedic, declared today that his leg looks great. The grafting is growing in both directions and there is blood flow in the cadaver bone.

The neurologist found nothing to concern him. He is pleased with the brain MRI and a the EEG that was done.

And as of today, the movie set construction is complete. There are still lighting issues and other details to be worked out. But the massive stage is complete. The paper grass, sky, mountains, bricks, fence, and tree are in position. Below you can see pictures of the set in various stages of completion, followed by shots of what the camera will shoot for the movie.

Gap year

As Blake takes a year off from school, he is working on his portfolio. He has been creating origami and various drawings. His biggest project is a stop-motion origami project. He has been working on this idea for about nine months. He as written a script, created original origami designs, storyboarded the script, made a scale model and more. The movie will be filmed in a 15 foot diameter stage that he is going to build in our garage. Clearly a project of this size has a large number of expenses, so he put this project on Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that helps people fund ideas and projects. If you would like to see more about this project and/or help fund it, you can see the information here.

Your prayers for increasing stamina and strength are appreciated.

A new year

Blake's 3-month scans are clear. Hooray! This marks a year from the cancer removed from his lung. He won't be scanned again until February. 6-month scans for the next year. He is also trying to increase his exercises so that his left leg is back to full strength. The cane has been needed less and less; last week we went on a half-mile, very hilly walk and Blake didn't bring his cane at all.

Cal Arts did not move Blake off the wait list, so a gap year it will be. Goals for the next year include a short film, portfolio work, a driver's license and a year to get stronger and have some fun.

Graduation!

On Friday night, June 13th, Blake graduated with honors from Redlands High School! We had a spectacular time celebrating his accomplishment. Redlands Bowl was beautiful and the ceremony was nicely done. Blake is in the 121st graduating class from RHS! Blake never wanted to delay his graduation and worked through treatment to ensure that this accomplishment happened on schedule.

College plans are still up in the air. Blake wants to attend Cal Arts in Valencia, but is still on a very short waiting list.

Blake will get 3-month scans in August. If he is clear then, we will switch to 6-month scans and they will reduce the number of scans.

Thanks for the prayers and support. We've had a great month of celebrating. Now we're off to Michigan for some rest and relaxation.

Transient
Transient
Transient
At the end of the ceremony, they dim the lights and the church bells a few blocks away ring out the alma mater.

At the end of the ceremony, they dim the lights and the church bells a few blocks away ring out the alma mater.

Free summer

Blake had 3 months scans last week and, once again, all is clear! His oncologist said we need to follow the 3-month schedule once more. After that it will have been a year since the last cancer removal, so if he's clear then scans will be more spread out and they will also decrease the number of scans. His cardiologist is also pleased with his progress right now. He may be willing to take Blake off his beta-blocker this summer, pending the results of an echo.

This clears us for a graduation on June 13 and a great summer. We'll be headed to Michigan and Colorado Springs to relax in July. Blake also has big plans to make a new movie. Stay tuned!

Blake has his winning origami from 2013 on display at Smiley Library (picture below) and won an art award at Redlands High.

Mowing

Blake's recovery continues. Sunday he mowed the lawn. It was a very encouraging milestone for sure! His heart/chest felt a little crazy afterwards, so we are still not totally sure how much his heart is up for vigorous exercise--cardiology appointments are still every 6 weeks. But his leg held up fine!

In 2 weeks we have scans. I should be able to post results on May 20th.

Your ongoing prayers are much appreciated.

Transient

2 years

This week is the two year anniversary of Blake's diagnosis. We are so grateful as we look back at this journey and see all the many good ways God has taken care of us.

A few updates.

  • Blake got the best orthopedic update we've had yet. The cadaver bone has finally started fusing with the top of his tibia. His doctor told him to start running and jumping at physical therapy!
  • We went north and visited California College of the Arts. Blake has been accepted there and also received a sizable scholarship. Blake enjoyed the visit. We also had all sorts of San Francisco fun. Our visit to Golden Gate Park included our first family hike in two years! Blake climbed up to the top of Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stow Lake.
  • Blake is on a VERY short wait-list for Cal Arts. This is the top animation school in the country and is fairly close to us in Santa Clarita. Being on a wait-list is a bit nerve wracking.
Your prayers for clear scans (May), stamina (still improving) and college wisdom are much appreciated.

Transient

Much news

Blake got his 3-month scans on last Tuesday. Today we got the news: All Clear! This is great news. We have another 3-month scan scheduled for May. And cardiology and orthopedic to meet with fairly soon. Physical therapy continues to decrease. Although Blake's learning the hard way that if he doesn't exercise his leg, his pain increases. That is probably our biggest current goal: exercise! (and learn to drive!)

In non-medical news, Blake got admitted to California College of the Arts in the Bay Area. And they offered him a scholarship that is close to half tuition. We're still waiting to hear from Cal Arts.

Finally, Blake was invited to submit a piece of art to our friend's gallery. Kim operates The Greenly Art Space, which is a non-profit art gallery. The theme of the current exhibit is birds. Blake was required to put his piece for sale, which he did with reluctance, as he really liked his origami creation. Well for better or for worse, the piece sold this week. 

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18!

Blake turned 18 this week. It was a fun celebration as we had many family and friends join us for a good time together. It's been exciting and emotional to have Blake pass this important milestone.

A couple of weeks ago, Blake graduated from physical therapy! After reporting to PT two or three times a week for over a year, he got upgraded to a check up every two weeks. Blake uses a cane to walk most of the time and still has ongoing pain. His orthopedic doctor continues to evaluate the fusing of the cadaver bone with his bones and that process is slow. Your prayers for continued healing are appreciated.

We have 3-month scans next week or so. We will keep you updated. 

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A busy week

First things first. Blake had his scheduled three month scans and all is clear. They scanned his lungs, brain and bones and everything is normal. Needless to say, we are going to have an extra thankful Thanksgiving week! 

He also had a hearing, kidney and heart check (to monitor the possible side effects from the various chemos). Hearing is unchanged; he has a small amount of high frequency hearing loss in one ear. Kidney function is normal. His cardiologist reduced his beta-blocker by yet another reduction, which is great news. Blake is excited about this, as the beta-blocker adds to his tiredness.

Last weekend we had a fantastic trip to the Bay Area. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit California College of the Arts. We had a great time on a campus tour and were very impressed. The admission's counselor thought Blake's movies were fantastic and personally forwarded Blake's YouTube channel to the chair of the animation department.

We also had a great day with origami expert Bernie Peyton. Blake met Bernie at the origami convention last summer. Bernie has a big heart for pediatric hospitals and is working on a grant that seeks to use origami therapeutically. Needless to say, Bernie was very keen to talk more with Blake! We were at Bernie's home in Berkeley for about four hours. He taught Blake a number of origami techniques and we had a great time enjoy Bernie and his wife's hospitality.

However, before our time with Bernie, we had an extra special treat. Bernie's next door neighbor is Bill Reeves, a Pixar executive. Bill gave the three of us and Bernie and his wife a tour of Pixar! It was amazing to be in the home of Toy Story and Monster's Inc. Bill was very kind and we had a nice lunch together (in the Pixar cafeteria) after the tour. 

We also had some time to chat with Jen's cousin who is a San Francisco based graphic designer. He continued the trend of confirming that Blake has what it takes to pursue a career in art. And of course, no Derksen family vacation is complete without a few epic food stops. We ate some real treats, including Korean-Mexican fusion at HRD.

2 trips

Blake saw his orthopedic surgeon recently. Dr. Zuckerman, for the the very first time, was encouraged by the fusing that he saw at the top of the bone graft. This is awesome news. Also, the doctor was very reassuring that the pains and the ups and the downs that Blake is experiencing are very normal for this type of procedure. That was good to hear. 

Next weekend we're off to Northern California for a few days. Jen, Blake and I will fly up on Saturday. We have many exciting plans. Blake is going to visit an art school and will get to see Jen's cousin's graphic art offices. Blake will spend some time with an origami artist he met at the convention named Bernie. Bernie has a grant to develop origami for pediatric hospitals. Bernie wants Blake to work with him on the grant (for obvious reasons!), so they will have some time together on this trip. 

Oh. And Bernie knows a Pixar guy. So we're getting a Pixar tour!!! :-) 

After this trip, we're headed to LLU for scans. Dr. Bedros is scanning the usual. Plus he's checking Blake's cardiac and kidney functions. Scan week is always nerve-racking. 

Your prayers appreciated! 

Heart Matters

We saw Dr. Marais today. Overall, he was positive. He would like Blake to stay on a half-dose of the beta-blocker. If his stamina doesn't improve after a while, we'll talk again. But he'd like him to be on one. He switched to a half-dose on Tuesday night and his stamina has picked up. 

They did an echo. Blake's ejection fraction was either slightly below normal or just at normal. They also did the echo to see if their was fluid around his heart and lung from the surgery. Sure enough, there was. It causes Blake to have a small cough. Dr. Marais said he thinks the fluid will probably go away on its own, but that everyone is different. He said it's a common side-effect from surgery.  

He wants to see Blake in 6 weeks. Prayers for on-going stamina and strength so appreciated. 

3 months

Blake's orthopedic surgeon said he doesn't need to see him again for 3 months. He said there may be new growth, but it is hard to tell, because every X-ray is at a slightly different angle.  

Blake sees his cardiologist on Thursday. Wouldn't it be great if another doctor said, "See you in three months"? We're also hoping that Blake can stop taking the beta-blockers he is taking (prescribed during the thoracotomy recovery due to a high heart rate). They could be contributing to his lack of energy. 

We also decided today that we're only going to schedule physical therapy for Friday afternoons. Right now it just adds too much tiredness to the busyness of the school week. 

If you haven't been to Blake's channel lately, you may have missed the origami stop motion. www.youtube.com/pointblakevideos