Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for 14-year-old Christian Barker. Eighteen months ago Christian was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that is unresponsive to chemotherapy. My daughter knows the Barker’s so when she heard Christian was sick she called and asked me to pray for God to heal him. She also suggested I visit Christian’s web page at CaringBridge to read his story and look at the photos. I took her suggestion and visited the site, sent him an email, and added my name to the mailing list.
Warning! Repeatedly praying for a person, including strangers and your enemies, may produce a soft spot in your heart for him or her. Although I have never met Christian Barker, he has a serious hold on my heart.
Reading Sandy’s regular updates over the months can be a tearful experience for those of us who pray for Christian. Often Sandy goes into graphic detail to let us know exactly what her son is experiencing so that we’ll know what his specific needs are. Someone once said, “prayer is firing the winning shot.” For Christian this is truly the case because an odious enemy has been running roughshod through his body, intent on taking his life, and he needs prayer! It’s only by God grace that he’s still with us.
Sandy Barker is a devoted Mom and one remarkable woman. In fact, the Barker’s are a remarkable family. We don’t often hear from Gary, but we know by reading Sandy’s letters that he’s the glue that holds the Barker family together. Their combined faith is big enough to move mountains! Christian’s illness has become one of those seemingly unmovable mountains. But the Barker’s understand the power of prayer. God is with them, come rain or come shine, and they know it. The days are long, and there are those uphill battles to fight; yet they experience momentary peace. Giving your worries to God provides rest for the weary. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He meant what he said.
King David faced many giants in his lifetime and often cried out to the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. Through it all David’s faith in God remained steadfast. In Psalm 22:24 he wrote:
“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
Without further ado, here’s Christian’s story, as told by his mother.
Dear Family and Friends,
Day + 152…18 months ago today, I brought Christian in to the doctor for excessive bruising I had noticed. Although I had a little sick feeling it could be leukemia, I didn’t think it was. He was always SO healthy. Even when we got the horrible diagnosis, I didn’t know what a hard road we had ahead of us. In the past 18 months (it seems like SO much longer), Christian has been in the hospital over 12 of those months, had 2 bone marrow transplants, TONS of extremely strong chemo, total body irradiation, 2 relapses, GVHD complications, nausea, infections, depression, isolation, separation (we have lived in Seattle for 11 months so far), etc. He has almost died several times from the chemo, infections, or GVHD. He has and still is fighting this horrible beast so bravely and so hard. He feels so sick, but he still does what he needs to do to get better. He takes his meds, walks, goes without food so his organs can heal, and prays hard for his healing. His faith is such an inspiration to me. He is sad he is sick and isolated, but he trusts in God and prays for his needs and overall healing. I am beyond proud of him and we are still hopeful he will be healed of this rare leukemia. I keep thinking maybe the reason he has to go through all of this horrible GVHD now after all he has been through is because the GVHD will keep the cancer away. I don’t know what God will use to get/keep Christian cancer-free, but Gary and I still trust God with Christian’s life. We are praying He will heal Christian of the cancer and protect his body from the GVHD effects. This journey has been beyond hard so far, but we continue to have hope Christian will survive this, go on to do great things and have a great life.
This has been such a hard journey for Garrett and Kendall too. Having a brother SO sick and being separated from their mom for almost a year is so difficult. I am proud of how they have grown through this. They have such a loving heart when they see other sick kids. God has used them to bring joy to other cancer kids, which is so great!
It feels great when we get to see a glimpse of how God is using Christian and our family during our journey. I love to hear that you appreciate and hug your kids and family more, that you are praying more, that you are memorizing some of the verses I include on CB’s updates, that you don’t take living together in the same house (or state) for granted, etc. Please thank God for these blessings. He has given them to you and they are such a special gift!!
Dr. Manley’s last day was 11/6. :( He is awesome and we are so thankful he was on for the past month. Before he left, Christian’s bilirubin numbers hit a high of 17.1 (normal is .1) He changed some meds around and Lithium Carbonate was added yesterday. The Lithium pill went right through CB and wasn’t absorbed since his gut isn’t absorbing things by mouth well. So we got 3 capsules and poured them in spoonful of pudding. The taste of the med (bitter) almost made CB throw up but he got through it. We are hopeful this med helps heal his gut. It has been successful on some patients with the severe gut GVHD. He is on SO many other immunosuppressants too, and we would love for his gut to start healing so we can start tapering off some of those…starting with the prednisone amount.
Gary will be coming back to Seattle today. It will be nice having him here with us. He will fly back next week for work and for Garrett and Kendall’s parent/teacher conferences. On Friday 11/16, he will fly back to Seattle with the kids and we will all be together for Thanksgiving. We are thankful for that. Christian will still be in the hospital, but we are hopeful he will feel good enough to get a ‘pass’ for 4 hours. We will probably go back to the RMHouse [Ronald McDonald] and hang out. Since Christian can’t eat, we don’t want to do our dinner in front of him. My mom will be coming too. :)
Christian’s prayers every day are for his stomach pain and nausea to go away (it is still BAD and he threw up this morning), for his organs, gut and all GVHD to heal so he can get out of the hospital, and for him to be able to go home SOON. I discussed the ‘going home’ part (Christian and I haven’t been in Seattle for 6 months so far with this transplant, and 5 months with the first one.) with Dr. Manley before he left, and we agreed it wouldn’t be in CB’s best interest to go for a while. The level of care he needs is extensive, and he is at a great hospital getting great care here. We love our Oncologist in California, but we don’t have a hospital with the availability of treatment there. Our goal is to get Christian to a point where his needs aren’t so great, and he can be treated in Orange County, CA. We REALLY look forward to the day when we can bring Christian home. We already have the extremely generous offer to fly us home from the wonderful man who flew us here. We are so blessed to have so many awesome people supporting us. Thank you all!!
I want to thank those who have sent us pictures for his hospital room. I have already put up several of them. It is great seeing all of your beautiful, smiling faces every day. Please keep the pictures coming so I can fill his room with them. You can send them to:
Ronald McDonald House
5130 40th Ave. North East
Seattle, WA 98105
ATTN: BARKER #B12
Please continue to pray that God continues to protect Christian’s body and that NO leukemia cells take residence in his body, that the GVHD gets under control and eradicated but the GVL remains to keep the leukemia away, that NO infections start, that his bloody diarrhea and gut pain go away quickly, that his severe nausea goes away, that he stops getting fevers, that his energy increases and spirits lift, that the docs continue to have wisdom regarding Christian’s treatment, that CB’s body will respond to the treatment and meds, and that God will use the Prochymal and other meds to heal Christian’s severe GVHD.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Thank you for all of the love, support, thoughts, and prayers you have given our family these past 18 months. We thank you ahead of time for the continued support you offer as we continue on our journey of getting Christian cancer-free and healthy. We are SO thankful for all of you!!
Love and hugs,
Sandy, Gary, Christian, Garrett, and Kendall Barker
Please keep the Barker family in your prayers.
Visit Christian Barker’s web page:
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