following page contains updates regarding Mary Beth's progress for
September of 2000.
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Greetings from the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit on the 9th floor
of Children's Hospital! Mary Beth has laid claim to Room 4 of
the unit as her home for the next several weeks. She checked
in late Wednesday evening and began her chemotherapy treatments on
Thursday, so today is hump day. As of today, she has received
4 of the 7 treatments. The level of chemotherapy drugs
administered each day is very high. Consequently, the side
effects are increasing difficult. The primary side effect she
has experienced is getting nauseous and sick. To counteract
this unpleasantness she receives anti nausea medication. This
medication makes her very sleepy, so she has slept a lot yesterday
and today and has not eaten either day.
On Thursday and Friday, however, she spent a great deal of time
being artistic and crafty. The wall which houses her room
entrance is three-fourths glass, and is now painted in a couple of
themes. Her glass door displays a floral design welcoming
visitors. The remainder of the glass is filled with an angel
and the words "SJA ANGELS", so all there is no mistaking
where she goes to school. The window overlooking Forest Park
informs the outside world that MB is the current resident. She
also has a drawer full of projects in various stages of completion.
The inside of her room is starting to take on personality with
various posters designed by her sister Barbie and a singing,
flopping bass courtesy of Uncle Jeff Teckman. I am sure the
decor will continue to take on the look of a teen's room and not a
patient's room in the coming days.
As one of our dear friends pointed out in an email to Mary Beth, she
will be receiving her stem cell transplant on Friday, September 8th,
our Blessed Virgin Mary's birthday. When Mary Beth heard this
news, she showed her excitement by gleaning her beautiful smile and
remarking how awesome it was.
Her four visitors per day have consisted of her sisters, parents,
and Uncle Jeff. She has waved and blown kisses to her little
brother William through the glass.
Thank you for the wonderful cards, flowers, plants, CF
contributions, masses, and prayers we have received on behalf of
Aunt Joanie. Tuesday's services included a wonderful tribute
to Joan and a beautiful baptism of Nate. We continue to be
blessed by all of you by your acts of love and kindness.
God bless you all,
Mary Beth achieved a milestone today
by completing her seventh and final chemotherapy treatment in this
process. To put it in perspective, in the past seven days, she
has received the equivalent of 28 times the amount of chemotherapy
drugs that she has previously received once every three weeks in
prior treatments. Although she is very tired and still
nauseous, she was able to eat a small portion of cereal today which
has stayed with her. She is feeling so much better this
evening than she has felt since before the weekend. Her back
pain is gone, she is more awake, and is anxious to get her
transplant on Friday.
I am relieving Sheila tonight by
spending the night with MB. Her greatest challenge tonight may
be to prevent me from snoring, something she tells me I did over the
weekend when I slept in her room as well. She reminded me that
the rule is that I must sleep on my side or the Kleenex box will
come flying my way!
There are several new additions to
her room, including candid shots of three of her favorite little guys,
her brother Will and her cousins Nate and Clayton. There is
also a picture of her sisters Barbie and Heidi with her friend Jenny
taken on the field on Monday night at the TransWorld Dome before the
Rams victory, and a wonderful card made by her former
kindergarten companion Megan Sheahan which brought the biggest smile
She also has a poster of Cardinals
2nd baseman Fernando Viņa personally autographed by him when he
visited her today. Yes, the look of a teen's room is starting
to take shape.
Uncle Jeff Teckman and Aunt Patti Haffner have become regulars on
the visitors circuit and are always good for a laugh. Mary
Beth appreciates all the email and calls and promises to return them
when she is feeling better in the coming weeks. To her fellow
freshman, she wishes she too could wear a goofy hat with you this
week. She is there in spirit with you and sends her love to
Thank you for your kind support, especially with those gestures
that make our lives easier, and thank you most of all for your
prayers for MB.
Thank you and may God bless you,
I had to wait until Mary Beth fell
asleep tonight before posting this message because she was
dominating her laptop by responding to some of the countless emails
from her new SJA Angel friends whom she will meet when she returns
back to school. They are all asking when this day will occur,
so I will try to give it my best estimate. MB received her
stem cell transplant today and is doing very well. Today starts
from 2 to 4 weeks of continued isolation in the hospital before she
is released to go home. After she gets home, she will not be
allowed to go back to school until her blood counts return to an
acceptable level. This could take another 4 weeks, but may be
sooner or longer. So . . . she will probably be back gracing
the halls of Saint Joe at around Halloween. She has already
discussed ideas for her costume this year.
She received her transplant around noon today and slept until 5
pm. When she awoke, she had the most energy she has had since
her chemotherapy treatments started last week. She ate some
dinner, drank a Pepsi, watched the news, and grabbed her laptop.
To her fellow SJA Angels, she really
appreciates all the support she has received via email and can't
wait to see you all and as she puts it, "be a normal 14 year
Thank you all for your continuous
prayers for Mary Beth's full recovery. From the looks of
things, they are being answered.
God bless you,
Well, what a difference
two days makes. MB was full of energy on Friday evening, but
as expected, the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs are starting
to catch up with Mary Beth's body. Mary Beth is now on a diet
of ice chips and is receiving her nutrition intravenously. She
simply can't eat because of irritation of her entire digestive
tract. As of midnight Friday night, she was placed on fluid
restrictions. She is limited to 2.5 liters of fluids per 24
hour period, including IVs, medication, blood transfusions, and what
she consumes by mouth. With all she receives intravenously,
the amount of ice chips is very limited. She received
increased pain medication so she isn't feeling the effects of her
She had some fun
yesterday and was wearing her crab hat from St. Joe after it was
delivered by some of her friends. Fellow SJA freshmen
Christine Marino, Gerilyn Goeddel and Liz Stapleton were joined by
Adrienne Dybus by visiting her through the glass. They
delivered her hat along with get well wishes from all of her friends
This morning, she spent
some time responding to email. She tried to do some reading
but was too tired to do it. She wants you all to know that she
is smiling a lot and she appreciates all the support, thoughts and
God bless you,
Please excuse my
absence the past few days in posting updates. Mary Beth is
doing "Great" according to Dr. Shenoy, her wonderful head
oncologist. This was very comforting to hear on Tuesday
because we have no point of reference. She is still
experiencing occasional nausea, the breakdown of her digestive tract
continues, and she continually fends off fever, but she remains very
positive and has enjoyed having Sheila as her roommate this
week. She is extremely tired and has no immune system until
the transplanted stem cells commence their duties. Mary Beth
remains on restricted fluids and her diet remains ice chips and Popsicles.
Today, she joined her
retired Grandpa Ricken in becoming a firefighter. She became
an honorary firefighter for the city of University City, MO as the
chief came to visit and bestowed her with that honor.
She joins all of us in
expressing her excitement and gratefulness to all who have helped
(and continue to help) this week in preparing her new room and
Will's new room at home. A group of Mary Beth's Angels
descended upon our home this week on Tuesday and today both rooms
were finished being painted. With input by Barbie, who spent
the majority of Tuesday night with MB, her new room is taking on the
look and feel of her personality.
We can't express
ourselves adequately in letting all of you know how blessed we are
to have you. Each and every day, we continue to receive your
gifts of love, thoughtfulness, caring, sharing, and prayer that mean
so very much to us.
Thank you and may God bless you,
Mary Beth has been
sleeping the majority of the past three days because her blood
counts are still extremely low. Her doctors expect her stem
cells to start generating new blood cells early this week. In
fact, her counts are starting to creep up slightly now. Other
than bathroom visits, showers, and physical therapy, she has
remained in bed with two exceptions.
Yesterday, her Aunt
Ellen Norburg from KC visited her by standing in Forest Park,
calling on her cell phone, holding up a poster and waving to Mary
Beth's 9th floor room. MB ventured to the window seat for the
conversation and to wave. Ellen could not come to her room
because she wasn't feeling 100% healthy.
Mary Beth also spent some time in the window seat
watching the Great Forest Park Balloon Race yesterday. This
was especially meaningful to MB because we received a phone call
from our friends Joe, Shelby, Ashley & Alexa Nusrala who
participated with their balloon in the race. The Nusrala's
were carrying a banner on their balloon stating that they were
Flying for Mary Beth with a purple ribbon on it. While we
couldn't determine which balloon was theirs because of distance, MB
was smiling just knowing it was out there among the 70 contenders.
Thank you all for your continued support. It
is wonderful seeing Mary Beth's smile when she hears about
everything that everyone is doing.
God bless you,
The effects of the high
doses of chemotherapy drugs continue to stay with Mary Beth,
although she spent the majority of the day today awake and
alert. She remains very weak due to the side effects and a
very low blood count. Her upward movement on Sunday of her
white blood cells was offset by a downward move on Monday, followed
by a slight increase today. The roller coaster
continues. Her doctors are still very optimistic that her stem
cells will be working very soon.
Mary Beth insisted on
having all of her pain medication turned off during the past couple
of days and tells us she is no pain. This narcotic was adding
to her drowsiness and gave her blurred vision. She told us
that she would rather be in some pain than to have a narcotic being
pumped into her that causes her to experience the side effects.
The three weeks of
seeing the same four walls is starting to make her a little stir
crazy and she is anxious to get out and on with the some
normalcy. She continues to feel the generosity of support,
especially spiritually when she hears about all the prayers and
daily rosaries being said for her and for her friend Rachel
Thank you and God bless you,
Mary Beth is coming
home tomorrow! Her white blood count tripled overnight and she
will be released to come home tomorrow. When she checked into
the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit three weeks ago tonight, the doctors
informed us that she would be in isolation from 4 to 6 weeks.
She surprised all of us by doing so well. Normal white blood
counts are between 7 and 25, so when we were informed this morning
that her white blood count was 1.5, we were optimistically thinking
she could be released by the weekend. When her healthcare
professionals informed us that her stem cells had engrafted and that
she could come home, we were all crying tears of joy.
Today, an entire troop
of angels descended upon our home with cleaning supplies in
hand. I was afraid to stand still for fear of being wiped down
with Pine Sol or Clorox water! Her room and the rest of house
from top to bottom is spotless. We can't thank all of you
enough for your help while Mary Beth has been isolated from society
for these past three weeks and for the support we have received
during the past 11 months of her battle with cancer.
Mary Beth will have
limited visitation rights at home, but is very excited to get here
and give William his first hug in three weeks! She is proof
positive that the power of prayer is immeasurable.
God bless you,
In preparation for Mary
Beth's journey home, she was taken off the antibiotics yesterday
which she had received during her stay. Afterward, she
developed a fever which lasted until mid morning this morning.
She will not be coming home today, but rather tomorrow evening or
Saturday morning, provided she gets the okay. While this was
deflating for MB, she said she would rather stay a few more hours
than have to return because of a problem arising after she was home.
Her white blood count
nearly doubled overnight to 2.9, and all other indicators continue
to climb. She is very much looking forward to sleeping in her
own bed again. Thank you for your countless gifts of love.
Mary Beth has spend a
couple of frustrating days waiting to go home. Each of the
last three evenings she has developed a fever which dissipates
during the day. She has to be fever-free for a 24 hour period
in order to be released. The waiting game continues.
She received a surprise
last night when Elizabeth Gelpi, her best friend from Kansas City
appeared in her room. She was revitalized by the visit and
smiled and laughed more than she has in the past 3+ weeks.
These laughs and smiles will continue to increase in frequency as
soon as she is allowed to change her environment.
We ask that you please
say a prayer as you read this and ask for Mary Beth's quick release
from the hospital. Thank you for your continued support.
God bless you,
Aunt Joanie told Sheila
that she would take care of Mary Beth shortly before she left
us. Today is Joan's birthday and Mary Beth is going home!
Thank you all for your
God bless you,
Life in the Ricken home
is getting closer to normal, whatever normal is. We are all
happy to be back under one roof. William is delighted he has
his "Mary Bethy" back and is thrilled to have Mom driving
him to and from preschool. Mary Beth loves her new room and
wants to express her heartfelt thanks to all who assisted in the
process of readying our home for her arrival. Barbie and Heidi
are very happy to have someone other than their Dad to look
at. Sheila is ecstatic to be back in charge of our home and
you won't find anyone more pleased than me that we are together
Mary Beth's nausea is
starting to dissipate and she started doing homework
yesterday. She is anxious to get back into the school routine
full time and can't wait to get back to St. Joe and feel a part of
She is trying to do her
part by selling raffle tickets for $5 per book of six to benefit the
SJA Auction. If you would like to help her out and have a
chance to win $1,000 in cash or a $250 entertainment package on
Wednesday, October 4th, you can email her sister Barbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbie, a wannabe St
Joe Angel, is helping Mary Beth since she can't leave the house to
sell and doesn't feel up to making phone calls yet. Barbie
will take your order and process the chances by next Tuesday.
Just let her know how many books you would like and send a check
made payable to Gerry Ricken to 43 Chaminade Dr., St. Louis, MO
63141. She will make sure Dad gets the money to SJA on time
along with your completed chances. She needs your name,
address, phone # and the dollar amount if you are so inclined.
Barbie wants MB to feel like she is contributing even though she
hasn't been able to participate in person.
Thank you and God bless you,
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