Judd family thankful daughter is cancer-free
“In everything give thanks,” is inscribed over the sofa at Tim and Jessica Judd’s house in Motley.
It’s a verse in the Bible that the couple has taken to heart throughout the ups and downs of life...even in the midst of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a disease that threatened the life of their youngest daughter, Catherine.
“We have so much to be thankful for,” Jessica said at their home recently. “God has been so good to us.”
This Thanksgiving, in particular, will be one of great rejoicing for the Judd family. Just this past week, they learned that 22-month old Catherine’s bone marrow transplant had been successful...she was leukemia-free.
“What a blessing to hear such news!” Jessica shared on Catherine’s Caring Bridge site, noting a call from their doctor stating that the bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap were both clear and that Catherine, who received a bone marrow transplant from her seven-year-old sister Clara Aug. 4, “is 100 percent Clara engrafted!”
The doctor went on to say that he would see them for a follow-up appointment in three months. “By three months we will have celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and Catherine’s second birthday,” Jessica continued. “What a year to be thankful for!”
Granted, the Judds admit, there are days it isn’t as easy to voice the words, ‘Thank you.” Such as the day you learn your baby girl must endure a fifth round of chemotherapy and all that goes with it. “It’s a difficult place to see your baby screaming and shaking and writhing in pain,” Jessica wrote on one of her Caring Bridge journal posts.
No, it hasn’t been an easy journey. “But God has been with us through it all,” Jessica said, watching as Catherine worked to find a place for baby Jesus in the family’s nativity set. Success at last.
A few short months ago, they could only pray that Catherine would be with them for Thanksgiving. And pray they did. “I have had some doubts and fear at times, like when we would see other kids relapse, but I always had peace from the Lord,” Jessica said, adding, “We believe God has healed her at this point.”
Catherine became ill two weeks after her first birthday. One Sunday afternoon, Tim and Jessica brought her to the emergency room at Lakewood Health System Hospital in Staples because she had a fever and a strange swelling in her upper lip. “They took a lot of tests and checked her labs, which was such a blessing,” Jessica said, noting that Dr. Christine Albrecht was on call that day. “We are so grateful for her help.”
The lab tests showed that Catherine had a low white blood count and “they immediately sent us by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis,” Jessica said, adding that they never expected to not be returning home that day. Later in the week, following extensive tests and antibiotics treatments, the Judds learned their baby had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. “We lived at Children’s for the next 33 days getting (Catherine) treatment with chemotherapy and waiting for her blood counts to drop and recover.”
They were able to go home for a few days after that initial stay at Children’s, but were back for Catherine to have a bone marrow aspiration and spinal tap with Intrathecal (IT) chemotherapy. Those tests came back clear and the Judds were told their daughter was in remission and that since she was low risk, her treatment plan would require that she just go through four rounds of chemotherapy.
“We lived at Children’s Hospital for 22 days during round two of chemo and 28 days for round three,” Jessica shared on Caring Bridge. “When we came back for our fourth and final round of chemo...we were told they had found more leukemia cells in her spinal fluid. Catherine was no longer in remission...she had relapsed and would now need a bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota.”
After testing Catherine’s family members, doctors determined that her sister Clara was a bone marrow match. “Clara was really scared at first, but Tim told her that ‘somebody gets to be the hero for Catherine and that someone is you,’” Jessica said, adding, “That really calmed her down.”
Prior to her transplant, Catherine underwent a fifth round of chemo. Then, on Aug. 4, both she and Clara went through the procedure everyone prayed would work a miracle. A few hours later, Dr. Wes Miller informed Tim and Jessica that “the procedure went very well.”
Although this prognosis was good, Catherine would remain at the hospital another 16 days for post-transplant care. Later, the family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House on Oak St. in Minneapolis from Aug. 21 - Oct. 7, as Catherine continued to receive regular treatments.
“Catherine did amazingly well throughout this whole ordeal,” Jessica said, adding that her daughter wanted to be active and play whenever possible.
Being away from home for five months took its toll on all of the family. “Luckily, I homeschool, so the other kids were able to stay in Minneapolis with me,” Jessica said. “The homeschooling actually provided some normalcy and a routine for us, which was a blessing.”
It was also a challenging time for Tim, who worked during the week and would come back to the hospital on the weekends. “My boss was so supportive,” Tim said, adding that he works as a mechanical designer at Dane Engineering in Brainerd. “I was able to buy a laptop so I could do some of my work at the hospital.”
Tim and Jessica mentioned that both sets of grandparents (Alan and Shirley Judd of Staples and Pastor Jim and Sheri Johnson of Motley) were God-sends during this time. “They would spend time with Catherine at the hospital when they could and take care of the other three kids as well,” Jessica said.
The support they received from their church family (Motley Free Methodist, where Jessica’s dad is the pastor) as well as from cards and messages on Caring Bridge, were much appreciated. “There was an outpouring of cards and prayers for Catherine and our family, as well as financial gifts...we are so blessed.”
Recently, when her dad asked the church congregation to share what they are thankful for, Jessica said she spoke up to say that she is thankful for this journey they’ve been on. “I really look at it all as a blessing. Life has trials. We entrusted Catherine to God’s care and we had to trust Him, no matter what His plan was for her.”
Tim agreed. “We saw the hand of God daily during this process. I look around at people that have gone through much worse than we have and I know that we have been blessed.”
The Judds believe that at this point God has healed Catherine, who remains in remission. “We are thankful,” Jessica said.
Catherine’s siblings said they have a lot to be thankful for, too. “I’m thankful for mommy being home,” Clara said. “And I’m thankful daddy can be home, too,” Henry said.
And it goes without saying that everyone is happy little Catherine will be able to sit at the table with her family this Thanksgiving, enjoying the turkey dinner with all the trimmings and grandma’s raspberry pie, her favorite. “Thanks be to God.”