Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Girls are Back in Town!!

Friday night Mark and I were watching the olympics, hoping that Apolo would come through for us in speed skating.  At 9:30 p.m. the door bell rang. We both looked at each other, but neither of us was expecting anyone. Because I had not properly bathed since the start of chemo on Monday, Mark had the job of answering the door. 

As soon as he opened the door he was overcome with cheering, party horns, balloons and hats accompanied by three smiling faces! Sarah and Ashley had driven down from Oklahoma, picked up their sweet friend Callie, and come home to celebrate the end of chemotherapy with their mom! What a special surprise!

I have the sweetest girls in the world!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wait and Rest

Everyone wants to know how I feel now that I've finished chemotherapy. I'm sure they are wondering how I feel emotionally, but all I can feel right now is how I am physically... just like after every other treatment! I have slept most of this week, day and night, I have been sick at my stomach, and I am very, very weak. But each day is a little better than the last!

I have had food cravings for corn bread and chicken fried steak; and thankfully I have an awesome husband and friends who go the distance to make those dreams come true! I'm just glad I feel like eating anything at all.

My one wish now is for a time machine so that I could move on into next week and feel good!

God's Spirit whispers again, "Wait. Rest. Wait. Rest."

And so I do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ring That Bell!!!!!

Wednesday morning I wake up knowing this is the day I will ring the bell signifying the end of my chemotherapy treatments. After so many months and delays it hardly seems real! I get out of bed, thankful my stomach has calmed down since Tuesday!  

At 7:30 a.m. my 48 hour IV pump beeps that it is empty. I start crying and can hardly hold myself up. That beep signals the end of the toxic chemicals! The last drop has entered my blood stream to do its job. I'm done! I did it! I survived IV chemotherapy! This was the part that I most dreaded about cancer treatment and honestly didn't think that I would be able to make it through. Together with God's strength and your support I have done it! 

Mark and I arrive at the oncologist's office at 9:15 a.m. and are soon followed by my parents and nearly the whole Community of Faith staff! They have all come to witness the bell ringing and to celebrate with me! My heart is so full I am speechless! All the nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, medical assistants, receptionists, and my doctors dropped what they were doing and came to watch me ring the bell. There were so many cameras it felt like the paparazzi was there! 

I looked up at that bell, read the plaque above it, "Believe in miracles", and I rang that bell for the whole world to know - God did this. He is good. He has walked with me every step. I do believe in miracles!

I hope my friends around the world heard it ringing! That was my intention! 

Samantha, Robin, and Andie made t-shirts for the occasion!

The doctor's staff made me a party hat! Robin brought horns and confetti!

The gang was there!

Mom and Daddy were there!

Some of my awesome nurses!

Dr. Campos. I love this man!

Ringing the bell!!

We're done!

I love this man too! : )

"Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!"
Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Last Chemo Treatment!!

Monday morning I woke up with Kim Walker's "How He Loves Us" playing over and over in my head:

He is jealous for me. Love's like a hurricane, 
I am a tree bending beneath the weight of 
His wind and mercy 
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory 
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me. 

Oh, how He loves us so 
Oh, how He loves us 
How He loves us so. 

Yeah, He loves us 
Oh, how He loves us 
Oh, how He loves us 
Oh, how He loves. 

I am excited, hoping that I will be able to begin my last chemo treatment today. We arrive at the doctor's office, have blood drawn and wait for the results. The nurse comes and tells us that my platelet count is 145!! Then she says, "But your white blood cell count is low, I'm going to go show it to the doctor." 

"Noooooooooo!!!" I think to myself. God, please don't let my white cells keep me from getting treatment today...

The nurse returns and gives me the "thumbs up" sign! Finally! I feel like sobbing, but stifle my tears, knowing if I start crying I'll never stop!

Tuesday morning, I wake up and wish I didn't have to get out of bed. I really think they 
should come to my house to give me today's infusion! I roll out of bed and the minute my feet 
hit the ground I am vomiting! This continues all day, every time I move, in spite of all the 
nausea medications I have taken. I guess I am going to finish with a bang!

Not a fun day, but TOMORROW I will receive the last of the drugs and RING THE BELL!! I am 
so thrilled that I will be finished with this part of my treatment! 

Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for me and for all the love and encouragement you 
have given to me. You have carried us through!! Please continue to pray this week as my 
body processes all the chemicals.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Glimpse of Heaven

Since I couldn't get my chemo treatment last week I was able to teach the Women of COF  on Thursday night. We always have a great time when all the girls get together! I am not a great Bible scholar, so I just share what God has been teaching me in my life. This past Thursday I spoke about the reality of "today" - how God's plan is for us to live our lives in the present moment because that is all the time we know we have. If you are interested in hearing that message you can go to the following link:


Twenty-four hours later, Mark and I were hanging out together on Friday night, talking about life and what's to come, and I totally threw out everything I had learned and taught about living "today"! How easily I forget the lessons God is teaching me! As I shared with Mark I began to cry again - hoping that I would have the chance to live out my dreams - dreams of a long life with Mark, time spent with my favorite people in my favorite places, and sharing the love of Christ around the world. They seemed like pretty good dreams to me! 

But even as I poured my heart out to Mark, God opened up my eyes to see even greater things. He gave me a tiny glimpse of Heaven. He reminded me that Mark and I have eternity together! Forever together! And as nice as my dreams may seem, God has planned things I can't even imagine! I dream of 80+ years with Mark and time spent in Latin America and Africa. He dreams of eternity with Mark and travel to unimaginable places with God-sized jobs to do! Wow! How small my dreams seem in comparison to His!   

God, count me in! I want Your dreams! 

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love, Love, Love!

This is a little late, but last weekend was Valentine's Day. 
I just want to give a shout out to those who helped make our day special!

My uncle, Philip, and his wife, Brenda, came to visit, 
bringing me gorgeous tulips!!

A sweet couple in our church brought a homemade cake for us to enjoy! 
It was delicious!

Brent Longnecker came through with hand-delivered Swiss chocolate!!

And a single red rose from a sweet young boy at Community of Faith! 
Sweetest thing ever!

We also received numerous Valentine cards and emails. 
Thank you all for loving us and making us feel so special!

"We love because God loved us first."
1 John 4:19

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

6-Pack Abs??

Well, I survived another appointment with the surgeon today. Quick probe of sights unseen prove that all has continued to heal well. The surgeon expects that I will have no problems when everything is put back together again. If I start my last chemo treatment next week then I will have surgery to close the ileostomy the fist week of April, assuming that all my blood counts are back up to normal levels at that time. 

I did ask the doctor if he could restore my 6-pack abs when he performs surgery. He laughed and said he will give me mine back just as soon as he gets his back! 

Mark scheduled his colonoscopy today. He and my dad plan to have them done on the same day, a special family bonding moment! I am proud of these guys for getting it done! Early detection is the key! Thank you Mark and Daddy! I love you both!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Meet Tony

I want you to meet my friends, Tony and Debbie. Tony is fighting for his life and he is up against a powerful enemy. Tony has been fighting metastatic stomach cancer for several years. He has had numerous surgeries, including brain surgery. He has endured two YEARS of IV chemotherapy. He has battled nausea, pain, grief and fear. He has been part of an ongoing medical study for cancer treatment. He has faced needles, ports, tubes, scalpels, stitches, and all the various side-effects of toxic drugs. And still he fights on. 

Every time I see Tony he has a smile to give and positive words of encouragement. In spite of all he is going through, he continues to look on the positive side. Tony is one of my heroes.

I wrote about Tony on this blog once before. It was early after my diagnosis. I was shuffling between doctor appointments in a cloud of shock and disbelief when I happened to run into Tony in the elevator. I noticed he had a pump that he carried with him so I knew he was most likely a cancer patient. I asked him how he was doing, and he is the one who told me it was "just another day in paradise." I remember being surprised by his answer, but in that moment my thinking was transformed. I may have had cancer, but I still had my life to live. I still had that day to rejoice in all that God had done and was doing for me. Tony's simple comment gave me the courage I needed to fight for life. 

Tony is a husband, a father, and a grandfather. The doctors have told him that they have done all they can do. Many of his tumors have disappeared, but there are a couple of stubborn tumors that continue to grow despite everything the doctors have tried.  Tony is in pain most of the time. It is difficult for him to sleep at night because he can't get comfortable. 

I asked Tony if I could share his story with you. I told him that you would pray for him - for healing, for pain relief, for courage, endurance, peace, and hope. I told him that you would pray for Debbie and for his family. So, as you pray for me, please pray for God's best for my sweet friends, Tony and Debbie. Thank you!

"How precious is your unfailing love, O God! 
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 
You feed them from the abundance of your own house, 
letting them drink from your river of delights. 
For you are the fountain of life, 
the light by which we see."
Psalm 36:7-9

Monday, February 15, 2010

For my good

Dear Bone Marrow,
I only have 11 ileostomy bags left. Please get yourself together and produce some platelets so I can have that last chemo treatment and surgery before I have to buy more bags. Thank you.

I woke up today with the lyrics from one of the songs we sang at COF this weekend playing over and over in my head: "You make all things work together for my good." I was looking forward to starting my last chemotherapy treatment today, and these lyrics reminded me to trust completely. Mark and I drove to the oncologist's office with perfect peace in our hearts.

Big Sigh... unfortunately my platelets were STILL too low to receive chemotherapy this week. They did jump up from last week - all the way from 88 to 89!! LOL!  So, again, we wait. Honestly, I am OK with waiting. I think everyone around me is more disappointed than I am. If I have learned anything over the last nine months it is that God works on His time table and not mine. 

I saw Dr. Campos in the hallway, he looked at me and said, "You failed!" It made me laugh out loud! I love my doctor! He always makes me laugh and in spite of how that statement sounds, he is always positive about my treatment and recovery. He is awesome! 

After seeing the doctor I spent the next hour rescheduling chemo appointments, doctor's appointments, lab tests, and the PET scan. I'm sure they are probably all tired of hearing me call and say, "I need to reschedule my appointment, again!" 

If I actually receive chemo next week then I will finish my last treatment on Ashley's 19th birthday! What a nice birthday present for her and for me! 

Special Prayer Request:
Please join me in praying for Edd and Nina Hindee whose son, Edd Jr., died in a skiing accident on Saturday. He was 33 years old and leaves three young children. The Hindee's are neighbor's of my parents and they own the Taste of Texas restaurant. They provided free meals for Mark and me from Taste of Texas all through my radiation treatments last summer. They are leaders in our city and beautiful examples of the love of Christ to everyone around them. Please pray for God's comfort and strength during these difficult days. Thank you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

His Grace is Sufficient

Today I had the great privilege to speak at Stacey's memorial service. It was a beautiful service and a very loving tribute to someone who had an impact on so many people. 

As I was thinking this week about what I would say to honor Stacey today I read through Hebrews chapter 11, looking through the list of those the Bible names as heroes of the faith, those whose faith enabled them to accomplish all that God had in mind for them.

Verse 27 says this:

"It was by faith that Moses… was not afraid... He held to his purpose like a man who could see the invisible."

And I thought to myself, that’s the same faith that Stacey had. Through all she endured, she held to her purpose, kept her eyes fixed on Jesus, trusting Him even when she could not see. The hope she had in Jesus is the same hope she wants us all to know. Stacey was a hero of the faith.

I also read back through some of Stacey’s journal entries this week, rejoicing in her victories and reflecting on God’s goodness to her through the journey, and I read the following words. I felt like Stacey wrote them for us today. Here is what she said:

“I am at peace. I know God is able!  I take great delight being in His presence and trusting Him with my life."

"Take a deep breath, hold on tight to the hands of those who love you, and take one day at a time. God is so faithful!  His grace is sufficient in our weakness…”

Even in her absence she continues to encourage us!

I am so thankful that God brought Stacey and me together as cancer warriors on this journey. I am proud to call her my friend. She has been an amazing source of inspiration and strength for me, and I’m sure for all who knew her. I look forward to the day I will see her again and we will celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness together. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Daily Choices

Many of you have asked what my follow-up care will look like, so here is what I know so far:

I will have a PET scan two weeks after my last chemo treatment. I will have surgery to close the ileostomy six weeks after my last chemo treatment. Then going forward I will have a PET scan or CT scan (depending on what the insurance company will approve) every three months the first year following treatment, every four months the second year, every six months the third year, and then if everything looks good I will have one annually after that. Of course there will be annual colonoscopies thrown in just for fun! So, I am still going to be pretty close to my oncologist and his staff! 

The reason for so many scans is so that we will catch any recurrence early if it happens. That is a good thing. But it also messes with my mind a little... 

I truly believe that God has healed me of cancer. I truly believe that I will grow old with Mark. But I wonder how I will deal with the thoughts and emotions related to frequent visits to the oncologist's office. How will I move forward with so many reminders of cancer? I don't really feel afraid of recurrence, but I feel afraid of feeling afraid! LOL! 

So, I go back to what I know and the habits I have been practicing during these last nine months:

  • Choose to take every thought captive to Christ
  • Choose to recognize His presence here with me
  • Choose to recognize His sovereignty over my life
  • Choose to trust in His plans
  • Choose to leave my burdens with Him and take up His peace
  • Chose to release control to the One who knows my future
  • Choose to bathe my mind with His Words
  • Choose to believe that He is good
  • Choose to believe in His faithfulness
  • Choose to praise Him 
Daily choices form daily habits. I'm glad He is helping me to make those choices!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What I'm Longing For

Steven Curtis Chapman's words from "Heaven Is The Face" play in my head today:

"God, You know, I just can't see beyond the door
But God, You know, that this is what I'm longing for

But in my mind's eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space
All the cancer is gone, every mouth is fed
And there's no one left in the orphan's bed
Every lonely heart finds their one true love
And there's no more goodbye, and no more not enough
And there's no more enemy, no more...

Oh God, I know, it's so much more than I can dream
It's far beyond anything I can conceive
So God, You know, I'm trusting you until I see..."

I had an appointment with the oncologist yesterday. My platelets were up to 88, a good jump, but not high enough to get that last chemo treatment. I wasn't really surprised and so I wasn't really disappointed. One thing I have definitely learned in the last eight months is that God is completely in charge of my treatment schedule, and He knows what He's doing. So, I'll enjoy my week off and get ready to be sick next week!

We did have the opportunity to discuss what my follow-up care will look like. It seemed sort of surreal... to actually be talking about the weeks and months (and years!) after I am finished with all my cancer treatment! It was exciting to think that I will actually be finished with all of this and to know that day is coming up soon!! And, knowing my love for planning and schedules, it was exciting to be able to see that there will be a pretty routine schedule!! Wow, I might actually get my life back! 

Now the challenge will be to go on with my life while holding onto all the things I've learned and incorporating them into my daily life. 

Lord, please continue to remind me of the lessons learned, and please keep teaching me. I want more of You.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In Memory of Stacey

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so my ways are higher than your ways

and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”  
Isaiah 55:9

I am reminded today that God's ways are so much higher than my ways, His thoughts so far removed from mine. I know His plans are good, but I don't always understand them. 

Stacey (right) on her 39th Birthday last week with her good friend Erica

My sweet friend, Stacey, went home to meet Jesus face-to-face today at 8:30 a.m. I'm pretty sure she is dancing with Him even as I write this! No more tears. No more pain. 

Stacey was such a source of strength and inspiration to me as I watched her positive attitude, her unwavering endurance, and her firm faith. Everyone who knew her was blessed by her in some way. She always had a smile on her face. I am thankful to have known her and I look forward to seeing her again one day. 

David Needham writes: 
"Man was created to be God's ultimate spiritual masterpiece. Created clean as a flawless prism, progressively being facetted more fully to receive, transform, and display the otherwise invisible glories of the infinite God into limitless, visible colors so that all creation might see God."

Stacey was a beautiful example of what David Needham wrote about; using her life to display the glories of God.  

Stacey, you will be missed by all who knew and loved you. 

Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for Stacey. Please pray now for God's comfort, peace, and strength for Stacey's husband, David, her boys, Beau and Jake, and her family and friends.

Be sure of this...

Cancer can be lonely. 

I have so many beautiful people around me walking this journey with me and yet much of the time I feel very alone. I think one of the hardest things is that even the people who I am closest to can't really understand how it feels. We are not able to relate in that way because they haven't been down the same road exactly. They can sympathize, and listen, and care, and provide for me, but they can't know how it feels. It's no one's fault. That's just how it is. Unless you have been diagnosed with cancer yourself, you just can't know completely how it feels. And honestly, I can't understand completely how my closest family and friends feel because I haven't been in their shoes as a family member of a cancer patient. So there is a disconnect that manifests itself in loneliness. 

I know that God wants to use this feeling to teach me more about who He is. And to teach me that I am totally dependent on Him and no one else, even when I think I can handle things myself. When it all boils down, the truth is that it is always about me and God. Will I trust that He's here even in the most lonely moments? Will I wait for Him and listen for Him? Will I run to Him? 

When my children were little (and still to this day) whenever they were feeling lonely, or afraid, or facing new challenges, I would tell them to remember that they are never alone. Jesus is always walking with them. I would tell them in those frightening moments to squeeze their hand and remember who is holding it.

I am squeezing my hand today. Thank you, God, that you are here.

"And be sure of this: I am with you always..." Matthew 28:20

"...the Lord is the One who holds (my) hand." Psalm 37:24

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Please Pray

Many of you have been praying for my friend Stacey in her battle with breast cancer. She desperately needs your prayers right now. Here is the most recent update from her mother:

"My dear friends and family, things have taken a turn for the worse.  Stacey has been transferred to the Intermediate Care Unit as her breathing as gotten much worse, her heart rate is high, and she hasn’t really gained much awareness after her MRI session this afternoon.

The doctor didn’t arrive to visit until 10:30 this evening.  We are thankful that no metastasis was found in the brain.  Unfortunately her liver has gotten much worse and because toxins are not being processed through the liver, it is causing major distress on her body and organs.  All of the symptoms we see are resulting from the liver.

They suspect now, because of highly elevated white cell count, that she has a major infection (probably around the liver) and have done many blood tests and blood cultures tonight to determine where and what we are looking at. 

The doctor is highly concerned and hopes to reverse the issues we are dealing with quickly, but we are in a life-threatening situation now.  The next 24-48 hours are crucial to her overcoming this current challenge.

We obviously will not be going home tomorrow and she WILL NOT be able to receive her PARP on Monday. We don’t know how this will affect her participation in the study.

Prayer Warriors, our family needs you now more than ever before!  We are not ready!  We have not done the things we need to do!  We need more time!  God grant us this please.  Father, it is in your hands and we trust and know your will and your timing is perfect, but we ask your favour for more time!

Give us strength!  Provide her comfort!"

Thank you for praying!