Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Morning

Jackie continues to make progress! This morning they took her off sedation and removed the ventilator. Before the procedure, Mark, Damon and I were telling her what they were going to do, and told her that she needed to try to be calm and not fight against the medical staff. We knew it would be scary, but it would be a quick procedure and would go better if she would cooperate. Then Mark asked his mom, "Are you going to be calm and cooperate?" Jackie shook her head "No." Then Damon asked her, "Are you going to be stubborn?" Jackie nodded her head, "Yes!" We all laughed out loud! That's the Gran Gran we all know and love!

The ventilator was removed without any problems. Her heart rate is up in the 50's. Today's CT scan showed decreased swelling in her brain. The goal is to have her rest quietly today with little stimulation, allowing her brain to heal. Tomorrow she should be more alert and they plan to begin physical therapy.

This afternoon, she was shaking her finger at Damon. The nurse asked her what was wrong. Damon said, "She always tells me what to do." And Jackie spoke out loud, "I do that."

That strength of spirit is serving her well! She knows that thousands of people are praying for her. Thank you for your part in this miracle!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thank you for praying!

Jackie had a good day today.  Her condition is stable. Her heart rate has remained in the 40's and 50's. She is still sedated, but when they bring her up from sedation, she is able to answer questions appropriately by nodding her head and squeezing our hands. She is receiving very good care. The doctors plan to wean her off the ventilator on Monday to see how it goes.  Damon spends the days at the hospital and goes home at night to sleep. We have all been surrounded by family and friends. Thank you for your prayers, and please keep praying. Specifically, please pray for the following:

1. Pray for Jackie's blood pressure and heart rate to be within a normal range.
2. Pray for the pressure inside her skull to remain normal.
3. Pray that her body would quickly reabsorb the blood that leaked into her brain tissue.
4. Pray for protection from infection for Jackie.
5. Pray that Damon will be able to sleep well at night.
6. Pray for peace and strength for the whole family.

Thank you!

ICU Waiting Room Rules of Etiquette

Well, after spending many hours in the ICU waiting room, the girls and  I have come up with a suggested list of ICU Waiting Room Rules of Etiquette. Hopefully, you will never have the need for such a list, but if you do, here are a few things you should remember:

1. No children under 12.
Please leave your babies and toddlers at home. They are noisy and increase the stress level in a room that is full of stressed people. And children carry lots of germs. No one in ICU can risk being exposed to those germs.
2. No battery operated toys allowed.
Obviously, this is related to #1 above. I was tempted to grab a certain pink toy (from the father, no less!), stomp on it, and throw it down the hallway. If you must play with noisy toys, go to the main lobby of the hospital.
3. No clipping of fingernails in the waiting room.
I think this speaks for itself.
4. Do not use your cell phone on the "speaker phone" setting.
I mean, seriously? Do you think we want to hear your conversations??!!
5. Please throw your garbage away.
I shouldn't have to say this to adults, but apparently there is a need to be reminded.
6. If you can't eat without spilling crumbs on the floor, clean them up.
There is no one on call to clean up after you. Please be considerate of others who will sit in that seat after you.
7. If you have to listen to music, use head phones.
Not everyone shares your taste in music.

This list is not all-inclusive. I'm sure many of you could add to it. When in doubt, remember what your mother taught you: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Unexpected Thanksgiving

Yesterday, after a long night and anxious morning, our son David said, "Well, I hate that Gran Gran is in the hospital, but in a weird way, it was nice to wake up on Thanksgiving morning praying."  Such true words spoken from the heart of a boy who loves his grandmother dearly. 

Thanksgiving didn't quite turn out as we expected. We enjoyed our annual vegetarian meal, prepared by our kids, on Wednesday evening. They invited Mark's parents to join us, knowing that Jackie loves all things vegetarian. We enjoyed the evening together talking, playing games (please note, the girls won every time!), and making a Shook family music video which is now circulating the world in cyberspace. We finally called it a night around midnight. 

3:50 a.m. the phone rang. When I answered, Mark's dad, Damon, told me that he had just called an ambulance for Jackie. She had a severe headache and was vomiting uncontrollably. Mark raced to their house, encountered the ambulance on the way, and led them there.  Her blood pressure was off the charts, and she was rushed to the nearest emergency room. A CT scan revealed a small bleed in the back of her brain due to her blood pressure. 

I finally woke the kids up at 5:30 a.m. to have them pray for their Gran Gran. Of course, no one slept after that news. 

Jackie was admitted to the ICU. She had an inter-cranial pressure gauge inserted yesterday to monitor the pressure on her brain. The bleed is very close to her brain stem. Increased pressure on the brain stem could cause her body to stop breathing on its own; so, she was placed on a ventilator as a precaution. The 3p.m. CT scan yesterday showed no change, which is good. Hopefully that means the bleeding has stopped. We are awaiting the results of the 5a.m. CT scan today. For now, she is in a medically induced sleep to allow her brain to rest and heal, her blood pressure is under control, the pressure in her skull is at an acceptable level, and her vital signs are stable. The next 72 hours are critical. 

Thank you for your prayers for Jackie. Please pray for complete healing with no residual neurological effects, protection from infection, and for peace and strength for Jackie, Damon, and all the family. 

"Her children arise and call her blessed; 
her husband also, and he praises her: 
'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' 
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; 
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." 
Proverbs 31:28-30 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Life

The past ten days I've been busy working, planning, studying, shopping, running from one event to another, hosting friends, eating, laughing, and hanging out with family. I am completely exhausted, and completely content. 

I was driving home the other day, tired all over, looking forward to climbing into my bed and putting the pillow over my head, when it hit me -

These have been the busiest ten days I've had in the past eighteen months... 

Do you know what that means? 

My life is back to normal... I am not sick... This was my prayer for so many months ("I just want my life to go back to normal")... and my faithful God has given me what I dreamed of -- again! 

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! It overwhelms me just to think about it all! I couldn't even begin to write it all out... 

So, hopefully, these pictures from the past ten days tell a small part of the story!

Inspire Women Luncheon with Teri and Gretchen

COF Texan Tailgate 2010 with Mark

and with my personal security detail... LOL!

Hangin' out with the Yerkes twins, this is Miss Paige!

HBU Spirit of Excellence Banquet with Teri and President Bush!

Dinner with our missionary staff including Katrina, me, and Carina

Serve the World Celebration Weekend!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me abundant life in 2010!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:10

The word translated "workmanship" in Greek is “poeima”. It’s the word for poem. "We are his poem." I like that. Our son, David, is a published poet. I’m saying that here not just because I’m proud of him; but also because having a poet in the family has helped me to understand this verse a little more clearly.

I have watched how David writes. He has ideas and thoughts in his mind, and it is almost as if they are alive in him. He has to write them down. And then he agonizes over the poem, crafting it just the way he wants it to be. He works for a while and then comes back to it later to rewrite a certain phrase or to change a word. He spends unbelievable amounts of time creating the poem to be exactly as he envisioned, so that it will express what is in his heart and mind, until finally it is finished. Then the poem is sent to the publisher and put on display.

I think that is what Paul is telling us in Ephesians. We are God's  masterpiece,  his workmanship, his poem. He is working in our lives to craft us to be exactly as he envisioned so that we will express what is in his heart and mind. He wants to display us to the world - as beautifully perfected masterpieces - each of us a demonstration of His power, his love, his character, his peace, his life. "We are his poem."

There are times when David sends me a poem to ask my opinion, and honestly, sometimes I don’t understand them. I don’t get what he is trying to express, it is confusing to me. But that doesn’t make it any less of a masterpiece, any less of a poem. It just means that my human brain can’t understand it all. And the same is true of my life. God is working a masterpiece, I might not always understand, but I can rest in the fact that He knows, He has a plan, and he is creating exactly what he desires in my life so that I will be a reflection of Him.

God, please let me be an accurate reflection of you today!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"See you in three months"

I have a new book: Finding Your Way Through Cancer by Andrew Kneier.  It was just recently published and recommended to me by a very sweet friend. The author is a psychologist who has worked with cancer patients and survivors for seventeen years. The book was written out of his experience with families affected by cancer. 

I have just barely started reading the book, but one of the statements I read today hit home. It was from the journal of one of Dr. Kneier's patients who was fighting stage 3 colon cancer. She said this, "I get to live three months at a time." 

"Wow," I thought to myself. That's what I'm doing. I'm living three months at a time. Three months between doctor visits where I wait for someone to tell me that I'm still healthy. So far, so good.  No sign of the dread disease. Then they set another appointment for me and send me on my way. "See you in three months," they say. 

Initially, I feel relief, I feel joy, I feel like laughing. I race home, let my family know, and get busy with life. But over the weeks, in barely noticeable increments, the anxiety starts to return. And as the end of that three months gets closer, I find myself starting to wonder again, "what if..."

It sure will be nice when I can live six months at a time.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Live Strong

I meet a lot of cancer survivors. They all seem to be doing well - big smiling faces, busy lives, no complaints.  Every once in a while, one of them will quietly ask me, "How are you doing?" with concern in their eyes, as if they know there is more to this recovery process than anyone lets on. And I would have to agree... 

Yes, I feel good. Yes, I am doing great. Yes, I am so thankful to be back to a "normal" life (whatever that means!). But apparently, when you are faced with the truth of your own mortality, it has a deep impact on your psyche. At least it has on mine. 

So God and I have been discussing these issues. Daily serious discussions like this:

Me:  "What is wrong with me?"
Me:  "Why can't I get over this?"
Me:  "Why am I still thinking about this?"
Me:  "Why do I feel this way?"
Me:  "Why do I feel so insecure?"
Me:  "I hate this."
God:  (silence)

And so I persist, like He tells me to, in prayer. Asking for His wisdom. Waiting for his answers.

Slowly, I begin to move forward. I have (almost) whole days where I never even think about cancer, or at least not until the end of the day. And as the days pass, God begins to speak.

He reminds me that I am grieving, and grief is good. It is a healing process. It takes time. We all process grief differently, at different rates and in different ways. So, I stop comparing myself to other cancer survivors. This is not, after all, a cancer survivor competition. 

I realize that my insecurity is a grief reaction. I am afraid to go out and live my life strong because I am afraid that if I do, I might get slammed again, just like I did with the initial cancer diagnosis. It helps to see it for what it is. I am reminded of a book I read many years ago called "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway." So, I decide to feel the fear and go ahead and live strong.

I am naturally a homebody. I love to travel, but when I am home I like to be at home. I don't have to go out and do things to be happy. I am happy at home. But over the last several weeks I have felt myself staying especially close to home. I have to force myself to get out every once in awhile just to go to the grocery store or run errands. Just this week I realized that this increasing need to hibernate is also a grief reaction. The world doesn't feel safe to me anymore.  And so I hide away, trying to stay safe. It's funny how the mind works!

Today, I had the privilege of hearing Kay Warren speak (she was awesome) and Nicole C. Mullins sing; and God's truth came flooding into my heart again:

"The very same God
That spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know, my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know My Redeemer lives"

(My Redeemer Lives by Nicole C. Mullins)

And God speaks:

God:  "I am still here with you."
God:  "You are doing great!"
God:  "Keep walking with Me. Live strong."
Me:    "Thank you. I will."

"Those who want to save their lives will give up true life, 
and those who give up their lives for me will have true life." 
Matthew 16:25

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conversations... Part 2

A man walks up, his face twisted with grief, and says, 
"My dad died of colon cancer." 
He hangs his head and walks out the door. 
(Spoken to me the day we announced my cancer to the church.) 

"It wasn't the cancer that killed him, it was the chemotherapy." 
(Spoken to me the day before I started chemotherapy.)

"I've seen corpses that look better than you." 
(Seriously, someone said this out loud to a friend of mine who is fighting cancer!)

"You look tired." 
(Seems like an innocent statement. But please know that cancer patients are aware of how they look. They spend a lot of time trying not to look sick, but eventually, there is no hiding it. Please don't remind us.  Unless you have a very close relationship with someone, don't make this statement.)

In the words of my mother (and probably yours too):
"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

"Words kill, words give life; 
they're either poison or fruit—
you choose." 
Proverbs 18:21