Thursday, April 29, 2010

Long-term

Friday is my birthday. Yes, 29, again. My driver's license expires on my birthday this year, which is OK since I happen to have lost it. I know it's in this house somewhere...


So, today I went to renew my license. I wasn't too excited about going and having my picture taken. I look OK in person, but with my hair so thin now (yes, it's still falling out!) I just don't look good in pictures. This is the license I will have to carry with me for the next ten years! 


I drove out to the DPS office in Hempstead. There were only two people ahead of me in line (compared with the 200 who would have been ahead of me at the Grant Road office), and the ladies who work in this office are always friendly and efficient. They gave me a vision test. Thankfully I passed! They asked me how much I weigh - a lot less than last time! They scanned my thumbprints - first time I've had that done! Then they told me to step back against the wall to take my picture. I was feeling OK until she handed me my receipt and my temporary license which actually had the picture on it. So, yeah, I still look like a cancer patient! Or maybe a scarecrow? 


But here's the good news...


I actually thought "long-term" today! I was thinking of having and using this license for ten years! I have moved past the five year time frame! And the other good news - I only have to keep this license for six years, not ten like I thought!


Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Enjoy the ride

Mark's dad preached at Community of Faith last weekend. He is an amazing preacher with 50+  years of experience and wisdom to share. He spoke about how God uses failures in our lives. Sometimes when I listen to sermons just one comment or one verse can lead my brain on to other thoughts. I can't even remember now what was said during the message that spurred my thinking, but somehow I started thinking about God being in control of our lives; and the idea that we have to recognize and allow him to be in control. 


I started picturing what it would be like if I was riding in the car as a passenger and didn't realize that Mark was actually driving. What would happen? Well, as soon as I thought that no one was in control of the car I would have jumped into the driver's seat and shoved Mark out of the way preventing him from driving. I would have grabbed the steering wheel, jerking the car out of its lane and into oncoming traffic. As the car veered out of control I would have suddenly pulled the emergency brake, sending the car into a totally uncontrolled spin all while still trying to kick Mark out of the way. I would have been dodging other cars on the road, trying to avoid mowing down pedestrians. Finally, screaming after a long struggle, my emotions off the scale, sweat dripping down my forehead, and tears in my eyes I would have finally brought the car to a complete standstill facing the wrong direction. Then I would have looked at Mark and screamed, "Why didn't you control the car?" 


Of course, that's not ever really going to happen. If I am a passenger in the car I can plainly see who is in control. I know who's driving. I'm not tempted to jump into the driver's seat and take over. Doing so would only lead to disaster. But how many times do I do just that in my life? I fail to remember that God is in control, or maybe I don't want Him in control, thinking I can do things better; and I jump in, push Him out of the way, grab the wheel and begin the struggle to control a careening life. How much wiser it would be to look to Him, see that He is God, He is good, He is in control? Then I can just sit back and enjoy the ride! 


"You, Lord, are the God our ancestors worshiped, and from heaven you rule every nation in the world. You are so powerful that no one can defeat you." 2 Chronicles 20:6


That's who I want in control in my life, the One that no one can defeat!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ordinary Life


I love to watch the sunrise. I love the stillness and quiet of the morning, the anticipation of a new day and all the promise that it holds. In the early morning calm I am reminded that God is here and that he cares. The sunrise brings with it the chance for a fresh start, a new beginning, and renewed strength for whatever the day brings. I am grateful that God knew we would need these new starts, and that we would need them frequently!


Now that there are no kids in the house I don't see the sunrise very often. Mark and I don't have to get up before dawn to make breakfast or pack lunches or drive kids to school. And we miss those moments - the miraculous turning of the sky from black to brilliant hues of pink and orange - those moments that confirm that God is indeed a God of goodness and mercy, a God of new beginnings!


I haven't seen the sunrise lately, but I have seen the dawn of a new day in my life! For the first time in nearly a year, I have felt relatively normal! I feel good physically. I am not tired. I can eat. I can leave the house. I have been successful at rejecting fearful and worrisome thoughts. I feel the sun rising...


Thursday night Mark and I had the privilege of attending the George and Barbara Bush A Celebration of Reading at the Hobby Center. It was a really fun evening!


Friday night Mark and I enjoyed the Astros game with my parents. The Astros won, and we stayed all the way through the fireworks at the end of the game. Lots of fun!


Saturday I actually worked in the yard! I can't remember the last time I did that! It felt good to be in the sun, using muscles I haven't used in a long time. I'm not sure my surgeon would have been too happy, but he wasn't here! 


Sunday night I went swimming! I haven't been in a pool in a year! 


I read this quote from a cancer survivor today: 


"All I wanted was ordinary life back, for ordinary life, 
it became utterly clear, is more valuable than anything else." 
(Katherine Russell Rich, The New York Times, 4/26/2010)


Thank you, Lord, for giving me my ordinary life back. Please help me never to take that blessing for granted!


Maybe I'll get up and watch the sunrise tomorrow...



Friday, April 23, 2010

Remain in Him

For some reason it is taking me a while to actually get my brain back into gear and get on with my life. I'm sure this is a normal response after all the stress we've been through the past year, but it feels weird. Now that I am free of constant medical appointments, free of constant fatigue, free of medications and inconvenient side effects, I still feel like I am stuck here. I can't quite seem to get my "To Do" list made, which has NEVER been a problem in my life before! 


I was thinking about this last week and asking God for help in this area. After He stopped laughing at my idea of making a "To Do" list, He spoke to my heart.  It was as if God said, “You’ve been looking at it all wrong. You are not Laura Shook, girl who had cancer. You are Laura Shook, disciple of God. God has used cancer to teach you and train you and make you more like Jesus, but it doesn’t define who you are. You are still a disciple of God."

Nothing has changed really. I'm still me. The "rules" are still the same. Keep walking with God. Keep looking to Him to direct me and guide me. 

Just today these thoughts were reinforced as I read the following Scriptures: 

"But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death." Psalm 141:8

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11

"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation is intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. John 15:4-5


Spending time with God, remaining in Him, fixing my eyes on Him, is the single most important thing I can do today. It is the greatest need that I have; and if I will put that at the top of the list, everything else will fall into place. 


Thanks for reminding me, Lord, that this is about so much more than a girl who had cancer. It's about You and Your Kingdom. Please help me to remain in You.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

That's What Friends Are For

I was reading a speech the other day given by Drayton McLane. Mr. McLane is the Chairman of the McLane Group and the Chairman and CEO of the Houston Astros. He is also a incredible Christian leader in our city and in our national business community. 


It was a great speech on leadership. He spoke on the importance of personal integrity in every aspect of our lives, the necessity of embracing and growing through change, and the power of harnessing and using our imagination and our dreams. 


But one of the most important things he spoke about was the counsel he received from his mother across the years!  She taught Mr. McLane that his choice of friends would "completely dictate your life." She instructed him that "if you choose them wisely, they'll lift you up; choose them badly, and they'll pull you down." ("Leadership" by Drayton McLane, Baylor Magazine, Spring 2010)


Our friends are important because of the impact they have on our lives. I am happy to say that I have chosen my friends wisely! I think Mr. McLane's mother would be proud!


Last Thursday I was planning to speak at Women of Community of Faith, our monthly ladies Bible study. At that point, I was only a week and a half post-surgery, and my system was still adjusting and readjusting. I wasn't sure if I would be able to leave the bathroom long enough to attend the event, much less speak there! 


Well, my friends came through for me! 


Rita sent me a portable bidet. Seriously! I had no idea there was such a thing! It is battery powered and comes with a carrying case! Now, that's a true friend! She heard of the need and met it! Rita, I will think of you every time I travel!


Knowing my precarious situation, Sherry and Samantha came by the house last Thursday afternoon and brought a gift intended to give me peace of mind as I spoke on Thursday night: "Certainty: - disposable women's underwear!


Robin and Becky provided a little something to take home after the event. Such sweet friends! I have added it to the stockpile of Charmin that Kathy gave me last week!


                                         

Thankfully, I didn't have to use the Certainty pants! Everything was calm. Maybe that's because I didn't eat all day to avoid any "movement"?? It was so much fun to hang out with the women of Community of Faith, to be encouraged by them, and to share what God has been teaching me.  

I hope you have good friends like mine!

"He who walks with the wise grows wise."
Proverbs 13:20


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet John and Ellen


John and Ellen live in Atlanta, Georgia. On April 7th their life was interrupted with John's diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. As this family began to look at treatment options, they were encouraged to come to Houston for treatment. Some good friends of John and Ellen are members of Community of Faith. They invited John and Ellen to stay at their home and gave them the names of my oncologist and surgeon. 

Everything has happened quickly in the past two weeks! John has had numerous tests, scans, and biopsies. He had  surgery on Tuesday to have a port inserted in his chest; and today he started aggressive chemotherapy. 

John and Ellen are trusting God to bring complete healing to his body. Please join me in praying for this family.
  • Pray specifically that the tumors in his liver will shrink and be confined to one side of the liver making surgery possible
  • Pray that the tumor in his colon will be responsive to chemotherapy
  • Pray that his anemia will be resolved
  • Pray for every cancer cell in his body to be killed
  • Pray for mental and emotional strength for each new day
  • Pray for minimal side effects of chemo - he will be receiving the same IV chemo drugs that I had
  • Pray for their 16 year old daughter, Alexandra, who remains in Atlanta finishing up the school year
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you...
'You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.' " 2 Chronicles 20: 12 & 17


Thank you for your faithfulness to pray! If you would like to follow their journey you can click on the following link:







Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Signs of Life

I've been thinking about scars lately. We all have them, in some form or fashion. Some are physical, some are emotional, but all of us carry them with us. And it's our choice what we will do with them. We can choose to let them constantly remind us of the pain we've experienced, to hold us captive to the past; or we can choose to let them remind us of our victories and take strength and courage from them to move forward.


In the past eleven months I have gained five new scars on my body. I was actually opened up in six different places, but one of them went through an old abdominal scar, so only five new scars. If you connect the dots on my belly, it actually forms a smile, with one large dimple! 


My daughter, Sarah, had surgery a couple of months ago and she has four new scars on her body. Her dot-to-dot smile is on the upper right side of her abdomen. 


We were comparing and discussing our scars one day and I was happy to know that Sarah wasn't bothered by her scars. She has chosen to see them as something positive. And I wholeheartedly agree. Scars, for me, are signs of life! I've been in the battle, I fought for my life, I fought for my family, and I WON! Bring on the scars! They just remind me that God has been good to me! 


We've been singing a new worship song at COF called "Let Our God Be Praised" by Chad Cates, Barry Weeks, and Michael Farren. The chorus goes like this:


To the One who reigns forever, to the One the seas obey
To the One who holds the heavens, let the nations stand amazed
For His mercy and His kindness, for His never-ending grace
For His love that’s ever reaching
Oh, let our God, let our God be praised



It's that same mercy, kindness, and never-ending grace that left me with scars - signs of life from the "One who holds the heavens" - and I am grateful!


My newest scar, where the ileostomy used to be, actually looks somewhat like a gunshot wound. Maybe that's what I'll tell people it is! I'm thinking that may be a more interesting story to tell! : )


News Flash:  I zipped AND buttoned my jeans for the first time in eight months today! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Routines

Thanks to everyone who has been checking on me! I haven't written on my blog since Thursday, and some of you were concerned. Don't worry! I am doing well, just had a busy weekend. Which is good news... I felt well enough to attend all four services at Community of Faith this weekend!


I had an appointment with the surgeon last Friday. He removed my stitches. I shared with him my bathroom adventures from the previous ten days. He says that everything is on schedule and that it will take 2-3 months for things to establish a new "normal" routine. The nerves in the section of my colon that were reattached are learning their new job, and that takes a little bit of time.


Having said all that, I am happy to report that it seems for now things have already settled into a "normal" routine. I know there may be some more non-routine days in the weeks ahead, but I think for the most part my intestines have adjusted quite well! 


I am able to eat a regular diet now, although it needs to be high in fiber. I can drive! Yay! And swim! Yay! But still no lifting or working out at the gym because of the risk of hernia at the surgical site. 


I don't have to go back to see the surgeon for another month. What will I do with all my free time now??


Oh yeah...

  • organize and file away 3000+ insurance forms, receipts, lab reports, and medical forms
  • clean off the piles covering all the surfaces in my house - kitchen counters, bedroom dresser, bathroom counters, coffee table...
  • finalize plans for four COF mission groups traveling to Burundi, Mexico, and Costa Rica this summer
  • make plans to move Ashley out of the dorm, and to move Sarah to her new apartment in Tulsa next month
  • clean out my office and file 11 months worth of "stuff"
Can I go back to the doctor instead??

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Toilet Paper

I was looking through some old files the other day and I found this essay. It seemed appropriate given all the time I've spent in the bathroom lately so I thought I would share it with you. The author shall remain anonymous for now until such time as he/she should choose to reveal him/herself.


TOILET PAPER
Anonymous

According to the National Association for Continence, over half of America reads in the bathroom. I am one of them. Millions celebrate National Bathroom Reading Week in June of each year.  I, again, am one of them. I am not Marquis de Sade, who wrote "The 120 Days of Sodom" on a forty foot roll of toilet paper, and I am not Lord Chesterfield, who urged his son to carry a cheap copy of the Latin poets for more practical purposes ( I feel a certain sympathy for the lesser-liked poets of the sixteenth century). Still, I would not be where I am today if it were not for the toilet.

The toilet is a place to meditate, to think, and to read great books. I would not be acquainted with the poetry of Robert Hass, Donald  Hall, or David St. John if it were not for the commode. I would not admire Kurt Vonnegut or George Saunders. I would not be familiar with current events or world happenings. The toilet has been an essential component of my education - perhaps the best teacher I have ever had.

I befriended the the toilet at a young age, following the precedent set by my father, whose bathroom library was larger than the office libraries of most families. I learned not to dog-ear the pages of my father's pulp science fiction and pop psychology books. I began to accumulate my own collection of bathroom books, a mixture of Dr. Seuss, "Ranger Rick Magazine." and Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The toilet was there for me when I was too sick to go to elementary school. I'd stay home, crying because of my fear of vomiting, chin on the lip of the toilet. We'd bond for hours this way. I would pray to be spared from vomiting, and the toilet would sit silently, steadfastly. I would kneel beside it, devouring The Hardy Boys and the Boxcar Children, until I felt it safe enough to return to the less secure environment of my room

Later, the toilet assumed a role of even more importance. My list of required reading became a list of bathroom reading, and I would keep the books in the bathroom, organized neatly on the counter. I would read the biographies of our Presidents, the poetry of the Romantics, the late night scrawls of the Beats. It was with the toilet that I made life-changing decisions about which colleges I wanted to apply to. It was there that I studied for the SAT, though, admittedly, far too little. It was with the toilet that I proofread my essays (not the one you are holding now, rest assuredly).

I do read outside of the bathroom, quite frequently, but never with the same vigor. There is something about the sterility of the environment that is conducive to reading. The white tiles and white cabinets are like empty pages, and they urge me read those filled with type and ink and meaning. The toilet is a place to be alone, and the best reading is done in solitude. Toilets are a gateway to reading, to learning. Ultimately, they are the key to knowledge, porcelain thrones from which man can conquer ignorance.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 10 Rules to Live By When You Have a Short Rectum

God is always faithful to encourage me through my friends. He has used many of you to be the hands and feet and hugs of Jesus to me. Just yesterday Teri delivered fresh corn bread to my front door. Today, Kathy "surprised" me with a giant package of Charmin toilet paper! And then I received the following from a new friend, Darla, who has walked this path before me. Enjoy!


Top 10 Rules to Live by When You Have a Short Rectum
1. Always wear underwear.
2. Know where your nearest bathroom is at all times. In Times Square, it is at the McDonald's.
3. Keep lots of reading materials and a digital Yahtzee game in your "new office".
4. If you don't have reading materials readily available, don't stop on the way to the "office" to get them. Get them during a lull in your "work".
5. A hot shower does wonders for your state of mind.
6. When you've been at "work" too long, a warm/hot heated rice bag that smells like chamomile on your rump is very relaxing and takes the edge off.
7. Spending time in your "office" with God is sometimes the only place He can get you still. Just talk to Him and discover what a blessing it is.
8. Don't wear white pants unless you are having a really good day and your haven't eaten anything!
9. Make some phone calls from the office. No one has to know that your colon is under construction - especially the PET scan receptionist or the insurance representative.
10. Last but not least..... God is in control, even when you are not, literally!


Thank you for being good friends to me! Today has been a much better day!

Bathroom Marathon

For the faint of heart, please skip today's post and just know I need your continued prayers for my intestines who have been called back into service after an eight month rest. Check back tomorrow. For those who don't mind the gory details, read on.


Tuesday, not so good. Well, honestly, most of the day was good. My bowel system is going from one extreme to the other, which is apparently a normal development following the type of surgery I've had. It also goes from relatively "normal" days to days of sheer panic to get to the bathroom. Also a very typical response for this type of surgery. It makes it a little hard to plan anything or go anywhere because I never know when or how the nightmare will begin.


And by nightmare, I mean nightmare. Tuesday was going relatively well - one round of bathroom marathon in the afternoon. Then around 6:00 Tuesday evening it started all over again. I spent three hours in and out of the bathroom every 5-10 minutes. Literally. Three hours. I never understood the reason to have a bidet in the bathroom, but now I do. I so wished I had one last night. A garden hose would have been acceptable at that point. My plan is to strangle the surgeon when I go see him on Friday. I know it's not his fault, but it feels good to have someone to blame! : )


By 8:00 pm I am in tears thinking about the fact that I can't take any medication to stop this, and I think to myself, "My bowels will be the death of me." That thought struck me to the core, realizing the fact that my bowels may very well be the cause of my death one day. I crumble to the bathroom floor in a heap, sobbing in anger, fear, and grief. 


Then I remember that I am a warrior. I struggle back to my feet shouting, "No! No! No! No!" I will not let my enemy get the best of me tonight. Then God softly whispers, "I am here. You can do this. There is no death for you - only life. I've already paid the price. I have given you life. You have life."


He's always here when I need him. He never leaves. He even hangs out in my bathroom! 


"...even the darkness will not be dark to you;"  Psalm 139:12 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Well, I think we are making progress! Today has been a good day! No sprints to the bathroom... so far, at least! 


Earlier today I had a great idea for my blog. I started to write it down, but then I thought that it was such a good idea that I would surely remember. I didn't need to write it down. Wrong! Whatever it was is now totally gone from my brain! Chemo brain is still working here! So, no profound musings today! I'll write it down next time.


Mark and I spent the morning hanging out together which is always fun! I actually spent a little while out in the sun today! I walked out of the bedroom in an old swim suit, one that I knew would cover my stomach without any seams or anything that would put pressure on my incision, and asked Mark, while posing, "Well, what do you think?" He took one look at my new bird-leg, basketball-belly, pasty-skinned form and started to laugh! I love his honesty! I started to laugh, too, as I held on to my sore belly. Laughter feels good. No telling what the neighbors thought of me out by the pool!


The doorbell rang later and we opened the door to the delivery of an edible bouquet from some sweet friends!  The bouquet had (notice the use of past tense here!) chocolate covered strawberries in it as well as purple grapes - my favorite! And then it hit me... I can eat grapes again! I don't have to avoid the skins anymore! Betty is gone! Mark and I enjoyed a great afternoon snack!


Simple pleasures are always the best! I hope you enjoyed simple pleasures today!

"But I am trusting you, O Lordsaying, 'You are my God!'"
Psalm 31:14

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Be at rest once more

I was reading my Bible Tuesday morning before going to the hospital and God spoke to me these words:


"Be at rest once more, O my soul, 
for the LORD has been good to you." 
Psalm 116:7


Sweet words to encourage me as I went to have my final surgery! 


I have been trying to hold on to those words through this recovery. This recovery has been hard for me physically and emotionally. I've had very little pain at the surgical site, but the loss of bowel control has taken its toll! It's just not a problem you ever want to experience - the words "embarrassing" and "humiliating" come to mind.


Saturday evening was full of tears. I am still coming to grips with the idea that things will never be exactly the same again. I will always be a cancer survivor. I will always experience the long-term side effects of radiation and surgery. I've been told that, and I know it intellectually, but I am just beginning to process it emotionally.


Today, with every step I feel the irritated nerves in my feet. Only God knows how long that will last. With every use of my hands I am made aware of the numbness of my fingertips. Will it ever go away? Every look in the mirror I see a stooped, tired little girl. 


Then God steps in...

  • I read these words in "Jesus Calling": "Trust me in every detail of your life... Having sacrificed My very life for you, I can be trusted in every facet of your life."
  • I remember that I actually slept through the night Saturday night! That is definitely progress!
  • I receive a note from a sweet friend reminding me that I am a warrior.
  • I have the joy of watching Community of Faith's service live on the internet!
  • I find a website with encouraging information about recovery from ileostomy reversal surgery. It seems my bowels are right on track! I actually feel somewhat more in control today.
  • Phone calls, messages, and texts from friends and family come throughout the day reminding me of their love and prayers. 
  • Mark and I walk 1.3 miles around the lake behind our house. It took me a while, but I made it! It was so nice to enjoy the sunset, the flowers, the breeze, the ducks, and time with my husband!
  • And then this...


Dinner brought by sweet friends, Erica, Brooke, and Brea. Those beautiful faces would make anyone feel better!


The Lord has indeed been good to me! He gave me this day full of His blessings! I will rest once more.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gotta run!

Diarrhea + Silk duvet cover = Poor combination


Recent abdominal surgery + Sprinting to the bathroom = Poor combination


Laughter + God's mercy = Perfect combination!


Friday night was much the same as Thursday night. Lots of time in the bathroom. It makes me think of an infant who has nights and days mixed up... ok, not exactly, but my system certainly has night and day confused! 


Saturday morning was calm, only to be followed by Saturday afternoon's frenzied sprints to the bathroom. This is not much fun, but I guess I am making progress. Maybe this afternoon's fun means I will actually get to sleep tonight! 


I am a little worried about the carpet between my bed and the bathroom... maybe I should pull it up until things have settled down!


Who's idea was this? Thankfully I am still able to laugh!


Gotta run!

Friday, April 9, 2010

I'll stay home

Thursday evening... 48 hours post-op... welcome back, my old friend... diarrhea...


Yes, one of the expected steps of recovery from my ileostomy reversal surgery is a period of time where my colon is relearning to do its job. Diarrhea has been a common theme of this blog as I've dealt with radiation and IV chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this time, I am not able to take any medication to stop the flow. We don't want to slow the bowels down as they are just now gearing up. So, I spent most of Thursday night in the bathroom. Thankfully, I left a magazine in there earlier in the day as I had plenty of time to read in the middle of the night.


Friday evening... 72 hours post-op... had a diarrhea-free day, yay! However, my stomach is very swollen, assuming the appearance of a basket ball; the incisions look good; and my newly recharged colon has gone into overdrive in the gas-production department! I think I'll stay at home...


Every  year at Christmas we have a Christmas party for the COF staff. We always have a gift exchange which is made more exciting by the fact that half of the gifts are nice gifts and the other half are, well, not exactly what you would want to take home.


This past Christmas Mark received the book pictured above as his part of his gift. I quickly swiped it from him, knowing that the day may come when I would be re-training my bowels in the art of toilet use! What an appropriate gift! LOL! I guess God was getting us prepared for the days and weeks ahead of me now!

Thank you for your faithful prayers. I truly believe the reason my colon went right to work and I was able to come home so quickly, and the reason I have had surprisingly little pain following this surgery is a direct result of your prayers. Please continue to pray for my system to make needed adjustments, that I won't get dehydrated, and that I will heal up completely. 

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Movement...

When I worked as a nurse I worked mostly with elderly people. One of the daily topics of conversation was their bowel habits. I always thought it was funny this fascination with constipation, regularity, etc. And I thought it was especially funny that they always wanted to discuss it.

Well, now I totally understand! I have become an elderly person in that respect! LOL! Now, I know this is more information than you ever wanted to know, and it probably shouldn't be published on the world wide web, but here goes...

I had a bowel movement this morning! Yes! My colon is awake and functioning after two surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and eight months of rest. Isn't that amazing? Our bodies are "beautifully and wonderfully made" just like Scripture tells us!

I had my first regular meal last night. I don't think I'll ever eat jello again!

The surgeon just came by to see me and he said I can go home today! Humpty Dumpty is back together again!!

Thank you so much for praying. Mark says your prayers started a movement! Sorry - I had to say it! Please continue to pray for complete healing as I recuperate at home.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Betty's Farewell!

Hey everyone!

Mom asked me to update her blog to keep everyone updated with her surgery today. She just came out of surgery and is now in the recovery room. Her parents, in-laws, and my dad have been camped out in the waiting room since 10 this morning and are waiting to see her. Dr. Cali told them that the surgery was a SUCCESS and there were no complications! Mom's portacath was removed from her chest, and her ileostomy was reversed. This means "goodbye" "Betty" the ostomy bag and "hello" Chili's southwestern eggrolls!  Although the surgery was finished relatively quickly, it is still considered a major abdominal surgery, so Mom and Dad will be staying in the hospital for 3-5 days.

Thank you all or your prayers and encouragement; you helped make this surgery such a success! Please continue to pray for minimal pain and a quick, complication-free recovery.

When I hear any more news, I'll let y'all know!

-Sarah

Monday, April 5, 2010

Surgery, Round Three

Tuesday morning we will head back to the hospital for one more surgery. I will have my ileostomy closed and my intestinal system put back in working order! I will also be having my port removed from my chest. The surgery shouldn't take long, about an hour, but I will be in the hospital for 3-4 days. Surgery is scheduled for noon.

Please pray for successful surgery with no complications, pray that my resting colon will kick back into gear without trouble, for pain relief, and a quick recovery.

I will try to have someone update my blog after surgery.

Thank you so much for your faithfulness to pray for me! You guys are the best!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Keep on...

The past six weeks since my last chemo treatment have been interesting for me. With the end of treatment and the good report from my PET scan everyone is very happy for me and excited to see how God has answered so many prayers. Lots of smiles, lots of hugs, lots of celebrating. 

And then there's me... somehow I'm just not quite able to completely celebrate. Don't get me wrong; I am so grateful for what God has done. But it is hard for my brain to wrap around the idea that this ordeal is really over. Ninety-nine percent of my brain is celebrating, but that nagging one percent keeps flashing "warning" signs. Don't get too happy. Don't celebrate too much, it could come back. You won't be considered "healed" until you've had five years of clear PET scans.

These thoughts stop me in my tracks. What do I do now? How to I move forward? How do I go on with my life without living in fear? And what exactly should my next steps be? Part of me thinks I should spend the next period of time getting ready - just in case - cleaning out the closets, getting rid of the clutter, organizing paperwork. The one percent tells me that I better get things in place while I'm healthy and feeling strong. Just in case.  But the ninety-nine percent screams, "I don't want to live like that! I don't want to live in fear." How do I put those two thoughts together? How do I prudently get ready, just in case, while at the same time moving forward with faith and trust?

Those have been my thoughts over these weeks, and my prayers. God, please show me how to move forward without fear. Show me what to do now.

Then, over the last few days, God begins to answer my prayer. I read the same thing in several different places (that's always a sign to me that God wants me to hear something!):  "Keep on." "Champions don't quit." "Keep on." It's that simple. If I want to move forward without fear, I just keep on.

"Study my words and carry them out unflinchingly, unflinchingly." (God Calling)

"Jesus told the people who had faith in Him, 'If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.' " John 8:31-32

That's it. Continue to walk in obedience. Studying His words, putting them into practice in my life. That's the secret to moving forward and living without fear.

He is Risen!

Thank you so much for praying for Easter weekend! We had an amazing weekend at Community of Faith! All six services went well. The kids enjoyed a great animal show and teaching where God's plan of salvation was clearly shared in a fun way that the kids could relate to. 249 people in the adult worship services said that they prayed to receive Christ as their Savior this weekend! And many more heard about God's love for them, and are interested and seeking. Our volunteers were awesome, our staff did an amazing job in spite of difficulties with the air conditioning in parts of the building, a broken ice machine, and other fun challenges! We heard so many good stories from people who were there for the first time! AND it didn't rain!! God certainly heard and answered your prayers this weekend!  Please pray now for those who are just beginning their relationship with Christ, and for those who are still processing all they saw, heard, and experienced this weekend.
 
To our Houston staff, congratulations on a job well done! Enjoy your Monday off!! We love you guys! Thank you for living it out!