Sunday, December 27, 2009
Jeff had an MRI scan on December 10 to determine whether or not the treatment has been working. On the 17th, Jeff's oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic told us that leukemia had not responded. Not only that, but the MRI showed significant progression into the cranial nerves, brainstem and spinal cord.
I sat motionless, trying to absorb the conversation that followed. There is nothing left to be done, medically-speaking. But we're still praying for a miracle and for time. Jeff hasn't got much left.
We decided to tell the kids right away, only because drawing it out makes it that much harder. Kids can sense when something is going on, and we didn't want them to feel like they were the last to know. Please, keep them in your prayers.
That's the way things are around here for now.
And in the midst of this storm, there is still peace--an unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit. I was reading a passage of Scripture today about the work of the Holy Spirit. It's in Romans 8, verse 26, and it says "the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." This passage is teaching that the Holy Spirit prays for our infirmities--our sicknesses. That is such a blessed truth to me right now because I cannot tell you how many times I have started to pray and could not find words. I hope that truth encourages you as well.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Some weeks ago now, as I was making the bed, I caught a bit of an interview on the radio. The host of the show was speaking with someone about a devotional book based on the story from Mark 14 where Mary breaks an expensive box of perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet.
Either the phone rang or one of the kids called me away, but I was not able to hear more than just the introduction. But that little snippet got me thinking about that story and how it relates to having a servant’s heart.
And that’s when I started thinking of all of you.
So many of you that have prayed for us live great distances away. Some live right here and have wondered what you can do to help our family. But every one of you have demonstrated that heart to serve like Mary had.
For those of you that live far away, chances are that there is someone in your own neighborhood or church that could benefit from your help. And so, I’m going to make a list of all the “little things” that friends have recently helped us with:
• Taking my turn in the nursery so that I could sit with my
husband during the church service
• Winterizing our lawn
• Raking, mowing, and trimming shrubs
• Rigging up our outdoor Christmas lights
• Making meals
• Planning special evenings with our children
• Encouraging with calls, notes, e-mails, cards and such
• Maintaining our aquarium
• Helping Jeff do some Christmas shopping
• Picking him up to have lunch together
• Listening – It is a tremendous blessing to have friends who
don’t feel pressured to give answers, who simply listen.
• Praying – this is no small thing!
• Driving me and the cat to the vet and staying with us while she
died. Then bringing us home and burying her for me.
• Meeting me for coffee or lunch to just so I could feel normal for
a little while
And here are just a few more “little” things that people have done in the past, either for us or for others:
• Helping with bedtime routine--When Jeff was hospitalized in
2006, a dear friend would come over on Friday nights to
help with bedtime. I bathed kids, she helped with PJ's
and read to them. After I tucked them in, we'd sit and talk.
• Organizing the pantry or cupboards
• Vacuuming under the couch and cushions
• Cleaning out the garage
• Winterizing the outside faucets
• Shoveling the driveway
• Sending music or links to encouraging music
And I’m sure there are a thousand other seemingly little things I could add to this list.
The bottom line is this: none of you can take Jeff’s leukemia away just like Mary couldn’t prevent the suffering Jesus would endure on the cross. But Jesus praised her in His answer to those questioning her extravagance. He said, “She hath done what she could.”
I love your servants’ hearts. You have blessed us by making our journey easier. You have done what you could.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tomorrow is Jeff’s birthday. He reminded me that his driver’s license expires this year, and though he wouldn’t pass the eye exam for driving, we went anyway because he needs current photo identification. The lovely lady that waited on us quietly asked if he understood he would need to sign a form relinquishing his driving privileges. Indeed, he did.
Jeff handled today’s encounter just like he’s handled this whole illness—with graciousness and humor. He joked that maybe we should let him take just one more spin around the parking lot. Jeff has a way of making people feel at ease. When the ID form asked for “hair color,” we chuckled a bit. I wrote “red” because that’s what it was. (He hasn’t had any for years.) The clerk hesitatingly told us that the system would accept “bald” as an answer. “Oh. Well, ‘bald’ it is, then.” ☺
I am so thankful for the grace that God has given my husband to accept this loss of independence. It wasn’t gradual. He really did not have time to adjust to the idea. In July he was driving himself to and from radiation. In August, I drove him to his chemotherapy appointment, and he never drove again after that.
I just think his positive attitude is inspiring. Right now, that’s just the way things are, and he accepts that.
We really do have much to be thankful for, and we are counting our blessings.
May each of you have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
(Originally posted on Jeff’s Caringbridge page)
Jeff finished his steroids this weekend. He is able to sleep again finally, but the headaches and nausea are returning. It's been a rough evening.
His skin is really showing the radiation damage now. It is very red, and looks like it may blister. Of course, that is adding to his discomfort.
Our boys started asking some very pointed questions after bedtime prayer tonight. They are worried, but it provided a wonderful opportunity to review some of Jesus' miracles and talk about the power of God and our privilege to pray.
Are you facing anything right now that seems impossible? I would encourage you to take some time to think about the power of God. By him all things are and were created. That idea gets me every time. His creation is amazing--and yes, I believe it happened just as the Bible describes. Just as I believe he raised the dead, and healed the sick and restored sight to the blind. He is God! And I believe he has the power to heal Jeff. I don't know if that's part of His plan for us or not, but I believe it is possible, and I'm going to keep asking.
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." Mark 9:23
Sunday, November 8, 2009
One of my favorite hymns is “He Giveth More Grace.”
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction, he addeth his mercy;
To multiplied trials, his multiplied peace.
His love has no limit.
His grace has no measure.
His power has no boundary known unto men.
For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance;
When our strength has failed e’er the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Since we hadn’t heard back from the Cleveland Clinic, Jeff called this morning to get his blood work results. Everything looks good in that regard.
Once his brain has had time to heal from the radiation, he will begin chemotherapy again. It will involve the same method of administration (intrathecal aka “spinal” ), but Jeff’s doctor has decided to use a different drug.
We have another MRI appointment in December and pray that those scans will show improvement. In the meantime, Jeff will be resting. He is extremely fatigued, and the steroids cause insomnia. As I am sure you all have experienced, a good night’s rest can make a world of difference in your overall outlook. Pray for restful sleep.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Just two radiation treatments left now. That drive to and from Cleveland takes a lot out of me. But then I remember that at least Jeff isn’t hospitalized. He is able to come home after every treatment.
The side effects from the treatments were really severe. This past weekend, he wanted to attend church but got very sick as we were getting ready to leave. He was able to hold it together for about forty-five minutes on Sunday afternoon while our good friend Angie took some family portraits.
Jeff was worried about his appearance knowing that the radiation can cause the skin to burn and blister, but I reassured him that his skin was clear. (I noticed today, though, that he looks like he is sunburned all over his head now.)
Having the session at our home meant that Jeff wouldn’t have to travel in the car or try to walk in an unfamiliar setting. (Going down the deck steps made me nervous enough!) Not long after Angie left, Jeff was terribly sick again, but I am so thankful he was able to participate. We had a good time being silly, tossing leaves and just being outside for a little while.
At Monday’s treatment, the doctor gave Jeff the OK to start steroids again. The effect really is dramatic as far as relieving the nausea and headaches. What a blessing that is! But he will also have to take the other meds now to deal with the side effects of the steroids. I think the relief that the medication brings is worth it.
We meet with the medical oncologist on Friday to hear what comes next.
Angie Arthur has finally started her photography business, and I am so excited for her. I think she is amazingly talented! Clicking on her logo below will take you to her Facebook Fan Page.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Jeff has had five of the ten radiation treatments. He goes this Monday through Friday to receive the rest of them.
We have been blessed with friends and family that have stepped right in and said, “Tell me what you need.” The kids were taken care of and dinners were prepared and dropped off. Both efforts were such a huge help since we didn’t have any say in the scheduling times for Jeff’s treatments.
The side effects have been hard. The treatment only takes a couple of minutes, but by the time we are about thirty minutes down the road, he has a splitting headache. Nausea follows soon after. I am hoping that once his treatments wrap up on Friday, he will start to feel much better.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Yesterday’s visit to the Cleveland Clinic was a difficult one. Jeff’s new MRI showed more changes in the optic nerve as well as in his brainstem. That being interpreted means the leukemia is continuing to infiltrate his brain.
The team of oncologists responsible for Jeff’s care consulted other even more specialized oncologists and determined that the best course of action is to discontinue chemotherapy and begin whole brain radiation. Today.
So I’m rearranging schedules to accommodate this new development. That’s just the way life is sometimes. Unpredictable. We plan ahead to the best of our ability with the information we have. And sometimes we get new information that forces us to change gears.
You might be surprised to know that Jeff and I both slept very restfully last night. How is that possible? Well, a couple of thoughts come to mind. But, mainly, we are just that sure of God’s goodness. This is rubber-meets-the-road kind of faith in practice. And I tell you what, I am so glad to know God! I can not imagine how someone could digest the kind of news we received yesterday without being confident that God is faithful and good and wants to bear all our burdens.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there. --Joseph Scriven
“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.” Psalms 3:3-5
Monday, October 19, 2009
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to introduce you to my Gramma Maxine. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she battled and won. I do not recall her ever being depressed or discouraged other than commenting that everything tasted like metal while she was undergoing chemotherapy. (I remember her saying that the only thing that tasted good was French fries. ) She took that diagnosis like a soldier and asked what the best battle plan was, then followed it-- mastectomy, chemotherapy, wigs, bone scans, and all-- until she prevailed.
She remained cancer-free for a number of years. On the day this photo was taken in 2003, she told us that the cancer had returned in her other breast. She also told us she would not be fighting this time. It was hard for us to hear, and harder to accept. But she was ten years older now, and I believe she wanted to enjoy the time she had left. “Chemo was too hard,” she said.
She made it until September of 2004. Long enough to see our youngest born. Long enough to hear Jeff’s diagnosis that August and tell me she had peace that he was going to make it. She died a couple weeks later and went home to be with Jesus.
I miss her so much.
I ♥ Faces is celebrating survivors and honoring the fallen this week. Clicking on the badge below will direct you to their site where you can view other photos and read their stories.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
A dear friend of mine sent a message last night suggesting I meditate on Phillipians 4 before going to sleep. That is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, and so I thought I would share part of it with you, too.
Whenever a situation is looking dismal, remember these words:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
So I am reminded to lay my cares at the feet of Jesus through prayer, and fill my thoughts with things of beauty and truth and goodness.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
This is something I’ve been dreading. While I desperately want to know if the radiation and chemotherapy have helped, I am frightened at the possibility that the news might be that the lesion has grown. Will an MRI be able to show the difference between the inflammation that the chemo obviously causes and an actual change in the size of the lesion? I don’t know.
I’m afraid to know.
And yet, I do need to know. The doctors need to know, of course. Is the treatment working? Do we need to be more aggressive? Is he ever going to see clearly again? Questions, questions, questions…
The uncertainty is enough to make me crazy. And when I start feeling that way, I remember that God sees clearly and knows everything that lies ahead. I can trust His goodness even when I don’t understand His plans.
Praying for good news from Monday’s MRI and for a smooth procedure on Tuesday for treatment #4.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Having two Type-A personalities share the same living space 24-7 is not really the best scenario. Add a little stressor like, oh I don’t know, say Cancer, and things can get pretty dicey. Jeff is home and sick, and I should be overflowing with compassion and understanding. I find myself sorely lacking. My patience is thin. At a time when I should be bending over backwards to make him comfortable, I am more prone to bicker over silly things.
Any couple that enjoys a successful marriage will tell you that time spent apart is healthy. The trouble is that when I decide to go ahead and take some time to get out, I feel guilty that Jeff is sitting at home with virtually nothing to do.
It doesn’t seem right.
Over the past month or so, a couple of Jeff’s friends have come to pick him up and take him to lunch. One of the things Jeff has missed about working is the daily social interaction, so going out for lunch and good conversation really makes his day. That has been a help to me, too.
But I wish I could figure out something else that he would enjoy to pass the time. So far, the books on CD haven’t been a hit. He says listening just makes him sleepy. (Except for the Bible. He has listened half-way through that in just two months.)
So if you are praying for us, you can be asking for God to give me patience and inspiration. I’m all out of ideas.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
It seems the recovery period after a chemotherapy treatment is a slow dance with a heavy-footed partner. How many days can you go around with the nausea and pain before begging for steroids to “cut in” as it were?
Jeff’s headache and nausea were becoming increasingly worse over the weekend, to the point where he actually was thinking this was as bad as the last treatment. I asked him on Tuesday if he was ready to start a steroid taper, but he wanted to see how he felt Wednesday morning.
He awoke feeling absolutely miserable, and decided he had had enough of the pain killers and took two Aleve instead and asked me to cut up his steroid pills into the appropriate dosages for the next five days. By mid-afternoon, Jeff was feeling so much better.
Now you might be wondering why someone might be reluctant to take something that helps so well. I suppose it could be different for every individual, but for Jeff, the side effects of steroids are very frustrating. He can’t sleep more than an hour at a time. They make him sweat, and then his skin breaks out. He feels irritable. His joints become tender. And then there are the long-term side effects for his heart as well, and that really bothers him.
But steroids may just be the only way to get through these treatments. It was nice to have Jeff feeling well enough to get out of the house for the day. I had several errands to run, and we got a lot accomplished along with lunch at Chick-fil-A and an ice cream cone later in the afternoon. (That’s more food than he’s eaten in four days!)
When he’s feeling better like today, I can actually picture him feeling normal again someday. And so, I’m thankful for the steroids for giving him relief.
Friday, September 25, 2009
One of the reasons my love for the Lord continues to grow is that throughout my life I have seen Him answer prayer after prayer. Perhaps not in the way I asked Him to or as soon as I would have liked, but His ways were always so much better than the solutions I could have devised myself. His timing was always perfect. And so I trust that this situation is no different in that regard. I believe it with all my heart.
I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live... I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; 'O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.' Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: Psalm 116:1-8
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
There was a slight delay this morning getting the chemo to the procedure room, not sure why exactly since we were just there yesterday to make sure the orders were where they needed to be. But everything after that went very smoothly. Every single member of the Summa staff we encountered was pleasant, some were downright delightful! I am so grateful for all of them who helped make our morning pass quickly. God is so good to take care of even smallest details.
Jeff is resting comfortably, hoping to catch up on some sleep. Thanks for all your prayers so far! I'll update again later.
I’m getting everyone ready for the day. One kid’s off to school already and two more to go. Then it’s off to the hospital for Jeff’s spinal chemotherapy infusion. I can’t say I’m looking forward to this—the side effects last time seemed so severe. He developed a spinal headache and his vision deteriorated so rapidly and so much that he was not able to read much less return to work. The sudden loss of independence was quite a strain on the whole family as you can imagine.
So today I’m praying for minimal side effects, while I wait. Jeff’s take on this is a bit different. He feels that if there are side effects, the metho-trexate is doing its job. I understand that, but given the amount of vision he’s already lost, I’m worried this treatment could make him completely blind. Also, if he experiences another spinal headache, then a permanent port inserted into his right ventricle becomes more likely.
I’m trying not to worry, trying to put today along with this whole situation in God’s hands and rest in the truth that He always does what is best for us and for His glory.
I’ll post more later today. Thanks for checking on us and for praying!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Jeff’s mom called early last week and said that she and her husband were going to come for the weekend. Jeff’s step-dad wanted to spend some time with Jeff and help him with some various handy-man tasks that have come up. Mom asked if there was something she could help me with while they were here.
Well, I didn’t have to think hardly at all. Our routine is completely out of whack, and dinner around here has suffered. It isn’t as though I’m spending too much time away from home to get dinner ready. I think I’m just overwhelmed by everything and planning dinner has been the task my brain has abandoned to make room for other things that need attention.
So when Mom asked what she could do to help, I knew just what to say. I asked her to go through some of her recipes and help me make some meals to put up in the freezer. She loves to cook and has tons of wonderful recipes. And if the meals are already prepped, all I have to do is take one out of the freezer, pop it in the oven, and set the timer. I’m pretty sure I can handle that.
We spent about an hour on Saturday morning browsing through the recipes and writing out a grocery list for items I didn’t already have in the pantry. To make things even easier, I bought three of those rotisserie chickens from the deli to use for the chicken casserole dishes. (Less prep, and it was only about $1 more per chicken than if I had bought them raw and cooked them myself.)
I stacked up our 9x13 and 8x8 foil pans in the middle of the island, and we got cooking. Mom started an assembly line of sorts, mixing up the other ingredients while I took the meat of the chickens. Megan helped, too, mixing crumb toppings and running our finished products down to the freezer. In all, we made 4 main dishes, 2 side dishes and 4 desserts that day.
You can click over on the sidebar for the recipes we used.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
“I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice, and he gave ear unto me.” Psalm 77:1
God hears our prayers.
I think it is important to write down the ways God answers our prayers. Important because it serves as a reminder to praise Him, but also as an account to reflect upon while we wait for His answers to current needs. It strengthens our faith.
Jeff is doing so much better just after two days of the steroids. The nausea is gone, and the headache is much improved. Now we wait to see if it will also help his vision.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Jeff's treatment was over a week ago, and while the procedure itself went well, he has been on bed-rest since Monday for a spinal headache. The house doesn't care, the laundry hasn't offered to do itself, the grass keeps growing , and the school year started anyway. I can't keep up. And I can't keep the kids quiet enough. Cooking? I can't even do that right and gave myself food poisoning yesterday. I feel constantly distracted.
These are the days when I wonder if God is paying attention. (This is not going to be one of those uplifting posts, I'm afraid.) Today I didn't hide my frustration with the pharmacy who refused to dispense Jeff's prescriptions even after I had called first and they assured me they were ready to pick up. They were filled according to the computer, but the doctor's office was unclear on the dosage instructions for one of the medications and so I could not have them. I still don't understand why they would not give me the other one at first, but I insisted that I wasn't leaving without it. I was really trying to hold it together, and I'm afraid I could have been so much more gracious about it. They finally decided it would be okay to give me the one without questions, so I checked out. I cried the whole way home.
Why does this have to be so hard? I want so much to handle this with grace, but some days, the stress of this gets to me. I know God really is paying attention, of course. Today He is stretching me, and it is terribly uncomfortable.
The pharmacy did finally get the medication issue straightened out, and I was able to pick it up before they closed. I'm praying that between the two medications, Jeff will start to improve. I'm going to go to sleep and rest in the knowledge that God loves us and wants to be our source of comfort.
Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 Rest sounds good.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
There’s just something about waking up early to discover everything shrouded in light fog that makes you want to be quiet.
To be still.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons God allows suffering. Maybe in the midst of a situation where we can’t see very far down the path, we more easily rely on His guidance. Maybe He doesn’t heal right away or find us a new job right away because once we’ve stopped squirming and crying in resistance and come to a form of acceptance that this is our path, He has an opportunity to reveal more of himself to us. We come to learn that He is able to truly sustain us through the most difficult of times.
“Be still and know that I am God.” the Psalmist wrote. God wants us to get to know Him, but we get so busy with the everyday. In the book of Job we find a man in the midst of terrible suffering, anguished in his pain, wearied of trying to defend his virtue to his visitors. God speaks to him and says “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” He wanted to get Job’s focus off his own suffering and back on the power and goodness of God.
It’s good be still. To be amazed in the glory of the rising of the sun, to marvel at His imagination in the design of His creation, to reflect on the wondrous ways God has answered prayer in the past, to just be, recognizing that each breath is a gift—this is what it is to be still.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Hello, all. We had a good, albeit long, day at the Cleveland Clinic yesterday. Traffic was not too heavy in the morning, which is a huge blessing. That drive really stresses me out sometimes. The lab was running on-time, so Jeff got right in for his blood-work. The tests showed that his blood is still 100% donor, and that means his marrow remains unaffected by this recurrence in the brain. That is great news.
We met with Jeff’s oncologist then, who explained the treatment plan. At first he said he was still uncertain how many treatments Jeff would need. This was because they’ve never caught this type of recurrence before the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) contained blasts. (The spinal tap from July was clear.) Typically, there is a treatment regimen to clear the CSF of blasts, then the spinal chemo once a month for 12 months. As he was explaining this to us, he decided to go ahead and treat Jeff aggressively. He won’t need a treatment regimen to clear the fluid since it is already clear, but he will receive the monthly chemo for 12 months. Since he had one injection pro-actively at the time of diagnosis in July, and one yesterday, he has 10 more to go.
We had quite a bit of time to wait between that appointment and the procedure time, so we walked over to the main hospital to have lunch. Au Bon Pain is one of the redeeming points of having to spend a day at the Cleveland Clinic. :)
Then we headed down to radiology where Jeff’s spinal chemo would be administered. There were some delays with getting the drug mixed and delivered, but it still started fairly close to the scheduled time. (This is done in radiology so that they can see exactly where to place the catheter.) After the drug was administered, Jeff was required to lay flat for one hour. So we left Cleveland about 4:15. Traffic was a bit congested, but not yet to typical rush hour proportions. Overall we had a smooth drive home.
Last night was also parent orientation night for our local schools. Since I was the only parent representative from our family available, I decided to attend Megan’s. (I understand that they don’t want to draw this out over a whole week, but I hope they are understanding that I cannot possibly be in three schools at the same time on one night.) I could have probably made it to the last 15 minutes of Ethan’s, but the sky opened up as a huge thunderstorm rolled in, and I just wanted to get home.
As I was pulling into our neighborhood, the storm was moving out and the clouds cleared behind me to reveal the sun. I thought to myself, “This is perfect conditions for a rainbow.” I turned the corner onto our street and this was the scene that greeted me.
I thought it was a lovely way for God to welcome me home. The sign of promise-- what a wonderful reminder to thank God for the blessings of the day!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I am so grateful that when Jesus ascended back into Heaven, he promised that the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within each believer. I am convinced that the peace I’ve come to know is a gift from the Holy Spirit. His voice isn’t audible, but if you are paying attention, it is unmistakable. It is a still, small voice—thoughts of scripture that suddenly come to mind just when you need them; gentle tugs at your heart as you hear a message or a spiritual song.
Whether it’s convicting or comfort that you need, the Holy Spirit is gently dealing with your heart. I knew it the day I realized that Jesus died to pay for my sins. Though I was in a room packed full of other campers, I knew just as surely as I know my own name that God was talking to me. He was compelling me. I responded immediately and as my counselor read to me John 3:16, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and be my Savior.
That was 34 years ago last month. What a blessing to accept Jesus as a child. I had plenty of opportunity to exercise childlike faith. I fully accepted that the Bible was God’s divine word and I still trust it as such. Years of Sunday School and VBS provided a motivating environment to learn Bible verses. (Yes, the teachers gave us reward stickers or ribbons, but I tell you what—I still know those verses!) I do remember the teachers telling us that the reason we learned the Scripture was actually given to us in the Bible (of course!). Psalm 119:11 says “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” and later in verse 105 of that same chapter: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
The path of my life has been rather ordinary, I suppose. The last ten years have had some sections that felt increasingly difficult, but that Still, Small Voice kept reminding me of God’s goodness. In each test, there has been a Scripture that came to mind to bring comfort—to light my path, if you will. With Jeff’s initial diagnosis it was 2 Corinthians 12:9, the verse I have featured in the blog banner. When he relapsed, it was Isaiah 26:3-4 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the LORD Jehovah is everlasting strength.”
The verse that keeps speaking to me this time is found in Ecclesiastes 3:11. It says, “He hath made everything beautiful in His time.” Now, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that there is really nothing pretty about cancer. But that Still, Small Voice keeps assuring me that this is just a part of something beautiful that God is making. And I am listening. And trusting.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
This time around, while perhaps more serious, our daily life has remained fairly normal. Jeff has been able to return to work part-time which means there has been little upset in our kids' routine. We are enjoying Jeff's days off which resulted from his being unable to operate until his vision clears.
One of Jeff's collegues wisely advised that no matter the outcome, we could never get this summer back so he should make the most of it. No sense dwelling on uncertainty or moping around the house. Aside from the headaches, Jeff is fairly healthy. So we determined to use his extra days as opportunities to make memories with our kids.
This past week was our last chance to plan some activities before chemo this Thursday and then school starting the next week. We took the kids hiking and rafting in a nearby state park on Wednesday and Thursday. And we spent yesterday at the beach with some dear friends.
We are determined to find the blessings--to focus on the good, to celebrate the joy. We have so much to praise the Lord for even in the face of cancer.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Interspersed throughout the day, I received such encouraging messages and e-mails from friends. You are a blessing and I am so grateful for you!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
It’s been about a week and a half now since Jeff finished radiation. The oncologists’ office called to say that he would be starting chemotherapy on the 20th of this month.
I still don’t know much about the treatment plan. And I know basically nothing about this type of recurrence. There’s nothing at the library on it, and even the specialists could only find three published studies in their medical journals, none of which suggested a clear treatment plan. When the people who are supposed to know this stuff tell you they don’t know yet how many treatments we are going to do, it is a little disconcerting.
I know their goal is to knock out this tumor before the cancer cells find their way back to the bone marrow where leukemia usually takes hold. (I’m still really fuzzy on how they ended up in his brain in the first place.) Since the drug will not cross the blood-brain barrier, these chemo treatments will be injected through a catheter into Jeff’s spine. (Think epidural and you’ve got the basic idea.) The cerebrospinal fluid will circulate the drug around the brain and the optic nerves where Jeff’s tumor is, killing off any cells that the radiation may have missed.
You probably have even more questions. Questions don’t scare me, so if you ever want more explanation, just ask. I’ll do my best to clarify. Questions foster learning. I ask them all the time.
When it comes to questioning God, you can be sure I have. But not, perhaps, in the way you might imagine. My questions are not angry or full of self-righteousness--though I can understand when people do that. And I do wonder “Why him?” and “Do we really need to do this again?” But really my questions are more along this line: whispering to Him that “I just don’t understand.”
Asking: “How will we do this?”
and: “Was there some lesson we failed to learn
the last time?”
My husband is a godly man, and I can think of plenty of reasons why he does not deserve this. And if God used cancer as a way to punish sin, then I would feel justified asking those angry questions. But the truth is, we live in a world marred by sin, the effects of which are violence, death, and disease. Those were not part of God’s perfect plan for this world or for us, but those were the consequences when sin entered the world. Cancer doesn’t care if you are a Christian or not, it just happens.
So if cancer wasn’t God’s plan, why does he allow it? Why doesn’t God just heal people right away? Those are good questions, too. I don’t know why. But I do know that He promises to work it out for good, and for His glory. Somehow, these experiences are part of a plan that God is working out to make something good. And for today, just knowing that is enough.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Friday, August 7, 2009
I set up this blog so that I could have a separate place to write about my feelings and thoughts as my husband battles leukemia yet again. Some of what I have wanted to write lately seems too heavy to post on my other blog which has become more about nature and photography more than family “stuff.” Still, I imagine it will be hard to completely compartmentalize my thoughts to just this site.
It is my sole intention to write as I walk beside my husband through this valley. I often read back over the journal I kept the last two times and marvel how God gave us grace for the journey. As you read along, I hope you will be inspired to deepen your own relationship with God. And if you are encouraged by what you read here, well, that’s just an added blessing.