Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday February 27, 2007: Kristi Wins Round 1!

02/27/2007 11:04 PM

Hello all,

Kristi was too tired to send out an update so she asked me to do it for her. She is upstairs resting peacefully now. Well, round one is complete and it went well! Many prayers were answered today!! The worst part was the initial poke of the needle through her fresh scar from last week. That hurt for about an hour. After that, things went really well. First they pumped her full of steroids, antibiotics and fluids, then they started with the chemo. The first dose of chemo was Taxol; that took about 4 hours. The second dose was Carboplatin and that took about 45 minutes. Then they followed with another hour of just plain fluids. Overall, she was hooked up for about 6 or 7 hours, of which she slept most of it. Fortunately they have a lot of good medications to fight all of the side effects…so far other than being tired she has no immediate side effects. Some side effects she can expect in the next couple of weeks will be: achy joints and tired this weekend, then at days 10 and 11 she can expect a lowering of bone marrow which will make her tired and sore again, and also susceptible to catching a cold or flu…so she will need to be careful for a couple days. In fact, the nurse even told her on those days to avoid large crowds – not sure if she will be able to make Nicole’s shower…we’ll see how she feels. She will lose her hair starting in 2 weeks. Some upcoming milestones are:

March 20: she gets her stomach port put in. This will require outpatient surgery again.
March 27, 28: Round 2 starts. This will be the beginning of the day 1, day 2, and day 8 cycle. She will do 5 cycles of that. Day 1 will be in her shoulder port, day 2 and day 8 will be in her stomach port, then rest for 13 days and start over. All will be done downtown GR.

Some specific prayer requests are:

- Praise for a "good" first round of chemo and many answered prayers
- Praise for Kristi’s good spirits today. Last night she had another short break down…so we need to keep lifting her up in prayer. She feels guilty for being a "burden" on the family and the kids being shuffled around. Of course I told her that she wasn’t a burden; but she’s just tired and sore and gets down at times. Help her to remember to cast all her anxiety on God, because God cares for her. (1 Peter 5:7)
- Praise for the nurses today. We found out that Amber, our "main" nurse (I guess you could call her our case manager), is a Christian. She is a ‘Dutch CRC’ girl. Also, the nurse that stayed with us most of the day is a product of Rose Park Christian!! Her name is Greta (sorry, can’t remember her last name, but how many Greta’s could there have been?!). She mentioned she is ‘almost 50’. I think her maiden name was Ten Brink…part of the same Ten Brink clan that goes to Calvary!! Small world!

- Amber told us today that the results of the CAT scan did show a pocket of fluid again. This means that the cancer is still active and probably growing again. Pray that the chemo does its job and kills the cancer cells.
- Pray that the pain is tolerable for Kristi
- Pray that Kristi stays healthy during the times when her body’s immune system will be down
- Pray that Kristi will be able to handle the emotional side of losing her hair
- Pray that the kids also handle the changes to their "mommy" well
- Continued prayers for our friends and family supporting us through this time
- There will be a lot of travel back and forth to GR…please pray for safe traveling for us.

That’s all for today. Thanks for your continued support.

We love you all!
"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20. We felt His presence today!! Thanks for the prayers.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007: CA125 = 782

Kristi's CA125 level is at 782. This is what we will track throughout her chemo. "Normal" is about 35. With each round, it should be cut in half.

Monday, February 26, 2007: Chemo Round 1

02/26/2007 09:49 PM

Hi everyone,

I can’t believe it’s almost here. My first round of chemo. Brian and I are leaving right after we drop the kids off at the bus stop in the morning. They said the earlier we get there the earlier we finish. Most likely we will be there until 4 or 5 PM. Long day. I am excited and nervous at the same time. I wish I wasn’t nervous. I received an e-mail today from a friend of my sister and brother-in-law with the subject saying "prayers from a stranger". He wanted to let us know we are in his and his wife’s prayers. He also wrote a very comforting verse . . . "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love" . . . II Timothy 1:7. (Thank you Mitch!!!). Although we have never met, God used him to encourage me. How amazing. So although I am nervous because I am human, I know that God will remind me of that spirit of power and love that I have inside me.

I was thinking tonight and compared the past month of my life to a pan on the stove. During the initial time of finding the cancer, the surgery and the week in the hospital, that pan was on the highest burner! As I recovered, the heat went down and I even think I was to the point where the pan had moved to a burner that wasn’t even on. On Friday, the heat turned up again during the surgery for my port and again cooled down. Tomorrow I am back on the burner again. As much as I don’t like the "hot" times, those are the times that I feel God’s presence the most. Those are the times that I can shine brightest for Him to a lot of people that may not even know Him. So to be completely honest, I am not looking forward to that heat tomorrow but I am very much looking forward to feeling God’s comfort, from all of your prayers, during this time.

Some specifics to close with:

*Ashley is feeling better and was able to go to school today but she is still quite tired. I think all these doctors appointments are upsetting her. Pray that she will kick this cold and feel free to talk to us about anything at anytime.
*Nathan and Emily are doing great and are germ free – yea God!
*That Brian will remain strong for me tomorrow. I can’t imagine how hard it is to watch someone you love have to endure pain.
*For safe travel to Grand Rapids and back
*that I will have no side effects from chemo tomorrow . . . I know this is unrealistic in the world’s eye but not in God’s.
*That the needle that has to go into my port will not hurt (my skin is still tender and bruised)
*My CA125 level before surgery was 2300. (For those of you not familiar with this – the CA125 count is the protein level in the blood that can be an indicator of ovarian cancer - normal is 35). I found out today that it is still at 782. I was quite disappointed by this because in my mind I was hoping that it was all removed from the surgery. Most of it was removed and the level that is left is what the chemo can take care of. I just need to remember that these are the doctor’s numbers, not God’s.

I realize I am asking for some bold prayer requests here but nothing is impossible with God. We have seen so many prayers answered in so many different areas and look forward to many more to come. Thank you for praying boldly for me and my family.

Love & Hugs,

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007: Port Recovery

02/24/2007 08:37 AM

Hi everyone,

Yesterday was a little bit more than I anticipated. Things went well and the hospital and all the staff were wonderful. I wasn’t expecting as much pain as I am having though. They put the port in and also a catheter which goes up in my neck and then down to my chest. I am having a hard time getting used to the feeling. I went to bed as soon as I got home as I wasn’t feeling very well and was still a bit sedated. On top of this, Ashley came down with a fever and a headache on Thursday night. She is miserable and stuffed up and coughing now. Hopefully this will be the worst day and it will only get better from here. Nathan is feeling much better and only has the nagging cough now. Emily woke up during the night last night crying and we have a feeling she is next with the bug. We have not gotten much sleep over the past two nights with all these germs and are quite exhausted. We are extremely grateful to Brian’s parents who watched the kids all day yesterday and to my parents who are taking them today. I’m sure you’ve already figured out I’m not feeling very shiny today. I still believe in God’s plan for us and know He is taking good care of us. I just need your prayers to bring me back up again. On that note, here’s the specifics:

*Nathan will be able to kick his cough, Ashley will get better quickly and Emily will stay germ free. Also that Brian and I will not catch any of these germs.
*I begin chemo on Tuesday. After yesterdays pain and side effects, I am becoming a bit nervous about the chemo. Pray that I will tolerate the chemo and any side effects it sends my way.
*I can stay focused on the day to day.
*I will get used to the strange feeling in my neck and chest and that the pain will soon go away. Also that I will not get an infection from the surgery.
*Brian is exhausted from taking care of the sick kids. Pray that he will regain his strength and stay strong.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. Your cards and e-mails with encouragement have been wonderful. Many of you have been sharing stories and bible verses that fit with what I am going through and I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. They always lift my spirits. I wish I could call or e-mail all of you personally. Please know how much I appreciate everyone.

Love & hugs,

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007: New Port Day

Today we went to Blodgett Hospital to get the first port installed. This port will go in her upper chest on her right side. This will allow the chemo nurses to administer the chemotherapy directly into this port vs. having to go into a vein every time. The surgery itself was successful. We were home by 5:00. Kristi is doing well, tired and sore, but OK overall. She's getting quite used to all the poking and prodding, unfortunately.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007: Now We Have A Plan!

02/21/2007 09:35 PM

Hi everyone,

Our visit today went very good. We are very happy with the new doctor and the entire office. It is about 45 minutes away but worth the drive. The atmosphere was very relaxing and the doctor was very informational, realistic but positive and was very personable. The nurse that I will be working with during chemo was also great. My treatment plan isn’t completely figured out yet because it hinges on what my next CT scan and blood-work shows. For now, I am scheduled to have a chemo port put in my chest on Friday. My stomach port won’t be put in for another three weeks or so. My first chemo treatment will be next week Tuesday. The good news is that I will not have to be admitted overnight! I am not sure how long the first treatment will take. We meet with the nurse on Tuesday before the chemo and will learn then about how long treatments take each time and side effects and all sorts of fun information. They were really good today about not overloading us with information. We felt very relieved after leaving the office and I told Brian that this was the first appointment that I left without feeling like I had to cry.

I guess that is it in a nutshell but I leave you with some specific requests:

*Friday at 1:00 is when my port will be put in. I also have a CT scan at the same hospital at 6:00 PM. It will be a long day at the hospital. It’s only outpatient surgery and I’m not even going to be put completely under so it should be a piece of cake! The only concern I have is with the IV that they will put in. Please pray that it will go well. Also that the CT scan will show positive results.
*Prayers of praise for the peace and comfort that we have with this new office.
*Nathan has a terrible cold right now and he is miserable. Pray that not only will he recover quickly but that the rest of us will remain healthy.
*Ashley has been having a lot of tummy aches lately. I think she is having a hard time with everything going on and she isn’t talking to me as much as she did before. Please pray that she will be willing to talk to us about anything.

Thank you again for everything. My doctor was amazed when we told him about the awesome support team we have. Continue those bold prayers not only for us but in everything!

Love & hugs,

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007: The Plan: Well, Sort Of

02/18/2007 03:43 PM

Hi everyone,

Sorry about the delay in updates. We have been enjoying a very peaceful weekend without our children. We love them very much but having some alone time this weekend was wonderful.

Unfortunately we still don’t have all the details. We met with the oncologist in Holland on Thursday. The tumor board that reviewed my case was unanimous in deciding that I should have two ports: one for my blood stream (in my chest above my heart) and the other directly in my abdominal cavity. It will be a very aggressive treatment but they believe I am young enough and healthy enough that I can handle it. The doctor in Holland does not do ports in the stomach so we needed to be referred to a specialist in Grand Rapids. This office specializes in women with cancer in any of the reproductive areas. Although we’re disappointed we can’t have treatment in Holland, it is comforting to know that we are dealing with people who are very familiar with my case. In fact, the doctor that I will be seeing was even a part of the tumor board and excited to take me on as a patient. (Everyone wants to be a part of this winning team!).

The treatment that was explained to us last week was this . . . . I will receive six treatments which are three weeks apart (in Grand Rapids). On day one of every treatment I will need to be hospitalized because the medication takes 24 hours to administer. After that one is done, they put the medicine in the abdominal port which will take an additional six hours. So on the first session of every cycle, I will be in the hospital for about 30 hours (or so) if things go well. After that, I need to return on day 8 (one week later) and have more of the abdominal chemo, again about six hours. This would just be in their office I believe (again, in GR). I will then have 13 days to rest and regain strength before I start the second round. Repeat that process 6 times. I hope that makes sense, it’s quite a confusing process.

If I am not able to handle both of the medications, I will just receive the one medication for my bloodstream which would be able to be done in Holland. They would like to try both first though for as much as I can tolerate.

I meet with the oncologist in Grand Rapids on Wednesday morning to review my records and develop the schedule. This was confusing to us because the doctor in Holland gave us the impression that I should start chemo this week. So, I have a call into the Holland office questioning that. So, plans may change again.

Obviously we would like prayer requests for patience as this is frustrating. I am glad not to start chemo yet so that I have more time to get stronger but am also nervous that they are waiting too long. I know God already has the plans and they are not to harm me but to prosper me so this is what I am clinging to.

Some other prayer requests . . .

*that my blood clot will continue to heal
*patience as we wait and that all the offices will work together for what is in my best interest
*continued good health
*continued focus on the day to day and staying positive

Finally, I wish there was something I could say more than just thank you. I am overwhelmed by all your generosity. The cards, meals, babysitting, prayers, e-mails, snow plowing and so much more. I wish I could individually thank you all. Please know how very much we appreciate all of you and couldn’t do this without you. I have no doubts that all your prayers are what keep us going. The stories that you share with me are so wonderful. Keep praying boldly in everything!

Love & hugs,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007: Still Waiting

02/15/2007 10:42 PM

Hello everyone,

Sorry to keep this short, but it’s late and we’re tired and we don’t have all the details yet. But, we did meet with the Oncologist today and got part of the story. It is much more involved than we anticipated and the treatment will be much more grueling than anticipated. We are waiting for a doctor in Grand Rapids to call us tomorrow with the dates…all of the treatments will be in GR rather than in Holland. We will send out an update tomorrow night once we hear from the GR doctor and he fills us in on the rest of the story. Until then, please pray for peace of mind as we got a lot of information today and it wasn’t what we were really expecting. Also, the blood clot in her hand continues to bother her…please also pray for that to heal. Sorry to leave you hanging, but it’s late and we don’t have the complete story yet.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Brian & Kristi

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007: Valentine's Day

02/14/2007 10:18 AM

Hi everyone,

I don’t have any information regarding my treatment yet – we meet with the oncologist tomorrow and I will send another update with that then. Right now, I wanted to send an e-mail to encourage all of you and also a couple specific requests.

First, I know some of you may have been online or researching ovarian cancer. The numbers are not good. However, I do not believe in these numbers, I believe in God. I am not in denial, I just am choosing to believe that God has a plan for me and that plan involves surviving this cancer and becoming His light for many, many years to come. Should this not be the plan, I will cross that bridge when it comes my way. For right now I am praying boldly that this is God’s plan for me and I would like you to do the same. Do not dwell on numbers because it becomes overwhelming! Dwell only on God!!! Together with all of us (and we are a mighty team!) praying boldly we will all win this battle and it is going to change all of us. I have seen amazing changes in many people close to me and have heard of many others. God is working through me and through all of you and together we are going to turn many more sheep into God’s pasture! Isn’t that amazing! What an honor! I know together we can do it. Please hold everyone up in prayer and encourage them. I have never really been a very "open" person before but I am changing. It is so important to encourage one another as the bible says. Let God’s light beam through all of us and just imagine how bright this world will be!!!!

On another note, I’d like to just pass along a couple specific requests:

*I am having some trouble getting my appliance to stick to my stomach. I realize my bag is a bit confusing to many people – if you could just pray that "things would stick" then God will know what you mean!
*I have a small blood clot in my hand which isn’t serious and is slowly resolving. Pray that this will continue to resolve quickly so that it is ready for another iv when I need to have surgery next week to have the port put in for chemo.
*Continued prayers for good health and no germs in our house so that I am strong for chemo
*peace of mind tomorrow when we find out what my treatment will be (this is at 2:30).
*continue to pray for everyone involved
Thank you so much for your prayers – I hope you know that value they have! I will e-mail you tomorrow night with my treatment plan.

I am starting to feel a bit like an evangelist but can’t say it bothers me . . so . . . go and let your light shine!!!!!

Love & hugs,

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Thursday, February 8, 2007: CA125 Results - 2300!

02/08/2007 09:47 PM

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to remind you to keep the tumor board in your prayers tomorrow. They will be discussing my case (along with many others) and deciding what they feel is the best course of treatment. This information will then go to my oncologist who we meet with next week Thursday when the final decision of treatment will be explained to us.

A quick praise – we found out today that my CA125 level (my cancer level in my blood) was very elevated prior to my surgery which is great. This gives the oncologist a way to track how the chemo is doing (it should go down as the chemo is working). Because ovarian cancer can hide easily, this is the best way to track the progress. There was a 20 percent chance that this level was not going to show in my blood test so that was wonderful news for us today that it did.

I had my staples out yesterday which was a bit painful but that was expected. I’m glad they’re out and my incision is healing well.

That’s really it for now. Please continue the prayers for a day by day attitude. That is so important for us right now. I know I need to walk in this valley right now but I’m not alone. I have God with me at all times and the most amazing support system in the world! I am still convinced that I am going to come through this shining brighter than ever and use this experience to help others.

Thank you my awesome prayer warriors!

Love & hugs,

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Saturday, February 3, 2007: Need Sleep!

Hi everyone,

Just had to send another update out to let you know how well things are going. It was so wonderful to come home on Thursday night and see my kids. We had a great night together just talking and hugging. Unfortunately Nathan came down with an ear infection and Brian was up until 3:30 Friday morning rocking him because he was in so much pain. After a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics (bubble gum flavor!) Nathan is doing much better. I had a home health nurse come Friday and answered a lot of questions. I was pretty out of it because I had to take some pain medication which seems to make me quite loopy. Friday night all five of us were in bed by 9:00! We all had a great night’s sleep and the kids were off to play dates today with some friends that braved the snow to get them. I had a great morning, afternoon nap (thanks to the Vicodin) and a candle lit dinner with Brian! I was able to eat the ham that Srikwerda’s brought (thanks guys – Brian shoveled down the hash browns and green beans too!). I have more energy today than yesterday. The kids should be coming home soon and we’ll have some time together before another early bedtime tonight.

I guess that sums up the past couple days. Thank you for your specific prayers for my dreams . . . the very next night I was blessed with good dreams and have been since. God has had some strange prayer requests lately from me but has answered them all! I am feeling strong and am already planning my party for five years from January 23 which I will be considered cancer free! I am not foolish, I know the numbers and statistics. I also know the next months of treatment and chemo are going to be hard but I have been told to look forward to those visits because every drop of that medicine is going to get rid of any cancer left in me.

I have no doubts that God is going to heal me and use me and I am looking forward to what I need to learn. People have been sharing stories with me about how my situation is giving them opportunities to share their faith with others and helping them doing it boldly. Just think how many people we can bring to God through this together!!!!! I get chills.

Well, I think I hear my munchkins at the door so need to go now. Thanks for honoring our wish for family time because it has been wonderful.

Some specific prayer requests to leave with:

*the kids seem to be doing much better now that I am home, especially Nathan – what a praise!
*as always, continued focus for me on the day to day and not the big picture
*strength for Brian as he is taking on so much – he’s learning it’s not that easy being a mommy!
*prayers in advance for a meeting next Friday (the 9th). My doctor will be bringing my case before a tumor board where almost 40 professionals will discuss and review it and come up with a plan for my treatment which will then go to the cancer doctor for a final decision. Pray that they will make wise decisions. These doctors see numbers and statistics and medical information. What they don’t know is that I am a fighter and God is in my corner. Pray that God will shine at that meeting and that my case can make a difference in their lives.

Love & hugs,

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Thursday, February 1, 2007: We're Home!!!

Hello again!
We're home! Praise God!!! We now begin our long road to recovery and look forward to taking this journey with each of you. With God on our side, we will be victorious. Well, so much for the daily updates; we will keep you posted along the way with periodic updates. I'm glad you all appreciated the updates...we received so many e-mails every day. Reading the e-mails to Kristi was definitely the bright spot each day...what else is there to do in a hospital anyway?! Well, here are some words from Kristi...and again, thank you all sooo much...

02/01/2007 09:17 PM

Hello friends and family!

It’s finally me and this time we’re not going to lose this e-mail into cyberspace or wherever the last one went. It’s going on 4:00 now. My doctor will be here around 5 or 6 to start my discharge paperwork . . . . woohoo! I’m coming home! Today has been a quiet one. I have asked for no visitors because I was quite tired this morning. It has been great seeing everyone but unfortunately yesterday was a little too much for me and I need to learn my limitations. I learned how to change my colostomy bag this morning and even taught the nurses a thing or two. They said everything is healing well. There isn’t anything really new to report for today. Just walking and sleeping and yup, even some eating.

This week has been quite a week. Good times and bad times. Fortunately there were more good than bad. Even the bad times helped me grow a little. I know Brian mentioned that I had a difficult time a couple nights ago. I have to say it felt good to cry and to have Brian hold me and say "one day at a time, one minute at a time". I have times when the tears well up where I need to let them flow and it always helps. I do need to be with someone when I cry though. I used to hide when I cried. Now I need someone to be with me and it’s okay if you cry with me too. As long as we end up crying tears of joy by the end. I have had tears of extreme joy too though. When reading cards and talking to people. I used to have low self esteem and now I know without a doubt how loved I am and it can put you on cloud nine! I even told a nurse at one point that I was thankful for the cancer. Of course she looked at me like I was nuts but there are such extreme highs along with this that no one can imagine. I sat on the couch this morning and saw Brian drive in and my heart jumped for joy. I got up and tried my best to meet him at the elevator but didn’t quite make it. That’s okay though. When he saw me he looked so proud and said "look at you girl!". There is not a word in the English language to express how very much I love and appreciate him. Right after God, he is my main man!

Sorry to blab on and on. There is so much to say. I look so forward to holding my children tonight and being home. We will be having a very quiet weekend to ourselves and reuniting as a family. I know people have so many questions and want to talk but we are asking that we don’t have any visitors this weekend and if possible, no phone calls either. Keep the e-mails coming and that prayer pager buzzing. Please don’t feel like we’re cutting you out, just need to have our family time again. You have no idea how much we appreciate all of you. Everything you have done for us and so willingly done is a huge help.

I know Brian mentioned my cancer doctor was bleak. He doesn’t really believe in numbers. He did say something about my cancer being very wide spread and very serious but . . . you do have hope. Ha! No kidding! We talked to our other doctors and I’ve discovered that a doctor like this almost has to stay detached and stick with the facts. They see patients come to them with a disease that makes no sense and then takes them away. On a daily basis. I believe most doctors are the same way and don’t believe in God. I’m sure there are a lot out there that do though. My heart breaks to know that they don’t have my peace. I will be explaining to all my doctors that although I am thankful for everything they have done, I know who my true healer is and that even if they tell me there is nothing more they can do that I will always have hope, always! I am here for a reason now. I have been fortunate to see the effect it has had on some of the nurses. They are amazed at how often the prayer pager goes off and with my attitude. God’s light has shown brightly here and I know has started some minds changing and questioning. What an amazing thing to be part of that! I can be a small part in bringing people to know God and His peace! What an honor!

Well now I’ve gone and wrote a book. Sorry to you non-readers. I think I will sign off for now and spend some time with my hubby. Some specific requests as I sign off:

*continued peace and a day to day, minute to minute attitude
*I think there are many people who don’t know what to say to us, that’s okay. Pray that they will not be uncomfortable around us and know they can just smile.
*that our family time this weekend will go well and the kids will adjust to having me back and my limitations
*comfort to all who have been helping me. I know you all have busy lives too!
* I’ve been having strange/frightening dreams due to the medication and surgery. Pray that they will go away to be replaced with happy ones.

I’m done for now but I do have one question for you . . . . are you wearing your sunglasses???!!!

Love and hugs,

With much love,
Brian & Kristi