Words just can't express our gratitude.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
I wanted to let everyone know that I am doing better with this round of chemo than the last two. Yea God! I went for a blood transfusion on Tuesday and I believe that is helping me with my fatigue. I have begun my daily shots in my stomach again (how many people can say their husband shoots them every day?) This should help keep my blood counts from “going back into the toilet”. My doctor sure has a way with words.
I don’t really have any more health updates at this point but wanted to share some verses that God put on my heart today. The first is from 2 Thessalonians 1:4 . . . O Lord, I want others to be able to boast to You about my perseverance and faith in any persecutions and trials I endure.
I feel God calling me to witness to His faithfulness is all things which is a lot of pressure. As you know, I’m not always shiny but I do know that it’s not my shininess that will get me into heaven. I just want to do the best job I can do to give God the glory while I am here.
That verse was in a devotional book which also showed 2nd Timothy. “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother, Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a power of love and of self-discipline. A couple things struck me with this verse. First, my grandmother battled breast cancer and survived. She didn’t have the spirit of timidity but had the power of love and self-discipline. She was a tough cookie filled with a soft and lovable inside! Second, a group of shepherding care elders are coming to our house this week to lay their hands on me and pray for healing. I think this will be another huge step in this journey.
Another verse came back to me from an earlier e-mail from Exodus 14:13-14 You, Lord, will fight for me, help me only to be still. I was confused at the striking differences between verses. Do I stand firm and fight this illness or do I be still and let God fight. Then, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 came to me. A Time for Everything. I won’t type these verses out as they are very long and I have already typed much already. If you don’t know it, it is a great verse to look up. And if you do know it, it’s a great verse to relearn. There is a time for everything, even cancer. Right now this illness is giving me my time to get to know God so very closely. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I would, however, love to get past this time where cancer is taking more energy that I want to give to it I would much rather use that energy for helping others and sharing that love that God has given me.
So, as a prayer request, please pray that I will know whether it is “time to be silent” or a “time to speak” Or a time to listen or a time to e-mail! Please also keep our family’s health in your prayers. We seem to have a round of colds coming on.
Thank you for reading this, for growing with me, for your gifts that have helped me focus, your cards and e-mails that have encouraged me immensely and mostly for your prayers.
Love & hugs as always,
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Also today, baby Rietman was born – Brynn Isabella. I got the text from Denny at 10:34AM. 8lbs 3 oz., 21” long.
In her words:
04/23/2007 10:24 PM
First, some good news! My CA125 level went down again this time to 163 (from 380). My platelet count is through the roof (definitely better than in the toilet!) Most of my counts are back to normal. My red blood count, however, is low. I will be receiving another blood transfusion this week to help with that. The lower level can cause fatigue so I’m hoping by having this transfusion my recovery from the chemo will be easier.
Today didn’t go quite as expected but we are okay with it. Before chemo, we met with the oncologist. I will not be using the stomach port tomorrow because of the leak and the doctor wants more time for it to heal completely. We talked about reversing the colostomy and he considered it and was respectful of our wishes. He shared some information that we weren’t aware of. It’s a long story, but after considering the options, we all agreed to wait until chemo is completed (3 more rounds after today) to reverse the colostomy…hopefully by the end of the Summer.
After meeting with the doctor, I received the IV chemo today which was round three. I think I mentioned that when they put the stomach port in they removed a 1 cm lump from the site of my incision from the original exploratory surgery. We believed it was scar tissue but after sending it to pathology, we found out today that it was cancerous. This moves me from a stage 3 to a stage 4 because the cancer is out of the peritoneal cavity. We also found out today that during the original debulking surgery, they removed a 1 ½ cm tumor from each of my ovaries. So, my "official" diagnosis is stage 4, level 3, ovarian cancer. We also learned today that patients with this kind of cancer have recurrences 75% of the time after being in remission. I don’t think this should cause any more fear because we are already taking all the steps to fight the cancer.
Although our prayers for a miracle right now weren’t the answer we were hoping for, we did get an answer . . . it will happen in His time. It’s kinda like reading a book. We have been through many chapters in this book right now. I was hoping we were ready for the final chapter but it turns out there are a few more. Some days I wish I could peek ahead at those chapters but we are not supposed to live for tomorrow or in the past but simply in today. That is what we will continue to do. As Brian put it, there must be more people out there that need to see us shining! Although I was initially disappointed, God has come through yet again and has given me peace with this. I am always sad when I come to the end of a good book so we’ll just keep living and reading this book with the ups and downs until we reach the end. Actually, the final chapter in all of our books is already guaranteed to have the best ending possible – meeting God face to face! I’m going to enjoy these many chapters ahead because they allow my time here with my family and friends. We continue to believe this is not the end and will fight this cancer with everything we have. In God’s time I will be healed.
Thank you for your bold prayers and I will close with some more requests:
*Brian was awesome today. He was silly and fun and encouraging, not to mention incredibly handsome! Please continue to pray that he will have peace and patience and energy to get through this week with me.
*The kids are doing great – please pray that they will continue to stay healthy
*The blood transfusion. This will probably take place on Wednesday. Pray that the blood I will receive will bring my numbers up without any side effects.
*Prayers of thankfulness for the people out there that donate their blood – I have always admired them and now have a new appreciation for them!
*That my energy levels will stay up this week. With the shots for my white blood count, the transfusion for the red blood count, potassium pills and iron pills, I will hopefully not get so physically down this time.
*That during my lower energy times this week I will remember to focus on God and spend more time reading the bible where all my inspiration comes from.
*Prayers of praise that my doctor and nurse are so wise and knowledgeable and yet sensitive to our needs and wishes
As always, thank you isn’t enough but it’s all I have so please accept our sincere gratitude!
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be up in front of church talking to many, many people. Let alone volunteer to do it! I am still amazed that I wasn’t very nervous. Today God gave me the words that He wanted said and gave me the calmness to do it. I received very insightful words from a friend of my sisters (thanks again Mitch!) that said God does not ask for our ability, but only our avail”ability”. I am more than happy to do what God tells me to do but I do have to admit some days I am thinking “you want me to do what?!”.
Well, tomorrow brings round three of chemo. We will be meeting with the doctor at 9:00 and after that we go downtown for the chemo. At this appointment he will discuss the results of the stomach port and where my treatment should go from here. We have our opinion of where we would like to go and are praying that the doctor’s is the same.
I am so thankful for all of you and your prayers and all the help you offer. Emily will be shuffled between a couple different places this week and I know she will do great. We really appreciate all of you that help us with the kids during this week after chemo. The chemo knocks me down hard and I have a difficult time functioning on my own let alone taking care of the children. This is an especially hard week for Brian as he sees me at my worst and takes over all of the daily routines at home. I don’t know what I would do without him. Today was a huge emotional high for me and I will cling to that during this next week.
Please pray for:
Anyone that met God through my words today – that they will take that next step to finding out more about this awesome God we have!
Tomorrow’s appointment with the doctor – that we will all be on the same page with the treatment
The kids as they have a hard time seeing me so tired and not able to do anything with them
Brian as deals with the every day tasks and wipes away my tears and is my shiny hero
My CA125 level will be checked tomorrow – the normal count is 35. It was at 380 at my last round of chemo. Let’s pray that the last chemo blasted it right down to 35!
My parents are coming back from Mexico on Thursday (woohoo!!). Please pray that their last days there will continue to be peaceful and relaxing and that they will have a safe trip home.
Thank you again for your unending prayers and amazing support that you have shown our family during this trial.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
04/19/2007 10:55 PM
My nurse called this afternoon and my platelet count went from 28,000 to 113,000!!!! This is obviously an answer to many prayers!! I was stunned. So, no more blood tests until Monday – woohoo!!! My veins did a happy dance after hearing that! This also means I can do chemo on Monday. They don’t have the results of the distribution test yet (to know whether or not they can use my stomach port). I did have some swelling where they injected the dye on Tuesday night. After lying down for ½ hour the swelling went away. He thinks this was a possible leakage in the tube and my doctor is concerned about that. If the chemo leaks out it would be dangerous. My nurse doesn’t think that the doctor will want to do the stomach port with this round of chemo. I have decided that I do not want to do the stomach port this round, regardless of what he says. Thank goodness for patient rights! I am feeling very confident that the cancer is gone but still feel that we should do one more round of chemo (only in my chest port). After this round, the plan is to do the surgery to reverse my colostomy (woohoo again!!!!!!) and at that time they can check to see if there is any cancer (so they can see with their eyes what I believe in my heart) and also check to see how the stomach port is doing.
I have been on such an emotional high since Wednesday afternoon and it has been wonderful. My faith has grown stronger as my prayers have grown bolder. I do realize that we still have obstacles to overcome but for right now I am asking that if it is God’s will, He remove this cancer. I asked my nurse if they have had any miracle healings at their office and she said they had and that they would love to have more so I told her that I will be their next one. All your prayers are moving mountains for me!
I have been wanting to share my testimony for quite some time but hadn’t gotten up the nerve to ask our minister about it. I e-mailed him last night to let him know that I would be willing to do that whenever he thought was appropriate and I have been asked to share it this Sunday. I am so excited and thrilled to be able to do this! So many people are out there that don’t receive these e-mails and the only thing they know about me is that I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and am receiving chemo. We all know there is so much more to the story! I have such a purpose in life now and look forward to shining and sharing. For those of you who don’t know me, I have always been a quiet person, even painfully shy in high school. So, this is as about as far out of my comfort zone as I can go and yet I’m not feeling nervous. Okay, so maybe a little bit! But I am confident that God will give me the right words so that I can shine and show many people how great and powerful God is!
Continuing to shine,
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Oh, but wait. The Dr. called about 2:20 according to my Dad. So Kristi called him back. They messed up the scan and wanted us to come back. So, back to Blodgett we go! We went back to Blodgett and they repeated the entire process all over. While at Blodgett, I got a call from Steve Dozeman, who was watching Mom and Dad’s house while they were in Mexico. There was a water leak in the basement and about an inch of water on the floor!! The sump pump came unattached from a pipe and was pumping water into the basement. So after getting home from the hospital the 2nd time I went over to their house and fixed the cracked check valve and cleaned up. I called Denny to help me and we cleaned until about 10:30PM. What a day!
Here it is in Kristi's words...
04/17/2007 10:30 PM
What a day! There were a lot of mix-ups and confusion. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected! I did pass the blood test this morning – my platelet count was 28 (it needed to be over 25). I had the dye put into my stomach port and then had a cat scan. We had a nice lunch at On The Border and got home around 2:30. Unfortunately the cat scan didn’t go low enough on my abdomen and they needed me to come back. So, back we went. They tried another cat scan but the dye had already gotten out of my system so back to the beginning we went. The put more dye in and back to the cat scan I went. This time the doctor looked at the results before we left. Many other things went wrong along the way as well. On the way back to the hospital I was praying that I wouldn’t need to have more dye put in (as it wasn’t a fun experience). This wasn’t the plan though. However, I did have a peace during the procedure and was joking with the doctor and nurses. Everyone was extremely apologetic and felt awful for everything that went wrong. They thanked me for my understanding and wonderful attitude. So, as Brian said, the purpose of having to return was to "shine" some light on these doctors and nurses. I felt very good on the way home and at peace.
I had to call my doctor tonight because I had some swelling where they put the dye in. Apparently this isn’t uncommon. After laying down for ½ hour the swelling went away. While I was on the phone, my doctor expressed a lot of concern about the hit that my platelet count took after the last round of chemo. I have to go in on Thursday to have my blood drawn (I get tomorrow off!!!). They will be calling me with the results. It is possible that I may not be able to have chemo next week because it is still so low. I am torn over this because although the thought of not having chemo sounds wonderful, I also know that I need the chemo.
I am continuing to pray boldly that I will be cured of this now. After praying last night and simply letting it go, I got the best nights sleep I had in a long time. I know that God has a plan for me. I don’t know that it is to take this cancer from me now but I am feeling compelled to ask that of Him. I pray that this is His will for me but I also know that if this is not His will than He has another plan that is even better than mine. I asked today that I wouldn’t have to go through the procedure of putting the dye in my port but as I said, that wasn’t the plan. Instead, God restored my peace and I have no anger over the confusion of the day. I know His way is better than mine.
Ironically, today was Brian and my 14th wedding anniversary. Although I don’t recommend celebrating your anniversary at the hospital, I am glad that I got to spend the day with him. One thing the cancer has done is brought us closer than I ever thought imaginable. I hope this doesn’t sound corny, but he is my knight in shining armor.
Well, I didn’t mean to e-mail your ear off. Just wanted to keep you posted. I don’t know how we would get through this without all of you. What an amazing support system we have! Here are some specifics for prayers . . .
*focus on one day at a time, one test at a time, one minute at a time
*my blood counts will sky rocket!
*I will continue to stay healthy and free of infection
*praise for safe travels today and the opportunity to "shine" in a hospital that wasn’t having a very good day
*continued feeling of peace – it is so amazing when you surrender completely to God and have that peace
I think that is it for now. Thank you!!!
Love & Hugs,
Monday, April 16, 2007
04/16/2007 09:32 PM
I have so much going on in my head right now that I’m not sure where to start. I hope I don’t just blab on and on and confuse you. I’ll do my best! Our life has been such an emotional roller coaster lately. I had my blood drawn yesterday and today. My platelet count dropped to 26,000 on Sunday. They said it is normal to spike and then drop after a transfusion. I have to go into the lab tomorrow at Blodgett Hospital before my distribution test. If my platelets go down to 25,000 they will postpone the test. I can’t remember why but I remember it making sense when she told me. Basically right now it’s a day by day watching my blood levels kind of thing. If the numbers don’t start going up I won’t be able to have chemo next week either.
I have been struggling with how to pray lately. I know I have encouraged you to pray boldly that I will defeat this cancer. Lately I have been feeling like I need to step it up a notch. I am asking for a miracle. I want this cancer gone and I want it gone now! Part of me has felt selfish about this but I keep getting nudges that this is what I should ask for. So, I am asking you to join with me in praying boldly that this cancer flees from my body. God is more powerful than any chemo and any doctor.
I know I usually end with specifics but right now I am only asking that we pray together boldly for this miracle. I know God is up to something big here and I can’t wait to see what it is!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Wow, what a surprise. Two friends stopped by with a couple of gifts. It was Emily's birthday so we thought they were just gifts for her. Little did we know! We had Emily open the first gift (thinking it was for her) and discovered five orange t-shirts. We opened the next gift which was a huge matted frame with signatures filling in every single white spot. These were people who had bought a Courage to Shine t-shirt as part of a fund raiser for us. Along with this was a letter explaining the fund raiser that was done on our behalf. We were speechless. I can't explain the feeling of freedom this gave us. The stress of the mounting medical bills was taken away.
04/14/2007 10:00 PM
Okay so I knew you were all awesome prayer warriors but I didn’t know how sneaky you were! We were blessed this morning with five beautiful bright orange t-shirts, a beautiful frame filled with encouraging words and signatures and an extremely generous check! I’m at a loss for words. Tears took place of our words this morning as we absorbed what you have all done for us. I felt a huge burden lifted from us both financially and emotionally. We are all in this together and you all have shined back at us so bright we have our sun glasses on! I have to admit this process has been taking a toll on us and what you did for us has reminded us of our purpose in this – to SHINE! I can’t imagine going through this without all of you. There is no way we could ever thank you enough! You’ll never know the impact this had on our family. Thank you for shining with us during this dark time. God’s light is brighter than any darkness. Let’s shine together and show this world just how awesome our God is!!!!
Love & hugs,
Brian, Kristi, Ashley, Nathan & Emily
Friday, April 13, 2007
Good news! My doctor called tonight and my platelet count is back to normal! I don’t have to have my blood drawn tomorrow but I do need to on Sunday. I’m just glad to get one day off! I will have to have it drawn again on Monday and then they will decide then if I need to continue with the shots for my white blood count. Brian gave me the shot tonight and Nathan even watched. There is a chance of bone pain as a side effect with this shot and fortunately I haven’t gotten that. I am still tired today but getting stronger. Thank you for all your prayers – we can feel them. Please pray that my counts will continue to go up and stay up and that I will stay healthy. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
04/12/2007 09:20 PM
What a crazy week! Fortunately my hives went away and didn’t come back. I had a home health nurse come today. I don’t think I mentioned in yesterday’s e-mail that I need to have a shot every day to stimulate my white blood cell growth. I had one in the hospital and we need to give them at home over the weekend. Brian actually gave me the shot today in my stomach and he loved it! Too crazy. The needle is so small that I don’t even feel it. The nurse was very impressed with him. Add one more thing to his list of many talents! The shots cost over $2000 but fortunately we were able to have our insurance cover it. It only took a couple phone calls and we had to pay $100 out of our own pocket. I don’t know what we would do without insurance!
My parents made it safely to Mexico (hi mom & dad!!!). They will be there for two weeks and are staying with my aunt (my dad’s sister). Please continue to keep them in your prayers that they will be able to relax and have a wonderful well deserved vacation.
I was thinking today that I wish life had a stop button or a pause button. I’d love to rewind and then just hit the fast forward button through this time. It does become overwhelming at times and I wonder how I’ll ever get through. I know I couldn’t do it without my huge network of prayer warriors. You have all been so amazingly supportive and encouraging. Please continue to just cover us in prayers for healing and patience. I see God’s hand at work through this entire experience and that is what keeps me going.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
04/11/2007 09:32 PM
You know the saying "one step forward, two steps back"? Well, that’s what happened this week. The mammogram results were a great step forward but today we went back. I was at my doctors to have my incision checked from the stomach port. They had my blood test results from yesterday and were concerned about how low my blood count was so they drew it again today while I was there and it had dropped even more. As my doctor put it, my counts are "in the toilet". Because they were so low, I was at risk for an infection and if I should fall and cut myself, I wouldn’t be able to stop the bleeding. So, they sent me to the hospital for a platelet transfusion. (that was step one back). After about 15 minutes into the infusion, I started having an allergic reaction and had hives from head to toe within minutes (step two!). They gave me a dose of benadryl and then continued the transfusion. Thankfully the hives have started disappearing and that was the only reaction I had.
The kids did really well with the last minute changes in their plans for today and we have great friends who stepped in and took care of them for us (thanks Sheryl, Sheri & Karin!!!). Please pray that my counts will start to go up and that I won’t need another transfusion. I will be having a blood test tomorrow and Friday and possibly the weekend as well – depending on the results. They are still planning on having the distribution test next Tuesday morning. We are trying hard to just focus on one step at a time right now.
Please also keep my parents in your prayers. They are leaving on a very early flight tomorrow morning for Mexico for a vacation. I know it is hard for them to go especially with something like this happening. Please pray for safety and that they can just let go and have a great time.
Thanks for your prayers!
Monday, April 9, 2007
Love & hugs,
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Well, today is Easter. Resurrection Sunday. Today is the day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead so that we who believe in Him can have everlasting life. What a gift! I hope you all enjoyed your Easter celebrations!
Pastor Frank’s message this morning really hit close to home for our family. It’s a good thing I was working the video camera today because if I was sitting next to Kristi I probably would have started sobbing. The tears were on edge, but the job of running the camera and Jim Geertsma yelling in my headphones was a good distraction. The word picture Pastor Frank used today describing family members sitting around a bed watching a loved one suffer is not just a word picture in this house. I lay in bed every night and watch Kristi suffer. The pain. The nausea. The constant fatigue. "The bag". I save my tears for bed time so Kristi doesn’t have to see them…she has enough to deal with she doesn’t need to see that. We had a tough weekend. Kristi was very fatigued and sore all weekend. It was a miracle in itself that Kristi made it to church this morning. Yesterday she had to miss an Easter celebration and Emily’s birthday party with my family. Imagine as a mother not being able to celebrate your daughter’s 3rd birthday. It hurts. It sucks. Cancer sucks (sorry to be blunt). But rest assured, the tears aren’t tears of surrender. We’re not angry at God, and we’re certainly not giving up. We know that God is using us to spread a message…and we know it’s working. We know God is using Kristi to bring people either closer to God, or in some cases back to God. We know this first hand. We’ve received several e-mails from people from around the world that begin something like this: "You don’t know me, but…". It’s amazing. Incredible. And for that we are excited. But it’s tough. I cry because it’s tough to watch someone I’ve loved for 15+ years suffer from a cruel sickness. It’s easy to get down emotionally when you get fatigued. So I thank Pastor Frank for the reminder this morning…the reminder that Jesus Christ is alive!! Amen.
For those that didn’t know, Kristi’s last CT scan showed an "irregularity" in her right breast. They think the scan just picked up part of her chemo port, but she has to go in to Zeeland Hospital tomorrow for a mammogram to rule any more cancer out. With her already having cancer, of course we’re a little anxious about this. So…
Some specific prayer requests (772-0110):
· Monday’s mammogram is at 12:30. For those women who have had one you know what she is in for. Please pray that the discomfort is minimal and that the "irregularity" is just that, the chemo port, and nothing else. Nada. Zero. Zilch. She won’t get results until mid-end of the week (we think).
· Pray that we will be lifted back up emotionally.
· Kristi’s stomach has been hurting a lot lately. Not sure if it’s just the scar tissue or what. But Kristi is in a lot of discomfort. Pray that the pain gets better in the coming days.
· Kristi continues to struggle with her colostomy bag. It’s a huge hassle. Pray that the bag starts working soon, or better yet, they can reverse it soon.
· Ashley is opening up more and asking more questions. She has been crying a lot at night because she is "scared for mommy". Please pray for comfort and understanding for Ashley.
· Pray that the coming days/weeks give us good rest. We’ve both been struggling lately at getting a good night’s sleep…and for once it hasn’t been the kids keeping us awake – just our minds.
· The support continues to come in ways of not only prayer, but people cleaning our house, our yard, meals, etc. Prayer of thanks for all of this support!
Thanks for all the prayers – we love you all!
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Sorry for such a long delay! This last round of chemo knocked me down pretty hard. Because of the surgery I had a week before chemo, my blood counts were quite low. My body is taking extra long to fight back this time. I also came down with the flu bug on Sunday. Major bummer. After lots of resting Sunday and Monday I am feeling better today. I am still quite weak and tire easily which is very frustrating for me. I have also started having neuropathy in my feet. This is a side effect that typically comes more into the 3rd or 4th round of chemo. My feet are tingly and numb and now I have a pain in my right foot. My nurse said that this should fade. I am also starting to feel it in my hands as well. Right now it is tolerable but I am hoping it fades quickly!
The kids are all healthy and enjoying their spring break. Thanks to many of our friends and family, they have been going to fun places and having a great time! I am so grateful to everyone that has helped with the kids recently as I wasn’t even able to take care of myself. It’s really hard to sit still. God knew I was struggling with this because while I was reading a devotional last night He gave me this verse . . . . You, Lord, will fight for me; help me only to be still . . . which is from Exodus 14:13-14. I love God moments!
We have been so blessed with meals and child care and cards and so much more. I could never say thank you enough. It has been a long battle and we still have a long ways to go but we are still confident that we will defeat this cancer with God’s help. I have many specific prayer requests and am so grateful to all of you who lift them up.
*please pray that the neuropathy in my hands and feet will subside
*continued good health for our family
*I will continue to get stronger every day and my blood counts will rise back on their own
*continued focus on the here and now
* Brian’s getting worn down and tired. Pray for new strength and patience.
*That I will continue to grow in my relationship with God. It is so easy to try and take the wheel and pretend to take control. I miss the closeness that I had with God during my week in the hospital and want to have that back.
*the kids seem to be adjusting to my new "look" and are doing well. Pray that they will continue to grow with us and be open during this time