Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007: Keep Those Prayers Coming!

Wow, so far so good. Kristi had a great day! Just tired - no nausea yet! She even did 3 loads of laundry and emptied the dish washer! We had another great dinner complements of the Rietmans, and we got another baby fix with baby Brynn! Last round Kristi was in bed and dry heaving by now. Even though it's only been one day, we celebrate one day at a time. So thanks for all the prayers. The prayer pager has been going off quite a bit today. Thank you!! Please keep the prayers coming - they're working. We are very thankful for the day today.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007: Chemo day - Round 7!

We went in for chemo this morning and it went "hiccup" free. I slept a lot of the afternoon. My brother came and visited with Brian for a bit which is really nice since I'm not much of a conversationalist when I'm sleeping! We had friends bring us an awesome supper this evening and joined us for dinner. Other than being tired, I am feeling pretty good so it was nice to visit. They have an adorable six week old baby girl so it was really nice to get my baby fix in too! Thanks Ryan & Aimee!

I'm mentally prepared for some down time. Right now I feel like I could sleep for a couple days! So far the nausea is very minimal. We have the kids bouncing from here to there this week and am praying that they will do well. Especially Nathan as he is a home-body. They are going to places that they are very comfortable at so I'm sure they will do well.

Brian's trip is still in the "what do we do now" stages. They tried to reschedule the ferry trip but all the boats are full through next week Wednesday. So, they can either leave on the early Friday morning ferry or go somewhere else. I think that Brian wants to wait and see how hard the chemo hits me before he goes anywhere. There are a couple different options in the air right now and as always, it's a wait and see process. Not Brian's favorite :)

* So, please pray that God will make clear what Brian's plans need to be this week.

* Continue to keep Ashley in your prayers as she is at camp.
* Pray that Emily & Nathan will adjust to their comings & goings as well.
* Pray that when I am down this week that I will remember to look up!

This is a picture of me and my chemo nurse, LaDon. There is an inside joke with the candy cigs! :)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007: Great News

Kristi got blood work done today and we got the results already...her platelet level is up to 152,000. That means she will have chemo tomorrow. Praise God!! While we're not excited for chemo to knock Kristi down again, we are excited to get this round over with. We are well rested up after a bonus weekend and ready to get back in the trenches. What a nice weekend...we didn't do a thing this weekend but rest. After this round we should be down to the final 3 rounds. What a journey!

* Please pray that everything goes smoothly tomorrow and that the side effects will be less severe than last round.
* Ashley is going off to Camp Geneva for 2 nights. This will be her first time away for camp. Pray that she doesn't get scared and that she has a good time.
* Pray that as the other kids get shuffled around this week that they will not only be safe, but that they will have a good time no matter where they end up.
* Pray for a low CA125 number tomorrow. We're not sure if they're going to check it or not, but if they do we're hoping for a number lower than 60.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Ephesians 3: v. 16 - 17

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007: Living, With Cancer

It's funny...we got a comment the other day from my old friend Navin and he suggested we should change the name of our blog. What's funny is that we were just discussing that a few days before. We watched a show on PBS a couple months back called "Living With Cancer". It was a documentary about a guy that was living with cancer and how it affected his life. The one thing I noticed about the documentary was how this guy let cancer take over his life. Easy to do. We can relate. I'm certainly not knocking the guy...he had brain cancer and was told he only had a few months to live. I liked the simplicity of that title "Living With Cancer", but I didn't like the implication that cancer forced its way into his life and took it over. I want to let people know that we are LIVING - even with cancer. We are not going to let cancer take over our lives. Sure, we have our bad days...caused by cancer. You got to see first hand how cancer brought me down last week. I went through a 2 week period where I was extremely frustrated. It wasn't until I was reminded by Kristi that God is in control, not me, that I started coming around. The past few days have been great. We even got stuck in a traffic jam recently and I was the one consoling Kristi! So even though cancer wiggled its way into our lives, we pushed it back out and kept on living!

So, I thought "Living, With Cancer" was more appropriate. The comma after "Living" indicates that we are still living our lives to the fullest and we're not going to let cancer take it over...cancer's just along for the ride. I know, not very creative since I basically stole it from PBS, but hey, why reinvent the wheel?!

So here it is, the new blog title. I like to keep mixing it up every now and then. As Kristi implied a couple nights ago...I'm not one to sit still. I like change.

So anyway, things around here have been pretty quiet this weekend...just the way we like it! We will update the blog tomorrow night with some specific prayer requests before chemo. Have a great night!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007: A quiet weekend

What a crazy week! I am really glad that I was able to see some of vacation bible school this week and feel the energy of the kids (and had a lot of compassion for the exhausted teachers!).

I don't have any new medical news but wanted to share a verse I found in a book I'm reading today. "Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life". Proverbs 4:23. Interesting, I just looked the verse up on bible.com and it's quite a bit different in the NIV. The verse I wrote is from NCV which to be honest, I don't even know what that is!

Anyway the book I am reading is called Every Day Deserves a Chance by Max Lucado. It is excellent (as are all his books!). We can easily let one thing ruin an entire day. I could let cancer ruin many days but I choose not to and by God's grace I am able to.

I've had a couple talks with my mom about how we are able to handle this. We've both had people come to us and say that they would never be able to handle it. Some times we wonder if we are in denial. I have said a couple different times that it's either denial or blind faith. I choose to believe it's my faith. Not only that, but it is the many thousands of prayers being said for us that are lifting that burden.

Unfortunately, I don't think Brian has the ability to let things roll as much as I do. I'm not saying his faith isn't strong enough, it's just that he has always liked to have things in order - a place for everything and everything in it's place. He likes to be able to plan things and know he can count on it to happen. We're talking about a man who sits at a red light and gets mad if there aren't any other cars going through the other way because we're wasting time. He likes to be busy.

This is both a blessing and a burden. I know if there is something to be done around the house, he will get it done right away. I know this has helped him in his career as he can be counted on to get the job done. The "wait and see" and day to day plan changes make things very frustrating for him. So, my prayer request of the day is that Brian will have a coat of Rain-X applied over him (not literally!) so that things that we can't control can just hit him and roll right off.

When a burden comes your way, look beneath it for the blessing. It's there. If there is blessing hidden in cancer, there are blessings everywhere! You all are a huge part of this blessing. Your prayers and support through fund raisers and meals and child care and much, much more has blessed us hugely. I can only hope that others walking through difficult times have been as blessed as we have been.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

CA125 = 76

2300 - 780 - 380 - 163 - 174 - 115 - 102 - 76 - ??

Thursday, July 26, 2007: No chemo this week

I got the results from my blood test this morning and my platelets went up to 42,000. Unfortunately this isn't even close to where they need to be. The new plan is for me to go to the emergency room on Sunday (since there aren't any labs open) and have my blood drawn then. My nurse will call me at 8:00 AM Monday morning to let us know if the number went up enough to have chemo.

Although I was originally disappointed, I am also excited to have a weekend where I am feeling good. My brother and his wife are taking our kids overnight Friday night and even though it would have worked great if we had chemo on Friday, I am even more excited about having a night "off" and not being beat down from the chemo.

Brian might be able to postpone his trip a couple days next week if necessary. Hopefully I will be able to have chemo on Monday so it won't alter his plans too much. He really needs to go have his boys' weekend and recharge.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007: Still waiting

We went to the oncologist this morning and had a good check-up. I had my blood drawn and although my counts are better, they still aren't where they need to be. My CA125 level went down to 76 (from 102) and my platelet count went up to 30,000. Brian mentioned in yesterday's update that it needs to be 80,000. Actually, they would like it to be at 100,000 before the next chemo.

I will go in tomorrow morning to have my blood drawn again. I am praying that my counts will really jump tonight so that I can have chemo on Friday. Not that I am overly excited to have chemo - it would just work best if I can have it this week so that Brian can still go on his trip to Beaver Island next week.

Speaking of Brian, he is doing much better today. He was quite frustrated yesterday, as I'm sure you figured out after reading his update. He always feels much better after venting his frustrations in his updates. It's great therapy for him.

Although we are a bit frustrated with the daily wait and see lifestyle, we are hanging in there. We have been so blessed with people willing to be flexible with childcare, meals that are being brought and the many prayers being said.

I was able to catch the last couple minutes of VBS this morning and was very excited to see all the singers wearing their Courage to Shine shirts! Every time I see one of those shirts I am reminded of all the people that care for us and support us. The upside of not having chemo yet is that I have been able to spend some time this week enjoying VBS. I typically help during this week and love the energy and excitement that fills the church every day. It's hard for me to acknowledge that I am not physically able to help this year but next year I will be back on the team!

Well, you have had lots of updates lately and some long ones! Thank you for reading and praying. It really is helpful for us to type our feelings out and also wonderful that we will have this to look back at when we have finished this journey. I look forward to the day when we look back and say "remember when" and "look how far we've come!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007: Ashley's 10!

Today is Ashley’s 10th birthday. Hard to believe she’s 10. So to celebrate we went to Craig’s Cruisers for pizza…Ashley’s choice. We had a nice time tonight celebrating her birthday and our friend Janna even had birthday cupcakes ready for us when we got to their house. The kids are staying there tonight (Dantuma’s) because we have an early morning doctor’s visit. We were supposed to have chemo tomorrow, but…

Well, the original plan was we were going in for chemo tomorrow; but, Kristi’s platelet count is still too low. We are on a day for day wait until her count gets back up. It’s currently at 19,000 and needs to get to 80,000 for chemo. The transfusion she had last week didn't work as well as last time. So we just wait. Oh yeah, “go live your life” they told us…just be willing to drop everything on a moment’s notice. Frustrating. Maddening. But, just part of living with cancer. When Kristi called me at work today I let out a loud laugh and pounded my fists on my desk. I think I bordered on insanity for a couple minutes today. You see, we’re trying to “live our lives”, but cancer keeps getting in the way. Certainly no fault of Kristi’s. She feels terrible and I feel bad for her. I don’t know what I’m mad at. The cancer. That’s it. Just the cancer. I hate it. Does it make me feel better to get angry? Well, no, but how do you not get angry? The greatest leaders and the men considered “most Godly” in the bible got angry. They yelled at God. Questioned Him. So yes, I feel perfectly justified in getting angry. I hate it.

I’m organizing a golf outing for work for this week Thursday. Not the most ideal timing, but it was going to work with chemo being tomorrow. Oopsie, but hold on. Might not happen. Just wait day by day, can you? Be ready to jump when I say “jump”. Well, the golf outing will go on, might just be without me. Not a big deal. Guess I’ll have to make other arrangements “just in case” because I have so much extra time on my hands I can spend it making back-up plans for everything we do. All the sitters we had lined up…oopsie, never mind. Oh, and my annual guys’ weekend to Beaver Island next weekend…that was also going to work perfectly with chemo tomorrow. Planned so nicely, in fact. But, hold on!! Better have a back-up plan. Oh well, maybe next year. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Thank you. I feel much better. I got all of the sarcasm out of my system. Man that feels good. Refreshing. Yes, I’m frustrated. A friend mentioned to me this morning that it’s been a while since they’ve seen a bible verse in our blog. Why is that? I don’t know. This comes at a time when I’m a little frustrated. So maybe Psalm 30 is appropriate… ”To you, O Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy” v. 8. That seems fitting. If you remember last week’s entry titled “A Little Mercy Please”, well, that verse just seems timely. This will pass. Good times will return. It’s just that time of the cycle.

We did get a nice break, however. We had a nice 10 day stretch where we went on 2 boat rides, attended a benefit in our behalf, went to the beach one night, and Craig’s Cruisers tonight. So, it was a good stretch. But, when you live with cancer you realize that these times are short lived and the next chemo is right around the corner. We’re really looking forward to this fall when this is all behind us. The daily grind of living with cancer is definitely taking its toll.

So tomorrow we just meet with the Oncologist. We leave his office and go get blood work. We’re going to ask if they can take her CA125 reading tomorrow. They probably won’t, but we think it makes sense to do. So for now, we just wait.

Okay, so now that Brian has typed his two pages, I’m just going to sneak in a little paragraph about a thought I had tonight. I was sitting at a table by myself at Craig’s Cruisers while Brian was walking around with the kids playing all sorts of fun games. So many plans have been messed up for us lately and it is definitely frustrating. The thought kept popping up in my head though – “for I know the plans I have made for you”. It’s not about our plans, it’s about God’s. He knows the plan. Although it’s frustrating for us to not know the plan, it is wonderful to know that God knows them. Once I let go of the need to control our plans, I feel much more peaceful. So, tonight I am going to bed to get a good night’s sleep and wait to see what God’s plan is for us tomorrow.

Wow, you see, I read Kristi’s entry and even I got inspired. She’s absolutely right. I’m a selfish person and I get caught up in life too much. She teaches me to refocus my priorities. Sigh. So beautiful and so inspirational.

Ashley & Nathan at Craig's Cruisers

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007: 10,000/500

We enjoyed a pretty quiet weekend. Kristi spent the afternoon in bed because of an upset stomach so the kids and I just chilled. We did manage to get out to the beach later in the afternoon with some friends - that was fun and Kristi enjoyed getting out of the house. Here are some pictures from tonight at Tunnel Park...

Wow, amazingly beautiful, isn't she?!

Ashley & Nathan with their friends Paige & Kaleb at Tunnel Park

Just a cool sailboat passing by

The blog passed 2 milestones this week. First, it passed its 10,000th hit and second, Kristi's video was watched for the 500th time. Pretty incredible. We don't get anything for this, but it's neat to see. In case you wanted to watch it again, I re-posted the video at the end of today's posting.

Some specifics to pray for this week:

* That Kristi's stomach will settle down
* Our moods as Wednesday approaches and we will likely start to slip a little towards depression as the good times come to an end for a while.
* Kristi's blood counts raise so she can have chemo on Wednesday
* Kristi's weight as she has lost a few pounds again.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007: Date night!

What a beautiful day! Brian and I enjoyed a night out tonight. We went to a movie, and had dinner afterwards. It's always so nice to get away. Towards the end of the evening I noticed our moods going down. I think it's because we knew we were almost done and when we got home cancer would be there waiting for us. Also, part of the movie dealt with the main character losing his wife 3 years prior and him coping with her loss. Brian had a hard time with some scenes in the movie. There was one part where this guy finally built up enough strength to empty out her closet. Brian was in a great mood all day and I noticed after the movie his mood changed. I think parts of the movie hit him kind of hard - even though it was supposed to be a comedy.

It's kind of bittersweet - the joy of getting out and the reality of coming home. I was thinking about this on the way home and how frustrating it is that our moods can change so quickly. I didn't want to be down so I tried to change my mood by finding something positive. I looked out the window and saw a very beautiful sky. The clouds were soft and different colors as the sun was setting. If we try hard enough, we can find the silver lining in every cloud. Of course right after that we passed a farm that was very smelly. I thought it was a bit ironic - the beautiful site with the horrible smell. Life is like that all too often. I try so hard to focus on the positive but all too often the negative side wins. I'll keep trying though because I definitely enjoy the positive so much more!

I went in to have my blood drawn this morning. The vein in my left arm is getting very tough and they weren't able to get blood from it today. Fortunately the right arm was more cooperative. Not a fun time though. The hospital was supposed to call the results to my doctor and he would call me if I needed to go back in tomorrow. He didn't call which means I get tomorrow off - yea! My veins are ready for a break.

Some prayer requests:
*that my veins will heal
*it will be a crazy week with the kids going to VBS and my chemo on Wednesday. The kids will be doing a lot of coming and going to different places
*that my blood counts stay up so I am able to have chemo on Wednesday
*our focus stays day to day
*prayer of thanks that we were able to get out tonight with safe travels
*safety for me - with my platelet count low I could bleed very easily if I would injure myself
*the kids bedtime routine - we are having a hard time getting the kids to bed and keeping them in bed - specifically Ashley. I think her mind tends to wander and she has a hard time shutting things off. It's hard for Brian and I to have any time together when the kids are getting out of bed.

That's it for now - keep those prayers coming!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007: Counts

Kristi's blood counts are still low even after the transfusion this week. She is going in daily to Holland Hospital to have her blood levels checked. Please pray that her blood count goes up before her next chemo, specifically her red blood cell and platelet count. Her veins are getting hard because of scar tissue build up due to the repeated blood draws and this makes it very painful for her to get her blood drawn. Please pray that these daily blood draws will end soon and that the pain is bearable for her.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007: Poker Run

The 7th annual Poker Run was a big success last night. We had a great time on Bruce's boat and the weather was perfect. It was a much bigger event than we were anticipating, that’s for sure! We were expecting something like a 10x10 tent with 30-50 people or so hanging around. What we saw when we got off the boat was hundreds of people milling around and this huge tent full of raffle prizes with corporate sponsors. It was incredible. We really had no idea. So we just sat at a table out on the lower deck at Coral Gables (in Saugatuck) most of the night taking it all in. Kristi was too tired to walk around, and I wasn’t about to leave her side, so we just sat there. It was like everything was in slow motion. Surreal. It's really a hard feeling to explain. All these people and all this work...for us. What does one say?! How does a person even begin to thank people for this? I got the microphone, looked up at 2 tiers of decks and what seemed like hundreds of people staring at us, applauding, and I was speechless. All I could muster up was 'thank you', handed the microphone back, then felt like running and hiding. Sorry if you were expecting some inspirational speech. If so, I guess I blew it. I was just speechless and that’s the best I could come up with.

This whole thing was very reminiscent of a benefit we were at in January. Amazingly similar. Except last night we were on the receiving side. I have to admit, selfishly, it was much nicer being on the other side of the table. In January we just went home like everyone else and went on with our lives. It wasn’t until 2 weeks later that our lives were changed forever. This is definitely a bittersweet thing. We are extremely grateful for everything that was done and all the work. It's just a really awkward feeling being on the receiving side because we know why this is being done. I guess you wouldn’t understand unless you are in our shoes. Pray you never are.

So after the benefit we went home and went to bed and just laid there talking to about 1:00 in the morning. We were both pretty down afterwards. Like I said – it was very surreal. Weird. Hard to explain. On one hand, it was very amazing; incredible in fact. On the other hand, Kristi still has cancer. Kristi still has chemo next week. That doesn’t change. I’m hoping for a different ending than the one in January. What can I say, I’m a selfish person. We were both pretty down today. Not because of the benefit – that was awesome. We’re both just tired. Two late nights in a row. We find ourselves getting down when we’re tired. Hopefully we get a quiet weekend with lots of rest.

Here’s a picture of Kristi from last night with LeeAnn and Patti.

If you want to check out more pictures from the Poker Run, go to http://www.homes2show.com/sea100/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=950 . We haven’t looked at all of the pictures so I can’t guarantee what you will see…so I guess look at your own risk!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007: A Sleepy Start

We got home this morning at 1:00. Kristi is still sleeping, but says she feels 'OK' (I have a hard time sleeping in so I usually just lye there and poke at her...so one time when she woke up I asked her how she felt - she said 'OK, just sleepy'...but now she's sleeping again).

Overall, things went as smoothly as they could with the transfusions last night. Fortunately, we were at Holland Hospital so that made it a lot nicer; and the nurses were great too (Amy and Kristin). We definitely had a curve ball thrown at us yesterday and as much as I'd like to say we hit a home run, both of our attitudes were a little down. So, I'll say we hit a double. The nurses definitely made it much more tolerable. They were great. The one nurse (Amy) Kristi knew from Coffee Break and hadn't seen her in a couple years. So that was nice for the girls to have a reunion!

I guess in the grand scheme of things it was all just a minor inconvenience. It's done now. We should be used to this by now but every time it happens it catches us off-guard. Oh well. Hopefully Kristi will be able to go on the boat ride tonight. We'll update again tonight or tomorrow (depends when we get back tonight) and tell you how things went at the Poker Run.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007: Here We Go Again

When we first met with Kristi’s Oncologist back in February I remember them telling us “you have cancer, so go live your lives”. HA, right! Kristi had blood work done this afternoon and at 5:00 tonight Kristi got a call from her Oncologist’s office telling her to get to the hospital within the hour for a transfusion. Her platelet level was at a critical level and she needed an immediate transfusion. So, Kristi called me at work and told me to get home. Kristi had plans tonight to go visit with her friends…one of them only in town for a few days. BUT, never mind. Not gunna happen, not tonight, no way, no how. So here we sit, well…lye, at the hospital. She’s getting red blood cells right now and we’re waiting for platelets to come from Lansing. They should be here within the hour. Originally they told us she was going to have to stay the night so we made all of the necessary child care arrangements with that in mind. Well, as of 9:32PM, they said that she will not need to stay the night and that we can go home when she’s done. And what time will that be? Should be around 2:00AM. Oh boy! So, some more phone calls and childcare is re-taken care of. Kristi’s obviously upset/annoyed by this whole ordeal…and as you can tell by my cynicism so am I. Not anything the hospital has done - just "this". She said she was so mad she wanted to spit. Wow, now that’s mad! So how are you supposed to “live your life” when you can get these calls at any time. It’s frustrating.

I got an e-mail today from an old friend of mine…my college roommate. That got me thinking about how simple life was back then. Life seemed so stressful at the time – if I only knew then what I know now. Kristi and I met just after my second year of college. Yup, June 25, 1989 (and I didn’t even need to ask her the date!). Wow, how time flies. Here’s a picture of us when we were dating (est. summer of 1990). So happy. Young and in love. That was us. Now we’re old…but still in love!! :) Check out my hair!! And look how skinny I was! I don’t think Kristi has aged a day since that picture. Well, except for the hair…she had some wild hair too!

I didn’t have a very good day today. Just spent a lot of time thinking. When times are good we need to take care of the necessary stuff while Kristi’s able to get out. I think that sent my mind wandering…Thursday we have to go to the lawyer’s office to sign the Wills and Power of Attorneys for Healthcare. That gives me authority to make decisions if she becomes unable to make her own decisions. The hospital and doctor's office have been bugging us to get this done. That’s just a depressing thought I hope we never have to exercise; but necessary to have done when you're in our boat. So you see, times are good, but there's all those little details that need to be taken care of "behind the scenes". Tomorrow Johnson Controls (where I work) is having their 7th annual Sea100 Poker Run. It’s a boat race from Holland to Saugatuck. This will be the 7th year that they have done this. They raise money every year for a “special cause”. We are the special cause this year. Once again we are blown away by the generosity of this town and the people I work with. Amazing. It’s a bittersweet thing. I’d rather not be in this situation. I’d rather be on one of the boats raising money for someone else. But, like I said before, it’s the hand we’ve been dealt so we’ll keep playing these lousy cards. I just get all these thoughts running through my head and it consumes me at times. Then I go into a pity party. Why can’t we be the ones having fun? Not that it’s not going to be fun tomorrow night, just that when we go home the cancer is still there. Maybe we should dip her into Lake Mac…I think that water would eat the cancer right out of her!! Hey, there’s an idea. Or maybe after seeing Eric in a Speedo she will laugh so hard that she will laugh the cancer out of her (Eric who?). Hmmmm. But regardless, tomorrow night will provide us again with a night out and hopefully we will (for the most part) be able to forget about the cancer for a few hours. We’re hoping anyway that Kristi will be able to go. If she can’t go she will be quite upset. She’s looking forward to the boat ride and just getting out and having some fun.

Anyway, after a not so great day at work being followed up by this, my heart is heavy tonight so I’m asking for prayers for me and the family. The kids did well in the hand-off to the VanderKolk’s (thank you VanderKolks!). It’s obviously a disruption for the kids too so please remember them in your prayers. And this is especially tough on Kristi as her plans were ruined tonight. She always feels guilty when something like this happens - like she’s inconveniencing everyone. I always tell her everyone loves to help…but you know Kristi…always thinking of everyone else.

One other note...my friend Brian’s dad’s surgery was yesterday and the last we heard it went fairly well. So prayers of thanksgiving as well as patience as they now have a long road to recovery.

Thanks and I’ll let you know tomorrow what the final plan was tonight because I’m sure it will change again. I'm tired so I think I will just post this and update it later

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007: Weekend Update

We had a really great weekend. Kristi is feeling good, my ankle is almost better and the kids are doing great. The only bad news we received is our friend Brian's dad had a mild heart attack. They discovered 5 of his arteries are blocked so he has to have quintuple bypass surgery. So obviously our prayers are going out to their family this week. (Don't confuse this with my dad...he's fine. I have a friend Brian...his dad.)

We got out last night and went on a spontaneous date. I called a babysitter at 3:30 and she came at 5:30. We went to Marios (Kristi's choice), then went to Meijer's to pick up some groceries (sad, I know), then went to Cold Stone and got some ice cream. We were only gone 2 hours but it was great! We got the kids in bed early and we watched a movie.

Today we made it to the early service to see our friends Den and Stace's daughter Brynn get baptized. Then we went to their house for a brunch afterwards...that was very nice. But, after getting up early and going to lunch Kristi was whipped...so she took a nice nap while I just chilled with the kids. Overall it was another great day!

Life just seems so good right now. Kristi is feeling good, the kids are good. Wednesday we're riding on a boat in the Poker Run. It's hard to imagine going in for chemo again. I'd like to hit that pause button and enjoy this time for a while longer. Well, we have another 10 days before chemo so we're going to enjoy this time very much.

Tonight I'm asking for the following prayers:

* Comfort for Brian's dad and family (especially his mom)
* That Kristi continues to get stronger. She has even gained 5 pounds!!!
* Our run of good health in the family continues

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007: All is well

Hooray for answered prayers! Emily is fine. The doctor sent us to the hospital for a skull x-ray which Emily did not care for. They got the results already this afternoon and called to tell us that it is just a bruise that is healing. She must have bumped her head at some point. I couldn't believe how quickly we went from the doctor, to the hospital, to having the results all in one day. That doesn't happen very often!

Brian's ankle seems a bit better today. It looks worse but he has less pain when he stands on it. He's been icing it and wrapping it and keeping it elevated. He also heard that playing golf was therapeutic for a sprained ankle so he did that this afternoon. Can't say I have too much sympathy!

I was talking to Sheryl today (she has been coordinating our meals for us) and she told me that she just hit the end of the list of people. It's been 5 1/2 months! We've had meals delivered between 1-3 times a week depending on whether it's a chemo week for me or not. You people are amazing! We have been so well taken care of.

I've had a busy week and am starting to feel a bit run down. We have a fairly quiet weekend that I'm looking forward to. Thanks for your prayers for Emily. Please continue to pray for Brian's ankle, my energy, and continued focus on one day at a time. Thank you!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007: A taste of the "normal" life

Wow, I can't believe the counter is closing in on 9000 hits! That is amazing. I have had a great week. Tuesday was a bit rough as I felt really tired and exhausted. I had forgotten about the day 8-10 slump with this chemo. Fortunately it was just Tuesday that I was down. Yesterday I was able to visit with a neighbor (Hi Sheri!) and also a friend and her adorable little one year old daughter (Hi Lori & Breanne!). It was so nice to visit and catch up and have the energy to do it. Today I went to a friend's house and Ashley and Emily got their hair cut (thanks Merry!) and also was able to visit with a friend and her girls this afternoon (Hi Heidi, Emma & Sam!).

Tonight we went downtown and had supper at Froggy's with my parents and then went to watch my brother perform downtown. It has been so nice seeing people again and catching up. During chemo week I feel so disconnected from everyone. I am pretty whipped tonight and am looking forward to a good nights sleep. More fun tomorrow though as we're going to a park in the morning with some friends.

Also tomorrow afternoon I am taking Emily to the doctor. She has a bump on her head that doesn't seem to bother her but it's just not going away. When Emily was six months old we went through a lot of testing (ct scans, MRI's) because her head was larger than the rest of her body. There was concern about possible fluid on her brain at the time but everything turned out okay. Now we're wondering if something is going on in connection with that. Hopefully it's just a bump but if you could keep that in your prayers we'd appreciate it!

Brian has sprained his ankle pretty bad if not broken it. He was playing basketball today with a friend and took a fall. It's pretty swollen and painful when he walks on it. But, being the "man" he is, he's just toughing it out. Please keep him in your prayers as well.

I received my blood work results and although my counts are low, they aren't super low. I have to do the neupagen shots again but only for five days instead of the usual ten.

Thankfully I am sleeping much better too. I had some bad dreams but did not wake up so distressed from them this time.

Some prayer requests:

*Emily's doctors appointment Friday afternoon

*Brian's ankle

*that I will continue to stay healthy and strong in-between chemo rounds

*the shots will do the trick and bring my counts back to normal

Brian's ankle

Here's a slide show Brian put together with the pictures he took tonight downtown. My brother Kevin was performing with his puppet Jacob. The music in the slide show is being performed by my brother Kevin and some of his friends.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007: Thank You!

We had a number of people come forward with wheel chair offers. Thank you very much - we have found one. Kristi had a little down time this morning but is doing a little better this evening. She is getting the day 8 - 10 'tireds'. I think this is the cause of the down time. This is also the time I start to slide a bit. I'm usually so overwhelmed with the kids, Kristi and the house for the first week after chemo that I usually don't have time to think about anything other than making sure everyone is taken care of. Once Kristi starts feeling better and taking over a lot of the house chores my time frees up, then my mood starts sliding. I can already feel myself going down. Pray that as Kristi starts feeling better that my mind doesn't start sliding and I can stay focused. Also pray that Kristi starts to feel better again (double-edged sword I guess). This in between time is bittersweet. We enjoy the time while Kristi feels good, but then it makes it more difficult when times are bad because we know how good we could be having it.

Some prayer requests:

*Kristi has not been sleeping well for the past 4 nights and when she does sleep, she has nightmares that leave her exhausted in the morning. Pray that the dreams will start to be good or stop all together.

*Pray for her blood counts. She had her blood drawn today and we are waiting to hear what the levels are. This is usually when they start to drop and we have to start the stomach shots again.

*That we will stay healthy. We have a little bit of a cold running through the house right now.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sunday, July 8, 2007: On the Rebound

Thanks for all the prayers and e-mails over the past week; this was probably our toughest week. But, we had a really nice weekend and things are looking up so we’re looking forward not backward!

Saturday I slept in until 10:00 and Kristi until 10:30!! It was great! Then we found ourselves downtown Holland at the Windmill Restaurant for breakfast...trying to pump Kristi full of fat and calories!! :) She enjoyed scrambled eggs and bacon. Next we strolled over to the farmer's market and visited CJ Veggies where we bought some of the best organic blue berries I've ever eaten. OK, they're the first organic blue berries I've ever eaten that I know of. But, they were delicious nonetheless. (Yes, this is a shameless plug for Kristi’s aunt and her husband’s organic farm business. They have the best organic vegetables around!) That was kind of fun just strolling through the farmer's market.

Next, Kristi wanted to go to Kohl’s to look at new comforters for our bedroom. She's grown tired of our old one...and it was old! I also needed some new work clothes so off shopping we went. By the time we got to Kohl's she was too tired to walk so I had to push her through the store in a wheel chair. Hmmm, pushing my 37 year old wife in a wheel chair. I thought I would have a hard time with this but I was just thrilled she was with me and we were having a great time. Of course we got the usual stares and looks of pity, but who cares – we were having fun. We also discovered that the Kohl’s in Holland is not very wheel chair friendly! :) We ended up buying a comforter set at Penny’s and Kristi loves it.

Today I had to run the video camera at church so I had to show up to church early. To my surprise, Kristi showed up at the 2nd service with all 3 kids looking adorable!! She’s amazing! She’s missed the past few weeks so she was happy she had the energy to make it today. She took a nice 4 hour nap this afternoon and is nice and rested. Hopefully we have a good stretch coming before her next chemo. The next chemo isn’t scheduled until July 25, so we’re going to enjoy the next couple of weeks.

If anyone has a wheelchair we can borrow can you please send us an e-mail? We’d like to borrow it until Kristi is done with chemo (hopefully the end of September). It would be nice to have a wheelchair so we can take family walks at night – Kristi needs to get out of the house and this would be a good way to accomplish that. Thanks!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Reflection: The Trump Card

Suppose you're playing Texas Hold 'Em and the dealer tells you before he deals the cards, "you must play your hand no matter what you're dealt"? Yup, play what you get. And no, you can’t ask for a re-deal no matter how badly you want one. On January 23, 2007 we were dealt a 2 and a 7 in this game called life. Certainly crummy cards by any stretch of the imagination. Now we had a choice to make: hold 'em or fold ‘em.

So ask yourself…what would you do? Would you fold them, not even give it a chance?! Well, we had to make that decision back on January 23, and let me tell you, as soon as Kristi saw her cards, she didn't hesitate..."all in!" Folding was not an option for her. Many people are put in this situation every day. You know that saying by Charles Swindoll "life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it"? Well, Kristi didn't even blink. She had the perfect poker face as she announced "all in" without hesitation. You see, she has the one card that trumps them all...the King of all kings...she's holding the card called God. She knew right from the start that with God at her side, arms wrapped around her, that she would be protected.

Does she have her bad days? Yup. Do I have my bad days? Yup. But we also have good days. Many of them. Do I know that Kristi struggles emotionally? Yup. Does Kristi know that I struggle emotionally, probably more than her? Yup. Kristi tried to explain this back in January..."the peace that I feel only the person dealing with this can understand". We also heard that same message from another cancer survivor that visited us that first week. I wish I could say I had the same peace, but I didn't, and I still don’t. Kristi knows this; and this person that visited us told us the same thing...that the person with the cancer will have more peace than their family.

We received some very valuable advice from a friend of mine whose wife has battled two rounds of cancer... "Talk about your situation freely with one another. We cried together, laughed together, prayed together, and just plain talked. Our friendship grew to a deeper level. You may feel alone at times, but you always have each other and you always have the Lord". So from the beginning, Kristi and I have made an extra effort to do just that. There aren't too many days that go by where we don't spend some time talking about our day. In fact, I don't think a single day has passed that we haven't.

So what is my point? Well, I know that some are wondering if the amount of honesty that we pour into our blog is healthy for us. I was asked this recently. So we spent a lot of time this weekend discussing this. I asked Kristi if her mood was being affected by the blog...and questioned whether my mood was being affected by the blog. We agreed that the answer is definitely not, and in fact is actually quite the opposite…we find that the blog helps us in many different ways. You see, Kristi understands that the cancer is affecting the entire family. Of course it is. She would be na├»ve to think differently – and I give her more credit than that. As Kristi put it this weekend..."this is a 50-50 deal". Well, it's amazing what you discover when you communicate! She told me something this weekend that surprised me. You see, I haven’t been crying on her shoulder. I do most of my crying alone, or with a friend, because I didn't want her to see that. I figured that if she saw me crying it would depress her more. After all, I’m supposed to be her “rock”, right?! What kind of a rock cries?! What I found out is that she said she needs me to cry on her shoulder. She wants me to cry on her shoulder. She flat out told be she's been longing for me to cry on her shoulder...and I've been holding it back. In her mind, that is one of the few ways that she can help me. She knows how it feels to unload a bucket of tears from time to time (as she did Wednesday night), and if I do it on her shoulder, then she feels like she is helping me in some way. She said that if I never broke down, or if she never saw me crying, she would know that I wasn’t being “real” with her. Sure, there have been times when we shared a good cry. But, come to find out, by me not crying on her shoulder it was actually hurting her. It was like I was pushing her away and that I didn't need her (in her eyes). So by reading the blog she has actually learned a thing to two – and realizes that I am not an ice cold rock. I have feelings. I get sad. Down right depressed at times – as does she. We cry out to God. Often. It’s part of living with cancer.

So yes, even we learn some things about each other that we’re not verbally communicating to each other by reading the blog. The only difference is that we have all of you reading over our shoulder…and that’s exactly what we want!! If you remember when we started the blog, one of the things we wanted to accomplish was "if we can make a difference in just one or two people that would be so incredible". We are laying it all out there for people to read: what emotions we feel each day, what happens physically to Kristi, how meds are working/not working, how the kids are doing, how I (as the spouse) am doing - everything! Why not share this? Sure, it’s no fun playing poker while holding a 2 and a 7, but if we can be an example for just one or two couples out in this wounded world we would be thrilled. It may not be cancer. It may be a family crisis; it may be the sudden loss of a loved one; whatever, the message is the same: FULLY RELY ON GOD (FROG) – no matter what cards you’ve been dealt!

So we’re going to make the very best of these cards while we can. In a little over a month, our blog has been ‘hit’ almost 8,000 times from all over the world!! The word of God and how He and prayer can pull you up out of the pitfalls of life is being spread. That’s exactly what we want. We feel we have a purpose now; a statement to make. Remember when Kristi said “you know, I wasn’t really living until now. I was gliding through life. Look out world cuz here I come!!! Put on your sun glasses because God is going to shine brightly through me!”? Well, I think people are hearing her. I know people are hearing her.

So the moral of the story is, it’s much more fun sitting at the table with a flush or a full house; it’s difficult being dealt a lousy hand. But as Kristi said “God loves us enough to challenge us”. Anyone can play with a full house, but only the truly blessed can play and win with a 2 and a 7. We will continue to play with these cards and continue to be “all in” - and with God as our trump card, we will win.

Thanks for listening (well, reading – you know what I mean).

Brian & Kristi

Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday, July 6, 2007: A Cheeseburger In Paradise

Slowly but surely Kristi is getting her strength back. She craved a cheeseburger tonight so I made a McDonald's run and got her a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake. As you can see from the picture, she enjoyed it very much (so did Rosie)! She devoured the cheeseburger in under a minute!! Last night she had a steak dinner so at least she is getting her fat and calorie intake! This is a good thing. The more she eats the stronger she will get. Doc's orders...calories...any way you can get them. He said "if it tastes good, eat it!". We're looking forward to a quiet night tonight (Kristi's brother and his wife took the kids for the night) and a quiet weekend.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thursday, July 5, 2007: Climbing up from the Bottom

What a week. I forgot how awful this type of chemo is and how hard it knocks me down. Last night was the worst as you saw from Brian's updates. I didn't realize I had some backed up tears but last night the floods came down. I couldn't stop crying for almost a half an hour and had a horrible headache afterwards. I had extreme feelings of anger and told Brian if I had the least amount of energy I may had tried to punch a hole in the wall. I was so angry and kept thinking how unfair this is. How unfair that it's an effort to even talk, that my husband has to see me go through this, that my daughter has to ask me "are you going to survive this cancer mom?". I was in a huge monster pity party. This fatigue is unexplainable. Every tiny movement wears me out.

Thankfully I slept well last night and today has been a bit better. Mostly more resting and sleeping. I am able to eat but the food has a bad taste. Not metal but just yuck. Also, the neuropathy has started in my feet again. On the positive side, the diarrhea has stopped and I don't have any stomach pain!

I am so thankful for our family and friends that have taken the kids on so that I don't even have to worry about them. They had the best time at Kim Rietvelds today (thanks so much Kim!) playing with her kids and puppies. After Brian came home with the kids we had an amazing supper brought right to our door from the Waterways (thanks Jack & Ginger!). I guess this is what you would call the silver lining on the gray clouds.

Emotionally I am doing so much better today. Even during my anger and frustration I wasn't mad at God. I'm so grateful for Him for not leaving me. How could anyone survive this without Him? I'm just angry at the "why" - "why me". I know why. So many people are being introduced to God for the first time and growing in their relationship with him because of our situation. That is our biggest job here on earth to go fishing for men. So, we endure the pain and remember joy comes in the morning. It always does.

Thank you for letting us be so honest about all this. We certainly have spilled our guts out there! Thank you for sticking with us through the good and the bad and praying us through it all. Please keep praying that my nausea will go away, my energy will return, the neuropathy in my feet will fade, and our eyes will stay focused on the prize.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wednesday, July 4, 2007: A Little Mercy Please

I'm begging God for a little mercy. Please stop the insanity. I hate it. I'm mad as hell right now. Can I say that? Why not?! You want to know my true feelings; that's how I'm feeling right now. If cancer was in this room right now I'd pummel him. Pound him to pieces. I'd have no mercy on him. Why can't we get a break?! Just once. It was a bad one today and tonight. Kristi is very down. Ready to quit. She can't quit. But I agree with Kristi...this just doesn't seem fair. I know we're impacting people, but why does it have to be so brutal?! It breaks my heart to see her like this. As she lies on her back in bed, barely conscious, reaching for me and trying to talk, but too tired to make more than a whisper. It just plain hurts.

Here’s a letter Ashley wrote Kristi tonight…

"Dear Mom,

I just want you to know that God is with you right now while you are having cancer and chemo. And I will always be in your hart and you will be in myne. I love you so much and hope that your cancer goes away very soon. Over 100 people are praying. Even people we don't know. Get well soon.


At first Ashley didn't understand the magnitude of Kristi's cancer. But now she does. I know she understands. And I know Kristi knows. Ashley asked Kristi again tonight if she was going to survive. I think that's what prompted the letter and a lot of the tears. Ashley and Kristi are upstairs right now talking and it's almost midnight. Yup, just another night in our house...as we hear fireworks going off all around us.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007: Not A Spectacular Day

Well, while most people are enjoying a nice 4th of July, Kristi has spent the entire day in bed. She is very sleepy and nauseous. She can't even eat. Going to the bathroom takes everything out of her and she has a constant flow of diarrhea again. She hasn't been this bad in quite a while. She feels terrible that she can't do anything and that "everyone else is out celebrating". She was getting quite down earlier. But, by Monday hopefully she'll be bouncing back and sending another one of her "I'm back" e-mails! In the meantime, let's refill her 'well' with prayers. She needs them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007: A Sleepy Day

Kristi slept most of the day today. She's still real tired and nauseous. We did have friends over tonight and she was able to join us even though she was kind of 'out of it'. But it was nice just having her around. We missed her today. So hopefully she can just focus on getting stronger the next few days. Please pray for her strength to return. If I remember correctly, with this type of chemo she usually has very hard weekends. Please pray that her strength returns in time for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007: A Quick Update...

It's amazing how quickly things can change. Just like gas prices...it takes her 2 weeks to start feeling better, but 2 minutes for it all to go south. Well, I guess that would be opposite of gas prices...it takes them 2 weeks to go down 10 cents but 2 minutes to go up 30 cents.

Coming off of a great weekend and a not-so-bad chemo day, Kristi started dry heaving and throwing up about 10:30 last night - that lasted until about 1:30AM. She did sleep the rest of the night but I just tossed and turned for most of the rest of the night waiting for her to get back up.

But, this 5 minutes she's doing better. She's still nauseous but at least she's not heaving.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007: HELP!!!!!!!!

Well, how quickly things turn. Kristi is dry heaving and throwing up and is very nauseous. Please pray that this ends soon.

Monday, July 2, 2007: Camping Video

Hope you enjoy this video of our camping weekend...

Monday, July 2, 2007: Round 6

Today was pretty much what we expected…no surprises. That’s always a good thing. We met with Dr. Downey this morning before chemo. He explained the next steps this way: get chemo today, check her CA125 level July 25 (round 7), then decide if he wants to change the chemicals. He said he is disappointed in how slowly her CA125 level is going down (it didn't get checked today)…but we already knew that. We know for sure there will be 3 more rounds after today. He will not be reversing the colostomy early because there is a remote chance that he may decided to use the stomach port again sometime.

The chemo today went as expected. We arrived about 10:30 ish and stayed until about 5. The kids did great at Dantuma’s…thanks again Brian and Janna!! So far Kristi is just a little tired from the chemo. She’s taking the Emend again this round (we call it the ‘wonder pill’). This is the pill that made her feel so great 2 weeks ago after the last dose of round 5. We’re hoping it has the same effect with this chemo treatment.

Continued prayers are appreciated. Thank you!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007: We Went Camping!!

What a beautiful weekend! Our family went camping this weekend at PJ Hoffmaster State Park with my parents, brother, sister and their families. Lots of people and lots of fun! The weather was perfect and we had a great time. This was the first time we brought Emily camping with us and she did great!! She even slept in until 9:00!! It was a perfect way to end my time of feeling good before I begin chemo again tomorrow.

Tomorrow will begin the chemo in my chest port. This will be round 6. When we did this initially, it knocked me pretty hard with fatigue and low energy. I am hoping that since we aren’t using the stomach port anymore that my stomach pain and nausea will be lessened. We meet with my doctor before the chemo and will be discussing the future plans – possibly reversing the colostomy before all the chemo treatments. I think they will also check my CA125 level again tomorrow…not sure though.

Emotionally I am still doing great thanks to all your prayers and encouraging cards and e-mails. Thank you!! Here’s some specific prayer requests.

*wisdom for Dr. Downey
*chemo will go smoothly tomorrow without any complications
*energy for this week
*patience for Brian as he takes on a lot of the work around the house and with the kids
*praise for such a great weekend with family – good health – safe travel
*prayer of thanks for all the wonderful friends and family we have supporting us

Here are some pictures from this weekend...

say cheeeeese
Kristi's always wanted to be a gangsta
let's eat!
of course the kids are always this well behaved...
Let's see if we can scare my Daddy!!
Ashley & Nathan watching a movie...
Playing Racko with Grandma & Aunt Stephanie
Kristi making hobo pie desert...yummy