Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009: I Will Praise You In This Storm

This morning I was sitting in a waiting room while I waited for Nathan. The song "I Will Praise You In This Storm" started playing and I knew in my heart at that point that the cancer had returned. It was God's way of preparing me for the news I would receive just a couple hours later.

Dr. Downey (or as we now call him "Downer-Downey") called this afternoon and said that the lymph node that was removed was cancerous. I asked if they could tell if it was just a trace of cancer or full of cancer and he said "it was more than a trace - we need to get together and discuss treatment options". Soooooo, back on the merry-go-round we go. Actually I guess it is more like a scary-go-round.

Right now there is still a messy house calling my name, sleepovers to be planned, supper to make and all that good stuff. I am actually doing okay and probably will be fine until next week Monday at our appointment. Right now I don't want to think about it. Cancer, what cancer? I don't know nothing about no cancer.

I will get my CA125 tested later this week and we'll talk to Dr. Downey on Monday. We will get more details then. Until then . . . there is no cancer.

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen" and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009: Blah, blah, blah

Usually the title is the first thing that comes to mind when I update. Today there was nothing. Just "blah". Blah, blah, blah. Can you tell what kind of mood I'm in? In a nutshell, I have grounded myself to my bedroom because I can't seem to be pleasant to anyone. I have a tendency to be sarcastic or so Brian tells me. He quite often will say "sarcasm is always aggressive" to which I respond "yeah, so what's your point??!!" So now you know why I'm grounded.

I have been meaning to update the blog for a few days now but the busyness of the season has taken over the week. I have wanted to be Mary. I have tried and tried but Martha takes over. I have good intentions - I start out with my Martha hat on because I needed to get the last of the presents bought and wrapped, the cards addressed and all those fun activities. I intend to take my Martha hat off but suddenly Martha goes into overdrive. No time to sit at Jesus feet now - there are goodies to bake, the house is a mess, on and on and on.

I will rationalize that when everything is done then I can sit down and read a devotion. I'll enjoy it much more if the house is clean and I'm not distracted. It will be easier to focus if my to-do list is done. On and on I go until there is nothing physically or emotionally left to give. I'll crack open a devotional as I'm laying in bed drifting off to sleep so I can check off my "spent time with God today" box off my list.

I have had a few times where I just stopped the nonsense. I opened my bible and read through some Psalms, I found a devotional that really spoke to me, I connected with God and the world fell away. Life was good in that moment and that was all I wanted. Slowly though the world called out (or more likely the kids started fighting, the timer went off reminding me that we needed to leave or anxiety just started making its way into my mind).

I have been struggling with the whole gift thing this year. I love buying gifts for the kids. I can't wait to see the look on their face when they open it up. This year was no different - I sat with anticipation as they unwrapped their gifts and saw the sparkle in their eye as they realized what was in front of them. But then there was this emptiness. This look of "I need more". All the gifts were unwrapped, paper was strewn all over. All the time I had spent figuring out the perfect gift, finding the perfect gift, hiding the perfect gift and finally wrapping the perfect gift was gone. Poof. All the anticipation and poof, gone. I wasn't mad at the kids - it's human nature to always want more, to need more. They weren't asking for more - I could just sense this feeling of unfulfillment.

As I type this I wonder if that is what God sees when He looks at me. He gave us the only truly perfect gift this world has to offer. The only gift that can give us eternal joy. I accepted that gift a long time ago. I grew up in a Christian home - that gift was given to me when I was born. I grew up being taught about this gift. I went to church every Sunday and learned even more. I was diagnosed with cancer and this gift was made crystal clear to me. Over the past 40 years (yes, I said "40"!) I have listened to, learned about and shared this gift with others.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life". John 3:16

A friend of mine just recently wrote on her care pages how we tend to put this gift that God gave us into a box. A little box that we don't open. That is so true. I know I put it into one. I carefully pull it out when it is time to read the bible or work on bible study. I think I may only even lift a corner of it. That gift should be unwrapped, opened up and front and center every single minute!
In this world where there is cancer, ALS, starving children both far away and close to home, sadness, depression, terrorism and things so horrible our minds can't even comprehend them there is also this gift. This gift that I have clung to - that I have been holding tight to my chest with my arms wrapped around it. I cling to this gift as I force myself to get out of bed every morning. I hold tight as I make myself take that next step. I grasp it as I go into surgery. I hold on to it fiercely when my mind starts to go ahead to that phone call . . . "the biopsy came back - your cancer has metastasized - we need to start treatment right away".

Maybe I need to quit clinging to that gift so tightly and let it go. I need to open it up again and keep it out in front of me where I can see it. I'm not quite sure how to go about this. I knew I needed to update the blog and process all this. I feel better now and yet still scared to death at the same time. This last surgery has scared me more than I realized it would. Although "George" has been removed he must have gotten a good right hook in before he left because it feels like someone punched me in the neck. When I feel that pain I am mentally reminded of why I have pain, what was removed during surgery and the results that it may bring.

I think it is time to stuff those thoughts into a box now! All the anxiety and fear needs to be stuffed into a box - the box needs to be taped up - then the taped up box needs to be thrown into the bottom of an ocean! Maybe then I can unwrap the gift of Jesus. While I'm at it maybe I can stuff Satan and all of his army that likes to fling fiery darts at my brain into a box too. I can tie it up real tight, put a heavy anchor on it and fling that into the ocean too. I know it will slowly creep back up out of the murky water but if I can just get that gift of Jesus opened up fully then the brightness can block out all those nasty other boxes that are trying to take away my focus, time and energy.

It seems like we can so easily say "thank you God for the gift of your son". Right now I am so thankful for that gift. That is the one gift this season that will leave us fulfilled - that is if we remember to open it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009: Goodbye George

We named the tumor the doctor removed "George". George was an unwanted guest for Christmas. Sorry, not to be rude, but George had to go! The surgery went well today. The doctor removed the swollen lymph node and now it will be sent for a biopsy. She said it was about the size of a small marble. Because of Christmas we probably won't get test results until Monday. Our prayers for a smooth surgery were answered!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009: Fight Like A Girl!

First I just need to say yes!! I figured out how to put this link on our blog all by myself!!! Woohoo! Now I should explain what "fight like a girl" is :)

I have been following a blog for about a month now of a fellow cancer fighter. I met Amy quite a few years back when we were both helping in the nursery during Coffee Break. She was also my nurse a few years ago when I had to make a late night visit to the ER for a blood transfusion.

Amy is an amazing woman and I find myself reliving the initial diagnosis of my cancer through her experience. At first it overwhelmed me as the memories flooded back. Although we have different types of cancer - many of the other aspects have been the same. We are both young moms (okay so she is younger than me but it sure sounded good!), we both know God will see us through and we are both kicking cancer's butt!

On top of singing God's praises during this time she is also raising awareness of breast cancer. She is having t-shirts made with the logo the I have at the top of the blog. I love it! If you are interested in buying one here is the link to her blog -

On another note, tomorrow is surgery day. A nurse called today to go over my medical history and all that fun stuff. She asked me what surgery I was having done tomorrow and I said that I was having a lymph node removed from my neck. She told me that the official term for it was supraclavicular lymph node something or other. Personally I think "having a lymph node removed" is much easier to remember :)

My surgery is scheduled for 11:44 AM tomorrow and we need to arrive at 9:45. I have been okay most of the weekend and haven't really thought much about it. I had a couple times today that my eyes teared up and fear tried to take over. I was able to pray it away though. I just keep telling myself it's just a "drug induced nap". I honestly don't think we will have any results until after Christmas and it is actually the results that scare me more than the surgery itself. Although I'm not very excited about the needle for the iv in my hand thing. Never have liked it and never will!

Brian's parents will be at our house with the kids tomorrow and my parents will be with Brian at the hospital. I will be with the doctors and nurses and more importantly, God will be with us all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 17, 2009: Guess who turned 40...

this is Brian. It wasn't me!


S U R P R I S E !!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009: "Mary" Christmas

The song "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" was playing the other day. I found myself singing along . . . "have yourself a merry little Christmas - let your heart be light - from now on our troubles will be out of sight". I bitterly thought . . . our troubles will be out of sight? Ha! They are right her smack dab in front of me and not going anywhere anytime soon (can you tell it was a bad day?).

I was also wondering how it was possible that although I couldn't remember appointments on the calendar, phone calls I needed to return and things I needed to get done, somehow I was able to remember all the words to these old Christmas songs! That's another story though.

I've been busy lately with the "gotta find the perfect gift for the kids, hurry up and get the cards mailed out, get all the parties planned and on and on". I found myself in the toy aisle at a store yesterday just watching parents just walking around with a blank look on their face trying to decide on the perfect gift for their child.

I was pretty depressed on my way home and the song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas popped in my mind. Instead of hearing the promises that our troubles are going to miles away I focused on two words. Merry Christmas. However, the "merry" I was thinking about was actually "Mary". Have a "Mary" Christmas. I have been having a "Martha" Christmas! I've been obsessed with do, do, do and go, go, go and have not spent any time just sitting at Jesus' feet like Mary did. I haven't focused in on the true meaning of Christmas.

I initially felt guilty but could almost hear God saying "it's not too late, you can still have a Mary Christmas". I still need to keep my Martha hat on because there are parties to plan, cards to mail, gifts to buy and all that good stuff that needs to be done. I am going to make a point of putting the Mary hat on along with the Martha hat though. And sometimes I need to just be Mary. This year I am going to have a very, Mary Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Order Now!

You can still get your calendar in time for Christmas. Click on the calendar:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009: Quick Update

A very quick update tonight . . . we made it fine to the doctors appointment . . . the storm held off for us. The doctor was great - we really liked her. She agrees that the lymph node should come out. My surgery is scheduled for December 22. We are feeling very good about it. That's all for now - will update more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009: He's Not Finished With Me Yet

This morning I read what I had typed the night before. Wow, I was bitter. That was what I felt at the time though. Bitter, disappointed, numb and lost. Next I read the comments that people left. Wow again. Your words were so encouraging.

Later this morning the song Wait and See by Brandon Health was playing on the radio. When I turned it on these were the words that I heard . . .

Still wondering why I'm here. Still wrestling with my fear but oh... He's up to something. And the farther on I go - I've seen enough to know that I'm not here for nothing. He's up to something.

There is hope for me yet because God won't forget all the plans he's made for me. I have to wait and see - he's not finished with me yet.

I've heard this song many times before and have always liked it. Today it really hit home. It was as if God was saying "hang in there - I'm not done with you yet".

Our appointment tomorrow is at 4:00. I'm hoping this storm everyone is talking about will hold out long enough that we can get there and back safely (the appointment is in Grand Rapids). The doctor will evaluate the lump tomorrow and decide if surgery is even possible. We'll update again tomorrow night.

Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement - they pulled me out of a dark and lonely place.

Yea, yea, yea!!!! I just heard that my grandpa's tests came back from surgery . . . the cancer was contained and they believe they got it all out!!!!! Woohoooooooo!!!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009: Cancer Shmancer

I wasn't sure what to title this post. Cancer sucks. Stupid cancer. I hate cancer. No happy ending. It's more than just a lymph node. Clear PET scan - not!! All sorts of ideas but "cancer shmancer" kept coming to my mind.

My lump is more than just a lymph node. It's most likely a cancerous lymph node that needs to be removed. I'm not sure what the radiologist was thinking when he decided myPET scan had "nothing to be concerned about". Ha! We were able to look at the scan today and could see the lump and it was very bright. My doctor noticed it right away - I'm guessing they didn't want me worrying about it all weekend long so they didn't tell me.

I have an appointment with a surgeon at 4:00 on Wednesday. She will feel the lump then and decide if it is able to be removed or not. If it is, then we will set up an appointment. It would be an outpatient procedure and I would be under general anesthesia. Just one more surgery to add to my ever-growing list.

They will send it to be biopsied and my doctor should have the pathology reports within a couple days. He said it's not imperative that it is removed right away but if they have an opening before Christmas we should take it. From a financial perspective it would be best to have it before next year. I've already met my out-of-pocket maximum for this year. I'm pretty sure I met it before January was even done.

Brian and I had a very quiet ride home this afternoon. What do you say at this point? Well, other than "cancer sucks". Big time. I'm mad, sad, overwhelmed, discouraged and numb all at the same time. I'm mostly just numb.

I started looking at the pictures on my cell phone as we were driving home. Brian asked me what I was doing (actually he asked me if I was texting my boyfriend - even during times like this he can make me smile). I told him I was looking at all the reasons I have to fight. I'm so tired and don't know that I have a lot of fight in me. Looking at the pictures of my family though reminds me that I can and will fight. Eventually this stupid cancer will realize it picked the wrong person to mess with!

Brian's turn:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Here's a message to cancer:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009: Happy Endings

I love movies with happy endings. If I know ahead of time that a movie has a sad ending I won't even watch it. I have enough going on in my own life that I don't need to be shedding tears over fictional characters.

We have had a lot of happy endings over here lately. Two weeks ago we were anxiously awaiting scans, surgeries and test results in our family. Our first news was to hear that Eric's surgery went well and was a success - yea! The next day my PET scan results came back "nothing of concern" - more yea! A couple days later we heard that the test results for Brian's uncle had come back great and he didn't need to go back for 2 years - yea, yea, yea! And just two days ago my grandpa had his surgery and guess what? The doctors were happy with the surgery. Can you hear the hallelujah chorus??

Despite all these happy endings I still find myself dwelling on the fact that so much pain, suffering and disease has hit our family. Once my mind starts down that path it snowballs out of control. As I was thinking about this a verse came to my mind . . .

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I've discovered that when I focus on that and not on my problems that life becomes much easier to bear. I've been doing better with my quiet time with God and during those times I feel like I could conquer anything. I've even gotten to the point that I was able to tell God that if the cancer comes back I will be okay because I know that He works all things for His good - for His glory. It has taken me a very long time to get to that point. Unfortunately shortly after I feel that peace life can overwhelm me and I'm filled with anxiety and fearing the worst.

I read in a book recently that when you hold a nickel up to your eye it can block out the sun. Something as little as a nickel can block out something as huge as the sun. It is because our focus is completely on the nickel. If we would look up then we would realize how small that nickel really is. If we take our eyes off our problems and look up to God and remember His power it will put things back into perspective. However, we are human and that is just not in our nature. I am trying though, really trying to keep that nickel out of my vision.

Tomorrow at 3:45 Brian and I will be meeting with Dr. Downey. He will be checking the lumps that I found in my neck. I have gone from fearing that I have lymphoma or thyroid cancer (yes, I made the mistake of looking on the internet) to deciding that it is just simply a swollen lymph node that is fighting some sort of virus.

Right now it is way past my bedtime so I am headed to bed. I will update again tomorrow night with what I am hoping will be good news.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009: Results

My PET scan came back with "nothing of concern"! I was quite surprised to hear that - surprised and extremely happy! They did say something about my lymph nodes - I can't remember exactly what she said (I was still thinking about the fact that there was nothing to be concerned about!). They said that they weren't enlarged though and they were the same size they were in 2006 so they are not concerned at this point.

I found a couple lumps under my collar bone that are concerning me. Initially it was one lump the size of a pea, now it's two lumps and they seem to be getting bigger. My doctor is going to check it out on Monday and if he feels there is any concern he will have them biopsied or removed or both. I'm just praying that they will be gone by Monday!

Eric's surgery went good on Tuesday! They were able to put the feeding tube in and they have people coming to their house to show them how to use it. I am so, so, so happy that the surgery was successful and that Lori was able to have peace during his surgery.

We are still waiting on the results for Brian's uncle - hopefully they will hear soon. My grandpa is scheduled for surgery on Friday. He will need to stay in the hospital for about a week and then recover a few weeks in a nursing home after that. This will be a big adjustment for my grandma. The hospital he is going to is in Grand Rapids and my grandma is not able to drive. I will keep everyone updated with this and would really appreciate prayers for our family.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009: A Week of Uncertainty

It is so quiet right now I can hear the clock ticking. The house is dark with the exception of the lights glowing on the Christmas tree. The rain that was annoying me earlier today is now quietly tapping on the windows.

We are now officially done with a long weekend that has been filled with go, go, go. It started last Wednesday with my PET scan. We've been to Thanksgiving meals with the family, a wedding shower, and a fund raiser. We also put up the Christmas tree and decorations (since we had so much extra time - not). I just came from the last Thanksgiving get-together which was in Jenison with Brian's family. Nathan and I had to leave early so we could get him to church in time for practice.

So now I sit alone in silence. The initial feeling was "aaaaaahhhhhh". Physically it is great to finally crash. Mentally though it's never a good thing to have a mind that has nothing to focus on. As I look at our calendar for next week I start to stress out. Brian's uncle will be receiving the results tomorrow from a test last week to check his carotid artery. My brother-in-law is scheduled to have a feeding tube put in on Tuesday. If my grandpa gets the "all clear" on Tuesday from his doctor he will have surgery on Friday. I will be jumping every time the phone rings wondering if it is my doctor with the results of my PET scan or a family member calling with an update.

As I started to wonder how I was going to make it through the uncertainty of this week I had a thought that comforted me. God already knows what this week will bring. He already knows the results that I will hear and knows what I will need from Him to make it through. There is no way I can survive this week on my own and yet I am sure I will try hard to take control. I will try to be super-mom and get my kids everywhere they need to be (which itself alone seems to be a full-time job!), keep the house picked up, get laundry caught up and put meals on the table. I will run from store to store trying to find the right Christmas gift at the best possible price. I will try to plan menu's and start thinking about Christmas parties. I will do whatever it is that I do that seems to take up every minute of my day. I will fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day feeling like I didn't accomplish anything. It is usually at that point that I realize in my quest to become super-woman that I didn't even stop to say a prayer. I didn't stop and just listen to what God had to say. Despite my best intentions, I will have tried to take control of something that is out of my control.

One of my favorite books is "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World". This morning I read this . . . . "When we put work before worship, we put the cart before the horse. The cart is important; so is the horse. But the horse must come first, or we end up pulling the cart ourselves." I'm tired of pulling the cart.

I am so thankful that our God is filled with such patience and grace. I have been trying to be more focused on Him and less on me. I have tried to be aware of His presence all day long. I have the best of intentions and quite often fail miserably. Every time I do though He just says "that's okay, stand up, wipe the dust off and let's try this again".

So now I'll stand up, wipe the dust off and go forward through this week. One day at a time, one thing at a time and sometimes just one minute at a time. I will survive this week and by God's grace I will do it with a smile on my face, focus in my mind and peace in my heart.

In the world of Martha and Mary's I am definitely a Martha. This week I will try my best to be Mary and choose "the better thing" . . .

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better thing and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009: The Test is Done, The Wait Has Begun

The pet scan went well today. I was extremely tired this morning (I wasn't able to sleep good last night). My blood sugar was at 68 because of the low carb diet. Combine low sugar with the sleepiness and I was a zombie. I was able to sleep while waiting for the sugar water to flow through my veins. They put the iv in my arm with minimal pain (yeah!). Everyone was super nice there and treated me like royalty. I think the best part was when they took the iv out of my arm and then brought a tray filled with snacks and drinks - hooray for carbs!

After eating some cheese & crackers and a granola bar I felt a lot better. I washed it down with hot chocolate - yum. I was home shortly after noon and then slept for a few hours. My stomach is upset now because of the contrast I drank but that always happens after my ct scans too. I should be back to normal by tomorrow.

I was considered to be "radioactive" until 2:00 this afternoon. That was a bit strange. I can't imagine the amount of toxins that went through my body today. The pros outweighed the cons for me having this scan. Now we wait for the results. Tick tock. It will probably be the middle of next week before we hear anything. So far I'm doing okay with it. We have a busy weekend so that will keep my mind off of it.

Tomorrow we are going to count our blessings and instead of thinking about everything we want we will be thankful for what we have.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009: I Want My Carbs Back!

To prepare for the PET scan tomorrow I had to follow a very low carb diet today. I didn't realize how much I love my carbs! I will not be able to eat anything when I wake up in the morning but the scan is so early (7:40) that my stomach won't even be awake yet :)

From what I understand, I need to arrive at 7:30 and 7:40 is the scan. They will inject a glucose something or other (I think I saw the word radioactive - yikes!). I need to sit still for 90 minutes after that. I will have a private room with a tv and dvd player during that time. The actual scan may take between 30-60 minutes.

Right now I'm not too nervous. I probably won't have any results until the end of next week. I need to get up at 6:00 AM tomorrow (if anyone reading this is an early riser say a prayer then that I will actually be able to get out of bed at that time!). I know, I'm spoiled. I'm sure there are a lot of people that get up that early or earlier every day.

I'm off to bed now. If I want to be able to function tomorrow morning I'll need all the sleep I can get!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009: Family

My PET scan has been scheduled for next Wednesday already. I'm glad to get it done so soon but at the same time I'm nervous and not looking forward to another round of the waiting game. My nurse said it takes at least 5 days to get results plus we'll have the holiday weekend so it will be a while before we hear anything.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my grandpa was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had a ct scan this week and the cancer appears to be confined in his colon and has not spread. They believe it was caught early and he will be meeting with a specialist soon.

I think a lot of people reading our blog also read my sister and brother-in-laws blog as well. If you haven't, there is a link on the right side of our blog. Eric's ALS is progressing and they are facing some tough decisions. Their faith continues to grow through all this which can only be by the grace of God.

There is also a link to my brother and sister-in-law's blog on the right side of our blog (Kevin & Stephanie). They are adopting an adorable little girl from Columbia and hope to be able to go get her by the end of January. They are having a fund raiser next week Saturday at the Urban Mill Cafe in Grand Rapids to help with all the adoption fees. They will have autographed children's books and posters from many authors to auction off. You can get some Christmas shopping done and help support their family at the same time :) There is more information about the fundraiser on their blog - just scroll down to the 11/5 & 11/13 post.

Please say an extra prayer for Brian. He is extremely tired again. He had recovered from his flu bug and seemed to be doing pretty good but today he was hit with a headache and major fatigue. He sleeps a lot and still doesn't feel rested. It is so frustrating for him.

Life is hard, in fact some days it is harder than I ever imagined it could ever be, but God is good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009: My Weakness, His Strength

Last week after hearing that my number had gone up I read a devotional that made me want to scream "noooooooooooo". I showed it to Brian and told him that I didn't want this. Here is how the devotional began . . .

"Why won't God heal me?" Doesn't he love me?" Perhaps you've asked similar questions. Maybe you've been frustrated because God didn't answer a prayer the way you had hoped. Could it be that he is using those very difficulties to keep you dependent on him? Like placing sparkling diamonds on black velvet, our human weakness provides a contrasting backdrop against which God's power can be displayed.

When I was first diagnosed I was excited. I wasn't excited about having cancer but I was excited about the things God was going to do through me. I didn't know what was going to happen but I did know that He was going to use me to show His power.

Last week before I had the results for my new CA125 I heard God telling me "it's time to shine again". I pretended not to hear it. The thought wouldn't go away so I started to process it. Time to shine again? No, I'm done - it's someone else's turn. I don't want to shine, can't I be dark for a while? It's almost been three years - can't I just be done already?

The more I whined the worse I felt. I started thinking back about my willingness years ago to be used by Him and what a privilege it was that He would use me to show His power. Where did that passion go? It has been a long bumpy road but God has always provided for our needs.

The devotional went on to talk about Paul and the thorn in his flesh. Paul asked three times for God to remove his thorn and three times God said no. It wasn't because God didn't love him. He wanted Paul to be dependent on His strength.

Our "thorns" can make us feel weak and useless. They can cause us to become focused on ourselves and wallow in self pity(I've had more pity parties than I can count!). The devotional suggested another way to look our struggles. We can allow it to keep us on our knees - praying for strength. We can learn from our struggles and then use that knowledge to help others. We can let His strength shine through our weakness.

If God wants me to shine then I will but I'm going to fight and kick cancer's butt while I'm shining. My doctors office is finishing up the paperwork and will be scheduling my PET scan soon. I will have my CA125 checked again in three weeks and will meet with them after we have some test results. Who knows, my number could even go down next time. You just never know.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009: The Joy is in the Waiting?

Today I have been waiting. Waiting for that phone call. I've had a couple calls today but not "the" phone call. I've had a call that was a prerecorded voice from a solicitor. How do they get our unlisted number??? I've also had a call from my mom. She was at the hospital with my grandparents. They just found out that my grandpa has colon cancer.

So now we wait for yet another phone call. The call with his surgery date. Then will be the next call . . . the call with the results. Wait, wait, wait. I was having a chat with God while I was in the shower this morning. Why? Why, why, why?! I could hear "be still and know that I am God". Yes, I'm being still and I know that you are God. I heard it again "be still and know that I am God". Yes God, I hear you, I know you are God and I am being still. I just kept hearing it over and over. Then it hit me. My mind wasn't being still. It was racing everywhere. It was thinking of my grandparents, thinking of my sister and brother-in-law, thinking about the phone call I am waiting for.

I turned on the radio shortly after that. The song "My Last Amen" was playing. I love that song - I love the rhythm, the singing and the piano. Today I heard the words. Near the end of the song are the words . . . .

And while the thrills are fading
The joy is in the waiting
Somewhere in the grand design
It's good to be unsatisfied
It keeps the faith and hope
a little more alive.

The joy is in the waiting? Say what? I don't think I've ever thought of being joyful during the waiting. It does make sense though. By waiting and not knowing, we are forced to rely on our faith. To rely on something other than ourselves. It does keep our faith and hope a little more alive.

That is what I am trying to focus on now while I wait. And I am trying to be still - physically and mentally. Not an easy task.

I wrote this post early this afternoon and planned on posting it after I got the call from my doctor. The call just came . . . I'm not surprised, just disappointed. My number went up to 76. Now what? Well, tomorrow I will call and schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Downey. We will talk about where to go from here and also pursue the PET scan. Ready or not, here we go . . . . again.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: Tick Tock

With all the waiting we have done over the past couple years you think we would get used to it. I think I've gotten a little better at it but that doesn't mean I like it. I went in this morning to have my CA125 tested. I can't believe it has been a month already!

I have been doing a pretty good job at not thinking about the results. So much can change with one little phone call. One little number. Or at least I hope it's little :)

The odds are stacked against it going down or at least staying where it is. In fact it is highly unlikely that it will be the same or lower. Over the years I have learned to be "optimistically realistic". I know God can do anything, however, I don't know what His plan is for me. I usually plan on the number going up because then if it goes down it will be a major bonus. If the number goes up I have already mentally prepared for it.

My thoughts have wandered to the possibilities . . . what if it jumps big time - do I need chemo again? or pursue the pet scan? Or maybe it just jumps a little . . . we wait a few more weeks and check again. I haven't let myself even consider it going down. Should it go down though . . . dare I say to a single digit . . . my screaming will be heard cities away :)

So now we wait. And pray. Lots of praying. Lots of redirecting of my thoughts.

On a positive note - Brian is finally getting better!!! Yea! It has been a very long week for him. He was knocked down hard, absolutely miserable and exhausted. Yesterday he finally started to look somewhat better. Today he was able to work for about 1/2 day. His boss put yellow "caution" tape across his office - I thought that was very funny - and a good idea. He kept to himself mostly and did his conversations by phone. He looks much better tonight. It was a rough week but we're very thankful that no one else caught it.

I will update tomorrow when I hear from my nurse with the new number.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009: We've Been Hit

The flu bug got Brian,
It caught him off guard.
It hit him fast
And it hit him hard.
He has aches and pains
From his head to his toe.
They don’t get better
but continue to grow.
He’s confined to his room,
Keep those germs away!
I’m doing my best
To keep it at bay.
Please pray that it leaves
As fast as it came.
This bug needs to go –
I’m not playing his game!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009: Can You Hear Me?

God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

Eight days ago I started to lose my voice. I can still remember joking with my friend saying “I think God is trying to tell me that I need to listen more”. At that point I had no idea how true those words were.

A couple of days later my van started having issues and by Friday it was in the shop. No voice and no transportation. Talk about feeling isolated!

I have heard God prompting me to slow down and focus on listening for Him for quite a while now. Sadly enough it took losing my voice and my van to make me stop and listen. I spent all of Friday working on things around the house while having a conversation in my head with God. Instead of telling Him everything I thought He needed to be aware of (like there is anything I could tell Him that He didn’t already know!) I began listening. I heard a lot that day.

By that night I felt so focused and in tune with God. My goal is to be aware of His presence 24/7. I know this isn’t an attainable goal but it is definitely something worth aiming for. When I’m in tune with Him my hard times aren’t as near as hard and my good times are multiplied. I am much more at peace.

I feel like I have been just going through the motions for quite a while now. About 2 weeks ago I started a new medication for depression and I have felt the fog lifting. I feel a renewed passion to share my story again. I didn’t battle cancer just to sweep it under the rug and go back to “normal life”. I don’t know if I’m supposed to speak or write or what but I need to share my story. God is making that clear to me.

There is a time for everything . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1; 7

I received a letter yesterday from our insurance saying that they have approved my PET scan! I had honestly forgotten about that. I had talked to Brian a while back and said that if coverage was denied that would just be a sign to me that the door had been closed. I wasn’t planning on an open door here! I go in next week Wednesday to have my CA125 checked again. It will already have been a month then! This time has flown by. Depending on what that number is I may or may not pursue the PET scan. I know God will lead us to the right decision at the right time.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

The support that everyone continues to show us never ceases to amaze me. We are about to reach 160,000 hits on the blog and this is the 500th post.. Wow. What a long journey this has been. And yet this journey is not over . . . in some ways it has just begun.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009: A Couple Things

We like to share the love and the germs in this family. For the past couple weeks we have all took a turn getting sick - mostly with stuffy nose, coughing, headaches, just general yuck. Now that I've taken care of everyone else it's my turn to get sick. I'm feeling okay today but I have lost my voice. I don't think I've ever had this before. Very strange. With all the yuck that is out there right now I am thankful that we just seem to have a minor bug.

We are still enjoying the fact that I'm no longer on chemo and that my number is so low. I do think about the "what if's" once in a while. I've been on top of the world, feeling completely healed one minute and the next I'm thinking about all the different cancers I am now higher risk for. I have been able to stop that stinkin' thinkin' though. No point in dwelling on the unknown - doesn't do me any good.

I'm sure you've noticed the Godscapes on the right hand of the blog. We weren't really going to advertise it here in writing, however, my van decided tonight was a good time to die. Brian is taking it in tomorrow and is pretty sure it's the transmission. Since this will probably cost us a pretty penny I thought it wouldn't hurt to promote the store on here to earn some extra income :)

Financial issues aside though, Brian has done an amazing job with this. We've missed him the past few weeks because he has been working on this Godscapes calendar. All that time he invested was worth it when I saw the calendar. It is so beautiful! He has taken some of his favorite pictures he has taken over the years (Colorado, Pictured Rocks, etc.), added bible verses to them and made this beautiful calendar. He has also put together some Shine Gear. He took the logo from our orange shine shirts and it is on almost anything you can imagine. Shirts, hats, coffee cups, greeting cards, and bags. I ordered the water bottle and I love it.

There are some great Christmas gift ideas. Not only can you get a very cool gift, you are also helping support our family. Okay, now I'm starting to sound a bit like an infomercial.

Thank you for all your support. We had 40 comments on the post about my CA125 number. That is so cool. I kept checking the blog every so often that day and just watched the number go up and up. There are so many of you out there and you've stuck with us through some major ups and downs. I can't tell you how much we appreciate your prayers, emails, comments and support.

Click on the calendar to check it out...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009: I Miss You

When our oldest daughter was born I spent every waking moment with her. When she was young she was very shy and would prefer to hang out with me rather than be with little kids. That was fine with me - we were best friends.

As she got older she gradually came out of her shell. She began making friends and wanted to play with them. It was hard at first letting her go places without me but when I would hear about how much fun she had it made the transition a little bit easier.

Now that she is 12 she is this social butterfly. She loves hanging out with friends, going to church activities, pretty much anything that involves being away from home. I am having a really hard time accepting this. Where did my shy little girl go? The one who wanted to be with me? Be my best friend?

It's not that she hates being home or spending time with us, it's just more fun for her to be with her friends. I don't understand this, okay, I understand it but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I miss my little girl.

This morning I was thinking about her. About what a social, loving, responsible young lady she has become. I'm not sure when it happened - I've been here all along yet somehow she changed right before my eyes. I was thinking about how much I miss her when I heard a voice inside my head saying "I miss you too".

When I was sick there wasn't much I could do but I always could pray. I became very close to God during that time. Now that I'm "normal" again I am busy with life. Busy being a taxi cab driver, cleaning lady, referee, nurse, psychologist and social activities director. They are all necessary things but they shouldn't be my priority.

I am sad that I have pulled away from God but am happy that He is still there waiting for me to come back. When I think of how much I miss my daughter and love her I become overwhelmed with the thought that God loves me even more. He is the creator of the universe and yet He misses me. Wow. I’ll end with a verse of a song that is running through my head right now.

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009: Letting Go

We have a cold making its way through our house this week. I came down with a headache and sore throat yesterday and had a few swollen glands in my neck. I also have what feels like a pulled muscle that goes from my ear down to my shoulder. It is also near where my chest port is.

I called my nurse and she said to take motrin and if it doesn't go away in a week to give them a call. I decided to do a little research on my own through google. Yes, I know, bad idea. My mind had convinced me that I had lymphoma. I freaked out. Many different scenario's went through my head and none of them were good.

When I went to bed that night I grabbed my daily devotional book. All the devotions are dated and I typically read the one for the day. That night the book flipped open to September 22 and the devotional brought me peace . . . .

Trust me and refuse to worry, for I am your Strength and Song. You are feeling wobbly this morning, looking at difficult times looming ahead, measuring them against your own strength. However, they are not today's tasks - or even tomorrow's. So leave them in the future and come home to the present, where you will find Me waiting for you. Since I am your Strength, I can empower you to handle each task as it comes.

I am trying so hard to leave tomorrow's problems in the future but it is so difficult. I have to make myself "let go" of my problems on a daily basis - multiple times during the day. I let go of my worries and ask God to take them from me but five minutes later I've taken it back and am trying to battle it on my own. I spend time researching symptoms when I should be reading the bible for answers.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 The Message

I've been praying and praying one of my favorite phrases "let go and let God". I figured it wouldn't hurt to call in for reinforcements. Prayer warriors - start your engines :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009: Courage to Shine Gear

I've been having some fun making Kristi's Courage to Shine shirt into some other stuff. I added some products to our on line store...check it out by clicking on the shirt:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009: Floating On A Cloud

I feel like I am floating around. I am speechless and in awe. I have tears streaming down my face. Finally though, I am crying tears of joy.

I went in yesterday to have my CA125 checked. My nurse just called me with the results. Are you sitting? You may want to because your feet will feel like they have left the ground. My new number is 25. In the words of my nurse "yup, you heard me - 25".

This morning after the kids had been picked up for school and Emily was still sleeping I had some quiet time to myself. During that time I gave cancer to God. I told Him I was tired of trying to plan my life around it, tired of the anxiety that came with it, just plain tired. I have been focusing so much on my cancer that I haven't been nearly enough focused on my family and my God. I truly did let it go this morning. I honestly wasn't sure what my new results would be but I trusted that God had it under control and would give me what I needed to continue on this journey.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009: State of Denial

Usually when I am asked what state I live in I say Michigan. The past few weeks, however, I have been living in the state of denial. I like this state - it's very peaceful. It has been two and a half weeks since our last appointment with my doctor. At this appointment we asked about having a PET scan and they were going to try to get my insurance to approve it. I figured we would have an answer by now but I found out at the end of last week that they had just mailed the "letter of medical necessity" to the insurance company. I was initially bummed. All this time waiting and we are just getting over the first hurdle? I emailed Brian and his reply was "yeah! . . . . right?" He was right. This means we have at least another week or two to enjoy our visit in "denial". We're not really denying that cancer exists - we just know that everything is out of our hands right now and all we can do is wait. Now if we were waiting for the results of a PET scan that would be a different story. But, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

So for now I am enjoying this reprieve from "it". I love not having to schedule my life around the chemo treatments. I am really enjoying feeling healthy again and not being miserable from the side effects of chemo. I am also very peaceful with our decision to put chemo on hold and take a step back. A very wise friend of mine often says "I don't know what my future holds but I know Who holds my future".

Brian took advantage of the little bit of sunshine that we had today and took the kids pictures . . .

Ashley - 6th grade - 12 years old

Nathan - 3rd grade - 9 years old

Emily - kindergarten - 5 years old

I know I'm biased but aren't they just the cutest kids ever?? :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009: Relaxed

Kristi and I went on our annual camping trip with just the two of us. We went to Fort Custer State Park and had a very relaxing time. Kristi finds a home for the kids and we do this every October with just the two of us (well, and the dogs). No phones, no reservations, no internet, no kids and NO STRESS!!! Even if it rains all weekend (like it did) - WE DON'T CARE!! It is always the best weekend of the year. We simply bring books, magazines, movies, the dogs, and lots and lots of junk food. All we do all weekend is hang out in the camper. It is soooooo relaxing. Here are a couple pictures from this weekend:

It was such a great time. Can't wait til next year!
Unfortunately, now we have to return to reality. Tomorrow Kristi will start following up to find out when her PET scan will be. When she gets her PET scan done she will also get her CA125 level checked. Ahh, the weekend was so nice not having to worry about all those details. Well, until next time - have a great week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009: Developing Hinds' Feet

Brian and I met with our oncologist this morning and he agreed with our decision to put chemo on hold. I am waiting to hear from the insurance company if a PET scan would be covered and if it is, that will be our next step.

Dr. Downey shared the results of a recent clinical study with us this morning. This study followed 500 women who were in remission from ovarian cancer. Their CA125 results were monitored and when their "normal" had doubled (75), only half of the women and their doctors were told. Of the half that were told, most of them started back on treatment; the half that wasn't told the results of their CA125 did nothing. The end result showed that it didn't really seem to make a difference in the outcome whether they did the chemo or not. Basically the women who did the chemo had to deal with all the yuck that comes with it.

What they took from this study was that if there isn't any evidence of cancer (other than a rising CA125) quality of life is much better without the chemo. If other evidence is found (such as tumors) then it is another story. Right now I have no other evidence other than my CA125.

Dr. Downey also told us that he doesn't believe that I will ever be cured of my cancer - it will never go away. In fact his words were "I think you know by now that your cancer will never go away". At least those are the words I remember. Sadly enough those words didn't surprise me. Even though he doesn't think that this cancer is curable, he does think it is treatable. The question is what is the treatment going to be? And when do we start it?

I am reading the book Hinds Feet on High Places (for the 2nd or 3rd time) now and it is almost like I am reading about my life. The main character's name is Much-Afraid and the book is about her journey away from The Valley of Humiliation which is filled with her Family of Fearings - Craven Fear, Gloomy, Spiteful, Coward, Pride and Bitterness . . . just to name a few). On her way to the High Places she learns how to develop Hinds Feet so she can go to the High Places.

Right now in the book Much-Afraid has just come to a mountain. It is so steep and dangerous that she can't imagine climbing it. Her guides (Sorrow and Suffering) urge her to call to the Chief Shepherd and she is afraid to because she knows that he will tell her that this is the path she must take. She does call out to him and this is what I read this morning . . . .

"Much-Afraid," said the Shepherd again, "tell Me, what is the matter. Why were you so fearful?"

"It is the way You have chosen for me to go," she whispered. It looks so dreadful, Shepherd, so impossible. I turn giddy and faint whenever I look at it. The roes and hinds can go there, but they are not limping, crippled, or cowardly like me."

"But, Much-Afraid, what did I promise you int he Valley of Humiliation" asked the Shepherd with a smile.

"Oh, Shepherd, You said You would make my feet like hinds' feet and set me upon mine High Places."

"Well," he answered cheerily, "the only way to develop hinds' feet is to go by the paths which the hinds use - like this one."

Much-Afraid trembled and looked at Him shamefacedly. "I don't think - I want - hinds' feet, if it means I have to go on a path like that," she said slowly and painfully.

The Shepherd was a very surprising person. Instead of looking either disappointed or disapproving, He actually laughed again. "Oh, yes you do," He said cheerfully. "I know you better than you know yourself, Much-Afraid. You want it very much indeed, and I promised you these hinds' feet. Indeed, I have brought you on purpose to this back side of the desert, where the mountains are particularly steep and where there are no paths but the tracks of the deer and of the mountain goats for you to follow, that the promise may be fulfilled. What did I say to you the last time that we met?"

"You said, 'Now shalt thou see what I will do'," she answered, and then, looking at Him reproachfully, added, "But I never dreamed You would do anything like this! Lead me to an impassable precipice up which nothing can go but deer and goats, when I'm no more like a deer or goat than is a jellyfish. It's too - it's too -" she fumbled for words, and then burst out laughing. "Why, it's preposterously absurd! It's crazy! Whatever will You do next?"

The Shepherd laughed too. "I love doing preposterous things," He replied. "Why, I don't know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment it is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That is My special work".

I could type on and on because I love this book. As you can see, the style of writing is a bit unique and I'm sure it isn't for everyone. The first time I read it I was struggling with depression and it helped me so much. Right now I am struggling with cancer and the whys that come along with it.

A sentence from the book I read a couple days ago was this "This further delay is not unto death, but for the glory of God; that the Son of God may be glorified." One of my biggest struggles with cancer is the why? What purpose can this possibly serve? This sentence helps me understand. It's for God's glory - everything we do is for His glory.

On the blog I am very open and honest. In person though I tend to be quite guarded. I was planning on attending a bible study this year and last night I chickened out. I was going to meet the ladies in this group and just couldn't do it. I had been looking forward to it for weeks and then yesterday afternoon reality set in. I was going to let these women into my life, my mind and my heart. My walls went up and I went down into the pit. I just wanted to be home and left alone. A great friend of mine is in this group and she reached her hand down into the pit where I was. She gently told me that Satan doesn't want me in this bible study. She didn't try to grab me by the arm and pull me from that pit but said she was going to pray for me and left her hand quietly extended there for me when I am ready to take it.

I know God wants me in this bible study and Satan doesn't. I hate how easily I let those negative thoughts or stinkin' thinkin' take over my mind. Please pray that I would be willing to let my guard down and my heart to be reached and that I would recognize the negative thoughts for what they are - useless.

Brian and I are going on our annual fall camping weekend soon - just the two of us! Oh wait, just the two of us plus two dogs :) This is our favorite weekend of the year. It's not that we don't love our children but it is just so wonderful to get away from the world, away from reality and just be together. We watch movies, read books, eat and sleep. And this year we will also get many slobbery kisses from our four legged children. There is nothing like a pet for unconditional love!

We are not going to check my CA125 or have any scans done until after this weekend. I don't want anything going through my mind when we get away. Early in October I will begin having the tests done and then we will meet with my doctor again in November and go from there.

God put it on my heart to take a break from chemo and seek Him. I've taken a break from chemo but I'll be honest - I haven't sought Him. I've kept myself busy with cleaning and running kids here and there, a couple pity parties and anything else that would prevent me from spending that quiet time with Him. Honestly, I think I am afraid just like the character in the book. I'm afraid of what His plans for me are and what He believes I am capable of.

I do believe I have just typed our longest update ever! It feels so good knowing that I am able to share my true feelings - not so much in person but at least through our blog. Some day I will be as open in person as well and let my guard down. I wrote a poem a few years ago about this -

The walls I’ve built around me are up so very high.
I try to hide behind them so no one sees me cry.
Before the tears are on my cheeks they’re way down in my heart.
The loneliness is overwhelming and it’s tearing me apart.
I want to let my family in but it’s difficult to do.
How to go about it I just don’t have a clue.
I know I’m not alone or the first to feel this way.
Some day I’ll climb that wall -it just won’t be today.

As we take a break from treatment please pray that we will look to God every single day and grow in that relationship. That we will grow closer to eachother and be confident with the decisions that need to be made.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009: A Wordly View

Someone the other day left a comment comparing us to 'global missionaries'. Wow, that is quite a compliment! I think that might be a bit of a stretch, but the compliment is humbling. I don't for one second want to compare our lives to the life of a missionary. Missionaries make such huge sacrifices to spread the word of Christ. They are very special people. But your comment is appreciated. Wow! It sure has made us think. So I checked out our blog site counter recently and looked at our last 100 visitors. Goosebumps! Our 150,000th visitor was from Edison, NJ. We get this information off of our sitemeter...here's a look at a recent snapshot of the past hundred visitors:

Wherever there is white dot is where someone visited from (the red dot being the last visitor, green dots the last 10 and white is the last 100). Just a reminder: we don't know who the visitors are, only where they are visiting from. We are truly reaching around the world! India, China, Japan, England, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Alaska (OK, Alaska's not a different country but it might as well be!) Hey, do you think it was Sarah?! Na.

Speaking of comments and reaching around the world...all of us in the Christian family have a responsibility. Of faith, hope, and love, which one was the most important? Do you remember? Love. How about 'be humble and gentle' or 'love your neighbor' or 'be imitators of God', etc. My guess is that there are people reading this blog on a daily basis who don't know Christ or are searching for answers. If they see fellow Christians trashing each other it might be a turn off. In the 2 years we've had our blog we've only had to delete a handful of comments...usually a cheap plug to sell miracle pills or something. But the other day there was quite a nasty comment left toward another blogger who commented on our blog. If you read that comment we're sorry. We don't want to get into a situation where we're screening all of the comments. We do know other people who have had inconsiderate comments left and now they are forced to screen every comment before posting it. That is very sad. We don't want to have to do that. Unless offensive (or a cheap plug for some 'enhancing' pill), we leave every comment.

Like I said in my last post...we look forward to reading the comments and if we could respond to every one we would. It lets us know people are reading our blog and care for us. We just ask that if you read the comments and you disagree with someone, please don't use our blog to retaliate. We take the good with the bad. People offer a lot of advice based on their own situation. What works for one person may not work for another. All of us in the cancer family know that. But the only way to find out is to listen to advice and investigate every piece of advice. Do we listen to it all? yup. Do we try it all? nope. Like I said, what works for one may not work for another. Some we've already tried, some just doesn't work for us. The whole medical marijuana topic is kind of funny on the surface but it's real. Cancer is real. If it works, we will try it. Well, not "we", but Kristi. Well, if we make brownies I might have to try one. OK, OK, focus. I ever mention I'm ADD? So anyway, we love you all, thank you for reading, and please keep the comments coming! And if you must reply to someone's comment, send them an e-mail! :)

Remember, of faith, hope and love, LOVE is the greatest. Now go out and LOVE!

or adopt a pet

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009: On The Rebound

We just wanted to get a quick update out to let everyone know we are doing much better. After making the decision to put chemo on hold we both felt a big burden lifted off of our shoulders. We have definitely felt the effects of all of your prayers. Kristi is also physically feeling a little better these days. Thanks for being such faithful readers and prayer warriors for our family! We'd like to be able to respond to everyone in person but along with dealing with cancer, school and sports are now in full swing! Every night we have either soccer, karate, piano, Cadets, etc. By the time we get the kids to bed we crash on the couch. Just know that we read every e-mail and comment and we feel truly blessed!

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Psalm 40:1-2.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009: We Warned You!

Well, you can't say we never warned you. Right in the header of our blog we have the word "CAUTION". We realize that people who love us very much read this blog daily (our parents, siblings, closest friends). This blog was created for a way for us to journal this adventure; a kind of therapy for us. Through this journey there will be good times and bad. If you're reading this, you need to be prepared for things to change in a moments notice. We have become quite used to that over the past 3 years.

The past few weeks have not been easy and maybe you have seen a change in our postings. We can't put on fake "happy faces" all the time and pretend everything is wonderful or we wouldn't be real. Yes, we are Christians. We love God. We know God loves us. Never doubted it. Nowhere in the bible does it say if you become a Christian life will be easy. Quite the opposite actually. But one of the most wonderful things about having faith is knowing that God is always by our side.

Today was another tough day. I was on video duty for church this morning. Kristi made it to the 2nd service by herself. She left the kids home because they were too much for Kristi to get ready and out the door by herself. So Kristi sat with her mom near the back. About half way through the service Kristi broke down. She walked out of church and drove home. I caught her in the parking lot and followed her. When we got home we just laid in bed. We tried napping but just laid for about 2 hours. We talked a lot. Pretty much decided we're taking a break from chemo. Although we appreciate all of the advice, this was a decision we made (although I am intrigued my the medical marijuana idea. For me. I'll investigate). :)

While we were upstairs, Ashley was working on a bible assignment for school. Ashley is our oldest daughter. She is 12. We normally encourage the kids not to do their homework on Sunday, but this is what she wrote:

My Life
by Ashley Rogalske
"My life has been good but hard. In 2007 my mom got ovarian cancer. Ever since 2007 life has been hard for us. Her cancer has gone away a few times but it always seems to come back. I am the oldest child so I feel like I should do a lot of work around the house and keep watch of my younger siblings. God has been faithful to us by staying with us and being on our side. God has never left us and He never will. Gods faithfulness was great in the life of Joseph. God helped Joseph as much as he is helping our family right now. When Joseph's brothers threw Joseph in the pit and sold him to the midianite merchants (Ishmaelites), God was with him the whole time and never left him.
If you are ever having a hard time and don't know what to do, just take out the Bible and read. Here are some verses I found that help me.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. Psalm 105:5
Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God, trust also in me. John 14:1
I sought the Lord, and he answered me, he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
When times are good, be happy; when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. Ecclesiastes 7:14 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
I chose these verses because when I read them, immediately I feel like everything is going to be okay and that God will never leave me and my family. I feel like I am free from worrying and everything will be okay. If your are ever feeling down or not so well, find verses in the Bible and that will calm you down. "

What do you say to that?! I just broke down and cried in her arms. I was so proud on one hand but so mad on the other. I believe this experience will ultimately make these kids better adults, but I feel like they are being cheated out of a part of life. This sucks. This really sucks. That's how we feel right now. Pray that we will be rejuvenated soon. Thank you so much!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009: Decisions

As long as I can remember I have been terrible at making decisions. Sometimes I really don't have a preference, other times I'm afraid of offending the person I'm with (that's the people pleaser in me), and there are also times I simply don't know the answer.

Every single day we are hit with decisions. As soon as my alarm clock goes off I have to decide if I have time to hit snooze or not. The agonizing decision of "what shall I wear today"? By afternoon I'm trying to decide what to make for supper . . . of if I need to make supper (can I pull off another day of "we're having cereal again tonight"?)

Quite often in life there are the "biggie" decisions that we need to make. What college should I go to? Should I go to college? Who will I marry? (thankfully that was a no brainer for me!) Is it time for us to start a family? Where do we send our kids to school? How can we continue to afford sending our kids to school?

And then every once in a while we are hit with those major decisions. Those life or death consequence decisions. We are there right now. We have actually been there for almost three years. I have cancer. I want it gone. How do we accomplish this?

We have for the most part followed the traditional route. We have seen the doctors. We have gotten second opinions. I have had surgeries, scans, tests, chemotherapy and so on. I have followed the rules and where has that gotten me? Well, it's been 2 years, seven months and twenty days (give or take a few hours) and I still have cancer.

If it sounds like I am bitter it's because I am. Through most of this journey I have been optimistic. Even though the odds have always been stacked against me I have believed that I would be in that small percentage of survivors. And I still do. As soon as I give up that thought I have admitted defeat and taken away any chance of surviving this battle.

Anyone who reads this blog also knows that I have had many times of just wanting to give up, times that I was at the bottom of a very dark pit and just wanted to stay there. I am not in a pit now, I am just tired. Tired of putting poison through my veins that just seems to be killing me along with the chemo. I don't want to give up but I want to find a new strategy - a new plan of attack.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with an illness knows that along with this comes a great deal of advice and opinions. Sometimes this can be overwhelming and other times it turns on a light bulb. It opens a new door. It starts the wheels spinning.

I recently was given some information on an alternative form of therapy. As I read through this I felt a strong pull. I felt like God was telling me to take a closer look. After doing some research of my own I have found out that this treatment is not available. In fact, it appears that it is not even legal to sell this vitamin in the United States. At this point I am not going to share what I am researching as I know that I will receive a great deal of opinions and right now I need to forge through on my own and make my own opinions. I am working with my oncologist on this as well. I still have a couple weeks before I am scheduled for my next round of chemo and many decisions need to be made.

That brings me back full circle to that dreaded word "decision". If I can't decide what restaurant I would like to eat at for supper how can I decide something that will effect my chance of survival? The verse I cling to is Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have made for you" declares the Lord. He has planned my life from beginning to end. These plans have been made. Where I struggle is . . . what are these plans? Can I get a copy of them? I am so afraid of making the wrong decision.

When I stopped chemo in April of 2008 I felt God's peace and I know I made the right decision. I still believe that. Right now I need to find this again. The thought "seek me" came into my head and I searched Bible Gateway and this is what I found . . . . You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. This verse is Jeremiah 29:13 - just two verses from my favorite verse. Coincidence? I don't think so.

So right now we seek. We seek with all our heart. And we pray. And we know - God does have plans for us . . "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009: Nobody Home

Read at your own risk. Faint of heart don't read.

If I said things were "OK" I'd be lying. It's 4:00AM and it's another sleepless night. Tick tock tick tock. As I sit here typing I hear the living room clock ticking away. Kristi is in absolute misery. She trades off extreme constipation with bouts of diarrhea. Throw in occasional nausea and constant fatigue and that sums up the last 10 days for us. Some nights as we sit on the couch I will look into her eyes (as she stares at the TV, not watching, but staring) - her eyes are open but nobody is home. Her expression is blank. It crushes me. Sorry. She says if this cancer ends up taking her in 2 years this is not how she wants to spend those last 2 years. I can't blame her. If it were me I'd want to be brought out to the 'back 40'. I can't even imagine the misery. She says she is not giving up her fight - and she's not - she has just been thinking a lot about 'reality' lately. She has been thinking a lot about quitting chemo lately. Then she asks me "what do you think?" Usually by this time of the conversation I'm numb. What does one say? I don't know. She says when she thinks of spending the next 2 years like this she gets emotionally exhausted. I responded by saying "when I think of spending the next 40 years without you I get emotionally exhausted". Sorry. That's how it's been the last 6 weeks around here. I'd put some specific prayer requests but I think you get it. Thanks. I'm going to go lay next to Kristi and the dogs now. Night.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009: A Little Better

Today was a little better than yesterday. Kristi was still puking this morning but hasn't thrown up since lunch. She's feeling a little better now. She is still extremely fatigued and ready to quit chemo again. Pico has been a nice addition to the family. He's really starting to fit in. Here are some pictures of Pico:

Papi and Pico keeping Kristi company as she rests. As you can see, Papi is still the favorite.

Papi and Pico keeping me company as I read

Pico is very curious

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009: Well...

Guess I spoke too soon. The nausea hit today. Kristi has had a bowl of oatmeal the past 2 days. She tried crackers and a 7-Up and well, it all came back up. She has been nauseous all day. Please pray that this is a short lived set-back. It gets really hard to understand how this chemo is "helping" her. She really struggles with this...and so do I. Please pray for reassurance that this chemo is the right thing to do and for energy for the 2 of us.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009: Not Much Nausea

So far so good on the nausea side. The new meds Kristi is taking seem to be working! The down side is that they make her very tired. She has slept most of the day today but seeing a tired mommy is better than one throwing up...so we're praising God for the new meds! I'm trying to motivate myself to go out and finish yard work...so I guess I'll go walk the dog!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009: Plans

Once again the "for I know the plans I have made for me" did not line up with "for I know the plans I have made for you". God's plans always trump our plans.

I thought I had all the details worked out. Bring the kids to school. Meet my mom at my house so we could switch cars and then go pick my dad up and drop Emily off after that. This way my dad could drive me to chemo with their car and my mom would have the van to pick up the kids later in the day. A little bit complicated but we made it work.

I got as far as bringing the kids to school and getting back home. That's where the plans took on a life of their own. I was giving Pico his antibiotic and pain medication in a piece of cheese and Papi decided to jump in and eat them instead. At first I was thinking he would be fine - it was just a quarter of each pill. Then I realized that Pico weighs twice as much as Papi. I called our vet to see what I should do and they told me I needed to make him throw it up. Thankfully my mom was already there so she helped me give Papi a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide (which is what the vet told me to do). I had to do this every 2 to 3 minutes until he threw up and if we hit 15 minutes with nothing we were going to have to bring him in. Thankfully he threw up after the second dose.

As we were dealing with this I was on the phone with my nurse. They had my blood work drawn yesterday at my doctors appointment and my counts were in. I was hit between the eyes with the news of my new number. I think she said 152 or 151 - Brian thought I said 156. I just remember hearing one fifty and then I kinda blanked out. Seconds after this Papi throws up on the carpet under the kitchen table.

My wonderful mother tried cleaning it up but didn't have much paper towel in her hand so she was rather grossed out and almost threw up. At this point it was actually comical. It was the perfect distraction to the bad news. Papi recovered quickly and I found the pills in his, well, you know.

After the mess was cleaned up we continued on with our day. Everything else went according to plan after that. Oh wait, Emily decided it would be a good morning to scream and cry and cling to my neck when I dropped her off at a friends. Thankfully this was a great friend who knew to take her so we could make the break and she was fine shortly after. The chemo clinic was pretty busy and everything was running behind. I should have known that would happen and factored that into the plans!

I'm still kind of surprised by the number and bummed. I may have a very resilient case of cancer but I also have amazing friends and family. I have parents who made arrangements so that my dad could spend the day with me at the clinic and my mom could pick up Emily this afternoon as well as the kids from school. A friend of mine watched Emily for the day. Another friend brought an awesome supper over (and meals for the freezer too!) and then yet one more friend stopped by tonight with a plate of brownies! We even had a friend bring a plate of brownies yesterday which sadly enough we inhaled by that night :) We are so well taken care of!

Pico has only been with us for three days and I'm amazed at how well he is adjusting. He is such a sweetheart!

Life is hard . . . but God is good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009: CA125 Results

Well, not what we were hoping or praying for but "it is what it is". Kristi's CA125 level jumped to 156. Dr. Downey said not to be surprised if it goes up but we were hoping he was just being cautious. He will continue the current chemo for a few more rounds before making any changes. Fortunately Papi was misbehaving this morning (he ate Pico's pills) so that kept Kristi distracted. She was more upset about that than the CA125 results! Please pray for more distractions and a side effect-free chemo. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009: Pico!

Sorry we didn't update last night with Pico pictures . . . it was a busy day! Pico is full of energy and we are thinking he still has a bit of puppy in him. He absolutely loves Papi! Unfortunately he loves him a little too much and isn't giving him any down time.

Initially he only wanted to be with Papi and he didn't have much interest in us. Today he has warmed up quite a bit to us. Doesn't he look just like Papi? Most of the time they are running around and playing. They wore themselves out and took a short nap on Brian We just weighed Pico tonight and he is 19 pounds - he's very solid. Papi on the other hand is 9 pounds - he's just a little runt.

My appointment with my oncologist today was uneventful which is good. They did give me a new prescription for a different nausea medication which hopefully means I won't get as sick this time. My chemo appointment is tomorrow at 11:00.

Some prayer requests:

We think Pico is going to be a wonderful addition to our family but we still have a bit of a transition phase. He is rather protective of Papi and is still getting used to being around people. He has snipped at a a few people so we are limiting visitors until he gets used to us.

Brian has still been struggling with his fatigue and it seems to have gotten worse recently. It's so hard to understand how someone who eats so healthy (well, most of the time anyway!) and works out every day can have this much fatigue. Pray that some day we can find a cause for it and for patience and strength as he waits.

Prayers of praise for a great first few days of school for the kids! They all have awesome teachers and are adjusting better than I expected to the new routine. They are pretty excited about a 4 day weekend though :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009: Just Another Week in the Life of the Rogalske's

Here is a peek at our schedule this week:

Monday: First day of school for Ashley & Nathan.
Tuesday: First day of kindergarden for Emily & pick up Pico from the Humane Society
Wednesday: Pre-chemo visit with Dr. Downey at 10:00
Thursday: Second round of chemo at 11:00
Friday: No school - no plans - phew!

Hmmm, did I say Pico? The Humane Society? Bet I've got you wondering :) When Papi was gone on his "road trip" we would stop by the Humane Society every couple of days to make sure he hadn't been turned in there. It was heart breaking to walk through there looking at all the dogs and cats in need of a home. We already have a cat and were hoping that Papi would soon return to us so I didn't let myself become attached to these animals as I walked through (not an easy task!). I thought with everything going on in our life right now adding another pet wasn't something to even consider. Silly me.

Brian wasn't able to get through the shelter without becoming attached. Pico caught his eyes and that was all it took. My initial response was "no way, no how, not going to happen!". After seeing the sad look in Brian's eyes and then seeing Pico's picture my resolve broke. We took the kids out to visit him last week and they fell in love with him too. On Saturday we brought Papi to meet him and they got along great. Long story short . . . we pick him up tomorrow!

Pico is having surgery today (he hadn't been neutered yet and the humane society requires that to be done before you can take the animals home). If all goes well we can pick him up tomorrow. We're not sure exactly what he is but he looks exactly like Papi except he is a little bit bigger and stockier. They guessed he is between 2-3 years old.

Although I still can't believe we are getting another dog I have to say I'm pretty excited. Papi likes other dogs (as long as they aren't big) and I think he will really enjoy having a buddy.

So some prayer requests for this week are:

* the kids as they adjust to the routine of being in school again

* for me as I adjust to the thought of my baby being in kindergarden!

* the family as we welcome Pico to our home

* that chemo will be uneventful and the side effects won't be as bad as the last round

* my CA125 number will be tested again on Thursday but I probably won't have the results until Friday - they said not to be surprised if it doesn't go down yet

* safe travel to G.R. on Wednesday and Thursday - the construction between here and there is crazy!

Thank you!!

By the way, if you are thinking about getting a cat or dog check out www.harborhumane.org.