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.