Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010: Ouch!

I'm writing today because Kristi is in a lot of pain. She could sure use some prayers specific to her pain. Here are a couple pictures of her neck.

Some people have wondered how I've been doing lately. Well, I actually have been doing really well. The psychiatrist I saw was great. We're still tweaking to find the right mix of meds but my depression is much better. Right now we're working on my sleeping - trying to find the right meds to make and keep me sleeping. I still struggle with daytime fatigue but we're focused on getting my sleeping "fixed". So that's all. Nothing much, but definitely worthy of praise.

The kids have all passed their colds and other than just being normal kids are doing well.

Please keep Kristi in your daily prayers - especially her pain.

Thank you much!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010: A Time For Everything

Today looked like a fairly quiet day on the calendar. You'd think by now I would realize that the calendar and reality don't always match up. When I look back at the past 12 hours it makes me wonder how I am even able to function. Here's a glimpse:

The day started at school ~ a bunch of kindergarten moms met for coffee with the principal. It was a chance to share any concerns or ask questions. I didn't have any questions or concerns but I used that chance to sing the praises of Rose Park teachers. They go above and beyond the "call of duty" and they do it because they love our family. There isn't a word in the English language that can describe how wonderful they are.

As I left school I ran into a friend in the parking lot that I hadn't seen for a while. We chatted for a couple minutes and I left with a smile thinking "I really should get out of the house more often and visit with friends".

Mid-morning I received a call on Skype (I don't know the technical terms for this but basically it is a video phone call through the internet). My brother called from Columbia. He started by saying "shhhhhhhh" and then he turned his computer around so that I could see Stephanie, Carlos and Maria playing together. I felt like a little fly on the wall and I loved it! The joy just radiates from their family.

Around lunch time my mom and I headed to my sisters to visit with her. The first thing I saw was the sadness in her eyes. We knew Eric wasn't doing well before we got there but knowing it in your head and seeing it with your eyes are two different things. Eric's mom was over so Lori was able to leave Eric for a little bit to spend some time with us. After tears, hugs, more tears and a prayer we left.

We went directly from my sisters to my radiation treatment. Oh yeah, I almost forgot that I have cancer. Nothing like a dose of radiation to remind me. (Yes, I'm feeling bitter and sarcastic).
Shortly after I was home I found out that a friends father had passed away earlier today. Like I said at the beginning of this post - I don't know how I'm able to put one foot in front of the other one. I know that I could never do it with my own strength. All day long the song "He Is With You" by Mandisa was running through my head. I think God is my personal DJ with all the songs He's been putting in my mind. I found a beautiful video with this song on youtube.

Here are the words from the beginning of the song . . .

There's a time to live
And a time to die
There's a time to laugh
And a time to cry
There's a time for war
And a time for peace
There's a hand to hold
In the worst of things

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010: Blessed Be Your Name

Our family is on an emotional roller coaster right now. Typically a roller coaster goes up and then down. Our roller coaster is going up and down at the same time right now.

Kevin & Stephanie (my brother & sister-in-law) left for Columbia last week Friday and this afternoon the moment they have been waiting for so long for finally came . . . they finally got to meet their precious little girl. Tonight is the first night this 'family of four' will be spending together. The first of many to come.

Lori & Eric (my sister & brother-in-law) are simply living one day at a time. Eric is in the very advanced stages of ALS. Every morning when they wake up they say "another day together". His pain and suffering will be gone when he gets to meet Jesus face to face - just thinking about that gives me goosebumps. I can see him running and jumping and dancing and singing on the top of his lungs! There will be tears of joy celebrating his new life but also many tears of sadness as we wait for the day when we will all be reunited again.

Some days when I think about all that our family is going through I am overwhelmed. If I would read this update about a family other than ours I would say there was no possible way our family would survive something like that. I have days where I wish I could just close my eyes and make it all go away ~ that we could go back to a "normal" life. But since that can't happen we have to make the best of what we have.

As I started to become overwhelmed this afternoon the song 'Blessed Be Your Name' was running through my head.

Blessed be Your Name

In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name.

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be Your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be Your glorious name.

These are just some of the verses and the chorus of the song. These are the verses that sum up our family perfectly. Right now His streams of abundance are flowing for my brother and his family. My sister and her family are on the road marked with suffering. Sometimes our streams of abundance include suffering and other times the roads marked with suffering have been filled with abundance Every blessing our family receives we turn back to praise and even in the darkness we will bless the name of the Lord.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010: Dear Anonymous

**This post is a little bit "outside the box". When I refer to "anonymous" at the beginning of the post I am referring to everyone that has commented anonymously.

Dear Anonymous,

I don't know who you are. I don't know your name or where you live. I don't know if you are a man or a woman ~ if you are young or old. I do know that there are times that you make me smile. There are times that you make me think. There are times that you make me cry and wonder why you would write something that hurtful. Your last comment left me in tears as well but these were tears of awe and wonder. You made me feel God's presence like I never have before. I hope you don't mind but I wanted to post the words you shared with me . . .

I have been searching the internet for ovarian cancer survivors for weeks. Hour after hour trying to find stories of hope to send my mom. She was first diagnosed in April 2008 had her surgery, went through chemo and was 'cured'. In early December she got really sick, but all the cancer tests, pet scan, ultrasounds etc looked good so the dr kept saying it was prob scar tissue that had gotten in her intestines. On 12/23 they finally went in to check it out since she had spent weeks in the hospital and it wasn't letting up. Turns our the cancer was back and her dr wasn't very hopefull either. They got it out but a couple weeks ago another tumor showed up so she is currently in some mayo clinic in AZ getting more tests done. The timeline on your situation just hit me like a brick wall and of all the blogs and sites this is the first time i've ever posted anything. I'm sure you know as well as I do that ovarian cancer is a very bad cancer and recurrence even worse. But I want you to know there are people with recurrent ovarian cancer who have lived past 5 yrs. I have found them by searching and searching online. You clearly have a strong faith and I know that will carry you very far. Never give up the fight and never for a second let anybody, whoever they are, tell you that you wont make it past 5 yrs. I have faith that my mom will make it. She will live long and my 7 mos old and 2 yr old will have many memories with her as they grow up. You will live to be with your babies as they have babies and long after that. I can feel it deep in my soul. I can feel the holy spirit as i read your blog tonight and I havent been to church in 11 yrs nor am i a religous person at all. You will make it... keep fighting with your body, your spirit, and your mind. God is with you , I felt him all around the moment I clicked on your site.

Thank you "anonymous" for your wonderful words of encouragement.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010: Love Is . . .

I think many of you have already heard me talk about the prayer that I said only months before I was diagnosed with cancer. I asked God to break me while singing the song "Holiness". These were the words:

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for.
Brokenness is what I need.
Brokenness, brokenness is what
You want from me.

I have definitely been broken. My health, my life, my heart, my way of thinking, my relationship with God and so much more. Everything was broken completely but God used that break to make all of it stronger. I know I am a much stronger person today than I was three years ago.

I still have so much growing to do though. A couple months ago I started thinking about the chorus of "Holiness" . . .

So, take my heart and form it.
Take my mind and transform it.
Take my will and conform it.
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.

When I think of my heart being formed I imagine it growing and changing to be like God's. I've been thinking a lot about love lately. What is love? When I think about it quite often songs will jump into my head like "What Is Love?" (from the movie Night at the Roxbury), Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Love Me Tender" by Elvis. The songs though, weren't getting me any closer to figuring out what love is so I went to the best source I could think of . . . the bible.

The first verse that came to mind is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 . . .

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I have put in bold the things that love "is". That's a lot of things! When I think of love ~ I think of it as a feeling. A feeling we have for God, our family, and some close friends. I think of hearts, warm fuzzies and XOXO's.

I think this is where God needs to, as the song says, "form my heart". I am a long, long away from the description of love that is in 1 Corinthians. I know there are many people who would tell me that a lot of those words describe me. When I am out in the public I am typically patient, kind, not angry, rude or self-seeking but when I'm home with my family it's a different story. I am definitely not patient and not always kind. I can be rude, self-seeking and unfortunately I am easily angered.

I'm not being hard on myself ~ I'm being honest. I think we all try so hard to be nice to people everywhere we go that when we come home we just don't have the energy anymore to keep that happy face on. Or we take our frustrations out from a bad day on the people that we care about the most. I know I'm not alone in this (I'm just the crazy one that publicly declares it on the world-wide web!).

I want to work on this and the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one (which I'm pretty sure I just did). I know God has been nudging my heart in this area but I have been too stubborn to eat a piece of humble pie and admit it. Brian, Ashley, Nathan and Emily - I love you! If you'll excuse me now ~ I have a piece of pie I need to go eat.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010: A Case of the Grumpies

Grumpy. That word sums up my mood right now. I typed out a comment on a friends blog just a few minutes ago and then my lap top decided that it can’t find the internet connection anymore and poof – everything I just typed is gone. Plus I can’t figure out why it won’t connect so I don’t even know if this update will be able to post.

I’ve been on edge lately and it takes a simple thing like losing connection to the internet to bring my mood from okay to grouchy. I met with a new psychiatrist yesterday. He is fairly new to Pine Rest and he was very helpful. He didn’t use big words that went over my head and I felt like he really wanted to know what was going on with me and that I wasn’t just his “1:00 appointment”. The only thing I had a hard time was with how young he is. Either the medical field is getting younger or I am getting older :)

He seriously looks like he can’t be even mid 20’s yet so my mind judges and thinks “I’ve lived twice as long as this kid has – why is he giving me advice?” The rational side of my brain realizes that it is because he has gone to school and been trained for this job. He was also very personable (which isn’t always the case with psychiatrists).

Anyway, after my appointment we decided that I needed to make a couple medication changes. He doesn’t want any fast changes so we’re just increasing one of my doses for now. I also have an appointment with my psychologist next week. Brian has a hard time remembering which doctor does what so I call my psychologist my “talking doctor (she can’t prescribe medication) and my psychiatrist the “drug doc”.

Now I’m getting irritated because my laptop which is on my lap right now is getting very warm and causing me to overheat which then makes me nauseous. I’m trying my best to stop and count my blessings when I get grumpy. Yes, my laptop may have some quirks and overheat but I am thankful that I have a lap top.

I now have 13 appointments behind me and 14 to go – the halfway point already! My skin is becoming irritated where they are treating. It looks sunburned, it itches and is painful at times. On the blessing side though I’m halfway done, if it’s burning the outside of my skin then it must be attacking the cancer as well, we have medical insurance to help pay for this and I’ve met some really nice people in the waiting room. We may be strangers but we have an instant bond. We all have a different type of cancer but it’s still cancer.

All three kids are in bed (which I think is a record for us!). I’m pretty sure none of them are sleeping but I’m going to take advantage of this quiet time and try to get some reading in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010: Fatigue, nausea and pain - oh my!

I slipped in and out of consciousness tonight on the couch because I was so tired. I'm drinking peppermint tea for my nausea and taking Tylenol for my pain. Oh my!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010: Thud

In case you're wondering what that "thud" was ~ it the sound of me hitting the bottom of the pit. I've been in bed almost 24/7 since Friday night. I got up a couple times yesterday (only to go lay on the couch). There is a bug going around the house so I thought I had caught that but I had also caught the sneaky bug called depression as well. By the end of last night I was curled up in the fetal position crying my eyes out in our bedroom closet. Brian just simply listened to my incoherent babbling between sobs until there was nothing left to say and no more tears to cry.

I was trying to figure out how that episode had snuck up on me so quickly and quietly. As I looked back though I remembered Brian telling me earlier in the week that he thought I was becoming depressed and that I should get in to see the psychiatrist. I remember telling him "no, dear, you're mistaken". Oh wait, it was more like "no I'm not, leave me alone". I must have gotten worse because he continued to "suggest" that I go see the psychiatrist. My response was that "there isn't a single pill that will take away this cancer or that will take away the fact that I have cancer". I figured there wasn't a pill that could help me say "I have cancer and I don't care" so why bother? (Actually there probably is but I'm pretty sure it's not legal).

So as I look back I see there were warning signs but I had my blinders on. So now here I am at the bottom of this pit trying to claw my way back to the top. At least at this point I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's physically an effort for me to do anything right now. I feel like I have weights strapped to my arms and legs holding me down but I think the weight that is on my heart and mind is the heaviest.

I always start feeling better after I post but it sure is humbling to put it all out there. If someone reading this right now has been feeling down lately and a loved one has been trying to gently suggest that you may be depressed ~ think about what I just shared and prevent yourself from sliding further down into the pit (not to mention the slippery slope that needs to be tackled to get out) and talk to someone.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward. Philippians 3:13

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010: Random Thoughts

I have almost updated the blog many times over the past week. I've thought about updating on my treatments - 9 down, 18 to go. Or complaining about the fact that my neck is getting red, sore and itchy from the radiation (hopefully that means it's working!).

I was going to type about the tear I feel in my heart every time I watch my 5 year old walk into school. I will never get used to seeing that tiny little girl walking into school with all those big kids. Or how she looks up at her brother or sister when they walk in with her. Or the way she will turn around halfway to the door, blow me a kiss and on the top of her lungs yell "I love you Mommy!"

I almost wrote a post about how my daughter who just last year was so happy to see me when I came to school ~ her eyes would light up and she had the biggest smile. This year when she sees me at school her eyes get really wide and her jaw drops as if to say "uh, mom, what are you doing here?" Apparently it is no longer "cool" to be seen with your mom when you are in sixth grade. Sigh.

I've also been wanting to type a post on the song "What Do I Know of Holy" by Addison Road. What do I know? I just know that when I think about God, really think about Him I realize that I don't know much at all. Every time I hear that song I am vividly reminded about how magnificent He is and how small I am. But ~ this isn't a post about that ~ maybe some other day.

For now I'll simply leave you with something one of my daughters teachers emailed me (thank you Mrs. D!) which she had seen etched in the trails at Calvin College . . . .

"Be still and know that I am God."
"Be still and know that I AM."
"Be still and know."
"Be still."