Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010: These Sundays

I love Sundays. Sundays around our house are usually very quiet. We start the day by going to our House of Worship. We hang out afterwards talking to our friends drinking coffee. Seems every week we are the last ones to leave - I used to complain about my parents doing this when I was a child and now I'm doing it...Yikes!! When they pack up the coffee that's our sign to wrap it up and head for home. When we get home from church we just veg for the day. We usually don't answer the phone. The kids get a day of downtime from their friends and homework. Mom and Dad sometime work in a nap. Well, mommy does. Dad doesn't do naps. Just relax...that's all we do.

I love Sundays. Well, except for 'these' Sundays. What type of 'Sundays' am I talking about? The Sundays before Downey days. We see Dr. Downey on Wednesday. The Downey days are becoming quite downers of late. We don't know what we're going to do next. Kristi has been having a lot of pain in her lower back and abdomen. When ovarian cancer gets into the lymphatic system it's just a matter of time. What organ is it going to go to next? Right now it's camped out on both sides of her kidneys but hasn't gone in to the kidney yet. Has it now? So maybe a new chemo? Quality of life. That's what we're balancing now. We know the end is inevitable. So do we extend her life by 6 months that will be filled with nausea and more fatigue? Or just let things run their course. Making these types of decisions make the rest seem very trivial.

Kristi gets down on these Sundays. Very down. This time it seems as if her down time started about 3 weeks ago. Today as the day went on I came down with her. I realize it's real. I realize it's not going away. I know what the outcome will be. Yet, I still don't consider myself as 'the guy who's wife is dying'. I know I am. I know she is. I just hate hearing it. I was referred to as 'that guy' today, not directly, but as a part of a teaching moment. I knew who this person was talking about and didn't mind being a part of his story...quite honored actually. Reality is I am 'that guy'. Cancer sucks. It really sucks. And I hate being 'that guy'.

We will post after our Downey visit Wednesday. We can't wait to hear what uplifting inspirational words of wisdom he will have for us this week. NOT.

I'll leave on a happier note. Here are some pictures from our weekend getaway last weekend. Talk about relaxing!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010: You Can Run But You Can't Hide

Have you ever been walking along a path and saw the person in front of you push a branch aside that was in their way? You know what happens next – before you have a chance to react the branch comes flying back and smacks you in the face. Just minutes before this you had been so absorbed in the beautiful scenery and now you're on your butt, hands over your face, reeling from the pain and crying your eyes out.

Sure, there were probably roots in the woods along the way that you had tripped over earlier and some poison ivy that had been quite irritating. Maybe there were some spiders that freaked you out and possibly even a snake slithering by that really sent you into a tizzy. But you had managed to keep yourself together and kept walking.

Maybe you had even lost your balance on some rough terrain and fell down (a.k.a. been diagnosed with cancer, went through multiple surgeries and chemo treatments, rode on that roller coaster far too long only to be told that you were "terminal"). You dealt with it though. You had stood back up, brushed the dirt off your hands and continued walking. The tears had dried up and you had even begun to see the sunshine breaking through the tree branches. You had looked up and saw the sun reflecting off the leaves that were still hanging onto the trees. It was breathtaking and you even broke into a smile and began to relax and then – WHAM! There is that stupid tree branch again. I am so stinking tired of that stupid tree branch. For me, that tree branch is reality.

Brian and I just got back from our most favorite weekend of the year. We love our children and spending time with them but once a year in the fall we get away - just the two of us. We have a 30 year old pop-up camper and we fill it up with food (all healthy of course - not!), movies (we bring along a tv, dvd player and surround sound speakers - you know - basic camping gear), books, magazines and of course, the dogs.

When we first started this it was just to get away. For the past few years though we have left more behind than just the kids. We've left cancer behind too. We look forward to this weekend all year long - our escape from reality. Every year we have a great time. Every year though it becomes harder and harder to come back home. I'm always anxious to see the kids again (not to mention a clean, sanitary bathroom) but reality is always waiting at the door to greet us. Every year it gets a bit harder. This year it slapped me in the face so hard I think I still have red marks. You know, the kind that you get from that stupid tree branch.

I’ve patched myself up again and dried the tears. I’ve wiped the dirt off my hands, once again, and am taking it one step at a time. I was even laughing, dancing and singing tonight (I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas) with Ashley & Emily while we made apple crisp and carved pumpkins. Emily thinks I’m awesome and I think Ashley was very happy that we weren’t out in public at the time.

I still get really angry when I think about cancer and how it has impacted our lives. Cancer is our “it”. Everyone has some kind of “it”. It’s not always cancer and it’s not even necessarily a medical diagnosis. It’s just “it”. Yuck. Not good. An annoying slap in the face by a tree branch when you least expect it.

I hate falling down. I hate crying. I hate starting over again. I hate thinking about “it” and the impact it has had on our lives and will continue to have. I hate the loss of control I have. I hate tree branches slapping me in the face. I hate that I keep using the word hate!

It seems like I usually have a song or a verse to share at this point but today I don’t. Today I just put one foot in front of the other. I know God is there quietly cheering me on. He’s not talking to me right now or better put . . . I’m not listening. I’m sure He’s there though. He’s in the bright red beautiful leaf that refuses to let go of the branch. He’s in the twinkle that I see in Emily’s eyes. He’s in the wisdom that I hear in Ashley’s words. He’s in the delicious aroma of freshly baked apple crisp. He’s in the boom of the thunder and flash of the lightening outside my window. He’s also in the quiet rhythmic ticking of the clock. He’s there. He is.

And every time that stupid tree branch comes and slaps me in the face He’s going to be there to catch me and help me back up onto my feet again. You can run but you can’t hide from reality. It’s always there just waiting around the corner ready to pounce. Thankfully you can’t hide from God either. He’s right there ready to block that branch from hitting you or help pick you up after it strikes. Either way, He’s there. And I’m so glad He is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010: Because I Love You

I was at the vet this afternoon with our dog, Pico. We had found a tick behind his ear earlier this week and even though we were able to pull it out (gross!) he had a small lump growing. He was also due for some shots, toenail trim and some other routine things that smaller dogs require that are no fun at all.

I could hear Pico whimpering and crying in the other room and I felt so bad for him. People that he didn't know were poking and prodding in areas he didn't want to be messed with. As I listened to his cries I just wanted to hold him and tell him that it will be okay. I wanted to let him know that I loved him and that even though he didn't understand why all of this was happening it was all for his own good. I could see the bigger picture and knew what was best for him and that in the long run this would all be worth it. All the sudden it was like a light bulb went on ~ this is what God has been trying to explain to me. It was a small glimpse into how He is taking care of me.

My initial selfish thought was "could you please stop loving me so much?" That was pretty silly though though because He can't. Despite the hundreds of thousands of millions of times that I mess up He loves me too much to stop loving me.

I still hate cancer. I still can't imagine reasons behind all the yucky stuff that goes on in this world. But I guess I'm not supposed to.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010: Tumors, Tumors, Go Away!

Dr. Downey called tonight with the results of my ct scan. The scan showed that the tumors on my kidneys are still growing (despite the fact that my CA125 is going down). That kinda stunk to hear that but I can't say it surprised me. On a positive note, this was the only area that showed any evidence of disease (the scan went from my neck to my lower pelvis).

The plan for now is to wait until our next appointment which is November 3. That means three more weeks without chemo - yea! There is also another chemo pill that I can consider taking. Both of the pills are of course toxic and I need to weigh the pros and cons. I'm not against starting treatment again but I'm not going to even think about that now - did I mention three weeks without chemo? Love it!

If I should start to feel sick between now and then (nausea and pain in my upper stomach) it is possible that the tumors could be causing it and then we may start the treatment sooner. The tumors are not growing at an alarming rate now though . . . . if there are even tumors at all. I seem to recall at ct scan a few years ago that showed tumors all over my liver and during surgery a couple weeks later they found a completely healthy liver with no traces of cancer!

So for now we enjoy another break from chemo and ask for prayers for continued guidance on this journey.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010: Duck!!

The title of this update is not referring to the animal. It is a warning to duck because there is a major mood swing in progress over here and if you don't duck you may get hit.

I've noticed lately that when I update the blog and share the power of God working through me that I become a target. I may as well put a great big red bulls eye on my forehead because that is right where the enemy comes at me.

Was it really only a few hours ago that I had complete peace? Cuz I've lost it. Just like that. Lie after lie has been slung at my mind to the point that I don't even want to post positive updates anymore because this is so hard. I'm not giving up, I'm just tired. And I need prayers, lots of them.

Weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Wednesday, October 13, 2010: The Bigger Picture

So many things going through my mind right now. God has been sharing so much with me. I quite often "hear" Him through songs or just a thought in my mind. Recently it has felt like the skies have opened up and He has a megaphone and is yelling "You. Yes you. I'm talking to you!" It is to the point that I am in awe. I am overwhelmed at what I feel He is calling me to do and also amazed at the crystal clear communication I am hearing from Him. It is so easy to say "yes, I believe in God" and think you mean it and then you have a mind boggling experience and realize that He is real. So very, very, very real! And He is talking to me!!!

I've talked to Brian recently about everything going through my mind and I know he is in awe as well. However, his reply one day really cracked me up. After sharing everything that I have been processing and talking nonstop for quite a while he was very quiet. Then he says "twenty seven thousand four hundred sixty three to three hundred twenty four". I said "huh"? He says "you've said twenty seven thousand four hundred sixty three words so far today and I've said three hundred and twenty four". I wasn't sure whether to hug him or slap him :)

Some day I will post all the conversations God and I have been having lately but right now they are a big mixed up bag of thoughts (with apparently too many words). Today I heard the song I Am by Ginny Owens on the radio (I've never heard this song before today). Even though what God has been telling me seems like it should be simple to understand and do I am still struggling and processing it all. The chorus of the song cleared everything up for me:

’Cause there's a bigger picture you can't see
You don't have to change the world, just trust in Me
'Cause I am your creator, I am working out my plan
And through you I will show them, I Am

Some days (okay, every day) life seems so hard and complicated but this it what it all boils down to. I Am. He is. I can't mess up because He is my creator and He is working out His plan. All I need to do is trust Him. And through me - little, tiny, messed up, insignicant, broken and human me - you will see Him. Yes, cancer sucks. It sucks big time. But because cancer has broken me - you can see Him even more clearly through me.

I'm sure many of you are wondering if we have results on my ct scan yet. I haven't heard anything yet (and doubt I will until at least Thursday or Friday). To be honest I haven't really given it a second thought. I could be a phone call away from hearing "the results showed that the cancer has spread" and I'm not the least bit worried (yes, I have my moments of fear, I'm human, but at this point in time right now I am not afraid). God has the bigger picture in sight and He's got my back. How awesome is He??

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010: I Can Do All Things

I had a ct scan this morning. I remember the first time I had one. I was so freaked out by the huge machine. Now they are no big deal. I don't care for the "smoothie" that I have to drink the night before and the morning of (or the effect it has on my stomach) but again, no big deal. The needle that they have to poke into my arm for the iv contrast, well, can't say I'm a fan of that part.

My veins have really taken a beating over the past few years. I've had blood drawn a minimum of once a month for almost the last four years. The scar tissue has built up and when the needle hits it . . . . ouch. Although today wasn't a big deal, it was a big ouch.

The first poke was so painful that I jerked my arm which caused the needle to come back out. The second attempt (in my other arm) went in and was working (good blood flow out, saline was able to go in) but it hurt so bad I couldn't stand it so she had to take it out. Even after she took the needle out it still felt like it was in and well, it wasn't fun. They called in one of the nurses from urgent care and she was able to get a needle in without too much pain on the third try.

Typically during something like this I would be sweating and cold, nauseous and freaked out. Not today. Today during this entire experience I kept repeating this verse over and over in my mind.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Today's ct scan was just a routine scan. I didn't have any reason for it other than I was due for one. No big deal. It wasn't fun but I got through it because of the strength that Christ gave me. The results will be in sometime next week. For now, we wait. And no matter what the results show, I will be okay because ~ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010: Sticky Boogers

These are my feelings right now. I’m processing what was said today. Just journaling to work things out. Dr. Downey didn’t find any new “lumps or bumps”, which was good. But he made some unusual comments that just stuck in our minds. I take longer than Kristi to process this stuff; it tends to stick with me longer.

He starts the appointment with a surprise. “So you want to take a break from the chemo? I think that’s a good idea. Let’s start it up after the holidays.” That kinda took us off guard; we were thinking a month, but OK. Of course, that was followed by “we want to keep you feeling good through the holidays. We don’t know how many you have left.” Then he moved along to something else. But that comment stuck. Stuck like a sticky booger. You know the kind. The kind you try to flick off your finger discreetly but just won’t come unstuck. That’s what it was like. A big fat sticky booger of a comment.

At the end of the appointment, he leaves us with “you may want to make some videos of Kristi talking to the kids. So they have something to remember her by when they get older.” Ouch. Not what I wanted to hear today doc. Was feeling pretty good. Yup. Now, I’ve got 2 big fat sticky boogers stuck to my finger. I’m shaking and shaking and they won’t let go.

It’s just heavy on my mind right now. Searching for a Kleenex to wipe these boogers on.

Like Kristi says…it’s satan working through Dr. Downey to bring us down. Kinda ironic as the doctor’s name is Dr. Gordon O. Downey. Gordon O. Downey. How perfect for satan to work through him.

"All Your promises won't let go of me"

But these boogers will soon dry up and fall off.

God, thank you. Thank you for your unconditional, no strings attached love. A love that can only be given by You. A love that so many people brush off, or take for granted. When things are going well it's so easy to take You for granted. Please forgive us for that complacency. Lord, You never promised us an easy, pain-free life. We brought pain and suffering on ourselves. Please, Lord, help us remember that. Help us get through these next few days as we/I process these emotions. Help us to not get angry, frustrated or resentful. It's so easy to fall into that trap. Forgive us as we fell into that trap again today. Thank you for being the one consistent Lifeline that we can always count on.

Thank you God.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010: Praise Is Rising!

I woke up this morning with a song in my head. It is pretty common for me to have a song running through my head but I don't know if I have ever had a song in my head the second I woke up. I am not a morning person so there isn't typically anything going through my head when I wake up! But today . . . these are the words I heard the second I opened my eyes.

Praise is rising ~ eyes are turning to you ~ we turn to you.
Hope is stirring ~ hearts are yearning for you ~ we long for you.
When we see you we find strength to face the day.
In your presence all our fears are washed away ~ washed away.
Hosanna, hosanna ~You are the God who saves us, worthy of all our praises.
(Praise Is Rising by Paul Baloche)

I came downstairs and heard Ashley in the kitchen singing . . . . yup, the exact same song! Coincidence? I don't think so! I have been praying that I will praise Him no matter what and I have had an unexplainable peace about this. I just got off the phone with my nurse and my CA125 dropped from 422 to 366! I'm sure my doctor will have a "rational" explanation for this drop despite the fact that I'm not on chemo. We have an appointment tomorrow morning at 9:15 for a physical exam and also talk about where we go from here.

I will continue to trust Him and praise Him no matter what . . . but, can I just say that it is soooooooo awesome to get good news like this! We will update tomorrow afternoon - in the meantime, here is a link to the beautiful song that I started my day with.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010: Can You Hear It?

Have you ever heard the voice of fear? Sometimes this voice sneaks up on me. I can be in the middle of a typical day and then all the sudden - WHAM - out of nowhere comes this ugly fear that grabs hold of the carpet underneath me and pulls it out. The next thing I remember is being flat on my back having no idea what just hit me.

Sometimes the voice is sneakier. I hear a faint complaint "don't forget about that lump in your neck". I try to ignore it but it gets louder "I think it's getting bigger". I hear things like "you should really get that checked out" and "it's not looking good". And then the voice's favorite grand finale "the cancer is spreading!". Before I know it I have worked myself into a panic thinking that the cancer has spread from my head to my toes.

This time the voice tried something different. It wasn't loud and it didn't come on quickly. It was a slow and steady rhythm like the sound of a leaky faucet - drip, drip , drip. It was stuck in my head and wouldn't stop. It just kept going on and on ~ drip, drip, drip. You have cancer. You have cancer. You have cancer. You have cancer. You have cancer.

This has been going on for a couple days now. I can't get my mind off of cancer. I try to focus on other things but it is still there quietly nagging at the back of my mind. You would think after almost four years of dealing with this I would be used to it. I don't think I will ever get used to it. It feels like a bad dream that I can't wake up from.

The voice never got louder but it never let up. It was lulling me into a dark, lonely place of sadness. At the core of this darkness though there was a small ray of light that refused to go away. There were times that I thought that little glimmer of hope was going to be snuffed out by the constant drips of lies that the voice kept repeating.

I convinced myself that I needed to read the bible (despite the voice telling me not to) and I noticed the dripping started to slow down. I put Christian music on and it was like an umbrella had opened and was covering me from the constant attack. I can still hear the "thud" as the drops hit umbrella but this barrier has helped me put things back into perspective. I can see now that the ray of light wasn't getting smaller - it only appeared to because my eyes were so focused on the dark drops of rain falling all around me.

Good-bye (and good riddance!) voice of fear. I'm listening to the Voice of Truth now.

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the Voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
and the Voice of truth says "this is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

(Chorus from Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns)