Sunday, October 15, 2017

When Fear Leaves You Speechless, Joy is That Much Sweeter

Last Thursday morning, Tim and I left the house just after 6:00 to head to The Woodlands for lab work and a follow up with Dr. Nelson. For those of you who know me well, you know I’m a talker. Tim says riding in the car is open season for me to talk non-stop about nothing. Thursday morning this was not the case. I don’t think either of us said much on the ride down there. It was an unusually quiet ride.

We had decided that there was no need for me to go in to the lab while he had his blood draws, so I dropped him off at the front door of St Luke’s and went to park.  I hadn’t even pulled in to a parking spot and he was already out. This meant we had an hour to sit and wait before we were to see the doctor. Now if it were 10:00 am and not 6:45, we could have found several ways to pass our time, but instead we found ourselves sitting in car in the parking garage while we waited. Once again, neither of us had much to say.  We were both nearly crippled with fear, but neither was willing to talk about it. Tim later admitted that he felt deep down that the PET scan was going to show that the cancer had spread to his bones.  My fear was that it was in every organ. Yet neither of us were willing to admit it out loud.  After having been together for almost 28 years, there are very few times that we have been unwilling or unable to talk about whatever’s bothering us. But this time, we couldn’t.  I carry this metal ring of notecards that I’ve written verses on everywhere I go. Most are about God being in control, not being afraid...things like that.  I let go of all of that and allowed Satan to take hold of my worries

The time arrived to go in and I’m not sure how I put one foot in front of the other.  I remember clutching my red binder (yes, a post is coming soon) and making our way up to the 4th floor. I was so  caught up in my intermittent worries and prayers that I actually went and sat in the wrong waiting area while Tim checked in. .

Once we were in the room, the dietician came in and I clung to everything she said.  Much like my need to organize everything in my binder, I felt like this was something I could control.  I am constantly reminded that the Lord is in control and I know this, but there is still a fleshly part of me that likes that false sense of control.  We were able to be very specific when answering her questions because I had documented everything in my binder, so we learned a lot from her and hope to maintain, if not gain, weight and hopefully tolerate the chemo better.

The nurse was next and she shared a copy of the lab work from the morning, but we didn’t even have time to compare them before Dr. Nelson came in. He spent time asking about how Tim had felt, how he’d tolerated the chemo, and any side effects he’d noticed. He told us he wanted to add an additional drug to the regimen on Friday. It’s not chemo but is a targeted vasculation drug to open up blood vessels to allow the chemo to work better and hopefully close off overactive blood vessels near the cancer sites.

At this point we were both anxiously waiting for him to address the CT of the chest and the PET scan, but neither wanting to say anything. He then transitioned to the papers in his hand. He started with the lab work and said, “Your labs look good.”  He continued by saying, “Neither the CT of the chest or the PET scan show anything that we weren’t already aware of and treating.”  At this point I think we both exhaled a huge sigh of relief.  It’s like we were finally able to breathe. The cancer is contained to the rectum and liver at this point. This isn’t good news, but it’s definitely not more bad news.

As we made our way back down and out to the parking garage, we both were able to express our earlier fears and felt a nenewed since of fight and purpose. We both know that this is a long fight, but one we can endure only if we are steadfast in our relationship with God, honest with each other (learned from this one), and willing to lean on our family and friends when we need to.

Continue to pray with us that the chemo works and he tolerates it well.  My verse to memorize this week is Isaiah 45:6-7. That men may know from the rising to the setting sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.  Hopefully this will remind me that I have NO control and don’t need any!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Port, Round 1, & Real Prayer - Wait...I think I have those backwards.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults (sins) one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

I memorized part of this verse years ago - the part that says, “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  What I left out was the entire first sentence.  The instruction to confess your sins and pray for one another must happen SO THAT...any time there is a “so” or “that” we best pay may be healed.  I most definitely want Tim to be healed and SO now it’s confession time.

I came home after learning of Tim’s diagnosis and laid out on the floor and pleaded with God to heal Tim - to take the cancer from his body. In the midst of my ranting I explained to God that He couldn’t take Tim because he was my everything.  Immediately, the Holy Spirit subtly reminded me that there was my problem. Tim should not be my everything, my Heavenly Father wants to be. My sin was putting my kids and Tim before my relationship with the Lord.

So on to that part of the verse I had memorized. Did you notice I left out the word “effectual” in my memorized version? Hmmmm. My idea of fervent prayer was passionate, vehement.  I have that down! No doubt I can be vehement, but what was missing was the “effectual” part. My impassioned begging was probably just a bunch of gibberish and may even have grieved the Spirit. My relationship with the Father was taking a back seat to my desire for Him to do what I wanted still want Him to do.  I can’t say I have given this up 100%, but rather am in process.  It’s an everyday trial for me.

Now that I’ve confessed where I’ve been (and yes it’s going to be scary to click the publish button), let me catch you up to where we are now.

Tim’s port was installed on Thursday morning, 9/28, and he had his first chemo infusion on Friday, 9/29.  He’s currently scheduled for a three-drug regimen every other Friday.  He receives  some supplemental drugs with two of the chemo drugs and iron in clinic.  It takes about 7 1/2 hours.  When leaving the infusion center, the nurse starts the third drug through a pump for a 48-Hour intermittent drip.  This means that because he finishes this infusion early Sunday evening, we either have to drive to MD Anderson in the medical center or I get trained to disconnect the pump, flush his lines, and remove the needle.  Guess what! We aren’t driving to Houston on Sundays for a 10 minute procedure.     I must say, I did pretty good the first time.  I’m pretty sure Tim was more nervous than I was.

He then returns to the infusion center on Mondays to return the pump and get a booster for his white blood cells.  The first round went fairly well. He was weak and tired very quickly, but was beginning to feel better by Wednesday and Thursday.  We knew side effects would rear their ugly head and by Friday Tim was back to feeling bad.  He was able to see Cooper play football Saturday morning and worked part of the day today, so we are celebrating the small things.  We know rough days are ahead, but will continue to practice James 5:16.

What’s next? We return to the doctor this Thursday to check in and get the results of the PET Scan and round two of chemo on Friday.  Please pray with us that this cancer be contained and respond to the chemo.

I’m thinking a post on my binder comes next! It’s definitely my sanity right now.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fast Track to MD Anderson

To pick up where I left off, we came home Friday from the medical oncologist with a bleak outlook. We spent time at home over the weekend preparing to start radiation and an oral chemotherapy regimen. On Sunday morning, September 24, we went to church as a family and a very dear friend who is a fairly recent breast cancer survivor (Melanie) offered to contact her nurse navigator at MD Anderson if we wanted to “just see if we could get in and what they would have to say.”  We agreed to see what would happen and told her to go ahead.  On Monday morning just after 8:00, Melanie came to find me in a meeting and told me that the nurse navigator had called her and said her medical oncologist wanted to see us at 3:30 that afternoon.   At this point, everything moved at lightning speed.

Tim was scheduled to see the surgeon that afternoon to receive the official pathology results from the biopsy and the radiation oncologist to prepare for radiation. I started making phone calls cancelling appointments and trying to get copies of the results and CDs of the CT scan.

We showed up at MD Anderson in The Woodlands and sensed a difference from the moment we walked in the door. Dr Nelson and his nurse, Gio, spent almost two hours with us. He confirmed that it was stage 4 rectal cancer and felt a regimen of chemo was the best option to treat the initial tumor and subsequent matasteses. He thoroughly explained everything to us and wanted to move quickly. Gio scheduled a port installation for Thursday, September 28, and the first chemo infusion for Friday, the 29th.

As we walked to the parking garage at
5:30, we both left knowing that the Lord had parted waters to make all of this happen. We had a totally different outlook and knew that we were, without a doubt, moving in the right direction. Thanks be to God for Melanie’s willingness to walk with us through this! I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Some Background Info

Tim had not been feeling well for several months, but attributed all of it to the stress of serving as interim principal and director of transportation. During Hurricane Harvey relief, many people commented on the amount of weight he had lost (nearly 40 pounds) and the fact that he just didn’t look good.  When a friend and coworker suffered a gallbladder attack, he decided it would be a good idea to just get it checked out. Initially, he was treated for ulcers and was scheduled for a CT of the abdomen on Thursday, September 14.  At noon on Friday, the 15th, he received a call from a doctor and friend filling in for our PCP telling him that the CT showed a mass and some lesions.  He was referred to a surgeon the following Monday and scheduled for a biopsy on Thursday, September 21.

Before Tim was brought out of the operating room, I was called back to recovery and told that it was not good and the surgeon was confident that it was cancer.  A long time friend and OR nurse, Sherrie Ritter, was with me the entire time the doctor was explaining things. She gave me the best advice that truly fit my slight obsessive compulsive need to be organized.  She told me I would need a notebook and to keep up with everything so that I could advocate in Tim’s best interest. (My notebook deserves a post all its own - more to come on that.)

The surgeon called a radiation oncologist from the bedside and had us go straight there - Tim wasn’t even fully coherent.  We consulted with the radiation oncologist and he referred us to his medical oncology partner for the following day, Friday, September 22.

At this point we did not have pathology reports and all were consulting based on an assumption. We appreciated the quickness with which we were seen, but left Friday’s appointment feeling completely hopeless. The medical oncologist we met with gave us the option of surgery and a colostomy or 5 1/2 weeks of radiation, followed by 6 weeks of chemo, then surgery to remove the tumor, then another round of chemo.

 At this time, Tim had been on a liquid diet for seven days and was starving for food. The doctors advised that he continue on a liquid diet until radiation began to shrink the tumor. We had no idea what exactly to tell the kids and really didn’t even know what life he might have left.  Our minds went to the very worst scenarios. I know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and our sermon series right now is in Romans so I held on to Romans 8:26-27.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for usthrough wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Catching Up - Change of Purpose

Tim and I finally decided that blogging would be the best way to journal this journey and share information. Rather than write a long boring post, I’m going to start where we are today and over the next few posts, I’ll include some background information that got us to this point.

On Monday of this week (9/25), Tim was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer.  He is being treated at MD Anderson. Luckily we are currently only having to drive to The Woodlands rather than down to the med center.  He received a port this morning and will start a three chemo drug regimen tomorrow. He will receive two drugs in clinic and finish a third on Saturday and Sunday at home. 

Many people have expressed their desire to help and I am working to get that coordinated - more to come on that.  At this time we covet your prayers for complete healing.  Only He knows the number of our days, but we are know in faith that He is with us and are clinging to this verse -

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Condition of the Heart

One of those silly "quizzes" appeared in Facebook feed this morning - What kind of heart do you actually have?  Ten seemingly unrelated questions later, and a new screen appears - "You have a Generous Heart." - NOT

What I have meditated on today is this -  If I don't have a generous heart, then what is the true nature of my heart? But more importantly, what do I want it to be?

  • A heart for Jesus?
  • A heart rooted in love?
  • A broken heart?
  • A tender heart?
  • A selfless heart?
  • A courageous heart?

I think I want to be all of those.  But what comes first? What's most important?

I think the God was very clear in both the Old Testament and when Jesus speaks in the New Testament.  In Psalm 51:10, David writes, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." And Jesus affirms in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

I think there's my answer.  I want to be able to describe my heart as clean and pure.  Wow - that's hard and I'm sure hoping I'm not in this alone.

So where do I - scratch that - we (remember I said, surely I'm not alone) go from here?

This indicates to me that we can't do it alone.  I think part of it is just being honest and asking God to create in us clean hearts. In my case, I probably will have to do this EVERY DAY. And maybe sometimes more than once a day.  Whenever I find myself being judgmental, or tempted to gossip, or selfish, or greedy, or (this list could be whole post on it's own) - because I have purposed to memorize scripture - I can pray Psalm 51:10 over my own heart right then and faith that God will do so.

That doesn't mean that we don't have practical responsibility in the matter, for we are told, "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

Because I work and live in the "real world" just like you all do, I encounter people and situations that can negatively impact the condition of my heart. If I let these things take root in my heart, I create a stronghold for Satan.

I'd like to end with a prayer for myself, my family, and my friends - Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrew 10:22

Friday, September 26, 2014

I’m Learning to Speak - and a purpose for my blog

Let me preface this with if you haven’t read Speak by Nish Wiseth, I encourage you to do so.  It was a quick, easy read.  I got it last Friday and had it finished by Saturday evening and it wasn’t as if I just sat and read -  Sister had a volleyball tournament both days and I squeezed in taking Boober to a birthday party. I don’t know Nish and am definitely not getting anything for promoting her book, but I do know that it came into my life when God was stirring me to be more intentional about sharing my own life stories.

I don’t have a fancy website and I’m no Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, or any other “famous” blogger - another post on this whole idea down the road - but I’ve come to realize that blogging is my way to process what’s going on in this crazy life of mine.  After reading Speak, I’ve realized that I think maybe it might also be a way for me to share my story with others (those very few who might actually read my blog).

I’m not a Bible scholar  theologian, evangelist, pastor - wasn’t gifted with these gifts - yet, another post for another day, but  I am a real Christ follower who messes up, who wants to do right, who attempts to right my wrongs.  So I’m going to be more intentional about sharing my life and what God is doing through the everyday stories. Sometimes it’s going to be messy, but not to share them would be disobedient.  It’s in these stories that we connect and grow the kingdom of God.

Feel free to share my blog, comment, pray for me. But most of all, go boldly and learn to Speak!