Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doctor Appointment

Hi all, we just got out of our appointment with the oncologist's PA, and we are sitting and waiting in the infusion center (hoping to get in early so that we can drive back to MI tonight).  Nothing really new came from the appointment, but we did make some adjustments to our plan of attack to combat the nausea and Ryan's dip in white blood cell counts and platelets.  They did consider lowering his dosage of chemo due to how much his blood counts dropped, but they decided to hold steady for right now (which is good: more chemo = more cancer cells killed).  We're feeling optimistic and like cancer warriors!  *karate chop*

So please continue to pray that this week will go well.  I'll be honest, I don't know how my emotional well-being will hold up if I have to watch Ryan go through another hellish cycle.  I love that guy so much and I hate, hate, HATE watching him suffer!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prayer requests

Hello everyone, it's been a while since we've articulated what prayer needs we have.  I have no doubt that many of you have been lifting us up.  But here's what needs prayer specifically:

1.) We're about to start the treatment cycle over again.  As we all know, the last treatment did not go well for Ryan.  We really covet your prayers that we will have wisdom on the best medications to give him to alleviate his symptoms, and that those symptoms would be much lessened from the last time, if not totally eradicated.

2.) August 10th is an important day that is coming up in only six weeks....Ryan's next scans.  Please pray that those scans would show that his treatment is shrinking the cancer...for another good appointment.

3.) Pray for our story to impact people positively around us.  We don't covet the spotlight, but we do pray for lives to be changed because of this.

4.) Pray for traveling mercies as we go to Chicago.

5.) Our sweet baby boy will be staying with friends while we are gone.  Pray that he will quickly adjust to his surroundings and be content.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Relay for Life 2011

Last night, Ryan was the survivor speaker at the Oceana County Relay for Life 2011.  What an honor.  What a night of hearing about God's power, and the choice that we have of how to respond when we are thrown a curveball in life.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm tremendously overwhelmed by how amazing my husband is, and I love him dearly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The tiniest odds.

Odds of contracting primary sclerosing cholangitis: 1.3 per 100,000 people

Odds of developing cholangiocarcinoma: 1-2 per 100,000 people

Odds that Mayo Clinic gave Ryan to beat cancer: 0%

Odds of surviving Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace: 0%

Odds of 2 million Israelites successfully escaping Egypt via Red Sea: 0%

Odds of scrawny adolescent killing giant Philistine warrior: slim to none

Odds of human surviving captivity in a den of lions: 0%

Odds of man crucified on Roman cross resurrecting 2 days later: 0%

Ya know, I'm beginning to like gambling at God's table.  His dice are hot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Choose your attitude

Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been. I have not gone longer than 12-20 hours with out getting sick, and I have battled constant nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. We were given an entire week to vacation at a beautiful lodge and I wasn't able to enjoy much of it. I've been in and out of the hospital twice. I've lost quite a bit of weight among other things.

It has been a difficult time. I'm hopeful that I'm starting to come out of it. All the doctors seem to agree this is just part of the chemo and nothing more serious. Thankfully my blood work, and counts, and hydration were all healthy at the hospital.

In the midst of all this I have had to make a choice. Will I choose to focus on my circumstances and all the things that seem to be going wrong, or will I choose my attitude and stay positive? A long time ago I somewhat learned how to choose my attitude and stay positive and focused in the midst of difficulty.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I got moved up to the varsity basketball team. This was something I had worked hard to achieve for many years. I was excited and anxious for our team to do well. That was short-lived. We went 0-21 that season. In the course of that kind of losing streak you will encounter every possible way to lose, distraction, and difficulty. I had to battle upperclassmen for my starting position, had a difficult coach, we lost team chemistry, had bad refs on some nights, and everything else you can imagine went wrong that season. 

Every practice and every game night I showed up ready to work hard and expecting to compete if not win. I knew we were not a good team, but I chose to believe that on any given night we could come out of this slump and turn it around. I had to choose to be positive and kind with my teammates. I had to choose to run my sprints just as hard as I had in pre-season. The only thing I could control that season was my attitude and how hard I worked.

With cancer the only thing I can control is my attitude. I can't control if the chemo is working. I can't control my side effects. I can't control much, but what I can control is so important.

One of my favorite Bible passages for dealing with adversity is Romans 5:3-5

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Another way of saying it is, "rejoice in your suffering". Wow God? Really? Rejoice. That's the last emotion I have right now. Fortunately God isn't calling me to feel like rejoicing, because I don't. He's calling me to rejoice. Which requires a decision, a choice in the face of difficulty. The promises are rich however, as suffering leads to perseverance, then character, and finally hope in Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. 
Just how to we make this decision? 

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

God promises us that if we know Him, He will give us everything we need. Everything, including the ability to remain joyful in the face of difficulty. It is not through my own strength or depth of character that I stay positive. It is through the power that God grants me through my knowledge of Him.

So whatever you're facing today, remember that you don't have to face it by yourself. When everything feels like it is out of control, there is a lot that you can control. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hi everyone, I've been pretty silent on this blog since Sunday, even though it's been a very eventful week.  You see, no one would want to read what's been going through my head this week.  I've been in a dark, angry place since...well, I'm not exactly sure when it started.  It's been a few days now.

It's all completely circumstance-related.  Ryan has had an awful week, dealing with side effects of chemotherapy and possibly even a stomach bug.  He has been SO sick, and we have been on vacation at a very nice rental house in Ludington since we got back from Chicago.  Although it was a nice place to recover from treatment, this is hands down the worst vacation I have been on.

But I don't really care about vacations.  I care about my husband.  And there have been so many times this week, where as I have been listening to him vomit in the bathroom again, I have burned with anger.  Why anger?  Well, as I told God this week, "You could so easily take this away from him.  You could touch his body and with that one touch, he could be relieved of these symptoms.  Why are you allowing him to be trashed like this?"  That's a pretty PG version of what I was saying at times.

I've not opened my Bible since Saturday.  Didn't even want to read about God's righteousness or mercy, I wanted to see it displayed by healing my husband.  This anger has caused me to be impatient with my son, short with my husband (like he needs that right now), and mopey.  And furthermore, I do not look attractive when I frown.

(Am I being too honest?  I hope that you're not aghast at how horrible I am...)

So I've been honest with God.  I'm not afraid to tell Him how I feel, but I am afraid of allowing anger to become a wedge in my relationship with Him.  Afraid of becoming like an Israelite.

Seemingly every time that the Israelites were in the desert and they had a problem, they took it out on poor Moses and complained against the Lord. "We have no water.  We don't like manna."  Their heads were totally buried in the sand. God was testing them! He was teaching them how to rely on Him for their every need. Unfortunately, the Israelites were thickheaded and it doesn't seem like they ever learned how to put their faith and trust in God. Their unbelief crippled their ability to allow the Lord's blessings to flow over them.

I don't want to be like the Israelites.  I want to trust God with every fiber of my soul, but it's easier to type that than it is to internalize it.  I know in my head that he has a plan for us, and I can still see that this cancer is a catalyst for something big.  I haven't lost sight of that.  But it's too easy to not see the forest through the trees, and this week was a big test for me.  I wish that I could say that I passed this faith test with flying colors...but by all accounts, I failed.  Miserably.

Lesson learned.  I'll do better next time.

And credit goes to Ryan, who so skillfully and even tactfully pointed out to me that my heart was totally in the wrong place.  Thanks, hubs, you are always my voice of reason.  I love you endlessly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Please pray for me today

Last night was the tale of two evenings. From supper until midnight I got the first sign of relief from this treatment. I felt alert, not nauseous, and ate really well. Kendra and I enjoyed our evening together. Then as I went to go to bed an atomic bomb hit me. I'm not sure what happened, but I pretty quickly slid into extreme nausea, insomnia, stomach pain, and vomiting. I did not sleep at all last night and have only had brief interludes of feeling okay after I get sick.

I'm supposed to get treatment today and right now literally every time I move a couple of inches, I get sick. I have an hour drive a head of me to get to the treatment center. Please pray that this would pass quickly. Pray that we would travel to the center without incident. Please pray for Kendra and her peace of mind. It is so difficult for her to watch this.

My attitude is pretty decent. I was frustrated after I felt so well last night and then regressed. I'm anxious about how long this will last. Also I have not been able to keep anything down and I don't want to lose weight.

Please pray for us this morning and today. Thank you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just chillin' like villains...

Today has been a much better day than yesterday so far.  Ryan hasn't been feeling good by any stretch of the imagination, but he's not feeling awful.  Hooray!  My family just left here after celebrating my dad's 61st birthday. However, I couldn't find a "6" or a "1" in our birthday candles so I did "38" - close enough!

Even in the midst of cancer treatment, sleepiness, and sickness, Ryan is still about the most handsome man I've ever laid eyes on.

Don't you think so, too? :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Please pray.

Ryan is having a wicked time of it with this treatment.  Today has been very hard for him.  Please pray for diminished side effects.  They have been terrible.

In unrelated but more positive news, I'm pretty sure that Colton said his first word today (well other than "mama" and "dada").  He pointed at Tuff and very clearly said "dawwwg".  I wanted to respond "What's up G?"

But I didn't.  No worries.

Gotta go, sick hubs again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good news, bad news, who cares?

Wow, what a couple days. I have been feeling great lately. Excited about what God is doing through me, physically strong, almost forgetting at times what I'm dealing with. Yet this appointment loomed over my head the whole time. An appointment so important and yet not that important to me at all. You see if we'd have gotten good news, we'd be happy, but that wouldn't mean I'm healed. If we had gotten bad news, we be upset, but that wouldn't have meant I'm hopeless either.

We got good news. I almost expected this. However I also expected every other time I've gone into one of these make or break doctor appointments that they would say there been a mistake, something's wrong, what was there isn't there anymore. We don't know what happened but the cancer is gone. You're completely healed. Furthermore you no longer have your liver disease as well. You're purified.

I didn't get that kind of good news. The doc said the cancer has stabilized. It's not growing or spreading. He is very excited about this. So early in the treatment process this is all that could have happened. I look healthy in all other areas. They'll wait 3 cycles now before we do more tests. The doctor was very pleased.

I didn't get nervous until half way through the X-men movie my dad and I were at yesterday. I had gotten into the movie so much I almost forgot what was looming. Then a line, a shot, something sparked me and jerked me back to reality. I hadn't even been nervous until that point. Something about the surreality or the movie, and the reality of this cancer caused that realization to hit me hard. It was still 3 hours until I would find out the results of this test and I was officially nervous.

Even as the doctor was saying the words about the update I had a hard time believing him. While I was hopeful I was also scared. I didn't know if I was finally getting good news in this process. I kept waiting for the bad news to come. It didn't. I didn't know how to react. I think I was relieved. There wasn't an instant emotional response. This is not the end of the race, we have merely gotten a piece of good news in the midst of a marathon. I'm not cured yet. However this is a significantly positive sign. One that needs to be celebrated. Why didn't my heart prick up?

The same reason why my heart didn't prick up at this news, is the same reason my heart isn't devastated at bad news. My peace, joy, and happiness are not dependent on my circumstances. They are dependent on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though I was anxious about the results, I still felt peace that God is in control and He is able to heal me. I also feel peace about if God chooses not to heal me, that God is in control and that must have been the best option available. I pray that he uses me exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ask or imagine in my life now and after He should choose to heal me. I know that if He chooses not to heal me, He will still use me exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

The valleys are less deep, the mountaintop experiences are less significant. They are still sweet and cherished. However I don't need them to sustain me, I'm sustained. It's more constant. No matter what God allows me to endure or chooses to bless me with, my faith will not change. My hope, peace, and joy come from knowing and being known by God. To be known by the creator, who can understand that? So no matter what I should face or be told, no news or circumstance can ever rob me of my hope, peace, and joy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good news!!!

Dr. Sheelvanth said these results are the best he could have hoped for. No spreading of cancer at all...the cancer isn't shrinking but it is too early for that to happen anyway.

Dr. is extremely pleased with the results, and we are going to do 3 more cycles before our next checks.  Prayers are answered!

Our God is mighty to save!

Today is the day.

Please pray!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

"How are you doing?" (said with head cocked slightly sideways and a big sigh)

This is apparently the universal way to greet a person with cancer. To be completely honest with you, it was starting to get frustrating for me to be greeted this way. I would be cruising along in my day and not dwelling on this reality until somebody came around, threw their head to the side, and asked me how I'm doing.  Like that. That brings me right back to cancer land.

How am I doing? The answer is I'm doing incredibly well. I have felt great the last week and a half, I'm engaged with work, feeling like I'm fulfilling a purpose. Even though I have this appointment on Wednesday looming over our heads for the last two weeks, I have not been dwelling on what ifs and hypotheticals.

I'm not doing well because of anything I've done. If you asked us four months ago, "how would you respond if you were diagnosed stage four cancer?" We'd have said, "we'll be a million pieces lying on the ground." It is only the grace of God that is holding all the pieces together right now.

But that is the cool part. The joy of the Lord is my strength right now. In the face of extreme difficulty I feel an overwhelming peace and confidence in my Lord.

So every time somebody asks me, "how are you doing?" I have an awesome opportunity to tell them what God is doing in my life right now. Instead of being annoyed by this question, I'm actually looking forward to it now. Every time I get a chance to share what God's doing in my life, it is a blessing because it fills my cup.

Please lift up myself and my friends and family in your prayers the next couple days. This trip to Chicago is weighing heavily on many people around me. We're praying that the tests will show the cancer is shrinking or completely gone (you have not because you ask not). However good news does not mean I'm cured, and bad news does not mean I'm not able to be cured. This is all a journey that requires one step and a time. Each day brings new information and new decisions. Please pray that I could gain some weight. I'm on a pretty strict very healthy diet, and it is very difficult to gain weight back that I lost during the first week of each cycle.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A crybaby, a blind man, and a sick little boy.

This weekend has had its good moments, but at some points, it's just plain stunk.

I have been dwelling in Negative Nancy Land for most of Sunday afternoon.  A major crybaby.  It all started with a sick boy.  Not Ryan, but Colton.  He threw up when I was leaving my nephew's baseball game yesterday in Lowell, and has thrown up several other times along with some pretty nasty diarrhea.  So today, I was starting to get concerned because he wasn't keeping anything down.  Off to the ER we went to ensure that he was okay, and that he was hydrated enough.  Not surprisingly, he wasn't, so my 13-month-old little had to be hooked up to his first IV and receive fluids.

So I started to think as I was sitting in Room 5 of the emergency room at Lakeshore Hospital... God, why me?  WHY on earth does it seem like it's one thing after another?  I see plenty of other people around us who are sailing through life with seemingly no problems right now.  I have a husband with inoperable cancer, I have no job next year, and now my little boy is sick.  Why do you choose to continue to challenge us like this?  I'm getting sick of it!  I don't want to watch my husband get hooked up to an IV machine and see another one of those "BIOHAZARD" bags brought to him.  I don't want to see my toddler throw up everywhere.  I don't want to have him at the hospital.  I don't want this.  I DON'T WANT THIS!

John 9:1-3: 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
   3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Right now, I feel like Ryan and I are experiencing a little bit of what the blind man experienced.  I don't like that we are that family, the one who God is using to display whatever works He chooses to display through this (still hoping that he's choosing to show his awesome, miraculous healing power).  But how cool is it that He is using us in the midst of this situation.  I'm floored when someone says, "Your blog post impacted me."  Or, "I've shared the link with someone else that has cancer and it has encouraged them."  I feel blessed by the way that the Lord has used our cancer journey for so much good.  If it weren't for that, this cancer would be totally unbearable.

I wish like anything that this cancer hadn't happened to my husband, but if there was ever a person to whom God could give a trial and get praise back tenfold, it would be Ryan.  The works of God are on full display in his life.  And it becomes more and more evident each day that God allowed this to happen to have us rely on Him more fully, and to glorify Him.  Praise the Lord for those opportunities!