Tuesday, August 30, 2011

FACT: God loves you.

I feel the need to share this, even though it doesn't have much to do with cancer.

"I have done too many horrible things."

"I treat my family awfully."

"I have never read the Bible."

"You should see how many past relationships I have.  I'm a tramp."

"My own parents don't love me.  How can God?"

"I pray all the time for God to take away my pain, but he doesn't.  My life is horrible."

"I've had too many painful things happen to me, and I'm angry that God let them happen."

"I don't even think God exists."

He doesn't love me.

He doesn't care.


Dearest friends, acquaintances, strangers, and Google searchers: I want you to know that no matter what you have done in your life, whatever you are struggling with, God's love is unconditional.

It is not dependent on what you do.

You haven't earned it.  It's just there.

Isn't that a relief?

If you're a parent, let me appeal to your emotions for a second.  You love your child, no matter what.  Recently Colton has been beginning to show his "true" colors, so to speak.  He throws tantrums for the silliest reasons.  Today he thought that perhaps he could escape the humiliating confines of his carseat by screaming, thrashing, and kicking.  All it did was knock off his shoe.  His tantrums drive me insane, like 20 fingernails screeching down a chalkboard all at once.  But you know what?  In spite of the fact that I can barely grocery shop with him anymore without an embarrassing meltdown,  I adore that kid.  Right after he vomits on me, I coo over him.  He smacks me across the face intentionally, and I love him still.  Dirty diaper?  Yep, I'll gladly change it for him with a smile on my face (okay, that was a stretch).  Yes, he does give the best hugs and kisses which are awesome, but the only thing that he has ever done to merit my love is to have been born.  And truthfully, I was pretty intensely in love with him before he born.  I loved him from the minute I saw two lines on a pregnancy test, since the moment that I knew he (or maybe she, at that point in time) existed.

God's love for you is that same tender, all-encompassing love.  Yes, he is fully just too.  He hates sin, and yet he intensely loves the same wretched people that break his commandments every single day.  I have been getting emails and comments from people that think I'm being very transparent on this blog.  Here is a moment of transparency: although I am a sinner saved by grace and strive (mostly) to live my life in accordance with God's will, I.screw.up.constantly.  I lie occasionally.  I am so mean to my husband sometimes that it's ridiculous.  I am short with my son.  I think judgmental thoughts about people.  I could go on and on, but I still want you to have a shred of respect for me!

And you know what, I was far, far worse before I was saved.  Without dredging up a lot of painful, emotionally-charged memories, I will succinctly summarize the first half of my teenage years as rebellious and hedonistic.  None of that matters anymore.  I don't like it, I'm not proud of it, but it happened and now I understand adolescence in a unique way that many others don't.  And the moment that I decided to follow Christ at the age of 16, every last one of those sins was forgiven.  Wiped out.

Because my God cared enough about me to allow his son to die on a Roman cross for my sins (lucky for you that I'm not God, because I would not be so generous with my Colton).  My sins are forgiven, and I will not spend eternity apart from God.  That is the ultimate peace that Ryan and I have: whenever the Lord chooses to take us home, eternity is taken care of for us...it is just the part between now and then that freaks us out.

And you know what?  Even though there is a painful, hard situation that God is allowing me to go through, that does not mean that he loves me less than you, or that I'm being punished.  God is in the process of doing some very painful surgery on my heart and on Ryan's.  I feel like we are being dragged through an emotional meat grinder on some days, and we kind of are.  But throughout this, God's grace has been more tangible than I can describe to you.  His peace has descended on us like a security blanket, and he has sent people and words of encouragement to us at incredibly specific times to gird us.  We are not alone, and our God has not forsaken us.  I do know that he hurts to see us hurt, but in these hard times, he wants us to RUN to him and pour our troubles at his feet.

God loves you.  Intensely.  He created you to be exactly who you are.  He has allowed things to happen to you that shape who you are as a person.  You are unique.  But your story, however painful and rotten and horrible it is, is just your past.  What you do with his love, the love that was poured out on you at Calvary, is what defines you and your future and your legacy.

So.  I strayed far from the topic of cancer, but there was definitely a tug at my heart to tell you this good news.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We must pray more.

Those simple four words came from an email from church this past week.

On Wednesday, I emailed Ruth, the secretary at our church.  Ruth maintains a list of prayer partners for FBC, and I am on the email list that goes out.  Prayers for our missionaries' special needs, updates on the sick, updates on church ministries, and announcements such as births and deaths go out on an almost-daily basis.  I told Ruth in my email to her about the results of Ryan's tests.  Right before I typed out the message on my iPhone, I had just spent 10 minutes in a bathroom on the third floor at CTCA, creating a pool of tears on the floor and berating God for not answering our prayers.  I wasn't praying, I was yelling.  I was not asking for anything, I was just venting.  I think that I used the word "raging" in my previous post.

Ruth received my email and quickly forwarded it out to the prayer list.  Above my original message, she said those four words: "We must pray more!"  That struck me.  I was wallowing in self-pity and anger and denial, and Ruth called upon our church to pray more diligently and frequently.  Almost instantly, my focus changed.  I can't necessarily say that I'm not still peeved that God did not choose to heal Ryan yet during these last three cycles, but I have resolved to praying much, much more frequently than I have been.

And I'm going to ask you to as well.  I humbly and passionately ask you, our blog followers, to pray more frequently for Ryan's healing.  If you're praying for him once a day, please consider praying twice.  If you're praying five times a day, try eight or ten.  Ryan taught on prayer in Sunday school last week, and he has lots of tips on incorporating a more meaningful prayer time in your life - maybe I'll bug him to share his thoughts here.  One of the things he said in our class was that it is okay for prayers to be even three words.  Many times a day, he shoots up the simple prayer, "Lord, heal me".  If you're like me and remembering to pray for people on a regular basis is hard, then please set up reminders - the "Cowboy Up" bracelet is a great one (we have a lot of them left over from the Rodeo - if you would like one, let me know), or maybe set a reminder on your phone or email.  I have no doubt that God can heal Ryan, and if he chooses not to, then I don't want it to be for a lack of intercession.

Furthermore, I don't want this to be an all "take" situation and no "give".  I can definitely say that my prayer life has been much more fruitful and all-encompassing in the last five months than it ever has been.  Even though I don't always FEEL like God is listening, I KNOW that he is.  If there is something that you are struggling with and it needs prayer, tell me.  I would love to know.  I would feel honored to pray for the same people that are praying for us.

We are all in this together.  We need you so desperately right now.

Thank you for supporting us and continuing to read our blog.  It still catches me by surprise when people tell me that they're reading it.  It floors me when they say that they're being impacted by it.  I am so glad.  Sometimes I worry about how the world will think of me when they read my visceral reactions to this situation (since one of my top motivators in life is to have people approve of me), but if I can encourage at least a few people where they're at, then it's worth living this out in a public forum.

We love you all.  Have we told you that recently?  We are so, so thankful for God's people.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More details.

Hey there everybody,

So now that we've gotten all the details, read the lab reports, and analyzed the situation to death, here is full disclosure.  Some of it is encouraging and some of it just plain sucks.
  • There have been no significant changes since June.
  • Cancer that has not shrunk by this point does not typically begin to shrink, but there is still a chance that it might.
  • The doctor did not see shrinking on the MRI, but that doesn't mean that the cancer is not shrinking a little bit.  It is difficult to differentiate between tumors and scar tissue on an MRI.  Ryan's liver enzymes have lowered since last time, which would indicate that the treatment is working.  Next time we get scans, we are doing all three - CT, MRI, and PET scans to analyze it even further.  (He has not yet had a PET scan because his cancer is hard to see on a PET scan.)
  • Ryan is tolerating the chemo drugs quite well, but Cisplatin (one of his two drugs) is very harsh.  If he begins to have adverse reactions, we might have to change course - but since Cisplatin is helping the cancer stabilize, we really hope that he can stay on it as long as possible.
  • The next scans will be somewhere around the 26th of October.
  • Our God is no less able than he was during the last three cycles.  We have seen God do some pretty incredible, amazing things throughout this journey.  Whatever doubt I have had in my life of God's faithfulness and existence has been TOTALLY wiped out.  He is here, he is working.  I may have raged at him furiously today for not yet answering my most fervent prayers (and still have yet to repent for that), but I need to remind myself that although he may not have yet delivered us from cancer, that he still can.  I have no doubt in his healing power whatsoever...I'm just not sure about his timing.  I want this gone NOW.
  • We are going to keep going on this course for the time being.
  • Life is still very, very enjoyable and I've never loved Ryan more than I have today.  I don't think that it will surprise any of you that Ryan's attitude is totally upbeat and he has been supporting ME through this the last couple of hours.  You may think your spouse is amazing, but I can assure you that mine is even more amazing.  So there. :)

Peace in the process

I had an amazing opportunity to speak to the young men of Trinity International University's football team last night. I'm so grateful for a chance to meet and hopefully make a difference in the lives of these great guys. They were nothing but gracious and encouraging to me. God continues to open some awesome doors for me to share my story.

I'm sitting here in a hotel room waiting to go see the doctor where I'll learn how effective the treatments have been. I'm doing really well. I can't explain it. I haven't been nervous for the last week. Maybe this morning just a little, but I'm really doing well. God has blessed me with a wonderful gift of peace in the midst of the storm.

I'm relatively symptom free through this process, but I think the gift of peace is the best gift God could give me. My family doesn't always share that deep seated sense that I have. It is not because I'm any more grounded in faith, quite the opposite. I think it's two things;

1. It's easier to be the cancer patient than caretaker. I come out like roses either way. My family has more to lose than I do, and so they appropriately carry a larger burden than I do. As well as they have to watch me go through some uncomfortable times.

2. God has given me this sense of peace as a way to encourage and uplift those around me. I don't deserve it, and certainly haven't earned it.

This is not to say that my family doesn't have peace, they do. However I seem to have fewer down moments than those around me. The other reason is that so many of you guys are praying for us every hour of every day. This is so valuable and we can't put a value on it. We feel your prayers.

In a few hour we'll meet with our doctor again. I'm optimistic about where my body is at. Either way though it will be a long journey. Good news isn't a guarantee that I'll be healed, bad news doesn't mean I'm dead. Things are going to go up and down no matter what the news.

Thank you for our prayers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Scan week

Ok, people, get your prayer on.

Approximately 30 hours from now, Ryan will be getting scans done.

Exactly 48 hours from now, we will be finding out the results.

My heart cannot stop doing flips and flops and racing. I am so anxious to know, and yet I want to be ignorant. I am so hopeful, and so scared.

Please be praying. Please. Please pray for an amazing set of scans that show the cancer is retreating in a most miraculous way. Please, please, please pray right now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

If we've ever needed you, Lord, it's now.

Hear our cry
Lord, we pray
Our faces down
Our hands are raised
You called us out
We turned away
We’ve turned away

With shipwrecked faith
The idols rise
We do what is right
In our own eyes
Our children now will pay the price
We need your light
Lord, shine your light

If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now
Lord it’s now
We are desperate for your hand
We’re reaching out
We’re reaching out

All our hearts
All our strength
With all our minds
We’re at your fate
May your kingdom come
In our hearts and lives
Let your church arise
Let your church arise

If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now
Lord it’s now
We are desperate for your hand
We’re reaching out
We’re reaching out

We’re reaching out

If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now
Lord it’s now
We are desperate for your hand
We’re reaching out
We’re reaching out

If we’ve ever needed you, Lord it’s now
Lord it’s now
We are desperate for your hand
We’re reaching out
We’re reaching out

We need you now
Revive us now
We need you now

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

This is all a dream, right?

My husband's hair is thinning slightly...maybe he's getting older.  After all, we DID find a couple of stray gray hairs on his head this past winter.

He doesn't have any cancer symptoms...he must have been misdiagnosed.  His life can't possibly be in danger if he feels so good.

Even if he really does have cancer...we're going to beat it.  I mean, there is NO way that God could let him die...right?  I need him so much and so does Colton.

Life is going really well right now...maybe we should start thinking about that house addition or having another baby.

When do I wake up?  When does this all end?

After all, this is just a bad dream.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Video from Unity Festival

Here is the video of the presentation I gave at Unity Festival. Please feel free to pass this along to as many people as you like. It's my desire that if it would be encouraging to somebody, my story be told.

Also here is a link to the article that was written about me in the local paper. On the same night I spoke Newsboys was the headliner. Still can't figure out why my story made it on the front page, and no mention of Newsboys. To God be the glory.

Click here to read the story.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Answered prayers (or, Be careful what you wish for...)

Unbeknownst to the other person, Ryan and I were each praying to the Lord for a deeper relationship with Him before cancer struck.  At the end of a Bible study at church one night in February or March, Lee asked me what I needed prayer for.  "I'm just struggling with apathy right now, Lee.  I feel like I've got things figured out without God, and I'm constantly apathetic.  I need humility.  I need a greater reliance on Him."  Lee gazed at me and said, "I'm hesitant to ask the Lord to give you humility, for fear what He might bring you, my friend!"

Around the same time, Ryan was asking the Lord for something similar.  He asked God to bring him more depth into his relationship with his Creator.  Ryan felt like he, too, was just going through the motions and it felt like his relationship with God was in neutral.  He also asked God to be used by Him.

Little did we know.

As we eventually revealed these prayer requests to each other, we had one of those High Definition moments.  God answered those prayers perfectly.  Nothing else except for a life-threatening, life-altering course of action was going to bring us to our knees and have us acknowledge our utter, aching, desperate need for Him.  After all, most trials come and go and eventually the lessons are dimmed or forgotten.  It was going to take something huge for God to teach us how to truly rely on Him (caveat: we are still learning how to completely trust - lest you think I'm insinuating that we've got this totally down).

And how He has blessed us since then.  Did you know that my husband has a burden to share his story with people?  Yeah, you probably knew that.  That's probably the main reason that we started this blog in April.  He has prayed many times since April 1st for the Lord to use him and give him opportunities to share this journey with people and be able to impact them (after all, cancer without positive things happening...is just cancer.  And cancer SUCKS).  As I posted earlier, Ry had the opportunity to share his story with people at Unity Fest in Muskegon, Michigan yesterday.  It went very well!  There were maybe 50-75 people there, and Ryan shared about the hope that he does have even in the midst of a really tough situation.

Later on that night as we were getting ready to watch the Newsboys in concert, my phone blew up with a "Google Alert" - a while ago, my techie husband set up something so that anytime either of our names shows up in something on the internet, we get alerted.  Anytime that the Kendra Prudhomme from Massachusetts who is 10 years my junior does something, or some other Ryan Prudhomme gets sentenced to jail, I also get notified.  Anyway, I digress.  So this article was what the Google Alert was all about. (Hint: click on "this article" in the previous sentence.)  And, the photographer and reporter would like to do a follow-up story at a later time and spend more time getting to know our family.  We are very excited about this and would love to see how God uses this to possibly open up even more doors for Ryan to speak.  This is what excites us and emboldens us.  We want for this story to get out - for it to go "viral", so to speak.  We deeply desire for our pain to be another person's joy - the joy of trusting God with every inch of their lives, and even more importantly - with their eternity.

As long as cancer lasts, we will praise God for the good works He has done for us.  As long as both of our earthly bodies last, we will trust Him.  He provides for our every single need.  He answers our prayers - even though He takes us down a road that I would never have chosen.  He is truly sovereign and breathing His grace over every moment of our days - sustaining us through situations that I never would have imagined happening to us.

3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
   Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
   and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
   upright and just is he.

Deuteronomy 32: 3-4 (my emphasis added)

And to those who are wondering - yes, the plan is eventually to upload videos and pictures from the Rodeo for Ryan and Unity Fest - we just have to get around to it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unity Fest

In case you hadn't heard the news, Ryan is going to be speaking at Unity Fest in Muskegon this coming Friday at five pm. He was asked to last week after a speaker canceled and they needed to fill a spot. One of the organizers had heard our story recently and really felt led to ask Ryan. Ry is very excited! This is a huge honor and opportunity for him. He is going to be sharing on what it looks like to live life in high definition.

If you're interested in listening, tickets are $20 but that will get you into the entire festival all day long. The Newsboys are playing at 9:15 that night too, and Grace Adventures runs "Camp Unity" for kids - lots of fun. Hope to see some people there!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Who are we?

So the question that has been thrown around several times in the last week around the Prudhomme household has been: "Who are we?"  Not literally, because we know our names and identities.  What I mean is that we have no idea why people have chosen to pour out their love on us.  We are two ordinary, incredibly flawed people who have been placed in the middle of extraordinary circumstances.  We are glad that people love us, but it just makes us scratch our heads!

Saturday was the much-anticipated Rodeo for Ryan, and the outpouring of love was intense.  Everywhere I looked, there was a sea of humanity.  There were over one thousand people that descended upon Paradise Ranch.  Everywhere there were people talking.  Laughing.  Serving.  Smiling.  Giving.  Playing.  Running.  Relaxing.  Rocking.  Singing.  Having fun.  And the diversity of people brought together was unbelievable - people that we know from all walks of life.  Port Huron, Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Colorado Springs, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Dallas all had representation at the rodeo.  We didn't realize how many people care about us.  We kind of thought it would be big, but we didn't realize that it was going to be huge.

And the giving!  The final counts are in and they surpassed $50,000 but there are still donations coming in! FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! Something that you may not know is that Ryan is not able to get life insurance.  Since he was diagnosed with PSC at the age of 20, he has not been insurable.  We tried very hard this past winter to find a policy that would cover someone with that disease, and we thought we had found one.  We sent in our premium and waited.  A couple of weeks later our insurance agent called us and said, "Um, I've never had this happen before but your life insurance policy was rejected, and the company actually rewrote their bylaws to specifically say that they would not cover someone with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis."  Great.  The premium check was returned to us the same week that Ryan was diagnosed with cancer.  So the Lord taketh, and he giveth back.  We have this money now for medical expenses, and although we pray hard that it doesn't need to be used for life insurance, at least we have something now in case of that.  I don't think that it's by accident that God returned almost exactly 50k to us.

We don't know how to adequately express our gratitude.  Neither of us has ever been the recipient of a gift like this.  Neither of this has ever had something of this magnitude done for us.  A simple "thanks" seems insufficient, but it's a start.  Thank you for your time, volunteers.  Thank you for your many hours of phone calls, designing signs, getting volunteers, getting donations, and serving us, planning committee.  Thanks for coming out to the rodeo, especially those of you who had a far distance to drive or even fly.  Thanks so much for emptying your pockets and purses and giving to a family whom many of you barely know.  Thank you to the vendors and individuals who donated things ranging from handmade journals to live pigs to quilts to potatoes to vacations to jewelry - the list goes on and on!  Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and for your many prayers.  Thank you God for blessing this event, and by tangibly showing us how much it meant to You by holding back rain around Paradise Ranch while every other place within a mile of the ranch had downpours.

Who are we to deserve this much love?  We don't.  Neither do you.  None of us deserve the grace and love that we have been given.  Regardless, you have chosen to live out John 13:34-35:   34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Changes in plans all over the place

Hey there everybody, the last week has not been as fabulous as the normal week when Ryan is off of chemo, but it has had its high points.  Here are the new developments:

  1. Grand Haven's Lakeshore Middle School offered me a job teaching 8th grade Spanish & French.  I accepted after much agonizing about the right decision, childcare, Ryancare, etc.  They have been extremely gracious to me throughout the process and I'm beginning to switch my mind over to school mode (it has been turned exclusively to family mode since April 1st).  It is a one-year position only, but I know that the Lord will provide for 2012.  I won't even worry about that yet.
  2. Ryan has been diagnosed with a sinus infection, and last night he complained of pain in his chest.  We took him to Mercy to figure out what was going on, and it turns out that he had the beginnings of pneumonia.  I praise God for the fact that we followed our instinct to get him checked out - and so thankful that I had a sinus infection this past spring that turned into a somewhat nasty pneumonia, so I was aware of the symptoms.  Ryan's pneumonia is very mild and he has no discomfort.  However, since he has to treat it with antibiotics, our scans will no longer be on the 10th of August.  It is looking like they will be somewhere earlier in the week of August 22nd.  Coincidentally, I am scheduled to begin my orientation at GH on the 22nd.  We are both super frustrated.  He feels fine enough to get chemotherapy, but they won't treat him until he has been off of antibiotics for 7 days.
  3. Colton continues to show signs of food allergies, much to the chagrin of his mama.  A few weeks ago he was off dairy, soy, and gluten and doing fine.  Then he was declared allergic to dairy.  When I reintroduced soy and gluten to him, he instantly starting having GI problems again.  I took soy back out, thinking that might be the culprit.  However, he still has messy pants several times a day and his poor little behind is raw and red.  He threw up on the day of my interview at GH, and he threw up again last night right before we returned from the ER at 2 a.m. (thanks for taking one for the team, Grandma Cathey).  So we are seeking a referral to a specialist to get him checked out further.
So, things have been a little more stressful than they normally are, but we are thankful that Ryan is still seemingly fine.  Stage IV cancer symptoms?  Nope, none.  Pneumonia symptoms?  Hardly.

I'm beginning to think that I might be married to Chuck Norris.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Only 3 More Days!

**Blog hijacked AGAIN!**

Just wanted to stop by in our flurry of activity to remind everyone that the benefit for Ryan and Kendra is THIS Saturday. This one coming up. Three days away. As my kids say, "ONLY THREE MORE SLEEPS!" And while we are scurrying around I have to stop not only to remind you of the amazing RODEO, but also tell you that "Rodeo Roadies", as we've taken to calling ourselves, are seeing glimpses of God everywhere we turn. We are amazed at the generosity and outpouring of love for Ryan and Kendra from not only loved ones, but perfect strangers! Our God has been with us, and we can tell from here that He loves Ryan, Kendra and Colton. He's so good.

Now, time to get to the grit of the post.

I was sitting at my kitchen table in a Rodeo meeting with my friend, Saddlebags, and I got a call from Spur, our Rodeo Auction chief, giddy with the last minute items that are rolling in. But she said something that shot nerves straight to my core. "Lee, you've gotta find people with money! There are so many great items here, but we have to sell them all! We need PEOPLE at the RODEO!"

Consider this your cattle call, folks! We need you to come to the

August 6th
at Paradise Ranch, in Mears, MI
8175 W. Juniper Beach Rd.

Welcome Wagon begins at 3:30.

We've planned a full afternoon of fun, FOOD, bake sale, family activities, a little Rodeo fun, and one AMAZING AUCTION (full list of items here). You can bet your horse, you're gonna have a good 'ole time. Please bring friends, family, and perfect strangers to come haul some of these auction items away! EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR of this event has been donated folks. DONATED. So every single dollar earned is going to the expenses Ryan and Kendra are facing.

Couple last minute items or Ranch, Jingle Boss, and Saddlebags may have my hide.

There will be lots of parking and tractors and buses for the event, but if ya'll could "wagon-pool" that'd be great!

We've got shade trees and good eats, thanks to Cookie and Barbwire, but you're gonna need CHAIRS or a blanket to sit on.

And one last thing before I wish you "Happy Trails?"

We'd covet your prayers for Ryan and Kendra and for God to accomplish His purposes this weekend!

See ya'll REAL soon!