Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Please, please, please circle the date of Wednesday, June 8th and be in prayer on that day for good news from our oncologist at CTCA. Specifically, pray that Ryan's CT scans will show that the chemotherapy regimen is doing its job and enabling the tumors to shrink. Set a reminder in Google calendar, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, WHATEVER IT TAKES. Ryan will be getting scans in the morning at 8:00 a.m., and then we will be meeting with our doctor at 3:00 p.m. I covet prayer for myself too, as I continue to deal with anxiety.
Monday, May 30, 2011
But sometimes it is hard to fall asleep, like tonight (currently 2:59 a.m.). Those nights where the future looms so big and scary in front of me, and a litany of topics cross and zigzag and zoom and tumble through my brain. Cancer. Money. Death. Pain. Eternity. Bad news. Suffering. Helplessness. Widowhood. Single motherhood. Heaven. Surviving cancer. Infertility. All of these topics can enter my mind at any given time during the day, but as I'm going about my day they don't seem quite so daunting. When I'm in my bed, when the man that I love and has been perfectly designed is sleeping next to me, after I'm done praying, I'll start contemplating. And sometimes if I'm not careful, thoughts spin out of control.
It starts innocently enough, this crazy mental spin cycle. I'll think about Colton, what a blessing he is. Then I start mourning for the future children that I might not have, then I start thinking about all of the heavy burdens I might possibly have to carry at some point, and then things are rolling. I begin panicking, trying to figure out how to do it all on my own, and then I literally start begging God over and over again to take this cup from us, and tears are flowing. It's happened several times over the past two months.
So no, I don't ever wake up for a prayer shift in the night, but occasionally I do spend time freaking out before I go to bed.
And so is this okay, this wigging out? No, I really don't think it is. Human - yes, okay - no. It is at that very moment that my focus wanes from my Lord and squarely lands on myself. What am I going to do if I lose my husband? How am I going to raise my son? What if something happens to me too? What will I do if we beat this cancer and can't have more children? How can I handle seeing Ryan in pain? It's all very me-focused. Little time is spent figuring out how to glorify God, and self-preservation is paramount.
Hello, Peter. I'm Kendra. I think we have something in common. We both can conquer mighty things so long as we keep our focus laser-sharp on the Lord, but the second we take our eyes off Him, we are sinking into a place where we don't need to be.
So okay, it's easy enough to say "keep your focus on the Lord". That's a bit arbitrary though. What does that look like, practically speaking?
We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. How to do this? Well, obviously I'm not an expert since I have clearly stated that these cerebral meltdowns are happening to me on a somewhat regular basis. But I have done due diligence to educate myself on how to start the process of reclaiming the late night thinking sessions for my Lord.
Number one, I need to be in his Word faithfully. My thoughts can only be aligned with God's if I know Him, and to know him better I need to read my Bible daily (just so you know, there is a fair amount of self-admonishing going on right now). 'Nuff said.
Number two, I need to discern whether the thoughts I'm having are God-honoring or not. Lest you think that is hard, it's really not. Even in the midst of the spin cycle, it's easy to identify that my thoughts are self-focused and NOT God-honoring. A safe litmus test - does this sound anything like a Psalm? No, I'm not saying that we can't have mundane thoughts about groceries or football (FYI, I never think about football). However, if we're meditating on something for an extended period of time, it's much more edifying for us to be thinking of God and not solely about ourselves and our woes. In some translations, the very first part of the "taking thoughts captive" verse says we should be "casting down imaginations". Easy speak: kick those thoughts out of your head if they're not of God.
Number three, identify your enemy. Satan loves to prick our imaginations and he uses fear to hurt our relationship with our Lord. He made Eve doubt the Lord, and don't think he doesn't still do this today. He would love nothing more than to cripple Ryan and I with fear to the point where we begin to doubt that God is really sovereign over this situation.
Well, I suppose that since it is now past 3:30 a.m., I should begin the process of unwinding and finding a way to get to sleep. I think I'll start naming off a mental list of all of the blessings I have.
Hey, would it be unethical to take one of Ryan's pills to help me sleep?? Kidding!
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I have known this about myself for a while. Genuine compassion for others is not a character quality I was strong in. It was something I prayed for on a regular basis. When I was diagnosed back in 2007 with my liver disease, one thing I did was read through the Bible cover to cover in 9 days. Partly I was scared and seeking guidance from God on why I had the disease, partly I was on steroids and could only sleep 2 hours a day. Regardless probably the biggest pattern in Scripture that jumped out to me is how many times Jesus came across a crowd of people or an individual and "he felt compassion for them". This feeling of compassion is something I have yearned and prayed for over and over.
Fast forward to a cancer diagnosis. I have told some people that God has transformed my reality and my perspective. Fortunately one way is in how I view other people. You see, I have had my eyes illuminated to the Glory of God in a real and tangible way. I'm so motivated to help other people see Him the same way I do. Should God decide that I have many more years on this earth, I know my purpose clearly. To spur on others to see Him like I do with out having to go through what I have. When you are brought to the deepest valley you can imagine, everything is stripped away, including the sin in your life. This sin of judgmental-ism disappeared overnight. It was incredible. I just stopped being a jerk in my mind. God answered my prayer and blessed me with relief from this sin.
We know Jesus saw the world with a perfect view of God's glory. Imagine how motivating that was to share with the world. All that we were missing, he saw and felt. That's how I feel for individuals I encounter now. Instead of noticing oddities, imperfections, and quirks, I'm provoked by where their spirit is committed, who do they serve, do they know my God like I do? I don't want to miss an opportunity to share what I know with anybody God puts in my life. I really, honestly, Truly, FINALLY feel compassion for the lost. Praise God!
Monday, May 23, 2011
What an amazing quick answer to prayer. Kendra and I are so relieved to know that even though Kendra has lost her job for next fall, we will still be able to get our treatment at CTCA. It will be out of network and thus there will be some additional costs, but they are within reason.
Standing on God's promises of provision.
I feel like I've recently written a post that echoed this statement. My head is spinning and I feel ill as I am trying to contemplate what life will look like in a few months. Ryan and I met with a couple of representatives from my district this morning to map out what the ramifications are of losing my job - i.e. unemployment, COBRA insurance, recall, seniority, etc. Let's just say that the meeting left me with not a shred of hope in my job situation. It was all I could do not to throw up on the table as we were talking.
So in all of this, Ryan and I are definitely starting to feel downtrodden, like things are starting to spin out of control.. I don't know why this is all happening at once. I feel physically ill from stress and those feelings of anxiety and sickness and malaise are beginning to become the norm in my daily life. Am I losing faith? Not at all. But it feels like things have gotten to the point where I can't help but to physically respond to the emotions within me.
Suffice it to say, I think that Job, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, and many other people in the Bible experienced anxiety. Facing martyrdom, death of family members, plagues, loss of security - those things absolutely must have provoked a visceral reaction. How could they not? We are only human. The goal is not to be strong in ourselves, but to not allow fear to cripple our mission and purpose in life. Right now is hard, but I refuse, we absolutely refuse, to allow these trials defeat us. Satan will not get the upper hand here.
I've been trolling the Bible lately for verses for comfort and for combating fear. I've discovered and re-discovered some fundamental promises that God has made his people. I'll list them for you. Several of them you have probably heard a thousand times. I know I have. But they're more essential than I've ever found them to be. We are standing on these alone:
- Jeremiah 29:11 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
- James 4:10 - "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
- Luke 12:31 - "But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
- John 14:14 - "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
- Psalm 32:8 - "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."
- James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
- Deuteronomy 31:8 - "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (emphasis added)
Psalm 86A prayer of David.
for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
for I put my trust in you.
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, LORD;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.
no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.
Preach it, brother David.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The only thing that Ryan has been suffering from is fatigue and slight nausea. The nausea is perhaps more present than the last round, but Ryan has been much more in motion this time. We were very busy with activities yesterday, but we made sure to take frequent rest breaks and Ryan did take a pretty long afternoon nap. He slept in until 10 a.m. today, but he is feeling well enough to eat a healthy breakfast right away, and now he is playing with his son. I can't tell you how much I love watching that!
Friday, May 20, 2011
I woke up this morning so hopeful I would feel well. Grace Adventures' annual Golf Marathon was today. This is the first time I had decided to be a participant in helping to raise money for summer, to help impact children with Jesus Christ. I made that decision before cancer. Then when my chemo schedule lined out so that my worst treatment would be 2 days before hand, I figured there was no way I could golf today.
I raised money for the event nonetheless, and had a backup golfer fill my spot (thanks Mom). So I woke up this morning at 7 feeling pretty good. My wife made me go back to bed, but at 7:30 I couldn't sleep any more. So I begged, negotiated, whined, and manipulated, and finally got my wife to agree to drive me 1 hour to the golf event. (Kendra's edit: I never win these arguments. It was either take him for a drive and carefully monitor his exertions, or else I would hear about it alllll day long.)
I didn't golf 100 holes like a lot of people did. I didn't even golf a full 9 I don't think. But I golfed a couple. I got outside and was able to be a part of the event. I felt pretty good most of the day. The drive home was rough, but I had a quick cat nap and now I'm better. My appetite is very weak and nausea comes and goes. Please pray I could start eating.
I'm so thankful that God blesses us with little things. I don't know if it mattered to Him that I made it to the Golf Marathon, but it mattered to me. It was a huge blessing and I'm very thankful. I can't wait for what tomorrow's little blessing may be.
P.S. If you're interested in making a donation towards the Golf Marathon, it's not too late! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
These last couple of months I have had to seriously contemplate when my time on this earth may end. It is scary, surreal, and unsettling to think about these things. Something has also gotten my attention that is exciting.
People ask us all the time how we're doing. My response is that it has been the best two months of my left and the worst two months. I love to tell people though about why it has been the best. One reason is that Kendra and I are convinced that God is powerfully and actively at work around us. Something BIG is happening right now. We're seeing signs of things that tell us an incredible thing is about to happen. We both feel like it is still building, getting bigger, like the crescendo of a song. We don't know what it is or what it looks like. We do know it's God-sized and God-led.
We get to be front and center to all of this. We're on the front row watching the fantastic narrative unfold. To be completely honest with you, I don't know at what level God is planning on using me in this process. God at work in our lives gives us great hope, not necessarily that God would heal me, but that He is using me through this.
Which brings me back to the verse.
Philippians 1:21, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
It always seemed backwards to me. If you die, then you're with Christ. Any extra time He gives you on this earth seemed like gain. Any time to spend with your family, enjoying life, growing old, all of that just seemed like a bonus to me (a bonus I still am desiring).
I was looking at it wrong however. I feel like if God saves me from this cancer, then to live is to be able to share Christ more with all those around me. To tell the great story of who He is and what He has done in my life. To live is to be Christ's ambassador to those around me.
To die is gain. I've told a couple people that I come out smelling like roses no matter what God decided to do with my body. To die is gain. Meaning I'll be in a better place than on this earth. No suffering. No pain.
A couple months ago before all this happened I told Kendra I feel overwhelmed when I think of everything God has in store for me to accomplish. I still feel that way. I don't know when I will leave, none of us do. I do know that;
Philippians 1:6, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Like I said, Kendra and I don't know what God is doing, but it is HUGE. He will complete it. We're so excited to be a part of it, and to see what it is.
In case you haven't heard, there is another family in our area who is going through the cancer journey at the same time as us and our stories are very similar. Collin, Courtney, Ryan and I all graduated from Hart High School within a few years of each other. They also have one son, who is just about exactly two years older than Colton.... and his name is Cole! Courtney is a first year teacher in the neighbor district to where I work. Collin has another GI cancer and it has metastisized. The similarities are just numerous.
They got good news yesterday... Collin appears to be responding to treatment! We praise the Lord for an answer to prayer, as we have been praying for Collin and Courtney right alongside our prayers for our own healing. God is doing something big in Oceana County. Let's see what it is!
Anyway, there is a benefit for this other young family this weekend. There are details on www.operationhansen.com. We hope to attend if Ryan feels well enough!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I'm only seven weeks into this process. My husband is healthy and for the most part, we are enjoying a normal life. Things could be a lot worse, I know that. But for the first time in my life, I am beginning to experience anxiety in a very real way. The emotions that I'm feeling - overwhelming thankfulness for his (relative) health right now, joy at little moments that we share together - and then the paralyzing fear when a sad future creeps into my mind - are like a roller coaster. Have I mentioned that I'm not really into carnival rides? They make me sick.
Today the anxiety amplified when I was notified that I won't have a job next year. I am very sad about this, not just for myself but for my students' sake. I love public education and believe that public education is a great opportunity for children to reach their fullest potential. It breaks my heart to think that my students, who have verbalized how much they hate being in large classes and being in chaos, will be in class sizes of upper 30s next year. The cuts that are going on in Michigan are very frustrating, and not at all what is best for kids.
But through all of this, I am trying to continually remind myself of a few things. Trying.
We serve a big God. Huge.
He is Jehovah Jireh, my provider.
He has a plan that is unfolding, and at this moment I don't understand the big picture, but someday I'll be able to, I'm sure. His ways are higher than my ways, his thoughts higher than my thoughts.
He has plans to prosper us and NOT to harm us.
He is a God of miracles, and he works them every single day.
A woman touched Jesus' robe one time and was healed. If we have faith that Ryan can be healed, darn it, we have a great chance of that happening. Or God could just speak and he will be healed - hey God, however you choose to do it is fine by me!
My dear, dear, DEAR friend Lee told me recently that when fear strikes, let it drive me right back to the Lord and dwell there instead of in my fear. Today when I woke up, I tried doing that instead of letting anxiety attacks control me all day long (like they did yesterday). And ya know what? It helped. Today wasn't great. Anxiety came and went. Bad things happened. But fear didn't rule my day.
And in related news, as I write this I can see the Sears Tower - NO, not the Willis Tower or Willetts Tower or whatever people are calling it these days. We are on our way to Zion to meet with our oncologist and Ryan will start round 2 tomorrow. Here's hoping for a TKO to the cancer in Round 2. As the dear friend Lee's husband said at the beginning of round 1, "I can hear those cancer cells crying here in Michigan!"
We won't be getting any scans or real information for three weeks yet. Please pray for minimal side effects for Ryan after round 2, pray for productive meetings with our care team (we have lots of questions to ask), and for safety while traveling.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
At Little Point Sable Church in Shelby, we said our original vows, made new vows together, and recommitted to loving each other and supporting each other through the best of times, the worst of times, and sang songs of worship to our loving God. It was a beautiful evening, and far more emotional than I ever expected it to be.
I'd like to take a few minutes to tell the world why I love my husband and I'm going to use a few references from the renewal ceremony. One of the things that our pastor originally charged me with five years ago was to respect Ryan for who he is and all he will add to my life. I can't even describe how much Ryan has added to my life. I feel like God truly designed us to fit together perfectly as a couple. All of my weaknesses seem to have a counterpart in Ryan's strengths. He supports me as a wife, as a teacher, as a mother. He encourages me, he rebukes me lovingly when it's needed, and he makes me laugh all the time.
One of the other things that Bob said in our ceremony, is that Ryan is more a man of God now than he was five years ago. I can tell you with insider's knowledge, this is entirely true. When I married Ryan, I respected him a lot as my brother in Christ. Now I respect him even more tremendously. One of the things that people have asked me is whether or not Ryan's "public" persona (on this blog or in the emails we send or the Facebook statuses he posts) is the same person that he is in private. I can assure you, absolutely he is. Throughout the last six and a half weeks, I have seen Ryan have more moments of fear and despair than I have ever before, but I think that's a normal reaction when one is told that they have serious cancer. But not for one second have I seen his faith waver. Not even one millisecond. This is who he is. Strong. God-honoring. Encouraging. Thoughtful. Deep. I consider myself to be the most privileged girl to be married to him, because he encourages and inspires me in my own walk with the Lord. He is a great example of what a spiritual leader looks like, in his workplace, in his home, and to his friends. He's not perfect, no sir. He has faults that I'm acutely aware of! But he's perfect for me. Thank you Lord for creating him, and for bringing us together!
So by now, I'm sure that some of you may think that I'm being slightly hyperbolic, but this is how I feel about my husband. I respect the heck out of him, more and more all the time as I watch his reaction to incredibly difficult circumstances. I love you, Ryan. Here is to five wonderful years, and God willing - many more.
Monday, May 9, 2011
My prayer life has been re-energized and on warp speed. I was walking into work today after praying during my 20 minute commute and realized I have been living in a continual state of prayer for the last month and a half. I have not literally been praying 24/7, but I have been constantly in communication with God. I'm a big fan of three word prayers. It's not deep, articulate, or wordy. It is honest, raw, and real, "God heal me". Every time I'm reminded of my cancer those words are cast out to my Father in earnest request. Maybe 30 to 50 times a day I utter those words.
That is the problem.
It took a major disease that brought me to my knees. I'm now totally dependent on God for mercy if I'm going to be healed. That's what it took for me to reconnect with Him? I'm in the belly of the whale crying out to my Father for mercy. Yet I am praying for myself continually. I'm begging that God give me something which I don't deserve. Is this what Paul meant in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18?
17 pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
A friend of mine who was diagnosed with stage 4 head and throat cancer and survived told me it is not selfish to want to raise my son, or grow old with my wife. God gave me those desires. I honestly am praying as much or more that God would heal me, so that I can fufill the clear purpose I see laid out before me. I'm also praying that He heal me so I can raise my family to find the same joy and peace I have found.
So God has used this desire of self-preservation to draw me into a constant state of prayer. Once I was there he opened my eyes to so much more that I need to be praying about. This includes praising and honoring Him for everything He is, has done, and is doing. It includes praying for those around me. It also includes asking Him for help in the other areas of my life that need to be conformed to His will. These are things I should have been desperate for in my life before cancer. However I was too proud and arrogant and didn't realize how much I needed God to be in my life 24/7.
We don't pray enough, because we aren't desperate enough. What are you desperate for? Maybe you need to think about it like this: what would you be desperate to save if it was at risk of being taken away from you?
Friday, May 6, 2011
...my husband feeling so well that he can work on the tractor.
...playing outside in the playpen on a gorgeous evening.
...Tuff being excited to play with a new tennis ball.
Nor is dirt really his thing. Yet.
Thank you Lord for the blessing of family, good weather, and an evening where cancer didn't take center stage...or even a supporting role.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Thankfully I have been feeling much more alert since Sunday night. In fact, I seemed to snap out of it and felt so alert that I stayed up until 4:30 am Sunday night (not my choice). I enjoy having high cognitive function. Not being able to think straight was very frustrating. I was mad that I couldn't study or do my devotions, keep up with the world, or enjoy my favorite magazine (Western Horseman).
We met with a local oncologist today who is willing to administer the second week of our chemo cycle. So our schedule for the next couple weeks will look like this. Week one we'll go to Chicago to the CTCA. Week two we'll get treatment in Muskegon (20 min's away). Week three is an off week and we start over again. Tomorrow is day 8 so we will be getting the second round of chemo.
It was an answer to prayer to find a doctor willing to treat us so close saving us an extra trip to Chicago. He also showed us the lab results of another patient (without revealing identity) who has cholangiocarcinoma and is on the same drugs I am on whose tumor markers have shrunk dramatically over 3 months. This was highly encouraging.
The treatment tomorrow should be much less intense than last week. This drug is not known for the side effects of last week. Please pray that I would be able to tolerate the drugs well, and of course that they would be working every moment to rid me of this cancer.
At times the depth of the situation that Kendra and I are facing pops up and surprises us. Please pray for our peace of mind and that we would continually turn our eyes off of ourselves onto God. We are doing very well, enjoying life for the most part. God is providing for us in so many ways. We are overwhelmed by His goodness.
FYI, there is a movement started by our church for prayer and fasting in our name tomorrow. We're blown away by this and honored. If you would consider praying and or fasting for us tomorrow we would be so grateful.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Both of us were able to spend some time at our jobs today - Ryan had some meetings, did some emailing, and also caught up on some paperwork and whatnot. I had a field trip with my Spanish students to a concert and also a Mexican restaurant...I had a really good day, but I am exhausted.
Please pray tonight, if you read this before you go to bed, that Ryan would be able to get some good sleep tonight. He has been suffering from some insomnia the last two nights and it's very frustrating for him. Also pray for him to be protected from germs around us... Colton's daycare and my school are both easy ways for us to pick up viruses and bring them home. His immune system is going to be very weak and we want to make sure that he is safe.
That's all for tonight...my brain is not functioning at a high level. Good night and God bless!
Sunday, May 1, 2011
I'm also trying to stay very active and keep my muscle mass up. Kendra is a great drill sergeant and regiments my diet and exercise. She is a life saver. I couldn't do it without her. The only reason I can write this is my side effects seem to have lessened and I can focus long enough to write this out. I am staying positive.
Please pray for diminished side effects. Please, please, please pray that the chemo would be working. We will get more tests done after 6 weeks or 2 cycles to tell if it is working. If so then we'll keep going at it, if not there may be a few more options.
We're still being overwhelmed by the prayer and support from our friends and family. We have been anointed with oil twice, our home church is taking Wednesday to pray and fast for us, I know of various others who have been fasting and lifting us up at all hours of the night. We feel humbled and not worthy of all the attention. But we are grateful, so grateful.
Also please pray that Kendra and I could get gack to a work routine the next couple of weeks. We would like to find our new normal as quickly as possible. God is opening so many doors, please pray we would be obedient and respond when called upon.
Thanks for all your support. We are doing well.
(I apologize if this is scattered, I'm still trying to gather my thoughts).