Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lessons I've been learning lately.

You might want to sit down.  I have a lot to say. :)  I have missed blogging for the last couple of weeks and have had a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head, but I have lacked the time and ambition (and um, correct attitude) to blog.

First of all, let me just say that God took Ryan and I over His proverbial knee and SPANKED us this morning.  Seriously, we both felt like grated cheese when we left church - in a good way.  The Lord shredded some serious apathy and entitlement that has been growing in our hearts lately.  Since we got our good news, life has been kind of weird.  There is a huge sense of relief in our hearts that SOMETHING is going in the right direction for once since April, and we're so pleased.  Thanks be to God.  But with comfort comes apathy, at least in my spiritual life.  I have totally fallen off the wagon in the last three weeks, engrossed in myself and my work and mindless entertainment - oh, and shopping. Ryan has been a bear - as he's already mentioned.  I say that with all the love in my heart that I have for that wonderful man, but I nearly booted him in the rear end a couple of times (like, I literally wanted to kick him).  So life just hasn't been quite on its normal track.

But anyway, back to this morning.  We walked into church, expecting for it to be a normal Sunday - inspirational, but perhaps not exactly life-changing.  The Holy Spirit, working through our pastor and the director of Lily of the Valley Orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico, rained down all sorts of truth on our heads.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemy (wow, needed to hear that!).  Love orphans.  We walked out of church kind of in a daze.  I felt completely convicted about my selfish, self-serving attitude lately.  I'm going through a really rough time in my life, so I deserve to be selfish about x, y, and z.  No, it doesn't work like that.  Praise God for a really good, well-timed smack across the face.  I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to someday, somehow be some sort of a mother to hurting children.  I don't know what that looks like, but I'm pretty certain that the child that I gave birth to in April 2010 is not the only child that I will have a direct impact on.  Lord, please take away cancer so that I can fulfill this calling to be a mother with my husband, who is the best father imaginable.

So that's the first thing.  I needed a butt-kicking.

The other thing I've learned is that I had to leave Facebook.  I'm off it kind of indefinitely.  I asked Ryan to change my password and not tell me what it is.  So if I don't respond to something, that's why.  I don't know for how long, but I do know that there were two definite reasons that Facebook needed to leave my life temporarily.  #1, I do not get on Facebook and spend a ton of time on there at one time, but I do check it too often.  Sometimes several times a day, for a minute or two.  What message does that communicate to my son, when I am constantly looking at my phone or the computer to see what my friends' statuses are?   I need to be more concerned about the status of my family and my relationship with God.

#2 reason for the Facebook hiatus: Facebook has caused too much anger for me lately.  For the last couple of months, my reaction to people's complaints about inconsequential things has gone from mild irritation to a totally visceral reaction.  Complaints about a cold or a flu bug?  Thank the Lord that that is the worst sickness that you have to deal with.  It's temporary.  It's inconsequential.  Complaints about morning sickness?  Trade places with me, please.  I'd love to be in your shoes and puking all over them.  Complaints about your naughty children?  Discipline them, then hug them and praise God for them.  Complaints about your job?  Can you please just be thankful that you have one?  There are millions of people that envy you.  Complaints about your parents or other family members?  I believe that there are tens of millions of orphans in our world that would love to be a part of your family.

I am not saying this because I want to be Bitter Betty, although I can veer into that dangerous territory in a quick second and must check myself.  I am not saying this because I want to compare my situation and say to you, "Pity me!  Look at how sorry my life is!  You should feel guilty!"  I am saying this because I want everyone, everywhere, including myself, to have an attitude of thankfulness no matter how deep the valley is that they're walking through.  The Lord dishes out blessings on a daily basis, and we should be thankful on a daily basis.  And until I can get my reactions under control, Facebook is not a healthy place for me to be...because mindless complaining is everywhere.  So pray for my attitude, please.

So, there it is.  That's what I've been learning lately.  This is what I'm conquering at the current time.

Phew.  I have rewritten the closing to this like five times because it's just really hard to conclude a blog when I'm really, really honest sometimes.  It makes me feel really vulnerable.  So I guess I'll just say...


Friday, November 25, 2011

Tips on how to treat a cancer patient

Here is an article on what to do when someone you know gets cancer. This is put out by the same place I get treated at.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding my father's lap again

Complete breakdown. It happened. As much as some people keep telling me, I'm no superman. It's really odd because we got good news a couple weeks ago, but things have been very difficult lately. It started a couple months ago, and in the last two weeks we reached situation overload. Physically I still feel really well. However the mental and emotional toll that cancer is taking on me while unseen from the outside, is just as real and just as overwhelming at times.

There have been total emotional breakdowns, difficulty managing stress, anxiety, mood swings, anger, and more. I would go on, but you'd never read my posts again. It has not been pretty.

One of the things that set me off and that I've been struggling with is in Michigan it's been firearm hunting season since November 15th. I really like to hunt. I'm not die hard, and am actually not even that good, but I really enjoy it. It's been a very busy couple months for me at work. It's just one of those seasons. So I've been really hoping to get away and spend some time in the woods. The more I tried to get ahead so I could get out of the office, the more things piled up and the more I stressed until I finally lost it. 

This afternoon I finally got out into the woods for a few hours. I just bought a new rifle and was very excited to take it out and hopefully initiate it. As I sat in the tree stand waiting, I started to read a book that's been on my list for a while, Why Pray by John Devries. After a couple chapters on prayer, I set it down and started a conversation with God.

As I was thanking God for my son Colton, I started to think about the times I am blessed by him. One of my favorite experiences is when he gets hurt. No I'm not a terrible, rotten human being. Colton is always going and moving. He often runs into walls, trips and falls, or superman dives off the couch. As much as he carries on, cries, fusses, and acts like he's dying, he's really not. However in his mind, the world is falling down on top of him, and at that moment he instantly is looking for me. He crawls up on my lap and places all his tears on my shoulder. 

So why do I enjoy it when he gets hurt? I don't, what I love is as a father that time where I can wrap my arms around him and completely love on him. I can bring him back to a place of joy and peace merely by him being in my presence. He doesn't sit still on my lap very often, but when he's scared or hurt it's like he doesn't want anything else than to be in my presence.

Apparently with all this stress and freaking out these last couple weeks, God and I needed to spend a couple hours of quality time together. I got absolutely skunked tonight in the woods. I saw one doe that might've been a large squirrel, she was so small. I did however get to spend a solid three hours in prayer crawling up on my father's lap and seeking nothing but his presence. 

I've had a few moments these last couple weeks that have been as trying as any during this whole process. Instead of seeking God right away, I tried to fix things and deal with them on my own. I don't think God enjoys it when we are struggling, but oh how He must long for those moments when we as His children finally crawl back on His lap and say, "I need you". 

I have so much to be thankful for. I never thought I would even be able to hunt this year when I was told about the cancer in April. I can't wait to get back into the woods tomorrow whether I see another deer or not, I will be on my father's lap.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's not all about us.

We are not the only ones who are hurting because of cancer.

We have a lot of friends, acquaintances, and family members who are struggling with their own cancer or watching a loved one struggle...or even recently buried a loved one. I can only empathize with people who are going through these things... I will not be arrogant enough to say, "I know exactly how you feel."

If you would choose one or two of these families and pray for them alongside our names, we would be so appreciative.

Dianna is a mom with the same cancer as Ryan and whose symptoms are often debilitating. Pray for her sister, who is her caretaker.

Collin, a young dad with serious cancer who is from our hometown. Praise God for his response to treatment.

Bill is the patriarch of a sweet family from Montague. He was recently diagnosed with cancer. Praise God that his doctors are optimistic about his recovery.

Pray for Marla and her family as they still mourn the loss of her mother just over a year ago.

Pray for Carrie, a very young woman who just lost her fiancé Tom to cancer.

Pray for Anna, the matriarch of a family who was recently diagnosed. Her daughter was very instrumental in the Rodeo. They get results this week from a PET scan.

Pat is a sweet family friend of ours and was my mom's best friend in high school. She has scans coming up in December. She has struggled with cancer for years .., let's pray it away!

Pray for our sister-in-law's mother Melinda, who is fighting another bout with cancer. She has beat this twice and we earnestly hope that she defeats it again, for good!

Pray for Cindy, my friend who lost her husband in April to this same cancer. She is raising two children alone and is so inspirational and encouraging to me!

I know that we are missing people. I'm sorry for that. I know that you know others. Let's commit to praying for the people and families affected, and encouraging them. We have to pray for the eradication of this horrible disease! Kick it out, in Jesus' name!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Steak and Chocolate Cake in High Def!

I've had a lot on my mind since this weekend. I think it's just starting to sink in that we got positive news. Every time you come up to a junction lately things have gone poorly, so to get better-than-expected news just totally surprised us.

I think the biggest emotion I felt Tuesday after we were told about the news was relief. I was so worked up afraid of bad news, that when it was positive I just exhaled and smiled (all of this negative emotion is just proof that despite what many of you think, I am human still). 

As we headed home I knew we needed to celebrate. We have so much to celebrate in our lives, but in my cancer battle we haven't had a ton of good news days since we began. So to get great news meant it was time to do something special. 

If you know the Prudhommes you know our love language is food. I wanted a steak, so we tried to look up a steak house but there was no luck. The baby was getting fussy and so was Colton. So we pulled into Cracker Barrel, a Prudhomme favorite. 

A little bit of history about Ryan. I love country fried steak. I love it most from Cracker Barrel. I once ate it three times in one day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as we drove across country on vacation. So when I walked in and saw the special was Country Fried Steak, it was an omen, a message from God, a clear sign that God is real and present. 

However Kendra didn't receive the same divination. As my secretary, boss, dietitian, caretaker, and pretty much general keep me out of trouble person, she was slightly concerned about the health implications of my dinner of desire. So after much arguing I landed on the rib eye steak. I've never had a rib eye from Cracker Barrel and didn't know what to expect.

Wow, just wow. I love steak. I love steak. The chef nailed it!

Then through conversation I mentioned to the waitress that we had gotten good news that day. A few minutes later she came out w/ a "death by chocolate" triple chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream dessert "on the house". I thought the death by chocolate was kind of funny. But then again my sense of humor is getting a little morbid lately. Like when Kendra told me not to reheat my leftovers in the microwave inside Styrofoam... what are you afraid I'm going to get cancer? 

The cake was incredible. Kendra and I shared it, and yes it completely destroyed her concerns about the fried steak not being healthy, but it was amazing. 

As I've thought about it, maybe the steak and cake were extra special, or maybe everything seemed a little bit better that night? Why does it take something very large for me to celebrate and thank God for who He is, not what He's done (although that deserves praise as well)?

What big or small things have happened in your life that you need to celebrate? Today for me it was being able to work a 1/2 day on my second day after treatment. I was so thankful for that little blessing. 

Sooooo. Let's Ceeeelebrate Good times come on!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Be still and know - The hardest part!

I've been so busy the last three weeks that I really haven't had much of a chance to think about the scans that we had coming up. This was a blessing in disguise. I don't do well sitting still. I get restless, anxious, and irritable. Just ask Kendra.

This past weekend was really busy.  Football, speaking at TIU, and lots of great time spent with my brother Corey (which was awesome).  Then Sunday night things seemed to start slowing down and I was confronted with what I would be facing in a few days.

Monday my scans didn't start until two pm. So there was more waiting all morning. I distracted myself with a book, and the Internet, but my nerves were quickly rising, and I started to feel myself getting quiet and tense. My first scan was a pet scan. I'd never had one so I didn't know what to expect. They give you radio-active sugar water through an IV. No big deal I'm getting used to IV's at this point. However then they make you sit still for 45 minutes. No reading, no phone, no distractions.

Wow! That was worse than any needles or other tests. You really expect me to sit still with nothing other than my thoughts? I tried praying, singing songs, but my mind kept coming back to "what if's" and "could be's". This was brutal.

Then the test began. I was on a bench that slides into a MRI looking machine, with my arms strapped to my side. The test takes about 45 minutes. More sitting perfectly still with nothing but my thoughts! Only now it got worse!

I got an itch on my nose after about 15 minutes. Couldn't scratch it, couldn't touch it, and all I could do was to focus on it and squish my nose hoping it will go away.

That itch is like cancer. The more you focus on it, the more you feel it. Our arms are tied down, for the most part we can't control who gets it, where it comes, and whether it stays or goes.

Then as I settled more into a groove praying and singing some old hymns, the intensity of the itch started to diminish. The more I take my eyes off cancer and put my focus onto God, the less significant the cancer becomes. It becomes a matter of perspective. Life is a matter of perspective. I was anxious heading into the scans because my perspective was on myself and not on the God of the universe whom I serve.

What is your perspective focused on?

Yourself, a pursuit of money, protecting what feels comfortable, big houses, promotions?

Hebrews 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.

What a week

Excuse me if this turns into a ramble. I've got so much on my mind including chemo brain. Things are a little fuzzy right now but I'm going to do my best.

First, Praise God. Wow, what an incredible blessing and surprise. I have never doubted that God was always able to shrink tumors, but I have wondered if he would choose to. Quite honestly as I waited in that tiny room I was hoping and praying for the status quo, that things wouldn't have progressed. I was very doubtful that shrinking might be an option. After the last scans which showed no change, our doctor said if things were going to shrink they probably would have by then. That was hard to hear.

I still knew God could do anything, the options just seemed to be getting more limited. So when the doctor came in and told us that things were shrinking we were totally caught off guard. It's a fine line between making your requests known to God and praying in confidence, and trusting in God's sovereignty.

For the tumors to start shrinking now defy medical logic. However it completely is within God's logic. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts higher than our thoughts. So as I often pray Lord help my unbelief.

This is great news, incredible. We're partying like it's __________ (fill in the blank with some random year ending in nine). God has answered our prayers in a physical tangible way. This is nothing short of a modern day miracle in my mind. I'm still not sure how to handle it. Things had been so apprehensive for a couple days and especially the few hours before the appointment, that when we got this news, it was such a surprise. It took a while for it to sink in, it's still sinking in.

But this is also just a first step. As I told Kendra so many times before the appointment, "Bad news doesn't mean we have no hope, and good news doesn't mean I'm cured". No matter what news we got it is still going to be an up and down battle with setbacks and progress. There is still so many things that have to go right and so many things that could go wrong between now and a transplant. It would be years away.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't, aren't, or won't celebrate God's goodness for today. He has chosen to bless us with a period of wonderful news. Heading into Thanksgiving and Christmas we will have a new miracle to praise Him for.

We will maintain treatment as long as it is working. Let's pray for a long, long time of that, unless God should choose to shrink things even faster.

I believe there are two reasons God has blessed us this way;

1. God's Sovereignty. Only He knows ultimately why things have started to turn around. It is a part of His plan and He is still in control.

2. The prayers of the saints. There are so many people praying for us that it is overwhelming. People literally all across the world, organized prayer chains, intercessory prayer teams, friends, family, strangers, and so many people that we'll never hear from. I've met so many new friends that introduced themselves as, "hello, I'm so and so and I've been praying for you!". What an incredible blessing and gift all this prayer is. God hears our prayers. Today He has answered. Please keep it up.

Scientifically speaking...

I am sitting here at school, trying to wrap my head around coming back to work and I cannot, CANNOT believe that we got good news yesterday.

Here is a scientific graph of the last seven months (click on it to enlarge):

As you can see, our emotions have not really hit a significant peak since March.  We needed this.  Badly.

I am in such a mood for worship today.  I am looking forward to my drive home to be able to cry, sing, shout, and have other drivers give me weird looks.  I don't care.  My God is big.  He is worthy of praise.

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To God be the glory!

Hello! I am typing this on my phone so I will be quick with details, but we have great news.

The results of the scans show that both tumors and one of the two lymph nodes have SHRUNK (I double-checked that participle online and it still doesn't sound correct). This is only since late August...truthfully, we were not expecting this. This is almost too much to hope for when he has been doing chemo for six months already with no change. The amount of shrinking is roughly ten to twenty percent, and that is HUGE!

So back to the same routine because it is WORKING! Keep praying, friends, God is doing big things here and around us!

EDIT: I should also mention that Ryan's liver enzymes have lowered SIGNIFICANTLY since his last appointment.  Only one of the major three that we check was elevated, and it was half of the last count...the other two were at NORMAL levels!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Anxiety builds.

When I get stressed about this cancer stuff, there are a few places that I run to:

  • Country Dairy
  • God
  • Psalms, number 46 in particular
  • Ryan
  • a certain playlist on my iPhone
(God would be number 1...those are in random order, I promise you.)

Today I have spent time with all of those, except for Country Dairy - because we are in Chicago.  If we were in New Era and only two miles away from Country Dairy like we normally are, I'd probably be lunching there today on a cheddar bacon burger.  Mmm...

But really, the point of this post is, there have been two songs over the last week that are helping my heart be pointed in the right direction as we anxiously await the test results of Ryan's scans tomorrow.  I hope that you'll click on them and read the lyrics.  They are powerful.  Music speaks to me so powerfully and evokes powerful emotions...these help evoke a strong sense of peace and determination that I will follow the Lord's will with all my heart and understanding.  I will worship Him no matter Tuesday's outcome.

Hillsong United, "The Stand"

You stood before creation 
Eternity within Your hand 
You spoke the earth into motion 
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure 
Carried the Cross for my shame 
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders 
My soul now to stand

So what can I say 
What can I do 
But offer this heart O God 
Completely to You

So I'll walk upon salvation 
Your Spirit alive in me 
This life to declare Your promise 
My soul now to stand

So what can I say 
What can I do 
But offer this heart O God 
Completely to You

So I'll stand 
With arms high and heart abandoned 
In awe of the One who gave it all

So I'll stand 
My soul Lord to You surrendered 
All I am is Yours

Chris Tomlin, "I Will Rise"

There's a peace I've come to know 
Though my heart and flesh may fail 
There's an anchor for my soul 
I can say "It is well" 

Jesus has overcome 
And the grave is overwhelmed 
The victory is won 
He is risen from the dead 

And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And rise 
I will rise 

There's a day that's drawing near 
When this darkness breaks to light 
And the shadows disappear 
And my faith shall be my eyes 

Jesus has overcome 
And the grave is overwhelmed 
The victory is won 
He is risen from the dead 

And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And rise 
I will rise 

And I hear the voice of many angels sing, 
"Worthy is the Lamb" 
And I hear the cry of every longing heart, 
"Worthy is the Lamb" 

And I will rise when He calls my name 
No more sorrow, no more pain 
I will rise on eagles' wings 
Before my God fall on my knees 
And rise 
I will rise

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Big Weekend

This will be a big weekend for Kendra and I. It started off with a bang. We watched the local high school team we like to cheer on win a big play off game last night. Then we drove half way to Chicago. Got up this morning and drove the rest of the way because I had the opportunity to give the devotional for Trinity International University's football team. This was the second time I've gotten to speak to them. Please pray that will all the speaking chances I've had lately the truth of God's promises would resonate with people and they would be encouraged.

This afternoon we'll watch the Trinity football game. Then we'll hang out here at Deerfield IL today and tomorrow. Monday I have medical scans all day. Petscan, MRI, and Catscan. It will be a long day. It will be an even longer night as we wait for the results. Tuesday we'll get the results and hopefully things will be shrinking, or at the least still holding with no growth.

Things have been going so well and I've been feeling so well that I don't have any reason to believe anything has changed. God is sovereign and as I told the football players today, none of us can control what happens to us, but all of us can control how we respond. I choose to honor God no matter what. That doesn't mean it's not scary and difficult. Please pray for Kendra, Colton, our parents, and our families. This will be a tough and difficult weekend. I'm so thankful for an incredible family to walk through this with.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Get outside your comfort zone!!!

I'm not the most public person. I don't mind being up in front of lots of people, so long as we can talk about what I want to talk about. What I don't want to do is share my thoughts, feelings, and insecurities about myself. I don't want to be vulnerable and let people inside my walls. I would much rather keep other people at arms length.

This is pretty much the opposite of what my life has been the last couple months. Why do I do it? Why are Kendra and I choosing to walk through this journey in such a public matter? The answer is we're hoping and praying that by us sharing what God is doing in our lives we might encourage, inspire, challenge, or lead to Christ someone else.

Just because the outcomes are desirable, doesn't make the process easier. Recently we had an article published about us in the local paper. This is the second article the paper ran on us, the first one was after I spoke at a large Christian concert this summer. Something about what I said connected with the photographer and reporter and they approached the editor to do a follow up feature article.

Greg, the photographer asked if he could follow Kendra and I around for a couple of weeks. He wanted to document our lives. The boring stuff, the cancer stuff, the exciting stuff, and the high definition stuff. I didn't know how I felt about it at first. I knew it would be awkward to have a camera follow me to work, to treatment, at home, and other places. More so I knew this article would be read by 10's of thousands.

Why did I agree to it? Because the benefits outweighed the deficits. Yes it was uncomfortable, but if just one person drew closer to God because they read this article it would be worth it.

Too often we let our comfort determine our behavior. If it is hard or makes me feel awkward we tend to shy away from it. Or maybe we judge how well our faith is going by how comfortable we are. Do we have money in the bank? Nice clothes? Are we all healthy? Then things must be going well.

Unfortunately God doesn't promise that things will be easy, actually He promises that things will be tough, difficult, and that there will be trials. If we never get outside our comfort zone, I don't know if we can be completely obedient to what God is calling us to do. Abraham had to leave his home land, then sacrifice his son. David had to fight a giant. Moses had to go before Pharaoh. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. Every one of those people chose obedience over comfort.

What area's of our lives do we need to get outside our comfort zone? It's too easy to never do anything that makes us nervous. Do you need to have a conversation with someone about your faith? Do you need to serve those who don't like you? Do you need to minister to someone who is dirty and difficult to love? Only you know what God is calling you to do.

I can promise you as you're obedient, God will bless. I have been overwhelmed time and time again by the people who approach me to tell me that this blog, or a speech I gave, or a video they saw blessed and inspired them.