Sunday, October 28, 2012

Please stop the ride, I want off

I'm afraid.... I'm very scared.

Those were the tear filled words I prayed tonight at church during an incredible evening of worship and prayer.

The news I got this week was not what I wanted to hear. I try so hard not to have expectations before scans. I try to stay neutral. Sure I pray for healing, and believe it could happen, but I try not to expect it. Don't get too high or too low. This time was harder though. I wanted so bad to hear the word remission. I caught myself daydreaming about how I would respond.

I was going to walk back out into the lobby of all these cancer patients waiting to see their own doctors and share enthusiastically that 18 months ago I was given a death sentence. Today I'm in remission. Praise the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me! Bless His holy name!

I didn't get to live out that fantasy. Instead I received another one of those gut punches that are so visceral and raw they make you nauseous and dizzy. Instantly my mind started to go down those familiar yet destructive pathways.

Tonight Kendra is staying with a friend in Kalamazoo. So Colton and I literally drove straight from Chicago to our church's evening service. I planned to take Colton into the sanctuary until he started getting fussy or anxious then he'd go to nursery. Instead he curled up on my lap and sat so quiet and still for over an hour and a half. I think he's picking up on the emotions in my family. He doesn't know what's wrong, he just knows where a safe place is. This little boy with his head against my chest and my arms wrapped completely around him. I kissed his head, smelled his hair, and sang quietly into his ear. I stopped paying attention to anything else around me and Colton and I had our own worship experience.

It's hard to praise God when one of the things you're most afraid of losing is sitting on your lap. This innocent (most of the time), soft faced, little joy of a human being is so important to me. I'm terrified about what my absence might mean in his life. I'm angry that I might not be able to love him like I want. I'm bitter that I might not be able to do the things with him I want to.

I'm very scared about the future.

I'm afraid for Kendra. She has so much on her plate now. She spent last week working till 7, 8, or later with parent teacher conferences. No big deal you might think, but the week before scans everything becomes more difficult. Time away from family is a big deal. Yet she faithfully serves in whatever capacity God puts her in. I'm afraid about what my health might mean to her though. Life is so much work for her already.

Cooking, cleaning, taking care of a baby (me), taking care of a toddler, working, commuting, being a part of a small group, doing the bills, coordinating medical appointments and travel arrangements every other week. This just the short list. It is exhausting. What will happen if I'm even more hassle? What will happen if I'm gone? Who will she have to lean on?

Tonight at church we sang a song that may have been the straw that broke Ryan's back.

I don't know what resonated with me but I was almost breathless trying to sing the words that just wouldn't come out. Then they showed a video by Francis Chan that I'd seen before, and again for some reason tonight it just jumped off the walls at me.

Right now I have a choice to make. Am I going to shrink back down and cling to the beam? Is my faith so lacking that one test result would knock me off this journey of learning about radical obedience I've been on? All I want to do is crawl up on my daddy's lap and have him wrap his arms around me and tell me it's all okay. That He's got it all under control and I'm going to be fine.

Sometimes we don't have the faith that we desire. There's a reason God calls us to work out our faith with fear and trembling. It's a process. As the father in Mark 9 says, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief".

Right now I want to perform on the balance beam. I know that's where I need to be. I sure don't feel like getting up and doing flips though. My emotions tell me to lay back down, strap myself to the beam, and just survive.

Dear Father,

I'm so scared. I'm so scared of what you might have ahead of me. I want off this ride. I'm tired and exhausted. Lord please I'm begging to let this cup pass. God there are things I confess I'm holding on to. I've been holding on to my son, and my wife, and their futures. I know that you are in control, and will take care of them, but yet I still try to hold on to protecting them. God it's so tiring trying to do my job and yours. I can't do it anymore. I'm raising the white flag. To you I surrender again, all that I have. God when I can't pick myself off the beam, please pick me up. Please hold me not in safety, but in obedience. Use me even in my brokenness to serve you.

Lord please don't let the things I hold onto prevent me from serving you. I pray my moments of unbelief will not keep me from what you have ahead of me. God I know all of this is so minor compared to the pain and anguish you and your son shared when you took my sins and paid my price for me. I feel selfish and embarrassed that I'm struggling with this. Lord thank you for loving me no matter how I feel. Lord I lay this before you once again, and praise you.

Lord I'm not in remission, but I will still choose to say,

Praise the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me! Bless His holy name!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Another twist in the road...


I finally just got back to the hotel room after a very long day with my husband of appointments, consultations, crying, feeling better, breaking down again, putting on a brave face for Colton, and going to another consultation.  Essentially, we have not received good news today, but we still have options moving forward.

This morning, we met with our primary oncologist and he delivered a couple of bad news blows: the two tumors that were left in August (very small) are a mixed bag: one shrank, one grew.  However, there is also another mass that has appeared.  Our oncologist thinks that it is probably another tumor, but our interventional radiologist (that we just met for the first time today) postulated that it also might be scar tissue or something from a dead tumor.  Who knows.  Regardless, the treatment that Ryan has been doing lately - the nasty, nasty chemotherapy treatment - is not effective any longer.  So on to plan K (we've exhausted all of the letters A-J, it seems).

Radiation theraspheres.  Some of the people reading this blog right now are probably very familiar with these, but most of you probably are not.  Theraspheres are tiny, radioactive (Yttrium-90) glass beads that are injected into an artery near the right lobe of Ryan's liver, with the intention of attacking and shrinking and killing the 2-3 tumors located there (I should note, before I forget, that there is not any active disease in his lymph nodes, nor is there any disease anywhere else in his body - praise God).  This will hopefully take place in the next two weeks.  Pray for a.) our insurance policies to approve it, b.) for the consultations and procedure to take place expeditiously, and c.) for no more disease to spread in the interim.

A couple of positives about doing the theraspheres: Ryan will get about a month break from chemotherapy - if not six weeks.  He is MAJORLY celebrating this.  Also, this procedure does not have very many side effects.  He's been feeling fine lately (aside from chemo symptoms), so hopefully he has the next six weeks to enjoy a small break from the drudgery of chemo.

Some patients have had wildly successful experiences with radiation theraspheres, some have not had any success.  Our doctor does still have a couple of chemotherapy treatments in mind, so this is not the end of the line by any stretch of the imagination.  This is a temporary setback.  However, earlier today, it felt like I had my heart ripped out of my chest.  This afternoon has been very, very hard and full of rage and tears, but at the end of the day, I know that we serve a God who is sovereign, loving, and wise.  Nope, this wasn't my choice - I wanted to hear those words "cancer free" so badly today, but those will apparently be saved for another day in the future.  If this is His will, if this is His plan, then we gladly follow this newest twist in the road and trust Him implicitly.

Proverbs 3 (NIV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Panic at the Home Depot

Full disclosure: I am really, really struggling with fear right now.

Yes, I know Joshua 1:9 tells me to not be afraid.  I've been commanded.  I know that my God is a strong tower in a storm.  I know that the He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me.  But with very important scans staring us in the face and my husband mysteriously has dropped weight recently, I am almost at full-scale panic attack.

My meltdown this afternoon came about very strangely.  I had a lot of time to kill between parent-teacher conferences, so I decided to go wander around and enjoy the beautiful warm air, so unlike a late October day here in The Mitten.  I walked into a Hallmark store and began to browse around.  I picked out a couple of Christmas ornaments for friends with new babies, and I was scanning the aisles for other treasures.  Suddenly I came upon a rack of recordable books, the tagline "Recordable Books - for when you're not there to read it yourself".  All of a sudden, I had this "flash-forward" (kind of the opposite of a flashback), envisioning my son listening to one of those books at seven years old with his father's voice coming out of the book.  Because his dad isn't there.  Because his dad had died of cancer.

I froze.  Dropped the ornaments right there next to the books and hightailed it out of the store.

My mind a jumble and my nerves shot, I decided that Home Depot would be a nice, big place to get anonymous and lose myself in admiring appliances.  But I could not shake that image of my son listening to his dad's voice through a recorder.  I actually began to cry (in public) while standing in front of carpet samples.  I was horrified and I'm pretty sure that the Home Depot employees were, too.

I trust in you, Lord.  I know that no matter the outcome of these scans this week, that your will should be done.  And it will be.  But I'm so darn scared.  I'm so darn scared of that image of my precious son, fatherless.  I beg of you, God, please heal my husband.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A request for my birthday.

Hello friends!

Recently on Facebook, I posted a status about how I wanted nothing more for my birthday than for my beloved Detroit Tigers to get a World Series berth. I was being half serious when I wrote that, partly because I really had no idea what I wanted for my birthday and partly because I really love those Tigs.

Well, as I've tried to think of something to ask for, I've realized I already have been given amazing gifts:

- I am a redeemed, heaven-bound follower of Christ,

- the Tigers did indeed deliver this year,

- and my wonderful, courageous husband is still by my side.

So finally I decided what to ask for. Please pray for my husband and I today as a gift to us both. Dear friends, today I am 28 years old. Please pray that he too will reach 28 years old (he is 16 months younger than I am). Truly one of the greatest blessings I have is how he's beaten the odds, and every day I have with him is a gift.

Five days from now, we will sit in a cramped examination room in Zion and find out how Ryan is doing. I am incredibly nervous. So much rides on every one of these scans and we've been fighting so hard. Please pray for good news, but also that we will be content regardless of the outcome.

(And World Series tickets are always a good idea!) ;)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just relax a little... it'll help your faith

A week from today, I should know whether the drugs I've been battling over the last couple months have been working or not. Next Friday, Kendra and I will go through our ritual of waiting anxiously for the doctor to tell us whether the cancer is growing, stable, or shrinking. I probably won't sleep much on Thursday. Already we've been shorter and more anxious with each other and life in general. The weight of what's ahead of us has caused us to tense up and try and control life even more.

Do you ever do that? The more out of control your life feels the more you try to control it. I think it's human nature. The last thing we want to do is relinquish what little "power" we have.

As much as I'd like to think it's about my circumstances, it's really about me. More than that it's about my perception of God. When life is out of control I inherently start to wonder if God is still as smart as He says He is. It's not going the way I think it should and I can't make it make sense.

As a matter of fact it's pretty scary at times.

How should we respond?

Sit deep, relax, and start giggling.

For Colton's second birthday Kendra and I bought him a miniature horse, Buckaroo. It's taken Colton a while to get used to the idea of riding Buckaroo. Some days he seemed to do better, but often times he was very scared.

If we could convince him to sit down on Buckaroo, he didn't hide how afraid he was. He would tense up, stop listening, flop or bounce around the saddle. I don't expect much from a two year old in his riding skills but I knew Colton had more balance then this. He seemed incapable of sitting up straight and staying centered.

A couple weeks ago on a night he and I were home alone we went out to chore the horses. We caught both our horses and let them eat a little grass. This was the first time Colton really led his horse around by himself. He did well and only once dropped the lead rope to go chase the dog.

Then he begged me to help him groom and saddle Buckaroo. Anxious to take advantage of his ambition I, helped him get his pint-sized little horse ready. Something was different this time. Not Colton's circumstances, same horse, same dad leading him around, same arena.

The difference was his attitude. I think this was dependent upon his level of trust with me, the one leading him. What was the result? He rode better than he ever has. We walked and even trotted all over the arena. Without any assistance from me, Colton sat almost perfectly. He never swayed or fell off balance, and even was able to learn how to steer, stop, and get Buckaroo going (a considerable task).

It's our perception of reality that keeps our faith from growing. Most of the time the difference between success and failure in our walk with the Lord has nothing to do with what's happening around us and everything to do with how we perceive what's happening around us. Too often the filter is how will this affect me? Why is this happening to me?

Once Colton stopped focusing on what he was afraid of and started listening to me, everything got better. I didn't take him off the horse, but he learned how to ride. In the middle of trials the last thing I usually take time to do, is stop and listen to God.

God doesn't promise to remove us from our difficulties, He does promise "everything we need for life and for Godliness". He promises to teach us to ride through life.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A promise in the trenches

Job 8:21 NIV

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.

This verse was posted online today by someone that I follow on Twitter. Thank the Lord that I saw this promise this morning and could rely on it as my husband drove away to Zion an hour ago to get his nasty treatment that will make me a de facto single mom/caretaker for about nine days, and my son went to pieces and screamed for his dad to come back. I sat down on the floor and cried with him. Actually, I still am crying. I hate the family time that cancer has robbed from us. I hate the stress it has added to my young son's life.

And yet I know that on the other side of this valley, there is peace. Joy. Hope. Comfort. Smiles.

I don't know what those circumstances look like. I don't know if my husband and I will high five each other here on earth and celebrate victory over cancer, or if we will high five each other in heaven someday when the second person gets there, and celebrate our ultimate victory in Christ, but I cling to the sure fact that there are better days ahead than this for those who follow Christ. Those days will be full of laughter and shouts of joy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life these days

Hello family and friends,

In case you haven't seen much of us lately, do not be alarmed.  We are alive.  We are doing as well as we can!  I'm crazy busy with school, mothering, caretaking, and some projects.  Ryan is busy with projects, work, speaking, and traveling.  We have been home very little on the weekends lately.

We are grateful.  Who would have thought back in those dark days of April 2011 that we would be here right now - busy, going about our lives, and doing our best to obey the things that God has placed in our lives.  It isn't easy - He continually calls us to step out in faith and do some tasks that seem extremely difficult.  Yet we know that His grace is sufficient for every day, and we are grateful for that grace that continues to buoy us down this long road.

The chemo blues

Ryan is on his fourth or fifth cycle of oxaliplatin, 5FU, and Erbitux.  It has been a battle.  I would definitely say that this has been his toughest chemotherapy combination that he has yet faced.  The side effects are numerous: rash on many different parts of his body, extremely tired, sensitivity to cold, virtually no appetite, acid reflux, digestive issues, sores in his mouth, the list goes on and on.  Taking care of Ryan has been a pretty tall order lately!  I can assure you that his attitude and his resolve is completely unwavering.  He is so nonchalant about getting treatment, even having a good attitude about the five-hour round trips to Chicago every two weeks.  His dad is the person that is making this trip.  We are thankful for him!

Scan time!

It is almost time for those fun, fun days of the year known as scan time!  These will be taking place on Thursday and Friday, October 25-26.  We are glad that we can combine this trip with some family time with Corey - he has a home game only 20 minutes away from Zion on the 27th, so we will stay after our appointments through the following Sunday.  Ryan will be getting a CT scan done on Thursday the 25th, and we will get results on Friday morning.  Given his lack of any pain or alarming symptoms, I am hopeful for good results!

Prayer requests

Friends, this road is long and hard.  I would definitely say that Ryan and I are both weary and downtrodden at the moment.  Right now I feel like I'm stuck on a perpetual Wednesday.  Nobody likes Wednesday because it's in the middle of the week and it's really far away from last weekend and the upcoming weekend.  It has been a really, really long and hard 18 months and we are exhausted.  Yet we know that we still have a far piece ahead of us.  Please pray for renewal and encouragement.  Please pray for us to keep our eyes fixed on the cross and that we would not feel any temptation to be disobedient while things are tough.  We long to glorify God at every turn of this journey, and it's hard to do so when we we feel like we are stuck in a valley.

Have we told you lately, "thank you"?  There are so many of you that are reading these words this moment and you have been reading since those dark days of April 2011 that I mentioned earlier.  Thanks for walking this road with us, however long you've known us.  We are thankful for your prayer and for your willingness to come alongside us as we figure out this journey that God has placed us on.