Monday, October 16, 2017

Update 10/16/2017 -- A Little Longer Before Chemo

It has been a long 17 days since surgery.  We praise God that the surgeon was able to get everything and we praise God for the rapid healing that Julie experienced through the point of being discharged 10 days ago.  However, we have had some setbacks since getting home.  She developed a UTI and was proactively put on a very strong broad antibiotic, which caused major stomach issues, which is not good with some of the work she had done to her.  To make matters worse, the UTI she had turned out to be resistant to that particular antibiotic.  All of this led to her losing too much liquid and we ended up going to the ER a few days ago to get her checked out and re-hydrated.  She is now on a new antibiotic that seems to be working on the UTI and is much milder.  She is still having side-effects, but not as pronounced and bearable.  She began to progress in her healing again until Friday.

On Friday, we spent 9 hours at the hospital for post-surgery visits.  She had her follow-up with the surgeon's team, which removed the staples.  She then had to receive 2 units of blood because her hemoglobin was remaining low (it was low all along, so this was not a surprise).  She then had to get 4 immunizations because she no longer has a spleen.  We are not sure which of these (or most likely a combination of these), but it set her back again to more new pain in new areas.  The past 2 days have been pretty bad in the pain category for her.....  

Today, we had a "normal" chemo day scheduled with the Oncologist hoping to be able to start chemo.  They did blood work and then had the appointment with Dr. Colon (the Oncologist).  Her blood counts are all looking good and based on that alone she could have had chemo today.  However, Dr. Colon feels like (and we agree!) that she needs another week to continue to heal from surgery before starting chemo because healing will come much slower once chemo is started.  Based on all of this, unless there are any major setbacks, we will resume the last 9 weeks of chemo next Monday and repeat every Monday until done.  We did get a little concerned when we saw the blood-work because the CA-125 number was up, but Dr. Colon assures us that it is normal for it to do that when you have surgery.  He said people that don't have any cancer will have a higher CA-125 after a surgery and it wasn't anything to be concerned about.  He feels real good about where we are in the treatment process.

Some specific prayer points:
  • For relief of some back pain Julie is having -- most likely where the epidural was given and because she is having to lay on her back so much.
  • For relief of the new pains in her abdomen that we think is caused by new stretching since the staples were removed.
  • For her appetite to be increased and for her to be able to retain liquids.
  • For the overall healing of her body in preparation for the next half of chemo.
  • For the chemo to finish doing what it needs to do.
  • For Julie's emotional outlook.  She has had some pretty emotional times over everything that was done during surgery and some of the adjustments that are mostly temporary.  Of course, a lot of this is due to hormonal changes with the hormone producing parts being removed, but there are some other things that she is struggling with as well.
  • For protection against infections -- her immune system will always be less now without a spleen and once she starts chemo, it will make it weaker again.
  • For Sara's school -- her Hope Grant/Scholarship is at risk since we (not her) moved out of state.  Thankfully, we have a great State Representative in GA that is working on her behalf to get an exception due to the circumstances.
  • For ministry decisions that have to be made -- it is complex and involves a number of people and situations -- for now just pray as several people have decisions to make and we all want a clear direction from God to stay in His will.  The ministry in Honduras will continue -- we are just trying to figure out exactly what that looks like going forward and it is impacted not just by our circumstances, but also changing circumstances in Honduras.
  • For some unspoken requests for others close to us that I cannot disclose -- God will know who you are praying for :)
With Love,
Ben

Thursday, October 5, 2017

We are Home

Julie continued to stay ahead of schedule on her recovery of the surgery so she was discharged this afternoon and we are home at her cousin's in Jacksonville.  She is scheduled to return next Friday (13th) to have the staples removed as well as to receive some immunizations required now that she doesn't have a spleen.  Dr. Robertson believes that as healthy as Julie is other than the cancer that she may be ready to begin the last 9 weeks of chemo on Friday, October 20th.  Dr Robertson attributed Julie's rapid recovery of such an extensive surgery as her young age, good health, and "the good Lord looking out for you."  We think it was more of the last than anything and God honoring the many prayers of his children all over that have been and continue to pray for us.

On a different note, I have a minor outpatient eye surgery as a glaucoma preventative on Friday, October 13th.  We have someone that is going to come stay with Julie while I am gone and get her to her follow up appointment to have the staples removed and the immunizations.  The eye surgeon tells me that since I am only having one eye done that I can drive myself and it won't be a problem, but Julie wants me to have someone go with me, so if any of you men have the day off on Friday, October 13th and feel like riding to Glennville and back with me that day please let me know.  I do not yet know the time -- just the day.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Update on Surgery

Throughout the day of surgery and the first couple of days afterwards I was posting updates on Facebook, but I realized today that the Facebook prioritization system caused many of you to miss some of the updates.  Therefore, so everybody is up to date I will provide a total summary here from the day of surgery through today.

When the hospital called on Thursday (9/28) to give us the surgery time, they told us to check in at the hospital at 10:00am and that we would be Dr. Robertson's 3rd and last surgery of the day (the other 2 were predictable out-patient surgeries).  We arrived on time on Friday and she was taken back and changed clothes and got all hooked up with IVs, etc.  Dr. Robertson came by around 11:30am and went over the surgery again and explained that he wanted Julie to be his last surgery so he could take whatever time he needed to make sure he got all of the cancer -- he was preparing us for a long surgery, but we didn't realize how long (neither did he).  Around noon, they took Julie back to the OR to begin to clean her and prepare her for surgery and to begin anesthesia.  At 1:55pm, we receive a call in the waiting room from the OR that actual surgery had just begun.  We didn't receive any more information until around 9:00pm when the receptionist was leaving for the day and called the OR and they confirmed that she was still in surgery and that Dr. Robertson would come talk to us as soon as he was finished.  Around 9:30pm, Dr. Robertson came out and briefed us on the surgery and said that his team was completing the installation of the J trap drains, and sewing her up and would be moving her to ICU and that we should go to the ICU waiting room and wait for them to let us know when she was in ICU and what the procedure would be for when we could see her, etc.  Based on what Dr. Robertson had said he had done in the surgery and the time of the day it was, we assumed we would not get to see her, but would just get information.  At around 11:30pm, the ICU nurse came out and said she was awake and asking for us.  It turns out she had arrived in the ICU not long after Dr. Robertson had talked with us, but they had spent 2 hours trying to stabilize her vital signs.  Mayo allowed Betty (a close friend and nurse) to spend the night with her in the ICU, which is absolutely unheard of in most hospitals.

Dr. Robertson had previously had Julie sign the consent of treatment, which had a fairly long list of possible things he could have to do in surgery (even though he didn't expect to do them all), and then a catch-all of "and anything else I have to do to get all of the cancer and to keep you alive."  Without going into all of the details of what was done during the surgery, I will just say that I think there was only one thing on his fairly-exhaustive list that he didn't have to do and he did have to do one that was in the "whatever is necessary......." catch-all clause.  During the 7 1/2 hour surgery, Julie lost 3 liters of blood and was given 8 units plus platelets, and blood volume builder (I don't know the technical name of it).  The most important thing about the surgery though is that Dr. Robertson was able to achieve the R0 resection, which is a technical way of saying that he was able to find and remove all of the cancer that was large enough to be seen with the naked eye.  There are no more tumors or cancer deposits, but there are still cancer cells, which is why she has to have 9 more weeks of  chemo before they scan to see if she is in remission.

Julie stayed in ICU about 21 hours.  About 16 hours after arriving in the ICU, they had her standing up and moving her to a recliner chair, but it was a very difficult move and it was all Julie could do to stand for the few minutes it took them to move the bed and put the chair behind her.  After getting in a regular room late Saturday afternoon, they worked further to get her up and walking.  On Sunday, she walked down the hall three times and on Monday she walked the full "block" around our part of the floor of the hospital and then walked 2 more times with a regular walker instead of the platform walker.  As of tonight (10/2/2017), she has had most of the tubes, etc. removed.  This afternoon was the first she was able to eat or drink anything other than a very limited number of ice chips.  All of her digestive system finally started working again today, which made today the most difficult day because suddenly gases and digestive juices are flowing through a very raw digestive system that has been cut on, pulled on, poked on sewed on, etc.  The doctors are very happy with her progress, but she has a long way to go.

I think my Facebook posts have confused a few people a little as I have chosen to emphasize the positive more than the negative.  The positive is that it was a successful surgery in that they were able to remove the cancer.  It is also positive that each time I have reported something it was a normal step in recovery that occurred either on a normal schedule or ahead of schedule.  This means when I say she is doing "great" it means she is on a normal recovery schedule or better.  However, my positive comments do not mean she is without pain or that there is anything about this that was easy or will be easy.  Recovery was originally anticipated to be 4 to 6 weeks, but now just one part of it is typically 8 to 10 weeks without the delay in healing caused by chemo, which has to be restarted at some point.  My positive comments does not mean she isn't on an emotional roller-coaster of having to learn to deal with the realities of some of the things she will now have to deal with as a result of some of the things that had to be done in surgery and of having to take longer to recover.  When I am positive in my comments, I am giving God the praise He is due for the work He has done and continues to do to her body and I am not dwelling on the things that we will have to deal with or the difficulties and adjustments she and I both have to make.

We don't know yet how long we will be in the hospital.  Dr. Robertson had told us Friday night after the surgery to expect at least 10 days.  After we leave the hospital we should have a home health nurse come to the house every 3 to 5 days for some length of time.  As of right now, I really cannot leave the room for more than a couple of minutes unless somebody else is here with her.  This means that I am coordinating with close friends and family that are wanting to visit to have them come on different days so they won't overwhelm her with too much at once and also so that they can stay with her long enough for me to go get a shower and grab a bite to eat each afternoon or evening.  We also do not yet know when chemo will begin again -- it was originally scheduled for 10/16, but that was "iffy" anyway as it was originally based on a 9/25 surgery date and Dr. Colon had already said it was possible we would have to push it back a week.  However, pushing it back one week was not assuming such a difficult surgery to heal from so we will have to wait and see.

We thank you for your prayers and messages of encouragement.  Julie is not quite in the frame of mind to be on Facebook yet, so please give her grace if you are messaging her there.

Ben

Friday, September 8, 2017

Update: 9/08/2017 Chemo Day

So let's just put the jump up and down info. out there first--I get to have chemo today.  My white blood count numbers were actually UP today.  Yall--say what????  The doctors were a little surprised.  Now--not like amazingly higher--but higher is higher and usually they get lower every week.

Next on the list of great news--my CA125 is down to 68.  Normal range for this cancer marker is 38 and lower.  So while it does NOT mean I am cancer free it sure indicates this chemo is working.  Which is a good thing--great thing actually.

Things to pray about--I am still nuetropenic.  My numbers were up, but not good enough to get out of this stage.  AND I have a slight ear infection coupled with a swollen lymph node  in my neck.  Pray that I am healed from this.

Surgery has been moved from Monday, September 25th to Friday, September 29th.  The hospital had a conflict with the doctors' schedule.  So no biggie, just a few extra days to build up my immune system.

Please pray for my new friend "Frances".  She is here getting chemo and needs our prayers.  Pray for God to strenghthen her physically and emotionally.

Pray for our families and all of the people who are facing the storm, Irma.  We are going to my mom and dad's to ride out the storm.  Unless there is a mandatory evacuation.

I am so thankful to be finishing up this part of the chemo.  Pray for the cancer to stop growing these weeks I am off of chemo while my body heals from chemo and prepares for surgery and then heals from chemo.  Pray for all the tests, nurses and doctors involved in the surgery.

Lastly,  let me just give a BIG THANKS to everyone that has helped our family.  We are thankful for the words of encouragement. all the emails and texts, for the financial help, and for all the time and effort that has been carried out for fundraisers.  God is Good!

We just keep walking this road that is so unknown to us, so unfamiliar to us.  It's weird to me that having a port is normal, being a baldy is normal (however, the plus is less time to get dressed), and going to all these appointments is normal.  I listened to a guy this week who has been in remission for 14 years from Colon cancer.  He said ,"my life is now broken into 2 parts--Before Cancer and After Cancer."  There are days I totally get that.  Almost everyday actually.  But everyday I have to get up just like you do and choose to "do" life to the best of my ability even if that simply means I lie there and rest.

Love and hugs, 

Julie

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Future plans and Surgery Date: Update 8/29/17

We met with our gynecology surgeon today.  He walked into our room, introduced himself, and said, "Thank you for the work you do for our Lord in Honduras.  I'm sorry we are having to meet for these reasons."  What a great first impression he made with us.

He then started asking a LOT of questions, and then after an exam he started giving us the details of the surgery.  So I'm going to try to explain what was explained to me:

My surgery is scheduled for Monday, September 25th.  I will remain in the hospital anywhere from 2 to 6 days depending on what all they have to do once they get inside.

He did tell me that it was his job to remove all of the cancer.  He said he would be very thorough and the surgery would be anywhere between 2 - 6 hours or longer if needed.  He will be doing a complete hysterectomy, removal of some lymphnodes, removal of all the tumors, he would then check my entire small intestines for tumors, my colon for tumors, and anywhere the tumors were close to would be checked for tumors and possible removal of any areas affeced.  I will have an incision from my pelvis to my abdomen.  So we are looking at a pretty big surgery.  But--praise the Lord these doctors are skilled in these areas.  He said he would have whatever doctor that might be necessary to assist available to be ready to assist if necessary.  He kept reinforcing that total removal is the goal.  

I feel good about the surgery, and I'm looking forward to the cancer being gone from my body.  But I know this will be a big recovery.  As I said this morning--this is no surprise to God!  He knew all of this was coming.

After the surgery, the plan is to give my body 2 weeks to recover and then have 9 more treatments of chemo.  After that we will see what happens.

One of my favorite Bible verses was the Verse of the Day today. In Deuteronomy 31:8 it says, "The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed."

How you can pray specifically:

1) I have 2 more chemo treatments before surgery.  This week and September 8th.  Please pray for my body to have the numbers to be able to have chemo because then the surgery will have to be delayed.  

2) Please pray for my body to be ready for surgery.  I will have 2 weeks of no chemo after the 8th to prepare for surgery.  My numbers will have to be strong for that also.  Pray that my body will fight.

3) Pray for the doctor(s) to be able to find and remove all the cancer from my body.  We are believing in a cure!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Living Life to the Fullest--8/22/17 Update

Yesterday was full of fun pictures posted by friends and family all focused on the eclipse--and we tried to see it also, but our south Georgia weather just did not cooperate.  Our family watched it on TV.

But yesterday also marked the day that my sweet sister-in-law Lisa went to live with Jesus in Heaven.  I've thought about her so many times over the last five years.  One of my favorite things she did was to "Live Life to the Fullest" and in doing so she inspired me many times to try to do the same.

Ben and I have spoken in those quiet moments about her 45 years she was given.  How we would try to live our lives that would bring the most glory to God because-- wonder if we only got 45 years to live.  In fact, I'd say Lisa's years of life on this Earth had such an impact on me, that when God called us to go to Honduras--there wasn't much hesitation.  Living life to the fullest is not necessarily the life you thought you might live, but it is an amazing journey.

And now--"Living life to the Fullest" with stage 4 Ovarian cancer is a new adventure.  Something God reminded me of yesterday is that my joy in this journey doesn't come in the circumstances, but in Him.  I am getting to see God work in this unbelievable way that if I wasn't going through this cancer journey I'd be missing all of these intricate experiences that God has set in place.  People literally all over the world are praying for my healing, and giving sacrificially for our expenses.  We feel the prayers, and we know God is at work to bring good in this situation.  There is great joy in knowing that God cares for me that much!  And there is great joy for me in knowing that God cares for you that much!

There is Joy--not in the tiredness, or the itchy rash, nor in the chemo brain fog that makes me forget.  But there is joy in the fact that God is behind the scenes providing me with places to rest, medicine for the rash, and well laughter when I can't even remember a simple word.

Every day we have a choice--a choice to Live Life to the Fullest, or a choice to live life defeated.

I believe Lisa is watching from Heaven, cheering us on, and encouraging us to be adventurous.  And Jesus is right there beside her saying, "Go ahead--you can do it!"

Chemo Update:  My CA125 numbers dropped to 248 on last Friday.  Woohoo!  The chemo is working!  I did develop a nasty rash that was keeping me scratching, but thankfully the doctors gave me steroids and the rash has dried up.

Friday, August 11, 2017

8/11/17 Update -- PET Scan Results and Biopsy

Praising God this morning!  The Pet Scan did not show the cancer in any "new" places.  Only in the same areas that we have previously been told about.  Stop right now and let's give a little shout out!!!

The biopsy confirmed that we definitely have ovarian type cancer.

The only changes we will be making will be the change of our team.  They are switching us to an GYN Oncologist, so that we will be with a team that specializes in GYN treatment.

We will be sad because we like our team, but we realize that our treatment will need to be specific for this type of cancer.

Thanks for your continued prayer and support!  God is at work!

Please pray specifically that the cancer stays contained and continues to shrink!

Oh Yes--I almost forgot.  My CA125 is down to 310.  It keeps falling!  Another praise!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

8/4/2017 Update

Finished chemo #4 with my cousin Charlene Bonn.  Dr. Kasi came in and said he talked to the pathologist last night about the biopsy.  He said they are still leaning towards ovarian cancer.  He also said he thought we would probably do chemo for about 6 months. (With surgery somewhere in the mix.)  He also said "we are treating with a cure as the end result."  Note: he did not say that this was a guarantee, but that this was his goal for treatment.)

Lastly he brought in my CA125 (Ovarian tumor marker protein) chart. My numbers dropped to 427 down by 200 from the first marker (low is good; < 36 is normal)

So we are celebrating wholeheartedly. Great news!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Why?

One of the hardest things I have ever faced in life is watching those that I love the most suffer.  It is human nature to try to understand it, but it is so often not understandable.  Sometimes we may get a glimpse of some of the reasons in the future, but often we never know.  I have had several conversations with people or seen posts recently where people are asking the question of why would a loving God allow tragedy or serious illness to attack someone who seems to be doing exactly what God wants him or her to do?  What happened to Romans 8:28, where God says that He causes all things to work together for the good of those that love Him?  If I am being totally transparent, this don’t feel “good” sometimes.  What about when God said he would never leave us nor forsake us?  Doesn’t this sometimes feel like we have been abandoned?  I remember a gunman coming into our church (Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas) and killing several very dedicated young men and women, some of which were training to go to the foreign mission field.  How can a loving God who has all authority allow such a thing to happen to such a committed person?  If God is all powerful, how can He allow His own plans to be interrupted by calamity or disease?  People that are close to me have had false accusations made against them and it has turned their lives upside down.  Where is the justice in that?  Cancer and other major illnesses have invaded the lives of several people that are close to me that seem so innocent.  In some cases God chose to heal them here on earth and in other cases God chose to heal them by taking the home.  In some cases there continues a long, hard fought battle against this awful disease.  God has taught me that it is okay to ask questions.  Sometimes the healing of our emotions requires us to ask the why questions, but we can’t get stuck there.  You see, God already knows your thoughts so you might as well have the conversation with Him and voice them so He can work in your lives to heal them.

Have I asked why Julie has cancer when we were right in the middle of doing His will?  You better believe I have.  I have asked God that question several times.  Every time I do, instead than getting an answer I get a peace that cannot be explained.  You see, God wants us to have faith in HIM, not in His ability to heal us or what He does for us.  I do believe that God will heal Julie here on this earth and we will be back on the mission field in Honduras, but if He doesn’t choose to heal her that way, God is still good and worthy of worship and praise simply because of who He is.

God is not the cause of bad things or of evil – those things exists in the world because Adam and Even brought sin into the world, but God does not always intervene to prevent bad things from happening to people.

Now back to Romans 8:28…… “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)”.  The problem with our understanding of this verse is that we tend to define anything that doesn’t go the way we think it should as “bad” or “evil” and anything that goes the way we think it should as “good”.  Our definition of good and bad is all centered around us personally and those that we know and love.  But John 3:16 says that “For God so loved the world……”.  We should think of Romans 8:28 more like this….. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to ALL those who love God, to ALL those who are called according to His purpose…..”  The Bible reminds us everywhere that the earth is no longer our home – our home and our citizenship is in heaven.  No matter how many years we live here, it is but a blink of the eye compared to eternity.  God knows everything about everybody and He is always at work to bring people to himself or to draw his children back to fellowship with him.  He will do or allow whatever He has to (including the crucifixion of his own Son) to make things work together for good  of those who love Him, as He defines good, not as we define it.  We don’t know and often never know how the “bad” things that happen to us bring about good somewhere else, but God does.  I cannot answer why God couldn’t or wouldn’t just bring about that same good without allowing the bad, but I still choose to worship and adore Him.  We don’t get to define good and evil – anything of God is good and anything in opposition to Him is bad and it is that simple.

So while I feel the pain of watching my bride of 25+ years suffer through surgery, chemo and hair loss and whatever else she will go through as we endure this, I can honestly say as the writer of a wonderful hymn penned, “It is well with my soul”.  Why?  Because I KNOW that God is love and loves me, Julie, and our entire family (the whole world actually…) with all his heart.  I KNOW that God knows everything and therefore He knows what is best in every circumstance.  I KNOW that God is all powerful – He is still on the throne and nothing can happen without him authorizing it.  I can think of no better place to be than under the protective wing of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God who I can have confidence will do the absolute best for us.

To His Glory!

Ben

The Un-Fairytale side of Chemo

I promised I would try to be "real" here throughout this journey, so here it goes--some truth about the side effects of chemo.

Saturday was a gift, I felt good--the tiredness had not kicked in, we went on a date . . .  It was a fabulous day.

Then came Sunday morning.

I took my shower and hair started coming out.

Not clumps or bunches, but 8 strands there, and 6 strands there.  It was on my pillow, in my brush, and on my clothes.

It was happening.

My hair was coming out.

I'd like to say I handled this with fierce resolve that "It's just hair--it will grow back", but I did not.

After watching church with our Faith Family via the internet, I hunkered down in the bed, turned the tv onto the Hallmark channel, and watched tv for the rest of the day.  Movie after movie of "happily ever after".

My reality was laying on my pillow.

By the time it was time to go to bed, I was done.  I asked my sweet man to hold me and I just cried.

Cried for our old pre-cancer days, cried for the loss of our lives in Honduras, cried for the separation of our family unit, cried because my hair was now falling out and I couldn't make it stop.

I tried to sleep, but I couldn't.  It took me a while to figure out why this was bothering  me so much, apart from the obvious I was going to be bald.

Somewhere around 3 a.m. I finally figured it out.  I was so upset because I wouldn't be able to look "normal".  People would now "know" just with a glance.

See Saturday night we went out and nobody looked at us as any differently.
But once I'm without hair, that will not be the case.

I'll be the woman with Cancer.

And--I know--I know that was true before, but now I won't be able to hide behind my normal looks and think that it's not really happening.

Around 3:30 a.m. I finally took it to Jesus.

I literally just started crying out to Him.  I was telling Him that this shouldn't be this big of a deal, that I know it's just hair, and so on ...

Do you know what He whispered over me . . .

He whispered, "It's the hair I gave you."

And then the tears really came.  He knows me so well, I'm His creation, he was the one who gave me my hair, who designed my body, who breathed life into me.

He cares about my hair--and it's loss.

Y'all - He loves us that much.

And then thankfully that peace that comes only from the one that comforts us came and I fell asleep.

I woke up Monday somewhat in a better mindset.  I mean--I didn't turn on Hallmark and lay in the bed.
I actually got dressed and tried to do normal things.  I started realizing that loosing my hair is the next step in this crazy new life of battling cancer.

And while I'm not thrilled with going bald, I've made plans to go to see Natalie today at Volume.  I'm going to get a crew cut.  I just can't handle the strands falling out.

It's going to be ok, I'm going to get through it because I know that Jesus is going with me.

I feel stronger today.  No one ever said this road would be easy--it's not. But, I actually giggled at the thought about me making Jesus' job a little easier for Him--He won't have to number my hairs for a while. (Luke 12:7)  Sorry for my warped sense of humor--but well, I told you I was keeping it REAL!








Thursday, July 27, 2017

Doctor Visit Today 7/27/2017

We had a great visit at Mayo today.

I had blood drawn today and thankfully I am in the normal ranges for all of my blood work.  Which is great because it means my immunity is still high enough to fight.    So day #3 of chemo tomorrow.

We are also doing the happy dance--and praising Jesus dance--cause my CA125 count went down!!!

This is the marker for ovarian cancer.  It went from 628 to 582.  The doctor says this is a good indication that the chemo is working.  The lower this number goes, the better, until it gets in normal ranges.

Keep your prayers coming,  we are praying for healing in Jesus precious, Holy name!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Making itThrough

I've made it through the 2nd chemo treatment with simple tiredness.  What wonderful grace and mercy I am experiencing at this moment.   So celebrate with me--I am taking the time any chance I get.

What we have been up to:

Over the weekend we celebrated my dad's 75th birthday.  He turned 75 on July 5th, and we had a great time laughing, eating, talking, and spending time just hanging out. 

Ben's parents, Ken and Margaret, drove over from Alabama and spent time with our family on Saturday and Sunday.  We loved seeing them and enjoyed our time together even though it was quick.

Leighanne and Hannah are beginning home school again.  We are starting a light week and then will ramp up next week full speed ahead. (Pray for Nana, Papa, and Aunt Sheryl since they will be helping the girls.)  

Austin began work at Chick Fil-A last week, and Jordan had his first day on his new job after college. Zach is continuing his schooling and work at TRF.

What's coming up:

I have my 3rd chemo treatment to Friday.  Please continue to pray for the chemo to be effective.

Other prayer requests:

Please pray for other families going through this cancer journey.  

Pray for our ministry in Honduras--New Beginnings Honduras.  Pray that God will grow our ministry in our absence.  Pray for the Robinson family who are fostering J and M.  Pray that God will meet their needs and bless them for standing in the gap for us.

Pray for our Partner ministry--Legacy of Hope.  Pray for God to strengthen and direct their ministry.

Pray for missionaries all over the world who are doing their work in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

7/18/2017 Update (PET Scan and Port Placement)

This morning is when we were scheduled to have the PET scan and I know many of you are waiting on a report of the results.  Late yesterday afternoon, after discussion with the Oncologist, we decided to postpone the PET scan from today to August 8th and postpone the port placement from 7/25 to 8/3.  The PET scan was originally critical due to the thought that we didn't know the primary source, but now that we know it is Ovarian cancer, the PET scan don't become as important until after the initial treatment of the primary.  The Port is needed because she cannot get so many treatments through IV over the long haul.  However, postponing it will only cause one additional treatment through IV.  Dr. Kasi assured us that neither of these things would in any way decrease his effectiveness on treating her so we made the decision to postpone them until we have insurance in August.  These decisions saved over $26,000.  There is no monetary value of Julie's life and we would never make a decision to save money that would limit in any way her ability to be treated, but the Dr. assured us it was not a problem and we felt like to be good stewards of the very generous gifts we have received to help with our medical expenses we needed to postpone these two items.

All this really means is that we have to wait until after August 8th to know for sure whether cancer is in other parts of her body, but knowing it at this time wouldn't help us in any way anyway, so we will be patient and wait.

With Much Love,
Ben

A quick note from Julie ...

Well I have made it past the 1st treatment.  I am thrilled to report that this time the only side effect I had was extreme fatigue.  I did not have any nausea.  Today I felt the best I have felt since surgery 4 weeks ago.  Ben and I even walked around the duck pond in our neighborhood 2 times.  So while I'm not planning a 5K anytime soon, it did feel great to get outside and walk around.

All of our kids came by yesterday for a visit, and brought me the sweetest gift.  A family photobook. Each child took the time to add their favorite pics, scripture verse and a sweet note to me.  How sweet and special they have all been.  I also got some extra goodies that will help pass the chemo time away.

And you folks out there--how precious you are to me.  I know of three t-shirt fundraisers, and the gofundme that are helping to help with our finances.  Yall--God does make a way!  And a big thanks for all the gifts that have been given to us through a variety of places.  We are so blessed to be loved by many.

Thanks for the words of encouragement, prayers, cards and belief!

We are believing for a miracle,

Julie

Saturday, July 15, 2017

7/15/2017 Update

Julie had her first treatment of Chemotherapy Friday morning as scheduled.  Her body has responded well to it so far -- we have no way of knowing yet how the cancer itself is responding yet.  She has not experienced any major side effects yet,  but Sunday is supposed to be the worse day.  As of right now she is scheduled to have the treatment every Friday for 2 to 3 months followed by a likely surgery to remove the tumors from the pelvic area.  Once we get the results of the PET scan that will be done on Tuesday, July 18th, there is a possibility of adjusting the drugs and schedule, but for now it will be a weekly treatment.  The doctor is giving a lower dose every week instead of a higher dose every 3 weeks.  She is not expected to experience the worse side effects until around the 3rd week as many of the side effects are cumulative in their effects.

The doctor's office also called yesterday to let us know that they have decided to postpone the genetic sequencing blood test until after our insurance becomes effective on August 1st because the cost of that one test was around $4,000.  He said waiting a few weeks on that would not matter because it was more important for decisions in the treatment of the tumors that are not in the pelvic area -- right now he is focusing on the ovarian cancer as that is apparently the primary.  Our doctor is being great about helping us manage costs when a slight delay in something has no impact on treatment, but he is also working with us to be aggressive on the things where time is critical.

Praise -- we also go the J-P Drain removed today.  Our family doctor in Honduras talked with the surgeon in Honduras and told us what we needed to do to get it out.

We are overwhelmed by the messages and notes of encouragement and prayer as well as the fundraisers and donations that people are doing to help us with the financial side of this.  We have received verbal estimates of most of the procedures that we have had or will have before insurance becomes effective, but will share the details once we getting more firm written numbers.  Because so many people have and continue to give sacrificially to help meet these financial needs we want to be completely transparent in how the money is being (or will be) spent.  Based on the information we have now, we believe the total that we will be responsible for will be somewhere in the $50,000 range.

Ben

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 12th Update--CT Scans

Today I had a CT Scan,  Dr. Kasi called with the results this afternoon.

He said the scans show that there are no tumors visible in any major organs.

What a huge PRAISE!!!

He says that it appears that the cancer is focused in my pelvic area.  This leads him to believe that we are dealing with ovarian cancer.

Now we still are looking at cancer in the abdominal wall and the pelvic area which is still very serious.  

I start chemo on Friday morning.

We will have the PET scan on Tuesday, followed by the port being put in on the 25th, and a biopsy on August 2nd.

BUT what a huge praise that the scan didn't show any tumor in my major organs.

God is at work!  

Dr. Kasi was more hopeful today.  His tone was more upbeat!  Sure made me feel better.

Keep Praying and Praising and Believing!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

After the 1st Appointment

We went to the doctor today.  It is serious.  Based on what we know, before scans, bloodwork, etc.  He believes we are looking at a Stage 4 Cancer.

He said we needed to be aggressive.

Today we did blood work.
Tomorrow we go for a CT Scan in the morning.
They are hoping to get us back in to see the doctor after the CT scan results come in and then get the first round of chemo to begin on Thursday or Friday.

Next Tuesday we will have a Pet Scan, and the following week my port will be put in.

In the mean time, we will see a general surgeon to remove the J-P Drain as soon as possible.

It hit me hard today.  When the oncologist said, "This is worrisome."  I broke down into the ugly cry.
After I got it back together, we started talking strategy and I felt much better.

So please be patient with me as I process this with our family.

Like I told my kids today, "God numbered my days before I was even born."  He knows the length of my life.

He is still very much in control, I am not.

I love you all!  I am leaning on the the encouragement of family and friends.  My life is in His hands!

In Him Who IS ABLE,

Julie

So today . . . 1st doctor appointment at Mayo.


I couldn't get to sleep last night.  And around 3 am I was up again.

I asked Ben, "What is this--the 1st Day of School jitters?"

I am not really nervous about this appointment.

I'm ready to figure out what's going on inside my body.

I'm ready to get fighting this thing that wants to destroy my good cells.

It's hard to believe that 3 weeks have passed Before we had ever heard the word cancer with a big fat exclamation point at the end.

I can't hardly wrap my mind around the fact that one day I didn't have cancer, and the next day I did.

Of coarse I realize I did and I just didn't KNOW it.

So many people have walked this same road.  They KNOW.

And I am just in the baby stages.  Just starting the journey.

One I didn't choose mind you.

And then I have to breathe in deep, settle back, and meet Jesus on this walk.

He's allowing this to be apart of my life for a purpose I don't understand.

He loves me--I can feel it.  I don't feel abandoned, I feel surrounded by Him.

I don't have to understand, but I do have to trust Him.  I have to choose to trust Him--even though I would never choose what lies ahead.

Today I was reading about knowing Him.  So today, I choose to walk this road with Jesus.  If this is the path of KNOWING HIM MORE, then I'm walking in it.

Mind you, I'm praying for strength, I'm praying for joy, I'm praying for healing.

This is where I'm going to try and be real--good and bad.

Today, I honestly have peace. Not peace that says everything is going to be easy, but peace that says, I am wrapped up with the love of my daddy in Heaven. I feel like God has his hands so wrapped around me that I can feel his comfort.

For those of you that are praying-- thank you,

I can feel them.  I'm sure the prayers of many are being brought to God, and He is giving me strength.

So while I never wanted to have to have a July 11th that included a 1st appointment at Mayo, I know I'm going with the arms of God wrapped around me, leading me, and guiding me.  I feel safe in Him.

***My plan is to post updates here.  I may choose to sometimes cross post on our New Beginnings Website, but this is going to be a personal place for me to journal what I want to share.

If you follow by email, you will get a notification of updates automatically.  Your choice--no biggie to me. 😉

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What Happens When...

* This is a copy of our blog from New Beginnings Honduras this week....  I wanted to share in both places since this is both personal and ministry and there are some different followers.



On Monday evening what we thought was an emergency appendectomy turned into something so much bigger.  When I woke up from my surgery.  The first thing I saw was my nurse.  The second thing I saw was a huge clock in the room.  When I saw the time on the clock I knew something had not gone according to plans.  I knew my surgery was only supposed to be a 30 -50 minute procedure, and that even with a 1 - 2 hour wake up window, that I was well past that time frame.  It was no surprise when I saw my sweet husband in the room, that he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said that I had not had an appendectomy.  The doctor had found a healthy appendix, but that he had taken biopsies from 3 different areas in my body one of which was a mass.  

The very first words I spoke to my husband were these, "This does not change our calling to Honduras."  And it will not.  We have a mission to fulfill in Gracias.  It is just having a slight delay.




So what happens your world gets turned upside down?  
I'll tell you what I did.  I cried, and spoke the truth of the moment--we are still called to Honduras.  But in the stillness of the night in the dark hospital room, I did let fear creep in--I started wrestling with Satan mentally.  I started going through the what ifs. Questioning things.  I had to wake up my husband so we could sit there together and speak the truth about the situation.

Since then I have had so many friends and family call, email, and text with words of encouragement, daily devotions, and scriptures. What a testimony to friendship and family--so very grateful.

So here is what you need to know.  After much prayer and discussion with our doctors here and other medical professionals in the states, we have decided to take a leave of absence from Honduras to get treatment in the states.  Ben and myself plan to fly back this next weekend if our doctor gives us medical clearance to fly.  We plan to seek medical care in Jacksonville, FL.

Let me tell you what amazing details God has worked out over the last 6 days.  

       1- I was supposed to fly back home for a weekend with my WooHoo girls for our annual beach trip, and now that ticket is being used to help fly me home for treatment. Some other donations are coming in for our tickets to fly home!

       2- My bloodwork back in February when we were getting certified to be a foster family was normal, so the doctor thinks that we are catching it early.

       3- Some of our board of directors were here in Gracias with us when this happened.  They just jumped right in and ministered to our littles and continued to fix many issues for us.  We now have a cistern and a dryer that works.  Huge differences!

        4- Our partners, Legacy of Hope, have a couple of options for our sweeties--Maria and Josue.  Please pray that they will transition  easily through this loss of our home.

        5- We have been blessed with a place to stay at my cousin's house.

        6- We have been blessed with a vehicle to use for as long as we need.

        7- Another missionary family has agreed to house sit for us while we are gone and will also continue to run the bookstore here in Gracias.

        8- A "GoFund Me" page is being created for us to help meet the medical expenses.


This morning as Ben and I were praying in bed before we got up, we prayed that this situation would bring Glory to the Lord!  We prayed for lives to be changed in salvation, we prayed for our lives to be transformed by God, and we prayed that God will show us the "Joy" in this journey. 

Here are some of our prayer needs:

      1- Pray as we seek out medical care, and doctors in the states.

       2-  Pray for our doctor visit on Wednesday when we get our diagnosis. (Another huge praise--when Dr. Maria visited with us on Thursday, she volunteered to go with us to translate to make sure we understand the diagnosis.)

      3- Pray for us as we seek a few venues to help figure out medical costs.  We do not have insurance in the states.

      4- Pray for Austin and Taylor as they stay with our girls and get things ready for change when we leave for the states.  They are planning to bring them to the states in August.

      5- Pray that God will provide opportunities for us to share about New Beginnings ministry while we are in the states.

Again, we love you all!  Thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement and phone calls.

And to my family who is here with us in Honduras, I can't think you enough for stepping up and meeting the needs of our little ones.  AND for helping me.  I've been told my job is to heal--and they are doing everything to make that possible.

In HIM who IS ABLE,

Julie


Monday, May 29, 2017

Big Day Today

Do you know what we did last night???

You got it!  We sterilized baby bottles, and packed a diaper bag(ok--so it is a hiking back pack cause we forgot to buy a diaper bag--but no judgment)

We brought two sets of clothes for just in case. (Mind you we are traveling 45 minutes away)

And . . .

We tried to sleep.  But I've been up since 3:48 a.m.  mentally going over every possible crazy scenario that could happen.  Like do you really think it's possible that we won't hear this little one through out the house?   Ben, however, lost no sleep to random thoughts. 😆

Today--we are going to bring home our first foster care baby here in Honduras.

So with much anticipation and a little bit of nerves, we are getting in the car in just a few minutes.

We have been praying for this day since July 2015 when God planted this tiny seed of moving to Honduras to care for the least of these--social orphans, children in crisis, abandoned babies, neglected or abused.

But yall, please pray for this little one today.  Today will be a day of loss for him.  He is leaving the respite care home he has been with for the last several weeks after he was released from the hospital.

Pray for his sweet caregivers who love this baby boy like he was their own.  Pray for E's sweet mama's heart and T's daddy's love.  They will be experiencing loss today also.

Pray for comfort and peace.  Pray for an easy transition,  Pray for us today and tonight as we love on this tiny little bundle who will soon be placed in our arms.

In Him,

Julie