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!