Monday, June 30, 2008

An update on most everything

It's been more than a week since I've updated. That's because life has been good (and very busy!) Here are some recent highlights to bring you up to speed...

  • Tim and Nikki (at left) arrived safely on June 25. What a blessing to have them around! They will be here until after Nikki's shower on July 1 (appropriately, Canada Day!).
  • All the visa application stuff is complete and in Montreal. Now we just wait for the Montreal Consulate to make an appointment for an interview. please pray with us that this will happen in July or August, in plenty of time for a September 13 wedding.
  • Please also pray that Tim would find a job, and that everything would work out according to God's will for these dear children of ours! I will really miss them come Wednesday!
  • We enjoyed the wedding of childhood friend Carolyn Thomson over the weekend. What as weet time to reunite with friends and enjoy fellowship and celebrate all together!
  • Ben and Elsa are doing well in Indiana. But it seems Ben is currently in need of new summer employment, having lost his job at the Indiana University music library. Apparently the loss was a combination of funding cuts and butting heads with a supervisor. Please pray for a new job to be found, and for Ben to bless those he works for. And pray for Elsa as she is in Indiana, away from her sister Bethany and the summer camp life they have known for many years. We had to cancel a trip to see them when my cancer started, so I hope we can see them sometime soon!
  • Marilyn, Dave's mom, has been gone for three weeks, spending time with her children in Ohio and Tennessee. She arrived home safely on Sunday, and is recovering from her travel.
  • Jack and Shirley, Chris' parents, were a big help bringing Marilyn home from the airport, and this only a day after Jack was attacked by his neighbor's pit bull dog. He has some nasty puncture wounds, but seems to be healing well. Please pray that the dog will be removed and the neighborhood made safe for everyone again.
  • Dave turned 52 on Sunday. Happy birthday to my best friend, and husband of almost 28 years! I really don't know how I would have made it through the last two months without Dave. God has blessed me tremendously through him.
  • I am feeling better, little by little. I am able to walk faster and farther, and need fewer naps, so I see improvement. I still struggle with my own impatience and desire to have more energy that I do, and have moments of fatigue and melt-down, but God is being very faithful to me. And Dave is being loving and patient and tender in every way.
  • I met with the gynecologist this week and discussed the side-effect problems with the tamoxifen I am taking. She recommends that after radiation I have a sonohysterogram: a sonogram where they use saline in your uteris and can check your uterine lining carefully. This will need to be repeated yearly while I take tamoxifen. I'm not thrilled about another potentially painful procedure, but need to be grateful for the technology that can help us catch any secondary cancers caused by my medication.
  • This week I will meet with the oncologist to get some blood test results to check on my iron and other things, and get the clearance to go ahead with radiation.
  • Next Monday, July 7, I will meet with the radiology oncologist in Santa Fe. I would really like to be considered for the new Accelerated Parital Breast Irradiation procedures, which would cut down the time and side-effects of regular radiation treatments (instread of 6-7 weeks, 5-days-per-week, it would be twice a day for 5-10 days) while being just as effective. I believe it would have to be done in Albuquerque. Please pray for that visit, for wisdom and for a good game plan to be established.
  • Tomorrow, my Mom and sister, Gwen, and her girls, and Nikki and Marilyn and I will all head to Nikki's wedding shower. My dear friends Kris and Kelley have worked hard and done wonderful preparation to make it a special night. What a blessing such friends are! And how wonderful to celebrate in this way with Nikki!
So we are busy, and blessed, and growing in our trust of the Great Physician. Join us in thanking Him!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The devil is in the details...

Isn't it true? The main issue may not be so tough in-and-of itself, but the side issues pile on...

I had hoped this would be my first full week without any doctor appointments, but yesterday afternoon found me at the office of my trusty primary care. I have been dealing with an adverse reaction to a medication I was on last week. Seems we've taken care of that, but possibly caused another along the way. Ugh! It just makes me feel pathetic and ridiculous! And if we need to treat this other condition, it will be another week of medication which will make me feel nauseated, and has a high likelihood of taking me right back to the first condition. I mean, really...

So, I come to ask you to pray that in the next few days the flora and fauna of my weary body would just get back to normal with no more medication, and that I would begin to feel a little better. And if the Lord desires me to continue on my steep learning curve in this way, please ask Him to teach me His lessons, and let me be a quick learner so we can move beyond this. I don't want to shame Him by growing weary in doing good, but I am growing a little weary at this point...

Thank you for your prayers! They keep me afloat...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tim!

How is it possible that this little pumpkin is 23 years old today? I ask you?

Somehow this photo just seemed rather appropriate today. The last several weeks have been full of disappointments for Tim. I bet there were times he wished he could just have a good cry like he used to. But he has carried on in an admirable way.

We are praying for you Tim. Keep on being a good soldier for Jesus, and trusting your Commander to order just the right things for your good and His glory.

We love you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pray for Iowans

Iowa, the state of my birth, has taken a beating from rains and tornadoes these past few weeks. I have siblings in communities that are stressed and dealing with disaster.

My sister, Jeni, is the director of residence life at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, and they are housing around 500 National Guard and Army troupes and an army triage center with no running water and 19 porta-potties. She is living in crisi mode, caring for these men and women who are doing dirty, difficult work in this devastated city. You can read and see more about this project at the college's website.

My brother, Jeff, and his family are in Cedar Falls, and despite the appearances from the national media, these are actually different places along the same river and not interchangeable. They had quite a bit of damage and flooding on their property, but their building has been spared so far as I know. They have also been helping in the community effort. Jeff and Marsha direct a ministry in Cedar Falls called Lampost, and times like this can bring in a harvest for the Lord.

Jen mentioned that she thought the national media types must have rarely met Iowans. They apparently kept interviewing people who were stuck in traffic, trying to get them to emote or complain. Most people in their cars and on the road knew they still had homes, and were in no mood for that sort of thing. Those stodgy upper-Midwesterners are truly the backbone of our country!

Please pray for all the folks spending hot, humid time pulling out their carpets, removing slime and sludge and mold from their homes and businesses, and beginning the overwhelming task of rebuilding. Pray for the folks downstream where disaster is looming. And pray for the Lord of the Harvest to bring in many during this time of trial.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The visa saga continues

And so we hope your prayers for Tim and Nikki will continue as well!

Some progress has been made in that Nikki has received her "packet", and had her medical exam and shots, and is gathering the police background check and the other items on the (ridiculously long) list of things that need to be turned in before she can have her interview in Montreal. Once she has the interview, if she is approved, she should have the visa in a week or so.

One of the current hold-ups is that Tim must prove that he can support Nikki when she gets here. That requires a full-time job, which he doesn't have right now. He is not only continuing to look for engineering jobs, but is also now looking for an "interim" something to put on that blasted application.

So PLEASE pray that:
  • God would provide the right job for Tim soon
  • That the application packet could be completed soon and find its way through the system quickly
  • When Nikki meets with an immigration consultant in Canada this week that she would get excellent and correct advice
  • That the visa would come through in time for the wedding plans on September 13 to go ahead without trouble
  • That both Tim and Nikki would grow in their relationship with the Lord and with each other in this trying time of separation and stress as they learn to trust the Lord and each other!
Thank you for your prayers and support!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Over the hump...I hope

Today I woke up, for the first time in over a month, feeling well. I almost said, "normal", but I'm not sure that captures it. Well. I felt like getting up, and didn't feel like I needed to run for the ibuprofen. And I took a 30 minute walk, watered all the plants, did four loads of laundry, and picked up a prescription at the grocery store. That's more than I've done in a month! God is very gracious to give me rest and recovery and hope, and though I am tuckered out now in the late afternoon, it is a happy sort of tired.

It's funny how often in trials it is the little things that wear you down... The surgery went fine, but the layer of skin that comes off with the steri-strips, or the yeast infection that comes from the antibiotics... these are the things that try one's soul. So today, please rejoice with me for hope in the Lord, and good morning. And please ask Him to hold on to me in the midst of the pesky and irritating things, and to help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

I now have a peaceful couple of weeks to recuperate and gain back strength. I see my oncologist again on July 2, and if she approves, I go on to the radiologist on July 7. God has been so gracious to give me such a hopeful prognosis. I'm still not used to the idea! It is even better than I could have asked for, really. That's the sort of God we have. My soul can't stop singing Psalm 30:4-5:
"Sing praises to the Lord, O you, His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. His anger is but for a moment, but his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning."

Later in that psalm it says, "You have changed for me my mourning into dancing." Well, my dancing is pretty subtle on the outside yet, but I am cutting a rug on the inside...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Birthday Crowns

One of my many birthday celebrations included time with my parents and my sister. (l to r above: Mom, Jeni, me) Jen brought leis which we wound into tiaras. How's that for girly fun?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Best Brithday Present Yet

I received many great gifts for my birthday today...calls from my children, a sweet hand-made teddy bear from Tim and Nikki, flowers and gifts and lunch from friends, cards and e-mails from others, a sweet, attentive husband... But the best present I got today was good news from the oncologist. At my appointment this morning, I discovered that:
1. My lymph nodes are all negative, so we can stop worrying about them and just recheck them in the future.
2. My oncotyping of my original breast tumor came back, and I am in the lowest-risk category for recurrence, so they are not recommending any chemotherapy. I will continue on tamoxifen and do radiation treatments for 6-7 weeks starting in July.

So, join me in thanking the Lord for bringing good answers to all our prayers, and giving me the best birthday present yet!

And here are a few prayer specifics:
  • Please pray for continued good recovery from my surgeries and strength to return quickly
  • Please pray for radiation to be set up well and be successful at killing off random cancer cells with minimum side-effects
  • Please pray for the tamoxifen to be effective against the cancer as well and to have no side effects, continuing as it has so far.
  • Please pray for my upcoming visit with an endocrinologist regarding one other pesky issue from that PET-Scan (just a little something on an adrenal gland to be checked out)
  • Please continue to pray for Tim and Nikki as they struggle with immigration stuff and decisions.
And my list of praises is long:
  • Praise God for being so great and good: his lovingkindness endures forever!
  • Praise God for answered prayers regarding the lymph nodes and the tumor oncotyping. I could not have been given better news!
  • Praise God for a joyful birthday when I was sure it would be a heavy and weary day.
  • Praise God for my husband and children, parents and siblings, and amazing friends, who have lifted me up, prayed for me, and loved me amazingly well!
  • Praise God for good recovery from both surgeries, and for the healing that is happening in my body.
  • Praise God for the comfort only He can bring to weary hearts.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Urgent Prayer for Tim and Nikki

Please pray for the visa process for Tim and Nikki. It is confusing, and appears to be taking a longer time than expected, with lots of hoops to jump through, and at this point, things like non-refundable airline tickets that are in jeopardy, not to mention a wedding shower and a wedding. Please pray with us that all will workout well, and that God will lift up Tim and Nikki, and be praised. Thank you.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Abdominal surgery stinks, and other truths

This morning my friend C. was reminding me what I told her about abdominal surgery a few years ago when she was recovering from it: it stinks, but then one day you wake up and feel loads better suddenly. You just have to wait to get over that hump.

Well, I'm afraid I'm not over that hump yet. While many things are going well, I am still in the restless no-man's land between surgery and recovery, and I have to admit I dislike this place. I don't feel bad enough to sleep all day, nor good enough to do much of anything else. And a lot of my effort is going into trying not to whine all the time. My breast is looking much better after the anti-biotic and suctioning, and my pain is under control pretty well. I have been sleeping well at night, usually for 7-8 hours without pain meds in the middle, and then wake up in tears, and take pain meds and go to sleep in my comfy chair, then feel ready to face the day in another hour or so. I made it to church today, and to a graduation for about an hour yesterday, both of which were somewhat exhausting, so I will probably lay pretty low yet for a while. I miss being with my friends and church family, and keeping up with my "normal" routines.

In the middle of this dry place I am being forced to remember that God is caring for me and planning my days. I know it is good to be re-focused on Him, though being distracted can sometimes be more fun. And the truth is, if I were left to myself, I would wander into all sorts of territory and forget the good God who has made me and saved me. So, while abdominal surgery stinks, God is good, and I am waiting for Him to bring me over that hump into the land of recovery.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ups and Downs

Within 15 minutes of posting my beautiful blog entry extolling God's grace and my resting in Him, I went to get dressed, and realized that the sight of my first surgery, where the lumpectomy had been done, was red and inflamed and completely changed from the night before. I called the surgeon, and he said to come up immediately, he would take a look. And I was transformed from a place of peace and trust to a quivering mass in no time. Oh me of little faith...

The surgeon pulled out the largest syringe I have ever seen and said, "You'll feel a little prick..." and I thought..."I bet I will!" But, I am finding I have been poked and prodded so much that it doesn't seem to hurt too much anymore. He drew out many cc's of yellow fluid, slapped a big bandaid over the spot, sent the fluid off to be cultured, and sent me off with a prescription for an antibiotic.

In the space of a few minutes I went from peace to worry, when God had not changed at all. *Sigh* I am willing to bet I'm not the only one reading this blog who has experienced such an avalanche from the heights to the depths. I am just glad that God is the changeless one, who is ever patient with me.

Joy comes in the morning

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
~Psalm 30:4-5

God is good and gracious, and has overwhelmed me with his blessings. The above psalm was the song I went into the hospital singing yesterday morning, and the one I awoke singing this morning. He is so good to meet all my needs!

As we waited to get an IV started before surgery, Dave read to me from Spurgeon's Morning and Evening about how God closed Noah in the ark with Himself, away from all evil and harm. He said:

"The Lord shut him in."
--Genesis 7:16

Noah was shut in away from all the world by the hand of divine love. The door of electing purpose interposes between us and the world which lieth in the wicked one. We are not of the world even as our Lord Jesus was not of the world. Into the sin, the gaiety, the pursuits of the multitude we cannot enter; we cannot play in the streets of Vanity Fair with the children of darkness, for our heavenly Father has shut us in. Noah was shut in with his God. "Come thou into the ark," was the Lord's invitation, by which He clearly showed that He Himself intended to dwell in the ark with His servant and his family. Thus all the chosen dwell in God and God in them. Happy people to be enclosed in the same circle which contains God in the Trinity of His persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us never be inattentive to that gracious call, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, and hide thyself as it were for a little moment until the indignation be overpast." Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety. Noah was so shut in that he could not even desire to come out, and those who are in Christ Jesus are in Him for ever. They shall go no more out for ever, for eternal faithfulness has shut them in, and infernal malice cannot drag them out. The Prince of the house of David shutteth and no man openeth; and when once in the last days as Master of the house He shall rise up and shut the door, it will be in vain for mere professors to knock, and cry Lord, Lord open unto us, for that same door which shuts in the wise virgins will shut out the foolish for ever. Lord, shut me in by Thy grace.

What an appropriate way to begin our adventure for the day! Then my support team began to arrive: Kelley, Ann, Gretta, Mom and Dad. How sweet to be surrounded by friends.

Then we had the IV problems. The first IV started just fine, but had a leak in the catheter, so I kept leaking, and they eventually had to pull it when we couldn't fix it. Then, after another try by that nurse, and a failed try by another nurse, the anesthesiologist did get one started. This all took about an hour, and I just kept saying, "Don't give away my operating room!" They didn't, and I was wheeled back before they began the lovely drugs that calm one, so I was pretty awake as they prepped me for surgery. This can be a bit disconcerting, but by God's grace, the sweet OR nurse, Alison, leaned into my blind, glass-less face and said, "We are going to take excellent care of you, so don't worry about anything. We won't let anything happen to you!" And that reminded me, as the drugs took me from consciousness, to rest in the arms of Jesus, trusting Him in my life or my death. What a nice way to fade into the oblivion of surgery!

As many of you may know, the waking up from surgery has always been the toughest thing for me. I have sometimes had mild panic attacks, or extreme disorientation-- neither uncommon for those of you who have had surgery before. But it is what I dread, and I had focused a lot of prayer on being given the strength to trust in the Lord and be calm in Him in that moment. And He answered that prayer! It was the easiest waking up I have ever had! Thank you to all who prayed for me, and praise God for His goodness!

After about an hour of surgery, another hour in recovery, and another couple in a room, I was ready to head home, and things have been going very well so far. The surgeon felt he got a good sampling of nodes, and now we await that pathology. And with the help of some excellent drugs, my pain is well under control, and I slept peacefully last night. So, now I rest and recuperate and remind myself that I am closed in, behind and before, by a Great God, who protects me from evil, and even cares about my puny fears and my every need. He has answered in the affirmative all my prayers for this surgery-- and yours. Thank you for praying, and please continue to do so. And let's sing praises to the Lord and give thanks to His Holy name!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Post Surgery #2

Chris and I would like to thank you for all of your prayers. Chris's surgery went quite well. The surgeon said that he was able to remove several lymph nodes for pathology tests. He feels comfortable that he was able to remove the right lymph nodes.

Chris' surgery took about 1 hour and was uneventful. The only difficulty was getting an IV into her arm. It is a long story (which I am sure Chris will recount in a future post), but it ended with the anesthesiologist coming in and starting her IV (she now has 4 holes in her arm).

Chris is now home and resting comfortably. She was able to get up and move around and even went for a very short walk after we arrived at our house.

God has been, is and continues to be so good to us. We praise God that all went so well today and now pray that the pathology report next week would be nothing but good news.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow...


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Time for Thanks (and a time for surgery)

Some of you dear friends and family have asked to be notified of my surgery time so you can be praying for me. Thank you! I can't tell you how much comfort that brings! I arrive at the hospital at 8:15 MST tomorrow morning, with surgery scheduled at 9:15. I am rejoicing in a relatively early time!

Last night at about bedtime, when I was worn down from the day, I began lots of second thoughts...and a little bit of panic mode. Dave was a steady, calm friend, and reassured me (and has continued to bless me today!) My friend Greg called this morning, with more encouragement, and another friend wrote, "Isn't it great to know God knows all about these lymph nodes!" Many have commented here, called, or e-mailed. These encouragements have been such a blessing today, and through them and all of your prayers God is restoring my peace. So thank you. Many of you are walking with me, helping me very really to bear this burden. I would sink under its weight without you. So thank you!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Getting Set for Surgery #2

This morning Dave and I met with the surgeon and had our pre-op appointment for Thursday's surgery. The surgeon described his role as one of a "technician", grabbing some lymph nodes at the behest of the oncologist. I think he is very skilled at laproscopic surgery, but he was pretty straight-forward with us regarding the largest possible bad side-effect: no clear diagnosis. Apparently the two "hot" lymph nodes from the PET-scan in this area are in a series of 15-20 lymph nodes on my outer iliac (outside branch of my aorta/femoral vessel just before my left leg). Only two of the nodes there showed up on the scan, but there won't be a good way of identifying which two they are once he gets in there, since they are only slightly enlarged. He will attempt to take out 5-10 of them, and also swing around possibly to take a look for another one close to my liver (also hot on the Pet-scan). Depending on how difficult it is to find them and get to them, surgery should last from 15 minutes to an hour or so. I will have three tiny incisions, and they will fill me up to some specific pressure with CO2 gas to give him room inside my abdomen to work. (Sounds uncomfortable to me!) The recovery should be similar to laproscopic gallbladder or appendix removal: 4-5 days of laying pretty low, then gradually increasing activity until I'm back to normal in 2-3 weeks.

The surgeon said he would do his best to get us a good sample of nodes, and I told him we would be praying for him to get just the right ones. He replied that we should, "Pray very specifically." So, here are some very specific prayer requests for those of you willing to pray the specifics with us:
  • Pray that the surgeon (Dr. Barker) would, indeed, pull out just the perfect lymph nodes for us to get a diagnosis of what's happening in all those pesky nodes.
  • Pray that Dr, Barker would be skillful in navigating the minefield of my abdomen, the scar tissue from an ectopic pregnancy and fallopian tube removal on that same side, and keep from any inadvertent damage to organs and vessels he passes by and moves around.
  • Pray for my peace of mind and resting in Christ as I enter the general anesthetic again, and come out of it again, and that my asthma would be well managed again (as it was last time).
  • Pray for Dave: the stresses at work and at home are great, and he is being an excellent care giver and faithful friend.
  • And pray for my kids (notice how I can't say "the boys" anymore? I have girls now too!) as they are concerned and trying to care for me from far away-- that is hard!
And let's praise God specifically, too!
  • Praise for an excellent surgeon and excellent care.
  • Praise God for a great prognosis for the breast cancer so far.
  • Praise God for peaceful sleep almost every night.
  • Praise Him for not letting me go my own way, but getting my attention and calling me to remember to fix my eyes on Him.
  • And most of all, praise Him that He has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we might live with Him. (1 thessalonians 5:9-10) That is the most amazing praise of all!