Thursday, December 29, 2011


Cancer treatment is such an emotional roller-coaster.  What really amazes me is that I could have forgotten. You struggle to understand your options, and get one piece of the puzzle settled and ten things happen that call it all into doubt and you are back at square one.  You feel at peace about everything one moment, and totally unsettled the next.  And above all, it is emotionally exhausting!

Tomorrow I begin hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatments that we hope will make the surgery on the side of me that previously underwent radiation treatments bear surgery well and heal better.  It is a bit of a gamble, but God has opened that door, so we are stepping through it.  But I would appreciate all your prayers, Gentle Readers!  Would you please pray that:
  • The cancer would not spread, and that it would remain small and lymph nodes would be clear.
  • The genetic tests would come back soon, and without any positive markers.
  • That the HBO would be an effective healing agent in my pre- and post-op.
  • That I would be able to have surgery on January 10, as has been tentatively scheduled.
  • That I would make a good post-surgery treatment plan with my oncologist after surgery.
  • That I would rest in God's hands and wait hopefully for that peace which passes all understanding.
And would you praise God with me for...
  • His amazing love and grace that is sufficient for every challenge.
  • His working out of approval by the insirance for the HBO treatments.
  • His provision of excellent medical care and advice.
  • My tumor being low-risk, low-grade, found early, and having a good prognosis.
  • His provision of ,y wonderful husband for support.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday-- with a few words

These are photos taken on Christmas Day with my new camera- a lovely gift from my sweet husband.  I don't really know how to use it yet, but I am looking forward to learning!
(In descending order: 1. My sis, Jeni; 2. My parents; 3. my nieces; 4. me with my sisters Jeni and Gwen.)
I have much to be thankful for!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Counting my blessings

I was encouraged by this post this morning, and thought I would try my hand at remembering some of the highlights from the past year as the new year approaches. Here are some of the things I can thank God for bringing my way in 2011:
  • Our first granddaughter, Emma, turned one year old, and is the delight of our lives.
  • God forcibly removed Ben from the track he was traveling down, and gave him a jog he never knew he would love.
  • I got to spend several weeks with my daughter-in-love Elsa, and while we worked hard, it was a treat to get to know her better.
  • Granddaughter #2 is on her way, due on January 2, and we can't wait to meet Adaline Bell!
  • We enjoy amazing and beautiful relationships with all of our kids- Ben and Elsa, Tim and Nikki.
  • We enjoyed several great times with family- our children, our parents, and our siblings.
  • I had the privilege of teaching three mornings a week, and got to know a whole new slew of amazing young people.
  • Our neighbors came for desert one evening, and visited our church on Christmas Eve.
  • I have been able to run about half of my 30-minute jog.walk time, which is a huge accomplishment for me.
  • Dave and others made my Christmas wonderful. I have a new camera (look for photos once I figure out how to use it!) and a lovely home-spa basket from one sister, and a kindle reader from another! I am blessed with all their generosity.
  • And the cancer... So much wrapped into that thanksgiving.  I am thankful it was discovered very early, and that we have treatment options that give me a good prognosis.  I am thankful for the way I know God will use it to draw me closer to Himself through it. And I guess I am grateful that it works to further wean me from the things of this world and turn my eyes to heaven. 
So while the new year approaches with much uncertainty,  my certainty is in Christ, and my sure knowledge of His care for me in the past, and His substantive promises to do so in the future.  May you be similarly blessed, Gentle Reader!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

[T]he people dwelling in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
   on them a light has dawned.
~Matthew 4:16

This Christmas Eve has been a busy day.  We cut and wrapped caramels, Dave wrapped presents, I finished up grading for my VPSA classes and turned everything over to my co-teacher and friend since she will be covering my classes for some time beginning in January.  We ran and showered, and baked, and cooked, and now are preparing for worship.

This Christmas, as we face a new cancer battle and imminent surgery, the idea of living "in darkness" and dwelling "in the region and shadow of death" is even more poignant to us.  This life is certainly full of darkness and death.  But it is not a darkness without light. The good news of Christmas is that Christ, eternal God, descended to share our humanity, and do what we could not: make peace for us with God, and restore our relationship to our Creator.  Because Jeuss did that, I have a relationship that will last for eternity. And while I grieve that I must fight this cancer, I do not gireve as one who has no hope.

My prayer for you, Gentle Reader, is that this Christmas you glimpse the eternal in that ordinary birth in Bethlehem.  Rest your hope on that baby.  Then the threat of darkness and death can hold no terror for you, because eternity is won.

May this be your merriest Christmas ever!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Update 2011

Well, Gentle reader, friends and family, another year draws to its close, complete with blessing beyond measure and trials to be faced. And through it all, God has never ceased to be faithful.  He makes us the apple of his eye, and hides us in the shadow of His wings.

Let me update you on the various parts of the family...

Marilyn continues to be healthy and active.  At 85, she still drives, and goes to the YMCA a couple of times a week.  She also walks with a friend a couple of times, does volunteer work at the local nursing home, and is in charge of the church library. She works hard around here, too.  And she has done some lovely traveling this year: to Pennsylvania to visit daughter Kathleen, to Scotland and England with son Jon, and to Ruiudoso, NM with daughter Michelle.

Ben and Elsa have had a year of change, with more ahead! Last spring Ben completed a second Masters degree at Indiana University (one in Latin, and one in Greek.) He took a job teaching in a charter school in Phoenix, and Elsa packed up their home, put it on the market, and headed to Arizona.  They are now settled into Peoria, and Ben is a much-loved teacher of 5th grade ancient history and 7th and 8th grade Latin.  Elsa quit her day-job in Bloomington, and is taking on a much more important job: mother!  Their little girl, Adaline Bell, is due January 2, and we are all excited to meet this new Finnegan baby!

Tim, Nikki, and Emma continue to thrive in Tucson.  Tim continues to gain responsibilities at Raytheon, and Nikki is a fabulous wife and mother.  And Emma is the Joy of our loves- almost ready to talk on the telephone, but not quite!  We never get enough time with her, but we are grateful to have everyone back on this side of the country.  Ben and Tim are now just 2.5 hours from each other, and either one is about 8 hours from us.

Dave and I have had a lovely and blessed year, enjoying travel and family, and God's abundant blessings.  I have enjoyed teaching and Dave has enjoyed his work at the lab. As the year closes, a new trial has entered our lives: Chris has been diagnosed with a new breast cancer.  The last two weeks have been full of tests, appointments, research, grieving, and trusting.  We are still awaiting test results and working on a plan for treatment.  Next year promises to begin with challenges.

We are continually amazed at the grace of God in our lives, that is always sufficient for the needs of our days.  At this time of the year, Gentle Reader, may you know the love of God that was so passionate that Jesus left heaven, and came to earth that we might be with Him.  May He draw you close to himself this season, and forever!

Things that bring joy

Today I am wrapping gifts, and letting my future worry about itself (at least for the moment...)  I have been reflecting on the things that bring joy to me: my husband and his corny jokes, even in grizzly circumstances; my kids and grandkids; the way Jesus loves me lavishly even though I don't deserve his love.  In my reading from Spurgeon's Morning by Morning this morning, I read this:
  Let us note that Christ delights to think upon His Church, and to look upon her beauty. ... We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity "His delights were with the sons of men"; ... When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. .... Never were they absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His side.... We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace ever to bear Him in fondest remembrance. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of Thy Son.
And so, Gentle  Readers, we who are loved so lavishly only have reason to smile. May you know the love of Christ that is greater than any circumstance.

I will leave you with a few photos of things that make me smile, too, since I didn't get pictures posted on Wednesday this week.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The whirlwind

Dealing with cancer is like living in a time whirlwind.  Sometimes you find yourself at the center, with an eerie calm, and you are unsure what to do.  The rest of the time you are being driven in the gale-force wind.  The last 25 hours for me has seen two doctor's appointments, a trip to Santa Fe to pick up scans and slides, a new appointment with a new doctor for Monday morning, a blood draw, a visit to an office to sign a release form, and lots of questions-- some answered, some not- and lots of phone calls. It is exhausting.  And I find that even on good days I am worn out by the evening, and have to cling to God to keep my footing. He is good to never let me completely slip.

After the appointment on Monday, I may be able to post a more-sure plan.  But for now, please keep the following items in prayer, Gentle Reader:
  • Ask that the results from the oncotyping would come back showing a low-risk, no-chemotherapy-needed cancer.
  • Ask that the results of the genetics test will be clear and help us make treatment decisions.
  • Ask that we would make wise decisions about surgery: how much, which things to do in one surgery, which to put off, which to ignore.
  • Ask that while all of these decisions are being made, that little tumor would not become any more nasty.
  • Ask that I could rest in God, find me peace there, and wait in hope.
And please praise God with me for:
  • A great support team, headed by my best friend and sweet husband. God spared his life 20 years ago from a "terminal" cancer, and now he is here with me. Praise God for His generosity to me in Dave!
  • A good local breast specialist who has some great ideas about how to make pretty massive surgery bearable and successful.
  • Dear doctor friends who give me their opinions, help me get in to see doctors i otherwise wouldn't, and who are all-around great friends.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding peace when there is no peace...

Today as I went for a walk/jog, I asked God to help me to order my mind in prayer.  A new diagnosis and the promise of painful procedures is likely enough to unsettle any of us in mind and spirit, and i have definitely been unsettled.

Many years ago I read Spurgeon on Order and Argument in Prayer, which changed my prayer life.  And I knew I needed to order my case.  So, as I jogged along, ordering, and asking God to help me do so.  Well, I still have lots of ordering to do, but here is part of how my ordering went:
  • God promises His children peace in their struggles.
  • I have not had peace, nor am I able to stir up peace on my own: that has to be a gift of God.
  • I have claimed before the entire world that I would have peace because God would give it to me.
  • Therefore, since God promises it to me as His child, and since I should not shame Him before the world, I beg Him to fulfill His promise, and vindicate Himself by giving me peace.
Now, I'm NOT trying to back God into some logical corner to force Him to act.  No, instead, I am dwelling on God's promises, and realizing they are the stuff of my existence.  They are real, and substantive.  I MUST have peace, because God promised it. You see, ordering my argument before God does not make Him love me more, nor oblige Him to act in a particular way.  Instead, it changes MY focus, and reminds me that I am totally secure in the strong and mighty arms of the God who promises me peace, and He never breaks a promise. 

So when I pray, I remind God of His promise, and wait in sure hope for Him to fulfill it. And that, Gentle Reader, is at least the beginning of peace.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My trip to the oncologist...

I saw my oncologist on Monday.  And I found it to be encouraging at the time.  It turns out that I am NOT HER-2 positive.  I am negative after doing a more sensitive test, and that is good news for my prognosis. I will, however, be having a couple of major surgeries, and likely go on aromatase inhibitors, after I have one of the major surgeries to force me into menopause.  The other surgery will remove all breast tissue.  You know I was doing some tough reading when this sounded like very good news to me!

My cheerful optimism gave way to dark despair briefly as I grappled with the realities of what is happening.  I couldn't even remember ANY Scripture in the middle of the night, so scattered and confused was my brain!  But God is good, and gives us a song in the night. I got up and started to read psalms, and came upon Psalm 17:8, which says:
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
   hide me in the shadow of your wings
That became my prayer, and i repeated it over and over to myself. Today is a better day, and last night I slept like a babe in the arms of my Savior-- praise God! I'm afraid this is the roller-coaster I may be on for some time.

So now, we are making surgery decisions, talking to multiple doctors, making appointments, and trying to make difficult decisions.  But I am so encouraged that my prognosis is a good one.  So, Gentle Reader, please praise God with me that:
  • I turned out to be HER-2 negative- a direct answer to prayer
  • My prognosis is excellent
  • I am getting sound medical advice (special thanks to me second-opinion-go-to-friend, G. M., for his help!)
  • I am surrounded by God's love in my family and friends.
Ans please ask God that:
  • We would make good decisions regarding my surgeries, and have access to all the information we need..
  • My tumor would not grow or change while those decisions are made.
  • That I would rest in the arms of Christ, knowing that none of this is a surprise to Him, and trusting that His plan for my life is for my good and His glory.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Trip to Chicago

Our recent trip to Chicago found us taking the train into the city on a drizzly afternoon and staying as evening fell.  Downtown is beautiful as the lights come on, as is evident from the photos my brother Matt took with the HDR program on his I-phone.
 Then I road the train back later in the week and enjoyed a day with my brother at the Chicago Art Institute.  I fed my soul of the beauties of art there, and the sweet conversation with my youngest brother.  I am not sure that I have ever had a day alone with him, since he is the youngest and I am the eldest of 6 children, and the opportunity really never presented itself before.  It was a treat in every way. Below, I am with one of the famous bronze lions in front of the Art institute.  He is all gussied up for Christmas.  And you should hear, Gentle Reader, the sound of a cappella caroling in the great staircase inside!  It was delightful.
It was an odd week in many ways, but an enjoyable one!  We had dinner on Thursday evening with Matt and his wife, Maria, and daughter Zoe at their house in the city.  While there, we played with a little app that makes music videos using templates on the app and short recorded sounds.  I thought you might enjoy the silly results!

Thank you, Matt, for making my week so very lovely!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sabbath Songs

 If it has been a while since you read the poem this carol is based upon, Gentle Reader, do so now:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear by Edmund Sears, 1849

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

A hard announcement

I've been thinking for a few days about how to write this post, and I still don't know how to begin.  So I will begin anyway, and trust you, Gentle Readers.

Last week, before traveling to Chicago with Dave, I had a routine mammogram, ultrasound, and a breast core biopsy done.  On Monday of this week, just after a lovely adventure in downtown Chicago and as we returned to the hotel, I heard those words again that no one wants to hear: malignancy, cancer, treatment options.  I was just undone for that first night.

But then, people started to pray for me as I slowly began to tell my closest friends, my family, and the elders of our church.  And God was gracious to lift me through their prayers, and remind me that none of this is a surprise to God, and that He has a good plan here.

So, here is what I know (and what I don't.) I have a new primary breast cancer in the other breast.  It is small (and for the medical geeks among you, 8x5x7 mm, without lymphovascular infiltration, ER/PR+ and HER2++.)  Further FISH tests and oncotyping are still being done.  I will need some kind of surgery.  I will need some plan for treatment beyond surgery. I will need further scans.  I will see my oncologist on Tuesday. I will call a surgeon and try to get an appointment for next week some time. I am now considered a "multi-focal breast cancer" patient, and I am no longer taking tamoxifen, since its job was to prevent a recurrence, and it did not. I don't know how this will really affect my life and responsibilities until a plan is made.

And, like during my last breast cancer treatment, I will try to keep updates here, all labelled "Cancer Journey", and if you want to see the latest, just search by that label, and everything will come up frm the newest to the oldest.

And what can you pray for me?  I thought you'd never ask, Gentle Reader...
  • Pray that I would face this courageously and be a good soldier for Jesus. 
  • Pray that I wold not despair, but trust God and make Him my sure resting place, and be able to sleep well and stay otherwise healthy.
  • Pray that the cancer would not spread, and that we would quickly formulate the best treatment plan.
  • Pray that I would be wise in making decisions not only about treatment, but about my life and teaching and what needs to stay and what needs to go.
  • Pray for my family and friends, who suffer alongside me.
So, here I am again, where I hoped never to be.   This is round 2 of the cancer journey for me, but Dave had about four rounds before me, so we have spent our whole married life (31.5 years) battling this outside enemy.  As I think of that, it reminds me all I have to be grateful for.  Please join me in praising God for the following specifics:
  •  That the only battles Dave and i have had to fight are external to us (disease), and that Dave continues to be an amazing source of comfort and support for me, as do the my kids and family and friends.  For this i am so thankful!
  • This was again found very early on a routine mammogram.
  • God prepared the way for me to go on travel with Dave so we were not apart when the news was received.
  • I have good caregivers who are on my team, good insurance to cover the costs, and wonderful family and friends to walk this journey with me.
  • I have an amazing God who meets my needs here and gives me hope of a future with Him, where every tear will be dried, and every trial put away.
For these things I am grateful. And I so appreciate your prayers!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sabbath Songs

All My Heart this Night Rejoices by Paul Gerhdt, 1656
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1858

All my heart this night rejoices,
As I hear, far and near, sweetest angel voices;
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing,
Till the air, everywhere, now their joy is ringing.
For it dawns, the promised morrow
Of His birth, who the earth rescues from her sorrow.
God to wear our form descendeth;
Of His grace to our race here His Son He sendeth.
Yea, so truly for us careth,
That His Son, all we’ve done, as our offering beareth;
As our Lamb Who, dying for us,
Bears our load, and to God, doeth in peace restore us.
Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet, doth entreat, “Flee from woe and danger;
Brethren, come; from all that grieves you
You are freed; all you need I will surely give you.”
Come, then, let us hasten yonder;
Here let all, great and small, kneel in awe and wonder,
Love Him Who with love is yearning;
Hail the star that from far bright with hope is burning.
Ye who pine in weary sadness,
Weep no more, for the door now is found of gladness.
Cling to Him, for He will guide you
Where no cross, pain or loss, can again betide you.
Hither come, ye poor and wretched:
Know His will is to fill every hand outstretchèd;
Here are riches without measure,
Here forget all regret, fill your hearts with treasure.
Blessèd Savior, let me find Thee!
Keep Thou me close to Thee, cast me not behind Thee!
Life of life, my heart Thou stillest,
Calm I rest on Thy breast, all this void Thou fillest.
Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish;
Live to Thee and with Thee, dying, shall not perish;
But shall dwell with Thee for ever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never.
Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, sin and woe, death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son now is one with our blood forever.
Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save, freely gave His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son from the throne of His might in Heaven.
Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold from the fold, leave us broken hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer sufferers here, left His throne above us?
If our blessèd Lord and Maker
Hated men, would He then be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear all the care of our race benighted?
He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away and for aye full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, by His grace, meet for glory renders.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Guy time

Tomorrow afternoon, I am heading out with my sweetie as he heads out on a work trip.  We're heading to Chicagoland, and I hope to visit with my brother and his family while there.  I hope to have some reading and old-movie watching as well.  And I will teach my online classes, and I  might even take in some of the sights of the Windy City.  The best part, however, will be  time with my favorite guy: talking in the car, reading beside him on the plane, cuddling and having a few hours each evening with just the two of us. I love this guy, and look forward to time with him!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Embracing the crooks in my lot

I am often amazed at how ministry works out in my life.  I often think of ways I'd love to minister to others, but it seems God always has other ideas.  The jobs I want to take on are often beyond my grasp, and the ones placed in my path are usually the ones I would rather not pursue.  I suppose this is just another clear signal that I have a long way to go yet, until I recognize that the ministry God gives me is the best for His glory and my good.

Until I get to that place, where I better recognize the work of His hand, I will try to embrace the crooks in my lot, and, no, I don't mean the burglars in my yard.  I mean to accept the bends in my path as coming from a good and powerful God, with trust that He knows best.  Rest, my soul, in your good God.  And may you rest there, too, Gentle Reader.