Saturday, May 31, 2008

Even the sparrows...

This is the hummingbird nest in our red delicious apple tree:

This is the same nest, with Dave's pen resting next to it to give you some sense of the tiny size of this adorable nest!

And here is the treasure held inside!

We also have a robin's nest this year, in our pear tree, and we can hear the babies peeping in there, but the robins are much more frightening when they dive-bomb you than the little hummingbirds, so none of us were brave enough to climb the ladder while Daddy Robin was on the defense...

All of this has me thinking this morning about the providential care of our God. He really does care about the sparrow, and the hummingbird, and the robin. And he really does care about us. And He cares about how hard it is to wait for things you dread, and He cares about the details.

Bob Kauflin posted some beautiful lyrics on his blog this morning that get at the issue of our following this caring God into the tough places. It sums it up beautifully:

Do you believe that I know what is best?
Can you believe that I’ve chosen you for this test?
Though you may not understand it
Though you may not have a clue
I’ve designed what you’re going through just for you.

I’ve heard the questions that you’ve asked me
When you wonder if I care
My promises are trustworthy
You can know I am there
And my Son knows what it is
He suffered in your place
He took the pain that you deserved
So you could know my grace

And there will be a day
When there’ll be no more pain
You’ll look upon my face
And know the trial was worth it
In all the things I do
I’m working now in you
To trust me, to know me
To believe me, to love me
To draw close to me

And if I heal you, I can heal you
I have the power to take this away
But if you don’t see it until you see me
Will anything be changed?

You’ve wondered if I know what is best
I’ve chosen you for this test
And my grace is sufficient for all that you need
For my grace will lead you to Me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Roof Over Tim's Head

The Lord has provided a place for Tim to live over the summer-- and none too soon, since he has to be out of his old place by tomorrow! He is subletting a bedroom in a duplex (at right) from some students who are gone for the summer. It should work out just great!

Please keep Tim in your prayers as he continues to look for a job. Also, he dislocated a rib playing ultimate frisbee, and continues to be in a good deal of pain. Please pray for healing.

In the praise column, it appears the Alien Fiancee Visa is moving along, for which we are grateful to the Lord! Now it looks like Nikki needs to make a trip to Montreal (which will mean a flight/train trip and a night in a hotel) to be interviewed, and apparently, it can ONLY be done in Montreal. Please continue to pray that this process will go well and result in a visa before the wedding. One can understand, after the trouble and expense this is becoming, why people don't bother...but we are proud of the kids for trying to do things the right way. Keep them in your prayers, please!

And while we're praying for Tm and nikki, how about if we begin praying right now that i will be able to get to that wedding on September 13....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Wall of Encouragement

This is my "wall of encouragement". It is right across from the dining room table and on the way to the kitchen, and very visible. Every card and note I have received finds a home here and reminds me of the love and prayers of others. Thank you to each of you who have added to this beautiful space in my life!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A topsy-turvy day

Today was one of those typical days during cancer treatment when you have no idea when the day begins how it will end.

This morning, I received a call from my surgeon. Apparently, he and my oncologist had been discussing me, and the need to figure out what is going on with those pesky lymph nodes, and he had been reviewing my scans and decided which one he found most accessible, and wanted to schedule surgery for next Thursday, June 5. This was news to me.

I quickly put in a call to my oncologist, and discovered that the blood work was all back, and completely negative/inconclusive, except for the fact that I'm anemic. (That may explain why I continue to feel so tired, and the oncologist has put me on prenatal vitamins...which are a little embarrassing to pick up from the pharmacy at my age...) The oncologist really doesn't want to proceed until she has some handle on what is happening in those lymph nodes. This seems reasonable, though I have lots of questions starting to come to mind...

So, it looks like I will be meeting with the surgeon on June 3, having a pre-op visit on June 4, and surgery again on June 5. He is going to take an active lymph node from my lower abdomen/groin area, and plans to do so laproscopically. At this point I really don't have any more details. But that shouldn't stop us from praying for:
  • A successful and easy surgery with no damage done to surrounding vessels and other important body parts
  • Clear pathology results...and negative ones without any cancer
  • A quick and full recovery from surgery
  • Rest and peace as we wait for this next step and beyond
I am exhausted, as is Dave, after a long day. But praise God with us that His goodness has still been shining on us, and lifting our burdens on this topsy-turvy day!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mental and Spiritual Toughness (or the lack thereof...)

Yesterday afternoon, I allowed myself to feel ever-so-slightly sorry for myself. I don't know if it started because we had planned to be elsewhere before so many difficult things intruded on our lives, or because I was just weary, or because I was being self-indulgent and in a wallowing mood, but once I opened that little crack to despair, the flood gates opened, and I was in for a frustrating and discouraging rest of the day, robbed of joy and peace because I couldn't seem to take my eyes off of myself. (And don't I have an amazing husband who stood by me all day, even in my self-absorption, and loved me well?! God is good to me, even when I'm not appreciating it!)

By last evening, I was miserable. All the walls of comfort the Lord erects for his children, I had allowed to be smashed down just because I loved being the center of the "Woe-is-me" cosmos... And at bedtime, Dave opened Spurgeon, and the word of God through this old Puritan stabbed me straight to the heart. You can read last evening's devotional in its entirety here, but below are the pertinent points the Lord used to convict me:

"Continue in the faith."
--Acts 14:22

Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts... Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. "It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare." Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest...Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by His Spirit you may endure to the end.
And then this morning, I was reminded again of the importance of talking to myself (and speaking the truth) instead of just listening to myself like I did yesterday. Stephen Altrogge said:
I need to do the hard work of reminding myself of God’s truth. Listening to myself is effortless. It takes no work to let my thoughts run their course. But speaking God’s truth to my soul is crucial. I need to regularly (we’re talking multiple times a day here) remember that God has saved me, is for me, is working all things for my good, delights in me, and is shaping me into his image. I need to remember that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Joy will come as I speak truth to my soul.
You can read Stephen's whole post here, and listen to an excellent short excerpt on the same theme from C. J. Mahaney as well.

So, Psalm 30:4-5 is true after all:
4Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5For his anger is but for a moment,
andhis favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
So, dear readers, please pray with me that I will talk to myself more about the loveliness of Christ, and fight the good fight of faith as I enter another week of resting and waiting. My next appointment is on June 2, and we should get scads of blood work and pathology back, and lay our plan of attack.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

We had a lovely visit last night and this morning from Matthew Greenwald (son of our friends Randy and Barb) and his new wife Alissa (they have been married just two weeks!) What a blessing it is to see our covenant children grow in the Lord and mature in their faith and life. And when they also find a sweet young woman who loves them and wishes to serve the Lord alongside them, it is really a sweet thing! We really enjoyed our time with Matthew and Alissa (except that it was too short!)

And Happy Memorial Day. Matthew has been in the Marines for four years, and is now in the process of enlisting in the Coast Guard. Thank you for your service, Matthew! And today I am grateful to all those who serve our country with such selflessness.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Loveliness of Friends

The ladies on the right have been having lunch together periodically for something like 9 years. It began when our children were in junior high and high school and competed together on the home school speech and debate team. We would hang out at tournaments and go to dinner on the way home, and so enjoyed each other that we didn't want to stop when our kids were done with high school. So Mary, Kelley, myself, and Vickie, get together 3-4 times a year for lunch: we catch up with one another and each other's children, ask for prayer, rejoice with each other, and just enjoy the comfort of godly friendships. This is such a blessed distraction from the sometimes weariness of this broken world!

Yesterday we were joined for lunch by a couple of the kids (though one is about to be married, and really is not a "kid" anymore...), and after lunch we went to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Talk about distraction.... It was typical Indiana Jones: hokey and ridiculous, terrifying insects and Natives, bad guys and chase scenes... everything one would expect from Indy, along with nods to lots of past movies. It really was fun. And the "adult kid" has a funny review of our experiences on her blog here.

I see the loveliness of Christ in the loveliness of my friends...they bear my burdens with a smile, call or write to check up on me, distract me, serve me, make me laugh, remind me what is good and right and true and noble. What a blessing friendship is in this broken world!

And P.S. Mary so HATES getting her photo taken that short of me having cancer, she could never be persuaded to allow it. Most of my photos of Mary look like this:

This makes the photo of the four of us together that much sweeter... Thank you Mary! See what great friends I have-- going out of their comfort zones for me?!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Exhaustion is my friend...

I have heard from many of you who I apparently made "nervous" because I hadn't posted in several days. I'm glad you are reading, but sorry to cause distress!

I am quickly recuperating from my surgery. I have little-to-no pain, and only a small amount of swelling. Certain activities still cause discomfort-- like jogging on the aerobic platforms at Curves. But I am back to gently working out, gardening, walking and doing more of my normal activities.

It's so strange after even this minor surgery, how quickly I can go from feeling great to completely exhausted. So, recovery seems to be this cycle of overdoing it, then resting, then overdoing a little more, and resting again.

I have been having no trouble so far on tamoxifen. Thank the Lord for that! I am trying to move lots and walk lots as I can to help mediate some of the possible clotting problems that come with that drug.

And now I have a couple of weeks until we should have all my blood work and the tumor genetic studies back. I see the oncologist on June 2 to get those results and make the chemotherapy/radiation therapy plan. So I now can concentrate on living: recuperating, getting in shape for what's ahead, working on projects for Tim and Nikki's wedding, etc.

The hard part about weeks of "down time" is the mental and spiritual discipline needed to wait on the Lord. In this way, exhaustion is my friend! If I work as I need to, then the rest times and night times can be full of peaceful sleep-- because the Lord is good to give it, and because I'm exhausted. What a good combination!

Some prayer requests:
  • Please continue to pray for good, clear results from my tests.
  • Please pray that further treatment will be minimal, but efficient for a cure.
  • Please pray for those pesky lymph nodes to be nothing to worry about.
  • Please pray for peaceful rest for me and for Dave, and that we will continue to find our rest in the Lord.
  • Please pray for Dave's continuing good health and his ability to support me and keep up at work, too. (He's doing marvelously at both!)
  • Please continue to pray for peace for our children-- they are far away, and concerned for us.
  • Please pray for Tim to find a good engineering job and a place to live for the summer and/or beyond.
  • Please pray for Tim and Nikki's upcoming trip plans to come out here in June/July. Please pray for a wedding shower to be able to happen even if I am sort of "out of the loop".
And some praise items:
  • Praise God for my excellent recovery and prognosis.
  • Praise God for wonderful family and friends who remind me of the truth, encourage me, pray for me, bring me meals, take over my responsibilities, and host wedding showers. What a blessing the body of Christ is!
  • Praise God that He is, indeed, the conquerer of the last enemy, death, and that He removes that sting, and enables us to live without fear.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The End of Tim's Season

The photos at right are of the beautiful phalaenopsis orchid that Tim and Nikki gave me for Mother's Day. It might be a challenge to raise a humidity-loving plant in dry NM, but I'll give it a try, and it is lovely! It came with a box of chocolate truffles. Yum! Thanks, Tim and Nikki!

Tim's track season has finished. He ran provisional qualifying times in both the 10K and 5K, but neither were quite fast enough to carry him to Nationals. We feel this disappointment with him, but have been pleased with Tim's good attitude and forward-looking approach, and his decision not to give in to self-pity. Well done, Tim! We have loved our trips to four cross-country nationals where Tim was an All-American four times, and his team won three out of four years, and took second the other. And we loved our two trips to track nationals to watch Tim compete, and see him become a two-time All-American at the 10K and once at the 5K. He was injured his Freshman track season, as he was for his senior year, though we all enjoyed going to Nationals together that senior year, and watching Tim hop around and encourage others on his crutches! It has been an amazing collegiate ride, Tim, with much to be proud of, and much to be thankful for. God has blessed you amazingly! And we are proud of you! We are proud of you following your dreams, and doing your best. And even more, we are proud of your witness to the Lord in your success and your encouragement to others. We surely do love you!

And now, we pray that you can move forward, continuing to enjoy your running, but ready also to build big dreams in other areas: in serving the Lord, in loving your soon-to-be-wife, in finding a calling to work and to family, and in dreaming those dreams the Lord has for you! Well done!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Update from a long day

Today was a long day, but a good day. Much information was passed along!

At the tumor board this morning, everyone agreed that whatever is happening in my lymph nodes in my body are unrelated to my breast cancer. So, we are looking at them as two separate problems.

The news about my breast cancer is quite encouraging. The oncologist (Dr. Merin, who I liked very much) has staged me as a Stage I breast cancer, and the "grade "of my cancer is a 1, or the lowest, in regards to growth and aggression. This bumps me into the most positive of prognosis! If I proceed with appropriate chemotherapy, radiation, and an artomatase inhibitor (tamoxifen-- to stop my body from producing the hormones that feed my cancer), my prognosis for survival and lack of recurrence is about 98%! Please join me in praising God for this excellent prognosis!

I am beginning tamoxifen tonight. My tumor has been sent off for genetic testing (called oncotyping) which will help us determine the appropriate chemotherapy (if any) to use, and chemo will be followed by radiation. I will see the oncologist on June 2 to get those results and lay our plan.

On the lymph node front, the tumor board did not think we needed to biopsy any nodes at this time. The problem there could be anything from basically nothing to another type of cancer. The oncologist has ordered a battery of blood work to begin trying to figure out what is going on there. I should get those results on June 2 also.

So here are some prayer request specifics:
  • Please pray for excellent feedback from the oncotyping and for an excellent plan for treatment to be made on June 2.
  • Please pray now for good success from the treatment and good toleration of the treatments with little side effect.
  • Please pray for little or no side effects from the tamoxifen.
  • Please pray that those pesky lymph nodes will be a non-issue.
  • Please pray as we lay plans to attend DIII track nationals next week, and for Tim as he runs tomorrow night, hoping to qualify in the 5K. He is now 15th on the 10K list, and they take 16 competitors. Pray he will stay qualified!
  • Please pray for my mama's heart as I need to cancel the plan to visit Ben and Elsa after Nationals. It is perhaps a little thing, but the plan had always been to include our first visit to their home, and now that needs to be postponed, and I am sad!
And so many praises-- Just praise God for the good news and prognosis, and the way He keeps carrying me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Excellent Pathology Report

My pathology report was an answer to prayer! My lymph node is clear (no cancer present) and the margins around the tumor are clear (no spread of disease) and the size of the tumor at its largest is 1.5 cm. All this adds up to what will likely be staged as a Stage 1 breast cancer, with an excellent chance of full recovery. Hurrah! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Of course, one of the tasks for tomorrow is to decide what to do about the pesky lymph nodes in my body. It looks less and less likely that they are related to my breast cancer, and more likely that they are something unrelated to it. And that "something" is a big unknown at this point. The tumor board will be discussing this, as will I in my appointments with my oncologist and surgeon tomorrow following it.

So, this part of the news (the pathology from the surgery) is excellent news, and I am grateful!

Some prayer requests:
  • Good rest for tonight and strength for several appointments and lots of information and possible decisions tomorrow.
  • Good guidance from my docs here and afar as to how I should proceed.
  • A good strategy for moving forward with treatment that may even allow me to see Tim run at Nationals on the 22-24 of this month.
And one BIG praise:
  • God answered affirmatively for the clear axillary nodes and the containment of the cancer, and I praise Him for it! What an encouragement!

The joys of resting

The way I figure it, these days between surgery and pathology/oncology visits are my days for resting and recuperating as well as I can. So I am walking, sleeping, icing the swollen areas, watching movies, reading a bit, and enjoying the lovely springtime. God has been gracious to give me good sleep every night, and relatively little pain. I am still swollen, but improving, and my energy level is returning little by little, though sudden fatigue can still overtake me.

There is something quite freeing about my own feelings being the center of the universe. I get to do things or not do things as I wish, and nobody will argue with me. I really do like the "Cosmos of Chris" on some level, where everything, of course, revolves around me! And I can see the temptation to stay there.

Perhaps the thing that keeps this place of rest from becoming a totally self-centered thing is the inherent disquiet and fear associated with this cancer journey. Even as I rest and recuperate, I am ever aware of my tenuous hold on this life, and on health, and my very real need for a big God who can care for me no matter what. God is so good to stop me from my "normal" busy-ness and make me face those realities, and to meet my needs there. I praise him... even for this trial and pain. That could only happen by the work of His Holy Spirit in my sinful, selfish little heart!

Here are a few prayer specifics. Thank you for lifting me before the Creator!

Prayer Requests:
  • I may be receiving my pathology reports today. Please pray with us for negative axillary lymph nodes, clear margins, and no surprises. Also pray that whatever that report contains, I will remember that my Lord is the one who decides my future.
  • Tomorrow I meet first with the medical oncologist, and then with the surgeon, who should have in turn met in the morning with the tumor board to discuss my case. Additionally, my radiology friend, greg, is passing around my scans and reports in PA. Tomorrow should be a day full of information, choices, and plotting a course forward. Some specifics in regard to this are:
    • Please pray that a clear course for treating the breast cancer would be obvious.
    • Please pray that a clear path to discovering what is going on with the lymph nodes in my chest, abdomen and pelvis would be found, and that we could get a clear picture of what is going on and how to deal with it.
  • Please pray for continued healing at my surgery site, specifically for the swelling to resolve itself.
  • Please pray for Dave's continued health and ability to accomplish things at work when he has so many things to draw him away from work right now.
And some Praise Reports:
  • Praise God for good rest, little pain, and a return of energy.
  • Praise God for excellent medical care from my surgeon and primary care, and access to the tumor board this week.
  • Praise God for Greg Moore, my own personal sounding board and radiologist, who is patient with my questions, and loves me enough to both tell me the medical truth and remind me of the Truth.
  • Praise God for my faithful husband, the introvert, who is managing to care for me well and not get too aggravated by my extrovert tendencies.
  • Praise God for being both sufficient and the Giver of Peace. His promises are things of substance.
  • Praise God for the prayer army He has raised up on my behalf. I know the feeling of being carried by the prayers of God's people, and that's where I am resting right now!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Insult-to-Injury Moments

Sometimes there are things that I call "insult-to-injury" things. They are events that aren't that big in-and-of themselves, but because of their context, they add insult to injury. I hate these events.

Did you know that after every core biopsy taken take from breast tissue and marked with a tiny titanium marker, they have to perform two mammograms of that breast? That is insult to injury. They even do mammograms after stereo tactic MRI-guided wire locations. That is insult to injury.

On the day of my surgery last week, after undergoing unpleasant-at-best procedures all morning, I was finally moving towards surgery. They were taking my vitals, and placed one of those automated blood-pressure cuffs on my arm. It was hooked up to a scientific-looking machine, and began to inflate. And it kept inflating. Meanwhile, the nurse walked out to get more thermometer covers. It kept inflating. When the pain was excruciating and I had no feeling left in my hand, I ripped the dumb thing off. Still it kept inflating! That was insult to injury.

The thing that makes insult-to-injury moments so hard to deal with is that you have paced yourself and know your limits on the scheduled things. I knew how to get through those horrid procedures: I was leaning on the Lord, being courageous and mentally and spiritually tough for the long haul. Then something like a vicious blood pressure machine comes along, and upsets your plans. Your find yourself at the end of yourself. There are no emotional reserves: you just spent the wad getting through the last thing.

So, the real question with injury-to- insult moments is what you will do with them? I don't want them to make me bitter. I don't want them sending me, spiraling, into despair. So, I cry a little: it helps spend the emotions a bit. And I try to "lean into" them. In child birth class, a billion years ago, our teacher talked about "leaning into" the pain: don't fight it, but use it: realize what it is accomplishing and relax around it to allow it to do its work. These insult-to-injury moments are accomplishing things in my soul, so I had better learn to relax around them, embrace them, and let them do their work. I love the way Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
And lest anyone reading this blog think I am preaching at someone, please be assured that the someone I am preaching to is just me. This is the truth: what I need to hear and remember and cling to. Pray for the Lord to make me successful at it!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Queen and a Crash

Yesterday morning, I sat like a queen on her throne in my backyard, under an apple tree, and gave orders to Dave and Marilyn and my parents, and enjoyed the warm sunshine as they did my yard work. The Baers brought dinner, I walked with my husband and napped in a comfy chair, and had a lovely day.

Today, I think all the adrenaline finally wore off. I woke up with the distinct feeling that a motorcycle had run several times over my abdomen and ribs. I just felt tired and achy and wiped out. I knew it had to hit sooner or later! So, I cried for an hour or so. Then called my friend Amy. Amy is blessed with a little baby on the way, but she gets extremely ill when they are on the way. She encouraged me to call her the next time I had a bad day. After Dave trying for about an hour to comfort me, he suggested I call Amy. In no time we were encouraging one another and laughing at each other. What a blessing the family of God is at such times!

So, we've taken short walks, and I've napped lots in my comfy chair, with "The Music Man" playing in the background. "Goodnight, My Someone" and "Lyda Rose" wound their way in and out of my dreams. (Thanks to Victor and Ann who let me raid their video supply, and who are bringing me dinner tonight!) And my goal is to rest and recoup for the rest of the day, and enjoy worship with my church family tomorrow.

I planned at the beginning of this illness to write to each person who wrote to me, and e-mail each person who e-mailed. That is still my goal, but you all are being so wonderfully supportive, it may take me some time! I love getting the mail each day and finding a few cards or a surprise little package, and the e-mails and e-cards from friends far and near. How humbling it is to see the love of so many expressed so clearly to me. I thank God for each of you!

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Shower of Flowers

Yesterday I had to miss out on the Spring Concert of the Los Alamos Homeschool Choir, which I direct. Many thanks to Dawn Filer for stepping in to help, and the Chorus Board for taking on all my other jobs, and to everyone for their prayers!

Unbeknownst to me, during the afternoon rehearsal, the students and their families brought flowers for me which were placed in my house while I was at the hospital. When I came home, my dining room table was COVERED in beautiful, fragrant flowers! They have now been distributed throughout the house, making every place I look beautiful, and sending their heavenly scents everywhere.

Thank you, everyone at chorus who gave the flowers and cards, and Kris and Kelley who organized and carried it out. I feel loved and honored!

It's confirmed: I'm a hot woman!

Those of you who read my sweet husband's post this morning saw LAPD in action...

What you missed was that shortly after that post, he went outside to speak with a neighbor, and returned with the Geiger counter pictured at left. Only in Los Alamos can you go out to speak to a neighbor and return with a Geiger counter (or even want to.) And, yes, it was then applied to my body, and according to Dave, I was reading 5 mR on contact at my axillary. So, it is confirmed: I am one HOT woman!

Surgical Success and other Scintillaing Stories

Chris's surgery went quite well yesterday and we would like to thank all of you for your prayers ... they were much appreciated and deeply felt.

As Chris is still recovering from her general anesthesia, she is allowing me (Dave) the privilege of posting on her blog. I imagine that the privilege is quite temporary as she will probably be posting later today.

As for details of the surgery, our day started quite early as we had to be at the radiology department at the hospital at 7:30 am. Chris then had a stereotactic MRI to place a wire in her breast to precisely mark the tumor site. This is a brand new machine at the hospital and Chris was the first patient to use it. The technicians were actually excited to see Chris and try out their new machine. The technicians were more than up for the task and the MRI wen well. Then Chris was given an injection of a radioactive tracer (for those who want to know, it was Technetium-99m, which has a half-life = 6.01 hrs and a gamma ray energy of 140 KeV). The tracer was injected to determine the drainage patterns in her breast. She then had lymphoscintigraphy (sentinel node mapping) of her breast every 30 minutes until 11:00 am to record the movement of the Tc-99m in her breast.

AT 11 Chris was taken up to the surgery floor, only to be told that there was an emergency surgery that was going to delay her surgery an hour or so. It turned out to be the "or so...". Chris went into to surgery at 2:30 pm. However, thanks to the presence of family and dear friends (allowed to visit during the wait,) the time went quickly. After Chris was wheeled off to surgery, we settled into prayer ... only to have the surgeon walk in the room ... my heart started to race, and then the surgeon siad ... "Have you seen Chris' films?" I laughed and told him that I last saw them down in radiology and he quickly left the room.

The surgeon returned at 3:45 to say that the surgery had gone extremely well. He had removed the tumor (lumpectomy) and biopsied the sentinel node which came out negative. He wasn't sure about the nodes in her chest and abdomen, but that they would discuss her case at the Tumor Board on Wednesday.

We were able to go home at around 6 pm and Chris was able to rest comfortably most of the evening. She was able to sleep off and on during the night and is feeling much better this morning.

The highlight of our evening last night was a call from Tim saying that he and his teammates finally had a good race and he was able to run a provisional qualifying time (30:38 for 10k). He was thrilled, Chris was thrilled and I was thrilled ... I think you get the pattern!

How great and awesome is our God! He is so gracious to answer our prayers in such a positive way.

I need to go make breakfast, so I will close out my first post. Thank you again for you prayers and for your emails, letters, cards, etc.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow ...


Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Morning of Reminder

This morning my "Through the Bible in a Year" old testament reading was from 1 Kings 16-18, where I was reminded how God dealt with the prophets of Ba'al through Elijah: "The Lord: He is God!" And God provided rain for the dry, parched land. What a God we serve! I am resting in Him this morning, and trusting Him to deal with any false prophets or droughts that may come my way...

The new testament reading was from the end of John 1: Jesus is recognized as the Messiah and calls his disciples to follow him. May I remember all day that He is the Son of God, and may I follow Him.

Thank you for all the encouragement and prayers this morning. God is, indeed, gracious to me through you all.

And now we're off on the next part of this "great adventure"...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Day of Blessing

God is so very good-- today was a day of blessing upon blessing for me! My mother-in-law cleaned my bathrooms this morning (along with the rest of my house--thank you Marilyn!) When I whined about my hair being too long and wanting it cut before surgery, my dear friend Kelley arranged a little trip to her hair dresser, and new do was forthcoming (thank you, Kelley!). I took the following (rather dorky) photo of myself to show it off-- I obviously am not one of those self-portrait people...

I also have a new, comfy lay-boy recliner in my beautiful bedroom for times of recuperation and privacy. It almost makes being sick worth it...

And my dearest of husbands sent me beautiful roses and a small box of emergency chocolates, along with his amazing love and support for the last almost 28 years. He is an incredible, godly, faithful man, and what a blessing! I love you, Dave!

Another friend, and IBC survivor, sent me a token of her love and prayers (thank you Tami!), and a got a little taste of heaven this afternoon as six of my closest friends gathered in my living room to sing my favorite hymns (in three part harmony, I might add..we sounded like angels!) and to pray for me. (Thank you Jacque, Amy, Kris, Ann, Kelley and Valerie-- you all make me feel rich...)

I had an amazing visit with Ben last week, and an offer of a trip from Tm this weekend (with a generous offer of help from the Reckmans: you guys are such a blessing!) We have convinced him to finish his season and see us next month, but what a sweet offer!

And I had a lovely summer evening walk with Dave, and am settling down to a chick flick and popcorn. What could be better for a weary soldier than that?

Your prayers, friends, are holding me. I feel God right here beside me, because you are imploring Him to be there. Thank you! I am going into my surgery tomorrow surrounded by love, uplifted and held. And I feel so very blessed!

Some Not-so-good news

Well, my PET-scan results were not quite what I had hoped and prayed for. The good news is that my bones and organs are all nice and clean. As a matter of fact, the report said my "Brain was unremarkable." Now, I've always known my brain was unremarkable, but it's the first time I've been glad to hear it! :-)

The not-so-good news is that there are several nodes in the trunk of my body that show activity. The strange thing about this is that they don't follow the pattern we would expect with breast cancer. So my docs are left trying to fit the pieces together somehow. Here we find ourselves, once again, in that "few or rare" category we would rather not travel in.

The plan is to go ahead with surgery tomorrow (Thursday), and see what additional information we can gather in that process.

So, here are some specific prayer requests:
  • Pray for surgery, scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, May 8, in the morning. Prior to the surgery I will be having a stereotactic MRI to specifically place my primary tumor for removal, and I will have an injection of a radioactive tracer that will help map my lymph nodes. They will remove the lump (lumpectomy) and take my sentinel lymph nodes. Please pray specifically that if the activity in the nodes in my body is, indeed, the breast cancer, that the mechanism for it traveling there would be obvious. If we can see this, we may not need to biopsy those active nodes. Pray that the surgeon (who is wonderful) would be wise and skillful.
  • Pray that clear results would be found in the pathology, and a good treatment plan would be formed.
  • Pray for the tumor board that will discuss my case next week and help the surgeon determine what to do from here.
  • Pray for no additional spread of the cancer.
  • Pray that I would keep my focus on the goodness of God.
And here are a few very important praise items:
  • I am getting excellent, timely care. Join me in thanking God for the surgeon, Dr. Barker, his excellent office manager who is praying for me and getting everything scheduled, Loretta, and my incredibly caring primary care doc, Matt Fay.
  • I spent over an hour yesterday going over the PET scan report with my friend Gregg Moore, on staff at Penn State Medical School. Nothing like having your own private, world-class radiologist. Not only did Greg help me understand everything, but his big, loving heart braces me to face what's coming. What a provision of God he and Lauri are!
  • My family and friends are being God's hands and feet to me. What would I do without you all?
  • The prayers of God's people are carrying me. Thank you!
  • God continues to provide for me and bolster me on this difficult journey. I won;t pretend that the news of the lymph nodes was not a blow. But God had been working all day to prepare me. In the morning I read an amazing article here, and on the way home from picking up the report, I listened to the following and sang it at the top of my lungs. What a sweet and tender way for the Lord to provide for me He is infinitely good and loving towards me. And that is a huge item of praise!
So I Will Trust You by Stephen Altrogge

Almighty Maker, Universe shaper
You put the stars into space
Yet You descended, You have befriended
Those who had hated Your name, just like me

King of Glory, I know You love me
So I will trust You, yes I will trust You
God Almighty, You have saved me
So I will trust You, yes I will trust in You

Lord over nations, King of Creation
Heaven and earth bow to You
I am Your child, I’ve been reconciled
With tender affection You drew me to You

How could I not trust my King
The One who has formed me and shaped me
I will rejoice and will sing
For the One who has made me has saved me

Monday, May 05, 2008

Some Very Good News

This afternoon brought several items of good news and praise!
  • First, the surgeon called and spoke to Dave while I was having my PET scan. The pathology is back on both the biopsies done last week, and both are clean as a whistle! No cancer in those two "suspicious" spots! Hurrah! Thank you, Lord!
  • Secondly, I am done with the PET scan. It wasn't as bad as I had feared, though one would not want to do it more often than absolutely necessary. The worst part was my neck after falling asleep in a chair waiting for the radioactive sucrose to run its course and then holding my arms above my head with my elbows at my ears for 45 minutes. My poor ruptured disc doesn't like these things. And I forgot to ask what the radioactive element is, and my nuclear chemist hubbie wants to know, so now I have to research that for him, so he can calculate the half-life for me :-) We now wait for the report from the PET, which should be here by Wednesday.
If there are no unexpected things that show up on the PET scan, I am back on for a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy on Thursday, May 8 (the day of my chorus concert...) Please pray with us that the only "hot spot" on the PET scan will be the one cancer tumor. That would be such great news! (And as my brother Matt said during my mom's treatments last year, it's funny how the term "good" changes in this instance...)

Thank you all for your prayers, and we will keep you posted here as the week develops! God is so good!

A Wedding Song for Tim and Nikki

While Ben was home last week, I got a preview of a sweet, funny little song he wrote for his little brother and his wife-to-be. The lyrics are below, but the music makes it better: it is sweet and carefree and adorable...and there are many inside family jokes that are probably not obvious to others.

Tim and Nikki's Wedding Song (working title)

I have always been a runner
I've never known how to
stand still at all

so you put on your tight shirt
I will wear my shortest shorts
and bright yellow socks

and we will run away together

I never thought I'd find a runner
as tall and swift and beautiful
as I hope to be

so you put on your favorite shoes
I will find my khaki shorts
and even wear a belt

and we will skip away together

And if you should fall down,
I will catch you, put you back on your feet.
And if I should fall behind,
I know that you will wait for me.

I know that I love you
and that you love me, too
even though I'm faster

so you put on your white dress
and I will find a tux that goes with
bright yellow socks

walking down that aisle together
we will walk away forever

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I have had several e-mails asking about whether I received any biopsy results from the biopsies on Thursday. Unfortunately, I have not. I really wasn't expecting them until Monday since the samples weren't all taken until after 3:00 pm on Thursday, so the pathologists couldn't have even gotten them until Friday morning. I promise to post here as soon as I have some results.

I am hoping on Monday to track down the Thursday biopsy results as well as the hormone receptor tests from the first biopsy, which should be back, or close to it, by now.

Many have said to me, "Waiting is so hard!" And it is hard. But I have also discovered that finding out is hard. So I rest in my Lord as hard and fast as I can. And call on Him to be sufficient for me, to give me His peace that passes understanding, and He has been faithful to do so. I know your prayers are helping me to walk in this place. Thank you!

And there is something sweet about being launched into a place of such intimacy with the Lord. What a broken place we live in, that we must be facing something like cancer to be brought back to the fount of joy and peace...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

So much to be thankful for

I have much to be thankful for this morning, and I thought I would share them with you so that you can praise our gracious God with me!
  • I received the above beautiful bouquet from the Los Alamos Homeschool Chorus. It is three dozen beautiful petite roses in a variety of stunning colors. A big thank you to all my students and to the lovely ladies of the Chorus Board. They are gorgeous, and grace my dining room table, reminding me of you all!
  • I have received cards and little gifts from several friends, and lots of e-mails reminding me of the tremendous support I have. Thank you to all of you! And keep them coming! They remind me that I am not in this alone, and keep me from feeling sorry for myself.
  • This morning I had an excellent conversation with a dear friend who is a doc at the medical school at Penn State, Hershey. He is not only a dear friend, an MRI specialist, and smart fellow, but, by God's grace, he is working in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment currently. So I am getting private consulting on all my decisions, receiving great answers to all my questions, and getting a good read on how well my doctors are doing in directing my care. Thank you Greg and Lauri, for your love and support. And what a blessing for me!
  • We have enjoyed several days with our eldest dear son, Ben. It has been delightful for us, though all the hours he spent in waiting rooms were probably not very relaxing for him... Thanks, Elsa, for sparing him for these days. And thank you, Chris and Donna, for arranging for him to get our here. It meant so much!
  • This week Dave and I have been memorizing 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him." What a destiny. I am truly blessed and thankful!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Encouragement and clarification

I am a verbal person. I process by writing, talking, clarifying, organizing. Today I am doing several of these things...

On this blog, I am keeping mostly the facts: facts concerning my cancer journey, facts of my lovely family, and other items that need "passing along" to my family and friends in places both near and far.

I also find it helpful to record my thoughts and feelings on the journey. Those I am going to try to record on my other blog here. (For instance, this morning's post here.) So, if you want the news, this is the spot for you. And, of course, the feelings will be coming through. But if you want the processing thoughts, check the other blog.

I am grateful for the warm love and support I am getting from each of you. A few notes of encouragement have arrived via snail mail. What a delightful thing to get a card in the mail. Thank you! And mostly, thank you for your prayers. They are carrying me, and allowing me sweet sleep every night. I appreciate you all!

A 10K MIAA Champ

Tim won the 10K last night in the MIAA Conference Championships. Congratulations, Tim! He would have liked to run a bit faster than the 31:50-something he ran, but we are proud of him for running strong. He and his teammates took 1, 2, 3, and 8 in the event. Well done, Knights! The meet finishes up today, and they are hoping for a conference win.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another day accomplished

Today I am glad that most of the day is done and I can just rest for the remainder of it.

I went to have what I thought would be another easy ultra-sound guided biopsy in my left breast, and ended up instead having an almost 2-hour ultrasound session on both breasts, scrutinizing every lymph node and bump that showed up on the MRI report. The radiologist was wonderful: he went over the MRI report with us, showed us on the MRI films where the areas of concern were (one in each breast, and some nodes in my chest), and showed me the areas on the ultrasound. He also saved time for me to biopsy both breasts to make sure what was going on in those areas. The good news is that both look pretty bland: the right side looks like some atypical tissue that he is not very worried about, and is very small; the right breast area disappeared as he biopsied, indicating pretty normal fibrocystic stuff not to worry about. But the pathology can confirm that, and should be back either late tomorrow or on Monday.

I got to watch the whole procedure on the screen, which was fascinating (in a sick kind of way...) and the doc explained everything as we went. It was again, not a painful procedure, praise the Lord! The "insult to injury" part of the process is that at the end of the biopsy they placed small titanium markers in the areas biopsied, then had to do two-view mammograms post-procedure. Now I am a little achy, but doing well. I am ready for no more poking and prodding for a while, however!

So now we wait for that pathology, and plan to do a PET scan on Monday to get a look at the lymph nodes that are enlarged in my chest. These may just be normal for me, but we hope the PET scan will put minds at ease regarding them. And then, we will hopefully lay surgery plans and head to surgery on Thursday, May 8.

My chorus dress rehearsal went on without me today. While I am sad not to be there, and miss my students, I feel a real peace in following where God is taking me. And besides, I have no choices or options, which makes it easy. Time to release control and float with the current, so to speak.

I am enjoying having Ben around. What a blessing that is! And Tim is running a 10K at conference tonight, so please keep him in your prayers as well. What a blessing our families are!