February 25, 2016

the lines

I looked in the mirror at myself.

What happened?

My fingers gently felt along my forehead.

Yes, the wrinkles in the mirror are really there.

Worry has carved lines along my once youthful skin.

It wasn't that long ago Todd and I were at a Weekend to Remember marriage retreat and a darling older couple was commenting that I didn't look old enough to have kids, let alone to have been married for 12 years.

Bless them.

But today... today I do look old enough for kids and marriage and life.

My face is showing something that I didn't want to share.

Laugh lines are beautiful. I want to be covered in them. Doesn't that represent my life so much better than worry lines? I want people to look and me and think, now there's a girl who must have a lot to smile about.

Because I do. I have so much to smile about...

The ducks are gathered just past the dock off the back yard. Every few days the ducks, all the ducks in the whole lake it seems, all gather for hours in this spot. Like they're just stopping by for a visit. I can watch them for hours - though the kids make sure that doesn't happen. I love to watch them dive under the water. Fish? Seaweed? What are they doing down there?

All I can see is what's on the surface.

They bobble along, sometimes skimming something off the water with their beaks, sometimes quacking at an offending neighbor, sometimes just going with the flow.

I can relate to my ducks in so many ways. They seem to be doing their own thing, even when the whole flock is there together. They're out there surviving and fending for their lives. They're small and vulnerable and have to choose fight or flight.

And then they disappear below the surface. Alone. Their survival depends on their ability to hold their breath as they plunge below in search of that which sustains them.

Oh ducks. I am holding my breath also. Searching for that which will sustain.

In the cold darkness of the depths, holding my breath, I look out and see a light. My lungs hurt from being under for so long, but I can't turn away from the Light. The nearer to it I get, the less I hurt. Until finally my lungs are filled and I am warm.

Still under the surface surrounded by darkness, I am sustained. Even in this dark place, I find Light.

The ducks swim on, and I turn back to the mirror. The lines are still there. But the worry is not. I can close my eyes and see my worry resting on the bottom of the lake. I can smile.

We are days away from leaving our children and returning once again to the city. Cycle #2 of chemo begins Monday morning. Back to the 7-hours of infusions every day, ER visits, and endless sitting, wondering, and waiting. It feels a lot like sinking into the lake, farther and farther from oxygen and light and life.

I find peace only in knowing that even in the depths, there is Light still.

Oh praise God, there is Light still. 

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February 13, 2016

unreliable memory

Putting Samuel's space footie-jammies on him after his bath, I notice that his little toenails need to be trimmed.

I look at his fingernails and frown.

When was the last time I trimmed the kids' nails?

I stop and try to remember. I can't.

At least they had a bath tonight...

All around our room, the one room our family has been staying in for the past 10 days, I see things that have been forgotten. A half-emptied suitcase, a partially unpacked box, and the avocado that went uneaten before it began to go bad. A sign that meals remain to be a struggle for the adults in the family.

We had planned on staying in this room for the entire 9-weeks of chemotherapy. When we got here we paid a whopping sum from the money our dear church family sent us off with (don't even get me started on how well Chattanooga First SDA loves. They do it so, so well.). We paid enough we though, to tide us over until we can get some financial aid. Yesterday we found out that we don't get the aid we were hoping for.

Instead of paying for half of the housing costs, the aid we were granted only covers 8 nights for the rest of his treatment. Too little to make it work for us.

Oh sure, there are plenty of other options. We explored every one of them. There are extensive pro-con lists.

But the one option not on our list was a house sitting on Lake Chelan, just waiting for us.

We have several friends and family members within 3-6 hours from Seattle. Almost all of which have offered us a spare room, a basement, something. But jumping from one room to another offered our family no stability.

But the house by the lake - we can stay there, rent free, until May. In May the snow birds (can I call them snow angels?) will return and we'll cross that bridge if we need to. My best friend called the owners and explained our situation. They welcomed us with open arms... er... doors.

There is a yard for the children, and the lake (with a locked gate in between), and room for us to breathe and not be all up in each other's business. Cause let me tell you - we're all up in each other's business in one room in Seattle.

In the end, after all of the options were considered, weighed, and placed on one side of the pro-con list, the thing - the deal breaker - was help.

We need help.

I'm exhausted all the time.

I snap at my kids.

I struggle to be helpful to my husband.

I can't find the energy to cook.

We need rubber gloves and I can't seem to make it to Rite Aid to get some. I can't even remember we need rubber gloves until I need them.


I have to share another huge blessing. Being so far away means more driving plus paying for lodging when were in the city for appointments. The same BFF who found a house for us also started a crowdfunding page for us. I'm blown away by the response! People I don't even know are giving to us, leaving messages for us, and praying for us.

I feel weird even talking about it. I shared it on my Facebook page and it took about an hour for me to work up the courage to actually post it.

Anyway, there is enough money there to pay for gas and lodging! I'm so very grateful for each and every person who has helped with this. <3 <3 <3

Since I'm talking about it - here is the link. We are already so very blessed!

Well, onward we move now. My lists are growing. Things I need to get ready for our jaunt over to the lake. Things I need to pack. Things I need to buy/return. Things I don't want to forget to grab. My memory is unreliable these days. Thankful for lists.

Thankful for prayers.

Thankful for the help of friends.


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February 7, 2016

nothing to give

I thought the roller coaster was bad before.


I'm glad I didn't know what was coming because if I did, I might have run away. Most of the time I wish I could stick my head in the sand and pretend that this all isn't happening.

But it is.

On and on it all keeps going, no matter how much it squeezes my heart dry to watch my husband suffer.

I want to cry almost all the time. But I don't. It wont change anything. I want to cry for Todd, for his pain, for his heartache of trying to be strong but only getting weaker. He doesn't want me to talk about all the side effects and the state the chemo leaves him in - but it's all I can see and it makes me want to cry.

I want to cry for my children. For their childhood that's been put on hold because, frankly, I can't muster up the energy to play trucks with Sam or horses with Amelia. I sit there on the floor with them and my body is there but my mind... sometimes I don't even know where my mind is.

So I've been thinking that putting them in school might be best for us. For them and for me. I've planned on homeschooling my children since before they were my children. I feel an immense amount of guilt for considering putting them in school. Not because school will hurt them or be bad for them - but because I feel like I should be stronger right now. More able. I should be able to play with my kids on the floor and hear what they're saying and be present and loving.

What kind of a mother mentally checks out on her kids and has to send them away because she just can't.


I want to cry for myself. For the exhaustion of paperwork and insurance and housing and appointments. For feeling so inadequate and helpless. For feeling so guilty for an endless list of all the ways I'm failing my children, my husband, and myself. For feeling so, so very lonely.

I see a lot of other chemo patients, and so many of them smile so sweetly at me. I wanted to be that person who was smiling and comforting and encouraging others. I had a plan. I was going to cook for other families and make sweets for the nurses.

Instead I feel empty when I smile and hollow when I speak.

I have nothing to give anyone.

I stare blankly at walls.


There is this small, warming flame in my heart. Despite all the despair and emptiness I feel, I have this little part of my heart that won't be moved. I don't always feel it, and sometimes I forget it's there. But when I'm able to finally quiet my mind of the worry, and jumbled thoughts, it's still there: a still, small flame in my heart.

When my heart is stilled, I still know that it's that little flame that's keeping me going right now. That I'm not as lonely as I might feel. That God is helping me make the right choices and is working through this situation in a mighty way even though I can't see it through my tears. 

People keep sending me songs and sermons and encouraging stories. I don't read them. I feel so bad admitting that. It's not that I don't appreciate it. It's just that... I just have trouble making sense of words strung together. I can't concentrate. I lose my focus and before I know it I'm wondering if the insurance company received my fax or if we'll be approved for financial aid for housing.

Someday, I will go back through the virtual mountains and mountains of messages, emails, sermons, stories. Someday I'll be whole enough again to listen to a sermon and I'll hear what's being said.

Someday, I'll read this journal again and I'll probably cry. For my husband, knowing how bad it got before it got better. For my children, knowing that I made the right decision for them, and for myself. Knowing that that little flame in my heart never went out.

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February 6, 2016

chemo begins

Oh friends.


This is a rough road we're traveling.

I know it's been a while since I wrote an update. I had planned on writing on Wednesday evening, but that didn't happen.

Monday morning we drove up to Seattle to get pre-appointment bloodwork done. Todd was feeling pretty good and we spent all day Tuesday with my sister. We visited the aquarium. We had lunch. We hung out and made jokes and ate together and it was all so normal.

Wednesday we walked into our appointment meeting 2 new doctors, who exuded confidence, experience, and hope. Our new doctor knew exactly what he was looking at. There were all of a sudden no more maybes, no more doubts, no more questions. In fact, they let us ask all the questions we've been lacking answers to for the past 5 weeks.

It was the best feeling ever not to be wondering anymore.

Doc said he is going to fight this pretty aggressively. The cancer is spreading, but we also have every reason to believe that after 9 weeks of chemo, it will be totally gone.

My husband will live.


So many emotions over the last 5 weeks have been surfacing all over again. All the fear, all the uncertainty, all the distress. I felt it all one more time as I had myself a cry and then it was all gone. Replaced by hope. By life. By the future.

Wednesday Doc said that it's looking like the soonest they can get us started with chemo would be Monday or Wednesday next week. When we went in Thursday for some more tests, we found out that it was starting in 24-hours.

I knew it was coming, but I hadn't yet digested what was happening.

When we left Portland on Monday to come to Seattle I packed 2 sets of clothes for each of us. And I didn't take my computer. I thought we'd be waiting more. Back to Portland. Waiting. But then, all of a sudden it was time.

Yesterday we started chemo. There's a huge learning curve. They said the first day is always the hardest, but it wasn't too bad. Day two is already proving harder. Hopefully this won't be a trend.

I might not write a bunch. It's hard to write about what's going on. Todd needs his privacy. I will try to write weekly updates, but the chemo schedule is as such that some weeks, thankfully, will be pretty uneventful. He's on 3-week cycles. It starts with 5 days (7 hours per day), then 2 days off, 1 day on, one week off, one day on, one week off, then the cycle starts over with 5 more long days. We'll do this 3 times. Then the cancer should be gone. Dead. Over. He'll have surgery about 2 months later to remove the parts of the tumor that the chemo leaves behind. After a few check ups, we should be free to go on our merry way. Right on back to our lives. To Guyana. To life without cancer.

Happy sob.

As for now, everyone keeps asking what we need. We are trying to figure out housing. We're hoping to stay in the cancer house, but insurance doesn't cover it like we had hoped. It may or may not cover the nights Todd has chemo, but even that we have to wait until Monday to figure out. Please pray about that. If it doesn't work out, we need to get an apartment. Some friends bought us a membership to the Pacific Science Center, there is also a children's museum I want to get a membership to. That should help keep the kids busy.

We're just going one day at a time. The nurses here are good, one of them just drug me to the little nourishment center and made me pick out some food. It's hard to feel hungry when I'm sitting by my husband, who is sleeping from all the meds they have to give him just to counter the effects of the chemo. It's hard to watch, but neither can I leave his side.

Todd's parents are here to help with the kids until Tuesday. Then the juggling will really begin. Sigh.

As hard as all this is, we are so, so thankful for so much. My husband will live! How can I complain about anything knowing that after this rough spell, we will be a normal family again? Every time I remind myself of that I can't think of anything to really complain about. We can do anything for 9 weeks. There is nothing we go through that God won't go through with us.

I'd better go eat my oatmeal now before I get in trouble with the nurse. Thank you all so much for traveling this journey with us. We appreciate your ongoing prayers!
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