March 31, 2016

what cancer taught me


It has a funny way of changing your perspective on life.

It's changed my perspective on life.

Some thoughts on what I've learned:

That lady that cut me off - maybe she just found out her husband has cancer. Maybe she's not being a jerk. Maybe she's having the hardest day of her life.

That lady who, at the cash register at the supermarket, suddenly remembers she needs tomatoes, and the cashier makes everyone in the line wait - well, maybe she's overwhelmed with just finding out her husband has cancer.

And when she bursts our sobbing over the tomatoes, a smile might not seem like it matters, but it does.

And when she goes to pay and all of a sudden can't remember how to count money, maybe she's not just a dumb blonde. 

Those people who seem like they just can't be bothered (returning the shopping cart/parking askew/etc), they seem like they're acting aloof and entitled. But maybe coping with life isn't their best thing at the moment.

People need a little more grace than we give them.

People need a little more understanding and compassion.

I can't say in words the outpouring of love, support, and generosity that has been blanketed around our family the last 3 months.  Utterly indescribable.

What if we looked at people through the lens that our community looks upon our family? We've been invited to cry, yell, scream, vent, and wear PJs to church with no judgement.

I've acted so selfish, said stupid things, and asked so much of my closest friends. Yet it's all been met with so much sympathy.

"You're going through so much, you're allowed to not be your best self."

What if we allowed strangers to not be their best selves either?

What would the world look like?


What I've really learned from cancer is that sometimes bad things happen to everyone. Good and bad. That's not a new thing. God causes the sun and rain to shine and fall on the good and the bad.

It doesn't mean we did something wrong or aren't good enough. It means that we live in a sinful world where people get sick and get hurt.

But we won't always.

We're not our best selves on our best day. None of us. Because what we are isn't what we were created to be.

We are all in need of a little grace.

As I write this, a song is playing on Pandora,  "Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sins." 

We're all in this hurting world together.

The good and the bad.

We're in it together.
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March 25, 2016


I sat down to write this (what I'm about to write) earlier this week, but instead a lot of hurt came out. Writing is my therapy and so I guess I needed to write about my hurts.

But today, no hurts. Today I want to write about my gladness.

I'm so, so very glad. Right down to my toes.

People have been so generous to our family.

We were given a free house to live in during the chemo treatment. It's the nicest house we've ever lived in. And it's on a lake. And peace floats throughout the house like a light cloud in a spring breeze.

Our souls are refreshed here.

We were also the blessed recipients of generosity of funds.

I wanted to give a report for some of these funds:

Gas. Every week we drive to Seattle and back.
Housing. The cancer house is not a cheap place to stay. We are blessed to be able to stay here on treatment days.
Chocolate. I didn't like chocolate before I got pregnant. Now, it's my lifeblood. (Theo and Alter Ego brands are my favorite. If you were wondering.)
Food. We are not eating as cheap as we used to. Traveling means eating out, convenience foods, etc.
Clothes. We broke down and resigned ourselves to the fact that we aren't going back to Guyana before winter is over (we still have snow around the lake). Todd and I got coats when we got to Washington. Samuel and I needed jeans. We're not naked. Thank you.
Chai. Not a lot of sleep and lots of driving. I can't bring myself to drink coffee but chai tea is my BFF.
Apple juice. Seriously, it's all Todd wants to drink.

Despite the generosity from all directions, people are still asking what we need. Our answer is still usually, "We don't know."

Actually... there is something we need....

But it's kind of a secret. Do you want to know?

Ok, so it's not actually a secret, but it's something that's been rolling around in my brain for quite some time.

We need a vacation.

Our little family, though we have traveled to some amazing places to do mission work, has never been on a family vacation.

We've never seen the Grand Canyon.
We've never been to a national park.
We've never - gasp - been to Disney Land.

And we happen to have a period of time after chemo and before surgery that is three weeks long.

Can you guess what we're doing in those 3 weeks?

Yes, world, we're finally, after nearly 13 years of marriage and almost 7 years of parenthood, going on vacation!

We have been tossing ideas around. We love the ocean. We loved the idea of a cabin in the woods. We thought about a camping/road trip (but we don't want to because we're sick of going and just want to be somewhere. Also, we don't have camping gear.). My dream vacation is to a dude ranch. Amelia's vote is an African safari (I'm thinking logistically and economically this will not be what we end up doing).

What should we do?

Here are our must-haves for a vacay:
Must be somewhere were we can stay in one place for the 3 weeks.
Must be in a low-populated area.
Must be in a relaxed, low-key environment.
Must be generally affordable (no African safaris)
Access to horses are preferable.

I'd love to hear your ideas!

Most of all we just want to be a family again. Together and enjoying life. We haven't had that in what feels like a really long time. 

I'm really glad that we can plan and dream. I'm so thankful we have a future together and I look forward for what is to come: Peace. Healing. Life.

After today, we have TWO more Mondays of chemo.

Sob. Happy, relieved sobs.

And then, chemo is finished.

I am so, so very glad.

I am blessed to have been able to go through this by my husband's side. I have cried. I have grown. I have come to know God in a way I didn't know possible before this.

What a blessing that God would let us know Him in such a way.

So very glad.
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March 23, 2016

the quiet

I've been accused of being very quiet online lately.

We're on our 3rd cycle of chemo.

It's hard and it stinks and we can't wait for it to be over.

When I'm at the lake house, I feel like a single mother with an extra, ill human to look after. Todd is generally tired and weak from the chemo. I am generally tired and weak from the chemo.

When we're in Seattle I have little ability to do much but fret over him. Although I'm sure I don't do enough, I feel like I need to be feeding/watering/blanketing/etc. him. I have the contents of the "Nourishment Center" cupboards memorized and often recite them to him, lest he forget something he might want. As it turns out, there's not much he wants in the Nourishment Center.

I have been silent online.

This is hard for me to talk about.

I don't talk about it offline all that much either.

I have a strange and strong desire to move my family deep into the mountains in a cabin by a lake for the next four years.

People spoke out against our decision to move forward with chemo. They felt it was wrong and would do more harm than good and felt it their duty to warn us as such.

How dare you?

I so often brushed it aside noting that I was sure they had good intentions.

However good it was intended, it wasn't right. And it's made me feel like I can't talk about this horrible thing called chemo, lest I be told it's our own fault and we did it to ourselves.

I've never in my life felt so judged and alienated.

Now, this was not the majority. Of the hundreds - yes, hundreds! - of messages, emails, texts, calls, cards, etc. we've received since this all started, it was relatively few that were of this nature.

Unless you* read the medical reports, you* are not qualified nor invited to share your* opinions and I kindly ask you* to keep your* advice to yourself* in the future when you* hear that someone has cancer.
*you being general you, people who feel it's their place to give advice without being asked

I guess I needed to rant a bit. This is actually not at all what I planned on writing when I set out to write an update. So. Moving on.

Before chemo began, Todd's tumor markers were measured in his blood. This is basically the amount of cancer cells floating around like they're on vacation. I imagine them as if tubing around a lazy river pool.


Anyhow, before chemo Todd's markers were at 64. At the beginning of cycle two they were down to 28. Doc was hopefully they'd be so low that they wouldn't even show up this time, but we just got the results from Monday's blood work and they're at 12. Not gone, but going. Thrilled at the progress.

After the last 3 weeks of chemo which started Monday, Doc expects them to be gone.


Chemo is 3 weeks from being a thing of the past. Surgery is scheduled. Let me tell you about that. The tumor, which has shrunk some, we know from the pain level (currently at ZERO), is still very much taking up space in Todd's abdomen. We can feel it. We knew going into this that some of the tumor wouldn't respond to chemo, though there was no way of knowing how much. He'll go in for new scans in a month and then we'll be able to see how much shrunk. The remaining tumor will have to be cut out.

Now, if you've been following along on this journey you may remember that the tumor is around several main arteries and veins. Well, it might still be. We met with the surgeon last week and he said that the surgery can take up to FIFTEEN hours.

Bless that man's hands.

If the thing is till wrapped around the arteries and veins, it will have to be cut out layer by layer, ever so delicately. I'm thankful there are people in this world who thought to be trained to do such things. I can't even.

The surgery is the last week in May.

After that, recovery.

So, that's the latest. Maybe someday I'll be able to write about the long days and dark nights we are living at present. As it is, I'll spare the details and ask for your ongoing prayers for our family.

Thank you for the prayers and support that have been shown to our family. I have been trying to write thank-you cards but there is no way to truly thank everyone I want to thank. Maybe someday we'll find a way. But for now - thank you from the bottom to the tops of our hearts!!!
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